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The Jealous Flock

The Jealous Flock: A Literary Epic in Miniature, 2017 by [Borodin, Ashley]3 Stars

The Jealous Flock by Ashley Borodin is a realistic fiction story that centers around the slightly strained relationship of a married couple and their lives as individuals in partnership and their young adult son. The narrative drops readers directly into the lives of the characters featured and lets you explore their lives and innermost thoughts as they struggle with identity and the maturing of unique ideas. Heavily geared towards deep thinking, challenging societal ideals, and the mass acceptance of those who are different, The Jealous Flock is a story that is designed to open the audience’s mind and heart and think outside of the box.

What seems to be an ordinary, white picket fence family in England takes the spotlight in a vivid narrative from each character’s point of view. Hints of tension between Doris and Martin, a married couple both caught up in their jobs, play their part on their son John who is beginning to phase into his adult life from that of a teenager. As Martin travels to Afghanistan to help stop a potential blood bath with jihadists, Doris is left at home to struggle through the differences in her personal opinions and morals as they pertain to her career in the law as a PR agent. Meanwhile, left behind in his parents own crisis, John quits his respectable job and flees overseas where he hopes to find himself and pursue his passion for photography. In Australia, he follows the steps of his father in participating in protests that aren’t always peaceful to defend Muslims battling hate and discrimination. Here he meets Randall, an unhappy widower pursuing an unusual relationship with a transgender prostitute who is stuck in her own shell of self-hatred.

The relationships in The Jealous Flock are realistic and relatable, breathing life into the characters both on their own and in harmony with their counterparts. The story takes on a political drive with themes of racism, xenophobia, and sexism as strong elements in the plot. Dynamics between the father and son of this story are particularly captivating, as Borodin manages to catch those meaningful moments that happen during the shift from parent to lifelong friend and mentor.

Ashley Borodin makes a strong call to arms to fight against society’s expectation of us in any walk of life. In a way, the author has created a coming-of-age story not just for young adults but for those in later years as well. This story dives deep into your thoughts and twists open the cap on unique thinking and encourages ideas of change and acceptance. The graphic, bold way that the author takes depression and insecurities relatable to everyone is a refreshing breath of life and gives you the chance to realize that you are more than what a shallow skin can provide for you. Though a bit wordy and emotionally daunting, Borodin transcribes a striking narrative that has the ability to strike the hearts of those who yearn for something more than mundane life.

Pages: 66 | ASIN: B01NAPZWB8

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The Beautiful Struggle

Adam Que Author Interview

Adam Que Author Interview

Never a Choice but Always a Gift follows Max as he tries to connect with someone from his past and is set on a journey of self discovery. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?

As vague as it is, one day, when I was walking down Bedford Ave in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with my girlfriend, I had an idea to create a story about “life”. Nothing more than that. I didn’t even think that initial and simple idea would become a novel. I was going through a tough time myself and I just felt writing a story would heal me in a way. As my ideas progressed and narrowed “life” became “everyday living”.

Writing and writing, scratching out this idea and writing some more, the story flourished; and I was creating a story and character(s) that in some way inspired the beautiful struggle (the roller-coaster of ups and downs) and how it is to face those trivialities.

That through the hardest adversities one can overcome and one can illuminate their light within them, even if it’s in a subtle way.

A story that involves the mysteries of love and how that is faced in each aspect of life.

I felt Max was a relatable character. What were the driving ideals that drove the characters development throughout the story?

First, I sifted through Max’s flaws and I wanted to put that on the page. And then I wanted Max to eventually become aware of those flaws. In doing so it pushes Max to become a more enriched human being. Max, as all of us, are unfinished jigsaw puzzles, in knowing that we can fill in the pieces however we want.

So ideals such as understanding and perseverance were a driving force for Max’s character.

This is a beautifully written story. Is there any moral that you hope readers take away from the story?

I want readers to feel the power of forgiveness. Sometimes we are so quick to judge, criticize, anger–especially, to the ones closest to us–we forget about compassion.

And so, I also want the readers to feel the importance of family. That family is not only blood related, but can take shape however we define family. And not to take that for granted but to be grateful for that kinship/companionship/friendship.

Finally, I want the readers to find Max’s character and the story itself to inspire them to kick start their own journeys, to live out their passions or simply to find time for those passions. But most importantly to understand that when one door closes, inevitably, another one is waiting to be opened. It’s funny how life works like that. That stopping something is not necessarily failing or quitting, but just a pause, to change up the blueprint and to truly find what tugs strongly at the heart.

What is the next story that you are working on and when will the book be published?

At the moment I am focusing a bit more on my poetry and short stories. My poetry has recently been published in literary mags/reviews/journals/etc., such as, The New Engagement and Slink Chunk Press. Thus, I eventually want to get a full poetry collection published.

However, within the next couple of years there might be a romantic short story collection to come and/or a thriller/crime novel.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook

Max Kristoff, a man in his thirties who is living in New York, is about to come face to face with his past. When he walks into a house in Brooklyn, trying to connect with a person from that very past, he is plunged into a haunting situation. This situation sets him on a journey that will reveal–not only his character–but what lies in his heart and soul. Will Max find what he is searching for? Will he ever find closure? Will he find himself along this journey? Or will he die without ever knowing the answers he’s always been seeking?

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Chasing Ghosts

Chasing Ghosts: a Reckless Perfection by [Francois, Laura]3 Stars

When we’re young, life seems incredibly hard. Things don’t go the way we want, we can’t do the things we want and we don’t understand why things are the way they are. Laura Francois explores all the trappings of teenage angst with Chasing Ghosts, a novel centered on the lives of four teenage girls who are trying to navigate high school, relationships and the pressures of reality. These four girls haven’t had the easiest life as all of them deal with some sort of familial crisis. There’s the girl who is just dying to be seen by her parents as a real human being with feelings, the girl who tenderly wants to have a music career while navigating her father’s shortcomings, the girl who has suffered more heartache than most teenagers and finally the girl who can’t forgive herself for letting her anger control her. These four girls will find their lives woven together for what proves to be an eventful year of their lives.

When writing for young readers it’s important to use language they understand. Francois does this quite well. She uses vernacular that teenagers would be comfortable with and recognize. She uses brands and references that the generation reading this book will understand, but the journey these young women have embarked on is timeless.

Francois doesn’t pull punches with her characters, either. One character in particular has been through hell and back yet it doesn’t feel overwhelming or unrealistic. The lives these women lead are certainly dramatic, as all teenage lives are, but they don’t feel fake. This is a story other young women would feel inspired by, and it resonates with the reader. Francois understands this and crafts something that is dramatic without feeling like you’re watching an unrealistic movie. Everything that happens to these girls could occur in real life. This lends that much more power to the underlying message.

This book is definitely geared towards younger readers and it demonstrates an ability to connect with the generation it is meant to connect with. Chasing Ghosts is a perfect title because all of these young women are certainly chasing after something. Readers will want to follow the journey to the end to see who reaches their goal and who is laid to waste by the very thing they desire.

Pages: 608 | ASIN: B01KELBYU4

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It’s Okay, I’m Watching

It's Okay, I'm Watching (Dear Grief Series Book 1)5 Stars

It’s Okay, I’m Watching, written by Chenee Gilbert, is a novel based around LaTrell Wiggins- a caring young girl who lives with her younger brother Daryl and her parents, Luis and Paulini. Tragedy strikes the family as Paulini’s life is taken by cancer. Grief-stricken, the family begins to process death in their own ways and learns that grief can appear in all shapes and forms. Meanwhile, LaTrell is beginning middle school which comes with the inevitable stage of life- puberty. During this confusing time, Luis, Daryl and LaTrell must come to terms with life without Paulini and the changing dynamics of their family environment.

It’s Okay, I’m Watching opens the door to conversation with those experiencing all forms of grief. LaTrell Wiggins, the main character, loses her mother to cancer whilst entering a vulnerable stage of her life- middle school and puberty. An easily relatable character, LaTrell’s journey shows how families can show strength in the face of terrible adversity.

It’s Okay I’m Watching discusses how our lives are enriched in traditions and questions the reader’s thoughts on what traditions they would pass on to others. It reminds the reader that time waits for no-one and unfortunately, circumstances are out of our control. Personally, it reminded me of the importance of holidays and the unique nuances that make my family my own and what traditions would be present in a memorial for my loved ones.

If you are looking for a companion after experiencing loss, look no further. It’s Okay, I’m Watching will help begin the healing processes and start the pathway to acceptance. This is done through discussion questions at the end of each chapter which helps the reader to reflect on their own circumstances.  It explores how grief is a reaction and a release of an array of emotions. Tragedy can strike anywhere at any time and you will be able to empathize with the characters and their journey.

One of my favorite characters is Shajuan Martinez, LaTrell’s friend. Sassy and confident; she tolerates very little. LaTrell discusses with her friends her grief counselling sessions and they begin to identify whether it is something they could benefit from. LaTrell’s other friend, Chandler, begins to acknowledge his own grief that he had been trying to mask. Her two friends shine a humorous side to LaTrell’s darkest days.

Teenagers experience loss and grief through death, break-ups and even loss of pets. Exposure to novels such as this will help them begin to understand the grieving process in an already confusing time of their life. It allowed me to normalize my own grieving processes and the impact these times had during my youth.

What I loved most about this novel is that it opens up the idea that grief isn’t restricted to those experiencing death and instead can be felt by those who are feeling alone, sad or missing someone. I would recommend this to anyone who is looking to understand their own journey in regards to grief and loss.

Pages: 110 | ASIN: B01MXKCY8R

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God Made It Clear

Rebecca Duvall Author Interview

Rebecca Duvall Author Interview

In His Way tells the story of your second marriage to a Deputy Sheriff and being a mother of three; a volunteeraholic and a workaholic living together. What made you want to write about your life and put it out there for the world?

To be completely honest, I’m not a writer. I’m a numbers kinda gal. Back in the days when I worked for a paycheck, I did Bookkeeping or Accounting.

As my husband was dealing with his health issues, God made it clear I was to share with others, through a book, how I was getting through it. I was to write about my transition of no faith in anything, to faith in God Almighty, which brought hope, forgiveness and love into my world.

In His Way is a beautifully written memoir. I felt you left nothing out. Why was it important for you to give a faithful retelling of your life?

It was important for me to be all in when writing this book because ultimately, I desire the reader to feel connected to the story. I believe many people, if not everyone, can relate to something I have shared, because they too have gone through it. It’s important for the reader to feel the pain, relief, distress or joy as I experienced it for that connection to be made.

What was one of the hardest moments of your life to write about?

The hardest part of the book to write about was the relationship with my mom. It took many rewrites and a lot of tears to openly admit how this relationship affected who I am today.

What do you hope readers take away from In His Way?

I hope each reader would know they are never alone in any situation. God is right there beside them, waiting to be invited into their circumstance, to offer His comfort. Also, there is always many who have walked the same road they are on and willing to bring them help and encouragement, but they must first let their pain or difficulty be known.

Are you working on another book? If so, when will that be published?

No, I’m not currently working on another book. I do however, have a blog, inhisway.net, that I write on occasionally.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

In His Way by [Duvall, Rebecca]Throughout much of my married life, I lived under the illusion that I had it all together – it was everyone else that needed fixing. Several years into my second marriage my husband, a Deputy Sheriff, became a workaholic and was never home. Meanwhile, I became a volunteeraholic, too busy to face the fact that we had become two strangers under one roof, raising three kids.

God revealed Himself to me through the different women I volunteered with. As my heart slowly opened to God’s presence, my marriage came crashing down around me. As I cried out for God’s help, I discovered my husband’s affair. I found myself surrounded by faithful people who gave me the strength to face the problems in my marriage and the tools needed to begin fixing it.

Over the next four years, my husband’s health deteriorated and he was forced to retire. Through this God continually showed me I was In His Way and then, when He knew He had my attention, He would proceed to show me how to do things In His Way. In the end, what God told me to do, saved my husband’s life, and our marriage. What was broken is now fixed by the grace and love of God.

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Never a Choice but Always a Gift

Never a Choice but Always a GiftMax Kristoff, a man in his thirties who is living in New York, is about to come face to face with his past. When he walks into a house in Brooklyn, trying to connect with a person from that very past, he is plunged into a haunting situation. This situation sets him on a journey that will reveal—not only his character—but what lies in his heart and soul.

Will Max find what he is searching for?
Will he ever find closure?
Will he find himself along this journey?
Or will he die without every knowing the answers he’s always been seeking?

3 Stars

Never a Choice but Always A Gift By Adam Que is a book about change. Que takes you on a journey of Max’s life. Max was born and raised in the Bronx and currently living life with no real thought of tomorrow. After receiving some surprisingly unsurprising news, his life is bound to change.

Trials and tribulations surround Max and his long time friend, Bibby. Love, sacrifice and pride are challenged throughout the story. Memories are always with us. Can these two forgive and forget, or will they live the remainder of their lives holding a grudge?

Que’s use of vocabulary helps the reader relate to the different characters and really help you feel the emotions. The reader is lead along an easy to follow narrative that is sure to stimulate emotional response. That being said, there are times where the vocabulary becomes redundant and phrases are repeated which disrupts an otherwise sentimental novel.

Max is a well developed character and the story is gripping, but I felt that his thoughts in the beginning of the novel were constantly interrupted by tangents, side stories and information dumps which caused the story to lose focus. But when Max meets his love interest Celeste the background information is given in a less dense format and the novel flows easily and keeps the readers attention.

This novel is one of the more unique one’s I’ve read in 2016. Story detail is revealed through the use of double narrative. Things that Max is not willing to tell the reader is revealed through Bibby’s perspective. The switch of perspectives results in a change of language and tone which truly captures the feel of a new narrator. Few books I have read with a similar method of perspective change have lacked that quality.

I recommend this book to people going through hardships. Hope and unconditional love are cornerstones in the characters relationship. Never a Choice but Always A Gift is about a journey, but not the kind where characters trek through exotic locales. It’s a journey through life, to find love.

Pages: 266 | ASIN: B01EYS4Z9U

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Technology As A Community Builder

Rich Marcello Author Interview

Rich Marcello Author Interview

Themes of forgiveness, trust, honor, technology as a healer, and non-violence echo through the pages of The Beauty of the Fall. What was the inspiration for the themes you used throughout the novel?

When I started the novel three years ago, I was interested in writing about, as you say, technology as a healer, or as I like to say, technology as a community builder. There are many good novels out there about the evils of technology, but few, if any, about technology companies that bring about positive social change. The idea of using technology to enable true democracy, as opposed to the slew of representative democracies out in existence today, intrigued me. The events in the world this last year –– the rise of fake news, populism, racism, and sexism—confirmed that I was one the right track. However, as my protagonist, Dan Underlight, emerged, I realized I was actually writing a redemption story. Once I was clear on that point, the themes broadened out to include all the ones you mentioned, especially forgiveness and simplicity.

I felt this story was very well written and used beautifully soulful language to create unique characters living compelling bittersweet lives. What’s your experience as a writer?

Well, first thanks for the compliment. I spend a lot of time at the sentence level, so it’s nice to hear that the language resonates with you. I’ve been writing all of my adult life, but only full-time for the last six years. In college, I had a chance to be mentored by a novelist in residence, but I was broke and needed to make money for a time. So when I graduated, I did. Throughout those years, I kept writing––mostly songs and poetry––but I always knew I would come back to writing novels. Hopefully, I’ll get ten or so of them out into the world before I’m done. I tend to write on most days in the morning for five or six hours. I’m a big believer in writing in the morning and tend to do my best work first thing each day.

The characters in The Beauty of the Fall are complex. What is your process for creating such in-depth characters?

As a writer, I’m trying to go deeper and deeper into the soul of each of my characters, and so I focus a lot of my effort on their inner lives. In this novel, I spent most of my time on Dan and Willow, but I also spent a considerable amount of time on the other characters. On process, I write a character over and over until I feel I find his or her voice. That usually happens at the scene level, and once I understand a character’s voice in that scene, it generalizes to the rest of the book pretty easily. With Dan in particular, once I understood his grief at some deep non-verbal level, he came into focus.

What is the next book that you are working on and when can your fans expect it to be out?

I’m working on my fourth novel, The Latecomers, which is about aging in a world that in many ways devalues age. It’s about how a few folks try to build a community that values age and wisdom. I’m one-hundred-and-forty pages into that novel and hope to have it out in a couple of years.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Dan Underlight, a divorced, workaholic technology executive, suffers lingering grief over the death of his ten-year-old son, Zack. When Dan’s longtime friend and boss fires Dan from RadioRadio, the company that he helped create, he crashes and isolates himself.

Willow, a poet and domestic violence survivor, helps Dan regain his footing. With her support, Dan ventures on a pilgrimage of sorts, visiting Fortune 500 companies to flesh out a software start-up idea. He then recruits three former RadioRadio colleagues and starts Conversationworks, a company he believes will be at the vanguard of social change.

Guided by Dan’s leadership, Conversationworks enjoys some early successes, but its existence is soon threatened on multiple fronts. Will Dan survive the ensuing corporate battles and realize the potential of his company? Or will he be defeated by his enemies and consumed by his grief?

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In His Way

In His Way5 Stars

In His Way by Rebecca Duvall is a personal journey of her life and how she came to discover God. Duvall goes through many trials in her life. Everything that life could throw, divorce, children, financial situations, and serious illnesses, she faced. It is through this intimate journey you get to know Duvall, her family, and their troubles. You see how she evolves from struggling and thinking that she can only get through this alone and control everything to her discovery of letting go and letting in God. It was not an easy journey, but it is an honest one.

I enjoyed this book and could not put it down. In His Way took me on an emotional adventure. I felt for the author and her family because of the ups and downs they face. In the beginning, she states that she was not always positive and wrote that way. The story takes you through a raw, impassioned relatable telling. No one is perfect, and this book is a reminder of that. I love how honest she is. She held nothing back. She spoke of the resentment and hatred she harbored toward her husband. These were authentic feelings and thoughts expressed. You see how she goes from wanting to control everything to becoming understanding, appreciative, and cooperative. Duvall transforms, and it was all because she learned to talk to and accept God. My favorite part about this book is that you do not have to be religious to enjoy it. It is an uplifting, encouraging, and inspirational read.

Duvall’s narrative is strong. It was refreshing to read something where a person is faithful to the events, no matter how it paints them. There were plenty of moments where I was shocked at the mean things stated, but it was relatable. When you meet challenges in life, sometimes you are not the nicest person and make the wrong decisions or say things you do not mean. She does not hold back from that. She admits to many faults, and I admire her.

My only real complaint with the book was that there were some grammar mistakes and awkward phrasing. It also got a little slow toward the end but picked back up. Overall, I genuinely love it.

I learned a lot from reading this book. I learned that we let fears get in the way of our decisions. I also learned about communication and not bottling things up. One of the major things I took away from this is that if you are dedicated, you can get through something. I also found understanding in religion and people’s relationship with God in this. I related to Duvall so much because she went from not understanding or knowing God to praying, and I have learned more about God and understanding God in this book than going to church. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has lost their faith or anyone who have lost or looking to understand faith.

Pages: 280 | ASIN: B00MO01VIE

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Eden’s Apple

Eden's Apple4 Stars

In a whirlwind of emotions and laced with tragedy, the lives of two women are laid out in Pamela Blake’s Eden’s Apple. Both of their lives are fraught with heartbreak, circumstance and secrets. Between drugs, sex and violence these women barely eek out an existence. Both are tainted, both are damaged. One of them will recover, the other will not. Rose and Lucy; our two heroines who are connected to each other by the special bond mother’s and daughter’s share will lose themselves for the sake of love and at the hands of love. Barely out of childhood Rose finds herself forced to endure her father’s expression of love that ends up changing her life forever. Lucy, a product of that illicit union is damaged not because of who her parents were, but because of the loss of love that she should have been entitled too. One woman will break from her burdens and the other will fracture almost irreparably.

The books opens with a scene of violence: Rose is being raped by her father. While readers won’t be aware of who the man is until chapter 2, Blake handles the violation with a strange sense of delicacy. It is through Rose that the reader will understand how damaging to her mind the act is. Set in early 1930’s in England Rose faces more discrimination and humiliating isolation than a modern woman would hopefully need to bear. The regret and self-loathing her father goes on to feel throughout the book seems a bit unrealistic, but it lends to the story.

Rose is damaged by this act of love; an act that is supposed to bring two people together. She bears her incestuous child, only to leave little Lucy with her parents and attempt to live a life that a girl of her age is entitled to. Blake does a good job of showing the delicate state of Rose’s mind as she struggles to understand what happened to her and what she needs to do to regain her sense of self. This is a dangerous path for writers to tread: too much realism can make a reader uneasy. However, not lending an air of reality to how a character handles such critical moments can be damaging to the novel as well. Blake teeters on the edge of this line. As we move forward through Lucy’s life and her experimentation of drugs and sex, the lack of consequences seems unfathomable. While one of her children does suffer from illness later in life, the fact that she gave birth to two healthy children while being addicted to opiates and other drugs steals some credibility from the tale.

The story itself is a captivating read. While Rose certainly had her life altered against her will at such a young age Eden’s Apple is more about Lucy and her struggle to find the love she should have received as a child. She struggles with loving too much and desperately needing confirmation of love in return. Pamela Blake tells this story of two women scorned by fate who struggle to overcome the cards that have been dealt to them. Eden’s Apple is a devastating tale of desperate love, true love and the agony laced between.

Pages: 260 | ASIN: B01C4F5QCU

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The Humming Blade

The Humming Blade3 Stars

In the beginning, everything seems normal. A normal young man, leading a normal life in a normal village. But Christopher Clark has plans for destroying the image of ‘normal’ in his tale The Humming Blade. We meet our protagonist, Wyatt Arden, as he wakes from a dream that seems more like a premonition than anything else. He stumbles out of bed to go about his normal day only to have his entire life turn upside down before the night is even over. He’ll soon learn he’s not so normal and that his entire life and history is more fantastical than any tale he has ever read before. Our young farm boy who has grown up with a single mother learns that you can never assume that life is what you already know; there is so much more to learn.

Clark writes in a fashion that is very easy to read and understand while being engaging and almost poetic. The words flow on the screen in such a way that not even the dialogue seems choppy. His descriptions are fantastic and truly draw the reader in the world he has created. Clark slowly builds his world without drawing anything out longer than it needs to be. Explanations are placed accordingly and nothing seems forced or useless. The introduction of Wyatt and his life on the farm is simple and careful. He doesn’t over embellish anything and doesn’t confuse readers by giving them too much information at once. The narrative is broken up nicely between what is occurring the in the present of the story and the past of the world as well.

Without drawing anything out, Wyatt learns quite quickly that the simple life he thought he has is anything but. After his best friend leaves for military duty and Wyatt is feeling a bit bogged down by responsibility to the farm and his mother, he is thrust into the center of a typical fantasy-adventure plot. He finds a magic sword, a talking, slightly invisible cat, discovers that his lineage is not what he thought it was and that he possesses incredible power that has been hidden from him. These are necessary in Clark’s fantasy story and while they are stereotypical, nothing feels forced or overdone. After Wyatt learns that the friendly village blacksmith has a more intimate connection to him than he initially thought his entire world literally goes up in smoke and Wyatt is faced with a journey of self-discovery. This journey holds not only his future, but the future of his world in the balance as Wyatt uncovers more truths than he cares to.

The ending is slightly abrupt with a big reveal and no indication whether the story is going to continue. That aside, the book is a well done stand-alone as other questions are neatly wrapped up and answered. Clark knows his craft and has delivered a satisfying ending. Hopefully he decides to delve once more into the world of The Humming Blade and give us a final answer on the surprising plot twist he left us with. Readers who are looking for a fun adventure filled with interesting world development and exploration of the foundations of the world itself will not be disappointed with this tale.

Pages: 426 | ISBN: 1483447154

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