Monday, May 3, 2021

Book Review | The Last Flight by Julie Clark

The Last Flight is a thriller novel by Julie Clark.

The Last Flight by Julie Clark

Claire Cook has a perfect life. But behind closed doors, nothing is quite as it seems. That perfect husband has a temper that burns as bright as his promising political career, and he's not above using his staff to track Claire's every move. But what he doesn't know is that Claire has worked for months on a plan to vanish.

A chance meeting in an airport bar brings her together with a woman whose circumstances seem equally dire. Together they make a last-minute decision to switch tickets ― Claire taking Eva's flight to Oakland, and Eva traveling to Puerto Rico as Claire. But when the flight to Puerto Rico goes down, Claire realizes it's no longer a head start but a new life. Cut off, out of options, with the news of her death about to explode in the media, Claire will assume Eva's identity, and along with it, the secrets Eva fought so hard to keep hidden.

I missed out on reading The Last Flight last year. When the April Book of the Month selections came out last month, I wasn't in the mood for any of the options so I went back and added The Last Flight to my BOTM box instead. I'm so glad I did. The Last Flight was exactly what I was in the mood for. I don't read enough thrillers so I'm always thrilled when I find one that sucks me in and keeps me entertained. I had a bit of a book hangover when I finished.

The Last Flight alternates between two women who are attempting to escape from the lives they've been dealt. One is escaping an abusive husband, and the other is fleeing from a life just as dangerous.

I loved two things about this book - 1) I didn't want to put it down and 2) I loved the friendships. I'm finding more and more friendships in my adult fiction, and I love it. There's not any earth-shattering content that makes this thriller stand out above the rest - it's just a really solid thriller that I enjoyed.

I read The Last Flight during a weekend down at the beach. It's a great choice for a summer/vacation read.

4/5 stars


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Monday, April 19, 2021

Book Review | The Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado

The Low, Low Woods is a horror graphic novel by Carmen Maria Machado

The Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado


When your memories are stolen, what would you give to remember? Follow El and Vee as they search for answers to the questions everyone else forgot.

Shudder-to-Think, Pennsylvania, is plagued by a mysterious illness that eats away at the memories of those affected by it. El and Octavia are two best friends who find themselves the newest victims of this disease after waking up in a movie theater with no memory of the past few hours.

As El and Vee dive deeper into the mystery behind their lost memories, they realize the stories of their town hold more dark truth than they could've imagined. It's up to El and Vee to keep their town from falling keep the world safe from Shudder-to-Think's monsters.

Collects issues # 1-6.

It's been a while since I've been sucked into a graphic novel. I've read a few lately that just didn't work for me. The Low, Low Woods has reminded me how much I enjoy reading comics.

The Low, Low Woods isn't perfect. It's strange (in both good and bad ways), and it's meta enough to mention deus ex machina. But the strong female characters, friendship, and really great body horror have me recommending that you pick it up next time you are looking for a good horror graphic novel.

4/5 stars


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Monday, March 29, 2021

Book Review | Be Wary of the Silent Woods by Svetlana Chmakova

Be Wary of the Silent Woods is the first book in the Weirn Books series by Svetlana Chmakova.

Be Wary of the Silent Woods by Svetlana Chmakova

In the Night Realm, vampires, shifters, weirns, and other night things passing for human prowl the streets... but they still have to go to school! Ailis and Na'ya are pretty average students (NOT losers), but when a shadow starts looming and a classmate gets all weird, they are the first to notice. It gets personal, though, when Na'ya's little brother D'esh disappears-It's time to confront the secrets of the forbidden mansion in the Silent Woods!

Join the acclaimed author of Awkward, Svetlana Chmakova, for an outing into her favorite fantastical world full of magic and adventure!

This is a catch up review from last year! Be Wary of the Silent Woods was one of my favorite books of last year. I featured it on my Favorite Books of 2020 post, but I never posted a proper review for it.

2020 was an amazing year for middle grade books, and Be Wary of the Silent Woods was another home run for me. Be Wary of the Silent Woods is the first volume in the The Weirn Books series. It's a graphic novel, and I adored it.

A weirn is a witch born with a demon guardian spirit bound to them for life.

The guardian spirits reminded me of the daemons in the His Dark Materials series. They did not have a big role in this first volume which makes me really excited to see what comes next. I would love to know more about them. This first volume focused mostly on the kids, the night school, and the mystery of the creepy old house in the silent woods.

Even though this is just volume one, we are treated to a full story here. I cannot wait for the next volume in this series! Svetlana Chmakova wrote a previous series set in this same world called "Nightschool: The Weirn Books". I'm going to need to track those down along with her other series to tide me over. 

4.5/5 stars


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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Book Review | Alone by Megan E. Freeman

  Alone is middle grade survival story by Megan E. Freeman.

Alone by Megan E. Freeman

When twelve-year-old Maddie hatches a scheme for a secret sleepover with her two best friends, she ends up waking up to a nightmare. She’s alone—left behind in a town that has been mysteriously evacuated and abandoned. With no one to rely on, no power, and no working phone lines or internet access, Maddie slowly learns to survive on her own. Her only companions are a Rottweiler named George and all the books she can read. After a rough start, Maddie learns to trust her own ingenuity and invents clever ways to survive in a place that has been deserted and forgotten. As months pass, she escapes natural disasters, looters, and wild animals. But Maddie’s most formidable enemy is the crushing loneliness she faces every day. Can Maddie’s stubborn will to survive carry her through the most frightening experience of her life?

I'm back with some more middle grade horror today! I was really excited when I discovered Alone because it sounded dystopian to me, and I couldn't remember having read anything like it. I instantly preordered because I was so intrigued! I didn't realize at the time that Alone was written in verse. To be perfectly honest, I was worried when I found out. I have DNF'ed several middle grade books over the years that were written in verse, but I had absolutely no problems with the writing or the structure of Alone. I think that format enhanced Alone!

I was also excited that the main character had a dog as her companion. (This is one of the reasons that I read Alone this month - Barb is hosting her annual puppy love challenge to read a book in February featuring a dog.)

Overall I really enjoyed Alone. I felt like I was on this survival adventure right along with Maddie. I loved her as a character, and I loved her rottweiler George. The premise is Maddie wakes up to find herself entirely alone in her world. She has to figure out how to gather supplies and survive on her own. I think kids who like survival stories would enjoy this and find it to be quite unique. The first night I started reading Alone, I had nightmares about my youngest child being left behind to survive on his own.

I could really feel Maddie's loneliness while reading Alone. I think being written in verse, it was a perfect vehicle to express a lot of Maddie's emotions. There's a section at the end that includes one of my favorite poems of all times - The Summer Day by Mary Oliver. I think that section is just so beautiful.

As much I did enjoy Alone - I have some complaints. Everyone left in the middle of just one night. Not just in Maddie's town but in the surrounding towns, too. Everyone left their cell phones and all of their pets behind. The only reason was convenience to the plot. I know a lot of my followers have trouble with animal death. These pets were left behind in cages and in homes. There is also a bad guy in Alone, and this is proven via a kitten. Any reason the author could have given for everyone to leave especially without their cell phones or their pets would have been better than the one we got.

When it comes to middle grade horror, I pass any books that I like on to my kids, and I donate the rest. Despite my complaints, I will pass this one on to them. I have no doubts they will have the same issues, but it's still a book that really sucks you in and makes you care. If you have kids in your life or in your class who love survival stories, I still say add this to your collection. They will fall for Maddie and George, and they will likely enjoy the unique way this story is presented through verse.
3/5 stars


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Monday, February 22, 2021

Book Review | Lakewood by Megan Giddings

Lakewood is a debut horror novel by Megan Giddings.

Lakewood by Megan Giddings

A startling debut about class and race, Lakewood evokes a terrifying world of medical experimentation—part The Handmaid’s Tale, part The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

When Lena Johnson’s beloved grandmother dies, and the full extent of the family debt is revealed, the black millennial drops out of college to support her family and takes a job in the mysterious and remote town of Lakewood, Michigan.

On paper, her new job is too good to be true. High paying. No out of pocket medical expenses. A free place to live. All Lena has to do is participate in a secret program—and lie to her friends and family about the research being done in Lakewood. An eye drop that makes brown eyes blue, a medication that could be a cure for dementia, golden pills promised to make all bad thoughts go away.

The discoveries made in Lakewood, Lena is told, will change the world—but the consequences for the subjects involved could be devastating. As the truths of the program reveal themselves, Lena learns how much she’s willing to sacrifice for the sake of her family.

Provocative and thrilling, Lakewood is a breathtaking novel that takes an unflinching look at the moral dilemmas many working-class families face, and the horror that has been forced on black bodies in the name of science.

I read Lakewood with the Ladies of Horror Fiction Goodreads group. I didn't realize Lakewood was being compared to The Handmaid's Tale. I also see now appropriate comparisons to Catherine House. I'm not a fan of either of those works so I want to start out by saying I'm probably not the right audience for Lakewood.

The exploration of medical experimentation and race in Lakewood was chilling, and I loved Megan Gidding's writing style.

I like there to be a strong balance between plot and character development, and I felt both of these were lacking in Lakewood (as well as in The Handmaid's Tale and Catherine House).

If you are someone who likes to focus more on the narrative than on the plot, Lakewood might be the right fit for you. I think this is a strong debut, and I will keep my eye out for Gidding's next release.

3/5 stars


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Friday, February 19, 2021

Book Review | Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon

Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon is a middle grade horror novel.

Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon

One of our most iconic childhood games receives a creepy twist as it becomes the gateway to a nightmare world.

I went up the hill, the hill was muddy, stomped my toe and made it bloody, should I wash it?

Justin knows that something is wrong with his best friend.Zee went missing for a year. And when he came back, he was . . . different. Nobody knows what happened to him. At Zee's welcome home party, Justin and the neighborhood crew play Hide and Seek. But it goes wrong. Very wrong.

One by one, everyone who plays the game disappears, pulled into a world of nightmares come to life. Justin and his friends realize this horrible place is where Zee had been trapped. All they can do now is hide from the Seeker.

Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon absolutely blew me away. Not only is it a scary middle grade novel - this is a straight up MG horror - it has a lot of heart. Friendship, family, terror. You guys have seen me praise a lot of middle grade horror lately, and this is one I highly, highly recommend. Put it in your classrooms, put it in your libraries, buy it for your kids, buy it for yourself. I was an absolute mess reading this book. Books like Hide and Seeker are exactly why I read - and will continue to read - middle grade. I haven't found an adult book with this kind of heart in a long time.

5/5 stars


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Thursday, February 18, 2021

Book Review | Cradleland of Parasites by Sara Tantlinger

Cradleland of Parasites is a horror poetry collection by Sara Tantlinger.

Cradleland of Parasites by Sara Tantlinger

Bram Stoker Award-winner Sara Tantlinger delivers her CRADLELAND OF PARASITES, a harrowing and darkly gorgeous collection of poetry chronicling the death and devastation of one of history's greatest horrors: The Black Plague.

I have fallen upon a few plague novels over the course of the pandemic. It's very surreal to read about plagues, pandemics, the history of harsh and fatal diseases while living through a pandemic. It definitely heightens the works that I have been reading lately!

The poems in Cradleland of Parasites center around The Black Plague. Wow, these poems were dark and brutal and beautiful. Some of my favorites were Second Pandemic, Moral Decay, Death Knell, and An Advanced Society.

Cradleland of Parasites was my first poetry collection by Sara Tantlinger. I read and loved her novella To Be Devoured which definitely had a poetic quality to it. I look forward to checking out more from her in the future!

3.5/5 stars

Review copy provided by author


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Friday, February 5, 2021

Book Review | Thirteens by Kate Alice Marshall

 Thirteens is a middle grade horror novel by Kate Alice Marshall.

Thirteens by Kate Alice Marshall

Neil Gaiman's Coraline meets Stranger Things in a dark and twisted story about a sleepy town with a dark secret--and the three kids brave enough to uncover it.

Twelve-year-old Eleanor has just moved to Eden Eld to live with her aunt and uncle after her mother was killed in a fire. Her birthday, which falls on Halloween, is just around the corner, and she hopes that this year will be a fresh start at a new life. But then one morning, an ancient grandfather clock counting down thirteen hours appears outside of her bedroom. And then she spots a large black dog with glowing red eyes prowling the grounds of her school. A book of fairytales she's never heard of almost willingly drops in front of her, as if asking to be read. Something is wrong in the town of Eden Eld.

Eleanor and her new classmates, Pip and Otto, are the only ones who see these "wrong things," and they also all happen to share a Halloween birthday. Bonded by these odd similarities, the trio uncovers a centuries-old pact the town has with a mysterious figure known as Mr. January: every thirteen years, three thirteen-year-olds disappear, sacrificed in exchange for the town's unending good fortune. This Halloween, Mr. January is back to collect his payment and Eleanor, Pip, and Otto are to be his next offering...unless they can break the curse before the clock strikes thirteen.

I read Kate Alice Marshall's Rules for Vanishing last year, and I loved it. I completely missed the release of Thirteens. I know why. It was marketed as mystery and fantasy instead of horror. I get why publishers do that. I don't like it, but I get it. Unfortunately, those of us seeking horror can easily miss books that should be marketed straight to us. Enough of this rant, though. Let's talk about Thirteens!

I adored this book. It's strange, and it has the perfect amount of unsettling that kids would really understand. There are "wrong things" in this world that parents don't really see. Or if they do, their brains make up for it and make them forget.

There's a huge fairy tale aspect to Thirteens. If you dig dark fairy tales, this is definitely one you should put on your radar.

My burning question is is this a series? If this is a series, I'm really excited to pick up the next one. I can't wait to see what happens next. If this isn't a series, then my opinion on the ending will change completely. While there was an ending to Rules for Vanishing, I had no idea what it meant. It was left up to the reader's interpretation. The ending to Thirteens is either a great setup for the sequel or it's a classic case of cheater, cheater pumpkin eater there's no ending to this one either. Fingers crossed!

4.5/5 stars


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Tuesday, February 2, 2021

They Call It Puppy Love Challenge

Each year Barb over at Booker T's Farm hosts a puppy love challenge that challenges everyone to read a book(s) that includes a dog in it. I try to make sure I'm reading at least one dog book during the month of February, and I have the perfect book this year.

Alone by Megan E. Freeman

Alone is a middle grade post-apocalyptic novel written in verse. It just came out last month, and I'm dying to find out what has happened in this world and to get to know the characters.

You can find out more about Barb's challenge via her Challenge Announcement - They Call It Puppy Love 2021


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Monday, February 1, 2021

Book Review | Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan

Good Neighbors is a horror-adjacent thriller by Sarah Langan.

Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan

Celeste Ng’s enthralling dissection of suburbia meets Shirley Jackson’s creeping dread in this propulsive literary noir, when a sudden tragedy exposes the depths of deception and damage in a Long Island suburbpitting neighbor against neighbor and putting one family in terrible danger.

Welcome to Maple Street, a picture-perfect slice of suburban Long Island, its residents bound by their children, their work, and their illusion of safety in a rapidly changing world.

Arlo Wilde, a gruff has-been rock star who’s got nothing to show for his fame but track marks, is always two steps behind the other dads. His wife, beautiful ex-pageant queen Gertie, feels socially ostracized and adrift. Spunky preteen Julie curses like a sailor and her kid brother Larry is called “Robot Boy” by the kids on the block.

Their next-door neighbor and Maple Street’s Queen Bee, Rhea Schroedera lonely community college professor repressing her own dark pastwelcomes Gertie and family into the fold. Then, during one spritzer-fueled summer evening, the new best friends share too much, too soon.

As tensions mount, a sinkhole opens in a nearby park, and Rhea’s daughter Shelly falls inside. The search for Shelly brings a shocking accusation against the Wildes that spins out of control. Suddenly, it is one mom’s word against the other’s in a court of public opinion that can end only in blood.

A riveting and ruthless portrayal of American suburbia, Good Neighbors excavates the perils and betrayals of motherhood and friendships and the dangerous clash between social hierarchy, childhood trauma, and fear.

This book is bizarre in a Bentley Little sort of way. The town, the landscape, the people. Something is not right on Maple Street.

It took me a while to get into Good Neighbors. It was so far fetched, but a thread of curiosity kept making me pick it back up. Eventually I was hooked, and I was glad I didn't put it down for good.

Oddly enough I grew to care about the people of Maple Street.

Before each chapter there are news articles recalling the events that took place on Maple Street. I loved the perspective of the interviews and the journalists just as much as I enjoyed the actual story. It's easy to see how one's perspective can be skewed in a situation and how one's bias can shape what they want to believe about their neighbors.

If you enjoy domestic thrillers with neighbors pitted against neighbors, I do recommend you pick up Good Neighbors. It was quite the experience.

3.5/5 stars

Review copy provided by publisher


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Thursday, January 28, 2021

Book Review | A Complex Accident of Life by Jessica McHugh

 A Complex Accident of Life is a poetry collection by Jessica McHugh.

A Complex Accident of Life by Jessica McHugh

Inspired by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Jessica McHugh's debut poetry collection, A Complex Accident of Life, combines visual art and text to create 52 pieces of Gothic blackout poetry exploring the intense passion, enigmatic nature, and transformative pleasure of life, viewed through the kaleidoscopic lens of a female horror artist.

Wow, I really loved this collection. It was written using the blackout poetry technique where you use words contained within an existing text and blackout the rest creating a poem. I'll post an example from this collection here:


I must own my purpose.
Courage and hope will demand all my fortitude,
And there is a great remaining road between
     Angel     and     intention.

All of the poems in this collection were created using pages out of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. I loved it. The poems were incredible, and I'm really inspired by the whole process.

If you're a fan of poetry, do check it out.

4.5/5 stars


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Monday, January 25, 2021

Book Review | Scritch Scratch by Lindsay Currie

Scritch Scratch is a middle grade horror novel by Lindsay Currie.

Scritch Scratch by Lindsay Currie

A ghost story about a malevolent spirit, an unlucky girl, and a haunting mystery that will tie the two together.

Claire has absolutely no interest in the paranormal. She’s a scientist, which is why she can’t think of anything worse than having to help out her dad on one of his ghost-themed Chicago bus tours. She thinks she’s made it through when she sees a boy with a sad face and dark eyes at the back of the bus. There’s something off about his presence, especially because when she checks at the end of the tour…he’s gone.

Claire tries to brush it off, she must be imagining things, letting her dad’s ghost stories get the best of her. But then the scratching starts. Voices whisper to her in the dark. The number 396 appears everywhere she turns. And the boy with the dark eyes starts following her.

Claire is being haunted. The boy from the bus wants something...and Claire needs to find out what before it’s too late.

I was excited about reading Scritch Scratch because it was marketed really well as a middle grade horror (versus leaning more toward fantasy or mystery). It embraced the creepy ghost story side whole-heartedly so I was thrilled to give it a read.

Unfortunately Scritch Scratch did not turn out to be a favorite middle grade book for me.

In Scritch Scratch, we are following a young girl name Claire whose father owns a ghost tour business. Early on in the book Claire has to help her father run his ghost tour one night, and not only does Claire meet a ghost - it follows her home.

I loved all of the scary things that began happening around Claire. Hauntings are my favorite subgenre, and I think it's the perfect way to pull young readers into loving horror. I did not, however, love Claire. Her attitude toward her parents and her friends just wasn't endearing. I found myself wishing this story had been told through her friend's eyes instead (think My Best Friend's Exorcism). I also didn't feel like any of the relationships or the dialog were very realistic.
That's the arguably objective side of my review. As for the subjective side, I had no idea this story was based on real events. I do not do well with real life child trauma and/or death. I would much prefer my horrors to all be fiction, and this book turned out to be one I personally wish I had skipped reading on that fact alone. 

/5 stars


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Thursday, January 21, 2021

Book Review | The Mulberry Tree by Allison Rushby

The Mulberry Tree is a horror-adjacent middle grade mystery by Allison Rushby.

The Mulberry Tree by Allison Rushby

Is the eerie tree beside their bucolic cottage really a threat to ten-year-old Immy? Legend and hearsay give way to a creepy series of events in a captivating mystery.

Do naught wrong by the mulberry tree, or she’ll take your daughters . . . one, two, three.

Ten-year-old Immy and her family have run away from their storm cloud of problems to a tiny village in Cambridgeshire, England, where her depressed physician father can take a sabbatical and get back on his feet. Luckily, they find an adorable thatched cottage to begin a new life in. But their new home comes with one downside: in the backyard, there is an ancient, dark, and fierce-looking mulberry tree that has ceased bearing any fruit. There’s a legend that the towering tree steals away girls who live in the cottage on the eve of their eleventh birthday, and villagers even cross the street when they pass by the house. Of course, Immy thinks this is all ridiculous. But then she starts to hear a strange song in her head. . . . In a page-turner perfect for middle-graders, Allison Rushby folds themes of new-school travails, finding friends, being embarrassed by parents, and learning empathy into a deliciously goose-bumpy supernatural mystery.

I love, love, love creepy trees. As soon as I read the description for The Mulberry Tree, I knew I needed to read it.

For the most part The Mulberry Tree lived up to my expectations. The tree was indeed a character in this book, and it didn't come across as some literary analogy with a deeper meaning to be extracted by the reader. It was a creepy tree with creepy intentions, and I loved that about this book.

Some of The Mulberry Tree was hard hitting. The dad was dealing with depression, and Immy was dealing with a parent who just wasn't around the same way that they used to be. It really pulled on my emotions, and I loved the relationship that Immy had with her dad and with the people around her in the village.

My only complaint was the ending. It wasn't a bad ending at all, but it took something away from my overall experience with The Mulberry Tree. I felt like the book deserved a little bit more of a messy ending instead of one so neatly wrapped up. I still highly recommend it, though. My creepy tree loving self is so happy to have read it. It's one I'm definitely passing on to my kids. I think they'll love it, too.

4/5 stars


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Monday, January 18, 2021

Book Review | Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire

Across the Green Grass Fields is the sixth book in the Wayward Children fantasy series by Seanan McGuire.

Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire

A young girl discovers a portal to a land filled with centaurs and unicorns in Seanan McGuire's Across the Green Grass Fields, a standalone tale in the Hugo and Nebula Award-wining Wayward Children series.

“Welcome to the Hooflands. We’re happy to have you, even if you being here means something’s coming.”

Regan loves, and is loved, though her school-friend situation has become complicated, of late.

When she suddenly finds herself thrust through a doorway that asks her to "Be Sure" before swallowing her whole, Regan must learn to live in a world filled with centaurs, kelpies, and other magical equines―a world that expects its human visitors to step up and be heroes.

But after embracing her time with the herd, Regan discovers that not all forms of heroism are equal, and not all quests are as they seem…

I love the Wayward Children series so much. My favorite books in the series are the stand alone ones that take the reader to a completely new world. I'm so excited that Across the Green Grass Fields falls into the portal fantasy side of this series.

In Across the Green Grass Fields we meet Regan. Regan is an intersex girl who loves horses, and she manages to find herself through a doorway to the Hooflands as one does with this series.

This book broke my heart into pieces in the way that this series always breaks my heart into pieces. I can't get enough of it, and please, please, please Ms. McGuire let me see Regan again. As much as I crave these portal fantasies, I'm ready for the school timeline to come around again. I have so many wayward friends I need to check on now, OK?

That's all I have to say. I loved this book, and now I wait for more.

4.5/5 stars


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