Tag Archives: 5 Stars

The Color Project

Read on 5th & 8th July, 2017

Author: Sierra Abrams

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5 Stars

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Bernice Aurora Wescott has one thing she doesn’t want anyone to know: her name. That is, until Bee meets Levi, the local golden boy who runs a charity organisation called The Color Project.

Levi is not at all shy about attempting to guess Bee’s real name; his persistence is one of the many reasons why Bee falls for him. But while Levi is everything she never knew she needed, giving up her name would feel like a stamp on forever. And that terrifies her.

When unexpected news of an illness in the family drains Bee’s summer of everything bright, she is pushed to the breaking point. Losing herself in The Color Project—a world of weddings, funerals, cancer patients, and hopeful families that the charity funds—is no longer enough. Bee must hold up the weight of her family, but to do that, she needs Levi. She’ll have to give up her name and let him in completely or lose the best thing that’s ever happened to her.

For fans of Stephanie Perkins and Morgan Matson, The Color Project is a story about the three great loves of life—family, friendship, and romance—and the bonds that withstand tragedy.

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Thank you to Sierra Abrams for providing me with an eARC of The Color Project and Mollie the Reader for hosting the blog tour.

This has in no way influenced my review, all thoughts are my own.

The Color Project is a wonderful, heartwarming novel that captures the essence of interpersonal relationships – family, friendships and romantic. Up there with Queens of Geek, The Color Project is now one of my all-time favourite contemporary novels.

The Color Project features beautiful writing and a gorgeous design. However, the characters were by far the highlight of my reading experience.

First of all, the design of The Color Project is absolutely gorgeous. The cover, the chapter titles, the page breaks… beautiful. It’s definitely one of the prettiest books I’ve ever encountered and it really reflects the book well.

Sierra’s writing is beautiful, which is especially impressive considering this is her debut novel. Bee’s narrative voice is vivid and relatable, made unique through the inclusion of brackets to demonstrate her thought process (i.e. if Bee says one thing the brackets are used to reflect she’s really thinking something else) and “Thing You Should Know About Me [insert random number here]” randomly scattered throughout the text. The language, which is very contemporary with familiar colloquialisms, coupled with the incorporation of instant messaging conversations and references to current media such as The Book Thief and Hamilton, further allows the reader to be immersed in Bee’s narration.

Another unique formatting element is the fact that the chapter names are song titles. Personally, the only music I really listen to is Hamilton and Disney so I glossed over this part but for those who are interested, Sierra has compiled a Spotify playlist for all of the chapter title songs which can be found here. This element links in well with the story itself as Levi and Bee have several conversations regarding their taste in music.

Bee, our narrator, is a relatable, realistic character who is struggling with her own insecurities, identity and the pressure of not knowing what she wants to do with her life. She is also a bookworm (and book pusher) which I always love seeing. As challenges arose I didn’t always agree with how she dealt with them but I did understand where she was coming from when making her decisions.

Sadly, it’s incredibly rare to find present, positive family relationships within young adult literature as most novels either feature dead, absent or terrible parents – it’s almost as trite as the line “I let out a breath I hadn’t realised I was holding”. That said, Bee’s family were active and realistic; they teased and sometimes irritated one another but at the end of the day they were always there for each other. Individually Bee’s parents, Chloe and Matt, are wonderful people and great role models. Together, they have an amazing relationship that is actual goals. They are open and honest with each other and it’s apparent to all that they’re still madly in love. Bee’s siblings, Tom, Astrid and Millie, all have distinct personalities and were very much 3D characters.

Levi is an adorable cinnamon roll, a “precious heart”, and I love him so much. Not only is he incredibly kind, sweet, generous and selfless, but at the mere age of nineteen he runs his own charity – The Color Project – which administers financial aid to anyone who asks for it. His mother, Suzie, is equally amazing and I just want to hug them both and protect them from the world. Suffice to say, Levi is currently my top book boyfriend, even over Rhys from A Court of Mist and Fury and Jamie from Queens of Geek.

The Color Project is full of wonderful, kind, generous human beings. Gretchen, Bee’s best friend who lives across the county; Tracy, Bee’s manager at the flower shop; Ludwig, the delivery man; and all the volunteers at The Color Project are just a few of them.

Thus, in spite of the slightly darker themes that appear later in the narrative and a handful of terrible, selfish people, The Color Project leaves an overall light, fluffy, optimistic impression. It shows readers that yes, the world can be harsh, but it can be beautiful too.

The Color Project takes a relatively unique approach to relationships. Personally, I’ve found that young adult novels – particularly contemporaries – tend to build up to the moment the couple gets together and then stop. There usually isn’t anything past that; no models for navigating relationships, nothing on how to appropriately deal with conflict once the “honeymoon period” has gone by. The Color Project effectively navigates these waters; the relationship is developed, Bee and Levi start dating (and believe me, it’s adorable) but because of outside factors and some communication errors, there is hardship. To me, this is an incredibly important inclusion because that’s often how life is.

In terms of romantic relationships, I really appreciated that a) Bee wanted to wait until marriage to have sex and b) that her wishes were accepted, with no shame or judgement attached. I am a fan of sex-positive books and I believe they’re important but this element especially stood out to me as it’s something that I value.

Cute, fluffy and heartwarming while also making me ball my eyes out, The Color Project is a new favourite of mine. I loved it wholeheartedly and upon it’s release I will most certainly be shouting at people to read it.

The Color Project is now being released on August 17th as opposed to July 18th. Sierra addressed this in a Twitter thread which you can find here.

Sierra herself is super lovely and approachable. Her website can be found here and her Twitter here.

Let’s Discuss!

Have you heard of The Color Project?

If you’ve read The Color Project, what are your thoughts? If not, have I convinced you to read it upon release?

What are some of your favourite contemporaries?

What are some of your favourite novels featuring strong family relationships?

Please let me know! I love discussing with you guys 🙂

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland #1)

Finished on 10th April, 2017 (Re-Read)

Author: Catherynne M. Valente

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5 Stars

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Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

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Anyone who knows me well will likely be aware that Fairyland is my favourite series of all time; period. Which is saying something because I’ve read and loved a heck of a lot of books. Those who know me well will also likely have had me shove this book in their face – multiple times.

Fairyland is the childhood series I wish I had. I pitch it as Fairy Realm (by Emily Rodda) cross Narnia – the issue is, not many people have read the Fairy Realm series.

The story is universal; it is something that most people can enjoy, even if they don’t usually read middle grade.

Fairyland features fantastic friendships, complex characters, a morally ambiguous villain (who owns a very fine hat), adventure, adroableness, a Wyverary – that is, a wyvern (essentially a dragon) cross Library – and many other whimsical, magical, amazing things and people. (Look out for the key and the green smoking jacket; though inanimate, they are characters in their own right).

The story is so imaginative and vibrant, the writing is beautiful (not at all juvenile) and the characters are well-developed and loveable. The author takes a lot of stereotypes and spins them on their head. There is also a lot of book lover appreciation.

Even though it’s the first of a five book series, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making has a complete arc in itself and could be read as a standalone (but please don’t as the rest of the series is just as wonderful, if not more).

If you like audio books or are thinking of getting into audio books, I 100% recommend Fairyland as I actually prefer the audio format. Not only are the audios themselves amazing but the style of the books are such that there is a narrator telling you the story, which makes for a perfect audiobook. Additionally, the author narrates 3/5 of the series, which is amazing.

Overall, Fairyland is a fun read, though it does get slightly dark. For me, it was even more fantastic the second time round.

If you need further persuasion, it is blurbed by both Neil Gaiman and Holly Black.

 

Let’s Discuss!

Have you read any of the Fairyland series?

Are you planning to? Have I convinced you?

If so, please let me know! Thoughts, feelings, rants, raves…

I would love to discuss with you 😉

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter #5)

Read from 3-14th January, 2017

Author: J. K. Rowling

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5 Stars

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Harry Potter is due to start his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His best friends Ron and Hermione have been very secretive all summer and he is desperate to get back to school and find out what has been going on. However, what Harry discovers is far more devastating than he could ever have expected…

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I’ve been rereading the Harry Potter books for some time now, but this is the first instalment where my thoughts are extensive enough to warrant a review. That said, please forgive the fact that there are no prior reviews on these books and that I am instead jumping in at number five.

Many people say that this instalment is their least favourite of the series, but I didn’t find that at all – perhaps because I listened to the audiobook rather than reading a physical copy. At any rate, I loved this book.

Professor McGonagall and Ginny Weasley completely stole the show with their vibrant personalities and high levels of sass. Luna, Hermione, Neville, the twins and Tonks were also fantastic.

Umbridge has always been a fantastic love-to-hate villain and she certainly did not disappoint. There was also an interesting detail about her that I had forgotten until rereading which I quite liked. She was completely horrible and cruel, and it was a delight seeing her in disarray when the Weasley twins were up to mischief.

Harry really frustrated me, but I actually think that this was a good thing. Harry’s temper was quick and destructive (his friends were even scared of him at times), he didn’t appreciate the people around him, he was selfish, and he was rash. However, some of those qualities (such as the temper) I believe may have been (at least to some degree) appropriated from Voldemort. It also made him flawed and somewhat more relatable. It will be interesting to see his character development through the next few novels – you can already start to see it at the end of Order of the Pheonix in his interaction with Luna.

I really didn’t like Cho but I understand that she was needed to help Harry grow as a character. Personally, I found her to be selfish, extremely shallow and rather superficial.

Dumbledore was interesting. For the majority of the novel, I, like Harry, was frustrated at and disappointed in Dumbledore, who had been like a father figure to Harry in his time at Hogwarts to date. It had been such a long time since I’d read “Order of the Phoenix” that I’d entirely forgotten his motivations – but Rowling did a fantastic job at portraying them in the reveal at the end, painting Dumbledore as flawed, vulnerable and… old. That conversation was perhaps one of my favourite scenes in the novel.

Overall, it was a fantastic read with brilliant characters, mixing entertaining times with frustrating ones.

If you are struggling to get through, I do thoroughly recommend listening to the audiobook as I feel it would help out significantly. However, that is coming from someone who loves audiobooks and what works for me may not work for you.

Let’s Discuss!

Have you read Harry Potter? Are you one of the few who haven’t?

What’s your favourite instalment? Least favourite?

Favourite character?

Any unpopular opinions?

Come chat with me! I love to discussions.

A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2)

Note: Though I have done my best to keep it spoiler-free, this review may contain mild spoilers for A Court of Thorns and Roses (Book 1; sometimes referred to as ACOTAR). See my ACOTAR review here.

Read on 1st June, 2016

Author: Sarah J. Maas

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5 Stars

Quite possibly the best of Sarah’s novels so far (equal to if not slightly exceeding Queen of Shadows),  A Court of Mist and Fury (sometimes referred to as ACOMAF) is an absolutely fantastic, page-turning read with intriguing, complex characters and brilliant writing.

Note: I would like to mention that this book isn’t necessarily for a younger audience as it contains a substantial amount of sex scenes. They’re not that explicit, but enough that it’s quite obvious as to what’s going on.

If you’re comfortable with that and this book sounds interesting to you (read: fae, magic, fight scenes, hot guys and major character development), I sincerely suggest that you check it out. If not, that’s fine too.

A Court of Mist and Fury is a very character-driven narrative. Yes, there is an interesting plot and the novel is jam-packed with journeys, adventures and all that awesome stuff, but at the end of the day I feel like it is about personal growth, friendships and the impact of people on our lives as we ourselves grow and change.

A Court of Mist and Fury is a celebration of life, a recognition of the heavy toll sacrifice often leaves on our hearts and minds (subtly discussing post-traumatic stress disorders and depression), and also plays with the idea of  what it means to have true freedom.

It is a commentary on love and relationships (both platonic and romantic) – highlighting unhealthy relationships by juxtaposing them with ones based on mutual trust and respect, while realistically displaying how one can be trapped and not even realise that they are in an unhealthy relationship due to not knowing anything else. Emotional manipulation, control issues and possibly even domestic violence are all issues which are hinted at. Corruption, dreams, prejudice and mistreatment are all prominent themes in the novel.

Feyre undergoes massive character development throughout this story. She grows into herself as she is forced to adapt to new situations and her priorities change. Feyre forms unlikely friendships as we are introduced to a whole new cast of rich, vibrant, haunted characters and it is with their help that she is able to begin healing from the traumatic experiences she’s been through. Feyre’s journey from an empty husk who can barely function to acceptance, confidence and assurance within herself and those around her is a very well-crafted and believable depiction.

Although we barely get a glimpse into Rhysand’s character in A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Court of Mist and Fury features him heavily – and I enjoyed every second of it. A lot of his background is revealed, allowing readers to see past his masks and understand his actions and motivations. Be warned: your heart will bleed (and swoon). Rhys is a great big ball of contradictions, raw vulnerabilities and darkness. To say the least, he quickly became my favourite character. Also, while I love Tamilin and Feyre’s relationship in the first book and appreciate how he helped shape her character, I now wholeheartedly ship her with Rhys (a seemingly common theme within Sarah’s books). Quite a few key scenes in A Court of Thorns and Roses are shed new light as we get to see his perspective on them.

Feyre and Rhysand’s relationship – their is full of banter, tension, friendship, respect and trust. They heal each other. Their “note passing” was adorable, made me grin every time.

Without saying too much in fear of spoilers, Rhysand’s Inner Circle – Mor, Cassian, Azriel and Amren – are all absolutely fantastic, amazing, wonderful, complicated characters which I love with a passion. Their friendship and loyalty to each other is amazing, and they are each such unique and distinct characters. I love how Sarah has reflected their unity and cohesion, their interactions and comradely – it is apparent how much they care for each other. I especially love Mor and Azriel’s relationship and would love to see them come together – they would make an adorable couple.

Honourable mentions to Nesta, Elain and Lucien, whom I love dearly.

At around 630 pages and approximately a third larger than the first book, A Court of Mist and Fury is a decently long book – though I would gladly soak up another 600 pages (I’m at the point where I would greedily read anything Sarah puts out) – but it doesn’t drag at all. Character development aside, so much happens in this book – adventures, world building, tension, fight scenes, dancing… Every moment I was entranced; I had no wish to put it down (which resulted in essentially no homework completed, lack of sleep and a highly unproductive school day, despite the fact that I had no less than four tests coming up within the next week).

If you want to get into Sarah’s writing, but Throne of Glass seems too daunting (those books are massive) and you don’t mind a bit of mature content then I would definitely suggest starting with these books.

Essentially, this book is absolutely fantastic and if you’re even slightly inclined to pick it up, please do. A Court of Mist and Fury is quite possibly the best book I’ve read so far this year and I highly recommend it.

Let’s Discuss!

Please come chat with me if you’ve read this as I have a ton of spoiler-y thoughts to discuss and would love to hear your thoughts. What was your favourite part? Who do you ship? Have you read any of Sarah’s Throne of Glass books? Thoughts?

The Assassin’s Curse (The Assassin’s Curse #1)

Read from 22-24th June, 2015

Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke

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5 Stars

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Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to another pirate clan. But that only prompts the scorned clan to send an assassin after her. When Ananna faces him down one night, armed with magic she doesn’t really know how to use, she accidentally activates a curse binding them together.

To break the spell, Ananna and the assassin must complete three impossible tasks–all while grappling with evil wizards, floating islands, haughty manticores, runaway nobility, strange magic…and the growing romantic tension between them.

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A fun, easy read filled with magic, adventure, pirates, assassins and a whole lot of sass, The Assassin’s Curse is a fantastic story and exactly what I was looking for. I went in with pretty high expectations, which (thankfully) were met.

The characters in this story are absolutely brilliant.

Ananna (whose name I have no idea how to say, because I’m pretty sure that it is not supposed to rhyme with “banana”), our protagonist, is strong, capable, relatable and does not take any nonsense from anyone.

The Assassin (whose name I won’t reveal due to minor spoilers) is really cool. He is flawed and not, in fact, all-powerful –there are several times in which he is the one who has to be saved. He’s stubborn and kind of thick-headed, but we learn to love him nonetheless. His sweet side (yes, he has one!) is revealed in his own gruff manner and some of the things he says are guaranteed to make you go “aww” (while others will make you want to bash your head into a wall, but I digress).

Although a minor character, Marjani is super awesome. A pirate queen, she is intelligent, confident and commandeers respect.

The magic of this world is really interesting as it is based on the elements, with the addition of blood magic. Only “touched” people can use magic, but to varying degrees and often specializing in a specific element. However, there are also wizards, instances of mixed elements and curses, which add a further later into the system. Although magic is rather prominent in The Assassin’s Curse, the mechanics of it are rather vague so I am hopeful that we are able to learn a whole lot more in The Pirate’s Wish (the second and final installment).

My one criticism of The Assassin’s Curse would have to be that the synopsis is somewhat misleading; The three impossible tasks are revealed at the tail end of the novel, and none of them completed by the conclusion (which is perfectly understandable, but should not be included in the synopsis).

Unfortunately, the publishing company behind this duology has shut down, so physical copies are practically impossible to find. However, the ebooks are still available, which is something at least.

I highly recommend The Assassin’s Curse as it is a light hearted, brilliant read that will appeal to fans of Tamora Pierce (that woman is queen), fantasy, magic, pirates and strong female characters.

All The Bright Places

Read from 13-14th June, 2015

Author: Jennifer Niven

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5 Stars

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The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Elle Fanning!
 
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.

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I am so emotionally drained right now it’s not even funny…

All The Bright Places had me tearing up, laughing and full-out crying. I don’t usually dog-ear pages, but…

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… See that? Those document all the times where I laughed, cried, or just read something that I really, really liked.

At first, I wasn’t sure that I would be able to connect with the characters – but that fear was thankfully squashed reasonably early on in the story.

I loved how unique both Finch and Violet were and that their voices were distinct from one another as the story was told from a dual point of view. I also appreciated how their characters had such depth to them – going beyond the surface level and how everyone else might see them or expect them to be. Also, Violet loves to read.

Most of all, I loved (I really need to stop repeating that word… oh well) how Violet and Finch challenged each other to be better versions of themselves. From strangers to friends to something more, it was apparent that their relationship helped both characters grow in themselves and in each other. It was believable and heartwarming and heartbreaking.

Aside from a rare few, (I’m looking at you Roamer, Mr. Finch) I either loved or somewhat liked all of the characters.

There was a strong family aspect to this book, which I really appreciated and – I’m sure many others would agree – is something that is extremely lacking in YA.

I adored the wanderings! They were so fun and awesome and unique. I loved how both Finch and Violet went about it and it was just so fun! (One of the first dog ears is a shout out to book fans everywhere). Even better, these are all actual places that exist in the world (i.e. Indiana).

Reading the acknowledgements, I found out that All The Bright Places is actually a rather personal story and it comes from some of Jennifer’s own experiences, which definitely shows.

“I wanted to write something edgy.
I wanted to write something contemporary.
I wanted to write something though, hard, sad, but fun.”

Congratulations Jennifer, you did just that.

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All The Bright Places is June’s book pick for The Book Club of the Opinionated Hufflepuffs.

An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes #1)

Read from 9-10th June, 2015

Author: Sabaa Tahir

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5 Stars

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Laia is a slave. 

Elias is a soldier. 

Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

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A debut novel realeased just over a month ago, An Ember in the Ashes has already got its own book trailer, been optioned for a film and is surrounded by a whole lot of hype in both the
blogosphere and on BookTube – deservingly so. However, with such hype I feel that everything’s already been said about this novel, but I’ll give it my best shot anyway.

An epic high fantasy with brilliant world building (but no information dumping!), characters you either love dearly or despise, beautiful writing, a romantic sub-plot (it is not at all the main focus), friendships, a resistance movement that will surprise you, and gruesome yet realistic tasks and punishments (Sabaa spares no expense on our characters), An Ember in the Ashes is a truly brilliant story with a fantastic plot and just a great, solid read.

I’m honestly no sure what else to say – you know those books that are so good but you can’t really put it into words? That’s where I’m coming from. However, I will say this: if you think you’re going to like this – maybe even love it – you probably will. Don’t be intimidated by the size of the book, because it reads really fast. I highly, highly recommend picking up An Ember in the Ashes and giving it a read.

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Please let me know if you’ve read this book and what your thoughts were in the comments below. I love hearing your opinions 😉