Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Top Ten Best Books Of 2016

For future Top Ten Tuesday topics & info on how to participate, click here!

This week's topic: Top Ten Best Books Of 2016 (you choose -- best books overall of what you read regardless of pub date, of a particular genre, 2016 debuts, 2016 releases, etc)

Julia's Picks:
1. The Martian by Andy Weir - I really liked this book and was glad I read it before I saw the movie. I liked the book more, just a bit because the movie was amazing as well, but the book just captured more of his "Oh no. I am stuck on Mars" point of view. 

2. Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith - Ah, the Cormoran Strike series. I really love this, and this one was slightly different than the other two since it focused on a case that directly affected Strike and Robin. JK Rowling really writes some engaging stuff in this series. 

3. Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare - I didn't read a lot of romance novels this year, but I read a lot of Tessa Dare. I think this one was my favorite I read. Her books are always so funny and heartwarming. The best kind of novel. I can just devour them. 

Jamie's Picks:
4. Salt To the Sea by Ruta Sepetys: Ruta's books have all been amazing to me but I think this was her best yet. If you love historical fiction, check this one out!

5. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: this book is a early 2017 release but I read it this year and OH MY GOD...it is amazing and super important. Truly. I love Starr and her family has been added to my fave fictional families list. I can't wait til this book gets the world talking because there is SO much to talk about!

6. One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid: all of her books have been favorites for me and I was so excited for this one and wowwowow one of the most visceral responses I had all year reading.

7. Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn: I randomly grabbed this book at the library in March and hadn't heard anything about it except knew people liked Sharon Shinn but I always heard people talk about her other books. This book is one I will reread next year for sure. It made me so truly happy and just charmed the pants right off me. The best part is my friend Gillian read it after I reviewed it and then she raved about it and this amazing chain reaction happened and others fell in love with it as much as we did and it was one of those moments that reminded me how important it is to still rave about the backlist books you read and love because there are so many people who might also find their new fave book that went under the radar!

Jana's Pick:
8. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas: I'm sure this comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me! I loved this book even more than ACOTAR!! I love Rhys and the Night Court and the swooooons!

Lauren's Picks:
9. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood - I know I'm at Atwood fan girl, but her latest novel blew me away yet again. Her prose is perfectly worded without the clutter of excess details that have seemed to drag on for me this year. She knows how to take an otherworldly society and topple it over with grace. This is easily one of my all time favorite Atwood novels, be it is definitely my favorite read of 2016. 

10. The Fold by Peter Clines - Science fiction, a little fantasy, and all the amazingness wanted all wrapped up with a bow. This was an amazing science fiction novel for 2016 that I honestly just may have to pick up again in 2017!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Leaving Under My Tree

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This week's topic: Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Leaving Under My Tree

Jamie's Picks:

1.  Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham: I have loved Lauren Graham since Gilmore Girls aired and then loved her in Parenthood so I am IN NEED of this book something fierce. Preferably would be nice if Santa could at least have it signed by her and also maybe like include a coffee date so Lauren and I can become bffs??

2. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake: I've heard amazing things about this YA fantasy and want to see what the hype is all about!

3. The Hating Game by Sally Thorne: I had this on my TBR when I saw it in a publisher catalog but then I forgot about it until EVERYONE started talking about it and saying it was the best ever so YEAH I need it.

4. Summer Skin by Kirsty Eager: This isn't sold in the US and I love Kirsty Eager so maybe Santa could pick this one up when he's in Australia and bring it to me!

5. Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta: I love Melina Marchetta's books soooooo much. They are my faves and this one came out this year and I've yet to snag it! 

Julia's Picks:

6. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles: Most of these are going to be off NPRs Book Conceirge 2016. This one sounds super interesting because it's about a guy who gets sentanced to house arrest in a hotel in Russia. It's right up my alley.

7. A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet: Sounds like romance meets fantasy to me. Mythology and world building? Sign me up.

8. The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman: I am just going to quote the reviewer for NPR, Margaret H. Willison, for why: "if you're equally excited to read about well-bred young ladies slaying demons and the tiny jugs they carried underneath their gowns in case they needed to relieve themselves while awaiting a royal audience, look no further. This is the book for you."

9. Some sort of cookbook by a chef I suppose: I just started to get into cooking, and I am not the greatest at it. I think I need to get a book and just try and keep practicing. Maybe Santa will bring one that doesn't include me setting the smoke alarm off three times in one night...

10. The Winds of Winter by George R.R. Martin: Because I think at this point it would take Santa magic for me to ever read this book...

What books would you like Santa to bring you?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Top Ten Books We're Looking Forward To For The First Half Of 2017

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This week's topic is... Top Ten Books We're Looking Forward To For The First Half Of 2017

Lauren's Picks

Lori's Picks
New Joan Didion, enough said. Coming in March.

This looks like a fun collection of short stories that can especially speak to women in their late 20s, early 30s. But I'm sure the appeal will be broader. An Internet buddy was raving about this ARC, so I pre-ordered without much thought. Coming out early January.

Jana's Picks

It sounds like an amazing debut, and is inspired by Russian fairytales!

New Kasie West!! I loved her last book, P.S. I Love You. 

A Phantom of the Opera retelling! I've been wanting this for years!

A fantasy "set along the waterways of a magical world". That's ALL I NEEDED.

Which books are you excited to read next year?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Top New-To-Us Authors We Read For The First Time In 2016

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Top Ten New-To-Us Authors We Read For The First Time In 2016

Bridget's Pick:
Jeff Vandermeer! He wrote the Area X trilogy. I've only read the first two (I really need to go back and finish!) but the prose is stunning. Very different from what I would normally expect from sci-fi. It's beautiful and ethereal and a little dense but definitely worth it. 

Daisy's Picks:

Lyndsay Faye: I LOVED Jane Steele! The writing style was amazing and I can't wait to read more from this author!

Garth Nix: I cannot believe that it took me this long to finally pick up one of Garth Nix's books, but Sabriel was SO GOOD! I'm definitely continuing this series in 2017!

Jamie's Picks:

Sarah Fine: I read The Imposter Queen this year and it was definitely one of my favorite fantasy books of this year! I can't wait to go through her backlist.

Jeff Zentner: His debut novel, The Serpent King, just really blew me away. One of those feelings like "this could be a potential ALL TIME fave author" if all his books do this to me. 

Claire Legrand: GUYS you must read Some Kind of Happiness. I rarely read MG books but this book made her one of my fave new-to-me authors of this year!

Kimberly's Pick:
Steven Rowley: I read Lily and the Octopus this year and... It was an incredible experience. I reviewed it on the blog this summer. 

Julia's Pick:
Kelly Bowen: I read Duke of My Heart on a whim earlier this year when I was trying to be better about getting into reading again. I have been leery with trying new historical romance authors because I have been put off by so many, but I actually quite enjoyed it. So I read the second one, and like that too. Now I have got the third one on my radar... 

What are your favorite authors this year? 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Help Kimberly meet her Goodreads goal!

Okay fellow book lovers. I need your help. I need to read 16 books before the end of the year. I'm SEVEN books behind schedule!! How did that even happen? Okay, so I hit several reading slumps this year, that's how it happened. It's been a weird year.

What are some of your favorite quick reads? Novellas? Graphic novels? Tell me all about them!  Help me reach my goal of 100 books this year!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday - Holiday Gift Guide Freebie

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Hey there! Jana here. :) Did you survive the Thanksgiving weekend? We BARELY did, which is why we're taking a little break this week. Please excuse us as we spend a little extra time laying on the couch recovering from mashed potato and pie overload! We'll be back next week. :)

Did you get any awesome deals on Black Friday or Cyber Monday? What gifts are on your radar for the upcoming holiday season? We're excited to jump around and see what creative gift list ideas you've come up with this week.

Friday, November 25, 2016

A Gilmore Revival Marathon

Unless you live under a rock, you surely know what today is.  :)  When news of the impending revival was released, it went like wildfire through many a friendship circle.  My very good friend and I decided to watch it together.  In true Gilmore fashion, we planned our food.  I added food to it (I'm getting to double dip a bit because my boyfriend's family is coming into town later today and I needed to cook for them anyway).  I decided to write a post about it and update it as we watched or until I got too drunk to continue updating it.  This post will include food eaten, books referenced, and NO SPOILERS!  It will likely hold general impressions, like "After this episode, I was left feeling..."  But DO NOT WORRY about me blowing major plot points.  If you are commenting, I ask that you kindly do the same.

The revival experience began last night.  My friend met my boyfriend and I at my uncle's house for some post Thanksgiving meal drinking.  We ran to a grocery store on the way back to my house for her portion of the food.  We watched some football.  I continued drinking.  Then my lovely boyfriend said he would excuse himself so we could watch a couple of episodes.  We each picked our favorite episode.  I chose season one's "Love and War and Snow," while she picked "They Shoot Gilmores, Don't They" from season three.  Then we watched the finale.  We wrapped it up around 1:00am.  The new episodes wouldn't drop until 3:00, so we decided to go to bed for a while and wake up at 7:00.  I'm up.  I got me some water and some allergy meds.  I'm ready to go!  

The last time we saw Lorelai, Rory, and the gang, I was just finishing up my freshman year of college.  I totally felt Rory's sense of "OK, now what do I do?"  However, during the entire run of the show, I felt like I could relate way more to Lorelai.  The daughter who had to do things the hard way.  Anyway, I finished college, went to grad school, took a year off, and started law school (currently in my second year).  From what I've seen of the previews for the revival episodes, Rory's is feeling completely adrift--it looks like she's between jobs, not in a relationship, feeling rootless, like she's just marking time.  I TOTALLY GET THAT!  I always thought that by now I'd be way more settled down and rooted.  So, it's odd, but maybe in this revival, I'll relate more to Rory.  We shall see.

OK.  So, my friend, Kelly, is up.  Finally.  We're about to get started.  I'm still not ready for food.  But I have an awesome looking breakfast casserole waiting for me.  

Let's get started!

Episode 1

It was weird seeing everyone again after so long!  But it also felt like coming home again, in a way.  The first episode is "Winter."

Books Referenced:
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Leaves of Grass
On the Road
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Not as many books as I would have thought!  But these are good ones.

Food consumed:
Powdered Donuts
Breakfast Casserole

It took a while before I was awake enough to eat food, but I managed to scarf down some donuts.  Then I moved onto the breakfast casserole.  Super yummy!  I highly recommend the recipe.

We've both expressed some level of disappointment that now the revival is 25% over.

Quick bathroom break, then onto the next episode!

Episode 2

"Spring"  Ah!  This episode!  This is what I was talking about!  I love how it's all coming together.  And now we're sad that it's half over.

Books Referenced:
Death of a Salesman
Edith Wharton
Fiddler on the Rood
Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Art of War
Dorothy Parker
David Foster Wallace
Cloud Atlas

So many more books this episode!  And I love the authors.  This is shaping up to be a pretty good reading list.  :)

Food Consumed:
More breakfast casserole.
More coffee.
More powdered donuts.
And we broke into the pie and ice cream.  :)

I guess we are on to summer!

Episode 3

Books Referenced:
Anna Karenina
Games of Thrones
The Godfather
Edward Albie/Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Nora Ephron/I Feel Bad about My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman

Food Eaten:
Frozen pizza.  :)

The plot thickens!

Episode 4

Books Referenced:
Eat Pray Love
The Raven
Picture of Dorian Gray
David Mamet
Little House in the Big Woods
True Grit
Alice in Wonderland

Food Eaten:
Not much.  But I did make a pot of chili.

Ummmm...wtf?!  We're definitely going to need some more episodes!

Overall, I think there was a pretty good reading list to be gleaned from the episodes.  But there weren't as many books as I would have liked.  Nor did they reference some really good recent picks.  I was kind of surprised by how many classics were mentioned.

I'll have to watch the episodes again to see how many books I missed!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Ten Things We Are Thankful for this Year

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Thanksgiving freebie -- tell us what you are thankful for! Books you are thankful for! 

We ladies at the broke and the bookish are thankful for...

Lori is thankful for...
Dry Shampoo--Makes my hair look great, smell great, and let's me be lazy. Win-win-win.

Reducing my wardrobe for neutrals--I can throw together a great outfit with no thought and next to no time. Love it!

Jamie is thankful for...
My dog Finn's health: we had a real big scare with his health this Fall but I'm so thankful that two months later he's doing so much better and is back to himself.

New friends: this past year has brought me a group of girls who I couldn't be more thankful for and have spent so much time with this year. They are the best and I feel supported and loved and encouraged and I just have the best time with them. Plus I love that our husbands all get along so well. It's been one of the best things of 2016.

Bridget is thankful for...

A great job with (mostly) great coworkers who I can actually be friends with. This has been pretty rare for me in most jobs but I really like the people I work with and we hang out occasionally and it's nice to actually have friends. It's been really difficult for me to make friends post-college thanks to introversion and general awkwardness. So yay work friends!

That we will be leaving North Carolina in less than a year. I don't know yet where we're going (we'll find out early next year and move sometime between July and September) but I am so tired of this place. I know that conflicts with what I said above somewhat, but mostly I'm tired of the south itself--it's too hot and too many people introduce themselves and then ask what church you go to >_> and I am ready to be somewhere that is less intrusive like that. Very thankful that our two years here are more than halfway over!

Julia is thankful for...
All of the friends that I have that make me get up and out of the house and hang out with them. I feel like year 29 would have been lonelier without them. I had friends before and I went out with people before, but this year I have just been crazy social. It's nice, even if it takes me away from books. :)

The fact that I have a great job with people I enjoy working with, that gives me the flexibility to take time off when I need to and travel the world when I want to (and sometimes when and where I dont want to). 

My health and the continued health of my family. We are all still alive and moving, despite missing a few pieces, or not being able to eat a few (dozen) things anymore. Overall I can't complained and am blessed.  

Jana is thankful for...
My mom and my sister, who are my biggest supporters and loudest cheerleaders. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Your Ultimate Gilmore Girls Playlist

As I'm sure you all know, the new episodes of Gilmore Girls are coming out on November 25th!! I'm anxiously counting down the days and in fact I may or may not have decided to watch the series AGAIN (for the...fourth? fifth? time) on Netflix so I'll be ready when the new episodes premier after Thanksgiving. Yes, I probably have a problem.

Anyway, we've all seen the posts about Rory's favorite books and all that good stuff, but I'm going in a different direction today. Gilmore Girls has a great soundtrack, and I've discovered some of my favorite songs through watching. Some of these songs come at the most pivotal moments of the series, so if you haven't watched or finished it yet, beware the spoilers below!

1. There She Goes - La's 

This is the perfect song to open the series. This might seem a little trite, but the Gilmore girls are so admired by so many people that it seems appropriate to me. Stars Hollow seems to center around them in a lot of ways (though of course, they are the stars of the show, so that might have something to do with it).

2. One Line - PJ Harvey

As weird as Dean got later, this is such a sweet scene. It took a while for Rory to be able to admit her feelings for him, and I was so happy for her (and him). Good song, too!

3. Reflecting Light - Sam Phillips

This is one of my favorite moments in the entire series (and also one of my favorite songs!). Lorelai accompanies Luke to Liz's wedding, and he surprises her with his dance skills...and they seem to surprise each other with their slow embrace. Oh man, happy tears every time. LORELAI AND LUKE 5EVER

4. Then She Appeared - XTC

Sigh. I freaking love this song, and it's perfect for the scene—Rory and Jess's first official "we're together" kiss—but I just can't get behind Rory and Jess as a couple. I do have to admit that he grows on me each time I watch the series, but he's so closed off; Rory deserves someone who actually treats her well, and Jess just doesn't treat her right. This is still a great scene and a great song, though.

5. I Think It's Going to Rain Today - Claudine Longet

After Logan's father tells Rory she doesn't have what it takes to make it in journalism, Rory flips and, with Logan's help, steals a yacht, drops out of Yale, and subsequently moves into her grandparents' poolhouse. This song plays as Lorelai watches Rory unpacking her books. Very pretty song but such a sad scene :(

6. I Will Always Love You - Whitney Houston

During the final controversial season, Lorelai sings this to Rory—and then to Luke—at karaoke night. That little shrug at the second verse gets me every time.


I know there are probably plenty that I'm missing. Which songs would you add?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Julia Learns to Cook With Blue Apron: Seared Chicken and Fregola Sarda

I have a confession to make. I’ve been alive a bazillion years at this point and can’t cook. I am awful at it. I measure recipes by how many times I have to open a window to let out the smoke. Thus I eat out or eat terribly and I wanted to change that.

One day I was browsing through Facebook and I got an ad for Blue Apron. It was $30 off my first order, so I decided why not? I’ve cooked four meals with them now and so far have really enjoyed it!

The first meal I cooked was Seared Chicken and Fregola Sarda with Salsa Verde, corn and tomato. I figured that these were ingredients at least that I had heard of, chicken, corn and the like, so let’s start with something easy.

What I learned from this experience was to read the steps before I wanted to start cooking. I added an hour onto my time by just being stumped by things. For instance – step one was preparing the ingredients. Awesome. Wash produce. Check. Heat some water. Got it. Chop the capers… wait what? Chop the capers? They are like the size of my pink nail, but round. Ok I can figure this out. Five confused minutes later I had chopped capers. Then things got really interested.

Finely chop the parsley leaves and stems. Okay. I don’t think I have ever used fresh herbs. So this was scary. I just knife them? With a big knife? Okay. Peel and mince the garlic. This one required a YouTube search. I stared at the garlic confused about how to get cloves out of it. But helpful video was helpful and I ended up with a garlic paste at the end (which was intended). The same sort of shenanigans followed with cutting corn off a cob and dicing a tomato.

Now it’s time to actually cook. Boiling pasta? Finally, something I am a master at. Throwing things in a pan and stirring until it looks cooked? Got that! Searing chicken… well. That was at least entertaining. And I didn’t completely dry out the chicken.

The dish was delicious in the end and I had enough for the next day’s lunch. I felt like a freaking goddess thinking that I had cooked such an awesome dish. It was so nice to have everything I needed in just the right portion sizes. The only downside is you have such a small window to cook everything in since it’s all pretty much thawed when it arrives in your box.

I was actually really surprised how much I liked the capers Salsa Verde. Also how delicious it tasted as leftovers.

I am excited for the next couple of recipes that are currently being shipped for me next week. Stayed tuned for more when I talk about the salmon disaster and the lick the plate good chicken.

Have any of you used Blue Apron or the like? What do you think of it? 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Our Top Ten Favorite Movies

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Hey! Julia and Jana here! Today's topic is a movie freebie, and we decided to each pick five of our favorite movies ever! I wonder if you have any in common with us? 

Julia's Picks

A League of their Own - I am a baseball girl at heart, and I cannot help but adore this movie. I can quote so, so much of it. It makes me so nostalgic for summer and a dream of being something even for a short moment.

Fried Green Tomatoes - Every time I watch this movie, I catch something new about it that I like. A coming of age or coming into age story, whichever you like, but in general the story is fantastic.

Shakespeare in Love - Every time I watch this movie I fall more in love with love. The chemistry just oozes off the screen. I love it so much.

Little Women - Every so often, usually in winter, I go back and rewatch this movie. It just goes back into the heart of my love of reading, my love of family, my love of childhood, and of course my first love of Christian Bale.

The Princess Bride - Another super quotable movie. I've only even known a few people who didnt like this one. But their love story and the characters around them make me come back and watch them and just enjoy myself.

Jana's Picks

The Sound of MusicThis is my all time favorite movie ever in life. I love the music and the scenery and Maria (Julie Andrews) and all the kids and the Captain (he was one of my very first crushes as a little girl). It's just such a perfect, perfect movie.

The Holiday
I loooooove this movie. I can identify with both women in this movie, and I love the swoony guys. I love the English countryside setting and the Christmas and the funny times. It's so wonderful!
Father of the Bride
The wedding in this movie is the dreamiest thing ever, plus I love Steve Martin and Martin Short. They are hilarious!

Leap YearIreland!! And the main guy in this movie is one of my favorites. I love the romantic storyline, and there's some humor too. It's soooo cute!

Letters to Juliet
Italy. Romance. Need I say more?

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Books I've Added To My To-Be-Read List Lately

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 Books We've Added To Our To-Be-Read List Lately

Julia's Picks

I loved her steampunk books so much that this one, which looks to be a continuation but with probably new characters to her London Steampunk series, was an automatic add. 

This cover is outstanding and just draws me in and makes me want to know more. It looks like an interesting and unique YA story. 

Jamie's Picks

3. All In Pieces by Suzanne Young
Looks like a VERY ~me~ contemporary YA and I've heard good things!

4. Lucky Girl by Amanda Maciel
I very much enjoyed Amanda's debut so this is definitely on my radar!

5. Everyone We've Been by Sarah Everett
When a book says for fans of Jandy Nelson and Jenny Han... yep!

Lauren's Picks

Another Ahlborn novel is set to be released next year! I. Can't. Wait.

And... another Atwood novel as well! I am LOVING my TBR list lately!

I have all of this author's novels and with the movie coming out, I just had to add this one to my TBR!

Honestly, this novel just kept catching my eye. So... I just bought it. Don't judge. 

This book is MASSIVE. But, my love of non fiction and historical fiction conquers all. The boyfriend just read this and loved it, so the journey begins!

What have you added to your TBR list lately?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Our October Faves & November TBR

I feel like I'm always shocked at how quickly the month goes by...alas..here we are for another faves/TBR post!
October Faves

Jana's Pick
Stolen: A Letter to My Captor

Stolen: A Letter to My Captor by Lucy Christopher: I've had my eye on this book for years, and I finally had time to read it! It's about a girl who is kidnapped from an airport and dragged to the Australian wilderness. I LOVED IT. It made me feel so many things, and I totally got Stockholm Syndrome. It was heartbreaking and suspenseful and just an amazing reading experience.

Lauren's Pick
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North: I was absolutely captivated by this novel. The main character's emotions would have been exactly my own if I had been in his shoes. It is truly amazing when you get to pick up a novel and can be completely transported to another life. This novel was nothing short of that.
Jamie's Pick

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: Woo boy I wish this was out so I could tell you all to purchase it/borrow it immediately but it's not so I want you to circle February 28th on your calendar and be sure to get it then. LOVED these characters and this story.

November TBR

Jana's Pick
Caraval (Untitled, #1)
Caraval by Stephanie Garber: The time has COME! I'm so excited! I've had this book for a LONG time now, and I am planning to read it as soon as I'm done with my current two reads. You've heard the amazing buzz, and I can't wait to see what it's all about.

Lauren's Pick
Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson: You all know by now that I can't resist a famed sci-fi novel. This author utilized years of research and real science to chronicle the colonization of mars. I don't know about you... but these days the only things I research are my ailments. (Adulting is hard, folks.) So this award winner author has already caught my eye and I'm ready to start this trilogy. It's pretty much like starting a new TV show I know I'll end on binge watching on Netflix, except it's books. And believe me... I loved trilogies and Netflix. 

Jamie's Pick

Girls in the Moon by Janet McNally: This looks so like a contemporary YA that is MADE for me! Can't wait to devour it!
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