Turtles All The Way Down

Turtles All the Way Down
By John Green
Published: 2017, Dutton Books
Genre: YA Fiction, Social & Family Issues, Mental Health

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Man can do what he wills, but he cannot will what he wills
~Arthur Schopenhauer~

There has been a lot of chatter about this latest book from John Green all over the book world. Seeing that the subject matter was mental health, a subject that is surrounded by shame and stigma, I knew that I needed to get my hands on it and read it.

Throughout the book, we get to experience Aza’s life as she learns to live with anxiety. The author gives us a bird’s eye view on how it affects everything in her life; family relationships, friendships, romantic interests, school, physical health and even her grief.

The fear had mostly sweated out of me, but as I walked from the cafeteria to history class, I couldn’t stop myself from taking out my phone and rereading the horror story that is the “Human Microbiota” Wikipedia article.

Everyone experiences moments of fear and feelings of being anxious. Not everyone can turn off those moments and feelings. John Green describes the experiences of those that cannot turn off those moments and how it affects every single minute of your life.

Everyone in the entire world needs to read this eye-opening book.
John Green does a phenomenal job of giving an inside look into the mind of someone who struggles daily with mental health. He does it beautifully with compassion, understanding, and grace. As someone who struggles with mental health issues (anxiety and depression), it was refreshing to see a book written from MY perspective. Many people often do not understand the struggles and what truly goes on within the mind of someone who fights mental health illness every single day. John Green finally gives us that viewpoint; and he does it in a way that anyone can understand, from teenagers to 90 year old grandparents.

As I washed and rebandaged it in the bathroom, I started at myself. I would always be like this, always have this within me. There was no beating it. I would never slay the dragon, because the dragon was also me. My self and the disease were knotted together for life.

I will be doing a giveaway for my copy of the book on my Instagram account. Be sure to follow me HERE, for your chance to win my “signed copy” of Turtles All The Way Down by John Green.

Turtles All the Way Down

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The Alice Network

 The Alice Network: A Novel
By Kate Quinn
Published: 2017, William Morrow – Harper Collins
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

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1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Claire is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy.

Thirty years, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. That is until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth….no matter where it leads.

This novel is phenomenal. I cannot say enough good things about this book.
Kate Quinn does a wonderful job weaving the stories of 2 strong women in and out of the past and the present. The author has created a book hugely based upon real characters and events while creating fictional characters and events to expand the story and still staying true to the actual history on record.
I loved how Kate Quinn interlaced the French and German languages within the novel; it gives the reader a rich, authenticity to the history and era of the story-line.

Lili already was extraordinary, Eve thought. Not like me. The thought held no envy–it was what made them both good at what they did now. Lili’s job was to be anyone, to shift with a few tricks of posture or grammar from one persona to another, whether seamstress or laundress or cheese seller. And if Lili’s job was to be anyone, Eve’s was to be no one, to be unobserved and unnoticed at all times.

I knew of spies, women spies, within the Great War, but I had no previous knowledge of The Alice Network. It was interesting to read about the courage and bravery that these women had. They wanted to be able to make a difference in the war and fight for their own country, but were not allowed to because they were not men. Instead, they helped create a network of women spies in an effort to do their part to fight against the Germans. It is an incredible peek into a sliver of historical events and heroes that often went unnoticed and unappreciated.

I would love to give you more details of the book, but I don’t want to ruin this unique work of historical fiction. You just need to purchase it and read it for yourself. Trust me.

NOTE* There is some language in the book but it leads to the authenticity of the characters and the time era of the story. There is also some adult content as well as a couple of scenes that can be a bit gruesome if you are sensitive to those things. 

The Alice Network is a work of art with words. I highly recommend this extraordinary piece of literature to everyone, especially to those that love historical fiction.

The Alice Network is up for voting as Best Historical Fiction Book of 2017. You can vote for it here.

The Alice Network: A Novel

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The Road to Paradise

The Road to Paradise: A Vintage National Parks Novel
By Karen Barnett
Published: 2017, WaterBrook
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction, Romance

The Road to Paradise was the book that won the most votes for my monthly book club; and it did even come down to a tie breaker. It was not my vote and I was not very interested in reading it, but I am glad to be a part of a book club that helps introduce me to books I probably would have never read otherwise.

The promised view of the mountain peak waited, cloaked in mist like a tissue-wrapped gift not ready to be unveiled. Margie Lane drew a small, leather-bound journal from her pocket and braced it against her knee to jot down the words flooding her mind. The lush treetops to the valley below inspired her.

The Road to Paradise is not in a genre I usually particularly care for but it did have a lot of positive elements within its pages. It was a wonderful light book to read after some of the more deeper novels I have read lately.

The writing in the novel was beautiful. The descriptions the author created of the scenery and outdoor environments surrounding Mt. Rainier were breathtaking and gave you a feeling of being right there in the shadow of the mountain. Karen Barnett  weaves her obvious love of God’s nature throughout the story, giving a rich depth to her novel.

The romance aspects in the book were somewhat predictable and cheesy, as most romance novels are (which is why I don’t usually particularly chose this genre).
I did enjoy watching the unfolding of one of the main characters and their faith journey.

It was quite refreshing that the lead character, Margie, had such a deep love for God and that she was not willing to waver on that, even for the love of a man. I relished that the antagonist received consequences for his behaviors in the story rather than just having it brushed aside.

The ending was a wee bit foretold, however it was pleasant to see that the story turned out how it should have.

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This next section was added after my book club met and includes some thoughts and opinions of others on the book and how the discussion may have changed my perspective of the book. 

Many of the ladies in my book club agreed that the book was beautifully written and that it was refreshing to read a book with a minimal story line. It delightful to read a book that had descriptions about places that the majority of us had visited at some point in our lives. Yes, some of the romance was cheesy and some of the story was a little bit predictable, but we enjoyed reading a book that wasn’t deep and did not require a whole lot of brain function. 🙂

The majority consensus was that the book was a decent read that most of us enjoyed.

The Road to Paradise: A Vintage National Parks Novel

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The Last Magician

The Last Magician
By Lisa Maxwell
Published: 2017, Simon Pulse
Genre: Fantasy Fiction, Science Fiction

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I have seen a lot of chatter about this particular book on Instagram in the Bookstagram community, so I wanted to see if it lived up to its expectations. I also wanted to give it a pre-read to see if it would be appropriate for my 13 year old son to read since this is a genre he greatly enjoys.

In modern-day New York, magic is all but extinct. The remaining few who have an affinity for magic–the Mageus–live in the shadows, hiding who they are. Any Mageus who enters Manhattan becomes trapped by the Brink, a dark, energy barrier that confines them to the island. Crossing it means losing their power–and often their lives. 

Lisa Maxwell does a phenomenal job of weaving together the stories a modern-day New York with the past history of the city.
I was concerned as the story began jumping back and forth from the perspective of many characters that I would have a difficult time keeping track of all the characters and where each one fit into the story.
However, as you travel through the pages, you will see how all of those characters intertwine and relate to each other and they each become well-known in your memory.
The author created rich characters that add depth to the story as well as giving them background and relevance to the current situation in New York.

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The book is quite long (498 pages), yet I got so wrapped up in the story that I could not put the book down nor did I notice the length of the book. The pages are packed with mystery, adventure, fantasy, futuristic science fiction and characters that you will grow to love and/or hate.

The Magician had pulled a vanishing act, because the boy before her could have been any factory worker, any laborer in the city…….He looked more unbuttoned and human than she’d ever seen him. 

Along with the mystery and science fiction within the book, the author weaves through some points of social injustice in a way that is relevant to the story but prompts you to think about the current situations in our own country.

 He wasn’t sorry for using their fears and their hopes, their prejudices and their sense of righteousness against them. For distracting them from the truth. He was simply surviving in a world that hated what he was.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the fantasy fiction or science fiction genre. I greatly enjoyed it.

The author left an undetermined conclusion to the end of the story so I hope that there are going to be future books and continue it as a series.

**Note** There is some innuendos to adult content. There is a kiss and some other small innuendos within the book. I personally think my 13 year old is too young to read it, but it would certainly be fine for an older teenager to read.

The Last Magician

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Child of the River

Child of the River
By Irma Joubert


Child of the River was the book club read chosen for this month. It is described as “A compelling coming of age story with an unlikely and utterly memorable heroine, Child of the River is a timeless tale of heartbreak and triumph set in South Africa at the dawn of apartheid.”

If, like me, you do not know what apartheid means, here is the definition for you.

apartheid
racial segregation; specifically :a former policy of segregation and political and economic discrimination against non-European groups in the Republic of South Africa

I have to admit, I had a hard time with this book. There is quite a bit of political pieces throughout the book that did not interest me. I usually enjoy historical fiction a great deal, but a lot of the political parts of the story line were difficult for me to follow; perhaps because it is of a time and culture that I do not know a lot about?
I am not sure if it was the language from the translation or if it was just not a topic that I found particularly interesting.

I enjoyed the story of Persomi and following her throughout her life. Child of the River is a story of how an individual can overcome the life they have been born into and choose to follow a different path in order to find something better for themselves. Persomi shows us that your path in life can be a choice you make rather then just letting life happen to you.

I did struggle with understanding how this book fit into the Christian fiction category. The author touched on tiny bits and pieces of the Word and God, but there was certainly not an overall Christian theme within the book.
I continually expected to read how God was going to work in Persomi’s life (a theme that is typically found within Christian Fiction) and unfortunately I felt that was never portrayed well within the story.

Overall, it was a good book, but it is not one that I would have chosen to read on my own.

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This next section was added after my book club met and includes some thoughts and opinions of others on the book and how the discussion may have changed my perspective of the book. 

The discussion during book club was quite good. Many ladies brought up a lot of points that I had not thought about on my own. There were also quite a few questions that we had as a group for the author that seem to go unanswered that may have helped me connect to the story just a little bit more than I did. I wish I could share those thoughts and questions with you, but I feel it would take away from your own personal reading of the story.

After the discussion, I did like the book a little more and I think seeing it in a different perspective gave the book new merit for me. It is definitely a book worth reading.

Child of the River

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Loving My Actual Christmas

Loving My Actual Christmas: An Experiment in Relishing the Season
By Alexandra Kuykendall

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I was so ecstatic when I saw that Alexandra Kuykendall put out a call on Instagram for women to be a part of her upcoming Christmas book launch team.
Not only is Christmas my favorite holiday, but I enormously enjoyed her other book, Loving My Actual Life, which had a huge impact on my life and gave me perspective on where God has me in this season of my life; MY actual life.
Through my posts about her other book and helping to launch this book, I feel as if I have gotten to “know” Alex. You guys! She is just like us. She is down to earth, she is a hot mess of a mom, she is trying to just live in her actual life right here and right now while keeping herself and her family entrenched in His word. She needs Jesus just as much as we do. She is human just as much as we are. She just happens to write books is all.
Read her book. You will NOT be disappointed!

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Through her new book, Alexandra Kuyukendall gives us a marvelous fresh perspective on how we should slow down, stop and enjoy the Christmas season that we are living in RIGHT NOW. Because that is all we have, is the RIGHT NOW; our actual life. She beautifully entwines real life with scripture and biblical principles on how to not just “get through” the holiday but to relish in and enjoy the season that celebrates the beautiful birth of our Savior.

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Pause from the hustle and remember.
Remember a baby.
Remember a savior.

 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. ~~Luke 2:11

We are only human. We can only do so much. We only have so many hours in a day and some of those we need to use to eat and sleep. We do not need to do every.single.holiday activity that is out there. If we tried to do that, it would take us an entire year. And then, Christmas would loose its magic, its significance and its importance.

Rather than overspending, overeating, undersleeping, and underrejoicing, I want to notice the goodness God has offered in the here and now. In this year. This. Christmas. Regardless of the circumstances. Because I don’t want to resent this actual Christmas, I want to love it.

Don’t you want to love your Christmas this year? This Christmas. Not last year’s Christmas or next year’s Christmas, but this one. The one right here, right now, in front of you, staring you in the face.

Hope.
Love.
Joy.
Peace.

The four weeks of Advent.

Alexandra takes us through each week of the Advent in her actual Christmas. As we journey through her life with her, she gives us scripture to steep ourselves in, biblical knowledge and tangible ideas that we can use to help us love OUR actual Christmas.

She reminds us that the celebration of the birth of Jesus does not end on December 25th. Amidst the wrapping paper, dropped needles all over the floor and new gadgets and gizmos, we have 12 more days in the liturgical calendar to relish in our magnificent Savior.

Advent is the period of expectation and waiting. Christmastide is the season of celebrating his arrival. I celebrate here in the middle of my actual life with my actual circumstances.

Celebrate YOUR Christmas in the middle of YOUR actual circumstances. Amidst the busy, amidst the crazy, the grief, the joy, the shopping and baking, the school plays and concerts, amidst the impatience and frustration, the strained budget, and even amidst the brokenness.

And you want to enjoy this Christmas. The one right in front of you. In the midst of all the imperfect circumstances. You want to remember it as one filled with celebration and love, rather than frustration and regret. 

Find Hope within it. Find Love within it. Find Joy within it. Find Peace within it. Find Your actual Christmas. Because we only get this actual Christmas once in our life. We cannot do it over again.

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I cannot recommend this book enough. And you need to get it now. You need to read it now. BEFORE the craziness of the holiday season overtakes your life. Because then, just maybe, this Christmas won’t be crazy. Then read it again throughout the Advent and Christmastide season. It will keep you grounded in His word and the amazingly beautiful story of a baby who came to rescue a fallen world.

Loving My Actual Christmas: An Experiment in Relishing the Season

I received a free digital copy of the book in order to do this review.
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More Than Just Making It

More Than Just Making It: Hope for the Heart of the Financially Frustrated
By Erin Odom

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In More Than Just Making It, Erin Odom shares her family’s story through their previous years of financial struggles. She tells about how they were drowning in debt, with not enough income, and struggling to feed their family, but how through it all, they learned to rely on and be content with God’s provisions. Erin shows us how her family found contentment right where God had them and that after following God’s lead, they were able to find the light on the other end of the tunnel.

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Through Erin’s transparency, we are able to see that God will provide for all of our needs; not wants, but needs. There were some stumbles and bumps for her family along their path but they continued to be faithful to His word and His path for them.

As Erin takes you through her own story, she equips you with tangible, realistic ideas and tips to save money, live within your means and dig yourself out of the dark hole while continually having faith that God will never forsake you. She provides you with encouragement, and empowers you with the tools you need to find the life God has planned for you.

I want to give you hope, but I also want to arm you with practical solutions that will take you from financial stress to financial success.

One of the pieces that I thought was fantastic is how Erin opens up conversation about the stigma of using government assistance. WIC, welfare and other forms of government aid have gotten a ginormous stigma of shame, abuse of the system and lazy people who do not want to go out and get a job. Erin does a wonderful job of getting rid of the stigma by explaining how the help is there for those that TRULY need it. Yes, there will be exceptions and those who abuse it, just like with anything else; but if we were to take it away completely then there would be families just like hers that would not be able to even feed their children. She does a effective job of bringing it back to scripture and what God intended for His people.

Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done. ~Proverbs 19:17

We need to help those that have fallen on hard times. Life sometimes has a way of kicking you while you are down and it by no means says that you are lazy or abusing the system. The system was put in place to help families for a short term while they regained their footing during a tough time of financial struggles.

What if our generation could live with less than the Joneses while reaching for a new American Dream that leaves us fulfilled, less stressed, and re-imagining “the good life”? What if we learned to be satisfied with our needs being met? What if we aligned our wants with God’s design and own callings, instead of basing them on what the family next door has chosen?

What if we stopped living above our means and using our excess to help those who are in need? What if we were content with what God provided for our needs and used the excess to change the pah of a struggling family? What if our generation tried to “keep up with God” rather than the Joneses? What would our world be like then?

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This book has at least a little bit of something for everyone.
If you are in the dark, swimming, trying to figure out how to put the next meal on the table, then this book is for you.
If you are just getting your head above the waves and finding your footing, then this book is for you.
If you have already been through the darkness and you’re on the other side, finally living comfortably without financial worries, then this book is for you.
If you have never known the depths of the darkness that comes with financial strain and not being able to feed your family, then this book is for you.

There is a lesson for each and every individual within the pages and words of Erin Odom. I highly recommend it to all.

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Be sure to get your lowest price, pre-order copy from Amazon by clicking my link at the top or bottom of this post. After you have pre-ordered, be sure to get all of the fantastic freebies (only available to those that pre-order the book!) by going to the More Than Just Making It website. Scroll to the bottom and you will see how to get your freebies. 🙂

More Than Just Making It: Hope for the Heart of the Financially Frustrated

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The Lightkeeper’s Daughters

The Lightkeeper’s Daughters: A Novel
By Jean E. Pendziwol

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I had seen many people on Instagram saying they were reading this and that it was fabulous, so I was intrigued and willing to give it a read.

“In her mesmerizing adult debut set on the shores of the Great Lakes, critically acclaimed children’s author Jean E. Pendziwol delivers an affecting story of family, identity, and art involving a decades-old mystery.”

So lovely was the loneliness
Of a wild lake, with black rock bound,
And the tall pines that towered around

The Lake
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)

I really enjoyed this book. It was not exciting and adventurous, but it had a wonderful story line that evolved and intertwined with all of the well developed characters. The story was set in a part of the world that I have never been to and it was nice getting to experience it through the author’s words and the characters’ stories. Jean Pendziwol did a wonderful job with the descriptions of the setting that you could picture it clearly and feel like you were right there with Elizabeth.

I loved how the book explores the ideas of knowing your past, where you come from and learning how that can shape who you become. There are also some undertones of the argument nature versus nurture. I think the author does a fantastic job of getting you to think about which one is the underlying reason of who you turn out to be.

The novel is full of family secrets and choices that change the course of things, lost loves, bullying, acceptance, unconditional love despite your circumstances and the journey of a young girl desperate to find her roots and a sense of belonging.

As I said above, the book is not chalk full of adventure, but it contains its own kind of mystery that keeps you intrigued all the way up until the end of the story. It was a great read that was not too in depth or made me think too much but had just enough to keep me hooked. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for a quick, “lighter” book to read.

 

*Note* There is a little bit of adult language in the book. However, I think it lends to some authenticity of the character and the story.

The Lightkeeper’s Daughters: A Novel

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Stuart Little

Stuart Little
By E.B. White

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I knew of this classic piece of work, but I have never read it myself. One of the exciting things about being a bibliophile and a mother is that I get to read and share these classics with my own children. This particular one I shared with my youngest son.

Originally written in 1945, this books holds exemplary, poetic language strung together to create a whimsical, light-hearted tale about a mouse born to a human family.

My sport-loving, never-sits-still 8 year old was intrigued and enthralled with this book. He thought it was hilarious that a mouse had human parents an a human brother. He loved the mishaps and adventures that Stuart experienced throughout the story. He was just a little bit disappointed at the ending and felt like the story was not complete; there were unanswered questions in his mind. This is often the mark of a wonderful work of art because it leaves it in the hands of the reader to interpret; but he is a little young for that concept.

He was excited to learn that there was a movie based upon the book so of course we watched it. There were a couple of pieces from the book that were left out of the movie that he commented on. Welcome to the world of books made into movies, son. 🙂

I think that Stuart Little is an incredible piece of classic literature that all children should either read or have read to them. It is a story that has persevered through time that generations have enjoyed and should be exposed to in the future.

Stuart Little

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the strange and beautiful sorrows of ava lavender

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
By Leslye Walton

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This book was so fantastic and so phenomenal that I had to read it twice.
Ava Lavender was the book club pick for this month. The first time I read it, I had it done in just 2 days.
I thought I should read it a second time before our monthly meeting to make sure I did not miss anything since I devoured it the first time. I took a little bit longer to read it the second round so I could grasp more of the details; 4 days.

To many, I was a myth incarnate, the embodiment of a most superb legend, a fairy tale. Some considered me a monster, a mutation. To my great misfortune, I was once mistaken for an angel. To my mother, I was everything. To my father, nothing at all. To my grandmother, I was a daily reminder of loves long lost. But I knew the truth–deep down, I always did.
I was just a girl.

Myth incarnate……but just a girl.

The book follows 3 generations of women through life; we walk with each of them through their journey with love, loss, tragedy, understanding and redemption. It is unique, however, in the fact that the story is told from the narrative of Ava Lavender, the 3rd generation in this line of women.

I loved the background story the author gives us so we can understand what makes Ava who she is and how the women before her fit into her story. Emmilienne seeks to forgive, Viviane seeks love and Ava seeks normalcy and acceptance.

Lesyle Walton, in her debut novel, weaves just enough realism within the story that there are moments that you have to check in with your mind to remember that it is magical realism and pure fantasy. She makes it easy to get so wrapped up inside the pages and the characters that you tune out the world around you and forget that it is just the result of a brilliant imagination and extraordinary writing.

The writing, the words, the language, the flow of the story of Ava Lavender is quite captivating. It is poetic, it is whimsical and it is exceptionally enchanting to read.

Just a girl……normal…..accepted…….is that not what we all want, wings or not?

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There is some adult content. While it is a YA book, I recommend this for older teens and for you to pre-read it to gauge what fits into your family’s level of acceptable literature.

This next section is where I usually add to my review after my book club meets and include some thoughts and opinions of the other ladies, but I do not want to ruin the magic of this book for you by giving away spoilers. 

The majority of the ladies enjoyed the book, although magical realism is quite different from what we typically read.

I highly recommend this book and it is definitely one I could see myself reading multiple more times.

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The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

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