[713]: Promises to Keep by Genevieve Graham

Today’s post is my stop for Genevieve Graham’s latest, Promises to Keep for Simon & Schuster Canada’s Timeless Tour. For more details, follow the link here.


Promises to Keep
by Genevieve Graham

One of the best things I love about Historical Fiction is that it awakens a hunger in me to learn more. It’s an appetite that forces me to go beyond the storylines and seek the basis of the novel.

After devouring this in practically one sitting, I’ve come to realize that I don’t know much about the history of this great nation. I didn’t go to school here; even though I’ve been living here for 20+ years now. Other than the brief history I needed to learn in order for me to get my Canadian citizenship status; the current events, political or otherwise, my knowledge about this great country of mine is pretty paltry. Thanks to this book, I’ve developed an interest in the Expulsion of the Acadian people in the 17th century. 

On the surface, Promises to Keep is a story about the romantic entanglement between an Acadian and English soldier. But on the large, it’s about the resiliency of the Acadian people at a time when they were forced out of their land and imprisoned in a ship on their way to exile. It is also about the fierce relationship between the Mi’kmaq people and the French Canadians. This was an especially curious interest to me the most.

Over the course of history, all we’ve ever known about the relationships between the indigenous people and the invaders of their land was how it was ripe with contempt and ill will. But the Mi’kmaq people and the French had developed a friendship that left the English confounded. Perhaps it was in this resulting uncanny camaraderie that the Acadian hoped for a better outcome of the invasion.

The Acadian people wanted to believe that they can live in harmony with the English soldiers. They showed little to no resistance; they fed them even. But they would soon realize that the dictates of war offer no such euphony. The English would leave them homeless first, then confined in the bellows of a ship sailing the perilous Atlantic Ocean towards the South.

Before the invasion, Genevieve depicted the idyllic life of the Acadians set in the backdrop of a lush farming land and the giving sea. There were conviviality and togetherness in the small population of Grand Pre. Unfortunately, the serenity would not last. Through her words, she also conveyed their hardship during the invasion. The more often hopelessness of their situation: the hunger, the filth they had to wade through, and their resolve to see through their plight no matter how desperate their situation. 

And amidst this struggle, was the budding and tremulous romance between Amelie and Connor MacDonnell. It’s one that’s forbidden, dangerous but all the more important because their entanglement was the flint the Acadian needed to spark their resistance. MacDonnell was first burdened with a choice between doing his duties as a soldier and doing what’s right for Amelie’s people. But given his history with the British Army, this choice soon became less of a burden but more of the end justifying the means. 

He was once a victim of the English invasion as well. He’s a Scot who had seen and tasted what the English were capable of when they marauded Scotland. After his entire family was killed during the war, he was left with no other choice but to become a soldier in service of the Queen. Even if he was full of hatred for the English. Which is why the decision to betray them even it means his death came to him easily. 

Amelie was a strong woman who had to make hard decisions as well but never did she wallow or second guessed herself knowing what was at stake. She had a fierce love and loyalty to her family; a sense of belonging with the Mi’kmaq people, and love for her land that had given them so much over the years.

I started reading this book at noon on a Sunday. I finished reading it on my ride to work the following day. If you’ve ever considered Historical Fiction boring, Promises to Keep was far from it. Genevieve Graham rendered the most romantic landscape of the East Coast amidst the imperious haze of a brewing war. This book was a measly 300+ pages. But it offered so much perspective and connection to the characters and the history.


Genevieve’s Website | Twitter | Facebook

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[712]: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

A futuristic nightmare that challenges a reader’s view on immortality.


Scythe
by Neal Shusterman

Neal Shusterman’s brand new series depicts a future where immortality is now a reality. There’s no cancer, no communicable diseases or otherwise.  The body is healed using nano technology. You can die, sure. You can even kill yourself many times over. But in this world, humans have the ability to bring you back to life. Not in a zombie form, and no life-altering side effects of any kind. You’ll be resuscitated to exactly how you were before you died. The downside to this world is overpopulation. Since people can reinvent themselves in all sense of the word, many can live for hundreds of years.

This is where Scythes come in. They are in charge of culling the population (permanently, that is). They are harbingers of death, harvesters of the living. Some decide how you die and some compassionate ones let you pick your own poison, so to speak. They are feared and revered in equal measure. How they decide who to die is a gray area, however.  To some, the selection is based purely upon the wiles of the administering Scythe.

Scythe Faraday has his own method; in a way that’s almost scientific and based on statistics.   He might be detached from the task but he took the time to render compassionate death.

Becoming one is, of course, not that easy. The first rule of being a candidate is that you must not want to be Scythe. When the thought of being one repulses you. Unfortunate for Citra and Rowan, really. Because they both share the same revulsion. Under Faraday’s tutelage, they’ll learn to develop killing with empathy and compassion (if such a thing exists). They’ll also learn how to distance themselves from the task that each and every culling doesn’t make them want to turn the blade unto themselves.

Predictably, this kind of power elicits a voracious hunger for more. And in this installment, you’ll meet a group who enjoys mass killing/killing a little too much. The bloodier, the better.  So not all Scythes are like Faraday. Citra and Rowan will also find out exactly how competitive apprentices are during their first conclave attendance. The differing ideologies and politics create the kind of dangerous division that can only mean even more disastrous and bloody deaths for humankind.

As a Shusterman newbie, it’s easy to see why his Unwind series has such a cult following.  Unfortunately, I can’t say much about the world he conceptualized here because I felt it was the barest minimum as far as world-building goes.  But the ingenious plotting won me over. His characters are memorable; strong-willed and full of conviction.  They are thrust into the world where people’s lives rest unto their hands – quite literally. And whether they like it or not, they had to heed the call. However, I had a problem with how easily they performed the tasks considering how extreme their aversion was for killing people.

Scythe explores the subject of humanity in a way that asks if we’re still humans if we’re unable to die. Suicide had become an extreme sport of sorts for the adventurous bearing no repercussions whatsoever. This is a brutal, dark world where people are held hostage by their fears, waiting for the swing of the scythe to strike. It’s quiet, with bursts of action and gallows humor in its midst. A great intro to what promises to be an addictive series.

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[711]: Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley

A lovely, funny story about a woman’s courage to go out into the world where human contact could mean her own death sentence.


Close Enough to Touch
by Colleen Oakley

Jubilee Jenkins hasn’t left her house in 9 years. After a kiss from the popular boy in high school nearly killed her, she decided it’s not worth venturing out to the world. She’s been living alone since her mother left her when she turned 18. Through her mother’s monthly stipend and her resourcefulness, she’s managed to hold off the universe from encroaching on her life.

But the death of her mother would leave her penniless as her stepfather decided to cut off her allowance. Leaving her no choice but to find employment, Jubilee would have to leave the house and risk her life every day.  Her unusual allergies to skin contact confined her to her house with no interaction with another human being. She’s lived a lonely life; barely speaking to another soul. She finished high school at home and took free Harvard courses online. Everything she needed got delivered to her house. She even managed to work the system in her favor. But she will have to leave her fortress for the first time in her life.

What a lovely read, you guys. I felt Jubilee’s fear every time she’s confronted by another human, and because she didn’t have much experience with human interaction, she was an adorable bundle of awkwardness. In a matter of days, her lonely existence was suddenly full of people who would care and understand her plight in the most unexpected ways. I especially love the way the father and son would make her even entertain the possibility of a romantic relationship. It’s so impossible, though. When a single touch could put her in anaphylactic shock.

Eric Keegan’s life is a mess. He has an adopted son whom he can’t seem to find a kinship and a daughter from a failed marriage who’s not speaking to him. He can’t figure out how to right the ship. It’s hard not to feel sorry for Eric; a father who’s only doing what he can to save his relationship with his teen daughter, whom, by the by way, was well on her way to being a juvenile delinquent. She’s so angry and rebellious. He sends her numerous unanswered text messages and keeps fervent hope for forgiveness. He saw the path to reconciliation by way of a book report journal. In there was a collection of opinions on books that she’s read. This book would bridge their relationship somehow, and inadvertently connect him to Jubilee.

Close Enough to Touch is a lovely story about finding the courage to confront your fears. It doesn’t matter what the motivation is – may it be out of desperation or survival, the fear is still real. Jubilee is a woman who was lonely and in need of human interaction. But the same interaction could mean her death. At the end of the day, she needed to find it in her to want it enough to do something about her malady.

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[710]: The Girl Before by JP Delaney


A modern suspense that echoes the gothic secrets of Jane Eyre.


The Girl Before
by J.P. Delaney

Last year, I’ve developed an affinity for the minimalism movement. I’m not a pack-rat by any means, but it was still hard to get rid of stuff. I am infinitely in awe of the people who practice this lifestyle. Not only do they live the uncluttered life in physical terms, but their way of thinking is streamlined as well. They’re focused, determined and disciplined.

In this book, you’ll meet a person whose practice of minimalism goes to extreme – borderline insanity, to tell you the truth. Initially, I was like, yes, a man who speaks my language! But that slowly dissolved into horrified reaction as the novel progressed. His ability to distance himself from thoughts and feelings with which he felt bore no significance made him cold and calculated. He’s a controlling man who hates a deviation from schedules and plans. Everything in his life has a place and a meaning. You’re discarded if he considers you an excess. And yet, for all the clean lines and openness of the house he built, there was no place in which he could keep his secrets.

Edward Monkford is a genius; a much-sought-after architect notoriously known for combining minimalist and technologically smart construction. One of those builds is the house on One Folgate Street. The house has been empty since the death of his wife and son and has become a revolving door for renters, whom in one way or the other, found the house’s oddities just too strange for their liking. The story unfolds in alternating chapters between Emma and Jane. Emma, the former tenant, and Jane, the present. The first sign of trouble was their uncanny physical resemblance. Weirder even, that they looked like Edward’s dead wife.

Edward has an irresistible magnetism; he’s attractive, filthy rich, and mysterious. As you get to know him further, you’ll find that Edward shares the same need to control his women with one popular control freak, Mr. Christian Grey. They got the same “I don’t do regular relationships” speech; they were given pages-long rules and regulations. Then pearl chokers to complete the look. Both women knew what they were getting into when they entered the relationship but with one glaring difference: one pushes her boundaries, and the other pushes his. Arguably, Christian Grey was redeemed by love – as cheesy as that may sound. Edward, on the other hand, wasn’t dictated by any romantic notions and was as realistic a character as one can be. There was not a cuddly bone in his body even if some of his actions proved otherwise.

But if you think the novel is cut and dry, you’ll be wrong. The mysteries that unravel is nothing short of surprising. It’s easy to consider Monkford as the guilty party here much like we immediately wrote off Rochester in Jane Eyre. This book is just as mysterious as the owner of One Folgate Street and the crumbs we were given were the perfect follies for the amateur sleuths trying to solve all its mysteries. Overall, this is one of the best mysteries I’ve read this year. It’s morbidly sexy, frustrating at times, but holy hell, I could not put this down.

 

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[709]: I See You by Clare Mackintosh

A scopophobia inducing thriller that will take you on a journey full of twists and turns by way of the London underground.


I See You
by Clare Mackintosh

 I don’t have much experience in public transportation. I know for a fact that bussing in my city is an adventure in itself. I’ve heard some horror stories.  After reading this book, I’m kinda glad that I don’t have any to share. I’ve only used a train system twice: whenever we’re in San Diego and when I went to New York. I wasn’t courageous enough to take them at night, though.

The New York subway system is a whole other beast altogether. There, it doesn’t matter what time of day it is, it always feels like either the walls are going to cave in on you, or a rat is going to drag you to its nest. But that’s nothing compared to the menace hiding in the dark corners of the London underground, apparently. The feeling that you’re being watched is worst than you could ever imagine. This book, in comparison, will make you forget the normalcy of taking the public transport. It will have you looking over your shoulder, unsettled and a little anxious. But you’ll never know who’s hunting you until it’s all too late.

I See You started ordinarily enough. Zoe Walker was looking forward to spending a quiet night after a hard day’s work. Somewhere in her house was a bottle of wine with her name on it. So when her train stalled during her commute, she hardly paid any attention. She picked up a paper in an attempt to pass the time while they sort out what was happening on the tracks. As she was browsing through, an advert of a woman looking for romance caught her attention. Upon closer inspection, she realizes that she’s staring at her own face. Coincidence, right? Her family thought so, too. But things went from odd fortuity to scary reality in an instant when the women on the ads started dying.

Clare Mackintosh builds a layered story in a slow crescendo which makes the race to the end even that much more exciting. The readers stumble through the mystery blindly – effectively. She made a case for each red herrings, giving the readers the confidence with the suspects they had in mind. May it be Zoe’s boyfriend/partner, her ex-husband who was very much still in love with her, and the boss whom may or may not still be carrying a torch for her.

This smart thriller erases any doubts (if there were ever any) of the one-hit-wonder assumptions left on the trail of her debut novel, I Let You Go. It is easy to see that she’s found her niche so easily in the age of Gone Girl/The Girl on the Train wannabes. I haven’t read I Let You Go, but if I See You is any indication of the kind novels we can expect from this author, I say she’ll be a household name in this genre in no time.

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[708]: The Bastard Billionaire by Jessica Lemmon

The Bastard Billionaire
by Jessica Lemmon


I’ll be the first one to tell you that I can never say no to the billionaire trope. And I’m not even sorry. I’ve seen this series around but I never paid much attention to it until I heard it call my name when I was browsing on NG a couple of weeks ago.

So glad I requested it.

The Bastard Billionaire is book 3 of Jessica Lemmon’s Billionaire Bad Boys series. I haven’t read the first two but rest assured it’s on my agenda this month.

In this book, we’ll meet Eli Crane, a former Marine who retired from service after losing a leg from an assignment that also took the lives of a couple of his close friends. The loss of his appendage and the grief of losing his friends lent to the closed-off, surly, and lonely disposition this bad boy presents to his family and to the world in general. He refuses any help from anyone let alone from a personal assistant. That’s why he goes through them like he goes through his underwear. Well, Isabella Sawyer has had enough. She’s run out of PAs to send. Come hell or high water, she’ll make him accept his responsibilities in the family business. And she won’t be discouraged no matter how badly he treats her. It looks like Eli Crane finally meets his match!

 Easy-peasy read and exactly how I enjoy my romance. Little to zero drama but heady with humor, of camaraderie, and a meddling family. You have a stubborn heroine and an equally stubborn hero that butt-heads every chance they get. A chemistry that’s off the charts and a banter oozing with sexual tension – the perfect recipe, if I may so myself.

Eli can be cantankerous but he’s never mean (which I like). I enjoyed seeing Isabella forcing him out of his gloomy shell of guilt. He carries a couple of them since he blames himself for the death of his friends. He’s also very resistant to the idea of accepting his position in the family business so Isabella had her work cut out for her. Good thing she’s the perfect person for the job.

Eli Crane needed someone like Isabella: beautiful, smart, stubborn, and ambitious. She didn’t coddle him outside of her responsibilities as a PA. She’s had enough of men trying to run her life so she knew how to handle someone like Crane. She’s a force of nature who didn’t wilt under pressure. They’re a match made in heaven. Overall, I can’t wait to read the rest of the books in this series. And I’m so thankful to have been introduced to Jessica Lemmon’s books.

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[707]: Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse

Mildly enjoyable; helplessly forgettable.


Seven Days of You
by Cecilia Vinesse

Sophia is no stranger to uprooting her life and moving to another country. Her family has done it at least twice in her short lifetime. She’s an American in Japan who’s spent summers in France with her father and his new family.

This move, however, will be different. This time, New Jersey will be their home base for good.

She didn’t anticipate a week of sharing the same continent with Jamie Foster-Collins, however. If she has any choice, leaving Japan without seeing Jamie’s shadow will be a welcomed blessing. But Jamie seemed determined to fix whatever went wrong two years ago. Once upon a time, he was a part of their small crew along with David, the flirty Australian ambassador’s son, and Mika, her best friend. They were friends who lost touch after his move to North Carolina. Conflating the issue was a painful episode that rendered their friendship close to obsolete. So hearing about his return a week before she leaves did not sit well with Sophia. And if she’s being honest, the hurt that cuts deep goes way beyond some angry words accidentally sent by a text message, and deeper still than the words she threw on his face.

She’s got a week to say her goodbyes to the life she’s known, the people in her life, and the country that she’s only ever known as home.

Sophia’s emotions over everything was all over the place. Notably, her feelings towards the two boys who occupied her mind for most of her post-pubescent life. Worry not, you love triangle allergy sufferers. She’ll only waffle for a second or two. After that, you’re golden. I do feel for the girl, though. The adjustment that looms ahead for her as she will try to acclimate to another life will be tough. And the truth bombs that come her way in a span of 7 days can’t be her idea of a good time. So yeah, she was in a tailspin. I suppose I don’t blame her for having her moment of insanity. She’ll grow up a lot. She’ll realize the truth about her hero-worship for the father that decided he needed a new family. She’ll try to repair the crevasse that was slowly widening between her and her sister. And most importantly, she’ll face the reality that Jamie meant more to her than just a boy in her past she’d rather soon forget.

Regardless, this was a cute, fast read. Nothing earth-shattering or life-changing. It was just a story about a girl leaving her life to start over again in her home country. There will be reminiscing; there will be crying. There will be drama and plenty of karaoke. There will be parent-less kids who will rule the night and kids who will drink way too much. In a span of 7 days, Sophia sheds all the half-truths about her family, accept some real truths about Jamie, and tries to look forward to a life in another continent even if she knows how difficult it will be.

 

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[706]: Pretty Face by Lucy Parker

Smarter than your average Romance.


Pretty Face
by Lucy Parker

Lucy Parker’s writing reminds me of the old days. More particularly, of the Mills & Boon era. Now, don’t scoff. I’ve been reading romance novels all my life. Mills & Boon started me off on this path. The romantic writers of those days are distinctly foreign compared to some of their contemporary colleagues. They were posh, very British and elegant. In so many ways, Ms. Parker brought back all those feelings.

Pretty Face was delightfully refreshing. Especially at a time when Romance is heavily saturated with cheesy gourds, oversexed fiends, and miscommunication drama.

 At its core, this is the story about every woman who’s ever had to fight for their place to get recognition. Not for their looks, nor for their curves but for their talent and hard work. Lily Lamprey’s role as a bombshell in British television has gained her the notoriety for being a sex symbol. No one takes her seriously let alone a director whose severe work ethic puts the fear in the eyes of every single actor that ever worked for him. So it’s not a surprise that Lily suffers no illusions to getting the part for his new stage production.

Luc Savage’s name fits him to a T. His reputation as a workhorse proceeds him. He hasn’t got the time for distractions. His fledgling production and the renovation of the legendary West End theater take all his time and energy. And Lily Lamprey is a distraction with a capital D. Try as he might, the woman got under his skin like a stubborn sliver.

By all accounts, this story is not all that ingenious. We’ve all read this story before in one form or another. But no one could ever resist the push and pull dynamics of two characters whose attraction for each other is off the charts.  Coupled that with smart dialogues infused with humor, and a story line that’s distinctly British, I say, it’s hard not to rate this book any lower than 5 stars. This is an amazing read. If you’ve ever felt burnt out with the romance novels that you’ve been reading lately, Pretty Face is just the cure for your malady.

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[705]: The Burning World by Isaac Marion

An Unrecognizable sequel that sheds all the heart-warming fluff of its predecessor.


The Burning World
by Isaac Marion

Question: Did you read Warm Bodies? If so, do you remember how it ends? How about the movie? Did you see it? Yes? No?

Well, let me spoil it all for you with this little scenario: most of the zombies slowly gained back a semblance of their humanity. Gone are the instincts to devour human flesh, replaced by a pause that gives them a chance to hold back the monster that hungers for the living. So much so that they’re able to cohabit with the humans inside the wall. The last scene had Julie and R watching as the walls were blown to bits. The sun is setting; they were holding hands…fade to black. Really hopeful shit, right? Makes you think that a peaceful coexistence between zombies and humans are entirely possible.

Well, sorry to burst your bubble but The Burning World did not start right where Warm Bodies left off. At least, the atmosphere was not the same. If you’re expecting much of the same lighthearted and somewhat funny shtick of the undead in this novel, you’ll be disappointed. Because these zombies are just a sad caricature of the rabid monsters we’ve come to fear and love. They’re stuck in between the beast that craves for warm flesh, and the humans inside of them clamoring to be born again. It was dark, nostalgic, and terrible in the sense that they’ll break your heart (R’s zombie wife and kids. *Sobs*) It was depressing, and it made me wish they were the terrifying stuff of nightmares we’ve all read about our lives. Because then I won’t feel so heartbroken.

This is a changed world; one that you won’t recognize from the first book. There’s a new villain in town whose primary goal is to convert the changing zombies into an army of drones possessing some robot-like consciousness. The last vestige of humanity left are being hunted and “phased out”. And this includes the tiny population inside the wall. They especially want R and Julie for their ability to speak to the evolving zombies. In short, this sequel had become the action-packed, pulse-pounding, scary-as-shit thriller that Warm Bodies never were. I’d even go as far as to say, it echoes the atmospheric dread of Justin Cronin’s The Passage. Yeah. I can’t believe it either. But reading The Burning World brought out the exact feelings when I binge-read Cronin’s vampire series last year.

By the by, R slowly gains his memory as a human – and from what he can remember, he was not a good person at all. He is miles remove from the sweet zombie we’ve come to know. We also see Julie in a different light. Driven by her sense of familial loyalty, she becomes a completely different person. She’s angry, compulsive, and even a little selfish. She’ll make you mad. She’ll make you cry but eventually, she’ll gain your sympathy albeit, tentatively.

We’re introduced to new characters and new plot lines that converge with the old ones. There are far more nuances explored; surprising and thrilling revelations. If I were to keep it simple, I say Warm Bodies was stripped of everything that was cute to show its true form. It had me on edge at all times because at the back of my mind, I keep waiting for the “awaken” zombies to revert back to their monstrosity – most especially R. Over all, The Burning World opens the series to a whole new set of possibilities. And with that ending, I say Marion has a lot more dark days in store for his ardent readers.

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[704]: Chain Reaction by Tara Wyatt


Chain Reaction
by Tara Wyatt

Book 3 to Tara Wyatt’s Bodyguard series features the story of a Hollywood royalty in need of protection from her own family.

There are a lot of things Alexa didn’t know about the name Fairfax. The legacy of her name, while synonymous to glitz, influence, glamor and riches, hides a dark history borne out of greed; a dark history stained with blood and a trail of dead bodies who were stupid enough to get in the way.

When she inadvertently overheard about the murders that her father has ordered and orchestrated, fear and shock had her running out of the house and into the protection of one Zack de Luca; a Mixed Martial Arts fighter who moonlights as a bodyguard for Virtus.

Alexa hasn’t had the best relationship with her parents, to begin with. She has a disturbing past that she’s been trying to escape. The horror of what she’s been subjected to growing up cannot truly encapsulate the kind of monsters her parents are. They only know her as a timid character who is easily manipulated and can be used as a barter in exchange for acclimation, award, prestige, and sometimes, even movie roles. Did I mention how monstrous they are?

There are some truths to her parents’ life-long assessment of their daughter’s timidity, though. Frankly, there’s not much to her besides being a Hollywood princess who spends her time volunteering at a children’s hospital. There’s not a lot of depth that I can glean from her personality and character. The same goes for Zack. I feel like he tried to be an alpha male character at times but consistently failed. I just can’t get behind this pairing, to be honest. Their chemistry feels numbingly forced. And I swear I wanted to scream every time he mentions how “sweet” Alexa was. Like, dude. I got it the first 5 times you mentioned it.

Her family is evil. I can’t believe father dear was willing to use her as an incentive for one of his henchman. That’s messed up, man. And Alexa’s reaction to this news? Horrifically nonchalant. Perhaps it’s because she’s been through it many times and that she’s used to it but either way, it was sad how lacking her reaction was.

Despite my deceivingly adverse reaction, I think this series is worth further looking into. I mean, sure we got off on the wrong foot but I’m not necessarily a one-and-done kind of reader, so yeah. I’m especially curious to see the relationships between the other characters mentioned. Overall, expect to see more about this series on the blog.

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