Review: Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

Publication Date: October 18th, 2011
Random House Publishing Group
Format: Hardcover, 480 pages
Add Dearly, Departed to your Goodreads!

Love can never die.

Love conquers all, so they say. But can Cupid’s arrow pierce the hearts of the living and the dead—or rather, the undead? Can a proper young Victorian lady find true love in the arms of a dashing zombie?
The year is 2195. The place is New Victoria—a high-tech nation modeled on the manners, mores, and fashions of an antique era. A teenager in high society, Nora Dearly is far more interested in military history and her country’s political unrest than in tea parties and debutante balls. But after her beloved parents die, Nora is left at the mercy of her domineering aunt, a social-climbing spendthrift who has squandered the family fortune and now plans to marry her niece off for money. For Nora, no fate could be more horrible—until she’s nearly kidnapped by an army of walking corpses.
But fate is just getting started with Nora. Catapulted from her world of drawing-room civility, she’s suddenly gunning down ravenous zombies alongside mysterious black-clad commandos and confronting “The Laz,” a fatal virus that raises the dead—and hell along with them. Hardly ideal circumstances. Then Nora meets Bram Griswold, a young soldier who is brave, handsome, noble . . . and dead. But as is the case with the rest of his special undead unit, luck and modern science have enabled Bram to hold on to his mind, his manners, and his body parts. And when his bond of trust with Nora turns to tenderness, there’s no turning back. Eventually, they know, the disease will win, separating the star-crossed lovers forever. But until then, beating or not, their hearts will have what they desire.
In Dearly, Departed, romance meets walking-dead thriller, spawning a madly imaginative novel of rip-roaring adventure, spine-tingling suspense, and macabre comedy that forever redefines the concept of undying love.

I’ve only managed to read one steampunk book from cover to cover. It’s a genre that I haven’t been able to acquire a taste for. Zombie books, however, is a different matter altogether. I can read those in one sitting – no problem. Dearly, Departed combined steampunk and the horrors of living alongside the undead, so this steampunk book should’ve been much easier to devour. In fact, I was counting on the zombie element to help me get through it. I did finish the book but unfortunately, it didn’t give me the heart-thumping suspense that I look forward to when I read zombie books and did very little to whet my appetite to read more steampunk books.

Immerse yourself in a world where technologies mesh with Victorian civility and tradition. Where gentlemen wore cravats and ladies wore bustled gowns and ride carriages with monitors mounted in the passenger box. Digidiaries were used instead of moleskin for journals and stylus instead of quill pens. The year was 2195; Nora Dearly was just coming out of mourning for her father who died a year ago. Little did she know, that she was about to become a pawn in a struggle for power and revenge between two opposing factions who uses the undead for their own selfish agenda.

The problem with some of the dystopian novels I’ve read as of yet was the lack of explanation for the world’s demise. Some open with the world changed and I’m to accept that world simply ended. Well, that’s not going to work for me. I don’t care if it calls for pages upon pages of narratives, Lia Habel did a fantastic job with her accounts of how the world in New Victoria came to be. I didn’t battle with boredom as I read about the world’s eventual demise. She also took the time to explain how the world reverted back to the Victorian ways of living. I’ve always been a bit gun shy when it comes to scientific explanations but the way Ms. Habel explained how the virus function didn’t sound like wah-wah-wah-wah, to me. It was easy to follow. The point of this paragraph is that the author took the time to explain things and at a hefty 470+ pages, I didn’t expect any less.

Dearly, Departed also has one of the most detailed settings I’ve ever read. Holograms appear in places amidst the prevailing desolate landscape. I am not only amazed with the world building but also with the accurate Victorian clothing and artifacts. Lia Habel’s writing flow smoothly that I was able to identify with the characters quite easily. With that being said, one of the problems I had with this book is the five-person POV. As much as I love details, having all these people telling their stories made for some stilted story-telling. I resisted the urge to bypass everybody else’s POV and go right to Nora’s and Bram’s.

I’ve proclaimed my adoration for zombie books time and time again and have amassed quite a collection (mostly unread). In this novel, there are two types of zombies: the Grays and the ‘awake/aware’ zombies. The latter, very much like the Grays, are dead but where the Grays only crave for living flesh and can only focus on the hunger, the other kind of zombies do not have the same urges. They speak, they eat human food (tofu!) and they feel. My major issue with this book is just that. Aside from body parts and, or chunks of flesh that were missing, Bram’s cohorts were very much like humans. I felt that this took a lot from the zombie element that I was dying to read about. I hate comparing books but Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies version of ‘aware’ undead didn’t feel like they were humans trying to be zombies. They were zombies trying to be humans. Does that make sense?

Anyway, I still enjoyed this book – even if the ending felt like the author was forcing a conflict that could make way for a possible sequel. The romance was sweet and some parts me choke up (I’m a sap, I know!). I loved Nora’s character – fiercely independent and loyal to her friends. A couple of antagonists whose characters were, in my opinion, fillers – Michael and Vespertine (really, what was the point of putting these two in?). The characters that made this doubly enjoyable were Sam and Dr. Chase. I found them funny and sweet.

Steampunk and zombies. Someday, I’ll get used to this. If there is to be a sequel, I’m picking it up.

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DNF – Books I Couldn’t Finish

**WARNING** Mild ranting up ahead. Read at your own risk.

Yesterday, I was hopping merrily away in the blogging world when I stumbled upon a post by Livre D’ Amour. She listed some of the books that she couldn’t finish for her own personal reasons.  And jolly, ol’ me – being the most unoriginal, uncreative person on this side of the equator, decided to follow in her footsteps and come up with some of my own.

French Kiss (Diary of a Crush #1) by Sarra Manning
I read this book back in June and I think I stopped reading after 40 pages or so.

The gist of the review: I cannot be sympathetic to girls who fall in love with boys who treat them like rags. Also, the characters in this book are people that I pretty much cannot stand in real life. Edie’s obsession with Dylan the jerk astounds me. This guy treats her like dirt but she keeps coming back for more. If they were a real life couple, I see the beginnings of an abusive relationship.

A Beautiful Dark by Jocelyn Davies

“I’m sorry. I can’t force myself any longer. I just…no. The feedback on this book is mostly good and here I sit thinking that I’m reading a different novel. Perhaps the story will get better but I just can’t continue. Something about a group of teenagers sitting in a circle, passing a flask and playing NEVER HAVE I EVER (on a ski trip, no less!) makes me want to gouge my eyes with a dull knife…”

There was just something about the above scenario that felt like I was reading a fan fiction instead of a book in which I paid money for. I know I stopped at page 114 so if I were to feel generous one day or if I ever ran out of reading materials, I just might give this book another go.

Mistwood by Leah Cypress

For some people, an INFODUMP is something that hinders them from enjoying a book. Well, Mistwood is a book that probably could’ve used a truckload of information, in my opinion. I felt like I was dropped in the middle of a story and had to figure out how everything started. In the end, though, the lack of the characters’ personalities couldn’t make me finish this. I was lost and confused half the time and uncaring for the other half. I can honestly say that among this list, Mistwood is the only one who didn’t make me want to inflict pain to the characters. Sure they were the unemotional sort – but they didn’t make me livid as the rest of the books that are on this list.

“This book bored me and confused me. I feel like there should’ve been a book before this to explain everything else. The author bombards you with events from the past that failed to explain what was happening in the present. There’s about a hundred pages left to this book and I can’t summon to urge to find out what happens to the Shifter and Rokan.”

Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel
”I really thought I’d get past the fact that the protagonist didn’t have a hard time in the world she woke up to. But five chapters in and I couldn’t continue.

If the person you claim was your soulmate, gave his life just so you could be human again, would you at least shed one tear? instead, she honored his memory by falling in love with another character in a span of minutes.”

The thing is, the MC was buried for a century. She woke up to the present world fully adjusted. The most obvious inconsistency was the lack of formality in her language that depicts of the century she lived in. Instead, she was fully slang-ing it with the kids.  In the meantime, the guys are falling for her for reasons that…I’m sorry. I can’t remember. Actually, there wasn’t anything redeeming about her or even remotely likable.  I couldn’t get over the fact that a vampire gave up his life so she could be human and what did she do? Oh. Right. Hook up with the next hottest guy within a ten mile radius.

Marked (House of Night series) by PC Cast & Kristin Cast
So, I was the not-so-smart one who bought books 1 to 6 of this series without reading the first one first. Had I brush up on Book Buying 101, I could’ve saved myself a whole lot of cheddah. This book tried so hard to come off sounding like a teenager and epically failed. 
I may have stopped reading as soon as I got to a scene wherefore a guy was uhm being ‘worshipped’ by a girl on her knees…in the hallway.  Am I a prude? Perhaps. Ultimately, the horrible writing style of this duo and my inability to like the characters couldn’t get me to continue on with this series. I’ve been reading reviews of the next books and apparently, the series has vacillated from bad to worse. All I can say is –  what a waste of money. Tsk, tsk.
Remember kids, the opinions expressed in this post are purely my own. We’ve all been given the rights to choose and buy books that could harm either ourselves or somebody else. Goodness knows I tried so hard to contain the urge to face punch someone after reading the above mentioned materials.
Any of these books make your list? I’m a sucker for comments. 
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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (3)

It’s Monday, What are you reading? is a weekly event hosted by Sheila at One Person’s Journey Through a World of Books to list the books completed last week, the books currently being read and the books to be finished this week. 

I’m still trying to finish Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel. This book should’ve been one of those books that I could finish in one sitting since it has all the potential to be one of my favorite reads this year (zombies! how can that go wrong?). Sadly, it’s taking slower than I’d expected. Well, I’ll explain in my review. I think I’ve got about a quarter left of this hefty novel.

As well, these are the books that I’ve scheduled to read:

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And the Winners Are…

Hey all! The following lucky people are the winners of my recently held Smart Chicks Kick It Tour giveaway. Thanks to those who entered and I hope you will all stick around because this is certainly not the last major contest that I will host. Winners and prizes were drawn in order of the prizes listed on the giveaway. So without further ado…

The Darkest Powers Trilogy by Kelley Armstrong
(Winner is Lori M. Lee)

Beautiful Creatures, Beautiful Darkness, Beautiful Chaos by K Garcia & M Stohl
(Winner is Sarabara081)

(Winner is Carissa St. Armand)

Signed Copy of Across the Universe by Beth Revis
(Winner is TheJay2xA)

Raised by Wolves (Books 1 & 2) by J Lynn Barnes
(Winner is Spav)

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
(Winner is Kristina Shields)

Winners have been notified and will have 24 hours to respond back or another will be drawn. Once again, thanks so much for all the support!



This contest will start sometime in November, so stay tuned!

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IMM #11

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi over at The Story Siren. This is the eleventh episode of HOARDERS, Books Edition.

Triangles by Ellen Hopkins
Beautiful Chaos x2 by K Garcia & M Stohl
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Girls Don’t Fly by Kristen Chandler
Swear by Nina Malkin
Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel
Frost by Wendy Delsol
Something About You by Julie James
Payback Time by Carl Deuker
Deadly Cool by Gemma Halliday
The Edge of Darkness by Lissa Bilyk 
Yes, I do realize there are two Beautiful Chaos in there. But that’s just because there’s a GIVEAWAY going on right now where you can win all three of the Caster Chronicles series in one shot. So if you haven’t entered this giveaway yet, well, what are you waiting for? This is perhaps, the smallest IMM haul as of yet. I’m slippin’…
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Review: Exiled by M.R. Merrick

Publication Date: June 28th, 2011
Indie by Author
Format: Paperback, 278 pages
Add it to Your Goodreads!

Chase Williams is a demon hunter in the Circle, or at least he was supposed to be. On his fifteenth birthday, Chase stepped up to the altar to claim his elemental power, but it never came. Elemental magic is passed down to a hunter through the bloodline, but on Chase’s birthday, the bloodline stopped. Exiled without the Circle’s protection, Chase has spent two years trying to survive a world riddled with half-demons and magic. When he has a run in with a frightened and seemingly innocent demon, he learns the Circle’s agenda has changed: the Circle plans to unlock a portal and unleash pure-blood demons into the world. Vowing to stop them, and knowing he can’t do it alone, Chase forms a reluctant alliance with Rayna – a sexy witch with an attitude and a secret. In their attempt to stop them, Chase and Rayna find themselves in the middle of the Circle’s plan, leaving one of them to decide what their friendship is worth, and the other’s life depending on it.
This is not first time that I’ve read something that I didn’t feel as enthused as everyone did. I’ve just gone through the reviews for this on Goodreads and everyone seems to be in complete agreement. Heck, it averages 4.74 stars, a quick indication that it truly is an awesome read.

Once again, I’m on the outside looking in.

This book is short, and such, should’ve taken me a day or two – tops to read. But I’ve had this fermenting on my currently reading shelf since last Saturday and it just wasn’t holding my attention. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why that is. Surely, I can’t complain about the writing. It was done perfectly well. There is something about the author’s style that I found refreshing, direct to the point and most certainly non-convoluted. It’s not even the world building because MR Merrick created one that parallels an exceptional paranormal world where vampires, shifters, witches and warlocks were the norm.

I have a feeling that my reading taste is evolving. Vampires no longer excite me – heck, other mythical creatures no longer excite me. Should I really feel bad that I’m feeling a bit excluded from everyone’s enthusiasm over this book? A little bit. I found myself asking, “What the heck am I missing?”

This book is written from a male’s POV, a rare find amongst the hundreds of books in my reading pile. I usually enjoy those – but I couldn’t with this book. There is a certain detachment to Chase that I regretfully, unable to empathize. I also couldn’t summon enough interest to find out what Rayna was. I feel so bad because I think I’m not giving this book a fighting chance and doubly awful because this is from my Indie shelf.

Perhaps I should’ve just stopped halfway through the book and re-shelved it for future reading but I pushed on because I kept hoping that the book would incite some excitement in me. The funny thing is, this book was paced well. There was no lull as soon as you get to page one. The action was non-stop, enough to give you a pulse pounding high. But I was at an automaton mode, reading for the sake of that feeling I get after i finished a book – accomplished and somehow sated by the fact that I gave the book a chance.

I think this is the most contradicting review I’ve written as of yet. I can’t fault the book or the author but I can honestly say, that this time, it’s all on me, folks.

It just wasn’t my book. 

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Review: The Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson

Publication Date:  November 29th, 2011
Format: E-ARC from Net Galley
Add it to Your Goodreads!

An unthinkable danger. An unexpected choice.Annabel, once the daughter of a wealthy merchant, is trapped in indentured servitude to Lord Ranulf, a recluse who is rumored to be both terrifying and beastly. Her circumstances are made even worse by the proximity of Lord Ranulf’s bailiff—a revolting man who has made unwelcome advances on Annabel in the past.Believing that life in a nunnery is the best way to escape the escalation of the bailiff’s vile behavior and to preserve the faith that sustains her, Annabel is surprised to discover a sense of security and joy in her encounters with Lord Ranulf. As Annabel struggles to confront her feelings, she is involved in a situation that could place Ranulf in grave danger. Ranulf’s future, and possibly his heart, may rest in her hands, and Annabel must decide whether to follow the plans she has cherished or the calling God has placed on her heart.

This book is surprisingly good. Not that I’ve expected it to be bad but the historical genre is usually a hit and miss with me. Sometimes, it bores me to sleep and sometimes I’d start one and before I know it, I’d be at the last page. The Merchant’s Daughter fell under the latter.

At first glance, Annabel’s story reminded me of Cinderella or any other fairy tale which involved cruel family members who treated her like a servant. Her father, who was a broke merchant by the time he passed away, was the only person she had a kinship with. Left with a family who was too prideful to do any work, the whole town turned on them and decided they must pay for years of not helping with the farming. The amount of fine the family must pay was something they could not afford. Annabel soon found herself escaping an arranged marriage to a widowed town bailiff to work for the ‘beastly’ Lord Ranulf.

I loved Ms. Dickerson’s take on Beauty and the Beast. What surprised me the most about this book was that I found myself unable to skip the Bible reading parts – and there were lots. This book was heavy in religious tones. But in spite of all that, it was written in a way that it doesn’t come across as preachy so it didn’t hinder me from enjoying this book.

There are things that I must point out, however.

Gilbert was thrown in to the mix as a love triangle. What was the point? Annabel was sickened at the thought of being near the man and obviously it wasn’t going anywhere. And maybe it was just the way things went during the 1500s but Gilbert met her once and decided that he must make Annabel his wife and a mother for his son.

The relationship between Annabel and Ranulf felt a bit forced and lacking in the spark department. Perhaps it was due to the genre this book was written under (Christian) that I often found myself looking for more. There’s always certain ‘safeness’ to Christian books and unfortunately, the attraction between characters felt cold and ‘safe’.

Otherwise, I still enjoyed this book. If fairy tale retellings are your cup of tea, The Merchant’s Daughter, though a bit unusual, will not disappoint.

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Review: Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder

Publication Date: December 20th, 2011
Format: E-ARC from Net Galley
Add it to your Goodreads!


Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan assumes their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Territories, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos.

Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader, an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own, is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince—leader of a campaign against her people. As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life…



I wasn’t too keen on picking up another fantasy book after reading Froi of the Exiles. But I thought I’d give this book a try anyway because I’ve been a fan of the author ever since I read her Poison Study.

Touch of Power is set in the same world – realms, mages and regency dominated the pages. This book didn’t disappoint. In fact, I can readily admit that I liked this more than Poison Study….gasps! I know. The thing is, I’m a romance reader before anything else. I loved the relationships formed in this book better than Poison Study. While both book has no insta-love, I found myself more receptive to Avry and Keering’s relationship. Nothing really happened between them until the last pages, but throughout the book, the tension between them was explosive.

This is the story of Avry, a healer hunted by pretty much every kingdom jockeying for position to rule all of The Fifteen Realms. On the day of her execution, a group of rogue bandits abducted her for the purpose of healing a prince in stasis – a prince who had crusaded against her people. In the mercy of an unforgiving captor, Avry learns that now more than ever, the choices she must make as a healer determines the fate of those who are left of all the kingdoms ravaged by a plague.

This book has most of the makings of an incredible fantasy novel. Devoid of all the clichéd subjects we’d normally see in YA, this book captured my attention right from the start. The plot is well conceptualized and the characters were all written well. It’s the first of the series so the ending, though resolved, made me regret ever reading this book ahead of its release date; because now, I have an even longer wait for the next one to come out.

One complaint:  The language used in this book doesn’t seem to match the era from when the book was set. Judging by the wardrobe and the description of the environment, I know that this book is supposed to be historical/fantasy. But it seems the author opted to use simple and modern language to write this novel. I didn’t mind it at all because it made for an easier time in understanding the dialogues and events but I wouldn’t be doing my job properly if I didn’t point it out.

Otherwise, I’m buying myself a copy of this book on its release date! This book had me reading at the office practicing the art of minimizing my screen fast so no one would catch me, well, not working. 🙂

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Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Publication Date: September 27th, 2011
Simon & Schuster’s Children’s Publishing
Format: Hardcover, 452 pages
Goodreads Summary

Mara Dyer doesn’t think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
It can.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.
There is.
She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love.
She’s wrong.
I’ve been an avid reader for years but had only been active in book reviewing for the last two years. And over that span of time, I’ve learned that sometimes, the most anticipated books does not necessarily equate to the most enjoyable reads.

I know a lot of people were itching to read this book and I was probably one of the few who stood in the sidelines and waited patiently for Mara Dyer’s release. I’ve learned to curb my enthusiasm ever since my fervor eagerness for Starcrossed and Die for Me fell to a crushing disappointment, so there wasn’t much excitement on my end when this book came out.

Slap a hat on me and call me Susie.

I absolutely enjoyed this creep fest of a book and for once, I wasn’t riding on everybody else’s enthusiasm but mine.

I loved the mystery that surrounds the entire story. The guessing game never ends. One hundred percent of the time, I was completely vested in it. So much so that I had to re-think and second-guess myself. Was Mara having delusions? Or was it actually happening? Was it just a product of her antipsychotic pills or was the ghosts of her friends really haunting her? Was it all real? The questions were endless.

Mara is such a beautiful, broken character. The demons that she constantly fought with showed how admirably strong she is. But the ultimate chink in her armor was discerning what was reality and what had become her reality. Little by little, she also learned what she was capable of. Let’s just say that you better not make her angry or she could kill you with a thought.

The romance in this book is a tad over the top. Actually, I should just say that NOAH SHAW is a little over the top. Don’t get me wrong, this snarky, Brit boy is the ultimate hottie in my book. But seriously? Who are we kidding here? I know this is fiction and it is a paranormal book, but try not to kill us with this handsome, smart, multi-lingual, literature-quoting yumminess, who by the way, is richer than Bill Gates. Not only that, he’s freaking BRITISH (yes, I know, I mentioned this already…but come on! British!) – a gentleman when he wants to be and an absolute jerk when he chose to be. I do love him but I think Michelle Hodkin reached her maximum limit for perfecting the ultimate book boyfriend. No joke.

As expected, the initial offering of this series left a lot of loose threads. Don’t expect a tidy ending because you’re not going to get one. There’s not even a resolution, all you’d be left with are a bunch of questions.

Lately, I’ve become a fan of enumerating my grievances…er questions so I’ve got some here.

(a) How did Mara’s ability come to be? Did she inherit some mystical powers from her deceased grandmother? Does her grandmother even play a role in this series? Or was she just a passing thought? Did her ability come from the same souls that haunted her every waking and sleeping moments?

(b) I sometimes found the writing style jumpy. Or perhaps it’s the pacing. Sometimes there’s no smooth transition. An example is when she’d end her chapters in an ominous way and then I’d read the next chapter only to find that nothing really happens to explain why the previous chapter was ended in such a manner. What can I say? I’m a very impatient reader. I’ve never been a fan of foreshadowing that takes place a long ways a way before the conflict and eventual resolution. But hey, that’s just me…and I’m rambling.

(c) I felt like what happened in the asylum was revealed with very little fan fare. Considering it was the catalyst for the story, I had hope for more details. The little trickles of memory or nightmares weren’t enough for me. I was really looking forward to the high priest’s aid in getting Mara’s memory of that night but I was disappointed when the next scene was in Noah’s room. Though, if I may be honest, I was elated as well…*winks*

(d) And lastly, there were too many things going on. The book lack a certain unity that would’ve made this an incredible read. Subplots like: The murdered girl and Leon Lassiter; Noah’s powers/ability; I wish they were all gift wrapped and tied in a nice bow. But sadly, they weren’t.

You know what though? This book is, in a word, amazing. The writing was so natural and pretty, especially the dark, creepy scenes. I was completely into it as soon as I flip to page one. Perhaps it was the intention of the author to leave me in such a daze – thoughts and questions swirling in my head hours after I finished reading – enough to drive me insane. All I can say is, well played, Ms. Hodkin. Well, played. 

BUY YOUR COPY HERE: Amazon | The Book Depository | !ndigo
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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (2)

It’s Monday, What are you reading? is a weekly event hosted by Sheila at One Person’s Journey Through a World of Books to list the books completed last week, the books currently being read and the books to be finished this week. 
So far, I’m enoying Mara & Dearly, Departed. I have yet to crack Exiled open but I’ve been looking forward to reading this book for a while and I’m anxious to start.
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