[758]: Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Taylor Jenkins Reid’s latest novel is an avant-garde in its own right: ambitious, hardly pretentious, and a larger than life endeavor that realistically portrays the hard and fast life of rock and roll. Choosing the autobiographical format of a fictional band in the 70s, she successfully allowed her readers to immerse in the life of her characters. 

By choice, I am one of those readers who can’t stand destructive characters, and Daisy Jones was simply destruction, defined.  On the other side of the coin was Billy Dunne. A reformed drug and alcohol addict who nearly ruined his life and marriage if not for fatherhood. 

Reading this novel wasn’t easy.  Often times, it angered me. Not because the writing was comically bad, because, hell, this is TJR, after all. But it was the story itself that bothered me.  I’m an unforgiving reader when it comes to drug use in books. Call me prude, but I just can’t sit here and watch it unfold before my eyes. I get so bothered by characters that use drugs to escape, and use drugs as a means to explain the person they’ve become, their source of weakness and strength, their hell and oblivion. I just can’t.

My encounter with her novels has never been the stuff of legends. In fact, out of all her books (that I mostly own), I’ve only read two. And it’s because I found I have to psych myself up to reading them.  I know her novels are as real as it gets. Difficult relationships and equally difficult characters littered the pages of her books. Why I never bought a clue that Daisy Jones would be just as hard a character to decode escapes me.  

This novel reads like an episode of VH1 Behind the Music; an oral history of their lives, their music, their heartbreaks, successes, and failures. I could readily admit that throughout my life, I’ve never read something like Daisy Jones. It was ingenious and at times, I could easily ignore the stuff that bothered me. But since drugs are as regular as breathing for Daisy, it was a challenge. 

So Billy Dunne and Daisy Jones cross paths largely in part because of a mutual friend that saw the potential of what their combined talents could bring.  The dynamic was tenuous at best. Both are hardheaded and dedicated to their craft. Neither wanted to give in without drawing blood first, but underneath – a mutual respect. One of the story arcs that I also could not forgive is cheating. But in this instance, how I wish one of the characters in this book actually gave in and damned the consequences. 

In the end, I wish I could’ve loved Daisy as much as Daisy loved her drugs. Unfortunately, and as much this novel was amazingly written, I couldn’t forgive it for not giving me what I want. And it really sucks. 

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[747]: Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson

A fascinating study of an eclectic group of people held together by a quirky matriarch, magic, and her predecessor.


Matchmaking for Beginners
by Maddie Dawson

Everything about this book screams, Rom-Com; from its Tiffany-blue jacket with a couple drawn animatedly on the front, to the quirky synopsis about a divine connection between two unsuspecting, quirkily similar women. Truthfully, it was what drew me to this book. It started out great. Unfortunately, the more I got to know the heroine, the less I was inclined to continue. But I persisted because there’s nothing I love more than reading about an eclectic commune of people tentatively finding their footing in their own ways.

Luckily for you, dear readers, Blix might endear you (as she had, me). As well, the group of humans living in a brownstone building that Blix haplessly saved from the clutches of eternal discontent. There was Lola, a geriatric who was too afraid to start over but have learned through Blix’s manipulations urgings that life starts only when you realized you only have one to live. There was Jessica and Sammy, a mother and son tandem. Then, there’s the recluse who lives in the basement – a former artist disfigured from a fire accident.  This eclectic group acted as a balm from everything else that made this novel frustrating.

There are also characters here that might drive you to drink. The good for nothing, two-week husband who has no balls and no brains; his entire snooty-nosed clan who has more greed that can fit in their pretentious mansion; and worst yet, Marnie McGraw, who was a train wreck and a basket full of bad decisions rolled into one. Unfortunate, considering she shares the top billing in this novel. Marnie was perfectly imperfect. But I can’t, for the life of me, reconcile myself to actually like this girl. Even if she redeemed herself in the end, the damage was done. [spoiler]You can’t make a man marry you. You also can’t hurt another man twice in his lifetime. Cheating is never acceptable. It’s an unforgivable sin in my book. [End of spoiler]. So yeah, Marnie tried my patience.

Never fear, this book has its moments as well. When Marnie is not being her self-absorbed, woe-is-me, self, she was unintentionally funny. She truly cared for the well-being of the people in her building and was truly sentimental on forging ahead with Blix’s unfinished businesses. And if you’re into magic and things of that nature, this book also has an air of mystical quality reminiscent of Practical Magic minus the darkness and only loads funnier.

WHERE TO BUY: Indigo | Amazon Canada | Amazon.com


About Maddie Dawson:
Maddie Dawson grew up in the South, born into a family of outrageous storytellers. Her various careers as a substitute English teacher, department-store clerk, medical-records typist, waitress, cat sitter, wedding-invitation-company receptionist, nanny, day care worker, electrocardiogram technician, and Taco Bell taco maker were made bearable by thinking up stories as she worked. Today she lives in Guilford, Connecticut, with her husband. She’s the bestselling author of five previous novels: The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness, The Opposite of Maybe, The Stuff That Never Happened, Kissing Games of the World, and A Piece of Normal.

G   I   V   E   A   W   A   Y

The winner will receive 1 copy of Matchmaking for Beginners (HC) by Maddie Dawson!
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[743]: The Thief by J.R. Ward

A disappointing installment that tried and failed to inspire a renewed fervor for the author’s favorite character.


The Thief
by JR Ward

I haven’t reached the point in which I’d say I’m over with this series – no matter how much I didn’t enjoy an installment. Well, maybe I came close as I read the first few chapters of the latest. Truthfully, I was looking forward to reading this because the Warden said it was about Assail and Sola. Their story was long overdue and I’d waited long enough. So I was ecstatic and have pined for this book for a year. But as we all know, Warden does not only dedicate a book solely on a pair of characters. She tends to fill the pages with stories of other characters as well.

Let’s get the ugliness out of the way first.

Vishous and Mary. It is with to my utter disappointment that the Warden sullied by initial admiration for this couple. In all honesty, I disliked Mary here and I hated Vishous with the passion of a thousand suns. I won’t get into the whys because it would be revealing too much of their part of the story. Let’s just say that Mary was painted as the victim of blame the victim scenario, and Vishous – well, he was not the man I loved in the past few books. He was insecure – far from the alpha male, take-charge vampire of the old and he was too selfish. Me, me, me. He blames Mary for the widening rift in their marriage because Mary was too busy being a doctor. Dude. What? Spare me the you-don’t-have-time-for-me-anymore bullshit. The worst part? And this is after his transgressions, Mary was only too willing to forgive and forget. Arrrggghhhhh.

Realistic, though as it was, seeing as every happily married couple goes through rough patches at one point in their blissful union, what Vishous did was an unforgivable sin. Call me insane, but he was one step away from the cliff. Regardless of whether or not he jumped is irrelevant. The truth of the matter is, there was planning involved. He’d thought of it and made it happen. So, screw you, V!

The good part.

Assail and Sola. We finally have their story and it was a good one. They are the sole saviors of this trainwreck. Assail is still under a coma from going cold turkey from his heroin addiction (or was it cocaine?). They were ready to pull the plug on him when his cousins intervened. They thought that if anybody could bring him back from the brink, it would be Sola. But she wasn’t so receptive to come back at first considering there was a price over her head. Needless to say, and miracles of miracles, he woke up as soon as Sola made her presence known. La di da, they’re reunited and their love blossoms.

The conflict in their story was that Sola didn’t know of Assail’s true nature. And because she comes from a staunch Catholic upbringing, vampires aren’t exactly God’s greatest creation. So he hid that fact for as long as he could until he couldn’t. At the same time, Sola’s enemies are gunning for her head.

Overall, I didn’t get off to a good start with this book. It was a placid installment as far as this series goes. Am I going to stop reading? Hell no. These characters have become a part of my life now that it would be as if I’m cutting ties with my best friends for no reason at all if I’d stop. In goodness and in bad, I’m in for the long haul.

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[737]: Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

A dark, suspenseful dive into small town shady cover-ups starring a complex and flawed character.


Bonfire
by Krysten Ritter

It took me a while to realize that the author of this novel is none other than the Jessica Jones. But it sure didn’t take long for this book to get its hooks on me, no matter how frustrated I was with the heroine.

Historically speaking, I’ve always had a difficult relationship with deeply flawed characters. Complex though as they may be, I found myself wanting to reach into the book and shake the living daylights out of them. But perhaps that feeling is clear evidence of the efficacy of one’s writing. Their ability to incite such an emotion conflates with the feeling of confusion or a battle within yourself to either root for the character or hate them altogether.

Such was my dilemma with Abby Williams.

Growing up in the town of Barrens, Indiana hasn’t been all that easy for Abby. She wasn’t so much as the paraiah, but more like the kid that everyone ignored. Her history with the town and its people was forgettable, humiliating, and hurtful. So when her next case as an environmental lawyer takes her back to her hometown, she was filled with trepidation and somewhat morbid curiousity. Especially since the case was against the very life force that kept the town going.

There, Abby will be reintroduced to her past – all the good and bad. The bullies that made her life miserable; her father with whom she’d had a strained relationship over the years. The boy who kissed her in the woods and made her promised not to tell. But most of all, she was forced to confront the one thing that ate at her after all these years: the disappearance of her former friend and enemy.

Reminiscent of Erin Brockovich, Abby Williams peeled the layers of secrets to get to the bottom of the swamp. Pay offs, teen prostitution/pornography ring, blackmail, and murder, were just some of the dark secrets the small town had been harboring. Optimal Plastics has been the only source of income for most of the residents of Barrens. People were hesitant to talk, but most could no longer ignore the unexplained illnesses, birth defects, and severe rashes that plagued the town.  In a way, Abby was the perfect character to unearth the truth. She has a built in connection with the town, as well an underlying need for revenge. Though that connection sometimes got her in trouble. It blinded her to the truth at times and made her transparent to her enemies. But she was strong minded and determined to make those who were responsible pay.

Krysten Ritter succeeded in writing a suspenseful novel. It was fast-paced and full of sinister vibes. Other than the obvious culprit (Optimal Plastics), she did very well in hiding all the town’s secrets and specific perpetrators. I’ve had my doubts with celebrities publishing fiction but I must admit, this was an outstanding debut.

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[731]: Artemis by Andy Weir

Flat story-telling makes Artemis a laborious read.


Artemis by Andy Weir

The author’s follow-up work leaves a lot to be desired. I’ve managed to get through The Martian rather painfully, to begin with. The fault lies in expecting something different. Since Weir found success in his first novel, I supposed he wasn’t going to veer away from a tried formula. Bombarded with space jargon and the main character’s love for potatoes, The Martian was just as arduous a read as the hefty Sci-fi wonder, Seveneves. Not for its sheer volume but for the dryness of the story.

Years into the future, mankind was finally able to colonize the moon. With their own government, and albeit, lackadaisical laws, Artemis was a settlement that primarily runs on tourism and industrial society. It’s a popular tourist destination for the extremely wealthy. And because it needs to run with the utmost efficacy, its residents are heavily involved in making sure the city’s lifeline keeps on ticking. Artemis itself was built where Buzz Aldrin first set foot on the moon. Its structure consists of 5-spherical connected domes with hallways instead of streets. It has resorts, casinos, bars, and hotels.

Our heroine, Jazz, is a resourceful young woman who smuggles goods to supplement her income on Artemis. You need it, she gets it for you. She’s hardly a model of morality but a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do. Where she lacks scruples, she makes up for her ambition and intelligence. If you’ve read The Martian and have rooted for the stranded astronaut, Jazz would have you feeling the opposite. She’s selfish, exploitative, and crass. She was far from perfect, to be sure. But at the end of the day, all these traits will be the very thing that will save her and the city. She’s one of those characters with whom you need a good amount of patience. She makes no apologies for all her personality flaws and disreputable traits.

Weir’s fondness for Science still shines through in this novel. However, it was a hard sell to make it seem more “mainstream”. And non-Scifi readers would struggle as much as I did. From the dry narrative to the anti-heroine, heroine, this book was a laborious undertaking. I question why I requested this book in the first place. The truth of the matter is, it was sparkly and shiny at the time. I also wanted to see if Weir would make a fan out of me. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to keep trying.

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[723]: Into The Water by Paula Hawkins

Into the Water
by Paula Hawkins


If you like unraveling twisted knots and threads, Into the Water is a must read for you. However, if you’re one of those impatient readers like me, you would probably have a hard time resisting the urge to DNF.

One of the things I typically don’t enjoy when I’m reading a book is when it has an overpopulation problem. Meaning, it’s laden with so many points of view that it had become difficult to discern whichever way the author wanted to take the story.

Paula Hawkins became an instant household name after her successful debut, The Girl on the Train. Many have waited upon bated breath for her follow up novel. While I can see the painstaking method to her mad talent, I just can’t see past all the POVs to consider myself a fan.

I’ve just about given up on this one. I grew impatient many a times while reading. It was like trudging through a jungle and having to whack my way past the overgrown vines just to clear a pathway. Eventually, I decided I couldn’t waste the time I’ve already invested in the story. And with due patience, I learned to ignore the white noise and focus on what was going on within the story.

The novel opens with a character casually telling the readers how she was about to die. Some hostile men, it seemed, were set on drowning her. When she came up for air, the man in charged told them to dunk her again until she drew her last breath. After, we’re introduced to Jules Abbott. The sister of the drowned woman that we’ll later know was a water creature all her life. That’s why Jules could not believe that she would kill herself by throwing herself off the river. Even mysterious still, was the number of women who have drowned in the same river.

Despite the 11 narratives featured in this book, the author would have you believe that Nel’s is the focal point of the novel. Let’s say that her story would drudge up some ugly truths, painful past, and mysterious deaths. But because the author withheld a lot of information as a way to build up the mystery, impatience leads the way to boredom and loss of interest.

It was a good story, all told. I just didn’t get it.

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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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[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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[699]: The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman

A promising start that slowly degressed into a Victorian doldrum.


The Dark Days Pact
by Alison Goodman

I started reading this book with a vague awareness of everything that happened beforehand. And considering that The Dark Days Club proved to be a laborious read in itself, I found myself temporarily relieved by how easy it was to acclimate myself back into this world. It didn’t take long before the events of what had happened started flooding back. So I was pretty optimistic that I will truly have a better time with The Dark Days Pact.

Unfortunately, it just wasn’t in the cards.

The Dark Days Pact picks up where the first book left off. Lady Helen Wrexhall is now a card-carrying member of the demon hunters that belong in The Dark Days Club. Having been cast aside by her only living family, she now resides with the Hammond siblings. She’s fully accepted her role as a Reclaimer under the tutelage of Lord Carlseton who, by the way, did his very best impression of a surly jerk. *snorts*. This guy is a piece of work and if one doesn’t know his background, one could easily lump him with the rest of the jackasses of the 18th century (along with Mr. Darcy. Probably.). It took a bit of time for me to warm up to his character in the first book. Back then, I could appreciate his enigmatic, mysterious character. He was unbearable in this installment, however. But you’ll have to forgive him. He’s under a lot of pressure. Besides the fact that Lord Carlseton was so obviously fighting off an exhausting attraction towards Helen (hence, the jerky attitude), he’s also suffering from a malady that comes from years of reaping demon souls.

Reclaimers aren’t supposed to be in a relationship with other Reclaimers so sparks flew whenever Lady Helen and Lord Carlseton were within each other’s vicinity. Sadly, the chemistry more often off the mark. In some ways, their relationship reminded me of Will and Tessa’s from The Infernal Devices from when they were just starting out. But alas, while Will and Tessa’s push and pull romance was convincing, Helen and Carlseton’s couldn’t begin to compare. Milquetoast is the word that comes to mind.

The love triangle in this book comes into more focus towards the ending – which, admittedly, added to the annoyance that I was already feeling throughout. Thankfully, Helen’s feelings were very clear whom she favors – which relieved the irritation some. Duke Selburn wouldn’t take no for an answer under the guise of keeping the word he gave to Helen’s brother to protect her. And even though he bore witness to Helen’s kickassery at one point, he still insisted that a fine woman such as her should be protected by a man like him. *eye roll*

We finally get to know a bit more about Lord Carleston’s history; the event that led him to believe that his wife perished through the hands of the Deceivers and ultimately, to his incarceration. Driven by a sense of duty to The Dark Days Club, his unrelenting need to rid the word of demons accelerated his descent to Cray Town (madness is a direct side effect to consuming demon souls). The only thing that could help him now was what was in the book.

Speaking of, the bulk of the plot deals with a book that Benchley has created. It contained information about Helen’s parents, history of Deceivers and Reclaimers; the cure for whatever’s ailing Lord Carlseton, and how to open the gate to Hellmouth, so to speak. So you can say this book is very much in high demand. The higher ups in the club suspected Lord Carleston of knowing more than he’s led them to believe. That he had a hand in creating the book.

I don’t know how you guys do it. But the Victorian period is not my favourite. I can’t sit back and not scream at the amount of mansplaining and hapless women whose daily existence is governed by the dictates of what society deemed as proper.  I can’t do it. I can’t do it without wanting to face punch the nearest cravat-wearing douche within my sights. But if this is your type of thing, I’m not judging. I just get so mad!

THAT. ENDING. THOUGH.

What the freaking heck was that? Grrrrr.

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[697]: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Strange, imaginative and intricately plotted.


The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern

One of the hazards of reading and reviewing a book such as The Night Circus is it renders one’s reviewing ability virtually useless. It’s a good thing and a bad thing. For one, piecing together a coherent take on the book is an arduous task. For another, it’s a shot at your already frail capacity to write a review in the first place. To top it off, The Night Circus was very vague in a lot of aspects. So the chances drawing blanks while writing the review is considerably high.

Still, I can say in all honesty, that this book is highly imaginative, however strange. Though it’s tough to follow sometimes because the timeline jumps sporadically. And the fact that the train arrives without warning at the most random places adds to that confusion. The train itself is magical, obviously. It carries the performers who possessed some otherworldly abilities recruited by the mysterious founder.

At the core of this novel is a love story between two protégés caught in between two competing magicians. But the romance lacks intensity so it takes a backseat throughout the novel. The two magicians seem immortal, pitting one protege against the other over the years. The mechanics of the game wasn’t clear, which is frustrating for the most part. The object was to beat each other, of course. As to the genesis and end game, Ms. Morgenstern was not very forthcoming.

The world of The Night Circus is magical in the literal sense. Besides the fact that the train travels like the wind (swift as the speed of sound), Celia and Marco have the strangest ability to manipulate thoughts, stop time, and even dabble in telekinesis. You have a fortune teller whose accuracy is uncanny, and kids who speak to animals. But is there anything more magical than love? Ms. Morgenstern explores the dark relationships between the children and their minders. Most of them were taken when they were young then cared for by their guardians. But it is love? Like that of a parent to their child? Celia’s relationship with her father was tenuous at best, volatile for the most part. Marco didn’t fare any better. In the end, it was hard to decipher who was manipulating whom.

There is a star-crossed element to the romance between Marco and Celia. Besides the fact that their masters are mortal enemies, the result of the competition ends in the loser’s death.  Quitting the game is no easy task. It’s almost as if the contest is set up so the competing magicians fall in love, so to win the game also means it’s at the expense of the person they love. That should be enough to titillate the most ardent romance readers, but sadly, the thrill just wasn’t there.

Morgenstern’s writing is very polished but because it’s set in the 1800s, I can’t help but feel that the emotions were restricted. It’s formal, regimented, and unfortunately, very cold at times. I would like to read more of her other works, though. But I would like to wait and see something other than this historical/magical realism/fantasy hybrid.

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