Review for ‘House of Ash’ by Hope Cook

House of AshHouse of Ash by Hope Cook

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Summary provided by the publisher:
After hearing voices among an eerie copse of trees in the woods, seventeen-year-old Curtis must confront his worst fear: that he has inherited his father’s mental illness. A desperate search for answers leads him to discover Gravenhearst, a labyrinth mansion that burned down in 1894. When he locks eyes with a steely Victorian girl in a forgotten mirror, he’s sure she’s one of the fire’s victims. If he can unravel the mystery, he can save his sanity . . . and possibly the girl who haunts his dreams.

But more than 100 years in the past, the girl in the mirror is fighting her own battles. When her mother disappears and her sinister stepfather reveals his true intentions, Mila and her sister fight to escape Gravenhearst and unravel the house’s secrets—before it devours them both.
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For whatever reason, I hate the word ‘copse’. There’s no real reason why I should hate word, but I do, so that didn’t help when reading a book that keeps identifying a ‘copse’ of trees as the place where strange things begin to happen to one of our MCs, Curtis. The word just kept being used, and I kept cringing whenever it’d pop up on the page. I really do not like the word copse.

Why don’t I move on from that…

House of Ash is one of those books that you can’t help but feel like you’ve heard the story before, maybe not in this exact sense, but in some form or other. For instance, the idea of a boy and girl, both on opposite sides of time, who happen to see each other in some way (a mirror, in this book), fall for each other, and feel the need to save one or the other. Then, there’s the very real potential that one may be actually suffering from a mental illness, imagining things, because a parent of said one may be suffering themselves. Oh, and did I mention that there’s an evil house? A house that listens, and must be stopped at all costs?
Yup, same ol’, same ol’.

Even though the author’s bio says she has drawn from her personal experience with mental illness, I don’t feel like this book was meant to really address what mental illness really does to people. If it was, then I didn’t quite get that from this book. Curtis’ father is mentally ill, and his illness seems to only exist to explain why Curtis might be suddenly hearing things like voices, and to possibly explain why his home life is so rough, leading to his having some extreme behavior in a variety of circumstances in this book. Yeah, so if you’re looking to really read up on mental illness, this is not the book for that.

Moving on from the very real problems that mental illness can invoke, we should now talk about the supernatural aspect of this book. The girl in the mirror. Is she real, or is she a figment of Curtis’ imagination? This is where the supernatural part comes into play. Curtis is seeing the image of a girl who was very real, but how? Especially since we know that the girl, Mila, perished in 1894 in a fire that descimated a very large estate to the ground, along with anyone else who may have been in the home. So we have a ghosty mirror, along with a ghosty girl, and therefore we have ghosty-ness, though it all plays out to be on the bland side. I mean, Mila’s step-father is supposed to be a large reason behind why things ended up the way they did when it comes to her death and the fire, but honestly, he is such an absent villain. It’s like he appears at times, goes BOO!, then heads off to wait till the next time he’ll come around again to instill some sort of fear into Mila. His villainy is pretty boring, and the explanation for why he does the things he does is also pretty boring.

I feel like I should also mention the characters in regards to what I thought of them in general. Starting with Curtis, I’ll say that he is a very angry person, as well as someone who’s very torn as to address issues with others. He doesn’t want to confide in his best friend, and being that there’s no one else for him to do so to, he’s pretty much screwed. So, yeah, this just leads to him being angry all the time. He finds some drive in his research of Mila and the burned down estate of Gravenhearst, but even then, he’s mediocre at research, so his best friend has to help him, but still, he’d rather not confide in the guy, humph. Now that I’ve given you a sort of condensed description of him, I’ll say that I find Curtis to be boring/annoying. Seriously, one day he happens to come across a clearing of strange trees, hears weird voices, and that’s how this book comes about. Not sure if there was absolutely no chance that he wouldn’t have come upon said clearing anytime before in his life, but now is the time for everything to happen, it would seem. Okay, so even if I were to accept that and move on, I still can’t stand Curtis’ personality in general. He just seemed kind of douchey to me, and I’m not a fan of such people.

Now for Mila. Mila’s account begins with her journey/arrival to Gravenhearst, originally with her mother and sister, as well. Yadda, yadda, her mom disappears, then her sister, and now Mila is left to figure out what her step-father, and the evil house, wants from her. Mila isn’t awful, and I found her to be more tolerable than her male counterpart, but that doesn’t really mean anything if you dislike the guy so much, so I’ll leave it at that.

Finally, when it comes to the way this book ended?? It wasn’t awful, it just wasn’t really that entertaining. There are no cliffhangers, so the end is the end, but maybe this book could have benefited from a horror movie-style ending? Shrug, we’ll never know.

I gave this book two stars because as much as I didn’t really care for it, I felt it was readable, and it didn’t take me too long to read, so that’s definitely a plus in my book. Being that I didn’t really care for this book, I won’t be personally recommending it.

Thank you to Amulet Books, via Netgalley, for giving me this copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘All the Crooked Saints’ by Maggie Stiefvater

All the Crooked SaintsAll the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Ugh. I can’t even begin to tell you how disappointed I was by this book. Honestly, the only reason I gave it two stars is because I was still slightly impressed by Maggie Stiefvater‘s ability to tell a story in the most colorful way possible.

1. But colorful isn’t always an indication for amazing literacy. Nope, not when you’re reading a book and happen to come across a line like:
‘She had been wearing artificial eyelashes in the womb and when they had fallen off in the birth canal, she had lost no time in replacing them.’


???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

This wasn’t even written as a joke to somewhat tease this character for being described as ‘the most beautiful woman in Colorado Springs’, no, this pretty much only served to show you how quirky Stiefvater’s writing could be, and how unique/interesting the Soria family were supposed to be. It’s not like having a Saint in the family–with the ability to perform actual miracles–wasn’t already interesting enough or anything like that…

Why don’t we move on to other things I didn’t like? Yeah?

2. Boring characters
It’s kind of sad when not one character really stood out to me. The Soria cousins are pretty much the MCs of this tale, but the book never really centers on any one of them. We get some random moments with each, to incorporate them in to the moving storyline, but then we’re soon onto the many secondary characters that either belong to the Soria family, or those who are considered pilgrims.
Just a side note: These pilgrims are the ones who’ve had a miracle bestowed upon them, only to come to find out that miracles come in twos–the second taking much longer to accomplish. So the pilgrims are these people who live side by side with the Sorias, though contact by either side is not permitted (for reasons told in the book).
Like I said, none of them really stood out to me, so that made it harder for me to feel any sort of attachment to any of these characters, or to their stories.

3.Here is a thing I want:, Here is a thing I fear:
These two statements were attached to most(?) of the characters, and I found them to be unnecessary. Who cares if Judith wanted two gold teeth that no one could see but that she’d know were there? Or that she feared having to fill out medical forms before appointments? Not me.

4.Pacing getting thrown off by some random, nonsensical moment
Yes, please explain to me the process of how Antonio attempts to grow black roses, and the steps he takes when it comes to gathering seeds or how he marks the flowers that will be used–because I care.

Finally:

5.The ending
What an unsatisfying end to a very unsatisfying book. Sure, it was a real ending that didn’t leave you with a cliffhanger, but again, it was so boring! I really feel like this book just coasted all the way through, then suddenly we’re closing in on the end, so it’s like ‘hey! The book is ending now, let’s gather everything together and call it a day’, so then the end is wrapped up in a neat, little bow of boringness, and thus, I’m left unsatisfied.

At this point, you’re probably wondering: What did I want from this book? I pretty much said it was boring/boring/more boring, so why did I even bother at all? For starters, I felt like I had to finish a Maggie Stiefvater book, it’d be a travesty not to. But then, after I’d slowly realized how much I was disliking this read, I felt it necessary to finish it so that I’d be able to write my own review of it.

So there, I sacrificed myself for you.

I think it’s safe to say at this point that I wouldn’t recommend this book, but who am I to stop the curiosity of a Maggie Stiefvater fan?

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Review of ‘The Last Magician’ by Lisa Maxwell

The Last MagicianThe Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary provided by the publisher:
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Stop the Magician. Steal the book. Save the future.

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.

Esta is a talented thief, and she’s been raised to steal magical artifacts from the sinister Order that created the Brink. With her innate ability to manipulate time, Esta can pilfer from the past, collecting these artifacts before the Order even realizes she’s there. And all of Esta’s training has been for one final job: traveling back to 1902 to steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order—and the Brink—before the Magician can destroy it and doom the Mageus to a hopeless future.

But Old New York is a dangerous world ruled by ruthless gangs and secret societies, a world where the very air crackles with magic. Nothing is as it seems, including the Magician himself. And for Esta to save her future, she may have to betray everyone in the past.
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This book was such a fun read! The world, the characters, and the excitement of forbidden magic really were spot-on for me!

Let’s start with the world this book takes place in:

I think it was clever on the author’s part to set this book in New York, because in the early 1900’s–the time period most of this book is set in–there were many immigrants who came into America with dreams of being able to provide better lives for their families, or themselves. This reasoning really also tied in well with why magic could be found in the city, and why so many risked their lives coming into a city that would end up trapping them in. And then, being the early 1900’s, there was a lot of street gangs that ruled New York City at the time–these were usually depending on which nationality you were, i.e. Irish, Italian, and so on–so it made a lot of sense to have gangs be prevalent in this book, though these seemed to be more centered on powerful Mageus who “protected” those who paid tributes to be under their umbrella of protection. This was definitely a cool setting!

Now, for the characters:

I really liked Esta, whose affinity has to do with time, and being able to control it when necessary–or when she needed to make a point. This affinity helps her to go from present day to 1902, so that she may join a certain magical gang, help them with a heist, and retrieve an item she must bring back to the present. Esta is extremely street-smart, and is able to say she can pick any lock she comes up against, and these skills definitely come in handy when it comes to proving herself to the gang’s leader. I also loved how clever she was, always ready with a quick-witted response to anything Harte might have to say.
Since I’ve now mentioned Harte, I’ll say that I really liked how he was a guy who just wanted to live a better life…to be able to take care of his mother, though she didn’t exactly treat him very well due to something she faulted him with in the past, and mentally, she wasn’t quite right after coming in contact with the brink. Back to the better life point, he wanted to overcome his gang-related past, and with his magician ‘act’, live a relatively normal life that could provide him with some of the finer things, as well. But, Harte is dragged back into magic-oriented things, and must again deal with the people he’d left behind. Namely, Dolph, the leader of the gang Esta has managed to infiltrate.
Dolph, Nibs, Viola, and Jianyu are the secondary characters, who each bring their own skills and talents to make for a more interesting story, as well as strengthen the relationships between the characters so you’re able to see why each person is important and why they fight so hard for each other.

Finally, the forbidden magic:

I loved the element of magic being so forbidden in this world. This is a well-used plot-point, but it was so much fun in this instance. You’ll have to read to find out this find out more, but I will say that the Order are the bad guys in this story, and they’re the ones who have basically outlawed magic. I know, the Order…what a stereotypically used name for fiends, right? I’ll admit I did find the name to be a bit cheesy, but it wasn’t bad enough to stop my interest in this book.

All in all, I really did enjoy this book, and recommend it to any who are interested in reading about a magical world with cool characters.

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Mini Review of ‘The Haunting’ by Alex Bell

The HauntingThe Haunting by Alex Bell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mini Review Time!
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Summary provided by the publisher:
Some curses grow stronger with time…
People say that all Cornish inns are haunted, but the Waterwitch’s history is particularly chilling. Built from the salvaged timber of a cursed ship, the guest house’s dark secrets go further back than anyone can remember.
Emma is permanently confined to a wheelchair after an accident at the Waterwitch which took place when she was ten. Seven years later, she decides to return to the place where the awful event occurred. But the ancient inn still has its ghosts, and one particular spirit is more vengeful than ever…
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After having read the author’s previous book Frozen Charlotte, and not feeling like it really lived up to the creep factor I was hoping for, I wasn’t really expecting much from this book. But how thrilled was I when this turned out so much better for me?!

First off, I loved the scares and found it to be genuinely creepy at times. There were plenty of details when it came to several horrific things mentioned in this book, and the entities plaguing the inn.
I mean, how creepy to think that one room houses a ghost who is trying to keep another locked out, holing away from the horror that would be bestowed upon him, should he be caught?Shivers. And when one of the characters pulls a bird feather from her eye? Ew! Icky, but definitely what you’d expect from a horror novel!

Second, I actually liked the characters. Though Emma is supposedly the MC, I feel that siblings Jem and Shell were just as prominent in this story as she was. Jem’s importance is proven by his need to take care of his younger sister, and protect her from their abusive father. He takes her away to the Waterwitch, and there, Shell comes into her own, and pretty much becomes the one I really feel is the MC of the story. She’s the one the most horrific ghost concentrates on, and she’s the one who can see it all happening when others don’t. Not till it’s too late, that is.

Third, and finally, I really found this book to be just good, well-done horror. I really enjoyed it and would be more than happy to recommend it to my fellow horror fans!

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Review of ‘When Dimple Met Rishi’ by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met RishiWhen Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was such a cute, adorable, and fun read – can I use any more adjectives? – that I really enjoyed!

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Synopsis taken from publisher:

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.
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When Dimple Met Rishi was a book that I had had on my radar for awhile. The fact that this was centered on two Indian-American teens with such different ideals when it comes to their culture?

Gimme Gimme!!

So, being that I am already a sucker for cutesy romances, I was really looking forward to see how Dimple and Rishi’s relationship would end up playing out.

Now, let’s start off by saying that Dimple and Rishi were fantastic characters. I enjoyed them both for their differences. Dimple is super independent, though her mother would love to see her embrace her culture more – mainly the part where she’d find the Ideal Indian Husband, that is. But Dimple’s goals are far different, and a husband is definitely not in the plans.
Then there’s Rishi, who definitely fits the Ideal Indian Husband description to a T. And he is more than happy to do the things that would make his parents proud, including marry the woman his parents have chosen for him. But still, he’s more than just being the ideal Indian guy, and it was cool seeing that he had something he really enjoyed outside of his parent’s expectations. (I won’t go into it, since you should be reading the book anyway.)

Anyway, when these two meet, it’s most definitely not love at first sight…course, it didn’t help that Rishi said, “Hello, future wife…I can’t wait to get started on the rest of our lives!” On some girls, that might work, but on Dimple Shah (and most normal people)? Nope. And so comes into play the scene depicted on the back cover, of Dimple throwing a coffee in to Rishi’s face.

Of course, a moment in which Dimple is very much justified.

Though the first meeting went far from well, I really loved seeing the two characters get closer, as well as seeing them come to understand each other more. There’s definitely growth from both, and that does help make for a more interesting read!

Before I finish my review, I feel I should touch upon the fact that the two happen to be attending a summer program for aspiring web developers – something Dimple is very much interested in – and I think it’s a pretty cool setting that shows just how driven these characters are when it comes to getting what they both want. Though, Rishi’s end goal is a wee bit different than Dimples…

Finally, in conclusion, I really did enjoy this book and would be more than happy to recommend it!

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Review of ‘Toward a Secret Sky’ by Heather Maclean

Toward a Secret SkyToward a Secret Sky by Heather Maclean

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Even the lush depictions of Scotland couldn’t bring me to fall in love with this book.
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Synopsis from publisher:
Shortly after 17-year-old Maren Hamilton is orphaned and sent to live with grandparents she’s never met in Scotland, she receives an encrypted journal from her dead mother that makes her and everyone around her a target. It confirms that her parents were employed by a secret, international organization that’s now intent on recruiting her. As Maren works to unravel the clues left behind by her mother, a murderous madness sweeps through the local population, terrorizing her small town. Maren must decide if she’ll continue her parents’ fight or stay behind to save her friends.

With the help of Gavin, an otherworldly mercenary she’s not supposed to fall in love with, and Graham, a charming aristocrat who is entranced with her, Maren races against the clock and around the country from palatial estates with twisted labyrinths to famous cathedrals with booby-trapped subterranean crypts to stay ahead of the enemy and find a cure. Along the way, she discovers the great truth of love: that laying down your life for another isn’t as hard as watching them sacrifice everything for you.
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This book had me torn when it came to actually decided whether or mother I liked it. The idea this book is centered on is pretty cool, what with there existing a secret organization to keep us lowly ones safe, as well as the promise of some code-breaking. But the “romance” (I cringe even thinking of it) is so ridiculous to me, that it played a large part in why I disliked this book.

Why don’t I first start with the good?

Call me cheesy, but I loved the idea of the American girl having to start over in a foreign country. Living with family she doesn’t know, maybe she’ll be able to find out more about the father she’d never known, and explore the Scottish countryside as well. And of course, she’ll fall for the handsome some of a Scottish laird, and the two will live happily ever after – once all conflicts and whatnot are cared for, of course.

The whole ‘secret codes and mysterious organization’ thing was an interesting part of the story, too. The former actually ended up playing only a small part unfortunately, but I did feel that it was well done and more clever than I could have been, attempting to crack a riddle-like code.
When it comes to the mysterious organization, we do get an explanation of its existence, as well as learning of some of its members, but again, those moments are seldom, and I wish we could’ve gone deeper into its missions or pretty much anything interesting, really.

So…now on to the bad/annoying.

I usually am the biggest sucker when it comes to romance, typically loving even the super cheesy stuff, but Maren‘s infatuation/instalove when it comes to Gavin is so ridiculous! When she first meets him, she swoons, falling to her knees because he’s so good-looking. Then, whenever she’s in his presence, all she can think about is how hot he is, yadda yadda. This goes on for pretty much the whole book, to the point where I was actually cringing at her excessive descriptions.
Honestly, the “romance” was one of the worst things I had to deal with when reading this book.

Finally, when the book seems close to having a satisfying wrap-up, we’re given more conflict, and something terrible happens in Maren’s life. This terrible thing bothered me because I didn’t really feel it had to have happened, and of course it leads to more terrible things and me hating the last 2o% of this book. I’m guessing that the way this book ended, there’s going to be a book 2, though I hadn’t seen anything listed on Goodreads. Seriously though, if there isn’t a book 2, I’m going to really hate this book even more in the future.

I’ll only recommend this if you can get past the annoying instalove and really would like to read a book that has mentions of secret organizations and codes.

Thank you to the publishers at Blink via NetGalley for giving this copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review Of ‘Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault (Glass Vault, #1) by Candace Robinson

Quinsey Wolfe's Glass Vault (Glass Vault, #1)Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault by Candace Robinson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A very interesting story that could have been better with some additional editing.

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Synopsis taken from publisher:

Some see it… Some don’t…

People in the town of Deer Park, Texas are vanishing. There is a strange museum, known as Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault, that appears overnight. Perrie Madeline’s best friend and ex-boyfriend are among the missing. Perrie, along with her friend August, go on a pursuit to search for them in the mysterious museum. Could the elusive Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault have anything to do with their disappearances?

A book that intertwines horror elements and retellings, with humor and darkness.
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Okay, so first, let’s talk about the things that bothered me.

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The writing.

The writing isn’t horrible by any means, but I feel like this book really could have benefited from some additional editing to improve the flow of the story. Perrie is the MC/narrator, and she was constantly telling us what was going on, as opposed to describing. It was like she was dictating events to a jury, so it did get to be a little much.
Then there was the strange wording that was sprinkled throughout, another thing that could have used some editing. I had already used this example in a status update on my Goodreads, but here it is, August reaches over, and with his hand he pulls apart mine that are clasped. It sounds so weird, and brought to my mind the spoof movie, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, which has a moment in which a character tells his mafia don-like boss, “I will take these cotton balls from you with my hand and put them in my pocket.” (I love the movie, which is why I couldn’t help but remember the line). So the strange wording threw me off a bit, and that did come to mind when I was rating this things.

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Maisie and her stinkin’ eye patch.

Perrie’s cousin and best friend Maisie had and endless supply of homemade eye patches, and did she need them? No, she was wearing them in solidarity with people who only had one eye. Right… When it comes to unique fashion, I could care less, usually, but I couldn’t help but think of the long-term damage that was likely happening to her eyesight. She also drove Perrie to and from school everyday, which seems like it’d be dangerous, but what do I know? I’m just basing this off the fact that she really did have 20/20 vision, but chose to wear a patch for the fashion aspect, and not out of real necessity. So yeah, ridiculous.

And finally:
•
Perrie and August’s “relationship”:

August is another person Perrie labels as her best friend, and throughout the story, we’re seeing Perrie describe how she’d started looking at him differently, and in a more romantic way. But as I read it, I felt like it just didn’t make sense, and didn’t like these moments at all. Theirs was not a relationship I cared to read about.

Now, for the good.

I really enjoyed the story itself, and loved the horror aspect of it. Once we get to the real action, it’s so good! There are several well-known stories that are intertwined with the plot, and I really enjoyed how they each played out, as well as the author’s added touches to these stories, making them a bit more morbid or just plain interesting than the originals.
And can we talk about the fact that there aren’t many horror stories in YA, so how cool is it that this book really is centered on it?! I am such a fan of horror, so when I saw the ‘horror’ tag, I knew I had to read it!

Finally, that ending!!! It really surprised me, and now I need to know what happens next, so I definitely will need to read the next book!

Will recommend for fans of horror; just be mindful of a slow start, cause once you get further into the story, it’s definitely worth it!

Thank you to Candace Robinson via NetGalley for giving me this copy in exchange for an honest review.

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