Twilight

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For some reason, vampires presented as love interests in literature have become immensely popular in recent years. I can’t even buy books from the YA section anymore because I don’t want to have to deal with sorting through all of the vampire teenage porn.  Twilight is one of such novels. YA books  have sucked the blood from the vampire genre.  Vampires used to be fearsome monsters, the villains of horror stories. Not lovesick teenagers that whine and sparkle in the sunlight. I’m sure while Meyers was typing out Twilight Bram Stroker was turning around in his grave somewhere. Despite its stupidity, Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series has become a pop culture phenomenon. Teenage girls and middle aged women everywhere are obsessed with the love story of the plain human Bella and the glittery vampire Edward. Twilight grants its readers the hope that someday the perfect man will sneak into their bedrooms (uninvited) and watch them sleep. Because that’s romance.

TWILIGHT

 Plot Summary: Bella Swan is a 17 year old girl who moves to Forks, Washington to live with her dad. At school she meets Edward Cullen, an unbelievably handsome young man with a secret. He is actually a vampire. A great love is born.

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What I Liked:

Beauty and the…plain? Bella is described as being an average looking girl. She’s insecure, clumsy, intelligent but not a genius, and overall just normal. The best part of the book, in my opinion, is before she meets Edward. I enjoyed reading about Bella’s sarcasm and her relatable problems surrounding being a teenager and going to a new school. Also I believe it’s a great message to young girls that they can find the perfect man no matter what they look like on the outside. Inner beauty is what should matter most.

Vampires living among us. While it’s overused, I think that in the hands of a good author it’s interesting to read books where magical creatures hide among us.

What I Didn’t Like:

Edward. Because I didn’t want to write an essay I compiled a list of reasons why I despise Edward Cullen…

1. He sets an unrealistic standard for men: Edward is too perfect. He is built like a model, handsome, classy, a genius, rich, romantic, protective and sensitive. And my generation is going to grow up expecting all of these qualities in a male. It’s unfair! No one is perfect. Us women (and men) can’t expect perfection from men because we aren’t perfect ourselves.

2. He’s creepy: Edward is 107 years old and dating a 17 year old girl. Hopefully I don’t have to point out why that’s completely screwed up. AND he watches her sleep. Another this is that he’s a controlling prick. God forbid she talks to other men (Jacob).

3. He’s cold: Sorry, I don’t really want to snuggle with a popsicle.

4. He pounded the final nail into the vampire coffin: When Bram Stroker wrote Dracula I’m sure he never foresaw that vampires would glitter and decide that sucking the blood of humans really weren’t their thing.

5. Fangirls: I know this isn’t really anyone’s fault, but @#$% fangirls.

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Bella. 

1. She gives feminism the middle finger: Meyers boasts that Bella is a strong female protagonist. Well, unless “strong” means having no common sense, being a victim 100% of the time, and being completely dependent on your boyfriend, I’m going to have to say no. 

3. She’s fine with her boyfriend wanting to kill her: This is a quote from the back cover,

“Second, there was a part of him – and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be – that thirsted for my blood.”

Okay, RUN. If I found out that my new boyfriend was a vampire and seriously wanted to suck my blood, I would already be on a bus wearing a garlic necklace.

4. She thinks Edward is God: I’m going to give a bit of relationship advice; DO NOT WORSHIP YOUR BOYFRIEND

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Vampires playing baseball. I could handle the Cullens’ house lacking coffins and bats, but when they all started a friendly game of baseball I flipped out.

I love it. Yes, I’ve spent the majority of this post cursing Twilight to the depths of literary hell, but it’s my guilty pleasure. I can’t tell you exactly why I like it. I just do.  I’m no fangirl but I did enjoy the series. I think it speaks to my inner preteen.


VERDICT

(If a book earns eight points or more it’s considered a “Book to Read.” If it earns seven to four points it’s considered a “Book that Wouldn’t Kill You to Read.” If it somehow ends up below four it goes to the “Books to Avoid” category.)

Originality- 0

Good Writing- 1

Great Story- 0

Complex Antagonist- 0

Complex Protagonist- 0

Good Supporting Characters- 1 

Reader Investment in Story- 1

Not Cluttered with Cliches- 0

High Stakes- 1

Final Score- 4

If you’re looking to soothe your inner 13 year old girl, I would say give it a read. Questions? Comments? Concerns? Comment below or send me an email!

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Myrren’s Gift

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Myrren’s Gift gives its readers a basic, but thoroughly enjoyable, fantasy adventure. The cover art is enticing, and summaries of the book were interesting enough to make me excited to try it out. And I must say, Myrren’s Gift did not disappoint, for the most part. There is magic, likable side characters, an evil king, and a bit of romance; everything I expect to find in a good book. But, Myrren’s Gift has its fair share of flaws. Most of the problems I found with the book stem from the fact that the story is a basic fantasy adventure. The story has a habit of lagging, the villain is 100% supreme evil and the hero’s pureness could burn holes in the ozone layer. This is certainly not a book I would recommend for everyone, but read on, it may be the book for you.

MYRREN’S GIFT

Plot Summary: Wyl, a 14 year army general,  is called to the palace by Celimus, a sickeningly evil prince. Celimus forces Wyl to watch the tortuous death of a young witch. The witch, Myrren, thankful for the empathy that Wyl showed her in her final moments bestows Wyl with a mysterious and magical gift. Later, when Celimus assumes his father’s throne, Wyl is sent on a journey to enemy soil, the kingdom of Briavel.

What I liked: 

The Story. Although Myrren’s Gift follows the basic formula for a fantasy novel, all of the twists that McIntosh mixes in makes it a hardly predictable story. The beginning of the book is painfully slow, but other than that the pacing is fantastic. McIntosh does a great job with balancing detail and keeping the story going. (Except for the violence, which I will cover below.) I also appreciated how McIntosh approached magic, I found the magic in Myrren’s Gift to be subtle enough to be believable but awesome enough to keep me turning the pages.

What I didn’t like:

Evil With No Redeeming Qualities. Celimus was one evil prick. He reminded me a lot of Prince Joffrey from George RR. Martin’s Game of Thrones. But, it’s glaringly obvious that Celimus was cut from a piece of cardboard and given a crown. This, is one of the areas where the book fails. While I do enjoy that the story is basic, Myrren’s Gift could have benefited from more complex characters. No one in real life is truly all bad. Some people seem to be pure evil, but they probably have a love for something/someone, or a passion that’s not cutting off peoples’ heads for the hell of it. When the reader emphasizes with the villain, even just a little bit, it makes it harder to accept their eventual fate.

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The Hero Who Has No Faults. Like a evil-to-the core type villain, the hero-who-has-no-visible-faults is hard to emphasize with. I don’t want to read about a guy/girl who is perfect. Real people have flaws. They don’t have to be mentally tortured 100% of the time, but internal conflicts are just as interesting as the external.

Bad Message. Wyl is not handsome. That’s a character trait that made him unique. He didn’t have the perfect look, but he was still the hero. I thought it was a great message. But, with the aid of his magical gift, Wyl eventually switches bodies (it’s a long story) with an attractive man. So apparently he wasn’t good enough when he wasn’t handsome? Yeah, I was not too happy about that. I was identifying with a character who had external body issues, but poof, suddenly he was like any other fantasy hunk.

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Violence. There was too much of it. McIntosh went to great lengths to describe torture and carnage, but I think she took it over the top.


VERDICT

(If a book earns eight points or more it’s considered a “Book to Read.” If it earns seven to four points it’s considered a “Book that Wouldn’t Kill You to Read.” If it somehow ends up below four it goes to the “Books to Avoid” category.)

Originality- .5

Good Writing- 0

Great Story- 1

Complex Antagonist- 0

Complex Protagonist- 0

Good Supporting Characters- 1 

Reader Investment in Story- 1

Not Cluttered with Cliches- 0

High Stakes- 1

Would Read it Again- 1

FINAL SCORE=5.5

While I enjoyed Myrren’s Gift it’s not necessarily the book for everyone. Although I recommend people trying it out. I’m interested enough with the plot to purchase the second book. Overall a decent book.

Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment

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Usually I try to keep as much distance between myself and a James Patterson book as possible. I’ve always had a fear that if I touch one, it may send me into convulsions and I would wake up a mindless Patterson fan. Considering he pumps out at least nine novels a year, I can safely assume that none of his publishers has ever sat him down and given him the quality over quantity talk. His writing, or his ghost authors’, is bland and predictable. Yet, according to Forbes, James Patterson is the richest author in the world. It’s frustrating to know that there are good authors out there who are struggling to get published, and then there’s Patterson who can have someone else write out his @#$% ideas and then slap his name onto the cover.

But I can rant about my loathing for James Patterson later. From a suggestion from Instagram, I took a chance and picked up book one from his YA science fiction series Maximum Ride. 

MAXIMUM RIDE: THE ANGEL EXPERIMENT

Plot Summary: The story of a group of teenage science experiments that are running away from their creators. These children are 2% bird so they have large wings on their backs. They attempt to discover the secrets behind their creation. The book is told from the point of view of Max (Maximum Ride), the leader of the group.

What I liked: 

It’s a good book for kids. This book has the basic formula for a decent children’s book. Six kids with sarcastic personalities going on an adventure. Adults are basically the villains. Nothing I read was particularly scary or inappropriate.

The Idea. A group of kids with huge bird wings being chased by werewolf-like creatures? It sounds like it could be pretty badass.

Sarcasm. Sometimes it gets to be too much, but for the most part I enjoyed Max’s heavy sarcasm.

What I didn’t like:

The Author’s Age is Painfully Obvious. I’ve read other reviews across the internet that agree with me here, the whole book sounds like an old man’s attempt to sound young and “hip.” Here are some examples I found from the book…

“Holy [Insert your choice of a swear word here],” said Fang stunned.”

“In the dictionary, next to the word stress, there is a picture of a midsize mutant stuck inside a dog crate, wondering if her destiny is to be killed or to save the world. Okay, not really. But there should be.” 

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The Characters. SO. BLAND. None of these children are believable. They’re all just pieces of talking cardboard with wings. I’ve heard people gush about how strong Max is, but truthfully I never saw it. She tells the reader about how much spunk she has, but never demonstrates it. At times I wonder if James Patterson just selected the most worn out character cliches he could for this book…

Max: The strong leader. Takes over as the parent figure for the tribe of orphans they run. The chosen one.

Fang: The love interest. Doesn’t have much of a personality beyond being snarky.

Iggy: The sickly smart one.

Gasman: Umm… the guy with digestive issues.

Nudge: The pretty one who is fashionable.

Angel: The young one who ends up having creepy powers.


VERDICT

(If a book earns eight points or more it’s considered a “Book to Read.” If it earns seven to four points it’s considered a “Book that Wouldn’t Kill You to Read.” If it somehow ends up below four it goes to the “Books to Avoid” category.)

Originality- 1

Good Writing- 0

Great Story- 0

Complex Antagonist- 0

Complex Protagonist- 1

Good Supporting Characters- 0

Reader Investment in Story- 1

Not Cluttered with Cliches- 0

High Stakes- 1

Would Read it Again- 0

FINAL SCORE=4

Okay while I certainly did not enjoy this book at all, that doesn’t mean that everyone hates it. There are a lot of Maximum Ride fans. So I would say, pick up the book at your own risk.

The Elfstones of Shannara

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Terry Brooks is one of those authors that you either hate or you love. In the 70s, like many other authors, he jumped onto the Lord of the Rings cash wagon and wrote his very first novel, The Sword the Shannara. I’ve never been able to enjoy Sword because it’s practically another poorly disguised copy of LOTR. But, I’ll address that book in a later post.

The Elfstones of Shannara is arguably the best novel that Terry Brooks has ever written. It’s an epic fantasy adventure that features demon hoards, unlikely heroes, an ancient wizard and a crumbling elvish kingdomThis book grabs you from the beginning and doesn’t let go until the end. I was so invested with the story and protagonists that the ending, which I shall praise later, manages to break my heart every time I read it.

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THE ELFSTONES OF SHANNARA

 Plot Summary: 

Legends say that thousands of years ago the elves used all of their magic to create the Forbidding. A magic spell that would seal the demon hoards into a tree, which they named the Ellcrys. A tradition was made that every year seven youths are chosen  by the Ellcrys to tend to her. All “Chosens” are male.

That is, until Amberle Elessedil, the granddaughter of the king, is selected. She loves tending the Ellcrys, until one night, for reasons unknown, she flees. This, earns Amberle the hatred of the entire community for her abandoning the sacred duty. But not long after she leaves, the Ellcrys falls ill.

On the other side of the world Wil Ohmsford is training to become a healer. He is a descendant of a great line of heroes and bears a set of three magical elfstones. These elfstones were forged for slaying demons. The only problem is, Wil has no clue how to use them. Then, a mysterious wizard, Allanon, separatley convinces both Wil and Amberle to accompany him to the elvish realm to save the Ellcrys. There the duo is tasked with saving the tree so the Forbidding doesn’t break and release the demons trapped within. Because I don’t want to spoil everything I’m not going into Wil and Amberle’s adventure. But there is a price for restoring the Ellcrys that none of the protagonists, or the readers, anticipated.

What I liked:

Elfstones. Three blue gemstones that were forged in ancient times to kill demons. Usually I’m not a fan of magical items. But, in Elfstones, Wil doesn’t go on a quest to retrieve the elfstones. He already has them at the beginning of the story. Plus, those three blue stones are difficult to use. As a reader I found it was easy to connect to Wil because he felt powerless over those elfstones. He reacted to his quest like any real person would, with a lot of fear and regret.

Amberle and Wil’s Romance. Their relationship is what I love most, believable. These two suffer through a slew of traumatic events during their journey and turn to each other for comfort. Wil helps Amberle to mend her fragile self-confidence, and she helps Wil tear down the psychological wall he built to prevent himself from using the elfstones. I was hoping they would end up together throughout the entire book, which makes the ending so much more heart wrenching.

 Amberle. She may come off as annoying at first, but this girl will definitely grow on you. When the reader first meets Amberle, she is aloof and and disagreeable towards the other protagonists, but she grows as a person throughout the novel. She eventually opens up to Wil about her fears and secrets. If anyone in this book deserves to be whiny, it’s Amberle. Let’s see…

Her father, the youngest son of the elf king, dies in a hunting accident when she is young. (She has a mother so she’s not violating my anti-orphan crusade.) Next, she is the first female selected to serve the Ellcrys in nearly 500 years, but the tree gives Amberle so many of its memories that the elf princess feels like she is losing her mind. To preserve herself, Amberle flees from her home, family and duty. Earning the hatred of the entire elvish community. But she is forced to return and save the tree. Ultimately losing herself to it after all. Amberle cannot hide from her fate.

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Wil. The hero who is completely unqualified to do the job. A healer, not a fighter. Wil is an example of the reluctant hero cliche done well. He is vulnerable, real, and has a heart of gold. This is the character readers become the most invested in. We feel his happiness and we feel his eventual loss.

All of the Supporting Characters. Probably the best aspect of this book are its characters. I can’t find one  who seems “stupid” in this book. They are all complex beings, with their share of qualities and faults. I usually cheer for the villains, but this book had me invested in the good guys. Nicely done, Terry Brooks.

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 Story. Everything you look for in a fantasy novel. It’s thrilling, and jam packed with magic, demons and politics.

What I didn’t like:

Antagonists. Evil for the sake of evil, really pisses me off. Dagda Mor, the demon king, felt so flat to me. I understand him wanting to get revenge on the elves for trapping him in a tree for thousands of years, but he also wanted to slaughter all of the other races too. Why? Because he’s a demon? So being a member of the demon race just automatically makes you into an evil motiveless killing machine? Maybe I’m just being picky but in a story with so many compelling characters, he and his brethren stood out like a sore thumb.

Terry Brooks Writing. While his writing skills did improve from his first novel, Sword of Shannara, his over attention to detail still gave me headaches. It also felt very repetitive in many places. Like I was being beaten to the head with the same history and characters descriptions every couple of chapters or so.

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VERDICT

(If a book earns eight points or more it’s considered a “Book to Read.” If it earns seven to four points it’s considered a “Book that Wouldn’t Kill You to Read.” If it somehow ends up below four it goes to the “Books to Avoid” category.)

Originality- 1

Good Writing- 0

Great Story- 1

Complex Antagonist- 0

Complex Protagonist- 1

Good Supporting Characters- 1 

Reader Investment in Story- 1

Not Cluttered with Cliches- 0

High Stakes- 1

Would Read it Again- 1

FINAL SCORE=7

 Personally I would recommend Elfstones to both fantasy fans and people who are looking into getting into the genre. But, there are some people who hate Terry Brooks. Agree with my verdict? Disagree? Please leave me a comment below.

 

 

Eragon

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Yes, I’m going to tackle Chistopher Paolini’s Eragon in one post. Wish me luck.

A lot of authors have copied the plot of The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, so many, in fact, that I don’t want to waste my time listing them all. Originality is a rare occurrence in the fantasy genre. 15 year old Paolini probably thought that his ideas were original when he created the characters of Aragon oops, I mean Eragon, and his secret father Brom (Obi-Wan Kenobi).   But if you’re going to steal from Tolkien and Lucas, at least do it well. Instead, we get a never ending orgy of bad writing. For example look at the first few sentences of the series…

“Wind howled through the night, carrying a scent that would change the world. “

What the hell is this kid talking about?!? What does a world changing scent even smell like? Freshly baked bread? “A whiff of oven fresh bread could be detected on the wind…[insert character name] knew the world was going to change.”

“A tall shade lifted his head and sniffed the air. He looked human except for his crimson hair and maroon eyes”

I wish he would have let us readers create a image of a shade ourselves instead of giving us a badly worded description. And, believe it or not. The writing gets worse. The Inheritance Cycle is one of those rare series that should be consumed in the fires of Mount Doom

If you disagree with anything I write in my review below, feel free to write me an argument in the comments. All criticism is welcomed. Fanboys beware… this isn’t going to be pretty.

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ERAGON

When Eragon was published readers were awed that a 15 year old managed to write a bestseller.  I suppose to those who haven’t read The Lord of the Rings, Paolini’s literary sin may have seemed like a somewhat original idea.  The ignorance of preteens, good cover art, and publisher parents are probably what propelled this book into such mainstream popularity. It was even made into a movie! Though I try not to discuss that disaster in polite company.

Plot Summary: Eragon is a young man who has been raised on his uncle’s farm with his cousin. He finds a mysterious stone in the woods. One night a dragon hatches from it and Eragon bonds to it. Eragon is now a Dragon Rider, there used to be a large ancient order but the evil king got rid of it. Then, the evil king’s minions come looking for the egg and burns down Eragon’s farm in the process.  Eragon and the wise village man, Brom, set out to seek revenge. Eventually the evil king’s (from now on I’m just going to call him “EK”) minions catch up to Eragon and Brom and kill Brom. But Eragon is joined by a guy named Murtagh who also wants to reach a rebel base called the Varden. Eragon is captured shortly after.  While in captivity he uses his mind powers to talk to another prisoner, an elf girl, who is KOed, and it turns out she sent him the egg. Murtagh and Eragon’s dragon rescue Eragon and elf girl. But it turns out elf girl is poisoned and needs a magical potion from the Varden. The company reaches the Varden before she dies. Then, a final battle is fought against an army of discount orcs.

What I liked: Dragons. Dragons have been done to death. But, they are  cool enough to be cliche and still make readers turn pages in excitement. I liked that he was one of the last Dragon Riders. And, I just like Dragon Riders in books.

Brom. Yes, he is Obi-Wan Kenobi’s lesser clone, but Brom is one serious badass. He trains Eragon for a short time, and reveals he was once a Dragon Rider too before his dragon was killed. When he rode on Saphira’s (Eragon’s dragon) back before his own death, his last flight as a Dragon Rider, I actually felt emotion for the first time in the book.  I wished that Paolini had written a book just about Brom. It could have featured the fall of the kingdom, and Brom losing his dragon IT WOULD HAVE BEEN MORE ORIGINAL TOO.

Murtagh. The only character in the entire series that has a head screwed onto his shoulders. He’s an antagonist but he’s not evil like EK. He has a personality, he’s conflicted, and complex. I rooted for him more than I ever did Eragon.

What I didn’t like: Dragon Riders. Believe it or not, one of the two elements I liked from the book was copied from  Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Riders of Pern. I could have accepted for Paolini to use the concept of Dragon Riders in his books. But, when the rules are exactly the same as in McCaffrey’s, I call it poorly hidden plagiarism.

Eragon. Take Luke Skywalker, rub him into the manure pile that makes up YA fantasy heroes, and then drop him into a medieval world. Like Luke, Eragon lives in a “remote village” with his uncle and wants something more to his life than living on a farm. In both stories, servants of the empire come looking for the egg/droids and burn down their farm. Killing poor old, uncle and aunt/cousin. Then he is taken under the wing of Brom/Obi-Wan Kenobi to defeat our pal EK/Darth Vader/Emperor Palpatine. Brom gives Eragon a magical sword/lightsaber and instructs him how to use magic/the force. Eragon realizes that Arya/Leia sent him the egg/droids and they go to the Varden/rebel base.

And I’m not against young heroes. but in Eragon if you’re not young, you’re not much use. Eragon picks up a sword and masters it instantly, he pretty much learns how to be a Dragon Rider in one chapter. And the fact is, he’s 15. He’s much too young for most of his feats in these books to be believable. No offense to any teenagers looking to be the chosen one out there, but chances are an older man/woman could kick your ass.

Panolini’s language thingy. I’m pretty sure he stole it from Tolkien. I couldn’t stop myself from laughing whenever Eragon would be suddenly struck with ancient knowledge and just blurt out a magic spell. And it would work too.

Arya and Eragon romance. Holy @#$% Eragon is one creepy bastard. I actually would have liked Arya if Eragon wouldn’t have had such a vomit inducing obsession about her. Just because I am personally obsessed with Mads Mikkelsen doesn’t mean that I love him. And I wouldn’t force him to “trade names” with me either. It seemed like Paolini read about love in a YA novel, wait…Well, that and the fact that Eragon/Aragon  was the romantic interest of Arya/Arwen the elf was one of the worst examples of plagiarism I found in the book.

Urgals. JUST SAY ORCS. We all knew they were orcs.

What gave me a migraine:

The Varden. This section of the book made my head feel like it was being roasted with dragon fire. It seemed to drag on forever. I really couldn’t care less about that underground city, I just wanted Paolini to get on with it.

King Orik. It’s not really his fault that Paolini wrote him with apparently a lack of facial expression.

“…his face betrayed no emotion.” (418)

“…said Orik with a guarded expression…” (422)

“…dwarf only watched with a guarded expression.” (428)

That’s just ten pages…


 

VERDICT

(If a book earns eight points or more it’s considered a “Book to Read.” If it earns seven to four points it’s considered a “Book that Wouldn’t Kill You to Read.” If it somehow ends up below four it goes to the “Books to Avoid” category.)

Originality- 0

Good Writing- 0

Great Story- 0

Complex Antagonist- 0

Complex Protagonist- 0

Good Supporting Characters- 1 

Reader Investment in Story- 0

Not Cluttered with Cliches- 0

High Stakes- 1

Would Read it Again- 0

FINAL SCORE=2

I would probably not recommend this book to many people. But you know, sometimes…

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I don’t hate a lot of books! So expect a positive review next time. Questions? Comments? Concerns? Please leave them below.