Book Review: Lanny by Max Porter

 

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American copy.  ‘Lanny’ by Max Porter.

 

 

 

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“He has tried to lose the memory of Dead Papa Toothwort. Like the last speaker of any language he has had to forget in order to survive, but some knowledge of it lives in his marrow.”

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Young Lanny is a sweet little boy who doesn’t quite fit in with his jaded, street wise contemporaries. Moving to a village outside of London with his commuting father and Actor- turned-crime novelist mother, Lanny dances to a different beat, and has a freshness and naivety/wisdom that nobody can quite fathom. 

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After his mother requests lessons, he makes firm friends with an ageing artist who loves him for all his quirks and foibles. They often go deep into the woods to draw together, and Lanny creates a bond with ‘Mad Pete’ that he lacks with his own father.

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Old villages often have a plethora of superstitions, and Lanny’s village is no different. ‘Dead Papa Toothwort’ is held up as a threat to the children by way of rhyme and folktales.

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The reader casually observes Dead Papa Toothwort as he wades invisible through the village, picking up snippets of conversation as he plows through the earth. He has an interest in the little boy, Lanny, who sees more clearly than others.

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When Lanny goes missing and the whole village can’t find him, suspicion soon turns to the relationship between Lanny and ‘mad Pete’ the old artist. Dead Papa Toothwort listens in once more as the villagers discuss where the boy may be and the accusations fly.

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Ive been working my way through the Booker Prize long list this year, and I began with ‘Lanny’. I was disappointed to find that it was quite a feat to find a copy here in the U.S, and when I finally did, it was because the sales person hunted around for me and finally discovered and then rescued it out of the publishers return pile 😌 

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In hindsight, I can only blame the synopsis, which I read afterwards, not wanting the story to be spoiled in any way. Unfortunately for those who do read it first, the synopsis tells little about the story, and serves only to pander to some highbrow hint of what is inside (IMHO). 

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In part it reads: …’ This chimerical, audacious, strange, and brilliant novel will enraptured readers with its anarchic energy, with its bewitching tapestry of fabulist and domestic drama…’

Pretty words, but picture it being dismissed by half the population.

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Lanny is most definitely all of the above but please, 🙏🏻save that for praise section and give potential readers a real synopsis! 

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I loved the book👌🏻. It was all of the above and more, and yes, I’m sad it didn’t make the shortlist.  But don’t blame the book, blame the marketing- it’s alienated potential readers at first point of contact. Book sellers need to be excited first so they can, in turn, excite their customers by promoting it. In Barnes & Nobel, it had clearly gone under the radar.If I had read the synopsis, I would have abandoned the book and re-shelved it too. This was a book that I discovered through following the Booker prize list. Had I been browsing the bookshelves on a whim, I would have disregarded the book on the merit of the synopsis alone. It’s just trying too hard. And by the way, I hunted in many B&N stores in both Orlando, Florida and various towns in Colorado, along with Books a Million stores. I finally found it but only after a lengthy chase.

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What started out as a gentle paced, little whimsical story, (and a most definitely enchanting read); soon morphed into a thrilling page turner in part two. Throughout the book we share each characters point of view, in alternating paragraphs -along with the lyrical segments that Dead Papa Toothwart hears as he wisps around the village. I’d say it is part modern day fairytale, part thriller, but always riveting.

I will point out, that in parts, there is an unusual format that may rattle traditionalists: When Dead Papa Toothwort is listening in to human conversations, the glimpses we hear are lyrical and dance across the page in a different font (see picture)

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But this is only in his segments, and the other parts of the book read traditionally.

 

It is beautifully written. It is sad, happy, nostalgic, scary and beautiful. A paradox of painting with words.

 

 

If you’ve managed to stay with me this long, you’ll know how much this book has impacted me as I don’t normal twitter on this much. Let me conclude by saying I rate this book as a 5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ read. Max Porter has a unique talent. A total page turner. Don’t let the synopsis put you off reading it.

Thrillers: ‘Never Look Back’ by Clare Donoghue.

 

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This week on my Instagram feed I’m going to be devoting my reading time to thrillers.

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I’ll be posting a brief round up of the latest books that I’m reading in this genre, along with my recommendations for the best thrillers to pick up if you want a good scare. Not to be confused with Horrors (which I will be tackling very soon), thrillers are fast-paced roller coaster rides that should leave you feeling breathless with your heart beating like its outside of your chest because, it could happen to you!

So today on the blog, I want to focus on Clare Donoghue  and her 2014 debut thriller ‘Never Look Back’ which is  published by Minotaur Books. Paperback version HERE

 

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‘NEVER LOOK BACK”

 

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‘Three young women have been found brutally murdered in South London, their bodies discarded in plain view, the victims only yards away from help during each attack. And each time, the murderer gets a little bolder.police hand cuff (2)

Detective Mike Lockyer is the head of homicide on the south London police force, and with three bodies on his watch and a killer growing in confidence, he and Detective Sergeant Jane Bennett are frantically trying to find the link between these seemingly isolated incidents. Slowly, the case is also invading Lockyer’s life outside the office, and the fact that his daughter matches the victim profile is putting a painful strain on their already fragile relationship. Meanwhile, Sarah Grainger has a shadowy stalker following her every move.police robber mask

Once an outgoing London photographer, Sarah has begun locking herself away, almost too afraid to leave the house. Now her stalker’s actions are escalating. He’s desperate to tell Sarah a secret…a secret that Lockyer needs to know.’

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This author debuted in 2014 with this book, which I am pleased to discover, was the first in a series featuring Detective Lockyer and his investigation team.

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I really enjoyed this read. It was fast-paced, and action led, but still managed to create an empathy in the reader for the characters. Donoghue expertly manages to build up suspense as the book follows the story of Sarah, a victim of a stalker, and Lockyer and his police team as they investigate a serial killer; and leads their paths to converge in a dramatic final showdown.

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Donoghue’s writing style is a ‘no-frills’ approach so don’t expect much descriptive along the way, but this is more than made up for in the action and suspense which keep you turning the pages long after your bedtime. This first book in the series would have made an excellent stand alone, but it also manages to set the foundation for the future books, so that we can see the development of the main characters and their personal growth. I give this a solid 4 stars and a good recommendation.

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Further books in this awesome series can be found HERE and HERE

 

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Non-spoiler book Review: The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley

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I was delighted to receive an advance reader’s copy of ‘The Bedlam Stacks “ by Natasha Pulley to review, along with her first book: ‘The Watchmaker of Filigree Street’ from Bloomsbury Publishing.

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I have to say that I really enjoyed both books, but today I have just finished ‘The Bedlam Stacks’ so I will focus on a review this book first while it is so fresh in my mind.

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The synopsis:

bedlam leaf large 2        ‘In 1859, ex-East India Company smuggler Merrick Tremayne is trapped at home in Cornwall, England, with an injury that almost cost him his leg. On the sprawling, crumbling grounds of the old house, something is wrong; a statue moves, his grandfather’s pine explodes, and his brother accuses him of madness.bedlam leaf large

When the India Office recruits Merrick for an expedition to fetch Quinine- essential for the treatment of Malaria- from deep within Peru, he knows it’s a terrible idea. Nearly every able-bodied expeditionary who’s made the attempt has died, and he can barely walk. But Merrick is desperate to escape everything at home, so he sets off, against his better judgment, for a tiny mission colony on the edge of the Amazon where a salt line on the ground separates town from forest. Anyone who crosses is killed by something that watches from the trees, but somewhere beyond the salt are the quinine woods, and the way around is blocked.

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Surrounded by local stories of lost time, cursed woods, and living rock, Merrick must separate truth from fairytale and find out what befell the last expeditions; why the villagers are forbidden to go into the forest; and what is happening to Raphael, the young priest who seems to have known Merricks grandfather, who visited Peru many decades before. The Bedlam Stacks is the story of a profound friendship that grows in a place that seems just this side of magical.’

My strongest reaction after reading this book is how beautiful the author writes. To me, it is reminiscent of reading a classic, in both language and description. The story is set in 1859 and by goodness Pulley transported me there within the first chapter. This really was a book that I couldn’t put down!

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We are initially introduced to our protagonist Merrick, while he is back living in a tumbledown Country Manor house, which was inherited by his elder brother, Charles. Merrick was forced to give up his life as an explorer and an expert on botany, after he suffered an accident, which inhibited the use of one of his legs. Charles enjoys playing Lord of the Manor and seems to have little time for Merrick. He appears to enjoy pointing out all of Merrick’s perceived shortcomings. Merrick however, puts up with this treatment with little resistance, preferring to mind his own business and focus his attention on immersing himself into assisting the remaining gardening staff with the care and keeping of the grounds.

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After stumbling upon the old neglected greenhouse that his grandfather installed many years prior, Merrick takes refuge there and finds comfort away from his brother’s bullying and his own feelings of uselessness culminating from his leg injury.

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I loved Pulley’s description of the Manor and grounds. I could easily picture the dilapidated Mansion with the hole in the roof.

 

“Now there was a little carpet of pine needles over the middle of the floor. I twisted round to see upward. Although there were, on my side, three floors to the house, on this side it was just galleries off the staircase. The ceiling was the roof. Being windowless, it was usually gloomy, with deep shadows between the vaults of the rafters, but now there was quite a big hole. Right above it was a rotten branch still attached, just, to the old pine tree. It had been defying gravity for months.”

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Merrick seeks refuge in his greenhouse, and once there, he notices that a statue that was watching over his father’s grave has moved. This has happened more than once but nobody believes him since the statue is much too heavy to be pushed or lifted by any person or persons on a whim. On this particular day Charles joins him in the greenhouse, and when Merrick ponders out loud over the moving statue, Charles suggests that Merrick is showing signs of madness and comments that he ought to have him committed to an asylum! This is not a comment to be taken lightly, since Charles had their mother committed several years earlier.

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So when an old friend and colleague visits him later with a proposal he can’t refuse- to take Merrick with him on another expedition, this time to Peru; Merrick agrees, despite his disability. Thus begins a chain of events that will see Merrick face action and adventure, mystery and magic; and find friendship in unexpected places, all the while growing as a person. Merrick discovers that he has untapped strengths despite his leg wound, and his only limitations are those that he chooses to see as such.

I don’t want to give any spoilers away so I’ll stop sharing the story here, but let me tell you that this is just the beginning of a super story that will stay with you long after the last page is turned.

 

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I love that Pulley doesn’t rush the story. She takes us step by step with Merrick through the Amazon and into danger. She builds up the atmosphere page by page, and gives us a slow burn of mystery and intrigue with a generous dose of magic mixed in.

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I liked Merrick so very much. He was only in his late thirties yet I pictured him as being much older due to his mannerisms and thought processes. Whether this was because of his limitations of mobility or just his old fashioned ways, I can’t be sure, but he was immensely likeable from start to finish. I was routing for him at every moment. It seemed that he was the type that people like to bully, and the reader has to watch helplessly as his friends and family members push him against his grain in order to suit their own agendas.

 

This is not a fast paced adventure; so don’t expect instant gratification. Read it like a classic, enjoying the nuances of the language, the broad descriptive and the journey rather than the destination.jungle Elephant

However, when you arrive at the destination, you will not be disappointed!

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‘The bedlam Stacks’ was a fully immersive read for me, into the culture and history of Peru from the point of view of an upper class Englishman who had fallen on hard times and had been offered one more chance at adventure and redemption.

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Pulley writes so convincingly as a man that I have to applaud her.

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While this book is a stand alone, I can see plenty of scope for it to become a duology. I feel there are still some outstanding questions that I would like to see answered, and I believe there is more room for development left open- or perhaps that is wishful thinking on my part!

 

If I had one criticism, and to be honest I don’t -but lets just invent one and put it out there anyway for sake of balance- I would say that I wanted more chapters of the English home after the Peru adventure. Any further description of life in a sprawling English Country pile is heaven for me.

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I unreservedly recommend this book. I wouldn’t ever have imagined that I would be interested in Peru as a setting if you had asked me in advance; yet, I thoroughly enjoyed every part of the journey through the Amazon. I would so LOVE to tell you about the magic (oh the magic) but it would break the spell, and we can’t do that.

 

The Bedlam Stacks is due for release in August 2017. Please put it on your #TBR

 

 

 

‘Given to the Sea’ by Mindy McGinnis Spoiler free book review.

 

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This is my first book by Mindy Mcginnis and I received it in my ‘Fairyloot’ April monthly subscription box. I do love the fantasy genre, and I had just completed a book when this arrived, so I figured that I would choose this as my next read and avoid the agony that I normally go through as I peruse my book shelves to search for my next choice.

 

Lets start with the book’s synopsis:

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KHOSA was born to be fed to the sea. To prevent the kind of wave that once destroyed the Kingdom of Stille. She can’t be sacrificed until she produces an heir, but human touch repels her…except for the touch of the Indiri.

 Dara and Donil are the last of the Indiri, a native race with magic that’s seductive- a force of nature- but dwindling since the Pietra slaughtered their people.

 Witt leads the Pietra, the fierce warriors who are now marching on the Kingdom of Stille. The stone shores of Witt’s Kingdom harbor a secret threat, and to ensure the survival of his people, he’s prepared to conquer every speck of Stille’s soil.mermaid 4

 Vincent stands to inherit the throne of Stille, but has no wife to share it with. When the beautiful and mysterious Khosa arrives without an heir, Vincent knows that his father will stop at nothing to make sure she fulfills her duty. Torn between protecting his Kingdom and protecting the girl whose face is tied to its very existence, Vincent’s loyalty is soon at odds with his heart.

 While royals scheme, Pietrans and the Indiri struggle to survive, the rising sea calls for its Given, and Khosa is destined to answer.’

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Firstly I will have to say that I most likely would not have picked this book up myself after reading the synopsis. It appears too ‘busy’ too many characters and too many agendas vying for attention, and that usually puts me off.

However, I was certainly drawn in by the stunning book jacket design by Cliff Nielson and Maria Fazio.

 

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This is a story told from multiple perspectives. Khosa’s chapters are the only ones written in first person, so I initially assumed that she was the main character with the others as supporting cast. However, as I read on, I felt this was not the case. Here is my own synopsis:

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Khosa was conceived to be a sacrifice to the sea, as was her mother before her, and all female ancestors. Born out of superstition and fear, her life is a gift from the people from the Kingdom of Stille to the sea. They believe that by sacrificing ‘The Given’, to it, the sea, the sea would be assuaged from eating up the last of the diminishing land that it has been nibbling for generations. Khosa has been bred for this reason only, and her ‘keepers’ have succeeded in brainwashing her to yearn for this, without fear. As such, she has no hopes or ambitions other than waiting for her fate to be sealed. However, she needs to first choose a mate, and she is loath to do so as she is repelled by human touch. The people in the Kingdom are getting restless, as she cannot be sacrificed until she has produced an heir. Only then can she be taken to dance on the sea.

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We soon meet the kind and honorable Vincent, who at the beginning of the story is third in line to the throne, and sees a dark future for himself of waiting in the wings forevermore, before fate finally calls him to become King. He is not particularly impatient for the throne, but he feels completely unmoored, drifting from day to day, just waiting for the day to arrive when he is able to perform the role that he was conceived to fulfill. Both Vincent and Khosa are victims of generations of fate and tradition; until the day they meet, when they see a true reflection of themselves in each other. It is only then that they begin to truly question their futures and whether the end can justify the means.

 

 

 

 

Add to this a cast of characters from different tribes with competing ambitions, and motivations, who are now put into situations where they have no choice but to question their own fates. The reader watches as the earth shifts beneath them all, and eons of tradition and rituals begin to be questioned by all. Is the future really set in stone?

 

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I found this book to be well written, and I had no problem with the flow, despite the constant changing of perspectives and very short chapters. McGinnis deftly picks up the story from character to character as the perspective shifts, and she slips easily into the soul of the next person. Each chapter is headed with the characters name, to further assist, and avoid confusion.

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I felt that the story was well executed, and I think it had a well-defined logic with an ending that wrapped it up nicely but could not be accused of being twee or predictable. Technically it was very good, and there lies my only problem with it.

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I have to reiterate that while the story is very well written, I felt that it didn’t have as much soul as I would have liked. I felt that McGinnis didn’t delve into the characters hearts quite as deeply as I would have prefered. Or perhaps she did? Maybe none of the characters were capable of any feelings other than negative ones. But what I would have given for a happy moment or two in this book!

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On the whole I felt it was a very sad and haunting tale. However, I felt it coasted along for at least three hundred pages before any action began, but it still managed to keep my interest until the end.

There were times when I did wonder how the author was going to bring this ship to shore satisfactorily in the diminishing pages that were left, but I have to concede that she did it with aplomb, and I didn’t close the book with any regrets, although I do have to say, that I did feel an overall air of depression threading right through the story, that was hard to shake.

 

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I’m not familiar with Mindy McGinnis’ earlier works so I’m not able to compare and contrast it with them, but I’m trying to be as fair as possible. Perhaps I need to pick up another of her books to discover if the maudlin tone runs through all her work or if this was just accrued as part of this story.

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This is my personal honest review. I’d be very happy to hear your own opinions of this book in the comments. I’d give it 3.75 stars for sure. It would have hit the 4 star mark if only there had been more lighthearted moments scattered throughout the pages.

 

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this book review!

lots of love, Sally xxx

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World Book Day: What was your favorite childhood read?

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I have been a voracious reader for as long as I can remember. Even as a child, any book I could get my hands on, I would read. I could never get enough. However, if you asked me as an adult what my favorite book  was, my answer would change day by day because they’d always be something newer on the horizon that might just be ‘The one’.

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However, back when I was around age seven, I was given a dog-eared copy of C.S. Lewis’ book ‘The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe’ and yes- I’m going to say it – it changed my life.

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This was ‘The One’ – my first love affair with a book. I inhaled it from cover to cover in one read. I cried intermittently at various stages of the story and wept buckets at the crescendo; wanting to step inside and take control of the story because I just couldn’t bear to be a witness of  events that were out of my control-yet paradoxically, neither could I step away from it  for more than the moment  it took to take a steadying breath, in order to fortify myself  because I just had to know whether things would become better. I still vividly remember my shaking hands as I turned each page, catching myself holding my breath and finally praying my hardest for the happily ever after that I had to have.

 

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That book both nourished me and yet traumatized me in ways that I cannot adequately describe, and it stayed with me and will stay with me for my lifetime. narnia-19

I cannot isolate one particular reason for why this book touched my soul in the way it did. I guess I feel it was a perfect blend of elements: the four child characters of which little Lucy was the main protagonist maybe? I had three older brothers and I felt her pain at not ever being taken seriously enough. Or perhaps it was the winter setting? Winter had always been my favorite season. The battle of good versus evil? For sure, that was an element because I was hoping against hope that good would win out in the end. But whatever the reasoning of the head, this book touched my heart in so many wonderful ways that day, and I have reread it a couple of times since. And each time, it still hits the spot.

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Now I know this book is part of the ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ series. I have read the first book ‘The Magicians Nephew’ and also  the third book ‘The Horse and his Boy’, but iI have yet to complete the rest. I have the set waiting patiently for me to pick them up, and I know I will eventually. Just not yet, but I will.

Now if there is a person the this big wide world who has not yet heard of, or read the ‘Chronicles Of Narnia’, or ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ in particular, here is the official synopsis:

‘NARNIA…the land beyond the wardrobe door,  secret place frozen in eternal winter…a magical country waiting to be set free.

Lucy is the first to find the secret of the wardrobe in the Professor’s mysterious old house.At first, her brothers and sister don’t believe her when she tells of her visit to the land of Narnia. But soon Edmund, then Peter and Susan step through the wardrobe themselves. In Narnia they find a country buried under the evil enchantment of the White Witch. When they meet the Great Lion, Aslan, they realize they’ve been called to a great adventure and bravely join the battle to free Narnia from the Witches sinister spell.’

I do hope that I can entice at least one person who reads this blog, to either pick up this book for themselves or buy it for a child that they know would love it. There is not a book on earth that I would offer a higher recommendation for than this!

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So moving on to my adult favorites I have my own story to tell…

I once applied for a job in a bookstore back in England while I was at college. I had a great interview and everything was going really well until I was asked the $60,000 question: ‘What is your favorite book?’

My mind went blank. I stuttered and stammered, and came up empty. My only answer was “I haven’t found it yet’. I asked what their most popular book was. The answer was ‘The Davinci Code’. I hadn’t read it. How embarrassing. You see there was so much hype when that book was published that like ’50 Shades’ the whole world went crazy buying it. So I didn’t.Just because I didn’t want to be a sheep. #fool

I mean, it was still selling millions back then, even though it had been published several years before my interview, but I was my own worst enemy and refused to jump on that bandwagon. To my own expense. I did not get offered the job, despite the fact that I was reading four or so books per week. Maybe he had other better contenders, but personally I think I blew it on that one question. And so, I went right out and bought that Dan Brown book.

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I read it cover to over pretty much overnight. And guess what? It’s the best book I’ve ever read.


I finally met ‘The One, and  although it was much too late to swing that job. But then I’m an optimist, and so the moral of the story is that I realize that if I hadn’t had that interview, I would never have read that book- or everything else that Brown wrote after.

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I am still looking for my next favorite book.

I’m hoping that it will be the one I am writing. That would be so cool.

In the meantime, if you are already a fan of Narnia, I can totally recommend these two literary critiques:

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Inside Narnia by Devin Brown  ‘Longtime fans of the Chronicles as well as newcomers to the series will find this book both insightful and informative’ _ Jerry Walls

And also The Magician’s Book by Laura Miller

Lots of love, Sally xxx

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Book Review: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

 

 

 

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Outlander is first and foremost a time-travel story. Claire Randall, a young married combat nurse in 1945, is whisked away,back in time to the Highlands of 1740’s Scotland. She and her husband were visiting Inverness for their delayed honeymoon. The war had interrupted their new marriage and prior to this they had barely seen each other in five full years. The honeymoon was planned as a relaxing vacation and time away for Claire and her husband Frank to reconnect, but it became a place of almost complete disconnection instead, in ways that neither of them could ever have imagined.

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During an outing alone, Claire is thrown into a time before cars and planes, before tanks and machine guns, before antibiotics. If women had little voice in the 1940’s they had none in the 1740’s! Within moments of arriving, breathless and confused, she faces imminent danger and she is whisked away from her arrival point, not knowing if she can or will ever find it again. We follow her life as she is forced to adapt to her new surroundings, and meet new people, making the best of her situation but making enemies as well as friends along the way; as she is a ‘Sassenach’ – an outsider with an English accent, who may never truly ‘fit in’ or be fully trusted by the born Scots.

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When she meets James Fraser, an unlikely friendship begins, and the most unlikely (yet somehow believable) romance follows. The book synopsis states that: ‘James Fraser shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire- and two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives’ I have to agree and couldn’t put it better myself!

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Will Claire ever get home again? Will she still want to? These questions and more followed my path through the pages and kept me spellbound until the end. I thank goodness that it took me so long to discover this series, as I don’t think I could cope with not knowing how the story would progress in future installments. Imagine reading the first book and having to wait a year before you could find out what happened next?

 

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It took me several attempts to get into ‘Outlander’ I have to confess, but I’ve learned since then that quite a few readers also suffered teething problems with this first book. However, once I was ‘in’ I couldn’t pull myself away from it, so I’m so pleased that I persevered. My problem was that these books demand your full attention. I couldn’t read them whilst the T.V was competing in the background, or when people were distracting me. Usually this never bothers me and I can tune out background distractions easily, but with these books, I found that I needed total peace in order to fully immerse myself into them. Once I had, the rewards were great.

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Gabaldon’s writing is very detailed. She can take pages and pages to describe a scene that would be only short moments in ‘real time’. Yet her talent lies in those details. In my opinion, her ability to describe every aspect of a scene is nothing short of alchemy itself. Perhaps that is why I needed total silence and zero distractions while reading her books. I needed to focus on the words completely and needed to be fully relaxed in order to sink into the story and permit myself to be fully captivated by it.

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Be warned, these books are not for snacking on. Starting at 627 pages long, (Outlander Hardback) they are a full meal; in fact they are a veritable banquet. Outlander is packed full of meaty conflicts between clans, brawls between the British and the Scots, and the tenderest morsels of romance too. There is never a dull moment.

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True, some critics complain that there is an overindulgence in sexual violence, and at times I think it can shock; as details are brandished about in all their Technicolor glory, (or perhaps that is my own imagination working overtime?) and we are never in any doubt about ‘what exactly happened’; but then others have argued that this is only Gabaldon painting a very clear picture of those brutish times – and Gabaldon is nothing if not authentic in her details.

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I felt the heartburn acutely by the last page. In fact I’d say that I suffered indigestion for the full two days that it took for Amazon to whip out the desert to me: Dragonfly in Amber- hardback at 743 pages.

In that day before delivery I was suffering from a severe book hangover, and I found myself manically scouring my bookshelves for something light and fluffy to cleanse my palette between courses. A quick sip of silly later, I was fortified once more and couldn’t wait to crack open the next installment of this huge Scottish saga.

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And so when I open the first page of Dragonfly in Ember and discover that I am back in Inverness, I gasp. When I note that it is now 1968, I am now shaking. What? When? How?…. Claire?

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To find out, I strongly suggest you pick up this series soon.

Lots of love, Sally xxx

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Book Review: Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar

 

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Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar. buy it HERE

I discovered this book whilst doing a search for contemporary YA reads on Amazon. Marketed for grades 4-8 I was nevertheless drawn to this book after reading the synopsis, which reads:

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What does it mean to be fully alive? Magic blends with reality in a stunning coming-of-age novel about a girl, a grandfather, wanderlust, and reclaiming your roots.

 

Things are only impossible if you stop to think about them . . . .

 

‘While her friends are spending their summers having pool parties and sleepovers, twelve-year-old Carolina — Carol — is spending hers in the middle of the New Mexico desert, helping her parents move the grandfather she’s never met into a home for people with dementia. At first, Carol avoids prickly Grandpa Serge. But as the summer wears on and the heat bears down, Carol finds herself drawn to him, fascinated by the crazy stories he tells her about a healing tree, a green-glass lake, and the bees that will bring back the rain and end a hundred years of drought. As the thin line between magic and reality starts to blur, Carol must decide for herself what is possible — and what it means to be true to her roots. Readers who dream that there’s something more out there will be enchanted by this captivating novel of family, renewal, and discovering the wonder of the world.’

 

 So Carol’s summer is going to be a tough one: Meeting a Grandfather she barely remembers, being in the middle of nowhere for the full summer, and doing everything she can to keep Grandpa calm at all costs.bee1

 

So in the midst of it all, as the desert homestead land is dying in one of the worst droughts in decades. Grandpa says that when the Bees come back they will bring water. Carol thinks this is grandpa’s dementia talking; surely water will bring the Bees, not the other way around? So when Carol begins seeing Bees hanging around her, she daren’t mention it to Grandpa, so as not to upset him. But she can see Bees in a desert!

 

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Obviously the book was an easy read, being aimed at twelve year olds, so I flew through it in one sitting. However, what I wasn’t counting on was that after reading this book it would linger with me afterwards.

 

Eagar’s writing style is beautiful and lyrical and flows effortlessly. Dementia is a subject that requires addressing delicately, and Eagar manages to achieve this by giving Grandpa a quiet dignity and intelligence despite his mind-crippling illness.

 

One of the reasons I think this book resonated with me so strongly was that at a similar age I met my step-grandmother for the first time and under similar circumstances.

 

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She moved into our home after being unable to cope any longer due to her age (eighty-three) and later, the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. I only knew her for little under two years; yet, in such a short space of time she became my closest friend.

 

Now I was a chatty kid and had plenty of friends my own age, but something about ‘Aunt Jane’ (as I was instructed to call her) just ‘clicked’ with me and I found myself wanting to spend more and more time with her.

 

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Reading ‘Hour of the Bees’ brought back so many childhood memories for me. I felt myself tearing up over some little description or other, and feeling that this author must have experienced this situation for herself. The special relationship between Carol and her Grandpa touched me deeply. It is so unexpected and unlikely, yet their love transcended across the decades and they bonded deeply. The depth surprised Carol, and she began to question her priorities in life and reassessed the importance of the things she had previously held dear.

 

Grandpa has never left his homestead, yet has lived a life that many of us could only dream of. He has known true love, great health and the friendships of many. He now has to leave the only home that he has every known, and of course the prospect terrifies him.

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Added to this his son, Carol’s father has little patience with him due to old wounds that we learn about later in the story, and he just wants the homestead cleaned up and put on the market so he can continue on with his own life.

 

With an interesting mix of characters, and the confined space of a small farmhouse there is, of course, no shortage of conflict. And here Eagar is masterful in her ability to show everybody’s point of view fairly.

 

I read a couple of books each week and this one is one that shines. It has now been added to my short list of ‘favorite books’ and easily gets a five star rating from me.

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Please, whatever your age, pick up this book from this amazing debut author. I’m certain we will be hearing much more from her in the future. If I had a crystal ball, I would predict that this book would win many awards- it certainly merits it.

 

lots of love,

Sally xxx

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Contemporary Fiction, Love it or loathe it?

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I have to admit I’m not sure which side of the fence I sit on with this genre. I tend to lean where the wind blows depending much upon my mood on the day. The truth is that at heart I’m a thriller, horror, and fantasy novel kinda gal, so a contemporary has to be really good to seduce me.

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However, I am an absolute sucker for the cover designs on contemporaries, and I’m ashamed to admit that often the pretty cover is the only reason I’ll one up. #sosuperficial All the gorgeous pastel colors, the pretty fonts, the beautiful bare book itself, all are so delicious to a book lover.

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The first young adult contemporary that I read was ‘Eleanor & Park’ by Rainbow Rowell. I really enjoyed it. Set back in the style-absent eighties, two very different and awkward teens share the same school bus each day. The thing that they both have in common is that neither feel that they ‘fit in’ with their peers. Yet both Eleanor and Park deal with their exclusion from the popular groups, with a quiet dignity and grace, choosing to embrace their differences (and in Eleanor’s case, exaggerate them). An unlikely friendship begins, and we follow it to wherever it may lead, observing how their contrasting home lives have affected and molded their characters. We watch with baited breath as they move through some truly difficult times and deal with them with such maturity, despite the heartbreak and daily pressure of school.

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I was seriously impressed with this book, and so, my interest in contemporaries grew and I began to buy more.

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I also love a good series and after hearing so much about the novels in the ‘Anna and the French Kiss’ companion set, I decided that I had to read them. Goodness I was not disappointed. I mean for a start a private school in Paris was the setting for the first book. What’s not to like? Stephanie Perkins authors these three books. After ‘Anna’, we have “Lola and the boy Next Door’ which is set in San Francisco, but hey that’s a pretty cool setting too. And finally ‘Lola and the Happy Ever After’ which is my personal favorite (and moves back in Paris). Again I felt that there was some superb character development by Perkins, and lots of angst too. I almost started biting my nails.

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I have read many young adult contemporaries in between and I’m sure you may find one of your own favorites in the picture below. Some focus on life altering events such as terminal illnesses, divorce and moving house; others follow the milestones of people we can all relate to in some way or another.

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Last week I read ‘Fangirl’ which is another Rainbow Rowell favorite. I’d initially tried reading it directly after ‘Eleanor & Park’ but found I couldn’t concentrate so I put decided to put it down for a time. Picking it back up almost a year later, I dived right into it and thoroughly enjoyed the read, and when finished, I immediately ordered ‘Carry On’! So sometimes it is worth waiting a while if a particular book doesn’t grab you first time around.

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I’m always going to be that horror, thriller, fantasy book lover, but after absorbing some of the more heavy scary/crime/ world building details in these (often epic) reads, I now like to treat the book hangover with something lighter and contemporaries seem to be the perfect antidote.

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How do you feel about contemporary novels? Which is your favorite? Which would you recommend?

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Even gorgeous without their dust jackets!

Have a super Saturday. I’ll be back tomorrow with my third #soaksunday

 

Take care,

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Love Sally xx

 

 

Welcome to my very first soak Sunday!

I am a girl who loves to take a long hot bubble bath as often as possible. The tub is my ‘Me time’, my escape, my sanctuary from the world. So when I take a bubble bath, I pull out all the stops.

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I mean I prepare.

 

I’m talking about finding the perfect candle, the perfect cup and flowers and cupcakes and my latest book. I choose the most relaxing music that suits my mood, and I wallow in prettiness for hours.

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Now a couple of days ago I was looking for inspiration for my Instagram pictures. Sometimes that well of inspiration runs dry- the muse is MIA.

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So as I was thinking this, my thoughts led from ‘well-is-dry’ to ‘Soak Sunday’ and so my new weekly hash tag was born.

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Now bathing beauty addicts are not new. I follow so many beautiful feeds that have helped to inspire my bathing ritual for a long time now. (Kindly check out my Instagram and see who I follow for details) I often toyed with the idea that it may be fun to start a new feed to share my bathing addiction, but the truth is, I love my book account so much that I don’t want to be distracted from the love that I pour into it. I figured there must be a way to incorporate my other loves into my book feed. And the more I thought about it, the more fun ideas that I had. Playing on the popular tag of #socksunday I came up with #soaksunday I could still share my love of books, cups and candles, but also my love of Lush, and Bath & body Works, The Body Shop etc.….

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I really hope that some of you guys take up the tag and play along. Please let me know what you think about it. Any ideas are most welcome.

 

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Right now I’m reading ‘Heartless” by Marissa Meyer.

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This is a really fun read. I’m about half way through it and thoroughly enjoying it. I would describe it as a fairytale mashup of Alice in Wonderland, and it’s almost as funky as the original. Many of your favorite characters are there in cameo roles, others taking on larger parts like ‘Hatta’ Our protagonist is Catherine or Cath. Cath is the daughter of the Marquess and Marchioness of the city of Hearts. Her parents are determined that she will marry the King and be the next Queen of Hearts. But Catherine has other ideas. She wants to make her childhood dream of owing her own bakery come true. Catherine is the best baker in Hearts. Everybody loves her lemon tarts, her macaroons and her pumpkin pie…Ahhh yes, The pie… and this is where the story gets complicated.

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We have lots of twists and turns, some love interests, some villains, some quirky characters who will make you laugh out loud. It is a riot! I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

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This beautiful cover design was limited to Owlcrate subscribers.I feel very lucky to have snagged one.I hope you enjoy my new tag. The full video is on my instagram story for the next 24 hrs so kindly pop over and check it out before it’s gone. I hope you can see the connection I have tried to make from my #soaksunday story to the book. Each week I will try to improve on it!

 

 

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I hope you have a super Sunday, and manage to get lots of relaxation time in. I will see you soon.

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Lots of love Sally xxx

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Game Of Thrones Book Review

 

Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

 

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Game Of Thrones is arguably a book that almost everyone has heard of, especially in the bookish community. It is so popular that HBO channel made a T.V. series out of it. There is merchandise in all good bookstores, etsy stores and Amazon that supports fans of this saga. It was a ‘must read’ for all lovers of fantasy and adventure.

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I just knew that I had to put it on my #tbr list, and I bought a copy a year ago. Sadly, there it stayed until just last week. Of course I wanted to read it, and it kept winking at me from the shelf. I would see Instagram posts that honored George R.R. Martin and I kept telling myself that I had to pick it up soon. I guess I was a little intimidated by it.

What if I personally didn’t like it?

What if I couldn’t finish the 694 pages?

I felt pressured, by whom? – Myself.

I SO wanted this book to live up to its hype, so I guess I delayed reading it for far too long.

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I needn’t have worried. The book was epic in every sense of the word! The plots and sub-plots, the Royal houses, the huge array of characters, each of whom, I had strong feelings for in one way, or another. Every character had a story and a purpose. I was riveted.

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The first hundred pages of any book are always a climb in my opinion. By this I mean, it is the creation of the backstory, the stage, and the framework before the real action begins. Some authors can get right into the middle of the action on the first page, but I always give a book the honor of reading the first hundred pages before I mentally calculate whether I’m going to enjoy it or not.

 

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However, with this book you need those first hundred pages to get to know all the characters fully. Each has a story of their own to tell, each has their own cross to bear (some coping with the weight better than others) George R.R. Martin is insisting that you understand why these characters are driven to act the way they do/ Even those that I want to despise have my understanding when they act in ways I really wouldn’t normally be able to comprehend.

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I took my time with this book. It refused to be rushed. It is not a book that can be speed read if you want to get the best out of it. You need to fully immerse yourself into the story. This means, no distractions. Hide yourself away in a place where you will be left undisturbed for a couple of hours at a time. Throw yourself into a land where there are Kings and Queens, Knights and Ladies.

 

 

 

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The synopsis reads in part:

 

“Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the North of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdoms protective wall. At the center of the conflict lies the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of Lords and Ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens”

 

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My take on this:

 

We first meet the Starks who are a large and close-knit family. They are the Lord and Lady and their children who run Winterfell. Their lives are hard, in the cold, bleak kingdom, but they are at peace and are content until a visit from the King shakes up their formerly happy existence. At once everything changes and will never be the same.

Conflict enters almost immediately, and a breathtaking adventure takes shape. We get to know the King and his family and all their secrets- secrets that will change lives. We see King pitted against King, we see how one wrong move brings the hammer down on all within its reach, and we see how the ripples affect everyone I some way large or small…

But the story is just beginning. This is only book one.

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The reader is left with such a major cliffhanger. I really cannot wait to find out where this epic saga will go next. The author leaves us with hope and fear and wonder. I really wish I could say more but you really do need to read this for yourself.

 

One thing I was determined to do was to read the book before I watched the T.V. show, so last night I settled down to watch the first series. I think it stayed very true to the book, but I’m so pleased that I waited and read it first. I’ll stop watching the show as soon as it catches up to the book, and I will resume watching it once I’ve read the next installment.

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I hope that you do pick it up. I highly recommend it. If you have already read Game of Thrones, I’d love to hear what you thought of it. You can comment at the top of the page. You won’t see it immediately as I have to read it first. I hope my review was helpful.

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Have a great day.

Love Sally