Review: It Started With Goodbye by Christina June

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Sixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night (which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client). When Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way.

A modern play on the Cinderella story arc, Christina June’s IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE shows us that sometimes going after what you want means breaking the rules.

Publication Date: 9th May 2017

Goodreads

Okay so all the early reviews for this one have been absolutely glowing but for some reason, I just didn’t like it very much so here’s me who will very happily trash this insufferable book.

Plot

This book is your basic contemporary Cinderella spin off. We have Tatum, the tragic step daughter. Tilly, the stepsister, Belén the evil stepmother and Blanche the ‘fairy godmother’.

In the book, Tatum gets in trouble with the law for basically doing nothing while someone she barely knew tried to steal some phones.

As a result, she gets into major trouble. With her punishment laid out, Tatum’s father leaves for an extremely long business trip and essentially leaves Tatum at the mercy of her seemingly cruel stepmother, step grandmother and stepsister.

Now firstly, I don’t understand how Tatum managed to get into more trouble then her best friend who was the one actually with the guy who stole the phones in the first place.

Secondly, how are her parents so dumb that they did not see that she basically had next to nothing to do with the whole crime and that her punishment was totally uncalled for an unfair?

I mean seriously. That part could have been so much stronger.

The whole plot just felt unbelievable and weak.

Characters

Tatum

Okay honestly, Tatum wasn’t a horrible character and her down-to-earth self and honest portrayal really salvaged a pretty crappy story line.

I liked hearing Tatum’s voice and I liked her personality. I feel like even though she was in a pretty crappy situation, she just really made the best of it and constantly tried to do her best for everyone in her life which was really great.

Belén

I’m sorry but Belén was literally the worst. I mean okay. You want to portray her as the evil stepmother who is pure evil and stuff, fine. Go ahead. But at least keep it that way. But no. Nope. She had to have a change of heart at the end. I’m just. I can’t.

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Tilly

So you’re telling me that two girls who have lived in the same house for ten years decide automatically that they can’t talk to each other and then one day, one person decides to try to crack the ice and in the next second they are best friends forever? Unrealistic much?

SK

SK is the mystery boy that Tatum starts emailing and then goes off on a whirlwind romance with.

Now I know I only have a little experience with relationships but even I know that an online relationship is very different from a real life one and that upon the first meeting, one does not immediately fall in love and kiss and be perfect. You know what a kiss on the first meeting usually means? It usually means a hookup.

I mean come on. Their ‘relationship’ was so unrealistic. These things don’t happen in real life and I know that for a fact. Where was the awkwardness? Where was the getting to know you bit? No one is immediately that comfortable with someone they just met. Give me a break.

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Overall

The concept was there. The general idea was there. However it was just executed very poorly and with very weak characters.

I hated how at the end everything was tied up with a pretty red bow. I mean come on. These things don’t happen in real life.

However, that said, I did think the story was not completely insufferable. I mean I didn’t DNF it so there’s something right?

I did enjoy certain aspects of the book. Like while I did not like SK and Tatum’s real life relationship, I did enjoy their online one because it reminded me a lot of the friendships I have with people who live in other countries. I also liked how Tatum bonded with Anna and the band. That was sweet and very cosy.

And so somehow, I am giving this book a generous three stars because I can’t bear to give it any less. I’m really just in the middle with it.

*An advanced copy of this book was provided to me to read and review by the publishers. However all opinions are my own.*

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Excerpt: Fish Wielder by Jim Hardison

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Fish Wielder is kind of like Lord of the Rings, set in Narnia, if it was written by the guys who made Monty Python and the Holy Grail while they were listening to the music of They Might Be Giants.

In ancient times, the Dark Lord Mauron cooked the most powerful magic chocolate dessert ever made, the Pudding of Power. One thousand and two years later, the evil leader of the Bad Religion, the Heartless One, is trying to recover the lost pudding in order to enslave the peoples of Grome. Only the depressed barbarian warrior Thoral Might Fist and his best friend, Brad the talking Koi fish, have a chance to save the world of Grome from destruction, but that’s going to take a ridiculous amount of magic and mayhem. Thus begins the epically silly epic fantasy of epic proportions, Fish Wielder–book one of the Fish Wielder Trilogy.

Goodreads

Chapter 1

It was the anniversary of something bad.

Thoral Mighty Fist, perhaps the toughest, most mysterious and manly fighter in all the mystical world of Grome, sat in the Inn of the Gruesomely Gashed Gnome in a dark corner,

weeping into his tankard of warm ale. He hated ale, especially when it was warm, although he’d been swilling the stuff since before breakfast. Now it was well after dinner, and all he’d eaten the entire day was a piece of dry toast and a couple of olives as black as his mood. He raised his mug for another bitter sip and the jeweled hilt of the magic broadsword, Blurmflard, poked him in the side like a reminder of past mistakes. It was awkward to sit at a table with a broadsword at your belt, but the mighty barbarian had kept Blurmflard with him at all times ever since the blade was lent to him by his wizard mentor, Yiz. He even slept with it.

As Thoral sat brooding and trying to adjust his position to more comfortably accommodate the blade, a twelve-inch-long orange koi fish walked into the bar on his tail fins. Standing in the entryway, the koi peered around the crowded, dim interior until his bulging eyes fell on Thoral. The fish frowned.

At six feet, Thoral was a head taller than most other human inhabitants of the world of Grome and was so powerfully built that he barely fit at the heavy wooden table at which he sat. He was dressed pirate-style, with a black leather vest buttoned over his otherwise bare chest, tight, plum-colored breeches and knee-high, iron-toed boots. A wide crimson belt bore the magic sword as well as an assortment of leather and velvet pouches. A less attractive or more effeminate man would never have been able to pull off such an outfit, but for Thoral it was no

problem. He had chiseled features and a head of thick, golden hair that curled to his massive shoulders. The few strands of gray made him even more handsome–in a seasoned and mature

way, of course. His glorious hair notwithstanding, his most striking feature was his piercing gaze. So intense, so smoldering was his stare, that those on the receiving end often felt the need

to look away for fear that they would catch fire. There was no word in Gromish for the vibrant purple color of his eyes, but they were violet.

The koi contemplated the warrior. Given his charisma, strength and fighting abilities, Thoral could easily have conquered his own kingdom. But Thoral didn’t seem to care about that

kind of thing. He mostly liked to drink and fight and brood and wander around in forests looking at trees. As the fish watched, the mighty warrior burped. The hot gas seemed to sear his manly nostrils so that he blinked as his striking violet eyes watered.

Thoral looked up from his drink and squinted around the bar to see if anyone had noticed his tears and if there was anyone worth fighting. He failed to detect the fish, who was hidden behind the legs of a passing barmaid. The other patrons were humans, except a few half-elves and a handful of drunken gnomes. He could take them all on single-handedly, but he knew from experience that he’d feel even worse after beating them. Especially the gnomes. It was better to do nothing, to sit and drink and wish things were different.

Thoral closed his eyes and hunched forward to lay his tawny-maned head on the table. The rough-hewn planks, though, smelled as if they had been wiped with a mildew-y rag, so he

sat back up. He fumbled in one of his many belt pouches for the last of his dried herbs, crushed them between his long, calloused fingers and inhaled their fading minty fragrance. It wasn’t quite strong enough to clear the lingering scent of the mildew.

As Thoral sniffled at his mint leaves, the fish sighed. Shaking his head, he stalked across the sticky floor on his tail fins. The barbarian noticed him with a wince.

“This is the end, Bradfast,” Thoral grumbled at the fish in his outlandish accent, his rough voice heavy with melancholy. Thoral tended to transpose the sounds of v and w and to pronounce th at the beginning of words as z because he was foreign.

“Here we go again,” Brad commented dryly, leaping up onto the bench and then the table. He picked his way across the tabletop and stopped before the warrior. “This isn’t the end,

Thoral. It’s just the beginning…or maybe the middle or something. The point is, it’s not over. It’s never over until you give up—or you’re dead.”

“I dost wonder about death,” the barbarian said, as if to himself. He also used outdated words like dost because he spoke High Gromish even though most everybody else spoke the low version. This was also because he was foreign. “Would it truly bring an end? Or just a transition to another world?”

“You’ve had too much to drink, Thoral,” the fish cautioned. “You always get morose when you drink. It’s time we get moving. Maybe go on another adventure or something.”

“I am tired of adventures,” the warrior sighed. “I wish only to go home.” He burped again, and the fish staggered back, blinking.

“Come on, pal. Let’s get out of here,” Brad suggested, fanning himself with a fin. “We’ll fight a monster or go on a quest or steal the jeweled eye from an idol or something. It’ll be fun.”

“My heart is too…” Thoral trailed off. “What is that word that means when something has substantial weight?”

“Heavy,” the fish supplied. Thoral always had trouble remembering that one.

“Heavy. Yes. My heart is too heavy for adventure,” Thoral complained.

“Well, maybe if we pick something really hard, you’ll get killed,” the fish offered.

“A hero’s death?” Thoral asked, perking up just a bit.

“Yeah, sure. A hero’s death.”

“And then I couldst be done with this world,” Thoral murmured.

“Exactly,” Brad affirmed.

“Then let us go,” Thoral said, “this very instant.” He slammed his drink down on the table so hard that some of the ale sloshed out of the tankard, splashing at the fish. The koi danced back, just missing a soaking.

“Up to bed first and we’ll hit the road in the morning,” Brad countered, stepping around the puddle of spilled drink.

“No, we will leave now.” There was a dangerous edge to the warrior’s tone that drew the attention of everyone in the room even though he had not raised his voice. The bar went silent.

“Look, Thoral,” the koi answered, “it’s getting late. I’m tired. You’re drunk. We could both use some sleep. Let’s not make a rash decision that might lead to all kinds of unexpected

complications.”

Every eye turned to see the barbarian’s reaction. “We will leave now,” Thoral insisted. The warrior and the fish stared at each other.

“Be reasonable,” Brad tried again. “Just give me one good reason why we shouldn’t wait

until morning.”

“We will leave now,” the barbarian declared, “because I am Thoral Mighty Fist!

Everyone gasped. Brad sagged, defeated. Once Thoral noted that he was Thoral, there was no point in arguing further. Everyone knew it. That’s just how it was.

With that, Thoral drained his pewter tankard and crushed it one-handed. He got unsteadily to his feet, massive muscles rippling under sun-bronzed, battle-scarred skin, and

transferred Brad from the tabletop into a belt pouch. Then he tossed a gold coin to the hideously disfigured gnomish innkeeper to pay for the mug he’d ruined even though it couldn’t have been worth more than a few coppers. The gnome had been engrossed in restocking a spice rack over the bar, so the coin struck him in the head and then clattered to the floor. He stepped on it with his clubfoot before it rolled away and then pinched it between his stubby, ring-clad fingers.

“Many thanks, Fist Wielder,” the innkeeper croaked, his one eye glittering from his gashed face as the warrior strode past him. “Where are you headed now? Not to the Godforsaken

Swamp, I hope. You should steer clear of that place for a while. There is nothing there but death.”

“I am eager for it,” the barbarian whispered as he strode past the gnome, who frowned and wrung his tiny hands.

Thoral staggered from the bar into the dark, filthy street. Although it was well past sundown, the city was still bustling with all kinds of criminals and cutthroats and that sort of

riffraff. They all cleared out of the big barbarian’s way. Three figures, cloaked and hooded in the black robes of the Bad Religion, watched from the shadows as Thoral went to the tavern’s

hitching post to untie his massive tiger-striped steed, Warlordhorse. He fumbled with the knot, his fingers clumsy from the ale. He shook his head and tried again.

“Let us attack now,” the leader of the Dark Brothers whispered. “We will take him unawares.”

“Uh…are you sure?” one of his subordinates asked, his voice quavering. “Have you heard the stories about him?”

“We have our orders,” the leader countered tersely. “Besides, he is inebriated, there are three of us, and we have the ultimate advantage…” He trailed off, sliding a dagger from a fold of his robe. The curved blade was slick with oily, black poison. He leered at his minions for a moment, and they reluctantly drew their own poison-coated daggers. The three of them started toward the barbarian while he was distracted.

Thoral was still having no luck with Warlordhorse’s tether, and grew frustrated. He put his face close to the rope, trying to get a better look in the dim light of the moon, and made

another attempt. The Dark Brothers crept closer, raising their poisoned blades in unison. Just one scratch and Thoral would be paralyzed before he even felt the wound. Agonizing death would follow within hours, but not before they had had time to drag the warrior before the master of their order to find out how much Thoral knew of their plans.

The Dark Brothers closed in on the unsuspecting champion, swift and silent as death itself.

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Sunday Summary: 100 Followers and My Embalming article

Hey guys! It’s been a while since I’ve updated you on my life so I thought it might be fun to give you guys a little rundown about what I’ve been up to.

1. 100 followers
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Last week, Twenty Three Pages not only hit it’s one year anniversary of being on WordPress but we also hit 100 followers!

I was so ridiculously excited about this and I just wanted to say a huge thank you to all you beautiful people that follow me, read my posts and comment on my stuff.


When I started my blog, I never expected it to grow as much as it has but somehow, here we are. I’m so grateful for the people that I have met and the support I have received.

I know a lot of people like to say that it’s never about the numbers and while that is very true for me, I have to admit that it’s very nice to see my readers growing with me. So thank you.

2. My Embalmer article

Some of you may know this if you follow me on my other social media but a month ago, I published one of my most controversial and fascinating articles to date.

Now if you don’t know, I pitched a series called ‘Working On The Dead’ about three months ago and while I have not really talked about it in great detail here, the series affected me incredibly in terms of my emotional state and now that it is mostly over, I feel like I need to put it up here because I always put my heart up here and I couldn’t not do it this time.

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I never talked about what it was like going for my first undertaker and embalmer interviews because that day, I met someone I was not supposed to meet and I ended up sweet-talking my way into getting him to sneak me into an embalming room where an actual embalming was going on.

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I spent about five minutes in that room and then spent the next month paying for it dearly.

I spent weeks with my emotions in a complete wreck. I had anxiety attack after anxiety attack. I had nightmares. I fell apart in a lot of ways because I was not prepared to watch that embalming and it was just so violent that I couldn’t deal with it.

And the worst part was that I couldn’t tell very many people about what I was feeling. I never knew who could handle hearing the gory details and even if they could, many people did just say to me, “Well you pitched it. You wanted this.”

So when Serenity Casket reached out to me after my undertaker article was published and offered to let us film an entire embalming from start to finish, I freaked out.

And the worst part was that I couldn’t say no. I needed to say yes for the story. I needed to just be brave because I was being handed an opportunity almost no journalist in Singapore had ever gotten and I had to say yes.


I remember how hard I was shaking when I received the text that someone had died and that we needed to grab a cab and come down immediately. I really thought I would not be able to handle it.

Thankfully, I had a colleague with me and the team at Serenity was just so wonderful that I just wasn’t scared. Yes I did have my moments when I had to turn away or when I had to focus the camera on something and then just close my eyes (that made for a very interesting editing experience) and yes I was scared. But the whole experience was just so peaceful and so much better then anything my terrified brain could ever come up with.

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After that, I spent two weeks editing the video and writing the article. The video was an interesting experience because we had so much footage and a lot of gory stuff. So me, being me, wanted to include almost every gory bit and it was a long process working with two of my editors to cut down the gory stuff and to make it informational.

Finally, we published the article. It was entitled Working on the dead: The embalmer and it was my pride and joy. Okay now standby while I toot my own horn for a bit.

The article quickly accumulated 10,000 views in the first day and by the end of the week, it was at 30,000+ organically.

So Youth.SG decided to boost the post. Meaning that they paid Facebook and Twitter $600 and my article started popping up everywhere. A friend even saw it on 9GAG which was insane.

Eventually, the post ended up being the most read article on the site. And that’s the most read article out of 10 years of articles. It was my proudest moment.

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I mean having my friends and people I know coming up to me in real life to ask about the article was just mind-blowing and I was so excited by the success.

Okay I’m done being proud haha.

3. Extending my internship

I have officially ended the required 22 weeks of internship that I have been doing since March and I was so blessed that I was asked by my editors to extend my internship.

So I’ve extended it by another month and I’ll be done on the 12th of September. I signed the contract last Friday. So far it’s been okay. I mean it sucks that my friends that were with me from the start in March have now left but I’m managing.

So there you have it. I really didn’t expect this post to be as long as it became so I’ll cut a few updates out and perhaps do another What’s Up Wednesday or Sunday Summary soon.

See you guys tomorrow!

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Review: Leave Me by Gayle Forman

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For every woman who has ever fantasized about driving past her exit on the highway instead of going home to make dinner, for every woman who has ever dreamed of boarding a train to a place where no one needs constant attention–meet Maribeth Klein. A harried working mother who’s so busy taking care of her husband and twins, she doesn’t even realize she’s had a heart attack.

Afterward, surprised to discover that her recuperation seems to be an imposition on those who rely on her, Maribeth does the unthinkable: She packs a bag and leaves. But, as is so often the case, once we get to where we’re going, we see our lives from a different perspective. Far from the demands of family and career and with the help of liberating new friendships, Maribeth is finally able to own up to secrets she has been keeping from those she loves and from herself.

With big-hearted characters who stumble and trip, grow and forgive, Leave Me is about facing our fears. Gayle Forman, a dazzling observer of human nature, has written an irresistible novel that confronts the ambivalence of modern motherhood head-on.

Publication Date: 6th September 2016

Goodreads

I spent a really long time pondering whether or not I thought Maribeth was absolutely despicable or just someone who was a terrifyingly honest portrayal of the modern woman.

At the end of the book, with tears streaming down my face, I finally decided on the latter.

Plot

Leave Me follows Maribeth, a working mother of young twins who is constantly trying to balance being a mother and maintaining a career as an editor. Every day she comes home harried and stressed. She juggles ten million things and yet still seems to be doing pretty alright. That is, until she has a heart attack and her family immediately falls apart as the main cog in the whole machine splutters to a stop.

With her family clamouring at her and Maribeth being fresh out of a major surgery, she understandably starts to feel extremely cloistered and then:

She leaves.

She packs up with only a note left behind and moves. She gets a new house, new friends, a new (albeit damaged) doctor and she disappears.

Characters 

Maribeth 

For a long time in the book, I was furious at Maribeth. How could she just leave her two young kids like that? How could someone who claimed to love her children so much that she felt actual terror at how much she loved them just pack up and leave them. Without so much as a single arrangement made, she packs up, disappears and doesn’t make any contact for over a month. It was beyond me.

Until I realised that every single one of us is a Maribeth. We may not be parents. We may not have any of the stresses Maribeth had. We may not even have a single health problem.

But we are all Maribeths because at one point or the other, we have all flirted with the idea of just packing our bags and disappearing.

It just so happened that Maribeth acted on it.

Now of course this opened up a whole new discussion within myself about who the heck gave Maribeth the permission to do what we regular people can only fantasise about.

And then, something interesting happened in my life. I fell sick last week (that’s one of the reasons why it was radio silence from me for a while) Anyway, because of the nature of my job, I could not take any leave and so I had to struggle to work and interviews and movies previews last week all while fighting a horrid flu.

Now I’ve always felt been the kind of person that people come to when they need help because I generally love to help people and I gladly do it. But I guess it was a combination of feeling sick and stressed that caused me to mentally breakdown for two days last week.

About the middle of the week, I had so much going on and on top of that, it seemed like everyone wanted a piece of me all at once. With the people I loved clamouring for my attention while I was so sick, I just snapped a bit.

And it was after that mental breakdown that I finally saw why she had to leave.

She had no choice. She had to leave to heal. She had to stop the mental breakdown. Because some people can handle it but some people just can’t. Some people really just need their bubble.

So at the end, I surprised myself by actually not hating Maribeth. Sure she made some questionable decisions while she was away that even I can’t rationalise away but she wasn’t a horrible person and really, neither were her husband or best friend.

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I loved all the supporting characters that entered Maribeth’s new life and helped her as she tried to recreate herself in order to heal. I just thought that they made wonderful additions to the book. I love how big-heart everyone was and how willing they were to help her. Bitchy characters are overrated. These people just made the book perfect.

Overall

When I reached the end of this book, I was in tears because of how honest and raw it was. This book will really make you think very deeply about your deepest desires. It will make you question your morals. It’s a silent killer. It has reasoning that will really sneak up behind you and kick your feet out from under you.

But honestly, that is why I think this is the best book Gayle Forman has written in a long time. And that’s saying something.

My-Rating-5-Stars

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Review: Harry Potter and The Cursed Child by J.K.Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne (Spoiler-Free)

The Eighth Story. Nineteen Years Later.

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

Goodreads

When I first heard about Harry Potter and The Cursed Child’s script being released as a book, I was completely sure that I was not going to read it.

I was disappointed that it wasn’t a proper novel and unhappy that J.K.Rowling would only be one of the three writers that wrote this book.

And I think many bookworms shared my sentiments initially because I remember discussing this with the Rainbow Bookclub and the girls and I were quite displeased.

However, last week, my editor sent me a message asking if I liked Harry Potter and if I would like to wake up at a god-forsaken hour on a Sunday to attend the launch party of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at Bras Basah. Apparently there would be butterbeer and we would get a free copy of the book.

The bookworm in me just couldn’t say no despite my initial reservations about the book.


As the 31st of July came closer, I got more and more excited. I was actually hand delivered an invite last week and I was so impressed.

So on Sunday (the day of the party), I woke up at 4.45am to attend the 7.01am Harry Potter party.

It was actually pretty cool except for the fact that the ‘butterbeer’ was really rootbeer and whipped cream but okay. I can (kinda) accept that.

After the party, I spent the entire day camped out on my bed and read the book cover to cover.

Plot 

This book picks up exactly where we left off in the epilogue of Deathly Hallows. We are on the train platform with a grown up Harry, Ron, Hermoine and their kids.

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Harry’s son, Albus, is about to start his first year at Hogwarts and he is worried that he will be sorted into Slytherin.

Now you guys know that really don’t like to reread anything so I read the whole Harry Potter series for the first and last time when I was about 11.

If you’re like me, you would expect to have forgotten a lot of little things. But the way the book picked up and very non-intrusively explained things that most people would have forgotten made it feel just like coming home again.

The story focuses on Albus, Harry’s son, and Scorpius, Draco’s son. Basically, they are dangerously playing with time travel and as a result, they visit iconic moments in the book and explore what the story would have been like if one little detail was changed.

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It’s pretty dynamic for a play really.

Charachters

I’m not going to talk about individual characters like I usually do because there were so many of them and I really don’t want to have to miss anyone out because each charachter, even the ones who were only there for a chapter, had such a huge impact in the original seven books and I feel like I will be doing them a great injustice if I have to simply casually mention them.

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So I really liked the way the charachters were  built upon. We follow all the original cast as well as their kids but the story focuses largely on the adventure (or misadventure) that their kids go on and experience.

What I really liked was that I felt like the charachters really grew. It really did feel like 19 years had gone by and it felt very authentic.

I really enjoyed seeing familiar faces and just getting to live through their lives again.

I also really enjoyed the parent-child dynamics that was going on. I feel like in the first seven books, we had very little parental interference perhaps except for Ron. However in this book we got to see a pretty realistic portrayal of parents taking care of their adventurous kids and I really liked that.

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Overall

I honestly cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this book. The whole experience of reading it just felt like coming home. I just felt so safe and warm and fuzzy and I really felt like I was reentering the beautiful period in my life when I read the first seven books.

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If you’re worried about the fact that the book is in script form or not completely written by J.K. Rowling, don’t worry. It’s all good. Trust me. It’s amazing and you want to read it.

My-Rating-5-Stars

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Unboxing: BooksActually’s July Book Box

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Hey guys! So last Monday, BooksActually announced that they were officially starting their new book subscription service!

The second I heard about it, I knew that I needed it in my life because you know how I get about subscription boxes.

So let’s break it down. With BooksActually, you pay for either 3, 6 or 12 month subscriptions. They are $129, $229 and $369 respectively (including local shipping).

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These boxes come every single month and they have a book as well as little bookish goodies.

The best part is that BooksActually has seven Book Elfs or Curators and they let you pick which one you feel would best suit you.

There’s really something for everyone with the different Curators and that’s one of the reasons why I really like BooksActually so much.

I received my box last week and before I go into anything else, I have to say that I’m freaking impressed with the speed of their shipping. Mine took two days to arrive.

Okay now that that is out of the way, let’s get to what was inside the box. Here’s my unboxing of BooksActually’s July Book Box by Rachel Quek:

1. The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

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‘The horror, whatever it was, had not yet entirely spoiled that marvellous beauty’ 

Enthralled by his own exquisite portrait, Dorian Gray exchanges his soul for eternal youth and beauty. Influenced by his friend Lord Henry Wotton, he is drawn into a corrupt double life, indulging his desires in secret while remaining a gentleman in the eyes of polite society. Only his portrait bears the traces of his decadence. The Picture of Dorian Gray was a succès de scandale. Early readers were shocked by its hints at unspeakable sins, and the book was later used as evidence against Wilde at the Old Bailey in 1895.

Goodreads

The book that was included in the box this month was The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Now I tend not to read a lot of classics so I was glad to know that I had yet to read it.

I’ve also actually been wanting to read more classics, specifically this book, because I have a quote from the book up on my  wall and I figure it’s probably good that I read the book if the quote is going to be up on my wall right?

Not to mention that the edition of this book that BooksActually included is absolutely gorgeous!

2. A drawstring pouch

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In this box, there was a medium sized drawstring pouch with an illustration of someone reading on it.

Now I absolutely adore the illustration but I have no idea what I’m going to use the pouch for. I mean if it were smaller I would use it for my makeup but it’s not.

I guess I could use it to carry books around?

3. A lavender soy candle

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Next up, is a lavender candle from Hush candle. This is my absolute favourite item in the whole box because it smells absolutely heavenly!

Now if you know me, you would know that my go to has always been Yankee candles. I love them to bits. But I think this soy candle has revolutionised everything I’ve ever thought of scented candles.

The scent is so strong but so incredible. It just fills your head and forces you to relax. Quite honestly, I’m just so impressed by it and even if you don’t get this box, go and buy this candle. It’s freaking amazing.

4. An empty, rusted tin

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Now this was rather interesting. There was an empty, rusted tin in the box. Now sue me for believing that when you pay for something you should actually get something.

I honestly did not see the point of an empty tin. I mean I get that BooksActually is all about the aesthetic but sorry. That was a no go.

5. Dead leaves

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Guys this was honestly the highlight of the whole entire box. I got some dead leaves. I mean seriously? Where else can you find a subscription box that will give you dead leaves? I’m just so blown away by how creative they are. I can’t wait to use my dead leaves. It’s just going to make the whole reading experience so much better!

So there you have it. That was everything that was in this month’s BooksActually box. I’m honestly really excited that Singapore is branching out (no pun intended) and getting more involved in the book world. I think it’s such a great step in the right direction.

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Also, I know that many of you will now be wondering which book subscription service you should go with. Carpe Librum or BooksActually. As someone who has gotten both, I will be helping you out of course. So look out for a Carpe Librum and BooksActually comparison coming really soon (hopefully this week)

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Unboxing: Carpe Librum’s July Box

Hey guys! It’s that time of the month again where Carpe Librum releases yet another one of their amazing book subscription boxes!

So if you didn’t know, Carpe Librum is a bi-monthly book subscription service that costs $35 (including local shipping)and comes with a paperback novel and a number of other little bookish goodies.

This month, Carpe Librum’s theme was Made In Singapore. Presumably because our country’s 51st birthday  is next month and National Reading Day falls at the end of July.

So the box featured a whole bunch of truly Singapore goodies and today I’m going to be unboxing and reviewing each item that was included in the box.

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A signed copy of Let’s Give It Up for Gimme Lao! by Sebastian Sim

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“I don’t aspire to be nice. I do what is necessary to get what I want.”

Born on the night of the nation’s independence, Gimme Lao is cheated of the honour of being Singapore’s firstborn son by a vindictive nurse. This forms the first of three things Gimme never knows about himself, the second being the circumstances surrounding his parents’ marriage, and the third being the profound (but often unintentional) impact he has on other people’s lives.

Talented, determined and focused, young Gimme is confident he can sail the seven seas, but he does not anticipate his vessel would have to carry his mother’s ambition, his wife’s guilt and his son’s secret. Tracing social, economic and political issues over the past 50 years, this humorous novel uses Gimme as a hapless centre to expose all of Singapore’s ambitions, dirty linen and secret moments of tender humanity.

Goodreads

As is fast becoming Carpe Librum’s signature style, there was a beautiful, signed copy of Let’s Give It Up for Gimme Lao! by Sebastian Sim in the box.

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Now I’ve never heard of this book primarily because I don’t read or bother with local literature. I know I probably should but I just can’t make myself care enough. But I’m really excited about trying this book. It looks really interesting and I’m hoping that it will push me to read more local novels.

A Notebook

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There was a beautiful red notebook in the box that said, ‘I am not kiasu. I am Singaporean.’ This notebook is from Epigram Books and I love it. It has blank pages and it is the perfect size to stuff into a small handbag or even a pocket if you are a boy and have the wonderful privilege of actually having functioning pockets on your clothes.

I actually have a notebook exactly like this one from a random shop. It’s a a plain black one and I use it or when I interview people or when I need to take notes for an article. I was actually running out of space and I know I’ll certainly use this one as a backup.

An IKAT Handwoven Bookmark

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Who doesn’t love bookmarks am I right? This gem is limited edition from Gypsied and it is absolutely gorgeous! I love the colours and the material. And speaking of the material they used, I have to say that for a cloth bookmark, I was very surprised to find that it was actually quite sturdy. I will certainly be using this all the time.

Singlish Stickers

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Okay this one is something that you will 100% not get if you are not Singaporean and that is precisely why I love it so much.

So in Singapore, we have this slang that we call ‘Singlish’. Basically it’s a mix of Malay and English and Chinese that forms phrases that are super common here but that pretty much no one else understands or can accurately say.

So these stickers from Zinkie Aw  have some of our more popular phrases and I really love it. Though someone needs to explain what ‘Hanar Hanar’ is because even I’ve never heard of it before.

“Complain King” Pencils

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This is another thing that I love because it is so uniquely Singapore. This beautiful set of six pencils have some famous Singaporean complaints on them and I am in love with them. I only wish I used pencils more often because I would totally use these everyday if I did.

Discount Vouchers

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And of course, because I am Singaporean, I have to complain now. I really didn’t like the fact that Carpe Librum put discount coupons in the box. This month, Carpe Librum gave us a 20% discount for Books Actually and a 15% discount for Epigram Books.

Now I love discounts. But not in a book subscription box. The idea of the box is to get tangible stuff. You mean I now am forced to go spend more money (on top of what I’ve already spent for the box) on two different stores to get books I may not even really want (Epigram only has local books)?

And of course I have to use the discount codes because let’s face it, I’m Singaporean and I need to get my money’s worth right?

Hmm… The more I write the more I think that the coupons were an excuse to let our inner Singaporean shine through our complaints and ‘kiasu-ness’…

Anyway, that was the only not so fantastic item in the box.

As usual, I really enjoyed Carpe Librum’s book box and I am so grateful for the team who work so tirelessly to curate the boxes each month and to deliver them to each and every person who orders one.

I’m especially grateful this month because I was covering the National Day Parade preview on the day that they were delivering the boxes and I needed Huda to deliver the boxes earlier because of it and she very kindly did it for me even though their schedule was packed.

If you want to order the next box, you can visit Carpe Librum’s Instagram page or their Facebook page where they have all the details you will need to order a box.

I know I can’t wait for them to announce their next box because I will be first in line.

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The 20 Questions Tag

Hey guys! Happy Monday! Guess what! I’m on leave today. Yup. I’ve got about six days of overtime leave to clear and I’m taking one of them today. Just thought that might interest you.

Anyway, I haven’t done a proper tag in a while (and also I’m just tired) so I thought why not pull out one of my old drafts and do the 20 questions tag for you!

1. Things you cannot leave the house without?

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In this order: My phone, my EarPods, my kindle and a lipstick.

2. Favourite brand of makeup?

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Maybelline. Their lipsticks and mascaras are just holy grail!

3. Favourite Flowers?

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I don’t really have one but if I have to pick I would say white daisies.

4. Favourite clothing stores?

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Cotton On, Forever 21 and H&M.

5. Favourite perfume?

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Victoria Secret’s Secret Charm

6.Heels or flats?

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Flats. 100% without a doubt, flats.

7. Do you make good grades?

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I make pretty good grades.

8. Favourite colors?

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Purple and pink

9. Do you drink energy drinks?

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Nope. I don’t even drink caffeine.

10. Do you drink juice?

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Sometimes but honestly I’m more of a water kind of girl.

11. Do you like swimming?

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It’s okay I guess. I did swimming classes from a very young age till I was 12 so I can swim pretty well but I really hate the smell of swimming pools and chlorine is just bad with my hair and also it’s like a communal bath. So no not really. Unless it’s a private pool. In that case I love it.

12. Do you eat fries with a fork?

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Yup! I hate getting grease on my hands.

13. What’s your favourite moisturizer?

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It’s a basic brand but anything by Nivea is pretty awesome.

14. Do you want to get married later on in life?

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Yes I do.

15. Do you get mad easily?

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With my family yes. With my friends, rarely. I know. I’m working on that.

16. Are you into ghost hunting?

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I don’t even believe in ghosts so no.

17. Any phobias?

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I have a phobia of the ocean. I’m deathly afraid of it. In fact it’s gotten so bad recently that I can barely even stand in shallow waves on the beach. It’s something to do with the unknown and the scary creatures.

18. Do you bite your nails?

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Yes. It’s actually been an awful habit I’ve had all my life. I’ve tried to stop so many times though.

19. Have you ever had a near death experience?

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I don’t think so. Though I once witnessed a volcano eruption. I was completely safe but I mean I could have not been  right?

20. Do you drink coffee?

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Nope. Not at all. I hate the taste with a passion. Also caffeine is a no for me.

So there you guys go! The 20 questions tag. I hope you enjoyed finding out a little bit more about me.

I also wanted to let you guys know that over the weekend, I actually was part of the group of teachers that hosted InterBlogCon.

So basically I held an hour long livestream with you guys on how to maintain a blog, how to get ARCs and I talked about what you need when you start up a blog.

I also discussed why I do paid reviews and I answered loads of your questions. If you were there, thank you for making this so fun. If you missed it, you can watch what went down here:

See you guys soon!

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Spotlight: Recreated by Colleen Houck

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From Colleen Houck, New York Times bestselling author of The Tiger’s Curse, comes Recreated, the second book in the epic Egyptian-inspired Reawakened series, in which a seventeen-year-old must literally go to hell to save the love of her life.

Lily Young thought traveling across the globe with a reawakened sun prince was a grand adventure. Now she’s about to embark on the journey of a lifetime.

When Amon and Lily part tragically, he transports himself to the Netherworld—what mortals call hell. Tormented by the loss of his one true love, he’d rather suffer in agony during Lily’s mortal years than fulfill his duty to protect humanity.

Heartbroken, Lily seeks refuge on her grandmother’s farm. Yet she can feel Amon’s pain, and she has been having dreams—dreams of Amon continually suffering.

For before he departed, Amon gave Lily something very special, an item that connects them even though they are worlds apart. Now Lily must use this object to free him, and to free their realms from darkness and utter chaos. She will do whatever it takes.

Goodreads

Hey guys! So Colleen Hock is releasing a new book called Recreated on August 2 this year and today I thought it would be cool if I introduced you to the characters that you will be meeting in the book. It will help you put a face to the names in the book and will hopefully get you as excited as I am for the release!

God’s and Goddesses You’ll Meet in Recreated

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ANUBIS-Technically you’ve already met Anubis if you’ve read Recreated. Anubis is tall, dark, and handsome, a bit moody, and loves his faithful dog Abutiu. What’s not to like, ladies? Though in Egyptian mythology he’s often depicted with the head of a jackal, I decided that the animal heads of the gods were their token animal instead. In the case of Anubis, his animal is actually his pet. 

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ISIS-This goddess is lovely with long, dark hair. She is taller than most mortal men and has shining wings that aid her in moving back and forth between the mortal world and Heliopolis, the home of the gods. Her feathers have healing properties and they are white tipped with gold. Her eyes swirl with color like nebulas and though she comes off a bit stern and hard, she is soft-hearted at the core. Her husband is Osiris.

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OSIRIS-Osiris is the god of agriculture. He loves nothing more than plants and gardens. He first kissed Isis in a gazebo in his private garden. He tried to resist loving her since their relationship was forbidden but no one says no to Isis for long. Seth attempted to destroy him out of jealousy but Isis was able to bring him back to life.

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NEPHTHYS-A powerful seer, Nephthys has the ability to read the secrets of the stars. When compared to her sister Isis, she seems small and quiet but Nephthys is wise and careful and beautiful in her own right. She agreed to marry Seth which shocked all the gods. There is more to her than meets the eye.

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 AMUN-RA-The head of all the gods, Amun-Ra rules the cosmos from his palace in Heliopolis. He is fair to the point of inaction. When allowing his full power to shine through, no one can look at him because his skin is so bright. He was the first born of the gods and it is because of him that the others exist.

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HORUS-Horus is the son of Isis and Osiris. He is handsome and a bit of a womanizer. He often comes across as spoiled. Since Seth seeks to kill him, he is under permanent exile in Amun-Ra’s palace. His token is the golden falcon that he has loaned to Amon. He resents the fact that Amon has his pet and he misses her terribly.

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MA’AT-The Afterlife needs a judge and this is Ma’at’s calling. She has the power to read hearts and determine if one is worthy of the Afterlife or if they must be banished to the Netherworld. She is seen as stern and uncompromising and yet she carries a closely guarded secret—one that leaves her feeling vulnerable.

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SETH-This god has the power to “UNMAKE” which means he can destroy anything he wishes, erasing it from the cosmos. His wife is Nephthys but he secretly loves her sister Isis. The goddess Isis is a powerful spell caster and Seth wants her at his side to aid him in his ambitions. Seth is imprisoned in an oubliette so his ability to wield his power is currently limited.

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THE DEVOURER-Though technically not a god, the Devourer’s job is to eat the hearts in the Netherworld deemed truly wicked. She is beautiful and commands several monsters that exist there who serve her without question. The Devourer serves Seth and considers him her master. She has a powerful henchman who works as her bodyguard and protector.

Official Book Trailer

 

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Review: Rebel Bully Geek Pariah by Erin Jade Lange

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“The Breakfast Club” gets a modern, high-stakes reboot in this story of four very different teens and a night that changes them forever.

The Rebel: Once popular, Andi is now a dreadlocked, tattooed wild child.
The Bully: York torments everyone who crosses his path, especially his younger brother.
The Geek: Tired of being bullied, Boston is obsessed with getting into an Ivy League college.
The Pariah: Choosing to be invisible has always worked for Sam . . . until tonight.

When Andi, York, Boston, and Sam find themselves hiding in the woods after a party gets busted by the cops, they hop into the nearest car they see and take off—the first decision of many in a night that will change their lives forever. By the light of day, these four would never be caught dead together, but when their getaway takes a dangerously unpredictable turn, sticking together could be the only way to survive.

Goodreads

Plot

This book follows four very different teenagers that are thrust together due to their circumstances. In trying to escape from getting busted at a party, Andie, Sam, Boston and York find themselves with a stolen car, about a million dollars in heroin and on the run from drug dealers.

I thought it was a very unique kind of storyline and I enjoyed how each character brought their own set of traits and problems to the story that overall made it extremely enjoyable.

Characters

Sam

The book was narrated from Sam’s point of view which I personally loved because Sam was the odd one out. Being unpopular and having a drug addict for a mother really made Sam stand out. I also really liked how she was ‘invisible’.

I think everyone at some point  can relate to Sam because don’t we all fear being invisible? Sam was all our secret fears. The fear that no one really cares to remember us. I just enjoyed being in her head even though she was depressing.

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Andie

Andie was your typical bad girl with a marshmallow heart. She was infuriating in the beginning but I think she’s the type that will just worm her way into your heart no matter  if you want her too or not.

I do have to say though that she was not my favourite character because of certain things she did that I can’t talk about because of spoilers. But I thought the way she reacted to Sam telling them her stories was just really sweet.

Boston

Boston  did seem very much like someone I could end up liking because his fear of getting into trouble sounded exactly like how I usually react to situations where I might get into trouble. However he very quickly got irritating and I think when York asked if Boston would bail on the team if he could and Boston didn’t say anything, I just decided that I outright hated him.

York

I really wanted to like York but as the ‘bully’, I found it very hard to. I mean sure by the end of the book, York ended up being a pretty decent human being. However I tend to find it hard to like characters that start off as bullies.

I did however feel like the relationship between York and Sam was very forced though. Like oh okay, it’s a YA book so I guess there has to be a love story right? I mean it won’t do well without one right? UGH.

I’m sick of books forcing romances out of their storylines. York and Sam just felt forced and insta-lovey. Yuck.

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Overall

I really enjoyed this book despite the flawed characters. In fact, it felt like I was taking a road trip with some of my best friends and that just felt good.

I think this is just a very feel-good kind of book with a lot of action in it that will just make this a very satisfying read.

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My-Rating-4-Stars

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