Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

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Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.

Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

Goodreads

It’s Banned Books week around the world! Banned Books week, if you didn’t know, is a week long celebration of the freedom to write and publish. Readers around the world take a stand against censorship by reading books that are banned from libraries or even countries to tell people that we have the right to information.

So this week, I decided to read Thirteen Reasons Why. A book that was banned because it is a book about suicide.

Now I really have no idea why it was banned. If anything, people should be putting this book front and center so that more people can learn about the signs and so that they can learn how to help someone who is trying to throw up a red flare.

But it was banned and so today, I’m going to tell you exactly why this book was so awesome and why I think it should not have been banned.

Plot

This book centers around Hannah. A girl who has recently committed suicide.

However, instead of a suicide note, she tapes a series of tapes that document exactly why she decided to commit suicide and she posts them to the different people who she feels are the most responsible for her death with the instructions to pass them on to the next person on the list.

In this book, we follow one of the people on the list, Clay Jenson, as he receives the tapes, listens to them and tracks Hannah’s story up till her death.

Characters

Clay

Clay was quite interesting because I felt like he was quite an innocent party in the whole thing. Admittedly I did get annoyed at how caught up he got in not wanting to be wrong but I can forgive him under the circumstances.

He was interesting. That’s really all I have to say about him. He was decidedly unremarkable.

Hannah

Okay Hannah. I don’t know how to talk about her character. I mean I understood her. I understood that the actions of other people led her to feel isolated and wronged and like she was backed into a corner. But what I didn’t understand is how she could feel that telling these people how they basically have blood on their hands is justified especially after she killed herself.

I mean if she had recorded these tapes with the intent to put some people behind bars like they deserved to be, I would get it. But tapes recorded for the sole purpose of tormenting people and maybe even ruining their lives because they now feel responsible? I don’t get it.

Okay. I know what you’re thinking at this point. “But Cam, these people tormented Hannah to the point that she took her life. They deserve it.” And that’s where I’ll say, dear reader, that you are right. However, as the popular saying goes, ‘Two wrongs don’t make a right.’

So yes, I liked Hannah’s character. But I couldn’t support her decision to record those tapes in the first place. She’s dead. There’s nothing anyone can do about it. You want to make a tape? Make one before you kill yourself so these people can have a chance to change their ways and to give you the help you need.

Maybe it’s because I’m the type of person that just accepts things and deals with them because they are life. Maybe because I have been through so much crap but I have never wanted one single person to feel responsible (even if they clearly are responsible). Maybe that’s why I can’t understand her decision to want to blame every single person including Clay who did nothing really except try to be a friend to her. Or maybe I’m the one being short-sighted.

I don’t know but I couldn’t take the blame game she decided to play.

Overall

So yes. I admittedly didn’t enjoy the blame game. I didn’t enjoy the fact that Hannah painted herself as a victim when suicide was something that was her decision. I hated the fact that she put such a load on people who were innocent in the whole thing.

But that said, I did enjoy what the story stood for. I liked that we went away with the knowledge that it’s so important to remember that how we treat someone will snowball. It’s important because this book showed us what the red flags for a suicidal person is.

So while the execution kind of sucked, I think the message was clear and that’s really what salvaged the book in the end and the reason why I’m giving it such a high rating.

My-Rating-4-Stars

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Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyers (Spoiler-Free)

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king’s marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.

Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Goodreads

Publishing Date: 8th November 2016

*A copy of this book was provided to me to read and review by Pansing. However, all opinions are my own*

Even though I have yet to finish the Lunar Chronicles, I have always thought that Marissa Meyer was a great storyteller. I love how she takes popular fairytales and weaves them into something that is very clearly hers.

So when Pansing reached out and offered to send me this book to read and review, I literally fell over myself to grab it. I started reading it the day it arrived and guys…

Oh. My. God.

This book was everything!!

It broke my little heart into many pieces and it was just amazing and epic and heartbreaking and EVERYTHING!

Plot

This book is based on Alice In Wonderland but Marissa spins it such that the story focuses on the Queen Of Hearts before she became the tyrant queen that she did.

We follow Catherine, a young girl who loves life, her friends and baking. Catherine is a lady of high regard in Hearts and because of her status, her parents have been trying to marry her off to the king.

Catherine, however, wants nothing more then a simple life. She wants to open a bakery with her maid, marry for love and to spend her days elbow deep in flour.

Then one day, Catherine meets Jest. Jest is the new court joker and he introduces her to a whole different side of Hearts. He brings her to eccentric tea parties, sneaks her around and shows her a kind of love that she has never experienced before.

The only problem is that her parents really, really want her to marry the king.

Surrounding this tragic Romeo and Juliet love story lies a whole story about cursed pumpkin seeds, Jabberwocks and trickery beyond anything that you would ever expect.

Characters

Catherine

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Cath was just one of those characters that you will root for from start to finish. No matter what she did, good, bad, utterly horrific, I couldn’t help but just want the very best for her.

Over the course of the book, I found myself wondering at many points, how this sweet kid became the horrific Queen of Hearts that we know and (kinda) love.

However I felt that her character just really grew with the book. And I mean that is something you don’t see very often in books. A character growing with the book. So I really loved Cath despite some of the questionable choices she made.

Not to mention that the book completely let’s you know how sweet little Cath turned into a tyrant.

Jest

Jest. Oh my Jest. Guys I can’t even begin to explain what an amazing character Jest was from start to finish. He was the perfect Romeo to Cath’s Juliet. He was just so perfect. I mean okay yes there were a couple of bits that made me go, “Really Jest? Really”. But overall he was just amazing.

He had amazing chemistry with Cath and even with every other character in the book. He was such a gentleman *swoon* and he was just perfect.

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I loved every bit of his character.

Hatter

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You know, in the original story, Hatter is my favourite character. In fact, one of my favourite quotes in the world is partly by him.

Mad Matter: “Have I gone mad?”
Alice: “I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”

So I have to say that it was very interesting to get to explore his character and to find out where he came from, how he came to be and to watch him slowly dissolve into the mad state that we see him in later on.

Personally, I didn’t appreciate the sane Hatter as much as I did the mad one. I guess it was easier to excuse Hatter’s antics when he was mad. When he was sane, everything he did was just infuriating and rather daft if you ask me.

Overall

Overall I really loved the book. I found the storyline to be epic, the characters to be dynamic and the plot to be just perfect.

Everything was done in a way that made it all believable. I mean you go through the book thinking, “How on earth does all this make sense? It doesn’t fit into Alice in Wonderland.” And then suddenly, at the end, everything wraps up with a neat little bow and all the pieces fall into place and you’re just left there like, “WOAH.”

Okay I’ll stop hyping this book but I’ll leave you with this. You’ll be absolutely mad to not read this book.

My-Rating-5-Stars

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The Art of Book Cover Creation By Kristin Bartley Lenz

Hey guys! Today I have something a little different for you. The author of The Art Of Holding On And Letting Go, Kristin Bartley Lenz is here today to talk about how book covers are designed and created! I’m sure you guys will love learning about how your favourite covers have come about just as much as I enjoyed it. So here’s Kristin!

As a reader who is also a writer, I tend to be as interested in the summary, blurbs, and reviews as much as a book’s cover. But I’ve watched my daughter scan the shelves of bookstores and libraries choosing and rejecting books by their covers alone. Social media has opened up new avenues for publishers to tailor their cover designs, such as Swoon Reads/Macmilllan, which asks readers to vote for their favorite of several cover directions for their debuts. https://www.swoonreads.com/blog/category/cover-creation/
It wasn’t until my own novel entered the publishing process that I truly saw the behind-the-scenes making of a book cover. I was fortunate to be involved in many of the cover decisions, including choosing from four initial cover concepts, all very different.

Here’s what my cover designer, Amanda Schwarz, shared about her initial process with my book:

“When designing a book cover I search for a way to visually represent the emotion of the novel while not outright telling the audience what it’s about. After reading the book I realized that the heart of the story is the lead character coming to terms with where her life has taken her and accepting change. In particular the Annie Dillard quote at the end of the novel struck me, “Mountains are giant, restful, absorbent. You can heave your spirit into a mountain and the mountain will keep it, folded, and not throw it back as some creeks will. The creeks are the world with all its stimulus and beauty; I live there. But mountains are home.” To me, this sums up the feelings of the book. Cara, by the end, comes to realize that no matter where she is in her life, the mountains, along with Uncle Max, will always be a part of her. They are inside of her and a life that she can return to one day.

So while not referencing climbing directly, I felt having mountains represented in the covers somewhere is very important as Cara comes to hold on to the important aspects of her previous life, but also learns to let go of others as she grows in the story. It captures the tone but there is also the mystery of what exactly the mountains represent to the story.

While working on the preliminary designs I also decided to use handwritten or script text for the covers. Since we spend the entirety of the book seeing the events from Cara’s perspective, anything that isn’t handwritten felt too impersonal for a very personal story. I chose fonts that have similar characteristics but also contrast to emphasize the emotions of the title especially “Holding On and Letting Go.”

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More layers were added after the initial direction was determined – the images of the mountains, trees, the cityscape, and starry night sky. Later, there were more choices with colors and fonts, and the back cover design as well. Mysterious notes play a role in Cara’s story, so the back cover blurbs are featured on a sheet of wrinkled paper to correspond with this aspect of the plot. If you look closely, you’ll also see the mountains on the back cover carrying over from the front.

I was delighted by other little details right through to the finished design. There’s a small image of a carabiner on the book’s spine, and the inside of the front cover is green to match the trees on the front.

Now that my eyes have been opened to the possibilities, I look at book covers with a new appreciation and notice details I previously overlooked. Even more fun, my publisher is tweaking the cover of The Art of Holding On and Letting Go for a second printing, and this time we get to include a shiny gold sticker thanks to the Junior Library Guild!

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Want to learn more about the art of book covers? By the Cover is an ongoing feature at Book Riot, and Publishers Weekly has a new column devoted to book covers.

How To Love The Broken Girl

It’s difficult to love someone who has been broken by life. Someone who has never known love. Someone who has spent her whole life believing that she is a second choice. Someone who has had everything they could ever know about love ripped to shreds in front of her. Someone who has had the people that were supposed to be her role model in love shatter her every belief about it.
She’s sworn that her past would never affect her future but the thing is, as much as she will try to deny it and brush it off, she can never run away from the scars that other people left tattooed on her heart.

It’s difficult because you need to work to convince her that she is worth enough that someone would actually stay. You need to make sure that she knows that you aren’t going to jump off the wagon the second something goes wrong.

Because you see, all she has ever known if that when voices are raised, people leave. People start to hate. Everything goes wrong. You need to let her get upset and when it’s over, you need to make damn well sure that she knows that you are still right there on the wagon with her. It’s not her fault that she has grown up with people who fought wrongly. Who constantly remained in a toxic places.

When you love someone who is broken, you have to know that she will do one of two things. She will either immediately retreat the second a red flag presents itself or she will allow herself to brush it off. She will excuse your behaviour or worse, she will blame herself. So you can’t take advantage of her. Not ever.

When you love someone who is broken, you need to know that she will overthink your every move much more then any girl normally would. She will look for red flags and actually find them even when there are none to be found. You need to be prepared to work extra hard to convince her that she was right to let you in and that you will not shatter her.

Because you see, someone who is broken will constantly walk on eggshells. They will constantly second guess their decisions. They will constantly want to throw in the towel and cower under a blanket. They will go through rocky tides of being extremely happy and extremely upset with the relationship.

But when you love someone who is broken in the right way that you should, you have to know that she will love you back with every atom in her being. You have to know that she will fiercely and proudly call you hers. She will place you on a pedestal and she will love you.

So if you plan to love this broken girl, make sure you do it right and make sure that you have no plans to leave her. Because once she’s in, she’s in it for the long run and you better be ready to run alongside her.

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Five Relationship Killers Only You Can Control

 

Hey guys! Today I’ve got something a little special for you. Maria Benson, one of the authors of ‘Driving Me Wild’ is here today to give us some advice about relationships and what we can do to avoid basically killing them.  – Cam

Nearly every person in the dating game has had a relationship fall apart without having a clue where it all started going wrong. Being creatures of habit who fail to identify our role in the faulty foundation of our relationships, we often repeat the behaviors that doomed us in the first place.

See how to rid your life of these common mistakes:

1) Giving 90%, Getting 10

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Find yourself constantly dropping everything at a moment’s notice for your latest suitor? Answering the phone at 2am for a booty call? Do you text him throughout the day, only to get a “Out w my friends. Come if u want.” response 6 hours later? Do you respond to “Mystery Man” by re-arranging everything to be at his side? If so, we have a problem. While it’s important to be dedicated and available to your partner, you must also expect them to meet you in the middle. Anything less is an early marker of future catastrophe.

2) Trying to fix the other person

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We have all heard the saying, “you can’t control anyone except yourself.” So, why do we keep trying to control, mold, and shape other people? Look, I’m a believer in the human capacity for positive change. However, nearly a decade as a licensed mental health counselor has show me that if the desire to change does not come from within the individual (notice that I did not say from a girlfriend with great intentions and a beautiful vision for their future together), lasting change ain’t gonna happen.

3) Distancing yourself from family and friends

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We’ve all experienced the captivating desire and obsession that come with the initial stages of love. These stages are beautiful and often form the foundation for long-term relationships. However, too often we let our new love influence us to neglect friends and family who have offered us support, feedback, and reflection for years. They know us better than anyone else. If your partner doesn’t mesh with your closest friends and family, realize there’s a chance they will fail to mesh with you down the line.

4) Avoiding conflict so they will “like” you

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I’m the first to admit that conflict is scary in a new relationship. If you dare to speak your mind about his dog using your laundry pile as an outhouse, or about his snide remarks about your sister, will he still like you? As you try to decide what to do in situations like these, remember: Healthy conflict is healthy. Let’s say it again: HEALTHY CONFLICT IS HEALTHY. This means that you each have to learn to disagree and speak your minds in a way that feels safe for both of you. Unaddressed issues always lead to resentment.

5) Ignoring your non-negotiables

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Every person should have a list of non-negotiables that they want in their partner. If you don’t have this list- I mean an actual, physical list- you need to make one ASAP! These are items that, at your core, you must have or avoid in a future partner. They can be concrete qualities, personality characteristics, or both. Personally, my list included a partner with ambition and compassion for others, someone who wouldn’t be vindictive when arguing, and who had no history of violence. In my experience, deviating from these standards has only led to heartache.

The experiences of Aimee Chase, the protagonist of my new novel Driving Me Wild, are hopefully a humorous reminder that eliminating these “killers” from our behavior patterns doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient with yourself and give it time. In addition to my own work, I recommend you check out Anxious To Please by James Rapson and Craig English as you develop the confidence needed to foster healthy relationship behaviors – before and after you find Mr. Right.

Maria Benson, co-author of the novel Driving Me Wild, is a licensed mental health and addictions therapist in Indianapolis. Maria’s drive for adventure and her dedication to helping women find their identity and voice in the face of adversity motivate her professional pursuits and her writing. Learn more at authormariabenson.com.

 

If This Is What Love Is

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If this is what love is, I both want no part in it but I also want it all.
I don’t know how to tell you how afraid I am of letting you in.
I don’t know how to tell you that I’m already in too deep.

I don’t know how to tell you that I’m scared
and I know you’re scared too but I need you to not be scared.
For my sake I need you to be less scared then I am.

I keep expecting you to leave.
I keep telling myself that if I drop the conversation, you’ll never text me again.
I keep thinking that you probably actually don’t really like me that much.

I keep thinking and thinking
and it’s really not getting me very far.
All that happens is that I just get more and more scared.

Everyone has told me to protect my heart.
But I don’t know how to do that.
I fell fast and hard and now I don’t really know what to do.

I don’t know what I’m doing.
I don’t know what I’m writing.
All I know is that I like you and I hope you like me too.

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Learning To Love Groupon Coupons


*This post was sponsored by Groupon. However all opinions are my own.*

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never been the biggest fan of coupons. I’ve always found them inconvenient mainly because I always forget that they exist.

That changed a few weeks ago when I went out with a friend. She invited me out for dinner at this really nice place that had awesome Mookata. So we went and we had an awesome time. The food was amazing. The company was even more amazing and we just had a great time.

When it came time to pay however, she simply told the cashier that she had a Groupon coupon, flashed the coupon from her phone and we instantly got a ridiculous discount on our whole meal which was actually a little pricy.


Ever since then, I’ve done some research into Groupon Coupons and I’ve discovered that they are honestly really cool.

First of all, you no longer need to cut coupons out and stick them in your wallet and actually remember to use them. Rather, they are all stored up in your phone. If you are at a store, you just need to whip out your phone and you’ve got discounts at your fingertips. It’s pretty cool no?

And the best part is that you have Groupon Coupons for everything from shoes to food and to clothes. There’s really no reason not to want to use them!

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Budget Pamper Sessions With Groupon

*This post was sponsored by Groupon. However all opinions are my own*

I don’t know about you but I love to be pampered. I love everything from a little thing like having someone wash my hair for me to getting a massage. It’s just so lovely to be able to sit back and let someone else do all the work.

In fact, that’s one of the reasons why we go to Bali so often. We go because the spas are so cheap that we can go almost every single day (sometimes twice!). I remember last year, in only a week, my mum and I actually went through the entire spa menu at a the spa near our hotel. In fact, we even did some stuff twice and I never felt better.

As you can probably tell at this point, I am a big believer in taking time out to take care of yourself regularly. However, that can get quite expensive after a while. Especially if you live in Singapore where literally everything related to being pampered will cost you some serious cash.

So that’s where Groupon comes in. Groupon is a great site which features loads of opportunities to obtain discounts for pretty much everything. Specifically, they are great with providing you with health, beauty and wellness Groupons.

Groupon will provide you with a whole bunch of options when it comes to getting discounts on pampering yourself. After all, I think everyone should be able to feel like a princess every now and then. And we can’t have that if everything is just so expensive now can we?

So if you’re like me and you desperately need some good old TLC, grab a Groupon today and get started!

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Unboxing: Carpe Librum’s September Book 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 Wanderlust. A box all about travelling and appreciating the world. It was curated by Azura and it features a total of six items.

Today, I’m going to be unboxing it and reviewing each item for you.

1. Land Of The Midnight Sun by Alexander Armstrong

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In an adventure of a lifetime, Alexander Armstrong wraps up warm and heads ever north to explore the hostile Arctic winter – the glittering landscape of Scandinavia, the isolated islands of Iceland and Greenland, and the final frontier of Canada and Alaska.

Along the way he learns from the Marines how to survive sub-zero temperatures by eating for England, takes a white-knuckle drive along a treacherous 800-mile road that’s a river in summer and, with great reluctance, strips off for a dip in the freezing Arctic waters – and that’s all before wrestling Viking-style with a sporting legend called Eva as part of an Icelandic winter festival.

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This is a non-fiction book by Alexander Armstrong in which he takes us to the Arctic on an incredible adventure. This is the first time that Carpe Librum has included a non-fiction book in their box and I’m so excited to get to it because it just sounds like a very fun read.

2. A Wanderlust magnetic bookmark

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Just like last month, Carpe Librum decided to include a bookmark in their box. This is a magnetic book mark that was made by Craftedvan.

I fell in love with it the moment I saw it. However after opening it, I realised that it was actually just cardboard with two magnets glued to it. Terrible quality if I have anything to say about it. However after putting it into one of my books and trying it out, I realised that it actually wasn’t that bad and it was quite durable. So props to them!

Now I don’t usually do this but I’m so glad that Carpe Librum introduced us to Craftedvan this month because I checked them out and they literally have the most adorable selection of bookmarks, cards and magnets ever. I completely recommend that you check them out.

3. A custom leather luggage tag

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You can’t have a travel box without a luggage tag can you? This month, Carpe Librum worked with madebysukma to put in a handmade leather tag. I really love it because you can tell it’s handmade but it’s still so beautiful. I can’t wait to use it!

4. A pair of charms

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This was probably my favourite item this month. We got two little charms. One of an open book and another of a suitcase. They are both so adorable and even though I have yet to figure out where to put it, I’m already in love with it.

5. Four travelling drawstring bags

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We got travels bags! In the box, we were given four travel drawstring bags in different sizes. They are so adorable and practical. I know I will be using it for my next holiday. And till then, I might just use one of them to keep my makeup when I go out because they are just too cute!

6. A postcard from Azura

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This month, we got a beautiful, handwritten postcard from the curator herself. I’ve always loved how Carpe Librum personalises the things in their boxes and I really liked how they went a step further to make this box extra special.

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I mean I’m thinking of how many boxes they had to pack and to think that Azura actually sat down and wrote each of us a message just makes me so happy.

So there you have it! Everything that was in this month’s Carpe Librum Wanderlust book box. If their intent was to want to make us travel, let me tell you that they have completely succeeded.

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I’m always so impressed with Carpe Librum. With how hard they work, how lovely they are if you text them about not being able to receive the package and just how genuine they are.

Thank you once again to the Carpe Librum team for putting together this wonderful book subscription service. If you have yet to try it, follow them on Instagram and keep an eye out because I’m sure they will be announcing their next box really soon!

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