My Favorite Contemporary Novels from 2018

In honor of Contemporary-A-Thon happening this week, I thought I would write about my three favorite Contemporary Novels from 2018. It is important to note that these are the best Contemporaries I read in 2018, they were not necessarily 2018 releases.

To be honest, I really only started reading Contemporary books at the end of 2017. Previous to that, I generally read horror, science-fiction, fantasy, mystery and non-fiction exclusively. I mistakenly believed that I would find Contemporary stories boring or not relatable.

The book that really changed that for me was, Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills, which I received in an OwlCrate subscription box and figured I may as well give it a go. I absolutely adored it. I loved the humor and the characters and all the drama. After that I started picking up Contemporaries whenever I could. In the beginning, I mainly went with this that were recommended from various BookTubers. Now that I am more familiar with Contemporary authors and the styles that I like, I try to keep up with all the latest releases.

Without further chat, let’s get into my top 5 Contemporaries from 2018 (in no particular order):

  1. Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson – When Monday Charles goes missing, her best friend, Claudia, seems to be the only person to take notice. Claudia knows that Monday would never leave her with a new school year looming and all that comes with that. Claudia brings up her concerns repeatedly to her parents, to adults at school, even to Monday’s family and everyone seems to brush her off. More and more confused and more and more concerned for her friend’s safety, Claudia decides to investigate the matter herself. This book is vivid, heart-wrenching and important. Jackson’s writing is so smooth and engaging. I finished this book in 2-days, absolutely loved it and have recommended it to friends since who have enjoyed it as well. This story takes place in present day Washington D.C. and focuses on missing kids who are overlooked and abandoned. It examines failures in our society in a really creative way and I feel it is quite an impactful read.
  2. Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer – This is another vivid and heartbreaking story concerning loss, grief and the art of moving forward. Following two high school students with equally complicated histories, this story examines their relationship development and their efforts to rediscover happiness after great personal tragedies. Again, Kemmerer’s writing really set this book apart. I found it fluid and easy to enjoy. I felt connected to the characters and my heart truly hurt for them at times. I loved the format of this as well, which ties in correspondence, both in letter and email form. In my opinion, that trope tends to add depth to a story, as sometimes characters (and real people) are better able to express themselves through the written word than through interpersonal communications. I feel like it allows us to delve deeper into character’s inner thoughts, dreams, desires and motivations.
  3. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – At the time that I read this, I felt like I was the last person on the globe who had not read this story. I won’t go into too much detail here, as with the movie released last year, I feel like everyone pretty much knows what this is about. A boy, corresponding with a crush, coming out to his family, friend drama, teenage angst, it was amazing and adorable and I loved it. The end.

I am currently in the middle of three YA Contemporary books for Contemporary-A-Thon Round 4. Although not all created equal, I think they all do offer up a bit of modern day social commentary which can provide a great service to those who read them. So, with that being said, what are some of your Contemporary novels that you may have read lately? What would you recommend to others or what books do you feel are important for people to read and discuss? I want to know! Leave a comment below or contact me through any of my social media links.

Cheers & Happy Reading~

Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer, #1)The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Oh my goodness.
That was a good time.

I had no idea what to expect going into this. It is a series I hear about all the time. One of those, ‘everyone has read it but me’ series.

For 2019, I created a TBR jar for myself to help me clear off some of my backlist titles and this was the first book I pulled. I knew that I would either love it or hate. Luckily, I truly enjoyed it!

Upon waking up in the hospital, Mara Dyer, has no idea how she got there. In fact, her whole recent memory seems to have been wiped clean. Before long, she discovers that she was involved in some sort of terrible accident that killed her best friend, two other kids and left her in a coma.

Her parents, focused on Mara’s recovery, decide to uproot the family to Florida feeling that it would be harmful for her to continue living in a town where she had suffered such trauma.

Once in Florida, Mara slowly begins to remember bits and pieces of what went down that infamous night. Some of it floods back to her in nightmares and some, more disturbingly, during the day as vivid hallucinations.

Guys, some of this stuff was DARK and it took me completely by surprise. The first big spooky hallucination, I was like, ‘okay, we doing this. I like this!’.

Then, to up my enjoyment levels even more, we meet Noah.
Noah Shaw.
Now, seriously, I am not one to get all swoony, professing love to book boyfriends, but…

I’m swooning. Something about him. His witty banter, his English accent, his clothes, his swagger. Yep. I could read about him all damn day but I digress.

Watching the relationship grow between Mara and Noah was so much fun. She tries to resist his MANY charms but eventually comes to rely on him. He becomes the only person she trusts to help her figure out what is wrong with her.

She hasn’t felt right since the accident and throughout the course of the book the true events of that night are pieced together for the reader. Even at the end, it wasn’t what I expected. I knew it was a paranormal romance but I didn’t know what the ‘paranormal’ elements entailed. I did a good job keeping myself in the dark on that one…

…and I like what is happening with this story. I am definitely planning to continue on. Hoping to read book two this month!

P.S. I love you, Noah. Forever and Always.

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Review: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Truly Devious (Truly Devious, #1)Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m in love with this book.

First of all, that ending. I cannot express how happy I am that I actually put off reading this until now. The 2nd book is about to be released ((TOMORROW)) and I will be picking it up as soon as my preorder arrives.

It was truly devious of Ms. Johnson to leave off on such a cliffhanger!

Ellingham Academy, set in the remote mountains of Vermont is a small, private school for gifted students. Founded by the wealthy industrialist, Albert Ellingham, at the turn of the 20th Century, Ellingham Academy offers up an environment where learning can be fun. Students are allowed to pursue their own individual interests with barely any boundaries.

For Stevie Bell, her number one interest is crime investigation. After she is accepted to Ellingham as a true crime aficionado, she is anxious to solve the Truly Devious cold case. You see, decades before, Albert Ellingham’s wife and daughter were kidnapped and held for ransom. His wife’s body was eventually found but his daughter, Alice, was never recovered. Soon thereafter, Albert died under mysterious circumstances in a boat explosion.

Adjusting to school life is tough for Stevie. She suffers from an anxiety disorder that makes things a little more challenging for her than it would for a kid who doesn’t have the same issues. I found this very relatable and thought that the rep for this was some of the best I have seen in YA; at least based on my own personal experiences. I truly enjoyed the character of Stevie and am very excited that we are getting more books with her as the main protagonist.

Not only did I relate to Stevie because of her anxiety disorder but I also am most interested in crime and criminal investigation. I know what it is like for people to find that a little odd. Particularly parents. As a child researching and clipping articles on killings, mass murders, cold cases, etc., that can seem a little strange, I suppose. Perhaps that contributed to my love for this book.

I also found the set-up of the Ellingham kidnappings interesting in that in reminded me of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping in 1932. The wealthy industrialist. The missing child. The ransom. The notes. There were a lot of similarities and I found it easy to follow along with the intrigue because of that. I am curious if the author was at all inspired by that case. There are other similarities as well but I don’t want to reveal too much.

Overall, I just think this was a perfect book for me. It catered so well to all of my interests. I loved the cast of characters. The writing was fun and engaging and I cannot wait to pick up The Vanishing Staircase!!!!

Original: I preordered The Vanishing Stair months ago. I guess I should actually pick this one up before it arrives…

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Review: Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

Sawkill GirlsSawkill Girls by Claire Legrand
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

A girl with incredible strength.
A girl who can vanish.
A girl who burns.


There are always three.

When Marion moves with her older sister and mother to the island of Sawkill Rock, she looks at it as a place for them to recover, to move on. After the death of Marion’s father, her world feels empty, yet she is left to hold the family together, a weighty responsibility.

But once on Sawkill, it doesn’t take Marion long to realize this island isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Something ominous lurks here and it feeds on the blood of young women.

Zoey sees Marion as the opportunity to have a new friend who doesn’t suck. Zoey is also a transplant to the island and with her father being a police officer, she is all too familiar with the little problem of disappearing girls plaguing Sawkill. In fact, she lost her best friend to the monster’s clutches and she has never been satisfied with the community’s response. She befriends Marion and together they begin to work on discovering the secrets of Sawkill. When Marion’s older sister, Charlotte, goes missing as well, things really start to heat up.

Val Mortimer. The Queen Bee. The Regina George of Sawkill Rock. She’s beautiful, she’s popular, she’s rich, she’s possibly evil and she’s got her eyes on Marion.

I went into this book with the mistaken belief that this was YA Contemporary with some Magical Realism elements. WRONG. This book is YA Horror. I was so happy. Dark secrets, urban legends, a monster feeding on the blood of girls, a uncoordinated band of kids coming together to defeat evil, a female / female relationship, humor, mystery, danger – seriously – this book has it all!

The atmosphere of this is dark and full. I was completely drawn into the girl’s lives on the rock. As a person who also lives on a small island, 30-miles out to sea, I can say the ‘island life rep’ was strong.

This would be a great book to pick up in October. I am actually a little sad I didn’t get to it then. My one negative is that I would say it was a little too long. I started getting anxious toward the end and just wanted a conclusion already! I think the same story could have been told, and perhaps better served, if about 50-pages had been shaved off. But that is 100% my opinion and it could be completely wrong. What the heck do I know anyway?

I would recommend this to all my horror-loving friends, or even just friends who like a dark, creepy atmosphere. Definitely worth a read!

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Review: This is Our Story by Ashley Elston

This Is Our StoryThis Is Our Story by Ashley Elston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every town seems to have that group of kids who can get away with anything. Inexplicably, no matter what they do, nothing seems to stick to them. In Kate Marino’s town, that is the ‘River Point Boys’, prep school hot shots who host the wildest parties and seem to have their hands in every cookie jar. But can they really get away with everything? Even murder?

After an all night party where a lot of grievances were aired, the River Point Boys decide to go hunting. On no sleep and still a little drunk and high, this seems an excellent idea. Grant, Henry, Shep, John Michael and Logan walk into the woods that day…only 4 walk out. No one is talking. They didn’t see anything. They don’t know who did it. This is THEIR story.

Under the suspicion of murder, the remaining boys are forced to leave their cushy prep school and head off to ((GASP)) public school!

Our protagonist, Kate Marino, is a high school senior, an avid photographer and an intern at the local DA’s office. Brought in to help the DA prep the case, Kate is more involved than anyone knows. She knew the victim. They had a relationship via text for some time prior to his death. Kate throws herself into her work, hoping to find justice for the slain boy. However, not all is as it appears and before she knows it, Kate is hit with a truth bomb that the boy she thought she knew…isn’t really the boy she thought she knew.

Elston’s writing is top notch in this genre. A solid YA Mystery that keeps you guessing until the very end. I loved the pace of this and the investigatory elements woven throughout. Kate was likable and relatable and I was definitely rooting for her the whole way through. I am trash for Elston’s writing at this point and cannot wait to see what she puts out next. If you haven’t read this book yet, please pick it up. It is perfect for this time of year. Highly recommend for YA mystery fans!

Original: SWOON

I love Ashley Elston’s writing soooo much. Does she have a to-do list I could buy? ‘Cause I would buy that, for real! Full review to come tomorrow…stay tuned!

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Review: A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes #1) by Brittany Cavallaro

A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes, #1)A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When James ‘Jamie’ Watson gets shipped off to boarding school in Connecticut he is sad about leaving his life in London behind. It doesn’t take long however before he is elbows deep in intrigue and thinking nothing about shoddy old London (totally joking on the shoddy part, obviously). You see, Charlotte Holmes, the descendant of the infamous Sherlock Holmes, also attends this very same boarding school. Coincidence? I think not.

Jamie, the descendant of John Watson ((the one who penned those cute little Sherlock tales)), has heard all about Charlotte Holmes and wants nothing more than to get in her good graces. In the flesh, Charlotte is beautiful, edgy and addicted to opiates and he wants to get to know her better. Before long they are seeing one another on a regular basis and Charlotte really seems to be warming up to him. That’s something because she’s not particularly warm with many other human beings.

After a fellow student, one that Charlotte has a very messy history with ((putting this SUPER mildly)), ends up dead and another on the brink of death, Charlotte and Jamie need to work together to prove they are innocent of these crimes. They are being framed and in ways reminiscent of cases the original Sherlock and Holmes investigated.

This was a pretty good story. There was nothing bad about it but it never really reached a level where I was compelled to read it either. I read it, it happened and then it was over and I moved on very quickly. I guess I was hoping for a little more if I am being honest. I’m not sure if I will continue on with the series. I may read the synopsis of the next and some of the reviews to see if anyone like it better than this one. For now, if I had to choose a YA Mystery series to continue with it would be the Stalking Jack the Ripper series over this one, as I just finished the first one in that series in October.

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Review: The Lying Woods by Ashley Elston

The Lying WoodsThe Lying Woods by Ashley Elston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Lying Woods follows teenage protagonist, Owen Foster, in the aftermath of his Father being exposed as a white-collar criminal. Mr. Foster steals millions of dollars from his company – the largest employer in town – and leaves Owen and his mother behind to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. People in the town are furious, they believe Owen’s Mom knew what he was doing and they begin threatening her and Owen. Forced to leave his posh private school when they can no longer afford the tuition, Owen returns to his hometown public school where he finds it close to impossible to fit in. A great number of the students come from families directly effected by his Father’s crime. Luckily, Owen is able to rekindle a relationship with his old friend and neighbor, Pippa. Through her guidance, Owen begins to understand the destructive scope of his Dad’s actions.

Angry and confused, Owen vows to learn the truth about what happened. How can the Father he knows and loves actually have done this? He is having a hard time grappling with what seems to be a secret side of his Father’s personality. When he first returns to town, Owen secures a job on a local pecan farm and quickly learns that his Dad once worked there as well and and even lived on the property. The owner for the pecan farm, Gus, was not only his Dad’s employer but also a mentor to him. Owen feels if he sticks around the farm long enough he may be able to piece together his Father’s past; he hopes this will help him to understand the present.

This story reads like a hard-hitting contemporary but there is a strong mystery element that runs throughout. The format was great because you get half of the book from Owen’s present day perspective and the other half from his Dad’s perspective at the time that he worked on the pecan farm and first met Owen’s Mom. You get to see their relationship build and learn about the obstacles they overcame to be together. I liked this structure a lot as I felt it was a very creative way to reveal the truth at the heart of this story.

Elston’s writing is smooth and organic. She is really a fantastic storyteller. You sit down to read a few pages and the next thing you know hours have gone by. I truly felt drawn into these characters and this story and I needed to know how Mr. Foster could have done what they said he did. It seemed so out of character with the person you meet through his own perspective. The major twist in this gave me chills. It was completely unexpected and then everything unraveled to the truth very quickly.

This is a story of first love, redemption, discovering who we really are and what is truly important in our lives. I loved the dual perspectives and also thought it was interesting to explore white-collar crime as a topic in YA. I don’t think I have ever read something like this before. Elston has very quickly become one of my ‘autobuy’ authors and I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, for giving me the opportunity to read this book early and provide my opinion. I cannot wait for more readers to get their hands on this so I can finally discuss it with some of my book buds! This is definitely going on my favorites list for the year.

Original: Starting tonight!!! One of my most anticipated books of the year. I am actually proud of myself for holding off until release month. A feat I frequently FAIL at!

I love how they kept the cover to this along the same vein as This is Our Story even though they are completely unrelated. They’ll still look great next to each other on my shelf!

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Review: My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows & Brodi Ashton

My Plain JaneMy Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A rollicking, ‘spirited’ good time! ((see what I did there?))

My Plain Jane is the second novel released by the Lady Janies (Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton & Jodi Meadows). As with their first collaboration, My Plain Jane this book is full of good humor and replete with pop culture references. Dubbed as Jane Eyre meets the Ghostbusters, this story provides a wacky and fun retelling of the classic with lots of supernatural twists! In addition to this, I was picking up a strong Scooby-Doo vibe. There was something about the gang of characters that came together and the style of the antagonist that gave me those feelings. I adore Scooby-Doo so this worked really well for me!

As with the first book, this story follows the perspectives of three main characters: Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre and Alexander Blackwood. Although the characters were fun, I personally didn’t become as invested in them as I did with the characters in My Lady Jane. I am not really sure why. I sort of felt like I didn’t get a chance to know them and their feelings, motivations, etc., as well as in the first one. This may be because there is so much more going on in the action part of the plot in this one. A lot of ghosts and things to follow at Thornfield Hall, London, the Lowood School and everywhere in between!

Although at times it felt a little overdone, overall I think the humorous effect was there and that the varied perspectives of the story wrapped up in a nice, cohesive way. I think the authors are so creative to come up with these twists, it is amusing to think of these classics in a whole new light. Jane Eyre is such a beloved tale though ((one I haven’t read)) that I can see some readers perhaps being sensitive to it being altered in such a huge way. To me, it is all in good fun and to pay homage to such a cherished classic only serves to bring renewed energy towards the original source materials. This is actually the second Jane Eyre retelling I have read this year and I can honestly say, I am much closer to reading it now than ever before.

I had a fun time reading this and felt like it was a great book to read during October! I look forward to seeing what the Lady Janies come up with next!

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Review: The Darkest Star by Jennifer L. Armentrout

The Darkest Star (Origin, #1)The Darkest Star by Jennifer L. Armentrout
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4-happy shining stars**

“We were all dark stars, but Luc…he was the darkest.”

The Darkest Star is the first book in a new YA-series written by Jennifer L. Armentrout. This is a companion/spin-off from her hugely popular Lux series. Hold on to your hats Ladies & Gents because I have a confession to make: I have not read the Lux series!!!

Yes, it’s true. I went into this having never read a Jennifer L. Armentrout book and having no idea what the Luxen were all about. I was most pleasantly surprised! I think it is a testament to Armentrout’s skill as a writer that I never for a moment felt lost or like I was missing anything. If I had not heard of the Lux series prior to starting this, I would have never guessed that there was a prior series. So, if you are like me and have never read the Lux series and you don’t really have time or space on your tbr to fit it in, please don’t let that dissuade you. If the synopsis of this one sounds interesting to you, pick it up, have no fear, you will understand everything. That’s a megs_bookrack guarantee!

This book follows teenager, Evie, as she navigates a lot of disturbing revelations about herself. Early on in the story she meets a handsome stranger, Luc, at the club ((you know how it is)) and one thing leads to another and before you know it they are running from the cops, hiding in a broom closet and then seemingly just a part of each others lives from there on out.

I had a lot of fun watching Evie and Luc’s relationship grow. It was heavy in the hate to love feels and I cherish that when the banter is super witty. Luc is a sexy and successful young man…well, actually he is an Origin ((Origin = the child of a Luxen + mutated human)), who is the baddest badass of all. Side Note: the Luxen are an alien race that cohabits Earth with us after they had to flee their own planet.

Through Evie’s new relationship with Luc a lot gets revealed to her about her own past and who she really is. Pretty much anything she thought was real, wasn’t. Poor Evie really gets through for a loop in this book but she handles it as well as could be expected and her growth is satisfying. I look forward to seeing where the next book goes. I have a few ideas of areas/plot lines that I am hoping will be explored but only time will tell!

I really enjoyed Armentrout’s writing style. I found it was relaxed and had a nice, even flow to it. The pace was good and there was a lot of great, natural humor that I found refreshing. I also picked up on some social commentary on issues such as race, immigration, minority communities, fear-mongering, etc. I was surprised by some of the connections I was able to make from what was happening in the book and what has happened in my own country in recent history. I always appreciate when an author throws in real social issues into a fantastical or magical narrative. It feels like finding Easter Eggs.

Overall, I had a great time reading this book. I was impressed with the writing, I found it very easy to read and follow and I appreciated the fact that Armentrout made the story approachable for both new and veteran readers of her material.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Teen, for providing me with an early copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity to jump into this world created by Armentrout and am already excited for the next book in the series!

Original: My October just got more interesting – ARC received!

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Review: The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

The Wicked DeepThe Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Wicked Deep is by far the most eerily beautiful book I have read in a long, long time. I finished this over a week ago and I have been trying to come up with a way to express how this book made me feel. I still can’t quite put my finger on it but damn, whatever it is, I likey and I want more. This will probably be a story I revisit in October for years to come. I’m like…

This book has received a lot of buzz. In this case, I feel it is well deserved. Going in, I wanted one thing out of it =
ATMOSPHERE.

The author delivered that in spades. Her descriptions of the small seaside town of Sparrow, Oregon, of the island, the weather, the tourists, it was 100% relatable to me. I live on a small island myself, one that is a tourist destination and at times can feel exploited because of that, and I can tell you, I could feel the wind, the mist, the fog, the influx of outsiders – the weight of it – it is palatable and I thought that Ernshaw really brought that feeling to life in this book.

Her writing is enchanting and she uses breathtaking descriptions to weave her tale. It read like a modern day fairytale – full of witches, magic, curses, revenge, mystery, love – it checked all of the boxes for a whimsical narrative. I loved how she gave us insights into the times of the Swan sisters as well. That was a neat little twist I wasn’t expecting. The modern and historical were woven together seamlessly and it gave such depth to the story and the characters.

“Love is an enchantress – devious and wild. It sneaks up behind you, soft and gentle and quiet, just before it slits your throat.”

When love stories are combined with ghost stories, I find them so haunting. One of my favorites for bringing these two elements together is Stephen King’s, Bag of Bones. While they are completely different animals, that one being heavily adult and this one very YA, I feel they both combined those two elements to create a spooky and memorable ghost story. Ones that truly get under your skin and sit there; that make you simultaneously warm and cold. I am actually glad this is going to be adapted as I feel it could translate well into more visual media.

Now, the characters…the characters were great! The present day story mainly follows local girl, Penny Talbot. She lives out on Lumiere Island tending the lighthouse with her mother, who isn’t well. Penny is likable, if a bit aloof, but definitely someone you can get behind and cheer for. When a new guy Bo arrives in town, she ends up giving him a job out on the island helping with the lighthouse and other tasks gone to pot since her father disappeared. I enjoyed her relationship with Bo; watching its evolution felt mysterious; that more was hidden right under the surface. The big reveal for me was bloody fantastic! I did not see it coming. I didn’t, maybe I am an idiot but regardless, I felt it was really well done.

My favorite character, of course, was Marguerite Swan. I got strong Slytherin vibes from her. Described as ‘ vengeful & clever…single-minded in her hatred for the town…’ Yep, I dig that. Getting the perspectives on the Swan sisters, as I mentioned above, was a real treat. This story could have been done without that historical element but I am glad that Ernshaw chose to write it this way. Reading and understanding the motivations for ghosts or spirits haunting a person, place or thing, is not something you see a lot of. I really, really enjoyed it.

Overall, I absolutely adored this story. I cannot praise it enough and will absolutely be reading it again! Cheers~

Original: Take my breath away. ((fans self))

I’m utterly heartsick over how beautiful this book is. The magical atmosphere has delved deep into my bones. I definitely need some time to gather my thoughts on this. An absolutely stunning read.

Full review to come…stay tuned!

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