Review: No Child of Mine by Nichelle Giraldes

No Child of MineNo Child of Mine by Nichelle Giraldes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

No Child of Mine follows Essie Kaur, an ambitious young woman who has recently found out that she is pregnant for the first time.

Essie is in a very loving marriage with her husband, Sanjay, whom she adores, but in spite of that, Essie is less than stoked about the news.

In fact, privately, she’s pretty upset about it. Essie is currently in law school, almost through, ready to take the bar exam early the following year, how is she going to make that work now? The baby will be three months old when she is supposed to sit for the bar?

Essie keeps a lot of her feelings to herself; well, most of them honestly. She’s afraid people will judge her for not having the ecstatic, happy reaction society teaches us we are supposed to always have.

She wants to be happy. She loves the little being growing inside her, she really does, but that love is being shadowed by a lot of other darker emotions right now.

As the Reader, we sit inside Essie’s head as she struggles with these emotions, her changing body, her changing relationship and her ever changing reality.

While some of it borders on repetitive, I feel like as a person who frequently suffers from repetitive thoughts, it still made sense to me. I could imagine being Essie and having these same exact thoughts over and over.

In addition to Essie’s perspective, we also get a historical perspective following two women, Isabelle and Anna.

It’s unclear initially how these women are connected to Essie and her story, but as their narrative evolves it becomes clear where it is going. This aspect adds the impetus behind some of the darker elements in the present perspective.

Particularly, what’s going on with Sanjay.

As a soon to be 45-year old woman, who made a conscious decision at a very young age to never have children, these types of stories revolving around pregnancy and early motherhood either drive me crazy, or I end up connecting to them in a powerful way.

Regardless of the final outcome, I do enjoy picking up stories that involve these themes, because I like to see what sort of new elements, or perspectives, various authors will bring.

I think Giraldes did a great job of writing Essie’s perspective.

To me, Essie’s concerns and emotional struggle was 100% believable. She was a woman who had a plan for her future, who had sacrificed to reach her goals, and so close to the finish line had everything up-ended while her husband still got to live his dream.

I was nodding along in many parts, even yelling words of support for her. The only issue I had with this story really, and it’s a minor one, was the connection between the historic perspective and Essie’s present perspective.

For me, there were times, when it felt a little too disjointed. By this I mean, the transition between the two sometimes seemed jarring; like it wasn’t as fluid as I would hope.

Essie’s sections felt so straight forward, but for Isabelle and Anna, my brain was working overtime trying to figure out why it was even included. Because of this, for at least the first half, every time it switched perspectives, it kicked me out of the story.

At times, I felt a bit like I was reading two separate books.

With this being said, there is a certain reveal that happens, where after that, it started making sense. Plus, additional things were happening in the current perspective, where you could feel that distinct influence from the past.

Giraldes brought it around. It was eventually cleared up and tied together by the end. Although, one final nit-pick is the ending was too abrupt for my tastes.

Overall though, this is a very solid story. I think it provides a lot of food for thought, as far as a women’s role in the modern world, as well as interesting commentary on women’s issues spanning generations.

Thank you to the publisher, Poisoned Pen Press and Dreamscape Media, for providing me copies to read and review. I found this quite absorbing and am looking forward to picking up more from this author.

Also, I would definitely recommend the audio format. The narrator did an incredible job bringing it to life and making it compelling. I feel like it’s a great way to take in this story.

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Review: Night of the Living Queers: 13 Tales of Terror & Delight, Editors — Shelly Page and Alex Brown

Night of the Living Queers: 13 Tales of Terror & DelightNight of the Living Queers: 13 Tales of Terror & Delight by Shelly Page
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Night of the Living Queers: 13 Tales of Terror & Delight is a fun, spooky-time YA-Anthology full of great representation and diverse stories.

This is the perfect collection to get you in the mood for Fall!!

Editors, Shelly Page and Alex Brown, did an incredible job bringing together a great assortment of authors to contribute to this collection.

I loved how each story takes place on Halloween night, when there is a rare Blue Supermoon. It’s thought this special occasion could open up our world more easily to all sorts of supernatural and creepy occurrences.

It was fun to see how each of these authors took that prompt, that setting, if you will, and created something unique and engaging, all of their very own.

Anthologies can be tough sometimes, because it’s rare to connect with each and every story equally, but for me, this was well-rounded and exciting enough to keep me hooked throughout.

Of course some stories fit my personal tastes more than others, but I can absolutely see how every single Reader will be able to find something within this collection to enjoy and connect to.

I really enjoyed so many of these of stories and cherished how different they all were from each other. It never felt repetitive, or overdone.

Some of the standouts for me were: The Visitor by Kalynn Bayron, A Brief Intermission by Sara Farizan, The Three Phases of Ghost Hunting by Alex Brown and Nine Stops by Trang Thanh Tran.

My favorite story overall was Anna by Shelly Page. This one just had everything I love to get myself geared up for a solid spooky season. It had a babysitter, twins, a ouija board, an attic and a ghost. I mean, what is not to love about that!?

Finally, I will just say how much I appreciate the thought and care these editors and authors put into this collection. The vast and inclusive representation is so important and I feel like they all did a great job creating super fun and creepy stories, while also being mindful of the original intent of the collection.

I would absolutely recommend this anthology as a way to get yourself in the mood for the Spooky Season. It’s the most wonderful time of the year and books that showcase that are my favorite kinds!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I’d love to read more from every one of these authors!

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Review: Mister Magic by Kiersten White

Mister MagicMister Magic by Kiersten White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Mister Magic is the sophomore-Adult release novel from beloved author, Kiersten White. With a cover that could hang in an art gallery, this one caught my eye right away.

After my experience with Hide last year though, I was slightly concerned about picking it up. I’m happy to report that this is incredibly compelling and kept me glued to the pages, wanting to know more, the entire way through.

I do feel like I cheated a little though. In my friend, Debra’s review she mentioned that she wished she had read the Author’s Note first.

I felt that exact same way about Hide and thanks to her jogging my memory, I decided to do that here. So, before I even started the first chapter, I flipped right to the back and read the entire Author’s Note.

Honestly, I do feel like doing that had a positive impact on my experience. Frankly, I’m glad I did it that way.

Just being able to keep in mind the author’s inspirations and motivations, which I wouldn’t have known had I not read that first, while reading helped to provide a bit of context for a lot of the more emotional bits of the story.

In this one, we’re following a group of adults, who once starred together on a hit-Children’s television series, Mister Magic. The show stopped airing 30-years ago, after a supposed accident on set.

Over the years, Mister Magic has become more of an urban legend than a show. You can’t watch it any where, no tapes exist and no one can seem to really remember anything specific about it, including the actors themselves.

At the start of the story, the group of actors, once known as the Circle of Friends, is reunited under the guise of filming a documentary of the show. Together they return to the actual property where the show was once recorded.

The property itself is disturbing from the beginning. It’s remote, set in a desert landscape and the house has some odd architectural choices. It got my hackles up right away.

The group of old friends are going to be staying in the main house during the course of the documentary, shooting confessional/interview-type footage in the basement.

It’s through their time at the house, their interactions and their interviews that the full picture of Mister Magic begins to fill in. The revelations are shocking to say the least.

I found this to be an incredibly interesting story. The premise was like nothing I have ever read. It was so mysterious from the start and I loved White’s creative use of mixed media to make the phenomenon of Mister Magic feel more real for the Reader.

There was just something about the idea of this program that was creepy to me. How many people could talk about it, remembered it being a part of their lives, but couldn’t list a single real fact about it.

It reminded me of like Captain Kangeroo from my own childhood. The vibes felt sort of similar. I loved that show as a kid. I remember being mesmerized by it, but I can’t recall a single tangible thing about it. It’s so weird.

It had such a dark and ominous feel, even before I had any clue where it was going, I sort of felt afraid. Particularly because of one of the main characters, Val’s, reaction to the house and the idea of the show.

I also feel like it stayed intriguing throughout. White just kept building and building on the idea the show, and its history, right up to the shocking conclusion.

Admittedly, the end slipped a bit, IMO. It got a little too heavy-handed in the messaging and seemed to go off the rails as far as delivering easily understood action. Overall though, a hugely successful comeback!

Thank you to the publisher, Del Rey, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I’m so glad I gave this one a shot!!

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Review: Whalefall by Daniel Kraus

WhalefallWhalefall by Daniel Kraus
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I will never forget the experience of reading this. I don’t think I’ve been this emotionally moved by a tale of this nature since Frankenstein and that’s saying something.

Then, at the conclusion, it happened. The book hangover.

Whalefall is Jay Gardiner’s story. Since his father’s death by suicide, Jay has been wracked with guilt. Their relationship was complicated and they were estranged at the time that his Dad took his life.

Jay has given himself the task of finding his father’s remains, which he believes lay somewhere in the waters off the coast of Monastery Beach. Taught serious diving skills by his Dad, Jay feels he is prepared for whatever he encounters.

Entering the water is like separating from the rest of the world. In complete silence, Jay enters the dark, cold waters of the ocean’s depths.

In that environment, Jay’s mind roams freely. The Reader is treated to many of his most personal memories, watching his complicated relationship with his family unfold.

In the midst of his quiet reflections, the unimaginable happens. First the giant squid, then the whale.

Jay has been swallowed by an 80-foot sperm whale. He passes all the way into the whale’s first of four stomachs. There he realizes that he is still alive, but may not be for long. With just an hour left on his oxygen tank, Jay needs to find a way to escape and fast.

This story felt so real and original. I love the choices Kraus made in telling Jay’s story. The back and forth between Jay’s present circumstance and his reflections on his past kept the story moving at a nice, steady clip.

I developed such compassion for Jay over the course of the story, but also compassion for this whale, who becomes such a beautiful character unto itself. When I mentioned Frankenstein earlier, it’s particularly this connection I meant.

The whale, who could be considered the monster, beast or baddie, of this story, was just a creature with a soul who incidentally had all of these circumstances thrust upon it.

As Jay fought for his life, while simultaneously grappling with his past, you could feel his will, his humanity, his feelings of hope and love, begin to grow, but would he be able to survive long enough to act on any of it?

This was an incredibly powerful read for me. I became so emotionally connected with the story. Not necessarily because I could relate to anything Jay was going through, but again, just because of the way that Kraus spun the tale.

I think if you let yourself just sink into this one, let the story wash over you and really feel it, this could be an equally powerful read for you.

In addition to all of the emotion though, this is also fairly gruesome and I thought the descriptions of what was going on with Jay’s body, and the whale’s, was so well done. Kraus definitely gets top marks for his Horror imagery.

If you decide to pick this one up, which you should, be sure you read the Author’s Note at the end, where Kraus discusses the level of detail he went into when researching for this book. It’s quite impressive. We love a well-researched story.

Thank you so much to the publisher, MTV Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. This is the first that I have read from this author, but it will not be the last!

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Review: The Last One by Will Dean

The Last OneThe Last One by Will Dean
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Last One, the latest release from Will Dean, is the epitome of a book you want to go into blind. Trust me on this, the less you know about the story, the better.

I first heard of this book via my friend, Holly’s, review. Within her first two paragraphs, I learned this was set on a cruise ship and frankly, that was all I needed. I was sold.

Cruise Ship + Thriller = Something I’m Gonna Read.

I requested this one from the publisher and was so excited when they approved me for a copy. I started it pretty quickly after that, because it seemed like a perfect Summer Thriller.

Spoiler alert: I was right.

I was immediately intrigued and by the 8%-mark, my jaw was on the floor. What the heck had I gotten myself into?

Dean wastes no time getting the ball rolling. It went in a direction that I never in a million years would have expected. It was giving me eerie, Twilight Zone vibes and I was over the moon about it.

I read this so quickly. I couldn’t put it down once the suspense sets in. I had to know what was at the heart of this story and even after I found out, it didn’t answer everything. In fact, it got even more perplexing.

I just had a complete blast reading it. Fun, fast-paced, original and entertaining as heck. I also liked how, without giving too much away, it shined a light a bit on modern life; the way we function day-to-day as humans.

Finally, that ending. Oh my word! That was great. I love a story that can leave me with a little sinister smile on my face at the end and this one absolutely did.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for an out of the box Thriller, especially if you think a Cruise Ship setting sounds enticing.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Atria Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. This one was ever more fun than I expected.

I’m looking forward to picking up more from this author!

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Review: The Arm of the Sphinx (The Books of Babel #2) by Josiah Bancroft

Arm of the Sphinx (The Books of Babel, #2)Arm of the Sphinx by Josiah Bancroft
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Recently, I picked up Senlin Ascends as the 17th-selection for my TBR-Haul Project. I finished it towards the end of May and immediately began this second book.

Arm of the Sphinx is therefore officially the 18th-selection for my TBR-Haul Project, as I hauled this book the same month, February 2019, as Senlin Ascends.

I got to say, this project has been a raging success for me. Apparently, there were a ton of 5-star books lurking on my shelves. We love to see it!

I won’t say much about the plot of this, as I wouldn’t want to spoil anything, but I will just briefly ((yeah, right)) comment on my general thoughts and feelings.

Firstly, even though this took me a month to read, I just want to be clear, it’s not because it is a difficult read. It’s absolutely not. Bancroft’s writing is so fluid and accessible. I was just distracted with newer releases, etc., so didn’t devote as much time to it as I should have.

As second books go, Arm of the Sphinx is about as good as it gets. We learned so much in this book about the history and functioning of the Tower, as well as more intimate details on each of our main characters. I am now more attached to them, and this world, than ever.

Seriously, I’m obsessed. At this point, Thomas Senlin and his crew of the Storm Cloud are looking at me like…

This series is quite unique. At least in comparison to the Epic Fantasy I generally read. There are some light steampunk elements that are so interesting.

I also feel like it is completely unpredictable. I have no idea what’s coming next, ever! I’m continually left gagging over various reveals and plot developments.

Equally as astounding is the imagery Bancroft is able to conjure with his words. For example, Senlin descending into a web of yarn suspended in the sky off the side of the Tower to talk to a mystery, wise old woman.

I could picture exactly what that looked like. It’s so vivid.

I did find the pace of this one a lot quicker than the first book. The first book, as we began to learn about the Tower, it could be a little slow at times. This one was much more action-packed.

The overall story is getting, even though I didn’t think it was possible, more complex and twisted. I’m so worried about this group of characters that I have come to love.

The Tower is such a devious place, I’m just constantly hoping they all make it out alive. I need to know. It’s keeping me up at night. Luckily, I’m planning to continue with the third book in July. I’m so excited!

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Review: Reprieve by James Han Mattson

ReprieveReprieve by James Han Mattson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this. I don’t read a lot of stories that feature this sort of Literary Fiction mixed with strong Social Horror.

I felt like this author did a great job constructing this one. I feel like with the people it’s going to hit with, it will really hit. Reprieve has the power to stay on your mind.

I listened to the audiobook and found it immersive. The tone of J.D. Jackson’s narration was, despite the content, soothing and very easy to get swept up in.

This story is set in 1997 and is constructed via a few different style elements. The idea is that there has been a murder at a full-contact, horror-inspired escape room called Quigley House, and we learn about the individuals involved, as well as the aftermath of the crime.

You get a few different character perspectives leading up to their involvement with the fateful night at Quigley House. You also follow along with the group of four contestants making their way through the different levels of the escape room process. Finally, you get court transcripts from the trial following the murder.

An aspect I think some Readers may dislike are the fairly large sections from the different perspectives in the before portions, that are pure character development. They provide context for the various characters ending up at the escape room, but they’re not particularly exciting, or thrilling, if I’m being honest.

With this being said though, I actually really enjoyed the author’s choices in constructing it that way. There were little hints provided throughout these sections that gave you insight into how they were all ultimately going to be connected. I liked watching it all come together.

Additionally, I enjoyed that sort of slow build-up of the eventual relationships and connections. I felt James Han Mattson gave real care to the creation of these characters and it gave it a certain level of authenticity that I appreciated.

The Social Horror was strong, particularly involving race and social status. Those themes branched throughout all of the different sections of the story and I feel like the author did a great job with it, bringing a slightly different perspective than I have read before. Jaidee’s experience as a foreign student coming to the U.S. was eye-opening.

Even though I had a great experience with this one, I do understand why some Readers aren’t connecting with this like they wanted. I think if you go into it expecting a fast-paced and exciting Horror-Thriller set in a escape room, you may be let down by the slow-build and focus on non-escape room content, of which there’s a lot.

I think if you enter this one with the right mindset though, and allow yourself to just settle into the character’s personal journeys, you could end up enjoying this as much as I did. Hopefully, this review will help you decide whether it will be for you or not.

I will definitely be picking up whatever James Han Mattson chooses to write next!

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Review: Tell Me What Really Happened by Chelsea Sedoti

Tell Me What Really HappenedTell Me What Really Happened by Chelsea Sedoti
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Five friends go into the woods, only four make it out alive. You may think you know this story, but I assure you, you’ve never heard it told like this!

In this story we’re following five high school friends, Nolan, Petra, Maylee, John and Abigail. It’s a sort of Breakfast Clubby set-up, with each character falling into a particular stereotypical role.

Maylee is the Queen Bee of the group, a wannabe influencer, snapping shots of herself whenever and wherever she can. It’s her idea to go on this ill-fated camping trip.

Petra is Maylee’s best friend, a smart girl, who tells it like it is. She’s the only person who doesn’t bow down to Maylee. Petra loves her, but she’s not going to be steamrolled by her.

The other campers include Nolan, Petra’s step-brother, an outcast with a penchant for cryptid lore, who always manages to say the wrong thing; Abigail, the poor girl-next-door, who isn’t really part of the group, and John, Maylee’s boyfriend, the jock with a heart of gold.

The trip begins with stress and ends very much the same way, x10. They’re at each other’s throats from the start and it’s clear that something is going to go wrong.

The shining star of this book is hands-down the format. Told strictly through police interviews, I was blown away by how much tension Sedoti was able to create with that.

Each chapter begins as a question asked by the investigators. The subsequent meat of the chapter is the various players answering that question.

Most interesting to me was how that initial question, at the header of each chapter, is the only question revealed, but you can feel the characters filling in subsequent questions.

I’m not quite sure how else to describe it. It’s definitely something you need to experience for yourself. I was super impressed with how clever this was.

Sedoti not only set the entire stage, but filled it in just by flawlessly placing answers to a few questions. It had to be perfectly arranged in order for it to flow well and make sense. I think she did a phenomenal job with that.

Overall, I found this to be a very fun read. It was grand how this unique format could create such a super quick and tense read. The characters drew me in. They felt believable and genuine in their distress.

It’s not a groundbreaking story as far as the plot goes. Sadly, I even sort of felt like the conclusion was a bit anti-climatic in comparison with the build-up. Nevertheless, this was still a very engaging reading experience and I would definitely recommend it to fans of YA Thrillers.

Thank you so much to the publisher, SOURCEBOOKS Fire, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I was impressed with this and look forward to picking up more from this author!

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Review: The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett

The Twyford CodeThe Twyford Code by Janice Hallett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Damnnn, that was impressive. A literary treasure hunt the likes of which may never be matched. I am so in awe of this!

When I read Janice Hallett’s release, The Appeal, in January of 2022, I gave the book a rating of 3.5-stars.

I noted that I gave the author top marks for thinking outside the box and getting super creative with her format, but that the story itself was just average for me. It was solid, but it wasn’t great.

In spite of not being necessarily blown away by the plot, I found the use of mixed media to tell the entire story impressive. I knew she was an author that I would want to read more from.

I went into The Twyford Code not knowing much. I knew it had the mixed media use I loved, but what was the plot?

I listened to the audiobook for this and was absolutely swept up into the narrative right away.

The majority of the story is made up of quasi-diary entries that our protagonist, Steven Smith, recorded on an old phone gifted to him by his estranged son. There are also conversations, phone and otherwise, with a varied cast.

We find out that 40-years ago, on an unsponsored trip to the coast with their beloved school teacher, Miss Isles, Steven and five of his classmates were stranded after their teacher disappeared.

Maybe stranded is the wrong word, they made it back to the school very late at night, but none of them can really recall how they got there. Miss Isles never returned to school and none of the children present on the trip ever saw her again.

The incident has haunted Steven ever since. He blames himself. Miss Isles only took them to the coast that day because of the Edith Twyford book Steven had found and brought to class. Miss Isles was convinced there were coded messages within the book to some lost treasure.

It’s all a muddled mess in Steven’s hazy memories, but after being released from a stint in prison, he is determined to discover what the truth is about that day. What happened to Miss Isles?

I started this early Saturday morning while out walking my dog. I became so engrossed that I barely remember getting back to the house.

I then listened to it for hours will cleaning and doing my standard Saturday errands. It’s all a haze. When I tell you I fell down a rabbit hole with this one, I’m not joking. Yikes, this was enthralling.

By the time Sunday morning rolled around, I had 48-minutes of the audio left. I sat on my couch and just listened.

To even think about the complexity of this story makes my head spin. It is so impressive to consider how one would even tackle a project such as this. How in the actual heck did Hallett pull this off?

I don’t want to say anything else about the plot, or even my thoughts, because I think this one is best experienced if you just sit back, relax, trust Hallett and let it all wash over you like the literary masterpiece that it is.

I do have a couple of unresolved questions, but I am sure that is more to do with my own tiny brain trying to wrap itself around all the details, than an issue with the story. Nevertheless, those small items did make the experience a tiny smidge short of perfect for me.

With this being said, I have never read anything like this and I am really looking forward to seeing what Janice Hallett delivers us next!

Thank you to the publisher, Atria Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. This was an absolute blast to read and will stick with me for a long time to come.

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Review: Obsidio (The Illuminae Files #3) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Obsidio (The Illuminae Files, #3)Obsidio by Amie Kaufman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am over the moon in love with The Illuminae Files. I certainly consider it to be ground-breaking and if this doesn’t gain Classic status, the world will suffer for it.

I’m sure AIDAN would see to that.

As Obsidio is the third and concluding book in the series, some mild spoilers are ahead. I will not be hiding them.

You have been warned.

After Hanna, Nik, Kady and Ezra, survive the attacks on the Heimdall Station, they find themselves crammed aboard the Mao, with 2,000 other desperate refugees.

The only choice for those aboard the Mao is to return to Kerenza, the site of the initial BeiTech assault. They’re not really sure what they’ll find there, but it has to be better than drifting through deep space, eventually running out of supplies, including oxygen.

On Kerenza, Kady’s cousin, Asha, has survived and joined the underground resistance, fighting against BeiTech’s continued presence on the small mining planet.

When her ex-boyfriend shows up, among the ranks of the enemy, she cannot believe her eyes, but perhaps she can use their prior relationship to their advantage.

The narrative alternates back and forth between the situation on the Mao and that on the ground of Kerenza. There is a lot of drama and a whole lot of action!

I loved how this brought everything together, including the style of the Files themselves. It all becomes clear and frankly, is just brilliant storytelling.

It’s hard not to fall in love with these characters, as you are with them through every step of the battle. I became so connected to each and every one of them.

There were moments when I had to step away. The ending got pretty hairy. I knew Kaufman and Kristoff weren’t looking to spare my feelings, so absolutely anything could happen to any one of our heroes at any time! It was intense, to say the least!

I’m so happy that I finally saw this series through to the end. I even read Gemina twice, which turned out to be my favorite book in the series upon reread.

Of course I am a little sad that it is done, but feel like it is a story I could revisit. For now, Hanna, Nik, Ezra, Kady, Ella and AIDAN, will live on in my heart; strong, funny, fearless and smart, just as they’re meant to be.

I highly recommend this series to everyone in the Universe!!!

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