Review

Review: Morning Star (Red Rising #3) by Pierce Brown

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I’d like to blame my lateness for this review on how long it has taken me to gather my thoughts on this book – which was an absolutely EPIC thrill ride of a conclusion to what has quickly proved to be one of my favourite science fiction series.

However, whilst the latter is true, I really have no excuse for how long it has taken me to write this other than I have not been particularly active in the blogosphere for the past few months (my list of currently waiting reviews is rather daunting). So I’d like to apologise to Hodder, who sent me an ARC of Morning Star, and were very careful about who they sent them to. When I received this in the post, I’m pretty sure I screamed, had a little celebratory dance and then immediately settled down to read it, because Golden Son left me with so many questions that HAD to be answered as soon as possible. So I actually finished this in February and planned my review around the release date – and never got round to it. So here we are.

Like Golden Son, Morning Star began a few months later than the previous book, and was completely brutal and action-packed from the very beginning. Pierce Brown excels at serious dramatic moments and action scenes, as well as humorous ones – basically he is one truly talented author. He writes characters so fantastically; the character development throughout this trilogy has been astounding, especially for Sevro. The friendships and complicated relationships shine through, and despite the fact that this is a book sent in space, far into the future, everyone feels so real. It truly makes you wonder whether Darrow would have made it this far without these friendships – I highly doubt it.

Expect more shocks, deaths and devastation from Morning Star than the first two books combined – all the more painful because the reader has now had the time to get to know these characters, has grown attached to them. Brown is unafraid to kill off major players, from both sides, and most of these are completely unexpected and utterly heartbreaking. However, this is war, and that’s what happens. The reader must learn to move on with the story and with Darrow, because death is just a part of war. Watching Darrow push on through all of the heartbreak and pain made for an amazing read that simultaneously made me want to cry, and cheer them all on even more.

The events of the story are made even more horrific by the fact that Darrow’s enemies were once friends and acquaintances. Friends who are now tearing each other apart in order to achieve their goals, some of whom do not care how many people they hurt or kill along the way. With so many twists and turns (in my notebook I just have written ‘THAT TWIST’, but I don’t want to add anything else for fear of spoilers!), Morning Star is sure to leave your heart racing, your hands shaking and your head pounding – for all its brutality and violence, it truly has heart. It provides a perfect, beautiful ending to a fantastic series that I have loved the whole way through, and am going to miss. I may have to do a re-read of all three books back to back…

Review

Review: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1) by Becky Chambers

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

Do you ever have the feeling after finishing a book that it was written especially for you?

Because that’s exactly how I felt after reading The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.

It was perfect, perfect, PERFECT. Everything I wanted in a sci-fi novel. It felt like a bit of a mash up of two of my favourite things: Firefly and Mass Effect. Firefly (which I feel I have compared a LOT of books, but this is the ultimate) because of the setting and the crazy crew, Mass Effect because of the alien races and the world-building. Here are just some of the things that were truly, wonderfully amazing about this book:

  • The crew of the Wayfarer. They felt so alive, each character was fantastically crafted and felt so alive. I WANTED TO BE FRIENDS WITH THEM ALL SO BAD. Even grumpy-face Corbin.
  • The story. Although actually not a lot happened in terms of plot, I really loved that. Most of the book was scenes between various members of the crew, a study into their relationships and lives.
  • A wide range of alien species. And not just humanoid aliens, but bug-like aliens, crab-like aliens… and you know what? The female aliens were not sexualised. They did not have obviously ‘female’ features. You would not believe how notable this is…
  • The fact that these aliens had their own languages, and some of them weren’t verbal but based on hand signals, facial expressions or even the colouring of their faces. It was so refreshing to read about all these alien cultures that were so DIFFERENT from our own, rather than a re-hashed human race.
  • The use of the pronouns ‘xe’ and ‘xyr’ in some cases, which is the first time I’ve encountered that in a book. I just felt like the fact that Becky Chambers included these shows that she put a lot of thought into sexuality and gender within this future alien society, delving deep into the world building.

 

Even if you’re not a huge science fiction fan, this book could definitely work for you – it is so much more than just that. It is less about the setting and more about the characters, their relationships and the dynamic on the ship. I am just so, SO happy that I finally picked this up. It worked perfectly for me, and has quickly made its way into my favourites. My only regret here is that I didn’t read the book sooner – although that does mean I have slightly less time to wait for the next one… Additionally, it’s also given me an urge to re-watch Firefly and replay the Mass Effect series – perhaps that will sate my appetite whilst I wait!

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Review

#ReadGoldenSon: Review of Golden Son (Red Rising #2) by Pierce Brown

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

When I mark a book as ‘read’ on Goodreads and I’m planning on eventually posting a review, I often like to leave a reaction GIF as a placeholder. This was said GIF for Golden Son:

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Thank you, Emma Stone, for so accurately portraying my feelings at the end of this book. That GIF will remain alongside my review, because as they say, a picture (or GIF, in this case) paints a thousand words.

Golden Son was pretty much everything I wanted and expected from Pierce Brown, after the absolute wonder that was Red Rising. However, it was so, so much more brutal than the first book, but that’s what it needed. As the stakes rose, as Darrow’s task grew more and more dangerous and he grew more determined, there needed to be an element to keep the reader on the edge of their seat. Brown pulls it off for sure, with this violent and shocking addition to the series that kept me reading and gasping at each twist and turn.

Occasionally, I felt a little bit lost by the (seemingly) endless names, so thank goodness for the character list at the beginning of the book! Whilst I would have enjoyed a bit more about Darrow’s time at the Academy – the book skips a year or so, to move things forward, and I would have liked that element of development, there is really not much else I can fault about Golden Son. The events suddenly felt so much more ‘real’; Darrow was no longer in the confines of his education and training, but out in the ‘real world’. This time, it felt personal.

With a lot more politics this time round, Golden Son had less of the action than Red Rising, but it certainly wasn’t lacking in it. There were so many reveals and surprises, so much going on. And that cliffhanger. Oh… help. I mean, I’m frustrated about having to wait the couple of months between reading Golden Son and the release of the next book, Morning Star, so I feel very sorry for the people who read Golden Son as soon as it came out, and have had that horrendous wait in between (not long to go now!).

Whatever happens in Morning Star, I feel it is going to be even more brutal, even more heartbreaking, and even more astounding than the events of Golden Son. And that is definitely something I do not want to miss.

 

This review is part of the #ReadGoldenSon readalong hosted by Hodder, in preparation for the release of Morning Star.

Golden Son

Review

Review: Those Above (The Empty Throne #1) by Daniel Polansky

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3 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

You know the feeling of excitement when you get a brand, shiny new book – the cover is gorgeous, the plot sounds perfect, and you can’t WAIT to read it. Then you have to wait a little while to fit it into your reading schedule, but you know it will be worth the wait. And then you finally, finally get to read it.

And it breaks your heart just a little bit, because it is utterly disappointing.

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That is what Those Above was to me. I fell in love with the cover (hello Roman inspired fantasy!) and the premise. I eyed that book up a lot, sat on my shelf, waiting patiently to be read whilst I battled with university work. And then I could finally read it, so settled down for a few hours of cosy reading – and found I couldn’t even concentrate on it for one.

Why, Those Above, why?? In the simplest terms, you just weren’t as exciting as I’d expected. By two thirds into the book, I was still waiting for something to actually happen. Yes, it’s the first in a series so there’s lots of world-building to do and lore to set out, but it’s got to draw me in if it wants me to carry on reading the series. I felt no attachment to any character, and not just because of the fact that they were pretty despicable in their own ways (here’s looking at you, cast of A Song of Ice and Fire), but because they felt rather flat. I honestly did not care what would happen to any of them.

I appreciated the Roman and Greek influences and it didn’t even bother me that they were mixed. But the world in which Those Above is set did not feel particularly original. So, you’ve got your warring nations, your shanty-towns, your aristocrats and nobility, even if that nobility is a strange alien (I think?) race. The issue with ‘Those Above’ as rulers is that they weren’t scary. There was maybe one or two scenes that demonstrated their strength, but I never completely got a clear impression of why the people of this world let themselves be enslaved, or how it happened.

In addition, I suppose this book came at a bad time. I’m getting quite bored of fantasy books where the women are second class. Is this historically accurate? No, it’s fantasy. So why are the women always down-trodden and less important in society than the men? Also due to the story pretty much taking place in one city, or certain parts of one city, I got no impression of the rest of the world and as a result it felt very small. I had no idea what sort of influence ‘Those Above’ had on people outside of this city, because I never saw them.

So regrettably, I only want to award this book three stars – a ‘you disappointed me and it makes me sad’ sort of three stars. I have another book of Daniel Polansky’s, and this won’t put me off reading that – but I’m not sure I will continue with this particular series.

Review

Review: Red Moon by Benjamin Percy

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3 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

From the blurb alone, you wouldn’t necessarily know this was a book featuring werewolves. You may be able to guess from the title, but it’s not immediately obvious. And the reason that I say a book featuring werewolves, rather than a werewolf book, is because there is so much more to the story than the fact that werewolves exist in this world. It’s less about the paranormal elements, and more of a commentary on the state of the world, how judgmental people can be when they find out someone is a little ‘different’, even if they treated that person with kindness and respect before.

To begin with, the reader is made aware that lycans are common knowledge. Everyone knows they exist, and in a Big Brother style move, the government decrees that they must all be listed on a register, for anyone to look up. Registered lycans must also undergo regular blood tests to make sure they are taking ‘Volpexx’, the drug that controls the change. So whilst at first it may seem that it’s not all that bad – many people are tolerant if not accepting – it soon becomes clear that lycans are second-rate citizens, not considered human despite the fact that they could be your friends, parents, siblings, grand-parents, anyone you know.

Only a few pages in, I had already come to the conclusion that I really loved Benjamin Percy’s writing style. It flows so smoothly and is wonderfully descriptive – but unfortunately, the story really slowed down about halfway through and almost seemed to drag in places. This is where the descriptive writing became more of a hindrance; I just wanted things to progress. However, in some places the slow pace worked really well where it was interspersed with sudden shocking moments and jumps, but I was never really scared. From a lot of the quotes on the inside cover, I expected the book to be pretty terrifying and was fully prepared to have to sleep with the lights on. However, but for a few eerie moments, it just didn’t do it for me in terms of a good scare.

There are three main characters within the story, although the book does skip around and follow a couple more, and I think it was the sudden changes as well as the fact that even the main characters didn’t feel massively fleshed out that meant I didn’t particularly care for them. Claire probably had the most interesting story, although I don’t think she developed much as a character.

Despite the fact that the conclusion was rather unsatisfying, I did enjoy this book – just not as much as I expected. Whilst it’s beautifully written and clever, it was just far too slow for my liking. And not at all scary – surprising, considering that Stephen King found it terrifying!

Review

Review: Smiler’s Fair (The Hollow Gods #1) by Rebecca Levene

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Smiler’s Fair is definitely not a book for the faint of heart. Opening with a rather gory and graphic birth scene, the gruesome detail continues without, showing the reader that this world is not an easy one to live in. Whilst ‘Smiler’s Fair’ may sound like a pleasant place, this is but a front for the grim reality. Prostitution, gambling, brawls and duels, all the seedy parts of life gather at the Fair. This is most definitely an adult fantasy novel, and all the more fun for it.

We meet each main character in their own introductory chapter – all start at Smiler’s Fair, and all begin this new page of their lives because of it. There is Marven, a man who loves killing a little too much; Nethmi, a young woman who is about to be married off to a minor lord; Krish, a goatherd who feels his parents are hiding something from him; Eric, a male prostitute who is tiring of his current lifestyle and wants something more permanent; and Dae Hyo, hellbent on revenge for the slaughter of his people. With such a variety of characters, the reader is bound to find someone they feel for. However, with the characters changing as they went on their own personal journeys, I found my own allegiances changing, and my feelings towards two characters radically reversing. It was well done and completely drew me in, one minute I was hoping for a success and the next I couldn’t believe I’d liked that character at all.

Each of the characters are united by both Smiler’s Fair, and death. Whether it be an outright murder, a revenge killing or a desperate attempt to free themselves, there is something they all have in common. And like some of the authors of current popular fantasy series, Rebecca Levene is unafraid to kill off characters, whether they be minor or major. For example, one character I really liked was fine and dandy one moment, and the next he was gone, just like that. When an author can shock you like that, and leave you feeling genuinely sad or upset, you know they’re doing something right. She also has a talent for creating a wide cast of characters, each with their own personalities and aims, and with their own clear tones of voice.

Some authors have a writing style that just flows off the page, allowing the reader to read quickly without missing a thing. Rebecca Levene is definitely one of those authors. Although the world building was not as rich in detail as some other fantasy series and I never got an all encompassing feel of the world, it was still enough to flesh out the lands and their inhabitants. Whilst the first half is a little slow, taking its time to weave together various storylines and paths, the second half really picks up in terms of action and pace – and the ending opens up for book two very nicely.

A fantastic beginning to a new, highly original fantasy series, and highly recommended for fans of authors such as Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch or Robert Jordan. I have a theory about a link between the various different pantheons and characters, and I’d like to see if the next book will confirm it in any way…

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: July 2014

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Every first Wednesday of the month, I’ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, and writing about what’s to come in the next few weeks.

July 2014

Last month I read a total of twelve books: Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen, Ironskin (Ironskin #1) by Tina Connolly, New X-Men: Childhood’s End by Craig Kyle, Uncanny X-Men Vol 5: She Lies With Angels by Chuck Austen, Earth Girl (Earth Girl #1) by Janet Edwards, Camelot Burning (Metal & Lace #1) by Kathryn Rose, Ultimate X-Men Vol 14: Phoenix? by Robert Kirkman, Uncanny X-Men: Wolverine, Wanted Dead or Alive by Chris Claremont, Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman, Smiler’s Fair (The Hollow Gods #1) by Rebecca Levene, The Rise of Endymion (Hyperion Cantos #4) by Dan Simmons and Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3) by Suzanne Collins..

I carried on reading more Marvel comics, although this will probably be the last month I’m able to for a while. Alias Hook was a great start to the month – a five star book as my first read of July! I also absolutely loved Marvel 1602, I mean you can’t really go wrong with Marvel and Neil Gaiman, right? Towards the end of the month I read Smiler’s Fair by Rebecca Levene, which was kindly sent to me by Hodderscape. It’s a new epic fantasy series and WOW. Not only is the writing fantastic, but it also has a truly gorgeous cover. I also managed to fit in a re-read of Mockingjay, which I desperately wanted to do after seeing the new trailer for the film.

 

Challenge progress:

  • I read six books towards the Avengers vs. X-Men Challenge. I managed to recruit Cyclops and Nightcrawler, as well as successfully defeat Dr. Doom, securing extra points for my team. August’s villain is the hungriest creature in the world, Galactus!
  • I have currently read ninety-seven books towards my Goodreads goal. I may increase it to 125 for the whole year.

 

Currently reading:

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy

Off the blog:

I went to London Film and Comic Con/Young Adult Literature Convention on 12th July, but more on that later! I also spent three days in London with my mum and sister, which was lovely. We visited the Natural History Museum, Borough Market, London Zoo, saw lots of the sights such as Westminster, Big Ben, the Globe Theatre – and we saw Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at the Savoy. IT WAS SO GOOD. SOOOO GOOD. My whole family absolutely love the film (can’t remember how many times I’ve watched it), and it worked so well as a musical. One word of advice – don’t buy drinks in the Savoy Theatre. £22 for three drinks? Nah.

I also saw Guardians of the Galaxy, which I’ve been wanting to watch since January or so – and IT WAS SO WORTH THE WAIT. Funniest Marvel film yet, so crazy and fun but still full of wonderfully built characters and emotions! Go watch it now.

They were also giving out postcards for Beaumont-sur-Mer with this view on it!
They were also giving out postcards for Beaumont-sur-Mer with this view on it!

How was July for you?

 

Review

Review: The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar

 

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I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I somehow managed to avoid hearing anything about this book until it turned up on my doorstep. But once I’d learnt a little about it, I thought it sounded fascinating – superheroes and an alternate history, a particularly apt book considering I’m reading all the Marvel comics I can get my hands on at the moment. Plus that cover – how amazing is it?! Now I have to admit I’m really not a fan of World War stories, but I was excited about reading this one due to it being an alternate history.

The story follows two superheroes, known as Oblivion and Fogg, their respective powers being able to obliterate anything, and produce and manipulate fog. Apparently people with these sorts of powers have been used to protect the world for centuries, and much of Fogg and Oblivion’s story takes place during and around World War II. I love the idea of people with these superhuman powers being recruited by the government and military, as part of special ops. However, the book frequently skipped between different locations and time periods which was, in some places, a little confusing – especially because these chapters were often only a page in length. Whilst it kept the story moving at a really fast pace, it also felt like there was no time to take things in.

Whilst it has such positive reviews on Goodreads, it just did not live up to that expectation for me. I can see why people love it – personally I really enjoyed the story. It was mostly just the writing style that really didn’t click. Written in present third person, without speech marks, and often using short, clipped sentences that forgo pronouns and names, I just didn’t like it. Sometimes it felt like every non-essential word was just dropped from a sentence.

But it’s not all doom and gloom in this review! Despite what it may seem, I DID enjoy this book. I loved the concept and the story (despite probably missing a few elements due to the pace) – it was just the writing style that really dragged the rating down for me. I found it difficult at times, and it just didn’t seem to flow. I don’t know why, but because of the setting (and perhaps the cover?), as well as the lack of speech marks, I was imagining the book as some black and white foreign film in my head, with subtitles – which was pretty fun! The way that Lavie Tidhar played on actual historical events was really clever.

Overall, a brilliant story for all fans of superheroes and alternate histories, but sadly told in a style that I just did not get along with.

 

I have passed my copy of the book on to Amber as she was super excited to read this one, so look out for her review!

Review

Review: Lexicon by Max Barry

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve received quite a few books from the wonderful Hodderscape recently, and I’m working my way through the pile. I started off with this particular book – and what a way to start!

The reader is immediately thrown into the action, with a scene where one of the two protagonists, Wil, is at the airport and gets waylaid by two strange men. They drug him, and he manages to make a run for it, but his sense of confusion and the frantic feeling of needing to get away now is so well conveyed. It doesn’t hold back on the swearing or coarse language, and you know from the get-go that these guys mean business. I found myself whizzing through the pages, needing to know what their motive was, and why they were targeting Wil in particular.

Well as it turns out, words are power. People who are trained in the use of words are known as ‘Poets’ (they use pseudonyms when working, the names of famous poets), and can use them to convince, coerce and control others. It’s not quite as simple as it sounds though: any old words won’t work on everyone. As well as digging into linguistics, the book explores psychology, in that everyone’s personality represents a different ‘segment’, of which there are over two hundred. To control someone, you need to work out which segment they are, and then use the appropriate words. And on top of this, the words need to be of their language to have the greatest effect, e.g. using English words on a French person would not be as successful as using French. However, there are a few words, know as ‘barewords’, which can affect anyone, and they are also incredibly powerful. Wil has a link to one of these ‘barewords’, which is why he is being hunted. I liked that Max Barry included all of these rules, it meant that although Poets had great power, there was some sort of restraint.

There is also a bit of a 1984 vibe in the book: the government and many companies record personal information (lots of excuses are given for reasons why they need to record various personal things e.g. terrorist attacks), which is then processed by Poets, allowing them to sort the population into segments. The information is then used (or rather, abused) by lots of people, including political parties who may go canvassing, and change their stance depending on who they are talking to. Most of this information was revealed in between chapters, through newspaper articles, emails, IM chats and forums. It felt a little set back from the main story, sort of added in to keep the reader informed. It was nice to have this background information, but I felt it might have worked a little better if it was somehow more integrated into the story.

My favourite chapters of the book were the ones that followed Emily. When the reader first meets her, she is a sixteen year old runaway, living on the streets and getting by on card and slight of hand tricks. She is approached by someone from the ‘Academy’ (the school where the Poets are trained) and is given a chance to improve her life. One of the entrance tests for the Academy includes trying to persuade people in the street to cross the road and talk to her – this was possibly one of my favourite scenes, just for its sense of humour, although one of Emily’s ‘methods’ seemed a bit ludicrous for a sixteen year old! I particularly enjoyed her chapters because they were generally the ones where the power of words was explored; as Emily learnt about the Poets and their power, so did the reader.

I’m not sure if it wasn’t too clear to begin with, or if I was just being slow on the uptake, but the stories of Wil and Emily are actually on two slightly different timelines. I was unsure at how they were going to weave together, but as I read more of the book the cogs started fitting into place and I loved trying to predict what was going to happen next.

I am so grateful that I was sent this book – I’d not heard of it before I received it, and I’ve not seen it on many other blogs or Goodreads, so it might have missed my attention otherwise! It is a wonderfully unique concept, and although some parts of the story (mostly Wil’s) were a little too slow moving, I devoured it in a matter of days. A definite recommendation for fans of cerebral thrillers, or people interested in linguistics and psychology.

Giveaway, Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: Publisher Profile (Hodderscape) + Giveaway

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Today I want to discuss a science fiction and fantasy publisher, who have also been kind enough to send some goodies for Sci-Fi Month: HodderscapeDon’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.
 
 
Hodderscape is the science fiction, fantasy and horror imprint of the well-known publishing house, Hodder & Stoughton. They publish a wide range of authors, including Stephen King, Laini Taylor, Frank Herbert, Benjamin Percy and Jasper Fforde. You can view a full list of their authors here.
 
They have published books that range from Frank Herbert’s Dune, the science fiction classic, to Susan Ee’s Angelfall, an originally self-published sensation.
 

Here is a selection of Hodderscape’s book covers:

 
 
           

What’s so great about Hodderscape?

The number one thing to me is that they interact with their readers. The team has a big online presence and makes great use of social media to stay in touch with book lovers, answer any questions and offer up some great giveaways and competitions. They also have a blog where they feature weekly articles by author Adam Baker, Friday Favourites, Wednesday Wonders and Classic Covers, amongst other things. They’re more than happy to indulge in discussion with fellow fans of science fiction, fantasy and horror.

If you’d like to keep up to date with Hodderscape, you can visit their website, like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

Thanks to the lovely people at Hodderscape, I have some books to give away. The winner can choose between a signed copy of Red Moon by Benjamin Percy, or an ARC of She Who Waits by Daniel Polansky, and I’ll throw in some of the bookmarks that Hodderscape sent me along with the books. The giveaway is UK only, because of postage costs, but I’ll add another small international giveaway for some of the bookmarks in case anyone is interested.
 

 

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