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The Last Duke, 1797 Club, Jess Michaels

The Last Duke, 1797 Club,  Jess Michaels

The Last Duke (The 1797 Club Book 10) by [Michaels, Jess]

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

I’m an eclectic reader, and sometimes I lie to dip back to gentler times – well, real life wasn’t gentler but historical romance tends to be. I was really hoping I’d Like this story because Jess has written so many novels and I’d not read any of them. There’s nothing like the discovery of a new-to-you author who has loads of novels you can then devour. Sadly though this was an easy read, it wasn’t one that gripped me.
The characters are pleasant, the storyline pretty simple, lady goes down in station when fortunes fall, becomes governess and falls in love with a duke. I liked meeting the other dukes and duchesses, and maybe if I’;d read their stories I’d have got more from this. Maybe…

I tend to want a bit more drama and angst, even in historical reads, more tension and problems that I can’t see how to work out. This was just a well written, simple, easy tale full of gentle problems, a developing romance and a sweet ending. I could see from the start how it was going to end and while I don’t mind that – after all I constantly re-read favourites while knowing exactly what will happen – in this instance I just felt it was all too light and cute for me.

As always though the reminder, what I like and what you like aren’t necessarily the same. What doesn’t work for me about this story could be just what makes it perfect for you. I’ve devoured many novels others have rated one and two stars because they hate what I love. Horses for courses and all that.

Stars:Three, A well written story but one that just doesn’t excite me.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

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Dissolution, C. J. Sansom

Dissolution, C. J. Sansom

Dissolution: Tenth Anniversary Edition (The Shardlake Series Book 1) by [Sansom, C. J.]

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery and thrillers

I love this period in history, so much change going on in politics, state and religion. I’ve read many. many books, and the ones I love best are always like this, ones that make me feel I’m there, among the events, not just a reader but actually in the thick of what’s happening.
I’ve read most of the Shardlake series over the years, but in print form. They are among those I’d read over and over, but sadly all my print books had to go a few years back ( around 2k of them) as eye issues meant I couldn’t read them. Thank heavens for Kindle with its changing font size and background lighting.

So seeing this offered for review reminded me of how much I loved this series. Matthew Shardlake is a great lead character, he’s a very moral person, strongly in favour of reform but somehow naïve considering his profession.
He’s sent down to Scarnsea where the Commissioner investigating the monastery there has been murdered.
Its winter, the journey is hard, the welcome by the monks edges on suspicion. After all they knew the murdered man had come looking for excuses to shut them down but murder? Everyone is on edge, everyone seems to hold secrets, have possible motives and its Matthews job to tease them out and find the truth.
He’s accompanied by Mark Poer, a young man who’s been under his wing so to speak, working in Augmentations. Mark doesn’t like what he’s seen, and Matthew thinks he’s exaggerating, maybe its the hard work, the hours or something, or of course the fact his dalliance with a lady way above him was caught, he can’t believe Marks is right in what he sees happening. He’s promised Mark’s father to set him on the road to a good career, and he’s determined to do his best for Mark, not what he wants necessarily, but what he needs. That sounds harsh but its how life was then, a scrabble to survive and Matthew knows Mark could well end up one of the poor they see so often, in rags, no home, depending on charity for the few scraps of food that keep them alive.

The mystery surrounding the killer is difficult and tangled, no-one seems to have a motive, but several of the inhabitants of the monastery have the opportunity. Commissioner Singleton had been going to meet a monk, though no-one knows who, but the abbot and the monks are keen to believe it must have been an intruder that killed him. The more Matthew learns about the events surrounding the murder the wider the circle seems to get, and then things become even more dangerous.
I love that there are so many suspects, I’ve just decided on one as the culprit along with Matthew, when something happens to throw doubt on them, and this happens over and over.
There are so many secrets, so much going on here in this time of change for everyone. No-one feels safe, no-one actually is safe. Even stray words at the wrong time are enough to condemn someone so everyone is very guarded and that doesn’t help the investigation.

Poor Matthew gets his eyes really opened here by events surrounding Cromwell, a man he fervently believes in and admires. He learns his idol has feet of clay and is shocked, really shocked that he could be so casually callous about certain recent events. The force of what’s going on though has become uncontrollable, and Matthew isn’t in a position to do anything about it. I really feel for him, a good man in a position that puts him front and centre of the change he wanted but which isn’t having the results those like him intended. .

It was easy to feel as if I was back in the 1500’s with Matthew. Often its the little details, the snippets of real history, the day to day events, the food and clothes, the poverty, all those make a book feel very real. CJ Sansom has a real talent for those, for bringing the reader into the story by making the setting so vividly real. For throwing out little clues that send the reader on false tracks, often along with Matthew, for keeping the events wide open to very near the end, and keeping reader guessing who is behind things, and why of course. Rarely does murder happen without motive.

Stars: Five, a solidly written mystery/suspense that I enjoyed reading once more and I think its time for a reread of all of the novels.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

When Winter Comes, V.A. Shannon

When Winter Comes,  V.A. Shannon

When Winter Comes by [Shannon, V.A.]

Genre: Historical fiction

Gosh, such a difficult book to review. I enjoyed it immensely, but it also made me incredibly angry, sad, squeamish, and so glad I was born in recent history.
Its easy to judge from the perspective of a safe, warm home, plenty of food, good trustworthy family and friends. The Indian saying about walking a moon in anothers shoes before judging is a good one to bear in mind. Who knows what we’d do when faced with death?

We get the story from Mrs Jacob Klein, now a well respected person, wife and mother. Her husband Jacob doesn’t figure largely in this story, and yet I get the feeling he knows what happened, he saw how harrowing the journey had been for his wife, and his decision right at the start to tell her he would never ask gave her a peace of mind.
She didn’t love him when they married, but over the years that respect and trust has grown, and I feel she does love him now, not with a grand passion, but with a depth that is solid, means more to her.

When we first meet her she’s one of many, families struggling to survive, parents who don’t care or have given up caring, and just use whatever they can to scratch a living, steeped in the alcohol that helps them forget for a bit how hard life is. That’s her future, selling her body, unless she takes charge, and when the opportunity comes she grabs it, and runs, out onto the trail with folk hoping for a new life.
Its hard, she’s on her own, tagging on to a family by their goodwill, and need for her help. Things go wrong of course, days are long, life is tough but somehow they’re getting through. Seeds are sown, moments of distrust, stories embellished, accusations and insinuations run riot, as happens with any large group, but so far they are making progress. Not without losses, but they all expected that.
Then someone comes up with a shortcut, tells some of the others they’ll get there ahead of the main group if they take it, they’ll get the best opportunities, the best land, the best grazing, be wealthy, and the infamous Donner Party sets out.

That part is true, the story is a fictionalised tale based upon real events, and its harrowing to read in parts.
Of course its never as easy as it seems, the shortcut proves to be anything but, and they fall far behind, the bad weather catches up and we see all this happening through the main characters eyes. Harsh realities bring out the best in some folk and the worst in others, and it makes for some tough reading, but I was gripped by wanting to know how things worked out. Slowly the misfortunes build on and life gets harder and harder. None of them escape unscathed and they have to take some hard decisions over what to do.

Reading it, I was thinking of the unwavering cold, no real shelter, no warm clothes or bedding, no medical supplies, very little food, and the outlook bleak, with no hope of getting through before the hard weather sets in for months. That real last resort, eating the dead so the living can survive, its an awful thought, but then so is letting children starve when bodies are meat that could save them. Hard choice to make and the decision never to speak of it is a good one.

As always though there are those with loud voices who make money from the story, not by telling the truth of course, but by presenting themselves in the best light, and by talking down and blaming those who they’ve held grudges against for so long.

That’s human life, that still happens, never let the truth get in the way of a good story is something we see today in the news all the time. Some things never change, but those lies can decimate anothers life.

Stars: Four, a story I really enjoyed, hard though parts were to read.
I liked the contrast of the seemingly content and well off Mrs Jacob Klein, with the scared, starving waif she began the story as.
I loved the history part of it, that its a real story, though a fictionalised account, and I felt for those poor souls who were part of it.
It gave me much to think about after.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

Grave Fortune, Nancy E. Polin

 

Grave Fortune, Nancy E. Polin

Grave Fortune by [Polin, Nancy E.]

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy
EDIT: I’ve heard from Nancy since writing this, and it is the first book in a new series. Makes much more sense sounds and holds plenty of promise.

I really enjoyed Nancy’s last paranormal story, and the novel she co wrote with another author, so was looking forward to reading this one. Tbh though I found it a good read, but not a great one.

It seemed like a lot was going on but the story wasn’t actually going anywhere. I was curious about Dana’s ability and the way it affected her. I think I’d like to know more about her as a person, in fact probably more of all the characters, what makes them tick, how they are connected etc. I wanted to know more of Joseph and his history, how vampires “worked” in this setting, whether they were all isolated or if it was just him. Alex, what exactly he did in the police, how he came to be so close to Dana, other than the promise he made to her husband. I ha so many questions about the characters and the world they lived in.

Its well written, but the whole story felt very much like it was the prequel for a series maybe, and as that it would have made sense, but as a stand-alone it just felt a little flat for me.

Stars:Three, interesting story but it felt a little too confusing to work as a story on its own.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

Crisis,  Felix Francis

Crisis,  Felix Francis

Crisis by [Francis, Felix]

Genre:, General Fiction (Adult)

Like many young girls I was a horse obsessed kid, but where other dropped off in their teens I kept on, much to the surprise and probably dismay of my very non horsey family. Kids intervened for a while, and I got my horse fix by reading Dick Francis novels until I was able to finally get my own horse….
I still love to read, though my tastes have changed and broadened considerably. I’d read pretty much all the Dick Francis novels when he died, and a few by other former jockeys, but for me they didn’t have the DF magic. I had a read a couple of the collaboration novels but TBH I didn’t think of Felix as being the writer, I assumed he was more the researcher…then I saw this on Netgalley and thought “why not”.

Well, Felix, I did you a grave disservice, reading this was like the old Francis magic, a gripping tale wrapped up and tangled in numerous little side issues, with some wonderful characters. I am so sorry I didn’t recognise that earlier.
Of course in suspense novels, in PI investigations and the like there has to be a little artistic licence, and I suspect that Harry’s crack “researchers” wouldn’t have been able to pull out all that info…but it makes for a fun and interesting story.

I really enjoyed reading this, was engrossed in trying to work out who-dunn-it so to speak, and was way off course as usual. There’s a reason I can’t write, and especially not anything involving mystery, my brain just isn’t wired that way. Thankfully others are 😉
I loved the characters we meet here, poor Harry, barely knowing one end of a horse from another, up against a family dynasty in horse racing.
I enjoyed the snippets of racing info, enough to keep the reader interested in the story but not so much we switch off.
Harry’s specially is in sorting things out, minimising crises and sorting out wheat from chaff, and here the poor guy has a lot of chaff to sort through. It seems every turn, every hour almost at some points, bring in new people, new potential motives, and new events.

I did feel the falling in love bit felt a little out of character for Harry, he seemed the cautious type, rather than an all in from the off sort, but one of the things I missed in the DF novels was an element of romance. As a reader I tend to focus on romance plus …. those novels, those where the romance is backed by a good story, or the other way round, a good story with a romantic element. It just seems to make the story feel more real to me rather than just words on a page, so I was pleased Felix includes romance.

I’ll certainly look out for more from him, and as with the DF books, his will become ones I re-read, even knowing how the story ends because the content is well worth another read.

Stars: Five, a perfect escapist read, with both drama and romance, and a cracking mystery.

ARC supplied by netgalley and publishers

By Virtue Fall, Carrie Elks

By Virtue Fall, Carrie Elks

By Virtue Fall: the perfect and heartwarming romance for Autumn 2018 (The Shakespeare Sisters Book 4) by [Elks, Carrie]

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

I love Carrie Elks stories, have read almost all of them now, and she writes in a way that’s perfect for me.
In fact looking through the ones I’ve read I’ve just decided of a reread of Love in London 2, Broken Chords. Fix you is another favourite that’s been reread a few times…so I was eager to get into this.

I loved (five star loved) the first two in this series, somehow missed book three, and expected this to be another five star read. And yet…it wasn’t. Its got Carrie’s perfect pacing and story line, some great characters and some you love to hate. All things that make a book perfect for me and yet somehow it just didn’t pull me in, keep me gripped.

I’m not sure why, I loved Juliet (London!) and Ryan, the kids were perfect and brought some wonderful levity, the school mothers, oh haven’t we all met those types? There’s one scene with Ryan and Juliet and The Mothers that I just loved!
The way they both are attracted right from the start yet hold off, Juliet because she’s still dealing with divorce issues, the betrayal from her husbands affair, and doesn’t feel ready, and Ryan because he knows he’s only here a few months, that he’ll be off again soon, and he too isn’t looking for love. Yet it has a way of sneaking up on us slowly, catching us out.
Love never waits for the perfect time – life just isn’t that neat, rarely do Life events and Perfect Time meet up!

Its really well written, finishes off the series neatly, (Cesca, she’s still my favourite and I had a little lump in my throat picturing her in That Dress). For many readers I’m sure it will be exactly what they want, but for me it just didn’t have that magic of the first two, of almost all Carrie’s other stories I’ve loved. That happens, you can’t please all of the people all of the time and all that..

Stars: Three, a well written story that fits the series but didn’t quite hook me in as Carrie’s stories usually do.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

The Turn of Midnight, Minette Walters

The Turn of Midnight,  Minette Walters

The Turn of Midnight: The much anticipated second instalment to the bestselling novel The Last Hours by [Walters, Minette]

Genre: Historical Fiction, General Fiction (adult)

I adored The Last Hours, such a realistic read, I felt I was there with the characters. I’ve been looking froward to this. Its a very detail dense read, and I did put it aside a couple of time to fully absorb what had been written and think about what transpired.

In this next book we can see how some of the characters have changed, matured in the case of certain younger ones, some of the older ones having the reservations about Lady Anne and what she was doing reassured with her successes.
Develish has come through the plague thanks to Lady Anne’s early closing them off to the rest of the country. A hard decision, as was the exclusion period for those that had been out to see what was happening in the rest of the country. One too, of which the priest was certainly not in favour of, the line of the day from Pope Clement was that constant prayers and repentance for sins would stave off the disease. Those who died were not devout enough, full of wickedness, the plague was God’s punishment.

Once more Thaddeus is the hero of the hour, and the lads that went out with him in book one returned as men, banding together and seeing Thaddeus as their leader, honouring and respecting his decisions. He listens to them first though before deciding a course of action and they feel as if they’ve had some input. Its clear to see Lady Anne’s influence on him here, its similar to the way she rolls up her sleeves and gets on with jobs alongside her people, not just sits lazily, expecting them t do the work.

Thaddeus and the lads find out just how badly the rest of the country has suffered, especially among the labouring classes, and its clear there is going to be a huge shortfall in those with the knowledge to grow food, look after livestock, all the day to day jobs so essential in life. He and Lady Anne come up with a plan to secure independence for her folk, but its fraught with danger, and their worst fears come true.

They’ve changed some opinions by their example, Bourne has taken to heart what he learned in Develish, and with Thaddeus advice intends to implement much of it on his own estates. He can see their ideas for the future ring true, that workers more than scribes are needed now, that more profits produced when workers are treated with respect and fairly rather than the whip and fear. I feel much of his changing ideals come from the profit angle but that works and everyone benefits so….
Sadly when Thaddeus and the lads seek to bring about the plan he and Lady Anne have come up with to set their people free, they find they’ve been nurturing a viper.
Some have come round with kind words and deeds, and seen the example of what can be achieved that way, Bourne and Lady Eleanor for example, but someone else treated with the same kindness is still harbouring thoughts of vengeance, and it brings them into a very dangerous position.

Its a great read, transporting me back in time once more. The characters feel so vivid, and I feel I’ve got to know Thaddeus and the lads really well. Joshua’s dogs play a great part here, hard to think of what might have happened if Thaddeus had his way and they’d been killed. They’ve proved their worth and loyalty time and again. There were times when I struggled to see how Minette would brings these characters through, how would they slide through the murky waters of the deception they planned.

I’m sure much of the UK did look like this after the plague, it decimated the countryside, leaving orphans, ruined homes, fallow fields and a dearth of workers to rebuild. The few who survived in Blandeford were probably very typical of the time, they were so busy deciding who had more rights to what, to ensuring that everyone received a fair share that they didn’t actually achieve anything, didn’t work together, didn’t do what was needed, just struggled on day to day until Thaddeus and Lady Anne explained what happened at Develish, and set them to forming their own leaders and teams. Its pretty typical of what happens in any disaster, there are a few that get on with things while the majority bicker and decide they aren’t being treated equally. Its human nature I guess, but once Thaddeus spoke to them about leadership and what could be done they did seem as if they’d move forward. I’m sure there were many Lords though that didn’t share Lady Anne’s views who insisted their serfs still pay the full tithes even though there were few people to work the fields, mill the flour, spin the wool, butcher the livestock etc.

For those like the workers of Devilish its a time of opportunity, and I’m really keen to see how book three come about, how the events play out.

Stars: Five, another rich, enticing read, that had me fully absorbed in life after the plague.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers.

 

The Last Relicuin, Hargus Montgomery

The Last Relicuin, Hargus Montgomery

The Last Relicuin by [Montgomery, Hargus]

Genre: General Fiction, Sci-fi and Fantasy

I was really intrigued by this book, a mix of future worlds and past one but sadly gave up at 30%. I found it too confusing and just wasn’t gelling with the story.

We’re in the 22nd century, where life for the vast majority of the population is lived in a secure and safe environment, behind glass, where everything is germ free. No touching another person, life is lived in a very solitary way so obsessed are they with germs and sterility. Its a strange existence but for them its the norm, the living museums, where they get glimpses of the past, seem an abhorrent way of life to them. Eating foods that’s been grown in dirt? Talking directly to, touching, standing near another person? Risking germs by breathing in unsterile air? Life for them is very safe, very regulated and they can’t imagine a world where people touch each other, breath ordinary air, grow food, gather in groups, and as for sex, horrible thought that, messy and unsanitary…..
Alex though, son of a prominent senator, isn’t so sure about this life, rebels in small ways and then decides he wants to be one of those studying the past, museum dwellers living life as it was in certain periods of history.

I was really intrigued by the idea of this story but in practice I found it confusing, and sadly it was just going over my head. I didn’t understand What was happening and Why, never mind the Who and How….
It soon became a story focused on a mystery, secrets and lies, a struggle for power where the protagonists are determined to keep the past hidden.
It’s a story with strong minded and power hungry characters, set against those who think we have a duty to keep the past alive. There were so many characters I found it difficult sorting out who was who, and how they fitted in. I did like the section dealing with the practicalities of the past, loved for example the bit where Alex smells spring for the first time, his puzzling over what it is, and where he and other students are entranced by falling leaves. I felt sorry for those doomed to live the “safe” life, but I wasn’t pulled into the story enough to continue with it.

Stars: Two, I’m sure for others its a terrific read, but the content just didn’t gel with my taste. One of those stories where its book v reader and we just don’t match.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

 

Hunting Danger, Redemption Harbor Series, Katie Reus

Hunting Danger, Redemption Harbor Series,  Katie Reus

Hunting Danger (Redemption Harbor Series Book 5) by [Reus, Katie]

Genre: Romance

I’d only read book three in this series, each are advertised as stand alone and that one I loved, didn’t feel I’d missed anything by not reading first two books.
I haven’t read book four but when I saw this I expected to feel the same as I did with book three, that it would be complete on its own. It is….and yet I think I’d have got far more from it if I understood more about the whole group of characters, their dynamics and interaction. As it was, apart from Brooks and Darcy they were just names and I didn’t feel the connection between the characters that I know would be there.

Its billed as romance, and it is but for me the romance fell second place to the suspense. Its a tightly written novel, well paced, well set out, but the romance side takes a while to warm up – its very much each likes the other but hides it, and seems as though that’s been going on a long time. Now they’re thrown together, in danger, and emotions run hot at a time like this. Its a question of what happens once that cools down, when they’re thinking with clear heads once more.

Its an interesting story but I felt a bit disconnected from it, as I said I think even though its a stand alone it would work better if I’d read all of the others.

I do occasionally get tired of the “quick computer hack” that takes care of everything, tells where folk are, what they’re doing, spies on them remotely – even when there hasn’t been time to set up cameras…and of course knocks out those cameras who see what we don’t want them to.

Its not just in this book, but a growing trend in many suspense reads. PCs can do lots, are a huge asset but they are machines, not miracle cures and I felt here that it was something a little over-used.

Stars: Three, a good read but would have been a great one if perhaps I’d read all the earlier books.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

 

Love You S’more, Beth Merlin

Love You S’more,  Beth Merlin

Love You S'more (The Campfire Series Book 3) by [Merlin, Beth]

Genre:Woman’s fiction, romance

First a quick rant – why “women’s” fiction? Why exclude 50% or readers….men write romance and read it.

I hadn’t read book one or two, two was on KU so I read that and the synopsis of book one. I think I’d have enjoyed this even more if I knew the full backstory from book one, but even without its a story I loved.
Some fabulous characters, and lots to ponder. For me the big one was Why? Why did Perry just ghost her when he moved, when they were so close, so in love? I really needed those answers.

I loved Gigi and Jamie, though occasionally I do feel the Gay Best Friend is becoming a little overused in romance. Still, he fitted in perfectly here and did add much to the story. I adored all the dress designing info, a world I know nothing of. Fashion for me means finding some clothes that are not paint stained…I’m an artist and invariably everything gets an addition of unintentional colour. Last seasons clothes are fine for me, tomorrow I’m attending a christening in an outfit that’s probably 20 years old. It suits me so shy not is my reasoning. Still, I adore reading about the world of fashion, the creation of beautiful outfits ( all that beading, fabrics and beading are a real weakness of mine – tomorrows outfit is an Indian silk printed shalwar kameez, with a lovely glittery copper running through). I love the way something as simple as clothing can become so important, so much depending on it and I was completely sucked into Gigi’s experiences designing Victoria’s outfits.
Alongside that is another world almost foreign to me, Theatre. I was entranced by the whole set design, setting music to scenes, creating a story from history. I could see why Perry was so hooked on the world, why it was so important to him. I still just kept having the thoughts though “why Perry, Why?” He seemed such a great guy, just didn’t seem the callous type. Then there’s Gideon, and he was wonderful too. So very down to earth, so hard working, determined to make his ancestral home pay its way and stay in the family. We’ve a few like that in the region I live, some owned by NT but others where the families work hard to keep everything in the family, even when it means letting the public into your home. I’d find that hard, but when the alternative is losing it? Knowing a few people of his type I felt the scenes with Gigi and his friends and family were very real. The top echelons of UK society can be very insular, do reject those not quite whom they regard as Like Us. U and non U is still very much alive.
So there were Gigi and Gideon, so in love but could the US career girl fit into
UK Society, was love enough? What about Gigi’s career?
And then into all that drops the scandal and poor Gigi once more goes from cream of the top, Lady of the day into Most Despised Person.
I so felt for her, she’d done nothing, it was Perry who really should have copped the blame but as usual the woman gets it ;-( The British press are merciless, and I so hate their desperation to cook up a story, parade lies as truth when it comes to celebrities. There’s a saying they never let the truth get in the way of a good story and its so true, and why I’ve not bought a newspaper for years.
Its a fabulous, engrossing read, transporting the reader into the world of fashion married with High society, and showing just what an impact simple decisions can have on careers and lives. The ending – well, I loved it, perfect for me. I may well go back and read book one sometime, and two and three once more.

A quick point, well a couple of them.
We don’t say Fall, its Autumn. Certainly coming from a landed and titled family Gideon would Never use a US term like that when talking about how booked up Badgely Hall was becoming.
Victoria, future Queen of UK, supposedly lets her husband know of his impending fatherhood by asking for sparkling cider instead of champagne. Here in the UK there is both Still and Sparkling cider, each very alcoholic. There’s no way a future Queen, UK born and bred would request cider, meaning a non alcoholic drink, she’d be asking for water or fruit juice most likely. Sparkling cider is a US/Canadian term only.

They’re small points and usually I could ignore things like that – it happens when writing about other cultures and countries, but these two points are very major ones IMO.

Stars: Five, a fabulous read, engrossing story, real characters and plenty of drama.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

#fireflyhillpress, #Love You S’more,  #Beth Merlin, @fireflyhillpress, @Love You S’more,  @Beth Merlin

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