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Reflections on the #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I discussed different book genres/categories. Each day, I gave a few details about the genre/catego...

May 17, 2014

Series Saturday: The Darkness Trilogy Books 1 and 2 by @AGPorter1

by Claire Rees

The Shadow
In book 1 of A. G. Porter's The Darkness Trilogy, Rayna is looking for a summer job to help her to pay towards college but ends up getting and internship at a golf resort called ‘The Landing’.  She is enjoying the job and meets a few new friends. She soon starts to have terrifying dreams about girls who have been kidnapped by somebody she calls the shadow that are so realistic they make her physically sick and start affecting her sleep. Even with all this going on Rayna manages to capture the hearts of two gorgeous rich guys and falls in love with one of them, although the relationship may prove deadly for one of them.  After watching the news about the recent kidnapping and the discovery of a body Rayna realises that her terrifying dreams are actually becoming true, and the worst bit is she believes that one of her new friends is mixed up in all of this madness and may become the next target.

Will Rayna be able to save her friend before it is too late?

She starts to send the police anonymous recordings through a friend of a friend but does not have enough information to give them a good lead.  After Rayna and her friend get attacked and leaves Rayna in hospital and her friend missing she now has to rely on her ‘gift’ once again to help her. Drawing in extra strength to guide her Rayna goes on a mission alone to save her friend from the hands of ‘The Shadow’.

The Shadow by A. G. Porter has many twists and turns. It was chilling in parts and left me scared to go to sleep. The Shadow is terrifying and seems to have an unhealthy obsession with Rayna. It is a very good book for young adults who like the paranormal and scary reads. It is the first book of a three part series.

Buy The Shadow at Amazon

The Forsaken
The second book, The Forsaken,  takes off around six months after the first one ends, with Rayna returning back to school after her recovering from her terrifying attack by followers of ‘The Shadow’. Rayna discovers that her powers are growing incredibly strong and this makes it even harder to return to her old life. When a new guy starts to hang around Rayna and her friends, Leslie and Sarah, but she cannot get a read on him, Rayna starts to become suspicious and enrolls the help of her other friends to help her look into him.

We also get to read the story from the viewpoint of Liam and Jayce and one of them is also getting powers.

Rayna once again has to overcome her own fears in order to save her friends from ‘The Shadow’ who comes too close for comfort in this book.  The shadow tries all ways in this book to alienate Rayna from her friends and family in the hopes that she will turn to him and join his ranks. He very nearly succeeds and Rayna once again finds herself in a terrible accident where she could have lost her life.

I found book number two to be much darker than the first and much more scary as Rayna comes face to face with ‘The Shadow’. This time though she is not alone and draws strength from the friends she is trying so hard to protect. If you have read book one and are not sure whether to read book two, please buy it – you will not be disappointed. I was very much engrossed in The Forsaken by A. G. Porter and finished it in a matter of days. For young adults and adults who like the paranormal/romance with nightmarish twists.

Buy The Forsaken at Amazon

Book Info:
format: ebook & paperback
published: December 2012 (book 1), February 2014 (book 2)
source: Author
read: April 2014

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small fee is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the links above. Free books where provided for the review.
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May 16, 2014

#FierceReads Event at @AvidBookShop

by Donna Huber
(be sure to enter the giveaway at the end)

On Wednesday evening I went to my local indie bookstore - Avid Bookshop - for MacMillan Teen's Fierce Reads Tour stop. Even though Avid has done a great job bringing authors to Athens for events, it is still a bit rare to get a nationwide tour to add this college town to their schedule. But what a great night it was.

This leg of the Fierce Reads YA Tour featured (from left to right) Marie Rutkoski, Katie Finn, Anna Banks, and Lindsay Smith. They were a fun bunch. Which is definitely something to note given they had to take a long drive from Charlotte, NC to Athens without their luggage due to a delayed flight to make it to Athens on time. Arriving moments before the event, they barely had time to get their bearings before the questions started. And perhaps being slightly off-kilter and definitely caffeinated, played in the audience's favor. A few never before revealed tidbits slipped out. What secrets, you ask? Read on for what was heard at this book signing.

Marie Rutkoski, an associate professor in the English department at Brooklyn College (her specialty is Renaissance Literature), shared the title of her newest novel The Winner's Curse comes from an economic theory that is often seen in sport drafts. Wanting to see how the theory played out when the stakes were higher than whether or not you got a great player, she began asking what if life and love where on the line.

About The Winner's Curse
The Winner's Curse
Winning what you want may cost you everything you love
As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.
One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.
But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.
Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.
Rutkoski proposed that "message could also just be passion; what makes the author want to put words on the page." Though not necessarily aiming for a message, she did want to write a book where being smart was sexy. Kestrel's intelligence is her defining characteristic.

When questioned about gender roles/issues as portrayed in her novel, Rutkoski revealed that the main reason Kestrel requires an escort to go out in public is so she had a reason to spend time with Arin.

A method she employed during her world building was to create a game that was specific to that world. Inspired by the writings of Katherine Paterson, Rutkoski's goal was not only to tell an entertaining story, but to create something beautiful.

Buy The Winner's Curse at Amazon

When I got my giveaway copies in the mail, I was most drawn to the cover of Katie Finn's Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend. If I wasn't afraid of dropping it in the pool, it would so be my pool read this summer.The first book in the Broken Hearts and Revenge series introduces Gemma who struggles to do the right thing.

Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to MendAbout Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend
Summer, boys, and friendships gone sour. This new series has everything that perfect beach reads are made of!
Gemma just got dumped and is devastated. She finds herself back in the Hamptons for the summer—which puts her at risk of bumping into Hallie, her former best friend that she wronged five years earlier. Do people hold grudges that long?
When a small case of mistaken identity causes everyone, including Hallie and her dreamy brother Josh, to think she’s someone else, Gemma decides to go along with it.
Gemma's plan is working (she's finding it hard to resist Josh), but she's finding herself in embarrassing situations (how could a bathing suit fall apart like that!?). Is it coincidence or is someone trying to expose her true identity? And how will Josh react if he finds out who she is?
Katie Finn hits all the right notes in this perfect beginning to a new summer series: A Broken Hearts & Revenge novel.
Unlike the other three authors, Finn didn't have as much world building to do for her book. Instead she said she struggled with "tone building" as she wanted to make the story realistic, but also humorous. "Find the right balance was challenging, " confided Finn. She further compared her writing process to taking a road trip. One knows the general direction and the high points of the trip, but not all the stops along the way. In the same way, she plots just enough to know she will get to the final line that she has in mind, but lets the story find its way.

Fun Fact - The story idea came to Finn while eating ice cream and the phrase "revenge is a dish best served cold" popped into her head. But you will have to wait until book two to get that particular title.

Buy Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend at Amazon

Anna Banks, who was curiously the only one not with a cup of coffee, brought several laughs to the standing room only crowd. Like more than a few authors, she decided to write a book after reading the Twilight series. She soon discovered a book that is "easy reading is not easy writing". However, she had her first writing piece published in the local newspaper at the age of 17- a letter to the editor about people not tipping well. She admitted at the time she didn't realize it was because she was a bad waitress.

About Of Poseidon
Of Poseidon
Galen is the prince of the Syrena, sent to land to find a girl he's heard can communicate with fish. Emma is on vacation at the beach. When she runs into Galen—literally, ouch!—both teens sense a connection. But it will take several encounters, including a deadly one with a shark, for Galen to be convinced of Emma's gifts. Now, if he can only convince Emma that she holds the key to his kingdom...
Told from both Emma and Galen's points of view, here is a fish-out-of-water story that sparkles with intrigue, humor, and waves of romance.

Inspired to explore the world below the ocean surface by a documentary on the giant squid may have led Banks to learn more about marine life than she ever had interest in before. Scientists weren't sure if the giant squid existed until one washed ashore. What else lay below the surface? It was this question that spurred Banks to dive into the world of mermaids.

Asked whether she is a plotter or a pantser, she responded that to outline is like "getting in the shower with your bra on" - it just feels wrong.

Banks confessed to lifting a lot from her husband, though he doesn't know it since he hasn't read the books. To discover more skeletons from her closet, you will need to read her upcoming novel Joyride.

Buy Of Poseidon at Amazon

Do you like to accompany your reading with a playlist? Then Sekret by Lindsay Smith will be your cup of tea as the questions she gets most are in regards to the music mentioned in the book. Smith's goal was to explore the emotional stakes in living in an oppressive state and Russia in the 1960s was the perfect setting for her novel. A bonus she got to put her degree in Russian studies to use.

About Sekrets
An empty mind is a safe mind.

Yulia's father always taught her to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive the harsh realities of Soviet Russia. But when she's captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she's thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power. Yulia quickly realizes she can trust no one--not her KGB superiors or the other operatives vying for her attention--and must rely on her own wits and skills to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.

Smith created a conflicted character in Yulia. She struggles with staying true to herself while doing what is required of her. To bring her readers into the story and the world in which Yulia lives, Smith sought out the fine details as that is what life is made of. It is what defines a character.

Smith has found that outlining makes writing go faster and a little smoother. However, her preferred writing method is "to allow the story to brew itself."

Buy Sekret at Amazon

As you can see, a lot was discussed and I think the crowd had a great time getting to know these four authors a little more. Even if you don't get to see them in person, I hope my recounting of the night made you feel a little part of the tour. Several people purchased the books and had them signed. As a girl who grew up in rural America and a little jealous of my city counterparts who get to go to big name author signings all the time, I made sure to grab their autographs on the books I have for giveaway.

Yes that's right you have the chance to win a signed copy of one the featured books. (Sorry it is only open to US addresses.) There are also a few extra signed copies at Avid Bookshop and they ship.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small fee is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the links above.
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May 15, 2014

Managing Your Brand

by Donna Huber

There is a lot of talk about creating your brand and managing your brand and rebranding and well, what all does that mean? And what should you be doing, if anything?

According to the dictionary, "Brand" is a product manufactured by a company. But to bring it into the realm of the book world and blogging, it might be an author's book or a blogger's blog. We see it with The Vampire Dairies. The brand that is the book series is separate from the author who created the series - the most recent books are written by a ghost writer of sorts. However, brand may be more than just the product. In the book world, it is often the person behind the product that you are branding.

To think of brand in a broader sense, it is your reputation.

As a book reviewer, your reputation as providing a fair and honest assessment of a book is important.

As an author, your reputation as a great story teller is important.

But managing your brand is more than just writing a great review or book. It is about who you are publicly as well. Your brand is best established through your interaction on social media. It is also where it can be most damaged. How many actors and actresses have fallen from grace because of something said or done publicly that reflected negatively on him or her?

You should take great care about what you share on Twitter, Facebook, etc. If you are a children's author it would be unwise to post about an erotic novel. Why? How would a parent feel if they visited your Facebook page with their child and the first thing they saw was a sexually explicit cover? You want to be accessible to your fans not matter what their age.

As a blogger, everything you share reflects on what one might find on your blog. If you feature sexy reads on your blog then sharing about picture books on Twitter won't be of interest to your fans and may diminish your brand. You do not want to confuse your readers as to what your blog offers.

I understand you may want to reciprocate help. Sharing others so they share you. That is great as long as they fit into your brand. If it does not, then you may be doing more harm than good.

I also understand you have other interests and that's great. It will help create a well-rounded person for your readers to know. Yet, always keep in mind how it will effect your brand, your reputation. If all I ever talked about on Facebook and Twitter were animals, then people may forget all about my blog. It is one of the reasons why I highly recommend having a personal Facebook profile and a Facebook fan page. Also it should be noted that it is against Facebook policies to promote your business on a personal profile.

I don't want to discourage anyone from sharing content online, I know we all need it. However, the next time you are wanting to share something think first if it is something you actually would recommend to your readers. Is it something they would find useful or imformative? Remember the first rule of social media is to be social. That means putting thought in to what you are sharing. It means understanding your readership well enough to provide content they want to see. If you are not taking your readers, your followers in to account when you click share then you are just adding to the noise, the clutter they have to wade through. And you know what? If there is so much clutter that they lose sight of why they followed you in the first place, then you might find yourself with one less reader come your next book or blog post.

What are you doing to brand yourself?

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May 14, 2014

The Movie Version

by Alison DeLuca

Hello! I’m Alison DeLuca, a writer and editor. I’m going to appear here on Girl Who Reads once a month, each second Wednesday, with thoughts on reading, books, and other things that make life magical. I want to discuss the topics you find interesting, so if you have a suggestion you can leave a message under a column post.

Sometimes movies do a hack job on the novel upon which they are based. There are different reasons for this: a director forces his own vision onto the story in a way that simply doesn’t work, or the producer wants excitement, chase scenes, explosions at the sacrifice of plot and character.

And to be honest, some books just don’t translate well on the screen. One example is The Great Gatsby, which is a lovely novel. The language is breathless and heartbreaking, both at once, and the images are vital, colorful and searing. However, I have yet to watch a really good rendition on screen.

Wuthering Heights
Lately I have seen some films do wonders with the plots of the originating story. An example is Wuthering Heights, now streaming on Netflix. The BBC took liberties with the story, adding physical love and writing out the narrator’s character; the result is a gorgeous film. Tom Hardy as Heathcliff has a lot to do with it – the actor brings the rather difficult story (three characters beginning with H is tough stuff for a reader!) to immediate life with his brooding, dark presence.

The Hunger Games is another example. I liked the books, but I thought the film made the action incredibly compelling; I also loved watching the actors in their gorgeous costumes and sets. We just rented Catching Fire, and I’m pleased to say it’s as good as the first.

Two disappointing movies for me as a dedicated Harry Potter fan was The Order of the Phoenix. Phoenix was my favorite of the series – Umbridge was so dreadful and the Weasely twins’ revenge on her so perfect – and I really looked forward to the film. Unfortunately, the director cut out a great deal of the story in order to make it a shorter film; I have no idea why. We’re Harry Potter fans and we sit for hours reading these books, so why try to truncate the story? To this day I don’t understand.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy was a book I inhaled in great gasps. The story is horrific, and I know I’ll never read it again; however, the prose was like jagged shark teeth, tearing at me with pitiless beauty. Its filmed version is on Netflix (yes, I do stream a lot of films) and I really enjoyed it. Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron were incredible, and the boy they picked to play her son looks just like her. In fact, the actor was innocent, sad, happy at times – he was a delight to watch.

Eat Pray Love
Eat Pray Love is one of my favorite books. The structure of little pieces to form a coherent whole made a beautiful reading experience. The film was quite different, portraying the book as a complete story. I wonder if it could have been broken up into chapters (as A Room With a View was in the 90’s) for a better result.

Speaking of A Room With a View, yes it is on Netflix, and yes, I watched it again recently. It’s developed a retro feel over the years, but Ivory / Merchant captured the breathless swoon the young Lucy Honeychurch experiences as she confronts real passion for the first time. Of course, any movie with Daniel Day-Lewis, Julian Sands, Helena Bonham Carter and Maggie Smith is going to be amazing.

However, if you do stream the film, don’t let it stop you from reading the book. E. M. Forster is very accessible, and I highly recommend the novel. Heck, read all of Forster while you’re at it – Howard’s End is amazing as well.

The Color Purple was one of my favorite books in the 80’s. It’s really timeless, and the story just as compelling today. The film was quite a different experience, but extremely enjoyable – Whoopi Goldberg brought Celie to life wonderfully, and Oprah Winfrey’s turn as Sofia was incredible. Just don’t expect it to be like the book – or vice versa. The book is told through letters, and the ending is different. I loved the spare prose and comfortable ending (as well as Celie’s pants!) which didn’t translate to the film.

Both, however, are still really well-done.

The trend to drive novels to screen continues in 2014. Oz has come back in Dorothy’s Return, How to Train Your Dragon makes another splash with part 2, and The Maze Runner will arrive in October. As far as buzz goes, they are all eclipsed by The Fault in Our Stars.

In fact, there is so much anticipation for this movie I’ll discuss TFiOS in length in next month’s column.

Watch the official trailer from 20th Century Fox.

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May 13, 2014

Review: Mistaken Enemy by Dennis A Nehamen

by Donna Huber

Mistaken Enemy
I really wanted to like Mistaken Enemy by Dennis A Nehamen. It sounded just like my kind of book. A political thriller with a terrorist plot and one man who could save millions. Sounds like a season of 24. right? Unfortunately it fell flat for me. I'm actually surprised I made it to the end and didn't just give up.

A meeting with a mysterious child sends Zach to Israel. He knows of the tension between Israel and Palestine, but doesn't really understand the stakes. On the plane, his seatmate, a friendly Arab man about his age, invites him to stay with his family. Then Zach is pulled aside at Customs and his entry paperwork is changed. Officials insist he register as Press. He spends a few days doing the tourist thing before going to stay with the family. They show him around and begin indoctrinating him on the plight of the Palestinians. He uncovers a possible terrorist attack, but what will he do? Millions will die if he doesn't report it to the authorities, but the family he has come to love will be shattered if he does report it.

Buy Mistaken Enemy at Amazon

There some twists and turns, bombings and whispers. But nothing that gets the heart racing. The gunfire and car bombing scenes didn't seem to phase Zach. When his companions confide in him that they are terrorists he doesn't even blink an eye or start planning his departure. I thought there were several missed opportunities to make Mistaken Enemy at true political thriller. Instead it wound up being mildly suspenseful.

I think there was just too much details that didn't matter and interrupted the pace of the story. I'm struggling with giving a short summary of the story. Have you ever read a book that seemed to grow? I would think I read a good chunk of the story, but it seemed that the end just got further and further away. Things would just be getting exciting and the reader would be flooded with details. The closest the story got to being a thriller was the arrest of Zach and subsequent torture. Yet, even that was short lived as the story follows the hallucinations of Zach and his "time/space travels".

The reader does it a good look at the every day life of Muslims living within/near Israel. And some of the more militant beliefs of Palestinians. But if you are looking for a thriller, then I think you will be disappointed. But if you are looking for a political narrative, then you might want to pick up Mistaken Enemy by Dennis A. Nehamen.

Book Info
format: ebook and paperback
published: December 2013 by Musical Novels Press
source: publicist
read: April 2014

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small fee is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the link above. A free ebook was provide for the review.
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May 12, 2014

Meet Rebekkah Ford

by Donna Huber

Where did you grow up/live now?

I was born in Ohio, but grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. Eight years ago my husband and I moved to rural North Dakota, and we love it here.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

A writer.

Do you have kids? pets?

I don’t have kids. I can’t have them, but I do have a cat. He’s my four legged kid. 

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? 

As long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a writer.

Where and when do you best like to write? 

I like to write in my little office at home. I love to write when it’s dark and gloomy outside. However, to be honest, I love to write every chance I get.

Do you have any interesting writing habits or superstitions? 


When you are struggling to write/have writer’s block, what are some ways that help you find your creative muse again? 

I walk away from it and read a book. That always helps me. 

What do you think makes a good story? 

The characters and plot.

What inspired your Beyond the Eyes series? 

Dark Spirits
My fascination with the paranormal world, my love of history and questions I have that cannot be answered. The what ifs. What if there are soulless people walking among societies and malevolent beings are possessing them? Is that why there are evil people in our world?

How does a new story idea come to you? Is it an event that sparks the plot or a character speaking to you? 

It just comes to me out of nowhere. I do have characters who surprise me and sometimes forces me to bend the story to fit their agenda. If that makes sense. 

What was your greatest challenge in writing this series? 

Facing my fear of ridicule. 

On a Friday night, what are you most likely to be doing? 

Every Friday night is date night with my husband. When we come home, if it’s not too late, I’ll get on Facebook and visit with my street team. I’ll also check my emails. I get a lot of them.

What do you like to do when you're not writing? 

I love to read, watch my favorite TV shows, take walks with my husband, go out to eat, and take short road trips.

Who are some of your favorite authors? 

George Orwell, Anne Rice, JK Rowling, and Stephen King.

What's the best writing advice you have ever received? 

Don’t edit while you’re writing your story. Get the story written. Rough drafts are always crap. You’ll have plenty of time to polish it up. Just. Get. The. Story. Written.

What was your favorite book as a child? 

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. I still have the book by the way. 

What is the one book no writer should be without? 

A thesaurus.

How does your spouse/significant other/friends/family feel about your writing career? 

They think it’s awesome and are blown away by it. They can’t fathom how I can sit for like ten hours and write a story.

If your book was turned into a movie, who would you like to play the main characters? 

They would be unknown actors. 

About the Author:
Rebekkah Ford grew up in a family that dealt with the paranormal. Her parents’ Charles and Geri Wilhelm were the directors of the UFO Investigator’s League in Fairfield, Ohio, back in the 1970s. They also investigated ghost hauntings and Bigfoot sightings in addition to UFO’s. Growing up in this type of environment and having the passion for writing is what drove Rebekkah at an early age to write stories dealing with the paranormal. Her fascination with the unknown is what led her to write the Beyond the Eyes trilogy.
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Buy Dark Spirits at Amazon
Get book 1 - Beyond the Eyes for FREE at Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small fee is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the links above. The views, opinions, and beliefs expressed by guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of Girl Who Reads.

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May 11, 2014

Two Cents Discussion: Is Sex Required for a Great Romance Novel?

We had a great discussion last week about what makes a book a favorite. If you missed it, you can still drop your two cents in the comments on that post. You can add your two cents to this discussion by leaving a comment, writing your own post and link it up below, or share on Twitter, Facebook, etc to get the discussion going with your friends and fans.

Does a love story have to contain sex scenes to be a great romance novel?

I like romance and I actually prefer there to be a little love in the air between characters in most of the books I read. Yet, my long time readers know that I don't care for sex scenes. But it isn't just not wanting sex in the book. It is more about how the sex is portrayed. When the scene is only physical description of hand (and other body parts) placement and moan it is rarely adding anything to the story for me. One exception is a manuscript I content edited. The main character was a sex addict, though that isn't disclosed to the reader until a little later in the story. The sex was only physical for him and through the description of the act, the reader sees that there is no emotional connection and his actions inform the reader to an aspect of his personality.

If the scene is there just to add a measure of "hotness" to the story, for me it actually cools my reading pleasure. The story would be better served fading to black and getting on with the more important parts of the story.

If an author wants to add hotness through sex scenes, then they should focus on the emotions, the connection that is being formed between the two characters. An excellent example is Sylvain Reynard's trilogy: Gabriel's Inferno, Gabriel's Rapture, and Gabriel's Redemption. After reading the first book in the series, I really had to think about was there sex in the book. That's because the actually act was wrapped in the emotions, the devotion, love the characters shared.

So that's my two cents. What do you think? Link up with your own post or leave a comment below.

Next week's topic: Why is the dystopian genre so popular, particularly in young adult fiction?

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