Word by Word

Creating myself one word at a time.

51s0hSA1EVL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_These days, it seems like books are constantly making the leap from the page to the screen. With celebrities acquiring books for their production companies (cough, Reese, cough) and many new avenues for both movies and television shows (Hulu, Amazon, Netflix), there is real opportunity to see your favorite book come to life. Some are even coming back to life for a third or fourth time, like Anne of Green Gables. Historically, I’ve been a firm believer that the book is better than the movie/show always. Lately, though, I think there is room for argument here.

One of my most recent discoveries is both the Amazon Prime-produced television show and the novel written by Philip K. Dick in 1962, The Man in the High Castle. I willingly admit I watched seasons one and two of the television first. I was intrigued, so I picked up the book while waiting for season three.

 

Overall Ratings (scale of 1 to 5 stars):

  • Book: 2 stars
  • Television Show: 5 stars
  • Adaptation: 3 stars

 

The Similarities:

Both the novel and the show share the same basic premise, World War II was won by Germany, Japan and Italy. The United States has fallen to the Axis powers and it has been chopped up into pieces. It is 1962. This setting is home to some of the same characters; Frank Frink, Juliana, Trade Minister Tagomi and Ed McCarthy. The Man in the High Castle is also present and his name is Abendsen. Trade Ministey Tagomi does have an experience with an alternative dimension. That’s it…those are the similarities.

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The Differences:

One of the things I love about the television show is the seemingly separate stories that come together and connect the various characters. While they are all determining their place in a world ruled by fear and suspicion, the writers of the television show weave them together. So, one of the biggest differences for me is simply a plot that feels like it’s building toward something. An event or a set of decisions. The book follows a lot of the same people, but their connections are tenuous and each is on their own path, with a couple feeling as if they meander without any true destination.

While both the show and the book feature The Man in the High Castle, the book is about an author who has written a bestselling story challenging the history that the Axis won the war. In the television show, he is a mysterious figure collecting and hoarding reels of film that show an alternative history. One is allowed to live in the neutral zone and is only vaguely on the Nazi hit list. The Man in the show, though, is a hunted man who Hitler despises.

Due to the vast differences between the show and the book, there are many details I could highlight. Character histories. Additional characters. Deeper dives into topics only skimmed in the book. I’ll highlight just a couple.

The book features a pretty in-depth look at the Pacific States ruled by the Japanese and the neutral zone, while the television show depicts these and the Nazi-ruled east coast and Berlin. This leads to a lot more knowledge about the Nazi party and the world they’ve created. The Germans and their leaders play a much bigger role in the television show. And one of my favorite characters, Obergruppenführer John Smith (played by Rufus Sewell), isn’t even in the book!

One of the intriguing parts of both mediums is the political state of the German government, however in the television show, Adolf Hitler plays an important role in driving the plot forward. In the book, he’s already dead. Both deal with the chess game that is gaining power, but the book features less known historical figures from the Nazi regime.

The television show also delves deeper into the idea that there is an alternative dimension where Germany lost and the Allies were the victors. I find this aspect of Trade Minister Tagomi and his story fascinating. I can’t wait to see where season three takes him.

I’m glad I both read and watched The Man in the High Castle, but the storytelling, for me, is more dynamic in the television show. There may be a lot I don’t know about Philip K. Dick and his motivations for writing this novel. I should probably learn more about him, but the show motivated me to read something I’m not sure I would have ever picked up at the library or bookstore. I’m glad I read the book, even if the show is more my cup of tea.

41qoICTy5pLSometimes when you’ve read a really heavy book, topic and not page number, you need something fun and light. You need something sweet or funny to help lift your spirits. Over Easy by Pamela Ford was all of those things. It was an enjoyable romantic comedy with a funny cast of characters. The perfect summer afternoon on the porch, by the pool or on the beach read. Here’s what it’s about.

 

Something really needed to change. Unfortunately, as it was turning out, that something was my life. — Pamela Ford, Over Easy

 

Allie and her friends are trying to meet men. They’ve tried other things, but just can’t seem to find men, especially those who might be interested in them. Over post-workout juices one day, they plot out the “continental breakfast club.” The three friends end up on the dining room of a local hotel pretending to be business travelers there for breakfast. Here is a group of men who are wearing their wedding rings, are successful and may just be interested. Over Easy follows Allie, the dog groomer whose family of successful professionals just don’t understand her life choices. She needs to find a date for her parent’s anniversary party. She quickly spots a guy, but she doesn’t realize he’s spotted her too and thinks she his contact for the stolen jewels he’s trying to unload. Soon, Allie with her friends Bree and Megan are on the run. They’re joined by Jax, a recent customer of Allie’s, who just wants his dog back. 

 

What I loved: It was exactly what I wanted when I picked it up. Fun, easy and lighthearted. It’s important, if you decided to read it, that you let it be the fun read that it is. One of the things I loved about Allie was her constant dialogue running in her head. I find I have that bad habit as well. Sometimes, you’re so in your own head you miss what the people around you have said. Allie spends a lot of time in her head making up what she’d say. Her words are perfect in her head, but what comes out of her mouth isn’t any where close to it. She’s funny and a bit of a mess. In the end, she does grow-up a little and realized she’s happy with her life. She’s so busy trying to deflect her family’s critiques that she seems to have lost sight of that.

 

Would I recommend?: You bet, but only if you read it remembering it’s an easy read with a light story. If you are looking for heft, serious topics or characters who are on a journey of self-discovery, this isn’t the one you want to pick-up right now.

 

Back list bonus: As I read this book, I had flashes of Kristin Higgins and her romance books. She’s hilarious! I’d recommend any of her Blue Heron series…and her entire back list!

51wnupYTkOL._SY346_There are times when I open a book and it takes me to another place. There are times when it takes me to another time. Sometimes it’s an escape for a couple of hours. With David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon, it was an uncomfortable trip to another time and just a bit north of where I live. But, as uncomfortable as it was to read, it was a tale I’m glad I know about now.

I’d seen this book on many lists and mentioned in more than a few articles, but my friend put it in my hand and told me I needed to read it. She was right. The book is an in-depth look at a period of history to which I’d never been exposed.

During the 1920’s, a series of murders and mysterious deaths plagued the Osage tribe. The tribe, who had been moved from location to location at the whims of the US government and finally planted in the northern point of the state of Oklahoma, were receiving large amounts of money for the huge oil reserve found on tribal lands. Grann structures the book into three parts. The first tells the story of Mollie Burkhart, a member of the Osage tribe, who sees her family die person-by-person, until she is the only one left and fears for her life. The second part picks up the story of Tom White, Bureau of Investigation agent, and the man Hoover chose to build the reputation of his life’s work. He, along with his team of agents, are tasked with finding out who is killing off the tribe and bring them to justice. The third, and final, part tells Grann’s story of research and learning first hand of the long-term impact of this dark period in history.

I read this book with a growing sense of disgust and horror. While the story is historical and we should be careful applying our own knowledge and current beliefs on another time period, I learned with this book there is a point this isn’t true anymore. We’ve all heard the platitude concerning history and not repeating it. Well, I learned a few things with this book. Here are my thoughts.

In our current political and cultural environment, political corruption seems rampant and everywhere. Or at least it feels like it. Yet, Grann’s research and account revealed layer upon layer of corruption where the Osage tribe were concerned. And, quite frankly, the state government of Oklahoma. Officials, from sheriffs to governors, were brought down for bribery, corruption and any other number of charges and convictions. At moments, this was pretty depressing. However, as I read the section about Tom White and his team of agents, I had my spirit buoyed. They were people from various backgrounds, places and skill sets, yet they teamed together and fought hard to bring some justice to Mollie Burkhart and her family. Did they always get it right? Nope. Did they bring all the corruption to an end? Nope. But, normal people can chip away at the darkness if they keep at it.

The bureau’s probe had long been plagued by leaks and sabotage. One agent complained that “information contained in reports immediately gets into the possession of unauthorized and unscrupulous persons.” –David Grann, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

Truth, it seems, has always been a slippery thing. As I read the story of the Osage, the ability of people to use disinformation and “fake” stories to misdirect and distract people from what is really happening emerged as a major element of this story. Lawmen and private investigators had been looking into the deaths of the Osage for years when White and his agents showed up. They’d chased ghosts and whispers with no real conclusions or answers. Tom White worked hard to bring as much to light as possible, but Grann’s third part of the book showed that truth will out. Sometimes it’s within months, sometimes years and sometimes decades. Yet, it takes people searching for the truth to make it surface. Without pushing and prodding, withough that curious person who just can’t leave well enough alone, we might never know.

What I appreciated most, though, was Grann’s work to humanize and give dimension to people who have long since died. Mollie Burkhart and her family have been gone for a long time. Yet, I ended this book with a sense of the grief, sadness and fear she must have gone through as she fought to find out who killed her sisters and mother. He helped me to feel the helplessness the Osage must have felt under the “guardian” program where white men were given control of their funds because they were considered incompetent. And, I was able to understand how the echoes of an unsolved death can impact families decades later.

An Osage, speaking to a reporter about the guardians, stated, “Your money draws ‘em and you’re absolutely helpless. They have all the law and all the machinery on their side. Tell everybody, when you write your story, that they’re scalping our souls out here.—David Grann, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

In the end, I closed the cover of this book and took a deep breath. I turned the story around in my head and examined it from various perspectives. I hope, someday, to have the courage of Mollie Burkhart to face adversity with tenacity. I hope to fight injustice and honor the truth like Tom White. I hope to value every human not because of their ethnicity or because of what I can get from them, but for just being a fellow human. Thank you, David Grann, for bringing this tragic chapter of American history to our attention and just when we all might need a reminder about what we should all be fighting for.

 

SayYoureSorryIt’s been a crazy, busy week–both in the book world and in my other worlds. I read a couple of great books this week. You’ll be able to read my review of Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann, which I both found hard to read and loved. So many emotions!

I also got the first book in a new series by Melinda Leigh and I can’t wait to dig into that one! She always offers up an exciting story that makes for a quick, page-turning read.

My posts this week included reviews of The Story Thieves by James Riley and Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. You can read my thoughts here.

 

Here’s what I was reading this week:

On audio-                                                                 On e-book-

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In hard back-

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Here are the articles that caught my attention this week:

 

I picked up a book from one of my favorite authors: 

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Happy Reading!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

download (1)True confession. Before reading this book, I hadn’t read anything by Rainbow Rowell. I’ve heard the buzz, but I just hadn’t gotten to Fangirl and Landline. When Attachments popped up in my Kindle Daily Deals, the premise sounded intriguing and I couldn’t pass it up. I’m really glad I hit the “buy” button!

Not only is this a sweet story about taking a risk and trying to make a connection, it’s practically historical fiction with the Y2K drama and the early email/Internet workplace rules. I snickered more than once at the reminders about how paranoid 1999 leaders and IT people were about people not working and spending all their time on the Internet.

Here’s the gist of the story. Lincoln is almost 30 years-old and he’s back to living with his mom after finishing several college degrees and a heartbreak that still has him in shock. He’s landed a job he hates, reading the employee emails at a local newspaper. That’s right. He’s the creep who works nights and reads the emails for policy violations. He then sends out warnings to violators. He also happens to be working just as the calendar is switching from 1999 to 2000. One night, the emails of two female friends hit his violations folder. Jennifer and Beth send funny, charming and totally against policy emails to each other. And Lincoln can’t bring himself to get them in trouble. Instead, he begins reading them and he slowly develops feelings for Beth.

Every woman wants a man who’ll fall in love with her soul as well as her body. –Rainbow Rowell, Attachments

What I loved: While we get to know Jennifer and Beth through their emails, we’re really in Lincoln’s story. I loved getting the guy’s perspective in this sweet love story. As Lincoln’s back story is slowly revealed, it becomes clear that this hulking man is hurting. He’s been scarred by his last relationship and doesn’t know how to come back from it. And as we discover all the wonderful things about Lincoln, who struggles to see he’s worth something, we begin to inspect all of the relationships he has. His group of D&D friends, Doris his dinner companion at work, Eve his sister and his mother. I loved learning about all of these, but I believe the mother/son relationship was the most interesting to me. Now, a few years ago I would have been all in for the Beth/Lincoln story…and it was great. But, Lincoln’s relationship with his mother fascinated me. As a mom of a 9 year-old boy, I struggle with learning about his inner emotional world and how to have him share that with me. I may have over-identified with his mother when she said the quote below. In the end, there isn’t much I didn’t love about this book.

Why do you think I can remember that,” she asked, “when you can’t? Why does nature do that to us? How does that serve evolution? Those were the most important years of my life, and you can’t even remember them. You can’t understand why it’s so hard for me to hand you off to someone else. You want me to act casual.” –Rainbow Rowell, Attachments

Would I recommend?: Absolutely! Do you love a tender love story? This is for you. Do you like to read about someone overcoming hurt and loss? This is for you. Do you like funny characters and witty dialogue? This is for you. Do you want just a quick, heart-warming tale? This is for you. If you don’t want to be up late reading. This book isn’t for you!

Back list bonus: Honestly, this made me think of my guilty pleasure rom coms. While You Were Sleeping. You’ve Got Mail. It also made me think of Kristin Higgins, who writes some of my favorite funny romance. The characters were funny and witty, but vulnerable. Want a specific Higgins to read? Read them all! Trust me. You’ll thank me later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

22546584._UY475_SS475_Imagine being able to jump into any one of your favorite books and watch the story unfold. Want to drink tea with the Mad Hatter? Want to run into Jane and Elizabeth Bennett on a walk in the countryside? Or maybe you have a taste for Wonka Bars? That’s no problem for Bethany, one of the main characters in Story Thieves. As a half fictional character and half human kid, she has a special talent. But, it isn’t one she uses very often, until now.

Riley’s first installment in the Story Thieves series is about Bethany and Owen. One day at school, Owen discovers Bethany’s secret and it isn’t long before they are both on fictional and real adventures. Quick recap.

Bethany has a secret. She can jump in and out of her favorite stories. Her fictional father has disappeared into a book and she’s on the hunt to find him, unknown to her mother who would totally disapprove. Owen, a classmate, discovers her secret one day when she comes back from Willy Wonka’s factory with chocolate treats. All Owen wants is to jump into his favorite book series about Kiel Gnomenfoot, especially with the seventh–and final book–being published. Bethany has strict rules for her travels through tales. Owen talks her into jumping into the sixth Kiel book to get a “finding spell” to help her find her father. That’s when all the things go wrong. Bethany has to try to stop a magician from turning the real world upside down and Owen is stuck in the final Kiel book trying to keep the story from changing.  

As I’ve read with my son, one of our nightly routines, we’ve read a lot of shorter books. This was one of our longer books to read together. It took us some time to finish it, but we really enjoyed it and my kiddo was always eager to “read just one more chapter.” There was adventure, magic and funny quips for the kids. There was a lot for an adult reader as well; references to great works of literature, challenges to long held beliefs and what it means to challenge yourself to see things through. And, who am I kidding, I was there for the adventure, magic and funny quips.

Once a couple of chapters into the story, Bethany finds herself in our world with Kiel Gnomenfoot attempting to stop a powerful magician from bringing all the mythical monsters out of their stories. Owen, though, is stuck in the Kiel Gnomenfoot books with a half-robot girl named Charm trying to see the book series through to the end.

Bethany, who has strict rules about books and not messing up the story, finds herself up against a tough magician. She joins forces with Kiel and through him learns some valuable lessons about her power and how to think on her feet. Even when faced with the possibility of spending time with her father, she chooses to take the harder route. She chooses to fight a hard fight.

Owen, who was sure there would be nothing cooler than being Kiel, is, at first, totally stoked to be fighting the fight with Charm, Kiel’s friend. He’s disguised as Kiel, using magic, and gets to go up against Dr. Verity, the evil scientist bound on ridding the fictional world of magic. Charm isn’t so sure about this Kiel at first. He isn’t as fearless and quippy as usual. Over the course of Owen playing out the final Kiel book, he learns fictional characters can become best friends and sacrifices, even fictional ones, can hurt just as much as those in the real world.

After all, books were the truest form of magic that existed, in a lot of ways. If he’d learned nothing else in the last day or so, it’d been that. –Story Thieves

There are big themes in this kid’s book, some of which I’ve already mentioned. The one that impressed me the most though was learning that people aren’t always what we think they are and we can learn things from them. Bethany and Owen were both challenged by the characters from the Kiel Gnomenfoot books. Charm challenged Owen’s ideas of who he though Kiel was and who Owen needed to be to see the story to its end. Owen learned that Charm was much more than just a fictional character.

In a similar fashion, Bethany and Kiel pushed each other. In the end, I think Bethany probably showed the most growth. Kiel forced her to view who she was a little differently. Half fictional? Embrace it and start thinking more like a fictional character.

It was fun to talk about these changes in the characters throughout the book with my son. It prompted good conversation about being open to those around us and knowing that we can often learn new things in surprising places.

We’re excited to read the next installment of this series and see just where Owen, Bethany and maybe even Kiel might be headed.

 

 

 

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This weekend’s reading is the choice from my What Now? post. Ready to dive in. 

Summer weekends have so much promise and I’m ready to dive into this one. One of my planned events is to hit my new favorite bookstore, Commonplace Books, with my daughter. She got a gift card for her high school graduation and is dying to spend it! If you’re in the Oklahoma City area, I highly recommend visiting this charming bookish place. I find that bookstores have personalities and each one has a mood it evokes. Commonplace is like the Malibu of bookstores. Laid back. Cool without trying. Muted in a nice way.

This week felt like an onslaught of new books to add to my TBR. Between my podcast episodes loading me down and some great blog posts, my list grew by about 20. Now, to actually get them read. There were a couple I heard about repeatedly. I will certainly be adding Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan. I love books about bookstores!

Here’s what I was reading this week:

On audio-                                                                       On e-book-

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With the kid-

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There were also some great articles that caught my eye this week:

Happy reading!

 

 

 

 

downloadRecently, I read a blog post about whether adults should finish a book when they aren’t enjoying it. The blogger came down on the side of closing the book and moving on, but there were plenty of comments from those who are unable to walk away from a book unfinished.

In my own experience, I have found that a book has to be REALLY not for me to cause me to walk away. As I listened to Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye, which I had heard wonderful things about, I was battling myself for the first four hours. Something about the early part of this book just wasn’t catching me. I even had a conversation with my friend, Niki. To toss the book aside or not?

In end, I pushed through and I have to say, in this case, I’m glad I did. It doesn’t always work this way, but I got lucky.

Reader, I murdered him. –Jane Steele

The heroine of this tale, Jane Steele, calls back to her favorite fictional character Jane Eyre, however she is very different from Jane Eyre. She is raised on an English estate in the guest house by a French mother who teaches her to believe she should inherit the estate. Quickly, her world changes when her mother dies from overdose. She commits her first murder when her cousin attempts to molest her and she pushes him down a cliff. From there, her Aunt Prudence ships her off to boarding school where horrible experiences await her. After yet another murder, she leaves on foot for London and is followed by a classmate, who isn’t aware of Jane’s guilt, and they attempt to survive the streets of London. Through various situations and years, we find ourselves with Jane as she leaves her work of writing “gallows sheets”, the stories of those who have recently been put to death by hanging. She heads back to her home where there is a new heir, Charles Thornfield, and he is in need of a governess for his ward. Jane is not prepared for what she discovers about the new owner and his staff. Will she prove she should inherit the estate? Will she become entwined in the secrets of those who live on the estate?

What I loved: So, you may be asking yourself why was there a debate about whether to finish the book or not? It was the story of Jane’s childhood. Something about her early story just didn’t click with me. Once I reached Jane as an adult and as she prepared to go back to the estate where she was raised, I was able to really get into the story. Yet, the early story helped to frame who she was as an adult. I’m conflicted about that early part of the story. But, I loved the later part of the story. Faye weaves into her story so much wonderful information about the Punjab history in Lahore and the actions of the East India Company. I loved the religious and cultural details she included. The characters she introduces us to, Mr. Singh the Sikh butler for sure, are a wonderful addition to a gothic tale. The secrets and mysterious events that took place during the Sikh Wars are interesting and I loved how Faye unraveled those.

Would I recommend?:  Hmmm. On Goodreads I gave this 3 stars. I would probably actually do 3.5 stars. I would recommend this though to a certain group of people. Those who love the gothic would really like this book. Those who are familiar with the Jane Eyre story, but also loved Dexter, would love this book. Also, those who enjoy Victorian England’s less told stories, like the Sikh Wars, would enjoy this as well.

Backlist bonus: I would throw out Turn of the Screw by Henry James. Those gothic elements really made me think of this book. I would also add Michelle Moran’s The Rebel Queen. Strong female warrior in India.

These days we crowdfund for causes, we read online reviews of products we’re considering and we go straight to social media when we want our friends’ opinions about a topic or idea. So, I’m going to try something new here. I’m going to get your opinions for what I should read next!

I always have great options on my TBR, but sometimes choosing the one you’ll actually pick-up and read is hard! Maybe you see a book here that you’ve been considering. Whatever book is chosen, I’ll review here.

So, here we go. What’s Next?, the June edition!

Here are my three choices. Comment with their title or assigned number in the comments. I’ll tally votes on Friday, June 16.  

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2. 51wnupYTkOL._SY346_

 

3. 51s0hSA1EVL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_

 

 

 

imagesWhen the epilogue of the first book in the series leaves your chin on the ground, you know the second book will have all kinds of twists and turns. And Kerry Lonsdale’s Everything We Keep had a killer epilogue. The kind that made me say, “Damn, that epilogue though.”

Luckily, unlike some fans, I didn’t have to wait too long to read the follow-up to Everything We Keep. While Everything We Left Behind is a “sequel” in that it tells you what happened after the events of the first book, it had quite a few years between the books and we swap narrators. So, here’s the basic premise of the series. In Everything We Keep we meet Aimee. She’s a grieving fiance who has just buried her love on the day they were to marry. You can see my Quick Take on that story. If you haven’t read that one, you might want to stop here and read it really quickly. Spoilers and all.

Okay, all done? Great read, huh? In Everything We Left Behind, Lonsdale takes us into the mind of James/Carlos. And it’s a fascinating dive. We see James/Carlos through a split story. You get a chapter of Carlos dealing with the aftermath of finding out he’s been duped by those he thought he could trust and coming to grips with the fact that at any time he could come out of his fugue state and no longer be Carlos. The alternating chapters show the aftermath of James “waking up” to a life six years later and totally different from what he remembers.

Just as with the first book and Aimee’s story, we see a person broken by situation who is seeking to find healing and wholeness. If you read my Quick Take, you’ll know that I loved the way Lonsdale carefully takes Aimee through the grief of losing her life-long love. She does it again with taking James/Carlos to a point of acceptance with their shared situation. They are both James/Carlos. I think Nat says it best. One body, one heart, one soul. The brain is just confused. And just like the men handle situations differently when it comes to people and events, they each handle acceptance of what happened with the fugue differently. As I read, my one hope for James/Carlos was to learn that each was him. His brain just unlocked different aspects of himself.

In the end, though, I was still not sure what to think of the Donato family. Thomas, mom and Phil are not wonderful people. It seems to be the one thing James/Carlos agree on. Don’t trust them. Yet, Lonsdale is able to create sympathy even for these three. Victims of their circumstances and each making horrible mistakes. I’m not sure, in the end, we trust them, but I’ll go with James/Carlos if he’s able to let go of any anger and walk away.

Bottom line, I really enjoyed the follow-up Lonsdale creates with Everything We Left Behind. I wasn’t sure where she was taking me when I started, but I really loved where she landed. And the final locale in Hawaii wasn’t a bad place to hang with these interesting characters! Solid story about the human spirit and the ability for love to transcend even the most difficult situations.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

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