Monthly Archives:: November 2011

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

November 30, 2011 Book Reviews, Books 9

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In 2007, I read a new to be author by the name of Brian Selznick. His book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, came to be in my top 10 for that year. I loved it. With the movie out, I knew I had to see it. I also knew I had to reread it. In 2007, I said:

Combining excellent narrative, beautiful illustration, and a high dose of imagination, Brian Selznick has created a bittersweet and touching story, among other things, a 12-year-old orphan, a heartbroken old man, a little bit of magic, and an automaton.

Personally, I have never quite seen a book so stylistic and original.  As you open the book, you are invited to follow a young boy, Hugo Cabret, as he moves stealthly through a train station.  As you turn the pages, you are greated by a rising sun and soon flying through Paris until you land beside Hugo, and are immediately swept up into his story.  It has a movie feel to it as you move through the pictures.   Poor Hugo; he lost his beloved clock-maker father in a fire at the museum where he worked.  Because of that, he has to go live with his drunk uncle at the train-station, where he keeps all the clocks running.  Hugo becomes his apprentice; but soon he is doing all the work on his own.  Not long after he comes to live with his uncle, the man disappears, leaving Hugo alone and scared.

Before his beloved father died, he found an automaton in the attic of the old museum.  While visiting the site, Hugo found the automaton, and smuggles it back to the train station.  I don’t want to give too much away to the story, for I want you to discover it for yourselves.  But what follows is a journey full of magic and rescue; for the orphan Hugo and the old man Papa Georges (from whom Hugo steals toys for parts for his automaton and also a real man, Georges Melies, who lived in France and whose life this book is loosely modeled around).

Don’t be discouraged by the size, this 534 page tome is a fast read.  I started and finished it yesterday.  Of course, it didn’t hurt that I could not put it down.   And I will definitely reread it over and over again.  This novel is written for kids, but adults will find much to love in his heartwarming story of loss, love and redemption.

I am very happy to have found that The Invention of Hugo Cabret lived up to my memories of it and then some. I love that identified early with the movie feel of the book. Rereading it only built my anticipation for seeing the movie. And this time, I really appreciated the skill Selznick used in telling his story. The combination of words and pictures in this particular book is really extraordinary. The mystery and magic of the words are amplified by the truly stunning pictures and vice versa. And stunning they are. The detail involved in such a simple pencil drawing, it takes the once-upon-a-time wannabe artist’s heart of mine’s breath away. I only wish I could capture half the emotion and intensity Selznick captures in such a simple drawing as a human eye. The boy’s loneliness is tangible and something I think many children, orphaned or not, will be able to identify with. The fact that the boy learns to make his own way in the world, while still taking help from friends, is a valuable lesson as well.

 

And I don’t think I fully appreciated that one of the characters in the book was a real person. Georges Méliès was an early French filmmaker and an early user of special effects. I confess I’ve never seen one of his films (but I really want to do so!) but I am familiar with an iconic image from one of his movies; Le Voyage dans la Lune.

The life Selznick writes is mostly fictionalized, but Méliès was (in real life and in the book) an important figure in cinematic history. And may I say, I think the casting of Ben Kinsley as Méliès was genius. He looks just like him!

 

 

Perfect yes? I hope to get to the theater to see this movie soon. If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading this truly marvelous book, I hope you will take the opportunity soon.

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iconThe Invention of Hugo Cabret

By Brian Selznick

Reading level: Ages 9 and up

Hardcover: 533 pages

Publisher: Scholastic Press; First Edition edition (January 30, 2007)

ISBN: 978-0439813785

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Thankfully Reading Weekend Post

November 25, 2011 Books 11

11.24.11 / 11:04 PM

I’m going to keep all my updates for Thankfully Reading Weekend 2011 in this one post. And woot! I’ve already finished a book! I was trying to fight my way through The Son of Neptune all week, and I finally forced myself to sit down and focus on it. And I plowed through the last 150 pages or so of it in a couple of hours.

That. Felt. GOOD.

Let’s keep going! I’m going to start Chime by Franny Billingsley now. Keep your fingers crossed!

Books read: 1
Pages: I’m going to estimate 150.

11.25.11 / 11:37 AM

Not doing so good. I’ve been trying to read Chime all morning and, well, I don’t know. It’s not clicking. I’ve read 53 pages of it so far and, well, it’s not that I don’t LIKE it… I don’t know. I’m going to set it aside for Daughter of Smoke and Bone I think. I may come back to Chime later.

Of course, having the 8YO and the 4YO and the 34YO at home isn’t helping either.

I’m going to go hole up in my bedroom.

PLUS I almost finished my Christmas shopping online this morning. Man, are there a lot of deals out there! We’re down to the hard-to-buy for people now. *sigh*

Books read: 1.25
Pages: 203

11.25.11 / 12:31

A strange thing happened on the way to Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I started reading page one and realized, I wanted to know what was happening in Chime. Bugger me, but isn’t that weird? So yes, I’m back to Chime!

11.25.11 / 10:06 PM

The book I’m most thankful for:

I’m going to cheat and say a whole series. The Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I believe I’ve blogged about their affect on me before, but it’s been awhile. They pulled me through a very rough spot in life and I honestly don’t know what I would have done without them. I lost myself in those books countless times as a child. I hid from the bad things, the sad things, the impossible to ignore things. They were my lifeline and I am eternally thankfully for them.

Where things stand. I am 67% through Chime (by Franny Billingsley) and, while I can’t say I love it YET, I am very invested in the story. I definitely want to see where this is going. It’s really starting to get good. I wish I didn’t have such a hard time remembering that some books take a little WORK. *sigh*

Books: 1.67
Pages: 393

11.26.11 / 9:52 AM

I finished Chime! Yes! That’s two books in one week! It’s a miracle! It was totally worth the work too. I can’t say that I love it more than Shine (by Lauren Myracle) as that holds a special place in my heart, but it was really quite good. I know the more I think on it, the more I’ll love it.

I read a few stories in Stores for Nighttime and Some for the Day by Ben Loory to ease the transition to another book. What a delightfully odd collection of stories that is. Now I’m rereading The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick because I am dying to see the movie. My goodness, I adore this book.

Books: 2.3
Pages: 663

11.26.11 / 2:11 PM

Another book down! The Invention of Hugo Cabret was everything I remembered and more. What a beautiful book. I can’t wait to see the movie; it is sure to be beautiful as well. I think I’ll follow it up with Wonderstruck, also by Hugo Cabret. I do think I’ll read a few more stories in  Stores for Nighttime and Some for the Day by Ben Loory first. You know, to cleanse the palate. ;)  This brings me to 3 books finished.

Books: 3.3
Pages: 1,051

 11.27.11 / 7:07 AM

Just finished Wonderstruck. What a magnificent book! Brian Selznick can officially do no wrong in my eyes. I’ve read a couple more stories in Stores for Nighttime and Some for the Day by Ben Loory. Now, I’m not sure what I’m going to read next… probably some more stories from Stores for Nighttime, etc. Then, who knows! Another from my list most likely, or maybe another graphic novel.

Books: 4.3
Pages:  1718

11.27.11 / 6:02 PM – C’est fini!

That’s right; I’m done! I just finished my fifth book and I’m pooped! I decided to finish Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day by Ben Loory, since I was so close anyway and I’ve been reading it FOREVER. It is… an… odd… collection of short stories. Very odd.

This has been a fantastic reading weekend for me and something this reader desperately needed. I don’t know if I’m “back” yet, but it feels promising. Will have to take it one day at a time. For now, I’m off to take a long, hot, steamy bath and will either take Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Lanin Taylor or No Name by Wilkie Collins with me. Heck, I may take both! Happy Reading!

Ending stats:

Books finished: 5
Pages: 1830

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Thankfully Reading Weekend 2011

November 24, 2011 Books, Lists 8

I’ve been off work all week and have been crazy busy making Christmas presents, making pumpkin pies and roasting one mammoth of a turkey. I have barely read a word all week!

Oh, who am I kidding? I’ve barely read a word in several months that wasn’t like pulling teeth.

So, this weekend, my mission is to take back my reading. I’m going to pick through books until something sticks and them I. Am. Going. To. Finish. It. This is war, my friends. I need easy to read, engaging, fast… I need something to looooooove.

My list of possibilities:

  • The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan. If Rick can’t do it, I’m seriously concerned no one can.
  • Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. I was planning to read that during last months readathon. It… didn’t happen.
  • Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham. We all know my blind adoration for Mr. Willingham.
  • Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor. Something…horrible…happened this past weekend and I needed some retail therapy. The cover just called out to me!
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. One of my favorite books. Maybe I need a favorite comfort reread?
  • The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King. Ditto above.
  • Chime by Franny Billingsley. I want to see why this was better than Shine by Lauren Myracle.
  • The Novel in the Viola by Natasha Solomons. Well, I seriously adored her first book. Maybe this one will click with me as well.
  • The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making by Catherynn M. Valente. I’ve been meaning to read this one for way too long.
  • Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce. Hello? Fairytales? Sounded good to me! And the stinking library didn’t have her new book yet. Which sounds even better. *grumble*
  • The Vanishing of Katharina Linden. Don’t take it off my list Debi! :D
That should be a promising start. If you’ve ever seen the view from my computer, you know I have plenty of books to pick from. I will conquer this reading slump! I will! What do you think I should read? What’s grabbed you by the nose-hairs lately? Help me!
And Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

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Sea Change: A Novel by Jeremy Page

November 17, 2011 Books 5

I don’t quite know what I want to say about this novel. I enjoyed it. And I didn’t.

Let’s start with what it’s about, shall we? Then we’ll get down to it.

The book starts with an idyllic picnic. Guy and his adorable daughter Freya are walking through a field admiring all the gorgeous nature around them, Guy’s wife and Freya’s mother Judy lounging under a tree with a book of poetry. Freya is precocious, in a charming, not precious, way, with her four-year-old’s curiosity about things and her clear adoration of her father; an adoration that is obviously mutual. The sweet details of a baby’s breath that smells malty, laundered cotton dresses and a child’s happiness serve to bring the reader immediately closer to this obviously delightful child.

So, when what happens so quickly in the first 18 pages happens, the reader (if they are not a cold-hearted shrew) is heartbroken and looking for answers. The next chapter starts up 5 years later, with Guy, alone, and drifting in a cold sea in an old barge. He’s making it through his days by writing in a journal at night, writing of how things could have been if that terrible thing had not happened.

And here lies the heart of my problem with this book. While I was delighted with the way Page can turn a phrase, the book is borderline poetic, and am in love with the slow, meandering way he took to unfold this story of Guy and how he learns to live with that “heartbreaking thing”, I can’t help but feel manipulated a little bit.

And I mean manipulated like Nicolas Sparks or Jodi Picoult manipulated.

I can take sad. I can take tragic. I can’t take writing that feels like the clear intent is to make me sad. I need resolution. I need the feeling that this is sad for a reason more important that just making me cry; which is how the two Nicolas Sparks I managed to choke down made me feel. I loved Jodi Picoult until the final chapter of My Sisters Keeper. Now THAT was manipulation.

Now, this could just be me. I wasn’t really in the mood for a book this depressing. I do love Jeremy Page’s writing enough to look up his first novel, Salt. His writing is gorgeous. Witness:

This is his moment, Guy knows, and he reaches out into the thick, nothingness between him and the giant ship and he asks for her, he asks whether she’s here with him, with him now. You are, aren’t you, he says and his voice sounds like two voices- one, so full of acceptance, the other, so afraid. On no, he says, oh God not now. And then he grabs the top of the wheelhouse, bracing pathetically, as the cliff edges of the container ship overhang, bear down, then slide enormously alongside the Flood in an impenetrable solid shadow.

And that’s just picking a page at random. You can pick any page at random and find just lovely ways of putting things, the kind of writing I could eat like dessert. I wish this novel had found me at the right time. I’m almost certain it would have made a difference.

This was a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own. Thanks to Penguin for supplying my copy of this book.

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Shivers, Wishes and Wolves: Stone Arch Fairy Tales Volume 1

November 15, 2011 Books 5

It’s pretty common knowledge around here, if you’ve been around here very long, that 1) I love fairy tales and 2) I love graphic novels. My dear, dear friend Debi knows this well. She was so so so sweet to send me and my wee girl a graphic novel edition of illustrated fairy tales. Thank you again Debi because we LOVED it.

This collection is marvelous. Volume One collects the fairy tales Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Hansel & Gretel, Red Riding Hood, and Rumpelstiltskin (who, incidentally, is creepy as hell on Once Upon a Time). He’s creepy here as well. Different artists drew each section, giving each story its own unique feel. Each tale is followed by a brief historical note on the origin (as best they know it) of each tale  that I really enjoyed.

These stories are not exactly as I remember from childhood. They are retellings and each one has a unique change that I found refreshing. In Cinderella, by all appearances Ella’s dead mother has a hand in changing her daughter’s life. The illustrations here are particularly lovely with their browns, golds, and pinks. Hansel and Gretel are decidedly goth in attire and their stepmother especially looks depressing as hell. The illustrations of their huge eyes, in particular the witch who just looks insane with her huge black eyes, add a feeling of unease to the story in a very affective way. Jack and the Beanstalk has a manga feel that really works for this story of a naive boy and his present of magic beans. Red Riding Hood had a cutesy feel that reminded me of some of the comic books of my dad’s from the 60s, that I remember reading in the attic as a young girl. It left me feeling nostalgic. And Rumpelstiltskin left me feeling, well , spooked! I’ve always found that fairy tale in particular disturbing and the way its drawn only amplifies that feeling. In this version, Rumpelstiltskin is drawn like an imp, a malevolent elf, a little green monster, and his obvious glee at stealing an unborn child is just sinister.

If you like fairy tales and/or graphic novels, this is a fun collection to read and share with your older children. You will find no Disney-fication here, as the stories and their illustrations remain true to the original fairy tales and their dark origins. I can’t wait to get my hands on Volume Two.

Shivers, Wishes and Wolves (volume 1)
by Beth Bracken, Blake A. Hoena, Donald Lemke and Martin Powell
Art by Sean Dietrich, Victor Rivas, Jeffrey Stewart Timmins, Ricardo Tericio and Erk Valdex Y Alanis
ISBN: 978-1-4342-30
Stone Arch, 2011
Publisher Age Rating: 10 +

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Quotable Monday – Sea Change by Jeremy Page

November 14, 2011 Books, Quotes 1

I started a new book today and, from page one, the writing has grabbed me.

Within each horseradish leaf, where it unwinds from the steam, there’s a small bead of rainwater. He sees one there, shining brilliantly in the morning sun, as if it’s been placed, a jewel, pure and dazzling. It’s perfect. This will be lovely he things, leading his daughter toward the plant, her hand so small and cool in his own, both of them crouching over the leaves till their shadows merge. Briefly, the sunshine becomes extinguished from the drop of water, he repositions himself and it sparks back to life. He images a direct unbending shaft of light, taut and without substance, stretching between the sun and its own captured sparkle, a miniature sun in itself, caught in some bend of the refraction.

She is captivated. Surprises like this, especially beautiful ones, always bring a brightness in her, too. She’s four years old, and already there is a sense of such conspiracy between them, father and daughter, such gorgeous intimacy.

I don’t know why, but that passage just struck me as so beautiful.

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Stuff I Love Saturday (6)

November 12, 2011 Photos, Stuff I Love Saturday 6

Sorry it’s a bit late. I have bronchitis, so I figured I’d do it between codeine doses. You know, while I’m sober. lol

 

1. I am totally making myself one of these iPod covers. So cute! 2. I really really really want to read this book. 3 I love potato gratin, so this skinny version is on my to-do list. 4. Gorgeous! This yarn is insanely expensive, but the stitch is free. Woot! 5. A Give Thanks tree for Thanksgiving. I think I’ll do this with the kiddos. 6. I really want to make myself a granny square afghan sooner or later. I think this one is adorable! 7. Pumpkin! And goat cheese! Pies! Love! 8. I don’t know about you, but I think this is brilliant. Basket weave your bacon for BLTs! 9. Loaded Baked Potato Soup. Would be wonderful for my poor throat…. 10. I’ve already got the yarn and the foam wreath, it’s just a matter of time now. 11. I’m already halfway through this lovely lovely scarf. 12. Pumpkin Jam. With cardamon. Oh yes, it will be made. 13. I love these sweet little Christmas ornaments! They are so sweet!!! 14. Orange Ginger Tea. I need this so very badly! 15. I am totally in love with this herb garden. 16. Broccoli and Cheese Soup from Pioneer Woman. What I wouldn’t do for a bowl of this right now! I can’t wait to feel better!

What new and interesting things did you find to love this week? I want to hear all about it!

 

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A List of Books

November 11, 2011 Books, Lists 17

My dear friend Debi asked me for a list of 50 books I thought she should read. She’s working on a huge project, I don’t know all the details yet (and I can’t wait to find out what she is up to!) and I gave her my list earlier this week. I thought I would share them here with you as well. I’m sure you notice that there are actually 60 on the list, but I gave her extra in case she had read some of these or was feeling ambitious. Are you feeling ambitious too? What books would be on your must read list?

The List:

1 Illyria by Elizabeth Hand
2 The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
3 The Princess Bride by William Goldman
4 Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue
5 Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson
6 Shine by Lauren Myracle
7 Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
8 Hate List by Jennifer Brown
9 Waiting for Columbus by Thomas Trofimuk
10 The Position by Meg Wolitzer
11 The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni
12 The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
13 Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link
14 Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
15 Beautiful by Amy Feed
16 The Color Purple by Alice Walker
17 Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
18 Wise Children by Angela Carter
19 The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
20 I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
21 The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
22 Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
23 Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
24 My Last Days as Roy Rogers by Pat Cunningham Devoto
25 A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
26 Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
27 Sleep, Pale Sister by Joanne Harris
28 The Color Midnight Made by Andrew Winer
29 Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
30 Chocolat by Joanne Harris
31 Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady by Florence King
32 The House of Gentle Men by Kathy Hepinstall
33 Embers by Sandor Marai
34 Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman
35 Storyville by Lois Battle
36 Fearless Girls, Wise Women, & Beloved Sisters by Kathleen Ragan
37 Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
38 The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
39 Mr Rosenblum Dreams in English by Natasha Solomons
40 Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
41 Briar Rose by Jane Yolen
42 The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy
43 The Rose and the Beast by Francesca Lia Block
44 Ireland by Frank Delaney
45 Margarettown by Gabrielle Zevin
46 Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
47 The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue
48 The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
49 Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson
50 West with the Wind by Beryl Markham
51 The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
52 Big Fish by Daniel Wallace
53 Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
54 The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
55 The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer
56 Heaven Lake by John Dalton
57 A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
58 Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
59 The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
60 The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh

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All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

November 10, 2011 Books 3

My love affair with Gabrielle Zevin’s writing began way back in 2006 with the publication of her first book, Margarettown. I can’t even remember how I found that book, probably the library, but I adored it for it’s quirkiness, it’s uniqueness, and it’s whimsy. Since then I’ve read all her books but one, and that is simply because I didn’t know about it, and the love has only grown.

Then came All These Things I’ve Done.

Read by Ilyana Kadushin.

More about Ms. Kadushin in a moment. First, let’s discuss this story.

It’s the year 2083. Natural resources are becoming scarce and the increased regulation of things like water makes life difficult. It also leads to the banning of things like chocolate. Yes, there is a new prohibition and it’s on chocolate, be still my heart. Anya Balanchine’s family is one the big five great chocolate families and, now that chocolate is banned, they are more like a mafia family. Anya’s father was murdered, right in front of her and her sister, and life hasn’t been the same since. Anya is now basically the head of her small part of the family; herself, her older brother Leo, younger sister Natty, and her bedridden grandmother. Anya’s life fits the stereotype of a mafia family member who wants out, she tries to lay low, not draw attention to herself or her family and just become an adult so she doesn’t have to worry about it any more. But the life keeps trying to draw her back in. Especially when her ex-boyfriend gets poisoned, and almost dies, by the illicit chocolate she gives him one night just to get him to go away.

There are a lot of things to love about Anya and I’m not just thinking about her boyfriend Win, who I particularly adored. Anya is strong. Mature beyond her years. Resourceful, smart, and intensely loyal. She was, perhaps, a little more introspective than most 16-year-olds, but I could somewhat forgive that since she had to grow up a little quicker than most. And if I had a sister, I’d probably want one like her. She’s got your back. But she definitely isn’t the cuddly sort. She is hard to love.

And that important plot point, the teenage love affair, that was pretty good. Like I said, I adored Win.

I had a few problems with the book. One, and it’s not fault of her own because she did a great job, was (for me) Ilyana Kadushin. She read Twilight. She is Bella, in my poor stubborn mind. For the first few chapters, I couldn’t get Bella out of my mind! But that’s only because I’ve only listened to Kadushin read Twilight prior to this book and, like I said, I have a stubborn mind. Once Bella was out of my mind and Anya firmly into it, I didn’t have any more problems. And Kadushin did a really good job with the narrative. I do think she sounds a tad mature for the teenagers she voices, but she is very skilled at what she does and I enjoyed her reading. My second problem was with Anya. I never quite bonded with her. She’s a prickly little thing, hard to like sometimes, BUT I think this is on purpose. So yeah, I’m not exactly complaining about it. I actually can’t wait to see where Zevin takes her character in the next book; if Anya will become more likable. Oh yes, and third; this is the start of a trilogy. Do all YA books have to be trilogies now?

So, all in all, the love affair with Zevin’s writing continues, if maybe slightly watered down a bit. I can’t wait to see where she takes Anya, Win, Scarlet, and the rest of that rascally Balanchine family.

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All These Things I’ve Done
By Gabrielle Zevin
Read by Ilyana Kadushin
Pub. Date: September 2011
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Format: Compact Disc
Age Range: Young Adult
Series: Birthright Series
ISBN: 1427213585

Source: I received this book from the publisher, even though I didn’t ask for it. Thanks guys!

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