The Bookish Heavenly Virtue Tag

Uncategorized

Thank you so much to @hardcoverhaven for tagging me! It’s been so long since I’ve done one and I forgot how fun they were. This is a great opportunity to showcase some books I’ve been reading in this strange year 2020.

Chastity

Which books do you wish you had never read?

The Kiss Thief by LJ Shen

The Kiss Thief - Kindle edition by Shen, LJ. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense  Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Look, when I started this book, I didn’t think it was going to the best thing ever to hit the romance genre. I was just looking for a good time and I was sort of willing to forgive the alpha jealousy personality of the male hero but then THAT scene came on and I kept asking myself, what is happening?? There were so problematic things happening, and then all of a sudden all the little prior things in the story I ignored for the sake of an entertaining story became glaringly problematic and I DNFed the book right then and there.

TEMPERANCE

Which book/series did you find so good that you didn’t want to read it all at once and you read it in doses just to make the pleasure last longer?

Third Shift Society by Meredith Moriarty

Representative image

This is actually a webcomic that’s been nominated by the Eisner award for best webtoon. It’s about a woman who teams up with a pumpkin man to fight supernatural mysteries in their town together. I tried to pace myself but ended up reading the whole thing in a few hours. I kind of fell in love with its cheesiness and just reveled in the sheer fun. It just reminded me of the days when I would ship couples endlessly on Tumblr and reblog every single interaction gif. Yeah, I’m shipping the two main characters so hard. The art style is easy to follow with its reminiscence to manga. It’s kind of like the Avatar the Last Airbender in art style, with a blend of Western and Japanese manga art style. I also like the supernatural mysteries and side characters. Can’t wait for more! You can read it free here.

CHARITY

Which book/series/author do you tirelessly push on others, telling them about it or even giving away spare copies bought for that reason?

The To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series and The Happiness Trap

Book Review: "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" by Jenny Han | Fox River  Valley Public Library

A lot of my friends don’t read as much as I do so I always recommend To All the Boys because it’s easy to read quickly (plus it’s cute). I also usually recommend self help books because some of them have actually helped me. My favorite one by far would have to be The Happiness Trap. It helped me through some dark times and helped me form the values I have in my life while offering tips and tricks for how to be mindful.

DILIGENCE

Which series/author would you follow no matter what happens and how long you have to wait?

Scott Lynch – The Lies of Locke Lamora series

The Lies of Locke Lamora eBook by Scott Lynch | Rakuten Kobo

I feel like I’ve been waiting for the next book in the series for years now (at least 4 years now). And no sign of when he will publish it…The last book ended on such a cliffhanger too.

PATIENCE

Is there an author/book/series you’ve read that improved with time, starting out unpromising, but ultimately proving rewarding?

The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner

Amazon.com: The Queen of Attolia (Queen's Thief) (9780062642974): Turner,  Megan Whalen: Books

When I first read the first book in the series, I almost coudn’t finish it because to be frank it was kind of boring. The second book, however, was a masterpiece. Reading the second book was like seeing the real Mona Lisa for the first time after seeing a toddler’s depiction of it. This analogy sucks but you get the point. The rest of the series continued to be like that too, only getting richer and more complex with every book. I cannot wait for the last book and will be rereading the series before then.

KINDNESS

Which fictional character would you consider your role-model in the hassle of everyday life?

Kestrel from The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski

Amazon.com: The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy Book 1) eBook:  Rutkoski, Marie: Kindle Store

Honestly, Kestrel is a queen. I just admire her cunning and intellect and the ways that she sticks to her principles. If you’ve read the story, (without spoilers for nonreaders), you’ll know that she was born to believe in war and conquering other lands. It was a way of life but she grew to develop her own sense of self and the journey was beautiful to read about. This trilogy in general is one of the most underrated YA fantasy series.

HUMILITY

Which author/book/series do you find most underrated?

The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski March series by John Lewis

March

I wanted to say The Winner’s Trilogy but I mention that series a lot so I’ll say the March graphic novel series. It follows the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. I think why I like this series so much is that it shows the nuances of the Civil Rights Movement rather than showing it was a (literally) black and white issue but more of a gray progression to success. You get an appreciation for how difficult it is to have a movement like the Civil Rights movement, feminist movement etc. despite social stigma and uncertainty of whether it was going to be even successful.

I tag:

Alicia @AKernelofNonsense (when she is back from hiatus)

Rachel @LifeofaFemaleBibliophile

And anyone else who wants to do it!

The Winner’s Curse trilogy review/thoughts

book review, Uncategorized

This trilogy is such a delight, not least of which I can say it is a wonderful departure from other YA fantasy books in its characters and its writing. *Spoilers for all three books*

Image result for the winners curseImage result for the winners curseImage result for the winners kiss

So when Book 1 starts off, we learn that the Valorians conquered Herran over 10 years ago and the Herrani have been slaves ever since. Enter our two main characters: Kestrel is a Valorian and Arin is a Herrani. Book 1 follows their initial meeting and what happens as the two worlds start to collide and Herran is on the brink of rebellion. In the first installment, they both stand high in their peoples’ regard: Kestrel is a high general’s daughter and she, as Valorian tradition dictates, is set to marry or join the army; Arin is a pivotal force in the Herrani rebellion. This romantic relationship starts off interestingly different from other YA novels–at a slave auction where Kestrel buys Arin. Off putting at best, problematic at worst. But, slowly, Rutkoski expertly asks us questions about the slavery of the oppressed, the oppression of culture when a people are conquered,  and the conquered’s bleak past and future. Although I can say all I want about what Rutkoski knows about war and slavery so intimately, I cannot lie, my favorite part of these books is Kestrel and by extension the romance between Kestrel and Arin.

The Winner’s Curse is when you come out on top of the bid, but only by paying a steep price.

-Marie Rutkoski

Rutkoski introduces the concept of the “Winner’s Curse”, essentially, did Kestrel lose more than she won when she bought Arin? And Rutkoski so expertly explores not just in the conventional way in terms of monetary loss. Under any normal circumstances and in a normal world they would have pursued a romance devoid of many problems but the relationship explores how because of this system of oppression, the unequal power dynamics, makes this relationship extremely difficult and uneasy from the start. The internal motives that may or may not be there: is Kestrel lying? Is this how she really feels, is Arin taking advantage of her for information? The first book follows how they develop feelings for each other despite their peoples’ tenuous history. The best thing is that Rutkoski offers no easy solutions but that’s what makes you root for them. Kestrel, as the general’s daughter, is ever calculating and manipulative goes against her better judgement and duty to be honest with Arin. She will willingly go into a duel for him (one of my favorite parts of the novel) and seek out his honesty. They try to hard to be honest which is why the midwinter rebellion is such a heartbreak to read. Arin not telling her to drink the wine (ugh my heart). And even when Arin lets Kestrel go to the boats and tell the emperor about the rebellion.

Image result for the winners curse map

I also love this world. The people are so distinct in their ways of life. The Valorians value war and honor and doing everything for your country. The Herrani admire the arts and the gods. It has influences from Greco-Roman culture and especially the Roman empire with its emphasis on war and a rigid system of honor. There are descriptions of architecture, art and frequent allusions to the Herrani religious system of gods. It makes the book more prevalent to our history.

Isn’t that what stories do, make real things fake, and fake things real?

Rutkoski is a wonderful writer. It is immensely metaphorical and quiet and the imagery of the intangible is so precise. I love the way she portrays her characters. Kestrel is far from the stereotypical heroine I’ve come to expect from YA. I think her character especially shines in the second book.  She is not stubborn for the sake of being stubborn and consequently a “strong” female character. She also is not good at fighting and in fact does not want to go to war! Instead, she is good at war strategies and has immense cunning prowess, beating everyone at Bite and Sting. One of her fatal flaws is her dishonesty which I makes the miscommunication in this book all the more believable. She lies to herself about not wanting Arin, lies to the emperor and is a spy for the Herrani, lies to Arin about supporting Valoria and to everyone around her so much that she doesn’t know who she is. She is torn between Valoria and Herran, to her father and to Arin. And what she didn’t realize in the first book is that her first duty is to herself. I love her duty to her country but the fact that she comes into her own and figures out her own honor. I still get all the feels at the end of Book 2 when she tries to tell Arin the truth in the piano room but is brutally interrupted. Book 2 is my favorite because it shows Kestrel out of her element in the royal court where she may not come out on top. I’ve said it once before but the miscommunication in this one actually makes sense unlike the miscommunication of 90% of YA novels. And of course, once again, no easy decisions as demonstrated when Kestrel persuades the emperor to poison the grass so the people would starve and move away instead of burning the land where all the people would just die instead. I also really liked that Kestrel and Arin developed separately as the stakes with the emperor got higher and every character is cunning and has ulterior motives.

The plot is truly a weave of political intrigue which I absolutely love. Kestrel is smart but everyone is smart and I loved seeing her outplay and outmaneuver everyone, especially in the third book. The third book really explores her relationship with her father (who I personally hate). Kestrel really struggles with her father because he has done some  horrible things to her not least of which he sold her out to be sent to an internment camp where she was drugged and forced to work and lost her memory. But despite all that, she admits that she does still love him. Even as someone who would not understand, I do empathize with her especially when she recalls memories of him when she was a child teaching her strategy. Her father is a complex character in his own right as the emperor so willingly tells her during their last Bite and Sting game. He worshipped the emperor because he saw a kindred spirit in their strategizing, their brutality. I think Kestrel was someone he just did not understand and for him that understanding equated to love. The series ends with a very satisfying conclusion and those last few pages really show how Kestrel and Arin have come full circle.

Her next book which comes out in 2019 is set in the same world featuring cameos from the original trilogy and I’m so excited!! Bring it on.

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Book Review: The Winner’s Kiss

book review, Uncategorized

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Author: Marie Rutkoski

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Pages: 496

Synopsis: Goodreads

ARC received from Netgalley in January 2016.

Release Date: March 29th, 2016


 

To say that I was scared of reading The Winner’s Kiss would be kind of an understatement. I was legitimately scared. Like scared-of-heights scared. And I’ve been severely disappointed with most of the final installments of YA series in the past few years and none have seemed to really deliver. (See Winter, Calamity, In the Afterlight, Sorcerer’s apprentice, End of Days, The Blood of Olympus, City of Heavenly Fire, Strange and Ever After etc. etc.). But, I should not have been scared because I can already tell this is going to be one of my favorite books of 2016, guaranteed. 

Let’s wipe the dust off first. I have one negative qualm with this book. Rutkoski uses a particular, overused trope that affects a character for a good 30 percent of the book that I’m just tired of seeing in fiction. I feel like it’s bit of a cop-out for dramatic tension and that’s all I will say about that.

Ok, done. Moving on..

When the story begins Arin’s army is slowly battling against the emperor’s army in a tight war of fighting and strategic tactics. The tension from the past two books has been building up to this epic and climactic end. And it delivers. The first two books in the trilogy are not that heavy on the action but oh man, does this book step it up. Rutkoski flawlessly weaves a suspenseful and heart-pounding plot through alternating perspectives and even during battle scenes, she intricately weaves in these changing perspectives from Arin to Kestrel in a way that doesn’t break the cohesion of the scene and adds just the right dramatic flair. And the best part is, it is neither convenient nor contrived. But all these battles does not mean this book focuses any less on the political strategy of war. The political strategy is still an immense part of the story crucial to several turning points of the story.

It’s  hard to write an epic romance. The author has to convince me that two fictional characters are soulmates. Fictional characters, people. At worst, the execution ends up like Nicholas and Etta from  Bracken’s Passenger, where I could not care less whether they ride off happily into the sunset or die in burning flames. And most literary couples, for me, fall into the “you two are cute” category and nothing more. I like them. I can see their love. Seeing is not the same as believing though. But with Arin and Kestrel, I truly believe it. So what is so different about Arin and Kestrel? For such a book with Rutkoski’s metaphorical prose, it would have been easy for her to have Arin or Kestrel say some swoonworthy quotes to profess their love to each other and be done with it. But no, it’s one of those rare books where I can watch the character’s thoughts through their simple, everyday gestures that speak volumes about who they are from Kestrel sleeping in Arin’s bed to Arin laughing at something Kestrel says. Their continuing romance and the depth of their character arcs just floored me in this book. I think about them everyday.

Hey, guess what this book is also funny? I love the continuing banter between Roshar and Arin and Roshar and Kestrel. He is just too damn funny. I loved the continuing exploration of Kestrel and her relationship with her father and her growing relationship with Sarsine.

But all these things I talk about don’t really convey why this trilogy resonates so much with me. And to be honest, I don’t know why either. Maybe it’s the fact that this book has a fairytale timeless quality to it or that she manages to write a conclusion that satisfied me in a way that books of late have failed to do. Or maybe she writes such unconventional characters that have the kind of depth that many literary fiction writers wish they could write. And quite possibly a romance that is unlike any I’ve read about before. Whatever it is, it is truly a gem in YA fiction. And I know it will come knocking around in my head at random times during the day just to remind me of how it will never really leave my heart.

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SHUT THE FRONT DOOR

Misc, Uncategorized

OMG WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED

I’LL TELL YOU WHAT HAPPENED.

I JUST GOT AN EARLY COPY OF THE WINNER’S KISS!

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WTF.

When I got that notification today, I was seriously ready to fall down and my roommate was talking about and all I could think was omigoshomigoshomigosh

Ok, big deal Carolyn, whatever.

No, you don’t understand, I NEVER repeat NEVER win giveaways (and I’ve entered a lot) least of all random ones on Netgalley and then I find I win The Winner’s Kiss?!

Please, there has to be a catch. Am I gonna be disappointed in the book? Angry? IS THE WORLD GONNA END TOMORROW? Oh I’m probably gonna fail my midterm next week..is that it??

Basically, goodbye books I’m reading right now. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

K. I’m done. Bye.

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My Best Books of 2015 Part 1

Best Books, Uncategorized

I don’t think you realize how I excited I am every year to talk about my favorite books. It showcases the best of the best and it only comes around once a year.

Before I begin, I just wanted to put in a few disclaimers. First of all, rating is not necessarily the determining factor. I have a lot of books that got higher ratings than my favorite books but that does not mean they’ll be in my favorites. Second of all, I know it says top books but I had to include 4 short stories because they were that good. I’m gong to include them all in one category though and it will only take up one number. And lastly, a favorite book to me has to 1) leave a lasting impression on me 2) has to have a rereadability factor 3) has to surprise and challenge me (I read a lot of books; the books that surprise me are special).

If you’re interested, I’m linking my list of favorite books from last year. Part One, Part Two

I also wanted to list some honorable mentions. Not quite a favorite but pretty damn close.

  1. Firefight by Brandon Sanderson
  2. Cleopatra in Space by Mike Haidack
  3. Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates
  4. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
  5. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
  6. Monster Vol. 1 by Naoki Urasawa
  7. Alex and Ada Vol. 1 by Jonathan Luna
  8. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  9. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

I’m going in reverse order so you’ll see #5-1 tomorrow.

So grab a snack and let me introduce you to my top books of 2015. All synopses came from Goodreads.

Coming in at number 9 is..

9. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…

I’ve only read 3 of Margaret Atwood’s books this year including this one but this is my favorite by leagues. Atwood’s prose is so detailed and refreshing to read. This dystopia that Atwood has created still stands the test of time and to me, the best dystopias are the ones that feel so unrealistic so that we think it’ll never happen but at the same time reflect the greatest injustices and flaws of our present society in subtle but effective ways. I think Atwood does an amazing job at satirizing society’s view of women as reproductive vessels but also providing a main character (Offred) that feels very raw and real.

The number 8 spot goes to:

The Child Thief by Brom

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Peter is quick, daring, and full of mischief—and like all boys, he loves to play, though his games often end in blood. His eyes are sparkling gold, and when he graces you with his smile you are his friend for life, but his promised land is not Neverland.

Fourteen-year-old Nick would have been murdered by the drug dealers preying on his family had Peter not saved him. Now the irresistibly charismatic wild boy wants Nick to follow him to a secret place of great adventure, where magic is alive and you never grow old. Even though he is wary of Peter’s crazy talk of faeries and monsters, Nick agrees. After all, New York City is no longer safe for him, and what more could he possibly lose?

There is always more to lose.

Accompanying Peter to a gray and ravished island that was once a lush, enchanted paradise, Nick finds himself unwittingly recruited for a war that has raged for centuries—one where he must learn to fight or die among the “Devils,” Peter’s savage tribe of lost and stolen children.

There, Peter’s dark past is revealed: left to wolves as an infant, despised and hunted, Peter moves restlessly between the worlds of faerie and man. The Child Thief is a leader of bloodthirsty children, a brave friend, and a creature driven to do whatever he must to stop the “Flesh-eaters” and save the last, wild magic in this dying land.

It’s very easy for Peter Pan retellings to become cliched. It’s also very easy to remember the Disney version as canon. But The Child Thief subverts all that we know about Peter Pan and presents it in a whole new light. Albeit a very dark and twisted light. (There’s no such thing as a twisted light is there…what are words..). I loved the effortless fusion of old Scottish folklore. I also really like the exploration of Pan’s character as a not-so-heroic character. And the prose provides such an eerie but mystical atmosphere.

7. March Vol. 1 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

17346698Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.

Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis presents March, a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell (winner of the Eisner Award and LA Times Book Prize finalist for Swallow Me Whole).

March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

Book One spans John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.

We all know of the 1960’s civil rights movement but I think what makes this graphic memoir stand out is that it adds such an intimate perspective from a person that has personally witnessed this so closely for himself. It surprised me how well the author was able to create the feeling of unrest and frustration that was present during this time. I usually don’t even like black and white graphic novels but I think this one was exceptional and even more powerful with the black and white color scheme.

Here is where I cheat a little by including 4 short stories into the number 6 spot. The first one is 86 pages. The rest are short stories, less than 20 pages. I had to include these because they were just that good.

6.The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy

18386Hailed as one of the world’s supreme masterpieces on the subject of death and dying, The Death of Ivan Ilyich is the story of a worldly careerist, a high court judge who has never given the inevitability of his dying so much as a passing thought. But one day, death announces itself to him, and to his shocked surprise, he is brought face to face with his own mortality.

How, Tolstoy asks, does an unreflective man confront his one and only moment of truth?

This short novel was an artistic culmination of a profound spiritual crisis in Tolstoy’s life, a nine-year period following the publication of Anna Karenina during which he wrote not a word of fiction.
A thoroughly absorbing and, at times, terrifying glimpse into the abyss of death, it is also a strong testament to the possibility of finding spiritual salvation.

It’s funny how Tolstoy can so vividly describe a man’s thoughts when he is almost dying when Tolstoy himself wasn’t dying (or maybe he was). I felt like I was dying which says something about his writing. Very depressing but so, so good.

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Gilman

A woman’s harrowing descent into madness.

Like Tolstoy, Gilman knows how to weave inner dialogue to present a sense of unease and desperation, of being trapped in your own paranoia, in your own mental prison. A haunting story that’s not very long but still has had such a lasting impact on me.

The Fisher Queen by Alyssa Wong

 MY MOTHER WAS A FISH. That’s why I can swim so well, according to my father, who is a plain fisherman with a fisherman’s plain logic, but uncanny flair for the dramatic. And while it’s true that I can cut through the water like a minnow, or a hand dipped over the edge of a speedboat, I personally think it’s because no one can grow up along the Mekong without learning two things: how to swim, and how to avoid the mermaids.

2014 Nebula Awards nominee for Best Short Story.

I still can’t quite wrap my mind around how weird this story is. But the prose is gorgeous and the story was definitely not what I expected.

Bridge of Snow (The Winner’s Trilogy #0.5) by Marie Rutkoski

20345368Ignore the stirrings of war. Let the carriage to a royal ball wait. There is a story to be told: of a starless night, a mother and her sick son, and a mortal who falls in love with the snow god, and will do anything to have her…

Mrs. Rutkoski, you get to join the ranks of Mr. Sanderson and Mr. Lynch with the honor of having your name on my favorites list twice. In the time it took me to read this short story (around 20 minutes), I smiled, laughed and I almost wanted to cry. It reminded me of old stories told by the fireplace, of magic and lyrical prose. But it ALSO tied in the things I knew about Arin and his future self and made me love him even more and I thought that wasn’t possible but I was oh so wrong.

Well that’s it for now! Stay tuned tomorrow for numbers 1-5 on my best books of 2015.

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In Which I fangirl over The Winner’s Kiss Excerpt

Misc, Uncategorized

You know shit’s going down when you start to tear up over a freaking excerpt of a book. I don’t even think it was a full chapter. Shhh, don’t judge me..

If you’ve been following my blog for a little while, you know I love the Winner’s trilogy by Marie Rutkoski. I read the sequel, The Winner’s Crime back in March this year and it remains one of my favorite books of 2015. The Winner’s Kiss comes out on March 29, 2016 and FierceReads just released an excerpt of TWK this morning. You can sign up to read it here.

If you haven’t read The Winner’s Curse yet which you should have by now because it’s amazing. I have all my reviews and discussions link in this post if you’re interested.

I wanted to talk a little bit about the excerpt so spoilers from here on out.


 

Ugh. Poor Arin, he’s still sooo conflicted. And then he finds out Kestrel is supposedly dead?? Wtf..did not expect that

jennifer lawrence wtf reactions surprised jlaw

wtf kanye west kobe system

So what kind of message did Kestrel send?? Did she say what she sent the messenger for in the second book? I don’t remember! I need to reread it.

And omg, when Sarsine said

“I saw how you two were with each other. Why would you think you didn’t know her?”

and he responded..

“Because she’s a liar. She has her games, her clever tricks. Everyone falls into her trap. I did, too . . .” He trailed off, listening to his own words. He began to brush Javelin’s brown coat, leaning in hard. “She’s not dead.”

You know her so well Arin, it’s not even funny, kill me now..

tv reality tv abc bachelorette kill me

And then here come the circle of being so close to finding answers and then getting more questions. Hopefully, Arin can actually get answers this time or there will be murder. Also, Rutkoski promised us lots of kisses and there better be full on make out sessions as far as I’m concerned

Just please give me this book now. I can’t wait any longer.

On a side note, does anyone know how new cover changes work? I’m planning on preordering the book soon but I am filled with disgust at the new covers. I will accept nothing but the old covers. I can’t even begin to describe to you how much I hate this cover.

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Anyways, if you’ve read the excerpt let me know what you thought of it!

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