Dear Martin By: Nic Stone | Review & Reaction

Dear Martin COVERDear Martin
Genre: YA Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Social Issues
Rating: 5 stars
Release Date: October 17th 2017
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
I received this ARC in a giveaway &
it in no way affects my review or unbiased opinion of this book.

Goodreads | B&N | Amazon | B&D | IndieBound

Synopsis:

Raw, captivating, and undeniably real, Nic Stone joins industry giants Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers as she boldly tackles American race relations in this stunning debut.

Justyce McAllister is top of his class, captain of the debate team, and set for the Ivy League next year—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. He is eventually released without charges (or an apology), but the incident has Justyce spooked. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood, he can’t seem to escape the scorn of his former peers or the attitude of his prep school classmates. The only exception: Sarah Jane, Justyce’s gorgeous—and white—debate partner he wishes he didn’t have a thing for.

Struggling to cope with it all, Justyce starts a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But do Dr. King’s teachings hold up in the modern world? Justyce isn’t so sure.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up. Way up. Much to the fury of the white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. And Justyce and Manny get caught in the crosshairs. In that media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack. The truth of what happened that night—some would kill to know. Justyce is dying to forget.

My Reaction:

I call this “my reaction” because it not only took me a bit to type up my review for the book itself, but also all of the thoughts, feelings and memories this book made me think of.  Although this book left my mind and heart just all over the place, I truly loved it and I am grateful I was given the opportunity to read this ARC  because it had such a huge affect on me and it is something that I look forward to sharing with my family and friends.

From the moment I started reading, I was able to connect with Justyce’s character—from his thoughts, concerns, fear and anxiousness. And his attempt at trying to make sense of himself and the rest of the world through a method inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. teachings following the fall out of his wrongful arrest. It was just all so real, raw, insightful and moving.

One of the many things I loved and appreciated about this book was the way Nic Stone keeps the narrative objective because it makes it so connectable to other readers, whether they are allies, individuals who have experienced some of the same situations Justyce has faced or others ignorant of the seriousness and dangers African Americans and other POC face every day when it comes to racism.

I pondered if I wanted to focus on the situation regarding Justyce and his arrest as being the main focal points I discussed for this book, but in all honesty, it is so much more than racial profiling from authorities. The political, inaccurate and discriminatory stories spun by a lot of the media outlets and the prejudices of people—it all just hits home.

There wasn’t an instance when I did not imagine my brothers or my uncles in situations close to Justyce’s and it shook me.  However, choosing LOVE over HATE. Recognizing that we still have such a far way to go. Accepting that we can’t do it on our own. Knowing that importance of sticking together, speaking together and moving together is the only way forward. And being strong enough to face it all head on.

Even before last week’s protest in Charlottesville, VA, I was struggling to come up with the right words for how moving and important this book is to all readers, young or old, because I was hung up on how real and close to our reality it was. Of course, as an African-American woman, it was impossible not to see my brothers or my uncles and even myself in the situations that Justyce was dealing with in this book and that become such a jarring feeling.

Aside from being raised by a single parent, Justyce and I represent two completely different worlds, but regardless, I know that a POC’s story and life is hardly ever taken into account when they are profiled, victimized or harmed. With this, I am trying to choose my words so carefully here because with the weight and present state of our world weighing down on my heart and everything just feeling so wrong and backwards these days.

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Absolutely, Almost, Perfect By: Lissa Reed | Book Review, Q&A (+Giveaway)

Absolutely, Almost, Perfect (Sucre Coeur Series #3)
By: Lissa Reed
Genre: M/M Romance, LGBTQ+, Contemporary Fiction, Rom/Com Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Release Date: August 3, 2017
Publisher: Duet Books/ Interlude Press
Received an ARC copy from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Craig Oliver and Alex Scheff lead a charmed life. Craig is part owner of Sucre Coeur, the bakery he’s loved and managed for years. Alex is an up-and-coming Seattle photographer. Their relationship has been going strong for a year, and everything is absolutely perfect—right up until Craig receives a wedding invitation from his long-estranged brother.

As Craig grows tense over seeing his brother for the first time in years, Alex can’t control his anxiety over meeting Craig’s family. At the wedding in an English hamlet, boisterous Scottish mothers, smirking teenage sisters, and awkward ex-boyfriends complicate the sweet life they lead.

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A House Without Windows By: Nadia Hashimi | Review

A House Without Windows
By: Nadia Hashimi
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Culture, Mystery, Family, Friendship
Rating: 4 stars
Reprint release Date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks/ Harper Collins

Synopsis:

A vivid, unforgettable story of an unlikely sisterhood—an emotionally powerful and haunting tale of friendship that illuminates the plight of women in a traditional culture—from the author of the bestselling The Pearl That Broke Its Shell and When the Moon Is Low.

For two decades, Zeba was a loving wife, a patient mother, and a peaceful villager. But her quiet life is shattered when her husband, Kamal, is found brutally murdered with a hatchet in the courtyard of their home. Nearly catatonic with shock, Zeba is unable to account for her whereabouts at the time of his death. Her children swear their mother could not have committed such a heinous act. Kamal’s family is sure she did, and demands justice.

Barely escaping a vengeful mob, Zeba is arrested and jailed. As Zeba awaits trial, she meets a group of women whose own misfortunes have also led them to these bleak cells: thirty-year-old Nafisa, imprisoned to protect her from an honor killing; twenty-five-year-old Latifa, who ran away from home with her teenage sister but now stays in the prison because it is safe shelter; and nineteen-year-old Mezhgan, pregnant and unmarried, waiting for her lover’s family to ask for her hand in marriage. Is Zeba a cold-blooded killer, these young women wonder, or has she been imprisoned, as they have been, for breaking some social rule? For these women, the prison is both a haven and a punishment. Removed from the harsh and unforgiving world outside, they form a lively and indelible sisterhood.

Into this closed world comes Yusuf, Zeba’s Afghan-born, American-raised lawyer, whose commitment to human rights and desire to help his motherland have brought him back. With the fate of this seemingly ordinary housewife in his hands, Yusuf discovers that, like Afghanistan itself, his client may not be at all what he imagines.

A moving look at the lives of modern Afghan women, A House Without Windows is astonishing, frightening, and triumphant.

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The Wisdom Of Moms & Amazing Dads by: Bridget E. Hamilton | Short Review

About The Wisdom of Moms

• Hardcover: 96 pages
• Publisher: National Geographic (March 28, 2017)

There is so much we can learn about motherhood from the animal kingdom. We can learn how to be the strong role model a child needs, like the snow leopard that teaches her children to survive and thrive on dangerous mountain slopes; to be as resilient as the hardworking sea otter mom; and to serve our communities like the pika, a rabbit-like animal native to northern climates. This is a beautiful tribute to mothers, full of adorable animal photographs and touching anecdotes that show your appreciation for all the wisdom and care that Mom provides.

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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About Amazing Dads

• Hardcover: 96 pages
• Publisher: National Geographic (May 2, 2017)

This fun, lighthearted book is a great way to show Dad how much he means to you. Page after page of stunning animal photographs and heartwarming stories of fatherhood in the animal kingdom showcases the bond between dads and their loved ones. This package is the best way to share words of gratitude and appreciation and express your love for the dad, grandpa, uncle, or stepfather in your life.

Stories of remarkable animal dads include:

  • Golden lion tamarins that mash bananas into a mush to hand-feed their babies
  • Wolves that enjoy playful roughhousing with youngsters of the pack
  • Foxes that bury food near the den to teach pups to hunt
  • Rheas, South American birds that not only incubate eggs solo but also serve as single parents
  • Seahorses that carry eggs in their own brood pouch

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

My Thoughts

I loved reading these books because they were so much fun and soo cute. I was so happy I got the opportunity to read these books because they are just the types of books I look for when it comes to my younger cousins and my friends’ kids. Each book has various animal selections that is accompanied by short antidotes, factoids, memorable quotes and beautiful pictures on every single page. Personally, I think these books would be great for story-time anywhere because the passages are so engaging. These books offer small pieces of information and glimpses into the animal kingdom with such clear, sharp pictures that it’ll make them fall in love with these books and the animals. I really think these books is a great gift to the family to enjoy; from moms and dads with their kids and grandmas and grandpas with their grandchildren. I’ve selected a few of my favorite passages from each book below 🙂

Tour Organized By:

Thank you so much for stopping by to check out this short review.

Until the next post,

Gia.

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Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever: Heaven Gave it To Me by: Nnanna Ikpo | Review (+Author Interview)

Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever: Heaven Gave it To Me
By: Nnanna Ikpo
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, LGBT, Human Rights, Cultural
Rating: 4.5 stars
Release Date: April 20,2017
Publisher: Team Angelica
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis:

Olawale and Oluwole are dreadlocked Yoruba lawyers, minority human rights activists fighting for a better Nigeria. Bisexual and closeted, Olawale has spent his adult life protecting and defending his charismatic, more evidently homosexual twin; but when the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act becomes law, they, their family, and the women who love them are caught in a savage spotlight that threatens to wreck all their lives. In the midst of this Wole and Wale must deal with an estranged convict father whose unexpected reappearance brings dark and troubling family secrets to light.

Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever celebrates the enduring power of love, desire, faith, patriotism and human rights struggle in the face of political oppression and religious prejudice in Nigeria today. It extends the literary conversation begun by Jude Dibia and continued by Chinelo Okparanta.

 

Book Review:

This book was incredible. Although largely aimed at an African audience, I recommend this book for the LGBTQI+ community; its supporters, human rights activists, and readers who enjoy moving, compelling, and resonating narratives that leave inspired conversation. The content in this book covers strong political, social, cultural, and religious oppression and life-threatening situations that contradict the early to late 2000s following the pass of the SSMPA (Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act) in 2014 time frame that the book covers.

It is impossible to fathom some of the information the author reveals about the treatment of members, supporters and suspected LGBT individuals in Nigeria, but the accounts are real. Yet, so intricately woven in between these scenes are Wole and Wale, two queer brothers who actively use their skills and connections to push a wave of hope and peace to the otherwise vastly secretive gay community that is forced even further into hiding following SSMPA.

I have mentioned before how first person narration was not always my favorite to read, but with some of the books I have read recently, I am beginning to believe that it is not exactly true. Just with the prologue discussing the attack on a gay club in Nigeria and the criminalization of the victims, the reader is given a small glimpse of how regressive, from a Western point of view; a majority of the country is still today.

With that said, it is important to note how well the author delivers not only the political and religious perspectives of ‘traditional’ Nigeria, but also the progressive, forward thinking and widely read opinions of the population. The author does not offer the stereotypical narrative of closeted homosexuals or queer men who are constantly afraid of speaking out, pushing back or fighting for what is right.

Even with the threat of danger ever present in this book from beginning to end, Nnanna Ikpo presents his readers with the most realistic and relatable account of contemporary, queer Nigerian men doing what they can to make a difference for their community in the best way they know how.

Told mainly through Wale’s eyes, the reader experiences a strong complexity when it comes to the gay community because his character is bisexual. Wale stands behind his and his brother’s cause and work, but seems to often find himself struggling with his sexuality because on a deeper level he feels he’s a hypocrite. While at the same time knows that if he does not play the role of the heterosexual male just fighting for human rights of Nigeria’s minorities, real change may never come.

It is also clear that Wale is motivated by his love for his twin brother, Wole. Though focused on Wale, the author does a wonderful job of painting the clear lines that distinguish the two brothers, regardless of how forward thinking and similar they both are.

Wale seems to have a stronger resolve throughout the narrative than Wole about their decision to keep their sexuality a secret, but at times the author gives the reader a small glimpse of the sadness that lies just beneath Wole’s upbeat and outgoing personality that Wale is always attuned to. Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever: Heaven Gave It To Me, presents a story about love, family, life, hope, equality, community, politics, religion and culture that is so immaculately structured it was difficult to put it down.

One of the moving things about this book, and I could have interpreted it wrong, was there seemed to be a theme of forgiveness with this sense of determination to keeping forward projected with Wale’s perspective. Almost an ambiguous way of expressing that love and perseverance will eventually win-out over hate.

Each chapter opens and closes with a letter or an email and closed with a poem that signifies this ever-continuous foreboding sense of optimistic love and loss that pulls the reader into the chapter.

Like me, I think readers will fall in love with the way Nnanna Ikpo keeps the discussion on human rights consistent and open throughout this book. Connected to Wale’s deep love and pride for being Nigerian, a Christian, and a bisexual man who even, in the end, holds on to the possibility of a better future where there will be change leaves us all hopeful.

 

 

Author Interview:

First off, thank you so much for allowing this brief Q&A. I deeply appreciate it. Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever is a truly wonderful book.

Thank you. I am glad you enjoyed it.

Please correct me if I am wrong, but the title itself, Fimí sílẹ̀, which is referenced in the book, roughly translated from Yoruba means “leave me alone.” What was your inspiration behind the title?

Your translation is in order. The first inspiration for the title was the popular hit track ‘Olufunmi’ by my all-time favourite boy-band Styl-plus, and reflects a longing to explore my Yoruba roots.

I guess my next question counts as a broad, creative writing process question in regards to the book. One of the key shifting points in Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever was the passing of the SSMPA in early 2014, so was that when the concept for the story came to life or were you already writing the book? If so, how long did completing the book take?

The basic premise of Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever came early in 2013. In my initial thoughts, the story would, among other things, be written predictively to show how ugly things could get if the bill became law. Months into writing the first draft, SSMPA was enacted. My anger at this hugely affected the rest of the writing and rewriting process. Our final draft of Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever emerged in December 2016. Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever took roughly four years.

How were the poems at the end of each chapter inspired?

While pieces like ‘Eka aro my love’, ‘Beni Perhaps’ and ‘Oremi Alhaji’ were inspired by personal experiences of real people and places, occasionally even scenarios from Nollywood films, others arose from the independent evolution of the plot and characters in Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever and their interaction with each other.

Do you have a favorite character or scene from this book? Or a least favorite?

This is a difficult question. The plot and characters in Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever were carefully crafted to capture and evoke multiple symbols, ideas, thoughts, dreams and places both real and imagined. All the characters have their merits (and demerits) and are not in competition with each other – and should never be made to be so. Every part of Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever was thought out and deliberated upon by me and informed by others, some of whom were unconsciously part of the creative process. As such I do not have a favourite character, scene, or least favourite one. They are all important parts of Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever’s big picture, and I think necessary.

The book is so rich with character depth and complex narrative layers that keep the reader emerged in the story as the layers slowly unravel. Therefore, I was curious about how much inspiration you took from real life for some of the characters and the strong discussions that take place in this book, i.e. the discussion that takes place at K.U. between the faculty members and Wale and his students for example.

Thank you! Real people and their dynamics in learning and working spaces may differ in form but are substantially similar everywhere, so in Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever, I simply dragged all these people from the several real spaces I have had access to, dropped them into fictitious classrooms and offices and let them deal with each other. Creativity, imagination, editing and rewriting helped me to layer and colour debates.

Do you have any advice for other aspiring Nigerian writers or just writers of the LGBT community who might want to share their stories and continue to bring awareness to the rigid system struggle they are battling?

It is often tricky to advise other writers, even when our primary aim is the same or similar. We have our varying methods, contexts and journeys, and often are strangers to each other. What I have is not so much advice but a salutation, and cognisance of the fact that our work is important and more than that, necessary. And because our art is mostly ‘queer’ and therefore subversive, it may attract more hostility than acclaim. It may not change the world – at least not hugely – but it will not leave it the same, inshallah.

 

Nnanna also runs a personal blog, Letters To My Africa here and you can also follow him on twitter.

This book was truly amazing and even with this review, I do not think I give it enough justice. It is highly recommended. Thanks so much for stopping by and checking out my review for  Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever: Heaven Gave it To Me.

Until the next post,

 

Gia.
Other piece(s) to check out I found that related to some of the perspectives in the book: Tell Me Where I Can Be Safe

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The View From The Cheap Seats by: Neil Gaiman | Review

The View From The Cheap Seats
By: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Non-fiction, Writing, Essays, Short Stories,
Rating: 3.7 rating
Publisher: William Marrow
Re-release Date: May 15, 2017

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis:

The New York Times bestselling non-fiction collection, now in paperback, from the author of American Gods, now a STARZ Original Series.

An enthralling collection of nonfiction essays on a myriad of topics—from art and artists to dreams, myths, and memories—observed in #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman’s probing, amusing, and distinctive style.

An inquisitive observer, thoughtful commentator, and assiduous craftsman, Neil Gaiman has long been celebrated for the sharp intellect and startling imagination that informs his bestselling fiction. Now, The View from the Cheap Seats brings together for the first time ever more than sixty pieces of his outstanding nonfiction. Analytical yet playful, erudite yet accessible, this cornucopia explores a broad range of interests and topics, including (but not limited to): authors past and present; music; storytelling; comics; bookshops; travel; fairy tales; America; inspiration; libraries; ghosts; and the title piece, at turns touching and self-deprecating, which recounts the author’s experiences at the 2010 Academy Awards in Hollywood.

Insightful, incisive, witty, and wise, The View from the Cheap Seats explores the issues and subjects that matter most to Neil Gaiman—offering a glimpse into the head and heart of one of the most acclaimed, beloved, and influential artists of our time.

 

Book Review:

I enjoyed this book because the selections were so vast and progressive. Neil covers topics linked to movies, films, music, books and several other topics that range in a tone of positivity and objectivity, with an imaginative progression, even with the subjects he has less love for than others. I knew going into the book that I would read about pieces of his life and learn more about how he perceives the world, but I can honestly say that what I liked most about reading this book was the way the essays and notations were engaging, light-hearted, funny and engrossing. It was kind of inspiring, at times to read and feel his optimism.

I selected a few articles in this book that I knew I wanted to read and ended up just freely getting caught up in others. For most readers who pick up this book, whether a fan of Gaiman or not, I think this collection will have the same effect. I’d recommend this book for book enthusiast who also likes to get caught up in books that offer layered content without anything complex or overbearing. It’s a good book to have on your shelf to pick up to read at any time and it would make a great road trip book as well.

 

 

About The Author:

Neil Gaiman is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, Anansi Boys, The Graveyard Book, Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett), The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains; the Sandman series of graphic novels; and the story collections Smoke and MirrorsFragile Things, and Trigger Warning. He is the winner of numerous literary honors, including the Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards, and the Newbery and Carnegie Medals. Originally from England, he now lives in the United States. He is Professor in the Arts at Bard College.

Find out more about Neil at his website, find all his books at his online bookstore, and follow him on FacebooktumblrTwitterInstagram, and his blog.

 

Tour Organized by:

 

Thanks so much for stopping by for this tour. Be sure to continue to watch this space this week 🙂

Until the next post,

Gia

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The Autobiography Of Malcolm X by: Malcolm X, Alex Haley | Review

The Autobiography Of Malcolm X
By: Malcolm X, Alex Haley
Genre: Autobiography, Non-Fiction, History, Religion
Rating: 4 Stars
Release Date: October 12, 1987

Read in February For Social Justice Book Club

Synopsis:

Through a life of passion and struggle, Malcolm X became one of the most influential figures of the 20th Century. In this riveting account, he tells of his journey from a prison cell to Mecca, describing his transition from hoodlum to Muslim minister. Here, the man who called himself “the angriest Black man in America” relates how his conversion to true Islam helped him confront his rage and recognize the brotherhood of all mankind. An established classic of modern America, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” was hailed by the New York Times as “Extraordinary. A brilliant, painful, important book.” Still extraordinary, still important, this electrifying story has transformed Malcolm X’s life into his legacy. The strength of his words, the power of his ideas continue to resonate more than a generation after they first appeared.

My Thoughts & a Book Review:

My work lately has made leisure reading nearly impossible, so if I’m not reading scripts, I’m reading books that have pre-scheduled post dates already on my calendar. With that being said, I wanted to make sure I shared my thoughts and notes on books I’ve already read, but do not have reviews.

It might be the effects of what is happening now in our country but I thought about sharing this review first. It is the book the Social Justice book club read in February for Black History Month, but I am a strong believer in not needing a set reason or particular event to have to discuss, approach or learn about the strong and powerful constricting social-economical and racial discrimination trouble millions face every single day here in the US and around the world.

It’s actually one of the reasons I do not take part in the diversity spotlight or diversity bingo phenomenon that seems to have popped up on social media lately. I think discussing diversity and social issues is important and more people should take part in it. However, I do not like the idea of it being integrated into pop-culture and desensitized like some sort of trend.

It is a discussion and topic that should be had every day, all the time and should be taken seriously. For the fact of the matter is that the themes of dystopian/alternate worlds in fiction seemed to have seeped into our reality and sometimes it is kind of difficult to predict what might happen next.

I didn’t know much about Malcolm X before reading this book. Not many relatives or people in my life talked about him, but I’ve always known about him. I guess some people don’t often discuss him because of the radical and “extreme” perspective he had.

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Prelude To Insurrection: A Legends of Tivara Short Story (Dragon Songs Saga) by: J.C. Kang | Book Review

Prelude To Insurrection (Dragon Songs Saga)
Genre: High Fantasy, Epic Adventure, Mythology
Rating: 4 stars
Release Date: May 3, 2017
Publisher: Three Moon Press
I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: Only an orphan half-elf spy can avert a rebellion before it starts. Jie’s superior senses have made her the perfect lookout. Now, as the adopted daughter of the Black Lotus Clanmaster, she wants to prove her pointed ears aren’t a liability when she’s tasked to infiltrate a rebel lord’s castle. In this prequel novelette to Songs of Insurrection, Jie must decide between her duty to the emperor and her sense of compassion toward the downtrodden. No matter her choice, it will have explosive consequences for her, the realm, and the upcoming war.

My Thoughts:

By now, my love for Jie’s character and the Dragon Songs Saga is no secret. So I was excited to see that J.C. brought us this Legends of Tivara short  and how well this short story tied into how we are first introduced to her character. Engaging narrative riddled with Black Lotus infiltration and action, equally balanced with small bits of humor strapped against an impending siege with Jie in the middle. What more could you ask for?

While a standalone story, reading this prelude before the series gives readers a greater insight into some details of Jie’s personality as well as parts of her past that we don’t read much about until later in the series. Though immensely skilled, perceptive and tactful, Jie’s character is also funny and hides a deeper layer of empathy that most don’t see. I might just be overly fan-girling but I stand by my statement ^_^. This short story was great and is highly recommended.

Thanks so much for reading, guys. Prelude To Insurrection is out now, so go check it out 🙂

Until the next post,

Gia.

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