Book Review: Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Title: Allegedly
Author: Tiffany D. Jackson
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Date: January 24th, 2017
Pages: 400
Format: ebook
Source: Purchased

 

Synopsis (from Amazon):

Orange Is the New Black meets Walter Dean Myer’s Monster in this gritty, twisty, and haunting debut by Tiffany D. Jackson about a girl convicted of murder seeking the truth while surviving life in a group home.

Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: a white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it?

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary’s fate now lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But does anyone know the real Mary?

Review:

Only few books can shake me. Allegedly is one of them.

After I finished this compelling novel, I needed some time to process everything that was going on in the book, as well as calm myself so I could understand my feelings.

Reading this, you probably think I’m exaggerating.
If I was you, I’d probably think the same.
But I am telling the truth. Sometimes we don’t know how we’re going to react to a certain book, and sometimes our reactions can surprise us.

Going into this story, I knew it would be difficult for me. I was even aware how disturbing it was.
You probably hear about Allegedly, as one of novels written in own voices, one that was praised in “reading diversity” movement (if that’s a movement, I’m not 100% sure), the book that is important to read.

First of all, I agree with the statement how it is important for this book to be read, and for author’s voice to be heard.
This is one hugely important, disturbing book that represents not only people of color, but minority that we don’t get to read often about – teenagers in group home.

Honestly, I am afraid how I’m going to sound when I say this, but I will say it anyway: this novel reminded me how happy my life is. When I reflect and compare it to lives like ones I read about in this novel, to teenagers who yes, committed crimes during their lives, but are still alive and have to live with invisible “Scarlet letter” that follows them every where they go, without support of their families, in poverty and with someone else deciding about everything in their life, I understand how privileged I actually am.
And once again, I used the word I am really not a fan of, but there is no other word to say it better.

The story is told in first person, following Mary’s POV.
Beside Mary’s narration (and I have to state that Mary is one of the best narrators I had a pleasure to read about), there are bunch of newspaper articles, police interviews, excerpts from doctor’s papers and other similar stuff.

Reading Allegedly was thought provoking and emotional experience.
It definitely wasn’t easy.
Some scenes were violent and disturbing, some were harder to understand, some were extremely sad, but what hit me the most was how everyone underestimated Mary all the time.

I rooted for her, even though she never stated if she did it, if she killed the baby. She said she did, allegedly.
But yet, you as a reader don’t believe she would do such a thing. She does not seem like that kind of person.

The writing style is amazing, and I simply can not believe this is a debut novel.

One more thing I’d like to emphasize is the role of the State (here I mean criminal justice system and state foster care).
Mary’s (and other girls’) destiny depended so much on those two, that it feels like the State has it’s own personality.

There is one more thing we need to discuss: the last chapter.
I tried and tried to decide whether I like how this story ended.
At fist I was shocked, but resolved that I liked it.
Now, after some thinking, I wish the story ended differently.
Why?
Because, even though I understand why the writer chose to end the story the way she did, I can’t help but feel that some messages delivered through the story were (partly) erased with that conclusion.

Fun fact: When doing my research, I found out that this book was inspired by true event that happened in 2012, when 10 years old girl was charged with manslaughter of a three month old baby.

Book Review: By Your Side by Kasie West

Title: By Your Side
Author: Kasie West
Publisher: HarperTeen
Date: January 31st, 2017
Pages: 352
Format: ebook
Source: Purchased

 

Synopsis (from Amazon):

An irresistible story from Kasie West that explores the timeless question What do you do when you fall for the person you least expect?

When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.

Only he doesn’t come. No one does.

Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn at first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?

Review:

If you know me, you know Kasie West is my contemporary queen.
I simply adore her books, and I always feature them in my WoW posts, because I am always eagerly anticipating her new releases.

Since I loved every single book she wrote, I don’t think I have to underline that my expectations for By Your Side were high as Empire State Building (and yes, I am copying that group/band Fun here).

I could blame my level of expectations for the fact that this was my least favorite book written by Kasie West I read so far (I still have to read her paranormal series).
I could, but I won’t, because, truth be told, By Your Side is just a solid contemporary story that explores mental illness.
When I say solid, I mean good solid.
You see, this book is good, but it isn’t special in any way, nor will it stay with me long (I mean, it will because I know it was written by West, but if it was written by some author I read for the first time, it’d probably end up in my “to-be-donated pile).

The story talks about Autumn who finds herself locked in a library for the whole weekend.
What would be a terrible experience turns out to be a bit easier event because she was not alone. Dax, a mysterious guy who goes to school with her, is there with her.
As they spend time together, they get to know each other better and become closer.

First of all, we bookworms would be happy as hell if we got to spend weekend locked in library (okay, maybe we wouldn’t be THAT happy, but still we wouldn’t mind because we love books).
Here, there is a totally different story, because Autumn is not a reader, so in my opinion, those two could have ended up being locked in the wood storage or steal depository, the story would be the same.

Second, what kind of library doesn’t have a landline??

Third, I don’t mind love triangles, but please, if you decide to put one of guys into coma and make him a part of love triangle, please give me a chance to meet him and potentially fall in love with him before you doom his destiny.
Therefore, I would prefer if this book had two more chapters in which we’d get to know Autumn, Jeff and their friends before the whole library thing.

The best part of this novel is West’s writing style. She is always amazing when telling the story, and this one was no exception.

I also liked was how anxiety was presented in this novel. From my own experience, it was believable.
Then again, I saw some reviewers saying it wasn’t presented properly, so I guess it depends on one’s experience and own observing.
I guess everyone handles anxiety in his own way, so interpretations can be different.

What turned me off from the story was how most of the characters were selfish and self-centered.
From Autumn’s friends who didn’t even notice her missing, to Autumn herself.
I get that she was anxious, but she was also selfish.
Jeff’s best friend (whose name I forgot) was also jealous for no reason other but because he was self centred.

All in all, By Your Side is a good book to pick up when you need a light read that will entertain you, but don’t expect too much from it.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower: book to movie comparison

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(Kudos to my cat Trunchica for volunteering to be my model. She did her job like a pro!)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is my all time favorite movie (in case you didn’t know).
The one and only reason I bought myself an overpriced copy (It was overpriced in my case, because few weeks later I realized that I could have ordered the same edition online for 10 $ cheaper) of this novel as soon as I saw it is because I was so in love with the movie.
My biggest fault is that I waited for years until I finally read it.
Why?
Because I heard that the movie is so much better.

And I agree.
This is one of rare cases when most people would agree, I think.
Don’t get me wrong, this is an amazing book, full of beautiful quotes and, in my humble opinion, everyone should read it at least once.

I am truly sorry that this book wasn’t translated into Croatian when I was 15 years old shoolgirl.
I know this book would be my saving grace, I would get so many life lessons from it, and, maybe, it would help me in a way.
Help me understand someone else’s decisions, as well as it would guide me when making my own.

And that is another reason why I just love this movie.
It showed the world the story that needed to be told.. Even in countries where this modern classic was unfamiliar, people now have a chance to observe it.
As for my country, because of the movie’s success, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is now translated.

I am in love with this story and characters, and I couldn’t help but imagine Logan, Emma and Ezra (and everyone else) the whole time I was reading.

The book is very short, but still some parts of the book weren’t in the movie (from what I understand, they decided to cut some parts so the movie would be appropriate for every age rang), like teenage pregnancy and abortion, as well as scenes with Charlie’s hallucinations.

One of my favorite (and saddest) parts was the poem Charlie was reading (too bad that scene got deleted from the movie).
I don’t know if Chbosky wrote it or is it by someone else, but it’s incredibly beautiful and heartbreaking.

If you want, you can listen to the poem here , read by Logan Lerman (it’s a deleted scene from the movie).

5

Early Book Review: A List of Cages by Robin Roe (Buddy Read)

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Title: AList of Cages
Author: Robin Roe
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Date: January 10th, 2017
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: from Publisher for a review

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads): When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he’s got it made. Sure, it means a lot of sitting around, which isn’t easy for a guy with ADHD, but he can’t complain, since he gets to spend the period texting all his friends. Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian–the foster brother he hasn’t seen in five years.

Adam is ecstatic to be reunited. At first, Julian seems like the boy he once knew. He’s still kind hearted. He still writes stories and loves picture books meant for little kids. But as they spend more time together, Adam realizes that Julian is keeping secrets, like where he hides during the middle of the day, and what’s really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help him, but his involvement could cost both boys their lives.

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About our buddy read

I read A List of Cages with Jasmine from How Useful It Is. She is an amazing blogger who’s reviews are always a pleasure to read.

Her review is already posted on her blog, so make sure to visit it and read her toughts.

We both composed three questions (Jasmine’s idea) for each other, and you can read her questions here on my blog (with our answers) and mine on her blog.

 

This book is the author’s first ever novel. Do you feel reluctant to read it?

Jasmine: No. I don’t judge by the author’s number of novels published. I saw the cover looks cute and by the glimpse of the synopsis, it sounds interesting. I always hope the book is good before I start reading and I am so glad my wish come true!

Irena: No! Since I started reviewing books I learned how important it is to give debut authors a chance, because they don’t have a fanbase that supports them (yet). I always like to give new authors a try so when a novel comes from a debut author, it kind of makes me want to read it even more.

 

What do you love most about this book?

Jasmine: I love that justice is served. I love it when a book teaches us things. This book is full of things to remember, especially, how your smiles can affect others.

Irena: I loved how this book carries an important message, but at the same time it shows teenage life in realistic way, describing not only dark moments that come along with the story it brings, but also fun momends in which friends bond. I loved how the author found the balance between the two.

 

Do you want the author to write more books?

Jasmine: Absolutely! Please write more!

Irena: I would be honoured to read more of Robin Roe’s work.

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My Review:

A List of Cages is not a book that grabs your attention immediately.
At least, it was not in my case.
I saw it’s cover on Netgalley, but didn’t pay much attention to it until I got an invitation to review it.
That invitation made me read what this story is actually about, and, since it sounded interesting and like something that could possibly make me learn something new, I decided to give it a try.
I am so glad I did! This book ended up as one of the best books I read in 2016, because of the powerful message it brings.

The story centres around two boys: Adam and Julian. It is told in first person, from both boys’ POV.

I loved how author managed for both voices to sound differently, which is very important for me when it comes to alternating perspectives.
I enjoyed reading both point of views, but I have to admit that Adam’s was more enjoyable for me, because Julien’s was sometimes too hard to read (emotinally).

That’s why I question whether the word “enjoyed” is the right one to use. This book was great, even perfect at some point, but it was also very, very hard at times.
Some situations in this story were emotinally draining.
Robin Roe is not afraid to tell the story in realistic way. There’s no sugarcoating.
The violence is described in a way that it is not too descriptive, but shows you enough to make your eyes tear up.

This is a work of fiction, but I honestly believe that similar cases to Julien’s are happening right now in the world we live in (I still remember one episode of Oprah Show that I watched when I was a kid, with three brothers with similar fate as Julien’s).
Therefore, A List of Cages is so important! I think people of all ages should read it, and after they do, they should talk about it, talk about what happened in this story and make others read it too.

This book tells us how important it is to find our voice and talk. And for those who can’t, we have to help them find their voices, encourage them in a way we can, and never stop talking.
There are so many awful things going on in the world right now, and raising our voices is one way we can at least try to make things better.

Although A List of Cages is a novel that talks about serious topic, it also shows life of teenagers in a realistic way.
There are funny scenes and everyday life moments.
Parties, chrushes and bonding also found their places on pages.
Because of that aspect, this novel reminded me of The Perks of Being a Wallflower (the movie, I still haven’t read the book. Oh, and in case you didn’t know, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is my all-time favorite movie. Ever!).

Robin Roe did an amazing job when it comes to characterization.
Her focus was not only on Adam and Julien who are “stars” of the story, but she also created side characters who weren’t only interesting, but also went through development as well.
My favorite character was Charlie. I loved his story and enjoyed reading about him.

The writing style is really good.
Once you start reading, it’s hard to stop, and it reads quickly.
If my Nook didn’t chrash in the middle of reading, I would probably finish it even faster then I did.

Overall, A List of Cages is a book that should find itself on everyone’s tbr lists.
I know that there’s still no book that everyone likes, but in this case, I really think that many people should at least give it a try.

5

Early Book Review: Roseblood by A. G. Howard (Buddy Read)

roseblood

Title: Roseblood
Author: A. G. Howard
Publisher: Amulet, ABRAMS
Date: January 10th, 2017
Pages: 464
Format: Physical ARC
Source: from Publisher for a review

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads): In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.

At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known.

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About our buddy read

I read Roseblood with Jasmine from How Useful It Is.

Her review should be live at the same time as mine, so make sure to visit her blog and read her review.

We both composed three questions for each other, and you can read my questions here on my blog (with our answers) and hers on her blog.

1. Have you seen/read Phantom of the Opera before you started this book?

Jasmine: I have seen a movie Phantom of the Opera and I liked it. I saw it a long time ago so my memory is sketchy. It’s cool that this book reference a lot about music, but the story just doesn’t grab my attention.

Irena: I saw Phantom of the Opera movie and I really, really liked it. It has been a while since the last time I saw it and now I think it would have been a good idea if I saw it once more before reading the book.

2. What do you think about the world building?

Jasmine: The world building could be interesting if all of the remaining 25% of the book can be spread out to the first 75% of the book. It has potential to be interesting.

Irena: The world building was done pretty confusing. I honestly think that it could have been done better, maybe if more things were explained at the first third of the book.

3. What part of the book do you find the most interesting?

Jasmine:  I find the remaining 25% of the book interesting, but at the same time, it becomes too much information because everything is being revealed at once.

Irena: The legend about Phantom was the most interesting part of the story. I read it twice because I didn’t want to miss anything.

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My Review:

I rarely feel guilty about writing my reviews, but this one is one of those rare cases when I do.
Why?
Because I was so excited for Roseblood. I even sent my review request to the publishing house Amulet Books, and, since so many book bloggers wanted to read this book, I know how privileged I am to have recieved a physical proof copy.

You can probably guess that my expectations for this novel were high. I read Howard’s Splintered and really enjoyed it, so when I found out about her retelling of Phantom of the Opera, one of the best musicals out there (which is based on the book I haven’t read), I was so excited. Roseblood quickly became one of my most anticipated new releases.

I am sad to say that this book wasn’t the best book I read this year. It wasn’t as excellent as I wanted for it to be. It was just good. And that is it. I can’t even say I loved it, I can only say that I loved some parts of it (like amazingly described images) and the rest I found to be confusing, boring or mediocre.

The story follows Rune who transfers to new school after a tragedy that happened.
On the very few pages we already can read one of tropes in ya fiction: a new girl finds herself opposite a school diva and becomes her rival.
I don’t mind tropes, they are tropes for a reason after all, and it is on the author how the certain story will develop, and how he/she is going to approach to a situation that most readers have already read about in some other story.
The reason why I’m mentioning it here is simply because I wanted to tell you that in that certain situation, I found myself on Kat‘s (school diva) side.

Rune was hard to connect with.

In whole honesty, it was really hard for me to connect with any of characters. Thorn was too mysterious at first (although as we get to know his story the whole book becomes so much better).
Side characters were intersting, but weren’t explored enough. Rune said she was friends with them, but we got to see them so rarely that when Rune was worried about their friendship, I couldn’t be concered. I just didn’t feel it.

The story itself is very confusing and it takes 150 pages for the story to become somewhat interesting.
150 pages is simply too long, and because I was confused most of the time troughout the whole book, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’m confused because I simply don’t understand the story (because English is not my first language, or maybe my brain cells just don’t work fast enough), or maybe the writer didn’t describe the world in a way to bring it closer to the reader, to make reader understand it better…

Also, I didn’t like how succubus/incubus thing was replaced with the word vampire at times, when these are two (or three if you want) words that mean totally different creatures, so there was no need to add more confusion to already confusing story.

My favorite book character was Diable. He was the ghost cat. Smart little guy! The way author described him made me imagine him as devon rex, so now I wonder what kind of cat breed was he.

The best part of the story is Legend about Phantom. I read it couple of times just to observe everything.

Last 80 pages are the most interesting and where everything starts to make sense.

I feel like, if I ever decide to reread Roseblood, I would enjoy it more.
I am still debating whether I would reread it, because it took me forever to finish it the first time around.
2,75

 

Spells & Sorcery: Book Review + Giveaway (Blog tour)



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I am so happy to be today’s host for Spells & Sorcery Blog Tour.
This ya fantasy was pretty quick read for me and I want to say thank you to Giselle from Xpresso Tours for giving me this opportunity.

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Spells and Sorcery
S. Usher Evans
(Lexie Carrigan Chronicles, #1)
Publication date: October 4th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

You have magic.

One sentence, three words, four syllables. Enough to change my life forever. And I’m not talking about the whole spells and sorcery thing.

Lexie Carrigan thought the weirdest thing about her was she preferred watching documentaries and reading the newspaper to reality TV and Twitter. But on the eve of her fifteenth birthday, her aunt and sisters drop a bomb–she’s magical.

Now the girl who never made waves is blowing up her nightstand and trying to keep from wreaking havoc on her school. When a kind stranger shows up with all the answers, Lexie hopes he’ll be able to help her control her newfound powers. But Gavon may not be as kind as he seems, and soon Lexie finds out that being magical is the least weird thing about her.

Spells and Sorcery is the first YA fantasy from S. Usher Evans, author of the Razia series, the Madion War Trilogy and Empath.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

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Author Bio:

S. Usher Evans is an author, blogger, and witty banter aficionado. Born in Pensacola, Florida, she left the sleepy town behind for the fast-paced world of Washington, D.C.. There, she somehow landed jobs with BBC, Discovery Channel, and National Geographic Television before finally settling into a “real job” as an IT consultant. After a quarter life crisis at age 27, she decided consulting was for the birds and rekindled a childhood passion for writing novels. She sold everything she owned and moved back to Pensacola, where she currently resides with her two dogs, Zoe and Mr. Biscuit.

Evans is the author of the Razia series, Madion War Trilogy, and Empath, published by Sun’s Golden Ray Publishing.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

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My Review:

It has been awhile since I read ya fantasy, but when I saw the cover for Spells and Sorcery and read it’s synopsis, I knew I wanted to give it a try.

The story follows Lexie who, on her 15th birthday, finds out she has magical powers.
She and her sisters are witches. They lost their parents so their aunt (who is also a witch) took them under her roof.

I went into this book without high expectations, but with a lot of adrenaline (not literary, but you know what I mean).
I was on, ready to love it to bits and to finish it as fast as I could.

First thing didn’t happened, but the second one did!

I read this book in a record time – just one day!
Who’d say I could read 386 pages in just one day?
I certenly wouldn’t!

What I’m trying to tell you here is that the writing style is pretty easy to read and it makes you turn those pages even if the story is not too original nor interesting enough.

I came to conclusion that Evans has put so much energy into describing this world and how the magic system works, that in a way she forgot to make interesting side stories that would keep this book compelling.

There was no secondary stories then the main one. All that this book was about was Lexie finding out about magic and doing researches about this new system. It was like she had no life before her 15th birthday.

What bothered me the most was how she was always alone, without any friends to mention, while she was still going to public school she went to prior her birthday that changed her life.
There are only two people that are mentioned briefly: Joel and Callista, and Lexie didn’t even have a normal conversation with them through the whole story.
If she was a loner, bullied, rebel or someone no one wanted to talk to, I would understand, but in this case it felt like an author simply forgot to create a decent teenage life for her character.

Let me ask you this: do you think Harry Potter books (and I appologize to compare this book with HP because they are not similar at all, the only thing in common they have is magic) would be so good if Harry didn’t have Ron and Hermione by his side? If he was an outcast without friends, do you think people around the world would enjoy reading those books so much? I don’t think so, because friendship has a big part in those stories.

Here, there was a great potential to make Spells and Sorcery so much more interesting.
If Lexie had a friend by her side when exploring this new world and her abilities within it, this book would be so much more fascinating.

It surely wouldn’t feel like reading a magic encyclopedia as it felt at some points.

Another thing I didn’t like was how Lexie’s sisters left her all alone in this new situation she found herself in.
They were not helping her at all, and I can imagine that if they knew Lexie will get her powers at age of 15, they should have prepared her for it years ago.

That leads me to my third complain (or have I lost my count?): If her sister pepared her for what was coming, Lexie wouldn’t have to take instructions from some strange middle aged man who just showed up out of nowhere.

That was too weird (and I could see from the biginning who he really was because that was the only thing that was logical to me).
What was even weirder was how Lexie didn’t have the need to tell anyone about Gavon (that is his name) or how all she wanted to do was spend time with him (and now I’ll probably sound sick to some of you, especially if you read the book and know his story, but she wasn’t even attracted to him).

The last 5 chapters were the best in the story.
Everything before that felt like a slow overtire, and then, in the last 5 chapters, the real story began.

Overall, this was a quick story to pass time, and will probably appeal to younger audence.

3

 

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Giveaway (INTL):

Tour-wide giveaway (INTL)
  • Paperback copy of Spells and Sorcery + swag
  • ends November 3rd

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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You can also enter to win ebook on Twitter by retweeting this tweet !

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