Contemporary

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Mini Pin It Reviews #9 – Four Books From Book Bridgr/other publishers

Published May 21, 2017 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four books from Book Bridgr for you – please see my pin it thoughts below!

1 – Glow by Ned Beauman

What’s it all about?:

With GLOW, Ned Beauman has reinvented the international conspiracy thriller for a new generation.

A hostage exchange outside a police station in Pakistan.
A botched defection in an airport hotel in New Jersey.
A test of loyalty at an abandoned resort in the Burmese jungle.
A boy and a girl locking eyes at a rave in a South London laundrette . . .

For the first time, Britain’s most exciting young novelist turns his attention to the present day, as a conspiracy with global repercussions converges on one small flat above a dentist’s office in Camberwell.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

2.) The Ladies Of The House by Molly McGrann

What’s it all about?:

On a sweltering July day, three people are found dead in a dilapidated house in London’s elegant Primrose Hill. Reading the story in a newspaper as she prepares to leave the country, Marie Gillies has an unshakeable feeling that she is somehow to blame.

How did these three people come to live together, and how did they all die at once? The truth lies in a very different England, in the double life of Marie’s father Arthur, and in the secret world of the ladies of the house . . .

Stylish, enchanting and deliciously atmospheric, this is a tragicomic novel about hidden love, second chances and unlikely companionships, told with wit, verve and lingering power.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

3.) The Glorious Heresies – Lisa McInerney

What’s it all about?:

One messy murder affects the lives of five misfits who exist on the fringes of Ireland’s post-crash society. Ryan is a fifteen-year-old drug dealer desperate not to turn out like his alcoholic father Tony, whose obsession with his unhinged next-door neighbour threatens to ruin him and his family. Georgie is a prostitute whose willingness to feign a religious conversion has dangerous repercussions, while Maureen, the accidental murderer, has returned to Cork after forty years in exile to discover that Jimmy, the son she was forced to give up years before, has grown into the most fearsome gangster in the city. In seeking atonement for the murder and a multitude of other perceived sins, Maureen threatens to destroy everything her son has worked so hard for, while her actions risk bringing the intertwined lives of the Irish underworld into the spotlight . . .

Biting, moving and darkly funny, The Glorious Heresies explores salvation, shame and the legacy of Ireland’s twentieth-century attitudes to sex and family.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

4.) The Secret Place by Tana French

What’s it all about?:

The photo on the card shows a boy who was found murdered, a year ago, on the grounds of a girls’ boarding school in the leafy suburbs of Dublin. The caption says, I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.

Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get a foot in the door of Dublin’s Murder Squad—and one morning, sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey brings him this photo. The Secret Place, a board where the girls at St. Kilda’s School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and why.

But everything they discover leads them back to Holly’s close-knit group of friends and their fierce enemies, a rival clique—and to the tangled web of relationships that bound all the girls to Chris Harper. Every step in their direction turns up the pressure. Antoinette Conway is already suspicious of Stephen’s links to the Mackey family. St. Kilda’s will go a long way to keep murder outside their walls. Holly’s father, Detective Frank Mackey, is circling, ready to pounce if any of the new evidence points toward his daughter. And the private underworld of teenage girls can be more mysterious and more dangerous than either of the detectives imagined.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

COMING UP SOON ON MINI PIN IT REVIEWS: Four Thriller Novels.

Talking About The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena with Chrissi Reads

Published May 18, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Fast-paced and addictive, THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR announces a major new talent in thriller writing. You never know what’s happening on the other side of the wall.

Your neighbour told you that she didn’t want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn’t stand her crying.

Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door. You’ll have the baby monitor and you’ll take it in turns to go back every half hour.

Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last. But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She’s gone.

You’ve never had to call the police before. But now they’re in your home, and who knows what they’ll find there.

What would you be capable of, when pushed past your limit?

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: What was your first impression of this book?

BETH: I was really pleased to see The Couple Next Door on Richard and Judy’s Summer Book Club this year, I’d heard a little bit about the book and it falls into a genre that I really like to read so I was excited to get started. It was an incredibly quick read and I surprised myself with how quickly I managed to read it but the story was quite gripping and that urged me to keep on reading instead of putting the book down.

BETH: Anne initially blames Marco for their daughter’s disappearance. Do you agree with her?

CHRISSI: I think Anne and Marco were equally to blame, as Anne agreed to leave the baby. It wasn’t as if Marco forced her to go next door. Anne had her own mind and could’ve said no. She decided to go with Marco to the party, so no… I don’t agree with Anne.

CHRISSI: Which characters, if any, do you sympathise with in this novel?

BETH: This is a really difficult question because, to be honest, I don’t think the whole novel had a hugely likeable character in it for me. That’s not a bad thing at all as I often find myself enjoying books more if there’s an unreliable narrator or a character that is written in such a way that it makes it difficult for you to like them or understand their motivations. This is certainly true of The Couple Next Door. The main couple in the novel leave their baby in the house alone to go to a party next door, taking just the baby monitor with them and taking turns to check on her every so often. At the end of the night, she has disappeared. Obviously this is a terrible thing to happen and I did automatically sympathise with the situation they found themselves in but also found I blamed them a little for what had occurred.

BETH: How do you think Anne’s struggles with post natal depression play into her feelings about the loss of her daughter?

CHRISSI: I think Anne’s struggles with post natal depression really do play into her feelings about the loss of her daughter. Anne is obviously struggling with her mental health and that’s going to affect how she feels about the loss of her daughter. Anne really starts to struggle with her emotions and really question whether she did something wrong, whilst checking on her daughter. I was actually questioning it too. I found Anne’s post natal depression made her a really unreliable narrator.

CHRISSI: Discuss the moral dilemma around the decision to leave the baby in the house next door.

BETH: As I mentioned in the previous novel, Anne and Marco have left their baby behind while attending a party at their next door neighbours and the worst possible case scenario has happened – their daughter has disappeared. It did seem to be more of a dilemma for the mother, Anne to leave her child behind. The host of the party next door Cynthia made it quite clear that her baby was not welcome at the party and Anne’s husband, Marco did a good job of persuading her that everything would be okay. After all, they had the baby monitor and they would keep going back to check on her. Obviously the chances of anything like this happening to your child are very slim but you just need to look at the famous Madeline McCann disappearance to understand that while unlikely, parents shouldn’t even dare take the chance of assuming that “everything will be fine.”

BETH: Did you enjoy the twists and turns in this novel?

CHRISSI: I did. I like a thriller to have twists and turns and The Couple Next Door certainly delivered. I loved the pace of the story and even though I kinda guessed where it was going, it didn’t ruin it for me!

CHRISSI: How does this book compare to others in its genre?

BETH: I felt it compared very well. I enjoyed the plot, disliking the characters, the slight twists and turns and how everything was wrapped up at the end. It was certainly fast paced and kept me reading and as a mystery and thriller it does what it says on the tin. I loved how everything was slowly revealed and although I’m afraid I kind of guessed where it might be going I still enjoyed the story as a whole.

BETH: Would you read another novel by this author?

CHRISSI: I would. I enjoyed the writer’s style and thought it was a gripping read!

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

The White Road – Sarah Lotz

Published May 15, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A cutting-edge thriller about one man’s quest to discover horror lurking at the top of the world.

Desperate to attract subscribers to his fledgling website, ‘Journey to the Dark Side’, ex-adrenalin junkie and slacker Simon Newman hires someone to guide him through the notorious Cwm Pot caves, so that he can film the journey and put it on the internet. With a tragic history, Cwm Pot has been off-limits for decades, and unfortunately for Simon, the guide he’s hired is as unpredictable and dangerous as the watery caverns that lurk beneath the earth. After a brutal struggle for survival, Simon barely escapes with his life, but predictably, the gruesome footage he managed to collect down in the earth’s bowels goes viral. Ignoring the warning signs of mental trauma, and eager to capitalize on his new internet fame, Simon latches onto another escapade that has that magic click-bait mix of danger and death – a trip to Everest. But up above 8000 feet, in the infamous Death Zone, he’ll need more than his dubious morals and wits to guide him, especially when he uncovers the truth behind a decade-old tragedy – a truth that means he might not be coming back alive. A truth that will change him – and anyone who views the footage he captures – forever.

What did I think?:

First of all a huge thank you to Veronique Norton at Hodder and Stoughton books for sending me a copy of this amazing novel, the first I’ve read from Sarah Lotz in exchange for an honest review. I just have to say, I’ve been really lucky recently with books, the last couple I’ve read have been absolute blinders and that includes The White Road which I can’t recommend highly enough. I have a copy of the first book in Sarah’s duology which begins with The Three on my shelves and I was unsure when I was going to get to it. However, after reading the stunning piece of work that is The White Road, it has certainly jumped up a few places on my TBR! It was a thrilling, white-knuckle ride of a novel that will be hard to forget and I’ve already started recommending it to friends and family, I was that blown away.

Our main character is Simon, who runs a website with his friend, Thierry that mainly focuses on him having to complete dangerous challenges. When we first meet him, he is exploring the Cwm Pot caves which have been forbidden to adventurous cavers for a while but Simon manages to find a rather eccentric and quite mentally unstable guide to show him down there so he can get some video footage for his site. Unfortunately, Simon barely escapes with his life but the footage he does manage to get is phenomenally successful and paves the way for another mad-cap idea – climbing Mount Everest. He has heard that there are many dead bodies up on the mountain that are never removed because of the dangers of doing so and he believes if he can get some evidence of this, his site can finally end up making a lot of money.

What I found most wonderful about this story is that we also get the perspective of a seasoned mountain climber, Juliet who is attempting to achieve her dream and climb Mount Everest amidst many of her own personal demons. This section is made all the more special by the fact that we get her diary entries that follow each day on the mountain, information on her past and why she is so determined to succeed and worst of all, the terrifying state of mind that she gets into when she believes she is not alone on her journey which leads to multiple crossings out in her diary, paranoia and hallucinations.

I’m not going to say too much more for fear of spoilers but I must urge everyone to read this book, honestly. I would have been perfectly happy if the story had been all about Simon who, although rather unlikeable and cock-sure in the beginning, really drags the sympathy out of you as you witness his struggles and, indeed abject terror when he finally realises what he has got himself into. Yet then Sarah Lotz hits it out of the park with a wonderful second perspective, narrated some years earlier of another climber, Juliet and how her experience of climbing Mount Everest affected her life. Whatever you think this book is going to be, let me guarantee you it’s not. It’s terrifying, chilling, gorgeously written and so beautifully descriptive I just kept reading certain passages over and over again. At times, I felt I was on that mountain or in that cave with Juliet and Simon. I felt their fright, their despair. I saw what they saw (or didn’t see?) and I felt cold and cramped with them when the going got tough. Please – if you read one book this year that I’ve written a review about, let it be The White Road and then come and talk to me about it as I’m still reeling from the whole experience.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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When We Go Missing – Kristen Twardowski

Published May 14, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Once, Alex Gardinier was a successful physical therapist and a happy wife. Now she is trapped in a crumbling hospital room. Seven years ago Alex’s ex-husband, Nathan, was convicted of murdering five girls, and he has been rotting in prison ever since. Except the doctors say that Nathan isn’t in prison. In fact, they don’t believe that he is a criminal at all. According to them, Nathan is a devoted husband who visits her every week. But Alex can’t recall ever seeing him at the hospital, and the last time they met he was holding her hostage on a boat.

Maybe the doctors are right – maybe these memories of his crimes are her own personal delusions – but if they are wrong, then Nathan somehow escaped from prison. If they are wrong, he has trapped Alex in a psychiatric ward.

If they are wrong, he is hunting her sister.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to the author Kristen Twardowski for getting in touch with me, asking me if I’d like to read her novel and providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review. I’ve got to say, I’m being very strict about which review copies I’m accepting at the moment as I have a huge backlog but after reading the synopsis of Kristen’s novel, I simply couldn’t resist. This book is a fascinating and very promising debut that is not only thrilling but intensely disturbing at points.

You want unreliable narrators? You have them in the form of main character Alex Gardinier who has been admitted to a psychiatric hospital by her loving husband, Nathan for her own safety. Alex has been placed on strong medicated and is undergoing paranoia, delusions and hallucinations but there is one thing she is certain of. She is demonstrably not mad, should not be institutionalised and her husband is dangerous. However, because of the language barrier and the Portuguese hospital staff’s beliefs that she is insane she cannot convince them that she is telling the truth.

At first, I thought this was going to be a novel all about Alex and the terrible situation she found herself in and I was delighted to discover that with each new chapter came a new, fresh point of view from another female character that is in some (sometimes tenuous way) connected to Alex or her husband, Nathan. We hear from Lucia, a Portuguese nurse at the hospital, Alex’s sister Carolyn who has always been suspicious of Nathan ever since their early relationship and a woman called Sandra Jackson who is the mother of a missing woman and is desperate to find out what happened to her daughter.

I don’t really want to say too much about the plot but it all comes together beautifully to form a fascinating portrait of a troubled marriage, horrific events and psychological distress that was gripping and compelling to read. I loved how we got to hear from a number of different women who were all written so perfectly that I could instantly picture each one in my mind’s eye and appreciate their individual voice. It’s a convoluted plot introducing many potential heroines and villains but one I highly enjoyed untangling and I predict great things in the future for Kristen Twardowski.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

 

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 – APRIL READ – A Snicker Of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

Published May 1, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Introducing an extraordinary new voice—a magical debut that will make your skin tingle, your eyes glisten . . .and your heart sing.

Midnight Gulch used to be a magical place, a town where people could sing up thunderstorms and dance up sunflowers. But that was long ago, before a curse drove the magic away. Twelve-year-old Felicity knows all about things like that; her nomadic mother is cursed with a wandering heart.

But when she arrives in Midnight Gulch, Felicity thinks her luck’s about to change. A “word collector,” Felicity sees words everywhere—shining above strangers, tucked into church eves, and tangled up her dog’s floppy ears—but Midnight Gulch is the first place she’s ever seen the word “home.” And then there’s Jonah, a mysterious, spiky-haired do-gooder who shimmers with words Felicity’s never seen before, words that make Felicity’s heart beat a little faster.

Felicity wants to stay in Midnight Gulch more than anything, but first, she’ll need to figure out how to bring back the magic, breaking the spell that’s been cast over the town . . . and her mother’s broken heart.

What did I think?:

Why have I never heard of this book? When Chrissi and I were researching which books to put on our Kid Lit list for this year, this one appeared which had very positive reviews on GoodReads (4.09 average). Then we got some lovely comments when we did the big reveal of Kid Lit 2017 in January with a few people saying this was one of their favourite children’s books which made us both very excited to read it. Now I’ve finally read it, I can see why. This is a beautiful, magical tale of an ordinary yet very EXTRAordinary young girl that touched my heart with its strong messages about the importance of love, family and friendships.

When we first meet our protagonist, Felicity Pickle she is in the car with her mother, sister and dog, Biscuit travelling to yet another town to start their lives over. Felicity’s mother is described as having a “wandering heart,” and she rarely stays in the same place for too long, feeling an unbelievable urge to move on which is obviously a bit de-stabilising and distressing for the two children at times. However, they are about to return to her mother’s childhood home, Midnight Gulch, a town famous for at one time being a magical, wondrous place until a duel between two magicians and a terrible curse removed most traces of the magic for good.

There has always been something special about Felicity. She sees words in the air around her. This happens when people talk and she sees their innermost thoughts in the form of words and even in objects around her which sometimes suggests the history of a particular place. She writes all the words that are new to her or that she particularly likes down in a little blue book and she has her own talent with words, forming poems for her little sister when she is upset. Joining another new school at Midnight Gulch was always going to be hard for the girls and Felicity especially finds it difficult to form new friendships when there is the risk that she will be removed and taken to another place at any given moment. However, when she meets Jonah, learns more about the history of magic in the town and attempts to lift the dreadful curse, there is a chance she might also be able to cure her mother’s wandering heart and find a home for good.

Oh what a lovely book this is! It’s one of those feel good, warm and fuzzy novels that just makes your heart happy. I just loved the characters, particularly Felicity and Jonah but also the smaller characters on the periphery that added so much to the story. For example, Felicity’s Auntie Cleo, who the family stay with who is just marvellous, adores her sister and the children but has stories all of her own like many of the people in the town. I also really enjoyed how ice cream was so much of the narrative as the town’s biggest business and some of the flavours mentioned made my mouth water – how I wish they were real! This is a fantastic debut from an author that really knows how to write a whimsical, touching tale that gets you hooked, makes you joyful and I enjoyed every minute of it.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her post HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT TIME ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT – The Sea Of Monsters (Percy Jackson and The Olympians #2)- Rick Riordan

Asking For It – Louise O’Neill

Published April 27, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

It’s the beginning of the summer in a small town in Ireland. Emma O’Donovan is eighteen years old, beautiful, happy, confident. One night, there’s a party. Everyone is there. All eyes are on Emma.

The next morning, she wakes on the front porch of her house. She can’t remember what happened, she doesn’t know how she got there. She doesn’t know why she’s in pain. But everyone else does.

Photographs taken at the party show, in explicit detail, what happened to Emma that night. But sometimes people don’t want to believe what is right in front of them, especially when the truth concerns the town’s heroes…

What did I think?:

I first came across the amazing Louise O’Neill with her debut novel, Only Ever Yours which won a host of acclaim and the YA book prize back in 2015. Just looking at the title, Asking For It, I knew this was going to be a raw, emotional read but I certainly wasn’t prepared for the feelings it would give me while I was reading it. The author approaches difficult topics, things we don’t necessarily talk about much (but SHOULD) with ease and panache and I finished this novel angry with the world but strangely quite empowered and wanting to do something to change it.

If you haven’t heard already, Asking For It is the story of eighteen year old Emma O’Donovan. Her life is pretty much perfect, she has a host of adoring friends, she is popular, beautiful and clever to boot and is the apple of her parents eye. A lot is expected of Emma, especially by her mother and it is interesting to note how the support network around her fails spectacularly after one night when her whole world falls apart. Emma is under the influence of alcohol and drugs when the event occurs and was so wasted that she has no recollection of it at all. Turning up a bit bruised and worse for wear on her doorstep might have just been another night partying a bit too hard? Until school the next day when her friends ignore her, mock her or just plain won’t meet her eye. For there are explicit photographs of Emma and what happened to her plastered all over social media and she has become the laughing stock of the school. Emma has had a bit of a reputation prior to the incident but she was obviously too drunk/high to give her consent… was she asking for it?

While reading this novel, I couldn’t stop thinking about the issue of consent and responsibility that the author has explored in such a visceral, honest way. I’m sure you’ve all heard about the amount of rape cases that actually end in a conviction i.e. very few and as a result, many women feel scared to come forward as they fear they won’t be believed. It is only widely known that the prosecution only need to get a whiff of “she had been drinking,” before the issue of consent becomes a very blurry one. This just makes me so angry. What right does anyone have to use alcohol as an excuse to not convict someone who has brutally invaded a private, personal space? In Asking For It, Louise O’Neill makes our emotions and attitudes whirl considerably more as Emma O’Donovan is not a likeable character in the slightest. She is rude, bitchy and a nasty piece of work and initially, she was so rotten I felt I couldn’t possibly feel sorry for her. Until the party. Until she becomes a wreck, a broken shell of herself, possibly ruined for life and intensely pitiable. Of course, no matter someone’s personality/past actions, absolutely no one deserves to be violated like that.

We have to start talking about this issue, we simply must try and lift the shame behind having this happen and treat victims the way they should be treated, as a human being with basic rights to their own body that no-one should take away unless they explicitly consent to it. This is why this book is so great – it makes you think, it makes you emotional, it makes you desperate to see change and it makes you worry about every single woman that this has happened to. Certainly nobody is EVER “Asking For It.” A huge thank you to Louise for writing such a strong, passionate story that really opened my eyes.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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He Said/She Said – Erin Kelly

Published April 26, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Who do you believe?

In the hushed aftermath of a total eclipse, Laura witnesses a brutal attack.

She and her boyfriend Kit call the police, and in that moment, it is not only the victim’s life that is changed forever.

Fifteen years on, Laura and Kit live in fear.

And while Laura knows she was right to speak out, the events that follow have taught her that you can never see the whole picture: something – and someone – is always in the dark…

What did I think?:

First of all, the hugest of thank yous to the team at Hodder and Stoughton and Louise Swannell for kindly sending me a copy of He Said/She Said in return for an honest review. To be perfectly honest, I have nothing but gushing praise for this fantastic and thrilling novel! I have read one of Erin Kelly’s other books, The Poison Tree in my pre-blogging days and I remember thoroughly enjoying it but reading this, her most recent book, made me a devoted fan of her writing. Have you ever read a book that gripped you so entirely that you became really cross when you had to stop and do menial, everyday things? If this has been the case with you, dear reader, prepare yourself for not being able to do ANYTHING ELSE while reading He Said/She Said.

The story is about a couple called Laura and Kit, the latter of whom is a keen eclipse chaser and travels all around the world over a number of years to be present at each phenomenal event, weather permitting. When Kit and Laura first meet, she is aware of his eclipse obsession and begins to get in the spirit of things herself, watching her first eclipse with Kit at a festival devoted especially to the event in Cornwall, 1999. It is at this festival however, that both Laura and Kit witness something terrible. Laura is unlucky enough to witness the majority of the situation, Kit only sees the aftermath but it is something that haunts them well into their adult life together and in the present time, where Laura is pregnant. The couple have changed their names and are terribly careful to not leave any online presence – this means no photos, certainly no social media and Laura is suffering from crippling anxiety precipitated from the events that began all those years ago. However, why are they going to all this effort to hide themselves? What exactly happened in Cornwall in 1999 that has affected them so greatly?

I don’t want to go in to too much more detail but I really hope that has whetted your appetite and curiosity. It certainly did the job for me and I was hooked pretty much from the very first chapter. We hear from multiple perspectives, both Kit and Laura’s and across two time periods, the present (2015) and the past (1999). It’s a beautiful and effective way by the author of demonstrating a very slow, methodical reveal of what happened to Laura and Kit to have made them go to the extremes and terror they now live under. It’s also a fascinating character study and I loved the tricks that Erin Kelly used to make you convinced (or not so convinced as the case may have been!) about the personality of a particular individual. I also believe an audible gasp when finishing the novel has got to be a good sign, right? Yes, that happened. Now all I can do is beg you all to read this novel and discover the magic that the author weaves for yourself.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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