Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Review - Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter, #2)Title: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Series: Harry Potter #2
Author: J.K. Rowling
Genre: Middle-Grade, Fantasy, Paranormal
Publication: Originally published July 2nd 1988, this edition published September 1st 2014. Bloomsbury Children
Pages: 384 Pages, Paperback
Source: Thank you to Jonathan Ball Publishers for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review! 
Rating: 5/5 Cupcakes!
Harry Potter can’t wait for his holidays with the dire Dursleys to end. But a small, self-punishing house-elf warns Harry of mortal danger awaiting him at Hogwarts. Returning to the castle nevertheless, Harry hears a rumour about a Chamber of Secrets, holding unknown horrors for wizards of Muggle parentage. Now someone is casting spells that turn people to stone, and a terrible warning is found painted on the wall. The chief suspect – always in the wrong place – is Harry. But something much more terrifying has yet to be unleashed.
Highlight the white space between the words *spoiler* to read the spoiler!

I absolutely loved this book. It was even more phenomenal than the first book. Although I'd read it before, the amount of plot twists had me gasping in utter shock, as, truth be told, I'd forgotten what happened. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was magical, enthralling and had me utterly captivated.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets starts off with Harry spending summer at the Dursleys. His spell books are locked up, as well as his broomstick, so he can't do his homework or practise Quidditch. The only thing that provides him entertainment is that the Dursleys don't know he can't do magic at home, but even that is ruined when Harry gets a letter and they find out. However, strange things begin to happen when Dobby, the house elf appears and warns Harry that he must not return to Hogwarts as there is something extremely dangerous hidden beneath the castle's walls. As Harry tries to figure this out, Ron, Fred and George come to the rescue in the enchanted, flying car that they "borrowed" from their dad and Harry ends up staying at the Weasleys for the summer. When they arrive at Hogwarts, things start out fantastic, but soon terror takes hold of the pupils and the students. Several pupils have been found petrified, turned completely to stone and Harry has been hearing a disembodied voice that he thinks is what's been harming the students...and it's blood-thirsty.

This sequel was honestly so enjoyable! It made me laugh, it made me squeal and it made my jaw go slack. It was the perfect combination of magic, adventure and plot twists to hold my attention the whole way through and to become even more attached to the characters who I was introduced to in the first book! There was never a dull moment and I am currently exhausted due to the late nights I've been having thanks to the cliffhangers and suspense that the book contained. Do I regret it? Nope. It was too fantastic to regret losing sleep over it.

The characters...sigh...I just love them so much! I can see me being an emotional wreck once I've finished the series. I'm trying to read the series as slow as possible (which isn't going to happen because the intrigue has me completely ensnared in its conniving hands!) so that I'll be able to savour every moment. I love Harry's bravery and determination and I admire how he's willing to die to save others. His courage is something I highly admire.

Ron, George and Fred never failed to crack me up! They were constantly saying amusing things and their antics had me constantly laughing! I love how Ron sticks by Harry and even though he is terrified or certain things or doesn't think something is a good idea, he still faithfully sticks by Harry and helps him. Their friendship is utterly wonderful and something I admire.

Hermione is still my favourite character, one that is very similar to me! She really inspires me to work even harder at my school work and to try and get the best grades possible. Although I already do, Hermione's studious character motivates me to try my hardest if the amount of schoolwork frustrates me.

Lockhart was a new character we were introduced to and he was so frustrating and in love with himself. *spoiler*I'm not quite sure why he was incorporated into the story, perhaps to throw us off guard and suspect him.*spoiler*

I loved that I got to see more of the Weasleys in the book and see how they lived. They're such a wonderful, kind and loving family and it was lovely getting more acquainted with them. It was also interesting seeing more of Ginny as we hadn't seen much of her in the first book and I found it interesting seeing more of her character and learning more about her.

It was interesting learning more about Voldemort's past and getting more of his backstory as a child. It was also the first time I began to fully understand how dangerous he was, which made his part in the Chamber of Secrets even more chilling.

I thought the plot line was fantastic and there was a much more malevolent atmosphere throughout. I honestly was thrown off guard at who opened the chamber as I always thought *spoiler*Lockhart*spoiler* did...my memory is appalling!

Overall, I absolutely adored The Chamber of Secrets. It was filled with suspense and mystery and I was intrigued the whole way through, utterly devoid of any boredom whatsoever. The twist at the end shocked me and I sat there with my mouth agape, trying to comprehend how I couldn't remember that. The whole diary episode was genius. I still can't get over how J.K. Rowling so thoughtfully crafts a novel. After I finished the book, I recognised the hints that were always there - the foreshadowing was impeccable! I loved this book and it was even better than the first! 

I give it: 5/5 CUPCAKES!
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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Review - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)Title: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Series: Harry Potter #1
Author: J.K. Rowling
Genre: Middle-Grade, Fantasy
Publication: Originally June 26th 1997, this edition: September 1st 2014 by Bloomsbury Childrens
Pages: 352, Paperback
Source: Thank you to Jonathan Ball Publishers for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review!
Rating: 5/5 CUPCAKES!
When a letter arrives for unhappy but ordinary Harry Potter, a decade-old secret is revealed to him that apparently he’s the last to know. His parents were wizards, killed by a Dark Lord’s curse when Harry was just a baby, and which he somehow survived. Leaving his unsympathetic aunt and uncle for Hogwarts, a wizarding school brimming with ghosts and enchantments, Harry stumbles upon a sinister mystery when he finds a three-headed dog guarding a room on the third floor. Then he hears of a missing stone with astonishing powers which could be valuable, dangerous – or both. An incredible adventure is about to begin!
This is going to be quite a hard review to write, as how do you write a review for one of the best-selling, most-loved and most widely-recognised books of all time? It's a series that most people would state is their favourite, millions of people have dressed up as the characters for World  Book Day and Halloween and everybody knows about the books, if they haven't, they have surely been avoiding people in the African desert. I read the first four books 3 or 4 years back but I'm hoping to finish the series. Re-reading the first book was absolutely wonderful and it was just as captivating as I remembered it! The story just as magical, the characters just as lovely and the writing just as fantastic. Oh, and those new covers are absolutely GORGEOUS!

I don't need to give a detailed synopsis of what Harry Potter is about as I am certain that most of you have read and re-read or at the very least heard all about it. Harry Potter is about eleven year old Harry Potter, an orphan after his parents apparently died in a horrific car crash, with him as the only survivor, lives with his dreadful aunt and uncle and their even more dreadful son, Dudley. Harry Potter lives in the cupboard under the stairs, pretending he doesn't exist, which is exactly the way the Dursley's like it. One day, letters start arriving for Harry, letters that his aunt and uncle hide from him. Eventually the sender has had enough and in bursts Hagrid, a gigantic man with warm eyes that tells Harry that he is in fact a wizard and that come September, he will attend Hogwarts, a school for wizardry. Upon arriving at Hogwarts, Harry Potter finds out that he is famous in the wizarding world, for he chased away a dark wizard who killed his parents and tried, yet failed, to kill him. As Harry Potter adjusts to his new life, he realises there are secrets lurking around Hogwarts, one of them happening to be the Philosopher's Stone, a stone that can turn a person immortal as well as turn everything into gold. With his newfound friends, Ron and Hermione, Harry discovers that a dangerous enemy is rising and it's up to him to stop it.

I really loved this book and I can understand why it's a favourite among the majority of people. The characters are so real and the dialogue is so witty and the magical world is one where you can completely lose yourself in.

When I was younger, I use to love reading fantasy novels and I rarely read contemporary. Nowadays it's the opposite as I find some young adult fantasy novels are incredibly dense and hard to get through. It was invigorating reading Harry Potter as it was a fantasy world where I didn't have to keep track of a thousand complicated character names or work my way through over 1,000 pages to reach near the end of the book and forget what was actually happening. It was a fantasy novel in a wonderful form, without strange names and endless amounts of pages yet still having such a magical element to it as well as witty, wonderful characters and such a fantastic storyline that it was refreshing from other YA fantasies I have attempted to read.

The characters are amazing. I absolutely adore Hagrid, Dumbledore and Hermione. I love how Hagrid is this massive giant but he has such a caring, kind soul. Dumbledore is extremely wise, kind and often says such funny things that I couldn't help but loving his character. Then there is Hermione who I utterly adore, perhaps because I see myself so much in her. She also loves books and school and I can completely relate to that. I felt extremely sorry for her because of all the teasing she had to endure but I'm so happy that she, Ron and Harry became such wonderful friends. They are a marvelous trio.

Harry is also extremely brave and kind, I felt his loss immensely when he was looking in the Mirror of Erised and wanting to see his parents, I truly understood then just how hard it must be for him. Ron and the other Weasleys are so hilarious and witty and I loved every scene with them in!

The plot was fantastic and there wasn't a single dull moment. I loved returning to the world and the characters that I had first met those couple of years ago. The writing was also great! The humour had me chuckling out loud and there were some beautiful, quotable moments in there that had my eyes brimming with tears, specifically towards the end.

Overall, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was just as fantastic as I remembered it! It was truly wonderful diving back into the world and becoming re-acquainted with the characters. No wonder this story is so well-loved, the characters are so brave and the storyline so original, that I couldn't help but enjoy my time reading this. Filled with bravery, friendship and such a creative fantasy world, anyone could enjoy this book.

I give it: 5/5 CUPCAKES!

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Top Ten Tuesday #19 - Top Ten Books on my Summer TBR Pile

The original title of today's topic had to do with fall, but since it's nearly summer here now, I will be doing Top Ten Books on my Summer TBR Pile instead.

Top Ten Books on my Summer TBR Pile:

Summer is my favourite season, it always has been and most likely always will be! I love going to the beach, not having to constantly have a jacket on, the heat and the sun! In summer I LOVE reading contemporaries and I save my fantasy books for winter, when it's raining and stormy outside. So most of the books on this list will be contemporary, with an odd fantasy book thrown in here or there!

The Truth About ForeverAlong for the RideThe Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Sisterhood, #1)Harry Potter: The Complete SeriesThe Princess Diaries (The Princess Diaries, #1)The Reece Malcolm ListI'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You (Gallagher Girls, #1)Amy & MatthewIf I Stay (If I Stay, #1)Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss, #3)

After loving the last three Sarah Dessen books I've read, I'm excited to read The Truth About Forever and Along for the Ride this summer! I started reading TTAF a while back and never finished it yet I think I'm really going to enjoy it! I also read The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants a while back but I want to try and finish the series. I'm currently reading the second Harry Potter book and I really want to try to finish the series this summer, as well as The Princess Diaries series! I've had The Reece Malcolm List on my TBR pile forever and it's high time I read it! I really want to start and finish the Gallagher Girls series as I bought them on my Kindle ages ago but never managed to read them. I'm really excited for Amy & Matthew and I can't wait to read it, it looks fantastic! I'm hoping to get If I Stay from the library soon, the movie trailer looks amazing! I have a book voucher and I'm DEFINITELY going to buy Isla and the Happily Ever After, I can't wait to read it!

What books are on your summer/fall TBR pile?

Which of these should I read first?
If I Stay
Isla and the Happily Ever After
The Reece Malcolm List
I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have To Kill You
Harry Potter
The Princess Diaries
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
Along for the Ride
The Truth About Forever
Amy & Matthew
Poll Maker
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Saturday, 20 September 2014

Stacking the Shelves #69

Stacking the Shelves

HI GUYS! Hope you all have a lovely weekend!

I would like to say that I don't have haul because I am completely and utterly self-controlled when it comes to books (which we know is a lie)...but I do! It's not a huge haul and I didn't request that many books so, go me. 

Thank you.

Books I Received from Netgalley:
Dehumanize Us (Fabricated World, #1)H2OThe 100 (The Hundred, #1)The Incredible Charlotte Sycamore and the Secret Traps (Charlotte Sycamore, #2)

I'm really excited for these as they all look really good! Have you read any of these? Loved them, hated them? Leave your link to your STS post below! :)
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Friday, 19 September 2014

Review - The Whispering Skull - Jonathan Stroud

The Whispering Skull (Lockwood & Co., #2)Title: The Whispering Skull
Series: Lockwood & Co
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Genre: Young Adult, Middle-Grade, Paranormal
Publication: August 28th 2014, Disney Hyperion
Pages: 400 Pages, Kindle
Source: Thank you to Netgalley and Disney Hyperion for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review! 
Rating: 5/5 Cupcakes!
In the six months since Anthony, Lucy, and George survived a night in the most haunted house in England, Lockwood & Co. hasn't made much progress. Quill Kipps and his team of Fittes agents keep swooping in on Lockwood's investigations. Finally, in a fit of anger, Anthony challenges his rival to a contest: the next time the two agencies compete on a job, the losing side will have to admit defeat in the Times newspaper.
Things look up when a new client, Mr. Saunders, hires Lockwood & Co. to be present at the excavation of Edmund Bickerstaff, a Victorian doctor who reportedly tried to communicate with the dead. Saunders needs the coffin sealed with silver to prevent any supernatural trouble. All goes well-until George's curiosity attracts a horrible phantom. 
Back home at Portland Row, Lockwood accuses George of making too many careless mistakes. Lucy is distracted by urgent whispers coming from the skull in the ghost jar. Then the team is summoned to DEPRAC headquarters. Kipps is there too, much to Lockwood's annoyance. Bickerstaff's coffin was raided and a strange glass object buried with the corpse has vanished. Inspector Barnes believes the relic to be highly dangerous, and he wants it found. 
The author of the blockbuster Bartimaeus series delivers another amusing, chilling, and ingeniously plotted entry in the critically acclaimed Lockwood & Co. series.
After reading the first book in this wonderful new series last year and loving it, I waited in eager anticipation for the sequel. When I was accepted to review this book via Netgalley I shrieked with joy! The Whispering Skull was just as chillingly fascinating as the first book, the characters even more spectacular and the book's atmosphere taut with suspense. I was gripped the entire way through. Jonathan Stroud has once again managed to create a fascinating story that will have readers wholly and utterly captivated and delighted to be a part of Lockwood's team again.

The Whispering Skull takes place 6 months after Lockwood & Co survived the night in the most dangerous, and the most haunted, of houses in England. They haven't had many cases come up, but then they get a visit from Mr. Saunders and his fidgety assistant Mr. Joplin with an important case of supervising, and securing, the excavation of a mad Victorian doctor who took part in chilling supernatural events. When the coffin is being excavated, a mirror with glass as black as ink and binded with a menacing presence is uncovered. Nobody realises the danger and terror that is yet to befall them...

The Whispering Skull was utterly fantastic, I didn't find it quite as hair-raising as the previous book, but there was definitely more suspense and more character development. It took me a while to catch my bearings, as I don't have the best memory, so I wasn't immersed straight away but soon after starting it the pace picked up and the plot began to thicken. I stayed up into the late hours of the night, trying to solve the mystery alongside Lockwood, George and Lucy and finding it hard to get to sleep as each time the chapter ended, I was left wanting more. There's something thoroughly intriguing about Stroud's books and once I finish a Lockwood & Co book, all I can think about is when the time will finally come where I can venture into another ghost-busting adventure with the tenacious trio.

One of the things I love about the Lockwood & Co books, fascinating plot aside, is the characters. I absolutely LOVE the characters in this series and the dry humour never fails to amuse me! I wholly adore Lockwood and his adventurous, inquisitive and gentlemanly nature and I sincerely wish that he weren't fictional as he would be such an entertaining character to be around. He is also somewhat of an enigma. He a has had an air of mystery surrounding him, since the first book, and we were revealed slightly more throughout this book and I think book three is going to contain some outright shocking revelations! I CAN'T WAIT! I need the next book. Now.

Lucy is also one of my favourite fictional characters. She's extremely real. She gets scared but she always overcomes it and is steadfastly brave and it's female character that I think a lot of people will look up to. She's incredibly snarky and stubborn and that makes her character even more fun to be with!

I utterly love George as well and I can relate to him in the sense that I love learning things, being in the library and reading about things is also some of my favourite things to do. George is quite complex, he has insecurities and I could feel he felt like a third wheel at times, which perhaps led him to doing something incredibly stupid with the mirror, just to prove that he could solve things and was capable of things just as good as Lockwood and Lucy.

The friendship between the three definitely developed in The Whispering Skull. There was some distrust among them sometimes and uncertainties but you can clearly see they will always be there for one another and there friendship is a beautiful thing that I've loved watching develop over the last two books and which I look forward to seeing in the following books. Lucy and George had quite a lot of tension in the first book and it was heartwarming to see how thoroughly they learned to care for each other in this book.

The plot was fantastic, as well! I wasn't expecting the outcome and there were some scenes that held such suspense that I couldn't tear my eyes away from my Kindle for a mere second - any distraction was an annoyance. I didn't find this book extremely frightening where the ghosts were concerned, but when Lockwood and Lucy were crossing the paths of dangerous criminals, well, they were the ones who made my pulse rate increase as I knew that Lockwood and Lucy would have a better chance surviving a dangerous type of ghost than they did with these monstrous people. There were scenes that made my heart pound vigorously in my chest, as well as constrict for fear of the characters' safety. The ending was extremely astonishing and I was clicking the next button furiously hoping fervently that that wasn't the way the book ended...but it was. WHY DO AUTHORS DO THIS TO US?! That cliffhanger was a cruel, cruel thing. That's a downfall of arcs...you have to wait even longer for the next book.

I also love the way Stroud writes, he uses the perfect amount of description so that we don't feel completely overwhelmed, he writes action scenes impeccably, many action scenes are written in an awkward manner but Stroud excels at writing fast-paced scenes that completely immerse you and make you feel as if you were there with the characters. The humour in this book is also fantastic and I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions! 

Overall, The Whispering Skull was once again another fantastically written book by an incredibly talented author. With wonderful characters, a fast-paced, captivating plot line and snarky humour, all these things combined makes for an utterly hair-rising, heart-racing story that will have you at the edge of your seat. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone as I thoroughly enjoyed it!

I give it: 5/5 CUPCAKES!

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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

What's Next? #16

*Blurbs taken from Goodreads*

This wonderful meme is hosted by IceyBooks! I never know what to read next and it would be much appreciation if you guys commented on what you think my next read should be! 

1. The Iron Trial - Cassandra Clare
The Iron Trial (Magisterium, #1)
From NEW YORK TIMES bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare comes a riveting new series that defies what you think you know about the world of magic.
From two bestselling superstars, a dazzling and magical middle-grade collaboration centering on the students of the Magisterium, an academy for those with a propensity toward magic. In this first book, a new student comes to the Magisterium against his will -- is it because he is destined to be a powerful magician, or is the truth more twisted than that? It's a journey that will thrill you, surprise you, and make you wonder about the clear-cut distinction usually made between good and evil.

2. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)
When a letter arrives for unhappy but ordinary Harry Potter, a decade-old secret is revealed to him that apparently he’s the last to know. His parents were wizards, killed by a Dark Lord’s curse when Harry was just a baby, and which he somehow survived. Leaving his unsympathetic aunt and uncle for Hogwarts, a wizarding school brimming with ghosts and enchantments, Harry stumbles upon a sinister mystery when he finds a three-headed dog guarding a room on the third floor. Then he hears of a missing stone with astonishing powers which could be valuable, dangerous – or both. An incredible adventure is about to begin!

3. The 100 Society - Carla Spradbery
The 100 Society
For sixth-form student Grace Becker, The 100 Society is more than just a game; it's an obsession. Having convinced her five friends at Clifton Academy to see it through to the end, Grace will stop at nothing to carry out the rules of the game: tagging 100 locations around the city. With each step closer to the 100-mark they get, the higher the stakes become. But when the group catches the attention of a menacing stalker - the Reaper - he seems intent on exposing their illegal game, tormenting Grace with anonymous threats and branding their dormitory doors with his ominous tag.
As the once tight-knit group slowly unravels, torn apart by doubt and the death of a student, they no longer know who to trust.
With time running out, Grace must unmask the Reaper before he destroys everything she cares about for ever...

What should I read next?
The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
The 100 Society by Carla Spradbery
Poll Maker
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Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Top 30 Books on my TBR Review Pile

I would like to say that I am one of those people who buys a book and reads it straight away and then goes to the library/bookstore once they have finished that book and doesn't get any more books until they have finished the ones they currently have. If I said I were that person, I would be lying! I have a lot of TBR books, a LOT.

My TBR pile is big, and I'm not talking about there being 20 or 50 books on it, I'm talking about there being a number in the hundreds! However, I am slowly and steadily working my way through the daunting pile. Despite me having so many books, I never know what to read next and I suppose that's part of the problem.

I also have quite a few review copies that have piled up over the last two years, and I'm really working on trying to make a dent in that! So, I've decided to sit down and make a list of the top 30 review books (physical and ebook) that I want to read soon! I'm hoping that this will encourage me to read these asap and that I'll at least be making a dent in my TBR pile!

I've placed a poll for each section so that you can help me decide which books to read next! :) If you've read any of these and loved them/hated them - let me know!

Top 10 Books on my Netgalley TBR Pile:
We Were LiarsDisruption (the Cambridge files, Book 1)Another Little Piece of My HeartThe Whispering Skull (Lockwood & Co., #2)Ink (Paper Gods, #1)SiaPawn (The Blackcoat Rebellion, #1)Waterfell (The Aquarathi, #1)The Icarus ProjectQueen of Someday (Stolen Empire, #1)

Top 10 Books on my Edelweiss TBR Pile:
The Great UnexpectedOver You Pulled UnderThe Unhappening of Genesis LeeWhat I Came to Tell YouThe Peculiar (The Peculiar, #1)Pivot Point (Pivot Point, #1)Goddess Interrupted (Goddess Test, #2)Through the SkylightThe Templeton Twins Have an Idea (Templeton Twins, #1)

Top 10 Books on my Physical TBR Pile:
Vampire AcademyHarry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)The 5th Wave (The Fifth Wave, #1)The HostThe FearlessThe Iron Trial (Magisterium, #1)Echo (Soul Seekers, #2)Amy & MatthewArclight (Arclight, #1)Seven Second Delay

Which book should I read first?
Vampire Academy - Richelle Mead
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - J.K. Rowling
The 5th Wave - Rick Yancey
The Host - Stephenie Meyer
The Fearless - Emma Pass
The Iron Trial - Holly Black & Cassandra Clare
Echo - Alyson Noel
Amy & Matthew - Cammie McGovern
Arclight - Josin L. McQuein
Seven Second Delay - Tom Easton
Poll Maker

Which Netgalley book should I read first?
We Were Liars - E. Lockhart
Disruption -Steven Whibley
Another Little Piece of my Heart - Tracey Martin
Ink - Amanda Sun
Sia - Josh Grayson
Pawn - Aimee Carter
Waterfell - Amalie Howard
The Icarus Project - Laura Quimby
Queen of Someday - Sherry D. Ficklin

Which Edelweiss book should I read first?
The Great Unexpected - Sharon Creech
Over You - Emma McLaughlin
The Sixteenth Summer: Pulled Under - Michelle Dalton
The Unhappening of Genesis Lee - Shallee McArthur
What I Came to Tell You - Tommy Hays
The Peculiar - Stefan Bachmann
Pivot Point - Kasie West
Goddess Interrupted - Aimee Carter
Through the Skylight - Ian Baucom
The Templeton Twins Have an Idea - Ellis Weiner
Poll Maker
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