Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt | Book Review

Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt | Book ReviewTell The Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Publisher/Year: Random House- June 2012
Genres: Adult Contemporary, Adult Historical Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Source: Borrowed
Other Books From Author: None, this was her debut. WHY CAN'T SHE HAVE MORE BOOKS OUT!?
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book synopsis Fourteen year old June’s uncle Finn, her best friend and the only person who gets her, passes away from an illness that her parents are hush hush about and seem ashamed of. As she tries to grapple with the loss of the one person that means everything to her she finds a stranger reaching out to her — a stranger who knows Finn almost as well as she did..maybe even more so. June reluctantly spends time with him and together they try to heal from their mutual loss.

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Oh, this book! My heart. Do you ever read a book and feel like the weight of the world is just sitting on your heart the whole time? One of my favorite expressions to describe how I feel, from one of my all time favorite books, is as having “heavy boots.” Tell The Wolves I’m Home was excellent and completely made me feel a whole array of emotions.  Thank you, Margot, for letting me borrow it and pushing it on me!

It’s an adult fiction novel but the narrator is 14 years old and I found this just to be a most beautiful and heartbreaking coming of age story set in the 1980′s. There were so many things about this book that I loved that I feel like I can’t even begin to tell you about it all — the characters, the writing, this weighty grief that June has to work through and so many other little aspects of the plot.

Watching June deal with the grief of losing her Uncle Finn was so emotional because it was just all so complicated within the family and the public perception of Finn because of how he died! Finn died of AIDs and it’s back in the 80′s so everything is very hush hush and not as much public knowledge about it. Her and Finn were so close and June’s feelings towards him are kind of complicated and intense. Then she meets Finn’s boyfriend Toby, whom her parents kept a secret from her because they blame him for Finn dying, and from Toby she learns even more about her Uncle Finn — to the point where she feels like she didn’t even really know him in some ways and she hates having to had shared him with someone. I loved learning about Finn through June but also through Toby and Finn really became such a real character to me. I could feel the love just emanating from them.

While June and Toby’s friendship was one of my favorite parts of this novel, I also really loved the relationship between June and her sister even though I wanted to kick her sister in the face so many times. I love complicated sisterly relationships and this one was a thread throughout the story I was fascinated by.

It’s honestly just so hard to explain what I thought about this novel. It was just brilliant, touching and got me all choked up. I loved it! It’s a quieter novel but it moves along at a good pace and hooks you with the compelling characters and their dynamics.

book reviewsI loved Tell The Wolves I’m Home. It was just one of those really touching, complicated stories that broke my heart but also mended it in ways. I think it could be a good novel for YA readers who also like adult fiction — good crossover material! This book left a searing impression on my heart and I won’t soon forget it.

short book reviewTell The Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

 

for-fans-of-bookadult fiction, character driven books, coming of age stories, family dynamics + secrets, stories about grief, books that make your heart explode

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? What did you think of it?


The Perpetual Page-Turner

 

Before I Blogged I Read: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

There’s a lot of books I read before I started this blog in June of 2010 and I figured it might be fun to spotlight those! They won’t be an actual review because OMG YOU GUYS THAT WAS SO LONG AGO but I’ll just note a few things about it, if I enjoyed it and what my Goodreads rating was. So thus “Before I Blogged I Read…” was born. Because you know…I’m so original with my names for things. Check out PAST “Before I Blogged I Read” posts.

 

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The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

(Amazon | Goodreads )
Rating: I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads
Date I Read it: October 2008

1. I was MEANT to read this book. So gather around, friends, for a little story. I was assigned to read this book in high school, looked at the cover, said GAG and managed to write an A+ report without reading it. So years pass between 2003 and I never think of that book again until my last semester in college in 2008 when I’m assigned this novel to do a HUUUUGE paper on. I had to laugh. Like, world, you must REALLY want me to read this book. So I did. And I EFFING LOVED IT. I am so glad this book wormed its way into my life because it was one of the best books I’ve ever read on so many levels. And I’m not going to lie, I wrote one of the best papers of my academic LIFE because of this book. I had so many thoughts and feelings. I had never been so excited about discussing the themes of book before. EVER.

2. This book was not at ALL what I judged it to be. I thought this was going to be JUST as war story or something. NOPE. I can’t even pin down what this book is. True, it involves war stories but it is SO MUCH MORE. It’s amazing, honestly. Thought-provoking, wonderfully written and has left this lasting impression on me the way it captures just the humanness of war and the intricacies of what it is to be human.  It was the type of book that I dog-eared the crap out of because there were just so many awesomely profound things. I hugged it, I laughed, I shouted at it and I cried. I actually want to do a re-read of it.

3. If you love truly amazing writing, you have to read this one. Seriously. The way this story was told. MAN. Makes me feel like the way I write is the equivalent of a 3 year old. It’s not just the particular way he strings together a sentence that is remarkable but it’s the way he makes you FEEL like you are there in the trenches or the emotion that exudes from the pages that grips you entirely and makes you want to weep for these men. It’s also the WAY he tells the story. The story truths and the happening truths and the always wondering what is real and not real. How it all is interconnected. It’s genius.

4. It is fiction but is also very based on the author’s own experience. Sometimes I forgot this book was fiction to be honest. I felt like I was reading someone’s very vivid and compelling accounts of the war and it really ties into his theme of truths and how sometimes story-truth is truer than happening truth. Through these interrelated stories from different angles of the war, we get glimpses of the happening truth and we feel that so devastatingly so, like sitting down with an old vet, but we get the story truth that helps us feel emotionally connected to it and to ache and feel raw alongside them.

Favorite Quotes:

A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever. There is no virtue. As a first rule of thumb, therefore, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil.”

 

“Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.”

 

 “I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth.”

 

“He wished he could’ve explained some of this. How he had been braver than he ever thought possible, but how he had not been so brave as he wanted to be. The distinction was important.”

 

 

Have any of you read this one? Did you like it/not like it? Tell me what you thought! Was this required reading for anyone else??

Stella Bain by Anita Shreve | Book Review

Stella Bain by Anita Shreve | Book ReviewStella Bain by Anita Shreve
Publisher/Year: Little Brown- November 12, 2013
Genres: Adult Historical Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: For Review
Other Books From Author: Rescue, A Wedding In December, The Pilot's Wife, Body Surfing, and many others!
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I received this from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!

 

 

 

Stella Bain, an American woman, wakes up in France in the middle of World War I and has no idea who she is. She clings to the name Stella Bain and, after she recovers from her injuries, she decides to become a nurse’s aide until she figure out who she is or what to do next. She feels very strongly about going to London to the Admiralty but doesn’t know why so she travels there on a hunch not knowing what awaits her there. Before she makes it there, she is found outside by Dr. Bridge and his wife and they allow her to stay in their home so she can get better and soon Dr. Bridge takes her on as a patient to help her try to figure out who she is.

MEH. I was so excited for this one because the premise sounded awesome and I love adult historical fiction. I hate to say it but it was completely a disappointment for me which is a shame because the first half of the book was SO GOOD — very compelling and kept me turning the pages. But then the second part happened and I felt like the story just got lost somewhere and I didn’t care anymore. I probably should have put it down but I didn’t and now I regret that because the ending REALLY didn’t nothing for me. SO MUCH APATHY FROM ME.

So let’s talk about the only part of this book that really standout for me — the first part. I was hooked immediately. The main character wakes up not knowing her name, where she is or any other details about herself. She finds herself in France during World War I and starts working as a nurse’s aide and just starts rebuilding a life under the name Stella Bain. Something triggers her and she feels like she needs to go to the Admirality in London — on a hunch. That’s when she meets Dr. Bridge and his wife by chance and they start to work on her memory. It was compelling and I felt so sorry for her and wanted to know her story. Early on we learn who she is, but then we learn her back story and how she became to be in France which was ALL very interesting. I was really loving the book at this point. It flowed very well and I was intrigued by the main character.

But then the rest of the story happened. It seemed so scattered and pointless for me. After she found out who she was, I just stopped caring. I didn’t mean to. I was looking forward to her “redemption” so to speak but it just wasn’t there for me and I struggled to keep going. There were SO many different things going on and the storylines weren’t as strong as they SHOULD have been for me. I wanted to care about what was going on in the custody battle but I didn’t because it didn’t feel entirely urgent to me — just a thing she was doing. I should have wanted this romance but it was NOT AT ALL captivating to me despite having caught the tension early on. I think I get what Shreve was trying to do with the rest of the story but it didn’t come together well in my opinion. My friend Hannah and I read it around the same time and we both agreed that we thought the story was going to focus more on the shell shock she had experienced but it didn’t really and just seemed to lose any sort of focus.

I finished this book not feeling anything at all — and that’s the worst kind of feeling for me. I’d rather passionately hate a book than feeling nothing at all.

Ultimately the worst kind of disappointment — a very strong absorbing first half as we watch Stella try to figure out who she is, her identity is revealed and her compelling back story was shared that went downhill. Then this book kind of went off into la-la land and my mind went off with it. I was bored, the storylines were clunky and not compelling and I felt nothing at all anymore.

Stella Bain by Anita Shreve

 

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? Have you read any other Anita Shreve books? This was my first one, unfortunately, and I’m scared to try others but totally would with a good rec. Any other good books you know that are set during WWI?

Before I Blogged I Read: The Poisonwood Bible By Barbara Kingsolver

There’s a lot of books I read before I started this blog in June of 2010 and I figured it might be fun to spotlight those! They won’t be an actual review because OMG YOU GUYS THAT WAS SO LONG AGO but I’ll just note a few things about it, if I enjoyed it and what my Goodreads rating was. So thus “Before I Blogged I Read…” was born. Because you know…I’m so original with my names for things. Check out PAST “Before I Blogged I Read” posts.

 

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The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

(Amazon | Goodreads )
Rating: I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads
Date I Read it: July 2009

1. The Poisonwood Bible is told from multiple POVs  from the daughters and the wife of a Baptist preacher who has moved them from the US to the Congo to be missionaries in the late 50′s. I loved the multiple POVs in this instance because it really showed such a complete look at the situation and everyone felt differently about the things that were going down — from the physical and emotional response to moving, to the terrible things that happened as a result of this move, the political situation in the Congo and life in the village. I could appreciate the perspective from the daughters who LOVED their new home and were fascinated by it but I could also feel the one daughter’s HATRED, as a teenager, for a land so different and far away from what she knows. I could feel how hard it would be to adjust.

2. The setting obviously was a lot different from most of the books I had read and I was definitely interested in African culture and how these white missionaries would immerse themselves in it and adjust. Right away things go wrong with them not packing some of the right things and not quite being prepared for life in the Congo. It was interesting to see it from the viewpoints of the different girls because of their different feelings about even BEING there. I loved the observations about the culture and the landscape from the daughters that really appreciated the Congo and learning about the political situation. I also felt Kingsolver did a good job presenting the beauty of the Congo with the things that make life really hard for the villagers and the Prices– food shortages, dangerous snakes and insects, illnesses, political strife, etc.

3. I remember having such strong (hate) feelings toward Mr. Price. He is one of those Baptist preachers who is definitely all fire and brimstone and he really is that way in his approach with the villagers. He puts his family in so much danger in different ways and is just so stubborn and it infuriated me especially because his family was just falling apart and he just didn’t care it felt like. There is a lot of butting heads between Nathan and the villagers in terms of religion, culture and just the way things are done. He just came into it with so little regard for their culture and he was just altogether one of those characters I just hated because he didn’t even TRY to understand these people or their culture in his approach. Didn’t understand their needs or meet them where they were at. I don’t know if he meant to be such a douchenugget but he was.

4. I read this at an interesting time for myself — I had just graduated from a Christian college where I came out more confused about where I stood than before and it was mostly because of the people. I saw so much in this novel that is what bothered me about parts of Christianity — all embodied in Nathan Price. His approach is what rubs me the wrong way and so it was interesting to read this story with all my own questions swirling around my head. There is a missionary who comes into the novel that was in this village prior to the Prices and his approach definitely contrasts all that Nathan was and showed a lot more compassion, love and understanding towards these people that motivated his work there and gained the respect of the villagers. It definitely was a thought provoking read for me.

Favorite Quotes:

“Don’t try to make life a mathematics problem with yourself in the center and everything coming out equal. When you’re good, bad things can still happen. And if you’re bad, you can still be lucky.” 

“Listen. To live is to be marked. To live is to change, to acquire the words of a story, and that is the only celebration we mortals really know. In perfect stillness, frankly, I’ve only found sorrow.” 

 

 

Have any of you read this one? Did you like it/not like it? Tell me what you thought! Have you read any other Kingsolver novels? I read The Bean Trees back in high school and remember liking it.

Before I Blogged I Read: Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

There’s a lot of books I read before I started this blog in June of 2010 and I figured it might be fun to spotlight those! They won’t be an actual review because OMG YOU GUYS THAT WAS SO LONG AGO but I’ll just note a few things about it, if I enjoyed it and what my Goodreads rating was. So thus “Before I Blogged I Read…” was born. Because you know…I’m so original with my names for things. Check out PAST “Before I Blogged I Read” posts.

 

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Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

(Amazon | Goodreads )
Rating: I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads
Date I Read it: August 2009

1. It’s historical fiction set during the Holocaust that tells the story of a German mother who does WHATEVER she has to do to protect her daughter and herself during the war and the daughter’s search to find out, in the present time, about her mom’s past when she finds a picture of her mother, herself as a baby and a Nazi soldier. Love the point of view of both mother and daughter and the fact that they ARE Germans because so often we never see that side.

2. One of the most powerful and best historical fiction books I’ve read. It shocked me, made my heart just shatter into a million pieces and ultimately made me cry. Definitely an emotionally hard, harrowing read but worth it. Absolutely haunting.

3. I loved the mother/daughter element to it as it is this story of the terrible things a mother will endure because of the selfless love and need to protect. Loved that the story was told from these dual point of views.

4. If you liked The Book Thief or historical fiction set during WWII I recommend this though I think this one was quite a bit harder to read concerning things of the Holocaust than The Book Thief. Definitely more intense and dark I think.

Favorite Quotes:

“Life is so often unfair and painful and love is hard to find and you have to take it whenever and wherever you can get it, no matter how brief it is or how it ends.”

“How could she tell him that we come to love those who save us?”

“”It’s like being in a sort of club, isn’t it? A bereavement club. You don’t choose to join it; it’s thrust upon you. And the members whose lives have been changed have more knowledge than those who aren’t in it, but the price of belonging is so terribly high.”

“She should have known this would happen even with him; she should have know better than to tell him the truth. She can never tell him what she started to say: that we come to love those who save us. For although Anna does believe this is true, the word that stuck in her throat was not save but shame.”

 

Have any of you read this one? Did you like it/not like it? Can you recommend any other historical fiction books that take place during this time period? I seem to always gravitate to it.

Review: Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio

Book Title/Author: Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio
Publisher/Year
:  Plume 2012
Genre: Mystery/historical fiction – Adult Fiction
Series
: No
Other Books From Author: The Violets of March, The Bungalow

Amazon| Goodreads | Sarah Jio’s website |

I checked this out from my wonderful library. LIBRARIES ARE COOL, y’all!

 

 

 

Told in alternating perspectives, Blackberry Winter tells the story of two woman, decades apart, but whose stories become intertwined when a freak weather phenomenon in May, a blackberry winter, unearths an unsolved kidnapping from the 1930s. Vera Ray is a single mother who is struggling to pay rent with her low paying job as a maid at a ritzy hotel. With no way to pay for childcare, she tucks her three year old son in bed to work the night shift, only to return home to discover that there has been a freak snowstorm and Daniel has gone missing with only his favorite teddy bear left behind. Almost 80 years later, Claire, a reporter and wife in the midst of a failing marriage, wakes up to Seattle covered in snow and her boss wanting a great feature connecting the blackberry winter of today to the one in 1933. Claire finds the story of the missing child that went unsolved and sets out to find out what happened as Vera’s story becomes personal to her — even more so than she’d ever realized.

I really, really loved Blackberry Winter! It was a captivating story that and has made me a huge Sarah Jio fan with just one book. The way the two women’s stories were intertwined and told in alternating chapters really worked for me as I learned more about each women & their life in smaller pieces — which really piled on the suspense! I was so invested in both Vera & Claire’s stories that I’d finish one chapter and be all, “Oh man! I don’t want to switch perspectives” but then immediately be absorbed in the other woman’s story.I loved learning about Vera’s back story and how she became a single mother (umm rather swoony and then completely heartbreaking) while simultaneously learning more about what happened to her and Daniel through Claire’s investigation. That storyline REALLY got to me and Sarah Jio knows how to deliver bits of answers in a way that you can’t help but hastily read because you really care so much about what happened.

I was afraid I wasn’t going to really connect with Claire with the nature of the fact that so much of what she does in the book is help us learn more about Vera and Daniel but Sarah Jio really made her into a character I loved as she had so many of her own heartbreaking issues to deal with that really drew her to this story. While obviously her investigation about Vera was the shining storyline, I thought that Claire’s marital issues and the unfortunate accident that happened in their life was really interesting and I loved the healing that went on throughout the story in different ways. The only thing that I will say is that sometimes I thought things were a little bit too much of a coincidence but not in a way that really detracted from the story at all. But besides that, this book was fantastic & I’ll be reading all of her books!

 

Blackberry Winter was the perfect blend of mystery and historical fiction, laced with romance, and a serious page-turner. The  pieces of the mystery were revealed in that way that just makes on ravenous and the two intertwined stories were heartbreaking and beautiful. Truly a moving story that will leave you a bit misty-eyed while reading about Vera’s story — both through the back story & Claire’s investigation. Sarah Jio has just such smooth & exquisite writing — the unraveling of the mystery, the scenes that make your heart ache, the amazing characterization & more — it was just all so deftly and wonderfully written. Even if you typically don’t read adult fiction, I’d recommend still checking this one out!

 

You May Also Like: Kate MortonLucinda Riley, The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rassmussen (it has that some sort of amazingly revealed mystery without being an overly “mystery” book — great characters, stories that make a mark on your heart, etc). 

 

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? Did you guess how they were tied together? Have you read either of Sarah Jio’s other novels?  Which one should I tackle next?

A Long Long Time Ago & Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka

Title/Author: A Long Long Time Ago & Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka
Publisher/Year: Mariner Books 2009
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
How I Got This Book: I got it from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I love when you read a book thinking that it will probably be just a decent read but you begin to read and realize that you have a gem in your hands–a gem that you end up really loving. A Long Long Time Ago & Essentially True was that kind of experience for me.

Pasulka skillfully intertwines the two threads of the story until they become one–inextricably bound by Poland’s history and the hope of a better future. The stories are told in alternating chapters. I’ve read books where the transitions feels awkward and jumbled and I find myself forgetting or getting bored with one storyline. Pasulka delicately handled these transitions in a way that made sense. She ended the chapters right where they needed to end and I was able to effortlessly glide through the book. I really appreciated this.

The first of the story lines revolves around Pigeon and Anielica Hetmanski and their love story which is sweet and innocent but tragic in ways. The progression of their relationship was one of my favorite parts of the story. Their love story is forever changed by World War II (this isn’t a war story, I promise) as they must deal with the immediate dangers of war along with the rebuilding in the aftermath. The second storyline springs forward to modern Poland with Baba Yaga (the granddaughter of Anielica) as she comes to the city after the death of her grandmother and tries to grapple with her culture and finding her place in Krakow. Baba Yaga is a endearing heroine in my mind as she grows. I found her so relateable as a young woman–she isn’t strong in a traditional sense, she isn’t sure about herself or her future, and she sells her self short time and time again.

My only major qualm with this gem of a book is this: I don’t mind when an author sprinkles the native language of the characters into the narrative as long as I am able to deduce the meaning of the word from the “context clues.” (oh hey there 5th grade language lessons.) I feel like the author used way too many Polish words and it wasn’t always clear what they meant.

I would highly recommend this debut novel. Her writing is magical in itself and her characters are alive and complex. There are beautiful little mini love stories throughout but not in the mushy gushy way–so real you could mistake them for the stories of your own grandparents or great grandparents. This book is full of wit, wisdom, and hope–all needed to balance the heartbreak and tragedy. It pays homage to the lives of those who had to live through the War/Communist regime and the generation who had to move forward with those pieces.

You will be moved. I’m just warning you.

*THIS REVIEW WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED ON 7/15 but WordPress ate it when I transferred from Blogger to WP. BOO.*

 

Review: The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen

The Bird Sisters: A NovelBook/Author: The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen
Publisher/Year: Crown Publishing April 2011
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Spinster sisters, Milly and Twiss,  are known as “the bird sisters” and their home serves as a place where people bring injured birds to be nursed back to health. The “bird sisters” weren’t always destined towards a path of seclusion and spinsterhood…until one summer that alters the direction of their lives.

The story gracefully moves between the present and haunting memories from their childhood. The bulk of the memories take place in the span of the summer of 1947 when Milly and Twiss are teenagers and becomes the turning point to paving the path that leads to where they are now as spinsters. Immediately I was invested in the lives of Milly and Twiss and had such a desire to know how they ended up so alone when it seemed like they had a lot going for them. I think that was the most heart-wrenching part– knowing how they ended up and needing to find out why. The details of the events that summer were revealed ever so carefully and evenhandedly that it kept you reeling until you are given the answers to what had happened. And let me tell you– it was shocking, heartbreaking and beautiful — simultaneously. I had goosebumps as we finally learned what happened in the most pivotal moment that summer.

Milly and Twiss are two of the most quirky and unforgettable characters that I’ve encountered in a while. They were developed so finely and with great precision and I just fell completely in love with them. I found a lot of the other characters to be interesting as well. Cousin Bett was that character that you just wanted to slap silly yet I kept wondering what her story was. The characters personalities were so perfectly melded together with the plot that I just kept thinking of how perfect of a book this was. Milly and Tilly are definitely the shining stars but what I loved is that they aren’t always brave, or always right or strong…they were so real and were perfect in their own ways.

For the most part I can honestly say this book was flawless for me, but I must confess, there were a few parts where it took me a little bit to figure out if we were back in the past or in the present although I was able to deduce after a page or so. The parts in the present, in the heads of the older Milly and Twiss, were a little slower moving for me but it definitely balanced out the story well.

My Final Thought:
I would recommend this to anybody looking for the perfect combination of unforgettable characters, a carefully crafted and revealed plot with a layer of surprises and undeniably beautiful prose that you find yourself savoring with each page. Seriously, this book charmed the socks off of me, broke my heart and mentally shelving this book under “books that remind me why I love the written word.” It wasn’t overwrought in emotion or drama nor was it the type of book that was trying too hard to BE something profound. It felt real and was definitely a breath of fresh air for me.

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