Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Book Shame - Books I didn't finish (Lots of controversial ones in here!)

See how Buffy's trying but doesn't quite look convinced?
That was me reading these books.
Today I thought I would show you my worst DNFs*. These are either books that I didn't finish and never plan on picking up again or books I just might end up finishing one day. The funny thing is that many of those books are actually quite popular and have hordes of fans. So if you see a favorite book of yours here, don't feel in anyway that I'm trying to bash your beloved book. We all have such diverging tastes so what may work for me might not work for someone else and that's totally fine :) 

So let's start...

(*DNF - A book you Did Not Finish)

1. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

This is the first book in the Lords of the Rings trilogy and while I did read and enjoy the Hobbit (twice!), I just couldn't finish this one. Like I said in a previous post, the fact that the characters are constantly singing is what turned me off with this one. However, this is one of those 'might finish it one day' situations. I really want this to happen. I just don't really feel like picking this up again anytime soon. We'll see how it goes! 

2. Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

OMG this series... I thought the first book was quite good. It was fast-paced and had lots of adventure and magic. And of course, there was an awesome dragon too. Then beginning with book two, it kind of totally went downhill. Aside from the not so subtle Star Wars and Lord of the Rings similarities, the books were unnecessarily long with passages that could have easily been cut down and events that could have been skipped altogether. I mean, book three has whole chapters dedicated only to dwarf politics!!! I really struggled to finish books 2 and 3, mostly because I had actually spent a good portion of my savings on them. But when I got to book 4, I just couldn't do it anymore. I stopped 100 pages into it and honestly, I don't thing I'll ever pick up the book again. 

3. Emma by Jane Austen

This might come off as a shocker to fans of Jane Austen but it's true, I couldn't finish this book. First off, I never really liked romance and comedy as book genres and those are the genres that primarily fit Jane Austen's books. Now just because a book is a classic doesn't mean you necessarily have to like it, especially if it's from a genre you don't enjoy. I've tried several Jane Austen novels now, including Mansfield Park, Emma and Pride and Prejudice, and I still don't enjoy her works the way I enjoy the works of other classics authors. I guess I just prefer books that have a more serious or dramatic tone. That's probably why I love Jane Eyre so much. Again, it really boils down to personal preferences. I do plan on re-reading Pride and Prejudice one day to see if my opinion has changed. And despite having abandoned Emma about midway through it, I also plan to read it again one day and actually finish it. Jane Austen is just not on top of my priority reads for the moment with regards to classics.

4. The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare

As a great fan of The Mortal Instruments and the Infernal Devices series, when I saw that Cassandra Clare had released a new book, I immediately got my own copy and started reading it right away. That book was The Iron Trial, which she had written with Holly Black and... I hated it. It's a middle-grade book but I don't think that's why I didn't like it. I mean, I love the Percy Jackson books and these are also mid-grade books. The Iron Trial was super cheesy, even for a book intended for kids. And despite trying very hard not to, I couldn't help but note the similarities with Harry Potter. I really tried to give this book a chance but in the end I just gave up. I'm really looking forward to Lady Midnight, Cassandra Clare's next release, but I don't think I'll ever pick up a middle-grade book by her again. 

5. Unravel me by Tahereh Mafi

I read Shatter Me, the first book in the series, mostly due to the hype it was getting in the book community. Despite it having a rather weak plot and lots and lots of cheesiness, I did quite enjoy Shatter Me, mostly because I saw it as a guilty pleasure read. With Unravel Me though, the guilty pleasure element kind of wore off and I was left struggling with yet another cheesy and weak plot. I really hated how hard the author was suddenly trying to make us sympathize with Warner when in book one he had been such an asshole. And to make us like him, the author found no other way than to turn book one's love interest, Adam, from a sweet and loving guy to a jealous guy with anger issues. These character developments were so random and sloppy and that pretty much killed the series for me. I know this series has lots of fans, but it just wasn't for me I guess. 

6. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Okay, please don't hate me for this one guys! Look, I do enjoy John Green's writing. I mean I read Looking for Alaska and Will Grayson, Will Grayson by him and I genuinely love both of these books. However, I truly feel that Looking for Alaska was a superior story than the Fault In Our Stars. I think my main problem with The Fault is that is had been overhyped for me. So, when it didn't end up living up to the high expectations I had developed, it just came off as disappointing and I had to put it down. So I guess overhype is what truly ruined this book for me. I'm not saying it's a bad book. In fact, I agree with most people in that it has a beautiful story but I honestly think this book was overhyped. If someone would ask me for a John Green recommendation, I would totally recommend something else than The Fault in Our Stars.

Okay so let the debates in the comments begin! Did I mention a book that you loved in this post? Or maybe you read one of these books and you, too, didn't like it? Comment down below and tell me what you liked or didn't like about the books I mentioned. Looking forward to your comments!

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Actor finally cast as Jace in the TV adaptation of Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments!

Today I have just a quick announcement post for you guys. Last year saw the release of the movie adaption of the first book in Cassandra Clare's best-selling series, the Mortal Instruments. Fans had been waiting for months to see Clary, Jace, Alec, Magnus and everyone else come to life on screen. The movie though, ended up being quite the letdown, stalling the production of future installments in the series. But just when everyone had pretty much given up the hope of ever seeing Jace and Clary on the screen again, ABC announced that they would be adapting Cassandra Clare's book series for the small screen. 

Now, a few months later, things seem to be finally moving. While production expected to start in June, the TV show not only finally has its official name - Shadowhunters - but it seems that castings have also already begun. While this should put the dream-casts polls to rest, it also gave way for a new wave of anticipation and excitement which only got wilder earlier today upon the first official casting announcement yet.

Fans of Shadowhunters everywhere, the wait is over! We now officially have our new Jace Wayland! 

Dominic Sherwood, whom some of you might remember from Vampire Academy where he played the part of fire-wielding Moroi Christian, has been officially cast as Jace. With longer hair, some hair dye and a few runic tattoos, he might very well turn out to be the perfect Jace.

Nothing has yet been announced regarding the parts of other main characters and fan favorites such as Clary, Alec, Magnus or even Valentine, but from their latest casting I'm very hopeful the other castings will live up to fans' anticipations and stay true to the characters we love from the books. 

Check out the official Facebook page of Shadowhunters to get the latest tidbits about the upcoming TV adaptation of Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments series by clicking here

Are you excited for Shadowhunters? What do you think of the casting choice for Jace? Comment down below and let me know!

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy - Book Review

With the movie adaptation coming out this May, I thought I would do a review of Far from the Madding Crowd for those of you who might be interested in discovering the book. And in case you were wandering, yes, the book is awesome! 

The Plot
Carey Mulligan and Tom Sturridge as Bathsheba
and Sergeant Troy in the 2015 movie adaptation
After inheriting her late uncle's farm, Bathsheba Everdene comes to Weatherbury to take up her new role as mistress of the farm. Her great beauty and independent personality soon catches the attention of three different suitors: the loyal shepherd Gabriel Oak, the gentleman farmer Boldwood and the dashing and seductive Sergeant Troy. Subject to the love of these three men, Bathsheba is drawn to make a decision that ends up hurting more people she had accounted for. What initially started as a mere game of seduction then takes a dramatic turn, casting the shadow of tragedy over the fates of these four people. 

My Review

The Characters
Terence Stamp and Julie Christie as Sergeant Troy
and  Bathsheba in the 1967 movie adaptation
This is a highly character-driven book and has beautifully written character developments. Bathsheba is a very interesting female character, being very independent and highly spirited for a 19th century woman. She is mistress of her own farm, handling a job normally held by men. Her strength of character is however deeply challenged when she finds herself drawn in the midst of a love rectangle and as the story progresses, we get to see the vulnerability of this seemingly strong woman, highlighting Thomas Hardy's skill at depicting highly realistic characters. Gabriel Oak, the most loyal of her suitors might seem as a slightly naive character at the beginning of the book but as story unfolds, he undergoes a very interesting character development which makes him the most interesting male character in the entire book. Devilishly seductive Sergeant Troy might seem like your typical rogue lover at a first glance but his character, too, hides depths that are gradually explored as the book nears its end. Farmer Boldwood, who becomes so enamored with Bathsheba that soon his very existence depends on her, is a sympathetic character in his own way, though as a person he is quite difficult to like. Aside from these main players, the book also features several well-depicted side characters who, in one way or another, end up impacting strongly on the story.

Penguin English Library Edition
The Story
With its several intelligently interwoven storylines, this story has many layers to it which the reader will slowly explore over the course of the book. What may seem as a mere love story soon takes a dramatic spin bordering on tragedy. With events quickly unfolding one after the other, you won't be able to turn the pages quickly enough. 

The Prose
This is a 19th century classic but the English is still quite accessible to modern readers due to the simple but beautiful writing style. Thomas Hardy has a very beautiful narrative voice and throughout the book I'd sometimes find myself looking up from the page to ponder for a few seconds over a beautiful line I had just read. 

The Ending 
This is one love story which does not quite come with a fairy-tale ending. The ending was very satisfying though and very much in line with the scope of the story. And although not everyone gets to have their happy ending, all the characters' arcs conclude quite smoothly. 

The Rating
I gave this book a very well deserved 5-star rating on Goodreads.

As I mentioned earlier, the movie adaptation is coming out this May. Anyone else is anticipating its release? For those of you who have read the book, what do you think of the choice of actors? Personally, I consider Carey Mulligan to be an awesome actress but I'm not sure if I like her as Bathsheba. I'll leave my judgment for after I watch the movie though.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Disney Princess Book Tag (My First Original Tag!)

Hey guys! Today I'm really excited to show you my very first original book tagOne thing you need to know about me is that I absolutely love Disney. Like seriously, I love Disney probably as much as I love books. So it really was a matter of time before I combined both on my blog. 

My Disney Princess Facts:
1. My favorite Disney Princess is Ariel because I think she's so adorable.
2. My favorite Disney Princess movie is Pocahontas. I mean that ending... Oh, the feels!!!
3. I think Aurora is the prettiest of all Disney Princesses. The most elegant one too! 

And now, without further delay, let's get started with the tag! (So excited ^_^)

1. Snow White - Name your favorite classic 

For this I'm going to pick Jane Eyre. This ageless masterpiece by Charlotte Brontë has everything from awesome character development and well-plotted storylines to beautiful descriptions and a recurring deliciously spooky atmosphere. My favorite classic by far. 

2. Cinderella - Name a book that kept you reading well past your bedtime

This was a recent read and it is The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. This is one of the first books ever written on time travel and is actually where the term 'time machine' came from. The book follows the story of a 19th century man who builds a time machine that takes him thousands of years into the future, well past our current century. This was a fairly short book with less than 120 pages and it was so fast-paced and interesting that I stayed up till 3.30 am just to finish it. Also, isn't it cool how both pictures feature clocks?

3. Aurora - Name your favorite classic romance

Since I've already mentioned Jane Eyre, which remains a top contender for this category too, I'm going to go with Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. This book follows the story of Bathsheba and the three men who enter her life, each coveting her love. This book not only has fabulously written romance, but it also has awesome character development and very strong intertwining storylines. Considering the fact that I usually avoid romance novels, and that I ended up giving this book 5 stars on Goodreads, you might want to pick this up if you're looking for a good classic romance.  

4. Ariel - Name a book that's about making sacrifices and fighting for your dreams

For this one, I chose Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. When we first meet main character Cath, she is a shy and socially anxious young woman who is quite unsure of herself and struggling to adapt to college life. As the story progresses though, we see Cath overcome her initial shyness and fears and slowly begin to realize her dream: to become a writer. Just like Ariel's, Cath's story is about growing stronger and finding strength within. 

5. Belle - Name a book with a smart and independent female character

For this I picked the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan. These books feature a wide cast of characters, many of which are the demigod children of the Greek Gods. One of these characters is Annabeth Chase, daughter of Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom. Annabeth is the second main character right after Percy and is not only very smart but she is also a skilled fighter. Indeed, throughout the series, she stands as Percy's equal in fights, using both her training and wits to escape villains and save her friends. Smart and kickass, Annabeth is one of the best characters in this series. 

6. Jasmine - Name a book with a character who challenged the social conventions of his or her world

Remember when Jasmine stood up to her father and said 'I am not a prize to be won?' Astrid, from Ask the Passengers by A.S. King, is an equally strong young woman who gradually learns self-acceptance and grows stronger throughout the book. When she falls in love with a girl, Astrid's life starts to unravel beyond her control. The fact that she lives in a town full of gossip and short-mindedness only complicates things further. But it's really when Astrid finds herself cornered by the conventions and prejudices around her that her personality starts to shine through. 

7. Pocahontas - Name a book whose ending was a roller-coaster of emotions

For this I just had to pick Clockwork Princess, the last book in the Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare. I can't really talk about the book's ending without spoiling everything but if you're interested in reading this series or you're currently already reading it, know that this book has one of the best written endings ever. All character arcs conclude beautifully, loose ends are properly dealt with and you also get to see what happens next for the characters you've grown to love throughout the series. Plus, both the book's ending and the last scene in Pocahontas made me tear up, so there's that too. 

8. Mulan - Name a book with a kick-ass female character

Mulan artwork by Pallares Laure
For this I'm going to go with the Saga graphic novels by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, featuring Alana, one of the fiercest female characters I've ever read about. Despite being from enemy races, Alana and Marko fall in love and get a child together. As a galactic war rages on and enemies close in to apprehend them, Alana and her family soon find themselves fighting for their very survival. Alana is not only an ex-soldier, but she is also a woman with a very strong personality, making her both protective of those she loves and ruthless to those who come after her family. 

9. Tiana - Name a book featuring a hardworking, self-made character

Unlike most Disney princesses, Tiana didn't fulfill her dreams merely by wishing upon a star, nor did she had help from some Fairy Godmother. She rolled up her sleeves and went on to work hard 'cause that's how dreams come true in the real world. Daenerys Targaryen, from A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, learns this the hard way when she is thrown against her will into an arranged marriage with the ruthless and almost savage Khal Drogo. While she is initially a quiet and seemingly fragile girl, she eventually gains confidence in her role as wife to the Khal and as the series progresses, through her willpower and courage, she goes from powerless exiled princess to powerful queen and conqueror, eventually becoming one of the fiercest characters in the entire series. 

10. Rapunzel - Name a book that features an artist

If I Stay by Gayle Forman features several characters who have artistic backgrounds. Main character Mia plays the cello, her boyfriend Adam is the lead singer in his band and Mia's parents have lots of friends in the music sphere, mostly due to Mia's dad being a singer in his youth. From classical music to rock, this book has a strong musical background which is an engrossing as the main plot itself. 

11. Merida - Name a book that features a mother-daughter relationship

For this I picked Where the Rainbows End by Cecelia Ahern. This book is also known as Love, Rosie and was recently made into a movie. You might want to move to number 12 directly if you don't know the story of the book/movie and don't want to be spoiled. To read the spoiler section highlight the following passage. *Start of spoiler* Rosie's life is turned upside down when she accidentally gets pregnant after sleeping with a guy on prom night. Her decision to keep her child will forever change her fate as she slips into adulthood practically overnight and embraces motherhood while she's still figuring out her life. Rosie is hellbent on being a good mother though and the book follows her story as she slowly gets the hang of motherhood and slowly carves her way into the world. *End of spoiler*

12. Anna and Elsa - Name a book that features a great relationship between siblings 

For this I picked the Pevensie siblings from the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. (Sorry Cersei and Jaime. You don't actually qualify). It's wartime and siblings Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are sent to live with an old professor until things get better back at home. After Lucy finds a passage to the magical world of Narnia, the four siblings discover they feature in a prophecy predicting their roles as the saviors of the land. Through dangers and adventures, the siblings thus set forward together to defeat the White Witch under whose spell Narnia has been suffering for a century. 

Aaaand that's it for my Disney Princess Book Tag guys. If you enjoyed this post, consider yourself tagged! Just don't forget to link your post back to mine and to leave me a link to your post because I'd love to see the books you would pick. Also feel free to comment down below to let me know what you think of my tag!

If you love Disney Princesses and books, you might also want to check out a similar tag created by YouTuber TurtleSympathy but which features different princesses and different questions. 

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I wish my hair could do that... 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

March Wrap-Up

March was one hell of a hectic month. Between reading the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe and having a blast at it and writing my dissertation for uni, I've barely had time to post new material on the blog these past few weeks. Yet, despite how busy and crazy this month has been, I managed to read a total of 11 books which I'm quite happy about. 

So here's the list of the books I've read starting with the one to which I gave the lowest rating till the one I enjoyed most. As usual, I'm using the Goodreads star rating system, which you can read more about in my previous wrap-up

Let me know if there's anything here you've read! 

11. This one summer by Mariko Tamaki - 3 stars

This was probably the biggest disappointment of last month. I was really expecting more of this graphic novel, largely due to the hype it has been getting lately. The artwork was very beautiful with purple used for all the art rather than the customary black. The story though fell quite flat. It's basically the coming-of-age story of two girls as they spend summer at the beach. There's not much happening with the exception of the occasional drama which, in my opinion, felt almost forced sometimes. This graphic novel could have got a 2-star rating but earns a third star for the beautiful art.

10. Fragile eternity by Melissa Marr - 3 stars 

Wicked Lovely is a YA series about faeries and if you've read the previous month's wrap-up, you know I've been trying to finally put this series behind me. I've owned all the 5 books in the series for what feels like forever and was feeling kind of bad about it. So, I decided to slip a book from the series in each if my monthly TBR lists with the view of getting this over with very soon. This month I read the Fragile Eternity, which is book 3. I don't have much to say about this book other that it was a fast-paced read. Lots of faerie drama and angst. Not something I would recommend to YA fans. 

9. Ask the passengers by A.S. King - 4 stars
Astrid has questions. Lots of them. She just doesn't really have anyone to share them with. So she spends hours lying on the picnic table in the backyard and sends her thoughts to the strangers in the planes flying overhead. As she slowly falls in love with a girl, Astrid starts to question herself and the society around her, suddenly unsure of the very person she is and what it means to be different in a society as judgmental as the one she lives in. And in a town that could as well have been called 'gossip', things don't take long to get a little out of hand. 

I turned to this book hoping to find a light and quick read and was instead pleasantly surprised to discover a deep and very well written story. Astrid is a very relatable character and while her sexuality is indeed one major issue explored in the book, the story is so much more, with an array of characters each with their own issues. Unlike YA books when parents and siblings tend to fall somewhere in the background, here they are well fleshed out secondary characters with as much stuff to deal with as Astrid. Pick this up guys, you won't regret it.

8. The lion, the witch and the wardrobe by C.S. Lewis - 4 stars
The Narnia books are today classics of children literature and many of you have probably already read a few or all the books in the series. It's only now that I'm reading them though, largely due to the fact that I had been spoiled about the entirety of the last book a few years ago. The spoilers kind of took away my desire to read the books for myself and I would have probably not even thought about them again had I not watched Karina, a YouTuber, talk about them in her videos. Check out her channel, she's awesome. So I got my hands on book one and guess what? Yep, I loved it! Now, next time I watch the movie again with my sister, because it's one of our childhood favorites, I'm going to be looking out for details from the books! 

Onto the story now. It's wartime and siblings Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are sent to live with an old professor until things get better back at home. When Lucy, the youngest, accidentally stumbles into a magical world after entering a wardrobe, the children are dragged almost despite themselves into an adventure beyond their imagination involving talking animals, a land of eternal winter and an evil queen who also doubles as a powerful witch. Give the book a try guys. It's really worth it.

7. Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis - 4 stars

Prince Caspian is the second book in the Chronicles of Narnia. I can't really give much a plot for this one since it would spoil most of the first book's ending. Also note that the order of the books vary as per the publications but in case you were wondering, I'm going by the original publication order. I loved book one so much that I decided to pick up Prince Caspian and again, I ended up really loving it. In fact I loved this one better than book one, hence the slightly higher ranking. So far, the Narnia books have proven to be very fast-paced and enjoyable reads and I'm really excited to get to more of these in April. 

6. Matilda by Roald Dahl - 4 stars 

If you've read my full review of this book, you already know how much I loved it. Matilda is the story of a little girl gifted with a great intellect and who possesses an avid passion for books. The story follows her discovery of books as she learns to better understand the world and the people around her and stand up for herself when things get tough. To know more about this book, click here for my full review. 

5. The storied life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin - 4 stars

I also did a full review of this book, which you can read here. This book follows the story of a bitter and sarcastic bookstore owner who one day discovers an abandoned baby in his shop. What he chooses to do next not only changes his entire life, but also the whole community of his little town. If you love books, you're really going to really enjoy reading this because the main characters are as much book nerds as some of us (me included hehe) are. 

4. Poetry and Tales by Edgar Allan Poe - 4 stars

It would be hard to try and write a summary for this book since this is a collection of all the works of Mr. Poe. It includes both his poems and short stories at a page count of over 1400 pages. I wish I could say I own the book but sadly, I haven't been able to buy mine own copy yet. Instead I borrowed the book from my uni library and has spent the last couple of months slowly getting through it. The main things I'm going to retain from this book is that Mr. Poe was a very intelligent man and a great writer. With both a talent for horror and a very humorous streak whenever he felt like it, Mr. Poe has crafted unique stories that will sometimes make you recoil in horror and sometimes burst out laughing. It takes talent to juggle between genres like that so kudos to the guy. How I wished he had lived a little longer and wrote more amazing stories! I really loved it. I had to return my library copy before I could remember to take a picture so instead I have pictured here the edition in which I want to buy my own copy of E.A. Poe's complete works. Does anyone of you own this edition? Let me know!

3. A monster calls by Patrick Ness - 5 stars

This book was original developed by Siobhan Dowd but she died of cancer before she could finish her project and Patrick Ness was thus called in to finish her book. Mr. Ness is a very good writer and does Siobhan's idea justice in bringing to life, through his beautiful prose, the story of Conor, a young boy who is struggling to cope with his mother's sickness as she battles cancer. Conor's story takes a turn for the unexpected when one night, a real life monster comes to him. As Conor does his best to cope with his mother's failing health and the changes that this is causing in his life, the monster visits again and again, each time with a new story to tell Conor. Before the little boy can figure out the real reason behind the monster and his visits, things begin to unravel in his life. The beauty of this story genuinely took me off-guard. Read this book people and prepare to have your heartstrings seriously struck. With its dark illustrations and its beautiful writing, this is a book you will fall in love with before you even realize it. 

2. In real life by Cory Doctorow - 5 stars

I could write a whole post on the amazing graphic novel that is In Real Life which... I actually did. Check out my full review of it here, complete with images from the graphic novel. This book takes us into the gaming world, while keeping things simple enough for even non-gamers to feel at ease with the setting, and follows the story of Anda as she gets deeper into this new universe and encounters new people who will forever change the way she sees the world around her. An amazing story, awesome art and great characters... In Real Life definitely deserves 5 stars.  

1. Lexicon by Max Barry - 5 stars
I started off really wondering what I was doing reading this book and almost put it down for good. Then I decided to read some more and... ended up giving it 5 stars. If like me you've struggled with the beginning, mostly due to lack of information, don't give up on this book yet. It'll definitely end up blowing your mind away. In this story, there exist people gifted with the ability to use words as weapons to bend others to their will. They are called poets and hide their true identities by adopting the names of famous poets such as Charlotte Bronte or Virginia Woolf. The book follows two main characters, each seemingly unrelated to the other at the beginning, as we learn more about the poets and the power struggle that has been going on in their ranks. You really don't want to know too much before going into this as part of the magic of this book resides in figuring things out as you read on. Also, can anyone else can spot "Why did you do it?" written on the cover?? It's only now that I'm noticing it and I spent almost two weeks with this book!

So these are all the books I've read in March guys. Share your thoughts in the comments letting me know if there's anything here you've also read. 

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