Category Archives: reading
by Anna Abner
The Red Plague Trilogy, Part One
The red plague has devastated the human race, turning billions of people into zombies with red eyes and an insatiable hunger for human flesh. The virus sweeps through the population so quickly a possible cure is left to rot. Seventeen-year-old Maya Solomon may be the only survivor who knows where it is. But to reach the lab in Raleigh, North Carolina she will have to outrun the infected boy tracking her every step and cross into a city swarming with monsters.
MY THOUGHTS: 3.5 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
This is quite a short book (more like a novella, actually), so there’s not too much I can say without giving much of the plot away.
To me, this was kind of just a so-so entry to the world of zombie fiction. Let’s do a pros and cons list.
Things I liked:
–the characters actually use the word “zombie”, not “walker” or “chewer” or anything else trying hard to be clever
–the main character, Maya, has been on her own since everything began, and she really, really likes it that way. She’s not sappy or looking for attention, she just sets out to do what she needs to do.
–the book starts before the onset of the virus, and even explains why it is happening.
–the potential male main character isn’t all macho and able to flawlessly kill everything in his path. In fact, he rather sucks at shooting zombies.
Things I didn’t like so much:
–there is a weird, kind of off chemistry between Maya and the guy she meets, Pollard. Kind of a one-way insta-love thing going on. They seem to bond very quickly, in less than a day in fact. This bonding happens between all of the characters though. Maybe it’s an apocalypse thing?
–the timeline inexplicably changes sometimes. At one point, it says it’s been two weeks since the virus took over, but at another it says it’s been six weeks. Both two and six weeks are stated more than once in the book, and I couldn’t find out which one was true.
–there are ideas just kind of thrown out there and not discussed or even a bit fleshed out. I can’t say what I’m talking about without giving a spoiler, but I’ll just say Pollard randomly throws an idea out during a conversation, and it really should have been explored more.
The author does a good job of building intrigue–I’m very, very interested in knowing Ben’s background and just why he is different. I’m rooting for the characters to find a cure, but because the book is so short and moves so quickly, I didn’t truly get a chance to develop feelings for any of them. I’ll have to continue the series to see if things get better from here.
About the Author
Solving for Ex
by LeighAnn Kopans
MY THOUGHTS: 3 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
I just kind of skimmed the synopsis of this book, so I didn’t exactly catch that it was supposed to be somewhat of a retelling of a Jane Austen novel. To be honest, it wouldn’t have mattered. I’ve never read Mansfield Park. The “Mean Girls meets Clueless” part was what got me interested. Unfortunately I didn’t see much of either movie in this book.
The main character, Ashley, was just OK to me. She seemed very very meek at times, then at others she had this fierceness that kind of came out of nowhere. Problem is, by the time she decides to do something about an issue and stand up for herself, the stuff has already hit the fan.
Ashley is in love with her best friend/neighbor Brendan. They are both super smart and hope to bring the school’s Mathletes team to the state championship. Problem is, Brendan seems to be totally oblivious to Ashley’s feelings for him. The relationship between the two started out in a very promising way. There is obviously a chemistry between them, and the fact that they are already friends is very helpful. But both of them make some very bad decisions that cause unnecessary complications.
Although I read this book quickly, I was disappointed by several things. Ashley had to leave her family and previous school because of bullying that got way out of hand. She was being bullied because of a rumor someone started that she slept with a guy, which she did not. Really? Things got this bad over a rumor? And just Ashley was the one being bullied, not the guy? I’m not saying things like this don’t happen in real life, but this scenario really burned me up. Ashley barely has any contact with her parents and siblings after she leaves. I can’t believe her mom would just let her go like that.
There were a few funny and cute parts, though. At the end of every chapter, a little math equation was shown that ended up making me smile.
I am still not sure if I approve of the way this book ended. Without spoiling too much, I feel like the characters jumped into things way too fast. But, like a lot of things about the book, I predicted it.
Overall, I can’t say that I do or don’t recommend this book. Maybe I’m the wrong audience for it because I didn’t know or care that it was a retelling. Fans of Jane Austen may like Solving for Ex more than I did.
About the Author
The Real Prom Queens of Westfield High
by Laurie Boyle Crompton
Shannon’s ‘clique’ is just her and her best friend and she has a super-embarrassing nickname that won’t go away. It is no huge shock when her classmates vote her least likely to be crowned Prom Queen. What is shocking is the new hidden camera reality show she finds herself starring in, titled The Prom Queen Wannabes! Shannon and two other Wannabes must battle to be elected Prom Queen and snag the One! Million! Dollar! prize. After a summer of makeovers and training at Prom Queen Camp, the hidden cameras watch the three of them enter their senior year equipped with secret skills to help wage war on the popular set. Things at Westfield High are about to get ugly, and Shannon must decide how much she’s willing to give up for a shot at winning that tiara.
MY THOUGHTS: 3.75 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
I haven’t read very many books set in a reality TV world–only You Look Different in Real Life comes to mind, so the premise of Prom Queens was definitely what pulled me in. In this day and age, what high schooler, or any person really, doesn’t dream of having the chance to be on TV and possibly become a millionaire? Shannon isn’t excited at first, but once she gets into it the game she tells herself she’s playing becomes more and more real. But she’ll quickly learn that reality TV is actually the farthest thing from its’ namesake.
Shannon was a weirdly likable character. She has a weird, unexplainable hobby; she only has one friend; and though it’s only her hard-working mom raising her and her sister, she seems to have a good head on her shoulders. I also liked that she wasn’t like a lot of other whiny YA main characters who are the only ones in their world who doesn’t notice when a boy likes them. But what girl wouldn’t want the makeover of a lifetime and the chance to be prom queen?
Although Shannon goes along with everything that’s happening to her at first, once she sees the deception and losses that are piling up, she starts having second thoughts. And that’s when the book really gets good.
The final chapters at the prom were hilarious and outlandish. I loved the final stand the girls made and how everything ended up for all the characters after the show was said and done.
There are plenty of funny moments in the book, and I think contemporary YA readers will love it.
About the Author
Laurie Boyle Crompton is the YA author of BLAZE (or Love in the Time of Supervillains) and THE REAL PROM QUEENS OF WESTFIELD HIGH (Sourcebooks, 2013 & 2014) as well as the upcoming ADRENALINE CRUSH from Farrar Straus Giroux. Laurie graduated first in her class from St. John’s University with a major in English and minor in Journalism. She’s written for national magazines like ALLURE as well as numerous trade publications and has appeared on Good Day New York several times as a Toy Expert. Yes, that is an actual thing that people sometimes get to be.
When she’s not writing Laurie enjoys hiking, cycling, reading, cross-country skiing, running, going to the movies and drinking tea by the gallon. She lives near NYC, but loves to escape to the mountains in New Paltz, NY where she and her family can often be found climbing over rocks or tromping through the forest.
by Valerie Grosjean
New Adult Zombie/Romance
This is a story of love . . . and zombies.
When eighteen-year-old college freshman Christian discovers his dormitory is crawling with the living dead, he knows he has a problem. But once he learns the whole country is overrun by the flesh-eating horde, he must race to protect what matters to him most.
Sixteen-year-old Iris, the girl he loves, is stranded eighty miles away, alone and completely unaware of the gruesome threat surrounding her.
Christian’s plan is to evade the zombies, drive the distance to rescue Iris, and get them both to his family farm—where there are guns, fuel, and everything else they’ll need to survive. His mission seems simple: Get the girl, get to the farm, and stay alive.
Things get complicated when Christian is forced to make an unthinkable choice between Iris and his family. Someone he loves must die, and he must decide.
MY THOUGHTS: 3 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
I love zombie books..I mean, I REALLY love them. A good romance can sometimes draw me in as well, so the prospect of both in one book definitely had me excited to read Undying. While the novel awesomely delivered on the zombie front, the romance was severely lacking.
Christian Winter is a college freshman who is in thus far unrequited love with a high school junior. First off, I have to say this age difference bothered me a good deal. I know it seems like 2 years is not a big deal, but there’s such a maturity gap between a high schooler and someone in college that it’s not even funny. This is why so many relationships fail when one party goes to college.
Anyway, Christian has it bad for Iris. He is an English major and even writes poems about her. As I said, I love a GOOD romance. But this one was so very sappy. Christian fawns over this girl in a very girly manner. Some lines he has, I had to roll my eyes at. What makes things even worse is that Iris doesn’t even seem to really like him even though he feels so strongly for her. She’s actually kinda mean.
Christian is getting ready to go home one December weekend when all zombie hell breaks loose on his campus. After checking his voicemail and discovering that Iris is alive but stranded, he decides to go save her. This off the bat did not make sense. Do you think she was gonna survive for over an hour at a gas station in the middle of the zombie apocalypse?
I know it seems like at this point my rating shouldn’t even be three stars. But let me tell you, when it comes to zombie violence, this book was awesome. And I don’t mean that Christian is going around killing them either–as a matter of fact, he’s kind of a puss and doesn’t even THINK about securing a weapon until about 75% into the story. But the author paints a vivid picture of a town overrun with zombies, and leaves nothing to the imagination when describing how the zombies attack and the carnage they leave behind. It’s disgustingly amazing.
All in all, I am glad I read this book if only for the zombie part of it. To me, Christian is a wimp and kind of needs a punch in the head. I don’t actually like him and Iris together, and that’s not good when you don’t want a main character to get together with his love interest. I also lost any respect I had for him when he decided to have a moment of weakness and put Iris above his family.
I will definitely consider reading the next book in this series, and I truly hope the zombies don’t stop coming.
About the Author
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See Jane Run
by Hannah Jayne
I know who you are.
When Riley first gets the postcard tucked into her bag, she thinks it’s a joke. Then she finds a birth certificate for a girl named Jane Elizabeth O’Leary hidden inside her baby book.
Riley’s parents have always been pretty overprotective. What if it wasn’t for her safety…but fear of her finding out their secret? What have they been hiding? The more Riley digs for answers, the more questions she has.
The only way to know the truth? Find out what happened to Jane O’Leary.
MY THOUGHTS: 3 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
This novel started off interestingly enough. High school senior Riley finds a birth certificate in her baby book that has a different birthdate than hers, and the name Jane O’Leary on it. Her mind immediately starts going through the options: was this a sister she had? Or is it her, was she kidnapped? She can’t just come out and ask her parents about the certificate: they are overprotective to say the least, and Riley wasn’t supposed to be going through their stuff anyway. So she starts to do some research on her own–but when she starts having scary run-ins with creepy guys, she wonders if she should abandon her search for the truth and leave her life alone the way it is.
I guess I liked the book well enough, but I had some problems with the pacing and believability of some things. I also guessed the truth behind the birth certificate well before it was revealed. Maybe this is because I’m an older reader; the intended teen audience might not be able to figure out the twist so soon.
At first I couldn’t understand WHY Riley just didn’t ask her parents about things, but as the book went on and I saw the way they babied her it became clear–they would have put her on immediate lockdown and she would probably have lived the rest of her life without ever knowing the truth. She really had no choice but to try to find out on her own.
I liked Riley’s relationship with her best friend, Shelby. Shelby is outgoing and in your face, basically the polar opposite of Riley. As a result, Shelby pushes Riley to do things she might not have though of on her own. But Riley ends up sharing most of the journey with JD, a guy from school she really didn’t know that much about–other than the fact that people tease that his initials stand for “Juvenile Delinquent”. I thought the book might have been better with Riley and Shelby doing research together–at times the relationship between Riley and JD felt a bit forced.
I really got into the last couple of chapters of the book. They had a creepy feel and Riley really had to dig in and give it her everything to get out of her situation. I did like the way things ended, though they felt very abrupt compared to the way the rest of the book played out–thus some of the pacing problems I mentioned earlier.
Teen readers will like this book, I believe, and will devour it quickly to find out the truth about Riley and Jane.
About the Author
Hannah is the author of the UNDERWORLD DETECTION AGENCY CHRONICLES from Kensington books and the upcoming young adult thrillers TRULY, MADLY, DEADLY and SEE JANE RUN available from Sourcebooks, Inc. When she’s not battling the demons of the Underworld or tackling a murderer at Hawthorne High, Jayne kicks her feet up in her San Francisco bay area home and attempts to share couch space with two enormous cats.
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by Isla Morley
Expected Publication: March 4, 2014
I am a secret no one is able to tell.
Blythe Hallowell is sixteen when she is abducted by a survivalist and locked away in an abandoned missile silo in Eudora, Kansas. At first, she focuses frantically on finding a way out, until the harrowing truth of her new existence settles in—the crushing loneliness, the terrifying madness of a captor who believes he is saving her from the end of the world, and the persistent temptation to give up. But nothing prepares Blythe for the burden of raising a child in confinement. Determined to give the boy everything she has lost, she pushes aside the truth about a world he may never see for a myth that just might give meaning to their lives below ground. Years later, their lives are ambushed by an event at once promising and devastating. As Blythe’s dream of going home hangs in the balance, she faces the ultimate choice—between survival and freedom.
MY THOUGHTS: 5 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
*****SPOILERS IN REVIEW BELOW*****
I finished this book this morning, but I’ve been pontificating on it for a few hours, deciding what I was going to write in this review. This is a long book, and so much happens that I don’t want to spoil for anyone.
At 16 years old, Blythe Hallowell is kidnapped and taken to an underground bunker by a man named Dobbs. He tells her she has been chosen because a cataclysmic event is about to hit Earth, and she will be the one to repopulate the planet.
And in the blink of an eye, she has been down in Dobbs’ bunker for 17 years. She is now mother to a 15 year old boy named Adam, and suddenly they have the chance to be free. But when all you’ve dreamed about is one thing for nearly 2 decades, how can you cope when what you’ve been longing for is totally gone?
This book was a page turner, and definitely in the vein of books such as Room, and even true stories like the Ariel Castro kidnappings. The best part is that the story is told in first person, so you get to know the thoughts, fears, and dreams of Blythe for the long long years she was held captive, and after she goes back into the world.
So many elements of the story are heartbreaking. Let’s not even include the fact that the book is about a kidnapped girl. Blythe also has to deal with being raped, bearing children that she didn’t really want, and then the aftermath–seeing that the home she so badly wanted to go back to is gone and her family all dead; wanting to protect her son but knowing he needs to be let go. And then–how do you deal with loving the son you never knew you wanted. Do you hate the one who gave him to you, through force, even though the boy is the best thing in your life?
Above interestingly combines a tale of surviving being taken with one of emerging into a dystopian America. Blythe always believed Dobbs was crazy for telling her the end of the world was coming; she never could have imagined the truth he was telling her. Do you hate the one who kept you alive, even though it cost you everything?
This novel has amazing characterization. The reader even learns unexpected things about the kidnapper towards the end of the story. It’s amazing to see the new world through a man-child’s eyes as he gets his first taste of freedom. It’s heart-wrenching to see his mother come to terms with all of her conflicting emotions.
I would recommend Above to nearly everyone, because I think so many different types of people could relate to it: mothers, sons, women, and just those who want to escape into excellent fiction.
About the Author
Isla Morley grew up in South Africa during apartheid, the child of a British father and fourth-generation South African mother. During the country’s State of Emergency, she graduated from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth with a degree in English Literature.
By 1994 she was one of the youngest magazine editors in South Africa, but left career, country and kin when she married an American and moved to California. For more than a decade she pursued a career in non-profit work, focusing on the needs of women and children.
Her debut novel, COME SUNDAY, was awarded the Janet Heidinger Kafka Award for Fiction in 2009, and was a finalist for the Commonwealth Prize. It has been translated into seven languages.
She has lived in some of the most culturally diverse places of the world, including Johannesburg, London and Honolulu. Now in the Los Angeles area, she shares a home with her husband, daughter, two cats, a dog and a tortoise.
OMG…Am I a Witch?!
by Talia Aikens-Nuñez
Elementary/Middle Grade Fiction
April Appleton is so annoyed at her older brother that she searches the Internet for a spell to turn him into a dog. When the spell works, April realizes she has more powers than she ever dreamed of! Now she has to figure out how to turn him back to normal before her parents find out. She has little time, but with help from her friends Grace and Eve she finds a book of magic that will hopefully reverse the spell. Will it work, and will April’s newfound magic save the day?
MY THOUGHTS 4 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
Super cute, quick chapter book about a young girl who suddenly learns she has witchy powers–because she accidentally turned her brother into a dog!
April Appleton and her friends Grace and Eve must do everything they can to try to turn her brother back into a human before her parents find out what’s really going on.
I think elementary and lower middle grade readers will adore this book. It’s only 150 pages long, and consists of short, non-intimidating chapters. Each chapter ends in a sort of suspenseful way, and I know that will keep pages turning quickly.
As an adult, I read this in one sitting and found it very sweet. There were only a couple of things I wished the book would have included: April’s age, and how she came to get her witch powers. Maybe there will be more April Appleton books to explain this?
There were several funny moments that I know will have younger readers cracking up, such as April trying to keep her doggy brother from peeing in her backpack, and the yucky potion she has to drink! All in all I thought this was a nice middle grade endeavor, and I would definitely read more from this author.
About the Author
Talia Aikens-Nuñez wanted to be a meteorologist, a politician and a lawyer. She never thought she would be a writer. It was the birth of her daughter that caused her to start writing. Raising a bilingual child inspired Talia to write multicultural children’s books. Talia’s family loves nature so much that she and her husband vowed that they will always try to live close to water. She, her husband and daughter live on a river in Connecticut with their daughter Isabella.
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by Rachael Wade
New Adult Contemporary
*Contains sexually explicit content and mature subject matter, including language and elements of abuse.*
A gritty New Adult drama about a young woman’s self-destructive quest to find purpose, self-worth, and love in a broken world.
My name is Elise Duchamp. I’m twenty-three years old and I’m known as the town whore.
No, not the kind who exchanges sexual favors for money. The other kind. The kind who gives it all away for free, whenever and however she likes. I am that girl. The one everyone whispers about and the one none of the girls seem to like, because all of their boyfriends either want to sleep with me or already have. Promiscuity is my thing—the kind that slowly, violently turns my insides black, but gives me something I need.
All things considered, I’m not completely reckless. I’m safe, and contrary to popular opinion, I do have a heart. I live in a world of careless choices, and with those choices come careless people. I cannot judge them, because I am one of them. I too bow down to the altar of the self-serving. I am not a good friend. I am not and never could be anyone’s girlfriend. I’m convinced any goodness in me shriveled up and died long ago.
But I am a replacement. That is something I know how to be, and this is a story of the lengths I’d go to in order to keep it that way.
About the Author
by Riley J. Ford
What if you could know exactly what your friends are thinking? High school student Winter Reynolds can, but there’s a catch…
She can only read people’s thoughts when she’s kissing them.
When a member of the track team is murdered, Winter has an opportunity to use her special ability to find the killer. Trouble is, kissing everyone on the track team isn’t such a good idea when you have a new boyfriend. Talk about complications!
Should Winter persevere using her secret power to catch the murderer still in their midst, even if it means risking her relationship with her one true love?
Mature Content Warning: Mild profanity and a graphic murder scene. Adult situations in a teen setting. While humorous, this book also explores the underbelly of teen life. 16+
MY THOUGHTS: 3.75 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
This was a really fast read for me…I pretty much read the whole book in a couple of hours. I was hooked when the first chapter started out with Winter kissing a guy and unknowingly begins reading his thoughts! Her newfound power and the ways she uses it turned out to be pretty funny sometimes.
But things take on a more serious feel when a friend gets murdered. Winter decides it’s her duty to find out who did it…even though it means she will probably end up kissing a murderer!
I liked Winter, though I found her to be kind of judgmental at times. There were actually a couple of things she said that I found a bit offensive. Most of the time, though, she was OK.
There were a lot of ups and downs in this book. Winter has one best friend, Miranda, and they go in and out of fighting because of things Winter has found out with her kissing power. Miranda says some pretty nasty things to Winter, and I didn’t think she did enough to be redeemed, but I guess things are like that when you’re a teenager.
Winter also has a love interest, Jason. This is kind of hard to maintain, because Winter is running around kissing a lot of boys while purposely trying to avoid kissing Jason! But the two work things out when she shares the truth with him.
Into You moved quickly and had a lot of funny moments and heart. The author did a great job of not revealing too many hints too early about who the real killer was. In fact, I had to suspect a few different people before I decided who was guilty!
The only problem I had with the writing is that it was very repetitive at times. The author told stories and used the exact same phrasing to do it several times throughout the book. This was distracting, but I pushed through it.
This is a unique take on the mind-reading trope, and I recommend it!
About the Author
Riley J. Ford is a graduate of UCLA with a degree in English. After teaching at both the high school and college levels for a number of years, she turned to writing full-time. Her non-fiction books are used in college classrooms around the country, and her essays have been featured on such websites as MSNBC.com.
She is the author of three fiction books, INTO YOU, a young adult mystery, CARPE DiEMILY, a romantic comedy caper, and FIFTY SHADES OF FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, a satire. She enjoys running with the bulls in Pamplona and downhill skiing in her free time.
Riley J. Ford is the WINNER of Blogger Book Fair Reader’s Choice Award, Humor Category
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What I Had Before I Had You
by Sarah Cornwell
Olivia Reed was fifteen when she left her hometown of Ocean Vista on the Jersey Shore. Two decades later, divorced and unstrung, she returns with her teenage daughter, Carrie, and nine-year-old son, Daniel, recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Distracted by thoughts of the past, Olivia fails to notice when Daniel disappears from her side. Her frantic search for him sparks memories of the summer of 1987, when she exploded out of the cocoon of her mother’s fierce, smothering love and into a sudden, full-throttle adolescence, complete with dangerous new friends, first love, and a rebellion so intense that it utterly recharted the course of her life.
Olivia’s mother, Myla, was a practicing psychic whose powers waxed and waned along with her mercurial moods. Myla raised Olivia to be a guarded child, and also to believe in the ever-present infant ghosts of her twin sisters, whom Myla took care of as if they were alive—diapers, baby food, an empty nursery kept like a shrine. At fifteen, Olivia saw her sisters for the first time, not as ghostly infants but as teenagers on the beach. But when Myla denied her vision, Olivia set out to learn the truth—a journey that led to shattering discoveries about herself and her family.
MY THOUGHTS: 4 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
I absolutely love reading stories that show the intricacies within families, and if it’s one that spans more than one generation, I’m definitely there. What I Had is a novel that delivers on both the fronts of being a story about a family, and just a good one overall.
The main character in this novel is Olivia Reed. The chapters alternate between the summer she was fifteen, and the modern day where she has brought her children to the seaside town where she grew up. Olivia remembers her mother, who suffered from bipolar disorder–which Olivia also has, and sadly, now has been passed on to her young son Daniel.
When Daniel suddenly disappears on the boardwalk, Olivia is instantly transported to her long ago past. Her mother was both the bright spot and the worst thing in her world. Olivia didn’t understand that her mom was sick, and you can’t help but shake your head about the thought of the two women both not really understanding what’s happening to them.
I absolutely loved the character development in this book. Though Olivia is the main character and the story is told in first person, you can clearly visualize what each person in her world is like. The descriptive passages, though at times rather wordy, are very vivid and make the reader feel as if they are in the scene.
It was painful to see Olivia and her mother struggle with something that to me, seems as if it could be controlled. But Olivia’s mom made the decision to live her life the way she did, and much of the time both she and her daughter suffered for it.
This is really a fascinating look at how mental illness affects not one person, but their entire environment. One decision–take a pill and maybe have your life diluted, or stay unmedicated and be a danger to yourself and others–is not as simple for one person as it is for another.
What I Had deserves a read from anyone who’s ever experienced or known someone with a mental illness. Heck, even if you haven’t, the book will give you insight into how a bipolar person’s mind works.
About the Author
Sarah Cornwell grew up in Narberth, Pennsylvania. Her fiction has appeared in the 2013 Pushcart Prize Anthology, the Missouri Review, Mid-American Review, Gulf Coast, andHunger Mountain, among others, and her screenwriting has been honored with a Humanitas Prize. A former James Michener Fellow at UT-Austin, Sarah has worked as an investigator of police misconduct, an MCAT tutor, a psychological research interviewer, and a toy seller. She lives in Los Angeles.
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