Monday, July 21, 2014

XY by Shanta Everington – Guest Post & Giveaway



Welcome to The Happy Booker where I'm so happy to be hosting a guest post from author Shanta Everington as she promotes her fantastic new Dystopian- XY! Don't forget to check out the rest of the tour and enter the giveaway! Have fun!

 

Guest Post


Behind the scenes of XY by Shanta Everington

 
"A highly original and thought-provoking dystopian novel.
I don't think I've ever read anything like it!"

 
Luisa Plaja, Chicklish, the UK's Teen Fiction Site

 

My latest book is young adult dystopian novel, XY, joint winner of the Red Telephone Books YA Novel Competition run by UK press, Bridge House Publishing.


 

The novel follows the story of fifteen-year-old Jesse, who lives in a world where babies are born neither male nor female, and Compulsory Gender Assignment is carried out at birth. But Jesse is keeping a secret. Pulled in different directions by her boyfriend Zeus, mother Ana's Natural Souls, and new friend Ork, leader of We Are One, Jesse is forced to make her own mind up about who she really is.



 

Jesse's story in XY came out of my fascination with the question: What does it mean to be male or female? Is gender identity biologically, psychologically or socially constructed? Writing helps me unravel questions and make sense of the world. Often several unconnected threads come together to form an idea for a book.


 

When I became a parent, I was shocked at how much gender stereotyping still exists. You can't walk into a children's store without being bombarded with pink for girls and blue for boys. Why shouldn't my sons wear pink tutus or play with dolls? Why, as a society, do we tend to see this in a different way from girls wearing trousers and playing with fire engines?

 

I read an article about scientists' discovery that 'blended gender' in fish was linked to contaminants in the water, including pesticides, household laundry detergent and shampoo, and many pharmaceuticals. This led me to wonder what would happen if we lived in a world where humans were born with indeterminate biological sex. How would society react? Would we still create gender roles? Would fear cause us to revert to traditional stereotyped views of the sexes?



When I had almost finished writing XY, a TV programme aired on BBC One called Me, My Sex and I which challenged the deeply-held assumption that every person is either male or female. According to the documentary, intersex conditions are, in fact, as common as twins or red hair - nearly one in 50 of us has some form of intersex. Yet it is a subject not often talked about.

XY draws on many influences. I was inspired by Malorie Blackman's Noughts & Crosses series set in a fictional, racist dystopia. We may be born with a skin colour and biological sex but race and gender are social constructs. XY is set in an alternative reality – where 91% of human babies are born neither male nor female. Just as Noughts & Crosses shines the spotlight on race, I hope XY will make readers think about gender in a whole new way.

 
But essentially, XY is Jesse's story. How will she cope with all the pressures surrounding her? Her boyfriend, her mother, her friends - everybody else thinks they know what's best for her - we've all been there. But ultimately, Jesse has to decide what's right for her.

 

XY is available now via Amazon.com and I am currently completing a sequel.

 


 

About the author


Shanta Everington is the author of seven books, including three young adult novels – Give Me a Sign, Boy Red and latest release XY (joint winner of the Red Telephone Books YA Novel Competition). She has had all sorts of jobs in the past, from baking vegan muffins and working as a private tutor to appearing as a guest agony aunt and running a teen sexual health helpline. With an MA in Creative Writing with distinction, Shanta currently teaches Creative Writing with The Open University. She lives in London, UK, with her husband and two children.






Connect with Shanta:

Author website: www.shantaeverington.co.uk



About the Book




XY


Publication date: 5 June 2014

Genre: Young adult (Dystopia)

Author: Shanta Everington

Paperback: 152 pages

Publisher: Bridge House (Red Telephone Books)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1907335323
ISBN-13: 978-1907335327

Formats: Paperback and e-book (Mobi only)

 

 
Would it possible to live without gender?

Fifteen year old Jesse lives in a world where babies are born neither male nor female – Compulsory Gender Assignment is carried out at birth. Will the secret she closely guards be found out? Boyfriend Zeus, mother Ana's Natural Souls, and new friend Ork, leader of We Are One, pull Jesse in different directions, forcing her to make her own mind up about who she really is.

 





 Excerpt


Jesse watches through the smeared kitchen window as Randy plays football in the back garden with Zeus. Her brother's face is red and shining with perspiration and concentration as he tackles Zeus, before skidding on a muddy patch and ending up sprawled across the grass.

    "Yes! Yes! Come on!!!" shouts Zeus, grinning as he punches the air, shaking droplets of sweat everywhere. He bends over laughing and then he looks up at the window, catching Jesse's eye before she looks away into the washing up bowl full of suds, feeling heat creeping across her chest.

    "He's a proper teenage boy your brother, isn't he?" says Jesse's mother, Ana, smiling to herself as she hands Jesse a tea towel. "All rough and tumble. I'm so pleased for him that he has finally become himself."

    Jesse feels her shoulders tense up as she fingers the green checked cloth.

    "Thanks for dinner, Mum," she says, not meeting her mother's gaze as she starts drying the dishes. "The lasagne was lovely. I should go upstairs and do some revision once I've finished this."

    "I can teach you how to make it if you'd like?" says Ana, beaming at her daughter. "Maybe at the weekend, when you've not got so much school work to do?"

    Jesse doesn't want to learn how to make lasagne. Or shepherd's pie or pasta bake. She doesn't want to learn to cook or study needlecraft or budgeting skills or any of the Female Life Skills on the syllabus. She doesn't want to play football either. She doesn't know what she wants. It was so much easier before. When she wore white and yellow and green and grey and played with trains and dolls at home, when Randy and Jesse shared everything. When they were the same. Before Ana took them to see Maya and they moved into their first flat, next door to the old man who smelled of urine. When she didn't have to pretend she'd made a decision. She feels the corners of her mouth quivering as her mother stares into her face.

    "Oh Jesse, don't worry," says her mother, rubbing her shoulders. "Your turn will come when you are ready. How are you feeling about things now, darling?"

    Jesse shrugs her shoulders and tries hard to smile but somehow she can't quite manage it. Her mother takes the plate Jesse is busy drying out of her hands and places it on the scratched wooden work top.
    "Don't worry, darling. I only ever want you to be happy. You've got to be ready, Jesse. Remember what happened to George."

    Jesse nods. She has heard the story of Uncle George so many times, it is etched on her brain, like a recurring nightmare.


 
"I think Zeus might have a crush on you," says Randy over breakfast the next morning.

    The family are in the kitchen, sitting around the big, old, oak dining table, a hand-me-down from one of Ana's friends. Most of their belongings are cast-offs. They are used to relying on the charity of others connected to Natural Souls. Ana has set the table with cereal, orange juice, toast and home-made preserves.

    "Shut up," says Jesse, spooning muesli into her mouth.

    "Seriously. Didn't you notice the way he kept watching you yesterday when you came out into the garden with your tight top on? I don't think it was just your lemon ice lollies he was drooling at!"

    Jesse feels her heart beating a little faster. Zeus is nice, she thinks, but nothing can happen. Zeus is one of the Nine Per Cent. He wouldn't want her. At least not until afterwards. If she goes through with it.

    "I know you like him!" continues Randy in a sing-song voice. "Don't worry, I won't tell him your secret!"

    "Randy," says Ana sharply, pouring milk into her bowl. "Don't wind your sister up before school."

    "I'm not!" protests Randy, rocking his chair backwards and stuffing toast into his mouth. "I'm just saying!"

    Jesse carries on eating, feeling her cheeks burn.

    Randy gets up from the table and whispers to Jesse on his way out of the kitchen, "He likes you, he likes you!"

    Once her brother is out of earshot, Jesse turns to her mother.

    "Mum, can I ask you a question?" she says, playing with her spoon, turning it over and over and watching her reflection morph into something grotesque.

    "Anything," says Ana.

    "How old were you when you had your first boyfriend? I know it was different for you. You weren't born like us but..."

    "I was fifteen," replies Ana without hesitating. "The same age you are now. His name was Jack. He was a friend of my brother's too. He was born like you but he was a boy by the time I met him. It didn't last, of course."

    "What happened?"

    "You mean why didn't it last?" asks Ana, absent-mindedly picking crumbs up off the table. "We were just kids. First love. It wasn't even love. When George died, well... Jack's family moved away. It's just as well or I wouldn't have met your father and there would have been no Randy or Jesse."

    She looks up at Jesse with a bright smile. Sometimes Jesse wonders what lies beneath her mother's happy face.
    "I wish Dad was here," says Jesse. "I wish he hadn't left us."

    "I know, darling, but we have to be strong for one another. Think about what I said about seeing Maya again soon. Now, you don't want to be late for school, do you?"

    Jesse gets up and takes her plates to the sink before grabbing her school bag and heading over to school. Today she has history, biology, religious education and sex education. It will not be a good day. Her bag weighs heavily on her shoulder. She thinks about the text books it contains and what they are teaching her.

 

"Ah, Jesse, so glad you could join us," says Mr Hope as she slips into her biology class five minutes late, after a last minute visit to the toilets to make sure she looks right.

    "Sorry, sir," comes her feeble reply. She feels her school dress stick to her back as she finally removes the heavy bag and sits down at her desk.

    Jesse looks around the classroom at the other girls. Debra Simmonds is painting her fingernails under the desk. But she isn't like Debra, is she? All the boys want Debra because everyone knows that Debra was born pure. She is one of the Nine Per Cent like Zeus. Jesse isn't like Debra. She isn't like the other girls, either. The assigned girls. What if they find out what she is? She wonders how Randy is getting on over at the boys' school. It is all right for him, now he's had the operation. But Jesse is scared. She doesn't know if she can go through with it.

    Artemis smiles at her, through her spidery black fringe. They weren't friends before. But since Randy started going out with her it seems that Artemis wants to hang around with Jesse all day.

    "Everybody turn to page one hundred, please," instructs Mr Hope.

    Jesse knows what is on that page and she doesn't want to look at it. The human reproductive system. But she has to. It is the same in the other classes; lessons all tell her she is wrong. Her mother is wrong. She wishes it had been done to her when she was born, like everyone else. Why did her mother make her have to choose when?

    "Hi," says Artemis, as they walk to the lunch hall.

    Chairs scrape along the floor and the cutlery clatters. The air thick with the smell of over cooked food and teenage hormones. Jesse isn't hungry, not after looking at those diagrams all morning.

    "Randy says Zeus likes you," says Artemis, flicking back her long, black hair as they queue up for their food.

    Jesse can see four tiny holes in Artemis's earlobe, where she has taken her studs out for school.

    "I dunno about that," mumbles Jesse, wishing she could be on her own again, as usual. She normally avoids conversation whenever she can, sits in the corner gulping down her lunch, pretending to read a magazine, flicking idly over the fashion pages full of celebrities that all look the same and scanning the problem pages to see if there is ever a question from anyone like her. But there never is.

    "No, he really does, he told Randy and everything. He wants to go out with you. I know he looks confident and everything but he's really quite shy. So, he's sort of asked Randy to ask me to ask you out for him!"

    Jesse freezes as the dinner lady with luminous blue eye shadow spoons vegetable curry onto her plate.

    "Don't you like him?" persists Artemis, grabbing an orange juice and passing one to Jesse.

    Jesse shrugs and picks up her cutlery.

    "He's gorgeous and really clever. What's not to like?"

    "Maybe I'm just not ready for a boyfriend," says Jesse, as Artemis follows her to her usual table in the corner and sits down.

    "Oh, I get it," says Artemis, waving her hands about. "You're scared! You're scared about having your first boyfriend. What, have you never kissed a boy before or something?"

    Jesse bites her lip and slowly shakes her head.

    "What, never?" asks Artemis, holding her spoon mid-air. "Not even with mouths closed? What about at the youth club disco? Come to think of it, I never saw you dance with anyone. Gosh, girl, I've got some work to do with you! Stick with Auntie Artemis and I'll soon have you coming out of your shell. I like a challenge."

    Artemis beams at Jesse as she tucks into a piece of naan bread. Jesse smiles and picks at hers. It would be good to have someone to talk to. She can see why Randy likes being around Artemis. She's bubbly and warm and seems to know what to do. Randy was inexperienced like her before Artemis but now look at him.

    "You're right," says Jesse. "I am scared."

    But not for the reasons Artemis thinks. She must never find out the truth.

 





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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman




The Ocean at the End of the Lane
by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
William Morrow Trade Paperback
Published June, 2014

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a children's fairy tale made for adults. Like most of Neil Gaiman's books, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is so quirky and surreal that it is difficult to summarize and review. Reading this was like drifting off into a dream, or a long forgotten childhood memory. The story begins when a middle-age adult wanders back to his childhood home and visits the farm where he recalls some unusual events taking place when he was very young. As he reminisces on these strange happenings, a rather eerie fairy tale unfolds for the reader.

I both read the new trade paperback and listened to this on audio which is always such a treat when Neil Gaiman is narrating his own stories. Gaiman so perfectly captures every nuance of expression and personality of his characters as well as creates an almost dreamlike atmosphere for the story itself. He is absolutely a master storyteller. The Ocean at the End of the Lane was quite short, not quite a novella but rather shorter than most novels, but it still managed to contain a complete and hypnotic story.

I would absolutely recommend this and every other book Neil Gaiman has written to anyone who enjoys an unusual and beautifully written fairy tale.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Paradox of Vertical Flight–Spotlight and Excerpt

THE PARADOX OF VERTICAL FLIGHT by Emil Ostrovski
  
Release Date: September 24, 2013 Hardcover, 260 pages Publisher: Greenwillow Books Genre: Contemporary / Realistic Fiction / Tough Issues / Suicide
What happens when you put a suicidal eighteen-year-old philosophy student, his ex-girlfriend, his best friend, and his newborn baby in a truck and send them to Grandma's house? This debut novel by Emil Ostrovski will appeal to fans of John Green, Chris Crutcher, and Jay Asher. On the morning of his eighteenth birthday, philosophy student and high school senior Jack Polovsky is somewhat seriously thinking of suicide when his cell phone rings. Jack's ex-girlfriend, Jess, has given birth, and Jack is the father. Jack hasn't spoken with Jess in about nine months—and she wants him to see the baby before he is adopted. The new teenage father kidnaps the baby, names him Socrates, stocks up on baby supplies at Wal-Mart, and hits the road with his best friend, Tommy, and the ex-girlfriend. As they head to Grandma's house (eluding the police at every turn), Jack tells baby Socrates about Homer, Troy, Aristotle, the real Socrates, and the Greek myths—because all stories spring from those stories, really. Even this one.  Funny, heart-wrenching, and wholly original, this debut novel by Emil Ostrovski explores the nature of family, love, friendship, fate, fatherhood, and myth.
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | Goodreads
My phone rings, but I don't get up.
    In my dream, the teacher hands out frogs, living frogs, and lectures: “Frogs produce smaller air bubbles than humans, who in turn produce smaller air bubbles than llamas. We find this out by drowning the species in question, of course.  Please drown your frog and make sure to measure the diameter of its air bubbles, rounding to the nearest significant digit.  Tomorrow we’ll measure the bubbles produced by our lab partners, and the day after that, the students that are left will move on to the llamas.”  It makes no sense at all, but so it goes with my dreams.  Some people dream of epic heroes’ quests, of saving the universe from a great evil, and I get dreams about the differentiation of air bubbles across species.
Around nine I roll myself into a sitting position, finger the gunk out of my eyes, examine it for a moment, and then launch it across the room to where I don’t have to immediately deal with it.  My roommate’s snores filter down from the top bunk.
My cell is on my desk. The blinking red light of a missed call flashes across the room. Damn. I missed Bob. I try calling her back, but she doesn’t answer. She’s always losing her phone, misplacing it; broke it a few times from chucking it, because she couldn’t get the idiotskaya electronica to work.
I call my grandma “Bob” because I’m too lazy to bother with the alternatives; namely, “Babushka,”“Baba,” and “starypur,” the Russian version of old fart. Bob has Alzheimer’s, and it’s my birthday, so her call means today’s one of those days, or maybe just one of those moments, a flash, when she remembers me.
Partly to distract myself from the guilt, but mostly out of habit, I turn on my computer and wait for Windows to load.  I don’t capitalize “god” but I always capitalize “Windows.”  I spend much of my life in front of a screen, plugged into the matrix, looking through a Window into my virtual life.  Still waiting on a black dude with a name that sounds like a drug to show up and teach me kung fu, though.
I log in to Facebook and I’m so depressed I want to laugh. Fifteen Facebook friends have wished me a happy birthday so far. I’ve never really cared about birthdays, honestly—I mean, it’s just another day—but to see all these people, most of whom I don’t know or in a few years won’t remember, wishing me a happy birthday makes me feel like I should care. Like it should be a special day, like it should mean something.
I think I hate Facebook.
I lean back in my chair and stare out the window. When I’m thirty years old, will I still get a bunch of people I don’t know wishing me a happy birthday? Will that number dwindle over the years? Will, year by year, some people who’ve forgotten me remember and some people who’ve remembered me forget? What’s the point of it all, for any of us, if that’s the way it goes—if the way it ends is with me logging into Facebook at ninety years old, bald and fat and wearing a diaper and not remembering how to get to the toilet, which is why I’m wearing a diaper in the first place, and seeing, what? Fifteen people I don’t know wishing me a happy birthday? And each of my fifteen with fifteen of their own, on and on, a miserable network of Happy Birthday Facebook wishes connecting the entire world, the entire human race, until one day we nuke ourselves and it all goes black and there are no more happy birthdays for anyone.
Sometimes I get like this, depressed I mean, but I’m not one of those crazies, you know, a danger to themselves and others, nothing like that. Never even contemplated suicide, though in a few seconds I will be contemplating jumping out a window. It’s hot—eighty, maybe more; my T-shirt’s wet on my body, and it feels more miserable than it has any right to for a May morning in our great moose- infested state of Maine. I wheel over to open the window, slide it all the way up. I have to stand so I can reach the screen, to slide it down into place. Instead I stick my hand out.
What if I jump? What if I jump, now? I don’t want to die, but getting hurt would be kind of nice, you know? Like two years ago, when I got my appendix out. Everyone from class sent Get Well cards and Tommy skipped school to spend a day with me playing video games in the hospital. Yeah, that’s selfish, but remembering your friend because he almost kicked it is just as selfish.
I turn away from the window. The attention would last a couple weeks, max. Then everyone would go back to their own lives and everything would be the same.  But unlike when I got my appendix out, I might be crippled for life.
I walk on over to my desk, pull open a drawer, shuffle through video game boxes and CDs and pencils and pens and a worn pink eraser I never use but bring to school every quarter anyway.   I grab the bottle of pills, sit back down on my chair, and stare at the bottle.  Painkillers.  From a few months back, when I got into a fight with a fence over the arbitrary authority by which it goes about the supremely arrogant task of delineating space.  The fence won the tiff, but, fractured ankle aside, I like to think I’ll win the war.  I set the painkillers on the desk, and check under my bed. That’s where I keep my water, but there isn’t any left, so I stuff the pills in my pocket.
“Hey,” comes my roommate Alan’s I’m-still-three-quarters-sleeping voice.
I spin round.  “Hey,” I say, too loud.
He frowns at me, head about three inches off the pillow, and says, “Feel like I wanted to say something to you.  But I forget. I’ll remember.”
“That’s all right.”
“Jack,” he says, suddenly concerned.  “It is a Saturday, right?”
“Yeah,” I say. “No worries.”
“Phew,” he says.  His head drops back down. Almost every Saturday Alan groggily asks me if it’s really the weekend—like he can’t quite believe it himself.  He’s a nice guy, Alan, as nice a roommate as you could hope for, but we don’t really do anything together aside from, well, sleeping together. .It’s just that kind of a relationship.
I have my hand on our doorknob when--voices in the hall.  When they’re gone I nudge the door open and head for the bathroom. A guy’s in the shower, singing something about how we’re meant to be together in a voice that he really should keep a firm leash and a choke collar on if he insists on taking it out in public.
I set the bottle of pills on the shelf below the mirror. My reflection has a zit coming up on his forehead. It hurts to touch. He squeezes anyway, and bites at the inside of his lip. It explodes; a bit of yellow-white pus hits him in the eye and slides down, down, like a tear.
How many pills will kill me and how many will almost kill me? That is the question. It’s a fine line, probably. I open the bottle, look inside, and frown. Pull the cotton ball out.
I turn on the faucet. And hold my hands under the warm water.  Close my eyes.  Breathe.  Breathe.  I’m about to down my first pill when my cell rings. Once, twice, three times. The guy in the shower stops singing.
My breath catches when I see the number.
May 12th Unconventional Librarian – Guest Post
May 12th Buried In Books – Review
May 12th The Compulsive Reader – Review
May 13th The Bookish Confections – Review/Excerpt
May 13th Books With Bite – Review
May 13th Bibliophilia, Please – Interview/Guest Post
May 14th What A Nerd Girl Says  – Review/Interview
May 14th Live To Read - Krystal – Review
May 14th The Happy Booker – Spotlight
May 14th Kaidans Seduction – Review
May 14th LRB Guest Post – Review
May 15th Escaping One Book At A Time – Review
May 15th Alice Marvels – Review
May 15th Scott Reads It! – Review
May 16th DanaSquare – Review
May 16th Paranormal Book Club – Guest Post
May 16th Books Complete Me – Review
May 16th The-Society.Net – Review/Playlist
May 16th Book Loving Mom – Review
“I'm twenty-three. Rather than give you a witty, self-deprecating account of the trials and tribulations of my twenty-three year old, suburban, upper-middle class, went-to-a-girl's-liberal-arts-college life, I'll admit that I haven't really done anything much worth reading about. So in lieu of providing you with my biography, I will recommend that you read Desmond Tutu's.  Here.   Why Desmond Tutu? Well, I've always liked his name.”
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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Almost Night by Emily White–Spotlight & Giveaway

 
ALMOST NIGHT by Emily White Release Date: May 5, 2013 Paperback, 303 pages Genre: YA / Fantasy / Fiction
Fourteen-year-old Lilly Grey exists in two worlds at the same time. She just doesn't know it. 
As the only albino in a million mile radius, Lilly is used to being different. Pink eyes and white hair aren't exactly the best camouflage in the harrowing jungles formally known as high school. And yeah, she's used to being an outcast and seeing the world in a slightly different way, but she never guessed how literally "different" applied to her.
Not until a clan of shape-shifting dragons tell her she's not just albino. She's a unicorn and the only mortal alive who can live on both Earth and its antithesis, Morcah. Now all those times she thought she saw a floating brown blotch in the sky or eyes peering out at her from the bark of trees make sense. She's been seeing Morcah, a land that exists in the exact same spot as Earth, just in a different phase.
But it's not all sunshine and rainbows for this unicorn. As the only one who can live in both phases, she's also the only one who can bring Morcah--and all its inhabitants--to Earth. And creatures who've been trapped on Earth since the Dark Ages are willing to do worse things than kill to make that happen.
Again.

May 5th Chelsea's Reading Adventures  – Review
May 5th A Diary of A Book Addict  – Review
May 6th The Happy Booker – Review
May 7th Books and Bling  – Review
May 8th Like A Bump on A Blog – Review
May 9th I Am A Reader – Interview/Guest Post
May 14th – Karin Baker – LRB Guest Post – Review
May 19th DanaSquare – Review
May 21st Painted Words – Review/Guest Post
May 22nd Bookish – Review
May 23rd Books Complete Me – Review/Playlist
May 26th Booksniffer Book Reviews – Review
May 26th wicked Readings by Tawania – Playlist/Spotlight
May 27th Live To Read – Review
May 27th The Cover Contessa – Interview/GP
May 29th Curling Up With A Good Book – Guest Post/Interview
May 29th Offbeat Vagabond – Review

Emily White is a nerd.
She prefers her men fully clothed and donning bow-ties, her commas British, her books cheesy with big, overly-dramatic explosions, her characters awkward and endearingly real,* and watching her movies in authentic turn-of-the-century theaters. When not exposing her nerdy self to the world, she's creating her own friends and putting them in horrible, yet sometimes humorous situations.
Check out her YA Space Opera series starting with Elemental (Spencer Hill Press, 2012), continuing with FAE (February 2014), and ending sometime in the near future with a book she has yet to write. She's also authored a collection of Steampunk (zombie, werebot romance) flash fiction, if you're into those kinds of things, titled "To Love or Die in a Steamy-Reamy World."
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FTC Disclaimer - I do receive some books directly from the authors or publishers for review purposes. Each review posted is my own personal opinion and any books I accept are not guaranteed a positive review. I do not receive monetary gain from reviewing those books I accept.
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