Tea & Book Chat: Mini Reviews – Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones & The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones (Wintersong #1)

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones captured my interest once I became aware that the story is a loosely based Labyrinth retelling (and it didn’t hurt that The Melting Library created several candles based on the story either).  When I started reading Wintersong, I was initially captivated for several reasons 1) the story takes place in Germany, 2) the main character’s name is Liesl (the same as my grandmother’s), 3) the focus of the story is rooted in music and the writing is quite lyrical, and 4) every time the elusive Goblin King was mentioned my mind immediately pictured David Bowie.  Liesl is a middle child with a strong passion for composing music, but her father only places stock in her younger brother’s abilities while she’s required to work at the family inn.  When Liesl’s sister Käthe is kidnapped by the goblins, she must rescue her from the Underground by playing a game against the Goblin King.  Once Liesl has found her sister, she is still not able to bring her to the world above without exchanging her own life for Käthe’s.  This is when the story started to lose me.  I found the game to find Liesl’s sister intriguing and I loved the sibling dynamic she has with both Käthe and Josef.  Once they were largely taken out of the equation, my interest began to waiver.  It’s as if S. Jae-Jones wrote two novels in one because the story completely changes midway through.  The latter half of the book takes place in the Underground as the Goblin King readies Liesl to be sacrificed to the land while she simultaneously falls in love with him.  While I did enjoy the world building and beautiful writing, I did not enjoy the path the story took overall.  I will be picking up the second book, Shadowsong because I am interested to see how the conclusion of the story plays out but I ultimately ended up being disappointed in the first installment.

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi (The Star-Touched Queen #1)


The Star-Touched Queen is a Hades and Persephone retelling with one of the most stunning fantasy covers I’ve ever laid eyes on.  The ethereal feel perfectly captures the magic and enchantment of Chokshi’s writing style.  The story follows Maya, a girl who’s been cursed by the stars and fated for a marriage that will lead to death and destruction.  After her father arranges her marriage, Maya gets whisked away to Akran by her new husband Amar to a strange world that is full of secrets.  I’ve since heard many complaints about Chokshi’s writing style but I’m pleased to say that her flowery prose really worked for me.  I found myself completely engaged in Maya and Amar’s tale and I was enthralled by the mystery as it began to unfold.  Then, things took a turn for me.  I couldn’t believe how I went from loving the first half of the book to feeling a bit lost and confused in the latter half.  The buildup to the story’s main conflict was much better than the execution.  Chokshi’s beautiful prose is what kept me going until the end, but I wish I had closed the book feeling as excited as I had in the beginning.  I also struggled with believing the romance between Maya and Amar.  I understand that it was fated, but I didn’t feel a strong connection between them.  Despite these complaints, I loved that the story is rooted in Indian mythology and I loved all of the lush descriptions of the world.  I will definitely be reading her next novel, The Crown’s Wish, which is a companion to The Star-Touched Queen, as well as any other novels Shokshi publishes because I’m interested in seeing how her work progresses over time.  I’m hopeful that her storytelling will improve and I know already that her I enjoy her writing style.

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills

Personal Thoughts:  I was completely swayed into reading This Adventure Ends for exactly two reasons: 1) the cover is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever laid eyes on (it’s even quite lovely naked!) and 2) Alexa read it and told me that it’s something I would love (and she was totally right!).  Can we just take another minute to talk about how this cover looks like a palette of paint and the stars are folded into the design? It’s like an ocean / galaxy mash up piece of artwork and I love love love it.

Plot Summary:  Sloane is your average teenage girl living in New York City with her family when they decide to uproot and move down to Florida right before her senior year of high school.  While this might seem like the most devastating bit of life-changing news for any other high school senior who’s spent years building their life and their group of friends, Sloane was completely indifferent and unopposed to the change.  She ends up accidentally falling into a tight knit group of friends, which is something she’s never experienced before and it changes her whole world.

Critique:  I really adored this book!  This is Emma Mills’s sophomore novel and I enjoyed it so much that I immediately ordered her debut upon completing This Adventure Ends.  The most satisfying element of this story is the complex nature of the relationships that Mills builds.  She nails friendship, familial relationships and first love.  Sloane is such an amazing protagonist.  She’s incredibly witty, outwardly self assured and not yet completely aware of just how awesome she truly is.  I loved being able to see the world through her eyes and I felt a connection to her from early on in the story.  One of Sloane’s new friends, Vera, is a social media star who takes Sloane under her wing and inducts her into her group of friends.  Vera is so much more than what she portrays online and the dynamic between her group of friends and her twin will have you flying through the book.  My favorite relationship explored between the pages is the one between Sloane and her father.  He’s a very popular romance novel who’s afflicted with a serious case of writer’s block.  He barely gets dressed anymore but he’s Sloane’s rock through everything.  You can immediately tell that Sloane gets her snark from him and I just loved seeing that pivotal moment in every teen’s life when they realize that their parents don’t necessarily have everything together play out.  Also, Frank is the best and you’ll see what I mean when you read it for yourself.

Do I Recommend?:  Definitely! This is a seemingly light and fluffy contemporary but there’s so much under the surface that it’ll stay with you long after you finish reading.

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Personal Thoughts:  Thank you so much to Random House for providing me with a copy of Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley in exchange for an honest review.  Cath Crowley is an Australian author who has been on my radar for some time but until Words in Deep Blue, I hadn’t experienced how amazing her writing is firsthand!  First of all, I was completely sold on this book based on the cover alone (look at all those beautiful, beautiful books! *heart eyes*).  Then when I read the plot and found out that the story is set in an old bookshop, and it has an epistolary element to it, I knew I would instantly fall in love.

Plot Summary:  Words in Deep Blue follows two teenagers, Rachel, a girl who’s been harboring a crush on her best friend, Henry, and she finally gets the courage to pour her heart out to him in a love letter left in his favorite book the day before she moves away.  Henry on the other hand, spent Rachel’s last night in town with Amy, the girl he’s been lusting after and ever since, their friendship has fallen apart.  When Rachel returns to town, a shell of her old self after the passing of her brother, her aunt gets her a job in Henry’s family’s bookshop and she’s forced to confront the things she’s been unable to face since she left.

Critique:  Words in Deep Blue is an absolute must-read for book lovers of all ages.  It’s written more in the vein of literary fiction rather than that of your typical contemporary YA novel.  Henry and Rachel are both very mature for their age and their deepest conversations, written via letters left in books, explore the topics of love, loss, grief and the meaning of life (and they’re not the only characters to communicate through books!).  Reading about Henry and Rachel reconnecting and rebuilding their trust in one another, Henry in Rachel after she started ignoring his letters during her time away, and Rachel in Henry after him ignoring the most important letter she ever wrote, is heartwarming.  If you’re an avid reader, you’re sure to appreciate the references to other books and you’ll also be wishing you were part of Henry’s family who eats dinner together every Friday at Shanghai Dumplings and discusses the books they’ve read throughout the week.  It was so nice to read about people who’s lives are as dependent upon reading as mine has always been.  I particularly loved Henry’s younger sister George who is an outsider at her school.  George is strong-minded and unafraid to voice her opinions.  She’s the victim of bullying but she’d rather spend her time with books and her family anyway.  There were times when I was reading when I wanted to shake Henry and tell him to wake up and see things clearly, but I appreciated the realistic portrayal of his relationship with the awful Amy who is not even close to good enough for him.  I can already tell that this is a story that will stick with me in the long run and I definitely plan on revisiting it in the future.

Do I Recommend?:  I definitely do.  Words in Deep Blue is beautifully written, the story is compelling and the characters are true to life.  I love all of the different emotions I felt while reading and I especially love the inclusion of the bookstore, the stories and the letters.

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: Always and Forever, Lara Jean (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #3) by Jenny Han

Personal Thoughts:  This is hands down my favorite Jenny Han book ever written (I can say that now that I’ve read all of her YA books!).  I am just over the moon about this conclusion to Lara Jean’s story.  The fact that this book even exists at all is something I’m so thankful for since the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series was planned as a duology.  I know I was definitely not ready to let go of Lara Jean and Peter K (and Kitty and Margot and Stormy) so I’m so grateful for these precious extra 326 pages with them.  This book had everything I wanted and more.  There were definitely a ton of moments when I couldn’t hold back tears.  It really made me feel all the things.

Plot Summary:  Lara Jean and Peter K are finishing up their senior year of high school and they’re more in love than ever.  They have a plan for college but when they don’t both get into the college of their choice, things start getting tested.  In addition, Lara Jean’s Dad is getting ready to remarry (his girlfriend from the second book, P.S. I Still Love You) but not all of the Song sisters are on board.  There’s a ton of change happening in Lara Jean’s life and Always and Forever, Lara Jean explores that critical time in a person’s life when they determine what they want to hold on to and what’s best to let go of.

Critique:  As I stated above, I loved this book dearly.  Always and Forever Lara Jean had by far the best character development of any book in the series and it strengthened my emotional connection to everyone.  I didn’t think it would be possible to fall even harder for Peter K and yet I totally and completely did.  The way Peter interacts with Lara Jean’s family, the effort he puts into watching films Lara Jean enjoys and trying to learn how to braid her hair, and the way he is so unaffected by his peers who expect him to act like the typical jock are all reasons why he’s so very close to perfect.  The college factor put a major strain on their relationship and I’ve never wanted something to work out so badly.  This book was just packed with things I love.  There was Lara Jean’s quest to find the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe, her vision for her Dad’s wedding that she worked so hard on, the way Lara Jean always teases Peter and how gullible he is to it, and of course, her interactions and the love she had for the sassiest of Songs, her younger sister Kitty.  Kitty is eleven years old in this book and she is just bursting with personality.  She’s self confident, intelligent and no nonsense about her opinions no matter who she’s telling them to.  I also really love Kitty and Peter’s dynamic.  I feel like I could go on and on about how much I love this book but I would hate to ruin anything for anyone.

Do I Recommend?:  This is pretty obvious yes.  If you enjoyed the first two books in the series (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You), I guarantee you will LOVE this conclusion<3

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: Mini Reviews – Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle & That Summer by Sarah Dessen

This is my first installment of mini-reviews! Sometimes I’ll read a book and I don’t have enough feelings (or time) to write a full review for it but I don’t want to not talk about them at all, and so mini-reviews were born.  

Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle

I decided to pick Famous in Love up because I wanted to read the book before watching the television show of the same name which debuted on Freeform in early April and in full on Hulu after the premiere of the first episode. I really didn’t have strong feelings about this book either way.  It was cute, quick and fun but I didn’t feel attached to any of the characters or the storyline.  Once I shut the book, I found the story to be very forgettable and if it weren’t for the show, I don’t think I would even still remember the character names.  The story centers around Paige Townsen, a normal teenage girls with the dream of becoming an actress who gets discovered at an audition to play the lead role in an upcoming film adaptation of a popular book series called Locke.  Locke has a ton of parallels to Twilight, but as the story focuses on the behind the scenes love triangle between Paige and her co-stars, Rainer and Jordan, it reads as if someone wrote Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner fanfiction.

That Summer by Sarah Dessen

I decided to start way back at the very beginning of Sarah Dessen’s backlist and read everything she’s written in publication order for two reasons.  The first one being I’ve heard there are cameos in each book from past characters and the second one being that the consensus is that most people seem to love Along for the Ride and Just Listen.  I didn’t want to start with either of those and then feel disappointed in her other books so I started with low expectations and I’m continuing to assume that they’ll get better.  That being said, I was not a fan of That Summer.  It was… fine.  I didn’t feel like very much happened and I found myself to be very bored while I was reading.  I kept wondering how the story was going to wrap up and what the big conflict would be because I kept getting closer to the end and nothing was happening and then it just kind of never came.  I also didn’t feel any connection to any of the characters so it just wasn’t my cup of tea.  But I will be continuing on and I’m not going to judge her works by this one mishap!

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

Personal Thoughts:  Thank you so much to Alexa of Alexa Loves Books for letting me borrow a copy of her ARC for I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo.  I had been wanting to read this story ever since I heard the premise – a girl who searches for love using the rules from K dramas – and saw the gorgeous cover! I usually don’t love covers with models on them but apparently the exceptions are I Believe in a Thing Called Love and the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series.  I had very high hopes for this book when I went into it and while it didn’t completely live up to my expectations, I did think it was a really fun and quick read.

Plot Summary:  Desi is your typical A+ overachieving student with more extracurricular activities under her belt than most of your high school combined.  She’s dreamed of becoming a doctor for her entire like, just like her mother who passed away when she was a child.  Desi lives at home with her father who is addicted to K dramas.  After a weekend of binge-watching several series, Desi decides to take the “rules” she’s learned and apply them to her own non-existent love life in order to secure her first boyfriend.  She has her sights set on the new guy, the rebellious and artsy Luca, and once she starts implementing her plan, chaos ensues.

Critique:  I Believe in a Thing Called Love is a really adorable but outlandish YA contemporary romance.  Desi manages to be an awkward and lovable main character, despite the crazy tactics she employs in her quest to start dating Luca.  I love the relationship between Desi and her father, a native Korean who speaks broken English.  I found Desi’s dad to be hilarious and I love how supportive he is of his daughter, even when she doesn’t make the best choices.  They have such a wonderful relationship with just the right amount of codependency and it’s super adorable.  I also adored Luca, the artistic misunderstood love interest.  He certainly put up with a lot of chaos from Desi and I often found myself just wanting to give him a hug or explain things so he would be less confused.  Since the romance cues Desi takes are based on K dramas, you can expect unrealistic situations such as pants falling off while trying to flirt, staging accidents to get closer to her crush and some head flicking but all with a lot of innocence.  I also enjoyed Desi’s best friends, Wes and Fiona, but I do think they should’ve been a little less supportive of Desi’s craziness.  Overall, I Believe in a Thing Called Love is a really cute read.  It’s not a new favorite of mine, but I did enjoy my time with the characters.

Do I Recommend?:  If you’re into K dramas, I would definitely recommend checking this one out.  If you prefer very realistic or serious romances, I would have to say to skip this one because I don’t think it’ll be everyone’s cup of tea.

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Kristin

A Court of Thorns and Roses Wrap-up Post + Giveaway

Welcome to the second and final wrap up post which is part of the A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist and Fury re-read organized by Alexa of Alexa Loves Books, Cristina of Girl in the Pages and myself!

Alexa’s Question:  Of all seven courts, which is the one you think you would be most suited to live in?

Without a doubt, I see myself living in the Autumn Court.  Autumn is my favorite time of year and it would mean my wardrobe would consist of jeans, boots, cute sweaters, scarves and leather jackets.  All of my favorite limited edition pumpkin spice foods wouldn’t be so limited anymore.  I would spend weekends walking around and enjoying the ever present fall foliage and going apple picking!  I would bake all the fall pies and drink all the apple cider and I would enjoy sipping hot tea and pumpkin spice lattes all year round!  And this might be cheating but my second favorite court would be summer and I have a hunch that’s where Alexa would dwell, so I would definitely visit her plenty!

Kristin’s Question:  Do you have any ACOWAR theories / what are dying to see more of in the final book?

Okay so, there is one theory I heard online that is not my own but I’m REALLY hoping it’ll be the case.  Since Tamlin is a shifter and he was able to turn Andras into a wolf, shouldn’t Feyre be able to fix Cassian’s wings?  I have really high hopes for that one! I also know that Sarah J Maas has already warned us all that one of the Night Court’s inner circle won’t make it but obviously I’m praying that that’s not the case.  I just want everyone to get their happily ever after (except for Tamlin obvs).  I’m also looking forward to seeing more Lucien and hoping that he’ll be redeemed in A Court of Wings and Ruin since he was one of my favorite characters in ACOTAR.  I think the most exciting moment that I know is coming is for when Feyre and Rhysand reveal that they’re married<3

Cristina’s Question:  Which secondary character’s story in ACOTAR and/or ACOMAF are you most compelled by? Who do you think the companion series will focus on?

Lucien, Lucien, Lucien! I just want all the Lucien.  I want his backstory, I want all the time in the Autumn Court, I want him to realize that Tamlin is terrible (hopefully that’s coming in ACOWAR) and I want his happily ever after with Feyre’s sister! I would also be interested in seeing more of the inner circle.  Each character in the Night Court is fascinating and I’m sure I would love anything that Sarah decides to write about them<3.

Giveaway

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Personal Thoughts:  I’m going to be totally honest here- I was very skeptical of Geekerella before I started reading it.  In theory, I love the idea of books about fandom but they can be SO hit or miss for me.  And *usually* they’re misses.  Plus, it has the word geek in the title so that was also going against it. But after seeing a couple of friends read and enjoy the story, I decided to give it a shot.  Actually, the main point that sold me is that the main character, Elle, works at a vegan food truck called the Magic Pumpkin.  I’m so happy that I didn’t allow my initial hesitation to keep me from reading this book because I ended up giving it 5 stars!

Plot Summary:  Geekerella is a modern day Cinderella retelling following a girl named Elle who finds out that Starfield (aka her lifeblood) is being rebooted as a film franchise.  But they’ve cast a good looking actor known for his work in a soap opera and his constant presence in the tabloids as Carmindor, the lead role.  When he misses a simple Starfield trivia question on a morning show, Starfield fan everywhere are outraged and questioning whether Darien is a real fan fit for his role.  Everything culminates in a cosplay competition at ExcelsiCon where the winner gets a meet and greet at a masquerade ball with Darien himself.

Critique:  This tale is just as charming as the plot summary sounds.  Danielle, or Elle, has been living with her stepmonster and evil stepsisters since her father passed away.  All she has left of him are memories which are strongly tied to her love of Starfield so she has really high hopes that come crashing down when she finds out that Darien is cast as her beloved Carmindor.  All plot points aside, my love of Geekerella comes from the fact that Ashley Poston is able to perfectly capture the feelings of how much a fandom can mean to one person.  Elle’s love of Starfield = my love of Star Wars.  Despite Starfield being more closely akin to Star Trek, I felt completely connected to this fictional fandom.  From the believable catchphrases that fans quote from the series, the personal investment in the characters, the way Starfield fans pour over the old episodes and speculate hopefully about the prospect of something new and exciting, and most importantly, the amount of heart the characters display for their fandom, I felt like I was reading about my life with Star Wars.  I also love the portrayal of the different types of fans that you’ll meet at conventions.  From the accusatory “you’re not a real fan” fan to the welcoming “let me help you with your last minute cosplay” fans, Poston nailed it.  And the fact that Elle runs a Starfield blog that gains popularity as the movie gets cast is so relatable for those of us who’ve loved and blogged about geeky things before they were in the mainstream.  The one thing I wasn’t completely sold on was the romance, but I was completely here for all of the characters separately (Elle, Darien, Sage, etc) and for the fandom feels.

Do I Recommend?:  If you’ve ever been a diehard fan of anything, I think you’ll be able to relate to Geekerella.  I love this book so much more than I had anticipated and I’m pretty sure that if you’re reading my blog, you’re also the target audience!

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: The Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (The Fixer #2)

Personal Thoughts:  OH MY GOD I LOVED THIS BOOK.  After adjusting to teenagers being privy to the happenings of the US Government, I ended up enjoying The Fixer which is book one in the series.  I thought I would have similar feelings toward The Long Game but boy oh boy did the feelings this book inspired come out of nowhere!  The Long Game is exponentially better than The Fixer.  My only issue now is that the sales aren’t high enough and Disney hasn’t contracted Jennifer Lynn Barnes to write a third book (AND THERE NEEDS TO BE A THIRD BOOK, TRUST ME OKAY?!).

Plot Summary:  In this follow up to The Fixer, Tess Kendrick embraces her role as Hardwicke’s resident fixer.  Someone cashes in a favor and she ends up leading their campaign to become president of student council.  Meanwhile, her guardian, Ivy, is working on cracking a terrorism case unfolding in the United States and chaos ensues when both issues intertwine.

Critique:  The Long Game had much higher stakes than The Fixer which you might find hard to believe if you’ve already read book one.  I came to appreciate Asher even more in this installment because his comic relief was a necessary addition to the otherwise intense situations.  The Long Game is full of action in the best way possible.  The story pulls you in and there’s such a sense of urgency for every issue that it’ll get your heart rate pumping.  I also loved the parallels to the game of Chess which were prevalent in the story.  But best of all are the characters who shine even more than they did in book one.  The Long Game is overflowing with awesome female characters from Tess and Ivy, to Vivie, Emilia and Georgia, and as I mentioned above, the only disappointment is not knowing how their story will continue.  The series was sold as a dulogy, but there is a CLEAR cliffhanger at the end of book two.  It’s rather frustrating but I am still grateful that I was able to spend any time with these characters and I will forever hold out hope that a second duology or even just a final installment with some more closure will be on the horizon.  Also, if you’re looking for romance, this series is almost completely devoid.  It focuses much more on the politics and social issues.

Do I Recommend?:  YES PLEASE READ THIS AND HELP MY DREAM OF A THIRD BOOK BE REALIZED THANKS.

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: Fireworks by Katie Cotugno

Personal Thoughts:  As I may have (definitely) mentioned, Katie Cotugno is one of my favorite contemporary YA authors.  In fact, she’s definitely in the top three.  I love her words to pieces so when I heard that her newest novel would be set in Orlando in the 1990’s during the boy band craze, I couldn’t possibly be more on board.  And the cover! And the endpapers! While Fireworks didn’t end up being my new favorite of her’s (the number one spot still belongs to How to Love), I did thoroughly enjoy it, especially for the setting. And possibly the most exciting part (for me) is that a character in the girl band is named Kristin! Spelled the same way as me! I didn’t even care that she’s kind of a bitch because I’ve never read a book with a character that has my name and for it to have been in a Katie Cotugno book just amplifies my excitement.

Plot Summary:  Best friends Dana and Olivia leave their small Georgia town and head to Orlando where Olivia is going to be auditioning to become a pop star in a new all girl band being formed and Dana is there as her moral support.  During the audition, Dana gets picked out of the crowd to show off her skills and both girls end up being chosen to move to Orlando to start rehearsing.  But things get complicated when Dana’s lack of formal training start inhibiting what has always been Olivia’s dream and the girls start to become each other’s competition.

Critique:  Fireworks is yet again, another messy and complicated story from the brain of Katie Cotugno.  I love the way she tackled the evolution of Dana and Olivia’s friendship as the girls begin to grow up and their circumstances change.  It’s so easy to fall into a routine and to believe that one person is your be all and end all when you haven’t experienced anything else and Orlando really opens up both of their eyes about what else is out there in the world.  There’s also an adorable love interest named Alex who’s a member of Hurricane State, a boy band similar to N’SYNC who’s just starting to make waves in the industry.  Alex is honest and supportive and quite honestly, he put up with a lot for someone just starting a relationship.  The best part of the novel is hands down the setting.  I love the little nods to the 90’s and just Orlando in general.  I felt like I was reliving my own early childhood while reading and I could perfectly picture myself running around in jean shorts and eating ice cream cones on hot summer nights.

Do I Recommend?:  Yes! Especially if you are a fellow fan of the Britney Spears / Christina Aguilera and Backstreet Boys / N’SYNC era.

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Kristin
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