Tea & Book Chat: Caraval by Stephanie Garber (Untitled #1)

Personal Thoughts: It’s been so long since I’ve written a book review since I’ve been giving all of my recaps on my BookTube channel at the end of the month but I really wanted to get back into them and it seemed perfect to do so with Caraval by Stephanie Garber.  Caraval is without a doubt, a new favorite of mine.  I love it so much that I preordered an additional copy once I was less than five chapters in.  I’ve been talking about this book on my channel for quite some time- it was my most anticipated read from BEA but I somehow put it off until recently and I’m so happy that I did! While I would’ve loved to welcome this story in my heart earlier than I did, it was quite nice to read it with all of the lights, scents and general coziness that the magic of Christmastime provided as a backdrop.

Plot SummaryCaraval is the the story of Scarlet and her sister Tella who live on a conquered island with an abusive father.  Having heard tales of the magic of Caraval, a traveling immersive performance that occurs annually, from their Grandmother, the girls both write to Legend, the mastermind behind the game.  After years of unanswered letters, Scarlett finally receives a response along with three tickets to this year’s game- one for Scarlett, one for Tella and one for Scarlett’s fiance.  When Scarlett arrives on the island, she discovers that this year’s game hits very close to home as her sister Tella has been kidnapped and the object of the game is to find her before the other participants she’s competing with.  Participants are reminded two times before the games begin that everything occurring in Caraval is just a game and to not get swept away no matter how real things feel.  But really, is it?

CritiqueCaraval is one of the most sensory reads I’ve ever had the pleasure of diving into.  I’m basically obsessed with the descriptive language Stephanie Garber used and I’m still amazed that she was able to so perfectly capture and relay the experience of Caraval to the reader.  There was not a single drop of magic lost in translation.  Each of our three main characters (Scarlett, Julian and Tella) were so well developed that they felt like actual people.  The story is told from Scarlett’s perspective and the amount of character growth she underwent throughout the game is overwhelming.  I love reading about characters who live within a set of boundaries, often self inflicted, who then break out and challenge their norms and Scarlett fit this description to a T.  Despite Tella being kidnapped and therefore absent from the majority of the novel, I still had no trouble knowing her character.  She is just as developed as her sister who graces every page.  And then there’s Julian, to trust him or not to trust him?  Either side you fall on, you will inevitably fall victim to his charm.  As for side characters, everyone is important and I especially love the air of mystery surrounding Legend.  I became so intrigued with the story and so addicted to Scarlett solving the cryptic clues and finding her sister that I can honestly say I let Caraval sweep me away (I even had to text Alexa at the climax of the story since she had finished earlier for moral support because I was laying in bed screaming WHAT IS REAL LIFE?!?!).  Another incredible selling point of Caraval is that despite it being labeled as the first book in a series (THANK GOD BECAUSE I NEED MORE) the story wraps up very nicely.  There’s no cliffhanger ending that leaves you dying for answers BUT there is an intriguing piece of information that you’ll be eager to explore.

Do I Recommend?: A THOUSAND TIMES YES.

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Coming Soon: Revamped Book Reviews!

Okay, so, I’m just going to come out and say it… it’s been FOREVER since I’ve written a book review.  I’ve still been recapping all of my thoughts for BookTube and I did several video reviews for the first time since I started my channel but I’ve been feeling like something is missing.  I realized that I truly miss writing down all of my feelings about the books I read.  I love the process of reflecting upon the story and carefully choosing the correct words to convey those feelings I have to everyone who reads my blog.  I enjoy reading other book blogger’s reviews and I’m excited to get back into the game with a new revamped strategy for posting reviews.  Since this is MY blog (no offense, I love you but I do this for me ultimately!) I love adding a bit of personal commentary but I also struggle with doing so in a written review because a lot of the time, readers are looking for fact based opinion to help them determine if they want to read the book or not and I also want to provide that.  So, going forward I think I was able to find a good balance!

I’m going to be breaking down my reviews into sections for “Personal Thoughts:” – these will be a mish-mosh of thoughts, opinions, feelings and outside factors that influenced my choice in reading the book, any background info I feel like sharing about how I acquired it (don’t worry, it will always clearly state if I’ve received an ARC), whether there’s a specific cover that speaks to me more than others and just the general ambiance of my reading experience.  Next I’ll delve into a “Plot Summary” – while I did include the Goodreads plot summary in my previous reviews, I’m going to try my hand at summarizing on my own (unless I’m feeling super lazy for some reason or if I feel like Goodreads really does say it better than I can in my own words).  After I will provide my “Critique” – this will be the actual review portion where I’ll talk about all the elements I use to rate books which include plot, characters, pacing, enjoyment and writing style.  Then finally, I’ll end with “Do I Recommend?” which seems pretty self explanatory.  I hope you enjoy this new format!

I’m still planning on infusing my channel with some more video reviews but I may just review certain books both ways which is what I’ve done in the past.  Oh and best of all (IMO), I’m going to start using images I’ve taken as opposed to a boring graphic of the cover.  I seem to take lots of photos of the books I’m currently reading (especially if I’m loving them) since they’re the most easily accessible and it’s almost like a book photo diary of sorts.  I’ll also still be using the rating system that Andrew created for me because it’s beautiful and I love it and how could I not?  I hope you like my new system!

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Tea & Book Chat: A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes #2)

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  This is no way swayed my opinions.*

**Warning! If you haven’t read An Ember in the Ashes which is the first book in the series by Sabaa Tahir, there will be spoilers ahead.  You can watch my review of the first book instead if you haven’t started the series yet!**

A Torch Against the Night is the second book in the An Ember in the Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir.  We read the first installment last month for the Spines With Wines book club and the minute I finished reading I could not have been more thankful that I already had an ARC copy of A Torch Against the Night that I picked up at BEA in May.  If I’m being completely honest it was a huge struggle not to immediately dive into this one because I didn’t want to accidentally spoil anything in theAn Ember in the Ashes live show (I am the worst liar in the world).  This is one series that I can’t believe I waited so long to read because I love it to pieces / sort of wished I had waited longer to read it because WHY AND HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO WAIT ANOTHER YEAR FOR BOOK THREE?!

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A Torch Against the Night continues Laia and Elias’s stories and picks up with the pair journeying across the Empire to fulfill Elias’s promise of helping Laia break her brother Darin out of Kauf (without any certainty that he’s still alive) and all of the very many struggles they face along the way.  My favorite addition to this installment is Helene’s perspective.  Now that Elias and Laia are outside Blackcliff and on the run, we can rely of Helene’s perspective to keep tabs on the Emperor Marcus and Elias’s awful mother, the Commandant.  One of the major plot points I was hoping to hit upon more in this book is that concerning the Nightbringer and boy did we ever get some answers there!  I loved the continued infusion of fantastical beings such as efrits, wraiths and jinn and the world-building which was largely established in the first book continued to develop further.  There’s a lot of build up in the first half of the novel but the overwhelming second half is pure action and adventure.  You will actually find yourself incapable of putting this book down or stopping reading for any interruptions.  Seriously, clear your schedule.  Also get ready to feel ALL kinds of things.

Final Thoughts:  I don’t think anyone who read An Ember in the Ashes could possibly need a review to tell them that it’s worth continuing the series but alas I’ll reiterate it anyway.  READ THIS BOOK.  The characters continue to show growth on their personal journeys and those who’ve already left an impression on your heart will dig themselves in deeper.  Villains will push even more limits, characters will be unmade and reborn, and the everything is the highest of stakes.  I cannot wait to see how everything plays out in book three and I never thought I would end up loving this series as much as I do.

Rating 6

A Torch Against the Night takes readers into the heart of the Empire as Laia and Elias fight their way north to liberate Laia’s brother from the horrors of Kauf Prison. Hunted by Empire soldiers, manipulated by the Commandant, and haunted by their pasts, Laia and Elias must outfox their enemies and confront the treacherousness of their own hearts.

In the city of Serra, Helene Aquilla finds herself bound to the will of the Empire’s twisted new leader, Marcus. When her loyalty is questioned, Helene finds herself taking on a mission to prove herself—a mission that might destroy her, instead. (via Goodreads)

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee (The Thousandth Floor #1)

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  This is no way swayed my opinions.*

The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee is pitched as a series for readers who enjoy Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl so I immediately added it to my TBR.  I was so excited to pick up a copy of the ARC at BEA (despite it’s beautiful final cover not having been released yet at the time the ARC was printed) and it ended up being the first book I read from my haul when I returned home.  The Thousandth Floor was just the right combination of drama, suspense and most of all ridiculousness because while the book may seem like it’s about your typical group of rich teens, it’s actually about your typical group of rich teens FROM THE FUTURE.  The book takes place in Manhattan, which has been replaced with a single thousand floor tower (the rich kids living on the upper floors) in the year 2118.  I definitely enjoyed the story but if it hadn’t been for all of the inventive future tech and ways of life of the future I wouldn’t have been as into it as I was.

The Thousandth Floor begins with a character falling off the roof of the thousandth floor and plummeting to their death and then it immediately flashes back and details the events of the past two months leading up to that night.  The victim of the fall isn’t revealed until the final chapters so all of the speculation also adds to the fun of reading.  The story is told through the multiple POVs of mean girl Leda, little miss perfect Avery (no really, her parents designed her genetics to be perfect) who’s harboring quite a secret, the outgoing and fun-loving Eris who’s life is about to spawn much gossip, Rylin, the poor girl from the lower floors of the tower who bonds with a member of the upper floors and Watt, a tech genius, also with a big secret.  I will say that this is one book that I didn’t love all of the perspectives in.  Despite some overlap in story lines, I found I most enjoyed Leda, Eris, and Avery’s POVs.  The story is really quick paced and it’s so full of drama that it’ll keep you completely engaged.  Even if there’s a lull in plot, it doesn’t feel that way because that’s when McGee takes the opportunity to describe some fun futuristic element such as screaming gummy bears, hover cars or floating bubbles of alcohol.  I don’t want to go too far into her vision of the future because part of the fun is definitely reading and discovering everything for yourself.

Final Thoughts:  The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee is one of the few novels which lives up to the marketing comparison made prior to its release.  If you enjoy Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars you’ll definitely find enjoyment in this novel.  Come for the drama, stay for the intriguing future ways 2118 has to offer and you’ll be left wishing you didn’t have to wait a whole year for the next installment.  This is great book to read if you’re in a slump because it’s quick paced and attention grabbing and the mysterious plot will definitely having you craving the next chapter.

Rating 5

New York City as you’ve never seen it before. A thousand-story tower stretching into the sky. A glittering vision of the future, where anything is possible—if you want it enough.

Welcome to Manhattan, 2118.

A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. But people never change: everyone here wants something…and everyone has something to lose.

Leda Cole’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched.

Eris Dodd-Radson’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.

Rylin Myers’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will her new life cost Rylin her old one?

Watt Bakradi is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy by an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies.

And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is Avery Fuller, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.

Debut author Katharine McGee has created a breathtakingly original series filled with high-tech luxury and futuristic glamour, where the impossible feels just within reach. But in this world, the higher you go, the farther there is to fall…. (via Goodreads)

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Kristin

BookTube: Harry Potter & the Cursed Child Review

I filmed my first review video! With the exception of Cassie, Melissa and I’s monthly book club, Spines With Wines, I usually save my wrap ups for the end of the month.  Apparently, if it’s Harry Potter, I have no trouble talking for 20 minutes straight so that was fun for Andrew to edit lol! Filming this video made me unexpectedly emotional and spoiler warning, I cried two times because Harry<3.

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Tea & Book Chat: It’s Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han (Summer #2)

**Warning! If you haven’t read The Summer I Turned Pretty which is the first book in the Summer trilogy by Jenny Han, there will be spoilers ahead.  You can read my review of the first book instead if you haven’t started the series yet!**

It’s Not Summer Without You is the second book in the Summer trilogy by Jenny Han.  This book picks up almost 10 months after the events of the first book and we spend the majority of it living the current consequences resulting from past events which are often relayed via flashbacks.  Your thrown into a world where many things have changed since The Summer I Turned Pretty ended and because I waited between books (it’s been almost a year since I read the first – also during BookTube-A-Thon!) I initially thought I had forgotten a major thing that happened.  I really enjoyed this book, much more than the first despite how sad it is.

It's Not Summer Without You

Belly is still immature and a bit annoying but after what happened, I felt more for her.  The sibling love triangle is in full force in this book which is one of the only aspects that I really didn’t like from the first book, but I feel like it was developed more thoroughly and that it worked better in It’s Not Summer Without You.  At the end of the first book Conrad and Belly appear to be living happily ever after but everything basically falls apart in this installment.  We see the cruel ways Conrad has been treating Belly, his hot and cold behavior, and their awful prom experience.  There’s one major factor that I do not want to spoil, but it’s a huge reason for his behavior.  While it’s understandable that he would be affected by this event, he definitely uses this as a scapegoat in my opinion.  Belly’s brother Steven was mostly absent from this book and her bossy best friend Taylor continually got on my nerves.

Final Thoughts:  While I enjoyed It’s Not Summer Without You much more than the first book in the Summer series, it was not without its faults.  This is a heartbreaking book to read but I felt that Han truly created and built upon some beautiful relationships in this installment.  As I stated before, the main character, Belly, is still immature and annoying but I definitely forged more of a connection to her.  I’m looking forward to reading book three (much sooner than it took me to get to this one!) and seeing how the story concludes although I am extremely worried that my ship will be sinking.

Rating 4

Can summer be truly summer without Cousins Beach?

It used to be that Belly counted the days until summer, until she was back at Cousins Beach with Conrad and Jeremiah. But not this year. Not after Susannah got sick again and Conrad stopped caring. Everything that was right and good has fallen apart, leaving Belly wishing summer would never come.
But when Jeremiah calls saying Conrad has disappeared, Belly knows what she must do to make things right again. And it can only happen back at the beach house, the three of them together, the way things used to be. If this summer really and truly is the last summer, it should end the way it started–at Cousins Beach. ( via Goodreads)

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Kristin

BookTube: May – June Wrap Up

Today’s video is a combined wrap up covering all the books I read in May and June! I didn’t get to make a separate May video since I was deep in the throes of the final wedding countdown.  I decided to just cover the novels I read in this video and I’m planning on making a separate video about all the manga and graphic novels I binged during May because there were a lot of them!  What have you been reading lately?

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Tea & Book Chat: Vicious by V.E. Schwab (Vicious #1)

Vicious by V.E. Schwab is a book I had always planned on reading but I kept pushing it back because I love Schwab’s writing and I didn’t want to not have a book of hers to look forward to reading.  Since the release of This Savage Song has been drawing nearer, I decided to pick it up on a whim and I couldn’t be more happy that my July reading started off with such a bang!  Vicious explores a complicated relationship between an anti-hero and villain and I love that it’s up to the reader to determine which of the main characters falls into which role.  The story begins ten years prior when Victor Vale and Eli Ever are working on their thesis involving EO’s or ExtraOrdinary humans.  They make several groundbreaking discoveries which leads to experiments and chaos.

Vicious

I love that Schwab chose to acknowledge and go with the Marvel route of naming superheroes, that is to say, each character is named alliteratively.  Victor Vale has spent the past ten years in prison planning exactly how he would try to kill Eli Ever when they were finally reunited again.  He meets a chocolate milk loving friend Mitch and an intriguing twelve year old girl named Sydney along the way and it is a pleasure to see the story unfold along with them.  I love how it’s constantly jumping perspectives and periods in time.  Between the flashbacks told as if they were currently occurring and the present situations everyone finds themselves in in real time, I felt even more connected to the story than I would have if the stories had simply been relayed from a character who experienced it to a current fixture in either of Victor or Eli’s lives.  Even more fascinating than the present, is watching each character’s descent into madness and attempting to determine who is the hero and who is the villain (or if there even is one or the other).   For those wondering, I’m team Victor.

Final Thoughts:  Vicious by V.E. Schwab is a quick paced adventure story which delves into the psyches of Victor Vale and Eli Ever.  It’ll have you questioning what it means to be a villain vs. a hero and the constant switching between past and present timelines will allow you to see the hero vs. villain origin stories developing as soon as those initial seeds are planted.  Vicious reads like a really engaging contemporary psychology novel with a sci-fi twist as the main characters begin experimenting with ExtraOrdinary humans.  Vicious is technically an adult novel but everything about it is very accessible for anyone who typically reads and enjoys YA.  I definitely recommend this one wholeheartedly!

Rating 6

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong. Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end? (via Goodreads)

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Tea & Book Chat: The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

I really super love Morgan Matson so I was eager to read her new book, The Unexpected Everything as soon as it debuted.  The Unexpected Everything is about Type A girl named Andie who is a serious planner (which really speaks to my heart).  Andie has gotten used to a certain way of life but as her summer is beginning, her father gets caught up in a big political scandal which results in him spending much more time at home than he ever had before and Andie’s impressive summer internship getting cancelled.  She’s forced to spend the summer at home but things seem to be going much better than she anticipated, especially when Clark comes into the picture. She has a very close group of girlfriends, gets a job as a dog walker and begins seeing the joy in the unexpected, despite it being a huge adjustment.

The Unexpected Everything

The Unexpected Everything is longer than Matson’s previous novels and while the beginning was a tiny bit slow for my liking, I still ended up loving it overall.  In The Unexpected Everything Matson covers romantic relationships, parental relationships and friendships so it’s no wonder the book is 519 pages.  I appreciated that she managed to cover and get the reader to care about all three.  It’s obvious that a huge amount of planning and development went into each unique relationship and it all works so harmoniously.  I love that she is able to cover everything since it’s rare that an individual would only be dealing with one at a time.  The romance in this book is my favorite of any of Matson’s previous books (although I haven’t read Second Chance Summer and I’m not sure if there’s romance in that one).  Clark is a fantasy writer and he’s such a swoony character.  I love how nervous and insecure he can be at points and I love how interested he is in other people.  He’s a keeper!  I also really liked Andie’s dad and I was rooting for him to be able to mend their relationship after a distance grew between them.  And as for Andie’s friends, they are such a fun and tight knit group.  There was one predictable thing that I saw coming but I thought it was handled really well.  The Unexpected Everything really encapsulates everything that I love about Matson’s books from the adventurous summer vibes to the delicious eateries (Captain Pizza and Paradise Ice Cream which you may recognize from Since You’ve Been Gone) and of course, the heartwarming characters that capture your heart.

Final Thoughts:  The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson is a wonderfully in depth summer contemporary about a girl learning to let go of her plans and go with the flow of life.  Andie, Clark, her friend group and her father will leave you wondering about their futures long after you finish reading.  They’re the kind of characters that stay with you.  Also there are cute puppies.  If you want a quick paced beach read that’s a bit on the heavier side and you enjoy witty banter and texting with emojis, you should check out The Unexpected Everything.

Rating 5

Andie had it all planned out. 

When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future.

Important internship? Check.

Amazing friends? Check.

Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks).

But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life.

Because here’s the thing—if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected. 

And where’s the fun in that? (via Goodreads)

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Tea & Book Chat: Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley is the kind of book that makes me want to get on a rooftop and scream about how much I love it (but since that sounds dangerous, I’ll just gush about it here in my review).  Highly Illogical Behavior is told in dual perspectives and it follows a 16 year old boy named Solomon who suffers from panic induced agoraphobia and 17 year old Lisa who is determined to cure him and write a brilliant essay about her experience so she can get into college and move far away from Upland, California.  Lisa remembers Solomon from middle school when he had the final incident that led to him living inside his parents house without being able to go outside (not even his backyard, driveway or open garage) for the past three years.  She reaches out to him “by chance” and soon become a fixture in his life.

Highly Illogical Behavior

I instantly fell in love with Solomon.  He’s a Star Trek obsessed sarcastic teenager who enjoys playing Munchkin, so yeah, his character immediately filled up some of my heart space.  I love that while Solomon struggles with mental illness, a reader would never be able to use that as his main identifying characteristic.  He is so much more than a kid who’s afraid to go outside.  He’s a friendly and thoughtful person and his sense of humor, including the ability to make fun of himself, just adds to his charm.  I actually found Lisa to be less sane than Solomon but I still had a soft spot for her.  I don’t think her decision making is at its peak in this novel but her passion and determination are qualities I always admire in people.  Then there’s Clark, who’s the quintessential good / nice guy.  He seems a little lost about his own future and apathetic toward his fellow Water Polo teammates since all they care about is hooking up with girls while he’s respectful of his relationship with Lisa.  Lisa inevitably introduces Clark to Solomon and we all know the saying “three’s a crowd.”  Their relationship becomes complex in the most interesting ways but the tone of the novel remains the same.  Dinners with Solomon’s equally funny parents and his firecracker of a grandmother help lighten the mood when things get heavy but they never take away from the issues present.

Final Thoughts:  Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley is a must read for everyone.  It’s impossible to judge how mental illness is portrayed because it effects everyone afflicted with it differently so while I cannot say whether it is accurate or not, I can say that to someone like me who has low level anxiety, it felt real.  I’m just so utterly charmed by these characters and I’m amazed at how Whaley is able to tell such a full and satisfying story in such a short number of pages.  Normally I am bothered by open endings but in this case I think it’s the right choice.  Solomon, Lisa and Clark have so much life ahead of them to evolve and change and grow into who they’ll ultimately be.  This book gets all the thumbs up and I sincerely hope you’ll consider checking it out.

Chibi-Rating-6

Sixteen-year-old Solomon is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left the house in three years, which is fine by him.

Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to get into the second-best psychology program for college (she’s being realistic). But is ambition alone enough to get her in?

Enter Lisa.

Determined to “fix” Sol, Lisa steps into his world, along with her charming boyfriend, Clark, and soon the three form an unexpected bond. But, as Lisa learns more about Sol and he and Clark grow closer and closer, the walls they’ve built around themselves start to collapse and their friendships threaten to do the same. (via Goodreads)

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