TBYL Book Club: March and April

It was remiss of me, I was distracted and this month’s book club fell a little flat. February was quite simply, too short, too spritely, too crowded.

It’s a shame, but I’m not dwelling on it (I’m guessing most of you were in the same crazy boat). Rather, I’m flying forward into March and April with some amazing titles for us to chat about over at the TBYL Book Club.

For March…
I thought it might be interesting to revisit one of our very first book club books. There’s a whole group of new members on board since we last discussed Carrie Tiffany’s Mateship with Birds (Pan Macmillan) and I would love to hear what you all think of this amazing book. Those of you who joined us in chatting about this book in 2012 are very welcome to join in again, I’ll be posing some different questions to keep things interesting.

Mateship-With-Birds-200A shortlisted nominee for last year’s Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and a longlist nominee for this year’s Stella Prize, Mateship with Birds is…

“A novel about young lust and mature love. It is a hymn to the rhythm of country life – to vicious birds, virginal cows, adored dogs and ill-used sheep. On one small farm in a vast, ancient landscape, a collection of misfits question the nature of what a family can be.”

It was one of my top five last year and you can read my review here…

Last year we talked about relationships, the use of nature, the representation of lust and love and the harsh but stunning Australian landscape that has been painted by Carrie Tiffany.

I’ve got copies of the book in the TBYL Store at the moment for just $16.00 (rrp $19.99) plus p&h and you can join the TBYL Book Club group here…

For April…
The book that I’ve chosen for April will have you asking; “What would I have done?” on more than one occasion. Published in the later half of last year, The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D, by Nichole Bernier (Allen and Unwin) has come to mind often since I read and reviewed it.

Unfinished JournalsThe book is intriguing from the outset, and very sad…

Before there were blogs, there were journals. And in them we’d write as we really were, not as we wanted to appear. But there comes a day when journals outlive us. And with them, our secrets.

Summer vacation with her family was supposed to be a restorative time for Kate, who’d lost her close friend Elizabeth in a plane crash. But when she inherits a trunk of Elizabeth’s journals, they reveal a woman far different than the cheerful wife and mother thought she knew.

The complicated portrait of Elizabeth – her upbringing, her marriage, and journey to motherhood – makes Kate question not just their friendship, but her own deepest beliefs about loyalty and honesty at a moment of uncertainty in her own marriage. When an unfamiliar man’s name appears in Elizabeth’s pages, Kate realises the extent of what she didn’t know about her best friend, including where she was really going when she died.

It raised many questions for me and you can read my review here…

I would imagine that a book such as this would raise questions for most readers, and I’m looking forward to hearing what you think about this stirring novel.

I’ve got copies of the book in the TBYL Store at the moment for just $27.99 plus p&h and you can join the TBYL Book Club group here…

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I hope you’ll agree that we’ve got some amazing conversations coming up in the next two months.

You can find out more about the TBYL Book Club here.

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Interwoven: Triburbia

As you know, I love anything New York, and I’ve had today’s book on the Reading Pile for a number of months. I was looking forward to reading Triburbia, by Karl Taro Greenfeld (Allen and Unwin), but alas it just didn’t seem to happen. No matter what I tried, it just didn’t seem to get far enough up the reading pile to get read.

One of the things that I like the most about having so many great people reading and reviewing for TBYL is that I get to try and match friends to books, and when my friend Stephanie agreed to do some reading for me, I thought that Triburbia would be just her cup of tea. Here’s what she thought of it…

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Tribeca is a well-known, ultra-cool area of Manhattan that we’ve heard lots about from the likes of Sex and The City and many movies. The name conjures up images of beautifully dressed women like Carrie or Charlotte, handsome men and to die for apartments. Triburbia shows another side to Tribeca, a side that is not always pretty or to be envied…

triburbiaWith an unflinching eye, Triburbia explores Tribeca, Manhattan, a neighbourhood synonymous with western affluence, in which an artists’ community has been overrun by the faux-bohemian haunts of those made staggeringly wealthy by the world of finance. Thrown together by circumstance, a group of fathers – a sound engineer, a sculptor, a film producer, a writer, a career criminal – meet each morning at a local cafe after the school run. 

Over the course of a single year, we learn about their dreams deferred, their secrets and mishaps, their passions and hopes, as they confront terrible truths about ambition, wealth and sex. Seen through the eyes of these men and the women with whom they share their lives, Triburbiashows that our choices and their repercussions not only define us, but irrevocably alter the lives of those we love. 

The first chapter introduces us to Mark, a sound engineer and father. Through Mark we’re introduced to a group of fathers who catch up for breakfast each day after school drop-off. With each chapter we learn more about each father, their children, wives and friends. As we learn more we begin to see how interwoven their lives are, links that sometimes even they aren’t aware of.

Karl Taro Greenfeld has written an intriguing book. As we learn more about each character we start to make connections and I found myself re-reading sections so that I was clear on who knew whom, and who they were married to or sleeping with. I found it very hard to stop reading as I wanted to find out how each family was connected and what would come next. Sometimes it was almost as if I was eavesdropping on conversations between characters that could have been sitting at a table next to me in a cafe.

“The irony of everyone supposing that Brick wasn’t the type to have an affair was that he was exactly the type. A more voluble man, a talkative fellow, would never have been able to pull this off. No one expected conversation from Brick, so he could go wordlessly from Bea to Ava, unchanging, unflinching, unmoved. The same metronomic nods as he listened, occasionally a tilt of the head or, and both women love this, he would open those blank, big eyes even wider, like he was redoubling his attention.(He didn’t even know he did this.) But keeping your trap shut around two woman isn’t much harder than maintaining radio silence around one.”

I highly recommend Triburbia, it was an entertaining and enjoyable book. It will keep you reading, wanting to find out about each family and how they will affect or have affected each others lives.

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If you’d like to find out more about Triburbia, by Karl Taro Greenfeld visit the Allen and Unwin website here.

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I like it: Web of Deceit

I’ve discovered a little something about myself – much to my surprise, I quite like crime fiction.

Up until now, I thought that the few crime novels that I’d read and enjoyed had been a bit of a fluke. I read Kathryn Fox’s Cold Grave last year and loved it, and earlier, thoroughly enjoyed The Siren’s Sting, by Miranda Darling. I thought they must just have been particularly good examples of the genre.  I’ve since read others, and enjoyed them equally.

Web of DeceitAnd now, I’ve just finished reading Web of Deceit, by Katherine Howell (Pan Macmillan) and found myself unable to put it down, I was enthralled by the mystery and entertained by the action. I couldn’t wait for the truth to be revealed…

So on reflection, I think it’s fair to say that a pattern has emerged. I really like crime fiction, and in particular those that have a ‘speciality’ to which the author can write authentically from personal, professional experience. In this case, Katherine Howell is a former paramedic and brings to the story all the drama, trauma and heroism that the work of a paramedic involves.

Web of Deceit is the latest in the Ella Marconi series…

When paramedics Jane and Alex encounter a man refusing to get out of his crashed car with bystanders saying he deliberately drove into a pole, it looks like a cry for help. His claim that someone is out to get him adds to their thinking that he is delusional.

Later that day he is found dead under a train in what might be a suicide, but Jane is no longer so sure: she remembers the terror in his eyes.

Detective Ella Marconi shares Jane’s doubts, which are only compounded when the case becomes increasingly tangled. The victim’s boss tries to commit suicide when being questioned, a witness flees their attempt to interview her and a woman is beaten unconscious in front of Jane’s house.

Ella is at a loss to know how all these clues add up and then a shocking turn of events puts even more people in danger…

Howell’s novel twists and turns relentlessly, leaving the reader guessing right up until the very end. It’s not only unclear who is guilty for these crimes, but it’s also uncertain until the close, just who is going to be the hero of the hour.

There’s romantic relationships and personal conflicts, all of which allow the reader a chance to get inside the head of the fantastic characters in this story. These relationships; lover to lover, father to daughter, ex-wife to new wife, are all handled brilliantly – creating interest, diversion and introducing additional complexity to the already complicated scenario unfolding around the characters of Alex, Jane, Ella and Murray.

There’s plethora of clues to gather and assess and in keeping with the formula of many a quality crime story, Detective Marconi is not only pushing against time to solve this puzzle, but also against her penny-pinching, clock-watching boss. The reader is kept wondering – will his lack of commitment to solving this mystery cost Ella the chance to prove that Marco was a victim of foal play? Will Ella have the back-up required to make sure that she too doesn’t become a victim of this web of deceit? It’ll have you on tenterhooks.

You can enjoy an excerpt of Katherine’s novel on Pan Macmillan blog’s here.

I really enjoyed this book, I’ll be adding the previous Katherine Howell titles to my collection. If you’d like to find out more about Katherine and her books, you can visit her website.

Have you ever been surprised to find that you quite liked a particular genre, perhaps one you’d dismissed in the past?

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Keeping counsel: Mistress to the Crown

I can’t quite believe that so many wonderful people are keen to become part of the TBYL Reviewers team! Today I get to welcome the lovely Kate Barber.

Over the summer break, Kate read Mistress to the Crown, by Isolde Martyn (Harlequin). It was a different kind of book to that which she’d normally read, and Kate shared what she thought of this historical drama…

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After having a few weeks off reading over the summer holidays, I was eager to get back into a good book, and so when Mistress to the Crown arrived on my doorstep, having not read many historical novels, I was ready to ‘read outside my comfort zone’.

mistress to the crown“The day Lord Hastings came into her husband’s store, Elizabeth saw the opportunity she had waited 12 years for – a way to separate herself once and for all from her dull, impotent husband, William Shore. The handsome stranger presented not only the chance to partake in the dance of desire, but legal counsel to annul her 12 year marriage.’

And so begins the real historical tale of Elizabeth Lambard – Mistress Shore, Mistress to King Edward IV of England in the 15th century.

Australian author Isolde Martyn is well known for her brilliantly researched and vivid accounts in her historical novels and has won numerous awards. She is a historian and former chair of the Richard II Society, and is more than qualified to write a book such as this!

The beginning of the book sees Elizabeth, at 14, trying to get legal counsel to annul her marriage to her husband while her ‘maidenhead’ is still intact. Having been ‘chosen’ to marry at 12 years of age by the 26 year old William, two years later she cannot stand her husband who she describes as ‘dull, dull, dull’ – not to mention impotent –  and she embarks on her not so easy quest to be granted a divorce, a notion almost completely unheard of in the 15th Century.

Fast forward 11 years and she is still married to William, working in his shop and bored, dreaming of grander things. When the handsome and debonair Lord Hastings (Lord Chamberlain and close friends of King Edward IV) visits the shop and spies her, she decides that this is her way out – she promptly asks him to ‘teach her’ the ways of love and so begins their affair.

All is going well with Lord Hastings until King Edward – Ned to his friends – spies her and thinks he would like in on the action. Being the King, he is not to be refused, and so Lord Hastings hands her over to the King. After some convincing, Elizabeth obliges and becomes his Mistress.

It is turbulent times within the Kingdom – wars, power struggles, take-over bids for the Crown, hangings, beheadings, the pox… but despite the hard times, Elizabeth is soon nickname ‘Jane’ by the King (as his wife is Queen Elizabeth and he doesn’t want to confuse the two!!) and moved into her own quarters within the Palace grounds where she is at Ned’s beck and call. They fall in love and the King begins to rely on her for ‘counsel’, friendship and comfort.

However, Elizabeth is labelled a strumpet and a whore and ostracised by her family and friends. She is scorned and despised by King Williams’s posse (except Lord Hastings, who still holds a flame) and frequently propositioned by the men at the Palace who despise the hold she has over the King. Nonetheless, Elizabeth is a strong and sure woman who stands up to her enemies and remains faithful to Ned.

That is until, after a short illness, Ned dies and the Kingdom is thrown into turmoil. Without the protection of the King, Elizabeth is on her own and her sorry downward spiral, at the hands of the King’s Counsel, begins. She moves from the Palace grounds and is labelled a witch, accused of sorcery and treason. She is taken to trial, thrown in jail and threatened to be burned at the stake.  When her only ally (and ex-lover) Lord Hastings is beheaded for treason she thinks there is no way out and concedes that she may well be killed.

But, a last minute reprieve, with the intervention of the new King’s Crown Solicitor, who just happens to fall for her quick wit and womanly charms (which apparently she has not lost despite being in prison with no toothbrush or shower!) and her destiny is once again changed. He devises a plan – if he marries her and gives up his Royal commitments, he can free her from the charges against her and make her a free woman. And so it is.

Having not read many historical novels, I was pleasantly surprised as to how easy this novel was to read and how much I enjoyed it. At the beginning of the book there is a ‘Family Tree’ and a list of characters appearing in the novel which comes in handy when the various Kings, Princes, Lords and Royal Counsel are discussed. There is also a ‘Glossary of Medieval Words’ at the back of the book – would’ve been good to be aware of this before I finished the book! Elizabeth is portrayed as a witty, feisty and clever woman trying hard to change her course and get out of the shackles that women in this era were bound by. The story has been told with humour and passion and gives an insight into the tumultuous times that were the 15th Century.

If you love an historical novel, I am sure you will enjoy this one too!

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If you’d like to find out more about Mistress to the Crown, by Isolde Martyn you can do so here…

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Rock and Roll hang-ups: Lola Bensky

It can be difficult reading a book after you’ve heard mixed opinions of it, and it’s even harder writing a review on it. The thoughts flying around about Lily Brett’s Lola Bensky (Penguin) have been polarised, some glowing and other’s near-loathing.

I tried to read it with an open mind and at the finished, stopped to consider my own thoughts on this interesting book. At the risk of sitting on the fence, my feelings about this book were mixed. I was, to be fair, both aggravated and endeared.

Lola BenskyLola Bensky is, not surprisingly, all about Lola – a young woman living a seemingly charmed rock and roll life. The company she keeps is enviable, but it quickly becomes clear that as well as charm, Lola’s life is filled to the brim with angst, self loathing and baggage…

Lola spends her days planning diets and interviewing rock stars. In London, Mick Jagger makes her a cup of tea, Jimi Hendrix (possibly) propositions her and Cher borrows her false eyelashes. At the Monterey International Pop Festival, Lola props up Brian Jones and talks to Janis Joplin about sex. In Los Angeles, she discusses being overweight with Mama Cass and tries to pluck up the courage to ask Cher to return those false eyelashes.

Lola has an irrepressible curiosity, but she begins to wonder whether the questions she asks these extraordinary young musicians are really a substitute for questions about her parents’ calamitous past that can’t be asked or answered. As Lola moves on through marriage, motherhood, psychoanalysis and a close relationship with an unexpected pair of detectives, she discovers the question of what it means to be human is the hardest one for anyone – including herself – to answer.

I was excited about this book, looking forward to another rock and roll story (perhaps not unlike this book or this story) and I was very much looking forward to reading about a complicated female rock journalist working in the iconic sixties music scene.

I’ll admit, about a chapter into the book I was a little disappointed. As Lola had words with Jimi Hendrix, Mike Jagger and Brian Jones I became increasingly irritated – these well-known and much-loved rock icons seemed cliched, paper-thin and the whole scene, a little ‘name-droppy.’

But still, there was something that grabbed me. Lola was miserable, conflicted. During interviews, while most people would be star-stuck and in the moment, Lola was distracted by a low-key, matter-of-fact self loathing , and I felt sorry for her…

“Jimi Hendrix removed the brightly-coloured patterned silk scarf that was tied around his neck. ‘Are you comfortable?’ he said to Lola Bensky, in a soft, improbably polite voice. ‘Oh, yes,’ she said, looking at him and trying to separate her thighs.

She thought that Jimi Hendrix had probably never had to go on a diet. She thought he was probably naturally lean. she had never been lean. She had a photograph of herself in the displaced person’s camp, in Germany, where she was born. She was three months old in the photograph. And she was chubby. How could a baby born in a DP camp be chubby? Lola was sure that not many of the camp’s other inmates, mostly Jews who had survived Nazi death camps, were chubby.”

Don’t get me wrong, I still wanted to slap her, shake her out of her inherited survivors guilt and dietary ridiculousness, but I couldn’t deny the fact that I felt sorry for her. Her neurosis had been unfairly foisted upon her and she seemed isolated, lonely and resigned to it all.

She clearly used her trade to escape…

“Lola loved words. They were so reliable. Verbs and pronouns didn’t suddenly decide they wouldn’t speak to each other. Sentences stayed stable. Phrases and clauses didn’t develop dislikes or become erratic. Any shocking revelations between vowels and consonants were mostly in Lola’s control.”

…even though her thoughts were never very far away from catastrophe.

I found myself repeatedly wondering how much of the writer and her experiences were embedded in this story. I’m going to have to do some more research on this, I was left wondering – was it actually Lily Brett’s false eyelashes that ended up in Cher’s collection?

Brett’s Lola Bensky is an interesting novel. I might not have loved everything about it, but Lola is an intriguing character. Lola’s Melbourne is beautifully painted, and it’s fun to suspend disbelief and imagine what it might have been like have a casual conversation with Jim Morrison or to know Linda before she became Mrs. Paul McCartney.

Tell me, do you think you have to love all of a book to enjoy it?

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Off-kilter, doomed and unrequited

I’m not a hopeless romantic, but I like a good love story as much as the next girl. For me, the most compelling romances are a little off-kilter, sometimes a little sad, and at times, hopeless unrequited. Most often they take place in the context of a wonderfully told, much larger, story.

A Farewell to ArmsIt’s probably no surprise to you that Valentines Day had me rummaging through my bookshelf in order to have a flick through some of my favourite love stories. Here’s my top four…

1. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway. Set against the gritty, shell-shocked backdrop of World War I, I was transfixed. Oh Henry and Catherine, you made me cry. In public. In a cafe. Shame on you, Hemingway for making me care so much.

2. Still Life with Woodpecker, by Tom Robbins. This wild, wild ride of radical princess Leigh-Cheri and the mad bomber Bernard has had me re-reading this book many times over many years. The unlikely pairing of a disgraced cheerleader and a jagged-toothed drunk, I believed every word and have never since stopped asking the question… “How do you make love stay?”

3. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. A novel of decadence, full of shallow people and shallow lives, Daisy so whimsical it almost feels like she could float away at any moment. The love affair between Gatsby and Daisy remains one of my favourites. Doomed from the start, this romance was at once both superficial and equally rife with complications. Two beautifully flawed characters in a fickle, conflicted time.

4. The Riders, by Tim Winton. I don’t know if may would classify what Fred and Jennifer have as a romance, but I do know that this novel it a gut-wrenching love story that’s stayed with me, darkly, since I read it a couple of years ago. Fred Scully is hopelessly and violently in love with his wife Jennifer. Problem is, she’s no where to be found. His search for her, his unrequited love and the great mystery around their relationship is completely compelling and hopelessly, horribly romantic.

Do you have a favourite love story?

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Hey guys, you’ve won a bundle of books!

As the TBYL big book give-away draws to a close, I’m a little sad. I’ve so enjoyed reading your competition entries – your favourites, your virtual b’day gifts, your stories. A huge thank-you to everyone who got involved and submitted entries!

I wish I had enough books to give one to everyone, but alas, I must choose (at random) three winners from our bookish crew… and they are:

bundle of books

 

First prize
A bookish bundle consisting of three great titles… Wild, by Cheryl Strayed (Allen and Unwin), Alice in Zombieland, by Gena Showalter (Harlequin Teen) and Produce to Platter: Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges, Ballarat and the Pyrenees, by Jonette George and Daniele Wilton (Smudge Publishing) has been won by Samantha Thomas.

Second prize
More great titles… The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, by Jonas Joanasson (Allen and Unwin) and Produce to Platter: Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges, Ballarat and the Pyrenees, by Jonette George and Daniele Wilton (Smudge Publishing) have been won by Barbara McCauley.

Third prize
Finally, a copy of the very funny Curses and Blessing for All Occasions, by Bradley Trevor Greive (Allen and Unwin) has been won by Monique Mulligan.

All winners will be contacted by email today.

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Again, thanks to everyone who entered the competition and also to Allen and UnwinHarlequin Teen, and Smudge Publishing who kindly provided these prizes. Don’t forget to check out their websites for other amazing titles.

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Last chance to enter our big book give-away!

Firstly, and again, I’d like to thank everyone who’s entered the competition so far – I’ve had an absolute ball reading your answers. After I’ve drawn the winners, I’ll share some of my favourite entries!

Crime-2-400Today is your very last chance to enter the TBYL big book give-away, I’ll be drawing winners after midnight tonight.

To enter today, you need to tell me a little story… emailed to info@thatbookyoulike.com.au with the subject line STORY TIME. It can be a short story or a long story, truth or tall-tale, about anything you’d like. I just want to hear a few of your wonderful words! Don’t forget to include your name and postal address in your email and let me know if you’d mind me sharing your response on Facebook.

I can’t wait to hear your stories!

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A new voice and a Man Drought

Of late, I’ve been exploring some different ways to join forces with other bookish people, in order to add new voices to TBYL and as a way of being able to tell you about more and more great books. There are always far more books to talk about than I have time to read and so I wanted to share the reading pile around a little.

As you already know, there’s the team of TBYL Reviewers – a growing group of wonderful readers, and now I’ve also paired up with the lovely Monique from Write Notes Reviews – another fantastic book reviews blog – to share some of our reading experiences.

In short, it’ll mean that from time to time I’ll let her speak for a book here at TBYL and in turn I’ll share the occasional review at Write Notes Reviews. I’m excited as I’m sure you’ll enjoy her reviews as much as I do.

Today, I’m really thrilled to be able to share with you, Monique’s take on Rachael John’s most recent novel Man Drought (Harlequin). I spoke with Rachael last year (read it here) and I was really looking forward to hearing about her most recent story.

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Man droughtRachael’s name started popping up last year in the Australian book blogging community with lots of positive reviews about her novel, Jilted. Too busy reading other books, I simply added the book to my mental to-be-read list and picked up another book from my towering pile. When I saw the anticipation leading up to the release of Man Drought, I knew it was time to check out Rachael’s books myself. I’m glad I did; Man Drought made me smile, laugh and sigh (sometimes all at once)…

You can read the full review here…

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If you’d like to find out more about Man Drought by Rachael Johns, you can visit the Harlequin website here.

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Adapt and win

This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about film adaptations. There’s been chatter about the film version of The Book Thief, and the newest trailer for another adaptation of Great Expectations. Not to mention the new(ish) On The Road film I’ve still not had a chance to see…

Helena Bonham Carter, Miss HaveshamAnd so, today’s chance to enter the TBYL big book give-away is all about the silver screen, or more specifically the process of page to film.

Let us know which book-to-film adaptations you either love or loath, by emailing info@thatbookyoulike.com.au with the subject line SILVER SCREEN. Don’t forget to include your name and postal address in your email and let me know if you’d mind me sharing your response on Facebook.

As a little note, I’d like to thank everyone who’s entered the competition so far. Your answers have been fantastic, creative and wonderfully entertaining. My apologies if I don’t have a chance to acknowledge each message personally, there’s a lot, but rest assured I’m receiving and loving them.

Don’t hesitate to enter and spread the word, there’s just a couple more chances to enter!

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