The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig

Title: The Ship Beyond Time
Author: Heidi Heilig
Series: The Girl From Everywhere, #2
Pages: 464
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release Date: February 28th 2017

      “Nix has spent her whole life journeying to places both real and imagined aboard her time-traveling father’s ship. And now it’s finally time for her to take the helm. Her father has given up his obsession to save her mother—and possibly erase Nix’s existence—and Nix’s future lies bright before her. Until she learns that she is destined to lose the one she loves. But her relationship with Kash—best friend, thief, charmer extraordinaire—is only just beginning. How can she bear to lose him? How can she bear to become as adrift and alone as her father?
      Desperate to change her fate, Nix takes her crew to a mythical utopia to meet another Navigator who promises to teach her how to manipulate time. But everything in this utopia is constantly changing, and nothing is what it seems—not even her relationship with Kash. Nix must grapple with whether anyone can escape her destiny, her history, her choices.

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“Bullets zipped in the air like bees; I crouched at my father’s feet as the mist of the Margins swallowed us whole. Then Slate cried out–I blinked up at him in the sudden darkness. His face was pale in the gloom…

Heidi Heilig once again wows with her sequel The Ship Beyond Time, taking readers on a thrilling and fanciful adventure. Nix has seen what love and loss has done to her father and is more determined than ever to not end up like him. But fate has other plans. When a prophecy foretelling the loss of someone she loves, Nix finds herself desperate to change her destiny. A mysterious encounter with a stranger will change everything and Nix will be faced with unimaginable choices. Her former convictions are put to the test when she is given the chance to discover whether it’s truly possible to change the past, to control the destiny of not just yourself, but a whole world of people.

Heilig has a way of weaving together both myth and history, making each feel equally vivid and real. In The Girl From Everywhere, Heilig explored 1884 Oahu, but in this sequel Nix and her crew arrive at the fabled island of Ker-Ys, a utopia destined to fall. New characters like the ambiguous Crowhurst, who carries secrets Nix is desperate to uncover, and the mysterious Dahut, who may be the key to unlocking the truth behind Crowhurst’s reign in Ker-Ys, broaden the possibilities of time-travel in Heilig’s universe. The island itself had a lot of interesting architecture and mythical creatures that I wanted to explore more of. The locals were also a bit of a mystery and learning more about them would have made this mythical island come more to life.

Nix isn’t the only one struggling with philosophical issues. Kashmir, who was such a steady force in The Girl From Everywhere, must contend with his own identity. I was so happy to find a few chapters in this one told from Kash’s perspective. Taken from a land only found in folklore, Kash struggles with his very existence. Is he a real person or only a figment of someone else’s imagination? For other characters, the chance to change history, to right the wrongs of the past is almost too much of a temptation to resist. Nix herself spends so much time fighting against fate that she doesn’t realize that her fear is keeping her from truly living and making the most of what little time she and those she loves may have together.

The Ship Beyond Time is a story of love, loyalty, and sacrifice. With gut-wrenching twists that will steal the breath right from your throat, this conclusion to The Girl From Everywhere duology will have you wishing for a time-traveling ship of your own.

4/5

★★★★

Mini Reviews: Blackmoore + When the Moon Was Ours

MiniBless the mini review! There’s nothing like breaking up the monotony of full book reviews than a mini review. I’m on hiatus until the 22nd, but I thought I’d share a couple of mini reviews while I’m away. This week I have mini reviews for Julianne Donaldson’s Blackmoore and Anna-Marie McLemore’s When the Moon Was Ours. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: Blackmoore
Author: Julianne Donaldson
Series: N/A
Pages: 286
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Release Date: September 9th 2013 

      “Kate Worthington knows her heart and she knows she will never marry. Her plan is to travel to India instead—if only to find peace for her restless spirit and to escape the family she abhors. But Kate’s meddlesome mother has other plans. She makes a bargain with Kate: India, yes, but only after Kate has secured—and rejected—three marriage proposals.
      Kate journeys to the stately manor of Blackmoore determined to fulfill her end of the bargain and enlists the help of her dearest childhood friend, Henry Delafield. But when it comes to matters of love, bargains are meaningless and plans are changeable. There on the wild lands of Blackmoore, Kate must face the truth that has kept her heart captive. Will the proposal she is determined to reject actually be the one thing that will set her heart free?”

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“The ocean wet the air, flavoring each breath with salt and freedom and foreignness. The towering building loomed overhead, darker than the darkening sky. The moors stood like a stretch of barrier—an impenetrable wilderness hemming and shielding and pushing this building toward the ocean. It was wild and dark and grand and tall and fierce and haunting all at one.”

If Kasie West is my go-to author for a light and satisfying contemporary read, Julianne Donaldson may just be mine for when I’m in the mood for a quick, enjoyable historical romance. Donaldson’s second novel Blackmoore had me swoony from start to finish. Kate Worthington is determined to escape the caged life she knows awaits her through marriage, so makes an impulsive deal with her conniving mother. If she can get proposed to three times while visiting Blackmoore, her mother will grant her the freedom to go to India with her aunt. Of course, nothing goes according to plan, Kate isn’t quite sure how to persuade one, let alone three gentleman into proposing, and there is also the issue of her long-suppressed feelings for her childhood best friend Henry Delafield. These two completely tore me apart. There was so much chemistry between Kate and Henry. I loved how the author incorporated Kate’s flashbacks because it gave their relationship so much more depth. Because of them, I could not put this book down and ended up finishing it in a day. Donaldson’s writing took a leap forward between Edenbrooke and this one. I was immediately taken in by the beautiful and haunting atmosphere of Blackmoore and would love to have explored this manor more. If you haven’t checked out Julianna Donaldson’s novels Edenbrooke and Blackmoore, I encourage you to do so.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★


Title: When the Moon Was Ours
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Series: N/A
Pages: 288
Publisher: Thomas Dunne
Release Date: October 4th 2016

      “To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

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“All these things reminded her of his moons, and his moons reminded her of all these things. He’d hung a string of them between her house and his, some as small as her cupped palms, others big enough to fill her arms. They brightened the earth and wild grass. They were tucked into trees, each giving off a ring of light just wide enough to meet the next, so she never walked in the dark.”

Anna-Marie McLemore’s When the Moon Was Ours is one of the most stunning novels I’ve ever read. It’s a short novel, but I found myself pausing every few pages because McLemore’s writing was so beautiful, I needed a moment to truly appreciate it. Taking inspiration from the folklore of La Llorona, McLemore weaves a tale about a boy and girl trying to discover who they are in a world that doesn’t quite understand them. Miel’s past is a mystery, from the moment she emerged from the water tower, her past has been locked up deep inside her. Most people aren’t sure what to make of her and the roses that grow from her wrist, but she’s always found a companion in Sam, a transgender boy who’s always felt like an outsider himself. Sam is trying to understand his own gender identity while also trying to appease those around him. Though it was hard to read when people tried to take advantage of Sam and “expose” him, it was an honest display of how many believe they have more of a right to determine someone’s identity than the person themselves does. McLemore’s characters are a mix of vulnerability and strength; her story is both dark and whimsical; and her words are moving and breathtaking. It’s novels like When the Moon Was Ours that make me love the genre of magical realism even more. If you haven’t picked up Anna-Marie McLemore’s novels yet, I strongly encourage you to do so.

Rating: 5/5

★★★★★

Beyond the Red by Ava Jae

Title: Beyond the Red
Author: Ava Jae
Series: Beyond the Red, #1
Pages: 360
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Release Date: March 1st 2016

      “Alien queen Kora has a problem as vast as the endless crimson deserts. She’s the first female ruler of her territory in generations, but her people are rioting and call for her violent younger twin brother to take the throne. Despite assassination attempts, a mounting uprising of nomadic human rebels, and pressure to find a mate to help her rule, she’s determined to protect her people from her brother’s would-be tyrannical rule.
      Eros is a rebel soldier hated by aliens and human alike for being a half-blood. But that doesn’t stop him from defending his people—at least until Kora’s soldiers raze his camp and take him captive. He is given an ultimatum: be an enslaved bodyguard to Kora, or be executed for his true identity—a secret kept even from him.
      When Kora and Eros are framed for the attempted assassination of her betrothed, they flee. Their only chance of survival is to turn themselves in to the high court, where revealing Eros’s secret could mean a swift public execution. But when they uncover a violent plot to end the human insurgency, they must find a way to work together to prevent genocide.”

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“A scream rips from my throat, but by the time the soldier turns and sees me, it’s too late–I slam my dagger into his neck. He drops, gurgling as I rip the blade away, whirling on the second soldier and catching him in the throat.”

Ava Jae’s Beyond the Red feels more like a decent setup to an interesting series than a compelling opening installment. The human race is barely surviving, but its greatest enemy is not the dry, hot desert in which they dwell, but the Sepharon, an alien race that regards humanity as invaders. Eros has been raised among humans, but as much as he would like to be a part of their race, nothing erases the fact that he should not exist. As a “half-blood,” Eros is an offspring of a Sepharon and human, considered an abomination to both races. When Eros’s people are attacked by Sepharon soldiers, he finds himself taken captive and thrust into the Sepharon queen’s court. Kora is young and inexperienced. Though the throne is her birthright, many believe her brother Dima is better suited. With threats at every turn and no one in her own ranks she can truly trust, Kora is forced to turn to Eros to protect her. Each needs the other to survive, but their arrangement is a fragile thing.

Beyond the Red has some excellent building blocks for solid world building. I was immediately taken in by this alien world, from the red, hot desert sands to the gleaming white architecture of Vejla city. There’s also an interesting political dynamic with Kora and her brother, as the people riot for a different ruler and Dima tries everything he can to undermine his sister. There’s a larger power structure beyond the kingdom of Eljan, but the novel only just touches on this. The Sepharon people have a really interesting religion that I was hoping to learn more about as well. Beyond the Red started off really strong with its world building, but dropped off in the middle when the focus narrowed to Eros and Kora’s growing relationship and much of these interesting aspects got left behind.

I wanted to believe in the connection between these two characters, but I found that their interest in each other began way too quickly. Eros’s immediate attraction to Kora left me cringing, not just because Eros is a servant, but because Kora’s actions resulted in Eros losing many people he loved. Although it’s acknowledged that Kora is responsible for the actions of her soldiers, I didn’t think that this instantaneous attraction was really necessary in order for me to get behind their relationship. It wasn’t until the end of the book that I felt invested in the two of them and much of this had to do with the fact that it finally felt like they had an actual foundation to build on.

As far as their individual character arcs are concerned, I was hoping for more for Kora. She’s a queen after all and it made me so mad to see her brother circumvent her authority at every turn. I wanted her to gain the kind of confidence she needed in order to lead, but this never really happened. Eros’s story was actually much more interesting. I can’t say too much because of spoilers, but the ending really got me excited for the direction this story is headed.

Rating: 3/5

★★★

Mini Reviews: Heartstone + By Your Side

MiniHave I mentioned how nice it is to write a couple of mini reviews during the month? I love writing reviews (mostly), but sometimes I don’t have the time to write down all my thoughts and sometimes I just can’t seem to find the words. It’s nice having this alternative way of sharing my thoughts on books. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: Heartstone
Author: Elle Katharine White
Series: N/A
Pages: 352
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: January 17th 2017 

      “A debut historical fantasy that recasts Jane Austen’s beloved Pride & Prejudice in an imaginative world of wyverns, dragons, and the warriors who fight alongside them against the monsters that threaten the kingdom: gryphons, direwolves, lamias, banshees, and lindworms.
      They say a Rider in possession of a good blade must be in want of a monster to slay—and Merybourne Manor has plenty of monsters.
      Passionate, headstrong Aliza Bentaine knows this all too well; she’s already lost one sister to the invading gryphons. So when Lord Merybourne hires a band of Riders to hunt down the horde, Aliza is relieved her home will soon be safe again.
      Her relief is short-lived. With the arrival of the haughty and handsome dragonrider, Alastair Daired, Aliza expects a battle; what she doesn’t expect is a romantic clash of wills, pitting words and wit against the pride of an ancient house. Nor does she anticipate the mystery that follows them from Merybourne Manor, its roots running deep as the foundations of the kingdom itself, where something old and dreadful slumbers . . . something far more sinister than gryphons.
      It’s a war Aliza is ill-prepared to wage, on a battlefield she’s never known before: one spanning kingdoms, class lines, and the curious nature of her own heart.

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“My breath rattled in my ears. I stared at the creature twitching at my feet. Even deep in it death throes, its talons raked the ground, reaching for me to rend, to kill.

If there’s one kind of retelling that I find hard to resist it’s Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Elle Katharine White’s Heartstone reimagines the classic in a world filled with dragons, gryphons, and adorable hobgoblins. Aliza is brave and opinionated, not easily intimidated and I really liked how important her family was to her. Alastair Daired, dragon Rider and far too arrogant for his own good, is standoffish and rigid in his opinions, but still has an unmistakable charm that’s hard not to fall for. It’s hard not to compare White’s characters to their inspirations. There were several characters whose reincarnations I found a lot more enjoyable. Aliza’s sister Leyda still retained the silliness I’m used to seeing in Lydia Bennet, but unlike her counterpart, who’s obsession with marriage is both infuriating and understandable, Leyda’s ambitions lie in her desire to be a Rider. She longs for adventure, to not be the sister everyone overlooks and I really sympathized with her character. Overall, Heartstone was a fast-paced and fun retelling that I’d recommend to those looking for a different take on the classic.

Rating: 3/5

★★★


Title: By Your Side
Author: Kasie West
Series: N/A
Pages: 342
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: January 31st 2017

      “When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.
Only he doesn’t come. No one does.
      Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?”

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      “A voice in the back of my head told me to calm down before I made it worse. Everything was fine. So I was stuck alone in a library, but I was safe. I could read and jog the stairs and stay busy. There were plenty of distractions here.
      In my new quiet state, I heard something behind me. Footsteps on wood.”

If there is one contemporary author whose books always seem to lift my spirits, it’s Kasie West. Her stories are entertaining and her characters enjoyable. Her latest novel By Your Side is fun, fast-paced contemporary that had me smiling throughout. Autumn Collins thinks she knows exactly what she wants, but when she ends up trapped in her school library for a weekend with Dax Miller, their connection throws her for a loop. Autumn is a people pleaser, her friends tend to be more outgoing than herself, and she often finds it difficult to say no to them. She also has an anxiety disorder that can sometimes interfere with her social life. In Dax, she finds someone whose personality she finds calming and who she wants more than anything to help. But By Your Side is more than just about Autumn trying to figure out what she wants for herself. She also learns how important self-care is despite outside pressure from her friends. I really liked Dax, despite the parts of his personality that can be called cliché, but once again with West’s love interests, I wish we could have learned more about him and his situation. On my wish list: a Kasie West book with dual perspectives.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Title: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Series: N/A
Pages: 464
Publisher: Balzar + Bray
Release Date: February 28th 2017

      “Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
      Soon afterward, Khalil’s death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Starr’s best friend at school suggests he may have had it coming. When it becomes clear the police have little interest in investigating the incident, protesters take to the streets and Starr’s neighborhood becomes a war zone. What everyone wants to know is: What really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
      But what Starr does—or does not—say could destroy her community. It could also endanger her life.

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“An earsplitting scream emerges from my gut, explodes in my throat, and uses every inch of me to be heard.

Angie Thomas has put together a debut novel that is staggeringly honest and raw in its heartbreak. The Hate U Give is unflinching as it takes on racism, police brutality, and injustice. Starr Carter’s life in Garden Heights isn’t always easy, but it’s home. Since she started attending Williamson Prep, Starr has had to juggle two different lives. One in Garden Heights and another at school. As one of the only black students at Williamson, Starr knows she’s judged differently and more harshly. Her friends and even her boyfriend don’t know everything about her life in Garden Heights. They don’t know that she lost a close friend in a drive-by when she was younger and that she continues to be haunted by Natasha’s death. When Starr’s childhood friend Khalil is shot and killed by a white cop, Starr’s carefully constructed worlds begins to unravel. As the only witness, Starr finds herself the center of an investigation. As protesters take to the streets, Starr must find the courage to speak up for her friend as well as herself.

Starr’s family is one of the most supportive and loving families about whom I’ve read. They argue, challenge one another, and begrudgingly compromise, but at the end of the day, there’s a myriad of people who have Starr’s back. Her parents are protective and always have their children’s best interest at heart. Her Uncle Carlos, despite having issues with Starr’s father and being a detective himself, would do anything for his niece. Starr’s brothers can be a pain, but she’d never trade them for anything. The community of Garden Heights is really well-developed. I felt the connections between characters who may not be related by blood, but still share in the common interest of the whole community.

The Hate U Give explores different forms of racism from microaggressions exhibited by Starr’s classmates to the institutional racism that contributed to the shooting death of an unarmed black teen. Starr’s once-close friend Hailey makes a lot of offhanded, racist comments. Instead of acknowledging her hurtful remarks and apologizing, Hailey is much more concerned about being called racist than being racist. This is the kind of racist behavior that goes largely unchallenged, so I was glad to see Starr and her friend Maya recognize that silence means you’re being complicit. The criminalization of black and brown people in our society, and especially of young black men, is one of the reasons why stories like Khalil’s occur. All too often we see the media reflect these biases by dehumanizing the victim and rationalizing the actions of the perpetrator. When the news of Khalil’s death first hits the airwaves, the coverage is more like a smear campaign. Khalil is portrayed as nothing more than a drug dealer while the media is all too eager to show a more sympathetic side of police officer. His father is interviewed on national television, telling his son’s story and garnering sympathy from the public while the pain of Khalil’s family and community is little more than an afterthought.

I went through a whole range of emotions while reading Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give. I felt Starr’s devastation at losing a friend, the community’s anger at seeing another young person’s life ended too soon, the powerlessness of those wanting justice in such an unjust society, and the pain of realizing this probably won’t be the last time something like this happens. The Hate U Give is a call to give heed to the voices of those largely ignored in our society and a reminder of how necessary a movement like Black Lives Matter is. Everything about this book demands more attention than I could possibly give it in a review, but I’m hoping it sparks a lot of discussion that extends far beyond the book blogging community.

5/5

★★★★★

The Education of Margot Sanchez

Title: The Education of Margot Sanchez
Author: Lilliam Rivera
Series: N/A
Pages: 304
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: February 21st 2017

      “After ‘borrowing’ her father’s credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot Sanchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts.
      With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…
      Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moises—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.

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“Everyone in this house hides behind closed doors. We build fortresses to bar people from scaling the walls and getting in. But even with the amount of time we spend sheltering ourselves there’s no way of concealing our problems.”

Lilliam Rivera’s The Education of Margot Sanchez is story about a girl finding her voice even amongst the chaos that surrounds her. Rivera has written a multi-faceted debut that tackles topics like family, gentrification, and identity. Margot knows that a lot has been invested in her in order for her to succeed. She’s spent months trying to fit in at her new school Somerset Prep, but in order to do so, she’s had to reinvent herself. She’s desperate for her new friends Serena and Camille to accept her, so impulsively takes her father’s credit card and runs up a $600 bill. Her plans to spend the summer at the Hamptoms all but fall apart, as she’s forced to work at her family-owned supermarket in the South Bronx. Now she feels out of place again. She doesn’t fit in the other cashieristas, her family is driving her crazy, and she finds herself attracted to a boy she has no business being interested in. Margot is desperate for a way out, but she may discover that the world she’s so desperate to leave behind is the one she belongs in after all.

When the book opens, Margot’s understanding of her situation is very narrow. She doesn’t quite get how her actions have such harsh consequences and blames her parents for her missing out on a great summer. While Somerset does offer her more opportunities, Margot has also lost sight of who she is. Her mind is in constant overdrive: how can she impress her friends, what can she change about herself in order to feel more accepted, how does she spin the fact that she’s being forced to work at Sanchez & Sons in a neighborhood her friends would never be caught dead in. She sees herself through other people’s eyes and finds it easier to blame other people than accept her own culpability. Her friendship with her childhood best friend Elizabeth is a great example of this. They’ve been growing apart ever since Margot started Somerset and Elizabeth, a new art school. Margot resents the fact that her best friend found it really easy to fit in and the more they grow apart, the more Margot begins to realize that Elizabeth has found a way to be happy without her. It takes Margot time to see things from her friend’s perspective, to see that it was Margot who changed and many of the things that defined their friendship got thrown out the window as Margot took on a new persona.

One of the first people to challenge this new Margot is Moises. A community activist working for the South Bronx Family Mission, they meet while he’s collecting signatures to stop the building of a new high-rise which will force residents from a local apartment building out. I fell in love with Moises during their first interaction. He’s both a playful and serious character who helps Margot broaden her perspective, though at the beginning she’d rather stay in her tiny, safe world. We only get small glimpses of Moises’s past and while I’d like to know more, I thought his present actions were more telling than the mistakes of his past. Family plays a huge role in this novel. Part of Margot growing up is seeing her family for who they are and not what they pretend to be. There’s a lot of hurt in the Sanchez household and they all cope differently with their problems. This all comes crumbling down when secrets get out and there’s no easy solution for any of them.

The Education of Margot Sanchez has a very messy ending. Much like life, the storylines in this novel aren’t wrapped up with a pretty bow at the end. There are hard times ahead for several characters, but I still found it to be a hopeful ending for Margot, who is taking the first steps to rectify her wrongdoings and reclaim who she is.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★