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All Book Reviews by Genre: Fantasy

Tess of the Road
Hartman, Rachel
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Tess Dombegh is ruined. When she was quite young, she met an ambitious young scholar who took advantage of her and left her in the family way. Since then, her main goal has been to find her twin sister, Jeanne, a husband that will save their family from their dire financial straits. Tess successfully finds Jeanne a husband, and after getting extremely drunk at their wedding and embarrassing herself and their entire family, she decides to run away.

Notice that I got through this description with nary a mention of dragons? There are dragons in this world. But only barely, hence the reason I didn't need to mention them in my synopsis. This is actually, I think, the weakest point of the book, but I'll come back to that later.

I am more conflicted about this book than I've been about any other book in recent memory. Tess, our main character, is insanely unlikable and unsympathetic, especially at the beginning. However, she's intentionally unlikable and its entirely because of the circumstances of her world are similar to that of Edwardian England in terms of how the ladies are treated. As Tess travels further down the road - often painstakingly slowly, the unnecessary and at times boring digressions in this book are legion - she learns more about who she is, who she wants to be, and how she can make her way in a world that sees her as less than a person because of her gender.

Those parts, the introspective philosophical parts, I liked. Unfortunately, they were few and far between and were including in those aforementioned digressions that had nothing to do with the plot at large. My interest in the book would wax and wane in huge swings. I did finish it, and I even liked the ending, but wow, this was often a slog.

The thing that bothered me the most about the book was almost the complete waste of the worldbuilding. There were dragons and quigutl (sic), which are like the small, less ferocious cousins of dragons, and while a quigutl was a main character, that character could have easily been a jaded staff member, or really anything else. The fantasy world didn't add to the story, and sometimes, it distracted from Tess' character development, which, at the end of the day was the point of the entire novel. I think making this book pure historical fiction (and I loved the worldbuilding and fantasy setting in Seraphina, the companion series) would've made it a more impactful, better book.

Anyway, complaints aside, at times, I found myself really loving this book, mostly on the strength of Hartman's writing and the very important messaging regarding women's rights. Overall, though, the execution left something to be desired, at least for this reader. I won't be coming back for the sequel if there is one (everything was tied up nicely, but there definitely is room for another book), but I would definitely read another book by this author. 2 stars - it was ok.

Thanks to Random House Children's and Netgalley for the eARC that I received for review consideration. Tess of the Road is released on 27 February, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
Hulme, John
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The plot of The Glitch in Sleep is intriguing - I enjoyed the idea
that there are two different dimensions one called The World (where we live)
and the other called The Seems which controls The World via departments such
as nature, weather, and sleep. For example, the sleep department creates
dreams/nightmares, decides the hours of sleep a person receives if any at
all, and more. But the issue is that The Seems is a well-oiled machine and
depends on organization - if any of these departments do not completely do
their job and the issue is not fixed before the next day then something
called the Ripple Effect occurs which essentially unravels the Chain of
Events and foils the Plan. The Plan consists of organizing principles upon
which The World is managed and if The Plan is foiled, chaos ensues. Becker
Drane is a Fixer, someone who repairs malfunctions in The Seems that
negatively effect The World. One of the reasons I rate this book three stars
instead of five is because Becker is 12 years-old but acts adult-like, his
characterization does not feel appropriate for his age. In fact, all the
children act more mature than normal. At nine years old Becker fills out the
equivalent to a job application/aptitude test in which one of the questions
is something along the lines of “How would you change The World if The
World were being remade?” I can not imagine a nine year old answering that
sufficiently enough that a secret society responsible for the well-being of
The World and every person there would be impressed enough with a child that
they immediately hire him and trust him in deadly situations with advanced
technology. I do applaud the diversity in the book with representation from
countries not normally acknowledged in children’s literature. One thing I
also got a little irritated with was the constant tributes and references to
Highland Park, NJ, Becker’s hometown. The authors both grew up there but I
never lived there and I felt that the information about White Castle and the
different schools located there and other children’s names who were
probably were old friends of the authors were sort of unnecessary and did not
further the audiences’ love or Becker’s loyalty to Highland Park. I mean
if something happened to Highland Park than I would have seen the tributes
and references as appropriate but there was no immediate danger so they
seemed irrelevant and they often came up in times that broke with the tone. I
am sure someone from/living in New Jersey might enjoy these but even as
someone who has been to Highland Park several times and has family relations
there, I did not care too much. I also think there is a lot of world building
in motion and there is too much information regarding the tools and the
departments and officials that is overwhelming. I can also see a potential
romantic relationship being set up which might complicate the next book in
the trilogy by taking away from the plot. I will read the next book to see
some character development and relationships unfold and gain more
understanding of The Seems because the book was left on a cliffhanger.

Reviewer's Name: Isabella W.
Genres:
The Glitch in Sleep
Hulme, John
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The plot of The Glitch in Sleep is intriguing - I enjoyed the idea
that there are two different dimensions one called The World (where we live)
and the other called The Seems which controls The World via departments such
as nature, weather, and sleep. For example, the sleep department creates
dreams/nightmares, decides the hours of sleep a person receives if any at
all, and more. But the issue is that The Seems is a well-oiled machine and
depends on organization - if any of these departments do not completely do
their job and the issue is not fixed before the next day then something
called the Ripple Effect occurs which essentially unravels the Chain of
Events and foils the Plan. The Plan consists of organizing principles upon
which The World is managed and if The Plan is foiled, chaos ensues. Becker
Drane is a Fixer, someone who repairs malfunctions in The Seems that
negatively effect The World. One of the reasons I rate this book three stars
instead of five is because Becker is 12 years-old but acts adult-like, his
characterization does not feel appropriate for his age. In fact, all the
children act more mature than normal. At nine years old Becker fills out the
equivalent to a job application/aptitude test in which one of the questions
is something along the lines of “How would you change The World if The
World were being remade?” I can not imagine a nine year old answering that
sufficiently enough that a secret society responsible for the well-being of
The World and every person there would be impressed enough with a child that
they immediately hire him and trust him in deadly situations with advanced
technology. I do applaud the diversity in the book with representation from
countries not normally acknowledged in children’s literature. One thing I
also got a little irritated with was the constant tributes and references to
Highland Park, NJ, Becker’s hometown. The authors both grew up there but I
never lived there and I felt that the information about White Castle and the
different schools located there and other children’s names who were
probably were old friends of the authors were sort of unnecessary and did not
further the audiences’ love or Becker’s loyalty to Highland Park. I mean
if something happened to Highland Park than I would have seen the tributes
and references as appropriate but there was no immediate danger so they
seemed irrelevant and they often came up in times that broke with the tone. I
am sure someone from/living in New Jersey might enjoy these but even as
someone who has been to Highland Park several times and has family relations
there, I did not care too much. I also think there is a lot of world building
in motion and there is too much information regarding the tools and the
departments and officials that is overwhelming. I can also see a potential
romantic relationship being set up which might complicate the next book in
the trilogy by taking away from the plot. I will read the next book to see
some character development and relationships unfold and gain more
understanding of The Seems because the book was left on a cliffhanger.

Reviewer's Name: Isabella W.
Genres:
The Name of the Wind
Rothfuss, Patrick
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

When JRR Tolkein wrote Lord of the Rings, it revolutionized the fantasy genre and paved the way for many novels to come. 53 years later, The Name of the Wind was published, and while it may not have the grandiose setting, story, and lore, it is a fantasy journey that should not be missed.
You follow the life of Kvothe as he tells his famous story to a man for prosperity. The story itself is grand and epic, and is satisfying to read, and it contains action, magic, and love. I would recommend the book to anyone who is a fan of fantasy novels.

Reviewer's Name: Peter C
Awards:
Genres:
The Stand
King, Stephen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

After a super virus wipes out almost 90% of the entire global population, only a handful of survivors remain. That is where The Stand takes place; an America devoid of almost all human life, as the survivors attempt to rebuild their society, all while battling the sadistic Walkin' Dude who is out to destroy them. The novel is long, epic, and deep. It is, however, over
1,000 pages; however, give it time, and you will truly enjoy this journey. I would recommend this book to fans of epics like Lord of the Rings, Stephen King fans, or anyone looking for a good read.

Reviewer's Name: Peter C
Liu, Majorie
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I chose this book because comics are a type of novel that I find interest in. This is a fantasy book that takes place where monsters and humans are divided after a war, and monsters who are caught by humans on the other side are used to be sold and experimented on. The main character, Maika, goes on the other side in search for hope of her mother. This is highly recommended for anyone who enjoys comics.

Reviewer's Name: Mona H
Uprooted
Novik, Naomi
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Uprooted by Naomi Novik was an interesting read - with magic and mythical creatures - but I found that in the first few chapters I stepped away from the novel several times. The beginning was slow with not much action, more setting up the scenery and the laws of the land than anything else. The novel follows a girl named Agnieszka living in a quaint village called Dvernik by a magic infested forest where every ten years a mysterious and immortal wizard called the Dragon, who lives in a nearby tower, visits to pick one woman as payment for protecting Dvernik from The Wood. Agnieszka is chosen to her surprise, but her interactions with the infamous Dragon are almost boring - they share a typical, overused trope in a love-hate relationship that frustrates the reader. The two are also locked away in the tower where there are minimal outside interactions from any other characters for almost the entire first half with the exception of one of Agnieszka‘s bedridden friends. I found that the last half of the novel was the most interesting because that was when other characters from the faraway capital were introduced and the scenes were more fast-paced. Because the world building aspect in the beginning was making me impatient, the problem was that later when Agnieszka returns to her village, I spent a long time away from there that the characters and their relationships were hard to remember and I personally did not care for them. There were definitely characters I met in the last half that I empathized or was absolutely lucid with and I did enjoy all the plot twists because, of course, they were unexpected and added some excitement to Uprooted. Overall, the beginning takes off one star for me due to the inaction and some common young adult tropes were utilized, but I loved most of the characters and the plotline anyway regardless of the latter.

Reviewer's Name: Isabella W
Awards:
Genres:
In Other Lands
Brennan, Sarah Rees
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

In Other Lands follows young Elliot Schafer as he tumbles through a wall (well, his teacher bribed a weird lady to let him through the wall, but whatever) into another land at age 13. He's given the opportunity to go home or go to magic school, and, like any bright young kid who has ever read, like, any book ever, he decides to go to magic school. There, he befriends golden boy warrior Luke and stoic elf warrior Serene (our fearful nerd Elliot decides to take the council course as he is deathly allergic to exercise and also, killing), and the book follows their exploits throughout the duration of their time in school.

Ok, so, that synopsis does not even begin to do this book justice. I will be forcing this into the hands of any person that walks into the teen center that says that they have even a remote interest in fantasy. Because this was so good. The best thing I've read so far this year for sure (and I've already read like 20 things this year, so that's not nothing). Anyway, on to actual information about the book.

Elliot is kind of a jerk. On purpose. But his jerkiness is mostly hilarious, and a lot of the book is his witty, spot on assessments of himself, the world, and the people around him. Luke and Serene are equally nuanced as characters and are quite lovable despite their flaws. One of my favorite parts of the book was that elf culture has the same messed up gender roles and sexism that we humans do...but the male and female roles are reversed. It makes not just for some of the most hilarious passages that I've ever read, but also serves as probably the most effective argument against said gender roles being a part of any society. It was, quite frankly, brilliant. For example: “Do not have a catfight, boys, even if it is that time of the month,” said Serene, and when she saw them staring at her, she explained: “You know—women shed their dark feelings with their menses every month? But men, robbed of that outlet, have strange moodswings and become hysterical at a certain phase of the moon?”

Insanely great egalitarian commentary aside, this was an excellent coming of age novel. The relationship and friendship between our three main characters is complex, but they all love each other and grow so much together throughout the book. And at the end of the day, this book is not really about other lands, it's about the peoples that occupy them. As an added bonus, it demonstrates that communication and shared experiences amongst peoples could almost always lead to peace. In doing that, it also effectively skewers nationalism.

I really liked the romance in the book, but you figure out Elliot's end game partner (yes, Elliot is bisexual!) at about 50% of the way through the book. They don't actually get together until the end and its one of those situations where you want to knock their heads together and yell COMMUNICATE DANG IT at them until they realize they like each other and just make out or whatever. Speaking of which, there is a lot of sex in this one. It's mostly off camera, but the one scene that makes it in is really sweet.

I obviously loved this book. If I were to try to compare it to something, it's most like Carry On by Rainbow Rowell in that it's kind of a love letter to classic fantasy (it's more Tortall to Carry On's Harry Potter) that then transcends the original source material. It's quirky enough that it won't be for everybody, but I think a lot of readers will love it. I just purchased my own copy. Like, without waiting for a Goodreads deal. It's that good. Or, in PPLD parlance, it was Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome! 5 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza
Hutchinson, Shaun David
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Elena is not your average teen. As the only human proven to be birthed as a result of parthenogenesis (you might know this as a “virgin birth”), she’s been hearing voices from signs and inanimate objects. But things are about to go to the next level. One day, at work, the Starbucks Siren tells her to heal her crush, Freddie, who looks fine. But then, a kid they know comes out of nowhere and shoots Freddie. Then he disappears into the sky in a flash of light. And Elena DOES heal Freddie. And then, somehow, things get even crazier as the Siren tells Elena she has to keep healing people (which leads to more disappearances) or start the apocalypse.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of unique, quirky books that are more than a little strange (I call them wonderfully weird), and so this one was right up my alley. Elena is an extremely likable character, and we get to listen to most of her thought processes as she thinks about the mundane (her crush, her relationship with her ne’er do well stepfather) and the existential (why she has the powers, and should she use them?). The supporting cast is also pretty great: Freddie, the popular art student who didn’t even know Elena’s name before she got shot, was probably my favorite character. After getting killed, she really doesn’t care so much about what people think of her, and as a result her commentary was extremely snarky, sometimes hurtful and almost always spot on. Fadil, Elena’s best friend, was a good foil as the devout teen, but he also served to demonstrate a powerful male/female friendship. Because of the philosophical nature of the book, the plot takes a backseat to character development and metaphysical conversations. I probably highlighted more in this book than I have in any other in recent memory. The downside to this, though, is that the plot sags a little in the middle and the ending left me wanting a bit more as a lot of plot lines were left dangling.

Another big selling point of the book for me was that the premise immediately made think of this show called Wonderfalls which is a bit of a cult classic from the early aughts. Later on in the book, it’s pretty clear that the author had likely just binged all of Bryan Fuller’s early shows like Dead Like Me, Pushing Daisies, and yes, Wonderfalls as this book contains elements of each of those shows, and there is a straight up name drop of a location that delighted me to no end. If you are a fan of Bryan Fuller’s properties (including recent hits like American Gods), this is a read you should definitely pick up.

If you like to think about the ethics and the big questions – why are we here, what matters, how can you decide the value of one life over another – then you will love this book. It’s a wonderfully weird thought provoking read, and while it’s not perfect, the diverse, likable cast and philosophical quandaries make it something of a rare gem of a book. 4 stars. I really liked it.

Thanks to Edelweiss and Simon Pulse for the eARC, which I received for review consideration.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
Pet Sematary
King, Stephen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Review: If you have any pets, I recommend removing them from the vicinity!
This novel, coming in at around 400 pages, is a very chilling read. You follow an ordinary family in a not so ordinary town as they attempt to deal with the realization that anyone buried in the cemetery behind their house horrifyingly comes back to life. This all starts when they bury their cat, and they then find it beck in their house. This book is very good, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes horror, thrillers, or maybe people who like zombies.

Reviewer's Name: Peter C
Genres:
IT

IT

King, Stephen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Review: This book is incredible. One of the scariest novels I have ever had the pleasure of reading is also one of the longest. In this book you follow the journey of seven characters - all brilliantly well rounded and fleshed out, if I may add. You alternate between their experiences during childhood and adulthood of facing and fighting the demonic and supernatural clown, Pennywise. I recommend this book to fans of horror and Stephen King, or anyone who enjoys a long read of a good book.

Reviewer's Name: Peter C
The Way of Kings
Sanderson, Brandon
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Review: This book is amazing, period. Sanderson has created a truly living, breathing world with his debut novel in the Stormbringer Archives series, and I believe that this novel deserves a spot next to the classics of Tolkien and Robert Jordan. The book follows the separate journeys of multiple characters across the world of this universe; however, even though the different tales seem separate, they all end up interconnecting and melding into one truly grandiose story. I recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of the Lord of the Rings and such, fantasy enthusiasts, or anyone who is simply searching for a good book. However, the length of the book, being over one thousand pages long, may put some people off, but if you give this book the time and dedication that it truly deserves, you will be rewarded with an amazing experience.

Reviewer's Name: Peter C
Genres:
The Iron King
Kagawa, Julie
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Review: The book The Iron King by Julie Kagawa tells the story of Megan Chase and her quest to rescue her step-brother form the Iron King. Megan was a normal girl, she was shy, unpopular, and smart. She lived in a small town with her family and only friend, Robbie, until one day, her step-brother is taken by the Iron King to the land of Nevernever. She and Robbie decide to face the challenges that Nevernever has to throw at them. Will Megan rescue her step-brother or die trying? I would rate this book a 5 out of 5 because it kept me in suspense and I enjoyed its many twists and turns. A good friend recommended this book and I loved it so much that I'm reading the rest of the series. I would recommend this book to people who like exciting fantasies.
Grade 9 Age 15

Reviewer's Name: Gabrielle F
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Carroll, Lewis
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, is a rather peculiar adventure tale filled with all sorts of oddities and misfits. The story begins with the main protagonist, Alice, as she follows the White Rabbit into the infamous rabbit hole. In Wonderland, or so it seems, she meets several creatures all with the strangest backstories and personalities. The story is carefully crafted so that much of the book confuses the casual reader. A great concern for detail is needed to understand the novel and its full meaning. The book shares the complexities and hardships of growing up, in which the Lewis Carroll absolutely nailed. He also shares his negative opinions about the British government through the main antagonist, the Queen of Hearts, who is meant to be a high and powerful monarch, but never does anything. Overall, the book is a great read and it is certainly entertaining to spend some time to pick out the many small details hidden in the book. 8th Grade.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L
Story Thieves
Riley, James
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Story Thieves, by James Riley, is an adventure novel that deals with a book-ception type of concept. Owen, one of the two main protagonists, meets Bethany, the other main protagonist, while he catches her mysteriously disappearing into books. He agrees to keep her power a secret on one
condition: he gets to visit his favorite Kiel Gnomefoot series. They both go on a quest through several books to try and find Bethany's missing father, but end up messing up the book series. The duo encounters all sorts of baddies, and the many plot twists keep the reader on the edge of their seat.
The uncomplicated storyline keeps the plot straight forward and allows for good development of the characters and settings. The novel is a pretty entertaining read, and I would recommend it to people who just like a good, solid, and basic adventure novel.
Steven L, 8th Grade.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L
City of Rats
Emily Rodda
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The book City of the Rats in the Deltora Quest series, by Emily Rodda, takes place in the mythical land of Deltora, and sends you on a quest with the three main protagonists, Lief, Barda, and Jasmine. The novel is a classic adventure quest, where the protagonists face off against the truly evil Shadow Lord. This particular book brings you along with the characters, as they are forced to enter the forbidden City of the Rats in order to find another lost gem to restore to the Belt of Deltora. In it, Emily Rodda succeeds in developing the characters and setting. The monsters and magic have a certain sincerity in their wrongdoings that you don’t find in many adventure tales. The protagonists also have this relentlessness for stopping the Shadow Lord, and the despite their fears, push on through the most dreadful of times. Overall, the book is meant for people who like fantasy adventure novels, and I would recommend not only this singular book, but the entire Deltora Quest series to anybody willing to read it. Steven L, 8th Grade.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L
Awards:
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry
Backman, Fredrik
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Fredrick Backman’s wit and humor ties in wonderfully with a tear-jerking finale. From beginning to end, I was torn between laughing and weeping. The innocence and wonder of childhood is perfectly captured, while also including the remorse of being thrust into the real world. Elsa, a seven year old girl, has an eccentric grandmother, the kind who just wants to make her happy. Her grandmother, however, does this in an odd way; shooting-paintballs-at- pedestrians-off-her-balcony type of way. And it works. Although Elsa is chased and bullied at school, her grandmother can paint a wonderful picture in her mind. But too soon, she dies of cancer, leaving behind a trail of letters for Elsa to discover, taking her on her last ever quest from her
grandma: giving the letters to their recipients. On the way, she discovers the story behind faces she never gave a second thought. Backman paints a masterpiece with his words, keeping me hooked and enthralled at every turn of this book.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Jordan T.
Genres:
Tempests and Slaughter
Pierce, Tamora
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In Arram Draper’s first year at Carthak’s School for Mages, his work ethic and raw power make him something of child prodigy. As such, he is singled out for individual studies with two other similarly passionate and hard-working students: Varice and Orzone. Varice is a charming young lady with a gift for cooking magic and charm for days, and Arram quickly finds himself drawn to her, perhaps as more than a friend. Orzone is the leftover prince which means that he’s the fourth of four in line for the Emperor’s throne, though that list seems to be shortening quickly. The three soon learn that they will not just have to contend with their studies, but a growing struggle for power and control of the Empire that is threatening to change Carthak forever.

If you’ve read some of Tamora Pierce’s other works (if you haven’t, stop reading this review and pick up The Song of the Lioness quartet RIGHT NOW – it is apparently awesome in audio format as well), the lead character of this story will be familiar to you. I read and re-read her books continually in my youth, but while there was a huge nostalgia factor in reading this for me (so many easter eggs!), I absolutely would have still enjoyed it if I were totally new to the character. While you certainly should read her other works, you don’t need to have read them to enjoy this one.

Tempests and Slaughter starts when Arram is just 10. Precocious little bugger that he is, Arram started school a full year early. Because he’s so young at the beginning, the start of the book read as very middle grade to me, which wasn’t a bad thing; it just wasn’t what I was expecting. As in her other series, Pierce perfectly captures the pain and biological changes that come with puberty and I found myself transported back to those awkward times in the best of ways. After Arram gets a little older and meets up with Varice and Orzone, the book begins to pick up as all three characters get developed and the worldbuilding picks up. This is definitely a book that’s primarily focused on character development and worldbuilding, but as Arram is a lovable character and the worldbuilding is rich, the almost total lack of plot did not bother me too much. A very interesting mystery appears later in the book, though it felt a little rushed and the conclusion a bit forced. However, it nicely sets things up for the next installment which I will unquestionably be pre-ordering.

All in all, this was a great read. If you like your fantasy with a healthy dose of complex characters and intricate world building, you’ll really enjoy this one. I’m going to go re-read some backlist Tamora Pierce now, and I suggest you do the same. 4 stars.
Thank you to Random House and Netgalley for the free electronic copy for review consideration. Tempests and Slaughter is released on 06 February, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove
Moore, Christopher
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is riddled with real humor. It is a dark thriller and will leave you wondering how the author managed to not split his sides while writing it. It is an easy read and the break up of character plus chapters makes me think I am watching it in film. This would be an interesting story in film but definitely hilarious nevertheless.

Reviewer's Name: Myra
Genres:
The Trumpet of the Swan
White, E.B.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is a fun adventure as we go with Louis to repay his father's debt. We visit a small pond in Canada, Camp Kookooskoos, Boston, and even a zoo! This book is full of love, kindness, and adventure!

Reviewer's Name: Aubrey
Awards:

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