Interview with Laura Powell, Author of Burn Mark

Our special guest today is Laura Powell, the author of Burn Mark.  This new Bloomsbury release features one of my favorite romance tropes – forbidden love!  Let’s see what Laura has to say about her new book.

[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Laura Powell] I’m half-Welsh, half-American, and live in a London attic. I can read fortunes in tea leaves and Tarot cards, and like to bake cakes and binge-sleep in between books.

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for Burn Mark?

[Laura Powell] It struck me that a witches’ coven is quite like the Mafia: they’re both secret criminal organizations, hunted by the law, a source of fear and loathing to many, but seen as quite cool and glamorous by some.

Since modern-day witches would make great gangsters, I thought there would need to be a specialist police force to protect people from black magic – the Inquisition. Once I’d got these two opposing forces, I decided that my heroine, Glory, should come from a famous crime coven, while my hero, Lucas, should belong to an equally famous family of inquisitors. When their worlds collide, sparks fly!

[Manga Maniac Café] What three words best describe Glory?

[Laura Powell] Stroppy, ambitious, brave

[Manga Maniac Café]  What are three things Lucas would never have in his pocket?

[Laura Powell] Any kind of discount voucher, a lock-picking set, lint

[Manga Maniac Café] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Laura Powell] The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood. She’s probably my favourite contemporary novelist. Now that I’ve finished that, I’m on to her post-apocalyptic thriller, The Year of the Flood.

[Manga Maniac Café] Thank you!

You can learn more about Laura by visiting her website.

Check out the trailer!

You can purchase Burn Mark from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below.

[PR] VIZ Media Debuts New Shojo Manga Series JIU JIU

{ED. Wolf shapeshifters? Count me in!}



High School Gets Complicated For A Girl From A Family of Demon Hunters In A New Shojo Series From VIZ Media

San Francisco, CA, June 19, 2012 – VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), the largest publisher, distributor and licensor of manga and anime in North America, unleashes the demon-hunting romantic fantasy of Touya Tobina’s shojo manga series, JIU JIU, on July 3rd. The new series will be published under the company’s Shojo Beat imprint, is rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens and will carry an MSRP of $9.99 U.S. / $12.99 CAN.

Born into a family of “Hunters,” Takamichi’s destiny is to pursue and slay demons. When her twin brother is killed, she is saved from despair by a pair of Jiu Jiu – shape-shifting familiars – in the form of two wolf pups named Snow and Night. Now Takamichi is in high school and an active Hunter. Snow and Night can’t wait to attend school in their human form to "protect" her. But are they ready to go off leash…?

“JIU JIU is an intriguing new series that offers a strong combination of romantic drama, supernatural action, and humor centering on the deepening bonds between a girl and two wolf shapeshifters,” says Annette Roman, Editor. “Growing up in a family of demon hunters isn’t easy. Things become more complicated when the pair of cute wolf pups grow up into her bodyguards, learn to shift into (hot!) human form, and decide to follow their mistress to school. Don’t miss this new rhapsody of swords, fangs and romance from Shojo Beat this summer!”

Manga creator Touya Tobina is originally from Tokyo. In 2005, her series, Clean Freak Fully Equipped, won the Grand Prize in the 30th Hakusensha Athena Newcomers Awards. Her series Jiu Jiu originally debuted in Japan as a one-shot manga in the shojo magazine, Hana to Yume.

For more information on JIU JIU, or other shojo manga titles from VIZ Media, please visit

About VIZ Media, LLC

Headquartered in San Francisco, California, VIZ Media distributes, markets and licenses the best anime and manga titles direct from Japan.  Owned by three of Japan’s largest manga and animation companies, Shueisha Inc., Shogakukan Inc., and Shogakukan-Shueisha Productions, Co., Ltd., VIZ Media has the most extensive library of anime and manga for English speaking audiences in North America, the United Kingdom, Ireland and South Africa. With its popular monthly manga anthology SHONEN JUMP magazine and blockbuster properties like NARUTO, BLEACH and INUYASHA, VIZ Media offers cutting-edge action, romance and family friendly properties for anime, manga, science fiction and fantasy fans of all ages.  VIZ Media properties are available as graphic novels, DVDs, animated television series, feature films, downloadable and streaming video and a variety of consumer products.  Learn more about VIZ Media, anime and manga at

Review by Elsa–The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan


Title: The Son of Neptune

Author:  Rick Riordan

Publisher:  Disney Hyperion

ISBN: 978-1423140597


{ED. Here is another review written by my young friend, Elsa.  Good work, kiddo!}

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Percy is confused. When he awoke after his long sleep, he didn’t know much more than his name. His brain-fuzz is lingering, even after the wolf Lupa told him he is a demigod and trained him to fight. Somehow Percy managed to make it to the camp for half-bloods, despite the fact that he had to continually kill monsters that, annoyingly, would not stay dead. But the camp doesn’t ring any bells with him.
Hazel is supposed to be dead. When she lived before, she didn’t do a very good job of it. When the Voice took over her mother and commanded Hazel to use her “gift” for an evil purpose, Hazel couldn’t say no. Now, because of her mistake, the future of the world is at risk.
Frank is a klutz. His grandmother claims he is descended from ancient heroes and can be anything he wants to be, but he doesn’t see it. He doesn’t even know who his father is. He keeps hoping Apollo will claim him, because the only thing he is good at is archery—although not good enough to help the Fifth Cohort win at war games. His big and bulky physique makes him feel like a clumsy ox, especially in front of Hazel, his closest friend at camp. He trusts her completely—enough, even, to share the secret he holds close to his heart.
Beginning at the “other” camp for half-bloods and extending as far north as the land beyond the gods, this breathtaking second installment in the Heroes of Olympus series introduces new demigods, revives fearsome monsters, and features other remarkable creatures, all of whom are destined to play a part in the most important quest of all: the Prophecy of Seven.


I wanted to read The Son of Neptune because I have read the Jackson Chronicles before. It was an exciting, action packed fiction book. The book taught you that the importance of believing in what you want, sticking by your friends’ side and standing your ground were key. When I read “The Lost Hero”, the book before the Son of Neptune, I knew that Rick Riordan was a great author and I would love all of his books. Also, like the Hunger Games, it has the power to make you realize what you want in life.

I liked Percy as the protagonist. He was definitely gutsier in this book than the rest. I can say that I liked everything and I didn’t hate anything. Rick Riordan is another author that I am officially obsessed with.  I had such a hard time putting his books down and stepping away from Percy.  Would he survive the pressure?  Would something worse happen to Frank and Hazel? I need to read the rest of Rick Riordan’s books!

Hope you like my reviews so far and try to catch the next one coming soon!!!!



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Review: Princess of the Wild Swans by Diane Zahler


Title: Princess of the Wild Swans

Author: Diane Zahler

Publisher: Harper Collins

ISBN: 978-0062004925


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Princess Meriel’s brothers have been cursed. A terrible enchantment–cast by their conniving new stepmother–has transformed the handsome princes into swans. They now swim forlornly on a beautiful heart-shaped lake that lies just beyond the castle walls.

Meriel will do whatever it takes to rescue her beloved brothers. But she must act quickly. If Heart Lake freezes, her brothers will be forced to fly south or perish.

With help from her newfound friends Riona and Liam–a pretty half-witch and her clever brother–Meriel vows to finish a seemingly impossible task. If she completes it, her brothers may be saved.

But if she fails . . . all will be lost.


I read and enjoyed The Thirteenth Princess, so I was curious to see if I would like Princess of the Wild Swans as well.  The fairy tale that this book is based on has never been a favorite, and I wondered how I would feel about Diane Zahler’s reimagined version.  I liked it!  A lot!  The characters, once again, are what made the story, as well as the urgency of Meriel’s task.  If she doesn’t find a way to save her brothers soon, winter will set in and they will have to fly to a warmer climate.  Since it is autumn, that doesn’t leave her much time to come up with a solution!  To make matters worse, there isn’t anyone for her to confide in, because everyone seems to have succumbed to the evil Lady Orianna’s enchantments.

Diane Zahler’s princess protagonists make these stories for me.  They are kind and concerned, and though they might be slightly spoiled, when the chips are down and danger beckons, they will do anything to save the people they love.  Though she is frightened and confused, Meriel quickly finds the determination to save her brothers.  She knows that something terrible has happened to them – they all just disappeared, after all – and she is going to figure out where they all went.  With her father bewitched by her new, beautiful stepmother, she has no adult to turn to.  After chance encounter with Riona, her brother Cullan’s girlfriend, Meriel discovers some equally determined allies.  Both Riona and her brother, Liam, will do anything to help Meriel.  They know that the new queen is evil, and they fear what will happen to the kingdom if she triumphs in her evil deeds.

Just when Meriel is ready to give up, the townsfolk provide assistance to keep her moving doggedly forward.  Hers is a terrible task, one that she isn’t prepared to tackle, but with help from her friends and her subjects, she finds the resolution and the courage to get the job done.  Meriel matures and gains confidence in her ability to save her family, and as she discovers an impressive inner strength, she makes things happen.  She knows that if she fails, her brothers will remain swans forever, and that is all of the motivation she needs to find a way around every obstacle that springs up in her path.  Her brothers, and even her father, may have treated her like a helpless child, but Meriel will show them all that she is more than capable of taking care of herself, and them as well!  Even though each road block was more overwhelming than the last, and Meriel was overcome with self-doubt, she continued to do everything possible to save her brothers.

Diane Zahler’s writing is reminiscent of Patricia McKillip and Robin McKinley, two of my favorite fantasy authors, so it’s no surprise that I am enjoying her books as well.  I just purchased A True Princess ($5.99 for my Kindle – WIN!).  She has, in fact, been moved to my auto-buy list.  I can hardly wait to see what other adventures she has in store for her very relatable and likeable characters.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by the author


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Review: Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood


Title: Born Wicked

Author: Jessica Spotswood

Publisher: G. P. Putnam

ISBN: 978-0399257452


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Blessed with a gift…cursed with a secret.

Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship – or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word . . . especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood – not even from each other.


When I signed up for this book tour, I wasn’t expecting to receive a review copy, so I was delighted when one appeared in my mailbox.  After reading the introductory letter written by Arianne Lewin,  Executive Editor at G P Putnam, I was even more excited to dive into the book.  I haven’t read many YA books set in the 1800s, let alone an alternate New England.  I love reimagined time periods, so Born Wicked had me intrigued.  I was a tiny bit skeptical that it would be worthy of all of the gushing praise, but once I started reading, I could not stop.  I was totally sucked into Cate’s world from the first page.  I immediately felt sympathy for her.  I immediately connected with her plight.  Here is a young woman, still grieving for her mother, who has the weight of the world on her shoulders.  No wonder she seems to be so joyless and stern at first.  She is scared to death that if her sisters’ secret is exposed, she will lose them, too.

Cate’s mother was a witch.  Cate and her two younger sisters are witches, as well.  In their New England of the 1890s, being a witch is a terrible crime.  The Brothers firmly keep control of the populace, swiftly doling out punishments when they discover behavior contrary to their stern teachings.  Suspected witches are imprisoned in a mental hospital or sentenced to hard labor on a ship, or worse; they simply disappear.  Women are second-class citizens in Cate’s society.  They must be ever vigilant against the evil influences of suspected witches, and upon their majority, they must declare their intention before God and the members of their church.  Girls only have two choices; to marry, or to join the Sisterhood.  If a girl doesn’t know which she prefers, the Brothers make the decision for her.  Ugh!

In this grim setting, Cate not only has to worry about her own future, she has her sisters to worry about.  Unlike Cate, they are chafing to use their magic, and they aren’t always discrete about it.  In a world where being a witch can prematurely and very unpleasantly end your life, Cate is stressed about about everything.  Not even her father knows their secret.  Cate was made to promise to keep their secret and to keep Tess and Maura safe at her mother’s death bed.  She takes her promise very, very seriously, because she understands the consequences of their discovery.  She has heard about the girls who have been disappearing, either sent to the insane asylum or simply vanishing without a trace.  She is terrified that they will be next.  In addition to this burden, she also has romantic entanglements to work out.  This is one love triangle that actually didn’t grate on my nerves, and I am so curious to see what happens with it in the next book.

I thought the stark, stifling world of this New England was fascinating.  The Brothers control just a sliver of this alternate North America – other stronger, more progressive countries control the rest.  The borders are kept firmly closed against outsiders.  Books and manuscripts are regularly banned and burned.  Not following the teachings of the Brothers gets you labeled a deviant, and puts you at the mercy of their cruel punishments.  Women are always treated more harshly than men, and even the simplest of infractions can lead to disaster.

I could not put this book down.  I thought about it when I was forced to do something else.  I counted the hours until I was free to pick it up again.  The characters charmed me, especially Cate and her sisters.  Their interactions were as complicated and compelling as their relationships.  The younger girls don’t understand Cate’s reluctance to use and learn about her magic.  They don’t understand her fury when they carelessly weave spells where others might see them.  While it is obvious to see how much they love each other, it is also painfully obvious to see how Cate’s rules are going to tear them apart.  Cate’s greatest nightmare is only an eye-blink away, but the tighter she tries to control Maura and Tess, the faster the time bomb starts ticking.  With three powerful witches in the same house, struggling to exert control over themselves, it was only a matter of time before something awful happened.  And happen it did, with exploding glass, splintering furniture, and an emotional chasm that will take more than a hug to mend. 

I found Born Wicked to be a unique read; I don’t think I have read anything else quite like it.  Jessica Spotswood took the usual paranormal tropes and twisted them up into something new and wonderfully compelling.  YA tropes that normally drive me nuts kept me firmly engaged in the story, wondering what would happen next.  The character development kept me enthralled, too.  While I would never call Cate a carefree kind of girl, she does begin to accept herself and to open up to others, which made her an even more sympathetic character for me.  When she kept herself isolated, she was taking the chicken exit; without putting herself out there, without accepting any emotional risk, she came across, at first, as a stunted, immature girl.  As she began to take emotional risks, she began to blossom into a believable, likeable young woman.

So, do I have any gripes about Born Wicked?  Yup, only one.  It’s part of a series, and it is going to be a long, long wait for Book 2!

Grade: A-

Review copy provided by {teen} book scene

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Teaser Tuesday–Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

Last week it was all about Mr. Kennedy. This week, it’s all about Born Wicked, the first book in Jessica Spotswood’s Cahill Witch Chronicles. This book, with its reimagined New England, is freaking fantastic.  I couldn’t put it down! 

But Maura stares at me in the mirror, like she knows what I’m thinking. “We’re witches, Cate. We were born that way.  Magic isn’t shameful, no matter what the Brothers would have us believe. It’s a gift. I wish you would accept that.”

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

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Review: Winterling by Sarah Prineas


Title: Winterling

Author: Sarah Prineas

Publisher: Harper Collins

ISBN: 978-0061921032


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

“We live here, my girl, because it is close to the Way, and echoes of its magic are felt in our world. The Way is a path leading to another place, where the people are governed by different rules. Magic runs through them and their land.”

With her boundless curiosity and wild spirit, Fer has always felt that she doesn’t belong. Not when the forest is calling to her, when the rush of wind through branches feels more real than school or the quiet farms near her house. Then she saves an injured creature—he looks like a boy, but he’s really something else. He knows who Fer truly is, and invites her through the Way, a passage to a strange, dangerous land.

Fer feels an instant attachment to this realm, where magic is real and oaths forge bonds stronger than iron. But a powerful huntress named the MÓr rules here, and Fer can sense that the land is perilously out of balance. Fer must unlock the secrets about the parents she never knew and claim her true place before the worlds on both sides of the Way descend into endless winter.

Sarah Prineas captivates in this fantasy-adventure about a girl who must find within herself the power to set right a terrible evil.


When I saw the coal black horse with glaring red eyes on the cover of Winterling, I immediately wanted to know more about it.  It’s a Middle Grade fantasy, and as I have been having quite a bit of good luck finding satisfying stories with these books lately, I couldn’t wait to start reading it.  Once I picked it up, I could not put it down again.  This is an exciting, magical read with a strong and feisty heroine who is moved by her heart to do the right thing.  My favorite kind of character.

Fer feels that she doesn’t fit in her world.  She hates school and the hurtful taunts of her classmates, and worse, once she climbs aboard the bus and is taken to the city, she starts to feel ill and muddle-headed.  Her grandmother, Grand-Jane, doesn’t seem to understand how wrong Fer feels when she’s surrounded by the city and her schoolmates, and she keeps insisting she go to school.  She has no sympathy when Fer gets into trouble for fighting, and Grand-Jane expects Fer to stay out of mischief.  Miserable, the girl forces herself to suffer through one endless day after another.

One day on her way home from school one day, she witnesses three wolves attacking a dog.  Upset that they are ganging up on the smaller animal, Fer bravely scoops up a fallen branch and wades into the middle of the fight, fearlessly chasing the wolves away.  When she checks the dog for injuries, she discovers, much to her surprise, that the dog isn’t a dog at all; he is really a strange boy named Rook.  Rook tells Fer about the Way, a magical portal to his world, and suddenly, Fer’s life will never be the same again.

This book had me hooked when Fer, despite her fear, bravely defended Rook against the wolves.  She is a girl who doesn’t know how to back down.  There is no challenge too frightening for her to turn away from, and she constantly puts herself at risk to save those around her.  I loved her bravery, and more than that, I loved her selflessness.  Fer never wanted anything in return, and she readily gave of herself, in a land that had long since lost the ability to be kind or generous.

Once Fer is swept up into the adventure of a lifetime, she learns the truth about her parents and the magical land she belongs in.  As she tries to discover the fate of her parents, she is challenged at every turn by the beautiful Lady and the hold she has over her subjects.  Breathtakingly beautiful and frighteningly powerful, her iron will keeps her subjects in line.  Enchanted by her glamor, Fer’s own magic slowly begins to uncoil within her, causing just enough doubt to break the Lady’s magical hold on her.

With Rook’s reluctant help, Fer searches for a way to fix both Rook’s world and her own.  With the Way opened, the weather in both realms is spiraling out of control, causing devastation and destruction.  Spring has gone into hiding, and nobody knows why.  Only the Lady’s bloody Hunts bring back the warm weather, but Fer isn’t fooled.  She knows that something is wrong, and that the Lady is leaving a terrible stain on the land. 

I was enchanted by Fer, an unhappy, sullen girl who, like the land she comes to love, slowly begins to bloom.  There is a strong and caring magic within her, and even though she tries to deny it, it begins to grow, compelling her to use it for the good of those around her.  Her kindness transforms those around her, even the angry and tricky Rook, a boy bond by a thrice sworn promise to do things he abhors.  Both characters change and mature during their adventures, and that made this book a delight.  As they learn to care for others, I learned to care for them. 

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher


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Review: The Book of Wonders by Jasmine Richards


Title: The Book of Wonders

Author: Jasmine Richards

Publisher: HarperCollins

ISBN: 978-0062010070


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Sorcerers, Cyclops, Djinnis . . . Magic.

Thirteen-year-old Zardi loves to hear stories about fantastical beings long banned from the kingdom of Arribitha. But anyone who is caught whispering of their powers will feel the rage of the sultan—a terrifying tyrant who, even with his eyes closed, can see all.

When her own beloved sister is captured by the evil ruler, Zardi knows that she must risk everything to rescue her. Along with Rhidan, who is her best friend, and an unlikely crew of sailors led by the infamous Captain Sinbad, Zardi ventures forth into strange and wondrous territory with a seemingly impossible mission: to bring magic back to Arribitha and defeat the sultan once and for all.


I spent most of my holiday vacation reading.  I am amazed by all  of the great stories I was able to enjoy during my time away from work.  The Book of Wonders is one of the titles that I devoured, and I literally spent most of a day flipping the pages of this fun middle-grade adventure.  An exciting spin on the 1001 Nights, there is plenty of action, adventure, and death-defying feats to keep readers entertained.  I liked the characters, especially the spunky Scheherazade (nicknamed Zardi).  She managed to get herself into, and back out of, an alarming amount of trouble over the course of the book.  With her best friend’s help, she remained surprising unscathed even during the most trying of circumstances.

Zardi lives with her family and her best friend, Rhidan, in the city of Taraket.  Her country is ruled by the evil sultan, Shahryar, who has outlawed all magic from his kingdom.  He is a cruel and vicious ruler, and he delights in the discomfort and pain of others.  When Zardi’s older sister, Zubeyda, is chosen to be the sultan’s next praisemaker, Zardi knows only fear.  The career of each praisemaker is terrifyingly short, and each ends with a hunt.  Zubeyda will be tracked down and killed!  Zardi is determined save her gentle sister from this cruel fate, and she will risk her life to save her!

This is a fast-paced read, with one frantic adventure following another.  With the help of Rhidan, Zardi leaps into the adventure of a lifetime.  She thinks that the key to saving her sister is finding the Varish, a group of rebels threatening to overthrow the sultan and return Aladdin, the rightful ruler, to the throne.  Rhidan, who was abandoned by his family and raised  by Zardi’s family, believes that the sorcerers of the Black Isle will hold the key to his true identity, as well as help save Zubeyda.  And so the two sneak away in the middle of night, and soon find themselves working on Sinbad’s ship.

I thought Zardi was a fun character.  She refused to allow anything to get in the way of saving her sister.  Not even being a shipwreck,  the Cyclops, or the queen of snakes could deter her from her goal.  Each new challenge was met with the grim knowledge that she could not fail, or her sister would die.  This thought kept Zardi and Rhidan’s trials even more exciting, because if they took too much time to get out of each new scrape, there wouldn’t be enough time left to save Zubeyda.  This really cranked up the tension!  I didn’t want Zubeyda to die any more than Zardi did!  Her frustration with delays rang true, as did her desperation to do anything to save her sister.  I couldn’t have been as brave, but failure wasn’t an option for Zardi, so she firmly stifled all of her fears and charged head first into each new challenge.

If there is one element to the story that I did not enjoy, if was the sultan’s one-dimensional character.  I wish that he had been just a little more fleshed out, instead of just being a convenient catalyst to jump-start Zardi and Rhidan’s journey.  He needed a backstory, or something to make him just a tiny bit sympathetic; instead, he is just evil, evil, evil, and that made him a little boring.

I think that with the strong adventure elements, The Book of Wonders will appeal to both boys and girls.  It’s hard to resist the pull of a good adventure story, and this one keeps galloping along, never allowing the reader to catch their breath.  While the story is satisfactorily wrapped up, there are enough open story threads that I am curious to follow Zardi and Rhidan on future outings.  There’s that Aladdin guy they never found, and Rhidan still has to learn more about who he truly is.  And how to control his powers.  I am looking forward reading more about both Rhidan and Zardi.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by {Teen} Book Scene

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