Mini Reviews From Quarantine pt. 1 // 5 Books w/ Family Relationships, Romance, & Amazing Messages

Me, reviewing books?

This is when you know the quarantine has gotten to me. I’m mostly kidding, but actually sort of not, because I just went back to look at my previous posts and realized the last time I wrote reviews (and they were mini, not even full) was in July. Which was almost a year ago. So I’d say this post is way overdue.

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One good thing about being at my house almost all the time now is that I’ve been able to read a lot of new books!! I read some of these books using Overdrive, but some of them are ones I’ve owned for a while and never got around to reading and then realized how disappointed I was in myself for having an unread book on my shelf, and with the free time, thought it would be even more disappointing if I didn’t read it now. Both access to books online and unread books on my shelves allowed me to have books to read even in this time of staying inside.

Thankfully, after spending March and April trying to get access to books online, my library started doing curbside pickup in May! Now, in mid-June, they’re opening back up with distancing measures and mask guidelines and everything, and I haven’t gone yet, but I’m hoping to go really soon.

Anyway, I’ve read a lot of books I enjoyed and wanted to talk about in the last couple of months, and after promising mini reviews both in my April and May recaps and going through the comments to make sure I’m talking about all the books people wanted to hear about- I’m finally actually writing them! This post was originally going to include over ten books, but it was getting way too long, so I’m only going to talk about five books in this post and review the rest in a part two later this month.

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10 Blind Dates

 

Title: 10 Blind Dates

Author: Ashley Elston

My Rating: ★★★★★

 

I think this might be the most adorable I’ve read in quite a while! It was so good that I felt compelled to write out some of my thoughts on Goodreads, which I never used to do, and I’m glad I did it because now I can easily recall some reasons why you should most definitely read it. Besides the cover, because that’s just a reason all in itself.

  • This book is full of family relationships! The main character, Sophie, goes to stay at her grandmother’s house along with dozens of her aunts, uncles, and cousins, and the bond the whole family has is so sweet. She also has an amazing relationship with her older sister, and I loved the texts between them- and she and her cousin Olivia (!!) are close as well! Oh, and her grandmother, Nonna, is hilariously amazing.
  • The premise of going on blind dates set up by her family is amazing. It does seem crazy, but the dates are so entertaining to read about. Some are more serious, some are hilarious, some are embarrassing. And her whole family places bets on the dates and falls over themselves to pick the best date…it’s a whole game.
  • I had a personal connection to the setting. Some of my extended family lives in the same town where this book was set and I recognized a lot of the places and one of her date locations was somewhere I go every year and that made it all the more cozy to me!

Overall, this book is brimming with family relationships, hilarity, cozy Christmas vibes (although there’s nothing wrong with reading it in the dead of summer), and was completely heartwarming. I had to give it five stars because it made me so happy, kept me thoroughly entertained, and is a book I will definitely reread!

trigger warnings: high-risk pregnancy threats, gray area cheating

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Love From A to Z

 

Title: Love From A to Z

Author: S.K. Ali

My Rating: ★★★★☆

 

I feel like the title of this book sums it up more than perfectly: Love From A to Z is a love story at heart, and I thoroughly enjoyed not only the romance, but the other plots and messages that were a part of this novel!

  • The dual perspectives allowed you to get to know both Adam and Zayneb so well. I loved how this book was written in the diary-ish format, what with both Adam and Zayneb being interested in the “marvel and oddities” of the world. Both of their voices were distinct and I felt like I got to know them both separately.
  • I just loved how both Zayneb and Adam were complex characters with so many layers. Zayneb is focused on dealing with the continued Islamophobia she faces at school, as well as with the death of her grandmother. Adam is dealing with his diagnosis of MS and grieving his mother. Yet, somehow despite everything going on in their lives, they find each other through it all.
  • Family relationships were everything in this novel! From Zayneb’s amazingly fun aunt she’s staying with in Qatar to Adam’s relationship with his widower father and little sister…I feel like nothing makes characters more relatable than when they have sweet interactions with family members.
  • The epilogue. I mean, read this for the epilogue, if for nothing else.

I just loved this book, and as much as I feel like I just word vomited about it…it’s the best? So sweet, so layered, so filled with vibrant characters, such a wonderful read. It wasn’t quite five stars for me, but I still loved it and it just barely missed my imaginary mark that no one knows what it is, not even me!

trigger warnings: Islamophobia, death of loved one, talk of war

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You Asked for Perfect

 

Title: You Asked for Perfect

Author: Laura Silverman

My Rating: ★★★★☆

 

I knew from the second I saw the Goodreads synopsis of You Asked for Perfect that I was going to be able to relate to this story, and I wasn’t wrong. Out of all the young adult books set in American high schools, I think this one got it right the most. I loved almost every second of reading this novel.

  • The academic pressure- they got it right. I don’t usually talk about my experience with school, but I, like the main character, Ariel, place so much pressure on myself to excel academically. I’m not quite to his level (he is valedictorian, after all), but honestly, reading about all his AP classes and staying up late to finish work and putting aside everything else to do well is so relatable, I almost cried. I could never have read this book at any other time besides quarantine, because had I been in actual school at the time of me reading this, the stress of this compounding on my ordinary school stress would have been way too much.
  • I loved reading about Ariel’s Jewish culture and family. This book put a lot of emphasis on his Jewish culture, and I loved the scenes where his family would eat dinner together (this made me want his mom’s matzo ball soup SO much) and go to his little sister’s soccer games and celebrate holidays and generally be adorable.
  • The romance was so sweet! I feel like for me, my memories of this book are much more of the school side of things and everything with Ariel’s faith and family, but it’s important to note that the love interest, Amir, was so soft and sweet and the romance was such a lovely asset to the story.

This book is so so important! I think I gave this 4 stars because there were some smaller subplots that I didn’t love, but overall, wow, this book really got the high school experience right. Although as a note: if you put academic pressure on yourself, I would not recommend reading this during the school year! It might cause more stress.

trigger warnings: anxiety & panic attacks, hospitalization

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I Wish You All the Best

 

Title: I Wish You All the Best

Author: Mason Deaver

My Rating: ★★★★☆

 

This book was so, so good. I’ve always been so in love with books that manage to be quietly powerful, and that’s exactly what I felt like I Wish You All the Best was.

  • Ben’s experiences were shattering and eye-opening. The story starts with Ben coming out as nonbinary to their parents, and getting thrown out of their house. Watching them go through the heartbreak of being rejected by their parents, have to adjust to life living with their estranged sister and her husband, going to new school, finding a counselor and dealing with the emotions of all of this- wow. I can never understand the depth of what Ben went through, but reading about their experiences is the closest I can get.
  • I loved reading about Ben’s relationship with their sister! Hannah, Ben’s sister, also left their parents’ house, though she chose to. Their relationship was complicated, as Ben felt that she had abandoned them when she left years ago, but Hannah also takes him in and she and her husband (I forgot his name but he was so kind!!) start to build a relationship with Ben.
  • Nathan!! Nathan is Ben’s friend and eventual love interest (it says that in the synopsis so not a spoiler I guess?) and he is everything sweet and sunflower-y and friendly and soft and I just adored him. What a gem.

As much as this book is sad, it also has so many moments of hope and I just really wanted to give Ben the biggest hug. It was the first book I read with a nonbinary main character, and I found it to be such an important, powerful novel.

trigger warnings: homophobia, misgendering (accidental and purposeful), parental abuse (physical and emotional), transphobia, detailed anxiety & panic attacks, detailed depressive episodes, suicide idealization

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The Astonishing Color of After

 

Title: The Astonishing Color of After

Author: Emily X.R. Pan

My Rating: ★★★☆☆

 

Before reading this book, it had been sitting on my shelf unread for way too long. Despite it sort of putting me in a reading slump for part of May and not quite living up to my high expectations for it, I did overall have a positive experience with The Astonishing Color of After!

  • I loved the culture and family. The main character, Leigh, travels to Taiwan to visit her grandparents after her mother dies, and getting to read about the culture and places she visits in Taiwan was so amazing! As Leigh is biracial, she also struggles with feelings of belonging, both in America and in Taiwan. I also thought her relationship with her grandparents, whom she never has met before, was really sweet. I was not a fan of her relationship with her dad at all (I really didn’t like him), but there was good development with that!
  • I didn’t see the magical realism coming. I failed to actually pay attention to Goodreads and see that there was magical realism in this- and while it threw me off guard, it was magical, so yay! I also felt like the flashbacks were nice, but ended up making the book move at a much slower pace, which is why I fell into a reading slump while reading this.
  • The romance seemed a tiny bit unnecessary to me. I didn’t have a problem with the love interest, Axel, and I always think “we were best friends until we were more” is so cute…but it just seemed kind of irrelevant to me.
  • The ending though! I think what saved this book for me was that I loved the ending. Everything that I was sort of “eh” about fell into place way better than I would have imagined, resulting in me actually enjoying this book!

I wish I had loved this book more, but it’s not as if I didn’t like it. Like I said, the ending really pulled everything together for me and took this from a possible 2 star to a definite 3 star! I would still recommend it, especially for the Taiwanese culture and for following Leigh’s journey with herself and with her art.

trigger warnings: suicide, suicidal thoughts, depression, death of loved one, electroconvulsive therapy 

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I really loved writing these reviews, and I hope you enjoyed reading them! Before I wrote this I was feeling like it might be the most fun ever to write reviews, and was kind of doing it out of blogger obligation, but it turns out I love nothing more than writing bullet point after bullet point about books I love.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you’re all doing well! Please take care of yourselves, stay safe, and continue to educate yourselves on how we can make the world a better place and how you can help to do that. I love you all!✨

Have you read any of these books, or do you want to? What did you think of them? I’d love to talk with you in the comments!

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Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

 

45 thoughts on “Mini Reviews From Quarantine pt. 1 // 5 Books w/ Family Relationships, Romance, & Amazing Messages

  1. I so can’t wait to read 10 Blind Dates sometime, it sounds amazing. Everybody that I’ve seen mention it has made it sound absolutely adorable and it sounds like such a fun book! I have a couple of the others on my TBR but I’m pretty sure that that’s the one I’ll pick up first.

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  2. Olivia, this post was so fun to read!! Your mini-reviewing skills are on another level 🥺💗 I’m so glad that you enjoyed Love From A to Z! It’s such a powerful book, and I would honestly recommend it to everyone. Even if they don’t like it, I think they’d still be able to get something about it. & I loved reading your thoughts about I Wish You All the Best! I was actually a little disappointed in it… The writing was a slog to get through, and I felt like I didn’t actually *know* Ben. Like, the book was following them, yet it felt like I never got to be inside their mind, & I was simply following their outward reactions to things?? It’s been a long time since I read IWYATB though, so maybe I’m remembering things wrong. Anyways, I’m so happy that you liked it more than I did 💗

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    • WHAT Caitlin thank you so much!! You have no idea how happy this comment made me.🥺 Thank you!! Ahh, yes, you’re so right, I think everyone could get something from Love From A to Z too. The overall reading experience was so amazing and I already sort of want to reread it! I’m sorry to hear you didn’t love I Wish You All the Best- I can definitely see your point. Characters are super important to me, so I can definitely understand why not feeling like you know a character well enough would bring down your enjoyment level of the book overall. Wishing you the happiest of reading, and thank you again for your kind words!!💗

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  3. I love this mini-review format, and seems like you had a great reading streak with some amazing books! 😍 I’m an absolute sucker for books with good and/or complex family dynamics, so I’m definitely checking these out. And you know what, I don’t think I’ve read a book with a non-binary MC yet either so I’ll have to read I’ll Wish You All the Best ASAP as well! 😮

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    • Ahh, thank you, Ngoc! I definitely think my reading during quarantine has been really enjoyable, which is so nice.💛 All of these books really did have awesome family dynamics- I love them too. I hope you enjoy IWYATB! It was my first time reading a book with a non-binary MC too, and I believe it’s OwnVoices which is amazing. Thank you for this comment!🥰

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  4. I felt similarly about The Astonishing Color of After — while it was lovely and emotional, it didn’t quite live up to my high expectations. I’m so glad you enjoyed I Wish You All the Best, though! 😊 Hope your reading continues to go well!

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    • Yes!! That’s a really good way to put it- I was trying in my review to express that it wasn’t the book for me, while trying not to undermine that I did still think it was a very beautiful story. Thank you so much, Margaret!❤️

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  5. I read 10 Blind Dates in the beginning of the year and I just thought it was so much fun! I had heard everyone talking about how cute this book was, but honestly my expectations were low, so I was happily surprised when it ended up being a 4 star read!

    The more I talk about Love From A to Z the more I realize that I absolutely adored that book with every part of my heart and soul! I think seeing this kind of relationship in books is so very rare, and I really appreciated it. Plus the way it dealt with Adam’s MS diagnosis and the relationships that form because of that just were so very amazing to read about. I love me some good disability rep in books! And yes! That epilogue absolutely sealed the deal for my love of this book!

    Since I had a review copy and didn’t know how intense this book was, I made the mistake of reading You Asked for Perfect during a super stressful time in school! But for me it worked out because it was so nice to read about someone going to something similar to me! And of course I absolutely loved the Jewish rep because I never see enough main characters that actually practice Judaism. So even though this book stressed me out a lot, I still have such overwhelming love for this book and I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

    I tried reading The Astonishing Color of After a few years ago when there was a lot of hype, but when I started it I could tell it wasn’t for me, so I immediately put it down. I’m sorry it was such a disappointment for you, but I’m glad to see that I wasn’t the only one that this book didn’t work for, since up until now I’ve only seen gushing reviews.

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    • Wasn’t it?? I really couldn’t believe how cute it ended up being. I already know that I want to reread it around Christmastime, because that would be an absolutely perfect time to revisit the characters and the setting would fit, too.

      Me too! I love when my love for books only continues to grow, and especially when I can talk about it with other people who also loved the book.💛 I agree, Adam’s MS and its effects on his life and everything Zayneb had going on for her really made for such complex character relationships. Ahh, the epilogue- be still my heart.

      I’m glad reading You Asked For Perfect when you did turned out all right for you! I don’t think I would have been able to do it during school, so I admire your perseverance on that one. I love it so much, and I agree that the Jewish rep was so, so interesting and good to read about!

      I’ve heard a lot of good things about The Astonishing Color of After as well- and while I ultimately enjoyed it, mostly thanks to the ending, I definitely see why you put it down. I think I probably would have too, except I already owned it and didn’t want to waste the money spent on it… anyway, thank you so much for this comment, Malka! I loved reading it so much. xx

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  6. Almost all of these books sound like such great reads, I couldn’t pick just one to gush over with you in the comments!! I need to add so many of these to my Goodreads TBR, omg. Also, I see you’re currently reading Northanger Abbey!?!?!? I loved it!! I hope you’re enjoying it thus far hehe xx

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    • They really are!! Aww, that made me smile to read- they definitely deserve all the gushing and I’m so happy to hear that you added some of them to your TBR.😍 I am!! It’s going slowly yet steadily, so far I only have good things to say about it and I love that the main character is a bibliophile. Thank you so much, Macey! xx

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  7. These mini reviews are fantastic, Olivia, so many books, I don’t even know where to start! You have me so, so curious about 10 Blind Dates and Love from A to Z, both sound so lovely and like stories I’d really enjoy! 🙂
    I’m really happy to hear you liked You Asked for Perfect overall, I just related to it in so many ways and it was such a lovely read ❤ and I'm glad about the astonishing color! I was a bit unsure about the magical aspects while reading this, too, but somehow by the end of it I found myself completely swept away 🙂

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    • Aww, thank you! That means a lot, as you’re the absolute queen of bullet point reviews.❤️ Oh my goodness, I really do think you would love both 10 Blind Dates (it’s the cutest contemporary ever) and Love From A to Z! I’m very excited to hear your thoughts on them if you get around to them.
      I agree, You Asked for Perfect was so good! Even though it was a bit stress inducing, it was really powerful. Yes to Astonishing Color! The ending kind of pulled everything together for me and made it a really good reading experience. Thank you for this kind comment, and happy reading! xx

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  8. yay! i’m glad your library got a new system so that you can still pick up books there!

    i loved the marvel and oddities journal in love from a to z! i remembered this being my most favorite thing about the book, and i was even interested in journaling like that myself, which i ended up not really going through with because i don’t journal as daily, but still, i think it was such a smart way to get to know these characters better!

    i’m glad you enjoyed you asked for perfect and i wish you all the best so muchh! i’d never realized how great the titles of these two books are until i wrote them down now, hahah.

    i hope you continue to write mini reviews, i love them, honestly! bullet points are my favorite way to write/read reviews tbh, and it helps me a lot to flesh out my thoughts in a cohesive way, plus it’s nice to read as well. i think it’s a great idea to sick with it if you decide to write more mini reviews!

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    • Ahh, thank you, Lais!! I’m really grateful for my library making it possible to continue getting books even during quarantine.💛

      I loved that touch, too! Unique things like that in books always make me so excited. I feel like I wouldn’t be the best at keeping up with a marvel and oddities journal either because I’m also not as consistent with my journaling- but the idea is so interesting and fun!

      Haha, you’re so right. I never thought about it either, but they really are good book titles.

      Thank you so, so much for the feedback! I definitely want to do more of these, I surprised myself with how much I loved writing this post and I completely agree that writing reviews with bullet points makes it so much easier to express my thoughts, especially since I don’t write reviews all too often. You’re the kindest! xx

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  9. god, just looking at ’10 blind dates’ makes me go back to the december feels. it’s so cool that you know some of the places in the town, that must literally be so magical and fun to read about!

    ‘you asked for perfect’ = me getting ptsd about exams lol. i literally just woke up from a math (test) anxiety dream and I HAVENT TAKEN MATH FOR THE PAST 3 YEARS, EXPLAIN TO ME WHY IT’S STILL HAUNTING ME

    fr tho, ‘i wish you all the best’ was so heartbreaking to read but at the same time,,,,, comforting???? like you see this kid being treated badly his whole life but then all these people come together to support and comfort him :’) and i like that

    i loved this post, olivia! i always run away from writing *gag* reviews BUT i love reading them lol ❤

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    • It was so magical!! I just can’t recommend 10 Blind Dates enough if you want all the December vibes, its Christmas energy is impeccable.🥺

      Aaah, You Asked for Perfect is such a lovely book but I definitely wouldn’t recommend it if you’re in school right now or in a stressful mindset- I’m very grateful that I read it over quarantine because reading it during school would have been detrimental to my mental health for sure.

      Aww, I love that!! That’s such a nice way to put it, you’re right, the people surrounding them definitely added more heartwarming parts, while there was still huge amounts of heartbreak.

      Thank you so much, Nimika!! I’m completely the same way, but I actually enjoyed writing these, and if you write any soon I hope you also love it💛

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  10. I’m so glad you’ve been able to catch up on some books during quarantine.
    Your description of You Asked For Perfect sold me. A realistic portrayal of high school is so persuasive.
    Ohh, I know what you’re talking about with The Astonishing Color of After and not seeing the magical realism coming. Magical realism is actually a genre I don’t really like. I’m not sure how to explain exactly why. I think part of is does have to do with how it’s not contemporary and not fantasy either, but I think most of it is that all the magical realism books I’ve read (which isn’t many) seem to have a similar vibes–they’re more floaty than both contemporary and fantasy. Both the plot and the magic feel less structured. Whereas in fantasy, there can’t be magic plot holes, it seems more up in the air in magical realism. What are your thoughts?

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    • Thank you! Me too. (:
      It really is so realistic- so accurate that I never would have been able to read it during the school year because it would have hit too close to home. I think you’ll like it- or at least I hope you will!
      Ohh, I definitely see what you mean there. I actually really like magical realism kind of for the reason you don’t like it, haha! If I know to expect it, I like the way magical realism is a twist on the contemporary world. In a cheesy way, it gives me hope for a more magical world. I also have a hard time keeping up with worldbuilding, so I like how the world is just…our world. I do remember one time you saying that you didn’t enjoy the magical realism in The Raven Boys (I think it was?), I definitely do get a “floaty” vibe from those books, though I did love their ambiguity. But all this is coming from a contemporary lover, so maybe it makes sense that I would prefer magical realism to fantasy.

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      • Ohh, I love your explanation and yes, I do think I dislike them for the same reasons you do like them. I think one thing about magical realism books I’ve read is that I’m never really expecting it. I feel like they don’t really advertise it front and center in the descriptions. Yes, it was The Raven Boys! I’m pretty sure that’s one I didn’t realize was going to be magical realism.

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  11. So glad you enjoyed You Asked For Perfect and I Wish You All the Best! I really want to read I Wish You All the Best, but I can currently only get it as an audiobook, and I think I’d rather wait to read a physical copy when my library opens back up. 🙂 I definitely have to agree with you on You Asked for Perfect – it’s a pretty realistic portrayal of high school (although I hope most counselors aren’t agreeing/convincing students to skip lunch in favor of more classes), but I did read it during the school year… and it SUPER stressed me out. So sadly, I have pretty bad memories of it. I would probably only personally recommend it to adults because it’s just way too real in my opinion. Lovely reviews though!

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  12. i’m so happy you enjoyed all of these books, olivia!! it’s actually so cool that you were familiar with the setting of 10 blind dates — i always forget that a lot of the cities/towns that contemporaries take place in are actually real lmao

    and aahh i’m so glad you loved love from a to z! the family relationships were truly so amazing to read, and i also adored the epilogue so much 🥺 i think the author wrote a short story of adam and zayneb for eid, but i didn’t get the chance to sign up on the google form to read it aha

    i loved reading all of these reviews!! ❤

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    • Ahh, thank you, May!💖 Haha, same, especially because none of them ever seem to take place anywhere I’ve been, at least not until I read 10 Blind Dates- it was such a nice surprise to start reading and realize I knew what they were talking about.

      It was SO good!! Oh my gosh, just thinking about the epilogue makes me so happy. I had no idea about the short story, but that sounds absolutely adorable.🥺 Sometimes I feel like if I could just read books and books of my favorite ships being cute and living life together even if it’s plotless…I would be so happy.

      Thank you again! I’m really glad you enjoyed this post, I really appreciate your kind comment. xx

      Liked by 1 person

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