March 2024

      Just then another knock, and the priest began to speak to the ghost, but was cut off when the artist yelled, for he had seen the ghost sitting in the fourth pew. He could see him clearly, and later, when the priest told him he imagined it, he would become angry, forgoing any further conversation and retiring to bed. The priest, though, would have his own experience later that night.
      The priest lay in bed. What really was that the artist saw? He wasn’t sure he exactly believed the artist, but he hadn’t meant to upset him either. As he was beginning to fall asleep, he heard three clear knocks close by in his room. They sounded odd—not quite something of this world. As with anything before in his life, he knew there was a dead man in his room. He began to pray. He prayed for the dead man, and as he did so, he began to feel the chill in the air and soon fell asleep. 
The next few nights passed in peace. The priest congratulated himself on freeing the ghost.

      “I really think I scared the ghost.,” laughed the priest. The artist smiled and began to climb up the scaffold.

      Knocks from one corner, then the other.

      The artist felt cold and wanted to leave. He finished the paint he mixed and left. However, the priest grabbed hold of his arm. 

      “Let’s face it.”

      The artist freed himself and looked to see the ghostly form of a man, all in black, glide down the aisle toward the sanctuary light.

      “Father! Do you see him? There! There! He’s just blown out the sanctuary light.”

The priest went to investigate, while the artist left.

      The following weeks passed with a familiar rhythm. The artist and the priest would work, and as soon as the chill became present, the artist would pack up and leave.

           On the nights that the priest did not join, the artist would make newspaper blinders and do his best to ignore the ghost, even when the ghost began to burn candles.

      This story is quite incredible and is written in detail by Louis Adamic in his article for Harper’s. The artist’s name is Maxo Vanko, and the priest who was the Father of the Croatian Catholic Church of St. Nicholas is Father Zagar. 

      The author wrote that he believed his friend and wrote the article before other publications picked it up.

      What I find amusing is that in his book “Real Hauntings: America’s True Ghost Stories,” Hans Holzer apparently speaks to the priest and is still upset at having never seen the ghost for himself. “Father X. paused. I was impressed by his well-told story, and I knew at once why Father H. wanted no part of us. How could he ever admit having been in the presence of a spirit without having seen it? Impossible.”

  1. The Millvale Apparition
  2. Holzer, Hans. “The Restless Ghost of the Parish Priest.” Real Hauntings: True American Ghost Stories.
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      Eveen the Eviscerator is skilled, discreet, professional, and here for your most pressing needs in the ancient city of Tal Abisi. Her guild is strong, her blades are sharp, and her rules are simple. Those sworn to the Matron of Assassins—resurrected, deadly, wiped of their memories—have only three unbreakable vows.

      First, the contract must be just. That’s above Eveen’s pay grade.

      Second, even the most powerful assassin may only kill the contracted. Eveen’s a professional. She’s never missed her mark.

      The third and the simplest: once you accept a job, you must carry it out. And if you stray? A final death would be a mercy. When the Festival of the Clockwork King turns the city upside down, Eveen’s newest mission brings her face-to-face with a past she isn’t supposed to remember and a vow she can’t forget.

      Thanks to the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for the review copy. All opinions are mine.

      At this point in the review, I haven’t even finished reading it, and yet I already know I love it. Here’s why: kick butt female main character, Eveen. There truly isn’t anything wrong with her character, Well except maybe that she kills people. But besides that small detail, I love her.

      Eveen wagged a finger. “That’s solid literature! Asheel hunts maniacs—even though he’s a maniac! A maniac who hunts other maniacs? Genius! And Terrors of the Demon Lands is reputedly an eyewitness account.”
      Fennis regarded her skeptically.

      Isn’t this like a lot of anime plots, lol? And speaking of loling, I literally did that a few times, and again I’m not even 60% into this book.

      Also, I just really enjoy books where the main characters are above the age of thirty, or just doesn’t put an age on the characters, either way just another reason Eveen needs to be in more stories. Please, write more stories with her in it.

      Then there’s everyone else in the story. Fennis and Ennis are adorable, and I would want them on my side. Baseema, another kick butt woman, whom I would not want to cross. Sky is super smart, strong, and capable. The quads were funny and scary. The Banari made me chuckle. Really having a hard time here to think of one bad thing. I guess, let me finish reading the story.

      Another thing is the world building is absolutely beautiful. I felt like I was there. The festival sounded neat, and I got Guild Wars vibes from it. The Clockwork King, the Pirate Princess, and the Golden Bounty, magic called shimmer, laboratories with machines to see auras! Speaking of laboratories, that brings me back to this part:

      “You’ve used this before, then?” the girl asked.

      “On myself, yes. And cats. Regrettably, they won’t let me experiment on students.”

      “You shared your aura with a cat?” Eveen asked, half-expecting the man to lick himself.

      “Yes. Remarkable creatures. Half in this world and half . . . who knows.”

      “What is it cats are thinking about?” the girl asked.

      Ennis shrugged. “Mostly fancy themselves predators who hunt and eat us. Delusions of grandeur. Anyway, the principle here should be the same.

      LOL

      I found this while looking up the author:

      But much of his beloved sci-fi and fantasy fiction didn’t pass, or barely passed, his mother’s litmus test: It lacked Black and Latino characters, women, and LGBTQ people at the center of the stories.

      Gabriel had from a young age written fiction as a hobby, loving the idea of world-building, of dystopias, of a kernel of history spinning out into a new alternative reality. And the absence of people like him in those stories colored his writing from day one.

      “I felt a need for more diverse tales with more diverse characters drawn from more diverse sources,” he says. Link

      This story doesn’t lack. I mean, if I finish this book and all the characters are killed off in insane manners, I might still give this at least three stars. Even while being incredibly saddened and disappointed, because I rarely start writing reviews in the middle of books.

      Ok. I am back from finishing this story. I loved it. I love novella’s because they are short, and I really wouldn’t want to add anymore to this particular story. However, I want to read more stories involving all of them. Most of all, I want more stories with and about Eveen. I started a book that was kind of close to this one in terms of smart, but also kind of goofy leading lady main characters, and had to stop reading it. It wasn’t Eveen, it was similar, but not close enough, because it wasn’t Mr. Clark’s writing. No hate to that other novel, though, I’ll try again later on.

      Anyway, I don’t have anything else to say, and so, this concludes the love letter to this book.

      Please write more about Eveen, pretty please?

Published by: Tor Publishing Group
Pub Date: 06 Aug 2024
Genre: Novellas & Short Stories | Sci Fi & Fantasy
Pages: 208
Date Read: 14 Mar 2024
Rating: ★★★★★

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It is cold and rainy inside the church. Every once in a while a large truck, or is it from the train men joining the cars together that is causing the church to shake? How late is it anyway, the man doesn’t know. Ever since he started working on the murals, he’s stopped taking his watch with him so as not to be tempted or tricked into thinking he’s tired.

      The man has been painting on top of a creaking scaffold now for four days. He is painting the Madonna, a difficult endeavor for him. He really was feeling tired and cold, but he wasn’t ready to quit yet, after all, he was on a short deadline.

He’s sees movement below him. Must be the priest, he reasoned. Why is he gesturing like that? Waving his arms around in that manner? The artist is annoyed, didn’t he ask the priest not to enter the church during this time? Well, he is probably practicing for his sermon. The artist chooses to ignore him, besides what right does he have to keep the priest out of his own church. It is laughable, really. Why too is the priest not saying anything? The artist reasons he really isn’t trying to distract him. “To the devil with him!” He really must work on this and does his best to ignore him.

          That night the man returns to the parish house where he is staying with the priest. The dogs go mad, barking and pawing him. The priest makes no mention of having been in the church during their normal cake and coffee, and the artist doesn’t ask, he only wants to get to bed.

      The next few days pass by with little incident. He works as much as he can and when he is at his most exhausted he joins the priest for their meal in the early hours of the morning. On the eighth night he is back on the scaffold, mixing paint, he happens to look down and see the priest again waving about. He feels strange. He can hear the priest mumbling and assumes the pries is prating. The artist does his best to ignore him, and again feels vexed at the intrusion. Still though, the cold, the weirdness, he decides it’s enough for tonight, and he will finish with the last of the paint he mixed, and retire early.

      The dogs are barking and excited again, and he is surprised that with all the commotion to find the priest asleep on the couch.

      “You must be sleep walker, ‘ he says to the priest when he wakes up a few moments later.

      The priest laughs, says no, then asks the artist to explain himself. And so the artist does, recounting seeing the priest on two nights come in and wave about. His assumptions…

      After the artist is done, the priest takes a moment and then explains that there have been stories of a ghost, though he himself has never encountered it. He goes on to tell the artist how worried he had been for him, high up on the scaffolding, and has been keeping guard outside, in case the artist sees the ghost and injures himself from fleeing.

      From that night on the priest joins the artist, and it is on that first night that he issues a challenge to the ghost. “Come on, ghost, show yourself and see if the gospodine profesor and I are afraid of you.”

      The artist laughed and began to work, when from the back of the church came a tapping or knocking sound. The artist felt a chill then asks “Hear that, father?”
      “What?”
      “That strange knock back there?”
      “Yes; but wasn’t it a creak in the scaffolding??”
      “I don’t know, I don’t think so?”

Note: I will continue this story next week, there you will be able to find my references.

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      Thanks to the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for the review copy. All opinions are mine.

      I journal every day and like to sometimes break up the block of text with doodles. However, I do not draw very well. So when I see any “Learn To Draw” books that are as adorable as this, I usually request it.

      Sometimes though, the how-to’s leave a lot of directions out, assuming you can make it to their shapes, when in reality it’s very hard for someone with little drawing skill to actually recreate those shapes. This book however is easy to use, and has really cute birds to draw.

Title & Author: Kawaii Birdies by Jen Budrock
Published by: Quarto Publishing Group – Rock Point
Pub Date: 07 May 2024 |
Genre: Arts & Photography | Comics, Graphic Novels, Manga
Pages: 144
Date Read: 12 Feb 2024
Rating:★★★★★

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      This week I focused on why we see ghosts in our dreams and if it is just the subconscious or if like some believe, they really do appear.

      So far in my very limited research, it’s thought that when you dream of a ghost it represents unresolved issues, or the manifestation of your grief.1 But what about all of the anecdotal stories where the dead communicate something important, urgent even, that a dream couldn’t predict?

      Let’s ignore the completely reasonable possibilities that it’s the subconscious mind working over something and using the symbolism of a ghost. Or that the brain is acting out a play in which the dreamer accomplishes something by speaking with someone who has passed on. Instead, this is going to be focused on the stories that aren’t so easily explained. Starting with the common stories shared by people all throughout the world who have dreams of someone who was alive at the time they went to bed, dream of them saying goodbye, and awake to find out that the person has indeed died. These stories are adapted from various books and sources linked in references.

      Mr. Hans Holzer pulled up outside an impeccably clean church. There was nothing at all about it to suggest a haunting, and yet that was why he was here. For the purpose of this week’s story though, I am not focused on why he is there, but instead one of the priests he meets. After being told by the oldest Father that he wasn’t going to speak on the subject of it’s resident ghost, Mr. Holzer has a conversation with the assistant priest that tells him a curious story of when he was studying theology in Croatia.

      While there he made a friend, who like him, believed in the existence of ghosts, even when their peers scoffed at the idea. The friends made a pact that the first to die should come back and give a sign to the other. Not to long after the priest knew his friend had died after seeing him sit in a chair smiling and waving to him whilst he was asleep. He later learned that his friend had died in an accident at around the same time as his dream. (Holzer The Restless Ghost of the Parish Priest)2

      This next story is about a woman who states she was having money problems at the time of her grandmother’s death. She began to dream of her grandmother repeatedly telling her that if she needed money to go look under her mattress. The woman ignored the dreams, but they persisted. So finally decided to see what she would find, she goes and looks under the mattress and finds $1,500 in Mexican Pesos.3

      I am a huge fan of Nuke’s Top 5 and there is a clip where a woman who had recently lost her husband was in a sleep clinic being monitored for her breathing issues. As she is sleeping, her sleep apnea starts and in the clip you can see a pale hand reach out and nudge her.4 (go to about the time mark 1:00:00). I know this isn’t about dreaming, but I liked the story too much not to share.

  1. World of Dreams
  2. Holzer, Hans. “The Restless Ghost of the Parish Priest.” Real Hauntings: True American Ghost Stories.
  3. Money under the mattress
  4. Sleep Apnea
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Published by: Harlequin Trade Publishing
Pub Date: 09 Jul 2024
Genre: General Fiction (Adult) | Sci Fi & Fantasy
Pages: 288 pages
Date Read: 01 Mar 2024
Rating:★★★★☆

      The Dallergut Dream Department Store by Miye Lee is a beautifully written story about a woman named Penny who is a new employee at the store. This story is set in a universe where there is a plane of existence for those that live in the dream realm and humans who go there in that in between state of just falling asleep and dreaming. They can buy dreams from any dream maker and or store. What follows is a series of small tales about the lives of those in this realm and the customers who come to the story.

      I really loved how well thought out this story is. It is smart and heart warming. There were times when the story was describing the way dreams influence our feelings throughout the day and I was like, “oh man that is clever!” All of the characters have their own personality and I cared the most for Penny, Weather, and Dallergut. The atmosphere is cozy, and for a lot of the book I kept this as my bed time book.

      There was only one chapter I had a hard time reading. It dealt with death and a few times I decided to just skip it. The story was great though and I wanted to know how the characters would handle it, so I went back and read it. I wasn’t disappointed.

      The translator’s note is so sweet. You can tell they loved their work on this book and I hope they (and the reader’s) get their wish for a sequel.

      Thanks to the author Miye Lee, Harlequin Trade Publishing, and NetGalley for the review copy. All opinions are mine.

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West facade of Petit Trianon 002

If I told you there is a story about two woman in the early twentieth century who seemingly were transported to just before the French Revolution, would you believe it to be true?

In 1901, two British women Charlotte Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain, decided on taking a tour of the Petit Trianon. During the course of their walk, they became lost and began to experience incidents they wouldn’t be able to explain. Not being able satisfactorily answer what they experienced, they spent years piecing together evidence, then wrote a book under the pseudonyms Elizabeth Morison and Frances Lamont.

      What is interesting about their story is that they took great pains to figure out what they went through, and both these women were respected. Charlotte Anne Moberly was the first principal of St. Hugh’s Hall. “Annie’s credentials earned the confidence of parents who would not normally consider further education for their daughters. Under her leadership the numbers of female students at St Hugh’s Hall increased, and it was renamed St Hugh’s College. The college has a radical tradition: during its early years it had an active role in the women’s suffrage movement in Oxford and was part of the Oxford Women’s Suffrage Society. “1

      Miss Jourdain “left Corran in 1903 to become vice-principal and, from 1905, tutor in French at St Hugh’s, at a sacrifice of income and status that was rewarded when she succeeded Miss Moberly as principal in April 1915. In these years she emerged as a complex, controversial, and powerful personality. “2

      So here they are, vague notion of where they want to go in mind, supported by a Baedecker’s map. The first thing they encountered was that Moberly saw a woman in a building nearby shaking out a white cloth. However, Jourdain makes no account of this in her story.

      Marie-Antoinette, 1775 - Musée Antoine Lécuyer

Walking on they both come across two gardeners that were styled in long grayish green coats and tricorn hats. According to their later findings, that style had not been worn since Marie Antoinette’s time. While standing there, Jourdain writes that she saw a little cottage with a woman and two girls standing in the doorway with jug. This was not seen by Moberly. They were directed by the men to go up one of the paths, and as they followed it, they both had a sense of gloom and depression. The path they were on lead them to a gazebo type structure with a man sitting in the middle giving off a hostile air. Neither of the women wanted to go past him. The very air and woods around them changed, becoming “flat and lifeless”. 3 (Moberly & Jourdain 5)     

They chose a path to their right and began walking, when this time they were approached by another man who came running to them, telling them to continue on in the direction they were going to get to the maison. He wore buckled shoes and disappeared as suddenly as he appeared.

      Coming across a large lawn, Moberly saw “a lady was sitting, holding out a paper as though to look at it at arm’s length. I supposed her to be sketching, and to have brought her own camp-stool.” (Moberly & Jourdain 8), while Jourdain had a feeling of a person being nearby and needing to move her skirts out of the way. 3 (Moberly & Jourdain 20)

      Lastly, they both encountered a young man who directed them the proper way to gain entrance to the building, where in Moberly’s account she saw a wedding party walking arm in arm around the room and was trying to hear what guide was saying. “When we were in the front entrance hall we were kept waiting for the arrival of a merry French wedding party. They walked arm in arm in a long procession round the rooms, and we were at the back, — too far off from the guide to hear much of his story.”3 (Moberly & Jourdain 10)

      But in Jourdain’s version she “looked round the rooms in the wake of a French wedding party. ”  with no mention of the guide talking or the actual people having been in the room. Her account makes it seem as if they just departed rather than waiting for them like in Moberly’s version.3 (Moberly & Jourdain 20)

      It’s a neat story as it is, made all the more interesting when you take the women’s character into consideration. Neither women seemed in their lives to be ones to make a story like this up. They do a huge amount of research, and provide their evidence as to validate what they saw was real.

      There are many theories as to what they actually experienced (if we take out the paranormal), but my vote is on the theory that the French poet Robert de Montesquiou was basically holding a fancy dress party there, and the women inadvertently stumbled upon it. The huge glaring flaw in this though, is that many of the structures (the gazebo, the ponds and streams- not mentioned here, but are mentioned in the story) hadn’t actually existed when the women were touring the area. 

      Anyways, it’s a fun little read and is free. Links provided below.

References

  • About Moberly
  • About Jourdain
  • “An Adventure, with Appendix and Maps: by Moberly, C. A. E. (Charlotte Anne Elizabeth), 1846-1937; Jourdain, Eleanor F. (Eleanor Frances), 1863-1924 Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming.” Internet Archive, London, Macmillan, 1 Jan. 1970, Book
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Published by: Tor Publishing Group
Pub Date: 09 Jul 2024
Genre: Cozy Fantasy
Pages: 384
Date Read: 23 Feb 2024
Ratings: ★★★★★  

Sarah Beth Durst wrote one of my favorite books of 2020. That story was about a woman who did magic with bones, on a mission to save her husband from death. It was a beautiful love story that had me hooked and crying at the end. That story, however, felt darker, and there was more at stake for the characters than in “The Spellshop.’ By no means is this a remark on this story negatively. It is more of a remark on the wide range of her story-telling.

      “The Spellshop’ is a story about a librarian who escapes the revolution happening in the capital city with an illegally created sentient plant and five packed crates of magic books. 

      She flees back to her home island and struggles with whether she should share the magic or keep it secreted away for fear of the possible consequences. See, magic is banned for everyone, but only those designated. If she doesn’t use her resources, though, the islanders will suffer, with their land and animals dying. She can see that they need her help desperately.

      Kiela is kind and brave; however, she hadn’t started the story that way. Her character grows throughout, from quiet and reserved to strong and outgoing.

      Caz (the sentient talking plant), is by far my favorite character. He’s fierce and protective, and except for water, he’s fearless as well.

      To judge this book against “The Bone Maker” would be unfair, as this is a cozy fantasy and the content is nowhere near as dark. This is more like a comforting lie-in, snuggled under a heated blanket.

      Ah! I almost forgot about the winged cats and the cloud bears. I understand I was supposed to be scared of the cloud bears, but I would absolutely be the idiot cooing at them, trying to get their attention. Maybe even try to hug them? I would be the basis of the cautionary tales told to keep the children away from the cloud bears.

      And the cats! I would also love it if winged cats were real. The cover illustration of a winged cat napping is so adorable. I can easily imagine how it would be to hold one; I bet they are soooo soft!

      Finally, the world-building is amazing! Her writing is clear and descriptive, and I had an easy time seeing the town, the steps, the garden, and the cottage that, just like “The Bone Maker,” I will be able to visit in my mind for many years from now.

Thanks to the author Sarah Beth Durst, Tor, and NetGalley for the review copy. All opinions are mine.

Highlights –

Chapter Twenty-Seven — Page: 283

      She would never have believed how attached she could become in such a short amount of time.
-=-=-=-=-=-

Chapter Twenty-Seven — Page: 284
      “You can be alone with me.”
-=-=-=-=-=-

Other books read by this author: The Bone Maker
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To Be Cursed

This tale of the Lady in White is probably one of the earliest accounts. Perchta of Rozmberk at the age of twenty was married off by her father to a man she doesn’t agree with, Lord John of Lichtenstejn (also known as Jan and Johann). Recently widowed and living with his mother in law and sister, all three of them made her life hell. It’s well documented in the letters Perchta writes herself, “Take me away from these evil people and you will merit praise, as if you released a soul from purgatory.”1

            Indeed, she goes on to write to her father, “they treat me, for at present I need this greatly; I would like to know Your Grace’s will about how I am supposed to exist in this [situation]; but you should know already that I feel exceedingly lonely and desperate.”2

      So here she is, married off and the only reason he marries her, is because he’s in debt and thinks she will have a large dowry. However her father failed to pay what was promised, leaving her to have to beg her brothers for funds.

      “That a number of his aristocratic peers intervened with him to improve his treatment of Perchta shows, however, that his neglect of his bride exceeded even male tolerance for how one mistreated one’s wife, at least if she were a Rozmberk daughter.”2 and “Perchta reiterates her human status in late December 1450 (Letter 16). Writing to her father, she reminds him that she is his child and that he should have buried her rather than married her to Lichtenstejn, and pointing out that there is a limit to the shame a person can humanly bear.”2

The Tales Begin

      It is said that on John’s death bed he asked for her forgiveness and when it was denied he cursed her.4 I found one site claiming she was burned at the stake when she practiced black magic in a church to get her beloved Jan to love her after he abandoned her for another woman. Either there was another Perchta and Jan of Rozmberk or yet another example of how legends morph.5 Besides a biographer of Perchta states she died from the plague.1

      The widely reported sightings are of her family seeing her in a white dress with keys around her waist. If she was smiling it was a sign of good luck. If she wore black gloves and appeared solemn it foreshadowed tragedy.3

      There are legends surrounding her and treasure as well. The most common story was that she looked out for the children in her family. The last child in her family, Peter Wok von Rosenberg was said to have found it.

When Peter was a baby, his nurse had fallen asleep. She woke to find Perchta taking care of him. The nurse yelled at her, and Perchta having taken great offense says she will never take care of the child again. To tell him when he is older about how much she loved and took care of him, and where she would enter and leave again. Having said that she turned and walked through the wall. When he got older he demolished the wall and discovered treasure.3

The second story regarding treasure involves a portrait of Perchta, or believed to be here. She is surrounded by Enochian script, and if you figure decipher the symbols painted there you would free her ghost and find silver treasure. However, the Enochian script6 was created in the sixteenth century by court astrologer and magician, Dr. John Dee (1527-1608), and his associate, Sir Edward Kelly (1555-1597), a decent hundred years after Perchta had died.

          Finally, the most recent recorded sighting of Perchta was when the Nazi’s were hoisting their flag, many witnesses saw a white figure in the Jakobínka tower. When they went to investigate they found no way to gain entry to the tower. There was no staircase or other method, so what did they see? 7

References

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Published by: Tor Publishing Group
Pub Date: 27 Feb 2024
Genre: Sci Fi & Fantasy
Pages: 368
Date Read: 09 Feb 2024
      Thank you Netgalley, author, and the publishers for allowing me the opportunity to read this e-arc. I look forward to reading more from this author.

     No one goes into the north woods and makes it back out. Except for one.

     When The Tyrants children leave in the middle of the night to see what the woods are like, Veris knows the chances of getting them back out are low. However, she is the only person to have done it, and so, with her family being held hostage by The Tyrant goes into the woods to retrieve the children.

     I enjoyed this novella so much! I loved the woods, and just how alive they are. I loved the depictions of the creatures (whoever knew a scarf could cause my heart to race?). Most of all, I loved Veris. She is a strong, capable woman, who just sets out to get things done. Not out of bravado, not even out of a sense of duty. Just love for her family. She showed incredible empathy and didn’t whine about her situation. However, there is a bit of the story that almost made me quit the whole thing. I am not going to go into details, but to say that I do not care for authors who use sexual trauma (out of nowhere) as a plot point.

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