Category Archives: Husband/Wife Book Reviews

Husband/Wife Book Reviews – I Review ‘Cloud Atlas’ by David Mitchell

I just recently finished reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, and I highly HIGHLY recommend it. My friend Kyla once described it to me as ‘The perfect novel’, so I immediately bought it from Chapters (I tend to do such things from time to time). Years later, my husband Graham challenged me to read it (I also tend to buy several books that I don’t end up reading – hence the Husband/Wife Book Reviews, where Graham chooses a book for me to read off our shelves and I for him). It will be difficult for me to review this without giving away too many spoilers, so I will try to be as generic as possible while still including the things that made an impression on me.

I am finally done reading it, and it was quite a ride. Mitchell masterfully weaves the theme (continuity, birth and rebirth)  of the entire piece throughout various time periods (past, present and future), not only stylistically in that each story section is a different form of storytelling (from journal to letters to a novel to a screenplay to an interview to an orison), but also in the different spellings of words throughout time and especially in the future.

Vast doesn’t even begin to describe the scope of this novel. I feel I could read it eight times over and only just scratch the surface of everything it addresses. Racism, the fight for supremacy, all manner of government systems, belonging to a tribe of some sort. All of these things are woven throughout the various plots and ingeniously incorporated into each story.

I would include quotes, but I feel they could be spoilers, so I will just apologize for the short review and say, I highly recommend this book. It gets a well deserved 4.5 stars out of 5.cloudatlas

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Husband/Wife Book Reviews – Graham Reviews ‘The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner’ by Stephenie Meyer

  

We are very busy preparing for our Big Move on Monday, but Graham did manage to fit in some time to write his review of Stephenie Meyer’s The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. Without further ado, here it is: 

Jammed between the breathless action of Eclipse and Breaking Dawn, Stephenie Meyer decided to put in a near-200-page tangent for me on my quest to complete the Twilight Saga.
The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner describes exactly that. Bree is made into a vampire in Seattle and is destroyed by the Volturi. All this we knew from Eclipse, so it did kinda bore those who were hoping for some new developments in the Bella-Edward story arc. The novella focuses on those newborns who wreak havoc in Seattle and the very different life experiences by these non-Cullen vampires. All the while, Bree falls for another newborn named Diego. They figure out the suicidal plans of their mistress, Victoria, only to have Diego be destroyed by Victoria, and Bree and her friends destroyed by the Cullens and the werewolves.
This novella gets criticized for some of the reasons noted above: it’s boring, it feels pointless, it’s just a cash grab by Meyer who knows she has a hooked audience willing to pay. I think those criticisms are a bit unfair, however, as the novella does have its upsides. I found Riley’s tormented character to be an interesting study, as well as seeing the life of these newborns and the very different experiences of vampire life they have compared to the Cullens. Unfortunately, that’s really it for this book. Such a short work unfortunately also lacks character development, the plot is pre-determined, and we know from the start that things are going to be ending badly for Bree. Bree herself lacks much uniqueness and I easily could have placed Bella in place of Bree and seen things through her eyes without much of a difference in character or personality.

I give this novella a 2 out of 5.


Husband/Wife Book Reviews – Graham Reviews ‘The Twilight Saga: Eclipse’ by Stephenie Meyer

I have it on good authority that the following review was written during a bubble bath, so it comes from the heart and a place of innermost zen. 😉 Enjoy, everyone. – SharaLee ❤

Three books down, one and a half to go!  I’ve recently completed Eclipse, and it has done a lot to convince me that Stephenie Meyer has a curious sense of what love is.

Eclipse picks up where New Moon left off with Bella and Edward happily together and the imposing prospect of Bella becoming a vampire and (gasp) graduation approaching. Bella, however, is torn between her love for Edward and her lingering feelings for Jacob – her werewolf companion from New Moon. Jacob makes things difficult by basically following Bella around and having pretty much everyone she knows save the Cullens wonder why she’s not with him. A love triangle ensues with Bella spending time with them both.

The actual conflict stems from trouble in Seattle where newborn vampires are causing havoc until finally (surprise) the pieces come together and, in fact, these wild newborns are coming to get Bella. Why? Because Victoria the jilted ex-lover of James from Twilight (remember?) still wants to get her revenge on Edward. To stop this a vampire-werewolf alliance comes together and after an awkward camping trip featuring some cringe-inducing scenes with Jacob, Bella watches Edward kill Victoria and the rest of the newborn vampires are destroyed. Jacob is injured but he heals, and Bella graduates and prepares for her wedding with Edward. Jacob says he’s waiting to get Bella for himself. Happy Ending? Ummm…maybe.

I wrote in my previous review how much I found Edward and Bella to be harsh towards the pitiable figure of Jacob, but after reading Eclipse, I have a hard time having anything but contempt for the three of them. If anything, Edward comes out of Eclipse looking honourable, while Jacob comes across as a creepy stalker guy who can’t take no for an answer. The scene in the tent with Jacob ‘keeping Bella warm’ while talking to Edward (who’s watching the whole thing) is weird, and Bella convincing herself she’s dreaming is almost laughable. Also, the long-anticipated showdown with Victoria is anti-climactic, since the Weird Tent Scene has almost double the book time given to it than the battle that I had spent over half the book looking forward to.

I could write a whole article on Bella, and in fact, it’s rather tempting. There is so much not to like about her character, so I’ll sum up for now: Girls, please don’t expect guys to be like Edward or Jacob. Real guys would realize how much of a two-timer you were being and dump you!

In reality, Eclipse gives me an unsettling idea of love that I worry Meyer is pushing on her readers. This idea is that love is one of obsession – and not just the usual sense of being enamoured with someone that comes with a crush or a lover – but one of possessiveness and objectification. Jacob wants Bella and he refuses her saying ‘no’ several times and gets what he wants. (A kiss and some time with Bella, not ‘that’). Bella responds to this assault (and that’s what it is) by relenting! What is Meyer trying to tell us? More confusing are Edward’s traditional views of no sex until marriage. So Meyer presents us with a couple strange choices: let a man take it from you or let the man make you marry him first. Removed from this is Bella’s own choice – in fact, it’s been made for her by her men! Add to that the fact that Bella obliviously plays them both. It just sends readers weirder messages about women, like should a man control a woman? If not, she might mess with you like Bella!

This book was a particular struggle to review because there was so much to dislike about it and so little to like. I liked Jasper’s story. He has a fascinating history. But that’s about it.

I give Eclipse 1.5 stars out of 5

– Graham Podolecki

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Husband/Wife Book Reviews – Graham Reviews ‘The Twilight Saga: New Moon’ by Stephenie Meyer

So as many of you already know, my husband (Graham) and I like to challenge each other to read certain books that we think would be interesting for the other to review.  Graham usually chooses engaging or thought-provoking books for me to read. I respond in kind (as any good wife would) with sparkly vampire romances. Here is his review of New Moon, and I must say, I actually agreed with him when I read this as well. Enjoy!

Well, I’m back to keep you (my enthralled audience) informed on my adventures through The Twilight Saga. This time I’m taking on the second installment: New Moon.

Picking up where Twilight leaves off, New Moon chronicles Bella and Edward’s relationship after they become ‘official’, with problems quickly arising. Edward fears that the nature of his family will ultimately doom Bella to death – or worse, becoming a vampire. He decides to make a clean break, leaving Forks with the Cullens, and our protagonist is left in a state of über hopelessness. The middle part of New Moon explores Bella’s friendship with Jacob Black, and Bella’s slow understanding that he, like Edward, hides a secret. Jacob disappears and returns a different person, and Bella discovers that Jacob, like many in his native tribe, has become a werewolf. With Edward gone, Bella is conflicted and on the verge of falling for Jacob when the Cullens return, needing Bella’s help. The final part of New Moon describes Bella saving Edward from the Volturi, an old, powerful vampire family in Italy. To save Bella from the Volturi, the Cullens promise to turn Bella into a vampire. The book ends with Bella and Edward reunited, a dejected Jacob looking on, and Bella awaiting being turned into a vampire.

Reading New Moon, I wasn’t expecting to be blown away, but I found this work tended to feel like cereal that has sat in milk a little too long. It still has the flavour, and the look of the initial cereal, but the texture and consistency are off. Meyer carries the story on in a satisfying direction, the vampire world is expanded, the world around Forks is dug into more deeply, and we get to know more about Jacob, the fascinating outlier character in Twilight. The writing flows well, there is a good use of humour and like in Twilight, I enjoyed the buildup to the climactic scene with the bizarre and creepy Volturi.

The big problem I have with New Moon (and I think it really is dangerous when writing) is that Meyer has made her main two characters difficult to like. I could not get over the sense at the end of this book that Bella and Edward were just being cruel to Jacob, and acting completely oblivious to those around them just for their love. Edward had just gone on an angst-ridden trip to Italy, and put everyone in grave danger for what? Hearing a rumour that Bella was dead! What about going and checking yourself, Edward?! Edward’s breakup with Bella is terribly childish in how he acts, as well as really cruel. And Bella, her entire ‘relationship’ with Jacob was based on her getting some feeble reminder of Edward! She is totally using him! Jacob has to go through trying to see if Bella likes him, getting suddenly transformed into a werewolf, then seeing Bella ditch him for her jerk ex-boyfriend. I really feel sorry for Jacob.

And inevitably this makes me dislike Meyer’s main characters, and what’s the point of reading a book where I don’t like the main characters?

My wife challenged me, and I have no choice, so stay tuned for my next review, that of Eclipse. I give this book 2.5 out of 5 stars.

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‘A Wrinkle in Time’ by Madeleine L’Engle

I first heard about Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time via Meg Cabot`s The Princess Diaries series, in which Mia cites it as one of the favourite books of her childhood. Then, it appeared in a book I still question myself for purchasing (but which I simply cannot seem to bring myself to get rid of): 501 Must-Read Books, published by Bounty Books, in the ‘Children’s Fiction’ portion of the anthology. So, when I came across A Wrinkle in Time in a used-book store for only $4.00, I knew it was time to give it a go.

For all its critical acclaim and all the ideas packed inside this story, it turned out to be much shorter than I had anticipated. Then again, it was originally written as a Young Adult book in 1962 (a different time with different standards for the lengths of Young Adult fiction), and there is definitely much more to it than at first appears. It is a coming-of-age story with all the deep and painful and awkward and confusing emotions that go along with being thirteen as I remember it (the age of the protagonist, Meg Murry). However, it has the added complexity of science, good-versus-evil, poetry, tesseracts, love, compassion, and aims to teach readers to see past the façade of appearances to the true substance underneath. My favourite passage illustrating this is a scene is between Aunt Beast and Meg on the planet Ixchel:

Perplexity came to her from the beast. ‘What is this dark? What is this light? We do not understand. Your father and the boy, Calvin, have asked this, too. They say that it is night now on our planet, and that they cannot see. They have told us that our atmosphere is what they call opaque, so that the stars are not visible, and then they were surprised that we know stars, that we know their music and the movements of their dance far better than beings like you who spend hours studying them through what you call telescopes. We do not understand what this means, to see.’

‘Well, it’s what things look like,’ Meg said helplessly.

‘We do not know what things look like, as you say,’ the beast said. ‘We know what things are like. It must be a very limited thing, this seeing.’

Below is an example of how to tesser (how to travel via a ‘wrinkle in time’):

tesseract

If there had not been more to the story I would have been very disappointed, since the beginning of the plot takes a lot longer to get going than the rest of the book (I’d say about 60% of the book takes too long to get going, and while it is philosophically interesting, I have a hard time thinking the young adults of today would really get into it straight from page 1), but since there are several subsequent books in this series, which I am very interested in reading, and since this particular book offers a good strong ending in its own right and doesn’t rely on those books to complete itself fully, I was satisfied.

A good (dare I say ‘timeless’?) book for younger readers (though not at all like the YA books sold at Chapters/Coles/Indigo today), this would probably be more currently suitable for an Intermediate but mature age group of 8 to 11 years old , and for older ones  too (even 25-year-olds like me).

3.5 stars out of 5


Husband/Wife Book Reviews: ‘V for Vendetta’ by Alan Moore, illustrated by David Lloyd

After challenging me to read Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, (a book of 1,462 pages) my husband thought he’d give me a break and get me to read a graphic novel. So he gave me his copy of V for Vendetta. *shakes head* Husbands…

Ah, graphic novels: where dialogue and art give birth to new twists on old fables. Where complex ideas can be boiled down to a single panel. Where a symbol becomes a story, lines and colour the in-between-the-lines. I have only recently in the past year and a half started my love affair with comic books and graphic novels, and this was the first time I had ever read one so politically charged as V for Vendetta, written by the same Alan Moore who gave us Batman: The Killing Joke (one of my favourite Batman graphic novels and probably with the deepest exploration of Batman’s dark side of any graphic novel or comic book I have ever read – highly recommended). It was illustrated by David Lloyd, and while I’m not familiar with much of his other work, I know after having attempted to work on a graphic novel with an artist myself, how difficult it must be to translate all of Moore’s ideas into a single visual panel box, especially since Moore and Lloyd wanted this book to be more about the visuals and with less sound effects and unnecessary dialogue than most graphic literature had in the early eighties, so I take my hat off to him for that.

Since this graphic novel was made into a movie as recently as 2005, I was genuinely surprised that its creation was begun in the summer of 1981, and truly impressed how far ahead of its time it was as far as politics and symbolism in graphic literature goes. Many of the comic books in the ‘80s and ‘90s are very blatant, in-your-face and extreme, but usually only in the way of sound effects, big explosions, fight scenes, and often expounding upon very basic plot points and themes. People like Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman (check out his version of the Sandman comics if you want to see tons of symbolism) changed this a lot, and things are much more symbolized and have deeper meaning and are more daring in the comic book/graphic novel world today because of them.

The concept of anarchy was explained artistically and with a romanticism that undermines the cold nihilistic nature of pure destruction. As V tells Eve, ‘Anarchy wears two faces, both creator and destroyer; thus destroyers topple empires, make a canvas of clean rubble where creators can then build a better world.’ Allusions to various films, songs, and books, (especially Confessions du Révolutionnaire by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon – available on Amazon, I checked!) or other literary works by William Shakespeare or Thomas Pynchon are peppered throughout, and all the reader has to do is follow the rabbit trail to his or her own education/enlightenment. As a reader, I found this fascinating, and must admit that the concept of self-government and working as an independent state unto myself is most appealing.

I love the way V speaks, so poetic and courteous, in a world where all is cold and art is gone and machines watch your every move (doesn’t sound too far off sometimes, to be honest). Here is my favourite example of his eloquence:

vforvendettaeloquence V: THE PIECES CAN’T PERCEIVE AS WE THE MISCHIEF THEIR ARRANGEMENT TEMPTS: THOSE STOLID, LAW-ABIDING QUEUES, PREGNANT WITH CATASTROPHE. INSENSIBLE BEFORE THE WAVE SO SOON RELEASED BY CALLOUS FATE. AFFECTED MOST, THEY UNDERSTAND THE LEAST…

Personally, however, I cannot subscribe to the fact that the destroyer (V) does things like blow up the Parliament buildings to clean the slate of society, not because I’m all that attached to symbols of power, but because of the little people and my belief in the power of free choice. There are hundreds of people who work in those buildings, many of them most likely night staff. How many innocent people had to die so V could continue his vendetta, without a choice, without knowing why they died, what good it would do anybody, what their families were supposed to do next, how they were supposed to survive without those lost? How many Mrs. Almonds were there out there, not because of the fascists, but because of V? Dying for a cause you believe in is one thing. Dying to further someone else’s cause that you know nothing about is another. Also, since I have been a member of the human race for a while and have had many experiences that have shown me its seedy underbelly, I think that while the concept of anarchy is appealing, the practice of it is impossible, because of its reliance on human conscience and on respecting the boundaries of others, which I have no confidence in any person for maintaining for very long when it means they can’t get what they want.

Over all, I give this work 4 stars out of 5, and highly recommend it.

England Prevails.

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Husband/Wife Book Reviews: ‘The Twilight Saga: Twilight’ by Stephenie Meyer

My wife delighted in challenging me to read Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, and despite my many delays I completed it nearly a year after being challenged. (An over-the-weekend reader I am not).
For those of you living in a cave and came out to read my review (a fine choice) Twilight is the love story of Forks, Washington exile Bella Swan and with the both unbelievably handsome and strange Edward Cullen. Through a variety of odd events/rescues, Bella finds out that Edward and his family are vampires. Drawn to one another, despite their differences, Bella soon finds herself in the world of the fascinating and dangerous world of the Cullens. With all its risks, Bella is left to decide whether or not a life with Edward is possible, and Meyer’s work ends happily with the two together.
While widely criticized (particularly the simplified movie version) for having a predictable storyline, a variety of romantic and high-school cliches, and at times groan-inducing/creepy acts of love (Edward watching Bella sleep every night comes to mind) Twilight does have some redeeming and enjoyable parts to it.
One of the things I noticed reading this work was Meyer’s naturalistic feel to the whole work. Forks, Washington really comes alive, and the idea of the dark, damp brooding forest surrounding the characters really helps add to the books feel of strangeness and beauty. Likewise, Meyer writes in an easy-going, at times quite humorous, style that instantly connects the reader with the mind and world of a high school student. Bella, despite how odd she believes she is, is a very easy person to understand and relate to. Certain relationships, like the one between Bella and her father Charlie are charming in both their distance and closeness. Even with all the supernatural things happening in Twilight, the characters and the environment are very real.
Meyer’s use of tension, especially when Bella is in Port Angeles, or dealing with the Tracker in Phoenix is very effective, and even had me an out-and-out critic of Twilight, really into it. Despite my best efforts, I actually did enjoy reading this book.
Now, only 3 books left to see if this will hold up.

3 stars out of 5

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Husband/Wife Book Reviews: ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ by Alexandre Dumas (March 19th, 2015)

Re-posted from LiveJournal:

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As you can tell, since my last entry (basically about a year ago already!) in which I reviewed Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and was given the further assignment by my husband Graham to read Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, my copy of this beloved tome of over 1400 pages has seen some wear and tear. But it is now finished, and worth every single day I spent reading it!

The first Dumas book I ever read was an adapted version of The Knight of Maison-Rouge, which I do NOT recommend, especially as the adaptation I was unfortunate enough to read included such verbs as ‘electrified’ (as in ‘her presence electrified the silence’ or some similar usage) when CLEARLY, electricity was probably not discovered, let alone in such popular usage as to include in the lexicon of the average person. (Does anyone else get really annoyed by such anachronisms?) I would someday like to read a translated but NOT adapted version, as the story itself would have been interesting if it weren’t for grievous errors like those mentioned above. Needless to say, my first Dumas experience wasn’t as illustrious as his reputation had given it to be.

HOWEVER. I had seen the 2002 movie version of The Count of Monte Cristo,and had truly enjoyed it. I had also had the distinction of reading from cover to cover an unabridged version of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables a few years previous, so I knew I was up to the task. I accepted, and thus my journey began.

Wait and hope: One of the last lines of this book basically describes the many facets of it, for those two elements are necessary for both revenge and redemption (two major themes of The Count of Monte Cristo). They are also important in every stage of a person’s life, which is so clearly seen in the life of poor Edmond Dantes. As a young sailor he waits and hopes for his chance to become captain and to marry Mercedes, the woman he loves. When that is all taken away from him, the fact that he has waited and hoped makes his disappointment even more palpable. While in prison with the intelligent Abbe Faria, he vows for revenge and this is what he waits and hopes for. When the Abbe dies and leaves his entire treasure to Dantes, he sets his desire for justice into action, but must wait and hope for each piece of his carefully constructed plan to fall into place. When his whirlwind of revenge begins to negatively affect the hopes and dreams of his young protege, Maximilian Morrel (the son of his former shipmaster), Edmond realizes that perhaps all he needs to wait and hope for is happiness, and after so much waiting and so much hoping, he seizes the day and sails off into the sunset with his new love, leaving Maximilian and his fiancee with a more positive form of his life motto of wait and hope

This book has everything. It has crime. It has romance. It has the dreams of the young crushed by the ambition of the powerful. It has murder, duels, intrigue, exotic locations, bandits, dandies, honour, luxury, and revenge, revenge, revenge! This book was originally serialized, which is why it was so long: it was so popular nobody wanted it to end! The Count of Monte Cristo was the popular TV drama of its day, and there are so many ways that modern shows have drawn from serialized works like it, I would be here all day if I tried to point them all out. All in all, I give this book 5 stars out of 5. It can be a bit daunting to carry around a hard copy like I did, so if you really can’t bring yourself to carry a book the size of a Bible around with you, please do get this on your e-reader. It will be worth your time, I promise you.


Husband/Wife Book Reviews – ‘Dracula’ by Bram Stoker (March 29th, 2014)

Reposted from Livejournal:

Dracula by Bram Stoker

This book, being the quintessential tome from which today’s obsession with vampires and all things related stems, was both more interesting and harder to get through than anticipated. Written in epistolary form, through letters, journal entries, newspaper excerpts and phonograph transcripts, Stoker’s technique is fascinating. I found some of the phonetic spelling of accents and density of various journal entries to be difficult to slog through, but the content itself held my interest.

I found Van Helsing’s quaint ways in the novel preferable to the badass ones of Hugh Jackman in the incredibly cheesy movie, ‘Van Helsing’. Quincey Morris’ bravado and Dr. John Seward’s psychologically clinical nature were well-represented stereotypes, and Dr. Seward’s pet patient, Renfield, is a strange creature worthy of Steve Buscemi himself. Mina and Jonathan Harker, Lucy Westenra, and Count Dracula himself: all of the above are excellent examples of characterization.

As for the ending, (which, if I may say so, my husband Graham disliked), I found its tragedy and passion to be appropriately pathetic enough for a book of the classic gothic horror genre. I give this 4 out of 5 stars.

To end this review, I would like to share some quotes I really liked from the book:

Remember, my friend, that knowledge is stronger than memory, and we should not trust the weaker.

– Dr. Abraham Van Helsing

There are darknesses in life, and there are lights; you are one of the lights.

– Van Helsing to Mrs. Wilhelmina Harker

You must fight Death himself, though he come to you in pain or in joy; by the day, or in the night; in safety or in peril! On your living soul I charge you that you do not die – nay, nor think of death – till this great evil be past.

– Van Helsing to Mina

We are truly in the hands of God. He alone knows what may be, and I pray Him, with all the strength of my sad and humble soul, that He will watch over my beloved husband; that whatever may happen, Jonathan may know that I loved him and honoured him more than I can say, and that my latest and truest thought will be always for him.

– Mina

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Husband/Wife Book Reviews – ‘Dune’ by Frank Herbert (March 29th, 2014)

Reposted from Livejournal:

Hello, dear readers!!! As you may remember, a while ago, my husband and I challenged each other to read a book and review it. I was given Bram Stoker’s Dracula and my husband Graham was allotted Frank Herbert’s Dune. Here are those reviews! The honour of first review goes to my husband Graham Podolecki, who, admittedly, writes better book reviews than I do.

Dune by Frank Herbert

A prophetic and earnest work, Frank Herbert’s Dune is a foundational text for modern science fiction, bringing in themes that in 1968 were just beginning to acquire prominence: ecology, over-dependence on foreign resources, and the sometimes breathtaking ignorance of ruling powers to the needs or even existence of former colonial societies. Dune addresses these issues in the background of the rise of young Paul Atreides whose family’s recent acquisition of Arrakis from the rival Harkonnen family. This sets off a play of factors that transforms him into the prophet and overall superman of the native population (Fremen) Muab’Dib.

Featuring an epic scale of characters, and the first work in a long line of sequels, Dune seems to spend a significant amount of time introducing its world, and it lags in parts. Herbert’s introspective look at his character provides fascinating psychological analysis, although the book seems to have an over-serious view; humour is almost entirely absent. Dune is a rewarding work to read but the reader must be patient, and ready to slog through rough patches.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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