ARC Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publisher: Razorbill

Publication Date: April 28th, 2015

Goodreads Rating: 4.21 stars

Pages: 464

Synopsis:

“I WILL TELL YOU THE SAME THING I TELL EVERY SLAVE.

THE RESISTANCE HAS TRIED TO PENETRATE THIS SCHOOL COUNTLESS TIMES. I HAVE DISCOVERED IT EVERY TIME.

IF YOU ARE WORKING WITH THE RESISTANCE, IF YOU CONTACT THEM, IF YOU THINK OF CONTACTING THEM, I WILL KNOW

AND I WILL DESTROY YOU.

Laia is a slave.
Elias is a soldier.
Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.”

My Review:

I received this ARC by winning a giveaway from Sabaa Tahir. This in no way influences my voice or opinions in the following review.

Gosh… Where do I even start with this one? This book was incredible. I don’t even know exactly how to get out the words I’m looking for to describe my feelings about this novel, so bear with me…

This story takes place in two different points of view. You have Laia; the orphan girl, the slave, the guilt-ridden sister, the naive young woman who is starting to see the world for exactly what it is, brutal and unfair. Then, you have Elias: the unwanted boy, the soldier, the trained killer, the brutalized young man who sees the way the world could be, if only he could find it in himself to make it happen. These two are the burning embers in the ashes, preparing to light the world on fire, if only they can follow the right paths to lead them to their destinies.

Elias is easy to love. A forlorn boy trapped in a world he wants nothing to do with. Seeing a future for himself better than the one he is destined to follow. Hoping for something, anything, that can free him from the imprisonment he was forced into as a child. He’s a young man who wants nothing more than to make a future for himself that doesn’t involve killing everyone around him. He sees the world differently than the soldiers that surround him and knows that he doesn’t fit in. Because of this, I fell in love with him instantly. He’s lost in this sea of armor and brutality and my heart just broke for him. He only wants what any normal person would want: happiness and freedom. As a reader, I followed him on his journey to try and find it, and I will tell you, my lovely readers, that his journey may surprise you.

Laia, on the other hand, has not been so easily taken to by some readers and bloggers. I’ve heard a few claims that she just wallows and whines through most of the book, and to that I say that I can see your point. Here’s the truth though, you, as a reader, cannot go into reading a new book EXPECTING the main female character to be the next Celaena Sardothien, Hermione Granger, Meghan Chase, etc. In many ways, Laia reminds me of Sorcha from Daughter of the Forest by Juliette Marillier. Both suffer greatly and sacrifice for their loved ones, but they suffer silently and beautifully. There’s something to be said about a character who, rather than murdering and fighting through a problem, finds their strength within and chooses a less violent route.

Laia faces the demons not only in the world around her, but in herself, to find out who she is and how she can make a difference for the ones that she loves in a world that is bent on tearing everyone apart. She is forced to dig deep to find the strength to stay true to herself and stand up, against all odds, for what she believes in. This is her bravery, her fighting spirit, and her strength. I can tell you that you will not find Laia brandishing a sword and cutting through some guts (although you may in the sequel, not gonna lie), but you will find her fighting viciously for her life and the lives of those around her. She is strong, believe it or not, because she is human and nothing more. I have to tell all of you who have read this novel to ask yourselves this: would you have suffered as beautifully as Laia and still stayed on the right path if your lives were switched? I daresay that you would not – I would not – but Laia would, and she does…

As far as the romance is concerned in this book, you DO have love triangles, I will warn you! I actually really didn’t mind them though. You have a love triangle for Elias and a love triangle for Laia, but each person that Elias and Laia have to choose between (someone else or each other), represent a different part of their life and a separate path towards an unknown destiny. Please excuse me as I try to explain what I mean without giving away any part of the story! I can see that if Laia does not choose Elias, she would end up in a very different sort of circumstance than if she does, and would probably develop as a character in the opposite direction. If Elias does not choose Laia, skies, his entire life could be in even more of an uproar and he would turn into a different person. It’s a delicate balance between what is right and wrong, and which choice is the right one for them, as individuals.

I loved all of the characters, including every single one in the love triangles. The depth and reasoning behind each character was true and well thought out. The beauty of this story and the love triangles it holds is that the main focus doesn’t solely lie on the love interest, but rather the corruption and brutality, and each character’s main goal. The love triangles, in my point of view, were formed, but the main focus stayed off them, which was really nice to read. I never knew which way Laia and Elias were going to sway and I am still not completely sure about the paths they chose for themselves in the end. I can guess at what will happen, but I’m sure that Sabaa will continue to prove me wrong!

In truth, I can’t say anything more without giving the story away, but overall, I was completely in love with this book. I was considering giving my ARC away, but I found myself just clutching it to my chest and literally curling myself around it as if to protect it from my own thoughts. I pre-ordered it that night. I told my friends that this may be the book that I have to have every single copy of, seeing as I’m already keeping the ARC and the new hardcover I’ve bought. I just… I can’t… I don’t even know how…

JUST PRE-ORDER IT ALREADY!!! Because I’m holding on to my copy and every copy I can get my hands on unless you want to see a desperate blogger sobbing in the fetal position… I’m not ready for that and I’m pretty sure you aren’t either!! So, here, I’ll make it easy for you. The links below lead you to the pre-order sites. It’s $6.00 off the hardcover right now if you pre-order it. It comes out exactly ONE WEEK from today, on Tuesday, April 28th. I promise you that you won’t regret it. If you do, than you can tie me up and throw me to the ghouls.

Amazon Pre-Order

Barnes and Noble Pre-Order

PSSTT!!! The Amazon one is actually a few cents cheaper!

Also, Ms. Sabaa Tahir, any publisher would be INSANE not to pick up your sequel because this book was pure brilliance. It was so beautifully written and just turned into this amazing masterpiece. I LOVE it and I know many other people do as well. I can’t wait to read book two and I’ll be jumping and crying for joy the day you announce that your sequel has been picked up by a publisher who knows your worth. You are a phenomenal author and I look forward to any other books I will be seeing from you. Keep at it. You’re wonderful.

So, that wraps up my review and all of the emotional capacity that I have reserved for one day. Have any of you read it yet? Do you agree/disagree? What did you think of it?

I hope you all have a great week and a wonderful rest of your day!

❤ Kelly

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Sunday Street Team: Review – Alice in Wonderland High by Rachel Shane + GIVEAWAY

Welcome to April’s Sunday Street Team!

Sunday Street Team is organized by Nori at @ReadWriteLove28, You can also find her blog, and her own review of Alice in Wonderland High, at ReadWriteLove28!

I was so happy to be a part of this tour, and I want to start by thanking Nori for including me, and Rachel Shane for letting all of us borrow your books!

Alice in Wonderland by Rachel Shane

Publisher: Merit Press

Release Date: 04/18/15

Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Alice just can’t find a way to be free. Her parents are environmental activists, whose cringe-worthy public protests might involve chaining themselves to a fence and pleading  with passersby to “Save the World. Save Alice!” It’s not that Alice doesn’t believe there’s work to be done. But after a petition to start a farmer’s market meets with more snickers than signatures, she figures she should shut up instead of speaking out. At least, that is, until she can find something that feels real. Then along comes Whitney Lapin, a girl who speaks in cryptic riddles and spends her free time turning abandoned warehouses into beautiful gardens. Charismatic Whitney leads Alice on a rabbit trail into the underground–aka secret society–of Wonderland High. Curiouser and curiouser.

Alice is in wonderland! Even though Whitney’s group of teenage environmental vigilantes operates on the wrong side of the law, with them, Alice is finally free to be herself. She stomps on her good girl image by completing a series of environmental pranks to impress the new group: flooding the school and disguising a pig as a baby in order to smuggle it out of a testing facility. She wants to trust them, and she especially wants to trust (or maybe kiss) Chester Katz, a boy with a killer smile, a penchant for disappearing, and a secret that will turn Alice’s world backwards. But then, one of the young vigilantes tries to frame Alice for all the pranks, and she must figure out their secret before she ends up in front of a jury screaming, “Off with her head!”

You can buy it on Amazon by clicking here!

My Review:

I’ll start by saying that I’m not a huge Alice in Wonderland fan. Though that is the case, I did enjoy reading this book for a few reasons.

1. I really enjoyed Chess!

I just thought he was the most adorable character in the beginning of this book because he came off as shy, but confident, and slightly mysterious. Those are the type of boys I seem to love in real life, so he just scooped me right off my feet and allowed me to stay that way through the rest of the novel. He was one character I did not want to let go of. Could I have him in real life please Ms. Shane?!

2. I enjoyed the Alice in Wonderland twists to real life.

It was VERY interesting to see how Alice in Wonderland was incorporated into this story. Usually, Alice in Wonderland isn’t taken into a contemporary/real life setting. Normally, it’s used in fantasies because, in essence, that’s what Alice in Wonderland is all about, right? I won’t give anything away, but the way she incorporated different ideas into real life circumstances, such as the Mad Hatter, the fantastical plants and environment, and the Cheshire Cat, were very fun to find, pick out, and stick with throughout the story.

3. I liked the fact that she kept Alice’s naivety from the original.

To me, Alice always just seemed innocent, naive, and almost child-like in some instances. It’s part of her essence, character, and charm. I’m glad that Ms. Shane decided to keep that innocent nature and insert it into her own Alice.

There were also a few things that I didn’t necessarily enjoy; most of which are coming from my own personal preferences.

1. I felt that there were some quirks and descriptors that took me out of the story.

There were times where I was reading this book and I was pulled away from the story because some of the quirkiness that encompasses Alice just didn’t seem natural to me. However, I’m contradicting myself in the same sentence because Alice in Wonderland is full of quirks and odd statements, as this book should be. I just wasn’t a fan of it because it seemed to stop the flow for me. I would sit there and think, “a normal teenager wouldn’t say this”, but we’re not talking about Normal teenagers, are we?

2. Alice was just not a main character to capture my heart.

Like I said before, Alice has just never been my cup of tea. I didn’t truly like her from the beginning because she was just so innocent and naive, but that’s the essence of who Alice is and why she ventures into Wonderland in the first place. I can’t necessarily say that it was by any means a fault in this novel; I claimed before that Alice is supposed to be naive. Alice in Wonderland just seems to not fit with my tastes very well seeing as I’d rather read about the assassin and everything I wish I could be, than to read about Alice and everything that I am.

Overall: 3.5 stars

Well done Ms. Shane! You managed to recreate a wonderful story of Alice in Wonderland and fit the oddness that is this story into characteristics of real life and realistic problems. Not many authors could pull that off and I commend you for even coming up with the idea, let alone pulling it off! It’s a solid start. Congratulations on finishing and publishing your first novel!

Rachel Shane:

Rachel Shane

Rachel Shane studied Creative Writing at Syracuse University and now works in digital publishing at in New York City. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, young daughter, and a basement full of books. This is her first novel.

Giveaway:

Rachel Shane has graciously given us an annotated hardcover of Alice in Wonderland High to giveaway to one lucky winner! You can enter the giveaway by clicking the link below!

Click here for the giveaway!

Finishing up, I’m so sorry I haven’t been around lately. It’s coming down to crunch time in all of my jobs: Recital time, Keystones time, AP testing time, etc. So I ask you all to please excuse me for a bit! I will get my reviews of The Darkest Minds series and An Ember in the Ashes up sooner rather than later. I just need to find the time to write them.

I hope you all have a wonderful week ahead of you.

 

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Spotlight: The Countess’ Captive by Andrea Cefalo + GIVEAWAY!

The Countess’ Captive by Andrea Cefalo

Goodreads Summary:

During March of 1248, Adelaide Schumacher-affectionately called Snow White-has lost so much: her mother, her possessions, and now her home.

Adelaide hates abandoning her home city, her family’s legacy, and her first love-Ivo. More than anything, she hates her father growing closer to her mother’s cousin-Galadriel. Adelaide plots to end their tryst before her fate is sealed, and she never sets foot in Cologne again.

But good and pious can only get Galadriel so far. Never again will she be destitute. Never again will she be known by the cruel moniker-Cinderella. Never again will someone take what is rightfully hers. No matter what it takes.

From the award-winning author of The Fairytale Keeper comes this highly anticipated sequel, another masterful, historically-set retelling of Grimm’s fairytales. The Countess’ Captive combines Grimm’s fairytale characters with real historical settings and events to create a tale that leaves the reader wondering where facts end and fiction begins.

Praise for The Fairytale Keeper (from Goodreads):

“I’m a big fan of people who find new ways to share old stories. With The Fairytale Keeper, Andrea Cefalo has given us a reality-based version of the classic tale of Snow White that is every bit as magical as the versions we all grew up with (and I’m not talking about Disney), even though there’s no actual magic in it.” – Melissa

“The Fairytale Keeper was a whole new take on Snow White. I’ve read many fairy tale retellings which keep the magical aspect of the story and add new twists, but this is the first novel I’ve read where the fairy tale was retold with a plot grounded in historical events/facts. Although the dark ages setting was not enchanting (ech, the plague), the author created a very rich world. The story as a whole was very well-written with a unique concept and romantic elements, as well as an admirably strong heroine in Adelaide.” – Carey McKenna Jones

“This book is probably one of the most unique takes on a fairy tale.” – Cheryl

” As the title goes, Fairytale Keeper, your journey in reading will bring you to various fairy tales that we grew up with and see for yourself how it was connected to our heroine, Adelaide.” – Precious of the Flipping Bookworm

“I read it and loved it! The rich vocabulary paints a picturesque setting. Cefalo successfully melds fairy tale and historical fiction creating a strong heroine. The imagery is vibrant. One can see, hear, feel, and smell the town of Cologne and the surrounding countryside as well as the people who dwell there. The medieval story, which incorporates well known tales, has been knit together very carefully with unexpected twists, turns and surprises. A very satisfying story yet ending with circumstances that leave one craving the next installation. And I must mention the awesome cover illustration!” – Mrs. Cubby Culbertson

Praise for The Countess’ Captive (from Goodreads):

“This is another win for author Andrea Cefalo! She has taken the fairy tale Cinderella in this second installment and weaved in her well done changes with exciting details and well developed characters.” – Debbie

“Thoughtful, imaginative and fast-paced, I loved learning more of Adelaide’s story and a look into Medieval life for a Countess and her household…Just as in The Fairytale Keeper, several fairytales are woven together artfully, and so that it doesn’t feel like a retelling, but more of actual events that could be construed into a fairy tale as time passes. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead for Adelaide in the The Baseborn Lady.” – Stephanie

“The follow up to The Fairytale Keeper is brilliant. If you are familiar with the first book in this series, you need to read The Countess’ Captive. You’ll gain respect for a few of the continuing characters and a slew of new comers. However, if you have a heart in your chest, you will learn the meaning of hatred and disgust for a return character and some of that character’s friends. Compassion is hurled into the wind in this edition of what promises to be a classic.” – Ken

“Another excellent installment in The Fairytale Keeper series. Cefalo weaves history, fairytales, and intrigue with equal aplomb. Adelaide is the strong female protagonist young girls today need. Great book! Can’t wait for The Baseborn Lady!” – Corrye

Andrea Cefalo:

Andrea Cefalo is a bit of a roamer, growing up in New Hampshire, Maryland, and South Carolina, though the bulk of her family lives in Maine. She dreamed of a career in art restoration, but somehow ended up becoming a grade school teacher before realizing she really wanted to be a writer. She taught for three years and then decided to finish The Fairytale Keeper series and pursue her new found ambition. Andrea lives with her husband and two border collies in Greenville, South Carolina, which she calls home, at least for now.

Interview with Andrea Cefalo (from previous post):

Q: What made you want to become an author?

Andrea: I always enjoyed writing, but it wasn’t like I just knew I was going to be a writer. The idea for The Fairytale Keeper came to me in 2006. I wrote a little of it. Then, life happened: I graduated college, I got a real job, I married my husband, we bought a house. The Fairytale Keeper fell by the wayside. I got really sick in 2010 and had to leave teaching. I didn’t really know where I fit in to the world after that. If I wasn’t a teacher what was I? Writing had been cathartic for me in the past, so I dusted off my manuscript and got to work. Two years later, I published The Fairytale Keeper.

Q: What has fueled your love of the medieval times?

Andrea: The short answer to that: travel and books. During a middle school field trip to New York City, our group visited The Cloisters, a branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to the architecture and arts of medieval Europe. Growing up in the US, I had never stepped inside a Medieval building before. I was in absolute awe. A few years later, my mom took me to England, and we toured Canterbury along with several other famous castles and cathedrals. A children’s literature course required me to readCrispin by Avi and The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman. These amazing books took me back to those great experiences and rekindled my passion for the time period.

Q: What is your writing process like?

Andrea: The process changes. Right now, I am finalizing revisions for my the third novel in The Fairytale Keeper series, The Baseborn Lady. Lately, I spend the first part of my day on the business end of publishing: tweeting, blogging, etc. Then, I read for an hour. Reading great books makes the revising go more quickly and more smoothly. Did I mention coffee? There is lots of coffee involved.

Q: In your opinion, what is the best thing about being an author?

Andrea: By far, my favorite aspect of writing is connecting with my readers. When someone truly gets what I am doing, it’s better than selling a thousand books.

Q: What inspired you to write The Fairytale Keeper?

Andrea: The idea came to me during a children’s literature class. We were comparing fairytales across cultures and the professor said that nearly all cultures had a Cinderella story.  If that’s true, then either the real Cinderella lived thousands of years ago or there is just something so compelling about such a story that most cultures created their own.  My story works on the first assumption: What if all Grimm’s fairy tales originated with one person?

Q: How did you come up with the title The Fairytale Keeper?

Andrea: It was trial and error. I suck at coming up with titles. The basic premise—that Adelaide is the origin of Grimm’s fairytales—seemed like a good place to start. But how do you communicate that in only a few words? The story was almost called The Fairytale Ancestress, but ancestress sort of sounds like incest, so I threw that one out. When I came up with The Fairytale Keeper, I knew that was it.

Q: Your main character’s name, Adelaide, means “noble” and “kind”. Coincidence?!

Andrea: I wish I had something profound to say about this, but I don’t. Sorry! It is a complete coincidence.

Q: What made you pick Snow White for Adelaide’s nickname?

Andrea: The Fairytale Keeper follows the life of a medieval commoner who was not only the real Snow, but the origin of Grimm’s fairytales, as well. Therefore, Adelaide was Snow White well before she was ever Adelaide. It took me a while to name her, but Snow White is not a very Medieval name, so I scoured resources for Medieval German names, and Adelaide resonated with me. It just sounded right.

Q: Who is your favorite character in The Fairytale Keeper?

Andrea: That changes. When I write too much of a character, I get a little sick of them. I also don’t like characters who are all good or all bad, so when I can show the humanity of villains or the flaws of my so-called heroes and heroines, I’m a pretty happy camper.

Q: What can we expect to see in The Countess Captive?

Andrea: Someone is going to get married. I won’t say who.

Haha, way to leave us on a cliffy. =) Andrea, it was SO WONDERFUL to interview you. I loved having you here and look forward to working with you again!

Keep an eye out for more on The Fairytale Keeper series here on Live, Love, Read! I’ll be posting a review on The Fairytale Keeper series on April 20th, where you will also find the winner of the giveaway!

The Fairytale Keeper Giveaway:

You only have 16 days left to enter to win a copy of Andrea’s series in ebook format! One lucky winner will get both ebooks!

Giveaway Conditions:

Winner will be announced via twitter and on my blog post on April 20th!

The winner will have 48 hours to get back to me.

If I do not receive a response after 48 hours has passed, I will select another winner.

Enter Giveaway by clicking HERE!

A few quick reminders: Spectacularly Swanky Saturdays is happening NOW! Please feel free to join the Swank Six in the bookish fun! The ACOTAR giveaway will only last until TOMORROW! Be sure to get your entries in this weekend! P.S. You get extra entries for entering in to The Fairytale Keeper giveaway as well. 😉 My review for this series will be going up on April 20th! WAHOOO!!! I’m so looking forward to reviewing it for all of you!

Have a wonderful holiday weekend and enjoy all of your spring breaks! =)

❤ Kelly

Spectacularly Swanky Saturday! Book Spine Poetry!

Welcome to the Swank Six’s first official Spectacularly Swanky Saturday!!!

We are super excited to get this off the ground and we really hope that you will join in the fun and post your own personalized book spine poetry today as well! Below is a small run-down of what Spectacularly Swanky Saturday is and what we hope to do with it (with all of your help, of course!). For more information and our monthly schedule of events, please click on the “Spectacularly Swanky Saturdays” link in my pages bar at the top of my blog! =)

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Spectacularly Swanky Saturdays is a monthly blog post filled with fun and original ideas to unite the blogging community and our readers. Though it’s hosted by the “swank six”, we invite everyone to join us on our monthly journey to celebrate our love of all things bookish! Below is a schedule of our monthly events, which will be posted the first Saturday of every month. If you would like to join, please link back or tag myself or one of the “swank six” in your post! You can also post a picture or write what you would like in a comment on our blogs, if you don’t have your own blog to post on! In addition, feel free to put a link to your post in a tweet so that EVERYONE can see it and join in the fun! Just make sure to put the hashtag #SwankySat with it, so we don’t miss it! We can’t wait to see the creative ideas you all come up with! This feature will be such a fun way to interact with other bloggers, readers, and writers, so don’t be shy! Put yourself out there and join in the fun! We welcome everyone!

The “Swank Six” hosts:

Kelly

Live, Love, Read

@YAFantasyFan

Lindsey

Bring My Books

@bringmybooks

Brittany

Please Feed The Bookworm

@kalebsmome

Emily

Midwestern Book Nerd

@em_nelsonn

Lauren

Between The Pages

@BetweenDPages

Chelsea

Between The Pages

@MissyPrissy12

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Now, with my English teacher degree and my literature analysis emphasis, I got a little in-depth with my book spine poetry. Please don’t feel like yours needs to be as long or as crazy deep as mine seems to be. Apparently I’m just the deep poetical type. HA! The links to the other “Swank Six” hosts are directly above. Please feel free to check out their personalized book spine poetry (which, I’m sure, will be very different than mine!), comment, like, share, and create your own! Just remember that if you create your own, to please mention us as hosts, link back to me, grab one of our buttons, and if you share your post on twitter, use the hashtag #SwankySat so we can actually find and comment on yours as well! =) Also, if you don’t have a blog, post yours in the comments!! This is about meeting new people, interacting with people of similar interests, and making friends! If you have any questions, feel free to ask away! We’d love to hear from you!

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Buttons!

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ALRIGHT! Now that that’s taken care of…

scooby doo animated GIF

Without further adieu, my personalized book spine poetry:

Book Spine Poetry 1 Book Spine Poetry 2 Book Spine Poetry 3

Geek Girl Strange and Ever After

Untamed In The Afterlight,

All Our Yesterdays Burned,

Beastly Twisted Fate.

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A Great and Terribly Beauty Alienated,

No Place to Fall Chosen,

Shattered Souls Uninvited,

Rapture of the Deep.

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An Ember in the Ashes Catching Fire,

Boundless Ambition Endangered,

Beauty Queens Hidden, Passion Awakened,

The Distance Between Us Sweet Evil.

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Better Than Perfect, Erasing Time,

Invincible, Just Like Fate,

Hallowed Fragile Destiny,

Tempted Sweet Escape.

…Sometimes I forget how much I miss GIFs…

So, what do you think? Come join us! Have some fun! We would love to have you around and to get to know you more each month! =)

Have a Spectacularly Swanky Saturday!!!!

❤ Kelly and the “Swank Six” hosts ❤