Series: True North

Joint Review: Bountiful by Sarina Bowen

Posted December 6, 2017 by Rowena in Reviews | 6 Comments

Joint Review: Bountiful by Sarina BowenReviewer: Holly and Rowena
Bountiful (True North, #4) by Sarina Bowen
Series: True North #4
Also in this series: Bittersweet, Steadfast (True North #2), Steadfast, Bittersweet, Keepsake
Published by Rennie Road Books
Publication Date: October 20th 2017
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 315
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-half-stars

No last names. No life stories. Those were the rules.

Once upon a time a cocky, copper-haired tourist sauntered into Zara’s bar. And even though she knew better, Zara indulged in a cure for the small-town blues. It was supposed to be an uncomplicated fling—a few sizzling weeks before he went back to his life, and she moved on.

Until an accidental pregnancy changed her life.

Two years later, she’s made peace with the notion that Dave No-Last-Name will never be found. Until one summer day when he walks into her coffee shop, leveling her with the same hot smile that always renders her defenseless.

Dave Beringer has never forgotten the intense month he spent with prickly Zara. Their nights together were the first true intimacy he’d ever experienced. But the discovery of his child is the shock of a lifetime, and his ugly past puts relationships and family out of reach.

Or does it? Vermont’s countryside has a way of nurturing even tortured souls. The fields and the orchards—and hard-won love—are Bountiful.

We first met Zara in Bittersweet, book 1 of this series. She and Griff, the hero of Bittersweet, had been having a fling, but he broke it off before he met his heroine, Audrey. Later Zara turned up pregnant and refused to say who the father was. Turns out he was a summer fling she couldn’t find when she ended up pregnant. Professional hockey player Dave Beringer is unexpectedly back in town and shocked to discover the girl he never forgot is more than just a good memory..she’s the mother of his child. Figuring out a new normal when he never expected to have a kid is going to be rough…especially since he still isn’t over his attraction to his daughter’s beautiful mother.

Holly: I didn’t really connect with this book. I really loved the previous books in the series, but this one fell a little flat. I didn’t dislike it, but it didn’t grab me the way I thought it would.

Rowena: I had no problem connecting with this story. I thought it was wonderfully written and I really enjoyed seeing Zara and Dave come together again. I loved seeing two worlds that I am so in love with come together with Zara and Dave. It was so good to see Leo, Patrick and Dave’s other Brooklyn Bruisers teammates interact with Griff, Audrey and the rest of the True North gang.

I’m trying to remember if there was anything that I didn’t like about this book…nothing is coming to mind.

Holly: Maybe it was my reading mood, but I just didn’t fall into it the way I have the other books in the series (and the Brooklyn Bruiser’s series, for that matter). It moved slowly for me in places, and I didn’t understand the way Zara acted some of the time. Plus, there was a lot of build-up around their relationship and how they’d make it work, and then it just kind of…fizzled. I think I expected more bang after the way the tension was built up.

Rowena: What didn’t you understand about the way Zara acted? For me, I thought she handled the whole seeing Dave again and being honest about Nicole with him, really well. Sure, she needed a hot minute to get herself together but for the most part, I thought she handled giving Dave a chance great. She was unsure but knew that she couldn’t deprive her daughter of relationships that were her right to have. I really liked Zara. I liked her a lot more as a mother than I did a bartender. Her reasons for being so mute on who the father was in the previous books were good reasons and I thought she was a fantastic mother to Nicole.

Holly: The way she was so hot and cold with Dave is what threw me. She wanted him. She wanted to be with him. She wanted him as the father of her child. Then she didn’t want to be with him or start a relationship with him. Her pulling back halfway through the book made the I-Love-You’s seem to come out of nowhere, even though we’d had basically the entire book.

Rowena: When she explained why she felt the way that she did with Dave, I bought it and fell in line with how the both of them felt for each other. But you’re right, she was a bit hot and cold with Dave.

Holly: Sure, I get that she didn’t trust in a relationship with a guy she barely knew who was only going to be in town for a few months. But she refused to even have that conversation with him. He’d bring it up and try to discuss their future and she’d run scared. I get she was afraid, but I was surprised and slightly disappointed she wasn’t willing to even talk about it. Then, bam, all the angst is done? I just didn’t buy it. And honestly, Dave had more reason to be wary of a relationship than Zara. If he was willing to work at it with her, why couldn’t she do the same?

Rowena: We saw it differently then because I got it. Dave’s internal issues were about not trusting himself to be a good father because of his childhood and his past whereas Zara’s internal issues were about someone else letting her down time and time again. It was natural for her to see Dave being the kind of father she had growing up, especially since he told her himself that he was never going to have a family. It took her a little bit to get herself together and come around to the idea so I understood it. Because more than anything, she was trying to protect Nicole.

Holly: Eh, I disagree. Yes, she was let down in the past, but she had brothers, uncles and her mom who were all there for her. They didn’t let her down. So her claim that everyone in her life (that’s me adding dramatic flair..lol) let her down doesn’t hold water. And again, it’s not that I don’t think she had a valid point when it came to Dave, but her refusal to even discuss their future is what threw me off.

Rowena: She never claimed that everyone let her down. Just her Dad. She was scared that Dave was going to be just like her own Dad to Nicole. He perpetuated that by telling her that he never wanted to have a family. He was pretty adamant about that. He changed his mind and she didn’t trust it. What’s not to understand about that? Since her refusal to discuss it didn’t last all that long, I wasn’t mad about it. And you shouldn’t be either. Get over it, Holly. LOL.

Holly: But it did last a long time! Basically the whole entire book. But you’re right, I probably should get over it since it all worked out in the end. I should..but I probably won’t. Ha.

Rowena: I’m rolling my eyes at you. Seriously.

Holly: That’s not to say I didn’t like Zara. Because I did. But her hot and cold attitude threw me off. It just didn’t jive with the Zara we knew from previous books.

Rowena:Dave handled finding out he was a father pretty realistically, I think. I thought he did a lot of growing up over the course of this book and when he falls in love with Zara, I believed him. I loved that there wasn’t a thing that he wouldn’t do for Zara and Nicole. She needed him to deflect some attention away from her for an afternoon? Done. She needed him to step in and watch Nicole so that she can rush around for Audrey and Griff’s wedding? Done. He wasn’t the perfect hero but he was a good man. He loved deeply and I truly adored watching him bond with Nicole.

Holly: Dave was great. I loved how patient he was with Zara and how, even though he needed a minute to get his life figured out after she dropped her bombshell on him, he really stepped up. He was scared, but he did what he needed to do. I think where Zara lost me was that she seemed so confident and in charge, but kept pulling back from Dave.

Rowena: You think we’re going to get a book for Dave’s sister, Bess? I totally want that book….but not before Becca and Nate. Ha!

Holly: I really want Becca and Nate. I think we need to start a petition that their book is next. But yes, I definitely want Bess to get a book. I adored her.

Rowena: I think their book is next, at least in the Brooklyn Bruisers series so I’m not too worried about that. But yes, Bess is like LL Cool J…she needs love.

Holly: She does need love. So does May. I didn’t like her girlfriend at all. Maybe Bess and May will end up together.

Rowena: I can so get behind a Bess and May pairing. May’s boo thang was annoying af and she deserves way better than that. I’m curious if they’ll both get their own stories told.

Overall, I thought Sarina Bowen wrote another fantastic romance about two people who didn’t think they’d ever see each other again but did anyway. The sparks between Zara and Dave were bright and extra sizzling. Their romance was a sweet one and I loved the hell out of it. I loved this book just as much as I loved the other True North books and more than I loved Rookie Move. It was fun, sweet and I wanted to cuddle it close when I was finished with the book. So stinkin’ good.

I really enjoyed this book so I’m giving it a 4.75 out of 5.

Holly: I didn’t dislike this book, but it didn’t grab me the way I thought it would and Zara’s actions threw me. I’m giving it 3.5 out of 5.

Holly’s final Grade: 3.5 out of 5
Rowena’s final Grade: 4.75 out of 5

True North Series

Brooklyn Bruisers Series

four-half-stars


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Review: Keepsake by Sarina Bowen

Posted November 2, 2016 by Rowena in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: Keepsake by Sarina BowenReviewer: Rowena
Keepsake by Sarina Bowen
Series: True North #3
Also in this series: Bittersweet, Steadfast (True North #2), Steadfast, Bittersweet, Bountiful (True North, #4)
Published by Rennie Road Books
Publication Date: October 25th 2016
Genres: New Adult
Pages: 326
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-stars

There's a first time for everything. Lark Wainright used to be fearless. Her life was a series of adventures, each one more exhilarating than the last. But her recent overseas adventure was one too many. Now she’s home and in one piece. Mostly. But her nights are filled with terror.

When her best friend offers her a stay at the orchard in exchange for help at the farmers’ markets, Lark jumps at the chance to spend fall in Vermont. But her nightmares don’t stop. Desperate to keep her fragile state a secret, she relies on the most soft-spoken resident of the Shipley Farm to soothe her when her dreams prove too much.

Zachariah is a survivor, too. It’s been four years since he was tossed aside by the polygamist cult where he grew up. He’s found a peaceful existence on the Shipley’s farm, picking apples and fixing machinery. But getting thrown away by your own people at nineteen leaves a mark on a guy. He doesn’t always know what to make of a world where movie quotes are the primary means of communication. Before hitchhiking to Vermont, he’d never watched TV or spoken on the phone.

Actually, there are a lot of things he’s never done.

Zach and Lark slowly grow to trust one another. One night they become even closer than they’d planned. But Lark may still be too broken to trust anyone. When she pushes Zach away, he will have to prove to himself that he's good for much more than farm labor.

Keepsake was one of the books that I was most looking forward to releasing in October so that I can get my grubby hands on it. I quit everything that I was doing, reading and watching so that I can read this book. Sarina Bowen is one of my favorites and this series has really shaped up nicely for me.

I’ve been wanting to read Zach’s book for what feels like forever. There was a lot of time between books to develop theories on who Zach would end up with and it really could have been anyone. We thought that maybe he was Zara’s baby daddy because that would have been a good one, virgin boy fathers baby after losing virginity to town bartender. Then there was May. He could have fallen in love with his boss’ sister and the complication there would have been the younger sister in love with him and was heartbroken on top of Zach not wanting to go there with any of the sisters for fear of losing his job and his home if things didn’t work out. Well, we didn’t get either of those stories because Zach fell in love with May’s best friend, Lark. Lark who went to work in Guatemala and was kidnapped then held hostage for ransom.

Lark is having a really hard time sleeping at night because she has night terrors. She keeps getting sucked back to memories of her time in Guatemala and she thinks that being out in the open air and staying busy on an apple orchard would be good for her. For the most part, being out in the sunshine and spending her days hard at work is good for her but not even that can keep the night terrors at bay for good. When those night terrors get the best of her, she’s not just waking herself up but she’s waking up everyone sleeping in the bunk house. One of those guys is Zach, a quiet guy who has been living on the Shipley farm for some time now.

Zach and Lark become friends and when Lark needs him, Zach is there for her. There isn’t much that he won’t do for the pretty girl with the haunted eyes that is such close friends with a girl he considers a sister. The more time that they spend together, the harder Zach falls for Lark and Lark for Zach. Lark knows that Zach is one of the good ones and she wants to be there for him just as much as he’s been there for her and she introduces him to the world of living…if you know what I mean. 🙂

Sarina Bowen really packs the angst with this one and my heart hurt for both Zach and Lark. They have both been scarred from events in their past and they’re both leaning on each other to just get through it all and I really enjoyed seeing them come together. I loved both Griff and Jude but I think Zach edged them both out for my favorite hero in this series. There was just so much to love about him. His sensitive nature, the protective instincts he’s got for everyone in his life and how hard he works to make sure that he will always have a place at the Shipley farm. I couldn’t help but hurt for how hard he worked to make sure that he proved to Griff and Mrs. Shipley that they still needed him around. To live like that, in fear that the people who opened their home to you would change their mind and kick you out hit me hard because what a way to live. Poor thing worked himself hard each and every day to make sure the Shipleys didn’t regret giving him a chance.

The romance between Zach and Lark was good. I liked seeing Zach really come into his own while seeing Lark. Seeing Zach fall in love hit me in my feels at every turn because I wanted this for him and I loved seeing him when things got rough. Seeing him struggle with what to do and where to go from here while Lark did what she needed to do made for their reunion that much more special for me. They were a great couple and when I closed the book, I was completely satisfied with the outcome. This was a great book and I would probably be re-reading this book from time to time. All for Zach. If you enjoyed the other books in this series than I know you will enjoy this one. Everyone should know Zach, he’s that awesome!


gif credits
4 out of 5

four-stars


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Review: Bittersweet by Sarina Bowen

Posted August 10, 2016 by Holly in Reviews | 4 Comments

Review: Bittersweet by Sarina BowenReviewer: Holly
Bittersweet by Sarina Bowen
Series: True North #1
Also in this series: Bittersweet, Steadfast (True North #2), Steadfast, Keepsake, Bountiful (True North, #4)
Published by Rennie Road Books, Self-Published
Publication Date: June 14th 2016
Genres: New Adult
Pages: 300
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Farmers make the earth move.

The last person Griffin Shipley expects to find stuck in a ditch on his Vermont country road is his ex-hookup. Five years ago they’d shared a couple of steamy nights together. But that was a lifetime ago.

At twenty-seven, Griff is now the accidental patriarch of his family farm. Even his enormous shoulders feel the strain of supporting his mother, three siblings and a dotty grandfather. He doesn’t have time for the sorority girl who’s shown up expecting to buy his harvest at half price.

Vermont was never in Audrey Kidder’s travel plans. Neither was Griff Shipley. But she needs a second chance with the restaurant conglomerate employing her. Okay—a fifth chance. And no self-righteous lumbersexual farmer will stand in her way.

They’re adversaries. They want entirely different things from life. Too bad their sexual chemistry is as hot as Audrey’s top secret enchilada sauce, and then some.

Warning: Contains sexual situations, gourmet yumminess, a steamy outdoor shower and proof that farmers don't mind getting dirty.

Keywords: Vermont, sexy romance, lumbersexuals, not cowboys, hard cider, good times, steamy kisses and homemade ice cream.

Bittersweet was such a sweet read. I fell in love with Griffin Shipley, his farm and his family.

Griffin Shipley and Audrey Kidder hooked up a couple times in college. Griff wanted more, but Audrey never returned his calls. Although he was drafted out of college to play professional football, when his father died Griff chose to come home to work the family farm. Five years later, he’s in charge of the whole operation, which leaves little time for anything – or anyone – else. Which is why Audrey showing up out of the blue is both a gift and a nightmare. He would love nothing more than to strip her naked, but he doesn’t need the distraction – or the trouble she brings in the form of her employer.

Audrey struggled to find herself after high school. After failing out of two colleges, she went to culinary school and loved it. Now she’s interning at a major food company in hopes of winning  a major showcase they’re hosting. Winner gets a brand new restaurant. She’s determined to win the showcase, but she has to maintain the status quo until then – which means convincing Grumpy Griff the farmer to sell her apples.

Griff was such a great hero. Gruff, sexy and no-nonsense. I loved his approach to life and farming. Audrey wasn’t as focused as Griff, but she really worked in her own way. She’d been told her whole life she wasn’t good enough, but she didn’t let that stop her from finding her place and pursuing her dream. I really loved Griff’s family and the workers on his farm. Though I loved Griff and enjoyed his romance with Audrey, they made the book for me. Jude, Zach and his siblings and mother were really the showstoppers.

I did struggle a bit with how lost Audrey seemed in the beginning. She was determined to get her own restaurant by winning the showcase, but there wasn’t a lot of focus on her as a chef. What we did see of her at work made her seem incompetent. It isn’t that I thought she couldn’t do it period, but I felt like she needed more experience first. I also struggled with her relationship with her mom. I would have liked to see that explored a bit more.

Despite that, this was a solid read. I fell into this book right away and didn’t come up for air until it was finished. Funny, sexy, sweet…Definitely another winner from Bowen.

3.75/5

four-half-stars


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Review: Steadfast by Sarina Bowen

Posted July 13, 2016 by Holly in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: Steadfast by Sarina BowenReviewer: Holly
Steadfast by Sarina Bowen
Series: True North #2
Also in this series: Bittersweet, Steadfast (True North #2), Bittersweet, Keepsake, Bountiful (True North, #4)
Published by Rennie Road Books
Publication Date: July 12th 2016
Pages: 300
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-stars

She’s the only one who ever loved him—and the only one he can never have.Jude lost everything one spring day when he crashed his car into an apple tree on the side of the road. A man is dead, and there's no way he can ever right that wrong. He’d steer clear of Colebury, Vermont forever if he could. But an ex-con in recovery for his drug addiction can’t find a job just anywhere. 
Sophie Haines is stunned by his reappearance. After a three year absence, the man who killed her brother and broke her heart is suddenly everywhere she turns. It’s hard not to stare at how much he’s changed. The bad boy who used to love her didn’t have big biceps and sun-kissed hair. And he’d never volunteer in the church kitchen. 
No one wants to see Sophie and Jude back together, least of all Sophie's police chief father. But it's a small town. And forbidden love is a law unto itself. 
Keywords: Sarina Bowen, drug addiction, Vermont, True North series. 

Steadfast is the second book in Bowen’s True North series. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Jude, but I have to say, straight up, I loved him. His struggle was real, but he persevered and grabbed my heart along the way.

Jude was a rebellious teenager who ended up addicted to prescription pain meds. His mother took off when he was young and his father was a barely functional alcoholic. The only solid person in his life was Sophie, and he ruined that the day he drove high and killed her brother in a car accident. 3 and a half years later he’s out of prison and, after a stint in rehab and working on the Shipley farm, completely sober. He doesn’t want to be back in Colebury, but he needs money to go anywhere else, and jobs for convicted felons are in short supply, so he’s stuck working at his father’s shop until he can make enough to move out on his own.

When he imagines Sophie, he always figures she’s living her dream of being a singer in New York, or married to a great guy. He never expects to find her living in town, still single, and not pursing her dreams. He knows he bad for her. He knows he killed their future the same as he killed her brother. Yet he’s dying to know she’s okay.

Sophie is going to school and taking care of her mother, who completely checked out after her brother died. She was heartbroken when Jude went to prison. Not just for her family, but for Jude as well. No matter his crimes, she still loved him. But when she wrote him he returned her letters unopened, and she’s had three years to nurse her anger over the way he abandoned her. Since she had no idea he was out of prison, she’s shocked when she sees him in town.  When he starts volunteering at the church where she works, she’s unable to avoid him. And she can’t deny she still craves him.

We met Jude in Bittersweet when he went to work for Griffin Shipley. He kept surprising me with how candid and open he was, though he didn’t talk a lot. I really enjoyed getting to know him better. He was forthright and steadfast, trying to stay sober and figure out what to do with his future. He still had cravings, and his struggle to stay clean was hard to read at times, but I loved how real he was.

What I struggled with was the why of Sophie’s feelings toward Jude, her family and the circumstances that pulled them apart. Jude killed her brother, yet she doesn’t seem too angry with him over it. She says she’s angry, but she doesn’t act like she is. There was no guilt over wanting to be with Jude, or regret for choosing him over her family.  Her father was a nightmare and her mother had checked out. Plus it was mentioned that she and her brother weren’t close. But these seemed like thin excuses rather than explanations. Sophie seemed less angry that Jude killed her brother than she was that he didn’t write her while he was in prison.

I liked the two of them together. I truly believed they had a deep connection and relied on and needed each other. But the way things ended seemed too neat and tidy. It almost seemed like Sophie was pushing so hard to get Jude’s name cleared because she couldn’t – or wouldn’t – accept him the way he was. He was realistic about his recovery and very forthright about the mistakes he’d made. I wish she’d have accepted them, too, rather than pushing to prove he wasn’t at fault. She had understandable questions about the circumstances leading up to her brother’s death, so I understood when she tried to get the police report. But everything after that felt like a push to make it okay for her to be with Jude.

For all that, I truly enjoyed the novel. Jude’s trials and tribulations, and his romance with Sophie was well written and really drew me in. It was until after I finished that I realized how much Sophie’s actions bothered me. The story swept me away.

4 out of 5

four-stars


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Review: Steadfast by Sarina Bowen

Posted July 12, 2016 by Rowena in Reviews | 3 Comments

Review: Steadfast by Sarina BowenReviewer: Rowena
Steadfast (True North #2) by Sarina Bowen
Series: True North #2
Also in this series: Bittersweet, Steadfast, Bittersweet, Keepsake, Bountiful (True North, #4)
Published by Self-Published
Publication Date: July 12th 2016
Genres: New Adult
Pages: 300
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-half-stars

She’s the only one who ever loved him—and the only one he can never have.Jude lost everything one spring day when he crashed his car into an apple tree on the side of the road. A man is dead, and there's no way he can ever right that wrong. He’d steer clear of Colebury, Vermont forever if he could. But an ex-con in recovery for his drug addiction can’t find a job just anywhere.

Sophie Haines is stunned by his reappearance. After a three year absence, the man who killed her brother and broke her heart is suddenly everywhere she turns. It’s hard not to stare at how much he’s changed. The bad boy who used to love her didn’t have big biceps and sun-kissed hair. And he’d never volunteer in the church kitchen.

No one wants to see Sophie and Jude back together, least of all Sophie's police chief father. But it's a small town. And forbidden love is a law unto itself.

Keywords: Sarina Bowen, drug addiction, Vermont, True North series.

Steadfast is the second book in the True North series and it features Jude, a recovering addict who was addicted to prescription pills. When we first met Jude, he was a skinny guy who just got out of prison and was looking for a fresh start that nobody wanted to give him. He found his footing working for the Shipley’s in Bittersweet and when he picked his last apple at the farm, he made his way back home and is struggling to stay sober and get his life back.

It’s hard to stick to his guns when he doesn’t have a support system in Colebury. The place he called home until he was sent to prison for drug use, drug possession with the intent to sell and then vehicular manslaughter. The guy he killed when he was high as a kite? His ex-girlfriend’s brother. Being back in Colebury brings back a lot of memories. There isn’t a place he can go to escape the memories of him and Sophie. Sophie is the only girl he’s ever loved and the only person who has ever loved him. When he cut things off with her while he was in prison, he didn’t think that she’d want to have anything to do with him again but when they start seeing each other everywhere they go, she’s back in his life and Jude will take anything she will give.

It was easy to see why Jude loved Sophie so much. I enjoyed getting to know her, connected with her character because her situation was familiar to me. In Samoan households, you take care of your parents, no matter how nice or mean they are. You care for your elders and no matter how mean Sophie’s parents were, no matter how pissed off she got, she stuck by them and she took care of them. She was strong and she was loyal and I really enjoyed seeing her come into her own and fight for a little independence.

Getting to know Jude was a treat as well because he was everything I was hoping he’d be when we first mete him in Bittersweet. His struggles were real and his story wasn’t easy but it was honest and I thought Bowen did a fantastic job of putting the reader in Jude’s shoes. I was right there with him through every struggle, through his bout at the hospital and I was rooting him on at every turn. I loved him even when he was being a dumbass.

The romance between Jude and Sophie was great. I loved seeing them learn each other all over again and fall in love with the people they were now and not the people they were in the past. I was talking to Nath about this book after we both finished it and Nath said something that I agreed with. She wished that certain things didn’t happen in the end as Jude and Sophie’s story wrapped up. She didn’t think it was necessary and while I agree that it wasn’t necessary, I didn’t mind it. My favorite thing about a Sarina Bowen book is the real life problems her characters go through and the very real way in which they deal with their problems. Their problems start off overwhelming and with each passing page, she wraps you up in their worlds and makes you the biggest of cheerleaders. It was no different in this book. Not only was I cheering Jude on to make it through to the other side but I was also cheering Sophie on to figure out what she wanted to do and to stand up for herself with her parents.

This was another stand out effort from Sarina Bowen and I really enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure I would like this series as much as I liked her Ivy Years series but I love these guys. So freaking much. I can’t wait to find out who is Zach’s heroine. I have my theories and I have my hopes for who it is so I’m very much looking forward to the next book.

Grade: 4.5 out of 5

four-half-stars


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