Saturday, 28 January 2017

My Favourite Things 1

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As I'm all for sharing happiness and gratitude over here on Vivatramp, I thought I would start sharing my favourite things at the end of each month during 2017. This month I'm coveting a few Christmas gifts and some new music. If you would like to get involved, feel free to comment with your current favourites so we can all look back in several months time and see what was making our hearts feel full. These are a few of my favourite things, currently: 

lush face masks vivatramp blog

ROSY CHEEKS MASK
We have a new-ish tradition that my Dad buys us something from LUSH at birthdays and Christmas. I don't really know how it started but it has stuck and last month I was lucky enough to unwrap two of the Rosy Cheeks face mask pots. I'd been wanting to try this one out since its introduction and I hadn't got round to it but boy was it worth the wait! I have to say pals, Rosy Cheeks has now become my favourite mask. I'm not usually big on rose scents but I happen to love how this mask smells and it glides on so smoothly. LUSH face masks always feel like a real treat to me and I love having friends over for little pamper sessions with them. Great for de-stressing. I'll definitely be asking for Rosy Cheeks again. Sorry, Catastrophe Cosmetic! 

the xx review

NEW MUSIC FROM THE XX

The XX are back with their breathy vocals and bass-y lullabies and their third album, entitled I See You. Whilst their second album, Co-Exist, felt very much in the same vein of their first self-titled offering, I See You very much channels Jamie XX vibes. The breaths and the bass are still there but, in places, they're elevated by dancier beats which I am all for because I loved Romy and Oliver's appearances on Jamie's See Saw and Stranger in a Room. My favourite songs from the album so far are I Dare You, Replica, Lips and On Hold. Pop your headphones in and listen to this in the dead of night. 

eclectic eccentricity review blog

AMETHYST NECKLACE
This Tove Amethyst Triangle necklace has become a style favourite of mine of late for the way in which it transforms a simple outfit, such as my black high neck swing dress, and instantly makes me look put together. I was very lucky to unwrap this, alongside a moon locket, on Christmas Day. Such thoughtful gifts that I'll get so much wear out of. Eclectic Eccentricity have a ton of beautiful pieces, many celestial themed, so I'd recommend that you have a look if you're in the market for a gift or a treat to yourself. I have quite the EE collection and I'm forever buying their pieces for family and friends! Thoroughly recommended.   

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ZUMA CHAI
Luke's younger brother kindly gave me a massive tub of vanilla Zuma chai for Christmas because he knows how much I love a chai latte every now and again. This particular brand of vanilla chai strikes the right balance between spicy and smooth and froths up really nicely. I like to pair it with warm milk as opposed to half milk half water because I prefer it to be creamier. It has been a real treat on days where I've felt pretty bad and there's enough in the tub to keep me happy for another couple of of months at least! 


vivatramp lifestyle blogs uk my favourite things la la land

LA LA LAND
I saw La La Land this month and I fell absolutely head over heels in love with it. I didn't expect to but I did, wholeheartedly. From the choreography to the cinematography, from the costumes to the music. I cannot tell you just how many times I have listened to the soundtrack. It has become a real problem. If you've yet to see La La Land, give it a go. A modern musical heavily inspired by the classics of the '30s and 40s. I'm definitely going to have to go and see it again.



NEW LAYOUT & HAPPY ARCHIVE
I harped on about it in my 2017 goals post but I have been really enjoying my new layout this month. I also love that I took several hours of my time to spark some life back into the Things That Make Me Happy archive. That feature has been with me since the beginning and sharing happiness and gratitude is as important to me now as it was then. I hope you've been enjoying looking back on old posts over here. Again, I apologise if some of them are formatted a little strange. I'm trying to go through them all as quickly as I can to rectify that! 

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HAVING A COKE WITH YOU BY FRANK O'HARA
I have been fond of this poem since I first read it a few years ago but I recently decided to make it my desktop wallpaper to inspire me and since then I've been reading it every so often and finding new things that I love about it. Whilst I'm not entirely enamored by works from the Beat generation, I do love how conversational their poetry was. The speech-like rhythm is spot on and it's something I'd love to try my hand at a little more. 


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(photo credit)


DISABILITY MARCH
On January 21st, a day after Trump's inauguration, marches took place around the world. Hundreds of thousands of people were in attendance to fight for rights to party. I truly hope that this signals a rise in activism and awareness of the need for movements and conversations that aren't cis white able-bodied centric. One of the most warming things to come out of the marches for me was the online disability march. Set up by women who recognised that the marches, whilst important, weren't particularly accessible to disabled people, Disability March collected and shared the stories of disabled women across the globe. I spent the day scrolling through the timeline reading stories of fellow disabled people and it filled my heart with so my love, passion and power. The world can often feel like a terrifying place for those of us that aren't able-bodied and scrolling through that Twitter page on Saturday afternoon made me feel incredibly strong. If you're interested in activism but worry because you cannot physically attend protests, there are lots of resources on the Disability March website for you to peruse and the wonderful Vanessa wrote an article on how to be an activist without going to a protest.

current favourites vivatramp lifestyle blog

'DATE NIGHT'
Whilst we have lots of nice movie nights in, we don't ever really seem to go out very often so it was a real treat earlier this month to head out to dinner with Luke. We went for burgers and fries at a local pub before heading to watch La La Land. It was really lovely and so needed. It wasn't ~wild~ but I wanted to document it here because it was genuinely one of my favourite things this January. I hope we get to do this more often throughout the year. We certainly will next month but more on that in a little bit...


TRONICBOX
I found Tronicbox a few months ago via Twitter, I believe, and I still find myself going back to their channel to listen to the 1980's remixes of popular chart hits. They've done a few Ariana tracks, Bieber tracks and a bit of Gotye. However, I think Into You might be my favourite. Although, I also love Tronicbox's emo remixes of Never Forget You and Rude. You can take the girl out of 2004...

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MAKING ANNIVERSARY PLANS
Luke and I are celebrating seven years together next month so I decided to book us a trip to the other love of my life, York. Luke's never been so I'm hoping that he will fall in love with it like I did when I visited last year to attend the York Literature FestivalIf you have any York recommendations for things to do or places to eat, etc, then do please fire them my way. Although, I am about 80% of the way there with our itinerary. I love planning, me. 



+ JANUARY BLOG POSTS

•  book reviews ft. some poetry!  
  tin can daydreams: a poem 
  a book haul ft. lots of books
•  glut: a poem 
  some 2017 goals & updates
  a list of the books i want to read in 2017
  another list of the things that make me happy 
  tried my hand at the try a story tag


And those a few of my favourite things at the moment. What are you coveting of late? I really loved sharing my current favourites with you. I'm looking forward to doing it more often! If you'd like to keep up, you can scroll through all of my favourite things.


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Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Try A Story Tag feat. Shirley Jackson

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I've been really struggling to settle down with books recently so, following the success of my Try A Chapter attempts, I thought I would try out Jen Campbell's Try A Story tag. The tag requires you to read four stories from four short story collections before deciding which you would like to continue with. 

I have picked four unread short story collections from my shelves that also happen to be written by writers whose work I have enjoyed previously. This could make things a little difficult but I'm excited to delve back into the world of brevity. I've opted for Some Rain Must Fall And Other Stories by Michel Faber, The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson, The Rendezvous by Daphne Du Maurier and Cathedral by Raymond Carver. 

vivatramp book blog uk lifestyle bloggers michel faber

some rain must fall (and other stories) by michel faber
I featured this collection in my November book haul last year after I bought it whilst on a post-Under The Skin kick. I was curious as to whether his short stories would ring a note with me as I adored Under The Skin but felt lukewarm towards The Book of Strange New Things

Some Rain Must Fall was an 18 page story that followed a substitute teacher drawn in to teach and repair a class of young children following a crisis. Faber's characters are often broken people placed in broken situations and this is where he perceptively illuminates the diverse spectrum of human emotion and understanding. Faber, for me, is one of those writers that writes the complexities of human nature, and relationships, perfectly. He understands every gesture, every word, every instinct, and he commits all of this knowledge to the page. 

The title story was particularly fascinating where the complexities of human nature were concerned because it looked at the way in which we often fight fires for other people instead of tending to our own. I could definitely carry on with this collection straight away because I find Faber's stories to be all-consuming, due to his faultless characterisation and assured tone of his storytelling. This could be a strong contender!

book blog vivatramp shirley jackson

the lottery (and other stories) by shirley jackson
I read, and loved, We Have Always Lived in the Castle a couple of years ago and so I recently picked up Jackson's most famous work and shared it in a book haul. Her short stories are held in high regard and I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. 

The 8-page story, entitled The Intoxicated, follows an older man conversing with a woman at a party in post-War suburban America about the future of the world. In this particular story, we see an older generation confronted by a younger one that has 
unrealised the American Dream and it's that pessimistic and political awareness that drives the story. Timely, af!

The Intoxicated brought a subtlety to Jackson's dark storytelling that I hadn't really seen before and that subtlety is definitely something that I'd like to explore further so this is a real contender. 

book bloggers in the uk vivatramp lifestyle blog daphne du maurier the rendezvous blog

THE RENDEZVOUS (AND OTHER STORIES) BY DAPHNE DU MAURIER
Virago republished some of Du Maurier's short story collections at the end of last year in sparkly new editions and I was lucky enough to get one for Christmas. No Motive is a 45 page story that follows a private detective as he searches for a motive following the suicide of a seemingly contended woman. 


I shared my concerns in my Books I Want To Read in 2017 post as to whether Du Maurier would be able to do her best within so few pages but this particular story had all the twists and turns I've come to expect from her writing despite its brevity. It was still able to move, shock and inspire me. 

No Motive felt familiar in its themes of deception, identity and forced domesticity. This familiarity was great but I also really loved how bittersweet and sentimental it came to be. That softer quality felt quite different to anything else I've read by her. Although, I suppose that was kind of present in Frenchman's Creek. I imagine I'll come to love her short stories as much as I love her novels. 

Engrossing. Perceptive. Haunting. It takes a lot to turn my attention away from Du Maurier so this could be the one!  

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CATHEDRAL BY RAYMOND CARVER 
I got into Carver's stories whilst taking a class on them at university and ever since then I've been reading a Carver collection a year...kind of. You may remember that I loved both What We Talk About What We Talk About Love and Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? going back a few years but I failed to pick one up last year. Oops!

I featured this collection in my secondhand book haul back in December 2015 and it has been sat on my TBR shelf ever since. I actually read the first story during last year's BookBuddyAThon so for this challenge I read the second story, Chef's House. Chef's House is an 8 page story about a disparate family attempting to reunite after being separated by addiction.

 I have said before that the beauty of Carver's stories are what is revealed to you once you have stopped reading and it is still very much true. Carver's stories offer quiet vignettes of ordinary lives and that's what makes them so devastating. He doesn't seek  to wander too far from realism. He appreciates that a lot of the time pain is unavoidable.  

I would be happy to carry on reading because I love Carver's oblique writing style and how much he makes his readers work beyond the words on the page but I feel like I should maybe opt for one of the others first because I am most familiar with Carver's short stories. 


All of the stories had their merits but I have decided to stick with Du Mauribae. Her aptitude for clever storytelling makes her writing irresistible to me and I'm fascinated to see what else she does with the form. I'm not even going to apologise for being predictable. Suck it! I'm probably going to opt for Faber's collection once I've finished The Rendezvous so you may see them both in an upcoming book review post. Watch this space.

Are you going to take on the challenge? What unread short story collections do you own? If you'd like to scroll through all of my book blog posts then you can. Or, alternatively, you could just flick through my Try A Chapter tag  posts or my How To Write Short Stories post instead.

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*This post features affiliate links. If you buy the books through the links I've provided I'll receive a 5% commission to put back into the blog.
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Saturday, 21 January 2017

Things That Make Me Happy 66

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stuff about cults
the colour orange
messy handwriting 
envelopes held together with washi tape
handwritten recipes 

(photo credit)


I have been sharing things that make me happy lists for years. If you'd like to read some more, you can scroll through the archive.



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Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Books I Want To Read in 2017

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I've got quite a lot of unread books on my shelves so, as its a new year and all, I've written a little list of the books that I want to read in 2017. You'll recognise the majority of them from my various book hauls over the last year or two. I'm not great at sticking to these TBR lists, in all honesty, but I do tend to fare quite well with Try A Chapter reads so maybe I'll trial some of these out across that feature over the next twelve months. 

the girls emma cline try a chapter book tag vivatramp blog
by emma cline
Evie Boyd is desperate to be noticed. In the summer of 1969, empty days stretch out under the California sun. The smell of honeysuckle thickens the air and the sidewalks radiate heat. Until she sees them. The snatch of cold laughter. Hair, long and uncombed. Dirty dresses skimming the tops of thighs. Cheap rings like a second set of knuckles. The girls. And at the centre, Russell. Russell and the ranch, down a long dirt track and deep in the hills. Incense and clumsily strummed chords. Rumours of sex, frenzied gatherings, teen runaways. Was there a warning, a sign of things to come? Or is Evie already too enthralled by the girls to see that her life is about to be changed forever?

My pal Candice sent me this book in March of last year and I genuinely think the only reason I haven't read it yet is because it's a larger paperback. I am so precious. I did, however, read the first chapter for my initial Try A Chapter tag post and I really enjoyed the writing style, with its little lilts of poetry, so I'm going to bookmark this read for the summer months when the sun-drenched setting feels a little more appropriate. I love stuff about cults so I know that I'll probably really like this if I give it some time. 


[EDIT: READ MY book review of the girls]
by daphne du maurier
Dick Young is lent a house in Cornwall by his friend Professor Magnus Lane. During his stay he agrees to serve as guinea pig for a new drug Magnus has discovered in his biochemical research; the effect of which is to transport Dick from the house at Kilmarth to the Cornwall of the 14th century.

Another year, another Du Maurier! The House on the Strand was introduced to my collection in October of last year but I opted to read Frenchman's Creek and My Cousin Rachel before picking it up. As I mentioned when I hauled it, the plot seems quite far-removed from the Du Maurier threads that I'm used to but I'm really intrigued to see how she tackles time travel and science fiction in general. I have loved everything I've read by Du Maurier (Jamaica Inn, Rebecca, Frenchman's Creek and My Cousin Rachel) so I'm expecting even more good things from this. I like reading Daphne's stuff in the colder months so I may get to this sooner rather than later.
by colson whitehead
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood - where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

I added this book to my collection back in November of last year after Oprah raved about it and put it on everybody's radar. I'm actually currently reading this so, with any luck, I will finish this within the next twelve months...God help me. 

I've been a bit stop-start with my reading this year but I'm a few chapters in and I'm really intrigued. 



by miranda july
Here is Cheryl, a tightly-wound, vulnerable woman who lives alone, with a perpetual lump in her throat. She is haunted by a baby boy she met when she was six, who sometimes recurs as other people's babies. Cheryl is also obsessed with Phillip, a philandering board member at the women's self-defence non-profit where she works. She believes they've been making love for many lifetimes, though they have yet to consummate in this one. When Cheryl's bosses ask if their twenty-one-year-old daughter Clee can move into her house for a little while, Cheryl's eccentrically-ordered world explodes. And yet it is Clee--the selfish, cruel blond bombshell--who bullies Cheryl into reality and, unexpectedly, provides her the love of a lifetime.

Cast your minds back to my December book haul and you may remember that I featured this book after being given it as a Christmas gift. I'm not necessarily wanting to pick this up ASAP but I am curious to see how July's surreal tone translates across an entire novel, as opposed to short stories, so I'll fit it in somewhere.  

by yaa gyasi
Effia and Esi are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

Homegoing is another book that only entered my collection at the tail end of last month but, even still, it's a book that I really think deserves some of my time this year. I've seen some people complain that the plot of this novel is ~a little done~ but that doesn't bother me because nothing is really original these days and if done well it could still be an incredible novel. If we really wanna talk about plots that are a little done lets start with wanky arrogant male manuals if anything... 

carol patricia highsmith uk book bloggers vivatramp
by patricia highsmith
Two women from different backgrounds—one a department store clerk who dreams of a better life, one who is wealthy and married—strike up a love affair with each other in 1950s New York.

I shared Carol back in my November 2016 book haul after buying it post-Tipping The Velvet hangover.  I definitely want to read more queer lit going forward and this novel is at the forefront of my mind following the Oscar buzz of the film adaptation. I feel like my reading this year is going to heavily revolve around fragmented relationships so there could be more where this came from! 
by jill alexander essbaum
Anna Benz, an American in her late thirties, lives with her Swiss husband, Bruno—a banker—and their three young children in a postcard-perfect suburb of Z├╝rich. Though she leads a comfortable, well-appointed life, Anna is falling apart inside. Adrift and increasingly unable to connect with the emotionally unavailable Bruno or even with her own thoughts and feelings, Anna tries to rouse herself with new experiences: German language classes, Jungian analysis, and a series of sexual affairs she enters with an ease that surprises even her. But Anna can’t easily extract herself from these affairs. When she wants to end them, she finds it’s difficult. Tensions escalate, and her lies start to spin out of control. Having crossed a moral threshold, Anna will discover where a woman goes when there is no going back.

A moment of silence for this book cover, please. Hnng. Hausfrau is a book that I haven't even hauled yet it's that fresh. A lot of people that I respect book-wise are always recommending this to people on Twitter so I thought I'd take them up on it. This will definitely hit the spot where reading about fragmented relationships is concerned! I may read this quite soon - especially as its got praise from Janet Fitch on the front. I loved White Oleander.

[EDIT: READ MY HAUSFRAU BOOK REVIEW]

marvel and a wonder joe meno book haul

MARVEL AND A WONDER 
BY JOE MENO
Marvel and a Wonder is a darkly mesmerizing epic and literary page-turner set at the end of the twentieth century. In summer 1995, Jim Falls, a Korean War vet, struggles to raise his sixteen-year-old grandson, Quentin, on a farm in southern Indiana. In July, they receive a mysterious gift--a beautiful quarter horse--which upends the balance of their difficult lives. The horse's appearance catches the attention of a pair of troubled, meth-dealing brothers and, after a violent altercation, the horse is stolen and sold. Grandfather and grandson must travel the landscape of the bleak heartland to reclaim the animal and to confront the ruthless party that has taken possession of it. Along the way, both will be forced to face the tragedies of their past.

I'm quite fancying some Faulkner-esque vibes so I think I'll make a point of reading Meno's Marvel and a Wonder this year. I really like physical journeys in stories, whether they're golden hour road trips or post-apocalyptic strolls across wasteland, so I'm pretty intrigued by this title that I added to my library back in August 2016. I haven't really seen anyone discuss this book before so I've no real idea what to expect but it feels promising somehow. Maybe it's the beautiful cover?!

by marisha pessl
At the center of Special Topics in Calamity Physics is clever, deadpan Blue van Meer, who has a head full of literary, philosophical, scientific, and cinematic knowledge, but she could use some friends. Upon entering the elite St. Gallway School, she finds some--a clique of eccentrics known as the Bluebloods. One drowning and one hanging later, Blue finds herself puzzling out a byzantine murder mystery.

After years of sitting on my Goodreads to buy shelf, I finally bought this book back in October 2015. I am kind of intimidated by bigger books so that probably explains why it's still on my TBR shelf, despite the fact that I really liked the first chapter when I read it for my Try A Chapter tag post last summer. The blurb makes me think of cult classic The Secret History so we'll see whether it lives up to Tartt standards. I'm not sure when I'll pick this up but I'm gonna try and make sure I do because it sounds promising. Also, dat cover!
by sarah waters
This is the story of four Londoners – three women and a young man with a past, drawn with absolute truth and intimacy. Kay, who drove an ambulance during the war and lived life at full throttle, now dresses in mannish clothes and wanders the streets with a restless hunger, searching. Helen, clever, sweet, much-loved, harbours a painful secret. Viv, glamour girl, is stubbornly, even foolishly loyal, to her soldier lover. Duncan, an apparent innocent, has had his own demons to fight during the war. Their lives, and their secrets connect in sometimes startling ways. War leads to strange alliances…

I always turn to Twitter for recommendations on what Waters novel to read next and this time around the majority of people opted for her fourth novel, The Night Watch. I mentioned the other week, whilst reviewing Kate Tempest's latest offering, that I enjoy stories where characters are drawn together by location or a random event so this could be good. I also like place as a character and that's something that Waters happens to do really well. I have every faith in Waters because I adored both The Little Stranger and Tipping The Velvet. I'd be very surprised if I didn't enjoy anything she has written going forward! Read some of her work if you haven't already.

the lottery shirley jackson book haul uk book bloggers vivatramp

the lottery (and other stories) 
by shirley jackson
In these stories an excellent host finds himself turned out of home by his own guests; a woman spends her wedding day frantically searching for her husband-to-be; and in Shirley Jackson's best-known story, a small farming village comes together for a terrible annual ritual. The creeping unease of lives squandered and the bloody glee of lives lost is chillingly captured in these tales of wasted potential and casual cruelty by a master of the short story.

I'm aiming to read more short stories alongside bigger novels this year and this is a collection that I'm really wanting to pick up because the titular story is held in such high regard. Jackson is synonymous with Gothic tales and that's a genre that I've loved ever since reading Frankenstein whilst at school so I wouldn't be surprised if I end up adding more of her stuff to my library this year. 
by hunter s. thompson
In September, 1964 a cavalcade of motorbikes ripped through the city of Monterey, California. It was a trip destined to make Hell's Angels household names across America, infamous for their violent, drunken rampages and feared for the destruction left in their wake. Enter Hunter S. Thompson, the master of counter-culture journalism who alone had the ability and stature to ride with the Angels on their terms. In this hair-raising expose, he journeys with the last outlaws of the American frontier.

I read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas back in October 2015, rather spontaneously, and really enjoyed it. It gave me Always Sunny kinda awful people in farcical situations vibes and since then I've been meaning to read some more of Thompson's stuff. Whilst scrolling through his Goodreads page, this title took my interest. I really like exploring subcultures through literature and this happens to be a subculture that I know next to nothing about so it seemed like a good shout. I imagine his non-fiction is going to be pretty stellar. I'll see.

And those are 12 of the books that I want to read from my shelves in 2017. I'd like to know if you've set yourself a reading challenge this year and, if so, what titles are you hoping to read?

If you'd like to scroll through all of my book blog posts then you can. What a time to be alive!


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*Homegoing was sent to me by the publisher either for review. All opinions are my own. This post features affiliate links.If you buy the books through the links I've provided I'll receive a 5% commission to put back into the blog.
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