Sunday, August 06, 2017

Book Review: The First Gospel by Darryl Nyznyk


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Book Title: The First Gospel
Author: Darryl Nyznyk
Format: Paperback
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The First Gospel was the second book that I read by Darryl Nyznyk. (See my review of The Condor Song.)

I was attracted to the book because of the cover.  I was intrigued to discover how the cover related to the actual text.

The First Gospel is a historical fiction novel that keeps you enthralled until the very end.  The main character, Matt Carter, is thrown into a religious fight that leaves him wondering if he will live to see the next day.

Matt Carter's family owned a parchment that was key to the religious fight. Matt becomes aware of the deadly fight, when a former professor, Samuel Rosen sends Matt a letter before he is killed. After the death of Samuel Rosen, the religious fight intensifies with death after death.

As I read The First Gospel, I was reminded of The Divinci Code.  Darryl Nyznyk creates in an amazing plot that makes me, at times, wished that I read faster. I really enjoyed reading this book and connecting with the characters.  The unusual twists and turns kept me reading the book to discover how it would end.  If you are into historical fiction, this book is a must-read.


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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Book Review: In the Heart of Texas by Ginger McKnight-Chavers

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Book Title: In The Heart of Texas
Author: Ginger McKnight-Chavers
Format: Paperback
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

In the Heart of Texas is a story about an actress, Jo Randolph, and her unexpected transition to her hometown, Midland Texas.  Having a desire to be an actress since her childhood, Jo achieves her dream, but she has to pay a cost.

This book was quite entertaining.  Striving to be more than a desperate actress, Jo became entangled in a unique love affair that ultimately costs her a coveted job and a familiar life. Ultimately, as Jo's life falls apart, she partakes in a journey of self-discovery, which transforms her life right before her eyes.

Once Jo's love affair explodes into a media circus, she quickly retreats to her hometown, Midland, Texas.  Having promised herself that she would not return to her hometown, she quickly experiences a culture shock.  Adjusting to the slow pace of Midland, Texas from Hollywood is a very interesting transition for Jo.

While home, Jo is hired as a drama teacher at her former high school.  Being a teacher in Midland was something that Jo never dreamed possible, but after the media circus, it was very necessary for her to survive.  Ironically, Jo reconnects with a former classmate, but her attempt at reconnection was a complete wreck. Returning to Midland, Texas forces Jo to embrace her humble beginnings and start a new chapter filled with renewed hope.

Through Jo's mid-life crisis, the reader is exposed to Jo's often convoluted attitudes and beliefs about her life.  The unexpected events in Jo's life catapult her to appreciate what she has in her life rather than what is missing. Resilience is a theme throughout the text that is significantly illustrated as Jo pushes forward and embraces her new future.




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Friday, May 05, 2017

7 Authors Attend My Dream Book Conference


I love books, and I cannot lie.
If I were given the opportunity to organize a book conference with any of my favorite authors, I would be in "book heaven."  Being surrounded by books make me feel safe and warm.  Therefore, if I could plan the perfect book conference, I would have some of my favorite authors to be on the panel.

The location for my meeting would be the American Library in Paris, France. I love the history of the American Library in Paris.  Initially, the American Library in Paris was created to provide books to the members of the United States Armed Forces in World War I.  Now, The American Library in Paris has expanded to be one of the largest English-lending libraries in Europe. Plus, the library provides a view of the Eiffel Tower, which is on my bucket list.  I have images of the Eiffel Tower throughout my house, as a visual reminder that one day I will go to Paris. Just imagining being surrounded by first editions and being able to view the Eiffel Tower, I get goosebumps.

I would like seven authors on the panel.  The panel would be moderated by Oprah Winfrey, of course.  I cannot think of anyone else, who would do such an excellent job of moderating, especially since she is an avid reader.  Winfrey would ask just the right questions. I would be too star struck to ask anything.  I could just see Winfrey with that poised look, that she gets when she is really focused.

  1. Richard Wright - Richard Wright would be excellent for multiple reasons. I participated in the 4W's Writing Institute years ago, and Richard Wright was one of the featured writers.  We visited his hometown, Natchez, MS.  We viewed the house, where he burned the curtains.  We crossed the railroad tracks that he mentioned in his book, Black Boy.  We even saw the church, where Wright's mother taught.  I have always enjoyed his work. Plus, he relocated to Paris to escape racism in the United States.
  2. W. E. B. DuBois - Next, I would invite W. E. B. DuBois. I have his entire collection of writings. I purchased the last collection from Square Books in Oxford, MS, which is my favorite bookstore when I go home to Water Valley.  His books touch me deeply.  I am fascinated with his thought process, especially in The Soul of Black Folks. I presented research, entitled The Relevancy of The Souls of Black Folk in the 21st Century.  Also, I attended the unveiling of the bronze bust at Clark Atlanta University and Spelman College.  That experience was priceless.  
  3. Ernest Hemingway - I dream of going to Paris and visiting all of the locations that Hemingway was known to frequent.  Hemingway is known for donating to the American Library in Paris.  I have had the opportunity to smell a 1st edition book by Hemingway.  The $8,000 price tag stopped the actual purchase, but I am so grateful to Lemuria Bookstore for allowing me to be in the very presence of this book.  Sighs.  When I "make it," my first purchase will be that 1st edition.
  4. Mildred D. Taylor - Taylor was from Mississippi, which helped me enjoy her writing. Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry spoke to me on so many levels as a child. Additionally, the main character shared a variation of my name, Cassie.  Being from Mississippi and knowing first hand how racism impacts your life, I devoured each and every book written by Taylor.  I loved all her books. I even shared Taylor's books with my mother, who loves them, as well.  She is such a talented writer.
  5. Eudora Welty - Eudora was also a writer from the 4W's Writing Institute.  In Eudora's home, every room has books, and I loved this about her home. My favorite short story by her is A Worn Path.  I used that text often when I taught English at the college level.  I would have my students' watch her interview about A Worn Path.  I like how nonchalant she is about whether the grandson is alive or dead.
  6. Toni Morrison - The first book that I read by Morrison was Song of Solomon.  I did it to impress one of my favorite professors. I earned an A in his class because of my paper on this book.  God Help the Child is my favorite book by Morrison. In this text, Morrison emphasizes how parents shape the lives of their children.  If I were to meet Morrison, I discuss how she develops her novels and their plots. I would like to hear first hand her inspiration for Song of Solomon.
  7. Jodi PicoultSmall Great Things touched me deeply. I noticed that some of my fellow bookworms were reading Small Great Things because it kept showing up on my Instagram timeline.  Picoult knocked me off my feet with the plot and the realness of her book. She entangled me in the lives of Ruth and Turk.  The amount of research that she did to capture the characters in her book is truly remarkable.  I would like to discuss with her the process for which she wrote the book, especially the point of views for Ruth and Turk.

What do you think about my panel of authors? If you could create a book conference, who would you have on the panel and why? Would you attend my conference? Let's talk.

Check out Eventbrite's Conference Management Page for organizing and hosting your own local events.

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Book Review: Freddie Entangled by Kiru Taye



Book Title: Freddie Entangled
Author: Kiru Taye
Format: eBook
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

After reading Freddie EntangledI know that I will be reading the next one in the series, which is entitled Freddie Untangled.  Having only read the first book in the Essien Trilogy, Keeping Secrets, I definitely have to read the other four books before this one. Even though I have not read books 2-5, I was able to follow the plot.  

In this book, Kike, a famous actress, who is often referred to as the Ice Queen, is married to Lekan, the pastor of a mega church.  After an incident that involved someone trying to take her son, Yomi, she decides that a bodyguard is necessary for her and her son. 

Kike contacts the security firm, where Freddie works. Eventually, Freddie is hired to be Kike's personal bodyguard. His partner, Benson, watches the children.  The immediate attraction between Kike and Freddie is intriguing, overpowering, and surprising to me. 

Interestingly enough, the development of the plot to include sub and dom references shocked me. Why I don’t know? I guess I just wasn’t expecting that in this text.  The complexity of Kike and Freddie's interactions, as well as the relationship of Kike and Lekan, draws you into the plot, but also, leaves you feeling somewhat confused.  Both these feelings make you want to continue until the end.   

Being unfamiliar with the sub and dom world, I do not understand everything that Taye was trying to portray, but the psychology student in me couldn't help but notice the psychological and emotional abuse that Lekan was doing to Kike. Lekan has been taken advantage of Like since her youth.  

In my opinion, I finished this book in record time. However, I was so disappointed when I made it to the ending.  I wanted to know what was going to happen between Freddie and Kike, as well has what Lekan “had up his sleeve.”As I wait for Freddie Untangled to debut in May, I know I will be reading the books by Kiru Taye in this series to catch up.  





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Monday, March 27, 2017

Book Review: The Best Team Wins by Adam Robinson

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Book Title: The Best Team Wins
Author: Adam Robinson
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Best Team Wins, written by Adam Robinson, focuses on how important hiring the right people to work in an organization to the bottom line or profit of the organization.  Robinson provides several strategies or steps, which can potentially enhance a company's ability to identify team members, who can actually contribute to an organization.

I did not realize how important hiring the right people can impact an organization.  Robinson indicated that about "70 percent of the cost structure of a typical company" revolves around the people that work at the organization.  I could not believe how large this percentage was.

In my opinion, this book is ideal for budding entrepreneurs, who are looking to expand their organization.  This book provides a lot of information to assist in identifying key people for an organization. Entrepreneurs, who are foreign to the hiring process, could benefit immensely from this book.  Additionally, this book is ideal for organizations that are trying to identify how to sustain their competitive advantage.

The strategies within this book are manageable and can be implemented regardless of the size of the organization.  In my opinion, this book was not a hard read.  The language used within the text was not overly technical.


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Friday, March 17, 2017

Book Review: Ego Free Leadership

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Book Title: Ego Free Leadership
Format: Ebook
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Ego Free Leadership explored the stages of professional growth for a chief executive officer(CEO of a debt collection agency).  Written by a CEO, Brandon Black, and his professional coach, Shayne Hughes, Ego Free Leadership shows how the ego of a leader can impact his or her effectiveness. I appreciated the transparency presented in this text. I've read many books on leadership, which focus specifically on the positives and exclude their trials and tribulations. This book stands out because it is genuinely written to share what many leaders would normally omit.


I enjoyed reading Ego Free Leadership for several reasons. First, the authors presented numerous scenarios, which explained what was occurring, how ego played a negative or positive role, and what to do as a corrective measure. Before reading this book, I never really considered how much my ego can impact my ability to be an effective and efficient leader of an organization or in any capacity. Also, the authors, especially the CEO, shared their personal struggles with their desire to be viewed as a leader and maintaining their own egos. Lastly, Ego Free Leadership includes both success stories and stories about their failures. The anecdotal evidence demonstrates how their egos contributed to either failure or success. Using this method to share leadership strategies, the authors assist the reader in enhancing his or her ability to be a leader. 

I think this book is ideal for leaders, who are new to their leadership roles. After reading this book, new leaders can begin to identify their strengths and weaknesses as a leader. Also, new leaders can implement the strategies to improve their leadership styles. I believe that Ego Free Leadership can assist seasoned leaders in their self-assessment of current leadership capabilities. Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. 





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Monday, February 06, 2017

Teresa Messineo: The Fire by Night



Today, I listened to a podcast episode from HarperAudio Presents, which was called Teresa Messineo Talks The Fire by Night.  In this podcast episode, Messineo discusses how she wrote her debut novel, The Fire by Night. I was immediately impressed as she talked about how she spent seven years reseaching the material for her text.  Messineo talked with World War II nurses to get the material and understand their first-hand accounts about World War II. Even though the book is a historical fiction novel, Messineo explained that only two characters within the book are not based on actual facts.  I have always been intrigued by historical fiction and the talent that exudes from writers, who tackle this particular genre.


Hearing this fact, I added The Fire by Night to my To Be Read list.  I am craving to understand how the plot unfolds.  Also, I am intrigued because she takes a viewpoint of the World War II nurses, who are often forgotten when war stories are shared.  I am excited about buying my copy of The Fire by Night.

The energy that Messineo exhibits as she talks about her inpsiration for the book is quite contagious.  During the podcast episode, she shares her background and life.  Even though she researched for her book, she homeschools her children, which I tought was very impressive.

Here is the synopsis about the book from Amazon:

Image Retrieved from Goodreads
A powerful and evocative debut novel about two American military nurses during World War II that illuminates the unsung heroism of women who risked their lives in the fight—a riveting saga of friendship, valor, sacrifice, and survival combining the grit and selflessness of Band of Brothers with the emotional resonance of The Nightingale.
In war-torn France, Jo McMahon, an Italian-Irish girl from the tenements of Brooklyn, tends to six seriously wounded soldiers in a makeshift medical unit. Enemy bombs have destroyed her hospital convoy, and now Jo singlehandedly struggles to keep her patients and herself alive in a cramped and freezing tent close to German troops. There is a growing tenderness between her and one of her patients, a Scottish officer, but Jo’s heart is seared by the pain of all she has lost and seen. Nearing her breaking point, she fights to hold on to joyful memories of the past, to the times she shared with her best friend, Kay, whom she met in nursing school.
Half a world away in the Pacific, Kay is trapped in a squalid Japanese POW camp in Manila, one of thousands of Allied men, women, and children whose fates rest in the hands of a sadistic enemy. Far from the familiar safety of the small Pennsylvania coal town of her childhood, Kay clings to memories of her happy days posted in Hawaii, and the handsome flyer who swept her off her feet in the weeks before Pearl Harbor. Surrounded by cruelty and death, Kay battles to maintain her sanity and save lives as best she can . . . and live to see her beloved friend Jo once more.
When the conflict at last comes to an end, Jo and Kay discover that to achieve their own peace, they must find their place—and the hope of love—in a world that’s forever changed. With rich, superbly researched detail, Teresa Messineo’s thrilling novel brings to life the pain and uncertainty of war and the sustaining power of love and friendship, and illuminates the lives of the women who risked everything to save others during a horrifying time.


Based on the information that I shared,  would you read this book?


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Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Booksellers at Laurelwood


Celebrating my wedding anniversary in Memphis, Tennessee, I knew I could not leave without finding a locally-owned bookstore. Using the Maps Nearby feature on my iPhone, I discovered the Booksellers at Laurelwood.

Immediately, I fell in love with the store. The entrance had books, as knobs on the door. I had to stop and snap a picture.
Entrance to The Booksellers at Laurelwood
Entering the store, I was confused. Shelves were semi-empty. Signs were posted, which stated that bookcases and other fixtures were for sale.

After browsing for awhile, I decided to ask the cashier what was going on with the store. She informed me that the store was being closed. They were not relocating but closing the doors.Even though it was my first time visiting the store, I felt sad. I hate to see a bookstore closing. It's like a community is losing a foundation component.

Based on the books and accessories that were left, the bookstore was probably an awesome environment and experience. It offered so much more than just books. I wished that I had visited it when I first saw it in December.


I found some pretty amazing books and gifts. I bought a digital photography because one of my goals is to improve my photo taking skill. I found three cameras at a pawn shop. Two Cybershot and a Nikon FG Vintage camera had my name on it.

I was really excited to purchase this book and save 40% off on the listed price. I bought books, journals, an address book, gifts for my nephews, and a notepad. My husband even found some great books and accessories.

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I even found books that were on sale. The sale books had yellow stickers on them. The 40% discount was applicable to clearance books, too. This fact made me very happy.

Once I made my purchase, and we left the store, I googled the Booksellers at Laurelwood. The cashier was speaking the truth. The news article confirmed the store closing. I was saddened even more.

I still desire to open a bookstore. However, witnessing the untimely demise of another bookstore hurts my heart and makes me wonder if my desire to open a bookstore is feasible. I know if so many bookstores that have closed.

I hope I can return to support them again before the doors are locked for good.

What's your favorite bookstore? Where do you go to get your books?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Book Review - The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Author: Nicola Yoon
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I downloaded The Sun is Also A Star for two reasons: 1. The cover was pretty. 2. The book was very popular.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the book.  In the beginning the mixture of a characters and their point of views was a bit confusing. I was able to keep up with the transitioning from one character to the next because of the variety of narrators for the audiobook. Eventually, I start to get Yoon’s point of intertwining the mixture of characters because each character was somehow entangled in the lives of the other characters.  The writing skill that was necessary to create a story that intertwined like this one proves that Yoon knew exactly how to embed the reader in such a complex story.  

In The Sun is Also a Star, two teenagers, Daniel - a Korean boy and Natasha - a Jamaican girl, find themselves functioning in a day of complete chaos.  Their chance meeting feels like true love, yet as the story unfolds, this one day ultimately changes their lives in more ways than one can imagine.  The story of Daniel and Natasha is entertaining, inspiring, and very interesting. Every person, whom they encounter, is uniquely impacted by the interaction with Daniel and Natasha, and these interactions lead to the climax, as well as the conclusion of their story. Ultimately, I started to wonder about the people, whom I come in contact with on a daily basis.  I began to consider how my interaction with other people, either negative or positive, impact a person’s life.  I even considered the angry and hate I felt when I was racially profiled at a store.  Did my heated reaction ultimately seal the fate of the woman, who racially profiled me? As I read this book, I questioned my interaction with others and viewed these interactions in a different light.  My choice to react could possibly stop or motivate someone to continue with their plans of suicide.  My actions or the lack of actions could have an impact on the future of myself and so many others.  The lives of Daniel and Natasha continue after their fateful date of initial encounter.  In my heart, I wanted everything to change. I wanted it bad. Yet, Yoon did not let me have my heart’s desires.  Once Daniel and Natasha became adults, they lived the normal lives of adults. Yet, their lives somehow still managed to be entangled until the very end. 

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Even though this book is characterized as young adult fiction, adults of all ages can enjoy it just as much as I did. The Sun is Also a Star follows the theme that everything happens for a reason, while presenting a story that fits with the current event topics of immigration, racism, poverty,  and mental health. 

Interracial dating has always been a topic in the United States for years. Laws against interracial dating have been in place to prevent it from happening for centuries.  Even my state, Mississippi, had a law against interracial dating, which is still on the law books.   As a parent, who has a child now old enough to date, while reading The Sun is Also a Star, I started me to question my own perception of my belief system on interracial dating.  How would I react to my sons or daughter dating someone, who is not African American? Does it matter? Would I disown children? Would I stop talking to my children? Would I forbid any interracial dating? Yoon presents the answer that some parents have to these questions.  Whether or not you like it or not, Yoon paints a picture of the known and underlying consequences that your answers can have on your children. 

As the plot unfolded, Yoon forced me to examine my past, present, and future.  As a parent of a high schooler, I started to consider how my plans for my child aligned with his plans.  As a parent, I want to protect my child and ensure that all of my children have a “better” life than I do. Yoon makes you question, as a parent, whether your ideology of what is better reflects your child ideology of better. Yoon made me realize that perhaps what I think is best for my child is not necessarily best.

The epilogue of the book is one word: EPIC.   Yoon did not disappoint me at all. Before the epilogue, I just knew I would be in my feelings.  I just knew my day would be filled with gloom of a story not ending exactly the way I had hoped. Don't judge me. You know how it feels when a book doesn't end just like you want it to end, your day is doomed.  You want to throw the book, the audiobook, or your phone (if you downloaded the book from Audible) at the wall. I am so glad that my day did not end in doom.  Yoon pulled the entire story together and sealed the theme of the book in the epilogue. 

Until Next Time,

Cassandra

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Saturday, January 07, 2017

First Book Review of 2017: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck




Author: Mark Manson
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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Reading in 2017 is all about "getting my life together." Since I am turning 35 this year, I am focused on being the "best me" that I can be. Therefore, when I chose The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, I knew that I was starting my year off just right. 

I started the audiobook on January 3rd, during my morning commute to work. I'm guilty of not reading the synopsis of a book that I have chosen, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Matter of Fact, I think I heard about the book when I was listening to a podcast by Myleik Teele. Her podcasts give me life, and I love that she is an avid reader, who is dedicated to personal development. So, when she recommends a book to read, I take note.  After reading 48 Laws of Power because of Myleik's recommendation and enjoying it, I have started making a list of books that she suggests to her listeners.

Listening during my commute to work, I started to contemplate my own patterns of thinking and logic based on Manson's explanations of choosing what and what not to care about in your life. Every choice makes a different in my life. Even when I choose not to react or act, I am still making a choice, which is rooted in my value system. Manson forces you to start to evaluate your life's values and start to identify what's essential and important to you, as well as to identify why. For example, he talks about an individual, who remains in a marriage, even though happiness has been long gone. This person refuses to leave because the value of staying married, even though misery and insecurity have replaced joy. This person does not value their happiness as much as their desire to stay married. Thinking back on this situation in my life, I felt compelled to reckon with this analysis. A person, who valued their happiness more than staying married just for the sake of marriage, probably would not remain in a bad marriage, which is sucking the life out of their existence. Interestingly enough, Manson emphasizes the significance that your values contribute to your overall actions and what's important. The wisdom within the text provides a taste of reality and encourages the reader to question their values and why these values matter. 


Another point about the book is the distinction from other self-help books.  Manson does not preach positivity. Instead, Manson instructs the reader to recognize that sometimes things are wrong.  Problems do occur. Bad stuff does happen.  Manson suggests that instead of transforming the bad things into a wonderfully tasting lemonade you should learn how to withstand the bad things and learn how to effectively deal with them.  I liked this spin on dealing with life.  Many personal development books focus on the turning lemons into lemonade philosophy, but Manson suggests that the reader learns how to suck the lemon and deal with the horrible sting of its taste.



After reading Manson's book, I've found myself wondering what is important to me and why. I noticed that I have a tendency to pay attention to things that should not be given any thought. I become angry when I feel that someone has intentionally or unintentionally "done me wrong." Giving value to "being done wrong" distracts me from things that I cannot control and should care about in my life. Should I actually project the energy of anger and dwell on the fact that someone bumped me in the grocery store without saying excuse me? Should I actually lose time and energy over someone talking about me behind my bump or making false accusations? Could I focus on more important things in my life instead of such trivial things, which add nothing to my life? What am I avoiding? Why am I afraid? What do I fear? Why am I afraid? I like how Manson's proposes that you focus more on the why than on the what.

As as you can see, Manson really makes you think. Even the profanity and the sarcasm within the text add to his message and theme. I finished this book in two days. I will probably read it again and purchase the eBook or paperback. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book because it is truly thought-provoking. People, who enjoy personal development books, will enjoy this text. This book encourages self-evaluation for the improvement of your life. This book is definitely one that I will be giving as a gift to other people.

If you are interested in the book, check out the excerpt from Manson's website. Have you read this book? Would you read this book? Let's talk in the comments.




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Sunday, January 01, 2017

2017: Happy New Year


Can you believe that 2017 is already here? I am super excited about the new year and what is in store for me and my family. I wish you and your family a wonderful 2017. 



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