Category Archives: Biography

The Horses of My Dreams

Title: The Horse of My Dreams
Editor: Callie Smith Grant
Publisher: Revell
ISBN: 978-0-8007-2718-5

“But when that animal intelligence meets up with our human intelligence, wonderful things can happen. And stories are born,” Callie Smith Grant writes in the introduction to her book, The Horse of My Dreams: True Stories of the Horses We Love.

~ What ~
This two-hundred-and-twenty-four-page paperback contains thirty-two brief stories about horses and how the majestic beasts changed the writers. After an introduction, the four-to-ten page tales are written by a myriad of contributors who are writers, authors, editors, bloggers, professors, and animal lovers. The book ends with notes, contributors’ biographies, editor’s biography, and acknowledgments.

This is a quick read that focuses on how horses can change our lives, from a young girl dreaming for a pony and an actor trying to control a one-minded horse to a gal participating in a pageant on a horse she never rode before and an enthusiastic seventy-year-old rider to name a few. The reader learns how the relationship between a horse and its owner encourages empathy, understanding, and patience, forming an unforgettable bond. A few highlighted inserts are added about horse facts and Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee’s horses.

~ Why ~
Having two dear friends who own horses, I have always had a respect for equine yet have always been afraid of them. I appreciated how the love for the cherished animal grows over the decades of grooming, riding, and taking care of the animal. It is fascinating to know how the creatures are sensitive to a person’s moods, have a sixth sense, or can be easily injured or inflicted with the Potomac Horse Fever.

~ Why Not ~
Those who do not like stories about horses may want to pass on this short book, but it may help someone who is fearful of the one-thousand-pound animal. Others may wish the tales were longer, more in-depth, or were written by well-known writers.

~ Wish ~
Although I liked the concept of one remembering their beloved pet and how it changed lives, sometimes relating it to God, I wish there were more Christian aspects inserted that would bring Him the glory for creating such a fine creature. I wish all pronouns of God were capitalized for reverence.

~ Want ~
If you are a horse lover and like an eclectic compilation of stories about writers’ favorite horses, this is a lovely casual light read about the amazing animals. It may be a nice present for a young want-to-be horse owner.

Thanks to Revell for this complimentary book that I am under no obligation to review.

#Revell #HorseStories #CallieSmithGrantEditor

This book can be purchased at https://amzn.to/2V5GynN

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Barbie Forever

Title: Barbie Forever
Author: Robin Gerber
Publisher: Epic Ink
ISBN: 978-0-7603-6577-9

“Since her debut in 1959, Barbie has been breaking boundaries and highlighting major moments in art, fashion, and culture,” the inside jacket announces in Robin Gerber’s book, Barbie Forever: Her Inspiration, History, and Legacy.

~ What ~
This oversized one-hundred-and-seventy-six-page hardbound targets those interested in the Barbie doll that has been around for sixty years and is still sold successfully worldwide. The large coffee table book begins with a foreword by Ibtihaj Muhammad and introduction, followed by eight chapters, and ending with a bibliography, acknowledgments, author’s biography, image credits, and historic timeline.

With full color, large photographs of design models of the iconic Barbie, the eight sections cover how the doll has been inspiring fans since 1959, her profitable marketing strategies, breaking toy boundaries, the evolution of her female shape, creation of her lifestyle, how she affects fashion and art, global attributes, and the magic she has provided to many doll owners.

~ Why ~
Being in my early sixties, I enjoyed seeing a couple of the old Barbies that I grew up with and still own, so I was familiar reviewing this book. I found the history of Mattel Creations, Ruth and Elliot Handler’s designing Barbie, and Charlotte Johnson’s fashion clothing interesting.

~ Why Not ~
Those who never owned a Barbie doll or do not care about the iconic figure that has enamored girls for decades and will probably continue to do so will not appreciate this book. However, it does show the progression of culture, events, and fashion that the well-known doll captured. Some may not care for a doll proportioned with unrealistic body measurements.

~ Wish ~
With so much historical content in the book, I wish an index was included so one could look up a topic.

~ Want ~
If you love the iconic Barbie doll and are looking for a beautiful tabletop book, this would make an excellent choice. It would be an ideal gift for the Barbie collector too.

Thanks to the author, Bookpleasures, and Epic Ink for this complimentary book that I am under no obligation to review.

#BarbieForever #RobinGerber #EpicInk #Bookpleasures

This book can be purchased at https://amzn.to/31EerP4

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What They Meant for Evil

Title: What They Meant for Evil
Author: Rebecca Deng with Ginger Kolbaba
Publisher: FaithWords
ISBN: 978-1-5460-1722-6

“I am no longer a lost girl, for I have been found,” Rebecca Deng with Ginger Kolbaba ends her memoir, What They Meant for Evil: How a Lost Girl of Sudan Found Healing, Peace, and Purpose in the Midst of Suffering.

~ What ~
This three-hundred-and-four-page hardbound targets those who like true stories that promote the grace and mercies of God while one struggles through a life of war and upheaval. With no profanity, topics of adult situations, physical abuse, murder, and war may not be appropriate for immature readers. Using the English Standard Version of the Holy Bible, the beginning includes a preface, followed by five parts, author’s note, acknowledgments, and the authors’ biographies.

In this quick read, Rebecca Ajueny Nyanwut de Deng de Awel was four years old when the South Sudan’s second civil war began to take the lives of most of her family members. Fleeing one location to another, she was forced to escape with other family members when her mother died and her father was a soldier in the SPLA. Once orphaned, she became one of eighty-nine refugee girls sent to America to start life over. By learning about Jesus and His protection at a young age, the women who saw and experienced war and its terrors learned survival by facing her fears, depression, and heartbreak losing her family.

~ Why ~
This is a touching, emotional, and raw story of a young girl growing up in the midst of the violence of war. While her mother, sister, grandmother, father, uncle, or other family member became victims of civil conflict, this tender-hearted but determined individual fought to live free from her tragic past, especially when it was God’s redemption that saved her.

~ Why Not ~
If you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you may not like this book, yet it may also be one that brings peace and comfort if struggling through a tragedy or deep loss. Others may not appreciate reading about the constant war cry to flee physical, sexual, and mental abuse and the continual impoverishment in disgusting living conditions that so many refugees suffered and continue to suffer.

~ Wish ~
It would have been thoughtful if maps and photographs were included. I wish all pronouns of God were capitalized for reverence.

~ Want ~
If you like reading about a woman who recalls her horrible memories as a young casualty of war and survives, this is a heart-wrenching read that makes you want to reach out and hug a refugee who is dealing with potentially the same issues.

Thanks to Hachette Book Group for this book that I am under no obligation to review.

More about this book can be found at https://amzn.to/2Zt55n6

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Dear Grandchild, This is Me

Title: Dear Grandchild, This is Me
Publisher: WaterBrook
ISBN: 978-0-525-65283-0

“Your tale is your own, as unique and special as you are. Modify–or skip–any questions that do not fit your distinct journey,” the instructions state at the beginning of the book, Dear Grandchild, This is Me: A Gift of Stories, Wisdom, and Off-the-Record Tales.

~ What ~
This eighty-page hardbound targets grandmothers and grandfathers who want to share their pasts and memories with their grandchildren. With trees as the main design throughout the pages, it is divided into four sections with the ending including a family tree and stickers to use. Each division has several pages of questions with lined spaces for answers, off-the-record memories, places for photos, and an envelope for a keepsake or special letter.

After an ownership page and introduction, the book begins with a lined-page to write a letter to a grandchild. The first chapter done in green contains questions about being a baby, heritage, childhood, and high school years. The next section in yellow is about college, jobs, marriage, kids, trips, and food recipes. The orange third section is more personal with the indulgent years, facts, history, and technology.  The final area in light blue is about beliefs, faith, reflections, advice, and wisdom.

~ Why ~
This is an ideal way for a grandparent to tell one’s life story their way, in their terms without having to feel awkward about the past, mistakes, or regrets. I love the colored layout and the varied type of questions asked, and I appreciate there are a few Bible verses added. Since I am a grammy, I may have to buy several and duplicate them for each grandchild.

Here are some of the questions per each section:

What is your full given name? Why was it chosen?
What book(s) do you remember having to read in high school?
What was your craziest injury? How did it happen?
What is a favorite story from your travels?
What kinds of mischief did your kids get into?
When did you know you wanted to marry each other?
What heirlooms do you have that are meaningful?
What’s your favorite quote or Bible verse?
What was your first experience with video games?
What are five skills you think everyone needs to have?
What are your thoughts about colonizing Mars?

~ Why Not ~
Those who do not like to journal may not want to spend the time and effort with this book dedicated to a great-offspring. There are some questions that may be too personal or cause pain for some to answer. If you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you may not want to answer some faith-based questions.

~ Wish ~
The family tree only has the writer’s side and not their spouse’s going back to their great-grandparents. It would be nice to have one complete side, but there may not be enough room on the page.

~ Want ~
This is a creative book that starts the process of not only thinking about one’s past and upbringing, but it also gives the perfect opportunity to pass down the stories, personality, and wisdom that may be cherished decades later by a grandchild.

Thanks to WaterBook and Multnomah Book Launch Team for this complimentary book that I am under no obligation to review.

This book can be purchased at https://amzn.to/2HlvGfE

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363 Days in Vietnam

Title: 363 Days in Vietnam
Author: Michael Stuart Baskin
Publisher: Primedia eLaunch LLC
ISBN: 978-1-64570919-0

“It may sound weird to say this, but I think lots of guys like to witness and/or trigger explosions, and I’m one of them,” Michael Stuart Baskin admits in his book, 363 Days in Vietnam: A Memoir of Howitzers, Hook-Ups & Screw-Ups from My Tour of Duty 1968 to 1969.

What ~
At two-hundred-and-fifteen pages, this paperback targets those who are intrigued reading about the personal experiences and memories of a United States serviceman who served during the war in Vietnam. With some profanity, the topics of drugs, prostitution, war, and death may not be appropriate for immature readers. After a dedication page, map, and briefing, the short-chaptered book ends with a debriefing, taps, and the author’s biography. Black and white photographs grace the pages in chronological order.

This is a quick read that shows the multi-faceted sides of a young man who was drafted in the U.S. Army and went to Vietnam for almost a year in the 1960s. With detailed memories, the writer explains the good, bad, and ugly of how he survived a war ten-thousand miles away from home. From the mundane of KP,  R&R, and comic books to humorous tales of unauthorized tent awnings, a snake consuming a black rat, and doorless five-minute showers visited by Donut Dollie, it also includes the blatant depression, awkward loneliness, and ever-growing fear of Charlie when there was a sapper invasion.

~ Why ~
War is not pretty, and this short book focuses on how U.S. Army Specialist 4 Baskin had the wherewithal to get through what were probably the worst days of his life. Written as somewhat of a diary by listed numbered days in the service, the stories are not all gloom and doom but have added irony, sarcasm, and wit trying to survive another day at a job the writer felt, at times, was unnoticed and unappreciated. The short inserts are funny, sad, somber, and cathartic as awkward M14s are shot, heavy howitzers are explained, an Aussie mercenary squad is saved, and the VC enemy attacks. I was impressed by the many photographs and details since it has been over fifty years since the author’s service that I thank and greatly appreciate.

~Why Not ~
Those who do not like discussions and viewpoints about war, Vietnam, methedrine depression, and the frustration of the United States’ involvement in the overseas military engagement may not like this book. Others may wonder if there was any “God moment” Baskin had when facing a tragic situation or the possibility of his demise.

~ Wish ~
While I enjoyed reading this personal story of one man’s wartime experiences, I wish more of the actual dates were included so I could correlate them to what I was doing at the same time when I was eleven years old in America. The book would be perfected if it was professionally edited and some of the photographs were lightened.

~ Want ~
If you do not know much about how our U.S. boys arduously served in the Vietnam War, this would be an excellent reminder that portrays one’s personal fortitude, rampant loneliness, and continual attempts at normalcy while trying to survive the bloodshed, depression, and loss during the fog of war.

Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Thanks to the author for this complimentary book that I am under no obligation to review.

This book can be purchased at https://amzn.to/2WwuZdk

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She Spoke

Title: She Spoke
Authors: Kathy Macmillan and Manuela Bernardi
Illustrator: Kathrin Honesta
Publisher: Familius LLC
ISBN: 978-1-64170-131-0

“No matter who you are, you have the right to speak up. The world needs your voice,” the introduction states in Kathy Macmillan and Manuela’s children’s book, She Spoke: 14 Women Who Raised Their Voices and Changed the World.

~ What ~
This thirty-two-page hardbound with a built-in battery-operated recorded speaker targets children ages six to eight years old who are interested in women who made a difference in history by speaking out. With no scary scenes, the colorful portraits and illustrations show women who are noted for taking a stand. Due to complicated wording, the book would be best read out loud to beginner readers.

This oversized-book covers fourteen mostly-American women who have made a difference. With their portraits on the left side of the pages with quick facts, the right sides include biographical paragraphs, readable quotes, and sidebars promoting how the reader can speak up. The far right side has thumbnail pictures of each woman that, when pressed, vocalize their quotes. Women included are Mary Mcleod Bethune, Dolores Huerta, Maya Angelou, Jane Goodall, Shirley Chisholm, Suzan Shown Harjo, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Leyman Gbowee, Temple Grandin, Sonia Sotomayor, Tammy Duckworth, Joanne Liu, Amy Wambach, and Malala Yousafzai.

~ Why ~
Showing young girls can be empowered by learning how other women spoke out or made a statement is important in raising our children. I appreciated the eclectic group of women covered from doctors, lawyers, and politicians to educators, activists, writers, and athletes.

~ Why Not ~
Those who do not like books about history and women may not like this read. Some may not be aware of some of the women or feel the selection does not have other more-popular females who are listed at the back of the book such as Susan B. Anthony, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Helen Keller, Eleanor Roosevelt, or Serena Williams.

~ Wish ~
The biggest issue I had with the book is the voice recording bar as it cannot be turned on or off or changed in volume. Due to the raised plastic section, its placement makes it easy to accidentally engage the speaker’s loud voice.

~ Want ~
If you are looking for a children’s book that promotes speaking up to be heard, this one that contains not-so-well-known individuals with their audible quotes may be helpful for a book report.

Thanks to Familius and the author for this complimentary book that I am under no obligation to review.

This book can be purchased at https://amzn.to/2F6GSep

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Breakthrough

Title: Breakthrough
Author: Joyce Smith with Ginger Kolbaba
Publisher: FaithWords
ISBN: 978-1-5460-1060-9

“I believe in a God who can do miracles! Holy Spirit, I need You right now to come and breathe life back into my son!” Joyce Smith declares in Breakthrough: The Miraculous True Story of a Mother’s Faith and Her Child’s Resurrection, a book she wrote with Ginger Kolbaba.

~ What ~
Made into a motion picture, this two-hundred-and-fifty-six-page paperback targets those who like true stories that promote God and the power of prayer. Containing the word hell once, its topics of a life-threatening accident, medical procedures, dying, and death may not be appropriate for immature readers. Using the English Standard and New International Versions of the Holy Bible, the beginning includes a foreword by the main character while the ending has an afterword by an involved pastor, the author’s notes, Scripture references, a doctor’s letter, acknowledgments, and the authors’ biographies.

In this quick read, mother Joyce Smith writes mainly from her personal experience when her son, John, falls through the ice in a Missouri lake and his heart stops for an hour. While in the emergency room, she openly and boldly prays to God. When her son’s heartbeat reappears, she is convinced her son will be made whole and complete through prayer. After spending sixteen days in the hospital, John is miraculously healed.

~ Why ~
A firm believer in the power of praying to the Almighty God, I enjoyed reading how focusing on God can get one through tough times and tragedy. I appreciated how the authors conveyed that our Lord is the one always in control and knows the outcome and reasons why we face challenges in this life. Showing the dedication and faith as well as the faults and inadequacies of Joyce and others verified God’s endless mercies and grace.

~ Why Not ~
If you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you may not like this book, yet it may also be one that brings peace and comfort if struggling through a tragedy. Others may not appreciate the plethora of medical terms, diagnoses, and procedures. Some may find the writer to be controlling, stubborn, opinionated, and determined, often showing righteous indignation when dealing with medical staff.

~ Wish ~
At times, I did not like Joyce and her pushiness, but perhaps it is because she reminded me of myself. I wish all pronouns of God were capitalized for reverence. I found the font too small.

~ Want ~
If you like reading about a mother and her husband, pastor, and Christian community who arduously call upon God to save and completely heal a fourteen-year-old boy using the power of prayer, this will show how miracles happen, even in the medical field because it is God’s will. It is the type of read that forces you to seriously consider your own prayer life.

Thanks to Hachette Book Group for this book that I am under no obligation to review.

This book can be purchased on Amazon or Barnes & Noble:

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Amazing Gracie

Amazing GracieTitle: Amazing Gracie
Author: Michael Haibach
Publisher: MJH Publishing
ISBN: 978-1981923083

“You want to forget your past. Then create a new one and move on,” Grace is told in Michael Haibach’s book, Amazing Gracie.

~ What ~
This two-hundred-and-seventy-four-page paperback targets those who like a biography about a woman that held a secret about her past for almost a hundred years. With minor profanity, topics of poverty, physical abuse, prostitution, and death may not be appropriate for immature readers.

In this true story written by her grandson, Grace Dodson Haibach may have appeared as a well-bred, well-mannered, and societal lady who was born in 1893, but she never told a soul about her horrible upbringing until she was in her nineties. After being an orphan in an asylum, placed into five foster homes, and eventually ran away, the child learned at a young age to keep to herself, hide her inner feelings, and never speak or look up. With the help of a wealthy friend, she buried her heartbreaking past and redesigned herself with poise, maturity, and sophistication.

~ Why ~
While most of us grow up having to deal with our mistakes or family tragedies, we may not have the fortitude and wherewithal to survive being put in an orphanage like Grace and some her of siblings were although their parents were still alive. The protagonist’s constant drive to change for the better and not become bitter or pitied is a tribute to her determination. I like that the story of her life did finally come out and was shared by one of her grandchildren.

~ Why Not ~
Those who do not like tales of the abuse of children and poverty faced physically and emotionally in an orphanage in the early 1900s may avoid this read. Others may not like that the main character consistently lied and used a false identity to alter her past, avoiding any connection to it based on thinking others would think less of her. Some may be disappointed that Grace did not keep in contact with her siblings and relatives throughout the many decades.

~ Wish ~
While I enjoyed the compilation of Grace’s rise from feeling she was a nobody to a well-respected and loved wife, mother, and grandmother, I feel sorry that she never came completely clean about her past, abandoning her siblings and not fully reconciling with them or their children.

~ Want ~
If you are looking for a biography of one woman’s secretive life of overcoming a sad and dismal childhood to feeling important, this is a good read, especially if you are related to the woman.

Thanks to Marich Media and the author for this complimentary book that I am under no obligation to review.

This book can be purchased at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/amazing-gracie-michael-haibach/1128211524

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Courageous People Who Changed the World

Little Heroes: Courageous People Who Changed the WorldTitle: Courageous People Who Changed the World
Author: Heidi Poelman
Illustrator: Kyle Kershner
Publisher: Familius LLC
ISBN: 978-1-945547-75-1

“These heroes stood up to make a difference. What kind of hero will you be?” the back jacket states in Heidi Poelman’s children’s book, Courageous People Who Changed the World.

~ What ~
The first in the Little Heroes series, this sixteen-page board book with rounded corners targets children ages three to five years old who are interested in people who made a difference in history. With no scary scenes, the colorful illustrations by Kershner cover all pages. Due to complicated wording, the book would be best read out loud to beginner readers.

This short compilation covers important people who caused positive changes in societal norms in our world. Mentioning heroes such as Wiliam Wilberforce, Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Junior, and Malala Yousafzai, each open page has their name in bold, a short quote, and a few sentences about what they accomplished in helping mankind deal with equality.

~ Why ~
I love when a children’s book is engaging yet educational, and this one keeps a child’s attention while explaining how a few individuals’ courage and fortitude changed history for the good. I like that the focus of the book deals with us being created equal regarding the color of our skin, slavery, voting, making a stand, and doing what is right.

~ Why Not ~
Those who do not like books about history and different ethnic groups may not be interested in this book. Others may find the two- and three- syllable words too hard for new readers.

~ Wish ~
I wish more children’s books like this were available for young ones to learn about history and the heroes who have made our world a better place.

~ Want ~
If you are looking for a children’s educational series that promotes making a courageous stand while changing the world for the better, this is a wonderful start that encourages readers to want to be heroes too.

Thanks to Familius and the author for this complimentary book that I am under no obligation to review.

This book can be purchased at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/little-heroes-heidi-poelman/1126988082

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The Audacious Molly Bruno

The Audacious Molly Bruno: Amazing Stories from the Life of a Powerful Woman of PrayerTitle: The Audacious Molly Bruno
Author: Marie Armenia
Publisher: FaithWords
ISBN: 978-1-5460-3320-2

“Don’t be afraid to ask God to do whatever you want Him to do as long as you are willing to accept whatever He decides to do,” Molly’s Life Lesson #5 states in Marie Armenia’s book, The Audacious Molly Bruno.

~ What ~
This two-hundred-and-seventy-two page paperback targets women who want to improve their relationship with God as it pertains to a ninety-two-year-old prayer warrior. After a foreword by Stephen Kendrick and introduction, the book contains thirteen chapters, two appendixes, acknowledgments, author’s biography, and notes. Due to topics of illness and death, it may not be appropriate for immature readers. Using the New International Version of the Holy Bible, the NLT, KJV, and TLB are also referenced.

In this short spiritual biography, daughter of Molly Bruno, a pastor’s wife with a fervent heart toward God, provides over eighty of her mom’s life lessons of showing Jesus’s love. From the writer’s childhood upbringing to being at her mother’s bedside when she passed into glory with God, the story has recipes for being real, prayer, witnessing, understanding of the Bible, and laughter as well as how to be a godly daughter, wife, and mom and more as seen through the author’s mother. Every chapter contains gray highlighted lessons the daughter learned from her courageous and outspoken mom.

~ Why ~
New Yorker Molly was a feisty, opinionated five-foot-two-inch Italian woman who loved the Lord and wanted to share His love with those she met – anyone, anywhere, anytime. I appreciate the detailed observations and perspectives Molly’s daughter shares about this beloved pastor’s wife and her zeal for God as she promotes the power of prayer. Be it praying for protection from a supposed sniper, eliminating hot flashes, or having unexpected bills paid, Molly truly focused on putting God first in her life, and her daughter adored her for being the person the Almighty wanted her to be.

~ Why Not ~
Those who do not have a personal relationship with Christ or who have no interest in improving their prayer life will pass on this book. Others may find the writer tends to put her mother on a pedestal at times. Some may feel uncomfortable reading the section on her parent’s dreams and visions.

~ Wish ~
While I enjoyed and agreed with the majority of the book promoting prayer, the second chapter concerned me when Marie writes, “There is something familiar to me when I read the prayer of Jesus in the Gospel of John, chapter 17. It’s because His prayer reminds me of my mother’s prayers. The way Jesus speaks to His Father makes it obvious they know and love one another. Sounds like my mother.” It seems awkward to say Jesus’s prayers are like her mom’s – shouldn’t it be the other way around – her prayers are like Jesus’s?

~ Want ~
If you are looking for a biography of one woman’s prayer life told through the viewpoint of her daughter, this may be a good read. As someone who is ardently trying to pray more, I must remember that God is in control and His will “will be done in earth as it is in heaven” Matthew 6:10 KJV.

Thanks to Hachette Book Group for this complimentary book that I am under no obligation to review.

This book can be purchased at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-audacious-molly-bruno-marie-armenia/1127730469

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