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Novel Nuggets – More September Releases
2022-10-03 15:00 UTC by Michelle

September is THE month for publishing. It must be the idea that kids are back to school or something. Still, every year, I find myself inundated by review copies of highly anticipated sequels, the buzziest of buzzed books, and other new releases that make me drool. It also means that no matter how hard I try and how often I read, I always end up behind with not just my reviewing but also my reading. Because I am so hopelessly behind in both, here are the books I have read that had a September 13th release date.

I'm the Girl by Courtney Summers

Courtney Summers’ novels always manage to destroy me, and I’m the Girl is no different. All Georgia Avis wants is for others not just to recognize but also to reward her beauty. After all, beautiful people run the world; it is something we all know because we see it daily in the news. At seventeen, Georgia is impatient and ready to do what it takes to reap those rewards owed to her. What she endures with no complaint and, even worse, no idea about its heinousness hits you in the gut. Georgia does understand the world even though she appears naive and innocent, but what strikes the reader the most is her belief that there is no other way to obtain what you want. It is as heartbreaking an idea as it is repugnant. Watching Georgia maneuver not only a murder investigation but also the life of the highly wealthy as she tries to obtain everything she wants is Ms. Summers at her finest.

Defend the Dawn by Brigid Kemmerer
Defend the Dawn is the second in Brigid Kemmerer’s Defy the Night series, which certainly does not disappoint. There remains that urgency that drives the first book as Tessa and Corrick continue to search for solutions to the Moonflower shortage. This time, we get out of the kingdom and learn more about some of the surrounding kingdoms with plenty of danger and action to drive the plot. At the same time, Tessa gets the opportunity to sit and reflect on her growing feelings and on everything she discovered in the previous book. There is plenty of smoldering, but there is also the necessary reflection to lend legitimacy to Tessa’s feelings and potential relationship. Ms. Kemmerer does add a spark of cruelty with one heck of a cliffhanger ending, but I cannot fault her for that choice. It just heightens the anticipation to see how it all ends.

The Ballad of Never After by Stephanie Garber
The Ballad of Never After is another sequel that ends with the meanest but most surprising endings, but it certainly is one wild ride of a story. In this second book of the Once Upon a Broken Heart series, Stephanie Garber continues Evangeline’s search for her happily ever after, including yet another tenuous partnership with everyone’s favorite bad boy, Jacks. What makes the sequel so powerful is that we learn a little more about the Prince of Hearts’ past, revealing him to be a much more complicated Fate than readers possibly imagined. The Ballad of Never After moves swiftly and is one of those novels that is over before you want it to end – always a sign of an engaging and well-written story. With that ending, it will be a long wait until the third book’s release!

Silver Under Nightfall by Rin Chupeco
Silver Under Nightfall by Rin Chupeco is dark, complicated, and sexy, and there is so much to love within its pages. I particularly love Mx. Chupeco’s use of morally ambiguous characters to blur the lines between good and evil and human and monster. They do this with great effect, particularly around Remy’s relationship with his father. Silver Under Nightfall may be a book about vampires, but they are not the scariest monster Remy battles, making it a book with monsters that is all too realistic in its portrayal of relationships. Plus, it has excellent spicy scenes to help keep you warm as the nights grow cooler.

The Epic Story of Every Living Thing by Deb Caletti
In each and every book, Deb Caletti manages to break me down to the most basic of levels AND builds me back up to become a person filled with a greater sense of female empowerment, better insight, and a more positive outlook towards humanity. With The Epic Story of Every Living Thing, this feels especially true. Some of it is because it is a pandemic novel, and Harper stirs up all those same emotions that we all felt creeping out of our homes after lockdown, confused about the rules of wearing a mask, wondering what is safe and what is not. Part of it is the fact that Harper has anxiety, and Ms. Caletti is exceptionally good at portraying what it feels like to live with anxiety. For me, what struck me hardest of all is the domineering nature of Harper’s mother and the overbearing, highly regulated relationship they have. Harper’s story stirred up so many emotions that I had to take reading breaks to ease my own anxiety and turmoil.

What makes Ms. Caletti a stellar author though is not just her ability to allow readers to share in her character’s emotions but rather how she builds both her characters and her readers back up after dragging them down to the lowest of lows. As Harper learns to break the ties that bind, you simultaneously discover your own strengths. While Harper releases her fears, you relinquish yours. What once felt impossible now feels possible. It is a feat very few authors can accomplish, yet Ms. Caletti does it time and again. The Epic Story of Every Living Thing is simply the latest example of her greatness.

The post Novel Nuggets – More September Releases appeared first on That's What She Read.

Sunday Reflections – 02 October 2022
2022-10-02 15:00 UTC by Michelle

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Reading:  Spells for Forgetting by Adrienne Young

Listening:  Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie

Watching:  Anyone else watching Dahmer on Netflix? If you haven’t, I HIGHLY recommend it. Evan Peters does a phenomenal job portraying Jeffrey Dahmer in all his sick patheticness. It seems weird to say that we are enjoying the limited series, but Jim and I, for various reasons, are doing just that. Be warned though. It is so psychologically dark that we find we can only watch one or two episodes at a time. There is no binge-watching this one!

Cooking:  I spent several months trying out Blue Apron, to the point where the recipes started repeating. Someone else recommended HelloFresh to us, so now we are trying that. So far, I like the recipes a bit more, and they are MUCH easier to make. After finishing a Blue Apron recipe, my kitchen would always look like a tornado. The HelloFresh ones take one or two pans at most with so much easy clean-up. We will try them for a few more weeks and see if we want to continue. If anyone else wants to try them, I have lots of coupons for free meals for either service. Just let me know!

Enjoying:  It looks like we are actually getting a true autumn complete with cool temperatures, gorgeous sunny days, and enough rain to encourage the changing colors. No jumping right into winter for us this year!

Planning:  There is nothing to plan. The calendar is empty, and we can do whatever we want. It is wonderful and weird all at the same time!

Feeling:  For all those who wonder, Jim and I are truly doing well. I won’t lie and say it has been easy. Leaving London to fly back to the US was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. However, once we picked up the dogs from my parents and arrived home, I was okay and have been since. For one reason or another, Holly manages to text me at least once a day, and I live for that. Plus, I know her returning flight. Hey, we parents take what we can get!

The post Sunday Reflections – 02 October 2022 appeared first on That's What She Read.

Weekly Top Posts: 2022-10-02
2022-10-02 04:00 UTC

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Exit September. Enter our new life.
2022-10-01 14:45 UTC by Michelle

We dropped Holly off in Dundee, Scotland two weeks ago. Just like that, Jim and I are on our own again after twenty-two years of diapers, daycare, ear infections, tantrums, sleepovers, belly laughs, arguments, sports, dance, music, homework, and everything else about parenting. It sure as hell doesn’t feel like twenty-two years.

September was a weird month. For so many years, it has been a month of new beginnings – of new clothes and school supplies, new teams, and new classes. This year, it felt like an ending. While everyone else was busy getting into the back-to-school spirit, we were dealing with visas, documentation, logistics, and luggage. Taking Holly to Dundee was not a new beginning for us but the end of life as we know it. We will adjust because that is parenting, after all. Parents learn to adapt and adjust to each new stage, and this is our next stage.

Of course, Jim left for a business trip three days after returning home from the UK, so we haven’t figured out this thing called empty nesting. I can say that I am doing a lot better than I thought I would. It helps that Holly left all of her books and art supplies, most of her clothes, shoes, jewelry, and bags. Connor, when he left for school, took everything in his room and all but permanently moved out right then. Knowing her room is essentially the same as always is a great comfort, albeit one I did not expect but welcome all the same.

Thanks to the beauty of the internet and WhatsApp, we text at least once a day, which also helps ease the ache of her absence. It isn’t easy trying to keep a respectful distance, granting her the freedom of attending university away from home while trying to learn about her new life, but I think we are managing it. Or, Holly shares what she wants to share and so forces us to respect that distance, which is so Holly that I can do nothing but laugh and let it go. Still, I do love any time she wants to let us catch a glimpse of that life. Or ask a question. Or say hi. Something she has been pretty good at doing these past two weeks.

She only started classes this week, so it is too soon to say how she is faring. I can say that she found dance classes immediately and discovered that there is a dance competition team as well. During that first welcome week, she also joined at least one club. Between dance, her club, and her seven flatmates, I know she is working on staying busy and making friends. She seems happy, which is all we can ask for now.

The post Exit September. Enter our new life. appeared first on That's What She Read.

Weekly Top Posts: 2022-09-25
2022-09-25 04:00 UTC

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Weekly Top Posts: 2022-09-18
2022-09-18 04:00 UTC

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Novel Nuggets – The first of September’s Releases
2022-09-12 15:00 UTC by Michelle

September is THE month for publishing. It must be the idea that kids are back to school or something. Still, every year, I find myself inundated by review copies of highly anticipated sequels, the buzziest of buzzed books, and other new releases that make me drool. It also means that no matter how hard I try and how often I read, I always end up behind with not just my reviewing but also my reading. Because I am so hopelessly behind in both, here are the books I have read that had a September 6th release date.

Blood of Troy by Claire Andrews

Blood of Troy is the sequel to Claire Andrew’s Daughter of Sparta series, and it is everything I want in a sequel. Not only do I continue to adore Daphne and her determination to prove herself as not just equal to but better than her fellow male soldiers, but I ship her relationship with Apollo. In this case, I also appreciate Ms. Andrews’ take on the Helen of Troy story. No longer is it about Helen’s beauty starting a war but rather about two war-mongering leaders who only care about combat and the loot they could obtain from war. It is a modern and feminist take on a classic story, complete with a relook at the Trojan Horse and the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus involved in the war. With the introduction of yet more players within Daphne’s life, I can’t wait to see where Ms. Andrews takes Daphne’s story next.

Monsters Born and Made by Tanvi Berwah

Monsters Born and Made by Tanvi Berwah takes the idea of heroes and heroines and turns it on its head. Koral is so bitter, angry, and traumatized that you find her slightly abhorrent even as she tugs at your heartstrings. At the same time, Ms. Berwah shows the insidious nature of power in a world that is nothing like current-day America but certainly has many similarities regarding the haves and the have-nots. Monsters Born and Made is a difficult read because of the raging emotions swirling within Koral and fueling her actions and also because it is bloody and raw, violently brutal, and ruthless. I loved every minute of it.

The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson

The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson may seem like a Carrie knock-off, but trust me when I say it makes Carrie look like a children’s story. Not only is Maddy’s story bloody and brutal, but how Ms. Jackson reveals her story is brilliant. Throughout the reveal, we get a first-hand glimpse of not just the everyday, overt racism non-whites face but also the millions of microaggressions they also must overcome. Ms. Jackson does this with no apology or filter, forcing you to review your words and behaviors and cringe. This aspect of the story can be a brutal reminder that even the most well-intentioned white person is guilty of some form of racism. But everything Maddy faces when her classmates discover her true heritage is nothing compared to the everyday abuse she meets at the hands of loved ones. It is this, alongside the cruelty of teenagers, where the horror resides. By the time you get the whole picture and understand exactly what went down on prom night and why Ms. Jackson blows your mind at not just the depth of Maddy’s story but the nuances of it as well. It is a brilliant story that is perfect for horror lovers working to become anti-racist.

The post Novel Nuggets – The first of September’s Releases appeared first on That's What She Read.

Sunday Reflections – 11 September 2022
2022-09-11 22:37 UTC by Michelle

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Reading:  The Ballad of Never After by Stephanie Garber

Listening:  Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

Watching:  What else but football?!? 🙂  Don’t worry. Holly and I are still working through Veronica Mars, and we are all rewatching New Girl. Based on recommendations from friends and family, Jim and I are watching The Secrets of Skinwalker Ranch. It doesn’t impress us after five episodes, but everyone keeps telling us to stick with it. It makes for good background noise, if nothing else.

Cooking:  With us leaving soon, I’m just trying to eat up the fridge, so we had a lot of leftovers this week. I did manage to make a copycat Cheesecake Factory pasta recipe and used my slow cooker for the first time this fall for a fiesta chicken. It was a good mix of old and new recipes.

Enjoying:  Football. Cooler weather. Planning for our trip. Spending time with friends. The end of summer. My autumnal decor.

Planning:  This week, it is all about our upcoming trip. Mail to hold, clothes to pack, packing for the dogs and the kid, making sure she has everything. And now, we have to plan for the national holiday, which will be the Queen’s funeral while we are there. Since nothing will be open, we must ensure we have places we can visit and food for that day.

Feeling:  Jim and I were discussing that it is beginning to feel surreal that we will be flying over to London with Holly but leaving without her. I admit to at least one panic attack and one crying jag at the thought. Plus, we are having so much fun with her this summer that it isn’t making the idea of letting go any easier. These next two weeks are going to be very, very interesting.

The post Sunday Reflections – 11 September 2022 appeared first on That's What She Read.

Weekly Top Posts: 2022-09-11
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Weekly Top Posts: 2022-09-04
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Sunday Reflections – 28 August 2022
2022-08-28 15:00 UTC by Michelle

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Reading:  The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson

Listening:  The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

Watching:  Junior Bake Off is now on Netflix!! I discovered it when I was having a particularly bad week, so it came at the perfect time. Liam and Rav are two of the best judges; they are so generous, kind, and inspirational. Why can’t we all be like that?

Cooking:  I’ve been subscribing to Blue Apron for several months now, and I like it. I like that I don’t have to hit the grocery store that much. The recipes have mostly been successes with some misses, but I’ve learned which ones to ignore and which to pick. The serving sizes are perfect for just Jim and me as well. So this week saw me making a three-cheese and caramelized onion pizza, spicy Italian sausage and pepper subs, prosciutto focaccia sandwiches, and chicken enchiladas. Delicious!

Enjoying:  I’ve been working out for almost a year now, and my workouts remain the highlights of my week. It helps that my trainer became my friend. In fact, Jim and I are at a local summer Renaissance Faire with my trainer/friend and her husband as you read this. I’ve gotten to the point where I can see muscle again and know that I am much stronger and healthier than last year. Going each time and pushing myself to lift or do more is almost intoxicating.

Planning:  We bought plane tickets and reserved a cottage outside Edinburgh for four days. Jim is still searching for a place to stay in London, and we are working out our plans. Right now, all we know is that we fly into London, will be driving to Edinburgh after landing, and spending the night in our rental cottage before we take Holly to Dundee and get her settled into her flat. Her welcome week officially starts on the 19th. Our plan is for Jim and me to stick around Scotland for a few days just in case we forgot something or she discovers she needs something else. Then, we will head down to London and see some sites. We are all excited even as we are a bit nervous and scared.

Feeling: I am going through a rough patch mentally, so my emotions are all over the place right now. My doctor added another medication to my regimen, and she finally prescribed a legit migraine medication instead of having me rely on Excedrin Migraine all the time. I am supremely thankful for my therapist, who was able to fit in an emergency session when I was in an anxiety spiral. I know I will get through this because I’ve been doing the work and learning more about what makes me tick. Still, I hate feeling this way.

The post Sunday Reflections – 28 August 2022 appeared first on That's What She Read.

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Novel Nuggets – Still Catching Up
2022-08-10 15:00 UTC by Michelle

So many outstanding reviews to write. Here are just a few more.

The Blood Trials by N. E. Davenport

I was not expecting to love The Blood Trials by N. E. Davenport as much as I did, but holy hell did I. It was my favorite book read in March. In The Blood Trials, Ms. Davenport creates an exciting story that also teaches the dangers of inherent racism. I love Ikenna and her loyalty, as well as her determination to succeed; I especially appreciate her unwillingness to condone the racism that permeates her society. Simply put, I loved the story, the twists, the messaging, and the characters. The Blood Trials is a do not miss!

The Children on the Hill by Jennifer McMahon

The Children on the Hill by Jennifer McMahon is precisely what I have come to expect from Ms. McMahon. It is yet another fantastic thriller from someone who does nothing but write excellent thrillers. While I was expecting the twist, I didn’t know exactly what it would be. As such, the ending is fabulous and not at all what I thought it would be! The Children on the Hill is a fantastic emotional rollercoaster that solidifies my love for Ms. McMahon.

The Fervor by Alma Katsu

The Fervor by Alma Katus is what I would consider to be a mediocre horror story. The only good thing about it is the ick factor regarding the virus’s origins. That being said, I feel there was no need to add much in the way of horror, as the internment camps were horrific enough. Ms. Katsu does not take advantage of the natural horrors and instead glosses over that part of history. What she does instead portrays a heavy-handed image of systemic racism, which is her right. Maybe she feels her readers need reminding on every single page; I did not, and the messaging got old. Ms. Katsu’s books have been more miss than hit lately, and The Fervor did nothing to correct that trend.

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey is a cute story about jealousy and family dynamics. It doesn’t have much staying power, but it is still enjoyable. I do so love the idea of a magical high school.

The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell by William Klaber

The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell by William Klaber. It is an interesting story and ultimately a tragic one. I think a female author would have done more justice to Lucy’s story because it is not as if Lucy is transgender. The story needs someone who truly understands the limitations of being a woman. Still, the fact that Lucy did exist and did attempt to break the bonds of being female in antebellum America makes learning about her worthwhile.

The post Novel Nuggets – Still Catching Up appeared first on That's What She Read.

Novel Nuggets – More Catching Up
2022-08-09 15:00 UTC by Michelle

So many outstanding reviews to write. Here are just a few.

The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake is one of those books you need to sit and let marinate. The more you do, the more you appreciate what Ms. Blake achieves. It can be a little disconcerting initially, especially when Ms. Blake spends more time developing her characters than building her world, but trust me. The characters and their connections, the mystery, and the big reveal are worth any initial confusion. The Atlas Six is one of those books that will haunt me for the rest of the year, and I’m aching to read the sequel!

The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

The Golden Couple is yet another fantastic collaboration between Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. There is a gravitas to it that prevents it from being an unbelievable story. Plus, I stayed engaged throughout the entire plot and could not figure out what was going to happen at any point in time. Everything about The Golden Couple is interesting, and I cannot wait to see what Ms. Hendricks and Ms. Pekkanen have for us next!

The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James

The Book of Cold Cases is not my Simone St. James novel. I loved the true crime bits and the actual murder mystery. However, I was not a fan of the Gothic element. I don’t feel that story needs it. In fact, it feels like an easy solution to a plot issue, and I don’t like it. Ms. St. James usually puts out excellent stories, but this, to me, fell short of the mark.

The City of Dusk by Tara Sim

Tara Sim’s The City of Dusk starts slowly, but once it does, watch out. I get the need for an intense amount of world-building. Most fantasies require it, after all, because the author needs to explain the world to readers. In the case of The City of Dusk, we also have to meet the characters and families and understand their powers and their histories. That part took just a bit too long for me, and I did consider not finishing it. I’m glad I didn’t, especially given what we learn about one of the characters, but know that even I struggled with how slowly the story builds.

Until the Last of Me by Sylvain Neuvel

Until the Last of Me is the exciting sequel to Sylvain Neuvel’s Take Them to the Stars series, and I loved every word. Until the Last of Me is Lola’s story rather than Mia’s, and I am here for it. Mia might have infiltrated Hitler’s Germany, but Lola is the stronger of the two heroines. She has guts with a modern sensibility. Samael is equally fascinating. Their cat and mouse game morphs into an intriguing chase. Plus, the surprise ending is a bonus. I cannot wait to see how it all ends.

The post Novel Nuggets – More Catching Up appeared first on That's What She Read.

Novel Nuggets – Catching Up
2022-08-08 15:00 UTC by Michelle

So many outstanding reviews to write. Here are just a few.

Scorpica by Greer Macallister

Scorpica by Greer Macallister is a celebration of women and our myriad motivations. Because it spans decades, the world-building is lengthy but worth it given the depth of detail and vividness of that world. In addition, the character development is simply lovely, exploring the gray areas that exist in everyone. Grandiose and power, Scorpica is a welcome epic that highlights the awesomeness of matriarchal societies and their pitfalls.

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner is a unique look at women’s plight in the 1700s without the same rights or freedom of today and how they worked around the system, with a little bit of magic added. Told in two parts, past and present, the modern portions of the story are not nearly as engaging as those in the eighteenth century. Although, it does make for a great reminder to take advantage of those freedoms while we have them.

Autumn's Tithe by Hannah Parker

Autumn’s Tithe by Hannah Parker left me with mixed feelings. I wanted to love it. Unfortunately, I had some issues with the pacing, the predictability, and some of the relationships. Everything happens within two to three days, and everything seems SO fast. Some of this Ms. Parker achieves through the use of magical portals, but it still feels a bit too rapid for what occurs. In addition, while I don’t mind the use of tropes, and Ms. Parker uses almost all of them, I do mind when an author does not use them in a way that feels new. Instead, I felt like I could go down a YA fantasy checklist with Autumn’s Tithe. Lastly, the relationships left me confused. While there are hints that Larken’s relationship with her BFF is more than friendship, it also seems like her reaction to losing her friend seems extreme. Combine that with the insta-love with Finder, which seemingly counters her feelings for her friend, and it makes for a headscratcher. In all, Autumn’s Tithe is a bit too superficial in almost every aspect for me.

King of Battle and Blood by Scarlett St. Clair

King of Battle and Blood is my first Scarlett St. Clair novel, and it won’t be my last. Vampires, witches, fierce women, court intrigue, enemies to lovers, and so much spice. Yes. Please.

Gallant by V. E. Schwab

Gallant by Victoria Schwab is dark and heart-breaking on several different levels. There is so much complexity to it, even though it is a relatively simple story. One great example of this is that it would have been easy for Ms. Schwab to make Olivia a tragic figure, given her background. Instead, she is anything but pitiable; instead is fierce, independent, and a figure to admire. In Gallant, Ms. Schwab proves once again that she is a master at creating atmospheric novels in which she blurs the lines between good and evil and heroes and antiheroes.

The post Novel Nuggets – Catching Up appeared first on That's What She Read.

Sunday Reflections – 07 August 2022
2022-08-07 15:00 UTC by Michelle

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Reading:  Babel by R. F. Kuang

Listening:  Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Watching:  Holly and I are going a bit of a retro these days while we watch Veronica Mars and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We have all been so busy that we are just now watching the final few episodes of Stranger Things, and Jim and I are slowly working our way through the Mr. Mercedes series.

Cooking:  Holly did most of the cooking this weekend, as she planned, prepared, and hosted her first-ever dinner party for her friends. She did a fantastic job, even as she made some first-timer mistakes. We will be eating leftover pasta for the rest of the week!

Enjoying:  Being healthy again. I finally succumbed to the COVID virus in the middle of July. I could have been much sicker than I was, which is good, but the fatigue took me a long time to overcome. Having energy and a desire to do things again, plus lungs that don’t feel like they weigh ten thousand pounds, is something I will not take for granted.

Planning:  Right now, we are all just trying to enjoy the last days of summer as we work through the University of Dundee’s requirements to start working on the student visa process. Holly plans to attend one final concert with her friends while Jim and I have a motorcycle ride in the works. There is talk of attending a local renaissance fair with friends, and if we don’t do that, I would love to hit the state fair again.

Feeling:  I am so grateful that I have such a fantastic daughter. Unlike many kids her age between high school and college, she wants to spend time with us. We have been having SO much fun, attending professional soccer matches, planning her party, and talking. It means so much to have her split her time with us and everything else she is doing this summer.

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