Book Review: Seven

seven02Seven by Susan Renee

★★★★☆ – 4 out of 5 stars

After devastation hits, Savannah moves back home to attempt a do-over at life. But when she suddenly bumps into Mr. tall-sweet-and-handsome, what is she to do when she realizes he’s also the guy who picked on her all through middle and high school? Is he really as sweet as he seems on the outside or is he still that douche bag he always was in school? Only time will tell but can Savannah handle any more heart ache?

Love is an ugly beast sometimes, I know. It makes us do stupid things. It rips out our hearts when we least expect it. It grows on us like weeds, sometimes killing us with its poison. It throws us into the fires of hell several times during our lifetime and for what? So we can stand up, brush ourselves off and start all over again from the beginning and then sometimes, sometimes when we least expect it, love morphs from an ugly beast into the thing our hearts desire most. Passion. Companionship. Loyalty. Comfort.

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Book Review & Trailer Reveal: Configured

Trailer Reveal

I was fortunate enough to receive an advanced reading copy of this wonderful book and participate in the book tour as it nears its release date.

configuredfinal-coverConfigured
Jenetta Penner
(Book #1 in the Configured Trilogy)
Publication date: October 20th 2016
Genres: Sci-Fi/Dystopian, Young Adult

In the future, love will make you a traitor.

120 years after a virus decimated earth’s population the survivors thrive in safety, away from the death and destruction of the Outerbounds. But there is a price. Divided into three levels of intellect, Citizens focus solely on duty. Emotions are pointless, even dangerous.

Due to her advanced intelligence, seventeen-year-old computer genius, Avlyn Lark is separated from her twin brother at birth and raised by adoptive parents. She gains privilege, the ideal future. He dies. Avlyn barely knew him yet he remains bound to her memory.

But following a string of rebel intrusions on the city, Avlyn receives a cryptic message. After which, she begins seeing visions of her dead twin, not to mention a strange power she doesn’t understand starts to emerge. The mysterious radical who urges Avlyn to join their fight becomes her link to answers. Freedom. Love.

Opportunity calls, but if she says yes will she lose it all?

Configured is the first novel in a Configured trilogy that poses the question: does humanity need love for survival? Fans of Divergent, Matched, and the Maze Runner will love this world of dark secrets, intrigue and thirst for a better tomorrow.

Buy Configured today to read a YA Dystopian/Light Romance that will leave you wanting more!

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jenetta-18dcropedsquare2small400Author Bio:

I’m Jenetta and a lifetime lover of Sci-Fi (thx Dad). I had a weird LONG stint (declaring HOW long would give away too many age secrets… and eh hem… a girl never tells) where I read almost no books for pleasure (the horror!). Near the end of 2014 I picked up Hunger Games, and I was off like a rocket.

That next year I read about 40 YA books (mostly Sci-Fi/dystopian) and a couple months into it got the idea to write a book (with no prior experience or even desire) about children who were not allowed to be raised by their biological parents. You see, I am an adoptive mama of two lovely daughters from foster care. That story grew into what Configured is today.

It has been a HUGE journey with a lot of ups and downs and it took WAY longer than I anticipated. But it is finally here.

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Book Review

★★★★☆ – 4 out of 5 stars

I usually give a short synopsis of the book but since that’s already done, I’ll jump right into it.

This story starts off as many young adult dystopian novels do – girl coming of age finds herself unique in some way that changes her fate in ways she never expected. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, only that it is a key feature of this genre which can occasionally come off a cheesy (where’s the love story… oh wait. There it is. Yup, 2 guys so which one will she choose). With that said, and what I appreciated most, was the unique aspects of this book. For example (without giving too much away) is the approach taken on what skills the main character possess and her interaction with the world. Its not about her agility and athletic nature that set her apart from others (which I’ve seen often be the case) but her mental abilities (#NerdUnite?). I would be lying if I didn’t also mention that I will forever enjoy and appreciate the strong independence that the main [female] character possesses and that her success is not defined by that of a male. Though, here, the author also makes a point to not ignoring the importance that all relationships have on us, which I also applaud.

img_20161014_133332Why not 5 stars, then? You can read up on how I decide my ratings on my book review policy page but, in short, I don’t necessarily have anything bad to say. 3 stars is for your baseline, average books and 5 stars are for those books that I will hold onto forever and read again and again. Therefore, this book falls somewhere in the middle – it was an enjoyable read and I certainly can’t wait for the 2nd in the series.

All in all, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys young adult and dystopia genres, as well as those that enjoy books that speak to the perhaps a more nerdy side of things (nerdy as in computers, I might note).

A special thanks to the author for giving me the opportunity to read through her book before its release and be apart of this book blog tour. It has been a pleasure and an honor.

Day 4: North-iest

Hello all. Thanks so much for coming back! We’re actually in Dublin now, staying in a modern apartment all to ourselves (we feel so fancy!). Now we bring you to one of our favorite and least favorite days – day 4.

Since we had missed Slieve League the day before, it was number one on our list of things to do. We packed up the car, said farewell to our sea-view room, and headed down to breakfast (since we were staying at an official B&B). A note about breakfast: We had an over easy egg, cooked tomato, sausage (much better than the over-processed stuff back home), and ham cooked like bacon. I know ham and bacon come from the same animal but that’s what it tastes like and, in my book, that means it tastes better.

Having driven the route the night before only to realize it was too foggy, we set out to the cliffs. The sun shining and only a hint of rain, it was the perfect weather for hiking so hike we did. Now, if you are reading this because you’re planning a trip might I recommend that you park in the upper car park. We initially were confused thinking that the gate meant you could only walk through it – no. It is a 6km hike up from the lower car park to the upper. Just open the gate, drive through, and then shut the gate as there are roaming sheep about that I’m certain are to remain within the gated area. After hiking 1.2km, from the lower car park and getting drenched in a brief rain, we turned around to retrieve our car realizing our mistake. Once arriving at the upper car park, we exited our vehicle to be greeted with spectacular views.

If you didn’t know, Slieve League is like hipster Cliffs of Moher – they’re nearly 2x as high but not at all as popular as the Cliffs. Also, you have to hike to the summit instead of getting to drive so I’m certain that is also a bit of a deterrent. Not for us. One step in front of the other, occasionally stopping to avoid being blown over the edge by the powerful wind, we ascended.

Remember when I said we hiked up the equivalent of 75ish flights of steps, that’s no joke but I do admit we didn’t make it to the summit. We came ill-prepared for such a strenuous hike and once reaching what I’d call “nearly the summit” we agreed we were happy with our feat and would simply have to come back someday (hiking and the views making this my favorite day)

Hiking back down was a lot easier on the legs but the wind was2016-09-16-11-49-39 still a monster to contend with. Finally back at the car park, we took a moment to do a little shopping. As suggested by my mother, we have been attempting to only purchase souvenirs from the little carts that people bring to popular spots. In this case, 100% wool knitted items from a nearby farm such as scarves and sweaters. Looking back, we both wish we had bought more there instead of waiting since now in Dublin, looking at the souvenir shops, everything is “Made in China”. We walked away with a hat for me and a lovely green wool blanket for our home complete with the fresh scent of sheep.

Being much further behind schedule than we had hoped and checking into our first official Air B&B later, we opted to skip a few of the smaller stops we had planned. A back roads drive to Grianan of Aileach was our next stop. Again, we opted to take the backroads as much as possible. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of these green views.

I think the original settlers and builders knew what they were doing when they decided where to plant their forts and castles and manors. I’m a little bit jealous. Grianan of Aileach is one such fort that dates to approximately the 6th century and has spectacular views of the surrounding country including looking over into the UK (our next stop).

Finally, we headed into Derry where we thought we’d be able to check into our room between 4-5pm but after waiting on the person’s doorstep until 5:30pm, we decided to take a walk around the city until we heard back from him. We had initially hoped to drive up to Malin Head, Ireland’s northern most point where filming of Star Wars has just wrapped up and many boast of its beautiful ocean views. Due to the timing of checking-in we had to miss this (which is the part that makes it my least favorite day – missing things) but we did get a chance to walk the old city wall.

After a fancy dinner feeling a bit defeated by it all, we walked back to our room and called it an early night. We walked the most on this day, clocking in well over 20K steps/ 10 miles and 75 flights of stairs.

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Now, we’re off to explore Dublin so, until next time… I just realized I’ve forgotten my usual farwell – live long and prosper, dear readers!

The Jensens

Day 3: Heading north

Hello again! My initial inclination is to apologize for not posting but, here’s the truth – I’m not sorry. I’m exploring Ireland with my new husband (!) and, at the end of the day, we are exhausted. We’ve been averaging 8-10 miles walked a day and most of it is not flat ground (in a coming post you’ll see – we got in 10 miles and an equivalent of 75 flights of stairs). So, with a full nights rest and a quiet morning, I bring you news from day 3 of our honeymoon:

Our last morning in Galway – it felt like saying good bye to an old friend only we’ve just met. Again, we walked to the city centre to let our nose and eyes be our guide for finding a breakfast spot.

After some wandering, we landed on a little tucked away cafe called An Pota where we shared the most delicious breakfast either of us has ever had. A traditional crepe (lemon) and scrabbled eggs with smoked salmon (with tea, of course). I could bore you with the details of our meal but even on the morning of day 8 we dream of another meal to match it.

With a checkout time of 10:30, we hurried back to our B&B to clean up our stuff and head out. Being our last day in Galway, we finally remembered to stop by the cathedral and were not disappointed. [more pictures to come when we have a better internet connection]

A service was starting at 11:30 so we took our final photos and exited quietly. Now, a lot of people told me we would be bored of all the castles but I must say 1. I don’t know how I could ever get bored from the sights here and 2. We have seen a lot more cathedrals/ churches and open spaces than any castles.

Traveling north, we came to one of the must sees on the road trip list – Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery. These passage tombs date back thousands of years so little is known to the reason why they are built as they are. 1 giant passage tomb sits in the center with smaller chamber tombs circling it and smaller boulders and rocks (30 around each) circle those, all opening facing the center tomb. High on a hill to the north west sites another larger tomb thought to house the remains of warrior Queen Maeve!

Its crazy to think that in the US we ooh and aww over headstones dated late 1800s but these tombs date in the BCs. It also leads me to wonder what from our time will remain even a few hundred years from now. For our wedding, we attempted to be as zero waste as possible because I worry that our garbage is the only thing we make to last. Jeremy has joked a few times on this trip that everywhere we go seems a step behind modern but I would argue they are a step ahead – everywhere we go they avoid plastic. Even at the grocery store they encourage (as in, it costs to use a plastic bag or they simply don’t have any) you bring your own bag or use a box, which is something I’ve only seen at Costco. Our garbage bag and plastics section is an entire aisle whereas we couldn’t even find ziploc baggies and their plastics took up a rather small section of shelving. We rarely see any garbage on the ground here and everywhere we go there is always a compost, recycle, and garbage bins.

Okay, enough of the preachy-ness. We had hoped to end our day with Slieve League but long before sunset it was dark and foggy so we opted for a quiet dinner in a cozy village and an early bed time. Again, the food delicious and we even splurged and shared a slice of orange sponge cake (YUM!). With all this talk of food, I do want to note that after our first meal, Jer and I have been sharing plates rather then each ordering something as we have found that it ends up being plenty of food for the two of us and nothing goes to waste.

Well, that’s it for today. We are so enjoying our trip and even with over half of it remaining, we’re already sad to have to say good bye.

Until next time!

The Jensens

Around Galway county

Hello friends and family (and anyone else who has found this blog)! Its been a few days but, never fear, we are safe and have found an adapter to charge the laptop. Though we are writing this from Northern Ireland (Belfast to be exact), we will take a trip back in time to give you the blog posts that you’ve been waiting for. First up, day 2 of the honeymoon:

Still feeling rather tired from travel, we decided to take the morning slow and spent some time walking through the quiet streets of the city centre. With a brief (typical American) stop in a bakery, we grabbed some coffee and a pastry and walked along the river to enjoy the rush of people and cars in the early morning, still somehow quieter than any rush hour we’ve ever experienced. Finding a spot to sit next to the Spanish arches, we planned out our day. Quick historical note, the wall the arches are in was built around 1584 and the arches were added later (in the 18th century) to allow access to and from the town to the quays.

Trying to take on the Irish spirit of not rushing, we continued wandering the streets of Galway to come upon a lovely book shop with a large number of books for sale, some new and some printed in the early 1900s, for €1. The first book to catch my eye is called The Seamstress and has received high ratings on Amazon (expect a review sometime in the future). We browsed for roughly 45 minutes and ended up settling on 3 old hardback books (Coffee at Eleven, Moulin Rouge, Lucy Crown), If I Should Die Before I Wake, Pond (by a Galway local author), For the Love of Ireland (a literary tour of Ireland with excerpts from Irish authors), and I’m a Girl (a children’s book all about empowering little girls to be who they are even if it doesn’t fit the stereotype). I joked with Jer that I may need another suitcase just for all the books I’m hoping to find (kind of kidding and kind of not).

With already tired feet and arms full of books, we made our way back to the B&B to grab our car and head to Coral Beach (or Coral Strand). If you know my family, particularly my mother, I’m sure you’ve heard of this beach and how wonderful it is. At a glance, it looks like any other Oregon beach might (crashing waves, overcast skies, etc) but, getting closer, you realize that its not sand covered but entirely made up of coral fragments. Even in a light rain we roamed the small beach looking for our favorite pieces, Chinese hat shells, and beautifully colored rocks.

As much as we can, we’ve tried to avoid the speedways and opt for the back roads. While I, as the passenger, absolutely love the narrow roads and sweeping landscapes, Jeremy is not quite as thrilled. Though I do applaud how quickly he has adapted to driving on the left side and, with the exception of a minor bump on our first day, hasn’t hit anything. So, on our way to the next stop, I detoured us through a bog which was an absolutely delight and the views were nothing short of amazing.

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Next we visited Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, County Galway. The Abbey was built by a wealthy English doctor for his wife after having honeymooned in the area (*hint hint*). Madly in love, the doctor did all he could for his wife, building the magnificent manor, a Victorian walled garden, and…On the grounds, just a short walk around the lake, is a mini Neo-Gothic church built as a memorial to his wife after having died of dysentery on a trip in Egypt. Just past that lay her crematorium where, at the young age of 45, his wife and him now rest. [click on images to enlarge]

If you’re reading this blog because you are planning a trip to Ireland, I highly suggest taking the extra time to explore every path. Most of the people we passed would stop once reaching the Neo-Gothic church but, just beyond the crematorium, was a fun little sculpture and wishing rock. The objective is to stand with your back against the large rock and throw a small pebble over the top. If you are successful in doing this, a wish is granted. Not saying what ours were but so far they have indeed been granted!

The manor is magnificent from the outside but, unfortunately, only a few select rooms were open for touring (5 to be exact), which diminished some of the splendor of the beautiful exterior when we first walked to it. The church was Jer’s favorite and we made sure to light a candle located in on of the alcoves as a prayer for all our loved ones. We then hiked back to the abbey/ manor and further on another 1.5km to the gardens. Now, when planning our trip to Ireland, we were warned of midges, which are like the devil spawn of flies and mosquitos. We had the displeasure of slapping them away from our heads the whole experience in the gardens, but that didn’t diminish the beautiful landscapes to been seen. After a lengthy 3 hours of walking around the grounds and exploring all we could, we opted to wait for the shuttle back to the parking lot. After a brief snooze on the shuttle bus and visit to the gift shop (because we are #tourists), we hopped in the rental car and set course back to Galway.

Arrived back in Galway around dinner time (7:30pm), we parked at the B&B and ventured back toward Quay Street to have some supper and visit a few pubs. Taking what we initially thought was a recommendation from the guide book, we decided to eat at McDonagh’s chippery and enjoyed fish (cod) and chips that would put our favorite Lincoln City restaurant to shame (which made the minor mistake totally worth it).

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Having enough of the comments from the German woman eyeballing our soon to be empty seats at the table, we decided to visit Sehan Ua Neachtain (or Neachtain for short – nock-tans) for our first real pint of Guinness. As you may know, the Guinness that is imported to America is both pasteurized and sweetened whereas off the draught is much lighter tasting and the head is substantially more creamy. The most knowledgeable bartenders will make you wait for the pint to finish settling, as they fill the glass in three separate pulls of the draught. It’s obscure to hear, but the difference is there. Jer had his first Guinness while Ariel opted for a local-to-Galway craft beer called Galway Hookers (Hookers referring to the popular fishing boats in the quay). We finished our beers and walked up the street to a more casual pub that was showing a football (you know, American soccer) match where Jer decided to have some Jamison on the rocks and Ariel her first Guinness. Much to our delight, we were present to watch a very perturbed Irish man sitting next to us at the bar rip up his betting ticket as Monaco defeated Tottenham as he simultaneously complained to his wife who didn’t seem interested in his woes.

We counted the two establishment pub crawl a success, and walked the 15 minutes back to our B&B where we fell asleep almost immediately. Day two of walking nearly 20,000 steps.

Until next time!

The Jensens

 

First day in Ireland

Today was a rollercoaster of emotions. After a long and arduous plane flight across the Atlantic, we arrived at Shannon Airport in Ireland. Customs was a breeze, and our checked bags made it with us despite a few battle rips and stains. After learning a crash course in left-sided driving (Aim for the driver side against the median line) from the shuttle driver, Jer aimed the car toward Ennis en route to the Cliffs of Moher.

We have been reading a novel, “When Summer’s in the Meadow” by Niall Williams & Christine Breen, recommended to us by my Grandfather’s cousin. It documents the years spent living in Ireland and adopting a baby girl by a young American couple. Though lacking tales of kings and queens, dragons  and battles, the real-life story tells of their struggles and joys living in a simple cottage in a little village called Kiltumper. I wasn’t able to find where exactly Kiltumper was but they did mention going into Ennis as the largest town near them any time they needed something specific (like a de-humidifier). Ennis is considered a wooden town, one that nearly burned down in 1249 and was later razed by one of the O’Brien’s in 1306. Lacking any cash (the one thing I forgot to pack – the 50 or so Euros I had from Junior’s Abroad when I went to Israel, Turkey, & Greece), we feared stopping anywhere in town (cost to park) but enjoyed the colorful shops, narrow roads, and beautiful churches and friary.

From there, we went straight to the Cliffs of Moher. Keep in mind that this is possibly our longest driving day and from the time we landed to arriving at the Cliffs, it’s only been 1-1.5 hours. Hearing stories of the gusty wind from my parents and reading of the crashing waves blocking out the sound of tourists, we were surprised to find neither of those two to be true for our visit. It was a perfect weather sort of day, perhaps even on the side of too warm, the wind was barely noticeable, and the waves were only a distant roar. The quietness of the place only furthered just how surreal it all felt. One guidebook we read suggested hiking north or south past the ‘Moher wall’, a stone wall to keep people from toppling over the edge, so we did just that. We hiked some north, past the tower then back tracked and hiked a ways south to take in the dramatic view from as many spots as possible.

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Back to the Cliffs

It was recommend we cut out at least 3 hours to spend at the Cliffs but with no food or drinks in our tummies, we hiked around for 2 hours before opting to head north. We drove past Doonagore Castle, originally dating back to the 16th century but restored in the 1970s. Its not open to the public but it was fun to drive by before continuing on through Doolin and to Dunguaire Castle.

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Dungaire Castle, a short drive north from the Cliffs of Moher, was originally erected in 1520 by the O’Hynes clan but is believed to occupy the site of the 16th century royal palace of Guaire Aidhne, King of Connaught. In the guide book (one which I’ll most likely refer to often, Lonely Planet’s Ireland 2016 version), marked this castle as a must see and suggested a climb to the roof. Though at another 6 Euros and feeling the tiredness of travel weighing on us, we opted for another drive by so we could steal a quick nap and walk the streets of Galway.

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We arrived in Galway at 3:00pm and were lucky enough to be able to check into our B&B room early. Its not so much that we’re jet lagged as we hadn’t been able to catch much sleep on the plane trip to Shannon so we were simply exhausted from all the travel. After a 2 hour nap and some showers, we were feeling much better and excited at the prospect of having more time in Galway than initially planned. We set out on foot to Eyre Square and Quay Street to sit down for our first official meal in Ireland and do some people watching.

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All in all, after traveling all day yesterday and feeling terribly exhausted, we walked over 18,000 steps (8 miles) and 26 flights of steps. Now, to enjoy our first full nights sleep as a married couple. I do want to note that while we have an adapter for our phones to charge, no such luck has been found for the laptop. Therefore, this may be the last of the posts from my laptop so please forgive any future typos or lack of words and pictures as typing this all from a phone may be an adventure in and of itself.

Tomorrow’s plan includes walking around Galway in the morning for breakfast and some shopping, a picnic lunch at Coral Strand (Carraroe or An Cheothru Rua), a drive through Connemara National Park, some time exploring the grounds of Kylemore Abbey, then back to Galway for the pub hopping we were too tired to do tonight.

Until then!

The Jensens

 

#Jensens4Ever

I got married on Saturday evening to my best friend. It still seems so surreal because though nothing but my name has changed, I feel lighter somehow. Our wedding was beautiful and everything we ever hoped for. After the excitement of saying our vows, we felt relaxed because we were somewhere we both loved – my grandfather’s farm. I can’t seem to say thank you enough to my family and our wedding party who were such an amazing help through it all. I did my best not to stress or be too picky but even when I was anxious or had a odd request, they went above and beyond to see it happen. Seriously, best day ever!

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I’m finally writing again to keep friends, family, and anyone else interested in our journey up to date on our travels through Ireland.

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Only carryons but all the flights were so full we got the suitcases checked for free!

The hope is to post a few pictures and a walkthrough of our day each night but, having never been to Ireland and not actually staying in hotels (Air BnBs all the way), I can’t gaurentee anything. Maybe I’ll try to get Jer to write something too!

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Goodbye PDX

We’ve made it to our final US location (45 minute layover in Phoenix, 1 hour layover in Philly) before departing for the beautiful country of Wilde and Yeats, a land full of history, covered in quiet countryside, dramatic views, bog lands and quaint towns (or so I imagine).

The highlights of day 1 that I can’t wait to experience and tell you all about are brunch in Ennis, the Cliffs of Moher, Dungaire Castle, and our pub hopping in Galway. Stay tuned!

Love,

The Jensens

Book Review: Be You. Do Good.

9780801018770Be You. Do Good. by Jonathan David Golden

★★★☆☆ – 3.5 out of 5 stars

The founder of A Land of A Thousand Hills Coffee Company and pastor Jonathan Golden shares his own story and the stories of others pursuing their passions and what makes them come alive in hopes of encouraging you to listen to your own calling. Sometimes taking that step is a giant leap but Golden explains how to find the guts to take it.

“Are you looking for purpose in your life? Trying to find a career that is a calling? Each day you can make a difference by being yourself and doing good. The greatest impact you can have is probably just around the corner, within your grasp, and embedded in your heart. It may not be easy, but it is accessible” –BeYouDoGood.com

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Book Review: In The Murder House

51ldicgrnql-_sx331_bo1204203200_In The Murder House by Daniel Powell

★★★☆☆ – 3 out of 5 stars

Moving to a historical Portland neighborhood after the death of his wife, Jason finds himself fighting against an evil paranormal force to rescue his daughter. The evil force is drawn back to the house following a séance at the neighbor’s house and once it’s there, Jason can’t keep on ignoring that it is terrifying his daughter. With the help of those same neighbors and his wife beyond the grave, he successfully traps the evil force and bringing peace to another tortured soul.

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