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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Balzer and Bray, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 15 of 15
1. Review: Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. Balzer + Bray an imprint of HarperCollins 2015. Review copy from publisher. YALSA Morris Award Finalist.

The Plot: Simon, sixteen, is being blackmailed by Martin. See, Simon didn't totally log out of his email account on a school computer so when Martin sat down he saw them. And read them. And made copies.

So, Martin is threatening to tell everyone that Simon is gay. Simon hasn't even told his closest friends. The only person who knows is the person on the other end of Martin's email conversations, someone named Blue. Who Simon knows better than anyone else -- the only thing Simon doesn't know about Blue is what his real name is.

The Good: This is one of those books where I started off not liking Simon that much. No, really. About page thirty I put this down and eye-rolled because I found him just too self absorbed and immature and annoying.

And then I picked it up again, because I'd committed myself to YALSA's Morris challenge to read all the finalists before Midwinter, and something clicked. And instead of having no patience with Simon I instead began laughing with him, and seeing his insecurities, and loving his loyalty, and shaking my head in sympathy at his self-absorption.

Simon is about Simon, of course -- he's the one telling the story, and it's his emails with Blue that are shared. It's not just being blackmailed by Martin - oh, by the way, Martin's purpose of the blackmail? Martin likes Abby, and Simon is friends with Abby, so Martin wants Simon to help things along with Abby. Except that Simon doesn't like being blackmailed by Martin, and Abby is a good friend, and he thinks Abby likes Nick. Nick has been Simon's friend since forever, along with Leah, and Leah and Abby do not get along.

And then there is Blue, and all Simon knows is that Blue goes to his school, but other than that no details to know who Blue is. Blue, like Simon, is gay; and Blue, like Simon, hasn't told anyone. Not yet. As Simon says early on, "maybe it would be different if we lived in New York, but I don't know how to be gay in Georgia. We're right outside Atlanta, so I know it could be worse. But Shady Creek isn't exactly a progressive paradise."

Later, Simon thinks about coming out and how it's this big thing and how he doesn't want to say anything, at least not yet, not because he is afraid or worried about how his family and friends will react, but because it's a thing. "Don't you think everyone should come out? Why is straight the default? Everyone should declare one way or another, and it should be this big awkward thing whether you're straight, gay, bi, or whatever."

Of course, Simon is trying to figure out who Blue really is. And thinking about the cute boys at his school. And dealing with his friends' drama (Nick and Leah and Abby). And then there are his parents, which at first I worried about because of the gay jokes his Dad makes, but what is wonderful about Simon is it shows that all his dad is doing is making dumb Dad jokes and while it bothers Simon it small-b bothers him, not big-B bothers him. His family is supportive and close, and at times too close and overbearing, but at all times loving. It's a great book family.

I'm glad I didn't let my initial irritation with Simon turn this into a do-not-finish; I'm glad that I gave the whole book, and the whole Simon, a chance. Because both Simon and Simon are terrific, and thanks to the Morris committee for selecting this title and the YALSA Hub challenge for making me read it.

Oh, and my favorite scene is the one where Simon gets drunk. That's all I'm saying, but it's so cute and delightful and funny.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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2. Review: How to Love

How to Love by Katie Cotugno. Balzer & Bray. 2013. Review copy from publisher.

The Plot: Three years ago, Sawyer LeGrande ran away, leaving behind family and friends. Leaving Serena Montero, his girlfriend.

His pregnant girlfriend.

Reena has put the pieces of her life back together, including making peace with her disapproving father. Instead of her dreams of college, she's raising a two year old, going to the local college, working. She has a new boyfriend, she has good friends.

And Sawyer comes back to town.

The Good: A romance with a lot of appeal.

The story flips back and forth between Sawyer and Reena's intense, high school love three years ago and the present reality of betrayal, hurt, and attraction. So the reader gets two stories, one of first love and one of second chances.

I liked Reena because, well, she was in a tough place and she did what she had to do. When she got pregnant, and decided to have and keep the baby, she reorganized and adjusted her dreams. Though I kept thinking, if she had had more support from the families, if there was less judging and more compassion -- but there wasn't. And she's at a good place when Sawyer returns.

Sawyer, who by leaving town managed to escape the consequences Reena had to face and had to live with, is back. As I said, this is also a second chances love story, with Sawyer and Reena working through their feelings and family complications, as well as learning about who each other is now, not who they were. Not who they remember them as.

With the ages of the main characters, and the two stories at two time periods, this has appeal for both teen readers and New Adult readers.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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3. Moonpenny Island, by Tricia Springstubb

Flor and Sylvie are the best of friends.  They live on Moonpenny Island - a small island that only boasts 200 residents when all of the summer folks leave.  Even though Sylvie and Flor seem quite different from one another, they compliment each other very well.  Sylvie doesn't make fun of Flor's fears, and when she does laugh at her, it's not the kind of laugh that hurts her feelings.

Imagine Flor's surprise when Sylvie announces that she is leaving Moonpenny and moving to the mainland in order to live with her aunt and her uncle and attend private school.  It seems that Sylvie's big brother's mess ups have made her parents want a better situation for her.

One day, Flor goes off on her bicycle to hang out in the old quarry after her parents have a fight. She runs into a girl she doesn't know! It's a girl with hiking boots wearing an oversized sweatshirt.  She says her dad is a geologist, and that they are on Moonpenny Island because of all of the fossils.  The girls strike up an awkward friendship and not unlike Flor and Sylvie, Flor and new girl Jasper need each other.

What follows is a poignant story of friendship, family and change. Springstubb is at her very best as she coaxes the characters along in their journeys and sets the stage for the story to unfold. This is the summer that everything is changing for Flor and her family.  It's that eye opening summer...the one where a certain degree of innocence is lost and truths are revealed.  The juxtaposition of the three families gives readers much to think about.

This is a book that will stay with readers.

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4. ARC REVIEW: The Perilous Sea (The Elemental Trilogy, #2) by Sherry Thomas

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5. Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909

I'm happy to announce the publication of Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Balzer & Bray).

What a thrill. The book, which tells how activist Clara Lemlich led one of the most historic strikes in U.S. history, has received stars from Kirkus, Booklist and School Library Journal.  

It was selected by the Junior Library Guild,  acclaimed at Richie's List,  chosen as an Inspired Recommendation for Kids from Indie Booksellers, and as one of Amazon's Best Picture Books of the Month.

My sincere thanks to Melissa Sweet and Balzer & Bray.

On this day I'm also thinking of my father, who was once president of his machinist union, and an avid supporter of my writing. I know he'd be proud.

Finally, I can't resist this wonderful quote from President Obama's inaugural speech:

"We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship." 


1 Comments on Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909, last added: 1/23/2013
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6. Process Video: Brian Biggs

EG2 cover timelapse from Brian Biggs on Vimeo.

This was such a fun video to watch - Go on over to Brian Biggs' blog to read all about his process for designing the cover for his latest book, Everything Goes In the Air. Read about the whole series on his website, here.
The Brownie & Pearl books, illustrated by Brian Biggs were well read in our home, so I think I'm overdue to check out this series.
Also of note: Brian has a vast amount of images, videos, reviews, and quotes on his site. It's a really great model for other authors/illustrators.

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7. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Unseen Guest

As you know, I am a sucker for the boarding school book.  And although these books do not take place at the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, I can't help but think on such a place as it has clearly coloured our young heroine Penelope Lumley.

In the latest installment, the Widow Ashton and her companion Admiral Faucet (pronounces Fah-say, if you please) have returned to the homestead.  The Widow to see her son Frederick, and the Admiral to woo the Widow and to launch his money making scheme of ostrich racing.  But when the pair arrive, Faucet's ostrich Bertha has escaped into the woods around the estate.  In fact, Penelope and the children come across the ostrich while on a nature hike in the woods, but no sooner do they see her than Bertha is off and running again.

Upon meeting the children, the Widow Ashton is quite taken with them, and Lady Constance who has never shown the children any affection to speak of, starts to fuss over them.  In fact, the first night of the visit, Penelope and the children are invited to dine with the family and they are regailed with the tale of Master Ashton's untimely death in a medicinal tar pit.  After dinner Frederick and the Admiral take the boys back to the study and hatch a plan to get Bertha back.  Faucet wants to catch her and Frederick wants to hunt her.  And they want to take the children due to their unique tracking abilities.

Penelope won't let the go without her and Cassiopeia, and since she is worried about Frederick's abissmal eyesight, she conspires with Faucet to have the expedition take place on the full moon when she knows full well that Frederick will be suffering from his "moon sickness".

What follows is an adventure that only Penelope could get into with the Incorrigibles.  Honestly, not as much happens in this installment as I was expecting.  There are of course the elements of the Swanburne education with the exploration of philosophers like Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, synonyms, and prognostics.  There are also dappled mysteries like the sandwiches in the cave, and the identity of "Judge Quinzy".  But it seems that the biggest thing that is happening in The Unseen Guest is Penelope's own growth.  Why, for example, is she not finding the comfort she used to in the pony books of her childhood, and why does she yearn for adventure instead of comfort?

Overall, fans of the series will eat this one up.  I do hope, however, that the next adventure brings us closer to the reveal of not only the moon sickness, but of the identity of Quinzy as well!

0 Comments on The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Unseen Guest as of 7/25/2012 8:51:00 AM
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8. Summer of the Gypsy Moths, by Sara Pennypacker

Stella is spending the summer living with her Great Aunt Louise on the Cape.  She is going to help Louise tend to the summer cottages adjacent to her little house.  Louise isn't a big one on emotion, and Stella is surprised when after talking to Louise about her mother and blueberries, Louise wraps her in a hug.  This pleases Stella, because she loves the idea of ties between people.  Since her own mother isn't exactly dependable, Stella likes the even nature of Louise and her clean house and tidy garden.  She even is trying to find a way to get along with foster kid Angel, who Louise took in thinking could keep Stella company. The two girls couldn't be more different, and Stella can't imagine why Louise thought having two girls was a good idea.

The thing is, Louise is older and she's not well.  Angel and Stella make a gruesome discovery when they come home from school one day, and they have some heavy choices to make.  Can they make a go of the summer on their own?  Should Angel run?  What will happen if folks find out they are living without any adult supervision?  And what are they going to tell George - the local who is supposed to help Louise take care of the rentals?  Most importantly, what are they going to do with Louise?

The girls decide to make a go of it, and have to figure out a way to get along.  Their differences turn out to be a good thing as Stella could use some fire and Angel could use some forethought.  Readers see the girls deal with bills, finding food, lying about Louise's whereabouts, and dealing with their own guilt.  All of this is wrapped up in Sara Pennypacker's rich prose, describing the Cape, the cottages, the beach, as well as the interconnected nature of life.  "I like to imagine the ties between us as strands of spider silk: practically invisible, maybe, but strong as steel.  I figure the trick is to spin out enough of them to weave ourselves into a net." (p.1)

Readers will be left wondering what they would do if they were ever in Stella and Angel's  predicament.   Honestly at first, I was wondering who I would give this book to.  It's clearly not for the same audience as Clementine.  There are heady issues in Summer of the Gypsy Moths, and at times the bigger ideas are a little scary.  Ultimately, however, this is a story of friendship, survival and hope, and thoughtful tweens will be ready for the serious nature of Stella and Angel's situation.

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9. In My Mailbox; September 12 - 18, 2011

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.


Everneath by Brodi Ashton

Thanks to HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray!

Coming January 3, 2012!

Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she's returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld... this time forever.

She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there's a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen.

As Nikki's time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she's forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's...

Cross My Heart by Sasha Gould

Thanks to Random House/Delacorte and NetGalley!

Coming March 13, 2012!

Venice, 1585.

When 16-

16 Comments on In My Mailbox; September 12 - 18, 2011, last added: 9/18/2011
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10. today’s DDC art link

Forgotten Futures is a data sculpture which visualizes 100 years of forward thought. Using web-crawls of Google News, Google Blog and Google Scholar, the phrase “in the future” was associated with key words and phrases which reveal previous though about the future of our world. The top 100 terms for each year were categorized using the Dewey Decimal system, and mapped onto a grid. Holes were drilled into sheets of plexiglass whose sizes correspond to their frequency. For example, “war” is the biggest hole in 1945. The prototype shown here is a sketch for a larger installation.” [via info aesthetics, via sudama]

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Balzer, Bray to Launch New Imprint at HarperCollins...

In a press release today, HarperCollins Publishers announced that it has appointed Alessandra Balzer and Donna Bray to the newly created position of Co-Publishers of the new imprint Balzer & Bray. They will join HarperCollins on May 5, 2008, reporting to Kate Morgan Jackson, Senior Vice President and Associate Publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books.

Alessandra Balzer began her career at HarperCollins Children’s Books, and was most recently an Executive Editor at Hyperion Books for Children. Donna Bray started her career at Henry Holt and Company, and was most recently the Editorial Director of Hyperion Books for Children.

Here's a link to the full story on the Publishers Weekly.

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12. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book I: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood. Balzer & Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins. 2010. Reviewed from ARC from publisher.

The Plot: Miss Penelope Lumley, recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, is resolved to get a position as governess. What, she wonders, will they ask? Will they quiz her on the capitals of central European countries? At no point does she wonder, "what if my young charges were raised by wolves and only recently discovered and have never even had a bath? when is the right time to start Latin for such children?" Had she wondered that, she would have been better prepared for the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place.

The Good: The Plot description is my lame attempt at imitating the arch, wry, tongue in cheekness of Wood's style. Miss Lumley (well, by page 7 you have sufficiently made her acquaintance to call her Penelope) may be fifteen, and a responsible, wise governess (seriously -- within months her young charges are wearing clothes, reading, speaking a little Latin, but alas, still chasing squirrels), but she is also young and imaginative. In other words, she is the perfect main character for the tween set -- but if you know a teen with a quirky sense of humor, they will get a kick out of this book, also.

To back up a little: Miss Lumley (whose own origins are slightly shrouded in mystery) becomes governess to three children, discovered on the grounds of Ashton Place, by Lord Ashton. He was out hunting and found these three wild children. Let me be a grown up for a second: I think most child-readers will just go with this conceit and enjoy the fun ride of Miss Lumley bringing civilization in the form of uncomfortable clothes, poetry, and no longer chasing squirrels into the the lives of the wolfish children, now named Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia. Those who think twice about it (three children? raised by wolves?) will, I think, be rewarded in future books. A handful of clues are shared, that indicate there is something more to not only the children, their origins, and Lord Ashton, but also to Penelope herself.

This is chock full of fun. Penelope adores a series of books about a young girl and her pony (the Giddy-Yap, Rainbow! series), and applies what she learns in those volumes to raising these children. She lives by the sayings of the founder of her school, such as "That which can be purchased at a shop is easily left in a taxi; that which you carry inside you is difficult, though not impossible, to misplace."

Here is pure Penelope, as she reads poetry to the children: "Reading aloud was a task she enjoyed; it allowed her to pretend she was a famous actress on the London stage, which she thought might be an interesting career if only it were not so scandalous. Also, the working hours for famous actresses ran late into the evening, and Penelope had always preferred early bedtimes." Wood conveys Penelope's delightful mix of maturity and naivete; her practicality and dre

8 Comments on The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling, last added: 2/22/2010
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13. The Carrie Diaries

The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell. Balzer & Bray, an imprint of Harper Collins. 2010. ARC provided by publisher.

The Plot: Carrie Bradshaw, high school senior, living in the suburbs far from New York City.

What she wants: to be a writer. To be a writer in New York City.

What her father wants for her: to go to nearby Brown, his alma mater. And to be a scientist.

And there's also Sebastian Kydd. The new boy in school.

Carrie wants Sebastian. And wants to be a good friend to her friends, whatever that means. She wants to make herself happy without disappointing her family and friends.

Most of all, Carrie wants to find out who she is. And to become the Carrie Bradshaw she is meant to be.

The Good:

I loved, loved, loved this book. Yes, in part because I am a fan of both the book Sex and the City and the HBO series Sex and the City, which feature a thirtysomething Carrie Bradshaw. I loved this book because it works as a classic coming of age story, with Carrie figuring out her world and her place in it; with that world including expanding her horizons beyond her small town. Carrie works on being a writer and what that means. As the book starts, Carrie has been rejected for a summer writing program in New York City. She is at first reluctant to join the school newspaper (it's not her type of writing); she does not become an investigative journalist, rather, (spoiler!!!) she starts looking at herself and her friends and foes as source material, providing biting (and anonymous) commentary on high school.

Sorry about that spoiler. But this is a prequel of sorts, to both the book and film Carrie, so the reader "knows" where Carrie will end up, at least in fifteen odd years. The question isn't whether Carrie become a writer living in New York City; the question is how that happens. And while there is romance, sex, and love in The Carrie Diaries, this is equally about becoming an artist, finding a voice, and discovering what is, and isn't, important.

There is romance in the book: Carrie falls for new kid Sebastian Kydd, handsome with a reputation. A typical enough story for a young adult book. What happens (and doesn't h

8 Comments on The Carrie Diaries, last added: 4/7/2010
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14. What Happened on Fox Street by Tricia Springstubb

Mo loves Fox Street but she especially loves it in the summertime.Sure she has to look after little sister Dottie, aka The Wild Child, but it was also the time of year that Mercedes comes to stay with her grandmother Da across the street.Mo cannot wait til Merce gets to Fox Street so they can hang out in “The Den” and drink Tahitian Treats together.

But this year, something has changed with Mercedes.She looks very grown up for one thing, what with her shaved head and her designer clothes. Mo knew that Mercedes had a new step father, but she didn’t know that they were “comfortable”. When Mercedes tells Mo that she’s starting to notice how run down Fox Street looks, and how even Da’s house isn’t what it used to be, Mo feels a distinct shift.And that is not a good thing.

Mo does not like change.

So when she takes a special delivery envelope for her Daddy one day, instead of passing it on like she promises she will, she opens it. It’s an offer on their house. Mo knows that her Daddy doesn’t like his city job, and she knows full well of his restaurant dream, and there’s no way she’s going to let him get this letter!

But no matter how much Mo wants things to stay the same, Fox Street is bound to change.Her Daddy’s dream is mighty big, neighbors may not be who Mo thinks they are, and her own sorrow about her mother is a shifting think in her chest.

Tricia Springstubb has written so much more than a simple story of growing up.She has written a whole neighbourhood full of folks so real readers will feel like they know them. Strong women like Da and Mrs. Steinbott bring the history of the street to life. The crazy Baggott boys bring vitality and movement. Mercedes brings progress and Mo herself is one of those kids that comes along every now and again who makes folks say, “she’s got an old soul”.

With hints of magical realism, and extraordinary turns of phrase that will give readers pause, What Happened on Fox Street is sure to generate buzz this year. There is something magical about this little book that will have readers looking for a flash of red in the ravines of their own lives.

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15. Review: Possess by Gretchen McNeil

Bridget Liu is just a typical teen -- when she's not banishing demons, that is. As if hearing the voices of hellspawn isn't bad enough, her mysterious new powers appeared not long after her father's brutal murder. All Bridget wants is to reclaim her normal life, one without exorcisms or murder trials, visits from the Vatican or annoyingly persistent sons of the local police sergeant. Unfortunately for Bridget, that's not going to happen anytime soon -- because the forces of Hell have a message for her, and they'll stop at nothing till she heeds their call.

In Possess, debut author Gretchen McNeil blends ancient legend with unearthly horror to create a striking demonic mythology -- a fresh look at the other side of the angel coin. Bridget's adventures in exorcism are spine-tingling, and every chilling encounter will leave readers trembling -- especially the particularly hair-raising scene in a doll shop (shudder). Her strange new powers and a string of unnerving warnings from demonic messengers give the novel a streak of mystery, and readers will eagerly piece together the puzzle -- trying to stay one step ahead of Bridget as she learns the truth about the legions of Hell.

Bridget is an admirably independent heroine, determined to fight her own battles and carry her own crosses. Though she's more than a little damaged by the loss of her father and the discovery of her alarming new abilities, her flaws give her an honest, raw edge that will resonate with readers. Many of her relationships are rough around the edges, but the mutual adoration between Bridget and her little brother Sammy jumps off the page. Bridget is like a mother to Sammy, and her never-ending patience with his 8-year-old antics is endearing -- showing a softer side to balance her usual tough-as-nails veneer. Bridget tends to be one of the guys, and I would have loved to see more attention given to her best friend Hector, who is the perfect storm of sass and snark and insecurity.

This paranormal horror story is part murder mystery, part romance -- but unfortunately, the romance falls a little flat. Matt is a nice enough guy, if a little cliche -- the All-American, popular jock who falls for the school outsider. Yet, his constant "caretaker" attitude is cringe-inducing, especially since Bridget can clearly hold her own (probably better than Matt can). The fact that Bridget finds his overbearing behavior appealing is rather disappointing after her robust determination to remain a lone wolf. If ever there was a heroine who didn't need a hero, it's Bridget Liu. There is something not quite right about Matt -- but only time will tell if this is intentional foreshadowing by the author, or just a lackluster love interest.

Possess is a dark and edgy paranormal thriller, and McNeil doesn't shy away from creepy blood rituals or crazed demonic victims. There are clearly unknown depths to explore in this eerie new world, and readers will be eager for more of its infernal history and lore.


Disclosure: I received an ARC from the publisher for an honest review.

This novel hits shelves today! Click here to purchase Possess by Gretchen McNeil.

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