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A Thread of Grace

Excerpt:

This is what everyone would remember about his mother: her home was immaculate. Even in a place where cleanliness was pursued with religious zeal, Klara’s household was renowned for its faultless order. In Klara’s mind, there was no gradation between purity and filth.

She had sinned as a girl, made pregnant by her married uncle. Adultery stained her soul black, and God punished her as she deserved. Her sin-child died.

So did her aunt, and Klara became her uncle’s second wife, dutifully raising her stepchildren, keeping them very clean and very quiet, so her uncle-husband would not become angry and bring out his leather whip. Her husband was no more merciful than her God. Her second son died, and then her small daughter.

Soon after she buried little Ida, Klara became pregnant again. Her fourth child was a sickly boy whose weakness her uncle-husband despised. Klara was ashamed that her children had died. She hovered over the new baby anxiously, told him constantly that she loved and needed him, hoping that her neighbors would notice how well he was cared for. Hoping that her uncle-husband would come to approve of her son. Hoping that God would hear her pleas, and let this child live.

Her prayers, it seemed, were answered, but the neighbors were bemused by Klara’s mothering. She nursed her little boy for two years. He’d squirm away, or turn his face from her, but she pushed her nipple into his mouth regardless of what troubled him. She fed and fed and fed that child. Food was medicine. Food could ward off numberless, nameless, lurking diseases. “Eat,” she’d plead. “Eat, or you’ll get sick and die.” It was immoderate, even in a village where mothers expected children to swallow whatever was put before them, and to clean their plates.

In adulthood, Klara’s son would have nightmares about suffocation. He would suck on a finger in times of stress, or stuff himself with chocolates. He was obsessed with his body’s odors and became a vegetarian, convinced this diet reduced his propensity to sweat excessively and improved the aroma of his intestinal gas. He discussed nutritional theories at length, but had a poor appetite. He could not watch others eat without trying to spoil their enjoyment. He’d call broth “corpse tea,” and pointed out that a roast suckling pig looked “just like a cooked baby.”

Whenever he looked in a mirror, he would see his mother’s eyes: china blue and frightened. Frightened of dirt, of her husband, of illness, and of God. Her son, too, was frightened. Frightened of priests and hunters, of cigarette smokers and skiers, of liberals, journalists, germs and dirt, of gypsies, judges, and Americans. He was frightened of being wrong, of being weak, of being effeminate. Frightened of poets and of Poles, of academics and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Frightened of moonlight and horses, of snow and water and the dark. Frightened of microbes and spirochetes, of feces, and of old men, and of the French.

The very blood in his veins was a danger to him. There were birth defects and feeble-mindedness in his incestuous family. His uncle-father was a bastard, and Klara’s son worried all his life that unsavory gossip about his ancestry would become public. He was frightened of sexual intercourse and never had children, afraid his tainted blood would be revealed in them. He was terrified of cancer, which took his mother’s life, and horrified that he had suckled at diseased breasts.

How could anyone live with so much fear?

His solution was to simplify. He sought and seized one all-encompassing explanation for the existence of sin and disease, for all his failures and disappointments. There was no weakness in his parents, his blood, his mind. He was faultless; others were filth. He could not change his china blue eyes, but he could change the world they saw. He would identify the secret source of every evil, and root it out, annihilating at a stroke all that threatened him. He would free Europe of pollution and defilement–only health and confidence and purity and order would remain!

Are such grim and comic facts significant, or merely interesting? Here’s another: the doctor who could not cure Klara Hitler’s cancer was Jewish.

 

“No matter how dark the tapestry God weaves for us, there’s always a thread of grace.”

Published in 2005, this novel is a fictional account of WWII and specifically, the war that raged in the Italian countryside. Ironically, the first chapter is the only one that mentions Hitler himself, concentrating mostly on the Italian peasant revolt against the fascists. Mostly what you see is a portrait of the people: some hiding, some local, some Germans.

It’s poignant. It’s heart-wrenching. It actually made me cry.

Even the Germans.

Through this distinct illustration of the humanity, not only of the victims of the Holocaust, but of the Germans serving the Nazis, you begin to see just how this atrocity could happen. People are merely people, following orders, not questioning the validity of their leader’s arguments.

In a nutshell, this book is an amazing portrait of survival, in a time when not many survived.

I read Ms. Russell’s The Sparrow many years ago, and was excited to read this novel.

They are completely different, but her style of writing is eerily similar.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone. It’s not necessarily depressing, for there are moments of joy and retribution.

 

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Heroes ‘Til Curfew

Cover Art by Robin Ludwig

All Joss wants is to be left alone—with Dylan. But as more Talents are imprisoned by the government, everyone’s looking for a leader. Some look to Joss, some to Marco whose new criminal plan threatens Joss’s family and friends. Joss wants to stand up to Marco, but Dylan’s protective instincts are putting him in harm’s way. Can Joss find a way to embrace both the boy and her hero within?

This review is long overdue.

I’ve been a die-hard fan of Susan Bischoff for years, and this second book was a long time coming, yet definitely worth the wait. It took Susan almost a year to release this novel, after the initial release of Hush Money, the first book in the Talent Chronicle series. Of course, this book was much longer, and obviously a beast of burden for the author. Like me, she’s a perfectionist, at least when it comes to writing. As writers, we are wont to published anything that feels unpolished or unfinished. We stew. We edit. We critique ourselves constantly.  But is it worth the wait? Most definitely! Luckily, there was a short story included in an anthology, which expanded on the Talent Chronicle characters, and kept my impatience slightly abated.

Miraculously, she finally published this book, and I read it immediately, with promises of a prompt review.

Um yeah.

Forgive me, Susan. Life has been chaotic, as I’m sure you can understand.

Anyway, enough with my waxing on and on…

Go check out the book! Besides the minor blurb up at the top, Susan has a preview posted on her website. <—–click me 🙂

You can also view all the other various perks she’s incorporated. Trust me. You will love this. Susan’s created a whole new world for her characters, and is working on the third book as well!

I love YA books! Okay, so I’m in my mid-thirties, but whatever?!

The thing I love the most, that Ig et from numerous YA authors, is the strong female protagonists. Susan delivers Joss to her readers with a punch. I adore her. She’s a tom-boy. She’s outspoken (sometimes), and isn’t afraid to stand up for her friends and her beliefs. To me, this is admirable, especially in the Twilight-era of moody, wimpy chicks in YA literature. (Bella: Joss could kick your butt!) Joss is a  great role model for teenage girls, as she’s a bit of a recluse, but through the first novel (Hush Money), she grows as a person, and by the time we see her again in this novel, she’s strong-willed, take-no-prisoners kind of gal. And I love it!

Joss’ relationship with Dylan (her kinda boyfriend) is truly brought to life in this book, and who doesn’t find the bad boy turned good thing a bit sexy?

I also greatly enjoyed the levels that Susan added to Joss’ family dynamic in the second book. (No spoilers!) For me, it helped me to understand a bit more of Joss’ background, and sympathize with her father’s plight in a way I’d never have guessed. Way to shock me, Susan!

So if you like YA, and even if you’ve never tried it, go check out this lovely second installment in the Talent Chronicles! Strong females, government conspiracies, super powers! What more could a girl ask for?

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Every fairy tale has a dark side…

Cover Art by Robin Ludwig

Every fairy tale has a dark side…

Elodie Rose has a secret. Any day, she’ll become a wolf and succumb to the violence that’s cursed her family for centuries. For seventeen years she’s hidden who and what she is. But now someone knows the truth and is determined to exterminate her family line. Living on borrowed time in the midst of this dangerous game of hide and seek, the last thing Elodie needs to do is fall in love. But Sawyer is determined to protect her, and the brooding, angry boy is more than what he seems. Can they outsmart a madman? And if they survive, will they find a way to beat the curse for good?

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This is the fourth work of Kait’s that I’ve read (no pun intended), and once again, Kait never ceases to amaze, excite, and suck me into the plot immediately. I positively adore the way she takes a classic fairy tale as a rudimentary base for this plot. With all  the remade movies (The Green Lantern, Tron, etc.) and TV shows (Hawaii Five-O, Charlie’s Angels, etc.) based loosely on media that was popular in the seventies and eighties, I often wonder why corporate media can’t simply release something ORIGINAL?!? I mean come on?! There are thousands of indie authors out there, writing fabulous stories in the YA and paranormal genres (what’s HOT right now), that could easily be turned into feature films or TV shows! What?! Do they have no creativity left? Are they afraid to try new things? Are they simply so stupid that they don’t think society as a whole has any ingenuity or brain cells left? Between Kait Nolan, Susan Bischoff, Stacey Wallace Benefiel, and Zoe Winters, your paranormal/YA schtick is good-to-go for years! (Alternate post title: Fuck Stephanie Meyers.)

Likewise, Red is the first YA work she’s published, yet it still has all the strength of her paranormal romances, with a dark, teenage twist.

In this era of Twilight, with its emo-heroines, who in my opinion, are NOT good role-models for teenage women, Red provides a strong teenage female lead character, who refuses to take any shit from anyone. She’s an outcast, but she’s okay with that status, at least in the beginning. I loved watching the transformation of Elodie from a somewhat pacifist state into a total badass, take-no-prisoners kind of gal.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a quick, quirky yet serious read. Kait envelopes a great twist to an old classic, in such an awesome feminist way!

Kait Nolan is stuck in an office all day, sometimes juggling all of her jobs at once with the skill of a trained bear—sometimes with a similar temperament. After hours, she uses her powers for good, creating escapist fiction. The work of this Mississippi native is packed with action, romance, and the kinds of imaginative paranormal creatures you’d want to sweep you off your feet…or eat your boss.  When she’s not working or writing, she’s in her kitchen, heading up a revolution to Retake Homemade from her cooking blog, Pots and Plots.

Check out Kait Nolan’s website here.

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The Lust Garden by Billy Jolie

 I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

 The Lust Garden written by Billy Jolie

He was alone in the lust garden of his dream. She was coming to meet him. And they would be there together. Forever.”

Gianna Salvani is an actress, an up-and-coming music star and beautiful.

But deep down inside her soul lies fear.

Fear of rejection.

Fear of herself.

Fear of being alone.

Always in the spotlight, she longs for anonymity, yet craves the attention.

Immediately, I identified with Gianna’s character, but not int he way you may think.

I have no desire to be a super star. In fact, I’d loathe the constant attention, the hounding of the paparazzi, the inability to ever be truly alone.

Yet it is her insecurity and innocence that draws the reader in. She is doll-like in appearance, a helpless lamb to the slaughter.

She loves it.

And she hates it.

Life for Gianna will never be “normal”. She is under constant scrutiny.

She simply wants what we all want: to be happy.

I first discovered Billy Jolie via Twitter, as I noticed a post where he was asking for a review of his new novel. I confess, it’s taken me awhile to read and review, not because I wasn’t intrigued, but as you know, I often bite off entirely more than I can chew book-wise. At the time, I was reading another novel for review, as well as my regular 5 or 6 books I read for pleasure alone. What can I say? I’m a multi-tasker like that. Or maybe just insane? I prefer to think of it as “keeping my plate full”. I like to read a variety of books: e-books on my Kindle, unpublished manuscripts for editing, books of poetry, theories of writing, short stories…..

So you can see how I often lose track of just how many books I’m reading at one time. Thank God for Goodreads.com!

Alas, I digress.

Billy had me sucked in from page one. Literally.

“A cloud of hot steam tickled his face triggering the onslaught of a lustful hunt. The splashing water seared his face and burned like popping oil from a frying pan. With delicate hands, he greedily pawed locks of blonde hair, forcing his prey under. The beautiful lamb he’d chosen was exposed, her anorexic figure stripped naked and flailing in the shallow liquid of a porcelain bathtub.

 The sweet water dripped from his chin—his baptism, his rebirth as the lion. She wriggled beneath him, with the desperation of a strangled fish. But he had her pinned with the brute strength of his knees, paralyzing her fragile chest. Entwined together, their weight spilled the water over and down the perched, clawed feet where it puddled along the tiled floor.”

Honestly, how could you NOT be enthralled with that introduction? Murder, mayhem, rock stars, models, drug addiction: this book has it all!

Everytime I opened up this book, I was instantly lost for hours, my eyes glued to the screen.

And once I started reading, everything was lost. Dinner left uncooked. One day, I spent almost all of my productive hours simply reading. And I never felt guilty. Not even once.

Billy Jolie takes us into the world of Gianna, as well as other characters, and leaves us wondering just how all of these glorious story lines will connect. Because they always do. This is the measure of a superb writer. And Billy does not disappoint. He dangles clues in front of your eyes, and we grasp at random meanings, always uncertain, but pleasantly surprised.

In all honesty, I did not even consider how the murderer would fit into the plot. Was it random? Was it fate?

And I was never disappointed.

By the last 100 pages, I didn’t care if I missed out on my life. I HAD to know how it ended!

And it was glorious. Fulfilling yet sad.

I’m a sucker for a great ending, and this book gives the reader exactly that.

You can find Billy Jolie here:

http://www.billyjolie.com/

http://www.twitter.com/billyjolie

http://www.facebook.com/billyjolie

http://www.myspace.com/billyjolie

 

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Sex Demons, Harems & Snark. Oh my!

Cover Art by Robin Ludwig
 
I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
 

Save My Soul by Zoe Winters

All he’s asking for is her soul.

After buying the antebellum home she’s fantasized about since childhood, Anna Worthington discovers Luc, a dangerously seductive incubus who has been trapped in the house by a fifty-year-old curse. To rid herself of her problem house guest she’ll call on a priest, gypsies, ghost hunters, and the coven of witches from lust bunny hell. All she has to do is resist him long enough to break the spell so they can go their separate ways. If she doesn’t, she could die. And that would be the best case scenario.

Honestly, this book sat in my TBR (to-be-read) pile for awhile about a year. Unfortunately, it usually got shoved to the back burner by more persistent library books (with due dates), or an unpublished manuscript I was beta reading. It wasn’t that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy the first Preternatural Book, Blood Lust, but such is the life of an avid reader.

You can check out my review of Blood Lust by clicking on the link.

The aspect that I loved most about Save My Soul was the fact that while Blood Lust is a compilation of three separate novellas, this second book is devoted entirely to the story of Luc and Anna.

Immediately, I identified with Anna Worthington. She’s smart. She’s sarcastic. She’s independent, yet vulnerable. Just don’t tell her that!

I positively adored all of the relationship dynamics in this paranormal romance! Anna vs. Lucian. Luc vs. Cain. Anna vs. Tam. The entire harem of Atlanta prostitutes, brought to Anna’s house to fulfill Lucian’s desire to feed. Even the Catholic priest played a significant role.  And I must add that I absolutely adored/abhorred the townsfolk, especially the elderly twins and neighbors of Anna. 😉

In Book One, the author introduces Cain, who is the original incubus, as we discover in Book Two. Originally, I’d thought that this second book would be more about him, as I knew it was about an incubus. However, I am thrilled that the author made Cain into more of a “bad boy”, at least as far as demons go, and lent a softer side to Lucian, making the reader more sympathetic to said demon.

Lucian, while still a sex demon, was limited by his humanity, or better yet, his soul and the feelings he feels. I’m  a softy for a demon with a humanitarian side, so I immediately took to Luc. Plus, he’s straight-up gorgeous?! Honestly, I’m impressed that Anna hung onto her values as long as she did. I’d have succumbed much sooner than she. Slowly, but surely, Lucian breaks down her tough-girl barriers, and Anna eventually realizes how much she loves him. Even with the blood-bonding, Anna understands that what she has with Luc is more than just a simple physical attraction. What they have is so much more…

So go buy the book! NOW! 🙂

You can access Zoe Winters’s website by clicking on her name…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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Because it’s not always easy to know how to live.

Synopsis:

A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wife captures a remarkable period of time and a love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.

Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and her life changes forever. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises. Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold on to her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.

A heartbreaking portrayal of love and torn loyalty, The Paris Wife is all the more poignant because we know that, in the end, Hemingway wrote that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.

I just recently finished this exciting new novel by Paula McLain, and even though I checked it out from the library, I will be buying this book, simply because this is one of my new top ten favorite novels of all time.  (Thanks, Dan, for the recommendation.)

It’s poignant.

It’s lovely.

It’s heart-warming.

It’s heart-breaking.

It’s a glimpse into the often chaotic mind of a classic American writer.

It makes you want to read The Sun Also Rises again. And again.

From the start of the novel, I identified with Hadley, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife.

But by the end of the novel, I kind of identified with Hemingway as well.

Or perhaps I simply felt sorry for him.

As a writer, I’ve had my own struggles with depression and alcoholism, and even thoughts of suicide.

Written from the perspective of Hadley, it paints a portrait of a man, a child, a lost soul, wandering through the darkness of the world, looking for light, inspiration, and acceptance.

The language is gorgeous. The POV changes between Hadley and Ernest. It makes you want to spend all day in a cafe, drinking coffee, and reading.

This book is a definite MUST READ for the Summer!

PAULA MCLAIN was born in Fresno, CA in 1965. After being abandoned by both parents, she and her two sisters became wards of the California Court

System, moving in and out of foster homes for the next 14 years. Eventually, she discovered she could — and wanted to — write. She received her MFA

in poetry from the University of Michigan in 1996, and since then has been a resident at Yaddo and the recipient of fellowships from the National

Endowment for the Arts. She is the author of two collections of poetry, a much-praised memoir called Like Family (Little Brown, 2003), and one

previous and well-received novel, A Ticket to Ride. Paula McLain lives in Cleveland, OH with her family.

You can find Paula McLain on Goodreads.com.

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Prince Charming was a putz: An Interview with N.L. Gervasio

Today, I am proud delighted freaking ecstatic to be showcasing N.L. Gervasio a.k.a. Jinx and her release of the novel Nemesis. 

I first read this novel way back in the beginning, and have subsequently re-read it numerous times, throughout the editing process. Now I’m not usually a gigantic fan of the Romance genre, but the main female character is a total bad-ass chick, which I immediately identified with.

 Nemesis:

Prince Charming was a putz.

 Prince Charming number two was even worse.

 After the last prince ran off without any notice, breaking her heart and their engagement along the  way, Nemesis Mussolini swore off  men and passed the time kicking ass and slinging drinks, something her mafia father would never approve of. But, when her boss Clancy ups his flirtations, it’s difficult to remember she’s not interested, especially when he gets that delicious evil glint in his eye that has her melting. Just when Nemy starts to think all men might not be bad, she hears whispers about Clancy’s less than legal past, and wants to run like hell from the idea that he could be just like her father.

Great … Prince Charming number three may possibly be on FBI’s Most Wanted.

While Nemy and Clancy tumble down the romance road, hitting potholes every step of the way, Nemy discovers how much of her heart already belongs to Clancy, and how much of a Don’s daughter she really is. When Clancy’s daughter is kidnapped, they must work together to use every talent and connection they have to get her back, which means Nemy must learn to trust again. If they fail, Clancy could lose his daughter forever. Can Nemy surrender in time to get her happily ever after, or is she hell-bent on letting her past keep her from the one man who could be her true Prince Charming?

 Doesn’t that blurb make you want to read it?

Bad-ass chick meets bad boy…LOVE!

Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing N.L. Gervasio about her new release, as well as many other various topics.

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Me: As an avid reader and writer, I am always curious about how this novel came to be?

Jinx: Nemy, my main character, just started talking one night, telling me her story, and I wrote it down. I can’t recall what the actual trigger was, to be honest, but I can tell you that it foretold the demise of my relationship about two months before it happened. For whatever reason, my fiction always correlates with my reality in one way or another. Yes, I find it strange too. The funny part is that I’d only ever written one romance story in my life (my first book as an adult), having moved on to the paranormal after that and staying there for a good long time before this one popped up. It kind of shocked me when I realized it wasn’t paranormal, though I’d flirted with the idea of turning it into a werewolf book well after it was finished. The reason I didn’t was because I’d already written a book and a half on my thirteen-book werewolf series, and the two books would have been too similar.

Me: How much time did it take to write initially and after revisions?

Jinx: It took approximately two and a half months to write, and a year and a half off and on to edit.

Me: Anything personal you’d like to share about inspiration?

Jinx: For me, Life is inspiration. I don’t have a muse. I don’t believe in them, unless you want to call Life a muse. The tiniest thing can trigger a story for me. For instance, on my Unclouded Perspicacity blog, I have a Flash Friday short (less than 1000 words) titled Fallen. The story, which will turn into the second book of my Armageddon trilogy, was triggered by a falling star. It wasn’t just any typical falling star though. This one burned long and bright and it had an orange tail. I’d never seen one like it, so I surmised what it could possibly be and why it was different than all the others. And out popped a book! The first is Dusk of Death.

Me: I posed this question to your partner at Running Ink Press, Sharon Gerlach, during her interview for the Malakh release, and I think it applies well with this novel: Bad boys or Good guys?

Jinx: I tend to lean toward the bad boy image, which is why the hero, Clancy, isn’t exactly a “good guy” in this book, but more along the lines of “good fella,” if you catch my drift.

Me: I adored the addition, in the later revisions, of Sean, the quintessential Irish bad boy. How did he come into being?

Jinx: Sean was actually part of the major overhaul I edited into the book after an impromptu 15-minute plot session with CJ Redwine. She helped me find the gaping holes in my novel and together we figured out how to fix it, so I owe a lot to her.

Me: None of your characters are strictly good or bad, but some sort of balance between the two. Was that a conscious attempt to make them more human?

Jinx: Absolutely! Characters can’t be perfect. They have to have flaws, just like we do, or they won’t be believable.

Me: Is there room for a sequel? Maybe a novella of Cherry’s story? (ok so that’s what I want to see)

Jinx: Nemesis is the first of a seven-book series I like to call the Kick-Ass Girls Club series, but hey, I love the idea of writing a novella for Cherry! Thanks!

You can find it on the Running Ink Press website, which will direct you to the purchase points.

Nemesis has her own blog: Foxy’s Den

 Nemy can also be found on Twitter: Nemy_girl

 You can preview part of chapter 1 here.

N.L. “Jinxie” Gervasio was born on Friday the thirteenth. Her dad wanted to call her Jinx. Her mom said no. It took thirty-four years for her to discover the nickname, and she’s grown quite attached to it. She lives in Tempe, Arizona with Umi (her mother) and Moon (her Alaskan malamute). She enjoys riding her beach cruiser “The Betty” around downtown Tempe, loves a good pub crawl, and has had the pleasure and the heartache of experiencing a love far greater than she could have ever imagined.

You can find Jinx here:

Twitter: Jinxie_G

Facebook: Jinxi3G

Blog: Jinxie’s World

Other blog: Unclouded Perspicacity

Fun stuff: Zombie Survival Crew

Email: jinxieg13 (at) gmail (dot) com

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