Reviews: Yakimali’s Gift

Wonderful reviews for Yakimali’s Gift

A “Discovered Diamond.” Review by Helen Hollick February 8, 2017

“Engaging and intriguing narrative”

Although primarily written for young adults, this is an engaging and intriguing narrative for any over-fifteen age group. It sets us on the path of a four-month journey with Fernanda and we meet and make friends with her, Gloria, Gloria’s handsome brother, Miguel, and the Spanish soldier Nicolas. Inevitably there is romance between our young heroine and the two young men, involving mixed feelings of a ‘coming of age’ nature. Which one will she choose? Or will she walk away from both?

The author’s depth of research is evident both in the culture, the settlement of the Spanish in their strange New World, and the thoughts, reactions, responses and feelings of young people. All bound within the every-day drama of every-day life and Fernanda’s own desire to understand her mother’s ancestry, this is a wonderful novel populated by some wonderful characters.

5 out of 5 stars Night Owl Reviews “TOP PICK” December 27, 2016

“Characters so well drawn and believable”

What a beautiful story that was well written about this Marquina family as they make their journey in 1775 from Mexico to California that dealt with the Spaniards and Indians. During this trips there will be hardships along this expedition a ‘subtle history lesson’ that deals with some well developed characters…[one being… Fernanda Marquina who was fifteen with her ‘inability to accept the stifling constraints of her time’] while others [Nicolas, Miguel] to name a few who were so well drawn and believable that will gives the reader a rather interesting YA historical romantic read. The author did a wonderful job in giving the reader a detailed well plotted story in a visual way of actually making it is seem as though you are seeing the scenery descriptions [desert sand, beautiful horses]. The reader will feel ‘the joys, family drama, emotions, choices, hope, friendship, death, fears and pains’ of the read of its imagined reality. The story really presents a picture of how a teenager [especially a girl] could feel and in the end finding their way to make their dream come true. Now as this story all starts with the relationship with her mother and this is where this story will kick off and this is where I say you will have to pick up “Yakimali’s Gift” to see how well this story is presented to the readers. Will Fernanda finally finds out about her mother’s Pima heritage and will she choose whether or not she wants to be a wife? In the end will Fernanda be proud of her heritage and follow her heart and ‘how to assimilate totally new cultures and concepts?’ This was a good read that I would recommend to all!

4 out of 5 stars: “I found it almost impossible to tear my eyes away from the page because I was so eager to find out what would happen next.”

Review by Long and Short Reviews YA, December 2015

There might be a better life out there waiting for her if Fernanda is brave enough to seek it out.

This story had one of the most interesting premises I’ve seen so far in 2015. Imagine riding a horse from Mexico to Spain through dangerous territory with a group that includes pregnant women, elderly people, and many young children. The journey would have been difficult for young, healthy adults because of how long it was and how many things can go terribly wrong under those circumstances. Watching this particular group of wanderers attempt to survive so many hazards was nothing short of mesmerizing. I found it almost impossible to tear my eyes away from the page because I was so eager to find out what would happen next. Due to this I ended up finishing it much faster than I normally would for a book of this length!

My only criticism has to do with how the love triangle was handled. The two young men who were interested in Fernanda weren’t given equal opportunities to show the audience why they would be a good match for her. I would have really liked to see them both have roughly the same number of flaws and strengths so that I could have felt more conflicted about who she should be with.

I enjoyed seeing how Fernanda changed as a result of her experiences. Her character development not only made sense based on what happened to her, it fit her personality nicely as well. Even the biggest changes in her were easy to understand because they were so closely tailored to what she’d already seen in her short lifetime as well as who she was as an individual.

It took me a long time to choose an age recommendation for this tale. Many of the scenes felt like they were written for a middle school aged audience because how much time Fernanda spent disagreeing with her siblings and trying to figure out why the adults around her said and did certain things. The romantic subplot and the main character’s conversations with her friends about love and sex were definitely intended for teenagers, though, so I ended up rounding up my original suggestion by a few years.

Yakimali’s Gift was a fascinating glimpse of a part of history that isn’t that well known. I’d recommend it to anyone who is curious to learn more about how Juan Bautista de Anza and his followers explored and settled in California.

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“Well researched and beautifully told…a literary treasure”

Review by Literary Classics, August 2015:

(Yakimali’s Gift received a Gold Medal from Literary Classics for Young Adult Cultural Issues and their Seal of Approval from Literary Classics. They  recommend the book for both home and school libraries.)

Yakimali’s Gift is the story of 15 year old Fernanda Marquina, a girl who embarks upon a grand expedition in 1775. Fernanda, who is half Pima Indian and half Spanish, is in a tug-of-war between the desires of her youthful heart and the expectations of her mother. More than anything, she loves to spend her days on horse-back as she thrills from the exhilaration of feeling the wind in her hair. Her thirst for adventure is quenched when King Carlos III of Spain orders Juan Bautista de Anza to lead a party of settlers from Mexico to California. Much to Fernanda’s delight, she and her family join the group on the four month journey. Along the way she searches her heart for answers to the many questions which consume her troubled mind. The greatest of which is the most pressing question of all; should she marry Nicolas, the Spanish soldier who hopes to win her affection? On her quest for personal discovery, Fernanda finds resolution as she unearths truths that will forever alter her former perceptions of her family, heritage and her own identity.

Well researched and beautifully told, Yakamali’s Gift is a literary treasure. Historical fiction buffs will delight in Linda Covella’s depiction of Yakimali and the eclectic group of travelers who join her on her journey. Rich in culture, and resplendent with vivid depictions of the arduous trek embarked upon by these spirited travelers, Yakimali’s Gift is sure to be loved by readers young and old.

Yakamali’s Gift is recommended for home and school libraries and has earned the Literary Classics Seal of Approval.

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“A very human story”

Review by Teresa Devine of the HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY, July 2015:

Fernanda Marquina, the fifteen-year-old heroine of Linda Covella’s Yakimali’s Gift, is of mixed Spanish-Pima Indian ancestry, living in Mexico, New Spain in 1775, when she and her family join a colonization expedition to California.

Covella’s lean, engaging narrative follows the family on their four-month journey, during which Fernanda makes friends not only with a young woman named Gloria but also with Gloria’s handsome, brooding brother Miguel, who forms one side of the romantic triangle that occupies a chunk of the novel, with the other side being Nicolas, a young Spanish soldier.

Covella’s extensive research into the culture and society of the Spanish-settled New World is worked seamlessly into a very human story in which Fernanda’s quest to understand her mother’s Pima ancestry gradually takes center stage.

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5.0 out of 5 stars “What a delight!”

Yakimali’s Gift won the 2015 RONE Award (Reward of Novel Excellence) Honorable Mention in the Young Adult, General category.

Review by Sofia St. Angeles of InD’tale Magazine, April 2015:

“Why can’t you be more like your mother?” Fernanda was so tired of hearing those words, never mind the thousands of times her mother compared her behavior to her Pima great-grandmother without any explanation—other than the indication that it wasn’t acceptable. She really was trying. But she loved to race her horse and explore with her brothers! Why was that so awful?

Fernanda dreams of freedom and adventure, so when soldiers announce an opportunity to go to California, she can’t wait to tell her father. What could be more exciting? But when tragedy falls on Fernanda’s family, she’s left wondering if she should settle down, cast aside her frivolous ways, and finally become the young woman her Spanish people expect her to be.

What a delight! Set in 1775, “Yakimali’s Gift” shines light on a little-known part of history and invites the reader to experience it first hand. Ms. Covella does a beautiful job crafting a three-dimensional story that brings the reader on a colorful cultural adventure. The feel of the material, the smell of the fires, the anticipation of the unknown, the sorrow of loss, the sensations of first love—all await the reader of “Yakimali’s Gift.” History isn’t always an easy subject to relate to, personally. Armed with her engaging story, Covella invites the reader to step into a time gone by and live it.


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5.0 out of 5 stars ‘Great Storytelling’

Review by Sandy (Amazon), May 31, 2015:

“Great storytelling with an interesting history lesson.”


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Review by Mari Barnes “Sips of Soup” Reviews February 5, 2015:

I loved Linda Covella’s writing. She skillfully combined history, anthropology and geography in a story with characters that breathed real life. The result was a lesson that didn’t feel like one. Fernanda’s struggles, realizations and triumphs are universal and timeless. I highly recommend this one for mature Tweens and YA readers who enjoy clean reads.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Five stars”

Review by Sheila Sonntag (Amazon), December 18, 2014:

The author did a marvelous job.

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5.0 out of 5 stars “Beautifully written”

Review by Chelsey McQuitty (Amazon), October 26, 2014:

This is my second book from Linda Covella and I have to say I’m just as pleased as I was with the first one. Covella has a way of taking a story and making it pleasing to adults and young adults alike. Her stories are not only relateable, but incredibly detailed which shows the amount of love she puts into each one.

Yakimali’s gift takes place in the past as a girl finds her way to becoming a woman. The story is filled with love, family and the common misunderstandings we run into when we’re trying to figure out who we are. I loved how the story took Fernanda from someone who felt misplaced to a young woman who figured out just how strong her roots are.

The historical details are well researched while the writing style flows perfectly. I don’t want to give out too many details because I think you should just check the book out. It doesn’t matter how old you are, a good coming of age tale can really make the hours fly by.

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4.0 out of 5 stars “Yakimali’s Gift Is Spirited And Refreshing”

Review by im1rarebird (Amazon), October 18, 2014:

Linda Covella has crafted a very entertaining novel for the young or just the young at heart. The novel is steeped in Historical facts, building a story on the legendary journey and trials of the first people to colonize California. A young woman learns to not only appreciate her heritage but also how to assimilate totally new cultures and concepts. I would put this on my must read list if I were you.

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4.0 out of 5 stars “Compassionate…intelligent writing”

Review by Grady Harp (Amazon Hall of Fame Reviewer, Vine Voice, Top 100 Reviewer), October 15, 2014:

California author Linda Covella writes for young adults and that fortunate bridge for readers who as adults enter the world of young adult novels for enlightenment. Born in Ohio she moved to California at age 5 and now lives in Santa Cruz, California. Her educational background is solid: associate degrees in art, business and mechanical drafting & design and a BS degree in Manufacturing Management. She has served as a freelance writer, a newspaper columnist, has published articles in children’s magazines (she is a member of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), and now debuts as a writer of young adult historical fiction.

As Covella states on her website, `I learned about the Anza expedition when I was researching a story about children telling how and why their ancestors settled in the United States. When I decided to write Yakimali’s Gift and delved into the research, I was fascinated to learn that the colonization occurred during the time of the American Revolution and some seventy years before the often-told story of the east-to-west migration of pioneers. This further inspired me to write about this little known, but important, part of California and U.S. history. I was shocked to learn that several women chose to take the journey even though they were in advanced stages of pregnancy. I wanted to know more about the women and their children, who made up more than half the number of colonists. Why had they left their homes to emigrate to California? I began to imagine–and research–what life was like on that first march along the Anza trail, and the story of Fernanda and her journey was born. Just as we see today, there were race issues in 18th century Mexico, New Spain, and that interested me as well in writing my story. Most people of mixed heritage (typically Spanish and Indian) wished to be named Spaniard. Those with the “purest” Spanish blood enjoyed many societal privileges, thus people often claimed to have more Spanish ancestry than they actually did. Fernanda’s story is one of discovery: her place in the Spanish world and in the Pima Indian world, her views on race and religion, her connection to family. And as a teenage girl curious about love and romantic relationships, she discovers that on her journey as well.’

So much of the beauty of YAKIMALI’S GIFT rests with the compassionate manner in which writes. Part of that is the simplicity of the narrative as written for young adults – the material of racism and the attendant suffering by immigrants is very important information when applied to the history of both Indians and the early Spanish settlers, information most of us do not appreciate. The synopsis offered summarizes the story well: `It’s 1775 in Mexico, New Spain, and 15-year-old Fernanda Marquina, half Spanish and half Pima Indian, can’t seem to live up to her mother’s expectations or fit into the limited female roles of her culture. A tragic accident sets her on a course for the adventure she longed for but at a greater cost than she could ever have imagined. With her family, Fernanda joins Juan Bautista de Anza’s historic colonization expedition to California. On the arduous four month journey, Fernanda will find not only romance, but she’ll discover truths that will change the way she sees her ancestry, her family, and herself.’

Intelligent writing for a novel and when coupled with the information from the author’s notes and glossary at the end of the book make this a worthy experience for young adults and older adults as well. Covella’s research is thorough and blended into this story very well.

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5.0 out of 5 stars “A Beautiful Coming-of-Age Tale!”

Review by Lauralee Jacks (Amazon), October 10, 2014:

Yakimali’s Gift tells the story of Fernanda, a mestizo, that embarks on a colonial expedition from Mexico to California. Along the way, Fernanda finds herself drawn to her Pima roots and wants to learn the truth about her mother’s past. Fernanda also ponders her future about what she wants to do when they arrive in California and if she should marry her fiance, Nicolas, a Spanish soldier. Therefore, this is a coming-of-age tale as Fernanda goes on a quest for self-discovery and acceptance.

Fernanda’s relationship with her mother is the main theme of this story. Fernanda and her mother had an argument and Fernanda said cruel words to her mother. Before she could reconcile with her mother, her mother suddenly dies. Feeling regret for how she treated her mother, Fernanda decides to make it up to her by finding out the truth of her mother’s broken relationship with her own grandmother. Throughout this novel, Fernanda deals with the pain and loss of her mother. She wonders if her mother is happy in the afterlife and if her mother is proud of her. Because of her mother’s death, she finds herself drawn to her mother’s Pima heritage. She soon finds herself proud of her heritage, and that her Pima heritage links her with her mother.

Fernanda is an average young girl. She wants to please her parents and to follow their expectations to marry Nicolas and to be a wife. Yet, she has doubts. She is uncertain of her future and ponders if this is the right choice for her. She ponders if being a good wife is the key to her happiness. Fernanda is constantly pressure by her family and society, but over time she finds her independence. Fernanda is described as wild. Yet she yearns for freedom and the ability to make her own choices. She is also passionate, caring, and loving. She is the rock of her family. Fernanda is also brave and courageous. Because of these attributes, she captures the attention of the mysterious, brooding, and sullen Miguel.

Overall, this book is about family, friendship, loss, love, regrets, choices, and hope. The message of this book is to be proud of your heritage and to follow your heart. Even though the plot is pretty predictable, and has an angsty love triangle, the heart of the story is a mother and daughter relationship. I recommend this book to anyone interested U.S. history and culture. I also think this book is a great read for anyone coping over the death of a loved one. For Fernanda is on a personal quest to find happiness after the loss of her mother.

(Note: This book was given to me as part of a blog tour in exchange for an honest review.)

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4.0 out of 5 stars “Gift of Truth and Acceptance”

Review by Tara (Amazon Vine Voice), October 10, 2014:

I love it when a moral appears within a story, or food for thought, and this novel gives one a lot to think about. Within the pages, there’s a theme of acceptance. Accept yourself and others for who you/they are. Don’t try to change people and don’t try to change yourself for others. Fernanda, the heroine, is a girl who must realize this and also must learn to accept not just one, but both cultures she comes from. She half Spaniard, half Pima Indian. Why is one considered better than the other? It shouldn’t be…

And her gift is a gift of truth. What begins as a trek across Mexico into California with a large group of settlers becomes a journey to find the truth, about herself and her Pima history.

The trek itself was fascinating. The settlers face all kinds of hardship as they ride mules and horses across the desert and up into the mountains and across rivers. Along the way they face water shortage, freezing-cold temperatures, starving animals, and meet a variety of friendly Native American tribes. I really enjoyed this part, seeing how the Yumas and Pimas interacted with settlers, learning about their dress, discovering their troubles with the missions. It brought up another good question/food for thought: when does organized religion become a form of slavery?

Obviously, I got very wrapped up in this story and it evoked a lot of ponderings. I appreciate stories that do that and Ms. Covella gets a huge thumb’s up from me.

Fernanda is a young woman with typical young-woman emotions: insecurity, selfishness, jealousy, oppression. She’s confused about her heritage, about what’s expected of her vs what she wants to be. She has a huge load placed upon her shoulders and must care for a family long before she’s ready. The fact she faces all this while on this excruciating journey is admirable. At times, I didn’t care for her actions, but in the end, she “grows up” and realizes her mistakes and attempts to change them. I really like this heroine.

The only thing I didn’t care for is the love triangle. It was necessary to the story but at times was just kinda juvenile. But this is a young adult story, so it’s to be expected. It just went on too long for me.

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5.0 out of 5 stars “Middle age kids will enjoy”

Review by slim shady (Amazon), October 9, 2014:

My second novel from this author. After reading The Castle Blues Quake, I wanted to see if Covella is consistent with her fabulous writing skills, and she didn’t disappoint. However, unlike the previous novel, the chapters in this book were a little lengthy, but they still didn’t take anything away from the story.

Fernanda Marquina never seemed to live up to the expectations of her mother. Instead, she would take any opportunity to ride the horses she loves, racing across the desert, dreaming of adventure in faraway lands.

Once again, Covella effortlessly creates a world to escape to right inside the reader’s head. One can almost picture him/herself in the novel and relates to all the events happening. Again her language is appropriate and her characters are captivating. Intriguing story captured in 17 chapters that middle age kids will enjoy and relate to as many are tirelessly trying to figure out who they really are just like Fernanda.

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5.0 out of 5 stars “Wonderful Story”

Review by S. Yost (Amazon), October 2, 2014:

Fernanda Marquina a 15 year old and her family joining Juan Bautista de Anza’s expedition to California. It took months to reach California with all the hardships, sacrifices and endurance’s these people had to make to reach California for a new life. Pima Indians interaction with Fernanda was an experience as she learned about her mother Indian culture. The love story and family closeness of caring for one another was wonderful. This story is a great and a page turner.

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5.0 out of 5 stars “Yakimali’s Gift Met Expectations !”

By Pencil Pusher “Illustrator” (Amazon), September 12, 2014:

I had high expectations for Yakimali’s Gift and it met them all. Having recently finished my own work set in the storied Southwest, I was excited to read another novel of that land that was set even earlier than mine. It is very interesting to put yourself through the portal of historical fiction into another part of our land at the time that the English colonies were preparing to break with Mother England. The book allows us to enter into events within another society, the Spanish Southwest, that were occurring in 1775. Linda Covella’s novel is a great young adult novel that, as ever really good one should, reads just fine for adult readers too.

This is my kind of book although I write adult level Westerns with a bit of an edge. I say that because I have certain standards for historical fiction and Yakimali’s Gift met every one. The story was believable and lacked any Hollywood-like hyperbole. Nothing blew up at the end, thank goodness. The characters were believable within the context of their era and the background that they came from. I’ve mentioned before, with respect to historical fiction, that writers engage in imagined reality. We have to take what we know from our study and research of a period and a people (ethnic group, nationality, etc.) and what we know as people ourselves and create people of that time. The good writers like Linda Covella create people that the reader thinks fit into the time and story. The other part of a believable tale is that it is not overblown and exaggerated with gratuitous action, violence, romance and events. This book met my standards of realism.

The rest is easier to explain. The conversation was natural. The actions and the waxing and waning moods and temperament of the sometimes mercurial characters were described very well. Action scenes were well written. Some delicate things for a young adult book were handled just right for a young adult book. What more can a reviewer say? To quote Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins, “Practically perfect in every way.” Oh, and the author kept close to the actual details of the historical events, as this book is set during and relates the characters’ involvement in an important Spanish expedition. To me, more than to some writers perhaps, it is important to focus on ordinary people when one writes historical fiction. Again Linda Covella has done this successfully as well. Fernanda is important to us and to history for her representation of real girls like her; but she is not some grand lady from the pages of real history books. Fiction written about true famous people seems to me like telling lies. Main characters in historical fiction should be fictional and in this book they are.

Finally, this is a book that anyone can enjoy. It tells about an important, watershed moment in the life of a young 15 year old Spanish-Pima Indian girl on the edge of adulthood. It is very appropriate reading for 15 year old girls on the edge of adulthood. But I’m and older, pretty normal guy, who writes Western stories and other dramatic fiction, likes to throw a football around, and usually carries a six gun. And I loved it! This book is for anyone of any age and background who thinks it would appeal to them.

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5.0 out of 5 stars “Great Historical Fiction”

By Wilani Wahl (Amazon), September 2, 2014:

This review is from: Yakimali’s Gift (Kindle Edition)

What a great historical fiction! I loved the story. I did not want it to end. She is a great writer and had me hooked from the very beginning. I would love to see a sequel to this book.

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5.0 out of 5 stars “Enthralling YA historical romance”

Review by wayne (Amazon), September 1, 2014:

What a ride! This is a YA historical romance with the unique setting of Mexico, California, Spaniards, and Indians. It’s an interesting tale of the trek from Mexico to colonize California, and this novel depicts the very real hardships endured during the expedition.

And sprinkled throughout this subtle history lesson, are very real characters whom it would be difficult not to believe were actually part of the expedition. You immediately feel a connection to Fernanda, her inability to accept the stifling constraints of her time (marriage, children, and inferior heritage), and her longing for freedom and adventure and romance. You feel her struggle between wanting to do what’s right to please her mother, and longing for something more. And then there’s her struggle between a safe marriage, and adventuring into the unknown.

All of the characters are so well drawn and believable. Though Nicolas is more than nice to Fernanda, there’s always that hint of superiority and, um, *maleness* which was common for the time when men were truly the boss and law. I loved Miguel, his anger and mystery and the many layers of his character.

The plot moved well, a very visual read and beautiful descriptions that allowed me to picture the scenery. I was rooting for the romantic pair, and was not disappointed in the end!

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5.0 out of 5 stars “Theme…relevant to the present day

By John Reinhard Dizon (Amazon), August 25, 2014:

Yakimali’s Gift by Linda Covella is a spirited family novella tracing the journey of the Marquina family from Mexico to California. The marriage of Fernanda’s Spanish father and Pima mother made her a native Mexican, yet the prospect of joining an expedition to California proves too much for the family to resist. Juan Bautista de Anza leads the colonists on a rugged journey across the untamed wilderness in the name of King Carlos of Spain. Yet loyalties are tested and spiritual bonds are forged as Fernanda becomes just one of many who realize epiphanies along a road of self-discovery that readers will long remember.

The theme of ancestry explores a concept with ramifications that remain relevant to the present day. The Mexican people find themselves to be one of the most culturally diverse among the nations of the earth. The Spanish conquistadores brought their language and their tradition to Mexico, where it was forced upon the native Indian tribes subjugated by the colonists. Yet upon migrating to California, they established a unique society and culture unlike either from which it was spawned. The author is able to capture the emotions and the character of those who underwent these transformations. It gives us pause to reflect on the social condition of immigrants who assimilate new cultures in an increasingly diverse global society.

For historical fiction buffs and family drama enthusiasts alike, Yakimali’s Gift by Linda Covella is one you won’t want to miss.

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5.0 out of 5 stars “Great historical fiction”

By Gigi Schlueter (Amazon), August 25, 2014:

The authors storytelling makes you feel as though you are on the journey with Fernanda. You feel all the joys, fears and pains along with the characters. This book was written for young adults but is an equal pleasure for adults.

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