Spoils of War (Tales of the Apt #1) ★★★★☆

spoilsofwar (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Spoils of War
Series: Tales of the Apt #1
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 278
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A collection of 8 (I believe, I didn’t keep track) short stories taking place in the world of the Shadows of the Apt. However, these stories all take place before the first book, Empire in Black and Gold begins. Definitely meant for fans who have already read the entire decalogy and want more.

 

My Thoughts:

I am a fan of collections of short stories by a single author. You get lots of ideas and little bits and bobs without having to commit a huge amount of time. This book was under 300 pages, so each story was something I could sit down with and read in a sitting and not feel like I had started something that I needed a week to commit to. It was perfect for lunch breaks and an hour or whatever in the evening.

The stories themselves I enjoyed but none of them really stood out to me. However, that is how I usually am with collections like this so it isn’t a slur on the book, but a reflection on me. While I do review every book I read, I have never felt like I needed to review every story in a collection like this. I don’t like writing THAT much 🙂

Tchaikovsky also gave a little note after each story with an anecdote of how it came to be or how a character tied into the Shadows series. It was enjoyable but also made me realize that even side characters who I’d completely forgotten about played a big part in the author’s mind when he was writing. Good for him, I guess?

Most of the stories dealt with the 12 Year War between the Empire and the entity ruled by the dragonfly, the Commonweal perhaps? I can’t remember. Thoroughly enjoyable but I’m not sure I’d recommend this for someone who hasn’t read the Shadows series first. A lot is assumed here in terms of understanding the Kinden. That kind of thing is explained in the Shadows series so it’s not a stumbling block coming into this, but if you were just starting out with this, I can see it being very confusing.

Final verdict is that I enjoyed the bejabs out of this and highly recommend it for anyone who has read and enjoyed the main Shadows series.

★★★★☆

 

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Fellowship of the Ring (Lord of the Rings #1) ★★★★☆

fellowshipofthering (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Fellowship of the Ring
Series: Lord of the Rings #1
Author: John Tolkien
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 432
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Bilbo, after the events from The Hobbit, has settled down to a nice slightly eccentric life. He adopts one of his nephews, Frodo, as his heir and begins to write his memoirs. On his One Hundred and Eleventieth birthday, Bilbo disappears and leaves everything to Frodo. Only Gandalf knows that Bilbo has gone to Rivendell.

Several decades later Gandalf visits Frodo and reveals that the little gold ring that allowed Bilbo to turn invisible, and that he left to Frodo, is actually a ring of great power, possibly The One Ring that was made by Sauron to control all the other rings of power. Gandalf tells Frodo he needs to go to Rivendell to take counsel and that he, Gandalf, will return in a year to help guide him there.

A year passes and no word of Gandalf. Frodo has been preparing and his cover story is that he is moving to Buckland, another settlement of hobbits. Two of his cousins, Merry and Pippin, along with Frodo’s gardener Sam, have all been helping him move. On the way to Buckland, Frodo runs into a black rider that inspires complete unreasoning terror in his heart. No longer knowing who to trust, Frodo and his companions begin their trek to Rivendell.

Having several adventures, the hobbits meet up with Strider, a human ranger who Gandalf trusted. They all head for Rivendell, doing their best to avoid the attention of the Black Riders, who Strider reveals are Ringwraiths, Sauron’s powerful underlings. The Group makes it to Rivendell and Gandalf shows up. He tells them that the head of the Wizard’s Council, Saruman the White, has been corrupted by a lust for power. Now the world must deal with Sauron and Sarumon, both who want the One Ring for the power it contains. Elrond, the elven lord of Rivendell, tells that the Ring will corrupt any being who uses it and that it must be destroyed. The only way to destroy it is to cast it back into the fiery Mount Doom from which it was created.

A Company is gathered. They set out. Hindered in many ways, they must eventually decide what they are going to do with the Ring. Gandalf perishes defending them from a Balrog, a being almost equal in power to Sauron himself. Eventually, one of the Companions, a human named Boromir, falls under the influence of the Ring and tries to take it from Frodo.

Frodo flees, along with Sam and heads off on his own towards Mt Doom. The book ends with the Fellowship breaking apart and heading their own ways.

 

My Thoughts:

This is going to be a lot shorter of a review than my 2012 one.

I enjoyed this but was not raving about it. A thoroughly good story that is at once personal and cozy and yet epic in scope all at the same time. It is no wonder that this trilogy ended up spawning the Fantasy Genre as we know it today.

The reason this doesn’t get more than 4stars from, and never will, is all the blasted songs and poetry. Sometimes they contained pertinent information to the current story and other times they were simply a history lesson and at others they were just an expression by the character. You never knew which. I ended up just skipping them, plot points be forsaken.

Anyone who reads Fantasy should read this trilogy. Period.

★★★★☆

 

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Od Magic ★★★★★

odmagic (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Od Magic
Series: ———-
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 328
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Brenden Vetch saved most of his village from the plague but he couldn’t save his parents. He learned the magic of plants all on his own and now he wanders, listening to what the plants tell him. One day a woman named Od appears before him and tells him to go to her school in the big city, as she needs a gardener. He’ll know the entrance by the sign with the boot on it. Sick at heart and ready for a change, Brenden goes and finds the door. He enters, meets a wizard and finds out that only very special people ever find the door with the boot on it. All the other students enter through the front gate.

The King of the city, and his ancestors, started the school in honor of Od when she saved the kingdom hundreds of years ago. Slowly they have usurped its powers and decreed that only magic they control is allowed.

A wandering magician enters the city, only to entertain. But circumstances set the king off so he sets his own wizards on the trail of the magician to either control him or remove him and his troupe (said magician performs magics of illusions for the crowds) from the city.

At the same time the princess is to be married off to the head wizard, a man who is controlled completely by the rules of magic that the kings have set up. When she realizes this wizard will never allow her her own small magics taught her by her grandmother, she runs away to find the wandering magician to learn outside magic and to gain her freedom. This sets the King off even more.

At the same time Brenden accidentally shows what he is capable of to the head wizard. Realizing what he has done, Brenden runs away. The Head Wizard chases after him.

Everybody ends up in the North Country where there are 8 Stumps, which are beings of immeasurable power but who are afraid of humanity. Turns out Od is their representative to Humanity so they can all co-exist. Brenden must help the human magicians look beyond the limits they’ve set for themselves so that they won’t be afraid of unknown magic.

 

My Thoughts:

This hit the spot. I really needed a good book after the stinkers I had last week. I slid right into the rhythm of the story like sliding into silk pajamas. My mind and senses felt caressed by the writing. It was just plain soothing.

There was a LOT going on. Brenden’s story, the wandering Magician, the Princess, the Stumps, Od herself, and all of the side characters swept along by each of the main characters. In a good way, it was easy to lose myself in the story. But I never felt like McKillip lost a thread or made a mistep there. Each character was balanced within the overarching plot and at no time did I ever feel like a particular point of view was too long or too short. It just flowed together perfectly.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, every sentence of it. I had no issues with anything, well except maybe for wishing it was slightly longer, but I feel that way about every McKillip book. Of course, she writes just the right amount for the story she is telling.

If you haven’t started to read McKillip’s body of work by now, then nothing I can say will galvanize you. You won’t get any contempt from me, just pity. And trust me, getting pitied by me means you’re pretty low on the totem pole…

★★★★★

 

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The Mating Season (Jeeves Omnibus #3.2) ★★★★½

matingseason (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Mating Season
Series: Jeeves Omnibus #3.2
Author: P.G. Wodehouse
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Humor
Pages: 304
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

2 of Bertie Wooster’s friends get in a spot of trouble. To prevent the fiance of one of them finding out, Bertie fills in for Friend One and pretends to be him down in the country. Friend Two pretends to be Bertie’s serving man. Then shenanigans and Friend One shows up pretending to be Bertie. A Country Squire, a local policeman, several young ladies and a gaggle of Aunts are thrown into the mix.

Jeeves stirs everything, bakes it just right and from a gloopy mess comes a beautiful bunt cake complete with happy endings for just about everyone.

 

My Thoughts:

This was very much a situation of “The Right Book at the Right Time”. If I ever re-read this, I highly doubt I’ll rate it this high again. It was pretty much on par with most of the Jeeves books that have come before but this time I just laughed at almost every chapter.

Where does Wodehouse come up with the names he does? Finknoddle, Catsmeat, etc. They fit perfectly with Bertie’s personality and the situations he gets himself into. Jeeves was very much in the background for this book and it allowed Bertie to trample all over the story like a drunken elephant. It was glorious!

And to top it all off, Jeeves koshes a policeman on the back of the head. How great is that?

From the title, you can tell that a lot of young people are falling in and out of love at a moments notice and the story is driven by that force. While I did feel an occasional eye roll coming on, Wodehouse masterfully turned each instance of that into a very humorous situation. So far, I’ve usually been a fan of the short story collections that make up a Jeeves & Wooster book but this time, the novel length story actually worked for me.

★★★★½

 

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Death Wish VS Death Wish VS Death Wish

Since I just recently read Death Wish after having watched the reboot with Bruce Willis and then the original movie with Charles Bronson, I figured I’d do a VERSUS post much like I did for the Bourne Identity.   I’ll be doing them in the order I imbibed them. I don’t think I need to say this, BUT, spoilers? I mean, you won’t “need’ to watch or read after this. You know my style 😀

And this is going to be like 3 reviews all packed into one post, plus commentary, so I expect this will be lengthier than normal.

 

deathwish2018

First up is the 2018 reboot starring Bruce Willis. I’d avoided the original movie because Charles Bronson’s level of violence disturbed even me, from the bits and pieces I’d seen over the years. However, I really like Bruce Willis as an actor, all the way from Die Hard to RED. It was on Prime for free so I figured I’d watch it.

Paul Kersey is a doctor in Chicago. He gets into an altercation with another parent at a soccer game but refuses to get physical with the other guy. This shows how “pacifistic and liberal” he is.  Then one day when he gets his car valeted at an expensive restaurant the valet steals his address and later that week breaks into the house with 2 other men. Only the wife and teen daughter are home. I didn’t know what level of violence or what type of violence was going to be here so I was a bit cringey. Thankfully, while there is some innuendo from one of the creeps, the whole focus was the burglary. The daughter, who has been taking krav maga (the Israeli Defense Force’s official martial art) fights back and it ends with the daughter and mother getting shot. The wife dies and the daughter is in a coma in the hospital. The rest of the movie is about Willis finding a gun and suddenly being willing to use it. He tracks down the 3 killers, executes them and then goes after some drug dealers. He is also going after the boss of the 3 killers. The boss man ends up sending a hit squad to Willis’ house and everything goes down. The police were on the track of the “vigilante” and with this attack Willis pins that on the mob boss guy.  He then gives up on his vigilante attack since the boss man is dead and his daughter is awake and ok.

I enjoyed this a lot more than I was expecting. Willis as the Everyman turned Vigilante was decent but I had to roll my eyes in several places. First was the “I won’t fight you so I’m a liberal” scene. That wasn’t being a pussy liberal, just showing self control. I actually found Willis’s willingness to call the other guy out but not to make it physical to be very manly.  The housebreaking scene was cringey, like I said, because I didn’t know where it was going to go. This is a rated R movie and I knew that was for violence. It was almost a relief to me when burglary goes awry and the guns came out. They also did a pull away and only showed bullet flashes through curtains through a window, so nothing graphic. Then the movie went full on action film. John Wick, errr, I mean Paul Kirsey finds a gun from a drug patient who dies and magically finds out one of the guys who killed his wife. He shoots at a signpost at night and over the course of a week or a month magically becomes Mr Marksman. Then he tracks down and kills scumbags. He gets hurt, the police are after him, his brother-in-law thinks he might be the vigilante. There is a lot of tv talk show chatter and the movie gives full reign to the brain dead fluff heads who talk without thinking. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the tip of the hat to the psychological aspect so prevalent in the book. Everything is wrapped up pretty good as Paul gives up being the vigilante and takes his daughter to college. The movie ends with some jerk doing a purse snatch right in front of Willis and Willis making eye  contact with the guy and pointing his hand and finger at him like a gun.

A decent action flick if you like amateurs doing violent things. Willis has presence and is competent without being a Gary Stu. His brother-in-law, played by Vincent D’Onofrio, does a great job of showing just how messed up Paul Kersey becomes during the movie. Glad I watched it for free on Prime but probably won’t ever re-watch it.

 

deathwish1980

Next we have the 1974 movie starring Charles Bronson. Bronson was a 70’s and early 80’s staple actor in a lot of violent movies. He was a tough guy and his craggy, creased face showed a tired, careworn visage that went well with most of his characters.

In this movie Paul Kersey is an architect in New York City. He works for a big firm that specializes in high price, low rent tenement buildings. Paul has vocally stated he’s against such projects and wants to build affordable, decent buildings, thus establishing his liberal credentials. His wife and married daughter are out grocery shopping and have the groceries delivered. Some drug addicts pretend to be the delivery guy and break in, looking for money for drugs. When they don’t find anything, the prepare to take payment in other ways. The mother fights back and one of the thugs shoves her away. She hits her head on a table and dies. The thugs get scared and run away. Paul is called by his son-in-law and meets him at the hospital. His wife is pronounced dead on arrival and his daughter, while alive and unhurt is experiencing shock. She eventually goes to therapy, where she doesn’t respond and ends up in a sanatorium for the insane. Paul is distraught but eventually goes back to work to get back “to normal”. One of the clients is from Arizona and Paul has to talk a trip out west to go over their books. He becomes friendly with the client and the client gives him a pistol which he takes back to New York City. He ends up killing a druggy who tries to rob him and two young men on a subway. He gets wounded and the cops are on his trail.  Eventually the cops make him a deal, to leave New York City and they’ll make sure his run as a vigilante never becomes public. He goes to work in Chicago and the movie ends with him helping a young woman who was being harassed by some thugs. Paul points his fingers at the thugs like a gun and the movie ends.

After the 2018 movie, I was expecting a Charles Bronson version. The home breaking scene was a bit more violent than the 2018 version and the sexual assault, while not concluded or graphic, was definitely there. I was a bit more prepared for it so I wasn’t feeling cringey like I was with the first movie. Definitely something to be aware of though if you do watch it.

This was not an action/adventure movie. It was a lot more psychological than the reboot and Charles Bronson was great as the tortured husband and father realizing how blindly he’d been going through life. Of course, being Charles Bronson, he really brings the anger and the rage to the screen. He’s really good at showing an amateur doing his best to go against his very own nature.  The ending with him relocating to Chicago and finger gunning the punks was great. I can see why the reboot copied that to a tee.

Where Bruce Willis was a man on a mission of revenge, in this Charles Bronson is just lashing out against the helplessness that a man in a city like New York is destined to feel. Several of the side characters do a lot of talking and it’s all about the rights and responsibility that a man must take hold of in a free country. I felt like I was watching a movie on The Rights of Man. And not some social justice warrior crap but just what those rights actually require of someone to take a hold of them.  Now I was ready to read the book.

 

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Then we had this little masterpiece. My review, with all of it’s attendant thoughts can be found HERE.

Basically, this was a psychological book. It was at one end of the spectrum, the 2018 movie was on the action/adventure side and the 1974 bridged the gap. I’m glad to have seen and read all 3 different versions. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses but I found the book to be the most solid and the only one I’d re-visit in several years. The movies I don’t ever plan on re-watching, that is for sure.

 

 

 

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Dark Intelligence (Polity: Transformation #1) ★★★★½

f5c20b1147913d15c73b181229ed7c8cThis review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Dark Intelligence
Series: Polity: Transformation #1
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 416
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Thorvald Spear wakes up in a hospital. Which is odd, because he remembers being killed by a Polity AI named Penny Royal, almost 100 years ago, an AI that was supposed to be rescuing him and his men on a Prador occupied world. With his memory still a bit glitchy, Spear does know one thing for certain, Penny Royal must die.

Spear tracks down Penny Royal’s old spaceship. With the help of a powerful gangster named Isabel Satomi, who made a deal of her own with Penny Royal and is now regretting it, Spear plans on tracking Penny Royal down to whatever hidden lair it’s hiding in. With Satomi’s transformation having gone a bit further than anticipated (she’s turning into a hooder), Spear abandons her and sets out on his own.

Satomi wanted revenge on Penny Royal for the changes it started in her. But with Spear’s betrayal, she’ll happily kill him too. She heads to a world in the Graveyard (an area of space between the Polity and the Prador Kingdom where neither has an official presence) where she can gather her forces and pursue Spear and then Penny Royal. While on The Rock Pool, a world ruled by a prador named Sverl who also made a deal with Penny Royal, the other Prador revolt against Sverl and he is forced to help Satomi if either of them want to survive.

All during this time Penny Royal has been dancing around and through everything, apparently orchestrating “something”. It shows up at Masada, an apparent guest of the newly sentient Atheter. Both Spear and Satomi also show up at Masada. Satomi is now a complete biomech warmachine, like the Technician before its demise. With such a weapon, the Atheter can now claim full control of Masada and kick the Polity out.

Satomi’s consciousness is pulled from the hooder into a crystal memplant. Spear realizes he has been manipulated this whole time so Penny Royal can begin making good on all the bad things it did while a Black AI.

 

My Thoughts:

The only reason I didn’t give this 5 stars this time around was because there was a very awkward, unnecessary and completely gratuitous sex scene ¾ of the way through the book. Other than that, I loved this book, again.

It has only been about 4 years since I initially read this but that is something like 600 books ago, so this was a good refresher. I remembered some of the larger details but that didn’t in anyway detract from my enjoyment.

The first time I read this Penny Royal kind of came out of leftfield because I hadn’t been paying any attention to mentions of it in previous Polity books. On my re-read of the Polity, I paid more attention to that and now it is paying dividends.

Asher is not telling disconnected stories all set in his Polity universe. Each series builds on the previous ones but without turning into a Never Ending Series. Each series has a definite beginning and a definite end, as does each book. You have no idea how much I appreciate an author that still writes that way.

I would not recommend starting Asher’s Polity with this book. While you could, I guess, there is just too much in the background that you need to have read in his previous book for this to make sense.

★★★★½

 

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Death Wish ★★★★★

deathwish (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Death Wish
Series: ———-
Author: Brian Garfield
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Psychological Fiction
Pages: 192
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Paul Benjamin is a successful accountant in New York City. One afternoon his wife and married daughter are attacked in Paul’s apartment and savagely beaten. His wife dies and his daughter ends up in a sanitarium, insane for all intents and purposes.

Paul has always been a good guy. He’s done charity work for prison reform, contributes to causes left and right and thinks that if he obeys the rules that Society will protect him. With the attack on his family this delusion is ripped away and Paul must confront what living in a big city really means.

As he mulls these thoughts over, he begins to change. He realizes he has been afraid and he is now going to stop being afraid. But how does one stop being afraid? By taking responsibility for ones self is the conclusion Paul comes to.

On a business trip to the Mid-West Paul has a one night stand with some stranger at his hotel. When she leaves he realizes how empty his life is. How empty those hoodlums have made his life. He buys a small calibre pistol at a fishing shop and takes it back to New York with him hidden in his carry on baggage.

Paul begins roaming the city at night, exposing himself to danger so as to kill the perpetrators of violence and crime. After several kills the papers pick up on the fact that there is a vigilante on the loose. The book ends with Paul having just shot 4 teenagers who were throwing 50lb rocks onto a train to kill people inside and a cop seeing him. The cop raises his hat and deliberately turns his back and Paul walks home.

 

My Thoughts:

My goodness, another fantastic book for this year. Definitely gets the “Best Book of the Year” tag.

So, this review might be long and rambly, please bear with me or just skip it. Either way, it’s all good.

I had heard about this through the 1974 film starring Charles Bronson. Knowing the type of movie Bronson usually starred in, I never got around to watching it. Then in 2018 a remake with Bruce Willis was made and it eventually came to Amazon Prime. I watched the reboot, as I really like Willis. That led me to watching the original with Bronson and then to hunting down the book. I plan on talking about the movies in a Versus post later this month. Death Wish vs Death Wish vs Death Wish!

Based on the synopsis and the movies, I was expecting a book about a vigilante getting his revenge. A soft, pasty, weakminded fool seeing reality for the first time in his life and going all gung-ho to the other extreme. What I got was a psychological book that impressed me over and over and over. Paul never finds the hoodlums who killed his wife and he never expects to. What I read was the mind of a man pushed beyond its self-imposed limits. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t always easy to read about but it was good.

I’ve always considered Crime & Punishment to be THE book on what a criminal mind goes through after a murder. Death Wish is entering the same territory in my mind but from the other end. What does a man go through when he truly realizes how broken, destructive and unsafe his world is? This book shows the answer to that.

Given the fact that I already agree with most of the statements made in this book (see my Quote post from the other day) it is no surprise that I liked this. The only part I struggled with was Paul taking the role of Executioner into his own hands, not lightly, but so determinedly. I believe that every human has the God given right to defend themselves. I believe that laws like the Stand Your Ground laws are essential to a free society. However, when defense of Self moves into the defense of Society then I cannot blindly accept or promote it. But neither do I blindly negate it. Evil, and people who commit acts of Evil ARE evil, must be resisted not only by the dutifully elected officials of Law and Order but by every conscientious citizen as well. The flip side of the Right to Self-defense is the Responsibility of Self-defense. This book was written in 1972 and is pretty dated but the battle that Paul goes through in his mind is as relevant today as it was then.

I don’t know what someone who is in staunch opposition to the right of self-defense would make of this book. I don’t think it would change their mind. It is not meant to however. This was a book written to all of those people who sit on the fence and think they are safe because “of the police” or that “it couldn’t happen here in Safe Safe Happy Funland.” Brian Garfield also NEVER ridicules those who think like Paul at the beginning of the book. I really appreciated that.

I would love to unreservedly recommend this book but honestly, I can’t. For me, it was the right book at the right time. People can have their minds changed and responsibility can grow from even the stinkiest compost heap.

To end, this was not an action/adventure novel of revenge and over the top violence. This was the story of a man finally growing up.

★★★★★

 

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