Top 12 books for 2012

I always see people asking for book suggestions, so I thought now would be a good time to review some of the best (or better, in some cases) books I’ve read in 2012.

Now, granted, many of these books won’t appeal to most people since I have been reading a boatload of YA (young adult) literature this year, there are some that really do stand out. Here is my top 12 of 2012, in reading order:


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1) Brodi Ashton – Everneath

So often in YA the story begins normally – girl meets boy, girl’s world is turned upside down, blah blah, but the nice thing about this story is that we start right in the middle of the epic shitstorm that is Nikki’s life.

Main character, Nikki Bennett, has been to the underworld and is now back in the world of the living, trying to deal with the routine of real life, her family and her boyfriend. In a way, she is trying to say goodbye properly this time – to tie up all those loose strings she left behind first time round – because she only has six months until she has to go back.

But ofcourse, this isn’t easy for Nikki. For one, she doesn’t want to go back, and second, there’s Cole. Cole was the one that enticed her into the underworld in the first place, and he’ll do almost anything to bring her back and make her his queen.

Unlike most stories that fall into this genre, there’s very little boo-boo, and dodging of responsibility. Nikki knows what is expected of her, and she fights with everything to stay and continue her life, even though it wasn’t that great to begin with.

 

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2) Rosemary Clement-Moore – Texas Gothic

I didn’t know anything about this book or the author before I started reading it. This is pretty rare since I hate starting something without having some sort of idea where it might be heading. Since I had the Kindle edition, I didn’t really have a back cover to look at either, but I’m sort of glad.

The story follows Amy, a normal girl from a family that is anything but normal. She comes from a line of witches, but unlike her sister, she tries to steer clear of all the magic. Unfortunately, she has agreed to look after her aunt’s ranch in Texas during her vacation.

So, what should have been a relatively magic-free and boring holiday turns upside down. Amy finds herself ghost hunting, solving crimes and resisting the charms of her very delicious, stetson-wearing neighbor.

But what really drew me in was the first line of this book: “The goat was in the tree again.”


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3) Alden Bell – The Reapers are the Angels

Zombie book! Or an apocalyptic western. Whichever. Zombies have infested the world and Temple, a 15 year old girl, is on the run. She’s hiding from zombies, looking for freedom, and running from a man who will stop at nothing to kill her.

Temple can’t remember a time before the zombies. This world has stolen her innocence, and she is haunted by her past. On her journey for salvation, she kills, she hunts, she finds family and ultimately, survives. But for how long?

Although this is a relatively short book, it is a fucked up, awesome read. Temple is this scary, indelible character who is smarter, more independent and damaged beyond her years. It’s bleak and magnificent.

 

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4) Tammara Webber – Easy

This probably falls under the more grown up version of YA, called New Adult or Mature Young Adult. Gosh, all these genres. Basically it just means that it is about 20-somethings, and is hella more sexy πŸ˜›

Jacqueline follows her boyfriend to college. Like most girls who do this, there’s an assumption they’re in it for the long run. Nope. Her boyfriend breaks up with her two months later and Jacqueline is faced with a pretty stark reality – she’s single, she’s at a university she doesn’t really want to be attending, she’s failing her classes and her friends aren’t talking to her. Ouch.

In an effort to shake up her life a bit, Jacqueline heads off to a frat party and when she ends up leaving alone, she’s assaulted. Luckily, she’s rescued by a stranger. Thinking she can just forget the attack and move on, she carries on as normal. Until she realises her savior, Lucas, is in one of her classes.

When her attacker starts stalking her, Jacqueline is faced with a decision – give in or fight back. This is a story about personal growth, asking for help, and learning to trust the people in your life. These aren’t easy things, but they are attainable. Oh and it comes with a side-dish of super sexy. Ahem.

 

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5) Neil Gaiman – Neverwhere

This was my first proper read of anything written by Gaiman, and I just have to say this… I’m kinda in love. Ha.

One day when Richard Mayhew, an average guy living a somewhat below average life, stops to help a girl, his world is forever altered. He enters the reality of London below – a place that exists in the form of labyrinths, sewer canals and abandoned subway stations. He thinks he’s lost his mind, but instead, he’s only just fallen through the cracks of reality into a world that is Neverwhere.

This is an adventure, with dark and twisty paths that lead to crazy, mystical beginnings, and end in courage, honor and happiness.

 

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6) William Goldman – The Princess Bride

I don’t think I can even describe this book. Seriously. This book is about everything. Fighting, true love, hate, revenge, women, beauty, pain, bravery, passion, monsters, escapes, captures, death, lies, miracles and truth.

Just read it, already!

 

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7) Richelle Mead – Vampire Academy

So this started…an obsession of some sorts. The Vampire Academy series has been on my list of to-reads forever. And it took me like four years to actually get around to reading it. Whoops.

Rose Hathaway attends St Vladimir’s Academy. Or at least she did before running away with her vampire best friend. Thing is, her best friend (Lissa) is in danger, and the only way to keep her safe was to return to the human world.

But, that didn’t turn out well. Rose and Lissa are dragged back to school, the very place that is the most dangerous for them.

Forbidden romance? Check. Bad ass females kicking some major butt? Check. Murder and intrigue? Check. Oh and some smexy scenes? Hells yes.

If you like urban fantasy or paranormal romance, you should probably give this a go.

This series is six books long, with a spin off series called Bloodlines…which is just as awesome btw.

 

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8) Rachel Hawkins – Hex Hall

Sigh, more YA you say? Yeah, sorry about that. I really did read a lot of this stuff. It’s easy reading, y’know?

Sophie Mercer is a witch. She found out a few years ago, and her powers have got her into some major trouble. Although her non-magic mother has been supportive and understanding, Sophie manages to push it too far. To keep her under control, Sophie is shipped off to Hex Hall, a reform school for wayward supernaturals.

By the end of her first day, Sophie’s made quite an impression. She now has a stack of enemies, a major crush on some warlock, bumped into a ghost and her roommate is hated by everyone because she’s a vampire. But worst of all, Sophie has uncovered a plot that affects everyone – students are being attacked and they think it’s her roommate.

What a ride! This series is 3 books long, and oh my, I didn’t think I’d enjoy it as much as I did. Makes me want to be young and carefree again. Oh, and a witch πŸ˜›

 

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9) Mary Lindsey – Shattered Souls

As Goodreads says: “A thrilling debut story of death, love, destiny and danger”. Don’t think I could have summed it up better.

This left me wanting more – in a good way, I guess. Some books are perfectly set up to be trilogies or series because the characters click so well and you don’t want to leave them behind. I guess this is what happened to me.

Lenzi’s dad committed suicide because he couldn’t get rid of the voices he was hearing. Lenzi, now 16, is also starting to hear the voices. But she’s also starting to see things too. She’s convinced she’s destined to go the same way as her dad – insane and then dead.

Luckily she has a boyfriend, Zac, who is trying to help her through what they both think is mental illness. She’s been popping pills and trying to get it under control, but it just keeps getting worse. One night, her and Zac go to the graveyard to visit her dad. Zac passes out and Lenzi meets Alden. Alden claims that she isn’t crazy; she’s actually something called a Speaker.

A Speaker speaks to lost souls and helps them find rest in death by freeing them from their earthbound problems. And Alden is her Protector – he protects her from the violent spirits who don’t want to be helped and who could possess her body and use it for their own purposes.

According to Alden, Lenzi has lived lifetimes, and is the best Speaker there is. But she has no recollection of her past selves, and now there’s a spirit who wants her, and wants her badly. If only she could remember why.

There’s a lot of hate for this book, but I actually enjoyed it. Lenzi and Alden had this magnetism, and I suppose in some way it just reminded me of Blood+, you know, without the vampires… πŸ˜›

 

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10) Megan Hart – Dirty

Ah, finally a smutty book for all you people out there. Or “smutty”, whatever. Either way, it was pretty hot, and adult-y πŸ˜›

Elle meets Dan at a candy shop. Ha. 50 cent, anyone? There’s some light flirting, but if she’s honest with herself, she’s already come up with some backstory for why he was there, buying expensive chocolate. She surprises herself by agreeing to go and have a drink with him and he surprises her by not inviting her for a one night stand.

Elle does the sex-without-strings thing sometimes. She does it because it makes her feel good and wanted, even though most of it is faked and unsatisfying. And for a long time this has been fine – she has a job, a house and a life she likes and enjoys. She hasn’t wanted very much else in a forever. Until Dan comes along.

All I’m gonna say is…SJOE. And yum. Moving on… πŸ˜‰

 

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11) Rainbow Rowell – Attachments

This is my chicklit of the year. And it’s not the horrible gushy-omg kind either. Oh, and it takes place on the eve of the year 2000, so it’s a great laugh because I was in school then, and I remember the whole world gearing up for some Y2K disaster that never happened, and the same thing is happening in this book.

Beth and Jennifer work for the same newspaper house. They’ve recently adopted email, and they know that their office messages are monitored but they don’t really care or think too much of it. They spend their free time emailing each other, gossiping or sharing their personal lives like no one is watching.

Enter Lincoln. Lincoln’s life has been pretty disappointing so far. His long term, only girlfriend cheated on him, and he hasn’t figured out what he wants to do with his life. But it’s been a few years since the breakup, and he’s studied as much as he can for now, so he applies for a job as internet security officer.

This means Lincoln needs to sift through people’s inboxes and turn offenders for misusing their company email. But after reading through the exchanges between Beth and Jennifer, he can’t bring himself to crack down on them. And by the time Lincoln realises he’s falling in love with Beth, it’s too late for him to introduce himself. After all, what would he say? “Hi, I’m the guy reading your emails?”

After a series of close encounters and near misses, Lincoln decides it’s time to suck it up and speak to her.

Sigh. I loved this. Beth and Jennifer are so real and their lives are so fucked up and normal and Lincoln is just one of those people you really wish was reading your email – because he sees and understands and hates and loves you anyway, for your words, and not for what you look like.

 

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12) Barry Lyga – I Hunt Killers

What if one of the world’s most infamous serial killers was your dad? And what if your dad had trained you as an apprentice to take over from where he left off?

Jasper’s lived a fucked up life. He was brought up with killing and torture as if they were the norm, and brainwashed and blackmailed to keep quiet. But when his father is caught, Jasper’s life changed.

Even though his life changed for the better, Jasper is finding it hard to ignore that inner voice. His father’s voice to be precise. And he feels that urge. He is constantly struggling with what he knows is right, and what he thinks he might want, or what he might turn into.

So when bodies start piling up in his home town, Jasper wants to join the hunt. He has witnessed crimes from a serial killer’s point of view, and this could benefit the cops. But he is also considered a suspect based on his past and the way these victims were killed. In an effort to prove to himself and others that he is not his father, Jasper starts uncovering something that could make him more like his father’s son than anything else.

Holy shitballs, guys. If there’s one book you read, read this one. It was disturbing, and horrible and great. Thankgod there’s another book coming out in April 2013.

***

There are actually a few that I have not mentioned in the list. This is because they deserve a super special mention.

The first is the Charley Davidson series (currently on 4 books at the moment) by Darynda Jones.

Charley Davidson sees dead people. This is mostly because it’s her job to convince them to “go into the light”. The light being her.

Being a part-time PI and full-time grim reaper is hard work. She mostly uses her powers to bring justice to the people who have died at the hands of others, which means that she closes a lot of cases for the police department. Too bad they’re not all too fond of her.

But to complicate matters, Charley’s been having sexy dreams about a cloaked and dangerous entity that has been following her around all her life. And when she tries to get to the bottom of it, she realises that he is connected to her past. And he might be something else entirely.

Gosh, guys. Reyes Farrow. That’s all I’m saying. Oh, and Cookie. Because she’s the best. Darynda Jones does something I absolutely love – and that is giving Charley this unique, snarky and fun voice. I want her on my side. I want her as a friend. She’s bad ass, vulnerable and loyal. She’s also not the sort of person you expect to be a grim reaper or a PI. Love her.

The next is Karina Halle. Oh my gosh. I think her Experiment in Terror series has changed my life. Ha. Currently there are 6 books out and 3 novellas.

The Experiment in Terror series is a beast of its own. Honestly, I’ve never read anything close to it. The series follows Perry Palomino and Dex Foray. They meet under fucked up circumstances and start a ghost hunting show on the internet.

Perry and Dex are both flawed, albeit in slightly different ways. Perry can’t figure out where she wants to go in life, has body issues and has a whip tongue I love to death. She’s that girl everyone thinks is a bit weird but when you get to know her you just want to keep her forever because she’s unusual and different and amazing and awesome. And Dex ofcourse, is this hard, dependable, unpredictable and completely lovable guy just trying to stay afloat in this fucked up world.

So, think Supernatural crossed with X-Files crossed with…I don’t know, crazy beautiful characters who have this sexual chemistry that makes everything sizzle… and you get one of the most fun series I’ve ever read. And it’s not a superficial series either. It delves deep into what it means to be sad, to struggle, to live, to fight and just be.

Also, this is not a kids book, guys. It’s all horror, and sweaty sexy and has a Debra Morgan mouth πŸ˜‰

And finally Colleen Clayton’s book “What Happens Next”

Cassidy “Sid” Murphy goes away on a ski-trip with her friends and the unthinkable happens. She meets a man called Dax Windsor and can’t believe that someone actually likes her awkward curls, and her athletic body. But Dax takes everything from her the night he invites her to a party.

When she returns home, Sid can’t cope. She doesn’t know how to relate to her friends anymore and she knows she need to talk to someone but she can’t verbalise the things that happened. She starts pulling away and doing things she shouldn’t. And then she meets Corey.

Corey makes her happy, but the nightmares keep coming, and the urge to look different to the way she was before drives her into a dark place.

This book should be put in libraries or made recommended reading for teens. Sadly, the topic that this book deals with is a reality. It happens and it’s horrible and I think so many people and kids don’t even know how to understand it. This book helps. Just by reading how others experience and come to terms with such horrific ordeals, to know that you’re not alone and that what you’re feeling is completely normal… I think this is important to read. It shows there is hope at the end of hell.

I am going to be honest here, I cried like a crazy person through the last few pages. Based on this, I think the author achieved something very real here and something so incredibly important. It helps all of us sympathise, empathise and keep those who experienced this, moving forward.

So that’s it! Let me know what your favourite books were for 2012 so I can start updating my to-read list πŸ˜‰

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Seriously?

A little more from NaNoWriMo 2012…

 

Light filtered through the half-drawn blinds in her office, casting razor sharp shadow strips across everything in her line of sight. This was how Gabi sometimes told the time. The room she rented for when she was doing legwork and needed some quiet only ever got the dying light, and by the looks of things, the day was winding down.

She sighed and pulled her glasses off and squeezed her eyes shut. Gabi had been stuck in the office for hours, fielding calls, harassing medical examiners, bribing anyone she could… You’d think that since her father had left the business on such a stellar note, they would at least extend her some sort of courtesy. But no, instead the police department and everyone else treated her like the thorn in their side.

Maybe she was. She did close cases, much to their dislike. Surely the whole point of this game was to make the sure the bad guys are caught and put in jail? Apparently that was a little too idealistic for her uniformed friends. She never had understood the politics when it came to solving crime.

But they had made one right guess – that dead guy could not have committed suicide. And she was right in assuming he was a religious man. Father Elliot was one of the favourites at the church, and Gabi couldn’t help but notice he was also one of the youngest members of the congregation. So if he had offed himself, his secrets must have been as sordid as they get. Or at least morally dubious enough for him to consider the world a better place without him in it, and hell the most deserving place of all for his eternal soul.

Gabi leaned back in her chair and propped her feet up on the desk, carefully avoiding the stone cold cup of coffee and her half-eaten lunch. Just as she was getting comfortable and feeling a nap coming on, the goddamned phone rang.

Hitting the speaker button with a pencil, Gabi barked “Colt.”

“Quite a bedside manner you have, Colt.” Fucking David.

“It’s all for you, baby.” Grumbling, she leaned back again and closed her eyes. “What do you want, David?”

“I figured you might have wanted to hear what the medical examiner had to say… but if you’re going to be like that…” Her eyes shot open, she pulled her feet off the desk and sat up straight, picking up the phone and cancelling the speaker.

“Tell me.”

“I don’t know, Colt, what are you going to do for me in return?” Seriously?

“Seriously?” Gabi asked, annoyance biting her tone.

“Seriously.”

“Isn’t this against police code or something? Are you even allowed to bribe and evade?”

She heard him huff on the otherside. “Listen, you want the info or not?”

“Obviously I want the info.”

“So let me buy you dinner?” It started out like a tickle at the back of Gabi’s throat, but soon grew into an obnoxious guffawing laugh. She could practically hear him reaching for his gun on the other side of the phone.

“Whatever David. I’ll settle for drinks. Joe’s Bar, 9pm. See ya.”

Putting the phone down, Gabi grinned. Drinks with David. That could go so impossibly right, or so, so, so wrong.

Dead or Alive

This was the start of my 2012 NaNoWriMo disaster. This is seriously bare-bones and who knows if I’ll ever sit around and finish or edit this. So here we go. Have fun πŸ˜›

 

Her shoe nudged the dead body. She knew he must have been dead for hours because he didn’t even budge.

The rain clattered against the tiled roof, a harsh staccato booming through the silence of the room. She prodded his hand with the tip of her wet boot. Nothing.

It was so strange how a body can become so heavy and lose all that life the moment the brain goes dead and the heart stops beating. No spark, just suspended animation.

She shook her head, blonde hair falling into her eyes before she pushed it off her forehead and stared down at the body again, noticing for the first time that he wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. In fact, down to his clean clothes, expensive haircut and shiny brogues, he looked like a well-to-do guy. But good guys don’t end up dead on a church floor.

She sighed, mentally noting the small things – ironed clothes, cross around the neck, clipped nails, his hands looked soft and unused… Bending down to examine the body more closely, her phone went off, blaring Bon Jovi’s Wanted Dead or Alive. Oops. Probably the wrong song to go off at a crime scene. Apparently the medical examiner thought so as well, because he shot her a dirty look.

Straightening up, she gestured a “sorry, sorry” with her hands and backed away from the body and headed towards the door. Her breath misted as she hunched under the church awning, carefully trying to avoid the snake of water winding its way closer to her feet. She tugged the hem of her t-shirt down and pulled her leather jacket closed in the front, avoiding the cold fingers of air trying to get at her.

“Colt,” she answered, not even bothering to check caller ID. But even if she had, she wouldn’t have recognised the number. In her line of work, private or unfamiliar numbers were more common than none.

“Oh Gabi, I’m so glad you answered,” began a blubbering and sobbing woman. Gabi pulled the phone away from her ear, frowning at it as she continued to hear the hysteric noises on the other side. What on earth?

And finally, half way through a very teary monologue, she figured it out.

“Monique?” She probably shouldn’t have sounded so surprised, but at least it worked. All crying stopped. Even Gabi held her breath, just leaving the sound of the torrential downpour hitting the pavement. So, this wasn’t awkward at all.

“Good God, how long has it been?” Gabi started, trying to break the silence.

“Gabi, don’t say the –”

“Yes, yes…” Gabi had forgotten that Monique was religious. Hell, she was religious enough to want to dedicate her body and mind to the –

“Church…” Gabi finished her thought out loud. It clicked then. Why else would a girl she hadn’t spoken to in over ten years be calling? Not just any girl, mind you. She was a church going, communion wine and cracker eating, super involved crazy person. “You’re not calling about this –”

“Murder. At the church I belong to,” Monique finished.

Oh dear. With the phone still to her ear, Gabi peered around. It was one thing talking to Monique on the phone, but it was a whole different story seeing her in person. Monique was one of those larger than life types. How she ended up taking this career path was completely beyond Gabi’s understanding.

Gabi and Monique always had a presentable friendship. You know, the type that looked good on the outside but was completely rotten when no one else was looking. It was all barbed words, and sarcasm, hissing and claws. Of course, Monique would never admit to this. A woman of her stature, of her belief could never think a bad thought. Ever.

Snorting, Gabi cancelled the call, remembering precisely why she had walked away from that relationship. She had no time for holier-than-thou nonsense. To be fair, though, maybe time had changed Monique. Time had definitely changed Gabi, though for the better… who knows.

Ducking under the crime scene tape again, Gabi headed toward the group of police hovering around the body. Their quiet muttering ground to a halt when she got closer.

“Boys.” Gabi nodded her head towards them. Some of them looked up and smiled, but most of them shot her daggers. Yeah, she seemed to have that way with people.

“Damnit Gabi, what on God’s green earth are you doing here? This is the third time this week I’ve found you at my crime scene!” And then there was that.

David was the type that could stop hearts in an instant. Or, if anything, this super power only really worked on her. He had the ability to make Gabi bite down on her bottom lip and try her damnedest not to picture him naked in front of his team. But she supposed all things considered, he was a weathered man. He was at least two heads taller than she was, with skin that looked warm and smooth. But it was his eyes that really caught her breath every time. He wore that same expression she’d seen on so many other cops’ faces, the same one she had seen on her father’s face as well – the look of someone who had seen too much and didn’t trust anyone.

Well at least he could count. And could a man named David really say “God’s green earth” out loud in a church without some serious smiting?

Gabi looked up towards the ceiling to check for any signs of lightning, thunder, wrath, whatever. She had to hide a smile when she noticed David doing the same thing.

But on second thought, was David even allowed in a church? The things that man did with a pair of jeans… It was surely a sin in itself. Oh my. And mentally undressing a man while standing under the cross of Jesus Christ probably wasn’t allowed either. They were both doomed at this rate.

Before Gabi could give the usual snarky reply, she found herself choked nearly to death by an exceptionally ample chest and way too much black fabric.

“I’m so glad you’re here!” And Gabi was squeezed tighter.

A cough sounded from behind Gabi and finally she was placed back on her feet and her vision cleared. Oh no. Oh no, oh no, oh no.

“Monique…” Gabi began, but the crying started before anyone could say another word.

This is the problem with death. It’s also the problem with working with people. They have a pulse, which means many of them do a lot of crying, especially after seeing a dead body, or talking about a dead body… The list really does go on. But a crying nun? Gabi was not ready for this.

David cleared his throat again, and moved his hip away from the edge of the altar. Guess he didn’t think too much about all this church business either.

“Um, Sister…” David began, but Monique pulled away from Gabi and wiped the tears from her cheeks.

“I can’t believe it, Gabi. They’re saying he…” a hush fell over David, and he awkwardly stepped back and looked away.

“Saying he committed suicide,” she whispered and crossed herself.

Gabi pulled a face and put a hand on Monique’s arm.

The rain had finally stopped, and the drumming of voices and feet grew in volume. Quite a crowd had started gathering outside and Gabi had a feeling it would only get bigger and louder as the morning wore on.

The grey light was slowly brightening, and Gabi was sure if she went outside and stood on her tippy toes, she would see the sun just peaking out from behind the mountain. She should still be in bed. She would have still been in bed if she hadn’t flicked on the police scanner. Damn, insomnia. Thoughts of coffee started filtering into her head as she patted Monique like someone who had never owned a pet. Or a proper friend for awhile. Whichever.

Luckily David was more adept at handling emotional situations. He led Monique away to a room off to the side. Even though all she could smell was Monique’s soap and washing detergent, she could finally breathe again.

The smell of rain gusted through the open church door, smelling like freshly turned soil and grass. Fresh, and crisp, unlike the stifling heat in the room from the jam packed bodies. If they didn’t get the dead guy out of there soon, they’d have a lot more to worry about than just the humidity.

Getting back to work, Gabi started taking notes, sketching the scene in her little notebook, and wandering around the scene, talking to constables and police officers. It was only by the time she reached her car that David caught up with her. Or in this case, she caught up with David.

He was leaning against her black beat up car, staring into space. In that moment, he looked content, relaxed. He usually stood around looking tense, his muscles coiled and ready for attack, with a scowl placed firmly between his eyebrows. Yup, she liked him better this way.

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"We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown."

- T. S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1917)

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