T5W – In A Land Far, Far Away

Today’s Top 5 Wednesday topic is: Books NOT Set/Inspired By The Western World!

Wow, this one was actually WAY harder than I thought it would be. Getting into the Pop Sugar reading challenges and a few groups on Goodreads has really broadened my book horizons, but I still apparently haven’t read very many books that aren’t based on the Western World. :/ I had to break into my TBR pile to make up the difference!

The Night Parade (Kathryn Tanquary) — Japan

thenightparadeThe last thing Saki Yamamoto wants to do for her summer vacation is trade in exciting Tokyo for the antiquated rituals and bad cell reception of her grandmother’s village. Preparing for the Obon ceremony is boring. Then the local kids take an interest in Saki and she sees an opportunity for some fun, even if it means disrespecting her family’s ancestral shrine on a malicious dare. But as Saki rings the sacred bell, the darkness shifts. A death curse has been invoked… and Saki has three nights to undo it. With the help of three spirit guides and some unexpected friends, Saki must prove her worth – or say good-bye to the world of the living forever. If you like Hayao Miyazaki films, you will love this book!

Wildwood Dancing (Juliet Marillier) — Transylvania

wildwooddancingHigh in the Transylvanian woods, at the castle Piscul Draculi, live five daughters and their doting father. It’s an idyllic life for Jena, the second eldest, who spends her time exploring the mysterious forest with her constant companion, a most unusual frog. But best by far is the castle’s hidden portal, known only to the sisters. Every Full Moon, they alone can pass through it into the enchanted world of the Other Kingdom. There they dance through the night with the fey creatures of this magical realm. But their peace is shattered when Father falls ill and must go to the southern parts to recover, for that is when cousin Cezar arrives. Though he’s there to help the girls survive the brutal winter, Jena suspects he has darker motives in store. Meanwhile, Jena’s sister has fallen in love with a dangerous creature of the Other Kingdom–an impossible union it’s up to Jena to stop. When Cezar’s grip of power begins to tighten, at stake is everything Jena loves: her home, her family, and the Other Kingdom she has come to cherish. To save her world, Jena will be tested in ways she can’t imagine–tests of trust, strength, and true love. This one was really good. I love reading about mystical creatures and faerie tales from other countries and this book managed to incorporate quite a few of them! 🙂

The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (Alexander McCall Smith) — Botswana

theno1ladiesdetectiveagencyThe No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series tells the story of the delightfully cunning and enormously engaging Precious Ramotswe, who is drawn to her profession to “help people with problems in their lives.” Immediately upon setting up shop in a small storefront in Gaborone, she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. But the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witchdoctors. This one is from my TBR pile. It looks pretty good, so fingers crossed!

The Girl From The Well (Rin Chupeco) — Japan

thegirlfromthewellA dead girl walks the streets. She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago. And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan. Because the boy has a terrifying secret – one that would just kill to get out. This one is cheating a bit, since it DOES start out in the US. But the premise of the book is Eastern and all the characters end up in Japan, so I’m counting it.

The Ear, The Eye, and The Arm (Nancy Farmer) — Zimbabwe

theeartheeyeGeneral Matsika’s children steal out of the house on a forbidden adventure–and disappear. In Zimbabwe, in the year 2194, the children’s parents call in Africa’s most unusual detectives–the Ear, the Eye and the Arm–who have powers far beyond those of other human beings. The children must avoid the evils of the past, the technology of the future, and a motley assortment of criminals in order to return home safely. Also from my TBR pile, I picked this book up at a used book sale last year and it looks really fun!


Anyone have some recommendations for great novels that aren’t set in the Western world? I’d love to broaden my book horizons even more! 🙂

Mid-Year Freakout Book Tag

Hi all! Jessica from Ever The Crafter posted this book tag a couple days ago, and I’ve decided to join in on the fun! I’ll try not to double up books, but no guarantees! 😉

Best book you’ve read so far?

28449207Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. Oh, how I loved this book. I actually hugged it before slipping it into the drop box at the library (yes, I’m a dork, I know). It’s just so beautifully written and the characters are wonderful and the world-building is amazing and…well, you can read my full review here. 🙂

Best sequel of 2017 so far?

10783250Hm, I haven’t read too many sequels so far this year…Let’s go with Dead Cold by Louise Penny. It didn’t come out this year, but I read it for the first time this year, so I’m counting it. 😉

New release you haven’t read yet but want to read?

thepearlthiefWell, now that I’ve finished Code Name Verity, I’d like to read the prequel that just came out: The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein. 🙂

Most anticipated release of the second half of 2017?

oddandtrueCurrently, Odd & True by Cat Winters. I first read Cat Winters last year, In The Shadow of Blackbirds. It was AMAZING. I’m not a fan of romances, but this one was sweet and creepy at the same time! 🙂 Odd & True looks super-fun, so I can’t wait to read it!

Biggest disappointment?

1964325The Mermaid in the Basement by Gilbert Morris. This is part of the Lady Trent Mysteries series and it looked really awesome; a book about a lady Sherlock would usually be right up my alley. But I didn’t realize it was also Christian Fiction. Even being a Catholic, I’m not usually a huge fan of Christian Fiction. It always seems so pushy; God IS wonderful, but you don’t have to turn every single conversation into one about him. I mean, your brother is about to be hanged for a murder he didn’t commit, maybe focus a bit on that?

Biggest surprise?

27213244Since I already did Strange the Dreamer, I’m going to go with The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. This book was amazingly well done. The author managed to create an entirely new universe, with several believable species and planets, in a single novel. There also wasn’t a single main character that I didn’t like. Great book!

Favorite new author (debut or new to you)?

28517611Again, I want to repeat! But instead I’ll do Jackson Lear. The Kingston Raine series is hilarious so far. Great series for bibliophiles who love a good laugh!

Newest fictional crush?

I don’t really crush on characters. I’ll have favorites, but not really crushes.

Newest favorite character?

20312462(Don’t say Lazlo, don’t say Lazlo…) I’ve really enjoyed Jackaby from the series of the same name by William Ritter. Jackaby can best be described as the 11th Doctor with Sherlockian tendencies who investigates supernatural crimes. He’s the closest I think we’ll ever get to the SuperWhoLock dream. 😉

Book that made you cry?

codenameverityI don’t cry easily when reading, but Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein certainly choked me up. Oh my gosh. Poor Verity! Poor Maddie!

Book that made you happy?

23604559My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman. This was such a fun book. Have you ever seen the movie Big Fish? It’s kind of like that only main character is still the little girl who believes her grandmothers stories. This was one of the sweetest “growing up” tales, I’ve ever read.

Favorite book to movie adaptation you’ve seen this year?

I haven’t really seen too many new movies this year…does Beauty & the Beast count? It’s actually a remake of the Disney movie as opposed to an adaptation of the original story, so…but it was still really good! 😉

Favorite review you’ve written this year?

29511753I’m going to go with The Juliet by Laura Ellen Scott. While not my favorite book I’ve read this year, it was still REALLY good and it felt nice to review a book from a local author who I’ve actually met. You can read that review here. I definitely recommend the author to everyone; she knows how to write so that you get caught up in the story. 🙂

Most beautiful book you bought or received so far this year?

sagavol1Like, PHYSICALLY beautiful? Hmm…actually, I’m going to go with Saga Vol.1 by Brian K. Vaughan. The artwork in this graphic novel, done by Fiona Staples, was extremely good!

What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

My goal is 60 books this year and I’ve already read 40, so I’m doing pretty good!


Feel free to snag this Book Tag if you want to do it. Also, check out Jessica’s Book Tag Post!

T5W – “A Happy Child is a Child Reading a Good Book”

Today’s Top 5 Wednesday topic is: Children’s Books! Now, I love me a good children’s novel, so I’m going to do a bit extra in this post. Instead of just 5 books, I’m going to give you 5 more recent novels and 5 older novels. 🙂 — To keep things a bit shorter, I’ll just give you the descriptions from Goodreads by themselves instead of adding a personal review, but I have read each of these books and would recommend them all highly!

Recent Novels

Circus Mirandus (Cassie Beasley)

circusmirandusMicah believes in the stories his dying Grandpa Ephraim tells him of the magical Circus Mirandus: the invisible tiger guarding the gates, the beautiful flying birdwoman, and the magician more powerful than any other—the Man Who Bends Light. Finally, Grandpa Ephraim offers proof. The Circus is real. And the Lightbender owes Ephraim a miracle.

The Island of Dr. Libris (Chris Grabenstein)

islandofdrlibrisBilly’s spending the summer in a lakeside cabin that belongs to the mysterious Dr. Libris. But something strange is going on. Besides the security cameras everywhere, there’s Dr. Libris’s private bookcase. Whenever Billy opens the books inside, he can hear sounds coming from the island in the middle of the lake. The clash of swords. The twang of arrows. Sometimes he can even feel the ground shaking. It’s almost as if the stories he’s reading are coming to life!

The Book of Storms (Ruth Hatfield)

bookofstormsEleven-year-old Danny’s parents are storm chasers – which sounds fun and exciting, and it is, so long as you aren’t the son who has to wait behind at home. And one night, after a particularly fierce storm, Danny’s parents don’t come back. Stranger still, the old sycamore tree in Danny’s yard seems to have been struck by lightning, and when he picks up a fragment of wood from the tree’s heart, he finds he can hear voices … including that of next door’s rather uppity cat, Mitzy. The stick is a taro, a shard of lightning that bestows upon its bearer unnerving powers, including the ability to talk with plants and animals – and it is very valuable.

Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse (Chris Riddell)

gothgirlMeet Ada Goth. She lives in Ghastly-Gorm Hall with her father, Lord Goth, lots of servants and at least half a dozen ghosts, but she hasn’t got any friends to explore her enormous, creepy house with. Then, one night, everything changes when Ada meets a ghostly mouse called Ishmael. Together they set out to solve the mystery of the strange happenings at Ghastly-Gorm Hall, and get a lot more than they bargained for.

The Wishing Spell (Chris Colfer)

wishingspellThrough the mysterious powers of a cherished book of stories, Alex & Conner leave their world behind and find themselves in a foreign land full of wonder and magic where they come face-to-face with the fairy tale characters they grew up reading about. But after a series of encounters with witches, wolves, goblins, and trolls alike, getting back home is going to be harder than they thought.

Older Novels

The Children of Green Knowe (L.M. Boston)

greenknowe“Tolly” Toseland 7 is rowed up to great-gran Linnet Oldknow by servant Boggis – there has always been a Boggis at Green Knowe. The real “castle” is over 900 years old. Gran tells old family stories, and songs. Over the generations there have been many who can see, hear, and feel the ghosts, evoked by white-on-black illustrations. Toby 14, Alexander, and Linnet 6 linger after the Plague, as does the cursed topiary Green Noah.

A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle)

wrinkleintimeMeg’s father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?

Circle of Magic (Tamora Pierce)

(From 1st novel) With her gift of weaving silk thread and creating light, Sandry is brought to the Winding Circle community. There she meets Briar, a former thief who has a way with plants; Daja, an outcast gifted at metalcraft; and Tris, whose connection with the weather unsettles everyone, including herself. At Winding Circle, the four misfits are taught how to use their magic – and to trust one another. But then disaster strikes their new home.

circle

Castaways of the Flying Dutchman (Brian Jacques)

7997A boy and dog trapped aboard the legendary ship, the Flying Dutchman, are sent off on an eternal journey by an avenging angel, roaming the earth throughout the centuries in search of those in need.  Their travels lead them to Chapelvale, a sleepy nineteenth century village whose very existence is at stake.  Only by discovering the buried secrets and solving the dust-laden riddles of the ancient village can it be saved.  This will take the will and wile of all the people-and a very special boy and dog!

Canyons (Gary Paulsen)

canyonsCoyote Runs, an Apache boy, takes part in his first raid — the one that will usher him into manhood. He is to be a man for but a short time….More than a hundred years later, while camping near Dog Canyon, fifteen-year-old Brennan Cole becomes obsessed with a skull that he finds, pierced by a bullet. He learns that it was the skull of an Apache boy executed by soldiers in 1864. A mystical link joins Brennan and Coyote Runs, and Brennan knows that neither boy will find any peace until Coyote Runs’ skull is returned to an ancient sacred place.


What are some of YOUR favorite children’s books?

Book Review – Beauty Queens

Book: Beauty Queens – Author: Libba Bray

Genre: Young Adult, Adventure, Survival

Description from Goodreads:

When a plane crash strands thirteen teen beauty contestants on a mysterious island, they struggle to survive, to get along with one another, to combat the island’s other diabolical occupants, and to learn their dance numbers in case they are rescued in time for the competition.

My Review:

I knew going in that this one was a toss-up. Would it be cheesy and over-dramatic or would it be hilarious? While there ARE definitely some occasional eye-rollingly shallow comments, I’m leaning towards the latter…but with meaning.

Ok, so you’ve seen Legally Blonde, right? Now, imagine Elle and her sorority sisters tossed into an episode of Lost…that will give you a smidgen of an idea of what to expect from this book. Then add in the insane pageant coordinator from Miss Congeniality, an Elvis-loving violent dictator, a secret volcano “bad guy” lair, a bunch of psychotropic plants, a couple of giant snakes….oh, and some teeny-bopper pirates, and you end up with one CRAZY book! Was that too many spoilers? I hope not.

Alright, so, yeah, it was a crazy premise, but really, this book was kind of amazing. This extreme situation took a bunch of girls who had been told their entire lives that they had to mold themselves into what everyone else wanted them to be, stripped them bare, gave them confidence, and made them realize exactly who they were and that the only people they had to prove themselves to was themselves. It was an extremely positive message wrapped up in a dark-humored satire.

And it was interesting, it didn’t occur to me until about halfway through the book, but a bunch of beauty queens is EXACTLY who you would want to be stranded with on a desert island. (Get your mind out of the gutter and let me explain, lol!) Think about it. These are the ambitious girls. The girls who need to have a TON of impressive extracurriculars. The girls who are pre-premed or pre-engineering or pre-somethingelsecompletelyawesome. These are the girls who may look pretty and sound vapid, but when you combine them together, the amount of survival-skill knowledge they possess would be immense!

Yes, there is romance (liars! lol). There’s actually all sorts of romance. The author didn’t shy away from anything here. These girls are finding themselves and that includes figuring out their sexuality. But it blends into the story; none of the romances seem to be there just to have romances (even with the seemingly random insertion of the aforementioned teeny-bopper pirates…where did THEY come from?!?).

All in all, this was a pretty great book. I read it in one day (that’s 396 pages in one day), so you can tell I liked it. I’d highly recommend it to people who love slightly absurd novels…or anyone who just really likes Legally Blonde. 😉

Similar Book(s):

Uh…well? I have no idea. Try this link: Books Like Beauty Queens

Library Haul – Look What You Made Me Do!

So I got to reading everyone else’s T5W: Books Without Romance lists and I ended up popping over to the library…where I went a little crazy. I came out with five books. FIVE! Which may not sound like a lot until I tell you that my library has a check out period of THREE weeks (Private Library = Weird Rules).

Here’s what I got…

Murder at the Vicarage (Agatha Christie)

murderatthevicarageColonel Protheroe, the magistrate whom everyone in town hates, has been shot through the head. No one heard the shot. There are no leads. Yet, everyone surrounding the vicarage seems to have a reason to want the Colonel dead. It is a race against the clock as Miss Marple sets out on the twisted trail of the mysterious killer without so much as a bit of help from the local police.  A couple of years ago, I discovered the Poirot series on Netflix and became instantly infatuated. After that, I kept getting recommendations for Miss Marple, but since that show ISN’T on Netflix, I’ve decided to try out the books. This is the first in the series and I’m enjoying it so far! 🙂

Beauty Queens (Libba Bray)

beautyqueensWhen a plane crash strands thirteen teen beauty contestants on a mysterious island, they struggle to survive, to get along with one another, to combat the island’s other diabolical occupants, and to learn their dance numbers in case they are rescued in time for the competition. Ok, so this one could go either way…it will either be HILARIOUS or completely cheesy and dumb. I’m leaning towards hilarious because it was written by Libba Bray and I’ve really only heard good things about her. Fingers crossed!

The Cure for Dreaming (Cat Winters)

curefordreamingOlivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl—a suffragist—in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she’s drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women. Winters breathes new life into history once again with an atmospheric, vividly real story, including archival photos and art from the period throughout.  This one actually DOES contain romance, but I was looking up ‘Odd & True’ by Cat Winters and found out that it hasn’t come out yet, so I snagged this one instead. I loved ‘In the Shadow of Blackbirds’, so I’m hoping this one is just as good.

Code Name Verity (Elizabeth Wein)

codenameverityI have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do. That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine – and I will do anything, anything to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again. He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France – an Allied Invasion of Two. We are a sensational team. I’ve had this one in my TBR list for a LONG time, but for some reason thought there was a love triangle. I hate those, so I kept picking up other books instead. Seeing this on someone’s ‘No Romance’ list made me actually giddy! I can finally go ahead and read it without worrying! 🙂

This Savage Song (Victoria Schwab)

thissavagesongKate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.  I’m ecstatic to find out this doesn’t have romance in it, because the description totally makes it sound like it does. I love monster books and I love them even MORE when they focus on the actual fighting of the monsters instead of “I hate this boy but I also love him”. 😉


What books are in YOUR reading piles?

Top 5 Sidekicks (aka: Happy Birthday Dr. Watson!)

According to Goodreads, today is Dr. Watson’s birthday! In order to celebrate, they have posted a list of their 14 Favorite Sidekicks. While their list is totally awesome, they didn’t include a few that I might have picked, so I’m making my own list! 😀

Note: I’m leaving off Dr. Watson, since this is basically a tribute to him, so I’m considering it implied that he’s a great sidekick. 😉

Hermione Granger (Harry Potter)

bdc3c1f9b2d2f1b64a50d373f3529049--hair-looks-hermione-hairLook, I love Ron as much as the next person, but if I had to choose between them: Hermione all the way. She’s loyal, honest, and smart. She will tell you to your face when you’re being a jerk, but also have your back against anyone who you might have (accidentally on purpose) offended AND she will know just where to look to figure out how to save your butt when you do something stupid.

Samwise Gamgee (Lord of the Rings)

ROTK-Sam-Faces-Shelob-2I am not a huge LOTR fan when it comes to the books (partying for a month in a tree when you are supposed to be saving the world? really?), but you can NOT have a best sidekicks list without Sam. He is completely loyal to Frodo, to the point of being willing not only to die for him, but also carry the ultimate evil just to give Frodo a break. Sam is DEFINITELY the kind of sidekick you want to have with you during an adventure.

Pantalaimon (Golden Compass)

hisdarkmaterialsthegoldencompass2007_91927Who wouldn’t want a little friend who follows you everywhere and knows you better than anyone? I guess daemons are not really sidekicks, considering they are technically like your conscience in physical form, but Pan was basically another character, so I’m counting him. 😉 He was a good balance for Lyra, his cowardice causing her to at least think before she leapt; a fine trait for any good sidekick.

Robin – Tim Drake (Batman)

Tim Drake List 10One of the original sidekicks in comic-dom, there has almost always been a Robin covering Batman’s back. And while each Robin brought something unique to the role, Tim Drake will always be my favorite. I’ve always felt that he was the one that most resembled Batman “The Detective”. He was smart, thought things through, didn’t jump in recklessly…but that caution didn’t stop him from leaping into danger when necessary. He took down some of the most powerful Batman foes all on his own…Joker, Lady Shiva, and more…and he never let it go to his head. That’s MY Robin. 🙂

Merlin (King Arthur legends)

7-7-2017 12-37-44 PMOk, this might be cheating a bit, since I dunno if you can really call Merlin a “sidekick”, but can you imagine having him as your best friend? Granted, he’s definitely not the most noble of characters (especially in the original legends), but he WILL fight fiercely to protect his friends. Also, he can basically do any magic imaginable AND see the future, so that’s pretty awesome. Now, my favorite version of Merlin has to be the one from BBC’s Merlin (2008-2012). He made mistakes, but he always really tried his best to do the right thing. It also helps that Colin Morgan is pretty adorable. 😉


I’m going to leave it at 5, though I could probably write all day on this topic. Feel free to add more in the comments! Who are YOUR favorite sidekicks? 🙂

One Check Mark for the Bucket List!

Ok, this is NOT going to be a book post (obviously). But I finally got to live a childhood dream and, hey, I wanna brag about it. 😉

This past weekend, my friend Melisa and I got to finally see New Kids on the Block in concert!!! It was AMAZING. Even people who don’t like their music would have to admit they put on a heck of a show.

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Say “Hi”, Melisa!

Even the sideliners were awesome! The starting bands were…wait for it…Boyz II Men & Paula Abdul! Each group did about half an hour, mostly featuring their classics.

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Boyz II Men did a great set with everything from ‘In The Still Of The Night’ to ‘End Of The Road’. They even handed out roses during ‘I’ll Make Love To You’! Paula danced for half an hour straight; I don’t know how she does it! She also did a nice homage to Gene Kelly. 🙂

The New Kids themselves did a full hour and a half! They started out with a bunch of new songs, which I will admit I mostly didn’t know. 😉 They were jammin’ though! The boys were all over the place: on the back stage, the front stage, lining the audience…Donnie even crowd surfed!

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Towards the end, they did a wonderful timeline montage of older songs (they even did a quick change to look the part!). Joey pulled out ‘Please Don’t Go Girl’ and Jordan gave us ‘I’ll Be Lovin’ You Forever’, both in their signature falsettos. The boys all sang a cute little Christmas song and Jonathan even sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to one lucky audience member. 🙂

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Ah, the denim romper; how I haven’t missed thee. 😉

My friend and I had REALLY good seats, but we still couldn’t resist rushing the stage when the boys came down to the secondary stage to sing ‘Summertime’ (even though it DID end up putting us in the line of fire for a couple of overly-enthusiastic fans who almost got in a fistfight over who got to stand closest to Jordan! Eep!).

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Look how close we got! 😀

All in all, it really was the concert of a lifetime. I had an amazing time and am ridiculously happy that I was able to attend. 🙂


What are the best concerts that you’ve been to?