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Unconventional

Unconventional by [Hebert, J. J.]

James Frost is an aspiring writer with huge plans, but life seems to have things laid out quite differently for him. Rejection letter after rejection letter, James begins to lose confidence, becomes increasingly filled with fury, and sees no way out of his destiny as a school janitor. His father’s offhand attitude about James’s future does nothing to help his morale. Then, James meets Leigh–a woman who could not be more different from him if she tried. A devout Christian always seeing the positive side in trying situations, Leigh brings about changes in James and sends him careening down a drastically different path of emotions and a newfound faith in Jesus Christ.

James and Leigh both shoulder great burdens and are destined to have found one another at this specific moment in both their lives. Hebert paints a grim picture of the life Leigh endures as a woman with overbearing parents who manipulate everything from her love-life to her own self worth. James, with all of his issues, is as much a blessing to Leigh as she is to him.

Hebert addresses warped body images in a realistic and tasteful manner as he highlights the relationship between Leigh and her mother. In addition, he draws James into the dynamic by having him gently override the damage created by Leigh’s mother. Nowhere is this more poignant than when James, in no uncertain terms, explains to Leigh that she is speaking her mother’s words and not her own. Everyone needs a James in his/her life–he an amazing voice of reason.

James is an amazing character on many levels. Hebert has gifted readers with a champion of free thinking while molding a character who is broken and in need of love and faith. As a reader, I was touched on more than one occasion by the descriptions of James’s poor health, his financial struggles, and his staggering lack of self confidence. Hebert certainly gives readers a main character for which they can both cry and cheer.

I was more than impressed with the turn of events in which James becomes a giver of strength and a builder of self-confidence. It is quite a stark difference from the outset of the book wherein James’s feelings are scattered and he’s falling toward depression. Meeting Leigh is just the tip of the iceberg; meeting Meranda completes the change begun by Leigh.

Hebert’s book is an unconventional literary approach to expressing Christianity. Readers do not often find text professing faith in Jesus Christ written in the form of a novel. Each of the stories surrounding James Frost’s life tug at the readers heart and doesn’t stop. James and Leigh are memorable and relatable. Hebert’s in-depth look into James Frost’s transformation is a testament to faith, love, and hope.

Pages: 334 | ASIN: B002QHVW1G

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The Labyrinthine Journey

The Labyrinthine Journey (Servant of the Gods Book 2) by [Cavallaro, Luciana]

Evan is a normal twenty-first century man who works as an architect. However, to interrupt his daily routine, none other than Zeus himself, has decided to transport Evan to the sixth century BCE. Evan now travels across ancient Greece with his companions, including Atlanteans, a high priestess, and his friend, Dexion, who has the power to see into the future. All of this is for a mighty cause, Evan has been chosen by Zeus to unite two powerful relics in order to save the Gods from extinction.

Stuck in the sixth century BCE Evan longs to return home. Given his precarious position between times, the juxtaposition of his wants against his reality serves to highlight the stark differences between the comfort of home that Evan is used to and what he is currently facing. For instance, walking across a sandy plain in sandals verses the want for a motorbike to make short work of the distance. His modern life’s influence over his worldview often leaves him homesick, but he must complete his mission. On the other hand, his life back home gives him ways to solve the problems he faces in the sixth century BCE, taking ideas from the pop-culture of his own time and bringing them into the past to aid his quest. This fusion of time periods makes for some brilliant innovations and cross-overs between what we as the reader understand to be ancient Greece, and the modern day.

The Labyrinthine Journey is book two in Luciana Cavallaro’s Servant of the Gods series and it follows on fluently with the events of the previous book with references here and there to book one. Something striking about the series is the relationship between mortals and Gods. With whole chapters dedicated to the musings of God’s and their society it gives the reader an insight into their intentions. Furthermore, the book proposes an alternative viewpoint on the beginnings of Christendom. The Greek Gods fear that they will lose their dominance in light of a God-sent child being born that will potentially lead to the widespread belief in a single God instead of the current pantheon.

This retelling of the birth of Christ from the God’s perspective explains why Zeus wants the relics united – to maintain his and the other Gods’ significance. However, there are some Gods trying to interfere with the mission and stop Evan’s and his companions’ journey. Evan searches ancient Greece, already in possession of the first relic, for the second to unite the two. The perilous journey over a treacherous landscape naturally reminds one of the epics of Homer.

The Labyrinthine Journey was a thoroughly enjoyable read. I give it five out of five for its sophisticated and inventive retelling of the well-known and widespread story of Christ and its ability to connect it to the overarching quest narrative seamlessly. Luciana Cavallaro’s prose fits the story perfectly, making the journey truly epic. Furthermore, the fusion of God’s, monsters, ancient philosophers, magical ancient relics and even time travel, leads to unexpected twists and turns throughout the novel.

Pages: 311 | ASIN: B075QGZQP9

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You Gotta Let God Finish! – Trailer

God, who loves so deeply and delights to give, has made a multitude of promises throughout the Bible to His children. Yet, there are many of them who never posses their promises. They become weary with the wait and burdened down by questions like, “What do I need to do in order to inherit the promise God made me?” God has come through this author to provide His children with the answer that is sure to cause them to posses all their promises: You gotta let God finish! The Holy Spirit delves deep into God’s word by looking at the lives of various men and women throughout the Bible to shed light on the loving heart of God, His unfailing ways, and sure faithfulness toward His children, proving that all you have to do is allow God to finish what He began in order to receive all that He has. Readers’ lives will be completely transformed as they receive these revelations that have come forth from God, and as a result they will inherit all that God has for them and enter into their Promised Land!

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The Beauty of His Presence

The Beauty of His Presence by [Evans, J. Shannell]

The Beauty of His Presence by J. Shannell Evans is a forty day-daily devotional for Christians. Each passage includes Bible verses mixed with everyday scenarios to which the reader can relate more closely. After each passage is an open ended set of questions with a writing area that lends itself to daily interpretation and reflection. The book begins with verses and passages about Thanksgiving and Christmas. It delves into Jesus’s birth and death from the start then incorporates the roles of faith, prayer, fellowship, and more within its pages. The author incorporates her personal opinion and experience into the work making it feel more personal and real to the reader.

Evans has curated a nice flow of devotionals. One flows nicely into the next, while at the same time standing alone should someone get off track or skip around. The passages are concise enough that reading one a day would not be a daunting task at all, and many would likely be able to easily read several. They are simply written while still being engaging. The book could easily be used in a group Bible study or Sunday school group. The questions after each section would be good for facilitating group discussion. The daily “Create your own ‘Thought for the Day’” prompt will leave readers with personal food for thought that they can ponder on throughout each day.

I like that the voice of the writer is incorporated. Evans gives accounts of her personal experiences and struggles. This makes the book feel less stuffy and rigid. It makes lofty goals of being a so-called “good Christian” feel attainable. Her personal voice keeps the book light and friendly. It feels more like a conversation than a sermon, and that is comforting. The book keeps a positive, uplifting vibe throughout. The content is heavy at times, but manages to give a hopeful air encouraging a closer walk with God.

I think the substance of the book is on target for its intended audience. Readers will enjoy the relatable stories paired with the daily verses. Evans has put together a great body of work with this book. I feel that it will be a book that will strengthen Christian’s relationships with Christ. It will give hope and positivity to the most downtrodden of readers.

Pages: 206 | ASIN: B079K5BJQY

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Deep Emotional Wounds

D. Hart St. Martin Author Interview

D. Hart St. Martin Author Interview

In Breaking Worlds we learn about the divide between Lisen and Korin and we witness their daughter’s determination to change the world. What were some driving ideals behind the characters relationships?

Once Rinli died in Protector of Thristas, I knew what had to happen. The death of a child can either bring the parents closer together or rip them apart. I decided to go the latter route and see if I could help them heal eventually. It was difficult to write because I love these characters, but it was necessary to show how two people so closely bound in life and love could respond so diversely to such a tragedy. Now for Rinli, resurrection was not kind. She’s 16 at the time of her death and harbors strong resentment toward the mother who bartered her life for peace. I asked myself how does the psyche of a person who dies and then lives again survive such a painful ordeal? Jon Snow in Game of Thrones remembers nothing past his murder when he’s revived. Jesus Christ reawakened in his tomb a glorified being, but of course he had godhood going for him. But what does resurrection do to a 16-year-old child with deep emotional wounds? And it became clear to me that the rift between Rinli and her mother was only going to widen despite Lisen’s previous efforts to protect her. Sad and tragic as all this was for these three characters, challenging as the work was for me, it was fun to write. Am I wicked for saying that? I doubt any author would feel differently.

This book has clearly been crafted with care and is full of emotion. What were some themes that were important for you to continue in this book, and what were some new ones you wanted to introduce?

The continuing theme of the consequences of decisions remained paramount in my storytelling. I find tales of redemption the most interesting of all, and there can be no redemption if there is no sin. I love breaking characters into pieces and watching how they reassemble themselves and the relationships they’ve broken in the process. In Breaking Worlds, I wanted to explore what it means to be the helpmate to a person with the potential for greatness. I delved into the parallels between Korin and Madlen in their roles as lovers/supporters for their beloveds, and Madlen’s unquestioning (or barely questioning) devotion to Rinli fascinated me. And beyond all of that were the variations of grief and the effect grief has on us as people. I found it both harder and easier to dig into the pain of grief as I wrote because I had just lost my best friend to cancer. Harder for the immediacy of what I’d just been through, but easier because it was so fresh. What it comes down to is what I say on my Facebook page. “I love combining characters with conflict and crisis and then watching as they suffer the consequences of their choices.”

This is the fifth book in the Lisen of Solsta series. Has the series grown beyond what you had originally imagined or are you still following a clearly defined path?

Well, the series has certainly grown. I never expected to write past Blooded, book 3 in the series. But as I’ve noted before, I grew curious about what would happen when “the bill came due.” In other words, what would happen when Lisen had to hand Rinli over to the Thristans in the desert as their “Mantar’s Child”? Then another question emerged after I finished Protector of Thristas (book 4). What would a world broken by Mantar’s Child look like? That led quite neatly into Breaking Worlds.

What can readers expect in the finale of the Lisen of Solsta series, book 6 Pushing Madness?

Breaking Worlds and Pushing Madness were written together. I didn’t know if I had enough material for two separate books, so I kept pushing forward with certain criteria set up for what length would be too much for one book and where I would split the book into two if that became necessary. In terms of the story, my intent is to clear the table, to answer all the questions–in short, to tie up all the lose threads and hopefully leave the reader satisfied while allowing the ending to be a bit messy. I’m not a fan of endings that are too neat. I prefer to be left, as a reader, with a few things to tidy up for myself, and that’s what I strive for in my endings.

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Breaking Worlds (Lisen of Solsta Book 5) by [St. Martin, D. Hart]

Left with the blood of a tragedy on their hands, Lisen and Korin can no longer face one another. Korin heads east towards the desert, while Lisen remains in Avaret with two children in need of comfort Lisen cannot provide. Never has she felt so alone. As war threatens on the horizon, two deserted people must somehow find their way back to life, to each other. Will Lisen and Korin reunite in time? Will the truth of the dead and the living be revealed?

Return to Garla and Thristas where love may not conquer all, but it can serve as an ally in the fight. Where all that seems well doesn’t necessarily end well. Where loyalty can be bought with a nudge. Where all the magic in the world may still fail you. Where, with Garla and Thristas on the edge of destruction, Book V of Lisen of Solsta’s saga drives the story closer to the inevitable conclusion to Lisen’s story.

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All Roads Home

All Roads Home: A Collection of Short Stories by [Diaz Meyer, Lisa]

All Roads Home by Lisa Diaz Meyer is a fictional short story collection. Covering several genres, the book is divided into six parts titled The Outposts, The Enduring, The Oddities, The Particulars, The Fragments and The Play Versions. With each section and story being utterly unique, this book really is a mixed bag of offerings. Nowhere is this more obvious than, besides the four sections of short stories all varying greatly in their genre, the collection also consists of a part of poetry and The Play Versions which really are that: five of the stories in the collection written in play format!

The first section of the collection deals with a world that is hard hitting. In the story titled The Safe Room, this links back to the previous short story in its representation of women, cancer, and childbearing. With such stark descriptive passages of the cloning and curing process detailed, this section hits upon the more awkward of subjects that aren’t always spoke about comfortably.

Dealing with religion verse science, this section may be quite an eye-opener, considering its placing at the very start of the collection, but its subject matter does indeed turn the tables making you question just who, if anybody, has such a right at this stage.

The Enduring section starts off with a story which is most certainly that – enduring for its characters. What begins as a heartfelt story of a mother’s struggles quickly turns itself on its head when the story ends. However, nothing physical has changed, her situation remains dire, but she has found peace in her heart and mind and can now approach her situation from a more positive perspective. This story emphasizes Lisa’s ability to change tact and emotion in just a few short pages and sums up the book in its entirety.

All of Lisa’s characters, though only with the reader briefly, are very easy at catching our attention and therefore it’s easy to recognize their plight and see the story from their point of view. That Lisa can create such emotions in her readers through characters that appear fleetingly is a wonderful achievement.

For me, The Enduring was a favorite section. Packed full of emotions, there is one story where the action begins, plays out and ends in a matter of just two short pages! If you’re not too sure whether this selection of stories is for you, I urge you to read The Christmas Break first. Immediately this highlights Lisa’s fluidity in prose as well as her ability to create a fascinating collection of characters, and all within a few short sentences.

With superb powers of observation, a beautiful and haunting writing style on many of the pages, alongside an ability to push topic boundaries (Hitler and Jesus at a dinner party, need I say more!) this is truly a collection you must read for yourself.

If Lisa is this good at creating such an enthralling collection of short stories, I can only imagine what she would be like with a full-length fictional novel!

Pages: 280 | ASIN: B00WVWFL86

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Cross of a Different Kind: Cancer & Christian Spirituality

Cross of a Different Kind, written by Anthony Maranise, dives into the relationship between cancer and Christianity. A “field guide” for those affected by cancer, Cross of a Different Kind was created for those who have cancer, those who know someone affected by cancer and for the survivors of cancer. Each person will find solace in this novel, regardless of what part of the journey you are on and feel a connection of both faith and hope through the inspiring words and reflections. It’s a reminder of the light in the darkness and how God can bring spiritual comfort and acceptance in a time of loss, sadness and grief.

Cross of a Different Kind is a novel based on the ideologies of Christianity, written especially for those experiencing cancer themselves. The book is split into different sections with each part addressing the different stages of cancer that someone may be in.

The author, Anthony Maranise, tells of his battle with childhood cancer and the feelings surrounding his family, relationship with God and what it meant to find hope in some of his darkest hours. Maranise words are raw, honest and inspiring, allowing the reader to develop a sense of trust and gratitude for the words he writes. At times I felt as though I was sitting in a room, listening to him tell his story as it opened up the pathway to reflect on our personal experiences with cancer.

With statistics such as 69% of cancer patients praying for their health regularly, it is clear that Cross of a Different Kind is a novel that will connect with many people who have been touched by cancer. There are many Christianity references, but they are used to inspire hope, clarity and acceptance in a time of great trauma and stress. Cross of a Different Kind talks about how the journey of faith has helped the author and many others against the tough battles brought on by cancer.

So many of us know someone or have even experienced cancer ourselves and will find the feelings and reflections in the novel provide a sense of solace and comfort in the times of great stress and alarm. One of my favourite sentiments was that it is important to grieve and mourn the loss of our loved ones (even if we believe we will meet them again). Another idea the author presents is that those experiencing cancer are soldiers in their own way, battling the sadness, anger and trauma brought on by sickness that steals happiness and joy. This idea instills a sense of comradery and connection with the book, allowing the reader to feel acknowledged and understood in regards to their own personal battles with cancer.

Cross of a Different Kind will bring the reader a sense of spiritual comfort, understanding and information for those who are experiencing the journey that comes with cancer. I would recommend this for all Christians who are suffering from the burdens of cancer- whether it is themselves or their loved ones.

Pages: 188 | ISBN: 0692974148

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Abuse Of Trust: The Hidden Conflict Of The Abuse Of Power Within The Church

How a church wrongfully uses the Word of God to their own advantage for the unreasonable exercise of power and exploitation.

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Sacred Secret: Take Eat: This is My Body

Sacred Secret: Take Eat: This is My Body... by [Varga, Wendy]

Have you ever wondered about the importance of communion? What really is the root of all this power the blood of Jesus is purported to have? How can human beings harness this power as God wishes?

Wendy Varga’s Sacred Secret is an in-depth analysis of the Communion. We often use blatant explanations of God’s instructions. But man is protected from all sorts of evil if he marks himself with the blood.

If faith is shallow, little is expected. People should know the limitless capabilities of God as this affects their level of faith and consequently, how impactful He will be in their life.

Wendy Varga’s passion helps to eloquently unravel many biblical mysteries. Her fervent writing had me craving to know more about communion; I found myself often referencing my bible. By the end of this book I felt that I had a better understanding of the power of the New Testament Covenant Meal. The author’s eagerness to truly understand God’s purpose for the Passover is evident. Her break down of the relation between His blood and God by use of scientific explanations is startlingly enlightening. Her insistence to not just know God, but also know Him intimately is a recurring theme. I’ve read other religious books on similar subjects, but they often only touched on this subject before quickly moving on. But it is the focal point in this book. It’s refreshing to see a book take a deep dive into one aspect of faith.

I consider this a knowledge check for anyone who knows their Bible well, but what I truly appreciated was the unique perspective in which the information is presented. Be prepared to ask yourself questions you never have before. In the end, I appreciated how this book left me reevaluating my relationship with God. This book will arm you with the knowledge and power of the blood and thus strengthen your faith. I believe that this book will unlock the potential of God’s power in your life through faith.

Pages: 156 | ASIN: B072M8R6JG

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Jesus is Coming Back Tomorrow at 4:30 pm, Pack a Bag!

Author Interview

Truth and The Serpent explores an alternate creation story that follows the serpent from the Garden of Eden. What were some themes that you felt were important to highlight in this story?

Once I decided to write this story, I immediately determined that I wanted it to be different in some way. If it’s the same old thing then why write it at all. Honestly, I didn’t know if that was even possible, as these stories have been overdone so many times.

The major theme of the story is true versus untrue or consistent versus inconsistent, unlike every other story you hear of about religion. Where God/ religion is all fake and the explanation is aliens, monkeys, and sun worship. Or its all real, and Jesus is coming back tomorrow at 4:30 pm, pack a bag!

The issue with stories dealing with religion is that they are usually examined through the scope of morality. But morality is not a constant, which changes with culture and time. So, as I was developing the Serpent character I searched to find something to argue other than morality, which is based on perception, and not facts. I decided that even though there were may inconsistencies in these stories there was information within them, that was consistent or true for everyone.

Then I realized that that was a good discussion to have, and one that I had never heard of with these stories. Thus the Serpent would argue consistent information, and the Man of the Present, would represent our everyday biased understanding of these stories. The discussion and theme soon changed from morality, to the impact that these stories have had on culture and society. This is why the Serpent does not debate the existence of God, or Heaven or Hell, because it’s irrelevant. As culture and society deem which acts are “wrong” and which acts are “forgivable.” Once I removed that from the narrative, I could then be honest with the Serpent Character.

I felt that there were a lot of great twists and turns throughout the novel. Did you plan this before writing the novel, or did the twists present themselves to you as you writing?

No, there was no way I could have planned that the story would unfold and then end the way it did. I had an idea for each chapter, but once I got in there they became something more. The original story was a page and a half, and was literally just rewriting the Garden of Eden story form the Serpent’s point of view. It came out well, and then I thought to myself, what would it look like if I continued…

To me most of it was not a twist, but merely a change of perspective. One thing to note, is that every time we are told these stories, we subconsciously put ourselves on the side of the “good narrative” or the “victim/ saved narrative.” By doing so we only see certain things. For example, while writing the chapter “The Earth” which covers Noah/ the flood. Once the flood came I instantly put the Serpent inside the Ark, because that’s just what our minds do. I came up with a scenario that the Serpent was camouflaged hiding in the haystacks, which I’m glad I didn’t go with. But then it hit me, why does the serpent have to be inside? The Serpent is a reptile, there are sea snakes, Sea Serpents of legend even… what would happen if I put the Serpent outside.

I did, and then everything opened up. My mind began to explore this world in a way I had never done before. I soon found that the Serpent was the perfect vehicle to do this with, as putting him outside would not affect our opinion of him, while the same couldn’t be done with the human characters. It was difficult to navigate these stories from this perspective, but once I separated my ego from the subject, I was able to write the story.

I felt that the biblical aspects in this novel were expertly used. What kind of research did you do for this story?

One I read the bible for myself. Second, I removed my ego from the equation. Writing this book was not about me, it is at its core a talking animal story that takes place in the what if universe. That is, in itself, about as fictitiously fantastical fake as you can get. However, once I started reading for myself, I quickly saw how inconsistent the biblical stories were. Then on top of that, there is the commercial understanding that we have been taught and sold.

One thing to note, is that Christianity does not own these stories, and they exist in many other cultures and beliefs. For that matter this could very well be Muslim Fiction, Jewish Fiction, or Zoroastrian fiction. We live in a western world, so that is our first thought, but these stories have existed long before there ever was a Christian church. Additionally, this story is not about religion, it is a story of humanity as seen through the eyes of the Serpent character.

Then, once I got started I didn’t limit myself to the bible. As you will note I make references to spirituality, mythology, history, science, and math. I researched and looked up everything, not just say Noah’s Ark the tale, but what Noah’s name meant. I looked up what causes a flood, what happens to flood waters, how does it impact species and topsoil and later plant growth. I viewed the events not as only divine wrath, but in natural real terms. i.e. the animals going to the Ark, is explained as animals changing their migrations. Then I asked, what could cause a change in animal migrations and so on. I then added these definitions to the biblical story, which then added new depth and meaning. I would say that I had about 100 pages of printed notes for each chapter. I looked up everything trying to find something tangible and meaningful beyond the everyday wrath, salvation, and lightshow.

Once I did that, the stories came alive and were now three dimensional, taking on new meanings that I didn’t see coming. But none of that would have been possible if I didn’t research meticulously. Most of all, I didn’t just ask questions, I sought out rational answers as if, I was actually having this epic discussion. So, in a way, it was me asking the questions that I never got an answer to, and using the “absurd Serpent in the what if universe” as a platform to have this discussion, which somehow worked.

What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?

Next is Serpent book 2. It will be the Serpent and another human character who live during the time of Jesus. The Serpent will be his obnoxiously colorful self, adding sarcastic commentary to the events as they unfold. It has a title, but I’m not releasing it until I finish writing it. I have notes started and have started planning out the chapters, but I have not begun writing the dialogue and narrative. Hopefully, I will start officially on it January 2018.

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Truth and The Serpent by [Rutledge, J.]What if you encountered a dark and sinister character of not so subtle reputation? One whose origins are the very meaning of temptation and sin. 

What do we really know of creation, myth, and belief? There was a Man, a Woman, a Garden, and of course… a Serpent. Yet, what we have come to know as temptation, and mortal sin are only one side of the story. You see, three sinned, and three were punished, but only two were expelled from the Garden, but afterwards…what happened to the Serpent? 

A present day man finds himself eye to eye with the infamous Serpent of curse and ruin. The Serpent who characteristically makes the man an offer to learn not just what happened, but why. 

A tale unlike any other, where the fall of man is not weighed on a scale of good or evil, but in truth and lies. The Serpent whose intellect, sarcasm, and wit cultivates over time as he appraises the history of man and religious lore. The Serpent who is also on a journey of self-discovery to learn the meaning of that ill-fated encounter and the purpose of his own life. 

Come to know the unsung story of one who lived through creation, survived the great deluge, witnessed a mass exodus, and the rise and fall of exalted kings of men. Could such a tale, as told by a forked tongue, be the end of lies, and the beginning… of the truth.

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