#MusicMuses: Look at life through a youthful prism with NeedToBreathe’s Out of Body

I remember when I first heard NeedtoBreathe. I stopped whatever I was doing and just let the soundwaves of the hopeful lyrics of “Brother” wash over my troubled and tired person.

The lyrics spoke to me and ended up giving me the courage to walk away from things that were no longer serving me:

  • a job full of abuse and demeaning treatment by the family who owned the business
  • a mental breakdown leading to several attempts of suicide ideation
  • away from a guy who made me paint his name in every sky only to leave when the rain clouds poured out and opened wide

As I started listening to the album, I felt all the heavy weights of that toxic time in my life literally lift off my soul and I no longer feel their burden but only now see them in the light of God’s grace and glory.

The Grammy Award nominated platinum-certified South Carolina trio-Bear Rinehart [lead vocals, guitar], Seth Bolt [ bass, vocals] and Josh Lovelace [keys, vocals] look at life, family, and friends through a youthful prism.

Their 2014 album Rivers in the Wasteland hit #2 on the Billboard Hot 200 with platinum-selling Hot 100 hit “Brother” [feat. Gavin DeGraw] and “Multiplied,” which garnered their first Grammy nod.

They identify as a rock band first and foremost looking to “shed a little light in the world and have an absolute blast” along the way.

“In order to be a child again, some things have to go away,” Bear leaves off. “However, you find new beauty and love. I know we did” (Elektra Records).

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Song by Song Review

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Mercy’s Shore: A folk rock intro to the album with soulful vocals and vocal layering. The musicality creates a build and crash sound that mimics that of a wave crashing upon the shore. A hopeful look at God’s mercy and glorious grace.

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Alive: One of my favorites off the album for it’s running through an open field truly free feel, built up by a heavenly chant, robust riff, and boisterous groove. It explores the feeling of truly being alive in Christ.

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Hang On: energetic guitars, a stadium size refrain and nostalgic lyrics paint this very timely song about holding on to the feeling of bliss from your youth.

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Survival: A duet with Drew and Ellie Holcomb with a bluesy rock musicality and old school gospel sound. It explores that Jesus is the answer to our very existence.

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Child Again: A crystallized musical exploration of child-like faith that features glimmering keys and expansive rhythms

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Out of Body: The title track from the album is an alternative rock song about this idea that once we think and feel with our spirit, who the Son sets free is free indeed. It has an infectious groove and rhythm and utilizes vocal layering.

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Who Am I?: The latest promotional single for the album, poetic exploring the idea of defining our identity in Christ, it’s musicality is made up of handclaps, soaring chorus, and emotionally charged vocals. Overall, it’s a song about the fight to accept, embrace and trust that the greatest love requires nothing in return.

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Banks: A song written for the women in the band member’s lives, the musicality is built with acoustic guitars, romantic, vulnerable lyrics, soft vocals, vocal layering, and windpipes that build a beautiful swelling of the overall listening experience.

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Riding High: Bluesy Soul Rock meets Classic Rock Feel (Guns N Roses Welcome To the Jungle meets Poison’s Nothing But a Good Time) exploring this concept of living large in the mercy and grace of God.

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Bottom of a Heartbreak: Soft Rock Ballad about the true emotions one feels while in the midst of a heartbreak featuring vulnerable emotive lyrics and pain portrayed in the vocal performance.

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Seasons: Delicate piano, plaintive strumming and starkly powerful vocals, this song finishes out the album by telling the true story of a close friend of the band’s struggles with fertility and adoption. It’s based on the passage in Ecclesiastes 3. God makes everything beautiful in it’s time (Ecc 3:11).

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Out of Body is NeedToBreathe’s seventh studio album and will be released to the public this Friday August 28, 2020 from Elektra Records and available for pre-order now wherever music is sold.

#FromTheTube: All About Cookies For A Cause

Bess The Book Bus Shirt: $21.99

Adopt A Classroom Tote: $15.00

Christina Grimmie Foundation Socks: $15.99

COVID-19 Shirt (Books, Coffee, and Music are my essentials): $25.87

Project Semicolon Backpack: $49.99

COVID-19 Hoodie: $49.99

COVID-19 Mug: $14.98

COVID-19 Long Sleeve: $30.99

Eco COVID-19 Tee: $27.78

Organic COVID-19 Tote: $24.99

The following designs help benefit the continue running and content creation of The Smart Cookie Philes:

Main Logo Mug: $14.99

Landscape Stickers: $6.00

Leggings: $44.99

Beach Towel: $30.99

Blanket: $45.00

#MusicalMuses: Third Person Narrations and Stories Haunt Taylor Swift’s ‘Folklore’

Imagine the absolute screeching brakes sound that resounded when the entire world, affected by COVID-19 pandemic and still dang bored in quarantine, when Taylor Swift posted the image announcing her new album was written and recorded entirely in quarantine, and with no warning was released on July 24, 2020.

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Folklore is the eighth studio album by Taylor Swift who recorded the entire album while in isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With elements of indie folk, alternative rock, electro-folk, and chamber pop it brings Taylor Swift’s natural storytelling ability to life without the upbeat pop sounds. It is written in entirely in third person narrative flowing from a stream of consciousness.

It debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart and also helped Swift gain a Guinness World Record for the biggest opening day for an album by a female artist on Spotify.

Song by Song Review

Click here to listen to the entire album while reading this review.

Taking us back to her RED album era, Swift’s Folklore is a book of lyrical poems and stories that will peak your curiosity, inspire you, and educate you. Few songwriters have the power of achieving all three in one album.

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The 1: Driven by a danceable, bouncy arrangement of trickling piano, minimal percussion and electronic accents. Lyrically it centers around the nostalgic remembrance of myths and lost loves. It contemplates a what if scenario with at person being possible.

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Cardigan: With elements of folk and soft rock ballad driven by a stripped down arrangement of a drum sample and moody atmosphere, it discusses the teenage love triangle which follows a love triangle from three people’s perspectives at different times in their lives.

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The Last Great American Dynasty: Features a glitchy alternative production with classical instruments. It tells the story of Rebekah Harkness, who was hated by the town and blamed for the death of her then-husband and heir to Standard Oil. Swift makes parallels to her own career and the harsh criticisms she’s received.

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Exile: A melancholic duet with Bon Iver over dramatic strings. The weepy song begins with a plodding piano, advancing into a climax of chorused vocals, synths, and glorious harmonies. This song describes two ex-lovers seeing each other following a break-up.

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My Tears Ricochet: A Gothic song encompasses twinkling music box instrumentals, backing church choir vocals, reverberated ad-libs in the bridge, and shuddering drums. Sung from the perspective of a deceased lover’s ghost, it is one of my favorites off the album.

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Mirrorball: Folk-tinged jangle-pop and dream pop song with a nervous dance-floor sensibility, swirling vocals, jangly guitars and pedal steel. It depicts Swift as a reflective disco ball: she sees herself as reflecting all the personalities around her, she entertains others, and she shatters like glass when her heart is broken.

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Seven: A nostalgic escapist song sung in her upper register about Taylor’s childhood friends who seemed to have an unhappy life at home.

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August: This track’s musicality is my favorite off the album, driven by acoustic guitar, shimmering vocal reverb and Swift’s perfectly timed key-changes. This gloomy pop rock song and dream pop ballad talks about a summer fling that is ill-fated.

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This is Me Trying: Musically, an orchestral grandeur surrounds Swift’s ghostly vocals drenched in reverb, talking about accountability and regret.

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Illicit Affairs: I kept this track on repeat for an entire day. Over a stripped down arrangement, finger-plucked strings and soft horns narrates infidelity and highlights the measures the disloyal protagonist has to carry out in order to keep the affair between a man and herself a secret.

Her wordplay in this track is absolute fire.

 

Invisible String: Banjo-driven with an airy-folk production consisting of acoustic riff and thumping vocal backbeats. It references an east Asian folk myth about a red thread of fate tying two soulmates together.

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Mad Woman: A song that tackles the taboo associated with female rage making comments referencing her battles with Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta over owning her music and rapper Kanye West who defamed her on his song, “Famous.”

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Epiphany: A Coldplay-like song; it’s an ethereal hymn that depicts the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic paying homage to healthcare workers and comparing them to her grandfather, a military veteran who served in World War II. The reverent vocals in the song are supported by “glacial” piano.

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Betty: A folk rock and country song with intertwining harmonica, it concludes the third perspective of the teenage love triangle from the perspective of the cheating boyfriend James.

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Peace: Musically, a pulse juxtaposed with a lush guitar bassline, a calm tune describing Swift’s maturation and changing view of romance.

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Hoax: A despondent note of hopeful sadness compromises this piano ballad that closes out this incredible musical work. Filled with melancholy and darkness, “Hoax” narrates the struggles endured in a toxic relationship.

#BookishThoughts: The Rose Contract by Scottie Kaye Book Review

Magic meets romantic suspense in this first installment of the Sleeping Lotus series. Raena Barren has magic power, and she’s the only person in the kingdom who can hide it.

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She survives on the streets of Soma using the magic until she comes face to face with Jorr Potent, and she must save his life.

After he gives her a job in the castle, Raena spends ten years falling in love with him.

Overall, I found McKaye’s writing to be poignant and page turning but at the same time I felt the story lacked something.

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#BookishMuses: It Came From The Sky! by Chelsea Sedoti Book Review

I was thrilled when I got a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Imagine how you would react if everyone in your small town suddenly believed there was aliens in your midst? I would be excited because a believer in all things paranormal and a resident of a similar small town I would love the possibility of knowing we aren’t alone.

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A fan of Sedoti’s charming and easy to read writing style and how she always features life-like characters that reside in small towns, and usually are aiming for greatness.

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The main characters Gideon and Ishmael are brothers who balance each other out. Ishmael is a practical joker and prank war champion, and Gideon is the scientist who understands the how and why behind extraterrestrials.

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As per usual, I couldn’t put it down just like Sedoti’s other books and eerily Sodie always slips stuff in her books that makes me think we may in fact be twins.

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Super Pods are here!

It Came From The Sky! will be released on my birthday August 4, 2020 from SourceBooks, and will be available wherever books are sold. You can connect with the YA author at her website.

#BookishMuses: Book Review: Betty by Tiffany McDaniel

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

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As with most stories about families, you know you are in for some heavy blows. Despite our ethnicity or the number of members, no human family is immune to tragedy or oppressive authority, racist, neighbors and classmates, and the aftershocks of untreated or suppressed mental illness.

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From the first phrase, McDaniel takes you on a multifaceted journey of the Carpenter family. You gather that they are Native American and people who feel at one with nature but human nature is not immune no matter the family to sad and tragic occurrences.

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The reader witnesses everything through the eyes of our early feminist icon and hero Betty Carpenter which lends to the emotions of how deep family ties really go.

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Anyone who read McDaniel’s other works will fall in love once again with her poetic and lyrical writing style despite the melancholy content. And those who have yet to read a work by McDaniel will find themselves enraptured by the way she tells a story.

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Betty is timeless yet timely masterpiece and perfect for a world full of cries for injustice and plagued by an ongoing global pandemic.

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Betty Carpenter is no weak woman and her story is not for weak stomached readers. In order to fully see Betty in all her anti-heroine glory, you must seek to step into the shoes of the underdog,  the footprints of those who don’t blindly follow the crowd, and upon paths only previously seen as uncharted by those crazy enough to see them beneath the shadows of history and the bright red blood of ancestral heritage.

Shop anti-racism books on RedShelf today and a portion will go towards an important cause!

You can preorder Betty here and at your local retailer as it will be released by Random House on August 18, 2020. You can also keep up to date with the author’s events and other works by visiting her website.

How You Treat Your Dog Helps Teach You How To Relate Better With People

This post is sponsored by WellPet but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

We’ve all been misjudged, misunderstood, heard a rumor about us that upset us, or even felt like the odd person out.

Heck, that’s why I created The Smart Cookie Philes in the first place. Yet, I think it’s why I love spending time and being around my dogs a lot.  I even have nicknamed my dogs and I “The Squad.”

You had a bad day at work? They love you.

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You just got rejected or broken up with? They love you.

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You just got let go from your job and don’t know how you will make your bills? They love you.

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My dogs are always there for me, in the good and the bad, and it’s why I search high and low to find the best treats for them.

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Treats that have all-natural ingredients.

Treats that are made in the USA.

Treats that have a variety of flavors so I always surprise their taste buds with a brand new experience.

It’s why I love that I was recently shopping at Wal-mart and came across Old Mother Hubbard’s dog treats.

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They come in small and mini size, and in a variety of flavors.

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Founded in Gloucester, MA, Old Mother Hubbard’s dog treats are all-natural and never artificial, and have been around since 1926. Each home-style recipe is carefully crafted from wholesome ingredients that allow you to feel good about giving your pup a reward that is healthy and heartfelt., and all the fun flavors in between, there is a natural choice for every taste that dogs drool over. And while still based in Massachusetts, Old Mother Hubbard is now available at Walmart nationwide!

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You can actually add them instantly to your Walmart cart here or here.

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The cool thing about biscuits is they look good on top of these Carrot Pineapple Mini Muffins recipe that I recently found and tried out. You can find the recipe in the video below and be sure to watch until the end to see “the squad” strutting their stuff with some nifty tricks in order to get their paws on another tasty Old Mother Hubbard dog biscuit.

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At the end of the day, it’s all about how you treat others and THE golden rule: treat others how you want to be treated.

Dogs treat me like I’m worth a million dollars. It sure doesn’t hurt my wallet or my heart to give them the best of the best in dog treats in order so they know how much I love them.

Maybe we as humans can take a few pages from their life handbook too and be quicker to love and understand those around us instead of judge them or throw them to the curb.

 

#MusicMix: Selena Gomez proves she’s rarer than anything American pop music has ever made with album ‘Rare’

Sometimes you put an album on and instantly feel it was exactly what you needed to hear following some traumatic experiences.

That’s what Rare started out as for me. Like a private message or a text from a close friend about what you went through, what you feel, and how to get past it, this album was the healing soundtrack I needed to press play on.

Like even the week it was released January 10, 2020 was so timely, and divinely gifted to me when I didn’t know how to feel about the first week of the year which was jam packed with chaos and a cacophony of bullshit.

Channeling Paula Abdul for the 21st century, Gomez’s third studio album quickly charted the Billboard 200 at #1.

It’s a midtempo pop and dance album with influences from electronic, latin pop, and R& B. Lyrically, it’s themes are self-love, acceptance, and empowerment.

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Click the above graphic to listen to the album while reading this review.

Rare: Gomez’s favorite song off this new album with a sound of compromised backing vocals and muffled instruments as if the whole thing has been dunked underwater. The song is a self-empowerment anthem about independence and self-love.

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Dance Again: Blended genres of funk, dance, electro, and electropop. It’s lowkey yet infectious musically. It’s main message is acceptance.

I kickstart the rhythm. All the trauma’s in remission. No, I don’t need permission.

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Look at Her Now: Reviewed in a previous post but this is an upbeat song about becoming stronger person after a turbulent relationship. Acknowledging that you mess up and you go through stuff but you always come out of it just feeling like a boss.

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Lose You to Love Me: The only ballad on this album. It has bare bones production, plucked violins, booming bass, tearjerker piano, an orchestra, and multi-layered vocals from Gomez. It was produced and co-written with Billie Eillish’s partner in crime Finneas. The melancholy lyrics talk about her split from ex, Justin Bieber.

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Ring: The latin-influenced track has musicality that is likened to Goyte’s Somebody I Used to Know and Santana’s Smooth. It’s about expecting the best & realizing you deserve the best.

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Vulnerable: My favorite song off the album because of it’s unbreakable huge heart type love themes and so many beautiful lyrics. A warm disco and electropop record with a moody synth groove and elements of italo disco and tropical house.

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People You Know: Electropop musicality contrast this melancholy song about the pain of come and go people friends, lovers, and acquaintances.

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Let Me Get Me: Influences of Latin music on the upbeat and dance-floor ready song about lyrically coming out of body and detaching herself from the thoughts in her head, and she doesn’t want the joy she feels to be shot down.

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Crowded Room: R&B song about the instant connection you have with someone across a crowded room.

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Kinda Crazy: Tongue in cheek tune and sinuous kiss-off driven by a clean bluesy guitar lick and accompanying horns, about a lover who mixed his signals and changed his tune.

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Fun: Playful and catchy co-written with Julia Michaels about a casual relationship with someone not good for her

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Cut You Off: A slinky downtempo pop song with influences of funk and a slam jam about moving on from a relationship and the empowerment you feel.

How could I confuse that shit for love?

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A Sweeter Place: An R&B collaboration with Kid Cudi about finding a place free of worry and brighter days are ahead.

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Gomez hits it out of the park with this treasure of a musical masterpiece. It proves she’s a strong artist, strong human, and yes in fact, very rare in today’s musical scope.

 

#SmartCookiePR: Willie Handler to Appear on Between The Lines Podcast

Willie Handler, resident funny man and friend to Martians, will appear on Between The Lines Podcast with Corine La Font.

They will discuss his science fiction novel Loved Mars, Hated The Food.

You can find all previous episodes of the podcast here and check out his book here.

Make sure to connect with Willie at all the networks below and subscribe to his email newsletter. Sources say he doesn’t give out top secret government information but you would only know if you subscribe.

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#BookishThoughts: Good Brave People by Nicholas Trandahl book review

As a writer of both fiction and poetry, I love reading novels with poetic soul within their core. As a reader, I love novels that instantly feel like they will be classics or remind you of some of the literary greats.

Trandahl gives mention to legendary writers in their own right Hemingway and Chekhov. Jasper Augustine stares you down with the intensity of a writer who’s all about the experience from the first page.

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Primarily set in Basque County, a mountainous and agricultural area of Spain, this novel follows Augustine who sets out to write a novel, and who happens upon life’s greatest muse: an ordinary person in their home country being extraordinary at what they do, and it in turn makes you want to learn everything about them.

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Upon arriving in San Sebastian, Augustine meets Oihana and begins writing his novel with fervish inspiration.

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What’s crazy to me is how effortless this novel reads which makes it a bit of a shock that this is his debut novel.

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Filled with intrigue, Spanish mystique, and a romantic story for the ages, Good Brave People is a classic for this age, and for ages to come.

Click this graphic (below) to enter to win a paperback or ebook copy of Good Brave People!

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Get your own copy of Good Brave People Now!

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