Sunday, 26 July 2015

Girl In The Dark by Anna Lyndsey




Oh, what can I not do, in my dreams. In my dreams I travel on trains and climb mountains, I play concerts and swim rivers, I carry important documents on vital missions, I attend meetings which become song-and-dance routines. My body lies boxed in darkness, but beneath my closed eyelids there is colour, sound and movement, in glorious contrast to the day; mad movies projected nightly in the private theatre of my skull.'
Anna Lyndsey was living a normal life. She enjoyed her job; she was ambitious; she was falling in love. Then the unthinkable happened.
It began with a burning sensation on her face when she was exposed to computer screens and fluorescent lighting. Then the burning spread and the problematic light sources proliferated. Now her extreme sensitivity to light in all forms means she must spend much of her life in total darkness.
During the best times, she can venture cautiously outside at dusk and dawn, avoiding high-strength streetlamps. During the worst, she must spend months in a darkened room, listening to audiobooks, inventing word-games and fighting to keep despair at bay.
Told with great beauty, humour and honesty, Girl in the Dark is the astonishing and uplifting account of Anna's descent into the depths of her extraordinary illness. It is the story of how, through her determination to make her impossible life possible and with the love of those around her, she has managed to find light in even the darkest of places.


Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey was published by Bloomsbury Circus on 26 February 2015. I had heard absolutely nothing about this book before I bought it. I spotted it on the bookshop shelf and was immediately drawn to the cover. I thought it was a novel. Reading the blurb and realising that it is in fact, a memoir, I just had to buy it.

Anna Lyndsey is not the author's real name, I don't know why she chose not to write her story using her real name, but I'm sure she had good reason.

Anna worked as a civil servant. Ten years ago her face began to burn, she thought that her skin was reacting to the light glare from her computer screen. Anna was worried that she would lose her job, she tried to hide her condition, but then it spread, and there was nothing she could do to hide it. She was in incredible pain, she was desperately worried. It was not just the computer screen that burnt her skin, but all light.

Before long, Anna was living her life in darkness. Blacking out the windows, existing in a solitary world hidden away in one room in her house. This is her story in her own words.

Anna writes beautifully, the reader feels as though they too are there, in that room with her. It would be flippant to say that the reader can feel her pain and despair though, because although her words are carefully chosen, and reveal her emotions, we could never really feel as she does. After all, we can put down this book and wander into the garden, or to the beach, we can sit out in the sun, or even gaze out of the window ... Anna can't, and she probably never will again.

There is a hero in this story. Anna's husband Pete, who is her boyfriend at the beginning of the book, and who, despite Anna's reservations about staying with him, and becoming a burden to him, stays by her side throughout. Anna and Pete's relationship is the one true shining light within this story, never sentimental, but always strong with humour and love.

There are times when Anna becomes very angry, even violent in her thoughts. There are people who question why her skin burns. She has no diagnosed illness, and as with other 'invisible' illnesses, that are often misunderstood, some people question if her illness is in fact, in her mind and not her body. It is understandable why Anna should feel such anger. I, as a reader, felt that anger too.

Anna seems like a woman who I would like to spend time with. Despite her illness, she is a determined, intelligent woman. Her story is written in a straightforward style. She never asks for pity, but she expects respect, as she should.

Girl In The Dark is a fascinating, yet frightening story of a woman whose life changed almost overnight. It is also a story of love and determination. Anna Lyndsey is an honest, graceful writer, with a sense of humour that shines through her dreadful illness.


Anna Lyndsey worked for several years in London as a civil servant until she became ill. 
She now lives with her husband in Hampshire. 
Anna is writing under a pen name. 

See more at: http://www.bloomsbury.com/author/anna-lyndsey/#sthash.dui15Zil.dpuf


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Friday, 24 July 2015

Talking to Sarah Hilary, author of No Other Darkness





I'm delighted to welcome author Sarah Hilary to Random Things today. I reviewed Sarah's novel No Other Darkness back in April of this year. I raved about it, it's a fantastic story, here's just a taste of what I thought:
"No Other Darkness is intelligently written, it deals with some emotional issues. It also has a darkness to it, it made me feel a bit grubby when I was reading it, as though I'd stumbled upon some else's secrets that I really shouldn't know about.
I'd certainly recommend this book. Sarah Hilary's writing is impressive. I will be interested to read the next chapter in DI Marnie Rome's story."

No Other Darkness will be published in mass market paperback by Headline on 30 July 2015.

The judges of the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award 2015 certainly agreed with me about Sarah's writing. Her debut novel, Someone's Else's Skin was voted the winner at this year's Crime Festival, a huge achievement, especially as it was up against the likes of Peter May and Belinda Bauer.


“For a debut novel it was astounding,” said novelist and judge Ann Cleeves. “Although the subject matter is really quite bloody and violent, there are no gratuitous descriptions – instead she has this dreadful sense of horror, but it is done delicately and subtly. It always stops just as your imagination takes over.”


Welcome to Random Things Sarah, and thanks for taking the time to answer my questions:


Do you read reviews of your novels? Do you take them seriously?  
Yes I do read reviews. How seriously I take them depends on the nature of the review(er). Sometimes, a review says more about the reviewer than it does about my book (!) but I'm always interested in other people's views. The best reviews tell me things about my story or characters which I hadn't considered, or not consciously. The very best reviews spark ideas for future stories.

How long does it take to write a novel?    
A first draft? About four months. Then the hard work of rewrites and edits begins. All in all, the process takes about 10 or 12 months.

Do you have any writing rituals?
Nope. I just make sure I sit down and 'get black on white' as they say. I make sure I write every day during that first draft stage, for the momentum and pace if nothing else. I try to factor in lots of thinking time. The closest I have to a ritual is walking and 'seeing' the story unreeling in my head before returning to my desk to write it down.

What was your favourite childhood book? 
I had loads. I loved the Greek myths, and Sherlock Holmes, and ghost stories by MR James, and Edgar Allan Poe's stories. Anything that scared or excited me, or which taxed my brain in new ways. 

Name one book that made you laugh?

Name one book that made you cry?
The Purposes of Love by Mary Renault.

Which fictional character would you like to meet?
Joseph Stark from Matthew Frank's new series which started with If I Should Die. Oh and Milo Sturgis from Jonathan Kellerman's series. 

Which book would you give to your best friend as a present? 
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.

Are you inspired by any particular author or book? 
Red Dragon, and Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris are the two crime novels that inspire me the most. I'm a big fan of Patricia Highsmith, too. And Lolita is one of my favourite books.

What is your guilty pleasure read?    
I don't feel guilty about reading, unless I have a deadline. But it nags at me that I'm not more widely read in my chosen genre. I'd like a year off just to read. Actually, scratch that. I'd go mad if I wasn't writing Marnie and Noah.

Who are your favourite authors? 
As well as Harris and Highsmith, I love Helen Dunmore, Fred Vargas, Jonathan Kellerman, Alex Marwood, Muriel Spark...

What book have you re-read? 
One of my favourites is Sex Crimes by Jenefer Shute.

What book have you given up on?
The Quiet Girl by Peter Hoeg. I absolutely loved Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow, but couldn't get into The Quiet Girl at all. I would love him to write more about Miss Smilla, but of course he must write the book he wants to write. All writers must do that.



Sarah Hilary lives in Bath with her daughter, where she writes quirky copy for a well-loved travel publisher. 

She's also worked as a bookseller, and with the Royal Navy. An award-winning short story writer, Sarah won the Cheshire Prize for Literature in 2012. SOMEONE ELSE'S SKIN was her first novel, NO OTHER DARKNESS is her second.

Follow Sarah on Twitter at @Sarah_Hilary  Check out her Blog 







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Thursday, 23 July 2015

Yellow Room by Shelan Rodger *** BLOG TOUR ***





Haunted by a tragic accident from when she was young, Chala's whole life has been moulded by guilt and secrets. 
After the death of her stepfather, who took his own secrets to the grave, Chala re-evaluates her life and volunteers at a Kenyan orphanage. 
There, she gets caught in the turmoil of the country and takes action to help those suffering. 
Chala must eventually return home where she is forced to reveal a truth that may ruin her future, making her realise that maybe some words should be left unsaid ...

I'm delighted to welcome you to the Blog Tour for Yellow Room by Shelan Rodger, published by Cutting Edge Press on 18 June 2015.  I'm a big fan of Shelan's writing, and a big fan of Cutting Edge Press who publish some wonderfully quirky books.

I read and reviewed Shelan Rodger's first book Twin Truths back in May 2014. I really enjoyed it and was so looking forward to reading Yellow Room. My review was posted here on Random Things in May of this year. Please do go and read the full review, here's a little taster of what I thought;

"The author's depiction of life in Kenya during the turbulent times after the election of 2007 are shockingly realistic; the tensions and horror of what happened are stunningly portrayed.

The real beauty of Shelan Rodger's writing is her ability to connect with the reader so well, Yellow Room is gloriously detailed, beautifully written and extremely memorable"

I'm delighted to welcome Shelan here to Random Things today, and to share with you a guest post that she has written .... all about the lion in the tent ....

 There’s a lion in my tent

 I have a strong emotional connection to Kenya, where a large chunk of Yellow Room is set.  
My father grew up there and is buried in the bush with a can of baked beans, a bottle of Guinness and a copy of Tristram Shandy. My mother still lives in a log cabin overlooking lake Naivasha. I lived in Kenya for six years: three on a flower farm in Naivasha, one of the areas hit by the post-election violence of 2008 that took over a 1000 lives, and three on another farm on the lower slopes of Mount Kenya. I got involved with lots of things: a local orphanage and a women’s prison, leadership training for a conservation project, an anti-discrimination and sexual harassment training initiative in flower and tea farms, and writing my first novel. In the house that came with my husband’s job in Naivasha, I could have tea in bed in the mornings and watch giraffe through the bedroom window. It was a very special time.
          The first time I ever visited this beautiful and troubled land of stories I’d grown up with, I was sixteen and eager to try out the Swahili from my phrase book. Two phrases still stand out:‘Ni me sahau mbwa yango.’ I’ve forgotten my dog. Not ‘I’ve lost my dog’ but ‘I’ve forgotten my dog.’
And even more useful: ‘Hatari, kuna simba kwa hema yango.’ Help, there’s a lion in my tent. This has always made me laugh, but when I was thinking about what to say at my book launch for Yellow Room, it struck me that actually this is a pretty good description

of life. We all live with a lion in our tent. And this lion is unpredictable; sometimes it sleeps soundly and you want to bury your face in its fur, sometimes it rages and roars and you call out for help or try to run. 
The great thing about reading is that we can empathise and share the excitement and the danger of a lion in someone else’s tent - without actually worrying about being eaten ourselves. Getting lost in a good novel is like entering a parallel life. The ultimate exercise in empathy; we get to play with different identities inside our head. We may react in different ways to the characters, their dilemmas and their challenges. We may relate more or less directly to what they go through but if the book absorbs us we are inside the experience. The journey triggers our emotions, our own demons or dreams, our own memories. But, however powerfully the novel may linger in our minds after the last page, it is finite. We turn away and move on – and that knowledge, that essential lack of commitment when we read a book is what enables us to take the risk of engaging with people or subjects we might shy away from in real life. The lion in a paper tent is safe. 
And sometimes, the lingering of that lion in our minds, as we read and finish a book, can help with our own real lions, when we turn back to see if they are sleeping or raging. There are times when reading a book is honey for the soul compared to real life… 
I wish you luck with your lions and hope you enjoy the one in the tent of Yellow Room.




 Shelan's life is a patchwork of different cultures. 


Born in Nigeria, she grew up among the Tiwi, an aboriginal community in Australia, and moved to England at the age of eleven.

After graduating in Modern Languages from Oxford, she travelled to Argentina, where she spent nine years teaching and setting up a language school. 

Another chapter in England was followed by six years in Kenya, where she got involved in learning and development, with an emphasis on anti-discrimination. 


She now lives in Spain, working in international education - and writing.


For more information about Shelan Rodger, visit her website www.shelanrodger.com

Follow her on Twitter @ShelanRodger     Find her on Facebook




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Wednesday, 22 July 2015

The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett



What if you had said yes . . . ?
Eva and Jim are nineteen, and students at Cambridge, when their paths first cross in 1958. Jim is walking along a lane when a woman approaching him on a bicycle swerves to avoid a dog.
What happens next will determine the rest of their lives.
We follow three different versions of their future - together, and apart - as their love story takes on different incarnations and twists and turns to the conclusion in the present day.
The Versions of Us is an outstanding debut novel about the choices we make and the different paths that our lives might follow.
What if one small decision could change the rest of your life?





The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett was published by W&N on 28 May 2015 and is the author's debut novel.

I'm a little bit late coming to this book, it has been sitting on the 'to be reviewed' pile for months. Some of my most trusted blogger and reader friends have absolutely adored this book, it has had rave reviews from some fine reviewers and other authors. It's big news in the book world, oh, and it's been optioned by a TV company too.

The story opens in 1958 when Eva swerves to avoid a dog and falls from her bicycle. Jim comes to her aid, or does he?  This is an unusual and very clever novel, it's a love story and at its heart are Eva and Jim, but it's told in three ways. That's what all the #whatif is about. What if Jim didn't stop to help, or what if Eva didn't take up his offer of an afternoon drink.

I like the concept, I really do, and at first I really enjoyed the story. I love the way that Laura Barnett has created characters who are extraordinary in their ordinariness!

So, the story starts and ends in the same place, and covers over 60 years of Eva and Jim's relationship, but it has the #whatif versions too. I had my preferred version of the story, but then that changed and the beauty of this novel is that it shows that even when we feel that we've made the right choice, the choice that everyone else thinks is best for us, it doesn't always work out quite right. It's a thought provoking story too, as Eva and Jim love each other, miss each other or avoid each other the reader will think back to their own #whatif moments. I'm sure that everyone thinks about what might have been, I know that I do.

Although there is no doubt that Laura Barnett can write, and she has been very clever here, I really struggled with The Versions of Us. I found the visits to each version were too quick and I became increasingly confused as the story went on.  I found myself having to nip back a few years in the versions to remember who was with who and what was happening. The versions are all set at the same time, with the same characters, and I really found it difficult to distinguish between the versions.  Personally, I'd have like bigger chunks of each version, spanning more time, I'm positive that I would have found the novel much more accessible and therefore enjoyable that way.

Despite that, I think that Laura Barnett is a talent to watch out for and I certainly read her next novel.

My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.


Laura Barnett is a writer, journalist and theatre critic. She has been on staff at the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph, and is now a freelance arts journalist and features writer, working for the Guardian, the Observer and Time Out, as well as several other national newspapers and magazines.

Laura was born in 1982 in south London, where she now lives with her husband. She studied Spanish and Italian at Cambridge University, and newspaper journalism at City University, London. Her first non-fiction book, Advice from the Players - a compendium of advice for actors - is published by Nick Hern Books. Laura has previously published short stories, for which she has won several awards. The Versions of Us is her first novel.


For more information visit her website www.laura-barnett.co.uk
Follow her on Twitter @laura_jbarnett





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Sunday, 19 July 2015

The Killing of Bobbi Lomax by Cal Moriarty




CANYON COUNTY, HALLOWEEN 1983
Bobbi Lomax was the first to die, the bomb killed the prom queen on her own front lawn.
Just moments later one of the nails from the city's second bomb forced its way into the brain of property investor Peter Gudsen, killing him almost instantly.
The third bomb didn't quite kill Clark Houseman. Hovering on the brink, the rare books dealer turns out to be Detectives Sinclair and Alvarez's best hope of finding out what linked these unlikely victims, and who wanted them dead and why. But can they find the bomber before he kills again?
Set deep in the religious heartlands of America, The Killing of Bobbi Lomax follows this troubled investigation as a narrative of deceit, corruption and forgery emerges, with an unlikely hero at its heart - a rare coins, books and manuscript dealer - who could either be a genius or the devil.





The Killing of Bobbi Lomax by Cal Moriarty was published by Faber on 7 May 2015. This is Cal Moriarty's debut novel, she is the first Faber Academy author to be signed by Faber.

I absolutely raced through this book. I have been tired, I have been busy at work, but I have been so caught up in the tension and thrills created in this novel, that I just could not leave it alone.

This is a proper crime story, it has a really retro feel to it and that's entirely down to the era in which it is set. It's my era; the early 1980s. The days when mobile phones and the internet were unheard of, and the police used notebooks, and pagers, and good old-fashioned detecting skills. That's not a criticism of modern-day crime novels at all by the way, it was just so interesting to realise just how quickly our world has moved on, in such a relatively short space of time.

People are being murdered in Abraham City, a small town in America, bang in the middle of the Bible Belt. Bobbi Lomax was first, and then Peter Gudsen. Clark Houseman was luckier, the bomb didn't kill him, he may hold the clues that Detective Sinclair and Detective Alvarez need so that they can work out just what is happening. This is not an easy case for the detectives as there are some pretty important people in town who are determined that their secrets will stay firmly covered up.

The beating heart of this story is religion. The Faith is a cult-like group that controls the town. Also featured is the world of book collecting and hypnosis. A strange combination you may think, but oh these themes are knitted together so well, so tightly, so perfectly.

I'd like to talk more about the plot, and the characters, but if I did then I'd spoil the novel for other readers, and I'm not a spoilsport! Be prepared for beautifully poetic writing that seems to be in absolute contrast to the genre, but yet again, is done so well that it adds more layers of greatness to this book.

Oh, and be prepared to fall for the guy who you really shouldn't!!

Exquisite, sophisticated and incredibly clever, this is a stunning debut novel.

My thanks to the publisher Faber, who sent my copy for review.



Cal Moriarty also writes for film and theatre, and has previously worked as a private eye.

She attended the 'Writing A Novel' and 'Edit Your Novel' courses with the Faber Academy.


Follow her on Twitter @calmoriarty






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Friday, 17 July 2015

The Bones of You by Debbie Howells




I have a gardener's inherent belief in the natural order of things. Soft-petalled flowers that go to seed. The resolute passage of the seasons. Swallows that fly thousands of miles to follow the eternal summer.
Children who don't die before their parents.
A community in shock
When eighteen-year-old Rosie Anderson disappears, the idyllic village where she lived will never be the same again. Local gardener Kate is struck with guilt. She'd come to know Rosie well, and thought she understood her - perhaps better even than Rosie's own mother.
A family torn apart
Rosie was beautiful, kind and gentle. She came from a loving family and she had her whole life ahead of her. Who could possibly want to harm her? And why?
A keeper of secrets
Kate is convinced the police are missing something. She's certain that someone in the village knows more than they're letting on. As the investigation deepens, so does Kate's obsession with solving the mystery of what happened to Rosie.


The Bones of You by Debbie Howells was published in hardback by Pan MacMillan on 16 July 2015.

This is a story filled with mystery and secrets and revolves around the murder of eighteen-year-old Rosie Anderson. Whilst it is most certainly a thriller; a crime story, and quite dark, it is also a novel of family relationships, hidden pasts, emerging secrets and damaged humans.

The story opens as young Rosie goes missing, it isn't too long before her body is found in the local wood, she's been murdered. The story is told through Kate's eyes. Kate has a daughter; Grace, who is the same age as Rosie, yet it is Kate that was closest to the dead girl. They shared a love of horses, and Rosie often visited Kate - usually when Grace was not about.

Kate finds herself embroiled in Rosie's family dynamics. Supporting her on-edge, nervy mother Jo and strange younger sister Delphine. Rosie's father, Neal, appears to be in control. He's a well-known news reporter and is well trained in putting on a front.

Throughout the story, the reader also hears from Rosie. Speaking from beyond the grave, Rosie gives an account of life for her leading up to her death.  Her voice is so very sad, her memories are not happy, her life was not at all as it appeared to others.

The Bones of You is a difficult story to talk about in detail, to say much more would give away the secrets contained within the pages. I don't want to to do that, I want other people to go out and buy a copy and read it too.

This is an impressive novel, it's a delicately paced, fairly slow-moving story, but it is populated with intriguing characters, the narrative is compelling and it is very easy to lose yourself within the pages.

There are some very powerful observations made in The Bones of You, the author deals with emotional, dark and serious issues very very well.  I highly recommend this novel.

My thanks to the publisher Pan MacMillan, who sent my copy for review.


Debbie Howells lives in West Sussex with her family. Having worked as cabin crew and a flying instructor, she spent several years running a very successful wedding flower business.

She started writing as an escape from a busy summer of weddings. Her first books; This Your Life and The Impossible Search for the Perfect Man were written under the pen name Susie Martyn and self-published as eBooks on Amazon.

Encouraged by positive feedback, Debbie used her love of flowers and first hand experience to write the contemporary women's fiction novel Wildflowers, the first book self-published under her own name.


When none of the above secured her an agent, she started writing her first psychological thriller, The Bones of You.  Debbie is thrilled to be represented by Juliet Mushens of The Agency Group.

For more information about Debbie Howells, visit her website www.debbiehowells.co.uk

Follow her on Twitter @debbie_howells  #thebonesofyou






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Monday, 13 July 2015

The Last Kiss Goodbye by Tasmina Perry




Everyone remembers their first kiss. But what about the last?
1961. Journalist Rosamund Bailey is ready to change the world. When she meets explorer and man about town Dominic Blake, she realises she has found the love of her life. Just as happiness is in their grasp, the worst happens, and their future is snatched away.
2014. Deep in the vaults of a museum, archivist Abby Morgan stumbles upon a breathtaking find. A faded photograph of a man saying goodbye to the woman he loves. Looking for a way to escape her own heartache, Abby becomes obsessed with the story, little realising that behind the image frozen in time lies a secret altogether more extraordinary.




The Last Kiss Goodbye by Tasmina Perry is published on 10 September by Headline Review and is the author's tenth novel.  I've been a fan of Tasmina Perry's writing for years now and have read everything that she has published, although I wasn't so keen on a couple of mystery/thriller type stories that she has written. However, I loved her last novel The Proposal, and reviewed it here on Random Things back in October 2013.

The Last Kiss Goodbye, like The Proposal, is a dual-time story. It is set in the early 1960s and in the modern day. The whole story centres around a photograph discovered by Abby Morgan in 2014. The photograph is featured in an exhibition and christened 'The Last Kiss Goodbye'.

Abby is dealing with her own personal heartbreak and becomes consumed by the story behind the old photograph. She is determined to find out more about it, and if possible, to track down the people in it. Abby learns that the subjects of The Last Kiss Goodbye photograph are explorer Dominic Blake and journalist Rosamund Blake, she also learns that Dominic didn't return from his journey and the photograph captures their last intimate moment together.

The story travels back and forth. To the 1960s, those whirlwind days of parties and glamour and excitement. The days where women's voices can finally be heard and the world is changing quickly. Alongside the jazz and the drink and the emerging sexual liberation is the mysterious and murky world of Soviet espionage and the Cold War. Tasmina Perry delicately balances these, painting a fascinating picture of those times.

The story is set in London, Paris and St Petersburg, and the author excels in recreating these magical locations so very well.  I have to admit that I did prefer the story of Dominic and Rosamund over that of Abby and her estranged husband Nick. The 1960s era is one of my very favourite times to read about, I am always attracted to the bohemian glamour of those times.

All consuming love, buried secrets, beautiful locations and flawed but exciting characters. The Last Kiss Goodbye is a satisfying read, with twists and turns and an old-fashioned love story at its heart.

My thanks to the team at Lovereading who sent my copy for review as part of the Lovereading Reader Review Panel


Tasmina Perry is the author of the huge Sunday Times Top Ten bestsellers Daddy's Girls, Gold Diggers, Guilty Pleasures, Original Sin, Kiss Heaven Goodbye, Private Lives and Perfect Strangers.
She left a career in law to enter the world of women's magazine publishing, going on to win the New Magazine Journalist of the Year award, edit numerous national publications and write on celebrity and style for titles such as Elle and Glamour.
In 2004 she launched her own travel and fashion magazine, Jaunt, and was Deputy Editor of InStyle magazine when she left the industry to write books full time. Her novels have been published in seventeen countries.
For more information about the author and her writing, check out her website www.tasminaperry.com
Follow her author page on Facebook and on Twitter @tasminaperry



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