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My Heart Is a Drunken Compass: A Memoir

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With his trademark tragic-comical voice and arresting storytelling, Domingo Martinez once again delivers a deeply personal memoir full of wry asides and poignant, thoughtful reflections in his new book My Heart Is a Drunken Compass. His first book shockingly ended with his fiancé Stephanie plummeting off the side of an overpass in Seattle, after having a seizure while driv With his trademark tragic-comical voice and arresting storytelling, Domingo Martinez once again delivers a deeply personal memoir full of wry asides and poignant, thoughtful reflections in his new book My Heart Is a Drunken Compass. His first book shockingly ended with his fiancé Stephanie plummeting off the side of an overpass in Seattle, after having a seizure while driving. He now chronicles this painful episode in his life, with flashbacks to their tenuous romantic relationship, and how her accident and subsequent coma ultimately causes him to unravel emotionally. This pivotal moment, which began with an alarming call in the middle of the night, parallels another gut-wrenching experience from the past when his youngest brother’s life hangs in the balance.            Martinez once again brilliantly examines the complicated connections between family, friends, and loved ones. Feeling estranged from his family in Texas over the years, isolated and alone in Seattle, he turns to writing as a therapeutic tool. The underlying themes of addiction and recovery and their powerful impact on family dynamics also emerge within the narrative, as he struggles with his inner demons. These two traumatic life events actually bring Martinez closer to the family that he has in many ways spend years trying to deny, strengthening their bonds and healing old wounds. When Martinez falls apart completely, he finds his family, his redemption, and a new beginning with the love of his life, who encourages him to write his way out of the pain in order to save his own life.


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With his trademark tragic-comical voice and arresting storytelling, Domingo Martinez once again delivers a deeply personal memoir full of wry asides and poignant, thoughtful reflections in his new book My Heart Is a Drunken Compass. His first book shockingly ended with his fiancé Stephanie plummeting off the side of an overpass in Seattle, after having a seizure while driv With his trademark tragic-comical voice and arresting storytelling, Domingo Martinez once again delivers a deeply personal memoir full of wry asides and poignant, thoughtful reflections in his new book My Heart Is a Drunken Compass. His first book shockingly ended with his fiancé Stephanie plummeting off the side of an overpass in Seattle, after having a seizure while driving. He now chronicles this painful episode in his life, with flashbacks to their tenuous romantic relationship, and how her accident and subsequent coma ultimately causes him to unravel emotionally. This pivotal moment, which began with an alarming call in the middle of the night, parallels another gut-wrenching experience from the past when his youngest brother’s life hangs in the balance.            Martinez once again brilliantly examines the complicated connections between family, friends, and loved ones. Feeling estranged from his family in Texas over the years, isolated and alone in Seattle, he turns to writing as a therapeutic tool. The underlying themes of addiction and recovery and their powerful impact on family dynamics also emerge within the narrative, as he struggles with his inner demons. These two traumatic life events actually bring Martinez closer to the family that he has in many ways spend years trying to deny, strengthening their bonds and healing old wounds. When Martinez falls apart completely, he finds his family, his redemption, and a new beginning with the love of his life, who encourages him to write his way out of the pain in order to save his own life.

30 review for My Heart Is a Drunken Compass: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    Love the way this guy thinks and writes. He's probably a total pain in the ass in person, but aren't we all? :-) Love the way this guy thinks and writes. He's probably a total pain in the ass in person, but aren't we all? :-)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    When the author isn't trying to show off his vocabulary, the book was an alright read. Texas guy from a Mexican Catholic family prattles on about growing up in Brownsville, Texas, his family complications and his life in Seattle. He's smart, well-spoken and desperately trying to live the artistic life. We hear about his awkward romances, the awkward siblings and awkward employments. He's articulate and obviously writes well but about midway through the book I started to lose interest and stop ca When the author isn't trying to show off his vocabulary, the book was an alright read. Texas guy from a Mexican Catholic family prattles on about growing up in Brownsville, Texas, his family complications and his life in Seattle. He's smart, well-spoken and desperately trying to live the artistic life. We hear about his awkward romances, the awkward siblings and awkward employments. He's articulate and obviously writes well but about midway through the book I started to lose interest and stop caring. The ostentatious vocabulary and book dropping started to come off as pretentious and then I started thinking that maybe he was just pretentious and from there it was a slippery slope to not caring about the outcome. That's not to say there are not entertaining and meaningful anecdotes running through the book, there are just not enough to outweigh what had become tedious.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    This is a gem of an author whose writing style is something I admire. You feel as if he is there in your living room telling you his story of grief, tragedy and triumph over a cup of tea. His writing style is clear, detailed and honest. The narrator's vulnerability is astonishing to a fellow writer who is challenged with being vulnerable on the page. The story takes us through two horrible events in the narrator's life that pushed him to his psychological limits, plunging him into a deep depress This is a gem of an author whose writing style is something I admire. You feel as if he is there in your living room telling you his story of grief, tragedy and triumph over a cup of tea. His writing style is clear, detailed and honest. The narrator's vulnerability is astonishing to a fellow writer who is challenged with being vulnerable on the page. The story takes us through two horrible events in the narrator's life that pushed him to his psychological limits, plunging him into a deep depression, an anti-depressant laced suicide attempt and alcoholism. This is a story about being human, dealing with relationship challenges and the early childhood psychoses due to complex family relations that haunt us into adulthood. It is a story of reconciliation, perseverance and above all hope.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Gloria

    3.5 rounded to a 4. This book is not as well written (or edited?) as the first one. There are a lot of side stories, zooming around, digressions into all sorts of experiences. But since it's about coming to terms with his addictions, maybe that is the point. The writing is raw and is not for everyone. He really is a wonderful, emotional writer and I can't wait for the next one. And, yes, a cookbook from him would be so much fun - the imagery and the snark he will give us about Tex-Mex cooking. 3.5 rounded to a 4. This book is not as well written (or edited?) as the first one. There are a lot of side stories, zooming around, digressions into all sorts of experiences. But since it's about coming to terms with his addictions, maybe that is the point. The writing is raw and is not for everyone. He really is a wonderful, emotional writer and I can't wait for the next one. And, yes, a cookbook from him would be so much fun - the imagery and the snark he will give us about Tex-Mex cooking.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Albert

    My Heart Is A Drunken Compass by Domingo Martinez is a tragic, heart searing memoir of self inspection that at times is too real to take and at times misses the mark so badly that you have to ask yourself how delusional the author really is. What it definitely is; though, is a book that will impact you on an emotional level one way or the other. The events of this book take place shortly after the death of Domingo's fiance whose tragic accident leaves her in a coma for a time before she dies. It My Heart Is A Drunken Compass by Domingo Martinez is a tragic, heart searing memoir of self inspection that at times is too real to take and at times misses the mark so badly that you have to ask yourself how delusional the author really is. What it definitely is; though, is a book that will impact you on an emotional level one way or the other. The events of this book take place shortly after the death of Domingo's fiance whose tragic accident leaves her in a coma for a time before she dies. It is during this time and the aftermath that Domingo begins to review his life. His time as a child growing up in a Mexican family in Brownsville, Texas. The decisions made by his parents that led to the disruption of his family and the rampant alcoholism and drug use. The death of his younger brother and Domingo's own actions as he tries to leave all this past behind him only to find it catch back up to him in the event of his fiance's accident and death. To deal with all this he turns to writing as a form of therapy so in that, this book in too many ways becomes a journal. A conversation between Domingo and himself as he chronicles his past and its impact on him. That is at times its greatest strength and its most glaring weakness. For all its emotional impact, this book at times becomes wildly narcissistic. Domingo, in turn, blames himself for the tragedy in his life or takes undue credit and glory for all that is good. He is his own worst enemy and by the end of the book, as a reader, you are not convinced that he has ever learned that lesson. A good book but by the end of it, I was glad it was over.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Martha

    (Thank you to NetGalley and Lyons Press for the review copy!) This is one of those memoirs that's both difficult to put down and difficult to endure. The beautiful cover and poetic title disguise a narrator who's a train wreck and a story that's so tragic and depressing, you couldn't make it up. It's hard to explain in a few words what the book is about, because it covers several topics: the author's alcohol abuse, his brother's near-death, his ex-fiance's near-fatal car crash, and how those three (Thank you to NetGalley and Lyons Press for the review copy!) This is one of those memoirs that's both difficult to put down and difficult to endure. The beautiful cover and poetic title disguise a narrator who's a train wreck and a story that's so tragic and depressing, you couldn't make it up. It's hard to explain in a few words what the book is about, because it covers several topics: the author's alcohol abuse, his brother's near-death, his ex-fiance's near-fatal car crash, and how those three events tie together to eventually show him how directionless his life has become. He's a pushover and an alcoholic who's drifted passively through life without realizing the toll these two traits have taken on his life. If you think this sounds like an exhausting premise, it is. The events of the book are sad but also exasperating, as you want to shake various characters and shout at them, "No, you idiot, don't do that!" Some characters flat-out infuriated me. Unfortunately, Martinez himself is one of those characters who seems at some times a sad sack and at other times a bit of a stuck-up jerk. It's hard to get a clear bead on his personality (but then, ironically, it's often hardest to do so with a memoir), and as a result it's hard to connect with him. That doesn't make the story any less tragic, but it does make you glad to reach the end of the book, which begins to feel tedious at times as you wind through his life. I ended the book half-wondering if everyone involved had really learned their lessons, as Martinez implies; sometimes it seems like he was still unable to see how his own poor decisions contributed to all the ills in his life.

  7. 4 out of 5

    jennifer

    One of the worst books I've ever tried to read. If I wasn't desperately attempting to find a redeeming quality in this work from a fellow Texan, I'd not have made it halfway through. While he has an admittedly impressive vocabulary and obvious writing expertise, these could not trump the blatant narcissism that peeks through his dialogues. Everything was simultaneously his fault (his brother's accident that he wasn't even in the same city for its occurrence) and his credit (his brother's cool fr One of the worst books I've ever tried to read. If I wasn't desperately attempting to find a redeeming quality in this work from a fellow Texan, I'd not have made it halfway through. While he has an admittedly impressive vocabulary and obvious writing expertise, these could not trump the blatant narcissism that peeks through his dialogues. Everything was simultaneously his fault (his brother's accident that he wasn't even in the same city for its occurrence) and his credit (his brother's cool friends that he garnered through the author's gifts of cool, cutting edge music, etc. - egomaniac much?). I just could not bring myself to stomach any more of his renditions of his megalomaniac karate interactions, or his purported witty dialogue with ex-girlfriends after Ch. 17. Maybe I quit too soon, but I contend, not soon enough.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ursula

    I'm obsessed Domingo Martinez's writing. I loved The Boy Kings of Texas and I love this memoir as well. Martinez writes what is it is to be Tejana/o and live elsewhere in America. Sometimes our self-actualization can't happen at home amongst our families. The journey is always painful but no one writes this experience better than Domingo Martinez. I'm obsessed Domingo Martinez's writing. I loved The Boy Kings of Texas and I love this memoir as well. Martinez writes what is it is to be Tejana/o and live elsewhere in America. Sometimes our self-actualization can't happen at home amongst our families. The journey is always painful but no one writes this experience better than Domingo Martinez.

  9. 5 out of 5

    erl

    I loved "The Boy Kings of Texas" and eagerly awaited the arrival of its sequel at my local library. I was disappointed. This book focuses, not on the family and culture that shaped Martinez's identity, but his relationship with a woman he shouldn't have been involved with in the first place. His life just goes from bad to worse ("de Guatemala a Guatapeor," as a friend says it), and he drinks himself almost to death. I kept waiting and waiting for the recovery-- for him to finally hit bottom and I loved "The Boy Kings of Texas" and eagerly awaited the arrival of its sequel at my local library. I was disappointed. This book focuses, not on the family and culture that shaped Martinez's identity, but his relationship with a woman he shouldn't have been involved with in the first place. His life just goes from bad to worse ("de Guatemala a Guatapeor," as a friend says it), and he drinks himself almost to death. I kept waiting and waiting for the recovery-- for him to finally hit bottom and begin to rise up. He does acknowledge his alcoholism, but never his powerlessness over it. He never mentions AA, recovery, or even sobriety. Indeed, he still has wine with dining with friends. I hope his upswing continues to last. Good luck to you, Mr. Martinez. You're gonna need it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mary Blye Kramer

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Memoirs are so tricky but Martinez does it right - his details are perfect, some gorgeous phrases, and most important, he makes himself emotionally vulnerable without becoming sappy or annoying. And the story was a page turner. He completely captured my interest, and in spite of some bravado and silly sparring, he’s a kind and likable person. There was one thing that bothered me badly, though. On page 183, at the end of a chapter, the author states that he never spoke again to his former girlfrie Memoirs are so tricky but Martinez does it right - his details are perfect, some gorgeous phrases, and most important, he makes himself emotionally vulnerable without becoming sappy or annoying. And the story was a page turner. He completely captured my interest, and in spite of some bravado and silly sparring, he’s a kind and likable person. There was one thing that bothered me badly, though. On page 183, at the end of a chapter, the author states that he never spoke again to his former girlfriend after her accident. Yet he goes on to relate numerous conversations. This memoir has no vibe of someone making stuff up, but it did make me wonder if he was writing some untruths for dramatic effect. Anyone else notice this?

  11. 5 out of 5

    Deb

    I got about half way through then kind of lost interest. Can't remember why, but my curiousity is not enough to pick it back up. I also didn't finish the Boy Kings by same author so perhaps I just don't like his style. I got about half way through then kind of lost interest. Can't remember why, but my curiousity is not enough to pick it back up. I also didn't finish the Boy Kings by same author so perhaps I just don't like his style.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Zaynäb Book Minimalist

    One of those underrated books, I wish everyone could read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Em

    Fan-freaking-tastic! I loved this book and Martinez's writing style. Still trying to get my hands on his first book The Boy Kings of Texas in my library for my next great read. Fan-freaking-tastic! I loved this book and Martinez's writing style. Still trying to get my hands on his first book The Boy Kings of Texas in my library for my next great read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    K.L. Romo

    “…I found myself to be soft, like a bunny. Broken and damaged, wracked with regrets.” Domingo Martinez’s memoir, MY HEART IS A DRUNKEN COMPASS, is packed with brokenness and dysfunction. In 294 pages, Martinez relays his alcohol abuse and out-of-control spirals after two people he loves are victims in two almost-fatal accidents. He delves into his relationship with his dysfunctional family and his struggle to gain his independence by moving a thousand miles away; returning to them years later wit “…I found myself to be soft, like a bunny. Broken and damaged, wracked with regrets.” Domingo Martinez’s memoir, MY HEART IS A DRUNKEN COMPASS, is packed with brokenness and dysfunction. In 294 pages, Martinez relays his alcohol abuse and out-of-control spirals after two people he loves are victims in two almost-fatal accidents. He delves into his relationship with his dysfunctional family and his struggle to gain his independence by moving a thousand miles away; returning to them years later with a new understanding of what it means to have support from the ones you love. While reading this book, I was filled with discouragement. But what was curiously lacking was my empathy and compassion for Martinez and the suffering he endured for his first thirty-nine years. Maybe this was by design, the author making the reader feel his lack of hope without making himself a character I could truly care about. I admit I am not well-versed in the art of memoir, neither reading nor writing. Could my difficulty connecting to Martinez’s story be the result? Or is it the writer’s inability to make his hardships resonate with me? I don’t know. If you’re up for the challenge, read this book and let me know what you think. I’d love to compare notes.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Casey

    The book is the tale of the author's journeys through crisis. He puts all his cards on the table (which includes his friends and family members cards as well) and bares his soul. It is written with the tale coming from inside the crisis as opposed to the distanced sort of reflecting back style one usually encounters. He is so articulate about his nervous breakdown, it's informative. He's a mess - and he's not healed at the end but it's real. Most writing I've encountered of this nature either fo The book is the tale of the author's journeys through crisis. He puts all his cards on the table (which includes his friends and family members cards as well) and bares his soul. It is written with the tale coming from inside the crisis as opposed to the distanced sort of reflecting back style one usually encounters. He is so articulate about his nervous breakdown, it's informative. He's a mess - and he's not healed at the end but it's real. Most writing I've encountered of this nature either focuses on time in the psychiatric hospital, or is characterized by the outlier experience of a breakdown ( my husband/wife/mother are against me). This writer has his disputes and troubled interactions where he's misunderstood and is full of resentment as you expect of someone going through a breakdown but that's not the point of the story. This is a guy with no insurance, no healthcare, no resources trying to stabilize.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mandi Matlock

    I really wish I'd read his first book instead of this one. And I may yet read it to see if I can discover what all the fuss was about. I was surprised that I took an immediate dislike to him. This in turn made it difficult to muster any sympathy for his travails. I found it all so mundane and unexceptional... I could have liked a memoir with unexceptional facts if the writing were lovely & the author weren't a self-involved a-hole. I mean -- I love the memoir genre so I have a high tolerance for I really wish I'd read his first book instead of this one. And I may yet read it to see if I can discover what all the fuss was about. I was surprised that I took an immediate dislike to him. This in turn made it difficult to muster any sympathy for his travails. I found it all so mundane and unexceptional... I could have liked a memoir with unexceptional facts if the writing were lovely & the author weren't a self-involved a-hole. I mean -- I love the memoir genre so I have a high tolerance for navel-gazing, so it's not just that... And I know S. Texas. I went to Catholic school down there. I grew up as part of a Mexican family (mom never dated another white man after my dad, who she left when I was 6), so it's not that I can't relate to him. I don't know... I don't like this book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Liz Simmons

    I read Martinez's other book, "The Boy Kings of Texas," about growing up in Texas, and absolutely loved it. His writing is just as engrossing in this book, but the story is more muddled. It kind of feels like maybe this book could have used more time before being published, or better editing to create a cohesive story with more of a message. Or maybe not. "My Heart Is a Drunken Compass" was impossible for me to put town. It's like reading the diary of an incredibly talented and self-destructive I read Martinez's other book, "The Boy Kings of Texas," about growing up in Texas, and absolutely loved it. His writing is just as engrossing in this book, but the story is more muddled. It kind of feels like maybe this book could have used more time before being published, or better editing to create a cohesive story with more of a message. Or maybe not. "My Heart Is a Drunken Compass" was impossible for me to put town. It's like reading the diary of an incredibly talented and self-destructive writer. You feel like you really know Domingo and want to be his friend and try to stop him from doing the things that he does in this book. It's excruciatingly honest. I can't wait to see what he writes next.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lizzie

    Update: I thought I hadn't read this and am trying to read all the books I own but haven't read, so I read it today. (skimmed the first half since I remembered it and then realized I'd read it all). I liked it far less on second read! He has a way with words, but I felt the narrative was disjointed. Perhaps that reflects his mindset as he struggles with addiction and self harm, but it made it hard to follow the events. Anyway, still an interesting read. Not my favorite. Memoir of Latino writer D Update: I thought I hadn't read this and am trying to read all the books I own but haven't read, so I read it today. (skimmed the first half since I remembered it and then realized I'd read it all). I liked it far less on second read! He has a way with words, but I felt the narrative was disjointed. Perhaps that reflects his mindset as he struggles with addiction and self harm, but it made it hard to follow the events. Anyway, still an interesting read. Not my favorite. Memoir of Latino writer Domingo Martinez as he navigates his trauma and addictions, family problems, and relationships. It was a little long in my opinion, but well written and interesting, especially if you've read his other works!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Arlene

    In giving acknowledgement to family and friends at the end of the book, Domingo Martinez suggests that his nieces and nephews not read this book until they are at least thirty years old. It is pretty clear why he made that statement. If you are a potential reader, prepare yourself for an articulate writer who has an impressive vocabulary telling his story in a painfully honest, yet entertaining way. Additionally, prepare yourself for ongoing dysfunctionality, self-destruction and limiting out on In giving acknowledgement to family and friends at the end of the book, Domingo Martinez suggests that his nieces and nephews not read this book until they are at least thirty years old. It is pretty clear why he made that statement. If you are a potential reader, prepare yourself for an articulate writer who has an impressive vocabulary telling his story in a painfully honest, yet entertaining way. Additionally, prepare yourself for ongoing dysfunctionality, self-destruction and limiting out on emotions. It does become a tediously long read, and yet I liked it. Like other reviewers, I wish I had read his first book (The Boy Kings of Texas) before this one.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Salient, gripping, intimate, illuminating, binge-worthy.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Miller

    I wanted to give this book a 4.5 star rating, because I loved it almost enough for 5 stars but the sentimentality of sections kept me from those full 5 stars. Regardless, I'll recommend it. Not just because I believe that Martinez and I are kindred spirits in music, literature and experience, but because I totally connected with his empathy for those around him and the situations that he found himself in with those individuals. I wanted to give this book a 4.5 star rating, because I loved it almost enough for 5 stars but the sentimentality of sections kept me from those full 5 stars. Regardless, I'll recommend it. Not just because I believe that Martinez and I are kindred spirits in music, literature and experience, but because I totally connected with his empathy for those around him and the situations that he found himself in with those individuals.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    Uneven. In one chapter his gf is "crazy " for thinking her mother is passive aggressive, in another Domingo is upset about this same behavior! Just a line like "I thought she was being paranoid, but I was going to learn the truth " would show more awareness. The story of his brother and his gf need to be intertwined more as well. Good prose although not as memorable as "Boy Kings " Uneven. In one chapter his gf is "crazy " for thinking her mother is passive aggressive, in another Domingo is upset about this same behavior! Just a line like "I thought she was being paranoid, but I was going to learn the truth " would show more awareness. The story of his brother and his gf need to be intertwined more as well. Good prose although not as memorable as "Boy Kings "

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lilly

    I would read anything Domingo Martinez writes about his family. I could have done with a lot less about his ex-girlfriend, but I want to spend hours upon hours in his stories about growing up in South Texas and how he handles his weathered relationship with his siblings.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    There's no form to this memoir, but Martinez is so entertaining that I didn't even care. I like this Martinez guy, but I'm a sucker for a self-depreciating funny mid-life dudes with self-destructive streaks. And he writes the truth about Seattle. I hope things work out for Domingo. There's no form to this memoir, but Martinez is so entertaining that I didn't even care. I like this Martinez guy, but I'm a sucker for a self-depreciating funny mid-life dudes with self-destructive streaks. And he writes the truth about Seattle. I hope things work out for Domingo.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    Meh. His first novel blew me away. So much so that I would stop friends and tell them to read it. But this next one was not as impressive. And seemed like a narcissistic , whiny, "poor me" rant. Uhg. It was tiring. But his narrative is still good. Meh. His first novel blew me away. So much so that I would stop friends and tell them to read it. But this next one was not as impressive. And seemed like a narcissistic , whiny, "poor me" rant. Uhg. It was tiring. But his narrative is still good.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mary Finucane

    "If you have any ideas, now's the time," I said. "You're going to have to write your way out of this," she said, in that distancing, clinical way she has, and then wandered off with the dogs to allow me to think this one through. --p. 232 "If you have any ideas, now's the time," I said. "You're going to have to write your way out of this," she said, in that distancing, clinical way she has, and then wandered off with the dogs to allow me to think this one through. --p. 232

  27. 5 out of 5

    Alecia

    This was not as gripping to me as his first book. I still loved the writing and the perspective but it didn't match the impact I felt about "Boy Kings of Texas". This was not as gripping to me as his first book. I still loved the writing and the perspective but it didn't match the impact I felt about "Boy Kings of Texas".

  28. 5 out of 5

    Wanda

    What an interesting mess. Sometimes I just wanted to slap him upside the head. Hope he's better. What an interesting mess. Sometimes I just wanted to slap him upside the head. Hope he's better.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Joanna

    tries too hard...a bit full of himself. nonetheless some endearing details...

  30. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    I won a copy of this book through Goodreads Giveaways but, unfortunately, never received my copy, which is why it earned a 1-star review

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