Top Five-Star Book Recommendations of 2022

Okay, okay, top five-star recommendations for the first half of 2022! I’ve done the vetting, so you don’t have to! Whether you’re looking for something sweet and sappy or criminally thrilling, there’s a five-star book for you on this list!

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For me, this is more than just a stack of books I enjoyed. It’s a stack of memories throughout the first half of this year. I can look at each of these books that had a profound impression on me and recall where I was during that time- physically and emotionally. That’s a sign a story has really stuck with me.

While you’re here, be sure to check out my other recommendations here!

So, without further adieu, here are 13 five-star books I’ve read in 2022!

I’ll Be You by Janelle Brown was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. I’m glad I didn’t have to wait long to get my hands on it! Identical twins? Hollywood child stars? Mysterious cult disappearance? It’s a read that will keep you turning pages!

I’ve linked I’ll Be You for you at Amazon, Bookshop.org, and Libro.fm

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If you’ve never read any of Abby Jimenez’s books, start with this one! This is the fourth book of hers that I’ve read and it’s now my favorite. Trust me when I say that is SAYING SOMETHING. She is a master crafter of stories that discuss hard topics that are well balanced with humor and love. This one will have you feeling all of the emotions!

I’ve linked Part of Your World for you at Amazon, Bookshop.org, and Libro.fm

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If you’ve spent any time on this blog or my Instagram page, you know I love Elin Hilderbrand. Her latest summer read is perfect! A medley of characters working to revive an old hotel with a bad reputation in order to gain sought after notoriety from an anonymous online hotel reviewer. I LOVED everything about it, especially the resident ghost, Grace. She had me laughing constantly. Pick it up for a sunshine escape wherever you are!

I’ve linked The Hotel Nantucket for you at Amazon, Bookshop.org, and Libro.fm

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It takes a LOT for me to give a thriller five stars these days. The more of them I read, the harder it becomes for me not to guess the ending. If I can figure it out, it’s not getting five stars. This one earned all of my praises! I ripped through it in a day, couldn’t put it down, and the ending had me in shock. This one has gone surprisingly under the radar and I’m not sure why. It’s fantastic!!

I’ve linked The Children on the Hill for you at Amazon, Bookshop.org, and Libro.fm

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“Perfect. Perfect. Perfect.” were the words I used to describe the read. I am a huge fan of Katherine Center’s. She’s talented, genuine, and intentional with crafting her stories. Once again, an auto-buy author for me doesn’t disappoint. In fact, this is my new favorite of hers.

I’ve linked The Bodyguard for you at Amazon, Bookshop.org, and Libro.fm

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It’s rare that I choose to pick up a non-fiction self-help book and even more rare for me to give it five stars. I don’t think it’s happened until now. I listened to this book on audio in a day and then immediately purchased a hard copy so I could reread and annotate it. It is filled with logical reasoning for implementing positive habits and breaking bad ones. Absolutely enlightening!

I’ve linked Atomic Habits for you at Amazon, Bookshop.org, and Libro.fm

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I’ll start by sharing this is the second book in a series. You can find the first Finlay Donovan book HERE. If you’re familiar with Finlay, then you know how funny and quirky she is! She’s finally gotten herself out of being wrapped up in murder for hire, but now someone is out to kill her ex-husband. I have LOVED following this series!

I’ve linked Finlay Donvan Knocks ‘Em Dead for you at Amazon, Bookshop.org, and Libro.fm

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The Night Shift was a wonderful 90’s crime thriller! On New Year’s Even 1999, four employees at a Blockbuster Video were attacked and only one survived. Fifteen years later and in the same town, there’s been a similar attack at an ice cream shop. The lone survivor of the first attack must relive that terrible time in order to help detectives solve this case.

I’ve linked The Night Shift for you at Amazon, Bookshop.org, and Libro.fm

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Shadows of Pecan Hollow is looking like it may be my favorite read of the year. It took ahold of me and I felt like I was living through the gritty experiences of the main character, Kit. This is a book that carries some really hard topics, but it’s one that has stayed with me the entire year. If you read one book from this list, let it be this one.

I’ve linked Shadows of Pecan Hollow for you at Amazon, Bookshop.org, and Libro.fm

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Poignant, reflective, contemplative. Those are all common descriptors of Serle’s writing, but this one was special to me. There are lines of advice in this book that hit me square in the face. Set within the gorgeous scenery of Positano, Italy, One Italian Summer had me crying, laughing, and hopeful.

I’ve linked One Italian Summer for you at Amazon, Bookshop.org, and Libro.fm

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Told from the perspective of a young Maddie Sykes, this is a story of women standing up for what is right in a post-war tobacco industry. When Maddie sees unsafe and unethical practices in the town’s tobacco plant, she sets on a mission to expose the truth. But, the truth doesn’t come without costs.

I’ve linked The Tobacco Wives for you at Amazon, Bookshop.org, and Libro.fm

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Oh, wrap me up in a cuddly blanket and give me this book! It is cozy, joyful happiness with a refreshing dose of reality. The coworkers to lovers trope, the imperfections in personality, and the humor that Solomon brings in this book makes me want to read it again for the first time!

I’ve linked Weather Girl for you at Amazon, Bookshop.org, and Libro.fm

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Competing with Shadows of Pecan Hollow for favorite book of the year is Lessons in Chemistry. This historical fiction centers on a female scientist who becomes the nation’s first on-air cooking host. Through educating and empowering her audience of primarily women she breaks the status quo on more than one occasion and refuses to fit into the mold of homemaker.

I’ve linked Lessons in Chemistry for you at Amazon, Bookshop.org, and Libro.fm

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You can check out other recommendations at my Amazon Storefront!

I’d love to know which you pick up next! Leave me a comment and let me know!

This post contains affiliate links.

The Hotel Nantucket – Five Star Review and Cocktail Recipe

If you’re looking for the buzziest read of the summer, you’ve found it!

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It’s no secret how much I love Elin Hilderbrand novels. Take a look at my Instagram page and you’ll quickly realize how much I love her work.

I once met her while on a beach in St. John, USVI! I felt like I was living in an Elin Hilderbrand novel at that moment!

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I recently read her latest novel, The Hotel Nantucket, and it was a slam dunk! If this post doesn’t convince you to pick up your copy, know that it’s been at the top of the New York Times Best-Sellers list for hardcover fiction for weeks! If you need a sweet escape read, already know and love Hilderbrand’s work, or are actually packing your bags to head to the beach, this title needs to be on your list!

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Here’s the synopsis:

Fresh off a bad breakup with a longtime boyfriend, Nantucket sweetheart Lizbet Keaton is desperately seeking a second act. When she’s named the new general manager of the Hotel Nantucket, a once Gilded Age gem turned abandoned eyesore, she hopes that her local expertise and charismatic staff can win the favor of their new London billionaire owner, Xavier Darling, as well as that of Shelly Carpenter, the wildly popular Instagram tastemaker who can help put them back on the map. 

And while the Hotel Nantucket appears to be a blissful paradise, complete with a celebrity chef-run restaurant and an idyllic wellness center, there’s a lot of drama behind closed doors. The staff (and guests) have complicated pasts, and the hotel can’t seem to overcome the bad reputation it earned in 1922 when a tragic fire killed nineteen-year-old chambermaid Grace Hadley. With Grace gleefully haunting the halls, a staff harboring all kinds of secrets, and Lizbet’s own romantic uncertainty, is the Hotel Nantucket destined for success or doom?

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FIVE STAR REVIEW

I’m sure glad Elin wrote a guide to Nantucket at the back of this book because after reading The Hotel Nantucket, I just want to experience it all!

This book is filled with comfort, escape, and entertainment. I loved the passion and personalities of each character, but especially fell in love with Grace, the resident ghost.

There’s so much to love about Lizbet, Edie, Chad, Mario, Mrs. English, and Xavier. Hilderbrand crafted such a developed melody of characters. They worked together so well, not only to establish and run an immaculate hotel, but to bring the reader along for the ride. They’re an entertaining staff that I could have read so much more about!

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I had several theories throughout the book and enjoyed being both right and wrong!

If you’re a Hilderbrand fan, there’s no doubt that you’re going to love every second of this novel.

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You can purchase The Hotel Nantucket at the links here:

Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/a/55315/9780316258678

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3aB0Otz

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FIVE STAR COCKTAIL

This was a Five Star read, which means that I’m pairing it with a Five Star cocktail!

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Below are the steps to make the drink that has taken over my summer: The Strawberry Basil Margarita

A little sweet with the perfect grounding of basil, this drink is perfect for these long hot days! You can make it by the glass or scale it and make it by the pitcher. This is one that would be so easy to serve at a summer gathering like a book club!

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Ingredients:

3 oz. tequila

½. oz. agave

5-6 strawberries

2-3 sprigs of basil

Juice from half a lime

Sparkling or mineral water

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Steps:

  1. Pour tequila, agave, and lime juice into a blender
  2. Add strawberries and the basil sprigs
  3. Blend until you have a juice consistency
  4. Pour over ice
  5. Top with sparkling or mineral water
  6. Garnish with basil sprig
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This drink is TASTY! Plan ahead if you’re hosting, because your guests will be asking for more! 


Need to boost your cocktail game? Click here to check out my party and hosting essentials.

Interested in other Five Star Reads and Cocktails? Check them out HERE.

Please leave a comment and tell me what you thought of The Hotel Nantucket and The Strawberry Basil Margarita!

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This post contains affiliate links.

Children’s Art and Literacy Festival

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Children’s Art & Literacy Festival in Abilene, Texas! You may not know that Austin and I used to live in Abilene. He grew up there and we met while both attending Abilene Christian University. Over the last decade, we’ve seen this beautiful quiet town take off in development! The people are what make this place so special and the secret is finally getting out! This year the C.A.L.F. set a new attendance record, hovering around 5,500 registered attendees!

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What is the C.A.L.F.?

To start, Abilene is the Storybook Capital of America. It’s home to the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, a museum that rotates installments of original illustration pieces from some of the most renowned artists in the industry.

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The Children’s Art & Literacy Festival is an annual event that emphasizes the importance of families, art, and literacy. It takes place the second weekend in June. 

The C.A.L.F. celebrated its 10th anniversary this year by honoring the work that Sophie Blackall has given to children’s literature. This three day event consisted of dramatic readings, interactive shows, educational workshops, hands-on extension activities, and community involvement all centered around children’s literacy. The joyful smiles and giggles were impossible to miss.

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Here’s an outline of what I did in two days. . .

If it seems like a lot, that’s because it was! This festival was packed with activities!

  • Dramatic Reading of Finding Winnie
  • Meet and Greet with Sophie Blackall
  • Musical Performance by Joe McDermott
  • Cookie Decorating
  • Petting Zoo
  • Kornpop Balloon Art Interactive Show
  • Nancy & Her Friends ventriloquist show
  • Dramatic Reading of Hello Lighthouse
  • Birds of Prey presentation
  • Puppet Show by Gepetto’s Marionette Theater
  • Dinner with Sophie Blackall
  • Meet the Storybook Characters in the Sculpture Garden
  • Dramatic Reading of Wombat Walkabout
  • Dramatic Reading of The Mighty Lalouche
  • Dramatic Reading of Big Red Lollipop
  • Dramatic Reading of Negative Cat
  • Dramatic Reading of No, David Read and Dog on a Bicycle (previously honored author/illustrator David Shannon)
  • Hands-on activities and experiments connected to Blackall’s books
  • Reading aloud to therapy dogs
  • Storybook Train Ride
  • Live performance “Wild Boars Cook: Live!”
  • Instrument Petting Zoo
  • Live performance “Ivy + Bean: The Musical”
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Friday:

I started the morning in the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL), where we listened to a vibrant reading of Finding Winnie, the book for which Sophie Blackall’s sculpture was created. More on that later!

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I met Sophie Blackall and had my copy of Finding Winnie signed. It was such a treat meeting her!

After leaving the NCCIL, I walked down Cypress Street to find Stilt Walkers entertaining kids with exciting costumes and dance moves.

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My next stop was at Minter Park, where I saw Joe McDermott perform his original silly songs and poems. He had both kids and adults captivated with his wit and humor!

Did I mention that it was a weekend of record breaking heat?! Well, next I stopped at Monks Coffee Shop, an Abilene staple, and ordered an iced lavender vanilla latte. Amazing, 10/10 def recommend. 

With my coffee, I headed across the street to McKay’s Bakery, another unofficial Abilene landmark, for cookie decorating. McKay’s set up a decorating station within their bakery for kids (and adults) to try their hand at the culinary arts!

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As I made my way to the next scheduled event, there were so many examples of community involvement. Students from a local private school volunteered to host a face painting and hair chalk station that STAYED BUSY! This was the place to be in between readings and performances!

Once I made my way to the Convention Center, I spent a few minutes outside before heading in. Along with a petting zoo, there was chalk galore on the front patio, an invitation for children to express their creativity throughout the event. There was also a chalk art installment by a local artist that represented the lighthouse from Blackall’s illustrations in the book Hello Lighthouse.

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Inside the Convention Center, I watched the adorable Kornpop Balloon Art Interactive Show. Kornpop (yes, that is his real name) had every kid mesmerized with balloon art and magic tricks. They loved him!

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After the silliness at Kornpop, I walked to the historic Paramount Theater to watch an educational show titled “Nancy & Her Friends.” This was my favorite show of the weekend! Nancy is a skilled ventriloquist and kept her audience (kids and adults) captivated with interesting facts about butterflies and spiders and funny jokes from her puppet children. 

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Next up was a short walk to Nora Hall to listen to a read aloud of Hello Lighthouse. After each read aloud, there was a related craft for children to complete!

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I had a quick lunch at The Local before heading over to Frontier Texas for some outdoor fun! There, I learned about hawks, vultures, and owls, and the Birds of Prey show. I also got to get up close and personal with the most adorable warthogs I’ll ever see! Remember, each event connects to Blackall’s books. These two were extensions of The Crows of Pearblossom and Meet Wild Boars.  

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Last event of the day was a marionette show at The Well put on by Gepetto’s Marionette Theater from Dallas. 

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I was lucky enough to be invited to dinner at the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literacy, where we all got to observe a Q & A with Blackall. It was spectacular! 

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Saturday:

First up on Saturday was Meet the Storybook Characters in the Sculpture Garden located next to the Convention Center. I found Winnie, as well as many other characters!

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I stopped for another coffee at Monks and headed to the Grace museum for two dramatic readings: Wombat Walkabout and The Mighty Lalouche.

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Next were two more dramatic readings at the Community Foundations Center: Big Red Lollipop and Negative Cat.

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No, David Read and Dog on a Bicycle dramatic readings (honoring David Shannon from years past) were presented at the Majestic Theater.

At the Center for Contemporary Arts, was a “STEAM Room” full of hands-on activities and experiments that were extensions of Blackall’s books. “STEAM” stands for Science Technology Engineering Art and Math.

They also had an area for children to practice reading aloud to therapy dogs provided by Hendrick Pets.

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I stopped for a quick turkey sandwich at Cypress Street Café and then was off to the Storybook Train Ride at the T & P Depot!

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One of my favorite shows was the Wild Boars Cook: Live! Show presented by Abilene Christian University’s theater department at the Abilene Public Library! 

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The afternoon ended with a unique experience, an Instrument Petting Zoo at the Wooten! This event allowed children to explore all kinds of instruments, providing early exposure to musical arts.

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I wrapped up the weekend’s event on Saturday night with a live performance of Ivy + Bean: The Musical at the Paramount theater. It was the perfect way to wrap up a weekend of children’s literacy and honor Sophie Blackall’s work.

What a fantastic experience! This event is incredibly centered around the child’s experience, making it the perfect family friendly summer bucket list event! If you’re a parent, grandparent, teacher, or bookworm, the Children’s Art and Literacy Festival is a must!

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Five Star Read: Shadows of Pecan Hollow by Caroline Frost

3 Reasons Why Shadows of Pecan Hollow Should Be Your Next Read

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“Is it better than Crawdads?!”

That’s the question I’m still hearing in my head. Someone asked me this question on Instagram and my answer was. . . Yeah, I think it might be. This is not a comparison I make lightly.

It’s been a few weeks since I finished Shadows of Pecan Hollow and I’m still thinking about it. Here are three reasons why you should pick up a copy for yourself!

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Shadows of Pecan Hollow by Caroline Frost

Reason #1: Rich Character Development

I was immediately enveloped by the characters. Frost had me feeling like I’d known them forever in the first 50 pages. How is that even possible?! To my delight, the characters only got deeper and deeper. Some I loved with my whole heart, and some, well. . .

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Reason #2: Emotional Roller Coaster

Frost’s writing took ahold of my heart and did not let go. I got mad. I cried MORE THAN ONCE. My anger was resolved. I felt pride for these women. I even laughed through some tears. The suspense kept me gripped! I forced myself to read it slowly, in small bits because I didn’t want it to end.

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Reason #3: Texas Setting

As a native Texan, it’s no surprise that I hold a high standard for the way that my state is portrayed. It’s my home, as it is Frost’s. I love living here. Our history is rich with blood, sacrifice, and strength.

Frost nailed it. She told me she was trying to win over the Texans with this one and she surely did. Aside from geographical accuracy, there was special attention to community.

Texas is called The Friendly State for a reason. Although there are inevitably bad people like Manny, there is no shortage of community to rally behind you through difficult times.

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Order your copy of Shadows of Pecan Hollow here and thank me later!

This post contains affiliate links.

How to Organize Your Bookshelf

You’ve got the books. You’ve got a designated space. Now, how are you organizing?

Hello, friends! We’re talking about organization! I get asked all the time how I organize the bookcase and I’m happy to finally lay it all out!

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There’s no right or wrong way to organize. In fact, when we first built our bookcase, there was ZERO organization. 100% aesthetic display and, although it was pretty to look at,  it created an internal fury every time I went to search for a book.

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There are several ways to go about it. Many organize by genre, fiction & nonfiction, alphabetically by author, celebrity book club picks, and even the eye-catching color-coding rainbow. Organization only needs to make sense to YOU!

My Hybrid Approach to Organization

I’ve taken a hybrid design to lining my shelves and have two systems in place. 

The bookcase is made up of eight rows of five shelves each.

The Top Four

The top four rows of shelves are only books that I’ve read and kept. These are organized alphabetically (left to right, top to bottom) by the author’s last name. 

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The Bottom Four

The bottom four rows of shelves are all books I haven’t read yet- hold your judgment! They are also organized alphabetically (left to right, top to bottom) by the author’s last name.

Keeping my read and to be read (TBR) books separately makes locating a book so much easier. If I’m looking to lend a book to a friend, it’s one I’ve read and loved and I know to look at the top. 

If I’m looking for my next read, having all available books within arms reach makes the process more accessible and the decision overall less stressful. I don’t have to climb a ladder every time I want to read a synopsis or first chapter of a potential next read!

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The Exceptions

Of course, there are exceptions! Scattered throughout the bookcase, there are some special edition sets and our Bible on display.

There is also a dedicated space for books that have not been published yet. I keep these lined in order of their publication dates. I organize those chronologically, as opposed to alphabetically, to ensure that I can share about the book in a timely fashion. 

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To each their own! Like I mentioned earlier, organization only needs to make sense to YOU!

So, tell me! How do you organize? Do you have exceptions to your organization, too?

Leave me a comment!

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