Posts Categorized: reviews

A Gathering of Shadows

February 29, 2016 books, reviews 4

a gathering of shadows book cover on reviews and cake

Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London.

In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games—an extravagant international competition of magic, meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries—a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again—meaning that another London must fall.

from Goodreads

I tried out at least five different beginnings to this review, because I can’t find any words to convey how much I loved this book. Since I really liked the first book in the series, I preordered this one and started reading shortly after it was delivered to my Kindle around midnight on its release date. Victoria Schwab usually writes great beginnings, but I think this might have been my favorite one yet. It has a very Pirates of the Caribbean flair to it and there’s trickery and action and cleverness and basically yes, please. However, as I read on I was all prepared to give the book a mediocre rating. I didn’t love Lila, because it felt too much like she was only written to be badass if you think that killing people and acting inconsiderate is badass. I liked returning to this world, but the story dragged a tiny little bit. But… then I got sucked in again and I freaking loved every single thing about it. Let me tell you why.
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The Hateful Eight

February 22, 2016 movies, reviews 1

It’s that time of the year again: movie aficionados all over the world scramble to watch the movies nominated for this year’s Academy Awards. I have to admit I’ve only seen a couple of the contenders so far, but The Hateful Eight was one of them.



I did manage to catch an English showing of The Hateful Eight, because there was no way I was going to watch a crappy dubbed German version of it, but I didn’t get to see the 70mm version. If you haven’t been following movie news, Tarantino, in an effort to put all other movie nerds to shame, filmed The Hateful Eight in Ultra Panavision 70, a format that hasn’t been used for decades, which basically means that you get a wider and much more detailed image. Since most cinemas don’t have the equipment to show the movie in this format, there was (is?) a roadshow featuring the movie in its original format and in a slightly longer version. Since I couldn’t go, I can’t say whether it’s worth it, but I have to admit the whole procedure of dressing up and making a proper night out of it appeals to me. Plus, I imagine you get to be pretentious and wax poetic on the vivid colors and crisp image of the movie in Ultra Panavision 70, as opposed to the much inferior digital version, while gesticulating with your wine glass. Ah, one can dream.
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Sweetgirl: Atmospheric Writing and Clever Characters

January 10, 2016 books, reviews 2



I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

A long history with drug addiction means this isn’t the first time Percy’s mother has disappeared, but that doesn’t make Percy worry any less. When she receives a tip on where to find Carletta, Percy braces the oncoming snowstorm to get her mother home. She doesn’t find Carletta, but she stumbles upon Jenna, a neglected baby, and has to brace the biting cold, her almost-step dad’s sarcasm and the gun-wielding drug dealers on their heels to get Jenna to safety.

Sweetgirl isn’t what I’d usually look out for in a bookstore, but the description caught my interest, so I requested it on Netgalley, and I wasn’t disappointed. After the bad luck I had with ARCs at first, I’m kind of amazed that this is my second five star ARC in a row. Mulhauser’s writing is clean and atmospheric and will weave a web of icy roads, gritty characters and a spark of hope around you. It’s rare that an author’s writing really immerses you into the setting of the book, but this is one of those cases. I felt like I was trudging through the snow storm with Percy and Portis, but – more impressively – I felt with the “villains” of the story. From Percy’s perspective, I had to fear them right along with her, but once I got into Shelton’s head, I understood what made him tick – at least a little.
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Attachments As In E-Mail Attachments

January 8, 2016 books, miscellaneous, reviews 2

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It’s company policy.) But they can’t quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.

Meanwhile, Lincoln O’Neill can’t believe this is his job now- reading other people’s e-mail. When he applied to be “internet security officer,” he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.

When Lincoln comes across Beth’s and Jennifer’s messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can’t help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories.

By the time Lincoln realizes he’s falling for Beth, it’s way too late to introduce himself.

Hey, at least I got the title pun without someone pointing it out to me this time. I love wordplay, but I suck at it. Let’s not talk about the Cinder->Cinderella debacle of 2015 (yes, I know 2015 was literally a week ago, but it sounded good). Anyways, ever since Fangirl, I’ve been reading my way through Rainbow Rowell’s books and when I heard Attachments was an epistolary novel it rocketed to the top of the list (by which I mean there were two of her books I hadn’t read yet and I read this one first).

Attachments is the kind of book where I can understand if someone gives it a low rating …I just disagree. Literally nothing happens for about 90% of the book and the ending was a bit out there for me, BUT it’s also this really sweet story about cyberstalking and befriending people much older than you. Wait no, let me rephrase that. What I mean to say is, the book is as slice-of-life as all of Rainbow Rowell’s other books, so either you like that kind of writing or you don’t.
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Morally Ambiguous Characters and Magical Writing

December 15, 2015 books, reviews 6

a darker shade of magic on reviews and cake

Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London—but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—trickier than they hoped.

A Darker Shade of Magic has been on my to read list for ages. I heard about it a couple of times, and I follow Victoria Schwab on twitter, so I kept reading about parallel worlds, magic, and pirates. I read and reviewed Vicious, her adult book, and now I finally got around to this one. And let me tell you – I was intrigued from the start! I think the first few chapters are the strongest of the book, because they’re such a great introduction to the world and the characters of A Darker Shade of Magic. The writing just felt magical (unrelated to the book’s subject) and, like with Vicious, I found it very cinematic. Worldbuilding at its best!
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Working in Publishing as a Cougar: Younger

December 10, 2015 recs, reviews, tv shows 2

TV Show Thursdays on Reviews and Cake

Welcome to TV Show Thursdays, where I discuss TV Shows, review episodes and give my commentary on anything TV Show related!


Today I want to talk about Younger. I just recently discovered this TV show when I was looking for something fun and new, and I binge watched the entire first season in a day. It focuses on Liza, a 40-year-old who pretends she’s a 26-year-old college graduate with a history of charity work in India to land a job in the publishing industry. She moves in with an artist friend in Brooklyn, gets herself a younger lover and makes friends at her new place of employment. Liza is played by Sutton Foster, who TV show geeks like me might know from her time as the leading character in Bunheads, the show co-created by Gilmore Girls maker Amy Sherman-Palladino and Lamar Damon that was sadly cancelled after just one season.



A huge reason why I like this show is that it’s set in the trendy New York publishing world bookish dreams are made of. It being a TV show it’s not as realistic as it could be, but all the book references are fairly awesome. I’m still waiting for the book blogger mentions, but maybe next season. More than that, almost all the important characters are women, which is a nice change from most shows. The show isn’t groundbreaking and it portrays millenials like a parody of themselves, but it’s fun to watch, and if the premise sounds good to you, I’d recommend giving it a chance!

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Happy Endings Are …Underappreciated?

November 12, 2015 fun, recs, reviews, tv shows 4

TV Show Thursdays on Reviews and Cake

Welcome to TV Show Thursdays, where I discuss TV Shows, review episodes and give my commentary on anything TV Show related!




Happy Endings is one of the most underrated shows I’ve ever come across. No one I know has ever heard of it, let alone watched it, so it’s one of those I’m-the-only-person-in-my-fandom situations. I started watching it without realizing there were only three seasons and was completely dumbstruck when it suddenly ended. Still, there are three seasons, and they’re worth watching, so I’m giving it a shout out here.

What it’s about

You know how every TV show featuring an ensemble cast of friends gets compared to Friends? And how there are so many of them? Well, there’s a reason: a lot of times they fail, but when they work, they work (see: HIMYM). Happy Endings is one such show. It starts off with Alex and Dave at the altar, ready to get married. Only things don’t go according to plan, because Alex runs out on him, jeopardizing not only her relationship with Dave, but the entire dynamic of their clique. (Isn’t clique such a nineties word? I’ll keep it in here just because of that. And because I can’t think of another one at the moment, but psht.)
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Could You Be A Better Chosen One Than Simon Snow?

November 3, 2015 books, reviews 2


Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

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The Amazing Post Is Not On Fire

October 9, 2015 books, fun, reviews 10


Hello reader,

In this book is a world. A world created by two awkward guys who share their lives on the internet!

We are Dan and Phil and we invite you on a journey inside our minds! From the stories of our actual births, to exploring Phil’s teenage diary and all the reasons why Dan’s a fail.

Learn how to draw the perfect cat whiskers, get advice on what to do in an awkward situation and discover which of our dining chairs represents you emotionally. With everything from what we text each other, to the time we met One Direction and what really happened in Vegas…

I remember exactly how I discovered Dan and Phil. It was a day like any other on YouTube, and I was watching one of Hank Green’s Sims videos. A lot of people in the comments mentioned these Dan and Phil guys and their owl slide. I had absolutely no clue what they were talking about, but for some reason I was probably procrastinating, I decided to check it out. Fast forward to 5 a.m. and I had watched the entirety of Sims 4 with Dan and Phil. There were about 12 episodes at the time. Despite my lurking on Hank’s gaming channel, I don’t usually watch gaming videos, but these were hilarious. I found out Dan and Phil have YouTube channels other than their gaming account, so I took a look at those as well, but it was more of a cursory glance, and videos like the photo booth challenge don’t really make me stick around.

A couple of months later, I randomly took another look okay fine, I was probably procrastinating again, and that was that. I watched videos like Existential Crisis, I Talk to Myself, Fandoms, and I Mumble, and had one of those OH MY GOD FINALLY SOMEONE UNDERSTANDS ME I’M NOT THE ONLY PERSON WHO DOES THIS moments. I know, I know, you’re never the only person who does this, but sometimes you need some equally weird person on the internet to remind you of that. Dan was that person, which is my excuse for spending an entire day doing nothing but watching his videos.

If you’ve read this far, you might be asking yourself okay, Vlora, but why the eff did you write all of this without even having gotten to the review part of this post yet? and you’d have a good point. I realize not everyone is as obsessed with YouTube as I am, leave alone these two tight trouser aficionados in particular, but I need you to understand something: I really wanted this book to be good. I feel fairly neutral about all the YouTube book deals, and the only book by a YouTuber (apart from John Green) I’ve read was Connor Franta’s, which I didn’t particularly like. I read Dan and Phil’s book the day it came out.
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There Are No Heroes Here

September 23, 2015 books, reviews 6


A masterful tale of ambition, jealousy, desire, and superpowers.

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates–brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find–aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge–but who will be left alive at the end?

Superpowers? Villains? Old college roomies with a vendetta? I was sold the first time I read the blurb. Add to that the gorgeous cover, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this book. I’ve had more than enough time to reflect since I’ve read it now, so let’s dive straight in.
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Rich Worlds and Great Sequels: The Immortal Crown

August 30, 2015 books, reviews 6



Gameboard of the Gods introduced religious investigator Justin March and Mae Koskinen, the beautiful supersoldier assigned to protect him. Together they have been charged with investigating reports of the supernatural and the return of the gods, both inside the Republic of United North America and out. With this highly classified knowledge comes a shocking revelation: Not only are the gods vying for human control, but the elect—special humans marked by the divine—are turning against one another in bloody fashion.

Their mission takes a new twist when they are assigned to a diplomatic delegation headed by Lucian Darling, Justin’s old friend and rival, going into Arcadia, the RUNA’s dangerous neighboring country. Here, in a society where women are commodities and religion is intertwined with government, Justin discovers powerful forces at work, even as he struggles to come to terms with his own reluctantly acquired deity.

Meanwhile, Mae—grudgingly posing as Justin’s concubine—has a secret mission of her own: finding the illegitimate niece her family smuggled away years ago. But with Justin and Mae resisting the resurgence of the gods in Arcadia, a reporter’s connection with someone close to Justin back home threatens to expose their mission—and with it the divine forces the government is determined to keep secret. (Goodreads)


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Faith: Suits Mid-Season Finale Review

August 28, 2015 reviews, tv shows 2

Let’s talk about Suits. I thought I reviewed this show before, but it must have been on another blog in another time (either that or I didn’t tag it right, but who could be bothered to search), because I didn’t find it in my reviews section.

This gif has no relation other than that it’s from the show, but I’m finding it hilarious.



I love the show as a whole – the characters, the cinematography and set design and the plot are all on point – but I just watched the mid-season finale of Season 5 (what is it with these stupid mid-season finales?? I don’t want to wait until January!), so that’s what I’ll mostly be talking about.

SPOILERS UP UNTIL SEASON 5 EPISODE 10 FROM HERE ON ONWARDS
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Starships Are Meant to Fly (So It Sucks When They Come Crashing Down)

June 24, 2015 books, reviews 14

These Broken Stars cover on Reviews and Cake

Luxury spaceliner Icarus suddenly plummets from hyperspace into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive — alone. Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a cynical war hero. Both journey across the eerie deserted terrain for help. Everything changes when they uncover the truth.

Okay, confession time: I know everyone loves this cover – and I like it too – BUT it does look slightly cheesy. I don’t remember why I bought this book initially, but despite the good ratings I expected it to be a lot soppier than it was. There IS a lot of romance, but it develops slowly and there’s bickering and banter, and it’s basically perfect. That’s not all though! I wanted sci-fi, and I was not disappointed. I don’t think the book is very heavy on technical explanations and – due to the fact that most of the book is set on an abandoned planet – there isn’t TONS of worldbuilding, but the stuff there was I liked. I do think that people who aren’t really into sci-fi would enjoy it too.
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This Book Will Make You Smile

May 29, 2015 books, reviews 14

Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda cover by Becky Albertalli

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

Contemporary books are always a little hit or miss for me. There’s no magic, there are no ancient castles, fiery dragons, nor even some good old throne usurpation by an evil uncle who has to be defeated. It’s all quite dreadful really. EXCEPT. Except there are some books that hit home precisely because they’re set in our world. With contemporary books, it’s all about the characters for me. If I love the characters, I love the book. And Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda had some GREAT characters.
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We All Looked Up

May 15, 2015 books, reviews 12

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach on Reviews and Cake


We All Looked Up is overdramatic and beautiful and frustrating and poignant. It’s about growing up and finding yourself and your purpose in life. It’s also about the apocalypse, but let’s not get caught up in little things like that.

Before the asteroid we let ourselves be defined by labels:
The athlete, the outcast, the slacker, the overachiever.

But then we all looked up and everything changed.

They said it would be here in two months. That gave us two months to leave our labels behind. Two months to become something bigger than what we’d been, something that would last even after the end.

Two months to really live

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Modern Family

May 14, 2015 recs, reviews, tv shows 6

TV Show Thursdays on Reviews and Cake

Welcome to TV Show Thursdays, where I discuss TV Shows, review episodes and give my commentary on anything TV Show related!


Yesterday was the worst day. Why am I whining about it on the internet? Because I can. But also because I want to tell you a little something about Modern Family. When I don’t feel good, a new episode of Modern Family will almost certainly cheer me up. On a sucky day, it’s one of my go-to comfort sources. And so it was yesterday.

Modern_Family-Logo.svg


So why is it such a feel good show? Mostly, it’s because you know that (with maybe one exception) at the end of the episode everything’s going to be alright, and everyone’s going to love each other. That’s true for a lot of shows like this though. What makes Modern Family stand out is that it’s also clever. It’s not just flat humor and stupid jokes (even though you could probably make an argument for that too), it’s satire and social commentary and loveable characters. The show doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that’s why it’s seriously fun.

Another thing that sets it apart is the style. It’s hard to explain the brilliance of it if you’ve never seen it, but it’s a “mockumentary”, which means it’s filmed in the style of a documentary, but completely fictional. This means you get the characters’ commentary on their own actions, but it’s so seamlessly a part of the show that it never throws me out. I probably didn’t even notice it was unusual the first time I watched the show.

Like with most shows, you probably need a couple of episodes to really get into it, but once you do the characters grow on you like no one’s business. You see the kids grow up, the family grow together and the characters growing into better versions of themselves. If you’re in the mood for something lighthearted and fun, then you should definitely give Modern Family a try – you won’t regret it!

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Do You Wanna Play a Game?

May 5, 2015 books, reviews 9

Ready Player One book cover on Reviews and Cake


Imagine the WORLD AT STAKE.

An EPIC STRUGGLE between good and evil.

The GREATEST QUEST in history.

The FATE OF HUMANITY resting in your hands.

ARE YOU READY?



Ready Player One REALLY wasn’t what I expected. I was under the impression it’s a scifi adventure kind of story, but to me it felt more like a bleak dystopia for 3/4 of the book. I loved all of the 80s references (even though I probably only got about 3% of them), and the premise is awesome, but it took some time before the book grew on me. One of my main problems was the long, LONG passages of nothing but exposition. The world did need some explaining, but I felt like 50% of the book were expository text. In the book, what we as the readers read is actually supposed to be written by Wade, the protagonist, so I didn’t understand why he felt the need to explain things that are completely common in his time and age, like how the OASIS (a mix of the internet and a massive multiplayer online game) works. I mean obviously we need the information, but the way it was delivered didn’t necessarily make sense to me.
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Why Bambi Is Actually A Horror Movie

May 4, 2015 discussion, fun, movies, reviews 15

Remember Bambi? Bunnies hopping, birds singing, deer frolicking,… or that’s what you think. I watched Bambi with my roommate last week, and we spent about 20 minutes curled up in little trauma balls afterwards. Since my way of processing things is to write about them, you get to find out EXACTLY why.



Rape, death, annoying little children… this movie has it all. Let’s make a list! Do I need to warn for spoilers for Bambi? Consider yourself warned. Where was I? Right, list.
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How to Lead a Life of Crime (One Shocking Plot Twist At a Time)

April 12, 2015 books, reviews 6

How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller book


A meth dealer. A prostitute. A serial killer.

Anywhere else, they’d be vermin. At the Mandel Academy, they’re called prodigies. The most exclusive school in New York City has been training young criminals for over a century. Only the most ruthless students are allowed to graduate. The rest disappear.



This books is EXCELLENT. I can’t fathom why I never heard about it before I read Cait’s con artist post. I’m not usually a crime reader, but, despite its title, this isn’t exactly a traditional crime novel and I love a good con as much as the next person. I can only assume it didn’t have a high marketing budget, because once you’ve read it you’re going to talk about it. So let’s do that!
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Agent Carter

March 26, 2015 reviews, tv shows 9

TV Show Thursdays on Reviews and Cake

Welcome to TV Show Thursdays, where I discuss TV Shows, recap episodes and give my commentary on anything TV Show related!


I’ve known about Agent Carter for a while now, but sometimes I prefer to watch shows when all the episodes have aired, so I can watch without having to wait a week (or months, in case of mid-season breaks). The show centers around the life and secret missions of Peggy Carter, who first appeared as Steve Rogers’s love interest in Captain America: The First Avenger, and is based on the Agent Carter one shot that was produced a while ago. It’s absolutely not necessary to have seen any of the Marvel movies to watch this show, but I think the connection to the Marvel Cinematic Universe definitely helps to enjoy the show.

Agent Peggy Carter Poster
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