A WIZARD OF EARTHSEA BY URSULA K. LE GUIN (BOOK REVIEW AND DRESSING THE PART)

In this post, I'll share my review for A Wizard of Earthsea, a novel by Ursula K. Le Guin. As is becoming a traditional on my blog, today we'll dig into reading and dressing styles, fashion and art. I'll try to match my outfit with my reading recommendation.  I'll show you how I would dress if I worked in a school for wizards! 

Afterall,  I do work in a school and these two outfits are something I actually wore to work. However, why am I mentioning wizards? Well, as the title implies -this novel is about a wizard. It's set in a wizard school specifically. Moreover, A Wizard of Earthsea actually predates the Harry Potter series. While we're on the subject, Ursula K. Le Guin wasn't really happy about the fact that she wasn't given her due when it comes to establishing a tradition of a wizard school. However, I'm running ahead of myself here. Let me say a few words about the author. 


Ursula K. Le Guin was an acclaimed (aka legendary) writer of science fiction and fantasy. I would say she's definitely the most influential American writer of her generation.  Honestly, I'm thrilled to finally review this novel. I read it in 2017, but  I wasn't able to post my full review here sooner.  Previously, I posted just a reading recommendation and a synopsis of a review. Today it's time for my full (aka long) book review. As some of my blog readers might know, I'm a fan of Ursula K. Le Guin's writing. So, you know I have something to say about this classic!

“Only in silence the word, only in dark the light, only in dying life: bright the hawk's flight on the empty sky.”


OTHER WORKS BY URSULA K. LE GUIN WORTH CHECKING OUT

READ MORE URSULA K. LE GUIN'S BOOK REVIEWS ON MY BLOG AND FIND YOUR NEXT PERFECT READ: 

1. THE WORD FOR WORLD IS A FOREST  (A NOVELLA)

This novella is an absolute masterpiece! Poetically written, profoundly serious and wonderfully imaginative, The Word for World is a Forest is an exceptional book. The story Le Guin created is a incredibly tragic and sad one, but it rings absolutely true in its sadness and tragedy. Wisdom is something I have come to expect in Ursula K.Le Guin's writing but this novella seems to be especially abundant in it. Wisdom is a big word, yet I cannot use another, for Le Guin's writing truly strikes me as wise. This novella ( or a short novel, depending how you classify it) is a work of great complexity that can be studied on many levels and that raises many interesting questions, from psychological, social, political to linguistic ones. The Word for World is a Forest captures the harsh realities of any war or military conquest and stresses that it is often (if not always) the innocents that suffer and die.

2. THE TELLING (A NOVEL)

The Telling in the novel's title is actually a philosophy (or a religion if you will) based n Taoism. I loved Le Guin's take on Taoist inspired religion/philosophy know as 'The Telling' in the novel. It seems to me that Le Guin is well acquainted with Taoism and Buddhism, so well acquainted she is able to summon some of the complexity of Asian theologies, myths and philosophy in this novel, something I imagine is not easy to do. Sutty's sincere devotion to discovering and saving the forbidden semi-religion known as The Telling is very convincing, but Sutty as a protagonist sometimes falls short.

3. THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS (A NOVEL)

The Left Hand of Darkness is a brilliant novel set on a planet whose culture is quite different from our own. It questions gender identity in the most brilliant of ways. This is a novel way ahead of its time. One of the best novels I have ever read for sure!

4. THE DISPOSSESSED (A NOVEL)

What kind of novel is The Dispossessed?   It is an Utopian (at times Dystopian) philosophical science fiction novel with a developed plot, charismatic protagonist and detailed world building. Focusing on social and philosophical themes, The Dispossessed is written in a non-chronological way. 




“Light is a power. A great power, by which we exist, but which exists beyond our needs, in itself. Sunlight and starlight are time, and time is light. In the sunlight, in the days and years, life is. In a dark place life may call upon the light, naming it. But usually when you see a wizard name or call upon some thing, some object to appear, that is not the same, he calls upon no power greater than himself, and what appears is an illusion only. To summon a thing that is not there at all, to call it by speaking its true name, that is a great mastery, not lightly used. Not for mere hunger’s sake. Yarrow, your little dragon has stolen a cake.”


Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea


SUSTAINABLE FASHION FILES- 3 GREEN OUTFITS FOR WORN FOR WORK
TRYING TO BE CREATIVE WITH A BLACK AND WHITE SEMI-FORMAL WORK DRESSING CODE

THREE OUTFITS: ONE TIE

THE BLACK TIE AND THE VEST- BORROWED (FROM MY HUSBAND'S WEDDING SUIT)
THE FLARED SKIRT - gifted to me (so basically second hand) by a friend, see how I styled it HERE 
THE PENCIL CUT BLACK TROUSERS- designed and made by a local seamstress, a part of a suit.
THE LONG SLEEVED BASIC WHITE SHIRT- UNITED COLOURS OF BENETTON (second hand)

Now, that we talked the fashion talk, let's get back to reviewing  A Wizard of Earthsea.

What did author say about war?


“War as a moral metaphor is limited, limiting, and dangerous. By reducing the choices of action to “a war against” whatever-it-is, you divide the world into Me or Us (good) and Them or It (bad) and reduce the ethical complexity and moral richness of our life to Yes/No, On/Off. This is puerile, misleading, and degrading. In stories, it evades any solution but violence and offers the reader mere infantile reassurance. All too often the heroes of such fantasies behave exactly as the villains do, acting with mindless violence, but the hero is on the “right” side and therefore will win. Right makes might.”
 Ursula K. Le Guin

A WIZARD OF EARTHSEA BY URSULA K. LE GUIN 5/5


WHAT KIND OF NOVEL IS A WIZARD OF EARTHSEA?

Today considered a classic of both fantasy and children's literature, A Wizard of Earthsea could also be describes as a young adult and 'coming of age' novel. First published in 1969, it is a story of a boy who gets invited to attend a magic school, accepts the invitation, fights his own demons and learns a lot about himself in the process. 

Does it sound familiar? Well, you have to remember that it was written and published decades before Harry Potter, so if anyone took the plot idea from anyone, it was certainly not Ursula.

 In fact, all those writers who wrote about magic schools after this book was published, were probably taking inspiration from Ursula L. Guin. It could be said that Ursula Le Guin is one of the first to develop this concept of  magic school in her writing.


“And he would watch the snow falling, thin and ceaseless, on the empty lands below the window, and feel the dull cold grow within him, till it seemed no feeling was left to him except a kind of weariness.” 

Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea

HOW DID I LIKE THIS NOVEL?

I absolutely loved it. I gave it 5 out of 5. I think it's simply a perfect novel. From an engaging plot, simple but poetical writing, wonderful world-building, and finally to a masterful character development, it really is an impressive piece of writing.  If you want to find out why I loved it so much, scroll down.




MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH READING THIS NOVEL:

This novel is so great that I read it despite the fact that I had high fever at the time. If for nothing else, A Wizard of Earthsea would deserve five stars for making me feel good when I was quite ill. 

When I started reading it, I thought to myself- what a shame I didn’t read it as kid!

“In that moment Ged understood the singing of the bird, and the language of the water falling in the basin of the fountain, and the shape of the clouds, and the beginning and end of the wind that stirred the leaves; it seemed to him that he himself was a word spoken by the sunlight.”


 By the time I finished it, I realized that it was never too late to enjoy a story that is as complex as this one. It is never too late to enjoy a good book, no matter what category it might fall in. 

I was fortunate to have read many wonderful books when I was a kid, and I feel equally fortunate for having been able to enjoy this wonderful book. 

“As a boy, Ogion like all boys had thought it would be a very pleasant game to take by art-magic whatever shape one liked, man or beast, tree or cloud, and so to play at a thousand beings. But as a wizard he had learned the price of the game, which is the peril of losing one's self, playing away the truth. The longer a man stays in a form not his own, the greater this peril. Every prentice-sorcerer learns the tale of the wizard Bordger of Way, who delighted in taking bear's shape, and did so more and more often until the bear grew in him and the man died away, and he became a bear, and killed his own little son in the forests, and was hunted down and slain. And no one knows how many of the dolphins that leap in the waters of the Inmost Sea were men once, wise men, who forgot their wisdom and their name in the joy of the restless sea.”


WHY I BELIEVE THAT BOOKS ARE MAGIC? 

Moreover, I’m happy I read it at that specific moment in time- not only because it helped me get over a difficult morning, but because I can genuinely say that I feel that it taught me an important lesson. A lesson I needed. 

You know sometimes it seems to me that books arrive to us just when we need them the most. It might be why I truly believe that books are magic!



THIS NOVEL TEACHES AN IMPORTANT LESSON

I do really feel that we can learn from this novel. A Wizard of Earthsea was originally seen as a great book for children, but today it is a popular reading for adults as well. 

The reviews and the critique for this novel have been mostly positive and I do believe it is for a reason.  

More that anything, this novel teaches us how to fight those inner battles, those that really build us and those that matter the most.

This is a novel that shows a genuine building of a character and thus shows us that a character is something that needs to be build.

We all have things we don’t like about ourselves and that we’re afraid to tackle, but suppressing those issues, not dealing with our fears/demons/whatnot only backfires in the end.  

The way this book goes about delivering that important lesson is (like most story-telling) metaphorical but it is brilliant nonetheless. 

“Go to bed; tired is stupid.”


Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea



THE BEGINNING OF THE STORY
HOW DOES IT ALL START?

A young boy nicknamed Sparrowhawk learns a few magic tricks from his aunt, ends up saving his village from an invasion and earns a chance to study magic with a known mag who gives him his true name- Ged. 

“You want to work spells,' Ogion said presently, striding along. 'You've drawn too much water from that well. Wait. Manhood is patience. Mastery is nine times patience. What is that herb by the path?'
'Strawflower.'
'And that?'
'I don't know.'
'Fourfoil, they call it.' Ogion had halted, the coppershod foot of his staff near the little weed, so Ged looked closely at the plant, and plucked a dry seedpod from it, and finally asked, since Ogion said nothing more, 'What is its use, Master?'
'None I know of.'
Ged kept the seedpod a while as they went on, then tossed it away.
'When you know the fourfoil in all its seasons root and leaf and flower, by sight and scent and seed, then you may learn its true name, knowing its being: which is more than its use. What, after all, is the use of you? or of myself? Is Gont Mountain useful, or the Open Sea?' Ogion went on a half mile or so, and said at last, 'To hear, one must be silent.”


Impatient to learn more, Ged forsakes his master to study at a magic school (I already mentioned how some say that a magic school is a concept pioneered by Ursula- as far as fantasy genre goes anyway) and magic school is where Ged’s adventures really start. 

As a typical adolescent Ged makes some grave mistakes, and to make things worse his talent for magic makes them quite serious ones- the kind that can have consequences not only for himself but for others as well.


“You have great power inborn in you, and you used that power wrongly, to work a spell over which you had no control, not knowing how that spell affects the balance of light and dark, life and death, good and evil. And you were moved to do this by pride and by hate. Is it any wonder the result was ruin? You summoned a spirit from the dead, but with it came one of the Powers of unlife. Uncalled it came from a place where there are no names. Evil, it wills to work evil through you. The power you had to call it gives it power over you: you are connected. It is the shadow of your arrogance, the shadow of your ignorance, the shadow you cast. Has a shadow a name?”


THE CONCEPT OF POWER AND ITS TIE TO THE MORAL OF THIS STORY

 This novel examines the concept of power- not only what power means but how it should be used? 

Right from the start, I sensed there is a deeper (more psychological) message at the bottom of this story.  There really is!

To put it clearly, I don’t think this is a book only for kids and young adults. 

It can certainly be enjoyable to them, but there is enough complexity in it to please an adult reader. It might seem a typical young magician ‘coming of 
age’ story, but I was left with an impression that there is more depth to it.

“From that time forth he believed that the wise man is one who never sets himself apart from other living things, whether they have speech or not, and in later years he strove long to learn what can be learned, in silence, from the eyes of animals, the flight of birds, the great slow gestures of trees.”

Rereading these lines and quotations,  I don’t think my impression is wrong. 


 One of the things I truly love about this novel is the way it questions power. What is power? Should we strive for it? Could we gain power? Could we harvest it? If yes, should we use it? Can we avoid it? If we are to use power, how should go about it? 



As one expect, Ged learns a great deal as he grows up. By the end of the book, Ged is a changed person, his growth is not only physical but also spiritual. 

“Ged stood sick and haggard. He said at last, “Better I had died.” “Who are you to judge that, you for whom Nemmerle gave his life?—You are safe here. You will live here, and go on with your training. They tell me you were clever. Go on and do your work. Do it well. It is all you can do.”


     IT IS A RATHER SHORT NOVEL, BUT THAT DOESN'T MAKE   IT ANY LESS PROFOUND


It is a rather short novel, but one in which no word is obsolete. 

A Wizard of Earthsea is a well-balanced and plotted story. 

The plot is interesting, the characters are likable and the world building is lovely. 

The narration is written in third person and this fits the story quite well, I would hasten to add. 

The same could be said for the chronological (traditional) sequence of events. Simply marvellous!

“Later, when Ged thought back upon that night, he knew that had none touched him when he lay thus spirit-lost, had none called him back in some way, he might have been lost for good. It was only the dumb instinctive wisdom of the beast who licks his hurt companion to comfort him, and yet in that wisdom Ged saw something akin to his own power, something that went as deep as wizardry. From that time forth he believed that the wise man is one who never sets himself apart from other living things, whether they have speech or not, and in later years he strove long to learn what can be learned, in silence, from the eyes of animals, the flight of birds, the great slow gestures of trees.”




 There are some hints about the future life of the protagonist, so the reader gets a glimpse into the future (and you can assume that the hero won’t die any time soon), but the story-telling is for most past simple and linear. 


Even with those few references to the future, I found myself fully immersed into the present story.

It's a captivating tale! I worried about our protagonist Ged- and about what his actions might unleash upon the world. 

This world that Ursula created seemed quite real to me. 

The way that the author gets you care about the protagonist (Ged) is very clever.


“You thought, as a boy, that a mage is one who can do anything. So I thought, once. So did we all. And the truth is that as a man's real power grows and his knowledge widens, ever the way he can follow grows narrower: until at last he chooses nothing, but does only and wholly what he must do. . . .”


   THE STORY REALLY SHOWS URSULA'S SKILL AS A WRITER

 Ursula doesn’t go into great depth when it comes to revealing the inner life of the protagonist, but still she tells you enough to make you see that inner changes yourself.

 Throughout the novel, it seems that the story-telling is mostly focused on events and in one way that is true and yet in another it is also about character development. 

The novel itself has many layers to it. 

Ursula is skilled enough a writer to tell a story in a seemingly very simple ‘event based ‘narrative, but at the same managing to portray people and the characters involved in those events. 


“To light a candle is to cast a shadow...”

In other words, Ursula seems to be able to create well developed and likable characters without wasting any time on long dialogues or reflections. 

            CHARACTERIZATION DONE WITHOUT THE AID OF LONG DESCRIPTIONS

There are no long descriptions in this novel, neither when it comes to world building or when it comes to characters themselves.

“He knew now, and the knowledge was hard, that his task had never been to undo what he had done, but to finish what he had begun.”

 Characterization is done quite effortlessly. 

You never do get the feeling that you’re in the head of the characters in the sense that you can feel exactly what they’re feeling or be sure of what they’re thinking in any given moment, but their actions do make sense.

 You see them grow as people, you can follow their character development and generally speaking I would say that characterization was done quite well. 

While we are talking about characterization, I might add that this novel is strongly focused on the protagonist. 

“Who knows a man's name, holds that man's life in his keeping. Thus to Ged, who had lost faith in himself, Vetch had given him that gift that only a friend can give, the proof of unshaken, unshakeable trust.”
 Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea

All the other characters we get to know, we get to know through Ged- the protagonist. While it is true that the narration is told from third person point of view, it is definitely focused on Ged. Still, we do get to know other characters as well. The dialogues are mostly well written, so this helps us to learn about other characters.


“A rock is a good thing, too, you know. If the Isles of Earthsea were all made of diamond, we'd lead a hard life here. Enjoy the illusions, lad, and let the rocks be rocks.”



Another thing to take note of is that there is a lack of active/influential female characters. In fact, the only female characters who get more spotlight are rather manipulative. 

There are no girls in magic school, but later on, there is this girl who tries to manipulate Ged for her own (evil) purposes. 

Moreover, there is a love interest of sorts, the protagonists fancies a sweet girl, a sister of his friend- but nothing much happens between them. 

Ged and this likable girl talk a bit on a number of occasions and that's that. So, if you are looking for a novel with a heroine who takes charge of everything, this is not a novel for you.  

If you're looking for a novel with a strong romantic story, well you might as well look elsewhere.

“It is no secret. All power is one in source and end, I think. Years and distances, stars and candles, water and wind and wizardry, the craft in a man's hand and the wisdom in a tree's root: they all arise together. My name, and yours, and the true name of the sun, or a spring of water, or an unborn child, all are syllables of the great word that is very slowly spoken by the shining of the stars. There is no other power. No other name.”

A WIZARD OF EARTHSEA IS A FANTASY MASTERPIECE


There are a lot of wonderful reviews of this novel online, so many that I sometimes wonder what more could I possibly say. 

To keep it as short as possible, it would probably be best to say something along the lines: “A Wizard of Earthsea is a fantasy masterpiece. “ 

I do think it is. I would describe it as an absolutely perfect little book. 

“"For a word to be spoken, there must be silence. Before, and after.”

       THE WORLDBUILDING IS WONDERFUL

Ursula did a fantastic job with the worldbuilding. The Earthsea absolutely feels like a real place. The way the author described magic felt really realistic as well. Often I felt like magic was the metaphor for science, power or knowledge. I felt like Urusula wanted us to consider our own lives when reading this novel.

“But you must not change one thing, one pebble, one grain of sand, until you know what good and evil will follow on that act. The world is in balance, in Equilibrium. A wizard's power of Changing and Summoning can shake the balance of the world. It is dangerous, that power...It must follow knowledge, and serve need.”





WHAT I ENJOYED THE MOST WAS PERHAPS THE FLAWED PROTAGONIST

Interestingly, perhaps the thing that I enjoyed the most about this novel is that it was complex. It wasn’t a typical hero against villain story. 

“Master,” said Ged, “I cannot take your name from you, not being strong enough, and I cannot trick your name from you, not being wise enough. So I am content to stay here, and learn or serve, whatever you will: unless by chance you will answer a question I have.”

“Ask it.”

“What is your name?”

The doorkeeper smiled, and said his name; and Ged, repeating it, entered for the last time into that House.”



Ged, the protagonist, is both the bad and the good guy- at different periods of his life. Aren’t we all? His pride costs Ged dearly, and I liked how it is clear from the start that Ged is the only one who can correct his wrongs doings. 


“Ged had neither lost nor won but, naming the shadow of his death with his own name, had made himself whole: a man: who, knowing his whole true self, cannot be used or possessed by any power other than himself, and whose life therefore is lived for life's sake and never in the service of ruin, or pain, or hatred, or the dark.”

To me this seems like such a refreshing concept and a nice change from ‘victim hero’ syndrome. The message behind Ged’s fall from grace- 'It takes a second to do wrong, but it might take a life time to set things right' had a bitter sweet charm to it. 

“But it is one thing to read about dragons and another to meet them.”

I felt this kind of message was quite realistic. It is not always easy to correct our mistakes. It is not always the case that we can blame someone, some dark force, for everything bad that has happened.

Sometimes we need to confront our mistakes and do everything that is in our power to correct them. Now, when I think of it- that's what we should always be doing!


“On the sea he wished to meet it, if meet it he must. He was not sure why this was, yet he had a terror of meeting the thing again on dry land. Out of the sea there rise storms and monsters, but no evil powers: evil is of earth. And there is no sea, no running of river or spring, in the dark land where once Ged had gone. Death is the dry place.”

 Ged's struggle with his shadow brought Jung/ Freudian references to mind, but it also reminded me of Paradise Lost. 

Honestly, I loved the seriousness of all the messages I came across in this little gem of a book. 

The seriousness of the fact that freedom means responsibility. There is no freedom without responsibility.

“It is very hard for evil to take hold of the unconsenting soul.”
Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea

 We are free because we’re morally responsible for the choices we make (I think Heinlein said something of the sort)- and it seems to me that this freedom is so frightening that most of us prefer to run away from it, finding excuses for our weakness. 

“A grating sound came from the dragon's throat . . . "You offer me safety! You threaten me! With what?"

"With your name, Yevaud.”

 CONCLUSION- I WOULD RECOMMEND THIS NOVEL TO JUST ABOUT EVERYONE

To conclude, I would recommend A Wizard of Earthsea to everyone- not only to fans of fantasy. 

Yes, it has talking dragons and magicians but it also delivers some important psychological (and perhaps even theological) lessons. 

In the end, what it means to be alive? What it means to have power if we don’t have the power over ourselves? If we let our weaknesses eat us inside, we might end up being dead even if we are physically alive.

“Now they came back to him, on this night he was seventeen years old. All the years and places of his brief broken life came within mind's reach and made a whole again. He knew once more, at last, after this long, bitter, waisted time, who he was and where he was. But where he must go in the years to come, that he could not see; and he feared to see it. ”


THANK YOU FOR READING AND VISITING!


Comments

  1. You look like you might be teaching young wizards! I have to wonder if someone read this before she wrote Harry Potter! Such a lovely bookcover. Thanks so much for your amazing review on this classic. Looks like a great summer read for those wizards to be!

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  2. Adoring your teacher style! Perfect for this review. It does look like a very insightful book. Lovely post!

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  3. Es un genial libro. Gracias por la reseña. Te mando un beso.

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  4. Ivana, I have to admit that I don't know anyone nor have I ever read anyone who has better reviews than you! In the world! Fantastic as always!
    And the suit you're wearing fits you perfectly, invented with a review of a book like this. A magical review, magical pictures for a magical book :)

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  5. You look great, thanks for your sharing

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  6. You look absolutely fabulous, I love your workwear, so stylish! xxx

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  7. I admire how much work you put into writing this post! I haven't heard of this book before and I will look for it in my native language. Your styling is very elegant, I like your tie :-)

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  8. Wow, I love the black and white looks with a tie on you.

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  9. I totally love that outfit and how amazing the tie looks. Super :-D

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  10. Boa tarde e um excelente domingo. Bom início de semana. Seus looks são maravilhosos e lindos.

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  11. I have been meaning A Wizard of Earthsea for such a long time! It's one of those books I just never seem to get to! You've spurred me on to find a copy and give it a go! I don't mind books without female protagonists and main characters, I don't know why so many people make a fuss about that- I am perfectly happy if all the main characters are male- after all, it's fiction!
    I LOVE your outfit. It's so smart and the ladytie is beautiful! Looks so pretty and would be perfect for a wizarding school!x

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  12. Your outfit is just like a wizard teacher, I love it! Thanks for revealing that Harry Potter isn't the pioneer in wizarding school stories after all, I didn't know that! From what you tell us in this review I can make the comparison between that book and The Little Prince! A book that was initially aimed at a young audience and went on to become a masterpiece of literature! I was very curious about this book, even though I don't like the style, but as it's a metaphorical book it could be quite interesting! I also think that books are magical!

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  13. The outfit is perfect for a wizard school ...super stylish and chic :-)
    Rampdiary

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  14. So cool is it that you work at a school, are you a teacher?
    I loved both of your looks, very elegant for a day at work :)

    https://www.heyimwiththeband.com.br/

    ReplyDelete

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