The Vegetarian

Thoughts tvbyhk by Han King, Hogarth 2015 (orig 2007), 188 pages

Translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith

Winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2015

Challenge:  Prize Winners?  Translated Works?
Genre: Asian Lit
Type/Source: Hardback / Gift from Ruthiella – THANKS!
 Why I read this now: A book in hand will get read.

MOTIVATION for READING: Ruthiella was kind enough to send it to me. I ran out of books on the boat (well, I have two, I think, on my Kindle yet?)

WHAT’s it ABOUT: A young woman, Yeong-hye, is assaulted by horrific dreams (and is also married to a cad.) She decides to forego eating meat because of these dreams and this upsets pretty much EVERYONE. Told from three perspectives — the cad of a husband, her sister’s husband and her sister — and not Yeong-hye, though we do see bits of her dreams.

In the words of The Guardian:

“Dark dreams, simmering tensions, chilling violence . . .  This South Korean novel is a feast . . . It is sensual, provocative, and violent, ripe with potent images, startling colors, and disturbing questions. . . Sentence by sentence, The Vegetarian is an extraordinary experience. . . [It] will be hard to beat.”

WHAT’s GOOD: Oh, it is deliciously disturbing. The writing IS lyrical, the images are startling, the mood is darkly apprehensive.

As LINDA says in the blurbs at the beginning of my copy of the book:

“[A] bloodcurdlingly beautiful, sinister book.”

FINAL THOUGHTS: A perfect book for RIP if you don’t get to it before this fall.

RATING: Four slices of pie. No pastries mentioned but I think every fruit available in Korea might make an appearance. Lots of food descriptions.

fourpie

 

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Copyright © 2007-2016. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Everything She Forgot

Thoughts esfbylb by Lisa Ballantyne, Wm Morrow Imprint of HarperCollinsPubs 2015, 415 of pages

Genre: Thriller
Type/Source: eBook /  Amazon for Kindle
 Why I read this now:  One of the few books on my Kindle.

MOTIVATION for READING: I don’t recall anymore where I heard about this but I think this was a recommendation by a friend in my Mass Book Club.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: A teacher is involved in a fiery crash due to winter weather on an interstate. Though relatively free from physical injury, our MC suffers some PTSD and memories from her childhood start bubbling up — she is confused and stressed by her not remembering things. The man who pulled her from the car just in time is in a coma and she is a bit obsessed with visiting him.

Alternately, the story switches to the past when a young girl is kidnapped. Going back and forth in this past time frame is ‘adventure’ of the kidnapper and the girl against the journalist who figures out who has her and where they are going and attempts a ‘rescue’.

WHAT’s GOOD: The pacing is fine, I guess. The setting would be appealing to those who have visited Scotland and England, I suppose.

SPOILERs AHEAD?!?!?!?!??!?!

What’s NOT so good: The plot reveal is not rushed but neither is it particularly suspenseful. It’s not too hard to figure out that our MC has suppressed her memories of being kidnapped as a child (doh – it’s the title!) nor is it a big leap to find out that the man who rescues her in the now time is/was the kidnapper (who happens to be her ‘real’ father or — as a friend of mine would say — her ‘bio-dad’.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: I found the book predictable but worse, I found it violent. I did NOT like the journalist and we aren’t supposed to but he was a person I found revolting on every level. And yet, he wasn’t the evil character we were supposed to dislike (like in a King novel). I just didn’t like the story, it wasn’t for me. I know good friends who liked this book very much so I really don’t want to turn anyone away from it as a bad book – it could be a perfectly fine thriller set in the UK. I just didn’t like it.

You know, like how some people LOVE coconut and other don’t like coconut? It’s not that coconut is BAD…

I did finish it and maybe that is another reason I didn’t enjoy – I felt I had to know and kept reading but I really didn’t WANT to keep reading knowing that I didn’t like it. But I had to know if I guessed right. I did.

PIE:  Strawberry tarts, steak and kidney pie, and the ol’ rhyme about Georgie:

Georgie Porgie puddin’ and pie, kiss the girls and made them cry,

When the boys came out to play, Georgie Porgie ran away.”

 

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Copyright © 2007-2016. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

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Unaccustomed Earth

Thoughts uebyjl by Jhump Lahiri, Random House Vintage Contemporaries 2009 (orig 2008), 333 pages

MOTIVATION for READING:  I have had this copy in my house far too long. I was needing, craving a short story experience. Only fitting it be a collection by such a skilled writer.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  Again, I am “Bad, bad Care” because I do not have my copy in my hands for reference. This is particularly tricky when reviewing a collection. I gave this book to my friend in Rhode Island. I am in North Carolina. I could wait but I just want to get this list of review posts DONE already! Nobody reads these anyway, amirite? No, I know that is silly, you are reading this right now, aren’t you? Thank you. Smile and shake your head in disbelief. Lahiri deserves better treatment, I realize.

WHAT’s GOOD: Lahiri amazes me. Some of these stories don’t really even have a plot. Or maybe just not a lot of action. She gets people. She gets in their head and gets right to their core. She is insightful; she finds pain and gently extracts it,unfolds it, examines it. She knows the universal feelings felt by all and yet captures the cultural differences within every day lives against the sameness of emotions. She shines in exploring humanity’s weaknesses against the concept of best selves. OK, I’ll shut up now.

Most impactful story/ies: The young girl who reflects on the older boy and how their families knew each other. The older boy, now in college, reflecting on his relationship with his father. Then, much later, the girl and boy meet up in the most unlikely of places and circumstances.

FINAL THOUGHTS:  I never really looked at the cover but it all comes together in the last story. And it just leaves an aching hole in your soul.

Only two (or is it three?) of the stories are linked, but I could be wrong. All the stories do not connect around same characters but they all have a thread of melancholy.

RATING: fourpie of apple pie.

“Today, Paola had mentioned, an American novelist was coming, someone homesick for Thanksgiving and bringing an apple pie.”

 

 

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Copyright © 2007-2016. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

The Nest

Thoughts tnbycda by Cynthia D’Aprx Sweeney, ecco An Imprint of HarperCollins 2016, 353 pages

Challenge: to keep up with newly published books
Genre: Dysfunctional Family Lit
Type/Source: Hardcover, Library 14-day Loan
 Why I read this now: not sure

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  The father of four kids sets up a fund that will only be accessible when the youngest turns 40. Typically, all the siblings are eagerly awaiting and counting on this cash to bail them out of questionable financial circumstances.

Unfortunately (oh how true IS that word here!), the horrible mother decides to access the money to bail out the oldest child who commits a royal screw-up. So the next three kids are hoping/demanding that their big brother fix it.

WHAT’s GOOD: It’s quite readable and paced well and has many interesting asides and commentary on New York, marriage, solitude, babies, the literary and art worlds… There are characters to like, be charmed by and not quite trust. I love a horrible mother so I enjoyed the matriarch. I was impressed I didn’t get all the characters confused.

What’s NOT so good:  A few characters were only foils of perfection to contrast the neurotics of the main characters but this is a minor quibble.

FINAL THOUGHTS:  Here’s what I wrote in goodreads: Overall, a good solid book of the type I like to read, whatever that is. It helped that I was given a few big blocks of time to read when I thought I had to do something else. Yay for plans that change in my favor! Will this be Rooster worthy? I kind of doubt this will make the shortlist… But I could be wrong.

RATING:  Four slices of pie. No mention of pie noted.

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Copyright © 2007-2016. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

A Spool of Blue Thread

Thoughts asobtbyat by Anne Tyler, Alfred A. Knopf 2015, 357 pages

Challenge: Tournament of Books 2016 Short List
Genre: Literary Fiction
Type/Source: Hardback / Library
 Why I read this now: Both for one of my book clubs and attempt to read all the Rooster TOB Short List

FIRST Sentence:  Late one July evening in 1994, Red and Abby Whitshank had a phone call from their son Denny.

What’s it ABOUT: This is not very plot heavy so let’s see I how do here. This book is about a family with a father and a mother and their four kids; eventually there’s grandkids. One son, Denny, is the black sheep, but it’s not about him, really. I could possibly say it is about Abby. It’s an odd novel that I surely failed to appreciate for its strengths. Another character is the house the family lived it. Red had lived there most of his life; his father built it. We get some of that generation’s story, too. I can’t even pick out a favorite character. But Red’s mom is something else.

I wish I could find something exciting to add. Perhaps I have you curious? Perhaps you adore Anne Tyler and don’t really care what I think about it? That’s my hope. You can tell she is a very comfortable author with her craft.

WHAT’s GOOD: There is nothing wrong, per se. I found it rather boring. It did have a few good chuckles — observations about family, relationships and expectations.

What’s NOT so good: Me, I suppose. I cannot pinpoint what failed to capture my attention, why I didn’t fall for this more. I usually like character-driven family drama style books, don’t I?

If you’ve read this book and think you might have a sense of what kind of book I like, do you find it funny that I didn’t enjoy this more? I do. I actually think this would be the kind of book I would write if I ever find a story burning in my brain begging to be told.

FINAL Thoughts: I’m glad to have read it and I am most curious about what the judges will say in the TOB. I have this inkling that I will be able to agree with those that loved it but also identify with any faults found by those who didn’t like it.

I hope we have a wonderful discussion at book club! I usually do come away from our meetings with new appreciations. This is my most dedicated and focused club – we have a little bell to ring when the conversation strays away from the book which means that everyone usually has something to share beyond, “Yep, I liked it.”

PIE Mentions:

“What’s for dessert?” Tommy asked his mother.
Stem said, “SSh. Grandma’s on the phone.”
“Blueberry pie,” Nora said.
“Goody!”

RATING: Three slices of blueberry pie.

 

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Copyright © 2007-2016. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

H is for Hawk

Thoughts hifhbyhm H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, Random House Audio 2014, 11 hours 6 minutes

I’m already declaring this a TOP READ/LISTEN for 2015!

Anonymous Interviewer aka AI: Care, how did you come to read this?

Care: I saw a tweet announcing it as an Audible special for $2.99. Since, I knew I had only a few hours left of my current audiobook and lots of days left in the month to await my next credit, I jumped.

AI: Did you know anything about it? Had you read any good reviews?

Care: Excellent question because no, I didn’t really know much about it but yes, I do think I had read positive things? I DID know that the title fits the What’s in a Name Challenge for the animal category, so it has that going for it.

AI: I thought you were going to read Elegance of the Hedgehog for WiaN8.

Care: So did I, but it just kept getting passed over by my mood to read something else. I do hope to read Hedgehog someday but maybe not anytime soon, I guess.

AI: So what’s the Hawk book about?

Care: H is for Hawk is a fascinating overlapping memoir — and more! It is part nature book, falconry how-to book, grief exploration book and part biography of TH White, the author of The Once and Future King.

AI: So this is memoir?

Care: Yes, nonfiction. (I admit, I didn’t know this until after I started listening to the book.)

AI: Tell us about the author.

Care: Sure, and I first must say if I haven’t already, that the author does an EXCELLENT job narrating her own book.

AI: Is this unusual?

Care: What, that authors narrate their own books or that they actually do this successfully?

AI: Yea, that.

Care: I think Neil Gaiman is one author that does a great job and I have found that entertainers such as comedians always seem to do a very good job narrating their own books, but I can’t say that Donna Tartt pulled off a successful narration. (I did manage to listen all the way to the end of the 16 hour plus audio of The Secret History! YAY ME.)

Care: May I interrupt to give a NEVERWHERE READALONG SHOUT OUT? Nancy is doing a readalong if anyone has ever wanted to read this – I highly recommend the audiobook. My review is here.

AI: Do you have a button to share or maybe a hashtag for Twitter?

Care: As a matter of fact, I do know the hashtag #NeverwhereRAL, but I don’t know about a button. And if you click on the words a few sentences ago about the readalong shout out, you’ll open a window at Nancy’s blog…

AI: OK, tell us more about Helen Macdonald.

Care: Ms. Macdonald, a British naturalist writer, is a college professor who has also been interested in falconry since a very young age. There is also a terrific photo of Mabel on her blog (which may or may not be active; it looks like the events might be for 2014, a year done passed.)

AI: Um, Mabel? Who is Mabel?

Care: Mabel is her goshawk! Macdonald says in her book that if you give a goshawk a mild meek-sounding name, they usually turn out to be terrific hunters! (and vice versa.) Here’s a photo of another goshawk that I found on the internet:

goshawk <– Sindbad the Goshawk, photo credit to The International Falconry Forum

AI: To be totally honest, this book sounds not only boring but slightly depressing, even with a lovely named bird like Mabel.

Care: And you would be wrong. This book is delightful. It has ALL the feelings. Sure, it is about how she went through the stages of grief after losing her father but it also has many funny almost comic moments – also, angry and frightening. Her writing is beautiful, provocative. She is known as a naturalist writer for good reason. She is just an excellent writer! She is smart, she is tender, she is strong, she is brave and she shares every bit of it with eloquence.

And you learn about so much stuff that you didn’t even know you wanted to know about. THAT is a great book.Helen Macdonald

AI: Care to share a quote or two?

Care:

“And I found there were myriad definitions of this thing called tragedy that had wormed its way through the history of literature; and the simplest of all was this: that it is the story of a figure who, through some moral flaw or personal failing, falls through force of circumstance to his doom.”

AI: I have nothing else to ask, maybe your readers will have more questions. This concludes this audiobook review presentation interrogation. Thank you.

Care: Thank YOU.

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Misery Roundup and Playlist #MiseryRAL

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Do tell: share your favorite of this readalong! Was it finding King in the button above, the songs (which song?), the NEW words (oogy!!) or __?___. I enjoyed making new friends. Was this your first Kingalong? Will you be looking forward to more? King is great on his own; but in my opinion, his books are just better with friends.

Let me know here or tweet at me if you have a review link for me to add:

Coffee & a Book CHICK

Heather’s Book Addiction

Ti at Book Chatter

Laurie at Bay State Advisory

Jenni Elyse

Lisa Lit and Life

Trish at Love Laughter Insanity

The Friday Friends

Katie (not in) MA

Kristin at my little heart melodies

Michelle What She Said

Maree Life the Universe and Cats

SONGS:

Paramore: Misery Business

Daylight Misery – Silence 2013

Elliot Smity Miss Misery

Extrema – My Misery

The Maine – Misery

Ruby Gloom (Misery) – What’s the Big Deal?

Maroon 5 – Misery

Soul Asylum – Misery

Three Days Grace – Misery Loves My Company

Pink & Steven Tyler Misery

Peter Gabriel Sledgehammer (and I had no idea about the ax!!)

Fifth Harmony – Sledgehammer

Thanks everyone! I had a great time being your host. Put Salem’s Lot on the calendar for October! Should our hashtag be #SalemsLotRAL ?

Halestorm – I Miss the Misery

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Copyright © 2007-2015. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Ms. American Pie

Thoughts IMG_2799 Buttery Good Pie Recipes and Bold Tales From the American Gothic House by Beth Howard, Race Point Publishing 2014, 207 pages

[I was given this book by the publisher. I was going to buy it anyway and I knew I was going to LOVE it; I am a big fan of the author. I recommend her first book, a memoir. About grief and how pie heals. Click here to read my review of Making Piece, 2013]

Ms. Howard is no-nonsense. She doesn’t believe in tiptoe-ing around any delicate or fussy  ideas of the RIGHT way to make a pie.” JUST DO IT” is more her motto and her cookbook reflects this. So if you are intimidated by pie making but want or need some of that tough love to just jump into a bowl of flour and (quickly, gently) work in that butter, THIS is the cookbook for you.

AND she is nice about it, she can put one at ease. It just doesn’t matter how the pie might look! Pie is NOT fussy, pie doesn’t have to be pretty-pretty. Pies (almost) always taste fabulous. Ms. Howard gives all the right pointers to ensure you have fun while putting that pie together and tells you not to worry, it will all be fine.

Early in this book, we get Howard’s PIE-OLOGY which lists many lofty, true and good things about pie, finally stating, “Pie makes people happy and happy people make the world a better place.” She also busts most of myths surrounding pie lore. She answers a ton of often asked questions and offers plenty of how-to photos.

Pie is good.

So far, I have made the Apple (Pies to Heal, p. 45 for Memorial Day with using the Hand Pie technique described on p. 190) – I even made the caramel sauce. YUM! photo 4

I made the Cherry (another Pie to Heal, p. 50) IMG_3021 with the Gluten Free Pie Crust (p. 33) and it was fabulous! The Strawberry Rhubarb (p. 83) I made for Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Day (June 9) was absolutely perfect. I took the Shaker Lemon (Pie Recipes of the Pitchfork Pie Stand, p. 90) IMG_3123 to the boat crowd and everyone loved it. (I am embarrassed to admit that I’m somewhat proud of my edges on these two – you all know I’ve been making pies a long time and I give talk about how I should try to make the perfect crimp but then I think it wouldn’t look like a Care-Pie…)

My friend made the Spaghetti Pie on p.180 and RAVED about how awesome it was.

I have many many more to try.  pierating1
Rating: Five slices of pie.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED PIE BOOK!

loveCare

 

 

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The Death of Bees

Thoughts tdobbylo The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell, Harper Collins 2013, 320 pages. eBook

For my IRL Book Club.

FIRST Sentence: Izzy called me Marnie after her mother.

What’s it ABOUT: Before we read the sentence above, we are introduced to Marnie when she tells us it is Christmas Eve, that it is her 15th birthday and she just buried her parents in the backyard. So we know she must be a scrappy kid and now an orphan. We go on to hear her side of the story as well as her younger sister and also a bit – quite a bit – from the neighbor, Lenny, who takes the risk to care for the girls. It is not a pretty story – one of poverty and crime, drugs and “family gone wrong”, with menacing predators all around. There is hope but it is risky to reach for, or so Marnie believes.

What’s GOOD: Marnie is smart but does not have any examples of how being smart might save her. What she knows about life is to survive it but not how to escape and create something better. She is angry and has zero trust in adults unless they provide access to money. If she didn’t have her odd, musically-talented little sister to care for, she would likely be sunk. Nelly, the sister, craves love and is willing to take chances on those opportunities. I really liked Nelly. Marnie was a lot tougher and was angry with herself when she doubted and sensed her own fear.

“In the end I go to the garden and tell Izzy, she could never keep a secret before, but given her situation she’s great at keeping secrets. So is Gene, but then again always was.”

The tension is remarkable. Being cold in Scotland at the time, the parents have been buried in shallow graves — the dog next door is extremely curious what is under those flower bushes. Certainly has some funny moments but one knows it can’t end well.

What’s NOT so good: It is not a book of butterflies and daisies.

It is always a risky move to make the people you want to cheer for be characters with ugly behaviors but the author somehow succeeds in this. She provides a subtle hope that ‘bad’ people can rise above their poor decisions and change for the good. Some do, some do not, some we may never know. This book has few sentimental waverings, nor is it harshly cynical. This isn’t a criticism so my heading for this paragraph is misleading. I suspect the grittiness is what drove my friend to decide to not finish it. I spent some time trying to figure out what it was the HL found so objectionable and I think it was too dark. I’m thinking that she can’t abide child abuse and the situations like what Marnie and Nelly have to endure. And that’s OK: it aint pretty – just sayin’.

The LitLovers site for this book (the cover links to it) has Discussion Questions which I considered* answering for this post. Let’s discuss the title. The death of honeybees becomes a question and concern for Nelly but her sister Marnie can’t answer it and finally tells her the blunt sad truth that “no one knows!” and to SHUT UP about it. Nelly hates when she can’t get an answer for her questions; Marnie prefers to forget and endure. But Nelly knows this is one more example that the world just doesn’t care. I think the author is telling us that we/people/governments/whoever-is-in-charge don’t have a clue what to do nor how to deal with poverty. Shouldn’t someone figure this out? We are not doing a good job of helping our children.

FINAL thoughts: I liked the telling of this story. It is brutal and unique.

RATING:  Better than a three-slicer and not outstanding enough to be a five. That leaves me with four slices of pie.

Other REVIEWS: Judith at Leeswamme’s Blog has an excellent description of plot, the Literary Feline agrees that “It is dark and at times gritty”, AND  is very good (She also provides excellent plot), Caribousmom can’t quite recommend it and says it is “just too dark and left me feeling disheartened rather than hopeful.” Farmlane Books calls it a strange book, that it provoked strong reactions and she “Recommend(s) to book clubs who’d like an animated discussion!

I think this might be our best book club book discussion yet this year, based on the reviews I have read.  I heartily recommend you click the links above if you are interested in this story.

 

“Birds keep chirping and music keeps playing. Life continues as another life ebbs away.

We have seen death before, Marnie and I, a mountain of ice melting over time, drops of water freezing at your core reminding you every day of that which has vanished, but the despair we know today is a sadness sailing sorrow through every bone and knuckle.”

 

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* And then I remembered that this blog is supposed to be FUN.

 

 

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Mary Reilly

Thoughts     Mary Reilly  by Valerie Martin, Thorndike LARGE PRINT 1990, 314 pages

FIRST SENTENCE:  It wasn’t the first time I’d been shut up in the closet, if closet isn’t too grand a word for the little cupboard under the stairs.

MOTIVATION:  I had selected this last year for RIP but hadn’t gotten to it. This year, I didn’t officially sign up for Readers Imbibing Peril — I believe the number this year is VI = 6, yes? — but have found myself reading two books in a row that would qualify nicely!

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  This story is from the viewpoint of a housemaid in service to Dr. Jekyll, eminent philanthropist and scientist in nineteenth century London. I have no idea what year exactly, but I have to assume pre-automobile. To anyone who knows the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, than I have told you all you need to know. If, however, you don’t know much about Jekyll & Hyde; well, that’s OK, too. You’ll figure it out.  I myself, didn’t know much; I have never read the original The Strange Case of __ by Robert Louis Stevenson nor seen any movies.

I liked it. A lot. Pacing was perfect, Mary was perfect, the fear factor low. I really don’t enjoy scary books and this wasn’t exactly scary, but it was tense in a good way.

RATING:  Four slices of pie. Strawberry Pie, since strawberries were mentioned as the good doctor’s favorite. But it would have to be a two-crust cooked strawberry pie not one of those pretty glazed ones – Oh YES, with Rhubarb!  Strawberry Rhubarb Pie; to give it a sweet – tart balance such as the personality/ies embodied by said ‘good’ doctor.

I really want to see the movie now. Oddly enough, I was more than half way through when I started envisioning John Malkovich playing our Dr. Jekyll and even Julia Roberts effectively became Mary and yet not to the detriment of how it all played out.  Like I said; ODD. Very odd. I don’t think reviews were kind. Anyone seen it?

Also, the end of this book has an afterword that I most appreciated. Afterwords are good. It speculated on Mary’s use of language; very helpful.

Other REVIEWS:  See Fyrefly’s Awesome book blogger search.

 

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