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Review – Take Me Home For Christmas – Brenda Novak

Take Me Home for ChristmasTake Me Home For Christmas
Author: Brenda Novak
Series: #5 in the Whiskey Creek series

Review Copy Provided by Author

Description:
Too bad all memories aren’t pleasant. Everyone in Whiskey Creek remembers Sophia DeBussi as the town’s Mean Girl. Especially Ted Dixon, whose love she once scorned.

But Sophia has paid the price for her youthful transgressions. The man she did marry was rich and powerful but abusive. So when he goes missing, she secretly hopes he’ll never come back—until she learns that he died running from an FBI probe of his investment firm. Not only has he left Sophia penniless, he’s left her to face all the townspeople he cheated….

Sophia is reduced to looking for any kind of work to pay the bills and support her daughter. With no other options, she becomes housekeeper for none other than Ted, now a successful suspense writer. He can’t bring himself to turn his back on her, not at Christmas, but he refuses to get emotionally involved. He learned his lesson the last time.

Or will the season of love and forgiveness give them both another chance at happiness?

Review:
So I don’t know if i’m the only blogger out there that does a happy dance when popular/well-known authors ask me to review their books, but I was totally doing that when the email from Ms Novak showed up a few weeks ago (yes, i’m a dork and I admit it!). But I will admit to being kind of concerned that this was book 5 in a series that I hadn’t read yet – although the author assumed me it could be read as a stand-alone (which I both agree and disagree with – but more of that later). Anyways, after I read the description and also the novella that kicked the series off (you can see that review on the blog also), I decided to take a chance on the book.

My initial thoughts with the opening of the book was that it reminded me of the Ashley Judd movie, Double Jeopardy – where the husband disappears and no one knows what happens – what is planned/foul play etc. But more so, the story focused on the after effects…how the “golden boy” of the town deceived everyone and how, as is human nature, people want to find someone to blame, even if the person is innocent. I really felt bad for Sophia for about 70% of the book. Although, it was nice seeing her change and become stronger through-out.

I will admit that i had issues with Ted though – I thought that he came across as an arrogant jerk for a good part of the book (and now that i’ve read previous ones in the series, that belief has solidified a bit more). I really wanted Sophia to bitch-slap him a few times (what can I say…lol). He did get better – but you could still see that there was quite a bit of baggage between them. I don’t know if, ultimately, I fully believed their HEA – it seemed more of a HFN (happy for now) – but i’ll be interested to check up on them in future books.

As to my comment about being read as a stand-alone or not – it is book 5 in the series and while Ms Novak does a good job of filling in the back-story (and I didn’t feel really lost during the reading), now that I’ve gone back and read the previous four books, this would have been a much more richer experience. Having gotten to know all of the characters – many of whom were only really cameo’s in this book, came to life in previous ones.

Overall, I gave Take Me Home for Christmas 3.5 stars, but I have gone back and read previous books in the series. Personally, I would recommend people read the other books (or at the very least book 1) before this one, just to get more of a feel of Whiskey Falls – you find out so much more about the town and the people.

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – The Inquisitor’s Key – Jefferson Bass

the inquisitor's keyThe Inquisitor’s Key
Author: Jefferson Bass
Series: #7 in the Body Farm series

Review Copy Provided by Authors via Sisterhood of the Traveling Book on Goodreads

Description:
Miranda Lovelady, Dr. Bill Brockton’s protégée, is spending the summer helping excavate a newly-discovered chamber beneath the spectacular Palace of the Popes in Avignon, France. There she discovers a stone chest inscribed with a stunning claim: inside lie the bones of none other than Jesus of Nazareth.

Faced with a case of unimaginable proportions, Miranda summons Brockton for help proving or refuting the claim. Both scientists are skeptical–after all, fake relics abounded during the Middle Ages–but evidence for authenticity looks strong initially, and soon grows stronger.

Brockton and Miranda link the bones to the haunting image on the Shroud of Turin, revered by millions as the burial cloth of Christ, and then a laboratory test finds the bones to be two thousand years old. The finding triggers a deadly tug-of-war between the anthropologists, the Vatican, and a deadly zealot who hopes to use the bones to bring about the Second Coming–and trigger the end of time.

Review:
I’ve been making my way through this series during the course of the year, mostly because I saw that book 7 was going to be one of the traveling books in Sisterhood. And I really enjoyed the vast majority of the previous ones, but I don’t know if it was the religious mystery in this one or what seemed to be the changing relationship between Bill and his mentee, Miranda, but I just wasn’t excited to finish reading this one. In fact, at one stage, I actually put it aside for a few days because I couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm to read it.

I’m not saying the writing style was bad, it just wasn’t working for me at the time. But I’m still interested in seeing where the series goes in the future. In fact, I’m reading the newest release by the writing duo right now, although its a prequel to the rest of the series. The Inquisitor’s Key (or The Bones of Avignon as it was released in the US) had the typically Bass writing style – its actually really hard to tell (unless you know prior to) that it is actually a writing duo. There is something that just flows smoothly – I honestly have no idea where one starts and the other ends. I also liked how while there is a significant amount of science-y type stuff in the storyline, it never really seems to get too deep/confusing or too geeky.

Overall, I gave The Inquisitor’s Key, 3.5 stars but I know I will be continuing the series in the future.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – Heart Like Mine – Amy Hatvany

heart like mineHeart Like Mine
Author: Amy Hatvany

Review Copy Provided By The Author Via Sisterhood of the Traveling Book

Description:
Thirty-six-year-old Grace McAllister never longed for children. But when she meets Victor Hansen, a handsome, charismatic divorced restaurateur who is father to Max and Ava, Grace decides that, for the right man, she could learn to be an excellent part-time stepmom. After all, the kids live with their mother, Kelli. How hard could it be?

At thirteen, Ava Hansen is mature beyond her years. Since her parents’ divorce, she has been the one taking care of her emotionally unstable mother and her little brother—she pays the bills, does the laundry, and never complains because she loves her mama more than anyone. And while her father’s new girlfriend is nice enough, Ava still holds out hope that her parents will get back together and that they’ll be a family again.

But only days after Victor and Grace get engaged, Kelli dies suddenly under mysterious circumstances—and soon, Grace and Ava discover there was much more to Kelli’s life than either ever knew.

Review:
I don’t know if its because this is the third book I’ve read by this author in a short period of time, or something else, but I didn’t enjoy this one as much as previous books. Maybe it was because I didn’t like how the story was approached, or just didn’t really connect with the main character…Don’t get me wrong – the writing itself was good and the story intriguing, it just didn’t work for me.

Like her previous books, in Heart Like Mine, Amy Havanty tackles a topic that shows up in social media, the desire to be childless. In fact, just this week, I realized that the most recent issue of TIME published in the US (although, not the other versions around the world) were discussing this issue (specifically, does that make people selfish, but that is a whole ‘nother story). But what happens when that desire is turned completely on its head when your significant others (in this instance, her fiancee’s) ex-wife dies and their kids end up living with you. Would you stay in the relationship? Would you decide that you can’t do it, no matter how much you love your SO? These are all questions that were faced by Grace during the course of the book.

While I think Amy did a good job exploring Kelli’s life (her fiancee’s ex-wife) prior to her death, I also felt that it was overdone. I wanted to know more about Grace and her decisions – which were key to the main storyline. Yes, it was mentioned through-out the book, but being told from her current POV, rather than the flash-back style that was used for Kelli’s story. I think that might have added to it – maybe duel chapters with both of their POV’s or something – maybe that was my biggest issue…

Overall, I’d give Heart Like Mine 3 stars – it was well-written and moving, it just didn’t quite work for me.

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Classics Review – Dracula – Bram Stoker

draculaDracula
Author:
Bram Stoker

Narrators: Alan Cumming, Tim Curry, Simon Vance, Katherine Kellgren, Susan Duerden, John Lee, Graeme Malcolm, Steven Crossley
Run Time: 15 hrs and 28 minutes
Producer: Audible, Inc

Description:
The first and most terrifying of all vampire stories.

Jonathan Harker has a job to do. The young lawyer must go to the mysterious country of Transylvania to work for a man he knows as “the Count.” At first, Jonathan is excited by the chance to travel and meet new people. But after his arrival in Transylvania, he begins to wonder what’s going on. People act strangely upon hearing he is going to visit the Count. When Jonathan arrives at the Count’s dark, deserted castle, he too begins to feel afraid. Soon after meeting his host, Jonathan begins to feel trapped in a horrifying nightmare. Only this nightmare is real and he can’t wake up.

Why Dracula?
Nowadays you can’t enter a bookstore without running into a vampire novel of some shape/size/description. From books like The Historian (literary fiction), to the Paranormal Romances of Christine Feehan, Kresley Cole and Kerrelyn Sparks. Each author brings their unique perspective to answer the question what is a vampire. So it seemed like a good idea to go back to the beginning (or at least almost the beginning). And so, here I am…lol!

Review:
So I went into Dracula pretty much blind – I knew the basic premise (I mean who doesn’t) and the fact that it was told in an epistolary type format (which, BTW, i love that word!) Other than a vague recollection of character names, I didn’t know anything else. I will admit that I was expecting more of a horror novel than what I got. It turned out to be rather…academic (for lack of a better word) in the telling of the story. There was some emotion at times, but ultimately, it was very stark. But that isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it…in fact there was something almost addicting about the story – whether it was the writing or the narration of the audiobook, i’m not quite sure. I do know that friends of mine have had issues getting going with it – but I was pretty much sucked in from the beginning.

I can also see why Dracula won the best audiobook category for Multi-Voiced Performance this year. While it wasn’t the one in the category that I picked, it was in my top 3. i really like the cast of narrations – with some of my favorites like Simon Vance who was the voice of Jonathan Harker and Katherine Kellgren, to more well-known movie stars, like Tim Curry. Each voice was unique (because they were pretty much done all by different people). the quality of the audiobook was great – I know that I will be checking out more books produced by Audible in the future. Overall, 3.5 stars, but rounding up to 4.

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2013 in Book Review, Classics Challenge

 

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Review – Lost and Found – Amy Shojai

???????????????????????????????????????Lost and Found
Author: Amy Shojai

Review Copy Provided by Author

Description:
AN AUNT searches for her lost nephew—and dooms her sister.
A MOM gambles a miracle will cure—and not kill—her child.
A DOG finds his true purpose—when he disobeys.

Animal behaviorist September Day has lost everything—husband murdered, career in ruins, confidence shot—and flees to Texas to recover. She’s forced out of hibernation when her nephew Steven and his autism service dog Shadow disappear in a freak blizzard. When her sister trusts a maverick researcher’s promise to help Steven, September has 24 hours to rescue them from a devastating medical experiment impacting millions of children, a deadly secret others will kill to protect. As September races the clock, the body count swells. Shadow does his good-dog duty but can’t protect his boy. Finally September and Shadow forge a stormy partnership to rescue the missing and stop the nightmare cure. But can they also find the lost parts of themselves?

Review:
I have to admit that at first I was skeptical about how much I was going to enjoy the book – because I felt upon reading the jacket copy that too much of the plot had been disclosed (don’t worry, I was partially wrong). And the first few chapters were a bit rough, for lack of a better word – it took me a little while to get into the feel of her writing which is very stark (for lack of a better word) as well as the one POV being from Shadow, the German Shepherd puppy (who I loved as a character BTW – reminds me very much of my big goofy baby). To say that the plot resembled a roller-coaster would be correct – it was a continual up and down through the entire thing – the last author I read who did such an on the go type plot was James Rollins (although Matt Reilly is a close second). The medical mystery plot was intriguing, but it wasn’t like it was new to me – maybe because I read a book not long ago that had a similar theme, but I guess it is hard at times to come up with something truly unique.

I think the one thing that I didn’t like was that throughout the entire book, the author alluded to something that had happened with the main characters husband/dog, but never really came out and said specifically what it is. That drove me nuts – I wanted to know – maybe we’ll find out in another book who knows. Also, the names of the main character and her sister just seemed a bit cheesy to me – named after the month they were born in and then their last name just happens to be Day…lol! There was also a bit of a twist at the end that I didn’t see coming that I felt just overdid the whole thing – it wasn’t needed (at least in my honest opinion) – it almost ruined the tension that was in the book for me…

Either way, I enjoyed the read, I would probably give it 3.5 stars overall, but would recommend it for people who like mysterys/suspense/thrillers, especially with a medical twist, and those who like books with animals).

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – Sanctum – Sarah Fine

sanctumSanctum
Author: Sarah Fine
Series: #1 in the Guards of the Shadowlands series

Description:
“My plan: Get into the city. Get Nadia. Find a way out. Simple.”

A week ago, seventeen-year-old Lela Santos’s best friend, Nadia, killed herself. Today, thanks to a farewell ritual gone awry, Lela is standing in paradise, looking upon a vast gated city in the distance—hell. No one willingly walks through the Suicide Gates, into a place smothered in darkness and infested with depraved creatures. But Lela isn’t just anyone—she’s determined to save her best friend’s soul, even if it means sacrificing her eternal afterlife.

Review:
Its times like this, that I am thankful for recommendations from friends on Goodreads – because I can say for certain that I would never have found this book, let alone read it, without their recommendation. I am still conflicted over my final star-rating, but it has the potential to be one of my first 5-star reads for the year (and yes, I know its already 3 months into the year…) At first I was skeptical how the theme of youth suicide would be handled, especially when mixed with a fantasy type world – but I felt that the author managed to walk the fine line pretty well. It wasn’t until I looked at her biography and realized that she was a child psychologist that I realized why she did it so well – it (youth suicide) is obviously a topic that she is passionate about and has done research about/likely worked with children who have been affected by it.

It did raise a lot of thought-provoking ideas – most religions, if not all, have a form of heaven – but how many of them address whether people who commit suicide end up there – are they buried on un-consecrated ground (like the Catholic church) or what happened? And is there anyway for them to move from where they end up to heaven for real. I know that I had never really considered any of it until reading Sanctum – which to me is a sign of a great book.

However, about 2/3 of the way through, it did start to hit a bit on the teenage angst that was fustrating – I think the book would have automatically been a 5 star without that, and from how it ended, I have to admit that I am a bit concerned about where book 2 in the series is going to go…hopefully it will stay clear of the total teen angst/love triangle that seems to be so prevalent in a vast majority of YA books recently…Right now, I think I am going to give it 4.5, but rounding down to 4 on the Goodreads scale.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – Tapestry of Fortunes – Elizabeth Berg

tapestry of fortunesTapestry of Fortunes
Author: Elizabeth Berg

Review Copy Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss

Description:
Cecilia Ross is looking for a change. She has decided to take time off from her job as a successful motivational speaker and sell her home. She moves in to a beautiful old house in St. Paul, Minnesota, complete with a big front porch, a wild garden, a chef’s kitchen-and three roommates. The four women are different ages, but all are feeling restless, and want to take a roadtrip to find again the people and things they miss. One woman wants to connect with a daughter she gave away at birth; another wants to visit her long-absent ex-husband; a third woman, a professional chef, is seeking new inspiration from the restaurants along the way. And Cecilia is looking for Dennis Halsinger, the man she never got over, who recently sent her a postcard out of the blue.

Review:
I have to admit that I am a sucker for pretty covers, and this one was eye-catching to me, the butterfly, the teacup and the flowers – I kind of wondering how (if at all), those elements were going to play into the story. And while they could have been symbolisitc, I think that in general, it was just supposed to be a pretty cover, that women would buy and hopefully talk about. That being said, I also enjoyed the story. It kind of reminded me of Kristin Hannah, but slightly less dramatic – it had some shades of Firefly Lane in it, but focusing more on the future, rather than the past/present.

I like Cecilia as a character in the beginning, although by the end, she was starting to get a bit annoying – I think she felt realer (is that a word) at the beginning when there was the emotional overload, and towards the end it was like, you saw the her that she had projected to people over the years, and I didn’t like her…I guess that is just the price you pay for private and public personas…

The road trip was the favorite part of the book for me – mostly because I am a sucker for road trip stories – and love going on them – finding the out of the way places around the country. Those little diner’s that are unique in their settings (yes, I love Guy Fieri’s Diners, Dive’s and Drive-thru’s…). One day I would love to just be able to jump in my car and travel like that…overall, i would give Tapestry of Fortunes, 3.5 stars, but rounding up to 4. I am curious to read some other books by the author, since some friends who also read this, said that they didn’t enjoy it as much…so i’m intrigued.

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – A Mango-shaped Space – Wendy Mass

mango-shaped spaceA Mango-Shaped Space
Author: Wendy Mass

Description:
Mia Winchell appears to be a typical kid, but she’s keeping a big secret—sounds, numbers, and words have color for her. No one knows, and Mia wants to keep it that way. But when trouble at school finally forces Mia to reveal her secret, she must learn to accept herself and embrace her ability, called synesthesia, a mingling of the senses.

Review:
It was funny, when I was talking to my friend Naomi about the book I was currently reading (this one), she made the comment back that I find the weirdest/interesting books to read and how did I do it (of course, there was various other friendly banter in the convo, but that was the gist of it). And I came to realize that is true – so many of my book recommendations come from lists off goodreads and they are ones I never would have picked up before. Case in point, I found A Mango-Shaped Space on a thread called, the best books you never would have read except for this challenge – talking about the Seasonal Reading Challenge, I have done for nearly two years now (and it was the first time I have looked at that thread).

The thing I loved the most about this book was the pure simplicity of it – while so many YA books now a days are so complicated with family issues; or world building – Mia’s life was about as close to perfect as you can get, except for the fact that she sees colors in everything around her – not in the way that most of us see colors (trees are green etc), but rather that words have colors – her name and those around her; numbers; dates in history. I vaguely remember learning about synethesia when i was taking psychology in college, but haven’t read/heard much about it since then – so I was intrigued. You could tell that the author had really done her research and managed to balance telling about the disease through the characterizations; but also just letting the story play out.

I have to admit that I did see the ending coming relatively early on, but then, since it was a YA book that doesn’t surprise me – they normally are fairly telling if you can pick up on the clues. I would probably recommend that parents preview the end before letting their kids read because of one thing that happens (death is a theme through-out and something that parents should be aware of because all kids react differently). I’ll definately be looking for more books by the author in the future. 4 stars overall.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Audiobook Review – Maisie Dobbs – Jacqueline Winspear

maisie dobbsMaisie Dobbs
Author: Jacqueline Winspear
Series: #1 in the Maisie Dobbs series

Narrator: Rita Barrington
Run Time: 10 hrs
Producer: AudioGO

Description:
Maisie Dobbs isn’t just any young housemaid. Through her own natural intelligence–and the patronage of her benevolent employers–she works her way into college at Cambridge. When World War I breaks out, Maisie goes to the front as a nurse. It is there that she learns that coincidences are meaningful and the truth elusive. After the War, Maisie sets up on her own as a private investigator. But her very first assignment, seemingly an ordinary infidelity case, soon reveals a much deeper, darker web of secrets, which will force Maisie to revisit the horrors of the Great War and the love she left behind.

Review:
I had heard about this series through several of my online reading buddies who loved it – so when it was selected as a group read, I figured that it must have been a sign (since I didn’t really have any interest in either of the other books selected). I was looking forward to a lite mystery after reading a lot of dark, completely jacked up Nordic Noir mysteries and this was a great palate cleanser.

I loved the character of Maisie – she just seemed so unique in the current fiction world as it stands right now. And the time period is one of interest to me since there aren’t a lot of books written in the time period between WW1 and WW2 (that I have found). The mystery wasn’t so much of a mystery as a plot leading to a realization – or at least, that is how i saw it – while I didn’t know all the details that were revealed at the end, I had a 95% idea of what the result was going to be. But I honestly didn’t mind – for me, the best part of the book was seeing how Maisie Dobbs became Maisie Dobbs. The biggest surprise for me in the story was what happened to the love of her life during the war (but don’t worry, I try to keep my reviews spoiler free – so as not to ruin the book). It wasn’t what I was expecting and totally made me tear up.

However, one of my complaints was that while I liked that flashbacks were used – they were a bit chunky – I think the first flashback actually lasted a significant portion of the book – so when it jumped back to the present day I was a bit surprised/confused. I think it either would have been better to have broken the flash-backs up into some smaller portions – almost like an appetizer, rather than a whole entree – or write the first part of the book as her history up until when the mystery began. I think the former probably would have worked the best.

Unfortunately, my experience with the audiobook didn’t live up to the book itself and if I had had time, I might have stopped listening and read instead. I know that I nearly considered doing that with the rest of the series – because someone told me that the other books are narrated by someone else. I just did not enjoy the narrators voice. While I found that her female voices were passable – her male ones were like torture – I think I would have preferred a recitation rather than hearing her try to do male voices. It just didn’t work for me – which is unfortunately, because I think if done properly, this could have been a great audiobook (and the second one – review to follow in the future), was much improved. This is the first time that I have listened to anything by this narrator and it likely will be the last. I don’t think that I can fairly judge her on any other narrations after my feelings towards this one.

Overall, I’d give the book a solid 4 stars, but the narration only 1.5 – however, I do think that the book overall balanced out the mess of the narration – so 3.5 overall.

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2012 in Audiobook Review

 

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Review – The Obituarist – Patrick O’Duffy

the obituaristThe Obituarist
Author: Patrick O’Duffy

Book Description:
What happens to your Facebook account when you die?

Kendall Barber calls himself an obituarist – a social media undertaker who settles accounts for the dead. If you need your loved one’s Twitter account closed down or one last blog post to be made, he’ll take care of it, while also making sure that identity thieves can’t access forgotten personal data. It’s his way of making amends for his past, a path that has seen him return to the seedy city of Port Virtue after years in exile.

Review:
This is definately a book that I normally would not have picked up. However, I found the authors blog while I was looking at trackbacks on another article I was reading and was intrigued. In this day and age of social media, what is going to happen to our accounts when we die. When I write my will, do I need to provide account information for them to have access, or is it given. Even in something as simple as a divorce, and a dual account – who gets to keep the access and the “friends” and who has to start from scratch. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the next few years.

So started reading the Obituarist while I was waiting at the medical facility on Friday, since apparently technology had decided it didn’t want to work and it make the 60 minute wait fly-by (even if I did keep getting distracted with people wanting to chat). It is relatively short (Amazon clocks it in at 91 pages), but enjoyable. There were some plot points that I wish had been move developed, and a few places where I was left scratching my head thinking WTF. But I am intrigued enough to want to check out more by the author in the future. 3 stars overall.

Purchase from Amazon here: The Obituarist

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2012 in Book Review

 

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