Friday, September 23, 2016

Review: The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland

The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Remarkable stories of the people of Gander, Newfoundland who cared for the thousands of stranded passengers from grounded 9/11 planes. Rudimentary, repetitive and unremarkable writing.

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Monday, September 19, 2016

Review: The Gilded Hour

The Gilded Hour The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An atmospheric, romantic, late 19th century novel weaving family, immigration, advances in modern medicine, women's health and serial killer into one extended story.
Loved the relationship between Anna and Jack. Loved the descriptions of Lower Manhattan in the 1880s. But too many story lines created a disjointed narrative. Plus there is a major cliffhanger at the end that could have easily been resolved in the defined pages of the book.
Additionally, I thought this was a stand alone novel -- but many of the characters and their history are descendants from characters from the author's Into the Wilderness series. I've read the first one, but not any others in the series and in many parts the author assumed you should know historical information from the previous novels and characters. I was confused most of the time and had to go to the author's website to find a genealogical chart just to figure out where everyone fit it in.
For the two weeks it took me to read this, I wish I had liked it better than 3 stars.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Review: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Just Mercy is nothing short of just brilliant.
A raw look at the lives of wrongly convicted death row inmates, and the lawyer who is fighting for their freedom and lives.
Racism is alive and well in our courts.
White privilege is real.
Witnesses lie. Prosecutors coerce. Judges overrule.
Avoid being arrested in Alabama at all costs.
Surely we as a society can do better than this?
Should be required reading.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Review: Mothering Sunday

Mothering Sunday Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One Sunday.
One tryst.
One tragedy.
One aged writer's flashback.
One odd, quintessential British romance.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Review: Into the Wilderness

Into the Wilderness Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Epic, post-Revolutionary family drama, located in Indian territory and colonists' settlements of upstate New York.
Vivid characters.
Great dialogue.
Beautiful landscape.
Romance, tragedy, hostility, conflict.
Huge plot twist at the end.
Book 1 of a 6 books series.

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Review: Truly Madly Guilty

Truly Madly Guilty Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

2.5 stars
I love her books -- just not this one.
Nothing happened until page 370.
It was like mucking through endless, muddy, anticipatory narrative.
Even the denouement was disappointing and predictable.
Thank goodness I don't host BBQs.



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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Review: The Liars' Club: A Memoir

The Liars' Club: A Memoir The Liars' Club: A Memoir by Mary Karr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A memoir of abuse, neglect, child endangerment, sexual abuse, alcoholism, mental illness - but somehow the author (and her sister) survived.

Adroitly written, but not for the faint of heart. This was a tough one to get through.

*Adult content.



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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Review: I Let You Go

I Let You Go I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A five year old is dead after a speeding car hits the child and does not stop for help -- a fatal hit and run.
Who was at the wheel? Where is the car? Were there any witnesses?

This novel had intrigue, twists and turns, multi-layered storyline - but also a level of abuse that left me very unsettled.

In the end, I didn't like it.



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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Review: Maybe in Another Life

Maybe in Another Life Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How different would your life be if you'd made different choices?
A summer, chick-lit novel that explores such a dilemma.
Told in alternating chapters of, "what if," we get a peek at what Hannah Martin's life might have been, or not, had she gone home with high school boyfriend, Ethan.
Almost a "choose your adventure story" for twentysomethings.
Great dialog and themes.
I'll be generous and give it 4 stars.


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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars
Entertaining, futuristic novel based on 80s geek culture. Interesting cast of misfits who save the "virtual world."
I wasn't much vested in the first 2/3 of the book, but the last 1/3, including the final battle, were highly exciting.
A sweet ending too.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Review: A Tangle of Gold

A Tangle of Gold A Tangle of Gold by Jaclyn Moriarty
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I loved the first two books in this series, and think Jaclyn Moriarty's writing is whimsical and electric. My lack of enthusiasm for this book rests entirely on me -- I simply didn't remember enough from the first two books to make sense of what happened in the final book.
I loved the relationship between Madeleine and Elliott and their multi-dimensional worlds and all the crazy things that happen between them and their friends to bring about a "colorful" ending. But I spent better part of the book totally confused.
So -- 5 stars for creativity and originality - 2 stars for reader inadequacy.


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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Review: Ross Poldark

Ross Poldark Ross Poldark by Winston Graham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Perfectly British; there's something quite mystical about ancient Cornwall. This ended up being quite lovely, the characters much more multifaceted than in the BBC series, and the development of Ross and Demelza is utterly romantic.
Can't wait for book #2 and season #2.

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Review: Make Good Art

Make Good Art Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Meh. I've read better commencement speeches.
Make good art. And repeat.
Graphics made it difficult to read.

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Review: Cutting for Stone

Cutting for Stone Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An epic novel that spans multiple continents and encompasses everything from political coups to the evolution of medicine - but ultimately is about family and brotherhood and the unyielding love that binds us together.
Brilliant.

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Review: Love & Gelato

Love & Gelato Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars
I got engaged on the Ponte Vecchio and married a boy who speaks Italian, so how could I not think it was a cute romance?!
Sweet just like gelato.


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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Review: Pieces of Sky

Pieces of Sky Pieces of Sky by Kaki Warner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the tradition of These Is My Words, author Kaki Warner has created a memorable western romance featuring Englishwoman, Jessica, and rancher, Brady.
I loved the dialogue, I loved the internal family struggle, I loved their relationship -- I even loved the dog. I was shocked how much I loved this -- so much that I devoured it in a day.
My only hiccup -- stereotyping "good white man vs. bad Mexican," and the ending -- gosh why are endings so tough to get right? It just ended flat.
This book sat on my shelf for 5 years. Should have read it sooner.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Review: Eligible: A modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice

Eligible: A modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice Eligible: A modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was laughing by the 3rd page. But the new/retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, while abundant in humor, was almost totally lacking in romance.
When Mr. and Mrs. Bennet (yes, only one T) are the most developed characters (and they were hysterical), and Darcy is all but absent and completely one dimensional, something is askew.
It was entertaining, but I missed the angst, drama and longing that one expects between "Liz & Darcy."


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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Review: Voyager

Voyager Voyager by Diana Gabaldon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jamie and Claire's excellent adventure continues: Claire goes back through the stones and encounters, Jamie, smugglers, brothels, a Chinaman, stolen treasure, a sea voyage, typhus, the Caribbean, witchcraft, an old friend, slaves, a lost nephew, a shipwreck, and near drowning -- and that's only half of it. It was like time traveling nurse meets Indian Jones. Thank goodness the sex is still good at over 40.
Im addicted to Jamie and Claire -- but this was a bit ridiculous.
Not sure if I'm going to continue the series.


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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Review: Jane Steele

Jane Steele Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars
Reader, I loved this until the last third of the book.
A totally unique twist on the story of Bronte's, Jane Eyre, featuring Jane Steele, a murderous orphan/journalist/governess who solves a jewel heist and falls in love.
The writing was imaginary and rich -- to the point that I wish I'd had my own copy instead of a library copy, so I could underline passages.
But the "mystery" involving the Sikh wars and a gaggle of friends/soldiers/mercenaries and a young girl, was way to convoluted for my simple brain to make sense of it.
A totally unique book, but one that ended oddly.


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Monday, April 11, 2016

Review: Dragonfly in Amber

Dragonfly in Amber Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars
Another epic saga following the lives of time-traveler, Claire, and her 18th century Highlander husband, Jamie.
I didn't like this as much as the first one -- I got bogged down in the Parisian politics and royal court antics.
The last 100 pages were the best, as Jamie and Claire must decide how to survive the Battle of Culloden.
I hated the modern postscript that concluded the book, although I'm sure it was necessary in terms of the the continued story-line.
But I'm totally hooked on Jamie and Claire -- and will add Voyager to my reading queue.

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Review: The Madwoman Upstairs

The Madwoman Upstairs The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars
An entertaining literary caper featuring the Brontes, Bronte memoribilia, academia, and a taboo romance.
Clever, witty dialog; weak mystery; an overabundance of metaphors and similies.
Now I need to read the Bronte sisters again.


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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Review: Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Technically I didn't finish - stopped about 30 pages short...I just had NO interest in this book at all. May be some Juv Fiction books are not meant for adults -- or at least this one wasn't for me.
Not sure I've ever gotten so close to the end of a book without completing it...no regrets...don't even care.



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Saturday, March 5, 2016

Review: Antonia Barclay and Her Scottish Claymore: A Rebellious Romantic Comedy

Antonia Barclay and Her Scottish Claymore: A Rebellious Romantic Comedy Antonia Barclay and Her Scottish Claymore: A Rebellious Romantic Comedy by Jane Carter Barrett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars

"God's nightgown!" What a spunky romantic comedy!

Antonia Barclay is a Scottish tom-boy, with a sailor's mouth and the riding skills of a jockey. She's also a princess, but doesn't know that yet. Breck Claymore is the Scottish Highlander, sword craftsman, who seeks her hand in marriage. And the Throckmortons are the nasties who try to circumvent it all.

Author Jane Carter Barrett has created a fast paced historical romance, imbued with 21st century allusions and tendencies. References to haute couture seems just as natural as horses and ancient castles, giving Antonia a sophistication not yet recognized in 16th century Scotland. The author also is an expert in creating biting, yet comical dialogue between characters, especially when Antonia is fending off unwarranted advances from the bumbling Rex Throckmorton, who is more drunk, fraternity boy, than aristocrat. On top of that, the vocabulary is a lexiconic cookie jar that required checking the e-dictionary on more than one occasion.

I did grow weary of Rex and his constant attempt to "pluck" Antonia, which was nothing short of his intent to rape her. And his father, Basil, is not much better. But the soft natured persona of Queen Mary was a nice buffer.

For comic relief and an adoring relationship, this is the perfect modern, historical romance (if such a thing exists!).

Thanks to the publisher for providing a NetGalley copy to me for my review.

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Saturday, February 27, 2016

Review: Interpreter of Maladies

Interpreter of Maladies Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars
Unique collection of short stories highlighting the Indian/American immigrant experience.
Writing was stellar.
But as with most short story collections, I liked some more than others, the last, featuring Mrs. Croft, was the best.
I would certainly read more by this author.

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Review: Book

Book Book by David W. Miles
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A BEAUTIFUL picture book about the power of...books. They do not have a switch, or batteries, or a password, and always work. The illustrations are stunning and whimsical.
A must read for parents with toddlers/preschoolers or anyone (like me!) who loves the power of opening the cover of a book!

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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Review: When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the most beautiful, tragic, inspiring books I've ever read.
Part memoir, part treatise on living and dying, part love letter to his career, wife, daughter, family and friends, part scripture.
How could a man with so much potential and talent be taken at such a young age? Sadness for not only his family and colleagues, but for all those who will not benefit from his immense medical expertise.
A required book for all those who will live and die.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Review: Salt to the Sea

Salt to the Sea Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars

Great characters: Shoe Poet (Heinz), Blind Girl (Ingrid), The Prussian (Florian), The Wandering Boy (Klaus), the Nurse (Joana), among others -- some I felt more attached to than others.
The story was excruciatingly sad -- the exodus of all walks of life from the advancing Russian army to a port where ships held hope for rescue and survival. When in fact, over 9000 would perish, mostly children, on a torpedoed ship.
I had a hard time separating my Hollywood/Titanic movie visions from the Wilhelm Gustloff tragedy: separated love interests floating in freezing water. Lots of frozen, dead passengers. Queue music.
I love WWII-themed novels/books.
Expectations: I expected to LOVE this book. I liked it... a lot...but not love.

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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Review: Beautiful Affliction

Beautiful Affliction Beautiful Affliction by Lene Fogelberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

1 in every 100 babies is born with a congenital heart defect. It's also one of the most deadly - 15% won't live to see their 18th birthday. Lene Fogelberg clearly was on a quest to defy odds.

Ms Fogelberg went undiagnosed for nearly 30 years, she knew something was wrong but doctors wouldn't listen to her, and finally an unexpected employment transfer from Sweden to the United States was what saved her life.

As a mother of a CHD kid, this was an emotional story. Open heart surgery is necessary but scary and risky, even now. Anything can go wrong, and with Ms Fogelberg, it almost did.

Her writing is powerful and compassionate.

My only complaint: her narrative is told in flash back sequences, and they became extremely repetitive -- a constant reflection on how tired, fatigued, she was growing up into adulthood.

Otherwise an excellent survivor story.





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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Review: All the Bright Places

All the Bright Places All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Romeo and Juliette type story meets a suburban Indiana high school and mental illness. An emotional riptide throughout. I enjoyed more than I thought I would. Prepare for bawling and heaving at the end.

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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Review: Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Never Told You Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Achingly good family drama, involving parents, children, racism, infidelity and death. Intense storytelling. Stark writing. Should have ended 12 pages sooner.
Highly recommended...but not a "feel good" story.


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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars

A realistic portrayal of life for a teenager on an Indian reservation, and the many obstacles (family, friends, alcoholism, death, living in a white culture) that freshman, Junior Spirit, must overcome to succeed in life.

I can see why this is a mandatory book for some high schools -- many complex issues to discuss and ponder; it's extremely well written; reminds me of a PG-13 version of A Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but harsher and grittier. I can also see why it's routinely on the "banned book" list -- language, crassness, and innuendo abound.

In terms of a literary piece -- it's probably a 5 star book -- but as far as my "enjoyment" of it, more of a 3.

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Friday, January 22, 2016

Review: First & Then

First & Then First & Then by Emma Mills
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Under achiever, Devon, is trying to find her way (with the help of Jane Austen) during her Senior year of HS -- but a new step-brother, a complicated boy friendship, and a potential love suitor, may make things more complicated than she thought.

Meh.
It was only meh.
Didn't feel any chemistry between the characters.
Thought the storyline was a bit disjointed.
She totally mucked up the football theme.
Way too much language and Fbombs for my taste.
But a cute ending.
My daughter liked it a lot.

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Monday, January 18, 2016

Review: What Alice Forgot

What Alice Forgot What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read for book club (first read Aug 16-26, 2014) . Wouldn't change a thing about my review -- loved it just as much the 2nd time around.

http://www.gerberadaisydiaries.com/20...

Who knew spin class could be so risky? But for Alice, a fall off her stationary bike and a "bonk" on the head, causes 10 years of memories to disappear.

I loved it. I loved it. I loved it. I loved reading about Alice's discovery that before her accident she was a suburban, overachieving mom with three kids with an estranged husband, to the realization that she was none of the above after her accident. I loved her family members -- especially her sister, Elisabeth, whose infertility woes and letters to her therapist are truly crushing. And Gina -- the friend that everyone knows, Alice most of all, but who can't remember the depth of their relationship.

I loved the author's writing style -- using glimpses of memory, epistles, and diary entries -- made this so interesting and unique and added necessary depth to all the characters.

This was such an enriching read and a brilliant look at the complications of a seemingly ordinary domestic family life.


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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Review: Last Stop on Market Street

Last Stop on Market Street Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A profound, yet simple message...always find the beautiful in all things. From the meager to the grand. A great reminder for young and old readers.
2016 Newbery Award winner.


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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Review: A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories

A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lucia Berlin was a hard drinking, multi-married, ex deb, whose travels and family led her everywhere from Alaska to Texas to Chile and California, and she put it all into these gritty, brutal, heartbreaking short stories/essays. Manual is as smart, nervy and unforgettable as the woman who wrote them.

These stories left a lasting impression. Makes my life look dreamy in comparison.

Highly recommended.*

*Content: Fbombs, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, sexual abuse

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Monday, January 4, 2016

2016 Reading Bingo!

Because I like this format.

It works for me.

And my children.

Enjoy!


A look back at 2015



The older I get, the older my kids get, the fewer books I read.

Consider it a function of work, their multiple activities, and the need for sleep. 

When most people were in their "summer reading" frenzy, I was mourning the death of my father.  I couldn't function for months.

This year I managed 42.  

Once again, I followed a "bingo" reading format -- this doesn't not include all 42 books, but the books I finished from my bingo "card." 

Here is the breakdown:
A book from the library: Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins
A book borrowed from a friend: The Bishop's Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison
A book by a British author:  Frenchman's Creek by Daphne duMaurier
A book club book:  The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
A book with a proper name in the title:  Serena by Ron Rash
A book about women's issues: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (WWII women's resistance)
A book that makes you LOL!: Yes Please by Amy Poehler (which wasn't very funny after all)
A book with an African author and/or continent: Circling the Sun by Paula McLain\
A book by an author you've never read: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel 
A biography: Strapless by Deborah Davis (about John Singer Sargent and "Madame X")
An award winner: Bomb by Steve Sheinkin (Newbery Honor award)
A WWII historical fiction:  All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
An e-book: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
A book about/with science:  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
A classic:  Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
A travel/exploration book:  Dead Wake by Erik Larson (about the sinking of the Lusitania)
A book set in Paris: A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith
A new juvenile fiction: Princess in Black by Shannon Hale

Squares I didn't complete:
A book with a Red cover
A book published the year you were born
A new YA book 
A religious book
A regency romance
A book by Anne Lamott

Missing the above makes me feel kinda silly. I mean, a book with a red cover or a YA book? How hard was that? Oh well. 

My ultimate favorite this year: All the Light We Cannot See

Looking forward to exploring the vast number of books on my shelf, as well as newly published books this year! 

Happy 2016 reading! 


Saturday, January 2, 2016

Review: Peter and the Starcatchers

Peter and the Starcatchers Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars
A perfectly plausible prequel for the origination of Peter and his Neverland.
Loved Molly the best.
Can't wait to see the stage production.



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