Author: Ellen

October 13, 2017

The History of Fairy Tales | Beauty and the Beast

the stats

first recorded version: 1740

author: Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve

original title: “La Belle et la Bête”

 

the story

Once upon a time, a young girl lived with her rich merchant father and six siblings. The two oldest sisters, wicked at heart, treated book-loving Beauty like a servant instead of their sister. Soon, their father loses his ships in a storm and is forced to move his family away from their lavish lifestyle to a small home. However, years later he discovers one of the presumably-doomed ships from the missing fleet has returned, so he sets off to investigate. Before leaving, he asks each of his children what they would like for a present upon his return. Beauty asks simply for a rose.

On the way home to his children, the merchant gets lost and stumbles across a gorgeous palace. When the door opens, he takes advantage to get out of the storm and spend the night. As he is about to leave, he spots a rose garden and plucks a flower for his youngest daughter. Unfortunately, this decision comes with a price: his death or, on the condition she never know the bargain, his daughter’s life. The merchant chooses the latter and resumes his journey home.

Beauty, learning of the bargain, heads to the castle to uphold her end of the deal. The Beast greats her as mistress of the castle and, at the conclusion of every evening, asks her to marry him. She politely declines.

Beauty spends her days with the Beast, her nights haunted by a mysterious handsome prince who demands to know why she consistently denies the Beast’s offer of marriage. Yet she begins to long for home and asks permission to leave the castle for a visit to her family. The Beast agrees, giving her an enchanted ring that she need only turn three times to return, and a magic mirror.

Beauty’s sisters are green with envy when she returns and devise a plan to compromise her life with the Beast. They convince Beauty to stay past her original plans. When Beauty uses the mirror to  check on the Beast, she discovers he is lying unconcious, hurting from a broken heart. She returns and, crying, professes her love for him. As her tears fall onto him, the curse is broken and he becomes man again. They are married and live happily ever after.

the inspiration

While Beauty and the Beast may have been influenced by the popular 2nd century story of “Cupid and Psyche,” it was also supposedly intendd to prepare young girls in 18th century France for arranged marriage (source). Make of that what you will.

the versions around the world

Without a doubt, this tale is as old as time…and just as varied.

  • The Pig King by Giovanni Francesco, Italy
  • The Scarlet Flower by Sergey Aksakov, Russia (1858)
  • Beauty and the Beast…The Story Retold by Laura E. Richards, England (1886)

did you know?

  • Disney’s Beast is a mashup of many different animals
  • While the story was first recorded in 1740, historians belive it originated some 400 years ago
  • Beauty and the Beast is among the first pieces of literature that reflect the changing social norm surrouding appearance

takeaways

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover

Image result for beauty and the beast gif

Posted October 13, 2017 by Ellen in history of fairy tales / 0 Comments
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October 12, 2017

Review | Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey

Review | Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin DickeyGhostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey
Publisher: Viking, October 2016
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
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An intellectual feast for fans of offbeat history, Ghostland takes readers on a road trip through some of the country's most infamously haunted places--and deep into the dark side of our history.

Colin Dickey is on the trail of America's ghosts. Crammed into old houses and hotels, abandoned prisons and empty hospitals, the spirits that linger continue to capture our collective imagination, but why? His own fascination piqued by a house hunt in Los Angeles that revealed derelict foreclosures and "zombie homes," Dickey embarks on a journey across the continental United States to decode and unpack the American history repressed in our most famous haunted places. Some have established reputations as "the most haunted mansion in America," or "the most haunted prison"; others, like the haunted Indian burial grounds in West Virginia, evoke memories from the past our collective nation tries to forget.

With boundless curiosity, Dickey conjures the dead by focusing on questions of the living--how do we, the living, deal with stories about ghosts, and how do we inhabit and move through spaces that have been deemed, for whatever reason, haunted? Paying attention not only to the true facts behind a ghost story, but also to the ways in which changes to those facts are made--and why those changes are made--Dickey paints a version of American history left out of the textbooks, one of things left undone, crimes left unsolved. Spellbinding, scary, and wickedly insightful, Ghostland discovers the past we're most afraid to speak of aloud in the bright light of day is the same past that tends to linger in the ghost stories we whisper in the dark.

Even if the paranormal isn’t your cup of tea, there’s no denying a certain mystical element to American history. From the haunted streets of Salem to the plains of the Native American nations, there’s a piercing awareness that we’re not alone. Colin Dickey’s Ghostland was meant to tell this story.

I say “meant” intentionally. Dickey divvied up his book first into different types of ghost stories (graveyards, cities, etc.), then into various locations within each category. I was thrilled. Usually, I’m not a big paranormal fan, but the prospect of combining my recent love for true crime (thanks to My Favorite Murder) and our newfound desire to travel America, I was hooked. The chapter that sealed the deal? New Orleans. I went to the Big Easy a year ago for work, so I can’t wait to go back with M.

But I digress…

I was hoping Ghostland would tell me the ghost stories of America, paired with the unique history of each, and leave me marking my travel map with must-sees. Instead, Dickey dissects each tale with a faintly condescending academia, implying how people are crazy for not looking at these stories in a coherent light.

Sure, finding out the truth about the secret staircase in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s home, House of Seven Gables, was fascinating. Unique. Defined America’s perception of not only the house but the author. But I wanted the story, not the analytics.

Chapter after chapter, story after story, Dickey analyzed each tale to death (no pun intended) so that I began skipping his critiques and read the short paragraph telling the story, then researching it on Wikipedia.

So why three stars? Because Dickey was honest about the book’s focus. I had built it up in my mind to be more than it was. His versions of the stories were engaging and fascinating, inspiring me to search them out for myself.

If you’re looking for tales about haunted America, I’d suggest looking elsewhere. But if you are hoping for a realistic perception and critical analysis of America’s ghost stories, Ghostland is for you.

3 Stars

Posted October 12, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 10, 2017

Top 10 Favorite Fall Book Covers

Top Ten Tuesday

Fall means changing colors, longer nights, and afternoons cuddled up with a book. So it makes perfect sense that my favorite book covers come fall integrate strong jewel tones, heavy contrasts and amazing typography.

A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1)

One Tiny Lie (Ten Tiny Breaths, #2)

Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places

Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes (Rose Gardner Mystery #1)

Three Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns, #1)

Roses (The Tales Trilogy, #1)

The Star-Touched Queen (The Star-Touched Queen, #1)

A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic, #2)

The Great Hunt (Eurona Duology, #1)

Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul

What are your favorite fall book covers?

Posted October 10, 2017 by Ellen in top ten tuesday / 0 Comments
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October 9, 2017

Review | Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

Review | Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia LevensellerDaughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
Series: Daughter of the Pirate King, #1
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends, February 2017
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
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There will be plenty of time for me to beat him soundly once I’ve gotten what I came for.

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

Let’s be honest. The helpless damsel-in-distress story was getting a little worn out. It’s the age of Hermione, of heroines who aren’t waiting for the strong male hero to sweep down and save the day. Not that I’m opposed to strong male heroes. But when the heroine is a fighter, well, that’s my kind of story.

Levenseller’s Daughter of the Pirate King tells the story of Alosa, daughter of the famed pirate king and scrappy pirate captain in her own right. Dispatched to retrieve the map to long-hidden treasure, Alosa, disguised, allows herself to be captured and swept onto the enemy ship.

At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of Alosa. She was blunt to the point of painful, and her callousness towards her rented crew bothered me so I almost returned the book to the library unfinished. But Levenseller slowly revealed the motives, scars, and dreams behind her rough’n’ready heroine, and I was instantly caught in the story. Alosa was determined, reckless, brave to the point of stupid, and unsure about falling in love with the man she was supposed to hate.

I loved how Levenseller nurtured Riden, the first mate of the enemy ship and son of the lost-treasure pirate. It wasn’t quick, visible, or easy (definitely not easy). It was a slow-burning evolution of trust, respect, and attracting. This unexpected combination hit the jackpot and created the compelling narrative that I just can’t get enough of.

When I thought I had Alosa figured out, knew all her secrets, she threw another one at me. The plot twists and turns in the last half of the novel (expected). Some of these I loved, but others felt like just too much. It was overload like Levenseller was trying to cram everything in before the end. If the pacing had settled out more, it wouldn’t have felt so cramped.

Either way, I’ve got Daughter of the Siren Queen on my wishlist, and I can’t wait. Levenseller is quickly becoming one of my top must-by YA authors.

4 Stars

Posted October 9, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 7, 2017

Weekend Reading #5

 

To say it’s been a hard week would be a gross understatement. The tragedy in Vegas is unspeakably heartbreaking and the (predictable) backlash of politics just makes me tired. From Puerto Rico’s struggle to get back on its feet (if you want to help, see below) to the oncoming Tropical Storm Nate, Mother Nature is giving us a run for our money. So after a personally difficult week at work and feeling the struggle of humankind, I’m going to take a break from the news today, take stock, and be grateful.

 

Posted October 7, 2017 by Ellen in weekend reading / 2 Comments
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October 6, 2017

Review | Vienna Waltz by Teresa Grant

Review | Vienna Waltz by Teresa GrantVienna Waltz by Teresa Grant
Series: Rannoch/Fraser Publication Order, #4
Publisher: Kensington, April 2011
Pages: 436
Format: Paperback
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Nothing is fair in love and war. . .

Europe's elite have gathered at the glittering Congress of Vienna--princes, ambassadors, the Russian tsar--all negotiating the fate of the continent by day and pursuing pleasure by night. Until Princess Tatiana, the most beautiful and talked about woman in Vienna, is found murdered during an ill-timed rendezvous with three of her most powerful conquests. . .

Suzanne Rannoch has tried to ignore rumors that her new husband, Malcolm, has also been tempted by Tatiana. As a protégé of France's Prince Talleyrand and attaché for Britain's Lord Castlereagh, Malcolm sets out to investigate the murder and must enlist Suzanne's special skills and knowledge if he is to succeed. As a complex dance between husband and wife in the search for the truth ensues, no one's secrets are safe, and the future of Europe may hang in the balance. . .

Realistically, there’s no way to learn the entire history of the world in the typical K-12, four-year college education. I get that. But when I come across historical events like the Congress of Vienna, portrayed in Teresa Grant’s Vienna Waltz, I wish we could.

A little background

From November 1814 to June 1815, Europe’s latest and greatest met in Vienna to work together to create peace in the war-torn continent. Among them were Austria, Britain, France, and Russia. One can only imagine the drama.

 

One like Grant. Her Vienna Waltz opens with the tsar’s paramour, Princess Tatiana, is found murdered in her apartments, Suzanne and Malcolm Rannoch, British attache, find themselves on the hunt for the killer. Haunted by their own rocky marriage of convenience, a building attraction, the whispers of Malcolm’s relationship with Tatiana, and not to mention the monumental task of navigating through sticky social situations, their mission is far from easy.

The dance has, in other words, begun.

Vienna Waltz would have caught my attention regardless, due to the prospect of a new piece of history to discover. But it was the drama, the need to know just how Malcolm and Suzanne turned out, that kept me reading. With the massive amount of characters that stole the spotlight, their story kept the novel grounded.

Unfortunately, like so many historical fiction novels, Vienna Waltz fell victim to the dreaded info dumping. Some details helped portray the atmosphere, the setting, the mood. But others became too much and, instead of bringing the story to light, weighed it down.

For those who like a little bit of intrigue with their history, Vienna Waltz will hit the spot.

3 Stars

Posted October 6, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 5, 2017

Review | Gone by Jonathan Kellerman

Review | Gone by Jonathan KellermanGone (Alex Delaware #20) by Jonathan Kellerman
Publisher: Ballantine Books, January 1st 1970
Pages: 365
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Now the incomparable team of psychologist Alex Delaware and homicide cop Milo Sturgis embark on their most dangerous excursion yet, into the dark places where risk runs high and blood runs cold ... a story tailor-made for the nightly news: Dylan Meserve and Michaela Brand, young lovers and fellow acting students, vanish on the way home from a rehearsal. Three days later, the two of them are found in the remote mountains of Malibu --- battered and terrified after a harrowing ordeal at the hands of a sadistic abductor.
The details of the nightmarish event are shocking and brutal: The couple was carjacked at gunpoint by a masked assailant and subjected to a horrific regimen of confinement, starvation and assault. But before long, doubts arise about the couple's story, and as forensic details unfold, the abduction is exposed as a hoax. Charged as criminals themselves, the aspiring actors claim emotional problems, and the court orders psychological evaluation for both.
Michaela is examined by Alex Delaware, who finds that her claims of depression and stress ring true enough. But they don't explain her lies, and Alex is certain that there are hidden layers in this sordid psychodrama that even he hasn't been able to penetrate. Nevertheless, the case is closed --- only to be violently reopened when Michaela is savagely murdered. When the police look for Dylan, they find that he's gone. Is he the killer or a victim himself? Casting their dragnet into the murkiest corners of L.A., Delaware and Sturgis unearth more questions than answers --- including a host of eerily identical killings. What really happened to the couple who cried wolf? And what bizarre and brutal epidemic is infecting the city with terror, madness, and sudden, twisted death?

If you disappeared, would anyone notice?

That’s the gamble young lovers  Dylan Meserve and Michaela Brand risk when they stage their own abduction and horrific ordeal. The romance of their harrowing escape fades away as they tell their story over and over to the police and, slowly, it falls apart. When the real story emerges, Michaela Brand is sent to forensic psychologist Alex Delaware.

You’d think that would be the entire story, right? It’s got tension, drama, even tragic(cally misled) young lovers – the whole nine yards. But you’d be wrong, as I was – all this occurs in the first few chapters of the book.

When I picked up Jonathan Kellerman’s Gone, I was looking for another police procedural to fill the void between “In Death” releases and the wait until my latest Sue Grafton request arrived at the library hold shelf. Alex Delaware, with his background in psychology and massive story library, felt like the right fit.

Maybe it’s because I started on book 20, but Alex and I… well, we just didn’t jive. Not that I disliked him – quite the opposite. But he felt like a peripheral character in his own series, so on the fringe that I forgot about him. He fell into the passive narration too often instead of the active storyteller that I longed for.

Michaela, Dylan and the entire cast of characters that made appearances in Gone captivated me. They were fascinating, terrifying, and entirely too real for my comfort. (Let’s just say I got up to double check the locks more than once that night.)

I loved the dive into the psychological element of crime that Gone takes; it brings a new element to the standard police procedural. Who better to examine the psyches of a criminal than a forensic psychologist?

Ultimately, I think I need to give Alex another go. But this time, I think I’ll start at the beginning.

4 Stars

Posted October 5, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 4, 2017

If We Were Having Coffee | Number 11

if we were having coffee

 

It feels like it’s been so long since I sat down to write one of these posts. Well, to be honest, it seems like a long time since I sat down to write any post.

Between the wedding, the new job, and, well, LIFE, it was hard to balance everything. I felt like I was running in circles, going to bed entirely too late at night with those lingering to-dos on my to-do list left uncrossed.

And now it feels like I’m just giving you excuses.

Honestly, it felt like I couldn’t give books the time and devotion they deserved to write a review, and I didn’t want to just whip something out and hit “publish.” Each book was a piece of someone’s heart and soul, a product of their sweat and tears. They deserved, at the very least, my full attention. But I had lost my voice and with it, my mojo.

I didn’t realize this until I started writing a novel in the summer (more on that in upcoming posts). Sure, writing is like riding a bicycle for me: rusty at first, but once I get the hang of it, we’re in business. Usually. I had all of these ideas in my mind, but I couldn’t find the right way to get them on paper and still sound authentic.

Sound like me.

So I set a daily writing goal and quickly realized I was just picking words to meet my quota instead of creating a story. I became obsessive about word counts instead of my characters. That’s when it hit me over the head.

I was trying to be someone else.

It’s a dilemma we all struggle with at some level. Whether it’s social media envy or thinking the other side of the grass is so much greener than our own patch, it’s hard to not fall victim to it. But it was slowly, surely, dragging me down. There was no way I could keep up with the Joneses, and really, I don’t think I want to.

So I’ve given myself a free pass. A pass to say yes and, more importantly, to say no. To let the shit that I don’t want or need to deal with it go. To be okay with only writing 500, even 100 words instead of 1500. To accept that if I don’t have the time to write a post, then no big deal.

That all said, I want to be here. I want to write, to read, to blog. To be a part of this great community. It might just take me a little longer to learn how to do it being me.

Posted October 4, 2017 by Ellen in if we were having coffee / 1 Comment
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October 3, 2017

Be Still My Heart | Top 9 Book Boyfriends

Top Ten Tuesday

Finding a good romance, even in a book outside the romance genre, is like finding the long-lost hidden treasure. It makes a bad day good, and a good day better. If the novel has a great love story, I’ll return to it again and again. Here are the top nine romances that make me always come back for more!

the classic

Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice

For me, the ultimate. I could never resist the brooding Darcy, a man who wears his poker face like a badge of honor. His confession of love to Eliza was the standard for me throughout my Jane Austen years (sorry, high school boyfriends).

the swashbuckling scot

Jamie Fraser of Outlander

Who could resist a kind heart, stubborn nature and chivalrous streak? Add in a Scottish burr? Not this girl. Outlander is still my go-to travel book to this day.

the king of the business world

Roarke of the “In Death” series

Charming, confident and willing to go to the ends of the earth for Eve, this list would have been incomplete without Robb’s futuristic business master/expert criminal consultant

the bad boy

Nick of Illuminae

Let’s be honest: if your heart didn’t do a little pitter patter when teenage mobster Nick brought the corsage on board for formerly selfish station commander’s daughter Hannah, there’s something wrong with it.

the mystical

Rowan Whitethorne of “Throne of Glass” series

Really? Do I have to say more? (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you need to read this book).

the mystical pt 2

Rhysand of “A Court of War and Roses” trilogy

See above (and this book).

the detective

Cormoran Strike of The Cuckoo’s Calling

Alright, bear with me. He might not be the ideal romantic hero, but the underdog nature of this down-on-his-luck detective makes you want to cheer for him…and possibly tidy up that office of his.

the futuristic

Prince Kai of Cinder

While all of the romantic heroes of Meyer’s futuristic fairy tale retellings have a special place in my heart, Kai’s yearning to do good in the world conflicts with his role in life, which is just irresistible.

the contemporary

Heath Champion of Match Me If You Can

The epitome of the male contemporary romance hero, Heath Champion is devoted to his work, his clients and…well, that’s it. It’s when he starts to realize there’s more to life than work that this formidable sports agent becomes one of my favorite book boyfriends.

Posted October 3, 2017 by Ellen in top ten tuesday / 1 Comment
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October 2, 2017

Review | Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Ann Fowler

Review | Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Ann FowlerZ: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
Publisher: St. Martin's Press, March 2013
Pages: 375
Format: Hardcover
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When beautiful, reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918, she is seventeen years old and he is a young army lieutenant stationed in Alabama. Before long, the "ungettable" Zelda has fallen for him despite his unsuitability: Scott isn't wealthy or prominent or even a Southerner, and keeps insisting, absurdly, that his writing will bring him both fortune and fame. Her father is deeply unimpressed. But after Scott sells his first novel, This Side of Paradise, to Scribner's, Zelda optimistically boards a train north, to marry him in the vestry of St. Patrick's Cathedral and take the rest as it comes.

What comes, here at the dawn of the Jazz Age, is unimagined attention and success and celebrity that will make Scott and Zelda legends in their own time. Everyone wants to meet the dashing young author of the scandalous novel—and his witty, perhaps even more scandalous wife. Zelda bobs her hair, adopts daring new fashions, and revels in this wild new world. Each place they go becomes a playground: New York City, Long Island, Hollywood, Paris, and the French Riviera—where they join the endless party of the glamorous, sometimes doomed Lost Generation that includes Ernest Hemingway, Sara and Gerald Murphy, and Gertrude Stein.

Everything seems new and possible. Troubles, at first, seem to fade like morning mist. But not even Jay Gatsby's parties go on forever. Who is Zelda, other than the wife of a famous—sometimes infamous—husband? How can she forge her own identity while fighting her demons and Scott's, too? With brilliant insight and imagination, Therese Anne Fowler brings us Zelda's irresistible story as she herself might have told it.

Out of the many famous literary wives scattered across history, Zelda Fitzgerald stands alone. An author, painter and creator in her own right, she has captured emotions across the decades: fascination, admiration, dislike, even pity. Yet even with a reputation like that, she is still so often overpowered by her famous husband.

I learned about F. Scott Fitzgerald in high school and, as any college student can tell you, had The Great Gatsby burned into my brain (luckily, I learned to love it, but that’s a different post). But I can’t remember a single teacher of mine mentioning Zelda.

Fowler’s Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald brings Zelda alive in the best way. She was funny, vibrant, slightly narcissistic, and oh-so-young. The last trait is the most memorable: when the

The last feature is the most memorable. When the novel begins, she’s a silly young debutante, the flower of her father’s eye and the cause of a twitch in her mother’s. It’s natural to act young, simply because she is. But as the story progresses and Zelda evolves, that same characteristic sticks to her like glue. For better or for worse, Zelda would be young at heart.

It’s a mixed blessing: her constant naivete allows her to see the bright side of things, to hope, but it also damns her, in a way only the reader can see.

Her relationship with F. Scott was nothing like the fairy tale I (or Zelda) expected. Two peas in a pod, of the same mind, cut from the same cloth – whatever metaphor works for you. The same attraction that drew them together was doomed to rip apart and reunite them throughout their lives. It was predictable, yet poignant.

That’s not to say there weren’t times I yelled at the words on the page, urging her to get the hell out of there, to not put up with his bull any longer. I begged her to not listen to his sweet promises or to come to her senses when another was broken. It was one of the most addicting dysfunctional relationships I’ve read in a long time.

In the end, Zelda was me, and I was her. I was with her in the last scene, through the epilogue. This naive young girl who never quite grew up changed my perspective, thanks to Fowler’s unique, enchanting storytelling.

4 Stars

Posted October 2, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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