The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman

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Title: The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman

Notable: Book #1 in the Mrs. Pollifax series

Premise:

Mrs. Pollifax is an older widowed woman whose children have left home.  She is feeling unfulfilled in her daily pursuits, so her doctor recommends that she try something out which she’s always wanted to do.  When she was younger, Mrs. Pollifax dreamt of being a spy.  You can see where this is leading, no?

My thoughts:

I was not expecting much of this book–just look at that cover!  When was the last time you saw a book cover quite so absurd?  This book surprised me so much with how well it was written, the charming heroine, and the crazy story line.

Through a happy accident Mrs. Pollifax is chosen for a simple mission, but she ends up getting dragged into a complex and dangerous web of intrigue.  Though she’s naive in the ways of secret agents, Mrs. Pollifax is experienced in life and human nature, and she has to employ all of her wiles and knowledge to make it through a truly harrowing ordeal.

I recommend The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax to those who enjoy an unconventional adventure story with a unique protagonist.  This was a completely unique and refreshing read!


Possible Objections:

  • Some of violence
  • A bit of adult language

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Lost Truth by Dawn Cook

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Title: Lost Truth by Dawn Cook

Notable: Book #4 in the Truth series

Premise:

This fantasy dragon adventure finally wraps up with Alissa, Strell, Lodesh and Connen-Neute going on a journey to find some long-lost comrades.  Alissa and her true love are finally united, though that means one young man is left seriously disappointed.

My thoughts:

After enjoying the previous book so much, this one was a bit of a letdown.  The action was interesting, with several new characters being introduced (which was a welcome relief) and a completely new setting.  Meeting Keribdis brought the story full-circle and it allowed Talo-Toecan to face the foibles of his past which had wreaked so much havoc.

The resolution to Alissa’s love triangle fiasco was sadly disappointing to me.  I didn’t care much for her choice (I tend to root for the underdog), and it didn’t really seem to matter much anymore.  In the previous book her relationship with this particular character had been neglected so much that I pretty much lost interest in it altogether.  There wasn’t enough in this volume to convince me that she was really committed to the relationship.  The other character she had been attached to is basically discarded at the end of the story and that really rankled me.  Oh well.  I’ll get over it.

I recommend Lost Truth to fans of fantasy, dragons and female heroines!


Possible Objections:

  • A bit of violence

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Forgotten Truth by Dawn Cook

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Title: Forgotten Truth by Dawn Cook

Notable: Book #3 in the Truth series

Premise:

Alissa continues to train with Talo-Toecan, but when she practices a new skill it accidentally sends her back in time.  She’s still in the environs of the Hold, but ends us 400 years in the past, when Lodesh was just a young man.  Alissa tries to find her way back to Strell and her own time, but her feelings for Lodesh become much more complicated.

My thoughts:

This is my favorite book in the series so far.  There’s a richness to the Hold and Ese’ Nawoer of the past that is completely missing in the previous two books (probably because they’re unpopulated, no?).  The characters of Connen-Neute and Lodesh were a real pleasure to see developed, and there were several strong supporting characters, as well.

I don’t know what is going to happen with Alissa’s love life, but it seems like she might have three possible suitors now.  I’m rooting for Connen-Neute, though in truth, I don’t even know if he’s a real contender.  Strell was missing for most of this book and the few scenes he was in weren’t very compelling.  I found myself losing my attachment to his character–eek!  Lodesh likewise has lost some of his shine, based on some underhanded dealings on his part.

I didn’t care too much for the end of this book.  The men all seem totally defeated or amazingly oblivious, while Alissa lords it over them and won’t let go of one of them.  That young lady is being awfully selfish!  We’ll see where this story goes in the next volume…

I recommend Forgotten Truth to fans of fantasy and dragons!


Possible Objections:

  • A bit of violence
  • A tiny bit of language

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Hidden Truth by Dawn Cook

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Title: Hidden Truth by Dawn Cook

Notable: Book #2 in the Truth series

Premise:

The story continues with Strell being trained by Bailic as a Keeper, and Alissa trying not to blow her cover.  Alissa accidentally wakes the city of Ese’ Nowoer and the magnetic Lodesh enters the scene as a rival love interest.  Useless continues to covertly tutor Alissa, and eventually Alissa undergoes a significant change.

My thoughts:

I zipped through this book, just like the previous one.  Even though the writing isn’t stellar, it’s rich in detail and kept me interested and wanting to find out what would happen next.  For those of you who can’t stand a slower paced book, I think this one would test your patience.  As I was progressing through the story and taking notes, I realized that there wasn’t a whole lot that was really happening.

There’s a lot of relationship intrigue and drama, people getting upset over seemingly unimportant things, waiting and/or skulking around.  There are a few action-packed scenes, but they’re not the norm for most of the book.  Personally, that didn’t bother me.

The characters in this book are probably what keeps me really interested.  Alissa is fairly petty/dramatic in her emotions, but not a stranger to admitting the error of her ways.  Strell seems to have taken a lesser role, serving more as a supporting character than in the first book, and Lodesh is quite intriguing.  I can’t wait to see what his role is in the next book.

Towards the end of the story, there’s a significant development for Alissa, but I don’t want to spoil it for you.  All I’ll say is that it’s pretty cool.

I recommend Hidden Truth to fans of fantasy who like to see an empowered female protagonist.


Possible Objections:

  • A bit of violence
  • A tiny bit of language

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

First Truth by Dawn Cook

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Title: First Truth by Dawn Cook

Notable: Book #1 in the Truth series

Premise:

When the magical abilities of a young woman named Alissa awaken, she must travel to the Hold where she can be trained.  Along the way, she meets a young man named Strell and the two are drawn into intrigue and adventure as Alissa begins to discover her latent magical abilities.

My thoughts:

I wasn’t expecting a lot from this book, probably because the last fantasy novel I read wasn’t exactly my favorite.  The author did a really nice job of creating interesting and believable characters, as well as telling a cohesive story rich in detail.  Oh, how I appreciate a fantasy story that makes sense right now!

Alissa and Strell are a bit petty in some scenes, but then again that could be chalked up to young people emotions.  I was plenty petty and ridiculous in my emotions as a young adult at times.  The magic in this story is interesting — more of an internal force than simply saying the right incantations.  I look forward to seeing how the magical abilities are developed, since we only get small glimpses of what is possible.

For those of you who enjoy seeing a strong female character take the lead in a fantasy story, you’ll probably get a kick out of this one.  I have the next two books on standby on my bookshelf, and I can’t wait to get started on them!

I recommend First Truth to fans of fantasy who like to see an empowered female protagonist.


Possible Objections:

  • A bit of violence

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Arcady by Michael Williams

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Title: Arcady by Michael Williams

Notable: Book #1 in the Arcady series

Premise:

Solomon’s childhood home of Arcady is threatened by a destructive and mysterious force known as the Absence.  Though Solomon’s education at the Seminary has caused him to become jaded and cynical toward Magic and religion, he yet has a role to play in the salvation of his homeland.

My thoughts:

This is one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read.  For the first 2/3 to 3/4 of the book, I was pretty much lost.  There were slight connections between events and characters, but not enough to make it seem like a cohesive story.  Not until I was past the halfway mark did the different parts of the story come together and it started to make sense.

I say started, because the narrative never truly came together into a completely understandable story.  This book is absolutely full of half-formed ideas and images — magic, ethereal and difficult to fully grasp.  The characters are strange too, mysterious without adequate explanation of how they came to be that way.  That’s not really my cup of tea, but I muscled my way through the foggy and indistinct imagery and concepts because I don’t like to quit books unless they’re truly awful.

There’s a certain satisfaction to the end of the story.  The baddy is thwarted at least partially, things that were lost can now be rebuilt, the Hawken family isn’t at odds with itself anymore.  Apparently there’s a sequel to this book, but I don’t know if I’ll read it.  It was really tough getting through this one and I don’t feel ready to tackle another tedious read right now.

I recommend Arcady to those who like high fantasy that explores religious themes and imagery.

Possible Objections:

  • A little bit of bad language

Rating: 2 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Shunning by Beverly Lewis

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Title: The Shunning by Beverly Lewis

Notable: Book #1 in The Heritage of Lancaster County series

Premise:

Katie Lapp is a young Amish woman who is set to marry Bishop John Beiler.  Her heart still belongs to her first love, Dan, who tragically drowned at sea.  She hopes that her marriage to John will give her a new start in life and restore some happiness that she’s been missing.  Just before Katie’s wedding, a family secret comes to light that tears her world apart and she must decide which path is the right one to take.

My thoughts:

This is not my normal reading material at all, so I had a bit of a tough time getting into it.  The book starts out fairly slow, so that contributed as well.  Once I got several chapters in, the action and intrigue picked up and then I couldn’t put it down!  The best way I can describe this story is to say that if a Hallmark movie were to become a book, this would be it.  If that’s too feel-good and emotional for you, you would have a tough time with this book.

There is a strong Christian element to the story, but it didn’t seem out of character, given that it’s about the Amish.  I appreciate all of the small details that the author included about the Amish way of life.  You can tell that she really did her homework.  The story itself is pretty good.  I wasn’t expecting rip-roaring suspense, but it kept my interest and made me want to read the next in the series.

I don’t want to give away the plot, but suffice it to say that Katie goes through an identity crisis of sorts.  She has to figure out what her future life will look like and deal with the consequences of her choice.  It’s rather heartbreaking, really.

I recommend The Shunning to those who enjoy tame romantic stories and reading about the Amish.

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

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Title: Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

Premise:

Phileas Fogg, the stoic and predictable Englishman that he is, decides to go on a trip around the world because of a wager.  He bets his whist companions £20,000 that he can make the trip in eighty days.  Fogg’s servant Passepartout accompanies him, as well as a wily detective who believes Fogg to be a notorious bank robber.  They have many adventures and setbacks along the way, even rescuing a damsel in distress, but will they make it back to London in time to win the bet?

My thoughts:

The first Jules Verne book I read was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  I had my own copy lined up on the shelf in my bunk bed and it was my first introduction to science fiction as a kid.  Ever since then, I’ve loved Jules Verne’s fantastical adventure stories.

Though Jules Verne is best known for his science fiction, this book doesn’t exactly fit into that category.  It capitalizes on elements of the industrial age, such as the great strides made in dependable and quick transportation.  It truly was a marvel how quickly one could traverse the globe, compared to what was possible only a short time previously.

The story is fairly simple — a man travels around the world as quickly as possible, encountering several obstacles along the way.  That’s it in a nutshell.  The character development isn’t stellar and there are a TON of place names, but despite those very slight criticisms, I loved the story.  It’s so very readable and I love a good adventure story!

As far as classic literature goes, this book has fairly accessible language.  It’s also a largely action-driven story, so those two considerations make this a good book to start your journey into classic literature.

I recommend Around the World in Eighty Days to fans of early science fiction and those who enjoy classic literature.

Possible Objections:

  • One character gets high in an opium den
  • Native people referred to as “savages” a few times
  • Overtly English-centric attitude throughout

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Micro by Michael Crichton & Richard Preston

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Title: Micro by Michael Crichton & Richard Preston

Premise:

A group of graduate students is caught up in a web of intrigue, with Vin Drake and his microbiology company, Nanigen, at its center.  The students find themselves alone in dangerous wilderness and they have to use all of their scientific training and knowledge to try and survive.

My thoughts:

The first thing you need to know is that I LOVE me some good Crichton!  I read my first Crichton books in middle school when I found Terminal Man and Andromeda Strain on the school’s bookshelf.  So when I found this book at the thrift store, I was very excited to read a new book by this beloved author.

Honestly, I still haven’t arrived at a decisive conclusion about whether or not I truly like Micro.  The story is definitely Crichton in concept, but the writing doesn’t always match his style.  Obviously this book had input from Richard Preston, and I think that’s probably where it fails in stacking up to Crichton’s other works.  Crichton had a precision in his writing which is missing in parts of this book.  My other criticism is that the characters tended to get preachy about nature at very odd times.  Who would launch into a speech about the superiority of nature when they’re trekking through jungle on a very tight timeline to save their lives?  Well, apparently these people would.

Even though I wasn’t blown away by the writing, the premise of the story was great.  It brings up some questions about technology and the ethics of how we use it, as well as exploring the tiny world all around us.  When you shrink people down so that the ground becomes a jungle, all of the creepy crawlies get a whole lot scarier.

I recommend Micro to Crichton fans.  You’ll want to read it to round out your knowledge of all of his works, but it probably won’t be your favorite.

Possible Objections:

  • Violence & gore
  • 1 sexual encounter
  • Profanity

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Complete Year One by Nick Abadzis & Robbie Morrison

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Title: Doctor Who : The Tenth Doctor Complete Year One by Nick Abadzis & Robbie Morrison

Premise:

The Doctor recently had to leave Donna Noble behind and is currently traveling alone.  During one of his adventures he bumps into a young lady named Gabriella Gonzalez, whose family is caught in the middle of an alien invasion.  Gabby helps the Doctor set things right and accompanies him on several more intergalactic journeys.  Includes comics #1-15 of the Tenth Doctor Year One series.

My thoughts:

I saw this at the library and just had to check it out!  Doctor Who?  Yes, please!  This is my first foray into Whovian comics.  I sort of expected this book to feature characters we had met in the TV series, but it brings in a whole new cast of characters.  At first I wasn’t sure about Gabby, but after getting to know her through the stories, I’ve come to appreciate her spunk and determination.  The storytellers did a great job of capturing David Tennant’s portrayal of the Doctor on the written page–his mannerisms, way of speaking, looks.

Don’t expect a completely seamless artistic experience when cracking open this big, honking book.  It was illustrated by a variety of artists, some of them with widely differing styles.  One of the stories is fairly gruesome as it deals with the subject of WWI.  I wouldn’t want my middle schooler getting his hands on that, but you’ll have to be the judge for your own kids.

I recommend Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Complete Year One to Doctor Who fans.  If you love David Tennant, you will want to see the Doctor’s additional adventures!  I can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of these!

Possible Objections:

  • Some violence & gore (particularly in “The Weeping Angels of Mons”)

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Run for It: Stories of Slaves Who Fought for Their Freedom by Marcelo D’Salete

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Title: Run for It: Stories of Slaves Who Fought for Their Freedom by Marcelo D’Salete

Premise:

This book contains four short stories about slavery in Brazil and the way that slaves resisted it to the best of their ability.  Chapters include: Kalunga, Sumidouro, Cumbe, and Malungo.

My thoughts:

This was an interesting read, and I’m still not sure exactly how to process it.  It’s a story told mostly in pictures with minimal text, and you really have to read between the lines and study the pictures to know what is happening.  It’s not really a book about right and wrong.  Readers are shown some very difficult situations and experiences, and how people reacted under those circumstances.  Sometimes violence begets violence.  The stories don’t have warm, cushy endings.  However, they do show the resilience of those who languished under slavery and their determination to be free from oppression.  It shines a glaring light on the moral corruption which accompanies slavery.

Certainly, you have to read the two short introductory blurbs at the beginning of the book to get the context for the stories.  Even then, there is a lot of background information which isn’t included.  I wish there had been a bit more about Brazil’s history with slavery, but maybe this book could be seen as a jumping off point for readers to seek out additional sources.

The drawings are in black and white, so even in the scenes with violence you don’t see graphic blood or anything.  Also, the drawings are somewhat stylized, so things that might be too much if done with a lot of detail are less offensive to look at.

I recommend Run For It to older teens and adults who want to learn more about slavery and resistance.  It wasn’t just an issue in the United States, but that’s where a lot of the currently available literature takes place.  Also a note on the possible objection of seeing a woman’s bare chest–this book adopts the traditional African view of a woman’s chest being utilitarian more than erotic.  It’s for feeding children and there’s nothing shameful or sexually charged in that.

Possible Objections:

  • Some violence
  • Bare women’s chests
  • A couple of rape scenes (not graphic)

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 2 adapted & illustrated by Young Kim

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Title: Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 2 adapted & illustrated by Young Kim

Notable: Book #2 in the Twilight Graphic Novels series (incomplete series)

Premise:

This book picks up in the middle of the original Twilight book.  It covers Edward and Bella’s growing relationship, Bella’s introduction to the Cullen family, and James and Victoria’s hunt to catch Bella.

My thoughts:

Honestly, I thought this book was even better than the first one.  Probably the best part is when Edward tells Bella about the history of his family.  The narrative takes on more of an actual story and not just the longing looks and professions of love that we constantly hear from Edward and Bella.  Bella also gets to meet the Cullen family and is mostly welcomed with open arms, except by Rosalie who’s still a little uptight about becoming a vampire.

It seemed like the part with Victoria, James and Laurent wasn’t quite so impressive as it was in the original novel and the movie.  James just seemed like a creepy dude and I didn’t get an adequate sense of how dangerous and terrifying he really was.  Victoria wasn’t much more than a bit player, and Laurent seemed like just another sweet guy.  Where was the danger and menace?  Okay, rant over.  Really, I did enjoy the book.

I recommend Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 2 to Twilight fans as an interesting alternative.

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1 adapted & illustrated by Young Kim

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Title: Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1 adapted & illustrated by Young Kim

Notable: Book #1 in the Twilight Graphic Novels series (incomplete series)

Premise:

Bella Swan moves from sunny Phoneix to overcast Forks, Washington when her mother remarries.  She doesn’t have high hopes for life in this new town until she meets hunky Edward Cullen.  The interest is mutual, but the closer Bella gets to Edward, the more she realizes that there’s more to him than meets the eye.

My thoughts:

I was a bit unsure about this rendition of Twilight when I checked it out from the library.  I’m a fan of the Twilight series, but I was concerned this would be boring, maybe because I already know the story so well.  I guess I had the attitude of, yeah I already know that story.  Not the best way to start a book–with an attitude.

The artistic style is different from most of the graphic novels I’ve read, but it’s not unfamiliar to me.  It’s actually very similar to the type of artwork my niece does–with a strong Asian influence.  Young Kim does amazing eyes–amazing!  At times the characters’ proportions were a little off, especially if they were posing at an odd angle, but it wasn’t too bad.  (Poor Edward, in one scene, looks like he has a hunched shoulder.  Tee-hee!)

Overall, I enjoyed seeing the story told from a fresh perspective.  Young had an idea of how the story should look and she utilized some interesting and inventive scene setup and angles throughout the book.  Text was really kept to a minimum, but what was included got to the meat of the story.  It seemed to flow well and make sense.  So, even though I went into the book with an attitude, I enjoyed it and am looking forward to the second volume.  This one leaves off right in the middle of the story.

I recommend Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1 to Twilight fans.  It’s fun to see a new take on the story.

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Reckless Life: Guns N’ Roses by Jim McCarthy & Marc Olivent

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Title: Reckless Life: Guns N’ Roses by Jim McCarthy & Marc Olivent

Premise:

The history of the sensational hard rock band, Guns N’ Roses, told in graphic novel form.  From the early days of its band members, through their tumultuous yet successful era, to the breakup of the original band and its aftermath.

My thoughts:

I was really excited to read this book!  I grew up listening to Guns N’ Roses, though I was too young at the time to take any notice of their personal shenanigans.  That’s probably a good thing.  Sadly, this book was just so-so for me.  The beginning is really cluttered up by a lot of information that introduces us to the variety of characters who eventually come together later in the story.  It tends to jump (seemingly randomly) between the young characters and can get mighty confusing.

That brings me to my next criticism.  There is almost no overarching narration that would help tie everything together and make it more cohesive.  If there had been a narrator to introduce us to the characters and settings, it would have been clearer.  Switching the first-person narrator (sometimes in the middle of a page) without warning the reader, is just a recipe for confusion.

All of the artwork is in black and white and it has sort of a unique look to it.  It’s something you’ll either love or hate.  Personally, it’s not my favorite style for illustrating graphic novels.  It reminds me of a scrapbook with little captions or stories written to go with each image.  Some of the images literally look like snapshots arranged on the page.

The story itself was interesting once I got past the initial introduction and back story of the main characters.  This band was majorly messed up and all I can say is, “Thank God I’m not a rock star!”  Though I did learn many things about the band, I think I would have preferred learning it from a traditional chapter book.  The band’s history and interconnected stories are too complex to capture adequately in a graphic novel.  I don’t know if I’ll seek out anymore books about GNR, but if I ever feel like reading about a majorly messed up lifestyle, I’ll know where to look.

I recommend Reckless Life: Guns N’ Roses to adult fans of GNR.  I think that unless you’re a fan, the comic won’t be interesting enough to keep your attention.

Possible Objections:

  • Lots of profanity
  • Lots of drug use
  • A bit of sexuality

Rating: 3 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Ghetto Klown by John Leguizamo

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Title: Ghetto Klown by John Leguizamo

Premise:

This is an autobiographical graphic novel about John Leguizamo’s life–from his childhood through the present day.  It includes episodes from his stormy childhood days, through his varied and colorful acting career, to his marriage and family.

My thoughts:

My favorite role of John’s was as Chi-Chi Rodriguez in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything!  So when I saw that the library had this graphic novel about his life, I had to get it.  I was totally unprepared for what I found when I cracked it open!  It’s not for the faint of heart or those who don’t like painful honesty and plenty of potty-mouth language.

Objectionable parts aside, I really enjoyed the book.  It took me a little while to come to that conclusion, though.  After I got to the last page and closed it, I felt like I had gone through some sort of traumatic life experience and needed some time to recover and process what I had just read.  John’s life was pretty intense (often not in a good way), yet in this story he shares his heart and motivation with us.  I’m sure this was a cathartic endeavor for him–a chance to examine his life, come to terms with all of its stages, and accept it for what it is.  Without his past he wouldn’t be who he is today.  As someone who likes getting inside other peoples’ heads, this was a satisfying read for me.  It makes me thankful for my relatively uneventful (and peaceful) life.

I recommend Ghetto Klown to adults who enjoy autobiographies told in a unique way.  Just be prepared for a lot of crudeness and bad language.

Possible Objections:

  • Lots of bad language
  • Cartoon nudity
  • Sexual references & language
  • Drug use
  • Some violence
  • A few racial slurs

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori