The Color Purple Readalong – Wrap Up Post

The Color Purple, by Alice Walker

Winner of the American Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, this unforgettable portrait of a young black girl, her friends, family, and lovers is rich with passion, pain, inspiration, and an indomitable love of life. – Goodreads

The Color Purple, by Alice Walker

The month of July is coming to  a close and with it comes the end of our reading of The Color Purple.  How did you make out?

Heather from Age 30+…A Lifetime of Books contributed a post of great discussion questions mid-month.  I also posted the  trailer that they used for the movie.  I found it poking around online. Check out Heather’s follow up review post where she answers a few questions.  I chose a few that she didn’t get to, to answer here.

Please be aware that if you haven’t read the book, the answers below will include spoilers.

What was your perception of this book coming into the read-a-long? Had you read it before? Seen the movie? Always meant to read/watch it? Did your initial perception influence your read-a-long experience?

I had never read The Color Purple before, though I have thought about reading it for many years.  I had never heard anything less than wonderful about this book and it seemed like one of those books that I “should” have read.  I had never seen the movie, so I didn’t have that to influence me.  I thought that I remembered there had been controversy that had surrounded the book when it first came out, but when I looked it up I saw that the original publication date was 1982.  I was way too young to have remembered that.  Odd.

For new readers: Was the book what you expected it to be? What DID you expect?

I didn’t have that many expectations other than it being an amazing novel, which is tough to live up to, and it being a sad novel.  There is definitely a lot that goes on that is heartbreaking.  Celie is a wonderful character and I was so touched by her innocent acceptance of her sexual abuse and traumatic marriage, how she gradually gained knowledge and transformed her circumstances. Through Celie’s and Nettie’s letters the novel bears witness to hope, compassion, heartbreak, and unconditional love.  The book was a lot more uplifting than I ever imagined it would be. Celie’s conditions were particularly grim, and I hated the way she always thought she was ugly and not worthwhile, but her change was so absorbing.  I really appreciated how she was able to grow by continually making the best of her situation and learning where she could.

Do Celie’s letters to God and her letters to Nettie have a different feel to them or do they seem the same? What do you think of Celie’s habit of ending her letters to Nettie with “Amen”?

Celie started writing to Nettie at a time when she was going through profound change and that she had broken with her tradition and her God was an amazing change.  I saw the “amen” at the end of her letters as an affirmation of the new life that she is beginning to beuild for herself when she slowlsy starts to come out of her shell and put some distance in her marriage to her husband.  I think that a lot more goes into the change from writing to God to writing to Nettie.  Celie is beginning to take more personal responsibility for her life.  I would love to do a re-read at some point to get more out of that transformation.  A lot is there.

Is the story believable to you? Why or why not? Does believability matter to you in a “real-life” type book?

This novel is definitely believable to me. It was beautifully told and it accurately portrayed how limited the lives of the characters were, yet the seeds of how they were characterized played a role in the outcomes of their lives and relationships.  We often think that we have to leave difficult circumstances in order to overcome them, but Celie and a lot of the people by whom she is surrounded are not only poor but poorly educated and with partners whom it is not possible for them to leave.  They didn’t have vacations, or high powered jobs to distract them from life’s problems, nor did they have friends beyond the little circle already in their lives.  I was inspired by the characters growth and accomplishments in spite of not having access to much relief from their situations.

So what did you think?  I definitely think that this a great book to read and ponder.  I have loved thinking about it this month.  Feel free to leave your final thoughts and comments about The Color Purple in the comments sections, and don’t forget to link up to any reviews or discussion posts you have written, old or new.  Heather and I are looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

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Whether this was your first time reading this novel, or if you are revisiting it I’d like to thank you for joining Heather and me!

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My Wife’s Affair: A Novel, by Nancy Woodruff – Book Review

My Wife’s Affair: A Novel, by Nancy Woodruff
Putnam/Amy Einhorn Books – April 15, 2010 – Paperback – 288 pages
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

Peter works while wife Georgie gives up a career on the stage to work in the home raising their three little boys.  When the family is required to move to the UK for Peter’s job, Georgie finally has the opportunity to reclaim a life of her own, now that all of the children are attending school for at least part of the day.  She starts off by  persuading an old theater friend to get her an audition.  Georgie wins the role of Mrs. Jordan a regency period woman who was similarly employed on the stage, the mother of thirteen children and the lover of a nobleman.

My Wife’s Affair, while not a happy story, is a wonderful novel, and I very much enjoyed contemplating the issues of marital responsibility and blame that it sets forth.  The masterful weaving of this tale of marriage gone wrong came out of nowhere and grabbed me – the deceptive simpleness leading to surprising depths still has me thinking of its construction several weeks later.  Woodruff beautifully frames the story by juxtaposing Peter’s perspective of Georgie’s decisions while working on the play that eventually consumes her, and the voice of the subject of the play, Dora Jordan, a woman who also faced hard choices trying to play the role that was required of her by society and the calling dictated by her inner self.

It was fascinating to observe the similarities between the lives of these two women, how they share the same love for their children and the anguish that comes because the time that they spend with them conflicts with their greater career goals.  Georgie reminded me of the modern reader in the way she begins to re-interpret Mrs. Jordan’s character through her particular needs and concerns.

Readers who enjoy contemporary and historical fiction will be delighted at the way Woodruff uniquely blends the two. Both Georgie and Mrs. Jordan’s journeys are compelling.   The prose in My Wife’s Affair is engaging, straightforward and easy to read, and I found that it was not easy to move on to anything else. I read this book in just a few sittings. I loved all the nuances and how the story was brought to its conclusion.  The storyline was resolved yet perfect in its ambiguousness.  I still think about this one and am in awe of Woodruff’s accomplishments.  Truly, this one is for the book clubs.  Lots to discuss.

Highly Recommended.

Read More Reviews At: My Friend AmyS. Krishna’s BooksRayment’s Readings, Rants and Ramblings

Read More About Mrs. Jordan:  Devourer of Books.

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Season 6 Bones!

I think that come September I will be talking about Bones on the blog.  My Bones love cannot be contained on Twitter alone. It’s bookish!  It’s very loosely based on those Temperance Brennan novels that Kathy Reichs writes.  I have read one of them and while it was enjoyable, I didn’t feel the need to rush out and read everyone.  I didn’t start at the beginning, so maybe I didn’t start with the right one.  I will investigate further.  But I love Bones! Squee!

There is really not much point to this vid other than Booth and Brennan frolicking with each other, being gorgeous and telling viewers the Season premiere is 9/23.  Frankly that works for me.  I am easy to please.  It pulled me just a little bit from my blogging slump if only to tell Hannah and Heather to come and play with me in the Bones post.

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Did you see the shots of the cast at the end?  How are they all so pretty? I mean everyone, really?  Who else watches Bones?

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Some Odds and Ends, Song Yet Sung & Contemporary Fiction Giveaway Pack

The Dog Days of Blogging

I think I have entered into what are for me the dog days of summer.  I haven’t felt like posting anything lately, so I have just been going with that.  I have a few giveaways that I would like to post and at the end of this month I will be wrapping up The Color Purple read-a-long that I did with Heather from Age 30+…A Lifetime of Books.

Reading Notes

I have read a lot of great books this month.  Two were classic novels – The Color Purple, by Alice Walker  and To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, which I read over the weekend.  I also got my first taste of Crime and Punishment via graphic novel and read two fabulous upcoming books Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin and Man in the Woods by Scott Spencer.

July has been such a great reading month that it put me in a bind when I had to choose what was next on my list.  I spent two days not reading anything while I considered all the possibilities.  To Kill A Mockingbird is an extremely hard book to follow up, and I was afraid that unless I chose something radically different, anything I chose couldn’t possibly be any good by comparison. I read a lot of first chapters and put aside lots of books that just weren’t right for me to read right now.

What Next?

At the suggestion of Mary Sharratt (whose Daughters of the Witching Hill is fabulous and had me in raptures earlier in the year), I had picked up a book called Song Yet Sung, by James McBride.  It’s been hanging out on the shelves for a couple of weeks.  She said that she really enjoyed it, and when I was trying to decide what to read next, it kept catching my eye.  McBride is best known for his memoir, The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother in which he recounts his experiences as a black man growing up with a white mother.  While I had heard of his memoir, I had no idea that he had even taken a turn at writing fiction.  But he has not only written Song Yet Sung, but also Miracle at St. Anna, which was optioned for a movie.

So far this has been the perfect read and I am so grateful to Mary for her recommendation.  It has complex characters and presents different perspectives than I am used to in slave narratives.  History is so intriguing because you always run across people that you never dreamed could have existed because of the seeming unlikelihood of their experience, and yet in Song Yes Unsung I have met a female slave trader and hunter and learned about the black men who assisted her in her work.  The complexities facing those operating the Underground Railroad were enormous.  Whom do you sacrifice to ensure the safety of the operation. Tough decisions, right?

The rest of the month will be rounded out with How Dolly Parton Saved My Life, by Charlotte Connors for my Skype Book Club on Sunday afternoon, and Justin Kramon’s Finny.

Giveaway Winners

My Got Books? Giveaway ended on Sunday and Sophia won the YA Giveaway pack.  My signed giveaway of Shiver and Linger ended on Sunday as well and Kathy from Bermudaonion won that prize.  Congratulations to the winners!  I will e-mail you today for your addresses.

Contemporary Fiction Starter Library Giveaway

I also have several books that I would like to get to a good home.  And by several I mean a lot, a lot.  I have grouped them by category and the first pack that I want to give away is a collection of contemporary fiction.  Take a look at the list and if you are interested, fill out the form for a chance to win.  The books are a mixture of new book and unread and really gently read ARCs.  I will pick one winner to receive the whole pack, and I will ship by media mail anywhere in the United States.

Never Let You Go: A Novel, by Erin Healy
The Local News A Novel, by Miriam Gershow
Goldengrove: A Novel, by Francine Prose
Mr. Rosenblum Dreams In English: A Novel, by Natasha Solomons
Little Bee: A Novel, by Chris Cleave
I Thought You Were Dead: A Love Story, by Pete Nelson
Neverland: A Novel, by Douglas Clegg
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter: A Novel, Tom Franklin

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    Readers looking for other giveaways of either books or a wide variety of products should check out Giveaway Scout. They literally have hundreds of giveaways listed and they also offer you the ability to be notified via e-mail when a new giveaway in either a specific category or all categories are posted.

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    Got Books Giveaway (1) – The YA Book Pack

    I have had a fabulous year in books and I like nothing better that to share those books with others, so I thought the Got Books? event would be a fabulous opportunity to spread a little book love.  I will choose one winner for all of the books that I am listing below.  Take a look and then if you’re interested, fill out the form for a chance to win all 6 books.

    I will choose a winner on Sunday, July 25, 2010.  Winner will be notified and have 48 hours to respond with their U.S. or Canadian mailing address.

    Suite Scarlett, by Maureen Johnson (Audiobook) –  This book is a sweet and fun distraction, especially if you love hotels.  I have  to admit that I wanted o shake Mrs. Amberson.  I read the book, but I can’t imagine that the audio wouldn’t be equally as enjoyable.  I make no promises though.
    The Deadly Sister
    , by Eliot Schrefer (ARC) – When the boy her sister was dating turs up dead, Abby Goodwin will stop at nothing to clear her sister’s name.
    Infinite Days (Vampire Queen), by Rebecca Maizel (ARC) – I haven’t read this one yet, my copy awaits me, but I am interested in it because it is supposed to be about a vampire getting the opportunity to become human.
    The Summer of Skinny Dipping, by Amanda HowellsRead my review so that you will know how much I loved this book.  It’s a great read.
    Splendor: A Luxe Novel, by Anna Godberson – I haven’t read any of this series, but it is all over the place.  When you win you can let me know if they are worth a read.
    Matched, by Allie Condie – This hotly anticipated dystopian novel is the first in a series.  I thought the author did a great job in building this world and establishing the characters and the story.

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    Good luck!

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    Lost In Books Asks Me 20 Questions

    Rebecca from I’m Lost in Books features lots of great books from foreign countries and cultures, and has many fabulous features on her blog.

    I can’t even begin to mention them all here, but I love to read the 20 Questions that she asks bloggers about their reading and their TBR piles, and yesterday she featured my answers to her questions! If you’re not a regular reader of her blog, you should go and check it out. Rebecca also does a great meme called The Book List where she asks about books that we have read or have in our libraries on a particular theme. I always love to see what other people answer.

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    The Local News: A Novel, by Miriam Gershow – Book Review

    The Local News: A Novel, by Miriam Gershow
    Spiegal & Grau – February 9, 2010 – Paperback – 384 pages
    Source: Sent by the author for review

    Lydia Pasternak’s life has changed with the frightening disappearance of her brother Danny, a star on the football team.  As the search for him continues Lydia finds herself thrust into new circumstances- while her parents become increasingly removed and oblivious to her presence, Lydia begins to step out of herself to experience many teenage firsts like parties, boys and popularity- while navigating her mixed feelings on her troubled relationship with her brother, her own grief  and the strong outpouring of emotion from those around her.

    The Local News is a thoughtful and observant novel about the complex relationships that we have with our families, and how the people we love and their lives become open for public consumption in the face of tragedy and death.  Lydia is a smart narrator, as observant of her own need to push the boundaries and take advantage of the opportunities available to her in the wake of what has happened to her brother, as she is of the fact that her parents are adrift and leaving her to her own devices at a crucial point in her life.

    There were not a lot of characters that  can say that  I loved in this novel, but I felt so much compassion for Lydia because in many ways I didn’t feel she had a lot of choice in the people dealing with.  Her relationship with her childhood best friend is dictated by their intelligence, outsider status, interest in politics, and becomes burdened by their changing feelings for each other. Her relationships with Danny’s friends seem to be dictated by their need to fill a void. The experiences that Lydia has and the voice with which she portrays them are achingly real. Her questions, obsessions, and the choices that she makes just seem so right on for a teenage girl her age and level of precociousness.  Her crush on the somewhat slimy private investigator was suspenseful and realistic in its unfolding.

    While the subject matter is not happy, I enjoy books that take a balance approach in exploring the relationships in our lives which are often simplified when they no longer exist as they once did.  Gershow excels at fleshing out her characters’ relationships so that they are three dimensional and the reader can imagine all the paths that they might have taken just from the scenarios she presents.  This novel could have easily been mired down with the weight of Danny’s disappearance, but that never becomes the central story, but serves as a catalyst for Lydia’s coming-of-age story, and the myriad ways this affects the girl she had been and the woman she becomes.

    Recommended.

    Read More Reviews At: CaribousmomShe Reads and ReadsAge 30+…A Lifetime of BooksPeeking Between the PagesEveryday I Write the Book

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    Literary Feasts: Dracula, My Love, by Syrie James

    Literary Feast Banquet Image @ Linus's Blanket

    Literary Feast Banquet Image @ Linus's BlanketI love tarts.  Love them.  I think they were probably the first “sophisticated” dessert that I developed a taste for, which tells you something about my eating habits as a child.  I was a very finicky eater.  My mom often had to cook two versions of a dish so that I would have something to eat.  Beans without tomato sauce or okra, soup without carrots, meat not smothered in gravy, only chocolate milk, pb&j without crusts…you get the picture.

    Before I ventured into tarts, I think it was pretty much cake, cookies, doughnuts and apple pie. Very plain stuff.  My how things have changed.  There is very little that I won’t eat nowadays.  But that is another story for another post.

    While I was reading Dracula, My Love, by Syrie James I came across this passage where I discover that Mina is a fellow tart lover.  Her favorite is plum, which I don’t think I have ever had before.  I have had the ones with assorted fruits and I have made blackberry and raspberry tarts for dinner guests.

    After luncheon, we strolled down the main street of the village in a light-hearted mood.  When Jonathan saw that the baker’s shop was selling miniature plum tarts (my life-long favorite), he insisted on purchasing some.  We consumed the delicious treats on a bench in a little park overlooking the river , where we tossed morsels of crust to the ducks and geese gathered at our feet on the grassy bank.

    For a dinner party that I hosted earlier this year, I made a very easy tart and it turned out to be quite yummy.  The one that I made was very simplified but I came across this more elaborate one from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, on the Food Network.

    Plum Tart Recipe

    Ingredients

    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
    • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
    • 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), diced
    • 1 egg yolk
    • 2 pounds firm, ripe Italian prune plums, pitted and quartered lengthwise

    Directions

    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

    Combine the flour, walnuts, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the butter and the egg yolk. Mix, either by hand or with an electric mixer, until crumbly.

    Press 1 1/2 cups of the crumb mixture in an even layer into the bottom of a 9 1/2-inch springform or tart pan. Arrange the plums in the pan, skin side down, to form a flower pattern; begin at the outside and work your way in.

    Sprinkle the rest of the crumb mixture evenly over the plums. Bake the tart for 40 to 50 minutes, or until it’s lightly browned and the plum juices are bubbling. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and transfer the tart to a flat plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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    This post will be included in the Weekend Cooking feature over at Beth Fish Reads.  You should check that out.  It’s yummy!

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    Dracula, My Love – The Secret Journals of Mina Harker: A Novel, by Syrie James – Book Review

    Dracula, My Love, by Syrie James

    Dracula, My Love, by Syrie JamesDracula, My Love: The Secret Journals of Mina Harker: A Novel, by Syrie James
    Avon A – July 20, 2010 – Trade Paperback Original – 480 pages
    Source: Sent by publisher for review

    Mina Murray is in Whitby on holiday with best friend Lucy Westenra and her mother.  Both are enjoying the last of their time together as carefree young women before they are married. Mina is troubled by the fact that her fiancee, Jonathan Harker, hasn’t written to her as much as usual, but she is quickly distracted by the arrival of young, handsome and mysterious Mr. Wagner, who seems to have eyes for her alone, and then by the mysterious sleepwalking and bouts of illness that plague Lucy. Mina doesn’t know, but will soon discover how the events are connected, and how her life has already taken a drastic turn from the tranquility she once enjoyed to a passion she has never experienced.

    I was recently thrilled to discover that Syrie James had a new book coming  out.  I loved her novel The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte. I was very curious to see how she would treat Mina, a fictional character, in her novel.  Dracula, My Love was just as well researched as anything that she wrote about one of her real life heroines and I felt as if I was walking around in the world with Mina, Lucy, Dracula, et al. I must admit before I get too far into this that I have not read the original version of Dracula in its entirety, but now I am excited to do so if only to compare and contrast this story with the original.  What I know of Dracula is based on vague remembrances of old movies to which I probably only half paid attention.  The appeal was drastically increased when I found out that it would be James’ next subject.

    Dracula, My Love did excellent job in communicating what the time looked like and felt like, how people dressed and behaved, and the roles assigned to the sexes at the time.  Through Mina relationships with Jonathan and Dracula the reader is  able to explore the expectations demanded of women and the limited opportunities granted to them to explore their passions sexual or otherwise.  Dracula is drawing on several lifetimes of experience and encourages Mina to question her assumptions about her choices and to pursue avenues that she didn’t think were available to her.  We see how the things that we take for granted – like having a conversation with a man – were huge improprieties, and one that had feared consequences.   James explores one of the most debated ideas on the meaning of vampires, that they played a role in the exploration of the sexual awakening and identity of women.  Both Lucy and Mina use Dracula as a means to satisfy desires and freedom that they suspect will remain unfulfilled in their marriages.

    Dracula, My Love is at its core  a love triangle, unbalanced though it must be with the title being what it is. Certain things about Mina’s life and the choices that she makes can  be surmised from the beginning because the book is more about the journey that she undertakes to arrive at who she is.  It is about loving and appreciating the old, exploring the new and combining the two in ways that you can live with.

    I really appreciated having the opportunity to know Dracula’s story and to learn about his motivations as well as historical information about Transylvania and Vlad Tepes. Mina is a character that is very much in flux and attempting to come into her own and there were more than a few times when her naivete frustrated me and also times when she seemed to be unusually dense for one so smart which made the book a little slow for me in places. My feelings about her vacillated wildly because while she could be tiresome, I also thought that her behavior might be expected from someone as torn as she is between two men, and one who has had as little experience as she has had.

    James’ writing is thoroughly researched and gorgeous to read.  This is a great read especially if you enjoy England in the late 19th century, Dracula, or just plain good historical fiction.  I guess I am now officially counting down to the next James novel.

    Recommended.

    Read More Reviews At: Austenesque Reviews

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    The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, by Kelly O’Connor McNees – Book Review

    The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, by Kelly O’Connor McNees
    Putnam Adult/Amy Einhorn Books – April 1, 2010 – Hardcover – 352 pages
    Source: Jen from Devourer of Books was sweet and had an ARC signed for me when Kelly visited Chicago, and I have to thank Marcia from The Printed Page for giving me “permission” to read what I wanted to read instead of what I felt I had an obligation to read.

    In the summer of 1855 Louisa May Alcott is chomping at the bit to move to Boston and to begin earning her living by writing and selling her stories. She has already had some small success and can’t wait to follow it up with more.  Before she can do that, she has to help her family move to their new home in Walpole, MA. Her plan is to spend a few weeks helping them get settled before she goes to Boston, but unforeseen events keep popping up to extend her stay, and a young man by the name of Joseph Singer threatens to be the biggest setback of all, as he goes from her number one annoyance to the man for whom she is tempted to give up everything.

    O’Connor McNees’ The Lost Summer of Loisa May Alcott was a pleasure to read from the first moment I picked it up.  I read this book quickly and was completely ensconced in the world of this beloved author, her eccentric family, and the struggle Louisa faces in choosing between the role of wife and mother or the life she wants to lead as a writer. All of Alcott’s relationships with her sisters, and her much tested mother, and her frequently infuriating father are explored.  Louisa is especially close to her elder sister Anna, who also finds love over the summer.   Bronson Alcott is larger than life, as he can’t help but be with his odd ideas that tax the family resources.  I felt like he was put there to infuriate me with his hypocritical principles that kept him from doing an ounce of work, leaving his family to struggle on their own, constantly negotiating the brink of poverty.

    I was intrigued by the philosophies guiding the lives of Louisa and her sister Anna.  Anna is very much guided by the idea of doing good- being a dutiful child, making a good wife and mother, while Louisa has the newly emerging idea of her own happiness, and having that as the guiding principle and most important thing to attain.  It is what she feels she has a right to, and she works hard to stay true to it, though it would be far easier for others if she took the path that was expected of her. Louisa’s view for the most part is the one that prevails now for in our society, while we look to take care of responsibilities, we also expect to find ways that we can be happy doing so.

    I loved the seamless blending of fact and fiction in this novel and the captivating writing style.  It was written in such a way that not only can I fully imagine this as Alcott’s life, the struggles that she might have experienced and the choices that she might have made, but I could also imagine her as the woman who would have written a book like Little Women and all the others she wrote, out of her experiences of the summer of 1855. So many will enjoy this fantastic novel.  If you like historical fiction, works about women writers, loved reading Louisa May Alcott growing up, or fall into all three categories like me, then there is much here to be enjoyed.

    Highly Recommended.

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