Monday, December 26, 2016

Odessa Sea (Dirk Pitt, #24)Odessa Sea by Clive Cussler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Clive Cussler never disappoints. The book is fast paced the characters are realistic yet iconic. The villains are awful and the heroes are beautiful, witty, handsome and strong. The story is essentially ripped from the headlines with just enough reality to keep you reading. Want to relax with a book? This one is fun, fast and a pleasure to read.

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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Night School (Jack Reacher, #21)Night School by Lee Child
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a real mystery masterpiece. The story is complex, readable and entertaining. Just enough realism to make it a bit scary. Set early in Reacher's career, it hints at some of his later behaviors and quirks. I just love it. I wish Lee Child would write three books a year. This book can stand alone. One needs not know anything about the other books in the series to enjoy it.
Child's use of language and writing style really shines in this book. So many interesting and provocative story lines that converge in a few seconds of utter realism.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the LusitaniaDead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A great book. Erik Larson gets me anxious even though I know the ending. He brings the characters to life and the reader wonders what will become of them. I am so glad that he has shone a light on this episode of history. We tend to forget what transportation and communication was like in that era. He also shows us how utterly human and sometimes small minded even some of our greatest leaders have been. Human frailty and championing of ignorance is not a new condition of mankind, it is a chronic condition.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

This Was a Man (The Clifton Chronicles, #7)This Was a Man by Jeffrey Archer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a fitting end to the Clifton Chronicles. At times hard to read because, knowing that it was the final episode, I didn't want it to end. Taking all the characters and weaving them into a final few inches of fabric, knowing that there would be no more was masterful. What a storyteller. This is a brilliant book and was a brilliant series. I do now know more about cricket than I ever wanted to.

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Saturday, November 5, 2016

Sex, Lies, and Serious Money (Stone Barrington, #39)Sex, Lies, and Serious Money by Stuart Woods
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Stuart Woods never fails to provide a delightful read. Imagine yourself with all the money in the world and a rich friend to tell you how to spend it appropriately. That's the main plot of this story. The underlying story is a minor, but interesting, crime conspiracy with Stone and his new friend involved. A lot of delightful sex, mischief and great meal descriptions. In addition jet setting around the the country in private jets.... These books are a joy to read.

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Monday, October 31, 2016

Escape Clause (Virgil Flowers, #9)Escape Clause by John Sandford
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Between John Sandford books I forget how good he is. The story is wonderfully presented. The characters have depth and realism, even though they are incredibly weird and almost unbelievable. Virgil is so real and his emotions are portrayed beautifully. The plot is complex and yet I bought the whole thing. Can't wait for the next one. If you've never read John Sandford, this might be a good introduction... I loved it.

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Friday, October 21, 2016

Machinations (Machinations, #1)Machinations by Hayley Stone
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I guess this book was pretty much fluff for me. A bit end of the world, machines fight humans. The terminator without time travel. Interesting characters. I think my grandchildren will like this book. The story was too predictable and I don't just mean the ending. I sort of knew the storyline as it unfolded.

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Old Filth (Old Filth, #1)Old Filth by Jane Gardam
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a book club selection. It is very readable and I had trouble putting it down. The problem was that there was very little plot and a ton of character development. I guess I had figured out the "secret" and was not too surprised at the ending. I think I many have learned a lot about the British Empire that I did not know. Maybe I have a better idea of why England is so different from the States.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Cometh the Hour (The Clifton Chronicles, #6)Cometh the Hour by Jeffrey Archer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another episode in the Clifton Chronicles. I love these books. The stories and characters are quite memorable. They seem to have a depth and realism that is wonderful. Reading these stories has given me a whole new look at English society and politics. I look forward to the next episode.

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Saturday, September 10, 2016

Be Careful What You Wish For (The Clifton Chronicles, #4)Be Careful What You Wish For by Jeffrey Archer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The saga continues but got a little plodding in the middle of the book. Thought for a minute or two I was done with the Clifton's but he ending left me hanging enough to go on with the story. On to book five. This must be a tribute to the writing of Archer. His characters are rich with realism and emotion. One can almost feel they have met them. Even minor characters seem to have three dimensions. Worth reading.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Best Kept Secret (The Clifton Chronicles, #3)Best Kept Secret by Jeffrey Archer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The master of surprise endings. Great to know there is another of these, in fact several more. Archer develops characters and story lines that are intriguing and eminently believable. His characters don't seem to get old, they seem to mature and become multi-faceted. I am totally enjoying the series.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Circling the SunCircling the Sun by Paula McLain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a selection for my book club and I enjoyed it very much. I must say its like a great meal or wine. Nuanced and subtle. I took a long time to read it because it was delicious. The writing is beautiful and thought provoking. The story is bigger and broader than a single person or continent. The author manages to reveal the complex nature of the character in ways that I found universal to people around me and myself. None of us are simple and our actions affect all of those around us. These complex relationships were so beautifully shown in a tender and loving way.

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Friday, July 29, 2016

The Black Widow (Gabriel Allon, #16)The Black Widow by Daniel Silva
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a great author. Its like he wrote the book last night. The plot is wonderfully presented but best of all when Silva writes I feel as if I'm there. His descriptions of places and events are so real that you can smell the exhaust from the cars and feel the grit on your hands. I take too long to read his books because each word is to be savored. He outlines the background so beautifully and with a great deal of sensitivity. These are complex locations and issues and he navigates them with grace.
I'm glad he kept Gabriel in his books and look forward to his next adventure.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Letters from SkyeLetters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a book club selection. I'm glad I read it. Interesting way to tell a very small story. Well written and I would say finely crafted. Covers a span of history I find interesting. I wanted to love it and at times I did but parts were just dreary and sad. Even the parts that may have been joyous were tinged with the shadow of infidelity. I guess the point was that we don't control who we love but that may be too simple in the real world....

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Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Sins of the Father (The Clifton Chronicles, #2)The Sins of the Father by Jeffrey Archer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

These books are wonderful, they ruin my days. I just want to read them. The stories are beautifully crafted and the characters come alive, mature and often behave in ways you might not have expected. The span of history is wonderfully presented. I just can't wait for the next one.

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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Only Time Will Tell (The Clifton Chronicles, #1)Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a marvelous book. Jeffrey Archer is a magnificent story teller and I was enthralled from page one. The setting, characters and story unfold in front of you and become more interesting as you read. It is such a wonderful glimpse at life in England before WWII. Knowing that this book is part of a series of six made it even more fun to read. I can't wait to tackle the next one. This is a great book!

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Dishonorable Intentions (Stone Barrington #38)Dishonorable Intentions by Stuart Woods
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Stuart Woods could not write enough books to satisfy me. This one is just like the others, great, unbelievable situations. Food, women and wine! Wonderful settings with characters that seem to get better with each iteration. I don't pretend this is great mystery or fabulous literature, it is just pain fun to read. Can't put it down.

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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Black Out (Inspector Troy, #1)Black Out by John Lawton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wanted to love this book. I only liked it. Parts of it seemed confusing and yet, in the end I realized that John Lawton has constructed a complex, convoluted story that left a lot of future for the characters. A bit wordy at times, his style often led me astray. On the plus side, I think I could smell the characters he made them come to life so well. Will I read more. Probably after a respite from the war.

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Saturday, June 11, 2016

Amazing Nylon-string Acoustic-electric!


Just to update this, I've returned it and replaced it with a little more substantial guitar. This one was pleasant to play but the sound was uneven across the full range. When plugged in some of the strings were substantially louder than others. I believe the problem is that the pickup under the saddle was designed for a narrower string spread. That's why you shop at reputable dealers with great return policies.

My new guitar for fiddling around is slightly smaller and far more slender than a typical classical guitar, Ibanez's GA35TCE is really a pop nylon-string acoustic-electric. The back and sides made from mahogany and a solid spruce top balances gives it deep and rich low end with an even balance tones at the other end.  My favorite guitars have been spruce and mahogany. 

I bought it to play on the couch while watching tv but it has a very natural feel. The body is very thin, not like a classical at all. All though it looks normal its actually smaller than most classics. Its a tiny bit bigger than a Les Paul.

It has a sweet tone and is very easy on the shoulder and fingers.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Nature of the Beast (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #11)The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a book I read for my book club. I enjoyed it. It is the eleventh in a series and the characters are rich but somewhat glossed over. I believe that reading the early books might have made this a more rewarding experience.
The story is interesting and intriguing. At least one of the characters was a real person and the main plot is certainly based on events that did happen in one form or another. Not to spoil the plot, this is the kind of book where fact and fiction come together in an exciting and interesting story.
Louise Penny is quite an author, the story line never quits but occasionally gets bogged down in the milieu. Oops, now that I think about it she might have been a master at setting the stage and the environment for the story... Bravo!

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Monday, May 23, 2016

A Guitar Named for Billy Byrd and Hank Garland

Just like mine but a stock photo
The Byrdland is an electric guitar that gets its names from guitarists Billy Byrd and Hank Garland. The first ones were custom made for them.
The Byrdland was the first thinline guitar. It was essentially a Gibson's L-5 with a depth of 2¼-in about an inch less than the L-5. In addition Byrd and Garland wanted a short scale neck (23½") which makes the frets closer together. The Byrdland is still available from Gibson for about nine thousand dollars.

In the early 2000's Epiphone, a division of Gibson, created some hand mande guitars called the elite or elitist series. These guitars were made in Japan. One of the models was a handmade copy of the original Gibson Byrdland. I managed to find one and bought it. The guitar is an amazing replica of the original. Great wood, same dimensions and essentially the same electronics. The guitar has a venetian, rounded, cutaway. The differences are found in the peghead shape, more Epiphone than Gibson and the tailpiece. The original was engraved "Byrdland" and mine is blank.

Blank Byrdland tailpiece

This guitar also has a carved top and back. Its hardware is gold and it has a remarkably solid feel. The binding and finish are flawless. 
 
This might be my favorite guitar because its unique. There are few guitars that have a short scale and it is very easy to play. The neck is superb and all in all it plays just like an eight grand guitar. The finish is just beautiful. And it sounds just like a jazz guitar should.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Other Side of Silence (Bernie Gunther, #11)The Other Side of Silence by Philip Kerr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The names have not been changed because no one was innocent. Bernie Gunther added to history. Real people, true events and a carefully woven story of intrigue and deception that uses but does not rely on Bernie's colorful and wholly believable past. Philip Kerr has a way with history and his research has found obscure events and brought them to life in this story. Another thing I like is that Bernie almost acts his age. I look forward to his next Bernie book!

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Friday, May 13, 2016

The Lady from Zagreb (Bernard Gunther, #10)The Lady from Zagreb by Philip Kerr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a masterpiece, murder, deception everything a good detective story should have. As the author points out in the acknowledgments, the murders don't get solved and there is little resolution. The history is magnificent. Easy to follow, yet it is a complex story filled with real people and places. I'm so glad that Philip Kerr did not give up on Bernie. I'll start the eleventh as soon as I'm done here. Please, if you read the book read the Acknowledgement at the end too. I love finding out "who" the characters were based on. A brilliant work.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Extreme Prey (Lucas Davenport, #26)Extreme Prey by John Sandford
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lucas Davenport at his best. Finds a shred of a clue, not enough to imagine and uses it to unravel a complex and fascinating mystery. All the adventure and nail biting you can imagine. The characters are sinister and revolting, yet real and understandable. You might meet the villains at the supermarket or run into them at the mall. This is a chilling story of the politics of insanity. How the insane can live perfectly normal lives among us and still be monsters capable of horrible crimes. Makes me want to stay home.

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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Due Diligence (Rachel Gold Mysteries #5)Due Diligence by Michael A. Kahn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this for a book club but I'm so glad I did. Rachel Gold and her friends are a delight. Michael Kahn has fashioned a complex yet totally understandable and believable thriller/mystery. A simple story woven with delightful characters. I really enjoyed the dialogue and the action. I may want to go back and read some more of the Rachel Gold mysteries. There are nine of them to date with several other books to his credit.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Man Without Breath (Bernard Gunther, #9)A Man Without Breath by Philip Kerr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is quite a book. Bernie is trying to solve some seemingly simple murders with a backdrop of mass murder and genocide. Actual characters, actual locations real historical events make for a real page turner that is exciting until the end. The internal turmoil in Bernie's mind is well matched by the schitzo nature of the German leadership during WWII. Read past the end into the Author's notes at the end.

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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Counting The Omer.... Why?

As a child, holidays came and went. Each had its own rituals and foods. Some I didn't even notice, others were pretty much good for a day off from school. Now that I am older, and have time to think about these things, I spend a little more time wondering what it is all about.

When my dear daughter asked me to write her an Omer counter I had to look it up to find out what it was. I find the idea interesting for many reasons. Most of which it makes the counter, if you choose to be one, cognizant of the passage of time and the season more than ever. It gives us a chance to prepare for the holiday that celebrates G-d giving us the Torah.

The Torah, everything you need to know about life in one easy to handle scroll, is an amazing gift and however you believe it came to be, it certainly has had a profound impact on Jews and non-Jews alike.


I found a couple of interesting articles on Counting the Omer. The first is from the blog PunkTorah regarding the counting:

So, what does this all mean to us now? Well, it can mean many things. Counting the Omer can be used as a tool of self reflection. We can take this time to recognize the miracle of the Exodus from Egypt, from the gift of our freedom. The Sages tell us that G-d freed us from slavery in order to give us the Torah on Shavu’ot, so this should be a time of preparation. Counting the Omer gives us the time to learn from the gift of freedom G-d has given us and incorporate it into our lives, to grow one day at a time, taking a spiritual accounting, to make sure that we are heading in the right direction, to look at what we are doing that is right or wrong and to try to make ourselves ready to receive the honor of the Torah.
Counting the days is another way of directing our mindfulness to the passage of time. Be aware of the days as they pass, count them, give them meaning. We have been freed from slavery, rejecting the confusion and idolatry (philosophically, literally, and spiritually) of our own Egypt’s and are being made ready to re-focus our lives.
I guess a good take-away from all of this is that one must make each day count. Make each day worth living for you and the people you love. 

(This is a repeat of a post from last year)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs, #1)Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A very delightful book. Strong characters and a plot that crept up and grabbed me. I could almost see the characters probably because I've watched so much British tv. Can't wait to read more of these.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Family Jewels (Stone Barrington #37)Family Jewels by Stuart Woods
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Pure Stone Barrington. A wonderfully pleasant read. I'd call it a page turner but more than that, Stuart Woods stories are just fun to read. I also find myself finding out a lot of things I didn't know. In fact I want to try one of the restaurants from this story next time I'm in New York.
Stone solves the mystery the old fashioned way, with intricate plot twists and clever characters. The old favorites make appearances too so that the book feels a little like old home week after having read the thirty-six previous editions. Thanks Stuart Woods, keep writing these fun and entertaining books and totally turning off my TV for a few delightful hours.

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Monday, April 11, 2016

Prague Fatale (Bernard Gunther, #8)Prague Fatale by Philip Kerr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This might be Philip Kerr at his best... A great, classic mystery and an inside look at people and events that shaped the Third Reich. It was quite a ride. The mystery was a classic, a story that was complex but still completely understandable. I could see the places and events unfolding. So much of this story is based on real people and events. If you read this be sure to read the acknowledgements at the end.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Field GreyField Grey by Philip Kerr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Same old Bernie but older and wiser? Well the story is convoluted and a little hard to follow but still a great picture of this time period, the 50's. Doesn't make the Amis, Americans, look so good but to a non-nazi German, the Americans must have looked like the same trouble all over again.

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Monday, April 4, 2016

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1)The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sorry to say I didn't like this much. It could have been a great story but it never seemed to go anywhere. The characters were pretty thin and in reality I didn't much care what happened to them. I wanted to like Comoran Strike and his sidekick secretary but they never did anything that got me interested. He has the stuff of a great detective but never seems to get going...

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Monday, March 14, 2016

If The Dead Rise Not (Bernard Gunther, #6)If The Dead Rise Not by Philip Kerr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is divided into two parts, almost two different books with the same characters. It shows how characters can grow and mature in the hands of a great writer. The characters really come to life and with the clever blend of real history and Philip Kerr's exciting story. Although I did figure this one out before the last page, it was still a very well constructed mystery with great character development. All in all I loved it.

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Monday, March 7, 2016

A Quiet Flame (Bernard Gunther, #5)A Quiet Flame by Philip Kerr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a great book. It is a terrific mystery but has so much fascinating history. Some of it I knew, some was a bit of a revelation. Bernie is getting to be a strong character with such a complicated past and as of this minute, an interesting future. I can hardly wait to see what he does next.

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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The One from the Other (Bernard Gunther, #4)The One from the Other by Philip Kerr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is Bernie at his best. A story with twists and turns and filled with interesting characters. Don't skip the acknowledgments at the end. At one point I almost put the book down because the plot was too thick and obtuse. Then I realized that it was supposed to be that way. Bernie gets confused and sorts it out with just a few clues. Can't wait for the next one.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A German Requiem (Bernard Gunther, #3)A German Requiem by Philip Kerr


Wow! An amazing, convoluted story that is loosely based on actual events. Makes you shudder to think of what the world was like then and what it has become today. With the shadow of the war still lingering, Bernie fights on for justice, at least what he thinks is justice, in a world that is filled with deception. The final few paragraphs of the book really describe the whole story but... no spoilers here.

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Monday, February 15, 2016

Jack of Spies (Jack McColl, #1)Jack of Spies by David Downing
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The weave of history and a spy story is wonderful. The plot may have been a bit weak, or some might say what plot? All in all I'd like more Jack McColl. I think he has set us up for some great novels. I just love David Downing.

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Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Pale Criminal (Bernard Gunther, #2)The Pale Criminal by Philip Kerr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The story is a bit far fetched but I love Bernie and his whole attitude. Kerr does a masterful job of weaving history and his clever story.
This story is easy to read and at times a real page turner.

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

March Violets (Bernard Gunther, #1)March Violets by Philip Kerr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this character. He is irreverent and witty, yet thoughtful. Gives me some views of pre-war Germany that I've never been privy to. I'm looking forward to the whole series.

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Truman's Spy: A Cold War Spy StoryTruman's Spy: A Cold War Spy Story by Noel Hynd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Interesting characters and a clever plot. Just enough real characters to make the time period come alive. I liked it a lot. Will there be more?

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Then We Take BerlinThen We Take Berlin by John Lawton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great plot twists and I love the way it all came together. Great view of post-war Germany. I could feel the tension in the city.

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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Scandalous Behavior (Stone Barrington, #36)Scandalous Behavior by Stuart Woods
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is pure Stuart Woods. Clever, cool and sophisticated. Just what I expected. Enjoyed every word. Some of the far fetched schemes almost seemed real. Some describe this as fantasy, I call it a delicious respite from my real world.

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The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard StreetThe Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a wonderful story told beautifully. I enjoyed every word. The characters came alive vividly as I read. A remarkable tale.

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Sunday, January 3, 2016

Palace of Treason by Jason Matthews

Palace of Treason
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an amazing book. It is the perfect sequel and Matthews has set us up for his next book. I just wish he'd write faster. The characters come alive and the action sequences keep you reading. Hard to put down once it gets going. Such a great read.

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