INTERIOR THOUGHTS: A PRECARIOUS BALANCE…

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It is time to assess my progress towards BALANCE!

One aspect of balancing my interior world is all about the books I buy, as well as those I manage to read.

Let’s look at my Compulsive Book Buying Disorder:

 

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Here’s what happened so far this year:

Books Purchased in January 2016:  SEVEN!  (Not bad)

How about February?  – SIX!

March:  Uh-oh….TWELVE!

April:  TEN…So far.

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Now let’s check my progress on the Read the Books You Buy Challenge:

Twenty-eight books read so far in 2016.  These are books that were purchased between June 2015 to the Present.

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Now…this is all great, but what does it have to do with balance?   Let’s look at books that I’ve read from my Old TBRs…before June 2015.

Those numbers were harder to access, but I found them by going back through my written logs from the beginning of the year, and here they are:

TWENTY-TWO books read that were purchased before June 2015.  So…a little progress.

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Balancing books read, books purchased, etc., is all good.  But I still have a ways to go to balance out the rest of my life.

My A Day in the Life post showed a somewhat balanced day.  I’m thinking I should do a similar post once a month.  What do you think?

Do you easily balance your days, your weeks, and your months?  How do you do it?

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REVIEW: JUNE, BY MIRANDA BEVERLY-WHITTEMORE

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When Cassie Danvers’ grandmother June died, she left her the huge old house, Two Oaks, in St. Jude, Ohio, built in 1895.

Cassie left New York and the loft she’d shared with her ex-boyfriend, but once she took possession of the house, she seemed to be sleeping her life away. There was much that needed to be done to the home and the surrounding gardens, but she couldn’t seem to manage it all. Nor could she find the energy to pursue her photography.

At night, Cassie dreamed of colorful people and events occurring in the house, but her days were troubled by the encroaching weeds in the garden and the mail piling up in the foyer.

Until one day when there was a knock on the door, and a young man named Nick Emmons had come to share some news. Cassie had inherited $37 million from Jack Montgomery, a Hollywood star who had just died. Apparently in the summer of 1955, he and an entourage of actors had taken up residence in St. Jude to film a movie called Erie Canal. And during that time, June and Jack might have had a romantic liaison. Cassie’s father Adelbert could have been Jack’s son.

But…in order to inherit, Cassie has to fulfill a request made by one of Jack’s daughters, Tate Montgomery, also a Hollywood celebrity, and a suspicious one at that. They must take a DNA test. Soon Tate and her assistant, along with Nick, are living with Cassie while she decides how it is going to play out. She wants more information before agreeing, so they start going through letters and interviewing townspeople who might have known something.

How might June and Jack have connected? What was the significance of the friendship between June and her next-door neighbor Lindie in 1950s Ohio? How would several betrayals and secrets thwart the lives of the characters back then? And what tragic event would change the trajectory of all their lives? In the present, does Cassie finally find answers and a kind of peace?

June was a richly layered family saga that swept back and forth through time, showing us the characters who populated the town and Two Oaks back in 1955…and then fast forwarded to the present. As the story finally unfolded, and as more and more secrets were revealed, I could not stop wondering what would happen next. The story had many beautiful as well as some sad moments, but in the end, a rich tapestry of characters, from the present and from the past, encircled Cassie and wrapped themselves around her and kept her company in her beautiful old mansion. 5 stars.

REMINISCING CHILDHOOD MOMENTS: EXCERPTED FROM “WEB OF TYRANNY”

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Looking back on childhood moments, Margaret (Meg) Graham recalls some clues to what happens to her later in life.  Excerpted from Web of Tyranny.

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Later in her life, Margaret would remember the summer of 1956 as that time when she’d still had illusions about what life could be.

 

Even with the backbreaking, seemingly endless chores, there was still that camaraderie amongst the workers.  Even Lucy helped keep things light, chattering away about her plans for the evening.  Margaret listened and pretended she had Lucy’s life with Lucy’s parents.  Uncle Joe and Aunt Noreen laughed a lot.  They even had a television set and when Margaret had the good fortune to visit at their house, hanging out with Lucy’s younger sister Nanette, the whole family sat around on the couch eating their dinner on TV trays and laughing along with the I Love Lucy show.  Sometimes Margaret thought that Aunt Noreen, who was Father’s sister, must have grown up in a different family.  They were total opposites.  Father was all stern and uptight, while Aunt Noreen laughed and joked and seemed to enjoy being with her kids.  Just like Father’s other sister Molly, who had all those stories to tell.  Even Uncle Victor and Aunt Janice seemed so different from Father.

 

Margaret couldn’t figure any of it out back then.  Later she would come to believe that it all had something to do with Father being the eldest child in his family.  The one who had to drop out of school to work the farm.  The one who had to give up his own fun and lightheartedness to help bring in the crops.

 

But in her tenth year of life, Margaret Elaine Graham only knew that the father who had once loved her had turned on her.  And her life had somehow shaped itself into Before and After.  First there had been love and acceptance.  Then there was coldness and disapproval.   And fleeting moments of secret fun and freedom meted out in small portions, to be grasped and cherished.  As rare and unexpected as a stash of jewels.  And just as precious.
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The summer before Margaret turned twelve, she decided she would become Meg.  Her parents still called her Margaret, but her school chums and even her cousins went along with her new nickname.  She’d decided on the name after reading Little Women, even though she knew she was nothing like the character Meg in the book.  Actually, she saw herself more as the Jo character.  But her cousin Elizabeth, who was actually a first-cousin-once-removed, insisted that Meg fit the eldest of the March sisters to a tee.  And Elizabeth decided that she would be Jo.  Secretly, Margaret-who-now-was-Meg believed that she would someday grow up to be a writer, and that meant she had to be Jo.

 

She was spending a lot of time with Elizabeth during that summer of 1958, because Father was building a house for Elizabeth’s family.  For some reason, the adults had decided that Meg could tag along and hang out with Elizabeth, who now called herself Liz.

 
Normally, Liz stayed alone during the days while her mother worked as a housekeeper.  Liz’s father Alvin had died when Liz was only four, leaving her mother Elsie to somehow manage on her own.  Every month Elsie received a small payment from Social Security…The adults called it her “widow’s pension”…But she had to work outside the home, too, in order to make ends meet, something not too many women did in those days.

 

Elsie, her daughter Liz, and her son, Alvin, Jr., had been moving around from one grim rental to another until the church decided to donate time and materials to build a small house for the family.  The church congregation, made up primarily of near and distant relatives, had done the charitable thing and pulled together to help the young widow and her family.  Because Vincent Graham had built many houses over the years, he had been called into service.

 
This kind and charitable side of Vincent Graham was one that felt strange and unfamiliar to Meg.  Not one to question her unexpected good fortune, though, she was happy to spend time with Liz, and because of the arduous labor involved in building the house, Father was too distracted to notice Meg.

 

Liz directed their activities that summer.  When they weren’t reading and talking about the books they were reading, they hung out in town, peering into shop windows and catching the glances of cute guys.

 

To Meg, the sudden, unexpected freedom felt like a reprieve.  She couldn’t figure out how sometimes she came under close scrutiny from her parents, while other times she had moments of relative peace.

 

But that summer, Meg had two whole months with nothing to do but hang out with Liz, read books, and dream about the life she would have some day.  Of course, she knew that by August, she would be up to her elbows in peach fuzz again.  But for now, she and Liz could hang out in town or in Liz’s room at their current rental.  Even though Liz and her family lived in one-half of an old house that had been converted into apartments, the place felt wonderfully exciting to Meg.  For one thing, Liz had free rein in the house while her mother worked.

 

One day Meg and Liz baked cookies.  They kept mixing the ingredients, plopping the dough on the cookie sheets, and shoving the finished product into the oven, and before they knew it, every counter in the tiny kitchen was filled with cookies.  Then, looking at what they had created, they burst into hysterical laughter.  They sank down on the floor, still chortling over the mess they had made while tears coursed through the dough, splattering on their faces.

 

And Meg thought she’d never been happier, not in her whole life.

 

They’d cleaned the kitchen up then, grabbing a handful of cookies.  Plopping down on the old sofa, they felt content.  But just when they had started playing Monopoly, Father appeared and it was time to go home again.  In the doorway Vincent Graham loomed like a storm cloud, chasing away the feelings of freedom and lightness.

 

Meg compliantly followed her father to the car and rode silently beside him out to their farm.

 

She played this little game with herself whenever she wanted to escape notice, like now.  Closing her eyes tightly, she pretended that her whole body could curl up into a tiny ball.  And if she were really quiet, she would become invisible.  She would escape the searing eyes of Father.

 

She always feared that somehow Father would know that she and Liz had wandered around town, flirting with boys.  Someone from church might have seen them and tattled, and Father would have to punish her.  Because flirting with boys was a really big sin, according to Father.  He made scathing remarks about boy crazy girls, who would surely grow up to shame their families.

 

Sitting on the upholstered seat of their car, hardly daring to breathe, Meg caught a glimpse of his face as he drove.  He seemed lost in a world of his own, and she began to exhale slowly.  They were almost home now, and her mind flew ahead to her room, imagining how she would rush there as soon as the car stopped.  She had almost convinced herself that she had once again escaped the wrath of Vincent Graham, when he suddenly turned, his eyes hard and cold, and flatly spoke:  “Tomorrow, you’ll be staying home.  Your mother needs you to watch your little brother.”  Just like that.  And she didn’t even know if she’d done something wrong, or if her father, unpredictable and arbitrary, had just decided that she’d had way too much freedom.

 

Of course, it could have been worse.  At least she’d be with Mother, who, while often distant and moody, was at least not cruel and punitive.  And babysitting her two-year-old brother Gordon wasn’t the worst thing that could happen.

 

But that’s how Father was in those years.   Harsh and cold.  Or hot-tempered, like a flash of fire that could sear right through her skin.  For any infraction, she could earn the blistering heat of the peach limbs across her legs.  She could almost feel the sting of her father’s favorite weapon as she slid out of the car, making her escape.

 

When little Gordon had been born in the fall, two years before, Meg had suffered still another in what felt like a series of betrayals.  It was bad enough that most of the time she couldn’t figure out what was expected of her.  But at least she’d thought she knew her place in the family.  Youngest child, for one thing.   But Gordon’s birth had changed all that, and because it was such a total surprise, Meg felt completely stupid, as if someone had played a prank that everyone else understood except her.  She had noticed the bulge in Mother’s belly months before the birth, but when she’d asked about it, Mother had dismissed her with a short little remark that she was just gaining weight.  And like the fool, Meg had bought it.  So when Father came home that October day, handing out ice cream bars, like some kind of celebration, and made the announcement that they had a new baby brother, she had glanced in shock over at Vernon, who had just stood there, avoiding her eyes.  She was obviously the last to know, and now Father was acting like she should be happy about it.

 

And the worst of it was that he’d been born just days after Meg’s own birthday.

 

When they’d first brought the wrinkled little guy home from the hospital, Meg’s eyes had fastened on that tiny little head and the way Mother was cuddling him so lovingly and felt the piercing pang of jealousy.  She’d mumbled something like “he’s cute”, while secretly thinking he looked like a spider monkey.  Mother had retorted:  “Of course, he’s cute!”

 

Everything had changed then.  Meg had more responsibilities, watching after her baby brother as he got older.  Sometimes she watched him all day while her mother and father worked out in the fields.  But she didn’t even mind watching him as much as she hated that the little bit of love and warmth she’d once gotten from Mother now belonged to Gordon.

 

That was another reason she’d felt so blissfully happy hanging out with Liz.  Like a caged bird flapping against the confines of her prison, she’d been set free, allowed to spend hours a day in Liz’s company.  Like the bird released from confinement, Meg had enjoyed the sensation of the wind under her wings as she soared magically, hoping that the feeling might go on forever, while knowing deep down that it would be short-lived.  So now she knew.  Her time with Liz had ended.

 

Even as her bitter thoughts lingered on all the things left undone, all the plans she and Liz had still had for their summer days, she secretly tucked the memories of what they had done away into a place in her head.  She knew that she could take out the recollections and reexamine them whenever she wanted, reliving the experiences.  She often did just that even in the midst of chores.  Her mind flitted about, selecting one memory or another, and for a few moments, she felt the magic of each experience all over again.

 

She would later look back on that summer as the final days of an all-too-short childhood.

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MY INTERIOR THOUGHTS: A GLIMPSE OF THE PAST

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When I sorted through some photo folders this morning, I found this one, (above), taken a while ago, as I read that book in 2010!  How is it possible for so much time to fly by, and the memories can only be affixed to a specific book read at that time? (I checked on Goodreads!  LOL).

The patio also looks very clean there, compared to how it looks today.  I don’t think I dare show you what it looks like today…it’s been windy, then rainy, and…well, here it is: 

 

messy patio in april 2016

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I have avoided going out there, primarily (I tell myself) because it has been raining so much, on and off, so it is futile.  And also…I am highly allergic to the outdoors.  LOL.

I started taking a new allergy medication that may work better…just like my new doctor is going to be better for me, too.  Some of you may recall my struggle over the meds. the previous doctor insisted on…well, another story, right? (My Day in the Life post).

Now for some more hidden treasures from my photo folder.  Here’s my oldest, Craig, with Heather, in 2001, just before he returned to Prague after a visit.   Heather and I spent a few days with him in Sacramento, where he’d been staying; this one was snapped in Old Town:

 

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And a few years later, here in Fresno:  Brett, my second oldest, with Heather, just before one of our reunion lunches.  (2009?).  I could tell when this was captured by the glimpse of Fiona at the end of the table…she was 12 there.  LOL.  The adults don’t change much.

 

Brett & Heather - a few years ago

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More photo memories.  Here is one of Noah, at around one (late 2003), with Heather and his great-grandmother, Mary:

 

3 generations again - Noah, Heather, Mary - 2003

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Wow, that tour of my life a while ago has been a whirlwind of memories.   Movies do that for me, too, especially the one I watched last night, full of music that takes me back.  It was Ricki and the Flash, with Meryl Streep, Rick Springfield, Kevin Kline…and Meryl’s daughter Mamie Gummer.

 

 

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That’s it for my walk down memory lane today…I’m reading A Fatal Grace, Book 2, by Louise Penny, but so far it hasn’t really grabbed me.

 

 

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What has your week brought you so far?  Memories, books, movies, thoughts?  I am sharing this at West Metro Mommy Reads, for Saturday Snapshots.

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INTERIOR THOUGHTS: MUSING ABOUT BOOKS

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGood morning!  Here I am in my little office nook (above), musing about books and life.  Join me at Jenn’s Books and a Beat site…and share your own musings.  Here are some thoughts to ponder:

 

  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…

THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: Name a book everyone should read at least once.

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Soon I will get my hands on a book that I’ve been obsessing about…guess what?  It’s called The Obsession, by Nora Roberts, and it will be released tomorrow!  Do you think I can wait ONE MORE DAY?  LOL

 

 

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Here’s the blurb:  “She stood in the deep, dark woods, breath shallow and cold prickling over her skin despite the hot, heavy air. She took a step back, then two, as the urge to run fell over her.”

Naomi Bowes lost her innocence the night she followed her father into the woods. In freeing the girl trapped in the root cellar, Naomi revealed the horrible extent of her father’s crimes and made him infamous. No matter how close she gets to happiness, she can’t outrun the sins of Thomas David Bowes.

Now a successful photographer living under the name Naomi Carson, she has found a place that calls to her, a rambling old house in need of repair, thousands of miles away from everything she’s ever known. Naomi wants to embrace the solitude, but the kindly residents of Sunrise Cove keep forcing her to open up—especially the determined Xander Keaton.

Naomi can feel her defenses failing, and knows that the connection her new life offers is something she’s always secretly craved. But the sins of her father can become an obsession, and, as she’s learned time and again, her past is never more than a nightmare away.

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One thing I know for sure….(to quote an Oprah favorite thought):  This book is one that I won’t allow to languish on Pippa.  I’ll bet that I will start reading it, if not immediately, very soon.  What do you think?

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As for a book everyone should read at least once?  My thoughts about that change all the time.  When I was young, I would have said Gone with the Wind.  I still recommend it.  A couple of years ago, I bought a copy…to reread.  I still haven’t done that.  But I hope I can manage it.

 

 

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Nowadays, my favorites change with the winds, as I accumulate more and more books and read them quickly.  Back in the day, I read more slowly, savoring my books, as I had to squeeze them in between other things.  That’s probably why I remember those books so fondly from back then.

What are you musing about today?  I hope you’ll stop by and leave a link to your post.

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INTERIOR THOUGHTS: EXPLORING THE PAST…& REVELING IN THE PRESENT

Rain & Heather - Oct. 1976

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This morning, I was searching through boxes of photos, and then discovered the one above right on my computer…already.  I had scanned it a while ago.  I loved that room, with the bay windows, and the French doors, which you can’t see, but which lead to the side steps you see below in the faded picture.

This one I found of me with Heather (below), taken right after she was born (six weeks old) is now rather dark and faded.  It was taken on the day of her Christening.  Despite photo editing, I couldn’t “erase” the ravages of time and fading.  But I loved that day, and the old English stucco house where we lived at the time.

 

Baby Heather - Oct 1976

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I also found this photo of Heather and her cousin Amy, taken around 1989, when they were teenagers…thirteen or fourteen (Heather), and sixteen, Amy.

 

Heather and Amy in 1990s

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Fast forward to the late 1990s (1998), and here are my two granddaughters, Fiona and Aubrey, exploring the play gate in my guest house in the foothills.

 

Fiona and Aubrey 1998

That guest house was really crowded back then…later, we added another bedroom.  There were two adults and four children living in it.

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And here was a surprising and punkish photo of me taken in…2010, I think.  Don’t laugh!

 

lrs in 2010

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Now…how about what’s happening in my present day “interior world.”  Pippa has opened her arms to lots of new books this week!  I went a little crazy.

 

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After reading and loving Garden Spells (click for my review), I had to get:  First Frost, Book 2, by Sarah Addison Hall.  Don’t you love that cover?

 

 

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Then I got a free e-book, due to Amazon Prime, from an author I’ve been wanting to read...Blood Defense, by Marcia Clark.  It’s the first in a new series, Samantha Brinkman.

 

 

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I bought two others, which I will tell you more about on Saturday…and I have three books coming from Amazon Vine.  I received the first one yesterday:  Mother Knows Best, by Karen MacInerney.

 

 

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Yesterday I finished reading and reviewing The Nest, which I LOVED.  (Click the title for my review).  I have seen some dysfunctional families over the years, and this one is even worse than most of those, because these folks are privileged and entitled folks…I am thinking they should stop whining already…LOL.

I now have read and reviewed 24 books for my Read the Books You Buy Challenge.  Moving along!

 

 

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Remember a previous post on another blog, a week ago, in fact, when I shared some tidbits about some tasks in my office?

Well, I haven’t made a lot of progress, but happily, I emptied the shredder, and now just have to shred this stack…Easy-peasy.

 

office changes

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As for review books, I have five more NetGalley books to read and review, but the next one will not be released until May 12, so we’re all good.  The others are nicely spaced out, too, from May to July.

Of course, there are the three Vine books coming.  Yikes!  What have I bitten off here?

Do you ever let your eyes and your book greed dictate the books you buy and request?

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I went a little crazy with changing up the header here, too.

 

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Shared on West Metro Mommy Reads, for Saturday Snapshots.

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REVIEW: MOST WANTED, BY LISA SCOTTOLINE

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Christine Nilsson had been wanting a baby for a long while, and finally, after she and her husband Marcus had arranged to use donor sperm, here she was, pregnant and saying goodbye to her teaching job. For now.

But on that wonderful day, just as she was enjoying her farewell party with her colleagues, a video shows up on CNN. A man is being arrested as a suspected serial killer, and he bears a striking resemblance to their donor: Donor 3319.

How could this be? And why are the doctor and the sperm bank refusing to tell them whether or not Zachary Jeffcoat is the donor? Of course, Marcus stubbornly persists, pushing away any obstacle he sees, and threatens to sue Homestead, the donor bank.

Christine is frustrated with her husband’s behavior, and decides to take matters into her own hands. Which is how she ends up visiting Zachary in prison, pretending to be a reporter, and after a couple of interviews, she gets the information she needs. But then she has to find out if he is truly guilty, or wrongly accused.

From there, Most Wanted got really intense, and I rapidly followed along as Christine took us on a frightening rollercoaster ride while she utilized detective skills she didn’t know that she had. She aligned herself with Griff, the attorney she helped secure for Zachary, and plowed on through, in spite of Marcus’s objections.

Can their marriage survive? Will Christine find the answers she needs? Will Marcus set aside his ego and his pride for her sake? And in the end, what unexpected plot twist will change everything?

I loved this book, and the characters were so likeable, even those who were not, at times, like Marcus. Definitely a 5 star read for me.

*** My e-ARC was received from the publisher via NetGalley.