Category: Guest Post

Guest Review: The House Swap by Rebecca Fleet

Posted August 20, 2018 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 8 Comments

Guest Review: The House Swap by Rebecca FleetThe House Swap by Rebecca Fleet
Series: standalone
Published by Pamela Dorman Books on May 22, 2018
Genres: Thriller
Pages: 294
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating:3.5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Be careful who you let in . . .
When Caroline and Francis receive an offer to house swap--from their city flat to a townhouse in a leafy, upscale London suburb--they jump at the chance for a week away from home, their son, and the tensions that have pushed their marriage to the brink.
As the couple settles in, the old problems that permeate their marriage--his unhealthy behaviors, her indiscretions--start bubbling to the surface. But while they attempt to mend their relationship, their neighbor, an intense young woman, is showing a little too much interest in their activities.
Meanwhile, Caroline slowly begins to uncover some signs of life in the stark house--signs of her life. The flowers in the bathroom or the music might seem innocent to anyone else--but to her they are clues. It seems the person they have swapped with is someone who knows her, someone who knows the secrets she's desperate to forget...

The idea of a couple swapping houses with a stranger and slowly realizing that this stranger is something more was intriguing and I was all in. I’ve noticed a few reader buddies enjoying domestic thrillers lately so thought I’d pick one up and try one out for myself.

The House Swap was a fast read and moved along at a good, steady pace. I was curious about blending the elements of a married pair along with the mystery and how I’d like that. Turns out that I found this mesh to work well. The thriller part was subtle particularly at first with the marriage issues of the pair taking the lead. The story was told in both the past and present so the reader experiences the current situation and how it got there. This worked to help with building suspense and revealing the secrets in a jaw-dropping way. I actually worked out several of the reveals before they came, but there were still a few shockers.

Now, in truth, this book was something of a mixed bag for me. I enjoyed the thriller aspect and a bit of how the flawed marriage was meshed with it. However, I really didn’t like Caroline, the main character. To be fair, the reader isn’t meant to like her as far as I can tell. The whole situation is pretty much her own doing. She claims she wants to renew what has been lost in her marriage, but it takes little for her to slip back into her old ways. She snarls and prods, keeps secrets that affect them both, and lies to her husband who is bending over backwards to make this house swap and vacation week work. I think what did it for me was that she wasn’t over her ex. He ended the affair and its obvious that she’d fall right back into it if she could. I really wanted to see Francis just snatch their son, walk away, and keep going.

So, my first domestic thriller was alright. It did leave me eager for more. I thought the author wrote a good twisting plot so I’ll watch for more of her work. This is for those who don’t mind flawed characters and a soft thriller paired together.

My thanks to Penguin-Random House for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Guest Review: How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry

Posted July 19, 2018 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 14 Comments

Guest Review: How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica HenryHow to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry
Series: standalone
Published by Penguin Books on July 10, 2018
Genres: General Fiction
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating:4 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

"Absolutely delightful." --People
The enchanting story of a bookshop, its grieving owner, a supportive literary community, and the extraordinary power of books to heal the heart
Nightingale Books, nestled on the main street in an idyllic little village, is a dream come true for book lovers--a cozy haven and welcoming getaway for the literary-minded locals. But owner Emilia Nightingale is struggling to keep the shop open after her beloved father's death, and the temptation to sell is getting stronger. The property developers are circling, yet Emilia's loyal customers have become like family, and she can't imagine breaking the promise she made to her father to keep the store alive.
There's Sarah, owner of the stately Peasebrook Manor, who has used the bookshop as an escape in the past few years, but it now seems there's a very specific reason for all those frequent visits. Next is roguish Jackson, who, after making a complete mess of his marriage, now looks to Emilia for advice on books for the son he misses so much. And the forever shy Thomasina, who runs a pop-up restaurant for two in her tiny cottage--she has a crush on a man she met in the cookbook section, but can hardly dream of working up the courage to admit her true feelings.
Enter the world of Nightingale Books for a serving of romance, long-held secrets, and unexpected hopes for the future--and not just within the pages on the shelves. How to Find Love in a Bookshop is the delightful story of Emilia, the unforgettable cast of customers whose lives she has touched, and the books they all cherish.

As the cover quote says, this is a love story to a bookshop and its late owner. However, there is something magical in the air of this shop because love in many forms makes its way into the lives of those who come to the shop and for a woman who finds her way back home.

How to Find Love in a Bookshop starts out on a low melancholy note and gently meanders its way through the lives of some the people living in the small village of Peasebrook. Julien opened the shop and now his daughter, Emilia, has his big shoes to fill when the shop comes to her. Everyone loved him and his friendly, non-judgmental yet wise ways.

The narrative switches between the handful of people most affected by the magical pull of Nightingale bookshop. There is Sarah with her secrets and life as lady of the manor, Dillon who has a hidden unrequited crush, Theodora too shy to go for it with her attraction to Jem, two couples on the verge of splitting for good, an older woman getting a second chance, and young Emilia struggling with the shop, grief, and an attraction to a man who sees her as a friend.

The book transfers between the stories, but they aren’t disconnected. I loved how the author wove them separately, but brought them together with the bookshop at the heart. And, what a lovely place it is. The old shop on the High street near the stone bridge with lovely old atmosphere inside with its wooden floors, showcase windows, mezzanine upstairs, stone fireplace and nooks- every booklover’s dream place.

The conflict is mostly within the character’s relationships and keeping the shop open. I liked the drowsy way the story pulled me along. It was not one that kept me riveted and I could put it down, but I was always eager when I could pick it back up again. I only had one niggle. In Dillon’s story, I loved how that turned out, but I do wish that the jerk who lied had gotten a stronger comeuppance for the trouble he caused.

So, this was lovely and full of depth and richness. I think those who want an easy-reading gently paced low-key story with love on the side would enjoy this one.

My thanks to Penguin-Random House for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Guest Review: Son of a Preacher Man by Karen M Cox + Interview

Posted July 3, 2018 by Lily B in Guest Post, Interview / 17 Comments

Guest Review: Son of a Preacher Man by Karen M Cox + InterviewSon of a Preacher Man by Karen M. Cox
Series: standalone
Published by Adalia Street Press on July 1, 2018
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 274
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Author
Buy on Amazon
Rating:4.5 Stars

I received this book for free from Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

“Love has power we disregard at our peril...”
It’s 1959 — and although the country is poised at the edge of a tidal wave of social change, Billy Ray Davenport anticipates living a traditional, predictable life. Handsome, principled, and keenly observant, he arrives in town to lodge with the Millers, the local doctor’s family. Billy Ray has visited the small Southern town of Orchard Hill several times when he accompanied his father, a widowed traveling minister. But he never bargained for Lizzie Quinlan—a complex, kindred spirit who is beautiful and compassionate, yet scorned by the townsfolk. Could a girl with a reputation be different than she seems? With her quirky wisdom and a spine of steel hidden beneath an effortless sensuality, Lizzie is about to change Billy Ray’s life—and his heart—forever.A realistic look at first love, told by an idealistic young man, Son of a Preacher Man is a heartwarming coming of age tale set in a simpler time.

“He was the only son of a Preacher Man… the only one who could ever move me…”
Yep, it is connected to the old song written by John Hurley and Ronnie Walkins and sung by Dusty Springfield among others. And, it’s also equally influenced by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I love that the author set this one in the late fifties in a rural community area and then moved things to the city as a pair of young star-crossed lovers head out into the big wide world.

This was a tender story of first love, but so much more. There is a coming of age story all told through Billy Ray’s eyes. He’s had to grow up quickly and be responsible because of his mom’s death and knocking about with his dad, but because he’s preacher’s son, he’s also somewhat sheltered and innocent. Lizzy has been limited in her education and knowledge of the world outside her town, but she is wise to worldliness and hard-living with her family on the grub farm. My heart went out for this girl and I teared up at one point as her past was fully revealed. I got quite angry at a few people just like Billy Ray.

This story has one of my favorite settings- small town. But, instead of the romantic nostalgia that can paint a picture of the best side, this shows the uglier side, too. We have a small community set on believing the worst in one of their own even without evidence, what trouble a malice-filled girl can stir up, and Lizzy’s pain and strength needed to make it even years under a bad reputation before getting out to make good on her dreams.

The historical era was there and gave a nice layer of verisimilitude without taking over the engaging, gently-paced story.

The book has a strong faith element because of Billy Ray’s Christian outlook and he leans on his faith to try to help Lizzy through her pain and as his own guidepost, but it isn’t an inspirational fiction and there are no attempts to push his faith on others or on the reader, for that matter. Not that he needs to because it was still an era when the average person in rural America made nominal claims to Christianity. I respect that he lived out what he believed and that part of his struggle was how to reconcile his attraction for Lizzy with his dad’s concerns about falling for ‘that kind of girl’, respecting her need to pursue her own career when he’d been taught that women were to be the homemakers, and his acceptance that Lizzy is his equal not lesser because she is female.

All in all, this was a heartwarming story that had a strong flavor of nostalgia that was tempered with bittersweet reality. The pains and joys of coming of age and first love along with figuring out life while pursuing education. It was a well-written, well-developed story with engaging characters and elements. It had me smiling, laughing, crying, and swooning. Those who enjoy slightly sweet with a little spice, modern historical, and influences from an old song and an even older story should give it a look-see.

My thanks to the author for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Interview with Karen M. Cox

Howdy, Readers!
Today, I get the privilege of hosting an author who I’ve had the pleasure of reading her books over the last few years. Her books have taken me into the near past of America’s South and all the way to Cold War Europe for heartwarming romance and engaging characters. In honor of her latest release, Son of a Preacher Man (which makes a great summer beach ride, by the by), Karen Cox is joining us today.

Hey, Karen!
Hey there! Thanks so much for letting me stop in!
How is your summer treating you?
It has been fabulous so far. I’m a public school speech pathologist in real life, so I have some time to myself in the summers. I’ve just finished a trip to the Pacific Northwest to see some friends, which was fabulous, and I’ll be attending my first Romance Writers of America conference in July. Put that together with swimming, playing with my son’s 3 year-old daughter, going to lunch with my college-aged daughter, and Life Is Good!

Just so you know, I have had that old song stuck in my head off and on for a few months now.
Mua-ha-ha!
Fortunately for you, I happen to like the song. *gives her guest a narrow-eyed look*

I’m going to go out on a limb that the story was inspired by the song, but I’m always curious. How did it come about?
Well, it initially grew out of a discussion with some Jane Austen fans about what would be an analogous Darcy/Lizzy social divide in various times and places. I laughingly proposed that there would be no greater divide than between a girl with a reputation and a minister’s son in a small, Southern town before the Sexual Revolution of the 60s. The “Son of a Preacher Man” song was mentioned by someone, and since “FitzWILLIAM Darcy” was kind of like “BILLY Ray”, that suggested the hero’s name. It just evolved from there until it turned into an original story inspired by Pride and Prejudice.

What are some details you can share to entice our readers? Are we looking at a ‘wrong side of the tracks’ romance plot? I love those.
Yes, I would say that in the book’s time and place, Lizzy would be considered a girl from the “wrong side of the tracks.” But the story has its surprises too. Billy Ray is an unusual young man. He’s naïve and traditional in some ways, but he’s observant and open-minded in others. He has his old-fashioned side, but he thinks his way through his dilemmas and comes to his own conclusions. Lizzie is, to my mind, just delightful—beautiful and sensual, but with a child-like curiosity about the world; wounded but willing to open her heart; and always, always seeking knowledge and answers. (Yeah. I love them. A lot.)

Now, I understand that Son of a Preacher Man is a remake of At the Edge of the Sea. What instigated the re-write and can you share what sort of changes were involved?
I had been considering a rerelease of At the Edge of the Sea for its 5th birthday for a long time. One major change was that I went back to the story’s original title, Son of a Preacher Man. I had changed the title because I wanted to distinguish the story from what might have been considered traditional Christian fiction at that time. Son of a Preacher Man definitely has inspirational themes—that’s somewhat necessary, given who the hero is—but it also has an…I don’t know, an “edgy” side to it too. It’s not a tale that slides neatly into a genre. Over time, I grew to realize that Son of a Preacher Man is the title that represents the story best. So, I retitled, re-edited, and had a new cover designed (shout out to MadHat Books and Joshua Hollis.) And here ya go!

Should those who already read At the Edge of the Sea grab up this latest translation of the story? Maybe treat it as a good opportunity for a re-read?
I would be thrilled if readers wanted to treat themselves to Billy Ray and Lizzie’s story again! The changes I made were minor—a polishing, tightening of the prose, the cover, the title.
In spite of a glowing review from Publishers’ Weekly, winning two categories (Romance and Chick Lit) of the Next Generation Independent Book Awards, and over 4 star rating at Amazon and GoodReads, At the Edge of the Sea wasn’t widely known, either by fans of Austenesque literature or those outside that fanbase. The re-release is my hopeful attempt to share the story with more readers who would enjoy it. Which, for me, is what writing is all about.

Your characters, Billy Ray and Lizzy, are young. Would you describe your story as a Coming of Age? Or does the story stay with them into their adult years?
Yes, I would definitely consider this a coming-of-age story. I think it has a lot to say to young people trying to figure out who they are and how to reconcile their pasts with their futures. But I also think it strikes a nostalgic chord for readers who might remember the 1950s-60s time frame (or heard stories about it from parents, grandparents, etc.), or really, for anyone who likes laid-back stories of small towns and first loves that endure.

I have noted this in the past, but I love how you have focused your stories on what I’ll dub the modern historical eras in America. What appeals to you about writing in this time frame?
I’ll be honest—I don’t know what draws me to 20th Century time periods in my writing. Perhaps it’s that they aren’t usually popular settings for romantic fiction, although I have seen more World War 2 era books recently. I like that the 20th Century isn’t far enough removed to be trendy or cool, but yet it’s a fascinating time. Think how rapidly the world changed in those 100 years. So much happened—why not tell stories with that change as a backdrop?

What do you consider the challenge of writing more modern historicals?
Actually, it’s not that difficult because the historical information is, for the most part, readily accessible. Also, I lived through some of that time and have some personal experience to draw from. I do have an unfortunate tendency to go down a “rabbit hole” when doing 20th Century research. I have to remember to pull myself out and go write periodically!

Do you have a favorite scene you can share with us?
Oh, it would give too much away if I shared my favorite! But how about this one? Billy Ray and Lizzie are both at the small town’s laundromat. I love the interaction between them in this scene:

The door to the laundromat was propped open with a cement block. The dank, soap-perfumed heat of clothes’ dryers poured out into the evening air.
A heavyset woman sat at the counter reading a magazine.
“Need some change, honey?”
“Yes, ma’am. Enough for two loads.” I handed her some bills. “And I need some soap too.” I took a quick look around, but there was no sign of Lizzie. I hoped I hadn’t missed her after all. I wanted to make up for not speaking to her at the library the other day—even though she had no idea I was there. I wanted to prove something to myself.
“Here you go.” The laundry attendant pushed the coins toward me, followed by a small box. I put my clothes in two side-by-side washers, read the directions on the lid, added soap and coins, pushed the button—and just about jumped out of my skin when I heard a blood-curdling shriek behind me. A blur of brown curls and a faded cotton dress raced from the back room toward the front door.
The attendant looked up from her magazine and frowned, grumpy but not irate. “Get that hellion out of here! She’s a menace.”
“Sorry, Miz Turner.”
I knew that voice. It set my stomach to flipping about like a trout on a fishing line. Lizzie Quinlan seemed unsurprised to see me, though.
“Oh hey, Billy Ray. I thought I heard you talking. Fancy meeting you here. Hold on a second.”
She blew by me and rounded the row of washers near the door. “All right, Lily, you little imp! I counted to fifty, and I found you fair and square.”
“Only if you catch me before I get back to base!” A little voice emerged from behind the washers on the next row. Lizzie pointed to the other end near the doorway to the next room and silently mouthed at me. “Head her off down there.”
I walked to the end of the row and stood in the door frame, arms folded, my best scowl in place. Lily came barreling down the aisle, squealing and laughing, looking behind her so she couldn’t see where she was going—and ran right into me.
“Hey you!” I tried to frown, but the shock on her face was so funny, I couldn’t keep it up. She looked up at me with big, brown eyes, her face drained of all color.
Lizzie swept in from behind, put her arms around her sister and twirled her about, laughing. “I got you! I got you! Now you’re It, Lily Lou!”
“No fair!” But now Lily was laughing too.
“Go back and check on our clothes, squirt,” Lizzie said.
Lily ran into the back room, and Lizzie turned to me. “So, Mr. Davenport does his own laundry. Couldn’t get Marlene to wash your undies for ya?” She grinned.
“She offered. I refused—as you see.”
Lizzie looked at me with a thoughtful expression. “Hey, c’mere a sec.” She started walking back to the room where her sister and their clothes were. “You been to college. I wanna ask you something.”
I followed her, my eyes dropping to her blue jean-clad bottom, bouncing up to her ponytail and then down again. She had a man’s shirt tied around her waist, and I wondered how a girl wearing men’s clothes could be so appealing. She stopped beside a couple of brassieres hanging over the side of a basket, feeling of them to see if they were dry.
“I, ah…” Swallowing nervously, I gazed up, down, anywhere but at her underthings.
“Your prissiness tickles me.” Her lighthearted laugh rang out. “No, I didn’t want to ask you about my underwear, College Man.”
I breathed a sigh of relief.
She picked up an old, thick textbook, and flipped back a couple of pages. “There.” She pointed. “How do you say that one?”
“Tanacetum parthenium. It’s feverfew—see here?” I pointed to the next line. “There’s the common name.”
“Then why don’t they just call it ‘feverfew’?” she asked with a touch of exasperation.
I tried to hide my smile. “It’s Latin. All the plants are organized into categories. The first name is called the genus, the group name. The second is the species, the group within the group. Like with animals—all cats belong to one genus, but bobcats are a specific type.”
She was watching me with wide-eyed interest, and it was strangely gratifying to have her hang on my every word.
“I didn’t know you were interested in botany.”
“Oh yes! I like to learn about plants. Mrs. Gardener got me started, but now I read on my own too.”
“Don’t they teach botany at the high school here?”
She shook her head. “Just chemistry and Earth science—not enough teachers.”
“Did you get the book from Mrs. Gardener?” I picked up the thick volume and turned it over in my hands, looking at the spine.
“Nope—the library. It’s an old book, but you gotta start somewhere, right?”
I grinned and handed it back to her. “Right. Botany doesn’t change that much anyway.”
“Plants fascinate me.” She thumbed through the book and shrugged her shoulders. “They seem so common, just your run-of-the-mill greenery growing in the field or beside the road. But hidden inside them is this amazing power. Some of them nourish or heal, but some of them can kill. The deadliest plants can appear so ordinary.”
“See? I’m not the only one that thinks about things real deeply—or looks to find answers in an old book.” I tapped the cover to illustrate my point.

Okay, I’ll wrap things up with my usual ‘what is next from the pen of Karen Cox?’
Well, my next published work is a short story in the Quill Collective’s Rational Creatures anthology. The collection is chock full of Regency-era stories about Austen’s female characters, all with an emphasis on how they were ahead of their time. My story is about the kind and elegant Eleanor Tilney, whose brother is the hero of Northanger Abbey.
After that, I’m torn. I’ve got several projects in my head: a Regency novel, an early 20th Century Western, another coming of age piece from the 1980s, and a women’s fiction piece about a young (late 40s) widow rebuilding her life. What to choose, what to choose? I guess I’ll figure it out along the way!
Glad to have you stop by today, Karen! I’ll just be slipping off now to torture my family while I sing the same lyrics over and over to the chorus of ‘Son of the Preacher Man’ …
“Bein’ good isn’t always easy, no matter how hard I try…”

Book Description:
“I forget that you’re a fella sometimes.”
“Gee, thanks.”
I never forgot that she was a girl. Not for one second…

1959. The long, hot Southern summer bakes the sleepy town of Orchard Hill. Billy Ray Davenport, an aspiring physician and only son of an indomitable traveling minister, is a young man with a plan that starts with working in a small-town doctor’s office before he begins medical school in the fall. Handsome, principled, and keenly observant, he arrives in town to lodge with the Millers, the local doctor’s family. He never bargained for Lizzie Quinlan—a complex, kindred spirit who is beautiful and compassionate, yet scorned by the townsfolk. Could a girl with a reputation be different than she seems? With her quirky wisdom and a spine of steel hidden beneath an effortless sensuality, Lizzie is about to change Billy Ray’s life—and his heart—forever.

A realistic look at first love, told by an idealistic young man, Son of a Preacher Man is a heartwarming coming of age tale set in a simpler time.
Available on Amazon and iBooks, Kobo, Barnes&Noble

Connect with Karen:
www.karenmcox.com
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About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Guest Review: A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn, Narrated by Angele Masters

Posted June 19, 2018 by Lily B in Audio, Guest Post, Reviews / 15 Comments

Guest Review: A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn, Narrated by Angele MastersA Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn, Angèle Masters
Narrator: Angele Masters
Length: 11 hours and 48 minutes
Series: Veronica Speedwell #3
Published by Recorded Books on January 18, 2018
Genres: Historical Mystery
Pages: 12
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating:4.5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Members of an Egyptian expedition fall victim to an ancient mummy's curse in a thrilling Veronica Speedwell novel from the New York Times bestselling author of the Lady Julia Grey mysteries.  
London, 1888.
As colorful and unfettered as the butterflies she collects, Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell can’t resist the allure of an exotic mystery—particularly one involving her enigmatic colleague, Stoker. His former expedition partner has vanished from an archaeological dig with a priceless diadem unearthed from the newly discovered tomb of an Egyptian princess. This disappearance is just the latest in a string of unfortunate events that have plagued the controversial expedition, and rumors abound that the curse of the vengeful princess has been unleashed as the shadowy figure of Anubis himself stalks the streets of London.   But the perils of an ancient curse are not the only challenges Veronica must face as sordid details and malevolent enemies emerge from Stoker’s past. Caught in a tangle of conspiracies and threats—and thrust into the public eye by an enterprising new foe—Veronica must separate facts from fantasy to unravel a web of duplicity that threatens to cost Stoker everything. . . .

After starting to make a name for themselves when it comes to landing themselves in the middle of murder investigation adventures, Veronica and Stoker are faced with something a bit more in an Egyptian curse, a missing crown of jewels and a case that brings thing too close to home for Stoker. I was thrilled to get back into the series with this sparkling intrepid pair.

A Treacherous Curse is book three in the Veronica Speedwell series. This series works best when the reader/listener gets them in order as the world and the characters develop throughout the series.

Veronica and Stoker have spent the time since their last case restoring items for their patron’s private museum and mourning the loss of an exploration trip since the earl tripped and broke his leg and the trip was cancelled. But, before things get too blasé, the pair are called in by Special Branch and handed a new case. Unfortunately, the pressure to solve it comes from the fact that Stoker might be implicated in the trouble.

I found this one fascinating on a few different levels. First of all, I love books that involve Egyptian antiquities and excavation work by an archeological team. Although, the story takes place entirely in England, the focus is the Egyptology world. Secondly, the case handed to Veronica and Stoker involves a dark part of Stoker’s past and I loved learning of that time and seeing him finally confront his past. No, I fibbed. I relished seeing Veronica confront Stoker’s past when the past reared up and tried to come over ugly. And, lastly, I am always up for more interaction between Veronica and Stoker. She’s irascible, highly intelligent, strong-willed and he’s probably the only man in the world who can match her wit for wit and step for step. But… the pair of them are not quite to the point where they understand this. So… the sparks and sizzle of understated attraction are fun.

The mystery of the missing man and missing artifact was an interesting twisty one, but not half as interesting as getting to know all the players in the piece. So much byplay and goings on among those involved. I love the way it all fits together and balances well into one coherent story.

I experienced A Treacherous Curse on audio with Angele Masters as narrator. She is a superb Veronica. It’s like she harnesses her spirit with each book in the series. What I find a weakness is her male voices. There is some distinction with some curmudgeonly like Stoker, stuffy like the baronet, or flirty like Stoker’s brother, but the trouble is that she goes with a froggy sounding deep voice. I thought she did great with all the female characters from sophisticated upper class British, teen girl, peevish woman, Brit with an Egyptian accent and caught the rhythm and emotions well.

All in all, this is one of the best historical mystery series out there and I can’t wait for each new installment. Veronica maybe a Renaissance woman as unique as her family history, but she is personable and a fabulous heroine. The Victorian era comes alive and the mysteries are satisfyingly twisting.

My thanks to Recorded Books for the opportunity to listen to this book in exchange for an honest review.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Guest Review: Al Capone Throws Me a Curve by Gennifer Choldenko, Narrated by Kirby Heyborne

Posted June 13, 2018 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 12 Comments

Guest Review: Al Capone Throws Me a Curve by Gennifer Choldenko, Narrated by Kirby HeyborneAl Capone Throws Me a Curve by Gennifer Choldenko, Kirby Heyborne
Narrator: Kirby Heyborne
Length: 6 hours and 4 minutes
Series: Al Capone at Alcatraz #4
Published by Listening Library on May 8, 2018
Genres: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating:5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

6 Hours and 4 Minutes
Newbery Honor-winning author Gennifer Choldenko returns to Al Capone's Alcatraz in this winning addition to the beloved series. Moose and his sister Natalie are growing up, and the stakes on the prison island are higher than ever.
Moose Flanagan lives on a famous island in California: Alcatraz, home to some of the most dangerous prisoners in the US in the 1930s. His dad works there. It's the summer before starting high school and Moose is going to play a lot of baseball, and win a spot on the high school team. But he still needs to watch his special older sister Natalie, and now, the warden asks Moose to look after his two-faced, danger-loving daughter, Piper. In the cell house there are rumors of a strike, and that Moose's father might step up to new job. Moose is worried: what will this mean for their family, especially for Natalie, who's had some scary run-ins with prisoners? Then the unthinkable happens: Natalie winds up someplace she should never, ever go. And Moose has to rescue her.

It was the title. I saw that title and just had to check this one out. The rest of the blurb had me even more eager to snatch up this middle grade historical fiction. A teen growing up in the mid-thirties… wait for it… on Alcatraz. Yeah, had to give this one a go.

Al Capone Throws Me a Curve is book four in the Al Capone at Alcatraz series. I had no trouble jumping in with this book though I wish I had discovered the series at the get go so I could get them in order. Definitely going back to the beginning for the other three.

I really enjoyed this story told from young thirteen or fourteen year old Moose’s perspective. He’s all boy, but has been forced to grow up fast and be responsible with an older autistic sibling and a delicate mother. He just wants to spend his summer playing baseball and being with his friends when first the Warden saddles him with keeping an eye on the Warden’s precocious daughter who’s around his age and he ends up keeping an eye on Natalie when his parents get preoccupied with a prisoner strike.

A strong element in this book is Natalie and how Moose interacts with her as a sibling. Moose is protective of his sister and struggles with embarrassment and frustration because she might have a disability, but she is also very much a young woman and not a child. He has to keep her out of trouble and it’s tough on him when he’s around his friends and has to bring Natalie along. I also loved how he took responsibility for things she did even if it meant feeling the crushing disapproval of the adults around him. He’s very conscious of how to help her with navigating her needs whether it is sticking to her routine, helping her with calm down methods, not putting her in situations where she’ll melt down, and also respecting that she is older and not stupid so her choices and happiness are important to him. He’s a good guy and works hard to help people and he strives to be a good man like his dad. I totally would have had a crush on Moose if I was a teen girl.

The historical backdrop of Alcatraz in itshey day was not skimped on. I thought the life of the families living there below the actual prison and of the inmates who had some contact with the families through those who worked service jobs was vividly sketched out and felt authentic. Moose has a dangerous situation that was not probable in some ways, but it took things to the heart of the prison and how dangerous it was inside. I thought the baseball, people with special needs, and family life in that era was also nice touches. Oh, and let’s not forget the presence of the celebrity prisoner himself. It was neat to see some interaction with Al Capone. Moose is wary and has a healthy fear of the prisoners, but can’t help being curious about some famous ones.

I experienced this book on audio and really enjoyed Kirby Heyborne’s rendition of Moose and the others. He handled Natalie’s awkward vocal parts in a respectful way just as he masterfully handled a cast that included kids to adults of both genders and had a nice way of capturing the era in his voice somehow (maybe I was imagining that). I had no trouble feeling I was right there and that a young teenager was telling the story without an annoying voice. I liked the way he handled the really tense moments so that I felt my heart race with anticipation or suspense. Definitely want to listen to more of his work.

All in all, this was a hit out of the park and I want more of Moose’s adventures and life on Alcatraz. This is a book for young teens, but I think adults who like historical fiction would enjoy this one, too.

My thanks to Penguin Random House Audio for the opportunity to listen to this book in exchange for an honest review.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Guest Review: The Heiress of Linn Hagh by Karen Charleton

Posted May 17, 2018 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 7 Comments

Guest Review: The Heiress of Linn Hagh by Karen CharletonThe Heiress of Linn Hagh by Karen Charlton
Series: Detective Lavender Mysteries #1
Published by Thomas & Mercer on June 9th 2015
Genres: Historical Mystery
Pages: 270
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Borrowed
Buy on Amazon
Rating:4 Stars

Northumberland, November 1809: A menacing figure stalks women through Hareshaw Woods and a beautiful, young heiress disappears from her locked bedchamber at Linn Hagh.
The townsfolk cry 'witchcraft' and the local constabulary are baffled.
Fearing for her safety, Helen Carnaby's worried uncle sends out for help from Bow Street magistrates' court in London. Detective Stephen Lavender and Constable Woods now face their toughest and most dangerous case. The servants and the local gypsies won’t speak to them, Helen’s siblings are sly and uncooperative and the sullen local farmers are about to take the law into their own hands.
Isolated in this beautiful but remote community, Lavender and Woods find themselves trapped in the middle of a simmering feud and are alarmed to discover a sinister world of madness and violence lurking behind the heavy oak door of the ancient pele tower at Linn Hagh. Helen Carnaby's disappearance is to prove one of the most perplexing mysteries of Lavender's career.
Why did she flee on that wintry October night? How did she get out of her locked bed chamber? And where is she now?
'The Heiress of Linn Hagh' is the first in a series of Regency mysteries featuring Detective Stephen Lavender and Constable Edward Woods.
First published as 'The Missing Heiress.' (Knox Robinson Publishing (2012.)

Sophia Roses Review

A Regency era mystery with some Gothic overtones? ’nuff said! I wasn’t familiar with this series, but I was glad for the opportunity to pick up book one and meet Lavender and Woods in a case that took this pair of Bow Street Runners far from London into the Northumberland countryside.

The story opens with the introduction of the main pair of detectives and then drops back a little into the past and introduces the people and situation where the disappearance took place. It ends up going back and forth between the detectives and the family situation so the reader gets both aspects.

The details of historical setting and description of situation were good. The author didn’t skimp on painting in details of the Regency time period and police work in that time.

The characters were not as developed, but I liked how a little more detail was sketched in here and there as it went along. Lavender is something more than he seems and can be brooding while Woods is open and known from the start.

The mystery is a locked room type and relies heavily on atmosphere which was done well. It was not one that was hard to figure out the who or even the why – that is a given, but there are some details that come out later to make things even more interesting about the Carnaby family and how it was done.

I had a sense that I was dropped into an existing series because there were references back to other cases, but it was explained in the author notes at the end that Lavender and Woods were side characters in an unrelated book that she felt needed their own stories s0 this truly was the first of a new series.

There is an introduction to a romance interest for Lavender when he encounters a fiery Spanish woman on his journey north. She is above him in class and has her own secrets so it will be interesting to see where that series thread goes from there.

All in all, I enjoyed this introduction to a new to me historical mystery series and can definitely recommend it.

 

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Guest Review: The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go by Amy Reichert

Posted May 12, 2018 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 12 Comments

Guest Review: The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go by Amy ReichertThe Optimist's Guide to Letting Go by Amy E. Reichert
Series: standalone
Published by Gallery Books on May 15th 2018
Genres: Womens Fiction
Pages: 310
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating:4 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

1. Get through to your daughter. 2. Buy more cheese. 3. Don't forget to call your mother.
Grilled G's Gourmet Food Truck is where chef, owner, obsessive list-maker, and recent widow Gina Zoberski finds the order and comfort she needs to struggle through each day, especially when confronted with her critical mother Lorraine and sullen daughter May.
Image-conscious Lorraine always knows best and expects her family to live up to her high expectations, no matter what. May just wants to be left alone to mourn her father in her own way. Gina always aims to please, but finds that her relentlessly sunny disposition annoys both her mother and her daughter, no matter how hard she tries.
But when Lorraine suffers a sudden stroke, Gina stumbles upon a family secret Lorraine's kept hidden for forty years. In the face of her mother's failing health and her daughter's rebellion, this optimist might find that piecing together the truth is the push she needs to let go...

Three generations of women in one family have struggled to connect. Until now. An older woman’s stroke brings out a long-held secret and is the catalyst for healing to begin with her daughters and her granddaughter. It was heartwarming, bittersweet, and a family story that left me wanting to call my own mom and hug her.

Gina is a widowed woman of two years running her fantastic Grilled G’s food cart business (seriously, her versions of grilled cheese kept me salivating) and figure out how to get through her daughter May’s teen hormones and angry grief. She copes by making her ever present lists and trying to look on the bright side.

Lorraine is a starched up well preserved woman who is driven and drives her daughters especially Gina until she has a stroke and the family secrets are discovered. Now, when she has no way to verbalize, this is when real communication happens in her family and the healing and understanding can start.

Lastly, there is young May. She grieves for her dad and takes all her loss and anger out on her mom thinking her mom has moved on and seems to want to forget May’s dad. May isolated herself and now is slowly coming out of that and seeing her mother very differently.

I should also mention- mostly because she was my favorite character and made me smile often, giving some of the heavier moments more balance – Lorraine’s second daughter Vicky doesn’t have as large a role, but she is right in the middle of all the new-found family healing and togetherness.

Like many Chick Lits and Women’s Fictions, this one is easy-paced and takes it’s time. The story is told in flashbacks and the present. There are emotional moments and slice of life scattered through the story. Food is an elemental theme around which these women can and do connect. The ending was a little heavy, but still very satisfying.

In summary, this was my first book by the author and now I can see why folks rave about her writing. It talks about every day women, family, and food with a dash of humor and sadness. I will definitely be going back for more and recommend this one to those who enjoy stories that focus on multi-generational women’s stories tied together by family.

I rec’d this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Guest Review: Dead As a Doornail by Tonya Kappes

Posted May 3, 2018 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 10 Comments

Guest Review: Dead As a Doornail by Tonya KappesDead As A Doornail by Tonya Kappes
Series: A Kenni Lowry Mystery #5
Published by Henery Press on May 15th 2018
Genres: Cozy Mystery, Paranormal
Pages: 177
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating:3.5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Beauty is skin deep, but ugly goes clear to the bone. And doesn’t our Sheriff Kenni Lowry know that? Well, she knows a lot of things.
Lucy Lowell takes great pride in writing negative reviews in the local newspaper for anything that does not go her way. When Lucy is found dead, it appears to be from natural causes.
But Sheriff Kenni Lowry knows there is more to it because the ghost of her grandfather, the ex-sheriff, is standing over the body.
His presence can only mean one thing: Murder!
Since Kenni’s relationship with Deputy Finn Vincent has heated up, Kenni is having trouble conducting the investigation without Finn questioning her every move.
Can Kenni unravel the mystery on her own or will she have to tell Finn the real reason she knows it was murder—the ghost of her poppa?
It’s blowin’ up a storm and only Kenni knows how it’ll end.
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
DEAD AS A DOORNAIL by Tonya Kappes | A Henery Press mystery

Sophia Rose’s Review…

Small town antics, a wedding nightmare, and an inexplicable murder are Kenni’s challenge in this latest series installment.

Dead As A Doornail is book five in the quirky and light Kenni Lowry paranormal cozy mystery series. The series does flow in a chain when it comes to Kenni getting used to her deceased grandpa’s ghost helping her solve murders along with her growing love interest with Finn. However, the mysteries are all standalone and I had no trouble jumping in at book three and continuing on. Need to go back for the first two at some point.

So, the latest…

Kenni gets set up by, who else, her mother to be a maid of honor in the Mayor’s wedding when she doesn’t really like the mayor or his bride. She also finds herself investigating a death that, at first, only she knows is murder b/c her poppa’s ghost tells her. With each book, she draws closer to Finn and also the growing dilemma of knowing she needs to tell him about Poppa’s ghost. I have no idea how that will go over and it’s an added layer of tension in an otherwise mystery comedy.

These books are over the top and unapologetic about that. Fun and fast reads, but still offer a twisting mystery through all the other small town antics usually led by Kenni’s mother. Oddly, I find this kind of story relaxing and I look forward to each new installment in the series.

If you’re looking for sheer light entertainment in a fast-read mystery then look no further.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Guest Review: Twenty-One Days by Anne Perry

Posted April 14, 2018 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 4 Comments

Guest Review: Twenty-One Days by Anne PerryTwenty-One Days by Anne Perry
Series: Daniel Pitt, #1
Published by Ballantine Books on April 10, 2018
Genres: Historical Mystery
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gifted
Buy on Amazon
Rating:4.5 Stars

In this first book in a new series, Thomas Pitt's son Daniel races to save his client from execution, setting him against London's Special Police Branch.
It's 1910, and Daniel Pitt is a reluctant lawyer who would prefer to follow in the footsteps of his detective father. When the biographer Russell Graves, who Daniel is helping defend, is sentenced to execution for the murder of his wife, Daniel's Pitt-family investigative instincts kick in, and he sets out to find the real killer. With only twenty-one days before Graves is to be executed, Daniel learns that Graves is writing a biography of Victor Narraway, the former head of Special Branch and a close friend of the Pitts. And the stories don't shed a positive light. Is it possible someone is framing Graves to keep him from writing the biography--maybe even someone Daniel knows in Special Branch?
The only answer, it seems, lies in the dead woman's corpse. And so, with the help of some eccentric new acquaintances who don't mind bending the rules, Daniel delves into an underground world of dead bodies and double lives, unearthing scores of lies and conspiracies. As he struggles to balance his duty to the law with his duty to his family, the equal forces of justice and loyalty pull this lawyer-turned-detective in more directions than he imagined possible. And amidst it all, his client's twenty-one days are ticking away.

I love that the author is tackling the next generation with this first book in the Daniel Pitt series. I adored the long running series set in the late Victorian era about Daniel’s parents. This one is during the Edwardian Era and begins perhaps a decade after the last released Thomas and Charlotte Pitt book.

Daniel is fresh out of university with a law degree and his father helps get him in with a prestigious London law firm. Now he must prove himself to his new employer and to his father with his first courtroom case- a big one, since his client is in the dock for murder. No sooner than he finishes this trial than he is put on an even bigger one.

I loved getting to know this adult Daniel who has the best of both his parents in him and lots of promise. He’s vulnerable and also confident, but he has definitely been tossed into the deep end with these cases. I enjoyed getting to know the situation and the surrounding cast of characters.

The author uses her gift for historical setting, social issues of the day and a profound gift for writing complex characters to tell a steadily paced, twisting mystery. Daniel uncovers the clues that will either hang his detestable client or free him, but things get complicated fast leading close to home. The case brings out domestic abuse, the plight of people with disabilities, the issues of responsible writing when it comes to tell-alls, illegitimacy, women’s equality, and so much more. The author teases out these social issues as part of the plot without getting pedantic.

As usual, the mystery is not as easy as it looks from the beginning and the moral dilemma that comes with it is just as challenging for Daniel. The title refers to the fact that he has twenty-one days from the time his client is charged with murder and the hanging date. I started to get an inkling when the clues popped up, but that just made things more knotty instead of easier. I enjoyed how the mystery tied this first of Daniel’s cases back to the earlier series so his parents make an appearance, but also established itself in its own right.

I hope the new cast of characters will end up being regulars because I loved the Blackwoods with their shades of gray quirkiness, Daniel’s kind landlady, Miriam the female forensics scientist who is the daughter of Daniel’s boss.

So yes, this first in the new spin-off series was great. Love this peek at the Edwardian Era, a new main character, and a great twisting mystery plot. While I think a reader could get by starting with this book, it does have strong ties to the earlier Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series- and they are fabulous so why miss them. Definitely a recommend for historical mystery lovers.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Guest Review: Jubilee’s Journey by Bette Lee Crosby, Narrated by Amy Melissa Bentley and Sean Crisden

Posted April 6, 2018 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 10 Comments

Guest Review: Jubilee’s Journey by Bette Lee Crosby, Narrated by Amy Melissa Bentley and Sean CrisdenJubilee’s Journey by Bette Lee Crosby
Narrator: Amy Melissa Bentley, Sean Crisden
Length: 9 hours 50 minutes
Series: Wyatteville #2
Published by Tantor Audio on March 27th 2018
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating:4 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

From award-winning USA TODAY Bestselling Author BETTE LEE CROSBY comes a heartwarming Southern family saga that redefines the meaning of family.

Crime is a rarity in the small town of Wyattsville, so when one occurs it is front page news. Grocery store owner, Sidney Klaussner, shot in the course of the robbery, is lying in the hospital unconscious. In the room across from him the young man assumed to be the shooter.

Although no one knows the truth of what happened inside that store, Sidney's wife is determined to see the boy punished. The lad's only hope is his sister Jubilee. She knows why he was there but is anyone going to believe a seven-year-old?

A heartwarming saga of finding forgiveness and coming together as a family. Spare Change readers are sure to welcome back Olivia Doyle and the colorful residents of the Wyattsville Arms.

Sophia Rose’s Review

 

This was a poignant story told in the modern historical era of the American South. The times, the setting, and the characters were all brought to life so well that I was immediately feeling nostalgic for a time before I was even born. There was a fleeting, golden afternoon quality to the words that left me with an appreciation for how life is never all sweet and sometimes things happen that are out of our control, but we must find a way to live through to the other side.

I wasn’t sure what to expect and I was a little confused by the early part of the book since it didn’t match the blurb, but I soon realized that the author was starting events well before the current time of the story. To be clear, I didn’t mind- just confused. What I mean is that the early chapters tell the story of Bartholomew and Ruth, their early lives, becoming a family, and tragedy to the present when Paul and Jubilee, their children, take the fateful journey that sets up the events for the rest of the story. Their story is juxtaposed against another man, Hurt’s early story and what put him on an angry, murderous crash course with the two children there in a Wyattsville grocery store. This choice of how to take things back to the earlier years made sense as the story progressed.

Paul and Jubilee’s story is sad, but they have each other and try to stay hopeful because they have nothing else. Paul is an amazing young man who left school and childhood behind when he was still a young child himself to take care of his sick mother, his sister, and the household while his dad work the mines. Then when both parents were gone, as a teenager and newly evicted from their home, he takes Jubilee and all they have in a backpack to seek out a way to start over. Then, tragedy strikes again and they live under a cloud of injustice as other people work to right the wrong. I was teary-eyed and cheering for this pair of kids, but particularly this amazing young man.

I thought this whole story that had a small main cast of people trying to help Jubilee who is first thought to be a lost orphan and not associated with the kid in the hospital who was thought to be part of an armed robbery was captivating. It has a small town, slow paced feel as events march on. The story is part mystery and part fiction following the case of the armed robbery and Jubilee’s mysterious past, but also delves into the lives of several key people including Olivia Doyle, her grandson Ethan Allen Doyle, and Detective Jack Mahoney from the previous book.

I will add that there are a few times that I felt it lagged a little, but not to the point of boredom. Olivia tends to be a brooder and dithers a little and Detective Gomez was driving me to violence the way he put his career ahead of actually working Paul’s case so that went on longer than it should have. Jack Mahoney was the real hero of the story doing the actual police work since Gomez wouldn’t. He was up against department jealousies, jurisdictions, biting into his own family time and work, and then even Olivia’s shenanigans because she called him in, but barely trusted him with the truth. Olivia got on my nerves how she expected so much from him and used him even calling on his weekends at home, but had her own agenda though I get that it was on Jubilee’s behalf.

 

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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