Book Review: The Typewriter’s Tale

The Typewriter's TaleThe Typewriter’s Tale by Michiel Heyns

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


*I loved this book. I’ve read my share of James, but it was years and years ago. When I started reading this book the first thing I had to do was sloooooow the heck down. This is a novel to be savored, like rich chocolate. The writing is luxurious and when you relax into it you feel transported to a different, more dignified, time. Not that people weren’t as manipulative and nasty as ever, but just better dressed and more well-spoken while going about it. . .

I was also thrilled to see my old friends, adverbs, back in such abundance. When is the last time somebody in the literary world dared to use so many adverbs? Heyns uses them fearlessly and to great effect. Each sentence is like a mini work of art and you get the impression Heyns lovingly considered the worth and meaning of every single word before it earned its place on the page.

Heyns has a wicked sense of humor and a poison pen which is very reminiscent of James and Wharton. The internal reflections of the main character, Frieda, are what really make this book great. She is at once innocent and very insightful, looking from the outside, while being slowly drawn in.

Heyns is enamored of James but is still capable of portraying him “warts and all” and I found I liked the novelist more and more as the book went on. It is sometimes easy to view the artist as self-indulgent and affected, but Heyns’s characterization is sensitive and avoids the obvious traps.

I wouldn’t say this was a beach read, but it would go well with a shady, quiet river and some chocolate.

****Possible SPOILER****
I wish the ending had been more fulfilling, but fans of James will expect an ending like this. You get the feeling Heyns is making Frieda suffer so she will have something to write about, something to push her on her way to becoming an author.

Anyhow, I really enjoyed this book and am grateful something this elegant can still find its way into a publishing house and then out again, without giving in to twenty-first expectations. Beautiful.

*My reviews are about my enjoyment of a book as a reader. I’m not a literary critic and I don’t delve deeply into the psychological motivations of the author and/or characters. If I am reviewing a book on my blog, I consider it worth reading. Books I read and don’t care for, for one reason or another, I do not review. There are plenty of other places to find negative reviews.

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DIY: Building a New Home for my Shoes

Those of you who know a bit about us know we used to operate a bed and breakfast. The one thing you have lots of when you close your b&b is space. We went from living in ONE bedroom in a 9-bedroom house to having all those rooms to ourselves. All those rooms to fill with junk! Yes, it’s a hoarder’s paradise. . .

Anyhow, back when the house was converted into a b&b all but 4 closets were changed into bathrooms. The result is a bathroom-rich, closet-poor house. My shoes were spread through the entire house, crammed in various closets. They weren’t happy.

Last year I decided to take a room we’d been using as a sitting room–which had become more of a dust-gathering room–and convert it into a dressing room. Yes, a real-live dressing room. Just like in those historical romance novels I enjoy so much. . .

I have FINALLY finished everything and taken pictures. But first, here is a little about the torturous process.

Here are a couple before pictures of the sitting room, which has its own bathroom and wet bar (yeeeeessssss, that means my dressing room has its own wet bar!!):


And here is another, taken from the other direction. That arched doorway leads to our bedroom. That cow scull on the wall is genuine, certified, organic longhorn. Seriously. Unfortunately I had no wall space to accommodate it in the new Shoe Palace.

CWI 077

Once I took everything out of it (almost–see how those boxes of shoes have already sneaked in to check out their new home?) it looked like this:


I knew I didn’t want California Closets closets for two reasons: one, they wouldn’t fit the character of the adobe and viga construction and two, I couldn’t afford them. I decided I wanted something more rustic and rugged, so I settled on plumbing piping, which I’d seen used in a swanky too-cool clothing shop on my last visit to Toronto.

As usual, I’m kind of lousy with photographing every step. But the process is actually pretty straight forward. Decide on the size of unit you want and measure and then buy a whole pile of metal pipes, elbows, three-ways, and flanges for connecting the unit. The only tricky part (okay, so it turns out there is a SECOND tricky part, but I’ll get to that below) is accounting for the threads on each piece to make sure you end up with what you measured. That was a bit trial and error and many harsh words were spoken by me, to myself, because I had nobody else to blame.

Anyhow, I spray painted the pieces separately and then screwed them all together and spray painted them again. In the middle of all this it rained several times. Here is a picture I took after having to hustle everything back into the house when it rained, drag it back out afterward, and spray it again:


So, that’s a pretty eyeball-boggling photo, but you get the gist.

The second thing I hadn’t counted on was the irregular surface on the adobe walls and ceiling, none of which are flush or straight (part of the joy of adobe). This meant that each and every segment was a bit different and I had only measured in one place for each unit. Whoops! The good news is that plumbing pipes come in so many pieces and sizes! Yes, I just purchased a few 1/2 and 1/4 sections, spray painted and screwed those puppies on, and everything worked out just fine. The large pieces–the 4 and 5 foot hanging sections–I had cut at the lumber yard.

Here are a few pictures of experiments with different segments. You’ll notice, in the final picture, that some of the sections didn’t make the final cut. I realized that putting built-ins on small sections of wall wasn’t very economical. (For example, the picture below.) Luckily, I just propped up the pipe and used some scrap lumber for shelving to check this out before I actually screwed anything down.


Here is the work in progress. See how tidy I am?


And now for the fun pictures:


Yes! A sitting area to sip cocktails or tea!


And, finally. . . the Wall of Shoes:




Read a FREE excerpt of the exciting new release by Kari Lemor, Running Target

An innocent in the crossfire . . .

FBI agent Jack Holland broke every rule in the book falling for the girlfriend of Angelo Cabrini, son of a New Jersey mob boss. But even if Callie Lansing’s relationship to Angelo was actually a cover and her heart was free, her relationship with Jack put both of their lives at risk. Nothing, though, could make Jack regret the liaison that led to the birth of their son, Jonathan.

After Angelo discovered Callie’s pregnancy, he went after Jack and wound up dead. Now Jack is on the run with a target on his back. The only thing keeping Callie and Jonathan safe is the mob boss’s belief that the baby is his grandchild. But if Victor Cabrini discovers the truth before Jack can put him behind bars, it could mean death for his sweet covert family. . . .

Early praise for Running Target

“Thrilling . . . Lemor once again features a dynamite protagonist who’s easily relatable, and her talent for incorporating romance and forgiveness against the odds makes Running Target even more enticing.” —RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars

“Ms. Lemor has delivered a scintillating read in this book where the chemistry was riveting; the secondary characters entertained me just as much as the main ones; and the ending took me completely by surprise.” ~ Book Magic Book Reviews

“Running Target is about finding one’s way back home. It’s about beating the odds when it seems like everything is going against you. And most importantly, it’s about family. I would recommend this for readers who enjoy their romance mixed with a light level of suspense.” ~Harlequin Junkie


An infant’s cry broke the stillness of the maternity ward as Jack crept through the hallway. He looked toward the nursery. Should he go there first or to where Callie was? The room was less risky and he needed to see her. Assure himself she was okay.

The door was ajar so he slipped through, closing it enough to allow a sliver of light to filter in. He made out the petite shape of the sleeping woman then saw the bassinet next to her. His breath left his body. The baby was here with her.

Stepping closer, he looked down on the clear container, the blue tag proclaiming this child to be a boy. Squinting in the dim light, he read the words. Mother’s name: Callina Lansing. Baby: Jonathan.

Jonathan. She’d named the baby after him. A lump clogged his throat. A son. Damn. He had a son and wouldn’t be able to get to know him, see him grow, share in his life. This fucking world was too cruel at times.

He shouldn’t take the chance but he needed to hold him. It was vital that he touch the life he and Callie had created. He wanted—no needed—to let his child know how much he loved him. The powerful emotion emanated from his heart even as he gazed down at the tiny figure. How could love grow this fast? His first glimpse was only a second ago. Now the feeling consumed him.

Reaching down, he stroked the side of his son’s face. The baby turned his head, his bow-shaped lips opening slightly. Jack’s heart beat faster. The protective instincts that had always come into play when he was around Callie, throbbed to life and expanded as he gazed at the sweet face of his son. Heat like an electric storm surged through his blood. How could he protect this child in his current situation? He’d bring more danger upon him if he hung around. Eight months of running, trying to escape the long arm of Victor Cabrini, had shown him what hell was. Now he glimpsed a small piece of heaven.

He slid his hands under the infant, lifting him from the bed to hold him close. Jonathan barely weighed anything. His heart constricted yet again. The innocent baby scent wafted into his nostrils and he blinked back the moisture filling his eyes. The reaction was primitive and territorial. This was his son.

Their child’s eyes opened but no cry erupted so Jack relaxed. It shook him to the core knowing Callie had named the baby after him. After deserting her she had every right to hate him. As much as he hated himself. Leaving her hadn’t been in his plans but the choice had been ripped away from him. It had taken a while to recover from the stabbing. Then the fuck-up by the Bureau had happened.

He stared again at the unfocused eyes of his son, his forehead touching that of the infant’s. Kissing his face, he absorbed every little facet he could. Who knew if he’d ever see him again.

Gazing at the sleeping woman, her innocent face relaxed in slumber, caused more pain to rip through his heart. Her dark hair, streaked with natural reds and golds, was a riot of curls that framed her peaceful face. Long lashes fanned over high cheekbones, highlighting the lovely structure of her eyes. His beautiful Calico Cat.

Had the pregnancy and labor been hard? She must have looked amazing, all round and filled with his child. Regret tore through him, anger warring with that emotion. Anger that his life had been stolen from him. He’d been fighting to get it back, but didn’t seem any closer now than he’d been eight months ago.

Jonathan let out a small mewing sound and Jack snuggled him close. “I’m right here, pal. I might not be around much but I wanted to let you know…I love you very much.” His voice cracked with emotion. “I’m your Dad.”

He had a son. Was now a father. But he couldn’t be a father—not in the way that it mattered. He’d swore he’d be better than his dad. But this—he’d be worse. As it began to sink in, his hands shook with the enormity of the situation.

A noise from Callie drew his eyes to the bed. She shouldn’t see him. It was too dangerous. Still he wasn’t ready to give up holding his son quite yet. You might as well rip his heart from his chest and throw it on the floor.

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Book Review: Animal Hats

Animal Hats: 15 patterns to knit and show offAnimal Hats: 15 patterns to knit and show off by Vanessa Mooncie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was shocked to see I am not the only person around with an obsession for animal hats. I haven’t knitted any animal hats, but here are a few I crocheted.



I’m much more comfortable with a crochet hook than I am with knitting needles so I just made up these hats as I went along. But for a knitted hat, I knew I would need a pattern.

I am currently making the rabbit hat and plan to tackle the more difficult elephant hat if that goes well.

So far I’m impressed with the book and find the instructions very straightforward and easy to understand. I like that each pattern lists yarn weights (mostly chunky) along with specific brand names. I am using Lion brand Thick and Quick for the rabbit hat instead of the Rowan Chunky Felted Tweed the book has listed. I love Rowan yarns but at $12.95/skein (If you can find it) that would put this hat (the pattern calls for 5 skeins) at just under $65, which I’m not willing to pay.   I dropped a needle size to get the right size for my gauge swatch.

None of the patterns are rated for skill level, but it is pretty clear by looking at them how difficult or easy they will be. The dog and frog hats, for example, look easier than the elephant or rabbit or cow.

The patterns all include both child and adult sizes.

Stay tuned for pictures as I promise to actually take some during the process this time!

I was planning to make these as Christmas gifts, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to give them away…

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Beautiful outdoors and woodpecker street gangs.

Here are some lovely shots of the yard and great outdoors I wanted to share from back in the spring and a few from early summer:


a backyard sunset

cottonwood courtyard june

Adobe and Skull


Oh, and let’s not forget the pictures below…


I know this is supposed to be the year of the rooster, but I propose we change it to the year of the woodpecker. We have been overrun with them. This guy is eating vigas. Another gang was at our property next door and pecked 4 holes through the wooden barn siding.


The hammock. . .



Oh, and the rhubarb this year was amazing:


Too many beautiful sunsets!

fire sunset .JPG




Top 10 Favorite Historical Romance Novels. Review: Dangerous in Diamonds

Dangerous in Diamonds (The Rarest Blooms, #4)Dangerous in Diamonds by Madeline Hunter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the first book on my Top 10 List of historical romance novels. I’m not reviewing the books in any particular order, but I have to say that Madeline Hunter’s Dangerous in Diamonds leapt into my head for my first review for several reasons. One, I love all Madeline Hunter’s books. Two, I have to say that Castleford just might be my ultimate hero. Three, the book has an exciting, rich story to go along with its two interesting lead characters.

I love Castleford. He reminds me of the Duke of Avon in These Old Shades. Oh, they are not alike in personality, of course, but they are alike in that they behave the way I would hope a real duke might behave. Powerful, decisive, and determined. Oh, and handsome. And clever. And a sophisticated lover. And–well, you get the point.

Like Hunter’s other novels, there is actually some history to go along with the romance. The story takes place in the midst of violent social unrest that adds a dimension of immediacy and physical danger (which I don’t want to give away) to the novel.

While Britain undergoes a post-War personality shift Daphne and the Duke of Castleford are engaged in their own struggles. Daphne doesn’t want to become yet another of Castleford’s many women, and he, not surprisingly, is intrigued by any woman who doesn’t leap into bed with him.

Neither is exactly what they appear on the surface and discovering exactly who they are is both fascinating and page-turning.

I’ve re-read the book 3 times and still laugh out loud whenever Hunter gives the reader a peek inside the duke’s head. He is so arrogant there should be another word in the dictionary just for him. But he is also clever, thoughtful, and surprisingly aware of the thoughts and behaviors of those around him.

I believe Daphne is is perfect foil and her strong, silent, and determined personality thwart Castleford in a way that is more believable than any head-on confrontation would be. She is a woman of her time and works within the limitations that were once imposed on our gender. She is a heroine who maintains her dignity.

I find the way Hunter depicts the development of their relationship particularly compelling. I love how there is some distance between the characters right up to the end. He is a duke. I would imagine one does not start calling a duke by his Christian name within a day of knowing him. I like that Hunter maintains this distinction because I believe it is part of who Castlford is and would not be easily shed.

What I love even more than Hunter’s great characterization, interesting story, and swoony romance is the fact she doesn’t transform Castleford into something unrecognizable by the end of the book. No, instead he remains himself. Which doesn’t mean he is unchanged, not at all. Like any romance hero he has to make choices that will ultimately show he puts his love for his heroine above everything else in his life. But he is not so altered by the process the he isn’t still Castleford.

This is the fourth book in the quartet, but I inadvertently read it first. Immediately after finishing it I bought the others. While I love the first three and admire how each story is distinct, Dangerous in Diamonds is my favorite among Hunter’s books.

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Chicken art and more

Several months ago I promised a friend I would email her pictures of my (very few) paintings. Since I still haven’t gotten around to that, I decided to just post them here.

I decided to try my hand at painting when I wanted a mural around one of our fireplaces. I decided to start with the fireplace in our kitchen, a very small kiva fireplace we use often.



I didn’t want to waste a good paintbrush on my experiment, so I used a .49 cent chip brush from the hardware store. It actually worked out pretty well, in my opinion. You can see a little of the flame details in this picture (you can see the Sharpie lines on the bottom right of the drawing, where I couldn’t get the outline of the flame quite right), I thought they ended up looking very smoke-blackened and I really like it.

After that, I thought I’d try my luck with some chicken portraits. . .

Here is the first one, which is a painting of Zsa Zsa, who is a somewhat crazy bird:


I then painted Cordelia and Bernard on these two old Adirondack chair backs:


Here’s a better photo of the Bernard chair:

bernard chair.JPG

Right now I’m working on a “barnyard” mural, but finding chickens in action are a lot more difficult to paint than my portraits…


The Query Letter that Snagged Me a 3-Book Contract

On March 8, 2017 I received a three-book offer from Kensington Press for my Regency Era romance trilogy, The Outcasts.

Here is a bit of background on my query letter. I started writing in 2013 and finished my first novel that December. And then I started another and another and another. Over the next three years I sent out a total of three query letters. All three letters received a polite “no thank you.”

Needless to say, I did not spend much time querying. It was not until I had entered a dozen contests, and either won or was a finalist in several of them, that my husband and beta readers pressured me to begin querying in earnest. In the Fall of 2016 I promised I would begin querying in the new year.

Hello 2017.

Not until late February did I get my act together and begin the agonizing process of writing a query, a horrific ordeal I had endured again and again over the prior 3.5 years. Each time I began a letter I’d end up overwhelmed and, ultimately, put the letter aside. I had tried writing queries for at least five of the books I’d written, thinking it might be easier with a different book. Nope.

And I wasn’t attempting these letters without doing my research, either. I read and re-read every damned entry on The Query Shark. While I didn’t submit a letter to The Shark I DID learn a lot from reading her comments. I highly recommend going to her website and doing what she tells you to do.

But the person who really gave me the kick in the pants I needed was Sherry Thomas. Ms. Thomas posted two real-live query letters back in 2006–two successful query letters.

Her letters were punchy and gripping. I don’t know if it helped me because I had read both books in her queries (I suspect it might have), but reading those letters was a serious light bulb moment.

Anyhow, it took me a good two weeks of writing and re-writing and critiques from three people I trust (huge thanks to Brantly, George, & Marla, my patient critique/beta readers) before I produced something I liked.

Here is my letter with comments following:

Dear Ms. Editor:

I was thrilled to see Kensington and Lyrical are both looking for historical romances with unique settings and unusual characters.

Dangerous is part of my Regency Era series, The Outcasts, which features non-traditional protagonists. I believe Dangerous would appeal to readers who enjoy the uncommon heroes/heroines of Sherry Thomas, Lisa Kleypas, and Elizabeth Hoyt.

Lady Euphemia Marlington hasn’t made her own decisions since she was captured by Corsairs and sold into Babba Hassan’s harem. Now the sultan is dead and every decision Mia makes leads to another, and another—until she ends up back in London facing her first Season at the age of thirty-two.

Dangerous opens with Mia’s father, the Duke of Carlisle, forcing her to make yet another decision: marry a man of his choosing or spend the rest of her life on a secluded rural estate.

After Adam de Courtney’s first two wives die under mysterious circumstances there isn’t a peer in England willing to let his daughter marry a man the ton calls The Murderous Marquess.

Nobody except the desperate Duke of Carlisle.

The two outcasts strike a deal neither intends to honor: Mia will get a marriage free of traditional restraints and Adam will get an heir. But deceit takes a back seat to desire and the scheming lovers learn that what they bargained for wasn’t what they wanted at all. They’re on the brink of leaving past disappointments behind them and embracing a future together when Mia’s biggest secret surfaces and threatens to tear them apart.

Now they must make the most dangerous decision of all: When to trust their own hearts.

In 2016 Dangerous and The Outcasts books won or placed in the following:

RWA 2016 Hearts Through History Contest:
1st Dangerous
2nd Scandalous
3rd Barbarous

RWA 2016 Beau Monde
2nd Dangerous

RWA 2016 Hot Prospect Contest
2nd Dangerous

RWA 2016 Windy City Contest
1st Dangerous Moonlight
3rd Dangerous

RWA 2016 Beacon
1st Dangerous Moonlight
3rd Dangerous

RWA 2016 Joyce Henderson Contest
1st Scandalous
3rd Dangerous Moonlight

RWA 2016 Fool for Love
1st Scandalous

RWA 2016 Houston, The Emily Contest
3rd Dangerous Moonlight

Thank you for taking the time to read about my book and please let me know if I can provide any other information.

First off, (and I know you’ve read this before ) do your research before querying. I had been researching for at least a year and Kensington Press was my top pick (yes, “go big or go home” is my motto).

I decided I would send off query letters in five-letter batches. In my first batch I sent one to an editor and four to agents. I am disorganized in many ways, so I made a calendar so I wouldn’t end up embarrassing myself a year down the line by re-querying the same person twice.

The part of Ms. Thomas’s letter I liked the most was the structure. It seemed a lot more useful to impart a bit of background and then tell where the book actually began.

I didn’t include my word count because I was using an online submitting program that already gathered that kind of information. Because I feel brevity is the key to getting a foot in the door, I felt I could create a little more white space by leaving it out.

I dithered and dithered about listing my contests. I finally decided to list all my historical romance placements, but leave out my spec fiction. The list looks a bit unwieldy, but my contests were the only writing-related credits I had.

So, there you have it. I hope this helps somebody out there as much as Ms. Thomas’s query letter helped me.

Book Review: The Hot War, Harry Turtledove

Armistice (The Hot War, #3)Armistice by Harry Turtledove
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First off, this is my first novel by Turtledove, who I’ve heard about for years. I used to teach US history, so I really got a kick out of the deft blending of actual historical actors/events with fantasy.

I greatly enjoyed almost everything about this book. The only reason I am at 4.5 stars is because I just can’t make the jump to 5 because of the dialogue, which I thought was far less “masterful” than the rest of the book. For whatever reason, the dialogue often pulled me out of the story. Not because it was anachronistic, just because it often felt a little clunky. I think it was even more noticeable when compared to the rest of the book. The author’s ability to paint a picture and scene with words is amazing. His alternate vision is also chilling and makes for a page-turning read. If this were a first or even second or third attempt, I would probably bump up the half star. However, it seems like somebody who has been writing this long might offer more compelling and smooth dialogue. The dialogue made the novel feel”distant” to me, if that makes any sense.

All in all, I found the book very enjoyable. The blurb says this book is a good place to start if you’ve never read a Turtledove book before and I have to agree as I had no problem getting into the swing of things right from the first page. The author is great at pulling the reader in without devolving into heavy backstory or resorting to annoying info dumps (well, not any that I noticed, but I suppose my opinion might be different if I had read the prior 2 books.

I would read another book by Turtledove, but probably not the first 2 in this trilogy

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Book Review: Impala by Andrew Diamond

ImpalaImpala by Andrew Diamond
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s always a good sign when I can’t stop reading. Well, a good sign for the book, but a bad one for my own schedule. That is what happened with Impala. I started reading it yesterday afternoon, stayed up late, and then started right back up this morning–in spite of the many things I was supposed to do…

I have to admit the book was so good it actually surprised me. (And I’m sure I’ll take a lot of flack for the next few sentences…) I don’t usually read indy authors just because it is so hard to sort the wheat from the chaff. But I took a chance on this book because the blurb was well-written. Well, so was the whole book. Just on a technical level alone it was clean and I didn’t spot a single typo. Or maybe I didn’t spot any because I was too riveted by the story to notice or care. Either way. . .

Anyhow, this is Diamond’s second book so I always like to provide some comparisons when I’m reviewing a relatively new author. The first 2/3s of the book, especially, reminded me of some of my favorites: Palahniuk, Gischler, Neil Stephenson, and even a little of Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko. Yes, I thought Impala was THAT twisted, hip, smart, clever, funny, and readable.

Over and over and over I laughed out loud– the bicycle scene and “Who Killed the Mockingbird” being two of my favorites. Mixed in with all the humor was some truly beautiful prose–Mr. Diamond does an excellent job of painting pictures with words.

I also greatly enjoyed the entertaining lessons on programming and hacking, not that I could follow a lot of it (reminded me of Stephenson’s discussions of high tech-ery and The Calculus in Cryptonomicon). So, it’s not too bad when you can amuse a technical incompetent with computer-speak.

Russ is the main character and we see things from his POV. Ah. Russ, Russ, Russ. Where do I start with Russ? He is, as my mother used to say, his own worst enemy. He is clever, funny, thoughtful, and often a jerk. However, Russ and I share one important characteristic: he HATES discourtesy. Yes, and he does something about it, too…

Russ’s unwillingness to give ground even when faced with guns and muscle-bound goons reminded me of Arkady Renko, another guy who is his own worst enemy. Like Renko, Russ does not always choose the path of least resistance. Or even a path at all. And boy, does Russ take some beatings for his decisions. Seriously, I felt as if somebody had beaten ME at certain points in the book.

Two of my favorite parts of the book were Russ’s internal monologues (love his chats with the FBI) and his ability to turn his scorching IQ on himself from time to time. He knows he has the makings of a very bad man, but he isn’t going to submit to that side of himself without a struggle.

It really is hard to put the book down because there is always something going on. It’s often difficult to know where things are going next because Russ is out of control. Which makes it exciting. And fun.

I would ding this book half a star for length because I thought it could have been longer. I would have LIKED to read more, especially when it came to the events of the last 1/4 of the book. But because it hardly seems fair to drop a rating a full star because you liked the writing so much you want more, I’ve given Mr. Diamond the full 5.

This book was a blast and I’d read another by this author in a heartbeat.

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