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Source: Review copy from author

Before I share my thoughts about this book with you all, I want to apologize to the author and to the blog tour host for missing my tour date on Friday. I pulled a back muscle and that put me out of commission for a few days. Thanks to some meds and lots of rest, I’m feeling a lot better. 🙂

I was excited for the chance to read Volume I in Collings Hemingway’s The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen trilogy. The premise is so intriguing! What would Jane Austen’s life have been like had she married? Would she still have written the novels that I love so much? And if she would have had the opportunity to write while running her household, how would her marriage have changed those stories? This first volume doesn’t focus much on Jane’s novel writing; it’s set from 1802-1805, during the time she lived in Bath. But the story is rich nonetheless.

Hemingway’s Jane Austen came to life for me, from her wit and impertinence to her intelligence, her understanding of the world and her place in it, and her hope for happiness. Whether it is an accurate portrayal or not, one will never know, but she felt real to me. From page one, I fell in love with this version of Jane. I loved her snarky remarks to her aunt Perrot, her desire for adventure, and her impulsiveness. There were many scenes in which she reminded me of Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice.

Hemingway also brought Ashton Dennis to light, Jane’s childhood friend, five years her junior. He is shy and impulsive, large and clumsy. He has inherited a fortune and an estate, and his Lady Catherine-esque mother very much dislikes his close friendship with Jane. Meanwhile, Jane understands her limited options in society and prepares to live out her life unmarried, constantly traveling from the home of one relative to another with her sister Cassandra. As time passes and Jane begins to understand herself and Ashton more fully, she wonders whether she will ever have a chance to marry for love.

I loved the way the story unfolded, gently and realistically, and I enjoyed that it was more than just a love story, as Hemingway weaves in tales of war and other aspects of history.  I am looking forward to reading the next two volumes and seeing how this alternative life for Jane plays out.

****

The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen: A Novel by a Gentleman Volume I
by Collins Hemingway

Publication Date: June 20, 2015
AuthorHouse
Hardcover, Paperback, & eBook

Genre: Historical Fiction

Everyone should marry once for love – Even Jane Austen

Jane Austen, single and seemingly comfortable in the role of clergyman’s daughter and aspiring writer in the early 1800s, tells friends and family to hold out for true affection in any prospective relationship. Everybody, she says, has a right to marry once in their lives for love.

But when, after a series of disappointing relationships, the prospect of true love arrives for her, will she have the courage to act? The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen re-imagines the life of England’s archetypal female by exploring what might have happened if she had ever married. It shows how a meaningful, caring relationship would have changed her as a person and a writer.

It also takes her beyond England’s tranquil country villages and plunges her info what the Regency era was really about: great explorations and scientific advances, political foment, and an unceasing, bloody war.

In such times, can love—can marriage—triumph?

Amazon | Austen Books | Barnes and Noble

Praise

“What if Austen, who penned so many classic love stories, found her own romantic match? Ashton Dennis fits right into the Austen universe, while this Jane remains true to life, an intelligent and determined young woman. The writing is Austen-ian, and Hemingway has a talent for witty banter and wry observations that would make Elizabeth Bennet proud. An enjoyable first novel in an imaginative, well-researched series.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A skillful portrayal of a … literary icon takes this historical romance on an imaginative journey of the soul. … Insight and intuition, along with meticulous research, have created a believable version of her character in this tender story of Ashton and Jane. … Excellent character development enhances the plausibility of the scenario. Background, motivation, eccentricity—everything that constitutes a personality allow these fascinating people to step off the pages in lifelike form.” —Julia Ann Charpentier, Foreword CLARION Reviews, 4 stars

“All readers of Jane Austen wonder what Jane’s life might have been like had she married, or had money. The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen explores these intriguing possibilities. It also depicts Austen in a rapidly changing world, connecting her to important aspects of the era-war, slavery, indistralization, and new modes of travel. Heminghway’s book raises many ‘what if’s’ in his thoughtful and thought-provoking portrayal of Jane Austen falling in love.” -Susannah Fullerton, author of A Dance with Jane Austen and Happily Ever After: Celebrating Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

“[An] engaging and remarkably convincing romance. … Wry, observant, laconic—much like Jane Austen herself, without ever dipping into pastiche or mimicry. … Hemingway, with the lightest touch, builds up a thoroughly convincing alternative history for Jane. … [A] thoughtful re-imagining of Austen’s love life.” —Joceline Bury, Jane Austen’s Regency World

About the Author

Whether his subject is literature, history, or science, Collins Hemingway has a passion for the art of creative investigation. For him, the most compelling fiction deeply explores the heart and soul of its characters, while also engaging them in the complex and often dangerous world in which they have a stake. He wants to explore all that goes into people’s lives and everything that makes tThe hem complete though fallible human beings. His fiction is shaped by the language of the heart and an abiding regard for courage in the face of adversity.

As a nonfiction book author, Hemingway has worked alongside some of the world’s thought leaders on topics as diverse as corporate culture and ethics; the Internet and mobile technology; the ins and outs of the retail trade; and the cognitive potential of the brain. Best known for the #1 best-selling book on business and technology, Business @ the Speed of Thought, which he coauthored with Bill Gates, he has earned a reputation for tackling challenging subjects with clarity and insight, writing for the nontechnical but intelligent reader.

Hemingway has published shorter nonfiction on topics including computer technology, medicine, and aviation, and he has written award-winning journalism.

Published books include The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen trilogy, Business @ the Speed of Thought, with Bill Gates, Built for Growth, with Arthur Rubinfeld, What Happy Companies Know, with Dan Baker and Cathy Greenberg, Maximum Brainpower, with Shlomo Breznitz, and The Fifth Wave, with Robert Marcus.

Hemingway lives in Bend, Oregon, with his wife, Wendy. Together they have three adult sons and three granddaughters. He supports the Oregon Community Foundation and other civic organizations engaged in conservation and social services in Central Oregon.

For more information please visit Collins Hemingway’s website and blog. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Goodreads.

Disclosure: I received The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen, Volume I from the author for review.

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omphalos

Source: Review copy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
Rating: ★★★★☆

“If we accept that history belongs to the dead, then we will always be its slaves. If we write history ourselves, with all its complications and its ambiguities, then we take ownership of it, we accept responsibility.”

(from Omphalos)

Quick summary: Omphalos is an ambitious historical novel by Mark Patton that connects several stories from different time periods to an ancient mound and chapel on the island of Jersey, La Hougue Bie. The novel opens with the story of Al Cohen, an American visiting Jersey to learn about his biological father, a German officer whose letters while stationed on Jersey and in a POW camp in Wales are featured. Patton also tells the stories of a female spy who fled to Jersey from revolutionary France, a Catholic priest and his secretary on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1517, a knight on a pilgrimage of pennance in 1160, and a sorceress in 4,000 B.C.

Why I wanted to read it: I was intrigued by the idea of several stories from different time periods being connected, and of course, I was especially curious about the story set during World War II.

What I liked: Once I got a handle on all the characters, I enjoyed watching their stories unfold and discovering their connections. I also enjoyed reading about so many different time periods in a single novel. Most of all, I appreciated the author’s note at the end of the book, where Patton separates the facts from the fiction and lists resources for further reading.

What I disliked: There are a lot of characters and story lines, so at times, it was hard to keep it all straight in my head. However, it helped that Patton gave titles to each of these stories and separated them by chapter.

Final thoughts: Omphalos is a fascinating look at thousands of years of history and the connections between events and people over time. The novel covers a lot of ground, from the Nazi occupation of Jersey and espionage during the French Revolution to religious pilgrimages and ancient epic journeys, and is sure to get readers thinking about their family history, as well as their connections to certain places and how generations of people have been there before them.

Thanks to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for having me on the tour for Omphalos. To learn more about the book and the author and to follow the tour, click the banner below.

omphalos tour

war challenge with a twist

Book 31 for the War Challenge With a Twist (WWII)

historical fiction challenge

Book 29 for the Historical Fiction Challenge

Disclosure: I received Omphalos from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for review.

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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past encounters

Source: Review copy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
Rating: ★★★★★

In his previous life they might never have been his friends.  But here — well, they were who he had got to know.  And he needed friends, he realised.  It was difficult to live together and be civil in these conditions.  Here he was, hungry and cold and afraid, and still he was trying to play draughts.  How bloody stupid.

But perhaps this was what civilisation was.  To move pieces round on a board instead of shooting each other.

(from Past Encounters, pages 112-113)

Quick summary: Set in England in 1955, Past Encounters is a novel about a marriage plagued by secrets.  Rhoda Middleton and her husband, Peter, have grown apart emotionally and physically, and when she finds a letter from another woman, she assumes he’s having an affair.  But the truth might even be more disturbing: Helen is the wife of Peter’s best friend, Archie Foster, and while they know about her, Rhoda has never heard Peter mention them once in their 10 years of marriage.  Trying to find out why Peter kept this part of himself a secret from her forces Rhoda to face the secret she has been keeping since 1945, when the film Brief Encounter was being filmed at the Carnforth train station where she worked and volunteered during World War II.  Davina Blake tells the story from Rhoda and Peter’s points of view during the war and in 1955, detailing Peter’s horrific ordeal as a prisoner of war and on The Great March through snow-covered Germany and Rhoda’s life on the home front.

Why I wanted to read it: I’d never read a novel about POWs or the Great March, and I must admit I was drawn to the haunting cover.

What I liked: Blake obviously did her research about conditions in the POW camps run by the Germans and the forced marches of prisoners at the end of the war.  I thought the parts of the book told from Peter’s point of view were very well done, and the details Blake provided really made the harsh landscape, the harsh treatment from the guards, and the tensions among the prisoners come to life.  Dividing the narrative between the two time periods also made it possible for me to really get to know the characters, what they endured during the war, and how the secrets they kept from one another took a toll on their marriage.  It was interesting to see how vastly different their wartime experiences were, with Peter experiencing the very worst of humanity but hanging onto his relationship with Rhoda, and Rhoda living a much easier life but finding it hard to manage the tensions within her family, the obvious dislike Peter’s parents had for her, and her confusion over her relationship with Peter, as they hadn’t been seeing each other very long when he went off to war.  Also, the inclusion of Helen and her interactions with both Rhoda and Peter added another layer to the story.

What I disliked: Parts of the novel were long and probably could have been trimmed without affecting the plot, but I really liked Blake’s writing, so the length didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the novel overall.

Final thoughts: Past Encounters is a beautifully written novel about how the past makes you who you are, how it can haunt you, and how finding peace requires that old ghosts be confronted.  Blake delves deep into her characters so readers can understand the depths of their pain, and her portrayal of Rhoda and Peter’s troubled marriage felt so realistic, given the different paths they took during the war.  It’s a novel not just about secrets but also the effects of war, the many different experiences of war, and how the ways we deal with grief and guilt define us and our relationships.

For more information about the book and to follow the blog tour, click the banner below.

past encounters blog tour

war challenge with a twist

Book 28 for the War Challenge With a Twist (WWII)

historical fiction challenge

Book 26 for the Historical Fiction Challenge

Disclosure: I received Past Encounters from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for review.

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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gracianna

Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Even if she did not want to, if she did not persist, things might be out of order.  She had her own reasonable expectation to die.  It did not occur to her that she was putting herself in harm’s way.

(from Gracianna, page 214)

Gracianna is a novel by Trini Amador based on his great-grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga, a Basque woman who left her home in the Pyrenees at age 18 to work in Paris and earn enough money to live out her dream of moving to America.  Amador found a loaded German Luger in his great-grandmother’s home when he was four and felt compelled to tell her story.

Gracianna is tough as nails, like most Basque women.  Being raised by her formidable grandmother after her mother died in childbirth, Gracianna was taught to be meticulous, a perfectionist, especially when it comes to cleaning.  This (and her unique good looks, particularly her snow white hair) serves her well when she gets a job waitressing and cleaning at a bar café in Paris — and when she joins the Resistance after the Nazis take over the city during World War II.

Accompanied by Juan, the Basque shepherd who has loved her since they were kids, Gracianna takes on an important and dangerous job for the Resistance — a job that forces her to bury her feelings.  She does this job precisely and mechanically until she meets her match in a Nazi colonel, who has the power to save her impetuous younger sister from certain death in a concentration camp.  Amador takes readers to the Pyrenees and describes the strong and resilient Basque people, their history, and their ties to the land.  He also plunges readers into the tense atmosphere of Nazi-occupied Paris and the heartbreaking and bleak landscape of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Gracianna was an interesting person, but the tell-not-show writing style for much of the book kept me from connecting with her.  I knew what kind of person Gracianna was because Amador told me, and I admired her, but the impersonal narrative and the lack of rich description kept her at arm’s length.  Even so, I completely understood Gracianna’s decision to fight for her sister and not give up hope.  I’m close to my younger sister, and I’d like to think I would’ve done the same thing had I been in Gracianna’s shoes.  Gracianna and Constance’s stories were what kept me reading, although I wish the Author’s Note at the end would have gone into more detail about what was fact and what was fiction.

Amador comes from a line of strong women, and he does a good job emphasizing the message he learned from his great-grandmother about being thankful.  Gracianna is a novel about resisting when evil knocks at your door, fighting for the people you love, and moving forward in order to accomplish your dreams.  Amador has every reason to be proud of his great-grandmother and to celebrate her tenacity and survival.

Thanks to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for having me on the Gracianna tour. To follow the tour, click here.

historical fiction reading challenge

Book 27 for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Disclosure: I received Gracianna from the author for review.

© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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seduction

Source: Review copy from Atria
Rating: ★★★★☆

To live in the moment of desire is to be yourself in the most pure and painful way possible, because beneath every touch is the knowledge of how fleeting the pleasure is.  How elusive the passion.  How impossible it is to contain it for long.

(from Seduction)

Seduction is the latest novel in M.J. Rose’s series about reincarnation, revisiting the main character from The Book of Lost Fragrances (which I loved).  As with all the other books in the series, it can be read on its own.  Rose weaves together the past and the present in this haunting, atmospheric tale.  She brings back mythologist Jac L’Etoile, who is still coming to terms with the hallucinations she’s had since childhood, refusing to believe they could be glimpses of her past lives, and mourning the end of a love affair when she is contacted by Theo Gaspard about checking out what could be Celtic ruins on the Isle of Jersey.

Jac hasn’t seen Theo since they were teenagers receiving therapy at a clinic in Switzerland, but she remembers the intense bond they shared, how they understood each other in a way that no one ever had.  Malachai Samuels of the Phoenix Foundation, Jac’s therapist and friend who has devoted his entire life to the study of reincarnation and the search for elusive memory tools, warns her against going, but she’s not going to pass up a chance to explore the ruins and find proof of the existence of the Druids.  However, Theo also wants Jac’s help in finding a journal written by novelist Victor Hugo in 1855 that supposedly is hidden in one of the island’s many caves and details his conversations with the Shadow of the Sepulcher.

The novel shifts back and forth between Jac’s adventures in the caves and ruins of Jersey and the scent triggers that bring her back in time and Victor Hugo’s first-person account of the numerous séances in which he participated in the hopes of communicating with his beloved daughter who drowned 10 years before.  Hugo’s story involves a perfumer with ties to the Gaspard family and a spirit that tempts him with the impossible.

Seduction is a captivating, fast-paced novel that is sensual and mysterious, beautiful and tragic, with luscious descriptions of the scents of ancient woods and the sea.  I was surprised by the complexity of the plot, fascinated by the tortured characters, enamored of the scenery, and even chilled by the evil that Hugo must battle.  Readers don’t have to believe in reincarnation to buy into the plot, nor do they have to worry about romance overshadowing a story about haunted souls struggling to find peace in their lives.  Rose is a gifted storyteller who perfectly blends the fact and the fiction to create an unputdownable novel that had me wanting to drop everything to travel to Jersey and see it for myself.

seduction tour

historical fiction reading challenge

Book 15 for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Disclosure: I received Seduction from Atria for review.

© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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He struggled to separate out the notes he recognized from the ones he didn’t, searching for the ingredients that gave the blend its promise of hope, of long nights and voluptuous dreams, of invitation and embrace.  Of an everlasting covenant ripe with possibility.  Of lost souls reunited.

Tears sprang to the perfumer’s eyes as he inhaled again.  This was the kind of scent he’d always imagined capturing.  He was smelling liquid emotion.  Giles L’Etoile was smelling love. 

(from The Book of Lost Fragrances, page 6 in the advanced reading copy; finished version may be different)

The Book of Lost Fragrances is the fourth book in M.J. Rose‘s series about reincarnation, preceded by The Reincarnationist, The Memorist, and The Hypnotist.  These books can be read on their own, as each has a different story, but they are connected in some way to one character who factors into each.  I enjoyed the first two books in the series, but The Book of Lost Fragrances blows them both away.  Rose has a way of drawing you in from the first page, tantalizing you with a glimpse of history and the promise of a multi-layered story with characters whose past and present lives are fascinating.

It’s hard to sum up The Book of Lost Fragrances, as there are numerous twists and turns, and the way Rose ties the characters and plot threads together around a memory tool is amazing.  The book centers on Jac L’Etoile, who comes from a long line of Parisian perfumers.  Her father has lost his mind to dementia, and Jac and her younger brother, Robbie, are left with a failing business.  Jac insists that they must sell off two of their signature perfumes in order to stay afloat, but Robbie has his heart set on finding a book of perfume recipes from ancient Egypt during Cleopatra’s reign — a book of lost fragrances that was said to have been taken from a tomb by one of the L’Etoile ancestors in 1799, a book that could give the House of L’Etoile a much needed boost.

Jac doesn’t believe the book exists, and she doesn’t believe the shards of ancient pottery found by her brother contain a fragrance that triggers past-life memories.  It seems that Jac is the only one who doesn’t see the importance of the pottery shards, but she is forced to rethink her beliefs when she realizes that people are willing to kill in order to get their hands on what might be an actual memory tool.

In The Book of Lost Fragrances, Rose takes readers on a journey through present-day Paris and the catacombs under the city, ancient Egypt, Paris during the French Revolution, China, and Tibet.  It’s obvious that Rose has done a lot of research about perfumes, reincarnation, and the connection between scent and memory.  I never stopped to consider the different layers of a fragrance before reading this book, and like one of the characters, I realized how easy it can be to go through life without paying much attention to the scents we encounter on a daily basis.  I was drawn to the parts of the story that took place in the past and how they were connected to the events in the present through scent.

Rose’s characters are flawed and conflicted, especially Jac, who is forced to confront her biggest fears, her inner demons, and a former lover she fought so long and hard to forget in order to keep her brother alive and ensure the pottery doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.  Rose’s descriptions of the scents that assault Jac at every turn put readers in the scene, opening their minds to the significance of the sense of smell.  I almost felt like I was sitting at the perfumer’s organ with Jac, staring in awe at the bottles of fragrance and fascinated with the idea of being able to mix the different florals and woods together to create a unique scent with the power to bind people together for eternity.  Rose includes a little something for everyone in The Book of Lost Fragrances — history, romance, action, and suspense.  She is a skilled storyteller, and I enjoyed going along for the ride.

Book 13 for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Disclosure: I received a copy of The Book of Lost Fragrances from Atria for review purposes. I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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I am thrilled to welcome M.J. Rose back to Diary of an Eccentric.  I had the chance to interview her back in 2008, when the second book in her series about reincarnation, The Memorist, was released.  The latest book in the series, The Book of Lost Fragrances, centers on fragrances, the art of making perfume, and how scents can trigger memories.  I will be reviewing the book tomorrow, but let me just say that it’s a book that kept me on the edge of my seat.

Today, M.J. Rose is here to talk about a lost fragrance, and if you think the description of this perfume is enticing, you definitely want to check out The Book of Lost Fragrances.  I’ll admit to sniffing my fragrance collection after finishing the book and trying to pick apart the layers of scent.

Please give a warm welcome to M.J. Rose:

M.J. Rose: I’ve been fascinated with lost fragrances since long before I started writing The Book of Lost Fragrances … since I found a bottle of perfume on my great grandmother’s dresser that had belonged to her mother in Russia. Here is one of those lost fragrances that stirs the senses and the imagination … (researched and described with the help of the perfume writer Dimitrios Dimitriadis)

GUERLAIN – COQUE D’OR

An exceptionally beautiful leather chypre created in 1937 by Jacques Guerlain. Soft florals tumble over a buttery leather accord which evoke thoughts of paper-thin hand-made gloves of extraordinary quality. Built over a classic Guerlain chypre base of sandalwood, amber and oakmoss … this perfume is pre-WWII finery at its best. A scent to be worn with cashmere, pearls and soft furs, but sadly one that has been out of production for the last 60 years.

About M.J. Rose:

M.J. Rose is the international best selling author of eleven novels and two non-fiction books on marketing. Her next novel THE BOOK OF LOST FRAGRANCES (Atria/S&S) will be published in March 2012.  Her fiction and non-fiction has appeared in many magazines and reviews including Oprah Magazine. She has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, Time, USA Today and on the Today Show, and NPR radio.  Rose graduated from Syracuse University, spent the ’80s in advertising, has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and since 2005 has run the first marketing company for authors – Authorbuzz.com.  The television series PAST LIFE, was based on Rose’s novels in the Renincarnationist series. She is one of the founding board members of International Thriller Writers and runs the blog- Buzz, Balls & Hype.  She is also the co-founder of Peroozal.com and BookTrib.com.

Rose lives in CT with her husband the musician and composer, Doug Scofield, and their very spoiled and often photographed dog, Winka.

For more information on M.J. Rose and her novels, please visit her WEBSITE. You can also find her on Facebook.

About The Book of Lost Fragrances:

A sweeping and suspenseful tale of secrets, intrigue, and lovers separated by time, all connected through the mystical qualities of a perfume created in the days of Cleopatra–and lost for 2,000 years.

Jac L’Etoile has always been haunted by the past, her memories infused with the exotic scents that she grew up surrounded by as the heir to a storied French perfume company. In order to flee the pain of those remembrances–and of her mother’s suicide–she moved to America. Now, fourteen years later she and her brother have inherited the company along with it’s financial problems. But when Robbie hints at an earth-shattering discovery in the family archives and then suddenly goes missing–leaving a dead body in his wake–Jac is plunged into a world she thought she’d left behind.

Back in Paris to investigate her brother’s disappearance, Jac becomes haunted by the legend the House of L’Etoile has been espousing since 1799. Is there a scent that can unlock the mystery of reincarnation – or is it just another dream infused perfume?

The Book of Lost Fragrances fuses history, passion, and suspense, moving from Cleopatra’s Egypt and the terrors of revolutionary France to Tibet’s battle with China and the glamour of modern-day Paris. Jac’s quest for the ancient perfume someone is willing to kill for becomes the key to understanding her own troubled past.

Disclosure: I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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