Relax and Unwind with A. K. Klemm’s Lily Hollow Novellas

December 14, 2016 at 7:37 pm (Uncategorized)

I love hearing from fans and fellow bibliophiles about The Bookshop Hotel series!

Time to Ramble On

andiA. K. Klemm’s Bookshop Hotel series will make you nostalgic for small-town America where everyone knows everyone’s business and nothing ever changes. This pair of novellas takes us to Lily Hollow, where our protagonist, AJ, opens up a bookstore that doubles as a hotel. Quirky townfolk invade the narrative, and AJ is always up to her short chin in local drama.

Both books reminded me of shows like Doc Martin or Northern Exposure, where friendly, colorful locals flood each scene with their idiosyncrasies. There’s a cranky woman running a book club who becomes obsessed with hats. An out-of-place teenager who hangs out with old people. Couples finding love well into their golden years. All of it wrapped up in charming dialog, similar to something out of Jojo Moyes.

While the setting is warm and wistful, the stories don’t lack for drama and conflict. What do you do when an…

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Week 1 Summary

September 10, 2016 at 1:05 am (Uncategorized)

Because homeschooling rocks my world, and I love my honorable mention… 🙂

Coffee Cups and Wild Things

This was our first week of CC (Classical Conversations) and because we were out of town for a large chunk of the previous week I chose to start school alongside the CC year. From what I gather, there are 1,001 ways to manage your Classical Conversations educational style (if there is such a thing as hardcore hippie homeschooling mamas, then I have met them now…they are all wearing shoes, but boldly declare you should teach the way that is best for your children. Something you would think is the bedrock of every homeschooling community but from my experience is not).

One of my son’s many gifts, and perhaps the one that comes most effortlessly to him, is the ability to memorize information quickly. CC is based off a lot of memorization and in class they teach little songs and chants to help the kiddos learn even before they are old…

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So far in 2016…

May 10, 2016 at 4:34 am (Reviews, Uncategorized) (, , , )

  • City of Ember – DuPrau (January) *

It took awhile for me to read City of Ember out loud to the kiddo, but she loved it.  I loved it.  Both of us were enthralled with the city under the ground.  The most beautiful aha moments when the story peeled it’s way back and made itself known were written all over my five year old’s face, and I loved watching her discover the patterns of storytelling.  I highly recommend this book for children, but I especially recommend it as a family read a-loud.

  • Last Child in the Woods – Louv (February)

This book is my motto and mantra for parenting and has been long before I read it or knew about it.  It’s truly the only parenting book I’ve read so far that I think is worth a darn.  And it’s not just worth a darn, it’s amazing, and should be read by every citizen of the planet Earth, or at least America where we’ve succumbed to too many silly rules.  I read this back in February, but now in May I still find myself thinking about it as we now live on a golf course ironically named Walden, where the rolling hills and ponds are not for playing in or experiencing first hand, but for driving by in a cart (walkers are looked at funny).

  • One Day in the Woods – Jean Craighead George (February) *

Charlotte Mason curriculum followers look for Jean Craighead George in the bookstore often.  Specifically these One Day titles that I rarely see.  I snatched this one up the second I came across it and it was a joy to read it with my little girl.  We love the woods.  We love discovering the woods.  And although I don’t follow Charlotte Mason thoroughly, this is definitely a wise educational choice for someone wanting to raise their kid as close to the natural world as they can.

  • Pym – Mat Johnson (February) #

Bizarre, and I loved it.  Mat Johnson is snarky and clever, and thoroughly well educated.  I found myself riveted by the idea of Edgar Allen Poe’s little known novella having a basis of truth.  I found the not-so-mythical Pym amusing and the creatures encountered in the depths of the snow a fascinating take on social commentary and dealing with racism.  Not everyone’s cup of tea, but worth the time of every student of social customs, genetics, and race relations.

  • Power of a Praying Wife & Power of a Praying Parent- Omartian (February)

I was encouraged to read this by a marriage counselor in our area.  In some ways it’s great, pray for your spouse, constantly.  That’s a good message.  Some of the how to’s, however, were a little bit out of not just my comfort zone but my belief system as well.  About 3/4 into the book, if I remember currently, Omartian just seems to begin to embrace a lot of fluff Christian mysticism, putting power in anointments and rituals as much as in the prayers themselves.  And that is not where power lies.  Power lies with God alone, not oils being sprinkled on your family’s belongings.

  • The Sterile Cuckoo – John Nichols (February)

I cried pretty early in the book.  I still have not seen the movie starring Liza Minelli, but it is on my list of things to watch eventually.  Sometimes I feel so much like Pookie in my soul, it’s scary.

  • The Gardener’s Year – Karel Capek (February)

I find gardening memoirs exceptionally soothing.  This one was no exception.

  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Gaiman (February) #

This book was a joint read in a book club with my co-workers at Half Price Book (as was Pym).  I had posted a review written by someone else on my blog that Neil Gaiman himself read.  I adore this book, and will probably read it again and again for years to come.  But I cannot write a review that does it justice, nor one that competes with the review already posted here.  Hers was heartfelt and lovely, and mine could not capture that level of personal involvement no matter how hard I try.  It would take me years to write something half as eloquent (and I’m speaking of both the book itself and the review).

The nonfiction book we are reading along with this one is The Ocean of Life.  Topically, some mythology criticism would be more appropriate, but I was moved by the word ocean and therefore thought I’d read about bodies of water in general.

  • The Last Kingdom – Bernard Cornwell (February)
  • The Pale Horseman – Bernard Cornwell (March)
  • Lords of the North – Bernard Cornwell (March)
  • Sword Song – Bernard Cornwell (April)
  • The Burning Land – Bernard Cornwell (April)

I am so in love with the Saxon Series by Bernard Cornwell that I have written a novelette as an ode to Uhtred.  You’ll just have to download it when the ebook is released.  Right now it’s in the hands of my publisher awaiting either a blessing or the axe.

Currently, I’m reading Death of Kings.  Also, if anyone knows of a great biography on Alfred the Great or any of his children, I’d love to check it out, especially come this fall as our homeschooling ventures move into the Middle Ages.

  • The Castle in the Attic – Elizabeth Winthrop (March) *

The Castle in the Attic was a childhood favorite of mine, I was so excited to read it to the kiddo.  We enjoyed our time fighting evil magicians and venturing on a quest together, and I look forward to reading her the sequel.

  • The Opposite of Loneliness – Marina Keegan (March)

Marina Keegan was a writer of significant merit before she died far too young.  I find her series of essays, published by her teachers and family after her death, inspiring.  She was diligent.  She had a goal to develop her craft and be a better writer every day than the day before.  I admire that and if there is any stamp she left on the world, it is absolutely that diligence is something to respect and aspire to.  She was also, apparently, Harold Bloom’s research assistant.  I officially want to be someone’s research assistant, I hope at the age of 32 it’s not too late for me to add that to my bucket list.  Anyone willing to show me the ropes?

  • Corruption – Camille Norton (March)

When I was in my twenties, I found most poetry pretentious.  It annoyed me to read a lot of it.  Sure, there’s beauty in it, but I did not have the true respect for it that I have now.  The older I get, the more I enjoy the concise manner of poetry.  How someone can have the fortitude to dwindle their words down to only the most beautiful elements and retain meaning.  Maybe it is social media and the realization on twitter that saying something truly profound and lovely in few words is indeed hard.  So, the older I get, the more often I find myself plucking up poetry books.  Edna St. Vincent Millay and Housman are my favorites, but Camille Norton has great talent and is worth keeping an eye on.  I look forward to discovering more of her work.  (Currently, I’m falling in love with Pablo Neruda, I know, I’m so very late to this party.)

  • Warm Bodies – Isaac Marion (April)

Still my favorite zombie movie, so fun!  But it was an even better book.  Marion is funny and brilliant.  The Gray’s Anatomy excerpts at the beginning of each chapter were an especially nice touch.  I read this on my lunch breaks at work, and it was just the thing I needed to enjoy a rest between a lot of hard work.  People think bookstore jobs are leisurely, and they can be, but I work my tail off.  Seriously, I used to have a sizable ass, now I can’t find it anymore…

  • Endurance – Lansing (March) #

I like to read nonfiction books alongside my fiction books.  I alternate and pair up topics and bounce around genres like a rabid animal hungry for words, words, more words.  Nonfiction always, naturally, takes me longer to read than the fiction counterparts.  This was paired with Pym, for its arctic scenery and lost on a journey scenario.  It’s fascinating, until its not.  I tore through a good chunk of the book and then couldn’t force myself to finish to save my life, until I did one day.  Like the members of the crew, I found myself in a state of listless drudgery.  Being lost isn’t fun.  The play by play was accurate and thorough, and a little bit painful.  Glad I read it though.  Wouldn’t necessarily encourage anyone else to.

  • Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan (April)

A bookstore, a secret society, and data.  My heart went pitter patter.  And the cover glows in the dark.  Seriously, how could a book be any more awesome?

  • His Majesty’s Dragon – Novik (May) #

Napoleonic Wars with DRAGONS.  THAT TALK.  This pleased me to no end.  Also, it’s a series, so expect to hear more from me on the subject.  It’s also one of the co-worker read a-alongs with a nonfiction pairing book club picks, so later this year expect me to happily share a (hopefully) good history title.

  • The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern (May) #

This book started out good, and slowly became AMAZING.  So lovely and beautiful.  Despite the present tense that I hate, Morgenster’s writing voice is wonderful.  It’s unique, but grounded.  She gives you all the detail without overselling any of it, just a taste so that your imagination may run wild. There’s a teaser toward the end regarding a museum… I’m curious if she’ll ever elaborate on that.  In the meantime, I think I’ll be picking up The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman.  It seems like an appropriate book to follow the mood…  Also, I’ll be reading Under the Big Top by Bruce Feiler, as this is another pairing selection that I’m reading along with others.  I’m also eyeing Topsy by Michael Daly and a biography of Barnum.  I might just run away with a circus this year…

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Since February…

April 20, 2016 at 11:12 am (Uncategorized)

I cannot believe it has been two months since I have posted a single thing.  In my defense, I have read quite a bit, moved into a new house, built a kitchen garden from scratch, been working the bookstore full time, homeschooling the kiddo, working on my third novel, wrote a novelette,  and…

I’ve been incredibly busy.

As are most of you, I am sure.

Oh yes, I’ve fallen in love with Bernard Cornwell.  That has happened.  If you ever enjoy historical fiction, dive into the Saxon Tales.  They are well worth your while, beginning with The Last Kingdom.

…More eloquent and engaging updates to come, hopefully… maybe… I’ll be picking up my reviewing habits come May and have some news as to whether this novelette shall see the world.

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My Life in Literature Meme

January 3, 2016 at 5:28 am (In So Many Words, Uncategorized) (, , )

Piggy-backing off of A World of Randomness who apparently piggy-backed off me, which I’m sure I ripped off someone else at some point… It seems we book bloggers love revisiting this bit of fun every year.

bookstacksUsing only books you have read this last year (2015), answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title.

Describe yourself: A Scattered Life (Karen McQuestion)

How do you feel: Screw-jack (Thompson)

Describe where you currently live: Paper Towns (John Green)

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: The Haunted Bookshop (Morley)

Your favorite form of transportation: Bombardier Beetles and Fever Trees (Agosta)

Your best friend is: Wild (Strayed) [Not really, it’s just the only thing that seemed to fit.]

You and your friends are: Looking for Me (Hoffman)

What is the best advice you have to give: How to Build an Android (Duffy)

What’s the weather like: Rain (Kirsty Gunn) / Storm Front (Jim Butcher)

You fear: Everything I Never Told You (Ng)

Thought for the day: It’s About Time (Evers)

How I would like to die: Peace Like a River (Enger)

My soul’s present condition: A Grief Observed (C.S. Lewis)

pile of booksMy Complete 2015 Reading List is as follows (kid /young adult chapter books were read aloud to the kiddo):

1. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice – Laurie R. King

2. Serendipities: Language & Lunacy – Umberto Eco

3. The Haunted Bookshop – Christopher Morley

4. The Death of Woman Wang – Jonathan Spence

5. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe – C. S. Lewis

6. Magic Tree House #20 – Mary Pope Osborn

7. One Hundred & One Dalmatians – Dodie Smith

8. Guide to Wild Foods & Useful Plants – Nyerges

9. A Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin

10. The Excellent Wife – Martha Peace

11. Garden Crafts for Kids – Diane Rhoads

12. The Homeschool Life – Andrea Schwartz

13. The Gardener’s Bed Book – Wright

14. Wild – Cheryl Strayed

15. One Woman Farm – Woginrich

16. The Quarter Acre Farm- Spring Warren

17. Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes

18. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch – Philip K. Dick

19. Here’s Your Hat, What’s Your Hurry – Elizabeth McCracken

20. Dirty Pretty Things – Michael Faudet

21. How Reading Changed My Life – Anna Quindlen

22. The Penultimate Truth – Philip K. Dick

23. Observations on the River Wye – Gilpin

24. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip K. Dick

25. Bombardier Beetles and Fever Trees – William Agosta

26. How to Build an Android – Duffy

27. The Pythagorean Theorem: The Story of Its Power and Beauty – Alfred S. Posamentier

28. Clans of the Alphane Moon – Philip K. Dick

29. Minority Report – Philip K. Dick

30. A Grief Observed – C.S. Lewis

31. The Man of Numbers – Keith Devlin

32. Pheromones and Animal Behavior: Communication by Smell & Taste – Tristram D. Wyatt

33. Ape and Essence – Aldous Huxley

34. Solar Lottery – Philip K. Dick

35. Deadly Ruse – E. Michael Helms

36. The Almagest – Ptolemy

37. The Clover House – Henriette Lazaridis Power

38. The Thief Lord – Cornelia Funke

39. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

40. Looking for Me – Beth Hoffman

41. The House of Paper – Carlos Maria Dominguez

42. The Colossus and Other Poems – Sylvia Plath

43. High Moon – E.J. Bosley

44. Nerve – Bethany Macmanus

45. A Scattered Life – Karen McQuestion

46. Liber Abaci – Fibonacci

47. Vanity Fare – Megan Caldwell

48. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven – Sherman Alexie

49. The Martian – Andy Weir

50. Critical Lessons – Nel Noddings

51. Echo – Lorena Glass

52. Jewel of the Seven Stars – Bram Stoker

53. The Secret Life of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd

54. Haunting Jasmine – Anjali Banerjee

55. Casey of Cranberry Cove – Susan Koch

56. The Christie Curse – Victoria Abbott

57. City of Dark Magic – Magnus Flyte

58. Screw-jack – Hunter S. Thompson

59. CATastrophic Connections – Joyce Ann Brown

60. Where I Was From – Joan Didion

61. Getting the Girl – Zusak
62. The Secrets of Droon #1 – Tony Abbot (read this aloud to kiddo)
63. Storm Front – Jim Butcher
64. The Pharaoh’s Cat – Maria Luisa Lang

65. Paper Towns – John Green

66. The Quick and the Dead – Louis L’amour

67. Early Bird – Rothman

68. It’s About Time – Liz Evers

69. The Secrets of Droon #3 – Abbott (read this aloud to kiddo)

70. Better With You Here – Gwendolyn Zipped

71. Rain – Kirsty Gunn

72. Sackett – Louis L’amour

73. Transcendental Wild Oats – Louisa May Alcott

74. Fern Verdant and the Silver Rose – Diana Leszczynski (read this aloud to kiddo)

75. Secrets of Droon #7 – Abbott (read aloud to kiddo)

76. 16 Lighthouse Road – Debbie Macomber

77. The Emotionally Destructive Relationship – Vernick

78. Peace Like a River – Leif Enger

79. Keeper – S. Smith

80. The Year of Learning Dangerously – Quinn Cummings

81. Anemogram – Rebecca Gransden

82. The Summer We Read Gatsby – Danielle Ganek

83. Wren – Regina O’Connell

84. The Writing Circle – Corinne Demas

85. The Good Neighbor – A.J. Banner

86. Spelling V – Meb Bryant

87. Ross Poldark – Winston Graham

88. Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng

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Ross Poldark

December 25, 2015 at 2:54 am (Reviews, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

515maSoFsFL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgTitle: Ross Poldark (Poldark Series Book #1)

Author: Winston Graham

Genre: Historical Fiction

In 1945 Graham Winston released the novel Ross Poldark, the first of what would later become a twelve volume saga of regarding the Poldark family.

The series was infinitely popular during its time, and went on to become a classic, taken to the screen by many, including my favorite: Masterpiece Theatre.

Graham’s work outside the Poldark series is even more extensive – his career as a novelist resulted in over forty titles being published in his lifetime.

I’ve run the fiction department of a bookstore for years.  On and off since 2007, to be exact.  I know the fiction/literature department of most bookstores like the back of my hand.  Yet, I’ve never read any of Graham’s work until now – and I vaguely recall only seeing one of his books grace my fingertips ever.  His books have never made a sizable appearance on the shelves where I work.  Had we seen more copies of his work over the years, I certainly would have read his work by now as he’s right up my alley.

Poldark is for the Jane Austen and Bernard Cornwell lovers, a historical fiction piece too wonderful to ignore.  Set in the late 1700’s (just a few decades after Outlander), Ross Poldark chronicles the return of the title’s namesake from America, where he’s fought in the revolution and been rumored dead.  He arrives to find the woman he loves has not waited so patiently after all and is engaged to his cousin.

I love the full cast of this novel, and I assume the rest of the series.  Not only does it follow the eventful lives of Ross and his cousins, Francis and Verity, the ex-lover Elizabeth, servants including a scullery maid Demelza, and an entire town of miners living on Poldark land.  Graham does a little bit of third person head hopping, but never leaves you confused and maintains a streamlined storyline.

I am eager to read the second installment, Demelza, and am equally eager for the second season of the PBS series, Poldark.

 

 

 

 

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The Good Neighbor

December 13, 2015 at 10:58 pm (Reviews, Uncategorized) (, , , )

51iRO1CfwlL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgTitle: The Good Neighbor

Author: A. J. Banner

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Genre: Women’s Fiction/ Suspense

Length: 196 pages

It was the perfect weather for a book like The Good Neighbor, rainy, eerie, and a too cold for my Texas bones.  So, naturally, I enjoyed it immensely.

It may be Banner’s first (official) suspense novel, but this debut definitely shows obvious signs of Anjali Banerjee’s skill and efficiency when it comes to weaving a winning storyline.  She artfully introduces you to all the relevant characters without confusion and quickly drops you into the midst of the dilemma.

It’s a little predictable and not a terribly riveting thriller, but it’s paced quickly and therefore makes for a great day off leisure read while hiding from the rain.

The novel reads nearly like a screenplay and could be easily adapted for an HBO or Lifetime special.  I’m looking forward to more of her work and will happily drop a few bucks on another one of Banner’s novels (and a coffee ) to curl up with.

 

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The Writing Circle

December 11, 2015 at 6:26 am (Reviews, Uncategorized) (, )

Title: The Writing Circle pcwritingcircle_paper_a.png

Author: Corinne Demas

Publisher: Voice

Genre: Women’s Fiction / Literary Fiction

Length: 305 pages

I loved this book.  It has a slow, steady pace, but one worth indulging in.  Demas has the writing style I was going for when I first tackled the genre with The Bookshop Hotel series.  However, in her prolific career, she has mastered the craft in a way that proves I have so much to learn.

The Writing Circle is a much darker story than it appears to be at first glance, or even in the first half of the story itself.  It chronicles the lives of Nancy, Bernard, Virginia, Adam, Chris, and Gillian as they discuss and critique their craft.  Nancy is a novelist who writes and edits a medical journal by day. Bernard, a biographer. Virginia and Chris are both published fiction writers as well.  Adam is the youngest, an aspiring writer; and Gillian is the most renown of the group, a poet short-listed for a Pulitzer.

A lot of reviews on Goodreads complain about the number of characters and many readers say it was hard to keep track.  I didn’t find this a problem at all.  If anything, I marveled at Demas’ ability to write a third person limited omniscient viewpoint with so many distinct voices.  She has nailed the ability to travel seamlessly from one character to the next without head hopping, while restricting the inner monologue and recollections to only that which carries the narrative of the specific story she is trying to tell.  The book is brilliant.  I hope my third book displays at least half as much talent and craftsmanship.

I look forward to reading more of Demas’ work.  She has a lot to choose from.

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Wren

December 1, 2015 at 3:55 am (Reviews, Uncategorized) (, , , )

41lhLBusoML._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgTitle: Wren

Author: Regina O’Connell

Genre: Young Adult/ Fantasy

Format: Kindle/ Ebook

One of the perks of being an indie author is that I encounter a lot of other indie authors.  In doing so, I discover a lot of reading material that most people might not.  With all this non-mainstream discovery, I get passed a lot of duds and a lot of gems.

Wren was neither for me.  It was a good book among a lot of good books.  It didn’t blow me away, but I didn’t feel like I wasted my time either.  It was enjoyable and if the right person came along, I’d pass along a recommendation – not in a sing its praises from the rooftop sort of way, but in a there is an audience for everything sort of way.

Wren is a book for someone with an hour to kill who is in the mood for a fast-paced action/ dystopian fantasy.  You are quickly dropped into the story and it’s easy to devour it.  I read it in one sitting – so clearly it’s a fun way to pass time.

I’m not sure it will make a lasting impression, though.  It’s not a story that will stay with me.  It is a story that will compel me to read whatever O’Connell puts out next, when I have the time, just to see.  She’s piqued my curiosity and I’m glad I had the opportunity to take a peek into her imaginary world and keep her writing career on my radar.

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Party Lights

November 29, 2015 at 8:33 pm (Reviews, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

7744084.jpgTitle: The Summer We Read Gatsby

Author: Danielle Ganek

Publisher: Viking

Genre: Literary Romance

Length: 292 pages

Something about seeing all the Christmas lights go up, and holiday party planning for the winter, led me to this book – despite its summer setting in the Hamptons heat.  I suppose the deep autumn of Texas has similar weather patterns to summertime in the country of New York, but I don’t know as I’ve never been there.  I just know that it’s anywhere from the upper 80’s to the lower 40’s all this Thanksgiving week, depending on the moment and precipitation.

Christmas in Texas always has a flair of Fitzgerald about it to me anyway.  This is the time of year when people pull out garden lights, candles, splashes of extravagant color, sparkly dresses, and dine outside where it’s cool.  This is when we cook breakfast together in over crowded houses and drink mimosas until noon, only to start pouring wine in its place by lunch.  (Naturally we evolve into beer and football by mid afternoon, but that’s not very Gatsby of us is it.  We only have so much ridiculous classy flair before we go full on redneck, after all.)

Still, there’s an appropriate place in my winter heart for this summer read, and I loved every second and every page of this witty little romance that had a Whole Nine Yards touch of mystery.  I say romance, but the romance isn’t as much for *the guy* as it is for a house – Fool’s House – and a pair of sisters.

Ganek didn’t pull any punches, she created a perfect piece of over the top fiction with all the glitter and glam of the overly fictitious.  All those moments you’ve had in your life when you’re staring at people thinking, what a character, they could be in a book.  They are in a book.  This book.  The storytellers, the actors, the gay guy, the foreigners, the artists, the deceased benefactor, the millionaire, the villains, all the archetypes that don’t quite fit their mold… they’re all here, fluttering about like a party of confetti and lights, ready to entertain.

I loved it.  It’s a keeper and I’ll read it again.

 

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