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Half a King

Half a King

Half a King (Shattered Seas #1)  by Joe Abercrombie

Published July 15, 2014

Yarvi is the crippled 2nd son of the King of Gettland. He is training to be a minister to the King and is about to take his test, when his father and brother are killed, and he must take over the throne. He does so rather reluctantly, and also takes his brother’s bride. He leads a raid against the man who killed his father, only to be betrayed by his uncle, and is almost killed. He survives, but ends up as a rowing slave on a trading galley. Will he ever escape his bondage and get his revenge on his uncle and those that betrayed him?

I picked up this pseudo-Viking fantasy book after checking out YA author Rick Riordan’s blog and seeing how much he praised his previous adult books and this book, Abercrombie’s first attempt at YA, especially. I enjoyed this coming-of-age story once I finally got into it, though I almost gave up on it at first because it wasn’t hooking my interest. Frankly, after Yarvi becomes a slave, the story gets way more intriguing. The book reminded a little of a much tamer version of George R.R. Martin. As Drunken Dragon Reviews puts it:

“Through Yarvi’s development, we follow the story of a boy who not only has to develop into the person his peers need him to be, but he’s faced with questions and choices of responsibility, identity and character that he must make. All common issues a developing teenager encounters, and as a result will find themselves not only easily identifying with Yarvi, but finding thought provoked as a result.”

While I was not 100% a fan of this book, I would be interested in reading some of Abercrombie’s adult fantasy books. 3 stars.

Life Update

2014 Summer Reading Logo

So I apologize from being totally MIA from this site for the last month and a half. I started a new job at the public library and while I am loving it, it does keep me supremely busy. Plus I’m taking care of my son on the off days, which is very time-consuming, and all of this work (both paid and not) leaves me with not much free time. I was working more hours at my last job but the work was pretty easy and I was basically getting finished after a couple of hours and having a lot of free time. At the library, it is less hours, but I am packing more work into the time. I am working as a Library Assistant in the Youth Services Dept (for ages 0-18 yrs) and I get to help with some pretty cool programming, as well as working at the Children and Teen Desks as a general purpose/Reader’s Advisory/Reference point person. We’re in the middle of the 2014 Summer Reading Program (logo above) so there is a lot going on from now until July 26th, then hopefully things will slow down a bit in time for school to start again. This year’s program is very STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology, and Math) orientated as the theme has been Outer Space, so that makes for some fun programs too. The Reptile Adventures Show has been making the rounds at the libraries and my son and I got to pet an 18 ft Albino Reticulated Python named Lily, at another branch when I was off work (which my son thought was rather cool, I did too!). I’ve helped with programs on the geology of Mars, which includes making homemade Volcanoes (which points to life on Mars) out of baking soda and vinegar, as well as Paper Engineering,  where the kids have made all kinds of cool recycled paper games like Mini-Golf, a Pinball Machine, Robots/Spaceships, and Mini-Soccer Pitch. There are also STEM Crafts were the teen volunteers have taughts mini-classes on things like magnets and plants. We also have a Minecraft Education Server where the kids can have fun playing in the world on Creative (where they have all their resources) and Survival (where they have to find their own). In the future, I will be in charge of some ToddlerTime storytimes for 2-3 yr olds and Discovery Time storytimes for 3-5 yrs olds with a STEM influence. I’m also learning how to properly weed the collection of books that haven’t been circulated in over a year, which is actually more complicated than it sounds. Overall, I am loving the work as this is exactly what I got my Masters Degree in Library and Information Science for in the first place.

aion_game_widescreen-wide

Aside from that, not much else is going on. I am keeping up with my reading as best I can, though even that is slowing down a bit with this new schedule. My dad gave my hubby his old computer, which is a better faster computer with a better graphics card, so I got my hubby’s computer with more RAM and better graphics card, so we’ve been doing a lot of computer gaming lately. I started playing Fable III, which is pretty additive, has pretty graphics and is a lot of fun to play. I’m looking for a new free-t0-play MMORPG, though that is tricky since I’ve played quite a few over the years. I downloaded Aionwhich I am having fun playing though the loading up time sucks and the client took me 16 hrs to download. The above picture is an example of the graphics, although I am playing as a Templar (warrior with mace/hammer and shield) and a Gunslinger (dual pistols). It gets a little grindy, i.e. lots of searching for materials for crafting and killing mobs but the main storyline is interesting enough to keep me interest.

In other news, my son turned 3 yrs old last Tues. Time flies when you’re having fun, right? I figure it’s as much a celebration of his birth as it is my husband and I surviving another year as parents. Everyone said the twos were terrible but now I hear that it might continue until he’s 4 years old. Goodness, I’ll just be happy when he’s completely potty-trained at this point (though less temper tantrums would be awesome!).

 

Alias Hook

Alias Hook

Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen

To be published: July 8

 

This book tells the story behind the man who would become Captain Hook, the villain in the Peter Pan stories by J. M. Barrie. It is hard to think of him as a man, but we are allowed to glimpse Hook as a young man in Restoration-era England as he goes from an educated trader’s son to that of a rakish young man hell-bent on revenge because of all the misfortunes that have befallen him. He forsakes the love of two women, one of which ultimately spells out his punishment in the dream world of Neverland. Hook and his original crew drift to Neverland in a fog (literally and figuratively) and are doomed to fought and be killed over and over again by Pan and his boys. Only Hook doesn’t actually die, but is constantly being reborn to fight Pan another day. It’s not until he has been there a few centuries that he meets an Englishwoman named Stella Parrish that will forever change his life. Just who is this woman and is she the key to Hook finally getting out of Neverland?  To find out read this fascinating take on the Peter Pan myth. 4 stars.

This book originally drew me in with its comparisons to works by Gregory Maguire, who I have enjoyed in the past. The story does stall a bit in the middle, as Hook is trying to figure out more about himself and Stella’s new role in his life. I liked that the author made the story into an action adventure fantasy romance, but also with a healthy dose of reality as well. Let me explain. We are given a bird’s eye view of James Hookbridge’s development from a young man fascinated in carpentry, though this is looked down upon by his middle-class father, to his role as the leader of a gang of young rich men who gallivant around London’s pleasure houses, which is of course again looked down upon by his father. He then goes off to prove himself, only to be taken advantage of by a man who thought was his friend, who took all that James owned or was given. I honestly would never have thought of Captain Hook as a man with a past, but the author really makes him human and 3-D, not only as the man destined to be Peter Pan’s mortal enemy. The revelation about the men who become his crew members was particularly fascinating, and totally made sense. I also found it intriguing that they made Pan into the whiny vicious child, always getting his own way, instead of the hero of the tale as he is usually portrayed. It was almost like a total role reversal for Pan and Hook.

Disclaimer: I received this advanced reader’s copy book via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Book Reviews June 2014

First off, I would like to apologize for the infrequency of my posts lately. I just finished my second week at my new job in the Youth Services dept of my local public library (which is awesome by the way) and even though it has less hours than my last job, I am more busy than before. Plus I’m also watching my son on my off days, so I don’t get as much computer time as I normally have been getting. I am really backed up on writing up book reviews as a result. I’ve finished all the ones for May and a few for June, but still have about 14 to do, so those will be on next month’s post. I kinda got burned out on the Newbery Medal/Honors List this last month, but will try to pick it up again after a break. I have managed to read 155 books so far this year, which is pretty good since the year is half over.I’ve been having pretty good luck with my Advanced Reader’s Copies too and there are a lot of interesting books coming out soon, so there will definitely be more posts about them in the future. I’m currently listening to Lloyd Alexander’s 3rd book in The Chronicles of Prydain series, called The Castle of Lyr. This sounds like it may be the most exciting book in the series so far! Crazy to think that these books were written in the late 1960s as they seem very modern and timeless. I just started an interesting nonfiction book called Sorry! The English and Their Manners by Henry Hitchings. I’m hoping to get some insights into the English, as I am an Anglophile and my husband and his family are from there.

As usual I rate books on a scale of 1 – 5 stars, with one being the lowest and five the highest. I am still trying to finish my Caldecott Challenge, and with all the winners and honors. I’m down to 11 books left to read. I’m also completing a Newbery Challenge, where I’m reading all the award winners and at least one honor book.

Children

Dog Loves Counting written and illustrated by Louise Yates

Dog Loves Counting

I adored her other book Dog Loves Books, so when I saw this in the library, I decided to get it for my son as his teacher says he needs to see more numbers in print form. It had the same precious illustrations as the last book, but even cuter (if that’s actually possible) with the addition of a dodo and a baby sloth! Dog loves books but loves reading so much he can’t fall asleep. So he picks up a book on creatures and starts counting them from 1 – 10 and back down again. I’m looking forward to checking out Dog Loves Drawing as well. Recommended for ages 2-5, 4 stars.

Little Chicken’s Big Day by Katie and Jerry Davis

Little Chickens Big Day

This book just grabbed my attention at the library with its bright happy colors and simple illustrations (I thought it was adorable), so decided to get it for my son. Little Chicken does everything his Momma orders him to do and always responds with “I hear you cluckin’ Big Chicken!”. One day while out with him Momma, he wanders off after a butterfly and gets lost. She soon finds him and they go home, where they read a story together and go to bed. Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.

Hey Mr. Choo Choo, Where Are You Going? written by Susan Wickberg, illustrated by Yumi Heo

Another train book I picked up for my son, the rhyming text and collage/painted illustrations really bring you into the story of this train taking children to the beach. My only gripe was that the book was a little long for my son. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

And the Train Goes… written and illustrated by William Bee

And the Train Goes...

I think my son’s favorite part of this book were the end pages with the many different colored train wheels. It’s kind of amazing that this whole book was done, illustration and text, on a computer. It’s also funny that without realizing till the end of the book that the author was English, I gave most of the characters English accents. The book is about a train leaving the station and all the people and cars of the train. At the end, a parrot repeats everything that was said, all the sounds and phrases. I liked the book but got bored with it as it just kept going on forever. Recommended for ages 3-6, 2-1/2 stars.

Waking Dragons written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Derek Anderson

This has been a repeat read for my son, though the story is very simple. A young knight’s mother has left him a note to wake the dragons, so he does and gets them ready for the day. They take off their jammies, brush their teeth, eat breakfast, say goodbye to their mother and fly the young knight to Knight School (of course!). Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners written and illustrated by Laurie Keller

When I saw this at the library, I knew I had to check it out. I love otters and as always, my husband and I want our son to have good manners, so this seemed like the perfect vehicle for that. The book is about Mr. Rabbit and his new neighbors, an Otter family. He is telling another animal how he hopes the new neighbors aren’t rude, like his last neighbor, but have good manners and gives examples. It was a cute book but a bit long-winded. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Dinosaur Train written and illustrated by John Steven Gurney

Dinosaur Train

I think my son loves this book for the cover image alone. He kept going on and on about the giant feet and the T-Rex inhaling all the smoke. It is about a young boy named Jesse who really loved dinosaurs and trains (just like my son), and after drawing a picture of the two together, he gets invited on a real train operated by them. After exploring the train car by car, the whole train leans over to look at a volcano that Jesse has seen and it topples over. After helping to right the train, he gets to ride up front with the engineer and they head back to Jesse’s room. Recommended for ages 3-7, 4 stars.

Mr. Putter and Tabby Take the Train (Mr. Putter and Tabby #8) written by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard

I thought this was a pretty cute book, but I think my son was a little lost. Mr. Putter and his cat Tabby are friends with their next-door neighbors, Mrs. Teaberry and her bulldog Zeke. Mrs. Teaberry calls up Mr. Putter and asks him to join her on a short train trip. He reminisces and says how much he loves trains, even though he’s not been on one since he was a boy, and then agrees to go if they can take their respective pets. She assures him that it is possible but when they go to buy tickets, the ticket seller says no pets allowed. So they smuggle them on-board and have a grand old time. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss

Another Dr. Seuss book I’ve never read, I picked this up for my son because I know he likes the author/illustrator. This was an odd book. It was almost like he took all these single 2-page rhymes with illustrations that he had lying around and put them all in one book because it is not one continuous story, i.e. the fish, but a bunch of little stories. It was fun to read though, as it was rather silly, just a bit long for a nearly 3 year old. Recommended for ages 4-7, 2-1/2 stars.

Zella, Zack, and Zodiac written and illustrated by Bill Peet

I rather enjoyed this little story from Bill Peet, as did my son, who has become one of my favorite children’s book writers this year. Zella the zebra discovers an abandoned ostrich chick and rescues him by letting him ride on her back. She adopts him and names him Zack. As he gets older and can no longer ride on her back, they become distant. Eventually she has her own child, an awkward colt named Zodiac who is always tripping over his own hooves, a real danger when predators are lurking all around. Zella believes she has lost Zack forever until he rescues Zodiac from a lion. From then on, he is Zodiac’s protector. Recommended for ages 5-8, 3 stars.

Caldecott

Book of Mother Goose and Nursery Rhymes illustrated by Marguerite de Angeli

Book of Nursery & Mother Goose RhymesOld Mother Hubbard from Book of Nursery and Mother Goose Rhymes

I will admit since this is my 3rd out of 4 Nursery and Mother Goose books I’m having to read for the Caldecott Challenge, that I skimmed this one. It was massive, for a children’s book, at 192 pages! This book won a 1955 Caldecott Honor and I knew the illustrator because of her book Yonie Wondernose (which I rather enjoyed), that had won Caldecott Honor exactly ten years prior. I thought they were a delightful mix of black & white small pencil-drawn illustrations and full-color single page illustrations with a variety of known and previously unknown nursery rhymes. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

The Most Wonderful Doll in the World written by Phyllis McGinley, illustrated by Helen Stone

I will admit that I did not want to read this book for a long time because it is about dolls, as I’ve always found them a little creepy. This book won a 1951 Caldecott Honor book, and is about a little girl named Dulcy (this name really dates the book) who has a large collection of dolls to play with but has just lost a doll named Angela she just received as a gift from a friend of the family. She goes on and on about the doll, each time inventing better and better things that it does. When she finally finds it again, she realizes that it didn’t do anything of things she said it did, but she was just imagining it. Recommended for ages 4-8, 2 stars.

Mr. T.W. Anthony Woo written and illustrated by Marie Hall Ets

Marie Hall Ets, the bane of my existence. Just kidding. This is actually one of her better books that won some sort of Caldecott, this one having won the 1952 Caldecott Honor. It’s a rather random story though. The title refers to the name of a mouse who lives with a shoemaker, along with a cat and a dog that are constantly fighting with each other. One day, the shoemaker goes out to run some errands and his meddlesome sister stops by and sees the shop in an absolute mess from the cat and dog. She decides that she must move in with her brother and take care of him, so she and her annoying repeating parrot move in without his permission and the first thing she does is get rid of the dog and the cat. The shoemaker comes back home all confused but is too nice to tell her to leave. He rescues the cat and dog from outside and they all plot together with the mouse to get rid of the sister (she is scared of mice). They do and all three and the shoemaker live the rest of their days in harmony. The illustrations are rather plain in black and white but tell the story nicely. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Young Adult

Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #3) by Laini Taylor

First off, I would like to say that this book is very hard to summarize, especially for anyone who has not read the rest of the series. The author is so good at storytelling and universe-building that she reminds me of George R.R. Martin, as they’re universe and character lists are so huge. So I recommend reading the first two books first so you won’t be totally lost by what I am going to describe. Let us proceed to the summary.

The Angels (Seraphim) have come to Earth and humankind is freaking out, thinking it is the apocalypse. The Angel’s leader Jael heads right to Rome and tells the humans that the Beasts (Chimera) are coming. This is really just a ploy to get his hands on some human weapon technology to finally destroy the Chimera. Akiva and his sister Liraz have managed to convince the Misbegotten Angels to combine forces with their former enemies, the Chimera, so they have a chance to defeat Jael. The mysterious Stelian Queen Scarab tries to kill Akiva but can’t as she discovers that his mother was Stelian. Throughout the book, we learn more background about Akiva and his mother Festival, and the Stelian’s role in Eretz and beyond.

Meanwhile, humans have discovered the resurrection pits left behind by the Chimeras and are mystified and horrified by them. A young woman named Eliza is one of the scientists allowed to study the bodies, and she believes that the Beasts are from another universe. It turns out that she knows this because she is descended from an angel, which becomes evident when she starts spouting Seraphic in front of everyone. Will Eliza ever figure out who she really is and what her purpose is? Will Akiva and Karou be able to stop Jael and have a chance at peace and a better life? To find out read this exciting conclusion to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. Recommended for ages 15+, 5 stars.

It’s been at least a year since I last read the second book in the series, and it definitely took me awhile to remember what last happened in the book, as there were hardly any clues at the beginning of this one. I forgot how confusing this book can be trying to remember all the place and character names. It took me about 100 or so pages to really get into this book, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. It’s nice that the romance between Akiva and Karou is still one of the main focal points. I liked that despite all the bloodshed and pain, there was still time to dream about hope, love and a home together. Cassandra Clare definitely has some competition for who can write the best kisses, as Laini Taylor is quite good with the lead-up to them and the description of love. I loved the section about Zuzane and her mad eyebrow warfare skills in Italy! If I had to fight at the end of the world, she is definitely someone I would want on my team because she fights so hard for the ones she loves. I also loved (and was totally blown away) by the encounter between Jael and Akiva in the Papal Palace. He is one badass angel. I loved the story and I was sorry to see it end, though I’m glad it ended the way it did.

Ask the Passengers written by A.S. King, narrated by Devon Sorvari

Seventeen-year-old Astrid Jones feels really unappreciated by her friends and family. Her younger sister Ellis gets all the love and attention from their mother. Their dad is too stoned to really care about anything other than his office supplies at work. No one can understand why her friend Kristy, one of the most popular girls in school, hangs around her. Astrid may possibly be in love with her best friend Dee, who is already out of the closet. She lives in a really small town where everyone gossips about every little thing you do, so she has to worry about that as well.

The only thing she really enjoys is her AP Humanities class, where she is learning about Greek philosophers. In an attempt to feel more wanted, she sends waves of love towards passengers flying in airplanes above her house and everyone she sees. She does this even if they ignore or hate her. When she is sending out love to the anonymous passengers of the airplanes, every now and again, we hear their stories. It seems at first that these people have no connection to her, but after awhile, we can see that their stories are kind of like an extension of Astrid, if she were older.

Astrid feels like she is straddling two worlds. The very private one she shares with Dee and the public one she shares with Kristy and her family. Will she be able to figure out who she is and what she wants? Can she be truthful with everyone? Recommended for ages 14+, 4 stars.

I had gotten the idea to read this book from Tara, The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say shhh!, and because she raved about it so much, I decided to give it a try. I’ve never read anything by the author but have heard for years that her books were good. I enjoyed hearing about the AP Humanities class and her learning about Greek philosophers, and how well it surprisingly blended with the story. I loved that she gave Socrates a first name (Frank) and made him kind of her protection, when things get too weird in her life. I’ve lived in small towns before and I know how limiting and frustrating it can be, so I could really identify with Astrid’s views on living in one.

Astrid’s mom, wow, she was a piece of work. I can identify with one parent loving your sibling more than you, but getting drunk with your teenage daughter is a whole other thing. And she thinks she’s the normal one in the family, geez.

Adult

City of Devils: A Novel by Diane Bretherick

Bittersweet: A Novel by Colleen McCullough

The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life: Cruelty-Free Crafts, Recipes, Beauty Secrets and More by Melisser Elliott

I’m always trying to get as much information as I can on the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle as I become more interested in joining it. I will admit also that after reading about how all types of meet including veal is processed in great detail, I was rather put off meat for a couple weeks. The book features useful information for those new to the idea of going completely vegan, which aside from eating a plant-based diet with no dairy or meat, also entails not wearing it in any form for clothing and shoes. For example, in addition to leather, you can’t wear wool from any animal, no fur naturally and silk. The author includes becoming involved with activism, profiles of vegans who have various food and apparel businesses and/or websites centered around the fact that they are vegans. I particularly liked the profiles as they not only had some good websites for references, but also seemed to profile real people and ask them why they went vegan, their favorite dish, favorite “accidently vegan” treat, item they can’t live without and more. She also discusses vegan companies that provide skincare products. The back section of the book is all about food and recipes, and I’d like the try the Tangy Cabbage Beet Slaw, Brussel Sprouts with Crispy Tempeh Over Soft Polenta, and Moroccan Chickpea and Kale Tangine with Quinoa. 3 stars.

Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite by Sarah Copeland

Ok, first things first. This is not strictly a vegetarian cookbook but rather a pescetarian (vegetarian + fish) one. That out of the way, the recipes I found were delicious-sounding and easy to make. The photos they had were gorgeous, though I wish there were more of them. I in particular wanted to try the Mushroom-Almond Milk Soup (as I’m trying to use more cow’s milk alternatives), Cheese Grits with Black Beans and Avocado, Artichoke Enchiladas, Sunny-Side Up Yam and Black Bean Tostadas with Avocado, Quinoa Bowl with Avocado, Red Cabbage and Walnut, and the Peanut Butter/Amaranth Cookies. 4 stars.

City of Devils: A Novel

City of Devils

City of Devils: A Novel by Diana Bretherick

ARC from Edelweiss

To be published: July 15, 2014

Dr. James Murray has come to the University of Turin in 1867, to become the assistant of Professor Cesare Lombroso, who is teaching the newly-established field of criminal anthropology. This was the era that science first started to be used in criminal investigations, and James assisted with that in Edinburgh before coming to Italy. His father was involved in the study of the criminal brain, so this field is natural to him. James left behind a sister with a religious aunt as since his parents died, he has been the breadwinner and needs a proper job to do that. Right in the middle of his interview for the assistant position, the carbinieri (police) come in and inform Professor Lombroso of a gruesome murder they would like his assistance with, as his name has been mentioned in a note left by the killer.

Sofia, one of Lombroso’s servants intrigues James with the way she has no problem looking right at him, far different from the reserved manner of Scottish women. Lombroso is having a symposium at the university and has invited scholars from all over Europe to assist him. James is excited to be invited to go because he will finally get to meet all the people whose work he has read about. As the symposium continues, more and more people are being killed as a “Tribute to Lombroso”. Will they ever be able to figure out who the killer is and why he or she is doing this? To find out read this fascinating book. 4 stars.

I had never heard of Cesare Lombroso, although I had heard of Dr. Bell. Forensic and criminal anthropology have been fascinating to me for awhile, as is true crime, so I was interested, after reading the book, to read the author’s note at the end which described the field and its champion. My biggest gripe with the book was the middle part, which really dragged, and nearly made me lose interest. Another thing to mention about the book is that the killings were pretty horrific, and definitely not for the faint of heart.

Disclaimer: I received this advanced reader’s copy book via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review.

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