Everyday Tidbits...

Be Kind. Do Good. Love is a Verb.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Whimsy Wednesday: Back away slowly...


Mmm hhmmm.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Weekend Reflections 7/22

Looking outside...it's sunny with blue skies. Currently 90 with a projected high of 95.

It has been high 90s and triple digits this week. I am so done with the heat. 

Listening...to silence. The Doctor is taking a nap. The boys are at Grandma's mowing her lawn.

Loving...that The Boy is home. The Doctor always says that the music isn't quite tuned when someone is missing, so everything feels right now. 

Thinking...that I should probably get moving, but I'm enjoying just sitting here.

In my kitchen...Not sure yet about dinner. At the moment, it's Crio Bru with sugar-free caramel syrup. It's pretty standard, but it's also helping me lose weight, which is good.

Wearing...denim skirt with a pink and white shirt. No shoes.

Reading...I have an overflowing TBR, but my reading has been meh...

Today...we're having a family reunion next week so my out of town sisters are coming in. Today we took some of the visiting nieces to Boise. We went up to Table Rock, strolled through the Farmer's Market, and checked out Freak Alley. Kids loved the mini donuts!

Quoting..."Books are how we learn to love humanity without having to deal with, like...humans." -- Glennon Doyle

Feeling...Tired. The heat really drains me and it was hot over in downtown Boise today. Thank goodness for bottled water and a thoughtful husband who realized I needed some.

Planning...plans for this next week's family reunion activities. I'll share some of them in next week's reflections!

Gratitude...for relationships; for friendship and connecting with each other.

From my world... 




Seriously. Follow The Psychotic Penguin on Instagram and Twitter. Jeffrey, the mini me has joined the penguin family. You never know where they'll turn up next...

What about you? What are you reflecting on this week? How has your week gone?

Friday, July 21, 2017

Childhood Favorites...Huckleberry Finn

Childhood favorites. Everyone has a favorite book or author from childhood. A book that touched them or changed them. A book that perhaps initiated their love of reading and put them on the path of libraries and learning.

Childhood Favorites is a monthly series focusing on beloved books from the past. 


Donald Zolan, Quiet Time.

In many ways, it's cliché to say that Huckleberry Finn is one of your favorite books.

Well, cliché or not, it is and always will be one of my favorites. I love many of Mark Twain's works, but this one is my favorite.

I first read Huckleberry Finn in high school. I believe I was a freshman. I say that because the summer after my freshman year in 1982, my family moved to Raleigh, North Carolina for several months because my father's job took him to North Carolina State University (Go Wolfpack!) for the summer. The national laboratory he worked for decided it was cheaper to move our family to Raleigh for the duration, rather than have my dad fly back and forth from North Carolina to California all summer. It was awesome. I got to take my finals early and miss the last two weeks of school and the first three days of my sophomore year when we came home.

We bought a tent trailer and drove cross-country from the Bay Area to Raleigh. We took two weeks each way and had a couple of specific stops that my dad needed to make for work-related things. We camped all along the country and one place we stayed was in Hannibal, Missouri. Hannibal is all focused on Tom Sawyer and Becky and Huck. Riverboats, Tom's house with the white-washed fence, the whole thing.

It was so cool to see this country that I had read about in Huckleberry Finn. To see the Mississippi in all its grandeur and imagine Huck and Jim floating down it.


At a gift shop, I purchased a copy of Huck that looked just like this one along with a copy of Tom Sawyer. I reread them in the car as we traveled.

I love Huck. I love the friendship between Huck and Jim. I have never understood why this book gets banned. I wrote about it recently on Facebook.

I know that people get upset over the racial slurs and the fact that Jim is an adult and Huck a child. Seriously? It's a product of its time. Instead of trying to have this book (and others) banned, I wish people would use them as opportunities for discussion.

Given what is happening in our country today, there are ample opportunities for discussion and comparison. Read this book with your children. Talk about it. Compare it to how people still treat each other because of their race, religion or orientation now. In many ways, unfortunately, things haven't changed. But ask the questions: was it right then? Is it right now?

For good or bad, literature reflects life and civilization. So to ignore history and the literature that reflects history doesn't make it all suddenly disappear or invalidate that it happened. You can't hide it.

Instead, read the literature of the day. Read the literature of the past. Talk about it, even if it makes you uncomfortable and you disagree with the author, with another reader, with a character. But, learn from it and teach each other instead of running from it.

So Huckleberry Finn will remain on my bookshelf. It will get reread. I will think on it with fond memories. I will recommend it to others.

What about you? What is one of your childhood favorites?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Cover Crush...Before the Rain Falls


I will freely admit that I judge books by their covers. The cover is usually what first captures my attention when browsing Goodreads or Netgalley. Actually, in all honesty, it isn't just usually, it's pretty much all the time. The cover determines if I look at the synopsis and reviews.


Another gorgeous vintage cover. A well dressed woman looks toward the Statue of Liberty silhouetted in the distance. Is she arriving in America or leaving? Where is she from? Where is she going? What is her story?

What about you? Any book covers capture your attention this week?

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary. If you want to check out some other terrific bloggers and what their Cover Crush posts look like, you can do that here: The Maiden's CourtFlashlight CommentaryA Bookaholic SwedeLayered Pages, indieBRAG, A Literary Vacation, Of Quills and Vellum.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Cover Crush...It Happens all the Time


I will freely admit that I judge books by their covers. The cover is usually what first captures my attention when browsing Goodreads or Netgalley. Actually, in all honesty, it isn't just usually, it's pretty much all the time. The cover determines if I look at the synopsis and reviews.


The red dress behind the torn cover is eye-catching. But, why? Why is the paper torn? It would appear to be ripped apart out of anger. The dress was worn by a woman, so what happened to her? Did she tear up a picture of her dress? Was she attacked or assaulted? How does this dress relate to the story? 

What about you? Any book covers capture your attention this week?

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary. If you want to check out some other terrific bloggers and what their Cover Crush posts look like, you can do that here: The Maiden's CourtFlashlight CommentaryA Bookaholic SwedeLayered Pages, indieBRAG, A Literary Vacation, Of Quills and Vellum.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Ella's Ice Cream Summer...Review

About the book:
Ella’s life just hit rock-bottom, but can a summer by the sea mend her broken heart? When life gives you lemons…make ice-cream!

Life hasn’t always been easy for single mum Ella, but she has just hit an all-time low; she’s jobless, loveless, very nearly homeless and, to make matters worse, now the owner of a pocket-sized pooch with a better wardrobe than her.

Packing her bags (and a bigger one for the dog), Ella sets off for the seaside town of Appledore in Devon to re-live the magical summers of her youth and claim her portion of the family ice-cream business: a clapped-out ice-cream van and a complicated mess of secrets.

There she meets gorgeous and free-spirited solicitor, Ben, who sees things differently: with a little bit of TLC he has a plan to get the van – and Ella – back up and running in no time.

Ella’s Ice-Cream Summer is a heart-warming and hilarious romance that will scoop you off your feet and prove it’s never too late for a fresh start. The ideal holiday read for fans of Lucy Diamond, Abby Clements and Debbie Johnson.

After losing her job and being forced to sell her home by her ex-husband, Ella leaves everything behind for the seaside town of Appledore. Her beloved aunt has died and left her part of the family ice-cream business. Ella is determined to fix up the ice cream van and deliver cold treats all summer.

Along the way she discovers who she really is as well as uncovers family secrets that shock and amaze her, but ultimately lead her to new beginnings.

Ella's relationship with her mother is at once tender and laugh-out-loud funny. It was incredibly easy to picture their interactions.

And while the story is light, I didn't find it completely predictable. Instead, it was a heart-warming look at family relationships and what truly makes a person happy.

There is mild sexual content.

Sue Watson stories are just fun reads. I've had this one waiting around on my Kindle for far too long and it was a perfect, fun read for summer.

Thanks to Netgalley and Bookouture for the chance to review this book. You can learn more about Sue Watson here.

Read 6/17

* * *
3/5 Stars

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Cover Crush...Practicing Normal


I will freely admit that I judge books by their covers. The cover is usually what first captures my attention when browsing Goodreads or Netgalley. Actually, in all honesty, it isn't just usually, it's pretty much all the time. The cover determines if I look at the synopsis and reviews.


A key in a lock. A partially opened door. Who lives here? It looks like someone is just entering a house. Why? Who are they? 

I love the colors: the bold red and black against the blurred white and black of the background. Just stunning.

I have this book in my TBR and I look forward to finding out who lives in this house.

What about you? Any book covers capture your attention this week?

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary. If you want to check out some other terrific bloggers and what their Cover Crush posts look like, you can do that here: The Maiden's CourtFlashlight CommentaryA Bookaholic SwedeLayered PagesindieBRAG, A Literary Vacation, Of Quills and Vellum.

Friday, June 30, 2017

5 Books I Want to Read...History of Food

I keep a wish list on Goodreads called "want to read". Currently, it's up to 2800. Yeah. I also have several stacks of books tucked against walls throughout my house. Each is probably at least 3 feet high of books I haven't read yet. I periodically go through my list and purge it, but it still is not slowing down. Nor are the books that keep appearing on my Kindle. They're all still on my wish list, I just haven't gotten to them yet.

Each month I highlight 5 books I want to read. I don't set out to plan themes, but somehow patterns creep into my viewing.

Who doesn't love food? And if you love cooking, who doesn't love histories of food and cooking and how the way we eat has changed over the years? Ok, maybe you don't, but I find it fascinating and I have quite a few culinary history books on my list.

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A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression by Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe

From the author of the acclaimed 97 Orchard and her husband, a culinary historian, an in-depth exploration of the greatest food crisis the nation has ever faced—the Great Depression—and how it transformed America’s culinary culture.

The decade-long Great Depression, a period of shifts in the country’s political and social landscape, forever changed the way America eats. Before 1929, America’s relationship with food was defined by abundance. But the collapse the economy, in both urban and rural America, left a quarter of all Americans out of work and undernourished—shattering long-held assumptions about the limitlessness of the national larder.

In 1933, as women struggled to feed their families, President Roosevelt reversed longstanding biases toward government sponsored “food charity.” For the first time in American history, the federal government assumed, for a while, responsibility for feeding its citizens. The effects were widespread. Championed by Eleanor Roosevelt, “home economists” who had long fought to bring science into the kitchen rose to national stature. Tapping into America’s longstanding ambivalence toward culinary enjoyment, they imposed their vision of a sturdy, utilitarian cuisine on the American dinner table.

Through the Bureau of Home Economics, these women led a sweeping campaign to instill dietary recommendations, the forerunners of today’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. At the same time, rising food conglomerates introduced packaged and processed foods that gave rise to a new American cuisine based on speed and convenience. This movement toward a homogenized national cuisine sparked a revival of American regional cooking. In the ensuing decades, this tension between local traditions and culinary science have defined our national cuisine—a battle that continues today.

A Square Meal examines the impact of economic contraction and environmental disaster on how Americans ate then—and the lessons and insights those experiences may hold for us today.

Food: A Culinary History from Antiquity to the Present (European Perspectives) by Jean-Louis Flandrin, Massimo Montanari and Albert Sonnenfeld

At what point in history did people start serving meals at regular hours? Would we still be eating communally today if the Black Plague hadn't forced diners to eat at a safe distance from each other? What's the real story behind the origin of pasta? These are just a few of the tantalizing questions that are answered in this fascinating history of food from prehistoric times to the present. This comprehensive work explores the culinary evolution of cultures ranging from Mesopotamia to modern America, and explores every aspect of food history, from the dietary rules of the ancient Hebrews to the contributions of Arab cookery. Written by leading world authorities, this volume gives a unique perspective on the social and cultural mores of humankind through the ages, offering cooks, culinary scholars, and food lovers a banquet of information on which to feast.

Consider the Fork: How Technology Transforms the Way We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson and Annabel Lee (Illustrator)

Since prehistory, humans have braved sharp knives, fire, and grindstones to transform raw ingredients into something delicious—or at least edible. Tools shape what we eat, but they have also transformed how we consume, and how we think about, our food. Technology in the kitchen does not just mean the Pacojets and sous-vide of the modernist kitchen. It can also mean the humbler tools of everyday cooking and eating: a wooden spoon and a skillet, chopsticks and forks.

In Consider the Fork, award-winning food writer Bee Wilson provides a wonderful and witty tour of the evolution of cooking around the world, revealing the hidden history of everyday objects we often take for granted. Knives—perhaps our most important gastronomic tool—predate the discovery of fire, whereas the fork endured centuries of ridicule before gaining widespread acceptance; pots and pans have been around for millennia, while plates are a relatively recent invention. Many once-new technologies have become essential elements of any well-stocked kitchen—mortars and pestles, serrated knives, stainless steel pots, refrigerators. Others have proved only passing fancies, or were supplanted by better technologies; one would be hard pressed now to find a water-powered egg whisk, a magnet-operated spit roaster, a cider owl, or a turnspit dog. Although many tools have disappeared from the modern kitchen, they have left us with traditions, tastes, and even physical characteristics that we would never have possessed otherwise.

Blending history, science, and anthropology, Wilson reveals how our culinary tools and tricks came to be, and how their influence has shaped modern food culture. The story of how we have tamed fire and ice and wielded whisks, spoons, and graters, all for the sake of putting food in our mouths, Consider the Fork is truly a book to savor.

An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage

Throughout history, food has acted as a catalyst of social change, political organization, geopolitical competition, industrial development, military conflict, and economic expansion. An Edible History of Humanity is a pithy, entertaining account of how a series of changes—caused, enabled, or influenced by food—has helped to shape and transform societies around the world.

The first civilizations were built on barley and wheat in the Near East, millet and rice in Asia, and corn and potatoes in the Americas. Why farming created a strictly ordered social hierarchy in contrast to the loose egalitarianism of hunter-gatherers is, as Tom Standage reveals, as interesting as the details of the complex cultures that emerged, eventually interconnected by commerce. Trade in exotic spices in particular spawned the age of exploration and the colonization of the New World.

Food's influence over the course of history has been just as prevalent in modern times. In the late eighteenth century, Britain's solution to food shortages was to industrialize and import food rather than grow it. Food helped to determine the outcome of wars: Napoleon's rise and fall was intimately connected with his ability to feed his vast armies. In the twentieth century, Communist leaders employed food as an ideological weapon, resulting in the death by starvation of millions in the Soviet Union and China. And today the foods we choose in the supermarket connect us to global debates about trade, development, the environment, and the adoption of new technologies.

Encompassing many fields, from genetics and archaeology to anthropology and economics—and invoking food as a special form of technology—An Edible History of Humanity is a fully satisfying discourse on the sweep of human history.

Eat the City: A Tale of the Fishers, Foragers, Butchers, Farmers, Poultry Minders, Sugar Refiners, Cane Cutters, Beekeepers, Winemakers, and Brewers Who Built New York by Robin Shulma

New York is not a city for growing and manufacturing food. It’s a money and real estate city, with less naked earth and industry than high-rise glass and concrete. Yet in this intimate, visceral, and beautifully written book, Robin Shulman introduces the people of New York City - both past and present - who do grow vegetables, butcher meat, fish local waters, cut and refine sugar, keep bees for honey, brew beer, and make wine. In the most heavily built urban environment in the country, she shows an organic city full of intrepid and eccentric people who want to make things grow. What’s more, Shulman artfully places today’s urban food production in the context of hundreds of years of history, and traces how we got to where we are.

In these pages meet Willie Morgan, a Harlem man who first grew his own vegetables in a vacant lot as a front for his gambling racket. And David Selig, a beekeeper in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn who found his bees making a mysteriously red honey. Get to know Yolene Joseph, who fishes crabs out of the waters off Coney Island to make curried stews for her family. Meet the creators of the sickly sweet Manischewitz wine, whose brand grew out of Prohibition; and Jacob Ruppert, who owned a beer empire on the Upper East Side, as well as the New York Yankees.

Eat the City is about how the ability of cities to feed people has changed over time. Yet it is also, in a sense, the story of the things we long for in cities today: closer human connections, a tangible link to more basic processes, a way to shape more rounded lives, a sense of something pure.

Of course, hundreds of years ago, most food and drink consumed by New Yorkers was grown and produced within what are now the five boroughs. Yet people rarely realize that long after New York became a dense urban agglomeration, innovators, traditionalists, migrants and immigrants continued to insist on producing their own food. This book shows the perils and benefits—and the ironies and humor—when city people involve themselves in making what they eat.

Food, of course, is about hunger. We eat what we miss and what we want to become, the foods of our childhoods and the symbols of the lives we hope to lead. With wit and insight, Eat the City shows how in places like New York, people have always found ways to use their collective hunger to build their own kind of city.

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What about you? What books are on your "want to read/wish" list?

5 Books I want to Read is a monthly meme started by Stephanie at Layered Pages. If you want to check out some other terrific bloggers and what their wish lists look like, you can do that here: A Bookaholic Swede, Layered Pages, The Maiden's Court, Flashlight Commentary and A Literary Vacation.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Cover Crush...The Promise Kitchen


I will freely admit that I judge books by their covers. The cover is usually what first captures my attention when browsing Goodreads or Netgalley. Actually, in all honesty, it isn't just usually, it's pretty much all the time. The cover determines if I look at the synopsis and reviews.


I'm hungry. Just sayin'. So that is probably why this cover caught my attention. What a gorgeous cake. I love to bake. I don't do much baking now because The Doctor is following a ketogenic diet and that means low to no carbs. So, my baking consists of brownies for The Artist. But, the cover? I love the pink and tans. Why is this woman holding a cake? Who is it for? What is the promise kitchen? What is her story?

What about you? Any book covers capture your attention this week?

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary. If you want to check out some other terrific bloggers and what their Cover Crush posts look like, you can do that here: The Maiden's CourtFlashlight CommentaryA Bookaholic SwedeLayered Pages, indieBRAG, A Literary Vacation, Of Quills and Vellum.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Weekend Reflections 6/24

Looking outside...it's sunny with blue skies. Currently 76 with a projected high of 90. 

Listening...to the fish tank, the fan, the sprinklers hitting the window.

Loving...blue sky and white clouds.

Thinking...that I need to get moving.

In my kitchen...Not sure yet about dinner. At the moment, it's Crio Bru. It's always Crio Bru.

Wearing...denim skirt, purple shirt.

Reading...I had three reviews post this week, but my reading has been slow.

Today...The Doctor is driving with my sister to pick up her children who have been with their father this month. We love it when the kiddos are back home.

I have some errands to run.

The Artist is biking the Hiawatha Trail next week and we need to get his gear ready.

Quoting...“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” ― Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Feeling...Tired. I'm tired to begin with, but any heat just takes it out of me. I'm doomed in August...

Planning...going over our house maintenance "To-Do" list. It seems to be never ending, but we're slowly checking off things.


Gratitude...for air conditioners, fans and the fact that I don't live in Arizona or Las Vegas.


From my world... 




Seriously. Follow The Psychotic Penguin on Instagram and Twitter. You never know where he'll turn up next...

What about you? What are you reflecting on this week? How has your week gone?

Friday, June 23, 2017

With You Always...Review

About the book:
When a financial crisis in 1850s New York leaves three orphaned sisters nearly destitute, the oldest, Elise Neumann, knows she must take action. She's had experience as a seamstress, and the New York Children's Aid Society has established a special service: placing out seamstresses and trade girls. Even though Elise doesn't want to leave her sisters for a job in Illinois, she realizes this may be their last chance.

The son of one of New York City's wealthiest entrepreneurs, Thornton Quincy faces a dilemma. His father is dying, and in order to decide which of his sons will inherit everything, he is requiring them to do two things in six months: build a sustainable town along the Illinois Central Railroad, and get married. Thornton is tired of standing in his twin brother's shadow and is determined to win his father's challenge. He doesn't plan on meeting a feisty young woman on his way west, though.

The stories behind The Orphan Train have always fascinated me. That people were so desperate that they sent their children away to be adopted by other people. Those stories did not always have happy endings. What I didn't know was that during the financial crisis of the 1850s, the Children's Aid Society also sent out women: usually seamstresses and trade girls to work on the new frontier. Their stories also didn't always have happy endings.

Here we learn about Elise Neumann who must leave New York for a job in Illinois to provide for her younger siblings after their mother dies. Elise crosses paths with Thornton Quincy, the son of one of New York's wealthiest men. Thornton and his brother are in a competition to see who can establish a successsful town first and inherit their father's business.

Jody Hedlund has a way of showcasing, not only the human spirit, but the strength of women and this is just one reason I adore her writing. Elise is feisty and soon realizes that the opportunities promised in New York are far from ideal. I loved how she stood up to Thornton and convinced him to work alongside his employees so that he might now how the working class feel. And Thornton finally standing up to his brother and father was awesome.

The story is tinged with sadness and heartbreak and while not a cliffhanger, we are left with uncertainty about Elise's family and I am grateful that this is the first of a series so that we might know what happens to everyone.

Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Jody Hedlund here.

Read 5/17

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Cover Crush...Summer by the Sea


I will freely admit that I judge books by their covers. The cover is usually what first captures my attention when browsing Goodreads or Netgalley. Actually, in all honesty, it isn't just usually, it's pretty much all the time. The cover determines if I look at the synopsis and reviews.


I love the beach. I miss the ocean desperately. And the Outer Banks of North Carolina are one of my favorite places in the world. So, a book set there? I'm all in. Walking on the beach hand in hand with my husband is sheer heaven. Naturally, a cover like this one completely draws me in. Who are these people? What is their story?

What about you? Any book covers capture your attention this week?

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary. If you want to check out some other terrific bloggers and what their Cover Crush posts look like, you can do that here: The Maiden's CourtFlashlight CommentaryA Bookaholic SwedeLayered Pages, indieBRAG, A Literary Vacation, Of Quills and Vellum.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

An Extraordinary Union...Review

About the book:
As the Civil War rages between the states, a courageous pair of spies plunge fearlessly into a maelstrom of ignorance, deceit, and danger, combining their unique skills to alter the course of history and break the chains of the past...

Elle Burns is a former slave with a passion for justice and an eidetic memory. Trading in her life of freedom in Massachusetts, she returns to the indignity of slavery in the South—to spy for the Union Army.

Malcolm McCall is a detective for Pinkerton's Secret Service. Subterfuge is his calling, but he’s facing his deadliest mission yet—risking his life to infiltrate a Rebel enclave in Virginia.

Two undercover agents who share a common cause—and an undeniable attraction—Malcolm and Elle join forces when they discover a plot that could turn the tide of the war in the Confederacy's favor. Caught in a tightening web of wartime intrigue, and fighting a fiery and forbidden love, Malcolm and Elle must make their boldest move to preserve the Union at any cost—even if it means losing each other...

I had so much hope for An Extraordinary Union. I loved the premise: a former slave with an eidetic memory who is a spy for the union. How cool is that? That she falls in love with a white detective who is undercover as a Rebel soldier is even more enticing.

The story is fairly well paced and there is plenty of action and a glimpse into the glamour of the rich who lived well despite blockades and an ongoing war. Politics is always there no matter what.

This novel had so much potential, especially a forbidden interracial romance and we did get some great story bits here and there. Elle undercover as a mute slave in a Confederate household. Elle almost captured by slavers.

However, the story was less about the historical part and more about sex. There wasn't much to call romance. Instead, everything was tinged with sexual tension and the need to act on it that didn't add to the story or make it better.

Elle as a character is terrific. Strong and fearless. Being a free woman and willingly going undercover as a slave and being treated as such? Talk about strength. She had more going for her than Malcolm ever did.

Unfortunately, instead of telling the story of a strong woman helping the Union win the war between the states, sex became the focus. That's always a disappointment.

This is the first in a series and I am undecided on whether or not I will read any future books.

Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Alyssa Cole here.

Read 5/17

* *
2/5 Stars