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review 2018-04-21 03:17
ARC Review: Somewhere Over Lorain Road by Bud Gundy
Somewhere Over Lorain Road - Bud Gundy
Please don't let the cover confuse you into thinking this is purely an M/M romance. It's not. While there is a love story inside, this book is at its core a mystery with gay characters. It's a book about secrets, and unsolved murders, and old wounds, and family pain. It's about coming home to help your aging mother take care of your father in his last days, it's about giving an old man his dying wish. It's about terrible, horrible secrets kept for 40 years, and confronting the ghosts of your past.

Don Esker has come home to North Homestead, Ohio, where his father lies dying, and his mother and older brothers need help with the palliative care. Don has done well for himself in San Francisco, working in marketing, and is in a position where he can work from anywhere. Coming home isn't easy, as the family name is still talked about in hushed voices in connection to an unsolved crime that happened 40 years ago in 1975, when a little boy, the neighbor's and Sheriff's son, mysteriously disappeared, and two other little boys were found brutally murdered. Don's father was a suspect in the disappearance of the first boy, if only for one evening, and while he was never charged with anything, his good name has never been fully cleared. The suspicion alone shattered Don's family, and when he came out as gay, staying in town became impossible for him. Small towns and small-minded people will not forgive and not forget, and the townsfolk certainly wouldn't accept a gay man. 

In a lucid moment, Don's father asks for just one thing before he dies - to have his name cleared once and for all. Don, obliging son, begins a journey that not only brings him to Bruce, the love interest, but also face to face with his childhood friend, the brother of the missing boy, who still lives with his father, the ex-Sheriff across the street from the Esker home. It forces him to confront things of his past. Thick as thieves when they were young, Don and his friend haven't spoken in many years, longer than Don has been gone from North Homestead. There is history there. And hurt, anger, and hate. 

As the story unfolds, we are given pieces of the past, set in the 70s and 80s. There's an incident with an old fridge. There's the moment in which Mr. Esker is hauled from his home to answer questions about the disappearance of the neighbor's son. There's the moment in which Don's brother... no, I won't spoil this for you. Just do yourself a favor and read this book.

There is a moment when I knew, just KNEW, who the culprit was, thought I knew who had committed these crimes. 

And there is a moment when the truth comes out, and I was proven wrong. Except, not entirely. 

The romance between Don and Bruce doesn't really begin until the 2nd half of this book, and it's never in the forefront of the tale. There are no explicit scenes, and there didn't need to be any. It unfolds quietly, organically, and peacefully, just as it should have. These are grown, mature men, and there are no games to be played. No contrived misunderstandings. A love story. Simple. Quiet. 

Obviously, Don is not a skilled investigator, and it's often just sheer luck that he is able to find a piece he needs to solve the decades-old crime. He fumbles more often than not, which is to be expected, but he does persevere. 

The mystery is eventually solved. The truth comes out, as it always will, no matter how much time passes. I wasn't prepared for this truth. I wasn't expecting this truth. Though, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to go that route, and I must applaud the author for taking this road. It humanized the perpetrator, and though it doesn't offer forgiveness, it offers a believable motive. It does also shine a bright light on deep dysfunction within a family, on emotional and psychological and physical abuse. Facades crumble under such light. Cracks appear. Truth will out.

This book, with its tight narration and unexpected turn of events, kept me glued to its pages until the very last one. It's riveting - a page turner, and masterfully written. 

Give this a try, I beg you. This isn't a romance. It's a mystery with a gay MC. It's a story about family. But it is also a love story. Absolutely worth your time.

** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher via Netgalley. A positive review was not promised in return. **


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text 2016-06-23 19:28


I'm assuming that they're saying "diversity doesn't sell well." So, remember how I mentioned that I was beefing up my f/f TBR using the 50% off code at Kobo, because some publishers price their books ridiculously high? Bold Strokes Books is one of those publishers. They have cheaper titles, but many of them are priced at $9.99. Their books could be better formatted, and I've seen several book descriptions on their site with typos - not exactly encouraging to readers considering buying those works. Maybe they have some other things they could work on before they start saying there are challenges to selling diversity?

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review 2016-02-11 20:04
Desolation Point by Cari Hunter
Desolation Point by Hunter, Cari (2013) Paperback - Cari Hunter


Desolation Point

by Cari Hunter

Pages: 264

Date: April 15 2013

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Series: Pascal & Kent (1st in series)



Rating: 3.5 out of 5.0

Read: February 11 2016


My second book that I’ve read by this author.


Even though the first book that I read by this author was a solid 5 star affair, in my mind, I’ve still been slow to read another book by the author. Mostly because I’m not really much of a chills and thrills, damsels in distress type of reader. So, I kind of have to pace myself. Very slowly.



Two main characters, two . . . no, three, I think three points of view. Two being from the point of view of the ‘damsels in distress’ and one from the villain of the piece.


Alex Pascal opens the book as a police officer in Los Angeles. Very quickly, though, she finds herself injured and in the hospital. Recovery takes a while, and once it’s over, Pascal is back out on the streets. And almost immediately back off. She just can’t do it any longer. So, she packs up and moves to a cabin in the woods. And works there for an old man named Walt. These woods happen to be in the mountains of the North Cascades.


At one point Alex gets her hair cut shortish, before moving from the police to the mountains. I mention because that’s really the most that I came away with in regards to her physical features. Well, that and the scarring. That might be my own fault, not sure, or the author left things open. Heck, I might look back at the book and find a riveting deeply informative description that I somehow just overlooked. Regardless, I do not particularly mind that I’m clueless about what she looks like, or for the fact that I lack knowledge of her age. I think I lack that knowledge. Vague recollection that she’s been on the police force 5 years. Everything being equal that may or may not put her somewhere nearish 27 years of age?


Sarah Kent’s story opens with her in the hospital. A drunk driver rammed and flipped the car she was in. She was in the backseat. Her little sister and mother didn’t make it. Her step-father wasn’t around so he’s alive. He, though, wants nothing to do with the step-daughter who lived in place of his own flesh and blood (not specifically stated, but maybe also in place of his wife).


Once she’s back on her feet, at least physically, and with a certain amount of money in her pocket, Sarah figures that this is the perfect opportunity to quit her job and do a bit of traveling. Eventually she ends up hiking in the North Cascades mountains.


Again, I probably overlooked something, but other than physical injuries, I don’t recall what Sarah looks like. And I don’t have a handy ‘five years in the police’ to guess-estimate an age. There may or may not have been some remark about her being 20 years older than her step-sister. And the step-sister was around 7, so, 27.


The Villain is a man who was in prison but was sprung from it because he had a job/contract uncompleted. And the White Supremacists who he was working for wants him to finish his job. So they sprung him. He’s wandering the mountains with a young woman who he has no feelings for, but claims to be his girlfriend. Bethany being her name. She’s the niece of the leader of the White Supremacist group Nate is working for. Nate’s a cold icy man, with no remorse in killing.


Thrills and Chills

While hiking one day, Alex spots a truck hidden in some underbrush. There’s a fake tag on it. The suspicious circumstance gets her to call it in. Eventually she learns that there was a prison break and that the people involved may or may not be on the mountain. This is the first instance when Alex learned that her hike might involve more than she expected


While continuing her tour of the world, or whatever it was Sarah was doing, she ended up hiking around the North Cascades. Somewhat randomly, she decides to head to Desolation Point. While camping one night, she is startled to find that there’s another tent nearby. Greetings are exchanged. Along with food and conversation. Their part of the story, the two men in the other tent, is mostly there so that they can tell Alex, once she runs into them, that there’s another woman on the mountain. A mountain that suddenly has a very nasty storm striking it.


And so, everyone but Alex, Sarah, and the evil people flee the mountain – fleeing a storm. The storm strikes fast. Not unexpectedly, everyone involved knew it was coming. Just maybe not so fast. Fast enough to catch Sarah up on the summit, on Desolation Point. Rain pounded her. Wind tried to blow her off the mountain. She’s sitting next to shelter but there’s no way in. Visibility is down to about half a foot. This isn’t good when a wrong step could send you hurtling far to your death.


Eventually the weather clears enough to be a really annoying rain, and stiff winds. Fearing staying on the top of the mountain, Sarah begins trying to flee back down. Stumbles around. Hears voices, heads toward said voices. Stares at the people she finds in a clearing. Whimpers when a gunshot goes off. And so Sarah learns that ‘terrible danger’ is on the mountain.


And so – the story continues with Sarah fleeing the bad guys (Nate and Bethany), with Alex wandering around the mountain looking for Sarah.


Also it’s quite chilly.



Truth be told, I wasn’t really into the romance. It occurred. Life moved on.



I was rather into the story until about 59 or 69 percent into the book. And then something happened. No, not in the book, this isn’t a plot twist situation. No, something happened in me. I lost the ability to care about the people in the story. I just kind of numbly watched people stumble around, fearing death, crying, whimpering, drowning, whimpering and . . . felt nothing. It’s my own fault. I should have stopped myself instead of pushed myself to the conclusion. Pushed the book away for another day.


So, overall, the book was mostly interesting. I didn’t particularly care one way or another about the romance. And I kind of got numbed at some point, so take all that in advisement when considering how to ‘take’ me rating this specific book 3.5 stars.


There’s a high likelihood I’ll read another book by this author, but it’ll probably be an even longer break between this book and my next book by the author. Than it was between Snowbound and this book (which, I now see, I read almost exactly 2 years ago – Feb 2 to 3 2014).


By the way, I recall now why I became numbed. I had stupidly allowed myself to glance over some other books by this author. Don’t do what I did. You’ll learn something that you don’t want to learn. like, say, the description for the next book involving these two characters. Not sure why, but seeing that this is the first book in an unnamed series kind of drained the thrill/danger/chill from the story. To the point I was just watching people stumble around a mountain. It’s easier, I’ve found, to read a book like this if I don’t in fact already know that the characters will return. Also, it deeply depressed me to realize that their lives were crap before they meet each other (the tragic events that landed both, separately, in the hospital), were crap while they were together (the danger on the mountain), and was/will be crap after that (since the sequel is yet another danger-thrill book).


February 12 2016

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review 2016-02-08 19:59
The Red Files by Lee Winter
The Red Files - Lee Winter


The Red Files

by Lee Winter

Pages: 384

Date: September 1 2015

Publisher: Ylva Publishing

Series: N/A



Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0

Read: February 8 2016


Well, let me see what I can put together for this book here. Slightly harder now, since I’m about 50% into the second book I’ve started since ending ‘The Red Files’.


Somewhat needless to say, considering this is the first book by this author, but I feel vaguely that I need to note that this is the first book I’ve read by this author.


I had somewhat randomly decided to read this book here, not as random as pure chance – I mean, it was one of the 22 or so books that had been picked to be read February or March. But random as to starting it when I did (I believe I might have been on a train or something without access to anything except my Kindle). So it wasn’t until I’d been 19% into the book that I realized that the vast majority of the reading public seemed to really really love this book. (Actually, it might have not been until the 35% mark, but not important). And by love, I mean love. There are a total of 130 ratings for this book – 81 of which (62%) are 5 star. 42 are 4 star (32%), and just 7 are 3 star (5%). There are no ratings lower than 3 stars. And GoodReads takes that arrangement of ratings to mean ‘100% of people liked it’.


I only mention all that because suddenly realizing that 100% of the people who read the book liked it . . . kind of puts vague pressure on me. Or something. (ack, I just noticed that the person who never ever actually leaves a star rating, actually left a 5 star rating; see, pressure, heh).


Ah, now I see. It was at 36% of the book when I noticed everyone loved it. I see now where I wrote something about the book – though not in my status updates. I had noted that:


The characterization is vaguely annoying me so far, 36% into the book.


At the beginning of the book everything seemed to indicate that Lauren was around 23 or so. The things people said, especially her boss, and her own internal thoughts seemed to indicate that her experience involved a journalism degree, and participation on the college paper before going to LA. (What with Frank, her boss, saying something like 'your experience is a joke', while Lauren's thinking things like 'but I have a journalism degree!'). 23 since she's been on the LA paper for a year now.


But the reader learns from conversations that occur between Lauren and Ayer during their drive from LA to Carson City that Lauren worked for a small paper for a couple of years after college (21 to 23). Then Lauren had worked for a paper that even Ayer recognized, for at least ten years ('a person ten years my junior is getting the work I want, while I keep getting told to be patient'; so that moves her age from 23 to 33). Then Lauren moves to LA. Assuming that she got her current job immediately (and it’s possible, since she kind of indicated that she arrived on her last savings, and took the only job offered – meaning that she couldn’t wait a week/month/year before starting at her current job (this is another reason why I had thought she was roughly 22 to 23 when the book opened – because that indication that she arrived on her last dime with no savings and needing to take the first job, even if it wasn’t one she wanted, is something someone exiting college does, not someone moving over from another paper that she had worked on for 10 years). Lauren then worked there at her current job for about a year or less (almost a year I think it was stated at some point). So her age moves from 33 to 34. So Lauren should be roughly 34 years of age. Or thereabouts. Mind you, she acts like someone who is roughly 23.


Then there's the 'experienced bitter old woman of the news, forced to work entertainment news when she'd rather work 'real' news' (otherwise known as Political news (tis funny as I know some reporters who look down on political news and wouldn’t think of it as ‘real’ news (these being people who work the crime beat, specifically the same kind who would break political corruption stories, going for the crime angle). I didn't really know anything about Ayer by the 36% point of the book (though she seems to come off as someone in her, say, 60s). Only thought I had was - if she's so bitter about working in entertainment, why's she always dressed in atypical clothing for having that attitude - rich clothing, perfect clothing to handle entertainment news. I probably got confused from what I've seen. Though it seemed as if people who worked the political beat didn't dress like Ayer is dressing (unless they knew they'd end up on camera, like if they sat in the audience of a press conference). But even then - that wouldn't be the latest LA fashions.


To a certain extent, I wish I had learned of the Australianness of the author before starting the book, or after finishing. Because starting around the point I noticed, the 36% mark, I kept seeing everyone as stereotypes. Vaguely off stereotypes. The 'naive young hick from small town rural-burg who always dresses like she's off to a rodeo' - except that she's actually in her 30s, has experience, and lived for at least 10 years in a metropolitan area of roughly 612,000 people (which, I realize, isn't 18.5 million of LA metro area, but still isn't a farming village). The stereotypical political hack who is now forced to work in a ‘lesser’ field of entertainment. As, gag, a gossip columnist. And then there’s the seemingly stereotypical gay guy best friend of Lauren’s. We don’t actually learn enough of Joshua to move him into or out of that stereotypical role.



This is one of those books wherein the reader only sees things from one point of view – that of Lauren. I did not particularly like being stuck within just one person’s head. But, no matter.


Lauren King is a woman of roughly 34 years of age who has striven since seemingly the beginning of either her life, or college, to make it to the ‘real’ news of political reporting. She failed at the small town paper, reporting, as she did, on beauty pageants, crop yields, and other such things. Failed, again, to make the transition to political reporting when she moved to a ‘big’ newspaper in Des Moines Iowa. And finally, after 10 years there, gave up trying to get her editors to accept her over on the political side, and quit. Moved to L.A. Book opens roughly a year after she moved, a year after taking the only job she could get in the news – as an entertainment reporter. She has a great political story she wants to follow, but her boss has taken that story from her and given it to someone else. Her deep evil archrival, who just happens to work at the same paper, has ‘helped’ spread a viral video of Lauren King fighting and screaming that she wanted to show someone her goats. Maybe it’s time to move on?


Catherine Ayers is a woman who comes from money, worked hard, and rose high in the newspaper business. Was a regional bureau head in Washington DC for her paper. Until one story tanked her career. And now, at the opening of this book, she is working out the remaining months of her contract. Working as an entertainment reporter. Some might call her a gossip columnist, but don’t say that to her face or she’d gut them, verbally. She’s roughly 44, based on a publicist friend of Lauren’s who says that Ayers is 10 years older than Lauren.



Lauren King and Catherine Ayers attend a business party for … (SmartCard? EasyCard? EasyPay? Bah, I forget what the company’s name is now) that involves two governors (Nevada and California), a number of political people of various levels, many A-list celebrities (hence entertainment reporters at the party), and 34 women with real looking tans and real looking breasts. That’s actually important, the breasts and tans. It’s one of the first things Lauren noticed and clued her in on the fact that something fishy was going on. So, smelling a story, Lauren investigates. Trails behind them when they leave. Talks with a bus driver. Learns that they, all 34 women, were bused in from Nevada (I forget now if she found out then or later, that they were bused in from a brothel).


So, the mystery involves: why did these women turn up at a business party that included politicians? It is solved by two rivals. See, Catherine had noticed Lauren’s investigating and wants in. And, so, the two work on the case.


Got a little weird and farfetched, but interesting non-the-less.



The less said the better, probably.



The book was interesting. I kind of hovered, throughout, on how much I did or didn’t like the book. I don’t think I was ever in risk of pausing or not finishing the book, but I didn’t particularly like any of the characters – at least not until the mystery part started – whereupon Lauren, at least, started to grow on me. Well, both did, but Ayers kind of annoyed me during the ‘romance’ part so she moved back to being . . .um. . not as well liked.


Is this book supposed to have humor? I don’t specifically see anything that says it is supposed to in the description. Plot kind of had elements that seemed like humor was one of the underlying themes, especially with one of the main characters fighting someone while screaming about goats, but if so, I didn’t find anything funny. *shrug* I don’t deduct any points because of that issue, because, as I said, I do not see anything in the description that specifically indicates that the author was actually going for humor.


Personally I think I might have enjoyed the book more if the walls of bitter rivals had been broken and some form of easy or uneasy friendship broke out. Instead of, say, romance. I just didn’t see any chemistry between Lauren and Ayers, and it really seemed, probably only to me, to be forced. I suppose Lesbian Romances sell more than Lesbian Mysteries, so . ....


Well, the long and short of it is that I’d probably rate this book somewhere between 4 and 5 stars. 4.5? 4.3? 4.6? Somewhere around 4.5 stars.


February 11 2016

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review 2016-02-08 19:46
Fortunate Sum by M. Ullrich
Fortunate Sum - M. Ullrich

*I received this book from NetGalley in return for a fair review.*


Fortunate Sum

by M. Ullrich

Pages: 240

Published Date: March 15 2016

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Series: N/A



Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0

Read: February 8 2016



My first book by this author.


A lesbian romance involving two women with ‘baggage’, damaged as they have been by life. Catherine was damaged by a bad relationship when she was in college, one so bad that she doesn’t want to date women any longer; while Imogene has been damaged by 9/11 (during which event her father died); damaged so badly that, among other things, she can’t ‘return to the city’.



This book follows two main characters (and occasionally hops over to another to see a scene neither would have been able to see).


Catherine Carter is a financial advisor who works in lower Manhattan in New York. Lives in Hoboken New Jersey. She is something like 4 months, give or take a few months, from turning 30. She had a list of things she wanted to do before she turned 30 and feels like she hasn’t fulfilled her self-imposed obligations. While she is very successful in her job, it isn’t one her father wanted her to do (which, apparently, is important). Father wanted her to be a lawyer. That fact that his two sons, older brothers of Catherine, joined him didn’t seem to lesson father’s disappointment.


Catherine is a work-a-holic but needs to be checking off those things left to check off. For the most part, all she has left to check off is ‘family’ or ‘a warm body to share her bed’ or something like that. So, she’s looking for a man.


Looking for a man? How can she be doing that, I can hear some lesfic readers asking (while others might be giddy with happiness/or groaning in despair). It’s a straight woman-lesbian woman romance? Well, no, not exactly. It’s a ‘woman was badly damaged from a relationship with a woman, and while she feels nothing for men, prefers to not have her heart further damaged so looks to men to find happiness’ type of story.

Connected to Catherine: Alice and Alice’s husband. Best friends of Catherine’s. Alice and her husband are friends with . . um, Will is it? Well, with Sophie’s husband. Sophie is best friends with Imogene.


Imogene Harris is a shop owner in Hoboken New Jersey. As she is the one described as having blue eyes, while the other woman is described as having dark eyes (two different colors are mentioned, if I recall correctly, both are basically brownish in color), I assume that she is the one on the cover of the book. There’s nothing about that half-head that I’d say couldn’t match up with Imogene.

Connected to Imogene Sophie the psychic and her husband. Vixen the cat.



Imogene and Catherine spend most of the book circling each other. With Imogene assuming Catherine is straight (well, she mentioned preferring men). While Catherine found Imogene quite . . . um . . . interesting.


There was a nice slow build up of their relationship occurring when things spiraled into ‘relationship troubles’ when a specific plot twist occurred. You’d think that a woman who doesn’t think she can be with a woman again, because she wants to protect her heart, mixed with a woman who thinks she might be falling for a straight woman, would be enough of a relationship burden, but no.



Yes, there is graphic sex that takes place in this book. I made comment once about how I keep reading these types of scenes while on trains. Well, for once that didn’t occur. It was interesting and likable sex. As I tend to say, that’s all I’m going to say on the subject.



Through a friend of a friend, Imogene Harris is hooked up with Catherine Carter. No, not on a blind date or the like, but as a financial advisor. The book, see, opens with Imogene having this inheritance that she ‘needs to take care of’ from her grandfather. And, through a network of friends, she is advised to contact Catherine Carter – a high rising financial advisor in New York city.


I’m not sure if it is supposed to be a coincidence or not that Catherine and Imogene happen to live something like three blocks from each other (okay, probably not that close, but it seems that way when their movements are described). Considering how the two were matched up, it probably isn’t a coincidence. I mean, it was a friend of a friend type deal. Friends who all happen to live in Hoboken. On the other hand, Catherine works in New York, and it is quite easy to see her being friends with someone who also works in New York, but lives in New Jersey. So *shrugs*, let’s just leave it as everyone happens to live in the same city in New Jersey.


Right, so, Catherine and Imogene meet at a party for Catherine’s friend – a birthday party. During which the entertainer happens to be a psychic. This is important on several levels. Firstly – Catherine, while talking to a stranger at said part, both of whom appear to be getting on quite well, makes some kind of comment or another indicating that psychics are stupid. Or something like that. The psychic, seemingly right then and there, calls her assistant to stand up to help her. That assistant being Imogene. So, Imogene and Catherine meet bad. Well, good, then foot-in-mouth bad. Secondly – the psychic is Sophie, Imogene’s best friend. Thirdly, despite believing that it would be a bad idea, Catherine can’t seem to stop herself from relatively continuously dropping in on Sophie the psychic for some psychic help.


So, Catherine helps Imogene with her finances. While also looking for ‘her man’, and being guided by the tiny drops dripped from the psychic (blue; 11; etc). Imogene, meanwhile, is finding herself getting more and more intrigued by this Catherine.


Then . . . plot twist! Someone from the past turns up. And twists the plot, and stuff.



The story takes place in Hoboken New Jersey and lower Manhattan New York. For the most part, the stuff that occurs in NY could have occurred in any high rise (at least in terms of descriptions given). I’ve no clue if the Hoboken described in the book corresponds to the one in real life, but I did get a good sense that I was in a city, bouncing around during a snow storm between apartments, and a store.



There are certain things that kind of are off-putting to me. Things that I don’t want to read. Teacher/student relationships (depending on all parties involved, including age and like, I’m not deeply opposed to the idea, just . . . not while the student is a current student of the teacher); and cheating. There’s a flare of both in this story. Yay?


Up to about 62%, or thereabouts, I was considering what I had read up to that point. How I was reacting to it, how good or bad it was and came to the conclusion that I really really enjoyed everything. A well written story with well characterized people (mostly Imogene and Catherine). Then a plot twist occurred. The kind that deeply annoyed me. Well, potentially could have. It’s the type of plot twist I’ve seen before (oddly, or not, the last time I saw this specific plot twist, I think, was in another book that included teacher/student relations).


The book started off with me rather liking Catherine, and, to a certain extent, less liking Imogene. Not disliking, just that she hadn’t ‘grown’ on me. Then, somewhere along the way, I came to really like Imogene and . . . kind of dislike Catherine. But, meh, that’s life.


By the end of the book, I could say that I liked the characters but not really the story. For the most part. Except even at the end Catherine irritated me. “It feels good to have something they don’t” she says at one point, immediately followed by “They don’t know what it’s like to truly be in love.” Seriously? What kind of bitch is she? She ‘feels good’ that her brothers don’t know what it’s like to ‘truly be in love’? Really? WTF? What the fuck did the brothers do to her that she feels easy to make such a comment? To be glad that they don’t have true love? That annoys me.


Regardless, I grew to feel I knew both women, Imogene and Catherine, and mostly liked both of them. Giving the side eye, as I do, to Catherine, listing her on a ‘tentatively like’ list.


February 8 2016

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