Book Review: House of Dreams by Liz Rosenberg

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on House of Dreams by Liz Rosenberg.

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House of Dreams is the biography of Lucy Maud Montgomery, the author of the beloved Anne of Green Gables series. For many years, especially when she was still alive, not much was known about her personal life, and it is only in recent years that more information has come out about her life. While she shared some similarities with Anne, her life was also marked with tragedy from as early as her infancy and all the way through to her death. Readers will learn more details about her childhood, her struggles with mental illness, and her difficult marriage, but also how writing brought her a since of joy.

First off, House of Dreams is great biography that is both informative and entertainin, but it definitely does not shy away from discussing the dark times in L. M. Montgomery’s life.

A fact that is made very apparent from the get-go is that Maud’s early years were similar to those of her character, Anne Shirley. Like Anne, she created imaginary friends in mirrors and glass doors, in fact one of Anne’s imaginary friends, Katie Maurice, was actually one of Maud’s invented friends that she had as a child. As the biography progresses, it becomes very apaprent that one of main themes is that that of art imitating reality, and in a lot of casees this is true of most of Montgomery’s works, especially in her debut novel, Anne of Green Gables in which she focused on the happier aspects of her childhood, although not everything was as cheerful. Rosenberg states, “Fiction is the art of transformation. For many writers, including L. M. Montgomery, it allows for happy reconciliations they cannot achieve in real life” (177).

Another topic that is discussed in House of Dreams is mental illness and how it is soemthing that should not be ignored or viewed as taboo. Both Montgomery and her husband suffered from mental illness, more specifically manic depression, and it made their lives miserable and also led them to self-medicate several cocktails of medicine that were not good for them. Mental illness is an important factof Montgomery’s life because it has been speculated in recent years that she possibly committed suicide.

The importance of good frienships is another prevalent theme that can be seen in the life of L. M. Montgomery – or to use a term that was used in her works, the importance of “kindred spirits.” Both her and her husband seemed to have gotten out of their manic depressive episodes when their dearest friends were near. And, when Maud’s best friend, Frede, died, she suffered severe depression because she had lost someone who was a dear kindred spirit to her.

Overall, this was agreat biography about a great Canandian author who is still beloved by many. However, it is sad to think thatthe author who gave the world the precocious Anne Shirley, suffered a lot during her life. 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson.

Second Chance Summer follows Taylor Edwards who returns with her family for the first time in five years to their lake house. However, Taylor wants to be everywhere but there, especially since the last time she was there she ran away from her best friend, and broke the heart of her first love. But when her father forces her to get out of her comfort zone and get a job, she is forced to both confront her past with both Lucy, her former best friend, and Henry, her first love who still carries the hurt from her leaving without a word. But maybe this summer she will get a chance to reignite her friendship with Lucy, and maybe another chance at love with Henry.

Second Chance Summer was a great read, because not only is it about romance and friendship, it also deals with the topic of death. Over the course of the novel, Taylor’s dad is dying from cancer, and their summer at the lake house is his last wish before he passes on. During this time he encourages Taylor and her siblings to live their lives as normally as possible despite the circumstances of their stay at the lake house. Taylor also starts to grow closer to her father when both of them have trouble sleeping at night.

Matson definitely does not shy away from showing the realities of watching a loved one deteriate from an invasive illness like the late stages of cancer, as well as how the family copes with watching their dad wither away before their eyes. As someone who lost a loved one to cancer, this was hard to read at times, not because it is graphic, but because it is so accurate in the depicstion of how quickly someone from cancer can die.

However, I also appreciate how the novel doesn’t just finish with Taylor’s dad’s death, it continues to show the family dealing with their grief, especially Taylor, who uses her father’s death as an excuse to push Henry away again. But to his credit, Henry doesn’t give up that easily, and eventually Taylor also realizes that she is foolish to throw away someone like Henry because of her fears of losing him. She learns that even though that is a possibility, she shouldn’t lose out on the chance of happiness for the sake of protecting herself.

Second Chance Summer is a reminder of some of the best parts of being a teenager, as well as the challenging parts, especially when it comes to love and friendship, and of course grief. While Matson’s work is still a pretty light read, it still packs a punch and will probably draw a tear or two from most readers when they get to the parts about the reality of death. The novel does have a mostly happy ending, however, it is not the happy ending that most readers probably hope for – Taylor’s dad somehow miraculously is healed from Stage IV cancer. While this would have been nice, it wouldn’t have been realistic, and instead Matson provides a character that readers can relate to, especially those who have had to watch a parent/grandparent/sibling die from cancer.

Readers will both root for Taylor has she gets closer to her dad, figures out how to be friends with Lucy again (who she basically abandoned in the middle of Lucy trying to navigate her parents getting divorced), and whether or not a relationship with Henry is a good idea.

This book is recommended for readers who want a light contemporary read, with a hint of seriousness. It has a little bit of romance, a little bit of friendship, and a little bit of heartache and grief, but Matson does a great job of dealing with this issues throughout the novel.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Salt Houses by Hala Alyan.

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I’ll be honest, I didn’t know that Salt Houses existed until I came across it on a booklist on Modern Mrs. Darcy. As soon as I read the synopsis, though, I could not wait to pick it up.

Salt Houses is a multigenerational novel that is told from the perspective of several members. It opens up first with Salma, the night before her daughter Alia’s wedding in 1962, in the Palestinian town of Nablus. As part of the festivities, she is asked to read the dried coffee grounds in Alia’s cup, to read her future. However, she sees a lot of upheaval, travel and turmoil in her daughter’s future, but doesn’t know how to share the reading with her. From here we follow Alia’s family up until 2014, with perspectives from her brother, her husband, herself, her two daughters and two of her granddaughters. We see her and her husband flee to Kuwait City during the Six Days War in 1967, and having to flee again when Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait in 1990, further displacing her family and testing their limits as they each have to make decisions that could change the rest of their lives.

Oh my goodness, I don’t know where to start with this review because I really loved Salt Houses. I’ll admit I was a little worried about what to expect since we are following a Palestinian family over several generations. I guess my main concern was that it would be overly political regarding the conflicts involving Israel and Palestine. However, while you do see the characters dealing with their feelings after being displaced – first in 1948, and then in 1967 – the novel is so much more than that. It follows each character as they adjust to the upheaval and try to find home where they are; some of them while battling their inner demons. The writing is gorgeous and lyrical. The author does a fantastic job of capturing the emotions of each character, as well as writing descriptions that engage all five senses. I felt like I had been transported into the lives of the Yacoub family and was experience everything that they were.

Each chapter/section is told from the perspective of a different family member (several of them get two sections), and it jumps several years into the future each time. I will say that it was helpful having the family tree at the front of the book because I found myself flipping back to it, especially when we start getting Alia’s granddaughters’ perspectives.

I don’t know if I had a particular character that was my favorite, but I related to both Rimnah and Alia because of my hobbies – reading – and my temperamental bent (which I am working on being less so).

While I loved the novel, I would caution against going into it expecting it to be a light read. It isn’t although it does have some lighter moments throughout the book. Salt Houses is about the different conflicts each generation has to deal with from the Six Day War to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, to the 2006 conflict in Beirut. As well as how the characters live during the aftermath and try to o on with their lives in the midst of tragedy. I also enjoyed learning more about Palestinian culture, which is something that was new for me to read about.

Overall, this was a fantastic read and I highly recommend it if you are looking for something similar to A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, but slightly less intense. I am looking forward to reading more of Hala Alyan’s work in the future. 5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani (Translated by Sam Taylor).

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I don’t even know where to stat with this review. I will say that it will most likely contain spoilers because I have a lot I want to say about this book.

First, I should probably start with what the book is about. The Perfect Nanny follows French-Moroccan lawyer, Myriam, who wants to go back to work after being at home with her two young children. In order to do so, she needs to hire a nanny. Enter Louise, who is the perfect candidate and the perfect nanny. The family loves her and the work she does for them, however she soon starts to become too involved with them, and everything they found charming about her now aggravates them. And Louise herself starts to change, to the point of becoming neurotic, and eventually leading to tragic events.

Wow. All I can say is wow! I honestly was expecting to not enjoy this book at all… I loved it! The Perfect Nanny starts with bang with the tragedy – one of the children is dead, the other one is close to dead, and Louise is covered in blood after trying to commit suicide after attempting to murder her charges. After this opening scene, readers are taken back in time to a year and half before, when Louise was hired by the family and what eventually led to the opening tragic events. I was hooked from the beginning, and I had to find out what happened. If I had not had things to do the day that I read it, I probably would have tried to finish it in one sitting!

If I were to give a short description of this book, I would say it is if Mary Poppins had a mental illness and has a psychotic break and does the unthinkable. In this case, our Mary Poppins character is Louise, and at first she seems practically perfect in every way for the first few months. But then things start to change when she becomes overly dependent on her employers, and obsessive of them. The final shoe drops when she becomes obsessed about not throwing out food that has expired. However, sensing that her services may soon no longer be needed, she becomes almost manic in trying to get Myriam pregnant, and when that fails, she sinks even lower in trying to figure out how to prove that she needs to be kept around.

I don’t know if The Perfect Nanny can be considered a thriller, I consider it to be, and it is one of the best ones I have read! It is told in several interconnected parts, with several sections from the perspective or about certain individuals connected to Louise r the family, as well as the lead investigator of the case. The Perfect Nanny is equal parts gripping and disturbing as we watch Louise descend into madness and becomes increasingly toxic, as well as several clues as to how she becomes so.

My only complaint is that sometimes the grammar was a little clunky, but I think that is because the book was translated from French and it might be based on translations choices that were made.

Overall, I loved The Perfect Nanny, it was everything I wanted in a thriller, however, I can also see why some might not like it. I do recommend it if you are looking for a book that has some elements of a thriller, but also explores topics such as wealth, class, motherhood, and I would even say toxic dependency. 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Island Charm Blog Tour and Giveaway

About the Book

Book: Island Charm

Author: Audrey Wick

Genre: Christian Contemporary Beach Read

Release date: May 14, 2021

An imposter in paradise.

When Anna Worthington’s twin sister gets jilted by her fiancé, Anna steps in with a plan for a girls’ Key West getaway instead of a honeymoon trip. Yet when her twin has her own crisis of commitment and doesn’t board the plane, Anna finds herself on a romantic getaway that she’s forced to navigate alone.

A vacation romance with an expiration date.

Gunnar Lockhart, whose specialty is island tourism, is the perfect match for helping Anna complete her vacation bucket list, but time together forges a connection more personal than either anticipate. As they make island memories, Anna has to untangle her mixed emotions. Are her feelings toward Gunnar real? Or like her sister’s wedding day, has this connection been doomed from the start?

Click here to get your copy!

My Thoughts

It’s summer and what better way to travel to Key West (which I would love to go to someday) than by reading a book that is set there – besides actually getting to be their in person. Island Charm does just that! While it is a romance novel, the author does a great job of transporting readers to Key West, and includes a lot of the actual landmarks there. Although the characters are obviously fictional, I am also a assuming that there are also a couple of places that are too? Feel free to let me know if I am wrong though!

However, while I loved being transported to Key West, that’s about where it ends. It’s not that it was a bad book, I still liked it. But I found the romance to be somewhat bland and shallow, and the chemistry between Anna and Gunnar was non-existent for a good portion of the book (that’s just my opinion though). Also there were some things I questioned and that seemed slightly unrealistic – for instance, not having a way to communicate with each other besides Anna going to the Information booth, etc. Also, I found the conflict to be somewhat petty too. I would go into more detail, but I don’t want to reveal too much for those who would like to read the book themselves.

I did really enjoy the parts with Gunnar and Jack – and elderly gentleman – because it seemed to add a layer of depth to the novel. I liked getting to know both Gunnar and Anna, but they seemed under-developed. Yes, they had backstories, and yes they are both dealing with stuff, but it did seem somewhat contrived and convenient. Again, that’s just my opinion, and that’s just me, other readers probably will disagree with me on this.

Overall, this was an okay read. It was light, clean and fluffy, and it did transport me to Key West, which I loved. But that’s about it. I do recommend it if you are looking for a light summer/beach read.  3/5 Stars.

About the Author

Audrey Wick is a full-time English professor at Blinn College and author of women’s fiction/romance. Her writing has also appeared in college textbooks, and she is a guest blog columnist with Writer’s Digest. Wick believes the secret to happiness includes lifelong learning and good stories. But travel and coffee help. She has journeyed to over twenty countries—and sipped coffee at every one. See photos on her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @WickWrites.

More from Audrey

“The Importance of Setting in Fiction Writing”

My favorite element in writing a novel is setting. Making places come alive through storytelling brings special joy, and I’m fortunate to be able to do that in the pages of Island Charm.

Island Charm is my first beach-read, a standalone contemporary novel set in Key West. Key West is a small island in the Florida Keys, an archipelago that stretches west from the southern peninsula of Florida. The Keys dangle into the Gulf of Mexico like a string of island pearls. Key West is the last on the strand.

I first experienced Key West in the summer, but years later, I traveled back in winter. Whether its July or January, Key West is beautiful anytime of year. What I like best about the island is its walkability. It’s roughly four miles long and one mile across, making it easy to explore on foot. The boardwalk, docks, piers, and public beaches means there is plenty to experience. Fantastic views stretch in all directions.

Additionally, the island has an impressive literary history. Authors including Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Elizabeth Bishop, Shel Silverstein, Philip Burton, Judy Blume, and Meg Cabot have all called the island their home at one time or another. It’s easy to see why my heroine, Anna, is so taken with the scenery, just like these writers. I hope readers will be as well!

Follow Anna as she explores Key West in Island Charm. Thanks for traveling with me through the pages, and I hope readers enjoy their time on the island.

Blog Stops

Texas Book-aholic, June 19

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, June 20

The Meanderings of a Bookworm, June 20

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, June 21

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, June 22

Reflections From My Bookshelves, June 22

The Write Escape, June 23

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, June 24

Mypreciousbitsandmusings, June 24

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, June 25

Inklings and notions, June 26

Blogging With Carol, June 26

For Him and My Family, June 27

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, June 28

Simple Harvest Reads, June 28 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)

deb’s Book Review, June 29

Locks, Hooks and Books, June 30

Kayem Reads , June 30

CarpeDiem, July 1

Genesis 5020, July 1

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, July 2


To celebrate her tour, Audrey is giving away the grand prize package of a CD that includes a digital copy of Island Charm as well as multiple full-length novels also published by Pelican Book Group!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

Book Review: Beach Read by Emily Henry

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Beach Read by Emily Henry. This was also my second read for the 20 Books of Summer Challenge hosted by Cathy746books.

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I have been wanting to read Beach Read ever since it got a lot of buzz last year when it was released, but for whatever reason I kept putting it off. Then a few weeks ago I decided that I wanted to read it – especially since a lot of the people I follow on YouTube have done nothing but rave about it. This was also a last minute addition to my 20 Books of Summer List (which has been altered a little bit since June 1st).

Beach Read follows January Andrews a year after her father’s death, She finds herself at the lake house that she’d discovered at his funeral that he owned with another woman. Since discovering his secret, her life has come apart, and she decides to go there to not only get closure, but to overcome her writer’s block so she can write her next romance novel that her publisher is patiently waiting for. Shortly after she arrives, she discovers that her neighbor is none other than Augustus “Gus” Everett – her nemesis from college and a fellow author, although he prefers to write books where everyone dies at the end. One night they make a bet that they will each write the kind of book that the other one usually does, as well as educate each other on their respective genres. We see them g on trips to a carnival, as well as the site of a former death cult, and much more.

I liked Beach Read, I don’t know if I can say that I loved it, but I liked it. It is definitely one of the better romances/ chick lit books I have read recently. I loved the concept, and I very much felt like I was reading a romantic comedy movie.

I did like the romance, although I will admit that there were a couple of scenes that were pretty steamy – so if that is not your thing, this probably is not the book for you. However, I found that they didn’t bother me as they usually do, I think because there was a lot of build up to those scenes so it was expected in a way.

I enjoyed getting to know January, and I love that this so much more than a romance, it is also about her rediscovering who she is and what she believes when it comes to love after discovering that what she thought was true was seemingly a lie. It also follows her as she learns to forgive her father. I also liked Gus, but there were times he came across as too much of a jerk. However, I liked that there is more to him than January realized, and that he is a complex individual who is working through current and past trauma.

I also loved reading about the novel that January writes throughout the book, and honestly, I would love to read an actual version of it! I also appreciated the look into the cult that is mentioned in the book, however I would have like to know more, but often these scenes would fade to black before it got too much. And I get it, that was not the main point of the story.

Overall, I liked Beach Read. It is a good summery read, and perfect to slip into your beach bag. I am looking forward to reading some of Emily Henry’s other works. 3.5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

May Wrap-up (Or How Janelle Survived Three Read-a-thons)

Hello everyone,

I typically don’t do monthly wrap-ups, but I thought since I participated in three read-a-thons this month, I thought I would do wrap-up and discuss whether I managed to complete any of the challenges or not.

The first read-a-thon I took part in was the May the Force Read With You, which lasted the whole month of May. I started out with the Light Side prompts, and hoped to be able to complete the Dark Side too. The one catch was that you had to complete one side first (although you could use a Neutral prompt to substitute for one of the other ones) before moving on to the other side.

I started out as a Jedi Youngling, and the first prompt I completed was Healing – Read a book in your favorite genre. Lately, I have been really into cozy mysteries, so I picked up Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke. I enjoyed it, and I will discuss it more in an upcoming recent reads post.

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Completing this challenge made me a Padawan. I then decided to use one of the Neutral prompts in place of the Force Spirit prompt, I went with Midi-Chlorians – Read a middle grade. For this challenge I read The Next Great Jane by K. L. Going which was another good read.

As a Jedi Knight, I attempted to complete the Knowledge prompt – Read the oldest book on your TBR, I started Dear Reader by Mary O’ Connell and despite there being elements that I would have loved, I decided to DNF it at about page 100 because it was boring and the writing style annoyed me.

Disappointed with my last attempt, I decided to cleanse my palate and read One Piece Volume 26 by Eiichiro Oda, which I used to complete the prompt Jedi Council – A sequel or a book in a series.

Having become a Jedi Master, the next prompt I completed was Cleanse – a book with a white cover. I decided to pick up The English Breakfast Murder by Laura Childs since it had a white cover, and it was a good installment in the series.

I finally made it as Master of the Order, however there was one more challenge I needed to complete in order be a fully accomplished Master of the Order was another Neutral prompt, since I did not complete the Knowledge prompt, so I went with Force Sensitive – a book with a main character who has a special ability. And I picked up The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill to complete this prompt since the main character has magical abilities. This was great middle grade read, and I can’t believe it has taken me so long to read it!

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During my time as Master of the Order, I found myself becoming increasingly tempted by the Dark Side, and eventually the corruption got to me and I turned my back on the Jedi Order in exchange for the Dark Side. I found myself at the bottom as a Sith Apprentice, but I was determined to complete the obstacles in front of me and become the Emperor. My first challenge was Lightning – a book under 350 pages. To complete this challenge I read Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, which is 171 pages. I enjoyed this sort of prequel to Jane Eyre that depicts the life of “Bertha” Mason, or the madwoman in the attic. This gave her so much more dimension and shows that her descent into madness might be due to the words and actions of others.

After achieving my position as Sith Apprentice Rank 1, I knew I wanted to get to Rank 2 as an Apprentice, so I completed the Rule of Two – Read a book that is part of a duology. In order to complete this quest, I read Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller. This book has been on my shelves for ages, and I was excited to finally get to it because it is about pirates! However, it ended up not living up to my expectations. It was okay, but not as swashbuckling as I would have liked it to be. I don’t know if I will pick up the second book, or if I will just stop with this one.

Having completed my quest, I was no longer content with being an apprentice, I knew I needed to become a Sith Master, in order to do so I need to complete another quest, the one I chose was Seduction – read a romance book. In order to complete my quest, I read The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren. At this point the Disney Read-a-long had also started, and I used this book to complete two prompts for that, the first one being The Queen of Hearts – Read a book with a heart on the cover or in the title, the second one was Raya and the Last Dragon – read a new book. This was my first Christina Lauren book, and it was okay, I wasn’t a huge fan of the romance, and I found the conflict towards the end to be predictable and cliché.


Next, I decided that I needed to continue to move up the ranks and become the highest ranking Sith Master, and who knows, eventually become the Emperor. In order to move up, I was sent on a mission, to find another one who was Corrupted – a book with a black cover. I picked up Lost Stars by Claudia Gray in order to complete this mission. I also used it to kind of complete the prompt Read a book set in the city/country as your favorite Disney movie. With this one I cheated a bit, while I do love Star Wars, I’m not sure if a galaxy far, far away counts, but I’m making it count! I liked this Star Wars story, especially since we are following to characters that start out as Imperial officers and then go their separate ways. It was interesting, and I did not realize that it covered some time before the original trilogy and some time after the movies too. I liked getting a different view of some of the background characters in the films.

After completing this mission, I took a break from working my way up to Emperor. However, I still completed challenges for the Disney Read-a-long. I read Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. 8 by Hiromu Arakawa which fulfilled the prompt The Robinsons – a Book about family. While Fullmetal Alchemist isn’t strictly about family, it does follow the Elric brothers, and along their journey we are introduced to those who make up their found family. I also completed the last prompt, The Enchantress – a book that you bought/avoided because of the cover. I read Anne of the Island by L. M. Montgomery to complete this challenge, because I bought the edition I had because of the cover. This was a reread for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it!


A couple of days after the Disney Read-a-long ended, the Do the Thing Read-a-thon started. The goal for this read-a-thon was just to work on your reading goals. One of my goals for this year was to finally read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I did read it and I really enjoyed it, even though it is a tough read. And all though not formally part of my goals for this year, I also picked up Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I have been meaning to read it for a while but I kept putting it off. But I am so glad that I read it and again, I enjoyed it and I plan on having a longer review up soon.

Another one of my goals for this year was to complete the reading experiments I started last year. I picked up Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas, I also used this to complete the final prompt for the May the Force Read with You to become the Emperor, Force Vision – a book set in the past or the future. This book is set in 1936 in a mining town in the Rockies. I enjoyed it, and I plan on having a review up for it soon!

I also picked up On the Road by Jack Kerouac, unfortunately I didn’t quite finish it until June 1st, but I’m counting it because I did read a good chunk of it during the last few days of May. It was an interesting read, I’ll be honest, I don’t quite know what to make of it, but it is one of my husband’s favorite books, so I wanted to read it. There is a lot that can be unpacked from the novel, but maybe I just think that because I was an English major in college.


I think I was rather successful in all three read-a-thons last month. I read a lot more than I thought I would, and I read some unexpected additions to my TBR. I discovered some new favorites, and I was let down by a few. But it was still a pretty great reading month!

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.