xmasturkeyAs I navigate Times Square’s fresh influx of holiday tourists guided by hot chocolate-fueled fervors, I reignite my disdain for large, confused crowds. And yet, the holiday cheer is addictive—my lips twist into a foreign smile as I dance through their frenzied, buzzing clusters with my own agenda taking the wheel. I’m possessed by the spirit of Santa Claus; move out of my way, and save yourselves!

Each year the act of gift giving catches me in its riptide, pulling me this way and that as I seek out presents that’ll make an impression and leave the recipients temporarily lost for words. I search for the unique, the outrageous, the unforgettable. My stores of choice are folding tables buckling under the weight of too many knickknacks manned by craftsmen and women who offer an unrivaled present along with the tale of their company’s origin.

Bryant Park assaults me with Christmas cheer, my senses overwhelmed across the board. My nose itches with the sweet temptation of wafels and dinges; my ears are assailed by Mariah Carey as she shrieks that all she wants is me—me; can you believe it?—for Christmas this year; my gloved hand yearns to be enveloped by another as we glide across the glassy ice rink and off into the sunset; and my eyes take it all in: a blur of memories tinted red and green, able to be recalled with the jingle of a bell.

As I leave the park with gifts nestled nice and snug in bags, I’m met with cries: “Donate your change! Come on, lady, have a heart—it’s the holidays after all!” Take my laundry change, Mickey Mouse, and make sure you share with Minnie and all your other mascot-laden friends. It only burdens my pockets around this time of the year anyway.

And yet as I drift off into a snow globe cyclone, a brief moment of clarity shakes me to my core. Why, it’s still November. In fact, we haven’t even celebrated Thanksgiving yet. And if I recall correctly, last week saw temperatures that mirror the vernal equinox. And this ice skating rink where parents are releasing their children for minutes of relief is the one and the same that was melting last week as it attempted to cool itself down during record-shattering high temperatures.

My reality crashes down around me. Mickey, Minnie—COME BACK! I need that change for my laundry after all; it appears my Christmas cheer is premature!

I stuff gloved fists into warm pockets and return to crowd pushing and shouldering to get through my day’s tasks. Every now and then the tinkle of a bell or the glint of silver tinsel catches my eye from a shop window. But alas, I won’t fall victim to Manhattan’s untimely Christmas cheer again. At least not until Thanksgiving is over anyway.

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To Feel Stuff

41yItFueaZL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Like many, I decided to read Andrea Seigel’s To Feel Stuff after hearing about it on Starlee Kine’s new podcast, Mystery Show (aka one of my new favorite podcasts, because it’s hosted by one of my favorite radio journalists and she’s adorably hilarious). I was in a place where I had nothing to really read after finishing my last book club book (And The Mountains Echoed), and threw it onto my library hold list. I got it pretty soon after requesting it and dove right in.

In the Mystery Show episode that features Seigel’s mystery, she talks about how poorly To Feel Stuff was received. So it wasn’t like I went into this with a raving review to back it up or anything. And ultimately it wasn’t as bad as I expected it would be from the way she spoke about it—it was just anticlimactic and a bit boring. The premise surrounded a girl, Elodie, that was perpetually living in her university’s infirmary (yet never doing ANY school work despite attending Brown) who is riddled with disease after disease (two of which must have been pessimism and antisocial proclivities—ayo!). Eventually Elodie falls in love with a guy in the infirmary, Chess, who is well off and thinks he’s a lot cooler than he actually is, if the name wasn’t a clichè indication. Elodie, who I imagine as an antisocial goth girl, and her preppy frat boyfriend obviously breakup, which is pretty anticlimactic as far as college breakups go. He kind of just leaves the infirmary after his injuries heal and writes an overly eloquent breakup letter that she reads and mourns for about a day, despite him being the love of her life or whatever.

The weirdest part of the novel is the doctor who works directly with Elodie. He mentions multiple times how he isn’t interested in his patient in a romantic way, OKAY?, so just stop inferring that everyone, GEEZ. He decides to conduct a very informal study on her, bringing her to his house for meetings at times, to figure out just what the heck is going on with this girl. Well as it turns out, she’s seeing ghosts. But not normal ghosts—ghosts of premonitions, actually. And that’s the end. No, seriously. That’s the end of the novel. They discover that she’s seeing ghosts of future people, which is actually only one future ghost person, and somehow an onslaught of intense diseases is a symptom of that.

I guess the lesson to take away here is that if you find yourself suddenly suffering from an array of weird diseases that you have no family history of, then watch out for ghosts in your near future. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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And The Mountains Echoed

16115612Khaled Hosseini is one of my favorite authors; his novel A Thousand Splendid Suns is one of my favorite books of all time that I will recommend to anyone when given the chance. I seriously cannot talk highly enough about this book. The way Hosseini is able to create a compelling story full of in-depth, completely rounded out characters is remarkable to say the least. The Kite Runner is also amazing, and gets way more acclaim than his second novel (although I would argue his second is his best). Therefore, I had pretty high expectations for And The Mountains Echoed.

I wasn’t necessarily disappointed because I’m mildly addicted to his writing style, however, I think this was the weakest of his novels. Hosseini tells the tale of two Afghan siblings that are torn apart at an early age and how that affects them throughout their lives. He tells this tale from multiple perspectives, which is a way of storytelling that I truly love. There were some narrators that I didn’t believe totally advanced the storyline, however—the Greek doctor, Markos Varvaris, and Nabi’s two young neighbors being some of them (especially Markos because his storyline was the longest and most drawn out). While these characters had interesting backgrounds and I can see how Hosseini ties them into the overall theme of family relationships and obligation, I really felt like they were a bit of a stretch since they weren’t very closely connected to Abdullah or Pari, who are the characters that he initially got the audience interested in and shaped his story around. On the other hand, there were other story arches that I felt were cut a bit short, and I was left hoping I’d get some sort of closure on them. Instead I came out at the end of the book a bit disappointed (Parwana particularly comes to mind here) and feeling unfilled, as if there was more information that I needed to fully complete this story.

Other than that, the English major geek inside me thoroughly enjoyed how Hosseini connected the fable that Abdullah and Pari’s father told them, which started the novel, to the end of the book. Like the father in the tale, Abdullah and Pari were both able to forget one another in their own ways so they were no longer plagued by the pain it brought them to know what they were missing out on. And in those times without one another, they were able to shape successful and generally happy lives, full of ups and downs as lives oft are. Although my geeky side was giddy, my Hosseini fangirl side was heartbroken—I yearned for the closure that could have come from two long lost siblings being finally reunited. Even if Pari had seen the box of feathers at the end and said something along the lines of, “Well, this is strange! I don’t understand what these are, but I’ve always been entranced by feathers,” then I would’ve been thrilled. Or if Abdullah had even the slightest, tiniest glint of recognition of his missing sister. But no, NOTHING. There is no sort of closure, and this is probably me just whining as a reader but goddamn.

Besides that, though, I honestly loved this novel. I love Khaled Hosseini and will always be eagerly looking forward to his next piece. And in the meantime, I’ll be rereading A Thousand Splendid Suns every few years and reveling in its perfection.

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The Trouble with Trainwreck

Trainwreck_posterTrainwreck got a lot of acclaim from people and was even being talked about before its release since it was expected to be a unique take on romantic comedies that was written by a woman. People that had seen it before me lauded it for being a feminist masterpiece, saying that Amy Schumer’s film was shaping the romcom genre in a big way. Yet I left the theater feeling more than a little bit dismayed.

I’m not going to say that I didn’t laugh, and despite not being over the moon about Trainwreck, I enjoy Schumer’s standup for the most part. (I think sometimes her jokes are a bit too crude for my personal tastes, and she tends to put her foot in her mouth with racist jokes or jokes that are in poor taste, though.) Bottom line: I don’t hate her, and I don’t even necessarily hate Trainwreck. It was good for some laughs, I enjoy Judd Apatow’s movies, I was thrilled to see Bill Hader in a larger role, and it is refreshing to see a movie written by a woman.

Now here is my biggest issue with it: Once again, we have a romantic comedy where a woman prospers with the introduction of a male character to her life, as if she needed saving or redirecting. It seems like the places where Schumer deviated from the norm were when she made her female protagonist into a woman that likes to drink, smoke weed, and sleep around. This is fine and all, but it wasn’t consistent—as soon as Schumer meets Bill Hader’s character, she changes anyway and stops drinking, smoking, and meeting up with other men to enter into a committed relationship, something she previously scoffed at. Schumer had dated other men and never gave into their pressures of monogamy, yet she does immediately for Hader. (In fact, I’m pretty sure she told him no multiple times and he was just like, “No, you like me and we’re dating now” to which she complied.) Are we supposed to walk away from this thinking that the influence of true love is able to transform us into the “right” kind of person and that all of our questionable actions are fine and dandy until we decide it’s time to settle down? Hell in the end of it, she’s dancing with professional basketball dancers, something she previously rolled her eyes at, because she knows he likes basketball! And of course there’s the typical trope of working as a journalist and writing an article to win back the affections of your estranged lover. This INFURIATES me. When does this happen?! I’m glad I’ve never seen it because that means I must be reading the right editorials and not the kind of magazines that every movie star bases journalism off of where they’re able to post this “I love you, I screwed up, please come back” garbage.

Schumer had a platform where she could have done anything, but she basically rewrote How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days with a Kate Hudson character that doesn’t [initially] give a shit what anyone has to say. From the way people were discussing Trainwreck, I was expecting to walk away having seen a movie that might set romantic comedies on a new course, but I feel like she fell into predictable patterns and ultimately didn’t do anything special. She had a unique character for a little while, but she let it succumb to the influence of a man. Schumer could have written it so the character stayed the same throughout the film and found a partner that accepted her as is, and that alone would have been drastically different from other romantic comedies.

Honestly I love romcoms. They’re cheesy and I don’t have to think a lot while watching them—and sometimes that’s all I’m looking for in a movie. I’ll keep Trainwreck on my shelf as a comfort movie to watch when I’m sick, unable to process complicated scenarios, and all I need is a cheap laugh.

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Me Before You

Me-Before-You-book-cover-Jan-12-p122JoJo Moyes’ novel Me Before You was a romantic drama that at the very least actually did shock me a little bit. Parts of it were melodramatic and unbelievable—such as the main character, Louisa, never having used a computer/the Internet in 2012—but overall I guess it was fine to read. I definitely didn’t hate it, but I don’t feel like it’s going to be a novel that I remember for the rest of my life either.

To sum it up, Louisa lives in a very small town outside of London working at a cafe that gets shut down. After a few brief stints in positions that didn’t work for her, she finally got a job working as a caregiver for a quadriplegic man. And from there, you just know they’re going to fall in love. My eyes may have gotten stuck in a permanently unflattering position from all the rolling they did.

So Louisa falls in love with the sarcastic, douchey, ex-big shot lawyer that she’s caring for, Will, and I think (???) he fell in love with her as well. It was hard to see the relationship working since he was paralyzed below the waist with movement only in one arm, and when he pointed this out to her, she could only respond with a feeble, “But I love you, we’ll make it work.”

Anyway so one day at work, Louisa overhears a conversation where she discovers that the entire reason she was hired was with the hopes that within six months time she’d change Will’s mind about wanting to commit suicide at a Swiss facility that provides consented suicides. This family puts a helluva lot of trust into the hands of a girl who has only ever worked in a cafe and has no life goals to speak of, but like no pressure.

Maybe I don’t understand her family dynamic because I don’t have a sister, but it seemed like every single person hated Louisa. Her sister, dad, and boyfriend were all constantly making fun of her for the way she dressed, how she styled her hair, how her body shape wasn’t ideal, and how she was generally unmotivated and dense. Her entire fictional existence made me exceedingly sad as she went through her day to day motions not pursuing anything while everyone made fun of her. But, of course, she’s alleviated from her own depressing existence by the heroic, strong-willed male character, as women in novels and movies often are. This particular case really struck a chord with me because it all seemed so exaggerated: Will was a very rich and successful businessman while Louisa worked at a small cafe in a small town and lived with her poor parents at age 27 with no dreams or goals to speak of. Yet they fall in love because she’s chatty and bubbly and wears quirky clothing. However, and here’s the only part that did shock me, it was enough love for him to reconsider killing himself. I honestly would have been really pissed off if he decided to live just to be with her. The biggest kicker is that after he kills himself, he leaves a TON of money behind for her so she can pursue college (which she only applied to because he essentially told her to) and move out to live by herself. So even though he isn’t there, he hopes to have some stake in her future and the direction it ebbs into, as if he deserves credit for what happens to her life even though he decided he doesn’t want to be in it anymore.

I’m just so sick of stories where a woman finds self-worth and newly discovered confidence solely due to the influences of a new man in her life. This novel just happened to take it to a bit more of an extreme where this girl was extra pathetic and this guy was extra amazing so she can have extra great life now. I have a headache from rolling my damn eyes.

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Not Forgetting


An edited post I wrote on 9/11 four years ago.

Originally posted on I Think I'm Funny:

I’m not always the most supportive of America’s system of government, mostly because greed and corruption disgust me and that’s what our country is run by. And there are times when I get so frustrated that I want to pick up and move to Italy on a whim. But I don’t think any of that warrants fostering any negativity towards 9/11 and what it has come to stand for. It’s one of those dates that everyone will remember exactly where they were, what they were doing, and what they were thinking. (I was in 7th grade history with Mrs. Kane watching the planes hit the towers because we accidentally turned on TV. My class joked and made sarcastic noises, thinking it was a clip of a video game or something. Then our principal told us to turn off the TVs and computers and we were stuck in ignorance for the rest…

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Discrimination in the Form of Kim Davis

kimdavisEvery now and then a craze sweeps through current events and grabs my attention, leading me to become obsessed. I research everything surrounding the topic: what happened before, during, and what’s projected to happen after it passes over. My most recent news-related addiction was with Rachel Dolezal, but now I’ve become fixated on the bigoted Kentucky clerk that is refusing marriage licenses to gay (and straight) couples, Kim Davis.

When it comes down to it, it’s hard for me to process exactly what has Kim Davis so upset. She’s been married four times herself, cheated on her partners, and only became religious within the last four years. The hypocrisy is glaringly apparent to anyone who’s read more than a paragraph about her past, however, being “born again” has absolved her of any sins. Aside from that though, the way she acts is just disrespectful—there’s no rationale behind her actions that quite explains why she thinks gay marriage is so wrong. And I guess this is true for many highly religious folks, but it’s hard for me to grasp when I really try to think about it. Despite being raised Catholic, I never actually read the Bible in its entirety so I’m possibly missing something, but in all the religion classes I went to until I was confirmed, I don’t ever recall someone telling me that gay marriage or a gay lifestyle was wrong. The central point seemed to focus around “be nice to everyone and that makes you a good person,” but somehow that’s become so skewed in any religious societies and has turned into “be exactly like me and I’ll be nice to you and we’ll be good people together” instead.

From what I hear, there is never anything in the Bible that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, yet it’s constantly sited in vague references. How is it that our society has gotten to a place where we can blatantly discriminate against a certain lifestyle with thinly veiled excuses that aren’t ever properly explained? This is what blows my mind the most—we’re literally pitted against one another on the side of being kind and open to all or being closed off to anyone who is different. It’s always such a cyclical journey in this country with racism and homophobia, and as much as I want to believe that things are getting better as time goes on, Kim Davis and her supporters make me feel disheartened.

I was excited to hear that after Davis was put into jail to be held in contempt of court, her Kentucky office started issuing Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 10.16.55 PMmarriage licenses again. It’s confounding that a woman can be paid for so long to not do her job after being told time and time again that she must do this simple task. It’s not like anyone was asking her to officiate gay marriages. Due to the fact that she was an elected official, she could only resign or be impeached, which I don’t think is fair at all either. Elected official or not, if someone is being paid to disregard the law and the responsibilities of their job, then they should lose said job. Seems simple enough, especially since any other career is subject to this. The worst part about her being jailed is that now she’s going to be seen as some type of martyr for her actions, a christ-like figure persecuted for doing god’s work.

So much of our country is rooted in the belief of “separation of church and state,” yet extreme right wing politicians tote their religious beliefs and get more votes for it all the time. The political debate was riddled with references to Christianity and the Bible. But what if they were Jewish—or god forbid, Muslim—and had done the same in a political sphere? The media would jump on their back immediately and they’d be ostracized. It’s more like a separation of synagogue/mosque/any house of worship aside from churches…and state.

In the end, it shouldn’t matter if your religion tells you that it’s wrong to abort a fetus or that two people of the same sex shouldn’t marry. All that matters is that we’re nice to everyone and you’re a good person. Treat people how you expect to be treated: The Golden Rule that’s become buried under loads of self-righteousness.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

rooftop-to-kill-a-mockingbirdAs many of you know, Harper Lee’s manuscript Go Set a Watchman has recently been published. This book is the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, and from what I read, it was lost for many years and just…found. As a huge fan of Lee’s first novel, this news caught my attention. Naturally I had to reread To Kill a Mockingbird before I read its sequel, though. Plus the library hold list for Go Set a Watchman is actually ridiculous, and I probably won’t even see the book for another three months.

There isn’t much to say about To Kill a Mockingbird that most people don’t already know after dissecting it to pieces in any high school English class. Personally I love this book and think it’s a fascinating look into 1930s southern life, something that I’m obsessed with mostly due to the fact I’ve never been to the South. Scout and Jem’s childhoods remind me a lot of my own, and I relate so much to the education-obsessed yet tomboyish Scout. I was surrounded by boys so I wore jeans, hated dresses and combing my hair, and preferred playing in the mud to playing house. But once I set out for school, I became addicted to learning and reading. On the other hand though, this novel is also a solid reminder of how freaking happy I am to have been born in this time period because I would NOT be able to deal with all the rules, specifically for young girls. I also can’t not talk back to save my life, so I probably would’ve gotten shipped to the North anyway because I would have fit in better there and the South wouldn’t have known what to do with me. Which, incidentally, is exactly what happens with Scout in the latest novel as she hightails it the heck out of Alabama and straight to good ol’ New York.

I’ve heard disconcerting rumors of this new novel, which center mostly around Atticus changing from parent of the year to an old racist bastard. People are seriously heartbroken over this character development—probably not more than the couple that changed their child’s name, though. Yeah, let that sink in for a minute. Anyway, aside from dramatic parents and a sorta childhood hero being ruined, I’m still eager to read the book. I also want to know everything about how a manuscript just goes missing for so many years and suddenly turns up again perfectly ready to be published. My life has felt a little boring lately and some sort of book-fueled drama is the perfect thing to cling to.

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The Girl on the Train

91lUeBR2G1LPaula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train has been raved about recently, and was so popular that I had to wait over two months to get my copy from the library. The teasing description of the book promised the tale of a woman who gets caught up in the life she created for two people, “Jess” and “Jack,” that she observed on her commute into London every day. What the description failed to say was that it was the story of three desperate women who work toward the ultimate goal of having a baby and pleasing their men, which ends up being the same singular male (apparently god’s gift to women in this small suburban town).

The main narrator, Rachel (aka our girl on the train), is an unemployed drunk who takes fun in riding the train every single fucking day to keep up appearances of having a job to her roommate. Because somehow after getting fired she has the funds to pay her rent and various bills as well as afford alcohol multiple times every day AS WELL AS these pointless daily round trip train tickets. Maybe Rachel can recommend me for her old job because it seems like it must’ve paid a helluva lot more than my job does. Aside from her love for trains, Rachel enjoys stalking her ex-husband, Tom, who cheated on her with a blonde real estate agent, Anna, who then went on to also cheated on Anna with his blonde and probably younger and thinner neighbor, Megan. Megan aka “Jess” aka the girl that Rachel watched every day from the comfort of her free train rides and imagined a life for.

Now isn’t that a mouthful?

Here’s the biggest kicker, though. Tom isn’t who all these women thought he was! Anna is somehow shocked when she finds out that the husband she met through an affair is cheating on her, and they’re both even more shocked to learn that he’s a psychopathic liar.

This book was so cringy and annoying to read, and so much of it reminded me of the dreaded Hausfrau. I couldn’t relate to a single thing that any of the characters did because they all acted idiotically and their thoughts/actions were extremely exaggerated. At one point, the “evil villain” Tom (I’m going to refer to him as that because he seems like a comically exaggerated evil villain) sits down and explains his dastardly plan and all his intentions behind his evil acts. I really thought that in 2015 we were past that sort of crap.

I wish I threw this book in the Gowanus Canal when it flooded last week. The best thing I can say about this book was that it was a quick, easy read so I didn’t have to suffer through it for a long time. Lately I feel like I’ve been reading a lot of horrible books, so I’m hoping the next book I venture into is better than these have been.

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House of Leaves

71Vmj-9DZYLMark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves is one of those books that I’ve tried multiple times to read but never completed. I always knew I’d come back to finish what I started because I really hate not finishing books, though, and now I can finally say I’ve finished this one.

A friend recommended this book to me probably around 2007 and I tried and tried and tried to get into it, but when I was 18, it just read as pretentious drivel. Now that I’m older, I definitely had more of an appreciation for all the hard work and effort that went into the creation of this novel. But I also think that Danielewski is a bit pretentious still, especially because I’m sure he went into the creation of the book with the intention of making a cult classic. I also don’t think it was necessary to have so many stylistic tendencies, like having his words spiral or reducing word count page by page until there’s just one word on a page. Turning a 600+ page book upside down to read four sentences every other page while standing on the subway at 9 a.m. is enough to make anyone want to throw the book between the gap.

House of Leaves has a serious cult following behind it where obsessed fans have an ongoing forum that they still post it almost 20 years after the book’s publication. Some of these more than dedicated fans have even created the fake cited sources Zampano refers to in the book. Yep. It’s THAT kind of book.

In a 600+ page novel, you want to be gripping the pages anxious to see what happens next. With House of Leaves, that was often not the case. A lot of the book drags on and on with deep mythological explanations of where an Echo came from and “removed” (aka red crossed out passages) about Minotaurs that, while interesting, could definitely have been shortened. It’s almost too obvious that Danielewski wants people to take a metaphor away from these passages.

The novel is narrated by Zampano, the old man who created this in-depth analysis of a movie that he also made up, and is full of fake sources, fake definitions, and tons of other falsities where you don’t know what’s real and what isn’t. Sure, it’s metaphorical as fuck, but after page 250 of intense metaphors that you can’t quite put your finger on, most normal readers resort to heavily skimming and sighs of frustration.

The other narrator is Johnny Truant, the sex and drug addicted son of a mother who spiraled into violent psychosis after she tried to murder (and possibly succeeded, according to one fan theory I read) in murdering her son because she didn’t want him to suffer through how horrible the world is. I mean, I guess that’s one way of dealing with how much life sucks. As Johnny becomes immersed in this world that Zampano created, he begins to have trouble differentiating reality from dreams from paranoias, a theme that runs rampant throughout the book: What exactly is real? What exactly is going on?????

My disdain for Johnny is practically unrivaled; I haven’t hated a character in a book since reading the abomination that was Blackbirds. The parts where Johnny was writing, I was overcome with rage at this fictional character because his rantings often revolved around who he was fucking, how many drugs/drinks he had that night, and the CRRAAZZZYYYY antics that Lude was up to. What’s that Lude gonna do next!?

One theory that I read and really liked was, as I mentioned before, that Johnny’s mother actually did kill him and House of Leaves/the writings of Johnny are all this elaborate story that she created and wrote. She loved writing her son letters as we knew but also suffered from some sort of psychosis (schizophrenia? bipolar? something else indicating that she was delusional?), and possibly the contents of this book are the ramblings of a disillusioned woman. For example, Lude’s and Thumper’s names are characters of what they’re known for (lewd behavior and…thumping), which can be evidence of a person that’s unable to create anything more than a flat, two-dimensional character whose actions are indicated by their names. Anyway, it’s not necessarily a good theory but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Regardless, I did actually like this book for the most part. After four years as an English major, I find a lot of enjoyment from book/movie analyses, even if they are fake, and took a lot away from it. I didn’t care for drunken, drug-induced, unreliable ramblings because those got old pretty fast. No one in the book club aside from me (I WIN!) finished the book, so I would one day like to actually talk to someone who read it in its entirety because I think there would be a lot of interesting things to discuss. For now, I’m basically just talking to myself about it.

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