Love Story by Jennifer Echols

She’s writing about him. he’s writing about her. And everybody is reading between the lines..

For Erin Blackwell, majoring in creative writing at the New York City college of her dreams is more than a chance to fulfill her ambitions–it’s her ticket away from the tragic memories that shadow her family’s racehorse farm in Kentucky. But when she refuses to major in business and take over the farm herself someday, her grandmother gives Erin’s college tuition and promised inheritance to their maddeningly handsome stable boy, Hunter Allen. Now Erin has to win an internship and work late nights at a coffee shop to make her own dreams a reality. She should despise Hunter . . . so why does he sneak into her thoughts as the hero of her latest writing assignment?

Then, on the day she’s sharing that assignment with her class, Hunter walks in. He’s joining her class. And after he reads about himself in her story, her private fantasies about him must be painfully clear. She only hopes to persuade him not to reveal her secret to everyone else. But Hunter devises his own creative revenge, writing sexy stories that drive the whole class wild with curiosity and fill Erin’s heart with longing. Now she’s not just imagining what might have been. She’s writing a whole new ending for her romance with Hunter . . . except this story could come true.





This was my first Jennifer Echols. And I was SO eager to read her!
And what better way to start than with an older YA that takes place in college where the protagonist is a creative writing major?



I knew this story was right up my alley. And no surprises there, it was 🙂


Some random facts about Love Story:


It’s written in first person past tense. Which was pleasantly surprising, because I’m on a present tense binge almost all the time, so it takes a while to get into the past tense thingy now, but this worked really, really well for me.


Interspersed with excerpts from stories written by Erin and Hunter. And which besides being entertaining also serves the purpose of hinting at the history between these two characters. The stories range from the frivolous and giggly-ish to the dark and serious and very sexy ones to the outright hilarious — and do a fine job of peeling back layers and layers of their complicated relationship till you’re left with the bare bones of it.


The main character has a nose-piercing, which looks just so cool on the cover. Yeah, it sounds a bit cheesy, but I can’t help mentioning it.


There’s an eclectic mix of characters. And one of them has a fascination with ‘cutting heads’ 😀




Other things:


I have to say, Jennifer Echols does relationships just so, so well. It was complex and unpredictable and at a point I just stopped wondering what might happen and just allowed myself to go with the flow. Friendship and gorgeous chemistry fall into place like a jigsaw and you realise how necessary they both are in depicting a credible love story. And did I tell you how much I loved Hunter? He was SEXINESS. Seriously, I swooned every time he spoke and gah…major crush-in-the-making 😉


And Erin? I fell into her story quick and easy and loved the ride. Lots of things happen in this book. There’s family history and domestic complexities and a lot of crazy things which make it rather difficult for these two.


And there’s so much snazzy, sexy dialogue between Erin and Hunter it made me giggle and laugh and want to use use them as pick-up lines. Heh.


So, I’ve heard things being said about the ending. Well, it’s ambiguous in the sense that it doesn’t exactly tell you what’s gonna happen, but there’s a lot of optimism and that gives the readers a lot of freedom to think out their own endings. Well, my only complaint is that it happened a little too quickly, but once I got past that, I liked it.


All I can say is that, I’m floored. And I can’t wait to get my hands on the other Jennifer Echols books asap.  
If you want a fun-yet-a-bit-serious love story, with the older YA vibe, and drama that makes you giggle and twists your heart a bit, you might want to pick up Love Story.


Want more?
Author website
Goodreads
Browse inside on Amazon


What’s your favourite Jennifer Echols book? Or, if you haven’t read her, what’s your favourite love story?

Cayman Summer

In Morrison’s debut young adult novel, TAKEN BY STORM, Michael faces incredible loss, but he finds Leesie. UNBROKEN CONNECTION is Leesie’s story. By the final page, she is broken and battered–physically and spiritually. Morrison vowed to her readers not to leave her that way. CAYMAN SUMMER recounts Michael and Leesie’s final journey.

Michael takes Leesie to the Cayman Islands to heal. Time, sunshine, and Michael’s devotion free her of physical pain, but grief and guilt haunt her. Michael will do anything to find the old Leesie who prayed, spoke of visions, and kept the rules. For Leesie, that girl is lost forever. Rules? What’s the point now? She’s ready to break every one.

Morrison wrote CAYMAN SUMMER with fan critique and input at http://caymansummer.blogspot.com.

Isn’t that a beautiful cover?

Cayman Summer is the much-awaited finale to Leesie and Michael’s story that began with a high-school romance in Taken By Storm, travelled through Thailand and BYU in Unbroken Connection and sweeps you to Cayman on the final leg of the journey.

Whilst Taken By Storm was a personal struggle for Leesie between faith and desire, between saving the grief-stricken Michael and keeping her feet on the ground in the process, Unbroken Connection was a test of their relationship, taking the two to the opposite corners of the globe. The second book ends on a horrific tragedy for Leesie, and I couldn’t wait to find out what happens to them after-this.

The level-headed Leesie from Taken By Storm is lost and Cayman Summer shows her scarred, both physically and emotionally. While her faith is thoroughly shaken, Michael tries to find the Leesie he had fallen in love with in the puzzles of her grief. What makes Angela Morrison such a good writer is her ability to portray relationships with lot of tenderness and realism. Leesie and Michael’s isn’t a love-on-the-first-day story. Theirs is an attraction that evolves to love and then matures to so much more during the course of their journey. Cayman Summer is perhaps their biggest struggle, because the struggle is within. Overridden by pain Leesie is keeping the secret of her guilt from Michael and doesn’t seem to care about her Mormon rules anymore, while Michael desperately pulls away from her so he doesn’t take advantage of her while her guard is down. And oh yeah, they are Cayman now, away from the prying eyes of their family and friends, having run away from the place of the tragedy.

Angela Morrison continues with the writing style employed in the earlier two books. Michael’s PoV appears in his dive log entries, while Leesie’s is etched in poetry. The poems here often come in fragmented lines, shadowing her mental state. Chat-logs with Leesie’s online-friend-who-she-has-never-met, Kim, are longer here and show a deep development in the friendship.

Oh, and I adored the introduction of several new characters. There’s an entourage of super-hot dive instructors from various parts of the world, who you’d totally fall in love with at first read. They bring in a lightness to the atmosphere with some added drama of the fun, exciting kind. The oddball fusion works wonders for the book.

I can’t reveal much, without giving away the entire book. Morrison’s writing, as usual is something to savour. She strings together sentences that are almost like phrases, in a crisp manner that sends across just the right kind of emotion. Cayman Summer is a lovely summation of an endearing journey of two very strong individuals that ends with the right amount of flourish.

And yeah, Angela Morrison is hosting a humongous contest as part of the M + L Forever Blog Tour. Get thee there quick! Lots of books and goodies to be won for several winners 🙂

You can read my conversation with Angela, Leesie and Michael. How’s that for an incentive?

So tell me, what are you reading now?

Championing Contemporary YA: Playing Hurt

Championing Contemporary YA is a movement in celebration of June as the Contemporary month over at The Contemps. Dreamcatcher’s Lair will be championing Contemporaries that deserve being talked about.

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Star basketball player Chelsea “Nitro” Keyes had the promise of a full ride to college-and everyone’s admiration in her hometown. But everything changed senior year, when she took a horrible fall during a game. Now a metal plate holds her together and she feels like a stranger in her own family.
As a graduation present, Chelsea’s dad springs for a three-week summer “boot camp” program at a northern Minnesota lake resort. There, she’s immediately drawn to her trainer, Clint, a nineteen-year-old ex-hockey player who’s haunted by his own traumatic past. As they grow close, Chelsea is torn between her feelings for Clint and her loyalty to her devoted boyfriend back home. Will an unexpected romance just end up causing Chelsea and Clint more pain-or finally heal their heartbreak?

I regret having missed out on Holly Schindler’s debut, A Blue So Dark   (the book got lost in the mail) but I’m so glad I got a chance to read her sophomore novel. Because Playing Hurt was a lovely read.
Why?

It’s got
an ex-star basketball player
a hot boot camp trainer
heating things up
in the midst
of summer.

Easy, eh? I thought I had it all worked out. And yet I loved reading it.

Playing Hurt owes its success to characterization. Chelsea and Clint, the two main characters, whose PoVs you get to read in alternating chapters, are wonderfully written. They are these two young, sporty people who have been hurt and are broken so much that even sport can’t save them. No, they aren’t really moping all that. They are getting on with their lives, at least trying to,but that feeling of ‘wholeness’ that they had felt earlier is missing. The characters are complex. As you read you peel back layers that reveal what is really going on with them. For instance, I thought Clint’s past and the impact it’s had on his present was skillfully made known to the reader. The main characters are so life-like that the other, although equally well-drawn often diminish in comparison. Nevertheless, Schindler infuses originality in every character who enters her story.


And the writing? It’s gorgeous. Often poetic in places, deeply insightful in other, girlishly giggly at times, the author’s writing voice is not just strong, but embodies a variety of emotions.


BUT…
What really rocks this book is THE ROMANCE. It’s smokin’. Clint and Chelsea share such hawt chemistry, I literally had to fan myself. But unlike in a lot of YA books, it isn’t just sexual tension that sparks things off, these are two people who have so much in common beside their ‘hurt’ pasts that if they were pieces of a puzzle they would fit together perfectly.

*His skin radiates so much of the day’s heat that touching him feels like wading into the lake, opening my hand, and catching one of the white shimmers of blistering afternoon sunlight bouncing across the water.

*Just touching her makes me want to immerse myself, put my head completely under the surface of her. I want to drift, to let her carry me away, down her current.

Other things I liked:
1. There’s a boyfriend back home for Chelsea. And he is not vilified.
2. Two very different family dynamics are explored. Chelsea’s relationship with her family palpitates with tension, especially with her Dad. Clint’s family, though is different.
3. The main characters are athletes! How cool is that? And with Chelsea, Schindler eats the girl-jock stereotype.
4. It’s older YA. The main characters are 18 and 19. And I loved that.
5. The last few chapters get shorter and shorter, as if wanting to make the reader feel ine urgency in the situation. And it succeeded in making me feel that way.


I’m now a Holly Schindler fan.


Because with Playing Hurt she didn’t just write the perfect summer romance with the most perfect ending (yes, it’s as perfect as it is plausible), she made me fly through her book with my heart racing in my throat, dying to find out what happens to Clint and Chelsea after the summer is over.


This is a sparkling story of love and trauma, need and desire, summer and sun, fear and courage that culminates into a perfect clandestine romance. I suggest you read it.

What do you think makes the perfect summer romance? 

PS. I’m sorry for having missed blogging the past two days. I’ve been ill and I don’t schedule posts so I lost out on those days. Nevertheless, I shall continue championing contemporary YA and I hope you will, too.

Championing Contemporary YA: Empress Of The World

Championing Contemporary YA is a movement in celebration of June as the Contemporary month over at The Contemps. Between, the 3rd – 10th of June, Dreamcatcher’s Lair will be championing Contemporaries that deserve championing.

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Nicola Lancaster is spending the summer at the Siegel Institute Summer Program for Gifted Youth-a hothouse of smart, articulate, intense teenagers, living like college students for eight weeks. Nic’s had theater friends and orchestra friends, but never just friend friends. And she’s certainly never had a relationship. But on the very first day, she falls in with Katrina the Computer Girl, Isaac the West Coast Nice-Guy-Despite-Himself, Kevin the Inarticulate Composer…and Battle. Battle Hall Davies is a beautiful blonde dancer from North Carolina. She’s everything Nic isn’t. Soon the two are friends-and then, startlingly, more than friends. What do you do when you think you’re attracted to guys, and then you meet a girl who steals your heart?

With a summary that ends with a last line like that, how can you not pick up Empress Of The World? I’ve always been curious about the book that has a seemingly hetrosexual girl suddenly falling for a girl. You don’t get to see many of those, because, sadly, not very many authors like experimenting with the protagonist’s sexuality in mainstream YA. Such books get marginalised into the sub-genre of LGBT fiction, out of the general reading public.
That is just plain unfortunate.
Because books like these are little gems. Yes, the initial chapters felt a bit wobbly to me, with being introduced to many different characters at one go, but Sara Ryan does a fine job of telling the story of a different kind of first love, friendships lost and won at summer program, much like a summer camp, except with academics.

The cast of characters were quirky, and I loved them all because they were so well fleshed out in such a short span of time. I could guess who was saying what without looking at the dialogue tags. The friends-circle of the bohemian, serial-smoker, computer nerd Katrina, the good guy with political aspirations Isaac and the perpetually soporific music-composer-with-sunscreen Kevin, make up a wonderful supporting cast. They reminded me of the circle of friends in Anna And The French Kiss in many ways.

Anthropologist-in-the-making, Nic has a funny, observant eye and she’s the kind of character who makes you wish you were friends with her. Sara Ryan blesses her with a great sense of humour, and oh, I absolutely adored her!
As for the love interest, Battle – well, her characterization is vague. There’s a lot more to her than meets the eye. And I guess, a lot more about her is revealed in next book, Rules of The Heart, which is being called ‘a book about Battle’. I just wish she wasn’t so much of a mystery throughout the book. I’d liked to have known her more.
And the romance between the two? It played out like a real teen relationship. From friendship, to more to complications and much more, the depiction was perfect.For me, the exploration of the relation between the two more than made up for Battle’s vagueness of character.

Nevertheless, Sara Ryan must be commended for the ending she drew out. It was the best kind of ending Nic and Battle could have had. She kept to the realism of it with a sweetness and nostalgia that was quite fitting.

Set against the unique background of a Summer Program for teens at a college, Sara Ryan’s Empress Of The World is an intelligently written summer romance that redefines labels (Nic has a tendency to label everyting, even herself) with  its light-heartedness and humour, and should be worth a read 🙂

What’s the best book with LGBT characters that you’ve read? Any that you would suggest I read?

Unbroken Connection (…and some more)

Against all odds, the couple that swept you away in TAKEN BY STORM is back. Michael is in Thailand diving his dream. Leesie is at BYU living hers. And they just can’t leave each other alone. Their romance rekindles, deeper than before. They grow desperate to see one another again. To hold one another again. Michael decides there is only one direction their relationship can go and asks Leesie the ultimate question. Her answer challenges everything Michael is and wants to be. Can she change for him? Can he change for her? Enough? 
Taken By Storm was one of the best books I read in 2009.
Which is why when Razorbill rejected it’s sequel, I started the Support Group on Facebook. Leesie and Michael’s story had to be heard. Out loud. ‘Cause no one does emotional storytelling and luminous prose like Angela Morrison. And no couple can complement that like Michael and Leesie.
 
If you haven’t yet read Taken By Storm, this might get spoilerish. Be warned.
 Also, if you haven’t read it, what are you doing here? Read. It. Now.
 
Michael and Leesie are back. As opposed to their promises at the end of Taken By Storm, they can’t stay without each other. Sufficing on just platonically loving each other over the internet, while separated by oceans, isn’t working in their favour. ‘Cause sometimes, love runs deep and it’s more about needing than wanting. And this is what brings one of my favourite teen couples back together.
 
The narrative style employed in Unbroken Connection, is similar to it’s prequel – dive log entries, Chapbook poems, chat logs make up the bulk of the book. And this quirky stylistic device is tackled with such cleverness that in spite of the narrative divisions, the story flows without jerks and breaks. It’s awe-inspiring for any writer how Angela Morrison does it but she does it, the fantastic writer that she is. Her grace in handling religious issues is once again (as seen in Taken By Storm) highly commendable. Leesie may be a faithful Mormon but Michael presents a totally different perspective. What is remarkable is how Morrison presents both sides of the coin in an unbiased, honest manner. I think that’s why, in spite of my differing views on religion and spirituality, I love Leesie and Michael’s story so much. It never gets preachy. It’s about two people in love, facing very realistic obstacles, like family, faith and religion — and while the ‘love conquers all’ theme does run through, they have to deal with life first before that happens.
The character development in Unbroken Connection is realistic and remarkable. I loved, loved Michael here. The Michael from Taken By Storm who was experienced in all kinds of love, redeems himself through Leesie’s love here, while by the end of Unbroken Connection, Leesie who’d always tried her best keeping things under control emerges battered and bruised from tragedy.
This is a deeply moving, poignant tale of young love and it’s power to destroy, yet heal.
You can browse through and buy Unbroken Connection here.
 
Leesie and Michael’s story doesn’t end here, though. The third and final installment of their story, Cayman Summer, will officially release in early 2011. But before that, Angela Morrison has created a blog wholly dedicated to Cayman Summer. Here she will share rough drafts, unfinished poems, revised scenes and finally polished chapters as she writes Cayman Summer. I urge you to join her on her journey.
                Cayman Summer Blog
 
Meanwhile, my Blog Anniversary is coming up in just a couple of days. I have things (hint: giveaways) in store for you, so don’t forget to check back.

Also, thank you for sticking around. I realise I haven’t been a particularly faithful blogger, lately, owing to some very personal reasons (which are..up and around in this blog, anyway) but thank you. For being here. For sharing your thoughts. You guys make my day.

ANGELA MORRISON MONTH: ReaderBuzz: *Sing Me To Sleep* by Angela Morrison

 

Beth has always been “The Beast”—that’s what everyone at school calls her because of her awkward height, facial scars, and thick glasses. Beth’s only friend is geeky, golden-haired Scott. That is, until she’s selected to be her choir’s soprano soloist, and receives the makeover that will change her life forever.
When Beth’s choir travels to Switzerland, she meets Derek: pale, brooding, totally dreamy. Derek’s untethered passion—for music, and for Beth—leaves her breathless. Because in Derek’s eyes? She’s not The Beast, she’s The Beauty.
When Beth comes home, Scott, her best friend in the world, makes a confession that leaves her completely torn. Should she stand by sweet, steady Scott or follow the dangerous, intense new feelings she has for Derek?
The closer Beth gets to Derek, the further away he seems. Then Beth discovers that Derek’s been hiding a dark secret from her …one that could shatter everything.

 

I have to be honest. I kept putting off reviewing this book.
Why?
‘Cos it was so emotionally overwhelming.
I was blown away by Taken By Storm and I just had to read Angela Morrison’s sophomore outing. Taken By Storm had dual PoVs — that of Michael and Leesie’s. In Sing Me To Sleep, it’s just Beth – the seventeen year old girl bullied everyday single day of her life. When a certain Meadow and her mom wave their magic wands Beth the Beast transforms to Beth the Beauty and wins the heart of David – star of the Amabile Boy’s Choir (I swear, choir boys have never been hotter!). If you’re thinking Cinderella, think again.
Because…well, you need to read it to find out.
I’m in love with Angela Morrison’s writing. It’s poetic, lyrical and so beautiful. Every word, every phrase, every line touches you. More than a writer, I think she’s a brilliant student of human emotions. She touches upon a lot of aspects of a teen’s life –bullying, friendship, love, loss, self-discovery.
Beth’s lyrics are splattered throughout the book, giving us a deeper glimpse into her mind, making her so much more relatable. I thought the subtle Phantom Of The Opera parallel running alongside added an interesting twist to the story.

I’ll go back to what I said before. Sing Me To Sleep is such a moving story, both luminous and heart-wrenching, it kept me thinking days after and I needed sometime to detach myself from it, before I could write about it. It made me laugh. It made me angry. It made me smile. And it made me bawl my eyes out.

Yes, this is stuff that fantastic YA fiction is made of. Wow.

Sing Me To Sleep comes out on March 4th, 2010 (Rush over to order your copy on Amazon)
And guess, who has a signed ARC? Me! Me! Me! If you want one too (you’ll get the actual copy), as part of Angela Morrison Month, I will be holding a GIVEAWAY of the book soon. So be on the lookout.

 Also check out:
My Interview with Angela Morrison
My review of Taken By Storm 
Blog Tour by Angela Morrison (30th Jan!)

READER BUZZ: Quick Snips of Random Reads

My net conked so I was off for sometime. Got so much to talk about, so much to write but now that college’s restarted, it’s taking up all the time…argh!! Oh why, oh why cant there be 72 hours a day? Then I’d have time for my book, other books, a romcom/drama/musical, my blog, the guitar, bloody college, assignments, a long, long bath (instead of the usual quick shower), facebook, twitter, youtube, author websites, daydreaming, night watching, looking for my very own vampire/werewolf/fairy king/merboy EVERY SINGLE DAY. Ah, life can be so sadistic *long sigh*….
Okaaaaay, now here are some quick snips of some recent and some not-so-recent reads. JLT (maybe ’cause I just cant stop rambling :-P)
Here goes.

Arguably WHEREVER NINA LIES has to be one of the best debuts of the year. When sixteen year old Ellie sets off in search of her sister, Nina, who disappeared two years ago, with hot guy Sean for company, you know it’s going to be a fun ride.What you don’t know is that the breezy will give way to the pulse-racing. I was so engrossed I read it in one sitting. I’d definitely suggest you pick this up. It’s a great holiday read, especially if you’re on a roadtrip with your friends, Phantom Planet screaming “California” from the stereo…bliss.

My first Jill Mansell and I can’t say I was particularly impressed. At seventeen, Lola was made an offer in exchange for her boyfriend, Doug. Though circumstances forced Lola to take up the offer, she never really got over him. Now years later when she accidentally stumbles upon him again, she knows she has to get him back. Except this time she’s dealing with a different Doug. What do I say about this one? It was fun but very, very predictable. Mansell’s characters are a cheery lot and you’ll fall in love with them…but (there’s always a but) a lot of the storyline seemed forced. The natural flow of things falling into place was not there. Instead, a lot of the characters ended up with each other simply because they had been single and Mansell decided they needed a partner. Forced.
Baby (yes that’s the protagonist’s name) lives sometimes with her absent druggie dad, sometimes in foster homes and sometimes with the local pimp. This is the story of her journey from innocence to the loss of innocence and finally the attainment of higher innocence (I get I’m sorta talking Blake..blame college influence). I loved this book. I love Baby. She goes through the worst possible things in her short life. Yet hope doesn’t falter in her. Because she’s still a child. She’s 12. She refuses the ugliness of her life to haunt her even though it does haunt the reader. It’s obvious that Heather O’Neill borrows a lot from her own life. The interview at the back of the book speaks for itself. A great debut, I’ll be looking forward to more from this writer.
Believe it or not, the writer of STAR-CROSSED is just sixteen and yes, I’m jealous (ah, to have your name on the cover of a paperback/hardback *drool*). This one’s a contemporary take on Romeo and Juliet, set in high school. What is unique about this book, aside from the writer’s young age, is the unusual second-person narrative (first one I’ve read). That is an effective tool for drawing readers into the story at the word ‘go’. It was kinda neat. Apparently, Rachael Wing’s also written a contemporary A Midsummer Night’s Dream called LOVESTRUCK. Set at a rock concert. No kidding.
My first Carole Matthews and such a delightful read too! I enjoyed it so much I didn’t want to put it down (however much of a cliche that sounds). A bit impractical but her quirky sense of humour more than made up for it. Emma, in all her craziness, is one of my favourite characters ever. I want a sequel of this one. Definitely awaiting more from Matthews’ pen.
Like I mentioned in the previous posts, the paranormal obssession’s definitely here to stay. And, I, for one, am all for it. Raven, the sole Goth in “Dullsville” has always dreamt of becoming a vampire. Things heat up in town when a vampire in shining sunglasses, Alexander, moves into the haunted mansion at Benson Hill. A very quick read and an engrossing one at that. The first of the Vampire Kisses series (Ellen Schreiber has 7 books in mind), this one is for pre/younger teens, I’d say. Perfect for a delay at the airport.
I don’t have much to say because what I say will not justify it. NINETEEN MINUTES is a gripping, edge-of-the-seat psychological thriller chronicling a school shooting while delving deep into the mind of the teen killer. Extensively researched, at times traumatic,although it does have its share of light moments (very few though) it’s one of those books that haunt you (in a good way) long after you’ve turned the final page.And, yes, there’s a twist toward the end. My next Picoult read will most probably be MY SISTER’S KEEPER (triggered by the movie, but only partly). Not worth a miss.
Adrian Mole was a legend in the 80s and rightfully so. I LOVE Adrian. He is your usual 15 year old teenage boy, drooling over his love, Pandora, and musing about his parents (and their respective lovers). Well, almost usual, except for the fact that he thinks, rather knows, he’s an intellectual and mails poems to the BBC hoping to get his own personal show on air. THE GROWING PAINS OF ADRIAN MOLE is a brilliant stick-in-the-eye on adult morality. If you don’t read this, you’ll be missing a gem. I don’t know what to say to Sue Townsend but…hats off. A genius of sorts.
I have tons else to talk about but as the owls hoots and the bats start their nocturnal days, I have to return to my writing (not the blog, the book), if I can avoid falling asleep on the keyboard itself (tiresome academia has it’s price…seriously, what’s the point?). So goodnight or goodmorning, depends on which part of the world you’re from, and wicked dreams. For a change. *Chuckle*
Bee –xoxo