Dancing in Cadillac Light

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Overview

In 1968, eleven-year-old Jaynell's life in the town of Moon, Texas, is enlivened when her eccentric Grandpap comes to live with her family.

In 1968, eleven-year-old Jaynell's life in the town of Moon, Texas, is enlivened when her eccentric Grandpap comes to live with her family.

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Overview

In 1968, eleven-year-old Jaynell's life in the town of Moon, Texas, is enlivened when her eccentric Grandpap comes to live with her family.

In 1968, eleven-year-old Jaynell's life in the town of Moon, Texas, is enlivened when her eccentric Grandpap comes to live with her family.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Laurie R. King's Mary Russell novels aren't just pallid Sherlock Holmes imitations. Indeed, Holmes's marriage to Oxford theologian Mary Russell seems to have revitalized the Baker Street investigator. Justice Hall picks up where The Moor left us so breathlessly. Mary and her pipe-smoking partner-in-crime-solving are now threading their way back through paternity secrets and purloined documents to the real story of the Hughenfort family.
Publishers Weekly
Constructed like a series of vignettes, this novel focuses on the relationship between a child and her widower grandfather, whom the family suspects is losing his grip on reality. In PW's words, the novel "captures a child's sense that time stretches endlessly before her." Ages 10-up. (Nov.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
From The Critics
The time is 1968 and the place is Moon, Texas. Eleven-year-old Jaynell Lambert, a tomboy at heart, is full of dreams and boyish playfulness — especially as she climbs into abandon cars in Bailey's Automobile Salvage, pretending to drive motionlessly. Life, though, takes on new meaning when her aging grandfather comes to live with them upon the death of their grandmother. Jaynell watches over her saddened grandfather, hiding his depressed, strange behavior, and trying to avoid his going to a nursing home. Instead, Grandpa impulsively purchases a Cadillac, taking Jaynell driving, and even, letting her learn how to drive — while her youngest, more girlish sister, Racine, dances in the car's headlights. Sadly, Grandpa dies of a heart attack while driving, leaving Jaynell and her family to adjust to still another loss, and to cope with Grandpa's quirky past and the financial security that he has provided for them — including real dancing lessons for Racine. Younger readers will enjoy this sensitive story of life in a rural Southern town which manages to teach "true values" without being preachy. Genre: Coming-of-Age/Death and Dying. 2001, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 167 pp., $15.99. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Edna Earl Edwards; Oxford, Mississippi
VOYA
This book will hold interest through its unique set of characters and the conflicts they face. Jaynell's family is so realistic and believable that by the end of the book, they feel like old friends. Jaynell tells us the story as one would tell one's own best friend. The author's heartfelt message also is the most important part of the book. It tells us that sometimes the best way to help ourselves is to help others. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P M J (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2001, Putnam, 176p, . Ages 12 to 15. Reviewer: Rosie Servis, Teen Reviewer SOURCE: VOYA, April 2001 (Vol. 24, No.1)
Children's Literature
In this poignant story, eleven-year-old Jaynell, a tomboy who lives with her family in a poor section of Moon, Texas, learns an important lesson about kindness and compassion from her elderly grandfather. After her grandmother dies, her Grandpap has a difficult time living by himself, so he moves in with her Uncle Floyd and Aunt Loveda for a short period of time. After a few incidents, he comes to live with Jaynell and her family. Although she's not thrilled about having to share a room with her ten-year-old sister, she makes the sacrifice because she's so excited to have her grandfather so close by. When her father asks her to keep an eye on their new houseguest, she decides to follow her Grandpap everywhere he goes--on daily walks to the local cemetery, on a boat ride at a nearby lake and on leisurely Saturday drives in a newly purchased Cadillac. While on their special outings, they visit various people around town, and on a few occasions, Jaynell receives driving lessons. After her parents put an end to her Saturday drives, her grandfather goes out on a solo ride and has a heart attack while at the wheel. Unfortunately, he dies and everyone is left heart-broken, especially Jaynell. However, before her grandfather dies, he performs a secret act of generosity that no one in her family knows about--he offers his house and its belongings to the poor, downtrodden Pickens family. When the truth is eventually discovered and a series of dramatic events unfold, Jaynell becomes a heroine and everyone agrees to let the Pickens stay at Grandpap's house. This touching novel focuses on the emotional ups and downs of family life and the importance of intergenerational relationships.
Library Journal
Mary Russell and husband Sherlock Holmes in their sixth outing. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Who will be the Seventh Duke of Beauville, and heir to the breathtaking Justice Hall? Certainly not Maurice Hughenfort, the current heir, if he has his druthers. When Sherlock Holmes and his wife Mary Russell first met Marsh, they knew him as Mahmoud Hazr; he and his cousin Ali were guides and spies in Palestine in O Jerusalem (Bantam, 2000). Now they discover that he is the heir to a dukedom he finds an encumbrance to his chosen profession and also, as a result of this succession, a target for murder. His cousin Ali, now Alistair, comes to Holmes and Russell to help Marsh find the answers to several questions involving other possible heirs. Thoroughly captivated by the glories of Justice Hall and bemused by the 1920s' social whirl created by Marsh's sister and her husband, present caretakers of the Hall, Mary sets out to find some answers while Holmes goes off to London to sleuth and consult his brother Mycroft. Trench warfare and shooting parties as well as ocean voyages and Canadian flyers all fit together to help solve the puzzle, and teens will see much of another world and time while following this tricky tale of missing heirs and murder. There is less of Holmes and more of Mary in this sixth adventure, and a charming new character in Iris, Marsh's wife in a marriage of mutual convenience.-Susan H. Woodcock, Chantilly Regional Library, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Returning in autumn 1923 to Baker Street from their adventures in The Moor (1997), Sherlock Holmes and his wife, Oxford theologian Mary Russell, find a whopping surprise waiting for them: Ali Hazr, the Bedouin spy of O Jerusalem (1999), is actually English aristocrat Alistair Hughenfort, and his cousin Mahmoud, a.k.a. Marsh, is the seventh Duke of Beauville. But aging, weary Marsh is an unwilling Duke who wants nothing more than to return to Palestine after turning the fabulous estate (much Anglophilic drooling here) over to the heir presumptive-assuming his credentials check out. The problem with the heir apparent, nine-year-old Thomas Hughenfort of Paris, is that it's hard to understand why Thomas's father Lionel, who died of pneumonia soon after his son's birth in 1914, would have taken up with a woman older and plainer and commoner in every way than himself, especially since Lionel was notoriously partial to non-paternal relationships with young boys. Following Ali-oops, Alistair-to Justice Hall, Holmes and Russell aren't in time to prevent an untimely shooting accident, but with the help of endless interviews, family trees, and revelations of birthright, they do straighten out the Hughenfort line, and solve a particularly vicious murder to boot. Holmes is muffled, but the mystery, after a sluggish, implausible start, broadens and deepens as the tension rises until all WWI seems to come under indictment. The least successful of King's six Holmes pastiches is also the most accomplished-if you don't mind seeing the master detective sidelined.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807261941
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/24/2001
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: Unabridged, 3 cassettes, 4 hrs.
  • Age range: 10 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 4.44 (w) x 7.08 (h) x 1.17 (d)

Meet the Author

Kimberley Willis Holt is the author of My Louisiana Sky and the winner of the 1999 National Book Award for When Zachary Beaver Came to Town. She lives in Amarillo, Texas.

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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

Home, my soul sighed. I stood on the worn flagstones and breathed in the many and varied fragrances of the old flint-walled cottage: Fresh beeswax and lavender told me that Mrs. Hudson had indulged in an orgy of housecleaning in the freedom of our prolonged absence; the smoke from the wood fire seemed cleaner than the heavy peat-tinged air I'd been inhaling in recent weeks; the month-old pipe tobacco was a ghost of its usual self; and beneath it all the faint, dangerous, seductive tang of chemicals from the laboratory overhead.

And scones.

Holmes grumbled his way past, jostling me from my reverie. I stepped back out into the crisp, sea-scented afternoon to thank my farm manager, Patrick, for meeting us at the station, but he was already away down the drive, so I closed the heavy door, slid its two-hundred-year-old bolt, and leant my back against the wood with all the mingled relief and determination of a feudal lord shutting out an unruly mob.

Domus, my mind offered. Familia, my heart replied. Home.

"Mrs. Hudson!" Holmes shouted from the main room. "We're home." His unnecessary declaration (she knew we were coming; else why the fresh baking?) was accompanied by the characteristic thumps and cracks of possessions being shed onto any convenient surface, freshly polished or not. At the sound of her voice answering from the kitchen, I had to smile. How many times had I returned here, to that ritual exchange? Dozens: following an absence of two days in London when the only things shed were furled umbrella and silk hat, or after three months in Europe when two burly men had helped to haul inside our equipage,consisting of a trunk filled with mud-caked climbing equipment, three crates of costumes, many arcane and ancient volumes of worldly wisdom, and two-thirds of a motor-cycle.

The only time I had come to this house with less than joy was the day when Holmes and my nineteen-year-old self had been acting out a play of alienation, and I could see in his haggard features the toll it was taking on him. Other than that time, to enter the house was to feel the touch of comforting hands. Home.

I caught up my discarded rucksack and followed Holmes through to the fire; to tea, and buttered scones, and welcome.

Hot tea and scalding baths, conversations with Mrs. Hudson, and the accumulated post carried us to dinner: urgent enquiries from my solicitor regarding a property sale in California; a cheerful letter from Holmes' old comrade-at-arms, Dr Watson, currently on holiday in Egypt; a demand from Scotland Yard for pieces of evidence in regard to a case over the summer. Over the dinner table, however, the momentum of normality came to its peak over Mrs. Hudson's fiery curry, faltered with the apple tart, and then receded, leaving us washed up in our chairs before the fire, listening to the silence.

I sighed to myself. Each time, I managed to forget this phase--or not forget, exactly, just to hope the interim would be longer, the transition less of a jolt. Instead, the drear aftermath of a case came down with all the gentleness of a collapsing wall.

One would think that, following several taut, urgent weeks of considerable physical discomfort on Dartmoor, a person would sink into the undemanding Downland quiet with a bone-deep pleasure, wrapping indolence around her like a fur coat, welcoming a period of blank inertia, the gears of the mind allowed to move slowly, if at all. One would think.

Instead of which, every time we had come away from a case there had followed a period of bleak, hungry restlessness, characterised by shortness of temper, an inability to settle to a task, and the need for distraction--for which long, difficult walks or hard physical labour, experience taught me, were the only relief. And now, following not one but two, back-to-back cases, with the client of the summer's case long dead and that of the autumn now taken to his Dartmoor deathbed, this looked to be a grim time indeed. To this point, the worst such dark mood that I had experienced was that same joyless period just under five years before, when I was nineteen and we had returned from two months of glorious, exhilarating freedom wandering Palestine under the unwilling tutelage of a pair of infuriating Arabs, Ali and Mahmoud Hazr, only to return to an English winter, a foe after our skins, and a necessary pretence of emotional divorcement from Holmes. I am no potential suicide, but I will say that acting one at the time would not have proved difficult.

Hard work, as I say, helped; intense experiences helped, too: scalding baths, swims through an icy sea, spicy food (such as the curry Mrs. Hudson had given us: How well she knew Holmes!), bright colours. My skin still tingled from the hot water, and I had donned a robe of brilliant crimson, but the coffee in my cup was suddenly insipid. I jumped up and went into the kitchen, coming back ten minutes later with two cups of steaming hot sludge that had caused Mrs. Hudson to look askance, although she had said nothing. I put one cup beside Holmes' brandy glass and settled down on a cushion in front of the fire with the other, wrapping both hands around it and breathing in the powerful fragrance.

"What do you call this?" Holmes asked sharply.

"A weak imitation of Arab coffee," I told him. "Although I think Mahmoud used cardamom, and the closest Mrs. Hudson had was cinnamon."

He raised a thoughtful eyebrow at me, peered dubiously into the murky depths of the cup, and sipped tentatively. It was not the real thing, but it was strong and vivid on the palate, and for a moment the good English oak beams over our heads were replaced by the ghost of a goat's hair tent, and the murmur of the flames seemed to hold the ebb and flow of a foreign tongue. New flavours, new dangers, and the sun of an ancient land, the land of my people; trials and a time of great personal discovery; our Bedu companions, Mahmoud the rock and Ali the flame. Odd, I thought, how the taciturn older brother had possessed such a subtle hand at the cook-fire, and had made such an art of the coffee ritual.

No, the dark substance in our cups was by no means the real thing, but both of us drank to the dregs, while images from the weeks in Palestine flickered through the edges of my mind: dawn over the Holy City and mid-night in its labyrinthine bazaar; the ancient stones of the Western Wall and the great cavern quarry undermining the city's northern quarter; Ali polishing the dust from his scarlet Egyptian boots; Mahmoud's odd, slow smile of approval; Holmes' bloody back when we rescued him from his tormentor; General Allenby and the well-suited Bentwiches and the fair head of T. E. Lawrence, and--and then Holmes rattled his newspaper and the images vanished. I fluffed my fingers through my drying hair and picked up my book. Silence reigned, but for the crackle of logs and the turn of pages. After a few minutes, I chuckled involuntarily. Holmes looked up, startled.

"What on earth are you reading?" he demanded.

"It's not the book, Holmes, it's the situation. All you need is an aged retriever lying across your slippers, we'd be a portrait of family life. The artist could call it After a Long Day; he'd sell hundreds of copies."

"We've had a fair number of long days," he noted, although without complaint. "And I was just reflecting how very pleasant it was, to be without demands. For a short time," he added, as aware as I that the respite would be brief between easy fatigue and the onset of bleak boredom. I smiled at him.

"It is nice, Holmes, I agree."

"I find myself particularly enjoying the delusory and fleeting impression that my wife spends any time at all seated at the feet of her husband. One might almost be led to think of the word 'subservient,' " he added, "seeing your position at the moment."

"Don't push it, Holmes," I growled. "In a few more minutes my hair will be--"

My words and the moment were chopped short by the crash of a fist against the front door. The entire house seemed to shudder convulsively in reaction, and then Holmes sighed, called to Mrs. Hudson that he would answer it, and leant over to deposit his newspaper on the table. However, I was already on my feet; it is one thing to relax in the presence of one's husband and his long-time housekeeper, but quite another to have one's neighbour or farm manager walk in and find one in dishabille upon the floor.

"I'll see who it is, Holmes," I said. He rose, maintaining the pipe in his hand as a clear message to our intruder that he had no intention of interrupting his evening's rest, and tightening the belt of his smoking jacket with a gesture of securing defences, but he stayed where he was while I went to repel boarders at our door.

The intruder was neither a neighbour nor a lost and benighted Downs rambler, nor even Patrick come for assistance with an escaped cow or a chimney fire. It was a stranger dressed for Town, a thick-set, clean-shaven, unevenly swarthy figure in an ill-fitting and out-of-date city suit that exuded the odour of mothballs, wearing a stiff collar such as even Holmes no longer used and a brilliant emerald green necktie that had been sampled by moth. The hat on his head was an equally ancient bowler, and his right hand was in the process of extending itself to me--not to shake, but openhanded, as a plea. A thin scar travelled up the side of the man's brown wrist to disappear under the frayed cuff of the shirt, a thin scar that caught at my gaze in a curious fashion.

"You must help me," the stranger said. For some peculiar reason, my ears added a slight lisp to his pronunciation, which was not actually there.

"I beg your pardon, sir," I began to say, and then my eyes went back to the darkness on his temple that in the shadowy doorway I had taken for hair oil. "You are hurt!" I exclaimed, then turned to shout over my shoulder, "Holmes!"

"You must come with me," the man demanded, his command as urgent as his fist on the wood had been. Then to my confusion he added a name I had not heard in nearly five years. "Amir," he murmured, and his shoulder drifted sideways, to prop itself against the door frame.

I stared at him, moving to one side so the interior light might fall more brightly on his features. I knew that face: Beardless as it was, its missing front teeth restored, the hair at its sides conventionally trimmed, and framed by an incongruous suit and an impossible hat, it was nonetheless the face of a man with whom I had travelled in close proximity and uneasy intimacy for a number of weeks. I had worked with him, shed blood with him. I was, in fact, responsible for that narrow scar on his wrist.

"Ali?" I said in disbelief. "Ali Hazr?" His mouth came open as if to speak, but instead he stumbled, as if the door frame had abruptly given way; his right hand fluttered up towards his belt, but before his fingers could reach his waistcoat, his eyes rolled back in his head, his knees turned to water, and fourteen and a half stone of utterly limp intruder collapsed forward into my arms.

CHAPTER TWO

The man lying between the crisp white sheets of the guest bed was very like Ali Hazr, but also distinctly unlike the Arab ruffian Holmes and I had known. In fact, I had nearly convinced myself that our visitor was merely a stranger with a strong resemblance to the man--a brother, perhaps--when a jab from the doctor's sewing needle brought him near to consciousness, and he growled a string of florid Arabic curses.

It was Ali, all right.

Before Holmes' pet medical man had clipped the thread from his half-dozen stitches, the patient had lapsed back into the restless swoon that had gripped him from the moment he fell through our door. Seeing his tossing head and hearing the apparent gibberish from his lips, the doctor reached back into his satchel for an hypodermic needle. With that, Ali finally succumbed to oblivion.

I adjusted the pad of clean towelling underneath his bandaged scalp and followed the two men out of the room, leaving the door ajar.

Downstairs in the kitchen, Dr Amberley was scrubbing the blood from his hands and giving Holmes a set of unnecessary instructions.

"I'd say his concussion is a mild one, but you'd best keep an eye on him, and if his pupils become uneven, or if he seems over-lethargic, telephone to me immediately. The dose of morphia I gave him was small, because of the concussion--it ought to wear off in three or four hours, although he may well sleep longer than that. I suppose you wish me to say nothing about this visitor of yours?"

"I think not. At this point I have no idea why he's here or what happened to him, and I'd not want to invite an attacker to join us. Although by the appearance of his overcoat, I should say this happened far from here."

It was true. Ali's incongruous city suit had been stiff with dried blood, his shirt collar saturated to the shoulders. Whatever had brought him here, desperation might well follow on his heels.

When the doctor had gone and Mrs. Hudson was tut-tutting over the ruined clothing, Holmes picked up his hastily abandoned pipe, knocked it out, and began to tamp fresh tobacco into the bowl. I went through the house to secure the doors and windows and draw the curtains, just in case.

"It has to be something to do with Mahmoud," I said when I came back. "Ali would not have come to England without him, and would not have come to us for help except if Mahmoud were in grave danger."

"It is difficult to imagine the one Hazr without the other," Holmes agreed. He got the pipe going, then resumed his three-week-old newspaper.

"But, shouldn't we do something? He may sleep for hours."

"What do you propose?"

"We could telephone to Mycroft."

He did lower the paper a fraction to consider the proposition, then shook his head.

"My brother is in London, unless he's left since this morning. If Ali wanted Mycroft, he'd have stopped there. He wanted us, which meant that either he thought we would not respond to a mere telegraph or telephone message, or secrecy was foremost. No, Ali came from Berkshire to see us, not to speak with Mycroft. We shall have to be patient."

Copyright 2002 by Laurie R. King
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 19, 2011

    Book Review adb3301

    Daily strolls through the cemetery, snipe hunts, spying and riding fancy driving lessons are just a few of the adventures that Jaynell Lambert has in Dancing in Cadillac Light by Kimberly Willis Holt. This is a sweet book that begins in the summer of 1968. Jaynell is excited about men walking on the moon, but the big news closer to home is the anticipation of paved roads in front of her house. This is a sign of status, indicating that theirs was improving, so she thought.

    Another big event was grandpap moving in. Jaynell loves spending time with her grandpap, mostly because he gives her driving lessons. However, there are more meaningful lessons that Jaynell is learning from her grandpap, that she isn't aware of. She doesn't realize the valuable lessons until after he's gone. Jaynell learns of her family secrets and remembers the example set by grandpap that shape her into the kind of person her family would be proud of.

    adb3301

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  • Posted April 15, 2011

    negatives and positives

    It is 1968, just before Neil Armstrong's historic walk on the moon, and eleven-year-old Jaynell Lambert lives in the little village of Moon, TX, with her father Rollins, mother Arlene, and ten-year-old sister Racine. Her mother's sister, Aunt Loveda Thigpen, and her family, Uncle Floyd and cousins Sweet Adeline and Little Floyd, live in nearby Marshall, TX. Jaynell's Grandpap, Maurice Boudreaux, also lives in Moon. A little while before the book opens, Grandma had died. Grandpap started moping and mumbling around, so Aunt Loveda and Uncle Floyd took him home to live with them until he started planting sugarcane near Loveda's roses, so the Lamberts took him into their home, and Jaynell had to move into a room with Racine.
    A lot of people think that old Maurice is going crazy. He had been a mailman, and now he wanders around the neighborhood, taking folks' mail into their house from their mailboxes and visiting with them. While out on Caddo Lake in his boat with Jaynell, he runs some duck hunters off, although admittedly it was not yet duck season. He goes and buys a bright green Cadillac and even lets Jaynell drive it in the field. The only other crazy person whom Jaynell knows is Betty Jean Kizer who, after her son Clyde T. was killed while swimming in the creek, runs around with wild hair and dances in the moonlight. Then, Grandpap turns his old house over to the Pickenses, a family which many in town consider "white trash." Uncle Floyd is even talking about going to the sheriff for an eviction notice. What will Jaynell learn about her grandfather that will change her attitude towards him, her own family, and even the Pickenses?
    The characters of Kimberly Willis Holt's books, which include My Louisiana Sky, Mister and Me, and When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, have been called quirky. I would certainly agree that this is true for Dancing in Cadillac Light as well. It is an interesting story that will give today's children some insight into the lives of poorer people in rural Texas during the 1960s. I have a little trouble considering a time through which I lived (I was fourteen in 1968, just three years older than Jaynell) as a subject for "historical fiction," but then it is true nonetheless! Besides some common euphemisms, there is one instance of the "d" word by Jaynell's father, and the author seems somewhat fixated on using childish slang terms for urine and the rear end, probably to appeal to juvenile minds. Jaynell is beginning to develop and notices "curves" and "bumps." The younger boyfriend of an older lady in town is called a gigolo. There is a little bit of dishonesty portrayed in the book when Aunt Loveda bids up customers at Uncle Floyd's auction, but that is portrayed in somewhat of a negative light. On the positive side, respect by children for adults is emphasized, and in spite of their difficulties this is a family which hangs together. The conclusion is satisfying.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2007

    AWSOME

    This book is just so fun to read~!~!~!~!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2006

    Good Book

    I think this book had a very good plot and it was a good read, i could not put it down. I really recomend this book to any reader out there looking for a good book to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2006

    okay

    this book is okay... but not the best ive read... its needs a lil more excitment in it!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2005

    OK

    I think this book is really great. But it could use with a bit more excitement.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2003

    DANCING IN CADILLAC LIGHT

    hey yall- this book is so awesome! a friend gave it to me on my birthday one year. it is one of the best books i have ever read! everyone should definitley read it

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2002

    GREAT BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    THIS BOOK WAS WONDERFUL!!! I GAVE IT 2 THUMBS UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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