Tales of the City (Tales of the City Series #1)

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Overview

"An extended love letter to a magical San Francisco."
New York Times Book Review

Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City has blazed a singular trail through popular culture—from a groundbreaking newspaper serial to a classic novel to a television event that entranced millions around the world. The first of six novels about the denizens of the mythic apartment house at 28 Barbary Lane, Tales is both a wry comedy of manners and a deeply involving ...

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Tales of the City (Tales of the City Series #1)

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Overview

"An extended love letter to a magical San Francisco."
New York Times Book Review

Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City has blazed a singular trail through popular culture—from a groundbreaking newspaper serial to a classic novel to a television event that entranced millions around the world. The first of six novels about the denizens of the mythic apartment house at 28 Barbary Lane, Tales is both a wry comedy of manners and a deeply involving portrait of a vanished era.

 

Author Biography: Armistead Maupin's other novels are Maybe the Moon (1992) and The Night Listener (2000). His Tales novels first appeared as daily serials in San Francisco newspapers, starting in 1976. Tales of the City became a controversial but highly acclaimed miniseries on PBS in 1994, followed by More Tales of the City on Showtime in 1998. Maupin wrote the narration for the HBO documentary The Celluloid Closet. As a librettist he collaborated in 1999 with composer Jake Heggie on "Anna Madrigal Remembers" for mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade and the classical vocal ensemble, Chanticleer.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Mary Ann Singleton was twenty-five years old when she saw San Francisco for the first time.

That's the opening of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City, a collection of stories from the 1970s about the fictional residents of 28 Barbary Lane: Mary Ann the midwestern naïf, Mona the free spirit, Michael the romantic, and Brian the swinger, all of them looked after by the benevolent landlady Mrs. Madrigal.

A late bloomer, I was in my 29th year when I first saw San Francisco.

Well, there was that daylong stopover one family vacation. Not that there was much to remember, except the crowds at Fisherman's Wharf and when Dad, at the wheel of the rental car, terrified Mom as he tore down Lombard roaring, "It's the crookedest street in the world!"
I was a teenager and determined not to be impressed by anyone or anything, and I was too busy rolling my eyes the whole time to see much of the place.
Fifteen years later, however, I landed at San Francisco International Airport, alone this time and sick of New York, intent on seeing as much as I could—in particular, what of Maupin's San Francisco might have survived the rise and fall of roller disco.

Tales of the City is a soap opera, but it's not merely Melrose Place in bell-bottomed pants. There's something touchingly familiar about these characters navigating contemporary urban life and the onset of adulthood. They may have rotten jobs, too little money, and too much heartbreak, but they have a family at 28 Barbary Lane. And if TheMary Tyler Moore Show (to invoke another '70s icon) taught us anything, it's that family-where-you-find-it is what keeps you going when you're going it alone.

You're gonna make it after all, Mary Ann Singleton.

It was a sunny, warm August day when I arrived, though my friends in town kept insisting that the fog would roll in, any minute now, really. But I wasn't having any of it, and neither was the Bay. I had rubber-soled shoes (those hills, you know) and directions to the "real" Barbary Lane, or rather its alleged inspiration. It was on Russian Hill. Finding the street, Macondry Lane, was a challenge for a New Yorker used to a consistent street grid and generally horizontal movement. I finally found a shady garden path lined with paving stones and branches of long green leaves, small houses on either side. I was astounded. This was an oasis, an impossibility in the middle of the modern city. It was something out of a storybook. It was quiet and peaceful. It smelled really good. There was no real street there, not in any sense of a street as I'd ever understood it. It was nothing like my block in Manhattan, where buses rumble by and car alarms whoop it up. You couldn't fit a Yugo onto Macondry Lane, and that seemed just perfect. This was the street where you live, not the street where you drive.
I wondered briefly how anyone could be unhappy there, even Mary Ann while she was having her disastrous affair with the heartless Beauchamp Day, Michael while he was nursing a heart decimated by a handsome gynecologist, or Mona when she was freaking out over being, well, Mona. I knew I was being naive. San Francisco was still a city with traffic and garbage and poverty. And I knew that troubles still find their way even into the most picturesque place. I just have this habit of thinking, when I'm somewhere extraordinary, that maybe this is just what I need. Why do I subject myself to New York? But something about Macondry Lane did make me think: Maybe I can live like this. Maybe it's not an impossibility after all. A real-life resident wandered out of his house to water his miniature garden, and I shyly hid my camera, feeling like an intruder. I walked the length of the block and down the long wooden steps at the end, back into a more typical urban scene. I left San Francisco determined to come back as soon as possible, maybe to stay. I returned halfheartedly to my life in New York, my job, and my noisy street. Autumn was beautiful in New York this year, unusually warm and sunny. My friends were here, and I found myself maybe a little more relaxed after my trip than I had been before. Something from that moment on Russian Hill must have stayed with me. As the months went by, I thought less and less about moving. It would be more hassle than I really wanted, hauling my belongings across the continent. But it also seemed to me, after a while, that Barbary Lane might be wherever you happen to build it.—Kristen Mirenda
The Times (London)
An unprecedented portrait of the agonies and absurdities of modern urban life. The funniest series of novels currently in progress.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060964047
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/1/1994
  • Series: Tales of the City Series , #1
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 373
  • Product dimensions: 5.37 (w) x 8.01 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Meet the Author

Armistead  Maupin

Armistead Maupin is the author of the nine-volume Tales of the City series that includes Tales of the City, More Tales of the City, Further Tales of the City, Babycakes, Significant Others, Sure of You, Michael Tolliver Lives, Mary Ann in Autumn, and now The Days of Anna Madrigal. The first three books were made into three television miniseries starring Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney. Maupin’s other books include Maybe the Moon and The Night Listener. Maupin was the 2012 recipient of the Lambda Literary Foundation’s Pioneer Award. He lives in Santa Fe with his husband, the photographer Christopher Turner.

Biography

In 1976, a groundbreaking serial called Tales of the City first appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle. This masterfully rendered portrait of the interweaving relationships of the inhabitants of 28 Barbary Lane in San Francisco's Russian Hill was both an instant smash and a source of controversy as it paid particular mind to the city's strong gay community. In spite of naysayers such as anti-gay crusader and orange juice hawker Anita Bryant, Tales of the City attracted a legion of devoted followers. Readers of the Chronicle were known to Xerox copies of the stories and pass them on to friends. Tales of the City themed scavenger hunts were held throughout San Francisco. A local pub even named a drink after one of the serial's protagonists, Anna Madrigal. In 1978, a collection of the stories were gathered together into an extremely popular volume. Most important of all, Tales of the City became a watershed work of gay literature. Who would have thought that its openly gay author emerged from a highly conservative family in North Carolina, did several tours in the U.S. Navy, or once worked for uber-right wing future senator Jesse Helms? Well, Armistead Maupin is nothing if not an individual as complex and refreshing as one of his characters.

While Maupin's upbringing could have primed him to lean as far right as Helms, his interests lay elsewhere. Following his stint in the Navy, in which he served during the Vietnam War, Maupin moved to California. Having settled in San Francisco, he became deeply fascinated by the complexity of its community. His Tales of the City reflects that complexity. The characters are finely detailed and diverse. At 28 Barbary Lane, eccentrics live alongside naïve Midwesterners, romantics alongside skirt-chasers. Maupin infused his stories with ample amounts of humor and humanity, as well as a stiff dose of social commentary. Through six series of Tales of the City, Armistead Maupin lead his characters and his audience from the sexually free ‘70s through the disillusioning ‘80s when conservatism became de rigeur and AIDS reared its hideous head.

Tales of the City went on to spawn a critically acclaimed and successful string of novels, including More Tales of the City, Babycakes, and Significant Others. Maupin finally put his series to rest in 1989 with Sure of You, the only Tales book that had not been serialized. Although the literary life of Tales of the City had come to an end, it picked up a new life -- and many new fans -- when it was adapted into three popular television miniseries, first for PBS and then for the Showtime cable network. Meanwhile, Armistead Maupin was branching out beyond Barbary Lane with his first non-series novel. Maybe the Moon, a biting, moving, and wholly entertaining satire of the movie industry, proved that the writer had the chops to expand his repertoire without losing his edge. The fable-like tale of Cadence Roth -- actress and Guinness Book record holder for the title of the shortest woman alive -- won applause from Publishers Weekly, Entertainment Weekly, The Boston Herald, Mademoiselle, and a score of others.

Following an 8-year hiatus, Maupin finally published his second non-series novel in 2000. The Night Listener, a riveting thriller about the relationship between a radio-show host and an ailing 13-year old writer, found Maupin exploring fascinating new avenues. Once again, the critics stood up for an ovation. Now, movie audiences will be getting the chance to do so, as well, as a big screen adaptation of The Night Listener starring Robin Williams, Toni Collette, and Rory Culkin and scripted by Maupin is currently hitting theaters.

Although Maupin has more than proved that there is life after Tales of the City, his fans still want to know if he will be revisiting the folks at Barbary Lane sometime in the future. Well, all Maupin had to say on that subject on literarybent.com is, "I never say never about anything, so it's not inconceivable that at some point in the future I may get really desperate and write a stocking stuffer called Christmas at Barbary Lane. But don't bank on it."

Good To Know

When it comes to Armistead Maupin's name, don't believe the rumors. Although it has long been speculated that his moniker is an invention of the author (after all, "Armistead Maupin" is an anagram for "is a man I dreamt up"), the writer insists that Armistead Maupin is, indeed, his given name.

In 1995, Maupin lent his voice to The Celluloid Closet, an HBO documentary about the history of the depictions of gays and lesbians in American cinema.

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    1. Hometown:
      San Francisco, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 13, 1944
    2. Place of Birth:
      Washington, D.C.
    1. Education:
      University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Read an Excerpt

Tales of the City

A Novel
By Armistead Maupin

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Armistead Maupin
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061358302

Chapter One

Taking the Plunge

Mary Ann Singleton was twenty-five years old when she saw San Francisco for the first time.

She came to the city alone for an eight-day vacation. On the fifth night, she drank three Irish coffees at the Buena Vista, realized that her Mood Ring was blue, and decided to phone her mother in Cleveland.

"Hi, Mom. It's me."

"Oh, darling. Your daddy and I were just talking about you. There was this crazy man on McMillan and Wife who was strangling all these secretaries, and I just couldn't help thinking . . ."

"Mom .

"I know. just crazy ol' Mom, worrying herself sick over nothing. But you never can tell about those things. Look at that poor Patty Hearst, locked up in that closet with all those awful

"Mom . . . long distance."

"Oh . . . yes. You must be having a grand time."

"God . . . you wouldn't believe it! The people here are so friendly I feel like I've ...

"Have you been to the Top of the Mark like I told you?" "Not yet."

"Well, don't you dare miss that! You know, your daddy took me there when he got back from the South Pacific. I remember he slipped the bandleader five dollars, so we could dance to 'Moonlight Serenade,' and I spilled Tom Collins all over his beautiful white Navy . . ."

"Mom, I want you to do me a favor."

"Of course, darling. Just listento me. Oh . . . before I forget it, I ran into Mr. Lassiter yesterday at the Ridgemont Mail, and he said the office is just falling apart with you gone. They don't get many good secretaries at Lassiter Fertilizers."

"Mom, that's sort of why I called."

"Yes, darling?"

"I want you to call Mr. Lassiter and tell him I won't be in on Monday morning."

"Oh . . . Mary Ann, I'm not sure you should ask for an extension on your vacation."

"It's not an extension, Mom."

"Well, then why ...

"I'm not coming home, Mom."

Silence. Then, dimly in the distance, a television voice began to tell Mary Ann's father about the temporary relief of hemorrhoids. Finally, her mother spoke: "Don't be silly, darling."

"Mom . . . I'm not being silly. I like it here. It feels like home already."

"Mary Ann, if there's a boy

"There's no boy.... I've thought about this for a long time."

"Don't be ridiculous! You've been there five days!"

"Mom, I know how you feel, but . . . well, it's got nothing to do with you and Daddy. I just want to start making my own life . . . have my own apartment and all."

"Oh, that. Well, darling . . . of course you can. As a matter of fact, your daddy and I thought those new apartments out at Ridgemont might be just perfect for you. They take lots of young people, and they've got a swimming pool and a sauna, and I could make some of those darling curtains like I made for Sonny and Vicki when they got married. You could have all the privacy you . . ."

"You aren't listening, Mom. I'm trying to tell you I'm a grown woman."

"Well, act like it, then! You can't just . . . run away from your family and friends to go live with a bunch of hippies and mass murderers!"

"You've been watching too much TV."

"O.K. . . . then what about The Horoscope?"

"What?"

"The Horoscope. That crazy man. The killer."

"Mom . . . The Zodiac."

"Same difference. And what about . . . earthquakes? I saw that movie, Mary Ann, and I nearly died when Ava Gardner . . ."

"Will you just call Mr. Lassiter for me?"

Her mother began to cry. "You won't come back. I just know it."

"Mom . . . please . I will. I promise."

"But you won't be . . . the same!"

"No. I hope not."

When it was over, Mary Ann left the bar and walked through Aquatic Park to the bay. She stood there for several minutes in a chill wind, staring at the beacon on Alcatraz. She made a vow not to think about her mother for a while.

Back at the Fisherman's Wharf Holiday Inn, she looked up Connie Bradshaw's phone number.

Connie was a stewardess for United. Mary Ann hadn't seen her since high school: 1968.

"Fantabulous!" squealed Connie. "How long you here for?"

"For good."

"Super! Found an apartment yet?"

"No . . . I . . . well, I was wondering if I might be able to crash at your place, until I can

"Sure. No sweat."

"Connie . . . you're single?"

The stewardess laughed. "A bear shit in the woods?"



Continues...

Excerpted from Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin Copyright © 2007 by Armistead Maupin. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 74 )
Rating Distribution

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(37)

4 Star

(14)

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(11)

2 Star

(6)

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(6)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 74 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 19, 2011

    Brilliant Book -- Crappy Ebook version

    This novel brilliantly withstands the test of time...as amazing and as engaging as the first time I read it lo those many years ago. This ebook version, however, is riddled with a massive number of typos. It looks as if someone at Harper Collins simply scanned a past edition with OCR and did not proof-read a single page to catch when the OCR couldn't figure out the characters. Some pages can have 5 or 6 typos and nearly every other page has a typo (even the chapter headers). Maupin's classic deserves better treatment.

    25 out of 26 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2002

    Barbary Lane, is the new Camelot.

    They're beautiful, they're sexy, the're fun, and they're taking the sexual revolution farther than ever. In the middle of the hippest city in America (San Francisco), the wild residents of 28 Barbary Lane are living the Frisco hi-life to the fullest! Here you'll find the bohemian best: men and women, lovers and strangers, gays and straights, all of them ready to help each other out of a jam with a quick laugh and some good (though not always legal) advice. Now their hands are REALLY full. The carefree chaos revoves around the funky old apartment house at 28 Barbary Lane when landlady Anna Madrigal welcomes tenants by taping homegrown joints to their doors and presides over their lives with an almost maternal affection. Armistead Maupin's first bestseller (of a six part series of novels). Others include 'More Tales of the City', 'Further tales of the city' 'Babycakes', 'Significant others', 'Sure of you', 'Only the moon' and the final chapter 'Night Listner'. I caught on to this writer, while watching the Showtime based miniseries on it. What I like about this book (and from what I've seen on his other books) is the story line and the way the book is written. The chapters are brief, basicly telling a short story. So those with A.D.D as I, can appreciate it more. Mary Anne Singleton, is the reader's point of entry. You go in with her, seeing through her eyes the crazy and at times chaotic 'world' that was San Fransisco in the 70's. Topics such as Vietnam,Whorehouses,Drugs,Religon and Sexual freedom are all covered. It may seem trashy, but in the end it was a section of a time where everyone was a bit lost. Anne Madrigal, the Slum Lord (she calls her self a Slum Lady) is indeed the best charachter i've seen yet. Motherly, yet a rebel. She has a very...um earthy garden! Can't say alot more than that in case you may want to read it. In fact, if you have time pick it up.

    15 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2008

    An excellent portrail of the 1970's

    My brother who lives in Australia sent me the comlete series of the saga. As i started to read the first book, i found that i couldn't put the book down and quickly read the rest of the books. I found that i was almost living the lives of each character in the book. I would recomend this series of books to anyone, it really is good reading. Another good book to read is Maybe The Moon.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2013

    Entertaining

    Very entertaining reading, esp for anyone who may have nostalgia for the 70s and San Francisco in the 70s in particular. I was a child in the 70s so most of the pop-culture references were beyond me, but the stories were still fascinating and fun to read--probably because Mary Ann is an outsider too. Thank goodness.

    These were originally serialized in a newspaper, which explains why the tales never seem to get anywhere. As a book, it doesn't conclude; I guess one just has to keep reading the whole Tales of the City series...

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2001

    Incredible Blending of Characters

    This first book in the series of six introduces the reader to an eclectic cast of characters. What follows from there takes you on a rollercoaster ride of exciting adventures, and emotional experiences. Maupin has an incredible talent for sucking the reader into the lives of the tenants of 28 Barbary Lane and keeping them there. Everyone that I have suggested this book to has devoured the entire six novels. I strongly recommend the entire Tales of the City series to anyone who loves to get caught up in the lives of a quirky bunch of people, and then be surprised where they end up.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2013

    Good Read

    This was fun to read and made me laugh. It's also a bit of a mystery story which kept me reading. Ready to order more from this author.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 3, 2013

    I'm not usually one for serial drama, but this story quite surpr

    I'm not usually one for serial drama, but this story quite surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. Maupin showed us the pulse of the late 70s through his vivid character development and intertwining story lines. The best part? We came to know Mary Ann, Michael, Anna and the gang not through chapters full of background, but by listening to them weave their own tales for us.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2012

    Love this book

    Best fiction i have read in ages.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2003

    I don't like this book.

    i'm about halfway through this book and i already don't like it. i don't even really think of it as a novel; it seems more like a play. there's constant inane dialogue between insipid and unlikable characters. and a lot of the time the characters are cut-off in mid-sentence by another character and you're left thinking, 'what were they going to say?' the storyline itself seems schizophrenic. the chapters are at most 2 pages long, so once you've gotten into 1 storyline, you're switched to another one, and then another after a possible 2 more pages. it all seems very confusing and soap-opera(ish). also, you don't get any insight into what the characters are thinking; just what they are saying. they seem very 2-dimensional: self-centered, shallow, conceited, etc. and as of yet, there's no backstory/exposition into these characters' pasts. this might have made a good mini-series, but it makes a boring book.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2014

    Who was impressed?

    Did the author really need to damn God every few sentances? Are readers supposed to be impressed with cursing? This is a fun, lively little book, but would have been much better without the attempt to 'wow' readers with profanity. It took away from the truly delightful talent the author has for developing humor in endearing characters. Too bad.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2014

    t Jut read the sam Just read the sample Read the samp Read the sample



    ?





    How many non electric pages nook please tell the actual page sizes of the books






    2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2014

    If you didn't grow up in the seventies....

    This story is very dated, celebrity and pop culture references fall flat if the seventies wasn't your time. Other than that, it just really didn't capture my interest, the characters were too predictable, and the story line was weak.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2014

    You're nine? You're 9 yrs. Old?

    You must be the youngest lesbian out there. You go girl!

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2010

    Shamelessly Funny! The Perfect Summer Beach Read!

    The book is actually the first of a highly addictive series, and one of my favorite guilty pleasures. (And I have quite an extensive assortment of guilty pleasures) It's simply delicious! To read the rest of this review and more visit my blog at www.bookandabuzz.wordpress.com.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2014

    Boring

    I did not finish this book. It was very boring.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2014

    Love Maupin's Characters

    Read this years ago, and was inspired to read it again. I must say the characters are still as dear to me now as they were those many years ago. A classic which I highly recommend!

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  • Posted April 12, 2014

    Highly Recommend!

    Beware. Once you start reading this series, you will be hooked! I spent my vacation lying in a hammock reading this one and went on to search for additional books.

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  • Posted April 4, 2014

    Highly Recommended

    I grew up in the Bay Area and read this book before and it takes me back to this era, with fond memories of a nicer friendlier time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2014

    Good read

    This was not what I expected but a good read anyway. Interesting characters and story line.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2014

    No freebie friday again???

    looks like a goood read...

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