Points of Origin by Darden North

NorthPointsOfOriginWhy I Read It: Sounded like a fun mystery that involved flames.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the author (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: For those who enjoy a slow Southern mystery.

Narrator: Fred Wolinsky

Publisher: Ponder House Press (2014)

Length: 12 hours 14 minutes

Author’s Page

Sher (short for Sherwood or Sherman, I forget) Foxworth grows up in the deep South in Larkspur, Mississippi. His grandfather has money, like mansion-size money, and his father was a successful plastic surgeon for a number of years. The first half of the book meanders through Sher’s early years and his family, his constant lack of attention in school, and his relationship with his grandfather. We know that Sher’s parents are out of the picture, but it’s not until much later in the story that we find out why.

I know I might be in the minority with this book, since it won an award or two, but I felt that it needed some work in several areas. First, it is very repetitive in some areas and this made the book longer than it needed to be (and potentially boring). As an example of the repetitiveness, I will point to a scene where Sher and his girlfriend get pulled over for supposed reckless driving. It takes ~20 minutes to get through this scene where Sher goes over again and again, verbally with the cop and in his own head, all the reasons he shouldn’t be ticketed. There are several scenes where this happens.

About half of the book is set up for all the good stuff you read in about in the book description posted on Goodreads, etc. If you read that blurb, then you know that eventually Sher joins a fire department. But this doesn’t even happen until 3/4 of the way through the novel. So the arson mystery is lightly touched on here and there but not really investigated until near the end of the book.

There were some discrepancies, places where a characters words or actions contradicted what they had said or did prior. I don’t know if this was something missed during the final drafts or left in and the explanation for the discrepancies were not made clear. For example, one of Dr. Foxworth’s plastic surgery patients came in for some fat removal and boob job. He also decides to give her a butt lift. As such, he has to draw the correct incision marks on her rump before she goes in to surgery. She is awake, aware, and not drugged when he does this. There was a whole discussion among all the characters involved. Later on, after surgery, the patient claims she didn’t know she was getting a butt lift. So, discrepancy? Or did the author plan to add in a bit about how the sedatives gave her a little memory loss but then forgot to do so?

Since the fire department stuff and arson mystery are part of the book’s description, I feel I can talk about them (even though some might feel they are spoilers since that all happens near the end of the book). Sher does a stupid thing at one point, running into a burning building without having called 911 or alerted a neighbor, etc. He has no equipment and no training at this point. Afterwards, Sher is regarded as a hero and invited to join a fire department. He eventually does so and goes off to firefigther academy, which takes up like 3 sentences. Sigh…..This could have been one of the most interesting parts of the book and instead is 3 sentences. Also, his fellow firefighters don’t beat the habit of running into burning buildings without backup out of him, which is what would happen in real life. Instead, he is praised by the fire department. So, I found that whole part (a crucial part to the plot) unbelievable.

OK, I just gave you 4 paragraphs of stuff I didn’t like. I can tell you I did like Sher’s complicated relationship with his grandfather. His life started off privileged and happy, with parents and a grandfather. But when his father’s surgery practice takes a decline, they have to live in the poolhouse at the grandfather’s estate. Depression and failure affects all, even the privileged. Still, I didn’t feel too bad for the Foxworth’s at that point. Later, when Sher’s parents are no longer in the scene, his bond with his grandfather grows, even as he struggles with college. I found these scenes concerning Sher’s family to be some of the best written in the book.

The ending was a surprise, but it also felt rushed. It came so quickly that I actually relistened to a few minutes of it to see if I had missed something. While the twist was welcome, making sense as it did, and giving me a bit of a surprise, I felt there could have been a little more to the wrap up to explain things.

The Narration: Wolinsky’s narration of males in this tale were good, each one being distinct. He carried out a believable Southern accent for the characters that required one. However, nearly all of his female characters sounded like little kids, and many of them were not discernible from each other. I have listened to other books narrated by Wolinsky and they are well narrated. Perhaps this was a book he narrated earlier in his career.

lavinia-portraitRIP9BannerWhat I Liked: The relationship between Sher and his grandfather; the cover; the twist at the end.

What I Disliked: Lots of repetition; some discrepancies in facts; unrealistic reaction by the fire department of an untrained, not equipped civilian running into a burning building; the ending needed a little more explanation; nearly all the women sounded like little kids and were difficult to discern from one another.

Tis the season for spooky suspense. I am participating in this year’s R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril reading event hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Anyone is welcome, so swing by SSD to join.

What Others Think:

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The League of Doorways by Tim O’Rourke

O'RourkeLeagueOfDoorwaysWhy I Read It: The first book was fun, so I checked out the sequel.

Where I Got It: Review copy from the narrator (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Fantasy quest folks who like a touch of the dark.

Narrator: Fred Wolinsky

Publisher: Ravenwoodgreys (2014)

Length: 5 hours 58 minutes

Series: Book 2 Doorways

Author’s Page

Zach Black and his motley crew pick up just where Book 1 ended. Much of their time is spent trying to cross a desiccated and abandoned war zone. William Weaver the werewolf and Neanna the vampire keep him company as they continue their quest to find the Heart of Endra. Meanwhile, Anna Black is still in the hands of the ghoulish pirates along with uncle Thandel. Throat and his evil sister, Delf, continue to make plans to take out Zach and his companions.

I enjoyed this book more than I did Doorways (book 1 of the series). We have a new character, Dr. Faraday, that Zach & crew meet in the desert. He’s a mechanical man and has plenty of talents along with mysteries about him and how he came to dropped in the middle of a desert, turned off. We also have Anna playing a more pivotal role, along with Willow Weaver (William’s mother) and Delf playing bigger roles (in Book 1 we were just introduced to them). In this book, we get to follow a few plotlines, instead of just one, as these secondary characters have tasks and challenges of their own.

And then there is this pretty cool thing: The mechanical men made a mistake some time back. Fascinated with the animal life of Earth, they brought several species through before they realized that Endra didn’t act as an exact mirror. They were changed when they came through, creating strange, wondrous, and often terrifying modified beasties, such as the semi-mechanical tiger motorcycles. I quite enjoyed this part of the tale because it was beautiful, sad, and creepy all at once.

Then we have the bad guys. Searching for eternal life and beauty, they have fallen into crustiness and flatulence. While Throat has become a shadow of the mage he once was, his sister Delf has open, maggot-riddled sores, horrid breath, and gas. They are both uniquely twisted and disgusting in obvious and subtle ways. Though I have to say that Delf does seem to care for her mount, a large dog, who she feeds maggots to.

While all this is going on, Willow went on a quest to find the League of Doorways and ask their assistance in saving Endra. She finds Wally, an old family friend. I don’t want to spoil how her quest turns out, but let me say that it wasn’t simple and the answer wasn’t what she expected.

Up front, we know there is a concern that a traitor exists in Zach’s little group. He’s vigilant, keeping his eyes on a possibility. The ending wasn’t what I expected and I look forward to having Book 3 on audio to continue the tale.

The Narration: I enjoyed Fred Wolinsky’s performance more in Book 2. I think his polish of his character voices increases with each book he does. Once again,  he had a variety of voices, both male and female, both human and nonhuman, and each was distinct. He did a great mechanical voice for Dr. Faraday and I really appreciate the extra effort that must have gone in to that.  Zach still sounded more like a 12 year old boy instead of one for a boy on the cusp of manhood but I don’t think this should deter folks from enjoying this series.

lavinia-portraitRIP9BannerWhat I Liked: High adventure; modified beasties; multiple plotlines to follow; Delf & throat make excellent villains; Willow’s quest to find the League of Doorways; unexpected ending.

What I Disliked:  Much of the time Zach’s voice sounded like a 12 year old instead of a 16 year old.

Tis the season for spooky suspense. I am participating in this year’s R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril reading event hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Anyone is welcome, so swing by SSD to join.

What Others Think:

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The Case of the Killer Divorce by Barbara Venkataraman

VenkataramanCaseOfKillerDivorceWhy I Read It: Have enjoyed her other works.

Where I Got It: Review copy from the author (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Cozy mystery fans.

Narrator: Carrie Lee Martz

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Length: 2 hours 56 minutes

Series: Book 2 Jamie Quinn Mystery

Author’s Page

Note: Although this is Book 2 in the series, it works fine as a stand alone.

Jamie Quinn, family practice lawyer, returns in this sequel to Death by Didgeridoo. She’s handling cases that she’s trained for (mostly divorces) until someone ends up dead and her divorce client is a suspect. Once again, folks turn to Jamie to untangle a murder mystery. She calls in her associate, an annoying man who just happens to be good at his job as a private eye, Duke Broussard. To add to the mess, Jamie wishes to find her long lost father, or at least, learn a bit more about him. As with Book 1 in the series, this mystery is set in modern day Hollywood, Florida.

I think I enjoyed this book even more than Book 1 because there were two plot lines; the main plot followed the murder investigation and the minor plot was the search for info on Jamie’s father. Plus there was a little side romance that added to the story and was not distracting from the main plot. The story starts with a judge dismissing Jamie’s motion in a divorce case. Becca and Joe have 2 kids and now Becca has to allow Joe to see them on Friday. She has a bit of a melt down when Joe, once again, threatens to sue for sole custody of the kids. Plenty of nasty things are said back and forth and one of these lovely people ends up dead.

The story was easy to get into and it was quite fun riding around in Jamie’s head as she tried to solve the murder mystery, while at the same time untangling the mystery of her long lost father. Duke Broussard alternately irritates Jamie and perks her up. He’s a good friend, even if he can be a bit annoying at times. I really enjoyed the back and forth between these two. While the ending was a little predictable, this is a great read for day off in a porch swing, or curled up by a fire.

The Narration: Martz once again was a good voice for Jamie. She imbued the role with emotion as needed. I loved her accent for Duke.

lavinia-portraitRIP9BannerWhat I Liked: Fun, quick pace; more than one plot line to keep the reader entertained; the cover.

What I Disliked: The ending was a bit predictable.

Tis the season for spooky suspense. I am participating in this year’s R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril reading event hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Anyone is welcome, so swing by SSD to join.

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Maplecroft by Cherie Priest

PriestMaplecroftWhy I Read It: Heard Priest talk about the book at Bubonicon 2014 and it sounded very interesting.

Where I Got It: Own it.

Who I Recommend This To: Do you need a mystery with a  Gothic feel and Cthulu monsters to dispatch? Check out this book!

Narrator: Meredith Mitchell, Roger Wayne

Publisher: Tantor Audio (2014)

Length: 12 hours 18 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Borden Dispatches

Author’s Page

Lizzie Borden and her older, disabled sister Emma live in Fall River, Massachusetts. A few years back, they went through trying times when their parents died in an unexpected and rather gruesome manner. Despite the trial and a verdict of innocent, Lizzie is still treated with suspicion by the townsfolk. Hence, Emma and Lizzie moved to a manor house, Maplecroft, on the outskirts of town. While their parents may have been the first to succumb to a madness that originates from the depths of the sea, they are not the last. Hence, the need for Lizzie’s axe.

This tale was rich in character development and suspense. Indeed, I felt it shared a kinship with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The tale opens slowly as one becomes acquainted with Lizzie and Emma. The story is told through a series of journal entries and personal letters, giving the narration a very personal note. With each letter, each journal entry, we got another small glimpse that something wasn’t quite right. Emma, a renowned biologist (although she has to use a male pen name in this time period of late 1800s), studies the progression of the madness and ultimately the creatures themselves. Lizzie, having to take a more practical stand, has muscles gained from the need to swing an axe (for wood or defense), carry her disabled sister from room to room when she is ill, and the general running of a manor house. She doesn’t understand the evil madness but she vows to end it.

As we delve deeper into the story, we become more aware of the connection to the ocean and the madness – the great need for the water, the avoidance of bright light, the heavy desire to venture to the seashore. This is where tiny tendrils of Lovecraftian horror start to entangle themselves into the plot. The lengthy build up is worth the mystery as we gain further knowledge via the Fall River doctor and his strange encounters with the afflicted.

The tale also has a simple romance on the side. Let me say that one of the main characters is homosexual, and it is no big deal. Sure, some of the characters have time period views, but those views don’t permeate the story. It was very well done and so refreshing to see a main character, a full, well-rounded, character doing all these plot-oriented things, who just happens to also be gay.

I loved this book; didn’t want to put it away. I thoroughly enjoyed the build up of suspense and the bioscience. I liked that the center of the mystery was so vast and not completely discernible by the characters. I had the pleasure of hearing Priest talk about this book and about how she wasn’t too keen on writing a sequel. As an impresed reader, I am very glad to hear that there will indeed be a sequel. Thank you Ms. Priest!

The Narration: The narration was also excellent. Having two readers to pass back and forth the male and female parts brought out the richness of the personal letters and journal entries. The regional accents came through clearly. Both Mitchell and Wayne imbued the characters with a range of emotions, as the story demanded.

lavinia-portraitRIP9BannerWhat I Liked: Everything!; the personal nature of the narration through letters and journals; the main characters know a little and have a vast mystery to sort out; the side romance with a homosexual character; the bioscience built into the story; the excellent use of suspense.

What I Disliked: Nothing. This was truly an excellent book.

Tis the season for spooky suspense. I am participating in this year’s R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril reading event hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Anyone is welcome, so swing by SSD to join.

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Thief Prince by Cheree Alsop

AlsopThiefPrinceWhy I Read It: I wanted to know what the thief would steal, and yet remain a prince.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the publisher via Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: Fantasy adventures fans who like a note of seriousness in their fiction.

Narrator: Michele Carpenter

Publisher: Self published (2014)

Length: 9 hours 6 minutes

Author’s Page

Princess Kit, second born to her kingdom, grew up riding, sword fighting, and spending more time with ‘common folk’ than her brother, heir to the throne. However, he becomes ill and it is grim. Kit is elevated to heir status and is forced to hang out with other kingdom heirs, much to her despair. Once a year, all the Crowns (heirs to the thrones) of several small nations gather to socialize. This year, they had the extra treat of ostracizing Kit, seeing her as a stand in and inferior. One night, they gather and things change drastically. They are all kidnapped and forced on a horseback journey of several days as winter draws near. Prince Andric, defacto ruler of the dying nation Antor, has determined that the only way to ave his people and his kingdom is to kidnap the Crowns and hold them as ‘guests’ for the winter.

Kit, who has a longer and much more formal name that she hates, is nice to everyone. In fact, if I have any complaint at all about this book it is that Kit is inhumanely nice, making her character a little unreal. She’s nice to her parents and ill brother (which is cool) but she is also nice to the snotty royalty she is forced to hang out with, including the Thief Prince (who later turns out to be a decent type). But I enjoyed this book greatly and I told my nit-picking self to ignore this character flaw. She’s in her late teens and has acquired many useful skills by not having to sit around being royal all day. These come in to great use once the thieving commences.

The other Crowns have a range of snobbish behavior going on. A few of them are friendly towards Kit even if they don’t see her as an exact equal (and they sure as blue blood aren’t dancing with any commoners at the Antor winter ball). Other Crowns are cruel in their comments and pretty darn hostile to anyone of inferior status. I liked that there was this range because it made them more human. They each reacted a bit differently to their kidnappings and each character grew, even if it was just a smidge.

Prince Andric, who has been ruling the kingdom since his mother died (his father fell into deep grief upon her passing and then stepped right into dementia), is making one last desperate play to save his people. His kingdom has only a single valuable export, diamonds, and the mines have run dry. There are also allegations that some of Antor’s neighboring kingdoms stole from Antor, weakening the kingdom still further. Of course, many of the Crowns didn’t want to hear that. The land of Antor can’t support so many people much longer and Andric and his people may have to leave their kingdom. The relentless attacks of the Brazens, human raiders gone wild and vicious, Antor’s population is in desperate straights indeed.

Now, for the magic. And I loved this bit. Many Antorans have a gift for communicating with animals. An Antoran will notice during their teen years that they have an affinity towards a species of animal. For some, it is horses, others it is most birds. They bond deeply with the animals they communicate with, often seeing through their eyes, and develop lasting friendships. For Andric, it is a small wolf pack. There’ more to this magic, but I will leave that for you to discover. It was very well done in this story.

While Thief Prince has a good solid ending, I was hoping there was a sequel. There’s room to grow with this world that Alsop has created and I very much hope she revisits it at some point.

Narration:  Carpenter did an excellent job. She had the perfect voice (that of a quickly maturing young lady) for Kit. Her male and female voices were distinct, making it easy to keep characters straight. She conveyed emotion quite well and I often was engrossed in a scene.

What I Liked:  Damn near everything; Kit was easy to get attached to and I was often cheering her on; despite Andric being a kidnapper, I grew to like him; the animal magic was great; the ending was very good and felt complete but left the door open for further adventures.

What I Disliked:  My one little quibble is that Kit was too damn nice, to everyone. is any human capable of being that nice?

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Doorways: A Book of Vampires, Werewolves, & Black Magic by Tim O’Rourke

O'RourkeDoorwaysWhy I Read It: It was well suited to this spooky season.

Where I Got It: Review copy from the narrator (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Fantasy quest folks who like a touch of the dark.

Narrator: Fred Wolinsky

Publisher: Ravenwoodgreys (2014)

Length: 7 hours 34 minutes

Series: Book 1 Doorways

Author’s Page

In a dreary isolated house somewhere in the UK, 16 year old Zach Black hates his uncle Thandel and wishes his sick sister, Anna, would recover swiftly. Zach and Anna recently lost their parents and were placed in the care of their bachelor uncle who is rather creepy. Zach stumbles upon a doorway into another world and is swept off to adventure by a very hairy man, the werewolf William Weaver. Once in Endra, a mirror of Earth, Zach is off and running for his life as zombies chase William and his companions, including the injured and unconscious vampire Neanna. Once they reach relative safety, they explain to Zach that their queen is dying and that Zach must help save her as she is the mirror twin of Zach’s own sister; if the Endra queen dies so does Anna.

Plenty of action follows Zach around as he tries to figure out the rules to Endra and search out a key and a box with a heart in it. Back home, Zach is merely a 16 year old kid but in Endra he is a Peacekeeper, complete with magically reloading crossbows. Lots of vile forces work against Zach and his friends, but the worst of them is Throat. He oversees the care of the dying queen and also directs Thandel’s ministrations of the weakening Anna. He also has spidepedes (spelling?) that are pretty creepy, even for this bug lover. Neanna, once she wakes up, and William are both forces to be reckoned with and are loyal friends to Zach. Their adventures take them back into Earth at one point (and it was quite fun to see their mere appearance terrorize the populace), through a haunted graveyard, and to a prison. William has a pretty detailed family background and he was the most in-depth character in the novel. I quite enjoyed learning about his motivations, past injuries, his shame, and his family.

I think this story is geared more for teens as some of the imagery was pretty simple. For example, referring to what would be a graveyard on Earth as a Gray Yard in Endra. However, while some things lacked imagination, there were plenty of beasties that did require the author’s imagination – such as the spidepedes. We get to know Zach through his actions and don’t get a whole lot on his back story. There are 3 female side characters and all 3 start off needing rescuing. Eventually, Neanna rallies and becomes a force in action and wit. For much of the book, Anna is a character to be pitied and hopefully rescued, though she does get to do a little independent action late in the book. The queen must still be rescued. There are 1 or 2 other minor female roles but they didn’t stand out. So most of the action is carried out by the males. I would have liked to see this more balanced. It’s a fantasy world, equality could happen. Still, I enjoyed it enough to check out Book 2 in the series.

The Narration: Fred Wolinsky did a pretty good job with this book. He had a variety of voices, both male and female, both human and nonhuman, and each was distinct. I especially liked his voice for William, which had a werewolfish burr to it and the occasional howl. He also threw in some special effects, such as for the ghosts. They were well placed and weren’t overdone. He gave some of the ghosts a Scottish burr and some ghouls a Hispanic accent. While I personally felt the Hispanic accent was a little overdone (I hear Spanish weekly if not daily), it will probably work for most folks. I do have to say that most of the time the voice for Zach sounded more like a 12 year old boy instead of one for a boy on the cusp of manhood.

lavinia-portraitRIP9BannerWhat I Liked: Plenty of adventure; creepy beasties; William’s storyline and history; set up very well for a sequel.

What I Disliked: The women have limited roles; much of the time Zach’s voice sounded like a 12 year old instead of a 16 year old.

Tis the season for spooky suspense. I am participating in this year’s R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril reading event hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Anyone is welcome, so swing by SSD to join.

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The Stargazey by Martha Grimes

GrimesStargazeyWhy I Read It: Have enjoyed her other works.

Where I Got It: Review copy from the publisher (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Cozy mystery fans.

Narrator: Steve West

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2014)

Length: 13 hours 9 minutes

Series: Book 15 Richard Jury

Author’s Page

Note: Although this is Book 15 in the series, it works fine as a stand alone.

The book opens on a cold night with an assassin in waiting. She has a been of a clean up to do as someone saw something they weren’t suppose to while she was on a job. From this brief prologue, we jump into Richard Jury’s life, superintendent with Scotland Yard. It’s a boring Saturday, at least for Jury. He has few friends, and most of them are police such as he. So he finds himself riding a bus just to be out of the apartment and around people. But of course, he can’t turn off his brain. He notices a woman in a fur coat get on the bus. She stands out because why would someone that dressed up be on the bus? She then gets off and walks a few blocks before boarding the same bus, which had been slowed by traffic, again. But when she leaves the second time, Jury follows out of curiosity. She enters the public grounds of some palace and Jury hangs back under a street light wishing for a cigarette for a time before heading home. When he reads in the paper the next day that a body of a woman was found in the grounds, he wants to smack his head against his desk.

This is my favorite Richard Jury mystery so far. It was a bit more complex than others I have read, and while I could guess certain elements of the various hidden agendas, I didn’t see how it all fit together until the very end. Richard Jury let us in a bit more than usual with this mystery, showing the reader his lonely, empty life and his attempts to fill it. His sidekick Wiggins, who suffers from some never ending cold, was at his side making small talk with those under suspicion. We also got plenty of time with Melrose, formerly lord of this and that, having given up his titles some years back.

The plot twists together art appreciation, foreign travel, astrology, pet sitting, and Jury’s chance encounter on the bus with the woman in fur. Jury taps Melrose to help him with the art appreciation facet since Melrose has some passing interest in it, and the funds to pull off the interest. He in turn goes to his lady friend painter to obtain her assistance. She rents a room from the Crypts family. This family is terribly interesting, being full of small children, a harried but caring mother, and a father who skirts the law or outright breaks it. The descriptions of the various members had me chucking out loud.

One thing that I appreciate about Grimes’s writing is that pets and kids are not simply stand in blanks used to fill out the scenery. Nor does she go overboard in describing them, making them scene hogs. Instead she gives them enough personality ticks to have them add to the scene/plot without being unbelievable. From the dog named Stone to the child witness who poses as the dead woman, these small scenes had me chuckling once again. While I do wish we had at least one main female character, the female side characters, for the most part, bring something to the table.

The Narration: West did a good job once again, giving the male and female, old and young voices distinction. And I always enjoy his congested Wiggins. I do tend to confuse the voices for Jury and Melrose if I am not paying attention. Sure, Melrose has a talking voice laced with ennui, but when it is simply Melrose’s thoughts, the voice is rather similar to Richard Jury’s.

lavinia-portraitRIP9BannerWhat I Liked: Jury’s lonely life; untangling the mystery of the paintings; commentary on gentlmens clubs; the tie in to the opening assassin scene was clear to me until near the end.

What I Disliked: Could use at least 1 main female character.

Tis the season for spooky suspense. I am participating in this year’s R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril reading event hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Anyone is welcome, so swing by SSD to join.

What Others Think:

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