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Group Reads > March 2016 - Fledgling

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message 1: by Yoly (new)

Yoly (macaruchi) | 792 comments Don't forget the spoiler tags!


message 2: by Gary (new)

Gary | 1470 comments Yay!

I'm a fan of Mz. Butler. I think she's one of the most under-appreciated authors of the genre. I only rarely see some sort of reference to her work out in the world.

It's interesting that this club keeps picking her work. I attribute that to a profound and highly developed set of sensibilities among the membership.


message 3: by Yoly (new)

Yoly (macaruchi) | 792 comments I am almost done with Kindred (yes I am "a little" behind), and I'm completely blown away.

I'm really looking forward to this one. Wasn't this her last published novel?


message 4: by Gary (new)

Gary | 1470 comments Yoly wrote: "I'm really looking forward to this one. Wasn't this her last published novel?"

It seems so. There's a book of short stories listed after this, and some anthologies, but it looks like this is her last completed novel.

Interesting....


message 5: by Gary (new)

Gary | 1470 comments Quick note: My first thought when I read the blurb for this one was "Oh, shit. More vampires."

A couple of chapters into this, however, I realize I'm not actually sick of vampires. I'm sick of cute vampires. I need more supernatural romance fiction in my life the way I need more empty calories.


message 6: by Amber (last edited Mar 05, 2016 01:07PM) (new)

Amber Martingale | 657 comments If it weren't written by a man, I'd reccomend the Department Nineteen series, Gary, for those who are tired of the so-called Cute vampires. Mr. Hill's vampires are anything BUT cute.


message 7: by Gary (last edited Mar 05, 2016 05:39PM) (new)

Gary | 1470 comments I'll give his work a look, Amber. Thanks for the recommendation.

Returning to Fledgling: I'm always impressed by Baker's "visual" writing style. When I read her work I "see" it, as if it had been filmed. So much so, in fact, that I'm constantly surprised that there aren't more film/TV adaptations of her work.

That's not the case for this book, however, for a reason that isn't actually a spoiler (since we're talking about chapters 1-2) so I'm going to post it up here untarnished. The physical "age" of her protagonist. Aside from any issues involving the actual casting, I don't think audiences want to see that kind of thing. The only way producers could pull it off would be to "cheat" the situation by casting an actor who is not exactly age appropriate per the text as happened with the film adaptation of All the Pretty Horses or the TV series for Game of Thrones in which the actors may have started out somewhat close to the ages of the characters they play (though not very close or very often) but certainly aren't by later seasons. And there are good reasons for that in a visual medium. We're much less likely to believe (or want to see) a 9-year-old Arya suffering through the adventures/encounters that Martin describes than a 13-year-old one.

Similarly, I don't think people want to see a character as described by Baker engaging in the activities she describes. The visual is too profoundly disturbing without the first person narrative to overcome. (In fact, I wouldn't argue with anyone who found it too disturbing even in prose form.)

We learn pretty quickly that she is not, in fact, a pre-pubescent, but an older woman in the body of a child. However, it's still amazingly creepy to read about the standard vampire sexuality/predatory dynamics embodied in the body of a child. Other authors have, of course, taken on such a taboo. Anne Rice leaps to mind most prominently.

It's creepy in exactly the opposite way that so many people seem to ignore in the prolific genre of vampire romance: young people having relationships with characters who are often old enough to be their great-grandparents or more. It's not May-December, but May 2015 to December 1992, if you will. Yet I've never read the dynamics of that kind of relationship fleshed out in a way that I think even approaches how it actually would play out. Almost invariably, it's glossed over entirely. If it is addressed at all, it's given a pretty off-hand treatment.

Off the top of my head, the dynamics are explored to some extent in Anne Rice. There's an interesting/amusing scene in the True Blood adaptation in which Bill Compton realizes he's dating his great-great-grandaughter (or something.) But for the most part, I don't think anyone has really dealt with the issue that much.

I suspect such a difference would be nearly insurmountable in most cases. It would require some sort of explanation in the text to justify. Anne Rice has her characters "reborn" after a period buried underground, for instance, so that they psychologically can deal with the changes to the culture around them. Something like that could occur on an emotional level.


message 8: by Michael (new)

Michael Gary wrote: "I'll give his work a look, Amber. Thanks for the recommendation.

Returning to Fledgling: I'm always impressed by Baker's "visual" writing style. When I read her work I "see" it, as if it had been ..."


Well, maybe not a spoiler - however, I'm up to chapter 5 and I still don't know her age, though she implies she feels older than she looks. But you're right about not being able to make a movie depicted exactly the same. The movie "Interview with a Vampire" had a child vampire doing some very disturbing things (Kirsten Dunst was 11/12 at the time, but I think her character was supposed to be 600 since she was created during the Plague.) but not Chapter 3 kinds of things (unless I've blocked out some memories of the movie).

What I am fascinated by in Chapter 3, is that (view spoiler) But that is something I have noticed about the Octavia Butler books I've read: she describes events very non-judgmentally and leaves it to the reader to either go with it or step back and say, "Wait, did she just? This is so wrong."

Except for the narrators. Ms. Butler shows you every nook and cranny of their thought process, and their moral compass and quandaries. Which made me a bit surprised to listen in on Renee, because (view spoiler) Maybe we will find out more.

Which I think I will be saying a lot during the reading of this. Since the whole story is a mystery, and we know nothing at the beginning, I tend to think that this whole thread will be basically posts with spoiler tags!


message 9: by Michael (new)

Michael Amber wrote: "If it weren't written by a man, I'd reccomend the Department Nineteen series, Gary, for those who are tired of the so-called Cute vampires. Mr. Hill's vampires are anything
BUT cute."


And Dan Simmons' Summer of Night/Children of the Night - yikes!


message 10: by Yoly (new)

Yoly (macaruchi) | 792 comments Amber wrote: "If it weren't written by a man, I'd reccomend the Department Nineteen series, Gary, for those who are tired of the so-called Cute vampires. Mr. Hill's vampires are anything
BUT
cute."


No cute vampires?!? Oh come on!!! :P
I'm on chapter 3 and I have to say I am impressed so far.

Amber, are you sitting this one out or will you be joining us on this read?


message 11: by Gary (last edited Mar 09, 2016 07:29PM) (new)

Gary | 1470 comments Michael wrote: "Well, maybe not a spoiler - however, I'm up to chapter 5 and I still don't know her age, though she implies she feels older than she looks."

We find out in Chapter 7 that she is (view spoiler)-years old. Throughout the earlier chapters, though, she certainly speaks as would an adult, and her attitude towards things like sex and gender is pretty developed. We could attribute that to her "biological nature" as much as age/maturity I suppose.

Again, not really sure that's a spoiler, or if it is, it's a pretty minor one. The details may be a bit too much information, but just the age/appearance differential of characters in vampire novels is such a standard that it would probably be more of a spoiler if the character's age and appearance did match up like that of a human.

I remember there being something of a controversy about the Dunst/Pitt kiss in the film adaptation of Interview with a Vampire though I wonder how much of that was "invented" studio hype. The scene itself always struck me as pretty tepid.

There is an interesting compare/contrast with this book and Nabokov's Lolita, which is the book I'd suggest is the most often misread/misrepresented text in the English language other than, perhaps, the Bible and the U.S. Constitution....

Lolita is, of course, an exercise in the unreliable narrator as a literary technique. It's a theme of Nabokov's work, and in that text in particular he makes a lot of references to Delores as a demonic figure whose inherent otherworldly qualities of seduction and depravity "force" Humbert to do what he does. There are numerous vampire and demon references. I'd argue that the term "Lolita" is itself an invention of that narrative voice and applied to the qualities the narrator finds himself compelled to exploit whether they exist in his victims at all.

Where Lolita is a long, psychotic fugue, Fledgling presents us with a supernatural character who actually could embody traits/characteristics that Humbert would recognize. She really does have powers over "mere mortals" and like any number of other vampire novels, the monster is definitively a kind of creature of lust and pleasure. Butler makes her character an actual being with powers, chronologically age appropriate (more or less) and puts us in her head. I'm about 1/3 of the way in so far, and I'm not quite sure why she's doing that. That is, I'm not sure what her message is going to be.

(I'm confident there is an underlying theme, BTW. At least, there have been in every other book by her that I've read, and they aren't particularly clandestine or subversively presented.)

Butler must have read Lolita at some point in her life. I just poked around a bit on the Internet, but wasn't able to find any particular connection. Some folks have pointed out the "Lolita-esque" nature of the relationship between Wright and our protagonist, though I don't think they're using the term "Lolita" in the sense that Nabokov meant exactly.


message 12: by Gary (new)

Gary | 1470 comments One of the things I always am interested in when reading a book is the names the author chooses for his/er characters. Any author worth the ink on the page is aware of the etymology of the names that s/he assigns to characters, and I'm very confident Mz. Butler was well aware. Aside from the fact that she outright has a character in this book give the meaning of a name (when Wright "names" the protagonist "Renee" he tells us that "A friend of mine told me it meant 'reborn.' That's sort of what's happened to you. You've been reborn into a new life. You'll probably remember your old life pretty soon, but for now, you're Renee.") the other characters have interestingly pointed names:

Wright: maker of things.
Hamlin: derived from the Norman personal name "Hamon", itself a variant of the early Germanic word "haim", meaning home.

So, Wright Hamlin means "builder/maker" of homes or "homemaker" which is, given his role in the book, very amusing if you ask me....

Here's a couple interesting links for the name Shori:

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define...
http://www.kabalarians.com/male/shori...


message 13: by Amber (last edited Mar 10, 2016 09:58AM) (new)

Amber Martingale | 657 comments Michael wrote: "Gary wrote: "I'll give his work a look, Amber. Thanks for the recommendation.

Returning to Fledgling: I'm always impressed by Baker's "visual" writing style. When I read her work I "see" it, as if..."


Nope. Claudia was only supposed to be a little over 200 because the particular plague that took her mother was in NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA before the Americans bought it from Napoleon in the 19th century. The book was much better than the movie...they almost always are. According to the novel, Claudia was 5 when Lestat and Louis find her sometime in the 1790's:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intervi...

Yoly: Sitting out the actual read as I can't find it in my library system.


message 14: by Gary (new)

Gary | 1470 comments Chapter 11 starts off with a little aside about the Stillaguamish River, and Wright says he doesn't know what that name means. Near as I can figure, "Stillaguamish" means "river people" though there is, apparently, a little debate.


message 15: by Michael (new)

Michael Gary wrote: "Michael wrote: "Well, maybe not a spoiler - however, I'm up to chapter 5 and I still don't know her age, though she implies she feels older than she looks."

We find out in Chapter 7 that she is [..."


Well, as you may have noticed in other threads, I am a bit spoiler sensitive, and I don't read book blurbs for that reason. With mysteries like this one, I love going in having no idea what is going on. (But that means I have to be a little more careful reading discussion threads, admittedly.)

In this particular case, though, I think Ms. Butler is sending us a message by not revealing certain details until later. On page 18, we see this exchange:

"Let me bite you again," I whispered.
He smiled. "If I do, what will you let me do?"


At this point, Wright has already lifted an apparently 11 year old girl onto his lap, and is now propositioning her. He knows nothing at all about her, except that he probably should, in fact, take her to the hospital or the police as he indicated. The shared ignorance we have with the narrator as to what her situation actually is, along with our confusion about how the narrator may feel about Wright's intentions, forces us to take a moment to think about the ramifications. None of them are good.

So ignoring the idea of plot spoilers for a moment, I think there is a danger in knowing too much here, and explaining away what is happening because of things we find out later. What we find out later does not excuse Wright's behavior, it is actually quite frightening and if we met someone like this in real life we should probably run (or at least advise our children to run).

I, too, was curious as to where this was going viz a viz themes, although to some extent, what we find out in Chapter 6 ((view spoiler)). The themes change a bit at that point, I think.

And I liked your thoughts on naming. I don't pay much attention to names when I'm reading, honestly, although I occasionally notice if all the names sound white/anglicized and lack diversity. In this case, I would agree that Ms. Butler certainly appears to give it some thought, and invites us to do the same.


message 16: by Michael (new)

Michael Amber wrote: "Nope. Claudia was only supposed to be a little over 200 because the particular plague ..."

Ah, I had forgotten all that, thanks for the clarification! And - 5 years old?? - wow, so it looks like you can in fact make certain points cinematically by adjusting the age of the actress to make a similar point but one the audience can stomach (aside from the controversy that resulted despite their change).


message 17: by Gary (last edited Mar 15, 2016 06:07AM) (new)

Gary | 1470 comments Michael wrote: "At this point, Wright has already lifted an apparently 11 year old girl onto his lap, and is now propositioning her. He knows nothing at all about her, except that he probably should, in fact, take her to the hospital or the police as he indicated. The shared ignorance we have with the narrator as to what her situation actually is, along with our confusion about how the narrator may feel about Wright's intentions, forces us to take a moment to think about the ramifications. None of them are good."

Yeah... that was creepy. And not in the spooky vampire way either. We don't have a complete picture at that point as to what she looks like, but we know she's small and underdeveloped.

Given one of the themes of the novel, I don't know how she'd avoid that dynamic. The character might, in fact, even be "too old" in some senses. That is, if the motive for the (view spoiler) seems like along time for them to wait. (I'm about at the halfway point--but that seems to be a recurring hypothesis of the mystery.)

So, she (Butler) is walking kind of a tightrope there. Make her character an adult and the whole (view spoiler) thing doesn't add up, make her too young and the events of the novel might not make as much sense.


message 18: by Gary (new)

Gary | 1470 comments Just out of curiosity, what features of vampires do you folks think don't get enough attention in modern versions?

I think their very supernatural nature more often than not gets short shrift. More often than not vampires are essentially superheroes these days, and the simple truth that they indicate there is a whole realm of supernatural laws that go beyond science as we understand it, is almost always ignored. Even given sci-fi world building in which characters have telepathy, telekinesis, and various unlikely, and non-scientific aspects, vampires are fantasy creatures empowered by what is effectively magic. Where Star Trek might have characters able to mind meld, that process is assumed to be basically "real" in that there is a scientific explanation--even if that explanation isn't exactly provided.

Vampires, on the other hand, are creatures that have no rational explanation. They may have a history, an internal logic to how vampirism is "passed down" and such things, but we are not supposed to believe that they or their powers could be created or recreated using scientific means.


message 19: by Amber (last edited Mar 15, 2016 11:34AM) (new)

Amber Martingale | 657 comments Michael wrote: "Amber wrote: "Nope. Claudia was only supposed to be a little over 200 because the particular plague ..."

Ah, I had forgotten all that, thanks for the clarification! And - 5 years old?? - wow, so i..."


Yep and you're welcome.

Gary: Re: "I think their very supernatural nature more often than not gets short shrift. More often than not vampires are essentially superheroes these days, and the simple truth that they indicate there is a whole realm of supernatural laws that go beyond science as we understand it, is almost always ignored. Even given sci-fi world building in which characters have telepathy, telekinesis, and various unlikely, and non-scientific aspects, vampires are fantasy creatures empowered by what is effectively magic. Where Star Trek might have characters able to mind meld, that process is assumed to be basically "real" in that there is a scientific explanation--even if that explanation isn't exactly provided" is a valid point. The four different types of vampires in Butcher's DRESDENVERSE does not give short shrift to the super-naturalness of vampires. Not sure about the vampires, except Dracula himself, in the Will Hill Department Nineteen series, though.


message 20: by Gary (new)

Gary | 1470 comments Yeah, Butcher's vampires in Dresden is a good counter example to the issues I'm talking about. The vampires are completely supernatural in that series. Of course, so is nearly everybody else to one degree or another, but I guess that's where I'm going with a lot of this stuff. If the premise of a novel (or movie, etc.) is that vampires exist then that implies a whole range of supernatural creatures or at the very least some sort of system of laws beyond science. When that is ignored it feels like the elephant in the room to me. The giant, blood sucking, undead elephant....


message 21: by Amber (new)

Amber Martingale | 657 comments Ick! I'm never gonna get the image of the vampire elephant out of my head, Gary!


message 22: by Jo (new)

Jo (glitchyspoons) | 25 comments Yoly wrote: "Don't forget the spoiler tags!" Yay, finally a book that doesn't have a million holds @ library :D


message 23: by Amber (new)

Amber Martingale | 657 comments Jori wrote: "Yoly wrote: "Don't forget the spoiler tags!" Yay, finally a book that doesn't have a million holds @ library :D"

That should be a warning signal that it's NOT gonna be a very good one.


message 24: by Gary (last edited Mar 18, 2016 04:14PM) (new)

Gary | 1470 comments Someone posted this just a bit ago on Facebook:



It's interesting, but I don't think we can base the number of vampires in the U.S. on missing person's reports.

First off, apparently, the majority of such reports are resolved fairly quickly. Of the 661,000 people reported missing in 2012, 659,000 were found "very quickly" according to Todd Matthews, director of communications for the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. Or, about 99.6% are found.

http://www.npr.org/…/majority-of-miss...-…

Over time, of course, even that 0.4% adds up. According to Carole Moore in The Last Place You'd Look: True Stories of Missing Persons and the People Who Search for Them, there are about 100,000 active missing person cases in the U.S. any given year. That's ongoing cases, not cases each year.

So, 2,580 vampires killing 73 people/year adding up to 188,373 victims per year doesn't jibe with the numbers when looked at more closely.

However, there are big problems with the methodology itself. The assumption that vampires need to completely exsanguinate their victims is clearly not true from the literature. Vampires are almost always portrayed as leaving victims alive more often than not, sometimes even attacking in ways more likened to a parasite than a predator. Further, their victims are usually portrayed as not going missing at all. That is, they are attacked (or seduced) the vampire takes blood and then the victim goes back to whatever s/he was doing before getting bit. On those occasions when the victim is killed, there may be some sort of attempt to hide the body, but fairly often they don't bother, assuming that mortal law enforcement isn't up to finding them out. So, most vampire feeding events don't result in a missing person report.

There's also an issue with the fact that around 75% of the missing person reports are children. That's a problem in that children are smaller and have less blood, so we'd need to factor that into the total liters of blood in the average victim.

Another problem is with the assumption of calories needed to sustain a healthy vampire. (I love that term, "healthy vampire" BTW....) Vampires spend an awful lot of time in the sleep of the undead, which presumably eats up even fewer calories than would something like the hibernation of various animals. However, wakefully stalking the night would use up substantially more. Given that they usually have features like super strength, super speed, rapid healing and even possibly the ability to fly, their calorie intake could be in the tens of thousands.

Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps' 12,000 calorie/day diet while training (http://blogs.wsj.com/…/the-michael-ph...) would probably compare quite modestly with the energy necessary to move at superspeed or to, say, scale an apartment building/castle wall on a regular basis. Not all vampires appear to have the ability to fly, but the energy necessary for a vampire to fly or even levitate is substantially higher. It depends very much on the weight of the vampire, but just levitating means we start talking about energy in units bigger than calories pretty quickly for the sake of simplifying the digits.

Also, a vampire population could, theoretically, have other sources of calories entirely. Human blood is always portrayed as the first option, but rats and pets invariably get mentioned as possible alternative sources of life-sustaining blood. We can probably assume a certain amount of reporting bias in the percentage of human to animal calorie intake reported by vampires and their victims. After all, that's much more flashy and glamorous.

Last, we're assuming here that vampires don't have a source of energy that is supernatural--that is, beyond their simple biology. If vampires process blood differently (as in they have little undead nuclear generators in their guts that just happen to use plasma as a fuel source) or draw energy into their bodies in some other way, then the whole calories to victims to vampires math is bypassed.

The vampires in Fledgling would appear to be more sci-fi than fantasy, however, so there needs to be a more logical explanation for their numbers.


message 25: by Amber (new)

Amber Martingale | 657 comments LOL


message 26: by Jo (new)

Jo (glitchyspoons) | 25 comments Amber wrote: "Jori wrote: "Yoly wrote: "Don't forget the spoiler tags!" Yay, finally a book that doesn't have a million holds @ library :D"

That should be a warning signal that it's NOT gonna be a very good one."


Considering I've been on wait lists and discovered that the book I waited for was complete crap.. Lol


message 27: by Michael (new)

Michael Jori wrote: "Amber wrote: "Jori wrote: "Yoly wrote: "Don't forget the spoiler tags!" Yay, finally a book that doesn't have a million holds @ library :D"

That should be a warning signal that it's NOT gonna be a..."


Yes, and a lot of times it is based on how old the book is. Fledgling might not be on people's radar having been written in 2005 and since Ms. Butler died in 2006 there have been no more books to actively remind people of her canon.


message 28: by Michael (new)

Michael Amber wrote: "LOL"

Ditto.


message 29: by Michael (new)

Michael I have finished this quite excellent book, and I can't wait to discuss the whole thing. (Will everything be in spoiler tags or will we have a transition point where posts can contain spoilers??)

Assuming others are still in progress, I have some comments about Chapter 8, where we learn some things that I thought were very interesting. I'll put the whole thing in spoiler tags to make it easier:

Chapter 8 spoilers (view spoiler)


message 30: by Gary (new)

Gary | 1470 comments Michael wrote: "Fledgling might not be on people's radar having been written in 2005 and since Ms. Butler died in 2006 there have been no more books to actively remind people of her canon."

For a writer of her significance, genre and skills, Octavia Butler may be one of the most under-appreciated authors of her time. I'm embarrassed to admit I'd never even heard of her until I was handed a copy of Kindred in 1995. I can't say why that necessarily should be the case, though. She's definitely got chops and she gets a certain amount of support in the way of things like awards. However, the public doesn't seem to be very aware of her, or--at least--not aware of her in a way that I'd argue is commensurate with her talents.

Michael wrote: "Assuming others are still in progress, I have some comments about Chapter 8, where we learn some things that I thought were very interesting."

We haven't been doing this, but it may be a good idea to have two threads: a "First Impressions -- NO Spoilers" and then a "Discussion -- Full Spoilers" for the books we read. The first one started when we choose a book, the second maybe a week/ten days later.

I'm going to go ahead and start a "Spoilers" thread for this book, because there's an awful lot of spoiler-y stuff I want to talk about and in responding to Michael's points in post #29 I found myself using upwards of six or ten spoiler tags....

Two threads may help deal with the ongoing spoiler issue somewhat. Anyone have thoughts on doing that regularly?


message 31: by Amber (new)

Amber Martingale | 657 comments Jori wrote: "Amber wrote: "Jori wrote: "Yoly wrote: "Don't forget the spoiler tags!" Yay, finally a book that doesn't have a million holds @ library :D"

That should be a warning signal that it's NOT gonna be a..."


LOL.

Michael: I can think of a series that's been continued by the son of the original author...Frank Herbert's DUNEverse.

Gary: Go ahead.


message 32: by Michael (new)

Michael Amber wrote: "If it weren't written by a man, I'd reccomend the Department Nineteen series, Gary, for those who are tired of the so-called Cute vampires. Mr. Hill's vampires are anything BUT cute."

I've found a female-authored series I would recommend: Barbara Hambly's James Asher series.

I just read the first one this month, and these are not datable vampires. Interestingly, it seems she wrote the first book in 1988, managed a sequel in 1995, and then decided to ride the vampire wave in the past 5 years by adding books 3 - 6. So plenty to read if they strike your fancy.


message 33: by Michael (new)

Michael Anyone else still reading? Yoly? Jori? Looks like I need to catch up on the spoiler thread...


message 34: by Amber (last edited Mar 31, 2016 10:17AM) (new)

Amber Martingale | 657 comments After having read bits and pieces of her STAR WARS novel Planet of Twilight, I'm NOT eager to read Ms. Hambly. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planet_...


message 35: by Jo (new)

Jo (glitchyspoons) | 25 comments Michael wrote: "Anyone else still reading? Yoly? Jori? Looks like I need to catch up on the spoiler thread..." Yes still reading. I have a robot to build for a class so not a lot of time.


message 36: by Michael (new)

Michael Robots... coooool.


message 37: by J_Jens (new)

J_Jens | 10 comments A very helpful person sent me this discussion group after seeing my post:

https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...


message 38: by Gary (new)

Gary | 1470 comments Jenny wrote: "A very helpful person sent me this discussion group after seeing my post:

https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/......"


Welcome, Jenny!


message 39: by J_Jens (new)

J_Jens | 10 comments Gary wrote: "Jenny wrote: "A very helpful person sent me this discussion group after seeing my post:

https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/......"


Thank you! Glad you led me to this group - I have shelves of SFF and wish I could get a PhD in it! I truly look forward to this group.


message 40: by Gary (new)

Gary | 1470 comments


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