Review: The Girl in 6E by A.R. Torre



Title: The Girl in 6E

Author: A.R. Torre

Published: Orion: Hachette July 2014

Status: Read on July 28, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

The Girl in 6E by A.R. Torre caught my attention with its provocative premise. As ‘Jessica Reilly’, a 19 year old college coed, 21 year old Deanna Madden earns $6.99 a minute meeting the virtual sexual fantasies of the men and women willing to pay for her time. This allows her to support herself, utilising online shopping to organise regular deliveries of supplies ensuring Deanna never has to leave her apartment. For to do so could be dangerous… not for Deanna, but for anyone who might cross her path.

Torre’s unusual protagonist, Deanna, has an obsessive desire to commit murder (Torre uses the term ‘cruorimania’), and believes she is a threat to anyone whom she might come into contact with. She has already killed once, the details of which remain concealed for much of the novel, and fantasises about doing so again. This explains her self imposed imprisonment and her shunning of human interaction.

Deanna is content with the arrangements she has made to isolate herself but her carefully constructed haven begins to destabilise firstly when her regular delivery guy, Jeremy, becomes too curious about the girl in 6E, and then when the sexual obsessions of a client she knows as Ralph begins to concern her. Ralph seems fixated on a single fantasy featuring a young girl called Annie, and when Deanna learns a 7 year old girl of the same name has been abducted, she is convinced Ralph is responsible and comes up with a plan to allow her to rescue the child and slake her blood lust at the same time.

It really isn’t until almost half way through that either of the main plot line’s, Jeremy’s intrusion and Annie’s abduction, gain momentum. Much of the first half of the book involves Deanna introducing us, in the first person, to her narrow world, and providing an explicit glimpse into the professional world of ‘camming’.

I have to admit I’m left feeling a little unsure about The Girl in 6E overall. I found it interesting in many ways, and was never tempted to put it aside, but I can’t say I enjoyed it exactly, and I doubt I will bother with the sequel.

FYI: The Girl in 6 E was originally self published as “On Me, In Me, Dead Beneath Me”, though the story has since been heavily revised for traditional publication.


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Review: Swimming In The Dark by Paddy Richardson


Title: Swimming in the Dark

Author: Paddy Richardson

Published: Macmillan July 2014

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Status: Read on July 02, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

An atmospheric psychological drama, Swimming in the Dark, the fourth novel by award-winning New Zealand writer Paddy Richardson, explores the themes of family, oppression, fear and the strength it takes to rise above them.

Set in New Zealand, this contemporary, haunting tale unites four women, Serena and her sister Lynette, and school teacher Ilse Klein and her mother, Gerda, struggling against a legacy of fear, shame and guilt.
Fifteen year old Serena Freeman is the youngest child of a family with a reputation for wildness and petty criminal behaviour in the suburbs of Otago. Studious and quiet, she has tried hard to avoid being tarred with the same brush, hoping to one day escape and create a new life, as her eldest sister, Lynnie, did seven years before. When Serena disappears no one seems to care but Lynette returns to Alexandra to search for her, determined to uncover the secrets her younger sister has been hiding.
Their worlds collide when Ilsa inadvertently learns Serena’s secret, a secret that revives terrible memories for Gerda of her time in Stasi Germany.

Beautifully written, this is a complex and gripping novel which I couldn’t put down. I’m loathe to reveal this story’s secrets, and at a loss to articulate its power other than to say I was held captive by the undercurrent of suspense, moved by the character’s struggles, and stunned by the novel’s conclusion.

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Review: What Came Before by Anna George


Title: What Came Before

Author: Anna George

Published: Viking: Penguin Australia June 2014

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Status: Read from June 26 to 28, 2014 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

“My name is David James Forrester. I’m a solicitor. Tonight, at 6.10, I killed my wife.
This is my statement.”

In her remarkable debut novel, Anna George begins with the end in order to explore what came before. As David Forrester sits slumped in his car, and Elle Nolan floats over her broken body, George takes us back to the beginning of their relationship, witness first to the heady rush of attraction and then the slow, painful corruption of love.

With keen insight and deft characterisation, George exposes the dynamic of domestic violence from the perspective of both abuser and victim.

David frames love in terms of power and control. His rare concessions are manipulative, his few apologies calculated, his affection conditional.

“You cannot kill your wife because you have lost control of her.”

Elle frames love in terms of surrender, gradually conceding her wants and needs to David, desperate to recapture the limerence of their initial connection.

“If only she had held onto herself”

But of all the truths in narrative it is this that resonates the strongest with me…

“Looking back she wonders at his mastery. He’d said so little yet she had heard so much.

What Came Before is a finely crafted, provocative novel told with a powerful intensity.

“It’s only once the damage has been done that anyone bothers about what came before.”

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Review: Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf


Title: Little Mercies

Author: Heather Gudenkauf

Published: Harlequin MIRA June 2014

Status: Read from June 25 to 27, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Focused solely on the faces of the young, frightened children creeping from their home into the waiting arms of a police officer, the sweat dripping into her eyes from the fierce summer sun, social worker Ellen Moore ignores the shouting from the street behind her. Until she hears the sound of shattering glass and turns to see a stranger emerging from the minivan parked at the curb, cradling Ellen’s eleven month old daughter in her arms.

A harrowing tale highlighting the vulnerability of children and the heartbreaking consequences they are at risk of for the choices and mistakes parents make, Little Mercies is a gripping story that tugs violently at the heart strings.

Ellen Moore is a loving, wife and mother, doing her best to balance her family’s needs with her commitment to her career as a social worker, who makes a horrible mistake, one we would prefer not to acknowledge we are capable of, but which Gudenkauf demonstrates is all too possible. As her daughter’s life hangs in the balance we are witness to the self recriminations, the crushing guilt and distress which tortures Ellen as she faces the terrifying consequences for her daughter, her family and her self.

Entwined with Ellen’s first person narrative, is a second, written in the third person, involving a vulnerable ten year old girl named Jenny Briard. Desperate to avoid the foster care system, when Jenny’s alcoholic father is arrested she evades the police and heads for the only possible sanctuary she can think of – her grandmother’s home in Cedar City. It is here she crosses paths with Ellen’s mother, Maudene, and Gudenkauf slowly reveals the shocking tragedy that links Jenny and Ellen amidst the chaos of crisis.

Well written, Little Mercies has a driving emotional intensity that urges the reader to keep turning the pages. The plot is well thought out, if necessarily a little contrived in parts. I thought the characters to be well developed and the issues surrounding events to be portrayed in a believable manner.

A poignant reminder of the need to practice compassion, and the vulnerability of innocent children, Little Mercies is a compelling, emotionally affecting story. Heather Gudenkauf continues to impress.


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Review: Let Her Go by Dawn Barker


Title: Let Her Go

Author: Dawn Barker

Published: Hachette June 2014

Status: Read from June 24 to 25, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Zoe is devastated when she learns that the disease she has battled her entire life has robbed her of the chance to have a child of own, so when her step sister, Nadia – already a mother to three healthy, adorable children – offers to be a surrogate for Zoe and her husband Lachlan, Zoe is thrilled and determined to make it work. Three years later, Nadia places a newborn baby girl in her sister’s grateful arms but is she really prepared for the reality of letting the child, her daughter, go?

Examining the ethical issues surrounding altruistic surrogacy, and the complications that can affect such arrangements, Let Her Go, by Dawn Barker, is an absorbing and thought provoking novel.

Barker’s characters are believable, ordinary people with familiar flaws and insecurities. My sympathies were torn between Zoe, desperate in her desire for a child, and Nadia, whose generous intentions are corrupted by an instinct she can’t control. The author portrays these two women, and their decisions and actions, with extraordinary sensitivity and compassion, acknowledging the complicated situation that extends beyond simple judgements.

“No one ever knows the effect on the future of the things we do now; we just have to do what we think is right at the time.”

In including the narrative of seventeen year old Louisa, Barker adds another layer of perspective to the issue and exposes the hubris of judging what is in a child’s best interest. The author asks, what happens when the child’s best interest conflicts with our own ability to provide it?

Other issues touched on in Let Her Go included mental illness, disability and domestic violence. These elements help to both flesh out the characters, and the motivations for the choices they make during the story.

Part family drama, part psychological thriller, the pacing of Let Her Go is ideal, with shifting timelines drawing out the subtle, but ever present, suspense. I was never entirely sure how the story would unfold, constantly anticipating the unknown.

A compelling, poignant novel about motherhood, family, loss and love, Let Her Go is a story that is hard to let go of.

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Review: The Fever by Megan Abbott


Title: The Fever

Author: Megan Abbott

Published: Little Brown & Co June 2014

Status: Read from June 16 to 17, 2014 – I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Megan Abbott has created an unsettling thriller with The Fever.

Set in an ordinary small town idyll, The Fever begins when Deenie witnesses her best friend, Lise, suffering a frightening convulsion in class. Less than twenty four hours later, Lise is in a coma and, with the health authorities unable to determine a cause, when a second, and then a third girl, fall ill the community begins to panic. As the unidentified contagion spreads, rumours swell, blame is apportioned, and still there are no answers…

While the community, growing ever more hysterical, looks for something, or someone, to blame, it slowly becomes apparent that the cause of the affliction is infinitely more simple, and complex, than a toxic lake or contaminated vaccine.

Best friends, Deenie, Lise and Gabby are the teenage girls at the center of The Fever. When the illness strikes the three are in the throes of renegotiating their friendship which has become a tangle of love, possessiveness, loyalty and envy as they grapple with the complications of adolescence.

Of the three girls, it is only Deenie who has a narrative voice, which has a hazy, almost dream like quality, playing perfectly into the uncertainties of the plot. Obsessed with her own fears and concerns, Deenie is not the reliable narrator she first presents as.

There is not a lot of overt action in The Fever, much of the truth of this story lies just under the surface of what is happening. I thought the pacing was superb, nurturing an increasing sense of unease as the story unfolds.

The ‘fever’, we eventually learn, is a symptom – of the confusion and angst of female adolescence, of damaged families, and cultural fears – masterfully explored by Megan Abbott. A darkly compelling novel, The Fever is an intriguing mystery and mesmerising psychological study.

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Review: Marble Bar by Robert Schofield



Title: Marble Bar

Author: Robert Schofield

Published: Allen & Unwin June 2014

Status: Read from June 17 to 19, 2014 — I own a copy (courtesy the publisher)

My Thoughts:

Marble Bar is the sequel to Robert Schofield’s debut novel, Heist, featuring mining engineer, Gareth Ford.

It has been a year since Ford was framed for the multi million dollar robbery of the Gwardar Gold Mine and narrowly escaped the murderous attentions of the real thieves, corrupt Gold Squad officers, vicious bikies and his ex-wife, Dianne. Now working at an iron ore mine in Newman while caring for his six year old daughter, Ford assumes the worst is behind them until he realises he is being tailed by two dangerous looking men, his lodger is murdered and he receives a desperate call from his ex-wife begging him to meet her. Gareth needs to get out of town, his daughter wants to see her mum and Kavanaugh wants to find the gold so they head to Marble Bar …… and straight into trouble.

There are glimpses of the sharp humour, and exaggerated action I enjoyed in Heist, but Marble Bar has a more serious tone and less energy than its predecessor. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, just not quite what I was expecting. Marble Bar is closer to a traditional crime/action novel with a more realistic storyline and less flamboyant characterisation.

Ford seems subdued during much of this instalment. I think that this is mainly attributable to his emotional turmoil with regard to his ex wife, and while I did admire Ford’s determination to preserve the relationship between Dianne and their daughter, I thought his angst got in the way of the story somewhat.

With Ford unsure of his feelings, and worried about Dianne’s safety, Kavanaugh is forced to take the lead in most situations the pair face in Marble Bar. Kavanaugh is willing to humour Dianne for the chance to recover the gold, but she is utterly unimpressed with Ford’s angst regarding his wife’s behaviour, and convinced Dianne’s plea for help is just another con. This causes considerable tension between Ford and Kavanaugh, complicated by their mutual attraction and the twists of the plot.

I especially liked setting of this story. Marble Bar is a tiny West Australian Pilbara town with a population of about 200 people which regularly experiences some of the highest temperatures in the country. It seems an unlikely setting for a crime novel, but Schofield makes it work.

Marble Bar is well paced with a solidly developed storyline and I enjoyed reconnecting with familiar characters. I enjoyed Marble Bar, even though it wasn’t quite what I expected based on reading Heist, and I am looking forward to the third title to tie up some of the remaining loose ends.

 Learn more about Marble Bar and Robert Schofield in the Q&A posted earlier here at Book’d Out.


Marble Bar is available to purchase from June 25th

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Feature Q&A with Robert Schofield, author of Heist and Marble Bar

Schofield, Robert - credit Ross Swanborough


I’m excited to introduce you to author Robert Schofield today.

After graduating with a degree in engineering from Cambridge University, Robert worked as a structural engineering consultant, designing signature architecture including East Croydon Station, The Eden Project, Madrid Airport, Lichfield Theatre, and the London Imax Theatre. He then travelled to Australia, and finding no call for creative architectural engineering in Perth, adapted his skills to the mining and offshore industries. For the last twelve years Robert has been working in the gold industry. using whatever time he has left after working, writing, and wrangling three young children,  reading, cycling, kayaking on the Blackwood River, or maintaining his scooter: a beautiful 1972 Vespa Rally.

This month Robert is celebrating the release of his second novel, Marble Bar, a sequel to  Heist {Allen & Unwin 2013), an entertaining and action packed debut crime novel featuring Gareth Ford set in the Western Australia’s goldfields.

“Gareth Ford, with a cloud still hanging over him because of his involvement in the Gwardar Gold Heist, has decided to make a new beginning in the iron mines of Newman. But when he returns home from the night shift and finds his flatmate has been murdered, suspicion quickly falls upon him. He, however, fears he himself was the real target and soon discovers he is being tailed. He summons his old ally from the Gold Squad, DC Rose Kavanagh, and soon they find themselves in Marble Bar, searching for the Gwardar Gold and being pursued by a variety of desperadoes, each with their own agendas.”

I was given the opportunity to ask Robert a few questions, and I am happy to share his answers with you today. Read on to learn more about Robert Schofield and Marble Bar…

Q:What five words do you think best describe Marble Bar?
RS: A hot, sweaty, rollicking crime thriller.

Q: What inspired the plot of Marble Bar?
RS: This book is the sequel to my first novel: Heist. It follows my characters north into the Pilbara. A few years back, I went to Marble Bar for the first time; I’d been visiting a mine site up there and spent an afternoon drinking at the Ironclad Hotel.
Marble Bar’s claim to fame is that it is the hottest town in Australia. They have a sign there that tells you this, with a digital read-out that displays the current temperature. It takes a special kind of person to live there. You need to be mad as a cut snake.
As I started to read more about Marble Bar, I found there was a wealth of stories from the distant and recent past, any one of which could have been the spark for a book. I made another trip up there, and as I stood in the Ironclad the locals told me their own stories about things that never made the history books.
I wrote a little piece for a newspaper last month about writing. I said that you have to write about something that you care about; an idea that’s burning fiercely inside your head; because you’re going to be shut in a room on your own with that idea for a year or more, and it has to stay alight for all that time.
Marble Bar was founded during the gold rush at the end of the nineteenth century, but at the beginning of the twenty-first century it finds itself surrounded by the iron ore boom; but it has barely touched the town. It made me think about who should benefit from the mineral wealth lying under Australia: should it be the multinational mining companies, the Chinese steel mills, the super-rich entrepreneurs, the men and women sweating in the mines, the taxpayer, the general public, or the traditional owners? The book was an attempt to explore that question.

Q: What traits do you wish you shared with your protagonist, Gareth Ford?
RS: Unfortunately there is rather too much of me in Gareth Ford as it is. I’d rather I shared a bit less with him. Thankfully I don’t drink as much as he does, and I don’t have nearly as much bad luck.

Q: Why choose the mining towns of WA as the setting for your stories?
RS: I first went to Kalgoorlie in 1990. I’d met a girl in London who told me she came from this wild gold-mining town stranded out in the Western Australian desert, and I followed her there. I am from a cold and wet town in the north of England and the promise of unblemished blue skies was too strong to resist. So there I was, this pale Pom, standing in the front bar of the York Hotel during Race Round, the sun blaring down on the wide street outside, watching the barmaid knock the head off my beer with her bare breast. I thought I’d stepped into the Wild West. It was the exact opposite of everything I had experienced before: the sun was hotter, the beer was colder, and the people were warm. It was three parts heaven and two parts hell.
Two years later I met a different girl, and this time I fell in love. When she told me she came from Kalgoorlie as well I started to think the town had got some sort of a hold on me. A few years after we were married , I switched career into the mining industry, and found myself in the Goldfields again, working as a consulting engineer on the mines. Kalgoorlie had got me. I have been going back regularly ever since, sometimes for work, and sometimes for pleasure. I feel I have a connection to the place.

Q: Has your approach to writing changed between the publication of your debut, Heist and Marble Bar?
RS: Marble Bar was the Difficult Second Novel. I had to prove that the first novel was not a fluke, and I had to do it to a deadline. If you’ve poured everything into your first novel, what can be left for the second? It’s only natural that on the second visit to the well, you might find that it’s gone dry. This of course is why publishers offer two-book deals. They understand that it is the second book that separates the professional from the dilettante.
I wrote my first book in complete freedom, with no expectation of publication. It was just something to keep a restless mind occupied. This second one had a whole lot more riding on it, and I had to learn a different approach. It taught me discipline.

Q: Which writers do you most admire?
RS: When I started my first book I was influenced by American writers: Elmore Leonard, James Crumley, George V. Higgins, Donald Westlake., and by British writers such as Patricia Highsmith and Ted Lewis. I’m now slowly working my way through the Australian crime canon, and enjoying Kenneth Cook and Gary Disher.
I still have a love of the American Beat Writers and Charles Bukowski, and will re-read them every few years. My guilty pleasure is the Aubrey-Maturin novels of Peter O’Brian.

Q: What are you currently reading?
RS: I usually have three books on the go at any one time.
I will have a non-fiction book, usually connected to my research, and I read this at my desk. Currently this is ‘Beautiful Shadow’, a biography of Patricia Highsmith by Andrew Wilson.
I’ll also be reading a crime thriller, and this book sits at my bedside. I consider it to be research too, trying to keep up with what’s happening. I’m currently reading ‘Sweet One’ by Peter Docker, a cracker of a crime story set in the WA Goldfields.
And finally I’ll read something else, just for me. I usually have this on my Kindle in my pocket, for those joyous bits of stolen reading time. I’ve just started ‘Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys’, the autobiography of punk guitarist Viv Albertine.

Q: What are you working on now, or what can we expect next?
RS: I’m currently working on a sequel, the final part of the Gareth Ford trilogy, which I am doing as part of a Doctorate in Creative Writing at Curtin University. As if I hadn’t got enough on my plate working full time and wrangling three kids, I thought I’d set myself another challenge.

Marble Bar is available to purchase from June 25th

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Review: Skinjob By Bruce McCabe


Title: Skinjob

Author: Bruce McCabe

Published: Bantam Press June 2014

Status: Read from June 15 to 16, 2014 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Skinjob is an entertaining techno-action thriller written by Australian author Bruce McCabe. Initially a self published work, Skinjob found its way into the hands of one of London’s most prestigious literary agents and has since been picked up by Bantam Press (Random House).

In Skinjob, Daniel Madsen, one of only a handful of FBI agents trained to use hand held lie detector units, is tasked to assist in the investigation of the bombing of a ‘Dollhouse’, a brothel offering the services of life like automatons, known as ‘skinjobs’ in San Francisco. With twelve dead, including two police officers, and fears of another attack, Madsen is under pressure to identify whoever is responsible and make an arrest. The obvious suspects are among the country’s fastest growing church, the New Christian Church of America, who have been vocal in their public damnation of skinjobs and their creator, DreamCon, but as Madsen digs deep into the case, with the help of SFPD video surveillance operative, Shahida Sanayei (Shari), he uncovers a twisted collision of exploitation, corporate greed and corruption.

Madsen, an agent with a strong belief in justice and a dry sense of humour, is an appealing protagonist. His job as a ‘plotter’ isn’t popular with his colleagues and his investigation is hampered by their mistrust. Madsen however is relentless in his pursuit of truth and when alerted to an anomaly in the case by Shari, he is determined to follow it up, no matter the consequences.

Short chapters, cinematic writing and a tight plot create a fast paced story. The action takes place over six days and includes exciting twists and turns as the investigation plays out.

Skinjob is not just a mindless action thriller though, McCabe touches on themes such as privacy and integrity by making the technology utilised by Madsen and the police a feature of the investigation. The technology is not too far ahead of our own – super surveillance provided by a huge network of public and private cameras, intelligent facial/body recognition software and hand held polygraph machines.
McCabe also explores issues surrounding the sex industry and corporate religion and the ways in which both exploit their clients vulnerabilities for financial gain, and use their huge profits to manipulate political decisions.

I enjoyed Skinjob, finding it to be an engaging thriller exploring a provocative near future reality. With this impressive debut, I look forward to McCabe’s next novel.

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Review & Giveaway: For One Night Only by Phillipa Fioretti


Title: For One Night Only

Author: Phillipa Fioretti

Published: Momentum January 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from June 09 to 10, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

After spending time with her Italian relatives, Australian born Ornella Ortenzi plans to enjoy a few days in the Sicilian town of Taormina with a friend before heading to Rome for an audition that could launch the acting career she has always dreamed of. So when Ornella meets Hugh Calthorpe, a handsome British archeologist, she is determined not to be swayed by his charm but after a hike up a volcano, a few drinks and a moonlight skinny dip, she decides to throw caution to the wind. After a wonderful night together, Ornella and Hugh are sharing breakfast the next morning when Hugh wanders into the cafe to pay…and vanishes, leaving his phone and sunglasses behind.

For One Night Only is a fast-paced, entertaining romantic suspense novel that has Ornella and Hugh caught up in a dangerous adventure when Hugh is abducted and ordered to steal the precious floor mosaic depicting Dido and Aenaes he recently uncovered in the basement of a hotel. There are some good twists to the story as Fioretti plots an exciting romp that includes escape and capture, a nasty group of Italian thugs, corporate conspiracy and betrayal as Ornella and Hugh strive to save themselves, and each other.

I liked both of Fioretti’s protagonists. It might be a little bit of a stretch to believe that Ornella would be so adamant about finding Hugh given the circumstances, but she is a confident and determined woman, who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid of trying to making it happen whether it is landing the role of a lifetime, or chasing after the missing Hugh. Hugh is a nice guy, smart, a little cheeky but obviously essentially principled and honest. The chemistry between the pair is well depicted from their first meeting and in the moments they spend both together and even apart, the author manages to develop the relationship so that the reader is hoping for a happy ever after.

The setting of For One Night Only is particularly lovely, I enjoyed the tour of Taormina and its surrounds, led by Fioretti’s vivid descriptions of simmering volcano’s, black sand beaches and bustling cafe’s. {Google the town and you will be fantasising about visiting it yourself!)

Combining romance, mystery, action and suspense, For One Night Only is a well written and entertaining story which I enjoyed reading.

Learn more about Philipa Fioretti and her love of  Italy by clicking here

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