Commentary #85: “My Journey Through the Marvel Universe”

My Journey Through the Marvel Universe

Image Credit: The Book Raven

I love Tiana, who is the awesome author of The Book Raven, wrote an incredible post about the Marvel Universe!

Here’s the link to Tiana’s post:


I love how Tiana watched all the Marvel movies, and then decided to make separate blog posts to discuss each movie individually.

Inspired by her, I wanted to give my take on these movies here, together. We’re only about a month away now from the premiere of Avengers: Endgame and I CANNOT FREAKING WAIT!!!


Iron Man (2008)

The film's title is shown below juxtaposed images of Tony Stark and Iron Man.

I’ve seen every single Marvel movie in theaters, several of them multiple times. I know superhero movies aren’t for everyone, but I’ve really enjoyed what Marvel and the variety of directors have done with these movies!

Iron Man was a big deal in 2008. It got a lot of buzz, and rightfully so. To me, no one else can play Iron Man other than Robert Downey, Jr. He’s pretty much perfect for the role.

Initially, Gwyneth Paltrow bothered me, but I like her as Pepper Potts. Jeff Bridges was great as the eventual villain. This was our first introduction to Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson, and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. I love how Jon Favreau played Tony Stark’s bodyguard and chauffeur Happy Hogan, as well as directed this movie.

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

The Incredible Hulk poster.jpg

I wasn’t a huge fan of this one. Edward Norton was okay as Hulk, and I enjoyed Liv Tyler.

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Tony Stark is pictured center wearing a smart suit, against a black background, behind him are the Iron Man red and gold armor, and the Iron Man silver armor. His friends, Rhodes, Pepper, are beside him and below against a fireball appears Ivan Vanko armed with his energy whip weapons.

I’m always slightly skeptical of sequels. However, banking on the massive success of the first Iron Man movie, this one was pretty good. I was sad to not see Terrence Howard, but thought Don Cheadle was a good choice. I enjoyed seeing Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell. Mickey Rourke wouldn’t be my first choice, but it worked.

Thor (2011)

Armor clad and wearing a red cape, Thor is crouched, holding the handle of his hammer to the ground, and rock debris is being blasted away. In the background are four panels showing the faces of Jane, Loki, Odin, and Heimdall.

Thor was a tough character for me to get behind. However, Chris Hemsworth was a great choice to portray him. I loved Natalie Portman as Jane Foster. And Idris Elba was a perfect choice for Heimdall, the sentry of the bifrost bridge. Asgard is a magical, amazing place!

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Captain America The First Avenger poster.jpg

Unlike Thor, Captain America was an easy sell for me. Captain America has become my favorite Marvel character. Chris Evans is incredibly handsome, and portrays the super solider so well! Plus, anytime history is incorporated into a movie, I’m there. I really enjoy 20th century history, so it’s no surprise I’ve seen this movie multiple times. In addition, I loved Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter.

The Avengers (2012)

TheAvengers2012Poster.jpg

I love it when a team comes together! While other Marvel movies are my true favorites, this one is near the top of the list, easily in my top five. Joss Whedon did a FABULOUS job with this movie!

All the previous movies to this point come together here. The noticeable difference is The Incredible Hulk is now portrayed by Mark Ruffalo, but I appreciated that change. We also see Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, which was another great choice. I also immensely enojyed seeing Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill.

This movie ends Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Iron Man 3 (2013)

Tony, as Iron Man in his battle damaged suit sitting with water around him, while his house behind is destroyed. Stark's Iron Legion is flying, while the Marvel logo with the film's title, credits and release date are below.

This was not my favorite. This movie is a good example as to why I’m skeptical with some decisions about sequels and additional movies. The only true exciting part for me was recognizing several locations in Miami.

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Thor - The Dark World poster.jpg

This one was also okay. Not my favorite. I did enjoy Kat Dennings and Rene Russo.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Captain America The Winter Soldier.jpg

This one almost outranks The First Avenger, but not quite. However, I loved the spy angle and espionage feel! Seeing Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson was awesome. And Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter was nice addition as well. Seeing Robert Redford was great, too.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

The five Guardians, sporting various weapons, arrayed in front of a backdrop of a planet in space with the film's title, credits and slogan.

This movie! Holy freaking cow. This is definitely in my top five, next to Captain America! I’m not usually one for space adventures, but this cast, plus the EPIC soundtrack did it all for me. It was FABULOUS.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Avengers Age of Ultron poster.jpg

The gang is back together. This one was good, but it’s hard to top the first Avengers movie. The additions of Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen were cool. And seeing Paul Bettany on screen was great, too.

Ant-Man (2015)

Official poster shows Ant-Man in his suit, and introduces a montage of him starts to shrink with his size-reduction ability, with a montage of helicopters, a police officer holds his gun, two men in suit and tie and sunglasses and the film's villain Darren Cross is walking with them smiling, Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, and Evengeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne with the film's title, credits, and release date below them, and the cast names above.

I wasn’t sure about seeing Ant-Man on screen, but Paul Rudd was a great choice for this role! This movie is hilarious, and I appreciated adding comedy and humor to a relatively dark and brooding series of movies. Not to say this movie doesn’t have darkness, but seeing the heist plot and Ant-Man’s origin story was great. Paul Rudd and Michael Pena are tied for my favorite characters here, and Michael Douglas is a close third.

This movie ends Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Official poster shows the Avengers team factions which led by Iron Man and Captain America, confronting each other by looking each other, with the film's slogan above them, and the film's title, credits, and release date below them.

Cap is back! This isn’t anywhere close to the other two Captain America movies, but still good. Seeing the division among the team – Not cool, but it certainly drives a good story. And seeing Spider-Man’s and Black Panther’s character debuts were awesome!!

Doctor Strange (2016)

Doctor Strange, wearing his traditional costume, including his red cloak coming out from a flowing energetic portal, and around him the world and New York turning around itself with the film's cast names above him and the film's title, credits and billing are underneath.

Like Thor, I was initially skeptical of Doctor Strange. However, I really enjoyed Benedict Cumberbatch in this role. Seeing this world, and how it connects with the rest, was exciting.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

The Guardian members in front of a colorful explosion

Unlike some of the other sequels, this one was AWESOME! The soundtrack didn’t disappoint, either. I high enjoyed Michael Rooker, Pom Klementieff, and Kurt Russell in this movie.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Spider-Man Homecoming poster.jpg

Tom Holland is awesome as Spider-Man! One of the best casting choices yet. I also enjoyed seeing Zendaya, Michael Keaton, and Marisa Tomei here. As many of you know, I’m a sucker for movies set in New York!

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Thor Ragnarok poster.jpg

This is by far my favorite of all the Thor movies. Period, end of story. The soundtrack is epic. Also, seeing Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Mark Ruffalo, and the alien Korg were great.

Black Panther (2018)

Black Panther film poster.jpg

Seeing this world of Wakanda was stunning. Everything about this movie was visually spectacular! Is it in my top five or top ten Marvel movies? No. But it is a spectacular addition to the MCU. I think my two favorite characters were Okoye (Danai Gurira) and Shuri (Letitia Wright)!

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Avengers Infinity War poster.jpg

Holy freaking cow. This movie destroyed me, along with everyone else. But it’s so good. It’s a great culmination of all the other movies to this point. But, it’s a soul-crusher for sure. The great battle in Wakanda was one of the most amazing battles / fight scenes ever!

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

Ant-Man and the Wasp poster.jpg

Seeing this after the trauma of Infinity War was a pleasant change. This is a really good sequel, and what’s not to like with comic relief! I wasn’t super fond of Hannah John-Kamen and Laurence Fishburne, but it worked.

Captain Marvel (2019)

Captain Marvel poster.jpg

This movie was super kick-ass! Brie Larson was a great choice to play Carol Danvers. Plus, the total 1990s nostalgia was spot-on! And the cat literally stole the show.


I’m mentally preparing for the destruction that Endgame will bring on April 26th. I think I’m ready?

Also, Endgame is the movie that marks the end of Phase Three of the MCU.

I’m looking forward to Spider-Man: Far From Home in July. This is the start of Phase Four of the MCU.


What about you? Do you have a favorite movie from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Commentary #84: “As GM’s Lordstown plant idles, an iconic American job nears extinction”

Lordstown GM Plant

Image Credit: CNN

I saw this fascinating CNN article on Wednesday, March 6th:


The Lordstown, Ohio plant has been closed for nearly a week now. It made its last Chevy Cruze sedan on March 6th. Another sign of the times. General Motors (GM) has shrunk from more than 618,000 workers to just north of 100,000 people.

Auto manufacturing in the U.S. has been declining for a while now. The closure of Lordstown is part of GM’s shift in strategy – Away from sedans, more focus on higher-margin trucks and light SUVs, as well as researching and developing electric and autonomous vehicles. GM has also invested in a ridesharing platform called Maven.

In addition to a declining workforce, U.S. auto workers have experienced a drop in wages (Roughly 18 percent since 1990, adjusted for inflation), and less retirement benefits. Just two years ago, only eight percent of factories offered pensions.


Lordstown sits in the Youngstown, Ohio region, halfway between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. The average worker in Youngstown made $38,000 per year in 2017. Compare that to $61,000 to $88,000 per year for full-time GM production workers, according to their United Auto Workers union contract. And that doesn’t include overtime pay and bonuses.

The Lordstown plant started to see changes about two years ago. As the demand for the Cruze sedan declined, the second and third shifts were cut, and 3,000 people were laid off. Of the remaining 1,400 people, about 400 accepted transfers to other plants, and they are able to hold on to their healthcare and pensions. There were 350 workers eligible for retirement. Those transferred workers will receive $30,000 in relocation assistance.

One of the workers interviewed for the article, at GM since 1995, thought she had enough seniority to transfer to another facility, such as the metal fabrication plant in Cleveland or the transmission factory in Toledo. However, relocating is not ideal, either. She’s stuck, quoted as saying GM has her in a “chokehold.”

“I make $32 an hour. I’m not going to go get a $12-an-hour job. I couldn’t survive on that at all. I’m going to get up and go, ride it out, try to get the best gig I can get, and be done with them.” She’s hoping to net her 30 years at GM – which won’t happen until 2025.


The Youngstown region has watched manufacturing slide downhill since the 1970s. The auto industry started to crack less than a decade later, with stiffer competition from Japanese automakers. In 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) dealt another blow, as work was outsourced to lower-paying suppliers. In 2007, as the automakers were having systemic issues related to the financial crisis and impending Great Recession, a lower-wage tier was created for entry-level workers, where they made 45 percent less per hour and got a 401(k) rather than a guaranteed pension. GM’s bankruptcy two years later tightened things even further.

For Lordstown, the community has thrived on GM. At one point, GM helped bring more than $2 million in tax revenue, among other benefits to schools and community ventures. Twenty years ago, Lordstown was competing with other cities to win another car model to replace the Chevy Cavalier. The community banded together, and along with plant officials, were successful in winning that car model. The community tried it again in 2018 – Posting signs, writing letters, and working with politicians. Unfortunately, one of the big factors was plant management wasn’t interested in participating this time.

Many are uncertain and fearful. They’ve watched GM shutter, and then re-open, their plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee. What if that happens in Lordstown?

Another problem is many GM workers were hired without secondary education. Nearly two-thirds of the 13,000 purported job openings in Youngstown, including information technology and healthcare, will require a post-secondary credential by 2021.

One bright spot is trade adjustment assistance, available to GM workers through the state and U.S. Department of Commerce. Truck driving certificates have been popular recently, due to the quick turnaround to earning them, and relatively good pay.


As Lordstown begins to adjust to life without GM, the local high school has started a training program for the logistics industry, helping prepare students for jobs in the various distribution centers in the area. Roughly 15 percent of students have parents worked in the plant. And they’ve already begun to experience losses, as families leave to accept those transfers at other GM plants.

TJ Maxx is building a facility that will employ 1,000 people locally. However, the wage difference is drastic. Where many at GM made $30 per hour or more, entry-level listings for other TJ Maxx facilities sit between $10 and $13.50 per hour.

However, Lordstown doesn’t want the shuttered plant to be turned over to Amazon, Tesla, or any other company. Not yet, anyway.


This story isn’t just about one GM plant in one Ohio town. It’s about history, the manufacturing industry, the changes in the American workforce, and what can be done for those who need jobs now.


Resources


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Writing Prompt #212: The ABC Book Challenge (The Letter W)

ABC Book Challenge - C

Memorable Books Starting with the Letter “W”:

A Walk to Remember (Hardcover).jpg

A Walk to Remember

  • This is one of my favorite Nicholas Sparks books. The movie adaptation (2002) was also really well-done.

the-war-that-saved-my-life

The War That Saved My Life

  • This was one of my favorite books I read in 2017. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, The War I Finally Won, soon!

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Where Have All The Flowers Gone?: The Diary of Molly MacKenzie Flaherty

  • This is one of my all-time favorite Dear America books.

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Where The Sidewalk Ends

  • Shel Silverstein was so gifted. I’m not a huge poetry fan, but I love his writings and illustrations.

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Where The Wild Things Are

  • This is one of the best children’s books.

the-whistler

The Whistler

  • I love John Grisham! This particular book was a bit disappointing, but I still enjoy his work.

99107

Winnie-the-Pooh

  • The books are delightful. I remember doing a school project on A.A. Milne, and how he created these characters!

The Woman in Cabin 10 - Amazon

The Woman in Cabin 10

  • Al bought this book for me for Christmas 2017. I quickly devoured it, and want to read more from Ruth Ware.

Books I’d Love to Read Starting with the Letter “W”:

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Water for Elephants

  • I’ve wanted to read this book since finding out, years ago, that Sara Gruen wrote this during NaNoWriMo!

5310515

When You Reach Me

  • This one looks intriguing.

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Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

  • I’ve been curious about this book since I first saw in on the local library shelf when I was in high school.

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Will Grayson, Will Grayson

  • I don’t remember reading this, although John Green is one of my favorite authors.

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Wonder

  • This book has been on my radar for the last year or so.

What books have you read, or want to read, that start with the letter W? Let me know!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Writing Prompt #204: The ABC Book Challenge (The Letter V)

ABC Book Challenge - G

Memorable Books Starting with the Letter “V”:

The Vacationers

The Vacationers

  • After abandoning it originally, I’m glad I finished this book. It’s definitely more of a “fluff” or “beach” read, but it was entertaining and fun.

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The Velveteen Rabbit

  • I don’t think this was my favorite book, but we definitely had a copy!

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The Very Hungry Caterpillar

  • This book was special to me and my family! Eric Carle is such a talented artist and writer.

Victory in the Valley

Victory in the Valley

  • Domeka used to work at my company. He’s an amazing pastor, husband, and father. This is his first book. It’s part memoir, part testimony, part Bible study. I’m already looking forward to the sequel!

Books I’d Love to Read Starting with the Letter “V”:

14865

Vanishing Acts

  • I keep hearing good things about Jodi Picoult and her books. I need to get this one at the library soon.

1116094

Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster

  • I wasn’t alive when the Chernobyl disaster occurred in 1986, but I’ve been fascinated by it since first learning about in several of my history classes.

What books have you read, or want to read, that start with the letter V? Let me know!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Writing Prompt #192: The ABC Book Challenge (The Letter U)

The ABC Book Challenge - I

Memorable Books Starting with the Letter “U”:

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Uglies (Uglies, #1)

  • I had never heard of this book before my Young Adult Literature class in 2011. I ended up really liking it. I have yet to read the rest of the series, but I want to.

the-underground-railroad

The Underground Railroad

  • I first heard about this book when the author was interviewed by Terry Gross for Fresh Air. By the end of the interview, I knew I needed my own copy. It was not a disappointment.

Books I Would Like to Read Starting with the Letter “U”:

8664353

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption

  • I’ve wanted to read this for quite a while. I’m in a fun Facebook group called The Book Drunkard. As part of a fun book and chocolate swap around Valentine’s Day, my swap partner sent me this book and yummy chocolate. I can’t wait to read it soon.

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The Uncoupling

  • I first head Meg Wolitzer’s name when one of the critics for Fresh Air reviewed her newest book at the end of a podcast episode. It led me to research her other works.ย I need to pick it up at the library.

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Under the Banner of Heaven

  • Jon Krakauer has been on my watch list for a while. I’ve heard good things about several of his books. This one is especially intriguing because of its focus on faith. I want to see his take on religious beliefs and its extremes.

2417936

Uninsured in America: Life and Death in the Land of Opportunity

  • It may be a bit dated now – The book was first published in 2005 – but I still want to read it. As someone who works for a regional health system, I’m always curious about other people’s perspectives on insurance and health care.

What books have you read, or want to read, that start with the letter U? Let me know!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Awesome Authors #18: Sarah Dessen

Sarah Dessen Quote

Image Credit: Quotefancy

I’m long overdue for an Awesome Authors post.

I inhaled Sarah Dessen’s books when I was in high school and college.


Dessen was born in June 1970 in Evanston, Illinois. Her parents, Alan and Cynthia, taught classicism and Shakespearean literature at the University of North Carolina.

When she was 15, Dessen became involved with a 21-year-old man. She realized it was a bad idea, and cut ties shortly thereafter. In an interview, she said she took the blame for the situation and relationship for years afterward. When she herself turned 21, she made a point to look at teens and ask herself whether or not she wanted to hang out with them, or even date one. The answer, she said, “was always a flat, immediate no. They were kids. I was an adult. End of story.”

She first attended Greensboro College in Greensboro, North Carolina. She dropped out quickly to enroll in the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She graduated with the highest honors in Creative Writing.

While launching her writing career, Dessen worked as a waitress at a restaurant called Flying Burrito. Her first book, That Summer, was published in 1996.

The 2003 movie How to Deal, starring Mandy Moore and Allison Janney, was based on Dessen’s books That Summer and Someone Like You.

Several of her novels have been named the American Library Association’s (ALA) “Best Fiction for Young Adults” selection. Along for the Rideย (2010) made the New York Times Best Sellers List.

In 2017, Dessen received the Margaret A. Edwards Award as a result of seven of her novels, published between 2000 and 2011. Her newest book is Once and for All (2017).


Just Listen (2006)

Just Listen (novel).jpg

Image Credit: Wikipedia

I’m pretty sure this is the first book of Dessen’s I remember reading, although I’m not 100 percent sure.

Lock and Key (2008)

Lock and Key (novel).jpg

Image Credit: Wikipedia

As someone who has struggled all her life to ask for help, this one cut deep.

That Summer (1996)

Image result for that summer book

Image Credit: Goodreads

I think I’ve read this? I’m not sure. This is Dessen’s first novel.

Dreamland (2000)

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Image Credit: Wikipedia

I passed by this book so many times at the library, and then once I finished either Just Listen or Lock and Key, I knew I needed to read it.

This Lullaby (2002)

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Image Credit: Wikipedia

I remember this one, since having faith and learning to leap is something I’ve worked on for years. The cover also caught my eye at the library.

Along for the Ride (2009)

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Image Credit: Goodreads

I don’t remember reading this one, but I know I want to.

Keeping The Moon (1999)

Keeping the Moon.jpg

Image Credit: Wikipedia

If I have read this, it was early on. I distinctly remember the cover, and I know I saw it on the library shelves. Regardless, I do want to pick it up and re-read it.

Saint Anything (2015)

Image result for saint anything book

Image Credit: Goodreads

This is one I definitely haven’t read. I’m pretty sure the last new release I read was Lock and Key.


What about you? Have you read any of Sarah Dessen’s works? Have you seen How to Deal?


Until the next headline, Laura Bethย  ๐Ÿ™‚

Writing Prompt #184: The ABC Book Challenge (The Letter T)

The ABC Book Challenge - K

Memorable Books that Start with the Letter “T”:

Maryellen - amazon

Taking Off: A Maryellen Classic 2

  • I love Maryellen’s books. They remind me of what my mom’s childhood was like in Florida in the 1950s.

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Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

  • Judy Blume’s books defined my childhood!

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Things Fall Apart

  • I was assigned to read this toward the end of high school. I remember struggling with it, but the discussions we had in class were good.

This Is Where It Ends - Goodreads

This Is Where It Ends

  • This was a tough book. An important subject, but tough to read when The Pulse nightclub shooting happened in Orlando, Florida.

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To Kill A Mockingbird

  • I was assigned to read this in high school. It quickly became one of my favorite books. I re-read it every year.

Image Credit: www.shapingyouth.org

Tornado Warning: A Memoir of Teen Dating Violence and Its Effect on a Woman’s Life

  • Another powerful book. It was put into my life at the perfect time. Buying my own copy was perfectly timed and orchestrated, too. The coolest part was when the author, Elin Stebbins Waldal, found my Book Review in July 2015, read it, and took the time to comment on my post!

Books Iโ€™d Love to Read Starting with the Letter “T”:

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The Tales of Beedle the Bard

  • I want to round out my collection of Harry Potter texts with this one.

Image result for that was then this is now book

That Was Then, This Is Now

  • The only book I’ve read by S.E. Hinton is The Outsiders (1967). I really want to read this one soon.

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The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

  • I really do want to read all of the Bronte sisters’ work, someday. This one looks fascinating!

Tex SE Hinton.jpg

Tex

  • Another book from S.E. Hinton. I really need to capitalize on my local library.

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The Time-Traveler’s Wife

  • I’ve heard good things about this book for years!

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Treasure Island

  • I remember learning about this classic through Wishboneย (“Salty Dog”), and then Muppet Treasure Island (1996).

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Tropic of Cancer

  • This book was on the list during my year-long reading challenge, but I never got to it. Another one I should look for at the library.

What books have you read, or want to read, that start with the letter T? Let me know!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚