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<<October 2016>>
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Results 1 - 25 of 2,000
1. Anne's House of Dreams

Anne's House of Dreams. L.M. Montgomery. 1919. 227 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: “Thanks be, I’m done with geometry, learning or teaching it,” said Anne Shirley, a trifle vindictively, as she thumped a somewhat battered volume of Euclid into a big chest of books, banged the lid in triumph, and sat down upon it, looking at Diana Wright across the Green Gables garret, with gray eyes that were like a morning sky.

Premise/plot: Anne Shirley marries Gilbert Blythe in this oh-so-lovely, oh-so-charming book by L.M. Montgomery. Technically, it is the sequel to Anne of the Island! Anne of Windy Poplars was written in the 1930s, decades after Anne's House of Dreams. In this Anne book, the happily married couple settle down in their first home together near Four Winds Harbor and Glen St. Mary. 

Anne's House of Dreams introduces many new characters--some of my favorites I admit--Captain Jim, Miss Cornelia, Leslie Moore, Owen Ford. Marshall Elliot. Susan Baker. Who would ever want to forget their stories? Captain Jim's life-book. Leslie Moore's tragic past but enduring spirit. Miss Cornelia. She's got to be one-of-a-kind. Just a truly spirited character with so much heart and full of gumption. Practically everything out of her mouth is quotable. She sure is great at banter!

My thoughts: I love and adore this one!!! I love how emotionally satisfying it is. The Anne books may have sweet moments, but they pack in reality as well. No one can make me cry like L.M. Montgomery.

“Stoutness and slimness seem to be matters of predestination,” said Anne.
Jane was not brilliant, and had probably never made a remark worth listening to in her life; but she never said anything that would hurt anyone’s feelings — which may be a negative talent but is likewise a rare and enviable one.
“I’ve heard you criticise ministers pretty sharply yourself,” teased Anne. “Yes, but I do it reverently,” protested Mrs. Lynde. “You never heard me NICKNAME a minister.” Anne smothered a smile.
Their happiness was in each other’s keeping and both were unafraid. 
“Miss Cornelia Bryant. She’ll likely be over to see you soon, seeing you’re Presbyterians. If you were Methodists she wouldn’t come at all. Cornelia has a holy horror of Methodists.”
“I know we are going to be friends,” said Anne, with the smile that only they of the household of faith ever saw. “Yes, we are, dearie. Thank goodness, we can choose our friends. We have to take our relatives as they are, and be thankful if there are no penitentiary birds among them. Not that I’ve many — none nearer than second cousins. I’m a kind of lonely soul, Mrs. Blythe.” There was a wistful note in Miss Cornelia’s voice.
“Were you able to eat enough pie to please her?” “I wasn’t. Gilbert won her heart by eating — I won’t tell you how much. She said she never knew a man who didn’t like pie better than his Bible. Do you know, I love Miss Cornelia.”

“Our library isn’t very extensive,” said Anne, “but every book in it is a FRIEND. We’ve picked our books up through the years, here and there, never buying one until we had first read it and knew that it belonged to the race of Joseph.”
A woman cannot ever be sure of not being married till she is buried, Mrs. Doctor, dear, and meanwhile I will make a batch of cherry pies.
“I wonder why people so commonly suppose that if two individuals are both writers they must therefore be hugely congenial,” said Anne, rather scornfully. “Nobody would expect two blacksmiths to be violently attracted toward each other merely because they were both blacksmiths.”
The p’int of good writing is to know when to stop.
There’s only the one safe compass and we’ve got to set our course by that — what it’s right to do.
Logic is a sort of hard, merciless thing, I reckon.
“Since you are determined to be married, Miss Cornelia,” said Gilbert solemnly, “I shall give you the excellent rules for the management of a husband which my grandmother gave my mother when she married my father.” “Well, I reckon I can manage Marshall Elliott,” said Miss Cornelia placidly. “But let us hear your rules.” “The first one is, catch him.” “He’s caught. Go on.” “The second one is, feed him well.” “With enough pie. What next?” “The third and fourth are — keep your eye on him.” “I believe you,” said Miss Cornelia emphatically.
Cats is cats, and take my word for it, they will never be anything else.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. Leon and Lulu Special Author Event

I will be at the Leon and Lulu special author event with over 50 authors. Stop by and see us. The event is from 11-5pm. I will be there signing my award winning books.



Mon. - Fri. 10am - 8pm
Sat. 10am - 6pm
Sun. 11am - 5pm
(Mon. Oct 31st 10am - 6pm)
96 w. 14 Mile Clawson, MI 48017

Sit. Relax. Take a nap.

Explore Metro-Detroit’s Award-Winning Lifestyle Retail Store

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3. नेता और अभिनेता – राजनीति का फिल्मों में हस्ताक्षेप कितना जरुरी

नेता और अभिनेता – राजनीति का फिल्मों में हस्ताक्षेप कितना जरुरी – आज के समय का एक यक्ष प्रश्न है क्योकि जिस तरह से एक फिल्म के रिलीज पर अब करोडो रुपये देकर मामले सुलटने लगे ये सही रिवाज नही शुरु हुआ … आगे आगे तो इस तरह से तो अन्य बातों में भी शर्ते […]

The post नेता और अभिनेता – राजनीति का फिल्मों में हस्ताक्षेप कितना जरुरी appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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4. What I Nominated for Cybils

Audio Book: Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm
Easy Reader: Moo Bird by David Milgrim
Early Chapter Book: Posy the Puppy (Dr. KittyCat #1) by Jane Clarke
Middle Grade Speculative Fiction: The Adventures of Miss Petitfour by Anne Michaels
Board Book: Cityblock by Christopher Franceschelli
Picture Book (Fiction): Miracle Man by John Hendrix
Elementary/MG Graphic Novel: Alamo All-Stars by Nathan Hale
Young Adult: March: Book Three by John Lewis
Middle Grade Fiction: Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban
Middle Grade/YA Nonfiction: Breakthrough by Jim Murphy; Fashion Rebels by Carlyn Cerniglia Beccia (one of these got moved from a different category)
Juvenile Nonfiction: Let Your Voice Be Heart by Anita Silvey
Elementary Nonfiction: Nadia the Girl Who Couldn't Sit Still by Karlin Gray
Poetry: Echo Echo by Marilyn Singer
Young Adult: Savaged Lands by Lana Kortchick
Young Adult Speculative Fiction: The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson

2016 Nominations by category:

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. Another FREE kindle ebook for kids - SILLY MONSTERS 1,2,3.

Count monsters for free!
Another FREE kindle ebook for kids! (October 22nd - October 24th)
A silly monsters counting book!


Cover of Silly Monsters 1,2,3
Silly Monsters 1,2,3

And here are some pictures from the book:
silly monsters in a tree, illustration from my ebook for kids
Three Silly Monsters in a tree

Illustration of six silly monsters on a train from my ebook for kids
Six Silly Monsters on a train


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6. Ernie Pyle in England

Ernie Pyle in England. Ernie Pyle. 1941. 215 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: A small voice came in the night and said, “Go.” And when I put it up to the boss he leaned back in his chair and said, “Go.” And when I sat alone with my so-called conscience and asked it what to do, it pointed and said, “Go.” So I’m on my way to London.

Premise/plot: Ernie Pyle in England was first published in 1941. It gathers together Ernie Pyle's newspaper columns from his time--three or so months--in England (and Ireland and Scotland). (He was an American journalist.) At the time the book was published, America had NOT yet entered the second world war.

My thoughts: WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME THIS BOOK EXISTED?! Seriously. I've gone all these years of my life not knowing about Ernie Pyle?!?!?! This one was a PERFECT fit for me. I love to read about England. (I do. I really do.) And I love to read about World War II. If you love history, this one may prove quite satisfying. And if you love human-interest stories, then this one will certainly satisfy!!!

I found it fascinating, entertaining, compelling, charming.

A ship carries people out of reality, into illusion. People who go away on ships are going away to better things.
Our bathtub has three faucets, one marked cold, and two marked hot. The point is that one is a little hotter than the other. I don’t know why it’s done this way. All I care about is that one or the other should give off hot water; and they really do — plenty hot. But our radiator does not have the same virtue. It is a centuries old custom not to have heat over here. All radiators are vaguely warm; none is ever hot. They have no effect at all on the room’s temperature. I’ve been cold all over the world. I’ve suffered agonies of cold in Alaska and Peru and Georgia and Maine. But I’ve never been colder than right here in this room. Actually, the temperature isn’t down to freezing. And it’s beautiful outside. Yet the chill eats into you and through you. You put on sweaters until you haven’t any more — and you get no warmer. The result is that Lait and I take turns in the bathtub, I’ll bet we’re the two most thoroughly washed caballeros in Portugal. We take at least four hot baths a day. And during the afternoon, when I’m trying to write, I have to let the hot water run over my hands about every fifteen minutes to limber them up. I’m telling the truth.
My new English friends wanted to know what America thought; and they told queer bomb stories by the dozen. “You’re a welcome sight,” they said. “We’ve all told our bomb stories to each other so many times that nobody listens any more. Now we’ve got a new audience.”
London is no more knocked out than the man who smashes a finger is dead. Daytime life in London today comes very close to being normal.
Some day when peace has returned to this odd world I want to come to London again and stand on a certain balcony on a moonlit night and look down upon the peaceful silver curve of the Thames with its dark bridges. And standing there, I want to tell somebody who has never seen it how London looked on a certain night in the holiday season of the year 1940. For on that night this old, old city was — even though I must bite my tongue in shame for saying it — the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. It was a night when London was ringed and stabbed with fire. They came just after dark, and somehow you could sense from the quick, bitter firing of the guns that there was to be no monkey business this night.
And Big Ben? Well, he’s still striking the hours. He hasn’t been touched, despite half a dozen German claims that he has been knocked down. Bombs have fallen around Trafalgar Square, yet Nelson still stands atop his great monument, and the immortal British lions, all four of them, still crouch at the base of the statue, untouched.
Londoners pray daily that a German bomb will do something about the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens. If you have ever seen it, you know why.
Apparently the national drink in England is a beef extract called Bovril, which is advertised everywhere, like Coca Cola at home. Yesterday I went into a snack bar for some lunch. I asked the waitress just what this Bovril stuff was, and in a cockney accent that would lay you in the aisle she said: “Why sir, it’s beef juice and it’s wonderful for you on cold days like this. It’s expensive, but it’s body-buildin’, sir, it’s very body-buildin’.” So I had a cup. It cost five cents, and you just ought to see my body being built.
If I were making this trip over again I would throw away my shirts and bring three pounds of sugar. 
You can hardly conceive of the determination of the people of England to win this war. They are ready for anything. They are ready to take further rationing cuts. They are ready to eat in groups at communal kitchens. Even the rich would quit their swanky dining rooms without much grumbling. If England loses this war it won’t be because people aren’t willing — and even ahead of the government in their eagerness — to assume a life of all-out sacrifice.
Don’t tell me the British don’t have a sense of humor. I never get tired of walking around reading the signs put up by stores that have had their windows blown out. My favorite one is at a bookstore, the front of which has been blasted clear out. The store is still doing business, and its sign says, “More Open than Usual.”
One of the few things I have found that are cheaper here than at home is a haircut. I paid only thirty cents the other day in the hotel barbershop, and since then I’ve seen haircuts advertised at fifteen cents. I’m going to get a haircut every day from now on — enough to last me for a year or two.
It was amazing and touching the way the Christmas spirit was kept up during the holidays. People banded together and got up Christmas trees, and chipped in to buy gifts all around. I visited more than thirty shelters during the holidays, and there was not a one that was not elaborately decorated.
I probably wouldn’t have slept a wink if it hadn’t been for the bathroom. I discovered it after midnight, when everybody else had gone to bed. The bathroom was about twenty feet square, and it had twin bathtubs! Yes, two big old-fashioned bathtubs sitting side by side with nothing between, just like twin beds. Twin bathtubs had never occurred to me before. But having actually seen them, my astonishment grew into approval. I said to myself, “Why not?” Think what you could do with twin bathtubs. You could give a party. You could invite the Lord Mayor in for tea and a tub. You could have a national slogan, “Two tubs in every bathroom.” The potentialities of twin bathtubs assumed gigantic proportions in my disturbed mind, and I finally fell asleep on the idea, all my fears forgotten.
It is hard for a Scotsman to go five minutes without giving something a funny twist, and it is usually a left-handed twist. All in all, I have found the Scots much more like Americans than the Englishmen are. I feel perfectly at home with them.
Pearl Hyde is head of the Coventry branch of the Women’s Voluntary Services. It was Pearl Hyde who fed and clothed and cheered and really saved the people of Coventry after the blitz. For more than a week she plowed around in the ashes of Coventry, wearing policeman’s pants. She never took off her clothes. She was so black they could hardly tell her from a Negro. Her Women’s Voluntary Services headquarters was bombed out, so she and her women moved across the street. Her own home was blown up, and even today she still sleeps in the police station. Pearl Hyde is a huge woman, tall and massive. Her black hair is cut in a boyish bob. And she has personality that sparkles with power and good nature. She is much better looking than in the film. And she is laughing all the time. She was just ready to dash off somewhere when I went in to see her, but she tarried a few minutes to tell me how good the Americans had been with donations.
It is against the law to leave a car that could be driven away by the Germans. You have to immobilize your car when you leave it, even though you might be walking only fifty feet away to ask a policeman for directions. In daytime, just locking the doors and taking the key counts as immobilization, but at night you have to take out some vital part, such as the distributor.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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7. Snapshots From the NYSEC Conference

My time at the New York State English Council (NYSEC) Conference through snapshots!

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8. Carnegie Medal Nominations 2017

First, to anyone at YA Shot in Uxbridge today, have a great day! Second, if anyone here's going to be at the UKYA Blogging Awards at Uxbridge tonight, yay! I'll see you there.  On with the post!

photo from CILIP website

It seems to to come round quicker and quicker every year, Yesterday, the nominations for the CILIP Carnegie and the Kate Greenaway medals were released. Due to my being at uni now, I sadly don't have the brilliant booklet my school librarian produced which had all the blurbs of the books recommended, so this post is based upon a)the bits I've heard from social media over the year and b)when I googled the things with interesting titles. But here- a list of the books that I am glad to see on the list, and would totally bump up a reading pile if I ha
d time to do any reading for pleasure right now.

  • Crush by Eve Ainsworth. I've heard people say how well written Ainsworth's characters are in both this and 7 Days, so  even with the heavy subject, it should be good.
  • Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman. Othello in space with a girl as the lead? I've had this on my pile at home for ages, but the concept of this is great and so is Blackman.
  • Twenty Questions for Gloria by Martyn Bedford. I like thrillers when I read them, I just haven't really read that many. I should though. 
  • What's A Girl Gotta Do? by Holly Bourne. I'm sorry, I haven't read any in this feminist trilogy/series (not sure which...) but so many people say good things about it.
  • Why I Went Back by James Clammer. Myth and magic and mystery? And maybe a better version of Skellig? 
  • Monsters by Emerald Fennell. The atmosphere of  an Enid Blyton story (which I loved when I was little) plus murder? Yep.
  • The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon. From the blurb, the story of a refugee in a detention centre, and a girl with a notebook of family history, it looks beautiful. 
  • Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin. Alternate history and fantasy and a badass main character. Looking forwards to it.
  • Radio Silence by Alice Oseman. So many people have told me to read Oseman's work. Some day, hopefully.
  • Unboxed by Non Pratt. Loved Remix and Trouble, hoping for more good things. 
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. Again, loved Between Shades of Grey, and hoping for another book of similar quality. 
  • Jolly Foul Play by Robin Stevens. Murder Most Unladylike and Arsenic for Tea were just fun reads-mystery, friendship, and a Chinese main character. I should catch up on this series.

And also, the things I have read and think totally deserve to be here!
  • All Of The Above by Juno Dawson. About finding your identity, and with some pretty good poetry.
  • George by Alex Gino. A middle-grade story about a transgirl, which just left me feeling happy.
  • London Belongs to Us by Sarra Manning. I read this book about my favourite city in on sitting and it's full of great characters and adventure. 
That's not to say the other books are undeserving! There's 114 of them, as well as 93 nominated for the Kate Greenaway award, and I applaud the judges who will read ALL of them. But even more applause goes to all the creators who made the books. Congratulations on the nomination, and good luck!

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9. Cubs Win!

Every Cubs fan is ten years old tonight.

For the first time since 1945, the Cubs are in a World Series.  They haven't won one since 1908.  In that year, Harriet Tubman was still alive.  So was Mark Twain.  And Leon Tolstoy. And Geronimo. And Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

My high school was founded that year.

It's just baseball, yes, and I have philosophical objections to the culture of professional sports in this country and elsewhere.

But let me repeat: in this, the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Sixteen, the Cubs are in the World Series. For all the years since '08, for all the years they had great players like Ernie Banks and Billy Williams and Ron Santo and Ryne Sandberg, this time, they finally, finally made it. 

For fans who remember 1945 and bovid mammals of the genus Capra; for those who recall the implosions of 1969 and 1984 and 2003, this time, they did it (Yeah, there were a couple other times they were in the playoffs since '84, but those never felt like their year).  This time, they finally did it.

I remember, in the 70s, my mother taking me and my brother and our friends to the Cubs games, especially on Fridays, which was Ladies' Day and tickets were cheap (Fridays didn't become popular until the 80s).  It was the era of Reggie Jackson and the Pirates and the Big Red Machine of Cincinnati. 

There were peanuts outside and hot dogs inside and vendors selling Old Style beer (which of course we didn't drink). There were Andy Frain ushers and no one had even thought about putting seats on the roofs of buildings across the street. There was that deliciously analog giant scoreboard in center field.  (And, of course, there were no big screen high definition TVs.).

I remember our neighbor's cousin from Japan coming to see a baseball game in America and being wowed by Wrigley Field.

I remember some of the coldest spring days of my life sitting along the unreserved seats of left field.

I remember when they installed lights and being relieved they architecturally matched the stadium.

I remember commemorating the 50th anniversary of my high school's new building and the seventy-fifth anniversary of its founding by walking down Addison to see the Cubs play.

And I remember when Hank Aaron came for his first appearance in Chicago after breaking Babe Ruth's home run record and the entire stadium stood and gave him a standing ovation even though he was on the other team. 

I remember Jack Brickhouse and being kind of disappointed when he retired and was replaced by Harry Caray who, of course, had covered the White Sox, which was just wrong.

I remember friends being fans of the Reds and the Pirates and the Dodgers and the White Sox, which was just wrong. (For the record, I was not opposed to their winning the World Series a couple years back.  I don't like their new stadium, though.  Or the fact that they took Comiskey off the name).

I totally shouldn't care about professional athletes making millions for their billionaire employers for mediocre performances over the course of a century.  And part of me doesn't. 

But it's the Cubs.  And today, every Chicagoan who remembers is ten years old again.  And tonight, that's sublime.

Even if they don't beat Cleveland.  But they will. Unless they don't.  In which case they will do so in the most heart-breakingly way possible. Because they're the Cubs.

And it's what they do.

And there will be a next year.

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10. VIDEO: Never Alone

A classmate turned me onto this game available for iPad and iPhone (maybe Android too), NEVER ALONE. I don't really play games and I don't have the right device, but I was still able to enjoy the video about the story behind this gorgeous app. Click the image to watch a short video about it.

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11. Full of Beans

Full of Beans. Jennifer L. Holm. 2016. Random House. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Look here, Mac. I'm gonna give it to you straight: grown-ups lie. Sure, they like to say that kids make things up and that we don't tell the truth. But they're the lying liars.

Premise/plot: Full of Beans is the prequel to Jennifer L. Holm's Turtle in Paradise. Both books are set in Key West, Florida. Full of Beans is set in 1934, and Turtle in Paradise is set in 1935. Bean, a character first introduced in Turtle in Paradise, narrates the book. And WHAT A CHARACTER Holm has given us!!! I wish Bean starred in a dozen books! That is how much I love and adore him.

So what is it about? It's the Great Depression and Bean and his family--the whole community, the whole nation--is in need. Bean does what he can to help his family out while his Dad is off crossing the country looking for any job he can get. But it isn't until the end of the book that Bean's inspiration pays off. Until then, he too is prone to trying anything and everything to bring home what nickels and dimes he can.

Bean has two brothers: Kermit and Buddy. He has a very hard-working mother and a MEANIE of a grandmother.

The book opens with Bean trying to determine if the government's visitor to Key West is good news or bad news....

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I'm not sure the plot is wow-worthy on its own. But. Because it's BEAN I was engaged start to finish. The characters make this novel well worth reading. Even if you don't love, love, love historical fiction.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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12. how to make an urban sketch in ten easy steps

How to make an Urban Sketch (in the North of England in Autumn (i.e. it's cold)) in 10 easy steps;

(Optional step; Turn up to the location and realise you've brought all your inks but no pen. No really (I told you I was a rubbish urban sketcher). Go buy pens)

Step 1. Find a coffee shop with a window seat and a view
Step 2. Have a coffee and sandwich. This is one of the more complicated steps; I'm in the Northern Quarter, of Manchester, so will have to decide between ten different coffee beans, made in fifteen different ways, then there's the bread...sour dough, brioche, rye....
Step 3. Make a mess of the table
Step 4. Ah shit. Why did I put colour on it?
Step 5. Have another coffee. And a Danish pastry. Try to hide the mess you've made of the table when they bring it over.
Step 6. Add lettering to try to take away the focus from the awful colour work
Step 7. Pigeons
Step 8. Scrub the table then go outside and take the obligatory out of focus urban sketcher photo, whilst holding your book in front of the building with one hand and trying to take photo with the other hand whilst worrying that somebody is going to snatch your phone.
Step 9. When all else fails go shopping
Step 10. Reassess at home over a cup of tea. Followed by either throwing it in the bin or feeling a little bit smug.

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13. Amazon as Deedy's Muse!

We almost hate posting this from Deedy because it is all about her Other Kind of Writing, but oh well.  Love, Bizzy, Blizzy, Dizzy, Fizzy, Frizzy, Quizzy, Tizzy, and Whizzy

* * *

This is the final installment of my "salute" to Amazon during the time Amazon is saluting Indy authors.

I've already posted about how finding out about Createspace and KDP liberated my creative inclinations so I could write and publish all the Izzy Elves stories as paperbacks, downloadable audio books, audio book CDs, and (soon) Illustrated Audio Books via Amazon Video Direct.

Today I'd like to add a different kind of salute, to Amazon as "muse." (I keep trying to make a pun-type thingy of A-muse-zon but that doesn't work too well so I won't.)  If I did, I would use this horrible pun to refer to the fact that even when I don't actually publish something myself using the Amazon platforms, just knowing that they are available in case I need them has served as a powerful inspiration to me as a writer.

Case in point: A Buss from Lafayette.

This is a story for which I conceived the main idea almost twenty years ago. I did a lot of reading about Lafayette during those years, but I couldn't make myself actually finish writing this book. As there was no guarantee that I could find a publisher for it, it just seemed rather pointless to complete this project.

Then I heard about Createspace and KDP.  Once I knew that I could publish A Buss from Lafayette myself if I had to, my whole mindset changed and I started working on it in earnest. It took about three years to do the necessary research and create the fictional bits.

In the end, I did find a publisher (thank you, BQB Publishing) which did a beautiful job of helping me polish Buss up for publication.

It was knowing that I had Amazon as a Back Up Plan that made it possible for me to write this story with confidence it would be published, no matter what.

The result? A Buss from Lafayette has received numerous wonderful reviews from Amazon readers as well as from "editorial" sources. Take a look at what's on its Amazon listing page :

 Finally, A Buss from Lafayette was just named a quarter finalist in the Booklife Prize in Fiction!

None of this would have happened without "A-muse-zon"!

Dorothea Jensen

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14. SCBWI Midsouth Agents’ Day in Memphis

2016 SCBWI Midsouth Agents’ Day in Memphis

Memphis College of Art
1930 Poplar Avenue - Memphis
Map data ©2016 Google
Date/Time https://midsouth.scbwi.org/events/2016-scbwi-midsouth-agents-day-in-memphis/

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15. Finally Finished Reading...The Wizardry Of Jewish Women by Gillian Polack

I bought this at the launch, back in September, and had only read a small amount of it, due to various distractions. It's not the sort of book you can read without focussing. But my mother read fifteen pages and said she wanted to read it and reminded me last week, so I decided it was time to finish it once and for all. I will be taking it to her place when I visit later today. It was amazing how quickly I got through it on one rainy afternoon and curled up in bed this morning and now I must get back to my ASIM slush reading. There are six stories to read this week including one 10,000 word piece. 

So, what's the novel about? Two sisters, Judith and Belinda, come from a background similar to the author's own Anglo-Jewish Australian one, with a family who arrived here in the Victorian era. Mum is gone, Dad is still in Melbourne and the daughters have moved, respectively, to Sydney and Canberra. The years are 2002 and early 2003 - important, because the novel features the Canberra bushfires. 

Belinda is a teacher who loves her garden and cooking and hasn't a man in her life. Judith has an amicable divorce and an ex-partner whom she fled due to domestic violence, and two children she adores. 

And then a parcel arrives from Dad, with the belongings of their great grandmother Ada, who practised magic - Jewish magic, which requires responsibility and is not to be used to hurt people. The sisters research to find out more about their ancestress, who had had a falling-out with her daughter, their grandmother, a woman who had become a doctor, so a scientist. And this magic is very much a mother-to-daughter variety. Judith has a daughter and a curiosity to experiment...

Then there's Rhonda, a cousin on the non-Jewish side of the family, descended from the sister who married out. Rhonda is an historian and an oracle who has been hiding on-line under a lot of different identities, because she can't stop herself predicting in public, doesn't even know what she's going to write until it's spilled into a chat room. 

It was a fascinating read, which reminded me oddly of Lucy Sussex's wonderful The Scarlet Rider, both written by academic women, both about historical research and magic.

I admit I kept forgetting that the novel was set back in the early 2000s, when there were chat rooms all over the Internet, plenty of Internet cafes and people used floppy disks to carry their files around instead of flash drives and external hard drives. It's strange to think it has only been a bit over a decade since then. And unlike the Sussex book, it won't look dated a few years from now, because it's already effectively historical fiction. 

It's also about the casual bigotry we can experience even in this country, even today, though it's set several years ago. The Jewish characters find they have to cope with Antisemitism both from left and right. At one point in the story, Judith is shocked when a long-time(left-wing) friend simply dismisses Molotov cocktails being lobbed at a local Jewish community centre and children being endangered with a "serves them right!" 

The magic in the book is gentle and enjoyable, though once, just once, Judith sets an insomnia spell  on her violent ex-partner. 

And then there's the unicorn in the garden. Not a Jewish beast as far as I know, but still... At the risk of spoilers, a Shetland unicorn, very like the ones I wrote into my New Wales stories years ago. I still have a figurine made for me by Robert Jan, my partner in New Wales fiction. 

The book is published by Satalyte and is easily available on line. I think it's also available in bookshops here. 

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16. Green Island and the Great Barrier Reef by Margot Justes redux

Cairns is the getaway to the Barrier Reef, among other places. Ie booked a tour to Green Island and the Great Barrier Reef. According to the brochure, Green Island is a beautiful 6000 year old coral cay located in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

It’s a 45 minute boat ride to Green Island from Cairns. The boat ride to Green Island was peaceful, even a whale paid us a visit, checked us out and went on his merry way.

The ride from Green Island to the Barrier Reef was exhilarating. Let’s just say it was a choppy ride-really, really choppy, knuckle white choppy. Even the crew had to hold on. I like speed boats, but that day my knuckles really were white. I was on the top deck, and couldn’t have moved if I wanted to, and believe  me I didn’t. I clung to the railing with both hands, and didn’t let go until long after the boat stopped moving.

Green Island was beautiful. Lush with vegetation, unspoiled and protected. There is one resort with a swimming pool, but it was a bit chilly, and only the birds swam. There were a couple of gift shops, a restaurant, and a cafe; all part of the resort. After a walk about, I stopped for a cup of coffee-not a surprise-the setting was beautiful, right in the center of the entrance to the resort. Who could resist?  If you were not a guest, you couldn’t get to the resort property, but access was available to the restaurant, gift shop, scuba and snorkeling gear.

It is isolated, but there are plenty of snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities. Peaceful and serene, and cut off from the rest of the world, it’s a perfect place to commune with nature, and just relax, savor a cup of coffee, take a deep breath and enjoy.

After Green Island, it was on to the Great Barrier Reef. The boat docked along a pontoon, and we spend the rest of the day there. While the crew cooked our lunch, it was time to scuba dive, snorkel, take a helicopter ride, or a trip in a semi submersible to view the reef. I tried snorkeling once, but the water tastes terrible. Yes, I know you’re not supposed to drink the water.

I did go in the semi submersible, twice, because it was so incredible. I have never seen anything like the reef before, the vitality and variety of the life below was astounding,  because of the continuous movement of life, it seemed to dance. There are a few pictures, but they are cloudy, shooting through a thick pane of murky glass is not the best way to get great pictures. But I found Nemo. I really did.

More next week.

Margot  Justes
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
A Hotel in Venice
A Fire Within

Blood Art

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17. "SEEDS" - the continuing story of pigeons and friendship

My muse paid me a visit this week and it's about time, too. It's been somewhat of a dry spell pursuing the continuing story of Julie, the park jogger, and her chance meeting with Sylvia, the ultimate pigeon lover. The story is slowly developing in an on-again, off-again fashion.

Yet another snippet:

An encounter with Hal the park supervisor, warns Sylvia that more significant steps will be taken if she refuses to cease and desist the feeding of her feathered friends.



Sorry I took so long but my boss called. Hadda explain why I wasn’t back. Course I lied but it was for a good cause. A friend of yours, Sylvia? Introduce us.

          SYLVIA is silent

I’ll go out on a limb here and guess that judging by your uniform, you work for the parks department

          HAL is silent

Nice park you have here. I take a short jog through here on my lunch hour. Met up with Sylvia not two hours ago but it’s like we’ve known each other forever. Maybe we were friends in a past life or something. Course not everyone believes in that stuff but I think there’s something to it. Am I missing something? You can cut the silence between you two with a knife


I was just warning Sylvia that she has to stop feeding the pigeons. It’s not like I haven’t told her a thousand times before but I’m getting heat from the director to take more action, the kind she won’t like


I’ve tried to explain the situation to my friends but they don’t listen for whatever reason. Pigeons can be very stubborn when they sense a threat. Don’t think they like you, Hal


Oh I think Hal here is merely doing his job, right Hal? Are you on duty here five days a week? I would have remembered seeing you for sure


He’s a threat to pigeons. How come you don’t pick on other birds or squirrels?


They don’t leave blobs of white everywhere like your friends do


How do you know they don’t? You’re not here on guard twenty-four-hours a day. It’s a personal thing with you, isn’t it? Admit it! You hate them!


Now Sylvia, I’m sure Hal here is just doing his job. Never met a pigeon lover like Sylvia. Here every day to feed them. Why I don’t know…that is to say, a person has to take a rest now and then to take care of themselves. I was just telling her she’s not dressed for this weather and needs to wear warmer clothes. We were just sharing a hot pretzel and coffee…here’s your pretzel, Sylvia. Probably cold by now but the coffee is still warm

          SYLVIA breaks the pretzel into small pieces


Don’t even think about feeding that to the pigeons


Of course she’s not. She’s a law-abiding citizen, aren’t you friend? We were about to head for my apartment. Right Sylvia? I need some decorating advice and it seems she has a flair for design.




She’s such an avant-garde trendsetter. Very much in demand and I’m fortunate enough to have met up with her in this very park. Fate I guess


I can’t…


…fit me in your schedule? I’m in no rush. Meanwhile you can offer me advice on wall colors and maybe a few decorating tips. Getting colder by the minute. Better head home. Nice meeting you, Hal. You wouldn’t happen to have a card with your contact number, would you? Never know when I might need help being that I’m a jogger. I could trip and need some assistance, being that I run through here from noon to

          JULIE attempts to usher SYLVIA away but SYLVIA

(Cont’d. JULIE) Silly me. You want to say goodbye to your feathered friends. Then we really have to leave

Better leave now with your human friend, Sylvia

Look at the time! Really gotta go. Don’t you just love these pretzels?

          JULIE drags SYLVIA away as she looks back at the
          pigeons, her arm extended towards them

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18. First Impressions: Grayling's Song, Booked, Unplugged

 Title: Grayling's Song
Author: Karen Cushman
Published: 2016
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: When her hedgewitch mother is attacked and turned into a tree, shy Grayling must venture out of her hometown for the first time and journey to find the person who's attacking all the magical folk in the land. Along the way she's joined by a crew of misfits who are all that's left.

First Impressions: This is a quieter book, for all there's a magical threat. Grayling grows into her own power and courage convincingly. The true identity of the villain, though, was a little bit of a bait and switch and I'm still not sure I like it.

Title: Booked
Author: Kwame Alexander
Published: 2016
Source: Local Library

Summary: Nick is having a rough time. His parents are splitting up, his best friend is on a different soccer team, his dad is trying to get him to read more (blech! yuck!) and he's kinda sorta maybe in like with  a girl.

First Impressions: This was pretty good! There were so many elements (soccer, parental relationships, luuuuurvvve, divorce) that it should have felt overstuffed but everything wove together very realistically.

Title: Unplugged
Author: Donna Freitas
Published: 2016
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: Living a virtual life in the App World, Skye longs for the day when she can disconnect and see her family, left behind in the real world. When the government announces that the borders between the App World and the real world have been closed permanently, she fears it might never happen - until a celebrity offers her the chance to sneak across the border. But the real world isn't quite what she expected, and neither is her family.

First Impressions: Yay no love triangle! In fact, there's very little romance, and female relationships are more important to the plot. On the other hand it really ran out of steam when she moved to the real world. This is the first in the series and I really wish it had been all one book because all the scenes in the real world felt like they were mostly treading water.

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Dog Smarts!
By Mary Nida Smith©

Doggone dog
acts like a hog.
He eats everything
without thinking.
He torn up the house,
never touched the mouse.
I sat him down for a talk
he took me for a walk.
No one out smarts this dog.
The old boy lives in a fog
living his life his way.
I am still in a daze.
No telling what he’ll do
when I introduce the cat

… to you know who.

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20. Snapdeal Offer – एक आकर्षक ऑफर

Snapdeal Offer  – त्योहार का मौसम आते ही तरह तरह की ऑफर आनी शुरु हो जाती हैं.. snapdeal offer on mobile हो या कपडो पर … पर कुछ मनचलो के लिए स्नैप डील नही स्लैप डील की जरुरत होती है… Snapdeal Offer- एक आकर्षक ऑफर एक ऐसी ऑफर जिसे कई बार मनचलो को देना पडता है… […]

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21. Inktober Day 23: Tangled Relationship

Tangled Relationship. Day 23 of #Inktober2016.

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22. Another Game You Can Play in Class Tomorrow!

I received some nice emails about the Bug game our class designed, so I wanted to share what we played this past Friday. I call it The Mysterious Box of Mystery.

Worst name ever.

I know, but my students loved it. Well, the game, not so much the name. Surprising, since they all lost! But they see the potential for winning, so they're psyched about playing it again.

The game is simple. Find a box, tissue-box size or somewhat larger, in which you can hide an object. Ask students to number a page one through eight, and then prompt them to ask questions about the hidden object that can be answered yes or no. Each time you provide a yes/no answer, students write a new guess, or rewrite the one they've previously recorded if they feel it's correct.

Simple, right? Perhaps you've probably played something like this before. But to increase the "mystery" of it, I created a rhyming script that I read for each of my three classes, and I never deviated from the script. One student mentioned that it made Mystery Box "really scary," and another students mentioned that it built the suspense.

Cool. But the script was truthfully designed to achieve the first objective of the game: to build better listening skills. By sticking to the script, the game proceeded without interruption, and students were incredibly attentive throughout.

When students failed to name the object in each of the classes, I revealed the objects to them: a spork for Period 1, a candle for Period 5, a clothespin for Period 7. Each time when I asked, "Was it possible for you to actually guess this with just eight questions?" students reluctantly admitted yes.

"Possible, but not probable..." mused one student.

"Not with the dumb questions we asked," responded another unhappily. "We needed to ask better questions."

"We did waste a couple of guesses," added another.

And there it is, the second and more important objective of the game: to learn to ask better questions. For example, one student asked, "Is the thing in this room?" and the answer, of course, was yes. But what she meant was, "Is this thing observable to our eyes anywhere in the classroom right now?" That question would have cut down many possibilities and likely caused all students to change their guessing strategies.

So while students were disappointed, none complained that the game was unfair or impossible. Instead, many began discussing strategies for the next time the game was played. I did promise students that I would never use an object that was rare, unique, or unknown to them; they did fear, after all, that I would make the objects harder to guess as they became better guessers.

Beginning to finish, the game took ten minutes. The script was especially helpful in keeping me, the facilitator, from veering off course. In the future, when students are allowed to facilitate the game using their own objects, the script will likewise keep the class focused.

Give it a go, and let me know how it works out for you.

If you're looking to get more games into your reading and writing classroom, I highly recommend Peggy Kaye's Games for Reading and Games for Writing. I've used both books extensively in one-to-one instruction, but many of the games can be played with little planning in the ELA classroom. These games are also a huge help if you're seeking activities that a substitute can implement that will be highly engaging for your students.

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23. lock and key

Autumn, it seems, is finally setting in around here. The breeze carries a chill. The leaves are color. My son is home, for a few essential days. He comes by when I am standing here. A kiss on the cheek. Hey, Mom.

How hard it is to anticipate how much we'll miss our children when they are grown up and mostly gone.

But today, this Sunday morning, everything I need is right within reach—my husband, my son, our small home. We'll eat cookies, take a walk, watch a movie, talk—and that is all, because that is all we need.

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24. Fleece

Wool has been replaced by fleece;
It's cozy and it's cheap,
But unemployment must be high
For flocks of fluffy sheep.

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25. Critique Groups

Being a member of a critique group may help your career, but it also may hurt it.


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