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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: adventure, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 599
1. TURNING PAGES: SILVER TONGUE, by Evelyn Ivy

Pull up a chair, for an adventurous novel with a lovely fantasy feel. Skyships, blunderbusses and gale cutters give this the perfect pinch of steampunk, but doesn't get in the way of the narrative. Though the fine-print on the cover says this is a... Read the rest of this post

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2. The Way to the Zoo: John Burningham

Book: The Way to the Zoo
Author: John Burningham
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

The Way to the Zoo by John Burningham is a picture book about a little girl named Sylvie who discovers a secret doorway in her bedroom that leads to a zoo. The animals are friendly, and sometimes Sylvie brings some of them back into her house. The small bear is cozy to sleep with, but the penguins make a splashy mess in the bathroom. And when Sylvie forgets to close the door to the zoo one day, chaos ensues. 

The Way to the Zoo reminded me a bit of Barbara Lehman's Rainstorm, and a bit of Philip and Erin Stead's A Sick Day for Amos McGee. All three books feature implausible events related in a completely matter-of-fact manner. My four year old daughter thought that The Way to the Zoo was hilarious, and asked immediately that I read it again. 

Burningham takes his time with the story. Instead of jumping in to where the girl finds and opens the door, she first glimpses the door from her bed, decides to wait to check it out in the morning, and then forgets, and doesn't look inside until after school the next day. He uses a relatively basic vocabulary, and explains what's happening in detail. I think that The Way to the Zoo could function as an early reader for some kids. Here's an example (all on one page spread):

"It was getting late. Sylvie had to get back 
to her room and go to sleep because she
had school again in the morning.

Sylvie asked a little bear to come back
with her. He did and slept in her bed

She made sure the bear was back in the
zoo and the door in the wall was closed
before she left for school."

This passage is, of course, also good for teaching young readers about foreshadowing. 

Burningham's illustrations are in pen, pencil pastel, and watercolor. The are minimalist, with only the faintest suggestion of backgrounds, lots of white space, and the details left to the reader's imagination. This isn't my personal favorite style of illustration - I couldn't always tell what kind of animal was being represented, for instance. But the pictures made my daughter laugh, particularly one involving birds in the living room, and another in which a rhino lies on the floor covered up in towels for the night. 

The Way to the Zoo has a timeless feel, support in particular by the apparent freedom that Sylvie has from parental oversight. It would make a nice school or library read-aloud for K-2nd graders. Recommended for home or library use! 

Publisher: Candlewick (@Candlewick) 
Publication Date: August 26, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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3. Alliance, by Mark Frost | Book Review

In Mark Frost's second book of the Paladin Prophecy series, Alliance, we pick up right where we left off with Will and his friends. The Paladins are still after him, and the group must outwit them to find the secret of the school, and Will's own family history.

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4. jack the castaway

by Lisa Doan Darby Creek / Lerner  2014 Smart kid, dumb parents, and a menacing whale shark! What more could a kid want from a book?  Jack is a sheltered kid on the cusp of puberty living with his Aunt Julia safely in Pennsylvania. Or at least he was living safely until his Aunt met with misfortune and Jack was forced to call his world-traveling parents home from their latest scheme,

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5. Hilda Wade, a Woman with Tenacity of Purpose

I never wrote anything about Hilda Wade, did I?

So, obviously I’m pretty into Miss Cayley’s Adventures. So into it that I was kind of terrified of reading anything else by Grant Allen, which is why Hilda Wade has been languishing on my Kindle (and then my other Kindle) for several years. I shouldn’t have worried, though. Hilda Wade is good and bad in almost exactly the same ways as Miss Cayley’s Adventures is good and bad.

It’s narrated by Dr. Hubert Cumberledge, who is to doctor-narrators what many of Carolyn Wells’ protagonists are to lawyer-narrators, except that unlike most Carolyn Wells protagonists, he is capable of seeing women as people. Most of Grant Allen’s characters are capable of seeing women as people. Grant Allen’s female characters command respect.

Anyway, Hilda Wade is a nurse, and she and Dr. Cumberledge work at a hospital with Professor Sebastian, who is a Great Man. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a good man, though, and Hilda Wade knows he’s not. It’s pretty clear to the reader early on that Hilda a) does not like Sebastian, b) had some special purpose in coming to work for him, and c) probably wants revenge for something he did to her father. Eventually these things also become clear to Sebastian, and even, eventually, to Dr. Cumberledge.

Dr. Cumberledge is only moderately bright, compared to Professor Sebastian’s genius and Hilda’s superhuman intuition, but he’s pretty likable, mostly because his awe of Hilda turns out to be greater than his awe of Professor Sebastian. Early on, he’s skeptical of her concerns about Sebastian, but she slowly convinces him, and it works because he respects her and listens to her and is willing to see her point of view. And for all that the novel goes way downhill once he is convinced, that’s a really nice thing.

After that, the book gets adventurous and racist and sentimental, but wound to a close entertainingly enough that I never wanted to put it down. Apparently the last chapter was written by Arthur Conan Doyle from Grant Allen’s notes after his death or during his final illness. I have to say, I wasn’t a huge fan of the last chapter, but I don’t know that him not dying would have helped–he has a tendency to fall apart toward the end of a book. That’s the thing about Grant Allen, though: he starts off so strong, and builds up enough good will, that he’s free to make a mess of things later on–it doesn’t really matter that much. I guess Grant Allen’s heroines are better than his books, which doesn’t bother me at all, because the opposite is so much more common.

Lois Cayley is still better than Hilda Wade, though. She’s funnier.


Tagged: 1890s, adventure, africa, grantallen, london

1 Comments on Hilda Wade, a Woman with Tenacity of Purpose, last added: 7/9/2014
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6. The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Jones

The Islands of ChaldeaThe books of Diana Wynne Jones were a constant throughout my childhood and teen years. Of the nearly 100 books by her listed in our library system’s catalog, there isn’t a single one that I haven’t read at least once, if not repeatedly.

After Jones passed away in 2011, I naturally thought that I would never again read a new book by her. But first there was the posthumously published Earwig and the Witch, a short, snappy book about an orphan and her curious adoptive ‘family.’ It was definitely appealing, but it had that abrupt, unpolished quality that posthumously published books often have. I would recommend it to a reader, but it didn’t capture my imagination the way so many of Jones’ books had. Yet again, I thought that was that.

Fully three years after her death, though, a full-length novel by Jones has appeared–it was discovered amongst her papers, and polished and completed by Jones’ sister, Ursula Jones, already an author in her own right. This was the final (?) Diana Wynne Jones novel that I had been waiting for–it has a story that sucks a reader in almost instantly, characters who are defined simply but indelibly, and a setting so well-described that one can see it.

Aileen is an apprentice Wise-Woman, cared for by her Aunt Beck, the Wise Woman of Skarr, one of the group of sovereign islands known collectively as the Islands of Chaldea. Aileen has only just attempted her first initiation when she and her aunt–and a prince, and a castle servant–are sent off on a whirlwind quest that requires them to visit every island.

As is typical for Jones, our heroine has more reserves than she believes (but is never a wet blanket about her insecurities), there are wonderful animal companions, and adult authority figures are often Very Cranky.

I hope that it is taken as a compliment when I say that I cannot tell at all where Ursula Jones’ contributions come in–the book hangs together perfectly as a whole, with no disjointed transitions or developments that ring false. I highly recommend the book, both on its own merits, and as a satisfying send-off to Diana Wynne Jones’ magical oeuvre.

Posted by: Sarah


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7. Review: Knockdown by Brenda Beem

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

Knockdown piqued my interest because it’s a survival story, and it takes place on a sailboat.  The mega-tsunami threatening to destroy every coastline in its path also seemed pretty interesting.  I haven’t read a post-apocalyptic story like this before, so I was game to give it a shot.  I really enjoyed it!

Toni’s at dive practice when her father sends her a text message to hurry to the marina where the family sailboat is docked. She’s worried and confused when he won’t answer his phone, and neither will the other members of her family.  She hears from teammates that disaster is headed in their direction. Mega-tsunamis are rushing toward the Pacific coastline, created after historic seismic events in Indonesia.  They have 18 hours until the tsunamis hit the Oregon coastline.  They have 18 hours to evacuate before the monster waves crush everything in their path.  Only when she gets to the boat, her parents aren’t there.  Only her twin brothers, and some of their friends, are waiting at the dock.  Toni doesn’t want to leave without her mom and dad, but they left strict instructions to head out to the ocean if they didn’t arrive by a certain time, and when they are no shows, the teens have no choice but to brave the open waters without them.

Goodness! Up until the tsunamis knockdown the sailboat, I was on the edge of my seat.  Literally.  The pacing is fantastic; it’s unrelenting and tense, and I could hardly breathe.  I didn’t understand how Toni and her small band of friends were continuing to function.  There is a raging wall of water bearing down on them, and their only hope of survival is to get far enough out to sea, seal up the boat, and hang on as the waves toss it about, flipping it over like an angry child with an unwanted toy.  Having once been caught in rough waters in a disabled boat, I could easily imagine how helpless Toni felt as their vessel was batted to and fro.

I was worried that after the tsunami raged by, the story would slow to a crawl.  That did not happen.  Though the teens survived the waves, they still had to survive the new world they found themselves in.  Coastlines all around the world were ravaged, island nations wiped clean, and most modern conveniences a thing of the past.  With the little group struggling to survive, suddenly the teens find themselves in need of water and provisions.  Worse, as the climate begins to change, sliding towards a new Ice Age, they must find ways to keep warm.

Toni is a capable narrator.  She easily conveys her feelings and fears, her dreams and hopes.  The boat is overcrowded, and tensions and personality conflicts begin to pick away at morale.  When tragedy strikes, it seems that the team will unravel into chaos, and Toni wonders how they will survive afterwards.  She worries that she’ll never see her parents again, and knows that the life she once had is long gone.  I really liked her and found it easy to relate to her.

I didn’t realize that Knockdown was the first in a series, or I might have passed on it.  I’m glad I didn’t.  The ending is satisfying, and I knew that Toni had found a temporary shelter from the destroyed world around her.  I liked the characters and I want find out what happens next, so I’ll be looking forward to Toni’s next adventures.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

A sail boat can tip over and come back up again. Sailors call this a knockdown.

In eighteen hours a mega tsunami will hit the Pacific Coast. It will leave in its wake massive destruction and the threat of an ice age.
Sixteen-year-old Toni, her brothers, and their friends race the clock as they sail Toni’s family boat far out to sea. They must get beyond where the wave crests, or the boat will be crushed.

Without their parents to guide them, the reluctant crew improvises. Romances bloom and tempers flare. There is no privacy. Cell phones won’t work. The engine breaks down. They are running out of time.

Even if they survive the wave, there is nowhere in this ravaged world to go. When disaster strikes, it is up to Toni to find the strength to lead the crew when her brothers cannot.

The post Review: Knockdown by Brenda Beem appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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8. Seven Stories Up, by Laurel Snyder | Book Review

In Seven Stories Up, Laurel Snyder combines humor and friendship to spin a rich story of adventure, sprinkled with Snyder’s signature magic and mystery.

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9. Book Review- Spireseeker by E.D.E. Bell

Title: Spireseeker
 Author: E. D. E. Bell
Series:  Spireseeker #1
Published:  October 2013
Length:472 pages
Source: author
Summary : Spireseeker is an epic fantasy tale by debut novelist E.D.E. Bell in which the heroine, Beryl, is forced from the only home she's ever known and must discover her true identity in order to confront one of her own kind, before the evil Aegra is able to enslave all of Fayen’s creatures.
Please join us in sharing this creative new novel about Beryl, a young elf who discovers that she is not who she thinks she is but instead is looked to as the one remaining hope to save her home. Communicating with the diverse creatures of the land, Beryl and her unlikely companion march through mountains, forests, and deserts to defeat evil—even as that evil seeks to destroy them first. Though a classic fantasy tale, we promise this one will be unlike any you've read. Experience it today!

Review: Beryl believes herself to be a normal girl until she is able to heal her grandomther when she is badly wounded, and she is told that  she is an elf. And not just any elf. She  has a unicorn’s blessing, enabling her to do the healing, and is also believed to be the one to  free the land of Fayen from the grasp of Aegra, who uses her blessing to manipulate loyalty to help her eliminate the other elves.
The fantasy world is different to those I’ve met before. Each elf can be blessed by an animal that gives them a unique gift, which I liked learning about. 
I really liked the characters. Beryl and her healing powers and Kick, the human companion, were fun to read about and get to know. The culture ofthe elves was fully developed and so were all the other cultures of animals. I quite liked the fact that the nonhumanoid characters played a larger part than they often do in other high fantasy stories.  
The writing style is simple, with more formal language during the council meetings  and more modern language occasionally that feels out of place.
Pacingwise, it starts off well, introducing new powers, new ideas and new quests for Beryl quickly. The middle is quite slow, It picks up towards the end, when Aegra finally appears more after an introduction at the very start followed by 70% of Beryl’s adventures. I think it would have been nice to see her a bit more, to break up the  sameness of the visiting various groups of animals and the discussing in the council, which does get a bit boring after some time. The action scenes were better  written than the talky ones.  

Overall:  Strength 3 tea to a fantasy with great characters but was really dragged out in the middle.

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10. Interview: Joe Scott, Author of ‘The Friend Ship Friendesha’

joe-scottJoe Scott is a contractor and real estate developer who built a thriving enterprise from a truck and a toolbox.  He has negotiated thousands of business deals involving corporate executives, homeowners, bankers, laborers, and union officials.  In addition, he has hired, and been hired by, individuals from every walk of life.  Through these dealings, Joe has learned that all people fall into three types -  givers, takers, and those who both give and take.  Knowing how to recognize and cope with all three types is the key to his success.  In this children’s series, he hopes to instill in kids a good foundation for a happy and positive life.  His first book, “The Joe Dial”, released in 2011, is age appropriate for those who are 12 to 95 years old.  The Friend Ship Friendesha series is based on the adult book, “The Joe Dial.”

Visit: http://www.friendesha.com 

Thank you for joining us today,  Joe Scott. When did you first get bit by the writing bug?

I have been writing for 7 years.

Why did you decide to write stories for children?

I wanted to help my children and grandchildren discover their positive power to effect the world, their friends and family.  I also wanted to deliver a clear, non-bullying message.

Do you believe it is harder to write books for a younger audience?

You need to make the book short, simple, and to the point, and also easy to understand.

What is your favorite part of writing for young people?

book1I want to instill in them a good foundation for a happy and positive life.

Can you tell us what your latest book is all about?

Meet the Friendeshans, a lovable race of beings who spread friendship and positive energy throughout the galaxy!  In this first book of an inspiring new series, the Friendeshans encounter the Oily Spoilies, creatures that thrive on meanness and negativity.  What will happen when an Oily Spoily spy get aboard the Friendeshans’ ship?!

What inspired you to write it?

My children, grandchildren, and future generations.  I am hoping it will instill in them a good foundation for a happy and positive life. 

Where can readers purchase a copy?

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kindle and ebook.

What is up next for you?

Book 2 of the series is also available, book 3 is being illustrated and books 4 and 5 are in queue.

Do you have anything else to add?

As the series unfolds, the Friendeshans will travel to Eart, where they will work their pozzi-power on our planet.  For any child who has ever been bullied or picked on, the Friendeshans are like loyal, invisible friends they can carry with them in their imaginations.  With the Friendeshans around, every child has a friend!

Thank you for spending time with us today, Joe Scott.  We wish you much success.

 


1 Comments on Interview: Joe Scott, Author of ‘The Friend Ship Friendesha’, last added: 5/31/2014
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11. To Write is an Awfully Big Adventure – Anna Wilson

Last week my son was in a school production of Peter Pan. It was a wonderfully colourful and often humorous production which left many of us adults feeling nostalgic for childhood and its gift of imagination. It also had me immediately reaching for Finding Neverland, a film about J M Barrie’s friendship with the Llewelyn Davies family which was the inspiration for the play of Peter Pan. We watched it as a family last weekend to prolong the magic we had enjoyed while watching the play.



While watching the film, my daughter made a comment to me about writers and how they get their ideas. There is a scene where Sylvia Llewelyn Davies’s mother bends down to talk to Peter and his brothers, a coat hanger in her hand, which she points at the boys, emphasizing her opinion. The link with Captain Hook is clear, as we see the old lady through Barrie’s eyes. She leans into Peter, seeming to brandish the coat hanger aggressively, much as the Pirate Captain uses his hook to threaten Peter Pan.

My daughter whispered to me at this point in the film: “Is that what it’s like when you are writing – you see something like the hook in the sleeve and it makes you think of what to write?”

Of course, it is not always like that: most writing is an uphill climb with pitifully few flashes of inspiration such as the one in the film, and who knows how J M Barrie really pieced all the images together into a finished product? However, I have had a couple of eureka moments, and they have come when I was least expecting them – often when I have not consciously been thinking about a story at all.

The most recent occasion was nearly two years ago (which goes to show just how infrequently they happen!) when I was listening to an old friend talk about a terrible disaster she had suffered. Her house had burnt down. As she told me the incredibly strange circumstances surrounding the fire and the events that followed, I felt a shiver run down my spine. She was giving me the perfect missing link to a story I was struggling with. Everything she said was offering me answers to plot problems. As I drove home I could not believe this had happened. There was no other way of looking at this: it was a gift.

I wrote it all down the moment I returned to my desk – and it worked! Everything fell into place. I immediately felt guilty that I was robbing my friend’s life to fix my story, so I phoned to tell her what had happened and to ask her permission. Luckily she was thrilled and even said it was wonderful to think something good had come out of her misfortune. Of course I changed a few details to make her story fit with mine, just as J M Barrie changed things, turning Peter’s grandmother into a male pirate (so the film leads us to believe).

Writing, to paraphrase Peter (not to mention the name of this blog) is an “awfully big adventure”. A writer never knows where ideas will come from; they can come at us sideways, from an unexpected source. The trick is to keep our eyes and ears open at all times. And always to believe in fairies.

Anna Wilson
www.annawilson.co.uk
www.acwilsonwriter.wordpress.com


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12. Women Heroes of World War I & Reporting Under Fire

Women Heroes of World War 1: 16 remarkable resisters, soldiers, spies, and medics  by Kathryn J. Atwood Women in Action series Chicago Review Press. 2014 ISBN: 9781613746868  -- and Reporting Under Fire: 16 daring women war correspondents and photojournalists by Kerrie Logan Hollihan Women in Action series Chicago Review Press. 2014 ISBN: 9781613747100 Grades 8 and up This reviewer used copies

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13. TURNING PAGES: FLIGHT OF THE GRIFFONS, by Kate Inglis, illus., by Sydney Smith

Rarely do I get something as absolutely delightful in the mailbox as the unexpected package I received all the way from Halifax this week. It brought news -- big news: There are still PIRATES in the backwoods of Nova Scotia. Pirates -- and get this... Read the rest of this post

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14. “It’s Only Scary Because It’s New”

I just did something that was not objectively scary at all. No rational person would think so.

Yet for me it was slightly terrifying. I’ve been putting it off for years because I knew it would scare me.

But I’m not into being limited by my fears, so today I did the thing.

And the whole time, I repeated a line in my head that I heard last weekend in a movie called The Internship, written by and starring Vince Vaughn. It was a sweet and funny film and I ended up watching it twice over two days. Obviously I recommend it.

The plot of the movie revolves around Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson entering a summer internship program at Google. When they first arrive on campus, they’re a little lost, and Vince suggests they ask for directions from the person in this car going by. Only there’s no one in the car. It’s self-driving.

For a brief moment, both men stand there in shock. But then Vince turns to Owen, slaps him on the back, and says, “It’s only scary because it’s new.”

And isn’t that true? About so many of the things we’re afraid of? Until we’ve done it once and can see what it’s about, we put it off and fear it and avoid it. At least I do.

Or at least I did. I’m actively working to let go of that habit.

So thanks, Vince. I needed that. I needed it over and over this morning on a loop inside my head.

Maybe some of you out there could use it, too. Because maybe this is the summer you do whatever that thing is for you.

Be brave! It’s the most fun way to be!

And remember, you can always decide to do the thing now and schedule your fear for sometime later when it’s more convenient.

Come on, gang. Let’s do this.

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15. Two Shall be Born

I mostly avoid reading Marie Conway Oemler books I haven’t read before — I dread the point at which there won’t be any left I haven’t read. So I’ve been putting off reading Two Shall Be Born for, like, five years at least.

I don’t know if it was worth waiting for. I don’t, at this point, expect any book of hers to live up to Slippy McGee or A Woman Named Smith, and this one certainly doesn’t. But that’s not to say it isn’t pretty interesting and weird, and that’s all I really want, I guess.

I don’t want to say that this is Marie Conway Oemler’s Ruritanian romance, although it has a bit of a flavor of that. And I’m not sure if I want to say that this book is Mary Roberts Rinehart-ish in the same way that Slippy McGee is Gene Stratton Porter-ish, but there were moments when it seemed to have more in common with Rinehart than with Oemler’s other work. I only recognized Oemler in flashes — the disheveled single-mindedness of an artistic genius, the hero who looks like “a young god with good morals,” anything relating to what Irish people are like.

The premise of the book is, I suppose, about people falling in love at first sight. Fortunately, that’s not actually what the book is about. Countess Marya Jadwiga Zuleska’s love interest doesn’t even appear until what feels like more than halfway through the book, but apparently isn’t quite. Really it’s Marya Jadwiga’s book, but I didn’t feel like I got to know her as well as I got to know anyone in A Woman Named Smith or Slippy McGee or evenThe Purple Heights.

Marya Jadwiga is the daughter of a famous scholar and Polish patriot who apparently functions as some kind of spymaster for a Polish independence movement. Everything he has, he contributes to this movement — including his daughter, who he educates so as to make her as useful as possible to him. It’s not really clear exactly what that education consists of, or how he intends to use her, but I think the book would have been so much better if it had been. Anyway, we never really find out what he meant to do, because his impending death and the pressure exerted on him by Russian and German agents force him to change his plans and send Marya Jadwiga to America.

I mean, other stuff happens first. But I don’t really know how to get into it without spoiling the grisliest axe murder I’ve read since The After House, so.

Once she gets there, there’s a little bit of a Samuel Hopkins Adams in The Flagrant Years vibe, and once we’re introduced to Brian Kelly there’s a bit of a Samuel Hopkins Adams in general vibe, neither of which upset me. Brian’s story gives us a little of the character makeover thing — he’s had a fight with his rich dad and run off to become a policeman, and of course he learns to be a very good one. But, as with Marya Jadwiga, I wished more time had been spent on the learning part. If not the traffic policeman stuff, more than a few vague hints about other, more exciting police work would have been appreciated.

Brian and Marya Jadwiga meet one evening after Marya Jadwiga stabs someone (yeah, it’s pretty cool) although they’ve already seen each other and fallen in love at first sight at that point. Brian brings Marya Jadwiga to his boarding house, and the final turns of the plot take place there, among the friends he’s made. But the two of them, having gotten the falling in love part out of the way at the beginning, don’t seem to have much to say to each other.

It’s as if, having already fallen in love, they don’t need to get to know each other. And that’s what I hate about stories where people fall in love at first sight, because the getting to know each other part is the best part, and I don’t understand why anyone would want to skip past it. Especially Marie Conway Oemler, who’s so, so good at having her characters enjoy each others’ company. I mean, Sophy and Alicia. The Author and anyone he appreciates properly. Armand de Rancé and Slippy McGee. There’s no pair of characters in Two Shall be Born that made me feel like just seeing them interact was enough, except maybe the Kelly siblings. Some of that might be because it’s meant to be a very serious book, with attempted rape and beheadings and people watching each other die, but Oemler wasn’t really a serious story kind of author.

I did enjoy Two Shall be Born. I just think Oemler could have done something batter. I mean, that, and I wish I could read A Woman Named Smith or Slippy McGee for the first time again.


Tagged: 1920s, adventure, marieconwayoemler, new york, poland

2 Comments on Two Shall be Born, last added: 5/21/2014
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16. Reading in Tandem: "The Lost," by Sarah Beth Durst

It's bits of ephemera -- a favorite song that popped into your head like a mini-book soundtrack, who you think would be best as the lead if they ever turned it into a movie, your fervent hope that they never, ever, turn it into a movie -- things... Read the rest of this post

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17. Orion Poe and the Lost Explorer – Middle Grade Monday

Title: Orion Poe and the Lost Explorer Written by Will Summerhouse Published by Shake-a-leg-Press, May 19th, 2014 Ages: 8-12 Themes: adventure, exploration, steampunk, Arctic, 19th century history, Sir John Franklin Speculative Fiction 1st Award announced last Saturday at Book Expo America by Amazon … Continue reading

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18. Orion Poe and the Lost Explorer, by Will Summerhouse | Dedicated Review

Orion Poe is an eleven-year-old boy who lives in Maine with his grandfather who is the caretaker of a lighthouse. When a large storm rolls in one evening, Orion discovers a washed-up boat and an injured man. From this moment on, he finds himself fighting for survival on a mysterious expedition full of unexpected and non-stop adventure that is connected to the historic event of an explorer, John Franklin, who was lost in the Arctic in 1847.

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19. Becoming the Possible You

I’m reading two great books right now by Jean Houston: The Possible Human : A Course in Enhancing Your Physical, Mental, and Creative Abilities and A Passion for the Possible: A Guide to Realizing Your True Potential.

The premise of both is this: We’ve heard all our lives that we’re only using a tiny fraction of our brains, but then . . . we just accept that and move on. Why not instead retrain ourselves to use more of the hidden brain? Why not make the effort to access more of our potential in thought and behavior?

The thing I love about her books is she doesn’t make it hard. You don’t have to go to some boot camp of personality reconditioning where you sort out all your problems and your flaws and then sweat your way through getting rid of them.

Jean Houston’s books are relaxing. Her mental and visualization exercises are some of the best I’ve ever read and tried. I’ve turned other people onto her books, and they agree: it’s all so easy. And fun and (here’s that word again) relaxing. I’m into any self-improvement that makes me feel like I’ve been at a mental spa for half an hour, or even for five minutes. And some of her exercises take that little time.

One of my favorite visualization exercises of hers is walking up to a giant oak door that has a sign above it saying Room of the Skill. Deciding what skill you’d like to learn in there, then entering and feeling it in the air all around you. Maybe you’d like to learn to play the violin. You enter and violinness is already sealed into that room, and it starts seeping into your pores and you breathe it in and it sticks to your hair and it soaks into your bones.

There are other parts of the visualization that are important to gaining the skill–and I urge you to read the books to really get the full power of them–but I really love just that opening image of It’s already here. You’re already getting it. You don’t have to wait.

I’ve mentioned before my experiments in getting over my fears by just postponing when I want to feel them. The Jean Houston books open up another way of becoming what she calls The Possible Human. And what we’ll call The Possible You.

Let’s say you believe you have certain personality and physical traits: you’re shy. You’re not good at sports. You get angry easily. You’re a slob. You overeat. Whatever it is, I’m sure you could make up a list of four or five things right now with no effort.

What if you just decided Not anymore? And what if you also decided that there didn’t have to be any steps in between now and that next thing. You could just stop what you were doing before and start doing the new thing right now, right away, just decide.

Years ago I read a story in some Norman Vincent Peale book about a salesman who was having a really hard time. He couldn’t meet his sales goals, he felt awkward and ineffective around people–he was, in short, a failure.

And he got tired of that. Got tired of constantly having to stress over his paycheck and his bills, got tired of feeling so inadequate at a job where he actually meant to do well.

So one night he came home from another unsuccessful day on the road and decided That’s it. Enough. He peeled off his unsuccessful suit and took a bath. And decided during that bath that when he stepped out, he was a new man.

He threw away the old suit. Went out and bought a new, successful one (not expensive, just new. Different). And without waiting to go through some 9-step program of becoming a successful salesman, he just was one. He decided. He started behaving the way a successful salesman already does. No explanation to people who saw the change, no need to announce it to the world, just Do. Go. Be him.

By the end of the year he was the top salesman in the region. It looked like magic, but it was really just change. Deciding and then changing–right away.

I’ve done that, too. There was a time in my life when I got really tired of feeling shy. It was making me feel bad in social situations and even just stepping out my door into the world. I didn’t like it. It was a bad habit I’d picked up somewhere in my childhood, and I’d acted like it was just the way things were for the next however many years.

But one day I just told myself, “I’m not shy anymore.” And then in every single situation from then on, I made all my decisions based on that new law. I’d smile at people. Be friendly. Laugh when I felt like it. Little moments all day long, every day, when I let myself be different than I had been for years and years.

And what was key to pulling that off was I didn’t feel the need to explain the change to anyone. I got to skip all the steps of changing a little bit one day, a little bit more the next. I was like that salesman taking a bath and coming out a new person.

If anyone did ask me about the difference, I’d just say, “I’m not shy anymore” and move on. People don’t really need more explanation than that. They’re usually too busy thinking about their own lives.

I’ve also done the experiment with physical skills like athletic pursuits. Instead of telling myself “This is hard! It’s going to take a long time to learn this,” I’ve practiced just already being good at it. Letting it come easily instead of going through the performance of pretending to myself it’s difficult.

So much of what we do when we hold ourselves back really is performance. It’s theater. We’re so comfortable in our role of being shy, awkward, bad at math, a bad cook, bad at sports, ugly, scared (fill in your own blank) we just keep playing that part without ever realizing it’s only a part.

But if instead you start picturing The Possible You, the one who looks a certain way, is confident, has awesome skills, is friendly and happy (fill in your own blank), and then you just go ahead and begin being that version of you, right now, no middle steps, no announcements to the world–isn’t that a much better way of evolving into the next stage of you right now? Isn’t it time? Why do you have to wait?

In a way, it’s reverse-engineering your life. You think about how you’d like to be when you’re 80 or 60 or 19 or even a week from now, and rather than just hope you’ll turn out that way, you go ahead and become that right now. Skip all the time and skip all the steps.

The only steps you really do need to take are behaving the way that version of you behaves. Every moment of every day. And that includes reading the books that person reads, spending time with the people that person loves to be around, maybe taking the classes that person takes to learn the skills he or she loves to have.

And it means changing the things you hear yourself say. Because your ears are hearing it and your brain is taking it in. When you make a new choice and hear yourself say, even if it’s in a whisper just to you, “That’s right, because I’m not shy anymore,” it solidifies that new Possible You that you’ve become. Not “are” becoming, but “have become.” Because you already did that the moment you decided.

Why have I written this entire essay? For a couple of reasons: I’m not shy anymore. I love sharing my experiments and experiences with others. I’m completely confident writing in public and letting other people see my work.

I wasn’t always that way. But then I decided.

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20. An interview with Marcus Alexander

This month one author in particular has kept my 9 year old busy.

Busy ensconced under her duvet on the sofa.

But also busy bounding around the kitchen and garden doing dare-devil acrobatics.

Author-Marcus-Alexander-2013-Baldie-Headphones-200pxThe author that’s kept her so busy is Marcus Alexander. Marcus is the author of a three book fantasy adventure series, Keeper of the Realms, a set of books which exude energy like few others I’ve read. I swear, if I turn off the lights, the books glow and pulse in the dark (which, thinking about it, is probably another reason why M has been sneakily reading them past her bedtime).

Charlie Keeper has discovered that under her family home there is a gateway to the mythical, magical realm that is Bellania. But Bellania’s fate hangs in the balance, and Charlie Keeper holds the key. She’s a blinder of a lead character, with an adventurous, courageous spirit, and her exploits left me and M with our eyes the size of small plates, holding our breath and really rooting for her as she battles against evil.

Marcus’s love of extreme sports has informed some of the action in the series; Charlie learns to play K’Changa, a game with elements of Capoeira, Chinlone and Tekraw and M hasn’t stopped player her solo version this Easter holiday (in the books it’s a sport played by two players, against each other) – a sort of competititve crazy keepy-uppy with all the outrageous moves you can muster.

With so much “playing by the book” going on, I was really delighted to be able to interview Marcus recently, with a little bit of help from my 9 year old M. Here’s how our conversation went:

Zoe: Where does this adrenalin and passion which informs so much of what you do come from?

Marcus: Books! I guess you could say it was jealousy of the life the heroes were living in all the novels that I devoured as a teenager that inspired me to go out and get something fresh and wild of my own.

Zoe: And how does this buzzing inside you, this energy marry with being an author, which at a very basic level has to involve sitting down and working quietly on your own?

Marcus: It’s an odd cycle. Books cause me to go out and taste the extreme but in return, once I’ve temporarily sated my thirst I’ve an urge to write. It ebbs and flows but each urge seems to compliment the other.

Zoe: Or maybe you don’t sit down to write? Where do you write best? With hubbub around you? Music on?

Marcus: I can’t write at home! It’s too easy to procrastinate so I do my best writing elsewhere. (If there’s music on you know I’m going to have to dance, right? jeje)

Zoe: Or does writing offer you an opportunity for quiet and solitude which allows you to refuel for other parts of your life?

Marcus: A period of quiet is always necessary. It’s a great way to recharge before going out and chasing the ‘X’ again.

Zoe: You’re a big believer in thinking outside the box – is this something which fed into the approach you took to getting published?

Marcus: Thinking outside the box is a must. It’s helped me to overcome all the obstacles in my life. Particularly getting published. I wasn’t rich, famous or had any industry hook ups and I wasn’t keen on the idea of giving an agent 15% of my cut so I was left with no option other than to look for different path. I know most authors get captivated with the story but books are products and publishing houses need to make profit so I approached the issue from a business point of view. I self published 2000 units with an intent to prove the commercial validity of my product. I sold 1,500 and gave away 500 for marketing and reviews. Finally armed with my sales figures, reviews and fan following (and Charlie Keeper inspired graffiti artwork that had boomed across London) I went straight to Puffin without the need for an agent.

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Zoe: You’ve described yourself as “a complete and utter bookworm” as a child – what fantasy books and comics/graphic novels did you particularly enjoy?

Marcus: Being a Brit kid I was hooked on 2000AD and Judge Dredd (Yeah, I know, typical 80s brat, right? Lol) But I started reading furiously at ages 3-4 and it was (don’t laugh!) ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ and anything Dr. Seuss that really opened that window in my brain to other worlds and fantasy. It was these in particular that cranked my imagination and kindled that flame within my heart.

Zoe: What’s the most recent book you’ve read which you really loved?

Marcus: I’m a fan of Steph Swainston and her ‘The Year of Our War’ with the winged messenger Jant. I can’t stand first person books but she does it with so much flavour and style that she’s completely changed my opinion. Awesome prose and storytelling! (And Steph, if you’re reading this, dude, please put pen to paper and bring out some more books sooooooon!)

Zoe: The Keeper of the Realms series has fantastic artwork by Zul Kamarrudin – how do you work with Zul? Does he show drafts on which you get some input? Is he someone Puffin teamed you up with or someone you knew already?

Marcus: Zul has been with me since my self published book ‘Who is Charlie Keeper?’ I sourced him off Deviantart.com and he’s been epic ever since. I’ll send him a storyboard layout for each character with researched imagery of clothing, pose, hair, jewellery and he’ll get to work. He’ll ping back (he’s based in Malaysia!) some rough drafts and I’ll okay it or suggest changes and after several initial sketches we’ll agree on a final at which point it’ll be taken to completion. Zul, without a doubt, rocks with his graphic floetry.

Nibbler, a Winged One, from Bellania. Keeper of the Realms. An illustration by Zul Kamarrudin.

Nibbler the Dragon, from Bellania. Keeper of the Realms. An illustration by Zul Kamarrudin.

Zoe: The third volume of the Keeper of the Realms series came out earlier this year. Will there be a fourth volume? Or have you started work on something completely new?

Marcus: Blood & Fire is the last in this instalment of Charlie’s adventures. There will always be more Charlie Keeper coming but for the time being I need a break from the realm of Bellania. It’s simply been too many years and I need to build something new. It’s been a hectic year with tours but with some downtime booked over Easter (going to Sri Lanka, whoop-whoop!) I’d like to start planning a new fantasy series in a different realm.

M (Zoe’s 9 year old daughter): Which character in the series would you most like to be?

Marcus: A Winged One! The idea of living an extra couple of hundred years sounds amazing (c’mon now, think of all the travel and experience you could pack into those years!) and being able to fly would be a big plus too lol.

I’m looking to complete my skydiving licence this summer so while I might not be flying like a Winged One at least I’ll be getting the experience of falling :)

M (Zoe’s 9 year old daughter): What turned Narcissa evil?

Marcus: A lack of early morning coffee. (Seriously, you should see me first thing on a Monday morning without a cup of the black stuff in my hand – the word grumpy doesn’t do the experience justice.)

M (Zoe’s 9 year old daughter): Where do the shades come from?

Marcus: Bane and his Dark God twisted the beauty of the Chiming Grounds (Book 3, Blood & Fire) and it’s there that they created the Shades.

Zoe: You’ve recently taken up skydiving – I guess partly because of your belief that when you’re not writing it’s important to keep learning new skills to keep the imagination flowing. What parallels do you see between writing and skydiving? The need to have faith? The need to commit?

Marcus: The need to overcome my fear. I used to fight because it terrified me but as the years passed I grew more confident and no longer felt the need to jump into the ring. Skydiving however terrifies me. Not the free fall or deploying the ‘chute but having to suck up the guts for that initial jump out the plane. For me, facing and overcoming your fear is a true source of strength. Adrenaline sports gives a lot to writers, the rush, the joy and that taste of fear and for a fantasy writer that fixates on action it’s a great boon.

Zoe: Reading between the lines in various interviews and comments you’ve made on videos on your youtube channel, I get the sense you like your food. In a ideal world, what would you put on your hospitality rider in terms of snacks to eat / lunch to share with kids at school visits?

Marcus: Seared kangaroo with homemade sweet chilli sauce?
Caramelised duck breast with a honey and ginger jus?
Or that old school classic of salt and pepper ice cream?
Yummage!

Photo: Liliana Fuchs

Photo: Liliana Fuchs

Zoe: Travel has always been a large part of your life. What locations are still on your dream list for the future?

Marcus: Africa! The largest continent with the most countries. I’ve got to get that done. (I’ve done Morocco and the Sahara but I don’t think that that really counts.)
South America with the tequila, history and amazing dance styles.
China for its landscapes.
Japan for its deep powder, beautiful gardens, fashion and style.

Zoe: And finally, have you any advice for supporting and encouraging bookworms?

Marcus: Bookworms rock! With your powerful imagination and your ability to think outside the box you’re already one-up on everyone else. Just don’t get so stuck between the pages that you forget to live your life to the max.

Those heroes and heroines that you love reading about and that inspire you so much? They’re the reflection of what you can and should be. Take their essence and apply it to yourself. Want to move like a hero? Go to capoeira or parkour class. Want to learn how to defend yourself? Go to MMA or Muay Thai class. Need adventure in your life? Go and travel during your school holidays and see new horizons and cultures. Too scared to do any of these or too timid to consider starting something new? Remember the determination and drive your heroes and heroines have in those books you love? That’s you!

Take that urge to overcome all obstacles and hurdles and apply it to your life. Bookworms, if you’ve got the courage and the imagination, you can master your life in a way that those who don’t read will never be able to match.

Playing by the Book – a huuuuuuuge thanks for all the funky fresh questions. Super appreciated!

Playing by the Book Keeper of the Realm Images BIG THANKS450

Zoe and M: Thank YOU Marcus!

An slightly different version of this interview also appears today on the blog of the Federation of Children’s Book Groups. If you want to find out what schools can expect from Marcus should he be invited to pay them a visit, or what are the strangest questions he’s ever been asked on a school visit, do head on over to find out.

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21. A WORD FROM URSULA JONES

THE ISLANDS OF CHALDEA, a new, stand-alone novel of magic and adventure, is the last book from the beloved Diana Wynne Jones. Almost finished upon her death in 2011, the manuscript was completed by Diana’s sister Ursula Jones, a popular author and actress.

The Islands of Chaldea

Read on for some lovely thoughts from Ursula on growing up with such a talented storyteller for a sister and on the challenges of finishing her sister’s work . . .

Dear Readers,

When I first read this lovely, searching, last novel by my sister, Diana Wynne Jones, it stopped short where she became too ill to continue. It was a shock: it was like being woken from sleepwalking or nearly running off the edge of a cliff. It had elements of a much happier time in our childhood, too.

Diana wrote her first full-length novel when she was fourteen years old. It filled a series of exercise books, and she would read the newest section to us, her two younger sisters, in bed at night. When she suddenly stopped reading, we would wail, “Go on, go on. What happens next?” and she’d say, “Don’t you understand? I haven’t written any more yet.” And we would go to sleep, agog for the next section. It always duly turned up the next night, which is where the present day diverged so unhappily from our childhood past. This time, the next section couldn’t turn up. Her book had ended without an ending.

Diana Wynne Jones was such a masterly storyteller that it was impossible to imagine where she planned to take it. She left no notes: she never ever made any. Her books always came straight out of her extraordinary mind onto the page, and she never discussed her work while it was in progress. There was not so much as a hint of what she was up to, and it seemed The Islands of Chaldea was lost to its readers.

Then the family suggested that I might complete it. I was nervous. Diana was my big sister, and big sisters notoriously don’t like kid sisters messing with their stuff. Particularly when the big sister in question is very good at her stuff. Nevertheless, her family and friends had a meeting to pool their ideas on how the story might continue. We were all steeped in her work. We’d all known her well. Everyone was sure that, by the end of the afternoon, we would come up with something. We didn’t; she had us all stumped. Eventually, Diana’s son closed the session with, “Well, Ursula, you’ll just have to make it up.”

It took months. I scoured the text for those clues that Diana always dropped for her readers as to where the narrative was headed, and which I’d always unfailingly overlooked until I’d read the final page. I hadn’t changed. I found nothing.

Initially, I was working at the National Theatre in London, too (I’m an actress when I’m wearing my other hat), and the play I was in was full of eerie happenings and second sight. I would catch the bus home across the river after the show and dream weird and often frightening dreams as I tried to break into my sister’s thinking. I believe I got even closer to her at this point than I was during her lifetime. But although I hunted and pondered, nothing came to me. Then, just as I was beginning to feel like a sous chef, endlessly producing flat soufflés under the slightly disapproving gaze of the Chef, I found one of her clues. I found it near the beginning of her manuscript. And we were off!

When I started to write, it came easily. It was almost as if Diana were at my elbow, prompting, prodding, turning sentences around, working alongside—and then it was finished, and she was gone again. That was a terrible wrench. But her book was there—complete.

So far, no one who has come to The Islands of Chaldea freshly has spotted exactly where Diana Wynne Jones left off and I begin. Perhaps you will be able to, perhaps you won’t. It doesn’t really matter. It is intrinsically and utterly her book, and I hope you and all its readers love it as much as I do.

Sincerely,
Ursula Jones

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22. TURNING PAGES: The Oversight, by Charlie Fletcher

Readers familiar with Charlie Fletcher's STONEHEART trilogy will be unsurprised that his new novel, THE OVERSIGHT, is a crossover. Marketed to all general audiences, - i.e., adults - but enjoyable for everyone, this first book in the series has a... Read the rest of this post

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23. This Is What Is Possible (Part 3)

This commencement speech by Neil Gaiman about carving out a life of creativity is one of those things I’ve been meaning to watch for a long time, but never seemed to get around to.

Which is why we need people who say, “Here! Look!” and send you the link. Thank you to author and illustrator Guy Porfirio for being that person for me today.

And now I get to be that person for all of you. Here! Look!

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24. Monday Review: THE CRACKS IN THE KINGDOM by Jaclyn Moriarty

I devolve to such a squealing fangirl when it comes to Jaclyn Moriarty. I think everything she does is brilliant and we've made no secret around here of our admiration for her writing (cf. the gushing fan letter we wrote for One Shot World Tour:... Read the rest of this post

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25. How To Psyche Yourself Up for Whatever Your Next Big Thing Might Be (Part 1)

Here are the categories I’m dealing with lately: planning a new backpacking adventure. Planning a new book series. Planning another new series in a whole new genre. Which right now equals about 15 new books. I’m not even kidding.

And this morning it was starting to feel a little . . . daunting. As in, Can’t do any of them, just have to sit here and think about what I want to do.

That kind of stupor that could easily go on for days.

But I’m going to approach it a different way this time. Because recently I heard a great talk from outdoor adventurer (and mother and wife and owner of my favorite outdoor store Summit Hut) Dana Davis.

Dana has hiked up Mount Rainier. That right there qualifies her as badass. But she’s accomplished many other physical feats, and is currently training for her first Ironman triathlon, even though as she tells it she has bad knees, bad ankles, can’t run, isn’t so hot at either biking or swimming (I can’t remember which)–clearly not ideal when you’re going to be doing all three for miles and miles in one day.

But somehow that sounds fun to Dana.

And that fun is infectious. While it’s possible that some of the people in the crowd the other night might have thought to themselves, “Dang! I’m going to Ironman it, too!” I have the feeling they reacted the same way I did, which was to take Dana’s lessons about training for something hard and think about how we might apply them to some of the upcoming challenges in our own lives.

I think my favorite piece of her advice was this: Embrace the suck. Recognize that somewhere along the way you’re going to have to deal with a certain amount of discomfort, pain, and unhappiness. But if you recognize that ahead of time, really reconcile yourself to it, then when it shows up you can calmly tell yourself, “Yep, here it is. I knew it was coming. Here’s the suck. Let’s keep going.”

What’s “the suck” for me? There are times in every single backpacking trip when it’s as if I turn to myself and ask, “Did you really think this was fun? Are you really doing this on purpose?” Because mountains are high, trails are long, lightning storms scare the crap out of me, mosquitos bite, dogs roll in human feces (don’t get me started on people not properly disposing of their turds), and things just plain go wrong. That is the nature of outdoor adventures. Of any adventure, really.

I see it with my book adventures, too. When I set out to write something new, I know the time will come when my hands will feel like claws from typing for so many hours at a time, my brain will feel completely exhausted and empty, and yet the drill sergeant in me will try to force me to keep going even though all I really want to do is take the day off and watch Pixar movies. There’s a reason why The Incredibles exists. It is there to restore the worn-out brains of adults all over the world.

In a few days I’ll be posting Dana’s full list for psyching yourself up and preparing for something big, but for now I just wanted to whet your appetite for the whole thing.

Until then, you might want to reread a few earlier posts (that’s right, to psyche yourself up for the next big post. See how it works?):

How To Know When It’s Time To Make a Change In Your Life

Becoming the Possible You

The 100 Things You Keep Meaning To Do

Deciding To Worry About That Tomorrow

Stay tuned!

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