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Ties That Bind, Ties That Break Book Review

Ties That Bind, Ties That Break is a fast-paced young adult historical fiction novel by Lensey Namioka, about Ailin Tau, a determined girl who, after seeing Second Sister unwrap her bound feet, begins to question the Chinese tradition. When the maids and her mother come for her a few days later to bind Ailin feet she bolts. The second time, they come for her she submits, but soon realizes she will never walk naturally again when she stands up in the painful wrappings. Ailin’s mother tells her that she has to learn to walk on bound feet if she ever wants to be married. Forcing her to decide to defy the Chinese tradition. The story is an inspiring one, and Ailin an awesome heroine.

Think You Know About Self-Publishing? Think Again Webinar Blog Post

Think You Know About Self-Publishing? Think Again

The ad promised riches.
All I had to do was purchase their product to learn the secrets of self-publishing, and the money would start rolling in.
Fortunately for me, I’d bought enough snake oil over the years from ads that promised I could rub away that ugly scratch on my car’s fender, or let a little robot clean my apartment while I relaxed. Which is an excellent idea—if only it worked. The truth is there is no magic bullet, and ads that promise one are more than misleading, they’re deceiving.
There’s nothing more misleading than all the information that’s out there about self-publishing. If you are a writer interested in self-publishing, everywhere you turn you’re hearing conflicting information: Self-publishing is hard, self-publishing is easy, self-published authors don’t make any money. Use Scrivener, don’t use Scrivener. It’s enough to make you go batty.

Think You Know About Self-Publishing? Think Again Webinar Spotlight

The ad promised riches.

All I had to do was purchase their product to learn the secrets of self-publishing, and the money would start rolling in.

Fortunately for me, I’d bought enough snake oil over the years from ads that promised I could rub away that ugly scratch on my car’s fender, or let a little robot clean my apartment while I relaxed.  Which is an excellent idea—if only it worked. The truth is there is no magic bullet, and ads that promise one are more than misleading, they’re deceiving.

There’s nothing more misleading than all the information that’s out there about self-publishing. If you are a writer interested in self-publishing, everywhere you turn you’re hearing conflicting information: Self-publishing is hard, self-publishing is easy, self-published authors don’t make any money. Use Scrivener, don’t use Scrivener. It’s enough to make you go batty.

Not Alone Book Review

Not Alone by A. L. Flagg is a young adult novel told in multiple points-of-view about a rape survivor.

The novel’s opening grabbed me and drew me in immediately because Flagg immediately puts the reader “right there.” The descriptions are vivid. Read the short excerpt below to get a taste of what I mean.

Novel Excerpt:

Fallen Angels Book Talk

Fallen Angels
Walter Dean Myers
Raised in Harlem, Richard Perry realizes his mother can’t afford to send him to college. At seventeen years old he joins the U.S. Army under the illusion that his “bad knee” will keep him from active duty. Richie arrives in Vietnam and is told he is headed for Chu Lai. The military personal inform Richie that there isn’t much fighting in Chu Lai, just light work. Richie‘s illusions are quickly shattered when a fellow squad member, Jenkins is killed by a land mine during their first patrol.
Meyers poignantly conveys the innermost feelings of the young soldiers who embark on a coming of age journey. Inexperience with weapons and miscalculations cause the U.S. soldiers to accidently kill the people they are in Vietnam to protect. The soldiers struggle to understand the realities of the war and the propaganda shared with the people back in the States through the evening news.
The motley crew of young adults in Fallen Angels (1988) realizes that they need each other as they examine their personal motivations for joining the war and strive to achieve a common goal of getting home, alive.

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Shattered Book Review

Shattered by Karen Robards
What if you found out your entire life was a lie?
Boston attorney Lisa Grant gets a job working as a research assistant for District Attorney Scott Buchanan, in her hometown of Lexington, Kentucky when she returns home to help her mother who is suffering from ALS.
One day, Lisa’s car breaks down, causing her to be late for court. This in turn, causes her to be sent to work in the basement in the cold-case division, sorting through cold cases.
There were some good twists and turns like learning that friends of the family were involved in a cover-up of an exchange of a sick baby for a healthy one, and an affair, and a hidden sibling. I saw nothing coming except the romance between boss and employee.
The book was fast-paced and suspenseful, even the romance was suspenseful. This book was multi-pov, and the chapters varied in length, but not so long as to detract from the story.

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How to Write a Novel in a Month


As a lot of you know, last month I completed JuNoWriMo! It was my first time writing a novel in a month, and let me tell you–it was SO FUN, that I can’t wait for NaNoWriMo in November! I’ve started thinking of ideas for my November novel, and I’ll probably start plotting in the fall!

Writing a novel in a month is no easy task, but it turned out to be a lot easier than I expected. So, if any of you are interested in writing a novel in a month, check out these tips!

Gossip Girl Book Talk

Gossip Girl

Three Faces of Me Book Review

Three Faces of Me is written by R. L. Stine, and the author of the Goosebumps series. Ever wish you had a clone? If so, ask Ira Fishman, and he’ll tell you all about it.
Here’s what happened.c
Ira Fishman and his brother, Zach play an arcade game, and Ira wants to win a squirt gun. But that’s not what he wins. He wins a little green box, which turns out to be a camera. He soon discovers the camera creates a clone of him. Fun for a while, then things change.
When the real Ira presses a green button on the camera he ends up with a double. Later, when he tries to get rid of his double, he ends up with a triple.
The story is a fast read, and it could have been longer. Allowing the clones to create more havock in Ira’s life would add to the suspense of the story. The concept is a good one.
I actually could see a spinoff told from the clone’s pov. I could also see some kind of revenge tale where the clones pay the original Ira back when he attempts to get rid of them by completely taking over his identity.

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Rarety from the Hollow Spotlight

Rarety from the Hollow


Lacy Dawn’s father relives the Gulf War, her mother’s teeth are rotting out, and her best friend is murdered by the meanest daddy on Earth. Life in the hollow is hard. She has one advantage — an android was inserted into her life and is working with her to cure her parents. But, he wants something in exchange. It’s up to her to save the Universe. Lacy Dawn doesn’t mind saving the universe, but her family and friends come first.

Rarity from the Hollow is adult literary science fiction filled with tragedy, comedy and satire. A Children’s Story. For Adults.

Airframe Book Review

Airframe is a science fiction techno-thriller by the late American writer Michael Crichton.
While flying from Hong Kong to Denver aboard Hong Kong-based Transpacific Airlines Flight 545, an incident occurs about a half-hour west of the California coast and the pilot requests an emergency landing at Los Angeles International Airport. The pilot notifies air traffic control that the plane encountered “severe turbulence” in flight. Cheng, the pilot, provides conflicting information regarding the type and severity of injuries, but does inform them that crew members were hurt and “three passengers are dead.” The first responders are not prepared for what they see when they arrive.
The incident seems impossible! The plane is a Norton manufactured, N-22 wide-body aircraft, with an excellent safety record and the pilot is highly trained, making the possibility of human error unlikely. Passengers and flight crew give concurring accounts of the circumstances of the disaster, and the most likely explanation turns out to be a technical problem that was thought to have been fixed years before.
As the vice-president of Quality Assurance at Norton Aircraft, it is Casey Singleton’s job to try to protect the design’s and Norton’s reputation. As Casey investigates further, she discovers a deeper plan at work.
The book is well-paced at the beginning and holds the reader’s attention, but begins to drag a bit in the middle. I like the mix of show and tell and the fictional technical documents, news and incident reports that make the events in the book appear factual. The multi-pov novel is structured by day and time like the series 24 which is an interesting way to section off the book and provides good scene transition points.

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A History of Convicts in Australia

A history of convicts in Australia

The convict settlements in Australia lasted from 1788-1868 after the British colonization of this continent. The settlement became pertinent to Britain because British prisons were overcrowded. Crime rates were on the rise in Britain due to industrialization. People were unemployed in 1788: an estimated one million people in Britain sank below the bread line. There was no other quick solution to this problem, apart from transporting them to penal colonies. This massive continent was perfect for their purpose. Both men and women entered Australia in several waves for both major and minor offences.

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The Unlikeable Demon Hunter Nava Katz Book 1

The Unlikeable Demon Hunter is Book 1 in the Nava Katz series by Deborah Wilde.
Bridesmaids meet Buffy with a dash of the seven deadly sins.
The age-old story of what happens when a foul-mouthed, romance impaired heroine with no edit button and a predilection for hot sex is faced with her worst nightmare–a purpose.
Ari Katz is an intelligent, driven young man who will make an excellent demon hunter once initiated into the Brotherhood of David. However, this book is about Ari’s twin, Nava: a smart-ass, self-cultivated hot mess, who is thrilled that her brother is stuck with all the chosen-one crap.
When Nava half-drunkenly interrupts Ari’s induction ceremony, she expects to be chastised. What she doesn’t expect is to take her brother’s place among the–until now–all-male demon hunters. Even worse, her infuriating leader is former rock star Rohan Mitra.
Too bad Rohan’s exactly what Nava’s always wanted: the perfect bad boy fling with no strings attached, because he may also be the one to bring down her carefully erected emotional shield. Which is as dangerous as all the evil fiends vying for the bragging rights of killing the only female ever chosen for Demon Club.
Mornings after sucked.
Walks of shame were a necessary evil, but that didn’t mean I enjoyed shimmying back into the same trollop togs twice. I picked glitter out of my hair, then straightened my sequined top. I was officially decommissioning it. Multiple washings never quite managed to remove the lingering aura of bad decisions I made while wearing party clothes. My philosophy? Cross my fingers and hope for the most bang for the bucks spent later on new outfits.
The surly cabbie evil-eyed me to hurry up.
I complied, rooting around in my clutch for some crumpled bills before handing them over and stumbling out of the taxi onto the sidewalk.
Fresh air was a godsend after the stale bitter coffee smell I’d been trapped with during the ride. I pressed a finger to my temple, a persistent dull throb stabbing me behind my eyeballs. My residual feel good haze clashed big-time with the glaring sun screaming at me to wake up, and the buzz of a neighbor’s lawnmower cutting through the Sunday morning quiet didn’t help matters. Best get inside.
Smoothing out my mini skirt, I readied myself for my tame-my-happy-slut-self-to-boring-PG-rating body check when a wave of dizziness crashed through me. Whoa. I brought my gaze back to horizon level, swallowing hard. That sea-sickness technique was doing dick-all so I rummaged in my bag for my ginger chews.
No puking in the bushes, I chided myself, letting the spicy smooth and sweet candy fight my nausea. My mother would toss my bubble ass out if I defiled her precious rhodos.
The rise and fall of my chest as I took a few deep breaths spotlit a slight problem. My spangly blouse was missing two buttons. And I was missing a bra. Hook-up Dude had been worth the loss of a pair of socks, maybe a bargain bin thong. But the latest in purple push-up technology? No. I allowed myself a second to mourn. It had been a good and loyal bra.
The sex, on the other hand? Total crap. The girls, who were normally perky C cups, seemed a bit subdued. I couldn’t blame them. What’s-his-name had started out with all the promise of a wild stallion gallop, but he’d ended up more of a gentle trot. I didn’t know if the fault lay with the jockey or the ride, but it had been a long time since I’d seen a finish line.
Since I couldn’t keep examining my tits on the front walk with Mrs. Jepson side-eyeing me from behind her living room curtains, I thrust my chin up and clacked a staccato rhythm toward my front door on those mini torture chambers that had seemed such a good idea yesterday.
Every step made our precisely manicured lawn undulate. I clamped my lips shut, willing the ginger chews to kick in while fumbling my key into the lock. Dad had screwed up the measurements on our striking cedar and stained glass front door and, being a touch too big for the frame, it needed to be shouldered open.
I crashed into the door like a linebacker. Once I’d extricated myself and my keys from the lock, I brushed myself off, and stepped inside. Our house itself was comfortably upper middle class but not huge, since my parents preferred to spend money on trips and books instead of the overpriced real estate found in here in Vancouver. A quick glance to my left showed that the TV room was empty. I crossed my fingers that Mom and Dad were out at their squash game, my main reason for picking this specific time to sneak back in.
Really, a twenty-year-old shouldn’t have had to sneak. But then again, a twenty-year-old probably should have kept her last menial job for longer than two weeks, so I wasn’t in a position to argue rights.
I kicked off my shoes, sighing in delight at the feel of cool tile under my bare feet as I padded through the house to our homey kitchen. No one was in there either. Someone, probably Mom, had tacked the envelope with my final–and only–pay stub from the call center that I’d left lying around onto our small “miscellaneous” cork board. The gleaming quartz counters were now free of their usual clutter of papers, books, and latest gourmet food find. That meant company. Come to think of it, I did hear someone in the living room.
A study in tasteful shades of white, the large formal room was off-limits unless we had special guests. Mom had set that rule when my twin brother Ari and I were little tornados running around the place and while there was no longer a baby gate baring our way, conditioning and several memorable scoldings kept us out.
Hmmm. Could Ari be entertaining an actual human boy? Le gasp.
I beelined for the back of the house, past the row of identically framed family photos hanging in a neat grid, my head cocked. Listening for more voices, but all was quiet. Maybe I’d been wrong? I hoped not. Both finding my brother with a crush–blackmail dirt–and helping myself to the liquor cabinet were positive prospects. What better way to lose that hangover headache than get drunk again? Oh, the joys of being Canadian with socialized health care and legal drinking age of nineteen. After a year (officially) honing that skill, I imbibed at an Olympic level.
The red wine on the modular coffee table gleamed in a shaft of sunlight like its position had been ordained by the gods. I snatched up the crystal decanter, sloshing the liquid into the glass conveniently placed next to it. Once in a while, a girl could actually catch a break.
I fanned myself with one hand. The myriad of lit candles seemed a bit much for Ari’s romantic encounter, but wine drinking trumped curiosity so I chugged the booze back. My entire body cheered as the cloyingly-sweet alcohol hit my system, though I hoped it wasn’t Manischewitz because hangovers on that were a bitch. I’d slugged back half the contents when I saw my mom on the far side of the room clutch her throat, eyes wide with horror. Not her usual, “you need an intervention” horror. No, her expression indicated I’d reached a whole new level of fuck-up.
“Nava Liron Katz,” she gasped in full name outrage.
My cheeks still bulging with wine, I properly scoped out the room. Mom? Check. Dad? Check. Ari? Check? Rabbi Abrams, here to perform the ceremony to induct my brother as the latest member in the Brotherhood of David, the chosen demon hunters? Check.
I spit the wine back into what I now realized was a silver chalice and handed it to the elderly bearded rabbi. “Carry on,” I told him. Then I threw up on his shoes.
My Thoughts:
This book was a slow read and a struggle to finish. It had erotic material and strong language which didn’t bother me. I love the concept, but I wonder if the book could have been told in different perspectives, thereby possibly shortening the chapters and speeding up the pace. I think this would have drawn me in. I also had to read some sections more than once as I kept getting lost.

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Nobody’s Son Book Review

Nobody’s Son is the latest foster-caring memoir written by Cathy Glass. It’s a sad fact that many children need to go into the foster care system. However, while in most cases, those who end up in care go to loving homes, this isn’t always the case, as Cathy Glass tells in this emotionally-packed memoir.
Born in a prison and removed from his drug-dependent mother, rejection is all that 7-year-old Alex knows. When Cathy is asked to foster little Alex, aged seven, her immediate reaction is: Why can’t he stay with his present carers for the last month? He’s already had many moves since coming into care as a toddler and he’ll only be with her a short while before he goes to live with his permanent adoptive family. But the present carers are expecting a baby and the foster mother isn’t coping, so Alex goes to live with Cathy. He settles easily and is very much looking forward to having a forever family of his own. The introductions and move to his adoptive family go well. But Alex is only with them for a week when problems begin.
Cathy is sent over to try to resolve the issue that Alex is having with his adoptive family. However, it is not long before Cathy is contacted by the social worker, who tells her the family has decided not to keep Alex, something that should have been discussed during the adoption planning meeting.
Angry and betrayed, Cathy accepts the social worker’s offer of taking Alex back as an emergency placement. This time things go as planned and Alex is found another forever family, who fortunately decides to keep him. When Alex hits puberty, he begins to act out, nearly ending back in care, luckily his behavior changes before that happens. Like all her memoirs, the pacing is awesome!
These memoirs are very eye-opening and I felt compelled to review this memoir with plans to review more in this genre. These memoirs are very emotional, readers should be warned.

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Forever Book Talk

Judy Blume

Judy Blume’s Forever (1975) is a novel that provides an excellent opportunity to discuss implications of sex between a parent and a teenager. Katherine, the protagonist, experiences that which is not uncommon for high school girls. She has met someone that she likes and thinks he might be the one to which she will surrender her virginity.
Katherine is pressured by both Michael and her best friend, Erica to have sex. Katherine eventually decides it is time and she and Michael vow that their love is forever. Michael gives Katherine a necklace with the word forever as a symbol for his love. Katherine and Michael are separated by summer jobs and Katherine begins to enjoy the company of one of the other camp directors where she works. She experiences emotionally dissonance as she attempts to sort out her feeling for Michael and Theo.
Judy Blume includes subplots of teenage pregnancy and sexual orientation in this wonderful love story for high school students. The primary plot and subplots provide an discussion entry point for many families.

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Taming the Pack

In the final book in the Taming the Pack series, Crazy Over You, one of the main characters, LeAnn, has PTSD. During the process of revision, my editor told me that I needed to go deeper into her emotional and mental inner dialogue and past…because he knew I could.
The first time I saw PTSD on my medical charts, I felt a rueful sort of resignation. In retrospect, I don’t know why I thought I was hiding it so well. I’d been seeing the same doctor for years for my obsessive-compulsive disorder and he was aware of the complexity of my history. Accepting the diagnosis was like admitting I’d been wearing ankle weights for years. The flashbacks of the two months of my memory that are missing have faded in the years since I got in deep with a self-destructive and abusive relationship. My past is my past, despite its influence on my future.
All my characters, both villains and heroes and heroines are part of me, and I see myself in them. LeAnn is no exception, but going into her flashbacks and experiencing the fallout of a harmful relationship was brutal. After I first got out of that relationship way-back-when, the flashbacks were intense. They’d hit me like a gut punch in the middle of a conversation or sometimes as I lay awake. My memory loss created this ugly conundrum of lies meshed in with truth. Did that happen? It might have. Did that? Hell, I hope not. Like LeAnn, I chose the route of repression and my mind fastened on to that absence and didn’t let go. What might have been a coping mechanism became a reality. I’ve accepted I won’t find those lost days.
In some ways, writing LeAnn’s flashbacks became cathartic. You tell yourself over and over that you deserve to be loved and that the past is the past, but it’s much easier to believe that when it’s someone else. When it was LeAnn, I wholeheartedly accepted she should have her happily ever after. She is lovable. I waded into her darkness, exploring the emotions, and I cared more about her plight.
She is me. I am her. She is us. The amount of our fellow humans, especially women, dealing with darkness and violence isn’t diminishing. Bullies and horrors are everywhere, but so is healing. The reality of so many of us crying out for help and solace is that there are kindred souls to be found. I thought it would never be easier to breathe through the pain of my past, but time and then also finding and helping others have gotten me back on my feet. Not only can I breathe, but I can walk back into those chaotic days and say, “We deserve better.”
The titles of all the books in this series are more empowering than you’d guess from the blurbs. Vanessa in Past My Defenses has severe allergies. Christa in This Weakness for You has Multiple Sclerosis. LeAnn in Crazy Over You has PTSD and has repressed much of her past. The titles are not about the women in these stories. Dane is defenseless to Vanessa’s awesome personality. Jordan discovers his great weakness is for the woman who can bring him to his knees. Travis realizes he has to confront his own mental demons and blocks so that he can love LeAnn as she deserves. I’m not sure if my readers realized that or if it’s my smirky little secret. Knowing the titles describe the heroes helped me find the women in these novels the love and respect they deserve. It helped their stories evolve.
I write flawed characters because we’re all imperfect creatures and there will be days when life will sucker punch us. I write the stories that make me smile and find the strength to shake my fist at the universe and yell, “Is that all you’ve got? I deserve better, and I will find it.” That is the one truth I’ve always believed…we deserve to be loved. We all do. It’s why I write romance. I write love stories because love heals…especially when you begin to love and forgive yourself. I hope you’ll give the Taming the Pack series a chance and thank you for letting me come on to talk about a subject so close to my heart.
I’ve written more about both OCD and PTSD on my blog and I enjoy hearing from readers and those who just need a listening ear.

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Review of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Review of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norre
I approached this book with some hesitation. I read fantasy now and then, and often enjoy it greatly (e.g. Naomi Novik’s novel Uprooted, which, like this novel, deals extensively with magicians and magic); but fantasy is not a genre I read continually. Also, by the time I started the book, I had only two days before the library loan expired – and the hardcover edition is a big, intimidating brick of a book. But by the last day, I had bought the book in order to continue reading. Clarke’s style, her frequently amusing and original phrases, and her gradually revealed world-building had won me over.

Email List-building Strategies

Thank you for allowing me to speak to your readers, Mellissa.

Show Me the Money

You may have heard a phrase going around these days. “Your money is in the list.” What does that mean? It’s the idea that your email list, customer list, contact list, etc. are those individuals who have the highest chance of purchasing from you.

This is nothing new. Businesses have been doing this for decades. Think about your first rewards card at a grocery store, casino (I live in Nevada), or request for your email address. These are all businesses growing their list.

Stolen Book Review

Stolen, by Cheree Alsop is about veterinary assistant, Kyla Marsh, who finds a wounded young man hiding in her father’s clinic. It doesn’t take her long to realize that Marek is more than he seems. Their lives become entangled in a world of kidnapped children, renegade shifters, and the men who will stop at nothing to erase their existence.
In a world governed by winged genetically-created half-bird humans called Falconan soldiers that rule the streets, Kyla and Marek have to decide who they can trust, and how they can make a difference, when the fate of Kyla’s family and the love that has grown between them hangs in the balance.
The pacing starts off excellent, and the book is told from multiple viewpoints that shift per chapter. This in my opinion helps the novel develop by increasing its pace, and giving a window into the other characters’ minds as the story unfolds. The chapter length varies depending on POV. Kyla’s POV chapters are longer than Marek’s. Chapter 49 is told from the father, Mr. March’s POV and in third-person. I feel it would have been better in first-person POV.
Unlike the other chapters in the novel, this chapter was was only summary, as oppose to the powerful effect that showing would have had.
I also think it broke the novel’s rhythem and flow. With Kyla and Marek’s Pov the descriptions and worldbuilding were detailed and drew me in.
The suspense elements and action are well-detailed, though there are some points where I got lost. Each chapter’s ending leads to the next chapter. The last chapter ends with Kyla and Marek at a dance, which leaves the story open for a sequel. I also envision a series of novellas about the other characters.

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The Graveyard Book Book Talk

The Graveyard Book
Neil Gaiman
The Graveyard Book (2008) is a rather quirky supernatural fantasy novel. Little Nobody “Bod” Owens is raised by ghost; Mr. and Mrs. Owens in the graveyard after his parents and slightly older sister are murdered. To take care of his human needs, Silas the graveyard caretaker steps in provides his food, books and advice as he grows from a toddler to boy.
Around the time “Bod” is five he befriends a rather precocious little girl by the name of Scarlet. Scarlet speaks to her parents about her only friend, Bod, and they decide he must be imaginary. As Bod and Scarlet spend time together they compare information about the way the live. This makes Bod very curious about life outside the graveyard. Since Silas leaves the graveyard daily, Bod begins to want to experience life beyond the gates of the graveyard.
Eventually, Bod comes face to face with the killer of his family. It turns out that the man who killed his parents belongs to the wicked order Jack of all Trades and has been searching for the child that escaped death on that cool, dark evening for many years.
The book is filled with mayhem, twists and turns caused by witches, ghost, vampires and a wicked order called “Jack of all Trades.” It’s a great ghoulish tale to share with students in upper elementary through the middle grades.

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