Disappearing words

Languages change. But losing words like “Buttercup” and “Kingfisher” in favor of things like “Broadband” and “chatroom”saddens me.

In Orion, Robert Macfarlane talks about an edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary that has culled words concerning nature that it no longer felt to be relevant to a modern-day childhood. The deletions included acorn, bluebell, dandelion, and fern in order to make room for block-graph, cut-and-paste, and voice-mail.

The substitutions —the outdoor and the natural being displaced by the indoor and the virtual—are a small but significant symptom of the simulated life we increasingly live. What is lost is something precious: a kind of word magic, the power that certain terms possess to enchant our relations with nature and place.

Read the whole essay HERE

An 1819 book warns of

10 Things Kids Shouldn’t DoClimb treesImage credit: “The Accidents of Youth

In Mental Floss, Erin McCarthy examines a book of short cautionary tales published almost 200 years ago. The authors hoped the stories would encourage children to improve their conduct, presumably by scaring the crap out of them with tales of the extreme consequences of foolish activities such as breaking an arm or a leg, cutting or burning yourself, swallowing pins, poisoning, and laming or killing yourself (or others).

But did they listen?

Read more HERE

150 odd years later…

Top 10 books about women in the 1950s

“I was only five years old when the 50s ended,” historian Virginia Nicholson writes in The Guardian, “but even at that age the flawless, impossibly-proportioned models featured in my mother’s copies of Vogue undoubtedly embodied my idea of female perfection.”

Women always felt that they fell short of perfection, she says, and their actions and assumptions were governed by the idea that women have no independent identity outside men.

The Village


The Village by Marghanita Laski: One book she chose was “this wonderful Romeo-and-Juliet novel that was published in 1952, and is an example of how social historians should turn to fiction from time to time, to get true insights into the past. Laski paints a painfully well-observed picture of middle-class pretensions. But above all she writes beautifully about love in the period of postwar transition, when – after a relative suspension of hierarchy, and women’s brief release from domesticity “for the duration” – home counties Britain subsided into its former petty snobberies, and women retreated into the home.


Read the whole story HERE

“‘I do not have a licence to kill or be buried at sea either”

When she got her umpteenth warning letter from the BBC, writer Jackie Morris, who travels the UK encouraging people to read books, sent them a testy letter.Jackie Morris“I recently received a letter from you…. (about) my lack of a TV license. I am sorry, but after 25 or more years I still do not have a license, and now I have run out of patience…. as someone who has been without a TV or the need for a TV for a half of their lifetime I think it’s time you cut me some slack.”

Then she provided them a list of other licenses she doesn’t have.

Read her delightful letter HERE

I’m Alma Alexander and I fully endorse this message from Paper Fury.Tell WritersNumber six is:

Read the whole story HERE


At Distractify, Matt Buco offers
33 Insanely Clever Innovations That Need To Be Everywhere Already

Here’s one
Wall outlets with USB chargers
Wall outlets with USB chargers

See all the others HERE

Losing bookstores

The number of independent bookshops in Britain has halved in the past decade and nearly 600 towns have none at all. Heavy discounting by supermarkets, the rise of internet retailers and the growing popularity of e-readers mean the number of independent bookshops in the UK has fallen below 1,000 for the first time.

“Suddenly, Every Movie Romance Involves First-Edition Books,” Kyle Buchanan says at Vulture. That’s kinda weird, she says and wonders why.

Read the fun essay HERE

Quote of the Day

People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading.” ~ Logan Pearsall Smith

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Brilliant junkies

Distractify offers us:
20 Of History’s Most Brilliant Minds And Their Drug Of Choice

Lots of famous names here: Vincent van Gogh – Absinthe and Digitalis, Sigmund Freud – cocaine, Francis Crick – LSD, Carl Sagan – Marijuana, Benjamin Franklin – Opiates….

Charles Dickens – Opium
Charles Dickens

When this famous author walked its streets, London was rife with opium dens. He even described them in his final unfinished work, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

Dickens, like many other famous names of the Victorian era, was addicted to an opium tincture known as laudanum for many years and used the drug heavily right up to the time of his death (by massive stroke).


Read the whole story HERE

Books for a Better Planet!
9 Earth-Friendly Reads for Kids
Earth friendlyIllustration: Elizabeth Graeber

Kids appreciate our planet and her precious resources when they can feel, touch, and see the natural world, Melissa Taylor writes at Brightly.

Even when they’re not outside, kids can still expand their understanding of nature through books that celebrate the wonders of the world around them. Here are some great children’s books that facilitate a love and stewardship of planet Earth.

For example:

Trees for kids

Celebritrees: Historic and Famous Trees of the World, by Margi Preus, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon:

Did you know there’s a hollow oak tree in France that’s used as a chapel?

Or that Robin Hood and his men used a specific tree in England (an oak tree) as a hiding place?



Read the whole story HERE

How to Turn Down a Marriage Proposal Like Charlotte Brontë

At Brain Pickings, Maria Popova tells us about “the bold defiance of oppressive gender ideals, packaged as the ultimate it’s-not-you-it’s-me gentle letdown.”

hell hath no fury

From Hell Hath No Fury: Women’s Letters from the End of the Affair (public library)

Anna Holmes’s magnificent collection spanning centuries of missives, which also gave us Simone de Beauvoir’s exquisite breakup letter and this moving breakup moment from the Vietnam War — comes an outstanding contribution to the genre from none other than Charlotte Brontë (April 21, 1816–March 31, 1855).



Read the whole story HERE

QUIZ – How well do you know rewritten classics?

From Shakespeare to Jane Austen, new fiction is often spun off from old stories, Harriet Mallinson reminds us at The Guardian, and asks such questions as:

What was the title of Jane Smiley’s modernisation of King Lear, set on a farm in Iowa in the 20th century?

Take the quiz HERE


18 Literary Maps of the US states

At Mental Floss, Caitlin Schneider reports that The Library of Congress’ Language of the Land exhibit collects bookish state maps that chart the regions and the writers who loved them.
indianaSee all the maps HERE

Quote of the day
QUOTE Nietzche~~~~~
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Library or bookstore?

DutchLiibrary1Facing declining visitors and uncertainty about what to do about it, library administrators in in the Netherlands did something extraordinary, Cat Johnson writes at Dailygood.org.Dutch Library2They tossed out traditional methods of library organization and now group books by areas of interest, combining fiction and nonfiction. They display books face-out to catch the eye of browsers; and they train staff members in marketing and customer service techniques.

Read the whole story HERE

I just got a 5-star rating for Random, first book in The Were Chronicles, from … a reader in NORWAY?

I’m delighted, of course, but not a little flabbergasted. How did my book find its way there…?

In any event, thank you, Norwegian Reader. I’m glad you like it. And, oh, if you’re seeing this at all… book 2, Wolf, will be out next month.

‘Hovel’ Hotels: A Hippie’s Alternative

HovelStay is sort of like a “rebel” alternative to AirBnB and the world of online marketplaces for local host accommodation, MessyNessy reports.

None of their offbeat listings are over $99 per night and there are some real surprise gems to be discovered on this quirky site, categorized by “Survivor Hovels”, “Good enough” and “Clean & comfortable”. HovelStay’s message to the world is that you can experience adventure anywhere on a shoestring budget. Call it travelling like a hippie.

Take, for example:
Bosnia Forest CabinForest Cabin in a remote Artist’s Community, Bosnia, $16 a night

The small dream of Borislav Jankovic of creating a small art gallery, painting studio in the middle of the forest. Today Zelenkovac is basically a small Eco Area providing its visitors with Bungalows for accommodation, freshly cooked food and a bar to suit everyone’s pleasure.

Read the whole story HERE

The best travel quotes of all time, from The Telegraph.oxfordTake Oxford, for example

“I was a modest, good-humoured boy. It is Oxford that has made me insufferable.” ~ Sir Max Beerbohm, 1899

“Oxford has always produced the finest second-class brains in the world.” ~ Leo Pavia, 1940

Read the whole story HERE

Strong womenReviewers and readers often remark on my strong female protagonists. Hell, I once wrote a novel with nine of them.

Jarry Lee of BuzzFeed offers us a look at 29 other books, from Jane Eyre to Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

Read the whole story HERE


John Acuff explains: “Why I fell back in love with bookstores”

There was never a moment where we walked away from each other. But I did get distracted. If I’m honest, I did have eyes for another. Who?

The Internet….But, in 15 years of non-stop online connection, I’ve learned something surprising. The more time I spend online, the more I realize face-to-face interaction matters the most.

Read the whole story HERE

Quote of the DayQUOTE Pasternak~~~~~
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Unlikeable? Really?

Blogger Jamie offers her:

“Top Ten Books For Readers Who Like Not-So-Easy-To-Like Characters”

I see a lot of discussion in book reviews and online about unlikeable characters…so often they are talking about a character that I LOVED. I love my characters genuinely flawed and especially in YA I see so much of my high school self in them. Slut-shamer? Bitchy? Maker of horrendous decisions at times? Selfish? Standoffish? HARD TO LIKE? YEPPP. That was me….

Falling into PlaceFalling Into Place by Amy Zhang:

This was a novel FULL of unlikeable characters basically. Like SO HARD TO HANDLE SOMETIMES.

But the way the layers peeled off throughout the course of the book…WOW. I bawled.

Read the whole story HERE

A New ‘Wrinkle in Time’

A Wrinkle in TimeMadeleine L’Engle with granddaughters Charlotte, left, and Léna, circa 1976. Photo: Crosswicks, Ltd.

Madeleine L’Engle’s ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ has sold 14 million copies since its publication in 1962. Now, a never-before-seen passage cut from an early draft is shedding surprising light on the author’s political philosophy.

Read the whole story HERE

A hard truth

Authors earn less than the minimum wage

More than 200 years after Samuel Johnson asserted that “no man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money”, a survey of UK’s authors has found that many make nothing at all from their writing, Alison Flood reports in The Guardian.
keyboardPhotograph: Kacper Pempel/Reuters

Philip Pullman, president of the Society of Authors, condemned the findings as a disgrace. “In the past ten years, while publishers’ earnings have remained steady, the incomes of those on whom they entirely depend have diminished, on average, by 29%…While Amazon makes earnings of indescribable magnitude by selling our books for a fraction of their value, and then pays as little tax as it possibly can, the authors whose work subsidises this gargantuan barbarity are facing threats to their livelihood from several directions…

Read the whole story HERE

Huxley vs Orwell in Graphic Form by Stuart McMillen

We may be a little on this one,” Juxtapoz Art and Culture magazine says, “but we saw this graphic novel/comic strip today that compares the future predictions of Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ to George Orwell’s ‘1984.’ It is pretty damn clever if  you ask us.”

Indeed – and CHILLING.
Huxley vs OrwellSee the whole graphic HERE

Creative Courage for Young Hearts

15 picture books celebrating the great artists, writers, and scientists are selected by Maria Popova at Brain Pickings, including:

Jane Goodall, Julia Child, Pablo Neruda, Marie Curie, e.e. Cummings, Albert Einstein, Ella Fitzgerald, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Frida Kahlo, and more.

Pablo NerudaNobel laureate Pablo Neruda was not only one of the greatest poets in human history, but also a man of extraordinary insight into the human experience and the creative impulse — take, for instance, his remarkable reflection on what a childhood encounter taught him about why we make art, quite possibly the most beautiful metaphor for the creative impulse ever committed to paper.

His story and spirit spring alive in Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People (public library) by writer Monica Brown, with absolutely stunning illustrations and hand-lettering by artist Julie Paschkis.

See all the books HERE

Helen Keller listens to music
Helen Keller 'listens' to radio
In March of 1924 Helen Keller, blind and deaf, wrote the following letter to the New York Symphony Orchestra describing how she listened to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony over the radio.

“I spent a glorious hour last night listening over the radio to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony ….someone suggested that I put my hand on the receiver and see if I could get any of the vibrations…What was my amazement to discover that I could feel, not only the vibration, but also the impassioned rhythm, the throb and the urge of the music! …The great chorus throbbed against my fingers with poignant pause and flow. Then all the instruments and voices together burst forth – an ocean of heavenly vibration – and (ended) in a delicate shower of sweet notes…there I sat, feeling with my hand the magnificent symphony which broke like a sea upon the silent shores of his soul and mine.”

Read the whole letter HERE

Vanishing ActIMAGE: Family photographs of Barbara Newhall Follett. Via Farksolia.

The fascinating story of a writer who stormed the literary world with a novel written when she was 12 and several years later vanished forever.

Read the whole story HERE

Quote of the day
QUOTE Helen Keller~~~~~
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I will walk with you…

When I was a little girl one in my family’s extensive collection of 45 rpm singles — remember those? turntables? vinyl? — was a record of Grieg’s Peer Gynt suite.

I’ve always loved that entire set of music – The Hall of the Mountain King, Anitra’s Dance, the Morning Mood air – but my particular favorite has always been Solveig’s Song. It touched some part of me that I could not, when that young, properly articulate, and did not even know why back then – understanding came well after I first heard the piece of music, and actually read the Ibsen play.

The epiphany explaining that bittersweet, noble, pure, high-minded *joy* of Grieg’s music came when I read the exchange between a remorseful, grieving, bereft Peer Gynt to Solveig, his lady, his love, and he cries out to her, in his anguish, “when have I ever been all I can be,  when have I ever been entitled to call myself honest, true, a *man*?”

She answers, “In my faith. In my hope. In my understanding.”

That piece of absolution rang for me like a bell.

What it means is simply this: it is human to blunder, it is human to make mistakes, it is human to be afraid. But if you are brave enough and honest enough to admit to these human flaws, then there is faith, and hope, and understanding.

In the aftermath of the Hugo drama unfolding this year, writer Vonda McIntyre just wrote a short note which put Solveig’s words into a certain context.

It may not be pure understanding – it is certainly not implied that there is, or will be, complete acceptance – but she is offering herself as a buffer between anyone who is afraid, and all the shadows which are starting  to look as though they might haunt the halls of this year’s Worldcon.

Here’s what Vonda McIntyre said:

“I will walk with you at Worldcon.

I’m not very fond of confrontation. I’m a courtesy 5’1? and my 67th birthday (how did that happen?!) is just after the convention and I’m walking with a hiking pole while recovering from a hiking fall, an injury that’s taking way longer to heal than when I was a pup.

On the other hand I’m a shodan in Aikido.

On the third hand, which I can have because I’m an SF writer, shodan — first degree black belt — is when you realize how much you still have to learn.

But I’m thinking that maybe it would make folks who feel threatened feel a little safer to have someone at their side, maybe even someone with a bunch o’ fancy ribbons fluttering from her name badge, even if that person is shorter, smaller, and older than they are, white-haired and not physically prepossessing. It’s another person’s presence.

It might cause some abuse not to happen.”
I am no less scared by some of those shadows than the next vulnerable con-goer – but if my presence will help someone else walk a little taller past a threatening shadow in some dark corner, I am stepping up with the same words.

I will walk with you at Worldcon.

VB RandomA Random treat

“Books are great, no question,” my favorite local bookstore, Village Books, says. “But books signed by the author? Now that’s some exceptional reading material right there.”

My Random, Book 1 of The Were Chronicles, is featured here. If you haven’t read it, hurry up. Book 2, Wolf, is coming out next month.

Order Random from Village Books HERE

Or go to MY BOOKS in the masthead menu above for more options, including the chance to pre-order Wolf.

Or don’t forget your library. And if they don’t have a copy of Random, ask why not?

The Best Books about Libraries and Librarians

At Off the Self, Caitlin Kleinschmidt  offers some intriguing books in time for National Library Week.

One you might not put in this category until you think about it…

Time Traveler's WifeThe Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger:

This untraditional love story is the tale of Henry DeTamble, a dashing adventuresome librarian who inadvertently travels through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course.

Their passionate affair tests the strength of fate and basks in the bonds of love.



Read the whole story HERE

25 Beverly Cleary Book Covers on her 99th Birthday

Beverly Cleary book covers are classics, Alison Nastasi writes at Flavorwire.

Often, there was nothing more exciting than getting a new Cleary book and seeing what kind of young adult dramas were playing out on the page, lovingly illustrated by artists like Louis Darling and Alan Tiegreen. The Newbery Medal-winning author celebrates her 99th birthday today. We’re honoring Cleary’s memorable characters — Ramona Quimby, Beezus, Ralph S. Mouse, and friends — with a look back at some of the best vintage book covers.
socksRead the whole story HERE

Writing a great female character

Justine Graykin blogged some sterling writing adice:

In a recent discussion, a fellow writer said, “This is how to create a good female character: Write a good character. Add female pronouns.”

pronounsAnd I say, ‘Amen.’

Read the whole story HERE


I can finally go into space.

The International Space Station Finally Gets an Espresso Machine, and It’s Called ‘ISSPresso’

Quote of the Day
QUOTE Words you speak~~~~~
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RiverRivers have always been very important to humankind, I say in the intro to my anthology, River.

They’ve been called gods. They’ve been blessed and cursed and venerated and used and enjoyed and exploited and polluted since the beginning of recorded history. They’ve been sung about and dreamed about and followed on epic journeys of discovery.

Gypsy Ninja has picked 10 mighty rivers which made the world in what it is today, including MY river, the Danube, on whose banks I was born in a country which no longer exists.

DanubeThe Danube is the most international river basin in the world. It springs in Germany’s romantic Black Forest, travels a total distance of 2850 km (1770 mi.), passing through 10 countries and 4 capital cities. It was an important transport route for medieval Europeans. Throughout most of its history, the Roman Empire held the Danube as its northern border. Before the Romans, the Greeks were navigating the river’s lower reaches. With more recent events like the Main-Danube Canal being built in 1992, the Danube is connected to the Rhine and from there to the North Sea.

Read the whole story HERE

Buy River, the anthology, HERE

You’ve read how many?
How manyBuzzFeed

So little time, so much to read, Michelle Regna says in introducing this list at BuzzFeed.

It’s not a definitive list — it doesn’t even have one of mine, for example — but a neat quiz nevertheless. How did you do?

Read the whole story HERE

29 Surreal Places In America You Need To Visit Before You Die

If you live in the U.S., Arielle Calderon says at Buzzfeed, you don’t need a passport to see what mother nature has to offer.
TulipsRuthChoi / shutterstock.com
Skagit Valley Tulip Fields, Washington

This is one place I know well. It is only a few miles from my home and I have scores of photos like this one.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors come to the tulip fields between April 1–30 to see these gorgeous flowers in bloom. The festival is designed as a driving tour since there is no one designated “site”.

See all the remarkable places HERE

Elves and Dragons Doing a Fantastic Job of Protecting Iceland’s Environment
Elves Hill
Originally Icelanders used mythological creatures as a way to deter people from coming to their island, now they protect it, Sola Agustsson writes at AlterNet.


Read the whole story HERE

Nasa’s Curiosity rover finds water below surface of Mars

New measurements from the Gale crater contradict theories that the planet is too cold for liquid water to exist, Hannah Devlin reports at The Guardian.
water on mars
The Curiosity rover is currently ascending Mount Sharp, in the centre of the Gale crater.
Illustration: Stocktrek Images, Inc./Alamy

Prof Andrew Coates, head of planetary science at the Mullard Space, said: “The evidence so far is that any water would be in the form of permafrost. It’s the first time we’ve had evidence of liquid water there now.””

Read the whole story HERE

Quote of the day

A child who reads will be an an adult who thinks.

A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s
story in the slightest.” ~ C.S. Lewis

Alma Alexander      My books      Email me   

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Turning 90

Today marks the 90th anniversary of Scribner’s publication of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, The Great Gatsby.

The Great Gatsy“During my junior year of high school,” Kara Watson writes at Off the Shelf, “my English teacher spent several weeks preparing us for the honor of reading The Great Gatsby….Chapter by chapter, sentence by sentence, he dazzlingly brought Fitzgerald’s book to life, and for the first time I grasped the link between literature and society and learned firsthand how an excellent teacher can change the course of one’s life.”

Here, twelve authors recall their first encounters with Fitzgerald’s classic.


Read the whole story HERE

JawsRay Collins

Ray Collins, The World’s Best Water Photographer

At first glance, these photographs look like looming mountains, standing guard over a dark universe found in a Tolkien novel, Amanda of Lifebuzz says. But look again: These stunning images are actually ocean waves, captured at their peak point of crash by photographer Ray Collins.

See all the photos HERE

And then there is photographer Clark Little
Wave windowClark Little

Many people know his photos, Lisa Be of LifeBuzz reports, but they don’t know his amazing story. Eight years ago, Clark Little didn’t even own a professional camera. One day he threw a waterproof casing over a cheap camera and went into the ocean to capture a shore break shot when his wife wanted a picture to decorate the bedroom wall.

See more of his photos HERE

48 Of The Most Beautiful Lines Of Poetry
I have loved the starsSarah Galo / BuzzFeed / Thinkstock

Sarah Galo asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to share their favorite line of poetry with us in honor of National Poetry Month. Here are some of their responses.

From “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou:
“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”

From “Funeral Blues” by W.H. Auden:
“He was my North, my South , my East and my West
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.”

From “Suicide’s Note” by Langston Hughes:
“The calm,
Cool face of the river
Asked me for a kiss.”

See all the choices HERE

New York hotel inspired by Dewey Decimal System is every bibliophile’s dream
Book lovers never...The luxurious Library Hotel has more than 6,000 books scattered throughout its guest rooms and public spaces. Each floor is dedicated to one of 10 of the Dewey Decimal System’s categories, including history and technology. Every one of the hotel’s 60 rooms is decorated according to a genre or topic within the categories. On the fifth floor – devoted to math and science – guests stay in rooms themed after astronomy and dinosaurs.

Read the whole story HERE

The One-Book Wonder Phenomenon

The Off the Shelf staff looks at one-book authors. In some cases they started their careers late or their lives were tragically cut short. In other cases, the reasons their output was so limited remains a mystery to this day.

“However, each was a unique and brilliant voice and we can only hope that someone will discover another dusty, long-forgotten manuscript.”

For example:
The Opposite of LonelinessThe Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories
by Marina Keegan

Marina Keegan’s star was on the rise when she tragically died five days after her graduation from Yale. Days later, her deeply moving last essay for The Yale Daily News, “The Opposite of Loneliness,” went viral. Marina left behind a rich and expansive body of work that captures the hope, uncertainty, and possibility of her generation and articulates the universal struggle of figuring out what we aspire to be.


Read the whole story HERE

The 20 Best Books in Translation You’ve Never Read

Chad W. Post, director of Open Letter Books and When Stephen Sparks of Green Apple Books offer some great translated books. Including:

Dolly CityDolly City, Orly Castel-Bloom, translated from the Hebrew by Dalya Bilu (Dalkey Archive Press)

Castel-Bloom’s satire on everything from motherhood to the state of Israel is as scathing as they come. Doctor Dolly, a doctor in name only who practices illegally in her home laboratory, finds a baby in a plastic bag, names him Son and grows increasingly, hysterically concerned about this well-being. It might not help you understand the political situation in Israel, but it’ll give you an idea of its insanity.


Read the whole story HERE


Eric Greitens, a former Navy SEAL and founder of The Mission Continues, gave a reading for his latest book “Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life,” while in the sky on a Southwest Airlines flight.

17 Seattle-area bookstores have teamed up for the Indie Bookstore Challenge in which winning customers will receive year-long 25% discounts. Customers can compete by picking up a bookstore passport from any of the participating stores, then have it stamped at that and the other 16 stores.

Quote of the Day
QUOTE John-Steinbeck~~~~~
Alma Alexander     My books     Email me

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