user satisfaction

Free Books/ARCs Help the Publishing Industry so Stop Complaining! #MPBooks

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After a pretty rough week health wise I decided to log into my Amazon UK account where I’ve been leaving reviews for books and other items for several years now. Unlike most days which are uneventful on the site though, yesterday I was met with a harsh ‘unhelpful’ vote on one of my most recent reviews along with a comment which stated:

“Your review would have carried more weight if you had put your hand in your pocket and actually bought a copy yourself!”

The book I reviewed was sent to me courtesy of the publisher Walker Books and is a book I rated 5 stars as I enjoyed it so much.

Having been a top reviewer on Amazon UK for several years now I got used to the complaints against my reviews for products I’d received from sellers. Although my reviews have always been and remain honest, Amazon had big problems of corruption from dodgy reviewers who would review items as 5 stars just to get more items. So to put an end to all this corruption, just over a year ago Amazon put a stop to this behaviour by banning all incentivised reviews (reviews for free products). So in theory, given the fact I no longer receive these ‘free items’ the barrage of complaints I received should have gone down, right?

Well, apparently not…

Amazon still allows reviews of free books we’ve received either from publishers or authors, but only if it is our own choice to review it and we haven’t been forced by the publishers or authors to leave a positive review. Many people regularly review books this way, and publishers all over, as well as many authors are keen to get reviews for their books, happily giving a free copy of their books to us reviewers. But some individuals see this as a bad thing, as if our reviews are somehow tainted, un-genuine, dishonest, just because we received a free copy of the book.

This is wrong…And it has to stop!

Why are free books for reviews important?

Let’s begin with ARCs or Advanced reading copies. These books are given out to people prior to the release date of that book. ARCs are sent out to drum up interest in books so that they have an immediate audience when they are published. ARCs are important, not only to individual indie authors but to the publishing industry as a whole. They advertise the book and get some necessary feedback early on which can help aid the marketing of the book.

If you’ve ever seen a book that’s about to be released with quotes from the newspapers, such as “This is brilliant!”, or “A fantastic debut novel!” you can be sure somebody at the newspaper got a copy of the book ahead of its publication, i.e. an Advanced Reading Copy. How else could the newspaper journalist/critic state that the book was ‘brilliant/superb/extraordinary’ without having a chance to read it first? There’s no doubt that the newspaper was given a complimentary (i.e. free) copy of the book in return for this feedback and the publishers are always happy to give out a free copy in this way as in return they get to quote the newspaper’s praise, if there is some.

This process is similar to film critics. These people are given the chance to view previews of films that are about to be released so there are reviews in the newspaper and even on television about the latest action movie or romantic comedy. These film critics don’t pay for their tickets any more than book critics pay for the books they receive.

Books that have already been released can also be sent out for review by authors or publishers. These books are considered every bit as important as ARCs in generating reviews and necessary feedback as it ultimately generates more interest and sales in the book, the only difference is that these books have already been on sale before being offered for review.

The Professional vs Amateur Phenomenon

Professional reviewers, like the critics from the newspapers, are treated with respect. For years they’ve been seen as having a good reputation for being honest in their reviews for books, films, theatre productions, etc. (let’s concentrate on books though). On the flip side amateur reviewers, or those of us who currently don’t get paid to review books, are treated as if we are dishonest and only give out positive reviews in order to receive more free books.

It’s a strange phenomenon and one I’ll visit again in more detail soon, but the fact is that there is only one major difference between a professional and amateur reviewer: Whether you get paid for reviewing. The bizarre fact is that while the professional reviewer gets paid to write their reviews, the amateur does not. Both do an equally good job of criticising books, praising ones that are good, complaining about ones that aren’t, however some people see amateurs as bad.

In truth the only ‘bad’ people in this situation are those who complain about genuine reviews. The review I had written on Amazon, the one which received this unpleasant comment:

“Your review would have carried more weight if you had put your hand in your pocket and actually bought a copy yourself!”

Was voted down as unhelpful, not because it was unhelpful, but simply because I had received the book for free. The review was a personal opinion and at the end of the day my own review carries no more or less weight than that of someone who writes reviews for a newspaper. The only difference is that I don’t take a fee for giving my opinion, I give it for free, out of my own time. I take time to read the book (this can take hours, days or even weeks!), write the review, and publish it, all for free, during my own free time, for nothing more than a chance to see and read the book. I would gladly give the book back after reading it if that would help people see that I’m an honest reviewer and that my reviews are honest, but the fact is, the publisher (or author) would have no use for a book that had been pre-read. They couldn’t sell the copy anymore as the pages have been leafed through and the cost of shipping it back to the publisher/author (which would have to be footed by them not me as they requested this review), plus the time spent, would be counter productive and ultimately more costly for them than simply letting me keep the book.

In case you are wondering…

I could have become angry or severely annoyed and ranted back at the individual, but I believe they are nothing more than a troll or perhaps jealous that I got a free copy when they didn’t. I kindly commented back and told the person that

if they truly had a problem with my review then they should contact the publisher themselves

After all, the publisher contacted me, they asked me for the review, I didn’t go to them first.

If people have a problem with free books for review then in reality they have a problem with the entire publishing industry and should take it up with every publisher, publicist, newspaper and author out there.

To reiterate: I am an honest reviewer, I take my time to read books (a hobby I love) and review books because I like to share my opinions. Sometimes I love a book, sometimes I hate a book, and most of the time I both like and dislike them. I work hard at running a blog (for free, I currently receive no money for posting on my blog here) and enjoy writing reviews on my amazon account where I review these books because I want to do it, I choose to do so, for no money or incentive at all. The only thing I get in return is a copy of the book which after reading it is worth very little in re-sale. However I would never sell the books anyway as I like to keep the books I receive.

Amateur reviewers are honest people and should be treated with the same respect as every professional out there. In today’s publishing industry few books if any could really sell if there were no free books for review, even ARCs for newspapers are at the end of the day free books. And whether the reviews are positive or negative someone out there will be enticed by a review, whatever it says. So we need to make it clear, the message needs to be heard:

Free books/ARCs help the publishing industry!

So let’s praise everyone who gives their time for free to review!

In association with the daily prompt: Snippet

So how do you feel about this issue?  Do you mind if reviewers get free copies of books for review?  Do you prefer reviews by professionals to amateurs, please let me know all your thoughts on this subject, I’d really like to know what you think 🙂 🙂 

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#BookReview: #Help My Cat’s a Vlogging Superstar! by Rae Earl #MPBooks

Help My Cat's A Vlogging Superstar book coverTitle: #Help My Cat’s a Vlogging Superstar!

Author: Rae Earl

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Middle grade(older children) – Young adult(young teen), Humour

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Description: MILLIE PORTER: Me, the one who everyone – friends, family, my cat -relies on for good advice.

DAVE: The cat, a feline rebel who loves to steal crisps.

#HELP: The vlog where me and my best friend Lauren give hilarious advice about the things that really matter: cats, parents, make-up and boys.

Not even Erin Breeler, Queen of Instagram, is going to stop us vlogging.  But is a cat who likes standing on my head enough to make us an online sensation?

My Review:  I had high expectations for this book and looked forward to reading it, but somehow it’s just been a bit of a disappointment. ‘#Help: My Cat’s a Vlogging Superstar!’ is a children’s/young adult novel that’s aimed at younger teens and pre-teen aged kids, particularly girls. Millie Porter is a sensible girl who wants to give advice to those who need it so starts vlogging with her best friend’s help. The vlog is destined to be a success…if only Millie could get Instagram queen (and Miss Popularity at school) Erin Breeler to stop interfering both online and in real life.

It’s hard for me to describe the book without going into too much detail and spoiling it. Millie is sensible, she doesn’t take risks, worries a bit too much about things and is always there for her best friend Lauren. Her own life is a little more than hectic though with accusations of killing robot vacuum cleaners, parents living separately and a crazy aunt among other things. Millie and Lauren decide to start a vlog all about giving advice but with the popular girl at school hassling Millie in various ways and Millie’s own crush on the new boy at school distracting her, things can all get a little too much. The book is funny with lots of humour right from the start. While I did enjoy the silliness of the funny things written, especially the incident in the first pages around McWhirter (the vacuum cleaner), the book just never made me laugh aloud like some similar books have.

The story begins right away with Millie being the narrator. Every chapter is titled, rather than numbered, and given a hashtag title which is sometimes funny and relative to what is happening in the story. The things that happen to Millie are typical of a teenage life and many teens can relate to the issues Millie has to deal with, such as having problems with the popular girl at school and issues around social media.

Although the story is funny and I enjoy a humorous book, I just didn’t find this one as funny as I’d hoped and I found it hard to get back into the book once I’d put it down, despite the fact it is an easy read. I’m not exactly sure why I didn’t enjoy it so much, I’m actually struggling to come up with reasons, but somehow it just didn’t hold my attention and I felt a little disconnected with Millie’s character. While her personal life is a little over the top and exaggerated I didn’t mind this as it is supposed to be a funny book. I did however feel that the book had missed a key opportunity to explore and even explain Millie’s anxiety better. I’ve seen this book advertised as a book which tackles mental health issues and while this isn’t the main part of the story it was good to see it featured in a novel for pre-teens. However, having personally had anxiety issues growing up, I felt the novel could have given a bit more depth into the subject while still retaining the humour.

While it’s not my favourite genre, I have read a few books similar to this one which feature young teens having all these personal issues and written in a very funny way, and those books I have really enjoyed, but for some reason this one just didn’t have the same appeal. The ending is an okay one for me, it’s satisfying in the sense that everything is resolved and most things that happened had a great ending to them, but if I’m honest I was disappointed with how things turned out in the end regarding the boys in the story, it felt shallow and like the story had missed a key moment to show that looks aren’t everything. I’m also disappointed that despite the book title and description, the cat in the story doesn’t feature in a lot of the plot and I kept waiting for the cat thing to happen only to realise that it happened at the very end of the novel.

I know a lot of pre-teen and young teenagers, girls mostly, will enjoy this novel and do. It is a funny story and one I did enjoy reading, for the most part, but honestly, I’m not sure it’s a book I’d recommend unless you are a fan of this style of novel or enjoy a more silly/shallow ending.
-Thanks to Walker Books for a free copy.

What do you think of this book?  Is it a book you’d enjoy reading, do you enjoy silly endings?  Please let me know all your thoughts, I’d love to hear what you think 🙂  You can also find me in these places: 

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#BookReview: Penguin Problems by Jory John & Lane Smith #MPBooks

Penguin Problems book coverTitle: Penguin Problems

Author: Jory John

Illustrator: Lane Smith

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Children’s picture book

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Description:   Little Penguin has problems: his beak is cold; there’s snow everywhere; the water smells salty; he waddles; he looks the same as everybody else.  No – it’s not easy being a penguin!

My Review:  This is a funny book but I’m not sure if all kids will enjoy it. ‘Penguin Problems’ is A4 in size and the paperback is very thin. Inside there are thick matt pages filled with colourful illustrations and easy to read text.

The story follows one penguin who wakes up in a bad mood, feeling grumpy about everything. He complains about the cold, he complains about the noise, he complains about the snow and the sun…all he can do is be miserable about everything…until he meets a walrus. I won’t go into the details of what happens but this is a funny book with our penguin character constantly complaining about everything to do with being a penguin and penguin life. The story has been likened to ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens and it’s true that this tale takes on that very twist although with an added funny extra at the end.

Fun illustrations with easy to read text.


The illustrations are what drive the story forward and there’s lots of them and they aren’t all the same. There are lovely close-ups of the penguin on land and I really enjoyed the way the deep sea looked with the creatures there looking very different and almost like a sort of tribal artwork compared to the way the penguins look above ground. I really like the expression on the penguin’s face. Despite the similarity between all other penguins you can see the way he/she expresses, and there’s a general funny feel to all the images, especially when he/she is with all the other penguins calling to family.

Having heard the book compared to ‘A Christmas Carol’ the ending is seemingly predictable but there’s a funny twist that makes you laugh at the end. I think kids would enjoy this book, especially for the fun images and easy to read text, however there is one page of the book which puts a whole two paragraphs in a massive block one page. The text takes up the entire page and although it’s a good piece of text which one of the characters is voicing, I can’t help but think that it could have been broken up with more images. The various things the character points out could have been shown with little images making it easier to read. While this really doesn’t spoil the plot, I’m just not sure kids would be up to reading this massive chunk of text after reading such short sentences elsewhere.

More fun illustrations.

Overall I like this book. I really like the story and the silliness of it and it would be a great book to show kids who might be prone to complaining, especially around Christmastime. It’s not a complex story but it has a great moral story of being happy with what you’ve got. I think adults would enjoy this book just as much, or possibly even more than kids and it might be best to sit with kids and read this book with them (at least the first time), to make sure they understand the large chunk of text. But overall a great and funny book.
-Thanks to Walker Books for a free copy.

What do you think of this funny picture book?  Would you or someone you know like to read it?  Please let me know all your thoughts, I’d love to hear what you think 🙂  You can also find me in these places: 

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#BookReview: Red & Lulu by Matt Tavares #MPBooks

Red and Lulu book coverTitle: Red & Lulu

Author/Illustrator: Matt Tavares

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Children’s picture book

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Description: Red and Lulu make their nest in a beautiful evergreen tree.  It shades them in the hot months and keeps them cosy in the cold.  But, one day, something unbelievable happens, and the birds are separated.  It will take a miracle for them to find one another again.
Luckily, it’s Christmas.  Just the season for miracles…

My Review:  This is such a lovely book, with such beautiful illustrations, it would make a wonderful gift for Christmas. This hardback book is a roughly A4 in size and is filled with thick, glossy pages with some beautiful colourful illustrations. The title on the cover along with the author name is in shiny gold. ‘Red and Lulu’ is a simple story but a heartwarming one that will make you smile.

Red and Lulu, two cardinal birds, love the tree they live in. Every year they nest in the tree, which stands in a family’s garden, and every year they love Christmastime when the family decorate the tree and sing ‘O Christmas Tree…’. But one day, when Red flies off to find breakfast, while Lulu stays in the tree, something terrible happens and the birds are separated. I won’t reveal the rest of the story but will say that it focusses on Red and his quest to find Lulu.

Beautiful illustrations throughout this book

The story is a short one but it really tugged at my heartstrings. Although there is some text in the book, a lot of the tale is told simply from pictures and its these pictures that really make me love this book. Each illustration is like a work or art and they are all beautiful just to look at. The birds and the way they are drawn is very realistic and there’s something about their faces that makes you want to smile. The ending of the story is a lovely one and perfect for Christmastime. It’s predictably a very good end, but this is something I expected and I think everyone would enjoy it. I like the added extra page at the back of the book, the picture of the house and the tree, which goes well with the very first page of the book (before the inside title-a page some people may miss if you don’t look carefully).

The story of Red and Lulu, and the tree, is set in New York, which might be easy to spot if you know the New York architecture, and there’s a lovely extra page at the back of the book which explains a certain Christmas tradition there which makes the whole story more special and make more sense. I especially liked this back page as I didn’t know anything about this tradition and the sourcing of the tree and what happens in the story definitely makes more sense and feels better once you know this. On the same page at the bottom there is also some author acknowledgements which are worth reading to find out what inspired the book and this is how I learned that the birds in the book are cardinals.

More stunning illustrations.

This is a book both adults and children will enjoy looking at. It’s especially appealing if you love realistic and heartwarming pictures of animals or birds. While the story might be short and simple, it’s a typical perfect story to share at Christmas and I’m sure this is one book that would be enjoyed again and again.
-Thanks to Walker Books for a free copy

 What do you think of this book, especially its illustrations? 🙂  Please let me know your thoughts,  I’d love to hear what you think 🙂  You can also find me in these places: 

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#BookReview: The Wolf, The Duck & The Mouse by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen #MPBooks

The Wolf, The Duck and the Mouse book coverTitle: The Wolf, The Duck & The Mouse

Author: Mac Barnett

Illustrator: Jon Klassen

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Children’s picture book

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Description: Early one morning, a mouse is gobbled up by a wolf.  “Oh Woe!” he cries.  “Oh me!”  He fears it is the end…until, that is, he meets a duck in the belly of the beast.

My Review:  I love this story! It’s funny, a bit silly and ended in a way I didn’t expect. ‘The Wolf, The Duck & The Mouse’ is a lovely hardback book around A4 in size and filled with thick matt pages. The book has an additional sleeve making it feel more special. The story is funny, one day a mouse meets a wolf and gets gobbled up. He thinks he is doomed now that he’s inside the belly of the wolf…until he meets a duck who’s already there.

Fun illustrations with a certain colour palette.

The story is a bit silly but one I really enjoyed. While inside the wolf, the mouse learns that the duck is already living there quite happily. I don’t want to reveal more of the plot as it really would spoil it and the story is a bit short but it’s very funny and put a smile on my face when I read it. The ending is a good one and it’s funny but it wasn’t what I expected when I first started reading this book. I really love the ending twist though and it kind of explains the reason behind a typical wolf trait (at least it gives a humorous reason).

The pictures are what really makes this tale a funny one. I love Klassen’s style of illustrations and there’s just something about the way all the characters look, the way they stare and those eyes, it just makes me laugh every time I see these illustrations. The pictures are all monochrome with just a few pieces of colour here and there but the images are all so clear and easy to see and I think kids and adults will both enjoy this style of illustration.

More fun illustrations with easy to read text.

I really do love this book, the story is so simple, kids will find it easy to understand and I think it’s a book that both kids and adults would enjoy taking a look at. Unlike a previous book I read by Barnett and Klassen called ‘Triangle’ which had a bit of a strange ending, this book’s clever twist is one which makes the whole story more enjoyable and one I’d recommend.
-Thanks to Walker Books for a free copy.

What do you think of this book?  Have you read any books by this author and illustrator before? Let me know I’d love to hear what you think 🙂  You can also find me in these places: 

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Cat covering eyes

The Gremlins in my Head #MPBooks

Cat covering eyes
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For most of yesterday I’ve been feeling like the cat in the picture.  I’ve had a splitting headache, found it hard to function and am struggling hard to shut out thoughts of guilt and sadness which have plagued me since I started coming down with something a few days ago.

I don’t like to admit I’m not feeling good, but the truth is that although the last few days of last week I’d been feeling positive, I started to come down with something and it seems relentless in wanting to put me on bed rest.  I feel like I’ve got a sleeping sickness, I’m just so tired all the time and when I sleep, which has been for most of the last two days, I don’t feel refreshed at all 😦

Though I suspect (and hope) that all I’ve come down with is a nasty virus or similar, it’s the negative impact on my mood that’s really worried me.  I try to keep myself cheerful and upbeat, in fact I want to feel positive, but something inside, almost like a disconnected thing is trying to bring my mood down and bring in all these horrible negative thoughts which ultimately plunge me into depression.

Sometimes it’s been so easy for me in the past to give in to these thoughts, to embrace the pain and horrible feeling they give me of guilt and upset.  It’s been so easy to give up, to let go, to enter that dark realm of dark thoughts that spiral me ever further into a place I can’t crawl back from.  It’s a place, a realm, I’ve sometimes been almost eager to enter, not happy with my own life, my own existence, I’ve found it hard to even want to grab the sides of the long dark pit and crawl out.

But despite that horrid darkness, I stop.  I stop myself going there again.

It doesn’t always work out this way, of course, sometimes I relish being in that realm and enjoy breathing in the mind-choking air, but now I’m discovering I’m stronger than I think.  I can resist the urge to fall into that dark pit, or at the least I hover past its entrance, look down and fight that will to put myself there, to accept that I have to feel that way just because everything in my life seems to want me to.

Today, although I still feel ill and an incredible guilt is filling me for not being able to keep up my personal commitment to check in with all you wonderful people and your blogs, I still resist the urge to get fully depressed.  It’s almost like I’m fighting myself and the happy me is winning this battle.  I refuse to let the depression take hold, to let it throw me into that pit, to make me resist the urge to leave.  Today I am okay.

Does this mean it’s not possible to become depressed like that again?  No.  It just means that today, I’m coping better than I used to with this thing, and I’m determined to not let it control me.

Well I went off-topic here, waaay off-topic and wrote something from the heart based on my emotions and how I’m feeling today.  I am still feeling ill and this post was a real depiction of how I feel and became far more raw than I thought it would be.  I’ll be posting up a lot of book review posts the coming days which I’ve prepared so I can sleep off this (hopefully a virus) thing.  
  Inspired by the daily prompt: Gremlins

Please let me know any of your thoughts you have on this post, I’d love to hear from you (though I might need time to reply as I may be asleep) 🙂  You can also find me in these places: 

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#BookReview: The Pets at Primrose Cottage: Part One A Place to Hide by Sheila Norton #MPBooks

The Pets at Primrose Cottage part oneTitle: The Pets at Primrose Cottage: Part One A Place to Hide

Author: Sheila Norton

Publisher: Ebury Digital

Genre: Contemporary

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Description:  Emma Nightingale needs a place to hide away. Pursued by the demons left by her ex-boyfriend, she takes refuge in quiet Crickleford, a sleepy town in Dartmoor, where she can lay low.
Life in Crickleford is quiet and peaceful, but it won’t be for long if people discover the truth about Emma’s past. Not wanting to make too much of a fuss, she ends up lying about why she’s there – she’s looking after some cats, she says – then suddenly the town’s new ‘pet-sitter’ is in high demand!
While looking after an Alsatian, Emma finds all attention is on her, and the handsome young reporter from the local paper takes an interest in her story…

My Review:  I really enjoyed getting into this story. ‘The Pets at Primrose Cottage’ is a lighthearted contemporary book that will be released whole in a few months but at the moment has been split into four parts with ‘Part one: A Place to Hide’ being a great introduction to the tale. Emma needs a place to get away from her old life and heads into the small town of Crickleford where she hopes to start a new life, away from anyone who might know her. But in a small town where people talk, can she really leave her old life behind?

I really enjoyed the last serialised book I read by Sheila Norton which was ‘The Vets at Hope Green’ so I was more than happy when the publisher asked me if I’d like to read this one. It was easy to get into the story right away with Emma narrating her tale. I enjoyed reading about the small town atmosphere and what it was like to be a new person there and I immediately warmed to Emma’s character as I could see myself feeling out of place in a small sleepy town too.

Once Emma settles in as a lodger with a family it’s not long before she is asked to take care of some animals. Through doing this we’re introduced to more characters and I love how much focus there was on some of the pets. A particular alsatian was really well portrayed and I loved the way Sheila Norton’s books can focus so much on the animals and yet still be about the human characters too. All of the human characters are well thought out, just like the setting, I could instantly see everything in my mind and really enjoyed getting into this story.

This first part is only a snapshot of what is happening in the story but it ends in a brilliant way that keeps you eager to read more. I’ll definitely be reading all four parts and can’t wait for the next one already which will be ‘Part two: New Beginnings’. If you don’t enjoy having to wait for all four parts to be released or prefer them all in one book then you’ll have to wait until February/March to get your hands on the full story but I can certainly recommend this series already based on what I’ve read.

As I said, I enjoyed Norton’s ‘The Vets at Hope Green’ already, but in this book, there’s something about the mystery surrounding Emma’s past and her being an outsider to a small town that makes this book even more appealing, to me, than ‘The Vets at Hope Green’. Although this book already has an air of predictability to it, being a lighthearted romantic contemporary story, this didn’t bother me as there’s still so much of Emma’s past to be revealed and I can’t wait to see what else will happen with the animals in the next part of the story!

-Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free copy.

What do you think of this introductory part to the novel?  Have you read any books by Sheila Norton before?  Let me know I’d love to hear what you think 🙂  You can also find me in these places: 

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