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Monday, December 30, 2013

Year in Review in Books

Hello! 
As 2014 approaches, I thought I'd take a look back at the books I've read this year. Thanks, Goodreads, for the email alerting me to this to give me the idea! This is a partial listing, as I joined Goodreads only in June. So, here are some of the books I've read this year.
 All the best for 2014 and may you always find a wonderful book to read! :) 



My best to you all,
Megan

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Saturday's Quotation to Inspire: Christmas Charity

“Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart. ”
― Washington Irving

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Writer Wednesday: A Christmas Carol

Hello!

It's time for Writer Wednesday, when I discuss another author and his or her book. For December, I am talking about some seasonal greats.

A Christmas Carol, remade many times for movies and tv, stands in its most perfect form in the printed words of Charles Dickens. It is many things: a glimpse into Victorian life, a cautionary tale against miserly behavior and greed, and a triumphant celebration of memory and tradition (Christmas past), good friends, family, food and fun (Christmas present) and hopes, dreams and wishes (Christmas future). Marley may have been dead to begin with, but this story is anything but-- 170 years after it was first published, it still dances with the liveliness of Fezzigwig's party. As Tiny Tim observes, "God bless us, everyone".

Merry Christmas!

My best to you all,
Megan

Monday, December 23, 2013

Watching for the Christmas Star



Each year I write a Christmas poem.
 I was requested to read this year's poem at a carol and lesson service yesterday.
 Today, I am sharing it with you. 


Watching for the Christmas Star
By: Megan Easley-Walsh 
Christmas 2013

Will you watch for the Christmas star?
Will you remember that it's not so far?

From the fields they stand in awe
As they raise their cheerful “baa”

King of prophets, Lord of Love,”
Proclaim the angels from realms above


Manifest here in cradled appearance
As God on High now draws nears us

Tucked inside the weary stable
The Carpenter of a tired world is able

Sheep bleat, birds cried
Below them, darkness is defied

Pause, then, see the Christmas star
Transforming light, where'er you are













Saturday, December 21, 2013

Saturday's Quotation to Inspire: Christmas Bells

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Friday, December 20, 2013

Friday Fun - Victorian Christmas

Hello!
It's time for Friday Fun! Many of the customs of Christmas come from the Victorians. Christmas trees first appeared in Germany, but Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband, brought them to England and they soon became widespread in the Anglo-American world. Christmas cards also were a Victorian invention.
If you'd like to make some Victorian Christmas crafts, decorate like the Victorians or even make some Victorian Christmas food, visit here.

My best to you all,
Megan


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Writer Wednesday- Seeker of Stars

Hello!
It's time for Writer Wednesday, when I discuss another author and his or her book. For December, I am discussing books of the season.

The Biblical Christmas story is well-known, but Susan Fish gives it a new angle in Seeker of Stars. She writes about a young weaver, interested in astronomy and his journey- through his past, his present and his future- toward the stars and the Star of Christmas.

This is a relatively short book and so I won't say much to give away the plot, but if you're interested in hearing the Christmas story through fresh eyes then Seeker of Stars accomplishes that.

My best to you all,
Megan 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh for Writers





Hello!

Last week, I discussed helpful websites in author gifts. Today I would like to discuss three traditional Christmas gifts presented by the magi and their application for writing.

Gold- Gold is beautiful, instantly attracting attention but it is also very valuable.

Author Translation: A story must have a hook, to catch the attention of the reader. It also must have plenty of substance, though, not just flash that fails to deliver.


Frankincense- Frankincense is incredibly fragrant, used both in incense and perfume as well as in religious ceremonies.

Author Translation: Include the senses, all of them, in your writing to really engage your reader. Make your writing fragrant- able to be seen, heard, smelled, tasted, and felt. Remember that your characters not only do action but also have thoughts. Also, they may perceive things or shades of things, that they may not fully comprehend at the time. Sometimes it takes awhile to figure things out; this is true for people and should be for characters as well.


Myrrh- Myrrh was used in embalming.

Author Translation: Your writing must have staying power. The gold hooks a writer, but the myrrh of the story keeps the reader interested. Interesting, true-to-life dialogue that reveals plot points and moves the story forward is one way to accomplish this- no matter what the genre. Many stories will also include some sort of mystery, intrigue or suspense- on a psychological level or in terms of action.




My best to you all,
Megan

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Saturday's Quotation to Inspire: Meaning of Christmas

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!” 
― Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday Fun - The Beauty of the Abundance of Art

Hello!
It's time for Friday fun! I'd like to tell you about a website that I've recently learned about. It's a Google Art Gallery, that can be found here.  Actually, it's many many galleries! The idea behind the project is that you can find your favorite art pieces and compile your very own gallery. How exciting is that? Happy gathering of paintings!... I'll take a Monet... and a van Gogh and a Canaletto and...

My best to you all,
Megan

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Writer Wednesday: The Autobiography of Santa Claus

Hello!

It's time for Writer Wednesday, when I discuss another author and his or her book. For December, I am talking about some seasonal greats.

Today I want to tell you about a book that I adore. Part history, part magic, full of the Christmas spirit and fully irresistible is Jeff Guinn's The Autobiography of Santa Claus.

This charming book takes the reader from Turkey, where the real life St. Nicholas is encountered as a young boy, through his life and then... it just keeps going. Through the centuries, St. Nicholas begins to walk across the world, meeting historical and mythical figures, to include King Arthur, St. Patrick, and Amelia Earhart to name only a tiny fraction. This book fuses historical accuracy with beautiful storytelling and a good dose of magic. Explanations of stockings, chimneys and how St. Nicholas became Santa Claus are all included. Mrs. Claus is present and the reindeer as well. The one notable exception is that Santa's special helpers are not elves in this book. Some people have been disappointed about this, but I think their omission lends to the true-to-life acceptance of the magic. For example, King Arthur may have been mythical, but he at least was a person who could have existed.

The book is divided into one chapter per day in December, but they are relatively short and you can dive right in mid-month. Happy reading!

My best to you all,
Megan

Monday, December 9, 2013

Author Gifts

Hello!

'Tis the season of giving-

For all fellow authors, these websites are valuable and I hope that they will help you on your writing journey.

1) AbsoluteWrite
Absolutewrite is a writing community comprised of several forums and it offers information on all stages of the writing process- from grammar to publicity.
http://absolutewrite.com/

2) Querytracker
Part of writing is waiting. But, how long is typical to wait to hear from an agent and what are agents looking for specifically? This site has all of that information.
http://querytracker.net/

3) Association of Author Representatives
There are many agents who are reputable, who are not part of AAR, but this website lists all members and what they are particularly looking for. AAR members subscribes to a code of conduct to protect authors.
http://aaronline.org/

4) Preditors and Editors
Need to look up to see if someone is reputable or a scam? You can search for agents and publishers as well as contests on this website.
http://pred-ed.com/


Happy Writing!

My best to you all,
Megan

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Saturday's Quotation to Inspire: Seasonal Magic



“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ”

― Norman Vincent Peale

Friday, December 6, 2013

Friday Fun- St. Nicholas Day

Hello! It's time for Friday Fun!


Today is St. Nicholas Day, that celebrates the real life saint, the bishop of Myra, who lived in present-day Turkey during the third century. He left coins in the stockings of girls who were unable to marry, due to their poverty. Good deeds of St. Nicholas, in the form of small gifts and treats, began making their way across the world, inspired by the man's generosity. Years later, when Dutch colonists settled in New York in the 1600s, they told English children about St. Nicholas. They heard St. Nicholas as Santa Claus and the rest is history!

Here is the St. Nicholas center, with lots of interesting information and activities. In countries such as Germany and the Netherlands, shoes are still left out for small gifts of chocolates, apples, and nuts on St. Nicholas Day.

Stories of St. Nicholas capture the heart of the season and the joy of giving.

http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/home/







My best to you all,
Megan

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Writer Wednesday: The Night Circus

Hello!

It's time for Writer Wednesday, when I discuss another author and his or her book. Today, I'll be discussing the magical, charming and hugely compelling The
Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

Seemingly, The Night Circus might be better related to Halloween and I indeed did read this book in the build up to Halloween. The day also features heavily throughout the story, but the magic of Morgenstern's tale reminds me of a panto. Swept into a tent, anything can happen. The ice tent also portrays this wintery landscape. Part magic, part mystery and part love story, The Night Circus sweeps you away into the festive wonder of the season. And, of course, who wouldn't want chocolate and delicious cinnamon treats at this time of year?

My best to you all,
Megan

Monday, December 2, 2013

Writing Lessons from the Movies

Hello!
Lights! Camera! Movies!

In addition to my own writing, I've taught a writing class and thought I'd offer a few Hollywood inspired tips today.

Movies and books often go together, but I'm not talking about Hollywood's versions of the best sellers today. Instead, I'm talking about the inspiration that authors can gain from movies. It's true that you have to read a lot to write well, but there is also something to be said for studying the craft of film making. Considering that other books aren't an author's real competition, but other forms of media are- it makes sense to study some of the ways that people enjoy having a story told to them. At its heart, that's what a book or a movie is- a story transmitted from one person or group of people to another. While literature and movies clearly divide in some areas- visual effects will only work on screen for example- there are some writing tips that can be gleaned from classic films.

First- Casablanca-
This is one of my favorites, because it's Casablanca! In terms of writing, though, there's an important gem. Only present characters' back stories after we already care about the character. That's exactly what happens with Rick and Elsa in the movie. I've heard many agents and editors say that they don't like to have an "info dump" of a character straight away. It makes sense. In real life, we don't meet a person for the first time and instantly know everything about them. It takes time to make a friend and getting to know a character should also take time. The key is getting the reader to stick around to care.

Second-Psycho

ForeSHADOW twists-  If you've seen the movie, you know what I mean by that, specifically the bold type. Twists and surprises are wonderful in literature. They're even better when the reader says, "I can't believe I didn't realize that! All the signs were there all along!" It will also make the story a lot more believable, if a scene doesn't appear out of nowhere. Magical rabbits appearing from hats are entertaining; plot devices appearing out of nothing are not as charming.

Do you have any tips related to movies and classic cinema?

My best to you all,
Megan 


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Saturday's Quotation to Inspire: Gratitude for Happiness

"Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom."-- Marcel Proust

My best to you all,
Megan

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Writer Wednesday: An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving

Hello! It's time for Writer Wednesday, when I discuss another author and his or her work. Today's post is about Louisa May Alcott (of Little Women fame) and her short story, "An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving". This is a short work, perfect to read in between the festivities of the season. Just like the Thanksgiving dinner that the characters try their hand at creating, there are layers of richness included. Humor, goodwill, and a mix-up or two lend themselves to this holiday caper.
What particularly interests me is the title. An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving. What exactly does that mean? Alcott of course wrote in the past from us and so it is an old-fashioned Thanksgiving. But, even when she wrote it, she did not call it a Contemporary Thanksigving, which to us has now become old-fashioned. Part of the story even is a tale within a tale about the 1600s and the pilgrims. The layers of history are woven together. That seems to be at the root of Thanksgiving, remembering past times while creating new memories. Perhaps, it is finding something familiar in the past that appeals and perhaps, this is in part, some of the appeal in historical fiction.

My best to you and Happy Thanksgiving!
Megan

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving Part Two


Last week, I started my discussion of Thanksgiving talking about Jamestown, VA. Today, the story progresses.  In 1606, the same year that the authorization of Jamestown happened, pilgrims began congregating and worshipping in the town of Scrooby, while still in England. Facing threat, they fled to Leiden, the Netherlands. Why did they leave Leiden? Their children were growing up speaking Dutch and becoming more Dutch and less English every day. Unwilling to accept this change and suffering financial difficulty, the Pilgrims set out for the New World and landed on Plymouth Rock. The pilgrims were on their way for a destination farther south, when they were blown off course to the north. A complete passenger list with their stories is listed here. http://mayflowerhistory.com/mayflower-passenger-list/ After a terrible winter, the pilgrims were starving. Thanks to Squanto and other Native Americans, the pilgrims learned how to fish, how to plant crops and celebrated their harvest with a three day festival- the first Thanksgiving in 1621, nearly four hundred years ago.

Thanksgiving predates the independence of America and was observed unofficially, but it did not become a federal observance until it'd been celebrated for almost 250 years already! Abraham Lincoln is well known and beloved for a myriad of things, but do you connect him to "Turkey day"? You should! Thanksgiving became a national holiday under President Lincoln.

My best to you all,
Megan

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Saturday's Quotation to Inspire: Heart's Treasures

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” --Thornton Wilder 



My best to you all,
Megan

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Writer Wednesday- Scientific Firsts

Hello!

It's time for Writer Wednesday, where I discuss another author and his or her work. Today, I'd like to talk about scientific firsts. This year, I've read two works that explore some of the first scientists. 


The Movement of Stars by Amy Brill is a work of historical fiction that explores the fascinating story of Hannah Price, a fictitious person who is based on Maria Mitchell, the first woman to discover a comet. 
The second book, Roger Bacon: The First Scientist by Brian Clegg, is a work of nonfiction and discusses the 13th century academic and scientist Roger Bacon. Both explore scientific discovery, examine what compels one to seek knowledge and tell captivating stories of persons who broke the bonds of those before them and championed science to new heights. In reaching for the stars by pursuing the challenges of new discoveries, knowledge and the height of humanity can be grasped. Reading and writing capture a bit of that spirit of discovery and ignite sparkling encounters with such figures as Maria Mitchell and Roger Bacon.

My best to you all,
Megan

Monday, November 18, 2013

Thanksgiving Part One: Jamestown

Plymouth. That is where the pilgrims were. Why then am I starting the story of the history of Thanksgiving hundreds of miles south in Virginia? Jamestown, VA was the first permanent English settlement in "the New World" and was established in 1607.

Aside from being in Virginia instead of Massachusetts, what were the major differences between the settlements of Jamestown and Plymouth? Primarily, it was the settlers. Jamestown was first populated by men, fortune seekers and adventure seekers and those that set out on behalf of the joint stock companies that funded the missions to VA.

 Massachusetts pilgrims by contrast sought religious freedom after clashing with the religion of a changing England. The settlement at Jamestown grew and it became the capital of VA, before moving to Williamsburg and then Richmond. For much more information about Jamestown, visit http://www.historicjamestowne.org/history/ Here you discover the true stories behind the famous names of John Smith, Pocahontas, and James Rolfe as well as lesser known historical figures. Jamestown is important to the history of Thanksgiving, because if it had not survived as the earlier Roanoke Colony had not, there would have been no precedent for a lasting and successful English colony for which the pilgrims to build upon. The story continues next week.


My best to you all,
Megan

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Saturday's Quotation to Inspire: Autumn as Artist

"Fiery colors begin their yearly conquest of the hills, propelled by autumn winds. Fall is the artist."--
Takayuki Ikkaku, Arisa Hosaka and Toshihiro Kawabata, Animal Crossing: Wild World 

My best to you all,
Megan 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Writer Wednesday: Turgeon's Fairy tales

Hello!
It's time for Writer Wednesday, when I discuss another author and his or her work.
Fairy tales capture the imagination and transcend borders. They are often the first foray into another culture.

In traditional fairy tales, the lesson is often that if you encounter wonderful circumstances, then you can be removed from the ordinary and become something of value.

Carolyn Turgeon has rewritten fairy tales to paint a larger, often darker version of the stories. I have read two of these recently. Godmother tells the story of Cinderella's godmother cast into New York City after the encounter at the ball goes terribly wrong. The Fairest of them All tells the story of what happens when Rapunzel grows up and the very famous stepmother that she becomes.

What strikes me most about Turgeon's work, a theme that goes across both of these books, is that she puts not only fairy tales on their head, but this entire crux of traditional transportive fairy tales. She asserts that no matter what circumstances or events happen to you, you never lose your value.

Wonderful circumstances give value- tradition
vs.
Terrible circumstances don't take away value- Turgeon

Perhaps, Turgeon has been the fairy godmother who has given us the best and fairest moral of them all.

My best to you all,
Megan

Monday, November 11, 2013

Armistice and St. Martin

Today, we pause to remember the veterans. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the guns of the first world war fell silent in armistice. War that had entangled the world because of a series of diplomatic treaties forever changed the landscape of the European fields and trenches that the war was fought in, but also the psyche of humanity. Pages could be written alone on the war and its remembrance, but I'd also like to talk about something else today.
It is also St. Martin's Day, a holiday that is still celebrated in Germany through the creation of lanterns, a parade led by a man on a horse, and the eating of sugar pretzels beside a bonfire.  So, who exactly was St. Martin? He was a Roman soldier who tore his cloak to give half of it to an old beggar man on the street. St. Martin and veterans have much in common. St. Martin shared his cloak with the beggar in need, laying down his comfort and his warmth as the soldier set aside his own comfort in the trenches and the fields. A sacrifice laid down for another is a mark of both St. Martin and the soldier. St. Martin's day lanterns will line the streets of Germany tonight and candles, a flame of hope and remembrance, is lit in tribute to those who have gone before. Perhaps, the greatest act of remembrance to veterans and in honor of St. Martin is to reach out our hand to those in need, even in small everyday acts of kindness.

My best to you all,
Megan







Saturday, November 9, 2013

Saturday's Quotation to Inspire: Shakespeare's Autumn



"That time of year thou may'st in me behold,
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,-
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang."
--William Shakespeare Sonnet 73

My best to you all,
Megan

Friday, November 8, 2013

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Writer Wednesday: The Book of Secrets

Hello!
It's time for Writer Wednesday, when I discuss another author and his or her book.

Pst! Want to hear a secret? Just like that, an audience is drawn into The Book of Secrets. 
Yes, this is a book about secrets. A lot of secrets. Some of the secrets are certainly dark, but Arnold seems to be sending an even more powerful message- sometimes it's the keeping of the secrets, rather than their contents, that is darkest.

This is a book about secrets, but it is also a book about books. It has been said that this book is a love letter to literature. That's certainly what drew me into the story. I enjoyed how each section was written for a different book- beginning with The Chronicles of Narnia, but also including Shakespeare, Crusoe, and Poe among others.

It's also about people's interactions with others and about perceptions. At its heart, that's one of the strengths of fiction: allowing us to see the world from multiple vantage points. 

But, if you want to find out all the secrets in this book, you'll have to read it for yourself.

My best to you all,
Megan 

Monday, November 4, 2013

What is NaNoWriMo and How'd You Get Your Writing Start?

Hello!

NaNoWriMo

Other than alphabet soup, what exactly does this mean?

National Novel Writing Month

Each November, people try their hand at writing a novel (or, at least 50,000 words) within the month.

Personally, I've not participated in NaNoWriMo, but it did get me thinking about how I got my start in writing, since this is the time when many people who are not ordinarily writers "make the plunge".

When did I write my first story?
I was three and I couldn't write yet, so my mom recorded the story for me. It was about a bunny giving flowers to a queen.

When do I remember writing my first story?
I was eight and I remember writing stories in the backyard about the pioneers. I took my cue from The American Girls books.

When was the next big writing adventure?
In fifth grade we had to write a story and mine was a mystery about twin sisters in an old Native American city. This time I was influenced by Nancy Drew and The Boxcar Children books.

In my stories today, I still write historical fiction, often with a good dose of mystery and suspense thrown in.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Where do your influences come from?

My best to you all,
Megan


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Saturday's Quotation to Inspire: Resolution for Success

"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing."-- Abraham Lincoln 


My best to you all,
Megan

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Writer Wednesday: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Hello!
It's time for "Writer Wednesday" when I discuss another author and his or her book. For October's posts, I will be discussing some seasonal classics.

From the moment I read of the Tappan Zee, I know that autumn is truly here. As assuredly as leaves changing, apple cider simmering and pumpkins appearing in the fields, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a part of my autumn. With so many books in the world, I reread few. However, I make an exception time and again for this classic. I first read this when I was twelve, after ordering it from a Scholastic flyer at school. Each autumn since, I read Washington Irving's charming tale.

Irving is in love with language. This is abundantly obvious in his descriptions of the overflowing delicacies at the table that Ichabod admires. A fair amount of bewitching magic is added to conjure an inescapable vision of a bygone era that seems to inch closer as the old Hessian soldier gallops nearer. If you have only seen the film versions of this tale and not read it, then perhaps the ending is a bit of a mystery to you. Irving pens more than Ichabod's demise; he hints at so much more. If you are unsure what I mean, I encourage you to find out for yourself and perhaps you'll be charmed both by the book and the season.


My best to you all,
Megan

Monday, October 28, 2013

Autumn's Mirth


Autumn's Mirth 


Whisper wind through Harvest's door
Enchanting with your welcome lure
Have you seen the man in wait?
Standing by the open gate
Crows gather by his feet
Waiting for October's treat
Red and yellow 
Fall to earth
Green and orange
Bring Autumn's mirth
Nestled on the lane below
Pumpkins wait in twilight's glow

Megan Easley-Walsh 
October 2011





Saturday, October 26, 2013

Saturday's Quotation to Inspire- Success

"In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure."- Bill Cosby

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Writer Wednesday: Dracula


Hello!
It's time for "Writer Wednesday" when I discuss another author and his or her book. For October's posts, I will be discussing some seasonal classics.

After suffering from childhood sickness, Bram Stoker once said, "I was naturally thoughtful, and the leisure of long illness gave opportunity for many thoughts which were fruitful according to their kind in later years." Dracula, in its construction and themes, can be read as the spreading of illness or disease. 

Illness often starts from afar, infecting others, until it winds itself around an individual. In Dracula, the story begins in Transylvania, far from the story's life in England. Through newspapers and letters, the tale grows and news of Dracula comes closer. This is akin to hearing about sick relatives. In the carriage, the line "For the dead travel fast," signifies the rapid spread of disease. Even the house that Dracula acquires, Carfax Abbey, "is four sided, agreeing with the cardinal points of the compass," which again alludes to the spread of disease from a deadly center. 


Bela Lugosi as Dracula 
Throughout Dracula, blood (a sign of both health and disease) features. It is what the disease (Dracula) thrives on and signifies life itself. When sickness comes, people pray and religion is used as a defense against Dracula. The crucifix is also frequently seen in places of sickness- hospitals, bed sides, and cemeteries. Likewise garlic, that Lucy's mouth is stuffed with, is used to treat illness. Also, symptoms including a haziness of disease, are recorded through the visions and noises that are experienced by those affected. 

In the end, disease can only be overcome when it's gone from England and hunted down where it came from. Only then, the disease and Dracula are defeated. After a long drawn out fight against Dracula, the book ends (rather abruptly) with a tacked on mention of Harker's and Mina's son. While it seems abrupt when read merely as plot, it is necessary when the book is read as a tale against disease because, it highlights the triumph of life. 





My best to you all,

Megan


Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday- Trick of Treat! A peek into my book goodie bag

Hello!

Trick or Treat!
Today, I thought I'd give you a glimpse into my book goodie bag. Below are the books that I've read (other than research and my own writing) for August, September and thus far into October.




August:


















September: 







October:



































































Currently Reading: 













What are some of the books you've read recently?


My best to you all,
Megan