nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Taking part in the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s ‘Small Acts of Conservation’

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As part of an effort to enjoy these last days of winter and take a mindful approach to experiencing winter-bound nature, I have joined the Nature Conservancy Canada ‘Small Acts of Conservation Challenge.’

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The first unit in the challenge is ‘Explore a Winter Wonderland.’ I don’t do as much hiking as I once did, mostly due to the arthritis in my knees. However, we have a large property and lots of opportunities to take a walk in winter.

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One of my favorite short walks in the woods is a roundabout we completed last summer. The Rocky Road lets us turn around safely in our driveway. The roundabout is in the woods and driving through it is like a mini-exploration: there are birds to see since our feeders are nearby; there are always lots of animal tracks (deer, red and grey squirrel, mice, rabbit); in summer, we can see mosses, ferns, wetland plants, various shrubs and tree species (white pine, balsam fir, spruce, red maple and red oak).

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Although the Rocky Road is part of our driveway, it is also meant as a hiking path where I can walk safely, using a cane or my walker if needed. It is part of the ‘rocky road’ project started many years ago and described on this blog https://janetims.com/2011/11/13/plans-for-a-rocky-road/

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The first unit in the Nature Conservancy Challenge is ‘to follow trail etiquette and learn how you can stay safe during winter hikes.’

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Before I took the unit, I brainstormed what I knew about rules for the trail:

  • leave only tracks, take away nothing but photos;
  • follow the trail and limit incursions into wild areas;
  • move slowly and deliberately and do not fall;
  • use all your senses — seeing, hearing, smell, taste, touch
  • focus on the ground but don’t forget to look upward and outward.

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The Nature Conservancy says:

  • Enjoy the peace and quiet, and be respectful of others and the wildlife around you;
  • Minimize your impact. Stay on the trail and pack out what you pack in;
  • Respect nature. Take pictures only, and leave flowers, plants, rocks and wood behind for the enjoyment of others and for the integrity of the local ecosystem.

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To help me with my explorations of our rocky trail, I have found my book on identifying animal tracks in winter. Next time, I’ll follow the Nature Conservancy’s suggestion to use iNaturalist to help identify plants and animals I see on the trail.

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All my Best

Jane

Written by jane tims

February 6, 2023 at 12:35 pm

New science fiction book: Why visit the planet Meniscus?

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The next book in the Meniscus Science Fiction Series, Return to Sintha, will be here in March. Perhaps you’d like to know why you would want to visit Meniscus??? No, it is not a part of the knee, but a planet out there among the stars. The word ‘meniscus’ refers to its meaning as the ‘curved upper surface of a liquid in a tube’ and refers to the way water behaves (mis-behaves) on the alien planet.

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When you read, do you love:

  • adventure – lots of action and danger?
  • a short read (all the Meniscus stories are about 20,000 words or less)?
  • an interesting setting – lots of alien species, plant and animal?
  • an alien language with a dictionary and in-text translation of what the aliens are saying?
  • a bit of romance – not explicit, but relationships front and centre?
  • following the action with a map? and a glossary of alien terms for plant life, wild life and measurement?
  • an annotated list of all the characters in the Series?

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There are twelve previous titles in the Meniscus Series. You could start anywhere, but I recommend beginning with Crossing the Churn, Oral Traditions or Rosetta Stone.

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In my next post, I will talk a little about the setting of Return to Sintha and some of its main characters.

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All my Best,

Jane Tims (a.k.a. Alexandra)

Written by jane tims

February 3, 2023 at 6:29 pm

Next in the Meniscus Series: Cover Painting

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A new year and there will soon be a new book in the Meniscus Science Fiction Series! Meniscus: Return to Sintha is also the third in the Trilogy of Rosetta Stone/ The Struggle/ Return to Sintha. In the Trilogy, Abra, historian, translates an ancient Dock-winder manuscript and discovers a secret that could end the evil domination of the Dock-winders on the planet Meniscus. Meniscus: Return to Sintha reveals this secret and what happens when it is spread to every city on the planet.

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The new book begins with a scene that began many of the relationships and story threads in the Meniscus series. The Prologue tells the story of an adventure twenty years before when three Slain (Daniel, Rist and Belnar) and two women, one a Human (Meghan) and one a Gel-head (Semala), travelled the road to the town of Sintha with a kemet (a striped horse-like animal) and a cart. What happens during their trek along the road changes all their lives forever.

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One of the symbols introduced in the story is the ‘yellow ribbon’ given to Semala by Rist. Later Rist gives the same ribbon to his new love Tagret when they travel to Nebul-nan. The ribbon is lost in the Vastness as they try to escape the attack of a clear-snake. In the newest book, Abra spots the ribbon on the beach near Nebul-nan and ties it to a stick to dry. The ribbon is a symbol of Rist’s love for Semala (a Gel-head) and the effect the early relationship has on Rist and Tagret’s romance.

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By the way, there is a small logic problem with the ribbon in the drawing below. If you are the first to discover the problem and describe it in the comments, you will win a free copy of Meniscus: Return to Sintha!!!!!!

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The cover for the new book also depicts the yellow ribbon and the adventure on the road to Sintha. As with all the Meniscus book covers, the two moons, Cardoth roe and Cardoth grill-en, are depicted, shining in the Meniscus night.

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Discover another logic problem in the painting and you will win a copy of any book in the Meniscus Series, your choice.

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Meniscus: Return to Sintha will be out in early March, once I have done a final edit and my beta-reader has had a chance to have a look at the book.

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I love writing the Meniscus books and hope my readers will enjoy this one. The stories show how Humans, faced with the worst of challenges, can find the strength and ingenuity to prevail, build families and communities, and change for the better. And the stories show, as ancient Argenop wisdom says: “We may look different but we are all the same.”

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Enjoy whatever you are reading today and perhaps give these tales of the planet Meniscus a try. So far, there are eleven books in the Series but it is best to start reading at Meniscus: Crossing the Churn, Meniscus: Oral Traditions or Meniscus: Rosetta Stone.

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All my best

Alexandra (a.k.a. Jane)

Written by jane tims

January 25, 2023 at 7:00 am

making November warm #5

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I can watch birds any time of year of course. But, to me, November seems made for bird watching. Just seeing those tiny birds gobble up the various types of seed, makes me realize how lucky I am to be sheltered and warm on the bitterest of days.

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I do not feed the birds until November. In part, this is to reduce the chance of spreading the various viruses that plague the wild birds. This year, I discarded all my old feeders and found feeders that did not feature sitting surfaces. I think it is better for the birds to land and leave. Flat platforms gather moisture and breed pathogens. The new sunflower feeder has narrow wire perches and no way to sit among the seeds. I also feed with nyjer seed and that feeder also has no perches, just small holes where the birds can pull fresh seeds from the tube.

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We have a variety of birds at our feeders. I love the chickadees. They are greedy feeders, preferring the sunflower seed. They seem timid, landing only long enough to grab and go. But they often squabble with their own and other species.

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I also like the little nuthatches. This year we have both red-breasted and white-breasted nuthatches. They feed happily together. The red-breasted nuthatches will store seed in tree crevices. I have seen them poke seeds under the shingles of our house!

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We also have a small group of blue jays who love sunflower seeds and various types of finches who go after the nyjer seed. I do not see the diversity of birds I saw thirty years ago when we first fed the birds here. I think some of that is due to the large number of bird feeders in our area.

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The birds I would love to see at our feeders are the Canada jays. Forty years ago when I was working on the draft of my thesis up in our attic rooms, the grey jays, also called whiskey jacks, would come and say hello and eat scraps from my hand. The other bird I have never seen at our feeders (or anywhere) is the cardinal. My husband has seen them in our grey woods, but I have yet to add a cardinal to my Life List.

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All my best.

Stay warm!

Jane

Written by jane tims

November 23, 2022 at 7:00 am

still writing

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When I retired in 2012, I had my next phase of life well-planned. I had applied for a Creations grant and so stepped right into writing my first book. Since then, in ten years, I have published seven poetry books, twelve science fiction books and four Kaye Eliot Mysteries. Two of the poetry books were published with Chapel Street Editions; the rest, I have published myself with Kindle Direct, learning the formatting process as I go.

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I still have a few books waiting in the wings, including three books in my upcoming Writers Retreat Mysteries and five novellas in an Urban Adventure Series. I also have the poems for at least three more poetry collections, including one about ‘sounds in nature’ to be published by Chapel Street Editions next year. And I have new ideas all the time.

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At present, I am completing my first non-fiction book, a history of my great-grandmother Ella (Hawk) Norman (Ella:1859-1933). Ella began her life as one of the Pennsylvania Deutch, the community of German immigrants to Pennsylvania established in the 1700s. As an adult, Ella traveled to the west and spent years in Laramie, Wyoming, where she married, and Denver, Colorado where she built a life for herself and her young son.

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The book includes the research done by me and by my aunt, Dr. Jane Margaret Norman. Genealogy is a unique type of writing because the work can never be truly completed. There is so much still to learn about Ella and new tools, such as DNA analysis, are helping to add to her story. However, I have enough information to publish the book. Only a few more edits to go.

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The audience for this book will include Ella’s descendants and relatives in her Family Tree, as well as other genealogists who are interested in my methods. I have also included a creative element, a series of poems written as a tribute to Ella and her family.

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I think the book will also be of interest to those curious about ‘women’s history.’ Ella was one of those brave folks who traveled west in the 1880s at a time when the railroad made travel to the west more accessible than ever before. Her sister, Sadie Hawk, who was a big part of her life, was an example of a single woman who supported herself in a day when women had few rights and were at a disadvantage in a world where women were expected to marry.

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I have completed the painting for the cover of the book. The lower part of the image, a garden of columbines and poppies, represents the security of home in Pennsylvania. Ella stands at the edge of the garden path in silhouette, looking toward the west and the mountains near Laramie, Wyoming. My Uncle Francis who knew Ella, his grandmother, told me Ella never forgot the west after she returned to Pennsylvania and always planned to return some day.

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I wish you well with your own endeavors. If you are a writer, what projects are you working on and what stage in the process most intrigues you? If you are interested in your own family history, what ancestor interests you the most and why? If you are a reader, perhaps you will try one of my books, or look forward to the release of Ella-1859 to 1933.

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All my best!

Jane

Written by jane tims

November 21, 2022 at 7:20 am

making November warm #4

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Warm inside – warm all over!

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Various times in my life I have attended conferences or eaten in hotels where they have a tea caddy. Opening it is like opening a treasure chest. Perhaps you will find Earl Grey, or Orange Pekoe, or Camomile or Red Zinger. Happiness and warmth in a tea-bag!

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When I designed my kitchen, it was one of the first things I made for myself – a wooden box that opened to a wide selection of teas.

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I love coffee, but as a rule, when I am at home, it is a cup of tea I crave. I like a tea that is mild, a little sweet, with a nutty flavour. I love the fragrance of tea as it steeps and that tea occupies at least 2 of the senses, taste and smell. I also love the feeling of warmth from the inside-out. Tea is the perfect drink for November.

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There are rituals for making the perfect cup of tea, but my approach is simple. I start with cold water from our well, bring it to a boil, pour it into one of my favourite cups and then add the tea bag. I let it steep for 2 minutes and then remove the bag and add milk. No sugar in my tea.

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I use a special cup for my tea, one of those given to me by a friend over the years. She may recognize the cups she has gifted me and know who she is.

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So, if I am chilly this November, a cup of tea will make me warm.

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All my best!

I hope you’ll join me in drinking a cup of tea!

Jane

Written by jane tims

November 20, 2022 at 7:00 am

Posted in strategies for winter

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making November warm #3

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One way to keep warm is to expend energy.

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The cold days are perfect for housekeeping projects. I am a collector and my house is overflowing. I am trying to downsize, make my world a little easier to navigate. During November, I want to attend to my kitchen, to return it to the beautiful space it was meant to be.

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A few years ago, we decided to open the wall of a closet to make a throughway between our bedroom and bathroom. To do this, the closet had to be emptied and all of the closet contents ended up in the kitchen!

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Our kitchen is quite large, 14′ by 14′. It has white cupboards with green knobs, faux-granite countertops and a grey faux-stone floor. As I did with other rooms in the house, I decorated the kitchen according to a theme. Strawberries! A thin decorative border of strawberries, leaves and berries, runs around the room about a foot from the ceiling.

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The curtains are white with tiny red dots. I have a ceramic cookie jar shaped like a strawberry and a set of vintage cans with the same motif.

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On the wall is a strawberry cross-stitch started by my grandmother and finished by me.

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The wooden top to my dish-washing machine is painted with strawberries and my dishes are mostly (you guessed it) strawberry themed.

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Sounds nice, right? Not so much. There are so many things crammed into the kitchen, you would be hard-pressed to name the theme!

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So part of my ‘keeping warm’ in November is to empty my kitchen of non-kitchen things.

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My process is:

Make a plan for the next day: identify the item to be removed;

Dust and clean the item;

Decide if it is to be kept, discarded or given to a second-hand charity;

Move it to the appropriate place.

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So far, I have tackled a large Coleman cooler, my suitcase collection and a tote filled with swimming pool supplies. It is hard for me to let go of things. The Coleman cooler was easy to give away: we have another, newer cooler. The suitcases were harder; they included a set my husband gave me when I traveled so much in the 1980s. In the end, I decided to let them go; I have a smaller, newer suitcase. The pool supplies were harder. We don’t have a pool, but they include a beautiful inflatable palm tree. Every woman needs a beautiful inflatable palm tree. The tote remains in the corner of the kitchen.

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Next I need to remove several items under the kitchen table. They include: the above-mentioned strawberry canister set; a tote of items collected for use at our camp; a set of plastic fruit that once belonged to my Mom. Any guesses which of these may be kept, discarded or given away????

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Cleaning the kitchen will work in two ways to warm November:

1. the activity will be warming as I expend energy

2. making the decisions about keeping, discarding or giving away will take so much thought,

I will forget all about being cold.

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All my best!

Stay warm!

Jane

Written by jane tims

November 16, 2022 at 7:00 am

making November warm #2

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From my childhood, I have considered November ‘the bleak month.’ The days are cold, without the mollifying effect of snow. Trees have lost their leaves and leaves on the ground have lost their colour. Days are short and nights are long. Christmas seems so far away.

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As an adult, I have battled ‘bleak November’ in various ways. #1 is to spend time with family and friends. #2 is to turn my creative impulses to sewing and making quilts, always a warming activity.

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I am not an expert seamstress by any definition. My stitches are long and uneven and my quilts are usually too short, rarely reaching from head to toe. But I love fabric designs and colours, and I love the feel of various fabrics.

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One of the quilts I grew up with was a butterfly quilt, made by my maternal grandmother. Somehow I acquired a couple of extra butterfly blocks she made. Perhaps she was intending to make another butterfly quilt. Her stitches are small and even, the envy of any serious quilter. The blocks are at least 65 years old, probably more.

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a block prepared by my grandmother, for a butterfly quilt

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When I was going to yard sales regularly, I happened across three more butterfly panels and some cut-out butterflies, ready for the needle. Two of these blocks were not as well executed as those of my grandmother; one was very well done and quite charming (see the yellow block, below). Together they suggested a finished quilt.

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one of the blocks I found at a yard sale

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This fall I have finished appliquéing the cut-out butterflies to a top for the quilt. Rather than prepare blocks, I scattered them across a background of tiny blue flowers. Side by side, my appliquéd butterfly and one of my grandmother’s show you what a poor seamstress I really am.

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a butterfly outlined by me in blanket stitch … the tip of one of my grandmother’s butterflies is in the upper right hand corner

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However, I finished the quilt top and in the first week of November, I have added the batt and lower side of the quilt. Last night I finished binding the quilt.

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the finished quilt with butterflies by three seamstresses: my grandmother, an unknown woman (yellow) and me

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I often make my quilts for someone I know or for a particular room in my house. This quilt is for me. I will use it all winter to keep the chills away and make my corner of the couch a little cosier. Be gone, ‘bleak November!’

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the back of my butterfly quilt is done in long strips of fabric

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All my best wishes

for a cosy winter,

Jane

Written by jane tims

November 14, 2022 at 7:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

making November warm #1

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Before Covid-19 took over our lives, I have warm memories of book launches: people gathering and chatting, taking a chair in the bookstore, listening for the starting lines of a reading. A chance to get a copy signed by the author. Sometimes treats, cake and fruit punch and more talk.

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My fellow writer, Neil Sampson, and I have decided to try for this feeling again. We will be reading from out newest books at Westminster Books on this Saturday, November 12, at 2:00. Neil will read from his book ‘Lanterns on the Nashwaak’ and I will read from ‘Stained Glass,’ the fourth book in the Kaye Eliot Mystery Series. This book launch will be accompanied by cookies and drinks.

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‘Stained Glass’ tells the story of how the Eliot family hunts down a series of stained glass windows. Together, the windows tell the story of four friends in the 1950s and their picnic on a bluff overlooking the ocean. The picnic ends tragically, and the windows will tell who committed a terrible crime.

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Hope to see you at the book launch!

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All my best,

Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

November 10, 2022 at 7:02 pm

Book Review: ‘Eyes of a Stalker’ (by Valerie Sherrard)

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It’s been a while since I read a book meant for a young adult audience. But the title intrigued me and I was in the mood for some less time-consuming reading.

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‘Eyes of a Stalker’ is a “A Shelby Belgarden Mystery” by Valerie Sherrard (Dundum, 2006). Shelby is an engaging Grade Eleven student. Her close relationship with her Mom and Dad, her compassion for an elderly neighbour and her feelings for her boyfriend, Greg, took me back to the years of High School.

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When Shelby decides to round out her school year with some activities in drama and creative writing, she never expects her new interests to lead to the unwanted attentions of a stalker. The story is fast-paced and engaging—you will be kept guessing the identity of the stalker. Her family takes steps to protect her, but the author keeps the tension chapter after chapter. Then, when the stalker seems to be winning, you will work with Shelby to try and find a way out of the predicament she is in.

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I will definitely be reading the other books in the “Shelby Belgarden Mystery Series.” Many thanks to the author who writes these books!

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All my best!!!!

Happy reading!!!

Jane Tims

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Written by jane tims

October 14, 2022 at 7:00 am

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