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Mother Earth Father Sky [NOOK Book]


A young woman fights for survival amid the brutality of the last Ice Age

It’s 7056 BC, a time before history. On the first day that Chagak’s womanhood is acknowledged within her Aleut tribe, she unexpectedly finds herself betrothed to Seal Stalker, the most promising young hunter in the village. A bright future lies ahead of Chagak—but in one violent moment, she loses her entire way of life. Left with her ...
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Mother Earth Father Sky

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A young woman fights for survival amid the brutality of the last Ice Age

It’s 7056 BC, a time before history. On the first day that Chagak’s womanhood is acknowledged within her Aleut tribe, she unexpectedly finds herself betrothed to Seal Stalker, the most promising young hunter in the village. A bright future lies ahead of Chagak—but in one violent moment, she loses her entire way of life. Left with her infant brother, Pup, and only a birdskin parka for warmth, Chagak sets out across the icy waters on a quest for survival and revenge.
Mother Earth Father Sky is the first book of the Ivory Carver Trilogy, which also includes My Sister the Moon and Brother Wind.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Chagak, a primitive Amerindian woman, survives the massacre of her tribe and family and later challenges gender roles by learning to be both child-bearer and hunter. According to PW , the ``childlike language, slow-paced plot and unsophisticated characterizations'' here are no threat to Jean Auel's novels of the prehistoric wilderness. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Harrison has gone back 9000 years in time to tell the story of Chagak, a young woman who struggles to survive when her family and village are slaughtered by the warlike Short Ones. Her only ally is a crippled recluse who offers her shelter on his island. But what can either of them do when Chagak is demanded in marriage by one of the men who killed her family? Likely to be compared to Jean Auel's ``Earth's Children'' books, Harrison's novel is constructed on a much smaller scale, but her depiction of early American civilizations is nevertheless convincing. Chagak is a believable and appealing heroine; readers will care what happens to her. Given the popularity of fiction set in prehistoric times, this should be in demand in public libraries. Literary Guild main selection; previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/90.-- Beth Ann Mills, New Rochelle P.L., N. Y.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781480411821
  • Publisher: Open Road Media
  • Publication date: 5/28/2013
  • Series: The Ivory Carver Trilogy , #1
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 313
  • Sales rank: 13,779
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Sue Harrison grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and graduated summa cum laude from Lake Superior State University with a bachelor of arts degree in English language and literature. At age twenty-seven, inspired by the cold Upper Michigan forest that surrounded her home, and the outdoor survival skills she had learned from her father and her husband, Harrison began researching the people who understood best how to live in a harsh environment: the North American native peoples. She studied six Native American languages and completed extensive research on culture, geography, archaeology, and anthropology during the nine years she spent writing her first novel, Mother Earth Father Sky, the extraordinary story of a woman’s struggle for survival in the last Ice Age. A national and international bestseller, and selected by the American Library Association as one of the Best Books for Young Adults in 1991, Mother Earth Father Sky is the first novel in Harrison’s critically acclaimed Ivory Carver Trilogy, which includes My Sister the Moon and Brother Wind. She is also the author of Song of the River, Cry of the Wind, and Call Down the Stars, which comprise the Storyteller Trilogy, also set in prehistoric North America. Her novels have been translated into thirteen languages and published in more than twenty countries. Harrison lives with her family in Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula. 
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Read an Excerpt

Mother Earth, Father Sky

The Ivory Carver Trilogy

By Sue Harrison


Copyright © 1990 Sue Harrison
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4804-1182-1


Six days. The hunters had been gone six days, and during that time there had been a storm—rain and a roaring that seemed to come from within the mountains, and waves that swept the beaches bare.

Six days. Too long, Chagak thought. Too long, yet she sat on the low mound of her father's earthen ulaq and waited, watching the sea. She smoothed her hands over the dark feathers of her suk. Her mother had given her the garment that morning to replace the hooded child's parka Chagak had outgrown. The gift was a sign that Chagak was now woman, but she knew it was more than that. It was also her mother's way of speaking to the spirits, a woman's small voice that said, "You see, my daughter wears a new suk. It is time to rejoice. Surely you will not send sorrow to this village."

So Chagak spread her arms in the wind, a silent request for the spirits to see her, to notice the beautiful suk, for her mother had made it carefully, using more than twenty birdskins, and the cormorant feathers still held the rich smell of the oil used to soften the skins.

"See me," Chagak wanted to shout to the spirits, to the great mountain Aka that watched over their village. "This girl is woman now. Surely, in her rejoicing you will bring our hunters back from the sea. Surely you will not let us become a village of women and children." But only men were allowed to call to the spirits. So Chagak stretched out her arms but held back the words that pressed full and tight between her tongue and the roof of her mouth.

A wind blew in from the sea, bringing the smell of fish and a coldness that made Chagak tuck her long hair into the suk's high collar rim. The suk hung past Chagak's knees, so that when she squatted down it was long enough to touch the ground and keep her bare feet warm. She drew her hands up inside the sleeves and squinted at the gray-white line between sky and sea where the black dots of the hunters' ikyan would first come into sight.

It was summer, but even in summer the skies were usually gray, the air thick and wet with moisture that rose from the sea. The wind that kept winters warm—with rain coming as often as snow—also kept the summers cold. And the wind blew forever; never, never stopped.

Chagak opened her mouth and let the wind fill her cheeks. Did she imagine it or was there the taste of sea lion in that mouthful of wind? She closed her eyes and swallowed. Yes, some taste of sea lion, Chagak thought. And why would sea lions be here, this close to the First Men's island? Again she filled her mouth with the wind, again she tasted sea lion. Yes, yes. And if she tasted sea lion, perhaps the hunters were coming, towing sea lions they had taken during their hunt. But Chagak did not call her mother. Why raise hopes when perhaps it was only a trick of some spirit, making Chagak taste what was not there?

Chagak watched the horizon, holding her eyes open wide, until the wind filled them with tears. She wiped the wetness from her cheeks with her sleeve, and as the softness of the cormorant feathers crossed her face, she saw the first ikyak, a thin black line on the white edge of the sea. Then another and another.

Chagak called down through the square opening, both entrance and smoke hole, that was cut through the sod roof and driftwood rafters of her father's ulaq. "They come. They come."

As her mother emerged from the ulaq, other women climbed from the dark interiors of nearby ulas, the women blinking and shielding their eyes in the gray brightness of the day.

They waited, quietly, though Chagak heard her mother's soft mumbling as she counted the boats. Ten ikyan had gone out. Ten had returned.

One of the women started a high chant of praise, a song of thankfulness to the sea and honor for the hunters, and from cliffs and ulas young boys and old men hurried to the beach to help the hunters drag ikyan ashore.

The women followed, still singing. Chagak, the newest woman, stayed at the back of the group, behind the women but ahead of the girls.

Sea lions were lashed to the sterns of the first two ikyan, the animals nearly as long as the crafts themselves.

One of the hunters was Red Sun, Chagak's uncle, the other, Seal Stalker, one of the youngest hunters in Chagak's village, but already that summer Seal Stalker had brought in six hair seals and now a sea lion.

When his ikyak was in shallow water, Seal Stalker jumped from the craft and began to pull it ashore. Then he cut the line that held the sea lion.

Chagak tried to keep her eyes on other hunters, to make her song as much for her uncle as for Seal Stalker, but it seemed something was forcing her to watch Seal Stalker, and twice, as he helped drag the animal up the slope of the gravel beach, Seal Stalker's eyes met Chagak's, and each time, though Chagak continued her chant, a chill coursed up from her fingers as if she and not Seal Stalker had brought in the animal, as if she were the one being honored.

Seal Stalker's mother came to take the hunters share, the sea lion's flippers and the thick layer of fat under the skin. But suddenly Seal Stalker shook his head and instead turned to Chagak's father, handed him a long, stone-bladed hunting knife and said, "I need a wife. Let this animal be first payment on your daughter's bride price."

Chagak's father hesitated, and Chagak covered her face with her hands as the girls behind her began to giggle. But she watched her father through the cracks between her fingers, watched as he looked back at Chagak's mother. Her mother nodded, as if she had always known what Seal Stalker planned. Then Chagak's father sliced into the thick hide and began the dividing, to give each man a share for his family. Chagak glanced at Seal Stalker, then looked quickly away, her cheeks suddenly too hot, even in the cold wind. But her mother clasped her hand, pulled her toward the sea lion, and there, before everyone in the village, Chagak and her mother took over the butchering.

Chagak was thankful that her father had just retouched the edge of her woman's knife so that the curved blade cut easily through meat and fat, Chagak's strokes so quick and sure that soon Chagak's mother sat back on her heels and let Chagak finish dividing the meat.

For a long time Seal Stalker watched her, and Chagak felt the warmth of his gaze on the top of her head and at the back of her neck where her black hair disappeared into the collar of her suk. And once, as she worked, Chagak looked up at Seal Stalker, her heart pounding, and smiled at him. But finally Seal Stalker turned away to help the other hunters and to take his share of the other sea lion.

When Chagak and her mother had finished, they folded and rolled the skin, flesh side in, then wrapped the bones in an old seal hide. Several women helped them carry the bundles to their ulaq.

Chagak had expected to begin the first scraping of the hide, but her mother pointed at the racks of women's boats near the beach.

"We must visit the otters," her mother said. So she and Chagak carried their women's boat, an open-topped ik, framed with driftwood, sheathed in sea lion hides, to the edge of the sea.

Chagak's mother climbed in and Chagak pushed the ik into deeper water, the coldness of the sea numbing her ankle bones until they ached. When the ik was far enough from shore, Chagak climbed in, too, and her mother handed her a paddle, motioning for Chagak to guide the craft near the kelp beds where the sea otters lived.

At first, Chagak thought her mother was going to tell of the time an otter had saved her father's life. It was a story Chagak had heard often, about the otter that had directed Chagak's father to land after his ikyak had been damaged in a storm. Since that time her father considered otters sacred and would not hunt them for their pelts or meat.

Sighing, Chagak closed her eyes and waited for her mother to begin the story, but her mother said, "Who are better mothers than sea otters? Did they not teach the first woman how to care for her children?"

So Chagak opened her eyes and watched the otters as her mother spoke to her of being a wife, of pleasing her husband. She spoke of the tradition of their people, the First Men. How the world was only water until the otters decided they needed dry land where they could hide during storms, and the seals wanted beaches where their babies could be born. So each animal dove hard and far to the bottom of the sea, and each one brought back mud until there was enough to make a long curve of land above the sea. Then mountains grew, pushing up in smoke and fire to guard the beaches. Green and shining grass rose to meet the mountains, to welcome them. Then heather and all plants grew; birds came and lemmings and last of all men until all the land was filled.

Chagak's people were the first to come to that land and so they called themselves First Men. The sacred mountain Aka protected their village and other mountains protected other villages east and west of Chagak's village, all down the long stretch of land that extended to the edges of the world, ice to ice.

And as Chagak's mother spoke, the otters, too, seemed to listen. One brought her baby close to the ik, the baby clinging to the mother's back, and another swam near enough for Chagak to touch. But when she reached out to it, the animal dipped into a wave, then wrapped itself with a long strand of kelp and floated, small gray face just above the surface, eyes closed as if asleep.

Then Chagak felt a tingling in her arm, a tightening in her belly, for some voice—perhaps the spirit voice of the otter mother—whispered, "Soon you, too, will have babies. Your own babies."

That evening, after Chagak and her mother had returned, Seal Stalker came to the ulaq. At first Chagak was shy. Though she had always known Seal Stalker, it was different to think of him as husband.

While Seal Stalker spoke to her father, talking of hunts and weapons, Chagak sat in a dark corner smoothing the skin side of a fur seal pelt with a chunk of lava rock. Chagak kept her head lowered, but the work she was doing was something she had done since she was a child and so did not require her eyes but only the tips of her fingers, checking the nap and thickness of the skin. So it seemed that some spirit directed her eyes to Seal Stalker and she saw that, though he was speaking to her father, his eyes, too, were wandering, scanning the ulaq walls, the curtains of the sleeping places, the pegs and niches that held digging sticks and sewing supplies.

Yes, Chagak thought, Seal Stalker should be interested in this ulaq. He and Chagak would live here with her family, at least until Chagak had their first child.

It was a good ulaq, dry and strong, and one of the largest in the village, high enough for a man to stand and stretch his hands above his head, and even Chagak, now grown to her full height, could stand in the sleeping places and not catch her hair in the rafters. Chagak's father could take five long paces in any direction from the climbing log in the center of the ulaq before he reached the thick earthen walls.

We will be happy here, Chagak thought, and glanced again at Seal Stalker. He looked at her and smiled, said something to Chagak's father, then came over to Chagak and sat down beside her. The seal oil lamps made yellow halos over Chagak's mother and father as they worked. Her father was straightening the shaft of a harpoon, her mother finishing a basket inverted on a weaving pole.

The ulaq was warm, so Chagak wore only a woven grass apron, her back and breasts bare. Seal Stalker began to tell her of his hunt, his dark eyes widening as he spoke, his shoulder-length hair glistening in the light from the lamps.

Suddenly he pulled Chagak into his lap, wrapped his arms around her and held her. Chagak was surprised but pleased, afraid to look at her parents and too shy to look at Seal Stalker.

He smoothed his hands over her arms and back, and Chagak, worried, glanced up at her father. He did not seem to care, to even notice that she was sitting on Seal Stalker's lap.

So Chagak said nothing but only sat very still, afraid a movement might betray her happiness and draw the envy of some spirit.

Chagak picked another salmonberry and dropped it into her woven grass bag. The bag was so full that the bottom berries were crushed, and juice dripped from the meshes to stain her bare feet.

Her mother had given her the day as a gift, to do what she wanted to do, to be away from the work of the ulaq. So Chagak had walked far into the hills, trying to find the patch of rye grass she had first found two summers before. It was coarser than the grass that grew near the sea, and it dried to the dark green color of dock leaves. Chagak used it to make border patterns when she wove dividing curtains and floor mats from the whiter, sun-bleached grass that grew on the sod roof of her father's ulaq.

She looked up at the sky, and the sun's position in the northwest made her walk more quickly. Her father would be angry she was late, but the bundle of grass she had cut was worth his scolding.

The grass slung over her shoulder was heavy, but Chagak was strong. She thought of the weavings she would make—new curtains for the sleeping place she and Seal Stalker would soon share—and she began to hum.

It was an unusual day of cloudless skies and bright sun. The hills were crowded with plants: cranberries, cornel, pale-leaved roseroot, long waving fronds of joint grass, pink flowering stalks of fireweed.

Chagak stopped and moved the berry bag to her other arm. She was near her people's village. She could taste the salt that blew in from the sea, and the wind carried the smell of fish and sea animals.

She saw a patch of mossberries, the shiny black berries nearly hidden in a tangle of heather, and stopped to pick them. She lowered her berry bag to the ground and slipped the bundle of grass from her shoulder.

Chagak rubbed the muscles of her arm, sore from holding the bag away from her suk, then ate the berries slowly, savoring her last minutes alone before returning to her family's noisy ulaq. It was good sometimes to be alone. To have time to think and plan, to live in dreams.

She arched her back against the stiffness of her shoulders and strung the bag over her arm, but as she reached for the grass, she heard a cry, nearly a scream, that seemed to come from the beach.

Chagak clasped her amulet and, leaving both the grass and her berries, ran toward the village. Someone had died, she was sure. Probably a hunter.

Not her father, not Seal Stalker, she prayed.

As she neared the crest of the last hill, a glow lighted the blues and purples of the sky, and at the top of the hill she stopped, confused by what she saw.

A ulaq was on fire; the grass thatching of the roof blazed. Men were running from ulaq to ulaq, men with long hair, their bodies short and wide, their parkas not the familiar black of cormorant skins but a mottled brown and white as if made from the skins of many lemmings, sewn haphazardly.

They carried torches and were setting fires to roof thatching, then throwing the torches into each ulaq.

Fear fixed Chagak's feet to the earth and closed her throat so she could not cry out.

Two men, each carrying a large seal stomach container of oil, dumped the oil into her father's ulaq and threw a torch in through the roof hole. Flames leaped up from inside the ulaq, setting the heather and grass of the roof ablaze. Even above the noise of the fire, Chagak thought she heard her mother's screams.

Chagak's older brother lunged from the roof hole. Flailing her father's driftwood seal club, he knocked down one of the men, but the other caught him around the waist and pushed him over the edge of the ulaq.

The first man, regaining his feet, jumped down after, and when he again climbed to the top of the ulaq, he was waving a blood-tipped spear. Chagak felt the burn of vomit rise into her mouth.

Her mother came out next. Pup, the brother born that spring, was in her arms. She tried to run between the men, but they caught her. One man pulled the baby from her and flung him to the ground; the other cut the waist thong that held her knee-length apron.

At that moment Chagak's younger sister emerged from the ulaq, and her mother dove toward the child, escaping the men as she grasped her daughter. They stood together, two dark figures in front of the flaming roof grass, holding one another as the men advanced with raised spears. One of the men lifted his spear to the girl's face, and Chagak covered her mouth with both hands, sucking in great gulps of air to hold in her screams.

As the second man moved toward the child, Chagak's mother pushed the girl behind her. The man drew a knife from a scabbard at his waist, then slashed across the woman's breasts and reached for Chagak's sister.


Excerpted from Mother Earth, Father Sky by Sue Harrison. Copyright © 1990 Sue Harrison. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 16 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 1999

    Compelling Prehistoric Tale

    This story of life in Prehistoric Alaska is one of those historic fictions that makes you believe that it could be a true story. As the first in a series of three books it lays the groundwork for a facinating tale of survival in a harsh world by following the life of a young girl and her people as they overcome many harsh obstacles of life.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2000


    This book is packed with emotion and adventure! I love it! I would recommend this to everyone! I'm only 13, but I could understand the book well! Chagak really had to grow up fast and she was a brave girl! It's hard to explain the story, so I suggest you go buy it and read it! I haven't read the other two, but I plan to! Sue Harrison is an excellent storyteller! E-mail me if you have any questions! Read this book!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 28, 2013

    very good!!

    I enjoyed this book very much. It is highly recommended for any one who likes historical fiction. The research was well done. try it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 17, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    =) loved it!

    Short and Sweet this book is no nonsence, right to the point, not a boring page in the book . I Loved It!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2005

    Awesome book

    I love her writing. I couldn't put the book down. Great author, great characters.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2003

    Love, loss, self-discovery...

    Mother Earth Father Sky by Sue Harrison is a powerful book about a young woman who searches for a sense of belonging and ends up finding a whole new family, and, more importantly, she discovers more about her own character; through her journey, she lived through love, loss, and self-discovery. Chagak, of an Indian tribe, had just become a woman. While she was picking berries, her whole tribe was burned and killed; the only survivors were herself and her little brother Pup. After giving each one of the members of the tribe a proper ceremony of death, with her little brother, she decided to go to her grandfather¿s tribe to seek assistance. She ended up on an Island with a man named Shuganan. On this island, Pup died and Chagak grieved. Shuganan gave Chagak food, water, and shelter and they became friends. They shared their experiences and became very close. A man comes to the beach and claims that he is good, but in reality, he is a killer, which is explained in his name, Man-who-kills. He impregnates Chagak with force and is very brutal toward both her and to Shuganan. The two kill him and are free from his cruelty. She gives birth to the son and he is named Samiq. The story is then intelligently intertwined with the story of another tribe. These two tribes later meet and live amongst one another. The leader of that tribe is Kayugh and his son has not eaten healthy because his mother died and he couldn¿t be breastfed. Chagak agrees to feed him; she, in the end, saves his live. Chagak, traumatized over her experience with Man-who-kills, never wants another husband for fear of being treated so harshly. Kayugh wants her as his wife. You¿ll have to read the book to find out what happens next. Through Chagak¿s journey, she realizes that although she is a woman and is supposed to be inferior, she is still strong. She had the strength to bury her whole family, being raped and giving birth to the child as a result of that, and so much more. I really recommend this book because Sue Harrison really gives all her characters a unique personality. She brings her characters, including the whole book to life; it¿s like your watching a movie and not really reading. In addition to this, Harrison did a lot of research on the Native American culture, which brings out the richness and virtues of their lifestyle. The story shows how a woman can have strength within and use it to persevere and overcome any obstacles. Word Count: 435

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2000

    You'll love this if you like Jean Auel & Linda Lay Shuler.

    I was entranced from beginning to end. I was searching for an author who wrote as well as Auel and Shuler and this is the one. This was the first book I read by Harrison and I can hardly wait to read the others.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2014


    It's hard to imagine how things were along time age. Author does a good job and keeps you interested. I enjoyed this book, but than I like to think about past ages.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2014



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  • Posted July 12, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I loved this book because I loved the setting and the characters

    I loved this book because I loved the setting and the characters. The author did an amazing job making the setting believable and making it realistic. For someone who never saw 7056 BC, she did an amazing job immersing the reader with details. I thought the plot line was interesting and unique. A lot of books with a similar setting do a bad job of connecting the reader to their characters. But this author did a pretty good job of connecting me not only to the characters, but also to the emotions that were invested in the book. The book flowed great and was an overall good read.

    Chagak was an interesting character in herself because of her strength in a  world that doesn’t always expect or accept it. At first she fell in line with everyone else and accepted her position in life. Then she got brave and started to survive on her own. Her character was very dynamic and I liked how she changed throughout the book. She became more self dependent and strong as she learned to fend for herself and accept her losses. This book requires a courageous main character and Chagak fits the bill in every way.

    Not only is Chagak a great character but all the other ones are too. I liked how they supported Chagak and added to her story. The other characters helped build her into a stronger woman and added special details to her character.

    Sometimes I wasn’t as connected to the characters as I would have liked and I felt that the plot was a little shaky. But overall I really enjoyed reading this book and I will enjoy more books by this author and publisher.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted March 27, 2014

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    Posted August 23, 2013

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