An Aurora YA Review: Tales From High Hallack Volume Three by Andre Norton

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

Tales From High Hallack 3In the third and final volume of High Hallack, tales of high fantasy, science fiction, and coming of age reach back as far as 1943, yet are still as fresh and relevant today as when they were written. High Hallack was a place in Andre Norton’s fiction and was also the name of the genre writer’s library she opened in Tennessee. It is a wondrous keep that she called home, and now High Hallack opens its gates and allows these amazing stories to unfold.

 

This book is a compilation of short stories, all taking place within the same world, but not necessarily interconnected. It focuses largely on high fantasy elements.

I really had a great time reading this book, and it’s definitely one that I would have picked up even if I had just seen it on a shelf somewhere. Some of the stories had be so on edge that I read through them again simply to get the thrill of it. I think that the author really captures making very real characters in very ridiculous circumstances, which is always something that I love to see in my fantasies. Short stories can often fall short in making you really care about the characters in such a short amount of time, but that is really not a problem with this book. I found myself, with many of the stories, even wishing that they could have gone on longer!

The book only lost a star because, while I absolutely loved a lot of the stories in the book, some of them weren’t quite suited to my fancy, which is a matter entirely of personal opinion and every story was very well written, my interest levels just varied throughout the book.

Cover Artist: L.C. Chase. The cover art is simple, but pretty and well suited to the book. I think the dark color scheme definitely makes it appealing, while the bright color of the fire draws the readers eyes to the bottom of the page where the artist wants them to look.

A MelanieM Note:  I first discovered Andre Norton when I was about Aurora’s age and have loved her writings ever since.  I was curious when I saw this new collection of her stories just published.  Would this generation of YA readers find her as relevant and exciting as I found her all those years (decades if I am honest) ago?  Happily, it turns out the answer is yes,  Andre Norton and her stories are timeless.  Pick them up and discover that for yourself!

Sales Links:      Open Road Media    amazon             Buy It  Here

Book Details:

ebook, 300 pages, also in paperback
Published October 14th 2014 by Open Road Media Sci-Fi & Fantasy (first published January 1st 2014)
ISBN 1497660378 (ISBN13: 9781497660373)
seriesTales from High Hallack #3

Tales from High Hallack Collections by Andre Norton:

Tales From High Hallack, Volume 1: The Collected Short Stories of Andre Norton, Volume 1
Tales from High Hallack, Volume 2: the collected short stories of Andre Norton
Tales from High Hallack, Volume Three: The Collected Short Stories of Andre Norton

A Sammy Review: Thomas Elkin Series by N. R. Walker (all books)

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 Rating: 5 stars out of 5 for the entire Thomas Elkin series –

Elements of Retrofit (Thomas Elkin, #1)
Elements of Retrofit cover

Ahhh. Oh my goodness. I loved it.

Tom Elkin in a successful and sought after architect who has drowned himself in his work since leaving his wife and coming out as a gay man. For over forty years he lived a lie, and he has a new sense of freedom but is still missing something. Enter Cooper Jones, a young twenty-two-year-old who happens to be friends with Tom’s son, Ryan. As it just so happens, Cooper ends up being one of the lucky candidates to intern at Brackett & Golding. Though neither of them intends for it to happen, sparks fly, and the connection is undeniable.

This story is low angst, while still acknowledging the road bumps that come up in a situation such as this one. It doesn’t stick too much on a particular issue, and certainly doesn’t bog down the story. At the same time, it manages to not be overly fairy-talesque, and maintain an essential aspect of reality.

I’m really not usually someone who enjoys age-gap. It’s just not my thing. But, God, did I thoroughly enjoy this. No complaints at all, except that it’s too late for me to be able to start reading the next in the series.

Sales Links:    Totally Bound        All Romance (ARe)      amazon             buy it here

Book Details:

ebook, 89 pages
Published October 4th 2013 by Total-E-Bound Publishing (first published October 3rd 2013)
ISBN 1781844712 (ISBN13: 9781781844717)
edition languageEnglish
seriesThomas Elkin #1

Clarity of Lines (Thomas Elkin #2)Clarity of Lines cover
by N.R. Walker

So here’s the thing, I’m a pretty picky person. I can find faults in things easily, and it takes quite a bit to impress me.

But this – this series, well it does that.

Clarity of Lines continues with Tom and Cooper, as their relationship grows and flourishes. They hit some bumps along the way, with issues and themes from the first in the series resonating in this. Of course, age will always be an issue for some, and I love the fact that the author doesn’t simply brush this off in the continuation. There’s a consistent theme, a very clear line (pun intended) that brings these books together.

My favorite scene was probably the one in which Cooper came to comfort Tom. This is also ironically the scene where Sophia finally just gets it/them. I am so invested in these characters that I really felt it, and the importance of that moment.

My only complaint is that it was just too darn short, and I wish we could see more of how Tom’s mom deals with things, as well as a bit more of the grieving process being played out, as it is more complex of a process and the book ends before the enormity of it is really captured.

All in all, a great second book that will leave me desperately craving the third.

Sales Links:   Totally Bound            All Romance (ARe)           amazon           buy it here

Book Details:

ebook, 103 pages
Published December 13th 2013 by Totally Bound
ISBN 1781848963 (ISBN13: 9781781848968)
edition languageEnglish
seriesThomas Elkin #2

Sense of Place (Thomas Elkin, #3)Sense of Place cover

Et cor domum

So this is usually where I give a little bit of info about the story (in my own words, of course). But that won’t be here. Why? Because if you’ve read any other book in the series, you’ll know just what you’re getting here. The same, completely wonderful, breath of fresh air.

Thomas and Cooper are positively one of my favorite couples, and this series just has a feel-good spot for me. I can honestly say that if there’s every a crappy day for me, where I’m a bit down, I will probably go and read this series, because the number of times I smiled throughout it… just magic.

There’s such a sense of place (hah, but really) in these stories, and this is no different. The way they understand each other and their work, how they see one another through architecture. I said it with the first book, but it rings even more true here – I’m not a fan of age gap, but this, this does something for me.

Really really wonderful. I’m sad to see it come to an end, but so happy that I experienced it.

Sales Links:      Totally Bound        All Romance (ARe)        amazon            buy it here

Book Details:

ebook, 110 pages
Published February 14th 2014 by Totally Bound
ISBN 1781849544 (ISBN13: 9781781849545)
edition languageEnglish
seriesThomas Elkin #3

For each book, the cover art by Posh Gosh always does a great job of capturing the book. It has not only the characters but architecture and lines, which is what really makes the relationship between Tom and Cooper so special for me. They just share their own art in love and life, and it’s oh so wonderful. The cohesion of the covers is another great element. They all fit together and you can tell they’re a series at first glance.

A MelanieM Review: Red Dirt Heart 4 (Red Dirt Heart series finale) by N.R. Walker

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Red Dirt Heart 4 coverThe minute Travis Craig saw the name Sutton Station on a list of places to apply to Travis just knew that was the place to go for his internship.  And once there, he realized he had found home.  It wasn’t just the harshly beautiful land and environment that called to Travis, but the owner, Charlie Sutton, himself.  Loving Charlie was easy even though the man was stubborn, and riddled with crippling self-doubt. No, for Travis, loving Charlie Sutton felt as natural as breathing.  But living with Charley? Teaching him how to love in return and, more importantly, how to love himself, was not.

But Travis knew all along it’d be worth it. He knew the man with the red dirt heart was destined to be his. Just like he knew the red dirt that surrounded him was where he was supposed to be.  With Charlie and Sutton Station, Travis knew he was home.   But there’s one more trip to take….that’s taking Charlie home to Texas to meet his folks and let them know the man who has come to mean everything to their son.

Red Dirt Heart 4 by N. R. Walker is the final story in this heartwarming, remarkable saga.  It only took the first book for Charlie Sutton, Travis Craig, Ma, George and all the rest that goes for family on Sutton Station to grab hold of my heart.  And with each book my love affair with this series deepened along with Charlie and Travis’ relationship and journey towards their HEA. We were there as Charlie’ dealt with all the doubts and fears that came with the damage his father inflicted upon his son.  We were silent observers as Charlie came to grips with his past and learned to love himself as well as Travis.  Along the way their story came to feel less a piece of fiction and more like desired visits with old friends.  Now its at a end and I’m feeling kind of bereft.  But what a send off N. R. Walker gave them.

For starters, Walker switched out the point of view.  The first three books are told from Charlie Sutton’s perspective.  By living in Charlie’s head and heart, we learned how hard it was for Charlie to accept himself and step out of his father’s shadow. We listened to his internal monologue, jumbled thoughts, stubborn feelings even as we learned that Travis loved to just to watch his Charlie, that Travis couldn’t sit still and was always busy, busy loving and moving Charlie along whether Charlie wanted to or not.  I got comfortable with the fact that it’s Charlie we would always have an intimate knowledge of and that Travis would always be seen and filtered through Charlie Sutton.  But that wasn’t the plan for the last story, Red Dirt Heart 4.

Red Dirt Heart 4 is Travis Craig’s story and the change up in pov was sort of disorienting at first.  I was used to Charlie’s “voice” and now had to see Charlie and everyone else through Travis’ eyes.  That was a little startling but after a while I realized that listening to Travis, visualizing everyone and everything through his thoughts and feelings, was necessary. It completes the picture.  As Charlie and Travis are two sides of the same coin (an important and touching element in this story), we needed Travis’ perspective to make their love and relationship whole.

Sutton Station and Charlie have been through so many changes and those continue to mount up.  Even as the farm is adjusting to having a baby around (not Charlie and Travis’) but other things are happening to shake up the status quo.  Charlie decides to help out some disadvantaged kids and Travis and Charlie travel to Texas for Thanksgiving and Charlie’s first meet up with Travis’ folks.  Each event acts like a seismic event, shaking the foundation of Charlie and Travis’ relationship in unexpected and quite wonderful ways.  I’m not going into details here that’s one of the joys of this book and series…all the little paths and journeys that Charlie and Travis must take to solidify their love affair for each other, their determination to stay together and make each other home.

N. R. Walker has such a way of creating characters that feel believably, poignantly human in every way.  Each character is realistically defined, densely layered complete person from dialog to actions, to their thoughts,feelings, frailties, and all.  Then N. R. Walker gives us Sutton Station and the hot, red dirt environment of the Northern Territory and makes us fall deeply love all over again.   I got Charlie’s almost cellular connection to the land and his farm, I came to understand how Travis could come to love a land both harsh and beautiful in the extreme.  N. R. Walker’s almost lyrical descriptions of the desert, complete with its dangers and extraordinarily stunning features made me see it as though it was right in front of me.  And it made this water loving, green hugging woman want to head out immediately to experience it for myself.  I got all that and so much more and I did so because of Charlie and Travis and Ma and George and even Matilda and Nugget.

The Red Dirt Heart series is as much a love letter to Walker’s home as it is a love story about Charlie and Travis.  I fell in love with all of this red dirt heart series, the land and the people.  It has become my comfort read and a wishful travelogue all at the same time.  N. R. Walker was one of my best discoveries in 2014.  Make her and her Red Dirt Heart series one of yours in 2015!  It’s absolutely one our most highly recommended books and series.  Pick them all up today, read them in the order they were written,  and see why!  Happy Reading.

Cover artist Sara York completes the branding of the series with this lovely cover and still incorporates necessary elements in this story.

Sales Links:   All Romance (ARe)     Amazon          Buy it here

Book Details:

Release Date: January 9th 2015 by Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
seriesRed Dirt #4

Books in the Series (yep just 1 through 4)

A MelanieM Review: Red Dirt Heart Series by N. R. Walker

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5 for the Series 

Red dirt Heart Cover

 

Welcome to Sutton Station: One of the world’s largest working farms in the middle of Australia – where if the animals and heat don’t kill you first, your heart just might.

And with those words, N. R. Walker introduces us to one of the most heartwarming, delightful, and throughly addicting series that is Red Dirt Heart!  Red Dirt Heart revolves around the complex and totally embraceable characters of Charlie Sutton of Sutton Station and Texan Travis Craig.   Per N. R. Walker:

Charlie Sutton runs Sutton Station the only way he knows how; the way his father did before him. Determined to keep his head down and his heart in check, Charlie swears the red dirt that surrounds him – isolates him – runs through his veins.

American agronomy student Travis Craig arrives at Sutton Station to see how farmers make a living from one of the harshest environments on earth. But it’s not the barren, brutal and totally beautiful landscapes that capture him so completely, it’s the man with the red dirt heart.

But that brief synopsis doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of these stories. Through 4 books we trace Charlie and Travis’ journey towards love, relationship and a permanent home with each other.  Along the way we fall in love with not only Charlie and Travis but the red dirt desert of the Northern Territory that Charlie loves so much.  It doesn’t happen immediately but gradually in scene after scene as the stark, red hot environment claims the heart of Travis just as surely as Charley does.  And this is not a romanticized version of the red dirt country.  No, its comes complete with venomous snakes and spiders,  extreme temperatures that are lethal if caught unprepared or lost, and an almost alienness, a sense of solitude that can comfort or kill depending upon the circumstances.   And we learn to respect and love it for exactly what it is.

The same truth can be said about Charley…complex, abandoned, self-doubting Charley.  So easy to connect with and understand, Charley is a character as layered as the desert, full of extreme swings in his decision making, as durable and elemental as the red dirt he loves so deeply.  The Sutton Station is a part of Charlie, although he has yet to learn exactly how much and what large boundaries that station family includes.  For the Sutton Station comes with Ma and George, farm employees who are more mom and dad to Charley than his own. There’s Billy (an Aboriginal), and  several other workers that over the course of the stories form a close knit family to Charley and Travis.  But it’s not Charley that is the impetus for this shaping of people and events, no, its the arrival of Travis Craig that throws Charley and the status quo into shambles.  Delightfully so.

When Travis arrives, he meets a closeted, closed off Charley just waiting for a love he’s sure he doesn’t deserve.  And one of the things that makes this beginning of their journey so compelling is that the readers live inside Charley’s  head, an element that brings us so close to this bruised man that we love him immediately.  Books 1 through 3 are all told from Charley’s point of view.  In a neat feat of writing, N. R. Walker gives us the ability to see through the haze of Charley’s confusion, self doubt, and desire to realize that Travis is falling deeply in love with Charley even if Charley can’t see it.  Even as Charley is internally arguing with himself, busy throwing obstacles in their path to happiness because of his fear and uncertainty, we see Travis always in Charlie’s orbit, watching and urging Charlie forward.  What an addicting, captivating and yes, throughly charming pair and instantly we are invested in their happiness and future together.

What a troublesome road it is for Charley and Travis.  Outside of Charlie’s two step relationship dance, there’s immigration laws and visas, and the reality that Travis is an American citizen whose family (who loves him dearly) lives in Texas.  There complications that abound with Ma and George, orphaned animals that quickly grab onto your heart as much as the rest of the Sutton Station crazy, warmhearted group of individuals.  We get lessons in the mineral layers of dirt, learn what a bore is (no it has nothing to do with a person), and in general, see what it takes to run a station as large as Charley’s.  Those of us readers not from Down Under learn bits of Australian english and phrases, enough to instill the urge to travel and see it for ourselves.    As I say in my review for Red Dirt Heart 4, this series is as much a love letter from N. R. Walker to her country as it is about a deeply abiding love between Charley and Travis.

Along with way, there are some heartstopping moments so painful that tissues will be needed, white knuckle events that will make you feel suspended, frozen, until you (and the characters) are able to move forward and past them once more.  Those will be balanced with scenes of joy, laughter, and romance, such as Charlie understands it!  I laughed, cried, and laughed again through all the highs and lows, and even quiet moments of reflection and contentment that flow from these stories and the series as a whole.

Just a memory of a dialog or scene can send me running back to grab up that book, and before I realize it I’m lost once more in Red Dirt Heart romance and setting of Sutton Station and Charley Sutton.

Now the series is ending with Red Dirt Heart 4.  I’ve read the story, wept a little (ok ,more than a little. a lot) and said my happy goodbyes.  Told this time from Travis’ point of view, it’s a wholly satisfying, totally engaging series finale and gives us and Travis and Charley a glorious happily ever after.  It ends just where it should, no more, no less.   The Red Dirt Heart saga quickly became and still is one of my all time favorite series. It will be among the top on my rec lists as well as Best of.  N. R. Walker’s writing was vivid, at times lyrical in her love for her country and the Northern Territory, and full of the human spirit and endurance it takes to not only live life on the desert but to embrace it with all that you are.

But don’t take my word for it,  pick it up and start your journey into red dirt territory and the hearts and minds of Charley Sutton and Travis Craig.  It’s easy to read them in order as they are titled Red Dirt Heart 1 thru 4!  Elegant and simple.  Just don’t expect the same simplicity inside.  Be prepared to fall madly and completely in love with Charlie, Travis, Sutton Station and yes, the red dirt of  Australia’s Northern Territory.  What an amazing trip it is!  A real journey of their lifetimes! Begin it today.

All covers are the creation of Sara York.  I loved them.  They brand the series as a whole while each cover has elements important to that story.  Great job.

Sales links can be found on each individual review page listed below:

Red dirt Heart CoverRed Dirt Heart 2Red Dirt Heart3Red Dirt Heart 4 cover

Down Under Author: N. R. Walker

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DownUnder_January Is Banner

 NRW logo

Meet N. R. Walker!

N. R. Walker is the author of the Thomas Elkin series, the Red Dirt Heart series (both Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Must Have, Must Reads) and other books listed below.

To get to know N. R. Walker a little better, the author agreed to an interview. Look for the interview below and the Down Under Scavenger Hunt word found somewhere within.

✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍Author Bio 1

Who am I?

Good question…

I am many things; a mother, a wife, a sister, a writer.

I have pretty, pretty boys who live in my head, who don’t let me sleep at night unless I give them life with words.

I like it when they do dirty, dirty things…but I like it even more when they fall in love.

I used to think having people in my head talking to me was weird, until one day I happened across other writers who told me it was normal.

I’ve been writing ever since…

*********************Author Contacts

Contacts/Follow at :

  Please note – NOT safe for work or kids


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Author Books Stories Down Under1 copy

 

Reddirtheart3300Red dirt Heart CoverRed Dirt Heart 2Red Dirt Heart3

 

 

 

 

Books:

Taxes and TARDIS
Ten in the Bin

 

Blind Faith coverThrough These Eyes cover (BF2) Young man in the cityThe 12th of Never (BF3.5)

 

 

 

 

Blind Faith (Blind Faith Series #1)
Through These Eyes (Blind Faith Series #2)
Blindside (Blind Faith Series #3)
Twelfth of Never (Blind Faith Series #3.5)

 

Elements of Retrofit coverClarity of Lines coverSense of Place coverSixty Five Hours cover

 

 

 

 

Point of No Return (Turning Point #1)
Breaking Point (Turning Point #2)
Starting Point (Turning Point #3)

 

Point of No Return coverBreaking Point coverStarting Point coverLearning to Feel cover

 

 

 

 

Elements of Retrofit (Thomas Elkin Series #1)
Clarity of Lines (Thomas Elkin Series #2)
Sense of Place (Thomas Elkin Series #3)
Red Dirt Heart 1 (Red Dirt Series #1)
Red Dirt Heart 2 (Red Dirt Series #2)Best Books of 2014
Red Dirt Heart 2 (Red Dirt Series #3)
Red Dirt Heart 4 (Red Dirt Series #4) just being released!

And my free reads:
Sixty Five Hours
Learning to Feel
His Grandfather’s Watch

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Contests and Giveaways:

1. Today’s Giveaway (thank you,N. R. Walker) is an eBook copy of Red Dirt Heart 4. Enter using this Rafflecopter link here. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

2. Down Under Scavenger Hunt – find the Hunt “word or phrase” in bold green . Collect all the words from each author and submit the list in writing no later than midnight on February 1st. Make sure you include an email address where you can be reached. Prizes will be given to 5 people selected, from 1st place to 5th! Happy Hunting.

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Author Qand A

Q: When did you start writing?

A: I started writing fiction about 4 years ago, after reading fan fiction online. I wrote fan fiction first, but then original characters started telling me stories. 😉

Q. Were you a reader as a child?

Yes. Loved reading. I loved adventure books mostly.

Q: Title or characters or plot? Which comes first?

A: Usually the characters, though sometimes the title is crystal clear from the very beginning. I normally have the characters talking to me for a little while before they tell me the plot.

Q: Do you have a favorite character that you have written?

A: I do love Charlie Sutton from my Red Dirt Heart Series. He’s a true Aussie farmer; hardworking, loves his family and friends and puts himself last, every time. He’s flawed, he’s frustrating, and he’s wonderful.

Q: Favorite book/story you have read as an adult?

A: Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien. Just wow.

Q: Do you have a certain regimen that you follow as a writer?

A: I know it’s cliché, but write every day. Set hours if you can, or the same time slot every day, if real life allows it.

Q: Do you have a specific writing style?

A: My writing style consists of listening to what the characters tell me, and hoping for the best. LOL

Q: How do you think books written from authors in Australia or New Zealand differ in style, language, and culture?

A: There’s an Australian/Kiwi-ness in our everyday dialect that we can recognise straight away in a book, which I just love. Our genre is so Americanised, so to read Aussie books with Aussie characters (by Aussie authors) is like putting on a favourite pair of jeans. I have written books set in both America and Australia, using American and Australian characters respectively, and for me the language/setting/culture to do Australian is SO much easier. I think (some) authors – I know this is true for myself – become Americanised in their writing. I know even now when I write in real life (not for books) I find myself using American spelling. I think this is why I have LOVED writing my Red Dirt Heart Series so much. Having Aussie farmers in the Australian outback… doesn’t much more Aussie than that.

Q: If you were a tour guide, what would you like a visitor to see and what impression would you want them to take away with them when they leave?

A: The people! Aussies are so laid back and welcoming and the saying “no worries, mate” is a fabulous mantra.

Q: What are your current projects?

A: I’m working on my first paranormal romance. It’s a modern day vampire story that delves into Ancient Egypt (sort of). It’s very different from what I usually do, and it’s been a lot of fun to write so far.

Q: What’s next up for you?

A: Red Dirt Heart 4 was released January 9th, so my next release will be my paranormal romance, hopefully early March.

Thanks so much for having me!

Down Under Author Showcase Day 10: N. R. Walker

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 DownUnder_badge

Day 10: N. R. Walker

It’s Day 10 of STRW Down Under Author Showcase.  Our featured author today is N. R. Walker.  Her Red Dirt Heart series which concludes with yesterday’s released Red Dirt Heart 4 is on ours and many other’s Best of 2014 Lists.  I expect that with this final story, it will be on this year’s Best of Lists as well.Best Books of 2014

So don’t miss out on her giveaway, read our interview and check out all the books she has written to day.  It will make you want to book a flight, jam a Akubra (Australian cowboy hat), climb into a Ute, and head out into the gorgeous red dirt country that she writes about so lovingly and well.

 

Australian-ranch

 

Australia Fun Fact of the Day:

Anna Creek Station

 

 

 

 

anna-creek-404_677853c

The largest cattle station in the world is Anna Creek Station in South Australia at over 34,000 square kilometres is the world’s largest cattle station. It is even larger than Belgium.

 

New Zealand Fun Fact of the Day:

From the driest to the wettest!

Enough Drinking Water for a Whole Country – From One Spring!

The Te Waikoropupu Springs in Golden Bay are record breakers.Pupu springs NZ

They push out more fresh water than any other springs in the world, producing one to two billion litres of water a day.

If required, the springs could provide enough drinking water to supply the entire population of New Zealand.

As if that wasn’t enough, the spring waters are the clearest natural water in the world outside of Antarctica. You can see an average of 63 metres when you look down through the water.

 

Are contests today are N. R. Walker’s giveaway, find the Down Under Scavenger Hunt word and don’t forget to enter Bottom Drawer Publications contest on the Down Under Showcase page on the menu!