Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Review: The Deserter by Paul Almond



Publisher: McArthur & Company
Pages: 266
Source: Publisher
Category: Canadian Fiction
Rating: 5/5


Synopsis:

Thomas Manning, a young, British Naval officer wanted to take a leap of faith and begin a new life in the New World. Spending months on a navy ship left oneself to imagine, and beyond Thomas' ship was a world to be discovered. Thomas recognized the potential, vast unchartered territory, new settlements and a new beginning. The only way to get to dry land was to jump ship and land in the freezing St. Lawrence water. The risk increases, if he's caught and branded a deserter, he will be subjected to death by one thousands thrashings. Thomas decides to take the risk and jump. After the initial jump, within minutes Thomas is disoriented- the frigid water leads to stiffening of his limbs, and Thomas is not sure he can get to shore. His new life begins...After fighting the water, he makes it, only to seized by the Mik'maq. Thomas is immediately petrified, he's heard many harrowing, brutal stories concerning Europeans being held captive and killed by the savage Indians. Instead of being tortured and mistreated, the Mik'maq assist Thomas. Life in the New World is much different than . While he is initially able to obtain part-time employment with the French settlers, winter is very grueling and Thomas is left of his own. Living conditions are drastic, winters long, and food scarce. Thomas wonders what his outcome will be. Will he survive his first Canadian winter? Fortunately, the Mik'maq take him under their wing once again and show him the way. Survival is still not guaranteed, but much less perilous than being on your own in the bush.





Overall Impression:

I believe this one should be placed into the hands of every young student learning the history of Canada. This saga will cover 200 years of invigorating Canadian history, hidden by the colorless classrooms in most Canadian high schools. Often Canadian history is referred to as 'boring' but a few pages into 'The Deserter' and you will change your mind. First and Foremost, I will declare that I am Mik'maq from the Gaspe region. Paul Almond's research is impeccable, and I read his Acknowledgments before starting the novel. When I saw the research he undertook, I was very pleased and decided to see what this book was about. What I quickly learned was this was a book written by a very skilled writer. The language is simple, the tale action-packed. Every little task in Thomas Manning's life is life-threatening. Every man for himself, rewards are very tempting, and threats are exceedingly substantial. Paul Almond's portrayal of the Mik'maq is very accurate, he embraces the true circumstances and includes the significant legends of the people. I will be passing this book around, or possibly buying others copies and holding tight to my copy. This is the first in a six book saga, I will placing all the others on my wishlist.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Review: Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard




Publisher: Harperteen
Pages: 286
Source: Personal Copy
Category: Young Adult
Series
Rating: 5/5



Synopsis:


Five young girls, living in a small town of Philadelphia are admired by many, and envied by all. Spencer, Aria, Emily, Hannah, and Allison were best-friends in seventh grade. Their lives had it's normal teenage up and downs, until their whole world was suddenly rocked. Allison goes missing, and no one has any idea if she is alive or dead. The whole town becomes panicked. The disappearance of Allison is devastating for the girls, and they become the 'friends of the missing girl.' Allison was the pack leader, and without her the girls become lost. The police question the girls, and they mostly cooperated but some details are held back to hide their dirty, horrible secret. Of course, everyone has their secrets...


The girls lives quickly change and they find themselves moving on and drifting apart. A few years after the disappearance, Allison is still missing and the girls are living separate lives. Spencer the 'goody-two-shoes' finds herself not-so-secretly coveting her sister's boyfriend. Aria moved to Iceland but is now back in town and smitten with a young, handsome teacher, the feeling was mutual until realized she was his student. Hanna is fighting to stay in control of her looks, and Emily is confused when feelings emerge for her new best friend. When secret message surface the girls quickly become worried. A secret messenger, by the name of 'A' knows far too much about the girls. The messages become more and more disturbing, revealing dark secrets only Allison knew. One thing is certain, these message make it clear that someone is currently watching them. Who is the mysterious 'A'? The girls each begin to wonder if Allison is alive. Can they possible put aside their new lives to confront each other about 'A'?





Overall Impression:


When I picked up 'Pretty Little Liars' I didn't think I would find a new series I would fall in love with. I thought I would read it, put it aside and move on. I read it, ran to the local bookstore for book two, and was distraught when it wasn't in stock...I came home ordered it, and ran home everyday to see if I received it in the mail. 'Pretty Little Liars' is very unique, the story alternates from each girls perspective. This technique really made me fall in love with each character, and understand where they are coming from. Each girls has their very real demons. I really think this book should be read by older teens, there is some mature subject matter. Some of those things contained in the book are sex, alcohol and marijuana. I think that should be noted for parents. Although, there are some things that I would rather not read about, I liked the real-life circumstances the girls face. These things are very much apart of high school. The teenage emotions and hormones run wild. There are so many unanswered questions, and I can't wait to continue reading. Yes, I am giving it five-stars because the story itself was spellbinding. I found myself running away with my book any chance I got, I needed to keep reading...



Good news! I received book two today!


Did I mention, I bought book 3 and ordered book 4?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Review: The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton





Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 552
Source: Publisher
Category: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5/5


Synopsis:

When Cassandra' grandmother dies, Cassandra inherits a mysterious cottage located in England. Cassandra is astounded, thinking her grandmother never visited England. How can she possible have purchased this cottage? While the cottage is mysterious, the mysteries have just begun. Cassandra' aunts mention a small, significant detail: Nell is not a biological sister. At the heart of the story is a little girl abandoned on a ship and sent to Australia in 1913. Her possessions include a small suitcase containing a few articles of clothes and a very rare book of fairytales. Nell went 21 years without knowing the truth, and on her 21st birthday her father reveals how he found her and brought her home to a his wife. She was distraught from failed pregnancies, and she cherished Nell. Nell is forever changed by these revelations, unsure of who she is or what her past contained. Nell eventually seeks to learn the truth and with vague memories from her past. Nell is sure that the author of the book of fairytales has a significant place in her history. Her journey leads her to an extravagant estate in England, her journey was chronicled in a diary that Cassandra would find especially useful. Cassandra sought to figure out the final details that Nell was unable to uncover about herself. Who were Nell's parents?





Overall Impression:

A profound, magical tale of complicated family history. 'The Forgotten Garden' is a tale that will remain with you long after you've closed the book. Readers will be completely invested in each and every character. Kate Morton writes each remarkable character in alternative perspectives spanning over 3 generations. I promise, you will not be lost, you will not be confused by the alternating timelines. Kate Morton's technique manages to keep readers on track every step of the way. Although the story interweaves between past and present the story pace is consistent. The story does not halt while switching perspectives, the story keep flowing. This book is mysterious, emotional, suspenseful, and delightful. I was kept in the dark the whole way, but I really wanted to figure out the mystery. A lengthly book, but an absolute masterpiece. This was my first Kate Morton book, and I had high expectations. Many times when you have high expectations, as a reader you feel let down. This book lived up to all the hype, and I honestly didn't want it to end. At the end of the book, I wasn't read to walk away. I felt sad to leave the characters behind. I will be reading and reviewing The Distant Hours soon. Kate Morton has one more fan! She is one SKILLED author!



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Friday, November 26, 2010

Review: The New Yorkers by Cathleen Schine





Publisher: Picador
Pages: 290
Source: Publisher
Category: Fiction/Chick-lit
Rating: 3/5


Synopsis:

Cathleen Schine's 'The New Yorkers' is about Upper West Side New Yorkers, life's obstacles and the occasional interaction between dog owners. Dog owners tend to converse with other dog owners. It's strange but very true, walking a dog down the street attracts many unlikely visitors. Having to walk a dog is great, when you want to walk by a certain someone's door. A dog is a great excuse to stand around and talk to others. Walking a dog creates many opportune moments, also the occasional embarrassing moment. In a rent controlled, New York apartment building there are many variety of residents. Judy, a self-proclaimed 'spinster' adopts a dog, hoping to find a great companion. She gains her companion, and gains the attention of a unfriendly neighbor when Beatrice decides to skip the fire hydrant and use the shiny, expensive SUV. One innocent walk with Beatrice leads her she meet Everett. A man of 50, divorced, with a daughter in College. Polly, a newly single, desperate twenty-year old seeks an apartment and ends up living in a apartment recently vacated. The previous tenant committed suicide, and left his puppy behind. While Polly feels guilty about taking the apartment, she can't bear to leave the puppy behind. She end up taking the apartment and the dog. Polly's brother George is barely making a life for himself, the cockroaches in his apartment are vile and Polly forces George to move in, a bitter-sweet decision. 'The New Yorkers' is filled with many every-day characters, and situations. If you're interested in moving into an apartment building in New York, uncovering the strange residents, and the lovely dogs I suggest giving this one a try.





Overall Impression:

I enjoyed 'The New Yorkers' but I had an issue with the writing style. Cathleen creates memorable, loving characters but I felt like there was too many. I had a hard time connecting with the characters, the narration was difficult. Cathleen jumped from character to character, and I had a hard time figuring out who the narrator was talking about. This unnamed character knew everyone about everyone, and unfortunately there was a lack of flow. I found the pace very slow, and at time I wanted to just put the book down. I started to find the characters I liked and only focused on them. I think you can tell by reading my synopsis. This book was far from horrible, I think it would be a great movie. If it sounds like something you would like, I suggest giving it a try. I'm curious about her other books, I will have to give Cathleen Schine another try.



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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Review: Forever Queen by Helen Hollick









Author: Helen Hollick
Publisher: Sourcebook
Pages: 622
Source: Publisher
Category: Historical Fiction
Reprint: The Hollow Crown
Rating: 5/5


Synopsis:
Helen Hollick creates a fascinating world during Pre-Medieval England. The story of 'The Forever Queen' recounts the story of Queen Emma. A young girl who understood that as the daughter of Richard I, Duke of Normandy, and sister of Richard II she would have to marry. It was her duty to marry a royal. Daughters were an opportunity to form alliances, and agreements. Emma, the youngest sister was married to the King of England, Aethelred 'The unready.' A man 21 years her senior, a man who was abusive and incompetent. As Emma is crowned Queen of England, she begins life as a timid, bashful, and insecure young girl. During her first couple of months as Queen, Emma endures many uncomfortable situations. She must bed her husband, learn to speak a new language, and endure many resentful women. Emma clung to her mother' advice 'never shed a tear in public.' Quickly she became confident, determined and compassionate. Emma falls in love with England, and vowed to give her all to her country. She weeds out those who want to hurt her, and tries to make the best of her situation. She deem's her husband as an incompetent coward, a man unsure of himself and how to rule, a man who trusts the wrong advisors, and completely ineffective as a ruler. Aethelred was loathed by his young bride. He would feed his ego by pummelling her or others smaller than himself. She reluctantly bore him two sons, and a daughter. Children she tried to remained detached from. Her first son was conceived through rape, her second- duty and her daughter would be married and sent away, never allowed to stay with her. Once Emma had her children, she had leverage. She would not stand down from her husband, and proved that she was secure in her role as Queen. Emma outlived Aethelred, and eventually England is inherited by Cnut of Danes. Emma finds herself in a precarious situation. She could possibly loose everything, and be at her brother' mercy once again. She takes her life in her own hands, and suggests to Cnut an offer he couldn't possibly refuse. Emma becomes his Queen. Cnut has England's approval, Emma still has her home. Emma marries a man she grows to love, respect, and admire.






Overall Impression:

I loved this one! I'm a huge historical fiction fan. This book is filled with action, adventure, emotion and suspense. Once you start this book, you will not want to put it down. The history is very well researched, and the flow of the novel is perfect. The details are not hard to follow, and the characters very easy to remember. Considering a lot of the names look similar, I was very pleased to remember the characters. I usually have a hard time when too many characters are introduced. This book was an exception, I knew within the first couple of pages that this book was for me.The descriptions are beautiful and Hellen Hollick creates a fascinating world filled with violence, battle and uncertainty. Emma' emotions are real, her story believable and astounding. She was a remarkable historical woman. 'The Forever Queen' was a great surprise! Highly recommended. Definitely, a 'top 10 2010' book read.



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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Review: The Waiting by Suzanne Woods Fisher






Publisher: Revell (Baker Publishing Group)
Pages: 305
Source: Litfuse Blog Tour
Category: Amish Fiction
Rating: 4/5


Synopsis:

Lancaster County is home to an Amish Community. A close-knit community filled with a variety of personalities. Some who are content with small-town life, and others who wish to see the world. In 1965 Ben Zook is sent to Vietnam. serving as a conscientious objector. He's left behind Jorie King who is living with her grandparents. Jorie King has vowed to wait for Ben to return, and hopes he will ask her to marry him upon his return. Jorie has fallen in love with Ben Zook, a man not content with Amish life. Jorie has been patient and understanding, but she hopes Ben will mature, wish to settle down and marry her according to Amish standards. In the meantime Jorie becomes the newest school teacher, but faces many obstacles when parents do not approve of her teaching tactics. The goodness of Jorie's heart causes issues when she does something the English community disapproves of. Cal Zook, Ben's brother has become the newest minister in the community. He believes Jorie will be the perfect teacher to teach his younger brother Ephraim and daughter Maggie. Cal and his wife Mary-Ann have raised Ephraim since his parents death, and his brother Matthew has helped with the farm. When Mary-Ann suddenly becomes sick, and is diagnosed with cancer she welcomes death and hopes to demonstrate her unwavering faith to her loved ones. She believes this will comfort them, and will be a great lesson in life. Prior to Mary-Ann passing, Ben Zook is reported killed. His ashes are brought back to the community, and a funeral planned. The multiple tragedies strike in a matter of weeks, and Cal is filled with grief. He must accept the death of his brother and wife, while the community watches and openly judges him. Many members encourage Cal to remarry, while Cal wishes for the community to give him space and let him grieve. Cal seeks friendship with Jorie during their time of grief.





Overall Impression:

The Waiting is an inspirational, uplifting book. In the face of tragedy, faith is the comfort. Suzanne Wood Fisher has done it again, she has written an amazing story that had me glued to the pages. I will admit that I enjoyed 'The Choice' more but the Zook's captured my heart as well. I felt frustrated when the community was encouraging Cal to remarry, I really wanted him to move on at his own pace. Many twists and turns kept me thinking, and I never tired. I don't normally read books from the same author back to back but I really loved 'The Choice' and couldn't wait to pick up this one. This book was extremely enjoyable, and I was never expecting to enjoy them as much as I did. I'm really looking forward to the third book in the series. Suzanne Woods Fisher has one more fan, who is patiently waiting for the release of her upcoming book!



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Monday, November 1, 2010

Review: The Choice by Suzanne Woods Fisher










Publisher: Revell (Baker Publishing Group)
Pages: 308
Source: Personal
Category: Christian Fiction (Amish)
Rating: 5/5


Synopsis:

Carrie Weaver thought she had everything planned out. She grew up in an Amish community but she's been leaning on leaving. The love of her life Solomon Riehl has an opportunity to play professional baseball, and Carrie intends to follow him. They plan to marry and leave the Amish community that has always been their home. A hesitant Carrie acknowledges that her and Sol would not be shunned by the community. It is essential that they leave before they're baptized, otherwise they would never be able to come back and visit. However, life is constantly changing and you can never plan your entire life. When Carrie' father passes away after a farm accident, Carrie is drawn to her community and vows to take care of her little brother. She cannot bare to leave Andy with their detestable step-mother. A home that they were brought to when their father married Esther. A home where they never belonged. As far as Carrie is concerned Andy, a hemophiliac has received his last thrashing from Esther. Carrie is distraught when Sol leaves her behind, and she seizes her first opportunity to leave Esther's home. Carrie agrees to marry Daniel, a kind young Amish man her father approved and encouraged before his death. Carrie believes there's no better way to anger Sol. Daniel and Carrie both agree that they do not love each other but wish to build a home and move on from their misfortunes. Carrie inherits an extended family that she begins to adore. Throughout the book many twists and turns cause Carrie struggled with her faith. Her feelings towards Daniel are jumbled, and just as they begin to find their way towards each other Daniel is killed in a buggy accident. Carrie is guilt-ridden and overwhelmed. Carrie has no idea how to manage the orchard on her own, but she's adamant to survive and care for Andy and Daniel's grandmother. She wants to live in a home that is hers, a home where she belongs.




Overall Impression:

This is one of those books that I did not want to put down. It's was my first Amish novel, and I wasn't expecting to love it as much as I did. I fell in love with Carrie from the beginning, I laughed and cried along with her. Carrie is strong-willed and determined, when life kept throwing obstacles in her way she trudged through it all. I admired her, and really wanted her to succeed and be happy. Suzanne Woods Fisher created a sensational, inspirational read. This book dealt with forgiveness, love, anger, guilt and perseverance. I understood when Carrie' faith staggered. After all that she went through, it's hard not to wonder 'why me?' I was honestly thinking the same thing, why? Leave poor Carrie alone, I wanted her to be happy. As Carrie struggled with her Faith, she understood that God would take care of her. It's through the hard times that you need your faith the most. The characters were all amazing, there were characters I loved, others I hated. I stayed up late into the night reading this one, and quickly picked up the next installment 'The Waiting.' Honestly, a truly amazing, uplifting story. One you will not want to put down. This is for anyone who is looking for a gripping story. I will not be parting with book...



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Friday, October 29, 2010

Review: The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg






Publisher: Point
Pages: 290
Source: Personal Copy
Category: Young Adult
Rating: 5/5


Synopsis:

Penny Lane was born to Beatles obsessed parents. All her siblings are named after a Beatles song, and anytime Penny shows an interest in the Beatles her parents commend her on exploring her heritage. Yes, her heritage. When Penny forms a new club called 'The Lonely Hearts Club' her parents couldn't be happier. They believe Penny has grasped her roots. Her parents will do anything that Paul McCartney utters, including never eating meat. Penny Lane is just another high school girl, but when her heart is broken by her boyfriend she forms a lonely club. Nathan, a childhood friend cheats on Penny during the summer in her own house. She can't tell her parents because they're best friends with Nathan parents. Penny endures her heartbreak among her friends and becomes the one and only member of her club. Penny opens her eyes, and is sickened by her observations. High school is filed with girls who are constantly fixated on boys. As far as Penny is concerned boys are liars, cheaters and not worth her time. Boys will no longer be a priority in her life, and she decides to never date again while in high school. Her friend Tracy, does not agree with her priorities but she changes her mind over time. Penny is adamant that boys are out of her life. She plans to focus on her female friendships. The club expands quickly and high school becomes an estrogen infused sisterhood. The males are in shock and the girls threaten a revolution. The Club is more than Penny expected, but when she unexpectedly begins to fall for a boy her life becomes a little more difficult...




Overall Impression:

The Lonely Hearts Club is a very positive book for young girls. I loved every minute of reading it. Elizabeth Eulberg did an amazing job creating a story that will encourage many young girls. This book is about identity, friendships and making life decisions. Penny Lane was true to herself, and found great strength in her commitments. This is a wonderful, sweet coming-of-age story. In high school every thing feels dramatic and life-defining, especially a broken heart. I found this book refreshing and I loved the characters, they felt very realistic to me. I loved Penny's parents and I loved the strong bond between Penny and her sisters. This book is a great 'girl-power' book for teens. A fantastic debut!



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Friday, October 22, 2010

Review: The Human Bobby by Gabe Rotter













Pages: 289
Source: Publisher
Category: Fiction
Rating: 5/5


Synopsis:

Bobby had it all, he lived a life anyone would envy. Upon graduating from med school his best friend Eddie was offered a great opportunity to start a pediatric practice and Eddie recruited Bobby. Together success came easy and rapidly. Eddie was always the untamable friend, Bobby was much more sensible. Bobby watched Eddie date girl after girl. Bobby on the other hand soon married Ava, the girl he fell in love with in College. When the time was right, they welcomed a healthy baby boy and brought him home to a large, beautiful, polished Beverly Hills home. One quick moment, one quick lapse in judgement and Bobby lost everything. He lost his wife, child and best friend. He literally had nothing left. Bobby's life swiftly unravelled through a series of understandable, unpredictable succession of events. Some may say simple mistakes. The successful doctor soon found himself living on the streets in a tent bought by Eddie for a rugged, masculine weekend trip. Bobby slipped in and out of reality. His mental health questionable. His money squandered, and his solace was found in a concoction of pills and alcohol. One man's hiccup turns into a whirlwind downward spiral.




Overall Impression:

One word: Wow. I opened this book and thought nothing of it. I expected his wife and child to perish in a car accident. I thought it would be predictable, and typical. This book was gripping, raw and immensely engrossing. I could not put it down. Bobby's life was torn away, and I sat on the edge of my seat absorbed and astonished. The next time you see a homeless person living on the street you may think twice before you judge them. Gabe Rotter is an amazingly talented writer, and I will be adding his first book 'Duck, Duck Wally' to my wishlist. I was invested in every character, I loved them and disliked them all equally. Each of them had their very human flaws.There is only one innocent character, baby Jack. If your significant other brings home a high school ex, I have one word of advice 'beware'. The Human Bobby is one of those books that you will force your friends to read. I was utterly consumed by his story. If you see this book at your local bookstore, look no further. If you're looking for a story to loose yourself in, this will be the one. Yes, highly recommended.




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Monday, July 19, 2010

Review: A Friend in the Storm by Cheryl Rickett









Author: Cheryl Rickett
Publisher: Zondervan
Pages: 96
Source: Litfuse Blog Tour
Category: Inspirational
Rating: 4/5

Review:

I received A Friend in the Storm from Litfuse Blog Tours, and it was a very pleasant surprise. This beautiful little gift book, is the perfect gift to hand to a friend in need. A Friend in the Storm is filled with inspirational quotes, scriptures and poetry. In life we have a lot of unknowns, and I have a lot of comfort in my faith. I know at any time, I have someone that I can turn to, someone that has control. This little book is a comforting read to anyone who is grieving, going through personal issues or just needs a pick me up. I will pass this on to friends and family members. It's a great gift. I fell in love with the poem called 'Why.' When life gets rough, i'm sure everyone has comes to a point when they ask why? Why do I have to go through this? The poetry was beautiful, but 'why' remained with me when I closed the pages. This is one to keep on your gift list.

They're are many quotes that stuck with me and here are a few quotes or scriptures that I loved:


'Worrying does not empty tomorrow of it's sorrow- it empties today of it's strength.' -Corrie Ten Boom

'If the works of God were such as might easily be comprehended by human reason, they could not be called wonderful or unspeakable.' - Thomas A Kempis

'What a wonderful thing to know, to remember, to remind yourself of when you feel overwhelmed with busyness or with pain. You don't have to come to him quiet. You just need to come to him.' -Emily Barnes


'For This is what the LORD says: 'As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.' Isaiah 66:13

'Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.' 1 Corinthians 13:7


I believe this is a great gift book, one that will be appreciated. Words are uplifting, and encouraging. Sometimes you feel like there is no one to turn to, but this book is a reminder that there is someone listening.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Review: Vanishing and Other Stories by Deborah Willis







I really wanted to enjoy this novel, and I did until I realized this is a book of hopelessness. I only read the first 5 stories, and I had to put it down. These short stories are emotional, gloomy and filled with despair. When someone leaves you for one reason or another there is an empty void that cannot be filled. People leave for a variety of reason, sometimes people leave willingly and sometimes not. I thought th

e stories were very well written and very detailed. I honestly think Deborah Willis is a very talented writer but this is simply not my type of book. I felt like I needed more. I was looking for hope, positive outcomes and a future. I didn't feel any closure as I finished the stories, and I needed to know more about the characters. I don't normally read a lot of short stories, and that could have impacted my impression. Please keep in ming that I do not want to discourage anyone from reading this, it has received some great reviews. If it sounds like something you would enjoy, please give it a try. I've learned that sometimes a book is not for you, and you have to move on.


I'm an optimist, I'm a very happy person...doom and gloom is not for me. I'm the girl who views the glass half full.



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