Posts Tagged With: Book Recommendations

2017 Reading List – So Far

Oh man…

I’ve been trying to blog.  Really I have.  There are a million half-finished things on my computer just waiting for the internet.  For some reason, though, I just couldn’t seem to finish anything.

I started a new job about a month ago, my responsibilities much more low-key than the old one.  I didn’t realize how much stress I was under at the old until I wasn’t under it anymore.  I feel like I’ve been handed my life back.  And not just my life, but my pregnancy.  I get to enjoy this time now, instead of being worried that I didn’t quite catch everything I should have, cycling through to-do lists as I try to sleep through baby kicks.

All this is basically to say that I’m terribly behind on this thing.  And I’m so behind that I don’t even really know how behind I am.  The students are talking about returning. I haven’t posted the things I’ve read last semester, let alone over the summer.  All my posts on the baby are super-outdated now.  Everything is a mess.

I’m going to start with the easy thing, which is the reading list this year.  I don’t remember where I left off, so I’m just going to give you the books I’ve read since January 1st, and a quick blurb on what I thought of them.  We’ll worry about the rest of stuff next week.

For those keeping count, I’ve passed the half-way mark until I meet this kid in person, and we’ve reached the first viability marker too.  If he was born today, he has a 1/3 chance of surviving.  Admittedly not great, but at least he has a chance (and so far there’s no evidence he’s not staying baked for a while). He’s still moving around like crazy, but he’s lumping up on my left for some reason, tucking himself in there hard.  Not a big deal until I try and get up to pee in the middle of the night and fall over sideways in my delirious state…  He’s doing well – measuring in the middle of everything like he should.

Alright, here’s the 1st half of 2017 Reading List.  Beware: it’s mostly baby, self-help, and romance.  What can I say?  I’ve needed that comfort reading.

  1. Grin and Beard It, Penny Reid – I love this series by Penny Reid, and this is my second read of it since I found it last year.  A+ for all of it.  The newest book is coming out soon, and I’m so excited.
  2. Beauty and the Mustache, Penny Reid – Part of the same series, and great.
  3. Truth or Beard, Penny Reid – Which could really be said for ALL of these books
  4. The Cold Eye, Laura Anne Gilman – You know, I felt like this book didn’t quite live up to the promise that was the first book.  But I still loved it, and will buy the 3rd as soon as it comes out.  The concept is just too perfect, and Gilman handles it so well.
  5. Beard Science, Penny Reid – More beard books are coming out soon, but not fast enough for me, ever.
  6. Friends with Benefits, Penny Reid – The entire Knitting In the City series is completely unlikely, and hard to buy, this one is no exception.  Despite that, though, it’s kinda fun.  Wouldn’t call it my favorite, but solid if you’re in a dry spell.
  7. Daring Greatly, Brene Brown – Another re-read.  I LOVE Brene Brown.  Her books make me feel okay about being flawed, and that I’m on the right path to connection at least.
  8. Seven Minutes in Heaven, Eloisa James – I was a bit worried about this one, since it supposedly contains a kidnapping.  But it doesn’t really – I should have trusted James completely.  And it was GOOD.  Some of the best of James’ work, which is saying a lot since I love everything she’s ever written.  Bonus points for governess tropes.
  9. Rising Strong, Brene Brown – Another re-read, and probably my favorite Brene Brown book, which is saying something.
  10. The Care and Feeding of Pirates, Jennifer Astley – No, no, and just no.  Not only was it badly written, but I got angry at the absurdity of it all and the stupidness of the heroine.  I don’t think I read past the first chapter, and I was incensed.
  11. What to Expect When You’re Expecting, Heidi Murkoff – The quintessential pregnancy book, and for good reason.  I wish the organization was a little more straight forward since she tries to kinda guess which month you’ll be going through xyz, and puts everything there.  I wish the months were months and the advice was advice, and the two weren’t buried together.  Otherwise a great read, though, and VERY helpful.
  12. Pregnancy Week to Week, Month to Month, Joanna Kendis – I didn’t like this book.  It seemed overly simple to me, and I gave up after the first chapter. Didn’t contain anything that What To Expect didn’t, and it was written much worse.  There were even a few grammar mistakes that made me cringe.
  13. Love Hacked, Penny Reid – I picked up this series in a drought of Beard books, and feel like it was fine, but not amazing.  This one was a little strange, with the guy being inexplicably weird for a while.  Also, no sex until the very end – but worth the wait.
  14. Happily Ever Ninja, Penny Reid – Another book I didn’t quite buy the premise of.  It was good, though, and features an already married couple with a fairly good relationship, though, which is rare in romance novels.
  15. Big Girl, Kelsey Miller – I LOVED this book.  It was a sad memoir in a lot of ways, but this is now the 3rd book I’ve read that tells about the dangers of dieting, and it was told in such a human way.
  16. When a Scot Ties the Knot, Tessa Dare – Good and very solid, with an interesting premise.  Fake guy the heroine has been writing to (and who she killed off) turns out to be real, alive, and on her doorstep.  I ended up thoroughly enjoying it, though he seems a little forceful at times.  Would recommend.
  17. How the Duke was Won, Lenora Bell – I had a hard time jogging my memory on this one, which doesn’t bode well.  However, I do remember enjoying the spunky heroine.  Not amazing, but certainly solid.
  18. The Truth About Lord Stoneville, Sabrina Jeffries – You know, I don’t know why I REALLY enjoyed this series, but I did.  It’s a silly premise, but the characters were so great that I ended up not caring.  This one is a too-unsuitable-to-marry trope, done VERY right.  The Grandmother is epic.
  19. A Hellion In Her Bed, Sabrina Jeffries – I liked this one A LOT, too.  It takes place in a brewery, which is unusual for a romance novel.  The Heroine, who keeps going despite her tough family situation, is my favorite kind.  And smart, too.
  20. How to Woo a Reluctant Lady, Sabrina Jeffries – I enjoyed this book, but not as much as the two before it.  The heroine is hilarious, though.  She takes out an ad for a totally unsuitable husband to piss off her grandmother.  Also, she’s a writer.
  21. Say Yes to the Marquess, Tessa Dare – It was definitely cute, but not one of my favorites.  It was kinda fun to see the hero lavish all these crazy presents on the heroine.
  22. Dating-Ish, Penny Reid – This was one of my favorites of the Knitting In The City books.  Awkward online dates included.  A solid choice, though it still suffers from a bit of the unbelievability of the rest of the series.
  23. To Wed a Wild Lord, Sabrina Jeffries – After a few “meh” books, I returned to the Hellions series.  This one was pretty good, actually.  Up to the old standard again, for sure. The hero was the cause of an accident that killed the heroine’s brother.
  24. A Lady Never Surrenders, Sabrina Jeffries – I never seem to love the books where hero is supposed to pick heroines intended or vice-versa, and this is one of those.  Well done for something I probably wasn’t going to love to begin with.
  25. The Girl With The Make-Believe Husband, Julia Quinn – Oh man, I LOVE ME some Julia Quinn, and this one hit all the right spots for me.  Colonial America, redcoats, unspoken love, Quinn’s great writing.  Yes please, to all of it.  Another favorite romance novel of all time.  I’ll be re-reading this one tons.
  26. Becoming Wise, Krista Tippett – Oh, what a magical book.  If you’re a fan of the On Being podcast, this book is 100% for you.  If you aren’t a fan, you not only need to read this book immediately, but you need to also become a fan.  Tippett is amazing, and gives so many life-changing ideas.  Like knowing the will of God through your own wants, or listening as an act of love, or grief as something humans innately know how to do.
  27. The Whole Brain Child by Daniel Siegel & Tina Payne Bryson – A great, quick book on how you can help your child integrate all parts of their brain as they’re growing, leading to adults with healthy brains.  My favorite parenting book that I’ve read so far.
  28. Parenting from the Inside Out, Daniel Siegel & Mary Hartzell – This seemed to be the adult version of Whole Brain Child, but it got a bit overly technical for me and ultimately didn’t contain much new info.  Stick with Whole Brain Child.
  29. Romancing the Duke, Tessa Dare – I actually found this novel to be hilarious, and awesome.  The heroine’s father’s fans (he’s a writer) are my favorite thing ever.  It’s like if Ren Faire was set in the early 1900s.
  30. Birthing From Within, Pam England – Meh.  It was a little hippy-dippy for me.  I stuck with it over half way to give it a good try, but ultimately I just couldn’t buy its premise that art is necessary for a fearless birth.
  31. Tooth and Claw, Jo Walton – For me? No.  Even though it was award-winning. I thought the premise was interesting in that it was kinda like Jane Austin, if only everyone was a dragon.  But I kept getting turned off when everyone ate their young, and I couldn’t get over it.  Didn’t like, wouldn’t recommend; unless you enjoy the sordid-type Victorian novels like Wuthering Heights.
  32. The Raven Boys, Maggie Stiefvater – The next four books are all a series, and I re-read them.  I’m DYING to read them in Virginia when I go to visit my sister in law, since that’s where they’re set.  But I love them.  So much better and creepier the 2nd time around, and they were GREAT the first time.
  33. The Dream Thieves, Maggie Stiefvater
  34. Blue Lily, Lily Blue, Maggie Stiefvater
  35. The Raven King, Maggie Stiefvater
  36. Strengths Finder, Tom Rath – Interesting, and part of the reason I knew I needed to switch jobs.  All of the stuff I was good at wasn’t at all in my job description.  Basically, if you need me to research something and then explain it to you clearly, I’m your girl.
  37. The Scorpio Races, Maggie Stiefvater – I keep finding these books about topics I’ve been thinking about in my own writing, and seeing that they’re CRAZY well done.  That is basically to say that I’m in love with this book and need to own it so I can re-read it every November.  Kelpies, poverty, Ireland, and a desperate race for life itself.
  38. Goddess of the Hunt, Tessa Dare – You know, I have a very love/hate relationship with Tessa Dare.  In that I often love her work, but just as often I hate it.  This was her first book, and it’s great.  Girl next door marries family friend.  Would recommend.
  39. Surrender of a Siren, Tessa Dare – I feel like I enjoyed this one more than it deserved.  The premise is a little silly and the hero a TOTAL ASS when you first meet him.  It probably should have killed my enjoyment of it, but it totally didn’t.  I don’t know why.
  40. A Lady of Persuasion, Tessa Dare – This one returns to being almost as good as the first one.  I’d recommend as well.  Foreigner turns fancy and gets a rake to commit.  Yay!
  41. Rules for a Proper Gentleman, Jennifer Ashley – I read this before I read the rest of the McKenzie series, and I LOVED it.  A lot.  It’s another one of those that isn’t quite a member of the series, though.  Only very loosely connected.
  42. The Madness of Lord Ian McKenzie by Jennifer Ashley – Okay, caveat that these are dirtier than your normal brand of romance novel.  I still liked it a lot, and found it hawt despite the Asperger’s of the hero.  Good mystery, too, where everyone is trying to protect everyone else and it’s a mess.
  43. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, Ina May Gaskin – This is my favorite book so far on giving birth, and I’m SO glad I found it.  It was incredibly empowering to read, and I would recommend to anyone considering natural birth.  And even if you’re not, it’s still helpful I think.
  44. The Many Sins of Lord Cameron, Jennifer Ashley – The hero has a SUPER tragic past, and it’s a little hard to take at times.  But otherwise I’m in love with this book 100%.  Especially the heroine’s love of cake.
  45. The Duke’s Perfect Wife, Jennifer Ashley – This one is also pretty dirty, but SO well done.  I enjoyed it thoroughly.  In fact, I think I may need to buy this series in hard-copy.  At least the ones with the brothers in them.
  46. The Day of the Duchess, Sarah McLean – McLean is one of the few romance authors I auto-LOVE.  This one was not as good as her previous, though I still enjoyed it.  I think it was more the concept than the writing, and also the context – the Duke of Haven is someone I’m used to loathing, and the plot seemed contrived. Still would recommend.  McLean’s meh is better than others’ best.
  47. Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage, Jennifer Ashley – Oh man, I really loved this book too.  It again hit on some of my favorite things;  debauched painter for a hero needs heroine as his muse.  All those painting sessions spent alone.  So great.
  48. Howl’s Moving Castle, Dianna Wynne Jones – This might be the 5th time I’ve read this novel or so… I love it every time.  Especially Howl and his black slime.  ❤
  49. The Seduction of Eliot McBride, Jennifer Ashley – I have to say that I did like this book, but it was billed as being a McKenzie novel and it really wasn’t.  The folks in the book are maybe mentioned in passing in another one.  Not what I expect from a “sequel” but still pretty enjoyable.  I don’t quite trust Jennifer Ashley with everything yet, but I’m getting closer.
  50. The Wicked Deeds of Daniel McKenzie, Jennifer Ashley – This book hit a bunch of the right notes for me – supernatural mediums, balloon rides, one of my favorite characters as the hero, a very smart heroine.  Would 100% recommend.
  51. Never Seduce a Scot, Maya Banks – Recommended to me by Tumblr, and actually I did enjoy it a lot, though it’s set in a more medieval period than I prefer usually.  The heroine is deaf, (or really, Hard of Hearing), which I’m a sucker for since studying ASL.
  52. A Night to Surrender, Tessa Dare – There’s so much hype around Dare’s Spindle Cove series that I felt I should give it a fair chance.  I wasn’t wild about this book.  Nothing wrong with it per-se, just that I didn’t feel connected to the characters really.
  53. A Week to Be Wicked, Tessa Dare – This is more what I was expecting from the Spindle Cove hype.  Minerva is perfect, crazy-smart, and her beau keeps calling her by the wrong name on purpose for added fun.
  54. A Lady by Midnight, Tessa Dare – I’m not 100% sure I liked this book.  The dog was perfect, but I think I just knew too much about Thorne and his weird ways to make him a convincing hero.  I think I would probably have liked it had I not had context in the prior two books.
  55. Any Duchess Will Do, Tessa Dare – This is a re-read, and I kinda HATED it the first time.  I think reading the rest of the Spindle Cove books made me like it more.  Also, it’s a rarity in romance, with the heroine being totally dirt poor which probably also gave it novelty.  Would read again.
  56. Once More My Darling Rogue, Lorraine Heath – I mean, it’s basically Overboard, if set in the Victorian Era.  I liked it, but didn’t think it was anything special.
  57. When the Duke Was Wicked, Lorraine Heath – I just couldn’t get over the hero’s name to enjoy the book.  Lovingdon?  Really? I probably liked it less than it deserved, but still.
  58. The Happiest Baby on the Block, Harvey Karp – Not a fan of his writing style.  It’s very simple and repeats often.  But the info in here is GREAT.  Must borrow baby and learn to swaddle NOW.
  59. Brain Rules for Baby, John Medina – Love this book.  Medina has a humorous yet smart writing style that pulls you in, and the info in here is AMAZING, although he is fond of weird analogies.  A 100% Must if you’re going to read parenting books.
  60. Seducing Harriet, Mary Ballough – I never like Ballough’s writing, but every once in a while I convince myself I haven’t given it enough of a try, since she’s award-winning and all.  I didn’t like this one either.  I think they’re a little too old fashioned for me, and too full of angsty drama.  I go to romance novels for fun, and Ballough’s are rarely fun unless you find heartbreak fun.
  61. Minx, Julia Quinn: A re-read, because I love this book. The heroine is such a great tomboy, and I love her.  Not to mention the hero, who is kind but definitely alpha.
  62. Three Weeks with Lady X, Eloisa James: Another reread of my favorites. This is my 3rd re-read since I found it a few years ago and it doesn’t get old.  In fact, I laugh more and more about the letters they send each other every time.
  63. Fool For Love, Eloisa James: I forgot how much I just LOVE James’ work, so of course I had to continue… Another re-read.
  64. Beard In Mind, Penny Reid: I really loved this book – bonus points for a heroine with OCD. But I sometimes felt like I needed to reread all of them, since this one happens concurrently with some of the previous and I couldn’t remember the exact stuff she was alluding to.
  65. Meet Me at Willoughby Close: A pretty clean romance, all said and done, but also a great one. Sexy professor hero, a nutty rich neighbor in a manor house, a dog named Marmite, and a great single mom and daughter make this kinda magical.
  66. Positive Discipline, The First 3 Years: LOVED this book, and I’m gonna make Brian read it. It covers everything from discipline, childcare, self-care, and biting, to how to recognize disabilities and problems.

That’s it for right now. As always, happy reading!

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Winter Reading List, 2016

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I’ve felt like it’s been officially spring here for a few weeks now, but it’s now officially official as of the end of last week. The winter quarter is over, finals and all.  Which means… it is time for the Winter reading list.  It’s shorter than normal, partly because I just did this in January.  Partly because when I do a lot of my own writing, I tend to do less reading.  And partly because life has been a little crazy lately as Brian and I spend all our weekends planting out the front beds and  waging a gopher war in the back yard.  All my raised beds are lined in chicken wire now.  So there. (crossing my fingers that holds them.)

The time has come.  Here’s everything I have read since January and what I thought of it:

  • The Color of Magic, by Terry Pratchet – Oh, I don’t know. It wasn’t bad.  It felt more like it was done for funny than actually because it had a good plot arc or compelling story.  It was funny, but I quickly got impatient with Rincewind and his inane tourist.
  • Good Poems: American Places, by Garrison Keillor – Left me melancholy and nostalgic in the best way. I would recommend wholeheartedly, and I don’t like poetry usually.
  • English Fairy Tales, by Joseph Jacobs – Not what I was expecting, and not really new at all (despite author claims). Feels like the French stuff rehashed.  It was well written, but didn’t offer more than other standards in the same genre.
  • Desperate Duchesses, by Eloisa James – I enjoyed it, as I do all of James’ stuff. There’s a reason I’m on a quest to read everything she’s ever written.  The heroine in this one was a bit silly, but not as silly as some I’ve read.  And it all worked in the end to a satisfactory conclusion.
  • Aspects of the Novel, by E. M. Forster – You know, I got just as much out of the beginning of this book as ever, but got super tired of slogging through old novel excerpts in the end of it for not as much analysis as I’d like. Great for the information, but definitely work to read.
  • Pippa’s Cornish Dream, by Debbie Johnson – Meh. It was fine, but it wasn’t anything unusual.  I liked the fact that the heroine was so spunky.  I think the real reason it didn’t work for me is because I didn’t like the guy much.
  • Emily Climbs, by L. M. Montgomery – I LOVE Emily and her cats and her writing. A favorite of mine, that I’ve read more times than I can count.  It makes me feel like the writing struggle is real, and surmountable with enough work.
  • Emily’s Quest by L. M. Montgomery – Every time I read this, I am less of a mess. I mean, Emily really makes a lot of the strife she suffers for herself.  Still, it’s not an easy read, though it’s beautiful.
  • Clarkesworld Year 3 Anthology, by Neil Clarke – I mean, they’re well written with some beautiful and heartbreaking ideas. But I realized that I just am not a fan of short stories.  Oh the irony, right, as I try to write them?  I know.
  • Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman – My new favorite thing (!!!). It’s like my Deadlands game came to life and featured a super awesome heroine who sold her soul to the devil and now channels his magic to protect the territory.  Best thing EVER.  I’m sad the other 2 books aren’t out yet, because I’d get them in a heartbeat.  I can’t wait until October.

As always, happy reading!

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Summer Vacation Reads

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It’s summer, and I have been thinking about vacation.  I just got back from a lovely weekend in Oceanside, and it looks like I’ll have another trip on the horizon to Maine.  The all-important decision, of course, is what to bring to read.  I have found that by practicing careful vacation reading curation, I am left with books I’m unable to separate from the landscape.  It’s a lovely thing to have happen.

So in that spirit, I thought I’d make some recommendations.

It’s a bit of a mish-mosh, these lists.  They’re to my taste and to my whims as they stand today.  I tend to agonize over what I’m reading and pick a theme, even if it doesn’t have anything to do with where I’m traveling.  My first trip to Yosemite was steeped in Tolkien.  The Ross Lake adventure was mostly dystopia amid stark mountains and placid, cold waters.  I spent a bit of the summer in Maine at my Aunt’s house by the river, in a sunny room full of antiques, reading Jane Austen.  But if I had to pick on place alone, these are what I would recommend in this moment, depending on where you’re traveling.  It’s a little bit of heartbreak, some silly, a heap of amazing prose, and a pinch of magic to round it all out.

I also want to say that in reviewing this lists, there is not nearly enough Rainbow Rowell, nor Diana Wynne Jones here.  They didn’t seem to fit into categories very well, but you can’t go wrong in reading ANYTHING by these two.  I especially recommend starting with Dogsbody, Fire and Hemlock, or Howl’s Moving Castle with Jones though.  She has so many, it’s hard to weed-through.  Rowell’s backlist is still fairly manageable.

Happy adventuring, and happy reading!

The Beach:

  • Colony, by Anne Rivers Siddons: four generations of family secrets and betrayal on the shores of a summer colony in Maine; and the strength of the women who keep the colony intact.
  • The Moonspinners, by Mary Stewart: While on vacation in a remote part of Crete, Nicola runs into two travelers who have witnessed a murder and are being hunted by a man from the local village.
  • Lake Woebegone, Summer 1956: A coming of age novel about Gary, self-described tree toad, who writes stories about talking dogs and is somewhat obsessed with his bad-girl cousin Kate.
  • Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray: If you mashed up Lord of the Flies with the Miss America pageant, and then added a smidge of reality TV, you might get this novel.
  • The Summer I Turned Pretty, by Jenny Han: Belly is used to tagging after the boys all summer long at the beach house her mother’s best friend owns.  But now they’re all older, everything has changed, and the boys are running after Belly.  And the adults are hiding something life-changing.

Camping:

  • The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien: Bilbo is very surprised when twelve dwarves show up on his doorstep and sweep him off on an adventure containing elves, wizards, a dragon, talking ravens, and a very strange ring.
  • Always Coming Home, by Ursula K. LeGuin: An ethnography of a matriarchal culture in California that exists after the nuclear apocalypse. Weird and interesting, and just beautiful.
  • Watership Down, by Richard Adams:  Because of Fiver’s presentments of doom and destruction, a group of rabbits go on an epic journey to find a new home.
  • Chalice, by Robin McKinley: With the Demesne ravaged by misuse, and a new Master who is part fire-demon, Marisol must attempt to hold the land together with her hives of bees and her chalice, or lose everything to the men who seek to usurp them.
  • Plain Tales from the Hills, by Rudyard Kipling: A collection of short stories featuring soldiers and others in India.  Usually of the heartbreaking sort.

The City:

  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith: Francie grows in Victorian New York, struggling against gender roles and poverty to become the woman she needs to become.
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot: The strange and sometimes terrifying story of a woman whose cancer cells are used in almost all stem cell research, yet her poverty-stricken family cannot afford health insurance.
  • Hospital Sketches by Louisa May Alcott: A tale of Miss Tribulation Periwinkle and her time as a nurse in Washington during the Civil War.
  • Isla and the Happily Ever After, by Stephanie Perkins: Isla has a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh.  When they both end up friendless at the American School in Paris, it looks like something might blossom – during senior year.  Just in time for them to have to part.
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris: A hilarious collection of essays, including his life as an artist in New York, and the time he spent in France.

Road Trip:

  • Paper Towns, by John Green: Pretty, perfect Margo Roth Spiegelman climbs through Qs window one night and they go on a spree of pranking.  But then she disappears, and it looks like she’s left him clues to find her.
  • Candy Freak, by Steve Almond: About one man’s search through the candy factories of America and abroad in an effort to sate his sweet tooth, or perhaps just to ferret out the other Candy Freaks.
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman: Richard runs into a woman bleeding on the pavement one night, and finds he must help her.  He wakes up to discover that he no longer belongs to London.  He belongs to a strange world called London Below; and he must go on a perilous journey to restore the status-quo.
  • Forever Liesl by Charmian Carr: a lovely memoir not only of the making of a Hollywood starlet, but of the movie The Sound of Music and of the lives it touched across the globe.
  • Travels with Charlie In Search of America, by John Steinbeck:  Steinbeck travels America in the 1960s, with nothing but his trailer and his poodle, Charlie.  This is his beautifully written memoir of the people and attitudes he encountered along the way.
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