Eleanor and Park

Thoughts eapbyrr by Rainbow Rowell, St.Martin’s Press 2013, 335 pages

Genre: YA
Type/Source: ebook/Kindle
 Why I read this now: Needed some lighter fare.

MOTIVATION for READING: Everyone seems to be singing the praises of Rainbow Rowell and I had to find out why.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  A big redheaded girl wearing a style all her own enters the bus for the first day of school and no one will offer the spot next to them. She has nowhere to sit and the tension on the bus is agonizing. It is especially upsetting to Park, a kid who prefers not to have any attention directed his way but he also can’t stand to see anyone else humiliated, either. He gives up his half of the bench and allows her to share. They start a slow to build reluctant friendship, then a hot deep passionate love. It’s beautiful, really.

WHAT’s GOOD: Park is a dreamboat. Eleanor is complicated and her life is even more complicated. The way their relationship blossoms is very endearing.

What’s NOT so good: Oh… What can I say. I loved this but didn’t fall as head over heels as Park does for Eleanor. It was sweet. It was tragic. It was a lovely heart-breaking heart-soaring (can a heart soar? yes, I think so.) read. I liked it. Actually, having lived in Omaha, I both loved the setting references and was annoyed that I didn’t really get a sense of place til they went downtown and that is for a number of reasons:  I’ve been gone a long time and I didn’t get much knowledge of the poor areas of town when I lived there. My privilege shows.

And I couldn’t relate to many of the music and comic references. Shrug. So I wasn’t the best target audience for this; it’s still a great read.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This really captures that heightened tingling agonizing first-love sensations. Hats off to Rowell – obviously she is a writer of skill when it comes to making a reader FEEL something. (The following song, however, is not really like the book, other than the title. This song makes me cry every time.This book might make you cry.)

RATING: Three slices of pie. Pumpkin pie!

Risalamande is rice pudding.

“It’s a traditional Danish Christmas dessert, Eleanor thought. My grandmother made it, and her grandmother made it, and it’s better than pumpkin pie. It’s special.”

 

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Classics Club Spin #14

And the SPIN NUMBER IS…  numone
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Here are my 20 books in anticipation of the soon to be announced CLASSICS SPIN:

On Monday, the powers that run the Club will pick a number. I will read the book that falls at that number in this list:

1. West with the Night – Beryl

2. A Handful of Dust – Waugh

3. The World According to Garp – Irving!

4. The Ox-Bow Incident

5. Jude the Obscure – Hardy (have in house, hardback)

6. Candide – Voltaire

7. Stoner – John Wms

8. The Double Helix – Watson (currently in the house, from library)

9. The King Must Die – Mary Renault

10. One Fine Day – MPD

11. Charlotte Sometimes – Penelope Farmer

12. The Hunter – Parker

13. Cold Comfort Farm – Gibbons

14. Love in a Fallen City – Chang

15. Love in a Cold Climate – Mitford

16. The Dud Avocado – Dundy

17. Twelve Years a Slave – Northup

18. Gravity’s Rainbow – Pynchon

19. Orlando – Woolf (currently in my Audible tbl, and eBook!)

20. The Bird’s Nest – Shirley Jackson

Are you playing?

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Shrill

Thoughts sbylwnbylw by Lindy West, Hachette Audiobook 2016, 6 hours 9 minutes

Narrated by the author.

Genre: Memoir, Feminism
Type/Source: Audiobook/Audible
 Why I read this now: I wanted a short ‘something-different’ to follow Germinal. It was a perfect choice.

MOTIVATION for READING:  I had heard this was a fabulous ‘author narration’ and I wanted to try it out.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: These are fantastic essays on some big issues in our culture. Ms. West is helping make the world a little better, by speaking her mind and doing it so eloquently and succinctly. She is doing it FOR other women and is bravely wading in through the murky nasty waters of where the trolls live:  the internet. Actually, that isn’t accurate. She is doing her work – the work she has a right to be working – and it seems to be that trolls really dislike it. She isn’t inviting it or showing up there on a purpose of being where the trolls are, I mean. Where ever ‘there’ is, if you understand. I admire her wit and her ability to put these powerful words together and daring to shout them out loud.

I admire her very very much.

If there is any one thing that was frustrating, it was that I just don’t know all the names she mentions. It’s not like she shows off who she knows, per se, but that I just don’t have a clue who some (cough, a LOT) of people she talks about, mostly comedians — that is all on me because I can be pretty clueless about celebrities. To be honest, I really didn’t know who ‘Lindy West’ was before seeing everyone chat this up in the bookterwebs. Interestingly, I *did* know about the writer who dealt with a troll for an npr segment but I just hadn’t remembered that writer was Lindy West. I know I will never forget her now.

RATING:  Five slices of pie. She mentions pie in her book, bless her heart.

For one of Shannon’s Read This Watch That pairings with this book, read her post at River City Reading.

 

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Copyright © 2007-2016. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Germinal

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Thoughts gbyezby Émile Zola, eKindle Penguin Classics 2004 (orig 1885), 596 pages

Translation by Roger Pearson (and Notes and Introduction¹).

Audiobook gabnbylp Naxos Audio 2015, 19 hours 55 minutes, narrated by Leighton Pugh. (No translation information provided.)

Lots of good stuff on Twitter, see hashtag #GerminalAlong. Good times talking about horrible times in the mining regions of France in the 1860s.

I found three pie mentions:
p.89 “Just you wait, you dirty little scamp. I’ll teach you to make mud-pies indeed!”

p.127 “… so to he had come to recognize them, the way one recognizes amorous magpies disporting in the pear trees in the garden.”²

p.171 “…You know it’s all pie in the sky³…”

I also consider these a cousin of pie – it’s a pastry filled with goodness, so it counts.

volauvent<– a vol-au-vent.

Zola amazes me. I’ve read Thérèse Raquin and was blown away by the grit and darkness, the skill in the story-telling, the audacity to write it in the first place. [My review of that here.] It doesn’t do much to inspire a love for much of humanity – he skewers everyone; but it is a reminder that literature is art. Germinal solidifies my understanding of the ‘naturalism literary movement’. Oh I wish I had majored in literature in college. Maybe I’ll go back when I retire.

Germinal couldn’t sound more boring and yet it is so alive! He makes history touchable / “feel-able” / real and I see why he is and was held in high regard. Skip it if you aren’t in the least bit curious, definitely read it if you want to experience history in all its grittiness and be transported to another place and time. Zola manages to capture so many motivations and is incisive yet gentle with all. Brilliant.

Rating:  Five slices of pie.

BIG SHOUT OUT to all my readalongers!  Especially Top Host Melissa (here’s her review).

 

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1 – I didn’t read the Notes and I read the Intro after, as recommended.

2 – Unverified internet research has told me that the word magpie came before ‘pie’ and may have influenced what we call these pastries. See here.

³ – I found a Slate magazine article explaining the phrase ‘pie in the sky’: … coined by a champion of the American proletariat. “Pie in the sky” comes from an early 20th-century folk song written by labor activist Joe Hill, aka Joe Hillstrom, a legendary member of the Industrial Workers of the World.

 

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A Land More Kind Than Home

Thoughts almkthbywc by Wiley Cash, William Morrow – Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers 2012, 309 pages

Genre: Southern Lit
Type/Source: Tradeback / Library (Book Club Set)
 Why I read this now: Club discussion on Oct 6

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  Carson Chambliss is the leader of a church up in the sparsely populated Appalachian Mountain region of North Carolina. His ministry is focused on faith-signs; which means that he believes that if you have faith enough, you can withstand fire and poisonous snake bites. One of his congregants however, does not quite trust his methods and to compromise, she holds Sunday School classes for the children so that they don’t have to witness the insanity. She tells one side of the story, as does one of the children:  nine year old Jess. The third viewpoint is from the Sheriff. The plot focuses on an event involving Jess’ older brother who is mute and what happens when the church decides to hold a healing for him. It ends badly.

“The book is a thriller, but it’s so beautifully written that you’ll be torn about how fast to read it. This is great, gothic Southern fiction filled with whiskey, guns and snake-handling.” – NPR

WHAT’s GOOD: 
The writing is spectacular. It felt so real. Even as I did question if Jess had a true balance of being naïve or wise (I’m still not sure), he was a great kid and I wanted to rush in and help him sort it all out but devastated knowing there was nothing I could do. I thought how the adults treated him was spot on. I really loved Adelaide’s back story but she frustrated me and I wanted to know much more about the Clem Barefield, the sheriff.

“A beautifully written morality tale.” – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

What’s NOT so good:  I wanted just a little more! A little more into Clem’s grief, perhaps, but also, I should recant and recognize that I think it might just be perfect. The holding back of just enough keeps the reader wondering and engaged.

FINAL THOUGHTS: What is revealed is subtle in that regard and yes, it might be almost perfect that we didn’t get the ‘more’. Pacing and plotting of what happens is SO GOOD and the switch in viewpoints was executed very well – the story was well structured. For such heavy stuff, the writer seemed to have a light touch. He is very talented and I will read his latest, This Dark Road to Mercy.

RATING:   Four moon pies. Can’t slice a moon pie, right!?

“I sat there in the car with the gravel dust blowing across the parking lot and saw the place for what was, not what it was right at that moment in the hot sunlight, but for what it had been maybe twelve or fifteen years before: a real general store with folks gathered around the lunch counter, a line of people at the soda fountain, little children ordering ice cream of just about every flavor you could think of hard candy by the quarter pound, moon pies and cracker jack and other things I hadn’t thought about tasting in years.”

 

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Copyright © 2007-2016. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Murder Must Advertise

Thoughts mmabyds by Dorothy Sayers, Harper & Brothers 1933, 344 pages

Challenge: Classics Club 50
Genre: Murder Mystery
Type/Source: Hardback / Library
 Why I read this now:  I think because it felt like a good companion read to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Maybe.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: I think I’ll share the official blurb from goodreads. Oh – do know if you don’t already, the book cover above links to goodreads.com…

When advertising executive Victor Dean dies from a fall down the stairs at Pym’s Publicity, Lord Peter Wimsey is asked to investigate. It seems that, before he died, Dean had begun a letter to Mr. Pym suggesting some very unethical dealings at the posh London ad agency. Wimsey goes undercover and discovers that Dean was part of the fast crowd at Pym’s, a group taken to partying and doing drugs. Wimsey and his brother-in-law, Chief-Inspector Parker, rush to discover who is running London’s cocaine trade and how Pym’s fits into the picture–all before Wimsey’s cover is blown.

WHAT’s GOOD:  The energy, the cleverness, the humor. The dashing always amiable and capable Lord Wimsey. The setting of London and the descriptions of what life was like after World War I but before the Great Depression. It’s quite daring and had much to reflect on for how times are now as well as consideration of what is different in law enforcement these days compared to then. But who knew ‘drugs’ were so ‘bad’ then – if felt very modern.

p.78 “Everybody is picking up the body and exclaiming over it, when in walks our friend, innocently, from the lav. It’s as simple as pie.”

What’s NOT so good: I do think this wasn’t the best book FOR ME to be introduced to Lord Wimsey – I knew nothing other than he is beloved. I wish I had more background to his ‘story’ and that is my fault because I generally eschew ‘knowing too much’. I also have trouble relating to the ‘charm’ if you will of the class system in England as humor. (I have trouble with PG Wodehouse, too – just don’t think his madcap hilarity is all that funny.)

FINAL THOUGHTS:  It was a fun read and I thought I knew whodunit but didn’t really, it was almost like the big reveal was a slow realization that you doubt than wonder why – it was all spelled out, really. I guess that means that I thought it fell flat at the end but really, I did enjoy my time with this book and could be talked into having a bit of a crush on Wimsey – he is a charmer.

RATING: Three slices of  GOOSEBERRY pie.

Another “simple as pie” and a humble pie; quite a few lobster mentions, too.

p.84 “She thinks I’m the world’s eighth wonder. Absolutely the lobster’s dress-shirt.”

 

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Copyright © 2007-2016. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

And Then There Were None

Thoughts attwnbyac by Agatha Christie, Harper 2011 (orig 1939), 300 pages

Challenge: Classics Club 50 in 5 Years (I’m in Year 2)
Genre: Mystery Thriller
Type/Source: Paperback / Used Bookstore
Why I read this now: The itch to read a mystery and get back to my classics list lead me to search for it at my local used bookstore and I found it.

MOTIVATION for READING: I purchased three books at the bookstore and put it up for a vote a few posts ago. I started reading March before all the votes were in and Agatha was enthusiastically cheered for as my next book. I read it in one day. I didn’t think it would be that short and fast!

WHAT’s it ABOUT: Ten people are invited to an island for ‘holiday’ but the hosts are no-shows. Then someone dies! And another and another. They realize that the murderer must be one of them. Search parties, alliances and trust-not-trust dilemmas only add to the confusion. Guests keep dying! and finally, they are ALL dead. WHO was the culprit?

WHAT’s GOOD:  Very clever, very suspenseful, interesting back-stories and motives.

What’s NOT so good: I just am not that thrilled anymore about these kinds of books — I did have that dejavu feeling and I KNOW I did read it in High School or even Middle School — but I loved that this was short and easy/fast to read.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I’m glad of the ‘explanation’ letter in a bottle but sad that the last death had to happen. I was cheering for that person. It’s not that I figured out or remembered who it was but that it all felt familiar and not that startling once revealed. Still a fun whodunit, for sure.

RATING: Three slices of pie. No pie mentioned. Plenty of tinned tongue, though. Ew…

tonguetin

 

VOCAB
p. 41 – cairngorm – “…, she pinned a cairngorm brooch at her neck,” – another term for smoky quartz

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Copyright © 2007-2016. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Suggestions for a Book Club, Again

I love to recommend books and sometimes I know I hit home runs. I once casually suggested to a friend that she might enjoy The Count of Monte Cristo;

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and she did. She didn’t just love it, she told EVERYONE (via Facebook). THAT was a stunning success, in my mind.

So, when my lovely wonderful book club [that I moved away from when we decided to live in North Carolina] still has me on the docket to choose a book one month a year, I take it seriously.

The last time, I sug’d some lovely fiction choices and they chose HEFT by Liz Moore. I highly recommend the post about the books if you click on this link HERE. There, I include other links to sway you. Here’s hoping that you also decide to read ALL of these titles and thus enjoy.

Now, I get to do it again: Care’s BOOK CLUB FIVE.

Let’s start, shall we?

  1. March marchbygb by Geraldine Brooks. Pub’d in 2005, ~300 pages. I was first introduced to Ms. Brooks when I read A Year of Wonders for a (KCMO or Omaha?) book club long long ago. I loved it! So it is rather intriguing that it has taken me so long to get to this. I have had it on my tbr forever, it seems. Here’s a very compelling review from a prolific reader I follow on gr — she has amazing book taste and reviews with polish. What is fascinating to me is that some readers have found that March RUINS their memory and fondness for Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I barely remember Little Women but I know I read it. And the four sisters are cultural icons so even if you haven’t read the book, you usually know of Meg and Jo and Amy and Beth and maybe also that it is set in Concord Mass. Maybe; me for sure! Just like I know about Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights even though I don’t remember if I actually read them – I know what they are about. [And yes, not being a re-reader much, I hesitate picking these up because I hate that deja vu feeling of thinking, “I have read this already…” It bothers me, I’m sorry.] _________________________________________________
  2. The Library at Mount Char tlamcbysh by Scott Hawkins. 2015, ~400 pages. Suggesting this because it is SO DIFFERENT! and an unlikely choice for most of the clubbers, methinks. Could be fun. I would say the three things it has going for it are: kickass-female-protagonist, set in a library woo hoo!, and a wild fast read. My review is here and if you don’t already realize, book covers on this page all link to respective blurbs in goodreads. __________________________________________________
  3. Crossing to Safety ctsbyws by Wallace Stegner. 1987, 350+ pages. Just a really good, really well-written, insightful book. I think many of my clubbers would appreciate this. My review is here. ___________________________________________________
  4. A Land More Kind Than Home almkthbywc by Wiley Cash. 2012, ~300 pages. This is the only book in this edition of Care’s Five that I have yet to read. One of my book clubs will be discussing this the first week of October so if chosen, we’ll ALL be reading it and that is always fun. Set in NC, “a haunting tale of courage in the face of cruelty and the power of love to overcome the darkness that lives in us all.”  <– so says the goodreads blurb which can be accessed by clicking on the book cover. __________________________________________________
  5. State of Wonder sowbyap by Ann Patchett. 2011, ~350 pages. A book I didn’t think I wanted to read but now am so glad I did — Hope Davis narrates the audiobook. It has tons of discussables; fertility, medical ethics, women in science. My review is here. I also present a video of the author explaining a bit about the book:  [Pssst – AP is my list of favorite authors…]

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I almost suggested Zola’s Germinal – our September Twitter Readalong – join us! #GerminalAlong

 

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The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

Thoughts taaokacbymc by Michael Chabon, Picador 2000, 639 pages

Narrated by David Colacci audiomcdc 26 hours, 20 minutes

Challenge: Pulitzer Reading Challenge (unofficial)

I’m just going to ramble and don’t feel like following my usual review template. This is one of those books that fell into my life without me remembering how and why or who recommended. I am sure that I read somewhere about it winning the Pulitzer and I am aware the Mr. Chabon is married to author Ayelet Waldman. I haven’t read anything by her, either, though I follow her on Twitter. I really do think her first name is cool. And that’s all I know. Wait! I do know that Chabon wrote Wonder Boys and I liked the movie, I think. Maybe it is really just an admission that my memory is not what it should be!

Kavalier and Clay are comics writers. They were instrumental in the first heady days of the comic book industry of the late 1930s and early 40s. Do I read comic books? No. Do I read graphic novels? No, but I always put the ones everybody talks about on my tbr but I never seem to get to them.

(I do know who Stan Lee is. I do watch The Big Bang Theory.) It could be said that there is a lot to geek out about in this book if you were such a person who geeks out about literature and comics and magic and…  lots of stuff.

Would I have read this book if I had known it was about the comic book industry?! I think I wouldn’t have. I do not remember how I came to be in possession of a print copy nor how/why I also secured the audiobook. Oh well. Committed, I shall be.

I was not disappointed. I really did enjoy reading about Sam Clay and his cousin from Prague, Mr. Joe Kavalier. But especially Rosy and Tommy. The descriptions of NYC; the life and times in that city were fascinating. The city and maybe the Empire State Building could be considered characters. The book is sprawling and epic, back and forth in time somewhat (early days for both Sam and Clay) and I, as a reader, became invested in their goals, dreams, and struggles.

I am pretty sure I wanted to read this because it won the Pulitzer and though I am not obsessed with trying to read every winner, I seem to add them to my tbr and they seem to show up on my ‘read me next’ stack. Perhaps it best not to analyze too much.  I read two this month with little thought about it – “Oh yea, that won the Pulitzer. Huh.”

I learned a  lot about comics, I learned about about Judaism. I came to really appreciate Chabon’s skillful writing. Definitely has humor and amusement to balance against the sad crap of life situations and nastiness of war and the Holocaust. and OMIGOODNESS! The obvious research depth and wonderful creativity! Yowza POW!

I did not, however, find the narration to be as excellent at the story. I didn’t like the voice for Joe Kavalier. Too Dracula-sounding. But I will give credit that he did quite good with Rosy and Tommy and it was easy to tell the differences between characters. I just did NOT like Joe’s voice. At all. I listened to most of the book but ended up reading the last 100 pages.

May I point you to a fabulous review of this novel that really has much more insight? I present –> LitLove’s Tales from the Reading Room <–

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SPOILERY QUESTIONS FOLLOW  – READ ON AT YOUR OWN RISK!  PLEASE CONTINUE if YOU *HAVE* READ THIS BOOK!

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Do you think Sam makes good in Hollywood? Do you think Joe ended up publishing his Golem story at his new company? Does Rosy continue HER career? Did you buy that the casket with the delivered Golem was so very very heavy and all it had inside was ‘soft silted dirt’? or did I read/hear that wrong? Would you read a sequel? Do you think a sequel is necessary (I do not. I just wonder about the answers to my questions; probably not best that the author attempt to answer them…) What do you think of the portrayal of women in this novel? Don’t you think if you were Stan Lee you would THRILLED to all HECK to be mentioned in a book that won the Pulitzer?!

 

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RATING: Four slices of pie.  I don’t think I caught any pie mentions.

fourpie

 

 

 

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March

Thoughts marchbygb by Geraldine Brooks, Penguin Books 2006 (orig 2004), 288 pages

Challenge: What’s in a Name Challenge, Month category wian2016
Genre: Fanfiction
Type/Source: Tradeback/Used Bookstore
 Why I read this now:  To finish up the challenge.

MOTIVATION for READING: I have been interested in this because it explores a missing element or side story to Louisa May Alcott’s classic, Little Women. This won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize. I have enjoyed two books by this author: A Year of Wonders 2001 and People of the Book 2008.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: This explores what happens to the father who goes off to the Civil War leaving his wife and four daughters back home in Concord Mass. I found him to be a very interesting and sympathetic character.

When he first enlisted, March was an idealistic man. He knew, above all else, that fighting this war for the Union cause was right and just. But he had not expected he would begin a journey through hell on earth, where the lines between right and wrong, good and evil, were too often blurred.   – from the Intro

WHAT’s GOOD: I thought it felt extremely authentic and inventive. The language used, descriptions of war and the issues surrounding slavery, the morality questioned made this an excellent experience. The two part structure – first we are given Mr. March’s side of events and in the second, we find out what Mrs. March REALLY thinks and how different her views were from her husband’s impressions was fascinating and lent an interesting light to the subtle difficulties of communication between husband and wife.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I am so more motivated to reread Little Women. I would love to have face-to-face discussions  about what some have mentioned that this ‘ruins Little Women‘ or violates the saintly image of Father. I thought he came across as vibrantly human and admirable in his attempts to be true.

RATING: Five slices of pie.

“Kindly Mr. Brooke had bought me a pie, which he had kept warmed by the fire, and I ate it gratefully,…”  p.249

Coinky-dink Book Link to Big Magic: “We do not have ideas. The idea has us . . . and drives us into the arena to fight for it like gladiators, who combat whether they will or no.”

Also, having read The Good Lord Bird, I enjoyed having another literary view of John Brown, Abolitionist. Just click on the title I just mentioned to read my review of that National Book Winner.

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