Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Nasty WomenNasty Women by 404 Ink
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The world is a dangerous place right now, but not as dangerous as a nasty woman with a pen in her hand and story to tell. These voices telling our truths cannot be shaken and they certainly will not be drowned out any more. Why fear us when you can join us?

This collection of essays blew me away. As a newly christened feminist, I was looking around for some empowering literature that could empower me through the voices of the women fighting against sexism, racism, homophobia, ableism, etc. Coming out of this reading experience, I’ve discovered some kick-a*s role models who are champions in the movement. I feel more passion, more spark than I have in what seems a very long time, but is just months since the November election.

Every single one of these essays are on an important topic, and a majority of them were successfully were intersectional. We have imperfect feminists that have mental illnesses, drug addicts, and people who’ve fuc*ed up. We have proud daughters of immigrants, who describe the struggles of their parents giving them a better life.

“I shake in terror for them and with them and I cannot decide what is scarier: that Drumpf is president or that people I know and love enabled him.”

As with any collection, there are weaker ones and ones that you absolutely loved because it related and resonated with you as a women. My favorite one was actually the first one, which is hella political and truly packs a punch from which I am sure that I will reread over and over again.

Firsthand experience, first person POV is essential for making these people who are writing these essays connect to their audience of readers. A successful piece of writing makes the reader feel empathy and want to do something about the injustice that is being spread. So many pieces did that to me, quotes that stuck with me and resonated deep within myself. This book made me confront my own racist behavior and thinking that was harmful and horrible, and so for that I will be forever grateful for that.

This isn’t sugarcoating “comfortable” feminist stories, it’s raw, painful, sorrowful, passionate, personal and more than that. It opens your eyes to example of microaggressions that black women experience, it talks about survivors of sexual assault and rape (trigger warnings). But walking away you feel like you learned something valuable.

****Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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Geekerella: A Fangirl Fairy TaleGeekerella: A Fangirl Fairy Tale by Ashley Poston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a magical Cinderella retelling, with wicked stepmothers, bratty stepsisters, a pumpkin that serves as transportation, and even losing a plastic slipper. A die hard Starbound fan, her father the creator of ExcelsiCon is going to give everyone that she has to win a cosplay event to get the tickets and transportation to Atlanta, where this is hosted.

“I'm half of my father. Half of my hero. And I am half of my mother. Half soft sighs and half sharp edges. And if they can be Carmindor and Amara--then somewhere in my blood and bones I can be too. I'm the lost princess. I'm the villain of my story, and the hero. Part of my mom and part of my dad. I am a fact of the universe. The Possible and the Impossible. I am not no one. I am my parents' daughter, and then I realize--I realize that in this universe they're alive too. They're alive through me. Fashioning my hands into a pistol, I point it at the ceiling, lifting my chin, raising my eyes against the blinding stage lights, and I ignite the stars.”

A perfect description of who Elle is. If you are at all familiar with the popculture and story of Cinderella, you would know that she’s an orphan. Here the author can spin that element of her personality, and shine her dead parents’ character through it. The way that Poston describes stars and the night sky blows my mind. There’s an element of pure wonder, coming from both of your narrators that make the readers feel as if they’re staring at the night sky right then. If you love romance that feature enemies-to-lover, anonymous text messages, and cons, than this is the book for you.

“I know fans are the worst sometimes. The best, but also the worst. And you are a fan. So you’re going to be the worst to yourself. You’re going to judge yourself the harshest.”

I adore seeing fangirls and fanboys active within the fandom be represented in YA novels. All throughout this story, I felt like I could really relate to Elle’s obsessions and her determined fangirl girl that shines through against all odds. Also, I really enjoy taking a deep dive into teenager celebrities lives, and what it’s like for them to be new on the scene of Hollywood. Darien, our Carmindor, is the most beloved character of the show that he’s watched since he was seven.

The author isn’t afraid to explore the dark side of fandom, the fans that go too far and ruthlessly criticize newer reruns that are happening. The author includes diverse characters, like Elle’s best friend is gay and Darien is Indian I believe. Elle is such an adorable geek, such an adorable nerd, and I loved her all the more for it. There’s nothing that she wouldn’t do for her fandom and for the show that got her through her childhood, even through her stepmother’s opposition.

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Most Dangerous Place on EarthThe Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

We start out in the eighth grade and then skip towards senior year, where there are many alternating POC that are struggling high school students, naive and fresh to the adult world. In my mind, our narrator is Molly, an English high school teacher who observes her students maybe too closely, Calista (Cally) is a hippie teenager who was transformed after a suicide that she and her fellow classmates were complicit in, Nick a kind of "bad boy" who is a wild-child, Emma a fabulous dancer and parties all weekend, and Dave the serious student who strives for to meet his parents expectations.

Starting out with these character types, you might be skeptical, as I have been with these stereotypes card-board cutout descriptions, but I feel like there is a deep emotional connection that can be formed with each of these characters, especially since I am in the teenage group. The deep themes in this book transcends all ages, including topics such as love, heartbreak, sorrow, passion, loss, and more.

Another thing is some deep character study, of flaws and powerful strengths. The author explores teenager all across the spectrum of what's expected of them and the separation or "popular' and "unpopular" and stereotypes of "goody little two shoes" and "bad boys". The author has a talent for writing this type of thing in a slow and subtle way. Don't expect some shocking plot twists or high-stakes games, it was a consistent look at the humanity and various phases that teenagers go through, and how they're trying to fit themselves in the "adult" world.

My only qualms with this is that sometimes it over-dramatizes the situations that can happen in high school. It seems that the author like to take the worst possible instances and blows them up by their characters and teachers reaction. At times, I felt like there was some unrealistic portrayal or how the daily life in high school actually is-hint: for me it was boring and quiet-. Although I know that the relatability depends on your personal high school experience, but I felt like sometimes the author overdid it, or over-reached.

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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Sunday, March 26, 2017

More of MeMore of Me by Kathryn Evans
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

"I have grown in strength inside her. Filled her cells with mine until we must split apart. It's not my choice - that's how it's always been for us."

This was pitched to me as a 16-yo girl who replicates herself every year, therefore has many living selves locked up in her house while trying to live a normal high school life. Instantly, it piqued my interest and I was deeply intrigued; I thought about the possibility of exploration the psychological and mental aspect that this have to had taken with these girls at home.

First of all, I could describe the execution as a poor slug machine. Instead of showing us the depth of this supposed disorder, we get swept up in petty boy drama (with my hated "bad boy" trope which is eww), and best friend fights. Our MC Teva is sch a selfish brat that I couldn't stand for even one second, if I'm completely honest.

Teva's an immature sixteen year old who never things about anyone else's feelings (esp. her multiple sisters) and acts so self-absorbed in this mission to "save" her current self. Seriously, I thought that she needs to grow up and even at some points I was wishing for her to finally be transformed into her "new self"; to finally stop whining, complaining, and self-loathing.

Problem is, most of this confusion, most of this drama could be cleared up with an honest conversation with the family members. This whole dragged-out drawn-out plot was completely unnecessary addition to this plotline, which I could not enjoy.

****Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

EleanorEleanor by Jason Gurley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Most souls wait for a very long time. In the end, the peace they seek is usually within themselves, not within the confines of the world they left.”

A lyrical and ethereal story, telling the tale of what happens to a family who is falling apart because of the death of beloved daughter, Esmeralda. Every thread that's held them together starts pulling after the tragic accident that has Esme thrown against the rear window, glass in her hair, not ever going to open her eyes again. Her twin sister, goes on a journey tinged with magical realism and manipulation of time, to a unknown place called the "rift".

“And it is miserable to think that this is what adulthood is like: two people, cowering behind their grief, lashing out at each other like injured animals.”

Her mother and father have separated because they couldn't handle the pressure after the incident. Their grief is raw, toxic, and the exploration how this can affect and change us as human beings was a fascinating thing to watch progress. How her mother has anger issues and is addicted to alcohol, and yet is still loved by Eleanor despite everything that she has done.

“This is how the darkness is. It knows nothing else. It fills crevices, pushing into the finest, narrowest corners, ascribing no meaning to the events that it carries, but birthing and then swallowing them again as they expire.”

I found that there are lots of parallels to Eleanor's namesake, her grandmother Eleanor, who supposedly went for a swim on a wet foggy day and never came back. There's always a little bit of darkness lurking at the edges of every page, or every life situation that these ladies encounter with. I would say that this book mainly highlights the mother-daughter relationships that are messy and ugly but so real. I can only applaud Gurley for showing these twisty paths to one's earth, because that's so hard to do in an intricate nuanced way like was done here.

“Time is a river, and it flows in a circle."

If you like things with manipulating time or changing the timeline of events, this is definitively the book for you to explore. There is tons of contemplation about what time is, how we many times wish desperately change it. Eleanor, her father and mother have to face that is a span of time, they've lost so many things. I especially feel sympathetic to her father, who although he's far from perfect, at some time has lost his whole entire family and doesn't know how to navigate this element called "time."

The ending left me with more questions than answers, and so in my opinion that was one of the only unsatisfactory part of the book. Without going into any spoilers, I was very confused in what way this "thing" would work and if would give the intended "happy ending" that was desired with doing this act. I just wish it could have been more closed-off, instead of the author leaving it so open ended.

****Thanks to bloggingforbooks and the publisher for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Sing, Unburied, SingSing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a powerful voice in literary fiction and painfully raw story of a 13-year black boy, Jojo, who is shouldering the supernatural and adult world simultaneously, in other words has too much food on his plate. The writing is exquisitely crafted, like every word of every story is ready to pack an emotional punch.

Sometimes, the world don't give you what you need, no matter how hard you look. Sometimes, it withholds.

After his Leonie (his mother) becomes absent too often because she's out snorting pills, Jojo becomes a surrogate parent for his three year old sister, Kayla. His father is stuck in the Mississippi prison, also an absent figure from their lives. He learns about the discrimination of the black people in his family and ghosts that are around him, but he learns profound lessons that impact his worldview and how he perceives other people portrayal of him.

Living at their grandparent's farm in the deep South on the Gulf of Mississippi, Jojo learns a lot about how to be a black man, and hears stories of Pop's unfortunate stay in Parchman, the Mississippi Prison that haunt both of them in different ways. Ward is absolutely at the top of her writing game, this writing was the most lyrical piece of work that I've read in a long time; this may remain as on the top of my favorite list this year. This story is dark, so trigger warnings for abuse and violence.

She explores deep and complicated issues like abuse, race, incarceration, drug use, privilege and poverty, with the lens of balancing multiples POVs that are essentially interconnected to a car trip to get Jojo's father, Michael when he was released from prison. A lot of painfully sad things happen to Jojo and his sister Kayla, and so the author was able to create an opening for the empathy and sympathy that I deeply felt for these characters. The ability that Ward has to get to the very soul, the core of every core is so enlightening and excellent that closing this book felt like losing their essence.

I didn't understand time either, when I was young. How could I know that after I died, Parchman would pull me from the sky? How could I imagine Parchman would pull me to it and refuse to let go? And how could I conceive that Parchman was past, present and future all at once? That the history and sentiment that carved the place out of the wilderness would show me that time is a vast ocean and that everything is happening at once?

Interweaved throughout this story are the hidden stories of ghosts and the injustices in their past life. In that way, there is a prevalent is magical realism. There is lots of contemplation about the idea of home, what that means to each individual, and 'does the truth set you free?' We all know that life is messy; that why I'm a fan of untidy ending and this wraps up one perfect breath of a novel.

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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Spaceman of BohemiaSpaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

[Actual rating: 3.75]

Time was not a line, but an awareness. I was no longer a body, but a series of pieces whistling as they bonded. I felt every cell within me. I could count them, name them, kill them, and resurrect them. Within the core, I was a tower made of fossil fragments. I could be disassembled and reassembled.

Fundamentally, this book seems like a journey of self-reflection and what solitude means for looking inside herself. Jakub Procházka is the first Czech astronaut, and travels to the dangerous place of Venus to collect sample for his scientists colleagues. There he spends lots of time in contemplation over the cracks in his marriage with his wife Lenka who he left behind for his own dreams and ambitions. How could he be so far, both literally and figuratively, from the closeness and devotion that they used to share?

While there, he meets poisonous alien spider,Hanuš, who may or may not be real. Because of his solitude they become fast friends and bond over conversational topics. While this is going on, Jakub notices that his wife is becoming more distant, and one day she completely disappears from a phone appointment. Shocked, Jakub steels himself into depression and falls into really poor self-care routines.

After some wacko experiences that he has literally floating in the universe and ends up in Russian spaceship of all thing. He was a child of the Velvet Revolution, orphaned and raised in the countryside by his parents. Always trying to run away and escape his past, always trying to be a better man than his father was, yet something pulling him back into the orbit of the past.

But one has to ask: why do the big things at such a high cost? I chose the quiet life. I like the idea of being recognized by my field and no one else. This way I have a purpose, one I believe in, but I'm not burdened by the constant idea of putting on a public image, a view of myself the masses can accept.

This inner struggle is characterized as the push and pull between having a public life with adoration from the crowds, or from deciding to retire to a quiet life that's under the radar. It's a common thread that goes throughout the entirety of the novel.

The only thing is, in my personal taste, I've noticed that me and space novels don't mesh well together. There's a lot psychological and character study, that isn't necessary exciting to the plot but instead drags it along. I've never been in a romantic relationship, so I tend to stay away from those entangled marriage studies, because I find they melodramatic and overly boring. Existential crisis and second chance are mixed into this pie, so there's a lot of living inside Jakub's messy brain, which is what makes this journey beautifully real.

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

HimselfHimself by Jess Kidd

[Rating: 4.25]

A crime novel that reads like a spooky fairytale... with one of the most unforgettable characters that I've read in a long time. A village with many dark secrets... lurking just around the corner make for luscious storytelling.

Going into this book, I got extremely startled by the intensity and graphic violence of the prologue, where we witness a scene of death that is a leading force in this "investigation." After that cold splash of water woke me up, I was again surprised by our MC, Mahoney's "magical" ability in the supernatural world. Every chapter, long or short, kept on adding layers to the mystery that aired in this quaint village in Ireland (aka Mulderrig)

This book was darkly atmospheric, with the unknown woods as the main setting where things went down. It has a very whimsical and charming feeling in some parts, yet there is always a dark corner of the world lurking beneath the surface. Kidd really knows how to reel you into this Grimms-like fairytale but that doesn't make it seem completely unreal, more like a bonkers dream that you have when you're asleep.

By all means my favorite character was the "grandmotherly" figure in this story, or the guiding hand shall I say, Mrs.Cauley. She was a comical relief that was sorely needed, and lived in a room with books literally stocked with piles of books from the floor to the ceiling, so that it was hard to get to her bed. She's fierce and determined investigator that absolutely won't give up until the truth is revealed.

My only complaint was that the "bad villainous" characters seemed like a stereotypical mold/character type that didn't strike me as well-developed enough. The "good" people were well-developed, in a way that felt like they could be my neighbor. Other than that, this debut is a dazzling original with refreshing lyrical, poetic, and touching prose that will stay with me for a long time.

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with arc in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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Monday, March 13, 2017

Queens of GeekQueens of Geek by Jen Wilde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is everything that I could have wanted from a geeky book which featured LGBT+ rep., racial diversity, and incorporated pop-culture aspects (like SupaCon-which is similar to ComicCon). I laughed out loud dozens or times, bawled my eyes out at other times, but overall it was a spectacular reading experience where my eyeballs stayed connected to the book and I couldn't put it down or notice my surrounding until I finished my one-sitting runthrough.

In this story we follow the mega-million YouTuber, Charlie, our Chinese bisexual MC who gets invited to attend this convention to showcase her new movie that came out. Along the way she has an opportunity to bring her two best friends, also complete geeks at heart who are coming all the way from Australia and the biggest fangirls at my heart.

Although yes, I did find one relationship in this book a bit insta-lovey, I also feel like I could brush past that to get to the awkward adorable romantic drama that went on every page in this story. It's a lighter fluffy romance, which makes you want to make puppy eyes and swoon at every page. Not to downgrade the enormous value here; there were some heavy conversations with communications boundaries set up that were necessary to the development of the romantic subplot.

The intersectional feminism in this book was absolutely on pointe in my opinion. There was girls supporting girls, strong female friendships, girls who stand up for eachother in the acting industry, and an f/f romance. Sexism, racism, homophobia were directly addressed in the text which happens so rarely that when it does, it really jumps out at you. Most of the characters in this book were a diverse cast of... girls, my favorite thing to be a focal point in YA contemporary romance.

Also, there was a character with anxiety and autism-spectrum represented on page! And there was a bisexual MC who discussed biphobia and other issues with the public's perception of her sexuality on page! Which is all it takes to have me stand up and say "I'm sold!"

**Thanks to NetGalley the publisher for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Journey Across the Hidden IslandsJourney Across the Hidden Islands by Sarah Beth Durst

A magnificent portrayal of a realistic coming-of-age story, made me have faith in humanity at some point in this story.

We follow a set of twins,Princess Ji-Lin and the royal heir Seika who must go on a perilous "Emperor's Journey" to talk to a dragon who protects their residence, Hidden Islands, via a barrier with the outside world and effectively protecting them from the outside world. Until now, when then face unprecedented threats and the sisters must make a final decision that will change the history of their beloved islands.

I don't read many middle-grade novels, they're not usually in my wheelhouse but I really felt like I could connect to these characters and could grasp the simplistic fantasy world of the Hidden Islands. There were delightful pet companions, a flying lion in this case that warmed the story with his humor and dedication to the bond between him and Ji-Lin.

As always there are frustrations when children that are extremely inexperienced and unprepared make stupid choices, but I actually feel like these princesses were humble enough to accept their shameful decisions and learn from their mistakes. Still, they journeyed way too young (out of necessity) and you could visibly see how sorely unprepared they were, but at least they could realize this and not hide from it with pride.

I could also admire their vast determination to "make things right" and keep their villagers as safe and happy as possible. For two twelve years olds, I almost found it unbelievably how wise these children were, although of course this could stem from their wise teachers and guiding companions that are with them along the way.

One thing that I really loved is that the author avoided including a romantic interest with the boy companion that they picked up on their journey. At first it seemed like these romantic interests may evolve, but then when I saw the author kept the storyline romance-free I truly appreciated this as non-romance book from young tweenagers.

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an arc of this book in exchange for my honest review.**

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The TravelersThe Travelers by Chris Pavone

DNF @ page 112
I was really excited to get into this book actually, and tried two unsuccessful attempts to get into the story. Ultimately I found the concept very boring, because I was waiting for the "spy work" to begin, and I feel like I'm waiting too long for the action to happen. Also, I was pretty confused in which direction this book was going to, because I feel like with the way that the author was writing it, I couldn't find a way to pinpoint it exactly. I guess I'm just not one of those readers to *suspend disbelief* so easily as I wish I could have to fully enjoy this book, or like I was told I was exposed to.

**Thanks to bloggingforbooks and the publisher for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest review.**

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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Done Dirt CheapDone Dirt Cheap by Sarah Nicole Lemon

[actual rating: 4.5]
Truly, the pulse of this story is the growing friendship between two strong women, Tourmaline and Virginia. This is what made me want to keep on coming to this surprisingly debut novel with lyrical and atmospheric storytelling.

I haven't read many books that feature motorcycle clubs (because of the stereotypes), but because the main two protagonists are around my age I could relate on some deeper level to their life. Don't let these vibes fool you, the writing in this book just blew it out of the water. In my opinion, the best thing was how much Lemon made me want to savor each word, each sentence. Honestly, their delicate bonding intrigued me and made me even more interesting to see how they backstories and their differences affect them.

At the beginning of this book, we meet two mostly naive girls, but miraculously by the end of this book the author has made them grow up in front of our eyes. They fall in love for the first time, manipulatively defeat the "bad wolf", and band together, because two is better than one standing against them, right?

My only minor problem, why I didn't give this a full five stars is because I felt like the ending was tied up in a bow too quickly. Like I understand that we are looking for a resolution, but the majority of this book was pretty messy, and the ending seeming so neat it threw me off track.

There's not much that I can say except drop everything and go read this swanky book! You won't regret going on this wild ride.

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a copy of this book in exchange of my honest review.**

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Monday, March 6, 2017

The Fall of Lisa BellowThe Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was an extremely memorable thriller that took me by surprise, because it's something that was unlike anything that I’ve read before. The thing that I enjoyed most is the psychological study of human beings and the interaction and nuances in relationships between parent and child and how that in turn affects the worldview of all of the characters. Character study, if I can call it that is one of the most fascinating things that can be explored in any novels, and so I really appreciated what the author did here.

We follow Meredith, a young child who has experienced a traumatic kidnapping incident, where she was left behind. This changes the core of her being, and messes with her head as well as her mother's and those around here. This book deals with the aftermath and survival guilt after Lisa Bellow's disappearance, as well as with flashbacks from earlier times describing what Lisa was really like.

I've read a couple of stories like this, where something happens to a someones that the MC hated, and then after something big happens they suddenly become obsessed with everything about them. When in reality, they maybe took five minutes to talk to them in their whole lifetime, so it sometimes seems pointless to be so concerned about the outcome of their fate. This book was by far the best example that I could recommend to people about this concept.

I really felt like I could relate to thirteen-year old Meredith, even though I’ve never attended public middle school, and even though I’ve never had to face a struggle like this. The author just makes you want to empathize and connect with both the main characters .

If I'm honest, although I adore multiple POVs books, they are rarely done right. I was so glad that each of the character's were so distinct and unique, so that I could easily differentiate between our family cast. The transition was seamless, because from the tone I immediately knew that a shift had occurred.

My only bump in the road was at the beginning of Book 2, because I personally extremely confused at what was doing on. At first I thought that this dual plot thing was unique before I figured it out at the very end. Even though there was no clear resolution at the ending, I still felt satisfied. I can understand how this might bother some people, that there is no clear "yes" or "no" answer. In fact I didn't even realize that fact under I looked back on this unputdownable book.

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own

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