Friday, April 29, 2011

Eating Your Feelings

'Skinny'
Author: Diana Spechler


Format: ARC
Published: Harper Perinnial; Apr. 2011
Pages: 368
Genre: Fiction
Rating: C
Source: TLC Book Tours


Synopsis: Feeling culpable in her father's death, Gray leaves New York and takes a job at Camp Carolina for the summer, hoping to lose the pounds she gained binging in her guilt and grief, and to also meet Eden, the girl she believes to be her stepsister, discovered via a mysterious bequest while executing her father's will. But Eden, a born loner who Gray assumes resulted from an extramarital fling, rejects Gray's efforts to open up. Gray's summer job does prove life altering, and not just physically: she distrusts the camp owner, begins to draw herself into the knotty social lives of her charges, and flirts with the athletic director. Affectingly narrated by Gray in a tone that often echoes pro-anorexia message boards, Spechler's latest succeeds in lovingly detailing the agony of self-loathing before it swings wildly into YA territory to teach Gray a lesson about life. 

My Take: Here we are one week later, once again with a women dealing with the untimely death of her father (see my review last week of a book with a similar theme) and once again I am disappointed. What have I learned these past two weeks? Whatever I am searching for I am not going to find it on a trip to China with my nearest and dearest or at a fat camp obsessing over the lives of teenagers. Alas, I already new that.

Here we have Gray, who at 26, lost her dad after not speaking to him for a few years. I can't even imagine the pain that would cause. You already have the grief of all of the things left unsaid no matter when you lose someone close to you, but when your in the middle of some unresolved argument, or as in the case of this two, just about to repair it, the pain that would cause is only intensified by the pain of losing someone. So what does Gray do with her pain? She eats her emotions. I think many of us can relate to that. Stress does crazy things to the body and some people eat their emotions in times of duress. One year later, she finds herself twenty pounds heavier and no more at terms with her grief.

Gray has also been told she is the executor of her father's will. She soon learns this is to keep her mother in the dark of her father's extramarital affair and the child that resulted. This child, Eden, is now a teenager and will be entering a fat camp for the summer and so begins Gray's idea to become a camp counsellor at this same fat camp for the summer to study her. So also, begins when the book takes a turn that I no longer could relate to. 

Once at the summer camp, which is populated by a staff of half-trained semi-professionals, Gray tries to befriend Eden. We also meet a whole host of teenagers with weight issues. I then start to read what is quickly becoming a young adult book about teenagers with weight issues who are picking on each other to make themselves feel better. This is not the book I wanted to read. I wanted to read about Gray learning to overcome her grief by learning who her new sister is. Well, as the song says, we can't always get what we want. However, if you are looking for more of a young adult book about females and the ever present weight issues, because it's out there and we all have to deal with it at some point, than this may be the book for you.

Cover Lust: To me this cover screams summer and it's adorable! Whether it matches the actual book, I'll leave that for you to decide. I still love it!

For more opinions about this book, you can check out the full TLC Tour Schedule here:
Tuesday, April 26th: For the love of books
Friday, April 29th: Amused By Books
Monday, May 2nd: Tina’s Book Reviews
Wednesday, May 4th: The Book Chick
Tuesday, May 10th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Monday, May 16th: Novel Whore
Tuesday, May 17th: Reading Through Life
Wednesday, May 18th: In the Next Room
Thursday, May 19th: BookNAround
Friday, May 20th: Peeking Between the Pages
Monday, May 23rd: Rundpinne
Thursday, May 26th: girlichef
Tuesday, May 31st: StephTheBookworm
Thursday, June 2nd: As I turn the pages
Tuesday, June 7th: Teresa’s Reading Corner
Date TBD: Colloquium

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Book Giveaway: The Way Things Look to Me!

I am very excited to be able to offer a beautiful hardback copy of the newly released in the US The Way Things Look to Me by Roopa Farooki to you all courtesy of St. Martins Press! This book was originally published in the UK and that's the version I read (click here for my review). This is a modern-day story dealing with Asperger's Syndrome. It's gritty and was nominated for the Orange Award for New Writers. 


I think what they've done with the US release cover is beautiful. The oranges and reds are vivid and eye catching! Here's the synopsis from the back of the book: 



The Murphy family has never tried to be different; they just are. When Yasmin, the youngest sibling, was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, her older siblings learned to adapt to less attention and more responsibility, to a sister with “special abilities” that no one, not even they, could ever truly understand. And then there’s the way Yasmin sees it: she sees music in color, and her mind remembers every tiny detail of every day until sometimes she wishes she could just forget.
Since the deaths of their parents, the three siblings have become adults in their unique, tragic ways. Yasmin’s differentness polarizes her siblings. Asif, the responsible oldest brother, has been left to take care of her by their middle sister Lila, the stubbornly rebellious beauty who resents Yasmin for her emotional distance, and for stealing their mother’s love and attention. Now, Lila leads a wayward existence, drifting in and out of jobs and relationships, avoiding the home where she was raised and where Asif and Yasmin make their own brittle household. As Yasmin’s committed caretaker, Asif is worn down. A young professional, he feels his freedom slipping away as he tries hard to keep the remains of their family together.
When the unthinkable happens, threatening the Murphy siblings’ delicate balance, and sweeping in the chaos they’ve spent their lives holding at bay, will they stand together or fall apart? The Way Things Look to Me is a deeply moving portrait of Brothers and Sisters, of three siblings caught between duty and love in a tangled relationship both bitter and bittersweet.


Now for the giveaway details!


Giveaway Details!

The deadline for this giveaway is May 11th; entries open to those in the US.

To Enter (Mandatory)!
Comment below with a way for me to contact you.

For Extra entries (Optional), indicate that you are:
+1 Follow this blog on Google Connect (see right sidebar)
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+1 Blog/Post about this giveaway on your sidebar

3 extra entries available. Giveaway open until 11:59pm PST May 11th. I will draw the winners using random.org and announce them here on my blog. Good luck!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Northern California Book Bloggers Social

Here we all are! My street name is Leah ;)

This past Saturday a group of book bloggers and authors got together at an Indian restaurant in Castro Valley, CA for some chit chat and laughter. This was the first time Northern California Book Bloggers had done such a thing and I was thrilled to be a part of it. We have so many wonderful book bloggers in the area and to be able to meet them in person, these bloggers who I always read about, and get to glean whatever experience and great book ideas off of them was invaluable.

We spent time chatting and eating, followed by a book swap (white elephant style for any of you that have played that game). I won Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussun, followed by more book prizes!  It was such a fun afternoon and I am really looking forward to the next one which will be in October. If you live in the area and weren't able to make it, we hope to see you at the next one!


Authors Present (all hyperlinks):
Talia Vance, YA author of Bandia and Spies and Prejudice, due in 2012 Katy Longshore, YA author of Gilt, due in 2010
Corrine Jackson, YA author of If I Lie (due in 2012) and Touched
G.P. Aldrich, mystery author of the Chess Piece Murders Series
David Schwartz, Children's Nonfiction author of How Much is a Million? and others


Bloggers Present (all hyperlinks):
Pam of Bookalicious
Laura of I'm Booking It
Sniffly Kitty of Sniffly Kitty's Mostly Books
Emily of Super Reader Girl
Stephanie of Misfit Salon

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Royal Wedding News!

'Kate and Wills Up the Aisle: A Right Royal Fairy Tale'
Author: Alison Jackson


Format: Hardback
Published: Quadrille Publishing; Mar. 2011
Pages: 112
Genre: Humor; Picture book
Rating: B
Source: Personal copy


Synopsis: Alison Jackson presents a humorous folio of photographs to reveal all about the royal wedding between Kate and Wills, the most anticipated nuptials to come out of Britain since Charles and Diana, providing a glimpse into all the events we have imagined but never thought we would see. This largely chronological retelling of the romance of Wills and Kate and the run-up to the Royal Wedding will include pictures of the genealogical background of the two sides and details of the early days of their courtship right through to the wedding itself. 

My Take: Are you all ready for Friday?! I may not have let the cat out of the proverbial bag but I am totally caught up in Royal Wedding Fever! It is everywhere and I can not wait! Any one that I know who has gone to the UK in the past six months I have asked them to bring me back the tattiest of wedding trinkets because the British always do it best and now the big day is only a few short days away and well, I am thrilled. Of course, being on the West Coast we get the short end of the stick, practically having to stay up all night to watch it. Luckily my office is throwing a Royal Wedding party and streaming it for us in the morning! Woohoo! What are you doing to celebrate, if that is, you are doing anything? 

Let me start by saying that this is a complete and total spoof book, meant to be set up like paparazzi shots. Every single image in here is taken with celebrity lookalikes and it is amazing! Some of the photos are ridiculously raunchy but regardless, the people they picked look EXACTLY like the Royal Family so it's really impressive. You will be laughing out loud! If this book isn't a conversation starter I don't know what is. It's perfect for your Royal Wedding Street Party that you are sure to be throwing :)

Some of my favorite photos from the book include:
This one is awesome because it is as if Kate's room is decorated in pictures of Will - love it!

Do you guys see how Kate is practicing the classic Diana shy glance? :)

And finally, we have Charles and Camilla upset by 'news' that Will and Kate will usurp them as King and Queen.

To say that this book is brilliant in its tongue and cheek humor is an understatement. As you flip through this book you can't help but laugh. However, if you find nudity and take yourself, and the nobility, too seriously this may not be the book for you!

Cover Lust: It really sets the stage for what's inside I think!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mailbox Monday: Apr. 18th - 23rd, 2011

It's Mailbox Monday time! Mailbox Monday is going on tour and April is being hosted by Passages to the Past! Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks and audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!


I hope you all enjoyed your Easter weekends (if you celebrate Easter). On Saturday I went to the Northern California Book Blogging Social which was great! I'll have a wrap up on that this week. For Easter, my boyfriend and I celebrated it just the two of us with some yummy, homemade food.


This week, another full mailbox! Here's what I received:


From Random House for a TLC Tour:
1. Let's Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell






















From The Story Plant for a Pump Up Your Books Tour:
2. Homefires by Emily Sue Harvey




















A friend brought this book back for me from the UK so while technically not in my mailbox, I still got it last week!
3. Kate and Wills Up the Aisle: A Royal Fairy Tale by Alison Jackson (it's a spoof book!)




















From the author:
4. The First Husband by Laura Dave




















From St. Martin's Press:
5. The Way Things Look to Me by Roopa Farooki




















From Harper Collins for a TLC Tour:
6. The Lost Girls by Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett, and Amanda Pressner




















From PBS:
7. Driving Sideways by Jess Riley




















What did you get?!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

4x4 Meme

This has been floating around the net this week and I got tagged by my blogging buddy Care! These are always fun ways to get a quick little snippet into your favorite bloggers life that you didn't know before. So without further ado, here's my answers!

Four jobs I've had in my life:

  1. JoAnn Fabrics (My first real paying job, cutting fabric. So many hot teenage boys came in there - not!)
  2. Handing out playing cards at a Bingo Parlor (I quit after 1 day!)
  3. KinderCare (In case you don't have these where you live, it's a chain of daycare facilities. I thought I was going to pull my hair out!)
  4. Mervyn's (Remember these before they went bankrupt? Well, you would not believe what I used to catch people doing in dressing rooms!)
Four books I would read over and over:
  1. Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding
  2. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
  3. Any book from the Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon
  4. Chicago Manual of Style
Four places I have lived:
  1. Lewiston, Idaho (you've never been? Oh, that's ok!)
  2. Redmond, Washington
  3. Portland, Oregon
  4. San Francisco, California (look how I worked my way down the Pacific Coast!)
Four books I would recommend:
  1. Room by Emma Donaghue
  2. Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingslover
  3. Any book by Jill Mansell when you want to have your spirits lifted!
  4. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
Four places I have been:
  1. London, England (I studies abroad here for a semester in college and would live here if I could!)
  2. Munich, Germany (My mom and stepdad lived here for a few years and I would visit them for the summers - ditto above!)
  3. Honolulu, Hawaii (um, I think I could live here too!)
  4. Victoria, Canada (Beautiful!)
Four of my favorite foods:
  1. Anything Mexican (I think I could eat Mexican food every day!)
  2. Homemade Macaroni and Cheese
  3. Creme Brulee
  4. Cheese!
Four of my favorite drinks:
  1. Coffee (the way I make it, though)
  2. Cocktails with cucumber in them (have you had one of those - delicious!)
  3. Water
  4. Diet Pepsi (although I never keep it in the house!)
Four places I'd rather be right now:
  1. On a sunny beach, napping with a book in one hand and a drink in the other (can you say I need a vacation!)
  2. With my dad
  3. On a date with Rob
  4. Um, let's go back to number 1 again!
Four things that are very special in my life:
  1. Rob
  2. My family
  3. Friends
  4. You all!
Now, if you all want to do this meme, by all means, please feel like I've tagged you and go to it. Let me know in the comments because I'd love to learn more about you!

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Trip to China

'A Thread of Sky'
Author: Deanna Fei


Format: Paperback
Published: Penguin; Mar. 2011
Pages: 368
Genre: Literary fiction
Rating: C
Source: TLC Book Tours


Synopsis: When Irene Shen's husband of 30 years walks out on her, she says, Good riddance, only to learn hours later that he's been killed in a car accident. Stunned by the chain of events and dreading her imminent empty-nester status, Irene concocts a plan to strengthen blood ties through a family tour of China. But Irene's 80-year-old mother, Lin Yulan, in her youth a feminist revolutionary during the Chinese civil war, balks at returning to China, and Irene's three daughters—Nora, a successful bond trader; Kay, a social activist; and Sophie, a talented artist—are distracted by their own troubles. The characters are sympathetic and draw the reader easily into their tangled lives, but despite Fei's obvious talent, this debut has the feel of M.F.A. fiction. The hoary dictum write what you know hovers above every page of this novel. 


My Take: I picked this book because I thought I would be able to relate to the daughters and the idea of wanting to escape a tragedy. See, in the book Irene's husband Bill had decided it was time to separate after years of marriage. The night he leaves he drives into a tree and dies. When he had left, as she was closing the door she said "good riddance" and shook her head. Of course she didn't mean it. His death was unexpected. Irene has three daughters, ages 15 to 28 and they had to deal with this death in different ways. See, my father passed away unexpectedly last year too so I thought I could relate to this book. I could, to a point, but then it all was a bit too much for me. 


Irene gets it in her head that in order to heal and move on, they must look to their past and visit where they've all come from: China. She decides she will pay for her mom, her sister and her three daughters to do a big tour around China. Sounds like a great idea. A big vacation to escape your worries for a time. Of course travelling with your family in a stressful location for any length of time can never be that awesome, right?

The three daughters are Sophie, 15, battling with an eating disorder but probably the sweetest of the three; Kay, 26, who I believe was put in the book merely to teach us about China and show me everything I don't know about the country (and believe me, half this book is a history lesson); and Kay, the oldest, dealing with her own relationship issues. All three daughters treat their mother horribly. It's fine if Sophie wants to, I mean she's 15 you can kind of forgive her since she's a teenager but enough pages in and the other two you want to slap because they are adults and their mother lost her husband whether or not they were separating, so grow up!

However, this book is not without merit. As much as the women's personalities upset me, it also is told with some truth to it. Because when you lose someone close to you, your behavior is all over the place and each character, however extreme, had something you could probably relate to.

If you've been looking to learn more about China and want some emotional women thrown in on the ride, than you will probably enjoy this book much more than I did.

Cover Lust: I absolutely adore this cover. I think it's stunning, like a painting!

For other opinions about this book, here's the full TLC Tour Schedule:

Tuesday, March 29th: Amy’s Creative Side
Wednesday, March 30th: Write Meg
Thursday, March 31st: Chick With Books
Monday, April 4th: Rundpinne
Tuesday, April 5th: Chocolate & Croissants
Wednesday, April 6th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Thursday, April 7th: English Major’s Junk Food
Monday, April 11th: Hospitable Pursuits
Tuesday, April 12th: BookNAround
Wednesday, April 13th: Reading on a Rainy Day
Thursday, April 14th: Peeking Between the Pages
Wednesday, April 20th: Boarding in My Forties
Thursday, April 21st: Book Journey
Friday, April 22nd: Amused By Books
Tuesday, April 26th: Good Girl Gone Redneck
Wednesday, April 27th: Book Club Classics!
Thursday, April 28th: Books in the City
Friday, April 29th: Reading Through Life

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Not Glasses!

A self portrait!
About a month ago I went to the eye doctor complaining of eye strain. All day at work I am on the computer. Then I come home and blog for a little bit and when I go to bed I read. So yes, I look at little print all day long. Apparently my eyes are tired and it might be a good idea for me to get some glasses so that my eyes aren't so tired all day. I don't need them but they will help me not get headaches at the end of the week. I've never worn glasses before, except when driving at night. Is all of this reading and blogging making me old before my time? :)

So what do you think?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

So You Want to See My Bookshelves!

As with anybody else whose online, I love getting to know the other people I 'talk' to daily online through little glimpses into their real life, however fleeting. As readers, I think we probably can learn a lot about people by their bookshelves. I know when I go into someone's home, I love looking at their bookshelves. Usually I am trying to find books I've read to see how much (or how little) we secretly have in common!

Last week on a Booking Through Thursday post I mentioned that I had two very disparate bookshelves. The one in my living room is color coordinated and lovingly maintained and the one in my bedroom is totally disorganized and some people wanted to see proof. Well, ask and you shall receive!

First up we have the bookshelf in my living room, aka the color coordinated bookshelf!

For years, I'd been organizing my books by size (shortest to highest on each shelf) and when I moved into my new, real condo and bought the most expensive bookshelf I've ever purchased (read not a $20 bookcase from Ikea, heck I even pre-measured it to make sure it would perfectly fit underneath the molding) I had been leafing through lots of design magazines and looking at lots of design blogs and many of them showed color coordinated bookshelves. Oh and they were breathtaking! I wanted to do it. So one night with a crazed look in my eye, I took all of the books off my shelf and did it, and guess what? I love it! Most people who come over (well the women, men don't care) comment on it and say they've been thinking of doing the same thing.


And so far, it's been a little over two years and no, I haven't really lost a book any more than any other location. I think the only way I'd be able to find a book is if I had them alphabetised which sometimes I fantasize about ... but no, that wouldn't be pretty! Oh, and all books here are for the most part my personal collection of to be read books with some life long favorites thrown in so as I read one and give it away (because I keep very few books after I've read them) I bring in a new book of the same color once I get one.

If that's my prized bookcase, than hidden away in the bedroom ... is this:


I don't even really know what to say, except I blame blogging! It used to be just where my boyfriend kept his books (not that he has ever ONCE read a single book on this shelf - no I'm not bitter). Then last year, when I started to get more books than I knew what to do with, I had him go through his books and see if he could clear off a couple of shelves for me, while I went through my own and tried to get rid of my own and so I got the the second and third shelf down. Those are now double stacked with my personal to be read piles. I think the problem is I don't make a huge dent in my personal to be read pile because I only read review books any more because those piles keep growing ... and that is what's taken over the top shelf. Rob didn't notice for about a month that I was slowly taking over that shelf but he has now ... whoops! :)


Finally we have what I call 'my piles' (cute name huh?). This is where I keep my immediate review copies. I read them in the order in which I receive them (unless a date has been scheduled) so around my bed are multiple stacks (there are stacks behind stacks but you can't see that. God forbid I want anything in the drawer! So at this point in time, I need a new filing system for my review books and I have a measurement of where a bookcase could go but it's an odd shape so it could be awhile until I find this. Until then, I have my piles. The ones closest to my pillow I read first and work my way down.

So those are my books! They get progressively less organized as you move through the house :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Will You Be My Boyfriend?

'51/50: The Magical Adventures of a Single Life'
Author: Kristen McGuiness


Format: Audio CD
Published: Phoenix Audio; May 2010
Narrator: Kristen McGuiness
Genre: Memoir
Rating: B
Source: Library 


Synopsis: After years of living the LA high life, Kristen McGuiness found herself single, sober, and seriously questioning whether she was destined to be alone. How hard could it be to find a guy whose hand she could hold at the movie theater, whose name she could put down as her emergency contact at the doctor’s office, and who would know when to tell her she’s beautiful? And more than that—where was that euphoric full-body tingle spurred only by being in love?
So she did what any single, newly sober thirty-year-old would do: made a pact to go on 51 dates in 50 weeks. Giving fate the middle finger, she decided that if the perfect guy wasn’t going to walk into her life, she’d find him herself. Using The Onion’s online personals, a sympathetic boss, weekly meetings for recovering addicts, a magical spiritual healer, and good old fashioned blind dates arranged by friends, she embarks on a whirlwind carousel of men she might not normally classify as potential mates.
At times heart-breaking and laugh-out-loud hilarious, Kristen McGuiness’s witty, brutally honest writing gives a valuable true-life spin on Bridget Jones and Sex and the City. 51/50 is a gripping read that will inspire others to follow her courageous search for love.

My Take: I love a good memoir and I seem to be on a non-fiction roll this year. This one particularly intrigued me because it was about dating and man, dating was hard. I love to read a book that's willing to be honest about how hard it is to date. As much as I love chick-lit, those always end with a happy ever after, and let's be honest, real life doesn't always, so sometimes I like to counter this with memoirs because that's usually where I can find my dose of dating realism. I used to date a lot before I met my current boyfriend of almost 4 years. I loved dating. That rush of the initial first date and getting to know someone. It was like you could create a whole new persona. I loved that initial rush of the first month or two when it was all flirting and can't get them out of your head but eventually you do yearn for something more. Someone you can depend on. Someone who can be your partner in life.

That someone is exactly what Kristen McGuiness is looking for in 51/50. She wasn't always looking for it though. While this book is a dating book it is also a gritty memoir because McGuiness has been through a lot. She is a recovering drug addict and you will learn all about what it's like to be a drug addict and what kind of person a recovering drug addict is attracted to. Note to self, not the same kind of person those without addiction problems are attracted to! We need different things from our partners, which makes sense. McGuiness also had a troubled past, which makes sense when you think about the addiction issues. 

McGuiness has some serious daddy issues. In this book you will go deep into her father's own addiction, jail time, and it's long term affects on McGuiness. It's sad and heartbreaking and obviously affects her relationships with men. How could it not? How does any of our own relationships with our father's, both good and bad, not affect our relationships now? 

And then, yes, you have the dates. Lots and lots of dates! This girl's got guts. She just goes for it. She makes a plan to go on 51 dates in 50 weeks and she does it. You got to admire a person who sets a goal and achieves it. Obviously more than just examine why she can't find her soul mate, she examines what she needs to fix within herself. This is a dark story. Not a happy go lucky romance. Will she get her romeo at the end? That of course is for you to read and I would definitely say it is worth reading because, if for nothing else, who else has the guts to do something like this?!

Cover Lust: I'm going to be honest - yawn!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mailbox Monday: Apr. 11th - 16th, 2011

It's Mailbox Monday time! Mailbox Monday is going on tour and April is being hosted by Passages to the Past! Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks and audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!


This weekend was nice and relaxing. It was really nice and sunny outside so we got to go enjoy the sunshine while it's here and I am also finally done with the online editing class I've been taking. Woohoo!


Another Monday, more fabulous books to read in my mailbox. I hope you received lots of goodies too!


From Harper Perennial for TLC Book Tours:
1. Skinny by Diana Spechler




















A win from Books in the City:
2. Devotion by Dani Shapiro




















From Berkeley Publishing Group:
3. The Last Time I Saw Paris by Lynn Sheene




















From St. Martins Griffin:
4. The Lady and the Poet by Maeve Haran




















From PBS:
5. Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin




















6. Winter Bloom by Tara Heavey




















What did you get?
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