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Focus Review
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Don't Suck, Don't Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt
by Kristin Hersh
University of Texas Press



"Hope' has always stuck in my head. You hated hope, said it was misguided."

If your introduction to Vic Chesnutt was the benefit album Sweet Relief II, you quickly moved past the great celebrity performances and asked: Who is this songwriter and why haven't I heard of him before? If you still haven't heard of Chesnutt—or the author of this book for that matter—you'd better go record shopping this afternoon before someone spots your musical blind spot. Regardless, in this haunting, poetic, musical road show memoir, singer/songwriter Kristin Hersh takes us inside her friendship with Chesnutt. Her experience is as insightful to a musician's life as it is to the human existence—constantly probing and reevaluating self-understanding along with her footing on the planet. ... (read more)

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Featured Book Reviews

 

Death on the Sea

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The Body on the Lido Deck
by Jane Bennett Munro
iUniverse

reviewed by Yuliya Geikhman

"[I] saw something fall. With a squishy thud, it hit the edge of the swimming pool and bounced into the water. Red-tinged ripples spread out from where it went in. ... A trick of the light? Or was it blood?"

Pathologist Toni Day is supposed to be relaxing on a cruise to the Caribbean, but when a decapitated head nearly lands in her lap, she just has to get involved. Someone has killed a woman then stuffed her body into the roof the Lido deck. The captain is acting suspiciously, the crew's doctor is nowhere to be found in crucial moments, and, as far as Toni is concerned, no one can be trusted. How did the woman wind up in the closed roof? How does this case connect to an unsolved murder from twenty-five years ago? And why can't any of the evidence ever seem to stay in one place? ... (read more)

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Is the Honeymoon Over?

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Beckham 101: The Kate and Robert Chronicles
by Suzanne Eglington
Xlibris

reviewed by Michael Radon

"'There's my girl. Baby, you are mineall mine and only mine. I don't share.'"

Fresh from their second and full-sized honeymoon across the Atlantic, Kate and Robert Beckham are back into their routines and enjoying their lives. Resolving the cliffhanger from the previous book, Kate finds herself home alone and confronted by a jealous ex-lover of Robert's, police officer Chris Foss. The conversation between the two women is civil if not icy at first, but before long, Chris has Kate at gunpoint and is ready to kill her to win Robert back. Kate's future brother-in-law Kevin, also a police officer, is able to protect Kate from Chris' jealous rage, but Chris is wracked with grief and ultimately ends her own life shortly afterwards. ... (read more)

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Consideration of the Mystical Path

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The Paths of Destiny
by Lilian Nirupa
AuthorHouse

reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott

"The Jyotishian, or expert in understanding the signs, following specific instructions of the sages stored in many thousands of rules, will use them to depict an interpretation of the person's whole life by creating a Jyotish reading."

Astrology—the belief that planets and other heavenly bodies can influence our lives—is considered by some to be a science which, properly understood and utilized, can provide practical guidance. Author Lilian Nirupa, practitioner of the Vedic astrological system called Jyotish ("light of God"), is a Christian who here expresses her conviction that Jyotish, while grounded in Eastern (Hindu) religion, can also benefit those who follow other spiritual paths. Her book is a basic explication of the Jyotish system, suitable for someone new to both astrology and Vedic teachings. She provides astrological charts and other diagrams to illustrate the many "thousands of rules" mentioned above. ... (read more)

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The Kate and Robert Romp Continues

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You and I: The Kate and Robert Chronicles
by Suzanne Eglington
Xlibris

reviewed by Michael Radon

"My Robert showed me his vulnerability, and it was me. I meant so much to him as he did to me."

For Robert and Kate Beckham, the wedding is over and the honeymoon is about to begin. Fresh from their hurried matrimony in Las Vegas, the newlywed Beckhams head to San Diego for some alone time full of relaxation, sightseeing, and plenty of physical intimacy. Focused on her husband—the over-possessive, at times frighteningly intense, madly in love police officer Robert—Kate is interested only in showing her love and passion for her new husband. Pleasant times in San Diego are over in a matter of days, but Kate has her wedding reception followed by an extended honeymoon across the Atlantic to meet Robert's parents to look forward to. In the blink of an eye, the couple are off, and Kate falls in love with the natural beauty of Ireland. Also to her advantage, Robert's mother, family, and seemingly the entire village take a shine to her immediately, and she becomes a popular addition to the scenery, serving as a matchmaker to those around her stuck in unhappy relationships as she once was. ... (read more)

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A Seasoned Writer

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UFOs and God
by Michael R. Lane
Bare Bones Press

reviewed by Lee Ware

"I was actually doing well until I heard her voice and all that changed. She resurrected the void in my life. I hated her for that, her and Alexander Graham Bell."

The stories range from a couple of pages to over thirty. They begin with two boys tossing pebbles and making wishes into a well, and they end with a writer awaiting the return of his wife while he contemplates the lives and scenery surrounding him. In between, we have World War II soldiers, a devout believer in UFOs, a man deciding whether to live or die, and many others creating a varied spectrum of characters and settings allowing the reader to slip from one world to the next. The stories themselves are not centered around a single idea or place, but... (read more)

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An Epic Thrill Ride

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The Gem Connection: A C.J. Cavanaugh Mystery
by Michael Lane
Booklocker

reviewed by Jennifer Weiss

"Besides not buying the story about Renita, she was suspicious about the extent of my involvement in this case. My weakness for children would have been a plausible explanation."

C.J. Cavanaugh is a well known private investigator. C.J. and his partner Renita Harris are hired by a mystery client to solve the murder of Clinton Windell, but they are not allowed to tell anyone about the case. Instead, they assume a false identity, a false job so to speak, to uncover the facts. Windell has not only been brutally murdered in his home, but also was robbed of his uncut gems worth twenty million dollars. Trying to remain anonymous, C.J. and Renita must become creative and think outside the box in order to solve the case. Michael Lane's story takes readers on a thrilling ride filled with excitement, mystery, and suspense. Mystery fans haven't read a story quite like this one. ... (read more)

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Challenging Love

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Inceptions: The Kate and Robert Chronicles
by Suzanne Eglington
Xlibris

reviewed by Michael Radon

"Then I briefly thought about past women and quickly barred them from my brain. He was mine! He wanted me!"

Kate Quinn's life went into a downspin in a hurry. In her late 20's, Kate works as an in-home nurse with a family that loves and respects her while she also has to deal with criticisms from her own family, whom she still lives with. Topping this all off is Scott, her one and only boyfriend of six years who, as Kate has just discovered, is cheating on her. Kate cuts Scott off immediately and tries to deal with her problems with the help of two friends: Pepper, her headstrong dance instructor best friend, and alcohol. Scott is trying desperately to win Kate back, but what neither of them counted on was Robert Beckham, a police officer friend of Scott's that has been interested in Kate since they first met. ... (read more)

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The DOXA Method for Self-Understanding

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Passion Spirit Purpose: 3 Formulas to Introduce the DOXA Method to Empower You to Love Your Life
by Ana Weber
Balboa Press

reviewed by Carol Anderson, D.Min., ACSW, LMSW

"Every puzzle we encounter, every challenge that calls for our creativity, lets us build part of a new foundation of self-esteem and self-love as we take ownership of our actions and solve the mystery."

In 157 pages, twenty-two chapters, an appendix, and endnotes, the author explores how to grow through a sense of empowerment. The initial chapter, which focuses on using the DOXA way, sets the stage for the rest of the book. DOXA is about Desire, Outstanding, Xing, out the impossible, and Allowing you to be you. This chapter leads to others on mysteries, desire, and living in the now of DOXA. Other chapters include your purpose, intentions, learning and growing, freedom, your metaphorical grocery bag regarding taking an inventory of your day, and a cautionary tale regarding relationships. Continuing chapters reveal living in the now, listening to the inner voice, compromise, gratitude, accepting the unknown, her story of her immigration, love, and celebrating each day. The Appendix examines conversation starters for a dialogue with yourself such as, "Are you happy at your job?" and others. ... (read more)

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Passionate Poetry

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A Knight Without His Lovers
by Jamel Gross
BookVenture Publishing

reviewed by Mihir Shah

"Please explain, what I'm doing
I'm in love with you
Our time apart is killing me
Please don't understand what I'm going through."

In A Knight Without His Lovers, Gross expresses the various shades and states of love, but primarily dwells on the feeling of falling in love. The poems exhibit an air of authenticity and spontaneity that allow readers to look past the highly experimental nature of the sentence structure and lack of any consistent rhyme scheme. From the get go, the titles of the poems make Gross’s “cinematic” vision and mindset quite apparent. Poetry titles like “Mirror in the Sky,” “Wedding Showers,” and “Summer Sun” already help the audience conjure the respective images and are enhanced by the poet’s use of resplendent imagery. ... (read more)

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A New Childhood Favorite

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Confessions of a Bunny
by Melissa Jackson
Xlibris

reviewed by Anita Lock

"She was my person, and she loved me."

"I know I may look like I’ve been around a really long time, but this is actually what four years of hard living looks like on a stuffed bunny." Bun Bun may appear to be an ordinary toy. But to a four-year-old girl named Reagan, the raggedy once-pink bunny is her dearest companion. Bun Bun's adventures begin at a time soon after Reagan's birth. Enjoying many days "filled with soft hugs and kisses and coos and cuddles," The warmth of these moments quickly shifts into interesting adventures for Bun Bun as Reagan slowly transforms from a baby into a preschooler. ... (read more)

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Honor the Legacy

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Remembering Our Black Trailblazers and Their Legacies
by Barbara A. Pierce
Publisher

reviewed by Toby Berry

"Dr Drew was named director of the American Red Cross Project... his extensive research indicated there was no 'white blood' or 'black blood'... Bloodbanks worldwide are memorials to the genius of Dr. Drew."

This compilation of short biographies of just some of the African American noteworthy standouts is a must-read. After reading the biographies, and then delving deeper, readers will be struck by the numerous and variety of contributions that African Americans made from the 1700s-1900s. It leaves one wondering, "How ever did the author choose whom to include in this book of great African Americans, and how many more such strong and important figures must there be?" Reading and then wanting more is a good thing: In the age of the internet the "more" is at your fingertips and Remembering our Black Trailblazers and Their Legacies, is an intriguing primer for the pursuit of more biographical information. ... (read more)

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A New Season

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She's Got the Jack: The Kate and Robert Chronicles
by Suzanne Eglington
Xlibris

reviewed by Michael Radon

"He sighed as I looked at the screen full of photos of me. 'What's this?' He answered very monotone, 'My wife in another man's eyes."

At the end of the previous book, Kate and Robert's near-idyllic, passionate whirlwind romance and marriage was struck with family tragedy at the car accident her pregnant sister and brother-in-law were in. This story opens with the joint funeral of this crash that claimed the life of Kevin and Stacey. Just when the situation seems like it can't get any worse, the dark twist that Kevin has been spying on Kate and taking photos of her, chasing after his unrequited love, comes to the surface. Kate and Robert must come to terms with this information in their own ways... (read more)

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Protecting Our Children in Schools

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Violence Among Students and School Staff
by Sean M. Brooks
CreateSpace

reviewed by Dylan Ward

"Conflict resolution and violence prevention among students and school staff can be a spearhead in transforming education for the future."

Brooks tackles the history of violence in schools, analyzing direct and indirect aspects contributing to this increasingly common trend. While not a new phenomenon, Brooks provides a unique perspective and approach to this hot button issue, arguing and counter-arguing the how and why of this notable crisis. Examining the whole of school communities, he covers significant topics ranging from bullying and cyberbullying, suicide, sexual harassment and drug use to workplace safety, teacher burnout, architectural design of schools, and the long held traditions of academics and athletics. ... (read more)

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A Time for Courage and Faith

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Envoy of Jerusalem
by Helena P. Schrader
Wheatmark


reviewed by Michael Radon

"This was a vulnerable youth, a youth whose ties to his fellow Infidels were weak and frayed already."

The third book of this series begins with dire circumstances for Balian d'Ibelin. Salah ad-Din has taken much of Jerusalem after the disastrous defeat of Guy de Lusignan and his troops at Hattin. Many of the noblemen are imprisoned and the citizens enslaved. Balian is trapped in an indefensible position and all seems lost, but Salah ad-Din agrees to a surrender with the option for the citizens to be ransomed instead of put into slavery. With his family safe for now in the nearby but overcrowded city of Tyre, Balian is able to free a significant portion of the people but many more are sent into Muslim slavery. The kings of England and France each have their obligations to retake the Holy Land, but their interpersonal feuds make things difficult both abroad and at home. ... (read more)

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Knowing the Ripper

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The Ripper's Time
by Mark R. Vogel
CreateSpace


reviewed by G. Robert Frazier

"Back and forth he slid the blade along the length of the stone, flipping it before each pass. Slow and methodical, his body swaying in unison to the cadence of the strokes."

The horrific crimes of the notorious Jack the Ripper have long been fodder for crime writers and probably always will be. Many such tales offer theories as to the serial killer's identity and his motives for the mysterious slayings, sometimes at the cost of simply telling a good story. Vogel, thankfully, focuses instead on one of the killer's victims, Catherine Eddowes, and more specifically, on a love affair with her would-be savior and man out of time, Henry Willows. ... (read more)

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Unraveling the Hurt

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Drinking the Knock Water
by Emily Kemme
Arrowhead Publishing

reviewed by Sheelonee Banerjee

"Today exists for you to let your mind wander, let it free, all week long. This is the time for reflection and evaluation."

Deeply traumatized after her daughter, Arella, is born dead, fertility counselor Holly Thomas struggles to achieve inner peace. Roger—Holly's supportive husband and a prominent fertility doctor—accepts her grief-induced eccentricities, but his intolerant Christian family resents her and her Jewish roots. When Edward, Roger's brother, openly belittles the Bar Mitzvah of Daniel, Holly's son, tensions escalate, and her whole world threatens to fall apart. To overcome heartbreak and reflect on self-discovery and relationships, Holly and Roger take a group of patients from their clinic on a fertility tour. This tour becomes a spiritual pilgrimage for unrealized truths. ... (read more)

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The Mysteries of Creation

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Astrophysics and Creation: Perceiving the Universe Through Science and Participation
by Arnold Benz
The Crossroad Publishing Company

reviewed by Donna Ford

"...fascination with the quiet and mysteriously glowing stars and the prospect of pursuing new methods of scientific investigation had both captured me with their spell."

The author made a life-determining decision while on holiday as a travelling student. Lying down on Moroccan sands under an immense starry sky, he experienced a lifetime call to become an astrophysicist. He shares similar experiences of two well-known individuals, Blaise Pascal and Walt Whitman, who had "aha" moments when gazing into the heavens. Benz could easily have chosen to become a teacher based on the easily understood explanations he gives on how stars and planets are formed and what likely is a black hole. The formation of the sun and its continuing process of solar flares is awe-inspiring. The shaping of our planet and moon he simplifies as many strokes of good luck (collisions). ... (read more)

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Argentina by the Glass

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Exploring Wine Regions: Argentina
by Michael C. Higgins, PhD
International Exploration Society

reviewed by John E. Roper

"Picture naturally breathtaking snow-capped Andes Mountains as a backdrop for a strikingly modern, minimalist structure, that rises from rich green vineyards."

Some people dabble in their interests; others, like the author, completely immerse themselves in them. Higgins is passionate about wine, an amateur in the original French sense of the word in that he is a lover of his subject matter. His ardor has led him into the world of winemakers and wine connoisseurs, taken him into the vineyards to work alongside the harvesters, and into the process of making his own wine. He has sampled the finest vintages with celebrity chefs, attended wine auctions and special wine events, and tasted countless varieties. In short, he has become so knowledgeable about wine that he has come to the realization that he actually knows very little. ... (read more)

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An Honest Portrayal of Life

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What She Was Saying
by Marjorie Maddox
Fomite Press

reviewed by Anita Lock

"There were still a lifetime of stories to discuss. There were still ways to make the dark corners of the world brighter."

What She Was Saying is a compilation of over thirty compelling and provocative human-interest tales, many of which made their first appearances in various literary publications. Others have either won prestigious awards or were nominated or finalists. Among the winning picks, "A Wave Rushed Over" won the 2007 US Catholic Fiction Prize while "For Real" won in that same year the Sport Literature Association Fiction Award. Maddox's fiction short stories highlight the awkward aspects of life. Removing facades, Maddox's dead-honest approach to writing realistic scenarios portrays themes such as dysfunctional situations, death, and tragedies. Each story captures the human condition, which has the potential of prodding readers to pause in reflection well beyond the completion of her book. ... (read more)

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To Live Forever

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The Diary of an Immortal (1945 - 1959)
by David J. Castello
Werewolf Publishing

reviewed by Carol Anderson, D.Min., ACSW, LMSW

"We'd also heard reports from the hordes of refugees streaming westward towards us about medical experiments and medieval style torture; stories almost too fantastical to believe."

The story is written in first person by Steven Ronson, who begins his tale of being a U.S. Army medic during World War II and experiencing the horrors of Nazi Germany, including the freeing of the Dachau concentration camp. The first chapter sets the stage for a fascinating journey for Steven—from the hell of the war to the beginning of his life as an immortal human being. For when he was in Germany, the troop discovered a treasure trove of Nazi goods in a hideout. While others looted for souvenirs and money, he read about the providence of a box of pills, pills which were meant for Hitler in order to dominate the world with immortal, super Aryan beings. ... (read more)

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Impressive Debut

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Tōru: Wayfarer Returns
by Stephanie R. Sorensen
Palantir Press

reviewed by John E. Roper

"Jiro was shouting, pointing urgently at something, but Tōru couldn't hear. Just in time he saw the men at the anchor raise a blade and slice down, severing the line to the anchor."

He knew he was taking a tremendous risk in coming home. For two years, Tōru had lived among Americans, learning their language and their ways, studying the technology of the West that far outmatched that of his homeland in the East. It would have been much safer to stay where he was, even if he would never fit in completely, than make the forbidden journey back to a land where the Shogun's law demanded his death as a "spy," But Tōru also knew that Japan was a ripe plum in the eyes of the Western powers, and before long, the Americans or perhaps one of the European nations would sail with their mighty ships of war to pick it. ... (read more)

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Paranormal Prophecy and More

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Hope Found
by Jackie McMillan
BookVenture Publishing

reviewed by John E. Roper

"She started shaking her head and moving back away from them. She felt her foot hit the last stair and she felt her body falling backwards."

The dreams, or more often nightmares, were so vivid, almost as if they were memories or some sort of supernatural visions. Jenna had started having them about a year ago, and each time they came they seemed more and more realistic. Deep down she felt that life was about to change for her, but was she truly ready for what was coming? ... (read more)

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The Mind Revealed

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Exploring the Landscape of the Mind
by Stephen S. Clark
Xlibris

reviewed by Staff

"Society, even today, is a fundamentally competitive place as individuals jostle for advantage over others."

The human brain has been throughout history something of a paradox: a tool that we have used to understand the mysteries of the universe while not revealing a thorough understanding of itself. While much of how the brain works or the nature of the more nebulous concept of the mind remains elusive, science has progressed rapidly to try and answer these questions. In this book, the author combines science, philosophy, and sociology, providing a compendium of knowledge as to how the human mind both separates and links us to the rest of the animal kingdom. This exploration begins first with the scientific reasons behind simple things that are easy to take for granted or avoid considering the causes rather than the effects; things like emotions, motivations, and memories. Using evolution as a starting point and drawing comparisons... (read more)

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First Chapter Reviews


First Chapter Review archive

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Envoy of Jerusalem: Balian d'Ibelin and the Third Crusade
by Helena P. Schrader
Wheatmark

History remembers Balian d'Ibelin—husband of Dowager Queen of Jerusalemm, Maria Comnena—as a diplomat and warrior. After the Christian army's defeat at the Battle of Hattin, almost all of the Kingdom of Jerusalem falls to Salah ad-Din, and survivors move to the city of Tyre. The book begins on the day news reaches Tyre that Jerusalem has yielded. In this third volume in the award-winning series based on Balian d'Ibelin, the no-nonsense first chapter hooks the reader with crucial historical links. ... (read more)

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