Rummanah Aasi

Description: Coop is cooking up another sure-misfire scheme (big surprise), and this time the comedy plays out from Sean’s point of view. What’s the new master plan? Making a cheapo horror movie guaranteed to make Coop, Sean, and Matt filthy rich! It’s a terrible idea, and Sean knows it. But he actually is desperate for cash — and for a way to wipe that big fat L off his girlfriend-less forehead. But when he agrees to write a script about the attack of zombie-vampire humanzees, he has no idea just how powerful a chick magnet this movie will be. Suddenly Sean is juggling not one but three interested ladies. There’s his accidental-girlfriend-turned-psychotic-stalker, Evelyn. There’s the wicked hot actress from drama class, Leyna, who seems willing to do anything to land the starring role. And even his twin sister’s gothed-out best friend, Nessa, is looking at Sean in a whole new way. Will any of them wind up as Sean’s true leading lady? Will Sean stop being a doormat and finally start calling the shots?

Review: I recommend all the Swim the Fly books to my reluctant readers. Boys love the hilarious humor and bromance while the girls love the humor plus the unexpected romance. What I think resonates with my reluctant readers is the authentic teen male voice, language and the thought processes (more like, the lack of) of his main characters. The books are a very fast and easy read, full of heart. You don't have to read the Swim the Fly or Beat the Band before jumping into Call the Shots.
  While Swim the Fly will always be my favorite in this series, Call the Shots is Coop's turn to be in the spotlight. He has just learned that his mother is pregnant, and, as a result, he will have to share a bedroom with his scary and weird sister, Cathy. Coop convinces Sean and Matt to join him in a scheme that he guarantees will reward them with more than enough cash to put an extension on Sean's house. The plan is to make a horror movie and win the $50,000 prize at TerrorFest. Sean hopes that the film will get him out of bunking with his annoying twin and maybe even land him a girlfriend. Of course Coop's plans backfire big time with a whole lot of laughs. There is one scene at the mall in particular that had me laughing so hard I had to close the book, wipe my tears, and wait for the images to clear in my head before I could start again.
  Along with the hysterical hijinks the boys find themselves into and get of, Coop does become his own person and develops self-confidence. He realizes that he is passionate about film-making and might make it his career. There is also a nice romance subplot with a surprising love interest. I will say, however, the one thing that really bothered me in the book was his family assuming Coop was gay for comedy effect and then when the topic is really talked about, it is just skimmed over. I would have loved for this important subplot be explored and expanded upon. I will definitely miss these clueless characters.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong crude humor, some language, and drugs are mentioned and used. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford, Spanking Shakespeare by Jake Wizner, Son of the Mob series by Gordon Korman, A Totally Awkward Love Story by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison

Description: Josie lives her life in translation. She speaks High School, College, Friends, Boyfriends, Break-ups, and even the language of Beautiful Girls. But none of these is her native tongue -- the only people who speak that are her best friend Stu and her sister Kate. So when Kate gets engaged to an epically insufferable guy, how can Josie see it as anything but the mistake of a lifetime? Kate is determined to bend Josie to her will for the wedding; Josie is determined to break Kate and her fiancĂ© up. As battles are waged over secrets and semantics, Josie is forced to examine her feelings for the boyfriend who says he loves her, the sister she loves but doesn't always like, and the best friend who hasn't said a word -- at least not in a language Josie understands.

Review: I have mixed feelings about Love and Other Foreign Words. On the one hand I liked Josie who was incredibly intelligent and insightful. I also loved her strong, positive bond with her sister Kate, which is not seen too often in YA. On the other hand I had a hard time with her obsession in proving her future brother-in-law was a bad fit for her sister. The pseudo-war on Kate's fiance took up almost three-fourths of the book and it made the story drag for me. While I understood the author's intention of using Kate and her fiance's relationship as a litmus test for romance for Josie, I wanted more of Josie's own journey towards romance and her 'aha' moment. While Josie does find romance, it felt underdeveloped and promising characters like her best friend, Stu,were under-utilized. I would recommend this book to readers who like to 'study' romance, but be aware that the actual romance in the book is not its main focus.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and crude humor. Recommended for Grade 8 and up.

If you like this book try: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, The Abundance of Katherines by John Green, This is My Brain on Boys by Sarah Strohmeyer
Rummanah Aasi
Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine! This week I'm eagerly awaiting the release of Sarah J. Maas's second book in A Court of Thorns and Roses series, The Court of Fury and Mist. A Court of Thorns and Roses is a series that retells the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale along with fae folklore. While I enjoyed the first book, I was not too thrilled with the love interests, but I am curious to see where Maas takes her series next. 

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas 
Publish date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Bloomsbury

 Now that Feyre is part of the High Fae, I'm very curious to see how her new role plays out in the political landscape. I also wonder if my opinions of Tamlin and Rhysand will change in this book.  

Feyre survived Amarantha's clutches to return to the Spring Court--but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can't forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin's people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms--and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future--and the future of a world cleaved in two.
Rummanah Aasi
 I first featured The Lie Tree on one of my Waiting on Wednesday posts. I have read such great reviews of this book and I have been really looking forward to it. Thanks to Amulet and Netgalley, I was able to read an advanced copy of the book. The Lie Tree is now available in your libraries and bookstores.

Description: Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is reliable, dull, trustworthy—a proper young lady who knows her place as inferior to men. But inside, Faith is full of questions and curiosity, and she cannot resist mysteries: an unattended envelope, an unlocked door. She knows secrets no one suspects her of knowing. She knows that her family moved to the close-knit island of Vane because her famous scientist father was fleeing a reputation-destroying scandal. And she knows, when her father is discovered dead shortly thereafter, that he was murdered.
  In pursuit of justice and revenge, Faith hunts through her father’s possessions and discovers a strange tree. The tree only bears fruit when she whispers a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, delivers a hidden truth. The tree might hold the key to her father’s murder—or it may lure the murderer directly to Faith herself.

Review: The Lie Tree is a rich, complex, and multi-layered historical mystery with a dash of magical realism and horror. Faith Sunderly is a girl ahead of her time and a victim of her society's mores, particularly those of gender expectations. In a time when a young woman is discouraged to think for herself, seek knowledge, and only learn skills which help them ensnare a wealthy bachelor, Faith is a dangerous and wicked girl. Despite her plain physical appearance and demure nature, she has a sharp and inquisitive mind. She idolizes her father and shares his keen interest in the scientific research of fossils and evolution. She also has an irresistible impulse for sneaking, spying, and skulking around. While as readers of a modern era we find nothing evil about Faith's healthy curiosity about the world around her, Faith however, keeps all of these traits and desires hidden and believes it is a source of personal shame. Ironically, she yearns for people, particularly her father, to discover her hidden truth and become an active participant in her father's archaeological dig. Hardinge does a wonderful job in demonstrating Faith's inner turmoil of being the 'obedient' daughter, a budding scientist along with her envy of her younger brother. The story drips from blatant sexism, but moves on to something much sinister when Faith's family moves to an insular island community of Vane where her father is invited to an archaeological dig.
  It doesn't take long for Faith to suspect there are darker reasons the family left London in such a hurry. Her family is shunned by the Vane's community for unknown reasons and her mother seems to have ulterior motives. As Faith starts to meddle in her parent's affairs and begins to put things together, her father is found dead. Many believe that her father committed suicide, but she is determined to prove her father's death was a murder. The mystery of her father's death not only hints at professional envy and greed, but also potentially being a dissident in the theological debate of creation.
  The story moves at a leisurely pace as Faith slowly uncovers a web of secrets her father has been keeping. Once the lie tree, a small tree that thrives on lies and bears a fruit that tells the truth, is introduced the pacing becomes faster and the story then evolves into Faith's growing obsession to finding out the truth and her reckless behavior. I found the concept behind the lie tree to be fascinating and wanted to learn more about how the tree utilizes lies to create a fruit of truth. Faith believes she can use the tree to find her father's killer and begins feeding it lies.
 The Lie Tree is not a book for those seeking a fast paced plot, but rather those who are patient to see how it slowly grows. The book is dense, but full of philosophical questions and discussions of Darwinian evolution. Hardinge's sharp observations of the book's time period are definitely a high light.  While reading the book I found myself wondering if we all have a metaphorical lie tree and our pursuit to seeking truth will ever end. I would definitely recommend this book to readers who like depth to their stories and it would also be a good book club discussion pick too.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are some disturbing images and violence in the book. Due to the mature themes and writing style, I think this book would best be suitable for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Clay by David Almond, The Brides of  Rollick Island by Margo Langan
Rummanah Aasi
 Manga Mondays is a meme hosted by Alison at Alison Can Read where bloggers can share their passion for reading mangas. It's a great place to get new manga titles to try and to meet new bloggers.  I have been slowly working my way through the widely popular and critically acclaimed Fruits Basket manga series. Fruits Basket is a completed series with a total of 23 volumes.

Description: A family with an ancient curse...

And the girl who will change their lives forever...

Tohru Honda was an orphan with no place to go until the mysterious Sohma family offered her a place to call home. Now her ordinary high school life is turned upside down as she's introduced to the Sohma's world of magical curses and family secrets.

Review: I would highly recommend reading Fruits Basket to readers who want to try reading manga, but are not sure where to start. The series is complete so you don't have to wait for volumes to be released. It also has a broad range of genres ranging from cute romantic comedy to serious reflection on what it means to grow up and change, which makes the series very appealing to a wide variety of readers. 
  It took me a while to get my footing in this series. The first few volumes felt repetitive as we watch Tohru learn about the Sohma clan's curse and meet each member of the Chinese zodiac. Once we have the initial meet and greet of the large cast of characters, the story switches its focus from exploring the zodiac to the relationships between the characters and it was at this point where I got hooked into the manga series. 
 The characters of Fruits Basket gives the manga its emotional depth and heart. Tohru is a selfless and resilient heroine who is consistently positive and full of life despite the hardships she has faced. Some readers may see her as a stereotypical shojo girl who is clumsy, ditzy, and naive, but I would strongly disagree. Tohru is a symbol of warmth, love, and acceptance. She knows there will be times when life will have some steep lows, but she tries her best to be happy and do her best. Tohru is a stark contrast to those of the Sohma family. For many members of the Sohma family, Tohru fills a void in many different ways ranging from a mother figure to a sister and to a friend.
  The Sohma family's curse in which hugging a member of the opposite sex will turn them into their zodic animal is initially used for comedy relief in the first few volumes, but as the manga continues the curse is used metaphorically for their phobia of growing up and assimilating to the outside world. The interactions within the Sohma family are surprisingly heart wrenching, dark, claustrophobic, and cold as the characters are pretty much void of any emotional attachment until Tohru comes into their lives. Any attempts of being remotely happy are squashed under the iron fist of the Sohma family leader who 'chains' himself to everyone. Even the innocent children are not spared and almost all of their parents have abandoned and neglected them. I was very surprised about the dark and mature issues in this manga series given the volume's cheery and cute cover art.
 As the manga processes, its characters also grow and change both physically, emotionally, and mentally. I really liked how the author focused on all of her main characters, giving them their own subplot stories that are critical to the manga's overall plot arc and themes.  
 I did have a few issues with the artwork in the manga series. In the first few volumes, the art looked too compressed and squished in their panels. There were many times I was confused as to who the characters are because they look so much alike, but it did get better as the manga moved along and the author becoming more comfortable with her characters and story.
 While I did have some lingering questions that were not addressed in the story, I was overall pleased with how everything came together. There were a few volumes that seemed to be a bit filler and I would have combined them, but that is not unusual for manga series. There are certainly dark moments throughout the manga series, but the ending was full of hope and heart. I can certainly see why many people chose this series to begin their manga reading journey and I would definitely recommend it. I plan on watching the anime shortly.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution:  The first few volumes in this manga are suitable for tweens, however, as the series continues mature situations and themes are explored. There is some language, suggestive nudity, crude humor, allusions to sex, and depictions of emotional abuse in the manga series.Recommended for strong Grade 7 readers and up. 

If you like this book try: Sand Chronicles by Hinako Ashihara
Rummanah Aasi
 I apologize for the lack of posts this week. The end of the school year craze is in full gear and I am trying my best to handle it all. Unfortunately, that means blogging has been on the back burner, but I hope to be in full swing next week. *Fingers crossed*

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine! This week I'm eagerly awaiting the release of Roshani Choksi's debut novel The Star-Touched Queen. This book has been all over the blogosphere and has received a lot of hype, which makes me a bit nervous to pick it up. 

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi 
Publish date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: Macmillian

 The main reasons why I am excited for this book:

  • Standalone fantasy
  • Mystery with the protagonist's self-discovery
  • Romance 
  • Indian mythology and folklore 

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father's kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran's queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar's wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire.

But Akaran has its own secrets -- thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most . . . including herself.
Rummanah Aasi
Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine! This week I'm eagerly awaiting the release of two books, the middle grade book Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo and The Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett.

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo 
Publish date: April 12, 2016
Publisher: Candlewick Press

  After reading the book's description, I have a strong feeling it will make me cry. I will need to have tissues on hand just in case. While I wasn't the biggest fan of Winn-Dixie, I have liked DiCamillo's other works. This one sounds like another winner.  

Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie's picture in the paper and (maybe) come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton; she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship — and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.

The Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett
Publish Date: April 12, 2016
Publisher: Candlewick Press

 I have been meaning to pick up a book by Sonya Hartnett ever since she won the Printz award for Surrender, but I have not gotten around to doing so. This book has been receiving starred reviews so I think I will try this one by her first. 

Colt Jenson and his younger brother, Bastian, have moved to a new, working-class suburb. The Jensons are different. Their father, Rex, showers them with gifts — toys, bikes, all that glitters most — and makes them the envy of the neighborhood. To the local kids, the Jensons are a family out of a movie, and Rex a hero — successful, attentive, attractive, always there to lend a hand. But to Colt he's an impossible figure: unbearable, suffocating. Has Colt got Rex wrong, or has he seen something in his father that will destroy their fragile new lives?
Rummanah Aasi
Cat Winter's The Steep and Thorny Way is one of my anticipated reads for 2016. It combines all of my interests: historical fiction of a lesser known time period, Shakespeare, murder mystery, and best of all a diverse cast of characters. Many thanks to Amulet books and Netgalley for the advanced copy of the book.

Description: 1920s Oregon is not a welcoming place for Hanalee Denney, the daughter of a white woman and an African-American man. She has almost no rights by law, and the Ku Klux Klan breeds fear and hatred in even Hanalee’s oldest friendships. Plus, her father, Hank Denney, died a year ago, hit by a drunk-driving teenager. Now her father’s killer is out of jail and back in town, and he claims that Hanalee’s father wasn’t killed by the accident at all but, instead, was poisoned by the doctor who looked after him—who happens to be Hanalee’s new stepfather.

The only way for Hanalee to get the answers she needs is to ask Hank himself, a “haint” wandering the roads at night.

Review: The Steep and Thorny Way is a historical murder mystery set in the 1920s Oregon. Winters does an incredible job in setting up the scene and era of the lesser known time period in Oregon. We  normally think of the 1920s as the Roaring Twenties with flappers and gaudy parties of those of Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby and tend to forget that the 1920s is also an era of extreme intolerance exacerbated by the violence from the Ku Klux Klan against those who do not uphold their values. The inclusion of photographs is also a wake-up call in reminding us that the events described in the book actually happened. What I found to be extremely disturbing is that racism and even homophobia are very subtle, often made in an offhanded remark such as suggesting to use a skin lightener or suggesting you have a mental illness because of your sexual identity. Although these comments are indirectly made, they are still powerful, disturbing, and prevalent throughout the book not to mention even in our society today.
 The book centers around Hanalee, a biracial teen who seeks justice for her murdered father in Prohibition-era Oregon. As the daughter of a white woman and an African-American man, she has few legal rights during the 1920s but she is determined to help her restless father's ghost put to peace.
Hanalee's father, "the last full-blooded Negro in Elston, Oregon," was struck and killed by Joe Adder, a drunk-driving teenager a year earlier. When Joe is released from prison, he tells Hanalee that the doctor who tended to her father the night of the accident is the real killer and the doctor is Hanalee's new stepfather.
 I had a hard time getting into the story at first. I felt the story was initially too confined to the plot of Shakepeare's Hamlet. I spent my time making connections between the novel and the play, which slowed my reading pace and made me a bit distracted. Luckily, the story begins to stand on its own two feet and uses the play as its guidance as the murder mystery deepens as we learn in bits and pieces about what happened on that frightful night when Hanalee's father died. I really enjoyed watching Joe and Hanalee's friendship grow from initial adversaries to marginal allies as they both open about their own struggles. I also liked that the murder mystery was slow burned and it took its time in fully formulating which again helped reinforced the time period and the book's central issues and themes. I was definitely taken aback on the discovery of the eugenics movement and the "medical treatment" that were given to people because they were part of a minority.
  I would recommend The Steep and Thorny Way to readers who enjoy historical fiction and also to readers who enjoy a slow burn murder mystery with depth. Though it takes a while for the story to find its pace, it is most definitely a worth while read.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language, crude sexual humor, and racial and homophobic slurs. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: Out of Darkness by Hope Ashley Perez, Flygirl by Sherri Smith, Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee, Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert
Rummanah Aasi
Today I am happy to introduce historical fiction and fantasy young adult author, Coreena McBurnie, who will talk to us about her new series Prophecy which retells the story of Antigone. Prophecy is the first book in the series and is now available. See below for more details about Prophecy and Coreena down below. 

Hi, Coreena. Thank you for stopping by the blog today for an author interview! Can you tell us about the journey that led you to write your book?

I had always wanted to write about Antigone, but wasn't sure where to start, especially because I envisioned a young adult novel and some of the subject matter is delicate -- like Antigone being the child of incest (her mother is her grandmother and her father is also her brother). I also really love Sophocles' plays involving Antigone -- she has always been one of my favourite characters from Greek myth -- and I wanted to do her justice. About four years ago, I was signed up to do National Novel Writing Month (a challenge to write 50,000 words in November) and didn't know what to write. I finally decided to tackle Antigone. I sat down and decided not to worry about what was in the Greek myth, that was all set and done, and instead decided to write without trying to tiptoe around the sticky issues. Once I did that, Antigone found her voice, one that was surprising even to me.

Why did you decide to retell the Oedipus myth from the point of view of Antigone when Antigone has a story of her own?

I decided to do this because I wanted to start the story at the beginning. Oedipus' and Antigone's stories are most famously told by Sophocles in his Oedipus plays, the last of which is called Antigone. My book, Prophecy, is the first of a planned trilogy mirroring these three plays. I wanted to get to the roots of Antigone's amazing sense of duty that we know her for and thought the place to start would be with the profound impact her family story must have had on her life.

Who is your favorite Greek god or goddess and why?

I love Athena, the goddess of wisdom. She is strong, independent, and smart, which has always appealed to me. She even has an owl as her animal symbol. And, her temple is the Parthenon in Athens -- an amazingly fantastic building!

What is your favorite Greek myth?

That's a tough one, but I'd probably have to say Theseus and the Minotaur because it is the first myth that I remember learning about way back in elementary school. I wrote a report on it and I was fascinated -- I think my love for Greek myth began there.

What are you reading at the moment and what do you think of it?

I have just started reading The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald, a Swedish author. So far it is very good, and promises to be a funny, quirky read. It's about a young Swedish woman who has never travelled before and is now visiting her elderly pen pal in a small town in Iowa called Broken Wheel. However, when she arrives, her pen pal friend has died, but the young woman ends up staying for her visit anyway. I am really enjoying Swedish writing in general right now because the sense of humour appeals to me.

What are the top 5 reasons readers should pick up Prophecy?

  • It has a powerful, strong, yet fallible heroine.
  • It takes place in ancient Greece and has gods and goddesses in it.
  • It is a fresh take on an old story that most people know.
  • Even though Antigone is an ancient Theban princess, her struggles to find herself and do what she thinks is best, despite what everyone else says, is pretty universal and applicable, even today.
  • I have studied Classical myth and culture for years, I even have degrees in Classical Studies, and I have put my love for Greek myth into this book.

About the Book

 A hidden prophecy.
 A chosen princess who speaks with snakes.
 A family duty.

Sixteen year old Princess Antigone, daughter of the infamous ancient Greek King Oedipus, wants to lead a normal life and fulfill her duty to the gods, her city, and her family, but fate has other plans. The Olympian gods bless her, the snakes talk to her, her parents want her to marry a foreign prince, her embroidery looks like burial shrouds for dogs, and she has fallen in love with the wrong boy. When the mysterious and devastating prophecies surrounding her family are revealed, Antigone must choose where her allegiance lies: With the gods who have betrayed her family but who she is obliged to serve? With her plague ridden city? With her family which lay in ruins? Or even with herself?

Find the Book at: Amazon | Smashwords | Kobo | iBooks | Barnes and Noble

About the Author

My name is Coreena McBurnie and, ever since grade 5 when I had to do a report on Theseus and the Minotaur, I have had a soft spot for Greek mythology. When I hit university, I was drawn to the Classical Studies department (earning both a BA & MA), where I explored the archaeology and culture of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds — and also where I managed to read Homer’s Odyssey, one of my absolute favourite books, in the original Greek, something which was thrilling for me (I know, sounds crazy, but the poetry and scope of the original text is amazing). After a lifetime of “what is that?”, “why did you study that?”, and “what can you do with a degree in Classical Studies?” I have decided to write novels based in ancient myth and to bring so many of the stories I love to life for a modern audience, with my own spin, of course.

Prophecy, Book 1 in the Antigone Series, is my first published novel. Currently I am working on Book 2 in the Antigone Series, called Fate. I am also in the middle of another novel about Clytemnestra who is notorious in Greek myth for killing her husband, Agamemnon, when he returned home from the Trojan War. I love exploring the motives of strong women in ancient myth.

I live in BC, Canada with my husband, our three kids, and our cat, in a beautiful part of the country, on two rivers, surrounded by ranches, near ski hills, and only a couple of hours drive to the ocean.

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