Friday, February 27, 2009

Review - Savvy by Ingrid Law

Review Contributor: Tanya of www.books4yourkids.com

Before I write my review of Savvy by Ingrid Law I need to thank my faithful reader, Jeremy and his daughter Ivy for keeping this book from slipping under my radar more than once. Savvy, The Penderwicks and The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart (which I promise to pick up again and review very soon...) are Ivy's three favorite books and I have to say, she has excellent taste!  Thanks for introducing me to what is now one my my favorite new books Jeremy and Ivy!

Savvy came out in May of 2008 and is still in hardcover.  One of the corporate book buyers must have thought it would be big (which it is) because we got a huge stack for our summer reading table. The cover is so dazzlingly beautiful that it was impossible not to pick up and read the flap.  Yet, when I read the flap nothing clicked with me at the time.  As every reader knows, sometimes you have to come across a book at just the right time for you to really embrace it. And once I did start reading Savvy I completely embraced it. I discovered that the words inside the book are just as dazzlingly, swirlingly, colorfully beautiful as the cover art,  which I sincerely hope they do not change for the paperback edition.  The dazzling, swirling words of this book and the rampant similes, rich descriptions and southernisms of Mississippi Beaumont, also known as Mibs, the thirteen year old narrator of the book might take a little getting used to.  But, once you get the hang for her style of speech you will find yourself totally absorbed by the wet, humid, crackling world that Ingrid Law creates in this book.

The plot, which I don't want to reveal to much of, is laid out sparsely on the jacket flap.  In the Beaumont family, savvies appear when a child turns thirteen.  The genius of Law's book, title and concept is that the idea of a "savvy," whether it is defined as a deep understanding of something, a knowingness, as it is in our world, or defined as a superhuman ability, as it is in Law's book (and she thinks up some hilarious, clever savvies for her characters), it can be read, above all else, a metaphor for understanding and coming to know one's self.  And, to take it one step further, this knowingness comes at a natural time of transition in every child's life - the sometimes momentous passage from child to teenager.  The other brilliance of Law's use of "savvy" is that it speaks to the innermost longings of most, especially reading, children.  What kid doesn't want to believe that she has some special, hidden talent that will emerge on a set date?  What kid doesn't think that he has some super ability waiting to be discovered, an ability that will allow him to stand out amongst his peers?  Who doesn't want to believe that he/she is special in some way that hasn't been uncovered yet?  Like Claudia in EL Konigsburg's masterpiece, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler, which I think may have been the first book for children to acknowledge the desire for specialness, some kids want something in their lives that will make them, prove to them that they are different.  For Claudia, it was discovering the secret of the angel statue and having that secret to keep.  For the Beaumonts, it is their special power which also must be kept a secret.  But, one of the many beauties of this book is the way in which Mibs and her family learn to trust others with their secrets and share their savvies.

The action of the book, the plot event that gets the story moving is not Mibs' thirteenth birthday and the revelation of her savvy, but a car accident the day before that leaves her father in critical condition.  Mrs Beaumont and Rocket, the oldest Beaumont child who, at the age of seventeen still has not found a way to "scumble," or control, his savvy, go to the hospital ninety miles away to be with Mr Beaumont, leaving Mibs, her fourteen year old brother Fish, her seven year old brother Samson, her three year old sister Gypsy and Grandpa Bomba at home to wait and worry.  But, they are not alone for long.  Mrs Rosemary Meeks, the preacher's wife, and her children Bobbi, sixteen, and Will Jr, fourteen, arrive at the Beaumont house to take care of the remaining family and throw Mibs a thirteenth birthday party.  Mistakenly believing her savvy is the ability to wake sleeping people, Mibs stows away on the pink bus that belongs to Lester Swan, a nervous bible delivery man who is bullied mercilessly by his mother and girlfriend,  which is headed to the town where her father is hospitalized.  Seeing her sneak aboard the bus, Will Jr, Fish and Bobbi follow.  Samson, an introverted child who rarely speaks and always finds a dark hole to hide in (much like my roommate freshman year of college...) has already hidden himself on the bus in an attempt to avoid his sister's party.   However, Lester isn't headed straight to Salina-Hope and an adventure ensues.

Law wraps up her story with the same sensitivity, thoughtfulness and tenderness that she shows her characters in the rest of the book.  Being a children's book, Mr Beaumont does not die, however he does seem to wake from his coma at the dramatic moment that Mibs begs/wills him to.  But, he returns to the family a different man.  The existence of savvies in their lives has made the Beaumonts a more connected, insular family - the children are all home schooled after their thirteenth birthdays until they learn to control their powers.  They all enjoy each other's company immensely and seem to have no need for outsiders.  Because of this, they are able to cope with Mr Beaumont's injuries and changes in a loving way that makes you wish all bittersweet endings could be so sweet.

I have specifically chosen not to disclose the savvy that is bestowed on Mibs.  Again, it is another act of genius on the part of Ingrid Law.  It is so hard not to discuss Mibs' savvy because, like savvies themselves, it works on many levels and pertains specifically to something negative that all us humans do on a daily basis but could change if we wanted to...  Maybe I've piqued your interests just enough now to get you to read one of the best chapter books of 2008, Savvy!

And, just in case those of you who have read the book are wondering, there really is a Hebron, Nebraska and it really is the home of the World's Largest Porch Swing!
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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Author Guest Post - Cheryl Brooks (and Giveaway!)

384 pages, 
Sourcebooks Casablanca, 
ISBN-10: 1402217625
Today I'm pleased to welcome Cheryl Brooks, author of Rogue (Third book in The Cat Star Chronicles series). Her guest post here today is part of this book's virtual tour, courtesy Danielle of Sourcebooks Publicity.

About the Book
Trag and Tychar are brothers sold into slavery when their planet was destroyed. Their race carries a feline gene, giving them sinuous beauty and extraordinary sexual powers. Tychar's female conquests are legendary, but they never meant much to him, and Trag just laughs at his playboy brother. Living on Darconia, a planet of friendly but unattractive lizards, neither has been with a woman in many years. When the queen hires Kyra Aramis, a human from Earth, to teach piano to her children, Trag and Tychar agree to share the female and set out to win her over.

But suddenly Tychar becomes possessive - Kyra is unlike any woman he's ever known. But he's sure he's ruined any chance of her trusting him with her heart...

About the Author
Cheryl Brooks is a critical care nurse by night and a romance writer by day. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America and lives in Indiana along with her husband, two sons, five cats, five horses, and one dog. She is the author of The Cat Star Chronicles: Slave. Rogue is the third book in The Cat Star Chronicles series.

Author's Guest Post

On February 4th, I received an email from a reader who had already read Slave and Warrior, but didn't know that Rogue was already in stores a full month in advance of its March 1 release date. I, of course, emailed her back to tell her the good news. On February 11th, she wrote back to say she'd finished it—and loved it!—and that her husband was now halfway through Warrior. Wow! If that doesn't make a writer feel good, nothing will.

I think my books could have a strong appeal to male readers if they could manage to overcome the aversion to reading a book with a hunky naked man on the cover. After all, science fiction readers (and writers) are traditionally male.

But let's not forget that I wrote my Cat Star Chronicles series for the enjoyment of all of us sci-fi-lovin' women! We want our heroes big, strong, handsome—purring if possible!—sexy (of course!) and alien.

The idea of sex with an alien has appealed to me since my early Star Trek days. If I'd been aboard the Enterprise, Mr. Spock wouldn't have been safe. This sentiment brings to mind the number of alien women who fooled around with Captain Kirk, and I'm sure they felt the same way. Sex with an alien. What could be more unique?

Writing about aliens is a blast because there are no limits to what my imagination can invent. For example, my Zetithian men are so hot that someone was jealous enough to try to exterminate them. There aren't many of them left, but those survivors have made a number of human women extremely happy. You may have met Cat in Slave and Leo in Warrior, but now, you'll meet Tychar and Trag, two hot, Zetithian brothers who go on the prowl when their owner, the lizard Queen Scalia of Darconia, hires Kyra Aramis, a young pianist from Earth to teach her daughter the piano. Sparks fly when the two sexy tigers vie for her affections. The trouble is, having been slaves on a planet populated by reptiles, neither of them have had sex in twenty years. Kyra faces a serious dilemma: the Queen is willing for her to “borrow” one or both of her precious slaves. Without her, they will both be condemned to a lifetime of celibacy. Will the love she has for one be jeopardized if she gives in to the other? For that matter, what will happen to a human female who when she gets together with two Zetithians? What's a girl to do? For that matter, what would you do?

Building new worlds is a fascinating experience, too. On a desert planet with little in the way of modern technology, the Darconians have a different type of stone to fill almost every need from time-keeping to dusting the palace. I also incorporated my love of music and humor—just imagine a miniature T-Rex playing the piano and you’ll get some idea of what I mean by that. Add political upheaval, a group of bizarre alien slaves, some super-hot romance, gun runners, a few old friends, and a tense desert conflict, and you’ve got The Cat Star Chronicles: Rogue.

So come on along on a journey to distant Darconia, where the natives are lizards, the desert is hot, and the Zetithian slave boys are even hotter!

Thank you for that entertaining post, Cheryl! Readers, your thoughts / comments are most welcome.

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GIVEAWAY

One lucky commenter will also win a copy of this book, which will be mailed directly to the winner by the publisher. You have until midnight CST of March12th to get those comments and questions in! US & Canada only. Good luck!

Please read the Disclaimer



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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Review - The Terror by Dan Simmons (and Giveaway!)


The Terror
Dan Simmons
992 pp, Little, Brown and Co, ISBN-10: 0316008079
About the Book

The men on board HMS Terror have every expectation of finding the Northwest Passage. When the expedition's leader, Sir John Franklin, meets a terrible death, Captain Francis Crozier takes command and leads his surviving crewmen on a last, desperate attempt to flee south across the ice. But as another winter approaches, as scurvy and starvation grow more terrible, and as the Terror on the ice stalks them southward, Crozier and his men begin to fear there is no escape. A haunting, gripping story based on actual historical events, The Terror is a novel that will chill you to your core.

Review
It's gripping, it's terrifying and it's just about impossible to put down. That's Dan Simmons' Terror for you!

The novel promises and delivers a lot. What I sincerely admire is the amount of research the author has done, the painstaking details he recreates in his story and the effort to get them true to real life. That's what succeeds in making this novel stand-out and be a force unto itself.

The readers get sucked into the narrative gradually since the way it weaves back and forth, from the past to the present and back, is disconcerting if one doesn't pay attention to the Chapter titles which indicate the time period. The maps provided toward the beginning of the book are helpful in keeping the reader on track as the ships go to and forth along routes and places too confusing to understand otherwise. We follow the story from when the ships are already stuck in ice. The background is then gradually revealed and in such a way as to keep the readers continually challenged and filled with suspense. The Terror is not just not physical, but mental and emotional too and Simmons in-depth writing has the power to make the reader experience it all along with the characters. From some hope to total hopelessness, it's a bleak journey just like the landscape. But one filled with human and unnatural experiences that just too painful and sometimes unbelievable at times.

I went into this novel having just briefly read the back blurb. As such, I went in without much expectation or bias. And while, in the end, I found the novel to be irresistible and a very worthwhile reading experience, I must mention the one thing I keenly felt the lack of. That of a foreword by the author or a preface where readers are given an introduction to the background behind the search for the legendary Northwest Passage. Instead readers are left to put together the pieces through the recollections and viewpoints of various characters and this doesn't always make for coherent reading.

That apart, the novel is a stellar read and one I wouldn't hesitate to recommend!

And now for the...
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GIVEAWAY

The Prize

FIVE lucky winners will each win a copy of this book.

To Enter
  • Visit Hachette Books and tell me which of their New or Upcoming releases you'd love to read and why. I'd also love it if you include why you want to win this book.
  • You must include your email address in the body of your comment.
  • Your email address will be used to contact you in the event you're the lucky winner.
  • Prizes cannot be mailed to PO Boxes.
For Extra Entries

Please leave a NEW comment for each extra entry you do.

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1 Extra Entry- Grab my button and comment here with the link to your site and where I can find it.


Deadline   Midnight CST of March 6, 2009.

Eligibility  US & Canada only. Note : Prize cannot be mailed to PO Boxes.

Please read the Disclaimer
    Good luck!
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    Beating Ana - Excerpt and Giveaway

    As you know, National Eating Disorders Awareness Week begins on February 22. To address this very serious issue, and offer tangible help to those who deal with ED, I bring to you today Author Shannon Cutts and her enlightening book, Beating Ana.

    About the Book

    Imagine a world in which is it easy to find someone to turn to who understands your struggles, identifies with your wounds, and knows how lonely and scary it feels to live inside your skin. No longer would you have to feel ashamed, hopeless, or helpless when you resolve each day to beat your eating disorder, only to fall down again. In this fantastic brave new world, you would face your eating disorder head on, standing tall and firm with supportive friends by your side as you get better—and stay that way! In Beating Ana, Shannon Cutts opens the door and invites you into this world as she introduces you to a whole new way of thinking about and recovering from your eating disorder.

    Shannon, too, fought hard during her 15-year battle with anorexia and bulimia and is now in a strong decade-long recovery from both. She understands firsthand the total isolation, dead-end thinking, and exhausting mind tricks that eating disorders confine you to, and has found a way to break free from eating disordered thinking and living—for good. Here, in Beating Ana, Shannon shares her own story with you and introduces you to a fresh, new, powerful, and proven approach to overcoming your eating disorder—the world of mentoring and connecting together.

    From the very first page of Beating Ana, you will experience the empowering joy of sharing your recovery process with others as Shannon guides you in the same fun, introspective, practical and empowering techniques that she developed to achieve her own lasting recovery and has since passed along to her own mentees. You will walk with Shannon through the recovery process as you read private correspondence from five of her longtime mentees and participate right along with them in self-quizzes, short exercises, motivational affirmations, and journaling that is specifically designed to give you the courage, support, and tangible skills to say 'no' to your eating disorder and 'yes' to your life

    About the Author

    Shannon Cutts is known as a compassionate and charismatic advocate of our right to feel good about ourselves, our bodies, and our lives. Following her recovery from a fifteen-year battle with anorexia and bulimia, Shannon founded Key to Life and MentorCONNECT to share the power of mentoring with others.

    Book Excerpt

    Making the transition from being one of the many who suffers from an eating disorder (ED) to becoming one of the few who triumphs over your eating disorder is as rocky as any I can think of. Quite possibly, the only experience tougher on a human body, mind, heart, and spirit than falling ill is getting better.

    It gets unnecessarily tougher, however, when we assume that we will have to heal the same way we got sick—alone. We don’t. In fact, I couldn’t. My loneliness and isolation were precisely the reasons why recovery felt so difficult—impossible, really. So here, in this first section, Part One: Welcome to Our World - I will introduce you to a whole new approach to eating disorders recovery—an approach that worked for me when I had literally lost all hope of surviving my eating disorder in any other way—an approach that has the very same power to renew your hope and transform your experience of recovery.

    So what are we waiting for? Let’s get started!

    ***

    It is our Tuesday evening support group. On tiptoes, speaking in hushed whispers, they sidle forward, eyes groundward, chests barely rising and falling, curling up into the depths or balancing on the edges of their chosen seats. . . . They are afraid to breathe too loudly for fear someone will notice.

    It is scary to be noticed when you don’t like what you’ve become. It is scarier still to be noticed when you don’t know who you are. And when the little you do know of yourself consists of the constant competition, comparison, and criticism of an eating disorder in your head, at first it can be very scary to be noticed keeping company with others like you . . . to realize that you, and your eating disorder, are not alone.

    But eventually, if you want to heal, if you want to live, you adjust. You get used to two things—one, being noticed, and two, not being the only one with an eating disorder. You also get used to not being the only one with depression, anxiety, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, low self-esteem, self-harm, Promiscuity or sexual anorexia, substance abuse, alcoholism, borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, bottomless fear, uncontrollable anger, and endless aching loneliness . . . and you get used to sharing the burden of guilt generated by being willing, for quite some time now, to do just about anything and everything to ease the void within, even if what you are driven to do drags you down, and then drags everyone else down with you. In fact, oddly enough, this sense of collective ownership is eventually part of what gives you some small, and, in time, much greater relief.

    This process—of harnessing the transformative, healing, relieving power of naming, owning, and then sharing both the pain and the promise of recovery with at least one other person who has been there, understands, and is willing and able to help—is called mentoring. Mentoring neatly circumvents the isolation in which an eating disorder flourishes by putting us in direct connection with each other—heart to heart, mind to mind, spirit to spirit. Mentoring has become a virtually lost art in this isolating age of eating disorders. Yet I have spent the past twenty years of my life putting into daily practice, and the last five years compiling, the material you hold in your hands now, because mentoring saved my life. I have seen it save the lives of many of my mentees, and I believe it has the same power to save your life as well.

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    GIVEAWAY

    The Prize

    One winner will get a copy of this book.

    To Enter
    • Just leave a comment with your email address telling me of - How eating disorders have affected your life or the life of someone you know?
    • Don't forget to include your email address in the body of your comment or your entry will not be considered. 
    For Extra Entries

    Want 5 extra entries? Here's how...
    Please leave a NEW comment for each extra entry you do.

    1 Extra Entry - Blog this giveaway
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    1 Extra Entry- Follow Me on Twitter (callmeabookworm) and Tweet this giveaway. Leave a new comment here with the link.

    1 Extra Entry- Grab my button and comment here with the link to your site and where I can find it.


    Deadline   Midnight CST of March 6, 2009.

    Eligibility  US & Canada

    Note:
    • Winner's address and email will be shared with the Sponsor.
    • Winner must respond with their full name and address to the notifying email within 3 days of it being sent or a new winner will be chosen.
    • The Sponsor will take care of the actual mailing of the prize.
    • Disclaimer
    Good luck!
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    Tuesday, February 24, 2009

    Author Q&A - Anthony Policastro

    Absence of Faith
    Anthony Policastro
    Anthony S. Policastro is the author of two novels, and a freelance writer with articles in The New York Times, American Photographer, and other national, regional and local publications.

    His first novel, Absence of Faith, involving a mystery that causes the highly religious residents of a small coastal town to lose their faith, is available free as an e-book from smashwords.com and in print from Lulu.com

    About the Author

    Anthony S. Policastro has been writing all his life.

    PhotobucketThe publication of his first novel, Absence of Faith, is the pinnacle of his work having previously published articles in The New York Times, American Photographer and other national, regional, and local publications.

    Policastro was the former editor-in-chief of Carolina Style magazine, a regional lifestyle publication similar to Southern Living magazine. He was a former journalist, photographer, and web master. The author’s background is in technology, business intelligence, and communications.

    He has two BA degrees - one in Creative Writing, and another in American Studies from Penn State University, both of which have greatly enhanced his writing career. A member of the Backspace writers group, he has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing and a BA in American Studies both from Penn State University.

    His short essay on “What does it mean to be an American family” won in the Borders Books Gather.com contest to promote the movie and book, Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. He currently writes a blog with Michael Neff, creator and editor of the Webdelsol and Algonkian websites, about writers’ issues called The Writer’s Edge. Policastro and Neff have been referred to as the Ebert and Roeper of the literary scene with their point/counterpoint posts.

    Born in New Jersey, he now lives in North Carolina with his wife. He has two sons and a daughter.

    Author's Q&A

    1 Q. Where do you get your ideas for a book?

    ASP: I’m always thinking of what ifs. I guess this goes back to my curiosity as a kid. I was always interested is how things worked, what made them work and why? I still have that curiosity.  I like to push the envelope and see what happens, and then I know how and why things work the way they do. One of my favorite web sites is How Stuff Works. Sometimes I think that site was made for me. I think to be a good writer you have to be curious about everything.

    2 Q. How did you come up with the idea for Absence of Faith?

    ASP: I had just finished my first novel and my wife and I were discussing story ideas for the next book when we came up with the idea for Absence of Faith.  What would you do if you lost your belief in religion, your belief in God and thought everything was hopeless? What if you lost something that was extremely important to you? What would you do?

    Bestselling author and psychic Sylvia Browne writes in her book, Prophecy, that, "...our beliefs are the driving force behind our behavior, our opinions, our actions. Without faith, without our beliefs, we're lost."
    These are the issues addressed in the novel.


    3 Q. How did you come up with the plot for Absence of Faith?

    ASP: I always start out with a basic concept, a unique what if situation and let the plot evolve from there. I’ve tried outlining the plot chapter by chapter and found it too constricting on my creativity. I found myself trying to fit the characters into the plot rather than letting the characters create the plot for me.

    4 Q. The characters create the plot for you? How does that work?

    ASP: Each character has unique qualities and traits and when you put that character into a specific situation, he or she will react in a certain way. If you have a character that is very stubborn and you put him in a situation where he is faced with a multiple of decisions, he will most likely pick the decision that he knows works rather than the right decision. His actions then drive the plot forward. For every action there is a reaction.

    5 Q. Why did you write this book?

    ASP: I have wanted to write a novel since I was 17, but when I sat down to write, I had nothing to say. I hadn’t lived long enough; I didn’t have enough life experiences to write anything outside of myself.

    I wrote this book to communicate an idea; to let people into the unique way I view the world. I love to communicate to people information that helps them or enlightens them. I like to invent unique situations and characters and see how people react to them with laughter, sadness, elation, surprise, or delight. I’m thrilled when that happens.

    6 Q. Do you think you have a bestseller?

    ASP: That’s a loaded question. Every author believes they have a bestseller, but the truth will be known when people read it and recommend it to others. I hope so, but the market will decide that for me.

    In light of all the interest in spirituality and religion that was spawned by The DaVinci Code and other books, my book may be of interest. It is about the affirmation of faith; it doesn’t matter what religion you practice or what you believe in as long as you have faith in something. This is the message in my book.

    7 Q. Have you written other novels?

    ASP: Yes. Dark End of the Spectrum, my third book, is a mystery suspense thriller about hackers who take over the US power grid and cell phone network. My first novel, The Water Witch, which I wrote in 1990 has to be modernized to bring it into the 21st century, and I have a new one that I started last year, Looking for Lucy, that I hope to finish in the next few months.

    8 Q: Where do you get all these ideas for novels?

    ASP: Funny you asked that. I may be reading something in a magazine or online and suddenly an idea jumps into my head – a what if question. Then I do a little research on the question to see if it is plausible and to make sure no one has written a novel with the same concept. If I don’t have the time to research it right away, I write the idea down and do it later.

    9 Q. What are your goals as a novelist?

    ASP: I want to tell a story that helps people live more meaningful lives - a story that enables them to better understand the problems facing everyone. A lot of writers write for themselves and there is nothing wrong with this because what they write sometimes helps all of us. I always write with the reader in mind and what they will get out of my work.

    10 Q. What advice would you give to upcoming writers?

    ASP: Never give up if you truly want to be an author. It’s a tough road, but every published author I know goes down the same road and has a bag full of disappointment, self-doubt, and loss of purpose. Just keep writing.

    Thank you for that interesting post, dear Author! Readers, your thoughts and comments are most welcome.


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    Monday, February 23, 2009

    Kim Harrison - New Book and A Giveaway!

    White Witch, Black Curse (The Hollows, Book 7)
    Kim Harrison
    Release Date: Feb 24, 2009 
    512 pages, EOS, ISBN-10: 0061138010
    Do you love Rachel, Ivy, Jenks and other assorted creatures who are part of acclaimed author Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan Series? So do I! Everytime there's something new and perilous going on, whether it's the inter-personal relationships, the inter-departmental ones or some other highly dangerous assignment that Rachel's taken or been dragged headlong into!

    Her latest book,  White Witch, Black Curse, Book 7 in the series, is releasing tomorrow and I can't wait to read it! But you don't have to wait.


    Wondering what's this book all about? Here's the synopsis:

    Some wounds take time to heal . . . and some scars never fade.
    Rachel Morgan, kick-ass witch and bounty hunter, has taken her fair share of hits, and has broken lines she swore she would never cross. But when her lover was murdered, it left a deeper wound than Rachel ever imagined, and now she won't rest until his death is solved . . . and avenged. Whatever the cost.

    Yet the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and when a new predator moves to the apex of the Inderlander food chain, Rachel's past comes back to haunt her.

    Literally.

    About the author

    Kim Harrison, dark urban fantasy author of The New York Times bestselling The Outlaw Demon Wails, was born and raised in the upper Midwest. After receiving a Bachelor of Science degree, she moved to South Carolina, where she has remained since. Between working on the Hollows books, she is currently developing a new young adult series.

    Kim is a member of both the Romance Writers of America and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. When not at her desk, she is most likely to be found chasing down good chocolate, exquisite sushi, or the ultimate dog chew.

    Now that your curiosity is brimming, how about a

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    GIVEAWAY

    Prizes

    One lucky winner will get
    • A “White Witch, Black Curse” t-shirt.
    • “T4” tomato seed packets - in this series of books, tomatoes from the Angel corporation are what kill 99% of the world's population.

    To Enter
    • Leave a comment with your email address in the body of the comment telling me :

      If you were the author, in which new direction you would take this series? (Would you bump off a tedious old love, introduce a new lead character with special powers or what?) Let loose your imagination and answer!

      OR 

      If you think the storyline is perfect the way it is, just mention that. You must, however, tell me the reason WHY you think so?

    • Kindly note. No Email Address in the body of your comment = NO Entry.
    For Extra Entries

    Please leave a NEW comment for each extra entry you do. There are 2 special ways to get extra entries this time!

    * 1 Extra Entry - Come back here each day. Leave a new comment (with email address) naming a character from this series and your opinion of them. Different character each time, please. Characters need not be series regulars.

    1 Extra Entry - Blog this giveaway with a link back to this post. Leave a new comment here with the link to your post.

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    Friday, February 20, 2009

    Review - Giant Pop-Out Shapes

    Giant Pop-Out Shapes: A Pop-Out Surprise Book
    By Amelia Powers
    Reading level: Ages 4-8
    Board book: 26 pages
    Chronicle Books 
    This sturdy interactive book, with impressive pop-out features, is sure to engage and entertain curious preschoolers. Simple clues in words and pictures allow children to guess what hides behind each flap. Then they open the flap to reveal a large pop-out surprise! Giant Pop-Out Shapes features a variety of shapes and familiar objects that share that shape, helping children learn to recognize these shapes in their world—an important early childhood skill. The pop-outs are simple and sturdy, making them well-suited to young children.

    My Thoughts

    If I had one book to teach my toddler all about shapes, it would be this one!

    I LOVE it! And even Kiddo's grandfather loved it! Needless to say, my son is the happiest of all :)

    I've been trying to teach my son shapes for some time now. While he's mastered the rudimentary shapes like triangle and circle, he just couldn't grasp diamond, heart, square etc. I tried cutting out pictures, even drawing them. But nothing worked. Until this book arrived!

    The pop-ups were a definite hit and probably what helped my son memorize the shapes much faster than before. The examples used from daily life, such as a pizza slice for triangle, are something I'm incorporating in our daily life and have proved ideal to distract my son when he's fretful or crying. I go.. "oh, look! your tear look just like an oval!" And immediately my son stops crying as he ponders over that tiny bit of miraculousness! That wasn't the intent of this book, I know, but still...

    My recommendation - BUY it, now!
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    Thursday, February 19, 2009

    Author Guest Post - Linda Wisdom (and Giveaway!)

    384 pages, 
    Sourcebooks Casablanca, ISBN-10: 1402217730
    Today I'm happy to welcome Linda Wisdom, author of Wicked by Any Other Name. Her guest post here today is part of this book's virtual tour, courtesy Danielle of Sourcebooks Publicity.

    About the Book
    Feisty witch Stasi Romanov was one of 13 classmates at the Witches Academy who was expelled seven hundred years ago for bad behavior. Stasi has since then settled down a bit, owning a lingerie boutique while dabbling in a brisk side business of love charms.

    Sparks fly, however, when one of those charms goes awry, and Stasi finds herself in a preternatural lawsuit matching wits with devastatingly handsome wizard attorney Trevor Barnes. Then mysterious magic from an unknown enemy threatens to turn Stasi's quiet town into a modern day Salem, and Stasi's witchy friends from long ago gather for the fight. They need Trevor's powerful help. But every witch knows you can't trust a wizard, and soon Stasi is fighting for her life and her heart.

    About the Author
    Linda Wisdom has published more than 70 romance in all subgenres. Her books have been published worldwide, have appeared on various romance and mass market bestseller lists and been nominated for a number of Romantic Times awards and the Romance Writers of America Rita Award. She lives with her husband in California.

    Author's Guest Post
    *********************
    Are You A Good Witch or A Bad Witch?
    By Linda Wisdom

    PhotobucketMy husband and I visited Salem years ago and I instantly fell in love with the town. I hadn’t even started writing yet, but the memory of our time there remained with me along with the heartbreaking history from the Salem Witch Trials. Once I started writing paranormal, I knew I’d use it and Wicked By Any Other Name was the perfect book for it.

    The paranoia and hysteria from then was echoed in Moonstone Lake with the lake tainted by an unknown magick, with the human residents seeing Stasi with suspicion because a woman accused her of using magick to keep her cheating husband from returning to her and found a wizard attorney to sue her in Wizards Court.

    Stasi only wants to celebrate Samhain with her friends, but that doesn’t seem to be possible. Instead, the ghosts that walk the town during the time of year when the veil between the living and the dead are also targeted. Trevor Barnes may be attorney for the plaintiff but he sure has his eye on the defendant. And there’s red hearts dancing over his head. The same hearts that appeared over Stasi’s head and now she’s hiccupping iridescent bubbles all over the place.

    Stasi loves romance and Trev’s more than happy to provide that, but memories of her time in Olde Salem now haunt her as people fear her and whisper “witch” and not in a good way. Her best friend and fellow witch, Blair is ready to help, Jazz, Nick and Irma arrive with the same intention, and Trev reminds himself there was a reason why he didn’t like working with humans.

    But we are talking my sassy witches, so the story can’t be all dark and edgy, can it? Which is why Stasi has a small dog that floats instead of walks and disappears without warning and an eight inch gargoyle named Horace who enjoys hanging out in the boutique’s dressing rooms. While Fluff and Puff were mischievous, Horace is more a pervert but somehow manages to be endearing.

    So there’s the balance of light and dark. Fun and scary and lots of magick added to the mix.

    The question is if Stasi can discover what harmed the lake and why the humans in town have turned against her so much that even her life is in danger.

    And anyone who knows their history knows what happened in Olde Salem. Will it happen again with Moonstone Lake’s local witches even if they are most definitely good witches?

    Is that something you enjoy in books? The blend of fact and fiction?

    And one warning: the next time you use a store dressing room, you might want to check corners before you take off any clothing.

    ~ Linda

    Thank you for that entertaining post, Linda! Readers, your thoughts / comments are most welcome.

    Photobucket
    GIVEAWAY

    One lucky commenter will also win a copy of this book, which will be mailed directly to the winner by the publisher. You have until midnight CST of March 5th to get those comments and questions in! US & Canada only. Good luck!

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    Wednesday, February 18, 2009

    Book Excerpt : Escape By Rye James

    Escape
    Rye James
    Maverick Spur Publishing

    Thanks to the Author, I have this book's interesting excerpt for you to read.

    About the Book:

    Ray Spencer is an honest man trying to do the right thing. After uncovering information that would lead to a scandal a contract is placed on his head. He is then framed for a murder he did not commit forcing him to go on the run. A hitman and the FBI both desperately want him. At every turn there could be someone waiting for him. There's only one thing he can do--escape.

    Excerpt:


    Spencer just stared at the wall with the phone still pressed to his ear, listening to the buzz. The last thing the man said to him replayed in his head a few times over, not really sinking in that it could be true. He put the phone down, and took a gulp, wondering what he had gotten himself into. He hastily turned around, looking the room over for anything that might have seemed out of place. Everything appeared to be normal though. He then snapped his head up towards the window, remembering the blue car parked outside the house.

    He slowly walked towards the window, and opened the curtains ever so slightly. He peered out the slit in the curtains looking at the car parked in front of the house. His mind started racing with thoughts of whose  it could be. His mouth was dry, and he could feel his heart thumping heavily, like it was going to explode out of his chest any minute.  He’d never felt such a presence of danger and uncertainty before.

    Spencer loved the peace and quiet that the house usually afforded him, but now he wished there was a party that would’ve matched the hottest nightclub in Philadelphia. The uneasiness of being by himself at that moment, or hoping that he was alone, tied his throat up in knots and made his hands sweat. One thing he knew was that he wasn’t going to be able to relax until he knew he was the only person in the house.  He was going to have to search the house to put his mind at ease.

    Spencer certainly wasn’t about to go searching the house without some protection, so he walked into the kitchen and pulled a knife out of one of the drawers. There were two small rooms and a bathroom on both floors of the house. The two rooms on the first floor were his home office, and a game room. The two upstairs rooms were his bedroom and a guest room.


    Gripping the knife in his right hand he gingerly walked into the bathroom. He put his free hand on the side of the shower curtain and strongly threw it to the side, ready to pounce on the intruder. To his relief, the shower was empty. He breathed a little easier for a few seconds. After he took a moment to settle down, it was time to search the other rooms.

    He slowly opened the door to his office and flicked on the light. He quickly spun around behind the door as if someone was waiting there for him, but again, he was relieved to find nothing. There were few places where a person could hide in the downstairs rooms. Next up was his game room. He wiped the sweat across his forehead with his sleeve just before he entered the room. His head peeked around the door to once again find empty space. Although he was scared out of his mind at what he might find, it was a rush like he’d never experienced before.


    Then Spencer thought he heard a noise coming from one of the upstairs rooms. It sounded to him like the floor creaking, like it does when someone’s moving around. He tried to remain as calm as he possibly could, realizing that houses do creak a lot, and that it could be his paranoia playing around with his shot nerves. By this time, the knife in his hand had almost become glued to his palm with a deathlike grip.


    He walked to the bottom of the stairs, and looked up towards the top, almost as if he was waiting for a push from someone to proceed. He took a deep sigh and started to walk up the stairs. He took to each step slowly and methodically, carefully trying to avoid making any sounds. When he reached the top of the stairs, he went straight ahead into the bathroom. He was glad this one had a clear shower door that he could see through from a distance. He hoped that this wouldn’t be a nightly occurrence, as he didn’t think he’d be able to handle it.
                 
    As he walked into the guest room, he heard a slight rattle to the left of him. Spencer instantly looked over, with his eyes bulging out, only to discover it was the shaking of the window from wind of the storm. Breathing rather heavily, he quickly flicked up the light switch on the wall, and looked to the right to see an empty closet. He then saw the bed, which was directly against the far wall. Walking towards it, he thought hiding under the bed was something that was only done in movies, but he had to check. He slipped down to his knees and lifted up the sheets of the bed, not finding anything.


    He stood back up, breathing heavily once again, knowing there was only one more room to go. Although relieved to not have found any surprises thus far, Spencer knew that his bedroom would be the most likely spot for someone to be waiting for him. Maybe that’s why he saved it for last, procrastinating looking in that room, though he knew he had to. He stood at the door and closed his eyes, like he was praying for everything to be alright. When he opened his eyes he felt a slight chill come across him, and felt goosebumps popping up on his arms.


    Gently turning the knob of the door, Spencer opened it just enough to be able to turn on the light. He flipped the switch up, but the room stayed dark. He quickly flipped it back down and up again, waiting for a different result.


    “Oh, no”, he thought.

    End of excerpt




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    Tuesday, February 17, 2009

    A Conversation with Todd Johnson

    The Sweet By and By
    Todd Johnson
    William Morrow,
    ISBN 13: 9780061579523, $24.95 

    On Sale - TODAY
    About The Book
    Q: What inspired you to write your first book, The Sweet By and By?
    A : Memories of my grandmothers and the women around them compelled me to write The Sweet By and By. But it’s not autobiographical in any sense. I can assure you everyone in my family is relieved. They’ve all finally exhaled.

    Q: You dedicated The Sweet By and By to your grandmothers. Who are they? Are they Margaret and Bernice? 
    A : So many people have asked that, but no, Margaret and Bernice came solely out of my head. Both of my grandmothers did spend time in nursing homes, one when she was in her nineties, and the other, while still a relatively young woman in her sixties, but very ill and no longer able to live alone. They both ended their lives in that setting. For years, whenever I visited my parents in North Carolina, I also visited my grandmothers. So, of course, I absorbed those sights and sounds, as well as memories of certain people, but it wasn’t until much later that I started working on the book. I daresay that anyone who has had a parent or grandparent in a nursing home has probably known a Margaret or Bernice. They’re unforgettable, in their way.

    Q: Why are all of your lead characters women?
    A : I’m often asked “why all women?” Honestly, it never crossed my mind while I was writing the book. There are so many male authors who have written in women’s voices beautifully. The great Reynolds Price, for example. In Kate Vaiden and also Roxanna Slade, two of my favorite novels. Also Allan Gurganus’ Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All. There’s a long list of others. I put down the story the way it came to me. I grew up going to family reunions every year in North Carolina on both my mother’s and my father’s sides. And for some amount of time, both families got together on the same day. They had a knack for picking the hottest one of the year. And always outside. We had to go to one place and eat until we were stuffed and then do the same thing all over again ten miles down the road. But what I remember most is the preparation. All the women – young and old and in‐between ‐‐ filled a mile‐long table with every kind of food imaginable while talking the whole time. The men were definitely there, but it’s the women’s voices that resonated and shaped my ear for storytelling. It was sort of a chaotic symphony.

    Q: How does being from North Carolina inform your writing?
    A : I wrote The Sweet By and By entirely in the first person, so part of my work was to create a distinct and recognizable narrative voice for each of my five women characters. And there’s no generic Southern way of speaking. North Carolina alone abounds in regionalisms. And what one might assume to be rules are not necessarily hard and fast. Southerners know, for example, that even the most educated and refined woman might use “ain’t” if she’s trying to make a point or a joke or both. It’s all about the context. Those sounds, the sounds of the South, especially eastern North Carolina, are deeply embedded in me. It was the most natural way for me to tell the story. But the heart of The Sweet By and By would be the same wherever it might have been set. These women are everywhere if you look hard enough.

    Q: Who were your early influences as a writer? 
    A : The obvious answer is also the true one: the Southern writers. I have favorites, of course. The earliest would have to be Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, and Reynolds Price. Later, I read Gail Godwin, Lee Smith, Alice Walker, and Kaye Gibbons, all inspiring to me. There are so many others. Not to mention the classics: Virginia Woolf, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, and of course, Dickens. Absolutely, Dickens.

    Q: How long have you been writing? 
    A : I have been writing in journals since I was twenty years old. That’s a late start compared to an awful lot of writers. But creative writing wasn’t a big part of my childhood, or even my education until I was in college in Chapel Hill. My journey as an artist took me down a different sort of path. I knew that I loved telling stories, but writing a book was a dream that I had to grow into. I’m in awe of the gifted twenty‐one year‐olds who turn out stunning work so early on. I just wasn’t ready to try when I was that age.

    Q: How long did it take you to write The Sweet By and By? 
    A : I wrote The Sweet By and By in about three years, although I wasn’t working on it full‐time. I started it while I was still producing The Color Purple on Broadway. That took a great deal of my time. But I’m not one of those writers who can sit down and work for ten hours. Maybe once in a blue moon, but that’s it. I like to work in four‐hour blocks. That’s how much time I need for something to happen, even if I’m just sitting at my desk thinking. And even then I don’t always know whether anything has really happened until weeks later when something might show up on the page. I have no idea when I’ll finish the one I’m working on now.

    Q: Will any of the characters from The Sweet By and By carry over into your next book? 
    A : No. I don’t yet know whether Rhonda is finished with me. She’s so full of life and possibility. But she’s not in the next book.

    Q: The Sweet By and By has a lot of talk about God and church in it. Are you a religious person? 
    A : The Sweet By and By is not a religious book. It’s a book about daring to live fully. That said, I find it hard to extricate religion from Southern culture. I grew up going to Sunday school from the time I could walk. It was part of the social fabric, and for a great many people, it still is. You might say Lorraine is a theologian – she certainly asks enough questions to be one – although she would never call herself that. For her, faith is a natural, evolutionary process. She isn’t looking to make God small enough to fit into her world. On the contrary, she’s more interested in the mystery of it all. How her world might fit into God. I think – I hope – that describes my spiritual life too.

    Q: Do you always know the whole story, including the ending, when you begin? 
    A : Given that this is my first novel, I’m careful not to use the word “always” about anything! What I can tell you in the case of The Sweet By and By is that no, I did not know the whole story from the beginning. The novel is driven by the characters, not a linear plot, premeditated or otherwise. My challenge was to find a way to care about the characters in a setting in which nothing at all really happens to differentiate one day from the next. That’s why I used holidays on the calendar. It was a way to create some kind of structural arc. Often holidays are the only distinctive days in a nursing home, primarily because people from the outside come to visit. While I was still writing the book, it was suggested to me by one person that I inject more tangible drama into the novel, building to a single climactic event, such as perhaps a fire in the nursing home. I explained that I wasn’t interested in that kind of heroism. Lorraine is the kind of hero that no one will ever know about beyond those few whose lives she quietly touches. That interests me. Ordinary people doing great things, far from any spotlight. In my next book, the one I’m working on now, I have a stronger idea of what’s going to happen, but I have to be willing to let the characters show me otherwise, which they always – there’s that word – do.

    Q: Do you have a favorite character in The Sweet By and By?
    A : They’re all my favorites, and since they live together in my brain, that’s a good thing! Seriously, there are things I love about each of them. Margaret’s wit, Lorraine’s compassion. And they mean different things to me too. April, for example, is the future. A successful black woman doctor in the South who is also a successful single mom. I love hearing from readers which characters they’re most drawn to. I’m always surprised by the reasons they give. That’s one of the things I love about reading and speaking in public, the chance to hear what people think.

    ** Reprinted here with permission of Harper Collins **
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    Monday, February 16, 2009

    Book Winners

    The lucky winners of the When God and Grief Meet and  Kathy Carmichael Giveaway have been chosen and notified.

    Carrie and Anne won the When God and Grief Meet giveaway!

     ** Updated **  Joy won Kathy Carmichael's Giveaway.

    Thank you all for participating!
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    Friday, February 13, 2009

    Review - The Fog Mound

    Review Contributor: Tanya of www.books4yourkids.com



    If your kids love the hilarious Diary of a Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney, they will love this new series The Fog Mound by Susan Schade and Jon Buller.

    The Fog Mound series by Susan Schade and Jon Buller, bills itself as part graphic novel (a comic books for adults - longer plot, less silliness), part heroic fantasy, and an adventure like no other! And it is all true! I LOVE this book!

    A week of books with squirrels as main characters - realistic squirrels, cartoonish squirrels, villainous quasi-medieval squirrels - has lead me here to Travels of Thelonious and one spectacular chipmunk. I'm sure it's obvious, but I have to point this out anyway - Thelonious Chipmunk -  Thelonious Monk - get it?!? Maybe I love this book so much because the first jazz album I ever bought was Thelonious Monk's Greatest hits when I was in high school, or maybe because there is a frozen scientist character who resembles the Buddha statue in the garden, or maybe because there is a porcupine named Fitzgerald who owns a bookstore in the City of Ruins. Or maybe because, above all else, this book is such a brilliant blend of words and pictures along with creative new characters and plots that it stands out among all the other books I have read lately. And, while I love this book to pieces, I am going to spend most of this review talking about the innovative blending of genres and just a paragraph on the actual plot. The story line is fabulous and the book was hard to put down, but because it is a relatively short book and I don't want to reveal much more than the unique setting and delightful characters.

    As I mentioned in my review of the graphic novel, Rapunzel's Revenge, the first graphic novel I ever read, I am not a fan of comic strips or comic books. And, while I enjoyed Rapunzel's Revenge, I haven't been perusing the shelves looking for another graphic novel or manga to read since finishing it. However, I am happy to say the Travels of Thelonious, which tells the story with chapters that alternate between 5 - 10 pages of graphic novel and 5 - 10 pages of text with illustrations, strikes the perfect balance of visual and textural for me. And, of course, the illustrations, all in blue, black and white, are completely engaging. As I was reading, I would share parts of the story that made me laugh with anyone nearby and was thrilled when my four year old son, who still doesn't have the patience or attention span for me to read chapter books out loud to him, climbed into my lap more than once to hear what was going on with Thelonious, Fitzgerald, Olive and the velocicopter.

    In an earlier post I wrote on The Problem with (Some) Boys Books I referenced an article discussing boys, books and reading that suggested that boys learn to read later than girls on average, take longer to read a given text and generally are born with smaller language centers and larger spatial centers than girls and thus are more visual in their tastes. This makes graphic novels the perfect choice for them, however, if they are anything like me they may need to get their feet wet a little bit before jumping into the genre whole heartedly.  The Fog Mound Series is the perfect way to do this, and it might also be a way to keep one foot planted in the world of traditional books and reading as well.

    Now, to the story itself!  Thelonious is a chipmunk living on his own in the Untamed Forest, which is inhabited by speaking and non-speaking animals. He is in possession of a postcard with a picture of a skyscraper on it, however,  to the animals of the forest, humans and their creations are the stories of myths since none of them have ever ventured out of the forest and seen where humans once lived and the creations they built. During a storm, Thelonious' house is washed away and he is carried downstream to the City of Ruins. There he sees a scavenging bear, encounters a shady lizard and a helpful porcupine. Somehow, the three of them end up airborne and headed to the Fog Mound of the title, but not without a few bumps and detours first. I won't say anymore because the pictures tell so much of the story and provide so many details to the characters and their environment, and the plot twists are so great, I want readers to be able to discover them on their own. But, there are a few mysteries presented that do not get answered in the first book, such as:  what happened to the humans, what happened to Ragna and Ruby, Olive's sisters who also ventured off the Fog Mound, and what's up with Bill the frozen scientist, why does he look so blissful and why has he shrunk?  Look for some of these answers in books 2 and 3 and maybe even 4 and beyond...

    I should have known I would enjoy this book. I always love chapter books that have illustrations, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by remarkable Brian Selznick being foremost in this category (despite the fact that the bestowing of the Caldecott Medal technically classifies this book as distinguished picture book). And, I can't forget the book by the marvelously detailed illustrator and now author, Chris Riddell - Ottoline and the Yellow Cat.

    While Selznick's book really is more of a picture book with lots of text and Riddell's book is more of a chapter book with LOTS of pictures, The Fog Mound books are truly chapter books interspersed with sections of graphic novels. During these parts, I often found my eyes speeding ahead, following the action, then returning to read the words. I'm not sure if this is how most people read graphic novels, but I have a feeling that this might be how boys read them, and maybe also why some boys begin to struggle with reading when they hit the age of eight or so - about the time when pictures in chapter books are less frequent, if present at all. If that is the case, I hope that Schade and Buller continue this fabulous series and unparalleled - thus far - genre of books for kids, and that other great writers and artists catch on and contribute their own ideas to this new territory in the world of children's literature.

    And, above all else, I am thrilled to report that my non-fiction loving eleven year old son agreed to read Travels of Theloniouss to satisfy book report that required him to read an adventure book, read it quickly and happily. When he got off the bus and told me he had finished it I asked if he'd like to read the second one and he shook his head vigorously, "YES." Needless to say, we sped to the bookstore, despite the fact that I had just worked a full shift there, and boughtFaradawn, which he started reading in the car!

    The first two books in this series, Travels of Thelonious and Faradawn are both available in paperback.  Book 3, Simon's Dream, is still only in hardcover.
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