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08 Mar, 2016

Ascension

/ posted in: Reading Ascension Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi
on 2013
Pages: 334
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction, Action & Adventure
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in Outer Space

Alana Quick is the best damned sky surgeon in Heliodor City, but repairing starship engines barely pays the bills. When the desperate crew of a cargo vessel stops by her shipyard looking for her spiritually-advanced sister Nova, Alana stows away. Maybe her boldness will land her a long-term gig on the crew. But the" Tangled Axon" proves to be more than star-watching and plasma coils. The chief engineer thinks he's a wolf. The pilot fades in and out of existence. The captain is all blond hair, boots, and ego... and Alana can't keep her eyes off her. But there's little time for romance: Nova's in danger and someone will do anything -- even destroying planets -- to get their hands on her!


I heard about this book on a list of science fiction books written by authors of color and featuring POC characters.  This book did have a very different cast of characters than you normally see in space-based science fiction books.

  • Alana Quick – 30s, dark skinned, lesbian, mechanic, living with a chronic degenerative disease
  • Nova Quick – Alana’s sister who is a spirit guide with a life goal of transcending the need to stay in her body
  • Tev – blond, lesbian, captain of the Tangled Axon
  • Slip – female, doctor, polyamorous
  • Marre – female, pilot, studied to be a spirit guide until an accident caused body parts to randomly fade in and out of existence
  • Ovie – male, engineer, may or may not actually be a wolf

Alana works in a ship yard but there isn’t much call for fixing ships anymore.  New technology from beings who came through a dimensional rift makes mechanical engines obsolete.  Alana loves engines though.  She can understand them through the sounds they make.  When the crew of the Tangled Axon lands to try to find her sister for a job, she stows away on board.  She hopes that once they are too far away to be able to easily return her, she will be able to prove her worth and be kept on as crew.

Things don’t go as she plans.  The crew use her as a hostage to get in touch with her sister.  From here things get confusing.  There is a genocide that the crew is going to be blamed for if they can’t clear their names.  There is a romance.  There is fighting between the sisters.  There is so much going on that it doesn’t always flow together into a coherent story.  I think that more world building would have helped.  You are dropped into the story without a lot of explanation, which I usually like, but this needed a little more explanation up front to truly understand what the stakes were.

I did like the way the story of a hero with chronic pain was told.  Alana is too poor to afford the cure for her disease.  She can barely afford to get the medicine that keeps her symptoms at bay and she runs out of meds while on the ship.  She finds out that her sister is able to alleviate her symptoms but it requires her to be so mentally disoriented that she can’t function normally when pain free either.  The cure she was saving up for may even be worse than the disease.  You don’t see many stories written with disabled heroines so this was an interesting point of view.

 

 

25 Jan, 2016

The Violinist of Venice

/ posted in: Reading The Violinist of Venice The Violinist of Venice by Alyssa Palombo
on December 15th 2015
Pages: 448
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in Italy

Like most 18th century Venetians, Adriana d'Amato adores music-except her strict merchant father has forbidden her to cultivate her gift for the violin. But she refuses to let that stop her from living her dreams and begins sneaking out of her family's palazzo under the cover of night to take violin lessons from virtuoso violinist and composer Antonio Vivaldi. However, what begins as secret lessons swiftly evolves into a passionate, consuming love affair.

Goodreads

This is a wonderful historical novel about the life of Antonio Vivaldi, the composer best known for writing The Four Seasons. 

I didn’t know anything about Vivaldi’s life when I started this book.

He was a priest who worked in a home for abandoned children in Venice.  He wrote many of his works to be performed by the female musicians there. These women were talented musicians who signed a promise never to perform again if they left the home to marry.

In this book, he takes a private student from a prominent family who is wonderful violinist.  As he teaches her they fall in love and begin an affair.  When the truth of this comes out, her family is scandalized.  The book follows both Vivaldi and his student, Adriana over the next thirty years to see what this affair cost them both.

The writing is wonderful and conveys the sense of place and time beautifully.  From the excesses of Carnival to sneaking around at night, you feel like you are there.  The musicians’ love of music comes through in the story and the despair that comes from being denied the right to express yourself in music.

If you’d like to win a copy, join in the #historicalfix chat on 1/26/2016 at 8:30 pm EST.  We’ll be discussing historical love stories and this book will be given away to one participant.  It will also be discussed at #bookclubfix on 2/24 at 8:30 PM.

11 Jan, 2016

The Year of Living Danishly

/ posted in: Reading The Year of Living Danishly The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell
on February 1st 2015
Pages: 304
Genres: Travel
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in Denmark

When she was suddenly given the opportunity of a new life in rural Jutland, journalist and archetypal Londoner Helen Russell discovered a startling statistic: the happiest place on earth isn’t Disneyland, but Denmark, a land often thought of by foreigners as consisting entirely of long dark winters, cured herring, Lego and pastries.What is the secret to their success? Are happy Danes born, or made? Helen decides there is only one way to find out: she will give herself a year, trying to uncover the formula for Danish happiness.

Goodreads

What is it about people doing things for a year and writing a book about it that draws me in every time?

Helen Russell is a Londoner with a job at a magazine who is also going through IVF treatment when her husband is offered a job with Lego.  That means moving to Denmark – in January.  This isn’t Copenhagen either.  This is rural Jutland.  They decide to go for one year with Helen giving up her job and starting to freelance.

When they get there the place seems deserted.  They find out that it is because of hygge.  Hygge is the Danish word for getting cozy in the winter with candles and dinner and friends and basically hibernating until spring.

When I was reading this part of the book, I looked over to my left and saw this.

 

She also found that working all hours of the day and night doesn’t show that you are invaluable to Danish employers. To them, not getting your work done during the allotted time in the day means that you aren’t good at being efficient.  Everyone stops work in the early afternoon to spend more time with family.  I had some questions about this section though.  She only talks about office workers.  What about service industries?  Does this hold true there too?  What about medical workers?  This read a bit like the articles I see all the time that tout everyone working from home or being a geographical nomad.  I’m always thinking, “I see patients for a living.  How exactly is that supposed to work then?”

Not everything is great in Denmark though.  While women are legally treated equally, there is still a way to go on getting equality in people’s attitudes towards them.  There is also a lot of violence in the culture.  Fights are common.  There are also a lot of unwritten rules that the community enforces which can be hard for someone coming in from the outside.

The school system is good though.  High taxes mean that there is a huge support structure.  For example, college is paid for and you get up to 2 years unemployment if you decide to change jobs.  There is maternity and paternity leave.

I have been thinking about going to Denmark in 2017 for a conference.

 
Hello, tax deductable airfare and hotels!

This book made me even more interested in going.

I got this book from Bex for the Nonfiction November swap.

23 Dec, 2015

Mini Review – Magic or Madness

/ posted in: Reading Mini Review – Magic or Madness Magic Or Madness by Justine Larbalestier
on 2005
Pages: 271
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy & Magic
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in Australia

For fifteen years, Reason Cansino has lived on the run. Together with her mother, Sarafina, she has moved from one place to another in the Australian countryside, desperate not to be found by Reason's grandmother Esmeralda, a dangerous woman who believes in magic. But the moment Reason walks through Esmeralda's back door and finds herself on a New York City street, she's confronted by an unavoidable truth—magic is real.

Goodreads

Reason has been taught from a young age to believe in numbers and logic.  She has also been taught that her grandmother is a dangerous woman.  But, when she is 15, her mother has a mental breakdown and custody is given to her grandmother.

While trying to escape the house like she has been trained to do by her mother, she goes through a door that opens into New York and then can’t figure out how to get back.  She’s taken in by another girl who is magical and now Reason has to decide whose stories to believe – her mother’s or her grandmother’s.

I liked this book mostly because the Australian influence is very strong and I don’t read a lot of books like that.  Reason uses Australian slang and can’t get used to a New York winter.

The magical system is different than other books I’ve read.  Every time you use magic you are using up life force.  Magic users die young.

This is the first book of a trilogy.  As of now I’m not intrigued enough to read the rest.

 

18 Dec, 2015

Gibbon’s Decline and Fall

/ posted in: Reading Gibbon’s Decline and Fall Gibbon's Decline and Fall by Sheri S. Tepper
on 1997-06
Pages: 480
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in New Mexico

A wave of fundamentalism is sweeping across the globe as the millennium approaches, and a power-hungry  presidential candidate sees his ticket to success in making an example out of a teenage girl who abandoned her infant in a Dumpster. Taking the girl's case is Carolyn Crespin, a former attorney, who left her job for a quiet family life. Now she must call upon five friends from college, who took a vow to always stand together. But their success might depend on the assistance of Sophy, the enigmatic sixth friend, whom they all believed dead.

Goodreads

In 1959 a group of college freshmen bonded over making a very beautiful girl look ugly in order to help her avoid male attention. Part of her disguise was carrying Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The women call themselves the Decline and Fall Club.

Now it is the year 2000. The group still gathers annually.

Bettiann– A former beauty queen who became anorexic. She married a rich man and spends her time on charities.

Ophy – She became a doctor in an inner city ER.

Jessamine – She is a PhD who works with primate behavior.

Faye – a famous sculptor

Carolyn – a lawyer who is coming out of retirement to handle the case of a teenager who was gang raped, got pregnant, and is accused of murdering the resultant baby.

Agnes – She always wanted to be a nun but was required to get a MBA before joining in order to develop a company to make the order self sustaining. She is now Mother Superior and has been ordered by her bishop to hand over her business to local men because it isn’t proper for women to have jobs.

Sophy – Probably Native American but she would never confirm that. Traveled the world collecting women’s stories and wrote books. Disappeared three years ago but everyone else in the group thinks that they are being haunted by her.

The world in this version of 2000 has been very violent. Gangs of men are in the streets trying to shame women whom they consider to be immoral. However, slowly people are starting to notice that violent crime is dropping. The divorce rate is going up. Rapes went up sharply and then decreased. What does this have to do with Sophy’s disappearance and bands of old ladies vandalizing fashion stores?


I love Sherri S. Tepper’s books.  They are wonderfully, wholeheartedly, unashamedly feminist books.  If you like Margaret Atwood, consider reading Tepper.  I recommend The Fresco for a starting point in her books.

Sort of Spoilers

 

The end of the book offers a discussion what you would choose of the following options:

  • Heterosexual couples bond in monogamous pairs and can reproduce once every decade if they choose
  • Females become able to reproduce without men like some lizards
  • Puberty is delayed so only mature adults are able to reproduce
  • The world is similar to now but women can only get pregnant if they make a conscious decision to allow it
  • Keep the world the way it is now

What would you choose and why?

I would choose option 1.  That eliminates all the drama between people over sexual attraction and fidelity and keeps the population down.

18 Dec, 2015

Mini Review – Excavation

/ posted in: Reading Mini Review – Excavation Excavation by James Rollins
on July 3rd 2000
Pages: 448
Genres: Fiction, Thrillers
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in Peru

High in the Andes, Dr. Henry Conklin discovers a 500-year-old mummy that should not be there. While deep in the South American jungle, Conklin's nephew, Sam, stumbles upon a remarkable site nestled between two towering peaks, a place hidden from human eyes for thousands of years.
Ingenious traps have been laid to ensnare the careless and unsuspecting, and wealth beyond imagining could be the reward for those with the courage to face the terrible unknown. But where the perilous journey inward ends—in the cold, shrouded heart of a breathtaking necropolis—something else is waiting for Sam Conklin and his exploratory party. A thing created by Man, yet not humanly possible. Something wondrous . . . something terrifying.

Goodreads

 

I read this book for the #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge.  It has been sitting on my shelf forever.  I don’t know where I got it.  I’m sure I picked it up because of the author.  He’s a veterinarian when he’s not writing and I have to support my people!

High in the Andes an Incan temple has been found with an intact treasure chamber.  An attempt to loot it sets off traps and then it collapses on the archeologists who go in to investigate the break in.  They are only able to escape by work their way through the puzzles built into the temple.  It is very Indiana Jones.

At the same time, a mummy removed from the area turns out to be not Incan but a Spanish priest.  Inquiries lead to the kidnapping of the lead investigator by a group of priests.  Seriously, if priests or monks show up in a contemporary story is it ever a good thing?  These guys have a wacky theory about some metal hidden in the temple and go about trying to steal it too.

I’ve read several other of his books and enjoyed them.  This isn’t one of my favorites. It can be a fun read but nothing memorable.

17 Dec, 2015

Rabid

/ posted in: Reading Rabid Rabid on 2012
Pages: 275
Genres: Medical, Science
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

A maddened creature, frothing at the mouth, lunges at an innocent victim--and, with a bite, transforms its prey into another raving monster. It's a scenario that underlies our darkest tales of supernatural horror, but its power derives from a very real virus, a deadly scourge known to mankind from our earliest days. In this fascinating exploration, journalist Bill Wasik and veterinarian Monica Murphy chart four thousand years in the history, science, and cultural mythology of rabies.
The most fatal virus known to science, rabies kills nearly 100 percent of its victims once the infection takes root in the brain. A disease that spreads avidly from animals to humans, rabies has served throughout history as a symbol of savage madness, of inhuman possession. And today, its history can help shed light on the wave of emerging diseases, from AIDS to SARS to avian flu, that we now know to originate in animal populations. 
From Greek myths to zombie flicks, from the laboratory heroics of Louis Pasteur to the contemporary search for a lifesaving treatment, Rabid is a fresh, fascinating, and often wildly entertaining look at one of mankind's oldest and most fearsome foes. 

Goodreads

I’ve had this book forever and finally read it after a staff member starting insisting that she had rabies. A stray cat bit her and died a few days later. (In my mind there is an equal chance that the staff member was poisonous to the cat.) The cat was tested and was rabies-free so all was well for the humans involved. It didn’t change things for the cat.

The first few chapters caused mass giggling in my office.

First up this is description of how Louis Pasteur collected saliva to use in developing his vaccines.

“.. watching Pasteur perform this trick with a glass tube held in his mouth, as two confederates with gloved hands pinned down a rabid bulldog.”

 

My confederates can’t hold a mildly pissed off cat with gloves on sometimes.  I pointed this out to them.  They pointed out that the next paragraph discusses how they had a loaded gun on hand in case someone got bit.  They postulated that they could shoot me and get a new job if I tried to get them to do something as stupid as holding a rabid bulldog.

Next it discusses getting the head removed from a rabies suspect.

“The first part of that process — capturing and humanely dispatching a deranged animal — is fairly standard stuff for your local vet.”

 

Well, thanks for the vote of confidence but, yeah, no.  Not routine.  At least not the deranged animal part.

“If the vet is lucky, her hospital has seen enough suspected rabies cases that it has thought to keep a hacksaw handy.”

 

Lucky?  Is that her definition of lucky?  Where does this woman practice?  I think I’m lucky in that I’m not handling rabies suspects every day.

One of my favorite vet school memories though involves putting a head back on after the brain was tested.  I was in my pathology rotation and someone had mistakenly told the owners of a large dog that they could have the body back in pristine condition after the brain was removed.  The pathologists were furious but couldn’t say no after it was promised.  I was just learning to quilt so I volunteered and spent an afternoon hand sewing a head back onto a body.  I matched points and gathered as needed.  The hair laid over the sutures to hide it.  He looked amazing, if I do say so myself.

Anyway, back to the book.  I liked the chapters about the medical aspects of the disease even if some of them made me doubt my medical training.

“Dogs, (Aristotle) wrote with an odd confidence, suffer from only three diseases:  lyssa, or rabies; cynanche, severe sore throat or tonsillitis; and podagra, or gout.”

 

Well, there’s four years of my life in vet school wasted if that’s all they get.

Other portions of this book discuss the idea that fear of rabies inspired the legends of the werewolf and the vampire.  I wasn’t as interested in those aspects as the medical ones.  Your experience may be different.

The end discusses a rabies outbreak started when someone smuggled a dog that ended up having rabies onto the previously rabies-free island of Bali in 2008.  The government’s first response was to order all dogs killed but of course, people hid their pets so that didn’t work.  Vaccination protocols were set up to contain the disease.  And that’s why governments don’t let you just bring pets into their countries just willy-nilly, even if you are a celebrity and think that laws don’t apply to you.

 

 

 

 

16 Dec, 2015

Only Ever Yours

/ posted in: Enviromentalist Wacko Posts Only Ever Yours Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill
on June 30th 2014
Pages: 400
Genres: Young Adult, Dystopian, Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in England

Freida and isabel have been best friends their whole lives. Now, aged sixteen and in their final year at the School, they expect to be selected as companions - wives to wealthy and powerful men.
The alternative - life as a concubine - is too horrible to contemplate.
But as the intensity of the final year takes hold, the pressure to be perfect mounts. Isabel starts to self-destruct, putting her beauty - her only asset - in peril.
And then into this sealed female environment, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride.
Freida must fight for her future - even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known...

Goodreads

It was the tagline on the book that got me.  “Mean Girls meets The Handmaid’s Tale”

In this world female children are taught that their only asset is beauty.  They will be selected into one of three groups – companions, the privileged wives of men; concubines, the playthings of men; or if chosen of either of those they will be teachers who live to serve the girls yet to be chosen.  All women die before the age of 40.

Every day the girl’s popularity is ranked based on pictures taken each morning.  Their social media profiles are watched by those outside the school to see who is the best.  They have to maintain a very narrow weight range or they are but on calorie blockers.  They have to be “perfect.”

In their last year though, a change comes over Isabel.  Isabel has always been ranked number one but now she is gaining weight.  That is the worst thing that can happen to a girl.  She doesn’t seem to care though.  Frieda can’t understand why she is doing this when the boys are about to come to pick their companions.

This book seems to be meant to be accessible to those who are too young to read The Handmaid’s Tale.  It is only about the school.  You don’t have to see the lives of sex slavery that the companions and concubines are forced into.  The book ends with the selection.  The ending is very quick and nothing seems resolved.  I knocked it down a star for that.

 

 

15 Dec, 2015

Mini Reviews – Imago

/ posted in: Reading Mini Reviews – Imago Imago by Octavia E. Butler
on April 1st 1997
Pages: 224
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction, General
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in the Amazon - Brazil?

The futures of both humans and Oankali rest in one young being's successful metamorphosis into adulthood.

Goodreads

 

I’ve reviewed the two other books in this series – Dawn and Adulthood Rites.  Those books made me really, really hate humans.

To sum up – humanity has been rescued and the Earth restored by an alien race after an environmental disaster in exchange for humans agreeing to cross breed with them.  Humans act like fools from then on out.

This book looks at the situation from the point of view of a cross bred child who is turning out to be the third gender seen in the alien race.  He is the first to develop in this way.  This gender is able to bond family units consisting of a human female, a human male, an alien female, and an alien male with itself.  It mixes genetic material from all the partners to make offspring.

Honestly, I enjoyed this book the most of the series but without the outrage at the humans that I had in the other books I don’t have that much to talk about.  It is a good series ender and is an interesting look at nonbinary gender relationships.

 

07 Dec, 2015

Afterworlds

/ posted in: Reading Afterworlds Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
on September 23rd 2014
Pages: 608
Genres: Young Adult
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Takes place in California

Darcy Patel has put college on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. With a contract in hand, she arrives in New York City with no apartment, no friends, and all the wrong clothes. But lucky for Darcy, she’s taken under the wings of other seasoned and fledgling writers who help her navigate the city and the world of writing and publishing. Over the course of a year, Darcy finishes her book, faces critique, and falls in love.
Woven into Darcy’s personal story is her novel, Afterworlds, a suspenseful thriller about a teen who slips into the “Afterworld” to survive a terrorist attack. The Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead, and where many unsolved—and terrifying—stories need to be reconciled. Like Darcy, Lizzie too falls in love…until a new threat resurfaces, and her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she cares about most.

Goodreads

I picked up this book for my first attempt at #ReadYourMyDamnBooks since it has been sitting on my shelf for a while. I don’t even know where it came from.  It is the ARC so I had get it from someone else.  Thanks, whoever it was!

I found it funny that a book that I picked up read to restart my reading mojo after NaNoWriMo turned out to be about a girl who wrote a novel during NaNoWriMo.

Darcy sells her book and is given a large advance for it and another book after it.  She is just 18 and decides to defer college and move to New York to do rewrites and start the next book.  She has a strict budget.  This was the most stressful part of the book for me because I am old and cheap.  She kept doing over budget in wasteful ways.  She rented an apartment that was $500 over budget for example.  She kept going out to eat.  I honestly had to put the book down and walk away for a bit because it was stressing me out.

 

www.seniorliving.org

Every other chapter in this book is Afterworlds, Darcy’s novel.  It is the story of a girl who survives a terrorist attack by slipping into the world inhabited by ghosts.  She is able to cross back and forth and needs to learn how to function in both worlds.

Darcy spends a year learning how to navigate the YA publishing world while trying to fix everything her editor says is wrong with Afterworlds.  We are reading the finished Afterworlds after rewrites and it is interesting to see her talk about the book she wrote versus the book we are reading.

Darcy’s story is a satire about world of YA publishing from editors who love your book and then tell you to rewrite it all to the randomness of whether a book will sell well to the craziness of going on a book tour with a YA superstar when your book isn’t out yet.

There is also a lot of talk about cultural appropriation.  Darcy is Indian but not a practicing Hindu.  Does that make it ok for her to use a Hindu god as a character in her book?  Is it worse that she is using him as a love interest because he is hot?

The Afterworlds in the book has a lot of the YA tropes that people love to hate – instalove especially.  It is done on purpose to show what a high school senior with absolutely no life experience would write because all she knows is what she reads in YA.

29 Oct, 2015

Where The Hell is Tuvalu?

/ posted in: Reading Where The Hell is Tuvalu? Where The Hell Is Tuvalu? by Philip Ells
on August 31st 2011
Pages: 288
Genres: Travel
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Tuvalu

How does a young City lawyer end up as the People's Lawyer of the fourth-smallest country in the world, 18,000 kilometres from home?
We've all thought about getting off the treadmill, turning life on its head and doing something worthwhile. Philip Ells dreamed of turquoise seas, sandy beaches and palm trees, and he found these in the tiny Pacific island state of Tuvalu. But neither his Voluntary Service Overseas briefing pack nor his legal training could prepare him for what happened there.
He learned to deal with rapes, murders, incest, the unforgivable crime of pig theft and to look a shark in the eye. But he never dared ask the octogenarian Tuvaluan chief why he sat immobilised by a massive rock permanently resting on his groin.Well, you wouldn't, would you?
This is the story of a UK lawyer colliding with a Pacific island culture. The fallout is moving, dramatic, bewildering and often hilarious.

Goodreads

Philip Ells was a lawyer in London and he was burnt out.  He decided to escape his high pressure job by volunteering with Voluntary Service Overseas.  He was sent to Tuvalu to be the People’s Lawyer.  That job is basically serving as a defense attorney for anyone who needs one.  There aren’t native lawyers available for people.  The prosecuting attorney was also an ex-pat.

This job came with some problems that he hadn’t expected.  In Tuvalu there just isn’t much crime.  It is also customary to go to the police and write out a full confession immediately if you commit a crime.  Everyone pleads guilty.  That makes life for your defense attorney much harder.  His main job was to try to get the sentences as short as possible for his clients by whatever means necessary.  This led to most of the island residents calling him “The People’s Liar.”  He filled out the rest of his time by writing threatening letters to government officials of behalf of citizens.  That can get awkward when you then meet the officials socially or over tennis.

He also inherited Laita, a secretary/translator/paralegal with his office.  She feels that the less he knows the better.  He can cause fewer problems that way.

This book is written about his two years of service in the 1990s.  That means that the community in Tuvalu had very limited access to the outside world.  There was no internet and mail may not come if there were extra passengers on the plane.

From Google Maps

This is the main island of Funafuti. The town is on the eastern side.

From Wikipedia

This is the whole island nation. The islands are spread far apart and there was a boat that tried to make a circuit of them about once a month.  Sometimes it brings back fruits and vegetables.  Most of the time it doesn’t which leads to ex pat fantasies of the joys of a potato.

The ex pats and the natives of Tuvalu never truly understand each other.  The author writes about this with self-deprecating wit.  He comes to appreciate the quietness of the island especially after being loaned out to Kiribati and working for seven weeks on many horrific crimes in that country in addition to a Constitutional crisis.

He may have even been able to do some good such as helping teach a three day seminar on the legal rights of women in an area where domestic violence is not taken seriously by the police.

This is an unusual memoir in that the epilogue tell what other people in the book are doing now but never updates what the author did after leaving Tuvalu.

01 Oct, 2015

Banned Books Week – Into the River

/ posted in: Reading Banned Books Week – Into the River Into the River by Ted Dawe
on 2012
Pages: 279
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned

"When Te Arepa Santos is dragged into the river by a giant eel, something happens that will change the course of his whole life. The boy who struggles to the bank is not the same one who plunged in, moments earlier. He has brushed against the spirit world, and there is a price to be paid; an utu to be exacted. Years later, far from the protection of whanau and ancestral land he finds new enemies. This time, with no-one to save him, there is a decision to be made.. he can wait on the bank, or leap forward into the river"

Goodreads

Banned Book Week

Happy Banned Books Week!  I’m teaming up again with Sheila at Book Journey to celebrate books that have been banned.  The book I chose this year is currently in the midst of a legal battle in New Zealand.

If you go to the author’s webpage there is this warning.

From Wikipedia:

“In 2013 New Zealand’s Film and Literature Board of Review, or appeal from New Zealand’s classification office (which had given the book an unrestricted M rating) restricted Into the River to readers aged 14 years and over.[4] This was the first time in New Zealand’s history this classification was used.[5] Auckland Libraries applied to have this decision reconsidered in 2015. One of the reasons given for the appeal was “the impact that the restriction has had on the value of the book as a teaching resource, and the significance of the book as an aid to countering issues in New Zealand about bullying”.[4][5] The conservative Christian lobby group Family First appealed this decision, and applied for an interim restriction order, which was granted by the President of the Board of Review. The interim restriction order under New Zealand’s Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993, bans it completely from being sold or supplied in New Zealand.[3][6] This was the first time a book had been subject to an interim restriction order in New Zealand in 22 years and was reported by several foreign news media.”

Doesn’t that just make you want to read it?  It seems to be having that effect a lot.  I would have probably never heard of it if not for the banning.

I was able to get a copy of the book from Amazon and I’m giving it away because New Zealand isn’t the boss of me. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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24 Sep, 2015

At Hell’s Gate and My Family

/ posted in: Reading At Hell’s Gate and My Family At Hell's Gate by Claude Anshin Thomas
on 2004
Pages: 168
Genres: Biography & Autobiography
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

In this raw and moving memoir, Claude Thomas tells the dramatic story of his service in Vietnam, his subsequent emotional collapse, and how he was ultimately able to find healing and peace. Thomas went to Vietnam at the age of eighteen, where he served as a crew chief on assault helicopters. By the end of his tour, he had been awarded numerous medals, including the Purple Heart. He had also killed many people, witnessed horrifying cruelty, and narrowly escaped death on a number of occasions.
When Thomas returned home he found that he continued to live in a state of war. He was overwhelmed by feelings of guilt, fear, anger, and despair, all of which were intensified by the rejection he experienced as a Vietnam veteran. For years, Thomas struggled with post-traumatic stress, drug and alcohol addiction, isolation, and even homelessness.
A turning point came when he attended a meditation retreat for Vietnam veterans led by the renowned Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh. Here he encountered the Buddhist teachings on meditation and mindfulness, which helped him to stop running from his past and instead confront the pain of his war experiences directly and compassionately. Thomas was eventually ordained as a Zen monk and teacher, and he began making pilgrimages to promote peace and nonviolence in war-scarred places around the world including Bosnia, Auschwitz, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and the Middle East.
At Hell's Gateis Thomas's dramatic coming-of-age story and a spiritual travelogue from the horrors of combat to discovering a spiritual approach to healing violence and ending war from the inside out. In simple and direct language, Thomas shares timeless teachings on healing emotional suffering and offers us practical guidance in using mindfulness and compassion to transform our lives.

Goodreads

Growing up I knew from old family photos that my father’s sister had been married and divorced before I was born.  As an adult this was cause for some annoyance for me because whenever I would drive separately from my husband to a family event my parents would pipe up with, “The last time people drove separately to a family event they ended up divorced.”  This referred to my aunt’s first marriage and was incredibly annoying.  It was also untrue because the “last time” was the last time they said it to me. Then I got divorced and reinforced their beliefs.

Anyway, a few years ago I saw a list on Wikipedia or something about famous people from my hometown.  It is a VERY short list.  One of the people was a famous monk or something and it said he graduated the same year as my parents.  I asked if they knew this person.

My mother:  Disapproving snort “Oh, yeah.  That’s Tommy.  You know, your aunt’s first husband.”

How does that never come up in conversation?  (I can’t believe I even had this thought now after finding out everything never discussed in my family like my grandmother living under a fake name since the age of five and the fact that she had a murdered brother that was never mentioned.)

A few weeks ago I saw another list of famous people from my hometown.  (There were five entries and the first one was a horse.)  It mentioned that Claude Thomas had written an autobiography.  I got it from interlibrary loan.

I didn’t know whether to mention this or not.  The night before I was going to start reading it I told my mother about it.  I wanted confirmation that this was the same guy.  I still wasn’t entirely convinced.

My mother: “Really?  You have to tell me what it says. He didn’t just marry into your father’s family.  He was close to mine too.”

Me:  “The back says that it is mostly about Vietnam and lists a lot of medals he won.  Then it is about peace marches.”

My mother responded with a story about how he took her brother’s car and rolled it and her brother took the blame for it.

Me:  “(the husband) and I were talking about this.  We decided that if (my ex) became President of the United States and single handedly ended fighting in the Middle East and brought about world peace, your first comment would be, ‘The bastard owes my daughter money.'”

My mother: Laughs and then immediately lists five other things she’s mad at my ex about.  “Let him try to run for President.  I have things to say.”

I think my family missed their calling.  They should have been in the Mafia.  They have the Don’t Cross Family thing down cold.


He doesn’t own up to rolling the car in the book.  He glosses over most of his upbringing.  He does mention joy riding in cars from the local dealership but says he never wrecked any of those.  He dismisses my aunt and their marriage in two sentences.

This is the story of a veteran with severe PTSD using Buddhism as a coping mechanism.  It sounds to me like it isn’t working too well.  He mentions still not being able to sleep more than two hours at a time, for example.  I live with a veteran with PTSD so I’m used to some of the behaviors that comes along with it.  I’d recommend medication and maybe counseling to learn coping mechanisms.  I was hoping to read how Buddhism and meditation helped him but he seems to be barely functional.

He lives as a mendicant monk which means that he has no possessions and is homeless.  He leads long walking pilgrimages like Poland to Vietnam or across the U.S.  The participants carry no money and make no plans for housing.  When they get to a town, they ask at local churches for a place to sleep and some food.  I found this part interesting and disturbing.

Most often they are turned away from churches even in blizzards.  So much for Matthew 25:35.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in


He tells stories of being allowed to stay in a church but being told that they have to hide so children don’t see them.  They often have the police called because of “suspicious looking people seen walking down the road”.

He doesn’t refer to any Americans except his son by name in this book.  It seems like most of his anger is still focused on the American people.  He seems capable of accepting Vietnamese people but not Americans.  That may be a new idea for some people but doesn’t seem to be uncommon.  A lot of veterans are incredibly angry at Americans who didn’t serve in wars and many hate nonveterans blithely telling them, “Thank you for your service.”

This is a good book to read to open your eyes to the psychic toll that war can take on soldiers.

26 Aug, 2015

Why is a series set in Maine making me run around Ohio?

/ posted in: Reading Why is a series set in Maine making me run around Ohio? Carousel Sun by Sharon Lee
on February 4th 2014
Pages: 336
Series: Archer's Beach #2
Genres: Fantasy
Format: Paperback
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

When magic meets mundane, sparks fly: these are exciting times in Archers Beach, Maine! A unprecedented Early Season has united townies and carnies in an effort to expand into a twelve-month resort, recapturing the town's former glory. Kate Archer, owner-operator of the vintage wooden carousel, is caught up in the excitement—and is quite possibly the cause of it. Kate leads a double life, as a carny and as Guardian of the land. Her recent return to the home she had forsaken has changed the town's luck—for the better—and energized the trenvay—earth and water spirits who are as much citizens of the Beach as their mundane counterparts. But the town's new energy isn't the only change afoot. Joe Nemeier, the local drug lord, whose previous magical consultant was vanquished by Kate, has acquired a new ally—and this one plays with fire.

Goodreads

You know, for a series set in Maine this sure is making me run around Ohio a lot.  After I read the first book in the series, Carousel Tides, I went to the Merry Go Round museum in Sandusky.  Then in the very beginning of this book Kate is looking for a replacement horse.  She hears about the Euclid Beach carousel that is being stored at the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland.  They won’t sell her a horse because they plan on putting the carousel back together.

Wait, what?  Is that true?  I pulled out the ipad and googled.  Yep, it started giving rides again at the end of 2014.  I had seen the museum building on our last trip to the botanical gardens.  I decided we needed to go.

The carousel is housed in a glassed in part of the building so you can see it from outside. Two rides are included in the cost of admission.

The carousel is from an amusement park that shut down in the 1960s.


I did enjoy this second book in the Archer’s Beach series.  I love the world of nature spirits interacting with the humans who are mostly unaware.  I’m looking forward to reading the third book and interested to see if it sends me anywhere else.

About Sharon Lee

Sharon Lee has been married to her first husband for more than half her lifetime; she is a friend to cats, a member of the National Carousel Association, and oversees the dubious investment schemes of an improbable number of stuffed animals.

15 Jul, 2015

Carousel Tides

/ posted in: Reading Carousel Tides Carousel Tides by Sharon Lee
on January 31st 2012
Pages: 432
Series: Archer's Beach #1
Genres: Fantasy
Format: Paperback
Source: Library

Also in this series: Carousel Sun

Kate Archer thought she could put magic and world-walking behind her by running away to an ordinary life–but destiny has other plans. With her grandmother suddenly missing, Kate must return to the bedraggled Maine seaside resort she grew up in, and take charge of the family carousel. If she doesn't–and it's by no means certain that she can–very bad things will happen, to Kate and to the town, for the carousel isn't at all what it seems.

Goodreads

The first sign Kate had of trouble concerning her grandmother was the notice that the carousel was about to be foreclosed on. That brought Kate back to Archer’s Beach on the coast of Maine.

She found that her grandmother had been gone for 6 months and the only clue was a leaf and a vague note left for Kate. Kate needs to take over running the carousel while she looks for her grandmother because six of the animals serve as prisons for the souls of Fae criminals and without a magical caretaker the bonds are thinning.

Kate’s search brings her in contact with many of the magical citizens of Archer’s Beach. There are selkies and shape shifters and runaway Fae. None of these are giving her as much trouble though as the local drug smuggler who built a house next to her land and with whom she is getting into a boundary dispute .

On top of her worries the Chamber of Commerce has decided to open the park early for visitors this year and the tourists are pouring in — just in time for a possible Fae war.


This was an interesting urban fantasy book.  There are creatures here that I haven’t read about often.  I liked the idea of tethering criminals to the horses as a punishment.  No one in this book is exactly what they seem to be at first glance.  I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

I also went to visit a Merry Go Round Museum after reading this book.  They have a haunted horse but if there are any Fae around, they are staying quiet.

About Sharon Lee

Sharon Lee has been married to her first husband for more than half her lifetime; she is a friend to cats, a member of the National Carousel Association, and oversees the dubious investment schemes of an improbable number of stuffed animals.

18 May, 2015

What Would A.J Fikry Like?

/ posted in: Reading What Would A.J Fikry Like? The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
on 2014
Pages: 260
Genres: Fiction
Format: Paperback

A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner of Island Books, has recently endured some tough years: his wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and his prized possession--a rare edition of Poe poems--has been stolen. Over time, he has given up on people, and even the books in his store, instead of offering solace, are yet another reminder of a world that is changing too rapidly. Until a most unexpected occurrence gives him the chance to make his life over and see things anew.

Goodreads

 

“Mr. Fikry, please just tell me what you like.”

“Like,” he repeats with distaste.  “How about I tell you what I don’t like? I do not like postmodernism, postapocalyptic settings, postmortem narrators, or magic realism.  I rarely respond to supposedly clever formal devices, multiple fonts, pictures where they shouldn’t be — basically, gimmicks of any kind.  I find literary fiction about the Holocaust or any other major world tragedy to be distasteful — nonfiction only, please. I do not like genre mash-ups a la the literary detective novel or the literary fantasy.  Literary should be literary, and genre should be genre, and crossbreeding rarely results in anything satisfying.  I do not like children’s books, especially ones with orphans, and I prefer not to clutter my shelves with young adult.  I do not like anything over four hundred pages or under one hundred fifty pages.  I am repulsed by ghostwritten novels by reality television stars, celebrity picture books, sports memoirs, movie tie-in editions, novelty items, and — I imagine this goes without saying — vampires.  I rarely stock debuts, chick lit, poetry, or translations.  I would prefer not to stock series, but the demands of the pocketbookrequire me to.  For your part, you needn’t tell me about the ‘next big series’ until it is ensconced on the New York Times Best Sellers list.”

Ah, the battle cry of the book snob! I only read serious fiction, dahling but not too long or too short.

A.J. Fikry has nothing but contempt for most people on the small island where he runs a book store. He spends most of his nights getting drunk and trying to kill himself slowly until a baby is left in his bookstore.

I almost stopped reading at this point. If I have a book snob battle cry, it definitely includes a refusal to read books where a baby is the magical answer that solves all life’s problems.

However, I liked that writing in the book, as evidenced by the quote above, so I gave it another chance. I liked the descriptions of the book store.

A.J. begins to stock books because he thinks the women will enjoy discussing them.  For a while, the circle responds to contemporary stories about overly capable women trapped in troubled marriages; they like if she has an affair — not that they themselves have (or will admit to having had) affairs.  The fun is in judging these women.  Women who abandon their children are a bridge too far, although husbands who have terrible accidents are usually received warmly (extra points if he dies, and she finds love again).

There is also a book group made up of law enforcement people who read crime stories and complain about poor procedure.  I can relate because that’s how I read medical books.

Overall, I liked the details of this book but was underwhelmed by the overall story.

05 May, 2015

The Residence

/ posted in: Reading The Residence The Residence by Kate Andersen Brower
on April 7th 2015
Pages: 320
Genres: History, Nonfiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Book Tour

America's first families are among the most private public figures on earth. From the mystique of the glamorous Kennedys to the tumult that surrounded Bill and Hillary Clinton during the president's impeachment to the historic yet polarizing residency of Barack and Michelle Obama, each new administration brings a unique set of personalities to the White House—and a new set of challenges to the fiercely loyal and hardworking people who serve them: the White House residence staff.No one understands the president of the United States, and his family, like the men and women who make the White House run every day. Now, for the first time, their stories of fifty years, ten administrations, and countless crises, large and small, are told in The Residence. Drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews with butlers, maids, chefs, florists, doormen, and other staffers—as well as former first ladies and first family members—Kate Andersen Brower, who covered President Obama's first term, offers a group portrait of the dedicated professionals who orchestrate lavish state dinners; stand ready during meetings with foreign dignitaries; care for the president and first lady's young children; and cater to every need the first couple may have, however sublime or, on occasion, ridiculous.In the voices of the residence workers themselves—sometimes wry, often affectionate, always gracious and proud—here are stories of:

The Kennedys—from intimate glimpses of their marriage to the chaotic days after JFK's assassination

The Johnsons—featuring the bizarre saga of LBJ's obsession with the White House plumbing

The Nixons—including Richard Nixon's unexpected appearance in the White House kitchen the morning he resigned

The Reagans—from a fire that endangered Ronald Reagan late in his second term to Nancy's control of details large and small

The Clintons—whose private battles, marked by shouting matches and flying objects, unsettled residence workers

The Obamas—who danced to Mary J. Blige on their first night in the White House

And just as compelling are the stories of the workers themselves, including Storeroom Manager Bill Hamilton, who served eleven presidents over fifty-five years; Executive Housekeeper Christine Limerick, who married a fellow residence worker; Chief Usher Stephen Rochon, who became the first African American to hold the post; Executive Pastry Chef Roland Mesnier, who feuded fiercely with Executive Chef Walter Scheib; and Butler James Ramsey, who made friends with presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and whose spirit animated the White House through six administrations before his death in 2014. Working tirelessly to provide impeccable service and earning the trust and undying admiration of each new first family, these extraordinary White House workers served every day in the midst of history—and lived to tell the tales.

Goodreads

The Residence is an interesting look into the life of The White House. It is a subject that has always interested me. I’ve read books about the lives of the First Ladies by Margaret Truman and watched an old mini-series on White House staff. This book only covers the time served by living members of the White House staff.

You get the impression that they are trying not to come right out and say bad things but they let it be known who they liked and who they didn’t.

It is a quick and entertaining read for anyone who likes history. The husband is currently reading and enjoying it and he is planning on passing it on to a friend.

tlc tour host

About Kate Andersen Brower

Kate Andersen Brower spent four years covering the Obama White House for Bloomberg News and is a former CBS News staffer and Fox News producer. She lives outside Washington, D.C., with her husband and their two young children.

29 Apr, 2015

I’m Off Then – Traveling the Camino de Santiago

/ posted in: Reading I’m Off Then – Traveling the Camino de Santiago I'm Off Then by Hape Kerkeling
on June 16th 2009
Pages: 352
Genres: Nonfiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

From one of Germany’s most beloved celebrities, a cross between Bill Bryson and Paulo Coelho. It has sold over 3 million copies and been translated into eleven different languages. Pilgrims have increased along the Camino by 20 percent since the book was published. Hape Kerkeling’s spiritual epiphany has struck a nerve. Overweight, overworked, and physically unfit, Kerkeling was an unlikely candidate to make the arduous pilgrimage across the French Alps to the Spanish Shrine of St. James, a 1,200-year-old journey undertaken by nearly 100,000 people every year. But that didn’t stop him from getting off the couch and walking. Along the way, lonely and searching for meaning, he began the journal that turned into this utterly frank, engaging book. Simply by struggling with his physical limitations and the rigors of long-distance walking, he discovered a deep sense of peace that transformed his life and allowed him to forgive himself, and others, more readily. He learned something every day, and he took to finishing each entry with his daily lessons. Filled with quirky fellow pilgrims, historic landscapes, and Kerkeling’s self-deprecating sense of humor, I’m Off Then is an inspiring travelogue, a publishing phenomenon, and a spiritual journey unlike any other.

Goodreads

The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage across northern Spain to the cathedral in Santiago.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ruta_del_Camino_de_Santiago_Frances.svg

In 2001 German comedian Hape Kerkeling decided almost on a whim to make the trip. He was out of shape and recovering from gall bladder surgery. He wasn’t looking for spiritual enlightenment. He just needed to get away.  He started in St. Jean Pied de Port in France near the Spanish border.

I liked this book because he does the pilgrimage like I would. He doesn’t stay in the refugios set up for travelers. He stays in whatever hotels he can find. He takes lots of rest days, especially if he drank too much the night before. At the beginning, he cheats a lot by taking public transportation to skip hard sections. He also gets really mad at people treating dogs poorly along the way. He finds a lot of his fellow pilgrims insufferable if not downright crazy but makes a few good friends along the way.

As the walk goes on he gets in a bit better shape and is able to complete the official part of the pilgrimage. In order to get a certificate of completion, you have to prove that you have walked the last 100 km by getting stamps in each of the towns.

I loved the fact that he didn’t let his new friends, who were from England and New Zealand, know that he was famous in Germany so they were puzzled by how excited German people seemed to get when they saw another German hiker.   He’d hide giving autographs by saying that people just wanted directions.

I was bit hesitant to pick this book up because I was afraid of comparing it to Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods about the Appalachian trail, which is a book I love.  This is a very different book but it didn’t suffer from the comparison.  It made me want to go out and walk for days.

24 Apr, 2015

Get Over Yourself

/ posted in: Reading Get Over Yourself Get Over Yourself by Jeremy Whitley
on July 30th 2013
Pages: 128
Genres: Comics & Graphic Novels, Fantasy
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

Princess Adrienne is back and she's bringing back her dragon Sparky and girl-blacksmith Bedelia! This time they're out to save the first of Adrienne's sisters, Angelica. Unfortunately, Angelica is the most beautiful girl in the whole kingdom and she knows it. Not only will Adrienne have to fight her jealousy of the attention Angelica gets, but she'll have to face Angelica's mysterious guardian. Meanwhile, Adrienne's father has hired a motley crew of bounty hunters to track down the knight he believes killed his daughter. What he doesn't know is that the knight he is after is Adrienne! Collecting issues 1–4 of volume 2, Princeless Book 2: Get Over Yourself is 100 pages of feel-good, girl-powered adventure for young readers or comic fans of any age.

Goodreads

Adrienne is back! Now she decides to rescue her oldest sister only to find that Angelica doesn’t want rescued. Why would she? A village of artists has set up camp around her tower because she is their muse. All she does is walk around all day and look beautiful.

It is up to Adrienne to convince her that there is more to life than that even if Angelica’s life does look pretty good.

The Princeless series continues to be a great, quick read celebrating the power of women.

17 Apr, 2015

The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules

/ posted in: Reading The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules The Little Old Lady who Broke All the Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg
on 2014
Pages: 454
Genres: Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

79-year-old Martha Anderson dreams of escaping her care home and robbing a bank. She has no intention of spending the rest of her days in an armchair and is determined to fund her way to a much more exciting life-style. Along with her four oldest friends - otherwise known as the League of Pensioners - Martha decides to rebel against all of the rules imposed upon them. Together, they cause an uproar with their antics: protesting against early bedtimes and plastic meals. As the elderly friends become more daring, their activities escalate and they come up with a cunning plan to break out of the care home and land themselves in a far more attractive Stockholm establishment. With the aid of their Zimmer frames, they resolve to stand up for old aged pensioners everywhere - Robin Hood style. And that's when the adventure really takes off--

Goodreads

I picked up this book purely because of the title. I loved the Swedish books called The Hundred-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared and The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden.

The people in this book are stuck in a horrible nursing home being run by people who are constantly looking for new and devious ways to cut more costs. When watching TV one night, the group of residents watch a documentary on the rights of Swedish prisoners. They realize that the law says they have to be treated better in prison than in a nursing home. It is time to get arrested!

That’s easier said than done. None of them have ever committed a crime before and they want to do it right. Too bad all their planning means that they get away with a huge theft and they can’t seem to get themselves arrested.

Nothing is going as planned for the pensioners so they get more and more daring to show the world that you have to pay attention to old people because they are capable of all kinds of trouble!

I didn’t like this book as much at the ones previously mentioned but it was cute. As it went on it got more farcical but I liked the ending.

About Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg

Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg is a Swedish author who also is a maritime archeologist. She has written books about archeology and historical fiction.

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