Tag Archives: books

Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san, vol. 1 (Manga)

Mangaka: Honda

My rating: 2.5 of 5

With his surreal, skeletal appearance, Honda offers us a first-hand peek into the everyday life of a Japanese bookseller. Along with his equally bizarre coworkers, we see him struggle with stocking issues, foreigner customers, fujoshi, ambiguous customer requests, training seminars, and more.

In this manga, we are presented with the everyday struggles of a Japanese bookstore clerk–through the eyes of the most surreal, bizarre staff ever. The main character is literally a skeleton, and the rest of the store staff are no better. But the truly surreal thing is that no one reacts to that, like, at all. Honestly, I was a bit disappointed with this title and may not bother reading the rest of the series. It’s true that the peek into a bookseller’s daily life was interesting, but beyond that, the story really didn’t have much personality. Sure, the art is intriguing in its weirdness, and I enjoyed that, but for all their weird personas, I didn’t feel the characters were fleshed out as individuals much at all. Very disappointing, since the premise has a lot of potential.

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EXPIRED | Deal Alert: Humble Bundle Women of Sci-Fi & Fantasy

So sorry to totally spam posts today, but I just realized that Humble Bundle has a really nice collection of sci-fi/fantasy books by female authors available right now–but it’s only available for the next 5 days. So late notice, sorry. Anyhow, the bundle includes authors such as Robin McKinley, Octavia E. Butler, Elizabeth Hand, Kate Elliott, Diana Pharaoh Francis, and Nalo Hopkinson. Personally, I’ve read the McKinley books, and the bundle would be worth it just for those books alone. But several of the other ones look interesting too. Oh, and the highest tier ($15) includes a Jane Yolen! If you’re interested, you can check it out here.

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Finders Keepers

finders-keepersAuthor: Stephen King

Bill Hodges Trilogy, vol. 2

My rating: 3.5 of 5


In his obsession with the writings of reclusive author John Rothstein (whom he considers a sell out), Morris Bellamy devises a plan to break into the old man’s house and exact his revenge. There’s also the tantalizing rumor that Rothstein has been writing in private and has volumes of unreleased work hidden somewhere in his home. Morris’s plan works, and he gets away clean, burying dozens of Moleskine notebooks full of Rothstein’s writing as well as several thousand dollars in cash that Rothstein also kept in his safe . . . only to find himself imprisoned for life on other charges before he gets to read a single one of those notebooks. Decades later, thirteen-year-old Pete Saubers finds Morris’s buried treasure by accident. And who could fault a kid for secretly passing the money along to his struggling parents, bit by bit–or for obsessively reading the Rothstein notebooks, fueling an already burning passion for literature. But things get messy when Morris is released from prison and comes looking for what he buried (what he killed for) so long ago.

I have found every Stephen King book I’ve read so far to be quite enjoyable, including Finders Keepers. Having said that, I think King does his best work when there’s something paranormal involved. This book is more of a crime thriller, and while it’s still quite excellent, it’s not his best in my personal opinion. I should note that this is the middle volume of a loosely connected trilogy (preceded by Mr. Mercedes and followed by End of Watch), but it’s entirely possible to read it independently (I did) without missing much; all the background you really need is worked into the plot. I thought the characters were solid enough, although I never strongly connected with any of them–Pete and Holly were probably the closest I came, but even they weren’t particularly immediate to me. The plot was fairly interesting though, all of the seemingly disconnected pieces fitting together like a puzzle. As far as the pacing goes, this is a fairly slow-burn thriller, if that makes any sense at all. There’s definitely action, suspense, and intensity, but as far as the story chronology goes, it takes decades to build, and for the reader, it takes place over several hundred pages. I wouldn’t plan to read the whole thing through in one night, that’s all.  It never got boring or stalled out though, at least not for me. Fair warning that, since one of the characters is a murderer and a convict, this book has more than its fair share of violence and language, so don’t come complaining to me if it’s shocking. Just saying. One of the most fascinating aspects of Finders Keepers for me was the obsession the characters had with Rothstein’s story; that’s something I can sort of relate to, and it’s also a good warning. I think most of us can agree that Bellamy is just stark raving mad, completely losing sight of the boundaries between fiction and reality. The greater warning is Pete’s story, that fine wavering of those boundaries that we can explain away logically while still doing nutty things to feed our obsessions, losing sight of what’s really important–like the people we care about. In any case, although it’s not my favorite of King’s books, I still think Finders Keepers is a good read, especially for those who enjoy the crime genre.



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EXPIRED | Deal Alert: Neal Gaiman Rare Books

Just an FYI: Neil Gaiman is offering a collection of books by him that are rare, some of them previously unpublished, on Humble Bundle at https://www.humblebundle.com/books in e-book format. It looks like it’s only good for another few days, so if you enjoy his writing, you might want to check it out. I haven’t had a chance to read any of the books yet, but it looks like they include short stories, speeches, comics, and poems. Collaborators include Charles Vess, Alan Moore, and Neil’s own daughter, Maddy. I’m looking forward to reading these myself! 😀


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Free Spirit Award


Many thanks to Matthew at Matt-in-the-Hat for his gracious nomination for the Free Spirit Award. I can’t tell you how honored I am to be nominated by a blogger whose work I greatly respect and enjoy. Seriously, check out his blog for all kinds of neat stuff about anime, games, and a variety of other interesting stuff!

As for this award, according to my understanding, the rules are that you take the topic given by the person who nominated you and run with it–and of course, include the logo and nominate other amazing bloggers. In this particular case, the topic was also left open, so I’ve decided to ramble a bit about what makes “story” so important to me and how stories have changed my perception of the world.

I’ve enjoyed stories a great deal ever since I was little. My parents used to read aloud to me before I could ever read for myself, and once I could read myself, I began devouring books voraciously. I don’t think I’ve ever really stopped (even when I really should have stopped reading and devoted myself to my college studies, oops).  A lot of people think it’s strange that I spend so much time involving myself in fictional accounts. But I can’t regret the time I’ve “wasted” at all.

Stories open up the world in incredible ways. I have experienced worlds that I could otherwise have never even imagined. Of equal value (and perhaps much greater practical value), I have seen facets of our own world that I would never have seen otherwise, whether it’s times long past or simply slices of life that are outside of my socio-economic boundaries. I have experienced events that I would have otherwise avoided, met people I would have walked away from had I met them in real life. Even better, I’ve seen the world through the eyes and thoughts of hundreds (probably thousands) of different individuals, each with a unique history, a varied perspective. I’ve been allowed glimpses of understanding of people that I would typically judge and avoid.

Which leads to one of the most significant real-life values of story, in my experience. All of those experiences–more than any one person could possibly live in a single life, no matter how rich and busy they are–give a more solid, adaptable framework for perceiving and handling the world and the people in it. It allows you–or at least, has allowed me–to see people in a different light, as individuals with their own ideas and perspectives which may be significantly different from mine in any number of ways. And I think that having that perspective on the world and other people leads to a richer life, even in the mundane and the everyday.

Furthermore, stories must be credible to some extent for readers to accept them. Maybe the actual events in the story are complete fantasy, but even fantasies must be true to the basic premises the authors set at the beginning for them. And good stories, no matter how fantastic, display truths about life in a way that makes those truths more accessible. This might just be one of the things I love most about a good story: that moment when it’s like “oh, I get it.” Add up enough of those moments, those truths, and incorporate them into your understanding, and you can gain a certain understanding, possibly even wisdom of a sort.

I can certainly say that stories have changed my own life for the better in innumerable ways, which is one of the reasons I gladly share them with the community here.

And after my extensive rambling, I would like to nominate the following blogs. I’d like to know what’s on your mind, so I think I’ll also leave the topic open. Feel free to participate or not (I’m not sure all of you usually do blogging awards, but you deserve the award anyway for your amazing writing. :D):


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The Island of Dr. Libris

Author: Chris Grabensteinthe island of dr libris

My rating: 4 of 5

Billy has almost resigned himself to a rotten, boring summer: his mom and dad are “spending some time apart” for the summer, so he’s stuck in a lake cabin with his mom–with no TV, no video games, no friends. Not to mention, he managed to break his iPhone and get on the wrong side of the local bullies within his first full day there. In desperation, he wanders into the study of Dr. Libris, the cabin’s owner, and begins reading books from his shelf . . . . And that’s when things begin to get interesting, as Billy hears voices coming from the island in the middle of the lake–voices saying stuff right out of the book he’s reading!

I was immediately captured by the cover of The Island of Dr. Libris; I mean, come one, doesn’t it look just delicious? Like sherbet in summer or something. I wasn’t disappointed by the story inside either. This is a solid middle-grade slice-of-life/fantasy. It discusses serious topics like parents being separated and dealing with bullies in a forthright but not overwhelmingly heavy manner, which is nice. It also brings in lots of classic literature, which is always great to see in kids’ books. The story itself is original and interesting–a sort of science-fiction view on bringing books to life. I enjoyed Dr. Libris’s lab notes scattered in among the chapters to give additional perspective on what’s happening. (Also, short chapters, making this a good choice to read when you don’t have much time in a sitting to read.) Overall, this book reminds me–in feel, rather than in specific stylistic or plot points–of works like The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Name of This Book is Secret. I would recommend The Island of Dr. Libris, particularly for middle-grade readers who enjoy works similar to those just listed, or who enjoy works bridging slice-of-life and fantasy concepts generally.

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The Ultimate Book Tag

Thanks to Summer at xingsings for tagging me. 😀 This is my first time participating in a “tag” sort of post, so please excuse any mistaken etiquette, etc. This looks like fun!

  1. Do you get sick while reading in the car? Unfortunately, yes. It was one of my greatest childhood disappointments that I couldn’t really read on long car trips.
  2. Which author’s writing style is completely unique to you and why? That’s a hard one. . . . There are a lot of authors who have signature styles and quirks, but completely unique? David Levithan is probably the closest to really unique that I can think of right now–he has a distinctive flavor and also does all sorts of interesting things with person, punctuation, capitalization, and suchlike. I really enjoy that about his writing.
  3. Harry Potter Series or the Twilight Saga? Give 3 points to defend your answer. Harry Potter, obviously. Does this question even need asking? 1. British, not American. So much cooler. 2. So much quirky, fun magic–I love the spells! 3. Characters that grow and that are more focused on saving the world than on “the one,” whatever that means. And moreover, characters who have all sorts of credible imperfections and interesting perspectives. Should I go on?
  4. Do you carry a book bag? If so, what is in it (besides books)? I actually don’t usually, except to go to the library–in which case, just books. Otherwise, my books stay safely in my room or get carried by hand.
  5. Do you smell your books? I love the smell of books, although the smell of books that have sat on the shelf too long makes me sad. So . . . I guess I do? Not, like, obsessively sniffing or anything, though.
  6. Books with or without little illustrations? I love both! I guess it just depends on whether having illustrations suits the story or not. I adore books with good illustrations (and yes, graphic novels/manga/picture books are up there in my favorites), but if the illustrations don’t suit the story, I’d rather they just not be there at all.
  7. What book did you love while reading but discovered later it wasn’t quality writing? I think a lot of the series I read as a little kid were that way (American Girl, Mandie, The Boxcar Children, and suchlike). It’s not that they were terrible, they were just produced in such volume or to fit such a particular mold that they really just weren’t a full story. It was actually pretty disappointing to get to the point where I realized that.
  8. Do you have any funny stories involving books from your childhood? Please share! I can’t think of anything particularly humorous. I guess most folks around here thought I was an odd child for always having my nose buried in a book, though. Not exactly normal in small-town NC.
  9. What is the tiniest book on your shelf? Well . . . the shortest is The Restaurant of Many Orders by Kenji Miyazawa, but the narrowest is The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. Take your pick.
  10. What is the thickest book on your shelf? I guess technically The Lord of the Rings has the most pages, although The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Azumanga Daioh give it a run for its money just because of how they’re printed.
  11. Do you write as well as read? Do you see yourself in the future as being an author? Blogging here and some occasional technical writing for work is about the limit for me. I’d like to envision myself as an author, but honesty forces me to admit I probably don’t have the talent. Sadness. I’m relying on all you amazing people out there who truly have a skill for writing!
  12. When did you get into reading? My parents read to me when I was just a baby, really. I think I’ve been into reading since before I can remember. 🙂
  13. What is your favorite classic book? That’s a hard one . . . it’s a toss-up between The Lord of the Rings and The Cat in the Hat. 😉
  14. In school what was your best subject Language Arts/English?  So . . . I also don’t really get this question. English and all the related courses (Literature, Speech, etc.) were probably my best subjects generally, although I also did really well in my computer and business classes. Math, not so much.
  15. If you were given a book as a present that you had read before and hated, what would you do? Depends on who gave it to me. If it were someone who wouldn’t ask/notice, I’d politely accept, then sometime later pass it on. If they’d notice or care that I gave it away, I’d probably keep it. How superficial, right?
  16. (Apparently Question 16 was supposed to be here, but now it’s disappeared?) Should we make up our own question here? . . . Or not.
  17. What is a bad habit you always do (besides rambling) while blogging? I tend to not be clear enough in what I mean . . . but I’m scared of being too specific and either boring folks or giving away too much of the story! What to do?
  18. What is your favorite word? At the moment, “abundant,” although that’s likely to change at any time.
  19. Are you a nerd, dork, or dweeb? Or all of the above? Um, I think I’d define myself as a geek and an otaku more than any of these . . . maybe sort of a nerd? Labels are highly over-rated.
  20. Vampires or Fairies? Why? Why not both? I mean, at the moment, fairies would win my vote just because a lot of the vampire stuff that’s been popular recently is junk. But what about Robin McKinley’s Sunshine and Vampire Knight and even the Vladimir Todd books? On the other hand, you’ve got incredible stories like Curse of the Thirteenth Fey and The Earl and the Fairy, plus a whole lot of more classic tales. I vote for a world where vampires and fairies have equal representation, I guess.
  21. Shapeshifters or Angels? Why? Angels, totally. Powerful messengers of God sent to fight the forces of darkness, possessing qualities little known or understood by man? Yes, indeed. Shapeshifters . . . cool and all, but still. (And by the way, are we talking, like Star Trek’s Odo sort of shapeshifters or more like weres? Although my answer’s the same, either way.) Still, a world with both would be even more interesting.
  22. Spirits or Werewolves? Why? Again, more definition, please? I mean, I love a good ghost story (I’m reading one now), so if that’s what’s meant by “spirits,” that would probably be my choice. But, I’ve heard some pretty creepy and amazing stories about weres too. (I think Lish McBride has made awesome use of weres in her books! And Saki’s werewolf short story is utterly awfully horrifying.) Again, as with the above two questions I think having the option of both makes a world that’s more interesting–and why not if it’s a fantasy anyhow?
  23. Zombies or Vampires? Why?  Hey, isn’t it supposed to be Zombies vs. Unicorns? Anyhow, while I have heard some good zombie stories, the idea of rotting flesh and eating brains is totally not appealing. At least most of the vampires I’ve seen keep themselves half tidy.
  24. Love Triangle or Forbidden Love? Honestly, both get old really quickly, but I’M SO SICK OF THE LOVE TRIANGLE! What’s wrong with just writing a cute, sweet story? See Usotsuki Lily–it can be done.
  25. And finally: Full on romance books or action-packed with a few love scenes mixed in? I think I’ve mentioned before, but I really don’t care for romances as a general rule. Really, I’d rather read a kids’ book that’s all fun and adventure and crazy fantasy without even getting into the romance.

And . . . I confess, I’m too lazy to tag anyone specifically today, so: If you’re reading this and it seems interesting, consider yourself tagged. 😀



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The Liebster Award


Many thanks to Alysyn at reinreads for her gracious nomination.

The rules:

  1. Thank and link the person who nominated you.
  2. Answer the questions given by the nominator.
  3. Nominate 11 other bloggers who have fewer than 200 followers and link them.
  4. Create 11 new questions for the nominees to answer.
  5. Notify all nominees via social media/blogs.

The questions Alysyn posed for me (these were really challenging but fun!):

  1. What’s the worst movie you’ve ever seen?
    That’s a hard one. I’ve enjoyed just about everything I’ve seen recently, and I don’t watch movies much. . . . I’d have to confess that some of the movies I’ve liked the least are Disney princess movies (don’t hate me!).  I just can’t get into them, especially after seeing incredible movies like Spirited Away.
  2. What artists or bands do you currently love?
    Do I have to pick? Umm, Valshe is in my CD player currently–I love her music, especially her Kagamine Len covers! I’ve also recently listened to the soundtrack from Wicked, a Babymetal album (super-good J-metal by cute little girls!), Lindsey Stirling, and David Crowder*Band. But picking favorites is no fair!
  3. What’s your favorite childhood memory?
    Cinnamon toast, hot cocoa, and Skip Bo around the kitchen table at my grandparents’ house with all the family together. Fun!
  4. Favorite book? (You can choose more than one)
    Favorites again? Not fair, and I really can’t pick, but some that I come back to frequently would include The Chronicles of Narnia (all of them, but especially The Horse and His Boy and The Last Battle), Howl’s Moving Castle, Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles, A Wrinkle in TimeThe Lord of the Rings . . . and lots of others, of course.
  5. Favorite quotes?
    I probably should actually pick some favorite quotations. The only book quotation I use with any frequency (at least consciously) is “I object to that remark very strongly” from the bulldog in The Magician’s Nephew. Although when I think about it, there are a lot of other Narnia quotations that I really enjoy. I think the Maximum Ride books are oddly quotable as well. 😀
  6. It’s the end of the world! The only people left are you, the main actor/actress from the last movie you watched, your least favorite book character, & your favorite dead artist (writer, musician, what have you). Will you guys be okay?
    So let me get this straight, I’m facing the apocalypse with Amy Acker, Kurotsuchi Mayuri (is it too much of a stretch to pick a manga character?), and C. S. Lewis? I’m scared for the rest of the world . . . although a lot depends on whether Mayuri gets bored and turns on us (instead of trying to help us survive) or not.
  7. Puppy sized elephant or elephant sized puppy?
    Puppy-sized elephant. Totally. How cute can you get? Besides, Clifford’s great in theory, but Emily Elizabeth has clearly shown us the challenges of a dog that size.
  8. Pick one: a boat, a castle, a cottage, or a rocket. Make up a reason why.
    Cottage. Quiet, low maintenance . . . and there’s that fairy-tale flavor as well. Preferably a cottage with roses climbing all over it.
  9. Do you ship any characters? Or hate a ship?
    I tend to avoid non-canon pairings–and especially random non-canon slash pairings. How should I say this . . . I prefer to leave relationships as the author wrote them, as a general rule (although there are always exceptions, right?). I might occasionally go for an implied canon pair . . . Kuro/Fai, for instance, is <3.
  10. If money was of no concern, what would be the next thing you buy?
    I’d build an extension to use as a library–I’m seriously running out of room!
  11. What’s the nicest thing anybody has ever done for you?
    I can’t pick. Sorry. . . . But on a day-to-day basis, I think one of the things I value most is when people actually look me back in the eyes and smile. Truly. 🙂

And now, the questions I would like to ask are:

  1. What inspired you to begin blogging?
  2. Would you rather read books written in your native language, or do you like reading translated books from other countries?
  3. Favorite author? (You can pick more than one.)
  4. What little-known book do you really like? (I love finding obscure but wonderful volumes!)
  5. Conversely, what popular book can you just not bring yourself to enjoy?
  6. If you were in your own fairy tale, what kind of character would you be?
  7. If you could meet any historical figure, who would you most want to meet?
  8. Coffee or tea? Or do you avoid caffeine?
  9. Are there any musicians/musical groups that you particularly enjoy?
  10. What other forms of art (besides books) do you like?
  11. What are you looking for in other book blogs in the community?

And finally, I would like to nominate the following excellent blogs/bloggers for the Liebster Award:

  1. Summer @  Xingsings
  2. Laura @ Lorzy Porzy
  3. Anne @ Anne-thology of Books
  4. ahouseofbooks
  5. Cho @ Cho Novels (seriously, check out her original English light novel; it’s really good!)
  6. lightlit
  7. English Light Novels

I have to confess that most of the other blogs I enjoy have either already participated in this award already or already have way more than 200 followers. So . . . I’m limiting it to these seven that I really enjoy. You should check them out!


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The Strange Library

Author: Haruki Murakami

A boy wanders into the public library, randomly curious about taxation in the Ottoman Empire, for whatever reason. When he asks at the main circulation desk, he is sent (rather than to the normal stacks) to room 107, a lonely, distant room inhabited by a single elderly man. The man finds the boy’s books, but demands that he read them in the library, leading the boy down an even more deserted maze of corridors until the boy finds himself locked in a cell with the books. A man wearing a sheep-skin and a beautiful, enigmatic girl visit his cell, bringing food and warning him that as soon as he’s finished memorizing the books, the old man will eat his well-informed brain. The boy is desperate to escape–if only he hadn’t been so obliging to follow the man to start with!

I’ve been seeing Haruki Murakami’s name come up quite a bit recently, but I’d never read anything of his until I picked up The Strange Library at (gulp!) my own local library. I’m not quite sure how to put my impressions of it. Philosophical and odd, I suppose is the best way to express it. That, and experimental. The story itself is very strange, in a way that makes me think there are probably cultural, philosophical, and literary connections that I’m just missing. Mostly, to me, it was a fable saying “stop being so blasted Japanese and stand up for yourself!” or something like that; the boy in the story is really absurdly accommodating. The tone of the text itself is interesting–almost poetic, maybe? It’s rather brief, yet there’s an atmosphere to it that is more than you’d expect from the shortness of the style. Possibly one of the most unusual aspects of this volume is the rather experimental use of pictures and layout. Nearly every other page is some sort of picture–drawing or photograph–that in some way relates to the story, but not in clear way like a picture book or graphic novel. More like it’s helping to set the mood or something. Added to that, the cover has this odd wrap-around vertical sleeve that you have to open before you can get to the normal horizontally opening pages–this vertical wrap ended up dangling the whole time I was reading, getting in my way and generally being annoying. I think The Strange Library was an interesting reading experience, one that might be greatly enjoyed by those with a more philosophical taste, although if you’re more into action and clear-cut storytelling, this probably won’t be to your taste.

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The Eyre Affair

Author: Jasper Fforde

Thursday Next Series, vol. 1

Between her time on the police force in Swindon, her service in the war in Crimea, and more recently her job in Spec-Ops 27–the literary detectives–Thursday Next has seen her share of action and unusual happenings. Regardless, current events might be too much even for this cool, collected operative. When the theft of priceless original manuscripts–with no sign of the crime save a bit of rippled glass on the case–seems to tie in to the manhunt for an extremely dangerous criminal–dangerous in ways almost no one even knows–Thursday naturally gets dragged into the mess. And it’s a good thing for the literary world that she does; she might be one of the only people out there with the combination of experience and nerve to be able to pull off the save necessary to preserve the great books of the world.

After reading First Among Sequels, I naturally had to go back to the beginning of the story to see what happened before. Honestly, The Eyre Affair was a bit of a letdown approaching it in that manner–the world, the characters, and Fforde’s own quirky writing style are so much more developed in First Among Sequels. It’s understandable, since The Eyre Affair was his first novel; naturally, he’s still figuring out his writing style. Approaching this book from a less biased perspective, it really is quite good. It takes your basic police/detective novel and gives it some extremely interesting spins–like adding in time-travel, Thursday’s uncle Monty’s weird inventions, murder of characters from within books, bringing dodos and Neanderthals back to earth through cloning, and experiencing a poem from the inside. Lots of literary fun–in a world where literature is apparently considered extremely important. Thursday herself is a strong character, even at this point in her story, and the balance of action and character development is well done. Really, the story reminds me of Elizabeth Peters’ earlier books–a good solid detective novel with strong characters and a nice touch of originality. While not his best novel, I would say The Eyre Affair is a must-read for any Jasper Fforde fan, and I would recommend it for those who enjoy a good detective novel as well.


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