Writing, Writing, Writing

This month of June I have pledged myself to write each day and submit a story, essay, poem or chapter each week.  So the blog is going to suffer this month.

I am still reading many mysteries, both adult and children’s titles. Ask me for a recommendation in the comments below if you are looking for a great title for fun

summer reading.

Happy Reading in Summer of 2017!

Challenge yourself.

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Another World: Children’s Lit

For the first months of 2017, I was immersed in reading children’s books.  They soothe my soul; they provide mentoring for my own writing; and I have the opportunity to share the best with my blog readers. 2016 provided a variety of excellent children’s titles, but I am most excited about sharing the best nominees of Easy Readers and Early Chapter books.  What a surprise when I met prize-winning authors in competition with new authors.

The creativity of well-illustrated books with original texts was obvious in this judging assignment.  Mo Willems and Kate DiCamillo were nominated in this eclectic mix of 10 titles for me to choose the “Best Of,” as shared with children’s bloggers in CYBILs (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards). I was honored to be among teachers, parents, and fellow bloggers led by the creative Jodie Helliker Rodriquez, whose “Growing Book By Book” blog has always amazed me with her own creativity and sharing.

Wait until you get the winning book for Early Chapter Books in your hand.  It is appealing from the cover illustration featuring Mango Allsorts and her new pet. Look for a black and white and lavender cover!  Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig begins a new series by Polly Faber and Clara Vulliamy.  What originality!  Faber’s endearing new character Mango Allsorts finds a Malaysian tapir stuck in the middle of a traffic jam. The setting is a busy city and Mango, on her own most of the time, discovers a strange sight as she walks home from karate class.  It’s “not a pig” is lying down on the busy street camouflaged in the white stripes of the highway!  This book of four experiences with new friends, Mango and her tapir Bambang, is difficult to describe. It would not be the same without the original illustrations by Vulliamy.  I want to purchase all the Mango books in the series. Each new book uses a different palate than the original lavender highlighted in this debut.

Mo Willems’ titles turned out not to be written by him.  Remember Go Dog Go, the P.D. Eastman title confused as a Dr. Seuss favorite?  That little Cat in the Hat in the corner of the cover made readers think we had another Seuss winner.  Of course, Eastman had his own classic even with “I Can Read It All By Myself” series stamp on the corner of the cover. Mo Willems did the same thing, adding his name to the title page of a book series called “Elephant and Piggy Like Reading! Despite the appealing title, We are Growing  and  The Cookie Fiasco  were not my favorites. Check them out from your library and see if you agree.

In the category of Easy Readers I discovered Snail and Worm: Three Stories about Two Friends by Tina Kugler!  This debut title is definitely an easy book for new readers.  The illustrations are delightful.  Kugler’s characters share values of friendship, pride and understanding.  Her tongue-in-cheek pictures with Snail and Worm’s animated and inanimate friends will resonate with her intended audience.  Repetition in the text will help these readers. This book was the winner for the Easy Reader judges from CYBILS nominees for 2016.

My second favorite Easy Reader is a longer story. The Infamous Ratsos by Kara La Reau is at first funny, cute and endearing when the Ratso brothers try to be tough like their single Dad.  I can see why it was nominated by the CYBILs first round of judges.  Readers will identify with the bullying scene, the plans to be mischievous, and the bonding with the father.  At the second reading I wasn’t certain if parents reading with their children would find the situations funny.  Who is going to buy this book?  We judged it too long for early readers; still reluctant older readers may enjoy the high jinx of these rat hoodlums.  There is a lesson by the end and the main characters all learn that being bad is not good!

Kate Di Camillo’s latest entry in the Early Chapter books category was a fun read.  She writes about neighbors of the popular pig Mercy Watson.  Baby Lincoln and her aged sister Eugenia are unusual characters introduced in Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln? Adults will understand Lucille’s need for a “necessary journey,” but I am uncertain whether children ages 6-9 will find these strange characters engaging.  DiCamillo is an expert in plot, dialogue and voice, as well as a challenging vocabulary.  This title didn’t spark my interest as much as Faber’s Mango and Bambang  book did.

What children’s books do you recommend from your reading in 2016?  As usual, your comments and suggestions are welcome.

Happy Reading in 2017!

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Read. Review. Recommend.

The first book I completed read in 2017 kept me reading so that I wanted to finish it in one sitting.  Instead of staying up all night as I wished to do, I relished each scene and word, stretching out my reading to two days.  The language is authentic teen speech which resonates for any age.

Have I grabbed your attention?  Guitar Notes by Mary Amato begins with a perfect title and cover.  Don’t you love language with two meanings?  You know this book is about a guitar player, probably a teen, and guitar music has notes.  Notes also mean communications between friends.  Paper messages, texts, or voice mails can also be short notes between the main characters- one who is almost perfect and one who has no friends. How Amato brings them together over a guitar is masterful.

How do I decide who will want to share this book?  A teen, a singer, a parent who needs to understand teen angst?  They will all enjoy it!

What a great title to begin my reading challenge of 2017.  I will be reading many easy readers and early chapter books for my assigned judging project with CYBILs, helping to choose the best of 2016.  Guitar Notes was a delightful start to my reading with a Meaty book offering genuine Language.  (Check out the CAMEL reading rating in my previous blogs.) Since Mary Amato is a local author writing about Maryland, this book also fits the setting rating, too.  (E=Exceptional time and place)

Happy Reading in 2017!  Find your own reading challenge and enjoy every word.

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Author Crushes

I have a new author crush every week.  How about you?  Do you fall in love with authors you meet from friend’s recommendations and from the new books at the library?

My latest crushes are for middle grade authors Gordon Korman and Mary Amato!  Korman was recommended to me by a new reading friend when she heard I was looking for examples of dialogue from a boy’s perspective.  Both my grands are boys and I am writing several middle grade novels which my BETA readers call “girls’ books.”  I want to appeal to all genders, so I picked up Ungifted to hear a different POV on my way to meet friends for lunch 2 hours away.  Still driving last weekend, on the way to a children’s writing conference, I fell in love with Gordon Korman’s humor, character development and pacing. Ungifted is told from many different children and adults in school and home settings. What more could a reader and a writer hope to gain?  This week at the library, I picked up one more book by Korman, Schooled, and I am prepared to laugh and enjoy more of his multiple voice books. Readers of both genders and all ages can enjoy these books.

Mary Amato is a new author I met at the children’s writing conference.  What a find!  Her Our Teacher is a Vampire and other (Not) True Stories also was created with multiple characters’ voices.  Each of the students in Mrs. Penrose’s class adds letters and articles to a blank book Alexander received for his birthday.  The resulting novel is humorous and authentic, full of likeable middle grade protagonists (plus teachers and a librarian.)

An old flame grabbed me at the library:  Pam Munoz Ryan!  The Dreamer and Echo are different genres and interesting additions to her body of children’s stories that range from picture biographies to historical fiction.  I relished Riding Freedom, Mice and Beans, and When Marian Sang:  the True Recital of Marian Anderson.  In my latest read from Ryan, I discovered a fictionalized biography of the famous poet, Pablo Neruda, with illustrations by Peter Sis.  What a delightI discovered in The Dreamer and I await a different experience in Echo which is based on ancient folktales!  Many poems are added at the end of the book.  An intriguing idea they share with us lovers of children’s literature.

One more new find is Leah Pileggi, author of Prisoner 88.  I was looking for another book recommended by my ten-year-old grandson which had a similar title.  It is amazing to hear of 4th and 5th graders reading about prisoners, but they love the authenticity of these books.  Prisoner 88 is about a 10-year-old-boy who is the youngest prisoner in the history of Idaho’s Territorial Penitentiary.  In 1885 Jake has a rude awakening, as you can imagine.  Later in history, Yanek (Jack) becomes a prisoner in 10 concentration camps in Germany. He lived in a Polish Ghetto and then was imprisoned around 1939 for the sole reason that he was Jewish.  Prisoner B-3087 is the memoir of Jack Gruener, penned with his wife Ruth and Alan Gratz. These two historical fiction books are both survivor stories you will want to read.

If you are considering writing your own children’s books, I recommend you join me in a great organization:  the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.  Lin Oliver founded this organization and, as a realistic and personable speaker at the latest regional conference, she shared her passion and advice for us pre-published authors.  You may recognize Lin as co-author with Henry Winkler of the “Hank Zipser” series.  Thanks to Lin Oliver, I met many aspiring children’s authors, agents and editors.  Peer Critique advice was available and valuable.  New friends from my own state and region will be a fine addition for my writing friends’ network.

[Don’t forget that if you see any errors in my posts, please alert me.  A new writing friend wrote that Jane Eyre was written by Emily Bronte.  I am too embarrassed to let her know… Should I tell her.  What do you think?]

Happy Reading in 2016 and Love from Best Books By Beth!

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Links I Love

What makes me happy?

Not writing or blogging usually.  Getting new ideas delights me, but what to do with these ideas?

 Reading about new books!  That’s the best news I read all week! 

Sharing new titles makes me delirious!

 Now I just have to put these ideas into the book I’m writing.

 And I have to share with you the newest book titles I’ve read or plan to read soon.  So here I am writing…and reading so many blogs that I want to share with you. 

 These blogs are the links I love! Check out BrightlyThisKidReviewsBooksMomTrends, SunlitPages, WhatDoWeDoAllDaywww.amongstlovelythings.com, House Full of Bookworms, and Peggy Eddleman.

 I buy, rent, borrow, and download new books each week from the library, Amazon, Kindle, Indie Bookstores and from my several book clubs.  Prizes will be offered to you, my first commenters who write to me requesting a picture book, a middle grade book, or a YA book.  My book shelves and tables and desks are overflowing.  All you have to do is follow me and comment below.  Just ask for the type of book you want for a prize!

 

Happy Reading in 2016

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CHALLENGING BOOKS

Challenging Books

I love finding reading challenges such as Good Reads and one shared on Facebook by reading teachers.  My own personal goal for 2016 is 75 books.  One fun Reading Challenge of 2016 reminds us of the interesting categories of books we could choose to reach our reading goals.  For those readers who find a large number unattainable this year, you will love the 12 book categories of the Reading Challenge and the 30 categories of a children’s summer challenge to help you choose your next great read.

What do you do when you cannot find the “next great read”?  I go to the 12 category Reading Challenge of 2016 and try to remember those books which

  • Intimidate me
  • Were written in 2016, or
  • One written before I was born!

In fact, I read several books this past month that I had picked up and put down several times, because they were “Challenging books” in genres I don’t usually choose to read.

I hope you are now intrigued to find out books I found intimidating.  The Thirteenth Tale beckoned to me from the Audio book section of my public library.  Two narrators were listed on the cover and the summary was partially hidden from view.  So I tried this gem which I had abandoned in 2010.   Jill Tanner and another reader made me listen every time I hopped in my car.  The only problem was not being able to jot down the great reading and writing quotes. So I found a hardback copy of the book to re-read sections of this Gothic tale of a supremely dysfunctional family living in the moors like Wuthering Heights.  One memorable section was when the protagonist, a young biographer, became ill and her doctor asked her if she had been reading and re-reading Bronte and the like.  His prescription was to change reading habits.  What did he recommend?  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes!

Speaking of Gothic terrors, I also read a contemporary Gothic tale which takes place in a local neighborhood in Maryland.  Severna Park, MD is not what we would consider a scary place.  The setting of Devilish is not the usual one Lucia St. Claire Robson chooses for her historical fiction titles, so I was curious.  The red cover grabbed me; plus the uniqueness of a book with devils and writers and suburban housewives should draw readers who are looking for something new and humorous.  If you enjoy Janet Evanovich books, I think you will howl with the demons and sylphs and the main characters as they solve the mystery of how to rid their block of sneaky ghosts as well as save themselves from a serial killer with help of two handsome police.

What could top a book about devils and writers?  The Lives We Bury by Allen Eskers was recommended by a bookseller in Tampa, FL.  The foul language of a college student along with another dysfunctional family headed by an uncaring mother did not interest me at first, but I was hooked on “Challenging Books” for my reading in June.  My husband is the next to try this mystery which crosses genres with diverse characters and exceptional writing. Let me know what you think of this unusual contemporary thriller far different from the cosy mysteries I usually recommend.

Many mixed reviews, but mainly great ones highlighted book review literature in 2016 about The Nest.  Two recommendations by good reading friends encouraged me to read another tale of a dysfunctional family.  Why keep reading this one?  You will want to know what happens to each member of this family, hopefully so different from your own. The author sets up a great premise when she explains the inheritance four siblings expect to receive in the future when their youngest sibling reaches the age of 40.  The “nest” is what they call it their whole lives, but that inheritance is disrupted by unforseen happenings. Read Cynthia D’Apix Sweeney’s novel to find out how they learn to live with the changed circumstances of these usual and unusual lives.

Because I was tired of the same old themes of abandoning mothers and sulky teens, I read my friend Martha Crites’ debut mystery Grave Disturbance. When you meet Grace, a mental health evaluator, in the interesting setting of the Cascades foothills near Seattle, you have found a unique novel with diverse characters we hope to meet in a series about the people of the Pacific Northwest. Grace is not a detective by profession, but she takes the clues she finds and solves an unusual set of crimes to the setting and the characters in her world.

Another fascinating world is the arena of health clubs and the connection with deaf patrons and sign language interpreters in B. K. Stevens’ mystery Interpretation of Murder.  Lighter than the previous recommendations, B. K. (Bonnie) Stevens keeps you engaged in her story with reluctant sleuth Jane Ciardi, who will take any job from sign language interpreter to private detective assistant to waitress and even weekend office cleaner. Jane even learns martial arts, a new theme in Stevens’ books, to help her solve the crimes committed in the story.  I want to read more stories about this determined character as she tries to erase her debts and help anyone who needs her assistance.

 

Happy Reading in the summer of 2016!

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Book Clubs Take Many Forms

I have participated in several book clubs.  Some meet at friends’ homes, bookstores, libraries and online.  My latest was an entire conference of mystery writers.  Can you imagine the fun of being surrounded by mystery readers and writers, all of us fans of the cosy mystery stories? Everyone was friendly and welcoming because we all shared the love of mystery fiction and wanted to learn more about our favorite genre! Join us next spring for Malice Domestic in Bethesda, MD.

After having met many authors online first, I was fortunate to meet more in person.  Ellen Byron, author of a new “Cajun mystery series” about a spooky B & B staffed by the Crozat family, brought props and everything Mardi Gras to remind us of her fun setting. Exciting clues will keep you guessing throughout her series.  Plantation Shudders is the first in the Cajun Mystery books, followed by Body in the Bayou to be released in the fall!  You will want to visit Cajun country after reading these novels!

Edith Maxwell writes 4 different mystery series.  I just finished her newest series debut book about a Quaker midwife in the time of the 1880’s. Delivering the Truth reveals the clues to the theme from a great cover.  Rose Margaret Carroll seems modern to today’s readers because the Friends Society encourages equality for all men and women. As a midwife, Rose is able to learn much about all the society in her hometown. She seeks the truth about victims and perpetrators.

Nina Mansfield intrigued me with her young adult debut Swimming Alone.  This fast-paced novel will keep you guessing this summer.  Go to the local bookstore and the beach with fifteen-year-old Cathy Banks to find the clues she and her new friends search to discover the Sea Side strangler!

Cooking and mysteries often go together. Maya Corrigan is an author from VA who combines them expertly and humorously.  Her book series offers a grandfather who wants to cook and assist his granddaughter solve local crimes.  The recipes at the back of the book offer you the chance to make some great treats! By Cook or By Crook is the first in her “Five Ingredient Mystery Series.”

My other love is plays and Cindy Brown drew me in with her new series of an actress who solves crimes unexpectedly!  Macdeath, the first in her series, was nominated for an Agatha Award for best first mystery.  The competition was fierce and I loved all the nominees in person and in print!

Historical mysteries might be your cup of tea, Agatha fans.  Try out Victoria Thompson’s “Gaslight series” which takes place at the turn of the 20th century.  I read three this spring starting with number one, Murder on Astor Place followed by Murder on Amsterdam Avenue (Agatha nominated title), and then Murder on Fifth Avenue.  Can you read them out of order?  Yes, Vicky, a delightful person, fills you in on the back story, but I know most readers like to read historical titles as they are released. There are a few plot lines you will want to follow in order.

Suspenseful cozies are becoming more popular. Hank Phillippi Ryan is bringing back her first protagonist Charlotte McNally this fall, but you may want to pick up her Jane Ryland titles The Other Woman, The Wrong Girl and What You See.  I love the puns and double entrendre in her titles! Be prepared for fast-paced plots with these investigative reporters who will remind you of this Emmy Award winning author.  Yes, Hank has won awards for her own journalism and for her books too.

Another new author I met is Martha Crites whose debut Grave Disturbance was recently nominated for a Nancy Pearl Award.  Be prepared to be scared by her realistic mystery set in the Seattle area.

My friends Marcia Talley and Sujata Massey, as well as Elaine Viets, are working on new titles set in Annapolis, India, St. Louis or Florida I hope to read in the fall when they are released. Check out your local independent book store for the latest from these fun authors.

Reading all these mysteries and more helped bring me out of a slump in finding fun books to enjoy.  Hope you discover some fun reading in this blog:  a new author, a new series, or a fun summer read!

Next post will feature literary fiction titles and will include Amazon links.

 

 

Happy Reading in 2016!

 

 

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CATEGORIES OF BOOKS

Most genres of fiction interest me from mysteries to historical fiction. There are many categories to relish as I have found from Book Page, a magazine provided by the Friends of the Library in my vacation spot.  Where to begin to find the next book to read?  I am changing my blog to include books I want to read but have not read yet.

                         Which are your top choices from this list?

New titles on my TBR list include one from each of these categories:

  1. Literary Fiction: The Last Painting of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith. This one includes three narrative threads, intriguing for a reader and a writer.
  2. Family Saga:  Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlan.  She is a favorite author since I read her Black and Blue, a realistic view of domestic violence.
  3. Coming-of-Age:  Excellent Lombards by Jane Hamilton. Begins in the 1960’s.
  4. Memoir: Dimestore: A Writer’s Life by Lee Smith.  About her life in Appalachia.
  5. Middle Grade Fiction: A Bandit’s Tale by Deborah Hopkinson.  A historical tale beginning in 1887 NYC with an Italian Oliver Twist-like character.
  6. Picture Book: The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield.  Starts in a forest and progresses to Broadway!
  7. Historical Mystery: Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye.  For adults and especially lovers of Jane Eyre (and no vampires!)
  8. Mystery:  Plantation Shudders by Ellen ByronAn Agatha nominee for best debut cosy mystery.  I confess I read this one first as I am going to the Malice Domestic conference later this month.
  9. Audio Memoir:  On My Own by Diane Rehm, read by the author.
  10. Historical Fiction: The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson.  If you loved Major Pettigrew’s Land Stand, you have been waiting five years for her next novel.   I think we will be pleased from the several reviews I have read so far.

Trisha Ping’s review in book Page of #10: “Full of trenchant observations on human nature and featuring a lovable cast of characters, The Summer Before the War is a second novel that satisfies.”  Isn’t this premise the reason we read?  I know it rings true for me!

 

Let me know what you recommend currently in comments.

I hope you are having fun with your own 2016 Reading Challenge!

 

HAPPY READING IN 2016!!

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CONNECTIONS IN LITERATURE

If you love To Kill a Mockingbird as I do, you have read all the news about Harper Lee’s writing, her friendships, and her death.  But have you read the latest novel Tru and Nelle by G. Neri? You will recognize the characters immediately, but are they Scout and Dill or Truman Capote and Nelle Harper Lee?  Their adventures, as imagined by Greg Neri, who usually writes urban fiction, will amaze and delight you.  Did you know both writers, Truman and Harper were neighbors in Monroeville, AL; that they both loved to read Sherlock Holmes stories (in book form); and that both assisted each other in their adult writing.  Be prepared for surprises and clues to the plot, characters and setting of To Kill a Mockingbird.  You won’t be disappointed.

Oh, I forgot to mention that this book is written for middle grade  readers of ages nine to twelve, but you adults will get the allusions and gain knowledge you didn’t know you wanted to realize about these favorite authors.   Writers will “find the fun” in learning the “backstory!”

Happy Reading in all Genres for 2016!

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My Reading Challenge for 2016

My Reading Journal is full of titles I want to read this year.  My goal is 75 books of all genres including children’s literature.  That goal was set at the New Year on Goodreads, but I am excited about a newer reading challenge that appeared on Facebook in two places.  I have been joining other reading and writing blogs for two months and I discovered a fun one called Modern Mrs. Darcy.  Of course, the title grabbed me immediately because my daughter and I are huge Jane Austen fans.

Want to hear about this fun Reading Challenge for 2016?  You only need to read 12 books per year! I plan to expand on the titles I read but I want to share the 12 categories which are intriguing.  For a mystery lover, I find I will have to do some sleuthing in the library and pick my own brain to come up with the titles which match the categories.  Here are the celebratory ideas some creative readers have shared with us (BTW, the order is arbitrary).

  1. What is a title of a book that you should have read in school.  (this category is my hardest to choose.)
  2. Choose a book you can read in one day!
  3. Read a book recommended by a librarian or bookseller.  ( I am compiling the ones I read in 2015 to match these categories, too, just for fun.)
  4. Choose a book recommended by a spouse, a sibling, your child or your BFF.
  5. Re-read a book you have read already at least once.  (What fun to re-discover a fav.)
  6. Read a book you have abandoned.  (You may want to write notes in your journal telling why you abandoned the book and what you think now.)
  7. Find a book to read that was written before you were born.
  8. Can you read a new book published in the current year?
  9. Check out a list of banned books and read one you never read.
  10.  Choose a book that has always intimidated you.  (Ulysses by James Joyce, anyone?)
  11. Look on your shelf at home for a book you own and have never read.  ( A treasure!)
  12. Read a book you have always been meaning to read.
If I had been creating this challenge, I would add a few more categories, such as
  13. Read a new book by a favorite author.
  14.  Choose a children’s classic to read.
So far in 2016 I have completed eleven adult books, with two fitting on the MMD challenge.  Jump Cut by Libby Fischer Hellmann was just published this month and available at Amazon.com.  I highly recommend Libby’s thriller for its fast-paced contemporary style.  Elle Foreman, a continuing character in one of her series, has a fascinating job as a film editor.  She discovers a mystery while handling a large project for her editing firm.  Who is that mysterious man who shows up at the film site and freaks out one of the clients when his face is seen on the video? Read Jump Cut to see.  I was fortunate to read and advance reader copy and review this gem on Amazon.
The second book I love to add to my 2016 Reading Challenge is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.  This non-fiction title was the subject of a great TED talk: it was recommended by readers at my local library’s Book Lover’s Book Club,  held at my local library with no assigned reading choice.  That meeting is sponsored by my local library director, Michele Noble, a great source for ecletic titles.
In addition to my adult reading, I have started to read nominees for Malice Domestic Agatha Award for the category of children’s and YA mysteries.  I completed Woof by Spencer Quinn.  He writes novels with dog characters for adults and children.  If you are a dog lover, you will love the tale of Bowser and Birdie, a mystery which will remind you of Kate di Camillo’s Because of Winn Dixie (a Newbery winner).  My favorite genre of children’s literature is usually middle grade mysteries, so I have four more checked out from the library waiting for me to tackle.
The To Be Read list is growing, providing me with fun leisure time and I hope more reviews to share with you this winter.
I mentioned book blogs and I will share some links to some more entertaining book blogs in my next post.  Please remember to follow me, send comments and tell your friends about BESTBOOKSBYBETH.com
Happy Reading in 2016!

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