Thursday, August 25, 2011

One of Our Thursdays Is Missing (Thursday Next, Bk 6) by Jasper Fforde

Posted by Simcha 3:42 PM, under , | 5 comments

If you've read my reviews of the other Thursday Next books  then you are aware of how much I love this series and of the great affection I feel towards its protagonist, Thursday Next. It would be hard to miss since I tend to gush in a rather embarrassing manner whenever I discuss them. So you can imagine my delight when a new Thursday Next book was released in March, and I have been impatiently waiting for months now for the chance to read it.

I have to admit, though, that my anticipation was tinged with some anxiety since- according to the book blurb- the protagonist of this book would be the fictional Thursday and not the real Thursday, who I hold in such high esteem. Plus the majority of this story would take place in the Book World, and the last book in the series which took place in the Book World, Lost in a Good Book, was my least favorite in the series.  So it was with some apprehension that I plunged into One of Our Thursdays Is Missing.

For those of you who have not read any of the other books in the series, don't bother trying to understand anything that I say here because it won't make much sense. And definitely don't try reading this book without having read any of the earlier books because it will just frustrate you and might even discourage you from giving this wonderful series a try. So just go get yourself  a copy of The Eyre Affair and settle yourself in for a wild ride, and then come back here after you've read all of the sequels.

Ok, now back to my review. (which contains some spoilers from First Among Sequels)

In the previous book, First Among Sequels, we met the two written versions of Thursday from the series of books based on her adventures. First there was the violent, sex-crazed Thursday who drew the readers but who was strongly disapproved of by the real Thursday who didn't like this portrayal of her. Eventually this written Thursday came to a bad end and was replaced by the placid, nature loving Thursday who was a bit more to the real Thursday's liking, although she was too softhearted to ever pass for the real thing.

Now in One of Our Thursdays is Missing we become reacquainted with this written Thursday who is our narrator in this story, unlike in the other books which are narrated by the “real” Thursday.

Since taking over as the protagonist in the Thursday Next series, Thursday has done her best to portray the real Thursday in the most respectful and dignified manner possible, despite that fact that everyone seemed to have preferred the other, more exciting Thursday that she had replaced. Even the real Thursday doesn't seem that interested in her written version, but Thursday won't let that get in the way of doing what she feels is right.

When the written Thursday is sent to investigate a book that has crashed she quickly realizes that something is not right. Whoever had assigned Thursday to the investigation had done so knowing how unsuited she would be for such an assignment, and so they must not want the case solved. But the real Thursday would not just let such a suspicious event go without investigating it fully, and so this Thursday won't either.

Soon Thursday is knee-deep in danger and intrigue as she dodges assassination attempts and chases down suspects, along with her new robotic sidekick, Sprockett the butler. Meanwhile the Thursday Next books are being neglected, her co-characters are revolting and the real Thursday is nowhere to be found. Plus the peace talks between Erotic Fiction and Women's Literature are fast approaching and the presence of the real Thursday is needed there in order to avert a border war. It seems like the written Thursday may be the only one who can save the BookWorld, if she can survive that long.

While I had enjoyed reading One of Our Thursdays is Missing I have to admit that this wasn't my favorite book of the series. First of all, I wanted the real Thursday. While it was kind of cool getting to know her written version better she just wasn't as interesting as the real thing. Though Thursday did improve somewhat as the story went on, as she takes on some of the qualities of the real Thursday, leading her to wonder at times if she might actually be the real Thursday under the delusion that she is only the written Thursday (the typical fun stuff you can expect from Fforde). There are also some poignant moments when we get a glimpse of the loneliness the written Thursday experiences, not being allowed to ever have Landon or a family, because it would interfere with reader ratings. Though she is allowed a Designated Romantic Interest, who shows some potential, if only he could shed his horrifying backstory.

The other reason that I didn't enjoy this book as much as some of the others is because 300 pages of literary puns and descriptions of clever book-related inventions was just too much for me. This is what I had suspected would happen in a story that takes place completely in the Book World, and it turns out I was right. The frequent explanations of the Book World mechanisms quickly began to bore me, no matter how clever they were, and I after a while I just started just skimming past them, to where the action picks up again.

That's not to say that I didn't appreciate any of the BookWorld shenanigans, because there was a lot here that was quite wonderful. Some of my favorites include:

- The appearance of three characters from Crime and Punishment at Thursday's house. When attempting to introduce themselves they all become confused as to who is who, and what their roles in the story are:

    He turned to the third Russian “Tell me Pyotr Petrovich Luzin: Who precisely is Marfa Petrovna Svidrigailova?” 
    “I'm sorry,” said the third Russian, who had been staring at her shoes absently, “but I think there has been some kind of mistake. I'm not Pyotr Petrovich Luzin. I'm Alyona Ivanovana.” 
    Razumikhin turned to Raskolnikov and lowered his voice. “Is that your landlady's servant, the one who decides to marry down to secure her future, or the one who turns to prostitution in order to prevent her family from descending into penury?” 
    Raskolnikov shrugged. “Listen,” he said, “I've been in this book for over a hundred and forty years, and even I can't figure it out.”

- The presence in the Vanity section of the less-successful siblings of famous book characters
    Sprockett and I looked at each other. We seemed to finally be getting somewhere. 
    "And the name of the driver?" 
    "The Great Gatsby drives taxis in his spare time?" 
    "No, his younger and less handsome and intelligent brother - the Mediocre Gatsby. He lives in Parody Valley over in Vanity. Here's his address."
- And my favorite line in the whole book:
      The Trip downriver was uneventful and over in only twelve words.

    One of Our Thursdays Is Missing is a book for real Thursday Next fans. If you've read through all the five other books in the series then I'm sure you'll want to read this one as well. If you haven't read the other books then you shouldn't read this one until you have. And while this wasn't my favorite of the Thursday Next books it was still a lot of fun.

    After finishing One of Our Thursdays is Missing I was suffering from a bit of Thursday withdrawal, feeling a little disappointed that she doesn't appear for long in this book, and so I emailed Fforde to ask him about the next book in the series. Within a few minutes I received a reply which reassured me that Book 7, Dark Reading Matter, will return us to the “real” Thursday who will have from Jurisfiction and will be dealing with “domestic problems in the real world.” Hopefully that book should be available sometimes in 2012. Yay! I can't wait.

    Tuesday, August 23, 2011

    The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade

    Posted by Simcha 5:03 PM, under | 7 comments

    I don’t like to read stories involving ghosts or kids getting killed so The Ghost and the Goth, which includes both of these, was not even on my radar. Or at least, that was the case until I started seeing the book crop up on several of the book blogs that I read, along with surprisingly positive reviews. Eventually my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to give The Ghost and the Goth a try.

    Alona Dare is one of those pretty, popular girls who can make or break a person's reputation with just a look. Everyone wants to be her friend, and no one would dare cross her, but when Alona gets hit by a bus and dies she discovers that she wasn't as well-liked as she had thought. In fact, no one seems particularly sorry to see her gone. Even Alona’s best friend barely waited for her body to get cold before hooking up with her boyfriend, and all Alona can do is watch from the sidelines, unseen.

    Surprisingly, there is one person who does seem to be able to see Alona-  the strange Goth boy, Will Killian. Alona would never have demeaned herself by speaking to Will while alive but now that she is dead she doesn’t have too many options. For some reason Will can see her, along with all the other ghosts in the school, and that means he may have some of the answers that she is looking for, and Alona intends to get them from him, if he likes it or not.

    When Will first sees the dead Alona on the ground crying, he can’t help but be amused at how far the haughty cheerleader had fallen. But the situation becomes less amusing when Alona takes to following Will around demanding explanations about her continued presence on Earth. Due to his “gift” of being able to hear the dead (a rather unpleasant gift, as it were) Will has picked up some knowledge over the years about ghosts, but he’s still far from being an expert on the subject, though in order to get Alona off of his back he agrees to assist her. But time may be running out for Will, who’s strange behavior has attracted the attention of a psychologist, who is trying to get him committed to a mental institution. Will's best friend has also been behaving really oddly lately and her involvement with a dark force beyond her understanding may prove to be dangerous to Will.

    I went into The Ghost and the Goth with very low expectations and was surprised by how easily I got caught up in the story. We start off in Alona's head, privy to the angry thoughts running through her mind, right before she gets hit by a bus. The story then picks up three days later as Alona struggles to come to terms with her new situation, disappointed to see how easily the world has gone on without her. In the next chapter we meet Will, who has inherited the strange ability to see ghosts, and for whom day-to-day living is a constant struggle because of this.

    Before I started the book I really couldn’t imagine how I could find enjoyment in a story that involves a girl getting killed by a bus, but Stacey Kade somehow manages to pull it off. Despite the subject matter the story is entertaining and light. It probably helped that I didn't find either Alona or Will to be particularly likable at first, though as the story progresses and they come to understand and appreciate each other, I also came to care the two of them more. I enjoyed those moments that led to each of them shedding their preconceived notions about the other, eventually leading to a real friendship between them. There are even several romantic moments here, which I wouldn't have expected between a boy and a ghost. I'm really curious to see how Alona and Will's relationship will develop in the next book.

    Yes, I did enjoy The Ghost and the Goth enough that I plan on seeking out the sequel and from now on I'll try to be more open-minded when it comes to my reading material (though I still won't read The Lovely Bones).

    Sunday, August 21, 2011

    New Scifi & Fantasy Releases: Week of August 21

    Posted by Simcha 4:17 PM, under , | 10 comments


    Bloodlines (Bloodlines #1)
    Richelle Mead
    Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
    Publisher: Razorbill
    Release Date: Aug. 23

    The first book in Richelle Mead's brand-new teen fiction series - set in the same world as Vampire Academy.

    When alchemist Sydney is ordered into hiding to protect the life of Moroi princess Jill Dragomir, the last place she expects to be sent is a human private school in Palm Springs, California. But at their new school, the drama is only just beginning.

    Populated with new faces as well as familiar ones, Bloodlines explores all the friendship, romance, battles and betrayals that made the #1 New York Times bestselling Vampire Academy series so addictive - this time in a part-vampire, part-human setting where the stakes are even higher and everyone's out for blood.


    This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein
    Kenneth Oppel
    Genre: YA Fantasy
    Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing
    Release Date: Aug. 23

    Victor and Konrad are the twin brothers Frankenstein. They are nearly inseparable. Growing up, their lives are filled with imaginary adventures...until the day their adventures turn all too real.

    They stumble upon The Dark Library, and secret books of alchemy and ancient remedies are discovered. Father forbids that they ever enter the room again, but this only piques Victor's curiosity more. When Konrad falls gravely ill, Victor is not satisfied with the various doctors his parents have called in to help. He is drawn back to The Dark Library where he uncovers an ancient formula for the Elixir of Life. With their friend Elizabeth, Henry and Victor immediately set out to find assistance from a man who was once known for his alchemical works to help create the formula.

    Determination and the unthinkable outcome of losing his brother spur Victor on in the quest for the three ingredients that will save Konrad's life. After scaling the highest trees in the Strumwald, diving into the deepest lake caves, and sacrificing one’s own body part, the three fearless friends risk their lives to save another.


    Dark Taste of Rapture
    Gena Showalter
    Genre: Paranormal Romance
    Publisher: Pocket
    Release Date: Aug. 23

    Beautiful Noelle Tremain has just completed AIR (Alien Investigation and Removal) training and successfully navigated her first mission. Life is perfect. Until her best friend is turned into a vampire, destroying her day life, and she’s partnered with Hector Dean, destroying her nightlife. He’s the sexiest, most powerful man she’s ever met, able to atomize his arm and punch through anything – but he’s also an emotionally distanced hardass willing to do anything to avoid her. To stay on top of their case, she might just have to find a way on top of him. But oh, the naughty things a girl will do for her job . . .


    Devil to Pay (Night Huntress #3.5)
    Jeaniene Frost
    Genre: Paranormal Romance
    Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
    Release Date: Aug. 23

    Originally published in Four Dukes and a Devil.

    Blake Turner had it all—until a demon decided to take residence in his soul. Plagued with constant black outs and a trail of dead bodies in his wake, Blake thinks vampire Elise is his best chance at ending the nightmare. It’s just too bad he’s fallen in love with the gorgeous vamp right before he has to die… Featuring characters from New York Times bestselling author Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress world. (Originally appeared in Four Dukes and a Devil anthology)


    Down to the Bone (Quantum Gravity #5)
    Justina Robson
    Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
    Publisher: Pyr
    Release Date: Aug. 23

    Lila Black faces her greatest challange yet as she takes herself, her dead lover and the AI in her head into death's realm. The Quantum Gravity series, set in a world where our reality mixes with other dimensions that are the homes to Faeries, elementals and demons, is unique in modern SF - a series that is willing to incorporate legend, myth and magic while maintaining a rigorous approach to scientific and pyschological reality. And in Lila Black Justina Robson has created an enduringly strong yet quirkily human and flawed heroine


    Envy (Empty Coffin Series #1)
    Gregg Olsen
    Genre: YA Paranormal
    Publisher: Sterling Publishing
    Release Date: Aug. 23

    Murder is such a dirty word…

    New York Times bestselling adult true crime author Gregg Olsen makes his YA debut with EMPTY COFFIN, a gripping new fiction series for teens based on ripped-from-the-headlines stories…with a paranormal touch.
    Crime lives--and dies--in the deceptively picture-perfect town of Port Gamble (aka “Empty Coffin”), Washington. Evil lurks and strange things happen--and 15-year-olds Hayley and Taylor Ryan secretly use their wits and their telepathic “twin-sense” to uncover the truth about the town's victims and culprits.

    Envy, the series debut, involves the mysterious death of the twins' old friend, Katelyn. Was it murder? Suicide? An accident? Hayley and Taylor are determined to find out--and as they investigate, they stumble upon a dark truth that is far more disturbing than they ever could have imagined.

    Based on the shocking true crime about cyber-bullying, Envy will take you to the edge--and push you right over.


    Lord of the Vampires (Royal House of Shadows, #1)
    Gena Showalter
    Genre: Paranormal Romance
    Publisher: Harlequin
    Release Date: Aug. 23

    Once upon a time…the Blood Sorcerer vanquished the kingdom of Elden. To save their children, the queen scattered them to safety and the king filled them with a need for vengeance. Only a magical timepiece connects the four royal heirs…and time is running out.

    Nicolai the Vampire is renowned for his virility, but in a cruel twist of fate “The Dark Seducer” has become a sex slave in the kingdom of Delfina—stripped of his precious timepiece and his memory. All that remains is a primal need for freedom, revenge—and the only woman who can help him.

    When the wanton vampire summons Jane Parker, she is helpless to obey. She's drawn to his dark sexuality and into his magical realm. But for this human, all is not a fairy tale. For saving Nicolai could mean losing the only man she's ever craved...


    Mayan December
    Brenda Cooper
    Genre: Fantasy
    Publisher: Prime Books LLC
    Release Date: Aug. 23

    Dr. Alice Cameron is a famous scientist - an archeoastronomer - devoted to studying ancient Mayan culture. The era driving her career has always been the end of the Mayan baktun, so she's on the Yucatan Peninsula in December 2012 with her daughter Nixie...and so are fellow serious scholars, plenty of end-of-the-world crazies, and - at an international summit - the President of the United States and other heads of state. When Nixie disappears into the past in the Mayan jungle, rationality and mysticism, the present and the past start merging. Meanwhile, Alice is drawn into the machinations of statecraft by an old friend.
    A savvy scientist, a handsome dreadlocked time-traveler, an ancient shaman, a noble Mayan couple, a computer nerd, and an 11-year old traverse the past and present in a search for the meaning of life and a way to save two worlds.


    The Measure of the Magic (Legends of Shannara #2)
    Terry Brooks
    Genre: Fantasy
    Publisher: Del Rey
    Release Date: Aug. 23

    For five hundred years, the survivors of the Great Wars lived peacefully in a valley sanctuary shielded by powerful magic from the blighted and dangerous outside world. But the enchanted barriers have crumbled, the borders have been breached by predators, and the threat of annihilation looms large once more. Sider Ament, bearer of the last black staff and its profound power, devoted his life to protecting the valley and its inhabitants—and, in his final moments, gave stewardship of the black staff to the young tracker Panterra Qu. Now the newly anointed Knight of the Word must take up the battle against evil wherever it threatens: from without, where an army of bloodthirsty trolls is massing for invasion; and from within, where the Elf king of Arborlon has been murdered, his daughter, Princess Phryne Amarantyne, stands accused, and a heinous conspiracy is poised to subjugate the kingdom. But even these will pale beside the most harrowing menace Panterra is destined to confront—a nameless, merciless figure who wanders the devastated land on a relentless mission: to claim the last black staff . . . and the life of he who wields it.

    Nocturne (Claire de Lune #2)
    Christine Johnson
    Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
    Publisher: Simon Pulse
    Release Date: Aug. 23

    Some secrets are too dangerous...

    After the tragic events of the summer, Claire is looking forward to a new school year. All she wants to worry about is finding the most gorgeous dress to wear to the Autumn Ball with her perfect boyfriend.

    But as Claire knows all too well, the life of a werewolf is never that simple, or that sweet.

    When Claire’s human and wolf lives start to collide, her worst nightmares come true. She is hurting her best friend. She has been caught lying. And then the unthinkable happens: Someone discovers Claire’s secret.

    If Claire’s werewolf identity is exposed, everyone she knows will be put at risk. And the pack’s response comes at a cost higher than Claire can imagine. Claire will be forced to determine just how far she is willing to

    Gretchen McNeil
    Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
    Publisher: Balzer + Bray
    Release Date: Aug. 23

    Fifteen-year-old Bridget Liu just wants to be left alone: by her mom, by the cute son of a local police sergeant, and by the eerie voices she can suddenly and inexplicably hear. Unfortunately for Bridget, it turns out the voices are demons – and Bridget has the rare ability to banish them back to whatever hell they came from.

    Terrified to tell people about her new power, Bridget confides in a local priest who enlists her help in increasingly dangerous cases of demonic possession. But just as she is starting to come to terms with her new power, Bridget receives a startling message from one of the demons. Now Bridget must unlock the secret to the demons' plan before someone close to her winds up dead – or worse, the human vessel of a demon king.


    The Power of Six
    Pittacus Lore
    Genre: YA Science Fiction
    Publisher: HarperCollins
    Release Date: Aug. 23

    I've seen him on the news. Followed the stories about what happened in Ohio. John Smith, out there, on the run. To the world, he's a mystery. But to me . . . he's one of us.

    Nine of us came here, but sometimes I wonder if time has changed us—if we all still believe in our mission. How can I know? There are six of us left. We're hiding, blending in, avoiding contact with one another . . . but our Legacies are developing, and soon we'll be equipped to fight. Is John Number Four, and is his appearance the sign I've been waiting for? And what about Number Five and Six? Could one of them be the raven-haired girl with the stormy eyes from my dreams? The girl with powers that are beyond anything I could ever imagine? The girl who may be strong enough to bring the six of us together?

    They caught Number One in Malaysia.
    Number Two in England.
    And Number Three in Kenya.
    They tried to catch Number Four in Ohio—and failed.

    I am Number Seven. One of six still alive.

    And I'm ready to fight.


    Skary Childrin and the Carousel of Sorrow
    Katy Towell
    Genre: YA/ Children Paranormal
    Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
    Release Date: Aug. 23

    Twelve years ago, for 12 days straight, the town of Widowsbury suffered a terrible storm, which tore open a gate through which escaped all sorts of foul, rotten things. Strange things and strange people were no longer welcomed in Widowsbury, for one could never be sure of what secrets waited under the surface . . .
    Adelaide Foss, Maggie Borland, and Beatrice Alfred are known by their classmates at Widowsbury's Madame Gertrude's School for Girls as "scary children." Unfairly targeted because of their peculiarities—Adelaide has an uncanny resemblance to a werewolf, Maggie is abnormally strong, and Beatrice claims to be able to see ghosts—the girls spend a good deal of time isolated in the school's inhospitable library facing detention. But when a number of people mysteriously begin to disappear in Widowsbury, the girls work together, along with Steffen Weller, son of the cook at Rudyard School for Boys, to find out who is behind the abductions. Will they be able to save Widowsbury from a 12-year-old curse?

    The Trap (The Magnificent Twelve #2)
    Michael Grant
    Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
    Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
    Release Date: Aug 23

    In the thrilling second book of the Magnificent 12 series, Mack MacAvoy is challenged by his spectral mentor, Grimluk—who only appears in the shiny chrome pipes of bathrooms.
    Mack must find the ancient ones, the great forgotten forces. Some will help; some not so much. But above all—
    • Learn the ways of Vargran!
    • Assemble the twelve!
    • Go to the nine dragons of Daidu.
    • Go to the Egge rocks.
    • Beware of . . . the trap.
    Time is short! The wicked Pale Queen’s three-thousand-year banishment ends in thirty-five days, and she will be free to destroy the world. It’s up to Mack to stop her return. But what do all of Grimluk’s clues mean? Can Mack achieve everything he must do without getting killed by the evil Risky—and escape the trap?
    The Magnificent 12: The Trap is another fast-paced episode in bestselling author Michael Grant’s hilarious fantasy-adventure series.

    Where Demons Fear to Tread (The Company of Angels #1)
    Stephanie Chong
    Genre: Paranormal Romance
    Publisher: Mira
    Release Date: Aug. 23

    Fledging guardian angel and yoga teacher Serena St. Clair dares enter Devil's Paradise nightclub on a mission—to retrieve the wayward Hollywood "It Boy" she's assigned to protect. But she's ambushed by the club's owner, arch demon Julian Ascher. The most powerful demonic entity in Los Angeles, Julian is handsome as sin, a master of temptation who loves nothing more than corrupting pleasure–seeking humans. He won't release the lost soul Serena is supposed to guard. Unless she accepts his dangerous wager…
    After the disastrous way his human life ended, Julian vowed that no woman would get the better of him again. Yet this sexy–sweet angel, smelling of fresh ocean air and happiness, triggers centuries–old feelings. Now, their high–stakes game of seduction, where angels fall from grace and where demons fear to tread, will lead them either to an eternity in hell.or a deliciously hot heaven.

    Sweetly (Sisters Red, Bk 2)
    Jackson Pearce
    Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
    Publisher: Little, Brown
    Release Date: Aug. 23

    SWEETLY is a modernization of Hansel and Gretel and a companion book to SISTERS RED.

    Twelve years ago, Gretchen, her twin sister, and her brother went looking for a witch in the forest. They found something. Maybe it was a witch, maybe a monster, they aren’t sure—they were running too fast to tell. Either way, Gretchen’s twin sister was never seen again.

    Years later, after being thrown out of their house, Gretchen and Ansel find themselves in Live Oak, South Carolina, a place on the verge of becoming a ghost town. They move in with Sophia Kelly, a young and beautiful chocolatier owner who opens not only her home, but her heart to Gretchen and Ansel.

    Yet the witch isn’t gone—it’s here, lurking in the forests of Live Oak, preying on Live Oak girls every year after Sophia Kelly’s infamous chocolate festival. But Gretchen is determined to stop running from witches in the forest, and start fighting back. Alongside Samuel Reynolds, a boy as quick with a gun as he is a sarcastic remark, Gretchen digs deeper into the mystery of not only what the witch is, but how it chooses its victims. Yet the further she investigates, the more she finds herself wondering who the real monster is, and if love can be as deadly as it is beautiful.


    We Others: New and Selected Stories
    Steven Millhauser
    Genre: Short Story Collection
    Publisher: Knopf
    Release Date: Aug. 23

    A magnificent collection from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author: stories from across three decades that showcase his indomitable imagination.

    Steven Millhauser’s fiction has consistently, and to dazzling effect, dissolved the boundaries between reality and fantasy, waking life and dreams, the past and the future, darkness and light, love and lust. The stories gathered here unfurl in settings as disparate as nineteenth-century Vienna, a contemporary Connecticut town, the corridors of a monstrous museum, and Thomas Edison’s laboratory, and they are inhabited by a wide-ranging cast of characters, including a knife thrower and teenage boys, ghosts and a cartoon cat and mouse. But all of the stories are united in their unfailing power to surprise and enchant. From the earliest to the stunning, previously unpublished novella-length title story—in which a man who is dead, but not quite gone, reaches out to two lonely women—Millhauser “makes our world turn amazing” (The New York Times Book Review).

    With this collection, Steven Millhauser carves out ever more deeply his wondrous place in the American literary canon.


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