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INDEXES TO PAST STAFF RECOMMENDATIONS: BY TITLE | BY REVIEWER | TV SERIES/SPECIALS ON DVD/VHS

February 2014 Recommendations

book cover  This review is of material for a Young Adult audienceThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie [YA Alexie]

The hype surrounding this book is enormous. Now I am not usually the type of person who buys into it necessarily, but I am more than willing to see what the buzz is about. Arnold "Junior" Spirit lives on a reservation with his parents and sister. Arnold is often picked on and considered an outcast among the "rez" because he was born with water on the brain, causing him health problems and brain damage. But those are the least of his issues when he chooses to leave the rez and attend an all white school twenty-two miles away. This decision makes Junior even more of an outcast, but the budding cartoonist continues on, wanting to escape the never ending circle of alcoholism and drug use the prevails among his reservation. Throughout the novel Junior deals with issues regarding death, the loss of a friendship, wanting to belong, and the desire to become something more than just a poor indian. With an original voice, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian i s a strong book about a young man breaking free from tradition. I did like this book and thought that Junior's voice was original and strong. However, I did find the book as a whole a bit simplistic in areas and strongly lacking in emotion. With the issues that are brought into Junior's life I thought I would have a better perception of him by the end of the novel, however Junior seemed to have grown little, and maintained a similar stance throughout. The book is an engaging read and I can understand the popularity of this book and Sherman Alexie as an author. This is the perfect step up for those who enjoyed The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, and are now looking for a more mature, highschool aged protagonist.

[Also available in Audio Playaway format.]

[ publisher's official Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian web site ] | [ official Sherman Alexie web site ]

Review Score – 6
Recommended by Wyatt P.
Gere Branch Library


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book cover  Double Whammy
by Gretchen Archer

Need a Janet Evanovich fix? This might be the book for you. Davis Way had the poor judgment to marry Eddie the a** twice. After their second divorce they had several public altercations which caused Davis to lose her job and she was forced to move back in with her parents. Desperate to get away from her mother, Davis takes a job working security at the Bellissimo Resort and Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi. Her assignment is to work undercover and discover how employees are stealing from the casino and guests. Some days Davis dons the persona of a wealthy gambler. Other days she works in housekeeping. Davis is a fun and skilled investigator. But the mysterious taxi driver, George, really adds to the story. George drives Davis around Biloxi making observations that put the crimes in a new light for her. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of K. J. Larson, Stephanie Bond and Donna Andrews.]

[ official Double Whammy page on the official Gretchen Archer web site ]

Review Score – 6
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  No Way to Treat a First Lady
by Christopher Buckley

Elizabeth Tyler MacMann, the First Lady of the United States, has been charged with killing her philandering husband. The media has never liked Beth MacMann and refers to her as "Lady Bethmac." For a top-notch defense attorney, she's forced to turn to Boyce "Shameless" Baylor, her former fiance whom she dumped in favor of her current husband. It's been said of Baylor, "If Shameless Baylor had defended Adolf Eichmann...for crimes against humanity, Eichmann would have been not only acquitted, but awarded damages." This is a hysterical political satire and fun whodunnit - intelligent, witty, and humorous. How can you not like a book filled with characters such as Max Grab, a shady financier; Alan Crudman, another attorney of questionable ethics; and J.J. Bronco, a fellow who got away with murder. The ending was satisfying and much of it I had not anticipated. Lots of chuckles on every page and many laugh-out-loud moments in this story.

[ Christopher Buckley page on Wikipedia ]

Review Score – 9
Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the Book on CD format of this itemJohnny Carson
by Henry Bushkin [Compact Disc Biography Carson]

I've always been a fan of Johnny Carson, not only for his success and fame as the preeminent late night TV talk show host of the past 50+ years, but also for the fact that we can call him a Nebraska boy -- though born in Iowa, he grew up in Norfolk NE. Henry Bushkin was Carson's personal attorney for almost two decades, during the very height of Johnny's success. This biography is Bushkin's look back at Johnny's (and Bushkin's own) life during that time period. In many ways, this biography takes a great deal of the luster off of Carson. Bushkin takes a "no holds barred" approach to telling stories, and Johnny comes off as a egocentric martinent. But there were reasons for Johnny's keeping everyone at a distance and being something of a control freak. Bushkin's storytelling style is very natural, and this book moves smoothly from one engaging story to another. I enjoyed this one as a Book-on-CD, narrated by actor Dick Hill -- he provides Bushkin with a colorful, eccentric voice. In the end, I'm left with the feeling that Johnny Carson was somebody to admire from afar, but that getting too close to him could reveal an unseemly side. I will still fondly remember all the years spent watching him on The Tonight Show and admiring his talent. But I'm now rather disappointed in him as a human being. Well written and narrated -- I recommend this to anyone who's interested in Carson as a real person, rather than as the sanitized TV persona. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Here's Johnny, a much more "friendly" look at Carson's life, by his TV sidekick Ed McMahon.]

[Also available in regular print and Large Print formats.]

[ Carson 360 web site ] | [ official Henry Bushkin web site ]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is of material for a Young Adult audienceThe Goddess Test
by Aimee Carter [YA Carter]

Kate's mother is dying and a beautiful boy, who claims to be Hades, god of the Underworld, has promised that he can keep her alive for Kate on one condition - that she passes his seven tests. Kate can't fathom that Hades is who he says he is, that is, until she sees him revive someone from the dead. After that, Kate thinks maybe Hades could save her mom if she takes these tests. The catch is, if she passes all seven tests then she is elevated to the status of a goddess and becomes Henry's future wife, but if she fails, her mother isn't the only one in danger of dying. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini.]

[ official Aimee Carter web site ]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Sam N.
Gere Branch Library


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book cover  Lethal Treasure
by Jane Cleland

Josie Prescott and Henri Dubois are friends and competitors in the antique business in Rocky Point, New Hampshire. This snowy day they are bidding on the contents in abandoned storage units. Determining how much to bid on units filled with sealed boxes and bulging plastic trash bags is as much an art as a science. Would the units contain salable items? Josie's storage unit held Depression glass and vintage jewelry. Henri's unit was filled with odds and ends and hand-painted silent movie posters. He asks Josie to appraise the posters for him. Josie leaves the storage yard with the posters promising to finish her appraisal as soon as possible. The next morning Josie gets a frantic call from Henri's wife because he didn't come home the previous day. Later the police find Henri dead in the storage locker among his new possessions. While appraising the movie posters Josie is drawn into the mystery and she meets some charming, eccentric and generous characters. This is an engaging series filled with interesting tidbits about the antique business. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Lea Wait, Karen MacInerney and Katherine Hall Page.]

[ official Lethal Treasure page on the official Jane Cleland web site ]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  This review is of material for a Young Adult audienceThe Body Finder
by Kimberly Dertin [YA Dertin]

Violet Ambrose has an unusual talent. She can hear sense dead bodies that have been murdered, thanks to a distinctive "echo" they give off. It was fine when this simply meant finding the carcasses of small animals killed for food, but when a serial killer targets her town, it becomes a matter of life and death. Her best friend since childhood, Jay, is with her every step of the way and Violet is startled to find herself hoping that their friendship may turn to something more. However, when Violet becomes a target of the serial killer herself, she has bigger problems on her hands. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the other books in the series: Desires of the Dead, The Last Echo, Dead Silence.]

[Also available in downloadable audio, book-on-cd, downloadable E-book and Large Print formats.]

[ official Body Finder series page on the official Kimberly Dertin web site ]

Review Score – 10
Recommended by Sam N.
Gere Branch Library


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book cover  This review is of material for a Young Adult audienceWild Cards
by Simone Elkeles [YA Elkeles]

Ashtyn is a very skilled female kicker on her high school football team who is voted captain by her team for her senior year. Her boyfriend, the star quarterback on the team, is distant after this new development. Derek was an elite athlete and great in school up until two years ago, when his mother died of cancer. Derek has caused some problems at his school since then and has finally gotten on the last nerve of the principal, who expels him after a graduation prank. Derek is forced to move in with his step-mom, who has decided to move them in with her father. And her sister, Ashtyn. As Derek and Ashtyn's worlds collide, there are sparks. Ashtyn doesn't want to be saved, but she suddenly wants Derek to be her savior. Derek doesn't want anyone to rely on him, but he wants to be everything to Ashtyn. The story is told in both points of view and the reader is sure to sympathize on both sides as the two struggle to come to terms with their limitations and their feelings for one another. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles and Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally.]

[ official Wild Cards page on the official Simone Elkeles web site ]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Sam N.
Gere Branch Library


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book cover  This review is of material for a Young Adult audienceBetter Nate Than Ever
by Tim Federle [j Federle]

This book was recommended to me by a fellow theatre lover, and I'm very glad I took his recommendation...it was a terrific read! Classified as a youth book (j Federle), I still found it appealing as an adult. Nate Foster, at 13, is a picked-upon kid in school, younger brother of a star athlete and BMOC. He doesn't really feel connected to his parents, and his only real friend is a girl (Libby) who transferred to his Pennsylvania public school from a performing arts academy. His one great love – shared with Libby – is musical theatre. He's bullied by all the "normal" kids for not fitting in, and seeming to be "gay" because of his non-typical interests. He may not be able to sink a shot from the three point line, but he can perform monologues and sing entire show-stopping numbers from nearly any Broadway hit produced in the past 20 years. Nate is taking advantage of his parents' absence for a few days, and his older brother's obliviousness, to escape from Jankburg PA via a Greyhound bus to attend auditions for a new Broadway musical version of E.T. the Extraterrestrial. This novel chronicles his experiences on his own, and after he connects with his former-actress aunt, now a waitress in New York City, who's estranged from the rest of the family, mainly for having the same kinds of goals that Nate now has. The characters are smart and witty, the dialog is filled with equal parts hilarious zingers and angst, and as a reader you really get a strong sense of what auditioning (as a kid) for a theatrical show must be like. Nate is going through a lot of things in his personal life, trying to figure out who he is and what he's going to be, so expect a little soul-searching in addition to the humor. One of my favorite running gags is how Nate and Libby substitute the names of Broadway musical flops for swear words. Anyone with a love for the theatre, particularly musicals, should enjoy this charming book. [I can't wait to dig into Five, Six, Seven, Nate!, the sequel to this book, which picks up just a couple of months later...]

[ publisher's official Better Nate Than Ever web site ] | [ official Tim Federle web site ]

Review Score – 9
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Sharp Objects
by Gillian Flynn

After another preteen girl goes missing in the small town of Wind Gap, reporter Camille Preaker is sent to cover the story for her second-rate Chicago newspaper. But this is much more than just a news story, because Wind Gap is Camille's home town. The town she swore never to go back to. In going back, Camille is forced to confront her haunted childhood memories, of her cold, cynical mother, and her younger sister that died when Camille was only thirteen. While investigating, Camille discovers that her young half sister has more control over the residents of the town than any thirteen year old girl should, and looking at the way her sister acts causes Camille to face her own scarred past. Including the scarred words that she has cut across her skin. The more involved Camille becomes in the investigation the more she she discovers about her family, and the darkness that seeps throughout the town. I am yet again amazed at how Gillian Flynn conducts a story. She is an immensely strong tonal writer and the book is written in the same cool detached manner as that of her main character. Gillian Flynn can pull of disturbing better than anyone and rivals Stephen King in the way in which she balances the dark themes. I also found the psychological aspects of the novel to be very interesting, showing the different character's reactions to abuse and loss. Sharp Objects is a very uncomfortable book, and the level it reaches speaks of the author's incredible skill. This is definitely not a book for those who get uncomfortable reading about dark subjects, it is however a very fascinating book regarding disturbed relationships and unhappy endings. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Gillian Flynn's other novels, Gone Girl, and Dark Places. Movie adaptions of both are being released in theaters later in 2014.]

[Also available in downloadable audio and downloadable E-book formats.]

[ official Sharp Objects on the official Gillian Flynn web site ]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Wyatt P.
Gere Branch Library


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book cover  Unlikely Friendships: 47 Remarkable Stories From the Animal Kingdom
by Jennifer S. Holland [591.5 Hol]

I've enjoyed seeing posts in my Facebook and Twitter feeds, which shine a light on unusual and uplifting animal relationships, so I was quite please to find this book in the libraries' collection. Unlikely Friendships presents 47 short narratives, with incredible photographs to accompany them, which detail heartwarming and unexpected relationships between two different animals of two different species. You may think that the interactions between your household pets -- a dog and a cat, a cat and a hamster, etc. -- are cute. But you'll be astonished at the interspecies affection displayed by some of the pairings in this collection. Some of the stories have very short lives -- an orphaned infant of one species mothered by their potential enemy for the first few weeks of life. Others detail life-long relationships. But all will pluck at your heartstrings. Some of my favorite pairings include: The Elephant and the Sheep, The (wild) Leopard and the Cow, The Lion The Tiger and the Bear, The Nearsighted Deer and the Poodle, The Owl and the Spaniel, and The Rhinoceros the Warthog and the Hyena. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Unlikely Loves, the sequel by the same author.]

[ publisher's official Jennifer Holland web page ]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Comic Genius: Portraits of Funny People
by Matt Hoyle [779.1 Hoy]

Photographer (and admirer of humor) Matt Hoyle put together a dream list of the comedians he'd love to take photographic portraits of, and started contacting them all. Astonishingly, the vast majority of these funny people responded positively to Hoyle's suggestions for odd and iconic settings and poses that he could put them into. The result of criss-crossing the globe to take funny photos is this coffee-table volume. The photos speak for themselves -- ranging from only-slightly-off-kilter traditional portraits, to full-fledged wackiness bordering on insanity. Some of the photos even verge into uncomfortable. But all of them are full of personality. This book is a quick read, even if you take the time to read the short biographies (at the end of the book) of everyone who participated. Entertaining, but a perfect example of a book I'm glad the libraries had, because even though I loved reading it, I would never have bought it myself!. [Roddy McDowell put out a series of photographic collections called "Double Exposure" - nowhere near as "odd" as this, but definitely worth tracking down.]

[ official Comic Genius web site ] | [ official Matt Hoyle web site ]

Review Score – 7
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  The Death Relic
by Chris Kuzneski

This is an action packed thriller featuring ex-special forces operatives Jonathon Payne and David Jones. In this book these wise-cracking friends help out David's former girlfriend, Maria Pelati. Maria has been offered a dream job working with renowned anthropologist Terrance Hamilton. He wants her to come to Mexico to help him find a Mayan artifact. Maria is puzzled by his offer because her area of expertise is Christianity, not Mesoamerica. But the chance to work with Hamilton is alluring so she flies to Cancun to meet with him. During their meeting Hamilton excuses himself to get some papers from his vehicle but he never returns. When Maria goes back to her hotel room she finds that it has been searched and her passport stolen. She calls Payne and Jones for help. They jet off to the Yucatan Peninsula to find Hamilton. Kuzneski deftly weaves Mayan history into the plot. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Nelson DeMille, Steve Berry and Clive Cussler.]

[ official The Death Relic page on the official Chris Kuzneski web site ]

Review Score – 6
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  The Singing Wilderness
by Sigurd Olson

While visiting the International Wolf Center located in Ely Minnesota, we found a mini-museum dedicated to author Sigurd Olson, a naturalist who lived in the Boundary Waters area of northern Minnesota in the mid-twentieth century. I was pleased to find that our library still had several of his books. Olson's writings are considered to be classics to naturalists. With a background in ecology, geology and biology, Olson's writings are superbly written with great descriptive detail and a flair for humor as well. Having spent time in the areas he describes in this book, I was inspired to read more about the Boundary Waters region to learn even more. This book inspires me to wish to return to this area and see nature in every season. One of the best things about this book is the gorgeous illustrations by artist Francis Lee Jaques in pen and ink. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in conservation, nature or the northern forests. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Reflections from the North Country by Sigurd Olson, The Lonely Land by Sigurd Olson, The Long-Shadowed Forest by Helen Hoover, The Gift of the Deer by Helen Hoover, A Place in the Woods by Helen Hoover, Beyond the Cabin Door by Walter O'Kane.]

[ official Sigurd Olson scholarly web site ]

Review Score – 10
Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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The Screening Room

book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemKen Burns' Jazz
[DVD 781.65 Jaz]

This was a fascinating PBS documentary series on the History of Jazz. The extensive 10-DVD documentary explores the history of jazz in the late 1800's through the end of the 20th century. Burns traces the lives of legendary jazz artists including: Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and even modern-day jazz artists like Wynton Marsalis. Most of these artists are covered extensively from birth to death. However, one of my problems with the series is that other great artists are hardly even mentioned, like Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane, and Dave Brubeck. On the contrary, the series does a superb job of relating jazz to the political climate in the U.S. and abroad throughout each decade. At about 2 hours per each disc, the series is not for the meek, and it would be difficult to watch them out of order or isolate specific artists. However, it was fascinating to watch and very informative. E ven people with little background in jazz would find the music and history appealing. Also, look for the companion book and music CD! [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Ken Burns Jazz: Book version, Best of Ken Burns Jazz Music CD; Other Ken Burns documentaries: The Civil War, Baseball, The National Parks, Prohibition, The Dust Bowl.]

[Also available in traditional print, book-on-cd and Large Print formats.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Jazz web site from PBS ]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Jeremiah J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemMachete
[DVD Machete]

Strange movie. Very violent yet not too serious. When I say it's not too serious, I mean the amount of major injuries that are inflicted on people only cause minor effects. For example, a gun shot wound to the shoulder only causes a limp while the action continues. The character is taken to the hospital, receives some bandages then springs into action again - literally pulling out someone's guts. What is also ridiculous is that almost anything in this movie can turn into a weapon including a cork screw and a weed whacker. This movie is action scene after action scene from the rooftop to a hospital to a church to a taco truck. It's not that the violence is funny it's that the settings and weapon choices are so odd and that the good guys can't really get hurt or die that makes the movie amusing. The main character, Machete, is an ex Mexican Federale living in Texas. A politician running for election forces him into killing a politician he is running against. Just as Machete is about to pull the trigger, he himself is shot. Turns out it was a set up to turn the public against Mexican immigrants and sway the election. Once the story hits TV and officials believe that Machete was self motivated to shoot the politician, the manhunt for him begins. This movie is rated R and does contain rather extreme violence throughout the whole film as well as some nudity scenes; I would not recommend this to those who dislike that sort of thing. I think this movie would appeal to those like cheesy action films where the plot really takes a back seat to the action and humor.

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

Review Score – 6
Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemMaverick: Complete Season One
[DVD Maverick]

Nearly 20 years before his iconic role as Jim Rockford, James Garner first graced television screens in the equally iconic role of Bret Maverick in the 1957-1962 western series Maverick. Created and executive-produced by legendary producer Roy Hugginss, Maverick was not your typical western -- the "hero", Bret Maverick (and later Bart Maverick, played by Jack Kelly, and British cousin Beau Maverick, played by Roger Moore) is a gambler and con man, and roams from town to town throughout the American west, scamming and hustling for a living. Though proficient with a six-shooter, Maverick would rather talk his way out of a confrontation and avoid violence if at all possible. And each of the Mavericks fell for the prettiest girl in every town they visited. All three leads (Beau doesn't appear until season 4) rotated, only occasionally appearing with each other in the same episode. The writing in this series was top-notch -- with hilariously convoluted plots and ple nty of snappy dialog. Guest stars in this season one boxed set included a who's who of 1950s and 1960s character actors. Set and location work was terrific, and the series had a rousing musical score. Garner's performance as Bret is among the best in his career, and sets the course for many, if not most, of TV's charming con men to follow in subsequent decades. [Note: Four of the five seasons have been released to DVD, but seasons 3 and 4 are "manufacture-on-demand".]. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try James Garner in The Rockford Files.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ Maverick episode guide at epguides.com ]

Review Score – 9
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemRobot and Frank
[DVD Robot]

I don't remember seeing this film play in Lincoln, but after seeing the film's trailer online, I was pleased to find it here in the libraries' collection. Robot & Frank is a charming, low-key, and thought-provoking little film, with a tremendous performance by Frank Langella as the titular "Frank". Set in the "near future", Frank is a retired cat burglar, whose children are concerned that he's no longer able to live on his own and take care of himself. Rather that place him in a nursing home, against his wishes, son Hunter buys Frank a personal robot -- a short humanoid artificial life form that well help cook, clean and look after Frank. Frank is initially resistant to having the robot, but when he recognizes some loopholes in the robot's behavioral programming, he decides to try to relaunch his burglary career with a little silicon sidekick. What could have been a light-hearted "caper" film featuring the odd-couple buddy team of Robot and Frank ultimately bec omes a far more emotional story as the plot progresses. Langella's interactions with Robot (voiced expertly by Peter Sarsggard) provide a surprising emotional center for this film, about lost opportunities and families that have drifted apart and need to find a way to get back together. I highly recommend this film!

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Robot & Frank web site ]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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last updated February 2014
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