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Staff Recommendations

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The Bennett Martin Public Library downtown maintains an ongoing “Staff Recommendations” display – Staff from throughout the library system are encouraged to submit book, audio, CD and DVD/video recommendations for items to be placed onto this display. Items on the display have bookmarks inserted, giving brief descriptions about the item’s appeal factors, and listing similar books, audios or videos that the reader might also enjoy.

This page on BookGuide is used to highlight some of the items that have appeared on our Staff Recommendations displays in the past, including our staff members’ descriptions of the books, plus links to any “official Web sites” for the books, authors or series, if they exist*. Items on both the display and on this webpage may be recent releases, or older titles that deserve another look. Hotlinks on titles or formats (downloadable audio, book-on-CD, Large Print) connect to the appropriate entry in our on-line catalog, so that you may check on the availability of the item.

INDEXES TO PAST STAFF RECOMMENDATIONS: BY TITLE | BY REVIEWER | TV SERIES/SPECIALS ON DVD | AGATHA CHRISTIE | STAR TREK | STAR WARS

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January 2019 Recommendations

Dad’s Book of Awesome Recipes
by Mike Adamick [641.5 Ada]

Over 100 recipes covering Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Desserts, Sides, and Snacks. The Difficulty Rating ranges from “Ridiculously Easy,” “Super Easy,” “Easy Peasy,” “Easy, Dangerous, and Fun,” up to a handful rated as “Hardish,” and “Hard.” Most of the recipes are not a dry retelling of instructions but told with a sense of humor (“Toast bread if desired, which it totally is.” OR “What’s better than coming home to a house smelling like fresh-baked cookies? Coming home to a house that smells like cookies and BACON.”)

Supposedly a book to teach your kids to cook while you’re cooking together, but these recipes are actually a good primer for college kids out on their own for the first time. Lots of comfort foods and some basic recipes, some with a twist.

[ official Dad’s Book of Awesome Recipes page on the official Mike Adamick web site ]

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Recommended by Charlotte M.
Bennett Martin Public Library


The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
by Aimee Bender [E-book]

This was a quick read, easy to follow, yet quirky! I really enjoyed it. I just thought it would be your typical cute-little-family-endures-some-bumps-along-the-road-of-life-kind of thing…. And, for the most part, it was. But there’s some interesting stuff going on throughout, kind of border-line sci-fi stuff. I’m not typically *into* sci-fi, specifically…. but if it finds its way into a book I find interesting anyway, that’s totally groovy to me. I definitely think this is something people should check out. For one thing, there’s lots of discussion about food–always a good thing!

[ publisher’s official Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake web page ] | [ official Aimee Bender web site is currently not available ]

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Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Dead Man’s Folly
by Agatha Christie

At the request of an old acquaintance, Ariadne Oliver, Poirot travels to a village in England for a special event – a who-done-it murder game. Mrs. Oliver is a mystery writer hired to come up with the game’s plot but the day before has a terrible feeling that something is wrong; the feeling is not unfounded as the girl playing the part of the murder victim is actually found dead at the same place she was meant to in fictional murder. The local police and Poirot are on the case but answers and evidence are not easy to come by. The plot thickens further as the hostess of the party game goes missing and there is a mysterious accidental death of one of the other villagers. The case goes cold for a while but the story certainly does not get boring during that time. I thought it one of the better books in this series and would recommend it to anyone looking for a mystery novel.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try A Murder is Announced, by Agatha Christie] [ official Dead Man’s Folly page on the official Agatha Christie web site ]

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


The Great Grilled Cheese Book
by Eric Greenspan [641.84 Gre]

For anyone used to the simplicity of a white bread, grilled cheese sandwich featuring either sliced processed cheese or Velveeta, the forty recipes in this gourmet cookbook, by chef Eric Greenspan, will throw you for a major loop.

Greenspan emphasizes using fresh, quality ingredients, preferably homemade if at all possible. So…in addition to the grilled cheese recipes, he includes many other side recipes — you can make your own American cheese, fruit jams, pickled vegetables, and exotic breads (cornbread, focaccia, etc. But — if you don’t want to do literally everything from scratch, Greenspan encourages you to experiment with store-bought ingredients — just use the best you can find.

The recipes themselves are quite exotic and perhaps a little outside of my culinary comfort zone. Greenspan breaks the book into 8 sections — 7 dealing with 7 different categories of cheese (the gooey-er the better!), and an 8th for “wild card” recipes. Here are just a few of the highly creative recipes included — I’ll list one for each chapter: American Cheese – “Bad Moon Rising” — Sriracha-infused American cheese on sourdough with friend eggs, arugula and bacon.; Mozzarella/Provolone – “Muffuletta” – Mozza and provolone on focaccia with olives, pickled carrots and tasso ham; Cheddar – “Johnny Apple Cheese” – Cheddar on sourdough with pastrami and apple mustard chutney; Blue – “Frenchie” – blue cheese on baguete with date marmalade and prosciutto; Bloomy and Washed Rinds – “Cherry Cheese Ball” – Camembert on challah with sour cherry marmalade and pistachios; Gouda, Gruyere and Swiss – “The Gobbler” – Gouda on pumpernickel with cranberry olive tapenade, roast turkey, green beans and friend shallots; Goat – “Elvis” – Goat cheese on white bread with peanut butter, banana and bacon; Wild Cards – “Mole Melt” – Cotija on wheat bread with chocolate mole mayonnaise, chorizo and black beans, and marinated red onion.

If you’re looking for simple comfort food, perhaps to accompany a nice bowl of tomato soup, this is not the book for you. But if you’re looking to take your grilled cheese up a notch, you may find the recipes and gorgeous photos in this volume to be an inspiration in your cooking.

[ publisher’s official The Great Grilled Cheese Book web site ] | [ official Eric Greenspan Twitter feed ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic’s Wild Ride to the Edge and Back
by Kevin Hazzard [Biography Hazzard]

After 9/11, Atlanta, GA local reporter Kevin Hazzard wanted to prove himself so he enrolled in an EMT course (Emergency Medical Technician). After working as the junior partner in the ambulance in the worst parts of Atlanta for a couple of years he decided to upgrade his skills to that of a Paramedic. As the Medic he’d be in charge and completely responsible for the outcome of the emergency call. He graduated at the top of his class and worked the night shift for an ambulance company in Atlanta for 10 years.

Hazzard flat out admits he’s dedicated to the adrenalin rush. If you remember the 1970’s TV show “Emergency!” that followed a firehouse and the paramedics attached to it, this is a more fast-paced, very realistic, gritty look at life working an ambulance in the inner city –

“Most times my wife doesn’t know what I’m doing and is left to guess, drawing on a mental grab bag of all the calls I’ve run and found strange enough or scary enough to tell her about. Like the time a dispatcher came over the radio to say we’d passed the address and we responded by saying we knew but that they were still shooting, so if she could ask the caller to put down his gun, we’d be glad to go back.”

You could see his burnout on the horizon. He finally quits the job after 10 years, but the stories he tells are fascinating.

[ official A Thousand Naked Strangers and official Kevin Hazzard web site ]

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Recommended by Charlotte M.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Dune Messiah
by Frank Herbert

This is the second book in the Dune series and I recommend you read the first one, Dune, before you read this one. Dune Messiah is quite a bit shorter, less action based, and generally a little slower paced than Dune. We see Paul Atreides as a new Emperor preforming his duties as political, military and religious leader, as well as his sister Alia who has her own responsibilities and roles. As is better explained in the last book, Paul is also a Kwisatz Haderach, meaning among other skills he is capable of seeing bits of the future; he is only human but was a result of a centuries long breeding program to become a person with these abilities. Throughout the book his responsibilities and powers grate on him, wearing him down during his wife’s/significant other’s pregnancy (it’s a little complicated, he’s married to a Princess, but does not consider her his wife, while the woman he cares for most is not his wife but is considered as such). He foresees the birth of his child will be his wife’s death, which he is unable prevent and keeps as a secret to himself. It a pretty sad story full of doom, frustration, sorrow, and longing to know normalcy. It has it’s twists and surprises like the first book and is worth reading if you’ve read Dune and enjoyed it.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Dune, by Frank Herbert.] [ official Frank Herbert page on the official Dune Novels web site ]

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


Winnie’s Great War
by Lindsay Mattick [j Mattick]

This is a charming little novel that fictionalizes the real-life events that inspired the literary legend that is Winnie-the-Pooh, by A.A. Milne. Most readers are probably not aware that the honey-loving bear of Milne’s story was inspired by an actual Canadian bear, who had quite a few adventures of his own!

Winnie was an orphaned female black bear cub who was purchased by Canadian cavalry veterinarian Harry Colebourn at a railway station as he was being sent for troop training in Eastern Canada in preparation for being sent to Europe to fight in World War I (i.e. “The Great War”). Colebourn named her Winnipeg, in honor of his hometown, but that was quickly shortened to Winnie. Winnie was a mascot for Colebourns unit of front-line veterinary doctors, and they couldn’t bear to leave her behind when they took the ocean voyage to Europe. After many exciting adventures with Colebourn and his fellow soldiers, ultimately Winnie was turned over to the London Zoo when Harry and his comrades headed into combat. Colebourn planned to reclaim her after the war…but no-one had any idea how long this World War would ultimately go on.

During those war years, Winnie became a huge attraction at the London Zoo, where she was beloved by both the zoo visitors and staff. She had a playful personality, but could also sense anxiety and fear in other animals and her mere presence could often calm creatures of many species. It was while Winnie was at the zoo that author Milne brought his son, Christopher Robin Milne to the zoo, and the boy fell in love with the bear…renaming his own stuffed bear “Winnie-the-Pooh” (a combination of Winnie the real-life bear, and a nick-name in the Milne household). It was this that inspired Milne to write his beloved childrens’ books.

I enjoyed this short novel very much, and feel like I know a lot more about the true history of Winnie now, although the author (a descendant of Colebourn) takes some creative liberties in sections of the novel — especially in attributing human-like personalities and speech (although only among the animals themselves) to most of the various animals in the story. But, but a story that aims to entertaining a youthful audience, this is fully understandable. A fun, enlightening read!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Finding Winnie, by Lindsay Mattick, Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired WInnie the Pooh, by Sally Walker or Goodbye Christopher Robin, in both book and DVD formats.] [ publisher’s official Winnie’s Great War web page ] | [ official Lindsay Mattick web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Nine Perfect Strangers
by Liane Moriarty [Downloadable Audio]

Just when I think I can’t love Liane Moriarty anymore, she comes along and writes something like this! OMG!!! This ranks up there with my favorite books of all time! She’s such a great writer…. I mean, really. Moriarty tells a story like few others can.

I love the character development in this story–this is classic Moriarty, devoting each chapter to a different character’s viewpoint. I found myself looking into health retreats in my area, as, in the beginning, the idea of getting away from it all and doing a whole-person cleanse by way of 10-day retreat was made to sound so appealing! (I still think I’d like to try!) The book has the usual twists and turns that Moriarty so expertly delivers–she gets you sucked into the story properly, so you forget there may be twists coming, and then BAM! she hits you with one…. you’re still sort of reeling from it, and BAM! another! And while the twists and turns make the story what it is, it could almost stand on its own without them… The whole thing is a solid, beautiful work of art!

I hang on her every word, I can’t stand to put it down, and then when it’s over, I wind up with the best book hangover ever!

[ official Liane Moriarity web site ]

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Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Project Smoke
by Steven Raichlen [641.578 Rai]

Smoked foods are my culinary passion, and the libraries have a large number of books dealing with the art of smoke cooking — slow cooking over a low heat source with various types of smoke to flavor the food being cooked. Steven Raichlen is one of the gurus of BBQ and smoke cooking, having put out such well-known cookbooks as The Barbecue! Bible, How to Grill, Beer-Can Chicken, BBQ USA, and Planet Barbecue prior to this volume. Those earlier volumes dealt with the art of cooking on a grill, and some of them included information about “smoke cooking” but it wasn’t the focus of any of those titles. Project Smoke is all about the smoke, and how best to incorporate it into the cooking process.

In this 293-page tome, the first 55 pages and the last 30 pages are highly-detailed guides to the mechanics and technical details of smoke cooking — looks at the many different types of smokers on the market, explorations of the differences between lump charcoal and briquettes as your base burning fuel, the differences between forms (logs, chunks, chips, sawdust) and types of wood, and their difference flavor profiles — do you know your Hickory from your Mesquite, your Apple from your Mulberry — and do you know which foods are best complimented by which wood smokes? He includes detailed looks at the tools and accessories necessary for successful smoke cooking, and he explores how to start and effectively maintain a fire at the proper burn level. The section at the back of the book compares and contrasts the features and drawbacks of each type of smoker on the market — from upright barrel/drum smokers (the type I personally use), to off-set barrels, ceramic/Kamado cookers, gas/box smokers, pellet grills, stovetop smokers (for indoor cooking), and even handheld smokers for introducing smoke flavors into cocktails.

As always, with Raichlen books, the majority of the content is recipes — broken into ten categories: Starters, Beef, Pork, Lamb, Burgers – Sausages -and More, Poultry, Seafood, Vegetables – Side Dishes – and Meatless Smoking, Desserts, and Cocktails. Some of the more intriguing recipes in this volume make me think I’m going to have to buy a copy for myself. They include: “Deviled Smoked Eggs”, “Hay-Smoked Mozzarella”, “Bacon-Crab Poppers”, “Home-Smoked Pastrami”, “Honey-Cured Ham Ribs”, “Made-From-Scratch Bacon”, “Double Whisky-Smoked Turkey”, “Smoked Shrimp Cocktail (with Chipotle-Orange Cocktail Sauce)”, “Salmon Candy”, “Creamed Smoked Corn”, “Smoked Chocolate Bread Pudding”, “Dragon’s Breath” (a bourbon cocktail that is served with smoke in the glass), and “Bacon Bourbon” (bourbon infused with the flavor of smoked bacon). Raichlen scatters sidebar articles throughout the entire book, filled with fascinating and helpful factoids — things such as lists of ingredients that can impart a smoke flavor when you don’t have the equipment to actually smoke cook, or “You Can Smoke What? 28 Foods You Never Dreamed You Could Smoke”.

My only complaint is that the use of photos is somewhat limited — those photos that are included are gorgeous and very helpful in showing what finished dishes should look like. But less than half the recipes have corresponding photos. Still, this is a minor complaint in the overall scheme of things, and I otherwise highly recommend this volume to anyone who likes to cook with smoke.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Barbecue! Bible and Planet Barbecue, by Steven Raichlen, or Smoke & Spice, by Cheryl Alters Jamison.] [ official Steven Raichlen web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Moon of the Crusted Snow
by Waubgeshig Rice

Moon of the Crusted Snow is a beautiful trade paperback book that’s only about 200 pages long. If enjoying books as physical objects is important to you, this book is like a tasteful wine bottle design that you want to keep looking at as you drink it.

As for the story, this is about a young Anishinaabe man living in an Ontario reservation who helps lead his community through a crisis: electrical power, landlines, radio, and satellite all go dark as snow season begins. What sets it apart from many crisis survival stories is that this is a story about resilience rather than fragility. People do panic and scheme and become violent, but Rice explicitly taps into the strengths of a people who have made it through end-of-their-world situations before. The main character, Evan, is thoroughly modern but is also trying to incorporate traditional ways into his own thinking, ceremony, and the way he and his wife raise their children.

If there’s any flaw in this book it’s that it’s too male-centric. Evan’s wife is sometimes the point-of-view character and the most prominent and impactful elder is a woman, but the women don’t interact with each other significantly. Still, it’s beautifully written, moves along quickly as you’re eager to find out what happens next, yet has an excellent sense of when to pause for contemplation.

I would strongly recommend Moon of the Crusted Snow to any adults and teens who like survival stories, end-of-the-world stories, or contemporary realistic fiction from writers speaking about their own background (also known as #OwnVoices).

[ official Waubgeshig Rice web site ]

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Recommended by Garren H.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Screening Room

formatdvdThe Incredibles 2

[DVD j Incredibles]

It’s hard to believe that 14 years have passed since the first Incredibles animated film hit the big screen, but it’s true. None-the-less, when The Incredibles 2 came out in 2018, it felt like almost no time had passed — and in the internal continuity of the films, the characters really haven’t aged at all. Back Jack-Jack is still a baby, and pre-teens Violet and Dash are still the same age they had been in 2004’s original film. But things have changed a bit on the home front, as dad Bob (Mr. Incredible) and mom Helen (Elastigirl) are coping with job issues. Superpowered superheroes (“Supers”) have melted away out of public view, for when they do show up to fight crime, the public now cries out about property damage and irresponsible vigilante behavior.

This film puts a twist on the first film’s plot, by having the central character become Elastigirl — a deep-pockets backer wants to bankroll her to become the figurehead of a new wave of costumed crimefighters. But all is not necessarily as it seems, and eventually the entire super-powered Parr family has to come to rescue again when the world is in danger.

The voice work by Craig T. Nelson (Mr. Incredible), Helen Hunt (Elastigirl), Sarah Vowell (Violet), Huck Milner (Dash), Bob Odenkirk (Winston Deavor). Samuel L. Jackson (Frozone), and Catherine Keener (Evelyn Deavor) is excellent, and just like the first film, writer/director Brad Bird nearly steals the show in his few moments voicing eccentric costume designed Edna Mode (based on Edith Head, “Q” from the Bond films, and more). The action is fast-paced and exciting. The family dynamics are fascinating, especially when Elastigirl takes Mr. Incredible’s place as lead superhero, and as Violet tentatively enders the pre-teen dating world.

All in all, this isn’t quite as original as the first Incredibles was, but you couldn’t have this one without the first…so it is definitely a worthy successor. Hopefully we won’t have to wait another 14 years before a third film comes out in this series!

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Incredibles 2 web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdSmallfoot

[DVD j Smallfoot]

This fun animated film didn’t get anywhere near the acclaim it deserved during its short theatrical run in 2018. Hopefully, it will find a larger audience with its DVD and streaming releases. It features stellar voice work by Channing Tatum (Migo), James Corden (Percy), Zendaya (Meechee), Common (The Stonekeeper), LeBron James (Gwangi), Danny Devito (Dorgle), Gina Rodriguez (Kolka) and many more.

Smallfoot puts a humorous twist on the Bigfoot/Sasquatch/Yeti mythology, in which humans for decades have claimed to have seen or found evidence of the existence of large, furry, bipedal humanoid figures that live in the remote wilderness. In this film, our heroes are a community of Yeti in a remote, cloud-shrouded village high in the (Himalayan?) mountains. When main character Migo sees a human plane crash near his Yeti village, and encounters the human pilot, he reports to his fellow Yeti villagers that he has seen the legendary Smallfoot himself. The village’s tradition-bound spiritual leader, The Stonekeeper, who wears a robe made of enscribed stones that detail the rules the Yeti villagers must all abide by, banishes Migo to the wilderness for his heretical statements. Migo teams up with a small group of outcasts who all believe in the existence of Smallfoot, and by a series of accidents, ends up finding himself journeying below the cloud bank to a human village further down the mountain. Meanwhile, Percy, a nature show TV host desperate to improve his ratings, plans to feature a pretend Yeti encounter, only to find himself face-to-face with Migo. Hijinks ensue…but it’s not all fun-and-games, because revealing the existence of humans to the Yeti society could cause more problems than Migo can imagine, and Percy has to be taught some lessons in what’s truly important before he can empathize with the Yeti’s plight.

Very funny, very entertaining, but also very thought-provoking. The animations is top notch, and the storytelling was compelling. This film can and should be enjoyed by families! And, surprisingly, it is also a musical, with several well-done original pop music numbers scattered throughout the plot. Who knew Channing Tatum could sing as well as he does here?

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Smallfoot web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdSolo: A Star Wars Story

[DVD Solo]

Star Wars ReviewsFirst, a disclaimer. I’m a long-time Star Wars fan, but I grew up as a teenager on the original [IV-V-VI] trilogy in the 70s and 80s. I generally can’t stand the prequel [I-II-III] trilogy, and find myself, for the most part, accepting of the latest trilogy [VII-VIII-forthcoming IX]. Having grown up with the films that featured Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, etc., I was intrigued and pleased to see the filmmakers at Disney (once they acquired Lucasfilm) planning to put out stand-alone films that focused on previously-unseen characters at the time of the original trilogy.

The first of those stand-alone films, Rogue One: A Stars Story (2016), filled in a gap in the events that led immediately into the start of the very first film, Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), and was extremely well done. But when I heard that the second stand-alone film was going to be a “Young Han Solo” adventure, my first reaction was “But…but…we already know what happens to him in the future! How can there be any drama or suspense in the fate of the character(s) when we know what comes 20+ years later in his life?” And that, indeed, is a near-fatal flaw in this film. You don’t really feel yourself as invested in the events of the movie, since you already know everything’s essentially going to be alright for Han, Chewie, Lando and any other characters in Solo that we’ve already met in the film series.

Despite this, though, Solo turns out to be a stylish and entertaining film. Alden Ehrenreich does a nice take on what Harrison Ford might have been like 20 years before Star Wars, while Donald Glover is so spot on as a young Lando Calrissian that when I closed my eyes, I could have sworn it was Billy Dee Williams saying his lines. New characters are introduced, including Woody Harrelson’s amoral Becket, Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra, Paul Bettany’s Dryden Vos, and many more. This film had the tone of a “caper”, as Han joins up with a ragtag crew of mercenaries out to make more than one score. There are a lot of powerful people who get crossed, and double-crossed, and the action and pacing are fast. For me, the highlights of the film are seeing the earliest interactions of Han Solo and Chewbacca (who have never met before this film’s events).

In the end, I still feel like this was a film that never needed to be made, but I still enjoyed it anyway. Unfortunately, it didn’t do as well at the box office as Rogue One, and Disney has suspended production on most of the other one-shot stand-alone films, which is a shame. But, this is definitely worth watching!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Rogue One: A Stars Story.] [Novelization of this movie is also available in traditional print format.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Solo: A Star Wars Story web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


last updated January 2019
* Please Note: The presence of a link on this site does not constitute an endorsement by Lincoln City Libraries.

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