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Bonny

Mother, knitter, reader, lifelong learner, technical writer, former library assistant & hematologist.

Member Since 2009

289
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 52 reviews
  • 124 ratings
  • 450 titles in library
  • 18 purchased in 2014
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  • Until I Say Good-Bye: My Year of Living with Joy

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 15 mins)
    • By Susan Spencer-Wendel, Bret Witter
    • Narrated By Karen White
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (32)
    Performance
    (30)
    Story
    (28)

    Susan Spencer-Wendel's Until I Say Good-Bye: My Year of Living with Joy is a moving and inspirational memoir by a woman who makes the most of her final days after discovering she has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). After Spencer-Wendel, a celebrated journalist at the Palm Beach Post, learns of her diagnosis of ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, she embarks on several adventures, traveling to several countries and sharing special experiences with loved ones.

    Bonny says: "Until I Say Good-Bye is a paradox for me."
    "Until I Say Good-Bye is a paradox for me."
    Overall
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    Let me start by saying that I am neither capable nor even allowed to pass judgement on such a personal memoir, thus Until I Say Good-Bye presents quite a paradox for me. If I could have given my perspective without first entering a rating, I would certainly have done so. I admire Susan Spencer-Wendel for many characteristics - her ability to live with ALS unflinchingly, her humor, grace, acceptance, desire, and perseverance in writing the book. The author states, "First and foremost, I wrote the book for my family and friends to have, to jog their memories after I'm gone." In this capacity, she succeeds immensely. In the face of her rapid neuromuscular decline until she is left with only the ability to type with her right thumb on her iphone, she manages to write this book with the help of Bret Witter.

    The paradox for me is that I think this book is most successful as a very personal memoir, for the author's children, family, and friends, but the publication of this book, along with a movie deal, will allow Spencer-Wendel and her family the ability to "Live with joy. And die with joy, too.” This is such an intensely personal story that while I can admire the author, I don't think I can ever really understand her circumstances along with those of her family. It does serve as a reminder of how lucky most of us are, something which we will most likely not be able to acknowledge so personally until we experience our own unlucky circumstances.


    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Gabrielle Zevin
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (33)
    Performance
    (31)
    Story
    (31)

    The irascible A. J. Fikry, owner of Island Books - the only bookstore on Alice Island - has already lost his wife. Now his most prized possession, a rare book, has been stolen from right under his nose in the most embarrassing of circumstances. The store itself, it seems, will be next to go. One night upon closing, he discovers a toddler in his children’s section with a note from her mother pinned to her Elmo doll: I want Maya to grow up in a place with books and among people who care about such kinds of things. I love her very much, but I can no longer take care of her.

    B. Sorensen says: "A Tale for Booksellers"
    "Sadly, I found this poorly-written & predictable."
    Overall
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    Story

    I really hope my sister doesn't think I lied to her when I told her how much I was enjoying this book initially. While it is a heartwarming, sweet book, developments at the end turn it into a sickeningly sweet, predictable, TV-movie-type stereotype of a book. I originally thought I might be able to understand A.J. Fikry and his curmudgeonly ways. That may still be true, but what I don't understand is the "magic" that surrounds everyone on Alice Island that makes everything turn out fine, despite child abandonment, suicide, alcoholism, etc. If an author is going to give her characters difficulties like these, I think they owe their readers a better written and deeper explanation of how characters dealt with them than just a few cursory sentences. For me, this book was much closer to a fairy tale than fiction. They all lived happily ever after, but as a reader I have no idea how that happened. The story was worthy of 2 stars, and while Scott Brick can be an excellent narrator for action, drama, or sci-fi, he would not have been my choice for a book of this type.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Nobodies Album

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 21 mins)
    • By Carolyn Parkhurst
    • Narrated By Kimberly Farr
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (26)
    Performance
    (11)
    Story
    (11)

    Best-selling novelist Octavia Frost has just completed her latest book, a revolutionary novel in which she has rewritten the last chapters of all her previous books, removing clues about her personal life concealed within, especially a horrific tragedy that befell her family years ago.

    Erica says: "Holy crap, that was awesome"
    "If only we could revise the endings in our lives.."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The premise piqued my interest and Parkhurst's writing held it. Octavia Frost has decided to rewrite the endings of each of her previous novels of loss. She is a woman who is estranged from her rock star son and who has experienced the tragic death of her husband and daughter. The original and revised endings are woven through the book, as Octavia cautiously reconnects with her estranged son who has been accused of murdering his girlfriend. I really enjoyed this original idea about rewriting endings; they are beautifully written in this book. I would definitely read a book of rewritten endings; Ann Patchett, Suzanne Collins, and Jeffrey Eugenides, I'm talking to you!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • My Wish List: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (3 hrs and 36 mins)
    • By Gregoire Delacourt, Anthea Bell (translator)
    • Narrated By Jilly Bond
    Overall
    (1)
    Performance
    (1)
    Story
    (1)

    Jocelyne lives in a small town in France where she runs a fabric shop, has been married to the same man for 21 years, and has raised two children. She is beginning to wonder what happened to all those dreams she had when she was 17. Could her life have been different? Then she wins the lottery - and suddenly finds the world at her fingertips. But she chooses not to tell anyone, not even her husband - not just yet. Without cashing the check, she begins to make a list of all the things she could do with the money. But does Jocelyne really want her life to change?

    Bonny says: "What would it take to change your life?"
    "What would it take to change your life?"
    Overall
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    My Wish List is a difficult book to rate and review. Delacourt stated that he wanted to write a book about what would it would take to change your life. He does this by having his protagonist, middle-aged Jocelyne, win the lottery, to the tune of €18.5 million. The story unwinds when Jocelyne doesn't tell anyone about her new fortune, not her husband, grown children, or the twin hairdressers that encouraged her to play the lottery. The only person that Jocelyne reveals her secret to is her father who has suffered a stroke and has only a six-minute memory span. Jocelyne leads an ordinary existence, running her own haberdashery shop in a provincial French town, but one she seems quite content in. After her lottery win, she begins to make lists of things she needs, but realizes that many of them are ordinary - a new lamp, a lovely wool and alpaca coat, a non-flowery shower curtain. Her husband wants "more" - a flat-screen TV, a Porsche, and all the James Bond movies on DVD. She is afraid that if she gives her husband everything he wants, he will no longer want her.

    I don't want to reveal any more of the plot because that is something each reader should discover for themselves. While not a heartwarming, light read, this book is definitely thought-provoking!

    Addendum: The title of the original French version seems to be The List of My Desires. It may be a small thing, but I think that title works much better.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Caffeinated: How Our Daily Habit Helps, Hurts, and Hooks Us

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By Murray Carpenter
    • Narrated By Sean Pratt
    Overall
    (5)
    Performance
    (5)
    Story
    (5)

    The most popular drug in America is a white powder. No, not that powder. This is caffeine in its most essential state. And Caffeinated reveals the little-known truth about this addictive, largely unregulated drug found in coffee, energy drinks, teas, colas, chocolate, and even pain relievers. Drawing on the latest research, Caffeinated brings us the inside perspective at the additive that Salt Sugar Fat overlooked.

    Bonny says: "Caffeine in all its myriad presentations"
    "Caffeine in all its myriad presentations"
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    Caffeinated is a compendium of facts, interesting stories, and history about one of our favorite unregulated drugs - caffeine. Murray Carpenter writes about caffeine's physiologic effects (on adenosine receptors), why people metabolize caffeine at different rates (because of genetic predisposition, smoking, or other medications), and that there is no standard amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee or tea. He recounts his trips to Guatemalan coffee farms, Mexican cacao farms, and a synthetic caffeine factory in China. He covers caffeine research by the military, the beneficial and problematic aspects of caffeine use by athletes, and the many regulatory difficulties surrounding caffeine in foods, beverages, and supplements. The marketing of caffeine in sodas and energy drinks by “Big Beverage” is one of the most important sections of the book, sounding suspiciously like nicotine marketing by tobacco companies.

    The exhaustive research presented in Caffeinated is both a strength and a weakness. I'm a person who loves to see a good argument supported by relevant data and details, but there were quite a few times that the numbers presented by Carpenter became simply overwhelming. I'm also a person that can admit that there are many mornings where the only thing that gets me out of bed is the lovely anticipation of my morning cup of tea and how good it's going to make me feel. Caffeinated doesn't judge whether my dependence on that cup of tea is good, bad, or otherwise, but it does make the reader think about caffeine - not just coffee, tea, or soda - in all its myriad presentations.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Rosie Project: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 32 mins)
    • By Graeme Simsion
    • Narrated By Dan O'Grady
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (881)
    Performance
    (803)
    Story
    (802)

    Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a "wonderful" husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical - most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver. Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent - and on a quest of her own....

    Margaret says: "A fun listen"
    "Are we laughing at or with Don and his autism?"
    Overall
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    It's possible that I'm an old curmudgeon that overthinks things and takes them too seriously, because that would explain why I did not like this book at all. My biggest problem was that I couldn't tell if the author was laughing at or with the protagonist, Don Tillman, who is most likely somewhere on the autism spectrum. To be honest, much of the book felt the author just wrote sit-com-like scenes for the reader to laugh at Don and be entertained by his inability to understand social norms and cues. I thought Gene, Don's best friend, was fairly repulsive, and Rosie was just immature. As others have said, the book is predictable, reads too much like a screenplay, and Simsion should have stopped writing the ending sooner than he did. This was just not a book for me.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By Jon Mooallem
    • Narrated By Fred Sanders
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (29)
    Performance
    (27)
    Story
    (27)

    Half of all species could disappear by the end of the century, and scientists now concede that most of America’s endangered animals will survive only if conservationists keep rigging the world around them in their favor. So Jon Mooallem ventures into the field, often taking his daughter with him, to move beyond childlike fascination and make those creatures feel more real. Wild Ones is a tour through our environmental moment and the eccentric cultural history of people and wild animals in America that inflects it.

    Bonny says: "The line between conservation and domestication..."
    "The line between conservation and domestication..."
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    Wild Ones is one of the best non-fiction books I've read this year. I know it's only April, but I have a feeling that this book will still be a top contender at the end of the year. Jon Mooallem takes a look at the connections (or disconnections as the case may be) between the anthropomorphic animals that populate his four year-old daughter's world and the animals in the real world. He writes about three species that are at different points along the endangered species arc – polar bears, Lange's metalmark butterfly, and whooping cranes. What is so extraordinary about Wild Ones is that Mooallem doesn't write to scare, preach, or belittle his readers, but rather to provide a balanced look from many different perspectives and let readers reach their own conclusions.

    “Just as we’re now causing the vast majority of extinctions, the vast majority of endangered species will only survive if we keep actively rigging the world around them in their favor. Scott and his colleagues gave those creatures’ condition a name: conservation-reliant. It means that, from here on out, we will increasingly be forced to cultivate the species we want, in places we protect and police just for them, perpetually rejiggering some asymmetrical balance to keep each one from sliding into extinction. We are gardening the wilderness. The line between conservation and domestication has blurred.”

    What animals and plants are worth saving at all and who gets to decide? Wild Ones can be disturbing at times because it questions even our success stories, such as bald eagles, the California condor, and whooping cranes. Should we be bothered that extreme, expensive measures are required to keep many species from disappearing forever? Or should we be inspired that people are willing to do so much to keep the remaining few whooping cranes or condors around, even if the rescue of something in nature requires it to live out its days unnaturally? These are incredibly valuable questions to ask, and Mooallem does that brilliantly.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Still Life with Bread Crumbs: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 50 mins)
    • By Anna Quindlen
    • Narrated By Carrington MacDuffie
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (190)
    Performance
    (167)
    Story
    (166)

    Still Life with Bread Crumbs begins with an imagined gunshot and ends with a new tin roof. Between the two is a wry and knowing portrait of Rebecca Winter, a photographer whose work made her an unlikely heroine for many women. Her career is now descendent, her bank balance shaky, and she has fled the city for the middle of nowhere. There she discovers, in a tree stand with a roofer named Jim Bates, that what she sees through a camera lens is not all there is to life.

    Jen says: "Exceeded My High Expectations"
    "Predictable, one-dimensional, & rambling..."
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    Still Life with Bread Crumbs has been called the literary equivalent of comfort food, but it just made me feel uncomfortable. I really wanted to like this, since it is authored by Anna Quindlen and the premise sounded somewhat interesting; after the story devolved into a vaguely creepy May-December romance lacking Quindlen's usual gifted writing I was sadly disappointed. I had hoped for a book with more than a predictable plot, one-dimensional characters, and rambling writing, but when I came to the list of words that Rebecca's dog could understand and read the phrase "But that was later" for what seemed like the fiftieth time, I knew I wasn't going to find the depth and exceptional writing I was looking for in Still Life with Bread Crumbs. I've read and really enjoyed several of Quindlen's previous novels and essays, but I'm afraid I may pass on her future books.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 35 mins)
    • By Ann Patchett
    • Narrated By Ann Patchett
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (93)
    Performance
    (84)
    Story
    (85)

    Blending literature and memoir, Ann Patchett, author of State of Wonder and Bel Canto examines her deepest commitments: to writing, family, friends, dogs, books, and her husband in This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. Together, these essays, previously published in The Atlantic, Harper, Vogue, and The Washington Post, form a resonant portrait of a life lived with loyalty and with love.

    Bonny says: "Entertaining, engrossing, and elucidative essays"
    "Entertaining, engrossing, and elucidative essays"
    Overall
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    This is the Story of a Happy Marriage is everything other reviewers have said, and more. It’s a wonderfully-written and varied collection of Ann Patchett’s essays, ranging from musings about how she considered joining the Los Angeles Police Dept. in order to write about it and how she is influenced by her father, a retired LAPD police captain, to her feelings about her dog Rose and Sister Nena, the nun that taught her to read and write, to the eloquent and moving account of caring for her grandmother during her progression into dementia.

    I’ve read and enjoyed (with reservations) several of Patchett’s novels. Bel Canto was great but I hated the ending, and I liked State of Wonder, except for some of the more ludicrous plot points. I personally found this collection of essays much more engrossing than any of her novels that I’ve read. She can write about almost anything, revealing thoughts, emotions, and advice without becoming preachy and overbearing.

    I was completely unaware of Lucy Grealy, Patchett’s long-term friendship with her, and the controversies arising from their relationship. I’m very tempted to read Patchett’s Truth and Beauty to delve into this further, and may do that after I’ve had some time to digest the essay from Grealy’s sister in The Guardian. I’m hoping that Patchett will further show, as she did in this collection, that there are often quite a few ways of viewing a situation, and one absolute truth does not always exist.

    I do have to thank Ann Patchett for leading me to an epiphany. In “Love Sustained”, she writes about the long and painful decline of her grandmother Eva:

    “My grandmother had spent her life taking care of other people, cooking their food, cleaning their houses. It was her proof that she was valuable in the world. Now I cleaned my grandmother's apartment, which hurt her every single time. My cleaning was an accusation, no matter how quietly I went about it.”

    When I read “It was her proof that she was valuable in the world.”, I gained a much better understanding of my dear mother-in-law. She raised five children with lots of hard work and no time to herself. Now that she has too much time to herself, she is missing that visible proof that she is valuable in the world. I could see her so clearly in that one simple sentence. I’m grateful for this entertaining and elucidative collection of essays that was a pleasure to read, and even more so when read by the author in the audio version.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • The Goldfinch

    • UNABRIDGED (32 hrs and 24 mins)
    • By Donna Tartt
    • Narrated By David Pittu
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (4257)
    Performance
    (3892)
    Story
    (3892)

    The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America and a drama of enthralling force and acuity. It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

    B.J. says: "A stunning achievement - for author and narrator"
    "Epic exploration of loss, art, & authenticity"
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    To paraphrase Dickens, “It was the best of books, it was the worst of books, it was a book of wisdom, it was a book of foolishness, it was a book of belief, it was a book of incredulity.” This begins to describe some of my thoughts about The Goldfinch.

    Theo Decker, the thirteen-year-old narrator of The Goldfinch, has been suspended from school. He and his mother have an appointment with the school principal, but because they are getting drenched in a downpour, they escape the rainstorm in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. There is a terrorist bombing at The Met in which many people are killed, including Theo’s beloved mother. In the midst of the chaos, a dazed and frightened Theo spirits away his mother’s favorite painting, “The Goldfinch” by Carel Fabritius. After the bombing, Theo lives with a friend’s dysfunctional family on Park Avenue, later with his estranged father in Las Vegas where he meets larger-than-life Boris, and back to New York where he again meets up with antique furniture restorer Hobie, who he is connected with through the bombing. Throughout it all, Theo carries “The Goldfinch” as his last remaining connection to his mother, despite the many difficulties his possession of the painting causes. Don’t let my clumsy recounting of the plot deter you; Tartt has written a vast plot with interesting characters, but the really important parts of this novel are Tartt's details and writing.

    Other readers may have been bored and exasperated by the detail, but for me it was an important part of the book. The details and descriptions of the dysfunctional Barbours, their Park Avenue apartment, the desolation of Las Vegas, the wry and philosophical personality of Boris as it has been formed through appalling parental neglect, and the incredible details about antique furniture and its restoration helped create a world that at times was more fully drawn for me than the world in which I was sitting and listening to the book. David Pittu is an excellent narrator for this book, especially in his treatment of Hobie and Boris.

    First and foremost, Tartt is an incredible writer. She is able to write sentences and paragraphs such as these:
    “I accepted all this counsel politely, with a glassy smile and a glaring sense of unreality. Many adults seemed to interpret this numbness as a positive sign; I remember particularly Mr. Beeman (an overly clipped Brit in a dumb tweed motoring cap, whom despite his solicitude I had come to hate, irrationally, as an agent of my mother’s death) complimenting me on my maturity and informing me that I seemed to be “coping awfully well.” And maybe I was coping awfully well, I don’t know. Certainly I wasn’t howling aloud or punching my fist through windows or doing any of the things I imagined people might do who felt as I did. But sometimes, unexpectedly, grief pounded over me in waves that left me gasping; and when the waves washed back, I found myself looking out over a brackish wreck which was illumined in a light so lucid, so heartsick and empty, that I could hardly remember that the world had ever been anything but dead.”

    There were some missteps for me in The Goldfinch. Pippa is a red-haired girl that Theo notices at The Met, and over the course of the book, he comes to imagine her as his soul-mate. The character of Pippa and her relationship with Theo are among the few areas in the book that are lacking in detail, but more is really needed. There is also a scene concerning Theo and his ethical slide about three-quarters through the book that made me want to stop listening. I had to stop reading for a week or so, but I thought about the book and what was happening to the characters so much that I had to start reading again.

    I’ve read several reviews in which people state that the characters aren’t likable and Theo is too passive. I didn’t find the characters especially likable myself, but for me, any unlikeability was simply part of who they were and was necessary within the novel as a whole. Theo was passive, buffeted by cruel and arbitrary circumstances, randomness, and many well-meaning adults who were damaged themselves, but that is exactly how I would expect a traumatized thirteen-year-old to behave, even as he was growing up over the course of the novel. Theo says and recognizes, “Things would have turned out better if she had lived.” and they certainly would have.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • One Summer: America, 1927

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Bill Bryson
    • Narrated By Bill Bryson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (797)
    Performance
    (713)
    Story
    (705)

    One of the most admired nonfiction writers of our time retells the story of one truly fabulous year in the life of his native country - a fascinating and gripping narrative featuring such outsized American heroes as Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, and yes Herbert Hoover, and a gallery of criminals (Al Capone), eccentrics (Shipwreck Kelly), and close-mouthed politicians (Calvin Coolidge). It was the year Americans attempted and accomplished outsized things and came of age in a big, brawling manner. What a country. What a summer. And what a writer to bring it all so vividly alive.

    Mark says: "Why 1927?"
    "Nobody writes minutiae like Bill Bryson."
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    Nobody writes minutiae like Bill Bryson, but that's a good thing. He manages to take some big events along with odd tidbits about people and tie them together in an interesting and entertaining way in One Summer: America, 1927. The summer begins with Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic and goes on to include Babe Ruth and his 60 home runs, Prohibition, Sacco and Vanzetti, the Great Mississippi Flood, Henry Ford, and Mount Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum. But wait; there’s more! Gertrude Ederle (“the most forgotten person in America”), Calvin Coolidge’s naps and cowboy uniform, Ruth Snyder and her corset salesman lover Judd Gray (the basis of Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice), and Shipwreck Kelly, flagpole sitter. But wait; there’s still more! That may be one of the books weaknesses. There are times when Bryson’s detours begin to get slightly tedious, and dare I say boring, but the plethora of information is also one of the book’s strengths. Bryson managed to give me a better understanding of everything that was going on during this particular summer and how these people and events interacted, like how Hoover’s leadership during the Great Mississippi Flood put him in position for the presidency. One Summer: America, 1927 is not an exhaustive, extensively-researched, focused history, but it is an accessible, easy to read work that is both educational and entertaining. The fact that I got to listen to Bill Bryson read his own book on audio makes it even better.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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