7.27.2015

NEW BLOG | RAIN CITY READS


I have some great news for all of you! As many of you know, I made a tough decision to change my blog name. Though I love Backlist Books, and it has served me well, I feel like it's not quite right for what I do here anymore, and I wanted to find a name that more accurately represents me and my blog.

After much thought, I finally settled on Rain City Reads - Rain City being a popular nickname for my hometown of Vancouver. I also decided to make the switch over to WordPress so that I could have a bit more control over my blog and utilize some of the tools not available on Blogger.

It's taken some time and a lot of swearing, but I've finally got my new blog up and running with a design that, for now at least, I like.

It's a little bit sad for me to say goodbye to the blog that I've been building single-handedly on and off for nearly six years now. This blog has not only been a place for me to share my bookish enthusiasm, but it has also led me to many wonderful friends - like you - and for that, I owe it a debt. But as much as I've loved blogging here, it's time for change. So without further ado, I'd like to unveil my new blog home, and I hope that all of you will come with me and check it out!

Visit my new blog at www.raincityreads.com.

A few things to bear in mind during my transition:
  • I won't be posting on Backlist Books anymore, but you can find new content on my new blog, Rain City Reads.
  • In a week or two I'll be redirecting backlistbooks.ca to my new blog - so if you suddenly find yourself somewhere new, don't panic! 
  • If you follow me by email (MailChimp) don't worry - I've transferred over my mailing list to the new blog so you don't have to re-subscribe. You'll start receiving emails from Rain City Reads instead of Backlist Books shortly, and of course, if you no longer wish to receive emails you can unsubscribe (though I hope you'll stick with me!). **I'm having some issues getting the images to load from my new blog, so if emails are missing images until I figure it out, my apologies!
  • Because my new blog is WordPress, I can't take my GFC followers with me. So if that's your primary way of keeping tabs on me, be sure to head over and follow me by email or on Bloglovin'!
  • Though I'm ready to start posting on my new blog, I'm still tweaking the design slightly and haven't been able to go through every old post and link on the page to update them all yet, so please be patient with minor issues as I work on all the details (and feel free to let me know if you find any problems)!
  • Don't forget to update your bookmarks and feeds with my new URL.

Thanks for your patience with my distracted blogging over the past few weeks. I hope to see you over there!


7.26.2015

THE SUNDAY REVIEW | FREE DAYS WITH GEORGE - COLIN CAMPBELL


A heartwarming, true story about George, a rescue dog who helps his owner rediscover love and happiness. Marley & Me meets Tuesdays with Morrie and The Art of Racing in the Rain--get your tissues ready, animal lovers!

After Colin Campbell went on a short business trip abroad, he returned home to discover his wife of many years had moved out. No explanations. No second chances. She was gone and wasn’t coming back. Shocked and heartbroken, Colin fell into a spiral of depression and loneliness.
Soon after, a friend told Colin about a dog in need of rescue—a neglected 140-pound Newfoundland Landseer, a breed renowned for its friendly nature and remarkable swimming abilities. Colin adopted the traumatized dog, brought him home and named him George. Both man and dog were heartbroken and lacking trust, but together, they learned how to share a space, how to socialize, and most of all, how to overcome their bad experiences. At the same time, Colin relived childhood memories of his beloved grandfather, a decorated war hero and a man who gave him hope when he needed it most.

Then everything changed. Colin was offered a great new job in Los Angeles, California. He took George with him and the pair began a new life together on the sunny beaches around L.A. George became a fixture in his Hermosa Beach neighborhood, attracting attention and giving affection to everyone he met, warming hearts both young and old. Meanwhile, Colin headed to the beach to rekindle his love for surfing, but when George encountered the ocean and a surfboard for the first time, he did a surprising thing—he jumped right on the board. Through surfing, George and Colin began a life-altering adventure and a deep healing process that brought them back to life. As their story took them to exciting new heights, Colin learned how to follow George’s lead, discovering that he may have rescued George but that in the end, it was George who rescued him.
Free Days with George is an uplifting, inspirational story about the healing power of animals, and about leaving the past behind to embrace love, hope and happiness. - Goodreads


------

I was nervous about this book. I love animals; in many cases, I love them more than people. I feel an over-developed need to protect them and can't handle anything bad happening to them, even on the page. Because more often than not bad things do happen to them in books and films, I normally avoid reading or watching animal stories.

But this one tweaked my interest. It's the true story of a man who, after separating from his wife, finds himself alone and depressed. Outside of work, his life has fallen apart - he spends most of his time collapsed on his couch, drinking and watching TV. Then a friend suggests opening his home to a dog who is also in need of some safety and comfort. This suggestion, though at first seemingly crazy, ends up changing Colin's life.

After resisting for a few months, Colin finally starts browsing online websites featuring dogs who need a home, and stumbles across one that makes him pause. It's a dog with dark, soulful eyes that seem to contain immense wisdom and sadness. That these dark, soulful eyes belong to a 140-pound Newfoundland Landseer is both an exciting and terrifying prospect. Exciting because Newfoundlands are a gentle people-loving breed with a particular affinity for the water - they have often been used as water rescue dogs. Having grown up swimming, lifeguarding and surfing, Colin is also a water-lover. But it is also terrifying because Newfoundlands are huge - both in size and responsibility. They take up a lot of space, and they require a lot of attention.

So it's with no small amount of trepidation that Colin sets off to meet his prospective new pet.

I'm sure you can see where this story is going - the gigantic dog is soon riding shotgun in Colin's life (and car) and has changed... well, pretty much everything.

I won't say any more than that, because experiencing first-hand the relationship that develops, stutteringly at first, between Colin and George the massive Newfoundland Landseer is one of the most wonderful reading experiences any animal-lover can have. Suffice it to say that I picked this book up one evening intending to read a few pages, and next thing I knew it was 2AM and I was halfway through.

Reading this book brought tears to my eyes as often as it made me laugh with glee, and by the time I'd finished the book (the day after I started it - it would have been the same day had I started it in the morning), I was happier and more hopeful than I'd been in a long time. This is a story that will remind you what an amazing healing power love can have - whether it comes from another person or from a creature with fur and four legs. It will also remind you that sometimes taking a chance is rewarding in more ways than you could possibly imagine.

------

On a serious note, I hope this book will also inspire readers who have been considering adopting a pet to rescue one instead. There are thousands of animals in need of a home, and trust me when I say that love you get from adding a pet to your life is worth so much more than the cost of adopting and feeding it. And remember, sometimes good things come in large packages! Larger dogs (as well as those with disabilities and older dogs) have a hard time finding homes - so if you've got the space in your home, yard and heart, please consider taking in a larger dog like a Newfoundland Landseer!

------

**Thanks to Random House Canada for providing a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!**

Book Title: Free Days With George
Author: Colin Campbell
Series: No
Edition: Hardback
Published By: Doubleday Canada
Released: May 12, 2015
Genre: Memoir, Animal
Pages: 224
Date Read: July 16-18, 2015
Rating: 9/10

Buy the book:

7.25.2015

STACKING THE SHELVES | #82


Time to look at the books I added to my shelves this week with Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews! Not necessarily books I bought - also includes books I borrowed, was given or otherwise ended up with. Weeks I don't buy any books I'll scramble around my shelves and find some I haven't shared in an StS post yet!


The Distance - Helen Giltrow
Object Lessons - The Paris Review


Some great books added to my shelves this week! And hoping my copy of Go Set A Watchman will finally arrive soon. What did you guys add to your shelves this week? Share in the comments!

7.22.2015

MY WEEK ON WEDNESDAY | #19


My Week On Wednesday is a weekly link-up post in which I share with you what I've been reading, what I'm reading next, and any other bookish stuff I enjoyed in the past week! (Click on book images to view Goodreads page.)

Just shelved:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23209939-free-days-with-george?ac=1

I only finished one book in the past week, but man, was it ever a good one! This is the magical story of one very large dog, George, who is adopted by a man going through a difficult divorce. George hasn't had it easy either, and it turns out the the pair help each other in ways neither expected. It made me cry, it made me laugh, it made me want to adopt a 140-pound, water-loving dog.

Currently reading:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13153693-ghettoside?from_search=true&search_version=service_imprhttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23278532-alive


I'm reading a few books right now, but these two are the ones commanding most of my attention. I'm reading Ghettoside as part of a readalong, and so far it's a thought-provoking and important book. Alive is a thriller that is really, really hard to put down once you've started - it's 100 miles an hour from the first page, so don't start reading it if you've got anything important to do!

Up next:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16278318-armada?ac=1

I'm super excited to get started on this book - I've heard mixed reports, but I'm determined to maintain my excitement anyway!

That's it for my week in books - what have you guys been reading?

7.20.2015

TOP TEN TUESDAY | BOOKS THAT CELEBRATE DIVERSITY AND DIVERSE CHARACTERS


This week's Top Ten Tuesday on The Broke and the Bookish is:Ten Books That Celebrate Diversity and Diverse Characters. I often don't really notice if I'm reading a "diverse" book. Unless it's specifically about the struggles of a marginalized person or group of people being marginalized, it's just, you know, a book. But there are a few that come to mind - both favourites I've already read and some I'm really looking forward to reading.


Will Grayson, Will Grayson - David Levithan and John Green
Underground to Canada - Barbara Smucker
A Little Life -  Hanya Yanagihara


She Is Not Invisible - Marcus Sedgwick
Tales of the City - Armistead Maupin


Before Night Falls - Reinaldo Arenas
Dance Me Outside - W.P. Kinsella

And a few I'm looking forward to reading:



The Book of Unknown Americans - Cristina Henriquez

This is really just a tiny sliver of the amazing world of diverse books easily available to anyone lucky enough to possess a library card. I can think of so many more diverse books and authors as I type - Isabel Allende, Toni Morrison, Ivan E. Coyote, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Claudia Rankine, Sabrina Ramnanan, Celeste Ng.... the list goes on and on. And I don't even consider myself to be someone who reads diversely enough. There's a whole wide world out there to be discovered! So over to you - which books were on your list of diverse authors and characters this week?

7.19.2015

THE SUNDAY REVIEW | A LITTLE LIFE - HANYA YANAGIHARA


Brace yourself for the most astonishing, challenging, upsetting, and profoundly moving book in many a season. An epic about love and friendship in the twenty-first century that goes into some of the darkest places fiction has ever traveled and yet somehow improbably breaks through into the light. Truly an amazement—and a great gift for its publisher.

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they're broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.

In rich and resplendent prose, Yanagihara has fashioned a tragic and transcendent hymn to brotherly love, a masterful depiction of heartbreak, and a dark examination of the tyranny of memory and the limits of human endurance.
- Goodreads


------

The first thing I need to say is that no matter what I write, my review will not do this book justice. The second thing I need to say is that this book will destroy you. And you will be grateful.

A Little Life is a story of friendship, of loyalty and of finding the strength to face the unimaginable - both good and bad. It begins with four friends, Willem, Jude, Malcolm and JB, who are college grads trying to make their way in New York. The story follows these four (mainly Jude and Willem) through nearly 40 years of their lives - but the story will spend as much time in the past as it does moving forward. Which it must in order for us to understand the gravity of decisions made and trust forged and broken. 

At the centre of this story is Jude St. Francis, a young man whose incredible intellect is housed in person who is so deeply damaged (physically, mentally and emotionally) that even his friends don't know the horrors his past contains.  

Jude is not easy to get to know. It isn't until about halfway through the book that you begin to see him take shape. Yanagihara took her time, she teased out his story one small thread at a time, just enough to keep the story moving and not a millimeter more. But despite her slow, deliberate and purposeful pace, I found that she addressed my questions almost as soon as I'd formed them in my mind. I'd wonder about a particular aspect of a character or the plot, and within half a chapter, she would have started providing answers (or at least discussed the lack thereof). The information she holds back she holds back because there's a better time and place in the story to reveal it, and I learned to trust that she knows what she's doing. 

Next to Jude, the most important character in the book is Willem. In contrast to Jude, who is aggressively private, Willem is open - sunny, even. Though he is promiscuous with women, he is fiercely loyal to his friends - above all to Jude. He is Jude's friend, roommate and protector. The book is formed around these two characters, and their steadfast friendship will serve as a beautiful counterpoint to the immense pain you will discover between the covers of this book.

Though the premise sounds simple - the story of four college friends growing up - it is anything but. This book tackles every shade of human experience and emotion you can imagine, along with a few you probably can't. So don't let the description fool you; this book will shock you. And I suspect that no matter who you are, there is a line, a page, a chapter (maybe even more than one) in this book that will stop you in your tracks and make you feel like Yanagihara wandered into your head and stole your innermost thoughts. As Alan Bennett put it:
“The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.” - Alan Bennett, The History Boys
This is an intensely personal book - not only because it deals in the secrets and personal lives of its characters, but because it will become personal to everyone who reads it. If you are human, this book will affect you.

It's also a very long book, and what makes it even more challenging is that, while the writing is a flowing style that would normally have you reading all night, the content won't allow for marathon reading. I found that I couldn't read more than 50 pages (100 tops but that was really hard) at a time. The emotional impact was such that it became physically uncomfortable to keep reading and I had to step out of the book and give myself some respite.

Which leads me into a very important piece of advice: Do not start this book when you're feeling vulnerable or have PMS. It is not that kind of book. It is beautiful and terrifying and you will feel, at times, like you can't take anymore. It will shake you to the core. It will tear out your heart and tap-dance on it with stilettos.  But it will be worth it. Every tear you shed, every desperate attempt to abandon these characters, every time you go back to them because you just have to know what happens - in the end this book is worth it. These characters are worth it. Because they come alive on the page, and you will be as invested in their lives as if they were part of your own family.

I read this book as a buddy read with Julianne from Outlandish Lit, and honestly I don't know if I could have handled it without her! I know it affected her deeply as well. She talks a little bit about her experience with the book in this post

A further word of warning: While I don't want to go into specifics as it's important to let Yanagihara unfold the story as she sees fit, this book tackles deeply upsetting and disturbing topics, and does so in great detail. If you find it difficult to read graphic content, or if you are triggered by the topic of abuse (and its considerable psychological aftermath), proceed with extreme caution!

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Book Title: A Little Life
Author: Hanya Yanagihara
Series: No
Edition: Hardback
Published By: Doubleday
Released: March 10, 2015
Genre: Fiction, Character-Driven
Pages: 720
Date Read: March 26 - April 18, 2015
Rating: 10/10

Buy the book:

7.18.2015

STACKING THE SHELVES | #81


Time to look at the books I added to my shelves this week with Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews! Not necessarily books I bought - also includes books I borrowed, was given or otherwise ended up with. Weeks I don't buy any books I'll scramble around my shelves and find some I haven't shared in an StS post yet!


Self-Help - Lorrie Moore
Read Hard - Ed Park & Heidi Julavits, Eds.
Dietland - Sarai Walker

Thanks to Random House of Canada for sending me these two highly anticipated new releases:


Alive - Scott Sigler
Armada - Ernest Cline 

That's it for my week in books! What did you guys add to your shelves or borrow from someone else's? Share, share!

7.16.2015

BOOK THOUGHTS ON THURSDAY | ON BOOK CLUBS AND ONLINE READING GROUPS


The world of books is never boring. Every week (well, most weeks) I'll discuss a different topic related to books, often inspired by or in response to what's going on in the online book community (or something I've seen another blogger talk about). I call this Book Thoughts on Thursday. Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, or even write your own post on the topic and share the link with me! 

***

I don't have a real-life book club. I'd love to join one, but my problem has always been either that the people I know aren't interested, or the people who are interested I don't know. Secondary to this, of course, is the fact that it can be difficult to select books that will appeal to a variety of readers. The chances of finding a group of readers who all have similar tastes is low, so inevitably you have to get through a few stinkers (or perfectly good books that just aren't your thing). I don't have a good track record when it comes to making it through books I'm not interested in in a reasonable time-frame, and I fear that I would end up DNFing more than I finished.

This is where the internet comes in handy. Through blogging and tweeting, I've managed to find some kindred spirits, bloggers who not only love books as much as I do, but who have tastes that overlap with mine more frequently than not. I've started doing buddy reads - mainly with Julianne and Katie - and one readalong (The Girl With All the Gifts) with Katie and Shaina. After that rousing success, the three of us were discussing which book to read next on Twitter, and managed to find three other bloggers who were also interested in reading (or re-visiting) the book we wanted to read next:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13153693-ghettoside?ac=1

So, as of today, we are embarking on a group read of this particular book, with discussion to take place via a Google doc that we can all add our impressions and comments to as we read.

I'm super excited about this - I'm dying to hear what these bright, insightful readers have to say, and I think there will be some fantastic discussion. Who knows? Maybe this will lead to future group reads! So far the group consists of me, Shaina, Katie, Shannon, Lauren and Amanda.

Sound like something you'd be interested in participating in? You can! Head over and send me a tweet (@raincityreads) and you can get in on the action! I'll post about the group read along with my review of the book in a month or so, but in the meantime, over to you. Do you guys belong to book clubs (real or online)? How do you decide which books to read? How do you manage discussing the book in online book clubs that have too many members for Twitter chats? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments!

7.15.2015

MY WEEK ON WEDNESDAY | #18


My Week On Wednesday is a weekly link-up post in which I share with you what I've been reading, what I'm reading next, and any other bookish stuff I enjoyed in the past week! (Click on book images to view Goodreads page.)

Just shelved:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23278537-the-little-paris-bookshop?ac=1https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22817474-we-are-all-completely-beside-ourselves

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22609317-luckiest-girl-alive?ac=1https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25058120-the-red-notebook

Such a good week of reading - and with the #24in48 readathon! Both The Little Paris Bookshop and The Red Notebook were whimsical and charming, though the former had an unexpected depth of emotion to it. Luckiest Girl Alive was dark, conflicted and incredibly real. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves was not at all what I expected, but that was actually exactly what made it such a fascinating reading experience.

Currently reading:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23209939-free-days-with-george?ac=1https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15005609-a-is-for-alibi

I'm enjoying all three of these so far, doing my typical thing of reading way too many books at once!

Up next:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13153693-ghettoside?from_search=true&search_version=service_impr

I'm looking forward to starting Ghettoside, which I'll be reading as part of a readalong with a few other bloggers on Twitter (if you want to join in, give me a shout!).

What have you guys been reading? Did you participate in #24in48? What boos are you eagerly anticipating reading in the next few weeks? Share in the comments!

7.14.2015

RELEASE DAY REVIEW | MISS EMILY - NUALA O'CONNOR


The American debut of an award-winning Irish writer that brings to life Emily Dickinson and will enthrall fans of Longbourn and Mrs. Poe.

Nuala O’Connor’s enchanting American debut novel,
Miss Emily, reimagines the private life of Emily Dickinson, one of America’s most beloved poets, through her own voice and through the eyes of her family’s Irish maid.

Eighteen-year-old Ada Concannon has just been hired by the respected but eccentric Dickinson family of Amherst, Massachusetts. Despite their difference in age and the upstairs-downstairs divide, Ada strikes up a deep friendship with Miss Emily, the gifted elder daughter living a spinster’s life at home. But Emily’s passion for words begins to dominate her life. She will wear only white and avoids the world outside the Dickinson homestead. When Ada’s safety and reputation are threatened, however, Emily must face down her own demons in order to help her friend, with shocking consequences.
- Goodreads



------

Emily Dickinson's work was my introduction to poetry. When I was a child, my mother embroidered and framed my favourite Dickinson poem and hung it on my bedroom wall, where it remained for years. And yet, until this book, I knew very little about the poet or her life. 

What I did know before going into this book could have fit on the back of a (very small) postcard: reclusive (possibly agoraphobic), rarely socialized yet wrote insightful poetry about the human condition, never married or had children (possibly homosexual). You'll notice my lack of certainty throughout. 

So going into this book, I had little in the way of preconception, except I knew there was a risk of a somewhat depressing read. Of course the other thing I didn't know going into this book was just what its author is capable of. I'd never heard of her, let alone read any of her work, so I had no idea that I was about to step into such a vibrant, finely-drawn world.

In Miss Emily, Nuala O'Connor re-imagines Emily's home life from the perspective of Emily's Irish maid, Ada, and from Emily's own point of view. The two women, despite being employer and employee, become fast friends. Which doesn't sound like much when it's summed up that way, but the depth of emotional connection and loyalty that develops between these two as the story progresses made it one of the best female friendships I've encountered thus far on the page. 

O'Connor's choice to split the narrative and utilize Ada's character to move the plot forward and beyond Emily's limited realm was brilliant. Through Ada we are able to see not only what her own life was like (she is an Irish immigrant who had to work hard to earn her place in the new world), but the many positive qualities Emily herself possessed. She forms the canvas onto which Emily's story can be painted in bright colour. 

There are some difficult characters and even more difficult events in this book. The time period itself also lends challenges - both in terms of day-to-day life and the position of women and, even more so, female servants. This is an aspect that cannot be overlooked, and one that will trigger frustration in the reader on Ada's behalf. This isn't a sweet, chaste story, but one that shows both the idyllic and hellish aspects of dealing with the opportunities and limitations both Emily and Ada encountered. 

I didn't expect this book to be as easy to get into, nor did I expect it to draw me in and refuse to let me go. For a book about a reclusive poet, this book is packed with everything that makes a good story: romance, family drama, and a dastardly villain. It's a quick read; you could easily devour the whole story in a day of summertime reading. In fact, I recommend doing so. 

This book will particularly appeal to fans of Emily Dickinson as well as those who enjoy creative historical fiction that focuses as much on the human commonalities we share with historical figures as it does on contrasting the world they lived in with the one we currently inhabit. Definitely one of this summer's most surprising (in a good way) new releases.

------

**Thanks to Penguin Random House Canada for providing a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!**

Book Title: Miss Emily
Author: Nuala O'Connor
Series: No
Edition: Paperback
Published By: Penguin Canada
Released: July 14, 2015
Genre: Historical Fiction, Poetry
Pages: 242
Date Read: May 18-24, 2015
Rating: 9/10
Follow the Author on Twitter: @NualaNic


Buy the book:

7.13.2015

TOP TEN TUESDAY | BOOKS I MOST RECENTLY ACQUIRED


This week's Top Ten Tuesday on The Broke and the Bookish is: Last Ten Books That Came Into My Possession. This includes everything from books purchased to review copies to library books or borrowed books. So, without further ado....


The Rocks - Peter Nichols (from the library)
The Blythes Are Quoted - L.M. Montgomery


Dietland - Sarai Walker
The Last Letter from Your Lover - Jojo Moyes (on sale for super cheap)


Take the Cannoli - Sarah Vowell
Assassination Vacation - Sarah Vowell


Native Son - Richard Wright
Burn This Book - Toni Morrison
The Paris Review Interviews Vol. II - Philip Gourevitch, Ed.

This one was pretty easy since half of it came from my last Stacking the Shelves post! I've started Dietland and am really into it, and I can't wait to get through the rest of the Anne of Green Gables books so I can read this sequel - apparently it's a lot darker than the originals, but illuminating (thanks to @brennacgray's #CanLit149 recommendations - she tweeted 149 books by Canadian authors to celebrate Canada Day. An amazing, awe-inspiring, and TBR-lengthening feat! 

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