Have you ever imagined what it would be like to live inside your favorite video game? Karen Glista’s novel, Embellished, the first novel in The Chronicles of Orian trilogy, takes us on a wild ride with a story about teens who find themselves inside the world of the M.M.O.R.P.G. game, The Battle of Orian. While playing the game during a lightning storm, Bekka, Travis, and Matt are suddenly transported into the antiquated world of Orian. Bekka, a teen suffering from a rare genetic disease, finds herself fully healed from her earthly ailments and rises up the royal rankings. Meanwhile, her brother, Travis, and his friend Matt continually search for an escape back to Earth. Their only hope for escaping this world is finding the only other human from Earth, also trapped in the game, before they’re all killed by dangerous creatures.
Embellished is so much more than a fantasy/paranormal romance with a fair amount of compelling, steamy scenes. Embellished transcends genre boundaries through incorporating elements of adventure, suspense, and gruesome battle scenes. What makes it even more exciting to read is the development of its deeply complex characters and intricately woven plot with twists that’ll leave you gasping.
The novel opens with a group of teens playing The Battle of Orian on a stormy night in Texas, when lightning strikes their home and catapults the teens into the world of the game. Little do they know that their real-life bodies on Earth are rapidly deteriorating. Luckily, they know how to defeat evil spiders, bears, and violent Vadarcs, a sub-human species.
While the novel begins by focusing on Travis, who becomes the leader of the group, the perspective shifts to his sister, Bekka. She starts as a somewhat timid, soft-spoken individual, as her body on Earth was ravaged by the rare Marfan’s disease, but once she begins to find her voice, Bekka truly blossoms into a bold, outspoken, and open-minded heroine. I thought that it made the story so much more compelling to give Bekka these strong character traits, since it added suspense to the decisions she had to make.
Glista does a great job of capturing the inner feelings that any person would have when faced with a love triangle. Bekka befriends Atharia and even becomes betrothed to Atharia’s brother, the devastatingly handsome Vallas. But during a harrowing attack, she and Atharia are taken captive by a belligerent Vadarc tribe. After she meets Zandar, a half-Human Vadarc who exudes masculinity and passionate sensuality, Bekka wonders if she can ever go back to her life with Vallas again. She has the chance to choose between Vallas and Zandar – attracted to the different qualities within both men, she is torn between her desire for passionate, romantic love, or for safety and security.
Glista also masterfully incorporates multiple themes that add multiple layers to the novel. For example, Bekka discovers that there are deeply entrenched discriminatory practices between the Humans and Vadarcs, and after learning the history of the Vadarcs, Bekka begins to preach open-mindedness to her Human friends. I thought this was an extremely vital and current theme to have as it relates pretty directly to racial issues within today’s world.
As the first novel in the Chronicles of Orian trilogy, Embellished provides a bit of closure at the end, but it’ll definitely be interesting to see what happens to Bekka, Travis, and Matt in the next installment.
Pages: 302 | ASIN: B01M5BZVQ1
Posted in Book Reviews, Three Stars
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Woofed Cookies by Greg Bauder is an entertaining, but short read. The story follows Peter Moon and his dog named Cookies as they go through a whole breath of conflicts and tribulations. His best friend, Tiger Moss, pressures him into smoking, a strange man keeps appearing menacingly, and Tiger’s little sister is enamored with him. Peter confronts all of these with Cookies by his side who is gifted with a neat little trick; throwing up everywhere at any time.
The book begins with Peter being down on himself for not having a puppy and being alone most of the time, since his mother is a nurse. This situation is rectified, and the book truly begins, when he receives Cookies on his birthday. Bauder does a great job of recalling what it was like to be a preteen and getting into trouble with your best friend. The joy of having a puppy is felt here, even if I question the mother’s recommendation of “flushing the dog poop down the toilet”? I mean, what happened to the garbage can? The rest of the book precedes with what you would normally expect. The story did take some turns that I was not expecting and the point of view with Peter is arm’s length, so you are never really sure what he is going to do as the reader.
I do think that the book reads a little “simple” for the audience I believe Bauder is aiming for, but I can forgive that for the fact he has an entertaining story. To take the everyday, messy occurrence of a dog throwing up and make that the title, is rather ingenious. It also steals the show away from Peter, because I found myself reading the pages looking to see what Cookies was going to do next. The lack of agency on Peter’s part was a little of a let down, especially as a children’s book, but I believe that the escapades of Cookies makes up for it.
The actual pacing of the book is a little choppy and does include two scenes that almost entirely mirror one another, which is kind of strange for a children’s book. I would love it if Bauder could make Woofed Cookies into a series of books of Peter and Cookies and I would not mind at all. There is something timeless about a “boy and his dog” and as a reader I could not get tired of that. This story is a classic paradigm with a new spin and I want to see what else Bauder has up his sleeve.
All in all, I believe that Woofed Cookies is an excellent book to give to your child for an afternoon of adventure.
Pages: 20 | ISBN: 1683946812
Posted in Book Reviews, Three Stars
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It’s Do or Die
In Book II of the Lisen of Solsta series, Tainted takes readers back to the land of Garla and introduces us to the dangerous land of Thristas. What was the inspiration for these fantastically imagined worlds?
Truthfully, I based them on my home of Southern California with the cooler areas to the west of the mountains and the desert to the east. My picture was more of Rome or Greece at the height of their power than of some middle European medieval land, and the white-marble and columned Avaret Keep exemplifies the architectural feel I was looking for. When it came to Thristas, I love the desert. Lisen’s response of awe as she and Korin come through the Pass and she sees Thristas for the first time expresses my feelings about the deserts of California. Most people see deserts as dry, sterile places, but they teem with life–both animal and plant life. My inspiration was to show the breadth and depth of this life and its influence on a people who had lived there for many generations, establishing a culture separate from Garla’s and giving their lives a meaning dependent on no one save themselves.
Lisen develops as a dynamic, heroic character, constantly fighting her surroundings and learning more about herself. How did you tackle character development in this story that is different from book 1?
Lisen is, of course, a work in progress. It is absolutely essential that she struggle to find who she is in this mess that she sees as her life. All bets are off for her. It’s do or die, and as she begins to realize that she cannot win without cheating and that she must win in order to fulfill her mother’s hope for her, she also recognizes that she must find a way to become a person who she isn’t quite yet. I loved exploring her hidden spaces and corners, seeking out the fortitude within her to make it possible for her to do what she does at the end of the book. And when the degree of her ferocity came to me one day driving home from the grocery store in the guise of that moment when she cuts off her braids and then tells Nalin she never was a hermit, I knew I’d found the Lisen she needed to find on her journey.
There is a holiday in this story called Evenday/Evennight. How did you come up with this idea and develop it in your story?
You will note that in Garla, they call it Evenday because they live and work under the light of the sun. On the other hand, the Thristans call it Evennight because the center of their lives, the time conducive to productivity, is in the dark, away from the searing heat of that very light the Garlans worship. This day on earth is called the vernal equinox, and I saw the Thristans as being closer to nature and therefore more likely to attach a more spiritual importance to it than the Garlans. Hence their centering of an entire ritual around it, while the Garlans celebrate it more casually. A lot of the Thristan culture revolves around something akin to the nature-centered cultures of our own world, including Wicca.
Where does the third book in the Lisen of Solsta series take readers?
Two major questions remain. What happens to Korin and the special “package” he carries away from Lisen and Avaret at the end of Tainted? And what the heck are they going to do about the unstoppable Lorain? Lisen has seen Thristas for herself and is apparently the first Empir to have done so, and that alone puts her in a unique position in her dealings with Thristas as their “Protector.” I think, however, that the most fascinating aspect that opened itself up to me for inquiry was how the miracle of child-bearing might affect a man. I explored and hopefully resolved the questions and conflicts raised by the events in the first two books by digging deeper into both Garlan and Thristan culture and by opening up the possibilities for redemption for Lisen but only if she can accept the fact that as Empir she has responsibilities that sometimes require desperate and even cruel measures to fulfill them.
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“In Fractured, Lisen Holt, Valley girl, beach lover, learned she doesn’t belong on Earth. Re-adapting to Garla, the place of her birth, proved difficult, but the greater challenge was learning that she is the Heir-Empir and must confront her brother for the throne. Witnessing her only friend’s murder, defending her own life with forbidden power, and succumbing to possession by her friend’s soul left Lisen fractured, with little hope she’d ever recover.
The story grows darker in Tainted with Lisen and her guardian companion, Korin, traveling to the great desert of Thristas. They hope to find safety in the anonymity of the barren wilderness, out of the range of Garlan spies. There, Lisen learns the ways of Thristas and its fierce people who view Garla’s Empir as a tyrant. In an effort to prove their sincerity, Lisen and Korin participate in the Farii, the spring fertility ritual which changes everything for Lisen. She returns to Garla with a brilliant but damning plan that she believes will ensure her victory against her brother.”
Posted in Interviews
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A Thief and a Master of Code
In The Paranoid Thief Randolph finds himself thrown into a strange cell after being tried and convicted for an atrocious murder he did not commit. What was the inspiration for the setup of this novel?
At work and as an author, I use computers all the time. Because of the complexity of programming, only those who constantly read up and experiment with programming code can truly understand how to create the world we now live in. But as a writer I can briefly pretend I’m apart of these masters of code. Yet I’d like to be more. So Randolph came into being. A thief and master of code. Still, the start of the book had to introduce Randolph in way the reader could catch his personality and some of his flaws. As for the set up for the first few chapters, I simply considered what would happen if companies took over the global economy.
The Paranoid Thief is told from Randolph’s point of view and we’re often treated with a humorous look at the world through his eyes. How do you find moments of levity in dramatic fantasy novels?
I love action adventure movies. Thus I try to write in a style which is not always serious. For me to do this, I picture myself as the main character and try to see the world I created through his or her eyes.
Randolph and Jill are intriguing and well developed characters. What was your inspiration for them and their relationship?
Although Randolph is purely fictional, I have met people who have a split personally. As I like to throw in surprises, something to make readers think, I thought what would happen if Randolph had no choice but to cope with someone whose personality swings far to the right and left. I’m also a bit of a romantic, thus after some trial-and-error Jill was born.
What is the next book that you’re working on and when will it be available?
My next book is call Braxton Snow P.I. In this book animals are like people, and my main character is an arctic wolf. With luck I hope to have the story out in 2 to 4 months.
Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website
“In the year 2050, the United States is owned by corporations. Citizens are mere commodities used to make the already wealthy CEOs richer. Professional hacker and cat burglar RANDOLPH McCANN finds his skills sought after by average people seeking relief from the oppressive corporate system.
Then his newest client—a powerful city official—murders a family and leaves damning evidence aimed at him. As the court’s lethal injection crawls through his veins, Randolph vows eternal vengeance on the man responsible.
He awakens to find he’s been kidnapped from his execution by a corporation that uses death-row criminals to gain political power through theft and assassination. He’s assigned MAJOR JILL WANDER as a partner, a tough ex-military sniper with a dual personality who is also wrongly accused on the public record.
When a job goes south, they join forces off the grid. With Jill’s help, Randolph evades law enforcement and closes in on the man who double-crossed him. And he can clear Jill’s name at the same time—if only he can keep her from killing the wrong people.”
Posted in Interviews
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Mistaken Judgments and Rash Conclusions
Defiance on Indian Creek is an enthralling story that follows a smart and courageous young girl on the eve of the Revolutionary war. What was the inspiration for the setup to this young adult novel?
I discovered the real Mary Shirley in a box of family genealogy documents I received from my uncle. As I researched an incident that took place when she was an eighteen-year-old mother of a two-year-old son, I knew her story had to be told. I realized Mary had to acquire tenacity and survival skills well before this event and, therefore,Defiance on Indian Creek, begins the series right before her thirteenth birthday on Indian Creek in now, Monroe County, West Virginia.
Defiance on Indian Creek takes a quiet frontier family and brings them to the forefront against an increasingly dangerous time in history. What research did you do to maintain the accuracy of that moment in history?
My online research of New River history revealed names, places, and leads to additional information. I printed articles, slid them into plastic coversheets, and placed them into large three-ring binders with dividers. I even used calendars. These calendars were marked with historic events of the time and place, along with the fictional plot line. Yes, I’m OCD, and the day I discovered Scrivener was a happy day.
I felt that the relationship between Mary and her father was deep and intriguing. What was the inspiration for their relationship and how did it develop as you wrote?
The close bond between Mary and her papa came naturally for me. I was blessed to have a “Daddy’s girl” bond with my own father. I plotted the story to include the mistaken judgments and rash conclusions all teen girls experience. Mary’s disbelief in her papa’s actions fueled her defiance. I raised three close-in-age daughters to adulthood and experienced these clashes. Most teens really do love their parents but don’t let on.
Defiance on Indian Creek is book one in the Dangerous Loyalties series. Where does book two take readers and when will it be available?
Mary’s recent emotional trauma worsens when the family flees Indian Creek ahead of angry men who are seeking Papa’s life. But they’re not taking Daniel Boone’s trail to Kentucky territory. They’re traversing the old hunter’s path to the rough-manned, frontier forts along the Clinch River—until they cross the Cumberland Gap—then they’re at the mercy of God to Fort Boonesborough. I’m hoping for a summer 2017 release date for book two.
Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website
“Emotionally riveting adventure, survival, and precarious family relationships are weaved into this teen historical about Mary Shirley–a brave, tenacious thirteen-year-old girl who lives on the remote frontier of West Virginia in 1775 at the onset of the American Revolutionary War.
Cooped up in a dimly lighted cabin with her seven siblings and Momma, Mary dreams of a peaceful future with friends and suitors. But she’s worried about her family’s survival.
When Papa returns home with news that the Indians have agreed to stay away from the Western settlements, Mary breathes a sigh of relief. But when he speaks of pending revolutionary war against Britain, declares his loyalty to King George III, and plans to move to Kentucky territory, Mary is confused and afraid.
She discovers mysterious surveys with riddles and a hidden box in the barn that contains secret documents. When she witnesses Papa betray a patriot neighbor at a nearby fort and later reads a disturbing letter that implicates him as a traitorous spy, Mary is ashamed of him. He is endangering the family, and she must find a way to change his mind. Her emotional struggles lead to lost trust and acts of defiance.
When Papa returns deathly ill from a survey job and asks Mary to deliver a lifesaving dispatch, she balks. Is loyalty to Papa more important than loyalty to the revolutionary cause? Lives are in danger no matter what choice she makes.”
Posted in Interviews
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A Constant Reminder
Proud American is a biography about your journey through life in South Texas; from migrant worker to US solider and then US Border Patrol agent. What was the inspiration behind creating such a thoughtful memoir of your life?
My mother passed away in the summer of 2015. After her passing, I fell into a depression because I felt truly alone in the world. Being the only child of a single parent can do that to a person. I had my wife and kids with me but I still felt utterly alone, and I couldn’t shake it off.
My wife kept pushing me to discuss my thoughts and feelings, but I could not muster up the strength. I didn’t know how to discuss what I was experiencing. My wife suggested that I write my feelings down. For years, my wife has been telling me that she believes I’m a good writer. For years, I’ve been ignoring her compliments.
One night after dinner, she brought a letter to me. She handed me a piece of paper and asked me to open it. When I did, I saw that it was a letter I had written to her eight years ago. Eight years ago was when my wife and I first started dating, and one night she asked me over the phone, why I had joined the Army. I wrote her a letter and poured everything out on paper. It opened up the floodgates for me. That letter is now the first chapter of my book.
Do you remember what your idea of ‘America’ was as a child?
Because I began working at the age of seven, my idea of ‘America’ was that of tough living. It is hard for one to realize so young that his or her childhood is nothing like that of other kids. We were dirt poor and I had the full workload of an adult at the age of ten.
In time though, everything around me was a constant reminder of what else was possible in ‘America’. I knew there were better ways to make a living. At such a young age, I wanted to learn how to pursue my thoughts or dreams of a better life. I didn’t have time to dream of the next best toy or fun activity. I spent all my childhood dreaming and thinking of how to break my family cycle of picking crops for a living.
How did your outlook of ‘America’ change after your time in the US Army?
I must say that in many ways, the Army actually spoiled me. Although it increased my awareness of the harshness of life and the many challenges that it can impose on a person, it also continued to show me all the many possibilities available should one choose to work hard to achieve a desired goal. This only enhanced what I already believed as a kid. More so, I also learned of all the harsh realities of life and how people in other countries are in a far worse state than most of us here can ever possibly imagine or understand. I knew, after my military service, that we lived in the greatest country in the world. Even with all our faults and deficiencies, there is no comparison.
Being the son of a Mexican immigrant, was it hard for you to decide to become an agent in the US Border Patrol?
My decision to join the US Border Patrol was actually a fairly easy one. I was looking for something that would allow me to continue my government service. It’s important to note that my grandfather had never talked to us about his encounters with the US Border Patrol and thus played no role in my decision.
It wasn’t until after I had become an agent that I realized how my decision had impacted the entire family. It was a strange feeling and continues to be a delicate subject since I still have family that lives in Mexico and have not been able to visit them because of the dangers a visit from me would pose on them and even on me. With the violent cartel threat just across the border, it will be years before I can see my family again.
What is one stereotype that you think many Americans have of Mexican immigrants?
At this point in time, immigration has become a great issue for our country. With that said, the moment one begins to speak about immigration it is quickly considered to be a topic of Mexican immigrants and the ‘negative’ impact they have on our society.
I am an American Citizen by birth, but I do come from a Mexican Immigrant family and am now a Border Patrol Agent. I have to deal with criminals from every background one can possibly think of. As a federal agent, I don’t merely deal with immigration issues. I also deal with the issue of human trafficking and narcotics trafficking. In essence, I’m caught in the middle of the transaction.
I say this because in any transaction, there is a person providing a product and a person purchasing or demanding that product. I have to process undocumented individuals for deportation while at the same time prosecute the US Citizens that are committing the trafficking.
What role do you feel Mexican-Americans play in bridging the gap between these two countries?
I think we must all play the role of actual educators by way of providing facts and not opinions or emotional outbursts. I wrote a story in the book of an incident that happened to me while on the job as a Border Patrol Agent. The gentleman I encountered truly believed that he was above me simply because of my appearance and name tag. I chose to educate him and not escalate the situation with an emotional outburst. After that interaction, I earned the gentleman’s respect and he earned mine by showing me that he had learned the error in his thinking.
I’m a combat veteran who now has to deport people of my own Mexican Nationality because I have chosen to continue serving my country, the United States of America. And yet, I still have to educate people every single day of my patriotism and the struggles I’ve had to overcome in order to achieve the stability I now have.
Education is key.
Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website
“Being the only child of a single mother, Sergio was raised by his maternal grandparents in a South Texas region better known as the Rio Grande Valley. This memoir details the upbringing of a poor Migrant worker of Mexican descent having to pick crops for a living since the age of seven. As a way to break from the family cycle of picking crops and depending on government welfare programs, he joined the United States Army and served ten years active duty. He deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina shortly after the Bosnian War only to find and deal with the aftermath of the genocide that took place there and be caught in the middle of several attacks. His experiences in Bosnia ultimately led to experiencing signs and symptoms related to PTSD. After completing ten years of military service, Sergio joined the U.S. Border Patrol. Being of Mexican descent, having family in south Texas, and in Mexico gave way to new issues of having to counter threats against his family and ill-willed opinions of him for arresting and deporting “his own kind.””
Posted in Interviews
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The Law of Moses
Sam Moses Cardiff is a straight shooting honest man that finishes a teaching diploma before heading back to his hometown of Elmira. Sam is excited to start his new life, however, things have changed since Sam has been gone and circumstances pull him into fighting battles under the Union Army. Flash forward several years and Sam has entered a town where he is hired to be a Marshall. Sam upholds the law, showing no qualms about killing those who wish to cross him. But underneath the facade of an emotionless and tactical law enforcer lies a man who desperately wants his life to end. What happened in all the years of battle that has affected Sam so gravely?
The Law of Moses, written by Kwen D. Griffeth, is a western novel that follows the life of Samuel Moses Cardiff. The smell of perfumed ladies, warm beer and rolled cigarettes will be easily imagined as The Law of Moses takes you on a ride through life in the west that keeps you captivated until the very end!
The characters come to life on the page and several times I had to remind myself that this story was indeed fiction. The story takes dips into the past which gives the reader an insight into a younger Sam and why he has changed so drastically. Once upon a time, he was an eager young man, full of energy to face the world and now he is rude, angry and filled with hatred. The connection with the past will allow the reader to feel empathy towards the characters and their personality traits.
Gunfights, bank robbers and old time war stories will keep the reader flipping pages as they explore frontier life. Kwen Griffeth clearly has an in depth understanding of artillery as he accurately describes a variety of guns and even how they sound when they are holstered. Most characters are loyal and stick to their guns (literally and figuratively) when it comes time to settle arguments. At times, the novel explores the Civil War and sparks the imagination.
The writing flows easily and Griffeth provides descriptive imagery that allows the reader to picture the old west, where disputes were settled over beer and gun smoke. The saloons, horses and life lessons will mean the reader will be eager to learn more about Sam and his life. I found some of the lessons to be relevant to today’s society events and found myself reminiscing over the story’s content many days later.
I would would recommend this to anybody who enjoys a western or historical novel but also for anybody that loves a dash of romance, action and comedy. I look forward to reading the next installment.
Pages: 332 | ASIN: B00EXAD8PW
Posted in Book Reviews, Five Stars
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Mestlven: A Tale from Perilisc
Mestlven is the latest book in the Tales from Perilisc series by Jesse Teller. I found this to be the best book yet by Teller. The last novel Chaste left many characters in turmoil. This time Teller takes us to the city of Mestlven. Here we learn about Sob and her past. We learn about her obsession with stealing jewels and how she became the deadly assassin that she is. We also discover just how troubled and deep her instability runs and why she became this way. Joining her in this novel from the past is Emily, the young girl in Chaste that she saved and took under her wing, and Sai the swordsman that was her friend and companion on their last adventure. In this story, though, Sai is no longer her friend but an unfortunate enemy that she shares an understanding with. Teller introduces several new characters that the story line focuses on as well, Mort, the priestess of the Pale, Saykobar, a wizard of immense power, and Donnie the Ego, the young man that runs a mass crime ring. Together their destinies intertwine and we see the full savage and cruel world that Perilisc is, where modern decencies are nowhere to be found and suffering is common place no matter what your station in life is.
Mestlven is the town Sob is from, the castle Sorrow Watch, was her home when she went by the name Meredith and was married to Malcolm. She was content in that life, even though her true love Stephan, Malcolm’s brother, was dead. Malcolm loved Meredith and together they had a child, a girl named Megan. This is the baby she always referred to in Chaste. Her life however was destroyed when a group came and murdered her child and Malcolm. This set her insanity into full swing and a series of events that followed lead her to become the deadly assassin she is. Sob returns to Mestlven to exact her revenge on the people that ruined her life. The town of Mestlven is a haven for the depraved, dirty, greedy and perverted. Their perversions know no bounds and Sob means to rid the town of those that soil her home. She shows no mercy to those that made her this person. The goddess of death, The Pale, sends Mort into Mestlven to assist Sob in getting her vengeance. The Pale works in gross and morbid ways, such as taking a disease from one and then sending to another that the Pale wants to inflict pain and suffering on. Mort has the skills to do the bidding of the Pale and her works coincides with Sob’s.
Mestlven is a well composed story line with dynamic characters. Jesse Teller is able to bring their minds to life, their personalities are deep and complex. Sob’s story is heartbreaking and despite her clear insanity the reader can’t help but feel great compassion for her and want to see her achieve her goal of vengeance. So many of the other characters are not what they seem from beginning to end. You’ll end up loving characters your supposed to hate, and characters you trust will betray you. I won’t say that there is a happy ending, but sometimes you settle for just having peace. Teller has composed another great novel and I look forward to reading where the story line of Perilisc will go next.
Pages: 330 | ASIN: B06X8YNCF1
Posted in Book Reviews, Five Stars
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