Monday, 31 October 2016

Quickie Reviews

You may have noticed Readathon was last weekend and as always, this means a bit of a catch-up on reviews is required. Here’s my brief thoughts on what I read (plus an essay collection I also finished last weekend).


One of my favourite YA novels is The Scorpio Races so I don't know why I've taken so long to get round to The Raven Boys. I think I was slightly worried that I wouldn't like it since the series is generally loved.

It took me awhile to warm to it. There's a lot of characters that are all introduced at the start and I was not keen on the rich kids at private school part. However the boys' characters are developed enough to get me caring about each and every one.

Once I got into it, I was hooked. The prophecy that Blue will kill the boy she loves if she kisses him might sound like it’s going to be predictable, but it isn’t. There’s fortune tellers, ghosts and ancient Celtic legend woven into a modern setting. I will definitely be picking up book two in the not too distant future!

Your enjoyment of some books sometimes comes down to expectations. When I first heard about Ten by Gretchen McNeil, it reminded me of the Point Horror books I read as a kid. It's a bit more modern, but that's basically what this is. There’s a party on an island, ten teens, and one by one they start to die. There's no great literary aspirations or great meaning, but sometimes that's what you want as a reader.

I wasn't aware it was based on Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. I guess if you know the story a lot of what happens might not be a surprise but it is only very loosely based from the sound of it. There's no racist nursery rhyme and everything's more within the boundaries of modern teenagers.


The Good Immigrant is a collection of 21 essays on what it’s like to be a black, Asian or ethnic minority (BAME) Brit in today’s society. With the ickiness unleashed by Brexit, it’s an important reminder that immigrants are not just numbers or pawns in a political game but human beings just like anyone else. Unfortunately, I think it’s unlikely to fall into the hands of those most in need of reminding.

Himesh Patel talks about how British media doesn’t reflect the diversity of our society and how his role in Eastenders has spoken to so many, making a point for better representation. Riz Ahmed recounts the many times he has been detained in airports, but managing to maintain his sense of humour. Sabrina Mahfouz talks about cultural appropriation and being challenged for what she chooses to wear. Darren Chetty tells us about the children he teaches that think stories should be about white people. Repeatedly we see how BAME citizens are expected to try harder, just to keep up, to be accepted. As always, there’s going to be a few essays that aren’t as good as the others but overall worth a read.

In 2001, cartoonist Guy Delisle went to work in North Korea for two months. One of the few westerners permitted access, he recorded his experiences the way he knew best; through drawings. The result is Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea. I would call it a graphic novel but it’s actually non-fiction. He has to live in a designated hotel for foreigners and is kept watch by his guide and translator. His drawings show some of the day-to-day aspects of the country as well as looking at some of the politics. It’s a really entertaining and fascinating read.


I also started reading The Wicked + the Divine comics by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. Volume one, The Faust Act is a good introduction, the deities are from various mythologies reincarnated every 90 years but only to live for two. The Pantheon are worshipped as pop stars in the modern world and this introduction mostly follows a girl who meets Lucifer and tries to help. I’m intrigued enough to read more.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Incoming: Ninja Book Swap Edition

What with Ninja Book Swap and my upcoming birthday, I've not really been buying books lately and I have loads of unread ones to keep me going. However this week I did get an amazing Ninja Book Swap package from Faith, with goodies for me and Scully. I got Chimera, the last instalment in Mira Grant's Parasitology trilogy, and Spider-Gwen which I'm intrigued to give a go as I don't usually read Marvel.

Scully loves Meow Meow and is already pretty good at going to find her when we say Where's Meow Meow? Faith also sent some cute dinosaur socks, salted caramel chocolate and puppy treats for our very spoiled pup (see below for puppy out-take).





For Review:

Gilded Cage by Vic James (Pan MacMillan)
Versailles by Yannick Hill (Unbound)

Gifted:

Chimera by Mira Grant
Spider-Gwen: Most Wanted? by Jason Latour + Robbi Rodriguez

Bought:

Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall

Freebie:

The Next Together by Lauren James


Saturday, 29 October 2016

The Road

A man and a boy make their way along a road through a destroyed and desolate country. Where no one they meet can be considered a friend. There is no food other than what they can scavenge from already ransacked buildings.

I don't mind bleak. Where I do draw the line is bleak and impersonal. I can completely understand why people love The Road, it's just I don't think I like Cormac McCarthy's writing much. It's quite stylistic and I'm sure everything he does that I didn't like is done for a reason, but overall it wasn't my cup of tea.

It seems the worst of humanity has prevailed in this future. On a scale of hopeless, end of the world scenarios, The Road is on the opposite end to On the Beach. In both books the world is doomed, but how people react is a world apart. People are only looking out for themselves.

I’m not heartless; I did feel sad for the boy. He doesn't even get the dignity of a name. The boy acts as man's moral conscience, he wants to look for the best in people. But the man spends his time thinking if he will have to kill the boy to save him from a fate worse than death. What point do you just give up?

He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable.

There's not much inner dialogue, you just have to rely on brief conversations, with the speech unmarked. It’s easy to lose track of who is speaking. I didn’t see the point of the flashbacks as they were so brief and I didn’t feel they really gave any context. I did want to know more about the before, but I get that it wasn’t the point of this book, and therefore why bother with the little bit we get?

The road is symbolic because there’s really not a whole load of logic in them being on it when they are so keen on not meeting other people. They are heading to the sea, but without any purpose. The man’s only purpose is to stay alive to keep his son safe, to be there when what needs to be done is done.

Considering the brevity of some of their encounters, and the lack of character detail, whole pages are devoted to explaining some of the man's tasks; opening stuck jar lids, carving bullets out of wood, tying down tarpaulin.

I’ve seen other books described as “The Road, with hope” so many times, I was quite surprised at the ending. I think it is hopeful in a way, and so much more positive than what I thought was going to happen.

I guess I’m glad I read it, but it’s not going to be going on my recommendations list.

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Book Source: Charity Shop

Friday, 28 October 2016

Top Ten Films to Watch on Halloween

My Top Ten Halloween post got me thinking about horror movies, of which there are very many bad ones. I think before CGI came along, filmmakers put more effort into atmosphere and for the most part, I prefer older horror. Though there's also a place for humour and exploring tropes from different angles. So if you're looking for something Halloween-ish to watch this weekend, here's a list for all levels of scaredy cats (I've indicated where available on UK subscription services).

Note, some of the trailers are a bit long and spoilery.

The Mist


Based on a Stephen King story, expect the usual themes and small town setting. Pay attention and spot actors from a host of TV shows. It's the ending that really makes this film, don't watch it when you're emotionally fragile.

Fright Level:
Medium
Watch On: Amazon Prime



Don't Look Now


I've never quite got past the kids in red coats being creepy after watching this film late at night as a teenager. Really atmospheric and emotionally charged, plus lots of running around Venice.

Fright Level: Medium
Rent or Buy



The Thing


Isolation plays a big part in a good horror film and The Thing does it by being set in Antarctica. I rewatched it quite recently and the effects aren't as scary as I remembered but it's still a good film, and has probably spawned plenty of knock-offs, including an X-File episode.

Fright Level:
Medium
Watch On: NowTV



Sightseers


The only film I've watched twice in the last year. It's not really horror and we weren't expecting what we got when we first watched it. It's a dark comedy about a couple on a British caravan holiday...

Fright Level: Low
Rent or Buy



Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Top Ten Halloween

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

I am a bit of a wimp so I don't read much horror at all, but I guess there's more to Halloween than being scary these days. My choices are 10 books to get you in the Halloween mood with varying levels of fright. I'm tempted to also do a Halloween film list later this week too. Stay tuned!



Bird Box by Josh Malerman
The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich




Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
Say Her Name by James Dawson





HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
Dark Matter by Michelle Paver




The Three by Sarah Lotz
Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix




Apocalypse Cow by Michael Logan
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Sunday, 23 October 2016

#Readathon: The End

Local time: 13:00
Hours spent reading: 19
Pages read since last update: 430
Total pages read: 1164
Books finished: 4


Books read: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, Pyongyang by Guy Delisle, Ten by Gretchen McNeil, The Divine and the Wicked volume 1 by Kieron Gillen + Jamie McKelvie + The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Since Scully didn't let me have a lie in yesterday, I did struggle a bit more with tiredness. She did sleep for a lot of the time she was with me during the event though and helped keep my legs warm. I think I struggled a bit with getting into books; I really enjoyed The Raven Boys by the end but I was very slow starting and I have also not been taking enough of The Road in this morning. I'm definitely glad I had some graphic novels on hand.

Don't forget I'm leaving my mini-challenge open for another couple of hours.


End of Event Survey


Which hour was most daunting for you?

Hour 14 I gave in and went to sleep for four and a half hours.

Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

Books by Sarah J. Maas, Holly Smale, Holly Bourne, Laini Taylor and Jojo Moyes are all good options.

Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next season?
Nope, I think it went swimmingly. I mean I did try and visit a bunch of blogs from the participants list and around half didn't seem to be participating but there's not much organisers can do about that.

What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
The no official cheerleaders cheering was a great idea. I felt more people, myself included, put effort in to interact with others, whatever platform they are using.

How many books did you read?
4.3

What were the names of the books you read?
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, Pyongyang by Guy Delisle, Ten by Gretchen McNeil, The Divine and the Wicked volume 1 by Kieron Gillen + Jamie McKelvie + The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Which book did you enjoy most?
The Raven Boys but I also really liked Pyongyang for different reasons. Both on par for enjoyment.

Which did you enjoy least?
Ten *but* it was a really easy read and kind of what I was expecting so I wouldn't dismiss it as a readathon read.

How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
99.9% sure I'll be doing it all again in April. Mostly reading but I will offer to help with other things again. It takes a lot of effort behind the scenes to organise and I'm more than happy to help.

#Readathon Mini Challenge - Draw It Out!

Welcome to Hour 23's Mini Challenge!

You're still with us! Good job! So what's your current book about? No, don't tell me in words, I want to see a picture. Please draw a scene from your current read (or any other book you've read during the readathon).


You can get simple drawing apps for your tablet or smartphone, or use whatever software's on your computer. Draw on paper and take a photo or scan it in. Use whatever is nearby, even if it's snack-based! It doesn't have to be a masterpiece, stick figures are encouraged! Please note, I will need to see your picture if you want to enter to win a book BUT you can just join in anyway, as it's a good break for your brain.

Leave a comment with a link to your picture here, or you can tweet or Instagram me your picture @patchworkbunny.

#Readathon: Hour 18

Local time: 06:00
Hours spent reading: 12.5
Pages read since last update: 22
Total pages read: 734
Books finished: 2


Currently reading: Ten by Gretchen McNeil
Books read: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater + Pyongyang by Guy Delisle

So the keeping eyes open wasn't working. I've had about 4.5 hours sleep and desperately need a coffee but worried about waking Josh up with the coffee grinder. Why didn't I grind beans yesterday?! Maybe I'll eat a caffeinated biscuit instead.

Do check back in a few hours for my mini challenge!

#Readathon: Hour 13

Local time: 01:00
Hours spent reading: 12
Pages read since last update: 238
Total pages read: 712
Books finished: 2


Currently reading: Ten by Gretchen McNeil
Books read: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater + Pyongyang by Guy Delisle

I enjoyed Pyongyang; it was much lighter than I was expecting! I'm pretty tired now as it's past my normal bedtime. I thought Ten might keep me awake but I'm not sure... I'm gonna try and read another hour and then grab some sleep. Then I'll see you again around hour 18.


Mid Event Survey

1. What are you reading right now?
Ten by Gretchen McNeil (YA Thriller)
2. How many books have you read so far?
Two
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
Hrm, I'm not sure looking forward to is the right term by Josh has been trying to get me to read The Road for ages so I might start that in the morning.
4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
Not too many, I've had to keep an eye on the puppy for a bit but she's been pretty good!
5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
I'm surprised at how more social it feels now we don't have official cheerleaders and everyone is doing a little bit themselves.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

#Readathon: Hour 10

Local time: 22:00
Hours spent reading: 9
Pages read since last update: 236
Total pages read: 474
Books finished: 1


Currently reading: Pyongyang by Guy Delisle
Books read: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Yay, I finished a book! My second book is a graphic novel as a bit of an eye break. We were going to have takeaway but after all the snacks we were really hungry, so just scavenging dinner from bits and pieces in the fridge. Scully is very put out that no sausage rolls magically appeared on the floor for her to eat...

Snacks eaten: Cheese and bacon sausage rolls

#Readathon: Hour 6

Local time: 18:00
Hours spent reading: 5
Pages read: 238
Books finished: 0


Currently reading: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

It's taken me a while to get into The Raven Boys, there seemed to be a lot of characters to get to grips with right at the start but I'm starting to enjoy it more now. Scully has spent a while lying on top of me, keeping me warm and trying to stick her head in my book. I'm going to spend a few minutes cheering and then plough on to finish this book before my next update.

If you need a dose of cute puppy, there are plenty more pics of Scully on my Instagram.

Snacks eaten: Pulled pork quesadillas, M&S American snack mix, coffee & walnut shortbread.

Woohoo! It's #Readathon Time!

Local start time: 13:00
Hours spent reading: 0
Pages read: 0
Books finished: 0


Yay! If you haven't noticed me tweeting about it, it's Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon this weekend! I'm just about to make myself some tasty pulled pork quesadillas for lunch but I thought I'd get started with the Opening Event Questions.

I added a few sneaky extra books onto my TBR this morning, but below is what I intend to pick from unless I am really struggling. Scully woke us up pretty early this morning so I'm not sure how long I'll cope before a nap is needed. She's gone out with Josh for a few hours so I get some alone time to really get stuck in.

I'm hosting a mini-challenge at Hour 23 so please check back and I'll be updating and having a cheering break about every 4 hours. Hope you enjoy your readathon!


Follow my progress on Instagram + Twitter


Thursday, 20 October 2016

Empire of Storms

Empire of Storms is the fifth book in the Throne of Glass series and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous books.

Hey, I reckon Empire of Storms has been out long enough that I can blog about my thoughts. It's a testament to how much I loved this book that I never thought it was going on too long, and at 693 pages that's pretty unusual for me.

One does not deal with Celaena Sardothian. One survives her.

Manon is becoming increasingly reluctant to follow the Matron's orders, especially now she knows how little respect they have for witchlings. Abraxos the wyvern continues to be one of the best fantastical beasts ever. I like to think he has helped Manon to rethink her situation. She’s become one of my favourite characters.

Elide is growing up and developing quite the fiery personality now she is free. But danger is never far behind in the form of the creatures created in Morath. These unnatural creations are actually pretty sinister and I feared on many occasions for her safety. She’s really growing into herself. Hoorah for Sarah including a character getting her period in a fantasy book.

I was sad we didn’t get to see Chaol again. He is mentioned but he is off recuperating and not involved in this instalment at all. I think there are a few characters that are from the novellas, which I haven’t finished reading but I did recognise the Pirate Lord.

The lap of waves was barely audible over the roar of wyverns and the innocents screaming for help that would never come.

As certain things are revealed by the ghosts and memories of Aelin's ancestors, I was almost certain I knew where things were going to go but I am happy to admit I was wrong. What an ending! I keep thinking I'm reading the final book but obviously not. How long do we need to wait to find out what happens next?

After reading Charlotte's review, I was reminded of some things that weren't perfect, but still didn't detract from my overall enjoyment. I think the sex scenes were pretty awful, lots of mystical amazingness and no resemblance to the real thing. Something a lot of fantasy romance suffers from but it's a shame to see it here. You could argue it's magic sex I suppose. Fortunately skim reading them doesn't do any harm to the rest of the plot.

It's also a bit too convenient that everyone pairs off however I actually loved all the relationships in their own right. I mean I’ll never love Rowan due to my loyalty to Chaol but their relationship is growing on me. I liked Lorcan loads, he’s not a straight forward character, much like Manon but we see a good side to him.

I also liked getting a bit more background on Maeve who has a huge influence over the fae warriors. I have a feeling we will learn a whole lot more about her in the next book!

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Book Source: Purchased

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

A Closed and Common Orbit

A Closed and Common Orbit is the sequel to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous book. If you haven't read it, what are you waiting for?

Newly installed into a body kit she never chose, the former AI of the Wayfarer is at a loss to her new purpose. She feels wrong in the kit, it isn’t her body, it isn’t a ship. Left in the capable hands of Pepper and Blue, she must learn who she is. Pepper knows a thing or two about recreating yourself; she never knew the sky existed until she was ten years old.

AIs aren’t supposed to be left alone. They need people.

Common Orbit is just as good, compassionate and lovely as Angry Planet. I'm just overflowing with love for these characters; despite everything they go through they remain good people.

The story uses two timelines, one following on from the end of the previous book and the other is 20 years earlier and focuses on Pepper's past. Pepper feels she is the ideal person to introduce Sidra to the world because she was brought up by AI. Which AI is not as obvious as it first seems. Pepper’s early life was in a factory sorting scrap, with all the other genetically engineered Janes. I loved her story of how she got to be where she is now; full of true bravery and friendship. Insanely gripping too, I often forgot I knew the outcome.

No matter what the sims said about the power of a single solitary hero, there were some things just too big to change alone.

I love how Becky tries to view the universe in other than human eyes. Sidra doesn't experience her environments as one would expect a human to, despite the form of her body kit. She is meant to be installed in a ship not in a human and the novel explores the challenges of that and how she overcomes them. It's partly about hiding her true identity but I liked that it didn't linger too much on the illegal aspect.

Sidra’s thirst for knowledge helps the story introduce and explore some of the amazing world-building started in Angry Planet. Whilst the Lovelace programming prevents lying, Sidra befriends a species who also has difficulty withholding the truth, btu for biological reasons. It also uses the species’ gender fluidity to show how gender identity doesn’t change the person, just the pronouns used change.

She looked up again, up at the big soft galaxy, and after a bit, she felt okay. She felt good. Somehow, outside, looking at the stars, everything was a little better.

So often there are plot devices used in novels that end up putting the character in a negative situation, but Becky does the amazing thing of writing positive outcomes out of things where the reader might expect something else. It's hard to explain but Josh described it as cosy when I was trying to explain to him. And these books are cosy, but not in an overly simple way.

It is described as a standalone sequel and for once I do think it could be read and fully enjoyed by itself. Although it would obviously spoil Lovey's storyline in Angry Planet. It isn't about Lovey though, as Sidra is a completely new AI, learning and forming her personality from scratch.

She was built to serve, just as this one was, and while she might feel awfully special for being able to ask questions and have arguments, she was no more capable of skipping protocols than the little mind before her.

I've never known any other books that do so much to humanise AI. Whilst laws mean an AI can just be turned off or overwritten, Common Orbit explores the morals of doing that to a sentient being, even if they are made with code.

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Also reviewed @ For Winter Nights




Book Source: Purchased

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Replica

Lyra doesn’t really have a name, she is number 24 until one of the doctors names the children in an act of kindness. She is a replica, created in Haven. They haven’t perfected the process and many of the children become ill and die, but this is the only life she knows. Gemma has been ill since she was little and kept sheltered by her parents. All she wants to do is go on spring break… it just so happens that where she’s heading is just down the coast from Haven, a place her dad has ties to.

Replica is two books in one, following the same story from the view point of two different characters. The print version is presented so that you turn the book over and upside down to read the other story, keeping them separate. The reader is invited to choose for themselves how to read the book, Gemma first, Lyra first or alternating between the two. I'd be interested to see how different choices affected how people got on with it. For the record, I read Lyra's story first, then Gemma's immediately after.

She had never hurt anyone to get what she wanted. Was that what made her less than human?

When I saw it was about a clone and a girl who always been poorly, I thought it might be story about the two sides of a moral conundrum. Using one group of people to save others but it wasn’t so. There wasn't any moral ambiguity but a general message that it doesn't matter where you came from, it's what you make of yourself that matters.

Lyra’s story is the more interesting of the two, seeing her limited world view and the idea that she isn’t aware there is anything wrong with Haven. I don’t think I would have found the ending satisfactory if I had read this after Gemma’s. I also really wish they hadn't tried to make a romance out if it, it didn’t seem quite right.

People, real people, believed they deserved things and were angry when they didn't get them. Replicas deserved nothing, received nothing, and so were never angry.

Whilst I enjoyed Lyra's side, I found Gemma's a bit of a trudge. Their narratives do deviate in places but I had that sense of knowing what was going to happen and I'm not sure there was enough difference. Just a few chapters in I just knew what it was that Gemma would learn, and I was right. Although her romantic arc was a bit more plausible and natural.

The girls both have low self-esteem, especially when it comes to body image. Both girls see themselves as ugly freaks. Lyra sees Gemma's softness and curves as beautiful. Gemma sees an ill yet pretty girl who has no reason not to think of herself a person.

She wondered if this was God's way of getting vengeance on the people who'd been made so unnaturally. He was always trying to unmake them.

Haven's motivations are a bit tenuous. I don't suppose many readers will know much about prion disease but it seems an odd choice. I do think the science side was more of a convenient vehicle for the structure rather than exploring the idea itself. On the plus side, at least a bunch of teenagers don't change the world. The stories are quite contained and more personal.

Replica is published by Hodder and is available now in hardback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

The Potion Diaries: Royal Tour

Royal Tour is the sequel to The Potion Diaries and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous book.

Sam may have cured Princess Evelyn of her disastrous love potion but she’s still at risk of her power overwhelming her. Time’s running out and when it does she’ll have to marry, even if it’s not for love. Sam agrees to accompany the princess on her royal tour so she can keep her safe with a power binding potion, and try and find more powerful ingredients while she’s at it. Days before she’s due to leave, her grandfather is attacked, taking his memories and possibly a family secret. Could the recipe his attacker was after be the one thing that could save Evelyn?

I love these books, they are so much fun but also full of heart. At the heart of everything Sam does is her friends and family; she is far more eager to help people than for fame or fortune. Unfortunately, there’s just too many people in need of saving, especially when she has powerful enemies. Still, there’s time for a bit of fun; a glamourous ball with her boyfriend and best friend.

I think about all the wonderful sights in Kingstown, sights that people travel from all over the world to see. The mermaid gathering practically on our doorstep. The prancing kelpies in High Park. Do I really appreciate what's in my own backyard? I don't think that I do. We become immune to the wonders on our doorstep.

Combined with the royal tour, the hunt for her great-grandmother’s potion diary takes Sam all over this richly imagined world. I’ve been enviously following Amy’s travels via her Instagram and many of the far flung places she’s visited lately form the basis for Sam’s adventures. I liked that the story talked about the impact on different cultures by those who feel they can come in, take what they want and leave.

There’s plenty of characters from the first book making a reappearance and it’s great to see this kind of fantasy where characters’ morals aren’t so black or white. I'm so glad the ending implies there will be another book!

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Book Source: Purchased