Thursday Quotables: West With the Night

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Welcome to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

West With the Night by Beryl Markham
(published 1942)

I’ve listened to the first few chapters of this audiobook so far, but because my listening time has been very choppy this week, I may switch over to the print edition. West With the Night, the memoir by famed aviator Beryl Markham, is a book I’ve meant to read for years. The writing is just gorgeous. From the very chapter, here’s a lovely passage:

Three hundred and fifty miles can be no distance in a plane, or it can be from where you are to the end of the earth. It depends on so many things. If it is night, it depends on the depth of the darkness and the height of the clouds, the speed of the wind, the stars, the fullness of the moon. It depends on you, if you fly alone — not only on your ability to steer your course or to keep your altitude, but upon the things that live in your mind while you swing suspended between the earth and the silent sky. Some of those things take root and are with you long after the flight itself is a memory, but, if your course was over any part of Africa, even the memory will remain strong.

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Add your Thursday Quotables post link in the comments section below… and I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week too.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

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Shelf Control #75: The Gate To Women’s Country

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! Fore more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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My Shelf Control pick this week is:

Title: The Gate To Women’s Country
Author: Sheri S. Tepper
Published: 1987
Length: 382 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Tepper’s finest novel to date is set in a post-holocaust feminist dystopia that offers only two political alternatives: a repressive polygamist sect that is slowly self-destructing through inbreeding and the matriarchal dictatorship called Women’s Country. Here, in a desperate effort to prevent another world war, the women have segregated most men into closed military garrisons and have taken on themselves every other function of government, industry, agriculture, science and learning.

The resulting manifold responsibilities are seen through the life of Stavia, from a dreaming 10-year-old to maturity as doctor, mother and member of the Marthatown Women’s Council. As in Tepper’s Awakeners series books, the rigid social systems are tempered by the voices of individual experience and, here, by an imaginative reworking of The Trojan Woman that runs through the text. A rewarding and challenging novel that is to be valued for its provocative ideas.

How I got it:

I bought it at a used book store.

When I got it:

A couple of years ago.

Why I want to read it:

This is considered a feminist sci-fi classic, so I’m a bit embarrassed never to have read it. The reviews on Goodreads are all over the place, from 5-stars (including from reviewers I usually trust) to a whole slew of 1-star ratings from people who absolutely hated the book. I think I owe it to myself to at least give it a try.

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten short books that are perfect for a quick read

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Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is:

Read In One Sitting Theme: ten of the shortest books I’ve read, top ten books I read in one sitting, ten books to read when you are short on time, top ten books that will make you read the whole day away, etc.

Here are a bunch of great read, all under 200 pages, that I think are excellent ways to sneak in a quick read!

1) Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. 97 pages. An amazing sci-fi adventure with a remarkable African woman as its main character. (Also, the sequel — Binti: Home — is also a short and sweet 176 pages!)

2) Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (179 pages): Simply beautiful. (review)

3) Isis by Douglas Clegg (113 pages): A wonderful, spooky little ghost story.

4) The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett (120 pages): A quirky little novel which imagines Queen Elizabeth suddenly becoming an avid fiction reader.

5) Blockade Billy by Stephen King (112 pages): My edition includes two separate stories, both memorable and worth reading. (review)

6) The Travelling Bag and other Ghostly Stories by Susan Hill (160 pages): A collection of four ghost stories in a pint-sized hardcover edition, easy to read and certain to chill.

7) We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (160 pages): Without meaning to, I seem to have picked some truly creepy books for this list. This book is a gothic horror delight — and I think it’s even better as an audiobook.

8) Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher (163 pages): A quick, funny, quirky look at the ups and down of Carrie Fisher’s life.

9) The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan (211 pages): Okay, slightly over 200 pages, but it’s such a quick read, and so powerful, that it just must be on this list! (review)

10) What’s a TTT list without an Outlander mention? Yes, the Outlander books are HUGE — but the novellas that fit into and alongside the series are not. For quick, wonderful reads sure to delight Outlander fans, check out any of these:

What are your favorite short and quick reads?

Whatever your spin on this week’s topic, please share your link so I can check out your list!

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Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

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The Monday Check-In ~ 3/20/2017

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life:

A blogging note: I’ll be out of town for a week starting next Saturday, so I may or may not keep up with my usual weekly blogging schedule. Let’s play it by ear, shall we?

What did I read last week?

Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs: I LOVED the newest Mercy Thompson book! My review is here.

Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor: This brief novel is a look at the loneliness of aging, as seen through the eyes of a strong woman who moves into a retirement hotel to live out her remaining days. Very sad and sweet, and beautifully written. My review is here.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor: An amazing sci-fi novella! Loved it.

In audiobooks…

Imprudence by Gail Carriger: I finished the 2nd book in the Custard Protocol series — and now what am I supposed to do? I love the series so far, but alas! Book #3 is probably a year away, and I can’t stand having to wait. Terrific series, and the audiobooks are just such fun.

Fresh Catch:

I rediscovered a childhood favorite — check out my post, here.

And I splurged on sci-fi this week, treating myself to four books I’d really been wanting:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:
 

I’m just finishing up the 2nd Binti book, and then I’ll be starting The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry, which is a book club book for this month.

Now playing via audiobook:

West with the Night by Beryl Markham: Changing things up a bit with this classic autobiography. My book club will be discussing this book in April, so I thought I’d get a head start with the audiobook.

Ongoing reads:

MOBYOne Hundred Years of Solitude

My book group is reading and discussing Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon — 2 chapters per week — with an end date coming up in June.

It’s week #6 of Outlander Book Club’s group read of One Hundred Years of Solitude. I’m lagging a bit behind, and may hold off a bit, then do a reading binge.

So many books, so little time…

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Take A Peek Book Review: Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

On a rainy Sunday in January, the recently widowed Mrs. Palfrey arrives at the Claremont Hotel where she will spend her remaining days. Her fellow residents are magnificently eccentric and endlessly curious, living off crumbs of affection and snippets of gossip. Together, upper lips stiffened, they fight off their twin enemies—boredom and the Grim Reaper. Then one day Mrs. Palfrey strikes up an unexpected friendship with Ludo, a handsome young writer, and learns that even the old can fall in love.

 

My Thoughts:

What a lovely book! With beautiful, often sharp, but never mean descriptions, author Elizabeth Taylor presents regal Mrs. Palfrey, a sturdy elderly woman who finds herself alone in the world. Her daughter is rather disinterested, and her lone grandson, whom she’d counted on for regular visits now that she’s moved to London, can’t be bothered. When a sidewalk slip lands her in front of Ludo’s basement apartment, he comes to her rescue and ends up as her stand-in grandson, providing a spark of life in an otherways dreary existence.

The characters are both quirky and sad. Each of the hotel residents has a life they remember fondly as they pass each slow day by sitting in the parlor, waiting for the dinner menu to be posted, and silently criticizing each others’ foibles. I should point out that the synopsis, above and on the back cover, is a little misleading when it describes Mrs. Palfrey as falling in love. That’s not how it struck me at all; the relationship is full of love, but of a different sort. Meanwhile, we see the ups and downs of these people’s lives, trapped together but also quite alone.

While the subject matter strikes a little too close for comfort for me, in relation to recent events with family members, there’s no denying the craft with which the author has created a representation of loneliness and the fear of aging. These characters, hungry for contact with the outside world and desperate for anything new to interrupt the sameness of their days, feel very much true to life and deserving of compassion, even at their most ornery or ridiculous.

Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont is a sweet, touching, short novel, and I look forward to exploring more by this author.

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The details:

Title: Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont
Author: Elizabeth Taylor
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publication date: 1971
Length: 206 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Library

 

About the author:

Elizabeth Taylor (née Coles) was a popular English novelist and short story writer. Elizabeth Coles was born in Reading, Berkshire in 1912. She was educated at The Abbey School, Reading, and worked as a governess, as a tutor and as a librarian.

In 1936, she married John William Kendall Taylor , a businessman. She lived in Penn, Buckinghamshire, for almost all her married life.

Her first novel, At Mrs. Lippincote’s, was published in 1945 and was followed by eleven more. Her short stories were published in various magazines and collected in four volumes. She also wrote a children’s book.

Taylor’s work is mainly concerned with the nuances of “everyday” life and situations, which she writes about with dexterity. Her shrewd but affectionate portrayals of middle class and upper middle class English life won her an audience of discriminating readers, as well as loyal friends in the world of letters.

Blast from the past: Rediscovering a childhood favorite

Back in October, I wrote about an odd phenomenon:

For no reason I could think of, I was suddenly plagued by lines from a childhood poem, and I just could not get them out of my brain. But even worse, I couldn’t remember what book this poem came from, and despite my best efforts online, I was not able to track down the title or the author.

I’ve thought about it on and off ever since, and tried some rare book resource websites, but to no avail. And then, the absolutely amazing Mystereity Reviews (@mystereity) tweeted to let me know that she’d found it!

 

Following the link she provided, I saw the following:

There is a book called “Would You Put Your Money in a Sand Bank” by Harold Longman. It contains a poem about King Max and his taxes that ends with the people putting tacks in Max. Could this be what you’re looking for? The rest of the book is puns and riddles and other poems. – See more at: http://www.whatsthatbook.com/index.php?xq=21020#sthash.IckfiWhT.dpuf
Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes! That’s definitely the poem I wanted! So I went on Amazon and found a used copy, placed my order, and here’s what arrived today:

 

Published in 1968, Would You Put Your Money in a Sand Bank? is a book of puns and wordplay. And there, on page 43, is my long-lost poem! What’s funny is that I don’t recognize anything else about this book — so perhaps just this one poem appeared in an early-reading anthology or something similar. Maybe? Also odd is the fact that I must have read it about a zillion times, and here we are decades later and I still remember big pieces of it by heart — but when I asked my sister if she remembered the poem we always liked to say out loud about a king named Max and all of his taxes, she hadn’t the foggiest notion was I was talking about.

In any case, this just goes to prove that it’s the little things in life that count, because I’m giddy with joy over being reunited with Max’s Taxes. And since I couldn’t find this in print or online anywhere other than in a very old book, I’m going to reprint the entire poem here, for the sake of posterity. I hope you like it!

 

A wicked King named Max
Decreed an income tax.
He put a notice on the wall,
And stuck it up with tacks.

The people cried, “We can’t abide
Either Max or tax!
The outcome is, our income
Won’t even buy us snacks!

“A plague on Max’s taxes!
They’re anything but fair!
He taxes both our income
And our patience , we declare!”

 

So up they rose upon their toes
And seized all Max’s tacks…
Went marching to the palace
And stuck the tacks in Max.

 

Fun, right? I wish I still had learning-to-read kids in my house to share this with… but maybe I’ll go torture my 14-year-old by reading it to him anyway.

And once again, THANK YOU to Mystereity Reviews!

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Another can’t-wait book: The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein

How did I not know about this sooner? Elizabeth Wein, author of the beautiful, powerful Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, has a new book coming out in May! The Pearl Thief centers on a main character from Code Name Verity at an earlier point in her life:

US cover

When fifteen-year-old Julia Beaufort-Stuart wakes up in the hospital, she knows the lazy summer break she’d imagined won’t be exactly like she anticipated. And once she returns to her grandfather’s estate, a bit banged up but alive, she begins to realize that her injury might not have been an accident. One of her family’s employees is missing, and he disappeared on the very same day she landed in the hospital.

Desperate to figure out what happened, she befriends Euan McEwen, the Scots Traveller boy who found her when she was injured, and his standoffish sister Ellen. As Julie grows closer to this family, she experiences some of the prejudices they’ve grown used to firsthand, a stark contrast to her own upbringing, and finds herself exploring thrilling new experiences that have nothing to do with a missing-person investigation.

Her memory of that day returns to her in pieces, and when a body is discovered, her new friends are caught in the crosshairs of long-held biases about Travellers. Julie must get to the bottom of the mystery in order to keep them from being framed for the crime.

In the prequel to Printz Honor Book Code Name Verity, this exhilarating coming-of-age story returns to a beloved character just before she learned to fly.

UK cover

Who else is excited???

Thursday Quotables: Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont

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Welcome to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor
(published 1971)

I’ve been meaning to read more Elizabeth Taylor novels ever since I read her earliest book, At Mrs. Lippincote’s, several years ago.

No, not that Elizabeth Taylor — Elizabeth Taylor, the English novelist who was born in 1912 and died in 1975. And just to make sure we’re all really on the same page, I’m including a picture.

In Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont, an elderly woman moves to a residential hotel to live out the rest of her life. Here’s a description of Mrs Palfrey:

She was a tall woman with big bones and a noble face, dark eyebrows and a neatly folded jowl. She would have made a distinguished-looking man and, sometimes, wearing evening dress, looked like some famous general in drag.

As Mrs Palfrey surveys her new room at the hotel:

When the porter had put down her suitcases and gone, she thought that prisoners must feel as she did now, the first time they are left in their cell, first turning to the window, then facing about to stare at the closed door: after that, counting the paces from wall to wall. She envisaged this briskly.

I’ve only read the first chapter, but so far, I’m very much enjoying the writing and get the sense that this will be a very fun read.

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Add your Thursday Quotables post link in the comments section below… and I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week too.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

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Book Review: Silence Fallen

In the #1 New York Times bestselling Mercy Thompson novels, the coyote shapeshifter has found her voice in the werewolf pack. But when Mercy’s bond with the pack and her mate is broken, she’ll learn what it truly means to be alone…

Attacked and abducted in her home territory, Mercy finds herself in the clutches of the most powerful vampire in the world, taken as a weapon to use against alpha werewolf Adam and the ruler of the Tri-Cities vampires. In coyote form, Mercy escapes only to find herself without money, without clothing, and alone in the heart of Europe…

Unable to contact Adam and the rest of the pack, Mercy has allies to find and enemies to fight, and she needs to figure out which is which. Ancient powers stir, and Mercy must be her agile best to avoid causing a war between vampires and werewolves, and between werewolves and werewolves. And in the heart of the ancient city of Prague, old ghosts rise…

It’s Mercy! It’s Adam! Need I say more?

I’m not sure why I even attempt to write reviews for the books in this series. Because really, all I basically want to say is:

I LOVE THIS SERIES! I LOVE THESE CHARACTERS! IT’S 100% CERTAIN THAT I WILL LOVE EVERY BOOK IN THIS SERIES.

What more do you need to know?

Okay, trying to calm myself now…

Silence Fallen is the 10th book in the amazing, wonderful, and highly addictive Mercy Thompson series, written by the incredibly talented (and fortunately for us, very prolific) Patricia Briggs.

Each book in the series builds upon those that came earlier. Over the course of the series, we’ve seen Mercy find her place in the werewolf pack, assert her own standing among the not-entirely-welcoming wolves, and discover more and more about her own powers and talents. Through it all, we’ve seen her relationship with Alpha werewolf Adam develop from irritating acquaintance to flirtatious ally to a deep and abiding love.

I love Mercy, by the way. In case that wasn’t clear. She’s strong, she’s a fighter, she speaks up for herself, she defends those who need protection, she’s a good and loyal friend… and yet she’s also a vulnerable woman who has had to deal with some majorly awful blows throughout her life.

In Silence Fallen, Mercy and Adam become separated early on due to a vicious kidnapping — and not only are they physically separated, but their psychic bond as mates seems to be broken too. THIS SUCKS. If you’ve read these books, you know about the power of the mating bond and the pack bonds. The idea of these being damaged is terrifying!

Patricia Briggs plays some interesting games with the story in this book. As the couple are apart for most of the story, their chapters are distinct as well — some from Mercy’s point of view, some from Adam’s. In addition, the timeline twists a little bit, with the chapters not necessarily describing events in the proper order. (Don’t worry, it all makes sense once you read it.)

Meanwhile, the settings include Milan and Prague, and Mercy and the gang end up dealing with a whole range of foes and allies, including nasty vampires, varied werewolf packs, witches, goblins, and a very old mystical being that I won’t say more about. (Read the book. You’ll see.)

My only teeny little complaint about Silence Fallen is that Mercy and Adam spend about 90% of it apart, and therefore we don’t get to see their amazing chemisty. Also as a result of the separation, we don’t get much of Mercy’s interactions with the pack — always entertaining — or the internal pack dynamics that add to the fantastic world-building of the series.

Listen, if you’re a Mercy fan, then you’re going to read Silence Fallen. And if you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Mercy yet, I strongly suggest dropping everything else and starting the series from the beginning.

One more thing about Silence Fallen, and I only mention this because I’ve already seen it hinted at in most other reviews I’ve seen so far: This book has an amazing (and pretty adorable) twist in it that just absolutely delighted me. I’m not saying anything else about it. But just know that it’s super fun and awesome and — if you’re a fan — you’ll love this little surprise.

Convinced yet? Go read some Mercy!!!

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The details:

Title: Silence Fallen
Author: Patricia Briggs
Publisher: Ace Books
Publication date: March 7, 2017
Length: 371 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Purchased

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Shelf Control #74: Riding Rockets

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! Fore more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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My Shelf Control pick this week is:

Title: Riding Rockets
Author: Mike Mullane
Published: 2006
Length: 382 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

On February 1, 1978, the first group of space shuttle astronauts, twenty-nine men and six women, were introduced to the world. Among them would be history makers, including the first American woman and the first African American in space. This assembly of astronauts would carry NASA through the most tumultuous years of the space shuttle program. Four would die on Challenger.

USAF Colonel Mike Mullane was a member of this astronaut class, and Riding Rockets is his story — told with a candor never before seen in an astronaut’s memoir. Mullane strips the heroic veneer from the astronaut corps and paints them as they are — human. His tales of arrested development among military flyboys working with feminist pioneers and post-doc scientists are sometimes bawdy, often hilarious, and always entertaining.

Mullane vividly portrays every aspect of the astronaut experience — from telling a female technician which urine-collection condom size is a fit; to walking along a Florida beach in a last, tearful goodbye with a spouse; to a wild, intoxicating, terrifying ride into space; to hearing “Taps” played over a friend’s grave. Mullane is brutally honest in his criticism of a NASA leadership whose bungling would precipitate the Challenger disaster.

Riding Rockets is a story of life in all its fateful uncertainty, of the impact of a family tragedy on a nine-year-old boy, of the revelatory effect of a machine called Sputnik, and of the life-steering powers of lust, love, and marriage. It is a story of the human experience that will resonate long after the call of “Wheel stop.”

How I got it:

I bought it.

When I got it:

2010 or thereabouts.

Why I want to read it:

I have a soft spot for a good space exploration story! I read Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars when it came out, and thought it was hilarious — and I’m pretty sure I either read or heard her recommending this book. Memoirs by people involved in NASA and the space race and the science of space exploration are just so fascinating to me. I really do need to make a point of reading this one!

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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