Top Ten Tuesday: Books that make me smile

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Books That Make Me Smile.

Awwww. Such a happy topic. I’m smiling already, just thinking about creating this list!

Here are ten of my favorite smile-worthy books:

Are you doubting my ability to count to 10? Yes, there are actually 13 books shown, because I’m including an entire series as one choice.

  1. The Finishing School series by Gail Carriger (4 books)
  2. The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
  3. The Android’s Dream by John Scalzi
  4. Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
  5. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
  6. Emma by Jane Austen
  7. Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan
  8. The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
  9. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
  10. A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

Which books make you smile? Do we have any in common?

Please share your links!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten authors I’ve read the most books by

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Authors I’ve Read the Most Books By.

It looks like I did this topic back in 2015, but my reading habits have changed since then — so, new and improved for 2020, here are ten authors whose books dominate my shelves.

Note: The numbers as reflected in Goodreads aren’t entirely reliable, since they include novellas and stand-alone stories that I’ve marked as read as well as actual novels and other published materials. So… take the the numbers below with a grain (or ten) of salt.

Seanan McGuire – 38 

Because I adore the October Daye series and the Incryptid series, as well as her various other novels and novellas and, well, basically anything she writes. And this doesn’t even include the 12 works I’ve read by her alter ego Mira Grant.

 

Jim Butcher – 29

And more coming this year, with two new Dresden Files books releasing this summer and fall! Besides the Dresden books, this number includes Codex Alera, some story collections, and Bigfoot!

 

Dana Stabenow – 27

The Kate Shugak series is at 22 books (and counting), plus there are 4 Liam Campbell books published so far, and I’ve read a collection of her non-fiction travel writing. (Plus, I have more books of hers on my TBR, but who’s counting?)

 

Patricia Briggs – 25

I love the Mercy Thompson series, as well Alpha & Omega, plus I’ve read any and all Mercy-verse stories that have appeared in various anthologies.

 

Diana Gabaldon – 23 

I’m going to keep using this picture, because hey, I met DG once in person and it was awesome!

No, there aren’t 23 books in the Outlander series, but this include the Lord John books, the reference books, and the various novellas and stand-alone stories.

 

Gail Carriger – 23

According to Goodreads, that’s 4 each for the Finishing School and Custard Protocol series, 4 for the Parasol Protectorate, a whole bunch of novellas, and two works published as G. L. Carriger.

 

Stephen King – 21

Considering how many books he’s written, this is just scratching the surface! I don’t think I’ll ever run out of backlist King books to read, not to mention keeping up with the never-ending new releases.

 

Tamora Pierce – 19

I went on a Tamora Pierce reading binge last year, reading basically ALL of her Tortall books, one after another. And loved them all! (Mostly.)

 

John Scalzi – 19

So there’s the Old Man’s War series, the Interdependency trilogy, the Lock In books, and various others too.

 

And finally, one that maybe should go into a separate category…

Robert Kirkman – 33

Because I’ve read the entire Walking Dead series in trade paperback editions, and that’s 32 books, plus one more about Negan.

 

Which authors have you read the most? Do we have any in common?

Please share your links!

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The Monday Check-In ~ 5/11/2020

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.

Wishing all the moms out there a happy Mother’s Day! My family treated me to a nice breakfast, fun phone calls, and a walk… which is about all we can do during these social distancing days. I enjoyed it all!

What did I read during the last week?

Of Literature & Lattes by Katherine Reay: The follow-up novel to The Printed Letter Bookshop. Enjoyable and warm. My review is here.

Defy or Defend (Delightfully Deadly, #2) by Gail Carriger. So much fun! My review is here.

Past Prologue by Diana Gabaldon and Steve Berry: An Outlander-adjacent story collaboration. And yes, Jamie Fraser makes an appearance, making this short story a must-read for all Outlander fans.

Pop culture — Outlander, season 5:

Season 5 of Outlander ended Sunday night. And now Droughtlander begins again. Right after watching, I wrote up my reaction to the season finale. It was a really difficult episode, and I found it hard to talk about.

Outlander, episode 512, “Never My Love” — my reaction post is here.

Other TV watching:

Anyone else watch Netflix’s Hollywood ? It’s so… different from what I expected, and really, really interesting. I watched the whole thing over the weekend (only seven episodes). Patti Lupone’s fabulous performance is a highlight, but really, there’s a lot to take in and enjoy.

Fresh Catch:

No new print books this week… although my Kindle library is growing by leaps and bounds, thanks to all the random price drops that have come my way over the past few weeks.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

If It Bleeds by Stephen King: I’ve read three of the four stories in this collection. Loving it so far! I think I’m going to need to buy myself a copy once I return this one to the library.

Now playing via audiobook:

Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski: The audiobook narrator makes these stories so much fun.

Ongoing reads:

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes: Woo hoo! I made a big effort this week, and now just need to read one more chapter to catch up to my book group!

So many books, so little time…

boy1

Book Review: Defy or Defend by Gail Carriger

Title: Defy or Defend (Delightfully Deadly, #2)
Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher: Gail Carriger LLC
Publication date: May 5, 2020
Length: 240 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A vampire hive descending into madness. A beautiful spy with a sparkly plan. The bodyguard who must keep them from killing each other.

New York Times bestselling romantic comedy author Gail Carriger brings you a charming story of love, espionage, and Gothic makeovers set in her popular Parasolverse.

SPY

Dimity Plumleigh-Teignmott, code name Honey Bee, is the War Office’s best and most decorative fixer. She’s sweet and chipper, but oddly stealthy, and surprisingly effective given the right incentives.

VERSUS KNIGHT

Sir Crispin Bontwee was knighted for his military service, but instead of retiring, he secretly went to work for the War Office. Mostly he enjoys his job, except when he must safeguard the Honey Bee.

Neither one is a vampire expert, but when the Nottingham Hive goes badly Goth, only Dimity can stop their darkness from turning bloody. And only Crispin can stop an enthusiastic Dimity from death by vampire.

In a battle for survival (and wallpaper), Dimity must learn that not all that sparkles is good, while Cris discovers he likes honey a lot more than he thought.

“This intoxicatingly witty parody will appeal to a wide cross-section of romance, fantasy and steampunk fans.” ~ Publishers Weekly, starred review (Soulless)

Spinning off from the Finishing School series, featuring deadly ladies of quality, this story stands alone, but chronologically follows Poison or Protect before the start of the Parasol Protectorate Series. It’s Cold Comfort Farm meets Queer Eye meets What We Do In The Shadows from the hilarious author of the Parasol Protectorate books, perfect for fans of Julia Quinn, Jodi Taylor, or Meljean Brook.

Hurray for Gail Carriger, the almighty parasol, and the ongoing legacy of the Finishing School!

In the Finishing School books (which are AMAZING and which you need to read RIGHT NOW), we meet a group of school girls who are trained in the fine arts of flirtation, social niceties, and assassination (among other important skills).

The author treated us to the 2016 novella Poison or Protect, the first in what I hope will be a long continuing series (Delightfully Deadly). Poison or Protect was all about Preshea, one of the Finishing School girls who as an adult has made a career out of her deadly skills.

Now, with Defy or Defend, we get Dimity’s story! Dimity was one of the quieter characters in the Finishing School books, a good and loyal friend, a fan of sparkling jewels and accessories, not entirely sure that a career in espionage was really what she was looking for.

Picking up her story several years later, Dimity is a young lady with a talent for unearthing all sorts of wonderful intelligence by way of her charm and flirting abilities. She’s a star performer when it comes to undercover work, but she doesn’t ordinarily deal with the supernatural set until she’s assigned a special new case.

The Nottingham vampire hive is in disarray, with their queen in seclusion, their drones all departed, the remaining few vampires in grave danger of going Goth — that is, becoming overly morose and tending toward wearing disturbing amounts of black velvet. This won’t do. A hive out of control is a menace, and if they can’t be fixed, the Bureau for Unnatural Registry may have to send an agent to end the hive and its vampires once and for all.

Dimity is on the job, along with Sir Crispin Bontwee, a former military man who works in intelligence as safety — that would be the muscle, basically. He’s assigned to protect Dimity while she does the more delicate work of infiltrating and saving the hive.

I could go on and on and tell you all the clever and adorable ways in which Dimity saves the day. (Wallpaper and bustles are involved, among other things. And lots of tea, of course.) But I won’t — I’ll leave you to discover the joys of this sweet, lovely story!

Defy or Defend is a completely wonderful and welcome addition to the larger world of the Parasol Protectorate. As always, the author gives up quippy dialogue, great fashion, silliness galore, and unexpected treats. (And there just might be a certain muscular man performing ballet in a tight bathing costume…)

The tone is sexy with just a little steam, nothing particularly graphic but certainly some sexual content described in non-explicit terms. Which is fine — the characters are warm and likable and we just want them to be happy!

As a bonus for fans of Carriger’s world, a few other familiar faces show up for fun cameos. I suppose that’s one of the perks of writing about immortal supernatural beings — you can set your story in whatever decade you’d like, and still have a favorite character make an appearance!

Defy or Defend is really a fun read, and will definitely lift your spirits. Here’s hoping for many, many more Delightfully Deadly books ahead!

The Monday Check-In ~ 5/4/2020

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.

Another week. What is there to say? Working hard (at home, of course)… but at least we had a good few days of sunshine, so I was able to get in some long walks and feel the fresh air on my face!

Oh, and I started a new jigsaw puzzle — first one in a while. It’s making me happy.

What did I read during the last week?

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay: Uplifting novel with a bookstore setting — always a plus! My review is here.

Educated by Tara Westover: I listened to the audiobook of this memoir, and was completely fascinated by it. My review is here.

The Last Emperox by John Scalzi: An awesome wrap-up to a terrific sci-fi trilogy! My review is here.

Read but not reviewed:

Long Story Short by Lisa Brown: Lisa Brown’s 3-panel book review comics used to appear in the book section of my local paper (back when the paper still had a book section, which it no longer does…). Anyhoo, I always enjoyed these literary comics, so I thought I’d treat myself to the newly released book version. It’s fun, but I have to be honest and say that I’m a little mad at myself for spending money on this, when I’m trying to budget my book buying. I flipped through it in about 20 minutes, and now I’m done. Some of the comics are very clever, others made little impression. I think this would be a great gift for a booklover, but I’m not convinced I needed to buy it for myself. Moving on.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling: Yes, I’ve read the tales plenty of times already, but this is a new Audible production, featuring HP cast members such as Warwick Davis, Jude Law, Jason, Isaacs, and more. The audiobook is short (1.5 hours), and includes Dumbledore’s commentary on each story. Totally fun way to experience these “classic” tales all over again!

Pop culture — Outlander, season 5:

Season 5 of Outlander is almost over. As usual, I wrote up my thoughts on this week’s episode:

Outlander, episode 511, “Journeycake” — my reaction post is here.

Next week is the season finale!

Other TV watching:

Never Have I Ever on Netflix is sweet, funny, touching — a must-watch! And it’s only 10 half-hour episodes, so it’s easy to gulp down over a couple of days.

And… I watched Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Mixed feelings on this one. I binged all of GG’s seven seasons during the past year, and loved the characters and the story so much (except for certain parts and occurrences that I’d prefer to ignore). A Year in the Life takes place ten years after the regular series, and while it was great to see these beloved characters again, it also made me sad. Sad to see how much older everyone is, sad to see that life hasn’t turned out perfectly for everyone, and sad because of certain losses that have occurred. (Also, sad to see some body-shaming going on, which just is not in good taste, but that’s a different kind of sad!). I’m really glad I watched, but I’m left with some dissatisfaction too, and wish there could be more!

Fresh Catch:

My signed copy of Defy or Defend arrived! Thank you Gail Carriger and Borderlands Books! I’m so excited to start this!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Of Literature & Lattes by Katherine Reay: After finishing The Printed Letter Bookshop, I just had to start this book, which is set in the same small town and has many of the same characters. I’m at about 50%, and it’s charming.

Now playing via audiobook:

Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski: I was feeling the need for a little more Witcher in my life right now. These audiobooks are so much fun!

Ongoing reads:

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes: My book group is reading two chapters per week. I managed to read a little more, but I’m still six or seven chapters behind.

Past Prologue by Diana Gabaldon and Steve Berry: Also in book group, we’re doing a group read of this short story featuring the King of Men (Jamie Fraser).

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 9/16/2019

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. 

I’m down to the last two weeks in a cast. I’m much better at functioning with one hand — but I’ll be happy to move on.

What did I read during the last week?

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow: Lovely story. My review is here.

Reticence by Gail Carriger: I finished the audiobook last week. My review is here.

Pop Culture

I just finished season 2 of Veronica Mars last night. Now what? I know I’ll probably end up continuing straight on to season 3, but not without some qualms. I remember hating that season when it originally aired and swore to pretend it never happened… but for continuity’s sake, I guess I can’t ignore it forever. Sigh.

Fresh Catch:

My two most highly anticipated releases for fall 2019 both came out this week! My book mail made me very happy.

Also, a family member who shares my interest in true-life survival stories sent me this book this week:

Looks terrific! I think I’m going to save it for my flights to and from a conference later this month.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood: I’ve made it through about half so far, and I’m loving it.

Now playing via audiobook:

Doing an audiobook re-read of Carry On before the release of the sequel. I can’t believe how much I’d forgotten about the story… but that’s okay, it gives me a chance to be surprised and entertained all during my listening adventure.

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing book group reads right now:

  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens — I’ve basically given up on keeping up with our group read of this book, but since I’m determined to finish it, I’m switching over to Serial Reader and tackling it in small daily chunks instead.
  • Virgins by Diana Gabaldon — I’ve read this novella a couple of times before, but it’s great fun to reread it with the group. We’ll be done by the end of the month.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

Audiobook Review: Reticence by Gail Carriger (The Custard Protocol, #4)

Dueling covers: US version

 

Bookish and proper Percival Tunstell finds himself out of his depth when floating cities, spirited plumbing, and soggy biscuits collide in this delightful conclusion to NYT bestselling author Gail Carriger’s The Custard Protocol series.

Percival Tunstell loves that his sister and her best friend are building themselves a family of misfits aboard their airship, The Spotted Custard. Of course, he’d never admit that he belongs among them. He’s always been on the outside — dispassionate, aloof, and hatless. But accidental spies, a trip to Japan, and one smart and beautiful doctor may have him renegotiating his whole philosophy on life.

Except hats. He’s done with hats. Thank you very much.

Reticence is a fun, enjoyable wrap-up to a delicious series. The Custard Protocol is four books of fluffy good times, as an odd crew of misfits and eccentrics set sail through the aether on their giant spotted dirigible, seeking danger and adventure all around the globe.

In Reticence, the last remaining unmatched member of the Spotted Custard’s officers finally meets his true love in the form of Dr. Arsenic Ruthven, a Scottish doctor whose no-nonsense approach and absolute devotion to learning and libraries secures her a spot in Percy’s antisocial little heart.

As Arsenic learns to love the crew and vice versa, they set off on a trip first to Egypt and then to Japan, seeking out more supernatural shapeshifters and a missing spy, and discovering all sorts of new and exciting mysteries to solve. With plenty of explosions, tea, and parasols along the way.

As the conclusion to both the Custard Protocol series and, it would appear, the Parasol-verse at large, Reticence features cameos by a who’s who of characters from all of the related books (including the Parasol Protectorate and Finishing School series). Because really, how could we possibly leave this amazing world without one more check-in with Alexia, Conall, Ivy, Lord Akeldama, not to mention Sophronia, Lady Kingair, and more?

Dueling covers: UK version

The adventure itself is fun, and seeing Percy lose his heart in the most awkward way possible is highly entertaining. With Percy at center stage, I did miss spending time with Rue and Quesnel, who are much more my favorites, and the wonderful character Tasherit spends most of this book literally asleep.

Once again, the audiobook is a total delight — so much so that I can’t imagine enjoying this series quite so much on the printed page. Narrator Moira Quirk is outstanding, giving each character a unique voice, capturing the silliness to perfection, and keeping the action sequences exciting and easy to follow.

I’m sorry to see the series come to a close. I know there are more related novellas in the works, but I do hope the esteemed Ms. Carriger decides to treat us to yet more full-length books (or, dare I suggest, four-book series?) set in this oh-so-special world. The Custard Protocol is a treat. Highly recommended.

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The details:

Title: Reticence (The Custard Protocol, #4)
Author: Gail Carriger
Narrator: Moira Quirk
Publisher: Orbit
Publication date: August 6, 2019
Length (print): 339 pages
Length (audiobook): 12 hours, 21 minutes
Genre: Fantasy/steampunk
Source: Purchased

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The Monday Check-In ~ 9/9/2019

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. 

Three more weeks in a cast! I’m ready to be done… but patience is a virtue.

Meanwhile, I entertained myself with a jigsaw puzzle — my first one in years! And naturally, it’s book-related:

But now all I have left are the white parts around the edge, and I really don’t want to deal. Can my completist nature allow me to just walk away? And hey, if you’re interested in this puzzle (which is really quite fun), you can find it here.

What did I read during the last week?

The Unkindest Tide by Seanan McGuire. The newest Toby book! I loved it, of course. My review is here.

Reticence by Gail Carriger: The 4th and final book in the Custard Protocol series! I finished the audiobook — review to follow.

Pop Culture

My Veronica Mars rewatch/binge continues! After finishing season 1, I moved right along to season 2. I’m now 6 episodes into the 2nd season, and loving it all over again.

Fresh Catch:

What do you know? No new books this week! Which is good, since the new Margaret Atwood and Stephen King books will be released this week, and those should keep me plenty busy.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Ten Thousand Door of January by Alix E. Harrow: Just starting. What a gorgeous cover!

Now playing via audiobook:

Doing a quick audiobook re-read of Carry On, so I’ll be nice and ready for Wayward Son when it comes out later this month.

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing book group read right now:

  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens — To tell the truth, I’m always falling behind on the group read, mainly because this book just isn’t grabbing me. It was endearing at first, but now I just basically want it to end. And I still have about a third to go.
  • Virgins by Diana Gabaldon — I’ve read this novella a couple of times before, but it’s great fun to reread it with the group. We’ll be done by the end of the month.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 9/2/2019

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. 

On the road to recovery! I’m adjusting to life in a cast — which is good, since I’ll be wearing it through the end of September. I’ve even bought myself a few cute cast covers, (a) to keep it clean and (b) to make wearing it a bit more fun. Here’s an example:

It feels like it’s been a slower reading week, probably because I went back to work and couldn’t spend quite as much time with my nose in a book!

What did I read during the last week?

The Warehouse by Rob Hart: Fun, not as dark as I’d expected. My review is here.

Word Puppets by Mary Robinette Kowal: A really enjoyable short story collection. My review is here.

I finished my audiobook re-read of Night and Silence, the 12th book in the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire — and adored it just as much the 2nd time around as I did the first time I read it. My original review is here.

Pop Culture

After watching the newest season of Veronica Mars, I wanted more (despite that ending…), so I’ve gone back to the beginning and am slowly working my way through season 1. The actors/characters are all so adorable and baby-faced!

Fresh Catch:

I picked up used copies of two non-fiction books this week:

Scatter, Adapt, and Remember was referenced in Wanderers by Chuck Wendig, and how could I possibly resist? It sounds fascinating! The San Francisco book is written by an author who writes a great weekly column on SF history, and I thought it was about time to give his book a try.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Unkindest Tide by Seanan McGuire: It’s the new Toby book!!! I’m so flipping excited to be reading this.

Now playing via audiobook:

Even though I bought a hardcover copy of this book, I decided to listen to it instead, since I’ve loved the other audiobooks in the series. I just started it this weekend, but I’m loving it so far.

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing book group read right now:

  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
  • Virgins by Diana Gabaldon

So many books, so little time…

boy1

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Book Characters I’d Love to Be Besties With

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Book Characters I’d Love to Be Besties With. For me, this translates pretty much to characters I think are talented or cool or fun — just awesome people I’d want to spend time with (even though some of them are WAY out of my league in terms of supernatural abilities, but anyway…

 

1. Claire Fraser, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: Of course. A strong, passionate woman, who’s creative, smart, and scientific.

2. Sophronia Temminnick, The Finishing School series by Gail Carriger: A true friend, who’ll defend you to the death. With a bladed fan, if necessary.

3. Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery: Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to have a friend like Anne during our childhoods?

4. Hermione Granger, Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling: I love Hermione, and I always felt a little bad that she didn’t have more girl friends at Hogwarts. I’d sign up in a second to be her partner for Herbology or Potions, or just to hang in the common room or the library.

5. October Daye, October Daye series by Seanan McGuire: Toby is all sorts of awesome, and I’d love to just live in her world for a while. And maybe hang out with May and the Luidaeg too.

6. Anna Cornick, Alpha & Omega series by Patricia Briggs: I love so much about Anna, especially her devotion to her loved ones, her inner calm, her ability to bring peace, and her fierceness when her mate and her pack are threatened.

7. Verity Price, Incryptid series by Seanan McGuire: A competitive ballroom dancer who’s also a master of weaponry and free running? Yes. Just all sorts of yes.

8. Lara Jean Covey, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han: Lara Jean is so sweet and fun, and would probably be hilarious to hang out with in high school.

9. Elma York, The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal: Elma is amazing! She’s got Ph.D.s in math and physics, loves to fly planes, and is determined to go into space. She’s brave, loving, and smarter than I can even comprehend.

10. June/Offred, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: If I had to live in a horrifying dystopian misogynistic society, it would be a good idea to have a tough rebel like June by my side! (I realize I may be combining the book and TV characters in my head, but so be it.)

What fictional characters would you want as your bestie? Please share your links!

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