Summer Reading List

Much like Dobby, Lindsay is free! I’ve graduated from my Master’s program; I’ve been offered a teaching position (about which I am jazzed); I have a summer job in the meantime. Currently, I have no homework, no “I should be working on *insert school task here.*” I don’t remember the last time I had my life together to this degree and I just needed a moment to bask and brag. Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the books I plan to devour this summer!

My Goodreads challenge goal was to complete 52 books this year, or roughly one per week. I’m currently making slow progress on a rather voluptuous tome, so the progress is slow-going at the moment, but I hope to complete at least 10 books in the 12ish weeks of summer. This list is not a promise, but more so a projection; thus, it is subject to change if a more enticing option presents itself, but I will try at least to maintain (some) variety.

Winger – Andrew Smith: I made a promise that I will read this one at some point this year on my New Year’s Recommendations post. It feels like all my MAT cohort-mates have read it and loved it, and I need to get more “bro books” under my belt. Feels like a summer read to me!
Tags: YA, realistic fiction, contemporary, 1st in series

Babylon’s Ashes – James S. A. Corey: No surprise here. I remain obsessed with the Expanse Series and, whereas all my other copies are paperbacks, I recently broke down and bought the hardcover copy of Book 6 cuz I NEEDS IT NOW!! Needless to say, starting with this one.
Tags: Adult fiction, scifi/fantasy, “space opera,” mid-series

Sons of Ares – Pierce Brown: Again, hold your surprise. Wherever Pierce goes, I go. This one is a comic book, so it is proving to be allusive and I will ultimately have to order it online since none of my local book stores or comic shops have it. Wassup with that??
Tags: Comic, fiction, scifi/fantasy, prequel

Under the Banner of Heaven – Jon Krakauer: Krakauer is another author I’ll follow to the ends of the Earth. I need to get more nonfiction under my belt, and I already know I like Krakauer’s style and the subject matter sounds fascinating, so count me in.
Tags: Adult historical nonfiction, mystery/true crime, religion

Meddling Kids – Edgar Cantero: From what I can tell, this one is a spin off of Scooby-Doo, which was my lifeblood as a kid (and still today). This one could have been written FOR ME or could be the most insulting thing I’ve ever read. I have high hopes, since I found it in my endless search for scary books. Like, I want some real horror! Is that so much to ask?! It’ll be published in July, so I have time to psyche myself up for some good ol’ Mystery Gang fun.
Tags: Adult fiction, horror, mystery, fantasy

Dark Matter – Blake Crouch: The hubby read this one recently (which means BONUS, we already own it!) and liked it. I know there has been a lot of buzz about it and I missed the initial gravy train, but I’m happy to jump on to the caboose. Hopefully, it’ll be a nice thriller? I actually know nothing about it…
Tags: Adult fiction, scifi, thriller, mystery

Waking Gods – Sylvain Neuvel: This is the sequal to Sleeping Giants, which I read around this time last year and really enjoyed. We all know I’m a scifi junkie, so this one is purely for my enjoyment and I cannot wait. As a matter of fact, I think I’ll go grab a copy today so the motivation to read it can propel me through Babylon’s Ashes even faster!
Tags: Adult fiction, scifi/fantasy, 2nd is series

Rise of the Rocket Girls – Nathalia Holt: Again, my attempt to intake more nonfiction leads me to this text. It sounds remarkably similar to Hidden Figures but I’ve heard that Hidden Figures is actually rather boring (I haven’t read it, so this is just hearsay), so I think I’ll give this one a try. Sounds empowering!
Tags: Adult historical nonfiction, feminism, science/space

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak: I assume it will surprise everyone that I haven’t read this. I’m known to devour WWII literature and this one had its hayday recently when it became a movie. I didn’t see that either, so I’m blissfully ignorant of the details and will now consume it.
Tags: YA, historical fiction, WWII/war

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury: I don’t know how I went this long without reading this, but I need to now. I love Bradbury, so I’m optimistic. Classics revival!
Tags: Adult fiction, classics, dystopian

I’d love to know what everyone else is reading this summer. Any thoughts on my choices? Replacement options? Comment or link so I can see what everyone is up to and maybe even make some swaps.

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Re-reading Things Because I Must: “Jekyll & Hyde”

I went back and looked; I wrote four papers with four different arguments on The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I think my attraction to Gothic literature meant I was already inclined to like the story, but I also assume that dissecting it in order to argue those various points forced a familiarity with the text that borders on friendship.

When I realized I would be teaching it this year, I immediately began wondering what overall “unit idea” I could apply to J&H so that I could start planning supplementary texts. “Gothic lit” was an obvious choice, but so what? Like with the Brutality unit, I wanted an idea that would matter on a larger scale; thus, this unit became the Unreliable Narrator unit. As always, the goal is not only that students learn from and analyze the text in ways that prepare them for tests and cultural references (after all, J&H has been adapted over 100 times), but I also want to ensure that students find larger meaning that applies to their lives and places within society. It was easier to lead them to find relevance with the brutality unit, but I had to work harder with the Unreliable Narrator unit.

Like with the Brutality unit, I had one mandatory primary text, but could weave in assorted secondary short stories. We started with Truman Capote’s “Miriam,” but they read it on their own time and had to include annotations. The intention was that they annotate on the first reading, postulating on what will happen and then after they read the big surprise ending, go back and re-read, annotating again, but this time noting the moments that foreshadow or reveal who or what Miriam is. We finished that work with a Socratic Seminar, which lead to some awesome conversations from the class. At the end, I asked what made the narrator unreliable, if anything. Unanimously, the students agreed that they weren’t sure what it was, but something about Mrs. Miller that isn’t quite right or trustworthy. Mental Illness of some sort was the ultimate popular vote.

We read Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” in class. This one was difficult for them. The language is old and elevated, so we listened to an audio version (alleviating the risk of round-robin mispronunciations or listening to my man voice the whole time) and I frequently paused it in order to deconstruct some of the more confusing moments. This just reminded me that my love for Poe is not universal and maybe (definitely) it would be beneficial to spend a day going through Poe’s language, giving examples and having them break them down into current translations, as is often beneficial with Shakespeare. I think if we had been able to lessen the intensity of the language, they would have liked it way more. In order to impress upon them how much perspective changes the story, I had the class complete a worksheet that would analyze how certain moments would change if told from Fortunato’s perspective instead of Montresor’s. This actually ended up being more difficult for this 9th Honors group than I had thought it would be, but I think that could be alleviated with more practice within more works.

They all agreed that Montresor was unreliable since he showed clear bias, was blinded by revenge, and might also be mentally unstable. Perf. That’s when I hit them with Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.” I didn’t have hard copies and I didn’t want to murder a million trees, so we utilized ActivelyLearn.com. This was my first time using this website and I really liked it. They offer a lot of the classics for free and you just set up a class, import some notes, links, and questions (some works come with them already), and assign it. They read at their own pace, answering questions as they went along, and I was able to see all their answers, give feedback, or prompt them to think harder and re-answer, as well as grade quickly and easily.

Everybody felt strongly about this text, but in what way varied. Some didn’t understand it and were frustrated by it. Some appreciated the articles and questions about women’s roles that I embedded, and were similarly frustrated. Others loved the evident downward spiral of the narrator’s sanity and enjoyed it thoroughly. I enjoyed being able to track their understanding of the narrator’s reliability through their answers to my questions. Some read the story at face value, believing the claims that the room was a nursery, despite the fleeting mentions of bars on the windows, rings in the walls, and the bed being nailed to the floor. That’s fine. We never truly know otherwise. But through discussion, they were able to identify why the narrator’s assumptions might not be reliable and what the other evidence might imply.

Artifact 5Actively Learn #2

The unreliability of Gilman’s narrator was obvious. But what about J&H? Mr. Utterson narrates a large portion of the tale and his mental capacity is never called into question. However, when I opened this question to the class, they pointed out that the point of view meant that the events were being delivered from an outsider’s perspective. We only know what Utterson knows about Jekyll and Hyde, so we see it as he sees it. Some information is missing due to that simple fact. These kids are so smart.

Ultimately, I got to the end of the unit and asked, “ok, so what? Why talk about this? How does your understanding of the narrator affect the overall story?”

I was stared at for a very pregnant pause (something I’m learning to allow, since it benefits no one for me to ask a question and then answer it myself since they’re taking too long). Eventually, students began to propose answers to the question: some suggested that they read these works in order to better understand others’ perspectives; another postulated that I wanted them to consider how a person’s experiences may affect his or her point of view and, thus, the story; ultimately, I finished by encouraging them to question everything, taking in all the details from all the perspectives in order to form their own educated opinions. Each of these overall lessons shows me that these students finished the unit more thoughtful and understanding than they began it. In and of itself, that is a tremendous success. Yes, they can pass the tests. Yes, they’ll understand that calling someone “Mr. Hyde” is a literary insult. Yes, they’ll identify the good side vs. evil side trope in popular culture. But they’ll also, hopefully, think for themselves and do their research before just believing something they’re told. It’s an all-around success.

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L: Reviews of Smith’s “Grasshopper Jungle” and Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Lots to talk about, so let’s get started.

Review of Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle:

First things first:

This is the truth. This is history. It’s the end of the world. And nobody knows anything about it. You know what I mean.

In the small town of Ealing, Iowa, Austin and his best friend, Robby, have accidentally unleashed an unstoppable army. An army of horny, hungry, six-foot-tall praying mantises that only want to do two things.

Immediate thoughts upon finishing: “Now THAT was an ending.” I’ve written before about how endings of books or series often feel like afterthoughts, like the author planned in vivid detail the exposition, rising action, and climax and then threw a good enough but unsatisfying resolution onto the end and called it a day. Smith’s ending to the long and complicated saga that was Grasshopper Jungle was completely unexpected and utterly satisfying.

Since the Goodreads synopsis was wildly insufficient, I’ll elaborate by saying that the main character is sixteen-year-old Austin, who is navigating puberty in an ungraceful but painfully honest chronicle of what he calls “the end of the world.” Austin dates Shann. Austin is in love with Shann. Austin’s best friend is Robby. Austin is also in love with Robby. As if that isn’t complicated enough, Austin and Robby accidentally set in motion a series of events that lead to a world-wide epidemic and they’re the only ones who can save the world.

Sounds familiar, right? Yes, it sounds like every other YA book where the world and the fate of humanity rests on only slightly qualified teens. That’s the popular fantasy: the hero’s journey; “in a world of 7 billion, I’m special.” I get it. We all want to feel like there is something that sets us apart, so it’s no wonder this is such a popular theme in YA lit. The thing about Grasshopper Jungle, though, is that it’s absolutely ridiculous and it knows it. Almost as though making fun of the hero’s journey, our narrator, Austin, is a freaking mess of a boy. He’s faced with the likely end of the world and all he can think about are typical teenage boy things; it’s unrealistic to assume that weight of the world suddenly forces maturity, so he’s thinking about the end of the world and also threesomes or whether presidents poop or what he should name his testicles or his Polish lineage.

I’ve seen people criticize that it’s too weird and it jumps around too much. Yes, it’s weird; no doubt about that. Yes, it jumps around. Smith incorporates so much backstory and ancestry and parallel character lines into the story that, at times, he spends a whole page describing all the many ways that everything is connected. Without knowing it, everything, everywhere, and everyone involved is connected. If you go into reading this seeing the value in that, you’ll be fine. Let me be clear in saying that this book will NOT bee for everyone. Read this if you like and/or don’t mind the following: YA Contemp. Lit, small town stories, sexuality exploration, heritage exploration, hero’s journey, giant bugs, graphic detail, adventure, and action. It was a little long for my taste and I often had trouble relating, but I never had trouble enjoying it.

Review of Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale:”

Go ahead and start practicing your “sick” phone voice, because you need to call in sick to work tomorrow.

Last summer I read Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and had a lot of feelings. I’ve been seeing the *COMING SOON* ads for Hulu’s adaptation of the tale and I finally penciled in a day where the hubby was away long enough for me to binge the three released episodes. Reliving this story is, again, an emotional rollercoaster. I refuse to say that the show is better than the novel. Won’t say it. I WILL, however, say that they are so incredibly different that I can’t imagine how I existed with only one instead of both.

I’ve been trying to think of how to verbalize how different they are and I think it hinges on seeing it. When you’re reading something, you visualize it; for Handmaid, visualizing it was about imagining what it would look like to be oppressed and owned. Offred gave detail in a way that almost felt blasé to me. I think that was purposeful, on Atwood’s part, since our narrator had been living in this oppressed state and was used to punishment going along with speaking out, standing up, or even remembering. Our narrator has to be cautious and callous, since failing to get her *ish* together could get her killed. I have never experienced Offred’s horrific circumstances nor have I (yet) lived in a society where I have anything but complete freedom. Thus, imagining and visualizing could only take me so far.

The show, however, forces perspective. Offred’s experiences are right in your face, for better or for worse, so you MUST acknowledge them for what they are. Raw. A Dystopia at its finest. While the book allowed you to escape since it felt like it was all in the past, the show forces you to parallel the society with today, meaning that you, the viewer, have to acknowledge that this regression of freedoms is still entirely possible. It lays it all out via flashbacks and inner thoughts, detailing how the government tricked the public into thinking that a terrorist cell attacked and individual rights are being suspended in order to protect citizens. You see the brutality; you see the consequences; you see respectable individuals fight and beg for today’s basic rights; you see the 1% thrive and the 99% suffer. This is exactly the show that we all need to be watching right now.

Has anyone else seen it? I got a lot of buzz on my review of the novel, so I’d love to know if those same souls and others have feelings on the show. Talk to me!

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R&D – Greek Edition

What’s better than getting lost in the expansive world of Greek Mythology? I can tell you: it’s getting lost on Mount Olympus with one of these cocktails.

Edith Hamilton’s Mythology isn’t a new release; in fact, it was originally published in 1942. But ol’ Edith knows how to make her books as timeless as the original myths. This book isn’t just a read for pleasure. She has structured this book so well it is a great reference guide to use during classes or for an beginner to learn all the basics. She also includes the Latin forms of the Gods, some latin mythology stories, and as a bonus, Norse mythology as well! Exciting, when you recall that Thor is a norse god.

She draws upon the original poems (Homer, Euripides, Sophocles, Ovid, etc.)  and myths but translates them into plain and easy-to-understand english. Of course some of the flowery language is lost, but what is left is the pure tale of all gods, goddesses, and monsters that so fascinated the Greeks. She includes stories of the original woman scorned, Medea; the world’s worst hairdo, Medusa; poor Odysseus and his 10 year journey home; and the drama of fighting over Helen of Troy, the world’s most beautiful woman.

This cocktail is inspired by Persephone, the maiden of spring, and her darling suitor, Hades, god of the underworld. Hades fell in love with Persephone and tricked her into coming into the Underworld to be his Queen. Her mother, Demeter, was relentless in her search to find her daughter. Nine days she wandered, but finally the Sun told her the truth. Demeter, the goddess of corn, was distraught. In her grief, nothing grew. No seeds for harvest and the Greeks began to die of starvation. At last, Zeus (….please tell me you know who Zeus is) sent a messenger to retrieve Persephone from the underworld. Before she left, Hades tricked her into eating a pomegranate seed; he knew if she did, she must return to him. He was right; Zeus commanded that Persephone must spend a third part of the year in Hades, thus creating winter, and once she ascended back to Demeter, spring would begin.

Now your refresher in Greek Mythology is complete, so pop the cork and enjoy this fizzy refresher!

GreekRD

Pomegranate Champagne Cocktail
1 ounce chilled pomegranate juice
3 ounces champagne
pomegranate seeds for garnish

Pour juice into champagne flute. Slowly top with the bubbly. Garnish with seeds. Enjoy!

Novel | Cocktail | Glasses | Ice Bucket | Coaster | Bottle Opener | Bar Tools

Cheers!
-H

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Small Space Bookcase

This week has been an emotional one. I’m less than 2 weeks away from having my Master’s, I’m applying for jobs (as in like, the real deal), and my hubby and I had a big shift in perspective about our futures.

We have never been… conventional. That’s not to knock conventional! Things usually become the norm for good reason. However, we have been thinking about buying a home for years and something has always held us back. Yes, that “something” has generally been our existing lease, but even when we talked and planned, it felt like we were discussing compromises more than opportunities. I’ll be up front with you all, we’re going to have a humble budget. And as we should! At the end of the day, I’m a teacher and the hubs will eventually get his nursing degree, so we have no delusions of grandeur. I’ve always imagined myself living in a small cottage (with Hannah and a million puppies, but I digress), so when my husband suggested that we guy land and construct a yurt, it was one of those EUREKA (*insert mental image of a light bulb lighting up*) moments.

OF COURSE!! Land and privacy have always trumped square footage for me, plus it would give us the space and opportunity to work with solar panels, composting, and other “off the grid” tools. Needless to say, literally from that moment on, I have functioned in society while dedicating a (sometimes small, other times large) portion of my thoughts to yurt life. I won’t go into detail about all the many things we’ve had to consider since this is a book blog, but you can probably see where this going. Reducing my living space risks book space! I won’t lie to you; this was a huge consideration for me. Although the prospect of getting rid of needless items thrills me, books are not needless. I cannot live in a space that does not afford space for the wellsprings of my life. Thus, an obsession was born: the tiny space bookcase.

One thing you have to plan for with small spaces is that every inch of that space needs to be considered for utility, storage, or both. Things like staircases to the loft should never just be stairs. That’s a perfect space to allow for maximized usage.

Don’t forget about wall space. Now, a yurt will have roof studs for hanging shelving and lattice walls that won’t support much weight. That space still needs to be used, though, so leaning or standing shelves can serve the purpose.

We’ll have a few walls that will separate the bad and bath areas, so there will be precious small room for hanging things. This means bookcases and shelves need to be able to hold books, pictures, and potted plants (I aim for our home to look like Fern Gully always). There are sets like this one that you can buy online, but you only have to be moderately skilled with a screwdriver to buy the materials and do it yourself.

One thing that excites me is that the rolling ladder as seen in Beauty and the Beast is a distinct possibility. A 30′ yurt will allow for a pretty sizable loft space and we want a ladder for accessing it. If we use the wall built for the aforementioned bed/bath, we can create shelving across the whole wall with a rolling ladder so we can access books on the living side and dishes in the kitchen area. It’s not only possible, but practical!

Another consideration for having a tiny space, be it a yurt, a “tiny home” construction, or even a converted storage container, is security. Of course, whatever structure we choose will be secured and monitored, but you can never be too sure that your most valued possessions are safe. I found this idea on Pinterest and it would be a great addition to our small space, or any home!

Is anyone else rocking a small space bookcase? Let’s have a look!

 

 

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Book Tag: New York Times by the Book

As mentioned earlier, we were graciously nominated for this book tag by Dr. Awkto at The Inky Awkto. Thanks so much! These are always so much fun and such a nice change of pace amongst my blathering about teaching and books. Let’s go!

What book is on your nightstand right now?

I have several books on my nightstand right now. I’m finishing up Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles (so Bekah and I can do another podcast. SPACE BOOKS!); I’ve paused The Perks of Being a Wallflower since it makes me supremely uncomfortable, but it’s there to remind me that it’s unfinished; and lastly, Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle is next for me, so it is sitting there to motivate me to hurry.

22466429What was the last truly great book you read?

David Arnold’s Kids of Appetite. I got this book at ALAN and I now wish I had run around to find David Arnold and talk to him, since his writing style is just a seamless flow of sarcastic but meaningful thoughts and dialogue. I fancy myself sarcastic but meaningful, so I imagine our convo would’ve been book worthy.

If you could meet one author (living or dead), who would it be? What would you ask?

Tolkien, obvs. I think I’d have to ask “What the heck is Tom Bombadil?! Man? Spirit? Nature or Time itself?! Tell meeeeee!”

What books might we be surprised to see on your shelf?

I think the only book I’ve read that surprised someone (presh student) was a book on bird watching. I did a great deal of bird watching in college, so I’ve combed through the National Geographic Birds of North America guide more than a time or two.

How do you organize your personal library?

I have (currently) 3 major bookshelves. The main bookshelf is the one that I made with my father. It has a sort of jigsaw style and each shelf means something. It is where I house my favorites, not like “oh, I enjoyed that” but like, “this book changed me.” Thus, it is home to HP, LOTR, & RR, plus Dracula, Jekyll/Hyde, Frankenstein, Beowulf and all their friends.

The other two bookshelves are arranged with textbooks (my teaching and the hubby’s medical texts), adult fiction and non-fiction that we will keep, and young adult texts that will eventually move to my classroom. Which means I need another bookcase!!

What book have you always meant to read but haven’t gotten around to yet?

All of them, right?! If I had to pick one, I guess it would be Heart of Darkness or some other classic that I just haven’t yet met.

22752127Disappointing, overrated, just not good: what book did you feel you were supposed to like but didn’t?

I hate to say it but I really couldn’t get into The Serpent King. I wrote about it in a recent post, so I’ll spare you the many details, but suffice it to say that it made me sad in a way that didn’t feel… productive??

What kind of stories are you drawn to?

I try to be versatile, but when the choice is mine, I usually pick up something related to WWII or the Holocaust, be it fiction or non, or a scifi/fantasy work.

If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?

This is dicey and I try to avoid politics, so I’ll just say that I’d recommend All American Boys and be done with it.

What do you plan to read next?

As mentioned above, Grasshopper Jungle is awaiting my attention.

Thanks again for the nomination and I hope you all enjoyed this interlude from the teacher ruminations. That simply leaves me to the nominations, so here they are!

The Orangutan Librarian, Read Voraciously, The Critiquing Chemist, Zezee with Books

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Re-reading Things Because I Must: “Lord of the Flies”

Many years ago, not long after Hannah and I started this blog, I ruminated on how the simple task of assigning a text to a high school student pretty much guarantees that said student will HATE said book, not because it is particularly hatable, but because it is mandatory. Interestingly enough, I wrote this long before I decided to become a teacher, so not only do I now think I have some level of prophetic ability, but 40+ hours a week, I’m just swimming in the relevancy of that statement.

Everything I got to teach this year, I had read previously. See my Re-Read or Not post to review my feelings on this. We started the semester talking about To Kill a Mockingbird, which was as heavy as ever. We then moved on to Lord of the Flies, a text about which I blogged and faithful readers might recall that it ended with the statement, “I’ll never pick it up again.” PSYCH! I did pick it up again, but only because I had to do so in order to make sure that when my students had questions, I was able to answer them. When my students didn’t understand the text, I was able to explain it. When they didn’t see the point in reading it, I was able to prompt them to think about it another way.

I’ll go ahead and say that I still do not like this book. Most of the kids did not like it, either. HOWEVER, through teaching it with a central theme and alongside supplementary texts, I truly do see why it is still relevant to be read by young readers. Students started the unit reflecting on the prompt, “all humans have the capacity for brutality.” They placed themselves on a Story Spectrum based on where they fell between totally agree and totally disagree.

While reading LotF outside of class, we read “The Lottery,” “Harrison Bergeron,” and an article about the Stanford Prison Experiment in class.
Each time we finished one, they moved their name on the Spectrum to match how/whether their opinions on the prompt had changed. As you can see, there was a massive amount of movement and progression of thought, and I’m THRILLED with the amount of meaning that the students extracted from the unit.

 

spectrum

The final project for this unit was for students to get into groups and record a podcast where they discussed their progressions of opinion. These podcasts were some of the most profound discussions I’ve ever had the pleasure to hear. I’m honored to have been a part of those insights.

I’ve completed two other units this semester, both of which had primary texts that I had to re-read, as well as supplementary texts that I added to the unit in order to enhance an overall central theme. I’ll work on posts for these units in the next few days, because I’M ON SPRING BREAK!!! I’ve also recently been addicted to a book, so I need to spew about that, and I also completed a book that was on my New Year’s Recommendations post. Plus, we’ve graciously been nominated for a few awards, so I need to get to those. Hopefully, lots to come, folks!

 

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