Sunday, May 25, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow--Book to Movie From Original Book: All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka [BONUS: Graphic Novel Review Included!]. Now Available on Blu-ray & DVD!

Edge of Tomorrow by Hiroshi Sakurazaka.
This is a paperback edition that was re-titled
from the original book, All You Need Is Kill by
Sakurazaka as a movie tie-in edition for
the upcoming movie, Edge of Tomorrow.[1]
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

The clock radio hits 6:00 a.m. and music comes over the speakers and Sonny and
Cher sings, I've Got You, Babe." [2]
...then the music breaks and we hear the D.J say: 'Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don't forget your booties cause its cooooold out there today.' D.J. #2 says, 'It's coooold out there every day. What is this, Miami Beach?' D.J. #1 responds, 'Not hardly. And you know, you can expect hazardous travel later today with that, you, that, uh, that blizzard thing.' D.J. #2: [mockingly says,] 'That blizard - thing. That blizard - thing. Oh, well, here's the report! The National Weather Service is calling for a "big blizzard thing!"' D.J. #1 says, 'Yessss, they are. But you know, there's another reason why today is especially exciting.' D.J. #2 responds, 'Especially cold!' Then D.J. #1 reiterates, 'Especially cold, okay, but the big question on everybody's lips...' D.J. #2 cuts him off, saying, 'On their chapped lips...' D.J. #1 answers back, 'On their chapped lips, right: Do ya think Phil is gonna come out and see his shadow?' D.J. #2 exclaims, 'Punxsutawney Phil!' D.J. #1: 'That's right, woodchuck-chuckers - it's...' [in unison both D.J.s shout,] 'GROUNDHOG DAY!' [3]

I love this graphic--can you
see Bill Murray's eyes
moving back and forth? [4]
     In the legendary "time loop" movie, Groundhog Day, Phil Conners (played by Bill Murray) wakes up every day to the above scenario. The same day. Every day. He's angry, at first, at not getting out of Punxsutawney, then disbelieves. He goes through the gamut of emotions as he tries to figure out what to do about the time loop he is caught in. He commits a variety of crimes, puts the make on all the attractive women, kills himself--a number of ways-- and is rude and assaultive to people. Eventually, Phil gains experience, knowledge, and skills (ice carving, speaking French, playing the piano, etc.), but most important, he learns how to care for others. Then, the perfect day and the time loop ends.


Rita Vrataski commands the respect and admiration of every-
one. Her nickname, "The Full Metal Bitch," is far from
disparaging--it is more a battle cry and hope on the
battlefield because of the lives she saves and the mimics
she kills. In the book she wears a large battle suit (or
jacket) painted bright red so everyone, especially the
mimics (the aliens), can see her and go for her instead of
the poor green soldier across the field of battle. In this movie
still, you can see her armor isn't very red; nor does it appear
as described in the book, a disappointment to many fans
of the book, All You Need Is Kill/Edge of Tomorrow. [5]
     The Edge of Tomorrow by Hiroshi Sakurazaka involves just such a time loop. Publishers have told us that Keiji Kiriya is one of many new "green" recruits who have been shoved into battle armor and put on a transport to the battle zone. Keiji's day goes horribly wrong, and he is killed in battle...or is he?

     When he wakes up the next morning, he believes he merely dreamed the whole, horrible nightmare about his death. Then he meets the touted savior of humanity--"The Full Metal Bitch," Rita Vrataski, AKA, The Valkyrie. The only question is, is she the answer to his escape, or is she his imminent death?

     Here's a little addition to the short synopsis. Entertainment Weekly's Summer Movie Preview, April 18-25, Double Issue #'s 1307 & 1308, page 56,  has an article about the upcoming movie, Edge of Tomorrow. It reveals that Cruise's character crosses a general and gets sent to the front lines; of course, it's different from the book. It also discloses that the reason that the alien's are winning the war is because they "...'can replay the day over and over again until they figure out how to win,' says director Doug Liman ([who also directed] Mr. & Mrs. Smith.)."

     First, I can't give you my favorite quote, because if I did, it would give away a MAJOR plot element. So, I must be satisfied with giving you my second favorite quote. Here it is:
Rita had often wondered what the world would be like if there were a machine that could definitively measure the sum of a person's potential. If DNA determined a person's height or the shape of their face, why not their less obvious traits too? Our fathers and mothers...ultimately every individual was the product of the blood that flowed in the veins of those who came before. An impartial machine could read that information and assign a value to it, as simple as measuring height or weight. What if someone who had the potential to discover a formula to unlock the mysteries of the universe wanted to become a pulp fiction writer? What if someone who had the potential to create unparalleled gastronomic delicacies had his heart set on civil engineering? There is what we desire to do, and what we are able to do. When these two things don't coincide, which path should we pursue to find happiness? (Edge of Tomorrow; p. 148.)

 Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt star in the upcoming
action-packed movie, Edge of Tomorrow,
Friday, June 6, 2014. [7]
   Rita appears to ponder philosophical issues as if she had choices in her life spread upon a platter or buffet from which she can pick and choose. Rita's talents, e.g. being a mimic killing machine, may not coincide with what she wanted as a child, but perhaps what she really wants is a deeper and more meaningful dream than whether or not to play horseshoes or become an actor and cry on cue. I'll leave that for you to decide. See p. 255 about "choices."

     Another aspect of this quote that I like is that it alludes to one of the book's themes--dreams. Dreams are something we have at night--like many do in this book. Dreams are also something we have when we aspire to something bigger or better or more lovely in our lives. Something we want for ourselves...or others. Then, there are things called "daydreams;" Tom Cruise seems to wonder, at least at first, if it is something he has been doing. And, finally, in this book we also have somewhat of a mystery about dreams that surrounds the mimics and the human race. You can find out what that is if you read the book.

"Kermit THE frog, here. "[8]
     I've mentioned one motif in the book, so far, dreams. Let's take a brief look at a couple more. I thought this was a fun one when I spotted it: the color green. The first time Rita speaks to Keiji, she asks him, "Is it true the green tea they serve in Japan at the end of your meal comes free?" (p.21). The topic of green tea comes up a number of times in the book.


On the last page of the book, page
266, the author describes a cup of
coffee with blue-green mold. [9]
      Keiji also talks about being various shades of green (Oh, yes...and he has green eyes.). He says, "If I was tea-green now, I must have been lime-green back then (when he had enlisted) (p.52). Here's one I like, "These green-horns didn't know what it was to walk the razor's edge between life and death" (p.127). And, of course, the ocean: "The water off the coast had turned a livid green" (p.227). Why "livid?" (You'll see.) And, on the last page of the book, we have the following: "A small colony of blue-green mold bobbled on the surface of the coffee." Nice metaphor.

This is the first book I read, All You
Need Is Kill
 by Hiroshi Sakurazaka.
This is the paperback edition, but you
can also get this book on the Kindle,
or in e-book format. If you want, you
can also get the book-to-movie tie-in
edition (see, above).  I've read both
books--they are identical, but for
the cover and an ad in the back. [10] 
     Seen in an abstract collection, these quotes mean little, but when you read the book pay attention to them and you'll soon see why they are important. In fact, color, in general, helps set tone in the book. Think about Rita's red armor and red skies, brown coffee and earth, green tea and green recruits (and bloated frogs), blue skies and Keiji's blue armor. Look at all the mentions of color as you read the book and pay attention to what is going on when the color is mentioned.

     Second, it was notable that Bill Murray, in Groundhog Day, woke up to a radio playing music and then the D.J.s giving a short weather forecast about the cold weather. In Hiroshi Sakurazaka's book, All You Need is Kill (and the retitled book-to-movie edition, Edge of Tomorrow) Keiji wakes up everyday the same way, too. That is, Keiji's paperback book was on his pillow next to him. He hears a radio on the bunk above him playing rock music, and then the "DJ's over-caffeinated voice chirping away with the weather forecast...Clear and sunny out here on the islands, same as yesterday, with a UV warning for the afternoon. Watch out for those sunburns!" (p.26).

     The rest of the time loop is the same too--until or unless--Keiji makes a change in the routine. Then he gets a different result. The only problem with that is that it all resets back to the way it was the day before--everyone forgetting or not knowing about the previous interactions. Everyone, that is, except for Keiji. The two major differences between the two stories are 1. Rita Vrataski knows about the time loop because she's experienced it, and 2. Keiji must die every day (Bill Murray, it seems, had a variety of options). Oh, yes, Keiji keeps track of his "iterations" (or rebirths) by writing the number days that have passed on his hand--apparently, everything doesn't reset back to 0.

     I also like the theme of "mimic." We, of course, have the aliens who are called, "Mimics." And then, throughout the book, we see evidence of one person "mimic-ing" another. Notably, when Keiji (AKA, Cage in the movie) mimic's Rita Vrataski's fighting style and strategy.

     Just one other little "aside," here. I think it is funny that the woman Keiji is attracted to and interacts with in the time loop is named "Rita." In Groundhog Day, Bill Murray pines away for a "Rita," as well. Very funny with even the names being the same!

     Finally, I've seen the trailer for the movie and noted a number of differences between the book and movie that are quite apparent. The first is our protagonist's name. In the book, it is Keiji Kiriya (a Japanese name). In the movie it is Cage. On page 261 of the book Keiji says that someone had scratched on to the breastplate of his armor the term "Cage." But he understood--"That was how the Americans pronounced my name." Apparently, that's how they came up with the name for Tom Cruise's character in the movie.

     Also, all the troops in the movie appear to be white and/or American. I'd say it was racially motivated, but I doubt it is. More than likely, it was a move motivated by money--wanting a really big name actor to be a big box office draw and make lots of money for all those financing the movie. If you could cast the movie with a Japanese actor, who would it be? While you're thinking about that, let's take a quick look at the trailer for the movie, Edge of Tomorrow, courtesy of YouTube. [12]

      Directing Edge of Tomorrow is Doug Liman, Writers: Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth (screenplay) and Hiroshi Sakurazaka (novel: All You Need Is Kill). Starring in the film is Tom Cruise as Cage, Emily Blunt as Rita, Bill Paxton as Master Sergeant Farell and Brendan Gleeson as General Brigham. The movie is slated to open in U.S. markets on June 6, 2014. The MPAA rating is PG-13 and is classified as Action/Sci-fi (the Metascore is 70/100).

All You Need Is Kill: Graphic Novel,
by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. [13]
By Hiroshi Sakurazaka, and
Adaptor: Nick Mamatas, and 
Illustrator: Lee Ferguson

     A graphic novel is, in form, a bound book with material similar to full novels. They can be hardcover or card stock and include topics of fiction and non-fiction, or even such things as anthologies or collections. 

     The graphic novel is distinguished from comics or comic books even though the bulk of the material consists of art work. Comic books are printed on inexpensive bulk paper and graphic novels are printed on much higher quality of paper. Some are truly beautiful with glossy pages and beautiful illustrations. Moreover, comics contain advertising whereas graphic novels do not. Also, graphic novels invariably contain a story line that has a beginning, middle, and end; comic books tend to be episodic in nature. Comic books are much, much, shorter than graphic novels (some graphic novels I've seen approach 150 pages--an average seems to be around 100 pages.

Vampire Academy, The
Graphic Novel
 by Richelle
Mead. [15]
     I've talked about graphic novels elsewhere on my blog. This is an example of a very good graphic novel: (1) Vampire Academy: The Graphic Novel--to read about that graphic novel, click here. This is an example of a very bad graphic novel: (2) Thor: The Dark World Prelude (A Graphic Novel) by Marvel Comics--to read about that graphic novel, click here
Thor: The Dark World
 Prelude, A Graphic
 by Marvel
     I mention these attributes to graphic novels because some purported-to-be graphic novels are nothing more than a few comics put together with a card stock cover. It is so disappointing when a title is described and billed as a graphic novel and you spend your money expecting to get a graphic novel, but end up with a glorified comic book. (See the Thor: The Dark World Prelude, AGraphic Novel by Marvel Comics, above link.) Now, let's take a look at All You Need Is Kill, Graphic Novel to see how it stands up under scrutiny.

See the dialog bubbles--they are few in number, and the
quantity of words used in the dialog bubbles are small. Also,
the square boxes usually used in describing action, plot, or
just what is going on that can't be told from the picture only
has one small rectangle (center bottom); these pages (16-17). 
     All You Need Is Kill, Graphic Novel has 96 pages--more than a comic book, so it does fit into the size of a graphic novel. The cover is card stock. Again, not something a comic book usually has, so good, so far.

     The only advertising I saw was on the last page--the author advertising his own original novel, All You Need Is Kill (and one other novel by him); so that's very good. The cover art and the illustrations inside, by Lee Ferguson, are beautifully rendered and colored and the art is on glossy paper that is, indeed, beautiful to look at. Additionally, its dimensions are 10.2 x 6.9 x 0.2 inches, weighs 4.8 oz. (shipping), and it is in the English Language [ISBN-10: 142156081X; ISBN-13: 978-1421560816]. 

Another page showing how little dialog is used in the graphic novel...
and, how few in number the rectangular boxes are to describe scene/
action/background info. See pages 40-41. A thank you to my husband,
Carl, for helping me out with these photographs.
     The story is adapted by Nick Mamatas, and it is clear that the story is adapted from All You Need Is Kill (the novel). Remembering that it is a graphic novel, we know that not everything can be included from a full size book--this one (in- cluding the "After- ward") is 269 pages; distilling the book down to 96 pages of art, it seems that the requirement of having a complete story arc is met. And, while the adaptor does a good job selecting what to include in the graphic novel and includes all of the critical story elements, the dialog and scene descriptions fall far short of what I consider good. To me, it just looks as if they rushed this graphic novel into production too fast to get it right. Disappointing.

It is terrible that this brand new book is already falling apart!
If you look closely at the spine you can see the whole spine
seems to be starting to come loose as well as the individual
pages. I LOVE my books and I have gently read the book
and handled it, only to see this happen. I really don't like
it that some publishers permit shoddy craftsmanship like
this.  This is factored into my review of the book. 
NOTE: I published a review of this graphic novel on 
Amazon (where I purchased the book) and posted this
picture--but Amazon wouldn't permit it to be posted with
my other two photos. Apparently, they didn't want 
people to see the book falls apart.
     Technically, all the elements appear to be met to consider this a graphic novel. I did love the beautiful art, the cover, and the story line, but thought that the execution of the dialog and scene descriptions were far below what I'd consider to be good. Moreover, I've only read the book once and opened it a second time to take pictures.  It is disappointing that the book is already falling apart.

2.5 Stars out of 5
for the graphic novel [17]
     What had started out as a 5 star graphic novel has dropped to 2.5 stars because of these failings. My advice is to skip the graphic novel and go straight for the novel. Save your $8.75--I'm sorry I bought it.

All You Need Is Kill (also titled as book-to-movie)-Edge of Tomorrow  by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. 

The movie is rated PG-13, and I would
rate the book likewise. [19]
     The Action/Sci-fi movie is rated PG-13 by the MPAA movie guidelines (from IMDb [18]), obviously, due to violence, blood, and death shown on screen. I would, likewise, caution all parents to follow these guidelines in screening books for your children. For all adults, who are of a mature age, and not given to a sensitive nature, this book, graphic novel, and movie, should be a blast. I am looking forward to seeing it, myself.

This rating is well-earned! [20]
     This book was one of the easiest books to rate that I have ever reviewed. I LOVED the book! The action was in there, the plot intriguing, suspenseful 'til the end, love, sex, killing, mayhem, alien invasion, fight to the death, jumping out of aircraft, bombs and has it all. WOW! I can hardly wait for the movie. Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt and Bill Paxton, here I come. This book gets 4.5 stars--WELL EARNED! Congratulations to Hiroshi Sakurazaka on writing a GREAT book. This book will be a sci-fi classic, undoubtedly.

     Thank you for joining me this week as we looked at a truly exciting and intriguing action/sci-fi book, All You Need Is Kill retitled book-to-movie as, Edge of Tomorrow. I look forward to meeting with you, again, next week as we will look at brand new NetGalley book, Shaman Rises by C.E. Murphy--release date June 24, 2014. This book is dramatically different from Edge of Tomorrow, but it looks to be an exciting review, as well.  God bless you, be kind to one another, and don't forget to read something that stirs your blood, excites your mind, or calms your spirit. It's all good...when you read.  

Until next time...

...many happy pages of reading.

All my love,

Sharon Powers.

[1] "Edge of Tomorrow." Retrieved 05-22-14.
[2] "This could be real good." Retrieved 05-23-14.
[3] "Groundhog Day Quotes." Retrieved 05-23-14.
[4] "Happy Groundhog Day." Retrieved 05-23-14.
[5] "Trailer for 'Edge of Tomorrow Releases.'" 05-24-14.
[6] "God is Heart." Retrieved 05-24-14.
[7] "Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt...." Retrieved 05-24-14.
[8]"Top 5 Hard Ways to Care for Creation." Retrieved 05-23-14.
[9] "Christmas Coffee Mould." Retrieved 05-24-14.
[10] "All You Need Is Kill." Retrieved 05-24-14.
[11] "Keep Calm Because My Name is Rita." Retrieved 05-25-14.
[12] "Edge of Tomorrow - Official Main Trailer HD." Retrieved 05-23-14.
[13] "All You Need Is Kill, Graphic Novel." Retrieved 05-22-14.
[14] "Graphic Novel 'Hatter M' Goes to the People!" Retrieved 05-25-14.
[15] "Vampire Academy: The Graphic Novel." Retrieved 05-25-14.
[16] "Thor: The Dark World Prelude, A Graphic Novel." Retrieved 05-25-14.
[17] "Movie Review: After Earth." [2.5 Stars] Retrieved 05-25-14.
[18] "Edge of Tomorrow." Retrieved 05-25-14.
[19] "What Happens When Life is PG-13?" Retrieved 05-25-14.
[20] "Big Bang Blues." Retrieved 05-25-14.
[21] "28 White Roses Pictures For Free Download." funstock. Retrieved 05-25-14.

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green--Popular YA Novel Available on Blu-Ray & DVD Now!

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
is available in hardcover, paperback,
CD and Audio. [1]
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings." [Cassius speaking to Brutus in Julius Cesar, Act 1, Scene 2.] The stars. What have they to do with anything? Well, in Shakespeare's era one's life was said to be controlled by the in astrological stars. You didn't control your life, the stars controlled your life, the stars controlled your destiny. You, therefore, were not responsible for your life. You were just along for the ride.

     Cassius, however, when he speaks to Brutus, says that the fault is not in "our" stars, but in "ourselves." This seems to imply that the individual is responsible for themselves. That we alone, not fate, not the stars, are responsible for our actions and choices. 

     Unfortunately, Cassius is using this seductive speech to Brutus to persuade him to join in the plot to assassinate Julius Cesar. Brutus is at war within himself. On the one hand, he has a deep friendship with Cesar, but on the other hand, he feels a compelling duty to Rome. Within himself Brutus see-saws with his emotions. Eventually, he gives in, and joins the conspirators in killing keep Cesar from attaining supreme power and to keep him, Brutus, from being an "underling."

The cover has inspired all
form of art--here, are Hazel
and Augustus with the
colors and cloud shapes
from the book cover
utilized in the design. [2][
     John Green the author of, The Fault in Our Stars, takes advantage of this well-known, iconic quote by William Shakespeare to grace the attractive and riveting cover of his new book. He uses it to great effect for the title of the story at which we will now take a look.

     Hazel Grace Lancaster walked in, "grazed" from the "decrepit" selection of cookies and poured a glass of something that looked like lemonade. She sat down in the "Circle of Trust," and like the other attendees recounted her name, her age, and her "diagnosis." "I'm Hazel...Sixteen...Thyroid originally but with an impressive and long-settled satellite colony in my lungs. And I'm doing okay." Every Wednesday, she attended the Cancer Support Group in the Episcopal Church basement. Every Wednesday, they sat in "Christ's very sacred heart and shared their feelings about dying and about fighting the cancer. It Sucked--so Hazel Grace mused. The only redeeming thing about support group was her friend Isaac--with whom she communicated with facial expressions and sighs.

     One Wednesday night meeting brings a change for everyone when fellow cancer survivor Augustus Waters shows up. It isn't long and the two fall for each other. Sassy, feisty Hazel Grace introduces Augustus to her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction, and Augustus introduces Hazel Grace to, as he put it, a "brilliant and haunting novelization of [his] favorite video game," The Price of Dawn. After reading about Max Mayhem and his killing of 118 people in only 284 pages, she ran out and bought books two and three in the series: Midnight Dawns and Requiem for Mayhem.

I really love that so much of
Agustus and Hazel's relation-
ship centers around books, the
thoughts in the books, and the
ideas they present.  This is
a really great quote! [4]
     What follows are days of exhilaration--trips to Amsterdam--and days, of course, of suffering, for example when Hazel is rushed to the emergency room to have fluid pumped out of her lungs so she can get more air into her lungs and brain. In this emotionally tumultuous book, you'll find yourself on the edge of your seat as you sit turning page after page to find out what happens to Augustus and Hazel Grace, and to Isaac and their families. You sit in much the same way wondering about the outcome of the characters in the book as Hazel Grace and Augustus do for An Imperial Affliction. But even good stories come to an end...this one will definitely have you sitting on the edge of your seat right up to the last page.
Hazel and Augustus share a love of reading. [5]
     First, and foremost, I absolutely love that these two vivacious and wonderful teen- agers both love to read. Their taste in books are dramatically different from each other. Then, when Hazel Grace and Augustus exchange their favorite books with each other, they each find that they learn and grow, and begin to see the world a little differently.

     In fact, much of the book deals with a book, An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten (Note: John Green created a fictional book and a fictional author--you won't find this book at your local book purveyor.). The book impacts them in how they think, what they think, and even their actions in their daily lives--to the extent that they find themselves in Amsterdam going to meet the author of the book.

Some of the memorable quotes from the book,
The Fault in Our Stars. [6]
     Second, John Green has given readers very memorable quotes throughout the book. Here are some examples: "...the universe [wants] to be noticed" (pp. 223, 294); "I'm on a roller coaster that only goes up..." (p. 217); "I used to think it would be fun to live on a cloud...." (p. 219); "You gave me a forever within the numbered days...." (p. 260); "Okay," "Okay" (multiple locations in the book); and, "Grief does not change reveals you" (p. 285). So many memorable quotes have come from this book that I'm not even sure which one is my favorite...nah! It's got to be the one about reading a book and being filled with Evangelical zeal. Yeah. That's the one. But, dang...there are some really great quotes in there!

     Third, I like how John Green weaves, throughout his book, the theme of suffering. For example, after Gus tells Hazel that he fears oblivion, Hazel tells Gus that he was afraid of something that was "universal and inevitable." She said that suffering wasn't the real problem--or oblivion--but that it was the "depraved meaninglessness of these things, the absolutely inhuman nihilism of suffering" (p. 280). Wow! Hazel...I never knew you had it in you!

One of the more important themes
throughout the book concerns
pain and how we deal with it. [7]
     This is wonderful! For, earlier in the book, at Augustus's house she sees a drawing of an angel and underneath the picture a quote said, "Without Pain, How Could We Know Joy?." Augustus's mom says that she loves the quote and asked Hazel if she did, too. Hazel thinks about the quote's "stupidity and lack of sophistication." Hazel responds, "Yes...a lovely thought." (p. 35). Later, when she has to deliver a eulogy, Hazel refers to the angel drawing and quote and says, "There's a great quote...Without pain, we couldn't know joy" (p. 272). Hazel says that she continued "spouting bullshit" at the eulogy because she realized that funerals were for the living.

Another great quote from the book. [8]
Fourth, and finally, let's go back to the quote about the fault in our stars. One could argue that the quote means that you, individually, are to blame for whatever bad things happen to you in your life. Others might insist that, no, it isn't our fault that bad things sometimes just happen and can't be avoided in life. And, unlike Brutus, above, who has a choice in whether or not to join in the assassination of Julius Cesar, his friend, Hazel and Augustus (and others) do not. Hazel and Augustus do not have a choice about the cancer and they certainly don't seem able to do anything much about it except either accept the pain, or rail against the "depraved meaninglessness...[and the] inhuman nihilism of suffering."

     Perhaps, the fault is, indeed, within us all, but like Augustus says, no one is bad, not even the cancer that is in them, because it, too, only wants to survive. Therefore, whether or not the fault is in their stars, or within them, the message seems to be that Hazel and Augustus choose love over the pain. You can't avoid it, death comes for us all. Hazel also talks about the two kinds of people in life. So, she realizes that she can choose for herself whether to run from it (like Peter Van Houten) or to accept the pain that comes with the love she feels for Augustus and her parents.

     I found for your convenience, a YouTube trailer about the upcoming (to U.S.) movie to be released June 6, 2014. Please enjoy. [9]

     The Fault in Our Stars (the movie) writing credits go to John Green (novel), Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (screenplay), and directing credits go to Josh Boone. The movie will star Shailene Woodley as Hazel Grace, Ansel Elgort as Augustus Waters, Nat Wolff as Isaac, Willem Dafoe as Peter Van Houten, Laura Dern as Mrs. Lancaster (Hazel's mother), Sam Trammell as Mr. Lancaster (Hazel's father), and Lotte Verbeek as Lidewij Vliegenthart. The movie is rated PG-13. A fun trivia fact from IMDb: Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort also star in Divergent (as brother and sister--see my review of Divergent, here.), but here, they play the protagonists of the story! Additionally, we've been told to keep on the look out for a movie goof up: Hazel's phone switches colors! from white to grey and back and forth. Very funny. [10]


     First, it is a book about cancer. There have been so many cancer books out there, I wonder why we really needed another one. And then, the topic itself, is a downer. In my life, in my family, I've lost a number of people. Some were to cancer, but most losses in my family have been from other causes. I don't want to hide from the truth that everyone dies, I just don't want it thrown in my face. Thinking about my lost family members are hard enough without having to dredge up all the negative feelings, again.

     Second, even though John Green gives us two appealing protagonists in Augustus and Hazel, they are a bit cookie cutter-like. Hazel is the slightly irreverent, slightly rebellious, angst-driven teenager (who, by the way would fit in, even without having cancer).

Hazel thinks Augustus is hot. [13]
     Augustus is the sensitive, appreciative boy next door trying so hard to make it into adulthood and experience the love (and sex) he will never have because he has lost a leg to cancer--and that makes him so unappealing? What? How did Hazel describe him? "Hot!" Okay. You get the idea. I think Augustus might get lucky.

     And, I felt a little like my emotions were being "played." I didn't like that I felt a bit manipulated. Still, all in all, John Green did a credible job drafting his story. One place you can see it is in the thoughtful way he wrote the quotes and dialog for Augustus and Hazel. Yes, the book, over all, is a good book and the writing is really well done. But a book can't just live on quotes, even good ones. And, I didn't like having my emotions pulled.

THE RECOMMENDATIONS: The movie, The Fault in Our Stars, is rated PG-13. I would, likewise, label the book similarly. The very young (under 13) and the very sensitive viewer/reader should be cautioned. Intense medical issues take place in the book and those who have lost relatives or friends should be forewarned about the intense psychological impact it could have on them. For mature teens, the book and movie (following the movie rating system) should be fine.

4 stars out of 5. [15]
THE RATING:  The book was relatively easy to rate. I will probably not read this book again because it is a bit of a downer. It should have been a 5 star book--but for the problems. I rate this book 4.0 stars out of 5, for all the reasons I've given, above.

        Thank you for taking time to join me this week to look at the exciting, hot, popular book, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. The movie trailer looks really good to me, and I am planning on going out to see it the day of its release. I liked Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort in Divergent. I think they are wonderful actors and hope they have a successful movie. Join me again next week as we examine another book--and remember, pick up something and read it. Books are simply wonderful things...God bless you all.


Until next time...

...many happy pages of reading!

All my love,


[1] "The Fault in Our Stars." Retrieved 05-13-14.
[2] "The Fault in Our Stars." [Deviant Art] Retrieved 05-20-14.
[3] "An Imperial Affliction Cover Doodle." Retrieved 05-21-14.
[4] "The Fault in Our Stars." Retrieved 05-21-14.
[5] "The Fault in Our Stars." Retrieved 05-21-14.
[6] "The Fault in Our Stars." Retrieved 05-21-14.
[7] "The Fault in Our Stars: Quotes." Retrieved 05-21-14.
[8] "Words Have The Power to Change Us." Retrieved 05-21-14.
[9] "The Fault in Our Stars." Retrieved 05-22-14.
[10] "The Fault in Our Stars." Retrieved 05-22-14.
[11] "What I Didn't Like." Retrieved 05-22-14.
[12] "Ciwon sankaran mama." hausa.rfi. Retrieved 05-22-14. 
[13] "Hot Markets for Global Recruiters." Retrieved 05-22-14.
[14] "Why Did the Girls Cry?" Retrieved 05-22-14.
[15] "Miss Dial." Retrieved 05-22-14.
[16] "28 White Roses Pictures For Free Download." funstock. Retrieved 05-22-14.
[*] "B Seen - B Found - B Heard." Retrieved 05-19-14.

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Farm by Tom Rob Smith--The New Book Available 06-03-14! New York Times Bestselling Author of The Child 44 Trilogy!

The Farm by Tom Rob Smith. For a limited time,
the first 25 pages are FREE for you to download
to your Kindle or e-book reader to preview the
book (from 
     The full book will be available for purchase on
June 3, 2014. You can pre-order the book from 
your favorite book vendor, or from [1]

Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.
     "TRUE!--nervous--very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses--not destroyed--not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily--how calmly I can tell you the whole story." The Tell-Tale Heart--Edgar Allen Poe. [2]

     I love Edgar Allen Poe's works, and probably none more so than, The Tell-Tale Heart. In this famous short story, Poe restricts other points of view by only permitting us to hear the story from the mouth and perspective of the narrator, told in first person, and who goes unnamed. And while Tom Rob Smith's, The Farm, is NOT gothic horror, it does utilize a few of Poe's famous techniques--techniques that create suspense.

     But I am getting ahead of myself. I wanted to start talking to you about, The Farm, at the beginning, but I've jumped ahead. And, now...I'm laughing out loud, because this is one of the things the narrator's mother basically says--a number of times. The mother, Tilde, repeatedly asks not to be interrupted, to be permitted to finish, and to let her tell her story in "chronological" order. (Chuckle, chuckle....) I tell you what, let's take a look at a short synopsis of the book, then we'll come back to talking about the book, OK?

In the, now famous, words of Inigio Montoya
(from The Princess Bride), "Let me sum up." [3]
     The book opens with Daniel walking home with an armload of groceries towards his apartment in a suburb of London. The evening air was stifling. Daniel was anxious to get home to shower and refresh himself...up until the moment his cell phone rang. He looked at the phone--it was his father calling from Sweden. It was strange because his Dad didn't like using a cell phone; he thought it too expensive. Daniel opened the phone and pressed it against his sweaty skin. He could hear crying. His father said, "Your mother...She's not well." His father went on to relate a story about how she had been imagining things, that she had had a psychotic breakdown and that he had had her committed to a mental hospital.

Daniel was walking home
not expecting his father to
call with disturbing news. [4]
     Not that long ago his parents had seemed so happy; they had retired and moved to their idea of the perfect retirement, a farm in Sweden. But now Daniel was racing to the airport to catch a plane to Sweden. Before Daniel can even get on his plane, he receives another phone call, this time, from his mother. She cuts off his questions and tells him "Everything that man has told you is a lie. I'm not mad...I need the police...Meet me at Heathrow," she then hangs up.

I found this funny meme on
Quick Meme. [5]
     Daniel is confused. Who is he to believe? his mother or his father? And, how did she get out of the hospital? Only hours later, Daniel does indeed meet his mother at the airport and she exerts pressure on him to listen to her story before he judges. To let her tell it chronologically. To not interrupt him. She insists she isn't mad and can prove it with the evidence she carries in the satchel she clutches so intensely. They go to his apartment where she begins a long, rambling story of crime, intrigue and betrayal and implicates Daniel's own father. Like Edgar Allen Poe's unnamed narrator in The Tell Tale Heart, she insists she is not mad. She insists that he "Hearken! and observe how healthily--how calmly [she...tells him] the whole story."

     Well, first, let's address this character, Tilde, Daniel's mom, who, though not the narrator of the book, nonetheless, begins telling her story to Daniel. And, like Daniel, we listen to her telling the story, waiting and evaluating. We do just as she has asked Daniel, setting aside judgment until she has finished presenting the story and the evidence of the (at first) unnamed crimes and of her sanity. She begs patience, she wants to present it properly, in "chronological" order, showing what precious evidence she has gathered and carried with her in the satchel.

Daniel's father called proclaiming
his worry for Daniel's mother and
telling how worried he was. [6]
     I am so very impressed with Smith's technique, here. What we have is not the narrator of the book--who is actually Daniel--but the narrator's mother who tells her story and presents the evidence of the crimes committed--and the evidence of her own sanity. We do, of course, doubt her statements. We are supposed to. We have heard Daniel's Father's phone call saying she had had mental problems and had been committed. We also see Tilde in distress, looking around, nervous; and even her appearance is different than what (we are told) it used to be.

     Yet, she presents the evidence logically, "chronologically," and with earnestness. So, we are poised...not knowing...having to wait for the evidence...waiting for something that will tip the story one way or the other. Smith's creative use of tension and anticipation is masterful, here.

     Second, Daniel has real motivation to listen to her. She has threatened that if he refused to listen to the story and believe her, she would "no longer consider [him her] son." Wow! A mother threatening to disown her son for not believing her. In and of itself, this lends weight to her credibility since she is (or was) a normal mother who loved her family. For her to take this stance would be shocking to Daniel, and, perhaps, lend at least some credibility, to her willingness to risk the beautiful relationship between mother and son.

Along with Daniel, we wonder what the outcome will
be of Tilde's story. Is she right? Is she "mad?" [7]
     Edgar Allen Poe's characters often try to explain away strange events or loss of control over their thoughts. Sometimes Poe's characters (as in The Black Cat) try to find scientific evidence for "coincidences," and events that others find normal and not alarming. We wonder if Tilde is exhibiting this kind of behavior or whether she is clever and observant. Again, we come back to doubting her narration of her story. We wait for the turning point in the story, or the clue that will tip the outcome of the story...what is it in the story that will let us determine, is Tilde right? or is she "mad?"

A welcome mat I found for sale on [8]
     Third, I love thinking about the titles of books. The Farm. How many different ways can you use the word, "farm?" Daniel's mom and dad put themselves, "out to pasture," so to speak, when they retired to the farm. And then there is, "farm out." That's what Daniel's mom and dad try to do for an income source when they look to have neighbors use part of their property.

     And then, one of my favorites is "funny farm." This is particularly apt, here, since Tilde is committed to a mental institution. For Tilde and Daniel, the whole story is one crazy turn of events. So, yes, I really appreciate the allusion in the name of the title of the book. Finally, the author has a specific meaning you will have to learn about by reading the book.

Getting to Tilde's story took a bit too long. It felt like foot-
dragging. I stuck with it until the pace picked up again. [9]
     First, I have to say, I think the opening pages of the book were utterly intriguing and capable of grabbing any reader who picks up the book. The tension created by the phone calls from Daniel's parents and fear and worry about Tilde, the concern about the reasons for Tilde's fleeing Sweden and sudden trip to London are enthralling.

     What didn't work for me was the ponderous section after the opening when Tilde is getting ready to tell her story. Foot dragging. It just seems to take forever to get into the meat of the story. And then the pacing of the story is slow. So, for a ways, I had to push myself, a bit, to keep reading, until the story pace picked up.

     Since this is a brand new book, to be released on June 3, 2014, I just can't give you more information about the plot or themes of the book without giving away the heart and soul of this wonderful story. Needless to say, Smith has written a beautiful book full of intrigue and tension--due to the writing techniques mentioned above, and others not mentioned. It took me by surprise.

     And, the story kept me engaged and wanting to know what was up with Tilde. The resolution of the story is nothing short of amazing. No, this isn't a story full of swordplay, but an intriguing, thoughtful story, cleverly created to engage the reader and keep the reader turning the pages.

     You will love learning more about Tilde, Daniel, his father, and the other colorful, intriguing characters Smith utilizes in crafting this story. If you love intrigue, this book might be just what you need to find satisfaction. This book was my very first read by Tom Rob Smith--I have not read his well-known Child 44 trilogy. But I tell you what...I am planning on going and getting the trilogy and reading those books. I have been very favorably impressed by the high-quality writing of this author. Well done, Mr. Smith.

Tom Rob Smith's, Child 44, from his
website. Follow this link. [10]
     This book is a book for adults. Within it, mature themes grace the pages, so the only caution I would give would be to readers sensitive to adult themes. For most adults, this book is acceptable and even enjoyable given the suspenseful manner of presentation of the story.

     For all the reasons I stated, above, I am pleased to give this wonderful book a rating of 4.0 stars out of 5.0 stars. Congratulations on writing such a wonderful book, Mr. Smith.
This is a 5 star rating system. [11]
     Thank you for joining me this week as we were privileged to look at a wonderful NetGalley book. As I said, above, I am definitely planning on buying and reading the Child 44 trilogy. Until next week, pick up a book and read a bit. And don't forget, that if you like the premise of The Farm, don't forget to pre-order it soon, as it comes out on Tuesday, June 3, 2014.   

Until next time...
White Rose. [12]
...many happy pages of reading!

My love to you all.


[1] "The Farm." Retrieved 05-13-14.
[2] "The Tell-Tale Heart." [Edgar Allen Poe] Retrieved 05-14-14.
[3] "Writing Journal: Writing a Fairy Tale." Retrieved 05-16-14.
[4] "People > Walking." Retrieved 05-16-14.
[5] "I'm Not Crazy I Swear!" Retrieved 05-16-14.
[6] "8 Ways to Annoy an Introvert." Retrieved 05-16-14.
[7] "Thought Leadership." Retrieved 05-16-14.
[8] "Welcome to the Funny Farm." Retrieved 05-16-14.
[9] "Before the Mast." Retrieved 05-16-14.
[10] "Child 44." Retrieved 05-16-14.
[11] "asiakkaat." Retrieved 05-16-14.
[12]  "28 White Roses Pictures For Free Download." funstock. Retrieved 05-16-14.
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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The High Druid's Blade: The Defenders of Shannara by Terry Brooks--New Book Now Available!

Pre-order this book now from your local
book vendor. Release Date: 07-08-14! [1]
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     I remember during the first two weeks of school, I had headaches and, I had them often. I was being forced to think in ways I wasn't use to thinking and reading case books hour upon hour, day after day. I hung in there, though, and after a few weeks the number of headaches tapered off and, eventually, went completely away. But the reading of cases continued over the course of my law school education--I read cases morning, noon, and night and after I read the cases I analyzed them to within an inch of their life. I had to, after all, to be prepared for the questions that would inevitably follow in class the next day when the teacher would begin his "Socratic" questioning. After graduation, I couldn't even bare to look at a book--I was quite literally "burned out" on reading. To make matters worse, I had to start wearing glasses to read--yup, my vision just wasn't what it had been. Six years went by without reading anything that wasn't necessary for work, not one novel or even magazine...and this from someone who had been a voracious reader before law school.

The Sword of Shannara, The Elfstones of Shannara, and
The Wish Song of Shannara by Terry Brooks. These are
my copies of books one, two, and three of the original
series. You can see they look a little the worse for wear,
because of the heavy use they've gotten. I've probably
read these three books four or five times, each. [2]
     One afternoon my husband and I stopped at a local bookstore to pick up a book for him that he needed for work. We quickly found the title and picked it up, but for some reason we continued to look around the book store. We stopped in front of a section labeled, sci-fi and fantasy, where he pointed out a book that he suggested I get and read, The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. I told him, "no." But he persisted. I reminded him that I didn't read any books lately, let alone a fantasy or sci-fi book. You see, before law school, I had been a fan of the historical fiction and non-fiction genres.

I used to think that fantasy and sci-
fi wasn't as good as other genres.
I was a genre snob--up until I read
The Sword of Shannara. [3]
     He picked it up off the shelf and handed it to me...knowing he wasn't going to let it go, I acquiesced and he bought the book for me. Over that weekend, I read the book. That was all it took. I ran back to the book store and bought the other two books in the series, The Elfstones of Shannara, and The Wish Song of Shannara, and finished those two books off as quickly as the first. Also, I found that my snobbery at not wanting to read fantasy books evaporated into thin air. Now, I don't limit myself to any genre; I read them all. Life lesson learned--no more genre snobbery.

     I went on to read the entire set of each series relating to the Shannara Series, having fallen in love with all the characters as they came and went, and of course, the Four Lands (Shannara). Now, Terry Brooks has a new book out from the world of Shannara: The High Druid's Blade: The Defenders of Shannara, Book 1. 

From The Wish-
song of Shannara:

it was carried by Rone
Leah; it was made
magical after  Rone
dipped the blade in-
to the Hadeshorn
and Allanon imbued
it with his magic. [4]
     Paxon Leah and his sister, Chrysallin, are descendents of two families important in the fight against evil in the land of Shannara, the Ohmsford's and the Leah's. The Ohmsford's lineage is one that used to pass down the magical abilities of the "Wishsong," while the Leah's used to be Kings and Queens, wealthy and powerful and guardians of a magical sword. Now, living a modest life with his mother and sister, Paxon dreams of doing something more important with his life than running a freight business and keeping his wild sister from getting into trouble, yet again.

     Paxon is propelled from his idyllic and pastoral life when his sister is kidnapped by a mysterious and sinister man named Arcannen; Paxon gives chase. In the midst of saving Chrysallin, Paxon unlocks the power of the strange black sword he wields--just what the mysterious and evil Arcannen wants him to do. The question is, "Why?" In a stroke of luck, Paxon barely escapes with his life (and Chrysallin) to return home to the Valley of Leah. Then a black-robbed Druid appears on his doorstep and Paxon must decide whether to leave all he knows behind to learn how to control the magic of the black sword and become a protector of the druids, or to stay and wait for the mysterious Arcannen to show up, possibly kill his family, and take the sword away from him. What Paxon doesn't know is that on his choice rests not only the safety of his mother, sister and himself, but also, the future of the Four Lands and the Druids ability to keep evil at bay.

Let's take a look at what I think about
The High Druid's Blade.... [5]
     (1) The High Druid's Blade is quintessential Terry Brooks. It is so much so that even if you didn't know what book you were handed, you could probably figure it out by just reading a portion of the book. That can be both good and bad. Good, in that readers who love Terry Brooks' writing will get exactly what they are looking for; it is a known entity. Bad, in that it may not be as fresh and exciting as some of his earlier works.

     (2) The High Druid's Blade is a quick read, and enjoyable. Brooks keeps the action moving throughout the story, only leaving sufficient space between the action scenes to draw a breath before moving the plot forward, again. And Brooks' writing style lends itself to a comfortable familiarity with the characters such that they feel like someone you know or should know. I don't necessarily mean that you identify with the evil characters in the book, just that you are comfortable with who they and everyone else are.

The First King of Shannara, by
Terry Brooks. [6]
     (3) The book really works as a stand alone book. Brooks fills in the reader sufficiently with the basic history that you aren't left scratching your head in perplexity. For example, Brooks tells us of the Ohmsfords and how they had the magic of "Wishsong," and the Leahs had the care of the Sword of Leah. Brooks takes the reader back only through the great grand parents (Railing Ohmsford and Mirai Leah), so as not to burden us overmuch with genealogy. He explains how the Sword of Leah came into being and who carried it, and how Druid Sleep permitted Aphenglow Elessedil, the Ard Rhys of the Druids, to stay alive so long, and how her sister, Arling, became the magical Elcrys Tree. This information is certainly sufficient for the reader to get a feeling for Shannara and the Four Lands.

     (4) In this book, a "Defender" is someone skilled in the use of sword and who accompanies one or more of the Druids to various locations while acting as a type of body guard. My favorite Defender (in the book, The First King of Shannara) was Kinson Ravenlock--I just loved him. In any event, I'm thinking that if The Defenders of Shannara are these body guards for the Druids, and there are more books coming in this "loose trilogy of stand alone novels," we will get to see more sword-play and action along the lines that Paxon experienced in this book. I would certainly like to read a couple more stories akin to this one.

The Darkling Child: The Defenders
of Shannara
 by Terry Brooks is due
to be released August 2015 (as of the
date of this blog post). [7]
     On his website (click here for link) Terry Brooks indicates that two more books are in the works for The Defenders of Shannara. Book 1, The High Druid's Blade will be released on July 15, 2014; Book 2, The Darkling Child, as of the date of this post, is scheduled for August 2015, and Book 3, Untitled Shannara Book, also, as of the date of this post, is scheduled for 2016.

     In epic fantasy, you usually get to see an ever increasing cast of characters. Along with the, sometimes, epic number of characters, we get very complex plots. One story thread, becomes two, then four, then eight, ever increasing in complexity and interest as the threads begin weaving themselves into other threads. Some threads are begun, but we don't discover how they are connected until some kind of resolution is made with another story thread. Sometimes these threads continue throughout the whole of the trilogy or set of books.

     While the High Druid's Blade is enjoyable, it isn't anywhere as complex or colored or textured as some of Brooks' other books. Typically, in a trilogy (or longer series), many story threads are interwoven from one book into the next. For example, one method Brooks uses is the family lineage and the Ard Rhys (High Druid) of Paranor. Here, in this book, we see The Ohmsfords and Leahs, their story going back to the beginning of the series in, The Sword of Shannara, where we had Shea and Flick Ohmsford and Menion Leah.

     In High Druid's Blade, a mere handful of characters fill out the roster and, it seems, the bad guys' dastardly deeds are either quickly foiled by the good guys, or they are made to pay for their greed and drive for power. I would like to have seen a few more complications for both the good guys and bad guys to handle, maybe a few more failures or defeats--really give them something almost impossible to overcome.

     And definitely, I would like to have seen the Druids more involved in the book--given something more instrumental to do or accomplish. For example, when Oost Mondara is sent to Wayford, why not have let him do battle with the evil forces and save a few people, in the process?

     Brooks really can write a great battle scene when he wants to, and it would have been a wonderful way to involve the Druids. We could get some active sword play into the story and then Brooks could have still, pretty much, wound up the closing pages the way he did.

     It is a little peculiar because this book is actually a stand alone book connected only "loosely" to two more planned books. Even as a stand alone book, the complexity and texture is a little lacking. The First King of Shannara can and does stand by itself, and it doesn't lack texture or complexity, so I think this is a fair criticism of High Druid's Blade.

     In this genre, evil and evil forces or monsters, swordplay, blood, death, and sometimes torture can be found. This is the case with this book, so, as always, I caution people who are sensitive to these kinds of scenes to consider before they read. Most of us adults who love fantasy will not have a problem with this book, so I have no qualms about recommending it to the intended audience.

4 Stars out of 5. [8]
     My rating for this enjoyable book is 4.0 stars out of 5. The good review is given for all the above-listed reasons, including my enjoyment of the story. I look forward to reading Terry Brooks's next book, The Darkling Child.  

     Thank you for joining me this week as we considered Terry Brooks's upcoming new book, The High Druid's Blade: The Defenders of Shannara, again, to be released July 8, 2014. Please join me next week as we look at another new book. Until then, please pick up a book and read a little bit this week. You will, undoubtedly, be the happier for it. My love to you all.

Until next time....
"The choices we make dictate the life we lead. To thine
own self be true." --William Shakespeare [9]

...many happy pages of reading!

Don't forget to read a little this week!


[1] "High Druid's Blade: The Defenders of Shannara." Retrieved 05-12-14.
[2] "Original Shannara Trilogy...." Retrieved 05-12-14.
[3]  "Actually I'm Kind of Jealous of Tom Gauld's 'Jetpak.'" Retrieved 05-12-14.
[4] "The Four Lands: The Sword of Leah." Retrieved 05-12-14.
[5] "Smugglers' Ponderings: On Reader's Entitlement." Retrieved 05-12-14.
[6] "The First King of Shannara." Retrieved 05-12-14.
[7] "Cover Art for The Darkling Child by Terry Brooks." Retrieved 05-12-14.
[8] "asiakkaat." Retrieved 05-12-14.
[9] "Top 28 White Roses Pictures For Free Download." Retrieved 05-12-14. 
[About the Author] "Goodreads Author: Terry Brooks." Retrieved 05-12-14.

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