Good Reading Magazine – July 2019

The July issue of Good Reading magazine is ready for you to enjoy through Blue Mountains Library!

This Month:

  • Craig Ensor on his blistering new novel The Warming, a love story set in an Australia ravaged by climate change.
  • Swallow the Air and After the Carnage author Tara June Winch on Indigenous languages and cultural pride in her latest novel The Yield.
  • Josephine Moon on ethical meat eating in her new book Buddhism for Meat Eaters.
  • Dr James Dunk shares stories of madness among colonists in Bedlam at Botany Bay.

The Yield by Tara June Winch

August Gondiwindi has been living on the other side of the world for 10 years when she learns of her grandfather’s death. She returns home for his burial, wracked with grief and burdened with all she tried to leave behind. Her homecoming is bittersweet as she confronts news that her grandfather’s property is to be repossessed by a mining company. Determined to make amends she endeavours to save their land – a quest that leads her to the voice of her grandfather and into the past, the stories of her people, the secrets of the river.

Tara June Winch’s The Yield is the story of a people and a culture dispossessed. But it is as much a celebration of what was and what endures, and a powerful reclaiming of Indigenous language, storytelling and identity.

Six Minutes by Petronella McGovern 

One Thursday morning, Lexie Parker dashes to the shop for biscuits, leaving Bella in the safe care of the other mums in the playgroup. Six minutes later, Bella is gone. Police and media descend on the tiny village of Merrigang on the edge of Canberra. Locals unite to search the dense bushland. But as the investigation continues, relationships start to fracture, online hate messages target Lexie, and the community is engulfed by fear. Is Bella’s disappearance connected to the angry protests at Parliament House? What secrets are the parents hiding? And why does a local teacher keep a photo of Bella in his lounge room?

The Other Half of Augusta Hope by Joanna Glenn

Augusta Hope has never felt like she fits in. At six, she’s memorising the dictionary. At seven, she’s correcting her teachers. At eight, she spins the globe and picks her favourite country on the sound of its name: Burundi. And now that she’s an adult, Augusta has no interest in the goings-on of the small town where she lives with her parents and her beloved twin sister, Julia. When an unspeakable tragedy up-ends everything in Augusta’s life, she’s propelled headfirst into the unknown. She’s determined to find where she belongs – but what if her true home, and heart, are half a world away?

The Cinema at Starlight Creek by Alli Sinclair

In 1994, location scout Claire Montgomery is trying to secure permission to shoot a TV show at a historic art deco cinema near a country town in Northern Queensland. In 1950, we meet Lena Lee, an ambitious Hollywood actress holding out for bigger roles and better characters, who is challenged by the male-dominated film industry and a scandalous affair. Can two women – decades apart – uncover lies and secrets to live the life they’ve dared to dream?

 

You can borrow Good Reading from the library or access the digital subscription right here, right now, with your library card.

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eBook of the Month – July

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eBooks, eMagazines & eAudio from Blue Mountains library

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Carolyn’s Books of the Month – July

Best Read: The Spite Game by Anna Snoekstra

Mercilessly bullied in high school, Ava can’t move on until she’s exacted, precise, catastrophic revenge on the people who hurt her the most. First she watches Saanvi, who has it all together at a top architectural firm… which Ava will destroy the way her own life was destroyed. Then she watches Cass as she tries on a wedding dress, picks out a cake… and betrays her fiancé, which gives Ava control over crashing Cass’s future. Finally, Ava watches Mel… who knows she’s being watched, and is ready to play Ava’s game to the bitter end.

Crime: Give Me the Child by Melanie McGrath

Dr Cat Lupo aches for another child, despite the psychosis which marked her first pregnancy. So when Ruby Winter, a small girl in need of help, arrives in the middle of the night, it seems like fate. But as the events behind Ruby’s arrival emerge, Cat begins to question whether her decision to help Ruby has put her own daughter at risk..

Australian Author: Matryoshka by Katherine Johnson

When Sara Rose returns to live in her recently deceased grandmother’s Tasmanian cottage, her past and that of her mother and grandmother is ever-present. Sara’s grandmother, Nina Barsova, a Russian post-war immigrant, lovingly raised Sara in the cottage at the foot of Mt Wellington but without ever explaining why Sara’s own mother, Helena, abandoned her as a baby. Sara, a geneticist, also longs to know the identity of her father, and Helena won’t tell her. Now, estranged not only from her mother, but also from her husband, Sara raises her daughter, Ellie, with a central wish to spare her the same feeling of abandonment that she experienced as a child. When Sara meets an Afghani refugee separated from his beloved wife and family, she decides to try to repair relations with Helena – but when a lie told by her grandmother years before begins to unravel, a darker truth than she could ever imagine is revealed.

General: Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks

Hope Anderson is at a crossroads. At 36, she’s been dating her boyfriend, an orthopedic surgeon, for six years. With no wedding plans in sight, and her father recently diagnosed with ALS, she decides to use a week at her family’s cottage in Sunset Beach, North Carolina, to ready the house for sale and mull over some difficult decisions about her future. Tru Walls has never visited North Carolina, but is summoned to Sunset Beach by a letter from a man claiming to be his father. A safari guide, born and raised in Zimbabwe, Tru hopes to unravel some of the mysteries surrounding his mother’s early life and recapture memories lost with her death. When the two strangers cross paths, their connection is as electric as it is unfathomable . . . but in the immersive days that follow, their feelings for each other will give way to choices that pit family duty and personal happiness against each other in devastating ways. Illuminating life’s heartbreaking regrets and enduring hope, Every Breath explores the many facets of love that lay claim to our deepest loyalties-and asks the question, How long can a dream survive?

Thriller: Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter

What if the person you thought you knew best turns out to be someone you never knew at all? Andrea Cooper knows everything about her mother, Laura. She knows she’s spent her whole life in the small beachside town of Gullaway Island; she knows she’s never wanted anything more than to live a quiet life as a pillar of the community; she knows she’s never kept a secret in her life. Because we all know our mothers, don’t we? But all that changes when a Saturday afternoon trip to the mall explodes into violence and Andrea suddenly sees a completely different side to Laura. Because it turns out that before Laura was Laura, she was someone completely different. For nearly thirty years she’s been hiding from her previous identity, lying low in the hope that no one will ever find her. But now she’s been exposed, and nothing will ever be the same again. Twenty-four hours later Laura is in the hospital, shot by an intruder who’s spent thirty years trying to track her down and discover what she knows. Andrea is on a desperate journey following the breadcrumbs of her mother’s past. And if she can’t uncover the secrets hidden there, there may be no future for either one of them.

Thriller: Believe Me by JP Delaney

In this twisty psychological thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Before, an actress plays both sides of a murder investigation. One out-of-work British actress pays the rent on her New York City apartment the only way she can: as a decoy for a firm of divorce lawyers, hired to entrap straying husbands. When the cops begin investigating one of her targets for murdering his wife–and potentially others–they ask her to lure the suspect into a confession. But with the actress pretending to be someone she isn’t, differentiating the decoy from the prey becomes impossible–and deadly.

Saga/Romance: The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Hazel Gaynor 

1838: when a terrible storm blows up off the Northumberland coast, Grace Darling, the lighthouse-keeper’s daughter, knows there is little chance of survival for the passengers on the small ship battling the waves. But her actions set in motion an incredible feat of bravery that echoes down the century. 1938: when nineteen-year-old Matilda Emmerson sails from across the Atlantic to New England, she faces an uncertain future. Sent away in disgrace, she must stay with her reclusive relative, Harriet Flaherty, a lighthouse keeper on Rhode Island. Once there, Matilda discovers a discarded portrait that opens a window on to a secret that will change her life forever.

eAudio Books

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth (Borrowbox)

Someone once told me that you have two families in your life – the one you are born into and the one you choose. Yes, you may get to choose your partner, but you don’t choose your mother-in-law. The cackling mercenaries of fate determine it all.

From the moment Lucy met Diana, she was kept at arm’s length. Diana is exquisitely polite, but Lucy knows, even after marrying Oliver, that they’ll never have the closeness she’d been hoping for.

But who could fault Diana? She was a pillar of the community, an advocate for social justice, the matriarch of a loving family. Lucy had wanted so much to please her new mother-in-law.

That was ten years ago. Now, Diana has been found dead, leaving a suicide note. But the autopsy reveals evidence of suffocation. And everyone in the family is hiding something …

Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales (rbDigital)

As a journalist, Leigh Sales often encounters people experiencing the worst moments of their lives in the full glare of the media. But one particular string of bad news stories – and a terrifying brush with her own mortality – sent her looking for answers about how vulnerable each of us is to a life-changing event. What are our chances of actually experiencing one? What do we fear most and why? And when the worst does happen, what comes next?In this wise and layered book, Leigh talks intimately with people who’ve faced the unimaginable, from terrorism to natural disaster to simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Expecting broken lives, she instead finds strength, hope, even humour. Leigh brilliantly condenses the cutting-edge research on the way the human brain processes fear and grief, and poses the questions we too often ignore out of awkwardness. Along the way, she offers an unguarded account of her own challenges and what she’s learned about coping with life’s unexpected blows.Warm, candid and empathetic, this book is about what happens when ordinary people, on ordinary days, are forced to suddenly find the resilience most of us don’t know we have.

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eBooks, eMagazines & eAudio from Blue Mountains library

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Alison’s Picks – July

 

When We Have Wings by Claire Corbett.  It’s 200 years in the future. Living standards for most people are fairly poor, the weather has deteriorated owing to climate change, but the elite occupying the cities are doing fine, thank you very much. With the help of genetic modification and drugs, a privileged minority grow wings and can fly. This ability gives them the power and status to control the world they live in. The two protagonists we meet from this haves/have-nots world are Peri, a young woman from a poor background, and Zeke, a private investigator. Peri is on the run – and Zeke is employed to find her. When I began reading this book I thought: oh, dystopian setting, it will be too full of evil and misery… but I found it utterly compelling. Corbett has obviously researched the mechanics of flight, and the way in which weather and clouds impact it, astutely. I find myself looking at weather and clouds differently now.

Beyond words: a year with Kenneth Cook by Jacqueline Kent. The writer has lived a busy, quite successful life as a writer/editor, but she is, when it comes to intimate relationships, both choosy and afraid to engage. Then Kenneth Cook (author of Wake in Fright) enters her life. He is nearly twenty years her senior, and quite a difficult human being. But suddenly Jackie Kent has met the one she will let down the drawbridge for. This is her memoir of that tumultuous period in her life. Beautifully written, compelling reading.

 

 

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What Library Staff are Reading – June

Charles Sprague Pearce – Reading by the Shore

I’m still on the DI Tony MacLean series by James Oswald set in Edinburgh and have read the next three in the series,  The damage done, Written in bones and The gathering dark.  I’ve scored all three 4 stars

Any ordinary day: what happens after the worst day of your life? by Leigh Sales – Leigh Sales begins with a description of her own ‘ordinary day’ when, late in pregnancy, she woke up in excruciating pain; her uterus ruptured and she came very close to death.  The aftermath of this event makes her ponder how other people manage to pick up and get on with life after extraordinary tragedy strikes.  She interviews Walter Mikac who lost his wife and daughters in the Port Arthur shootings, Louisa Hope who was in the Lindt Café siege, Stuart Diver and others who have suffered trauma and those who try to help – police officers, social workers, a priest, a mortuary employee.  This was a book group read and we were not terribly impressed.  Some of the stories were interesting enough but there was insufficient analysis for the group. I rated it 3.5 stars but the group didn’t give it much more than 2.

The arsonist by Chloe Hooper an account of the Black Saturday fires in Victoria in 2009 and in particular the investigation into the fires around Churchill and Brendan Sokaluk who was found guilty of 10 counts of arson causing death.  The story of what happened is told from multiple points of view and in chronological order after the fires from the forensic investigations which identified the source of the fires, through the police investigations, identification and arrest of the suspect, his remand and the legal proceedings.  It is fascinating and horrifying by turns.  It is also beautifully written and I gave it 4 stars.  I read this one for one of my book groups and by coincidence it is the topic of the July meeting for my other book group.  It will be really interesting to see if the reactions are different.  The ABC covered the story in Australian Story last year.

Hell ship by Michael Veitch – another horrific tale.  This time of the Ticonderoga, a ship travelling with emigrants from Britain, mostly Scots displaced by the Highland Clearances which, by the time it arrived in Port Philip Bay, Victoria, had lost over 100 passengers to typhus.  The ship was forced to go into quarantine on the end of the Mornington Peninsula, near to modern day Portsea, in a bay now named after the ship.  Michael Veitch’s great grandparents were on the ship, his great grandfather a young doctor and his mother a highland lass who ended up helping to look after the sick.  Veitch tells the story of the ship’s journey starting in Liverpool in August 1852 but intersperses it with chapters giving the social history too.  I found the ones about the Highland Clearances and the plight of the poor, gaelic-speaking highlanders the most poignant.  Despite the horror, I thoroughly enjoyed this well-written and well-reasearched book and give it 4 stars.

Normal people by Sally Rooney – a novel chosen by someone at book group. It’s about a young Irish couple, Marianne and Connell, who have an on-off relationship from school into their late 20s.  It’s not my cup of tea.  It was easy enough to read (and I listened to it being beautifully read by Aoife McMahon in her lovely soft southern Irish accent on my RBDigital app) but just meandered on and on and off and off and there was no resolution or, in the end, point to it all.  Book group was quite scathing. I was one of the generous scorers, giving it 2 stars.

The children act by Ian McEwan.  This is my choice for book group this month.  This one should provoke an interesting discussion.  The plot is that Family Court judge Fiona Maye presides over a case where a hospital is seeking permission to treat a boy without his and his parent’s consent.  The boy is 3 months shy of his 18th birthday and is suffering from leukaemia.  He has accepted some of the treatment (chemotherapy) but, being a Jehovah’s Witness, is refusing to have a blood transfusion and is in serious danger of dying a slow, distressing death. Against this, there is a personal tragedy in the judge’s life as background. I saw the film starring Emma Thompson a few months ago. It’s very good and follows the book fairly faithfully.  I have read a number of McEwan’s books and find him a bit hit and miss. I think this is a hit and gave it 4.5 stars.  I hope book group agrees.  Actually, no I don’t.  The discussions are so much better when there is dissention.

I started reading Identity crisis by Ben Elton. I initially enjoyed the story of a police investigation into the death of a woman and the spiralling nightmare for Detective Mick Matlock as he navigates the prickly, quick-to-be-offended, possibly manipulated world of social media.  He can’t take any step that doesn’t end in a blizzard of hashtag fury.  I was amused at first but half way through was finding it tedious and the short chapters chopped and changed between so many characters stories I couldn’t keep up with the separate plotlines.  It might make a good film, it’s clever satire, but it’s not for me.

White House Chef Mystery series by Julie Hyzy (eAudio) – I am working my way through this series in eAudio, having listened to ‘State of the Onion’, ‘Hail to the Chef’ and ‘Eggsecutive Orders’, with ‘Buffalo West Wing’, ‘Affairs of Steak’, and ‘Fonduing fathers’ still to go.  I am enjoying these eAudiobooks about White House chef, Olivia Paras, who keeps finding herself in the midst of intrigue and murder.  Olivia’s patriotic views on how wonderful the USA is can sometimes get a bit much, but putting that aside, this is an entertaining and fun series to listen to.  3.5/5 stars

Backtrack Boys (Beamafilm)– Jackaroo Bernie Shakeshaft works with boys who are on course to end up in jail. Run from a shed on the outskirts of Armidale Bernie teaches the boys self-control, leadership and confidence by learning to train dogs in show jumping. It seems totally nuts until you see these rough boys showing love, care and connection to their dog. Combined with the staff’s fierce belief in the potential of each boy the program has seen the local crime rate drop by more than 50%. Whilst in so many ways the stories of the boys are tragic this beautiful coming-of-age documentary has moments of laughter, silliness and hope. I highly recommend this film as well as Richard Fidler’s conversation with Bernie Shakeshaft available as a podcast. 5/5 stars

Disappearing off the face of the earth by David Cohen – this was from my recommended “funny” books that I hadn’t got around to. I only bothered because it was short and Australian. I am not sure if it was meant to be comic or not, but it revolves around a underwhelming man and his “friend” and the all of the people who start to disappear around them. I am going to save you the need to read it – *major spoiler alert* – he is a serial killer who doesn’t realise it, and his friend is imaginary. 2 stars

Diary of a nobody by George Grossmith – this 1892 “diary” of a rather silly clerk who has just moved into a new home in the ‘burbs with his wife documents his simple life. It is not only amusing in its own right, but a fascinating peek into day to day life in the late 19th century.  I haven’t got far into it, but their slightly useless 20 year old son has just moved back in after being fired from his job in a bank for tardiness and a lack of motivation. Obviously some things never change.

My hearts are your hearts by Carmel Bird – I haven’t read short stories for some time, but so far I am enjoying these. I will be skipping the added descriptions of how they were written, as I am not interested in seeing behind the curtain of fiction.

What do our scores mean?

1 star – I hated it / Don’t bother / It felt more like homework than reading for pleasure
2 stars – I didn’t like it / Not for me but worth trying / This book needed something different to make me like it
3 stars – I liked it / Recommended / This book was good. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad.
4 stars – I really liked it / One of the best books I’ve read this year / I’m glad I read it
5 stars – I loved it / One of the best books I’ve ever read / I will probably read it again

 

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A Winter’s Tale or two

What is left for us, now that we can no longer say “Winter is Coming..“? Game of Thrones is finally over (spoiler alert: The Snark was a Boojum all along), winter has most definitely arrived, and it is time to rediscover the undeniable pleasures of a good book. To celebrate the Winter Solstice here are some aptly titled books to keep you in the mood.

Winter by Ali Smith

“Winter. Bleak. Frosty wind, earth as iron, water as stone, so the old song goes. And now Art’s mother is seeing things. Come to think of it, Art’s seeing things himself.
 
When four people, strangers and family, converge on a fifteen-bedroom house in Cornwall for Christmas, will there be enough room for everyone?
 
Winter. It makes things visible. Ali Smith’s shape-shifting Winter casts a warm, wise, merry and uncompromising eye over a post-truth era in a story rooted in history and memory and with a taproot deep in the evergreens, art and love.”

This is the second book in the Scottish author’s loosely connected Seasonal quartet (Autumn was short listed for the Man Booker. The fourth, Summer, is yet to be published).  This book has received great reviews all round, if not quite as enthusiastic as for Autumn. Winter was shortlisted for the British Book Award and the Orwell Prize for Political Writing. Winter is also available as an audio book.

Wintering by Krissy Kneen

When Jessica’s partner disappears into the dark Tasmanian forest, there is of course the mystery of what happened to him-the deserted car, the enigmatic final image recorded on his phone. There is the strange circle of local women, widows of disappeared men, with their edgy fellowship and unhinged theories. And the forest itself: looming hugely over this tiny settlement on the remote tip of the island.

But for Jessica there is also the tight community in which she is still a stranger and Matthew was not. What secrets do they know about her own life, that she doesn’t. And why do they believe things that should not-cannot-be true. For her own sanity, Jessica needs to know two things. Who was Matthew? And who-or what-has he become?

This is one with a twist in the tail – while it starts as an exploration of grief and the tragedy of not knowing what has happened to a loved one, it takes a decidedly paranormal turn. Ever wondered if there are still thylacines about? Read and find out!

The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare

“The Winter’s Tale is one of Shakespeare’s most varied, theatrically self-conscious, and emotionally wide-ranging plays. Much of the play’s copiousness inheres in its generic intermingling of tragedy, comedy, romance, pastoral, and the history play.”

Makes you want to read it, doesn’t it? This may not actually have anything to do winter (I for one shall never know), but 81% of Google reviewers like it, and it gets four stars on Good Reads, so maybe you will like it too!

If however you feel you may not have the time, the library also has the graphic novel version of the play, and it is illustrated by Rod Espinosa of The Courageous Princess fame.

The Ice lands by Steinar Bragi

Set against Iceland’s volcanic hinterlands, four friends embark on an ambitious camping trip. As their jeep hurtles through the barren land, an impenetrable fog descends, causing them to suddenly crash into a rural farmhouse. Seeking refuge from the storm, the group discover that the isolated dwelling is inhabited by a mysterious elderly couple.

If horror thrillers are more your thing, this is the second novel from the Icelandic poet and author. “Entertainingly weird”, or just plain weird? If nothing else reviewers commend its moody atmosphere and descriptive landscapes. Possibly just what you need on the longest night of the year.

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Good Reading Magazine – June 2019

The June issue of Good Reading magazine is ready for you to enjoy through Blue Mountains Library!

New Fiction

The Electric Hotel
by Dominic Smith

For nearly half a century, Claude Ballard has been living at the Hollywood Knickerbocker Hotel. A French pioneer of silent films, Claude now spends his days foraging mushrooms in the hills of Los Angeles and taking photographs of runaways and the striplings along Sunset Boulevard. But when a film history student comes to interview Claude about The Electric Hotel – the lost masterpiece that bankrupted him and ended the career of his muse, Sabine Montrose – the past comes surging back. In his run-down hotel suite, the ravages of the past are waiting to be excavated: celluloid fragments and reels in desperate need of restoration, and Claude’s memories of the woman who inspired and beguiled him.

Crossings
by Alex Landragin

A Parisian bookbinder stumbles across a manuscript containing three stories, each as unlikely as the other. The first, ‘The Education of a Monster’, is a letter penned by the poet Charles Baudelaire to an illiterate girl. The second, ‘City of Ghosts’, is a noir romance set in Paris in 1940 as the Germans are invading. The third, ‘Tales of the Albatross’, is the strangest of the three: the autobiography of a deathless enchantress. Together, they tell the tale of two lost souls peregrinating through time.

The White Girl
by Tony Birch 

Odette Brown has lived her whole life on the fringes of a small country town. After her daughter disappeared and left her with her granddaughter Sissy to raise on her own, Odette has managed to stay under the radar of the welfare authorities who are removing fair-skinned Aboriginal children from their families. When a new policeman arrives in town, determined to enforce the law, Odette must risk everything to save Sissy and protect everything she loves. In The White Girl, Miles-Franklin-shortlisted author Tony Birch shines a spotlight on the 1960s and the devastating government policy of taking Indigenous children from their families.

The Autumn Murders
by Robert Gott

In the autumn of 1944, George Starling prepares to exact revenge on the person he hates most in the world; Detective Joe Sable of the Melbourne Homicide division. Meanwhile, riven by internal divisions and disrupted by the war, Homicide has become a dangerous place for Joe to work. Constable Helen Lord, suspended from her position in Homicide, and battling grief, is also in Starling’s sights. Knowing that Inspector Titus Lambert can’t protect them from Starling’s ruthless aim, Helen and Joe decide to set their own trap. But when the trap is sprung, who will be caught in it?

Little Stones
by Elizabeth Kuiper

Hannah lives in Zimbabwe during the reign of Robert Mugabe: it’s a country of petrol queues and power cuts, food shortages and government corruption. Yet Hannah is lucky. She can afford to go to school, has never had to skip a meal, and lives in a big house with her mum and their Shona housekeeper. Hannah is wealthy, she is healthy, and she is white. But money can’t always keep you safe. As the political situation becomes increasingly unstable and tensions within Hannah’s family escalate, her sheltered life is threatened. She is forced to question all that she’s taken for granted, including where she belongs.

Real Differences
by S L Lim 

This is a story of a friendship so connected that without it one is not whole but lost. Middle-class, clever and white, Nick is a child of privilege while his best friend Andie is the daughter of Indo-Chinese refugees. Despite their very different backgrounds, they share a conviction they can change the world for the better. S L Lim acutely captures the dreams and disaffections of a millennial generation. Real Differences is an emotionally resonant novel about idealism, ethical ambition, and love, filled with unforgettable characters. It ultimately asks us the most important question of all: What is our life for?

You can borrow Good Reading from the library or access the digital subscription right here, right now, with your library card.

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