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Galen K. Valentine "gallaine" RSS Feed (Fort Worth, TX USA)
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Dragon Age: Inquisition - Jaws of Hakkon - PC [Digital Code]
Dragon Age: Inquisition - Jaws of Hakkon - PC [Digital Code]
Price: $14.99

6 of 29 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Game-breaking Bugs, March 28, 2015
Game-breaking DirectX crashes on a 780; driver update didn't help and neither did letting GeForce Experience "optimize" the settings. I have over 350 hours on the main game and only experienced an occassional crash. The DLC has crashed the game with every cut-scene and sometimes during normal play. One of the quests won't register completion even with 5/5 tasks complete: went back to previous saves and no luck. The real breaker for me came at the last battle. After it was over and with no chance to save it crashed on the cut-scene: auto save apparently didn't kick in.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 27, 2015 8:31 AM PDT


AccuWeather
AccuWeather
Price: $0.00

1.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't work, February 26, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: AccuWeather (App)
Does not work on Kindle Fire: blank screen after entering location. Tried clearing cache, reinstalling, and entering a different city, to no avail.


Omega J8005 Nutrition Center Single-Gear household Masticating Juicer, Chrome and Black
Omega J8005 Nutrition Center Single-Gear household Masticating Juicer, Chrome and Black
Price: $259.94
36 used & new from $129.99

966 of 987 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You Are What You Drink...er...Something Like That, October 7, 2006
What I Think

I started thinking about juicing a couple of years ago. Over time I did a little reading on the internet but never thought passed the idea of juicing more than fruit (I'll get to why this important a little later). The cost was also a little more than scary - I always thought I could find a better way to spend $300 or $400 (the price of the "better" fruit juicers).

I'm not a health nut, but after a short hospital stay I decided I should take better care of myself. About a month ago I finally bought the Omega 8005 Juicer. Why did I choose this model? Review after review extolled its virtues and the closest competitor, the Green Star Juice Extractor, was more expensive.

This is one kitchen appliance that is well worth the expense.

Why Would You Buy This

If you are only concerned with juicing fruit this isn't the best model for you. It isn't so much cost, a good centrifugal juicer will cost about the same, or more. The issue lies in the straining screen. Pulpy fruits like nectarines clog the screen and you have to take the unit apart to clean it before you can continue juicing (I know this from experience). It can be done and in small quantities isn't that big a deal. But if you never plan to juice leafy vegetables or grasses I'd look elsewhere.

If you want to juice leafy vegetables or grasses, then you need something like a gear juicer. The Omega fits the bill and is actually less expensive than some fruit juicers. There is also the issue of heat. Some juicers can heat the vegetables because they juice at high-speeds - thus reducing the nutritional value. Here again the Omega fits the bill because it's gear mechanism turns a low rate and is actually less expensive than many other similar units. The Omega can also make nut butters, pasta, and whole host of other things; have I mentioned that the Omega is less expensive than many of its competitors ;).

More importantly, though, a glass of juice from the Omega contains more delicious vegetable nutrition than I have ever had in a single serving before.

Use/Convenience

I was a little concerned about having to chop up the vegetables and the reports of "lengthy" cleaning. Well, I wouldn't worry too much about it. Depending on how much you juice at one time it takes 30-40 minutes, from washing and cutting up the vegetables to finishing up cleaning the last piece of the juicing mechanism (not much more effort than cooking the darn things in my opinion - and I still do a lot of that for dinner).

If you can clean a blender, the Omega is just as easy. I always take apart my blender to clean it, so cleaning the Omega wasn't that big a deal - maybe 2 or 3 minutes longer.

Tips/Tricks

First and foremost, do some research. The internet is chock-full of recipes and tips. Here are a few I picked up either through research or experimentation:

1. Use bitter or pungent vegetables and fruits in moderation - unless you just love chewing on a hunk of ginger, then go for it. Roots like ginger add a nice zing, but can overpower anything else if not used sparingly. Limes add a surprising amount of flavor; I add one-quarter of a small lime - anymore is just too much for me.

2. Peel oranges and grapefruits, but leave the white "skin" just under the surface. The rinds can be very bitter to taste and apparently contain minute traces of toxins. Grapefruits fall into the "pungent" category for me. When mixing in other fruits I only use 1 grapefruit.

3. If you want to sweeten a drink, use an apple instead of sugar, even in vegetable juice. It works. Trust me.

4. Use pulpy fruit in moderation. This is mostly a cleaning issue with me. I find that I have to take apart the juicing mechanism and rinse it off for *each* piece of pulpy fruit and this gets a little cumbersome when trying to make juice in the morning.

5. It can take a surprising amount of vegetables to make 24 oz of juice. But on the flipside one glass sets you up for the recommended daily allowance for the next day or so.

6. Start your juicing regime slowly. I found out the hard way that it can have an...uh...interesting affect on your digestive tract if you go whole hog too quickly.

7. Experiment. Some mixes are better than others, but in all honestly I haven't found one I didn't at least like.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 21, 2014 12:45 PM PST


Terrorist
Terrorist
by John Updike
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $24.95
353 used & new from $0.01

62 of 72 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but doesn't quite live up to its promise, July 4, 2006
This review is from: Terrorist (Hardcover)
Updike's, "Terrorist" is a timely novel. Newspapers and magazines are still full of the ebb and flow of terrorist and counter-terrorist operations. It is difficult for me, and by extension I think of American society in general, to understand why anyone would choose to become a suicide-bomber. Though they are only a fraction of the terrorists they are the most puzzling. So, I bought Updike's latest book on the strength of his reputation as a novelist and the reviews claiming his understanding of the radical mindset.

On the surface the story is about a teenager, Ahmed, who embraces an austere form of Islam. His mother, perhaps feeling guilty about his father's departure, leaves him to his own devices. An intervention is clearly necessary to save Ahmed from his Imam and Updike chooses Mr. Levy, a sixtyish guidance counselor at Ahmed's high school. The story's trajectory predictably puts Ahmed and Mr. Levy together in the truck carrying the bomb.

Scratch the surface though and you find...well, read on.

Ahmed is largely unforgiving, except, illogically, to the father who abandoned him. He is unapologetic, never needing to justify his beliefs to others or even to himself. His isolation and social awkwardness are not the product of his own attitudes, but of everyone else's. In almost every way, Ahmed acts like any teenager, if a bit more radical. And that is the problem. Remove the radical Islamic element from the novel and you have a story of a generic teenager. If Updike is saying that suicide-bombers are just like "ordinary" people, with the same problems and fears, I think he missed the boat. There clearly is a difference. If there weren't, then suicide-bombers would be far more prevalent. What I had hoped for was a deeper understanding of why an Islamist would choose to commit suicide in a manner that kills as many other people as possible. Failing that, I would have liked to understand why Ahmed as an individual would make such a choice; his social problems aren't enough since so many other children of broken families face the same issues without making such a gruesome decision. I got neither.

The story is structured to propel Ahmed, and by extension the reader, toward his violent final act - exit stage left. But we are robbed of even that. Surprise endings aren't bad. I like them. But only when they result in that, "Aha!" moment when all of the pieces fall together. This wasn't one of them. I felt blind-sided and left wondering just what the point of the book was.

It might seem that I hated the book. I didn't. There were moments when I felt that Updike had looked into the soul of America and understood it. The scenes devoted to Mr. Levy and his wife are masterful. I just felt that he hadn't delivered on the promise of the book.

Updike was, and still is, considered one of the premiere voices of American society. But, "Terrorist" showed me that he hasn't quite mastered the subtleties of another culture. In the final analysis, I'm not sure Updike understands suicide-bombers anymore than I do. He does put a more human face on them. And his writing is superb. In that respect, "Terrorist" is worth reading. But don't expect to gain a deeper insight into terrorism.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 26, 2009 3:12 AM PDT


Never Let Me Go
Never Let Me Go
by Kazuo Ishiguro
Edition: Hardcover
157 used & new from $0.01

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What it means to be human, July 16, 2005
This review is from: Never Let Me Go (Hardcover)
Kathy is nearing the end of her time as a carer and she tries to make sense of her life and the lives of those she cares for. After the death of her childhood friend, Ruth, a love for Tommy, Ruth's sometime boyfriend, not wholly kept secret or repressed is rekindled. This love fuels her desire to track down a hope only talked about in hushed whispers that would extend their time together.

The rest of this review contains spoilers, so read on at your own risk. I will say though, that Ishiguro reveals the "secret" plot twist very early in the book.

Stem cell research, new discoveries in genetics, and advances in the neurosciences have once again brought the age-old question of what it means to be human front-and-center. What rights would clones have, if it ever became viable to make them? Why would we even want to clone a human being? Would that make us less, or more, human? Ishiguro approaches these questions obliquely in his book, "Never Let Me Go". The science is never discussed and the focus remains squarely on the human-side of the equation.

The book is written as a narrative of life as a Hailsham student, and later as a carer, through the lens of Kathy's memories. It has the feel of an intimate conversation coming at the end of the narrator's life - a making peace with her past.

Of course, the reader knows from the beginning that Hailsham is not an ordinary boarding school. Something ominous lies on the horizon. And the author doesn't take long to let you know what it is - the "students" are actually clones raised to be donors of their vital organs once they reach maturity. What should have been something of a shock is rather less so. Ishiguro's writing is excellent, but his style lends a detached feeling that keeps the reader at arms length. In some sense it matches the isolation of the students from society-at-large; perhaps an attempt to explain how any society could tolerate such a system - out-of-sight out-of-mind. But the lack of emotional attachment to Kathy or Tommy or Ruth, the primary characters, makes them somewhat disposal. Who cares what happens to them? And in a way it dampens any interest the reader might have in what Ishiguro has to say about what it is to be human. And what exactly does he have to say about humanness? His answer is rather muddled.

Are we human because we have the capacity to love? It is love the drives Kathy to seek a deferment for Tommy and her. But their love isn't strong enough to withstand disappointment. Perhaps it never really was love, only mutual affection born from growing up together and sharing a common fate.

Perhaps our capacity for hope, even if only a thin sliver, makes us human. But Ishiguro doesn't give humanity much credit for that. After Tommy and Kathy discover that the deferment was a rumor that the teachers of Hailsham eventually stopped denying in the belief that it provided the "students" hope their own struggle to continue living ends. They give up and except their fate. Ishiguro spends little time on society outside of the bubble Kathy lives in. As a consequence the Hailsham proprietor's attempt to change society seems half-hearted and in the end even they give up.

Artist expression is Ishiguro's most prominent answer. Every year an arts and crafts show is held at the school. And every year the best are selected for the proprietor's private gallery; a gallery whose purpose is the source of some speculation as no one has actually seen it. Years later Kathy and Tommy would come believe that this art was collected to prove the love of applicants for deferment by showing their inner selves, who they really were - art as an expression of the human soul. In the final analysis though, as even this has failed to change the fate of the "students", rationalization may be Ishiguro's most convincing answer (our capacity to twist evidence to suit already preconceived ideals or ignore it when it can't be bent to our will).

Despite all of this there is enough in "Never Let Me Go" to stimulate thought and discussion if only the reader were made to care. Unfortunately, I could never bring myself to feel anything for Kathy. And that is a shame because hers is a cautionary tale that we as a society, and as individuals, should pay attention to. It goes beyond the particulars and delves deep into what makes us special, what makes us human.


The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life
The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life
by Steve Leveen
Edition: Hardcover
132 used & new from $0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enrich your reading by putting more focus into it, July 2, 2005
Leveen's guiding principle for, Well-Read Life, is that a richer reading experience leads to a richer life. He came to, in his words, "book love," late in life. But his enthusiasm and genuine respect for books is evident - there's no fanatic like the convert.

Well-Read Life, provides more an architecture than a detailed blue-print for increasing the quality of your reading life. Compared to Adler and Van Doren's, "How To Read A Book", Leveen barely outlines the process of teasing the most out of a book. But theirs is just a part of the process. A process that Leveen contends extends to the choosing of what to read. If there is a single point to be made in the book, it is that a reader must not only actively read books, but actively choose them as well. Not for Leveen blind adherence to the canonical lists of Great Western books. Each reader must choose what suits them and when. It is here that Leveen provides, this reader at least, with something new.

The basic plan is this: 1) develop a list of candidates, sorted by category, 2) amass a library of books to be read, usually chosen directly from the list but with some serendipity and 3) go back and review the books you have read at ever-increasing intervals. The importance of the last is in part due to how memory works. Kenneth Higbee in his book, "Your Memory" says, "The fact is that no matter how you learn something, if you do not use it occasionally you are likely to forget it unless you review it."

Developing a list of book candidates isn't a willy-nilly process. It requires that readers identify what interests them. Leveen suggests turning those interests into categories to provide focus. Reading for Leveen isn't about choosing books at random or from someone else's list. It is about what interests him. This list serves as the pool from which your purchases will be made. Some serendipity is acceptable, even encouraged. I probably would never have picked up Miller's, "A Canticle For Leibowitz", if I hadn't allowed chance to have its say; it turns out to have been one of the best genre-fiction novels I have had the pleasure to read in some time. I had developed some focus in my reading habits over the past couple of years but not until I read Leveen's book did I construct a written list of categories into which I placed possible future purchases. One last point about these categories, what you put into them is as important has identifying them. Leveen would have you seek out the best of the best in each category, but provides little guidance on how to find them. One of the most frustrating things about entering into a field new to you is that feeling of disorientation trying to find a starting place. I haven't found a magic wand, or website, that provides the answers - and neither has Leveen. But I can tell you that the feeling of accomplishment when you finally get your bearings is worth the toil.

The ever-expanding stack of unread books in my office/library was a constant source of irritation to me. It seemed somehow irresponsible to purchase more books when I hadn't even read all of the ones I already owned. I felt like a fraud when someone would ask if I had read all of those books and I could only report having read seventy or eighty percent of them to completion. Leveen thinks differently. For him having a large stack of unread books means that when the mood, or need, strikes the right book will always be within arms reach. Whew! No longer do I need worry about having more books than I could possibly read! Of course, budget and space play a part, but conscience need not worry. Again, though, this isn't just any old pile of books. It is a body of work drawn from your list of candidates.

Part of active reading is review. Leveen suggests that your part in the author-reader relationship doesn't end when you finish reading. Set the book aside for a day. Then go back and read your notes (you did remember to take notes didn't you?). Review select passages and think about what the author was trying to say and how it was said. Set the book aside again. This time come back to it in a week or so. Set the book aside and come back in month or so. After this review you can shelve the book. This process isn't entirely new. Books on memory use this review technique as part of learning and memorization.

Leveen's book, Well-Read Life, is more atlas than road-map. But if you haven't figured out where you are going, all the detailed road-maps in the world won't help you get there. This reader, at least, with Leveen's help, finally found his destination - until, that is, he gets there and then it will be time to find a new one.


Spice: The History of a Temptation
Spice: The History of a Temptation
by Jack Turner
Edition: Hardcover
70 used & new from $3.59

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Salt and Ground Pepper to taste.", February 17, 2005
"Salt and Ground Pepper to taste." Opening cookbooks at random it isn't hard to find such variations on that theme in dozens of recipes. But in the not too distant past ground pepper and other spices were used in quantities far greater than our pinch today. Jack Turner writes in, Spice: The History Of A Temptation, an intriguing history of something that is now almost passé. Though the word, "spice" is still used to described something exotic or foreign it has more often retained its erotic overtones. Spices once represented more than mere culinary enhancers. The history of their trade and uses has been the topic of other books. But Turner brings to the table a fun and informative look at the world when spice could be found in the bedroom, the physicians medicine cabinet, the counting house, and the pantry. His sense of humor is evident even in his chapter headings - "The Regicidal Lamprey and the Deadly Beaver" and "Afterward; or, How to Make a Small Penis Splendid."

Open up nearly anyone's pantry, or cabinets, and they are likely to have at least black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger - perhaps even cardamom and clove. It is hard to imagine that even the small quantities in the bottles sold at the typical grocery store represent year's worth of earnings to the common laborer just a few hundred years ago. Turner's book gives a sense of the hold that spices held on the imagination of ancient and medieval minds. Indeed, it was to find a new route to the Indies that Columbus and Magellan set sail - it isn't too far-fetched to suggest that the spice trade to some degree fueled the Age of Discovery. That until recently clove grew on only five volcanic islands in the Far East in some measure gives us a sense of just how exotic and foreign it once was. The journey to Europe could take as much a year, with the spices passing through many hands - Indian, Arab, Italian, etc. Clove and nutmeg inspired many myths and legends about their cultivation in fantastic lands. But even their rarity doesn't entirely explain the covetousness they inspired in many. Sometimes at odds with this rarity - the consequence being that most could never hope to afford even small quantities - is the ubiquity with which they appear in medicine, religion, sex, and cookery. Even Turner admits that it is difficult to understand all of this looking back from a distance of several hundred years, and the vast cultural divide that has opened between us and our forebears.

The value of spices to the medieval world is evident in their laws and even in the methods used to deceive buyers. Merchants adulterating their stock of spice could be executed. More revealing is that some merchants bloated their spices by adding shavings of silver. Perhaps most revealing of all is that many were willing to risk life and limb in the long dangerous trek to purchase spices at their source. Spices were even used as diplomatic incentives when suing for peace or bargaining for favors.

Though spices were used in greater quantities than at present, Turner largely dispels the myth that they were used to mask the taste of rancid food: "Anyone willing to believe that medieval Europe lived on a diet of spiced and rancid meat has never tried to cover the taste of advanced decomposition with spices" - whether from experience or research he doesn't say. Besides, spices were vastly more expensive than cheap meat. Still, there is some truth to the matter. The preservation of meat was largely accomplished by using salt, resulting in dry chewy meat that often required soaking and prolonged cooking before being eaten. Spices helped make preserved meat more edible. Wine deteriorated rapidly once the cask had been opened. Between the freshness of a just opened cask and the acidity of one opened a few days before the taste of the wine could be "refreshed" with spices. In time spiced wine was in demand no matter the freshness.

Though you wont find detailed statistics and maps of trade routes throughout history you will find an engaging look at how pervasive spices once were. Turner's history is fun to read and for those who want more information the obligatory list of sources can be found at the end of the book. He is the type of historian I wish I had been introduced to earlier in life. I'll be on the look-out for more books by this author.


Creating Short Fiction: The Classic Guide to Writing Short Fiction
Creating Short Fiction: The Classic Guide to Writing Short Fiction
by damon knight
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.19
65 used & new from $0.87

50 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Practical advice from a talented writer, January 29, 2005
Knight's, Creating Short Fiction is, perhaps ironically, a short book but he manages to cover the craft of writing from nurturing talent to getting the story completed to what its like being a writer. A lecturer at the Clarion Workshop and author of many short stories and novels he knows how to write. But he doesn't give the reader a step-by-step guide to story writing. Such a recipe, in my limited experience, doesn't exist and Knight does well to avoid trying to give one. What the reader will find are discussions about the elements every story must have and how to use them. He also discusses what a story is and is not, how to generate ideas, and even a few work habits the reader might find effective.

The elements of stories and story writing can be found in many other books. Rather than simply parrot them, Knight is candid about which techniques he doesn't like and why; but that isn't to say the would-be author is allowed to break every rule. He give examples of stories and authors that show the successful use of a particular element or technique e.g. first person subjective point-of-view. And Knight includes diagrams that make the concept of story structure and viewpoint easier to understand. All of this advice is given in a conversational style that is never condescending.

Creating Short Fiction helped me to understand that, like painting or drawing, writing is highly individualized. Every art form has its accepted rules and techniques. And each artist must learn to build upon that foundation, combining the fundamental elements into unique patterns.

There are a few editorial errors, mainly of omission, that make the book feel as if it were the choicest bits from a much longer work. Overall this is an excellent book for the beginning writer, and perhaps the experienced one.


Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister
by Gregory Maguire
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.60
770 used & new from $0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A work of art beyond a retelling of Cinderella, January 8, 2005
It is easy enough to describe Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister as a retelling of the Cinderella story. But that is too simple. Maguire makes the story his own by changing voice and main character. More a historic novel in form and tone than a fairytale the story is no longer the traditional one. To add a ring of truth he sprinkles in actual events, such as the conversion to Calvinism and the collapse of the tulip-bulb market in Holland in the early Sixteenth century. Fairytales were meant to instruct and to entertain. If Maguire had only reshaped Cinderella into a historic novel his removal of fairy godmothers and magic would leave a rather hollow story. But he doesn't. His characters mull over issues such as the role of art and beauty and their affects on society and the individual; extreme beauty can be as isolating as extreme ugliness. The discussion of these topics is made less daunting by retaining enough echoes of the original fairytale that the story remains familiar and comfortable.

There is also a beauty to the language of Confessions. One aspect of appreciating the work of any artist is recognition of his unique contribution to form and technique i.e. his transcendence of it. But another aspect, closely allied to form and technique, is how his art touches the heart and soul of its viewers. Maguire is a masterful writer whose use of language is beautiful beyond simple communication. He has written a novel that can be appreciated for its beauty of language, its compelling story, and its thought provoking questions - each aspect informs the others but never interferes.

I admit to being uneasy at first with Maguire's making of the Cinderella fairytale into a more mundane historic fiction. But further reflection led me to accept that it should be judged in its own right. Maguire is a talented writer and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister has found a permanent place on my crowded bookshelves.


Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
by Susanna Clarke
Edition: Hardcover
424 used & new from $0.01

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Magic in 19th century England written in a Jane Austen voice, December 31, 2004
Disenchanted with Fantasy for the past several years I had begun to despair of finding anything interesting and unique. To be sure, there have been several quite popular novels and series. But most ran to tales more distinctly political intrigues than magical or meandering stories that should have been put to bed long ago - none of which is to my taste. It was one reviewer's characterization of Clarke's style as "pitch-perfect Austen" that intrigued me enough to purchase, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. I have read all of Jane Austen's novels and am quite fond of them. Having recently finished Clarke's debut novel I can attest that, on the face of it, the reviewer wasn't far off the mark. But if Clarke is a modern Jane Austen she is a more melancholy one.

Clarke should be congratulated for such a finely crafted first novel. Her mastery of language and structure allow her to maintain the fiction of a story set and written in the nineteenth century. It is marred somewhat by her choice to "misspell" - or use a much older spelling - a word or two to maintain the illusion of some age. It had rather the opposite effect on me in that it seemed more like the contrivance of a modern author attempting to lend an antique air to her voice. Nevertheless, this is a minor quibble. A more annoying habit was the constant use of long footnotes. Instead of a few short lines or references we are often treated to footnotes that either take up over three-quarters of the page or run on for several pages! They are a distraction that adds next to nothing to the story itself. The attempt reminded me of Penguin's series of literary classics containing notes explaining terms or ideas likely unknown to modern readers. But they are mercifully short and to the point.

The lack of action in Jane Austen's novels is counterbalanced with a nearly perfect choice of when to end the story - just before interest turns into boredom for lack of anything substantial happening. Clarke throws in more action but the story still seems a little long (more than twice the length of an Austen novel). The story builds so slowly that the climax sneaks up and it is almost over before you know it. It turns darker towards the end. Clarke turns Strange, for a time, into a more Poe-like character - sad, insane, dark - than anything you will find in Austen. You might think that someone writing in "pitch-perfect Austen" would be out of their element in such a setting. But Clarke's imagery and characterization remain strong even as it becomes less Austen-like. The ending felt neither like a resolution or the promise of one. In the end (pun intended) I was dissatisfied. But the journey itself was pleasurable enough to make up for it.

Despite criticism the story is very fine indeed, if a little long. It is one of the finest I have read in recent years. If you enjoy Clarke's storytelling you might want to pick up a Jane Austen novel or two.


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