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Gittelbooks

Gittelbooks

Joined May 2016

Reading is everything
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Origin by Dan Brown
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Gittelbooks
Conclave | Robert Harris
Pickpick

A Vatican thriller, Conclave purports to play out a papal election in the college of cardinals. Since this reader knows basically nothing about the inner workings of the Catholic Church it might be very accurate, or not. What it is is a well-crafted tale with the requisite plot twists that kept me involved once I connected with the main character and sorted everyone else out. Most fans of the political thriller genre will like this. Enjoy!

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Gittelbooks
The Rooster Bar | John Grisham
Pickpick

Grisham explores illegal immigrants & the student loan scandals in a page-turning narrative that skillfully combines these seemingly unrelated issues. Three disgruntled students about to graduate from a tenth tier for-profit law school, act out the fantasies of everyone who ever wanted to turn the system on its head and right a wrong in the process. Easily the best Grisham in a very long time.

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Gittelbooks
Panpan

I believe this book is above my pay grade. Finer minds than mine will hail it as a masterpiece but I struggled through its pages like I was wearing concrete boots. Laden with heavy Old Testament biblical imagery & text, the excess verbiage took its toll. I know there is a message to be had here, which is why I persevered to the end, more out of respect for the author‘s efforts than any real reading pleasure. Not for the faint of heart IMHO.

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Two Kinds of Truth | Michael Connelly
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Classic Harry Bosch. Tight, well constructed saga of parallel stories with predictable outcomes, i.e. veteran detective Harry comes out ahead, but not without a struggle. Still one of the best police procedural series. If only Connelly could keep his thoughts about our president to himself. They add nothing to the story & I‘m certain Harry Bosch would agree.

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Gittelbooks
Prussian Blue | Philip Kerr
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At 528 pages, Prussian Blue is too long. Tighter editing would have served it, & the reader, well. Still it‘s a good addition to Philip Kerr‘s Bernie Gunther series now a dozen books. Gunther‘s story spans the world wars & his life as a career Berlin detective. His reputation & skill inevitably draw the attention of the Nazi all-stars including Heydrich, Himmler, Goebbels et al. Real history as the backdrop. Read the books in order if you can.

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Gittelbooks
Pickpick

Louise Penny‘s books are a trade-off between frantic page-turning & solidly satisfying characters. You go away with a full belly. The literary versions of Italian food over Chinese. A Fatal Grace is the 2nd in a series devoted to the crime solving skills of Chief Inspector Gamache. The plots are almost incidental. It‘s the people who draw you in: black, white, gay, straight, young, old. In a small Quebec village, no less. I recommend a visit.

RebelReader I'm loving these people and this series too! I'm glad I'm late to the Louise Penny party because I have a lot to look forward to. 😀😀😀 2y
Gittelbooks Well put. 2y
7 likes2 comments
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Gittelbooks
The Cuban Affair | Nelson DeMille
Mehso-so

Nelson De Mille is the consummate story-teller. He can be relied upon to generate page-turners studded with smart-aleck heroes with great senses of humor. But not this time. Even though his protagonist fits the bill, this novel is weighted down by excessive wordiness that slows the action to a crawl. The strong point is a greater understanding of the mind-set of the Cuban exile community, and the unlikelihood that the Cuban thaw is real.

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Lab Girl | Hope Jahren
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My main interest in botany is keeping my house plants alive. This is a serious book about botany. I will never look at a tree or even a weed in the same way. Hope Jahren is a scientist who loves her work and passes that on to the reader. Parts are challenging & I sometimes had to make a concerted effort to plow through the technical stuff but if you like to learn this is for you. I compare this to John McPhee which I think is high praise.

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The Late Show | Michael Connelly
Mehso-so

Renee Ballard is no Harry Bosch. Seems obvious, right? But Michael Connelly is a big-time brand name & Renee (his new detective protagonist) falls short. She is a monochromatic "chip-on-her-shoulder" character in need of highlights and shading. Am always glad to see smart female characters, but she misfires. Almost as if MC does not know how to write women. The story is routine MC, well crafted if not exciting. MC fans will still enjoy.

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A Happy Marriage: A Novel | Rafael Yglesias
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What can you say about a 54 year old woman who died? (Sorry, Erich Segal) NYC couple Enrique & Margaret, joined in marriage for 29 years, go through the final months of Margaret's life in a series of flashbacks that chronicle the ups & downs of their relationship. Alternately explicit in the disease details & their personal histories this novel is a slice of reality that many people will experience if they stay together long enough.

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Gittelbooks
Bailedbailed

I wanted to love this book. I was almost immediately engaged but I got lost in the midst of too many characters and too much to remember. Perhaps because no one jumped out and made an impression. Sorry because she is a well respected writer.

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The Razor's Edge | W. Somerset Maugham
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Stellar storytelling. Young American Larry Darrell talks his way into fighting in WWI - at age 17 - & emerges a changed person with no use for the expectations of others. Narrated by Maugham who anchors the plot, it's not for everyone but I enjoyed it immensely. Off to catch the 1946 film with Tyrone Power to see how it compares.

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Amagansett | Mark Mills
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Mark Mills is the genuine article - a real story teller who rolls out a narrative in the way a fisherman pays out his reel, a handy analogy since the novel takes place on the South Fork of Long Island, its history steeped in whaling & fishing. Amagansett these days is part of a necklace of towns inhabited in the summer months by the rich & famous. In 1947, when the action begins, the r&f were just arriving. A very satisfying page turner mystery.

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A Summons to Memphis | Peter Hillsman Taylor
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Picked this up at a used book store in rural MA. Had never heard of title or author. Yet it's a Pulitzer Prize winner. And deservedly so. Story of southern family manipulated by a father unlike any other. Not abusive in traditional sense, he nevertheless sets out to undermine the lives of his children for his own aggrandizement. Unusual, beautifully written & supremely satisfying. Gives revenge an entirely new cast.

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Gittelbooks
Who Is Rich? | Matthew Klam
Bailedbailed

I had enough at 109 pages. A whiny adulterous protagonist surrounded by equally unsympathetic characters. Life's too short to spend it on bad books.

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Gittelbooks
Typhoon | Charles Cumming
Pickpick

A thriller for grown ups. Set in Hong Kong after the British handover, then moving on to Shanghai, Typhoon tells a compelling tale of espionage & Islamic terrorism in China. Anchored by a young MI6 agent & his American "cousin" as the Brits referred to their CIA counterparts, the story starts off slowly & then takes off. Characters & relationships play second fiddle to plot, but really not by much. For fans of the genre, well worth your time.

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Mehso-so

Heard her interviewed on NPR & read the book. Short essays, some good, many unexceptional. Her brand of aging centers around plastic surgery & Upper West Side sensibilities. So, will not speak to many women. Maybe that's the point? But aging is universal, isn't it?

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Lost in Shangri-La | MItchell Zuckoff
Bailedbailed

Great potential, but got bogged down in the anthropology of the New Guinea setting. I just got bored with it.

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Camino Island | John Grisham
Mehso-so

Starts off all systems go. Then fizzles. Female protagonist unlikeable and boring. Great idea but compelling story never fulfills its promise. Did love the literary references, though.

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Bridge of Sighs | Richard Russo
Mehso-so

At the outset I was in love with this book. But like guests who never go, it wore out its welcome. Not to say that the story didn't draw me in. But gradually it showed wear like a loved garment that sprouts holes. Looking back I realize, too, that women- with the exception of one key character- don't fare well coming off at best controlling, at worst duplicitous. And males spanning the spectrum. Perhaps a worthy effort, but not one of his best.

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Golden Prey | John Sandford
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John Sanford books are like M&Ms for me. I seek them out & keep going back 'til I'm finished. Essentially the 2 have the same nutritional value. But both are fun, too. Golden Prey not his best but still worth the time. Some real brutality accompanied by tongue in cheek humor. Could have been better edited & dropped 50 pages. And what other police thriller features Donald Judd & Marfa, TX? Lucas Davenport in his US Marshall debut. Go for it, fans.

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Among the Living | Jonathan Rabb
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I don't do Holocaust. Too painful. But although Among the Living is a tale of survivors it is so much more. Set in immediate post-war Savannah, this novel traces the journey of one man from the camps in Europe to the embrace of family in Georgia. Along the way life intervenes as it always does. The writing is spare and eloquent with knowing nuggets of insight that just stopped me in my tracks. An affirmation of humanity. Very highly recommended.

4 likes1 stack add
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Gittelbooks
Pickpick

If a book about Nazi Germany can be "entertaining״ I guess this is it. Taking place over a few days in Berlin during the 1936 Olympics, Paul Schumann an American of German lineage is sent by our government to assassinate a highly placed German who is charged with rearming his country in anticipation of WWII. Plot twists abound propelling this page turner. Wildly implausible, but very serious issues are not neglected.

2 likes2 stack adds
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Gittelbooks
Bailedbailed

I gave it to page 64 hoping to find a reason to continue. Yes the writing is beautiful but I found myself feeling as claustrophobic as the setting. I'm often disappointed when I lose interest in a book. In this case I thought since 'The Rules of Civility' was so stellar that this novel would deliver as well. It just seemed to be going nowhere fast. Most Litsy entries are very positive on this book. Can't share that appreciation.

2 likes1 comment
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Gittelbooks
Livia Lone | Barry Eisler
Pickpick

Barry Eisler never disappoints, a master of the page-turner who has turned out in Livia Lone a chronicle of the horrors of human trafficking. Livia Lone - her name conjures isolation- was trafficked from Thailand with her younger sister, sold by their parents in early adolescence. The depictions are brutal, the villains out of central casting. Almost no one can be trusted. A top notch tale of vigilante justice with a heartbreaking denouement.

Gittelbooks @LauraBeth Thank you! 3y
2 likes1 comment
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Gittelbooks
Waking Lions | Ayelet Gundar-Goshen
Pickpick

Bonfire of the Vanities in the Negev. MD Eitan Green accidentally runs down Eritrean man & leaves the scene. Implausible, unpredictable results and generally spellbinding narrative. Relationships with spouse, children, colleagues aired out and examined with unexpected outcomes. Worthwhile, and largely well-written. Could have been better edited and slimmed down by about fifty pages.

1 like1 stack add1 comment
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All Grown Up | Jami Attenberg
Panpan

A study in contemporary narcissism anchored by a female version of an empty suit. Largely plotless, darting from one inconsequential character to the next, 39 ( soon to turn 40) year old Andrea Bern still doesn't know what she wants to be when she's all grown up. Liberally sprinkled with all the appropriate currently PC sentiments, the true focus of the story, the essence of family, is given short-shrift b/c the protagonist cannot deal with it.

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Pickpick

A novel about Kaiser Wilhelm. What will they think of next? Actually this smallish volume packed a big punch & I could not put it down. Set in 1940 when the German war effort is still going strong, Wilhelm continues his exile in the Netherlands, and now 80 & frail, still entertains thoughts of regaining the throne. He is cared for by loyal staff & watched over by the SS. Spies & romance add to the mix. But very serious issues add the substance.

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Pickpick

This novel grabbed me and did not let go, but not for the usual reasons. I couldn't really relate to any of the characters- mostly NYC WASPS living large in 1938 Manhattan - and much of the action took place in bars & supper clubs, not my usual hangouts. But Towles paints a picture of the city, maybe writes a love letter is more like it that evokes a visceral reaction. The writing is elegant & reminds me of Mark Helprin's work. Read it & see.

Jaimelire I have been curious about this one for a while. Will read it. 3y
Gittelbooks @Jaimelire Enjoy! And thanks. 3y
3 likes2 comments
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Gittelbooks
Big Law | Ron Liebman
Pickpick

Thoroughly entertaining. Filled with first-rate villains & good guys, anchored by an all-too-human protagonist. Amidst the narrative expect to learn something about the internal nuts & bolts of big law firms and the personalities that run the show. Locals will enjoy the NYC "screen shots" (Keens Steakhouse, the Pepsi sign in LIC on the East River). Reminiscent of Grisham, but north of the Mason-Dixon. Recommended if you like the legal genre.

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Gittelbooks
Paris Spring | James Naughtie
Panpan

See my blurb. Finished the book. Still feel cheated by time spent reading it.

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Gittelbooks
Paris Spring | James Naughtie

I'm about 20 pages from end of this book & I don't care how it resolves. If there's one thing I'm learning after all these years of reading, thousands of books under my belt: if a book does not call to you when you put it down at the beginning it's unlikely to ever do so. Guess I'm just a slow learner. But better late than never. Skip this one.

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Gittelbooks
When Breath Becomes Air | Paul Kalanithi
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A young superbly accomplished life destroyed by cancer. Paul Kalanithi is a neurosurgeon & a writer. He dies at 36 from lung cancer leaving behind a devastated family including a wife & 8 month old daughter. The story he tells is his own. His wife honors him by writing the epilogue thereby closing the circle that began with his diagnosis. Profoundly sad, no way around that, but also an incredibly amazing human accomplishment.

2 likes1 stack add
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Gittelbooks
Pickpick

This novel is an instantly engaging psychological panorama of a lonely 37 year old Indian woman whose husband works in Dubai & whose teenage son wants only to thwart her every plan for his future. A beautifully written page-turner with plot twists that I never saw coming. And a study in the power of rationalization and denial. Very highly recommended.

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Panpan

Beats me why I did not bail on this book. Overwritten & tedious in so many places with mostly lukewarm characters that failed to engage me. I did a lot of skimming b/c I could not believe how long it was taking me to plow through to the end. I will give it this: an excellent exposure of the rigidity of the English class system. Perhaps I soldiered on b/c I loved Major Pettigrew...

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The Wrong Side of Goodbye | Michael Connelly
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Harry Bosch never disappoints. Or should I say Michael Connelly? I've read the entire series & really enjoyed watching this detective as he ages & moves through life. This latest entry continues Connelly's formula of weaving two story lines throughout the novel, each engaging in its own right & never cannibalizing the other. It's also a love letter of sorts to Los Angeles. If police procedurals are your thing, this is a very good bet. Enjoy.

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Whistler | John Grisham
Pickpick

John Grisham is an excellent story teller & The Whistler showcases his talents. It's has substance, pathos, & interesting characters. It is Carl Hiaasen without the humor. Florida never looked so corrupt. I never finish a Grisham novel without having learned something. The Whistler is no exception. If you're a Grisham fan, or just a fan of the legal thriller genre, this should be a satisfying read.

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Nutshell | Ian McEwan
Panpan

The narrator is a fetus. Need I say more? Many have described this as a Hamlet remake. I wouldn't know because I'm shamefully inadequate when it comes to Shakespeare. The most I can say for it is that I was interested in seeing how the author played this out. But, in all honesty, nothing he's written other than Atonement has really made an impact. But when he is good he is very good. Atonement blew me away. Sorry about this one.

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Before the Fall | Noah Hawley
Pickpick

Lots of attention & interest for this book on Litsy. Few readers ambivalent. Either liked/loved it or were disappointed. I really was taken with this novel although I understand those who found it wanting. The book is a thriller with speed bumps & until I slowed down to savor it I was also growing impatient. Once I took the time I was immensely rewarded. Also found significant religious symbolism that really got me thinking. First-rate.

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Gittelbooks
The English Teacher: A Novel | Yiftach Reicher Atir
Pickpick

Just finished reading this. An amazing fabric composed of so many threads. Thriller, love story, espionage, betrayal, and psychological insight into loneliness and identity. How intelligence organizations can eat their young. One of the best spy novels I've encountered. Beautifully translated from the original Hebrew. A deeply nuanced page-turner and a true work of art. Highly recommended.

annahenke Great review! 3y
Gittelbooks @annahenke Thank you very much. Hope you will get ahold of this book & enjoy it. 3y
2 likes1 stack add2 comments
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Gittelbooks
Pickpick

Auspicious series opener with interesting Québécois setting. More literary and cerebral than most mysteries. Would be a stretch to call this a thriller although I kept hearing the book call my name and at times couldn't put it down. Am looking forward to later additions to the series. Recommended.

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Gittelbooks
Pickpick

Heart-breaking story of loving, tone deaf parents, hampered by culture and personal background, who cannot stop themselves from destroying one child & grievously impacting the others. Beautifully written, sometimes overwrought, but seemingly always sincere. Examines parental expectations & cult of professional academic achievement only now being questioned as cookie-cutter goals for all young people. In many respects devastating.

2 likes1 stack add1 comment
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Gittelbooks
Extremis | Barry Eisler
Pickpick

Part of Barry Eisler's highly competent, absorbing John Rain series. Most of these have been retitled. Not sure why because can be confusing. Search by author. Very few redeeming characteristics of hired killer Rain and sidekick Dox. Nevertheless they are in their own ways oddly like-able. Books are well written with interesting locales and manage to tell a good story without constantly resorting to brutally prolonged violence. Recommended.

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Killer Pursuit | Jeff Gunhus
Panpan

Love thrillers. Only allow myself a limited amount, like candy, a steady diet does not a reader make. I generally binge read several & move on to something more substantial. Killer Pursuit was the first of my current binge. It was a satisfying read with a believable female protagonist. I did not see the plot twist coming. So what could go wrong? The violence. The brutality of some of the narrative was a real turn off. Must be a better way.

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Pickpick

Memoir as thriller. Certainly not because of the subject- one man's departure from Hasidic life to the secular world, but because I couldn't wait to find out how his wife & children coped. Not well, it turns out. But no more spoilers. This is an exceptionally well put together narrative and an inside look at religion in the extreme. Worth your time if this subject appeals to you.

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Gittelbooks
Tai-Pan | James Clavell
Pickpick

I ended up loving this despite struggles with the pidgin English & lengthy battle scenes. The characters were engaging in so many ways. Best of all was the insight into the genius of recognizing Hong Kong's potential as a commercial powerhouse. Britain in its heyday before the decline of the Empire. If you like adventure, intrigue and history give this a try.

3 likes2 stack adds
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Pickpick

More about the importance of family than anything else. This basic truth transcends all the class, political, and cultural angst that passes for social commentary these days. Truthfully I didn't learn what really makes so-called hillbilly culture tick. And that was disappointing because I know so little about it. Nevertheless this was an excellent "local boy makes good" story - absorbing and compelling examination of the American Dream.

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Gittelbooks
Dear Mr. M: A Novel | Herman Koch

Read much further into this book than I usually do if I'm not going to finish. Just totally lost patience with the characters and meandering narrative. Loved The Dinner, ambivalent about Summer House With Pool, & just completely disappointed with this.

2 likes1 stack add
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Gittelbooks
Pickpick

This is a charming & sometimes very funny take on aging & family relationships. No small accomplishment. It deals with tough contemporary issues & no one really comes away diminished. It's a quintessential NYC saga that applies in every locale where human beings live, love, and create bonds that even death cannot sever. Recommended for those who are fascinated by the beauty & resilience of individuals moving along their personal pathways.

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Mehso-so

Interesting plot concepts populated with less than stellar character development. Takes place in VT & MA with city of Northampton the actual star & Brattleboro in a supporting role. Locales were the draw for me b/c very familiar with this part of New England.