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Pride Month Reads!

Pride Parade

Boston Pride 2017

Happy Pride Month everyone! I attended Boston Pride for the first time this past weekend and it was an environment full of happy, dancing people who felt comfortable being themselves. So, in honor of Pride Month, I decided to put together a few books that have excellent LGBTQ+ representation. They are all YA novels that serve as an introduction for cisgender/straight readers, provide representation for LGBTQ+ teens, and can be enjoyed by all ages. Representation is so important, especially for traditionally marginalized communities to be able to see themselves in characters. Without further ado, here are some great Pride reads!

You Know Me Well by David Levithan & Nina LaCour

You Know Me WellThis book takes place during Pride Week and follows two teens, Mark and Katie, who have never spoken before they end up in the same gay bar. They’re both young, gay, and afraid of love, which creates a fast bond between the two of them. The story is told in alternating points of view as Mark and Katie grow closer and adventure through the colorful world of Pride while trying to figure out what to do after high school graduation. Given that David Levithan and Nina LaCour are both members of the LGBTQ community, the vibrant scenes that take place during Pride feel authentic, all the way down to the bands that play. You Know Me Well is a quick read full of the joy, happiness, and acceptance.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante

Aristotle and Dante was one of the best books that I have read this year. When the book starts, Aristotle is struggling with his brother’s arrest and the fact that his parents won’t talk about it. Dante is an oddball kid who doesn’t look at the world quite the same way as everyone else. They meet at a pool over the summer and quickly become the best of friends and, maybe, just a little bit more. The first word that comes to mind when I think of this book is “sweet.” Ari and Dante have the most genuine, adorable friendship and the feelings between them progress slowly and realistically. With a narration style similar to that of The Catcher in the Rye and characters that steal your heart, this book will quickly become one of your favorites!

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

The Art of Being Normal

The Art of Being Normal was the first YA book about transgender characters I ever read. Although the author herself is cisgender, she spent years working with transgender teens and clearly did her research in order to portray the characters and their experiences as well as she could. David is in the process of trying to figure out how to transition to a girl and how to come out to family and friends. Leo is the new kid at school with a few secrets of his own who is desperately trying to stay under the radar. The two of them have much more in common than they initially think. While The Art of Being Normal doesn’t address trans issues beyond the most basic beginning thoughts of transitioning, I still think this book is important. It is a great introduction for cis readers to the perspective of transgender characters and I think that young trans teens who are still trying to figure out their identity could find it helpful.

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

Everything Leads to You

Nina LaCour is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. It is rare to see books, especially in YA, where a character’s sexuality is just a part of who they are. Often, the plot centers solely around a character coming out or bullying/harassment in school, but that isn’t the case with Everything Leads to You. Emi is a talented young set designer trying to break her way into Hollywood. When she finds a mysterious letter from a recently deceased Old-Hollywood star, she meets Ava, who is unlike anyone Emi has ever encountered before. The world of Emi’s set designs and film-making is so vibrant in this book that readers can’t help but picture every piece of furniture Emi places in a room. She has a caring romance with Ava and I love that their feelings for each other took a backseat to solving the mystery surrounding Ava’s family. It was nice to read about two lesbian characters who were more than just their sexuality or their feelings for each other.

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

If I Was Your Girl

If I Was Your Girl tells the story of Amanda, a trans woman who has been fully transitioned and on pills for several years. She’s recently moved to Tennessee to live with her dad and finish out high school while remaining as low profile as possible. Her plans become complicated when she acquires a group of friends and meets a boy named Grant who she wants to tell everything. This is also the first YA book written by a trans woman to be heavily promoted, which is amazing. The book is heartfelt and significantly more upbeat than one might expect from a story that could have easily felt dark. Meredith Russo also includes two separate notes to readers, one for cis-gendered readers and another for trans readers, each with their own message about the book and its contents. To see those notes in full and to read an awesome review of the book by a trans woman, have a look here.

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Two Boys Kissing

I’m closing this list out with David Levithan again because it’s hard to go wrong with one of his books. His first book, Boy Meets Boy, was originally published in 2003 when it wasn’t anywhere near as normal to see a romance between two boys, even in Young Adult books. Since then, he’s continued to write beautiful stories about gay teens just trying to live their best life in a world that tries its best to knock them down. Two Boys Kissing was no exception to this. The book is narrated by the generation of gay men that died from AIDS telling the story of several gay couples and gay teenagers in the present. All of this is centered around Harry and Craig, two ex-boyfriends trying to break the Guinness World Record for the longest kiss. I have never read another book narrated like Two Boys Kissing and the contrast between the lives of the gay men killed by AIDS and the teenagers today was stunning and I teared up while reading a few times. It was equal parts adorable and sad in a way that only David Levithan can manage. This book is an excellent reminder of how far we have come and how far we still need to go for equality.

Happy Pride Everyone! Keep being your beautiful selves, no matter who that may be!

-Megan, Intern

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Bookstores of Boston, a Brief Overview of America’s Most Collegiate City

In the past few years that I’ve spent in Boston, I’ve made a point to try and visit some of the many book stores it houses. Boasting over 100 colleges in the greater Boston area, I don’t think it is outrageous to claim that Boston is America’s ‘Most Collegiate City’, and it shows. The sheer amount of college students, professors, libraries, and of course bookstores show how academic Boston is, and how more knowledge is constantly sought. A veritable Mecca for those seeking to learn for the sake of learning!

With that, I’m going to highlight a few of my favorite bookstores that I have visited in Boston during my college years, as well as mention those that I have heard of and intend to visit. If there is a bookstore on here that I fail to mention, which you, our readers, feel deserves a moment in the spotlight, please feel free to comment away!

The bookshelves at Porter Square Books runneth over with something new to learn!

Porter Square Books: Nestled into a corner near the Star Market in Porter Square, Porter Square Books is a hidden gem that every college student in the nearby area seems to discover by chance. I myself came across it my freshman year of college, when my friend and I braved the snows of Nemo to go to the grocery store. As we attempted to head back into that record breaking snowstorm, we realized that we wouldn’t get far, and took refuge in Porter Square Books. As a point I’ve practically beaten into the ground by now, I love books and bookstores, and my friend and I were so pleasantly surprised by Porter Square Books that we stayed many hours, even after the snow stopped.

The store itself isn’t enormous, but the selection of books it has is excellent, with a range of the classics, new arrivals, and just quality choices in the fiction, poetry, mystery, travel, and cooking sections, among others.

In addition to a great selection of books, Porter Square Books also has a small coffee bar in the corner, where patrons can order gourmet coffee based drinks (as well as a wide ranging selection of teas), and can enjoy their purchases in many comfortable seats near the windows, whether at separate tables or a long bar in the well of the window. The light and the atmosphere are incredibly conducive to getting some quality reading done.

The final touch on this already lovely bookstore is that fact that Porter Square Books has frequent events. Just about every night of the week, the little bookstore brings in authors, some well known, some just breaking into the publishing industry, to give readings from their works. The public is always welcome to attend, and many stay to get books autographed or to ask the authors questions after.  For such a small store, it feels very large. Whoever claimed that independently run bookstores are dying out clearly didn’t visit Porter Square Books, which is thriving nicely.

For such a small store, it feels very large. Whoever claimed that independently run bookstores are dying out clearly didn’t visit Porter Square Books, which is thriving nicely. To learn more, visit their website: http://www.portersquarebooks.com

The famous storefront of the original Harvard Book Store.

Harvard Bookstore: Harvard Square boasts many bookstores, which comes as no surprise considering that one of the world’s most famous colleges and universities is located there. It almost goes without saying that the bookstore associated with the college should be astounding, and any bibliophile’s dream.

Much like Porter Square Books, the Harvard Book Store is locally owned and independently run, as they proudly tout on their website, http://www.harvard.com. With an innumerable amount of books and sections, I think it can suffice to say that if there is a book you are seeking, in a particular genre, era, or color, it is likely bundled into the plentiful shelves of the Harvard bookstore.

Aside from the amazing selection and intensely intellectual atmosphere, which inspires its patrons to buy books in new disciplines for the sake of learning, one of the most exciting things about the Harvard Book Store is the frequent events when world renowned authors and readers come to speak! Upcoming speakers include Chelsea Clinton, Sarah Vowell, Simon Winchester, and Judah Friedlander. Throughout my time in Boston I’ve known college students and Boston residents alike to go to these events, creating a greater community of intellectuals.

One feels as though they have entered a place outside of time when they go to the Harvard COOP.

Harvard COOP: Down the street from the Harvard Book Store is the COOP, the bookstore for current Harvard and MIT students that is open to the public as well. I suppose the best descriptor of the store is that it resembles Hogwarts, with many floors and spiral staircases, and bookshelves lining the entire building. One walks in and feels as though they have gone through some sort of portal to a place outside of reality, which I feel is one of the main allure of books. If a building can replicate the feeling one gets from an excellent book, the building is doing something right!

Spanning over several buildings, the COOP is like a mixture of a Bed Bath and Beyond and the library of a castle; essentially everything a college student could need is there, whether it be their textbooks or replacement clothes hangars. I myself have wandered through there many times, marveling at the selection of books, audio books, and even different types of jig saw puzzles. It’s the jack of all trades of book stores! To learn more, or perhaps to purchase some Harvard paraphernalia, visit their website here: http://store.thecoop.com.

One of the staples of Newbury Street, Trident Booksellers and Cafe allows it patrons to enjoy their lunch and their reading material simultaneously.

Trident Booksellers and Cafe: Located in the center of Boston, Trident Booksellers and Cafe is one of the main attractions along the famous Newbury Street. When weary shoppers have had enough of the many designer clothing stores and delectable foods of Newbury, Trident offers a brief, calm respite with a nice cup of tea and a book. Like all the stores along Newbury, Trident is not very large, but its selection of books and magazines is top notch. With new arrivals, including the incredibly popular ‘adult coloring books’ (which I may or may not have purchased from Trident myself) from the past summer, as well as numerous classics, journals and most genres under the sun, Trident utilizes its space well, and leaves room for a full blown restaurant.

Downstairs is a coffee shop where readers can sit and enjoy any sort of beverage or pastry along with their book, and upstairs patrons can sit and enjoy simple, delicious meals! Check out their website here: http://tridentbookscafe.com.

Other bookstores that I haven’t gotten the chance to visit yet, but are on my list include:

Brattle Book Shop: located in the heart of Boston and best known for its book selections put outdoors in an adjacent alley for patrons to browse through. See their website for more information: http://www.brattlebookshop.com

Who wouldn’t want to wander through?

Commonwealth Books: Known for their rare selections, Commonwealth Books is a must see for any book lover. Learn more here: http://www.commonwealthbooks.com

New England Mobile Book Fair:  I’m not sure if it is actually a book fair or if it actually moves, but rumor has it that the store is a long as several football fields, and packed to the gills with books of all sorts! See for yourself: http://www.nebookfair.com

All of these bookstores are places that any visitor or resident of Boston should consider going to, if for no other reason than to support local business in some cases! As Lemony Snicket, (aka Daniel Handler, aka the author of the famous A Series of Unfortunate Events) wrote in reference to libraries (which in this case I am likening to book stores), “The world is quiet here.”

-Hadley Gibson

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Interview with the Interns

Hey, readers! We had a bit of downtime in the office today, and I decided to introduce you to the sillier side of the staff here. I asked our two interns, Hadley and Adrienne, to answer some questions about themselves. It started out as normal, but quickly turns absurd. Hope you enjoy!

Elizabeth: So tell me, what are your favorite books?

Adrienne: I think I’d say American Gods by Neil Gaimen. My most treasured possession is probably my signed copy of Ananzi Boys.

Hadley: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. My favorite type of literature is Middle-Eastern. I think it’s really interesting because it actually depicts the plight of women in extremely patriarchal societies. It was super interesting and I found a lot of parallels between it and American society.

E: Are you guys also interested in writing?

A: Yes and no. I’m interested in writing well, but not necessarily being a writer.

H: Yes, I am. I’ve taken numerous creative writing classes, which I enjoy a lot. I also do a lot of writing on my own. Hopefully some day I can write things to submit to different literary journals or something.

E: Awesome! If you were a fruit, what fruit would you be?

A: Oh gosh. I think I’d be a kiwi… because I like green, and I’m kind of tart.

H: If I was a fruit… wow. That’s a really hard question. I’d probably be like, a… What’s something that looks pretty normal on the outside but it pretty gross and weird on the inside? Because I look pretty average but I’m pretty weird.

A: I don’t know, but maybe blueberries, because they aren’t blue on the inside.

H: I could be a blueberry. I can see that. Sure, why not!

E: Last question, guys. If you were an object in the CambridgeEditors’ office, what would you be?

*crickets*

H: Haha, too many options. I’ll be this painting. It’s got lots of colors, and a guy falling off of a bull. I think he’s a bullfighter. I mostly just like the colors, but bull fighting also reminds me of Earnest Hemingway.

A: That reindeer (stuffed animal for dog). There’s no reason, I just like it.

Alright, that’s all for now! Tune in later for more silly anecdotes from the CE office 🙂

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The Tangibility of Books

As any good or “classic” bibliophile can affirm, there are few sensations that compare to holding an actual book. With the advent of e-readers, kindles, and e-books, however, the fate of the printed book is looking slightly grim. There have been many reports over the past few years about different schools completely digitizing their libraries, in efforts both to save money and space, as well as being more environmentally friendly. In addition, more and more people are purchasing e-readers because of their ability to hold hundreds of different books, with a fraction of the weight of the tangible books.  I must admit that I cannot argue with a lot of the logic behind these choices, but they do make me sad.

As an avid book collector, it is hard for me to understand how people can love reading off of screens. I struggle to even read shorter articles off of a phone or computer, and can’t even attempt to read longer pieces of work. My eyes simply can’t focus on a screen for that long. Even though many e-readers are now designed to look as similar to a page as possible, with low light settings that won’t irritate the eyes, I still like real books more.

It’s hard to describe the delight that I feel when I have an actual book, but the heft and weight of it are exciting — they show how much information you have to gain from reading it! You can’t ascertain that from a thin little e-reader. Holding an actual book also makes it feel like you are making a real connection with it, like it is a friend or a partner who you are intensely involved with for a short amount of time (if the book is really good and you can’t put it down, that is), or even a friend who you see from time to time (if it’s the sort of book that you take breaks from and come back to every once in a while).

With this precedent, I hope readers who don’t feel as strong a pull towards physical books can imagine how wonderfully overwhelming book stores and libraries are for the classic bibliophile. It’s unlike anything else! Walking into a nice little bookstore, or even an enormous commercialized bookstore, is like finding nirvana for a ravenous book lover.

Not everyone will feel this way, mind you, but book lovers can always recognize each other; they are the ones who can spend hours wandering around bookstores or libraries, their arms laden down by their findings, and can’t bring themselves to leave until absolutely necessary.

However, despite their love of the physicality of books, bibliophiles are also infiltrating the internet! With sources such as Goodreads, which allows readers to rate their books and keep track of books they have read, are reading, or want to read, or even online forums such as tumblr and pinterest where readers can have discussions or see lots of beautiful pictures, book lovers are taking to the world wide web. Recently, I discovered an article from a website called Loner Wolf, which features pictures of beautiful libraries that book lovers and introverts alike can enjoy! The article can be found here: http://lonerwolf.com/introvert-dream-libraries/

The article is a glorified hay day for book lovers, depicting 24 libraries around the world that anyone would want to read in.

Here’s a little taste:

For all you book lovers reading this, I’m sure you are experiencing minor heart palpitations at these images, as well as a burning desire to find these libraries as soon as possible. The feeling is mutual. Until then, the public library and local bookshops will appease me just fine, as long as there are shelves upon shelves of books.

-Hadley Gibson

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642 Things to Write About; a book of infinite possibilities… or at least 642.

Last year, while caught in the throes of writer’s block, I purchased a book called 642 Things to Write About. The title is entirely self-explanatory. The book consists of writing prompts from all corners of life, and was created in 24 hours by a group of 35 writers at The San Francisco Writer’s Grotto. It’s so fun to imagine a group of kooky writers who had an exciting idea and let their creativity run wild late into the night, with the result that the entire content of a book was put together the next day. One of the contributing writers, Po Bronson, writes in the introduction, “I tell this story because it’s a lesson in hidden potential. You never know what might happen. In a single day, if you hit the right nerve, you could just have something-maybe it’s the start of something, maybe it’s the whole thing. And it doesn’t even have to begin with your own idea. You just have to get creative and plunge in.” (http://www.chroniclebooks.com/titles/642-things-to-write-about.html *Chronicle Books has also published these types of books for drawing and photography!*)

I write about this book today because I think it’s too easy for writers, and people in general for that matter, to fall into the trap of thinking that once you have done something one way, there is no other way to do it. How crazy! Life and writing will become stagnant only if you allow it to, and if you don’t work to view it from new angles. One of my favorite writing exercises that I learned a few years ago is to write a short blurb, maybe just a paragraph, and then rewrite it in different styles and themes, such as from the point of view of a convict locked up in the Bastille prison in the early 1700s, or as though you are slowly being devoured by an octopus while you write. The possibilities are endless!

I think Bronson’s point of hidden potential is something that everyone could benefit from believing in, especially because it is omnipresent in all walks of life. Whether in math, physics, or the human condition itself, potential is almost always lying beneath the surface (both literally and figuratively), waiting to be released in some form or another. In many cases, I feel that writer’s block, and any kind of slump you fall into in life, is caused by setting a precedent for yourself, and consequently feeling as though there is no way to surpass it. Instead of allowing the lack of upward motion to defeat you, why not attack the problem from a new angle? Spin it around, approach it slantwise, go under it, or slide past it by the skin of your teeth, it doesn’t really matter. The forward motion and the fact that you keep trying will yield results. They just may not be exactly what you envisioned at the start.

This book is not only great for helping writers to beat their mental blocks and release their creativity with out of the box prompts (e.g, ‘What is the sound of silence, and when did you last hear it? What was missing?’ or ‘Write a script to give telemarketers to solicit donations for starving children in Africa.’), but also as an example of what happens when you let go of your reservations and just “go for it”, if you will. To any and all writers, I recommend this book, even if you only use it for warming up your imagination. For any and all non-writers, I recommend this book as a source of inspiration to look at life through new eyes. Perspective isn’t just important in paintings, architecture, and writing, it applies to how we live out our days too.

Throughout the course of my internship I will likely refer back to this book and may even try out some of the prompts for my blog posts. It might be fun to blog about ‘a perfect meal’, or to ‘create and imaginary friend (human or not)’, if anything to see what comes of it!

So, with that being said, why don’t you who read this blog try out one of the prompts? How about… ‘It’s 2100 and the world is running out of fresh water. Describe a typical day.’ You might be surprised where your mind takes you.

-Hadley Gibson

Even the cover inspires creativity!

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Five Must-Read Books for Summer

Summer has to be one of my favorite times of year; not only is it warm and sunny, but I finally have a break (somewhat) from school, which means I can tackle my reading list! Back in January, I committed to reading 35 books for the Goodreads 2014 Reading Challenge, and this task has really pushed me to read more than I normally would. Despite that extra push, my “to-read” list has continued to grow. I decided I would list out the top five books that I think will be best for my summer reading list.

1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn 

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This book has been on my reading list since November and on my physical bookshelf since March. I cannot tell you how many people have recommended this book to me and I am so anxious to have some time to start reading. I have read one of Flynn’s other novels, Dark Places, and it was such a great mystery! If you like mystery novels then Gillian Flynn is definitely one author you have to check out! I also purchased her other novel, Sharp Objects, that I hope to tackle sometime soon as well.

2. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

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I am pretty sure everyone has this book on their reading list if they haven’t read it already. Once it was placed in Oprah’s Book Club (which, coincidentally had been on a two-year hiatus and was revived with the acceptance of Wild), I figured it was something I had to check out. I am a sucker for a good biography and there is something about Cheryl’s story that caught my attention. Every time I visit a bookstore I pick up a copy of the book and end up putting it back down when something else catches my eye, but this summer I plan on finally finding out what all the hype is about.

3. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

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I had to include a young adult novel in here because I have recently been devouring anything YA that comes into my hands! I have read Rowell’s other two novels Fan Girl and Eleanor and Park (fun fact: Rowell has just begun writing the screenplay for Eleanor and Park so keep your eyes open for a potential movie in the future) and I figured her earlier novel would be just as good. What has me so interested in Attachments is the fact that it is not your typical love story; main character Lincoln unintentionally falls in love with a co-worker when he starts reading all her emails and is faced with the decision to confess his true feelings or keep himself hidden. I haven’t been able to find this book in many bookstores so I will have to start my quest to find it so I can officially say I have read all novels written by Rainbow Rowell.

4. Agnes Gray by Anne Bronte

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I love anything written by the Bronte’s so it almost goes without saying that this is on my reading list. The plot sounds similar to that of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, so I have a feeling I will really enjoy this novel. I focused on Victorian Literature while I was an undergraduate student, so it will be nice to read a novel without having to analyze every detail for a research paper. Hopefully Anne Bronte can live up to the reputation of her sisters! Perhaps I will have a new favorite Bronte novel, though Wuthering Heights (my favorite book) is going to be tough to beat.

5. About a Boy by Nick Hornby

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This book was recommended to me when I finished Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer back in early March. Many of my friends speak highly of this book, and from what I hear it was turned into a movie back in 2002 and is a new television series on NBC. I know very little about this novel, but the relationship between main characters Will and Marcus sounds intriguing and I think I will have to stop by my local bookstore to pick up a copy.

What is on your summer reading list? Have you read any of these books?

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The Papal Enclave – James Stephen O’Brien

As 2013 comes to a close, our staff at CambridgeEditors has taken the time to gratefully reflect upon the numerous opportunities we had this year to witness the books written by our clients evolve from manuscripts into successful publications. One such noteworthy publication is James Stephen O’Brien’s The Papal Enclave:

thepapalenclave

The Papal Enclave, the first in a series of thrillers, is a riveting tale that begins when Harvard Law Professor and Criminologist Stephen Ripley finds his assistant brutally tortured and killed for exposing evidence of a murderous conspiracy against the Pope. The assistant’s shocking disclosure sparks the uncovering of a dark and complex web of international criminal activity. Collaborating with a Boston Globe reporter and members of the FBI and CIA, Ripley embarks on a dangerous quest for justice and truth—a quest that abruptly leads him to Rome and plunges him into a twisted world of pedophiles and assassins. Following Ripley on his momentous, six-day adventure, O’Brien’s narrative remains thoroughly engaging, witty, and astute, making The Papal Enclave a unique and memorable delight.

The Harvard Square Editions has profiled O’Brien’s book on their literary website, LitVote.com, calling it “a thoroughly researched mix of historical facts, recent events, and intriguing characters intertwined with an absorbing finale. The Papal Enclave […] weaves a tapestry of suspense utilizing fictional characters through actual current events while mingling them among authentic personalities of the famous and infamous.”

The book has also received praise from authors such as Stephen Boehrer, who describes The Papal Enclave as “a well-crafted tale where reality is woven tightly in the warp and woof of its words. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and hope it has great success.”

You can find the full profile of The Papal Enclave in The Harvard Square Edition’s “Literary Scene” section, located on the front page of LitVote,  http://litvote.com/.

And check out O’Brien’s book on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1927890004/harvsquaedit-20.

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