Review: Ultimatum by Simon Kernick

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#1 bestselling author Simon Kernick will leave you breathless with his sheer storytelling power in this race-against-time thriller about a terrorist threat in London. An explosion blasts through a cafe in Central London. Minutes later, a call from an unknown terror group warns that a far greater attack will be launched in twelve hours’ time. William Garrett, nicknamed “Fox,” is awaiting trial for mass murder. He claims he can name the bombers—but only at a price. It’s a terrifying race against time for Detective Inspector Mike Bolt and Deputy Commissioner Tina Boyd as they chase their targets across the city in a desperate bid to prevent a major atrocity before it’s too late…

Review:

It is not often I have a chance to read modern day thrillers and I’m so glad I chose this one to read next! I don’t know what made me decide this one. Maybe because I haven’t read anything from this author before….also, the premise sounded interesting…

This story packs a punch! I haven’t read a thriller quite like this one before. I was completely enthralled throughout the story. Fast-paced, at the edge of your seat read all the way. The opening scene was superbly done and sets up the story perfectly. I enjoyed the portrayals of all the characters, even the villains. I did find some of the content interesting in the book however. One being a few thoughts on America and I was really amazed at the difference between the guns laws….between the UK and America, police policy and the law dealing with criminals. The alternating point of views was a bit distracting for me but as I continued with the story, I became used to it and feel it works in this book. I highly recommend this read and I will definitely be reading more books from this author.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

 

My Guest, Author Anne Girard

I would like to welcome back Author Anne Girard to Layered Pages. She is here to discuss her writing and research for her novel, Madame Picasso.

One of the best parts for me about the process of writing novels, especially those based on real figures from history, has always been going to, and experiencing, the places my characters lived their storied lives. Many years ago when I was just beginning to write my first novel, Courtesan, I had the amazing good fortune to speak with NY Times bestselling author and icon Irving Stone. Stone’s novel, The Agony and the Ecstasy, was already a classic, so I was pretty much in awe. The meeting became an even bigger factor through the twenty years of my career since it was Stone who gave me the advice that has completely changed the way I research and write. “The only true way to breathe life into your characters,” he said. “is to step into their shoes for a little while, in any way that you can. Walk the same streets, see the same buildings, see the same slice of sky, and hear the rhythm of the voices around you that they would have heard.”

Writing about true, epic love affairs has always been what inspires me, From Henri II and his Diane to William Tecumseh Sherman and Cecelia. Hopefully, if I do my job right, I give readers a story they thought they might have known but really didn’t. I like to believe that about Madame Picasso, and I hope readers agree.

Madame Picasso

Eva and Pablo’s story is one I found accidentally as I set out to write a novel about Picasso and his first significant love, Fernande Olivier, a woman who, curiously enough, still figures prominently in my book. But the fact that Picasso was pulled away so powerfully by his feelings for Eva made that romance not one worth pursuing for me. Eva was his heart when was young, when, in my opinion, he could still be open and vulnerable, and he needed her. He gave up many friends and an established life for her. After months of research, both here and abroad, I do believe with total conviction that was true, that their love affair defined Pablo the man, and Picasso the artist, for decades afterward. That sentiment is backed up by Picasso’s French biographer and friend, Pierre Daix who said that over fifty years later, the mention of her name still brought tears to his eyes.

Along with facts and in-depth research, certainly there must be elements of interpretation involved with the writing of any novel. Where the facts are unknown, a novelist must carefully weave in fictional elements in a plausible and respectful way to complete the tale. However, when I incorporate those elements, it is acknowledged in the author’s note.

In search of the factual portions of the story to include in Madame Picasso, so that I could get Eva’s voice right (the most essential thing), I received two enormous gifts. One was obtaining permission from Yale University to view her personal letters, some of which she wrote with Picasso, to Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas. Since I speak French, reading her thoughts, her sense of humor, and watching their story unfold through her words, and in her own lovely handwriting, was as close as I believe anyone will ever get to the essence of Eva. There were many playful examples, letters as well as post cards, where Eva would write and Pablo would add a note to it, or even sketch a little picture. And the way his orderly handwriting disintegrated into a wild scrawl by the end of their story, well, that told me more than any biography ever could about what they meant to one another. Those letters figured heavily in how I wrote the novel, and they have stayed with me long after I wrote the words, The End.

The second gift I was given while writing this book being granted an interview, at his atelier in France, with famed French photographer, Lucien Clergue, who was a personal friend of Picasso’s for over thirty years. Once he trusted that I meant to cast his friend in a respectful light, rather than to perpetuate the narrative

In the end, it is a story of two young people living in the inspiring daring and romantic Paris of the early 1900’s, with a great cast of supporting characters. But what I took away was the theme of enduring love. Picasso was clearly pushed out of his comfort zone with Eva throughout their relationship. However, for love of her, he rose to the occasion. No expense was spared. It’s a special thing to see what true love can make or allow people to do. I believe Eva made him a better man…. At least he was for a time, with her. That was enough for me to want to tell their story and I can only hope that in Madame Picasso I did it justice.

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“Diane Haeger, who currently writes under the pen name Anne Girard, holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology and is the award-winning author of 14 novels, both historical and contemporary. She has moved back and forth through time, from writing about the lost love of William Tecumseh Sherman, to crafting a series set in Tudor England, entitled “In The Court of Henry VIII”. Visit her at: www.dianehaeger.com and www.annegirardauthor.com

 

Guest Post with Author Roger Eschbacher

I would like to welcome, Roger Eschbacher to my blog today to take part in my new writers series. I met Roger through social media and he is a B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree!

Why do you write?

The short answer is that I write because I have to. The longer answer is that I’ve always enjoyed telling stories and writing gives me an opportunity to do that.

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How has writing impacted your life?

I earn a large percentage of my living as a writer (primarily through TV animation) so it impacts my life quite a bit. Also, I’ve met a lot of really nice people—from fellow authors, to readers, to book bloggers—who I consider my friends even though I may not have met them in person.

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What advice would you give to beginner writers?

I’ll approach this question from the “How do I get started?” angle. First, read a lot of books. Every one of my author friends is an avid reader. Decide which kind of books you like to read the most (for me it’s fantasy and sci fi) and concentrate on reading lots of those kinds of books. You’ll not only be doing this for fun, but also to learn different ways to put a book together—the right and wrong ways to tell a story.

Once you are well-versed in the type of book you’d like to write, start writing. By that I mean, stop coming up with excuses not to write (“What if it’s terrible?” “I just don’t have the time right now.”) If your first draft is “terrible,” you can fix it later. You do have the time, you just have to organize your schedule better. Write for an hour instead of vegging out in front of the tube, for example. Set a daily goal of a couple hundred words and do your best to stick to it. You’ll be surprised at how quickly it adds up.

In short, stop making excuses and start writing.

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Roger Eschbacher is an Emmy Award nominated television animation writer who’s worked for Disney, Warner Brothers, Nickelodeon, The Hub, and Cartoon Network. In addition to Giantkiller, the sequel to Dragonfriend, his debut middle-grade fantasy adventure novel, he’s also contributed Undrastormur, a Norse tale of troublesome trolls to Wonderstorms, a fantasy anthology.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, he now lives in California with his family and two crazy Border Terriers.

Links

To learn more about Roger and his books, please visit his blog (www.rogereschbacher.com ), like his Amazon Author Page (http://goo.gl/9JA6Z3 ), his Facebook Author Page (https://www.facebook.com/RogerEschbacherBooks ), or follow him on Twitter (https://twitter.com/RogerEschbacher ).

In loving memory to the kindest loveliest of women, Author M.M. Bennetts

I learned this week that a friend of mine passed away in her sleep Monday night. I had the honor of meeting M.M Bennetts through social media and it has be a real delight to get to know her and her work. Last time we spoke together we were talking about my coming over to England to visit her. She talked of showing me around and going riding with her….she loves horses. For a few years now she had been battling cancer but she did not let it be known to a lot of people. She was always so positive and high-spirited. She had such a love for life that was catching….whenever I chatted with her, I always had a smile on my face and she could make me laugh like no one else.

 M.m Bennetts

I was deeply touched. M.M was an incredible giving, loving, witty, classy, encouraging, supportive, talented, and Intelligent. She touched so many people’s lives and her memory will be cherish forever. Not only was she all these things I have described but much, much more….she spoke often to me of her family and history was one of her great passions. Particularly Napoleon, Napoleonic France and her love for cakey. I will never forget all our conversations we had together and her unfailing friendship and support. M.M. Bennetts, you will be missed.

 Tea with M.m

A few places you will find M.M. and her work on social media:

My interview with her, here

M.M. Bennetts Website

Beth Von Staats Interview with M.M.

Madame Glilfurt’s Tribute to M.M.

Maria Grace’s Interview with M.M.

Amazon

Guest Post with, Janet Stafford

It is a pleasure and honor to have Author Janet Stafford as my guest today. I met Janet through social media and she has won the B.R.A.G. Medallion for her book, Saint Maggie. Today I have asked her to talk about her writing and I have asked her some questions….

Why Do You Write?

I write because I have to. It’s that simple. It’s been a part of me ever since I can remember.

I loved stories when I was a child. My parents read to me and when I could read I got books from the library and through the book club at school. Childhood was also when I started telling stories to my friends. When I was eight or nine I realized that I could put my stories down on paper. So I wrote and illustrated my own book (in pencil!) about the Wizard of Oz. At the same time I began to imagine that someday my books would be published. As a teen I wrote stories that featured my favorite pop stars. I also shared a continuing story in the oral tradition with a good friend, and I learned to make up storylines and create character on the fly.

Over the years I attempted to get published and find an agent or producer interested in a couple of film scripts, but to no avail. During that time I focused on my other calling as a religious educator and I worked in various United Methodist churches. But even in the church I was still writing sermons, skits, one-act monologues, and tons of copy to publicize classes, groups, and activities.

In 2009, I finally owned up to being a story teller and – true to form – didn’t do anything about it until 2011, when I pulled out a manuscript written nine years earlier. The manuscript became SAINT MAGGIE, my first published novel. Just getting it out was a huge affirmation, but that was confirmed a small group of fans who wanted to know “what happens next.” And a series was born.

Writing is a gift for me. I enjoy it. It is a form of meditation, deep thinking, immense enjoyment, therapy, play, and even prayer. I write because it is part of who I am.

Saint Maggie

How Has Writing Impacted Your Life?

I think writing has made me more empathetic. It requires me to imagine how people feel and why they act the way they do. It also makes me a more curious person. I wonder “what if” and “why is that” and “how could that change” on a regular basis. I store away the quirks, characteristics, attitudes, and flaws of people that I know or meet in passing. Being a writer definitely has contributed to the way that I see and encounter the world.

My love of stories ties in with my love of history because history is made up of stories rather than just dates and facts. It inspires me and I find myself asking questions. What was it like to be an ordinary person in a specific time and place? How did that person live? How did she or he face difficulties and triumphs? Why did leaders make the decisions they did? History is fascinating to me. Doing research is hard work but I would love to spent hours burrowed in various archives if only I had the money and time. Feeling a connection to someone who lived hundreds of years ago or seeing an event through the eyes of the participants is an amazing rush.

One thing writing hasn’t done is make me rich! But, hey, I’ll settle for it eventually giving me enough to live on.

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What Advice Would You Give to Beginner Writers?

1) Read. It teaches you how (and how not) to tell a story, develop a character, and use language.

2) Write. Like anything else, if you want to become proficient you must practice, practice, practice. Write a little every day if you can. It doesn’t matter what you write, just write.

3) Be brave. Let others read what you’ve written. Start with someone with whom you have a sturdy relationship and who will not lie to you, but someone who will not completely trash you either. All writers make mistakes, screw up plots and character, and write amazingly bad sentences, not to mention entire stories. There is nothing that you can’t fix or rewrite or throw away. But sometimes you can’t see it on your own. Helpful criticism will make you a better writer.

4) Finally, as a grizzled old screenwriter once told me, “Don’t be precious with your writing.” Don’t be afraid to change something, even if you absolutely love it. If it doesn’t work, get rid of it. If you can’t let it go then save it in a file for another day. You might find a place for it in something you write later.

Biography

Janet Stafford

Janet R. Stafford was born in Albany, NY, but spent most of her childhood and all of her teen years in Parsippany, NJ – so she is a Jersey Girl! She went to Seton Hall University (South Orange, NJ) where she received a B.A. degree in Asian Studies. Janet also has an M.Div. degree and a Ph.D. in North American Religion and Culture, both from Drew University (Madison, NJ). She has served six United Methodist churches over the past 20+ years, working predominantly in the area of spiritual formation and ministries with children and youth. Additionally, she worked as an adjunct professor for a total of 8 years teaching classes in interdisciplinary studies and history. Janet makes her home in NJ with an energetic Miniature Australian Shepherd named Tippy and enjoys spending her free time with her significant other, Dan, his daughter, son-in-law, and two grandsons; and with her awesome sister Diane and her partner Sarah.

Links

https://www.facebook.com/janetrstafford

www.squeakingpips.com

www.janetrstafford.com

https://twitter.com/JanetRStafford

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Author Plum McCauley

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Stephanie: Hello, Plum! Congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion and thank you for chatting with me today about your book, It All Started with a Bicycle. First off, tell me how you discovered indieBRAG?

Plum: Well, I was trawling the internet, looking for organizations that review self-published books, and I came across indieBRAG. Their purpose seemed interesting, so I nominated my book to see what would happen.

Stephanie: Please tell me about your story and state what genre it falls under.

Plum: It All Started with a Bicycle is a middle-grade novel with an energetic, no-nonsense protagonist named Pam. At the start of her summer vacation after fifth grade she is unexpectedly inundated with all sorts of things which interfere with her own plans for the summer. These would have mainly been groaning through her never-ending chores at her parents’ seaside Bed-and-Breakfast, getting a summer job to pay for a new bike, and exploring Cape May and its environs all by herself.

Instead, she is lured into a treasure hunt, spurred to hunt for her stolen bicycle (because she keeps seeing it around town), and is positively tortured by the ogre who runs the candy shop where she works part-time. Further “torture” comes at the hands of a bevy of “friends” who have been dropped onto her lap curtesy of her parents. These friends end up assisting her with all of the above, but not without causing chaos and confusion.

Stephanie: What was your inspiration for the story and why did you decide to write a children’s book?

Plum: I was working with fifth graders at the time, and after two years with ten-year-olds I was completely captivated with them and inspired by their crazy outlook. I believe the humor in this book stems from the fact that kids are inherently eccentric and that appeals to me.

But as for the plot, one day the idea for the mystery itself just came to me out of the blue, and since I had lived in Cape May, N.J. for many years, the setting was natural—as was the opportunity for some unique features to the treasure hunt. I’m obsessed with architecture and Pam shares this interest. Architecture is central to the appeal of Cape May and is a fundamental component to this book.

I also think that of all the children’s literature out there, middle-grade books hold the most interest for me.

Stephanie: What are Pam Fischer’s weaknesses and strengths?

Plum: Her strengths and weaknesses are probably the same thing: she’s energetic and rushes into action, but she’s often precipitate. She’s lively-minded, but she jumps to conclusions, often the wrong one. She has strong likes and dislikes which fact enables her to solve an interesting mystery, but strong feelings also taint her judgment.

Stephanie: What is one of the sticky situations she gets into?

Plum: The whole novel is one big sticky situation for Pam, who, at the outset, simply wanted to have a fun summer being left alone to do the things she loves, in addition to working toward a new bicycle. But things just don’t turn out the way she’d planned.

Stephanie: What is the relationship like with her parents?

Plum: Extremely good. There’s a lot of humor in their relationship, and these parents are very nice and easy-going. But they make it quite clear to Pam that she has to do things she doesn’t want to do, such as chores. And when she wants to quit her job because the manager is so mean to her, her parents make her stick it out. It is also made clear at the outset of the novel that her parents are not going to replace her recently stolen bicycle because it just doesn’t fit into their budget. It will have to wait, or Pam will have to earn the money.

Stephanie: Where is the setting for your story?

Plum: Cape May, New Jersey. It’s the southernmost tip of New Jersey and has been a place periodically beset by terrible hurricanes. A major part of the novel’s treasure hunt is looking for a house that was once originally built in South Cape May and later moved because of the storms that ravaged the area.

Stephanie: What are the challenges and rewards for writing a children’s book?

Plum: One of the challenges is surely the worry that I might be boring. Another is the imperative to write in such a way that the action and the dialogue ring true. I think kids can spot fake a mile away.

Also, this particular genre is highly competitive. There are many, many great writers of middle grade books out there and an incredible number of middle grade books that are deservedly classics. Those facts constitute both a challenge and a reward. It’s challenging to face giants, but rewarding to try.

Stephanie: What was your writing process for this story and how long did it take for you to write it?

Plum: I hate to admit it, but I’d rather be faithful to the truth. I got the idea for this book in the spring of 2003, and finally uploaded it to Outskirts Press in the spring of 2009. So it took six years to write and revise. Of course, I was not writing continuously that whole time. I took long breaks from it due to one circumstance or another. But even after I had uploaded it, the book sat at Outskirts for another two years before I finally paid for its production. All of that is too, too long.

Stephanie: Who designed your book cover?

Plum: The book cover designer is Victor Guiza, someone I have never met or even corresponded with. Outskirts has an image bank of artists who produce original covers for people who choose to go that route and his work seemed most in keeping with the style I had in mind. After describing what I wanted, he produced a cover that blew me away. It’s just so beautiful! I absolutely love it.

Stephanie: What is the message you would like your readers to come away with when reading your story?

Plum: Well, first of all, I hope they have a few good laughs along the way because this book is funny and has extremely eccentric characters. But I hope that kids also come away with a comforting vision of an ideal family, even though having one is certainly not in their control—until they’re ready to have one of their own.

I also want to reinforce the idea that helping out around the house is normal (as is complaining about it) and that you can’t always have everything you want immediately. Life just isn’t like that.

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

Plum: Bicycle can be purchased as a paperback on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, not to mention at a lovely store in Cape May called The Whale’s Tale. As an eBook it is currently available on Amazon for Kindle, but very soon will be available for Nook, and at iTunes and Kobo.

Stephanie: Thank you! It was a pleasure chatting with you!

Author Bio:

After an impecunious childhood spent moving around from one temporary residence to another, I made it through high school (barely) and into college. The most important factor that contributed to that unlikely outcome was being a reader. When I was a child my mother always read to me and I was encouraged to keep up the habit. I think that reading is the ultimate equalizer amongst people of radically different socioeconomic backgrounds, enabling a forward movement in life that transcends mere “upward mobility.” Because of exposure to books, the opportunities available to me have always been so much broader compared with other people who had social backgrounds similar to mine but in whose lives reading was not a value.

Once at college (Arcadia) I received my B.A. in English, and then went on to Temple University, initially as a non-matriculated student (my undergraduate work was not impressive). I talked (begged) my way into being fully admitted into the graduate program, where I eventually received my M.A. My major area for the master’s was Romanticism. I continued on into the doctoral program and concentrated on Modernist poetry, at the same time taking more than my share of electives in the Philosophy department. As a doctoral student I published two book reviews in Nineteenth Century Contexts (1993 & 1995) and an article on the modernist poet Zukofsky in Sagetrieb (1995).

I completed the coursework for the doctorate and was contemplating a diagnostic of post-structuralism for my dissertation, when I decided to drop out. I drove a Philadelphia cab for the next three years.

After that, my employment was quite peripatetic because I never really recovered the intense focus I had as a graduate student. And although I should have fully switched gears into a specific career path and then committed to it, I never discovered what that was, so I continued working random jobs, finally dubbing it “experience-mongering.”

Throughout this time, I read even more books than I ever had as a graduate student. From the classics to Renaissance Literature, from Art History to Political Science—I read widely. I also began to write fiction—a rather fair amount considering I’d never considered myself a fiction writer, but rather a literary critic. However, because of my lack of clear-sighted direction, it has taken a long time for me to turn “scribbling” into an actual goal, hence the lengthy time span from the inception of Bicycle to its publication.

Once the novel was published in September of 2011, I made the rounds of awards, winning one from Reader Views. More recently, Bicycle received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews of which I am very proud.

With the intent to speed things up a bit, I have recently published an eBook fantasy novella titled Worthy of Prometheus.

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Plum McCauley, who is the author of, It All Started with A Bicycle, of our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, It All Started with A Bicycle, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

 

Guest Post with Author Shawn Lamb

Today, Author Shawn Lamb is visiting Layered Pages to talk a little about her writing and how she wrote a series for her daughter. What inspires you to write? Take it away Shawn!

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Writing for my daughter

I fought to keep the surprise from my face when my 13-year-old-daughter asked me to write her a fantasy. I countered with the knowledge of her dislike for anything dark, grim and overly graphic, along with her detest for vampires.

“No, Mom. The good old-fashion hero- type like Narnia and Lord of The Rings,” she said in a very serious tone. “You wrote for cartoons before. You should know.”

Of course I’m familiar with Lewis and Tolkien, only I had not read those books since childhood. Yes, I wrote for animation in the 1980s, but scripts are different than prose. Besides, my passion is for historical fiction, not writing about trolls, dragons and faeries.

She insisted. What mother wants to disappoint their child? And what writer doesn’t like a challenge. So, I relented. Now where to start?

I reread Lewis and Tolkien. Lewis was more simplistic than I remember. Then again, he wrote children’s books. With Tolkien I learned how much he relied on mythology and history to craft Middle Earth. It struck me how my love for history could help in establishing a believable realm.

During the time of prep, I discovered some old writing I did at age 16. It was a fantasy story! In the folder was a map, the first chapter along with names of all the characters. Back then I called it “Shiloh”. This became the springboard for Allon.

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In my daughter’s excitement, she spread the word at school that her mom was writing an “epic” fantasy. Really? I only completed two chapters. Kids came over after school to ask questions and pick-my-brain about the story. They were well versed in the world of fantasy, while I newbie in the genre, but seasoned story veteran.

To digress a moment about these kids: Nashville is a big immigrant/refuge city. Not a well-known fact outside of Tennessee. They came from Somalia, Laos, Kenya, Egypt, Iraq, so of various ethic and religious backgrounds. To them, America is a Christian nation and the land of hope and opportunity. Unfortunately, assimilation was not easy, and finding hope, very elusive.

The initial conversations about the story turned personal. They knew our family is Christian and began asking: Why do Americans think this way? Why do Christians believe this? I answered as best I could; yet the main thing these kids craved and desired was hope. Something inside me clicked. I feel a strong urge to illustrate for these kids that no matter how dark or bleak life may seem there is hope. The single book became a series.

Each story conveys different themes of culture, dealing with others’ beliefs, tension with parents, sibling rivalry and the consequences of bad choices. The characters illustrate these situations, as their mettle, courage and hearts are tested. Yet each book is replete with hope.

These kids graduated with my daughter almost ten years ago. I’ve run into a few over the years. Some are doing better than others in managing life, but they marvel when I tell them how our conversations shaped ALLON, leading to nine books. Of how the series has branched out to The King’s Children, a trilogy for ages 8-10. It contains the same themes as ALLON for older readers.

Today, I travel to conventions and events speaking on helping children through reading and writing. All this happened due to my daughter’s request and the conversations with her friends. For that, I thank them all, for the journey has been wonderful.

Author Shawn Lamb

To find out more about Shawn Lamb’s work and to take a look at the rest of her wonderful ALLON Series, you may visit her websites:

http://www.allonbooks.com

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Kingdom-of-Allon/153435971408175