Friday, January 30, 2015

I'll Meet You There {by Heather Demetrios}

Title: I'll Meet You There
Author: Heather Demetrios
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Received via NetGalley

If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.
Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper. 
Ahh this book. This book was so real, so honest, so unique. If you have seen any buzz about this book, then you know that most frequently, people have been saying that they don't know what to say. And that is so true. This book is so much MORE than a love story. This book is everything. Demetrios deals with so much in this book, but in such a powerful way.
This book takes place over the course of a summer. Skylar lives in a little nowhere town, just counting down the days until she can get out of there. She has a scholarship to an art school, her ticket out of this place. Until things start going downhill. Josh Mitchell is also back in town, after his time in the army caused him to lose his leg. But he's no longer the same person he used to be before he left. 

The characters in this one. Man, were the so real. I'm not saying they're the most likable. Definitely not. But that's what's part of what makes them so real, so well-written. They make the same mistakes, the same decisions, that real people would make. They were honest, transparent. 

Demetrios writes very gritty. This isn't a pretty story, but it's one that needs to be told. There are a few pages in between chapters from Josh's perspective and they were written perfectly. They captured the mindset of someone just back from the war. When Josh gets back home, people expect him to be the same he was. But he isn't. No one else has seen what he has seen, and they don't understand that. They can't understand that. I think Demetrios did a great job of bringing to light the fact that so many of our young men are going off into the Army and such, and coming back changed, but are we really doing anything to help them? 

And Skylar herself is going through some pretty big issues. After all this time of planning and finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, her mother goes downhill. Suddenly Sky doesn't know if she's getting out of there. You may not like Sky, you may not agree with her decisions, but you have to admire her as a character. There's a lot of issues that are dealt with in this book, but they're dealt with in an open and honest way, that I think all of us can relate to. 

This is, in a word, a powerful book. And I think there's something for everyone, from great friendships, to deep issues, to a swoony romance. And while I didn't loooove this one in the way the most others did, I still really, really liked it. You won't want to miss this one. 

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Heather  Demetrios:

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Hidden Agenda {by Lisa Harris}

Title: Hidden Agenda
Author: Lisa Harris
Series: Southern Crimes, #3
Genre: Christian suspense/mystery
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Received from author

Michael Hunt is alive--and on the run. Presumed dead by friends and family, the undercover assignment he's been working for the past eight months has just been blown. With a hit out on his life and corruption inside the Atlanta police department, Michael finds himself hunted by both the cartel and the law. His only hope is the daughter of the man who wants him dead.

What a conclusion. I've mentioned before that I'm not super into suspense/mystery type books...usually. But this series has me hooked, and I'm sad that it's over. This series plot-driven, while still focusing on characters, and Harris pulls it off well, without overwhelming the reader.

Since I guess that synopsis itself spoils the first two books (or at least, Michael's part in the books) I'm not sure what I can or can't say that would be considered a spoiler. Since they already told you he's alive. He's been working undercover for the leader of a drug cartel that he's been trying to bring down. But he's been found out, and he can't go back home either since the police force thinks that he's a traitor. The only thing left to do is prove his innocence and bring down the cartel. And who arrives as his help? None other than the kids of the man he's trying to bring down. 

Being "dead" for so long, Michael feels like he doesn't know who he is anymore. I think we've all gone through those moments, and it was portrayed honestly and realistically. Olivia is going through the same thing as well, as everything she has ever known about her father turns out to be a lie. Both of them are dealing with these huge issues, but they still put themselves aside for others. Making sure that others, like Olivia's brother, are safe, and that no one else gets hurt because of the bad men that are after them. 

Drug lords, cartels, running for your life...these are all big issues. But Harris handles them in a way that doesn't make it seem overwhelming. Yes these are serious issues, but we get to see the characters banter with each other and care about each other. Yes, this book is filled with suspense and intrigue, but not so much that it's too much action and not enough character. Harris achieves the balance.

I also loved our secondary characters, like Ivan, and of course our favorites from the first books, like Emily, Mason, Avery, Jackson. And while this was a "Christian" book, it wasn't preachy or overbearing. It didn't take away from the story. Both the characters are Christian, and it was just something that naturally shone through.

And this was a perfect conclusion, as it ended well for both the story and the characters. I would definitely recommend this whole series.

My review of Fatal Exchange here

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Lisa Harris:

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And, I'll be giving away one finished paperback of Hidden Agenda! This giveaway as US only (sorry INT folks!). Must be 13+ to enter, or have parent permission. All entries will be checked, and falsified entries will result in all the entries for that participant being disqualified. Winner has 48 hours to respond, or a new winner will be chosen, so please check your SPAM folders. I am not responsible for lost packages.
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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Let's All Be Brave {by Annie F. Downs}
Title: Let's All Be Brave: Living Life With Everything You Have
Author: Annie F. Downs
Genre: Christian, nonfiction, memoir
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Received from publisher

Annie Downs admits she s not exactly the bravest girl in the world. She still cries sometimes when she leaves her parents home in Georgia, she s never jumped out of a plane, and she only rides roller coasters to impress boys. But Annie knows that courage resides inside each and every one of us, and she s on a mission to triumph over her own fears while encouraging the reader to do the same. As a single young woman, writer, speaker, and blogger, Annie Downs shares her journey toward bravery with honesty and humor. Using wonderful stories from her own life, contemporary real-life examples, and fascinating historical and biblical references, Annie encourages readers to grab hold of the brave life that they desperately desire. How often does fear hold us back from the very things we most want to taste, touch, and experience? The call to be brave isn t just for one person---it s for everyone. Let s All Be Brave is more than a book, it s a battle cry. Annie challenges us to live boldly, she calls us to step into those places that require courage, and she gives us the help to take the next step forward---even when it s scary.

It took me a while of sitting here to figure out how to review this book. I'm still not sure how. See, this isn't my usual type of book. Yet, something about this one spoke to me, drew me in.

Annie wrote with open honesty and vulnerability typical of these kinds of books. She shared things from the deepest parts of her life. Her hopes, her dreams, her fears. She illustrated these points with stories from her life, or with stories from Scripture, which I thought was exceptionally well done. However, Annie is first a blogger, and that showed, as I think her writing style didn't completely translate into book writing.

The timeline also jumps around quite a bit, which really confused me. Each chapter has when and where she wrote that particular chapter, so that jumps around. But even in those sections she may be talking about something that happened in the past, or "two weeks ago".

But ultimately, this was one that spoke to me. It saw straight through me, told me that I am not alone when it com to some of the things that I face. Which, to me, makes it hard to rec. Because if it doesn't speak to you, will you not like it as much? Yet I do recommend this one, a lot. It was full of truth and wisdom and, of course, some Annie humor.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads
Annie F. Downs

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Inked {by Eric Smith}
Title: Inked
Author: Eric Smith
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Received via NetGalley
Tattoos once were an act of rebellion.
Now they decide your destiny the moment the magical Ink settles under your skin.
And in a world where Ink controls your fate, Caenum can't escape soon enough. He is ready to run from his family, and his best friend Dreya, and the home he has known, just to have a chance at a choice.
But when he upsets the very Scribe scheduled to give him his Ink on his eighteenth birthday, he unwittingly sets in motion a series of events that sends the corrupt, magic-fearing government, The Citadel, after him and those he loves.
Now Caenum, Dreya, and their reluctant companion Kenzi must find their way to the Sanctuary, a secret town where those with the gift of magic are safe. Along the way, they learn the truth behind Ink, its dark origins, and why they are the only ones who can stop the Citadel.
Eric Smith takes you on a high-octane fantasy adventure, perfect for anyone who has dreamed of being different… only to discover that fate is more than skin deep.
This was definitely an interesting book. When I first heard about this book, I was drawn in because it sounded unique and different. Then I saw the cover, which sealed the deal. I don't read much fantasy, but I fully enjoyed this one.
I liked the world-building, as it wasn't so complex and confusing. My biggest issue with fantasy novels is that the world is so confusing, not explained well, or things don't add up. But this one was explained well, telling us what we needed to know without info-dumping.
This was an interesting concept as well. Tattoos that control your fate. Caenum doesn't know what he wants to do with this life, and sure doesn't want some ink telling him what to do with his life. But before he can run away, trouble comes to his small town. He flees to the secret town with his childhood friend Dreya, and Kenzi, a scribe, with the corrupt government at their heels.  
The plot was fast paced without being overwhelming. There weren't times when I was confused as to what was going on because it was too much. Smith achieved the perfect balance of neither underwhelming nor overwhelming us either.
This was definitely a great read, and I hope there ends up being a sequel because I will definitely read it.
This review can also be found on   Goodreads
Eric Smith:

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Righting a Wrong {by Rachael Anderson}

Title: Righting a Wrong
Author: Rachael Anderson
Series: A Ripple Effect Romance Novella #3
Genre: Clean Adult Romance
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Received for review

Seven years ago, Cambri Blaine fled her small hometown of Bridger, Colorado after her senior year of high school ended in a fiasco. But now her father needs help, and Cambri has no choice but to return home. So with trepidation, she takes a leave of absence from the landscape architecture firm where she works and heads home, hoping against hope that Jace Sutton is no longer around and that the past can stay where it belongs-in the past. If only life worked that way. Jace never expected to see Cambri again. After she walked out of his life without a backward glance, he was left with no choice but to try to forget her and move on. But now that Cambri is back and looking more beautiful and sophisticated than ever, some of those old feelings resurface, and Jace instinctively knows, for the sake of his heart, that he needs to avoid her at all costs. If only it were that easy.

This was a cute little story. It was a sweet and light and fluffy, a quick read that will satisfy any romance craving you have.

Cambri left her small town to go off to college and become a big-city woman, leaving and hurting her father and friends in the process. She's back to take care of her ailing father, hoping she doesn't see the man whose heart she broke when she left. But she does--everywhere.

The romance in this one was sweet. It wasn't insta-love, as they were already in love once. But we get to see them fall in love all over again. They hold back because of the past and past hurts, but once they decide to move past that, it was a really sweet relationship.

Cambri also does some growing in this short story. She left her town because she couldn't stand being in such a small place, but she starts to realize that it isn't all so bad, and there are some things she actually misses. She goes from being dead set against it, to at least being willing to see both sides.

This was a novella, so it was short and not as developed maybe as a full story. But it was still a cute, fun read.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

RachaelRachael Anderson: 

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

{Blog Tour} Review: The Body Electric by Beth Revis

Full tour schedule can be found here

Title: The Body Electric
Author: Beth Revis
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

The future world is at peace.
Ella Shepherd has dedicated her life to using her unique gift—the ability to enter people’s dreams and memories using technology developed by her mother—to help others relive their happy memories.
But not all is at it seems.
Ella starts seeing impossible things—images of her dead father, warnings of who she cannot trust. Her government recruits her to spy on a rebel group, using her ability to experience—and influence—the memories of traitors. But the leader of the rebels claims they used to be in love—even though Ella’s never met him before in her life. Which can only mean one thing…
Someone’s altered her memory.
Ella’s gift is enough to overthrow a corrupt government or crush a growing rebel group. She is the key to stopping a war she didn’t even know was happening. But if someone else has been inside Ella’s head, she cannot trust her own memories, thoughts, or feelings.
So who can she trust? 

I don't usually read a lot of science-fiction, but I did enjoy this book. While there were some things that didn't work as much as others, over all I liked this story. 

Ella is the daughter of two scientific geniuses. Both have created ground-breaking technology. But one is dead, and the other is dying. Ella notices that she has certain abilities, and starts realizing that there was more to her father's research than she realized. Recruited by the government to help spy on traitors, Ella realizes that the whole story had been hidden from her, and essentially sets out to find the truth. 

I loved the world-building in this one. From the futuristic cities to the technology to just the way everything was run. I thought it was set up really well. I am also a bit of a science nerd, so her parents research was also intriguing, in a "could this really happen" way. 

I will say, calling Jack the "leader of the rebels" seemed a bit far-fetched. I didn't really buy the romance in this one either, if it could be called that. I mean, her memories of him were erased, but I don't feel like there relationship was ever developed. She went from disliking him to…well, I'm not sure what they were by the end. 

I was also slightly confused by this book, especially at the end. First she's hallucinating and then she's in a reverie and then it's real life and there's reveries in reveries and I don't even know. Although the end did have some twists and turns that kept me on my toes, I did feel as though not everything was explained or maybe I was just confused. 

But I thought this was such an interesting and genius concept. I loved the way it was executed. Even with a few issues, I still really enjoyed this book. 

Beth Revis:

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Beth Revis is the NY Times bestselling author of the Across the Universe series. The complete trilogy is now available in more than 20 languages. A native of North Carolina, Beth’s most recent book is The Body Electric, which tells the story of what was happening on Earth while the characters of Across the Universe were in space.

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Friday, January 9, 2015

Love Well {by Jamie George}

Title: Love Well: Living Life Unrehearsed and Unstuck
Author: Jamie George
Genre: Spiritual, Nonfiction, Memoir
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Received via NetGalley

Do you feel like you’re stuck? Do you feel alone? Do you live in fear that your struggles might push others away? Do you wonder if your faith is a fraud because of the emptiness in your soul? Are you weary of trying to play by the rules and pretend that everything is okay?
In Love Well, Jamie George confronts the popular heresy that God’s children are meant to live a life absent of pain, sorrow, or conflict. On the contrary, Jamie passionately describes brokenness as a divine gift and a necessary God-ordained path to experiencing true joy and genuine redemption.
With surprising transparency, Jamie shares his personal journey of getting unstuck and provides reassuring comfort for those looking to move beyond their pain toward a life of connection and grace. 

This was such a powerful book. George was very open, honest, and vulnerable while sharing his story. He shares his personal journey in his struggles in his marriage and with his wife.

I hardly highlight or mark things when reading ebooks, but there were a whole bunch of quotes that I had to mark. This isn't a self-help book. In fact, I would say that he doesn't really share on actually how to go about doing some of the stuff he says (other than professional counseling). It's more like an impassioned plea to really wake up, and see the truth.

George uses his openness and transparency in his own life, with personal anecdotes about his family to make his point. He also uses quotes from others, Scripture, and retells Biblical passages and stories. All these came together to really emphasize his points.

This is a book I would definitely recommend everyone to read. It makes some great points, backed by Scripture. If you've ever felt stuck or discouraged with your life, this book will encourage you. I love this quote, and so will end with this:

Yours is a life worth living. Yours is a story worth telling. Cast aside the shame, lift up your head, and stride with dignity.
-93% of eARC

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Jamie George:

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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Perfect Couple {by Jennifer Echols}

Title: Perfect Couple
Author: Jennifer Echols
Series: Superlatives, #2
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Received via Edelweiss

In this second book in The Superlatives trilogy from Endless Summer author Jennifer Echols, Harper and Brody think they're an unlikely match, but the senior class says they belong together.
As yearbook photographer, Harper is responsible for those candid moments that make high school memorable. But her own life is anything but picture perfect. Her parents' bitter divorce left her wondering what a loving relationship looks like. And ever since the senior class voted her and star quarterback Brody Perfect Couple That Never Was, her friends have been pushing her to ask Brody out.
Brody doesn't lack female admirers, but Harper can't see herself with him. He's confused about the match too. Yet they find themselves drawn together, first by curiosity about why the class paired them, then by an undeniable bond.
The trouble is, though they're attracted to each other, they have a hard time getting along or even communicating well. If they're the perfect couple, this shouldn't be so difficult! Soon it becomes clear their class was wrong, and they throw in the towel. But they feel so changed from making the effort, they can't forget each other. What if this match made in hell is the perfect couple after all?

This was a cute story. I am loving this series, and have fallen so in love with these characters. Although I can't wait for Sawyer and Kaye's story, this was also a sweet, fun read.

Harper is the school's yearbook photographer. She's shy, artsy, likes to dress vintage, and can't imagine why the school would pair her up with Brody, the school jock, as Perfect Couple That Never Was. They are so mismatched it's comical. But they both have feelings for each other that they can't deny. 

I liked Harper. I think because she's a little like me, what with being introverted and all. But it's her senior year, and she wants to come out of her shell. Harper goes through growth that was showcased exceptionally well. From learning that standing up for yourself does not mean always rebelling against what others say, to finding out what she really wants from life, I think it protested the conflicted life of teenagers really well. 

I had some issues with this book, such as: was Harper changing herself to get a guy or truly for herself? Should you really date someone just because the school voted so? Also, her and Brody's initial "cheating" bugged me because she was SO against it, what with her parents going through a divorce, but apparently not against it enough to stop doing it. I realize teenage hormones and yada yada but still. 

I of course, loved the supporting cast. They were so fun, and kept it interesting. The angst was real in this one. All in all, it was a cute, fluffy book that will sure to have you wanting the next book now just to get more of these characters.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Jennifer Echols:

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Friday, January 2, 2015

Return to Exile {by Lynne Gentry}
Title: Return to Exile
Author: Lynne Gentry
Series: The Carthage Chronicles, #2
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Received from publisher

A twenty-first-century doctor travels back in time to third-century Carthage to rescue her husband, but the arrival of a deadly epidemic forces her to make an impossible choice in this fast-paced second novel in The Carthage Chronicles series.
Dr. Lisbeth Hastings salvaged two things from her accidental trip to the third century: her mother's stethoscope and her child. Making a life for her daughter Maggie back in the present is difficult, but returning to ancient Carthage is impossible. However, when Lisbeth learns her husband is slated to die a martyr's death, she must find a way around the impossible to save him.
Cyprian Thascius returns from political exile a broken man. He's lost his faith, the love of his life, and his purpose. When Ruth, an old friend, proposes he marry her to restore his position and protect his estate, the disgraced nobleman accepts. But when Cyprian's true love suddenly reappears, his heart becomes as imperiled as the fledgling church.
As Lisbeth and Cyprian reunite to battle a new epidemic and save the oppressed community of Christians, the chasm between the two of them seems too wide to bridge. But when Maggie contracts typhoid, Lisbeth must choose: stay and save the man she loves, or return home and save her daughter?
Filled with gripping action and raw emotion, this incredibly compelling adventure of star-crossed lovers will keep you engrossed with every turn of the page.

I am actually not sure whether I liked this more or less than the first book, but ultimately, I still enjoyed it. It took me awhile to get into it, but once it picked up, I was intrigued. 

Lisbeth is back in the 21st century, but she cannot stop thinking about everything she left behind in the 3rd. So, with her daughter in tow, she makes it back only to find things are so much worse than she left it. 

Although Lisbeth has grown and changed, there were still parts about her I didn't like. She still tried too hard to play God, and got mad at everyone else when things didn't go her way. But she did try, and you could tell she had matured some since the last book. Not going to lie, her daughter kind of bugged me. She was super spoiled and just rude. I don't know if she was supposed to be bossy in a way that was endearing, but she came across like a brat instead. But she's a child, so I won't hold it against her.

I liked Cyprian in the last book, and while I liked him in the beginning, I don't know what happened. Not saying I didn't like him, but more that I couldn't really get a handle on him. I wasn't sure what he was doing, or thinking, or where he was coming from most of the time. But he does grow as well, and grows into the selfless leader everyone else thinks he can be. 

This story does go through many different points-of-view, which was nice. It added to the story, because we could see what was going on, and how that would come into play later on. It was full of action and intrigue. You could tell it was well-researched and historically accurate. I love anything from this time period, and it did a good job of portraying it. 

This was a satisfying read. If you like historical fiction, or Ancient Rome, or a bit of fantasy with the time travel aspect, then this book is for you. 

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Lynne Gentry:

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Esther {by Angela Hunt}

Title: Esther: Royal Beauty
Author: Angela Hunt
Genre: Biblical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Received from publisher

An ambitious tyrant threatens genocide against the Jews in ancient Persia, so an inexperienced beautiful young queen must take a stand for her people. 
When Xerxes, king of Persia, issues a call for beautiful young women, Hadassah, a Jewish orphan living in Susa, is forcibly taken to the palace of the pagan ruler. After months of preparation, the girl known to the Persians as Esther wins the king's heart and a queen's crown. But because her situation is uncertain, she keeps her ethnic identity a secret until she learns that an evil and ambitious man has won the king's permission to exterminate all Jews--young and old, powerful and helpless. Purposely violating an ancient Persian law, she risks her life in order to save her people...and bind her husband's heart. 
Esther marks bestselling author Angela Hunt's return to biblical fiction. In each novel she explores an example of a Hebrew Old Testament tob woman: a woman whose physical beauty influences those around her--and can change the course of history.

Esther stories are one of my favorite, but this retelling was unlike anything I had read before.

Esther is a young girl, living with her cousin Mordecai. But living in the shadow of the palace has her longing for the things she doesn't: fine clothes, wealth, beauty. I think this was an interesting portrayal of Esther, as we remember her as a brave, selfless person. But we often forget that she wasn't always that way. She starts out as a young, naive girl. She is more selfish and spoiled than we would think. But Esther goes through tremendous character growth in this story, and I think it was portrayed exceptionally well. 

But the thing that made this so unique, was that is was in dual perspective, between Hadassah and…the King's Eunuch. I've never seen that before, but it made the story stand-out. Who better to get the perspective of what all is happening in the palace then someone who is always next to the King? I thought that was a great, surprising addition, and really added to the story. The events in the book of Esther didn't happen all one after the other. Sometimes years would pass between events, and this was the perfect way to see what was actually happening in that time.

Like I said, there was a lot of time that spanned in this story, and so there were a few places where the story lagged, because I felt like not much happened. But the story was also detailed, giving a glimpse into Esther's life before and after becoming queen. I know we think being queen is amazing and great, but this showed exactly what is was like, and how it wasn't all so great.

This story seemed well-researched, and it was very well-written. It is important to me that stories like this remain historically and Biblically accurate, which this one did. It retold the story in a new way, while keeping true to the original. Definitely a great read. 

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Angela Hunt:

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