Sunday, July 29, 2012

Review: Awful First Dates: Hysterical, True, and Heartbreakingly Bad

Awful First Dates: Hysterical, True, and Heartbreakingly Bad
Awful First Dates: Hysterical, True, and Heartbreakingly Bad by Sarah Z. Wexler

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis: "He spills out a pile of pennies all over the table, telling me he fished through the couch for change to pay for his big night out."
From the guy who chews on rocks to the one who has his mom tag along, Awful First Dates is filled with hilarious, cringe-worthy, holy-crap-did-that-really-happen? stories from celebrities like Lauren Conrad and Michael Kors, you'll laugh, you'll cringe-and most importantly-you'll feel better about some of the date's you've been on
-He ate an entire bowl of dip with his fingers.
-He said, "I think we should hang out in the woods and just groove on each other."
-About thirty minutes in, he paused, took a sip of win, and then said, "So, can we go have sex now?"

My Thoughts: this in one sitting. As someone who didn't go on a ton of first dates before finding my hubby, thankfully none were anywhere near as bad as the ones described in this book. I cringed throughout the astounds me how tacky and totally clueless some people can be. And this is a great example.

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Review: The Watchers

The Watchers
The Watchers by Jon Steele

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

GoodReads Synopsis: Meet Marc Rochat, a man-child who has devoted his life to being the bell ringer at the Gothic Lausanne Cathedral, one of the greatest architectural structures in the world. Eerie things have been going on in and around his church, including tremblings in the underground crypt and a variety of gruesomely murdered bodies showing up in nearby streets. Across the square from the cathedral lives Katherine Taylor, a beautiful young American woman who is making phenomenal money as one of the highest-priced call girls in Switzerland; she's a bit too introspective for her own good and, unfortunately, much too observant of her clients' peccadilloes. Rochat's and Taylor's lives collide with Jay Harper, a British private eye who has been sent to investigate the killings and other strange doings; alas, he has no memory of who hired him or precisely why he was chosen for the job. And now all the clues are pointing skyward, where fallen angels are said to haunt Lausanne.

My Thoughts: OK…I have to say that this was very slow starting. I can honestly say I fought to get through the first 1/3 of the book. But once we had all the back story out of the way, the real story really picked up. Also I can see where this could become a series…although I can’t find any indication that is to be the case. At almost 600 pages, this book can stand alone.

Jon Steele spent a lot of time building the world of the Cathedral…where most of the story takes place. I must admit after reading this book, seeing this cathedral is now on my bucket list. Equally fascinating was the references to the Book of Enoch which was part of the Dead Sea Scrolls and it is the framework for the angelic part of the storyline.

Mark Rochat is, in my opinion, the main character. He is one of those people who are often referred to as “slow”. He is aware of his limitations, “I’m not so good with words and numbers” he says, but more importantly, he is the type of person who only sees the good in others and fosters that goodness.

Jay Harper is our intrepid investigator. He seems a little slow on the uptake, like he’s operating in a fog, but nothing gets past him. He is our “hero”, though he would be the last one to think so. Eventually he is able to shake off the fog and figure out what is truly going on. I found him snarky and sarcastic…LOVED him!

Kathryn Taylor is our “Damsel in Distress” and she is a “Hot Mess” and then some. On the lam from the IRS, she is cashing in on her Playboy “fame” and working as a high-class call girl in Switzerland. And like most literary call girls, she finds herself in a mess of her own making and can’t quite figure out how to get out of it. Kathryn is a shallow twit who thinks of no one but herself. That is until Rochat and Harper enter to save the day.

If you can stick it out through the first 150 pages or so, I think the book is worth the time and effort. Most of the info from that beginning does come full circle and is necessary by the time you come to the ending. You just have to decide if the writing and storyline engages you enough to hang on. Personally if there is a possibility of angelic involvement, I will usually stick it out…and since Steele is a gifted writer and storyteller, I’m glad I hung in there.

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Friday, July 27, 2012

Review: The Syndicate

The Syndicate
The Syndicate by Shelena Shorts

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

GoodReads Synopsis: For centuries, the Petrescu family has been protecting society from a danger that moves among the population undetected. Eighteen-year-old Vasi Petrescu has never had a problem carrying out his duty, but, when ordered to eliminate an eighteen-year-old girl, he is immediately taken out of his comfort zone.

The Syndicate has never targeted a female before, yet somehow this one has ended up on more than one hit list. Vasi would like to find out why, but there may not be time.

Now, he'll have to decide whether or not to keep her alive even if it means going against his own family.

The action, mystery, and conspiracy in The Syndicate will take readers on an immersing journey in which decisions are not only life changing, but irreversible.

My Thoughts: This book used one of my favorite tricks to hook the reader…mystery. The reader doesn’t completely comprehend who and/or what the Syndicate and Hybrids are. So I had to keep reading to see what the deal was. By the time you do learn the answers to that question, others have replaced it and keep you reading.

Vasi is portrayed as a young man fighting an internal struggle between the integrity his parents instilled in him before their death, and the demands of the Syndicate. Most of the time they are in alignment, but at one, crucial, instance they are not. Vasi is a strong character with strong character. I wasn’t as big on Riley, I found her whiney…but loved how Vasi dealt with her.

I enjoyed this story immensely. It was a quick, one-sitting read. And one of the few I wouldn’t mind if they turned it into a series.

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Review: Romeo Redeemed

Romeo Redeemed
Romeo Redeemed by Stacey Jay

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Romeo was plucked out of the end of “Juliet Immortal” and asked by Juliet’s nurse and Ambassador of Light, if he wanted a chance to redeem himself. If so, he would have 3 days in an alternate reality, where he would be back in the body of Dylan Stroud and he would have to get Ariel to “believe in love”. Which might be kind of tough considering the bet he had with his friends. Romeo jumps at the chance for redemption.

This book, like Juliet Immortal, had flashbacks to 1300’s Verona…and Juliet waking up in her tomb with the wicked Friar waiting for her. Which totally contradicted the end of Juliet Immortal…it was confusing and frustrating.

Outside of the aforementioned contradiction, I liked Romeo Redeemed. I love stories of redemption and let’s face it, Romeo was dripping with charm! It would be hard for anyone to resist him…*swoon*. Where all that charm could have been very smarmy, it turned out very sincere as Romeo realized he was falling for Arial and that his love for her is what was driving him and all his decisions. He was totally redeemed for me!

Arial I was not a fan of. I would have like to better understand how she could have such a huge impact on either side. She was a little too fragile and whiny! The speed at which she would believe the worst about Romeo made my faith in her dwindle to nothing. I guess I don’t care for characters with no spine and Arial had no backbone what so ever.

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Review: Redemption

Redemption by Veronique Launier

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 Stars

GoodReads Synopsis: Guillaume - For five hundred years I've existed as a gargoyle. Perched atop an old Montreal church, I've watched idly as humanity wanders by. With the witch Marguerite gone, there is no one left to protect, nothing to care about. I never planned to feel again. But then a girl released me from my stone restraints, allowing me to return as a seventeen-year-old human boy. I must find out all I can about this girl's power . . .

Aude - Getting attacked twice in as many days is strange in itself, but even stranger is the intriguing guy I keep running into. There's something so familiar about him, like a primal drum rhythm from my dreams. But spending time together only raises more question-about my heritage, a native Mohawk prophecy . . . and an unearthly magic threatening our city.

My Thoughts: Paranormal is incredibly popular of late. Never would I have thought to build a story around Gargoyles, but, I’m so glad that Veronique Launier did! Now I’ve never read about gargoyles before so I had no preconceived notions and absolutely loved the mythology Launier came up with. Especially the Iroquois angle.

My one complaint would be that I found the characters to be extremely self-centered and not very likeable…at least at the beginning. All Aude cared about was her music to the point of alienating her two best friends and bandmates. Guillaume was equally self-centered in his previous life with Marguerite as well as with his single mindedness where Aude was concerned. The character I fell for the hardest was Garnier.

I will check out the next book in the series, because I want to see where the prophecy goes next and I did like Aude and Guil by the end of the book.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Review: The Unfailing Light

The Unfailing Light
The Unfailing Light by Robin Bridges

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

GoodReads Synopsis: Having had no choice but to use her power has a necromancer to save Russia from dark forces, Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, now wants to forget that she ever used her special powers. She's about to set off to pursue her lifelong dream of attending medical school when she discovers that Russia's arch nemesis--who she thought she'd destroyed--is still alive. So on imperial orders, Katerina remains at her old finishing school. She'll be safe there, because the empress has cast a potent spell to protect it against the vampires and revenants who are bent on toppling the tsar and using Katerina for their own gains. But to Katerina's horror, the spell unleashes a vengeful ghost within the school, a ghost more dangerous than any creature trying to get in.

My Thoughts: This seemed like a typical middle book of a trilogy…unfortunately. I love this series and was pretty disappointed by this installment.

Katiya does not get to go to medical school and the reasoning behind it was pretty weak. Most of this installment is about a ghost back at the finishing school, and what George is doing in this mysterious training he is receiving in France. Of course no one can tell us anything about what George is training for. And the ghost at the school will not communicate in any way so we can attempt to address that matter. All Katiya can do is wander about the school cuz she is trapped inside and wonder what is going on outside. Can you say “frustrating”…I knew you could.

One redeeming point is that we are all set-up for the final leg of the trilogy and George’s training in this book may allow him and Katiya to be able to be together by the end of the next one.

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Review: Destined to Play

Destined to Play
Destined to Play by Indigo Bloome

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I really am having a hard time deciding on the rating. I liked the first 2/3's of the book, but the last 1/3 really kind of ruined it. Hmm?

GoodReads Synopsis: It′s simple. No sight. No questions. 48 hours .

Dr. Alexandra Blake is about to give a series of prestigious lectures, but the butterflies in her stomach are for a far more exciting reason ...

After the lecture she is meeting up with Jeremy Quinn, esteemed doctor and dangerous ex-lover - the only person with whom she has ever let her guard down completely. After a few glasses of champagne in his luxurious penthouse suite, Jeremy presents her with an intriguing offer: stay with him for the next forty-eight hours and accept two extraordinary conditions, the first of which leaves her utterly at his mercy, and he will give her an experience more sensual and extreme than any game they have ever played before.

This scorching novel is an erotic exploration of trust and betrayal, experimentation and control, lust and love. Forget Fifty Shades of Grey, this daring debut will leave you breathless for more.

My Thoughts: I enjoyed the first 2/3’s of this book. I thought it was about a couple who were best friends, now, though they had been more than friends at various times in their lives, spending a weekend catching up. But it was more than that. However, the ultimate purpose of the weekend was not what I was suspecting and it was a huge let down.

What the synopsis doesn’t tell you is that Alex black is a psychologist and Jeremy Quinn is a medical doctor and psychiatrist. Together Alex and Jeremy do explore their friendship from a more psychological stand point which was interesting. Also Jeremy helps Alex to understand herself better.

I hate all these comparisons to 50 Shades…this was nothing even remotely close to 50 shades, this is like comparing apples to pears because they are the same color. The end of the book and the end of their weekend was cold and sterile. Alex’s return home to talk with her husband lame and went for the lowest common denominator. And the epilogue could not have been more contrived…leaving open the possibility for a sequel…which I won’t be reading. This was one of those books that I wanted to throw at the wall once I’d finished!

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Review: The Rock Star in Seat 3A: A Novel

The Rock Star in Seat 3A: A Novel
The Rock Star in Seat 3A: A Novel by Jill Kargman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a quick beach read, perfect for summer!

Hazel’s dream came true and she got to meet the man she’d been fantasizing about for half her life. And she met him in very undesirable circumstances…bumpy plane ride where he holds her hair while she pukes in a barf bag. During the rest of the flight Finn and Hazel really hit it off and wind up have dinner while she is in Los Angeles.

Only problem, Hazel is on the verge of becoming engaged to Wylie. What’s a girl to do when the man of your dreams is presented and he seems to be as into you and you are in him?

I appreciated Hazel being honest enough with Wylie about exploring her feelings for Flynn and I appreciated that they both kept their feelings at bay until Hazel told Wylie where she was coming from. That part of the story was somewhat unrealistic. Who would do that? I honestly expected that when presented with her dream man, Hazel would have jumped him. I was pleasantly surprised when she didn’t.

Finn, for being a rock star, seemed very down to earth…which was counter to his dark brooding lyrics. He wasn’t what Hazel or I expected. But unfortunately Finn found a formula that worked for him and his music and he didn’t want to fix what wasn’t broken. I liked Finn, but was frustrated by his role of “dark brooding rock star” when he really wasn’t.

This was a fun exploration for anyone who has one of those “lists” of celebrities they get a “free pass” on should they even encounter them…ala “Friends”. And it serves as a reminder that no matter how your fantasy transpires, the reality will never quite match it. I’m looking forward to reading more from Kargman.

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Monday, July 9, 2012

Review: The Innocents

The Innocents
The Innocents by Francesca Segal

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Innocents shows what life is like in the Jewish community of NW London. It’s this lifestyle that has shaped Adam. Adam’s only thoughts seem to be about doing what is expected of him…but he doesn’t see these thoughts as an expectation, so much, as just a given. He doesn’t question it consciously, but unconsciously I think he does. What wakes him up out of this fugue state is the arrival of the “wild child” cousin, of his fiancĂ©, who has been raised and basically abandoned in New York.
Family and work obligations force Adam to spend time with Ellie. It isn’t long before Adam starts to look for opportunities to spend time with Ellie. Ellie unknowingly forces Adam to examine his life and he’s not thrilled with what he discovers.

Adam is such a lovable guy. He is man of worth, honorable, moral, smart, good looking…he is a real catch and doesn’t even know it. He is so entrenched in everyone’s expectations for him but yet doesn’t realize it. When he wakes up and starts to think about what he may actually want, it becomes an internal battle.

Rachel is Adam’s equal, she loves her life and wants the same marriage her Mom and Dad have. She is more concerned with wedding prep, and then being the perfect wife and mother, that she is oblivious to what is going on with Adam. I did get frustrated with her at times, but I believe that was intentional.

Segal based this story on Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence, which I have not read. Segal’s writing is superb…I loved all the explanations the author gives for everything. She wants us to really understand the world Adam is living in and why he makes the choices he does. In fact it was the Jewish culture that drew my attention to this book. This was a tremendously engaging read that I would highly recommend.

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Monday, July 2, 2012

Review: The Game of Triumphs

The Game of Triumphs
The Game of Triumphs by Laura Powell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

GoodReads Synopsis: At an exclusive Soho party one rainy night, Cat stumbles into an ancient and dangerous game of fortune. A mysterious quartet of game masters deal out challenges—moves that unfold in the Arcanum, a dream-scape version of our world. Success can earn players fame, fortune, inspiration. Failure can be deadly.

At first Cat is skeptical, but undeniably curious. And when a journey into the Arcanum reveals a shocking glimpse of her family's past, Cat begins to understand what drives people to play. Sometimes it's greed or longing—other times desperation. She must know more.

Right now, the game masters hold all the cards. But Cat finds others like herself on the fringes of the game. And together an unlikely group of chancers hope to change the rules in their favor.

In the Game of Triumphs, the risks are high, but the rewards may just be worth dying for.

My Thoughts: This was a fantastical recreation of the tarot based in another dimension tied to our dimension. The players were knights and were playing for great rewards. Usually they had to survive the fates dealt by 5 “lesser” cards to actually get their reward/triumph. Some of those cards were dealt by the Game Masters and some were dealt by a roulette wheel.

This sounded like a great story from the synopsis. But it was a little slow to get going and the author spent a great deal of time explaining the game and how it is played. But once it came to overthrowing the GameMasters…that happened very quickly and easily which just didn’t jive with all the in-depth instruction we’d received.

I would have liked to know the characters a bit more, they lacked depth. We knew how they got into the game and that they were “chancers” but nothing else. The story, however, had a lot of depth…starting out so grand and then fizzling out towards the end.

I read this story was geared toward middle schoolers…my middle schooler is interested in role playing video games, not so much a Dungeons and Dragons environment. But maybe the might and magic of the book would make up for the lack of video game aspect?? I think this appeals more to the 40 year old that grew up at the beginning of the home video game era and who probably played D&D or knew others that did.

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Review: Wicked Business

Wicked Business
Wicked Business by Janet Evanovich

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

GoodReads Synopsis: Lizzy Tucker’s once normal life as a pastry chef in Salem, Massachusetts, turns upside down as she battles both sinister forces and an inconvenient attraction to her unnaturally talented but off-limits partner, Diesel.

When Harvard University English professor and dyed-in-the-wool romantic Gilbert Reedy is mysteriously murdered and thrown off his fourth-floor balcony, Lizzy and Diesel take up his twenty-year quest for the Luxuria Stone, an ancient relic believed by some to be infused with the power of lust. Following clues contained in a cryptic nineteenth-century book of sonnets, Lizzy and Diesel tear through Boston catacombs, government buildings, and multimillion-dollar residences. On their way they’ll leave behind a trail of robbed graves, public disturbances, and general mayhem.

Diesel’s black sheep cousin, Gerwulf Grimoire, also wants the Stone. His motives are far from pure, and what he plans on doing with the treasure, no one knows . . . but Lizzy Tucker fears she’s in his crosshairs. Never far and always watching, Grimoire has a growing, vested interest in the cupcake-baker-turned-finder-of-lost-things. As does another dangerous and dark opponent in the hunt—a devotee of lawlessness and chaos, known only as Anarchy.

Treasures will be sought, and the power of lust will be unmistakable as Lizzy and Diesel attempt to stay ahead of Anarchy, Grimoire, and his medieval minion, Hatchet, in this ancient game of twisted riddles and high-stakes hide-and-seek.

My Thoughts: Oh Man…there wasn’t near as much of the seductive, witty, banter between Diesel and Izzie in this go-round as there was in the first book! I just love their verbal sparring! Also Diesel has his own apartment so he doesn’t spend as much time sleeping at Izzie’s! UGH!

Speaking of verbal sparring…throughout the first book, “Wicked Appetite”, Diesel keeps telling Izzie, during her moments of gluttony, “be glad we aren’t looking for the lust stone”…guess which stone they are looking for this time…yeppers, the “lust” stone…and it was pretty funny.

Gerwulf continues to be a thorn in their side, but he is upstaged by someone calling them self “Anarchy” and they will, undoubtedly, be around for the next installment. Hatchet provides much comic relief as does Glo.

Overall it’s another fun-filled roller coaster ride and a perfect beach/pool read. I’m looking forward to the next book in hopes there is more Diesel/Izzie/Gerwulf time. Should be interesting and I hope, very funny!

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Review: Need

Need by Sherri Hayes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

GoodReads Synopsis: As Brianna comes to terms with the realization that she is no longer a slave, she must figure out what she wants for her life. Forgetting her past isn’t an option. It is an integral part of who she is now, and it will forever shape her view of life. The one thing she knows is that she cannot imagine her life without the man who saved her, but can she be what he needs?

Stephan never imagined falling in love with the woman he rescued, but the thought of her no longer being part of his life is physically painful. The scars from her past continue to haunt her, and he is helpless to stop them. All he can do is try to help her work through the traumas of her past. Can he be everything she needs and help her move on?

The two must figure out how to navigate not only their relationship with each other, but also the outside world. A friend from Brianna’s past shows up where she least expects them, and Uncle Richard continues to enforce his well-meaning agenda to get Brianna more traditional help. As forces, both friend and foe, threaten to tear them apart, Stephan and Brianna have to navigate the turbulent waters and find what they need in each other.

My Thoughts: This book picked up right where “Slave” left off. So much so that I am convinced that “Need” was just broken off of “Slave” in order to sell more books. One of my pet peeves. “Need” actually has a cliffhanger ending where there was none with “Slave”. Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox.

I did like “Need” as much as “Slave”. Stephan continues to get to know Brianna and help her overcome her slavery to Ian. I really do love Brianna for all her strength. Yes she has what seem like insurmountable insecurities, but she does face them head-on and when she can’t she allows Stephan to help her face them. I think the hardest thing to do is ask for help, but Brianna has learned to do just that. Meanwhile Stephan is always true to his word…never lies, never omits information, and because of that Brianna knows she can trust him. It’s my favorite part of the story, how she is able to rely on him and be safe after her whole world was shattered.

I am looking forward to the third book in this series. I’m hoping Stephan can continue to help Brianna become whole again. I’m hoping we find out the story behind her being Ian’s sex slave. Of course, I am also hoping for a happy ending for Stephan and Brianna.

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Review: Slave

Slave by Sherri Hayes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Going into this book, I thought it was going to be reminiscent of “50 Shades of Grey”…I couldn’t have been more wrong. It blew my expectations out of the water. While this was tough subject matter, the author could have easily gone the way of exploitation and titillation, but thankfully didn’t. The story is handled with delicacy and grace.

“Slave” takes the young, wealthy hero, who happens to be a Dominant between submissives, and puts him in the position to purchase a sex slave. Now Stephan is not into sexual slavery, but it’s obvious this is not something this young woman has chosen for herself. Since Stephan has the means, he buys Brianna from her Dom and takes her home in the hopes of helping her rebuild her life.

Stephan is one of those guys who wants to fix what is wrong with the world, and he literally puts his money where his mouth is. I absolutely loved him. Brianna, meanwhile, couldn’t be more broken. The reader sees things from her point of view, frequently, and the inner dialog she has with herself is fascinating. Little bits of her pre-slave days peek out a couple of times, but it’s mostly dialog from her broken psyche. It’s so sad. I loved that Stephan’s uncle, a doctor, thinks he knows what is best for Brianna. The Uncle knows about Stephan’s lifestyle and completely disapproves.

It so easy to live in a bubble and try to forget the fact that people are sold into slavery and are abused. Sadly, I’m sure that this story mild in comparison to some of the evil that exists in this world. Some of this story is very hard to read, but yet I couldn’t put the book down. It was only when my kindle battery died that I actually got some sleep last night…only to be late for work this morning because I had to see how it ended.

I am anxious to start the second book to see if Brianna is able to regain her independence…I suspect she will but what obstacles will she find and I wonder if we will ever find out how she was forced into sexual slavery.

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Review: Dreamwalker

Dreamwalker by Andrea Heltsley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

GoodReads Synopsis: Noel Kennedy lost her boyfriend, her job and her dignity all in one week. Then something happened and she began to dream of this stranger she had never met. She couldn’t resist the man of her dreams named Jared especially when she met him in real life. Entranced, she slowly unraveled a world she was meant to stay out of. Her life was not what she thought it was once a sexy Boone stepped into the mix and shook things up. Can she escape a life of servitude or immortality for a chance at love

My Thoughts: Reading this book was…awkward. That’s the only word I can come up with. There were a lot of grammatical errors, sudden changes in point of view were not clear at times, descriptions were very “bare bones”, dialog was stilted and a bit on the cheesy side. The characters were not really developed beyond their supernatural talents. Everything seemed to lack depth. On a positive note, the plot was very interesting and made for a good story…it just read like a first or second draft.

This had a lot of potential, it was just lacking polish. Having said that, I would read a sequel. I’d like to know what happens next…and YEAH for Noel choosing the right guy!! LOL

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