Reading Challenge: Rowena's 2019 A-Z Reading Challenge

Review: Shadow Music by Julie Garwood

Posted November 19, 2019 by Rowena in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Shadow Music by Julie GarwoodReviewer: Rowena
Shadow Music by Julie Garwood
Series: Highlands Lairds #3
Also in this series: Shadow Music , Ransom, The Secret (Highlands' Lairds #1), Ransom (Highlands' Lairds, #2), Shadow Music
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: December 26, 2007
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 339
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2019 A-Z Reading Challenge, Rowena's 2019 TBR Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

For Princess Gabrielle of St. Biel, Scotland is a land of stunning vistas, wild chieftains, treacherous glens, and steep shadows--skullduggery, betrayal, and now murder. Prized for her exquisite beauty, the daughter of one of England's most influential barons, Gabrielle is also a perfect bargaining chip for a king who needs peace in the Highlands: King John has arranged Gabrielle's marriage to a good and gentle laird. But this marriage will never take place.

For Gabrielle, everything changes in one last burst of freedom--when she and her guards come upon a scene of unimaginable cruelty. With one shot from her bow and arrow, Gabrielle takes a life, saves a life, and begins a war.

Within days, the Highlands are aflame with passions as a battle royal flares between enemies old and new. Having come to Scotland to be married, Gabrielle is instead entangled in Highland intrigue. For two sadistic noblemen, underestimating Gabrielle's bravery and prowess may prove fatal. But thanks to a secret Gabrielle possesses, Colm MacHugh, the most feared man in Scotland, finds a new cause for courage. Under his penetrating gaze, neither Gabrielle's body nor heart is safe.

I read this a couple of months ago and have been really busy so I’m catching up on writing my reviews right now. Shadow Music is the third book in Julie Garwood’s Highlands Lairds series and it follows Ransom, which came out ages and ages ago. While this book is part of the Highlands Lairds series, it can totally be read as a standalone. Reading this book brought back many memories of the other books that I have loved from Julie Garwood and it started an epic Julie Garwood binge readathon. I went back and re-read The Secret and Ransom and just kept right on re-reading all of my Garwood favorites. I enjoyed this book and even though it wasn’t a favorite read of mine, it was still a solid read that even my picky book club friends enjoyed.

Gabrielle’s father is a Baron from England and her mother is a Princess in St. Biel. St. Biel is a small country that has an interesting history that not very many people on St. Biel believe to be true. They believe the story of their homeland is more myth than truth but it’s part of their history and everyone knows it. When the story of St. Biel’s history becomes a real life threat to Gabrielle’s life, this story really heats up. Between being a pawn in King John’s efforts in trying to keep the peace with the Highland Lairds, her betrothed being killed and then coming upon an attack that starts a Highland war, there is much to dig into with this story.

Laird Colm MacHugh is trying to find out what happened to his brother. He is healing from injuries suffered from an attack at a nearby abbey and Colm means to find out what happened and who did this to his brother. He was not expecting to find himself engaged to an English lass who was just outed as a whore. As a favor to his friend, Brodick Buchanan, Colm steps up to protect the young lass and claim her as his. When she accepts his suit and then promptly disappears, Colm knows that he’s going to have his hands full with this new fiancee.

There is a lot going on in this book but I thought that Garwood handled the storytelling really well. I was invested in what was going on with Gabrielle and Colm. I loved seeing them come together in love. I adored seeing Brodick again, hearing about the Maitlands and the Ramsays and even though Brodick brings up what went down in Ransom and got the details wrong (he said that Ramsay’s brother Michael was taken when it was actually Iain’s son Alec that was taken), I still really enjoyed this one. Gabrielle was a great heroine and I really loved her guards. I loved how loyal they were to each other. They didn’t question anything or back down from anyone but Gabrielle and I really loved that. I also really loved seeing Gabrielle run circles around Colm until he couldn’t help but love the heck out of her. There were parts of the book that I didn’t care for, like the constant crap with the two English barons fighting over Gabrielle but I enjoyed the other bits enough that I could overlook them and their shenanigans.

This was a solid romance that I enjoyed from beginning to end and even though it’s not my favorite book by Garwood, I’d still recommend it to fans of her other historicals. I really wish she’d write more historicals.

Final Grade

4 out of 5

Highlands Lairds

four-stars


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Buddy Review: Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep

Posted October 3, 2019 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Buddy Review: Kill the Queen by Jennifer EstepReviewer: Ames, Holly, and Rowena
Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep
Series: Crown of Shards #1
Publisher: Harper Collins, Harper Voyager
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 480
Add It: Goodreads
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four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Gladiator meets Game of Thrones: a royal woman becomes a skilled warrior to destroy her murderous cousin, avenge her family, and save her kingdom in this first entry in a dazzling fantasy epic from the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Elemental Assassin series—an enthralling tale that combines magic, murder, intrigue, adventure, and a hint of romance.

In a realm where one’s magical power determines one’s worth, Lady Everleigh’s lack of obvious ability relegates her to the shadows of the royal court of Bellona, a kingdom steeped in gladiator tradition. Seventeenth in line for the throne, Evie is nothing more than a ceremonial fixture, overlooked and mostly forgotten.

But dark forces are at work inside the palace. When her cousin Vasilia, the crown princess, assassinates her mother the queen and takes the throne by force, Evie is also attacked, along with the rest of the royal family. Luckily for Evie, her secret immunity to magic helps her escape the massacre.

Forced into hiding to survive, she falls in with a gladiator troupe. Though they use their talents to entertain and amuse the masses, the gladiators are actually highly trained warriors skilled in the art of war, especially Lucas Sullivan, a powerful magier with secrets of his own. Uncertain of her future—or if she even has one—Evie begins training with the troupe until she can decide her next move.

But as the bloodthirsty Vasilia exerts her power, pushing Bellona to the brink of war, Evie’s fate becomes clear: she must become a fearsome gladiator herself . . . and kill the queen.

Kill the Queen is the start of a new fantasy series by Jennifer Estep. Set in a world where magic rules the land, this is a novel full of royal intrigue, evil machinations and in the center, a young girl of royal blood who just wants to be accepted for who she is…

Holly: Rowena chose this book for us, in part because it’s touted as “Gladiator meets Game of Thrones”. I hadn’t read Estep before, but I really loved her writing. So, what did you two think? Did you think it was GoT-esque?

Rowena: First off, nice intro Holly.

You know, I’m not even mad that I chose this book for us to read. I enjoyed it and I did think that the story overall was GoT-esque. I liked all of the royal intrigue and I liked seeing Evie really grow from the girl we first meet and the woman she becomes in the end. I’m mighty curious to see where this series goes so I’m definitely going to be reading the next book in the series. There were times in the beginning when I wanted to strangle Evie for not opening her mouth, for sitting on shit that she shouldn’t, for taking shit from people who were beneath her but all of my frustrations with her fell away when she becomes a gladiator. I really liked her friendship with Paloma and my heart hurt for her after everything with Isobel and her cousins. Yeah, this was a good one.

Ames: This was a good choice, Wena! I’m glad we read this one. I wasn’t slumping but I felt like I was in a contemporary romance rut and nothing was appealing to me. It did take me just a wee bit to get into a fantasy head-space but Evie’s story was engrossing so I had no problem jumping in either. I really enjoyed her character and I can see why she held on to what she did. She learned really fast that you couldn’t trust anyone at court and she held onto that lesson for her life.

Holly: This reminded me a lot of Amanda Bouchett’s Kingmaker Chronicles, but I think Estep did it better. Even though I got frustrated with Evie in the beginning, too, I was still totally engaged in the story. I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen and how she was going to deal with it.

Man, I was so sad for Evie when everything happened with Isobel. I wish we’d seen her reunite with Alvis, her mentor.

I really enjoyed watching her growth, too. The way she decided to stand up for herself, and stop hiding, was so great. I was totally cheering for her.

Rowena: Same. I was engaged the entire time that I was reading this book and I was going through a reading slump. You wouldn’t have known it by how fast I read this book, when I finally buckled down and read. Good stuff.

I would have liked to see Evie reunite with Alvis, the jewelry maker. Do you think he knew who and what Evie really was? I hope we find out in the next book.

Holly: I hope we see that in the next book, too. Are you planning to start it right away?

There’s a possibility of a romance. What did you think of that?

Rowena: Possibility of a romance? You mean between Evie and Sully? They better have a romance! Haha.

I’m going to wait a while before starting the next book, closer to the time that the third book comes out. You guys?

Ames: I’m like you Wena, I’m going to wait until closer to book 3 comes out before reading book 2.

I liked Sully’s character and we better see a romance between Evie and Sully. I liked how their relationship developed – the snarkiness at the beginning and how he pushed her, challenged her. And then when the truth comes out about both of them, their identities, I can see why he pushed her away. Book 2 will be interesting to see how Evie gets him to come around.

Holly: Yeah. I mean, it’s barely hinted at here. Obviously we want it to go forward, but were you satisfied with how it turned out here?

I might read the 2nd book now. Tracy read it and said it ends similar to how this one does. It’s not a cliffhanger but it’s open for more.

Ames: I loved the changes that Evie went to after she joined the gladiator troupe. She really got down to who she was a person and she was so strong. I really liked Paloma and how that friendship came about. Evie was just surprising everyone left and right with her talents. I liked that she wowed everyone by baking. LOL

I did feel bad about her losses though. Isobel was one of the only people who were kind to her in the castle. Alvis is a mystery and I hope we see him again.

Ok you guys, what did you think of that rhyme and what it means? I thought it was interesting that Evie just thought it was a children’s song and didn’t mean anything.

Holly: I think it means the Winter Queen will be harder and more badass than all the lame-ass Summer Queens. LMAO. I liked that she won everyone over by baking, too. Not gonna lie, those pies made me hungry.

Rowena: Yeah, I thought it meant that the Winter Queens were way more badass than the Summer Queens. That they were more important, and maybe in the coming books, we’ll find out why. I definitely think there were more Winter Queens than Summer Queens during Halloween in the kingdom.

Overall, this was an enjoyable book and I’d give it 4.25 out of 5 stars, what about you guys?

Holly: I agree. It was an enjoyable book and I’m anxious to see where we go from here. 4.25 out of 5.

Ames: I agree with you both, it’s a 4.25 out of 5. A strong start to a new and interesting series. I can’t wait for book 3 to come out so I can read book 2. You know me, preferring to read my series books closer together. 😛

Final Grades

Ames: 4.25 out of 5
Holly: 4.25 out of 5
Rowena: 4.25 out of 5

Series

four-stars


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Review: Count to Ten by Karen Rose

Posted September 3, 2019 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Count to Ten by Karen RoseReviewer: Rowena
Count to Ten by Karen Rose
Series: Romantic Suspense #6
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: February 1, 2007
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Third
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 564
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2019 A-Z Reading Challenge, Rowena's 2019 New to Me Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

In all his years in the Chicago Fire Department, Lieutenant Reed Solliday has never experienced anything like this recent outbreak of house fires - devastating, vicious and in one case, homicidal. He has another problem - his new partner, Detective Mia Mitchell. She's brash, bossy, and taking the case in a direction he never imagined. Mia's instincts tell her the arsonist is making this personal. And as the infernos become more deadly, one look at the victims' tortured faces convinces her and Reed that they must work closer to catch the killer. With each new blaze, the villain ups the ante, setting firetraps for the people Reed and Mia love. The truth is almost too hot to handle: This monster's desire for death and destruction is unquenchable ... and for Mia he's started the countdown to an early grave.

Count to Ten is the sixth book in Karen Rose’s Romantic Suspense series and the first book that I’ve ever read by Rose. I don’t know what I was expecting when I jumped into this book but whatever, I liked this one. This was a book club read and if you guys know anything about my book club, they like happy, happy, joy, joy stories and this weren’t one of them. I didn’t mind the gore and the darkness that surrounded the villain (that we actually see on the page) because I was super wrapped up in the investigation, the romance between the main couple and I was really rooting for the good guys to figure everything out.

This book read like an episode of Law & Order: SVU. The crime is committed, the fire department and the cops are called, the detectives scramble from lead to lead to find the bad guy and all of that is happening at the same time that some characters are dealing with personal issues and falling in love. I thought Karen Rose handled each aspect of the story really well. It was too heavy on one specific thing. The characters were fleshed out, the story was engaging and though it was a bit slow in the beginning when it picked up, it really picked up.

Reed Solliday was an interesting hero, one that I really enjoyed getting to know. He is still grieving his late wife, even though it’s been a few years and his daughter is really going through it. She’s fourteen and is feeling some type of way about constantly living in the shadow of her dead mother. It’s a big thing that is tackled in this book and I thought Rose did a great job of letting the reader feel what the characters were feeling. I loved that Reed wasn’t perfect, that you really go through every day with him and see him grow into his feelings for Mia while figuring out how to reach his daughter and trying to stop a serial killer from taking another life. I loved seeing him struggle with trying to understand his growing daughter, struggle with moving on from his wife, a woman he thought was the love of his life.

Mia Mitchell really grew on me. I didn’t read any of the other books in this series, so I didn’t go into this story knowing the background on what happened with Mia and her partner, Abe but that didn’t really matter because Rose did a good job of making the reader understand what was going on anyway. It took a little bit for me to warm up to Mia’s character but I ended up really loving her. I thought she had a great head on her shoulders, she was strong and brave and she didn’t need anyone to save her, no matter how many times Reed tried. She was also extremely caring of those in her small circle of trust and I really loved seeing her fix the broken parts of her life. She dealt with a lot of things on her own and it took her a while to really come around to the idea of leaning on anyone so when she finally does, I was here for it.

Overall, this story was action-packed and the romance was sweet so I had a good time reading it. I am definitely interested in reading more books in this series and more books from this author. This was a great introduction to Karen Rose’s work and I’m glad that I read it. I definitely recommend.

Final Grade

4 out of 5

Romantic Suspense

four-stars


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Buddy Review: Love, Chloe by Alessandra Torre

Posted May 28, 2019 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Buddy Review: Love, Chloe by Alessandra TorreReviewer: Ames & Rowena
Love, Chloe by Alessandra Torre
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: March 14, 2016
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Chick Lit
Pages: 417
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2019 A-Z Reading Challenge, Rowena's 2019 GoodReads Challenge, Rowena's 2019 TBR Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars

From NYT Bestseller Alessandra Torre...

You know girls like me. You hate girls like me. The privileged blonde who skips her Ivy League classes when she's had too many Soho martinis. The one draped on the asshole's arm because he drives a Bugati and screws like a champ.

I was that girl. I loved being that girl.

Then, my door was broken in. Literally.

And in that moment? Everything changed.

WARNING: This sexy standalone has jaw-dropping moments, crazy sexual chemistry, and will make your cheeks hurt from smiling. Read at your own risk.

Love, Chloe by Alessandra Torre is a coming of age story with a protagonist that you won’t be able to help from rooting for. From beginning to end, Chloe goes through it. When her parents go down for committing all the crimes, the life Chloe Madison has goes up in flames. All of a sudden, she’s got bills to pay and money problems…and she’s on her own. Life is about to throw every curveball to Chloe and Chloe has to figure out what kind of person she is and wants to be.

Rowena: Man, I really liked this one. What did you think, Ames?

Ames: Good pick for our May buddy review! I enjoy Alessandra Torre’s writing so I knew I’d be in for a good read. I admit to having a few bits of anxiety over the crap that Chloe goes through. But she’s a trooper! I like how her change in circumstances really made her look at her life and realize she wanted to be better. And the whole book was interspersed with Instagram posts so I thought that was unique and cute dog pictures don’t hurt!

Rowena: This has been languishing on my TBR pile for years and I really wanted to finally read it so thanks for agreeing to read it with me.

Chloe is definitely someone I would want to follow on Instagram. She had such a positive attitude toward everything, and it wasn’t fake. I really dug that.

I loved that she wasn’t perfect and even when she made such stupid decisions, I didn’t hate her and I supported her through the good and the bad. I also really liked that her friends were an actual squad. They loved Chloe for Chloe and not because of money, fame, or who she was dating. She had an actual support system in her friends. That was dope.

Did you enjoy the romance in here? I did. I adored seeing them fumble their way toward that happy ending. They both were such great characters on their own but together, I loved them all the more. I also really enjoyed getting to know all of the other characters from Dante to Clarke, Hannah and Joey. Hahaha, oh Joey. What about you?

Ames: Chloe’s friends were the best! When her life completely changed due to her parents dropping her like a hot potato, they really stepped up. That also allowed Chloe some breathing room to figure out what she needed to do pronto (make money lol). Plus they were interesting characters too. They weren’t just props to the story, they added to it.

Chloe was an easy character to root for because although at the very beginning she was like a fish out of water and had to re-orient herself (she was part of the ‘help’ at her new job) she bounced back quickly and was a fast learner. She may have been spoiled in her previous life, but she comes around when she sees how the other side lives. And that world shift for her was done in a good way for the reader. Chloe was always a good person, she just didn’t live in the environment where it was obvious. And so we rooted for her.

The romance was very satisfactory as well. Chloe being torn between an ex and a guy she thinks isn’t right for her made for some good tension for her character. I liked her self-awareness when it came to her ex. She recognized her weakness. I like how her friends gave her shit about that too. LOL

What did you think of the romance?

Rowena: I agree about Chloe’s friends. I liked that they were an actual part of Chloe’s story because they were such a huge part of her life so kudos to Torre for letting us see and get to know the important people in Chloe’s life outside of her love interest and work people.

I really enjoyed Chloe’s romance with Carter. I thought they complimented each other well and I loved that he was all in once they decided to be together. There was no waffling back and forth. He knew the gem he had in Chloe and wanted her. I also thought Torre handled Chloe’s issues with her ex in a real way that didn’t take away from the blossoming romance she had going with Carter.

I liked that we learned all about Chloe as she was learning about herself as well. I thought that Torre took us on an emotionally charged journey that had lighter moments that I really appreciated. I really adored everything in this book aside from Chloe’s selfish ass parents. I’m glad that Chloe really found herself and made a family for herself with the people that were important to her and loved and supported her. She built a really nice life for herself that was hers and hers alone. It took some time for her to get there and she definitely made some bad choices along the way but she didn’t let those bad choices define her and I just really dug that…and this story. I give this one 4 out of 5 stars, you?

Ames: I also like that Carter didn’t even consider listening to his mom about Chloe. sigh And you are so right, Chloe made herself a great little family. Her parents sucked so I’m glad she had people in her corner.

I’m giving Love, Chloe 4 out of 5 as well.

Final Grades

Ames: 4 out of 5
Rowena: 4 out of 5

four-stars


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Review: Extra Credit by Sarina Bowen

Posted April 15, 2019 by Rowena in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: Extra Credit by Sarina BowenReviewer: Rowena
Extra Credit by Sarina Bowen
Series: The Ivy Years #6
Also in this series: The Year We Hid Away , Blonde Date , The Year We Fell Down , The Understatement of the Year (The Ivy Years, #3), The Shameless Hour (The Ivy Years, #4), The Fifteenth Minute (The Ivy Years, #5), The Fifteenth Minute (The Ivy Years, #5), The Year We Hid Away (The Ivy Years, #2)
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: March 9th, 2019
Format: eBook
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: New Adult
Pages: 234
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2019 A-Z Reading Challenge, Rowena's 2019 GoodReads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Three novellas, including all new Ivy Years fun!

BLONDE DATE: A nervous sorority girl, a mean fraternity prank and an adorkable basketball player with a heart of gold. Blonde Date follows Katie and Andy’s first blind date…

STUDLY PERIOD: One hunky hockey player with a language barrier. Plus one awkward English tutor with a big crush. Equals hot, hilarious trouble! Study Period follows Pepe and his tutor Josie.

YESTERDAY: It’s been seven years since John Rikker left his childhood home in Michigan. Surely that’s long enough to scar over the wounds he received there. Or is it? Can Rikker survive a visit with his parents? And can Graham let him do it alone?

I’m a huge fan of Sarina Bowen’s Ivy Years series so when she announced that she was releasing Extra Credit, I couldn’t wait to read it. Extra Credit is a book that features three short stories featuring characters in the Ivy Years series. Two old stories and one brand spankin’ new one!

Blonde Date

Andy and Katie are set up on a blind date and while Katie has no clue who Andy is, Andy knows all too well who Katie is. They hit it off on their blind date and Katie learns that not all guys are assholes and she is worthy of being treated like a princess. I loved seeing these two get together all over again. I don’t think I’ll ever get over Andy being a Celtics fan but he was still a keeper. I think I’ve changed my mind over wanting Dash’s story. Eff that guy.

Katie was a fantastic heroine too. She was so normal and sweet. I loved seeing her have fun after what she went through with her ex-boyfriend Dash. I loved how strong and sure of herself she felt when she was with Andy, and I really loved how once she jumped in with Andy, she left all of the baggage from Dash in the past. It wasn’t worth her time and she showed it by not letting him ruin another day of her life. This was a sweet romance.

Grade: 4 out of 5

Studly Period

Studly Period is the novella that Sarina Bowen released as a weekly serial for her newsletter subscribers and I adored it when she released it week after week and I adored it all the more when I read it again. Pepe and Josie were too cute for words and I really enjoyed their story. I loved how shy and book nerdy Josie was and I loved how sweet and corny that Pepe was. Pepe was one of those characters that I didn’t think I needed to read about but I’m glad that Sarina wrote his story.

It was in this story that I realized how much I missed the characters from this series and it was while reading this story again for the second time that I decided to re-read this entire series. Seeing everyone again in this one made me happy and I got a little teary eyed when Josie thought Pepe ghosted her over vacation. Seeing them work their issues out was just too cute for words.

Grade: 4.25 out of 5

Yesterday

Ooh, we got a new short story for Rikker and Graham. Oh man, these two are the best! I loved seeing both of them in a good place, as a strong unit. They were solid in their relationship after all of the drama that they both went through and I was glad for it. Graham! My man Graham is really stepping into his new life and I just love him so much. He’s come such a long way from his book and seeing him stand up for both himself and for Rikker with his high school friends was something else.

Rikker’s part of this story made my heart hurt so much. He had such a harder time with his coming out then Graham did. He was never shown the kind of love and support from his family (outside of his grandmother) the way that Graham did but that didn’t stop him from loving with all that he was anyway. Seeing his parents up close and personal made me sorry for them because they couldn’t see past their worries to the amazing man their son grew up to be. I’m glad that when Rikker walked away, he walked away to somewhere that accepted and loved him just as he was. This might have been a short story, but it still packed the punch that I expect from Sarina Bowen. She didn’t disappoint. Graham and Rikker forever!

Grade: 4.5 out of 5

Final Grade

4.25 out of 5

The Ivy Years

four-stars


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