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I Belong

Review: Poisoned Apples by Christine Heppermann

April 18th, 2015 Kaitlin Posted in Review No Comments »

Poisoned ApplesTitlePoisoned Apples: Poems For You, My Pretty

AuthorChristine Heppermann

Genre: Fantasy/Contemporary Poems

Series: N/A

Publication Date: September 23, 2014

Format: Hardcover, 128 Pages

ISBN-10: 0062289578 (HarperTeen)

ISBN-13:  978-0062289575 (HarperTeen)

Reviewed by: Kaitlin

Synopsis:

Once upon a time…
you were a princess,
or an orphan.
A wicked witch,
fairy godmother,
prom queen,
valedictorian,
team captain,
Big Bad Wolf,
Little Bo Peep.
But you are more than just a hero or
a villain, cursed or charmed. You are
everything in between.
You are everything.

In fifty poems Christine Heppermann places fairy tales side by side with the modern teenage girl. Powerful and provocative, deadly funny and deadly serious, this collection is one to read, to share, to treasure, and to come back to again and again.

Quick & Dirty: These riveting, captivating poems impressed me in their honesty and uniqueness. I also loved the art that went along with them.

Opening Sentence: The action’s always there.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

To be honest, I was not sure I would like Poisoned Apples. My experience with poem books in the past have been flawed. To tell you the truth, I’ve never been a huge poem geek, novels are more my thing. But going into these poems, I found myself impressed. They showed both the messy sides of the fairytales and how fairytales are alike to today’s society. It was both modern and fantastical, and I really enjoyed them. There was really funny and really serious ones, but I was drawn to both kinds. They covered a lot of topics and feelings, good and bad, black and white, and a wide range of grey area.

This review will be really short, as there isn’t much for me to cover. Poems don’t have the same sense of character arc/development or plotline that a novel has, so I don’t have much to discuss. But these poems did everything. They covered anorexia a couple times, and drugs, and obesity. They talked about fairytales, the unseen parts, like how the ugly duckling wishes she were back in the reeds and not gliding through the water with her stiff, not chatty swans. There was a poem on the dress code, on health class, and other normal, everyday things. In one, a girl lost her virginity; in another, there were haikus written for different classes. Those were hilarious. Altogether, there was a wide range of poems and I enjoyed that there was no apparent order for where the real life ones blurred into fantasy.

I really enjoyed the author’s note as well. She talked about how she was meaning for the fantasy aspect and real life one to blur together, as she believes fairytales are retold every day in different forms. A girl living in poverty might be Rapunzel, trapped in her tower, perhaps waiting for a guy to drag her out of it. I didn’t realize that she is a popular editor starting the book, but good for her. Anyway, I found the Poisoned Apples poem book to be really well done, with interesting formatting that didn’t decrease from the story, and a prose that flowed nicely.

Notable Scene:

Photoshopped Poem

Some say the before poem

had character.

This poem is much more attractive.

With the Healing Brush Tool,

I took out most of the lines.

I left in a few

so it wouldn’t look unnatural.

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FTC Advisory: Greenwillow/HarperTeen provided me with a copy of Poisoned Apples. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: Dead To Me by Mary McCoy

April 17th, 2015 Zed Posted in Review No Comments »

Dead To MeTitle: Dead to Me

Author: Mary McCoy

Genre: YA Historical Fiction

Series: N/A

Publication Date: March 3, 2015

Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages

ISBN-10: 1423187121 (Disney-Hyperion)

ISBN-13: 978-1423187127 (Disney-Hyperion)

Reviewed by: Zed

Synopsis: 

“Don’t believe anything they say.”

Those were the last words that Annie spoke to Alice before turning her back on their family and vanishing without a trace. Alice spent four years waiting and wondering when the impossibly glamorous sister she idolized would return to her–and what their Hollywood-insider parents had done to drive her away.

When Annie does turn up, the blond, broken stranger lying in a coma has no answers for her. But Alice isn’t a kid anymore, and this time she won’t let anything stand between her and the truth, no matter how ugly. The search for those who beat Annie and left her for dead leads Alice into a treacherous world of tough-talking private eyes, psychopathic movie stars, and troubled starlets–and onto the trail of a young runaway who is the sole witness to an unspeakable crime. What this girl knows could shut down a criminal syndicate and put Annie’s attacker behind bars–if Alice can find her first. And she isn’t the only one looking.

Evoking classic film noir, debut novelist Mary McCoy brings the dangerous glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age to life, where the most decadent parties can be the deadliest, and no drive into the sunset can erase the crimes of past.

Quick & Dirty: Such an action-packed read; filled with page-turning mysteries and family dramas.

Opening Sentence: When I saw my sister in that hospital bed, she was different from how I remembered her. She’d changed her hair. Her cheeks were leaner. And someone had tried to cave in the side of her head with a baseball bat.

Excerpt: No

The Review:

After four years of zero contact, Alice comes face to face with her older sister, Annie, only to find her broken at the hospital, fighting for her life. Since Annie’s disappearance, Alice’s life changed for the worst; she distanced from her parents and her friends and became a distrusting, skeptical girl. Deep down, she always hoped that the sister she played spy games with would return and their family would be whole again, but with Annie’s changed re-appearance, it’s clear that fantasy will never come true.

I very much enjoyed this book because despite the crazy circumstances, Alice felt so real. She’s not cut out for this mystery, it’s far too dangerous for her but she’ll do what she can to help, even if it means using her childhood detective skills to save her sister. Along the way, Alice finds pieces and people from Annie’s new life, forcing her to realise that the beautiful older sister she had has changed to someone almost unrecognisable.

I would never have gone so far as to say that our parents loved her more than me, but it was clear they considered her more promising. Where Annie was “beautiful” and “smart,” I was “cute” and “clever.” Annie was charming; I was pleasant. Annie danced ballet and tap and took voice lessons, and I backed her up on the piano. And we both went to those awful parties.

The hurt Alice feels at not being part of Annie’s new life is palpable but throughout the mystery Alice travels her own journey of self-discovery. She’s no longer the adorable little sister who used to sing at her parents’ parties.

Alice’s courage in the face of danger and the constant twists and turns kept me on the edge of my seat. I doubted most of the characters’ agendas because it was clear they all had secrets. Alice didn’t know any of them well enough to trust but at the same time she had no choice but to trust them because she needed all the help she could get.

I loved that Alice was no Sherlock Holmes, she’s bumbling her way along, trying to piece clues together and making so many mistakes it would be funny if it wasn’t terrifying. Despite her flaws, it’s clear how much Alice loves her sister and that she’ll go to any lengths to make Annie proud even though she envies these broken girls who her sister cares so much for; the girls Annie chose to care for whilst leaving Alice behind.

Clearly, Annie had been wronged and I’m aware that she went through some unimaginably hard times, but I still detested her for Alice’s sake. She didn’t want Alice mixed up in her new life because of the danger it posed, but it was because of her that Alice was left so vulnerable. Annie was trying to protect Alice but she forgot that Alice needed a sister’s love more, and I guess I hated Annie for this.

“Jerry doesn’t have friends. He has a cabinet full of broken dolls like your sister. And he acts like he wants to fix them, but the truth of it is, Alice, I think he likes them broken.”

There was a sadness to this book that I find hard to explain. Annie’s reunion with her family and Alice managing to bring justice for all the girls that fell prey to Donahue should have been cause for a happy occasion but although it is a victory, it’s one that came with a lot of pain. An excellent thrilling read, with an almost Nancy Drew-like mystery, I look forward to reading more from this author.

Notable Scene:

“This was never about you, Alice.”

She said it as kindly as you could say something like that. I could tell she tried to make her voice gentle, but her words still cut me because I knew they were true. Terrible things had happened, and because of them, my big sister had disappeared. That she could have been more careful with my heart and her promises was the least important thing about it.

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FTC Advisory: Disney-Hyperion/Hachette provided me with a copy of Dead to Me. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: Letting Go by Molly McAdams

April 16th, 2015 Bridget Posted in Review No Comments »

Letting GoTitle: Letting Go

Author: Molly McAdams

Genre: NA Contemporary

Series: Thatch (Book #1)

Publication Date: November 4, 2014

Format: Paperback, 320 Pages

ISBN-10: 0062358405 (HarperCollins)

ISBN-13: 978-0062358400 (HarperCollins)

Reviewed by: Bridget

Synopsis:

Grey and Ben fell in love at thirteen and believed they’d be together forever. But three days before their wedding, the twenty-year-old groom-to-be suddenly died from an unknown heart condition, destroying his would-be-bride’s world. If it hadn’t been for their best friend, Jagger, Grey never would have made it through those last two years to graduation. He’s the only one who understands her pain, the only one who knows what it’s like to force yourself to keep moving when your dreams are shattered. Jagger swears he’ll always be there for her, but no one has ever been able to hold on to him. He’s not the kind of guy to settle down.

It’s true that no one has ever been able to keep Jagger—because he’s only ever belonged to Grey. While everyone else worries over Grey’s fragility, he’s the only one who sees her strength. Yet as much as he wants Grey, he knows her heart will always be with Ben. Still they can’t deny the heat that is growing between them—a passion that soon becomes too hot to handle. But admitting their feelings for each other means they’ve got to face the past. Is being together what Ben would have wanted . . . or a betrayal of his memory that will eventually destroy them both?

Quick & Dirty: Beautiful, emotional story that delivered a wonderful message about loss, hope, and moving forward. I would highly recommend this to new adult fans looking for a fast, sexy, heartwarming story!

Opening Sentence: “Then over there is where the girls and I will be waiting before the ceremony starts,” I said, pointing to all-season tent standing just off to the side.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Two years ago twenty year old Ben Craft died from an unknown genetic heart condition. One minute he was playing golf and talking to his best friend Jagger and then he suddenly died. It was three days before he was to marry his childhood sweetheart, Grey. Grey and Ben had been together since they were thirteen years old and they figured that they would have a lifetime together. But instead of getting her happily-ever-after, Grey was left alone and devastated. For the last two years she has been going through the motions of life, but it has been a struggle. There is no way she would have made it through her grief without Jagger by her side. Jagger, Ben, and Grey have been friends since they were kids and Jagger is the only person that can understand what Grey is going through. They both lost someone they loved and they have forced each other to keep moving.

Jagger will always be there for Grey no matter what. Unknown to Grey, he has been in love with her since they were kids, but he knows that her heart will always belong to Ben. But when Grey finds out that Jagger has always had more than friendly feelings for her she realizes that she might feel the same way for him. Would it be a disgrace to Ben’s memory for them to be together or would he have wanted them to find happiness with each other?  If they have any chance of making their relationship work they are both going to have to come to terms with the past and learn to move on together.

Grey was a great heroine that I connected with instantly. Reading her story was devastating and while I haven’t ever gone through anything close to what she went through, I could easily sympathize with her situation. It was heartbreaking to see how broken she was for such a long time after the death of her fiance, but watching her learn to deal with it was very inspirational. The type of loss she experienced is something you never quite get over, but as the days turn into weeks and the weeks turned into years Grey slowly started to live her life again. Many might see her as weak or whiny with how she deals with her grief, but to me it made her feel more realistic. There were a few times that I got annoyed with how she would treat Jagger, but nothing that bothered me too bad. I am glad I got to read her story and enjoyed getting to know her character.

Jagger is hands down my favorite part about this entire book. He is a sexy guy that has a heart of gold. He is respectful, kind, honest, and a great listener. He seriously has the patience of a saint when it comes to waiting and being there for Grey. Not only is he dealing with the grief of losing his best friend, he is helping Grey deal with her grief as well. It is obvious from the very beginning that Jagger and Grey are meant to be together, but that doesn’t mean their relationship is easy. In many ways they both feel like they are betraying Ben and his memory. But as things between them heat up it is undeniable that they have amazing chemistry. I loved every minute of their relationship and thought that they were perfect for each other. Jagger put a stamp on my heart right off the bat and I loved his character.

Letting Go is a heartwarming, emotional story about learning to move on and deal with grief. This is a fairly quick read and I really enjoyed it. McAdams did a wonderful job balancing out the sad parts with the sexy parts. This is definitely a love story, but it also looks at all the aspects of grief. Both of the main characters lost someone they cared about deeply and watching them deal with that lost was both hard and inspirational. The romance developed perfectly and felt very realistic to me. The plot held a few surprises that actually added some great drama to the story and the pacing was spot on. I will admit that I read this about a week ago or so and I am having a little bit of a hard time recalling some of the things that happened in the story. I wouldn’t say its forgettable per say, but it’s not extremely memorable either. I have come to realize that McAdams stories can be hit or miss for me, but luckily this one was definitely a hit. Even though I haven’t loved everything she has written, I still think she is an amazing author and really look forward to reading more from her in the future. I would highly recommend this book if you are looking for a fast, sexy story filled with emotion and romance.

Notable Scene:

“No one else,” I said softly. “As unfair and horrible as it is for me to say it, I know it would kill me to see you with someone else. I don’t know when I feel in love with you. I can’t look back and remember when exactly it changed for me, only that it has.”

“I don’t care about the when, Grey.” He smiled as he leaned in and placed another deceptively soft kiss on my lips. What seemed so innocent had my legs weakening and my eyelids fluttering shut as I clung to his shirt. “What’s next?” he breathed against my lips when he pulled back.

Thatch Series:

1. Letting Go

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FTC Advisory:  William Morrow/Harper Collins provided me with a copy of Letting Go.  No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: Lies I Told by Michelle Zink

April 15th, 2015 Kaitlin Posted in Review No Comments »

Lies I ToldTitleLies I Told

AuthorMichelle Zink

Genre: YA Thriller

Series: Lies I Told (Book #1)

Publication Date: April 7, 2015

Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages

ISBN-10: 0062327127 (HarperTeen)

ISBN-13: 978-0062327123 (HarperTeen)

Reviewed by: Kaitlin

Synopsis:

Grace Fontaine has everything: beauty, money, confidence, and the perfect family. But it’s all a lie.

Grace has been adopted into a family of thieves who con affluent people out of money, jewelry, art, and anything else of value. Grace has never had any difficulty pulling off a job, but when things start to go wrong on the Fontaines’ biggest heist yet, Grace finds herself breaking more and more of the rules designed to keep her from getting caught . . . including the most important one of all: never fall for your mark.

Perfect for fans of Ally Carter and Robin Benway, this thrilling, high-stakes novel deftly explores the roles of identity and loyalty while offering a window into the world of the rich and fabulous.

Quick & Dirty: This book was suspenseful and atmospheric, and I enjoyed the lush setting.

Opening Sentence: Looking back, I should have known Playa Hermosa was the beginning of the end.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Grace and her adopted family move around the world, never staying in one place too long. They are con-artists, sinking into a community to get close to people for the intel they need before taking their money and throwing away their fake identifies for new ones. Grace’s brother, Preston, isn’t a fan of this lifestyle, and Grace isn’t sure if she is either. Every time they move around, she has to be a fake, plastic version of herself, until she is no longer sure who she is. And the lies keep stacking up — she can hardly see the truth now. The guilt, regret, and doubt are weighing down on her. But with all that she has done, is there really any way to redeem herself? And how can she get herself out of this situation?

Then Grace’s family arrives at a small, beautiful California town where a paranoid man has stockpiled twenty million dollars in gold bars. This will be their biggest con yet, if they can achieve it, but also the most dangerous. Grace’s job: get close to the man’s son, Logan, and learn more about the house to discover where the bars are hidden. Grace is good at being social and faking her way into the right groups of friends. But this time is different. She suddenly can’t ignore how the lies are stacking up, and the unmistakable feelings she has for Logan. These feelings are dangerous. Before starting Lies I Told, I had read quite a few reviews, and they were generally positive. That being said, I moved into the story with an open mindset and some set expectations. For the most part, it impressed me, though I had a couple of problems with the book as a whole.

Grace was the main character and narrator of this story. I liked her — she was strong, but also a realistic character with plenty of guilt, regret, and doubts. Being in the situation she was in couldn’t have been pleasant, choosing between her “family” and being honest. She felt trapped, a lot. She also often doubted whether all the moving, all the lying, all the layers of herself that she had built for jobs, was worth it. Their “parents” used her brother and herself to help in the charade. I think that they did love them, but not enough to let them make their own decisions. Yet she managed to retain her moral compass through the book, and that made me respect her character. She was an easy enough POV to sink into, and I liked how she could appreciate the beauty in different things and people.

Logan and Grace’s connection was instant. Okay, I don’t know how many times I’ve said this, but I’m sort of done with the whole “love at first sight” thing. It happens way too often in YA books these days and isn’t very realistic. I’m clearly not a fan. Logan’s a nice kid, and he and Grace are cute together, but the insta-love spoiled the whole relationship for me. Every time they kissed I was irritated. Also, I wish that Grace had given Logan some sort of warning, a hint, that she was not to be trusted. It wasn’t fair to him, the whole situation. It was upsetting to me that all that Logan ever had done was open up his heart to Grace in the most sincere ways, while she kept feeding him lie after lie.

Altogether, I found Lies I Told to be a satisfying first book. I didn’t even realize that it was in a series until the last couple pages, when I saw that there was so much left unresolved. The cover for the second book has been revealed, and I’m interested to see where Zink takes the story next, since it could go in any number of ways: it was sort of left up in the air. The characters were done well, though I wish Grace had developed a tad bit more (we’ll probably see that in the second book). There was a plot twist at the end that I did not see coming and further proved the point that Grace owed her “parents” nothing. I loved the beautiful imagery of the California setting, and how the words appealed to all five senses. One thing I also wish had been more present in the novel was humor. A good laugh might had bolstered my thoughts about it higher. Anyone looking for a thought-provoking story with suspense, action, and a strong tone will enjoy this book!

Notable Scene:

“Selena Rodriguez.” My mom repeated the name. “Was she in the subject files?”

I shook my head. “I needed a place to sit and ended up at her table. She’s nice.”

She smiled. “I’m glad you’ve made a friend. Maybe you can use her.”

I flashed on Selena’s clear brown eyes, her unguarded smile. Something twisted in my stomach, and I immediately regretted mentioning her. “Yeah, maybe.”

Lies I Told Series:

1. Lies I Told

2. Promises I Made (November 24, 2015)

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FTC Advisory: HarperTeen provided me with a copy of Lies I Told. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: Polaris by Mindee Arnett

April 14th, 2015 Kaitlin Posted in Review No Comments »

PolarisTitlePolaris

AuthorMindee Arnett

Genre: YA Science Fiction

Series: Avalon (Book #2)

Publication Date: January 20, 2015

Format: Hardcover, 432 Pages

ISBN-100062235621 (HarperTeen)

ISBN-13: 978-0062235626 (HarperTeen)

Reviewed by: Kaitlin

Synopsis:

Jeth Seagrave and his crew of mercenaries are pulled into one last high-stakes mission in this breathtaking sequel to Mindee Arnett’s Avalon, which SLJ called “an exciting piece of science fiction that keeps up its energy from beginning to end” in a starred review.

Jeth Seagrave and his crew are on the run. The ITA, still holding Jeth’s mother in a remote research lab, is now intent on acquiring the metatech secrets Jeth’s sister Cora carries inside her DNA, and Jeth is desperate to find the resources he needs to rescue his mother and start a new life outside the Confederation. But the ITA is just as desperate, and Jeth soon finds himself pursued by a mysterious figure hell-bent on capturing him and his crew—dead or alive.

With nowhere to run and only one play left, Jeth enters into a bargain with the last person he ever thought he’d see again: Daxton Price, the galaxy’s newest and most fearsome crime lord. Dax promises to help Jeth, but his help will only come at a price—a price that could mean sacrificing everything Jeth has fought for until now.

Quick & Dirty: A thrilling, high-stakes science fiction that is sure to surprise you.

Opening Sentence: The spaceport’s casino was the perfect spot for the deal to go down.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

***Warning!*** Heavy spoilers for Avalon will be in this review. In Avalon, Jeth discovered his mother was still alive, found his baby sister, and realized the ITA has been using an alien species to travel through metaspace — a species that was dying out, and with it, ITA’s main source of travel and money. Not to mention, Cora, Jeth’s baby sister, has strange powers from her time on the planet where the species originated. She can’t control them, and is dangerous when upset, but she’s growing weaker as the destruction of the Pyreans grows. Now on the run, Jeth and his friends are desperate to save his mother and liberate the Pyreans, but they’re missing some vital re-courses. The team is forced to engage in a deal with shady Daxton Price, a dangerous crime lord, who may or may not be trustworthy…And Price definitely has ulterior motives of his own.

Mindee Arnett knows how to write a thrilling, fast-paced science fiction, that’s for sure. I read Avalon last year and was impressed by the complex, high-stakes plot and plenty of twists. Then I read Polaris, and it became my favorite of the two, with even more danger and action than the previous book. Both novels were heavily science fiction, which is all well and good. Mindee Arnett does a fantastic job of explaining the complicated science so that even us Regular Joes can understand, without dumbing it down too much. She creates believable plotlines with unique characters, keeping you on the very edge of your seat and hanging on every word. A fantastic ending to a series. I was a little worried going into it because I hadn’t read Avalon is such a long time, but that wasn’t a problem. I couldn’t remember much but I still understood what was going on and eventually, the individual events in Avalon started flashing back.

Jeth’s character impressed me in it’s many layers and complexity. He retained his wits and courage, but in this novel he also had more to lose, with Sierra and his newly discovered mother. There was also a lot of internal struggle that was there as well, however, with that dangerous deal with Daxton. There was a lot of themes in this novel following the lines of “how far will you go?” and “how much is too much?” Jeth definitely blurred the lines, but by the end, his moral compass had been restored. Not all of that struggle between good and bad was his fault. Daxton put an implant in him that controlled him to a certain degree. I enjoyed that struggle and seeing him overcome it, and thought it was well done. Not all was smooth sailing for his relationship with Sierra, either, but they were a realistic couple and I found them to be cute together.

Mindee Arnett does not hold back with the sacrifices and making bold moves. She adds a lot of twists into her stories, which, admittedly, then added a lot of feels. She’s not afraid to kill one person off and make the other a traitor. She takes chances as an author. For that, I respect her. I also really enjoy her writing because she can balance the internal struggles with the action around the characters, bravo! Her characters are never really black and white: a lot of them hover somewhere between the two, and make brilliant villains since we can also empathize with them.

All in all, I really enjoyed the second and final book in the Avalon series. It was action-packed with complex characters and countless twists. I do wish there had been more of a focus on the Pyreans, which started to become a focal point only in the last fourth. If you get squeamish there are some gross parts of this novel, I’m warning you right now. I’m always looking for a fun, intergalactic, space-y book to dive into and this certainly meets all the requirements! Again, I like how Arnett never makes it easy or convenient for her characters, she makes them fight for it. If you enjoyed Avalon I would definitely recommend diving into Polaris!

Notable Scene:

“What-” Jeth broke off as Aileen’s words came back to him. Make yourselves comfortable, she had said, really comfortable.

The bitter taste of the gas filled his mouth and burned his nostrils. Jeth held his breath, but it was too late. A wave of dizziness went through him, and he felt his knees giving way.

This is going to be painful, he thought as his body met the floor.

Then he thought no more as black curtains closed over his eyes, plunging him into a sleep too deep for dreams. Or nightmares.

Avalon Series:

0.5 Proxy

1. Avalon

2. Polaris

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FTC Advisory: HarperTeen provided me with a copy of Polaris. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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