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I Belong

Review: The Mark of the Tala by Jeffe Kennedy

May 25th, 2015 Kristie Posted in Review No Comments »

The Mark of the TalaTitle: The Mark of the Tala

Author: Jeffe Kennedy

Genre: Fantasy/Romance

Series: The Twelve Kingdoms Trilogy (Book #1)

Publication Date: May 27, 2014

Format: Paperback, 352 Pages

ISBN-10: 0758294433 (Kensington)

ISBN-13: 978-0758294432 (Kensington)

Reviewed by: Kristie

Synopsis:

Queen Of The Unknown

The tales tell of three sisters, daughters of the high king. The eldest, a valiant warrior-woman, heir to the kingdom. The youngest, the sweet beauty with her Prince Charming. No one says much about the middle princess, Andromeda. Andi, the other one.

Andi doesn’t mind being invisible. She enjoys the company of her horse more than court, and she has a way of blending into the shadows. Until the day she meets a strange man riding, who keeps company with wolves and ravens, who rules a land of shapeshifters and demons. A country she’d thought was no more than legend–until he claims her as its queen.

In a moment everything changes: Her father, the wise king, becomes a warlord, suspicious and strategic. Whispers call her dead mother a traitor and a witch. Andi doesn’t know if her own instincts can be trusted, as visions appear to her and her body begins to rebel.

For Andi, the time to learn her true nature has come. . .

Quick & Dirty: A high fantasy with engaging characters, a destiny that doesn’t seem as dark as first believed and a steamy but complicated romance.

Opening Sentence: My version of the story goes all the way back to the once upon a time with the three princesses, each more beautiful than the last.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

The Mark of the Tala is a high fantasy novel that masquerades as a romance. My assumption that this was just a straight up romance was wrong. There is a bit of romance with some sexy, steamy detailed love scenes. This series is about three sisters who happen to be princesses. They each have their own stories that they have to learn. I have a feeling that this series will be the trials and tribulations that all of the sisters go through in order to save themselves and their kingdoms.

The Mark of the Tala is the first novel in the series and it begins with the middle sister, Andromeda. She has always felt invisible next to her sisters. Everyone has always gushed over the other two, Ursula with her warrior pride and Amelia with her beauty. Andromeda has never had a thing for politics. She left that to her sisters as she would spend her free time with her horse riding around the countryside or grooming her. It just so happens that on one of her rides leads her to a destiny she didn’t even know she had, let alone know that she even wanted.

Andromeda isn’t aware of her past or the legacy that her mother left to her. She knows nothing of the kingdom of Annfwn or the Tala. The Tala are a magical people with the skills of shapeshifting among their gifts. Andromeda has the strongest pull of the Tala among her sisters and is meant to lead Annfwn as their queen.

The dark and mysterious Rayfe is the one who opens up Andromeda’s eyes to her destiny. He needs her in order to save Annfwn and he will do whatever he has to in order to get her. He is strangely gentle and compassionate with her, even though he is waging war to get her hand in marriage.

Andromeda was such a strong woman whether she knows it or not. She was so comfortable in her invisibility that when the attention turned completely towards her she was quite uncomfortable. She wanted to run and hide, which sadly is what her family tried to make her do, but she didn’t want a war if it meant that she stay in hiding. She was willing to sacrifice her happiness. She was even willing never to see her sisters again if it meant that no one else would die over her. Instead of constantly fretting over her latent powers she fights for a way to figure out how to come into her own.

This novel was told entirely through Andromeda’s first person point of view. I connected to her personality and understood her reasoning. I also loved the conversations between the characters. Jeffe Kennedy’s writing immediately sold me on the story and I never once felt lost in the storytelling. (Side note: I tried to read the 3rd novel first since I was given it for review and was completely lost as to what was going on. I picked up the first two novels because I wanted to find out what happened from the beginning.)

I was instantly drawn into The Mark of the Tala. I had no problems with learning about this world and how everyone fit into it. I really found myself looking forward to the next time Andromeda would meet Rayfe on the page. That being said, I did find that the novel moved slowly at times before rushing to the ending. The Mark of the Tala does have an ending but it is set up for the next novel, The Tears of the Rose, which I am very much looking forward to reading.

Notable Scene:

“You are all I want. Annfwn needs you. Everything else is secondary, at best.”

“You keep saying that. Why does Annfwn need me?” I ground out.

“That is an old and complicated story. Trust that we do. And that I admire your desire to save the lives of my people.”

“My people, too,” I shot back.

“In truth, they are all your people, aren’t they?” He fingered my braid where it hung over the cloak. “Put the dagger away, my part-blood.”

“That’s an ugly thing to call me.” I shot a glance up into his shadowed face.

“I don’t mean it as such.”

I didn’t know what to say in reply, so I stared at the center of his chest, the blade gleaming silver against his dark vest.

“Why are you willing to come to me, if I frighten you so?” he finally asked, in a surprisingly gentle voice.

“I already told you. I explained it all in that letter.” Except the part about the strange changes in me. I superstitiously hadn’t want to put that into words.

“Only because you feel trapped into this course of action, then?”

“You are the one who accused me of indulging in inaction. What other reason could I have?”

The Twelve Kingdoms Trilogy:

1. The Mark of the Tala

2. The Tears of the Rose

3. The Talon of the Hawk

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FTC Advisory: I purchased my own copy of The Mark of the Tala. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: Hope Burns by Jaci Burton

May 24th, 2015 Steph Posted in Review No Comments »

Hope BurnsTitle: Hope Burns

Author: Jaci Burton

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Series: Hope (Book #3)

Publication Date: September 30, 2014

Format: Paperback, 304 Pages

ISBN-10: 0425259781 (Jove/Penguin)

ISBN-13: 978-0425259788 (Jove/Penguin)

Reviewed by: Steph

Synopsis:

A novel of small-town hearts and big dreams…

Molly Burnett dreads returning to her hometown of Hope for her sister’s wedding, especially knowing she’ll have to endure a weekend with the one man she never wants to see again. It’s only a couple of days, so Molly will try to forget her painful past with high school sweetheart Carter Richards. Because despite the bitter memories, she still can’t forget what they once meant to each other.

But when Molly is forced to extend her stay, Carter sees this as his second chance to do things right, to start over again with the only woman he’s ever loved. This time, he isn’t going to let Molly run. Together they’re going to confront the past and put it behind them, and hope for a future as bright as the flame that still burns hot between them.

Quick & Dirty: Molly fled her hometown at 18. Now, it’s 12 years later, and she has to return for her sister’s wedding and face a man she hoped never to see again. It’s only one weekend though, right?

Opening Sentence: This wedding was going to be a disaster.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

In high school, Carter and Molly were inseparable. By senior year, they were planning their future together. Then, something terrible happened, and Molly couldn’t stand the thought of being in the same town as Carter anymore. She left and never looked back. It’s now 12 years later. The thought of returning to Hope still makes Molly feel panicky and sick to her stomach, but her sister’s getting married. Molly knows she’ll have to face Carter because he’s also in the wedding; however, she’s hoping to avoid him as much as possible and leave town again once all the wedding festivities are done. Things never go as planned though, and Molly finds herself in Hope for an extended stay. Will this extended visit make issues between her and Carter worse, or will they finally be able to move on and possibly have a future together?

This book has me so torn. I really liked about 50 percent of it. The problem is, the parts I didn’t like were at the beginning and the end, so it left me feeling frustrated. The first 15 percent of the book has Molly constantly repeating that Carter did an awful thing, but never elaborates on what that awful thing was. By the time we finally find out, I was just tired of hearing about it. Now, let me say, what did happen was awful, and I hope never to be in that situation, but I couldn’t help thinking that Carter was a teenager when all of this went down, and I believe he acted accordingly. That doesn’t mean he acted correctly, but I think it needs to be taken into consideration, and it annoyed me that that point never seemed to be made.

I also just had a really hard time liking Molly in general. Up until the very end, it felt like she was just stringing Carter along. She thinks they’re just friends with benefits when they clearly act like a couple, and anytime Carter tries to do something that a boyfriend would do, she backs off and freaks out. Her actions just made it very hard for me to connect to her.

As it seems I’m just going on and on about what I didn’t like, I should reemphasize that I really did like the middle portion of the book. Despite my dislike of Molly, I really enjoyed seeing her and Carter rekindle their relationship. Carter is a great hero and any scene with him was just wonderful. The love scenes were hot and full of chemistry. It was really fun to read.

All in all, I just feel conflicted about this book. I can’t give it more than 3 stars because of the issues I had with it, but it doesn’t deserve a really low rating either. So, I’m going with the middle of the road 3. A lot of it didn’t work for me, but when everything was clicking, it was very good. I’ll be checking out more of Jaci Burton’s work to see if this one was just a fluke that didn’t work for me.

Notable Scene:

 Molly had been preparing a speech, but it was going to be hard. Still, she knew as the maid of honor it was her duty, so she took the mic next.

“I haven’t lived in Hope for a very long time, which means I wasn’t here to witness Luke and Emma’s love story. But I know love when I see it. It’s a palpable thing. Something you feel, like instinct. It’s just…there. And when it happens between two people, it can’t be denied.”

She felt Carter’s gaze on her, saw him out of the corner of her eye despite her attempt to focus only on the smiling bride and groom. She retrained her attention and concentrated on the simmering tears in her sister’s eyes.

“So, when Emma brought Luke to meet me, their love hit me instantly, and I knew he was the one for her. She had changed from this focused, driven individual, to someone who was part of a couple. She became a lot less ‘me’ and a lot more ‘us.’ And that’s what love is, when it becomes less about what’s best for the one, and more about what’s best for the whole. Because love is not a singular thing. It’s not about what’s best for me, but about what I can do to make you happy.”

Hope Series:

0.5 Hope Smolders

1. Hope Flames

2. Hope Ignites

3. Hope Burns

4. Love After All

5. Make Me Stay (December 1, 2015)

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FTC Advisory: Jove/Penguin provided me with a copy of Hope Burns. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Early Review: The Devil You Know by Trish Doller

May 21st, 2015 Angela Posted in Review No Comments »

The Devil You KnowTitle: The Devil You Know

Author: Trish Doller

Genre: YA Thriller

Series: N/A

Publication Date: June 2, 2015

Format: Hardcover, 256 Pages

ISBN-10: 1619634163 (Bloomsbury)

ISBN-13: 978-1619334169 (Bloomsbury)

Reviewed by: Roxanne

Synopsis:

From critically-acclaimed author Trish Doller comes a powerful new psychological page-turner perfect for fans of Lauren Oliver and Sara Zarr.

Eighteen-year-old Arcadia wants adventure. Living in a tiny Florida town with her dad and four-year-old brother, Cadie spends most of her time working, going to school, and taking care of her family. So when she meets two handsome cousins at a campfire party, she finally has a chance for fun. They invite her and friend to join them on a road trip, and it’s just the risk she’s been craving-the opportunity to escape. But what starts out as a fun, sexy journey quickly becomes dangerous when she discovers that one of them is not at all who he claims to be. One of them has deadly intentions.

A road trip fling turns terrifying in this contemporary story that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Quick & Dirty: A young woman bogged down by her responsibilities sets out for an adventure and ends up with way more than she bargained for.

Opening Sentence: “Freedom ticks its way around the face of the old clock above the door-so close, so close, so close- when Justin comes into the market and I die a tiny, unnoticeable death.”

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Where to start….wow! I have seen some less than strong reviews critiquing her writing and issues with the book, so here is my disclaimer: If a book grabs me and pulls me in for the ride, I am more about the feels than how well it is written. So I can’t tell you if there are issues with the writing. I didn’t notice them. I was so into this story. Arcadia Wells is miserable because of her mother’s death a few years earlier and having to give up so much because her dad is lost in his grief. So for once, instead of being the good girl and doing what is right she is going to have some fun again. She is invited to a party at the campground and decides to attend even though she hasn’t been since the breakup with Justin. Once she gets there she sees a cute boy and on impulse invites him to the party.

Matt is the boy she invites and the first of two strangers! He does show up at the party but quickly ends up flirting with another girl, Lindsay. Arcadia, feeling a little jealous and out of place takes off and by chance meets Noah, the other stranger. She is instantly attracted to him and they hang out. They both end up back at the party with her friends. Arcadia ends up in a situation with Jason, Justin’s twin where he humiliates her. The next morning while walking with Matt, they find Jason tied to a tree and his mouth duct taped shut. He has been tortured a little and completely humiliated. At this point, I was a little amazed by how it’s only like a footnote. It bothers her but doesn’t send huge red flags up for her.

From there Arcadia continues on her adventures with the two handsome strangers and Lindsay, until Lindsay disappears, sending Arcadia a cryptic text saying she went home. It isn’t until two days later when Arcadia talks to her dad that she realizes everyone still thinks Lindsay is with her. Well, if I tell you more I would just spoil it and we all know I don’t like spoilers! This book was creepy and had me on edge wondering what was going to happen next. Arcadia is plucky and strong, one can totally see given all that she has been through why she didn’t pick up on what was going on sooner.

I admit to being slightly miffed that this is a stand-alone book, because I totally want more Arcadia! There is a minor love story but it’s so secondary to the thriller that I really didn’t care. I am not saying it was worth it or that there was no connection, just that I wanted to know who was behind all the creepy violence happening in the book. Arcadia was a hell of a main character, broken in all the right ways, strong and fearless when she needed to be. Someone almost any girl/young woman would want to relate to. I cannot rave enough about it. In fact, I am thinking a re-read might just be in order!

Notable Scenes:

“I might be able to forgive Noah’s past, but not respecting my right to say no is a deal breaker.”

“The stroke of midnight, when the veil between worlds is thin enough for the devil to send a message.”

“It’s just-yesterday, the psychic’s premonition she a tattoo and a gun.”

“I am alone at the end of Florida with a boy who plans to kill me.”

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FTC AdvisoryBloomsbury USA Childrens provided me with a copy of The Devil You Know. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: Sworn to Love by Karin Tabke

May 21st, 2015 Angela Posted in Review No Comments »

Sworn to LoveTitle: Sworn to Love

Author: Karen Tabke

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Series: Hot Cops (Book #5)

Publication Date: March 3, 2015

Format: eBook, 352 Pages

IBSN-101439127352 (Simon & Schuster)

IBSN-13978-1439127353 (Simon & Schuster)

Reviewed By: Roxanne

Synopsis:

From national bestselling author Karin Tabke comes the fifth installment in her sizzling Hot Cops series, featuring a mind-blowingly sexy cop who meets his match.

Sometimes going after the bad guy you find the good girl…

When DEA agent Mateo Juarez is given the mission to infiltrate the Dumas drug cartel’s compound and erase the entire organization, he doesn’t count on falling for Sophia, the head honcho’s daughter…

Quick & Dirty: One hot dark and dangerous DEA Agent and a cartel princess!

Opening Sentence: “After two years building his rep as the “Widow Maker,” an independent contractor who killed not only for the government but for the everyday working stiff when justice failed to deliver, undercover DEA Agent Matthew Kane, known on the street as Mateo Juraez, had his next target in sight.”

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Let me start off by saying that I have not read any of the other books in the series. Having said that, this series is definitely one you can jump into without having to read the others. That of course is super good for me as a reviewer! Okay, if it had been one that you had to read the others, I am the type of reader that would stop and go read the previous books first. Now to get down to business, Sworn to Love focuses on hot cop Matthew Kane, aka Mateo Juarez. Mateo’s first order of business is to take down Javier Bertram. We find out rather quickly that he fakes Javier’s death and takes him into custody despite a desperate need for revenge. Javier murdered Mateo’s brother in cold blood, and he is also engaged to Sophia Dumas, the cartel princess!

Now we have the beginning set up. Mateo gets to work taking Javier’s place and initiates a meeting between him and Sophia. There is an instant connection between the two of them. From there this is a fairly typical romance novel, except this one has murder attempts, dangerous drugs and one bad ass girl saving the boy! I really did enjoy this book, it was super easy to read and a quick one too, almost feeling more like a novella instead of a book.

It was action packed and fast paced, with plenty of sexy time thrown in there. Despite its length, I really didn’t feel like there was more sex than action. There really was a good balance of plot, danger and sex. I am intrigued enough to go back and read the first four novels! Unlike other cop novels or police procedurals this book wasn’t bogged down in endless detail and descriptions, the author was not trying to make a legit case. I do enjoy those books too, but sometimes if the author isn’t careful you can lose a reader if it gets too boring. Karen Tabke clearly doesn’t have that problem, she did throw in evidence and details, but she didn’t get overwhelming with them.

I also enjoyed Sophia, and by that I mean as a character in a novel this short you would almost think that you can’t quite connect with the character. She rocks though, you really get to know her, the love she has for her father, the disgust she has for his business. The sense of hopelessness she has with her life, her fears and even the hopes she has for the future if she could have a future. Sophia really made the book enjoyable. I know we are supposed to be hung up on the hot cop, but Sophia was the real star of this book. So get out there and check it out!

Notable Scenes:

“Mateo was a firm believer in sticking close to the same lie with everyone so when they compared notes there were no discrepancies.”

“He was blindfolded and tied at the wrists and ankles to a chair.”

Hot Cops Series:

1. Good Girl Gone Bad

2. Skin

3. Jaded

4. Have Yourself a Naughty Little Santa

5. Sworn to Love

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FTC Advisory: Simon & Schuster provided me with a copy of Sworn to Love. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: Night’s Honor by Thea Harrison

May 20th, 2015 Steph Posted in Review No Comments »

Night's HonorTitle: Night’s Honor

Author: Thea Harrison

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Series: Elder Races (Book #7)

Publication Date: September 2, 2014

Format: Paperback, 282 Pages

ISBN-10: 0425274365 (Berkley/Penguin)

ISBN-13: 978-0425274361 (Berkley/Penguin)

Reviewed by: Steph

Synopsis:

In USA Today bestselling author Thea Harrison’s latest Novel of the Elder Races, a woman finds herself in need of protection—and seduced by honor…

On the run from her former employer, Tess knows that she’s vulnerable on her own amongst the Elder Races. That’s why she decides to audition to become the human attendant of a powerful Vampyre of the Nightkind demesne. But while her position affords her the safety she seeks, her protector turns out to be more than she bargained for.

The right-hand man of the Nightkind King, Xavier del Torro is both terrifying and alluring. While his true nature frightens Tess, she can’t ignore the appeal of his innate sense of integrity and self-restraint. Thrown into Xavier’s world, Tess must quickly learn to navigate the dangers—both to her life and to her heart. But the biggest threat comes from her own past….

Quick & Dirty: A woman terrified of vampyres is forced by circumstances to become attendant to one in this captivating story in the Elder Races series.

Opening Sentence: Cautiously, Tess peered at the crowd through a side stage door.

Excerpt: No

The Review:

Tess is in a very difficult situation. She’s managed to find herself on the bad side of a powerful pariah Djinn, who will stop at nothing to find and kill her. She needs to find protection, and fast. Even though she has an overwhelming fear of Vampyres, Tess figures her only chance is to become a human attendant to one, as even a Djinn wouldn’t risk ticking off the Vampyre nation by attacking an attendant. Thus, Tess finds herself in the presence of Xavier Del Toro, one of the most powerful Vampyres in the world. Despite her fear, Tess begins to realize that maybe not all Vampyres are bad. She finds herself slowly growing closer to Xavier and actually begins to feel at home. Malphas the Djinn is still out there though, as is a threat to Xavier’s happy home. Will Tess and Xavier both be able to survive long enough to figure out just what kind of relationship they would like to have?

I’m always a little hesitant when going into an Elder Races novel, as they’ve been kind of hit and miss for me. I was also a little hesitant because this installment didn’t deal with any characters we’d met prevoiusly. Thankfully, my fears were unfounded because I thought this book was awesome. It was so good that I started reading one night at the 30 percent mark, and stayed up late to finish it because I simply couldn’t put it down. Considering I have an 8-month-old who sometimes sees 4am as a decent time to start the day, that is definitely saying something!

I think my favorite thing about this book was the slow build up to the romance. Harrison obvoiusly took Tess’ fear of vampyres into account when writing the book, as she doesn’t just jump into the romance. Instead, we get to see Xavier slowly break down Tess’ defenses, not even realizing himself that his interest is more than friendly. When they finally do get together, it’s full of heat and chemistry, and is everything I could have hoped for.On the downside, because of the slow build up, when they finally do get together, the rest of the romance sometimes feels a little rushed as the book pushes towards the end. This wasn’t a huge deal for me because I was so invested in the story and the characters, but I thought it worth mentioning.

All in all, this was a wonderful addition to the Elder Races series. I didn’t find myself missing the regular characters at all and really enjoyed the inside look at the Vampyre government. In fact, while the book doesn’t quite measure up to my feelings for book one, it is still definitely a five star read for me. I think fans of the series will not be disappointed and even newcomers to the series may enjoy this one as well. I’m definitely looking forward to the next one now!

Notable Scene:

Galvanized into action, she yanked out the keyboard tray and toggled the screen on, as she muttered under her breath, “Ten minutes? Excuse me, but you’re fucking nuts. It takes time to look for this kind of thing.”

“Nine minutes now.” He didn’t sound in the least perturbed by her agitation or her swearing.

Her mind raced through various possibilities. She had one potential rabbit in her hat that she might be able to use on such ridiculously short notice – she would bet everything in her inaccessible bank accounts that he was on the inside of the Evenfall security network. That would mean the network firewall would be configured to recognize his IP address and his email program.

Maybe she could get lucky. The quickest way to bypass firewall security was from the inside, through a client-side attack. If she could hack his email, she could send a rough, simple malware program to exploit the breach. He said he wanted her to “break through” the firewall. He didn’t say how, or what she should do when she did, or that it had to be an elegant job.

“Six minutes.”

“Shut up,” she hissed. Her fingers flew across the keyboard.

She hadn’t hacked in a while. It felt good, running hot against the clock. It felt crazy, and she wanted to laugh like a lunatic, except she had already sworn at one of the scariest men she had ever met, and she thought she should keep her mouth shut for a few minutes.

He said, “Time.”

She sat back. “You’ve got mail.”

Sleek as a panther, he moved up behind her. She was intensely aware of his closeness as he leaned over to look at the screen. As he did so, the cell phone he held in one hand buzzed. He thumbed it on. “Yes, Gavin?”

On the other end, she could clearly hear a strange male voice demanding, “Did you leave your email program running while you set her to hack into the network?”

“Of course I didn’t,” said Xavier. “I locked it down.”

“Well, I want to fucking know how she fucking sent a blast email to fucking everybody from your email address.”

She pulled back so Xavier could take control of the desktop, open his email account and click on his new mail.

In big red letters, the body of the email said: YOU SUCK.

Elder Races:

1. Dragon Bound

2. Storm’s Heart

3. Serpent’s Kiss

3.5 True Colors

4. Oracle’s Moon

4.5 Natural Evil

4.6 Devil’s Gate

4.7 Hunter’s Season

5. Lord’s Fall

5.5 The Wicked

6. Kinked

6.5 Dragos Takes a Holiday

6.6 Pia Saves the Day

6.7 Peanut Goes to School

7. Night’s Honor

7.5 Dragos Goes to Washington

7.6 Pia Takes Hollywood

7.7 Liam Takes Manhattan

8. Midnight’s Kiss

9. Shadow’s End (December 1, 2015)

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FTC Advisory: Berkley/Penguin provided me with a copy of Night’s Honor. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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