Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Book Review - Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein

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Title: Head Over Heels
Author: Hannah Orenstein
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Headline Eternal
Publication Date: 23rd June 2020
Rating: 5 Stars

The stakes have never been higher - but is it time to take a leap, and tumble into love?

After training her entire life to make the Olympic gymnastics team, a disastrous performance ended Avery Abrams' athletic career - for good. Seven years on, she's still lost and, reeling from a breakup with her football star boyfriend, returns to her Massachusetts hometown.

In need of a job, Avery agrees to help new coach, Ryan Nicholson, train Hallie, a promising young gymnast with Olympic aspirations, despite her worries about the memories it will evoke.

Back in the gym, she's surprised to find sparks flying with Ryan, and her long-buried love for her sport reemerging as she helps Hallie's talent shine. But when a shocking scandal breaks, it has shattering effects on the world of gymnastics, Avery and everyone around her.

But Avery is not going to let history repeat itself - she's ready to fight for those she loves - and win.

I was on the edge of my seat by the end of this, I was so invested in Hallie's journey to see if she would qualify for the Olympics, that I was practically cheering her on verbally in my garden! 

I'm a huge fan of sport, the Olympics and Gymnastics is always one of those sports I'll always happily make a point of watching when its on TV,  and I was more than aware of the real life version of the scandal that is fictionalised in this book surrounding female gymnasts. 

My normal expectation of going into a book published by Headline Eternal is of a big romance, possibly great sex scenes and a story that will capture my interest hopefully.  In this instance, yes there is romance, there is chemistry between Avery and Ryan but it was the story involving gymnastics that had me thinking about this book whenever I had to put it down. 

At 4am I was sorely tempted to just keep reading and forget about going to sleep, but then I realised I did have work the next day... but I was that glued to the book and it is rare that I think about forgoing sleep in favour of reading further. 

I loved seeing how Avery is finally able to overcome her own personal nightmare of an Olympic trials in order to coach young Hallie on the floor.  I loved the descriptions of the training and the various moves in the routines and could picture it in my mind. 

The amount of growth and development for Avery in this book is great to see, she really grows as a woman, and by the end without a doubt is a role model.    And Hallie is supremely talented and I loved seeing how her confidence grows and her routines develop. 

It is an eye opening read as to the realities of elite gymnastics, which rang true to my knowledge of the sport and had me hooked from the first to the last page. 

This may be the first book I've read by Hannah Orenstiein but it certainly won't be the last, and i already have her previous release on my kindle waiting for me. 

Thank you to Headline Eternal and Netgalley for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Monday, 13 July 2020

Book Review - The Little Teashop in Tokyo by Julie Caplin

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Title: The Little Teashop in Tokyo
Author: Julie Caplin
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: One More Chapter
Publication Date: 11th June 2020
Rating: 5 Stars

Grab your passport and escape to a land of dazzling skyscrapers, steaming bowls of comforting noodles, and a page-turning love story that will make you swoon!

For travel blogger Fiona, Japan has always been top of her bucket list so when she wins an all-expenses paid trip, it looks like her dreams are coming true.

Until she arrives in vibrant, bustling Tokyo and comes face-to-face with the man who broke her heart ten years ago, gorgeous photographer Gabe.

Fiona can’t help but remember the heartache of their last meeting but amidst the temples and clouds of soft pink cherry blossoms, can Fiona and Gabe start to see life – and each other – differently?

How wonderful it was to be transported to Japan, at a time where there isn't really any international travel.   

I literally felt as though I was there alongside Fiona, as she takes in the sights, traditions, culture and way of life of Tokyo for the first time.  Although I've never been from what I do vaguely know of the country, this all seemed incredibly authentic, and very well researched. 

There were spatterings of Japanese words and their meanings, various practices, the Japanese tea ceremony and so much variation in the food that I was practically salivating at the descriptions.  I could totally identify with Fiona's issues with chopsticks to eat with! 

Yet between the clear love of Japan in this book, at its heart there is what could be a romance between Fiona, and her reluctant photography mentor Gabe. 

Gabe who appears to be tired of life, and only doing a half hearted job at anything, is supposed to be helping Fiona, but rather needs an initial attitude adjustment. 

I could completely sympathise with Fiona, about her mother, mine isn't quite as bad, but can be similarly frustrating, so I very much empathised with her there.  

And the host family Fiona stays with, three generations are fabulous, and teach us all so many wonderful things about life in Japan, and the blending of the traditional with the modern.   I would have loved to have gone to the digital art museum that the grand daughter takes Fiona too - it sounded amazing. 

Such a fabulous story, I was loving every single second of it, and it was a shame to then realise I was in my garden and not actually in such a different country.  Another top notch book in this romantic escapes series from one of my favourite authors, Julie Caplin. 

Thank you to One More Chapter and Netgalley for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily,. 

Sunday, 12 July 2020

Book Review - Tipping Point by Emily Benet

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Title: Tipping Point
Author: Emily Benet
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Author supplied copy
Publisher: Self published
Publication Date: 5th May 2020
Rating: 4 Stars

The sun ... the ocean ... the farmhouse ... the scammer... the police... the 3-legged dog?

George and Ellen have retired to sunny Mallorca. Social butterfly Ellen is itching to make yacht-owning friends while George's heart is set on a secluded farmhouse in the country. In fact, now that they're no longer living busy London lives, they're beginning to realise they have very different ideas of happiness.

Private investigator Salva specialises in cases of adultery. That's why it's particularly embarrassing that he didn't realise his long-term girlfriend has been cheating on him. He has no time to nurse a broken heart, since his family are the victims of a property scam they urgently need him to solve.

Robyn Chase is giving talks on her self-help book, No More Toxic Relationships - 7 Years, 7 Lessons. She's finding it awkward being a relationship guru when her own boyfriend is avoiding her.

The sun is shining in Mallorca and everything looks beautiful. But the residents of one particular apartment block are about to discover it all might be too good to be true.

Well that certainly kept me guessing throughout.  The first line of the blurb really does give a fabulous insight as to the contents of the book. 

The Sun.... well the book is set in Mallorca, and it really is sunny there, and it features chapters from the viewpoints of Salva, Ellen, George and Robyn.   Robyn's chapters are written in italics which distinguishes them and her voice from the others, as hers are her current diary entries.  Salva is a private investigator, has recently been dumped and his whole family have come to stay in his small apartment.  While Ellen and George have just moved to Mallorca and all of them are living in the same building. 

The ocean... Ellen can't understand why George insisted on not only moving them to Mallorca but also wanting a place so inland that they aren't near the ocean.  Whereas Salva and Robyn do some paddleboarding in the ocean,and once scene of that definitely stands out. 

The farmhouse - completely central to the plot, at least for Ellen and George,  as they deliberate long and hard whether this is the property they really want to buy. 

The scammer - ah yes there is certainly a scammer in this book and its part of the reason Salva is spending nights on friends couches, while his family take over his apartment.  There are also conmen in this story, and well with thoughts of scammers, fraud etc.. well it almost makes you wonder why people move to Mallorca! 

The police - hmm the local Spanish police seem completely uninterested in anything that is going on! 

Ah the three-legged dog, a key part on the scam, and potentially the biggest clue to working out the truth of who they are! 

There are assorted new friendships, there is a marriage that is really not looking that secure as it is clear how different both parties are, and then there is Robyn.  She is clearly hiding things, and as a reader I had an inkling about some of it, but not to the full extent. 

Definitely a book that keeps you on your toes, as you try to work out just how everything will come together and potentially unravel at the same time.  The last quarter or so I could barely tear myself away from, as you are moving towards a great climax. 

I'd have loved some more of Mallorca in there, didn't really get a feel for the island, which is a shame as 10 years ago this year, I spent 2 summers on the island working and would have loved in this scary new world to have travelled their in my armchair! 

Another really good book from Emily Benet, not my favourite but still an entertaining story. 

Thank you to the author for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Saturday, 11 July 2020

Book Review - Lucy's Great Escape by Rosie Green

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Amazon UK

Title: Lucy's Great Escape
Author: Rosie Green
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Author supplied copy
Publisher: Self Published
Publication Date: 7th July 2020
Rating: 5 Stars

Lucy never wanted to abandon her friends and family, and travel to the other side of the country to start a new life. And all without telling anyone where she was going. But these are desperate times. And finding herself with a nightmare of a dilemma, fleeing her home town seems like the only way she can protect herself and those she loves.
The Cornish town of Pengully Sands holds happy childhood memories for Lucy and seems the perfect place to escape to, although having little money and no friends, life at first seems grim.
But a chance meeting with Madison and the rest of the Little Duck Pond Cafe girls, plus a decidedly attractive local guy who won't take no for an answer, gives Lucy a glimmer of hope for the future. Could she really settle in Pengully Sands and make a living by selling her watercolours in the little seaside town?
But just as life is starting to look rosier, it becomes clear that someone back home - the last person she ever wanted to see - has tracked her down...

Rosie Green does it again, writes another simply captivating book that was impossible to put down. 

Although we briefly meet Lucy in the previous book in the series, this story is all about her, and how she came to even be in Pengully Sands in the first place.   As you get more of the backstory you can't help but feel for Lucy, and just hope that things will work out for her. 

This though can easily be read as a standalone, as the Little Duck Pond Cafe girls only make a brief appearance, this is about letting us get to know Lucy, more than furthering the regular girls story lines.  Which makes it a good introduction to the author and series, if you haven't already discovered her charms. 

Although it had a different feel to the rest of the books in the series, it is no less wonderful for it.  I can't believe what a nasty piece of work Eleanor (Lucy's dad's new girlfriend) is, and that is before you even get too far into the nitty gritty.   

I really felt so sorry for Lucy, and was rooting her on, she has gone from one rubbish situation to one where she should be earning money but appears to be exploited instead.   It's so rough, that I couldn't' help but cheer her on and hope things would improve. 

I've absolutely loved these two summer books set in Pengully Sands in Cornwall, they have been a lovely breathe of fresh air into a series that is constantly keeping its readers on its toes and I look forward to the next book already. 

Thank you to the author for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily.

Friday, 10 July 2020

Book Review - The Backpacking Bride by Janice Horton

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Title: The Backpacking Bride
Author: Janice Horton
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: One More Chapter
Publication Date: 10th July
Rating: 5 Stars

When her walk up the aisle leads to disaster Maya Thomas must forge a new path…

Saying ‘I Do’ was meant to be the start of her greatest adventure, but when Maya’s fiancĂ© drops dead just moments before he’s set to kiss the bride, her life is spent spinning out of control.

Now, as Maya travels a path she never expected to take, setting off on the mystery honeymoon her fiancĂ© had planned for them, she finds that there is life after loss, that fate has its own way of helping you heal and that those with the courage to grasp love will never go lonely…

I believe Janice Horton is fast becoming one of my favourite armchair travel authors, and this is a wonderful addition to her Backpacking Housewife series. 

Although this time we have a Backpacking Bride, who is determined to go on the magical mystery tour of a honeymoon her fiancee Jon had planned for her, despite the fact he died suddenly before he could say I do on his wedding day. 

Maya though has always wanted to travel but has barely ever gone further than Scotland, so although distraught, decides to take the trip to honour Jon and make her feel closer to him. 

This is an adventure that crosses multiple Asian countries, and the level of detail if phenomenal. I felt as though I was in the Ashram with Maya (although I have no intention of ever visiting one myself),  and her initial thoughts of Hong Kong matched so closely with the memories I have of an even shorter time in the country. 

We are treated to the sights, smells, scenery, sounds and sensations of each place she visits along with some new friends she meets and connects with, including some other backpacking brides! 

It is fabulous to see how her initial thoughts of a place alter, and just how baffling her first destination must have seemed when she has never been anywhere remotely like it in her life. 

This is just a wonderful story of well fate, of following your heart and of coming to terms with a horrific situation. It's a journey of growth and discovery for Maya with a perhaps surprising outcome. 

What may not come as a surprise to you is when I say I want more, I want more from Maya, and I really hope a direct sequel is written as I would love to know what happens after the exhilarating ending to this book. 

I always love reading Janice Horton's books on holiday, and although I clearly wasn't going anywhere this year, it still was a very enjoyable sunny day in the garden, during lockdown sort of a book, where you are able to escape and join a virtual journey.  What more could you ask for?

Thank you to One More Chapter and Netgalley for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Thursday, 9 July 2020

Book Review - Precious You by Helen Monks Takhar

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Title: Precious You
Author: Helen Monks Takhar
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: HQ 
Publication Date: 11th June 2020
Rating: 5 Stars

She’s got your job. She wants your life…
When Katherine first meets her new intern Lily, she’s immediately captivated. Young, beautiful and confident, Lily reminds Katherine of everything she once was – and it’s not long before she develops a dark fascination with her new colleague.
But is Lily as perfect as she seems, or does she have a sinister hidden agenda? As Katherine is drawn into an obsessive power struggle with the intern, a disturbing picture emerges of two women hiding dark secrets – and who are desperate enough to do anything to come out on top…

Breathlessly addictive and deeply unsettling, Precious You is a thriller like no other. Taut, terrifying and with shocking twists at every turn, it will keep you guessing until the very last page.

If you want a book that will keep you on your toes until the final page then look no further...

If you want a book that makes you question everything you hear about both main characters almost the whole time then look no further...

If you want a book that will astound you continually and make you think wow by the end, then look no further. ..

If you want a book that features a character in her 40s, who is really anti millennial snowflakes then look no further.....

If you want a book that takes on all sorts of issues head on, in a clear way then this is for you...

And finally if you just want an all around fabulous book that will get under your skin then without a doubt this is the book for you....

Precious You is one spectacularly impressive debut novel that I thoroughly enjoyed reading.  I really can't say much more for fear of giving spoilers, but I can stay the book is written from two viewpoints, both really strong female characters who have their determination and cunning in common.   There are many layers to both of them and it was fascinating to see how the secrets they are hiding are revealed slowly. 

Basically I was incredibly impressed by this and think you should if you like the sound of it, give it a go and go in as blank as me to it, so it can surprise you fully! 

Thank you to HQ and Netgalley for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Book Review - Agony Auntics by Julie Butterfield

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Title: Agony Auntics
Author: Julie Butterfield
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Author supplied copy
Publisher: Self Published
Publication Date: 19th June 2020
Rating: 4 Stars

As an agony aunt, Fliss Carmichael should have all the answers but when her own marriage begins unravelling at the seams, she hasn’t a clue where to start. After a simple mistake causes an unintended role swap, she becomes the one seeking advice from an unlikely source!

What do you do if you are an agony aunt, and realise you have a problem in your own marriage? Do you accidentally let the person whose letter you are trying to reply to know she may have triggered these thoughts?

Well Fliss is in exactly that situation and her attempts to get attention from here workaholic hubby, are all well intentioned, are great ideas and they all pretty much backfire in ways that cause great embarrassment and amusement! 

And then there is Ellie, who has fallen in love with a colleague despite never having spoken to him. But she is painfully shy and writes to Fliss for advice. But even in trying to follow the advice she asks Laura her best friend for help, and let's just say Laura comes up with plans, and then things happen which are really amusing! 

I loved the two stories running side by side, with one being the potential for a new romance, while the other trying to re-engage a marriage after 20 years together.  Both equally funny, and generally very entertaining. 

This is a very light hearted story that I thoroughly enjoyed reading, and it hit all the right spots with me. 

Thank you to the author for this copy which i have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Book Review - The Old Girl's Network by Judy Leigh

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Amazon UK

Title: The Old Girl's Network
Author: Judy Leigh
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Boldwood Books
Publication Date: 16th June 2020
Rating: 4 Stars

Is it ever too late to change…
After a health scare, 77 year-old spinster Barbara goes to convalesce in the sleepy Somerset village of Winsleigh Green with her sister Pauline, who is now a widow. The sisters are like chalk and cheese - Barbara, outspoken and aloof and Pauline, good natured and homely – so it’s not long before the tension starts to rise.

But when Pauline accidentally knocks down a vagrant who goes by the name of Bisto Mulligan, the ladies find themselves with another houseguest. As he recovers, it becomes apparent that Bisto is not who he first seemed, and as the sisters get to know the kind and courageous man he really is, it’s clear Bisto has the potential to change both of their lives.

As the spring turns to summer, and Winsleigh Green comes to life, can the three friends make the changes they need to, to embrace fresh starts, new loves, new lives and new horizons. Or do old habits die too hard?

Funny, joyful and with a spring in its step that reminds you to live every day like it’s your last. Judy Leigh has once again written the perfect feel-good novel for all fans of Dawn French, Dee MacDonald and Cathy Hopkins.

I really wasn't sure what to make of Barbara at first, shes a 77 year old spinster with rather forthright views on everything, doesn't see the point in romance, reading fiction, and had a habit of speaking her mind. She is rather set in her ways and has never really had a proper relationship with her sister Pauline. 

Pauline is the complete opposite and loves the little village she lives in, in Somerset, has friends in the community and generally is well liked.  She is very kind hearted and when Barbara has a bit of a fall, Pauline suggests she should come and stay for a few weeks to recuperate. 

To say the sisters don't get on smoothly at first is an understatement but everything becomes far more interesting when Bisto enters the mix (This is a man called Bisto and not actual gravy!). 

Barbara has rather set opinions about Bisto and is convinced he is a lying vagrant, when as readers we can see that there is definitely a lot more to the man than it first appears. 

I loved how this unlikely threesome spent their summer, and becoming more and more a part of life in Winsleigh Green.   I loved the Welly Wanging contest, the explanation of the rules made me laugh.   The bickering friends who seem to hate each other,  the local farmer, the friendly vicar, oh and Dizzy, she's a breath of fresh air, even if she is rather unlucky in love. 

I really enjoyed seeing how the characters developed and changed over the course of the story and I was loving so much of this book. It really is an entertaining read that had me amused and interested too. 

I love how Judy Leigh always feature s characters of a certain age, and brings real life that you may not necessarily expect from that age-group.  

Thank you to Netgalley and Boldwood Books for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Monday, 6 July 2020

Book Review - The Beauty of Broken Things by Victoria Connelly

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Title: The Beauty of Broken Things
Author: Victoria Connelly
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: 9th June 2020
Rating: 5 Stars

United by tragedy, can two broken souls make each other whole?

After the tragic loss of his wife, Helen, Luke Hansard is desperate to keep her memory alive. In an effort to stay close to her, he reaches out to an online friend Helen often mentioned: a reclusive photographer with a curious interest in beautiful but broken objects. But first he must find her—and she doesn’t want to be found.

Orla Kendrick lives alone in the ruins of a remote Suffolk castle, hiding from the haunting past that has left her physically and emotionally scarred. In her fortress, she can keep a safe distance from prying eyes, surrounded by her broken treasures and insulated from the world outside.

When Luke tracks Orla down, he is determined to help her in the way Helen wanted to: by encouraging her out of her isolation and back into the world. But Orla has never seen her refuge as a prison and, when painful secrets and dangerous threats begin to resurface, Luke’s good deed is turned on its head.

As they work through their grief for Helen in very different ways, will these two broken souls be able to heal?

Such a beautifully written story, that is ultimately heartwarming and uplifting, despite the incredibly sad and upsetting things that our two main characters have been through.  But since meeting and spending time together, Orla and Luke are both perhaps just starting to heal and help each other. 

Luke's world was turned upside when his wife suddenly denied incredibly unexpectedly.  Orla lives in a castle 3 hours away from Luke, and hides herself away from the world - she is the ultimate definition of self isolation - and the only connection between Luke and Orla is a social media site. 

For Luke's wife Helen loved the Galleria site (similar to instagram), and follows Orla's account and they have formed a friendship online without even knowing each others names. Helen sensed something about Orla and wanted to help, but then her life was tragically caught short. 

Once Luke tracks down Orla, and they somehow slowly get to know each other, the story really does take on a life of its own. 

Orla's account focuses on beautiful objects that have minor imperfections, she loves being able to find and highlight the beauty in broken things, and Helen (who although we only meet her briefly is a huge character in the book),  also has started to love finding that same beauty in the imperfect. 

What I found really moving, gripping and had real empathy for, was when Orla finally explains to Luke just what happened to make her the way she currently is. I won't tell you any details but its completely understandable that she would now live her life in the shadows as a result of what she went through. 

Victoria Connelly's writing seems to go from strength to strength, and as much as I love her lighter hearted Austen Addicts and Booklovers series, this is probably her best book to date.   Absolutely loved it! 

Thank you to Lake Union Publishing and Netgalley for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily,. 

Friday, 3 July 2020

Book Review - Aria's Travelling Book Shop by Rebecca Raisin

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Amazon UK

Title: Aria's Travelling Book Shop
Author: Rebecca Raisin
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: HQ Digital
Publication Date: 8th April 2020
Rating: 5 Stars

This summer will change everything!
Aria Summers knows what she wants.

A life on the road with best friend Rosie and her beloved camper-van-cum-book-shop, and definitely, definitely, no romance.

But when Aria finds herself falling – after one too many glasses of wine, from a karaoke stage – into the arms of Jonathan, a part of her comes back to life for the first time in years.

Since her beloved husband died Aria has sworn off love, unless it’s the kind you can find in the pages of a book. One love of her life is quite enough.

And so Aria tries to forget Jonathan and sets off for a summer to remember in France. But could this trip change Aria’s life forever…?
A heartwarming, uplifting and hilarious novel of friendship, love and adventure! Perfect for fans of Debbie Johnson and Holly Martin.

If only I had put 2 and 2 together sooner, I would have read this months ago when it first landed on my kindle.  I can't believe I didn't twig that this although not necessarily a sequel is set with the same characters, although different lead, that were in Rebecca Raisin's previous book Rosie's Travelling Tea Shop! 

Thankfully I twigged within a few pages, and I was ecstatic to be amongst my favourite group of nomads, and that this book featured so much more of Rosie and Max's story, in addition to us getting to know Aria even better. 

And Aria really is a character you want to get to know, she is the ultimate bookworm, especially loves romances, and I think any book lover would love to visit her campervan shop, given it is filled to the rafters with books, and barely has any room for her to sleep in it! 

She is a widow and has been on the van circuit of festivals travelling for 3 years now, but while knowing that TJ was her one true love, she meets Jonathan and starts to wonder all sorts of things about romance and whether you can in fact fall in love again. 

All of this is set to a backdrop of a summer travelling around France, taking in Rouen, Bordeaux and the French Riviera to name a few of the spots, and they sound idyllic. 

There is plenty of french food to make your mouth water, and there are some surprises along the way too, as well as a beautiful way of Aria discovering she may just be ready to allow a new special person into her life. 

I spent a wonderfully sunny afternoon in my garden, completely entranced by this story, loving every word of it, and at the same time I'm really hoping this isn't the last we have seen of the van lifers - we need more, I need to know how their stories continue!!   

Another gem of a book from the always pleasurable to read Rebecca Raisin. 

Thank you to HQ Digital and Netgalley for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 
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