Book Reviews · Netgalley · New Releases

Book Review: The Gray Chamber by Grace Hitchcock

The Gray Chamber

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Barbour Publishing, Inc., via Netgalley for an honest review.

Genre: Historical Fiction/American Crime/Romance

Plot: Will Edyth prove her sanity before it is too late?

On Blackwell Island, New York, a hospital was built to keep its patients from ever leaving.

With her late father’s fortune under her uncle’s care until her twenty-fifth birthday in the year 1887, Edyth Foster does not feel pressured to marry or to bow to society’s demands. She freely indulges in eccentric hobbies like fencing and riding her velocipede in her cycling costume about the city for all to see. Finding a loophole in the will, though, her uncle whisks Edyth off to the women’s lunatic asylum just weeks before her birthday. Do any of Edyth’s friends care that she disappeared?

At the asylum she meets another inmate, who upon discovering Edyth’s plight, confesses that she is Nellie Bly, an undercover journalist for The World. Will either woman find a way to leave the terrifying island and reclaim her true self?

Opinion:

Etiquette, propriety, courting, and men who don’t think much of women.

It’s like a Jane Austen novel, but with an asylum!

The Gray Chamber is set in the later part of the 1800’s in high society, following a young woman named Edyth Foster as she nears her twenty-fifth birthday. Though Edyth has grown up privileged and accustomed to playing the role of a lady, she is a quirky woman who lives her life by her own set of rules. She wears relaxed dress-wear without the bother of a corset, and prefers beating men at fencing to sitting on a cushion looking primped and puffed for eligible suitors. And with the fortune her parents left her becoming available to her on her birthday, she is able to forgo the stress and pressures of securing a husband.

That is until her uncle throws her in an insane asylum.

I LOVE a historical fiction tale just like the next Jane Austen lover. There’s just nothing more romantic than a woman being courted using proper English and gentlemanly manners. Mix in beautiful gowns, arrogant men, tittering females and a mental institution…and you’ve just opened up the gates of heaven to me. I found this story to be thoroughly addicting and positively riveting. The language was perfectly on point, the time-period was well-portrayed and it showcased how easy it was during that time for men to dispose of “problem women”. Anyone who didn’t fall in line with society or do as a man said was at risk of being thrust aside.

Corset forbid any of these ladies have some individuality!

When we meet Edyth she is enjoying her life in leisure and comfort. She goes to the fencing club where her crush Bane is the instructor, sketches and paints in her free-time, is carefree with a sunny disposition, and even houses her Uncle and his new bride. Though the relationship with her uncle SEEMS fine to begin with, we obviously know it’s not. Unbeknownst to Edyth, her uncle brings doctors from Blackwell Island, the infamous Women’s Insane Asylum nearby, to have her evaluated for her eccentricities and “odd behavior” in order to have her committed so he can steal her fortune. But once she is shipped off, things got a little sour for me.

After Edyth arrives at Blackwell Island, she began to turn me off a bit. Gone was this strong and independent woman with a humble head on her shoulders, and in her place was a character who whined like a teenager and stomped her foot. Granted, the poor dear HAS just been committed and fears she will spend the rest of her days there…but come on. She acted like a spoiled child who had spent her entire life with a silver spoon in her mouth, and didn’t understand why she wasn’t getting her hair done. Seriously. She asked if a chambermaid would be coming in to do her hair. In an insane asylum.

*sigh*

But her time locked up wasn’t all sunshine and daisies. The orderlies were brutal to all of the patients, and there seemed to only be one nurse that actually had a soul. The women were all washed in the same disgusting bath water, were given food that was barely considered food, dressed in thin pieces of fabric that did nothing to keep them warm, and were sleeping in horrid conditions. It sounded dreadful, and Edyth attempting to escape the institution gave me SUCH anxiety as she was running through the halls trying to flee! 

I liked where the author took the story and how she threw in a few twists and blindsides. I found Bane to be a dreamy and perfect romantic interest for Edyth, but I do wish the poor guy would have realized she was a gem BEFORE deciding so after seeing her in a fancy gown and with makeup on. *facepalm* But even so, their relationship was very sweet and gave me little flutters. Bane’s determination to find Edyth was so pure, and it really showed how strong of a friendship they had that he knew something was up as soon as she missed their date. How things tied up with them was perfect, innocent and very romantic.

All in all, I really liked this American Crime/Historical fiction tale. It kept my attention, the setting and dialogue felt authentic to the era, and it showcased the atrocities that some women were subjected to. I do think the last 15% of the story was a bit unnecessary and was dragged out a little more than was needed, but it didn’t bother me enough to make me stop reading until the very last word. This was my first read from this True Colors series, so I definitely want to read the other stories and see how the other authors constructed their tales.

3-stars

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Book Reviews · Netgalley · New Releases

Book Review: Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison

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Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Harlequin – Mira, via Netgalley for an honest review.

Genre: Mature YA/Mystery/Thriller

Plot: Goode girls don’t lie…

Perched atop a hill in the tiny town of Marchburg, Virginia, The Goode School is a prestigious prep school known as a Silent Ivy. The boarding school of choice for daughters of the rich and influential, it accepts only the best and the brightest. Its elite status, long-held traditions and honor code are ideal for preparing exceptional young women for brilliant futures at Ivy League universities and beyond. But a stranger has come to Goode, and this ivy has turned poisonous.

In a world where appearances are everything, as long as students pretend to follow the rules, no one questions the cruelties of the secret societies or the dubious behavior of the privileged young women who expect to get away with murder. But when a popular student is found dead, the truth cannot be ignored. Rumors suggest she was struggling with a secret that drove her to suicide.

But look closely…because there are truths and there are lies, and then there is everything that really happened.

J.T. Ellison’s pulse-pounding new novel examines the tenuous bonds of friendship, the power of lies and the desperate lengths people will go to to protect their secrets.

Opinion:

Goode perches like a gargoyle above the city’s small downtown…It is quiet, dignified, isolated. As are the girls who attend the school; serious, studious. Good. Goode girls are always good. They go on to great things.”

After the unexpected deaths of her scion father and mother, Ash Carr arrives at Goode – a private college preparatory school for teenage daughters of the elite. Goode breeds exceptional ladies who go on to top schools, and who become leaders in their industries. As a sophomore, Ash is quickly thrust into the strange dynamics of these powerful and privileged girls. Keeping up with the honor code of the school and high intensity academics is one thing, but navigating the ways of her classmates is an entirely different game. But things for Ash have never been easy, so why should her time at Goode be any different. After the sudden death of her roommate turns Goode upside down, Ash fights to keep her name cleared of any involvement. But things are beginning to unravel, and no secret is safe, not even hers.

I love a good murder mystery/thriller, but a murder mystery in a private school of privileged girls? Psh. Cancel my evening and clear my schedule, because I am THERE! One series that has been a personal favorite of mine for years is Private by Kate Brian. It’s a YA drama-fest of secrets, lies, murder, backstabbing, secret societies and boatloads of privilege. Needless to say, when I came across Good Girls Lie, I needed it in my hands immediately.

And it was all I could have asked for

and then some.

This book is oozing with secrets made of manipulation that have been dipped in lies, doused in deception, coated with blindsides, and sprinkled with levels upon levels of twists. Think you know where this is going? Think again. Think it’s over? THINK AGAIN! J.T. Ellison keeps the reader drowning in psychological torment until the very last page. So much so, that you’ll even find yourself reading the acknowledgments just to get a deeper look inside the head of this author.

I was unimaginably hooked on this story and the character of Ash. I needed to know her deep dark secrets, and the secrets of all these strange girls at Goode. Because they aren’t just rich girls thrust into a top school because their daddy knows a guy. Oh no. These girls are brilliant, border-line geniuses in their fields. Whether it is art, business, computers or writing – these girls excel in every subject. They are cunning and devious, sure, but also surprisingly honest and mostly decent to one another. And yeah, they’re a little crazy, but that’s to be expected.

It’s a bit like entering a prison, only here, the inmates are upstanding teens with daddy issues.”

Goode is the typical private bordering school that we have seen and read about. There are the popular head girls who rule over the school, secret societies and hazing, and a whole lot of sneaky things going on in the shadows. But the real star of this story is Ash Carr and her journey to Goode. Before her father suddenly dies of a drug overdose, and her mother commits suicide shortly after finding his body, Ash is told that she will be attending Goode in two months time. But after the death of her parents, and with her inheritance tied up until her twenty-fifth birthday, Ash is granted a scholarship into Goode by the dean of the school.

But naturally, Ash’s past is much more complex than one could ever guess.

They say her name, an unbroken chain of accusation and misery.”

Ash.

Ash.

Ash.

Ash is such an interesting character to have tell this story. My initial reaction upon learning that she is harboring a dark secret made me watch her closely, but her character is so intricately created that you forget to look at her as anything but a teenager. She keeps to herself at school, doesn’t make any quick and strong relationships with any of the other girls, and simply focuses on her studies and staying under the radar. She is the embodiment of a girl who has seen tragedy and hurt throughout her life, and I felt such a sense of sadness for her. But naturally, there are instances throughout this story that makes you question her and the motives of every single girl around her.

Lies will flow from my lips, but there may perhaps be some truth mixed up with them; it is for you to decide whether any part of it is worth keeping.” – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

I have been reading a TON of thrillers lately, so I had a pretty good idea of where this was going. But NOT AT ALL to the extent that it went! Every time I made a conclusion on how this book would end, something would happen that would force me to rethink everything. And even when I finally got all the answers, ANOTHER blindside was waiting for me! This is the kind of thriller I have been needing. One that makes my face hurt while giving me a weird sense of envy that I was never shipped off to a boarding school and tapped into a secret society.

Woe is me.

As a whole, I loved Good Girls Lie. Why yes, there were a bit of unnecessary PG-13 (R?) rated scenes that I didn’t see any point to. And yes, the constant drastic age differences in these romantic relationships did make me slightly uncomfortable. But, what is life, right? All in all, this is a really addicting story about secrets and the need for freedom. It’s sad, it’s dark and it is even a bit sweetsort of. My only true qualm is that this is a stand-alone, when all I really want is about ten more of these books.

“Mmm. Death tastes so good.”

4-5-stars

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Book Promo · Book Reviews · Books · Reviews

Book Review: The Sound of Blue by Michael Duda

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Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author, Michael Duda, for an honest review.

Genre: Short Stories/Science Fiction

Plot: Aliens exist everywhere. They are android. They hide within the mind. They live on other planets. And they can even travel the universe using technology far beyond our understanding.

Markey VI, an android on an orbiting space station, assists an artificial intelligence. David, the A.I., ponders the question of humanity’s fate. The ultimate question is, “Should life be returned to Earth?” The answer is known as the Singular Conclusion. But the answer’s impact reaches far deeper into Markey VI’s electronic components and programmed logic than could be anticipated. And the android’s final moments bring it closer to humanity itself.

David Grayson volunteered for a project called, ‘Threading.’ Unfortunately, Threading slowly alters David’s mind. And it affects the other two subjects. But in what way? After the final test goes wrong, David unleashes a powerful ability capable of distorting time.

Shiran accuses Abian of murdering her husband. She claims that Abian tells lies about the events leading to the death. She also keeps a secret that could reveal the truth. When Abian uncovers Shiran’s secret, Shiran discovers that there is more to her simple village life than she first believed.

It’s a futuristic version of 1930s Chicago. Named Chicago VI, the shielded space city exists somewhere at the far edge of the Oberon Galaxy. And all space cities connect by jump trains, faster-than-light machines. Bobby and his dog, Mister Pleats, barely make ends meet at Chicago VI’s jump train station. But when Bobby meets an alien Xenoarchaeologist, he’ll discover that there’s more possibilities in the galaxy than shining shoes.

The Sound of Blue takes you on four journeys of alien discovery. A journey just out of atmospheric reach. To a mysterious planet and at the far end of a galaxy. And into the mind where superhuman powers wait to be untapped.

Opinion:

“In a galaxy so vast, what really is home?”

You’d think that after reading my fifth book by Michael Duda, I’d cease to be amazed at how his mind works.

But alas, here I am.

Still dumbfounded and astounded by his brain.

Michael Duda is able to take the most mundane facts that we know as humans, about our society and ourselves, and reshape them into poetic tales of beauty and darkness. He is able to transport the reader into future and sideways dimensional settings that exude immense wonder and deep horrors. I am always left feeling nostalgic and unhinged by Duda’s writings. It’s like he has dipped his fingers into my brain, found the innocence and fears, and gingerly extracted them and wove them onto paper.

Now if you have an unhealthy addiction to science fiction that can both excite and terrify you, then you will love this collection of short stories.

The first is called The Sound of Blue. Immediately the reader is skyrocketed into the ever-popular idea (or probability) that Artificial Intelligence and robots will take over the world, eradicating humankind from existence. This story follows dialogue between David, an A.I., and Markey VI, an android. David is attempting to discern if humans will be able to return to Earth, while also delving into the idea of what it means to be human.

It is a quick story, but one that made me pause after reading to reflect on what it means to be human. As per usual, Duda started this book off with a bang that immediately had a sense of anxious wonder creeping inside me. It is the most sorrowful and delicate of these four stories, and one I could imagine being a closing scene for an epic sci-fi movie.

The second short story is Last of Lasts and immediately reminded me of the Netflix show Maniac. It is about three people who are in dire need of money, so they agree to participate in a series of experiments. The story is told through the eyes of David as he is thrust back into another test of the “threading”; one that puts the other two subject’s lives at risk as the scientists look for a specific outcome. It is one of the longer stories, but one that will keep you hooked as you try to figure out what the hell is going on. It is also probably the most fantastical of the bunch, but as always, one that has legs and could easily be turned into a full series.

The third story is Waking from an Eternal Sleep. The inhabitants of a village look to those called the Unmarked Ones for guidance and insight into events and their lives. But when Shiran’s husband is suddenly killed by a fellow villager named Abian, she demands to know why and that he be put to death. But the reasoning behind her husband’s death is much bigger than what she could ever fathom. Naturally, in Duda form, I am left wanting more and MORE of this tale. ALWAYS with the cliffhangers

The fourth short story is Jump Trains and Simultaneity and my favorite kind of science fiction fable! It is set in an old-timey futuristic world that can only be described as the 1930s meets Cyberpunk 2077. If you are like me and are obsessed with Sci-fi like Altered Carbon, Blade Runner or Mute, then you will without a doubt love this. Bobby lives in one of the many cities called space cities, which are connected by jump trains. He is a homeless and sweet kid working as a shoe shiner, until he meets Theodore Rattletrap, an alien who studies extraterrestrial cultures.

THIS short story is the one I NEED to be turned into a full novel, then a Netflix show. It is phenomenal and fantastical, and the one that threw my imagination into overdrive. I couldn’t help but be completely invested in Bobby’s well-being, because he is a genuinely innocent character. Duda ensured that I had a decent level of skepticism for Theodore Rattletrap the entire time, and even now, I’m not too sure about him. This is by far my favorite story of the collection.

Unsurprisingly, I am obsessed with this new book by Michael Duda.

I have been hounding him for some time now to please write a novel before I wither away into dust and fly off into the wind, and he is! But in the meantime, I highly suggest you guys read Stars in the Winter Sky, and a few of his other short story collections under his other pen name M. Duda: Bedtime for Seneca, A Cat Will Play, Deny the Father.

5-stars

 

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Book Promo · Book Reviews · Books · Netgalley · New Releases · Reviews

Book Review: The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon

The First gIrl Child

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, 47North, via Netgalley for an honest review.

Genre: Fantasy

Plot: Bayr of Saylok, bastard son of a powerful and jealous chieftain, is haunted by the curse once leveled by his dying mother. Bartered, abandoned, and rarely loved, she plagued the land with her words: From this day forward, there will be no daughters in Saylok.

Raised among the Keepers at Temple Hill, Bayr is gifted with inhuman strength. But he’s also blessed with an all-too-human heart that beats with one purpose: to protect Alba, the first girl child born in nearly two decades and the salvation for a country at risk.

Now the fate of Saylok lies with Alba and Bayr, whose bond grows deeper with every whisper of coming chaos. Charged with battling the enemies of their people, both within and without, Bayr is fueled further by the love of a girl who has defied the scourge of Saylok.

What Bayr and Alba don’t know is that they each threaten the king, a greedy man who built his throne on lies, murder, and betrayal. There is only one way to defend their land from the corruption that has overtaken it. By breaking the curse, they could defeat the king…but they could also destroy themselves.

Opinion:

‘I cannot see, my tongue is a traitor.

My flesh is a foe, my heart a betrayer.

My eyes will I blacken, my lips will I close.

And let the runes lead me down paths I must go.

No man can follow.

No man can lead.

No man can save me, no man can free.”’

This book is PHENOMENAL!

Desdemona of Dolphys spent her last day alive giving birth to the bastard son of a cruel chieftain, and cursing the kingdom of Saylok: If man can so easily turn his back on his child and the woman who carries him, then man will know what it means to live without woman.

We are abused. We are used. We are bartered and abandoned. But rarely are we loved. So be it. From this day forward, there will be no daughters in Saylok for any of you to love.”

The First Girl Child is about a curse over a kingdom that ensures only males are born. It is about the life of a temple boy named Bayr who is gifted with inhuman strength, and the first girl child born during the curse, Princess Alba. The book is one of love, sacrifice, deceit, honor, faith, hope and brutality. Women are taken by force from territories and surrounding Kingdoms, in the hopes that women outside of Saylok are exempt from the curse and can break the drought. There is adventure and war, but also compassion and loyalty dripping from these remarkable pages. It is a story of oppression and doing what is expected of you, rather than what you choose.

This is not a world where a man or woman gets much choice in their happiness. We are born into war and each day is a battle.”

This is an EPIC historical fantasy that I don’t think I could have lived without! It centers on Saylok, a kingdom made up of six territories, with each territory being ruled by it’s own chieftain and Saylok being ruled by a King. The territories of Adyar, Berne, Dolphys, Ebba, Joran and Leok live in peace with the role of King being rotated between the tribes each time one dies. At the center of Saylok resides Temple Hill, where the Keepers live in isolation, protecting the knowledge of the blood runes and communicating with the Gods.

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The story is set over a number of years as the reader watches Bayr grow within the temple walls under the care of his uncle and the Keepers. As he becomes a toddler, it becomes known that Bayr is unlike other children. Within 6 months of his birth he is walking and running, and by the age of 5 he has already taken down a bear with only his hands. But with his inhuman strength and speed also comes his unflinching heart and need to protect. So when the first girl child is finally born, Bayr feels an instant connection to the her and swears an oath to become her protector. We watch as Bayr and Alba grow together, becoming a formidable and inseparable pair, and how their relationship begins to shift as the years pass.

The relationship they share is positively adorable and beautiful. Bayr is the solid figure in Alba’s life as she grows into a small child. He acts as her confidant, brother, guard and bestfriend. His days center on Alba, and hers center on him. I found so many small smiles blossoming my cheeks as I read about these two growing together, having adventures and learning. Alba being a fierce and outspoken little girl, and Bayr being a quiet and observant boy who treats her with such care and love. They are the true heart of this book, and the romance that is…EVERYTHING you could ask for.

There is no Alba without Bayr.”

But two other characters that really steal the show are Dagmar, Bayr’s uncle, and Ghost, the biological mother of Alba.. These two play HUGE roles in the development and lives of Bayr and Alba. They are kindhearted, compassionate and AMAZING people who live their lives in the shadows. A love between Dagmar and Ghost blossoms, but it is a relationship that is forbidden due to Dagmar being a Keeper. But the resilience, strength and selfless love that these two exude is the touch of hope and innocence that envelopes this book.

I think what really blew me away about this book, besides the incredible world-building, overall plot and complete badassery, was the writing. This is my first read from Amy Harmon, and I am SHOCKED and a little outraged that I have never come across her before! Her writing is detailed, exciting and addicting. I don’t normally go for fantasy books that have that Game of Thrones/Lord of the Rings style, but I am SO happy I decided to request this. I was fearful that it would be slow, that I would have trouble with the names and places, but NONE of that happened. I was ADDICTED!

If there is one bad thing I can say about this book, it’s that it isn’t the first in a series.

But, I’m secretly hoping it magically becomes one.

5-stars

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Binding of Bindings · Book Promo · Books · JKS Communications · New Releases · Reviews · Wrap-Up

Binding of Bindings #28: August Book Wrap-up

Look August
It was fun and all.
We had some good times, some bad times.
But, like, I just can’t anymore.

 

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~* August Book Wrap-Up *~

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1. Terrible Lizard: A Memoir of My Time in the Police Dinosaur Unit by Doug Goodman

Terrible Lizard

Terrible Lizard is an Urban Fantasy that tells the tale of former law enforcement officer, Oak Jones, who spent 7 years in the Police Dinosaur Unit. This fantastic book is a collection of memories and action-packed moments that Oak experienced alongside his partner Banshee, a velociraptor with a tumultuous past.

I have read a lot of books by Doug Goodman, and each time I am more and more impressed with his attention to detail and superb storytelling. This book is suitable for ALL ages, so feel free to read it on your own or with your little dino-loving munchkins.

4-5-stars

(Click here to see my review)

 

2. Forsaken Wrath (The Scorpio Files, Book 1) by Alexander Ferrick

Forsaken Wrath

Forsaken Wrath is the first book in the adventure short story series called The Scorpio Files. It centers on the tales of fortune hunters Nick Reed, known as Scorpio, and Bartimaeus as they embark on an adventure around the world that will lead them to treasures and deep history.

If you were a big fan of National Treasure, The Da Vinci Code or even Pitfall (a game that was released on Atari, but revamped for Wii) then you will absolutely love this book. The writing is excellent, and it kept my attention for its entire 70 pages!

I’m honestly hoping these turn into full-length books, because I NEED!

5-stars

(Click here to see my review)

 

3. The Surface Breaks by Luoise O’Neill

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Guys!

THIS one.

My poor heart, is still breaking in two and filling over the brim from the sadness and strength I got from this book!

The Surface Breaks is a feminist re-imagining of The Little Mermaid, and it is EVERYTHING that you, your mother, your sister, brother, father, daughter and son need!

The amount of quotes I inserted in my review for this book was…slightly embarrassing, and honestly, I could have just written a review in quotes. Because I highlighted that many, and it was that good.

This rendition is dark, gritty, and gets real AF. This isn’t a fluffy twist on mermaids and young love. It hits you where it hurts, yanks those heartstrings, and makes you rethink how much of yourself you are willing the shred apart in the name of love.

If you do anything after reading this post, buy this book.

5-stars

(Click here to see my review)

 

4. The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon

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Okay, my review for this isn’t up yet.

So I’ll be brief.

THIS is a newly released Adult Fantasy about a kingdom that becomes cursed to no longer bear daughters, after a chieftain denies his unborn child.

The First Girl Child tells the story of Bayr of Saylok, a bastard son of a cruel chieftain and the woman who cursed the Kingdom, and a daughter named Alba that was born 7 years after the curse went into effect. Bayr is blessed with in-human strength, and has been tasked with protecting Alba and acting as her guardian.

This book was NOT what I was expecting, but I’m not mad about it at all! THIS WAS SO GOOD! The writing, the story-building, the characters, descriptions, EVERYTHING was perfection!

I will have my review posted this weekend or early next week, so look out for it!

 

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So honestly, yea, my August was a little slow. I have been in a distracted slump and finding it hard to read, but I’m back on it.

I have 100 books to read this year, and I am NOT very far, so I have to get it into gear like…yesterday!

Stay Witchy, my loves!

 

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