Review: Only a Monster (Monsters #1) by Vanessa Len

Only a Monster (Monsters, #1)Only a Monster by Vanessa Len
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Only a Monster is an engaging start to an all-new YA SFF trilogy. Admittedly, the first thing to attract my attention to this book was the gorgeous cover.

I’ve definitely fallen victim to the infamous cover buy on more than one occasion. Sometimes that works out and other times, not so much. I am happy to report, in this case, the content is just as fun as the cover.

This story follows 16-year old, Joan, who recently moved to London to live with her late-mother’s family, which includes an eccentric Grandmother and cousins.

Joan has secured a job she likes and has even managed to make a few friends. One of those friends is a handsome boy, Nick, who she happens to work with. When Nick asks Joan out on a date she’s so excited and nervous.

She’s been crushing on him for a while, so is elated that her feelings may be reciprocated.

As the date approaches, however, a wild and crazy thing happens to Joan, causing her to miss her date. That’s devastating, but worse than that, this event reveals the secret truth surrounding her family.

They’re monsters with hidden powers.

Part of their power is the ability to travel through time, which really throws Joan for a loop. It’s hard to wrap your mind around something like that out of nowhere.

Joan’s Grandmother had mentioned before that they were monsters, but Joan never took that seriously. She can’t believe it. Her world has been flipped upside down.

As the plot escalates, Joan finds herself under attack from a monster hunter, who happens to be the cute guy, Nick. Just her luck, am I right?

Joan is forced to pair up with Aaron, a boy from a rival monster family, to try to stop Nick and avenge their families.

I really enjoyed the world Len created here and am excited to see this narrative expanded upon in the next book. It was fast paced and ended up drawing me in a lot quicker than I anticipated.

I found the monster aspect of her family fascinating. They are never given a specific name, they are simply called monsters throughout, and I liked that obscurity.

Once you put a label on something, like zombie, werewolf or vampire, you put certain parameters around what those monsters can do. We all know what those creatures are supposed to be like, so to me it made sense for Len to write Joan’s family the way she did.

If I had to compare them to anything, I would say vampires would be the closest, but using time versus blood. If you’ve read Doctor Sleep this won’t be a foreign concept to you.

I did think the time travel element was done well. It was very interesting. There’s a lot covered in this book and I think it was a good foundation.

I definitely think there is still a lot of room to grow with this story and I am looking forward to seeing where Len goes with it.

I would recommend this to YA Readers, particularly if you like time travel, or a darker tone to your stories.

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Review: Castles in their Bones by Laura Sebastian

Castles in their Bones (Castles in their Bones, #1)Castles in their Bones by Laura Sebastian
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Castles in their Bones is the start of a YA Fantasy trilogy from beloved author Laura Sebastian.

This story follows three princesses, Sophronia, Daphne, and Beatriz, who have been raised by their mother, the Empress Margaraux, with one goal in mind: to one day reign over the entire continent of Vesteria.

The triplets are now 16-years old and ready to marry. They’ve had husbands selected for them pretty much since birth, whoever would be most advantageous as far as alliances go. You know how it is to be royalty.

What’s love got to do with it?

Margaraux has trained her girls in the arts of deception, seduction and violence. For their part, the girls have soaked it in. They know what they are supposed to do.

In spite of this, it’s going to be difficult. They’ve never been away from one another. Surviving on their own is something completely foreign to them.

As their adult lives begin, the girls face new challenges and new tests on their loyalties. They discover things as well, about the greater world around them, things they’ve maybe never taken into consideration before.

As you follow the ladies into these positions, you can actually feel their mother’s chess pieces moving on the board. The tension builds until you’re aren’t sure who you can trust. It was cleverly plotted. Well done by Sebastian!

I was really impressed with this. I went in expecting a fairly standard YA Fantasy, but this was anything but. I loved how intricate the scheming and plotting was.

Absolutely diabolical!

I really enjoyed all three of the girls. I loved getting to know them and watching each of their journeys as they moved to their future husband’s courts.

They ended up in vastly different circumstances and watching them navigate through the challenges they faced was so interesting. You could really see how the core of their personalities shaped the decisions they were making.

I found Daphne to be the character I personally connected with the most. I appreciated how she was able to keep her emotions at arms length from her tasks. She knew what she was there to do and she was really quite cunning about her interactions.

While this one started a little slowly, it definitely went out with a bang. I cannot believe how long I am going to have to wait for the continuation of this story.

How you play me like that, Laura Sebastian!?

The very final portion of this left me absolutely shook. It explained a lot and I am seriously at the edge of my seat with anticipation to get my hands on the next installment.

Thank you to the publisher, Delacorte Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. Bring on the sequel!

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Review: A Mirror Mended (Fractured Fables #2) by Alix E. Harrow

A Mirror Mended (Fractured Fables #2)A Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Mirror Mended is the second installment to Alix E. Harrow’s fairy tale-based novella series, Fractured Fables.

The first in the series, A Spindle Splintered, was such a delightful surprise for me when I picked it up last fall.

In that story we meet our protagonist, Zinnia Gray, who due to an industrial accident is left with a rare fatal condition. She’s told she won’t live to see her 22nd-birthday. In spite of this, or maybe because of this, Zinnia tries to live her life to the fullest.

Her best friend Charm, knowing this about her, decides on her 21st-birthday to throw Zinnia a Sleeping Beauty-themed party. It’s at that party, at the stroke of midnight, that Zinnia pierces her finger on a spinning wheel and first gets transported into another world.

It happens to be the world in which the real Briar Rose lives and the two women work together to try to halt their doomed fates.

In this installment, we find Zinnia still fixing fairly tales. She has traveled throughout the fairy tale multiverse always seeming to find herself in her comfort zone; Sleeping Beauty.

That’s why Zinnia is beyond shocked when she looks into the mirror one day and sees a face looking back at her. A beautiful, slightly evil face.

It seems Zinnia may be on to a whole new story, which just so happens to be one of my favorites, Snow White.

The Evil Queen has come seeking Zinnia’s help. She’s found out how her story ends and she is desperate for a better ending. Zinnia’s intrigued.

Not only is the Evil Queen beautiful, but as Zinnia gets to know her, she feels like maybe the Queen is a bit misunderstood. Zinnia wants to help, but will she be able too before the story ends for them both?

This installment was just as much fun as the first. I forgot how incredibly smart and witty the writing is. It hooked me in from the start.

I’m seriously obsessed with this series. I’m not sure exactly how long this series is slated to be, but I am hoping for many, many more. Zinnia Gray is life.

I would definitely recommend the audiobook format as well. The narrator really brings spirit to the story and breaths life into Zinnia. It’s completely immersive and fun.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. I can’t wait for whatever comes next!!

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Review: Murder, She Wrote: Killer on the Court by Terrie Farley Moran

Killer on the Court (Murder She Wrote, #55)Killer on the Court by Jessica Fletcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Another successful, murdery romp with Jessica Fletcher!

Killer on the Court is the 55th-installment of the long-running and much loved Murder, She Wrote series.

To say I am huge fan of this series would not be an exaggeration. This is actually the 39th-book that I have read in this series and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon.

Jessica Fletcher and Murder, She Wrote both are super nostalgic for me; bringing back great memories from my childhood. It makes me happy every time I pick up one up.

Terrie Farley Moran, the latest author to contribute to this series, has absolutely nailed the tone and feel of what comprises a MSW story.

In this latest mystery, Jessica travels from Cabot Cove to Rockaway Beach in New York for a holiday with her nephew, Grady, his wife, Donna and their son, Frank.

The Fletchers secured their beachside bungalow through Donna’s work, as her boss’s family owns multiple properties in the area.

On the very first full day of Jessica’s stay, as is known to happen, Donna discovers the dead body of her boss on the property’s tennis court.

The local police initially believe it was some sort of accident, a malfunctioning ball machine to blame, but Jessica’s not buying it.

She can’t help it. Her mind doesn’t like inconsistencies, so of course she gets involved. Jessica will get to the bottom of it.

I enjoyed this. I always love when Jessica travels and the beachside setting of this was rather relaxing, even with the murder.

I also always enjoy Grady and Donna. Frank on the other hand drives me a bit batty and I found his dialogue in this one a little far-fetched, but I digress.

Learning about the company that Donna works for and the family at the helm of that company was interesting. There were quite a few red herrings and I think Farley Moran did a great job building up the suspense.

I am really loving Farley Moran at the helm of this series and hoping she continues on for further installments. If you haven’t read any of the books in this series before, and love a Cozy Mystery, you can start anywhere, they do not need to be read in order.

If you see a synopsis that jumps out at you, give it a go. If you enjoy it, you have 54 more to try after that. Who knows, maybe you’ll catch up with me!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley, for providing me with a copy to read and review. Keep ’em coming please!!!

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Review: Seasonal Fears (Alchemical Journeys #2) by Seanan McGuire

Seasonal Fears (Alchemical Journeys, #2)Seasonal Fears by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Seasonal Fears is the long-awaited follow-up to Seanan McGuire’s tour de force of SFF, Middlegame. When I originally read Middlegame in May of 2019, I had the understanding that it was a standalone novel.

Since that time, to my complete delight, we have been blessed with two books from the companion series, The Up-and-Under, and now THIS!!!

Seanan McGuire has blessed the world with her words. Literally blessed; life-changing, jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring goodness. That’s the best way to describe The Alchemical Journeys

In this second installment, we follow two new main characters: Melanie and Harry. They’re a pair, much like Roger and Dodger from the first book, although Mel and Harry are not brother and sister.

Nevertheless, Melanie and Harry are two sides of the same coin. They’re also in love; teenagers completely devoted to one another.

Melanie and Harry are in high school, living somewhat normal lives. Melanie has a chronic illness and is expected to die at any moment, but besides that, somewhat normal.

When Melanie collapses one day at Harry’s football practice and Harry, athletic as heck, suddenly collapses right along with her, they realize their connection may run deeper than they even imagined.

Insight arrives with an unexpected guide who clues the pair in on the truth behind their lives and the greater world around them.

Together the couple, along with their new friend, set out on a journey, one full of dangers and intrigue, in order to meet the destiny they didn’t even know existed for them.

Seasonal Fears is just as enjoyably mind-boggling as Middlegame. I was in no way disappointed by this. I’ll also not pretend that I followed everything going on in this book.

I recently reread Middlegame in preparation for this release and discovered even more to love on that second time through. I have no doubt this will be the same and that’s right, I am already planning to reread this at some point.

This series is the type of epic, complex SFF that you have to be cautious not to get too mired down in the details. Yes, of course it is important to pay attention, but I wouldn’t take notes or anything.

Trust McGuire will deliver you to exactly where you need to be. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. Nothing more is required of you.

Just know you may feel a little out of control from time to time, like it’s losing you. Stay the course. You’ll make it, you’ll love it. McGuire doesn’t just create a world in these books, she develops a whole new cosmology. It’s stunning.

I have no idea if there will be more books in this series, I certainly hope so. I definitely need more alchemical journyes in my life. Yes, please!

Thank you to the publisher, Tor and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. I absolutely loved this. All the stars!!

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Review: Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

Alcatraz vs. the Evil LibrariansAlcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians is an uproariously funny, action-packed Middle Grade Fantasy story. I had an absolute blast reading this and actually finished it in a day.

This is the first installment of a currently 5-book series, with a 6th-book set to be released this September. While this story originally published in 2007, it is now being rereleased with updated covers.

Prior to receiving a copy of this, I actually had no idea that Brandon Sanderson even had a Middle Grade series. As a big fan of MG-stories, I was super pumped to make this discovery!

This one starts off with a hilarious Author’s Note that definitely set the tone for the entire book. The author talks directly to the Reader and gets them ready for a rollicking, totally true tale.

Alcatraz Smedry, our main character, is an orphan, who on his 13th-birthday receives an inheritance from his parents; a bag of sand.

Just his luck that a bag of sand would be all his parents actually left him. You quickly learn Alcatraz doesn’t have the best luck and has taken the art of breaking things to a whole new level.

The bag of sand, which would seem a harmless possession, actually ends up getting stolen by a cult of evil librarians who are seeking to take over the world by spreading misinformation.

Through a mysterious and unexpected visitor, Alacatraz is filled in on what the bag of sand actually is and schooled on the truth about the world. Like how a cult of evil librarians can even exist without anyone knowing about it.

Alcatraz and his visitor then set out on a quest to retrieve the sands and stop the evil librarians from achieving their goals, pairing up with some allies along the way.

This story was such a delight. The humor never stopped. Everything about it was written with such snark. I really enjoyed Sanderson’s commitment to keeping that tone the entire way through.

It’s wild and chaotic, over-the-top and enchanting. A nonstop thrill ride of good humor. I cannot wait to continue on with this series. I would love to join Alcatraz on as many adventures as I can.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Starscape, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I look forward to picking up the rest of the books!!

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Review: When the Crow’s Away (Evenfall Witches B&B #2) by Auralee Wallace

When the Crow's Away (Evenfall Witches B&B Mystery #2)When the Crow’s Away by Auralee Wallace
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When the Crow’s Away is the second book in Auralee Wallace’s bewitching Cozy Mystery series, Evenfall Witches B&B.

The first book, In the Company of Witches, was a great series starter and definitely left me wanting more.

These books follow Brynn Warren, who after the death of her husband, moves back into the B&B run by her Aunts, Nora and Izzy. The stated purpose is to help them run the place, but everyone quietly acknowledges that Brynn needs some time to heal surrounded by loved ones.

The Warren family have been a part of Evenfall for hundreds of years. There are whisperings around town, of course, that they are witches, but the Warrens do try hard to hide their true powers from the general public.

Brynn’s powers faded after she lost her husband, but have slowly been coming back to her. Brynn’s special power is that she can converse with the dead.

In this installment, Brynn is visited by the recently departed soul of local chocolatier, Mortimer Sweete. Mortimer insists he was murdered and he wants Brynn to find out who did it and help bring them to justice.

Mort has a suspect in mind, but as Brynn digs in, she discovers even more potential suspects. It appears Evenfall’s business community isn’t as quaint and peaceful as it first appears.

Auralee Wallace definitely knows how to write a Cozy. This was so fun, intriguing and cute. I loved getting to know more about Brynn’s family in this one. I am even more attached to this cast of characters now.

I absolutely love an amateur sleuth trope and this one is well done. Having Brynn’s Aunts help her out definitely added the perfect amount of light humor to this murder mystery.

The ending was so intriguing, setting us up perfectly for another installment. I sense a romance on the horizon. I can’t wait for the next book!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I am completely hooked on this series and plan to read any that are published!!

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Review: The Hawthorne Legacy (The Inheritance Games #2) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Hawthorne Legacy (The Inheritance Games, #2)The Hawthorne Legacy by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

The Hawthorne Legacy is the second installment in the hugely popular Inheritance Games series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.

This rags-to-riches inheritance mystery offers Readers a lot of riddles, a lot of intrigue and a lot of romantic drama. It’s like a tiny bit The Princess Diaries meets a lot of Knives Out.

This story follows Avery Grambs, who after the death of her mother, really struggled to get by. She moved in with her half-sister and was working hard just to complete high school. She dreams of a better life.

In an unbelievable turn of luck, Avery received word that eccentric billionaire, Tobias Hawthorne, has just passed, leaving Avery the vast majority of his fortune. The strangest part is, Avery has no idea who Tobias Hawthorne is. She’s never even met him.

The kink is that Tobias had a pretty big family that he has snubbed with his surprise bequeathment to Avery.

Now poor Avery has to live in Hawthorne Manor with the very same grandsons who were all but cut out of the elder Hawthorne’s will. That isn’t awkward at all.

While the first book, The Inheritance Game, gets you up to speed on all that, this second book builds on the mystery of Avery’s windfall, as well as a building of the relationships within her new world.

And keep in mind, this is an entirely new world for Avery. She is now in the realm of the uber-rich; the jet-setting elites who she has never interacted with before. With this comes a new set of challenges, including PR-issues, something Avery never would have thought of before.

If only that were her biggest issue though. Someone out there isn’t happy with Avery’s new found fortune and is willing to try anything to get her out of the picture. Permanently.

There’s also a bit of a love triangle happening. The Hawthorne family is full of handsome and charming young men, such a plus for our Avery.

Two of the boys in particular, Grayson and Jameson, are attracting a lot of her attention and thanks to the power of DNA-testing, it’s not creepy at all.

I had a lot of fun with this continuation. The Hawthorne Legacy may not be perfect, but it’s pretty freaking fun.

I need answers; so excited for the next book. Where’s this going from here!?

I am so intrigued with what the truth is behind this family. I love the continuation of the use of riddles and games, as well as Avery getting the chance to team up with the brothers to solve different aspects of the mystery.

I know a lot of Readers aren’t fans of love triangles, but I think this one is great. It’s not overplayed. It feels natural. There’s no catty fighting, or behind the scenes backstabbing. Avery is genuinely feeling a connection to both boys. Girl, I get it.

I’m so excited for August so I can get my hands on the third book. I need answers!!!

If you haven’t picked up this series yet, and love a fast-paced, fun-filled YA Mystery, you should absolutely start this series now. It’s completely addicting!

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Review: Hideout (Alice Vega #3) by Louisa Luna

Hideout (Alice Vega #3)Hideout by Louisa Luna
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Alice Vega, still kicking butt and taking names.

Hideout is the third book in Louisa Luna’s gritty Crime Thriller series, Alice Vega, featuring the badass people-finder of the same name.

In my opinion, the books in this series do not necessarily need to be read in order. In fact, I would argue they can also be read as standalones, however, you will be missing out on the gorgeous build-up of the relationship between Alice and her partner-from-afar, disgraced former cop, Max Caplan.

So, while they can be read any way you like, I would highly recommend starting at the beginning and proceeding from there. They’re all really good, so you should have a fantastic time catching up, at any rate.

After the conclusion of The Janes, which was set on the West Coast of the U.S., Max returns home to the East Coast battered and bruised. That was an extremely dangerous case for him and Vega both.

The two of them begin to settle back into their regular lives, Alice working missing persons cases and Max, most importantly fathering his daughter Nell, as well as performing his private investigative work.

Vega gets bored easy though, so when she is propositioned with an unusual case, finding a missing college football player last seen 30-years ago, she jumps on it.

Normally, Vega’s cases are very current and she’s battling a ticking clock, so this one is quite unusual. She begins her search where the man in question, Zeb Williams, was last seen. A small town in Oregon called Ilona.

As she begins to get to know some of the locals, Vega starts to understand this town may not be as sweet and pristine as it first appears. There’s a lot of dirty secrets and vicious inclinations hiding just under the surface; including an active branch of a white supremacist group.

Vega knows people are not being honest with her. She believes someone, maybe multiple someones, know what happened to Zeb. Additionally, she has a feeling the most powerful players in town may be involved.

Naturally, she calls Cap to bounce some ideas off of him. Well, really she wants his help, but Cap isn’t ready.

He has a lot going on in his own life, particularly struggling with the fact that his baby girl is almost a grown-up. He can’t drop everything and risk his life again just because Vega called.

I was really anticipating this release and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t vibe with this one quite as much as I did with the earlier books.

If you have read this, you may be able to predict what I am going to say, but for me, part of the magic of this series is the partnership between Alice and Max. Their personalities, as well as their strengths and weaknesses, compliment each other very well. It’s a solid investigative duo.

In this book, the vast majority of their interactions are long distance. This one is much more, Alice living her life on the West Coast and Max, living his life on the East.

Max is helping her only in minor ways. The case turns out to be extremely dangerous, and Alice, seemingly uncaring to risks, puts herself in incredibly nerve-wrenching circumstances. This woman seriously has a gut of steel. She’s not afraid of anything.

I do love Alice as a character for that very reason. She is extremely confident, but it’s because she works hard at it. She trains herself in body and mind and she knows she is prepared for anything. She knows she can perform even with her life on the line.

I also love Max. He has so many incredible qualities. I actually did really enjoy reading about his relationship with his daughter, Nell, in this one. She is a lot like him, which I think makes him really nervous!

My one hope is that in the next book of the series, which I am assuming there will be more, Max and Alice actually physically work the case together.

I feel like I am well and fully attached to these characters now. I definitely want to read more in this series. This one is really interesting. It’s a lot, but it’s intriguing.

I did like the backdrop of having the college football element. As a huge football fan, that was really fun. Something I don’t think I have ever read before in an Adult Mystery/Thriller.

Thank you to the publisher, Doubleday Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I really appreciate it and will be keeping my fingers crossed that we get more of Vega and Cap!!!

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Review: Payback’s a Witch (The Witches of Thistle Grove #1) by Lana Harper

Payback's a Witch (The Witches of Thistle Grove #1)Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

After she graduated from high school, Emmy Harlow, left her small town of Thistle Grove and moved to Chicago. Since that time, she really hasn’t been back.

She’s forged her own life in the city completely separate from her magical family in Thistle Grove. Perhaps, now is a good time to mention that Emmy is a witch.

During her time in Chicago, she’s felt her powers waning. Apparently, it’s important for her to remain somewhat tied to her magical roots.

With the approach of a traditional spell-casting tournament occurring in Thistle Grove, Emmy finally decides to return for an extended visit. Her parents will be so happy.

Emmy’s family normally acts as the arbiters for the competition and because of where she falls within the family line, it is her turn. She could have passed the duties on to her overzealous cousin, but Emmy feels like it is finally time for her to be involved.

Upon returning to town, it doesn’t take long for Emmy to be right back into the small town circle: gossip, run-ins with ex-boyfriends, flirting with old classmates, amongst other things.

We learn more about the reasons behind Emmy leaving town, more about her and her relationships with her family.

I love the trope of a character returning to their hometown after an extended absence. As someone who moved away from my own hometown as soon as I graduated high school, I can totally relate to those feelings.

When you go back, it’s so mixed. You’re from there, of there, but also, feel like you are out of place. Life moves on without you while you are away and it’s like learning about a whole new place once you finally do go back.

I really enjoyed that aspect of this book. Emmy being reintroduced to her roots and really reconnecting with the people she had left behind.

The tournament was interesting as well, although I could have used more of it. It’s basically like the Triwizard Tournament, but for the founding magical families of this town. I wish there would have been more of that aspect.

Unfortunately, I didn’t connect with the romance. I wanted to be interested, but I just didn’t care either way. It was fine, but I wasn’t sold on how quickly Emmy and Talia fell for one another. Also, I’m not really sure Gareth’s vices were worth the efforts the ladies went to in order to get back at him. Not to be mean but, get over it.

With all of this being said, this was a super cute story overall. I loved the town of Thistle Grove. It felt to me like an Adult version of The Babysitters Coven and I’m not mad about it. I will absolutely be continuing on with this series.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I am looking forward to returning to this town and this great cast of characters when the second book releases in May!

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