Review: The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf

The Overnight GuestThe Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

The Overnight Guest is the second novel I have read from Heather Gudenkauf. The first was This Is How I Lied, which I really enjoyed when I read it in 2020, ultimately giving it 3.5-stars and rounding up.

In this one, I feel like Gudenkauf’s writing is elevated to a whole new level!

Wylie Lark is a True Crime writer. In the course of her work, she frequently travels to the locations where the crimes she is writing about have taken place.

She currently finds herself alone, staying at a remote farmhouse where a brutal double homicide once occurred, with a vicious snowstorm bearing down on her.

As horrifying as this may sound to some, Wylie isn’t concerned. She’s got a fireplace and enough supplies to last her until the storm passes.

When her dog alerts her to something he has found just outside the house, Wylie expects it to be some sort of animal, who wasn’t able to find shelter in time and succumbed to the elements. What she doesn’t expect is for it to be a child, half-frozen and unresponsive.

As the truth of the child’s sudden appearance begins to be revealed, Wylie realizes she may not be as alone as she once thought.

Will she be able to protect the child, and herself, from the dangers lurking outside long enough to be able to reach help?

Y’all, this novel is intensely-gripping. It follows both Wylie’s present timeline, as well as the perspective and timeline of a girl who lived in the house at the time of the gruesome murders.

But that’s not all! There’s a third perspective of a child that is quite disturbing.

The way Gudenkauf paced out the reveals of each perspective, drawing them together into one unsettling conclusion, was so well done. It kept me completely engrossed.

There was some really creepy moments in this. Reading on my kindle, in the dark, while home alone, on the night of a windstorm, I’ll admit to being scared. I had to read something else for a bit just in order to be able to sleep that night.

I loved the In Cold Blood vibes I got from this. It wasn’t overdone, but felt like a respectful nod to that work.

Overall, I had a ton of fun reading this. It featured some of my favorite tropes and was fast-paced and exciting to read. I would definitely recommend this one.

Thank you to the publisher, Park Row Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I look forward to reading more from Gudenkauf!

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Review: Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

Sometimes I LieSometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Waking in a hospital bed, Amber Reynolds quickly realizes that she cannot move, she cannot speak, she cannot even open her eyes.

She can hear everything going on around her, but has no way to make her consciousness known.

She can let the Reader know three things, however: 1. Her name is Amber Reynolds, 2. Her husband doesn’t love her anymore, and 3. Sometimes she lies.

Somtimes I Lie is a taut Psychological Thriller that kept me entranced from beginning to end. This was Alice Feeney’s debut novel. Stunning.

First, I can’t believe it took me this long to pick it up. Second, I can definitely see why there has been buzz about Feeney from the very start. This was such a well-executed debut.

The narrative is broken into three perspectives: Amber’s thoughts whilst in her coma, her remembrances of the events leading up to the accident that put her in the hospital, and diary entries from 1992.

Along the way, you meet the various players in Amber’s life: her husband, sister, an ex-boyfriend, work colleagues, etc. No matter how many people I met, or how much information I seemed to be getting, it took a long time for the fog to begin to clear.

The portions where Amber is in her coma are genuinely terrifying. Just the thought of being in her shoes in those moments, it made me feel claustrophobic.

Additionally, her memories seem so muddled. I felt like I was squinting trying to see past the hazy details. It reminded me of watching a movie where the scenes are mostly dark and your just trying to see what’s there.

The pace continued to increase, as well as the intensity, as more and more about Amber’s past is revealed. There were some truly shocking moments.

I listened to this audiobook while traveling over Christmas holiday and honestly, I don’t think I could have chosen a better way to pass the time. It was fantastic.

I was so pleasantly surprised when I discovered that this story is actually set during Christmas time. That small detail just gave it a little something extra that I needed during my long and slightly stressful journey!

A little boost if you will.

I’m so glad I took the time to pick this one up. If you haven’t picked this up yet and have been enjoying Feeney’s newer releases, like I have, you should definitely give this one a shot.

Highly recommend, particularly the audiobook!

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Review: Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins

Reckless GirlsReckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

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After Lux follows her new love, Nico, to Maui, things do not necessarily go as the couple had initially planned. Their dreams of sailing the world on Nico’s boat, The Susannah, get derailed after a minor accident damages the hull.

Without money to do the repairs quickly, Lux ends up at a dead end job cleaning luxury hotels, while Nico slowly works at getting Susannah sea-worthy again.

At the boat yard one day, Nico is approached by two college-aged women, Amma and Brittany, whose charter boat had fallen through. They want to go to the deserted island of Meroe for a two-week, off the grid adventure.

They offer Nico a huge sum of money to take them there and back. He agrees, but only if Lux can come along as well. The more the merrier they claim, so a plan is developed.

The girls are able to pay, which is half the battle, so Nico has no problems repairing what he needs to in order for them to embark on their journey.

Before they know it, they are reaching Meroe, an island with a very dark past. Unfortunately, they aren’t the only people who wanted to unwind there, as there is a very attractive, obviously wealthy couple already anchored in the harbor.

Eliza and Jake, the wealthy couple, welcome the newcomers with open arms, even throwing a first night party. Their yacht, the Azure Sky, is obviously fully stocked for weeks of entertainment.

As the days pass, the group spend all of their time together and quickly bond. What an experience, am I right?

But when a creepy stranger arrives, the island becomes too crowded and tensions rise.

With this new tension, the original six begin to crack. As their extreme isolation becomes more evident, and secrets start to be revealed, it becomes clear that their island oasis is not the paradise they thought it was.

Reckless Girls is a slow burn. One I would argue is 100% worth it. Reflecting back on the story as a whole, I actually think it is perfectly paced.

After our traveling group gets to Meroe, meets up with Jake and Eliza, and the six begin to get to know one another, you sort of get lulled into a sense of relaxation.

There wasn’t much tension, or drama, at that point. Around the 40% mark, I thought, where is this going? It just felt like vacation.

Once one element was changed though, an additional person showing up at Meroe, things rapidly escalated from that point.

The tension continued to build, until the island felt extremely claustrophobic. I could feel it closing in around me and on the characters I had unknowingly become attached to. Things get crazy.

The way people were acting, it was almost like the island itself was driving people to the brink of madness. They were so separated from the real world, it was like rules no longer existed.

This was a wild ride. Once it started cranking, I couldn’t put it down. The twists, betrayals and shocking revelations kept me glued to the pages. I never would have guessed the ultimate conclusion and I had a lot of fun with it.

I think this is the perfect book to read while you dream of a tropical getaway. After this one, you may realize, your life isn’t so bad after all.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I had a blast with this one.

I can’t stop thinking about it!!

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Review: A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham

A Flicker in the DarkA Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

When Chloe Davis was 12-years old, her father was arrested for the kidnapping and murder of six teenage girls, based on evidence that Chloe herself had uncovered.

After her father was taken away, Chloe, her mother and her older brother, were left trying to put back together the pieces of their shattered lives.

It was rough. In their small Louisiana town the shroud of guilt was always upon them. They ended up moving to try to hide from the scandal.

People were suspicious of her Mom, that she possibly knew something she didn’t reveal. It wasn’t a good situation. Traumatic to say the least.

Twenty years later, Chloe is a psychologist working with young girls suffering through varying levels of trauma, like she did herself.

Chloe is also preparing for her wedding to Daniel, a man she has known for just a year.

Her brother, Cooper, thinks the marriage is too quick. He and Daniel have never been warm and fuzzy with one another.

That alone is stressful enough, but when local teen girls begin to go missing, one of them a patient of Chloe’s, she’s triggered into a really dark place; her past.

Chloe’s worked so hard to forget her childhood trauma; to move on and find a bit of happiness for herself in spite of all she’s been through. Now it seems the past has come back to haunt her.

The pattern of the current crimes isn’t just similar to that of her father’s. It’s identical. Is there a copycat working in Baton Rouge?

Before she knows it, Chloe finds herself steeped in the investigation. She needs to get to the bottom of it. It seems too close to home, like it’s intentional. Like this new killer is trying to draw her in.

Is Chloe paranoid and seeing connections where there aren’t any, or is she dangerously close to the truth?

A Flicker in the Dark is a hugely promising and intense debut. Willingham’s writing style is extremely fluid and fast-paced, sucking me in from the very first chapter.

I loved Chloe as a main character. Her flaws made her not just believable, but relatable. Her struggles were real. I felt them; the (view spoiler) being particularly impactful.

While I found certain aspects of the story toed the line of predictability, I nonetheless had a fun time reading it.

If this is her debut, I predict a long and successful career in Willingham’s future. I definitely plan to be following along.

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

This is a great book. One that every Mystery/Thriller Fan should pick up!

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Review: Nanny Needed by Georgina Cross

Nanny NeededNanny Needed by Georgina Cross
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

When Sarah Larsen finds a job posting in the lobby of her building from a wealthy family looking for a nanny, she thinks it may be just the break she needs to get out of debt.

Sure, it says, special conditions apply, which is a little suspicious, but she’s never going to make headway in her bills with just her waitressing gig.

Applying for the job, she can hardly believe it when she makes it through to the interview stage.

Even more unbelievable is the family home, a penthouse on the Upper West Side. This is exactly what she needs and she gets it!

The Bird family is extremely wealthy and cherish their privacy, therefore, Sarah is required to sign an NDA, which she doesn’t think too much about.

The pay, the work hours, the minimal job requirements, it all seems a little too good to be true. And y’all know, if it seems that way, it’s because it is!

It doesn’t take long on the new job before Sarah realizes something is very off with the Birds. Very, very off.

Although the other members of staff aren’t completely willing to talk with her about the family, the little she is able to pick up indicates there have been a few nannies before her, the last one departing suddenly.

What happened to them? What would make them leave such a seemingly prestigious placement?

Nanny Needed is one wild ride. Getting to meet the Bird family was quite the jaw dropping experience. Oh wow, the secrets we keep.

Sarah got into it deep. I can’t believe how long she stayed into it, but there we go. Throughout it all, I was hooked, I’ll admit it, like a moth to a flame.

Rich people drama is a trope I love. While this was a bit far-fetched, it still kept me entertained. Particularly the second-half, which I read it one sitting.

I think if you are looking for a fun, fast-paced, Lifetime movie-type read, this would be a good one to pick up. Even though it most likely won’t be super memorable for me, it kept me engaged the entire time I was reading and that’s a great thing!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Bantam, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I definitely look forward to picking up more from this author!

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Review: The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell

The Night She DisappearedThe Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

In 2019, 19-year old Tallulah heads out on a date with her live-in boyfriend, Zach. The young couple have a beautiful baby boy, Noah, so don’t get to spend a lot of time alone together.

Kim, Tallulah’s Mom, who the kids live with, is happy to sit Noah for the night. Tallulah works so hard going to college and being a Mom, she deserves a nice night out.

Later that night, Kim receives a text from Tallulah that she is heading to the home of one of her friend’s from college. Kim tells her to enjoy. She’s happy Tallulah is letting loose for once.

But as the sun rises the next day and Tallulah still isn’t home, Kim begins to worry. Not returning home, and not notifying Kim as to why, is far from typical behavior for rule-following Tallulah.

Calling Tallulah’s friends, Kim quickly discovers no one knows where she is. Now Kim knows for sure, she feels it in her gut, something has happened to Tallulah.

In 2018, Sophie moves with her boyfriend, Shaun, to the campus of a boarding school in Tallulah’s hometown, where he will be the new head teacher.

Sophie, a Murder Mystery writer by trade, learns early on of some local missing persons cases and becomes interested.

After she finds what appears to be a clue to one of those cold cases, she begins her own investigation. The case in question, that of Tallulah and Zach.

This intriguing mystery novel follows multiple perspectives as past and present begin to merge. I was gripped from the very first chapter. Jewell immediately pulled me in.

My fabulous niece, Alyssa, and I actually Buddy Read this one together. We had a great time discussing various theories and plot points along the way.

The way Jewell structured this was so clever. Getting Tallulah’s perspective, in addition to Kim’s and Sophie’s, it built-out the truth of Tallulah’s ill-fated night on the town in such an interesting way.

I loved Tallulah as a character. She seemed so real to me. What she was going through, feeling and experiencing in early motherhood and with her relationship with Zach, it was very compelling and I felt myself growing quite attached to her.

Getting to know her friend group and the various players involved in the disappearance was extremely addicting. There were some bad actors, that’s for sure.

Sophie’s investigation also drew me in. Y’all know, an amateur sleuth is one of my favorite tropes in a mystery. Sophie was believable in that role and I loved the fact that she was actually an author of Mystery books.

Additionally, this one kept me guessing until the very end, which is never a bad thing.

I would say, thus far, this is my favorite Jewell to date. There were a few parts where I felt the pace dragging just a little, hence why I couldn’t give it a full 5-stars, but overall, this is a sensationally fun Mystery!

I would definitely recommend all Mystery Lovers add this one to their TBR!!

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Review: Survive the Night by Riley Sager

Survive the NightSurvive the Night by Riley Sager
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

After Charlie’s best friend, Maddy, is murdered, Charlie feels an overwhelming need to flee campus. Even though it’s alleged that Maddy was killed by an active serial killer dubbed, The Campus Killer, Charlie isn’t leaving because she fears for her life.

She’s leaving because she’s haunted by guilt. No one knows of the fight she and Maddy had on the night Maddy was killed. The last words that Charlie said to her; how hurtful they were. Charlie is drowning with regrets.

Charlie’s boyfriend offers to give her a ride home to Ohio, but Charlie doesn’t see the point. She hasn’t shared with him that she really doesn’t plan on returning to campus.

Plus, due to his schedule, she’d have to wait a few days and Charlie is desperate to leave now, so she does what any carless college coed would have done in the 90s and scans the ride share board.

As luck would have it, a driver seeking a rider, also going to Ohio, approaches the board while Charlie is searching and starts to chat.

He’s a handsome guy and appears harmless, so the two make a plan to leave the following night. He says his name is Josh and he seems legit; Charlie’s feeling confident in her choice.

But as their journey begins, in the dark of night, Charlie begins to second guess her choice and grows suspicious of Josh’s unsettling behavior.

What follows is a 6-hour drive over otherwise empty roads, in a claustrophic stress zone as Charlie tries to detremine if her ride share driver is actually The Campus Killer coming to finish her off.

It’s clear from the reception of this novel that Sager took a risk with this one. It does read differently to his previous stories, but for me, it totally worked.

I absolutely loved the film noir quality of the narrative. I have mentioned in a previous review of Sager’s work that he must be a Hitchcock fan; this definitely sealed my belief in that.

It legitimately felt like a Hitchcock movie and obviously the origin of Charlie’s name was a nod to the influential filmmaker.

I loved the tone and suspense of this one; the action, scene, cut-feel. It drew me in and kept me engaged the entire way through. It read like a movie; vivid and tense.

It gets wacky, I’m not going to lie, but that didn’t hamper my enjoyment one bit. Overall, I am happy to sit in the minority opinion on this one.

I found the construction of the story to be incredibly clever; the insular nature of the narrative, the build in intensity, the epilogue, I loved it and am not ashamed to admit it.

As always, I’m really excited to see what Sager comes up with next!!

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Review: Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney

Rock Paper ScissorsRock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Rock Paper Scissors, Feeney examines the age-old question, how well do you know the one you love?

After Amelia wins a mystery weekend away at a historic chapel in the Scottish Highlands, she thinks it may be just what she and her husband, Adam, need to spice up their marriage. Amelia feels like they need some time, and distance from his work, to reconnect.

Surprisingly, Adam agrees and the two set off. The weather isn’t great and rapid snowfall makes the travel difficult.

By the time they, and their sweet dog, Bob, have made the very long journey, everyone is going stir crazy in the car. Arriving at the chapel, they’re taken aback by how isolated it is. There’s literally nothing around as far as the eye can see.

It’s at this point, the couple begin to recognize just how peculiar this entire holiday actually is. Who did she win this trip from again?

The lodgings are strange, eerie and ominous. With the weather getting worse, tension among the couple continues to rise. This is definitely not going as they expected. The power source is questionable and at the rate the snow continues to fall, they may not be able to get out.

Told between alternating perspectives, as well as through annual anniversary letters, the truth of their frightening holiday in the Highlands, as well as their marriage, begins to come to light.

Y’all, Feeney dropped the mic on writing a suspenseful Thriller with this one!

I enjoyed this so much. From the very first chapter I was hooked. Feeney’s clever plotting and magnificent twists kept me glued to the pages. I had to know the truth; who was lying and why?

There was a dark tone glistening just along the surface. I knew it went deeper than what I was getting. The reveals were perfectly paced; what a treat!

This did have quite a few tropes I tend to enjoy, but they came as surprises to me. I don’t even think I read the synopsis prior to picking this up. I saw, Alice Feeney, printed on the cover and that was enough.

If you are fan of things such as isolated locations, creepy houses, hidden secrets, marital strife, jaw-dropping plot twists, characters who are authors and people being stranded places, you should absolutely check this one out!!!

Also, I was impressed with the character work. All of the main characters were just so interesting and besides some lightly-sprinkled craziness, were all quite unique.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Flatiron Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I have already bought a finished copy for my shelves.

One of the best Thrillers of the year!!!

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Review: The Family Plot by Megan Collins

The Family PlotThe Family Plot by Megan Collins
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars**

After Dahlia Lighthouse’s father passes away, she returns to her family’s isolated island mansion for his burial. She hasn’t been there for many years and still struggles with the memories of her bizarre childhood.

Weighing heaviest on her heart is the disappearance of her beloved twin brother, Andy, when they were 16-years old. It’s assumed he ran away, but hasn’t been seen, or heard from, since. Every moment on the island is a painful reminder of that loss.

Reuniting with her older siblings, Tate and Charlie, as well as with her Mom, feels surreal. She can barely interact with them at all. It’s so awkward.

As the narrative plods along, the truly odd nature of Dahlia and her sibling’s upbringing comes to light. Her parents were unnaturally obsessed with murderers and their victims, even going so far as to include murder history within the curriculum of their home schooling.

The serial killer who hunted on their very island, dubbed the Blackburn Killer, was of particular interest to them; performing peculiar memorial ceremonies to commemorate the victims on their birth and death days. It’s no wonder Dahlia was hesitate to return to all of that.

On the day they are set to bury her Dad in the family plot, they discover another body already in the ground. It appears to be Andy, dead due to blunt force trauma to the head. The suspected murder weapon, Andy’s own axe, is found in the grave with him.

If Andy didn’t run away, what happened to him? Could he be yet another victim of the Blackburn Killer, even though he doesn’t fit with the other victim profiles?

Dahlia needs to get to the bottom of the mystery, even if it unearths a lot of other messy family secrets along the way.

I’m not sure why this didn’t really work for me. It has a lot of elements that I tend to enjoy, such as an isolated location, small town secrets, family drama, murder and adult characters returning to their hometown after an extended absence. However, I can’t say there was ever a moment while reading that I was actually enjoying it.

I’m sorry if that seems harsh, but it’s true. I can see glimmers of a good story underneath, I know some Readers will enjoy it, but for me, it was too much. It felt like the author took everything dark and murderous she could think of, threw it at the page, and hoped something would stick.

I didn’t find it mysterious, or ominous. The atmosphere wasn’t distinct enough. The reveals weren’t surprising. They actually seemed rather obvious. I just didn’t care and couldn’t believe half of the decisions, choices and actions of any of the characters.

It did read extremely quickly, so that’s a thing. I think overall, perhaps this author’s writing style isn’t for me. This is my first book by Collins and I can’t say I’m overly pumped to try anything else.

Thank you to the publisher, Atria Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. Although this didn’t work for me, I appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion and I’m sure a lot of Readers will have fun with this story.

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Review: We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz

We Were Never HereWe Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

When Emily met Kristen in college, she was immediately drawn in by the other girl’s confidence and bold personality. The two hit it off and became best friends.

Years later, even though they live on different continents, the women are still best friends; two peas in a pod. One way they maintain their close relationship, is by traveling together to remote locations around the world. Last year was Cambodia. This year, it’s Chile.

On the final night in Chile, something truly terrible happens. Kristen had headed back to their suite a little early with a cute backpacker they met in a bar. Emily, as a good friend, stayed away for a while to give the two time to be alone.

When Emily does arrive back at the suite, she walks into a horrible mess. Blood, broken glass and a very dead backpacker. Kristen is extremely distraught, saying he attacked her and she hit him in self-defense.

Emily takes control and they do what they have to do in order to get out of the country unscathed. It feels surreal, Emily cannot believe what has happened, mainly because it isn’t the first time.

Their magical trip to Cambodia ended much the same way. Kristen claiming self-defense and both of them cleaning up a giant mess.

Back in Wisconsin, Emily is drowning in guilt. Repetitive thoughts and hazy recollections of the two infamous trips are constantly running through her mind.

She’s having a difficult time putting it in the past and is surprised at how easily Kristen is coping with it all. While Emily is distracted, both at work and in her new relationship with Aaron, Kristen seems to be her normal, carefree self.

When Kristen shows up in Wisconsin for a surprise visit from Australia, Emily is shocked. She’s starting to see her BFF in a whole new light and it’s not flattering.

The tighter Kristen tries to hold onto their friendship, the more Emily begins to feel like she’s trapped. How well does she really know Kristen? What is she truly capable of?

As secrets of Kristen’s past come to light, due to stealthy digging on Emily’s part, it becomes clear that her best friend may not be who she thinks she is.

We Were Never Here is a tense and twisty tale of Suspense. I had fun reading this one, although in my opinion, the pace was a little uneven.

The beginning was great. It kicks of quickly and the stakes are incredibly high. As a person who travels every year with my best friend, I couldn’t even imagine having something happening to us, like what happened to Emily and Kristen in Cambodia. It’s frightening to even think about.

After Chile, it’s clear, something is off with the besties. As the synopsis says, could lightening really strike twice?

Once Emily returns to Wisconsin, I felt like the tense tone was ripped right out from under me. I was bored with being in Emily’s head; her repetitive musings seemed to go on forever.

However, once Kristen arrives, things slowly began to pick back up. I enjoyed the mystery of Kristen’s background and Emily’s sleuthing was definitely an element I appreciated.

The ending was absolutely wild, like WHAT!? The intensity returning with a vigor. We’re talking Lifetime movie levels of drama unfolding. It was definitely fun!

In short, while the pace wasn’t perfect for me, overall, I thought this was a compelling, over-the-top tale of codependent friendship. I am still thinking about and I consider that a great sign; it’s memorable. Kristen, in particular, was a great character!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Ballantine Books, for providing me a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion!

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