Friday, July 21, 2017

#SRC2017 Book Spotlight: American Family by Catherine Marshall-Smith

Title: American Family
Author: Catherine Marshall-Smith
Published: June 2017, She Writes Press
Format: Paperback, 360 pages
Richard and Michael, both three years sober, have just decided to celebrate their love by moving in together when Richard driven by the desire to do the right thing for his ten-year-old-daughter, Brady, whom he has never met impulsively calls his former father-in-law to connect with her. With that phone call, he jeopardizes the one good thing he has his relationship with Michael and also threatens the world of the fundamentalist Christian grandparents who love Brady and see her as payback from God for the alcohol-related death of her mother. Unable to reach an agreement, the two parties hire lawyers who have agendas far beyond the interests of the families and Brady is initially trusted into Richard and Michael s care. But when the judge learns that the young girl was present when a questionable act took place while in their custody, she returns Brady to her grandparents. Ultimately, it s not until further tragedy strikes that both families are finally motivated to actually act in the best interests of the child.

What readers are saying: 

"A nuanced portrait of what it means to be a family, with a bit of melodrama but plenty of heart." ―Kirkus Reviews

"A poignant literary pageant of custody battles, alchoholism, religious restraint and family turmoil, this tremendously moving read will leave you in bouts of feels all summer long." ―Redbook

"An emotionally gripping read that explores the deepest of cracks in a dysfunctional family, this poignant book belongs in the hands of every parent this summer." ―Working Mother

"This emotionally gripping tale about a gay man who must battle his way to sobriety and convince his ex father-in-law he is worthy of a relationship with his 10-year-old daughter will leave every dad moved. If you want your gift to finally induce your dad to weep in your presence, this might be your chance." ―Popsugar

"When Richard confronts his daughter’s fundamentalist Christian grandparents for a second chance at fatherhood, the most emotionally harrowing and heavy family drama of 2017 unfolds. Be sure you pack tissues in the glove compartment." ―Brit+Co

"A heartbreaking and emotionally riveting reading experience that reminds readers that most every American family has its dysfunctional ghosts. This explosive novel will add drama to your summer from Page 1."  ―SheKnows 


American Family  by Catherine Marshall-Smith is one of  BookSparks "Summer Reads" reading selection picks. 
 Follow the #SRC2017 hashtag on twitter to read reviews on this book as well as reviews on the other summer books! Also, be sure to check out the BookSparks Facebook page for the #SRC2017  and other fun links. You can participate in weekly secret missions for chances to win signed copies of selected books and more! There's a new secret mission each week :)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Review: Bring Her Home by David Bell

Title: Bring Her Home
Author: David Bell
Published: July 2017, Berkley Books
Format: ARC E-copy, 464 pages 
Source: Netgalley via Publisher
In the breathtaking new thriller from David Bell, bestselling author of Since She Went Away and Somebody I Used to Know, the fate of two missing teenage girls becomes a father's worst nightmare....

Just a year and a half after the tragic death of his wife, Bill Price's fifteen-year-old daughter, Summer, and her best friend, Haley, disappear. Days later, the girls are found in a city park. Haley is dead at the scene, while Summer is left beaten beyond recognition and clinging to life.

As Bill holds vigil over Summer's bandaged body, the only sound the unconscious girl can make is one cryptic and chilling word: No. And the more time Bill spends with Summer, the more he wonders what happened to her. Or if the injured girl in the hospital bed is really his daughter at all.

When troubling new questions about Summer's life surface, Bill is not prepared for the aftershocks. He'll soon discover that both the living and the dead have secrets. And that searching for the truth will tear open old wounds that pierce straight to the heart of his family...

My thoughts: This is the second book I've read now by David Bell and the second book I've loved! He is quickly becoming a favorite author of mine - one I know I can rely on for a good mystery that will keep me engaged and hooked from start to finish with a unique story line and fresh, compelling characters. 

This latest book from David Bell was without a doubt one of the best books I've read in a while in that it was uniquely written from the father's point of view and only told from his point of view. There were no other view points. Don't get me wrong - we still meet a whole cast of characters - just all from Bill's point of view - and this is just brilliant. It just makes sense as you read it. You feel his pain as he learns that his daughter is missing and then all that comes after. It's's's's heartbreaking. You feel his grief, you feel his anger,  you feel all his emotions as he deals with everything.

This book slowly pulls you in right from the start and doesn't let up until the very end. It's a roller coaster of a ride, believe me, as there are quite a few shocking twists that occur. And with the short chapters, you find yourself saying - oh just one more chapter, until you are at the end. 

For the most part, this story is told linearly - it moves forward with little of the story going back in time. That's a bit refreshing for me, for as much as I do like dual narratives, it's nice to read a story that is just told straight forward! 

I cannot wait to read more of David Bell's novels. I do have a few of his back list that I plan to read soon and of course, I will be anxiously awaiting his next novel...he is definitely on my auto-read list!!!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

#SRC2017 Book Review: Eden by Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg (audio)

Title: Eden
Author: Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg
Narrator: Marnye Young
Published: May 2017, Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg / She Writes Press
Length: 9 hours 56 minutes / 336 pages
Source: Personal copy via Audible / Netgalley via Publisher

Becca Meister Fitzpatrick—wife, mother, grandmother, and pillar of the community—is the dutiful steward of her family’s iconic summer tradition . . . until she discovers her recently deceased husband squandered their nest egg. As she struggles to accept that this is likely her last season in Long Harbor, Becca is inspired by her granddaughter’s boldness in the face of impending single-motherhood, and summons the courage to reveal a secret she was forced to bury long ago: the existence of a daughter she gave up fifty years ago. The question now is how her other daughter, Rachel—with whom Becca has always had a strained relationship—will react.

Eden is the account of the days leading up to the Fourth of July weekend, as Becca prepares to disclose her secret and her son and brothers conspire to put the estate on the market, interwoven with the century-old history of Becca’s family—her parents’ beginnings and ascent into affluence, and her mother’s own secret struggles in the grand home her father named “Eden.”

My thoughts: This is Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg's debut novel and I found myself totally invested in this family saga from start to finish. And the way the author skillfully used the house, Eden, as an anchor, was just brilliant. Oh how I would love to live at Eden - or at least visit it for a while!

The book moves back and forth in time, introducing us to a cast of characters, a group of women who are equally strong and complex. They all have their issues and it was interesting how the author used the issues of the day to help tell her story. This book spans so many decades that there are so many issues relevant to each of the pertinent time periods. Hiding diagnoses of epilepsy, sending single pregnant young girls away, keeping diagnoses of depression hidden - these were all dealt with very differently than they are today and JMB kept true to the standards of the time period she was writing in.

The book pulls you in to this multigenerational family saga, weaving back and forth with a thread that connects the two. Just as we start to find out something in the present, the story moves back to the past. There are definitely secrets here - almost everyone is hiding something - and ever so slowly these secrets come to light. This just goes to show that all families - no matter the status or the wealth - has secrets!

This book will make you think and feel. It's emotional and as you read about what these women go will make you think what choices you would make were you in that position. You will also find yourself thinking about these characters when you are not reading this book - I haven't stopped thinking about them since I finished the book...these are memorable characters! The relationships that JMB has created between them are authentic and relatable. 

I really enjoyed this book and cannot wait to see what comes next from Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg!

Audio thoughts:
This is the first time I've listened to Marnye Young and I thought she did a great job! There were so many characters and Marnye was able to give each one their own unique voice and personality. Her inflections and pacing were great and I will definitely be looking to see what else she has narrated.

Eden  by Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg is one of  BookSparks "Summer Reads" reading selection picks. 
 Follow the #SRC2017 hashtag on twitter to read reviews on this book as well as reviews on the other summer books! Also, be sure to check out the BookSparks Facebook page for the #SRC2017  and other fun links. You can participate in weekly secret missions for chances to win signed copies of selected books and more! There's a new secret mission each week :)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Review: The Breakdown by B.A. Paris

Title: The Breakdown
Author: B.A. Paris
Published: July 2017, St. Martin's Press
Format: ARC Paperback, 336 pages
Source: Publisher

If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

My thoughts: Last year, one of my most favorite and anticipated reads was B.A. Paris's debut novel, Behind Closed Doors. So of course I was ecstatic when I got an early copy of her second book, The Breakdown, and even had the opportunity to meet her in person during BookExpo this year at a luncheon for bloggers. 

This is another psychological thriller that had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. It just gets under your skin. But, I think it really is one of those books where the less you know about it going into it, the better. So, forgive me for being a bit vague in my review - I definitely don't want to give anything away for anyone and ruin their reading experience!

The pacing of this book is will have you flipping the pages as you try to figure out what is going on. There are a lot of factors at play here - anticipation of what you think might be going on, mistrust of just about everyone you meet, and the coming apart of our protagonist. It's exhausting - not only for her, but for you as you try to put the pieces together. You feel as if you are on a rollercoaster with all that is going on.

This book is so good - it's addictive and while you might put some of the pieces together, it's still worth the read. I loved it from start to finish and I cannot wait to see what comes next from B.A. Paris...she is definitely an author on my must-read list now!!!

Review: Last Breath by Robert Bryndza (audio)

Title: Last Breath
Author: Robert Bryndza
Series: Detective Erika Foster, #4
Narrator: Jan Cramer
Published: April 2017, Bookouture
Length: 9 hours 5 minutes
Source: Personal copy via Audible

He’s your perfect date. You’re his next victim.

When the tortured body of a young woman is found in a dumpster, her eyes swollen shut and her clothes soaked with blood, Detective Erika Foster is one of the first at the crime scene. The trouble is, this time, it’s not her case.

While she fights to secure her place on the investigation team, Erika can’t help but get involved and quickly finds a link to the unsolved murder of a woman four months earlier. Dumped in a similar location, both women have identical wounds – a fatal incision to their femoral artery.

Stalking his victims online, the killer is preying on young pretty women using a fake identity. How will Erika catch a murderer who doesn’t seem to exist?

Then another girl is abducted while waiting for a date. Erika and her team must get to her before she becomes another dead victim, and, come face to face with a terrifyingly sadistic individual.

Gripping, tense and impossible to put down, Last Breath will have you on the edge of your seat, racing to the final dramatic page.

My thoughts: This is the 4th book in Robert Bryndza's Detective Erika Foster series and I absolutely love this's dark and twisted and each book keeps me on my toes the entire time! Each book leaves me breathless and desperately wanting to get my hands on the next one.

One of my favorite parts of this series is the character development we get throughout, which is why I think it is so important to read this series in order! You really get to know not only Erika, but her team as well. I think Robert really shines in this area - he has gone to great lengths to build up these characters and continues to do so with each book. 

In this latest book, Erika who has been removed from the Murder Investigation Team, manages to finagle things so that she is Senior Investigating Officer on the latest murder case and is able to hand-pick her team...and obviously picks Moss, Peterson, Crane and McGorry - the usual gang! I love this - this is such an Erika move!!! 

Early on in the book, we find out who the killer is, so most of the book is actually spent watching Erika and her crazy tactics in trying to catch said killer. She is sometimes upstoppable - willing to go to any means necessary at times for results. By knowing who the killer is, we the reader are able to get inside his head - which is quite frightening.

This book is nonstop full of action and will leave you breathless so many times, especially the last quarter of the book! There are quite a few twists and turns and the tension is high throughout. It's one of my favorite series and now I am counting the days til the next book comes out...

Audio thoughts: Jan Cramer is just brilliant with this narration - she does such a great job with these voices, making these characters come alive. I love listening to her and love listening to this series! Please, please, please continue to narrate this series for as long as it goes on - to me, you are Erika Foster and the rest of the gang!!!

Books in this series: 

  1. The Girl in the Ice
  2. The Night Stalker
  3. Dark Water 
  4. Last Breath 
  5. ???

Sunday, July 16, 2017

#FitReaders: Weekly Check-in Jul 14

I seem to have found a good routine and it is working...good workouts, good meals, and I'm feeling good - so I must be doing something right!!! We leave for our beach vacation in 3 weeks and I am really looking forward to it. I just hope the weather cooperates :)
July Goals: 

  • 10K steps M-F, at least 7,500 steps on the weekend  - 5/5, 2/2
  • 30 minutes of active walking every day, M-F - 5/5 (thank goodness for having to walk the dogs everyday!)
  • Strength training (3/5 days) - Met
  • Eat mindfully/eat enough - Yes
Here's how last week went:    
Jul  8:  11,373 steps
Jul  9:  10,234 steps

Jul 10:  18,808 steps (5K+ -  5 Charity Miles for Girls on the Run)   
Jul 11:  12,193 steps
Jul 12:  16,713 steps (5K+ -  5 Charity Miles for Girls on the Run)

Jul 13:  17
,749 steps
(5K+ -  5 Charity Miles for Girls on the Run)
Jul 14:  14
,970 steps (5K+ -  5 Charity Miles for Girls on the Run)

Total Steps: 102,040 steps

Audiobooks listened to last week (since I'm not much of a music fan, I listen to books while I walk):
  • Started and finished The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian, narrated by Cady McClain & Grace Experience
  • Started and finished The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson, narrated by Joshilyn Jackson
  • Started The Good Widow by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke, narrated Dara Rosenberg

How did your week go? You can find this week's link-up here.

Virtual 5K /10K Tally:
     January:                               May:                             September:   
           5K  -  4                                  5K  -  5                                5K  - 
         10K  -  7                                10K  -  6                               10K  - 
     February:                             June:                            October:

           5K  -  4                                  5K  -  10                               5K  - 
         10K  -  9                                10K  -  2                              10K  -   
     March:                                  July:                             November:
           5K  -  3                                  5K  -  8                                 5K  - 
         10K  -  7                                10K  -  0                               10K  - 
     April:                                    August:                        December:
           5K  -  9                                  5K  -                                    5K  - 
         10K  -  1                                 10K  -                                  10K  -

Friday, July 14, 2017

#SRC2017 Book Spotlight: A Work of Art by Micayla Lally

Title: A Work of Art
Author: Micayla Lally
Published: May 2017, She Writes Press
Format: Paperback, 256 pages
Letting go after her abrupt break-up with Samson is harder than Julene thought it would be, especially since her ex has wasted no time in burying himself in the local dating scene. But during an extended visit to her parents overseas, Julene rediscovers her love of art, and a burgeoning career develops. Samson, on the other hand, after trying valiantly--and unsuccessfully--to forget Julene, has settled instead on his own new career. 

When Julene returns home to Australia, a coincidental meeting leads to an emotional reunion--but her love and patience will be tested when she finds out just how busy Samson has been in her absence. Yes, they have both made mistakes they can work through and move past--but when a specter from Samson's past looms, Julene wonders: Can she trust him again?

What readers are saying: 

"Romantics should enjoy watching this feisty couple rediscover their love for each other, work through their differences, and start over again with their new baby.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A darling celebration of forgiving and the intricacies of communication, this stunning adventure is the chick lit event of the year.” —PopSugar

“An endlessly charming story about second chances, A Work of Art explores the question we’ve all asked ourselves: is true love worth a second chance?” —Redbook

" A Work of Art by Micayla Lally takes the unusual tack of beginning the story at the end of a relationship. As she paints a renewed love that rises from the ashes of the old, Lally draws two imperfect characters who are growing into the people they need to be. The question is whether their new love is strong enough to survive the mistakes of their past." —Maren Anderson, author of Fuzzy Logic and Closing the Store

"Forget Samson and Delilah, take a romp with Samson and Julene in Lally's witty, whimsical debut. A great escapist pleasure, Lally's sassy, Aussie voice shines, drawing readers in to this gem of a romance that keeps you guessing until the very end." —Jennifer Hillman-Magnuson, author of the award winning travel memoir Peanut Butter & Naan: Stories of an American Mom in the Far East

"A Work of Art is a sweet and sassy look at what happens when couples don’t communicate." —Valerie Ihsan, author of The Scent of Apple Tea

Micayla Lally’s A Work of Art is a delightful romp through modern-day Adelaide’s art world. Samson and Julene are a sexy, funny, quirky couple who struggle to discover who they are and what they really mean to each other, especially when they discover that another little person is on the way. A perfect book-club selection, it is Chick Lit at its best! Highly entertaining! —Michelle Cox, author of The Henrietta and Inspector Howard series

“A fresh and literary spin on traditional chick lit. Micayla Lally has written an engaging, thoughtful story that gives hope to anyone who has ever wished for a second chance.” —Katie Oliver, author of the Jane Austen Factor series

"Micayla’s book is a lighthearted journey that follows the intricacies of a relationship…[A Work of Art] is a playful, easy to read romance story.” —Jann Hill, watercolour and collage artist, Australia

"I was hopeful when A Work of Art appeared in the post. The cover is gorgeous and the blurb intriguing so expectations were high. In short, I wasn't disappointed. Lally makes you like her characters with her frank, engaging style, then runs you through the wringer along with them before leaving you satisfied. I can't say too much without giving away the plot but I will say that I read this book in one sitting and will definitely be revisiting it again. Fans of Liane Moriarty should love this one. I certainly did." —Georgina Penney, author of The Barbershop Girl

"Sexy and a pleasure to read, this is not your typical chick lit. A Work Of Art demonstrates how relationships can get complicated fast. This story of modern love adeptly shows us how the quirky and sympathetic characters of Samson, Julene and the triangulated Victoria navigate pregnancy, career, love, sex and family dynamics all within the vibrancy of Adelaide, Australia. Ms. Lally’s writing lends itself to our understanding of their stories – we feel deeply for each of them. The perfect book club read. I look forward to more from Ms. Lally." —Dr. Kat Van Kirk, licensed sex and marriage therapist

"An emotional, hearty debut and perfect spring read, A Work of Art will hopelessly charm every soul-searcher." —Brit + Co 


A Work of Art  by Micayla Lally is one of  BookSparks "Summer Reads" reading selection picks. 
 Follow the #SRC2017 hashtag on twitter to read reviews on this book as well as reviews on the other summer books! Also, be sure to check out the BookSparks Facebook page for the #SRC2017  and other fun links. You can participate in weekly secret missions for chances to win signed copies of selected books and more! There's a new secret mission each week :)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Review: The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis (audio)

Title: The Dollhouse
Author: Fiona Davis
Narrator: Tavia Gilbert
Published: August 2016, Penguin Audio
Length: 9 hours 53 minutes
Source: Library

Fiona Davis's stunning debut novel pulls readers into the lush world of New York City's glamorous Barbizon Hotel for Women, where a generation of aspiring models, secretaries, and editors lived side-by-side while attempting to claw their way to fairy-tale success in the 1950s, and where a present-day journalist becomes consumed with uncovering a dark secret buried deep within the Barbizon's glitzy past.

When she arrives at the famed Barbizon Hotel in 1952, secretarial school enrollment in hand, Darby McLaughlin is everything her modeling agency hall mates aren't: plain, self-conscious, homesick, and utterly convinced she doesn't belong—a notion the models do nothing to disabuse. Yet when Darby befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she's introduced to an entirely new side of New York City: seedy downtown jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin that's used there, the startling sounds of bebop, and even the possibility of romance.

Over half a century later, the Barbizon's gone condo and most of its long-ago guests are forgotten. But rumors of Darby's involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952 haunt the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman's rent-controlled apartment. It's a combination too intoxicating for journalist Rose Lewin, Darby's upstairs neighbor, to resist—not to mention the perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life. Yet as Rose's obsession deepens, the ethics of her investigation become increasingly murky, and neither woman will remain unchanged when the shocking truth is finally revealed.

My thoughts: This is Fiona Davis's debut novel and I just adored it. I absolutely love stories about living in NYC, especially ones that have to do with its rich history and this one hit on that and a whole lot more!

I love dual narratives and felt that this one was done so well. Having the story move back and forth between the present and the 1950's was so seemlessly done - it never once felt jilted or choppy. I loved how Fiona gives life to the famous Barbizon Hotel and wraps her fictional story around it. I fully admit to not knowing much about this hotel, so I was totally captivated by this story. 

There is such attention to detail in this book - from the social mores of the time in the 1950s to the clothing and all the accessories - this is what made the book for me. I loved learning what was socially acceptable for young girls at this time and what was not. That is starkly contrasted with what is acceptable in the present - for Rose who has no restrictions placed on her. I cannot imagine living somewhat on my own and having so many rules put upon me - no young men allowed in the building after a certain time, must wear a hat and gloves, etc. 

This was such a great story - from the characters and the mystery and the setting - I loved it! Such a great book for a debut novel and I have no doubt that her next book, which comes out later this summer, will be equally as delightful!

Audio thoughts:
This was a great book to listen to and Tavia Gilbert really did a great job with the narration. She made the characters come to life, giving each woman unique voices so as to make them distinguishable, as well as giving everyone else their own voice, too. Her accents were good and so was her pacing and tone. I've listened to her before and know that I am in for a listening treat when I see her name on the audio book. 


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Review: The Child by Fiona Barton

Title: The Child
Author: Fiona Barton
Published: June 2017, Berkley Books
Format: ARC E-copy, 36 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publisher
The author of the stunning New York Times bestseller The Widow returns with a brand-new novel of twisting psychological suspense.

As an old house is demolished in a gentrifying section of London, a workman discovers a tiny skeleton, buried for years. For journalist Kate Waters, it s a story that deserves attention. She cobbles together a piece for her newspaper, but at a loss for answers, she can only pose a question: Who is the Building Site Baby?

As Kate investigates, she unearths connections to a crime that rocked the city decades earlier: A newborn baby was stolen from the maternity ward in a local hospital and was never found. Her heartbroken parents were left devastated by the loss.

But there is more to the story, and Kate is drawn house by house into the pasts of the people who once lived in this neighborhood that has given up its greatest mystery. And she soon finds herself the keeper of unexpected secrets that erupt in the lives of three women and torn between what she can and cannot tell.

My thoughts: I was a big fan of Fiona Barton's debut novel, The Widow, and so I was ecstatic to see that not only did she have a second book coming out, but that it contained a beloved character, the journalist Kate. But not to worry - this is not a series or a continuation of the prior book. These are separate stories that just happen to have one re-occurring character.

This book is so good - it's an intricately written, character-driven story. It's narrated by four women and I loved that it was told this way. This allows us to get inside all four women's heads, giving us that emotional attachment, if you will, to each of them, letting us understand their thinking and motivations. All these women's lives are upended by the discovery of the tiny skeletal remains and I loved trying to figure out just how these women were going to all intersect. 

I was so excited to see that Fiona Barton decided to write another story with Kate Waters, the newspaper reporter from The Widow. I really like her character, especially given that Fiona herself was a journalist. Is it possible that Kate is a mirror image of herself? I'm not sure, but I really hope she continues to keep writing stories with Kate as a character - she is so intriguing and while I feel this book, in particular, delves a little more into her background, there is still more to her than we know.

This is not a fast-paced mystery by any means, but rather a slow-burning one. Slowly, pieces of the puzzle are revealed. As we learn more and more about each of the women, secrets start to come to light, revealing what happened so long ago. And I loved that the ending is not rushed. It was just perfect for the entire story...heartfelt and satisfying, yet still filled with some good twists and turns. This is a great psychological thriller, make no mistake. It's just not the crazy page-turner that some of the other books are...this one is a slower, take it all in, kind of book.

This is an addictive, emotional read and I really enjoyed it. I am a big fan of Fiona Barton's work and I just hope that this isn't the last we've seen of Kate Waters...will she be appearing in book 3? I guess time will tell. But either way, Fiona Barton is definitely a must-read author for me!


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