REVIEW: THE BOOKISH LIFE OF NINA HILL, BY ABBI WAXMAN

 

The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.

1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.

My Thoughts: Nina Hill is one of the quirkiest and most adorable characters I have met in a while. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill opens with some bookstore scenes, and we are soon thoroughly immersed in her daily life. From the books she loves and her precise schedule of daily plans, we learn how her single life comforts her, even though she occasionally thinks about dating and/or being in a relationship.

What she hadn’t counted on, though, was discovering the existence of her unknown father and the numerous siblings, aunts, brothers, nieces, and nephews. How could someone like Nina adapt to this new normal?

Watching her do just that kept me thoroughly absorbed throughout, and by the end, with all the unexpected detours her life has taken, we are happily a part of her world, too. And just when Nina has reconciled herself to her bookish and somewhat loner existence, she discovers spontaneity and love for her life. 5 stars.

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REVIEW: SUNSET BEACH, BY MARY KAY ANDREWS

 

Drue Campbell’s life is adrift. Out of a job and down on her luck, life doesn’t seem to be getting any better when her estranged father, Brice Campbell, a flamboyant personal injury attorney, shows up at her mother’s funeral after a twenty-year absence. Worse, he’s remarried—to Drue’s eighth grade frenemy, Wendy, now his office manager. And they’re offering her a job.

It seems like the job from hell, but the offer is sweetened by the news of her inheritance—her grandparents’ beach bungalow in the sleepy town of Sunset Beach, a charming but storm-damaged eyesore now surrounded by waterfront McMansions.

With no other prospects, Drue begrudgingly joins the firm, spending her days screening out the grifters whose phone calls flood the law office. Working with Wendy is no picnic either. But when a suspicious death at an exclusive beach resort nearby exposes possible corruption at her father’s firm, she goes from unwilling cubicle rat to unwitting investigator, and is drawn into a case that may—or may not—involve her father. With an office romance building, a decades-old missing persons case re-opened, and a cottage in rehab, one thing is for sure at Sunset Beach: there’s a storm on the horizon.

 

My Thoughts: Sunset Beach takes the reader right into the setting, amongst a cast of interesting characters. Drue was my favorite, and her father’s wife Wendy was someone I loved to hate. The two had been friends as children, and then were not. Now, as her father’s newest wife, she is also the office manager, in a position to order Drue around with big yellow “SEE ME” post-it notes showing up frequently.

Coworkers Jonah and Ben brought unexpected flavor, especially as the twists in the story took us behind the scenes in some legal cases, with Drue following the clues to solving a murder.

An alternating timeline from the 70s revealed secrets from the past, and how the present day characters were connected to a mysterious disappearance.

I also loved seeing Drue’s joy at fixing up her grandparents’ old cottage, which she had inherited. Lovely memories brought out the sense of family and sentimental moments.

I liked how the story swept back and forth in time, culminating in some unexpected answers to some piercing questions. I couldn’t wait to keep turning the pages of this great 5 star read full of family, friends, loss, and mysteries.***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: I OWE YOU ONE, BY SOPHIE KINSELLA

 

Fixie Farr has always lived by her father’s motto: “Family first.” And since her dad passed away, leaving his charming housewares store in the hands of his wife and children, Fixie spends all her time picking up the slack from her siblings instead of striking out on her own. The way Fixie sees it, if she doesn’t take care of her father’s legacy, who will?

It’s simply not in Fixie’s nature to say no to people. So when a handsome stranger in a coffee shop asks her to watch his laptop for a moment, she not only agrees—she ends up saving it from certain disaster. To thank Fixie for her quick thinking, the computer’s owner, Sebastian, an investment manager, scribbles an IOU on a coffee sleeve and attaches his business card. Fixie laughs it off—she’d never actually claim an IOU from a stranger. Would she?

But then Fixie’s childhood crush, Ryan, comes back into her life, and his lack of a profession pushes all of Fixie’s buttons. As always, she wants nothing for herself—but she’d love Seb to give Ryan a job. No sooner has Seb agreed than the tables are turned once more and a new series of IOUs between Seb and Fixie—from small favors to life-changing moments—ensues. Soon Fixie, Ms. Fixit for everyone else, is torn between her family and the life she really wants. Does she have the courage to take a stand? Will she finally grab the life, and love, she really wants?

 

 

My Thoughts: From the very first lines of I Owe You One, I was captivated by Fixie and her foibles. Always wanting to fix things, happily giving in to others and their needs, and putting her own wishes and dreams on hold in favor of the shop and the family made her lovable. But how would she get what she wanted?

A bystander, like this reader, might think of giving her a little push now and then; after all, what good is all the sweetness if her voice is unheard?

I loved Fixie’s serendipitous meeting with Seb Marlowe, and their cute “coffee sleeve” notes back and forth.

I couldn’t stand her siblings Jake and Nicole, who were arrogant and had no problem shoving her out of the way and taking over the shop, even when she knew their ways would not work.

Finally, however, there were some defining moments that brought a halt to Fixie’s martyrdom…and a way for her to start getting what she needed.

The ending felt a little rushed, in that a big misunderstanding was quickly resolved by others on Fixie’s behalf, and I was disappointed not to be part of that conversation. But everything worked out, so I’m giving this delightful story 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: A NANTUCKET WEDDING, BY NANCY THAYER

 

A few years after losing her beloved husband, Alison is doing something she never thought she would do again: getting married. While placing the finishing touches on her summer nuptials, Alison is anxious to introduce her fiancé, David, to her grown daughters: Felicity, a worried married mother of two, and Jane, also married but focused on her career. The sisters have a somewhat distant relationship and Alison hopes that the wedding and the weeks leading up to the ceremony will give the siblings a chance to reconnect, as well as meet and get to know David’s grown children.

As the summer progresses, it is anything but smooth sailing. Felicity stumbles upon a terrible secret that could shatter her carefully cultivated world. Jane finds herself under the spell of her soon-to-be stepbrother, Ethan, who is as charming as he is mysterious. And even Alison is surprised (and slightly alarmed) by her new blended family. Revelations, intrigue, resentments—as the Big Day approaches, will the promise of bliss be a bust?

My Thoughts: In her inimitable style, Thayer takes the reader to a lovely setting in A Nantucket Wedding. At the moment of the union between this fascinating couple, she also brings us right into the family, with all the issues that come along when the joining of two brings about a blending of assorted personalities, each with their own expectations and conflicts.

David Gladstone, a wealthy man, is about to step back from his business, but when his petulant daughter Poppy asserts herself about the business and his personal assets, he and Alison have to very tactfully, yet assertively, set some boundaries. Additionally, David’s handsome son Ethan presents numerous challenges as he flirts outrageously with whatever woman strikes his fancy.

Meanwhile, Alison’s daughters are dealing with issues within their marriages, bringing to light some concerns that might jeopardize those unions.

Can a wedding in a beautiful setting help them all face and deal with these issues? Will the upcoming nuptials remind them of their own romantic unions, or will those very beautiful moments only emphasize their jarring differences?

I loved the book, the setting, and how the author revealed those true-to-life conflicts that all families have at times.

I enjoyed Alison’s efforts at nurturing and peace-making. I also liked watching Jane and Scott figure out how they could solve their own problems going forward.

I did not like Noah, Felicity’s husband, who revealed himself to be smug and offensive with those who did not share his moral high ground regarding the environment, and then turned on a dime when someone offered what he wanted.

Could any or all of them come out of the romantic event with their families intact? Would the event itself be a reminder of what they all could learn to love about one another? 5 stars.

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WEEKLY UPDATES: ANOTHER FAMILY EVENT…

Good morning! Today’s post will link up to The Sunday Salon, The Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves, for weekly updates.

**Mailbox Monday is hosted at the home site: Mailbox Monday.

And let’s join Kathryn, our leader in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, at Book Date.

What a  great week!  Errands, shopping, Thanksgiving dinner, movies, books.  Four books read and reviewed, bringing my Challenge total to 108.

On Netflix, I watched Season 6 of Longmire, all the way through…and then I started Season II of Wanted Today I’m watching old movies on my DVR, like Urban Cowboy.  I do love the music!  I used to have an album…yes, vinyl.  One of my kids took all the albums when I downsized ten years ago.

Saturday noon:  a get-together with assorted local family members joining in a celebration with my LA son and his youngest son.  Everyone else is spread out throughout the state…and two are in Prague.  Here is a peek at the group:

 

So…before we take a closer look at the week, grab another cup of coffee with me:

LAST WEEK ON THE BLOGS:

Tuesday Excerpts:  “Dead of Winter”

Tuesday Potpourri:  Book Release Day…& Quirky Reading Tidbits…

Anticipating My Bookish Journey in 2018…

Curling up with Good Books…

Coffee Chat:  Happy Thanksgiving!

Bookish Friday:  “The Wife Between Us”

Friday Potpourri:  Reviewing the Holiday…

Review:  Young Jane Young (e-book), by Gabrielle ZevinReview:  Merry & Bright (e-book), by Debbie MacomberReview:  Bonfire (e-book), by Krysten RitterReview:  Play It as It Lays (e-book), by Joan Didion***

INCOMING BOOKS: (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

Nothing came in my physical mailbox…BUT I received an e-ARC from NetGalley!

Anatomy of a Scandal (e-book), by Sarah Vaughan (NG – 1/23/18)

Downloads:  (Purchased)

Little Broken Things (e-book), by Nicole Baart

A Season to Lie (e-book, Detective Gemma Monroe Mystery), by Emily Littlejohn

The Unexpected Mother (e-book), by Susan A. Ring

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WHAT’S NEXT?

Currently Reading:  ROOM (e-book), by Emma Donoghue (I’ve had this e-book since February 2016).  I thought it was long overdue to be read.

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  And then?  I have a lot of books waiting patiently on my stacks (and on Pippa).  I will not even guess what comes next.  I’m going to follow my mood!

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That was my week.  What did yours look like?  I’m sharing a peek of my Thanksgiving pie:

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REVIEW: THE BEST KIND OF PEOPLE, BY ZOE WHITTALL

The Woodburys cherish life in the affluent, bucolic suburb of Avalon Hills, Connecticut. George is a beloved science teacher at the local prep school, a hero who once thwarted a gunman, and his wife, Joan, is a hardworking ER nurse. They have brought up their children in this thriving town of wooded yards and sprawling lakes.

Then one night a police car pulls up to the Woodbury home and George is charged with sexual misconduct with students from his daughter’s school. As he sits in prison awaiting trial and claiming innocence, Joan vaults between denial and rage as friends and neighbors turn cold. Their daughter, seventeen-year-old Sadie, is a popular high school senior who becomes a social outcast—and finds refuge in an unexpected place. Her brother, Andrew, a lawyer in New York, returns home to support the family, only to confront unhappy memories from his past. A writer tries to exploit their story, while an unlikely men’s rights activist group attempts to recruit Sadie for their cause.

My Thoughts: From the very beginning of The Best Kind of People, I felt drawn into the lives of the Woodburys, especially Sadie and Joan. Their reactions to the events that unfolded felt real and spoke to how one might experience being blindsided in such a way.

Multiple narrators, including Joan, Sadie, Andrew, and Kevin brought out the way a community and a family are impacted by an arrest of a beloved individual. How should any of them feel? Should the family give unwavering support to a man who might be guilty? Should all who knew him for years be immediately on his side? Would the media presence affect how they reacted?

Visiting George in prison was another shock to reality for those whose previous experiences did not prepare them for this new normal.

How does Kevin’s new novel change how others view him? Can Sadie find a way to interpret the betrayals she sees all around her? Will she find a way to deal with those who believe that her family is somehow tainted by her father?

The activists were the most disturbing aspect for me, as the tendency to blame feminism for the allegations of the girls struck a wrong chord with me. While I did not necessarily believe the girls, since, despite what the proponents of victims’ rights might claim, teenage girls do occasionally lie, I could not align myself with those who slapped such a label on their cause.

In the end, the trial seemed to happen off stage, just as much of George’s experiences seemed separate from what everyone else was going through. As a result, the outcome felt flat and tepid. I was no longer at all sure about what was true or how to feel. 4.5 stars.


***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: THE HOUSEKEEPER, BY SUELLEN DAINTY

When Anne Morgan’s successful boyfriend—who also happens to be her boss—leaves her for another woman, Anne finds herself in desperate need of a new job and a quiet place to recover. Meanwhile, her celebrity idol, Emma Helmsley (England’s answer to Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey), is in need of a housekeeper, an opportunity which seems too good to be true.

Through her books, website, and blog, Emma Helmsley advises her devoted followers on how to live a balanced life in a hectic world. Her husband, Rob, is a high profile academic, and her children, Jake and Lily, are well-adjusted teenagers. On the surface, they are the perfect family. But Anne soon finds herself intimately ensconced in the Helmsley’s dirty laundry, both literally and figuratively. Underneath the dust, grime, and whimsical clutter, everyone has a secret to hide. And Anne’s own disturbing past soon threatens to unhinge everything…

MY THOUGHTS:
In the beginning, The Housekeeper seemed to be a book about one young woman’s love gone wrong, and how she found a way to start over as a domestic helper for a famous blogger and her psychologist husband.

But soon we are swept up into a gradual process of enmeshment, as the Helmsley family come to expect more and more from Anne, while making it seem as though they are doing her a favor by making her feel like family. But Anne does not notice the subtle expectations, since she admires Emma and Rob and the life they have created, and being a part of it all feels so good.

When Anne has some memory flashes, it seems natural that she would ask her boss, the psychologist, for his opinions. What will happen next? Will the horrors of her childhood change everything about the life she has recreated?

I was blown away by how the story played out, and could not stop reading it. I was furious with Emma and Rob, and how they played on Anne’s need for family. They seemingly brought her into the cozy circle that was developing between them, when, in fact, they were using her to carry out the façade of the perfect family/professional couple. She did a good job of glossing over their imperfections by keeping their lives running smoothly, and what they gave her in return was betrayal.

Skillfully wrought, the story aroused emotions, kept me engaged, and left me with much more to think about. In the end, there was a sense of closure that I didn’t see coming, and it felt good. A 5 star read for me.

***

REVIEW: THE SLEEPWALKER, BY CHRIS BOHJALIAN

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When Annalee Ahlberg goes missing in the night, her daughters Lianna, 21, and Paige, 12, fear the worst. Their mother is a sleepwalker, and not only does she do bizarre things while in this state, she has put herself in danger.

But Annalee hasn’t had an episode in years, and she has had treatment at the sleep clinic. However, the usual set-up for her disturbance is present: her husband, Warren, an English professor, is away. In the past she has only taken her nightly excursions when he is gone.

Alternative narrators tell the tale of The Sleepwalker, and Lianna is the primary one. An anonymous narrator brings interesting and mysterious pieces to the story at the beginning of each chapter.

Set in small town Bartlett, Vermont, the reader will meet various friends and neighbors along the way, and there will be gossip, and the snippets of speculation that flow through the town will occasionally reach Lianna…and disturb her. The reader will learn more about the condition of parasomnia, which includes sleepwalking, night terrors, and even sleep sex.

In the beginning, the detectives will question each of the family members, focusing on the relationship between Warren and Annalee. They even look at Warren as a person of interest. Our narrator, Lianna, describes for us the occasional “fights” between her parents, and characterizes them as “quiet” skirmishes, “their barbs sharpened on whetstones of condescension and sarcasm.”

One of the detectives, a man a few years older than Lianna, is seemingly drawn into her orbit. What is the story of Gavin Rikert? Why is he so drawn to their family, and why does he seem to know so much about Annalee? Why does Lianna feel such a connection to him?

As the story wends its way through the time after, and some bits from before, we end up even more puzzled until…something quite astonishing happens. And then the final reveal unfolds in waves. First there is one discovery, and then another one, until I had to question everything I thought I knew about that alternate narrator. Another fabulous tale from the author that kept me intrigued throughout…and which earned 5 stars.    I received my e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.

cropped again 5***

WEEKLY UPDATES: A GREAT WEEK!

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Good morning! Today’s post will link up to The Sunday Salon, The Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves, for weekly updates.

**Mailbox Monday is hosted at the home site: Mailbox Monday.

And let’s join Kathryn, our leader in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, at Book Date.

 

What a great week!  Thanksgiving, Gilmore Girls Revival on Netflix, and FOUR books read and reviewed.   89 books read for my Read the Books You Buy Challenge.

I’ve already watched the first Gilmore Girls episode, and there are only three more in this first “Season” (we don’t know if there will be more!); I’ll be done by the end of the weekend.  That’s what binge-watching is all about.

Saturday will be another day of family togetherness.  My second son and his daughter will come through town, to join the few of us who will be here.  We’re meeting at Yard House, a new place for our little group.  Many of our usual young adults are heading back to university campuses.

It is finally cool enough to say it’s fall.  The temperature has been in the 50s and 60s.  Finally!  I like turning the heater on instead of the AC.

The PG&E bill is much lower, too.  Good things all around.  Now we just have to prime for the Christmas holiday…followed by Tax Season…Ugh.

Grab some coffee and let’s chat.

 

 

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LAST WEEK ON THE BLOGS:

Sunday Potpourri:  Fighting the Distraction Beast

A Look Back:  A Year Ago Here…

Monday Sparks:  Musings…

Tuesday Potpourri:  “The Murder Game”

Hump Day Potpourri:  Reading, Rainy Days, Etc.

Hump Day Reading:  Some Back & Forth Reading…

Bookish Thursday #38:  Serendipitous Moments

Happy Thanksgiving!

Bookish Friday:  “In a Dark, Dark, Wood”

A Foodie Journey:  Stuffed!

Review:  Hillbilly Elegy (e-book), by J. D. Vancecropped-again-5Review:  Inheriting Edith (e-book), by Zoe Fishmanratings-worms-4-croppedReview:  Two If by Sea (e-book), by Jacquelyn Mitchardratings-worms-4-croppedReview:  The Murder Game (e-book), by Catherine McKenzie writing as Julie Applecropped-again-5

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INCOMING BOOKS: (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

One book came in the mailbox from Amazon Vine; I downloaded an eARC from NetGalley; I purchased two e-books, and received one freebie from Amazon Prime.

Little Deaths, by Emma Flint (Amazon Vine)

 

 

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The 4th Man (e-book, short story), by Lisa Gardner (NetGalley – 1/3/17)

 

 

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Purchases:

The Other Widow (e-book), by Susan Crawford

 

 

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The Sleeping Beauty Killer (e-book) (Under Suspicion Series), by Mary Higgins Clark/Alafair Burke

 

 

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Amazon Prime Freebie:

The Food of Love (e-book), by Amanda Prowse

 

 

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WHAT’S UP NEXT?

Currently Reading:  Echoes of Family (e-book), by Barbara Claypole White

 

 

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Then, maybe:

 

While You Were Sleeping (e-book), by Kathryn Croft

 

 

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Sting (e-book), by Sandra Brown

 

 

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That was my week.  What did yours look like?  Let’s chat…and meanwhile, I’ll share this delicious lunch I had today: Pot Roast, mashed potatoes, carrots…and a Pomegranate Martini.

 

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BOOKISH THURSDAY #34: SERENDIPITOUS MOMENTS

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Welcome to Thursday, a day that once seemed lost, with nothing exciting happening anywhere.  But then that changed, and today I am celebrating a couple of the bookish events around the blogosphere, like Lexxie’s Thirsty Thursday & Hungry Hearts; and Christine’s Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts.

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Today’s featured book is one I just finished, and it had so many delightful food portions that it was hard to choose.  In the end, I picked an ordinary one that symbolized the reconnecting of our two lovers.  Family Tree, by Susan Wiggs (click for my review), is the story of dreams, love, past love, and all that life throws at two lovers.

 

 

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In this excerpt, Annie and Fletcher are finally together for a special weekend.  A weekend at his comfortable old home, the one they both fell in love with when they first met in high school.

 

After the old-fashioneds and the porch swing, she’d raided the mostly unfortunate supplies in his kitchen—boxed mac and cheese, white wine, a handful of cherry tomatoes and basil from his garden—and put together a dinner from his humble ingredients.  Afterward, they curled up in bed together with bowls of maple-walnut ice cream and listened to Serge Gainsbourg songs drifting from a hidden speaker.

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I love the sound of the maple-walnut ice cream!

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  • The week has been much cooler (80s, with the occasional 90), but it is even cooler in the mornings and in the evenings.
  • I’ve been restless, and took my reading with me to lunch on Monday at Marie Callender’s:

 

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  • On Tuesday, I participated in a bookish meme, sharing an excerpt from The American Girl.  I plan to read it next.

 

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  • I’ve written a post about Cherishing My Interior World:  Balance? ;  I also reexamine the books I continue to add to my stacks.
  • Last week, I was planning to visit my stylist (my daughter), but at the last minute, we rescheduled.  Tomorrow is the day!

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So…that’s my week so far.  What are you sharing today?

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