Publisher: Berkley

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Oct 16

Can’t Wait Wednesday #23 – A Murderous Relation

Books/Writing 0

I’m joining in the fun with a Can’t-Wait Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Usually the books are ones yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

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Can’t Wait Wednesday #23 – A Murderous RelationA Murderous Relation (Veronica Speedwell, #5) by Deanna Raybourn
Published by Berkley on March 10, 2020
Pages: 320
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Goodreads

Veronica Speedwell navigates a dark world of scandal and murder in this new adventure from New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award nominated author Deanna Raybourn.

Veronica Speedwell and her natural historian colleague Stoker are asked by Lady Wellingtonia Beauclerk to help with a potential scandal so explosive it threatens to rock the monarchy. Prince Albert Victor is a regular visitor to the most exclusive private club in London, known as the Club de l'Etoile, and the proprietess, Madame Aurore, has received an expensive gift that can be traced back to the prince. Lady Wellie would like Veronica and Stoker to retrieve the jewel from the club before scandal can break.

Worse yet, London is gripped by hysteria in the autumn of 1888, terrorized by what would become the most notorious and elusive serial killer in history, Jack the Ripper--and Lady Wellie suspects the prince may be responsible.

Veronica and Stoker reluctantly agree to go undercover at Madame Aurore's high class brothel, where another body soon turns up. Many secrets are swirling around Veronica and the royal family--and it's up to Veronica and Stoker to find the truth, before it's too late for all of them.

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I’m actually caught up with this series now!! I am so so so excited for the fifth book. Things actually seemed to HAPPENING in the last one and OMG I simply can’t wait! Deanna recently announced that she’s signed a contract for books six and seven as well, so I am even more stoked. Hehe. If you enjoy historical fiction and mystery I highly recommend this series. You can read my reviews of books one, two, three, and four here and on GoodReads!

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Oct 10

The Twelve Clues of Christmas (Her Royal Spyness #6)

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★

The Twelve Clues of Christmas (Her Royal Spyness #6)The Twelve Clues of Christmas (Her Royal Spyness Mysteries, #6) by Rhys Bowen
Published by Berkley on November 6, 2012
Genres: Cozy, Historical, Mystery
Pages: 311
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Goodreadsfour-stars

She may be thirty-fifth in line for the throne, but Lady Georgiana Rannoch cannot wait to ring in the New Year—before a Christmas killer wrings another neck…   On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me—well, actually, my true love, Darcy O’Mara, is spending a feliz navidad tramping around South America. Meanwhile Mummy is holed up in a tiny village called Tiddleton-under-Lovey with that droll Noel Coward! And I’m snowed in at Castle Rannoch with my bumbling brother, Binky, and sourpuss sister-in-law, Fig.   So it’s a miracle when I contrive to land a position as hostess to a posh holiday party in Tiddleton. The village is like something out of A Christmas Carol! But no sooner have I arrived than a neighborhood nuisance, a fellow named Freddie, falls out of a tree dead.  On my second day, another so-called accident results in a death – and there’s yet another on my third.  Perhaps a recent prison break could have something to do with it…that, or a long-standing witch’s curse. But after Darcy shows up beneath the mistletoe, anything could be possible in this wicked wonderland.

Includes an English Christmas companion, full of holiday recipes, games, and more!

The Twelve Clues of Christmas completely rekindled my interest in this series! I was starting to debate whether or not I wanted to continue with this series after Naughty in Nice, which was lighthearted and fun but not much mystery or substance and nothing really progressed in the main plot. I’m so glad I kept reading! Book 6 was soooo much better. There was a real mystery in this one, and things kept happening at such a pace I could barely put it down and even though I had suspicions about the killer throughout the book I didn’t actually figure it out until about the last third.

Things I Liked

  • Darcy had some more page time! He and Georgie seemed to work things out a little better and I liked that.
  • Georgie is, per usual, trying to find somewhere to live and somehow to support herself and this time instead of the queen coming through with an “assignment,” she actually finds a job that suits both herself and the royal relatives. Her mother just happens to be nearby, being her usual flighty but charming self.
  • The murders – yes, more than one this time – just kept coming and getting stranger and…is it weird that I really liked that? 😛

Things I Didn’t Like

  • Thoroughly enjoyed this one, honestly, but some of it still felt a little unrealistic and a tiny bit corny. I think it’s really hard for cozy mysteries to avoid that entirely.
  • Georgie, for all her talk about wishing she was more experienced in the ways of the world and envying her carefree friend Belinda, is ridiculously straitlaced. I guess I shouldn’t be expecting anything else, given how careful she is to not bring any shame to the royal family, but still. Then again, maybe her character is written that way to keep the story’s romance in the “sweet” category.

If You Like…

…the Amelia Peabody series, or the Maisie Dobbs series, you’ll probably enjoy the Her Royal Spyness series as well!

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four-stars

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Aug 28

Can’t Wait Wednesday #19 – The Bromance Book Club

Books/Writing 0

I’m joining in the fun with a Can’t-Wait Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Usually the books are ones yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

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Can’t Wait Wednesday #19 – The Bromance Book ClubThe Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams
Published by Berkley on November 5, 2019
Pages: 320
Goodreads

The first rule of this book club:
You don't talk about book club.

Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott's marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him.

Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.

Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville's top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it'll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.

This sounds absolutely hilarious with the potential to be hot as hell. Dear lord please let it be as good as it sounds!

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Jun 10

The Bride Test

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★

The Bride TestThe Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient, #2) by Helen Hoang
Published by Berkley on May 7, 2019
Pages: 296
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreadsfour-stars
three-half-flames

Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.

As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.

With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love.

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“When she died, demons were going to torment her for eternity instead of letting her reincarnate. Or worse, they’d let her reincarnate, but she’d be a catfish who lived under a river outhouse.”

The Bride Test is a companion novel to The Kiss Quotient, but it isn’t necessary to have read that one before this one (thankfully, unlike many novels marketed as “companion”).

So, somehow I avoided all the general hubbub that surrounded The Kiss Quotient, author Helen Hoang’s debut novel, when it came out last year. I was aware of it, but not being in a mood AT ALL for romance, I skipped it. I continued to hear people rave about it, and then this subsequent companion novel, so I decided to pick it up.

I loved so many things about this book. I loved Khai so much, and I liked Esme even if I didn’t entirely relate to her…and, since she is coming from SUCH a different background than, I imagine, almost anyone who will read this book, I doubt I am the only one. She is a strong woman who will do anything – ANYTHING! – for her family, even if it means sacrificing herself. She does eventually come to realize that it is not worth it to sacrifice her happiness, even if it means a better life for her daughter, but she plays such a dangerous game here. The author’s note at the end of the book actually talks a lot about this, which I really appreciated.

Autism definitely gets positive rep here, and it was such a refreshing breath of air. I did think it was a little odd that Esme – who researches EVERYTHING – just sort of blew off Khai’s statement about it. That seemed really out of character, but whatever, I guess. She was super sensitive to his need for a different kind of touch, to his need for order and routine…but I felt like part of that was her desperation to try to get him to like her, and it sat a little sour with me. I’m glad that she came into herself by the end, but still.

There are definitely sexy times in this book – phew! The way Khai handles his sexual attraction to Esme is funny, cute, and sexy at the same time. There is clearly attraction between them, and I love that Esme was completely okay with having sex for sex’s sake – even if nothing else would come of it. We need more of that sort of sex-positive attitude in books. Enough with the slut shaming.

I also loved Khai’s big family. His mom – the whole reason Esme is in America – is hilarious but also so sweet because she clearly loves her kids so very much. The way Kwan and Khai interact completely melted my heart, too. I hope we get Kwan’s full story in the next book! Now I am definitely going back to read The Kiss Quotient and am really looking forward to the next installment as well.

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four-stars

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May 16

A Treacherous Curse (Veronica Speedwell #3)

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★★

A Treacherous Curse (Veronica Speedwell #3)A Treacherous Curse (Veronica Speedwell, #3) by Deanna Raybourn
Published by Berkley on January 16, 2018
Pages: 308
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreadsfive-stars
two-flames

London, 1888. As colorful and unfettered as the butterflies she collects, Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell can’t resist the allure of an exotic mystery—particularly one involving her enigmatic colleague, Stoker.

His former expedition partner has vanished from an archaeological dig with a priceless diadem unearthed from the newly discovered tomb of an Egyptian princess. This disappearance is just the latest in a string of unfortunate events that have plagued the controversial expedition, and rumors abound that the curse of the vengeful princess has been unleashed as the shadowy figure of Anubis himself stalks the streets of London.

But the perils of an ancient curse are not the only challenges Veronica must face as sordid details and malevolent enemies emerge from Stoker’s past.

Caught in a tangle of conspiracies and threats—and thrust into the public eye by an enterprising new foe—Veronica must separate facts from fantasy to unravel a web of duplicity that threatens to cost Stoker everything. . . .

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Warning: Possible spoilers for the first two books in this series (but not this one)!

A Treacherous Curse is the third book in the Veronica Speedwell series, and there is so much development and we learn so much more about the main characters. I absolutely loved it! This is a continuous series, so you definitely need to read the first book, A Curious Beginning, and the second, A Perilous Undertaking, to be able to jump into this one.

Our main squeezes are back, and in stellar form per usual. This time though, we are plunged headfirst into Stoker’s backstory. FINALLY!!! I have been absolutely dying to know what happened in Brazil to make him so bitter and so hurt and scarred…and we FINALLY get to find out. It was just as gritty and heartbreaking as I expected it to be…I was actually sitting on our couch reading, curled in a ball with one hand clamped over my mouth (my husband was slightly concerned). Veronica is still trying to get over what happened in the previous book…which she will not talk about, with anyone, but which bothers her VERY much. For those who need a refresher… View Spoiler ». Somehow they still manage to be friends and partners but it’s all been very tense.

The mystery here was interesting but to me secondary to the character development. I was intrigued to see how Deanna would handle the egyptology angle, as that is one aspect of the Victorian era that seems to be worked over A LOT in mysteries. I’m happy to say that it was quite well done! Nothing particularly novel, but again the character development really took control here as we were introduced to some of the archaeologists leading the expedition in question, along with their families. I didn’t figure out the culprit until near the actual end, which I loved. I hate it when I’ve figured a mystery out way before the characters!

5/5 stars. A Treacherous Curse is a solid continuation of the storyline in this series and I am so excited for the next book!

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five-stars

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Apr 24

Can’t Wait Wednesday #1 – The Girl in Red

Books/Writing 0

I’m joining in the fun with a Can’t-Wait Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Usually the books are ones yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

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Can’t Wait Wednesday #1 – The Girl in RedThe Girl in Red by Christina Henry
Published by Berkley on June 18, 2019
Pages: 304
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon

It's not safe for anyone alone in the woods. There are predators that come out at night: critters and coyotes, snakes and wolves. But the woman in the red jacket has no choice. Not since the Crisis came, decimated the population, and sent those who survived fleeing into quarantine camps that serve as breeding grounds for death, destruction, and disease. She is just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that doesn't look anything like the one she grew up in, the one that was perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago.

There are worse threats in the woods than the things that stalk their prey at night. Sometimes, there are men. Men with dark desires, weak wills, and evil intents. Men in uniform with classified information, deadly secrets, and unforgiving orders. And sometimes, just sometimes, there's something worse than all of the horrible people and vicious beasts combined.

Red doesn't like to think of herself as a killer, but she isn't about to let herself get eaten up just because she is a woman alone in the woods....

Cue ALL the flailing. OMG, a feminist retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, and by CHRISTINA HENRY?!?

I have been sold on anything Christina Henry writes since I read her dark retelling of Alice in Wonderland.

Also, check out this fabulous UK cover. I might have to buy both.

What do you think? Will you be reading this?

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Feb 18

The Beast’s Heart Review

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★

This review was supposed to be up on Thursday, but my husband planned a surprise trip for us last week that sort of put a wrench in my writing schedule (but for a perfectly acceptable and awesome reason)!

The Beast’s Heart ReviewThe Beast's Heart by Leife Shallcross
Published by Berkley on February 12, 2019
Pages: 416
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Goodreadsfour-stars

A sumptuously magical, brand new take on a tale as old as time—read the Beast's side of the story at long last.

I am neither monster nor man—yet I am both.

I am the Beast.

The day I was cursed to this wretched existence was the day I was saved—although it did not feel so at the time.

My redemption sprung from contemptible roots; I am not proud of what I did the day her father happened upon my crumbling, isolated chateau. But if loneliness breeds desperation then I was desperate indeed, and I did what I felt I must. My shameful behaviour was unjustly rewarded.

My Isabeau. She opened my eyes, my mind and my heart; she taught me how to be human again.

And now I might lose her forever.

Lose yourself in this gorgeously rich and magical retelling of The Beauty and the Beast that finally lays bare the beast's heart.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I love Beauty and the Beast retellings. LOVE. I’m slightly obsessed with that particular story arc/plot and love seeing the different spins authors put on it. I think part of it is because I absolutely adore castles, and COME ON who hasn’t been obsessed with the Beast’s library?

When I first read the blurb for this one, I got super excited – and then read a very negative review (by a reviewer I usually agree with an whom I really respect), which made my toes curl…butbutbutbut it was Beauty and the Beast! So I decided to give it a shot anyway, and lo and behold I was approved for an ARC. I’m so glad now that I didn’t let one review decide whether or not I would read the book. While of course no two people are going to feel exactly the same and the reviewer was perfectly professional and within rights to feel as they did, I personally felt the book was lovely!

This is pretty much EXACTLY how I picture the Beast’s castle as written in this book! – photo from Boredom Therapy

This book surprised me by how closely it follows the original. Of course it is not exact, but it has many more similarities than most of the adaptations I’ve read. It is set in old France, in the 18th-ish century. Isabeau i.e., Belle, is the youngest daughter of a merchant with three daughters. The beast, cursed for an undetermined amount of time, has spent years wandering the woods around his cursed castle and later within the castle itself, attempting to claw his way back to some guise of humanity.

I looked down at my hideous, beastly paws. Thickly furred on the back; black, leathery palms; and those terrible claws I could not sheate. I was overcome with shame. Who am I to love such a one as her? Just as quickly, my shame turned to anger. My talons sunk into the back of the chair. My heart is human! I cried in my mind.

The magic of the story is rather different, as there are no talking candlesticks or clocks and no Mrs. Potts (so sad), but the Beast’s house definitely has a mind and life of its own and is indeed very magical…more on that later.

Characters

First of all, the Beast. He’s a very sympathetic character, though a flawed one. He was cursed by a faery who had a long history with his family, and cursed NOT for being evil, but for another reason that you’ll have to read to find out. He is very…well, mopey. Which is really quite understandable given the circumstances, but sometimes I did want to shake him. He recognizes, too, that his manipulation and threatening of Isabeau’s father was wrong and cruel, and he is sorry for it, but as Isabeau later tells him,

“Desperate men do desperate things.”

The Beast definitely grows and changes throughout the story, as he does in the original and most retellings. His woe-is-me attitude sometimes crept in and made him annoying, but overall I liked him.

from IMDB

Isabeau is your typical Belle, except – and I can’t quite forgive this – she is NOT as obsessed with books as my idea of Belle always is! In fact, she declares that she doesn’t quite know what she is good at or what she really enjoys, as her last few years have been spent just trying to make ends meet and help her sisters and father out of the deep depression they collectively fell into after the demise of their father’s fortune. Oy. She remains mostly the same through the book, except of course she comes to see the Beast in a very different light by the end.

Isabeau’s father and sisters were rather different than any portrayal of them that I’ve read, as well. I didn’t particularly like any of them except the oldest sister, but they provided a nice contrast.

The Iffy Stuff

The negative review I read said the Beast was essentially a voyeur and that was a large part of the reviewer’s problem with the book. So, I went into this expecting him to basically be a peeping Tom, mainly on Isabeau. Which wasn’t really what happened at all. Again, YMMV and of course if it bothers someone they should say so! However…the so-called voyeurism occurs at the behest of the Beast’s magic mirror, which is part of his house’s magic. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t – and not always when he wants it to. The book DOES use the mirror A LOT to let the reader see perspectives other than the Beast’s, which is effective but given that he is seeing everything that we are, is kind of…odd. But then, what exactly is normal about his circumstances? He’s much, much older than anyone else still living. His house magically manifests food and clothes. His lands are in all four seasons at once. What’s a magic mirror added to all that? Also, the fact that sometimes it just shuts him off made a difference to me. Sometimes, even when he desperately wants to see something, the mirror says no.

Overall, 4/5 stars. I wish I had been a little more invested in Isabeau and the Beast’s romance, but it was still very sweet and they are both very likeable characters. I loved the descriptions of the old, crumbling yet magical castle and grounds. I especially loved how the Fairy’s relationship to the Beast’s family, particularly his grandmother, was revealed. I’ll definitely be getting a copy of this for my shelf!

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four-stars

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Dec 13

Review of Someone to Trust

Book Reviews 1 ★★★★

Review of Someone to TrustSomeone to Trust (Westcott, #5) by Mary Balogh
Published by Berkley on November 27, 2018
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 400
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreadsfour-stars
three-flames

During a rare white Christmas at Brambledean Court, the widow Elizabeth, Lady Overfield, defies convention by falling in love with a younger man in the latest novel in the Westcott series.

After her husband's passing, Elizabeth Overfield decides that she must enter into another suitable marriage. That, however, is the last thing on her mind when she meets Colin Handrich, Lord Hodges, at the Westcott Christmas house party. She simply enjoys his company as they listen to carolers on Christmas Eve, walk home from church together on Christmas morning, and engage in a spirited snowball fight in the afternoon. Both are surprised when their sled topples them into a snow bank and they end up sharing an unexpected kiss. They know there is no question of any relationship between them for she is nine years older than he.

They return to London the following season, both committed to finding other, more suitable matches. Still they agree to share one waltz at each ball they attend. This innocuous agreement proves to be one that will topple their worlds, as each dance steadily ensnares them in a romance that forces the two to question what they are willing to sacrifice for love...

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I picked this up because of the glowing review from Reading Reality. Many thanks for putting this series and author on my radar! I will definitely be coming back when I get the itch for a historical romance again, especially since this was the 5th in the Westcott series. All the previous relationships and people are well explained so that it CAN be read as a standalone, but it really made me curious!

Someone to Trust is the perfect holiday book for the Austen-inclined reader! I thoroughly enjoyed this historical romance, with its unique characters and large, warm, overarching family story. This was particularly refreshing because it was DIFFERENT. Instead of your typical young-couple-meets-and-falls-in-love (naturally with a few obstacles thrown in their way, but nothing they can’t overcome), the heroine is actually a widow, and somewhat old for a Regency era heroine at that. Ok, not just somewhat old, but unheard-of old at thirty-five! And the hero is…twenty-six. GASP!

Elizabeth has been unlucky in love, but she is reconciled to her life. She is still a vibrant, intelligent, warm-hearted woman but has determined that

Contentment would be good enough, even preferable to exuberant happiness, in fact. Happiness did not last. There was more stability in contentment.

I loved Elizabeth so much. She has a backbone of steel and a heart of gold. Despite her misfortune, se is not closed off or unreachable or wallowing. I think it safe to say it is all of those underlying qualities that most attract the young Lord Colin Hodges, much to his own amazement. Colin does not waste much time fretting over what society will think of his inappropriate attachment – no Mr. Darcy scruples here – but determines to win Elizabeth’s heart. Of course, true love’s path never runs smooth, as his own mother (and LORD WHAT A MOTHER) conspires against him, along with the rest of society and Elizabeth’s own belief about herself and what she deserves out of life.

This book is so far removed from what I usually expect from books labeled historical romance. It is full of solid, steady, but also heart-fluttering love. The characters are mature and make decisions that MAKE SENSE, both for the time and for the story. There was none of the ridiculous swooning and obsession that so often marks romances.

4/5 stars, because I did feel that some of the dialogue was really too modern and felt removed from the time period. Didn’t detract from the story itself, just from my absorption in it. Still highly recommend!

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four-stars

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