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review 2017-06-25 21:00
Thoughts: It Had to Be You
It Had to Be You - Jill Shalvis

It Had to Be You
by Jill Shalvis
Book 7 of Lucky Harbor


I'm pretty sure that I called it quite accurately in my BLopoly update post, when I said that I would probably end up finishing this whole book within the day.  Jill Shalvis is an author I'm constantly returning to for a multitude of reasons, one being that sometimes, when I love her books and her characters, I really DO love her books and her characters.

I had started reading It Had to Be You with every intention of stopping after the first handful of chapters, then either switching back to another read I'd started right before, or just going to sleep.  It didn't take long for me to realize that I wasn't putting this book down.

Except maybe for bacon (which did happen, and I regret nothing).


The Story:
Ali Winters had arrived in Lucky Harbor to try to start a whole new life for herself.  Having grown up on the wrong side of the tracks, with a childhood of rotating homes each time her mother found a new boyfriend, she had wanted to prove to herself that she could make something of herself.  With a talent for floral design and ceramics, she's been working at a local florist shop, with hopes that one day she'd be able to really let her talents shine.

All within the time span of one day, however, she finds her boyfriend cheating on her, and then learns that she's just been kicked out of her home without prior notice.  Then, to make matters worse, fifty thousand dollars worth of fundraiser money that was supposed to be used to build a new community center disappears, and somehow, Ali is the main suspect when her cheating ex-boyfriend leads the police straight for her.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Detective Luke Hanover had returned to Lucky Harbor for a quiet, solo vacation away from the stress of a failed investigation that had resulted in what he feels was a tragic, preventable death, if only he'd been able to put away a crazy killer.  But he never expected to find a madwoman in his grandmother's home, cursing into her cell phone to her ex about his failure to inform her she would soon be homeless, while stalking around in nothing but a set of panties and bra.

Needless to say, Luke's plans of quiet, isolationism gets blown to pieces when he finds he cannot keep from involving himself investigating the missing charity money, fully believing Ali to be innocent of any crime.  In fact, he just keeps telling himself that he won't get involved, but somehow, he can't help but become sucked into Ali's world, while at the same time letting her into his, for the better.


My Thoughts:
There was just something about Ali's character that I really, really loved.  Despite the fact that she's constantly swishing back and forth from doormat, to fiery independent, she's just got one of those personalities, so laden in down-to-earth realism, that you can't help but admire her ability to keep bouncing back.  And admire, I do, because for all the crap that happens to her throughout the book, you'd think she'd eventually find a point of no return and simply stop feeling so optimistic.

Except that even her optimism is lined with a realistic sense of acceptance.  Kind of alike a "I'm going to keep looking on the bright side, but if everything drops to hell... well, not much I can do about that but keep moving forward."  Her personality is hard to grasp, but I suspect that that's her appeal.

In contrast, Luke's personality is steeped in fatalism for himself, and hopeful optimism for others.  Even as he's doing what he can to help other people, especially Ali, he seems to come to the conclusion that his life is fated to be miserable, and anyone who is with him will also be miserable.  That eventually, he'll start to fail all the people around him, and his life will be crowded with disappointment.

It's depressing... except that his outlook doesn't stop him from continuing to help others in need.

On a side note, I also found Luke to be one of the more endearing, broody alpha males in fiction.  Even though his plans for a quiet, isolated vacation got dashed to pieces with Ali's presence, he'll still eat her omelets and other baked goods that come his way, even while continually pouting about his ruined vacation time.  And why do I find it especially cute that it's so easy to bribe him with food, specifically baked goods?

The number of times that scenes involving Luke and food were the few times I actually chuckled out loud while reading this book.

Ali had had a crappy day.  Leah had tried to get her to go out tonight but she wasn't in the mood.  Instead, she was in the kitchen licking brownie batter from a wooden spoon like her life depended on it when Luke wandered into the kitchen.

"I smell chocolate," he said, looking hopeful.

 

***

 

And in spite of the weather, the mountain chickadees were still out singing in force, "cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger," sounding like The Chipmunks on crack.

It made him hungry.


Do chickadees really sound like that?

Anyway, between Ali and Luke, I found that I really enjoyed reading It Had to Be You.  There were even a few moments loaded with feels.  The development of their relationship was subtle, but sweet, and while it was strange that they continued to live together even as perfect strangers, in a way, it worked.

But that is one of the reasons that I like a lot of Jill Shalvis's work, is because of the quick friendships, and the strong bonds presented.  Character interactions are warm and fluffy, even if sometimes the characters are strange and hard to comprehend.

We meet a lot of new people in this installment of the series, probably as a set up for the next few books to come.  And while I like seeing character interaction and love the strongly bonded friendships, some of the introductions were honestly, maybe a little awkward, or forced.  But if you gloss over those, the rest of the book is pretty great.

I love that Ali has a great relationship with her mother and sister.  I love that Ali's mother is protective and loving of her girls--that, as opposed to some other, darker books with characters of similar background, Ali's mother is one who will beat up the men who even dare look at her daughters the wrong way, rather than turn a blind eye in order to keep a man.

And you don't see a whole lot of it, but I also like seeing the camaraderie between Luke and his friends, and even some of the townsfolk of Lucky Harbor.  I appreciate that Luke and Zach learn to work together, both for Ali's sake, even in spite of the pissing contest they have going on.

I like that the townspeople don't immediately condemn Ali, even though they believe that she DID steal the charity money; wanting to find a peaceful, happy solution and help her stay out of jail.  I mean, it's still a bit insulting that they would believe her a criminal despite how well they know her.  Although I'm sure their hearts were in the right places.

There were a few loose ends I would have liked to see tied up, however, most especially the one involving Ali's ex-boyfriend, the shameless, rat-fink bastard, Ted Marshall.  Even at the conclusion, his character just kind of fades away into the background, but it didn't escape my notice that really nothing happens to him, nor is anything addressed concerning him, even though all of the conflict was mainly all because of him.


***


Free Friday #2:

Page Count:  327
Cash Award:  +$6.00

Updated Bank Balance:  $97.00

 

 

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2017/06/thoughts-it-had-to-be-you.html
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review 2017-06-23 07:56
Very Brief Thoughts: To the Rescue
To the Rescue - Jean Barrett

To the Rescue
by Jean Barrett

 

 

With a Mystery Mounting, A Medieval Fantasy was Fast Becoming All Too Real for an Unlikely Pair

Leo McKenzie was an American investigator tracking a hard-to-find woman through the English countryside.  But trailing antiques agent Jennifer Rowan through an impassable blizzard only amounted to a concussion and a developing cold crush.

After finding haven for the detective in a centuries-old monastery, Jenny sought a silent monk who had the answer to recovering the priceless Warley Madonna.  But when someone else got him to spill his guts first - literally - everyone stranded in the castle became a suspect.  The two reckless Americans made an imperfect match - and with eyes the color of whiskey, the headstrong P.I. was dangerously close to intoxicating Jennifer.  But with only each other to trust, the two strangers in an even stranger land would have to stop a killer who stalked the frozen hallways if they hoped to weather the storm.



As I had stated in my BLopoly update post for Roll #20, To the Rescue was enjoyable as a mystery, but the romance left much to be desired.  The writing was extremely heavy on the romance, which, no surprise there as this is a Harlequin romance and so, what did I expect, right?  But in another sense, the writing was also smooth and progressive, easy to read.  The mystery was a typical outline of a locked room murder mystery, though the killer wasn't a surprise upon reveal at the end.

Nevertheless, if I could change anything about this book, it would be the development of the romance.  Honestly, our main couple is trapped in a big, creepy monastery with strangers who are also trapped, and an entire order of monks.  There has been two murders, two attempts on our MCs lives, a stolen historical relic is part of the equation... and all Leo or Jennifer can think of is how attractive each other is, and continue to lust after each other non-stop.

There is a time and place for groping and sexy times.  While an unknown killer is running amok of a trapped, isolated castle is probably not the time to be constantly thinking about being touchy feely.

And then the insta-love kind of sprung up out of nowhere as well.

Everything else about this murder mystery was enjoyable, maybe with a few flaws here and there.  Really, it was just the romance that didn't do it for me.  And truthfully, neither of the main characters were that interesting either.  Nor were the side characters.


***

 

Booklikes-opoly


Roll #19:
Book is set in England.

Page Count:  292
Cash Award:  +$6.00

Updated Bank Balance:  $91.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2017/06/very-brief-thoughts-to-rescue.html
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review 2017-06-22 14:30
A Squee and a Ramble: The Suffragette Scandal
The Suffragette Scandal - Courtney Milan

The Suffragette Scandal

by Courtney Milan

Book 4 (final) of Brothers Sinister

 

 

An idealistic suffragette...

Miss Frederica "Free" Marshall has put her heart and soul into her newspaper, known for its outspoken support of women's rights.  Naturally, her enemies are intent on destroying her business and silencing her for good.  Free refuses to be at the end of her rope... but she needs more rope, and she needs it now.

...a jaded scoundrel...

Edward Clark's aristocratic family abandoned him to die in a war-torn land, so he survived the only way he could: by becoming a rogue and a first-class forger.  When the same family that left him for dead vows to ruin Miss Marshall, he offers his help.  So what if he has to lie to her?  She's only a pawn to use in his revenge.

...and a scandal seven years in the making.

But the irrepressible Miss Marshall soon enchants Edward.  By the time he realizes that his cynical heart is hers, it's too late.  The only way to thwart her enemies is to reveal his scandalous past... and once the woman he loves realizes how much he's lied to her, he'll lose her forever.

 

 

*** 

"Look at the tasks you listed, the ones you think are impossible.  You want men to give women the right to vote.  You want men to think of women as equals, rather than as lesser animals who go around spewing illogic between our menstrual cycles."

He still wasn't saying anything.

"All your tasks are about men," she told him.  "And if you haven't noticed, this is a newspaper for women."


Do you know that giddy feeling you get when you realize you've found yet another gem in your reading life?  Another set of characters so lovely that you can't seem to stop following their plight?  And you bemoan the ending of the book because you wish there were so much more?

When The Suffragette Scandal's ending came around, I kept hoping there would be a few more pages left.  And then when the epilogue finished... well, it suddenly struck me that the entire series was now at it's end.  Sure, there's one more novella that I have yet to finish, but if history is any indication, the novellas in this series aren't exactly as squee-worthy as the main novels have been.

Meanwhile, I'm suffering a bout of 'Book Hangover' as well as a case of, "I don't know which book I liked more:  One or Four."  Because as much as I squee-ed about the first book, and as much as I loved our main male character from The Duchess War, I maybe love Free and The Suffragette Scandal even more.  Except that this last book in the four-book series does one better and gives us another dose of the humble and wonderful Duke of Clermont near the end, and I recall all the reasons I loved him so much from the first book.

So, despite this being a completely moot point, I don't know which book I love more, and I don't know which character I love more, and I don't know which couple I love more.

Free and Edward were stupendous together!  I loved all their witty banter... though I DO have to admit that a lot of it was Free's round-about logic, her blunt personality, and her heck-care attitude.  This is a woman who truly doesn't care what people think of her, and even dares the world to challenge her beliefs and her life's work.  She doesn't bat an eye at any type of impropriety and even walks into it all head on.

 

"You should read more of my newspaper.  I published an excellent essay by Josephine Butler on this very subject.  Men use sexuality as a tool to shut up women.  We are not allowed to speak on matters that touch on sexual intercourse--even if they concern our own bodies and our own freedom--for fear of being labeled indelicate.  Any time a man wishes to scare a women into submission, he need only add the question of sexual attraction, leaving the virtuous woman with no choice but to blush and fall silent.  You should know, Mr. Clark, that I don't intend to fall silent.  I have already been labeled indelicate; there is nothing you can add to that chorus."

His mouth had dropped open on sexuality; it opened wider on intercourse, and wider still on attraction.


I can't really express how much I loved Free and her care-free spirit since the first time she was introduced in the second book of this series.  The Suffragette Scandal pretty much cemented my love for her.  It also helps that she has a distinctly endearing personality that comes off both cutesy and snarky at the same time.  This ongoing "punctuation" joke has been delightful, and made me smile a lot:

 

"Suffragette," she said, "is pronounced with an exclamation point at the end. Like this: 'Huzzah! Suffragettes!'"

 "I don't pronounce anything with exclamation points."

"No? Then there's no time like the present to start. Repeat after me: 'Let's hear three cheers for the women's vote!'"

"Cheering is entirely beyond my capabilities."

"Oh, too bad."  Her tone was sympathetic, but her eyes were mocking.  "I see now.  You're a womanthrope."

"No.  I am a realist.  Likely you've never met my sort before."

"Oh, I'm sure I have."  She rolled her eyes.  "I've heard everything.  Let me see.  You believe that women will vote for the handsomest candidate without using their faculties of reason.  Is that the size of your realism?"

He met her accusing gaze with an annoyed look of his own.  "Do I look like a fool?  I don't see any reason for women not to vote; you're no stupider, on average, than the typical man.  If there were any fairness in the world, suffragettes would succeed in all their political aims.  But the world is not fair.  You're going to spend your entire life fighting for gains that will be lost in political bickering ten years after they've been achieved.  That's why I won't spare you three cheers.  They'll serve no purpose but to waste my breath."

"Good heavens.  You're right.  I haven't met anyone like you."

And then she smiled at him.  "Well, Monsieur le Realist.  Call on me if you ever find yourself in need of an exclamation point.  I have an entire box of them."

***

 

"That's ridiculous!" Mr. Clark growled.  "You're extremely reasonable."

"Mr. Clark, did you just use an exclamation point?  I could have sworn I heard one."

He didn't even blink.  "Of course not," he scoffed.  "I borrowed one of yours.  It's allowed, when I'm talking of you."

***

 

"I heard it most distinctly," he told her.  "You might have said 'It's you,' but there was a distinct exclamation mark at the end.  In fact, I think there were two."

"Oh, dear," Free looked down, fluttering her eyelashes demurely.  "Is my punctuation showing once more?"


And now I'm just filling the space with quotes and passages I've been highlighting throughout the book...

So here's another one I liked:

 

"I'm tired," Free told her brother.  "Thank you for everything.  I'd never have been able to rid myself of Delacy without you."  She leaned up and kissed his cheek.  "You're my favorite brother."

"I'm your only brother," he said in dark amusement.

"You see?" Free spread her arms.  "I can't count on any of the others to even exist when I need them."


But there was just so much fun, humorous, witty quips and exchanges.  Even some one-liners that made me laugh out loud!  And then, in the middle of it all, a lot of thoughtful insight that really DID make it so easy to love this book, and Free, and even Edward (for all his flaws).  The rest of the characters might have been a tad boring (except for Robert, never Robert!), or frustrating, but following Free and Edward through their conflicts and their love story really just made every other quibble and disagreement I found dim out into insignificance.

In a word, I just loved this book.  Free is wonderful!  And she and Edward are so amazing fun together, even if they didn't really have super great romantic chemistry.

Oh the FEELS!

And then there's this little gem:

 

May 28, 1877

As I don't believe in sending letters filled with treacle-like sentiment, I feel as if I should... send you a puppy or something.

Alas.  I don't know if puppies keep when sent through the mails--and I doubt they'd pass through customs these days.

It's too bad you aren't a pirate, as you'd once planned.  That would make puppy delivery far more efficient.  I'd bring up my own ship next to you and send you an entire broadside of puppies.  You'd be buried in very small dogs.  You'd be far too busy with puppy care to worry about anything else.  This is now sounding more and more invasive, and less and less cheering--and nonetheless I have yet to meet anyone who was not delighted by a wriggling mass of puppies.  If I ever did meet such a person, he would deserve misery.

Do not doubt the power of the puppy-cannon.

Edward

P.S.  If there is no puppy attached to this message, it is because it was confiscated at customs.  Bah.  Customs is terrible.



In spite of the fact that I had no idea what Edward was babbling on about, and how so out of character his entire letter seemed... well... PUPPY-CANNON.  =D


Overall, I'm really going to miss this series and the characters.  That Book Hangover is probably going to be here to stay for some time...


***

 


Free Friday Read #1

Page Count = 322
Cash Award = $6.00

Updated Bank Balance = $85.00

 

 

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2017/06/a-squee-and-ramble-suffragette-scandal.html
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review 2017-06-22 01:32
Duology Review: Once a Thief, Always a Thief
Once a Thief - Kay Hooper
Always a Thief - Kay Hooper

Quinn/Thief by Kay Hooper
Book #1:  Once a Thief | Rating: 2.5 Stars
Book #2:  Always a Thief | Rating: 2.5 Stars

Overall Series Average Rating: 2.5 Stars

 


I'm going to be totally honest and say that this series caught my attention, mainly because of the book titles.  I imagined throwing a series review together like this, because it somehow felt aesthetically pleasing (see review post title above).  I suppose it also helps that Kay Hooper's an author I like, and truth, I find a lot of her earlier work more enjoyable than some of the boring drivel she's been putting out lately.

Don't get me wrong: I'm still holding out hope that the Bishop/SCU series will find its former glory.

But this review is about Quinn/Thief duology, so let's get back on track.

Unfortunately, partway through the first book, I had a niggling feeling that I was missing something--that there was a whole world of Quinn/Thief out there that might belong in a different story, or even in prior books written by Kay Hooper, connecting to this world.  So I did a search and found a four book series from Harlequin Loveswept called Men of Mysteries Past, which involved such titles pointing to the four main alpha male characters who all appear in the two books, Max Bannister, Wolfe Nickerson, Jared Chavalier, and the master thief Quinn.

There's also a very blatantly obvious connection between them that doesn't present itself until the very end of the duology; and while I hadn't really thought about it while reading the two books, it didn't strike me as surprising when revealed either.

Still, I was... a bit flummoxed and not sure how to continue this duology.  Especially since the book was dragging a whole lot to begin with anyway, what with all the characters sitting around and discussing security, and gangs of thieves, and Quinn's thieving career... with absolutely no action going on.  It reminded me of those last few trilogy arcs of the Bishop/SCU series where the characters simply spend all of the book sitting around and just... well, discussing things.

It got boring fast.

I DID do some backtracking after I finished the first book, and reread Hooper's author's note a bit more carefully, realizing that she had, indeed hinted at previously published works and her love for Quinn the master thief, thus leading to this re-imagined duology, which is supposed to center mostly around Quinn.  She admits that some of the scenes and dialogue is copy and paste, but that the majority of the two books are definitely new material with some different actions and scenes.

I'm not sure how I feel about this.  And yet I HAD to read the second book because of all the loose ends and the mysteries and the secrets yet to be resolved/revealed.  Unfortunately, I can't very well admit that all the loose ends were cleaned up.  The ending of the duology was quite open-ended, both with the criminal thriller parts and the romance parts.

It all felt unsatisfying and unfinished.  Needless to say, while the books were quite easy to read, I'm not entirely certain they were really worth the time put into them, considering how scattered and hop-scotch the progression was, and how unresolved everything felt.  And how deliberately mysterious Hooper was trying to make all the scenes seem, while making all of her characters talk and monologue way too much.

 

 

 

With a priceless collection at stake...

It had taken centuries for Max Bannister's family to acquire their treasures, and now he's been asked to risk his collection as bait for a master criminal.  For his own reasons, Max allows a public exhibition, and to protect the family fortune he must rely on the skills of his half brother--a world-class security expert--and his smart and savvy exhibit director, Morgan West.


Is everything for the taking?

But almost immediately, Morgan comes face-to-face with the mysterious Quinn, Interpol’s most wanted thief for the past decade—and a man who makes it very clear he has an eye on the Bannister collection.  And if that’s not enough, Morgan begins to realize that she’s surrounded by secrets and lies, and that someone very close to Max is moving behind the scenes, intent on murder as well as robbery...someone whose ultimate plan threatens to ruin them all.



Truthfully, there was so much going on in the first book that I really couldn't tell if Ms. Hooper had an actual direction to her story progression.  The main premise was there, though, don't get me wrong.  But I had a hard time following one character after another without wondering if details were being left out, or if I was already supposed to understand the fairly underdeveloped characters in this universe.

And truth, aside from maybe Storm Tremaine and her cat, I really had a hard time liking any of the characters.  Four broody alpha males, two feisty damsels... it's a typical dated romance, though two couples are showcased together in the first book.  And while I DID enjoy the bickering and insta-lust to immediate insta-love between Wolfe and Storm (these names!), I found the romance between Quinn and Morgan completely incredible, starting with the fact that there's a modicum of psychic hinting between the two, as well as Morgan's TSTL actions that make absolutely no sense.  Which is a big disappointment, because I had expected so much more from her.

In terms of storytelling, Once a Thief was definitely what you would call a "set-up" book.  Because nothing really happens except for a maybe last minute villain; this book read like an introductory of sorts.  Which is a lot of pages for setting up the world and the story.

I read this book for Booklikes-opoly in Summer 2017.

Roll #16: (See Also: Roll #16 Activities)

Page Count:  326
Cash Award:  +$3.00

Bank Increased to $73.00 with this read.

 

In a deadly game of skill and deception...

The priceless, rarely displayed Bannister collection is about to be exhibited--and the show's director, Morgan West, can't ignore her growing uneasiness.  She's certain she hasn't seen the last of the infamous cat burglar Quinn.  But she never expected him to turn up at her apartment one dark night in desperate need of her help--help she can't refuse.  The mysterious master thief is playing a dangerous game, and it's a game that just might get him killed.

A master thief is just the first wild card...

With Morgan's help, Quinn sets a trap intended to catch someone far more elusive... and more deadly... than a thief.  But an unseen threat shadows him in the fog-shrouded San Francisco night, an unknown adversary more cunning than any he has yet encountered.  Now, just when the stakes are higher than even Quinn can imagine, no one can be trusted--and everything's at risk.



To my extreme frustration, Always a Thief didn't fare as well either.  Pretty much this entire second book just continues the story line from the first, with all the same quibbles and irritating draggy-ness that I really didn't care for.

Morgan's TSTL characteristics didn't improve, despite all the narrative efforts to make her sound like an intelligent, witty, independent woman.  At least there's a scene wherein she, herself, points out just how TSTL her actions have become since she'd met Quinn, the master thief.  Of course, it still didn't stop her from continuing to rush into danger for no good reason; although, since very little negative came out of her actions, I suppose I don't know why I'm complaining.

Oh, that's right, maybe because we've still got some sort of strange psychic connection being emphasized between Quinn and Morgan that makes absolutely no sense at all.

Meanwhile, the rest of the characters are shuffled into the background.  Truth be told, I would have liked to see more on the development between Quinn and Jared, once we find out what their connection is... but the book sort of just fazed it out and made it seem insignificant in light of all the scattered activity of the main conflict, and the non-romance-romance going on between Quinn and Morgan.

Truthfully, I think I probably reset my outlook on this book after reading Once a Thief, but that still didn't keep me from feeling a twinge of disappointment that things didn't work out the way I'd been hoping.  And when I say "work out the way I'd been hoping," I mean get more exciting and less boring, as well as turn Morgan into a more sensible character who doesn't just accept all of Quinn's lies with a shrug and a "whaddya gonna do?" just because she's somehow fallen in love with him (in spite of all the lies and secrets); or who doesn't just go rushing into danger without a backup plan.

In light of this, I kind of miss having Storm and Wolfe bicker at each other.


Overall, I feel like maybe if I'd known about the previously published four book series that was the jumping board for this duology, I maybe would have given some thought to reading that one first, then maybe coming back to this duology some time later.  Instead, now that I've finished with this two-book series, I'm not entirely sure how I'd feel about going back and picking up Men of Mysteries Past and seeing if it would be more worth my time.

Another last thought... I had a fleeting moment to wonder whether or not Hooper had intended to extend this duology to a trilogy or maybe another foursome.  Though to be fair, I suppose there would  then have to be some more clever wording with the book titles, as Once a Thief, Always a Thief has a nice ring to it already.  Adding more might undermine that aesthetically pleasing review post title I still found I looked forward to presenting...

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2017/06/duology-review-once-thief-always-thief.html
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review 2017-06-21 15:10
Finished with The Suffragette Scandal!!!
The Suffragette Scandal - Courtney Milan

 

I am feeling a massive Book Hangover right now...

 

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