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Review of the Shard by Victoria Simcox   Leave a comment

 

 

The Shard, Victoria Simcox’s fast-paced, intricately woven sequel to The Warble, takes Kristina Kingsly and her schoolmates back to Bernovem…and into a thrilling, often dangerous adventure.

Kristina’s stay at summer horse camp is horrible to say the least, and it’s all because Hester and Davina are there, too, making her life miserable. When Hester’s cruel prank goes terribly wrong, it’s actually what sends the three girls back to the magical land.

In Bernovem, Kristina is excited to see her former friend, Prince Werrien. When he invites her to sail with him on his ship to his homeland Tezerel, putting it simply, Kristina can’t refuse.

Reunited with her gnome, dwarf, animal, fairy friends and best of all, Werrien, things seem like they couldn’t get any better for Kristina. But when Werrien becomes fascinated with an unusual seeing stone, the “Shard,” Kristina is haunted by a ghostlike hag.

Struggling against suspicion, guilt, illness, and ultimately the one who wants to possess her soul, Kristina will see it’s in her weakest moment that she will encounter more strength than she has ever known.

***

 

 

In the Shard, we return to the delightful world of Bernovem and its inhabitants of talking animals, fairies, and dwarfs. Kristina, our hero from the first book, is older now, and at times, she feels like the entire time she spent in Bernovem was a dream. A stay at summer camp soon lands her back in the magical realm where she gets reacquainted with old friends, as well as the charming Prince Werrien for whom she is developing feelings for. And while things couldn’t look more idealic, there is a subtle danger growing. Kristina can’t understand why she is getting sick so often, and Werrien has become enraptured with the Shard, a crystal that allows him to see into other places. And in the shadows, a malevolent creature is plotting the demise of not only Kristina and Werrien, but all of Bernovem.
It’s a tale of adventure and faith, whimsy and magic. Open the door to the next chapter of this enchanting story. You won’t be disappointed.

 

 

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Review of The Wounded Shadow by Patrick Carr   Leave a comment

 

The kings and queens of the northern continent lay siege to the Darkwater Forest, desperate to contain its evil. But rumors of gold and aurium have lured deserters and the desperate into its shadow, creating a growing army held in its sway. Desperate after the death and dissolution of their greatest ally, Willet and the Vigil seek the truth of what lies at the heart of the evil they face. They delve the mind of an old enemy and find an answer far worse than they could have imagined.

Danger stalks the cities of the north, striking at the rulers of the kingdoms. As Willet and the rest of the Vigil seek to find answers, the group is scattered with an ever-growing darkness around them. Will they discover a path to keep their land safe, or will an ancient evil reclaim the world it once called its own?

***

 

To say that I was excited for the third and final book of the Darkwater saga by Patick Carr is an understatement. I practically kept my eyes peeled on my inbox for the email from Bethany House listing the book up for review, then hoping I’d make it on the list. And we’ll skip the part with me doing a victory dance once it did. 😛
Anyway….
Though the series has had its rough spots, overall, it’s been a great adventure. The world-building, the characters…. Honestly, I need to read it over again because I miss it. I’d highly recommend reading the first two books in the series, so you have a proper grasp of what is going on.

The story starts with Willet and the other members of the vigil racing to halt the evil of the Darkwater forest that is sweeping over the continent. With people lured by rumors of gold and precious aurium in the forest’s depths, Cesla is building a powerful army with abilities to rival even the gifted. The solution to their defeat? Locked in a vault within the tortured mind of Willet Dura.

So where to start? The plot, despite some lags in places, is awesome. The tension, the emotional journey of the characters, keeps you riveted to the pages. And I must admit, Patrick Carr went deeper with the characters than I was expecting. Anne Elisabeth Stengl is one of my favorite authors because she knows how to bring to life a character’s dark side and still show the redeeming power of love that bring a person back from the edge of the abyss. To my utter surprise, Patrick Carr went this route and succeeded! Mark, the former urchin and thief now Pellin’s apprentice, who shows more heart and depth than a priest in his desire to bring back the mind of a girl who was twisted into becoming a mindless dwimor, capable only of killing; Pellin, who saw how Cesla was snared into exploring the Darkwater. He recognized the man’s pride that could have been his own and led him into destruction. And in spite of all Cesla’s evil, still loved the man that was once his brother and mentor, and strove to remind him of that in the end. These were perhaps a couple of the most moving areas in the story that touched me.

Toria Deel has been a journey in progress. Originally, she was more of a pompous twit than anything else. And definitely willing do whatever it took to further the Vigil’s goal. The end justifying the means, regardless of who was hurt. Losing the man she loved and being teamed up with a former urchin causes her to soften.

Bolt, honestly, you gotta love. The man is like an older version of Batman and Wolverine thrown in there (DC/Marvel reference, I know :P). He always expects something bad to happen, and rarely shows much emotion. But he has such a dry sense of humor, you can’t help smiling as you read.

Willet…Willet has been an off and on character for me. While I like him, he’s not one of my favorite characters, which is odd since he is the MAIN character in the story. But I think the problem lies with the fact that Patrick Carr tried too hard at times to make the character flawed, and a bit of a wise-mouth. But he’s capable and does try to keep his head in tight situations, so he still works.
The gift of domere changed his life. Some might argue it wasn’t for the better, as it grants to Willet an unnaturally long lifespan that will see him still hale and hearty while the woman he loves grows old. But he learns to accept both it and Gael’s love, and acknowledge that he must leave everything in Aer’s hands.

I came across one review that mention how this book has nothing to do with Christianity, wallows in worldly wisdom, and loses touch with truth. As a reader who actively searches for inspiring reads, I respectively have to disagree. Does the story expound Christian beliefs? Yes. Does it whack you over the head with them? No. I have always believed that the greatest thing a story can do is “show” the message through the characters and their actions, instead of delivering a sermon that makes you roll your eyes.

In the Wounded Shadow, you see the consequences of pride and yet the hope for salvation. Mercy, forgiveness, love, and restoration come together in a sweeping epic that truly makes The Wounded Shadow a satisfying conclusion to this series.
Verdict: A definite buy!

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

Review of Dagger’s Sleep by Tricia Mingerink   1 comment

 

 

A prince cursed to sleep.
A princess destined to wake him.
A kingdom determined to stop them.
High Prince Alexander has been cursed to a sleep like unto death, a curse that will end the line of the high kings and send the Seven Kingdoms of Tallahatchia into chaos. With his manservant to carry his luggage and his own superior intelligence to aid him, Alex sets off to find one of the Fae and end his curse one way or another.
A hundred years later, Princess Rosanna learns she is the princess destined by the Highest King to wake the legendary sleeping prince. With the help of the mysterious Daemyn Rand, can she find the courage to finish the quest as Tallahatchia wavers on the edge of war?
One curse connects them. A hundred years separate them. From the rushing rivers of Tallahatchia’s mountains to the hall of the Highest King himself, their quests will demand sacrifices neither of them could imagine.

***

 

Greetings everyone! I joined up with the blog tour for Tricia Mingerink. Though events decided to conspire against me, I still managed to finish reading Dagger’s Sleep and get my review up on time. So without further ado, here we go….

Dagger’s Sleep takes the story of Sleeping Beauty and reinvents it with twist. In this tale, it is the prince, not the princess, who is in need of awakening.

Our main characters are Rosanna, the princess chosen for the task, and Alex, the prince in need of saving. The world is populated by Fae and human, but the magical elements are few. For the most part, the world has a decidedly Native American/frontiersman theme going for it.

So first I’ll list my likes. Ms. Mingerink is a good writer and it shows in Dagger’s Sleep. Her writing is clear, and she knows how to effortlessly take the smallest scenes and stretch them into vivid detail without going overly wordy on them. Her characters for the most part are fleshed-out well, particularly her male characters Jadon and Alex, and I loved her take on the Fae. The allegorical elements woven into the story are amazing and, dare I say, even enough to rival Anne Elisabeth Stengl (who happens to be one of my favorite authors :D).

And now we come to the list of dislikes. I really admired how Ms. Mingerink was able to bring to life the trek through the woods, the handling of the canoe, and just the general feel you would get from actually going out there in the wilderness on a dangerous quest. My quibble comes in that it went on for a good chunk of the book without much going on to break up the monotony aside from a couple fights.

My other quibble is the jumping back and forth in time. Personally, I think the story would have worked better for the main protagonist, Rosanna, if we’d kept the scenes featuring Prince Alex few, and started them at the beginning. Instead we start with Rosanna, and then on chapter 4, we’re swept a 100 years back in time to view the journey of Prince Alex. Who also happens to be going on a quest of his own to seek a cure to the curse haunting his steps.

Ironically, it is Prince Alex’s tale I ended up enjoying more, even though he too is trekking through the wilderness. I found the character to have more personality than Rosanna, which made for a more interesting read. Yes, he’s arrogant and will get on your nerves probably with some of his pomposity, but it was fun watching him grow on the journey. And Jadon definitely deserves a medal for being one of the most loyal and dependable bodyguards ever.

Rosanna…honestly, I didn’t really connect with her character until perhaps midway through the story. She’s dependable and quite skilled holding her own without being unrealistic (like Anna in Frozen). And I enjoyed watching her embrace the role she was meant to carry.

So my thoughts? While it’s got a few rough spots, particularly that jumping back and forth in time, it’s an enjoyable read with a great allegory running through it. Definitely looking forward to the next book in the series! 😀

(I received a free copy of the book from author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

Blog tour schedule can be found here: https://triciamingerink.com/2018/05/22/dissociate-daggers-sleep-blog-tour/

And here’s something fun for all of you, A giveaway of Dagger’s Sleep, as well as another book, Dissociate by Sarah Addison-Fox. 😀

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Tricia Mingerink is giving away a paperback of Dagger’s Sleep. The giveaway is open internationally where such giveaways are permitted and where Createspace or the Book Depository ships. The book may or may not be signed depending on where the winner lives. To enter, click the link below.

Dagger’s Sleep Giveaway

 

 

 

 

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Sarah Addison-Fox is giving away a paperback set of the first three books in the Allegiance Series. The giveaway is open internationally where such giveaways are permitted and where Createspace ships. The books may or may not be signed depending on where the winner lives. To enter, click the link below.

Dissociate Giveaway

Review of A Most Noble Heir by Susan Anne Mason   Leave a comment

 

 

When stable hand Nolan Price learns from his dying mother that he is actually the son of the Earl of Stainsby, his plans for a future with kitchen maid Hannah Burnham are shattered. Once he is officially acknowledged as the earl’s heir, Nolan will be forbidden to marry beneath his station.

Unwilling to give up the girl he loves, he devises a plan to elope–believing that once their marriage is sanctioned by God, Lord Stainsby will be forced to accept their union. However, as Nolan struggles to learn the ways of the aristocracy, he finds himself caught between pleasing Hannah and living up to his father’s demanding expectations.

At every turn, forces work to keep the couple apart, and a solution to remain together seems further and further away. With Nolan’s new life pulling him irrevocably away from the woman he loves, it seems only a miracle will bring them back together.

***

 

Due to my mom choosing this, I ended up picking A Most Noble Heir by Susan Anne Mason to read. I believe it falls in the Regency romance section? Technically this is not a genre I’m fond of reading. In fact, the Regency genre on a whole I find to be boring (sorry Jane Austen fans). Sense and Sensibility I like, and Jane Eyre ranks as my favorite (in tv watching, not reading). My eagerness to read this book was next to nil, but seeing as how there was little else to pick from March’s catalog of books to blog on, I went with my mom’s suggestion (since I would be giving her the book anyway after I’m done).

This is my first book by Susan Anne Mason, and I’ll be completely honest and say that I was surprised to find myself genuinely enjoying the story. The plot, of course, is simple enough.

Nolan Price, a simple stable hand, has got everything settled for his life. He’s found the farm he intends to purchase once he quits his job at Stainsby Hall, and got the right woman, a kitchen maid named Hannah, to join in matrimony and spend the rest of his life with. Even better, he plans on taking his mother with him where she’ll be able to spend the rest of her remaining years in peace. Unfortunately, life refuses to stay that simple for him.

His mother falls ill, and before she dies, tells him the truth of his parentage: that he is really the son of the Earl of Stainsby. With that revelation, his hopes of leading a quiet life with the woman he loves goes up in smoke, as he won’t be able to marry beneath his station.

I really did enjoy reading about Nolan. It’s not often you find guys with enough backbone willing to fight for a woman. And Nolan did fight all the way, right down to sneakily eloping behind the Earl’s back, even after being forbidden to marry Hannah since she was a kitchen maid. Although I do have to be honest and say that it did get annoying him with him trying to please his father, who only kept behaving like an absolute moron.
Much of the story focused on the tension between Nolan and his father, with the Earl applying all the pressure he can to force his son to conform to his demands, and Nolan both fighting him and trying to please him as best he can. As for all the rigorous training Nolan must undergo for his new position, that is mostly kept in the background and never delved into. Which I didn’t mind, since the drama between the characters kept you turning the pages.

Hannah, the love of Nolan, is a sweet girl, innocent and very supportive of Nolan. She is Nolan’s anchor in the storm that sweeps over his life, but as time goes on and she is eventually forbidden to even meet with him per the instructions of the Earl, she eventually starts crumble, especially after she overhears a secret conversation. While I admired her willingness to sacrifice her happiness for Nolan and could empathize with her inner fears that she wasn’t worthy to be loved, it did get maddening watching her always taking off on Nolan, then fussing about how he must not want her anymore and will probably get swept away with the money and position. And of course Nolan didn’t help matters. You can’t try to please a demanding and thoroughly controlling father at the expense of your wife.

In the end, it isn’t so much the Earl of Stainsby who is the threat to their happiness, but themselves. Which brings us to the Earl himself. To say he was annoying would be an understatement. Obnoxious is closer to it. However, as the story progresses, he ends up meeting the Duchess of Hartford, who proves to be the one to deliver some common sense to the Earl with her unorthodox ways.

Faith content was minimal. But there were some good lessons, like Nolan learning to let go of his pride and Hannah her insecurities. And above all, learning to put God first in things and trusting Him to work everything out.

So all in all, the story was an enjoyable read, and one I think everyone will enjoy revisiting on rainy days and winter nights.

Verdict: While not the most inspiring, A Most Noble Heir is a story with well-developed characters and good pacing that will please most lovers of historical fiction, so a buy is recommended. (And on a side-note, my mom also gives this her seal of approval. 😉 )

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

Review of A Light on the Hill by Connilyn Cossette   Leave a comment

 

Seven years ago, Moriyah was taken captive in Jericho and branded with the mark of the Canaanite gods. Now the Israelites are experiencing peace in their new land, but Moriyah has yet to find her own peace. Because of the shameful mark on her face, she hides behind her veil at all times and the disdain of the townspeople keeps her from socializing. And marriage prospects were out of the question . . . until now.

Her father has found someone to marry her, and she hopes to use her love of cooking to impress the man and his motherless sons. But when things go horribly wrong, Moriyah is forced to flee. Seeking safety at one of the newly-established Levitical cities of refuge, she is wildly unprepared for the dangers she will face, and the enemies–and unexpected allies–she will encounter on her way.

 

***

Connilyn Cossette continues the stories she started in her previous series, “Out from Egypt”, with a brand new one: “Cities of Refuge”. Since reading her books, I’ve become a huge fan of Cossette’s Biblical adventures, and was excited to get the first book of her latest series, A Light on a Hill.

I’m not going to go in-depth on the plot. I think that’s been gone over numerous times on Amazon, so you have a sense of what’s going on in the book. So instead, I’ll go over the things I loved with this story.

As with Cossette’s previous books, the character development is excellent. You truly feel for Moriyah who has lived her life apart from the public, and is so afraid of the judgment of others that even though she hides behind a veil, she still quakes in fear any time an eye so much as focuses on her. Her dreams to have a family of her own have long since crumbled into dust. The mark on her flesh is also etched in her heart, and she wonders why Yahweh seems to no longer be with her. Her little happiness is gained in burying herself in cooking and helping others.

I could really empathize with Moriyah there. I think there are many of us who, because of fear or despair, isolate ourselves from almost everyone and bury ourselves in our own little world. Yes we may be lonely, but we feel safe. And that is how Moriyah is in the story.

Being accused of murder nearly undoes her. Never has she wanted to hurt anyone else, but now people are dead because of her. Even as she flees to a city of refuge to escape the avenger of blood in hopes of having a fair trial, she is torn with just letting herself be killed. Because she doesn’t believe herself worth saving anymore.

Moriyah’s journey is one of heartache and healing, as she learns to let go of the fear that has bound her and accept God’s grace. To learn that it wasn’t God who had left her, but she who had shut out His voice from her heart. And with that realization, she hears from Him once more and becomes the light He always meant for her to be.

And yes, the romance is good. 😉 For those of you who’ve been reading my reviews, you know I’m a huge fan of a good romance, and this story will definitely please those who love that.

Darek (the male lead) is thankfully not one of those hardheaded numbskulls who believe rumors instead of seeing a person’s heart for themselves. In spite of being related to the ones Moriyah has murdered, he still treats her with respect and honor, and by watching her actions in the face of danger, sees Moriyah for the wonderful person she is.

You definitely get it all with A Light on the Hill: action, suspense, romance, and a powerful story of God’s grace to us even when we don’t deserve it.

Verdict: Buy this book at once!

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

Book Review of A Passionate Hope by Jill Eileen Smith   4 comments

Hannah and her husband, Elkanah, share a deep and abiding love, for each other, for their God, and for his tabernacle at Shiloh. Greatly disturbed by the corruption of the priests, they long for restoration and pray for a deliverer. But nothing changes as the years pass. Years that also reveal Hannah to be barren.

Pressured by his family to take another wife, Elkanah marries Peninnah, who quickly begins to bear children. Disgraced and taunted by her husband’s new wife, Hannah turns again to prayers that seem doomed to go unanswered. Do her devotion and kindness in the face of Peninnah’s cruelty count for nothing? Why does God remain silent and indifferent to her pleas?

Travel back to the dusty streets of Shiloh with an expert guide as Jill Eileen Smith brings to life a beloved story of hope, patience, and deliverance that shows that even the most broken of relationships can be restored.

***

This is my first book from Jill Eileen Smith. Though this is the fourth book in the series, each book focuses on a certain character from the Bible, so the stories are self-contained. With this book, the author brings Hannah’s story to life.

It’s very rare to find good Biblical fiction. This book joins that list of amazing and beautiful works that you will not only want on your shelf, but want to revisit over and over again. Smith paints a poignant and moving story. Hannah’s greatest wish is to be the mother of Elkanah’s sons. But year after year goes by, and she wonders if God sees her, if He even bothers to listen to her prayers, though she has loved and obeyed Him her entire life. She feels worthless, even though her husband loves her.

Elkanah is a great character who loves Hannah with all his heart, in spite of receiving no children from her. You, like me, are probably going to shake your head and wish he’d grown a spine in resisting his family who pressured him to marry Peninnah. But then again, it’s hard to judge when you’re not in the person’s shoes. And I think we all know how hard it is when you have family pressuring you to do something. From the beginning Elkanah regrets his decision, and with Peninnah’s unpleasant attitude and nasty behavior towards Hannah, you can feel his doubts and grief as he wonders if his family will ever be at peace and why God could not have allowed Hannah to bear his children.

Peninnah is spoiled, demanding, and lives in continual bitterness over the affection she longs to receive from Elkanah, but who instead gives it all to Hannah. No matter how many sons she gives him and how she derides Hannah and points out her barrenness, she cannot gain Elkanah’s love.

I’d already read through half of the book before I decided to just take the day off and blast through the rest because I couldn’t wait for the next part any longer. I enjoyed reading of Elkanah and Hannah’s love for each other, and the drama in Elkanah’s family with the friction Peninnah causes will definitely keep you turning those pages. And you will root for Hannah as, through all her doubts and sorrow, she holds onto God even when she thinks He doesn’t listen to her. And in the end, her faith is rewarded.

You will see this multiple times in the reviews posted on here, but I have to agree with the consensus. It really is a beautiful and moving tale of faith, forgiveness, of letting go of your doubts and despair, and allowing God to make your heart whole again.

This is a book that gets my highest recommendation. And on a side-note, I gave this to my mother to read, and she loved it so much, she’s rereading it a second time.

Verdict: A compelling and poignant retelling of Hannah that deserves its place on the shelf.

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

Review of Judah’s Wife by Angela Hunt   Leave a comment

 

Seeking peace and safety after a hard childhood, Leah marries Judah, a strong and gentle man, and for the first time in her life Leah believes she can rest easily. But the land is ruled by Antiochus IV, descended from one of Alexander the Great’s generals, and when he issues a decree that all Jews are to conform to Syrian laws upon pain of death, devout Jews risk everything to follow the law of Moses.

Judah’s father resists the decree, igniting a war that will cost him his life. But before dying, he commands his son to pick up his sword and continue the fight–or bear responsibility for the obliteration of the land of Judah. Leah, who wants nothing but peace, struggles with her husband’s decision–what kind of God would destroy the peace she has sought for so long?

The miraculous story of the courageous Maccabees is told through the eyes of Judah’s wife, who learns that love requires courage . . . and sacrifice.

 

***

 

After reading the first book in Angela Hunt’s Silent Years series, I waited with eager anticipation for the next in the series. In the second book of the Silent Years, Angela Hunt takes us back to the time of the Maccabees and their heroic struggle to follow their faith.

I had high hopes for this book, and initially it started out strong enough. Leah, the wife of Judah, has lived for years with an abusive father. So when she is offered in marriage to Judah, she hopes she can finally escape the violence that has plagued her entire life, and have peace. Judah proves to be nothing like her father, instead being a kind man willing to stand up for his family and faith. When events take a drastic turn, however, Leah struggles to love and trust Judah as he becomes the leader of the bloody revolt against Antiochus IV. Judah is a reluctant hero, a man forced into a role which he never asked for, but follows out of his desire to obey God and not repeat the mistakes of his ancestors. But in choosing to follow God’s lead, he risks losing the woman he loves.

Angela Hunt does a great job bringing her characters to life. Even secondary characters stand strong in the story. But there are some issues.

When it comes to the romance part, Hunt tends to skim over it. To her credit, she did a better job in this book than the last, but it still felt rushed and pushed aside to make room for the rest of the story. Mainly, the Maccabees’ struggle. Which brings me to another issue, and that is including too much history and not enough story. Angela Hunt’s goal is telling you the historical events of the Maccabees. That means fleshing out certain elements is going to be minimal, and that is how the interaction between Judah and Leah was. While there are pauses every now and then when she halts history to focus on the characters themselves and how events challenge them, she quickly moves on.

Leah, honestly, got on my nerves more than once. I understand when you live in an abusive household for your entire life, you can’t just open up and give love out. However, her mother is the one who takes the brunt of the abuse for her. Like 99% of it. Leah’s reaction? Scorn because her mother did not fight back or do anything. Zero gratitude for what her mother endured for her sake, until Judah’s mother pointed it out to her.

Next, she hated violence, so despite Judah being kind and gentle to her for several years, being a husband every woman would want to have, she becomes convinced he will start beating her once he becomes a warrior. So what does she do? Act like a spoiled brat and throw tantrums when she doesn’t get her own way. I actually felt sorry for Judah and what he had to put up with.

I won’t spoil the end for all of you. Suffice it to say that I already knew how it would end since I know the history of Judah. But the way Angela did it was so abrupt, you end up feeling very disappointed once you’ve finished the book.

I did like how Leah’s thoughts and perceptions of God grew. She doubts in the beginning as to whether God hears her prayers after the repeated violence she has seen in her home, and questions whether he really has a plan for her. Then slowly, she finally comprehends the destiny He has for her life and His love for her.

If we could have focused more on her and her relationship with Judah, the story would have been better (as well as some maturity on her part). As it is, while it starts out with a strong beginning, it loses pace pretty quick in favor of focusing on historical events over the characters and their relationship with each other.

Verdict: A semi-decent read that should please most enthusiasts of Biblical fiction, except those looking for more depth to a story and characters.

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

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