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Reading Rec: The Craft of Love

The Craft of Love is a sweet novella featuring two artisans falling for each other in early Victorian New York City.

love of craft

When Benjamin Lewis stumbled across some of his mother’s old sewing projects, it dredges up painful memories from his past. Unable to part with the old dresses, he decides to have them transformed into something new: a quilt. Luckily, his lace-making sister knows just the seamstress for the job, Remembrance Quincy. Remembrance is a woman of strong convictions and even stronger skills. At her studio, she and her girls produce pieces for New York’s upper class, but something about the soft-spoken Mr. Lewis catches her attention. He proposes a trade: the quilt from his mother’s dresses for a silver teapot worked by his hands. Soon it’s silver for fabric and craftsman for craftswoman.

Sometimes I really crave a drama-free romance, and The Craft of Love hit the spot. Remembrance is a strong, confident woman who prides herself on her skills and her principles. She’s an abolitionist who practices what she preaches by staying away from goods produced by slaves, like cotton and sugar, and within her own community she tries to give women a voice. Mr. Lewis is also more than what he seems. Some of you may have been curious why I have a male-female romance on my blog when I mostly read LGBT+ romance. Well, Mr. Lewis is transgender, which is revealed early on and isn’t made a big deal over. This is incredibly refreshing as there’s no traumatic reveal or obsessing over the character’s sex. It’s woven in with skill and no muss, which I think speaks to the fact that Ottoman is an own-voice writer.

What I absolutely loved about this novella is how much of early nineteenth century New York City is brought into it. We hear about William Cullen Bryant doing a poetry reading, the New York Botanical Society (and how the city couldn’t care for their plants), and Sunday promenades in the park. It makes for a lush yet familiar atmosphere, especially for someone living in the Tri-State Area like myself.

The other highlight of this book is how Ottoman focuses on the characters’ crafts. The same amount of gravity is given to quilts as to silver-working. Remembrance is seen as someone who is incredibly skilled even if her works bear no maker’s mark or end up in a museum in the twenty-first century with the name anonymous where her name should be. It speaks to a changing tide in how women’s handicrafts are now being taken more seriously and are starting to get the scholarship they deserve. This book took me back to the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum where silver tankards sit in display cases in the sun, maker’s mark highlighted and explained on a card while sewing and quilts are indoors within their period rooms behind glass, easily missed as one passes down the hall to the pieces of furniture and grand portraits. It’s easy to miss the skill and time needed to make a piece when we have been taught to ignore that craftsmanship. The same can be said for Benjamin’s pieces, which are domestic as well. Do we ever stop and give a teapot its due? Probably not, but after reading The Craft of Love, I know I shall pay more attention.

The Craft of Love comes out Friday, so grab a copy now and have it delivered to your Kindle.

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Reading Rec: Band Sinister

Band Sinister by K. J. Charles is a delightful Regency rom-com complete with a motley crew and a touch of the Gothic. I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

band sinister

Guy and Amanda Frisby are no stranger to scandal. With a run-away mother and a father who drank himself to death in the aftermath, they have desperately tried to keep their heads down and live a decent life. But that’s quite hard living next door to the Sir Philip Rookwood’s Murder, a hellfire club spoken about in whispers by the locals and attended by notorious libertines. When Amanda goes for ride and breaks her leg on Rookwood land, she ends up nursed back to health in Sir Philip’s estate. Guy fears for his sister’s health and reputation but soon finds the Murder is not what it seems. And the biggest surprise of all is how Sir Philip changes his views on life and love.

I was beyond thrilled to receive an ARC of Band Sinister, especially since Ms. Charles promised a rom-com with a body count of zero. If you’ve read her work, you know how remarkable that is, and better yet, it delivers.

The central romance between Guy and Sir Philip is a slow burn that moves in steps until Guy is comfortable enough with his identity and Sir Philip. Guy is a virgin hero, which is a breath of fresh air in a genre where most characters somehow manage to be exceedingly well-versed in sex. Sir Philip, while seen as a rake by society due to his half-brother’s behavior and his own cultivation of his reputation, is far from that. He is patient, kind, and treats consent as a key aspect of any relationship. There’s a lot of talk in Romancelandia lately regarding consent in romance novels and whether it ruins the aesthetic or slows down the romance. Personally, I think it’s needed. The characters show their ability to grow and communicate and no side is taken advantage of in the process.

Besides the romance, the cast of characters is phenomenal and begs the question, will there be more books in this series? Apart from the Frisbys and Sir Philip, we have two rogues from Philip’s childhood, a musician and composer, a cosmopolitan doctor ahead of his time, and two paleontologists, who I am incredibly intrigued by. Each character is unique and hints at what could potentially be a story of their own (possibly set before this volume takes place).

Band Sinister has a bit for everyone: a hint of the Gothic, a charming romance, handsome rogues, a plucky woman, and a cast of bright intellectuals and rogues.

Band Sinister comes out tomorrow, so grab a copy on Amazon.

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Book Review: The Tyrant’s Heir

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Title: The Tyrant’s Heir by Kate M. Colby

Genre: Steampunk

Rating: 4 stars

TL;DRThe Tyrant’s Heir is a nice follow-up to the Desertera where we find Lionel grows a backbone and takes on a saboteur to secure his kingdom.


I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review, but I also bought a copy as I am a fan of Kate’s work and believe in supporting authors I believe in.

The Tyrant’s Heir is the third book in the Desertera series, which takes place in a barren kingdom situated around a beached ship where the hierarchy rules and intrigue lurks down every hall. Lionel Monashe is the new king to the throne but ruling becomes a problem when with every decision, he fears his tyrant father’s old ways and indecision and hesitation becomes the rule of law. When a self-proclaimed prophet disrupts the social and economic order, Lionel finds his moral compass aligns not with the nobles but with the religious zealot. Unfortunately, not everyone in Desertera is thrilled at a change in the old order and some would rather see the kingdom under their control.

In this installment, we see many old faces, including Lord Collingwood, Aya Cogsmith, and of course, Mr. Farmer the prophet. Best of all, we get to see Lionel, not as the flirtatious prince but as a man struggling to be king against the legacy of his treacherous father. Through his struggles, we see a much deeper man than what appears on the surface, who has his own emotional and psychological complexes despite his privileged upbringing.

What I love about Kate M. Colby’s series is how each book links into each other so smoothly with one mystery being solved while flowing into another, and The Tyrant’s Heir leaves us with fantastic mysteries to look forward to in 2018 (why is it so far away?!). As always, the world of Desertera reveals new places to explore and new technology to dissect. My only quibbles with The Tyrant’s Heir are personal and stylistic. At times, I wish there was more description and the writing at the beginning of the novel felt stilted, but this disappears about halfway through. I also wish there was more of the prophet in the second half of the novel after the big spectacle scene.

Overall, The Tyrant’s Heir is a fantastic addition to the Desertera series, and if you want to see more of Aya and Lionel’s budding relationship or if you want to see what the Benevolent Queen has in store for Desertera, check it out and pick it up today.

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Book Review: Spectred Isle

spectred isle

Title: Spectred Isle (Green Men #1) by K. J. Charles

Genre: Historical-fantasy, historical-romance, LGBT fiction, LGBT romance

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Tl;DR: Spectred Isle fantastically blends the pain and trauma of war with the hope and healing that only nature and human connection can bring while still imbuing the story with a piping mystery.


First off, I have to say that I was given an ARC of Spectred Isle in exchange for an honest review, but I still pre-ordered a copy because I love K. J. Charles’ work and want to support my favorite authors.

Spectred Isle follows the story of Saul Lazenby and Randolph Glyde as their lives intersect in a post-WWI world where magic and monsters lurk beneath the surface. Saul has been deeply scarred by his experiences in the war where he was less than honorably discharged. Facing bleak prospects, the ex-archaeologist becomes employed by a rather odd older gentleman who has him running all over creation chasing some rather wild theories about a very (maybe very) dead lord. His life is rather humdrum until he visits a sacred tree, which spontaneously bursts into flames, and spots the handsome, old money (and magic) Randolph Glyde. Randolph has secrets and scars of his own, but those roots run far deeper in England’s history, and as the mystery of the burning tree deepens, Randolph must decide if Saul, too, is a secret worth keeping.

As a heads-up, if you haven’t read The Secret Case Book of Simon Fleximal, you probably should. The book is less a sequel and more of a spiritual successor (much like the characters), so if you want to be in the know about certain characters, it would behoove you to read it. Plus, it’s just damn good.

What I loved about Spectred Isle was the balance between human connection and healing from past traumas and the British mentality of keeping a stiff upper lip. Neither Saul nor Randolph are the type to fall to pieces, but they need help moving forward from the carnage both suffered. Charles does a good job of having those traumas be very different, and both play nicely into their characterization. In the story, we also meet several other characters who have been psychologically and physically changed by the war and the occult war that was waged beneath the war waged by normal soldiers. I loved how this juxtaposed with post-war bureaucracy and the ancient magic the Glydes wield.

I think because I really love Charles’ characters, I felt like the book went too fast, especially at the end. What I really wanted was more about the green men, how they tie to Glyde’s family, and what function they really serve in England. I know it’s the first book, but I also know that K. J. Charles usually focused on a different couple each book, so I worry I will never get my answers.

If you like old Hollywood movies (think 1920s-1940s), this book has that sort of Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes on the modern moors feel to it. Spectred Isle is a great start to a new historical-fantasy series, and I, for one, am dying to get my mitts on the next one. Pick Spectred Isle up here or whatever platform you buy your books. It is officially out August 3rd.

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September 2016 in Review

Last year, I decided that I would post my accomplishments for the month and what goals I hope to achieve in the following month.

I know this post is 10 days late, but I’ve been all over the place. September has been hectic and new to say the least.

What I accomplished in September:

  1. Read 5 books
    1. Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater (4 stars)
    2. The Dark Missions of Edgar Brim by Shane Peacock (2 stars)
    3. Marine Biology by Gail Carriger (4 stars)
    4. The Courtesan’s Avenger by Kate M. Colby (4 stars)
    5. The Ancient Magus’ Bride Vol. 1 by Kore Yamazaki (4 stars)
  2. Set-up the pre-order for Dead Magic (IMD #4)
  3. Got through round 2 of editing Dead Magic
  4. Stayed on top of grading my students’ work

What I hope to achieve in October:

  1. Read 4 books
  2. Keep grading papers (til my eyes bleed)
  3. Finish formatting and editing Dead Magic
  4. Carve pumpkins (still gotta have a little fun)
  5. Write, edit, and finish a short story/novella
  6. Prep book 5
  7. Prep for Dead Magic‘s launch

September has been a crazy month. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to balance work, home, and writing with writing losing for now. Being an adjunct professor has been a lot of work, but I’m enjoying it, especially when I see my students do better with each paper. So many papers to grade… I hate myself for assigning papers sometimes. I know the students need grades and it’s a writing class, but ugh, after sixty papers, I regret assigning prompts no matter how good the papers are.

Anywho, I was shocked by how much I read last month. I think a lot of it was me trying to balance school, and the best way for me to do that is by reading. One of the major things I want to work on this month is writing more. After not really writing for a whole month, I need to get back into the swing of things and get into the habit of writing again. By the end of the month, I hope to publish another short story, this time with a Halloween theme complete with ghosts and mediums.

Finally and most importantly, I hope to finish up all of my prep for Dead Magic. My fourth book will be coming out November 10th, so I’m hoping to do some more research about what I need to do for a successful launch. Currently, I’ve sent out some ARCs to my readers and am releasing chapters weekly on my blog and in my newsletter leading up to Dead Magic‘s release date. I’m so excited to share it with you. I really, really love Dead Magic and can’t wait to share it with you.

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Book Review: The Courtesan’s Avenger

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Title: The Courtesan’s Avenger by Kate M. Colby

Genre: Steampunk

Rating: 4 stars

TL;DR:  The Courtesan’s Avenger is a tale of murder, redemption, revenge, and intrigue all wrapped up in the corset strings of Dellwyn Rutt.


The Courtesan’s Avenger follows Dellwyn Rutt as she journeys from courtesan to murder suspect to detective in order to solve a brutal murder at the Rudder, Desertera’s respectable house of prostitution. Overlying this tale of murder and greed are social questions surrounding mortality (especially regarding sex, the definition of “good” or “purity”), a hint of love/romance in all of its complicated glory, and a hint as to what is in store for Dellwyn, Aya, and young Sybil.
What I always love about Colby’s work is how she weaves in her world-building into the plots of her works. It’s expertly done in The Courtesan’s Avenger as we learn more about the changing culture under King Lionel’s leadership. Her characters shine in the desert, appearing alive, unique, and of course, strong-willed. Dellwyn is lively, independent, determined, and a good person. Without giving too much away, those skills will be key on her journey and future journeys in the rest of the series.
While I greatly enjoyed the story, I often found the sexual overtones a bit off-putting. This is a personal preference that probably won’t bother most, but for me, I had a hard time getting through the first half of the story. Eventually, the tone changes, but the initial overt sexuality and the ugly side of Dellwyn’s job are necessary to the plot.
Overall, The Courtesan’s Avenger is a great addition to the Desertera series, and I can’t wait to read the next one.

If you would like to purchase it. You can find it here on Amazon.

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Book Review: Monstress

Monstress

Title: Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

Genre: Fantasy/Graphic novel

Rating: 4.5 stars

TL;DR: Monstress was fantastic. A dark and gritty story offset by absolutely gorgeous artwork.


Monstress follows the story of Maika Halfwolf, a woman who is half-human and half-monster with powers lurking inside her beyond compare. For this, she is hunted mercilessly because to possess her is to possess a power that could rebuild or destroy the world.
At first glance, Monstress might appear to be a traditional anime/manga style human-monster hybrid, but it’s so much more complex than that. The world is rich with detail, and the asides at the end of each chapter help to fill-in the gaps that the authors couldn’t cram into the storyline, which frees them up to focus on the action, world-building, and characters.
We meet Maika, who is, to put it simply, very pissed. Her memory is spotty, everyone is trying to kill her, and there’s a monster inside her threatening to take over. I’d be pissed too, but Maika is more than the usual tsundere type. She’s strong physically, but what future books will focus on her emotional growth. To balance Maika’s blind rage, we have a bubbly, naively optimistic fox-child and a calculating cat who keeps them together.
What I love about Monstress involves more than just the main characters. I am in love with the world. There’s a richness to it, a complexity beyond the surface not often seen in graphic novels. This richness arises from the political and historical background that informs the actions of the characters in Monstress and carries through in the art style. Sana Takeda’s art is beautiful. It is a mixture of art nouveau, art deco, and Japanese mechanica all interwoven with a thread of the traditional manga aesthetic. After reading the book, I know I will go back and examine every picture for details I missed. There’s also an added layer of diversity in the story. I don’t think I’ve seen so many female characters in roles of power, and in this story, it works without seeming odd or forced. Witches and monstresses have been part of literature and mythology for centuries, and they are usually worse than their male counterparts. Monstress is no different. You’ll also find that characters are diverse in terms of ethnicity, species, and sexuality.
I can’t wait to read volume 2 when it comes out. If you like graphic novels that are not only beautiful but stuffed with action, then Monstress is for you.

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Book Review: Ninety-Nine Righteous Men

99 righteous men

Title: Ninety-Nine Righteous Men by K. M. Claude

Genre: Horror, graphic novel

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ +0.5

Tl;DR: Ninety-Nine Righteous Men perfectly blends the tragedy of unrequited love with Gothic horror into a beautifully illustrated graphic novel that can only be described as a Catholic’s nightmare.


You know a book is good when you dock half a star for not being long enough.

K. M. Claude’s graphic novel begins with two somewhat unlikely heroes, priests Daniel and Adam, who have a rather tumultuous and complicated past together, as they are drawn into the web of a demon possessing one of the parishioners. What transpires is a tale of tormented souls united by lust’s cruel embrace.

The art style for Ninety-Nine Righteous Men is gorgeous. It’s a style reminiscent of both Eastern and Western comics by utilizing a more Western anatomical style with a more manga-like action style. What Claude creates is some impressive juxtapositions with the rigid piousness of Catholic imagery alongside the pliant sensuality of the demon. At times, I’m hesitant to read graphic novels because I typically hate the style of traditional Western comics (mainly the gritty, rather sloppy style of super hero comics), but Claude’s art style is clean, precise, and deliciously detailed.

One of the things I greatly appreciated was the balance between sensuality, sexuality, and the quiet moments of action and dialogue. When I first began reading, I worried the entire graphic novel would be reminiscent of the game Catherine, but Claude deftly balances all aspects of the work until it comes to a head at the climax (puns intended).

As an ex-Catholic, I felt comfortable in the discomfort of Adam and Daniel’s wholly Catholic world. Often what disturbs them, disturbs me, and Claude highlights the rather gruesome aspects of Catholicism that tend to disturb small children with wandering eyes. While what’s discussed in the book might anger some more devout Catholics, we must all remember that priests are humans and should be treated as such. If you’re a fan of Anne Rice’s style of sensual Southern Gothic with Catholic guilt, you’ll probably enjoy Ninety-Nine Righteous Men.

My biggest complaint with the book is a good one. I wanted more. I didn’t want the book to end. I wanted more on Daniel and Adam’s backstories, their lives before the priesthood, their encounters together, and even Caleb’s life before the story takes place. While the characters are well fleshed-out, I think they could have been explored more.

Ninety-Nine Righteous Men is a unique tale of lust, love, and sacrifice through the lens of the Gothic, and I look forward to reading more by K. M. Claude in the future.

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Book Review: “The 13th Hex” by Jordan L. Hawk

13th hex jlh

Title: “The 13th Hex” (Hexworld 0.5) by Jordan L. Hawk

Genre: Paranormal/arcane fantasy

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

TL;DR: A great short story that introduces a new world featuring witches, familiars, hexes, and of course, Teddy Roosevelt.

The official blurb:

Romance. Magic.
Murder.

Dominic Kopecky dreamed of becoming a member of New York’s Metropolitan Witch Police—a dream dashed when he failed the test for magical aptitude. Now he spends his days drawing the hexes the MWP relies on for their investigations.

But when a murder by patent hex brings crow familiar Rook to his desk, Dominic can’t resist the chance to experience magic. And as the heat grows between Dominic and Rook, so does the danger. Because the case has been declared closed—and someone is willing to kill to keep it that way.

The 13th Hex is the prequel short story to the all-new Hexworld series. If you like shifters, magic, and romance, you’ll love Jordan L. Hawk’s world of witch policemen and the familiars they bond with.


I’m a total glutton for Jordan L. Hawk’s work, and when I saw that she was creating a new series centering around 19th century New York City, I was beyond excited. If “The 13th Hex” is any indication of the rest of the series, I’ll pre-order every single installment.

The story centers around Dominic Kopecky, a hexman working at the New York Metropolitan Witch Police. His job is a tedious one, copying, analyzing, and perfecting hexes that the police use, but Dominic is the best in the business, which brings Rook into his world. Rook is a familiar without a witch, investigating murders caused by a faulty hex. While the police have closed the case, Rook suspects there’s something more. What ensues is a very enjoyable short mystery with a hint of steam.

Jordan L. Hawk instantly makes me fall in love with her characters. Dominic is the typical quiet office worker with his nose to the grindstone. While this wasn’t the job he wanted, he does it to the best of his ability, and the brief moments of hope in Dominic’s thoughts totally endeared him to me. Rook is all sensuality and action, but what I loved about her familiars is that they have characteristics of their animal forms without shoving it down the reader’s throat. Rook’s laugh is described as cawing while Cicero, the cat familiar, has a languid air to him while reverting to cat-like disdain at the sight of water.

“The 13th Hex” is a short story, so I’ll keep the review brief. The world Hawk is setting up is steeped in history and wrapped in sigils, magical creatures, and murder mysteries. The downside to “The 13th Hex” is that it’s so short. I really wanted a longer work because I loved Rook and Dominic’s dynamic and it made the pace incredibly fast. A few thousand more words may have satisfied me more.

Overall, “The 13th Hex” is a fantastic short story to introduce a new series, and I can’t wait for Hexbreaker.

You can buy “The 13th Hex” here for $0.99.

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Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

ravenboys

Title: The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle Book #1) by Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: Paranormal adventure

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

**Spoilers in this review should be minimal**

TL;DR: I LOVED this book. If you like well-rounded characters, an atmospheric setting, and a paranormal streak that crosses the globe, this book is for you.

Oh my god. I devoured the second half of this book, and immediately, dug out the second book, The Dream Thieves.

The Raven Boys centers around four boys in Henrietta, Virginia, who attend the local private school, Aglionby Academy, and their new friend, Blue, who is the daughter of a psych. Gansey, Adam, Ronan, Noah, and Blue become entangled with Henrietta’s local history and paranormal legacy as they search for ley lines, lines of energy that crisscross the globe, connecting sites of historical and magical importance. Gansey is searching for one thing, the resting place of the legendary Welsh king Glendower. Legend says that if you wake the kind, he will grant you favor, and Gansey knows a few people who could use some favor. Blue has always been mildly envious of her mother and her friends’ psychic abilities, but Blue has an ability of her own, amplifying energy, and she may be the key to helping the Raven Boys find Glendower.

What I loved about The Raven Boys was the characterizations, not just of the characters but of the setting as a whole. Everything, from the Virginia landscape to Gansey’s dilapidated car, has a soul, and these characterizations add a whole new level of detail and beauty to Stiefvater’s story. The settings are atmospheric and lend themselves to firmly integrating yourself within the book. Even the magical elements later in the book fall perfectly into the realm of reality because they are so believable and so in tune with the rest of the world.

Maggie Stiefvater’s characters shine brightly in a novel where they could easily be lost or flattened beneath the heavy mythos and mystery of the story. Each of the Raven Boys is very distinct, each with their own flaws, complexities, and reasons to love them. We have Gansey the driven adventure-seeker who wants nothing more than to search the earth to find Glendower. His life is complicated by trying to manage his wayward friends, Ronan and Adam, and not insult people by simply being Richard Gansey III (can you smell the old money?). Adam is a scholarship boy from a bad home. He tries to be all things, a research companion to Gansey, an independent man, an A student, but he flounders under the weight of his violent home life in the local trailer park. Ronan is the opposite of Adam, a fighter, a trouble-maker, a boy with all the money in the world and nearly nothing that makes him happy. Noah, is… well, he’s Noah. Then, there’s Blue. She’s a sensible free-spirit who wears homemade clothes and was born with the ability to amplify the energy of those around her, which is infinitely useful when you live with a bunch of psychics.

The story itself is a wonderfully complex paranormal mystery that spans four books. We begin the story at a graveyard that sits on a ley line on the one night of the year when psychics can see those who will die that year march toward the otherworld. From there, we discover how the ley lines connect with the mysterious Welsh king, Glendower, and the mysteries surrounding Henrietta. Despite all of the pieces that make up the mystery, Stiefvater makes it easy to digest and quickly draws the reader in to make them as obsessed with discovering Glendower as Gansey. It’s as intricate as The DaVinci Code but with a hundred times better characterization and atmosphere.

Am I looking forward to the second book? Hell, yes. The book may be labeled as young adult but the only thing juvenile about it is the age of the main characters. The Raven Boys is a story rich with history and texture with characters as complex as any book taught in a college classroom.

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