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Be glad in the Lord and rejoice! Psalm 32:11



Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Book Review - The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman


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About The Book:

On a summer evening in 1931, Lilly Blackwood glimpses circus lights from the grimy window of her attic bedroom. Lilly isn't allowed to explore the meadows around Blackwood Manor. She's never even ventured beyond her narrow room. Momma insists it's for Lilly's own protection, that people would be afraid if they saw her. But on this unforgettable night, Lilly is taken outside for the first time--and sold to the circus sideshow.

More than two decades later, nineteen-year-old Julia Blackwood has inherited her parents' estate and horse farm. For Julia, home was an unhappy place full of strict rules and forbidden rooms, and she hopes that returning might erase those painful memories. Instead, she becomes immersed in a mystery involving a hidden attic room and photos of circus scenes featuring a striking young girl.

At first, The Barlow Brothers' Circus is just another prison for Lilly. But in this rag-tag, sometimes brutal world, Lilly discovers strength, friendship, and a rare affinity for animals. Soon, thanks to elephants Pepper and JoJo and their handler, Cole, Lilly is no longer a sideshow spectacle but the circus's biggest attraction. . .until tragedy and cruelty collide. It will fall to Julia to learn the truth about Lilly's fate and her family's shocking betrayal, and find a way to make Blackwood Manor into a place of healing at last.

Moving between Julia and Lilly's stories, Ellen Marie Wiseman portrays two extraordinary, very different women in a novel that, while tender and heartbreaking, offers moments of joy and indomitable hope.

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My Thoughts:

Maybe it comes from my childhood, experiencing every circus that came within a 100-mile radius of our home (my dad was a huge circus fan!), but I really enjoy books which highlight the magic and excitement of the circus! That subject matter, and the gorgeous cover of "The Life I Was Given," by Ellen Marie Wiseman, caught my attention as I was perusing the new fall fiction section.

However, there was so much more than bright lights and wonderment within the pages of this fascinating book!  Wiseman delivers a story that packs a huge punch as she tells about the life of a lonely girl who finally finds love among people who understand her, only to have it snatched away just when life looks the best; and the story of that girl's daughter who finds many years later the family's horrifying secrets that cost her the love of a mother.

I love a great story that moves along at break-neck speed, and "The Life I Was Given" certainly fills that bill perfectly. It is truly a "stay-up-till-sunrise" kind of book, and I salute Ellen Wiseman for her immense talent and superior storytelling skills.

Grab a box of popcorn, some cotton candy and a big ol' Coke and sit back to enjoy this mesmerizing novel!

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About The Author:

Ellen Marie Wiseman

A first-generation German American, Ellen Marie Wiseman discovered her love of reading and writing while attending first grade in one of the last one-room schoolhouses in NYS. She is a bestselling author whose novels have been translated into seventeen languages. Her debut novel, THE PLUM TREE, is loosely based on her mother’s stories about growing up in Germany during the chaos of WWII. THE PLUM TREE received much praise for its depiction of WWII and was named by Bookbub as One of Thirteen Books To Read if You Loved ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE.

Ellen’s second novel, WHAT SHE LEFT BEHIND, was named a Huffington Post Best Books of Summer 2015. Her third novel, COAL RIVER, was called "one of the most "unputdownable" books of 2015" by The Historical Novel Review. Her fourth novel, THE LIFE SHE WAS GIVEN, will be released in July 2017. She lives on the shores of Lake Ontario with her husband and two spoiled Shih-tzus, Izzy and Bella. When she’s not busy writing, she loves spending time with her children and grandchildren.

Find Ellen on Facebook at: www.Facebook.com/EllenMarieWisemanAuthor

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I purchased this book for my personal library. I was not compensated for my opinions.

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Book Review - News of the World by Paulette Jiles


News of the World: A Novel

About The Book:

In the aftermath of the Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people in this exquisitely rendered, morally complex, multilayered novel of historical fiction from the author of Enemy Women that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

In the wake of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.

In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.

 Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forming a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.

Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember—strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become—in the eyes of the law—a kidnapper himself.

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My Thoughts:

Seeing as how I live in Wichita Falls, Texas, the town where this story begins, I was so excited to jump into reading Paulette Jiles' mesmerizing book, "News of the World." And I was not disappointed in this fascinating tale.

Jiles mixes history, mystery and thrills as she unveils this story of Captain Jefferson Kidd, and the adventures he faces as he takes on the task of delivering Johanna, a ten year old pioneer girl who had been rescued from the Kiowa Indians, to what is left of her family in San Antonio. Johanna does not go willingly and it's up to Captain Kidd to ease her back into her "white" culture and frame of mind. There's a lot of kicking and screaming during this long trip, and Jiles includes a good bit of humor into this active story.

I was so impressed on the accuracy of the details of the setting of the story. Jiles captures the flavor of North Texas history with perfection, as well as areas along the way to San Antonio. You feel as if you are practically sitting on the wagon with Captain Kidd and Johanna as they rumble across the old dirt roads of Texas. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Readers who enjoy western-flavored, post Civil War era books are also sure to enjoy Paulette Jiles' latest offering.

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About The Author:

Paulette Jiles


Paulette Jiles is an American poet and novelist. Born in Salem, Missouri, she was educated at the University of Missouri with a degree in Romance Lanugages. Jiles lives in the Texas Hill Country on a small ranch.  Check out her website at

Paulette’s publisher for her books, News of the World, Lighthouse Island, Stormy Weather, Enemy Women and Color of Lightning, is Harper Collins.

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My thanks to Harper Collins for providing the review copy of this book. I was not compensated for my opinions.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Book Review - The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor


The Cottingley Secret: A Novel


About The Book:

1917… It was inexplicable, impossible, but it had to be true—didn’t it? When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when one of the great novelists of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes convinced of the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a national sensation, their discovery offering hope to those longing for something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war. Frances and Elsie will hide their secret for many decades. But Frances longs for the truth to be told.

One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story it tells of two young girls who mystified the world. But it is the discovery of an old photograph that leads her to realize how the fairy girls’ lives intertwine with hers, connecting past to present, and blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, can Olivia find a way to believe in herself?


My Thoughts:

I have always been fascinated by the stories of the English Cottingley fairies and the two girls who claimed to have played and communicated with the tiny beings. So I was thrilled to be able to review Hazel Gaynor's "The Cottingley Secret," which has been released in time for the 100th anniversary of the first photographs.

Gaynor does a brilliant job of combining the famed stories of the past that surrounded the fascinating photos, and the present day story of Olivia Kavanaugh and the mysterious secrets she inherited when her grandfather passed his beloved bookstore into her hands.

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Frances and The Fairy Ring

I admired the character of Olivia - she takes what seems to be a daunting task of settling her grandfather's estate and finds that she has, in a sense, come home to where she really belongs.

I also enjoyed the stories that featured the young girls, Frances and Elsie, who originally claimed to play with the fairies, and for a time, enchanted a war-torn England with a little bit of cheer in a very dreary world.

Switching the stories back and forth, from the past to the present, keeps the reader engaged throughout the book, and I give Hazel Gaynor well-earned props for creating a thoroughly entertaining read. 

I highly recommend "The Cottingley Secret"!


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Frances and the Leaping Fairy


About The Author:




Hazel Gaynor is a New York Times bestselling, award-winning author, who lives in County Kildare, Ireland with her husband and two children. Her 2014 debut historical novel The Girl Who Came Home—A Novel of the Titanic hit the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists, and went on to win the 2015 Historical Novel of the Year award from the Romantic Novelists’ Association in London. Her second novel A Memory of Violets, was also a New York Times bestseller, and her third, The Girl from The Savoy was an Irish Times and Globe & Mail bestseller. The book was also a finalist for the 2016 Irish Book Awards. All Hazel’s novels have been received to critical-acclaim and have been translated into a number of foreign languages. Her forthcoming titles in 2017 – The Cottingley Secret (August) and Last Christmas in Paris (October, co-written with Heather Webb) have already received an impressive array of early reviews.


My thanks to William Morrow for providing the review copy of this book. I was not compensated for my opinions.


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I'm back!!



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Hello all!  I'm finally back in the reviewing mode after a long, long absence! 

Earlier this year, in February, I fell seriously ill and was hospitalized for ten long, and scary days. And it has taken me several months to recover, and frankly, to get my mind working right again! 

I put reading aside for a long while during my recovery, but I found that I missed it dearly. But I knew I would eventually come back, and now - Here I Am! 

I have some great books I want to share with you all, and hope that you will enjoy reading about them and my thoughts about them as well!

I will be changing around my reviewing schedule a bit. I plan to post reviews on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Saturday's books will focus on Christian books - such as devotionals, fiction, non-fiction - but all in the Christian range.

So, here we go again!  My next post will be about an intriguing book that I hope you will be persuaded to try! 

Happy Reading to you all!
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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Coming back soon!!


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I'll be returning to book reviewing this fall.  Check back on September 1st for some great book suggestions and a giveaway or two!  :)


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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin



Victoria

About The Book:
 Drawing on Queen Victoria’s diaries, which she first started reading when she was a student at Cambridge University, Daisy Goodwin—creator and writer of the new PBS/Masterpiece drama Victoria and author of the bestselling novels The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter—brings the young nineteenth-century monarch, who would go on to reign for 63 years, richly to life in this magnificent novel.

Early one morning, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria is roused from bed with the news that her uncle William IV has died and she is now Queen of England. The men who run the country have doubts about whether this sheltered young woman, who stands less than five feet tall, can rule the greatest nation in the world.

Despite her age, however, the young queen is no puppet. She has very definite ideas about the kind of queen she wants to be, and the first thing is to choose her name.“I do not like the name Alexandrina,” she proclaims. “From now on I wish to be known only by my second name, Victoria.”

Next, people say she must choose a husband. Everyone keeps telling her she’s destined to marry her first cousin, Prince Albert, but Victoria found him dull and priggish when they met three years ago. She is quite happy being queen with the help of her prime minister, Lord Melbourne, who may be old enough to be her father but is the first person to take her seriously.

On June 19th, 1837, she was a teenager. On June 20th, 1837, she was a queen. Daisy Goodwin’s impeccably researched and vividly imagined new book brings readers Queen Victoria as they have never seen her before.




My Thoughts:

I love reading about the British royal family, be it the current reigning family or the families of past rulers, and I have always been especially fond of Queen Victoria. So I was thrilled to discover Daisy Goodwin's last book, "Victoria."

Goodwin takes her readers deep into the life of the young monarch Victoria and all the people who surrounded her and tried to influence her life.  I absolutely loved the feistiness of the diminutive queen who had her own strong-willed ways and definitely a mind of her own. 

This book, which goes along with the PBS production of "Victoria" (due to air January 15th), follows Victoria's life up until she meet the man of her dreams, Prince Albert, the man who would become her husband and the father of her vast amount of children.  I can't wait to see how these stories play out onscreen.

If you are interested in real-life tales of this remarkable woman, "Victoria" is the book for you.  I hope that Goodwin has plans to continue the look into the life of the Queen that an entire way of life is named for, I know I'll be waiting ...




About The Author:



DAISY GOODWIN is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter. She is a Harkness Scholar who attended Columbia University's film school after earning a degree in history at Cambridge University, and was Chair of the judging panel of the 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction. The creator and screenwriter of the Masterpiece presentation Victoria on PBS, she lives in London.




My thanks to St. Martin's Press for providing the review copy of this book. I was not compensated for my opinion.


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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Happy New Year! Finding One Perfect Word!


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Happy New Year everyone!

I am so happy to be back with blogging and I'm excited about the books that I have to share with you this upcoming year! 

As in past years, I have chosen a word to inspire me and to guide me. This year my word choice is JOY! 

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I want to remind myself to look for the joys that can be found all around!  It can be something as simple as watching a squirrel cavorting in the back yard, playing with my adorable grandsons Oliver and Avett, or seeing my beloved church family singing the old time hymns during Sunday services!



I spent my New Year's Day re-reading a special book, "One Perfect Word," by Debbie Macomber. In this inspiring book, Debbie tells of how she has chosen one word a year to live by.

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Debbie shares personal stories, as well as stories of others, regarding finding guidance and comfort in focusing on one word, and she tells of how her faith in God plays a huge part of discovering that one special word to guide her through the year.

"When I find my word and begin to explore it, God takes me deep into that one word," Debbie says in her opening chapter. "When we choose one single word from His Word and spend a year with it, I've found that the Lord takes us by the hand and walks us through the year, teaching us about that word, about ourselves, and even more, about God Himself."

Debbie has chosen fourteen words that she has used in previous years and shares stories that illustrate each particular word and what she has learned. She also offers tips and hints throughout the book to help the reader in this inspirational practice as well as her own personal prayers.

I love how Debbie is so open about her faith, about her life and it's ups and downs, and how her relationship with God has guided her through the adventurous journey of life.  She quotes the Bible, using John 15:7, "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you." What a powerful statement that has the ability to bless everyone who follows God and Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

While "One Perfect Word" was published in 2012, I still highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for guidance and comfort in this topsy-turvy world we live in today.

My wish for all of you is to find your one perfect word for this year, and to look for joy wherever you can! 




Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Pocket Prayers for Friends: 40 Simple Prayers That Bring Joy and Serenity by Max Lucado and Betsy St. Amant



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About The Book:

Good friends are one of God's most cherished blessings. They share our lives, celebrating our joys with us, and comforting us when we face tough times. For these specials friends, bestselling author and encourager Max Lucado offers 40 selected Scriptures and guided prayers in Pocket Prayers for Friends.

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My Thoughts:

I am truly blessed to have a wide array of friends in my life. I have friends that I have known since kindergarten, I have friends at church and I have friends in music.  And recently I have met a wonderful group of ladies that are some of the strongest prayer warriors that I've ever known!  We pray for each other in times of sadness, in times of joy, whenever one of us needs uplifting to the Lord! We laugh, we cry, we praise the Lord - it's a great sisterhood!

So, keeping my friends in mind, I was thrilled to be ask to review Max Lucado's latest book, "Pocket Prayers for Friends - 40 Simple Prayers That Bring Joy and Serenity."  What a treasure trove of affirming and loving prayers and devotions!! There are prayers here for just about any situation friends might find themselves in!  Sections include:

Grace and Wisdom
Joy and Companionship
Help and Protection
Peace and Problem Solving
Longevity and the Future
Love and Forgiveness

Each prayer is accompanied by a Bible verse, and each prayer is so lovingly written and presented!  One of my favorites includes the verse:

 "Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works - Hebrews 10:24.

The companion prayer includes the sweet request - "Please be with my friends as they strive to live for you. Help them stir one another toward good things. Let their hearts be focused on you alone."  Just lovely!

If you are looking for a charming gift for a friend, or want to have access to prayers to say for your friends, the "Pocket Prayers for Friends" is just perfect! I'm looking forward to sharing these prayers with my friends in days to come!

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About The Author:

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More than 120 million readers have found inspiration and encouragement in the writings of Max Lucado. He lives with his wife, Denalyn, and their mischievous mutt, Andy, in San Antonio, Texas, where he serves the people of Oak Hills Church.

Check out his website at www.maxlucado.com for more information on his books and his ministry.

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My thanks to Thomas Nelson Books for providing the review copy of this book. I was not compensated for my opinion.

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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Welcome Autumn - A new season full of wonderful new changes!





Hello dear readers!

I love autumn!  To me it is a season of fresh outlooks, and lovely possibilities!

And with this new season, the Garden of Books is taking a new pathway that I am so excited about!  Beginning Sunday, September 4th, I will be concentrating on and featuring the best of Christian and inspirational fiction and non-fiction! There are so many wonderful titles coming up this fall that I am thrilled to be sharing with you all!

Some of the types I'll be featuring will be fiction that has an inspirational message, non-fiction book that will include self-help, encouragement, devotionals, even a cookbook or two!  And with the holiday season quickly approaching, there will be plenty of Christmas cheer to spread around as well!

I'll also occasionally be sharing my joy of bible journaling as well as some of the paper-crafts that are my passion!

I hope that you, my dear readers, will join me in this new venture.  In my heart I know this is what God is calling me to do, and I am truly blessed to be able to share my thoughts and insights to the literary world via this small blog.

Thank you for your support and readership all these years!  I hope you will join me on this new faith-filled journey!

Many blessings,

Sharon

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Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Whiskey Sea by Ann Howard Creel - Book Blog Tour Stop and Review


The Whiskey Sea

About The Whiskey Sea
  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (August 23, 2016)
Motherless and destitute, Frieda Hope grows up during Prohibition determined to make a better life for herself and her sister, Bea. The girls are taken in by a kindly fisherman named Silver, and Frieda begins to feel at home whenever she is on the water.

When Silver sells his fishing boat to WWI veteran Sam Hicks, thinking Sam would be a fine husband for Frieda, she’s outraged. But Frieda manages to talk Sam into teaching her to repair boat engines instead, so she has a trade of her own and won’t have to marry.

Frieda quickly discovers that a mechanic’s wages won’t support Bea and Silver, so she joins a team of rumrunners, speeding into dangerous waters to transport illegal liquor. Frieda becomes swept up in the lucrative, risky work—and swept off her feet by a handsome Ivy Leaguer who’s in it just for fun.

As danger mounts and her own feelings threaten to drown her, can Frieda find her way back to solid ground—and to a love that will sustain her?

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

 

My Thoughts:

I enjoy reading historical fiction - I like the history aspect, I like the people, I like the simpler times. Author Ann Howard Creel captures all theses crucial pieces of the pie in her new book, "The Whiskey Sea," and presents a perfect book for the fall reading season.

I really enjoyed the fast-paced storyline of this story of the Prohibition-era 1920s, and I loved the relationship between the two Hope sisters, Frieda and Bea. There is intrigue, romance, and action all rolled into this story and I was genuinely sad to see it come to an end when I reached the final page.

Fans of historical fiction will find "The Whiskey Sea" to be a great read, as will fans of romantic fiction as well.  I highly recommend it!


About Ann Howard Creel

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Ann Howard Creel was born in Austin, Texas, and worked as a registered nurse before becoming a full-time writer. She is the author of numerous children’s and young adult books as well as fiction for adults. Her children’s books have won several awards, and her novel The Magic of Ordinary Days was made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie for CBS. Creel currently lives and writes in Chicago. For more information about Ann’s work, visit her website, annhowardcreel.com.

Ann Howard Creel’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS

Monday, August 22nd: Musings of  a Bookish Kitty
Tuesday, August 23rd: You Can Read Me Anything
Wednesday, August 24th: Staircase Wit
Thursday, August 25th: I Wish I Lived in a Library
Friday, August 26th: Thoughts on This ‘n That
Monday, August 29th: BookNAround
Tuesday, August 30th: Black ‘n Gold Girls Book Reviews
Wednesday, August 31st: Caryn, The Book Whisperer
Thursday, September 1st: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Friday, September 2nd: The Warlock’s Gray Book
Monday, September 5th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, September 6th: Just Commonly
Wednesday, September 7th: Reading is My Superpower
Thursday, September 8th: Write Read Life
Monday, September 12th: Bibliotica
Tuesday, September 13th: Melissa Lee’s Many Reads
Thursday, September 15th: View from the Birdhouse
Friday, September 16th: FictionZeal
Monday, September 19th: Reading the Past



My thanks to TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour and to the publisher for providing the review copy.  I was not compensated for my opinion.


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