Thursday, August 25, 2016

"until then" by krista noorman

As those of us who have been Christians for any amount of time know, becoming a Christ-follower doesn't magically erase the bad stuff. We still have to deal with the consequences of our actions, and we still have a tendency to sin. One trend I'm seeing more and more in Christian fiction is the willingness of authors to portray that "ugly truth." Krista Noorman is one such author—she doesn't shy away from sin and its consequences in Until Then.

Growing up with a distant mother and absentee father, Michelle's childhood has been far from idyllic. Her only attention comes from her partying friends and the guys who are more than happy to give her the affection she longs for. But when one party goes wrong, Michelle's family hatches a plan to get her out of Chicago and away from her so-called friends.

College plans are low on Michelle's priority list, especially with no money to pay for it, until her grandparents offer to foot the bill for her entire tuition. There's just one catch. Michelle must choose between three schools - all hours away from Chicago and all Christian colleges.

Michelle's reluctant choice leads her to an unfamiliar place, where she's faced with new relationships and unexpected decisions that could change her life and her heart forever.


Last year, I read Krista Noorman's Goodbye, Magnolia, which tells the story of Maggie and Simon, two photographers who met in college and slowly found their way to each other. Until Then focuses on Maggie's college roommate Michelle.

The novel begins when Michelle is still in high school and follows her for more than a decade as she goes through college, begins a career, and searches for her place in the world. Michelle came from a rough background, and she didn't become a Christian until she was attending a Christian college. (Side note: One of the three colleges Michelle had to choose from was Grace, the college I attended. While I knew from reading Goodbye, Magnolia that she wouldn't choose Grace, I still wish she had!) After Michelle's conversion, she still made some major (MAJOR) mistakes, mistakes that would continue to impact her life and the lives of others for years.

I'm so glad that Noorman decided to portray Michelle in this way. Until Then could be described as "edgy Christian fiction" because Noorman frankly deals with sexual sin. However, nothing is explicit, and Noorman clearly shows how Christ's sacrifice covers every sin. Michelle's story is one of redemption, and it's very powerful.

While I did enjoy the novel, and I'm so glad that Noorman wrote it, I do wish that the plot hadn't taken quite so long to get from point A to point B. Specifically, I felt like the part where Michelle was in college dragged out too long, and it easily could have been condensed. I struggled to truly engage with the novel until it was more than halfway over—once Michelle's college friend/boyfriend Sean came back into the picture, I couldn't flip the pages quickly enough. That portion of the novel also featured the best character development, as Sean and his kids were all well drawn out, entertaining characters.

There's something about Noorman's writing that draws me in and won't let go until I've finished the novel. It happened with Goodbye, Magnolia, and it happened again with Until Then. While it took a while for me to become immersed in Until Then's world, once I was engaged, I couldn't stop reading. That's the power of a good storyteller! 4 stars.

Note: While this is the second book in Noorman's Cornerstone series, it can easily be read without having first read Goodbye, Magnolia.

Buy the novel.
Read my review of Goodbye, Magnolia (4 stars).
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Krista Noorman is the author of the young adult novel The Truth About Drew and the contemporary romance Goodbye, Magnolia. Most of her life has been spent scribbling away in journals, honing her writing skills, while documenting her every day life. But it wasn’t until she took part in National Novel Writing Month in 2008, that she found her true calling and turned her pen (or rather her computer keyboard) to fiction.

Krista studied music education at Cornerstone University. After college, she turned to her love of photography and spent nearly a decade running her own wedding photography business. She is constantly inspired by books and movies, enjoys beautiful instagram feeds, and loves a great cup of coffee. Krista makes her home in a small town in western Michigan with her husband, Jacob, and their two children.

She writes about life, family, faith and whatever else comes to mind at bykrista.com.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

"courageous" by dina l. sleiman

Journey from medieval England to the Holy Land with a group of men, women, and children in Courageous.

Will They Trust God's Call Even When It Leads to the Most Unexpected Places?

Inspired by the vision of the young Lady Sapphira, Rosalind of Ipsworth joins a group of men, women, and children as a defender of the cross, seeking to free captives from prisons near Tripoli. She'll gladly give herself to the cause, as she's haunted by a tragic mistake and feels she no longer deserves such joys as marriage and family might bring.

Sir Randel Penigree was reared to serve in the church but has always dreamt of protecting the innocent as a Templar knight. Joining a crusade to escape humiliation at home, he finds himself drawn to Rosalind as they partner to train and protect a group of adolescents. When faced with political intrigue and an unknown enemy bent on their destruction, they are forced to reconsider their priorities and the very nature of the God they serve.

In Courageous, author Dina L. Sleiman returns readers to the medieval England setting of her previous novels ... briefly. However, most of the story takes place on a journey to the Holy Land—a journey precipitated by a teen girl's vision. This setting is one I've never read about before; in fact, I've never spent much time thinking about the Crusades (aside from minimal facts memorized for high school history tests), so I enjoyed seeing a crusade through the eyes of participants.

Rosalind, Randel, and Lady Sapphira make great protagonists that the reader will cheer for, and I found each of their journeys to be entertaining and insightful.

In Chivalrous, the previous novel in the series, Rosalind made a terrible mistake that she hopes to atone for by joining the crusade. Randel also highly regrets an action from his past, and for a large portion of the novel, those mistakes continue to haunt them. In fact, the memory of and penance for those mistakes serve to keep them apart, even though they clearly love one another. It's only once they each come to embrace the truth of God's forgiveness that they can move forward together.

Lady Sapphira believes God has called those who joined the journey to "free the captives." Her assumption is that God means for them to free those, including her brother-in-law, who were captured during previous crusades. She comes to realize that God may have had a different reason for sending them to the Holy Land and that "free the captives" means something other than what she assumed, and I especially enjoyed watching her faith grow as she encountered trials and opposition.

While I very much appreciated the themes of redemption and forgiveness that were woven throughout the novel, something about the plot just didn't grab me in the way the two previous novels did, and I struggled to finish the book. I'm glad I did push through, though, as the epilogue nicely ties together the storylines from all three of the Valiant Hearts novels and left me with a feeling of completion. 3-1/2 stars.

Note: While Rosalind does begin her journey in Chivalrous, those who have not read the novel should be able to follow along with Courageous from the beginning. I would definitely recommend reading the first two Valiant Hearts books first, though, simply because they're so good!

Buy the book.
Read an excerpt.
Download discussion questions.
Read my reviews of Dauntless (4-1/2 stars) and Chivalrous (4 stars).

Dina L. Sleiman holds an MA in professional writing from Regent University and a BA in communications with a minor in English from Oral Roberts University. Over the past eighteen years, she has had opportunities to teach college writing and literature, as well as high school and elementary classes in English, humanities, and fine arts. She lives in Virginia with her husband and three children. She can be found online at www.dinasleiman.com.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, August 20, 2016

"tackling the fields" by janet w. ferguson

Audrey and Cole, two supporting characters from the first two Southern Hearts novels, take center stage in Tackling the Fields.

Cole Sanders is a changed man. The university quarterback questions his direction in life after serving on a mission trip in Honduras. Things that used to fill Cole’s ego seem empty after witnessing the developing country’s extreme poverty and the death of a precious child. The one glimmer of hope through his confusion is the fresh perspective he now has about his tutor, Audrey. She possesses something beautiful inside and out—something that might help him become the person he wants to be.

University senior Audrey Vaughn tutored Cole Sanders for an entire year and never imagined the popular quarterback would see her as anything more than a friend. After partnering with him on the mission trip, they are drawn together. And he appears to have changed for the better. To let Cole into her life, Audrey will have to overcome not only her brother’s distrust, but also the paralyzing fear still lingering from a past she’s tried to leave behind.

Cole can’t walk away from Audrey now that they’re back in Oxford. He’ll have to figure out how to keep her giant of a brother, a lineman on his football team, from killing him when the coach has his back turned. But can Audrey trust her heart to a player so similar to the one who stole so much from her in the past?

As I've read Janet W. Ferguson's Southern Hearts novels, I've been impressed by how realistic they seem, even though they feature characters who live extraordinary lives (at least extraordinary compared to the lives lived in my little corner of the world)—college football coaches, movie stars, football players with major draft prospects.

Tackling the Fields centers on college quarterback Cole Sanders and Audrey Vaughn, his tutor-turned-crush. Following a life-changing mission trip to Honduras (which takes place in the previous book, Going Up South), Cole feels pulled toward Christ and toward Audrey. As he grapples with his faith and his feelings, Audrey deals with her own scars that keep her from fully trusting Cole.

Overall, I enjoyed Tackling the Fields. It deals with weighty topics like date rape, human trafficking, and addiction, but it also provides a compelling love story. While I did feel like maybe a few too many things were packed into the novel, so not everything was paid off (such as the oft mentioned but never seen Harrison), I really enjoyed Cole and Audrey's story. 4 stars.

Up next is Blown Together, which will feature Sam Conrad (friend of Cole's coach, Jess McCoy) and Elinor Bosarge (sister of Cassie from Going Up South). I'm definitely looking forward to continuing this series!

Note: Tackling the Fields is the third book in Ferguson's Southern Hearts series. Though it can function as a stand alone novel, Cole and Audrey will make much more sense if you've at least read Going Up South first.

Buy the book.

Follow the blog tour to see what others are saying:
August 15: Quiet Quilter
August 16: A Baker’s Perspective
August 17: Blogging With Carol
August 18: The Power of Words (Spotlight)
August 19: inklings and notions
August 20: Christian Chick’s Thoughts
August 21: Karen’s Krayons
August 22: Bigreadersite
August 23: A Greater Yes
August 24: Chas Ray’s Book Nerd Corner
August 25: A Reader’s Brain
August 26: Mary Hake
August 27: His Grace is Sufficient
August 28: Cassandra M’s Place
August 29: Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations


Read my reviews of Leaving Oxford (4 stars) and Going Up South (4-1/2 stars). 


To celebrate her tour, Janet is giving away a $75 Amazon gift card Click here to enter.


Janet W. Ferguson grew up in Mississippi and received a degree in Banking and Finance from the University of Mississippi. She has served her church as a children’s minister and a youth volunteer. An avid reader, she worked as a librarian at a large public high school. Janet and her husband have two grown children, one really smart dog, and a few cats that allow them to share the space.

From Janet: Hi, I’m Janet W. Ferguson, and I’m so excited to be back again and meet more readers through Celebrate Lit!

This is a story I didn’t want to write, but felt called to tackle. The loss of the dream, the loss of innocence, and life’s other unfair struggles can challenge our faith—can make us captive to fear and disappointment.

In the South, we love football. In writing this book, I’m not trying to make a statement for or against the sport. My husband and son loved playing the game. After my son suffered a torn ACL, torn shoulder labrum, and four surgeries, he could no longer participate in the game he loved. He mourned the loss of the brotherhood of his team. I saw the popular pastime differently from his eyes. For young men, I believe it is a bond between friends for a common goal. Though the character in this book is totally fictional, I’m dedicating this book to my son, Luke.

The other sensitive topics in this story seemed particularly sad, but relevant in our society. Trust me, I didn’t prefer to research acquaintance/date rape or human trafficking, but both are going on all too often in communities both small and large. There are a number of organizations set up to help victims of these crimes if you feel a calling to help.

Someone reading this may have had something terrible that happened in their past or may know someone who has. God is able to set free the captives, set you free from the bonds that hold you. My prayer is that you find comfort in that truth.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free through Celebrate Lit. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday, August 7, 2016

"if ever i would leave you" by susan may warren

I recently finished reading Susan May Warren's wonderful Christiansen Family series, which ended up being one of my favorite series of all time. So I'm thrilled to begin her new Montana Rescue series with this prequel novella, If Ever I Would Leave You, which is free to her newsletter subscribers!

If you harbored a devastating secret, had given your solemn promise of silence… what would make you to break it?

Ian Shaw can have anything he wants…

...except the woman he loves. After all, Sierra Rose is his amazing assistant, a woman who helps him hold his empire together, leaving him free to pursue his adventurous hobbies—his only distraction from his excruciating past… until now. But what if she is the one who can finally free him from his regrets?

Sierra Rose harbors a terrible secret…

...the fact that Ian’s favorite niece and ward, Esme, just might elope with her less-than-awesome boyfriend. Sierra’s made a promise to Esme—but her first loyalty belongs to her boss Ian, the man she's admired for years. But letting herself fall in love with him risks the best job she’s ever had.

When tragedy strikes, sparks ignite…

...because Esme has vanished. Ian fears the worst--has she run away with her boyfriend? Or, has something more sinister happened in the wilds of Glacier National Park? It's a race against time, with Sierra and Ian caught in the crossfire of secrets, regrets and what-ifs.

If Ever I Would Leave You tells the story of how PEAK Rescue, the group at the center of Warren's Montana Rescue series, came to be. Billionaire Ian Shaw is working up the courage to tell his assistant Sierra how he really feels about her when tragedy strikes. He vows to do everything he can to find his missing niece Esme, including funding the rescue efforts when law enforcement needs to close the search and move on.

This prequel novella contains everything I've come to expect from Susan May Warren—strong characters, romantic chemistry, and realistic conflict. Though it does end rather abruptly with absolutely nothing resolved, it's a wonderful lead-in to the Montana Rescue series. 4 stars.

Get your free copy of the novella.
Read my reviews of Warren's other novels.

Susan May Warren is the ECPA and CBA bestselling author of over fifty novels, with more than one million books sold. Winner of a RITA Award and multiple Christy and Carol Awards, as well as the HOLT and numerous Readers' Choice Awards, Susan has written contemporary and historical romances, romantic suspense, thrillers, romantic comedy, and novellas. She can be found online at www.susanmaywarren.com, on Facebook at SusanMayWarrenFiction, and on Twitter @susanmaywarren.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this novella free as a subscriber to Susan May Warren's newsletter and reviewed it because I wanted to. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

top ten tuesday: books i'd buy with a fully-loaded gift card

Once again, it's been forever since I've done a Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, but this topic was too good to resist: Ten books you'd buy right this second if someone handed you a fully-loaded gift card.

Oh, my, where do I even start??? I'm fortunate to receive review copies of many of the books that I would normally buy, so several of the books on this list are ones that don't necessarily fall into my "normal" genres but have intrigued me ... just not enough to actually pay for them. But with a gift card I'd totally go for it. Also, I'm limiting my selections to books that have already released.

1. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

I've been this close to buying Eligible a few times, most recently on Sunday, when it was highly discounted on Kindle. A couple well-written negative reviews have kept me from jumping in. I'm a total sucker for Austen adaptations, though, and I've read two of the other entries in The Austen Project, so I'd like to read this at some point, too.

(The verdict on the two Austen Project novels I read? I liked Val McDermid's Northanger Abbey, and I loathed Joanna Trollope's Sense & Sensibility.)

2. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Ever since I first heard about this novel about a lonely bookstore owner, I've wanted to read it. Seriously, what could be more in my wheelhouse?

3. Everyday Detox by Megan Gilmore

Megan Gilmore's blog, Detoxinista, has become my go-to for healthy-ish recipes. With all of my food restrictions lately (no gluten, grains, dairy, or refined sugar), it can be hard to find treats ... and I need my treats! I have yet to make one of Gilmore's recipes that didn't turn out amazingly, so I'd love to get my hands on her cookbook.

If you'd like to get a taste of her recipes, my favorite is Healthier Flourless Chocolate Cake. I make it way too often!

4. Lady Maybe by Julie Klassen

I love, love, love Julie Klassen's regency romances! Somehow, this one has slipped through the cracks, and I'd love to remedy that.

5. He Won't Know It's Paleo by Breanna Emmitt

When I began the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet last fall, the He Won't Know It's Paleo blog became one of my most visited websites. (The "Paleo" part is kind of a misnomer—while the recipes are Paleo, they're also AIP, and AIP is much, much stricter than Paleo.) While I'm not strict AIP anymore, if I ever have to go back to it, I'd love to have this cookbook in my corner. If only it wasn't so pricey: the Kindle version is $9.99 (which is more than I've ever paid for a Kindle book—yes, I'm a cheapskate), and the paperback is a whopping $27.38!

6. Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis by Michael Ward

A few years ago, I read Ward's The Narnia Code, which is an adaptation/abridgement of Planet Narnia. Ever since then, I've had Planet Narnia on my Amazon wish list.

7. I'll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones

I've read the Kindle sample of this book already, and I almost bought it several times. Actually, the only reason I haven't purchased it yet is that I know I won't be able to keep from devouring it all at once, and I don't have time for that right now!

8. The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof

I have yet to read anything by Bischof (This Quiet Sky is waiting on my Kindle for ... someday), but this book is getting such great reviews that I may have to start here!

9. Silver Linings by Debbie Macomber

Macomber's books are hit-or-miss for me, but I've enjoyed the previous books in the series, and I'd like to continue it with Silver Linings ... even though the book has some terrible reviews!

10. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

This book is probably the most "un-Beckyish" of the bunch, but it's long intrigued me. The comparisons to Gone Girl, which I bought but never read after my sister told me about it, do make me a little nervous. I think I'd like to read it, though. Maybe. I'd definitely buy it and let it sit on my shelf, anyway!

What about you? I'd love to know what books you'd buy if you had a gift card! Please share in the comments, and if you participated on your own blog, leave a link so I can visit.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday, July 31, 2016

"honor redeemed" by christine johnson

When Prosperity Jones moves to Key West to marry her fiance, she is greeted by surprising news: he has married another woman, and they are expecting a child. With nowhere else to go, Prosperity must make a life for herself in Key West, even though that life looks nothing like she'd planned.

Her future--and her heart--hang in the balance.

Two years ago, Prosperity Jones waved farewell to her beloved David as the army sent him to faraway Key West. Now with her parents gone, she has but one prospect for the future: make the dangerous journey from Nantucket to Key West to reunite with David and secure a happier life.

But when Prosperity arrives penniless in the South, she is dismayed to find David has not been eagerly awaiting their reunion. In fact, he is married to someone else. Scrambling to survive and nursing a broken heart, Prosperity gains the friendship--and the affection--of a kind doctor. Could he be the answer to her loneliness? Or will her life be upended by circumstance yet again?

With a deft hand, Christine Johnson fills the senses with the sights, sounds, and smells of Key West in this heartwarming story of honor lost, honor redeemed, and a love forged in adversity.

Honor Redeemed leaves me with mixed feelings. It is a well-written novel with engaging characters, and it deals with topics—like race relations, prejudice, and unplanned pregnancy—that are still relevant today.

However, there's one thing that kept me from loving this novel: the romance. Very rarely do I wish the author had gone a different way in a love triangle (though it has happened before), but as I got farther into Honor Redeemed, it quickly became clear that Prosperity would choose the man I didn't want her to be with. When I can't get behind the romance, it's hard for me to really enjoy a book. Though I ended up understanding why Prosperity's choice was the right one, I still wished things could have turned out differently. I am probably in the minority here; I imagine most readers will be very happy with the book's ending, but it really tainted my enjoyment of the novel. 3-1/2 stars.

Read an excerpt.
Buy the book.

Christine Johnson is the author of Love's Rescue, as well as several books for Steeple Hill and Love Inspired. She was twice named a finalist for Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart Award. When not writing, she loves to hike and explore God's majestic creation. These days, she and her husband, a Great Lakes ship pilot, split their time between northern Michigan and the Florida Keys.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell through the Revell Reads program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, July 30, 2016

"missing" by lisa harris

I often wonder if it's wise to jump into a book series midway through. In Missing, book two of the Nikki Boyd Files, author Lisa Harris does a great job of getting new readers like me up to speed—I jumped right in with no problem and quickly found myself swept into the mystery.

Nikki Boyd isn't usually called in on homicides; her forte is missing persons. But when a case with two murdered and two missing pops up on a quiet suburban street, she's ready to start the investigation and find missing homeowners Mac and Lucy Hudson. When the first clues lead her to the boat of her friend Tyler Grant--and another dead body--Nikki must untangle what ties Tyler to the Hudsons. The clues pull her into a deadly maze of counterfeit drugs and a killer who will stop at nothing to silence anyone who threatens his business--including Nikki.

Missing opens at full speed with Nikki Boyd and her partner Jack arriving at a murder scene, and the action doesn't let up until the final page.

Each chapter begins with a timestamp, allowing the reader to grasp just how quickly-paced the novel is. Everything takes place over a matter of a couple days, yet I didn't feel as if things moved too quickly to keep up.

Though I did not read the first book in the Nikki Boyd files, which I presume introduces Nikki's search for her missing sister, as well as her budding relationship with her friend Tyler, I never felt like I was missing any vital information. Author Lisa Harris filled in new readers like me without really slowing down the action. The only aspect of the recap that did seem a but clunky was the continual reminder that Nikki had fallen in love with Tyler. I assume that's something she realized in the first book, but it was repeated so many times throughout Missing that I wanted to exclaim, "OK, I get it already!"

The romance in Missing is very light, as most of it is one-sided as Nikki wrestles with her feelings for Tyler. For a novel that moves this quickly, that felt realistic. However, there's also enough progression in the romance to satisfy those who want their suspense to include a little romance.

The plot itself is an ever-twisting thrill ride that kept me guessing. Though Nikki was able to wrap up this particular case by the end of the novel, the overarching mystery of what happened to her sister remains, and I look forward to the progress she will make towards finding her sister's abductor in Pursued, which will release next spring. 4 stars.

Read an excerpt.
Buy the book.
Buy Vendetta, book one in the series. (It's on sale for a limited time.)
Read my review of Harris's Hidden Agenda (4 stars).

Lisa Harris is a bestselling author, a Christy Award winner, and the winner of the Best Inspirational Suspense Novel for 2011 from Romantic Times. She is the author of nearly thirty books, including the Southern Crimes series and Vendetta, winner of the Romantic Times Best Inspirational Suspense Novel for 2015. Harris and her family have spent twelve years living as missionaries in southern Africa. Learn more at www.lisaharriswrites.com.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell through the Revell Reads program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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