Him by Clare Empson / Blog Tour

Him by Clare Empson

 

36155709Publisher: Orion

Publishing Date: 4th April 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 352

Genre: Mystery & Thrillers

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

Big Little Lies meets 13 Reasons Why in this dark and suspenseful debut from a stunning new talent.

It all started with … HIM.

Catherine has become mute. She has witnessed something so disturbing that she simply can’t speak – not to her husband, her children, or her friends. The doctors say the only way forward is to look into her past. Catherine needs to start with Him. Lucian.

Catherine met the love of her life at university and was drawn into his elite circle of privileged, hedonistic friends. But one night it all falls apart and she leaves him, shattering his life forever.

Still, fifteen years later, Lucian haunts every one of Catherine’s quiet moments, and when they are unexpectedly reunited, their love reignites with explosive force.

But they can’t move on from what happened all those years ago. In fact, uncovering the truth will cause their lives to implode once again. This time, with disastrous consequences.

my-review

 

15 years ago, Catherine met Lucian and they fell in love – beautiful, honest, passionate love. But then something happens Catherine breaks up with Lucian – without an explanation – and she disappears from his life. But, even though she marries Sam and they have two children, she can’t forget Lucian. Fast forward to present, four months ago something horrible happened to Catherine, something that caused her to shut down entirely, to stop talking with Sam and the children. What happened when she met Lucian again?

The story jumps between past and present. 15 years ago Catherine and Lucian were at the university, then we have 4 months before (before this something really bad happened?). Catherine is in a hospital now, not being able to speak after “this” happened, and the author has done a great job of getting into Catherine’s head, bringing all her fears, feelings and emotions to life. The switches in time may sound confusing but they’re really not, I was always able to keep track of the plot. However, it is a story that develops in a very slow way, so be prepared for this, and I think it wins from not adding many incredibly twists and turns but focusing on the complex, assured plot.

Catherine, Lucian, Liv and Sam were likeable and relatable characters while Lucian’s group of friends was simply awful and, let’s be honest, a little stereotyped, those posh kids at Bristol University, snobbish and privileged. This mix of different personalities was, though, really great but I’d love more depth to them all. However, with them all so different, it was only a matter of time before this all was going to explode, right? For their secrets to be revealed and I’ve been waiting impatiently for this to happen.

I’ve missed Jack’s point of view, his motivation – why was he like this, what was it that made him want to be like Lucian. There was too little depth to his character and I simply couldn’t get his obsession. Also, the fact that there was a mystery, a secret was absolutely brilliant, however in my opinion it took too long to reveal it. From the very beginning we are made aware that something really bad had happened, it is mentioned in almost every single chapter, especially those told from Catherine’s point of view, and you know how it is, sometimes less is more, sometimes it’s advisable not to hint so much and let the reader wait till the very end because they can start to feel frustrated and the whole good idea simply loses on tension and suspense.

“Him” was a story of unconditional love, guilt and obsession. It was a dark and tragic tale of love that’s gone wrong and toxic friendship. It’s a slow burner and is rather character driven but it’s gripping. It felt very mature in terms of literary and it’s a splendid debut novel written with sensitivity and skill. It’s more social drama than psychological thriller for me, but whatever the label it was a gripping, absorbing and heart – wrenching story, very atmospheric, sad and thick with nostalgia.

 

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Our Life in a Day by Jamie Fewery

Our Life in a Day by Jamie Fewery

 

41878858Publisher: Orion

Publishing Date: 18th April 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 304

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

Our Life in a Day is a breathtaking, ten-year love story told in twenty-four individual hours – for fans of One Day by David Nicholls, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, and The Note by Zoe Folbigg.

The rules are simple. Choose the most significant moments from your relationship – one for each hour in the day.
You’d probably pick when you first met, right?
And the instant you knew for sure it was love?
Maybe even the time you watched the sunrise after your first night together?

But what about the car journey on the holiday where everything started to go wrong?
Or your first proper fight?

Or that time you lied about where you’d been?

It’s a once in a lifetime chance to learn the truth. But if you had to be completely honest with the one you love, would you still play?

For Esme and Tom, the game is about to begin. And once they start, there’s no going back . . .

Rating: three-stars

 

On their 10th anniversary, Esme has created a game for Tom – for each hour of the day he should choose a significant moment from their relationship, so altogether there should be 24 of them, no matter if they’re happy or sad – but they must be important. So Tom, albeit reluctantly, goes back as far as 2007 where they met at the party and together with him we see the best and worst part of their relationship.
The moments Tom has chosen are not listed in a particular chronological order, and maybe it’s better, because there was this surprise effect. It was truly interesting and intriguing to follow those moments, wondering why Tom chose them and not different ones.

The book started great, it had me hooked and hold my interest, but then it somehow went downhill and I really wasn’t sure where it was heading. In the end I found myself skipping some passages without a feeling that I’m missing on something – maybe it was simply too sad and too depressing for me? I know this is life the author wrote about but on the whole the story felt too disheartening, without hope.

My biggest problem here was Esme, I think. I simply couldn’t warm to her and couldn’t accept her demanding attitude. It looked like she was deciding about everything, as if Tom had nothing to say. Everything was good as long as it was Esme’s decision. Sure, Tom also wasn’t perfect, they were both full of flaws, which is great, because who isn’t, but Esme was one of a kind, came across as spoiled and egoistical. Esme doesn’t suggest, Esme demands, and in comparison Tom seems very weak. And while this book was very character driven, and I couldn’t connect with the characters, I had problems with warming to the whole plot, to engage with the story. However, I appreciate the way the author has described and developed his characters. Esme and Tom had their own distinctive voices, their own strengths and weaknesses. There were many moments that I wanted to shake them badly, at Esme being so stubborn and at Tom for keeping the truth from her. But I didn’t feel invested in their lives.

What I liked in this book was that it felt so very realistic and down to earth in the way Tom and Esme’s relationship was working. Sometimes it was good, sometimes it was tense, just like in real life. The writing style was really good – it was easy to read, flowing seamlessly, with vivid descriptions, bringing feelings and emotions to life. It was a story pulling the good and the bad from real life. It provided us with a realistic, brutally honest, bittersweet view of a relationship. It is not a light read, and I think I expected it to be, but I’d say the opposite, as it deals with heavy subjects. It felt raw, real and genuine, without sugar-coating things, telling how it is.

 

The Time of Our Lives by Portia MacIntosh

The Time of Our Lives by Portia MacIntosh

 

44073128Publisher: HQ Digital

Publishing Date: 12th April 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 235

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Romance

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback (out on 11.07.2019)

 

Synopsis:

Love is in the air…?

Luca is used to being the ‘single one’ at weddings – it happens, when all your other friends are engaged, married or taken. But when she bumps into Tom, her friend from university who broke her heart into a million pieces, she finds herself wondering what could have been.

It’s ten years later, surely she should be over that Tom by now? So why is he looking even more gorgeous than ever – and why doesn’t he seem to be able to keep his eyes off her either?

And as the champagne flows and old secrets resurface, Luca realises that perhaps the time to take a chance on love and life is…now?

The laugh-out-loud new novel from bestseller Portia Macintosh!

Rating: three-stars

 

Luca is fine. Or isn’t she? Attending another wedding of her uni’s friend she realises that she’s always the single one, another are engaged/married/otherwise romantically occupied. She starts to feel that time moves on while she stays in place. When she also meets Tom at the wedding, her ex/not ex – boyfriend, she starts to think and evaluate her life.

The story actually unfold on a wedding day, and it was incredibly how much can happen in a day – well, especially when you are as accident – prone as Luca, that is. The present intertwines with flashbacks to the past and we slowly get to know the characters and their lives as a group. Also, it turns out of course that there are, and were, many secrets, misunderstatements and plays. So as much as Luca is our main character, the others play as important role in the book as she is, because they helped to shape her. However, maybe because of the relatively huge number of characters, I had a feeling that they were not good enough developed. They were there, but there was not enough depth to them and to be honest, I haven’t felt connection with them. I think Luca tried to be über – cool and nonchalant in her life. She was your normal, everyday girl, sharp – mouthed and generally happy with herself but I couldn’t warm completely to her, to be honest, not sure why.

The humour this time was also not so Portia MacIntosh – it felt too flat and there were moments that probably were supposed to be funny, like with Luca suddenly being a bridesmaid and the bride’s wishes and requests but it only felt too overdone. I also think she tried to make it a sitcom – like rom – com, with flashbacks and hilarious situations but, unfortunately it didn’t work.

From the author like Portia MacIntosh I was simply expecting something better, ambitious. I was left with a feeling that she herself didn’t connect with the story at all, it scratched below the surface, was without a depth. There were some moments that saved the book for me though on the whole I was really hoping for something deeper, with the MacIntosh’s hallmark humour and sharp observations. Altogether, “The Time of Our Lives” was a light – hearted, easy and fairly straight – forward and predictable read but nevertheless a read that will keep you reading. The pacing was right, the dialogues dynamic and it dealt with the fact that you should fight for things that you feel will make you happy.

 

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

Ayesha at Lat by Uzma Jalaluddin

 

40133941Publisher: Corvus

Publishing Date: 4th April 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher via Pigeonhole, thank you!

Number of pages: 352

Genre: General Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

A big-hearted, captivating, modern-day Muslim Pride and Prejudice, with hijabs instead of top hats and kurtas instead of corsets.

AYESHA SHAMSI has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been overtaken by a demanding teaching job. Her boisterous Muslim family, and numerous (interfering) aunties, are professional naggers. And her flighty young cousin, about to reject her one hundredth marriage proposal, is a constant reminder that Ayesha is still single.

Ayesha might be a little lonely, but the one thing she doesn’t want is an arranged marriage. And then she meets Khalid… How could a man so conservative and judgmental (and, yes, smart and annoyingly handsome) have wormed his way into her thoughts so quickly?

As for Khalid, he’s happy the way he is; his mother will find him a suitable bride. But why can’t he get the captivating, outspoken Ayesha out of his mind? They’re far too different to be a good match, surely…

Rating: three-stars

 

Ayesha is a substitute teacher though what she really wants to do is write poetry. Ayesha is single and happy, she’s not interested in arranged marriages, accompanying her younger cousin on this way will suffice. But then she meets Khalid… But she hasn’t met his mother yet…

The book had a great potential, and I appreciated the humour very much but there were moments (in the end, too many moments) when I had a feeling that the author simply tried too hard and overdone it. The book started very promising, and I found myself smiling at the characters’ antics but then it only went downhill for me, I found my interest slowly fading and I started to skip some parts of it, with the many subplots and the action that was almost like in a gangster movie, and a) it was too much for me, too hard tried on making the story hilarious, b) the subplots were not developed enough for my liking, they were not properly addressed, just like that left hanging.

The romance between Ayesha and Khalid was humorous and also head – banging – on – the – wall desperate. When one of them finally got to their senses, the other was not interested and other way round. It was for sure a rocky way but altogether I liked that it was not so straightforward and obvious, and the problems they had were for sure different to the problems that the characters in other books usually have.

The characters could be better drawn, I think, because they were either brilliantly good or awfully bad, and this made them feel a little too exaggerated and too obvious in their behaviour. Sheila and Khalid’s mother are the best example here, but also Hafsa, the spoiled, judgmental and shallow one who actually wasn’t charming but only annoying. I am also not so sure about Khalid himself – on one hand we can say that his character saw development, on the other hand I’m not so sure because well, he changed, but did he really want to change?

The story touched upon many, many issues and probably this was the problem, maybe the author should focus on less than relationships, family ties, arranged marriages, family disownment, politics, stereotyping, racism at the workplace, theft and many, many more. It was simply too much. I had a feeling that if the story stuck to tell a romance, without all the other mosque and conference issues, it would be enough. I adored getting to know the colourful Muslim traditions, even the arranged marriages and the arguments that people involved in them had, their pros and cons, and I really got it all, it was really great to see the close – knit community and I’d really love it if the book focused more on this part of the characters’ lives.
There were too many moments that felt too drawn out and exaggerated for my liking. But altogether, it was a feel – good, funny and light story that had it moments. The writing style was lovely, so chatty and eloquent and the author is a great story – teller, that’s for sure, and she lets her imagination run wild.

 

The Passengers by John Marrs

The Passengers by John Marrs

 

40718386Publisher: Del Ray

Publishing Date: 1st April 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: Mystery & Thrillers, General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback (out on 30.05.2019)

 

Synopsis:

Eight self-drive cars set on a collision course. Who lives, who dies? You decide.

When someone hacks into the systems of eight self-drive cars, their passengers are set on a fatal collision course.

The passengers are: a TV star, a pregnant young woman, a disabled war hero, an abused wife fleeing her husband, an illegal immigrant, a husband and wife – and parents of two – who are travelling in separate vehicles and a suicidal man. Now the public have to judge who should survive but are the passengers all that they first seem?

Rating: three-stars

 

“The Passengers” takes us to a world with self – driving cars… You don’t have to do anything, you are a passenger that simply sits in the car. Traffic congestion, pollution and accidents has gone down significantly. The cars are, of course, unhackable… That is, until one day, the system IS hacked. Eight “passengers” are on their way to different locations when suddenly they’re told their cars are taken over and soon they’re going to die in an accident. The governing body that oversees the driverless cars and the whole of AI technology are contacted and they, as well as some of the normal people serving in a jury, are to choose who of the 8 people should be saved and why. It is all, of course, streamed to social media and the general public also gets involved. The race against time begins – is it possible to save those people?

There was a great cast of characters. Among the passengers we have a refugee woman, an Indian woman with a family that was abused by her husband and who doesn’t speak English, a wife and husband of ten years, both in two different cars, a pregnant woman, a famous actress, an army veteran and a young man who’s down on his luck. Each of them is trapped, their routes being taken over, their destination programmed. After two and a half hours one of them will live, while the rest will die. A group of jury members, who are actually investigating who’s at fault when there is a car accident and people die (and it’s almost never the car’s fault!), are dragged into the hacker’s game. The only jury member who makes a stand against the hacker and the other members is Libby, a mental health nurse with a great dislike of the driverless cars.

It was a great story about manipulation and the dangers of technology. It was horrifying to see how easily you can manipulate people, showing them this what you want them to see, and actually how people react, where their morals lie, how easy it is to led them. I was very involved in the characters’ lives though I didn’t allowed myself to judge them, waiting for the outcome. And the fact that the author actually didn’t care which of the character should die, not falling onto pieces over them, was a great and refreshing change. He also brilliantly captured the mob mentality on social media and on the streets.

But. And there is a “but”, sadly. For me the book has a great premise, it started brilliantly and the development was also great, though I must admit that there were already moments that it seemed to me that the author had a great idea but then wasn’t sure how to direct it furthermore, how to bite it to make it thrilling. And then came the end that was a disappointment for me. I was expecting a mind – blowing, fireworks ending but it simply felt flat and not complete, not wrapped up. It seemed as if the idea petered away, and I’m really sad about this as I was hoping for so much more from John Marrs. Don’t get me wrong, please, I was hooked to the pages, I vibrated together with the characters, I wanted to punch some of them in their faces and kept everything crossed for the others, and then it was as if the balloon has deflated. Sadly.

But altogether, it was a fast – paced and full of twists and turns story and although it touched upon some difficult and thought – provoking issues, it was an easy read, surprising you with the development of the story. The author has brilliantly captured the future world – he made it scary and dangerous and it really freaked me out to see that people not only allow the electronic devices decide for them but they’re also not afraid to play with other people’s lives. It was accomplished and unsettling and I am so truly sorry and also sad that it didn’t work for me – I wanted to love this book but I also wanted more substance and better execution. However, I know there is so much potential in John Marrs’ writing, his books are original and unique and I’ll be reading whatever he writes in the future.

 

The Dangerous Kind by Deborah O’Connor

The Dangerous Kind by Deborah O’Connor

 

31930640Publisher: Zaffre

Publishing Date: 11th April 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher via Pigeonhole, thank you!

Number of pages: 448

Genre: Mystery, Crime

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover (out on 16.05.2019)

 

Synopsis:

What if the people we trust are the ones we should fear? The breakout thriller of 2019 that will make you second-guess everyone you meet.

We all know them. Those who exist just on the fringes of society. Who send prickles up the back of our neck. The charmers. The liars. The manipulators. Those who have the potential to go that one step too far. And then take another step.

Jessamine Gooch makes a living from these people. Each week she broadcasts a radio show looking into the past lives of convicted killers; asking if there was more that could have been done to prevent their terrible crimes.

Then one day she is approached by a woman desperate to find her missing friend, Cassie, fearing her abusive husband may have taken that final deadly step. But as Jessamine delves into the months prior to Cassie’s disappearance she fails to realise there is a dark figure closer to home, one that threatens the safety of her own family . . .

Set over a long, dark winter in London and perfect for fans of HE SAID/SHE SAID, THE DANGEROUS KIND is at once a gripping thriller and a stunning portrayal of the monsters that live among us.

Rating: three-stars

 

Did you know that 1 in 100 people fall into the category of “potentially dangerous”? It means that they’re very likely to commit a crime. Do you know who could this be? Your neighbour? Who, of the people that surround you, might be a potential danger?
“The Dangerous Kind” explores this topic. It starts with an encounter that turns into something dangerous. We then follow the BBC presenter Jessamine, who is asked to look into a disappearance of a young woman, and the story of Rowena, a thirteen – year – old girl, a very dark und unsettling tale of her life.

It was hard for me to get into this book. There were many characters introduced to us and I really wasn’t sure on whom I should focus. The author has also chosen to minusculely and meticulously describe everything – how the characters looked like, what they wore, the colour of the sky and how many leaves there were on the trees, and to be totally honest it was too much for me.

Jessamine was a character that stood out. She was feisty and was not afraid to break the rules to find the truth. She was honest and determined and often wasn’t afraid to put herself in danger. All the other characters were impressively well written, adding tons of tension and making you ask questions. They were all flawed, they made many mistakes, were troubled. Rowena’s story was heart – breaking, literally, reading about her life was incredibly sad and also made me feel so angry – because those things really happen. Jitesh’s narration, however, and I know his character has a purpose in the story, but it was still somehow strange, I wasn’t sure of its purpose and I’d be able to live without this subplot.

I must admit that while some of the subplots and reveals were not surprising for me, there were also some that took me by surprise indeed – I don’t want to tell here which is which as I don’t want to write any spoilers here but let me just tell you that there were moments that the author truly pulled the wool over my eyes. I liked how all the threads eventually start to come together.

As much as it was an important book, touching upon some very, very important and controversial issues, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I’ve already read many novels like this and not much could surprise me here. Sure, please don’t get me wrong, it was shocking and I gasped more than once when reading it, and it tugged at my heartstrings, and it was sad and brutally realistic but there weren’t many things that I haven’t read before. However, it was a thought – provoking thriller. It could be – you must be aware of this – upsetting for some, as it explores children sexual abuse or domestic violence however with sensitivity and without being too graphic, and thanks god for it. The writing style is assured and I had a feeling that the author really knows what she’s writing about – the research was done brilliantly and you can see that O’Connor cares deeply about the things she writes about, that they’re important to her. Hats off to the author for writing about such hard hitting storyline, about discussing uncomfortable truths. Recommended!

 

One Summer’s Night byKiley Dunbar / Blog Tour

One Summer’s Night by Kiley Dunbar

 

43721993Publisher: Hera Books

Publishing Date: 6th March 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 374

Genre: Romance

 Buy the Book:  Kindle

 

Synopsis:

The path of true love never did run smooth…did it?

Kelsey Anderson is stuck in a rut so big, she’ll need a 4-wheel drive to get out. She’s just been made redundant from her dead-end job, and boyfriend Fran is so busy climbing up the career ladder that he’s forgotten how to have fun. She needs to change her life – and fast.

Stumbling across an advert for tour guides in Stratford-Upon-Avon seems like the perfect way to bring the sunshine back. In an impulsive move, she moves from her small Scottish village to Shakespeare’s birthplace, armed only with a suitcase and her battered copy of Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

Kelsey quickly falls in love with the place, her job as a tourist guide allowing her to explore every inch of the picture-perfect town, from cosy cafes to the picturesque banks of the river.

But it’s not just the town that captures her heart, as she finds herself torn between the actors Will and Jonathan who both vie for her affections.

But will beautiful Peony, the lead actress at the Oklahoma theatre company where Jonathan is playing Oberon in A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, play a role in keeping Kelsey and Jonathan apart?

Or will flirtatious, charming Will, the fellow tour guide who has set his sights on Kelsey, keep the star-crossed lovers from finding their happy ending?

A gorgeously uplifting, feel good romance that will captivate readers of Holly Martin, Cathy Bramley and Milly Johnson.

my-review

 

Kelsey Anderson finds herself in a rut. She’s just lost her job in a camera shop that she truly loved, her long – term relationship with Francis seems to be going downhill and she really doesn’t know what it is she wants to do with her life. She loves taking pictures, she loves Shakespeare and her fondest memory is this of her last holiday as a family in Stratford – Upon – Avon when her dad was still alive. So when she notices an offer to work as a tour guide in Shakespeare’s birthplace what has she got to loose? It’s only for a summer and maybe after this time they will be able to solve their problems with Francis? Her family and her best friend Mirren encourage her to make this move, Francis is not so thrilled… But as it’s only a temporary position, she decides to go.

I absolutely loved the idea of Kelsey working as a tour – guide. I still can’t forget Molly Hopkins’s Evie Dexter’s series, and it’s years since I’ve read them, and they were a real hit, and I hoped for something very similar with “One Summer’s Night”. I really liked the few rounds of sight – seeing that we got, the interaction with the tourist and the way they were organized and I’d love to read more about them. There were hilarious tourists, some embarrassing situations and the eclectic group of the tourist guides – a lovely idea that felt a little too underdeveloped in comparison to Kelsey’s love life and the many things Shakespeare. The author has really well captured the “Olde English” feeling of the place and vividly and scintillatingly described all the places, bringing them to life.

Kelsey was the main character and she was lovely and full of warmth, though I had a feeling that mentally she’s much younger than her age. I liked her relationship with her family but I wanted more maturity there to be honest, and it felt as if she was sheltered from everything her whole life. Yes, of course, she had her own amount of grief in her young life and my heart went for her but the amount of her sobbing in the book was overwhelming. However, she was a good – hearted person, too easily jumping to conclusions and too quickly withdrawing when there was something happening in her life that didn’t go according to plan, and she would be even better a character with a little dose of self – belief, as she was counting on other people’s help too often. She was just a normal girl but it was probably this normality that made her feel so real and likeable – stuck in a rut, not sure what to do with her life and how to do it, uncertain, her dreams of photography long forgotten, her relationship rather stagnant but better such relationship than none, right? But there was still life in the girl, and even though she’s full of fear, she decides to take the opportunity of the tour guide job. Often questioning herself and her abilities but always finding strength in the end to stay upbeat, to find the courage and it was nice to see her eventually finding her feet and making up her mind, making decision.
The other characters were a group of eclectic, colourful people, perhaps too cartoonish sometimes but still likeable and entertaining.

I enjoyed the writing style, it is very vivid and eloquent, and chatty and also somehow poetic and lyrical – an unusual combination but it works wonders here. I could feel the heat of the midsummer, so vivid was it described, and the descriptions of the town were beautiful – it was a lovely escapism. However, eventually, the whole story started to feel too one – dimensional, too flat and honestly a bit too predictable, too clichéd, too neat. I had a feeling when reading it that I’ve been there and I’ve seen it all.

“One Summer’s Night” covered swelteringly hot summer in Stratford – Upon – Avon, romance, affairs, a great amount of confusion and jumping to conclusions so if you’re looking for an easy, predictable romance with straightforward characters, it’s a book for you. It was a warm, feel – good and uplifting read with some unforgettable moments and gorgeous descriptions.

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