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This review covers the three books in The Grisha Trilogy: 

1 – Shadow and Bone
2 – Siege and Storm
3 – Ruin and Rising

This series also consists of a number of short stories (you can find the list on Goodreads). I did not read any of the short stories prior to writing this review.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on the link and purchase, I make a very small percentage (at no additional cost to you!) which goes towards maintenance of this blog. Thanks for your support!

Book Review: The Grisha Trilogy

Book Review

The Grisha Trilogy

By Leigh Bardugo

The Grisha are a people endowed with special powers, a people who are considered Masters of the Small Science. Each Grisha is able to manipulate a certain type of matter to achieve extraordinary results. Some, Corporalki, work with what’s in the human body. Others, Etherealki or Summoners, are able to manipulate nature’s elements (wind, fire, water). The final set, the Materialki, are gifted scientists and builders, working with elements such as steal.

Many Grisha – persecuted, experimented on, sold as slaves in some parts of the world – make their way to the land of Ravka, where their unique gifts are nurtured. Here, the Grisha, considered to be part of the country’s elite, learn how to use their gifts and then serve in Ravka’s Second Army, led by the Darkling. The Darkling is the only known Grisha who is capable of summoning darkness, a leader with no equal. That is, until Alina reveals herself. Alina is the Darkling’s opposite – she is the Sun Summoner, a woman who can manipulate light.

This trilogy is largely centered around Alina and the Darkling. In the first book, Shadow and Bone, Alina’s powers are revealed. Throughout the book, Alina struggles to find her place among the Grisha and how to summon light. She is unsure of who to trust, feeling very alone. By the end of the book, Alina comes to realize that the Darkling’s intentions are not what they seemed; that her destiny was not to lead along side him, uniting a country ravaged by war, but rather to oppose him and defeat his plans to rule Ravka.

The second two books in the series, Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising, chronicles Alina’s fight against the Darkling. She’s helped by both new and old friends as well as amplifiers, magical items intended to strengthen her power. She still struggles with who to trust, as everyone seems to have a hidden agenda and multiple sets of loyalties. Will Alina and her group of friends be enough to defeat the Darkling and rebuild a war-torn country?

Review/Recommendation: Although a couple of the books (particularly the third) was hard to get into, the trilogy was an enjoyable, quick read. This young adult series (fantasy genre)  has something for everyone – love stories and love triangles, action and deceit. For the most part, the story was fast-paced (I found the beginnings to be the slowest part) and kept me wanting to turn the page and read just one more chapter.

As a former student of Russian language and culture, I’d be remiss if i did not mention the similarities to the Russian culture throughout the series. For starters, the word “grisha” is the diminutive of Gregory, which means watchful. (Bardugo states in the Q&A in the back of book 1 that the word also visually and aurally evokes the word “geisha,” enforcing the sense of beauty and secrecy that surrounds the Grisha people.) The names of people (Nikolai, Morozova, Misha, Aleksander, Sankta Alina) and places (Tsibeya, Novyi Zem, Dva Stolba) were some of the most obvious examples that will resonate with those familiar with the Russian culture. But certain scenes in the snow, of the characters drinking kvas, the troika arriving with holiday gifts to the orphanage etc. reminded me of my Russian studies.

If you like young adult/fantasy books, this series is worth a read. While  I didn’t love it as much as I loved Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, The Daughter of Smoke and Bones or Divergent books(to name a few), it’s an enjoyable read if you’re looking for another series in the genre.

Available on Amazon.

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The Forgotten Garden chronicles the efforts of two women to uncover pieces of their own family history.

Book Review: The Forgotten GardenDisclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on the link and purchase, I make a very small percentage (at no additional cost to you!) which goes towards maintenance of this blog. Thanks for your support!

Book Review
The Forgotten Garden
By Kate Morton

A little girl is found alone with a small suitcase of clothes and a beautiful book of fairy tales on a dock in Australia in 1913. The little girl has no memory. The dockmaster is unable to find her family, or even figure out where to begin looking for them. He takes the little girl home and she is quickly adopted as the first child of the dockmaster and his wife. Named Nell, the little girl grows up knowing nothing of her past, the eldest child of a large family. But when Nell turns 21, her father tells her the truth of her origins – that she was not his biological daughter and that he had no idea of where she came from or who her family might be.

The Forgotten Garden is a story of Nell’s life through multiple sets of eyes during multiple time periods. First, there is Nell’s granddaughter Cassandra, who journeys from Australia to England after Nell’s death, to uncover the truth about Nell’s past (2005, the present of the book). The second set of stories is that of Nell’s own journey to England in 1975, when she attempts to identify her parents and learn about the first few years of her life. Third is set in the early 1900s, following the lives of the Mountrachet family, believed to be Nell’s family. And finally, interwoven in the above, there are short stories from Nell’s book of fairy tales written by The Authoress.

Review/Recommendation: This book was enjoyable throughout, but I really got hooked about halfway through, when I got caught up in the story and started reading at an almost feverish pace. I was thoroughly invested in all of the characters and plot lines, so the switching back and forth between characters and time periods was seamless to me. Additionally, Morton did an excellent job threading the pieces of Nell’s story through each part – showing the reader exactly what happened in the chapter from the early 1900s and then how those particular pieces of the story were brought to light for Nell and/or Cassandra. Amazingly, it felt like the story was packaged into a nice, neat bundle by the end of the book, both satisfying and slightly surprising at exactly how neatly things came together (I actually found myself rewinding the book a bit to make sure everything was covered).

The writing in the book was beautiful; the characters showed depth and evolution. In fact, after finishing the book, I couldn’t stop feeling sad for a couple of the characters. They weren’t the most likeable characters, but their life circumstances evoked such empathy for them. If their life were a bit different or a certain person did not have such a strong influence on those characters, things could have turned out so very differently for them. And no, that sadness didn’t grip me as I read the book but it was something I thought about after I finished it, as I started thinking about writing this review. It’s not often that sentiments about a book stay with me for a little while after finishing, so for that, kudos to Morton!

I gave this book 4/5 stars on Goodreads for two reasons. First, I found the “mystery” a bit predictable – I was pretty easily able to guess the ending, both because it was a bit predictable and because Morton so clearly laid out the clues surrounding Nell’s childhood. Secondly, one piece of the novel left me slightly unsettled as I read it – I was bothered by the strong parallels in several of the fairy tales to other fairy tales and stories that I grew up knowing. I suppose that my feelings about it may be a bit irrational, because so many fairy tales and stories are based on something else, but the parallels were a bit too obvious for me to feel completely comfortable with. That being said, if the fairy tales were absent from the book, I probably would have been curious and wished that they had been included. So it may be an imperfect solution either way.

The Forgotten Garden was an enjoyable read, a great book with which to finish my summer reading.

Have you read this book? If so, what did you think? If not, you can find this book on Amazon.

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Ash and Quill Book ReviewDisclaimer 1: This is a review of the third book in The Great Library Series. If you have not read the first two books in the series, you can read my review for those here.

Disclaimer 2: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on the link and purchase, I make a very small percentage (at no additional cost to you!) which goes towards maintenance of this blog. Thanks for your support!

{Book Review}

Ash and Quill

By Rachel Caine

The third book in The Great Library series picks up where the last left off. Jess and his friends escape the clutches of the Library but end up arriving in Philadelphia where a new threat awaits, the Burners – those that would rather burn book than succumb to the Library; those that believed that a human life was more valuable than books and knowledge.

The group is immediately taken prisoner and bides their time until they can escape by performing various tasks for the Burners. But escape is no easy feat, for just outside the city walls sits one of the Library’s High Garda armies, who would surely take them captive as soon as they are seen.

Review/Recommendation: I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books, so the wait for this one to be released in July was a long one. After a few weeks of waiting for my library to receive and process the book, I gave up and ordered it myself. Thank goodness for credit with Amazon!

Ash and Quill did not disappoint. The story was as engaging as the first two, much to my husband’s dismay (because I would rather read it than watch Game of Thrones with him). The characters didn’t seem to evolve as much as previous books, but there was nice plot progression. The story line of this book focused on Burner life, culture and beliefs rather than that of the Library. That was something we got a glimpse of in previous books, but neither book were centered around it like this one is.

Like the second in the series, Paper and Quill, this book ends on a pretty big cliffhanger meant to bring the reader back for more. Super annoying when the next book is nowhere in sight. But that, along with the way the story is told indicates that this series is meant to be read in order, so if you haven’t read the first two, please don’t jump to this one. You’ll lose a lot pieces from the story as well as the characters.

Now to anxiously await the release additional book in the series. (Goodreads indicates that there will be a total of five books in this series. As of this writing, there were no details on Rachel Caine’s website, so it probably won’t be released until 2018, at the earliest.)

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Book Review: The Women in the Castle

{Book Review}

The Women in the Castle

By Jessica Shattuck

On the eve of WWII, a small group from Germany’s high society were planning  Hitler’s assassination. Marianne von Lingenfels was the sole woman present. She not only supported the plot, recognizing the monster that Germany’s leader was, but was charged by the men with protecting and caring for their wives and families, should the plot go awry.

Unsurprisingly, the plot fails and the men, the resisters, are sentenced to death. Marianne survives the war and returns to the castle owned by her husband’s ancestors. It is from that home base that Marianne searches Germany for the women and children she promised to protect. She successfully recovers two fellow resister wives and their children. Together, the three women and their children spend their days at the castle recovering from the war and searching for a way forward in life.

Review/Recommendation: I read a lot of WWII-era historical fiction books but not very many from a German perspective. This  book was super interesting and hard to put down. It was a fantastic story with engaging characters.

I thought it Shattuck did well showing the different perspectives of a German woman during Hitler’s reign. The three widows each brought their own perspective of WWII-era Germany – one [former] Nazi supporter, one adamant resister, and one just slightly the indifferent and a bit oblivious to the politics of the time. Each woman had a history that helped them make it through the years immediately following the war, when they were recovering and attempting to restart their lives. Each had a history that crafted their paths forward after the recovery period.

The Women in the Castle flipped back and forth between different dates (mostly prewar and postwar, the “present” of the novel) and between each of the different characters, giving the reader insight into the women’s history and life. The format worked well for the book and for the story Shattuck crafted.

I really enjoyed this novel and would recommend it to any fans of historical fiction.

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on the link and purchase, I make a very small percentage (at no additional cost to you!) which goes towards maintenance of this blog. Thanks for your support!

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The Little Paris Bookshop{Book Review}

The Little Paris Bookshop

By Nina George

Jean Perdu is a bit eccentric. He is know as a literary apothecary. Perdu owns a little bookshop, a barge docked on the Seine River. From here, Perdu prescribes books for helping and for healing whatever troubles his customers. “To a certain degree, [Perdu] could read from a body’s posture, its movement and its gestures, what was burdening or oppressing it” (p. 27). Intuitively, Perdu knows exactly what his customers need.

It’s a quiet life, with Perdu going through the motions of everyday life without really living, numb inside. But after a neighbor returns a long-forgotten letter from an old lover, Perdu’s world is turned upside down. Memories and feelings are woken. Perdu must learn to not just cope but to live and love again.

Recommendation/Review: I have mixed feelings on this book. On the one hand, I enjoyed the story. The books chronicles Perdu’s emotional journey starting with reading the letter from his old lover – breaking his heart all over again and inducing great guilt – through experiencing loss, mourning, and healing as he sails to his lover’s homeland. Along his journey, Perdu picks up other men that are in need to healing and self-discovery in their own way. The men provide support for one another, showing and experiencing life’s joys again, and gradually find their way back to living again. I found this touching, and enjoyed seeing Perdu and the other characters grow, learn, and find themselves. Especially Perdu – following him through the stages of grief before he was able to come to terms with history and move on with life.

However, on the other hand, I did find some of the dialog and descriptions in the book a little too flowery and unreal. Nicely written, but I couldn’t help rolling my eyes or skimming ahead a bit. It was just a little too over the top for me, at some parts.

Overall, the book was enjoyable, and I’m glad I read it.

If you’ve read this book, what did you think? 

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{Book Review}

The Freedom Broker

By K.J. Howe

Thea Paris, nicknamed “Liberata,” is an expert in the kidnap-and-ransom field, working for a private consulting firm. She routinely negotiates for the release of hostages, but sometimes, works with an elite team to bring the hostages home through covert missions and/or forceful means.

When Thea’s father, a prominent oil executive, is abducted from his home in Greece, she sets off to find him. Thea jets from Greece to Africa, unsure of who she can trust and having no idea what she’ll unravel.

Review/Recommendation: Super short summary, right? The truth is that, while the above is the main plot line, there are a lot of smaller stories that run through the course of the book, all tying into the above at the end.

This mystery/suspense novel was a breath of fresh air from others in the genre. With a lead character a profession other than a cop, federal agent, or a lawyer, it was still fast-paced and very engaging like others in the genre. There were a number of connected story lines that the reader had to puzzle through – how were those story lines connected to Thea’s missing father? Who was lying and about what? Who was trustworthy and who was not? Some answers were clearer than others, which is part of what made the novel so entertaining.

I also appreciated how Howe drew upon the childhood experiences of the main characters. Thea’s brother was kidnapped when the two were children and was missing for about a year. Thea was the intended target. These experiences shaped Thea and her brother’s paths in life, from their occupation to their relationships with others.

If you enjoy mysteries and suspense novels, I’d encourage you to pick up this one.

The Freedom Broker is K.J. Howe’s first novel. It was published in February 2017.

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This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on the link and purchase, I make a very small percentage (at no additional cost to you!) which goes towards maintenance of this blog. Thanks for your support!

{Book Review}

The Great Library Series

By Rachel Caine

Books
Book 1: Ink and Bone
Book 2: Paper and Fire
Book 3: Ash and Quill (To be published in July 2017)

Associated Short Stories:
Tigers in the Cage (Book 0.1) – Available for free online here
Stormcrow (Book 0.5) – Available for free online here

This series takes place around the year 2045. It’s a world that is unrecognizable to the reader, as this version of the future starts with a very different version of our history. The Great Library of Alexandria not only survives but rises to a position of power and protects knowledge from being lost from war and disaster that plague Earth’s history. While there are some technological advancements, the Library banishes all ideas that would challenge it’s existence to The Black Archives, essentially rewriting history.

In this version of history, electricity is non-existent, trains and vehicles run on steam. But more important to the plot, Johannes Gutenberg never invented the printing press, or rather, he did but his research was banished to The Black Archives. Instead of reading physical books, stories and books are read on “blanks,” or codices, preloaded with stories from the Library via alchemy. In this way, the Library can not just censor what is read but it can track what the user is interested in. It’s illegal to own handwritten books, with the exception of your own personal journal.

It is in this version of the future that Jess Brightwell lives. Son of a black market book trader, Jess grew up smuggling books and running from the Library. However, at his core, he loves knowledge and books. As he approaches adulthood, his father buys him the opportunity to test into Library service, with the intention that his son would serve the family business from within its enemy.

Ink and Bone starts off with a scene from Jess’ childhood, but is centered around his introduction to the Library, surviving the training and the elimination process, and building a relationship with a small group of fellow trainees. And in the middle of all of that? Jess and his friends are caught in a Library plot against their teacher, putting them into dangerous situations and testing their loyalty, not just to the Library but to each other.

Paper and Fire picks up where the first book left off. Jess and his friends finished training, but are caught up in some pretty dangerous Library plots. This second book is even more fast paced than the first, as the friends embark on a mission to save a friend and constantly run from threats from the Library.

Review/Recommendation: Although it took me a little while to get into the first book, I very much enjoyed the first two books in this series. I particularly enjoyed the historical references throughout the novels – to well-known authors, inventors, and scholars… even if the references in the books didn’t match up with our history. Although it’s supposed to be a young adult series, the historical contexts and general writing style made it feel like more of an adult novel, allowing it to appeal to a wider variety of audiences.

I did read the two short stories associated with this series. They were very short and quick. While interesting, they were so short that they didn’t add much to the general story line, even as background notes on the characters. You can read them or not. If you skip them, you won’t miss anything.

I’ll probably skip any additional short stories that come out, but I look forward to the third book (and any others that come out) coming out this summer.

Ink and Bone and Paper and Fire are both available on Amazon: Ink and Bone and Paper and Fire

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{Book Review}

The Chronos Files

By Rysa Walker

Comment on the Review: This is a multi-part series, composed of 3 main books, 3 novellas, as well as a handful of short stories.  The main books were readily available at my local library, but I did not see any bound versions of the novellas or short stories when I looked there and online. I did read all of the novellas and almost all of the short stories through Amazon Kindle Unlimted (a month-free trial version available for Prime members). This review is an overview and a review of the entire series.

The Chronos Files: Novels & Novellas
1 – Timebound
1.5 – Time’s Echo
2 – Time’s Edge
2.5 – Time’s Mirror
3 – Time’s Divide
3.5 – Simon Says: Tips for the Intrepid Time Traveler

The Chronos Files: Short Stories
Splinter
Whack Job
The Gambit
2092: A CHRONOS Files Story*
Kate Down Under**

What if you had the ability to travel through time? What if you had to time travel, to save the future and most of the world’s population?

One day, Kate Keller-Pierce discovers that was her destiny. Her dying grandmother appears one day, and with a glimpse at an old medallion, Kate’s world unravels. The medallion, emitting a bright blue light for Kate, is the key to traveling through time. The medallion is called a CHRONOS key and it only works for those with the CHRONOS gene, passed on ancestors came from the future and got stranded in the past. Kate inherited the gene is able to do something her grandmother hadn’t been able to do for years, travel through time.

Kate’s grandmother enlists her to help travel through history to stop her grandfather, Saul, from rewriting history and wiping out most of world’s population. During her quest, she must be careful of two things – not to change history herself and not to tip of the Cyrists, her grandfather’s followers in the new religion he created, to her task at hand. She has very few people she can rely on for help – only her grandmother, her grandmother’s friend, her boyfriend Trey, her friend (sometimes more) Kiernan Dunne, and on occasion, her parents. Kate relies on this small, trusted group to help work through the details of time travel, as a sounding board for her plan to save the future, and for physical help accomplishing her mission.

Review/Recommendation: I picked up this series after reading a review online, and I was immediately sucked in. I couldn’t put it down, reading through the novels, novellas, and most of the short stories in roughly 6 weeks – a reading binge I haven’t had the desire or time to indulge in for years.

I enjoyed the main story line quite a bit. It wasn’t predictable, had intricacies related to time travel that kept me thinking, and in general, was well-crafted. Kate’s struggle to deal with the new path in her life was well done. It wasn’t just about the idea of suddenly having this huge responsibility on her hands, but also seeing her struggle with sorting out her past, present, and future; her conflicting feelings between Trey and Kiernan; and her relationship with her parents and grandmother.

I was particularly impressed with the way Walker wove in the novellas (which I read in their appropriate spot in the story) and the short stories (which I read after completing the novels and novellas). While I chose to read the novellas in line with the novels, this certainly isn’t required. Both the novellas and the short stories filled in gaps in the novels, places that I certainly didn’t miss but enjoyed getting to read for further detail and perspective. For instance, several of the novellas and short stories were told from the point of view of secondary characters (most notably, Kiernan, but also Saul and his henchman Simon), giving the reader a glimpse into their lives separate from Kate.

If you enjoy young adult books and a little bit of fantasy and sci-fi, then I would definitely recommend this series to you. It is a well-crafted, well-written series that appeals to both young adults and adults alike.

Notes on The Chronos Files

* At the time this post was published, I had just started this short story, and it’s unclear exactly how it’s connected to the rest of the series.

** I was unable to figure out where to acquire this short story, at the time of writing this post. It was not available on Amazon, as far as I could tell. It does look like it’s possible to download short story for free on Walker’s website, when subscribing to her newsletter. You can select one story, including this one.

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{Book Review}

The Shoemaker’s Wife

By Adriana Trigiani

In the early 1900s, people who lived in the Italian Alps were struggling to make ends meet. Everyone was poor, and increasingly, people were leaving the mountain to make their fortune in America.

Ciro’s family was one of those families. However, when his father died in a mining accident in America, his mother was forced to leave him and his bother in a convent, unable to take care of them. Ciro and his brother are raised well, but after Ciro catches the local priest in a scandal, he is banished from his village. The nuns send him to America to become the apprentice to a shoemaker in Little Italy.

Upon arriving in New York, Ciro has a number of run-ins with Enza, a girl from his childhood on the mountain. While Ciro learns and masters his new trade as a shoemaker, Enza makes a life as a talented seamstress.

The Shoemaker’s Wife alternates between Ciro’s story and Enza’s, from their childhood in the Italian Alps, to living their separate lives a few miles away in New York, to their lives together in a small town in Minnesota.

Review/Recommendation: I cannot tell you how much I loved this book – I might start to sound like I’m gushing a bit (and if so, I’m sorry!). The Shoemaker’s Wife is an absolutely beautiful story – inspired by Trigiani’s own family history – of love, family, and faith. Trigiani did a wonderful job portraying the time period, making her readers (at least this reader!) feel like they were living in the moment. I personally grew very emotionally attached to the two protagonists as well as the set of secondary characters. I’ll admit that I cried more times than I could count (mostly in the last 75 pages).

In Trigiani’s absolutely beautiful writing, the reader experiences not just life in America during the time period, the first half of the century, but also to life as an immigrant. She paints a picture not just of American and Italian culture at the time but of a true Melting Pot of cultures, a sense of community built around shared experiences as foreigners in America and around hard work.

My only criticism of the book would be the time periods. There were several points further into the book where we jumped ahead in time, by a few years. Chapters weren’t dated, which sometimes made it difficult to keep track of time. I’d also have loved more on Ciro’s and Enza’s life together – the bulk of the book (which is still amazing) actually focuses on the period of their life in which they lived separate lives. But this latter comment speaks more to how much I loved the book than anything. I just wanted more, more more!

I can’t recommend this book more, for lovers of historical fiction or fiction in general.

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Another year comes to a close. It was a busy year and I didn’t get to read as much as I would have liked to –  I read less than two dozen books last year, which is really quite pitiful for me. Hopefully 2017 will give me more time to get back into reading.

Here you’ll find some of my favorite books read (not necessarily published) in 2016, with links to the reviews I wrote on each. The books are listed in the order in which I read them. It’s a very short list, limited to a handful of books (each in different genres) that I couldn’t put down.

What were some of your favorite books read in 2016?

 

My Favorite Books Read in 2016

In the Kingdom of Ice

In the Kingdom of Ice (by Hampton Sides) – I picked this one up because of a book I had read years ago by Sides, and loved. This non-fiction book about a voyage to discover the North Pole did not disappoint. It was absolutely fantastic.

Orphan X

Orphan X (by Gregg Hurwitz) – This suspense novel was one of my favorite books read this year. The story-line was unique with lots of plot twists and turns. Plus, there was a depth of character that surpassed what one usually finds in novels of this genre.

Book Review: The Magnolia Story

The Magnolia Story (by Chip & Joanna Gaines with Mark Dagostino) – A short little book about the costars of HGTV’s hit show Fixer Upper. The book tells the story of how the couple met, fell in love, and got their start in business. A must-read for fans of the show. I definitely walked away liking them even more after reading their story. (This was also the book review that received the most visits from readers in 2016.)

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I buy lots of my books and cooking supplies directly from Amazon nowadays. You can shop my favorite books and kitchen supplies directly through the Books n’ Cooks Amazon shop (<- link) or through affiliate links on relevant blog posts. Books n' Cooks is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

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