Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Between The Lies

Author: Michelle Adams
Genre: Suspense
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: St Martin's Griffin
First Published: March 5, 2019
Opening Lines: "In those first few moments there is nothing. No pain, no fear."

Book Description from GoodReadsThe truth is hiding between the lies.

A page-turning psychological thriller with twists that keep the reader guessing until last page, this addictive read will be loved by fans of Shari Lapena's A STRANGER IN THE HOUSE and Liz Lawler's DON'T WAKE UP.

What would you do if you woke up and didn't know who you were?

Chloe Daniels regains consciousness in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
She doesn't recognise the strangers who call themselves family. She can't even remember her own name.

What if your past remained a mystery?

As she slowly recovers, her parents and sister begin to share details of her life.
The successful career. The seaside home. The near-fatal car crash.
But Chloe senses they're keeping dark secrets - and her determination to uncover the truth will have devastating consequences.

What if the people you should be able trust are lying to you?

My Rating: 4 stars

My Review: This was an intriguing psychological thriller with a creepy vibe that will have readers on edge as they piece together the mystery surrounding a horrible accident that left a young woman with amnesia. Readers become privy to the secrets, lies, familial manipulations (and you thought YOUR family had issues!!) as well as the victim's mounting doubts about who she can trust.

I enjoyed the several possible culprits Adams provides that had me second guessing my ever-changing hypotheses. I found the first half of the book stronger (even with the vague psychological science-y stuff) and admit that my interest in the second half faltered a bit. I was still intrigued but found it odd that a few secondary characters strangely petered out of the story and I suppose I was hoping for a bigger ending. I still enjoyed figuring it all out, but it could have been stronger.

Overall, this was a great, delightfully dark psychological thriller with several red herrings to keep even the psychological thriller buffs on their toes.

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to St Martin's Griffin and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary digital copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, 18 March 2019

Beautiful Bad -- TLC Book Tour & Giveaway!!

Author: Annie Ward
Genre: Suspense
Type: Trade Paperback
Pages: 368
Source: TLC Book Tours
Publisher: Park Row
First Published: March 5, 2019
Opening Lines: I type, "Should I see a therapist?"

Book Description from GoodReadsThings that make me scared: When Charlie cries. Hospitals and lakes. When Ian drinks vodka in the basement. ISIS. When Ian gets angry... That something is really, really wrong with me.

Maddie and Ian's romance began with a chance encounter at a party overseas; he was serving in the British army and she was a travel writer visiting her best friend, Jo. Now almost two decades later, married with a beautiful son, Charlie, they are living the perfect suburban life in Middle America. But when a camping accident leaves Maddie badly scarred, she begins attending writing therapy, where she gradually reveals her fears about Ian's PTSD; her concerns for the safety of their young son, Charlie; and the couple's tangled and tumultuous past with Jo.

From the Balkans to England, Iraq to Manhattan, and finally to an ordinary family home in Kansas, sixteen years of love and fear, adventure and suspicion culminate in The Day of the Killing, when a frantic 911 call summons the police to the scene of a shocking crime.

My Rating: 3 stars

My Review: Beautiful Bad is a slow burn domestic thriller that begins with a brutal crime then goes back in time so readers can piece together what happened and figure out the identities of the victim and the culprit. 

Telling the story in reverse order worked well and had me eager to figure out what happened and 'whodunnit'.  A lot of page time is spent piecing together the earlier lives of Maddie, Jo and Ian - who aren't an overly unlikable bunch (but they don't always have to be, right?). The bonds between Maddie and Jo and Maddie and Ian are told more than shown to the reader so I didn't find their connections strong enough to warrant some of their later choices. But I was in it to solve the crime which had some good twists even though it is relegated to the outer edges of the story until it takes centre stage later in the book.

I liked the premise and the building tension as Ward includes good nail-biting scenes with an unreliable narrator to keep readers guessing. But with the addition of multiple POVs, dual timelines and so much page time devoted to their early lives, it felt like the book may have been trying to be too many things. But once the focus was back on the crime, much later in the book, my interest was once again piqued. There is a good twist with a strong creepy factor but with some editing down, I feel this book would have been more tense and impactful.

Overall, this book had an interesting premise and good twists. If readers can hold on and wait for the unveiling of the crime, Beautiful Bad has some good tension, characters who are extremely flawed and a solid twisty ending.

Many thanks to TLC Book Tours for inviting me to be part of this blog tour and for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Giveaway

The publisher has given me one copy of Beautiful Bad to give out to one of my lucky readers (sorry, the publisher has restricted this giveaway to US residents only).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Instant Pot Mushroom Soup

My Instant Pot remains one of my go-to kitchen appliances due to its ability to help me get a delicious homemade supper on the table fast! While my kids remain mushroom adverse, Brad and I quite enjoyed this traditional mushroom soup that was cooked in less time than it took to prep the ingredients. You've gotta love that!  Served with a nice crusty bread and green salad, this is a great meal for those cool evenings.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 7 minutes
Pressure Time: 15 minutes

2 tbsp. butter
4 cups baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped finely
2 tsp garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tsp dried rosemary
6 cups beef broth (good quality - don't skimp)
3 tbsp. flour
3 tbsp. water
1/2 cup half and half creamer

Note: This recipe assumes the home cook has basic knowledge of their Instant Pot and has read the manufacturer's instructions before attempting this recipe.

Prep your ingredients. Lots of yummy flavours go into this soup!

Press the Sauté button on your Instant Pot (IP) and allow it to heat up.

Add butter. Once it has melted, add the mushrooms, onion, garlic Dijon, rosemary, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.  Stir well and sauté the mushroom mixture until the mushrooms and onions have softened a bit (approx. 3 minutes).

Remove several of the mushroom slices to add in to your soup later for some texture and visual appeal.

Hit the Cancel button on the IP. With a wooden spoon, or scrapper, carefully scrape any brown bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pot. Leaving brown bits on the bottom runs you the risk of getting the Burn error and your IP won't allow itself to get up to pressure.

Add the beef broth to the pot.  Place the lid on the IP and secure so it seals.  Set pressure to high and adjust the timer to 7 minutes.  The IP will take approximately 10 minutes to get up to pressure.  Once the 7 minutes cooking time has ended, carefully do a quick release (watch out for steam!!) - this will take several minutes. Once the red float valve button pops back down, you can take off the lid of your IP.

Using an immersion blender, blend soup to a smooth consistency. DO NOT add hot soup to a blender.

In a small bowl, combine flour and water and make a slurry.  Add it to the pot and mix well.  I put my IP on Sauté on low temperature to help the slurry thicken the soup.  Add creamer, mix well and serve with hot crusty bread and a salad.

Leftovers taste wonderful the next day.

Great pairings:
Garlic and Herb-Topped Rosemary Bread
Crusty Rosemary Loaf

  • You can substitute vegetable or chicken broth for the beef broth. I chose beef to give the soup a richer flavour.
  • You can substitute the fresh rosemary with 2 tsp of the dried rosemary (aka pine needles)
Inspired by: Meal Plan Addict: Savory Instant Pot Mushroom Soup

Monday, 11 March 2019

All The Wrong Places

Author: Joy Fielding
Genre: Suspense, Women's Fiction, Canadian
Type: Trade Paperback
Pages: 354
Publisher: Ballantine Books
First Published: March 12, 2019
Opening Lines: "So, tell me about yourself," he says. He smiles what he hopes is a sweet smile -- neither too big nor too small, one that hints at a wry, maybe even off-beat sense of humor that he thinks would appeal to her. He wants to charm her. He wants her to like him."

Book Description from GoodReads: Four women 0- friends, family, rivals - turn to online dating for companionship, only to find themselves in the crosshairs of a tech-savvy killer using an app to target his victims in this harrowing thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of See Jane Run and The Bad Daughter.

A husband's death, a difficult divorce, a brutal break-up, dissatisfaction with a boring relationship: for various reasons, four women turn to online dating, hoping to right-swipe the way to love and happiness.

Paige and Heather are cousins, locked in a lifelong rivalry that recently culminated in Heather taking Paige's boyfriend for herself, although now Heather isn't quite sure she wants him. Paige's mother, Joan, is trying to get back on her feet after the death of the love of her life two years ago. And Paige's long-time friend, Chloe, is considering giving her unfaithful husband a taste of his own medicine.

Together, the women are navigating the choppy waters of online dating, until one of them unwittingly makes a date with a killer, starting the clock on a race to save her life.

New York Times bestselling author Joy Fielding has written a complex, electrifying thriller about friendship, jealousy, and passion--a deadly combination.

My Rating: 3 stars

My Review: All The Wrong Places is a story that combines the complicated relationships of four women who have varying degrees of unhappiness in their love lives. These women turn to online dating to find love but a couple of them get more than they bargain for. This was an entertaining, albeit predictable, story that I read in a couple of days but it's not the book I had expected to read. 

The book's blurb is touted as a thriller and it starts off strong with a wonderfully creepy vibe with a sadistic killer stalking women online. But it soon turns into a Women's Fiction/relationship type read with a bunch of women who aren't overly likable (except for Joan, she's a sweetheart). There's nothing wrong with a Women's Fiction read but when the book's blurb clearly sets it in the Suspense genre, but the suspense is relegated to the outer edges of the plot, then we're talking about different things and readers may feel mislead.

Overall, this was an entertaining book about the relationships between four women who are looking for love (in all the wrong places) with the thriller aspect merely lurking in the background. While the characters could use more depth and the plot was predictable, it's a good choice you're looking for a book about complicated relationships with a side of suspense. 

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Ballantine Books for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, 8 March 2019

Oven to Table

Author: Jan Scott
Genre: Cookbook, Canadian
Type: Trade Paperback
Pages: 280
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Penguin Random House Canada
First Published: February 5, 2019
Opening Lines: "This book couldn't come at a better time. With an increase in obligations and digital distractions that tempt us away from the kitchen, a healthy, home-cooked meal is one of the sacrifices many are making. Fortunately, there's a satisfying solution to help home cooks make stress-free, mess-free, and tasty meals a reality: one-pot or one-pan cooking."

Book Description from GoodReads: Take the guesswork out of mealtime with over 100 essential, simple, and tasty one-pot and one-pan creations.

Sometimes it feels impossible to get a home-cooked meal on the table. Between preparing the ingredients, following elaborate directions, and cleaning up the mess of pots and pans, feeding your family or hosting friends can feel like more effort than it's worth. Fortunately, there's a satisfying solution to help make stress-free, mess-free, and tasty meals a reality: one-pot cooking. Using one of six cooking vessels--skillet, sheet pan, Dutch oven, baking pan, roasting pan, and casserole dish--with Jan Scott's effortless recipes, you can bring a complete dish to the table using easy-to-find ingredients and a variety of foolproof techniques. Preparing food in one pot not only saves time, both in the prep and post-meal clean up, but these recipes are flexible and endlessly adaptable too.

This collection of practical recipes, including Overnight French Toast Casserole, Barbecue Chicken Chili with Cornbread Dumplings, and Cherry Tomato and White Bean Skillet Bruschetta, brings ease, comfort, and bold flavour to everyday cooking. Whether you're braising Perfect Saucy Pulled Pork in a Dutch oven or whipping up Salted Chocolate Tahini Skillet Blondies, Oven to Table will reveal the wide-ranging versatility of just a few pieces of cookware. With dishes leaping from stove to centerpiece, Jan's wholesome recipes will streamline your kitchen routine and nourish your family and friends.

My Rating: 5 stars

My Review: I do so love a good cookbook. But it needs to be loaded with recipes I can make for my family that fit our tastes, are doable with ingredients I can find in my food store and don't leave me elbow deep in sudsy water all evening.  With Oven to Table, Jan Scott gives readers 100 easy to make, tasty recipes, complete with beautiful and enticing colour photos, that use only one pot.

Scott's writing is easy to read and approachable as she describes different pans, required utensils, foods to keep stocked in your kitchen and her tenets for ensure successful one-pot cooking. She clearly identifies vegetarian, gluten-free, kid-friendly and make-ahead dishes as well as those that are better suited when you have more time and don't have to quickly feed the small humans before shuttling them to evening activities.

Over the past week or so, I tried a few of the recipes in the book and was pleased with all of them. 

Smoky Corn and Cheddar Chowder with a side of tasty Honey, Thyme and Cheddar Skillet Cornbread

A delicous soup with a light smoky taste and a cornbread 
that is soooo good (bet you can't eat just one slice).

Goat Cheese and Dill Hash Brown Quiche
A tasty, perfectly set quiche! 
FYI - I used thyme instead of dill in this recipe. 
Note to self: buy fresh dill.

Roasted Red Onion Party Dip
My daughter already called dibs on this dip for 
tonight's snacks. 'Nuff said.
In the next week or so, I also plan to make her One-Pot Baked Beefaroni, Salted Chocolate Tahini Skillet Blondies and Fudgy Raspberry Swirl Brownies, just to name a few. While not all of these tasty treats will be conducive to impending bathing suit weather, my stomach is ignoring those concerns and is THRILLED about the upcoming gastronomical delights! 

Overall, this is an impressive cookbook that look forward to using often. One pot/pan recipes speak to the mom in me who doesn't want to spend a lot of time cleaning up after a meal. I love cooking but washing dishes? Not so much. With enticing colour pictures and clear instructions for 100 recipes, this cookbook will entice and inspire home cooks to whip up these delicious one-pot dishes for the important, yet sadly often forgotten, family meals.

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to the publisher for providing me with a complimentary copy of this cookbook in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Princess Puffybottom ... and Darryl

Author: Susin Nielsen
Illustrator: Olivia Chin Mueller
Genre: Picture Book, Canadian, LGBTQ
Pages: 36
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: Tundra Books
First Published: February 5, 2019
Opening Lines: "Princess Puffybottom had the perfect life."

Book Description from GoodReadsPrincess Puffybottom has the purrfect life among her adoring subjects. All is well...until an intruder arrives in her kingdom. Surely he will be banished soon. Or could he be here to stay? 

Princess Puffybottom is not amused.

My Rating: 4 stars

My Review: Reading the title of this new picture book alone - Princess Puffybottom … and Darryl - put a smile on my face. And then seeing that Susin Nielsen wrote the book? That's the squeaker in the proverbial chew toy.

This is a story about family, and I especially love it when different families are represented in picture books (all books, really). In this case, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Princess Puffybottom and, of course, wee Darryl, have two moms (who are also people of colour). This isn't the focus of the book, obviously, that goes to her Highness Princess Puffybottom and her canine intruder. Instead, they're just a regular ol' family dealing with two mischievous pets and I loved that.

This is a cute picture book filled with diverse characters and beautiful, detailed illustrations that add much to understanding the overall plot.  Princess Puffybottom ... and Darryl is a fun read that shows the differences and issues that even our fur babies can have with each other, but the overall message of family and acceptance is one that I hope families take away from this beautiful picture book. While it was shorter and had a simpler story than I prefer in a picture book, I liked that the ending leaves an opening for future books.

Monday, 4 March 2019

The Island of Sea Women

Author: Lisa See
Genre: Historical Fiction (Korea)
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Scribner
First Published: March 5, 2019
Opening Lines: "An old woman sits on the beach, a cushion strapped to her bottom, sorting algae that's washed ashore. She's used to spending time in the water, but even on land she's vigilant to the environment aroun dher. Jeju is her home, an island known for Three Abundances: wind, stones, and women."

Book Description from GoodReadsA new novel from Lisa See, the New York Times bestselling author of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, about female friendship and family secrets on a small Korean island.

Mi-ja and Young-sook, two girls living on the Korean island of Jeju, are best friends that come from very different backgrounds. When they are old enough, they begin working in the sea with their village’s all-female diving collective, led by Young-sook’s mother. As the girls take up their positions as baby divers, they know they are beginning a life of excitement and responsibility but also danger.

Despite their love for each other, Mi-ja and Young-sook’s differences are impossible to ignore. The Island of Sea Women is an epoch set over many decades, beginning during a period of Japanese colonialism in the 1930s and 1940s, followed by World War II, the Korean War and its aftermath, through the era of cell phones and wet suits for the women divers. Throughout this time, the residents of Jeju find themselves caught between warring empires. Mi-ja is the daughter of a Japanese collaborator, and she will forever be marked by this association. Young-sook was born into a long line of haenyeo and will inherit her mother’s position leading the divers in their village. Little do the two friends know that after surviving hundreds of dives and developing the closest of bonds, forces outside their control will push their friendship to the breaking point.

This beautiful, thoughtful novel illuminates a world turned upside down, one where the women are in charge, engaging in dangerous physical work, and the men take care of the children. A classic Lisa See story—one of women’s friendships and the larger forces that shape them—The Island of Sea Women introduces readers to the fierce and unforgettable female divers of Jeju Island and the dramatic history that shaped their lives.

My Rating: 4 stars

My Review: I first read and looovved Lisa See's writing after reading her previous book The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. So, imagine how happy I was to get an advanced copy of The Island of Sea Women knowing I'd be meeting the author in a couple of weeks at a book event! So ... freakin' ... excited!

The Island of Sea Woman, begins in the 1930's and 40's during the Japanese occupation of Korea and the island of Jeju. Through the eyes of best friends, Young-Sook and Mi-ja, two young haenyeo, we witness the political upheaval after WWII, the atrocities committed against citizens and their desire and struggle to control their own country without interference from others.

I had never heard of the haenyeo before reading this book. But with her meticulous research, See introduces readers to these well-respected, strong and staunchly independent women and their unique matrilineal society. They are the heads of their families and the sole providers who risk their lives to fish using the methods haenyeo have used for generations while their husbands stay home to watch the kids (and apparently not much else).

While the haenyeo culture and its matrifocal way of life was interesting to witness, the story is a slower read and took me a little while to get into. I wasn't as engrossed in the modern-day story line and much preferred the earlier one and See's detailed descriptions of Korea's history. The historical info felt a little heavy at times, but having that background was important to understand Korea's struggle for independence and how that influenced the haenyeo. While some scenes were hard to read, I respect that See doesn't hold back on her descriptions detailing the horrors inflicted on the people of Jeju as they struggled under Japanese occupation and later when the US got involved.

The Island of Sea Women is a Historical Fiction novel that focuses on the lives of the unique and powerful haenyeo (a culture many people have probably have never heard of), the history of Korea (a history many people may have never learned about in school) and the lives of two friends whose tight sister-like bond is put to the test by family loyalty, hardships, loss and misunderstanding. This is an eye-opening and touching read about culture, friendship and the struggle of a nation to be autonomous.

Favourite Quotes:

“You are a haenyeo! Never for one moment believe you are unworthy.”

"Fall down eight times, stand up nine. For me, this saying is less about the dead paving the way for future generations than it is for the women of Jeju. We suffer and suffer and suffer, but we also keep getting up. We keep living. 
You would not be here if you weren't brave. 
Now you need to be braver still."

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to the publisher for providing me with a complimentary digital copy via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

And Then You Were Gone

Author: R.J Jacobs
Genre: Suspense
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
First Published: March 13, 2019
Opening Lines: "Paolo's black hair was everywhere in the wind, whipping against the Wayfarer sunglasses he always wore. He'd confessed once that he thought they made him look famous, or -- unable to find the word in English -- "Hollywood."

Book Description from GoodReads: For fans of B.A Paris and Alice Feeney comes a propulsive, twisting psychological thriller that asks, How can you save someone else if you can't save yourself?

After years of learning how to manage her bipolar disorder, Emily Firestone finally has it under control. Even better, her life is coming together: she’s got a great job, her own place, and a boyfriend, Paolo, who adores her. So when Paolo suggests a weekend sailing trip, Emily agrees—wine, water, and the man she loves? What could be better? But when Emily wakes the morning after they set sail, the boat is still adrift…and Paolo is gone.

A strong swimmer, there’s no way Paolo drowned, but Emily is at a loss for any other explanation. Where else could he have gone? And why? As the hours and days pass by, each moment marking Paolo’s disappearance, Emily’s hard-won stability begins to slip.

But when Emily uncovers evidence suggesting Paolo was murdered, the investigation throws her mania into overdrive, even as she becomes a person of interest in her own personal tragedy. To clear her name, Emily must find the truth—but can she hold onto her own sanity in the process?

My Rating: 2.5 stars

My Review: This debut suspense novel, written by R.J Jacobs - a psychologist by trade, brings readers into the mind of a person with mental illness as she tries to solve the mystery surrounding her missing boyfriend. 

This novel had the makings of a good suspense read but lacked in a few areas. Initially, I liked that the author put Emily's struggle with her bipolar disorder at the forefront of the story. But with readers only getting Emily's first-person narrative, the story soon became choppy with a plot that became more increasingly outlandish. 

Unfortunately, the story relied on the reader connecting to Emily, a character that just wasn't likable. I understood that Emily's impulsiveness was due to her bipolar disorder, but it felt like her mental illness took over the plot and was mainly there to provide an excuse for her being an unreliable narrator (a writing style that has been overdone in recent years). 

This debut thriller has a stunning cover and the interesting addition of mental illness, but unfortunately didn't deliver for me. It lacked focus, momentum and good twists resulting in a story that dragged in a few spots with a character that needed more depth. 

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Crooked Lane Books for providing me with a complimentary digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, 1 March 2019

Her One Mistake

Author: Heidi Perks
Genre: Suspense
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 320
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: Gallery Books
First Published: January 8, 2019
Opening Lines: "My name is Charlotte Reynolds". I lean forward to speak into the microphone, though I'm not sure why.

Book Description from GoodReads: What should have been a fun-filled, carefree day takes a tragic turn for the worse for one mother when her best friend’s child goes missing in this suspenseful, compulsively readable, and darkly twisted psychological thriller.

It all started at the school fair…

Charlotte was supposed to be looking after the children, and she swears she was. She only took her eyes off of them for one second. But when her three kids are all safe and sound at the school fair, and Alice, her best friend Harriet’s daughter, is nowhere to be found, Charlotte panics. Frantically searching everywhere, Charlotte knows she must find the courage to tell Harriet that her beloved only child is missing. And admit that she has only herself to blame.

Harriet, devastated by this unthinkable, unbearable loss, can no longer bring herself to speak to Charlotte again, much less trust her. Now more isolated than ever and struggling to keep her marriage afloat, Harriet believes nothing and no one. But as the police bear down on both women trying to piece together the puzzle of what happened to this little girl, dark secrets begin to surface—and Harriet discovers that confiding in Charlotte again may be the only thing that will reunite her with her daughter....

This breathless and fast-paced debut—perfect for fans of Big Little Lies and The Couple Next Door—takes you on a chilling journey that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

My Rating: 4 stars

My Review: This suspense story revolves around one of every parent's worst nightmares -- the abduction of their child. A horrible, chilling thought … but what if your best friend was caring for your child when they went missing?

The story starts off quite slowly and is told using Charlotte and Harriet's points of view in two different time lines - before and after the abduction. There are subjects that are dealt with that would make excellent book club discussions and while a few were hard to read (especially as a mother myself), tackling these subjects gives readers a clear idea of what one of the characters had to deal with and why they made certain decisions.

The tension and pacing pick up mid-way revealing a big twist (I had a few theories but none of them were correct) taking the book in a totally different direction than I had expected. Secrets are revealed and motives fall into place, but I felt the ending petered out and wrapped up a little too predictably after the wonderfully tense scenes leading up to it.

This character-driven domestic thriller is a quick read and will have readers, especially parents, empathizing with Harriet and Charlotte's experiences and as the plot unfolds, and twists revealed, readers will be left wondering what the mistake was and who made it.

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