Review of ‘Dread Nation’ by Justina Ireland

Dread Nation (Dread Nation, #1)Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve always had a tough time when it came to zombies, because majority of the time? They’re just not that interesting to me. I can’t help but envision the dead, shuffling along with their dead selves, wanting to eat every living thing in sight. And honestly, it just gets repetitive. But even though this book had a slow start, I did end up enjoying it a lot!

Let’s first talk about the zombies. In this, zombies are referred to as shamblers, so I will refer to them as such moving forward. Anyway, the shamblers obviously want to eat us, because humans never fail to be the main source of a zombie diet, so because of these jerks, more people are dying and turning into shamblers, leading our Caucasian friends to “need” an Attendant for protection.

What, you may be asking, is an Attendant? An Attendant is a young black woman who is trained in everything necessary for their charge to survive. These young girls are torn away from their homes and brought to school where they learn weaponry and etiquette. This is what our MC Jane is training to become. So, for maybe a good twenty percent or so of this book, she’s at this school, and nothing of note is happening. She gives her teacher a hard time, she gives a classmate a hard time. She reminisces about things from home, and she sneaks around. Blah, blah, blah.

It takes a bit for this book to pick up, but when it finally does, I’m fully engrossed! Jane, along with her classmate Katherine, are forcefully taken to a compound called Summerland, a “sanctuary” of safety. I feel like you can tell by the name that things are likely not going to turn out well…and the fact that it’s a compound… Katherine, being able to “pass” for white, is taken to the fancier part of town, while Jane is immediately out on work detail. This involves her patrolling the fence to make sure there are no shamblers breaches, and making sure to keep the citizens of Summerland safe. I like that she’s not the type to just give in to whatever lot has been handed to her, and she almost immediately finds out that Summerland is not quite the Mecca of sanctuary it’s proclaiming to be. With her knowledge comes more antagonism, and thus, more reasons to fight. She’s the type who speaks before she thinks, which I find leads to her being more entertaining. I know she could come across as annoying to some, but I found her endearing. I liked her brusk manner, and felt that it was big reason why she was so strong, I mean, you’d have to be if you were constantly angering people with your words, right?

But Jane wasn’t the only character I liked. There wasn’t exactly an influx of prominent characters, but I did like Katherine, who was kind of like the angel on Jane’s shoulder, making sure that Jane always knew what she was in for with her actions.

There’s also the character of Jackson, who at one time in Jane’s life played the part of the love interest, but has since become an annoying thorn in her side. I liked seeing him keep Jane on her toes, and though his parts were small, I enjoyed each and every one.

Finally, I should probably bring up Mr. Gideon, a young white man who happens to be in charge of all things in Summerland that involved engineering and the like. He also ends up becoming much more interesting as the book goes on, though that is all I’m going to say about him.

There are a lot of antagonists as well, some more so than others, and these people defintely did their parts in making sure our heroine was forever on her guard, as well as making this be more than just a zombie story.

I’m sure there are more points I could have brought up, but I’m kind of losing track of my thoughts, so I’ll just end this with saying that yes, I enjoyed this, and yes, I will recommend it to all my zombie loving peeps.

(Sorry I didn’t go on about how “life-changing” and “ground-breaking” this book was, being that it had a POC as the MC, as well as her being smart, strong, and independent… No, I wanted to focus more on what I liked about this book, and didn’t feel the need to pander on about the obvious.)

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Review for ‘The Art of Hiding’ by Amanda Prowse

The Art of HidingThe Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I feel like The Art of Hiding had me engaged from the very start! In only a matter of pages, Nina McCarrick goes from being a stereotypical Stepford Wife and mother, to becoming a widow who is now all alone in raising her two children. But, things go from bad to worse when she finds out that not only is her husband’s company in debt, but she now is, as well. Forced to leave the immense and beautiful family home and move back to the small town she’d left behind, she eventually must learn what it is to take control of her life as well as make sure to raise her children to be successful and upstanding citizens. Not that she doesn’t have a lot on her plate already…
I can’t say that I was happy with Nina at first. I do know that it’s because she chose to be the perfect stay-at-home mom – she chose her role and chose to allow her husband Finn to control everything financially – that she ends up facing the repercussions of not knowing how badly things had become within the business. They were in major debt! She had no idea because she’d wanted to believe that her husband was doing what he’d promised to do, take care of her. So then she’s sitting there, not knowing what to do. She’s even unable to access bank accounts because she has no idea what the passwords and pins are, because that was Finn’s job. Ugh. I just couldn’t stand how…small, she appeared to be, and I hated that she didn’t seem to care! In a day and age when women are stronger than ever, it’s sad to see a character be the complete opposite. So, though I was initially unhappy with Nina, I kept on reading, and am glad I did, because I really ended up like this, and even Nina herself!

Moving to the small town she came from (not sure what the name of it was) with her two children, we learn from Nina’s sister that once upon a time, Nina was a dedicated worker who was able to make her own money. I feel like it’s somewhat stereotypical to have a character essentially “go home” in order to “better themselves”, but I really did enjoy reading this story. I liked seeing Nina’s growth, and seeing her finally relax and actually allow herself to make friends and appreciate that she doesn’t have to do everything on her own.

When it comes to Nina’s relationship with her children, I really felt for her in those times when the two didn’t seem to appreciate her in the way they did their father. The eldest, Connor, pretty much worshipped his father in the way boys are prone to do. Connor happens to be a talented rugby player who wants to impress his father and become a successful, professional athlete one day. His father isn’t at all his matches, but though he’s disappointed, he accepts these moments. Now that his father is gone, though, he lashes out at his mother, because the other parent isn’t exactly there to pin any blame on. Nina is quite patient with the anger, and does all she can to help ease the pain, though honestly, she’s hurting, as well. Her second child, Declan, doesn’t come across as being as difficult, nor moody, as Connor, but that could be because he’s not a teenager, possibly. I don’t remember exactly when and what it was, but I do remember an instance in which Declan somehow didn’t feel that something his mother did was as good as his father, but I honestly can’t quite remember exactly what it was. It only stayed with me because I know Nina reacted with hurt, and I felt bad for her. All in all, I couldn’t help but feel sad that Nina wasn’t treated very well by her children, and feel that they took her for granted.

Thank the lord, though, that Nina’s character finally has some real growth when she gets a job and when she allows herself to meet and speak to other people. Even her children notice the change, and appreciate her hard work and attempts at making a better life for them, even with the family’s new limitations.

But not only is their growth for her, but her boys, as well. I can appreciate the changes in the boys, especially in Connor’s case, but I won’t delve into that, since some things still need to be left for you to discover.

I really did like this book in the end, and feel that it overcame the annoying stereotypes that I’d originally thought it would be, so for me, this was definitely a successful read, and I would gladly recommend it!

Thank you to Lake Union Publishing, via Netgalley, for giving me this copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Random Review of ‘The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen’ by Katherine Howe

The Appearance of Annie van SinderenThe Appearance of Annie van Sinderen by Katherine Howe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Started off slow, so slow that around 20 or so percent in, I wondered if I’d made a mistake picking this book up. But with Wes and Annie’s first meeting, we finally have the start of a real plot!

Wes is our modern MC, while Annie is the “time-traveling” MC from the past. They first meet because Wes is tasked with procuring her signed approval for her appearance in a film project belonging to his friend Tyler. Though Annie finds this to be a strange request–as well as being confused by the situation–she’s intrigued by this boy who speaks to her so comfortably, and indulges in him. Wes, on the other hand, is almost immediately taken with her. (He constantly talks about a mole on her upper lip, to the point where I want to take her to a doctor and have her mole checked #bettersafethansorry). Which is how he’s thrust into her search for a missing object that she had only recently received from someone very special to her. Of course, this is also how he finally realizes what she really is, a spirit–she’s very adamant about not being called a ghost, so we also won’t use the term to describer her–and yes, this is when the real fun starts!

So, I really wasn’t sure what I was getting into with this book. The synopsis on the back cover had the story coming off as possibly a mystery, and I wasn’t sure what Annie’s role was even supposed to be, besides realizing that she was meant to inhabit the mystery being invoked. I was so glad to find out that Annie wasn’t just a weirdo that I was supposed to find ‘cool and worldly’ (or whatever a YA heroine is expected to be in order to be ‘speshul’), but that her mystery came from her not belonging in the modern world. Everything about her is still nineteenth century, so of course you can’t help but be interested in her. I was enthralled by the way she’d compare modern-day places and sites to those that perhaps didn’t exist in her day, or might have once existed, but have since been replaced by buildings or the like. It’s always been such an interesting subject to me…the idea of the 20th/21st century’s rapid growth (in everything, it would seem), so I couldn’t help but become totally submersed into this book when it came up.

Now, let’s mention something I didn’t quite like. Admittedly, the romance(s?) was a bit dry for me. I couldn’t find myself interested in this aspect of the story, and am not convinced it was even necessary. It’s likely because we’re thinking Wes might not be so inclined to help Annie if he didn’t have “feelings” for her, but he came off so…cheesy to me, that I would cringe at some of his responses when it came to others. So yeah, the romance was no bueno for me.

In conclusion, besides the cheesy romance(s?), I enjoyed this book. I can even forgive the fact that I thought this book was going nowhere in the beginning, because I ended up liking this so much in the end. Do I recommend it? Sure, if you’re interested in a ghost story that doesn’t actually say it’s a ghost story.

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Review of ‘Strange Weather’ by Joe Hill

Strange WeatherStrange Weather by Joe Hill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve decided that I’m going to sort of break down each novel into somewhat separate reviews, and give them each their own rating, since I definitely liked certain ones more than the others.


SNAPSHOT
– 2.5 stars
This one had to be my least favorite. I was very interested in the idea of a camera that steals away memories every time a picture is taken of someone, but I was so disappointed by how the story wrapped up. I feel like it could have either gone into more details explaining the camera’s origin, or maybe not have shown what was powering the camera at all, because it ended up leaving me unfulfilled. The story in itself was interesting enough, but the ending just ruined it for me, so this one is probably the one I liked the least.


LOADED
– 4 stars
Anyone who follows the news these days (even those who don’t necessarily do so by choice) will likely hear about some sort of shooting happening. For those of us who live in the US, we’re quite familiar (sadly) with such aggression, so this novel felt like it hit close to home. Loaded starts out with an experience that is so similar to that of Stephon Clark, that I couldn’t help but feel emotional reading it. It continues on with another shooting happening at a later time, though this one involves more casualties-one of which was super hard to read about-it instead is mostly centered on the man who becomes a media sensation for stopping a mass shooter. But this man is not as heroic as people think, and his murky mind definitely gave me the chills. This novel in general is a hard read, and I can’t say that I loved the content, but it’s enlightening and well-written.


ALOFT
-3.5 stars
This one was an interesting one for me. I found it to be a pretty unique story, as well as just plain strange. The MC is a young man who happens to go sky-diving with a group of friends, only to chicken out when it’s his time to jump. He’s forced to jump anyway, thus landing on the cloud that becomes the main setting of this story. The cloud begins a strange understanding with the MC, creating things for him out of its mist, but one cannot live without the necessities to sustain one’s life, so obviously his relationship with the cloud becomes strained, and he desires to leave it. While he’s on this cloud, he happens to think back on his “relationship” with the girl he likes and it seems that he also slowly comes to understand his role in her life. I wasn’t a big fan of this novel because I really didn’t like the MC. He didn’t seem to understand boundaries, and I felt overwhelmed by his eagerness to be close to the girl he likes. I think it’s mostly because I myself would have a hard time being around such a person, that I didn’t like him.


RAIN
-5 stars
This was my favorite novel in the book. I really liked the MC, Honeysuckle, and really, the whole sequence of events! Imagine that it rains one day, but instead of the normal rain one’d expect, the rain is literally made up of thousands of needles, and is even described as “ripping people apart”, the casualties from the first rain (yes, this type of rain happens more than once) are tremendous. Honeysuckle suffers a significant loss straightaway, and she has several journeys that have her coming across all types of things and peoples, leading to such an entertaining read!

Overall, I liked this book more than I didn’t. The two novels I rated higher far outweighed the two I found to be lacking. I’ll be glad to recommend the two I’d liked, and as for the other two…they weren’t bad, they just had something that ended up bothering me personally, so I can’t say if you’d feel the same.

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Review of ‘This Darkness Mine’ by Mindy McGinnis

This Darkness MineThis Darkness Mine by Mindy McGinnis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary provided by publisher:
Sasha Stone knows her place–first-chair clarinet, top of her class, and at the side of her oxford-wearing boyfriend. She’s worked her entire life to ensure that her path to Oberlin Conservatory as a star musician is perfectly paved.

But suddenly there’s a fork in the road, in the shape of Isaac Harver. Her body shifts toward him when he walks by, her skin misses his touch even though she’s never known it, and she relishes the smell of him–smoke, beer, and trouble–all the things she’s avoided to get where she is. Even worse, every time he’s near Sasha, her heart stops, literally. Why does he know her so well–too well–and she doesn’t know him at all?

Sasha discovers that her by-the-book life began by ending another’s: the twin sister she absorbed in the womb. But that doesn’t explain the gaps of missing time in her practice schedule or the memories she has of things she certainly never did with Isaac. As Sasha loses her much-cherished control, her life–and heart–become more entangled with Isaac. Armed with the knowledge that her heart might not be hers alone, Sasha must decide what she’s willing to do–and who she’s willing to hurt–to take it back.

Edgar Award–winning author Mindy McGinnis delivers a dark and gripping psychological thriller about a girl at war with herself, and what it really means to be good or bad.
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This is going to be hard to review! So many of the things I want to mention are spoilers, but because I’d decided a long time ago I wouldn’t post them, even if they are hidden, then I will have to review this book the best that I can without giving away anything crucial.

So, I will start off with our MC, Sasha Stone. As you’ve already learned, she is pretty much as perfect as one could get without getting Biblical, and initially, her “perfection” and “high standards” just come off as annoying. She’s such a snob, and she forces her ideology onto anyone who dares to speak to her. All in all, she sounds like a real winner when it comes to the MC lottery, am I right?? Well, she doesn’t become likable or anything close to that, no, it’s all in the fact that her character became more interesting to me. I still hated her guts, and would likely have pushed her into the path of a moose or bear if I needed a distraction to save my life (I live in Alaska, so, yes, this can be relevant), but I became more intrigued by this idea that she’s missing time, and happens to find out she’d absorbed her twin in the womb. Now, I hope you’ve Sherlocked your way into realizing that these various hints mean that because she’d absorbed her twin, she absorbed everything from her…including her personality. And if you hadn’t figured that out and think I’ve given away a spoiler, then I don’t think this book is for you…
Anyway, so because of this “introduction” of a twin to this story, Sasha definitely began to interest me more, leading to my enjoying this book way more.

Then there are the people in Sasha’s life. I’ll only mention some of them, because to say anything about the latter few will be too telling of a something big that happens, so henceforth, vague I shall continueth to be!

Where was I again?
Oh, people in Sasha’s life, right.
Okay, so there exist her parents, a mother and father each. Each have their roles, though neither seem to impart the warm and fuzzy feelings that come with being a family, they seem to be good enough people and take care of our annoying MC as well as parents can.
Then there are her two friends, Brooke and Lilly. Brooke is way more interesting than Lilly, and I think it mostly has to do with her fascination of morbid things. In comparison, Lilly is milk toast. She’s boring and I’m not really sure what she brought to this trio’s friendship?? Besides that, she does exist in this book for a reason, and that I do understand.
Finally, we have Isaac (there does happen to be a “perfect” boyfriend, named Heath, but I don’t really feel there is any need to talk about Señor Douchelord, so I won’t). Isaac is the “bad boy” who is thrown into the mix because that’s what you do in YA books. You have to have a guy who “sees what others cannot…who brings out the best in you” and all that yadda yadda, so of course he’s introduced as a possible romantic interest, because wouldn’t that make the book more interesting?!
But, of course.
I liked Isaac and have nothing bad to say about him, though I did question his thought process when it came to a few things…a few things I won’t be mentioning… (Again, cause as the fantastic River Song would say, ‘Spoilers’.)

I really feel like this book kept me hooked. I was surprised when I’d read so many reviews in which people either did not like this book, or chose to DNF it, because once I’d started it, I was committed to finding out what Sasha’s deal was, and more about the absorbed twin. And the more I kept reading, the more I realized where this book was going. And the ending? I LOVED it! I really wish I could say why, but I will say that it helped reinforce my dislike for Sasha, and if you read this book to the end, you’ll likely see why.

Honestly, I’m not sure you’ll like this book, judging by how many seem not to, but I really liked it and just found it to be really entertaining! So if my review interested you at all, then you should definitely read this book and let me know what you think of it!

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Review of ‘The Last Magician’ by Lisa Maxwell

The Last MagicianThe Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary provided by the publisher:
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Stop the Magician. Steal the book. Save the future.

In modern-day New York, magic is all but extinct. The remaining few who have an affinity for magic—the Mageus—live in the shadows, hiding who they are. Any Mageus who enters Manhattan becomes trapped by the Brink, a dark energy barrier that confines them to the island. Crossing it means losing their power—and often their lives.

Esta is a talented thief, and she’s been raised to steal magical artifacts from the sinister Order that created the Brink. With her innate ability to manipulate time, Esta can pilfer from the past, collecting these artifacts before the Order even realizes she’s there. And all of Esta’s training has been for one final job: traveling back to 1902 to steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order—and the Brink—before the Magician can destroy it and doom the Mageus to a hopeless future.

But Old New York is a dangerous world ruled by ruthless gangs and secret societies, a world where the very air crackles with magic. Nothing is as it seems, including the Magician himself. And for Esta to save her future, she may have to betray everyone in the past.
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This book was such a fun read! The world, the characters, and the excitement of forbidden magic really were spot-on for me!

Let’s start with the world this book takes place in:

I think it was clever on the author’s part to set this book in New York, because in the early 1900’s–the time period most of this book is set in–there were many immigrants who came into America with dreams of being able to provide better lives for their families, or themselves. This reasoning really also tied in well with why magic could be found in the city, and why so many risked their lives coming into a city that would end up trapping them in. And then, being the early 1900’s, there was a lot of street gangs that ruled New York City at the time–these were usually depending on which nationality you were, i.e. Irish, Italian, and so on–so it made a lot of sense to have gangs be prevalent in this book, though these seemed to be more centered on powerful Mageus who “protected” those who paid tributes to be under their umbrella of protection. This was definitely a cool setting!

Now, for the characters:

I really liked Esta, whose affinity has to do with time, and being able to control it when necessary–or when she needed to make a point. This affinity helps her to go from present day to 1902, so that she may join a certain magical gang, help them with a heist, and retrieve an item she must bring back to the present. Esta is extremely street-smart, and is able to say she can pick any lock she comes up against, and these skills definitely come in handy when it comes to proving herself to the gang’s leader. I also loved how clever she was, always ready with a quick-witted response to anything Harte might have to say.
Since I’ve now mentioned Harte, I’ll say that I really liked how he was a guy who just wanted to live a better life…to be able to take care of his mother, though she didn’t exactly treat him very well due to something she faulted him with in the past, and mentally, she wasn’t quite right after coming in contact with the brink. Back to the better life point, he wanted to overcome his gang-related past, and with his magician ‘act’, live a relatively normal life that could provide him with some of the finer things, as well. But, Harte is dragged back into magic-oriented things, and must again deal with the people he’d left behind. Namely, Dolph, the leader of the gang Esta has managed to infiltrate.
Dolph, Nibs, Viola, and Jianyu are the secondary characters, who each bring their own skills and talents to make for a more interesting story, as well as strengthen the relationships between the characters so you’re able to see why each person is important and why they fight so hard for each other.

Finally, the forbidden magic:

I loved the element of magic being so forbidden in this world. This is a well-used plot-point, but it was so much fun in this instance. You’ll have to read to find out this find out more, but I will say that the Order are the bad guys in this story, and they’re the ones who have basically outlawed magic. I know, the Order…what a stereotypically used name for fiends, right? I’ll admit I did find the name to be a bit cheesy, but it wasn’t bad enough to stop my interest in this book.

All in all, I really did enjoy this book, and recommend it to any who are interested in reading about a magical world with cool characters.

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Review of ‘Toward a Secret Sky’ by Heather Maclean

Toward a Secret SkyToward a Secret Sky by Heather Maclean

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Even the lush depictions of Scotland couldn’t bring me to fall in love with this book.
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Synopsis from publisher:
Shortly after 17-year-old Maren Hamilton is orphaned and sent to live with grandparents she’s never met in Scotland, she receives an encrypted journal from her dead mother that makes her and everyone around her a target. It confirms that her parents were employed by a secret, international organization that’s now intent on recruiting her. As Maren works to unravel the clues left behind by her mother, a murderous madness sweeps through the local population, terrorizing her small town. Maren must decide if she’ll continue her parents’ fight or stay behind to save her friends.

With the help of Gavin, an otherworldly mercenary she’s not supposed to fall in love with, and Graham, a charming aristocrat who is entranced with her, Maren races against the clock and around the country from palatial estates with twisted labyrinths to famous cathedrals with booby-trapped subterranean crypts to stay ahead of the enemy and find a cure. Along the way, she discovers the great truth of love: that laying down your life for another isn’t as hard as watching them sacrifice everything for you.
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This book had me torn when it came to actually decided whether or mother I liked it. The idea this book is centered on is pretty cool, what with there existing a secret organization to keep us lowly ones safe, as well as the promise of some code-breaking. But the “romance” (I cringe even thinking of it) is so ridiculous to me, that it played a large part in why I disliked this book.

Why don’t I first start with the good?

Call me cheesy, but I loved the idea of the American girl having to start over in a foreign country. Living with family she doesn’t know, maybe she’ll be able to find out more about the father she’d never known, and explore the Scottish countryside as well. And of course, she’ll fall for the handsome some of a Scottish laird, and the two will live happily ever after – once all conflicts and whatnot are cared for, of course.

The whole ‘secret codes and mysterious organization’ thing was an interesting part of the story, too. The former actually ended up playing only a small part unfortunately, but I did feel that it was well done and more clever than I could have been, attempting to crack a riddle-like code.
When it comes to the mysterious organization, we do get an explanation of its existence, as well as learning of some of its members, but again, those moments are seldom, and I wish we could’ve gone deeper into its missions or pretty much anything interesting, really.

So…now on to the bad/annoying.

I usually am the biggest sucker when it comes to romance, typically loving even the super cheesy stuff, but Maren‘s infatuation/instalove when it comes to Gavin is so ridiculous! When she first meets him, she swoons, falling to her knees because he’s so good-looking. Then, whenever she’s in his presence, all she can think about is how hot he is, yadda yadda. This goes on for pretty much the whole book, to the point where I was actually cringing at her excessive descriptions.
Honestly, the “romance” was one of the worst things I had to deal with when reading this book.

Finally, when the book seems close to having a satisfying wrap-up, we’re given more conflict, and something terrible happens in Maren’s life. This terrible thing bothered me because I didn’t really feel it had to have happened, and of course it leads to more terrible things and me hating the last 2o% of this book. I’m guessing that the way this book ended, there’s going to be a book 2, though I hadn’t seen anything listed on Goodreads. Seriously though, if there isn’t a book 2, I’m going to really hate this book even more in the future.

I’ll only recommend this if you can get past the annoying instalove and really would like to read a book that has mentions of secret organizations and codes.

Thank you to the publishers at Blink via NetGalley for giving this copy in exchange for an honest review.

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