Double Review: DI Pereira & DS Bain Series by Douglas Lindsay

Cold CutsRevenge is a dish best served … sliced.

The new cold meat option in the sandwich shop isn’t chicken, and it isn’t pork. It’s Kevin Moyes, missing for two weeks, now presumed dead.

The Serious Crime Unit are notified, and the hunt for the macabre butcher takes detectives Aliya Pereira and Marc Bain to the meat-processing factory where the human flesh entered the food chain. They are followed by a media frenzy, with Pereira’s boss demanding immediate results. But while the factory is clean and no one is talking, some of the players have gone missing, people are still dying, and the butcher’s work is not yet done.

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Source: Purchase          My Rating: 4/5 stars


The Bottom Line:  I can’t say I devoured (HA! Pun intended!) this book, but I can say I appreciated the read.  Lindsay uses this novella-length read to introduce two new characters, DI Pereira and DS Bain, as they work a strange case involving dismembered human bits and cold cuts.  Because of the shortened length of the book, the case moves quickly yet not so quickly as to lose anything in the reading.  DI Pereira is by far the most senior of the police pairing so much of the background information revolves around her; while Pereira is interesting, I would have liked to have had more (an equal amount) information about DS Bain as he seems to be the far quirkier of the two.  As I neared the end of the book, I was absolutely certain of the identity of the big bad and I was partly correct.  That partial certainty is what had me upping my star rating and that upping didn’t come until the very last page!  Yes, Cold Cuts has a creepy surprise twist at the end that had me all shivery and wanting to sleep with the lights on 😊 In all, I would recommend this read, but not a top of the TBR read; it’s a good (not great) introduction to two new characters that need more time and space to grow.

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Judas Flower

The Necropolis, Glasgow. A man’s body, in the shadow of the city’s ancient cathedral, sits propped against a gravestone. Held upright by a length of rope around his neck, blood weeping from his eyes, killed by a small metal cross hammered into his skull, the blossom of the Judas tree in his hands.

The Judas Flower is the second book in a gripping and realistic new crime series featuring DI Aliya Pereira and DS Marc Bain. Set in a grim, rain-soaked Glasgow, Pereira & Bain find themselves mired in a toxic mix of money, religion and revenge, as they begin the search for the killer of Archie Wilson, recent lottery winner, keeper of secrets, and now ritualistic murder victim.

Review. Text on the string. Conceptual 3d image

Source: Netgalley          My Rating: 3/5 stars

Round two of the DI Pereira and DS Bain series has the two intrepid detectives hot on the heels of a sick killer with a penchant for symbolism.

As with so many things in life (and books!) the whole mess Pereira and Bain find themselves a part of started with a secret and whole mountain of money.  Archie Wilson won the lottery, and by won the lottery I mean life-changing, never have to worry about anything ever again kind of money.  That kind of money brings out the crazies, and one of those crazies had an ax to grind with Archie Wilson.  When Pereira and Bain get called to the scene, Archie Wilson has had a very bad night and finds himself all kinds of dead in a cemetery with a Judas flower in his hands and a metal cross pounded into his skull.

As they should, Pereira and Bain begin their inquiries by following the money, all the money.  What they discover is a long, winding path leading them to the Catholic Church and an ill-fated day many, many years ago that left a young boy dead and three others safe and sound all telling the same story about a horrible accident.  Trouble is, the story the survivors have been telling for so many years isn’t quite the truth, and the truth has a way revealing itself, eventually.  What’s more, Archie Wilson was one of three survivors and as Pereira and Bain quickly discover, this case isn’t about the money at all, but about the righting of a terrible wrong.

The Bottom Line: At the end of the first Pereira and Bain book, I asked for more time and space to develop the characters, to give me more full-bodied characters I could feel invested in and connected to.  That sort of happened here . . . . As the plot of the Judas Flower unfolds, there is a great deal more information about DI Pereira and very little, once again, about DS Bain.  This isn’t a terribly fast-paced book, but it doesn’t necessarily drag either.  There is just enough weirdness and twistiness to keep one turning pages, but not so totally absorbing that you can’t put the book down and sleep.  As you can clearly discern from my comments, I wasn’t at all blown away by this book, but I wasn’t completely disappointed either.  At the end of the day, I am sticking with the assessment I had of the first book: I will recommend this book, but not recommend it be added to the top of your TBR list.  If I come across a third book in this series, I’ll likely give it a shot, but I’m not going to go searching for that third book either.  Yeah, I’m completely on the fence 😊

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Review: Kiss Kiss Bang (Book #3: Iron Clad Security Series) by Sidney Halston

KKBangSix-foot-two and ripped…with superior computer skills, Josef “Joey” Clad is not your typical ex-Marine. The co-owner of Iron-Clad securities is 100% Alpha male, but under his muscular physique, he’s the best hacker in Miami who specializes in running Iron-Clad’s cyber ops. The perfect skill set for their new client who is getting threatening emails, a client who he definitely wants to get to know better. Much better.  Single mom, widow, Olivia Monroe has exceptional dreams that she refuses to let go of. Fifteen years ago, she left her broken home in New York City and never looked back. Now a dark horse candidate for Florida governor, she’s not looking for a relationship. Even with the hot guy who sweeps in and saves her computer the night before a big speech. Her hero has trouble written all over him. Joey is too handsome, too funny, too confident, and way too hard to resist.  Too bad he’s now her bodyguard.

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Source: Netgalley and Purchase          My Rating: 5/5 stars

Time for some harsh truth: at the end of the second book in the Iron Clad Security series, I absolutely despised Joey Clad.  I found him to be arrogant, somewhat cruel, and completely dismissive of the talents and skills of others.  In short, he’s a dick and I didn’t quite care if he ever appeared in a book again. 

Then I read this book . . . .

From one book to the next, Joey Clad is a completely different person and I totally loved him in this go ‘round!  Joey introduces himself in the opening scenes of Kiss Kiss Bang, and he has nearly totally honorable intentions.  Joey sees a woman in line for Geek Squad, and when he sees her begin to melt down, he knows he must step in and help her.  Helping her is the honorable part, wanting to meet the hot lady is the not so honorable part, but Joey just can’t seem to help himself.  Within minutes, and after some identity confirmation, the hot lady agrees to accompany Joey to his offices so he can fix her computer.

Olivia Monroe isn’t a risk taker.  Olivia Monroe plays by the rules, does her research before opening her mouth, and walks a straight and narrow path.  She has to!  Olivia Monroe is currently running for governor of Florida and she must always present and conduct herself appropriately.  Leaving a store in her pajamas with a hot guy after melting down over her dead computer isn’t exactly the image she wants to portray, but, as the saying goes, needs must.  For unexplained and very disconcerting reasons, Olivia trusts Joey immediately.  For even more unexplained and disconcerting reasons, she also finds herself tremendously attracted to him and attraction to hot, new guy won’t help her campaign image at all.

Meeting Olivia turns Joey’s life upside down and right side up in short order.  One encounter is all it takes to have him utterly convinced she is the woman for him.  When he meets her completely adorable daughter, the deal is sealed as far as Joey in concerned.  Now, he just has to figure out how to convince Olivia of the rightness of their relationship!  As it turns out, there’s a crazy person out there hell-bent on hurting Olivia.  Joey’s wheelhouse absolutely includes protecting others from such madness which means he gets a great deal of one on one time with Olivia until the mystery is solved. 

Even with all of Joey’s incredible skills, hunting down Olivia’s attacker isn’t easy.  It requires a great number of twists and turns, and some dredging up of the past.  What’s more, with each new attack, Olivia’s opponent takes advantage of the opportunity.  Olivia has to creative with her campaigning which means relying on Joey to deal with her protection.  The process is as intense as it is scary and both emotions bring Olivia and Joey closer together both physically and emotionally. 

The Bottom Line: I want to roll around in this book I enjoyed it so much!  The change in Joey from one book to the next was significant for me, and I am so happy with the personality adjustment.  Joey is strong, capable, commanding, sexy, loyal, and loving yet never to the point of overshadowing Olivia.  Olivia is strong, determined, intelligent, and loyal.  She has a mission, a goal, but also the desire to protect herself and her loved ones; she isn’t stupid and knows when she needs to ask for help.  Joey’s help 😊  One of the things I particularly appreciated about this book is the connection between Olivia and Joey; once they are together, they are together.  There’s no cold-feet, I’m in over my head, we must break up for a bit because of some lame miscommunication.  This situation isn’t the norm in romance reads and I was glad for the change of pace that did nothing but increase my liking of this book.  Finally, there is the ending of this read.  I am a big fan of karma and slimy humans getting exactly what they deserve, and this book offers up a healthy dose of completely satisfying karma; essentially, the perfect ending.

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About the author and where to find her:

sidneySidney Halston lives her life with one simple rule: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”–Mark Twain. Or even simpler, “Just Do It”—Nike.  And that’s exactly what she did. After working hard as an attorney, Sidney picked up a pen for the first time at thirty years old to begin her dream of writing. Having never written anything other than very exciting legal briefs, she found an outlet for her imaginative romantic side and wrote Seeing Red.That first pen stroke sealed the deal, and she fell in love with writing.  Sidney lives in South Florida with her husband and children. She loves her family above all else, and reading follows a close second. When she’s not writing you can find her reading and reading and reading. She’s a reader first and a writer second.  When she’s not writing or reading, her life is complete and utter chaos, trying to balance family life with work and writing (and reading). But she wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Excerpt and Sweepstakes: Earl of Seville (Wicked Earls’ Club Series) by Christina McKnight


Earl_of_St_Seville_1800x2700When a bluestocking spinster sets her mind to something…

Lady Patience Lane, daughter of the Earl of Desmond and legendary boxer Ivory Bess, grew up learning to fight, not how to mind her manners. She always expected she’d become a trainer like her mother, until injuries from the ring led to her mother’s untimely death. Now, she’s determined to save other families from the same heartache, by teaching others about the dangers of boxing. Nothing could bring her back to the world she left—until she meets a mysterious stranger who sets her pulse racing.

And a dark, dangerous lord interferes…

Sinclair Chambers, the Earl of St. Seville and known as “Sin” to his cohorts, inherited an insolvent estate. He has to make money, and fast, or his tenants will starve. The prize purses from the bareknuckle mills will go a long way to solving his problems, if he can win them. To be a success in the ring, he needs the best trainer, and Patience Lane is the best there is—all he has to do is convince her that he’ll only fight once.

They just might find their happily ever after in each other’s arms.

The more time Sin and Patience spend together, the closer they become. Soon, Sin’s thoughts are less about winning in the ring, and more about winning Patience’s heart. But can a relationship born out of wicked deception stand the test of time?


Excerpt from Earl of Seville (Wicked Earls’ Club Series):

Perhaps she should have knocked.

Or, preferably, remained safely abed.

Before her stood a man, not one of her brothers that she still pictured as boys even though they were two and four years her senior, but instead a true man—stripped to the waist, his back to her.

Thank the heavens above for small miracles.

But to deny that her heart skipped a beat—or ten—would be preposterous. In fact, as Patience stood, unnoticed, studying the man now looking out Merit’s open window, she wondered if her heart would ever beat a normal, steady rhythm again or if her skin would ever cool enough to need an overcoat or shawl. It was only when her lungs began to burn that she realized she’d held her breath since opening the door, a call of greeting stuck in her throat.

One utterly forgotten.

So intent on the window, the man failed to notice he was no longer alone.

There was no denying the stranger’s presence—an unfamiliar masculine air filled the room. It was both intriguing and frightening. Certainly, she’d witnessed men in various stages of undress, but this goliath was different. Never had Patience been so utterly aware of her own body, while distracted by the sight of another’s chiseled form. Her hands itched to reach out at the same time they should be raising to cover her exposed flesh, veiled only by her thin nightshift.

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About the author and where to find her:

christina-photoChristina McKnight is a book lover turned writer. From a young age, her mother encouraged her to tell her own stories. She’s been writing ever since.  Christina enjoys a quiet life in Northern California with her family, her wine, and lots of coffee. Oh, and her books…don’t forget her books! Most days she can be found writing, reading, or traveling the great state of California.

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Audio Excerpt and Sweepstakes: Level Me Up (Book #1: Gamer Boy Series) by Lauren Helms


LevelMeUpThe last thing Morgan Lawson is looking for when attending Comic-Con is love. But even prior to exchanging first words, Morgan is drawn to Dex, a drop-dead sexy gamer boy who lives and breathes video games. Before she realizes it, Morgan finds herself caught up in all things Dex.

Dex Roberts knows from the moment he first sees Morgan, he wants more. He falls hard and fast but isn’t surprised when his job as a professional video gamer takes a toll on their relationship.

Once Morgan decides what truly makes her happy, there’s no time to waste. But without warning, life threatens to destroy what both Morgan and Dex want most… each other.

LEVEL ME UP Chapter One :

Audiobook 7

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About the author and where to find her:

lhAuthor Lauren Helms has been an avid reader from a young age. After starting a book review site, that launched her fully into the book world, she decided to take the plunge and write her first novel. Since she was working for a video game strategy guide publisher at the time, she decided to mix what she knew best, video games and romance. Jumping all in, she joined NaNoWrimo and a month later had a 50K word first draft. Lauren lives in Indianapolis, IN with her video game playing husband, two little girl book nerds, and a little boy who will hopefully be a gamer boy too some day!

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Excerpt and Sweepstakes: Guardian’s Bond (Book #1: Ancient Ink Series) by Rhenna Morgan


Priest Rahandras has lived with the darkness trapped inside himself for years. Betrayed by his own brother and forced to watch his clan’s brutal annihilation, the only thing Priest wants more than to escape the curse that haunts him—as both man and beast—is to rebuild.

Until the mate he’s longed for walks into his life with an elder from his past. She’s everything he’s wished for, and the key to the clan’s very survival.

Kateri Falsen is a woman of logic and facts. While Priest’s cat can sense her arousal, telling her they’re fated won’t be enough. He’ll have to show her his love: with his words, with his actions, and with his body.

Protecting Kateri from the evil trapped inside him is paramount. But when lost clan members are systematically murdered, he’ll have to choose between exposing his mate to his black magic, or risking her as the next victim.

Excerpt from Guardian’s Bond (Book #1: Ancient Ink Series):

Warmth blossomed beneath Katy’s skin, the all-too-vivid memory of how Priest’s muscles had felt beneath her palms and how his presence had enveloped her in a protective cocoon lifting to the height of her awareness.

And his scent. She pressed her knees together under the table and fought back a groan. She could still smell him on her. A mix of summer storm, leather and the deepest woods. Her voice came out softer, when she answered. Deep and husky. “That’s just attraction. A chemical response in the body.”

Jade grinned. “Is it?”

She’s mine.

The remembered words sluiced through her in the most exotic caress. Possessive at a level she both craved and railed against. She cleared her throat and laced her fingers together on the table, forcing a detached expression. “Priest said I was his before we left. What did he mean by that?”

Jade looked to Tate, a request for guidance without a word spoken.

Tate shook his head. “I can’t know for sure.”

“But you think you know.”

He hesitated, glanced at Alek as if gauging how well his temper was holding, then shifted his compassionate amber gaze back to Katy. “It’s not up to me to share. Priest will tell you.”

“But the way he acted…how he lost control,” Katy pressed. “Surely, you can see why I want answers.”

For the longest time, Tate merely studied her, consideration and concern marking his handsome features. “I do. It’s still something he should talk to you about, but I will tell you this.” He paused as though carefully considering his words, not just for her but for her brother who’d drawn scarily motionless beside her. “Of all the people who walk this Earth, there is no one safer than you.”

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About the author and where to find her:

Rhenna MorganA native Oklahoman, Rhenna Morgan is a certified romance junkie. Whether it’s contemporary, paranormal, or fantasy you’re after, Rhenna’s stories pack romantic escape full of new, exciting worlds, and strong, intuitive men who fight to keep the women they want. For advance release news and exclusive content, sign up for her newsletter at You’ll also find all of her social links there, along with her smoking hot inspiration boards.

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Review: Leveled (Book #2: Blue Bay Crew Series) by Cathryn Fox

LeveledJamie Owens doesn’t trust women. Especially not the rich, entitled women looking for a summer fling with a boy from the wrong side of town. But one look at Kylee Jensen in a tiny bikini, and Jamie decides that some rules are made to be broken.

Kylee is tired of being the obedient daughter, and Jamie—shirtless, in a tool belt—is the perfect opportunity to do something for herself, so she hires Blue Bay Construction to work on her cottage. Their hot summer days turn scorching until it’s revealed that Kylee has ties to Jamie’s dark past, forcing them to decide if their dreams, and their relationship, are worth fighting for.

Leveled is a steamy page turner with sizzling emotional intensity and an ending that will hammer readers’ hearts and never let go!

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Source: Netgalley          My Rating: 4/5 stars

I have no idea what’s in the water in Blue Bay, but it sure produces some beautiful, hard-bodied bad boys looking to settle down and behave.  Lickable, right?

Jamie Owens has one rule, avoid rich girls looking for a little fun on the other side of the tracks.  When he was a much younger man, Jamie played that game with the wrong girl, and all it earned him was time in jail on a false rape charge.  Experience is the most valuable of teachers, and Jamie learned his lesson well.  For years, Jamie hasn’t had a bit of difficulty abiding by his one rule.  However, for all those years, he didn’t know Kylee Jensen existed. 

Blue Bay is Kylee Jensen’s last hurrah before she returns to the life her father wants for her.  Thanks to her father’s coercion, Kylee is a lawyer and not a fashion designer; thanks to her father’s coercion, Kylee is associated with a man she has no interest in nor attraction to and; thanks to her father’s coercion, Kylee is going to be saddled with a life she doesn’t want rather than forging her own path.  However, in the months before all the awful comes crashing down around her, Kylee is going to enjoy her summer and the hot construction worker next door looks like the precise kind of enjoyment Kylee needs and wants.

From the moment he sees Kylee, Jamie’s instincts war against one another.  One instinct says to stay far, far away from the hot, rich girl, and the other says to run straight toward her and regret nothing.  Unfortunately, that second instinct is backed up by Jamie’s libido and in no time flat he finds himself in Kylee’s bed.  From the outset, the ground rules are in place: this is nothing more than sex, Kylee is leaving at the end of the summer, and Jamie is not the kind of man you bring home to daddy.  Once the understandings are in place and agreed upon, the sexcapades begin in earnest and holy hell are they hot!

Though neither Kylee nor Jamie are keen to take their arrangement public, it isn’t for the reason either would suspect.  Jamie is struggling with his feelings for Kylee and that makes him incredibly nervous given his history.  He doesn’t want his past to color his future, especially given his growing and very real feelings for Kylee.  He knows if they go public, she’s going to find out about him and that is as terrifying as his actual feelings.  For Kylee’s part, revealing her “relationship” with Jamie would mean opening herself up to more pain than she knows she’s going to experience when her fling comes to an end and she is forced to leave Blue Bay.  Furthermore, she isn’t at all embarrassed by Jamie, but he’s right, Jamie isn’t the guy she introduces to her father, and that has everything to do with her father’s attitude and control over her life and not Jamie.

As so often happens when there are secrets and very little verbal communication, all the secrets come crashing to the forefront in one spectacular public display. Kylee’s father and her “fiancé” come to town unannounced and Jamie’s past is outed with little to no preamble.  In fact, Jamie and Kylee are both so surprised by the revelations that neither is surprised when everything falls apart.  To be sure, both are incredibly hurt, but neither is particularly surprised.

The Bottom Line:  Here’s the deal, Leveled is all about the sexcapades and while that would normally cause me to grumble, it makes sense to the characters in this particular read.  Both Kylee and Jamie agree to a sex-only arrangement, and boy do they make the most of the time they have with one another.  It isn’t really until the end of the book that the story takes precedent over the sex.  Depending on where you land on this issue, you’re either going to love this book or hate it, and I don’t see a great deal of in between.  Having read the first book in the series, I went into this one with my eyes wide open and suspecting the high-count sex scenes which means I wasn’t disappointed.  I got what I expected and enjoyed the ride.  😊

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Review: The Queen’s Mary: In the Shadows of Power… by Sarah Gristwood

35290735In 1548 four little girls, all called Mary, set sail from Scotland for France. Five years old, they are already primed for the work of their lifetime – to serve another little girl called Mary.

Mary, Queen of Scots.

Thirteen years later, the five return to an unwelcoming Scotland, and as Queen Mary struggles to take control of her turbulent country, her famous ‘Four Marys’ are at her side.

The queen finds herself set on the path of violence and disaster which will lead eventually to her tragic end. But what of the other four Marys, bound inexorably to their mistress’ fate?

Of the four, it is Mary Seton who serves the queen longest, and whose loyalty is most severely tested. Through a maze of shadows – of treachery and even witchcraft – how can she find her own way ahead?

Review. Text on the string. Conceptual 3d image

Source: Netgalley          My Rating: 3½/5 stars

I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again, historical fiction isn’t an easy genre!  Bringing history to life while staying true to the historical documents and evidence is a monumental task and not every author is up to the task. 

The Queen’s Mary is my first Sarah Gristwood read and I found myself somewhat on the fence with this one.  The opening is quite good with five Marys, the Queen of Scots and her four attendants, as children making their way toward France from their respective homes in Scotland.  There is something quite endearing and sad about these opening scenes as Queen Mary, clearly bred to her position and destiny holds sway over the other girls.  The four attendant Marys understand, even at this early age, their place, for the rest of their respective lives is with the Queen, making her life as comfortable as possible.  At such an early age, each of the girls understands, at least on some level, her life is no longer her own and she will serve as it pleases Queen Mary.

Fast forward thirteen years . . . . .

With more than a decade of education behind them and a stint in the French court, the five Marys find themselves on their way back to Scotland.  Queen Mary expects a warm welcome, but what she gets is a country sorely divided over religion, a half-brother more than willing to assume her role, a collection of noblemen looking to manage her, and a country of people who are wary of their French-educated, widowed Queen.  Settling back into life in Scotland, a country none of the women have seen in 13 years, isn’t going to be easy and if the Queen expects to rule her country, she’s going to need all the support she can muster.

Gristwood’s account of the next six years is filled with court intrigue, personal dramas, and political and religious upheavals.  While the Queen must be at the heart of every minute, it is her ladies who tell the story, who recount the moments and the drama.  In particular, it is Mary Seton, the one among the Marys who stays with Queen through the bitter end whose accounting of events we read.  While Mary Seton never expresses her opinions and/or fears publicly, she records for the reader, the doubts, the troubles, the moments of happiness, the uncertainty, the trials and tribulations of a troubled life, Queen, and reign.  While Seton always remains loyal to Queen Mary, she admirably conveys to the reader the constant tension and uncertainty that most certainly fueled every moment of the six years in Scotland. 

The Bottom Line:  In all, I liked this read, but I wasn’t blown away.  If you take the time to read the author’s notes following the conclusion of the read, you discover how little, historically speaking, the author had to work with where the four Marys are concerned.  Most of the documentation and evidence deal exclusively with the Queen which means much had to be assumed on the part of the author where the other Marys are concerned.  I believe the author worked hard to stay as historically accurate as possible which is why the parts she had to assume (educated guess!) aren’t terribly exciting.  In fact, it is the not terribly exciting moments which have me on the fence with this book.  The middle of the book has many, many moments which drag by rather than being enlivened by the artist’s imagination.  I made it through The Queen’s Mary, liked it, and am willing to give the author another shot since I sincerely believe her creativity was hampered by so little historical information.  Sarah Gristwood is absolutely up to the historical fiction challenge and I will absolutely be diving into another of her offerings in the very near future.

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