Book Review: If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

I apologize for the slight vacation in posts.  My husband took a weekend vacation and took my computer desk with him (it’s one of those white Wal-Mart folding tables), so I didn’t get everything reassembled until last night.

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If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

Genre:  YA Dark Fiction, Contemporary

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Griffin

Links:  Goodreads  |  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

Releases March 26th, 2013

THERE ARE SOME THINGS YOU CAN’T LEAVE BEHIND … A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen-year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and the girls are found by their father, a stranger, and taken to re-enter the “normal” life of school, clothes and boys. Now, Carey must come to terms with the truth of why their mother spirited them away ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go … a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.

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I don’t usually review books this far in advance, however If You Find Me is pre-order worthy.  As a child, Carey believed every word her mama told her.  Carey raised her little sister without electricity, water and sometimes food; because her mama told her that there was a bad man out there looking for them.  When this bad man arrives with child protection services years later, Carey knows that her mother will come and save them again.  Then, she reads the note her mother says relinquishing her custody of both girls and Carey starts to doubt the stories her mother told her.

This debut novel is written from the POV of a missing child that didn’t know she was missing.  The brilliance of the novel is the contrast between Carey’s version of truth and her father’s version of the truth; the former we learn initially and the latter we learn over the course of the novel.  The truth behind why Carey ended up in the woods with her mother isn’t revealed until the very end.

This would of been an okay story if it transcribed Carey’s reintroduction with her father, but it’s a compelling story when Carey’s mute younger sister, Janessa, is stitched into the drama.  Janessa’s father was someone their mother screwed for a hit of meth and neither girl has seen that man since.  Janessa’s unwillingness to talk spawns from something that Carey did a year ago and as the horrors of both girls’ past unravels I really wondered what Carey could possibly do to top everything else they had experienced.  It was a relief when her secret was finally revealed and it wasn’t a disappointment.

I have a little sister myself, so the relationship between Carey and Janessa reminded me of my sibling bond.  It’s refreshing to have siblings in a YA story that are so genuine, you wonder if they’re fiction.  I was a less impressed by how pigeonholed Delaney was as a mean stepsister.  Compared to the other characters, Delaney was very underdeveloped and her motives questionable.

I was also slightly discouraged by the opening chapter, as it was written with a “backwoods” accent.  The accent disappears from the narrative after the first couple chapters, so don’t let the opening dissuade you.  Once the hickish accent faded from the pages, there is nothing that could stop me from finishing.  This is a book that I will recommend to friends and I think they will both love and hate me for making them read a book so poignant and real.  If You Find Me is a reminder that when a child goes missing, their story doesn’t end with being found.

rating A minus rating

(I received a copy from the publisher/Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  I have also pre-ordered a personal hardcover copy as a result of this review.)

about author authorifyoufind(Information and picture borrowed from Goodreads.)

Emily is a writer, a poet, and a lover of books. There’s never a time she’s without a book. Her debut novel, If You Find Me, will be available from St. Martin’s on March 26, 2013 and from Orion/Indigo UK on May 2, 2013. When she’s not reading or writing, you’ll find her caring for her horses, dogs and family on a ranch in rural Arizona, where the desert’s tranquil beauty and rich wildlife often enter into her poetry and writing. Emily’s other passion is saving equines from slaughter. She uses her writing to raise awareness of this inhumane practice, with the goal of ending the slaughter of America’s equines through transport to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico. She offers sanctuary to abused and slaughter-bound equines who dazzle her every day with their forgiving nature and gratitude in exchange for security, consistency, food and love. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Emily hopes her penchant for writing will do just that. All-in-all, she’s a lefty in a right-handed world, writing her way through life and smearing ink wherever she writes.

Website  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads

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Book Review: Flawed by Kate Avelynn

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Flawed by Kate Avelynn

Genre:  YA Dark Fiction

Publisher:  Entangled Publishing

Links:  Goodreads |  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

Released January 22nd, 2013

Sarah O’Brien is alive because of the pact she and her brother made twelve years ago — James will protect her from their violent father if she promises to never leave him. For years, she’s watched James destroy his life to save hers. If all he asks for in return is her affection, she’ll give it freely.


Until, with a tiny kiss and a broken mind, he asks for more than she can give.

Sam Donavon has been James’ best friend — and the boy Sarah’s had a crush on — for as long as she can remember. As their forbidden relationship deepens, Sarah knows she’s in trouble. Quiet, serious Sam has decided he’s going to save her. Neither of them realizes James is far more unstable than her father ever was, or that he’s not about to let Sarah forget her half of the pact . ..

 

review imageWarning:  Flawed includes incest, domestic violence, and characters that you will hate more than any other characters in fiction.

As someone who grew up in a dysfunctional home, Flawed caused me to remember some things best left buried.  This story might be too taboo for some readers, but if you’re like me, it’s a good reminder that there are people who come from more f*ked up lives that our own and still have a chance to turn out okay.

I was so drawn into the story that I actually wrote zero notes for Flawed.  It was finished in one sitting.  The characters were realistic to the point where I felt like it was a non-fiction narrative.  My oldest brother was my idol growing up and he was there to help me with things that my parents should have.  Likewise, James is Sarah’s idol.  James is the only one to propel her from one day to the next when a normal girl in her situation would break down and give up.  The tension comes into play when Sarah decides to try to live a normal life.  She develops feelings for one of James’ friends and makes plans for the future.  James isn’t able to adjust from surviving in a dysfunctional house to normal life.  He’s afraid of losing Sarah and tries to keep her with him at any cost.

The ending and continuous plot twists took me completely by surprise.  I can’t say that I’m satisfied with how the book ended (plot wise), but Sarah’s story did have closure at the end.  All I ask is that the author does not write a sequel to Flawed.  No girl should have to endure was Sarah did two-fold!

This is not an erotic tale of two siblings.  There is no romance between them and no porn scenes.  It’s a tale of two siblings who have been wronged by everyone else and have become codependent on each other.  There are scenes in this book that will make you cry.  They will make you question your own morals.  Not all young adults are lucky to be born into a family with loving parents.  I strongly recommend this book to any teen or adult that had to “survive” instead of “live” their teenage years. (A+)

rating Aplus rating

(I received a copy from Netgalley/publisher in exchange for my honest review.)

about author

kateauthor(Images and information borrowed from Goodreads.)

When not devouring books, holding down her editing gig, or attempting to coax life out of the weed patch she calls a “garden,” Kate Avelynn writes dark contemporary YA and NA that blends first love, betrayal, and danger.

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Guest Post/Review: Eve Hallows by Robert Gray

I’m sorry that this post is a day late.  My little one has the flu again and wouldn’t stay asleep unless I was holding him.  So, I wasn’t able to write up my post until today.  I have a horrible (wink) guest post by the author, Robert Gray and then the review of the first book of the series, Eve Hallows and the Book of Shrieks.  More than likely, you will see a review of the sequel soon because this book combines all of my favorite things into one fun and lovable book.  If you like Trick or Treating, The Nightmare before Christmas, The Adams Family, or anything else gothic and fun….then you will love this series too!  Thanks for I Am a Reader, Not a Writer for hosting this tour.  Click HERE for the tour schedule.

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Since the Eve Hallows series is all about monsters, I asked Robert Gray to tell me which monster was his favorite.  

Favorite Monster

Guest Post by Robert Gray

My all-time favorite monster … Hmm, that’s a tough one.  There are so many great ones to choose from.  I’d say the one that had the biggest impact on me, though, was Freddy Krueger from the Nightmare on Elm Street Series.

As a kid, I was a big fan of Freddy.  Of all the slasher flicks from the 80s, Freddy was the only one that truly terrified me.  Jason and Michael were okay, but seriously, as long as your laces were tied and you replaced your car battery within the last five years, you could get away from those two numbskulls easy enough.  But Freddy, he invaded your dreams.  There was no getting away from him, because you had to go to sleep sooner or later.

And knives for fingers … Hello?  Whenever I heard those knives scrape against anything, a blanket would be over my head faster than you could say, 1, 2, Freddy’s coming for you, because what happened next was not gonna be pretty.

I even pay a small tribute to Freddy in the Eve Hallows books.  He’s mentioned briefly in Book of Shrieks as a possible special agent for URNS, and did you notice the currency used in Gravesville?  Kruegers.

Eve Hallows and the Book of Shrieks by Robert Gray

Genre:  MG Paranormal

Publisher:  Self Published

Purchase:  Kindle | Amazon

For fourteen-year-old Eve Hallows, life can be summed up in one word—horrible.  She has the most horrible friends.  She lives in a horrible old castle.  Even her family is a bunch of horrible monsters.

However, in the monster-inhabited world of Gravesville—a world where messages are sent through Ouija boards, jack-o’-lanterns get facials to suit their moods, and the worst thing Eve has to deal with are those annoying zombie tourists who overrun her favorite graveyard during the Halloween season—horrible means wonderful.  And everything for Eve is perfectly horrible.

But her life is about to go head over heels when a mysterious group known as The Source starts terrorizing Gravesville.  Now she must move to the human world—where everything is opposite … and for Eve, that’s absolutely adorable!

 

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I love books that turn cliches upside down.  What’s good is bad and what’s bad is good in this fun paranormal story.  Eve is a human living in a world very similar to Halloween Town.  She’s the only one of her kind, but it is the human world that scares her.  When her family moves to New Jersey (hey, that is a pretty scary place – at least on the highways) Eve starts out determined to be miseable and hate every human she meets.  What she learns instead is that it doesn’t matter if a person is human or monster – its what’s inside that counts.

This book is not only fun, but relevant   Eve struggles to retain her own individuality despite the bullying and pressure to “fit in”.  Her cultural differences (in that words “we” think are derogation are compliments where she grew up) play a huge role in the plot, instead of being a cute quirk.  Not only that, but even the minor characters play recurring important roles in the book.  There’s not one person who shows up as a filler and with all the colorful characters, its quite a feat to make each one uniquely important to the story.

I like how Eve does her own thing.  She’s not afraid of adults – which is a rare thing to find in books for this age group.  She follows her head and her heart no matter how unorthodox her solutions to the problems that arise.

Not only is the book fun, but the splashes of humor and mystery make it a non-stop read.  Had I not been sick, I would of instantly picked up the sequel to read after finishing Eve Hallows and the Book of Shrieks.  Since I love Halloween, monsters, and paranormal, I think that this book is my favorite MG of the year.  I recommend it to kids, teens, and adults!

(I received a copy of this book as part of a blog tour in exchange for my honest review.)

 Also check out the sequel!

Eve Hallows and the Book of Shadows (#2) by Robert Gray

Genre:  MG Paranormal

Publisher:  Self published

Links:  Kindle | Amazon

Ever since encountering The Source and its minions on Halloween, Eve Hallows has found life surprisingly quiet … not to mention adorably boring!  So when Dad receives a Ouija message that she must return to Gravesville, Eve couldn’t be happier—at least until she discovers the Director of URNS, also known as the Grim Reaper, has a special job for Eve … one that will lead her to New York City and to the true identity of The Source.
With The Book of Shrieks offering zero help and a new URNS agent driving the school boys—and Eve!—crazy, Eve’s beginning to realize this whole saving-the-world nonsense isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

All this and she still has to find The Book of Shadows….

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Robert Gray is a writer.  If that job description doesn’t impress you, how about fantasy writer? Too general? Well, he doesn’t get insulted if you call him a horror writer. If horror’s not your thing, then scratch out horror and replace it with suspense. And for the kiddies, you can slap on a YA or MG in front of that title.

Gray lives in Bushkill, Pennsylvania with his wife and two children.

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Review/Giveaway: There Comes a Prophet by David Litwack

Today’s book really surprised me.  Thanks to CBB Book Promotions for hosting the tour.  Check out my review of There Comes A Prophet by David Litwack.  The full tour schedule is located at the bottom of the post.

There Comes a Prophet by David Litwack

Genre:  YA Dystopian, Science Fiction, Fantasy

Publisher:  Double Dragon Publishing

Links:  Amazon  |  Goodreads  |  Barnes and Noble  |  Sony ebooks  |  Apple  |  Lulu paperback

Who among us will cast aside a comfortable existence and risk death to follow a dream?

A world kept peaceful for a thousand years by the magic of the ruling vicars. But a threat lurks from a violent past. Wizards from the darkness have hidden their sorcery in a place called the keep and left a trail of clues that have never been solved.

Nathaniel has grown up longing for more but unwilling to challenge the vicars. Until his friend Thomas is taken for a teaching, the mysterious coming-of-age ritual. Thomas returns but with his dreams ripped away. When Orah is taken next, Nathaniel tries to rescue her and ends up in the prisons of Temple City. There he meets the first keeper of the ancient clues. But when he seeks the keep, what he finds is not magic at all.

If he reveals the truth, the words of the book of light might come to pass:

“If there comes among you a prophet saying ‘Let us return to the darkness,’ you shall stone him, because he has sought to thrust you away from the light.”

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There Comes a Prophet can be viewed as the YA version of 1984.  The key point of 1984 was that the government controlled every aspect of life, particularly thought and ideas.  There Comes a Prophet has Nathaniel and his friends living in the same bleak universe.  But there’s one major difference between the two novels – hope.  The children in There Comes a Prophet have an idea that transforms into a mission, which transforms into a revolution.  I think that the message within this book is perfect for MG and YA readers – one person can make a difference.  Three people can change the world.

During the first half of the novel, I had some trouble connecting with the characters.  I wasn’t sure why Thomas was on the mission since he felt useless – but then he becomes important to the plot near the end.  Orah reminds me horribly of Hermione at times with her smarts and loyal nature.  I did like Nathaniel throughout the novel, especially since he didn’t whine or wallow in self-pity.

The world building was phenomenal and I like how each place on their mission was described so adeptly that I could visualize the map of their world without needing a paper copy.  It’s rare that a book written at this age level can have the depth of an adult novel.  I think at times the message might be too deep for a MG reader to fully comprehend, but the story line is still entertaining enough for younger readers to enjoy.  And the preaching is very limited, unlike 1984.  I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of dystopians or wants to read a fantasy book that isn’t the typical find this item quest.  The romance is limited, yet extremely sweet and touching.  The subject matter of the book is dark, but there is very little violence on screen.

And yet another book that I need to buy in paperback for my mom and her schoolkids.  This book deserves full marks.

(I received a copy of this book as part of a blog tour in exchange for an honest review.)

 

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The urge to write first struck when working on a newsletter at a youth encampment in the woods of northern Maine. It may have been the night when lightning flashed at sunset followed by northern lights rippling after dark. Or maybe it was the newsletter’s editor, a girl with eyes the color of the ocean. But he was inspired to write about the blurry line between reality and the fantastic.

Using two fingers and lots of white-out, he religiously typed five pages a day throughout college and well into his twenties. Then life intervened. He paused to raise two sons and pursue a career, in the process becoming a well-known entrepreneur in the software industry, founding several successful companies. When he found time again to daydream, the urge to write returned. There Comes a Prophet is his first novel in this new stage of life.

David and his wife split their time between Cape Cod, Florida and anywhere else that catches their fancy. He no longer limits himself to five pages a day and is thankful every keystroke for the invention of the word processor.

Website/Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

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Tour Guest Post/Review: Detention of the Living Dead by Rusty Fischer

Enjoy today’s guest post by Rusty Fischer and my review right after it.  For more excerpts, guest posts, interviews, reviews ,and giveaways check out the full tour schedule hosted by FMB at the bottom of this post.

 Night of the Living Trend:

5 Reasons Why Zombies Are Here to Stay

Guest Post by Rusty Fischer, author of Detention of the Living Dead

So, I keep hearing little nuggets of online chatter about how zombies are “played out” and that this “trend” is nearly at an end. I dunno. I don’t really think of zombies as a trend. I mean, I didn’t get into writing about zombies because they were popular. In fact, I initially decided to write about zombies because they were unpopular. But now, well, they seem to be everywhere. But even so, here are five reasons why I think zombies are here to stay:

1.)  People like them: Let’s face it, zombies are cool. And there is so much yet to explore about them that I think authors and screenwriters and directors will discover more and more cool things to do with them as the years go on.

2.)  Lots of uncharted territory out there: Almost every time one of my zombie books gets reviewed on a blog, inevitably over half of the commenters say something like, “I’ve never read a zombie book before.” Oftentimes the reviewer him- or herself will admit to this being their “first zombie book.” When’s the last time you heard someone day, “I’ve never read a vampire book” or “This was my first werewolf book”? The fact is, there are a TON of people left to convert to the zombie side, and it can take years and years before those folks ever get tired of the genre.

3.)  The quality is there: If you look at the most popular zombie books, things like Rot & Ruin and Warm Bodies and Dearly Departed and Forest of Hands and Teeth, man, there are some awesome writers working in the genre. If that quality stays in place, if more and more mainstream or debut authors turn their talents to the living dead, I can’t imagine why anyone would stop reading them.

4.)  Are vampires a trend? Every few years we keep hearing that vampires are “over,” but has that happened? Even without Twilight in the mix, there are dozens of vampire books for every single zombie book on the market. So, are they a trend or a genre? In the same way, if the zombie books that do keep coming out are good, quality stories that stretch or bend the genre, I see no reason why the zombie trend has to end!

5.)  Zombies are cool: Finally, come on – they’re zombies! Zombies are cool. Whether they’re the bad guys or, increasingly, the good guy, zombies are interesting, disgusting, weird, creepy, eccentric and just plain cool. What’s not to like?

Okay, so maybe I’m a little partial to zombies seeing as I write about them and all, but… you tell me. Is the zombie trend played out? Or just beginning? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment sections!

Yours in YA,

Rusty

Detention of the Living Dead by Rusty Fischer

Genre: YA Paranormal

Publisher: Decadent Publishing

You can purchase Detention of the Living Dead on ebook from AmazonBarnes & NobleBookStrand, and Smashwords.

Maxine “Max” Compton is in detention when the outbreak starts; so are several other students when Max’s best friend Brie storms in – chomping on the thigh bone of their favorite Home Ec teacher, Ms. Watkins!

Brie is a zombie, and quickly starts biting everyone in the room – even her best friend, Max!

When the class realizes what happens, it’s too late; they are all zombies – and they’re no longer alone.

Now a thin gray man in a white lab coat is testing them; making them read, and once they can no longer read, the zombies are led from the room, never to be seen again.

One by one the zombies stop reading, all but a few of them, Max included. Oh, and that cute thug she’s been crushing on for years, Cory Winthrop!

That’s when Max learns that there are good zombies, and bad zombies. And if she’s to survive, she has to pick a side.

Who knew Detention could be this hard… or last forever?

So, around 7pm last night after spending the entire day trying to stomach another chapter of this fantasy novel on my to-be-read list with these lovesick puppies for main characters (why do I torture myself with romances?), I realized that it was Thursday night and I hadn’t even started reading the book I needed to have done for today’s tour.  Where did my week go?  I was completely freaking out, expecting to have do an all nighter reading this book.  I was praying that this book would be okay and that I wouldn’t have to make that difficult post to the tour host an hour before the review should of been done saying that I hated the book.

Well, no worries.

Detention of the Living Dead is simply the best zombie novel I’ve ever read.  Amazing job with the narrative and humor.  I wasn’t expecting to love this first chapter as much if not more than I loved the first chapter of Percy Jackson.  Seriously, it was that good.  I finished the book in 2 hours without stopping — okay, I did stop once for diaper duty, but that was it!

Overview:  There are very few books that can wow within the first couple of paragraphs and fewer still that keep that momentum throughout the entire novel.  Granted at around 180 pages, it isn’t that long.  It also isn’t your typical zombie novel.  There’s some gore, but not much.  This isn’t a horror novel, although I bet it will appeal to horror lovers by the way it is told.  The author keeps the situation realistic (as much as you can when dealing with zombies) and the stakes are high.  Considering that the main character, Max, gets turned into a zombie within the first few pages – the typical threat that she will die and turn into a zombie isn’t an issue.  This book deals with the aftermath in a very sarcastic, teenage manner.  If you are a fan of Shawn of the Dead or spoof movies, then you will love this book.  If you like “light” horror from a teenage POV, then you will like this novel.  If you want to meet the zombie version of Casper the friendly ghost, then read this novel.  Just read the novel, you will LOVE it.

Characters:  Max is an excellent narrative.  She divides her classmates into the typical stereotypes when she introduces each one, but over the course of the novel all the characters become more fleshed out (maybe from eating human flesh?  haha).  I liked Proctor (who wouldn’t like a guy who tasered people for fun?) until the reveal about halfway through the novel.  Then he became less cool.

Plot:  BRAINS.  Max has to learn how to survive as a zombie.  There is some romance, but it definitely takes a backseat in the novel.

Ending:  When I finished on my Kindle, I kept tapping my screen hoping there was a few more pages.  I’m assuming by the way it ended that there will be a sequel.  I hope there will be, since this story is far from over.

(I received a copy of this book as part of a book blog tour in exchange for my honest opinion.)

“G-g-g,” the zombie sputters, black eyes focused intently on the page in front of her, tongue tied in an endless loop, frustration oozing out of every gray, decaying pore.

If she could still sweat, I know she would.

“G-g-g….”

Her cold white hands grip the pages of the comic book like the edges of a life raft in a wild, raging sea.

If she could still cry, she’d already be bawling.

Instead she is locked in this endless loop, stammering, yammering, trying to find the keys to her lost humanity.

“G-G-G….”

Her voice is raspy, like maybe her vocal chords have been sanded down, blow dried for days, and now look like strips of beef jerky hanging in the back of her throat, useless at his point except for her guttural scratching.

“A-A-A….”

It’s been like this for five minutes; five endless, torturous, agonizing minutes.

“M-M-M….”

Endless because, well, you’ve never realized how long a single minute—sixty short seconds—can stretch out until every stinking bleeding one of those sixty seconds is filled with a “G-G-G” or an “A-A-A or an “M-M-M.”

It’s like waiting for a stutterer to finish reading War & Peace, out loud, in one sitting, while you kneel on a bed of nails, with water dripping on your head, sitting next to your distant cousin from Alabama, with her whispering in your ears about her favorite catfish casserole recipe.

Torturous because I can see the word right in front of me and just want to finish it for her: “Gamma!” I want to scream. “Gamma! What you’ve been yammering for the last five minutes is ‘G-G-G-G-GAMMA,’ you freakin’ moron!”

Agonizing because this is no typical zombie; this is my best friend since third grade, Brie Cunningham.

Rusty Fischer is the author of Zombies Don’t Cry, as well as several other popular zombie books, including Panty Raid at Zombie High, Detention of the Living Dead and the Reanimated Readz series of 99-cent living dead shorts.

Rusty runs the popular website Zombies Don’t Blog. At Zombies Don’t Blog you can read more about Rusty’s work, view his upcoming book covers and read – or download – completely FREE books & stories about… zombies!

Website/Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Wattpad | Smashwords | Scribd |

 

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