Book Review: A Note Yet Unsung By Tamera Alexander

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Blurb:

A master violinist trained in Vienna, Rebekah Carrington manages to wheedle her way into an audition with the maestro at the newly formed Nashville Philharmonic. But women are “far too fragile and frail” for the rigors of an orchestra, and Rebekah’s hopes are swiftly dashed because the conductor–determined to leave his mark on the world of classical music–bows to public opinion. To make matters worse, Adelicia Acklen Cheatham, mistress of Belmont Mansion and Rebekah’s new employer, agrees with him.

Nationally acclaimed conductor Nathaniel Tate Whitcomb is Nashville’s new orchestra leader. And despite a reluctant muse–and a strange buzzing and recurring pain in his head–he must finish composing his symphony before the grand opening of the city’s new opera hall. But far more pressing, he must finish it for the one who first inspired his love of music–his father, who is dying. As Tate’s ailment worsens, he believes Rebekah can help him finish his symphony. But how do you win back a woman’s trust when you’ve robbed her of her dream?

As music moves us to tears yet makes our hearts soar, A Note Yet Unsung captures the splendor of classical music at a time when women’s hard-won strides in cultural issues changed not only world history–but the hearts of men.

General Thoughts:

If you have been following my book reviews for some time then you may know that Tamera Alexander is my favorite author. She is effective in grasping the emotional strings of a reader and creating characters with so much depth that you feel like you’ve known them longer than you really have. And with this 3rd book in the series, she still does not disappoint. Immediately being introduced to the main character Rebekah, I connected with her instantly. I think that connection came from her determination to pursue her passion in music, especially during a time when the odds were stacked against her, simply by being a woman. With the author drawing on Rebekah’s upbringing and musical influences, including battling a broken relationship with her mother, I felt her pain and even fear. The interaction between her and Tate was believable and brought sincere meaning when things came full circle in the end.

This was definitely a character driven story. Though there were a series of subtle plots throughout the story, things that needed to be resolved and manifest, the focus was truly on Rebekah’s and Tate’s growth and development as individuals. For Rebekah, it was about being fearless and determined to make her musical dreams come to light. It was about learning to forgive and give people a chance, as she did with Tate and his family. For Tate, it was about letting go and putting someone else’s dream ahead of his own. It was about developing a humble spirit. Together, both Tate and Rebekah learned that anything is possible, even pursuing a dream that the times said didn’t exist for all.

There were no obvious negatives. With the author’s writing style, I was immediately immersed into Rebekah’s world and later on, Tate’s and Rebekah’s world together. Their interactions brought life to the story and the challenges and lessons they learned kept me turning the pages to the very end.

Recommendation:

I would recommend this story to anyone who enjoys historical fiction with a bit of romance. And especially to those who are looking for character driven stories that focus on growth with relatable and encouraging messages.

Rating:

5 out of 5 stars. This story was an easy read and had many powerful areas. The challenges the main characters faced and the series of subtle plots added enough suspense to keep the story moving.

***This book was given to me by Bethany House for an honest review.***

Book Review: Shadow Of The Storm By Connilyn Cossette

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Blurb:

In the darkness of the storm’s shadow, only truth can light her way.

Having escaped Egypt with the other Hebrews during the Exodus, Shira is now living in freedom at the foot of Mount Sinai. When the people rebel by worshipping a golden idol, the ensuing chaos gives Shira an unexpected opportunity to assist a midwife. When the experience awakens a new desire in her, she defies her mother’s wish for her to continue in the family weaving trade and pursues her heart’s calling as an apprentice midwife.

But when a delivery goes horribly wrong, Shira finds herself in an impossible situation and bound to a man who betrayed her. As contention between the Hebrew tribes and the foreigners fans the flames of another dangerous rebellion, Shira comes face to face with the long-hidden pain of her past. Can she let go of all that has defined her to embrace who she truly is and believe in a hopeful future?

General Thoughts:

This story was something new and different from all the other stories I’ve read in the past. If you are familiar with the Bible, this story takes place after the Exodus and really goes deep in illustrating and explaining the social issues that existed among the Hebrews during their journey to the Promised Land. The story focuses on Shira and the struggles she faced especially within herself to see and believe in her worth. Having faced a tragic past that left her barren, she couldn’t see her value, especially to others. Even when she realized her love of being a midwife, she struggled with believing if she was good enough to be one.

I love how the author used Shira’s character to show how God can turn someone’s life around, especially into something far beyond what one would expect to be possible. Although I found Shira’s story the most compelling, there were other characters like Dvorah and Ayal, who had personal inner battles as well. I love how for Shira, she couldn’t see what good would come out of her life, but how God surprised her with what I believe was nothing but amazing.

For me, this is the most powerful story I read if not ever, then in a long long time. I think everyone will find a bit of Shira in them, maybe doubting their worth and strength, their ability to offer anything meaningful in the world. But as Shira came to find, that’s not true. After reading this story, I too, began to believe in myself more.

I truly have no obvious negatives about this story. Although the story is historical, it is very much a fictional story, focused on the personal challenges Shira faced with herself and those around her. I think this story is one that could appeal to even those who may not be interested in historical stories.

Recommendation:

I would definitely recommend this story to really anyone. Simply because of issues like self worth, overcoming negative pasts, and finding strength and confidence. I believe these issues are quite universal and will be relevant to so many.

Rating:

5 out of 5 stars. I didn’t find this story dragging, boring, or difficult to read in anyway. Though I didn’t touch on this earlier, this story was also suspenseful, as there were a bit of frightening challenges that occurred and for me, I could not predict how they would turn out and how characters, like Shira, would overcome them.

***This book was given to me by Bethany House for an honest review.***

Book Review: From This Moment By Elizabeth Camden

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Blurb:

Stella West’s artistic talent made her the toast of London, but when her beloved sister dies under mysterious circumstances she abandons everything and heads for Boston. With single-minded determination she fights to pierce the ring of secrecy surrounding her sister’s death. Upon meeting Romulus White, a publisher with connections into every important power circle in the city, she quickly realizes he could be a valuable ally in navigating Boston society.

Romulus has been pursuing Stella for years to create art for his magazine. Her luminous illustrations are the missing piece he needs to propel his magazine to the forefront of the industry, and he will stop at nothing to get her on board.

Sparks fly the instant they join forces, but Romulus is unsettled by the unwelcome attraction he feels toward Stella, fearing she might be the one woman who could disrupt his hard-won independence. He may have finally met his match in Stella, but is helping her solve the mystery of her sister’s death worth the risk to his publishing empire?

General Thoughts:

One thing I will say immediately is this story definitely exceeded my expectations. At first, I thought it would be a somewhat predictable love story, but actually, it was anything but predictable in terms of how Stella’s and Romulus’s relationship would grow. One thing I liked especially about this story was the realism it had. Finding love was not the goal for both Stella and Romulus since there were greater things on their mind to pursue, but it kind of fell unexpectedly into their laps. Both main characters were easy to connect with and like and their personalities melded perfectly together although they were unique in their own way.

Another element that made this story an easy and quick read for me was it was a mystery story. The greatest mystery was figuring out what happened to Stella’s dead sister and it was not predictable and quite surprising to find out what was revealed in the end.

The one thing that I was able to take away from the story was the lessons both Stella and Romulus learned, especially Stella. Coming from an idealistic background and experiencing success early on in life, her sister’s death really altered her view on God and life in general. But later on, through the trials she faced, Stella was able to discover the strength that existed within her, and found a new appreciation for God and the people in her life. In fact, that was the overall message—through tragedy, restoration and even love could be found.

Recommendation:

Yes, I would recommend this to those who love timeless mysteries and stories with witty characters. I believe the overall message of restoration through tragedy will appeal to many.

Rating:

4 out of 5 stars. The characters were easy to connect with and understand. I also loved the overall message and the mystery that was a part of it.

***This book was given to me by Bethany House for an honest review.***

Book Review: Flirtation Walk By Siri Mitchell

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Blurb:

At West Point, Only True Love Should Lead You to Flirtation Walk


Lucinda Pennyworth, the daughter of a con man, is trying her best to leave her father’s sordid past behind her. When he dies unexpectedly, she takes the opportunity to move to West Point to live with her aunt, ready to take on a new life and determined to marry a respectable man, a West Point cadet, to impress her relatives.

Seth Westcott, a cadet at the academy, is proud to be at the top of his senior class. But when his mother dies and his sister loses their inheritance to a swindler, Seth wants nothing more than to head west to track down the con man. But the army will only send the cadets at the bottom of the class to the frontier . . . which leaves Seth with some tough choices.

When a woman trying her best to be good meets a man determined to be anything but, can there be hope for love, or will two lonely hearts be condemned to casual flirtation?

General Thoughts:

The first thing I will say about this story was I loved the arrangement of it. Having each chapter alternate between Lucinda’s and Seth’s perspective really made me connect with these two primary characters immediately and like them. Although Lucinda and Seth come from two different walks of life, their growing relationship was believable and despite Lucinda’s rebellious past, hearing things from her perspective made me root for her—for things to turn out well for her in the end.

The story for a good part moved along steadily, really uncovering the reasons behind the actions that Seth and Lucinda took. I would say the focus for at least half of the story was about Lucinda learning to assimilate to a new life, a much different life from the one she lived, and Seth learning to take risks, dangerous risks for a greater cause.

Although I would say that this story is not one full of suspense and action, it does have its surprising moments, which turns up later on in the end. The one major thing that kept me turning the pages was its natural humor that was woven in a lot of the characters throughout the story. Sometimes while reading, I could almost visualize the scenes clearly.

Recommendation:

Yes, I would recommend this to those who like natural humor and stories that are character focus. The messages of redemption and fearlessness stand out in this story and may appeal to those who are looking for that.

Rating:

4 out of 5 stars…Again, it is this story’s natural humor and likeability of characters that made this an easy read. I felt like I was able to connect with Lucinda and Seth immediately.

***This book was given to me by Bethany House for an honest review.***

Book Review: Until The Dawn By Elizabeth Camden

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Blurb:

Fascinated by Dierenpark, an abandoned mansion high atop a windswept cliff in the Hudson River Valley, Sophie van Riijn sees no harm in setting up a rooftop weather station for her work with the newly established Weather Bureau. While the villagers are suspicious of the mysterious estate and its tragic history, Sophie has come to see it as her own enchanted piece of paradise.

The first Vandermark to return to the area in sixty years, Quentin intends to put an end to the shadowy rumors about the property that has brought nothing but trouble upon his family. Ready to tear down the mansion, he is furious to discover Sophie trespassing on his land.

Instantly at odds, Quentin and Sophie yet find common ground when she is the only one who can reach his troubled son. There’s a light within Sophie that Quentin has never known, and a small spark of the hope that left him years ago begins to grow. But when the secrets of Dierenpark can no longer be kept in the past, will tragedy triumph or can their tenuous hope prevail?

General Thoughts:

I would compare this story to a finely detailed woven rug, or an intricately hand painted vase. Overall, I felt this story was exceptionally written and not left without any important or meaningful information. The story began with a bit of mystery and suspense, which led me to feel like I was going to embark on a mystery. Although that was true to a certain extent, the story later took on a different feeling that made me enjoy reading it even more.

I loved getting to know one of the main characters, Sophie. I guess, in a way, I related to her personality so that is probably why I ended up liking her so much. It was nice to see how her personality transcended that of the Vandermarks, especially Quentin and even helped transform his life in the end.

One thing I can say about this story is it is definitely not predictable, which I thought it would be. I thought quite a few things would come to pass, or happen, in the story for both Sophie and Quentin, which never did, and I think this aspect alone made for an exciting read which I can honestly say I wish never came to an end.

As far as any negative thoughts, I don’t have any. The beginning of the story was met with mystery, which made it instantly difficult to put down. As the story progressed and as I began to know the characters, I was hooked.

Recommendation:

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys stories that focus on character transformations. I think many people, if not all, will personally relate to the characters Sophie and Quentin in some way. Also, seeing Quentin’s and Sophie’s transformation—redemption, will be inspiring to those of us who may be struggling to see that possibility in our own lives.

Rating:

5 out of 5 stars. I couldn’t find any negatives to this book. The characters are inspiring and the message is hopeful. Once I started reading the story, it was difficult to stop J

***This book was given to me by Bethany House for an honest review.***

Book Review: Love Everlasting By Tracie Peterson

Book Review: Love Everlasting By Tracie Peterson

Blurb:

Growing up in a Seattle bridal finishing school never prepared Abrianna Cunningham to become one of the brides, but now Wade Ackerman, who has always been the reliable boy next door, is indicating he wants to be more than friends. And even the people closest to Abrianna believe Wade is the man she should marry. So why is she having such a hard time choosing between Wade Ackerman and Priam Welby?

Watching Welby’s relentless pursuit of Abrianna is making Wade’s blood boil. Welby can offer her wealth and security, but what about character and integrity? Surely Abrianna can see past Welby’s smooth tongue and fine clothes. Can’t she?

Caught between the devil and the boy next door, either choice she makes will change Abrianna’s life forever.

General Thoughts:

When I found out that there was a new book from Tracie Peterson about Abrianna, I knew I had to read it! This book is not necessarily a sequel to the book, Refining Fire, where Abrianna was introduced, it is more like a continuation. In Refining Fire, Abrianna played more of a supporting role to the main character, Militine. In Love Everlasting, Abrianna is now the main character and her story continues from where it left off in Refining Fire.

Abrianna definitely met my expectations in this story from her personality to all the excitement that usually followed her. To be honest, if you haven’t read Refining Fire, I urge you to do so before reading Love Everlasting to fully understand her backstory and the events that occur in this story. In short, Abrianna and Wade’s relationship becomes more defined and serious, but with her case between Priam not being completely settled, Priam seeks to destroy not only Abrianna and Wade’s relationship, but also the lives of everyone close to her. The challenges that Priam creates for Abrianna forces her to consider her commitment to Wade and give God complete control for once, since she is always seeking to be in control.

This story is interesting and full of sentimental moments but also some thrills from beginning to end. Because of the constant drama, I found it to be an easy read. What I also liked about this story was how the characters maintained their authenticity. The Abrianna in Refining Fire was the same Abrianna in Love Everlasting.

Recommendation:

I would surely recommend this story to anyone who’s interested in stories that have strong relatable characters, natural humor, and lots of drama.

Rating:

4.5 out of 5 stars. Overall the story was good and easy to read, and the characters were relatable and compelling.

***This book was given to me by Bethany House for an honest review.***

Book Review: The Lost Heiress By Roseanna M. White

Blurb:

Sweeping Romance and Mystery in the Edwardian Era



Brook Eden has never known where she truly belongs. When her friend Justin uncovers the fact that she is possibly a missing heiress from Yorkshire, Brook leaves the sun of the Mediterranean to travel to the moors of the North Sea and the estate of her supposed family.

The mystery of her mother’s death haunts her, and though her father is quick to accept her, the rest of the family and the servants of Whitby Park are not. Only when Brook’s life is threatened do they draw close–but will their loyalty come too late to save Brook from the same threat that led to tragedy for her mother?

As heir to a dukedom, Justin is no stranger to balancing responsibilities. When the matters of his estate force him far from Brook, the distance between them reveals that their friendship has grown into something much more. But how can their very different loyalties and responsibilities ever come together?

And then for a second time, the heiress of Whitby Park is stolen away because of the very rare treasure in her possession–and those who can save her still aren’t sure whom to trust.

General Thoughts:

I have mixed feelings about this story. From a general point of view, I think the story was well written and represented the era in which it took place well (early 1900s in Western Europe). However, what was challenging with this story is I struggled to connect with the main characters, Brook and Justin. In fact, I connected with their side characters, such as Deirdre, Brook’s maid, more.

This story focused a lot on Brook’s and Justin’s growing friendship, often reflecting on their childhood, and following their growth and development as time passed and challenges came up. I liked seeing their friendship grow and it felt genuine. Also, seeing Brook unite with her biological father and reclaim her birthright was nice. It was nice to see things come together for her when it was very realistic for it to not to.

The thing that threw me off with this story and it could very well be different for others, was Brook’s personality and behavior. In some cases, she seemed joyful and careless, not really paying much attention to what was going on around her. But in other cases, she seemed stern and brave, challenging anyone who crossed her path. I think that is what made it difficult for me to connect with Brook—I didn’t really know who she was. The conflict between her and Justin also seemed to be all over the place. I feel like they struggled to get their points across and thus their problem was made into a bigger deal than it needed to.

This story had a lot of suspense and a little bit of mystery, which I generally like, but I felt it was predictable to me. I sort of knew who was behind all of the problems that popped up throughout the story. In the end, although I can definitely see a sequel to this story, I felt things came full circle and ended well.

Recommendation:

Despite some things I said, I would still recommend this story because I believe it was well written and depicted the era well. Also with my thoughts on connecting with characters and predictability, that may be different for others. If I take away those 2 things, I will say that the story was pretty good.

Rating:

3 out of 5 stars. The story was interesting and written well. It had enough suspense to keep me wanted to know how things turned out in the end.

***This book was given to me by Bethany House for an honest review.***

Book Review: Refining Fire By Tracie Peterson

Blurb:

Twenty-two-year-old Militine Scott is in training at the Madison Bridal School in Seattle, yet she has no intention of pursuing marriage. What respectable man would have her? But she has found the school provides the perfect opportunity to keep her unsavory past hidden.

Thane Patton, though fun-loving and fiercely loyal to his friends, hides a dark secret, as well. He finds himself drawn to Militine, sensing that she harbors a haunting pain similar to his own.

Will they allow God to make something new and beautiful from the debris of their past?

General Thoughts:

I’ve known about Tracie Peterson and her work. In fact, she came across to me as a very popular writer. After reading this story—the first from her, I can definitely see why she is a best selling author. This story was full of humor from start to finish. Though I cannot say that she intended this story to be full of humor, I believe it came out naturally through her main characters, especially from Abrianna Cunningham. The bluntness and boldness of Abrianna really made for some interesting and funny moments in the story when she confronted characters and situations.

Apart from all this, this story, based on the blurb, is about Militine and Thane. To be honest, I felt the story was not just about them, but also about Abrianna and Wade. All four of them are friends and throughout the story, they equally play significant parts. Abrianna had her own challenges and decisions to make, as well as Militine. To me, I was not disappointed by this and actually liked the balance of character roles. There was something to be learned from each of them. To be more specific, I feel each character had something about them that they struggled with, but in the end, it helped that they were open with each other as well as supportive. I especially like the messages of God’s love that was woven throughout the story—I think the author was good at getting them across.

Recommendation:

I would definitely recommend this story. For those who enjoy natural humor, this will be just what they’re looking for and one that they can’t put down.

Rating:

5 out of 5 stars. I couldn’t find anything negative with this story. I found myself laughing every time I read it.

***This book was given to me by Bethany House for an honest review.***

Book Review: Hearts Made Whole By Jody Hedlund

Blurb:

1865

Windmill Point, Michigan

Can She Forgive the Hurting Man Who Costs Her the Role She Loves?

After her father’s death, Caroline Taylor has grown confident running the Windmill Point Lighthouse. But in 1865 Michigan, women aren’t supposed to have such roles, so it’s only a matter of time before the lighthouse inspector appoints a new keeper–even though Caroline has nowhere else to go and no other job available to her.

Ryan Chambers is a Civil War veteran still haunted by the horrors of battle. He’s secured the position of lighthouse keeper mostly for the isolation–the chance to hide from his past is appealing. He’s not expecting the current keeper to be a feisty and beautiful woman who’s angry with him for taking her job and for his inability to properly run the light. When his failings endanger others, he and Caroline realize he’s in no shape to run the lighthouse, but he’s unwilling to let anyone close enough to help. Caroline feels drawn to this wounded soul, but with both of them relying on that single position, can they look past their loss to a future filled with hope…and possibly love?

General Thoughts:

This story was a familiar read to me. The reason being is not because it’s the second book in the Beacon Of Hope series from this author, but because the story focuses on Ryan Chambers, Emma Chambers’ brother, from the first book in the series, Love Unexpected. In Love Unexpected, Ryan is a young man with his life ahead of him, full of determination, hope, and strength. But in this book, Hearts Made Whole, Ryan is reintroduced as a completely different person, changed by the events he went through as a Civil War solider. Being damaged mentally and physically, he as a character is barely recognizable. That alone created sympathy and made me feel connected to the book from start to finish. Having known Ryan from the first book, I already knew him well without having to read much into the story. Though when he first arrived, he was seen as a villain to the Taylor’s—someone who arrived to take their livelihood away from them by taking Caroline’s job, I understood his motives, his struggles, and did not see him as a villain at all.

Overall, the story is about the growing relationship between Ryan Chambers and Caroline Taylor. Their relationship starts off rocky. When Ryan arrives to take over, although he has no idea about Caroline’s situation, he feels he needs the job to survive. Throughout the story, the two face many challenges, which ultimately brings them closer. However, there are no major plots that come to pass in the story. The major focus is on the development of Ryan and Caroline’s relationship and on Ryan learning to accept the person he has become and overcoming not only his physical challenges, but mental challenges because of the war.

The strength of this story is as always, the author’s ability to convey a meaningful message through the character. In this story, it was with Ryan Chambers. I believe if one reads the first book, Ryan’s message will be more compelling, meaningful, and powerful. To see a character at their best, when they were full of life and hope for things to come and then to see them years later, beaten down, damaged, and without hope, really helps in connecting with a character and wanting to understand their struggle, and especially wanting to see them find some sense or sort of restoration.

The weakness of this story will depend more on if one has read the first story, I believe. As I mentioned before, the story really focuses on the relationship between Ryan and Caroline, so for one who is looking for lots of drama and action throughout the book, may see this story lacking in that area.

Recommendation:

Despite the weakness I mentioned, I would still recommend this book to anyone who enjoys stories that are character and relationship focused, and seek to inspire.

Rating:

3 out of 5 stars. I felt the story lacked in any significant action or drama. It was mainly relationship focus, which made it appear slow at times. However, the strength this story had was already knowing Ryan from the first book and wanting to see how he found restoration from what we went through.

***This book was given to me by Bethany House for an honest review.***

Book Review: Sabotaged By Dani Pettrey

Blurb:

Finally Returned Home, Reef McKeena 
Finds His Beloved Alaska Facing Its Greatest Threat



Growing up, goody-two-shoes Kirra Jacobs and troublemaker Reef McKenna were always at odds. Now, working together as search-and-rescue for Alaska’s arduous Iditarod race, a growing attraction seems to be forcing aside old arguments. Then Reef catches Kirra sneaking from camp in the middle of the night.

Kirra’s uncle, a musher in the race, has disappeared. Kirra and Reef quickly track the man, but what they discover is harrowing: Frank’s daughter has been kidnapped. Kirra and Reef, along with the entire McKenna family, are thrown into a race to stop a shadowy villain who is not only threatening a girl’s life–but appears willing to unleash one of the largest disasters Alaska has ever seen.

General Thoughts:

I like the plot of this story—how it played out more like a mystery case, but that was about it. What I didn’t like about the story was the characters—they weren’t believable to me. In general it was all of them, but I specifically had a problem connected with and liking the main characters, Reef and Kirra. I understand that they knew each other all their lives, but it seemed like their relationship progressed quickly and was forced, especially since it appeared that Kirra was not fond of Reef at the beginning of the story, but at the end she’s thinking about their future children. I don’t know, it may not be unrealistic, but I couldn’t stop thinking that it was.

Also, although I like the plot, I felt the sticky situations that Reef and Kirra found themselves in were not realistic. There were a couple of instances where the “bad guys” had them in their grasp, but somehow they were able to easily defeat and get away from them. I thought it would have been nice if there was a bit of challenge with them, especially since the “bad guys” were made to appear like they were ruthless and dangerous.

Lastly, I felt the story centered around Reef and Kirra’s growing relationship, which isn’t bad, but I would have like to see more closure with Frank and Meg, who also were the focal point of the story. Once the problem between them was solved, the reader never hears from them again. What happened with Frank after his injury? What happened with the mess he created? How about Meg? What happened with her after learning the truth about the people she associated with?

Recommendation:

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t recommend this story. The ending somehow felt incomplete to me, where Meg and Frank are concerned. Also, I had trouble believing that the characters were authentic. I felt their thoughts and actions were a little bit cliché.

Rating:

2.5 stars out of 5, due to the characters and incomplete ending.

***This book was given to me by Bethany House for an honest review.***

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