The Christmas Project by Maxine Morrey

32306652Blurb: Professional organiser Kate Stone has never – NEVER – been tempted to hit a client over the head with a snow shovel, but Michael O’Farrell is the most obnoxious – and heart-stoppingly gorgeous – man she has ever met. If he weren’t her best friend’s brother, she would not have waited on his doorstep in the freezing cold for five minutes, let alone an hour.

Kate knows, however, that her job isn’t just about tidying up, sometimes she needs to be part therapist too, and Michael clearly needs her help to declutter his heart as well as his home.

But with the festive season just around the corner there isn’t much time to get Michael’s house ready for the O’Farrell family celebrations, but everyone knows that at Christmas anything can happen…

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3.5 stars

I found the cover to be super adorable.  I received this ebook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest/unbiased opinion.

I was a bit lost on this one.  The chemistry didn’t seem there and it reads as if its supposed to be funny.  I don’t know if its cause I’m american but the humor went over my head.  And I found that Christmas didn’t really play as big a role as I expected, like it wasn’t emphasized except as a deadline.

It took a LONG time to get to the point and I found myself losing interest towards the middle when the story stagnated for me.  Maybe I’m an impatient reader, but there wasn’t enough good bits to last me through the blah ones. I couldn’t picture them as a match, and I tried real hard but their snarky banter didn’t read as foreplay to me.  It felt more like they should have had a fling but I didn’t see their relationship lasting .   Am I making sense?

I did love the dialogue. They didn’t beat around the bush and just went for it. Brutal honesty mixed with a touch of chagrin made me want to finish the book.  IDK, maybe I was expecting more in the romance department.  Maybe I just didn’t get the romantic undertones right.

I did love the supporting characters to no end.  They brought some great comic relief just when my attention would start to wane.  All in all it as decent book.  I would definitely give this author another try as I loved to see how their writing progressed as they continue to do it.

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The Christmas Challenge by Sinclair Jayne


32913182Blurb:
 Prodigal daughter, infamous flirt and fiery-haired champion barrel racer Tucker McTavish blazes back home to Marietta with both a secret, and a personal challenge. She will keep a low profile at her twin sister’s Christmas wedding. Which means no whiskey. No kissing. No scandals. No fun. What she needs is a miracle, so it’s too bad when she visits the legendary Miracle Lake to plead for inner strength: a tall, dark, and handsome bad boy is waiting with a challenge of his own.

Extreme sports guide Laird Hunter doesn’t do boring. And he thought he didn’t have secrets. He thrives in carving his own trail through tight and dangerous spots, but when he finds out his entire life has been built on a lie, he heads to Marietta for answers. But when he meets the redhead with the killer smile, laughing eyes and body with more curves than a mountain road, he finds himself asking a whole new set of questions.

Will these two daredevils – with more than a few secrets between them – find the one person from whom they don’t need to hide ?

Pre order Available November 15th 2016

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5 stars

I received this ebook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest/unbiased opinion.

I floved this book.  This is a Christmas novel I can get behind!  In my experience Christmas books tend to be fluffy, fast reads but this one wasn’t like that at all.  These characters had depth and complex personalities.  Their problems were not just as simple as ‘boy meets girl, they fall in love’  No no no.

Tucker was a whirlwind of self-doubt and insecurity mixed with a blend of out-spokeness and simple pleasures, such as ice skating and hot chocolate.  But she wanted to change on the inside.  You could read how much she wanted to get that connection back with her twin sister.  How every time she was judged for her past, she shook it off and kept trying to prove herself.  It was humbling to read for me.  She forgave others so easily when they read her wrong.  Even when they didn’t ask for it.  I wish I could do that.

And Laird has his own inner demons to face.  He was definitely a lost soul, armed with only a starting point of Marietta.  He set out to find himself.   He was a little harder to read.  Strong, silent type, a perfect match for the fast talking Tucker.  Their chemistry was amazing!  You could see how they both struggled with the importance of facing their inner challenges and the attraction they had for each other.

All in all a beautiful read.  And since this is the third in the series I’m definitely going back to read the first two!  Happy reading.

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Once Upon a Royal Christmas by Robin Bielman

Blurb:
32325012Colliding with a prince while dog walking isn’t how Rowan Palotay pictured meeting royalty, but then lately her life hasn’t gone according to plan. With one teensy tiny mistake, her job as a news reporter took a turn for the worse and now she’s lucky to have a small pet column in the local newspaper. Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy and magic, but she feels like she’s forever stuck on the naughty list.

Prince Theodore Chenery is in Marietta shortly after the death of his mother to meet his grandparents for the first time. When an accidental run-in—literally—with Rowan leads to an unexpected friendship, he finds himself enchanted with the outspoken, feisty country girl. She’s unlike anyone he’s ever met and her special brand of kindness and honesty make it harder and harder to remember his obligations back home.

Rowan can’t afford one more mistake, and Theo’s future is already mapped out, but when they find it impossible to fight the passion and deep-rooted emotions between them, they discover what matters most. Until their relationship makes worldwide news… and Theo must decide whether to follow his heart, or his royal duty.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

OMG, this book is already in the running for favourite Christmas read this year, and I’ve only just begun!  But it was just…I don’t know…just Lenore perfect, you know?  Like there are certain things that just make for a perfect Lenore read, and this one hit soooooo many of them.  I have a weakness for royalty books.  I don’t read them much, but I do enjoy them (and that probably comes from all my Harlequin reading in the past).  But this one turned out to be less about the Royalty aspect, and more about…I don’t know, just a freaking fabulous love story with lots of romantic tension, and laughs, and goofy grins, and not a lot of moments where I wanted to bang my head.  It had the kind of climax and tension where I got what was happening, even if I already knew that they were thinking about things all wrong.  But don’t worry, they got there.

I wondered how the whole reporter thing was going to play out, but it didn’t really play that big a factor.  And her mistake didn’t either.  It was kind of glossed over.  But that was ok, b/c by that point I was so sucked in to the sweetness of their romance, that I didn’t even care.  Both of these characters on their own were my kind of characters.  Rowan was really rather hilarious.  I loved that she could be kind of bold, goofy, a wee bit insecure, but stubborn and still really kind and sweet too.  Sassy and sweet, I love that combination.

And Theo.  Oh Theo.  I want Theo for myself.  He was…AHHH!!!  So sweet, and sexy, and a bit sassy in his own right.  I just adored him to pieces, and I’m not even going to be able to do justice to why….

But the winner for me was them together, and how their romance progressed.  For what was a pretty short novel (or a long novella, depending on how you look at it), I really felt like we got a fabulous romance out of it.  I really believed the progression from lust and infatuation to friendship to more.  I loved watching them get to know each other, asking questions and really developing that base of connection.  And OMG the tension.  I can’t even tell you.  So many butterflies in this book for me.  And the steamy scenes fulfilled on the tension promise.

And all that set in a great holiday atmosphere, with lots of great family and secondary characters.  It made me want to read more Marietta stories, and definitely more stories from this author.  And it obviously got me feeling the magic of the season.  So yeah, success.  Gonna be hard to top.

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If Santa Were a Cowboy by Melissa Cutler

Blurb:
32721624This Christmas, Santa wears a Stetson.
Paul Savage loves Christmas at Briscoe Ranch Resort, when he gets to take a break from being a back country guide to play Santa in the resort’s lobby and talk to kids about toys. The last thing he expects is his high school crush to come waltzing in as his new assistant photographer, wheeling a suitcase that’s more naughty than nice.

Kelly Walker is a disaster. All she’d wanted was to spice up her life by saying ‘yes’ to every opportunity, which is when the universe started pelting her with no’s. So when she comes across a job listing for a holiday photographer working with the sweet, scrawny boy whose advances she’d laughed off in high school, she jumps on the chance to turn her bad Karma around by giving Paul a second chance.

Trouble is, Paul’s anything but scrawny anymore, and his cowboy swagger throws her grand plans for a loop–especially when he tempts her with a red hot proposition of his own. Kelly’s in way over her head, but as she gets swept up in the magic of Briscoe Ranch’s holiday charms–and Paul’s–could Kelly’s year of no’s be leading up to the ‘yes’ of a lifetime?

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My Review:
3.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

I love a good nerdy boy, and Paul totally fits the bill.  I get that he’s all hot now, but he has a nerdy soul, and that worked for me.  Kelly was a bit harder to love.  I normally shy away from popular girls, but I kind of liked how we saw how she struggled with the image she was supposed to maintain, and missed out on so much being someone she wasn’t inside.  It was an interesting perspective actually.  So I warmed up to her more than I normally would, but still not entirely.  I wanted a bit more flashback of what she loved about Paul back in the day so that I could feel better about her coming and pursuing him, rather than just because he was a nice guy.

Paul had his hiccups too…I mean, again, wish we had more flashbacks so we could see what parts he loved about Kelly, especially for so long…what attracted them to each other.  What parts of their personalities meshed, kwim?  But he was still pretty sweet, and I loved the relationship he had with his dog Sadie….she was a total winner for me.

I was a bit confused about the sex scenes.  I mean, she has this suitcase full of seduction that included a riding crop and handcuffs, but when we finally got to the sex scene, it kind of faded to black…only it didn’t really fade to black, but like the author just sort of skimmed over it.  Which is ok, but I don’t understand why.  She still used explicit language occasionally, but it was like a recap instead of details.  It just seemed odd to me.  If I wanted a sweet fade to black read, this wouldn’t have fit that either, you know?  So either go sweet or go all in…it was kind of like a steamy tease, and so I was left disappointed.  The closet scene was pretty hot though.

The part that will probably have me rounding up instead of down is that it totally knocked the heartwarming Christmas feel out of the park.  Some of those moments when Paul was Santa and talking to the kids or parents of the kids — particularly one Mom of a special needs boy — really got me in the ticker.  It’s exactly what I look for in a Christmas read, so it got me into the magical spirit.  So thanks Ms. Cutler!

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Christmas at the Rekindle Inn by Lori Waters


28121177Blurb:
 Mary Walker has a habit of giving in when it comes to her mother, but this time her mom went too far. At first glance, the gift seems innocent. Seven days at a lovely Vermont inn in mid-December is Mary’s idea of the perfect Christmas present—that is until she discovers her traveling companion’s identity.

The Rekindle Inn is the last place J.T. Walker wants to spend his Christmas vacation, much less in the company with the woman who’d recently ripped his heart to shreds. A challenge of wills, and the need to show Mary he no longer cares, has him on the plane to Santaville faster than the time it takes to unwrap a candy cane.

The Rekindle Inn specializes in mending relationships, but when the Walkers check in, it will take more than a little Christmas magic to bring these two broken hearts back together. More like a Christmas miracle.

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4 stars

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest/unbiased opinion.

This one was an appetizer.  Short and sweet like. I found the town a bit over the top but I think it was meant to be this way.  The story was predictable and transparent. Again, I suspect it was meant to be this way.

It was cute how they were both too stubborn and proud to tell their parents they didn’t want to go on the vacation.  Which really masked the fact they were clearly still in love with each other.  The beginning was a bit slow but it picked up towards the middle.

I felt the sex scenes fell a bit flat and the chemistry wasn’t as strong as I’m used to.  The fact that they weren’t ‘allowed’ to talk about their past may have rubbed me the wrong way. How can you deal with it if you don’t confront it?  But I was able to suspend my belief and ended up enjoying the book as a whole.

I have never been very good at the whole wintery/christmas themes books but they are starting to grow on me.

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Big Package by Opal Carew

Blurb:
31450411Baby it’s cold outside…but things are about to heat up.

I missed the last bus to my sister’s for Christmas, and now I’m stranded in a bus station—in the middle of a blizzard—with a giant package covered in naughty wrapping paper.

Then he shows up: Kalen Welles, the football star from my high school fantasies—and offers me a ride.

Just when the car is getting cozy, the roads get shut down due to snow.

Luckily there’s a nearby cabin where we can hole up for the night.

A warm fireplace, cozy blankets, pent-up longing we both spent years ignoring… maybe I’ll be able to unwrap Kalen’s big package before Christmas morning.

But when the snow clears and the ice melts, will the former football star and the shy nerd finally get a happy ending?

Unwrap this sexy holiday story from Opal Carew!

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My Review:
3 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

OK, I will admit that I picked this book to read as my first HoHoHo Read-A-Thon book b/c the reviews were kind of lukewarm, and having finished a book hangover type book, I knew the next book wasn’t going to live up to expectations.  Honestly, this is probably more of a 2.5 star read, but I bumped it up a half star b/c it partially takes place in Ottawa, and it brought back some good memories from when I lived there a decade and a half ago…  Especially when they mentioned Bayshore Mall!  I lived across from that mall!  So high fives for the great reminiscing.

Otherwise this was a pretty shallow book…it was a bit corny, a bit cheesy, the characters were pretty surface, and there were a lot of cliches.  It was pretty standard Harlequin type fare.  I would classify it as erotica, since there was an awful lot of sex.  And the plot had the usual stupid, AVOIDABLE misunderstandings that were resolved by just talking.  Not a huge fan of those, so hence why without the Ottawa stuff, it would have been a 2.5 star or lower.

I was amused that Ms. Carew dealt with some interesting sexual…insecurities?  Like a guy having to deal with a “big package”, and how that’s not always a blessing.  And female ejaculation.  Props to Ms. Carew, she did not a bad job with that either.

All in all very meh.  Didn’t keep my attention super well, but in some ways was less annoying than I had been expecting.  On to my next Christmas read!

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Frosted Sweets: a Romantic Comedy (A Taste of Love Series #1) by A.M. Willard


frosted sweetsBlurb:
 Morgan Lewis, a hopeless romantic and the bubbly owner of the Polka Dot Bakery, couldn’t wait to wed the man of her dreams. Feeling giddy as she walks through the park carrying her beautiful wedding dress over her shoulder, she sees a sight no soon-to-be bride should ever see. In that moment, the wedding of her dreams becomes a story fit for a gossip magazine. As tears stream down her face, she wonders who to cancel first; the church or the caterer.

Insert Jayden Rivers whose career in production has him relocated to Atlanta. His mother always said it would take a special woman to lure him away from his work, but he felt like someone sucker punched him when he saw her… the sweet smelling goddess carrying a wedding dress through the park. Will Jayden be able to set the camera aside and restore Morgan’s faith in love?

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2.5 stars

Eh, I wasn’t really impressed with this book.  I saw it on Books and Bindings and it was free at the time so I though, What the hay?  And the cover is pretty.

I’m glad the book was free, this story seemed to drag on for me.  And it was a lot of telling and not enough showing for my tastes.  I finished it so that’s something, but the climax wasn’t nearly as good as it could have been. I don’t know, it was just missing something. It seemed a bit cliche and tropey IMO.  And while some tropes are awesome and I never get tired of them, this was not one of them.

Morgan was lost after finding out her fiance was cheating.  This is where I get annoyed. She was with him for years and constantly did what he wanted, then all of the sudden she switches gears and decides that she is living her life for her.  I mean, I get it, he cheated, but it just didn’t make sense to me that that is what caused her to have this epiphany. Maybe I wasn’t in the mood but this just seemed way to easy.

And the other romance seemed way too fast, like who falls in love after one encounter.   IDK, it was very all over the place for me.  I don’t think I’ll be reading anymore in this series.  Bummer.

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Sweet Inspirations (Klaus Brothers #1) by Patty Watson

Sweet inspriationsBlurb: What if the legend of Santa Claus is in fact, true? What if Santa has five big strapping sons who help him run his empire? Five single, sexy sons looking for romance…

Nicholas Klaus is a master pastry chef, a strict disciplinarian, and the eldest son of the legendary Santa Claus. One look at café owner Lucy Brewster sends him into an unexpected tailspin of lusty desires. When Lucy is injured, Nicholas makes a decision that catapults both of their lives into turmoil ….

Lucy Brewster, the free-spirited proprietor of Sweet Inspiration, has a flair for concocting sugary confections but no time for adventure. She gets more than she bargained for when she awakens in the North Pole…rambunctious elves, a fitness-obsessed Santa, and the man of her dreams. Does she have what it takes to become the next Mrs. Klaus?

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3 Stars

This book is part of my Book Bingo reading challenge that I am doing. You can find it at Just Another Girl and her Books if you want to join.

It was sweet, the only problem that I have is the fact that it was damn near insta-love. (Plus there was a timeline issue that was overlooked. at one point in the story it said Nick was asleep, then in the same scene it said that he wasn’t home yet.) They met when he bought a cookie from her bakery.  He watched her from afar which was kinda stalkerish in my opinion but whatever.  When they did finally have some kind interaction, they immediately started making out like four hours after they first spoke.  That was big negative for me.

Other than that the story itself was a great idea.  Santa Claus has five sons who help him run the whole Christmas she-bang?  Kinda cool if you ask me.  How the author incorporated cooking into the story was a nice aspect.  It was very prodominat in almost every chapter giving it a nice extra layer. It helped them to connect on a different level than just physical.  And the family unit of the book was nice, Santa was close with his children and it showed in the story.  Other than that, some of the characters fell flat for me.  The elves really didn’t stand out at all and that hurt the christmasy-ness of the book.

The communication issue: I get why authors do it.  I do, but I hate it.  Authors delibertaly create conflict with a misunderstanding in communincation to elevate the climax.  But it bugs the shit outta me.  Especially when it is blown out of proportion.  Why create conflict where none exists?

Characters:

Lucy:  She is a sweet person if a little naive.  She came off as immature and a bit of a push over for me.  When they fought, she would run away but then she would cave after a little sweet talk.  She gave up on her dreams, which for me, is a huge negative. Why can’t she have the best of both worlds.  She didn’t even try.

Nicolaus: He is all hard edges with a gooey center.  I can relate to this because my husband is this way.  (only to me though) 🙂 He runs his kitchen with a firm hand and doesn’t take to others helping or changing things.  I liked him better than Lucy actually.

All in all I don’t think I will be reading the rest of the series anytime soon.  Maybe around Christmas time to get me in the spirit. We’ll see.  It’s in a series but you can read it as a stand alone.

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You for Christmas by Madeline Ash

Synopsis:
27387177Regan Case wouldn’t know the right side of the tracks if they ran her out of town. She’s lived hard since she ran away at sixteen, but eight years later, an accident has terrified her into pulling her life together. And that means finally going home for Christmas.

Taking her return one step at a time, she ends up on the doorstep of her sister’s best friend, Felix Nickson. The man indebted to her after she jammed ten grand down his trousers in high school and enabled him to escape his own demons. Felix agrees to let her stay, but doesn’t count on the chemistry that burns hot between them.

As they get into the Christmas spirit, he watches Regan’s shadows fade away and discovers that beneath her careless attitude, she is by far the bravest woman he’s ever met. He falls for her, fast and hard, but she fears she doesn’t deserve such a good man. A black sheep cannot change her colors.

Can Felix forgive her past or would asking for his love be one too many miracles this Christmas?

Find it on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27387177-you-for-christmas
Order it on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1mfkeov

My Review:
4.5 stars — OK, this one turned out to be a total Christmas gem!!  I had no expectations going into it, had never even heard of this author — just saw it on BookBub or something like that.  And it’s turned into one of my fave holiday reads this year!

This isn’t just some fluffy romance read either.  There are some dark issues that are dealt with, though you don’t find out exactly what happened until near the end of the book.  I thought Regan was written beautifully…you could really tell that she was struggling with something horrible in her past that had shaped her into the woman she became…and she was a very broken and troubled young woman.  Sometimes her rough edges were hard to handle, especially b/c you end up falling in total love with Felix (we’ll get to him), but in the end, from my completely inexperienced perspective, I thought she was portrayed and behaved exactly as someone with those past demons would.

Now onto the shining star of this book — FELIX!!!  I fell in love with him right from the prologue, with his shyness and inexperience.  He was just everything.  Patient, kind, though not without a rough edge or two in the beginning.  I just wanted to steal him away from Regan and hug him to death.  Maybe it’s b/c I have my own geek to love, but he was just everything I love in a book boy.

And their bantering back and forth was a HIGHLIGHT for me!  I absolutely love snarky wit and sassy comebacks, and the way they played off each other was delicious.  Heck, even at the end there was great interaction with all the secondary characters — which of course makes me want to read some of their stories, so wishlisted.

So basically, we have a holiday winner.  I even loved that it was set in Australia and you got to see how Christmas would be in their hot summer.  On a side note, as a Canadian, it was a little disheartening that it was all about ice and snow…;)

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Three Nights Before Christmas by Kat Latham

Synopsis:
27278596Have yourself a steamy little Christmas…

After three years in prison, freight train engineer Lacey Gallagher doesn’t expect this Christmas to be very merry and bright. At least chopping down trees for her brother’s Christmas tree farm will help her save money to get her life back on track. All her plans derail, though, when her new job puts her in territory patrolled by the man who haunts her dreams—the forest ranger who sent her to prison.

Austin Wilder isn’t thrilled about Lacey working in his forest—but he soon realizes he needs her help. His family is depending on him to restore an old steam train for a spectacular Christmas event, and train expert Lacey is his only hope of finishing in time.

Working together challenges every assumption Lacey and Austin have about each other, and they discover a desire hot enough to melt even the deepest Montana snow. But will the season of second chances be enough to mend the most hardened broken heart?

Find it on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27278596-three-nights-before-christmas
Order it on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1meyzl4

My Review:
3.5 stars — After reading His Christmas Gift by Sarah Mayberry, I knew I wanted to read the companion story about Sawyer’s sister, Lacey.  And it was a steamy, quick holiday read!  I loved the premise of the book — an ex-con (if wrongly convicted) being released after 3 years in prison, and her developing relationship with one of the officers who helped put her away.  I had a bit of a problem with how their relationship started — I guess b/c Lacey was already having hot sweaty dreams about Austin practically right from the start, and I just found it hard to believe that lust could overcome the circumstances surrounding who they are to each other.  But then again, my feelings for a person always influence how attracted I am to them.  And unless I’m remembering wrong (I feel like I’m getting a cold, so I’m not trusting my brain right now), the way he described her wasn’t all that attractive either.

So yeah, the start of their relationship was a bit harder to believe.  Once we got into them working on the train though, things started to pick up.  I still never felt completely invested, but I can’t quite figure out why.  On the other hand I completely devoured the book, so I’m a bit confused about how I actually felt in the end (hence the middling rating).

Lacey was an intriguing heroine — I really enjoyed how real her emotions were with coming to grips with being out of prison again.  She could sometimes be a bit crass, and I couldn’t decide if she made me laugh or cringe sometimes.  Austin was harder to get a read on, but what I did learn I liked.  And once their romance started to move forward, I enjoyed his sweet feelings for her.

I found the ending to be a bit unbelievable with his testimony…I give it a bit of a pass though, since it’s a holiday romance and I’m feeling generous.

All in all, a solid holiday read, it was just missing that extra oomph to push me into loving it.

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