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Title: Three Gold Coins

Author: Josephine Moon

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Opens: Lara Foxleigh felt the slight tremor in her legs with every step through the narrow cobblestoned street and knew it wasn’t just from jet-lag.

Blurb: One coin for love, one for marriage, one to return to Rome. Two days ago, Lara Foxleigh tossed three gold euros into the Trevi Fountain. Now, she is caring for a cranky old man and living in a picturesque villa half a world away from her home and the concerns of her loving family. Soon, it seems as if those wishes she made in Rome just might be coming true, and she may even be able to help heal a fifteen-year-old tragedy. Until Lara’s past threatens to destroy everything she loves.

My Thoughts: The subjects that Josephine Moon has previously based her story around have all been food related – first tea, then chocolate, next we learned about bees (honey) and now it is time for cheese to shine. Before we get to cheese though, the story opens in Rome – more specifically beside the famous Trevi Fountain. Lara has just arrived in Italy from Australia and elbows her way to the edge of the fountain to throw her three coins over her left shoulder to ensure, as the tradition goes, a return to Rome, to find true love and to get married. She spots an elderly man who seems to be in a bit of a bother as he has been abandoned by his carer, and Lara ends up assisting him to throw his single gold ring into the fountain then drive him home – to Tuscany – to a goat farm!

Despite his crabby exterior Samuel needs help, and Lara finds herself offering to be his carer until a fulltime replacement can be found. Part of the chores are to keep house for him, milk his goats, Meg and Willow, and make the cheese, not something that Lara has ever experienced – well the keep house bit she’s ok with – the goat and cheese part? Well not so much. Enter the handsome, but not perfect, hero, Samuel’s great-nephew Matteo. Matteo helps out where he can, although he can’t spend a lot of time training Lara in goat husbandry as he works on a different goat farm and has his own cheese-making to attend to. Lara soon realises that Matteo is the only family member who visits the lonely and crabby old Samuel. What on earth can cause a whole family to turn their backs on one man?

It has been a while where I fell so instantly in love with all the main characters in a book – because as well as Samuel and Matteo in Italy, back home in Australia, Lara has her mother, Eliza, her sister Sunny and Sunny’s young twins, Daisy and Hudson. Not is all roses in paradise though, back home there is also some big threat to the family unit. The three women are afraid, very afraid. Whatever this threat is, it is the reason why Lara is alone in Italy. Very slowly, with the story switching back and forth between the voices of Sunny and Lara and the present and the past, the reader get to learn all the horror that is being inflicted on Lara and her family. Eventually what is happening in Australia impacts on Lara in Italy – she has to make a decision to save both herself and her family. She also needs to sort out Samuel’s problems – is the world going to come crashing down around her?

THREE GOLD COINS is not all sightseeing, cheese making, cooking and romance – there is suspense as the back story of Lara and her family unfolds. Some gritty subjects such as domestic abuse and mental illness that are very well handled – along with a realistic look at the legal system in Australia that seems to protect the right of the abuser rather than the victim. The message that comes from THREE GOLD COINS is that it is possible to make a stand – but do it smartly. There is always hope.

Overall, the plot is believable, the characters are all believable, there is love and loyalty, humour and terror, danger and happiness, mad cow disease and goats – and food! I was googling recipes right left and centre as I read the book. There is a whole lot more to Italian cooking than Spag Bog and Pizza – like Tuscan White Bean Soup – Mm mm crunchy bread and a glass of wine! Italian wine of course.

Josephine Moon just gets better and better – this is her best book yet – and they’ve all been 5 star reads for me.

For more about the author – Click Here

A – Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it.

With thanks to Allen and Unwin and the author for my copy to read and review.

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Here is my occasional roundup of the books I’ve read, the books I’m currently reading, Internet places I’ve visited and quotes that have taken my eye.

Books I have recently finished:

Book: Honeymoon for One by Lily Zante

Genre: Romance

Thoughts: A sweet read – perfect for when you want to be entertained without having to think too much. Ava is dumped by her fiancé on New Year’s Eve just six weeks before their wedding. She decides to go on the planned honeymoon in Italy anyway – as you do. She meets a nice man and keeps secrets from him and then loses it because he keeps secrets from her!!! Still there needs to be friction before a Happy Ever After doesn’t there?

Book: The Opal Dragonfly by Julian Leatherdale

Genre: Historical Fiction

Thoughts: Separate review here

Book: Mistress Mine by Gabrielle Dubois

Genre: Historical Fiction

Thoughts: Separate review here

Book: The Rising Storm by Ceri A. Lowe

Genre: YA Dystopian

Thoughts: Separate review here

Book: Fiction Can Be Murder by Becky Clark

Genre: Mystery

Thoughts: Separate review here

My Current reads:

Us against You by Fredrik Backman (Contemporary Fiction – due for release 5th June) – After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local hockey team will soon be disbanded. This book is a sequel to BEARTOWN that was released last year.

Three Gold Coins by Josephine Moon (Women’s Fiction) – Two days ago, Lara Foxleigh tossed three gold euros into the Trevi Fountain. Now, she is caring for a cranky old man and living in a picturesque villa half a world away from her home and the concerns of her loving family.

Eventually Julie by Anthea Syrokou (Women’s Fiction) – Julie has had enough! At 27, she feels overwhelmed with her life so finally decides to take action and sets off to Paris to find the answers that can set her free, and live a life full of meaning and passion. Julie loses herself in the sights and smells, and in the beauty of travelling in one of the most romantic cities in the world.

Quote/s and links for the week

Links: Here are a couple of online articles I found recently:

April is Autism Awareness Month – here are a few books that deal with the subject:

https://www.bookbub.com/blog/2017/03/29/books-about-autism

A choose your own story for grown-ups – I have actually put an order in for this one looks great – but as a physical read, I think, rather than an e-version:

https://www.goodreads.com/blog/show/1235-a-new-novel-lets-you-choose-your-own-romantic-adventure

Quotes: These have recently caught my eye:

A scene where a writer’s group discuss reader reviews – one member has just returned from consulting with his therapist:

“…He held up one hand. “In my defense, it was one-star and began, ‘I don’t know anything about astrophysics, but … ’” Ouch. Those hurt. Even I get those. Not about astrophysics, of course, but equally ridiculous. I’m giving Ms. Russo’s book one star because I ordered the wrong book. Or, this is a mystery and I hate reading mysteries, even though the description clearly states it’s a mystery. Or my favorite, I thought this was by Richard Russo, NOT Charlemagne Russo, whoever she is. I LOVE his books. Won’t bother to read hers. It took volumes of emotional maturity to ignore those kinds of bogus reviews…”

From Fiction Can Be Murder by Becky Clark

I have this on my TBR pile, but haven’t read the first in the series yet, but someone posted this quote and it appealed to me.

…"You’re a Librarian." Lady Guantes put the same delicate disgust into the word that someone else might have used for mercenaries, colonoscopy or mad dogs and Englishmen. "Letting you do so much as talk is dangerous."…

From The Masked City (The Invisible Library, #2) by Genevieve Cogman

This is another book on my wish list:

“Because,” said Thor, “when something goes wrong, the first thing I always think is, it is Loki’s fault. It saves a lot of time.”

From Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Title: Fiction Can Be Murder

Author: Becky Clark

Genre: Cosy Mystery

Opens: Melinda Walter settled her lean Pilates body – the maintaining of which took all her free time and could fund North Korea’s military for a year – into the soft leather driver’s seat of her sleek red 1959 classic corvette.

Blurb: Life becomes stranger than fiction when Charlee’s latest novel inspires a real murder. Mystery author Charlemagne "Charlee" Russo thinks the twisty plots and peculiar murders in her books are only the product of her imagination–until her agent is found dead exactly as described in Charlee’s new, unpublished manuscript. Suspicion now swirls around her and her critique group, making her confidence drop as severely and unexpectedly as her royalty payments. The police care more about Charlee’s feeble alibi and financial problems than they do her panicky claims of innocence. To clear her name and revive her career, she must figure out which of her friends is a murderer. Easier said than done, even for an author whose skilled at creating tidy endings for her mysteries. And as her sleuthing grows dangerous, Charlee’s imagination starts working overtime. Is she being targeted, too?

My Thoughts: FICTION CAN BE MURDER is the first in the Mystery Writer’s Mystery series and my first book by author Becky Clark. Overall the story is quick paced and entertaining and I really enjoyed it. In fact I laughed out loud quite a few times. Charlee turns into an amateur sleuth when her publishing agent Melinda is murdered. Being an amateur sleuth comes natural for Charlee as she is a mystery writer who knows how to research facts to create her fictional crimes. On top of this her brother is a policeman, as was her father. The trouble with the murder of her agent is that the way she was murdered was exactly the same way Charlee had her victim murdered in her latest book – which hasn’t been published yet. This means that only those who have read her manuscript would know the method – or Charlee herself. Charlee knows she didn’t do it, but is not sure she can convince the police investigators, so takes matters into her own hands and starts to check the alibies.

There turns out to be quite a few suspects to check – the members of her writing critique group; her beta readers who are any friends, family or boyfriend willing to read the manuscript. Also, of course, Melinda’s husband is on the list. Most are easy to cross off the list, some are upset they are even ON the list, and others out and out lie about their alibies for one reason or another. There are lots of twists and turns – as you would expect in a mystery and I didn’t pick who it was until the big reveal – my suspect was completely innocent so I would have been hopeless as a sleuth!

The only niggle I had was with a back story about Charlee – She has a tremor – which is only mentioned a few times but what it is triggered by is not very clear. So I wondered about what purpose it served to have it. It is highly probable that I missed the explanation though – and did not affect my enjoyment of the story. I really enjoyed a peek into the writing/publishing world, and early on in the book there is a scene where the writer’s group discuss reader reviews as one member has just returned from consulting with his therapist over a review he read:

“…He held up one hand. “In my defense, it was one-star and began, ‘I don’t know anything about astrophysics, but … ’”

Ouch. Those hurt. Even I get those. Not about astrophysics, of course, but equally ridiculous. I’m giving Ms. Russo’s book one star because I ordered the wrong book. Or, this is a mystery and I hate reading mysteries, even though the description clearly states it’s a mystery. Or my favorite, I thought this was by Richard Russo, NOT Charlemagne Russo, whoever she is. I LOVE his books. Won’t bother to read hers. It took volumes of emotional maturity to ignore those kinds of bogus reviews…”

I will certainly look for more books by Becky Clark as she seems like a very out there person – and her web page is a hoot!

For more about the author – Click Here

B – Great – I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.

With thanks to Midnight Ink and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

Title: The Opal Dragonfly

Author: Julian Leatherdale

Genre: Historical Fiction

Opens: Isobel slept badly.

Blurb: "Miss Isobel Clara Macleod, youngest of the seven children of Major Sir Angus Hutton Macleod, Surveyor-General of the colony of New South Wales, had the singular misfortune to know that at seven o’clock that morning her father was going to die."

In September, 1851 Sydney is a city of secrets and gossip. Seventeen-year-old Isobel Macleod is determined to save her father because she loves him. But when she dares to trespass in a forbidden male world, she will be plunged into social disgrace. A wave of ill fortune threatens to swallow up her family and their stately home, Rosemount Hall, ‘the finest house in the colony’ on the foreshores of Sydney Harbour. But is Isobel to blame for her family’s fate or does the cause lie further in the past? A daughter sacrifices her reputation, two men bid for the love of a woman, freedom is found in the heart of a dust storm, a father’s legacy reveals past crimes. Inspired by Elizabeth Bay House and the other grand villas of Sydney’s Woolloomooloo Hill, The Opal Dragonfly tells the bittersweet story of an ambitious family’s fall from grace and a brave young woman’s struggle to find her true self.

My Thoughts: I generally try to avoid books that are over 400 pages, so for me to gleefully jump on a book that has almost 600 pages is a big indication as to how much I was looking forwards to reading this latest book by Julian Leatherdale. I had very high expectations let me tell you as his first book PALACE OF TEARS was my joint book of the year in 2015. Julian Leatherdale did not let me down!!!

THE OPAL DRAGONFLY starts off very innocently, Isobel decides to save her father from certain death and rushes off at dawn dressed up as a boy to stop a duel. This is not the last headstrong idea that Isobel has, in fact she has tragedy upon tragedy heaped upon her young shoulders. As the story unfolds she often jumps first and asks questions later. Her story is quite dark and tragic, but is never, ever, depressing. Quite the opposite, I was glued to the story as secrets, rejection, deceit, jealousy, madness, betrayal and death after death after death swirled around her. The tragedies started after her mother was given a dragonfly shaped brooch made of opals. Isobel was given the brooch by her mother just before she died and she was told to keep it hidden and not give it to her sister Grace who coveted it. Isobel was also told to throw the brooch into the sea if ill-luck befell the family. Something she was reluctant to do – even once the nightmares started and fortunes changed she hung onto that damn (or was it damned?) brooch.

Sydney in the 1850s came alive on the pages – fiction interlaced with fact gave credence to the story’s setting. While the main characters are fictional they are based on real people and the activities such as exploration, cruelty to Aboriginal peoples and the poorer members of the community is not glossed over. Isobel’s story, gothic in tone, is slowly built up against the backdrop of an evolving city and society, culminating in an edge-of-the-chair horrifying event that left me stunned, before a complete change of pace and reflection ends the story. Not one of the support characters was superfluous to the story – some are there for good, some are there to muddy the waters or ensure harm is done – the reader just has to figure out the truth. An extremely hard thing to do when everyone at some stage lies or hides the truth. Even our young heroine.

Julian Leatherdale, you have now got yourself a new fangirl – or should I say a fan nanna!!! Can’t wait until your next book.

For more about the author – Click Here

A – Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it

With thanks to Allen and Unwin and the author for my copy to read and review. Allen & Unwin recommended retail price is $29.99

Title: Mistress Mine

Author: Gabrielle Dubois (Translated from French by Jane Hentges)

Genre: Historical Fiction

Opens: So there she was.

Blurb: In 1876, Louise St Quentin is sixteen. She is an orphan and the rich owner of a huge estate. Her future seems all mapped out; a marriage of convenience which would help her manage her estate. But Louise listens to her heart rather than her reason. The end of the 19th century is terribly exciting, and Louise wants to discover everything – the adventure lying at the end of the railway track, romantic music, the modern cuisine in the new Parisian restaurants, and impressionist painting. Will her artistic, cultural and sensual upbringing going to lead the young girl to her ruin or to love? Will Louise, the young French girl find the grass greener on the other side of the world?

My Thoughts: Louise St Quentin, the main character, is utterly gorgeous, adventurous and manages to retain her air of innocence even after she has lost it. Her upbringing is very unconventional; her mother dies at birth, father rejects her and her eight-year-old brother goes back to his boarding school, never comes home for the holidays and then disappears completely once he reaches adulthood. Louise is brought up, as best they can, by a serving woman and her husband, but she is completely unaware of society expectations of young ladies and is very much a free spirit. This is first demonstrated after her father dies and Louise travels to Paris to find her brother. She arrives at the house of her brother’s best friend unannounced. This is where the story had opened – her on the doorstop – but to get back to this point I found it a little confusing with characters being introduced and disappearing at bewildering rate. I confess to almost putting the book down – but at that point we got back to the doorstep again and Louise’s adventure started in earnest and I was swept into it.

In Paris she is quickly seduced by the first of a few men in her life – all are kind to her and help her and love her. But Louise is not ready to settle down as there is a constant urge for her to follow something, only she is not sure what. From Paris she dithers between the city and her country home before she finally makes a decision and travels to a Polynesian island and from there to Australia where she finally feels that maybe she can settle. However there are still a few more twists and turns to navigate until the end of the book.

The settings and scenery come alive on the pages and after the confusing start the story just flows and keeps your attention. Everything from life in France, through to the idyllic lifestyle in Polynesia to on the frontier setting of Sydney via life on-board sailing ships has been well researched. The characters are all well developed and their histories are revealed to Louise, and so to the reader, so you can understand what makes them tick. Even the disgruntled women who instantly dislike Louise because of the interest she holds for their husbands you can see why they are like they are. Louise grows as a person during the book – progressing from a rejected baby, wild childhood, innocent girl in a world of lecherous men and onto become a self-confident, independent, well-travelled and brave woman.

MISTRESS MINE is the first book in a series

For more about the author – Click Here

C – Above average – was very readable and I really liked it, but was easily able to put it down and walk away for a while.

With thanks to the author for my copy to read and review.

Title: The Rising Storm

Author: Ceri A. Lowe

Genre: YA Dystopian

Opens: On the day the storms started, Alice Davenport watched the collapse of her world from nine floors above the city, through her living room window.

Blurb: 15-year-old Alice Davenport was a loner and an outcast before the Storms swept away everything she knew. Saved from the ravaged remains of London by the mysterious and all-powerful Paradigm Industries, her fierce independence and unique skills soon gain her recognition from the highest levels of command. But their plans to rebuild civilisation from scratch mean destroying all remnants of the past – no matter what, or who, gets left behind. Decades later, 15-year-old Carter Warren is woken from the Catacombs after years of cryonic sleep. He’s determined to do whatever it takes to climb the ranks to Controller General – until he realises the Industry’s control methods have become harsher than ever. Barricades make sure nothing from the Deadlands can get in to the Community – and no one can get out. Both Alice and Carter are forced to confront an impossible question…would you dare to risk it all for the perfect world?

My Thoughts: THE RISING STORM is the first book in the new Paradigm Trilogy – and what a great scene setter it is. The good things about Dystopian novels is that it frees the author to follow their own particular ideas on how dreadful a society can be – so there is no right or wrong to world building. So the challenge is to place characters in your world that the readers are going to relate to, who they are going to care about. Ceri A. Lowe produced not just one, but two main characters who had me cheering them on sometimes, and tut tutting when they missed something that I felt was obvious. Carter and Alice take it in turns to tell us the story of the Paradigm Society from very different viewpoints – how the society is currently, and how it was at the beginning.

The books open with a prologue – Carter is sent to the freezing chamber and he thinks this is a good thing as he has high expectations for his future role – while at least one other thinks it is a bad thing and asks for it not to happen. The reader immediately feels compelled to ask two questions – why are they being frozen? Followed by – why is one happy with the idea and the other isn’t? Cue Alice and our witness to the end of the world.

Alice is alone in her flat when she witnesses the devastation of the first catastrophic storm. While it is not really stated – storms start to increase and cyclonic winds now batter Europe on a regular basis – global warning has hit. Millions of people are killed – either in the storms or in the floods that occur as a result of the torrential rain. Paradigm Industry has sensed somehow this is going to happen, and they have set themselves up a fortress/ark to protect survivors until everything settles down. Alice is among those rescued. Alice is alone as her dad died before the book started and her mother is prostituting herself to pay the rent and bills. Her mother disappears in the first huge storm. Inside the safety of the fortress, the rescued population are no longer allowed to read or listen to music as it is these recreational activities that lead to the downfall of the world. Alice is a tough little cookie as a result of fending for herself so it makes sense that she has the smarts to rise up and become a responsible member of the system – and one of the chosen few to go out and scout once the floods die down. Films are made of these scouting expeditions to be shown to the populace.

Decades later we meet Carter. Carter has been groomed from birth to one day be the leader. He belongs to one of the original families – sort of the high society of the community. There are also lesser beings called Lab-made – test tube babies – which are second class citizens. He had been frozen as a 15 year old to be brought back as a candidate to be Controller General. While he’s been frozen the political climate has changed and there’s rebellion developing. He also finds out he is a father of twins, and he has to go through a series of test to prove he has what it takes to be leader. As the story progressed – the past and the present being propelled forward by the two storytellers – the links between the past and present are gradually revealed. While they never meet, Carter is aware of Kate as she narrates the scouting films.

I have to be honest did get a little confused once or twice – but that didn’t prevent me from loving the story and looking forwards to seeing what happens. There are some questions that haven’t been answered – but I am guessing there are going to be more revelations in the subsequent books.

For more about the author – Click Here

B – Great – I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.

With thanks to Bookouture and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

Here is my latest roundup of the books I’ve read, the books I’m reading, Internet places I’ve visited and quotes that have taken my eye.

Books I have recently finished:

Book: The Witness by Nora Roberts

Genre: Romantic Suspense/Thriller

Thoughts: It took me half the book, but I had this nagging feeling that Elizabeth/Abigail reminded me of someone. I thought Shelden from THE BIG BANG THEORY TV show – but then the penny dropped – It is Leonard’s mum in the Big Bang Theory TV Comedy show! Daughter of a controlling mother, Elizabeth finally rebels and goes to a nightclub with a school friend on forged identities. A few hours later she is in witness protection after her friend is murdered in a mafia assassination – the Russian mafia. Witness protection does not work out either and Elizabeth runs for her life alone into the darkness with an exploding house behind her. Twelve years later the reader meets Abigail who lives alone in the Ozarks – so does the local Police Chief. Can he earn her trust and then help her solve her problems? Of course he can – great story.

Book: Feels like home by Lisa Ireland

Genre: Romance

Thoughts: Jo is a successful novelist living in New York, who is engaged to the dreamboat Hollywood actor who is playing the male lead in the movie version of her debut novel. She returns to her home town in the Australian outback to be a bridesmaid at her best friend’s wedding. She doesn’t realise her childhood sweetheart, single dad Ryan, is going to be the best man. From here proceeds a wonderful romance about misunderstanding, betrayal and reconciliation.

My Current reads:

The Opal Dragonfly by Julian Leatherdale (Historical) – September, 1851. Sydney, city of secrets and gossip. Seventeen-year-old Isobel Macleod is determined to save her father because she loves him. But when she dares to trespass in a forbidden male world, she will be plunged into social disgrace. A wave of ill fortune threatens to swallow up her family and their stately home, Rosemount Hall, ‘the finest house in the colony’ on the foreshores of Sydney Harbour. Is Isobel to blame for her family’s fate or does the cause lie further in the past? A daughter sacrifices her reputation, two men bid for the love of a woman, freedom is found in the heart of a dust storm, a father’s legacy reveals past crimes.

The Rising Storm by Ceri A. Lowe (YA Dystopian) – 15-year-old Alice Davenport was a loner and an outcast before the Storms swept away everything she knew. Saved from the ravaged remains of London by the mysterious and all-powerful Paradigm Industries, her fierce independence and unique skills soon gain her recognition from the highest levels of command. But their plans to rebuild civilization from scratch mean destroying all remnants of the past – no matter what, or who, gets left behind. Alice must decide if she will fight for the old world, or the new…

Quote/s and links for the week

Links: Here are a few online articles I found this week:

Why science says reading books should be your priority:

https://www.inc.com/christina-desmarais/why-reading-books-should-be-your-priority-according-to-science.html

Chris Bohjalian explains how he was inspired to write his latest novel THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT:

http://www.signature-reads.com/2018/03/the-origins-of-the-flight-attendant

The movie version of A WRINKLE IN TIME is out, I haven’t seen it yet – but is on my wish list. If you read and enjoyed it, here are some suggestions as to what to read next:

http://www.signature-reads.com/2018/03/read-next-loved-wrinkle-time

Quotes: These have recently caught my eye:

Beverly Hofstadter: Aside from a pro forma consummation of our marriage, his father and I only had intercourse for the purposes of reproduction.

Sheldon: That seems a fairly efficient arrangement.

Beverly Hofstadter: Yes, we think so. We’ve both done papers on it. Mine from the neuroscientific point of view and his from an anthropological. Mine, of course, was the only one worth reading.

Sheldon: Of course. I would very much like to read about your sex life.

Beverly Hofstadter: Well, it’s all online, or you can order it from the Princeton University Press.

Beverly Hofstadter: I’ve been responsible for my own orgasms since 1982.

Penny: Yikes.

Beverly Hofstadter: *laughs*

Penny: What’s so funny?

Beverly Hofstadter: That’s exactly what I say during orgasms: "yikes".

Quotes from Leonard’s Mum – Beverly Hofstadter – Big Bang Theory

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