A Midwinter Promise by Lulu Taylor (Review)

A Midwinter Promise by Lulu Taylor

Blurb

The past

A lonely and imaginative child, Julia loves her family’s beautiful and wild Cornish home with all her heart. But, marked by dark troubles, she enters her adult years determined to leave and seek a new beginning in London. It’s there she meets the handsome David. They fall in love, but when Julia becomes pregnant, even he can’t stop the terrible echoes of the past from ringing in her ears. The only sound to be heard above the noise is the old Cornish house, calling her home . . .

The present

For Julia’s adult children, Alex and Johnnie, the house hides the history of their family within its walls. For Alex, it is full of memories of her late mother. For Johnnie, it is the house that should have been rightfully theirs after Julia died but has been stolen from them instead. With their father now lying in a hospital bed, time is running out for Alex and Johnnie to uncover the secrets of what happened to their mother all those years ago. Can they discover the truth before the house closes its doors to them forever?

Review

I have read some of Taylor’s books before and I have really enjoyed them so I was excited to get reading this. 

There are two storylines within this book, the past and present, and I will admit I struggled at times when reading the past. The past follows the life of Julia and rather cleverly her life  is running parallel with Princess Diana’s who also features in the book because Julia’s husband David works in the palace for Princess Diana and Prince Charles.

I will be honest this book made me angry because Julia really needed help. She was let down by doctors and those closest to her and that made me really angry and upset but I realise that is what Taylor was aiming for and Taylor had obviously done a significant amount of research into Julia’s condition which the reader only really finds out about at the end of the book.

Alex and Johnnie, Julia’s children are now grown and have children of their own and problems of their own. Johnnie got on my nerves slightly because I found him rather selfish and unfair to his wife. Alex was my favourite character, she was full of feeling and worked hard with her business and was just a lovely character to follow.

Mundo was my least favourite, he was definitely wrong and rather unbelievable to be honest. Sally was a character who my opinion changed on, on more than one occasion but I won’t say more. 

I was a little disappointed about the detail in the book as I would have liked a bit more description regarding Tawray the house as usually Taylor is bang on with her descriptions. Overall, I enjoyed the book but I did struggle with it at times and it left me feeling rather sad. I give this book 3 out of 5 Dragons.

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About the author

Lulu was brought up in the Oxfordshire countryside, attended a girls’ school and then went to Oxford University, where she read English Literature. After university, she worked in publishing for several years, before becoming a novelist.

Sonnets by William Shakespeare (Review)

Sonnets by William Shakespeare 

Blurb

‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate . . .’ Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets contain some of the most exquisite and haunting poetry ever written, dealing with eternal themes such as love and infidelity, memory and mortality, and the destruction wreaked by time. This new edition collects them in a pocket-sized volume, perfect for gifting. William Shakespeare was born some time in late April 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon and died in 1616. He is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist.

Review

I’ve read some of Shakespeare’s sonnets in the past as our Drama teacher used to make us memorise them and then recite them on stage but that was a long time ago. So being as I am trying to read all of Shakespeare’s works I decided to read his sonnets next.

This little book has been perfect to dip into when I have a few minutes free and I will be honest I have been reading it when waiting for my next student to appear on Zoom. 

I really enjoyed reading this little book and although the sonnets are mainly love sonnets there are also sonnets on the seasons and other things. Some are a bit similar in my opinion but they are still enjoyable to read and really show the talent of Shakespeare.

A highly recommended little edition that literally just gives you the sonnets and is perfect to just dip in and out of when the mood takes you. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons and I will leave you with one of my favourites.

116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments; love is not love

Which alters when alteration finds, 

Or bands with the remover to remove.

O no, it is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark,

Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle’s compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor to man ever loved.

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(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was an English playwright, poet and actor. He is widely known as the greatest writer in the English language and is often called England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon”.

Ickabog by J. K. Rowling (Review)

Ickabog by J. K. Rowling

Blurb

Once upon a time there was a tiny kingdom called Cornucopia, as rich in happiness as it was in gold, and famous for its food. From the delicate cream cheeses of Kurdsburg to the Hopes-of-Heaven pastries of Chouxville, each was so delicious that people wept with joy as they ate them.

But even in this happy kingdom, a monster lurks. Legend tells of a fearsome creature living far to the north in the Marshlands… the Ickabog. Some say it breathes fire, spits poison, and roars through the mist as it carries off wayward sheep and children alike. Some say it’s just a myth…

And when that myth takes on a life of its own, casting a shadow over the kingdom, two children — best friends Bert and Daisy — embark on a great adventure to untangle the truth and find out where the real monster lies, bringing hope and happiness to Cornucopia once more.

Review

I was so excited to get this book in my post box as I have had it preordered for ages. I love the idea of this book. The fact it has illustrations done by children from all over the world is lovely and I was so happy to see that this story is one that Rowling told her daughters when they were young and then her daughters helped her write it up, together as a family.

This is a typical fairytale and thankfully it wasn’t like a Disney fairytale. A Disney fairytale is all polish and shine but a true fairytale has gore and murder and this fairytale had all of that. I was so pleased Rowling trusted children to be brave enough to read such a fairytale, not quite a Grimm fairytale but definitely not a Disney.

King Fred the Fearless made me laugh a great deal but I also felt very sorry for him as he was played by those close to him. Also King Fred’s fashion sense was rather amusing. Bert and Daisy are lovely children especially Daisy who was a particular favourite of mine. She is an intelligent child who doesn’t let prejudices get in her way. She judges people for herself and gives everyone a chance.

The one issue I had with this book and it isn’t a bad one but I did find myself craving yummy food especially pastries when reading this book. This was most likely due to the wonderful food described in the book. 

This is a wonderful story and very amusing in places. A really good story that is a good read for both children and adults plus the illustrations are brilliant and really add to the story. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Joanne Rowling born 31 July 1965, is a British writer and philanthropist. She is best known for writing the Harry Potter series. Rowling also writes crime fiction under the pen name Robert Galbraith.

Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime (Review)

Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime by Oscar Wilde

Blurb

Wilde’s supremely witty tale of dandies, anarchists and a murderous prophecy in London high society.

Review

I picked this up the other day as I fancied a quick read that I knew would put a smile on my face. Oscar Wilde always makes me laugh and I just love his subtle humour.

The story begins at a party and involves a palm reader who sets a series of events into motion. Lord Arthur I will admit is rather a silly character who totally believes in the power of fate and will do anything to make sure it goes to plan. Wilde is most definitely having a little fun subtly mocking the English aristocracy with the characters of the party and Lord Arthur.

The thing I love most about this is just how ridiculous this story is. Lord Arthur does some very suspicious things like purchasing poison and meeting with bomb makers but nobody bats an eye lid.

I really enjoyed this short story and read it with a nice mug of tea as it is only 50 pages long. An amusing version of a murder mystery that I give 4 out of 5 Dragons.

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About the author

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854. He was a playwright, poet, novelist and short story writer.

The Sea of the Dead by Amy Kuivalainen (Review)

The Sea of the Dead by Amy Kuivalainen (The Magicians of Venice book 2)

Blurb

The battle for Venice might be over, but the war is just beginning… Penelope’s and Alexis’s adventure continues in the second instalment of The Magicians of Venice series.

Penelope has accepted her role as the new Archivist for the magicians, but with war brewing with the priests of Thevetat and the tide of magic on the rise, she’s going to have to learn her way around her new and dangerous world if she has any hope of outsmarting their enemies.

When Penelope’s friend and fellow archaeologist, Tim, uncovers a scroll containing a magical secret lost in the Dead Sea for two thousand years, Penelope and Alexis must travel to Israel to find him before Abaddon and Kreios get there first.

To defeat Thevetat and his followers, they’ll need to find a weapon capable of ending him for good, and as her old life collides with her new, Penelope will pay the ultimate price to keep the secrets of the magicians safe.

Review

I have been waiting for this book to arrive for so long! I read the first book in the series last year as a NetGalley read and loved it so much I promptly ordered the book. Thankfully I was not disappointed with the second instalment.

Penelope is an academic who has always been obsessed with finding Atlantis and has finally found her answers and her dream man. Penelope is a wonderful character who treasures knowledge above all else so her new role as the archivist for the magicians is perfect for her.

I love the characters of the magicians. The relationship between them all is brilliant and very funny. They are just like siblings always joking around with each other and getting on each others’ nerves. My personal favourite is Zo, he is funny and just an amazingly nice guy.

Carolyn and Tim’s characters were rather annoying but I can see they were meant to be as we were viewing them from Penelope’s point of view. However, Tim was rather a nasty character in my opinion.

Kuivalainen is an excellent writer and she definitely does her research to seamlessly link up real life history and legends with her magical world. I give this book a massive 5 out of 5 Dragons. I just hope the wait for the third instalment is not too long.

 

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The Immortal City by Amy Kuivalainen Review

About the author

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Amy Kuivalainen is a Finnish-Australian writer that is obsessed with magical wardrobes, doors, auroras and burial mounds that might offer her a way into another realm. Until then, she will write about fairy tales, monsters, magic and mythology because that’s the next best thing. She is the author of The Firebird Fairytales Trilogy and The Blood Lake Chronicles series that mash up traditional tales and mythology in new and interesting ways.

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Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (Review)

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Blurb

Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house—a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

For readers of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and fans of Madeline Miller’s Circe, Piranesi introduces an astonishing new world, an infinite labyrinth, full of startling images and surreal beauty, haunted by the tides and the clouds.

Review

I was so excited to get this book and I have had it preordered since I don’t know when so it went straight to the top of the TBR pile or should I say piles.

I loved the detail in this book and the descriptions of this amazing building in the first chapter had me hooked to the story. I felt like I was walking through these amazing halls looking at all these incredible statues whilst listening to the waves hitting the walls. Although, I did keep wishing that the building had a rather nice library to go with all these wonderful statues.

Piranesi is an interesting character and instantly likeable. Piranesi lives and breathes all things to do with the house. He knows all the statues like friends and can navigate the vast labyrinth of rooms all using the map in his head. He also knows all the tides so he knows when it is safe and when it is not. Piranesi loves the house and believes that all will be well because the house will provide.

The Other who is the other person in the house is not so likeable in my opinion and instantly put me on edge. He is also clearly using poor Piranesi but Piranesi is too good natured to notice.

I will be honest as I was reading this book I had such high hopes for it and I had several ideas in my head about how the book might end but I will be honest I was rather disappointed. This book had such potential to be an amazing story and it just felt rushed and like Clarke had come up with the easiest option to finish the book quickly. I felt robbed in some way.

I have really thought long and hard about this book because I really loved parts of it and the storyline but the conclusion was just not my cup of tea and that has upset me because I really wanted to love the whole book. I have given this book 3 out of 5 Dragons and those 3 Dragons are for the incredible detail, the concept of the house and how adorable Piranesi was. Not what I expected after how amazing Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell was but still a good read that I recommend to fantasy lovers.

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About the Author

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Susanna Clarke (1959) is an English author who has published novels and short stories. Her debut novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and her set of short stories The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories are all set in a magical England.

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Anna of Kleve: Queen of Secrets by Alison Weir (Review)

Anna of Kleve: Queen of Secrets by Alison Weir

Blurb

Newly widowed and the father of an infant son, Henry VIII realizes he must marry again to insure the royal succession. Now forty-six, overweight and unwell, Henry is soundly rejected by some of Europe’s most eligible princesses, but Anna of Kleve—a small German duchy—is twenty-four and eager to wed. Henry requests Anna’s portrait from his court painter, who enhances her looks, painting her straight-on in order not to emphasize her rather long nose. Henry is entranced by the lovely image, only to be bitterly surprised when Anna arrives in England and he sees her in the flesh. She is pleasant looking, just not the lady that Henry had expected.

Review

I will be honest I was not looking forward to this book as I have always felt really sorry for Anna of Kleve and thought this story would be hard to read. Poor Anna arranged to marry a much older man who is obese, and who hasn’t looked after himself and really does not have the best reputation with his past wives. She must have been terrified when she first met the King.

Anna has led a sheltered life controlled by her mother. She has not been allowed to learn music and her education has been limited because she has only been allowed to learn what is needed for a woman whose duty is to marry and be a good wife. This was always going to be a problem for Henry who liked his women to know music and be educated and then poor Anna could never live up to the portrait that had been painted of her. Henry had fallen in love with the portrait and was disappointed by Anna in real life.

Weir had embellished the story of Anna slightly which I can understand why because of what Henry had supposedly said but I am not sure I was fully onboard with it. I won’t say more as I don’t want to spoil it for you. Weir had made Anna a beautiful character, although she was horrified by Henry to start with she endeavoured to be the best wife she could be and when sadly the marriage was dissolved she endeavoured to be the best friend she could be to Henry and his children.

I loved Anna’s character, she was full of love and kindness and always wanted to do the best she could for everyone although she did have a bit of a wine problem and I will be honest I had a good giggle whenever she was drinking wine in the book. It would be a good drinking game to be honest, every time you read that Anna has a glass of wine you take a sip of your drink. Although Anna is left a good settlement I can’t help but wonder if she was been swindled out of her money.

This book is a beautiful story but it did pull at the heart strings and I did avoid reading it sometimes when I knew what was coming up. Another triumph by Weir but I have only given the book 4 out of 5 Dragons because I did not entirely agree with the one storyline.

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(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you)

About the author

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Alison Weir was born in 1951 and is a British writer of history books, and latterly historical novels, mostly in the form of biographies about British Royalty.

 

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The Existence of Amy by Lana Grace Riva (Review)

The Existence of Amy by Lana Grace Riva

Blurb

Amy has a normal life. That is, if you were to go by a definition of ‘no immediate obvious indicators of peculiarity’, and you didn’t know her very well. She has good friends, a good job, a nice enough home. This normality, however, is precariously plastered on top of a different life. A life that is Amy’s real life. The only one her brain will let her lead.

Review

Firstly, a massive thank you to Lana Grace Riva for supplying me with a free copy of her wonderful book to review.

I will be honest this isn’t a book that I would have chosen to read on my own but I am so happy that I did read it and I definitely plan on reading more of Riva’s work.

Amy is a wonderful character and one that I loved and felt a rollercoaster of emotions for. Amy has a good group of friends, a fantastic job and what appears as a normal happy life. However, Amy is also plagued by her own mind, that little voice that insists she should live a certain way to survive, even though Amy knows this makes no sense. This almost double life for Amy is exhausting and upsets her greatly because she realises she is missing out on things she would love to do and she is grieving for a time she can remember where she didn’t have this weird double life and grabbed life with both hands.

Riva has really done her research for this book and the character of Amy is brilliantly thought out and her friends are perfect. Sally is the loud socialite who doesn’t see that there is more to Amy than she sees and so thinks wrongly of Amy and leaves Amy out of things but is still Amy’s friend. Nathan is the bubbly happy friend who cares for Amy and wants to help her. Then there is Ed who has always had a deep relationship with Amy and cares for Amy a great deal. Ed and Amy share the same tastes and love nothing more than going around an art exhibition.

The thing I love most about this book is that the story is so simple and it focuses on Amy’s daily life and the struggles she encounters each day. This simplicity makes the story so much more real and makes you realise as a reader that this could be anybody in the world who is facing these struggles, including your own work colleagues and friends. This book definitely makes you think about the struggles people have to deal with that you can’t see.

I am so happy that I read this book and highly recommend it to everyone. It won’t take you long to read but I can guarantee that it will stay with you and give you a lot to think about. I give this book a big 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Review)

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

About the author

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Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of several novels, including Gods of Jade and Shadow. She has also edited a number of anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows (a.k.a. Cthulhu’s Daughters). Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination.

Blurb

After receiving a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find – her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

Review

I have seen so many reviews of this book and it has featured on my instagram account a great deal so I thought it was high time I gave it a read. Thankfully I was not disappointed.

The first few chapters of the book I will be honest had me slightly worried as it seemed to be heading down a predictable route and to a certain extent it was what I was predicting but with a twist and I’m so pleased I read it till the end.

Neomi is a true socialite who is used to getting her own way in the world. She has her father wrapped around her little finger and she knows how to get a man to do anything for her. She is beautiful and stylish but no simpleton, she is highly educated and I love the fact she has so many opportunities to show her knowledge.

Francis is such a sweetie all he wants to do is help Neomi but he is constrained by his family. He’s so shy and has clearly led a very sheltered life, he has never met a woman like Neomi before in his life and it is clear he finds her fascinating. I really loved Francis’ character and loved getting to know his character.

High Place is a mystery and a mouldy one at that, it really sounds like a nightmare to live in but the people who call it home do not seem to mind the state of place but Neomi notices it. The mould on the walls, the lack of reliable electricity and hot water and the fact that the curtains remain closed can not help the situation. It really must be a dismal place to live and seems like something from a gothic novel to Neomi.

The character I did not like was Virgil as he was clearly a bully and a very slimy character. He is described as handsome but his character does not reflect that. Florence, Francis’ mother, is also a nasty lady but at the same time I felt sorry for her. Florence clearly tried to change her future and clearly had a happier past but now she is a different woman left with broken dreams. You see snippets of this through the book.

I really enjoyed reading this book, oh and I love the cover of the book. I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but the cover really is eye catching. The storyline for this book is brilliantly written and cleverly thought out. I will definitely be reading Moreno-Garcia’s other books. I give this book 4 out 5 Dragons.

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Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz (Review)

Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz

About the author

Anthony Horowitz, OBE is ranked alongside Enid Blyton and Mark A. Cooper as “The most original and best spy-kids authors of the century.” (New York Times). Anthony has been writing since the age of eight, and professionally since the age of twenty. In addition to the highly successful Alex Rider books, he is also the writer and creator of award winning detective series Foyle’s War, and more recently event drama Collision, among his other television works he has written episodes for Poirot, Murder in Mind, Midsomer Murders and Murder Most Horrid. Anthony became patron to East Anglia Children’s Hospices in 2009.

Blurb

Featuring his famous literary detective Atticus Pund and Susan Ryeland, hero of the worldwide bestseller Magpie Murders, a brilliantly complex literary thriller by Anthony Horowitz. The follow-up to Magpie Murders.

Retired publisher Susan Ryeland is living the good life. She is running a small hotel on a Greek island with her longterm boyfriend Andreas. It should be everything she’s always wanted – but is it? She’s exhausted with the responsibilities of making everything work on an island where nothing ever does, and truth be told she’s beginning to miss her old life in London.

And then a couple – the Trehearnes – come to stay, and the story they tell about an unfortunate murder that took place on the same day and in the same hotel in which their daughter was married, is such a strange and mysterious one that Susan finds herself increasingly fascinated by it. And when the Trehearnes tell her that their daughter is now missing, Susan knows that she must return to London and find out what really happened …

Review

I was so excited about this book as I love Anthony Horowitz’s books, sadly I was sorely disappointed with this book. I will be honest I haven’t read Magpie Murders but after this I don’t think I will because I just can’t stand Susan Ryeland!

I tried so hard to like Susan Ryeland but she just grated on my nerves endlessly. She came across as a massive pain in the neck with no real skill who just got under everyone’s feet and she also came across as very selfish.

What saved this book for me was the wonderful story within the story. Atticus Pund Takes the Case was a wonderful read. I could not stop reading it. Atticus is a fantastic character and very much a detective from the golden age of detective novels. He could be straight out of an Agatha Christie novel. The story was brilliantly written and I loved how it all came together at the end.

All in all the Susan Ryeland story is just too unbelievable for me and I really did not enjoy reading that part of the story but I’m so pleased I did not give up because otherwise I would have missed out on the Atticus Pund story. I give this book 3 out of 5 Dragons but those 3 Dragons are for the Atticus Pund story as I wouldn’t have even bothered rating the Susan Ryeland part sadly.

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