Thursday, September 18, 2014

*Gizmos Early Reviews* In a Handful of Dust (Not a Drop to Drink #2) by Mindy McGinnis

**I received this E-book for free from Katherine Tegen Books via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

*Synopsis*

The only thing bigger than the world is fear.

Lucy’s life by the pond has always been full. She has water and friends, laughter and the love of her adoptive mother, Lynn, who has made sure that Lucy’s childhood was very different from her own. Yet it seems Lucy’s future is settled already—a house, a man, children, and a water source—and anything beyond their life by the pond is beyond reach.

When disease burns through their community, the once life-saving water of the pond might be the source of what’s killing them now. Rumors of desalinization plants in California have lingered in Lynn’s mind, and the prospect of a “normal” life for Lucy sets the two of them on an epic journey west to face new dangers: hunger, mountains, deserts, betrayal, and the perils of a world so vast that Lucy fears she could be lost forever, only to disappear in a handful of dust.

In this companion to Not a Drop to Drink, Mindy McGinnis thrillingly combines the heart-swelling hope of a journey, the challenges of establishing your own place in the world, and the gripping physical danger of nature in a futuristic frontier.


*My Thoughts*

"I will show you fear in a handful of dust." T.S. Eliot 1922

In A Handful of Dust is a companion novel to Not a Drop to Drink. The story actually takes place 10 years into the future. Once again McGinnis brings to light the harshness and reality of the world where these characters live. Years after the Shortage (water) people are still willing to cause harm to others in order to gain access to a viable water source. In A Handful of Dust focuses mostly on the now 17-year old Lucy since Lynn has already had her story.

Lucy has grown up with Lynn as her adoptive mother. She's learned how to read, and best of all, how to survive. She still has her grandmother around, and friends that she can act like a kid with. Lucy has her own hopes, dreams, and optimism for a bright future where she is able to fall in love, have children, and a home of her own. Lucy's determination and vision of the world they live in, is much more tempered that Lynn's. She believes their are good people in the world even when faced with the realities that nothing is ever that simple.

When polio ravages their community, Lucy and Lynn face one of the hardest choices a person has to make; leaving their home, pond, friends, and community behind to go on a journey to a place they've only heard rumors about; California. While we watched Lynn grow up in Not A Drop To Drink, Lynn's journey is heart breaking, emotional, and fraught with dangerous people who want her abilities to locate water. As we've come to expect from McGinnis, Lucy and Lynn find people along the way that are friendly, and not so much. Their journey takes them from Ohio, to the Dustlands of the Midwest, to Sin City, and finally to California where Lucy hopes her future can begin. I will say that while I liked Lucy, Lynn is still my favorite character. 

“In a world like this, you pay it forward, 'cause more than likely you didn't deserve it when you got it the first time.”

Lynn, now 26, hasn't changed all that much since we last left her. She's very protective of her pond, her homestead, and of Lucy who she took responsibility for after her family died and calls "little one." She's still deadly with a gun, and doesn't stand around until someone else makes choices for her. Lynn is definitely a hard woman having survived her childhood without the love of a mother. But, not too hard that she becomes unlikable or annoying or pushes Lucy away. Lynn really is determined to give Lucy the best possible future which is obvious in her protective manner, and not just by letting Lucy figure it out all for herself. 

I will say that the ending got to me because McGinnis created a wonderful relationship between Lucy and Lynn and left it for readers to figure out what happens next. There is genuine caring and emotions between the two. They are never far from each other, and when something bad happens, they don't walk away thinking doom and gloom. I know this is presumably the end of Lynn and Lucy's journey, but one can only hope that McGinnis finds a way to give Lynn the happy ending that has so far refused to cooperate with her. 

The series can definitely be considered more of a possible outcome for the current world, instead one filled with zombies, aliens, devastating nuclear wars, or pandemics that destroy the world. All one needs to do is look around at the American West and see the water shortages to realize that if something isn't done soon, we will be faced with similar challenges.

Author - Mindy McGinnis    Title - In a Handful of Dust    Series - Not a drop to Drink # 2    Published by Katherine Tegen Books    Released: September 23, 2014    Genre: Dystopian    Format: E-Book 384 pages

*Gizmos Early Reviews* The Mesmerized by Rhiannon Frater

**I received this book free from the Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

*Synopsis*

It is silence, not screams of terror, which proclaims the end of the world…

Minji Nordim is vacationing in Las Vegas with her small family when she witnesses the beginning of a terrifying apocalypse. When humanity is transformed into mindless drones by a terrifying supernatural event only Minji appears to be immune.

Thousands die instantly, but the other affected people are drawn to the Nevada desert. Nothing stands in the way of the mesmerized. Not fire, not heights, not rubble. As the bodies pile in the streets and the relentless wave of the mesmerized plods into the deadly desert, Minji is trapped in a burning city attempting to rescue her affected family.
Can one woman save her family and the world?


*My Thoughts*

The Mesmerized, set in Las Vegas, focuses on an Event that spreads across the nation, and then the rest of the world leaving millions of people in a trance like condition or dead. (Please don't call them zombies. They are definitely not like the ones from Frater's As the World Dies series). As the survivors come together and struggle to understand what is happening to them, it becomes apparent that one of them has an immunity to the Event and may hold the key to saving the world.

Frater's main heroine in The Mesmerized is Korean-American Minji Nordim. Minji is wife to Jake, mother of two precocious daughters Ava and Bailey, and a tattoo artist who isn't' afraid of discovering her own uniqueness with her multi-colored dreads, and personally designed tattoos. After finding that she is immune to the Event, Minji doesn't hesitate to protect her family when shit hits the fan and the world is at the end of its existence.

Frater has a tendency of going all out when it comes to her writing style and her characters. There is no such thing as part way. You want action, blood, suspense, and a mystery that will leave you guessing right till the end? You definitely get what you ask for in The Mesmerized. Frater sends her dynamic female heroines into situations that would make the weak-kneed Romance heroines curl their toes and faint dead away at the smell of blood.   

Readers can't expect to pick up her novels and not be surprised by what she throws at you or the choices that are left to be made. Readers can expect that you will be thrown right into the action from the very moment you are introduced to the main characters. You know that the characters will struggle with heavy decisions, and weigh their actions based on how they were raised, or were taught at an early age, or in this case, what is best for her families survival.

One of the more interesting facets for the naysayers who claim there isn't enough diversity in books Today, is that Frater is an all inclusive writer. Her characters are black, white, Hispanic, Native-American, LGBT, and in this case, Korean-American. You have to be encouraged by a writer who doesn't see the world as only black and white, but a rainbow filled with lots of wonderful colors.

Thank you, Rhiannon, for sharing a copy of The Mesmerized with me! If you have read Frater's As The World Dies Trilogy, I would encourage you to read The Mesmerized as well.


Author - Rhiannon Frater
Title - The Mesmerized
Published by Permuted Press
Releases: September 30, 2014
Genre: Science Fiction, Horror
Format: E-Book 244 pages


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

*Gizmos Book Reviews* Blackbird (Blackbird Duology #1) by Anna Carey

*I received this E-book for free via Edelweiss/HarperTeen in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.*

*Synopsis*

This twisty, breathless cat-and-mouse thrill ride, told in the second person, follows a girl with amnesia in present-day Los Angeles who is being pursued by mysterious and terrifying assailants.

A girl wakes up on the train tracks, a subway car barreling down on her. With only minutes to react, she hunches down and the train speeds over her. She doesn’t remember her name, where she is, or how she got there. She has a tattoo on the inside of her right wrist of a blackbird inside a box, letters and numbers printed just below: FNV02198. There is only one thing she knows for sure: people are trying to kill her. 

On the run for her life, she tries to untangle who she is and what happened to the girl she used to be. Nothing and no one are what they appear to be. But the truth is more disturbing than she ever imagined. 

The Maze Runner series meets Code Name Verity, Blackbird is relentless and action-packed, filled with surprising twists.


*My Thoughts*

Anna Carey's Blackbird (Blackbird Duology #1) is an interesting ride from start to finish. The story is told in the infamous second person narrative which has turned some reviewers off. If you can get past the narrative like I did, you will find yourself reading a story that is fast paced, has lots of interesting dynamics, is filled with action, and has a character that you can't help but to feel some emotions for. In a way, I can see Blackbird being compared to the Jason Bourne novels as there ARE similarities. 

Let's call the main character "Blackbird" since we really have no clue who the girl really is or how she ended up being dropped in the middle of Los Angeles subway tracks. From the moment she wakes up, things start rolling forward. First, she has no memories of her past, or who she is, but she does have a tattoo on her right wrist and scars on her body. She apparently has new shoes and clothes and a backpack filled with supplies, including  a phone number telling her to call it before getting the police involved. She then goes on a hunt for answers and ends up in the middle of a twisted life or death struggle.

Blackbird is an interesting character. While slowly regaining some of her memories, she manages to stay one step ahead of her pursuer's, and learns enough to know that she's an unwilling participant in what happened to her. She's feisty, she's strong willed, she knows how to fight with weapons, and she is super fast to the point where's she's managed to outwit nearly everyone. While we do have certain flashbacks, are we supposed to take them as proof of her past, or were they planted to make her compliant? Blackbird is a bit too trusting, and that comes from not understanding the full realities of what has happened to her.

Thankfully, Blackbird is part of a 2 book duology with the second novel releasing Spring of 2015. Yes, folks, there is a cliffhanger ending, and lots, and lots of unanswered questions. Why was she chosen? Who is the mysterious boy she continues to have flashbacks about? How many others are like Blackbird? What does her Tattoo really mean? What was the funeral scene about, and does she have any surviving family members?

Let's hope that Carey doesn't string readers along too long in her concluding novel, or leave us hanging like she did at the end of her Eve series. That would really be a major let down after wading my way through the mine field known as second person narrative.  



Author - Anna Carey   Title - Blackbird (Blackbird Duology # 1)   Published by HarperTeen   Released: September 16, 2014   Genre: YA, Contemporary Thriller   Format: E-Book 256 pages





Tuesday, September 16, 2014

*Gizmos Book Reviews* A Vault of Sins (Chaos Theory #2) by Sarah Harian

**I received this E-book for free via NetGalley/Penguin in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

*Synopsis*

In her stunning New Adult debut, The Wicked We Have Done, Sarah Harian introduced readers to the Compass Room: a twisted experimental jail where the guilty and the innocent suffer alike. But breaking out was only the beginning…

Even though she’s escaped, twenty-two-year-old Evalyn Ibarra is anything but free. She’s desperate to return to a life that no longer exists, but prying reporters continually draw her back into nightmarish memories, using the tabloids to vilify her. Bad press is the last thing she needs during the trial of the year: the case that she and her fellow survivors staked against the Compass Room engineers. A case that could terminate the use of the inhumane system forever...

But in her dreams, she is still locked in that terrifying jail.

When she wakes, someone is trying to communicate with her in secret, through strange and intricate clues. As Evalyn follows their signs, she uncovers a conspiracy that goes so much deeper than her own ordeal. A dangerous intrigue that only she can bring to light. One that will force her to work with the one person she doesn’t want to see.

The person who owns her heart.


*My Thoughts*

A Vault of Sins picks up pretty much where The Wicked We Have Done left off. Even though Evalyn Ibarra, Casey Hargrove, and Valerie Crane have survived their experiences in the Compass Room, they are far from free, and one misstep will lead to their conviction for their previous crimes that got them sent to the CR in the first place.

The emotional and personal tolls from their CR experience add up, and having the DOJ hovering over their lives doesn't exactly help heal the mind, the body, or the soul. Evalyn experiences nightmares, and she blames herself for Jace's death. Even though she survived her trip to the CR with some cunning moves, she still doesn't believe that she's a good person. Her coping mechanism comes from painting and the nearest bottle of alcohol. She also ends up pushing away the one person that could keep her from losing herself entirely; Casey.

Vault introduces readers to a new group of characters who belong to an organization called Reprise. The group is a combination of hackers, and former CR Engineers who created the Bots. Reprise knows the truth about what happened to Evalyn and the others and is prepared to help them against the DOJ. The same DOJ who now wants the Evalyn, Casey, Valerie problem to go away by any means necessary, even if it means sending them back to the CR to face certain death.

While Wicked was filled with action, suspense, romance, and intrigue, Vault becomes more conversational in nature. There is a whole lot more time wandering in the mind of Evalyn and her belief that she some how got away with murder. Vault is definitely more character driven than plot. There is a whole lot of romance in this story that perhaps will keep the New Adult genre readers happy. For me, the romance took up way too much of the storyline that could have been dedicated to something else. 

Just like my previous comments on Wicked, one can presumably avoid the comparisons being made to The Hunger Games by taking Harian's work for what it is. It is an original idea, that challenges readers to put away their preconceived notions and just enjoy the world that she has created. Harian leaves you wondering what other secrets the DOJ holds, and if the answers will ever see the light of day. If you truly learn anything from reading Vault, it is that nothing is what it appears.

While A Vault of Sins unlocks even more secrets of the Compass Room, and once again pits Evalyn and Val against twisted characters that would love nothing more than to kill them, it also leaves some very interesting questions, and avenues for the next story in the series. One can only hope that when all is said and done, that the friendship between Evie and Valerie holds up, and her romance with Casey doesn't take an end run to destruction.

*Recvd 09/08/2014 via NetGalley/Penguin Expected publication: September 16th 2014 by Penguin/InterMix 
Author - Sarah Harian   Title - A Vault of Sins (Chaos Theory # 2)   Published by Penguin/Intermix   Released: September 16, 2014   Genre: Speculative, New Adult   Format: E-Book 257 pages




*J Taylor Publishing Presents* Secret of the Souls ARC Giveaway



J. Taylor Publishing are giving away FIVE ARCs of Secret of the Souls by Terri Rochenski!

Check it out!

Secret of the Souls
Thrust out of their homes by a human High Priest on a vengeful mission, the Natives of Derlund no longer have a place to call their own. One escaped capture, however, and now she, Hyla, is the only one who can save her people. For, Hyla, though, saving her nation isn’t her ultimate goal—returning to the Pool of Souls is. Becoming its Guardian and preserving their faith is her heart’s desire. The perils of her current journey, though, could leave her unable to fulfill that dream. To find her way back to the Pool, Hyla must live among dangerous, powerful humans willing to defend the Natives, and must submit herself—her Talents—to them. While her protection is paramount, plots to end Hyla’s life will push her to her physical and emotional limits. On the edge of sanity, her courage tested, and convictions nearly broken, Hyla’s final test of loyalty to her faith comes with the death of one she could have loved.
Readers will experience Hyla's spiritual and self-discovering journey once more, in this latest addition to the Pool of Souls duology.
And J. Taylor Publishing is giving away FIVE ARC copies.
To YOU!
You don’t even have to be a book blogger!
Nope, so long as you are willing to leave an honest review* by October 12th 2014, you are eligible to enter.
Interested?
Then just fill out the form and keep your fingers crossed.
You have until midnight of September 21st, 2014 to enter.
*A review should consist of your honest thoughts regarding a book, usually a few paragraphs long and around 150 - 500 (or more, if desired) words in length. About Terri Rochenski Terri started writing stories in the 8th grade, when a little gnome whispered in her brain. Gundi’s Great Adventure never hit the best seller list, but it started a long love affair with the fantasy genre. Today she enjoys an escape to Middle Earth during the rare ‘me’ moments her three young children allow. When not playing toys, picking them back up, or kissing boo-boos, she can be found sprawled on the couch with a book or pencil in hand, and toothpicks propping her eyelids open.

Monday, September 15, 2014

*Gizmos Book Reviews* The Wicked We Have Done (Chaos Theory, #1) by Sarah Harian

**I received this E-book for free from Penguin/InterMix Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

*Synopsis*

Twenty-two-year-old Evalyn Ibarra never expected to be an accused killer and experimental prison test subject. A year ago, she was a normal college student. Now she’s been sentenced to a month in the compass room—an advanced prison obstacle course designed by the government to execute justice.

If she survives, the world will know she’s innocent.

Locked up with nine notorious and potentially psychotic criminals, Evalyn must fight the prison and dismantle her past to stay alive. But the system prized for accuracy appears to be killing at random.

She doesn’t plan on making friends.

She doesn’t plan on falling in love, either.


*My Thoughts*

Sarah Harian has created a world where 15-years ago, government scientists created a system that was able to sort out the innocent, from the guilty. Convicted felons are given a choice by the Division of Judicial Technology: spend the rest of your life in prison, or face the Compass Room. The CR forces the participants to face the victims of their crimes in a diabolical and bloody manner. For those who survive the month within the arena of the CR, they go free. Simple right?

22-year old Evalyn Ibarra is the primary character of The Wicked We Have Done. Her momentarily lapse of good judgement while in college caused the death of an innocent teacher and the loss of her freedom. We are told that she is a mass murderer/terrorist because she lead the slaughter of 56 teachers, and students deaths. We are told that she is an uncaring, immoral, and unfeeling killer who needs to die for her crimes against humanity. In fact, she does feel guilty for her participation, and the desire to live isn't high on her list of priorities. So, choosing to face the CR, knowing that death is a distinct possibility, shouldn't surprise anyone.   

At this point, I found myself not giving a shit whether or not Evalyn lived or died. Without any facts to support up my anger, I would have recommended that Evalyn be sent to the Death chamber for her actions. I will probably get booed, and unfollowed for saying this BUT, I do believe in the death penalty in cases of rape, child molestation, murder of police officers, child trafficking, and acts of terrorism against innocent human beings. I think we as a society need to get rid of the electric chair and lethal injections. I believe we should find an easier way to rid society permanently of the scum of the earth which doesn't include tax payer funded 3 meals a day, free TV, and an education throughout life in prison.

Harian's cast of felons include Casey the love interest, Valerie, Jace, and Tanner who have all been charged with everything from rape, to murder, to vehicular homicide, to burning down their own home. Harian chooses to switch from the present to the past with flashbacks of Evalyn's path to a very bad choice and why she seems so determined that the CR kill her without hesitation. Personally, I found a part of this equation lacking, and that was Nick's involvement. Who was he really? Why did he want to create chaos? Why did he pick Evalyn and her best friend Meghan?

Because this is a part of a series, it was obvious that certain aspects about Evalyn's past, and what actually happened on that fateful day, would remain hidden from readers until Harian had no choice but to let go of the secret. Evalyn is a character whose remorse is built in the walls that she puts up around herself to show that she wants to die and isn't afraid. She shows no emotions because she is guilty of killing someone and nothing, no matter what really happened on that fateful day, will change her mind. But, she's also determined to figure out a way to help her fellow inmates who she becomes friends with in finding a way out of the CR alive. She finds courage in the face of hardship. She comes to learn the facts behind the CR, and helps make some sound decisions for the group. 

There is romance built into the story that leads to sexual escapades, and perhaps a bit of insta-romance on the part of both parties. Once again I say to the diversity deniers that you just need to look around and you will easily find it in the most unusual places. The romance is not only between a younger guy and an older woman, but also between two women which was just plain adorable. To anyone who has spoken out against my lack of reading diversity, it's obvious you don't follow me close enough. 

I am tired of the comparisons being made to The Hunger Games. I refuse to accept the comparisons and wish that readers would post their reviews based on the creativity of the author and the story itself. THG was based on a society that continues to pay the ultimate price for a bloody rebellion. Harian's society is perhaps overwhelmed by chaos, and decided to do something about it even though some end up being released back into society by on moral codes. Nobody is FORCING them to face each other in a game of kill, or be killed! I get the disconnect some readers feel as well. There should be no allowances for those who intentionally murder or rape anyone. The CR takes judgment out of the hands of authorities, and puts it into the hands of those who are anything but innocent of their crimes. 

I've been approved for A Vault of Sins (Chaos Theory #2) so I shall be reading that story next. Let the journey continue

Author - Sarah Harian   Title - The Wicked We Have Done   Series - Chaos Theory # 1   Published by Penguin/InterMix Books   Released: March 18, 2014   Genre: Speculative, New Adult   Format: E-Book 244 pages



Sunday, September 14, 2014

*Gizmos Early Reviews* The Perilous Sea (The Elemental Trilogy #2) by Sherry Thomas

**I received this E-book for free from Balzer + Bray via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

*Synopsis*

After spending the summer away from each other, Titus and Iolanthe (still disguised as Archer Fairfax) are eager to return to Eton College to resume their training to fight the Bane. Although no longer bound to Titus by a blood oath, Iolanthe is more committed than ever to fulfilling her destiny—especially with the agents of Atlantis quickly closing in.

Soon after arriving at school, though, Titus makes a shocking discovery, one that makes him question everything he previously believed about their mission. Faced with this devastating realization, Iolanthe is forced to come to terms with her new role, while Titus must choose between following his mother's prophecies—and forging a divergent path to an unknowable future.

*My Thoughts*

"Fortune favors the brave, and the brave make their own fortune!"

Iolanthe Seabourne (aka Archer Fairfax) and Prince Titus's epic journey continues with The Perilous Sea in which fate and destiny are challenged, explored, and ultimately torn apart. The Perilous Sea is not only broken down into two distinct timelines that switch after each chapter, but is also told through the eyes of both characters. This all leads to a cliffhanger ending and the next step in the battle with the Bane, leader of Atlantis.

The first timeline happens after Iola and Titus wake up in the middle of the Sahara Desert without any memories of how they got there, or who they really are. As this is "current" events, readers have no clue how we got from the end of The Burning Sky to here. While switching between past and present is often times discombobulating, Thomas's choice eventually works out when the timelines ultimately connect and the answers are laid out for you. Iola and Titus's Saharan journey is fraught with danger, stimulating chase scenes filled with Atlanteans, wyverns, chariots, as well as meeting new allies in their mission to defeat the Bane.

The second begins seven weeks in the past while the Eton school is on summer break and ultimately bridges the gap between the ending of The Burning Sky and the present. Iola and Titus each have their own trials at Eton. After a rather mysterious event happens to one of the secondary characters named Wintervale, it throws everything that Titus believed in into disarray and leaves Iola questioning her worth in battling Bane. The second time line is perhaps the more telling of the two. Things happen to shake the very foundation of both characters lives, truths are slowly revealed, and nothing will be the same again.

The one thing that aggravates me in any series, is when a character like Titus, who supposedly adores and cherishes Iola, suddenly makes stupid choices that ultimately leads to heart break, and pain that could have been avoided. This story started out as a decision between accepting destiny, and throwing caution to the wind and following your own path. His inability to put his mother's dairy aside and trusting Iola and his instincts made me want to scream like a wild cat. It was painful to watch Iola as she finds herself in an entirely different role, that of being a supporting cast member, rather than the star of the battle between good and evil. But, never doubt the love that exists between Iola and Titus. Titus may be a blunder head at times, but he would cross an ocean filled with sharks to protect her.    

While The Burning Sky focused on Titus's mother and her sad fate, this time Thomas explores Iola's heritage which I have been wondering about from the beginning of the trilogy. Who was Iola's real parents? What really happened to them? How did she end up with Haywood as her mentor, and protector? I won't spoil the answers, or what truths are revealed, but I will say that things definitely take on a different aspect once all avenues are explored. Memories are a major factor in this story, or the lack of them. Memories are a very powerful thing but once they are gone, or removed, the search for the truth becomes that much harder to overcome.

I love the fact that there isn't a love triangle tossed into this story. The romance between Iola and Titus is solid as a rock and doesn't need any unnecessary interruptions to break it up. I liked that Thomas explored more of the students at Eton, and they weren't just there for background noise. I liked that Kashkari played more than a supporting role this time out. I also liked his family angle, as well as his abilities that lead him into being more than a bit player but an ally.

I believe The Perilous Sea is more action packed than The Burning Sky and covers some interesting ground. I would like to know more about the non mage, vs mage worlds in how they are connected. We really haven't dived into how one timeline can be 1833, while another is YD1007. I miss time spent in the Crucible. I enjoyed Iola's adventures while she was learning how to defeat the Bane with her powerful elemental magic. I really can't wait until we travel to Atlantis, and Thomas tells us where it is located. I also want to understand whether or not there is actually a Chosen one, or if it really matters when all is said and done.

The last installment will be released September 2015, and I am eager to take one last journey with Thomas's fantastic world building, and the characters she's created.  

Author - Sherry Thomas   Title - The Perilous Sea   Series - The Elemental Trilogy # 2   Published by Balzer + Bray   Released date: September 16, 2014   Genre: Young Adult Fantasy   Format: E-Book 432 pages




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