ARC Review: If Birds Fly Back by Carlie Sorosiak

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Author: Carlie Sorosiak
Publisher: Macmillan Children's
Release date: 29th June 2017
Genre: YA, Romance, Contemporary
Pages: 352
Source: review copy
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Linny has been living life in black and white since her sister Grace ran away, and she's scared that Grace might never come back. When Linny witnesses the return to Miami of a cult movie star long presumed dead, she is certain it's a sign. Surely Álvaro Herrera, of all people, can tell her why people come back - and how to bring her sister home?
Sebastian has come to Miami seeking his father, a man whose name he's only just learned. An aspiring astrophysicist, he can tell Linny how many galaxies there are, how much plutonium weighs and how likely she is to be struck by a meteorite. But none of the theories he knows are enough to answer his own questions about why his father abandoned him, and why it left him in pieces.
As Sebastian and Linny converge around the mystery of Álvaro's disappearance - and return - their planets start to collide. Linny's life is about to become technicolor, but finding the answers to her questions might mean losing everything that matters.
If Birds Fly Back by Carlie Sorosiak was one of my most anticipated debuts of 2017 and I was lucky enough to be sent an ARC by the lovely people over at Macmillan Children's as part of their lucky dip! As always, in no way does this affect the honesty of my review.
The story is split between two POVs; Linny and Sebastian. Linny is known by most as 'camera girl' because she spends most of her time filming and her camera is like an extension of her. Her sister, Grace, who was also her best friend, recently vanished leaving behind a note and a broken family. Since her sister's disappearance, Linny has grown obsessed with disappearance cases. Specifically those where the individuals have returned. At the beginning of most of her chapters, we are introduced to a new case and I just felt the need to mention this because they are super interesting. And then we have Sebastian. Cute, dorky, aspiring astrophysicist Sebastian. Though I loved Linny, I think I most enjoyed reading Sebastian's perspective because I found myself laughing a lot more. Even if I wanted to punch his friend Micah in the face most of the time.
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Linny and Sebastian are both struggling with their own predicaments, both involving abandonment. Linny wants to know how her sister could have left without telling her, or without taking her along. Sebastian wants to know how his father could have abandoned him and his mother. They find comfort and understanding in one another, and though Sebastian keeps his intentions secret for a while, he grows close to Linny and we see a friendship-romance blossom.

If I had to sum up If Birds Fly Back in a single word, that word would probably be 'addicting'. I read the story in two sittings; half in one evening, and then the second half the next evening. Even when I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it and forced myself to get through uni assignments so that I could spend the entire evening bingeing it without feeling too guilty.

If you're a fan of Rainbow Rowell, Jen E. Smith, Morgan Matson, or just contemporary romance in general, I advise you check out Carlie Sorosiak's stunning and addicting debut. The characters were diverse, flawed and honest, and had me rooting for them the entire way through. The romance made my heart melt. I laughed, I cried, and despite the literal storm going on in the background (you suck, Storm Doris) Carlie's writing transported me to a scorching summer in Miami, on a wild adventure. I will definitely be rereading this as soon as the weather begins to warm up, and recommending it as the perfect summer read.

Rating: ★★★★★

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Review: Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

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Author: Alwyn Hamilton
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Release date: 2nd Feb 2017
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Pages: 592
Source: eBook from NetGalley
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This is not about blood or love. This is about treason. Nearly a year has passed since Amani and the rebels won their epic battle at Fahali. Amani has come into both her powers and her reputation as the Blue-Eyed Bandit, and the Rebel Prince's message has spread across the desert - and some might say out of control. But when a surprise encounter turns into a brutal kidnapping, Amani finds herself betrayed in the cruellest manner possible.Stripped of her powers and her identity, and torn from the man she loves, Amani must return to her desert-girl's instinct for survival. For the Sultan's palace is a dangerous one, and the harem is a viper's nest of suspicion, fear and intrigue. Just the right place for a spy to thrive... But spying is a dangerous game, and when ghosts from Amani's past emerge to haunt her, she begins to wonder if she can trust her own treacherous heart.
Where to even start? How about a quick reminder of my love for Rebel of the Sands? You can read my full review of REBEL here! Now, on to the sequel. I pretty much would have sold my soul to get my hands on Traitor to the Throne. In fact, I did, and managed to get hold of a SDCC bound manuscript aka the holy grail of ARCs.
You know when you have a book you really want in your hands and you sit there and stroke it and pet it and love it but then don't want to start it just yet? That sort of happened. I blame exams but I was also a little hesitant because the copy I had was pre-edits. But then NetGalley came to the rescue with a finished e-Copy sent straight to my kindle and I came out of my last exam and started it straight away. As soon as I was a few pages into Traitor to the Throne, I was giddy with nostalgia. I absolutely loved the world in Rebel of the Sands and was beyond excited to be returning to it. I promised myself I'd be more critical and articulate when reviewing books this year but I actually just want to screech about how much I adore these books. So, to refrain from doing so I will break it down for you all:

The characters: if you like to read (or even watch movies) you probably agree that the best villains are the ones that make us sympathetic to their cause. There shouldn't be a clear line between good/bad because that would just be boring. Alwyn nails this. The Sultan is evil. Or is he? The way his character is written in this story makes us question everything we'd gathered from the first book about right and wrong, and I found myself actually starting to like the Sultan?!

For my sister... I would set the sea on fire.

Shazad Al-Hamad is one of my most favourite characters, ever. I know that's a bold statement to make, but seriously. I could read on and on about the beautiful, dangerous female who everyone undermines because she's a female/pretty/daughter of a well-known Mirajin General etc. etc. etc. but is actually an intelligent strategist for the Rebel Prince and one of the original members of the rebellion and in all honesty, Ahmed and his rebellion would be nowhere without Shaz. Her friendship with Amani, the banter and the love and respect they have for each other concealed by thinly-veiled sarcastic snipes, . We also get to learn more about the Demdji we'd encountered in Rebel, and meet more of the Sultan's sons which I was actually looking forward to and very much enjoyed. I found myself comparing them to Jin and Ahmed but they were all quite different and I kept hoping for random events that would lead to Shazad meeting Kadir and tearing him to shreds. That would've been fun.
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The romance: Jin is my soulmate. I have claimed him as my own little cinnamon roll. The romance wasn't a huge factor in this book which I think was actually great because it allowed the focus to be on the plot but it was also always there in the background and the chemistry and friendship between Amani and Jin melts my heart.
The setting: Alwyn Hamilton's world-building is probably what makes these books so addicting, other than the characters. The mix between the wild west, and Arabian desert full of djinn, mythical creatures and a devious Sultan (not to mention all the hot princes, seriously). 
The writing: there was a lot more mythology and magic present in this book than there was in the first which I thought was incorporated beautifully into the story.
The plot twists: every time I thought I knew something, something else flew out of nowhere and the story itself was just so gripping, action-filled, and had enough dilemma that I was actually worried for Amani and the others for most of the book. (Still am, to be frank).

Overall, Traitor to the Throne was a sequel that I could've only hoped for. A strong, adventure full of lovable characters and myths. All I can say that it is an actual roller-coaster of emotions and I will be waiting with bated breath for book number three!

Rating: ★★★★★
Favourite quote: “I thought of Shazad. My sister in arms. We had recognised something in each other the first time we met and we were tied. By more than blood.”

BEHOLD: the new US covers
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I just felt the need to share these new, gorgeous US covers.
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Review: Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff

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Author: Maria Turtschaninoff
Publisher: Pushkin Children's Book
Release date: 17th January 2016
Genre: YA, Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 137
Source: review copy
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Maresi came to the Red Abbey when she was thirteen, in the Hunger Winter. Before then, she had only heard rumours of its existence in secret folk tales. In a world where girls aren't allowed to learn or do as they please, an island inhabited solely by women sounded like a fantasy. But now Maresi is here, and she knows it is real. She is safe.
Then one day Jai tangled fair hair, clothes stiff with dirt, scars on her back arrives on a ship. She has fled to the island to escape terrible danger and unimaginable cruelty. And the men who hurt her will stop at nothing to find her.
Now the women and girls of the Red Abbey must use all their powers and ancient knowledge to combat the forces that wish to destroy them. And Maresi, haunted by her own nightmares, must confront her very deepest, darkest fears.
A story of friendship and survival, magic and wonder, beauty and terror, Maresi will grip you and hold you spellbound.
Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff was at the very top of my TBR/most anticipated in 2016 before it came out, I even got a hardback copy for myself so I'm not sure why I only ended up reading it a year later. I had heard that it was a short, adventurous read full of magic and feminism. I have to agree with the hype here. In under 200 pages, Maria manages to weave a unique and gripping adventure that was truly spellbinding.

I started my day off with Maresi as I read it in a single go in bed and I can honestly say that I have probably never been more productive. Maresi was inspiring as well as addictive. It was a little bit dark, exposing the very real mistreatment of women and girls that continues to occur all over the world, and gender inequality. But it also showed us the strength of girl power, of a sisterhood that sticks together and protects each other like family.
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I thought Maresi was quite an interesting character. She was brave but a little overexcited and clumsy at times. I loved that her favourite hideout was a library which she dubbed the treasure trove, I wish I could spend my afternoons locked away in there reading. I also really enjoyed her friendship with Jai which is pretty central to the story.
Maresi is a stunningly powerful read, and I really wish there was a sequel but thankfully, there is a prequel being released soon!

Rating: ★★★★
Favourite quote: “She does not know how to feel safe.” As I said it I knew it was true. “We will have to teach her how.”

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Review: Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

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Author: Ayisha Malik
Publisher: twenty7
Release date: 3rd September 2015
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Fiction
Pages: 464
Source: purchased copy
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"Brilliant idea! Excellent! Muslim dating? Well, I had no idea you were allowed to date.' Then he leaned towards me and looked at me sympathetically. 'Are your parents quite disappointed?'
Unlucky in love once again after her possible-marriage-partner-to-be proves a little too close to his parents, Sofia Khan is ready to renounce men for good. Or at least she was, until her boss persuades her to write a tell-all expose about the Muslim dating scene.
As her woes become her work, Sofia must lean on the support of her brilliant friends, baffled colleagues and baffling parents as she goes in search of stories for her book. In amongst the marriage-crazy relatives, racist tube passengers and decidedly odd online daters, could there be a a lingering possibility that she might just be falling in love . . . ?
Ayisha Malik's Sofia Khan is Not Obliged is labelled a 'heartwarming romantic comedy' and I can't think of anything that better encapsulates what this story is about. I wasn't expecting to laugh as much as I did when reading this book but it was hilarious, (like laugh-out-loud on the tube and have people stare at you for the next three stops, funny).

So, the story follows Sofia Khan while she attempts to write a book about Muslims dating which has many (hilarious) twists and turns. Ayisha Malik manages to honestly portray a lifestyle of the average, Western, Muslim woman without generalising or attempting to suggest all Muslim women who live in London are a carbon copy of this main character, She explores the lifestyles of a number of different Muslim women and men in a single story, portraying a realistic painting of the different roles religion plays in individual lives.
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As a young Muslim woman who lives in London, I really connected with Sofia Khan on many levels and just as a main character, she made me laugh and I instantly loved reading from her perspective. She's sarcastic and snarky, and a lot of the issues she faced being a hijabi in a Western society, from family members and strangers alike, I have also experienced, so I felt a strong sense of empathy and attachment towards her.

Sofia Khan is Not Obliged was honestly addictive and I cannot wait for the second book, and anything else Ayisha Malik writes in the future. Will definitely be shoving this on to all of my reader and non-reader friends.

Favourite quotes:
"Where's your umbrella?"
"Why do you think I wear a hijab? Part religious reasons, part good sense."
Rating: ★★★★★
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ARC Review: Windfall by Jen E. Smith

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Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Publisher: Macmillan Children's
Release date: 4th May 2017
Genre: YA, Romance, Contemporary
Pages: 432
Source: review copy from LoveReadingUK
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Alice doesn’t believe in luck—at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday—just when it seems they might be on the brink of something—she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes. At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune. As a kid, Alice won the worst kind of lottery possible when her parents died just over a year apart from each other. And Teddy’s father abandoned his family not long after that, leaving them to grapple with his gambling debts. Through it all, Teddy and Alice have leaned on each other. But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy’s newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall. As they try to find their way back to each other, Alice learns more about herself than she ever could have imagined . . . and about the unexpected ways in which luck and love sometimes intersect.
At one point a couple of years ago when I first started hardcore bingeing YA books, I stumbled across one of Jennifer E. Smith's books. I can't remember which one exactly, but I remember after the first, I went back to the store and bought two more of her books. She quickly became one of my favourite contemporary YA writers, and even now when my TBR is 99% YA fantasy, I still get super excited for her books. (Along with Jenny Han, Rainbow Rowell and Catherine Doyle). Windfall was no exception!

The story follows Alice, her cousin Leo - who is more like her brother since she's been living with his family, and Teddy. Alice had a difficult childhood, both her parents died a year apart and so she's been living with her cousin Leo's family. I think we’ve all either been asked, or have asked the question ‘what would you do if you won the lottery?’ 
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Alice buys a ticket for her best friend, Teddy, on his 18th birthday as a joke and they actually win. They hit the jackpot, winning millions and millions. Alice and Teddy both had rough childhoods. For Alice, her parents died a year apart, which has made her fear change. For Teddy, it was an absent father with a gambling addiction. Winning the lottery is the best thing that could have happened – at least, that’s what Teddy thinks. Alice on the other hand isn’t so sure and this makes for a fantastic, uplifting adventure that explores young romance, friendship, embracing change, and fate. 

Windfall makes for a fantastic, laughter-filled and uplifting adventure that explores young romance, friendship, embracing change, and fate. As always, Jennifer E. Smith is the Queen of Contemporary. This book isn't only about embracing change, but creating our own luck and fate. It's warm, moving, and ends on a note of hope and optimism.

(Honestly, exactly what I needed, finishing up my last term at uni).

Rating: ★★★★
Favourite quote:
"We have all sorts of words that could describe us. But we get to choose which ones are most important." 


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INK Blog Tour: Guest Post by Alice Broadway

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The cover for INK by Alice Broadway (which was released Feb 2nd) has to be one of the most stunning covers I've ever seen, and the story sounds absolutely fantastic and a little dark so I'm definitely looking forward to reading it. As part of the blog tour, the wonderful Alice Broadway has put together a fan cast for her characters in INK. But with a twist. Instead of a typical fan cast, she's taken her own approach and added a quirky twist...

It is so lovely to be here to talk a bit about the characters in my debut YA novel, Ink. I have a bit of a thing about putting faces to fictional characters: it’s one of my favourite things to do as a reader – I love having a picture in my mind of the characters I read. For that reason, I’m not going to tell you who my characters look like in my mind or attempt to fan-cast them (I know, cop out). I’ll leave that treat for you. But, I’m a nosy type and I wondered if you’d like to know what some of my main characters keep in their pockets.

Leora (aged 16, trainee inker):
In Leora’s pocket she keeps a drawing of her and her best friend Verity, a note from Oscar (she would be mortified if you knew she’d kept it), a stub of pencil, plus random bits of change from her last trip to the market. When you read Ink, you’ll discover that Leora finds something else in her pocket – something she didn’t put there.

Verity (Leora’s best friend and a trainee in the government):
Very would definitely have a hair tie, and even if she put her hair up in a messy bun, she would still look awesome. She would have a spare, folded map of the government building – not that she needs it, but it’s always best to be prepared. She’d also have a napkin from the cake she ate earlier – it was made by her bother, Seb and she can’t resist his baking.

Oscar (a mysterious new friend):
The only thing in Oscar’s pockets are his hands, but he has a scruffy leather satchel which he carries everywhere. It is filled with beautiful paper, random scraps of leather and twine and his bookbinding knife.

Obel (Leora’s boss):
In Obel’s back pocket is a small worn out, leather bound notebook which is tied closed. He’s used an intricate knot: he would know if you’d tried to open it.

Mel (Leora’s mentor and town storyteller):
Mel’s uniform means she has no pockets, which she is resigned to. On her desk are piles of books and she would love to be able to take them around with her. As it is, she is story enough.

Mayor Longsight (He’s in charge of Saintstone):
Well, you have to be wearing clothes to have pockets, and Mayor Longsight isn’t that into clothing.

I hope that gives you enough to intrigue you? If I showed you what was in my own pockets, it would be an unimpressive array of tissues, receipts and shopping lists, it wouldn’t tell you much about me except that I buy a lot of tea and croissants. Ink is about a world where the story you leave behind when you die is the one thing worth living for. But is it worth dying for?

This has to be one of the most interesting guest posts I've had (I think I'm already attracted to Oscar simply by what's in his pockets, is that weird?) I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I did! I'm looking forward to diving in to INK and I hope you are, too.

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Every action, every deed, every significant moment is tattooed on your skin for ever. When Leora's father dies, she is determined to see her father remembered forever. She knows he deserves to have all his tattoos removed and made into a Skin Book to stand as a record of his good life. But when she discovers that his ink has been edited and his book is incomplete, she wonders whether she ever knew him at all.
(summary from Goodreads page)


About the Author
Alice Broadway drinks more tea than is really necessary loves writing in her yellow camper van. She hates being too cold or too hot, and really likes wearing lipstick and watching terrible Christmas movies.



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Wintersong Blog Tour: Favourite Retellings

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Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones is one of my most anticipated releases this year and the summary sounds fantastic, I can't even lie. And I have great news, Wintersong is out TODAY and to celebrate, I have a guest post written specially by S. Jae-Jones on her favourite fairytale retellings!

If you slap the word “re-telling” on a book jacket, chances are high that I’ll pick it up immediately. I enjoy reading another author’s take on a familiar tale; it’s like listening to different musicians cover the same song. Everyone has their own interpretation, and I love experiencing what each artist has to bring to the table.
There are many, many re-tellings I love—from the incredibly faithful to the “loosely inspired by”—and the following are a handful of favorites which have been significant in my life.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
I remember the first time I picked up Ella Enchanted; I was 10 years old and browsing the children’s section of my hometown bookstore. I pulled this slim hardback from the shelves and started reading, hooked from the first lines: “That fool of a fairy Lucinda did not intend to lay a curse on me. She meant to bestow a gift.” Ella Enchanted is delightful. There’s simply no other word for it. It is charming, funny, and adorably romantic, but moreover, it turns the much-martyred-and-put-upon Cinderella into a feisty, willful heroine. I still reread this as an adult, and it still makes me chuckle every time.

Beauty by Robin McKinley
I would be remiss if I did not mention Beauty by Robin McKinley, which was an enormous influence on my own book. As far as re-tellings of Beauty and the Beast, this was far and away my favorite (even above her other re-telling of the same story, Rose Daughter). The Danish have a word, hygge, which loosely translates into a warm, cozy feeling. Beauty is my re-telling hygge. It doesn’t stray far from the original fairy tale, but it adds some lovely touches here and there, such as Beauty’s close relationship with her sisters. Everyone in this book is so likeable, I want the best for them. Rereading this book is like spending time with a group of people I love.

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire
Cinderella isn’t a favorite fairy tale of mine, yet there are two re-tellings on my list. This was one of the first re-retellings I ever read that was set in an actual past instead of a nebulous “once upon a time.” What I loved most about Confessions is that Gregory Maguire showed me that fairy tales could grow up with me, become morally ambiguous, and shed light on abuse as skillfully as other literary works.

White as Snow by Tanith Lee
To be honest, I’m not sure what to make of this re-telling of Snow White, and perhaps that why this book as stuck with me as long as it has. There is a dream-like quality this book, and by dream-like, I mean a strange, shivery, unsettling quality. This re-telling is dark and examines hard and uncomfortable themes in ways that I’m not sure I like, yet can’t quite forget. Despite how troubled this book made me feel, it’s the darkness within I loved best.

I hope you enjoyed reading that as much as I did! I'm a huge fan of fairytale retellings and I can't wait to read Wintersong! You can find the summary and links down below.

About the book
Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.
All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.
But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.
Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.
(summary from Goodreads page)
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About the Author
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S. Jae-Jones (called JJ) is an artist, an adrenaline junkie, and erstwhile editrix. When not obsessing over books, she can be found jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, co-hosting the Pub(lishing) Crawl podcast, or playing dress-up. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she now lives in North Carolina, as well as many other places on the internet, including Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, and her blog. Wintersong is her debut novel. 
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