Book Review: Backyard Witchcraft by Cecilia Lattari

About the book, Backyard Witchcraft backyardwitchcraft-cover

• Publisher: Ixia Press (September 14, 2022)
• Paperback: 160 pages

Embark on an exploration of modern-day witchcraft, embracing the green path, which connects us to nature.

Herbalist Cecilia Lattari guides readers to reawaken their inner witch by tuning in to the magic and sacred energies of their everyday lives, using the hidden powers of nature to foster positive connections between mind, body, spirit, and living spaces. Filled with colorful, compelling illustrations, this handbook introduces green, hedge, and kitchen witches. Readers will learn how to create their own witch’s tool kits, purify their homes, work with the four natural elements, build magic laboratories, and discover the path that encourages a harmonious transformation.

  • The green witch is a manifestation of Mother Earth, who nurtures, cares, and observes. She practices with herbs, flowers, plants, and remedies, and surely has volumes upon volumes of plant books on her bookshelves.
  • For the kitchen witch food is a gift from Mother Earth. The kitchen is this witch’s sacred space, involving spells of tradition and creation. She works with ordinary tools and knows that cooking reveals our true nature. The kitchen witch understands the sacred aspects of everyday life as she prepares recipes for sacred foods.
  • The eclectic path of the hedge witch includes herbalism, healing, and shamanistic actions. Her focus is the home, and she knows the power of fables and preserves popular knowledge.
  • Take a guided tour of herbs, flowers, plants, poisonous plants, potions, oils, teas, tinctures, and remedies.
  • Learn the magical practices of purification using herbs, bells, candles, and incense.
  • Get in touch with nature by preparing a sacred outdoor space and centering yourself.
  • Learn to grow, harvest, and dry herbs and understand the difference between air, fire, land, and water plants.
  • Observe how the four elements of air, earth, fire, and wind carry messages from nature through various types of plants.

For the modern-day Wicca, backyard gardener, and naturalist, this indispensable guide offers an exploration of the intimate relationship between humans and Mother Earth.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Cecilia Lattari

Cecilia Lattari is a professional actress who graduated from the School of Theater in Bologna and has a degree in Herbalist Techniques. She works in the field of relationships, stimulating people to know the most authentic part of themselves using theatrical practices and sensorial experiences in the world of plants.


My ThoughtsMissMeliss

I have friends who identify as kitchen witches and hedge witches, but I’ve never really known the difference or how those terms apply in the contemporary world. This book, Backyard Witchcraft, is an easy but interesting read that explains the different terms and also introduces people to some of the traits that all witches have, even before they self-identify as such. “All witches have a garden,” is one of the things that really struck me, because while no one in my family practices Wicca, we all have gardens of some kind. Mine is mainly in pots, but apparently that counts. Even having a stash of seeds you intend to plant some day (hi, guilty) counts according to this book.

More than just quietly identifying latent witches, though, Backyard Witchcraft is part manual, part love letter to anyone who wants to get closer to the natural world. Understanding how the elements – fire, water, air, land –  work may seem like magic, but it’s really applied science and observation. Sun-loving plants have different needs from those which prefer shade, after all.

This is one of those books that you can read from cover to cover, but that may be more useful stashed among your cookbooks (especially if you’re a kitchen witch) or herbals (if you’re a green or hedge witch) for reference whenever you need it.

With beautiful pages and clear, concise prose, Backyard Witchcraft is a beautiful addition to anyone’s library, whether they’re a witch or not.

Goes well with: hot herbal tea laced with local honey.


Visit the Other Great Stops on This Tour:

Wednesday, September 14th: Instagram: @drcreadsbooks

Tuesday, September 20th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, September 21st: TikTok: @jessbeyondthepages

Friday, September 23rd: Instagram: @oddandbookish

Monday, September 26th: Stranded in Chaos

Wednesday, September 28th: Instagram: @bookedwithheather

Thursday, September 29th: Kahakai Kitchen

Monday, October 3rd: Instagram: @parksidereads

Tuesday, October 4th: Instagram: @webreakforbooks

Wednesday, October 5th: Instagram: @jypsylynn

Thursday, October 6th: Instagram: @just_another_mother_with_books

Friday, October 14th: Instagram: @books_bulldogs_booze

TBD: Stacy’s Books

TBD: Instagram: @a_bookish_dream

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Book Review: Moral Code, by Lois & Ross Melbourne

About the book, Moral CodeMoral Code - cover

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Nonlinear Publishing, LLC (September 15, 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 380 pages

Dr. Keira Stetson has two passions: ethical artificial intelligence—AI with a conscience—and creating technology that improves children’s lives. Trapped in an earthquake-flattened building with a half-dozen panicked five-year-olds, she fears the worst. When billionaire Roy Brandt leverages his mysterious nanite technology to rescue them, she’s both grateful and intrigued.

Impressed by his prototype technology but alarmed at its potential for exploitation, Keira merges her company with Brandt’s. The merger gives Keira access to much-needed funds for the development of her own tech, and access to Brandt’s powerful minuscule robots. In turn, she and her AI assistant, Elly, embed Keira’s trademark Moral Operating System in Brandt’s nanite SmartDust to rein in its power.

But Brandt’s technology has been kept secret for a reason. Though he’s adamant about using the Dust to improve life, not destroy it, corporate raiders and the military have other ideas. They want to weaponize Brandt’s nanites. Suddenly, everything Keira has worked for is in jeopardy. Exposed to the worst humanity has to offer, she and Elly must fight to use this newfound tech for good and keep it out of the wrong hands…before it’s too late.

For fans of “Catfishing on CatNet” and the “Murderbot Diaries,” “Moral Code” eloquently and excitedly explores how artificial intelligence can not only set moral boundaries — but also how they can revolutionize the future.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads


About the authors, Lois & Ross Melbourne Lois and Ross Melbourne

Moral Code” is not the first collaboration for Lois and Ross Melbourne. Side-by-side, they grew their software business to a global award-winning organization, as CEO and Chief Technology Officer, respectively. Now Lois’ storytelling brings to life Ross’ deep understanding of the possibilities within artificial intelligence and robotics. Parenting and marriage have been the easy part of this equation.

Lois is now writing books, having published two children’s books about exploring careers. “Moral Code” is her first but not her last novel. You can learn more about Lois at www.loismelbourne.com. Ross’ current work includes artificial intelligence and robotics. You can learn more about him at www.rossmelbourne.com. And for more about them and the book, you can visit, www.MoralCodeTheBook.com.

Connect with Lois and Ross

Twitter (Lois) | Twitter (Ross) | Instagram (Lois)


My ThoughtsMissMeliss

I confess: I have a thing for Artificial Intelligence. Whether it’s  Lt. Commander Data in the Star Trek franchise, William, the emotional holographic representation of the ship’s interface in Another Life, Isaac in The Orville, or the robots in Asimov’s work, I’m there for their development, equally happy whether they grow closer to humanity or remain distinct from it. When I was given the chance to review Moral Code, then, you better believe I jumped that the chance. And wow, I’m glad I did!

Moral Code is a novel that celebrates both women in STEM fields and the possibilities that come as artificial intelligence continues to be developed. We first meet Elly, a character in her own right, who is Keira’s virtual assistant. From the beginning, Elly shows signs of being more than the sum of her programming, and it’s fascinating to watch the story unold and see her creep ever closer to consciousness, while still being beholden to the “moral code” of the title – which is sort of an ethical subroutine, but one that can grow and one that is situational.

Then come the nanites. Created by Roy Brandt, these are deployed in a rescue mission after Keira is trapped by an earthquake, and while they are also a form of AI, unlike Elly, they don’t really have a personality or a name. Elly is an assistant; the nanites are tools, at least for now.

The relationship between Keira and Roy is also interesting to watch. Keira is a strong, self-possessed woman who is both creative and extremely knowledgeable. Roy has the arrogance that comes with money and success, but while he’s an antagonist to Keira at times, he’s never a villain. If anything, the villain in this story is human greed and corruption.

Lois and Ross Melbourne have crafted a well-paced story that balances humanity and AI, and feels plausible, if not right now, than in our near-future. From the smallest child in the class Keira visits to the various engineers at Brandt’s company, the characters all feel dimensional and real. My husband works in tech, and I have encountered many of the personalities depicted in this story. What I truly appreciated, though, was that there was never too much technobabble, and when things did get extremely technical, they were accompanied with explanations that less tech-savvy readers will understand, and – even better – nothing ever felt like there was too much exposition.

Bottom line: if you love real science in your science fiction, if you’re fond of artificial intelligence, and if you really want to see more strong female characters in STEM fields, this book is for you.

Goes well with: Dr. Pepper and nacho cheese Doritos, the unofficial snack of geeks everywhere.


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Review and Giveaway: Pictures of the Shark, by Thomas H. McNeely

BNR Pictures of the Shark

 

About the book, Pictures of the Shark

  • Short Stories / Southern Fiction / Coming of Age
  • Publisher: Texas Review Press
  • Date of Publication: July 12, 2022
  • Number of Pages: 205 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Cover Pictures of the SharkA sudden snowfall in Houston reveals family secrets. A trip to Universal Studios to snap a picture of the shark from Jaws becomes a battle of wills between father and son. A midnight séance and the ghost of Janis Joplin conjure the mysteries of sex. A young boy’s pilgrimage to see Elvis Presley becomes a moment of transformation. A young woman discovers the responsibilities of talent and freedom.

Pictures of the Shark, by Houston native and Dobie Paisano award-winning author Thomas H. McNeely, traces a young man’s coming of age and falling apart. From the rough and tumble of Houston’s early seventies East End to the post-punk Texas bohemia of late eighties Austin, this novel in stories examines what happens when childhood trauma haunts adult lives.

PRAISE FOR PICTURES OF THE SHARK:

  •  “McNeely’s brilliant stories are filled with delicious menace and heartbreaking hope.” – Pamela Painter, author of What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers and Fabrications: New and Selected Stories
  • “In these gorgeously crafted interlinked stories, Thomas McNeely demonstrates once again an uncanny ability to illuminate the darkest emotional corners of his characters with a vision that is as tender and compassionate as it is unflinching.” – Antonio Ruiz-Camacho, author of Barefoot Dogs
  • “With masterful prose, McNeely draws you down into emotional depths where your ambivalence and confusion show you at your most profoundly human. These stories hook you quickly and deeply and keep you even after they end. – C.W. Smith, author of Steplings, Buffalo Nickel, and Understanding Women

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Purchase | Goodreads

 


About the author, Thomas H. McNeely

Author Photo McNeelyThomas H. McNeely is an Eastside Houston native. He has published short stories and nonfiction in The Atlantic, Texas Monthly, Ploughshares, and many other magazines and anthologies, including Best American Mystery Stories and Algonquin Books’ Best of the South. His stories have been shortlisted for the Pushcart Prize, Best American Short Stories, and O. Henry Award anthologies. He has received National Endowment for the Arts, Wallace Stegner, and MacDowell Colony fellowships for his fiction. His first book, Ghost Horse, won the Gival Press Novel Award and was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize in Writing. He currently teaches in the Stanford Online Writing Studio and at Emerson College, Boston.

Connect with Thomas:

WEBSITE  |  FACEBOOK  |  TWITTER | AMAZON  | GOODREADS

Connect with Texas Review Press

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK  |  TWITTER


My Thoughts

MissMelissI love short stories. I mean, I love novels and biographies, but it takes a special kind of talent to tell a complete story in a relatively few words. In his eight-story collection, Pictures of the Shark, Thomas H. McNeely shows that he has a great amount of talent, and is using it wisely.

To be honest, he had me at the word “scraggly,” used to describe someone’s beard. I use that word, but most people I know (and most people I read) do not, so when I saw that word in the opening story, “Snow, Houston, 1974,” I knew that I would love the language this author uses, and I was not wrong. His stories are somber, even dark, but his prose rises from the page, and grabs you by the wrists demanding that you pay attention.

I found myself shivering when six year old Buddy Turner experiences his first snow in 1974. Having lived through two extreme winter storms in Texas (Dallas county, in my case, but still rare) I was hit in the gut with the description of the aftermath:

“Now, the weatherman reported gas fires and burst water mains and houses whose roofs had caved in. Some neighborhoods, he said, were without electricity or telephones. Buddy began to worry about Grandma Liddy. Grandma Liddy and he made plans to buy a cassette recorder with cigarette coupons, to write President Nixon and ask him why he lied, to build a miniature city out of matchboxes and toilet paper rolls. They had already started the city, chalking streets on the threadbare carpet in his mother’s old room.”

It’s simple language, matter of fact, and almost Hemingway-esque at times, but it’s effective.

In addition to McNeely’s use of language, I also appreciated his ability to find and convey the emotional tone of every piece. The early stories in Buddy’s life (though not necessarily in the book, as it jumps around in time a little) have threads of hope running through them. The stories where Buddy is older and disillusioned feel darker and have a bitter quality. The pieces where we see Buddy as a young man are laden with sadness and wasted possibilities. And yet, not a single story was dull or made me want to skim it. Rather, I was riveted. “Hester,” especially, had me fascinated because it’s really the only story where we have another perspective, and see Buddy through another person’s eyes.

Speaking of people, Buddy, his mother (Margot) and his father (Jimmy) are the central characters, and each one is interesting on their own. Buddy, of course, is the boy whose family is unhappy, and who seems to know too much and not enough, afraid of becoming his father, but also so close to doing so. Everything I learned about Margot made we wish for a collection from her perspective – her youth and young womanhood. Jimmy is a perfect tragic figure, and some of the scenes, where he seems about to resort to violence, but doesn’t, had me flashing back to my own memories of an abusive partner my mother once had.

In fact, the only reason I didn’t read all eight of these stories in one sitting was that the emotions were so vivid and plausible that I had to step away.

In the beginning of his book, Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy wrote, “All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” In Pictures of the Shark, Thomas H. McNeely has given us a visceral look at an extremely unhappy family, and shown us how that unhappiness echoes through all their lives. This is made most evident in the final entry in this collection, “Little Deaths:”

“I’d come to the University as a National Merit Scholar, but now lived off my mother’s credit card. I never visited my mother, because she reminded me both of my rotten childhood and my receding promise: my AP classes, my high school English honors, the expectation even by my family that I would become a writer.”

Buddy Turner may never have become a successful author (or maybe he did, that’s for another collection) but his creator, Thomas H. McNeely has given us a masterpiece in gray tones and grim feelings.

Goes well with: black coffee and anisette toast.


Giveaway

FOUR WINNERS! 

2 winners: autographed copy of Pictures of the Shark
2 winners: autographed copy of Pictures of the Shark

+ editorial critique of an excerpt (up to 20 pages) from an unpublished short story or novel.
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 7/15/2022)

 

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7/8/22 Review Bibliotica
7/9/22 Excerpt StoreyBook Reviews
7/10/22 Playlist Forgotten Winds
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Review: Remember Whose Little Girl You Are, by Ellen Nichols

Remember Whose Little Girl You AreAbout the book, Remember Whose Little Girl You Are

• Koehler Books: May 3, 2022
• Paperback: 128 pages

Remember Whose Little Girl You Are captures the flavor of the Deep South like no author since Eudora Welty or Flannery O’Connor. Ellen Nichols captures the tenor of small-town Southern life in the fifties and sixties, with its vicissitudes and hilarity. One is captured with her openness and drawn deeply into the dialogue-so much as to, according to one reader, sometimes feel guilty of spying.

Read it and see if you want those times back-or are just relieved they’re gone.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


nana-headshot-1About the author, Ellen Nichols

Ellen grew up in the American Deep South, but with a spirit of adventure, she went up to Toronto, Canada, to go to graduate school, and stayed 50 years.

No, she wasn’t a slow student, she just ended up getting married, raising a family, and building a successful career in charitable fundraising. She has been writing for a living for years, but was always writing for someone else. Her grant proposals, direct marketing letters, and especially her thank you letters, are legend. Her persuasive writing skills raised millions of dollars.

Those Canadians loved her tales about her southern life so much, she decided to write them down and they became Remember Whose Little Girl You Are.

Recently, she moved back down south where she lives on Santa Rosa Sound near Pensacola. And yes, she is now writing about all her Canadian adventures.

You can learn more about Ellen on her website.


My Thoughts

MissMelissAt only 112 pages Remember Whose Little Girl You Are, with it’s cute cover of a girl in knee-socks, is deceptive. It seems like a light, fluffy read – and parts of it are light (though none of it is fluffy) but it’s really a very rich collection of memories and anecdotes, mostly from the author’s childhood, and early adulthood.

Born a preacher’s daughter in America’s deep South, Nichols grew up during the Civil Rights movement, and was a supporter. Her stories from that time are the strongest in this collection – which really reads more like a an anthology of essays than a single cohesive piece. That’s not a bad thing, but the structure feels a little bit unintentional.

What really sings is the author’s writing voice. The conceit of her book is that she’s sharing memories of her life after losing a parent, and you can hear her Southern identity and her Canadian one in the language she uses, in her phrasing, and in her descriptions, which are vivid and compelling.

I look forward to more from Ms. Nichols.

Goes well with sweet tea and poutine.


00-tlc-tour-hostVisit the Other Great Participants on This Tour

Monday, May 30th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Tuesday, May 31st: The Bookish Dilettante

Wednesday, June 1st: Books, Cooks, and Looks

Friday, June 3rd: Stranded in Chaos

Monday, June 6th: Instagram: @megsbookclub

Wednesday, June 8th: Instagram: @jenniaahava

Friday, June 10th: Helen’s Book Blog

Monday, June 13th: 5 Minutes For Books

Tuesday, June 14th: Instagram: @americanlitteacher

Wednesday, June 15th: Instagram: @shook_sbooks

Thursday, June 16th: Bibliotica

Friday, June 17th: Instagram: @bookworm.susanc

Monday, June 20th: Stacy’s Books

Thursday, June 23rd: What Is That Book About

Friday, June 24th: View from the Birdhouse

TBD: Thursday, June 2nd: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews

TBD: Monday, June 6th: Laura’s Reviews

 

Review: The Storm Girl, by Kathleen McGurl

The Storm Girl

 

About the Book, The Storm Girl

Cover: The Storm GirlThe gripping new historical novel from the USA Today bestselling author of The Girl from Bletchley Park and The Forgotten Secret.

A heartbreaking choice. A secret kept for centuries.

1784. When Esther Harris’s father hurts his back, she takes over his role helping smugglers hide contraband in the secret cellar in their pub. But when the free traders’ ships are trapped in the harbour, a battle between the smugglers and the revenue officers leads to murder and betrayal – and Esther is forced to choose between the love of her life and protecting her family…

Present day. Fresh from her divorce, Millie Galton moves into a former inn overlooking the harbour in Mudeford and plans to create her dream home. When a chance discovery behind an old fireplace reveals the house’s secret history as a haven for smugglers and the devastating story of its former residents, could the mystery of a disappearance from centuries ago finally be solved?

Sweeping historical fiction perfect for fans of Lucinda Riley, Kathryn Hughes and Tracy Rees.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (UK) | Amazon (US) | Goodreads


About the author, Kathleen McGurl

Kathleen McGurlKathleen McGurl lives near the coast in Christchurch, England. She writes dual timeline novels in which a historical mystery is uncovered and resolved in the present day. She is married to an Irishman and has two adult sons. She enjoys travelling, especially in her motorhome around Europe but home is Mudeford, where this novel is set.

Connect with Kathleen:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissThe Storm Girl is my first Kathleen McGurl nsovel, but it won’t be my last.

A dual-timeline story, this book follows Esther, in 1784, beginning with an opening faintly reminiscent of Alfred Noyes’s “The Highwayman,” though it quickly moves beyond that trope. Our historical heroine is no lovestruck maiden idly braiding her hair in moonlit windows; rather she is a vibrant and dimensional young woman, acting with her own agency.

Similarly, recent divorcee Millie, our present day heroine, is bright and curious, and game for minor adventures. We first meet her as she is rescuing kittens (and a mama cat) from a blocked off fireplace, and her helper Nick, sparks her love of a good mystery when he suggests that said fireplace would be worth restoring (something she was already considering.)

Both women end up tangled in a mystery involving smuggling, which we modern audiences think of as a romantic form of crime, but is really very violent and dangerous, still, the puzzle that begins in the past is resolved in the present in a gripping story that is well plotted and perfectly paced.

What I especially loved about this book was that the author captures the language and tone of each period with great accuracy. You really don’t need to be told the date of each chapter; rather the writing makes it obvious where the story is in time.

I also loved that there were equal parts suspense and romance. Nothing ever got TOO tense or TOO fluffy; instead there was balance, and that made for a delightful read.

I’ve long been a fan of parallel narratives. Now I’m a fan of Kathleen McGurl and The Storm Girl as well.

Goes well with: hot tea and blueberry cobbler with a dash of firelight.

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Spotlight and Excerpt Tour: The Summer Getaway, by Susan Mallery

About the Book, The Summer Getaway The Summer Getaway

  • Publisher: HQN; Original edition (March 15, 2022)
  • Hardcover: 416 pages

One woman discovers the beauty in chaos in this poignant and heartwarming story about the threads that hold family together from #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery.

One woman discovers the beauty in chaos in this poignant and heartwarming story about the threads that hold family together from #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery.

With her divorce settlement about to run out and a mortgage she can’t afford, Robyn Caldwell needs a plan for her future. She nurtured her family and neglected herself. But how’s she supposed to think when her daughter has become the most demanding bride ever, her son won’t even consider college, her best friend is on the brink of marital disaster and her ex is making a monumentally bad decision that could bring everything crashing down on Robyn’s head? So when her great-aunt Lillian invites her to Santa Barbara for the summer, Robyn hops on the first plane.

But it’s hard to run away when you’re the heart of the family. One by one, everyone she left behind follows her across the country. Somehow, their baggage doesn’t feel as heavy in the sun-drenched, mishmash mansion. The more time Robyn spends with free-spirited Lillian, the more she sees the appeal in taking chances—on dreams, on love, on family. Life is meant to be lived on purpose. All she has to do is muster the courage to take a chance on herself.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Pre-order from Amazon | Add to Goodreads


About the Author, Susan Mallery

Susan MalleryOne woman discovers the beauty in chaos in this poignant and heartwarming story about the threads that hold family together from #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery.

With her divorce settlement about to run out and a mortgage she can’t afford, Robyn Caldwell needs a plan for her future. She nurtured her family and neglected herself. But how’s she supposed to think when her daughter has become the most demanding bride ever, her son won’t even consider college, her best friend is on the brink of marital disaster and her ex is making a monumentally bad decision that could bring everything crashing down on Robyn’s head? So when her great-aunt Lillian invites her to Santa Barbara for the summer, Robyn hops on the first plane.

But it’s hard to run away when you’re the heart of the family. One by one, everyone she left behind follows her across the country. Somehow, their baggage doesn’t feel as heavy in the sun-drenched, mishmash mansion. The more time Robyn spends with free-spirited Lillian, the more she sees the appeal in taking chances—on dreams, on love, on family. Life is meant to be lived on purpose. All she has to do is muster the courage to take a chance on herself.

Connect with Susan:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


Read an Excerpt

Since her parents’ divorce four years ago, Cord Caldwell had been enjoying the single life. He was a serial dater who always had a girlfriend. The longest she’d known him to be without someone in his life was maybe three days. Her mother, on the other hand, had waited a year to start dating. She told Harlow that she hadn’t met anyone interesting enough to see more than a couple of times. That had changed about a year ago, when her mom had gotten involved with Jase, a local cardiologist. They’d become a thing, dating exclusively. Her mother rarely shared details, unlike her dad, who sometimes told her too much.

She waited a couple of minutes, but her father showed no signs of ending the call. Finally she caught his eye and tapped on her watch.

“Hey, let me call you back,” he said, his tone low and sexy. “Uh-huh. Me, too.”

Harlow did her best not to gag. Yes, she and her father were both adults, but she didn’t like seeing this side of him. He was her parent, not a friend. But Cord had never been big on boundaries.

“What’s up?” he asked when he’d ended the call.

“We’re back from the charter.” She tossed him the keys. “She’s clean and ready for tomorrow. Austin’s off, and I’m taking out the fishermen. I’ll be back at five thirty.” In the morning. Not her favorite, but part of the job. “You’ll look over the paperwork from the lawyer?”

Her father hesitated just long enough for her to guess the truth. “Dad, why won’t you read through the offer? You have to agree to the terms before we can move forward on buying the business.”

“I’ll get to it.”

“It’s been nearly a week. Can you read it tonight?”

“Sure. Tonight.”

She ignored her surge of frustration. “We talked about this all last summer. You said it was a great idea for us to expand into the easy money of kayak and paddleboard rentals. I did everything you said. I found a good business to buy, I came up with a business plan, I talked to a lawyer, and now we’re ready to present an offer as soon as you say go. Have you changed your mind?”

“I’ve been busy, Harlow. I’ll get to it.”

When? But she knew there was no point in pushing. Her father moved at his own pace.

“Then I guess I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said before walking out of his office.

She collected her handbag, then joined Enid out front.

“What?” her friend asked. “You upset?”

“It’s just my dad. He’s dragging his feet on the purchase.”

“Of the business you want him to buy?”

“Yeah. But I’ll let it go. Come on, you. We’ll have the best girls’ night out ever.”

Enid laughed. “That’s a very high bar.”


Check Out the Other Great Blogs on this Tour

Monday, February 21st: Books Cooks Looks

Tuesday, February 22nd: Reading Reality

Wednesday, February 23rd:SusanLovesBooks

Thursday, February 24th: Kahakai Kitchen

Friday, February 25th: From the TBR Pile

Friday, February 25th: View from the Birdhouse

Sunday, February 27th: Subakka.bookstuff

Monday, February 28th: Laura’s Reviews

Tuesday, March 1st: Bookchickdi

Wednesday, March 2nd: The Bookish Dilettante

Thursday, March 3rd: What is That Book About

Friday, March 4th: The Romance Dish

Sunday, March 6th: The Cozy Book Blog

Monday, March 7th: Girl Who Reads

Tuesday, March 8th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, March 9th: Helen’s Book Blog

Thursday, March 10th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Friday, March 11th: Book Reviews and More by Kathy

Sunday, March 13th: Novel Gossip

Monday, March 14th: Books and Bindings

 

This Excerpt Tour is hosted by TLC Book Tours.

 

Review and Giveaway: Mars Adrift, by Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays

Mars Adrift Review + Giveaway

 

About the book, Mars Adrift (The Halo Trilogy: Book 3) 

  • Categories: Science Fiction / Detective (Hard-Boiled) / Mystery
  • Publisher: Pumpjack Press
  • Date of Publication: February 14, 2022
  • Number of Pages: 300 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Mars Adrift -CoverAn interplanetary mystery and a searing critique of the contemporary billionaire quest for Mars. The year is (still) 2188 and Crucial Larsen is officially done with Mars. But just as he’s set to head back to his beloved Earth, meteors crash into the orbital platforms, ravage the luxury domes and knock Halo—the powerful AI running Mars and Earth—offline. And this is no random cosmic event. An invading force has the technology to redirect space rocks at will and intends to level the Five Families.

Their first act? Put a bounty on missing Staff Scientist Melinda Hopwire, Crucial’s ex-lover—the only person left alive who can find the back-up servers to introduce the AI empathy hack, the endgame of the beleaguered Resistance. Crucial has to claw his way across the deadly Choke armed with nothing more than a glue gun, expired maple rum and Sanders, a malfunctioning cybanism, to find Mel and her synthetic perma-kitten Wisp. If he fails, it’s the end for both planets.

Praise for this book:

“A compelling saga, edgy and different…the personal, political, and social issues create a Mars story that is thoroughly absorbing. Other books have attempted to blend the genres of an investigative detective piece with sci-fi, but few achieve such a seamless integration.” – Midwest Book Review

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

AmazonPumpjack PressGoodreads


About the authors, Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays

Author Pic Hays_Mcfall AuthorClark and Kathleen wrote their first book together in 1999 as a test for marriage. They passed.  Mars Adrift is their tenth co-authored book.

Connect with McFall and Hays:

Facebook |  IInstagram

Connect with Kathleen

Amazon | Goodreads | FacebookTwitter

Connect with Clark

Amazon | Goodreads |  Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellThe last time I reviewed a McFall & Hays novel it was Gates of Mars, the first book of this trilogy. (I somehow missed book two, but doing so didn’t seem to adversely effect my understanding or enjoyment of book three.) Back then (July, 2020) I wrote, “It takes a lot of talent to combine a detective plot with a sci-fi setting, and make us care about the characters even when their flaws are all too visible, but McFall and Hays have that talent. They also infuse their work with just enough wry humor to keep things from being overwhelming.”

It was true then, and it’s even more so with this novel, Mars Adrift, the third book in the Halo Trilogy.

I found that I was just as invested in Crucial Larsen’s story as I was a year and a half ago, but I noticed different things in this duo’s writing this time around. Specifically, I love the way the character has grown over the course of these novels. He’s still cantankerous and prone to making poor choices, but he’s also become less self-serving – not entirely, just less. Saving his own family is now slightly more than mere enlightened self-interest.

I was also really struck by the language in Mars Adrift.  Ever snappy, the dialogue in this novel really sings. It’s science fiction with a neo-noir flare, and it’s just a pleasure to read.

McFall & Clark have always used their futuristic fiction to shine a light on contemporary issues – climate change key among them, and this story certainly does that. In a community living under domes to keep atmosphere in, what’s the scariest thing that could happen? Meteors, of course! That technology (construction, alien ships) based on fungi are part of this book is forward-thinking as well, but I hope the authors aren’t offended if I prefer my mushrooms on pizza, at least for now.

Overall, Mars Adrift is a satisfying conclusion to a trilogy that has never lost its freshness. It would be best enjoyed by those who have read books one and two, but I had no trouble following the plot after skipping the middle book, and I feel that if you encountered it first, it wouldn’t be too hard to figure things out from context.

Goes well with: Neapolitan-style wood-fired pizza with mushrooms and onions, and a glass of cold iced tea (sweet or unsweet as you prefer.)


Giveaway

 ONE WINNER: 

One winner gets autographed copies of all three books in The Halo Trilogy.
(US only. Ends 2/21/22).

GIVEAWAY Mars Adrift

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2/14/22 Review Sybrina’s Book Blog
2/14/22 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
2/14/22 BONUS Promo Hall Ways Blog
2/15/22 Review The Clueless Gent
2/15/22 Review Tangled in Text
2/15/22 BONUS Promo LSBBT Blog
2/16/22 Review Reading by Moonlight
2/16/22 Review Book Fidelity
2/17/22 Review Momma on the Rocks
2/17/22 Review Bibliotica
2/18/22 Review The Plain-Spoken Pen
2/18/22 Review Forgotten Winds
2/18/22 BONUS Promo All the Ups and Downs

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Review and Giveaway: The Sparrows of Montenegro, by BJ Mayo

BNR Sparrows of Montenegro

About the book, The Sparrows of Montenegro

  • Categories: Western / Historical Fiction / Texas
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
  • Date of Publication: February 8, 2022
  • Number of Pages: 312 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Sparrows of MontenegroTree “Bigfoot” Smith and Cedar Jones first meet on the day they join the US Cavalry’s Fourth Cavalry Regiment based out of the Historic Fort Concho in what is now San Angelo, Texas, in 1870.

Their journey takes them into the heart of the dangerous Llano Estacado region known as the Comancheria. The area is ruthlessly defended by a band of Quahadi Comanche and their stoic leader, Lonely Horse. The Troop encounters a large group of Comanches and the gun-running Comancheros at Mushaway Mountain, close to Gail, Texas. A quick battle ensues that leaves eight men dead.

Post Cavalry life finds Tree Smith and Cedar Jones as cowhand and cook on the large Rolling J cattle ranch in South Texas bordering the Rio Grande River. The ranch employs two Vaqueros from the village of Montenegro in Mexico, just across the river, whom Tree befriends.

The quiet life on the Rolling J ranch is brought to an abrupt halt when a local sheriff warns that a band led by the cold-blooded, sadistic killer known as Gato Montes has been preying on the ranches along the Rio Grande. After the sheriff is nearly killed by these men, Tree is tasked with tracking them down, only this time, he is traveling alone and the dangers are greatly multiplied. His epic journey takes him back into the Llano Estacado where he is captured by Lonely Horse and taken to Mushaway Mountain where the Comanche carry out their own form of frontier justice.

Tree’s return journey puts him on the same path as Marco, a Mexican goat herder, who rides with him to the Mexican Village of Montenegro, where Tree meets Julia, who changes his life forever after he becomes involved in and bears witness to the wonderful celebration of Dia de los Muertos.

Praise for this book:

“I could not put this one down. Mayo has masterfully written a character-driven page-turner, a compelling tale for the reader who seeks something more than the stereotypical western novel.” Ron Schwab, author of Goldsmith and the Law Wranglers series

“This mild-mannered west Texas rancher has woven a border tapestry using yarns made of unimaginable horror and sweet innocence.” Tumbleweed Smith, author of Under the Chinaberry Tree

“A thoroughly enjoyable read—a cowboy’s trail you’ll want to follow, with a memorable cast of characters, renegades, soldiers, lawmen, and simple folks, and a hero that you’ll want more of.” John J. Jacobson, author of All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

AmazonBarnes and NobleSimon and Schuster | Bookshop.orgIndieBoundGoodreads


About the author, BJ Mayo

Author Pic BJ Mayo

 

BJ Mayo was born in an oil field town in Texas. His career in the energy industry took him to various points in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Louisiana, Alabama, Bangladesh, Australia, and Angola, West Africa.

He and his wife were high school sweethearts and have been married for forty-six years. They live on a working farm near San Angelo, Texas.

Connect with BJ

WEBSITE  ◆  FACEBOOK  ◆  TWITTER INSTAGRAM ◆  SKYHORSE PUBLISHING


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellBJ Mayo’s latest novel, The Sparrows of Montenegro is a grand epic story of friendship, loyalty, war, peace, and culture. Set in and around what is now San Angelo, Texas (a place I’ve only heard of because a dear friend is from a town near there), Mayo has made the landscape as much a character as the human beings. He really makes you feel the dust and heat, or smell the goats.

But it’s the human story that is truly compelling in this book, and while we’re introduced to two strong characters at the beginning, Tree, a bear of a man who despises injustice, and Cedar, a sharpshooter who can also cook. The two become fast friends, but it’s really Tree’s story, for it’s his life that we see after they leave the Cavalry, and it’s he who tangles with a local man named Pablo who goes by the alias Gato Montes – which can be translated as “cat of the mountain” or “mountain lion.”  (The former is more literal, I think the latter has more panache.)

Gato Montes is bitter and twisted, and his behavior involves levels of violence toward humans and animals that sensitive readers may want to avoid, but it should be noted that the grittier scenes are never gratuitous or written for shock value, and absolutely move the story forward.

While this novel isn’t a romance in the conventional sense, there is a bit of a romantic interlude once Tree meets Julia. More than a love story, though, The Sparrows of Montenegro is a satisfying saga of blood, land, honor, friendship, and trusting oneself to do the right thing.

Goes well with: birria de res and a bottle of Indio beer.


Giveaway

 THREE WINNERS:

Autographed copies of The Sparrows of Montenegro.
(US only. Ends 2/19/22).

GiveawayGiveaway Sparrows of Montenegro

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CLICK TO VISIT THE LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE

FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR, UPDATED DAILY, 

or visit the blogs directly:

2/8/22 Review Reading by Moonlight
2/8/22 BONUS promo Hall Ways Blog
2/8/22 BONUS promo LSBBT Blog
2/9/22 Review The Plain-Spoken Pen
2/9/22 Review Book Fidelity
2/10/22 Review Bibliotica
2/10/22 Review Forgotten Winds
2/11/22 Review The Book’s Delight
2/11/22 Review Momma on the Rocks
2/12/22 Review Librariel Book Adventures
2/13/22 Review Julia Picks 1
2/14/22 Review Book Bustle
2/15/22 Review Rainy Days with Amanda
2/16/22 Review Jennie Reads
2/17/22 Review StoreyBook Reviews
2/17/22 Review The Clueless Gent

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3-chapter Review: Divine Lola by Cristina Morato (translated by Andrea Rosenberg)

About the book, Divine Lola: A True Story of Scandal and Celebrity

  • Publisher: Amazon Crossing (September 1, 2021)
  • Hardcover: 448 pages

Divine Lola CoverAn enthralling biography about one of the most intriguing women of the Victorian age: the first self-invented international social celebrity.

Lola Montez was one of the most celebrated and notorious women of the nineteenth century. A raven-haired Andalusian who performed her scandalous “Spider Dance” in the greatest performance halls across Europe, she dazzled and beguiled all who met her with her astonishing beauty, sexuality, and shocking disregard for propriety. But Lola was an impostor, a self-invention. Born Eliza Gilbert, the beautiful Irish wild child escaped a stifling marriage and reimagined herself as Lola the Sevillian flamenco dancer and noblewoman, choosing a life of adventure, fame, sex, and scandal rather than submitting to the strictures of her era.

Lola cast her spell on the European aristocracy and the most famous intellectuals and artists of the time, including Alexandre Dumas, Franz Liszt, and George Sand, and became the obsession of King Ludwig I of Bavaria. She then set out for the New World, arriving in San Francisco at the height of the gold rush, where she lived like a pioneer and performed for rowdy miners before making her way to New York. There, her inevitable downfall was every bit as dramatic as her rise. Yet there was one final reinvention to come for the most defiant woman of the Victorian age—a woman known as a “savage beauty” who was idolized, romanticized, vilified, truly known by no one, and a century ahead of her time.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Cristina Morato

Born in Barcelona in 1961, Cristina Morató is a journalist, reporter, and author dedicated to writing about the lives of great women innovators and explorers that history has overlooked. Her research, tracing the footsteps of these remarkable women, has led her to travel to more than forty countries and has resulted in eight biographies: Viajeras intrépidas y aventureras(Intrepid and Adventurous Women Travelers); Las Reinas de África (African Queens); Las Damas de Oriente (Ladies of the East); Cautiva en Arabia (Arabian Captive); Divas rebeldes (Rebel Divas); Reinas malditas (Tragic Queens); Diosas de Hollywood (Hollywood Goddesses); and Divina Lola (Divine Lola), Cristina’s first to be translated into English. She is a founding member and the current vice president of the Spanish Geographical Society and belongs to the Royal Geographic Society of London.

For more information visit www.cristinamorato.com/home-2.

About the translator, Andrea Rosenberg

Andrea Rosenberg is a translator from Spanish and Portuguese. Her full-length translations include novels, graphic narratives, and nonfiction, including works by Manuel Vilas, Tomás González, Inês Pedrosa, Aura Xilonen, Juan Gómez Bárcena, Paco Roca, and Marcelo D’Salete. Two of her translations have won Eisner Awards, and she has been the recipient of awards and grants from the Fulbright Program, the American Literary Translators Association, and the Banff International Literary Translation Centre.


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellNeither a true biography nor a true work of fiction, but a hybrid of both, Cristina Morato’s Divine Lola is an accessible story of a fascinating woman: Eliza “Lola” Gilbert is a larger-than-life character, worthy of a limited series on the streaming platform of your choice, with a veritable who’s who of friends and acquaintances. Sure, she was famous for her scandalous “spider” dance, but she touched a lot more lives than those who saw her perform.

What I liked about this book was that there was enough history to provide context without overwhelming the extrapolated dialogue. Balance is key, and Morato struck exactly the right one. She also used a fabulous literary device, opening the book after Lola has died, making the entire narrative a flashback, in a sense, thus showing how much impact the woman really had.

Because this is a translation, it’s hard to know if the flow of the language is the work of Andrea Rosenberg, the translator, or the author herself, but either way, it’s an easy read, contemporary enough to be accessible, and yet still “period” enough to not be jarring.

I’ll definitely be finishing this book, and recommend it as a solid entry into the creative biography genre.


Tour Schedule

00-tlc-tour-hostWednesday, September 1st: Books, Cooks, Looks – excerpt

Friday, September 3rd: Seaside Book Nook – excerpt

Sunday, September 5th: The Cozy Book Blog – excerpt

Monday, September 6th: @babygotbooks4life

Wednesday, September 8th: Literary Quicksand

Friday, September 10th: Nurse Bookie and @nurse_bookie

Monday, September 13th: @Bibliotica

Wednesday, September 15th: @aimeedarsreads

Thursday, September 16th: @msanniecathryn

Friday, September 17th: Maryann Writes

Monday, September 20th: @chez_colline

Wednesday, September 22nd: @as_seen_in_life

Thursday, September 23rd: @thebookishalix

Friday, September 24th: @jenniaahava

Monday, September 27th: Eliot’s Eats

Wednesday, September 29th: @books.cats.travel.food

Thursday, September 30th: @rickys_radical_reads

Friday, October 1st: @amanda.the.bookish

Monday, October 4th: Reading is My Remedy

 

Review and Giveaway: Trace of Doubt, by DiAnn Mills

Trace of Doubt Banner

About the book, Trace of Doubt

  • Publisher: Tyndale House
  • Pub Date: September 7, 2021
  • Pages: 432 pages
  • Scroll for the Giveaway!

Cover - Trace of Doubt Fifteen years ago, Shelby Pearce confessed to murdering her brother-in-law and was sent to prison. Now she’s out on parole and looking for a fresh start in the small town of Valleysburg, Texas. But starting over won’t be easy for an ex-con.

FBI Special Agent Denton McClure was a rookie fresh out of Quantico when he was first assigned the Pearce case. He’s always believed Shelby embezzled five hundred thousand dollars from her brother-in-law’s account. So he’s going undercover to befriend Shelby, track down the missing money, and finally crack this case.

But as Denton gets closer to Shelby, he begins to have a trace of doubt about her guilt. Someone has Shelby in their crosshairs. It’s up to Denton to stop them before they silence Shelby—and the truth—forever.

Praise for this book:

“Filled with high stakes, high emotion, and high intrigue.” – LYNN H. BLACKBURN, award-winning author of UNKNOWN THREAT and ONE FINAL BREATH

Trace of Doubt is a suspense reader’s best friend. From page one until the end, the action is intense and the storyline keeps you guessing.” – EVA MARIE EVERSON, bestselling author of FIVE BRIDES and DUST

“DiAnn Mills serves up a perfect blend of action, grit, and heart. . . Trace of Doubt takes romantic suspense to a whole new level.” – JAMES R. HANNIBAL, award-winning author of THE PARIS BETRAYAL

“Well-researched . . . with some surprising twists along the way. In Trace of Doubt, Mills weaves together a tale of faith, intrigue, and suspense that her fans are sure to enjoy.” – STEVEN JAMES, award-winning author of SYNAPSE and EVERY WICKED MAN

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Purchase | Goodreads


Watch the Trailer for Trace of Doubt

 


About the Author, DiAnn Mills

DiAnn MillsDiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She is a storyteller and creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is the director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Retreats: Marketing, Speakers, Nonfiction and Novelist with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion for helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

Connect with DiAnn:

Blog Posts | Facebook | Instagram | Youtube | Pinterest | Goodreads  | LinkedIn | BookBub | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellDiAnn Mills’ latest novel Trace of Doubt, is an intense thriller that’s equal parts mystery, faith, and love, that keeps you invested from the prologue to the epilogue.

Written in first person, mostly from the point of view of recent parolee Shelby and her neighbor, Denton (who may be more than he seems) this novel has everything – believable characters, a small-town setting, a gripping mystery, a dash of romance, puppies, horses and great coffee, and author Mills has wrapped all of that up in a meaty (432 pages) package that was a pleasure to read.

This book is categorized, in part, as Christian fiction, and it’s easy to see why because Shelby’s strong faith in God is both her her strength and part of the glue that binds her to her two biggest supporters, Edie, who is a landlady and friend, and Amy Jo, who runs the local bakery-cafe, but it’s not at all preachy. Their faith is simply part of these Texas women (and men) , and it’s part of what makes them feel so real. As someone who has always struggled with faith, and doesn’t mesh with organized religion, I appreciated the way the author made it a critical part of the novel, and and recommend this book to readers of all persuasions.

What I loved was the detailed character work that the author put into this novel. I really liked and sympathized with Shelby, and was rooting for her from day one. She’s much more than a classic underdog, and I’d happily share a pot of coffee with her. Denton, also, was drawn with real dimension. He felt like a “weathered” soul to me, and I was as committed to his story as I was to Shelby’s. The  town sheriff, local cop (also Edie’s brother), and parole officer were equally believable characters, and even the townsfolk, both kind and cruel had perfect moments that really let you see them.

I also enjoyed the pacing of this story. It’s an easy read, in terms of being accessible, but it’s also pretty long. At no point did I feel the urge to skip ahead and see what happened, and I felt the clues and twists in the narrative were all placed well, serving the story, and never letting the reader become too complacent.

If this had been JUST a romance, or JUST a mystery, or JUST a redemption story, Trace of Doutbt would still have been a worthy read. That the author combined all three elements into a satisfying and well-crafted whole just makes the whole thing a literary treat.

Goes well with: a cup of coffee with a dollop of half & half, and a lemon tart.


Giveaway

FOUR WINNERS
 Each winner receives a $25 e-gift card to winner’s choice of either Amazon or B&N.
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 9/3/2021)

 

Giveaway Trace of Doubt

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Visit the Other Great Blogs on This Tour:

Check out the tour page at Lone Star Literary Life, or visit each blog directly:

8/24/21 Guest Post The Adventures of a Travelers Wife
8/24/21 BONUS Promo Hall Ways Blog
8/25/21 Review The Book’s Delight
8/25/21 Top 7 List The Plain-Spoken Pen
8/25/21 BONUS Promo LSBBT Blog
8/26/21 Guest Post Jennifer Silverwood
8/27/21 Review Carpe Diem Chronicles
8/27/21 Playlist The Clueless Gent
8/28/21 Review It’s Not All Gravy
8/29/21 Guest Post All the Ups and Downs
8/30/21 Top 10 List Reading by Moonlight
8/31/21 Guest Post StoreyBook Reviews
8/31/21 Review KayBee’s Bookshelf
9/1/21 Review The Page Unbound
9/1/21 Top 5 List Chapter Break Book Blog
9/2/21 Review Forgotten Winds
9/2/21 Review Bibliotica

 

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