Friday 27 October 2023

The Perfect Christmas Village - Bella Osborne

About the book… 

When Christmas-hating Sam moves to Holly Cross, he thinks he's found the perfect home, until he discovers that, each year, Holly Cross transforms into the most Christmassy village in the whole country...

Blythe is just one sale away from being Real Estate Agent of the Month, so she twists the truth to sell a home to city boy Sam, who is looking for the perfect house in the perfect location. Little does he know he's just bought a cottage in the middle of the most Christmassy village in the country. And if there's one thing Sam loathes, it's Christmas.

Sam's arrival puts Holly Cross's chance to win the title of Britain's Most Perfect Christmas Village now in jeopardy, and the villagers are soon up in arms. Meanwhile, Sam is in his own personal hell surrounded by fairy lights and everyone is looking to Blythe to fix things.

But as the festive season looms, maybe there's more than just Christmas in Holly Cross for Sam to fall in love with...

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About the author… 

Bella has been jotting down stories as far back as she can remember but decided that 2013 would be the year that she finished a full length novel. Since then she’s written nine best-selling romantic comedies, two best-selling bookclub reads and won the RNA Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year Award.

Bella's stories are about friendship, love and coping with what life throws at you. She lives in Warwickshire, UK with her husband, daughter and a cat who thinks she’s a dog. When not writing Bella is usually eating custard creams and planning holidays.

For more about Bella, visit her website at or follow her on social media.

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My thoughts…

The Perfect Christmas Village is exactly what it says on the cover - PERFECT!!! 

With the Summer we haven’t had and the wet dreary weather I was ready for a cheery read. The setting was PERFECT, Holly Cross and its inhabitants are Christmas mad.  Think of the most magical Christmassy setting you can and dial it up ten notches.

Imagine someone moving into the village who doesn’t ‘DO’ Christmas in any way shape or form - meet Sam, who bought a cottage from Blythe who works at Happy Homes Estate Agents.  

Blythe was on track to have secured the most sales month on month in the company’s 34 year history, a title she was desperate to win that was until the final month when her colleague Amir went ahead of her by one sale! Everything was on the line, Blythe was determined to win, for reasons we don’t find out about until later in the story.  

This was an absolute delight of a book.  From the get go we had sweet, gorgeous Blythe in one corner facing off with Amir in the other.  I knew which opponent I was backing.  If only that wasn’t her only sparring partner - in her quest for the ‘sales’ title she finds herself at odds with friends, family, newcomer Sam and the inevitable Leonora of chair of the Holly Cross Christmas Committee.

There are several mysteries and half told stories wrapped around both Blythe and newcomer Sam and as a reader it was funny, sad, endearing and frustrating watching their encounters unfold in equal measures.  They say opposite attract and in this case they definitely did. Blythe loved Christmas and everything about it, Sam hated it and everything about it.  The more Blythe pried and questioned, the more closed up and moody Sam got.  Yet still they were drawn to each other, in madcap situations that inevitably ended up with one of them combusting and them going their separate ways again until one of them needed rescuing. 

All in all this is a joyful, funny, festive read, that has several tender heartfelt storylines running below the surface that gave the characters depth and a more than an edge of realism. I loved it and Holy Cross brought back memories of visiting a village fairly local to me where all the houses decorate and light up their houses at Christmas too.  Add to that a blossoming romance that was funny and endearing - what’s not to love about this book, it was an utter joy to read that had me drooling after mince pies, mulled wine and hot chocolate. 

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Thursday 5 October 2023

Finding Family at the Cornish Cove - Kim Nash

About the book… 

Family is everything…

In the years since her death, Gemma has been running her late mother’s cafĂ© with devotion, and when an opportunity comes to buy out her next-door neighbour and expand, she jumps at the chance.

She knows she will do her mother proud – keep her legacy going strong – but deep down she knows there’s still something missing. With her mum in her mind more than ever, and the knowledge that she may never start a family of her own, she can’t stop thinking about what life has in store for her.

But sometimes family are those you choose, or those who choose you! And with a growing community of supporters cheering Gemma on – including some new faces at her blossoming bistro – and maybe one in particular, will she really spend the rest of her life alone?

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About the author… 

Kim Nash is an author of uplifting, romantic, feel-good fiction, having wanted to write books since she was a little girl. She works as both Digital Publicity Director for publisher Bookouture and a book blogger at She lives in Staffordshire with her son Ollie and English Setter rescue dog Roni. When she's not working or writing, Kim can be found walking her dog and reading, as well as running a book club in Staffordshire and organising local and national reader/author events.

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My thoughts…

This is Kim Nash’s second book set in an idyllic Cornish cove, with a community so lush you hanker after upping sticks and moving there, just as Meredith did when she bought a lighthouse to live in, in the first book Hopeful Hearts at the Cornish Cove.

Imagine how delighted I was to be taking a trip back there with Gemma as the central character this time. Gemma is running the local cafe with plans to expand into the building next door.  She wants to build upon the legacy left by her mum who ran the cafe at the heart of community and make her proud. Her mum managed the business as well as bringing up Gemma and her sister Lucy single handed and had made the cafe a haven for people of all ages, everyone welcome as she dished out comfort in the form of food and a listening ear.  Gemma is quite anxious about living up to her mums legacy, she’s anxious about changing things and hasn’t really changed anything up to now, not wanting to let go of what her mum created. 

The gorgeous Clem who we met in the first book in this series renovated the lighthouse and is now in a relationship with its owner Meredith, is doing the building works, sharing his vision and guiding Gemma through the inevitable disruption, doing the work in an order that the disruption is minimised until the very last moment. Bringing in firefighter Jude to inspect and an advise on fire safety, sets off a few sparks. 

Gemma knows she is going to need more help in the cafe in readiness for the expansion and that comes in the form of Occy who literally crashed through the door.  This was a delightful relationship that as a reader was a joy to read,  It turns out Occy is Judes daughter and has an almost Jekyll and Hyde appearance - sweetness and light with Gemma but obnoxious and rude with her dad.  Gemma finds herself becoming the shoulder to lean on for Occy just as her mum had been for many others.

Gemma and Lucy share a close bond, each of them there for each other, I’d have loved to have had a sister, the depth of their bond was a delight to read. Lucy is there for Gemma whenever she needs her but Gemma is conscious of the fact her sister has enough to do with the bed and breakfast she runs as well as being heavily present. 

The pages of this delightful story are peppered with emotion, anxiety, sadness, humour, love and hope  - as well as what you always find in a Kim Nash book, a hearty helping of truth and reality.  I absolutely loved it.  Strong friendships both old and new are formed. Kim Nash always weaves characters in her books in such a way that you can’t help but form an instant bond and sit quietly in the corner sending good vibes and wishes for the inevitable romance.  This book has a depth that is greater than a fledgling romance, it digs deep into relationships both past and present and seeing the main cast of this story Gemma, Occy and Jude grow and develop was very moving, each having their own back story and all supported by the cast of the community.  What’s presented on the outside isn’t always what it seems, each of them had built protective shells that were peeled away as the pages were turned.

I have loved all of Kim’s books but this one is another level, I said her last book, the first in the series, was her best yet but this is another level!!  It is her BEST YET and I can’t wait for the next one. This was a truly, heart warming story, Kim Nash has nailed it as a Romance author, having got the cocktail of reality and dreams just right.

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Sunday 1 October 2023

The Guest House by the Sea - Faith Hogan

About the book…

People come to the guest house for fresh air and views across the Atlantic. But if they're lucky, they might just leave with the second chance they didn't know they needed...

Esme has run the guest house for as long as anyone in Ballycove can remember. But in her declining years, her sight is failing, and when she has a fall on the eve of the summer season, she is forced to take a back seat for the first time in her life.

From her chair in the entry hall, not much passes Esme by. There's Cora, the wife visiting indefinitely... without her husband; Niamh, the city professional with a life-changing decision to make; and Phyllie, the grandmother whose family is slipping away from her.

Esme's guests provide the colour that helps her keep her grip on the world. All of them have something they want to escape – or to hold on to. But can Esme can help them find their way before the summer is over?

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About the author… 

Faith Hogan is an Irish award-winning and bestselling author of five contemporary fiction novels. Her books have featured as Book Club Favorites, Net Galley Hot Reads and Summer Must Reads. 

She writes grown up women's fiction which is unashamedly uplifting, feel good and inspiring.She is currently working on her next novel. 

She lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children and a very busy Labrador named Penny. She's a writer, reader, enthusiastic dog walker and reluctant jogger -except of course when it is raining.

Contact Links: 

Facebook: www.Facebook/
Twitter: @gerhogan

My thoughts…

The Guest House by the Sea is a dream of a book, set in the wonderful Irish coastal town of Ballycove, home to the Midnight Ladies Swimming Club - what an absolute treat to be back.

The Willows guesthouse and owner Esme are the heartbeat of this story. They wrap their arms around a whole host of visitors, some on a nostalgic return visit, back to a time in their past lives, trying to recreate the happy memories and put perspective into their lives. 

Esme was devoted to the running of the guesthouse just like her family had been for the previous 200 years.  She was virtually blind and her frustrations with her lack of sight and her immobility having broken her foot in an accident was hard to read.  She knew that she was naturally nearing the end of her life and the fact she wasn’t able to give her all to the running of the guest house was heart breaking, she hated being reliant on life long friend Marta who not only had to run the guesthouse but also take care of Esme too, I just wanted to wrap her in a big hug.

Esme was just so lush, banished to an observation, meet and greet role because of her broken foot she inadvertently finds herself in the perfect spot to observe, listen and offer insightful advice just when it was needed the most. She did it mainly by listening and asking questions - letting each and even guest find their own way. 

As in all Faith Hogan novels, the story ebbs and flows, with emotions rising and falling like the tide for the characters and the reader.  All of the guests were seeking solace and a safe space to breathe, to think and find their way. The Willows was a safe haven for each of them.  I loved how all of the guests made their own connections with each other too, friendships formed and support given to each other. From Cora and Niamh looking to make life changing decisions. To Phyllis trying to find a happy place for her family before a life changing illness in the family would change each of their lives. Not forgetting Esme and Marta, each giving each other the support the other needed even if it was always visible to them - their friendship ran deep and was a joy to unpick.

As for The Willows, when can I check in?  This was such a fab read, my heart melted time and again - I loved it.

Monday 25 September 2023

The Beginning of Everything - Jackie Fraser

About the book… 

The Beginning of Everything is the story of Jess and Gethin, whose paths cross in the most unexpected way. Jess is running, leaving all she knows and everyone she loves behind her, with just a few treasured belongings in her rucksack. She’s escaping from the pain and trauma of a bad relationship with a bad man, gone very badly wrong. Gethin’s kindness and care takes her breath away. They become friends. But with so much hurt in her past, can Jess learn to love and live again?

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About the author… 

Jackie Fraser is the author of The Bookshop of Second Chances and The Beginning of Everything. 

She lives in Hampshire with her partner, and when she's not reading, writing or editing (her day job) you might find her climbing over gates to look at stone circles, taking photographs of rusty things, or poking about in antique shops.

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My thoughts…

What an absolutely delightful book The Beginning of Everything is. I read this whilst spending time on the Fife coast, with a view of the sea that was ignored as I devoured the pages.

The story centres around unlikely friendships and support in a situation where the full picture wasn’t always visible.  It highlights more than anything that it is always better to seek to understand a person or situation before judging and acting on quick decisions. In life we never see the full picture and it is up to us to take the time to ask questions and discover the why beneath all of our actions both physically and verbally.  

This is the story of Jess and Gethin who meet in unexpected circumstances, Jess living rough seeks shelter in an empty house - shortly after which she is discovered by the new owner of the property Gethin a definite fight or flight situation - fortunately for Jess, Gethin wanted to understand the reasons for Jess needing to break into his new property and offers a gentle hand of support.  

As a reader I absolutely loved both of these characters, their quiet dance around each other as they both open up, learn to trust and grow as individuals.  This wasn’t a one way friendship, from the very start as a reader the scene was set for us, we knew that Jess had a past that led her to live in the way she was but we slowly get to know about Gethin’s past that wasn’t quite so transparent.

I loved the hopefulness that oozed from the pages and found myself quietly praying for each of them when things didn’t always go to plan and see-sewed in the opposite direction.  Trust being the biggest obstacle to overcome, it broke my heart reading several chapters because Jess often couldn’t trust and open up because amongst other reasons she didn’t feel worthy - didn’t think she deserved to live a full life.  Her past experiences having stripped that from her.

I highly recommend this book, it will pull at your heart strings, but warm your heart by the end.  It’s a wonderful example of how friendships, communication, time, openness and trust can repair even the most broken individual to build strong lasting friendships and relationships.  This was a story that made you think about life and our interactions and definitely pulled at my heart strings to begin with and as I turned the last page my heart had done a 360 and left me with a warm fuzzy feeling.

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Thursday 31 August 2023

Lottie’s School of Dance - Annette Hannah

About the book… 

Lottie Daniels is dancing up the altar in Canada when she realises her whirlwind wedding is a big mistake. Chad isn't the right person for her at all! And, in that moment, Lottie goes from dancing bride to runaway bride.

Much to her brother's relief, Lottie decides to return to Bramblewood in the UK. But life has more surprises in store for her. After rescuing both a donkey and a little old lady called Doris - all with the help of a handsome stranger! - Lottie suddenly becomes a big part of Doris's life. And in return for her company and doing bits around the farm, Doris offers her the barn to run her dance classes.

From broken dreams to second chances, Lottie finally has a chance to rebuild her life. And with an exciting dance audition to prepare for, who knows what might happen next?!

You are guaranteed to fall head over heels with this sweet and charming romance

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About the author… 

I’m originally from Liverpool but now live in leafy Hertfordshire with my husband, two of our three grown up children and our crazy black cocker spaniel Toby. 

My books are set in the fictional market town of Bramblewood and they're inspired by the beautiful countryside that I'm surrounded by. There is always a nod to my home town of Liverpool too.

As well as being an author I am also a qualified Marketeer and Press Officer for the Romantic Novelists' Association, a fabulous organisation of which I am also a member.

Contact Links: 

My thoughts…

What an absolute delight of a book, from the cover to the contents. This was just fabulous, the perfect pick me up for a rainy Bank holiday weekend in the Lake District whilst the sun shone back at home! Ending up back in Bramblewood with some of my favourite characters from Annette’s previous books, including the parrots and the idyllic canal boat cafe - Serendipity was just perfect đź’—

Lottie’s School of Dance centres around the lead character Lottie and a whole host of supporting characters that I loved in equal measures. 

We first meet Lottie at the church just as she’s about to marry Chad, her rich, handsome fiancĂ©. Having lost both her parents Chad’s family had stepped in to help organise her wedding - ‘read’ takeover organising her wedding!! As a reader you can feel Lottie’s anxiety rising, going through the roof after seeing her brother in the foyer - despite this she makes her show stopping entrance into the church only to pull up short when she sees the look on her future husbands face, a look equally shared by his mother. She makes a hasty exit reminiscent of Julia Roberts minus the horse.

Lottie leaves her home in Canada to pay a surprise visit to her brother and sister-in-law in Bramblewood, England, the perfect place to quietly lick her wounds, let the dust settle and heal her broken heart. They are beyond excited to see her, but within two minutes of arriving she finds herself being hauled out of a ditch by a handsome, Italian after landing in there trying to rescue a trapped donkey. Both of which come centre stage in the story as Lottie finds herself an unexpected job as surrogate grandchild to Doris who encourages her to take baby steps towards healing her broken heart and inadvertently ending up in a televised dance competition. 

As the story unfolds, relationships of all kinds abound - donkey love, friendships of all kinds, love, loyalty and trust all come together, to see Lottie slowly healing herself without realising it by focusing on and giving love and support to help heal the hearts and lives of those around her. 

As ever with Annette Hannah’s books the characters grab ahold of your heart and I found myself totally buried in the story, believing each and every person and place to be real - I so wish it was, I’d love to be part of this little village, love, friendship and support are at the heart of this gorgeous little community and are given and taken in equal measures by everyone. 

This book has it all it has there’s lots of hearts and flowers and romance as you’d expect but there’s also some serious aspects to the story, as well as tears and sadness that are tempered by total hilarity. I did wonder what animal Annette would introduce into this story before I read it as there is usually a pet that sits centre stage and forward in Annette’s books. How could she top Edie’s parrots - by introducing Denni, Doris’s donkey that how!! 

I loved every single page of this story and was gutted when I finished it. Annette, once again you’ve nailed it. A wonderful read that I highly recommend - now when will we get our next Bramblewood fix - not too long I hope!!

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Monday 19 June 2023

Maybe Tomorrow - Penny Parkes

About the book… 

A story of friendship, possibilities and hope that maybe tomorrow will be brighter than today . . .

Jamie Matson had once enjoyed a wonderful life working alongside her best friend, organising adventures for single-parent families, and her son Bo’s artistic flair a source of pride rather than concern.

She hadn’t been prepared to lose her business, her home and her friend. Not all in one dreadful year.

Jamie certainly hadn’t expected to find such hope and camaraderie in the queue at her local food bank. Thrown together with an unlikely and colourful group of people, their friendships flourish and, finding it easier to be objective about each other than about themselves, they decide that – when you’re all out of options – it’s okay to bend the rules a little and create your own.

What a difference a year could make . . .

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About the author… 

Penny Parkes lives in the Cotswolds. She has appeared at literary festivals around the country and has written for The Telegraph as well as extensively in her local media.

Contact Links: 

You can find her on Twitter and Instagram as @CotswoldPenny

My thoughts…
Maybe Tomorrow is Penny Parkes newest novel, a story focused on human nature, what can happen when the chips are down. The power of friendship, trust and an open mind.

The story is centred around Jamie Mateson, her son Bo and their struggles to survive in a different world post pandemic. Pre pandemic, Jamie had opened her own travel business, ‘The Big Trip’ which faltered and failed when travel was no longer a possibility. When we first meet Jamie she is bogged down in the relentless cycle of trying to rob Peter to pay Paul, working stacking shelves in an independent food store for a tyrant of a boss with zero empathy. Bo her son, suffers badly from asthma, exasperated by the damp flat they live in, which means missed or late shifts as she spends more and more time in the out patients of the local hospital, something that eventually culminates in her being sacked - forcing her to rely more and more on the local food bank.

Jamie once a highly capable, qualified woman is a shadow of her former self, weighed down with worries. Finding work that allows her to care for Bo was impossible, she doesn’t have the time or headspace to thing of anything other than safeguarding Bo. Just about when they reach rock bottom, given notice on their flat, that quite frankly should be condemned as a health hazard, she’s offered an opportunity that changes both of their lives forever - a chance meeting in the supermarket, and some unexpected friendships and kindness sees cracks appear in the carapace she’d built around herself allowing chinks of her old strength of character through.

This was such a beautiful, heartfelt book, which highlights no matter what, if you are able to give and receive friendship and kindness it can lighten your heart and allow you some clarity of mind - gradually enough to give you strength to make small changes that eventually can become big changes. Watching Jamie, and in particular Bo grow and blossom was beautiful. Bo saw things differently to his peers and expressed himself through his art which spoke louder than words, he was an insightful young man that was misunderstood by many, something which broke my heart as I read this book. As he grew, Jamie was able to have a clearer mind to make decisions and changes to move their lives on - something which was only possible with the support of her newly acquired friends, a group of ladies that met in the queue at the local food bank, each different and in normal circumstances their paths would have been unlikely to cross.

This was another book where Penny Parkes demonstrates that it isn’t always blood and nature that makes a home but nurture, love and gentle kindness. People who love you for you, not because they’re family and should. Penny Parkes has woven a magical tale laced with honesty, openness, resilience, love and friendship. An uplifting, mentally descriptive read - the words painting vivid pictures that were at times both painful and beautiful.

This is a book I'll be shouting about for a long time to come - it is humbling, breathe takingly beautiful. Thank you SJ & Books and the City for introducing me to another amazing Penny Parkes novel.

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Monday 3 April 2023

Hopeful Hearts at the Cornish Cove - Kim Nash

About the book… 

Hopeful Hearts at the Cornish Cove

A perfect new start in Cornwall…

Meredith's life is at a standstill. She's stuck in a dead-end job, approaching fifty, and her dating life is a string of disasters. But one evening, while browsing the internet, she sees an ad for a lighthouse, and in a moment of impulsiveness, she makes a ridiculous bid for it.

With the help of local handyman Clem, she sets about renovating. And as they work together, a bond begins to form. But when Meredith finds out that Clem is keeping a secret from her, it changes everything. Will they find a way to build something more meaningful together?

A delightful story about community, friendship and having the courage to start over, perfect for fans of Carole Matthews, Milly Johnson and Lucy Dillon

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About the author… 

Kim Nash is the author of uplifting, funny, heartwarming, romantic, feel-good fiction. She lives in Staffordshire with son Ollie and English Setter rescue dog Roni, is Digital Publicity Director for publisher Bookouture (division of Hachette UK), and is a book blogger at When she's not working or writing, Kim can be found walking her dog at Cannock Chase, reading, writing and binge-watching box sets on the TV.

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My thoughts…

Imagine waking up to find, in a drunken moment you’d bought a lighthouse of all things. I had a friend once that bought a hostess trolley whilst drunk - you guessed it, when it arrived it was for a dolls house, how we laughed!!! Meredith had been living with her childhood, best friend Gabby for the past 12 months since getting a divorce from her husband, life was changing for best friend and Meredith needed to move out to give her space so decided to move to Cornwall and live in the accidental purchase. She thought that it would be the perfect fresh start and just what she needed.  

Meredith had surprised not just herself, but her friends too when she packed up and upped sticks.  What couldn’t be more idyllic than living near the beach she thought?  However, her first impressions of the idyllic coastal Cornish town were watered down, when after the journey from hell, her first encounters with the locals were less than pleasant and her beloved furniture that had been in storage for a year wouldn’t fit through the door of the lighthouse - what had she done?!  To top it off she’d clearly been sold a pup!  To say the inside of the lighthouse was less than pleasant would be an understatement, filthy, crumbling and damp smelling - what had she done?

Fortunately, for Meredith, she found that not all the villagers were stand-offish and rude. Gemma, the owner of the local cafe/bakery waltzed into the lighthouse bearing tea and cake at just the right moment - sing singing a welcome to Cornwall. They hit it off instantly and this set in motion a string of events that had me oohing, ahhing, aching laughing and cringing in equal measures.  

The pages of this delightful story are peppered with humour and often laugh out loud one liners - as well as what you always find in a Kim Nash book, a hearty helping of truth and reality.  I absolutely loved it.  Strong friendships both old and new.  Kim Nash has woven the local characters into this story in such a way that I found myself jumping up, wanting to stick my oar in and get in Merediths or ‘Mere’ as the local carpenter/odd job man calls her corner.  I might have frantically searched Rightmove too - I want to move to Cornwall and make friends with everyone too but most of all i want to live in a lighthouse.

I have loved all of Kim’s books but this one is another level, her best yet which I read in one sitting, barely moving position - my coffee going cold on the side.  Thank you for this breath of fresh air, just what the doctor ordered on a miserable Friday evening.  This was a truly, heart warming story that wove a lot of sunshine into my heart. Through Meredith, Kim portrayed that kindness, openness and honesty win the day. This was a positive feel good book that I’m glad I had the opportunity to read, in a busy world a perfect little bit of escapism.

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