Month: March 2019

Interview with Jessica Brody | Sky Without Stars Blog Tour (+Giveaway)

Posted March 21, 2019 by Jana in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Giveaway / 3 Comments

Interview with Jessica Brody | Sky Without Stars Blog Tour (+Giveaway)

Welcome to The FFBC’s blog tour for Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody & Joanne Rendell! Patricia and I both interviewed these authors! I’m hosting Jessica today, and Patricia hosted Joanne yesterday.


Interview with Jessica Brody

Can you briefly describe Sky Without Stars and the main characters?

Sky Without Stars is a sci-fi reimagining of Victor Hugo’s epic, Les Miserables…set on a distant planet! Basically it’s “Les Mis in space!” Here’s the short description:

Five-hundred years after the Last Days, an extravagant, elite class reigns supreme on the French-inspired planet of Laterre, but when a shocking murder shakes the foundations of the planet, the fates of three unlikely heroes from very different backgrounds (a thief, an officer, and a guardian) will intertwine as the planet spirals toward revolution.

Dun, dun, DUN! 😊

Who would you say is your favorite character from the story and why?

As much as I probably should say Chatine (inspired by Eponine from Les Mis), because I wrote the first draft of most of her chapters, I think my favorite character is a 13-year-old boy named Roche (inspired by the spunky street urchin, Gavroche in Les Mis). He’s a “Fret rat” (meaning he grew up in the Frets or “slums” of Laterre) and an “oublie” (Laterrian term for orphan. In French it literally means forgotten.) But he’s so charismatic and has this great upbeat outlook on life, despite his circumstances. He’s also quite the negotiator. I perked up every time he entered the scene I was writing!

How did you come up with the idea for the story? Did you find inspiration anywhere?

Back in 2014, I sat in on a retellings class taught by authors Christina Farley and Vivi Barnes. They handed us each a worksheet. On one side they told us to write down any and every classic story we’ve ever loved. Among many, I wrote “Les Misérables”. Then on the other side, they told us to write down a list of interesting settings. Among many, I wrote, “space.” (See picture below.) I literally drew a line between the two and a shiver ran through me. Les Mis, set in space? It felt like too big of an undertaking to do alone so years later when my best friend Joanne Rendell told, randomly, that Les Mis was one of her favorite classics, I knew she was the one I had to write it with! And SKY WITHOUT STARS was born!

If you could choose one song to describe your book, which one would it be?

Ooh! Luckily I have countless songs from the Les Mis soundtrack to choose from! Although “On My Own” very much embodies our character Chatine’s journey in this story, when it comes to the book a whole, I’d have to say “One Day More.” This is the song that marks the middle of the musical, right before the intermission, and it’s an ensemble piece where all the characters sing about all the different things they’re waiting for and what tomorrow might bring for them. There’s a sense of imminent danger in the song, but there’s also romance and greed and vengeance and despair, and most of all hope. To me, this the epitome of Les Mis: Danger, romance, greed, vengeance, despair, and hope.

I just hope that we’ve successfully captured it all in SKY WITHOUT STARS!

What’s the best and the worst thing about writing a book with someone else? What are the challenges you guys found while writing Sky Without Stars?

The best is definitely being able to brainstorm with someone else. Jo and I joke that it’s like being paid to play dolls. Except the dolls are characters in the story and the “doll house” is a distant planet in a yet-to-be-discovered solar system. We get super into it, acting out scenes, and doing voices, and conjuring up all sorts of dramatic situations for our characters. I’ve never had so much writing a book in my life. (And I’ve written more than 15 novels before this!)

The challenge for us has mostly been scheduling and distance. We live 3,000 miles apart on different ends of the country. So we’re not able to get together in person as often as we’d like. We rely on modern-day tech like Skype for video chats and Slack for messaging. But we always joke that it would be so great if we lived next door to each other and could hang out and play dolls…er, I mean, write every day together!

If your book was about to become a movie/TV show, who would you see playing as the characters in Sky Without Stars? 

I’m usually terrible at casting my own books! But here are my picks!

Anais Lee for Alouette

Odeya Rush for Chatine

Tyler Posey for Marcellus

Since it is still cold outside, what hot drink do you think would go perfectly with your book?

I would say a nice café au lait (or café crème as they say in Paris!) or chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) to go with the French theme!

Can you recommend any other books in case they are left hungry for more once they finish Sky Without Stars?

Yes! Definitely check out LAST OF HER NAME by Jessica Khoury, which is another sci-fi retelling set in space…this one a retelling of the legend of Anastasia, the lost Romanoff heir! Khoury’s world-building and plotting is so magnificent. I could NOT put this book down!

What’s next for you?

Joanne and I are about to dive into the revisions of book 2 in the trilogy, BETWEEN BURNING WORLDS. The first draft of that book caused us a LOT of agony and stress (as sequels often do) but in the end, I’m happy with where it is now and can’t wait for everyone to find out what happens next on planet Laterre. And yes, as the title suggests, it’s pretty explosive!


Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell
Published by Simon Pulse on March 26, 2019
Genres: Young Adult Fiction — Science Fiction, Retelling
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A thief. An officer. A guardian.

Three strangers, one shared destiny . . .

When the Last Days came, the planet of Laterre promised hope. A new life for a wealthy French family and their descendants. But five hundred years later, it’s now a place where an extravagant elite class reigns supreme; where the clouds hide the stars and the poor starve in the streets; where a rebel group, long thought dead, is resurfacing.

Whispers of revolution have begun—a revolution that hinges on three unlikely heroes…

Chatine is a street-savvy thief who will do anything to escape the brutal Regime, including spy on Marcellus, the grandson of the most powerful man on the planet.

Marcellus is an officer—and the son of a renowned traitor. In training to take command of the military, Marcellus begins to doubt the government he’s vowed to serve when his father dies and leaves behind a cryptic message that only one person can read: a girl named Alouette.

Alouette is living in an underground refuge, where she guards and protects the last surviving library on the planet. But a shocking murder will bring Alouette to the surface for the first time in twelve years…and plunge Laterre into chaos.

All three have a role to play in a dangerous game of revolution—and together they will shape the future of a planet.

Power, romance, and destiny collide in this sweeping reimagining of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece, Les Misérables.


About Jessica Brody

Jessica Brody knew from a young age that she wanted to be a writer. She started self “publishing” her own books when she was seven years old, binding the pages together with cardboard, wallpaper samples, and electrical tape.

After graduating from Smith College in 2001 where she double majored in Economics and French and minored in Japanese, Jessica later went on to work for MGM Studios as a Manager of Acquisitions and Business Development. In May of 2005, Jessica quit her job to follow her dream of becoming a published author.

Since then, Jessica has sold over twelve novels for teens, tweens, and adults including 52 Reasons to Hate My Father, The Karma Club, My Life Undecided, and the three books in the Unremembered trilogy, the first of which is currently in development as a major motion picture by the producers of The Vampire Academy, Zero Dark Thirty, Life of Pi, and Slumdog Millionaire. In 2016, she will release two new contemporary novels, A Week of Mondays (August) and Boys of Summer (April), and in 2017, her debut middle grade novel entitled, Addie Bell’s Shortcut to Growing Up, will hit bookstore shelves.

Jessica also writes books for the Descendants: “School of Secrets” series, based on the hit Disney Channel Original movie, Descendants!

Jessica’s books are published and translated in over twenty foreign countries. She currently splits her time between California and Colorado.

About Joanne Rendell

Joanne Rendell is the author of three novels and holds a PhD in English Literature. She teaches fiction writing to teens and kids, as well as online writing classes at Udemy.com and Lynda.com. Joanne is a board member for the youth Shakespeare company, New Genesis Productions. With her husband and son, she divides her time between New York City and New Paltz, New York.

 

 

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Top Ten Books On My Spring 2019 TBR

Posted March 18, 2019 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 36 Comments

Can you believe Spring is in just a few days?? I LOVE winter, but I’m actually kind of looking forward to warmer weather. I never expect that it will happen, but it always does. This week’s topic might break your wallet, but that’s kind of ok right? What’s on your Spring TBR?

Virtually Yours by Sarvenaz Tash
Virtual reality dating service. What could possibly go wrong?

Bridal Boot Camp by Meg Cabot
This little novella sounds like so much fun!

The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda
I love a good murder mystery, and this one set in an idyllic little hamlet sounds like the perfectly creepy kind.

When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton
I’m reading Cleeton’s first “Cuba” book right now and can already tell I’m going to want this companion ASAP. I love the writing!

Sherwood by Meagan Spooner
This is out today!! I loved Meagan’s Beauty and the Beast retelling, Hunted, and am excited to see how she retells Robin Hood! Also, I’m pretty excited that Steve West and Fiona Hardingham narrate the audiobook I’ve pre-ordered.

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss by Kasie West
I love Kasie West, and her books are just the kind of light and fluffy springtime happiness I need.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
It’s time, guys! I’ve been wanting to read this for years and now I’m buddy reading it with a friend, so it’s finally going to happen!

The Way You Love Me by Miranda Liasson
This sounds so sweet and heartwarming, plus we’ve got a bookish heroine!

You Say It First by Susan Mallery
This new series sounds like a lot of fun, and centers around fairy tale destination weddings!

The Beholder by Anna Bright
I love a good swashbuckling fantasy, and this one is a mash-up of The Odyssey and Cinderella. I’m there.

Have you read any of these? What did you think?
Do we have any picks in common?
What kind of books do you like to read this time of year?


Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett | Book Review

Posted March 14, 2019 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 4 Comments

Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett | Book ReviewSerious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett
Published by Simon Pulse on April 16, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Source: From the publisher through Edelweiss
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4 Stars
After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.

Jenn Bennett is one of my favorite authors. I’ve now read all four of her young adult books, and the two things I can always count on are that the story will be filled with unique characters that I can’t help but fall in love with and that the story will be unlike anything I’ve read before. I really, really enjoyed reading Serious Moonlight, but it will not knock Starry Eyes out of first place in my eyes. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. I love our little bookish Birdie. She loves mystery novels and endeavors to be a private investigator one day. She has a bit of a dark past, wears a flower in her hair everyday, loves her family, and deals with anxiety (and a couple other health issues that make her interesting). I actually really connected with her when she got anxious about various things because she worries the same way that I worry: a lot and about things that aren’t actually that big of a deal. At the same time, this anxiety drove me nuts sometimes when her inner dialogue just kept going and going as she thought things to death and analyzed everything. lol. She also suspects she has narcolepsy like her grandfather, but tries to leave that pushed under the rug. For an anxious person, I’m actually surprised she can do that! Anyway, she’s a unique and interesting character with a backbone and a confidence I wish I had had at her age.

2. Daniel is the epitome of swoony boy (except he wears man buns, which makes me struggle to like him more than I otherwise would have). He’s exactly the kind of boy you would expect Jenn Bennett to dream up for us. He and Birdie met at the Moonlight Diner, and had a one night stand in the back of his car before Birdie flipped out and ran away, never to be seen again. Well, not until she shows up working the graveyard shift with him at the Carlisle Hotel. You’d think a boy who had been so epically rejected wouldn’t give her a second glance, but he pursues her relentlessly with his smooth, flirtatious nature. He’s got some of the best one-liners, and is so witty. He’s got some baggage just like Birdie, and I liked the depth it brought to his character. He’s very loyal and loving, too.

3. Birdie’s Aunt Mona is a HOOT. Oh my goodness, I loved her so much. Can Jenn write an adult romance just for her, please? Aunt Mona is mid-thirties, is an artist, lives in an old theater that she has re-purposed as an art studio, speaks very flowery (does that even make sense?), and cosplays every day. Seriously, she sews intricate costumes inspired by people in history and pop culture and has a huge collection of wigs, not to mention an entire rainbow of make-up to select from to complete her looks. She is a very supportive and loving aunt to Birdie. I’d love to be friends with this woman. She gives such great advice, and sounds like such a fun person to be around.

4. The mystery aspect was a fun addition to the story. Daniel really wants to spend time with Birdie, so he brings a hotel-related mystery to her attention and they spend their time investigating, discussing, and breaking a few laws to try and solve it. I love that this is how they bonded!

5. Daniel knows Birdie’s heart and takes her on a date to alive-action Clue dinner party for couples, and I was very invested. How cute is that? I loved it.

6. I loved the setting of the book. Birdie lives on Bainbridge Island and takes the ferry into Seattle for work every day. Things felt very cozy to me. Birdie and Daniel walk around Seattle exploring and investigating, and I loved reading little tidbits about the drizzly weather and fun tourist spots they end up in.

7. Things get a little heavy as we learn more about Birdie’s mom, Daniel’s family, some health issues they both deal with, and even some of Mona’s past. I appreciated the depth, but felt kind of weighed down by it. I wanted things lighter and fluffier, but that was just me at the time I read it. Jenn likes to bring real life into all of her books, and I can appreciate that. Nobody has a perfect life, and letting these characters be flawed and discuss their problems makes them more realistic and relatable.

8. The romance is very, very sweet and follows a natural progression as Daniel and Birdie learn how to let each other in and trust each other. I’m rooting for their future.

9. There’s an octopus named Octavia!!!

All in all, Serious Moonlight was so much fun and has given me more characters to love! Jenn’s writing is amazing, and her storytelling abilities always warm my heart. The dialogue between all the characters is wonderful, and kept me tearing through the pages. Even though Starry Eyes is still my favorite Jenn Bennett book, I highly recommend this one as well.


Ten Standalone Books I Wish Had a Sequel

Posted March 11, 2019 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 20 Comments

Welcome to another TTT! This week’s topic is about standalone books I wish had sequels (we did this same topic back in 2013. See mine here!). I used to really love series, but now I really appreciate a good standalone that I can just read and be done with and not have to worry about cliffhangers or remembering what happened a year later when the next book comes out. That’s not to say, however, that I’m always happy when a standalone ends. Sometimes I want more of the characters, or sometimes there’s a secondary character I read about that I’d like to see at the front of their own book! Whatever the case may be, here’s my list of books I’d like a sequel for.

1. Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett
This book isn’t even out yet, but I SO want a book about Birdie’s Aunt Mona!

2. I Temporarily Do by Ellie Cahill
I love the two main characters, and I want to know what happens to them after this book ends. Maybe a really long epilogue would suffice.

3. Till Death by Jennifer Armentrout
Ok, so I don’t technically need a sequel… I just need more romantic suspense like this because it’s amazing. Maybe sexy FBI agent Cole can tackle more serial killers.

4. The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
I just need more Josh and Lucy!!

5. Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White
I love this world, and I’d love more Finn!

6. Love, Lucy by April Lindner
I loved Jesse and Lucy so much in this book, and I want more of their story! What’s college like for these two? (In know there is a companion novella, but it’s not an additional story. It’s just Jesse’s point of view.)

7. Atlantia by Ally Condie
Another awesome world that I’d love to read another book set in!

8. All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
There was SUPPOSED to be a sequel and the publisher decided to pull a sucky move. I’d still LOVE to read it!

9. Degrees of Wrong by Anna Scarlett
I just loved this book, and think a sequel would be amazing! I love the world and the characters, and there was room left for more development.

10. Winter by Marissa Meyer
I just really miss my Lunar Chronicles team, and all the companion/sequel novellas aren’t enough! I’m also sad that I haven’t liked anything Marissa has written since… *weeps*

Which books do you wish had sequels?


Top Ten Characters I’d Like To Switch Places With

Posted March 4, 2019 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 9 Comments

This week’s topic was submitted by Sara @ A Gingerly Review, and is “top ten characters I’d like to switch places with”. What a fun topic! Sadly, my life got away from me and my list will be delayed. I’m sorry! Hopefully I’ll have time to come update it later today!

Which characters would you like to switch places with?


Interview With Stephanie Morrill | Within These Lines Blog Tour (+ Giveaway)

Posted March 4, 2019 by Jana in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Giveaway / 6 Comments

Interview With Stephanie Morrill | Within These Lines Blog Tour (+ Giveaway)

Welcome to The FFBC’s blog tour for Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill! As one of the co-owners of The FFBC, I had the privilege of organizing this tour and interviewing Stephanie!


Interview With Stephanie Morrill

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

1. You’re a self-proclaimed list maker. I’m assuming some of these lists are to-do lists, but what other kinds of lists do you write?

All kinds! I keep lists of places I want to go, skills I want my kids to have before they move out, books I read each year (starting and ending with my birthday), quotes I want to think about, and lots of other things. Every year I “celebrate” my birthday by making a list of what I learned in the last year, and the number corresponds with whatever age I’m turning. Sometimes my items are huge things that changed my life. Other times they’re products I fell in love with. I have a dorky amount of fun putting my birthday list together!

2. You’ve written both contemporary and historical YA. Do you prefer one over the other? How are they different for you?

I really love both contemporary and historical YA, though right now I’m in a groove with historical and I imagine I’ll stay here for a while. With historical, I really like being able to explore themes that resonate with our modern time without it feeling like a pointed attack, if that makes sense. I also like being free of questions like, “Should I mention social media platforms by name or is that totally going to date my book in a year or two?” Those are the kinds of struggles I have when I writing contemporaries!

3. Tell us about the site you created, GoTeenWriters.com. Why did you create it, and how has it helped you as a writer?

Go Teen Writers is my favorite corner of the internet. I created it back in January 2010 because so many of the emails I received from enthusiastic readers came from teens who were also writers. I was once a teen writer, and I didn’t know a single other person who wrote stories and wanted to be an author, so I loved the chance to pass along what I knew to these teens, and I also wanted to connect them to each other. A side benefit for me is that having the blog has helped me crystalize my own writing process, because I’m trying to understand and teach it. It also opens my eyes to different ways of doing things because the teens love to share their own processes as well!

4. Your bio says you love to travel, and have a list of places you’d love to visit. Which places are at the top of your list?

I do love to travel! One place that used to be at the very top of my list is Manzanar National Historic Site, but I was fortunate enough to cross that one off in 2018. I’m dying to get to Italy, particularly Venice because I’m just so intrigued by it. My husband and I have been planning a trip for a while, but we keep having babies, which isn’t great for international travel! Our youngest (and final) kiddos is three, so hopefully in the next few years.

5. What are you working on now?

I’m not totally sure yet! I’m really intrigued by the idea of writing a story with a dual timeline so that I can merge my love of contemporary and historical YA fiction, but I’m still figuring out what that looks like.

ABOUT THE BOOK

1. The slogan for Within These Lines is “Be Brave Enough to Care, and Bold Enough to Act”. I love that. Can you tell us what this slogan means to you and how it represents the book?

Thank you! The slogan was born out of a conversation that the main character, Evalina, has with her friend Grace. Evalina’s really nervous about something and Grace tells her that it’s normal to be nervous when you care. That idea really popped out to me as I worked on the rest of the book and I began to notice in my own life how loving others made me vulnerable.

But it’s so easy to care and still not be moved to do anything. Even if we can get over our apathy, actually doing something still takes energy and often means inconveniencing ourselves. I love that in the story both Evalina and Taichi grow to be good at living out this mantra.

2. What inspired you to tell this particular story?

I’m obsessed with podcasts, especially Stuff You Missed in History Class. They did a two-part episode on Executive Order 9066, which is the order Franklin D. Roosevelt signed that gave the US government permission to evacuate Japanese Americans and put them in concentration camps.

I found these episodes fascinating, and because I’ve always written for teenagers the idea popped into my head, “What would’ve happened if there was a Caucasian teenage girl who was in love with a Japanese American teenage boy, and his family was taken away?” As I researched a little bit, I realized the story could be even more interesting if my Caucasian teenage girl was actually an Italian American teenage girl, since Italy was aligned with Germany and Japan, yet Japanese Americans were the only people group targeted as a whole with the incarceration.

3. Tell us about the kind of research you did for Within These Lines.

The research for this book was so intense. For The Lost Girl of Astor Street, my plot was fiction, so my historical era was really an elaborate set piece. For Within These Lines, since I was portraying real historical events and sometimes real people and their role in these events, I devoted about 40 hours total to the research process. (Yes, I kept track. Yes, I’m a nerd.) On top of reading tons of books and actually going to Manzanar, I emailed regularly with a park ranger who specializes in Manzanar history. I also spent lots and lots of time on Densho encyclopedia, which is a fantastic site that’s collected oral history and original source documents from the evacuation and internment periods. I’m sure I still managed to make mistakes in the book, but I did my best to be as accurate as possible.

4. If you wrote yourself into this book, what role would you have played?

That’s a hard question. I would want to be a friend of Evalina’s, protesting and speaking out alongside her. But I’m probably more like Evalina’s mother than any of the other characters. I found myself really relating to Zola’s struggle to support Evalina’s appropriate needs for freedom and also her own desire to have a close relationship with her daughter. Those emotions feel relatable to me as my daughter approaches her teen years!

5. What message do you hope readers take away from your book?

My greatest hope for every story I write is just that readers will enjoy it. That’s always in the front of my mind when I’m writing. But if in addition to enjoying Within These Lines, the book causes readers to awaken to social injustices around them, that would be fantastic too.


Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill
Published by BLINK on March 5, 2019
Genres: Young Adult Fiction — Historical, Romance
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Evalina Cassano’s life in an Italian-American family in 1941 is everything it “should be” until she falls in love with Taichi Hamasaki, the son of Japanese immigrants. Despite the scandal it would cause and that inter-racial marriage is illegal in California, Evalina and Taichi vow they will find a way to be together. But anti-Japanese feelings erupt across the country after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Taichi and his family are forced to give up their farm and move to an internment camp.

Degrading treatment make life at Manzanar Relocation Center difficult. Taichi’s only connection to the outside world are treasured letters from Evalina. Feeling that the only action she can take to help Taichi is to speak out on behalf of all Japanese Americans, Evalina becomes increasingly vocal at school and at home. Meanwhile, inside Manzanar, fighting between different Japanese-American factions arises. Taichi begins to doubt he will ever leave the camp alive.

With tensions running high and their freedom on the line, Evalina and Taichi must hold true to their values and believe in their love to make a way back to each other against unbelievable odds.


About Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie Morrill writes books about girls who are on an adventure to discover their unique place in the world. She is the author of several contemporary young adult series, as well as the 1920s mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street, and the WWII era romance, Within These Lines. Since 2010, Stephanie has been encouraging the next generation of writers at her website, GoTeenWriters.com. She lives in the Kansas City area, where she loves plotting big and small adventures to enjoy with her husband and three children. You can connect with Stephanie and learn more about her books at StephanieMorrill.comInstagramFacebook, and Twitter.

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