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Blog Tour: DIABOLIC by S.J. KINCAID, 5 Star Review, Novel Secret & #Giveaway
Nov 2nd, 2016 by Liza Wiemer

diabolic-banner

 

ABOUT THE DIABOLIC:diabolic-cover

A Diabolic is ruthless. A Diabolic is powerful. A Diabolic has a single task: Kill in order to protect the person you’ve been created for.

Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid teenager created to protect a galactic senator’s daughter, Sidonia. The two have grown up side by side, but are in no way sisters. Nemesis is expected to give her life for Sidonia, and she would do so gladly. She would also take as many lives as necessary to keep Sidonia safe.

When the power-mad Emperor learns Sidonia’s father is participating in a rebellion, he summons Sidonia to the Galactic court. She is to serve as a hostage. Now, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia. She must become her. Nemesis travels to the court disguised as Sidonia—a killing machine masquerading in a world of corrupt politicians and two-faced senators’ children. It’s a nest of vipers with threats on every side, but Nemesis must keep her true abilities a secret or risk everything.

As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns there is something more to her than just deadly force. She finds a humanity truer than what she encounters from most humans. Amidst all the danger, action, and intrigue, her humanity just might be the thing that saves her life—and the empire.

 

LINKS: Amazon | B&N

Review:

The DiabolicThe Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This NOVEL! DO NOT MISS THIS ONE! My acrostic poem below. :)

GAH! I loved it. It’s definitely one of my top reads of 2016! Thank you so much to the publisher for providing an ARC

THE DIABOLIC.
Humans, humanoids and
Excesses.

Dive in!
It’ll hold your
Attention,
Blow you away with fascinating characters and
Open up a universe filled with betrayal, murder,
Love, danger, humanity and
Inhumanity.
Cheers, S.J. Kincaid!

 

NOVEL SECRET by S.J. Kincaid

Note from Liza: I LOVE THIS! Yes, you know I read The Diabolic, so I totally get it! I wouldn’t want to imagine this male main character any other way! Read on…

A SECRET OF THE DIABOLIC:

My male main character went through several iterations. In the very first, seen-only-by-me draft, he was unquestionably a bad dude. A bad dude who quite enjoyed the main character, but he did bad stuff. He manipulated, he engineered an innocent person’s death without blinking, and there is a great crime in the book which he originally did.

But I never liked that. Never. And I wanted this to be a full stand-alone story arc and I couldn’t really end it on the note I was ending it on. I knew the ending I really wanted to write, so I decided to scale back the bad dude part, and maybe make him more of a manipulative, ambiguous product of his upbringing. That’s what I did originally, and even then, I scaled it back a bit more after my first reader (my sister) noted that a particular part seemed a bit sociopathic.

Then after the book was acquired, a few other things the character did were questioned as particularly douchey and wrong. I balked at first at the idea of removing these, because I knew as soon as I did, I had to reconceived of this character on a rather fundamental level. it meant seeing him through a new lens in my own mind, and then incorporating that in the text.

But I did it, and I’m really glad I did, because it gave me a new vision of the character that I feel better about… And surprisingly, some people still pick up on a few of those undertones I thought I’d removed.

You will have to read it to see who I am talking about.

(Okay, it’s Tyrus).

S.J. Kincaid

S.J. Kincaid

ABOUT S.J. KINCAID:

S.J. Kincaid was born in Alabama, grew up in California, and attended high school in New Hampshire, but it was while living beside a haunted graveyard in Scotland that she realized that she wanted to be a writer. Her debut, Insignia, came out in July of 2012. The second book in the series, Vortex was released in July of 2013. The final book in the trilogy, Catalyst, came out October 28, 2014. Her standalone novel The Diabolic will be released in fall 2016.

 

LINKS: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr | Instagram

Tour Schedule:

Week 1:
 
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Giveaway (3 finished copies – US Only)

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Blog Tour: ABOUT ESSENTIAL MAPS FOR THE LOST-Novel Secrets, Review & Giveaway
Apr 12th, 2016 by Liza Wiemer

EMFTL Tour Banner

ESSENTIAL MAPS FOR THE LOST Blog Tour

LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | iBooks | The Book Depository

About ESSENTIAL MAPS FOR THE LOST:

When Madison makes a startling discovery, the body of a dead woman floating in the middle of a lake, the summer after her senior year becomes more complicated than she ever expected.

Madison (Mads to everyone who knows her) is staying with her aunt and uncle in Seattle after graduating from high school. Being away from Essentials Maps for the Lost - Coverher needy, unstable mother who’s been pressuring her to take over the family business is such a relief. Now all Mads has to worry about is taking classes, swimming laps, and fighting off the sadness that threatens to overtake her.

That is, until the traumatic moment Mads collides with a body in the middle of the lake. After swimming the body back to shore, Mads becomes obsessed with uncovering the identity of the woman and what drove her to leap off of the Aurora Bridge. Determined to discover more, Mads parks outside the woman’s home and sees the woman’s son: the sweet and tormented Billy Youngwolf Floyd.

Through a series of not-so-happenstance meetings, Mads and Billy realize that desperate mothers and rescue missions are not the only thing that bonds them. Billy carries a map in his pocket; the one of the museum from The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler; and it’s his dream to visit the museum one day. And though book-loving Mads is expected to return home to her already-decided future, her dream is to run away to a life of her choosing.

As the unlikely pair fall hard for each other and as the summer draws to a close, Billy and Mads must decide whose story to follow: their family’s or their own.

Novel Secrets: A peek behind the scenes of Essential Maps for the Lost

I once lived part-time in one of the houseboats on Lake Union. These are not the kinds of boats you drive – think “Sleepless in Seattle,” a home on top of water. On the houseboat docks it’s all magic – seaplanes and twinkling city lights, sprinkled with an assortment of wacky neighbors and charming tugs, barges, sailboats and kayaks cruising past. Often, the sailors will wave as they glide by, and you will wave back as you stand at the dock. But the houseboats can be a bit eerie and atmospheric, too – things are a little off kilter there. Yes, they’re charming and shingled and dripping with gorgeous flowers. Ducks paddle past, and sailboats swoop out to the lake, and it’s glorious. Still, the houses and boats rock and clang. The old piers sway and creak. On a rainy day, it’s almost spooky. On any day, it’s all slightly unhinged.

In other words, it’s a perfect place to set a book, or in my case, many books. The first book I ever set there was an unpublished novel I wrote many years ago. The son from that novel became Sebastian in The Nature of Jade, who lives with his baby boy in his aunt’s houseboat. Clara and Christian in Stay also visit Lake Union one night, and my first novel for adults, He’s Gone, is set entirely on the same dock as Nature of Jade. Sebastian’s aunts and some of the old neighbors from Jade make an appearance in that one, as Dani Keller tries to find out where her husband has vanished. (And, as a bonus “novel secret” – all of my books have interconnecting characters and locations. If you read them closely, you’ll even find out what happens to certain characters, major and minor, in their future.)

Essential Maps for the Lost begins when Mads is swimming in Lake Union and bumps into the body of a woman who jumped off the nearby Aurora Bridge. In her desire to find out why this woman took her own life and understand her own depression, Mads becomes involved with the woman’s son, Billy Youngwolf Floyd, who now lives with his grandma in one of the houseboats near the bridge. When I lived on the lake, a friend who owned a houseboat near the same bridge told me how a similar event happened to him – he had seen a body in the water, but while driving a boat. I swam a lot in the lake when I lived there, and I never forgot his story. I’m hoping my latest novel, Essential Maps for the Lost, will be a story you’ll remember, too.

REVIEW:

Essential Maps for the LostEssential Maps for the Lost by Deb Caletti

Thank you so much to the publisher for the ARC.

An eye-opening look into depression, suicide, family dynamics, serendipity, and how two lost souls find each other and fall in love. A journey that will leave readers cheering for the characters and hoping that they’ll find a happy future together.

Depression is a serious topic and Deb Caletti holds a spotlight to it by intertwining the lives of two teens in an emotional, honest, heartbreaking and healing journey. Madison has a needy, self-absorbed, demanding mother who centers her life around her daughter, expecting her to be her best friend. She’s also mapped out Madison’s life by making her a partner in her real estate business.
Billy is a teen living with his cranky, verbally abusive grandma. His mom suffered from depression and when she killed herself by jumping off a bridge, Billy grieves deeply and is a lost soul.

Both Madison and Billy have a strong desire to save others—Billy works at an animal shelter and Madison babysits a little girl with messed up parents. They definitely understand each other.

Things I loved:
1. Madison’s aunt and uncle—they really care about her. And she needs them. I love how they stand up for her
2. Billy’s gentle ways and how he cares for and rescues animals
3. Madison’s love for the child she babysits for
4. How Madison and Billy find strength to follow their own paths
5. Integrating The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler into the story
6. Sweet romance. I definitely felt the chemistry between these characters and looked forward to watching it develop and sizzle
7. A hopeful ending

Definitely recommended for YA realistic contemporary fans!

ABOUT DEB CALETTI:Deb Caletti

Deb Caletti is an award winning author and National Book Award finalist. Her many books for young adults include “The Nature of Jade,” “Stay,” “The Last Forever,” and “Honey, Baby Sweetheart,” winner of the Washington State Book award, the PNBA Best Book Award, and a finalist for the PEN USA Award. Her first book for adults, “He’s Gone,” was released from Random House in 2012, and was followed with “The Secrets She Keeps” in 2015. Coming this April: “Essential Maps for the Lost,” her eleventh book for young adults. She lives with her family in Seattle.

LINKS: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest

Tour Schedule:

Week 1:
 
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Giveaway:

3 Finished Copies of ESSENTIAL MAPS FOR THE LOST (US Only)

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Blog Tour: PERSUASION by Martina Boone, Review, Q&A & #Giveaway
Nov 3rd, 2015 by Liza Wiemer

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Blog Tour: Persuasion by Martina Boone, book 2 in the Heirs of Watson Island Trilogy

ABOUT THE PERSUASION:

Grieving the death of her godfather and haunted by her cousin Cassie’s betrayal, Barrie returns from a trip to San Francisco to find the Watson plantation under siege. Ghost-hunters hope to glimpse the ancient spirit who sets the river on fire each night, and reporters chase rumors of a stolen shipment of Civil War gold that may be hidden at Colesworth Place. The chaos turns dangerous as Cassie hires a team of archeologists to excavate beneath the mansion ruins. Because more is buried there than treasure.A stranger filled with magic arrives at Watson’s Landing claiming that the key to the Watson and Beaufort gifts—and the Colesworth curse—also lies beneath the mansion. With a mix of threats and promises, the man convinces Barrie and Cassie to cast a spell there at midnight. But what he conjures may have deadly consequences.

While Barrie struggles to make sense of the escalating peril and her growing and forbidden feelings for Eight Beaufort, it’s impossible to know whom to trust and what to fight for—Eight or herself. Millions of dollars and the fate of the founding families is at stake. Now Barrie must choose between what she feels deep in her heart and what will keep Watson’s Landing safe in this stunning addition to a series filled with “decadent settings, mysterious magic, and family histories rife with debauchery” (Kirkus Reviews, on Compulsion). 

 
Martina Boone

Martina Boone

 

ABOUT MARTINA BOONE:
Martina Boone was born in Prague and spoke several languages before learning English. Her first teacher in the U.S. made fun of her for not pronouncing the “wh” sound right, so she set out to master “all the words”—she’s still working on that! In the meantime she’s writing contemporary fantasy set in the kinds of magical places she’d love to visit.If you like romance steeped in mystery, mayhem, Spanish moss, and a bit of magic, she hopes you’ll look forward to meeting Barrie, Eight, Cassie, Pru, Seven and the other characters of Watson Island.
 
LINKS: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr | Pinterest

Q&A with Martina

Hi Liza! YAY! I am so honored to be here with you. It’s fun to get to hang out with you on your blog—mostly because you’re fun to hang out with any old place. : ) I’m afraid that your questions were so good that I went on and on and on about them. Sorry in advance!

1. Barrie hates that Eight knows how much she needs and wants him to stay on Watson Island. Because hes compelled to fulfill her desire, its hard for her to trust his feelings for her. What is important for readers to know about this relationship???

That’s a great question. It would be so easy for Barrie to just accept how Eight feels for her at face value. She’s already had to come to terms with questions about how much Eight’s ability to know what she wants allows him to manipulate her into falling in love with him, but it’s easier for her to believe that he’s worth loving than it is for her to see the same quality in herself. Part of that has to do with the fact that your parents create formative relationships in your life. When she isn’t sure that her own mother could love her, it’s hard to believe that someone like Eight would do so.

It quickly becomes more than that, though. It becomes a question of free will versus compulsion. Eight is changing his life for her—putting aside something that she knows has been a long-time dream he’s worked hard to achieve. Because she loves him, how can she let him do that if he isn’t doing it of his own free will?

While she’s thinking about that, the situation becomes complicated by Obadiah and Seven, who essentially make her have to choose between giving up her magic or giving up her relationship with Eight. She refuses to accept that choice, and she struggles to find an alternative solution—and the only way to do that, as she sees it, is to keep a secret that she probably shouldn’t keep.

I really wanted this relationship, and this entire book, to make people give some thought to the lies we tell, the secrets we keep, and the fine line between persuasion and compulsion.

2. I found the Civil War scenes very powerful and heartbreaking. What research did you do to bring the horrors from the past into your novel?

I did a ton of research. In addition to working with an archeologist and professor of anthropology on the trilogy overall, I spent months poring over and often crying over, the stories that I found in diaries and personal accounts. In some ways, though, the “official” records were far worse—the official records that I found and the ones that simply don’t exist.

There’s a myth that the Civil War was somehow “civil” when it came to women, that there wasn’t as much rape as there has been in other wars. There are two reasons for that—one is that the general stigma of rape was even worse back then than it is today. According to the Department of Justice, even now only 36 percent of rapes, 34 percent of attempted rapes, and 26 percent of sexual assaults are reported—and the reason those are reported is the hope of bringing the perpetrators to justice and preventing future victims. In war, neither of those outcomes is likely. White women were therefore unlikely to accept the shame of publicly admitting to having been raped. Crimes against black women were not reported either. The reasons for this were so horrifying that I felt almost paralyzed writing about it. For one thing, the rape of black women was most often reported as a property crime by slave owners rather than a sexual assault, and even more horrifyingly, female slaves were frequently forced into having sex.

The scene the night the mansion burned was one of the hardest things I’ve ever written. It’s actually based on an account about a ten-year-old child that I read. The situation was so awful that I had to tone it down to write the first draft, and then I toned it down again, because had I left it in, it would have overshadowed the entire book.

3. You blend the past and the present seamlessly. Past is the present as Cassie, Barrie, and Eight see the forces of the Civil War unfold right in front of them. What can readers learn from what they went through as witnesses to this horror?

I was researching and writing Cassie’s story at the time that Boko Haram took the school girls hostage and the extent of the slavery crisis across Africa and the rest of the world began to be more widely reported. Having spent so much time speaking to sexual assault and PTSD victims, I was deeply affected by what the girls I read about or spoke with had gone through or were going through. More than anything else, it gutted me to realize the extent to which we are going backward rather than forward. How can we, in 2015, have 30 million slaves in the world? Because most of them are women and children. Because most come from poor nations. Because . . . There are innumerable reasons and excuses. But slavery is just the extreme example of what are still staggeringly high statistics of crimes against women. We talk a lot about the “rape culture” in this country. That doesn’t exist just in the United States.

The problem isn’t just with men. It’s with anyone who allows the lines between free will, persuasion, and compulsion to get blurred by their own self-interest or desire. Force isn’t the only tool in the arsenal used to diminish, marginalize, or overpower women. Subtle pressure, bullying, blackmail, and threats of various kinds can be almost as, if not just as, damaging.

You know the saying—the best villains don’t know they’re villains. This was true with slave holders in the Civil War, and it’s true of those who enslave, rape, date rape, or abuse adults or children today. Somehow, they manage to convince themselves that they’re not really doing anything wrong.

The answer to this, I believe, has to start with empathy. The first thing we have to realize is that the people who do these horrible things, the people who did them in the past, and who are doing them in the present, are often kind or productive citizens in other respects—and that they use that fact to excuse their own horrific acts toward those weaker than themselves.

The interweaving of past and present in Persuasion was a very deliberate way for me to try to raise awareness of the problem of violence against women in all its different guises, both as a societal issue we need to repair here in the United States, but also as an act of war all around the world. And it’s my hope that girls who read this book might consider, even if only on a subconscious level, their own definitions of the line between compulsion and persuasion. It breaks my heart that one in three girls will be raped in the US before they are 19. Or when I see statistics that show 41 percent of 6th to 9th grade girls and 51 percent of boys think it’s okay for a man to force a woman to kiss him if he’s spent money on her. Or that 47 percent of the girls and 65 percent of the boys think that forcing sex on a woman is okay if they’ve been dating for more than six months, and this shoots up to 79 percent of girls and 87 percent for boys who think its okay as long as the couple is married. WTF?

This has to change. But we all know it’s not going to change by screaming at people. I truly do feel that fiction has a role to play here. Fiction builds empathy, and empathy is our hope for the future. Not everyone reads—and even fewer people read “issue books.” I wanted to write about the issue in a way that might reach readers who normally don’t read about issues. Fingers are crossed!

Lightning round:

Chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry?

Chocolate.

Vacation spot: big city, beach, nature preserve?

City.

Snack food you have a compulsion for?

Nutella.

What terrifies you more: snakes, spiders, mice?

Snakes. So much!

Would you rather be a Watson, a Beaufort or a Colesworth?

Watson. : )

 My review: – 5 stars

Persuasion (The Heirs of Watson Island, #2)Persuasion by Martina Boone

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cover: Absolutely GORGEOUS! ❤️❤️❤️

We have kissing like THIS:

Hold on to the edge of your seat, because PERSUASION takes you on a ride that will leave you breathless. Martina Boone does an extraordinary job weaving together history, magic, mystery, and modern times. She unspools questions like the Fire Carrier unspools his ball of flames across the river. Readers will swoon over Eight and Barrie, pray that they’ll make it as a couple. Is Eight with Barrie because she wants him and he wants to give her whatever she wants? Is their love for each other real? Or is it because of the magical gifts each one has: Barrie’s ability to find things and his ability to know what other people want.

The questions won’t stop there. Readers are introduced to Obadiah and his magic. Who is he? Is he evil? What is his connection to the curse plaguing Cassie? And what is going on with Cassie? More games? What kind of persuasion is influencing these characters? Why did Seven break up with Pru years ago, when clearly he loves her? Why is Seven keeping secrets from Eight? Can the curse be broken? Will Barrie get to keep her gift? Will Eight be burdened by his??? Will the archeologists find the missing gold or something unexpected, perhaps evil, on the Colesworth estate?

The biggest question of all? WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT?!

So, take a breath . . .

Get comfort where you can . . .

And be patient. OKAY, I CAN’T BE PATIENT!

I absolutely, positively MUST have the third book in this series!!!!!!!!!!!

If you haven’t read COMPULSION, get it now!

Fall in love with the history, Southern charm, romance, magic, mystery, rich scenes, clever, smart writing, and all those questions. (Oh! And I forgot to mention the food references!!!!!! I will be searching for recipes, just like the amazing COMPULSION Woopie pie cake Heidi from YA Bibliophile made for our Novel Cuisine Luncheon http://www.whorublog.com/2014/12/16/t… ! – which is once again mentioned in PERSUASION! Drool!)

Without any doubt, PERSUASION will be on my top-reads list of 2015!
Thank you so much to SimonTeen and Martina Boone for the advanced copy.

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Giveaway:
3 Finished copies of COMPULSION & PERSUASION to 3 Winners.
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Blog Tour: TRULY MADLY FAMOUSLY by Rebecca Serle – Review
Oct 13th, 2015 by Liza Wiemer

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Truly, Madly, Famously

by Rebecca Serle
Published byLittle, Brown Books for Young Readers

Pub. Date: October 13, 2015

From Goodreads:

In this romantic sequel to Famous in Love, new Hollywood “It Girl” Paige must navigate love with her co-stars, both on and off screen and all in the public eye.

Lights, camera, love!

After being plucked from obscurity, Hollywood’s newest starlet, Paige Townsen, has a hit film to her name and Rainer Devon on her arm. But being half of the world’s most famous couple comes with a price, and soon Paige finds herself dodging photographers; hiding her feelings for her other costar, Jordan Wilder; and navigating tabloid scandals that threaten to tear her and Rainer apart-and end her career as quickly as it began.

Rebecca Serle’s sequel to Famous in Love is filled with the kind of celebrity drama and swoon-worthy romance fit for the silver screen.

My review:

This is book #2 in the Famous in Love Series.

The story continues with Paige being torn between two boys: the one she REALLY loves and the one she feels a sense of loyalty to. That loyalty is also love, but the kind one feels for a close friend, not someone you want to spend the rest of your life with. Straight out of the tabloid headlines, Paige gets herself into compromising situations. More on those soon.

One of my most favorite characters in this book is Alexis. She’s strong, sensible, authentic. There’s a scene at the end of the book that reminds me of other actors who have done similar things at national events. Good on ya Alexis!!!!

My heart ached for Rainer. He really struggled with his relationship with his dad and found it difficult to be vulnerable, especially with Paige. Without a doubt, his father’s betrayal crushed Rainer. How do you reconcile the fact that the father you’ve loved has done something so awful that you can no longer respect him?

Then there is Jordan. He’s had to turn off his feelings for Paige like one turns off a spigot. Unfortunately, the spigot leaks once in awhile.

Paige really does some inappropriate and/or boundary-breaking things that definitely confuse and encourage Jordan. As far as the love triangle situation, I kept thinking about Twilight—Kristen Stewart & Taylor Lautner and, of course, Robert Pattinson. Then there is Paige’s sister. You’ll have to read the book to form your own opinion of what was right or what was wrong. The best part of Paige’s life are her friends from before she became famous, Jake and Cassandra. They accept her for who she is with little expectations. If they did have expectations of Paige, like getting phone calls returned, I doubt they’d be able to remain friends. This acceptance, this unconditional love, is a foundation for Paige, one she’s very fortunate to have and is able to lean on when she needs to be rooted again.

For those who love Hollywood drama, love triangles, and the human side to actors and actresses, you will gobble up Truly, Madly, Famously! Without a doubt, Rebecca Serle has created a story that’s right out of the tabloids. It’s captivating, filled with vivid descriptions, and a Hollywood dripping with privilege and betrayal.

 

About Rebecca: From her website—

Hey, Guys! I’m so glad you decided to visit my little corner of the Internet. As you may know I am a writer– always have been and barring some kind of Broadway-discovery– always will be. I have loved writing since I could put words down on a page and that love took me through school at USC and eventually delivered me to NYC, my home and the scene of one of my novels, The Edge of Falling. I feel about New York the way I feel about writing– pretty in love. That is not to say they both don’t have their challenges (they do– they are both so unruly and noisy!) but there is really no where else in the world I’d rather live, and nothing else in the world I’d rather do. I’m crazy lucky, but by far the best part of my job is interacting with you, the wonderful people, teens, hearts on the other side of this dialogue. So please reach out! Tweet me, visit me on Tumblr, talk to me about your favorite TV show (mine is The Vampire Diaries) and know that it is because of you that I am here.

Connect with Rebecca here:

WebsiteTwitterGoodreads

 

Win 1 of 10 copies of TRULY MADLY FAMOUSLY (US Only)

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Blog Tour: JOYRIDE by Anna Banks, Review, Q & A & Giveaway!
May 13th, 2015 by Liza Wiemer

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 Buy it here:

IndieBoundAmazon | B&N | Book Depository 22718685

My review:

JoyrideJoyride by Anna Banks

Cover: Love it. Pickup trucks are driven by a lot of people in this novel. Nighttime scene is perfect, since MCs are night owls.

Deeply moving, revealing, touching, painful, romantic, and heartfelt. I highly recommend this novel for all YA contemporary fans.

Even though I personally don’t know of anyone who has experienced a family member who has been deported for being in this country illegally, Anna Banks brought this issue and these characters to life! I fell in love with Carly and Arden. Carly has such incredible strength and fortitude. Arden becomes a better person because of this beautiful Latina. Family, friendship, love, betrayal, racism, suicide, depression are some of the themes of this novel.

What I love about this novel:
1. Carly is a really strong person, and she stands up for others. She carries a burden that no teen should ever have—supporting her family. She’s had to grow up way too fast, and I love that Arden brings out that “fun” part of her.
2. Anna Banks shows racism for exactly what it is – UGLY, disgusting, filthy!
3. The fun, practical jokes!
4. Carly’s relationship with her older brother. It’s complicated, but it makes Carly grow as a person and forces her to gain her independence.
5. Arden – G-d bless that boy! He sticks up for Carly when most would bury themselves in a hole because they wouldn’t defy a parent.
6. The portrayal of Arden’s parents and the fact that he found a way not to sink with them!
7. What a sweet romance between Arden and Carly!
8. Arden’s uncle! What a fascinating character!!!
9. Possibly one of the best kisses in a novel! Swoon!

I found JOYRIDE deeply moving, heartbreaking, inspiring, and swoon-worthy! Add this to your to-read list!

Thank you so much to the publisher for the review copy.

View all my reviews

 

Author Links/Info:AUTHOR PIC1

Q: Living in Wisconsin, a vastly different environment from where JOYRIDE’s Florida setting, illegal  immigration issues are rarely discussed in the local news. What is the biggest misconception about illegal immigrants you hear and what would you like people to understand?

A: In this area, the biggest complaint is that Mexican immigrants are “stealing” all of the jobs—because they’re willing to work for less money than most people to do the same job. I hate this logic. The thing is, Mexican immigrants are the hardest working people I know, and most employers know this too. It’s just natural to want to hire the best employee you can find—no reason to bring race into it at all.

Q: In JOYRIDE, Carly and her brother Julio work nearly around the clock to pay to illegally bring their parents and their twin siblings back to the US for a whopping $60,000 with no guarantee that they’ll arrive safely!!! What kind of research did you do to find out about the illegal operations?

A: From the time I started waitressing as a teen, I worked with some undocumented immigrants, and they told me their stories. Many left families behind to come here and provide a better life for them back home. Some brought their families with them—a dangerous risk to be sure. They would pay people who they called coyotes to get them across the border. Sometimes the coyotes would only get them as far as the desert, and they had to walk for days in those conditions with the little food and water they could bring with them. They were devastatingly unprepared for their journey.

 Unfortunately, their stories are just a few of the many which are just a Google search away. Responsible journalism paints a truly horrific picture of what these people go through to improve their circumstances—it’s heartbreaking and inspirational at the same time.

Q: Arden’s father, the town sheriff is a raving bigot and racist jerk. Arden not only sticks up for Carly, but defies his father. What do you think is the most important lesson teens can take away from this, especially since going against their parents can be so hard!

A: In general, I don’t advise teens to go against their parents. But if we’re being honest here, teens know the difference between right and wrong. It’s as simple as that. I didn’t write JOYRIDE to be a teachy preachy book. What I want to get across is that you HAVE to find your own identity, separate from your parents, and I think the teen years are the beginning of that process.

Q: Arden finds not only a partner in mischief with Carly, but a true and loving friend. Still, both Arden and Carly have issues that cut them to the soul. What qualities did they possess for each other that helped to heal their internal wounds?

A: For Arden, Carly offers stability and consistency and unmoving strength. For Carly, Arden offers a sense of humor, and relief from how overwhelming life can be.

Q: What was your favorite scene to write and why?

A: The poopy purse scene! Mainly because I’ve done it before and it’s freaking hilarious in real life and, I hope, just as entertaining in the book.

Q: In JOYRIDE, Arden and Carly pull some pranks. They were all in fun. When does fun cross the line and become a problem?

A: It crosses the line when someone could get hurt, or if someone feels bullied. For instance, scaring old people is not recommended.

Q: You address the mental illness of schizophrenia in Joyride. The illness has painful consequence to Arden and his family. Share one or two things that you want readers to know about this illness.

 A: I think I want to share something about mental illness in general:

  • It’s not your fault. Don’t feel guilty if you suffer from a mental illness, and don’t give anyone the power to make you feel ashamed about it.
  • For those who don’t have a mental illness, don’t assume you can look it up on Wikipedia and understand what a person with the illness goes through. You can’t.
  • If you’re suffering from a mental illness, speak up. There is support for you out there. Reach out, grab it, and don’t let go. You deserve happiness just like everyone else.

 

BONUS ROUND:

 

Tea, coffee, milk, or hot chocolate? Yes.

Onion rings, french fries, or sweet potato fries? Yes.

Romance, comedy, horror, suspense thriller, documentary, or action film? Romantic documentary.

Snakes, rats, spiders, or bats? Which one would make you squeal/squirm/freak out the most? Snakes scare the bejesus out of me. There. I said it.

Ski vacation in Aspen, Caribbean beach vacation, shopping excursion to Paris, or safari in Africa? I would be deadly in skis, I already live near one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and my huge meaty butt would be entirely too appetizing for a lion to resist—so shopping in Paris seems like the logical choice. 

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WHEN REASON BREAKS by Cindy L. Rodriguez – Review #WeNeedDiverseBooks
Mar 1st, 2015 by Liza Wiemer

 WHEN REASON BREAKS by Cindy L. Rodriguez – Review

Hardcover, 304 pages

Published February 10, 2015

Published by: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Buy it here: IndieBound | Amazon | Audible | B&N | Book Depository

Connect with the author: Goodreads | Twitter

From Goodreads:22032788

13 Reasons Why meets the poetry of Emily Dickinson in this gripping debut novel perfect for fans of Sara Zarr or Jennifer Brown.

A Goth girl with an attitude problem, Elizabeth Davis must learn to control her anger before it destroys her. Emily Delgado appears to be a smart, sweet girl, with a normal life, but as depression clutches at her, she struggles to feel normal. Both girls are in Ms. Diaz’s English class, where they connect to the words of Emily Dickinson. Both are hovering on the edge of an emotional precipice. One of them will attempt suicide. And with Dickinson’s poetry as their guide, both girls must conquer their personal demons to ever be happy.

In an emotionally taut novel with a richly diverse cast of characters, readers will relish in the poetry of Emily Dickinson and be completely swept up in the turmoil of two girls grappling with demons beyond their control.

My Review:

When Reason BreaksWhen Reason Breaks by Cindy L. Rodriguez Highly recommend. (Plus an amazing cover that fits well with the novel.)

WHEN RESAON BREAKS is a deeply moving story that addresses the issues of depression and suicide. Teacher Ms. Diaz introduces her students to Emily Dickinson, and her poetry has a tremendous influence on the characters in this novel. Emotionally charged issues of true friendship, dating, sex, and betrayal combined with overpowering parents for one character and a parent grieving from her divorce for another, impact this story.

Beautifully written, people will feel Elizabeth’s anger and Emily’s struggle with her identity and the emotions that come with it, the confusion that comes with sadness and loss, developing relationships and those relationships that break. I love the complexity Cindy Rodriguez brings to all her characters.

I definitely recommend this novel for anyone who likes a serious contemporary YA. I’m certain the characters will remain with readers long after they finish. Bravo, Ms. Rodriguez for shining a new light on tough issues. In addition, the Dickinson references and Ms. Rodriguez’s explanation of those references will introduce Dickinson to young adults—some for the first time. They’ll learn more about her life and poetry, which I am certain will get some to explore Dickinson’s work further!

Thank you to Bloomsbury for providing the ARC.

View all my reviews

Morris Finalist Blog Tour: Review – THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER by Leslye Walton
Jan 29th, 2015 by Liza Wiemer

The 2015 finalists for the YALSA William C Morris Debut Award:

  • “The Carnival at Bray” written by Jessie Ann Foley, published by Elephant Rock Books (http://www.elephantrockbooks.com/). In 1993, the grunge movement is at its height and Maggie Lynch is living comfortably in Chicago, near Nanny Ei and Uncle Kevin, her musical guru. After her impulsive mother marries and moves the family to a tiny Irish village, Maggie struggles to adjust to the changing world around her.
  • “The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim” written by E.K. Johnston, published by Carolrhoda Lab™, an imprint of Carolrhoda Books, a division of Lerner Publishing Group (https://www.lernerbooks.com/carolrhodalab/). Owen is training to be a dragon slayer, a crucial job in a world where dragons bring death and destruction. With help from their friends and family, Owen and his bard Siobhan seek the source of a growing dragon threat.
  • “Gabi, a Girl in Pieces” written by Isabel Quintero, published by Cinco Puntos Press (www.cincopuntos.com). Aspiring poet Gabi Hernandez is having a complicated senior year: One of her best friends is pregnant, and the other just came out. Even as her mother worries that she will become a “bad” girl, Gabi adds romance and the quest for college to her already full plate.
  • “The Scar Boys” written by Len Vlahos, published by Egmont Publishing (http://egmontusa.com/). In a college admission essay, Harry Jones reveals the physical and psychological scars of his childhood and the solace and self-confidence he found in friendship and punk music.
  • “The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender” written by Leslye Walton, published by Candlewick Press (http://www.candlewick.com/). Born with a pair of wings, sixteen-year-old Ava Lavender inherits a rich family history and a legacy of heartbreak. After a young man becomes convinced she is an angel, can Ava survive his obsession intact?

 

THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER18166936

by Leslye Walton

Published by Candlewick

Buy it here: Audible | IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Connect wit the author: Goodreads | Twitter | Website

 

From Goodreads:

Magical realism, lyrical prose, and the pain and passion of human love haunt this hypnotic generational saga.

Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird.

In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration.

That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo.

First-time author Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human.

My review:

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava LavenderThe Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is magical realism, one of perhaps two I have read in a list of over 600 books since 2010. In other words, I haven’t read a lot of novels in this genre. It was strange and different and enthralling. I definitely was pulled into the story of Ava Lavender, a winged girl born to a “odd” family. Walton does a great job giving readers a family history, filled with wondrous occurrences and plagued with sadness.

There are many metaphors and life lessons to be extracted from this novel. One of which is to accept or embrace your uniqueness. Love and the perils of love is another theme—choose wisely to whom you give your heart.

Highlights:
Ava’s family history and ghosts.
Henry, Ava’s non-winged twin.
The bakery.
Gabe!
Rowe!

I deeply appreciated the opportunity to suspend logic and go for this ride in magical realism. Ava was a remarkable character and I was able to visualize what she would have looked like with her useless wings. The bakery scenes with the textures and scents had me drooling. What an imagination Leslye Walton has! The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a wonderful challenge for readers who want something different, something out of the ordinary. Mythical, magical, wondrous, unique.

Thank you so much, Candlewick, for the ARC!

View all my reviews

Morris Finalist Blog Tour: Review of THE SCAR BOYS by Len Vlahos
Jan 27th, 2015 by Liza Wiemer

The 2015 finalists for the YALSA William C Morris Debut Award:

  • “The Carnival at Bray” written by Jessie Ann Foley, published by Elephant Rock Books (http://www.elephantrockbooks.com/). In 1993, the grunge movement is at its height and Maggie Lynch is living comfortably in Chicago, near Nanny Ei and Uncle Kevin, her musical guru. After her impulsive mother marries and moves the family to a tiny Irish village, Maggie struggles to adjust to the changing world around her.
  • “The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim” written by E.K. Johnston, published by Carolrhoda Lab™, an imprint of Carolrhoda Books, a division of Lerner Publishing Group (https://www.lernerbooks.com/carolrhodalab/). Owen is training to be a dragon slayer, a crucial job in a world where dragons bring death and destruction. With help from their friends and family, Owen and his bard Siobhan seek the source of a growing dragon threat.
  • “Gabi, a Girl in Pieces” written by Isabel Quintero, published by Cinco Puntos Press (www.cincopuntos.com). Aspiring poet Gabi Hernandez is having a complicated senior year: One of her best friends is pregnant, and the other just came out. Even as her mother worries that she will become a “bad” girl, Gabi adds romance and the quest for college to her already full plate.
  • “The Scar Boys” written by Len Vlahos, published by Egmont Publishing (http://egmontusa.com/). In a college admission essay, Harry Jones reveals the physical and psychological scars of his childhood and the solace and self-confidence he found in friendship and punk music.
  • “The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender” written by Leslye Walton, published by Candlewick Press (http://www.candlewick.com/). Born with a pair of wings, sixteen-year-old Ava Lavender inherits a rich family history and a legacy of heartbreak. After a young man becomes convinced she is an angel, can Ava survive his obsession intact?

My review of THE SCAR BOYS12769538

by Len Vlahos

Published by Egmont USA

Buy it here: Audible | IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository 

Connect with Len Vlahos: Goodreads | Twitter | Website 

From Goodreads:

A severely burned teenager. A guitar. Punk rock. The chords of a rock ‘n’ roll road trip in a coming-of-age novel that is a must-read story about finding your place in the world…even if you carry scars inside and out.

In attempting to describe himself in his college application essay–help us to become acquainted with you beyond your courses, grades, and test scores–Harbinger (Harry) Jones goes way beyond the 250-word limit and gives a full account of his life.

The first defining moment: the day the neighborhood goons tied him to a tree during a lightning storm when he was 8 years old, and the tree was struck and caught fire. Harry was badly burned and has had to live with the physical and emotional scars, reactions from strangers, bullying, and loneliness that instantly became his everyday reality.

The second defining moment: the day in 8th grade when the handsome, charismatic Johnny rescued him from the bullies and then made the startling suggestion that they start a band together. Harry discovered that playing music transported him out of his nightmare of a world, and he finally had something that compelled people to look beyond his physical appearance. Harry’s description of his life in his essay is both humorous and heart-wrenching. He had a steeper road to climb than the average kid, but he ends up learning something about personal power, friendship, first love, and how to fit in the world. While he’s looking back at the moments that have shaped his life, most of this story takes place while Harry is in high school and the summer after he graduates.

My review:

The Scar BoysThe Scar Boys by Len Vlahos

The Scar Boys.

I find myself fumbling for words, struggling to put my thoughts together.

But I’ll try.

Through a super-long college essay – from 250 words to the length of a novel, readers will discover the life-changing event that altered Harry’s life FOREVER! Thanks to some horrible, horrible bullies.

This one act changes Harry’s life forever, and it doesn’t get better until he becomes a member of a band, The Scar Boys, aptly named because of all the scars he carries.

Throughout the novel, readers receive the narrative of the most impactful moments that shaped Harry’s psyche. Some will leave you gasping, cringing, hurting. Others will make you smile, cheer for Harry.

This novel has impact. It will leave you shaking your head, cheering, hoping for a broken soul and a broken body to heal. It leaves you thinking about people who have walked in shoes similar to Harry’s, whatever their physical challenges. It makes you think about the healing power of music, the importance of finding your passion, the basic need that everyone has to be loved, cherished, and how those that should love us, sometimes don’t in the way that’s needed.

The Scar Boys will leave a long-lasting imprint on my mind and in my heart. I have no doubt, I’ll be thinking about these characters and recommending this novel to others.

Bravo to Len Vlahos!

View all my reviews

Review and Giveaway: SAVING GRACE by Jane Green
Jan 11th, 2015 by Liza Wiemer

Review and Giveaway:21853667

SAVING GRACE by Jane Green

Hardcover, 352 pages

Pub. Date: December 30, 2014

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Buy it here: IndieBound | Audible | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Connect with Jane Green: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Pinterest

“Green spins a dark romance, recalling All About Eve, where intimacy masks betrayal.”

Kirkus Reviews“Green tackles serious issues such as emotional abuse and over-prescribing of drugs while

still managing to keep the pages turning at a rapid rate.”
Booklist
“Fans of Green get everything they have come to expect and love in this
psychological domestic drama: it’s fast paced and emotionally satisfying.”
Library Journal 

ABOUT SAVING GRACE

From the number one bestselling author of Tempting Fate and The Beach House comes Jane Green’s stunning new novel about a shattered marriage and a devastating betrayalA perfect stranger wants her perfect life.

Grace Chapman has the perfect life, living comfortably with her husband, bestselling author Ted, in a picture-perfect farmhouse on the Hudson River in New York State.

Then Ted advertises for a new assistant, and Beth walks into their lives. Organized, passionate and eager to learn, Beth quickly makes herself indispensable to Ted and his family. But Grace soon begins to feel sidelined in her home–and her marriage–by this ambitious younger woman.

Is Grace just paranoid, as her husband tells her, or is there more to Beth than first thought?

Filled with Jane’s own recipes–she trained as a chef at the French Culinary Institute–SAVING GRACE also explores the misdiagnosis of mental illnesses, and the dangers of handing out drugs which are supposed to cure, but end up causing more harm.

ABOUT JANE GREEN

Jane Green’s sixteenth novel, Saving Grace, will be published on December 30th, 2014; she is the author of fifteen previous New York Times bestselling novels. Initially known for writing about single thirty-somethings, she has gone on to write mature stories about real women dealing with all the things life throws at them, with her trademark wisdom, wit and warmth.A former feature writer for the Daily Express in the UK, Green took a leap in faith when she left, in 1996, to freelance and work on a novel. Seven months later, there was a bidding war for her first book, Straight Talking, the saga of a single career girl looking for the right man. The novel was an immediate top-ten bestseller in England, and Green was an overnight success.

Now in her forties, Green has graduated to more complex, character-driven novels that explore the concerns of real women’s lives, from marriage (The Other Woman) to motherhood (Another Piece of My Heart) to divorce, stepchildren, affairs, and most recently, midlife crises (Family Pictures and Tempting Fate).

She joined the ABC News team to write A Modern Fairytale – their first enhanced digital book – about the history of Royal marriages, then joined ABC News Radio as a live correspondent covering Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton. She has written a micro-series for Dove starring Alicia Keyes, many short stories, and has contributed to various anthologies, as well as regularly appearing on television shows including Good Morning America, The Martha Stewart show, and The Today Show.

Together with writing books and blogs, she contributes to various publications, both online and print, including Huffington Post, The Sunday Times, Cosmopolitan, and Self, has taught at writers conferences, and does regular keynote speaking.

A foodie and passionate cook, Green filled one of her books, Promises to Keep, with recipes culled from her own collection. She says she only cooks food that is “incredibly easy, but has to look as if you have slaved over a hot stove for hours.” This is because she has six children, and has realized that “when you have six children, nobody ever invites you anywhere.”

Most weekends see her cooking for a minimum of twenty people in her home in Westport, Connecticut, where she lives with her husband and their blended family. When she is not writing, cooking, gardening, filling her house with friends and herding chickens, she is usually thanking the Lord for caffeine-filled energy drinks.

 My Review:

Saving GraceSaving Grace by Jane Green
Grace leads a wonderful, sheltered life with her best selling author husband Ted Chapman. He’s a bit of a handful, but his assistant makes all the difference in smoothing out the rough edges of his life and keeping everything on track. When she leaves for family reasons, Beth steps into the scene.

Everything about Beth seems like a perfect match. She changes Grace’s life for the better and is a fabulous assistant to Ted. Until Grace realizes that what Beth really wants is Grace’s life.

SAVING GRACE will keep readers on their toes. You never know what Beth is going to do next on her quest to take over Grace’s life. Grace has a fight on her hands, and it’s for her sanity.

I love how things turn out for Grace. I have nothing but pity and distain for the weak Ted. This is done so perfectly!

Oh and Beth. Pure evil. A conniving, manipulative, deranged woman, who destroys lives. Very much reminded me of similarities to the movie Fatal Attraction. Anyone who has seen it, knows it’s unforgettable. This novel has the same type of impact.

I love Grace’s family history. I love Grace’s adopted family back in England. I love the choices she makes with them. I love Grace’s daughter. I love Grace’s quiet strength.

The book ending is really great.

Final verdict: If you want a psychological thriller that’s a captivating read and a mind-bender with fascinating characters, then I definitely recommend SAVING GRACE.

View all my reviews

Giveaway: (US Only) One copy of Saving Grace

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Happy Release Day & Review: A LEAGUE OF HER OWN by Karen Rock
Dec 1st, 2014 by Liza Wiemer

Review:23252231

A LEAGUE OF HER OWN

by Karen Rock

Publisher: Harlequin

Pub. Date: December 1, 2014 Buy here: Amazon

Connect with the author: Goodreads | Website | Facebook

From Goodreads:

He was attractive, talented…and way off limits.
Heather Gadway may have been a world-class college pitcher and a top university coach, but she’s a rank amateur when it comes to managing the Falcons, her father’s struggling minor league team. And when it comes to managing her aggravating attraction to Garrett Wolf, their talented new pitcher. It’s going to be difficult enough to make it as the first female manager in the league and prove to her overly critical father she’s worthy. No distractions. No missteps. And certainly no romances with players. Everything stands between them—including their troubled pasts—even as Heather’s world falls apart and Garrett’s the one who’s there to catch her…

Romance, Baseball, Rivals to Lovers, Contemporary Romance.

My Review:
A League of Her OwnA League of Her Own by Karen Rock

How does the past influence your present? In A League of Her Own Karen Rock brings Heather and Garrett together — two deeply wounded people scarred from their past.

Heather’s father owns a minor league team. When he needs Heather (a former superstar pitcher of her own right and a pitching coach at a college), she drops everything to take over for her dad, managing the boys.
Garrett is a potential star pitcher, but his sketchy past haunts him in the present. For Heather, it’s a reminder of her worst childhood nightmares. Yet, her attraction to Garrett and vise versa is so palatable that it hurts. On so many levels this relationship is wrong. Heather’s Garrett’s boss, he has issues that cut her to the core, and she can’t move past them, even though he’s trying the best he can.

Can they resolve issues from the past and find a way to love and cherish one another?

With baseball as the backdrop, Karen Rock fuels readers attention for America’s pastime and interjects sweet, tender romance appropriate for anyone at any age.

Things I loved about this story:

1. The lesson that our past shouldn’t always influence our present and future.
2. That we’re not all doomed to repeat past mistakes if we work hard to change.
3. That love is the most powerful weapon/gift of all.
4. Sometimes healing the past can be done by helping someone in the present.
5. Personal dreams can change.
6. Appreciate the NOW because in an instant what we know can vanish.
7. What we believe isn’t always the truth, so hear others out.

This is a romance novel for anyone who seeks something deeper and more meaningful, for anyone who has experienced difficulties and has had a hard time moving past them. This is a story of love and ultimately hope. Enjoy!

Thank you to the publisher for the NetGalley copy.

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