Thursday 30 June 2011

Review: Kindling the Moon - Jenn Bennett

Being the spawn of two infamous occultists (and alleged murderers) isn’t easy, but freewheeling magician Arcadia “Cady” Bell knows how to make the best of a crummy situation. After hiding out for seven years, she’s carved an incognito niche for herself slinging drinks at the demon-friendly Tambuku Tiki Lounge.

But she receives an ultimatum when unexpected surveillance footage of her notorious parents surfaces: either prove their innocence or surrender herself. Unfortunately, the only witness to the crimes was an elusive Æthyric demon, and Cady has no idea how to find it. She teams up with Lon Butler, an enigmatic demonologist with a special talent for sexual spells and an arcane library of priceless stolen grimoires. Their research soon escalates into a storm of conflict involving missing police evidence, the decadent Hellfire Club, a ruthless bounty hunter, and a powerful occult society that operates way outside the law. If Cady can’t clear her family name soon, she’ll be forced to sacrifice her own life . . . and no amount of running will save her this time.

Arcadia Bell Series:
Kindling the Moon
Summoning the Night (2012)

Visit Jenn Bennett's website for more information

Cady has spent 7 years in hiding since her parents were accused of murder and they faked their own deaths.  Alone and on the run Cady has to keep her identity a secret so although she has friends she always keeps part of herself back from others.  When her parents are caught on camera and the world realises they are not dead Cady is faced with a difficult task, she must prove their innocence or she will be forced to pay for their alleged crimes herself.  With the only witness an ancient demon that Cady has no idea how to find she is going to have to trust demonologist Lon with her secrets and hope that he can help her.  Can they track the demon down in time to save her parents?

Kindling the Moon is an impressive debut novel and one of the best starts to an urban fantasy series that I've read in a long time.  It kept me up until gone 3am two nights in a row and I could easily have read the book in a day if I'd had more time.  Author Jenn Bennett has created an interesting world where demons live amongst us, only identifiable by a coloured halo that most humans are unable to see.  She smoothly tells us about this world through Cady's eyes and manages to do this in a way that hooks you without sending you into overload with massive info dumps that can sometimes be a downfall in first books of a new series.

Cady is a great character and one I'm looking forward to seeing more of.  She is a trained magician and part owner of a demon friendly tiki bar where she works as a bartender come bouncer.  Cady isn't the kind of heroine who goes looking for trouble, she is happy with her quiet life and although she keeps her secrets close to her chest she obviously cares about her friends.  She is aware of her own strengths and weaknesses and isn't afraid to admit when she has made a mistake.  While she doesn't ask for trouble she is capable enough of dealing with things when they are thrown at her and she will do whatever it takes to keep the people she cares about safe.

Lon was an interesting character, again not the standard male lead in urban fantasy but very likable all the same.  He is shy, reclusive and not very good at expressing his feelings but was still someone you'd like to spend time with.  I have to admit that Lon's son Jupe was one of my favourite characters in the book, he is a very realistic teenager and one you can't help but love.  The family dynamics were great and I enjoyed watching Cady as she gets to know them both better.  It has been so long since she has had people who she can trust with her secrets so it is good for her to have someone to rely on.

Kindling the Moon had everything I look for in a good story - characters I like and can relate to, a believable romance, plenty of action, good world building, laugh out loud moments and some pretty evil bad guys.  Jenn Bennett is definitely an author to watch out for and I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot more of her in the future.  I can't wait for the next installment!

Source: I received an ebook ARC from Jenn Bennett in exchange for an honest review

Other Reviews:
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Wednesday 29 June 2011

Guest Review: Life: An Exploded Diagram - Mal Peet

Today I have a guest review from the lovely Kirsty at The Overflowing Library.  Kirsty is a fab blogger and has become a great friend so if you've never visited her blog make sure you drop by and see her.  Thanks for writing a guest review for me Kirsty!  This review was originally posted on The Overflowing Library here.

Clem Ackroyd lives with his parents and grandmother in a claustrophobic home too small to accommodate their larger-than-life characters in the bleak Norlfolk countryside. Clem's life changes irrevocably when he meets Frankie, the daughter of a wealthy farmer, and experiences first love, in all its pain and glory. The story is told in flashback by Clem when he is living and working in New York City as a designer, and moves from the past of his parents and grandmother to his own teenage years. Not only the threat of explosions, but actual ones as well, feature throughout in this latest novel from one of the finest writers working today.

Visit Mal Peet's page on the Walker website for more information

Kirsty's Review:
Life: An Exploded Diagram is a coming of age story set in rural North Norfolk during the Cold War. These two things alone made it a bit of a must read for me. Having never read an Mal Peet I wasn't sure what to expect but I can honestly say I really enjoyed it.

Life is one of those books you can devour in a matter of hours despite its size (at just about 400 pages long it is a bit of a monster). I was totally engrossed and found myself just wanting to read more and more to find out what happened next.

As I said Life is basically a coming of age story following the life of Clem Ackroyd a boy from rural north Norfolk focusing particularly on his teenage years and the relationship he develops with local rich girl Frankie. When I was reading it it reminded me both of Boy by Roald Dahl in its narrative and style but also a bit like an Adrian Mole story in how ordinary Clem actually was. I loved the relationship between them and I was on tender hooks waiting to see what was going to happen between them.

I loved the Norfolk references being a native myself. I hate it when stories are "set" in a place but it is obvious that the person has never been there. Apart from the fact that a few names are changed (I loved the use of the name Hazeborough - if you are from Norfolk you will get the joke - if not I don't think I can explain it) you can really tell that the author is writing about somewhere he has actually been and about experiences he lived through earlier in his life.

I also really enjoyed the historical references. The books is a prime example of the type of historical fiction I love and the type I think appeals to Young Adults themselves. It doesn't attempt to over burden you with detail after detail about the period but rather builds them into the story to give you a real sense of period without the reader really realising it.

I must say the end came as a bit of a surprise and I had to go back over a couple of pages to check I had got it right. I didn't see it coming at all but it fit really perfectly the story as a whole and I loved how poetic it was against the historical backdrop it was written in.

All in all an excellent book which I really enjoyed. I will be recommending this one regularly.
Source: I received this from Walker in exchange for an honest review and sent it to Kirsty who offered to review it for me

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Tuesday 28 June 2011

Review: One More Bite - Jennifer Rardin

It's Jaz Parks checking in, with the latest in dark supernatural double-dealing.

I've already smoked the guy who was the pain in the CIA's you-know-what for the past few years.  But now, in the power vacuum left by the death of Edward 'The Raptor' Samos, a struggle for supremacy has begun between his former allies.

The CIA feels the balance must be maintained.  So when a Valencian Were agent discovers a plot to assassinate the Coven of Inverness' leader, me and my vampire hottie (and boss), are drafted in.  Our mission - to take out the woman hired to do the deed, a killer who might be as wily and Gifted as ourselves.

So it's off to the Scottish Highlands for some twisted fun among murderers, demons and half-crazed relatives.  Sometimes being a top-secret CIA assassin isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Jaz Parks Series:
Once Bitten, Twice Shy
Another One Bites the Dust
Biting the Bullet
Bitten to Death
One More Bite
Bite Marks
Bitten in Two
The Deadliest Bite (2011)

Visit Jennifer Rardin's website for more information

Since Jaz and Vayl's team managed to destroy the Raptor his allies have been fighting amongst themselves to see who is going to take his place.  The CIA are trying to maintain the balance so when they discover that someone has hired a hit woman to take out the coven leader of one of the main groups they decide to send Jaz and Vayl to stop the hit.  So the team is going on a trip to Scotland and they're going to have their work cut out if they want to stop the mercenary in time.

I was a little bit disappointed with the last book in this series (Bitten to Death) so I was pleased to find that things are getting back on track in One More Bite.  I still missed having Cassandra and Bergman in this installment, I really love it when the whole team is together so I'm hoping to see that happen in the next book.  I have to admit that this was more than made up for by the fact that Albert (Jaz's dad) was with them on the mission though.  He had me laughing out loud with his antics and I really enjoyed the bickering between him and Jaz.  I was glad we got to find out more about Jaz's family background, things have been alluded to in the previous books but we never had too much information about why she hates her mother so much so it was good to get some clarification on that.  I understand Jaz's reactions to certain things a lot better now.

I'm so relieved that things still seem to be going well between Jaz and Vayl, I was hoping for a little more relationship development but they are still slowly moving in the right direction.  I was worried when I realised that Cole was going to be playing a major part in this installment, he annoyed me just from the sidelines in the last book and I really wasn't looking forward to having to put up with more of him this time.  I was actually pleasantly surprised though and he didn't irritate me anywhere near as much.

The story line was well written, included a lot of humor, plenty of action and added some new supernatural elements to the series.  I'm looking forward to reading the next installment.

Source: Library

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Monday 27 June 2011

Review: Dark Ride - Caroline Green

A shiver crawled up my spine.  It felt like the loneliest place in the world.  For a second I thought I caught a snatch of music in the air, but it was just the wind whistling through cracks in the fairground hoardings.

My instincts screamed, 'Run away, Bel!  Run away and never return!'

But instead my fingers closed around the ticket in my pocket.


Bel has never met anyone like Luka.  And the day she follows him into the abandoned fairground, she is totally unprepared for the turn her life is about to take.

Visit Caroline Green's page on the Piccadilly website for more information

When Bel moves to the seaside town of Slumpton with her mother she isn't happy.  She didn't want to leave her friends behind but worse of all her father hasn't come with them.  Bel doesn't like her new home, she finds the cold, grey and run down town depressing and she is incredibly lonely.  That is until she meets Luka and follows him to the old fairground.  But is Luka really all he seems and what caused the mysterious disappearance of his mother?  As they begin to investigate they are drawn into a dark and dangerous world.

If you have ever been to a run down British seaside resort you will know exactly what Slumpton looks like.  Caroline Green has perfectly captured the atmosphere - the run down B&Bs, the old fairground, the steamy cafes and the cold grey British weather.  As I was reading I felt like I was there in Slumpton right alongside Bel and it was easy to put yourself into her situation.  Bel is a realistic teenager, she can be moody and mouthy but you are drawn to her and feel her loneliness like it was your own.  She is the kind of character you can't help but like and I enjoyed spending time in her head.  I don't want to say much about Luka for fear of giving spoilers so I'll just tell you I loved him and let you read the book for yourself to find out why.

The story certainly lives up to it's name and takes you on a Dark Ride covering difficult issues including family breakups and modern day slavery.  At less than 200 pages this is an easy book to devour in one sitting and in fact once you get started it is almost impossible to put down.  This is an impressive debut and I can't wait to see what Caroline Green comes up with next.  She has definitely been added to my list of auto-buy authors.

Source: Received from the author in exchange for an honest review

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Sunday 26 June 2011

Review: Hell's Belles - Jackie Kessler

Once upon a time, Jezebel was a powerful succubus, capable of seducing men and sucking out their souls.  But that was before Hell put a bounty on her head.  Now Jesse's only chance to escape a fate far worse than death is to live as a mortal, losing herself in a place where sinners walk hand-in-hand with saints - a place like Belle's strip club in New York City.  Working as an exotic dancer is a piece of cake for a former demon that once specialised in sex.  Taking money from men?  Please.  But she hadn't counted on meeting sexy Paul Hamilton, a man haunted by his past.

Learning all about how complicated - and pleasurable - love can be, Jesse thinks she's turned her back on Hell.  But Hell hasn't stopped looking for her.  The secrets she holds are the most dangerous of all, the kind every demon in the Underworld would do its worse to protect, and the demons are closing in . . .

Hell on Earth Series:
Hell's Belles
The Road to Hell
Hotter than Hell
Hell to Pay

Visit Jackie Kessler's website for more information

Jezebel is a succubus who has spent thousands of years collecting men's souls and taking them to hell but now she is on the run.  It's not easy to go AWOL from Hell though and her only chance of escaping the demons who are after her is to hide amongst mortals.  Finding a job as a stripper in New York Jesse tries desperately to remain hidden but how long will it be before Hell is on her heels?

When we are first introduced to Jezebel (or Jesse for short) she isn't an easy character to like, she is selfish, bitchy and does some really unpleasant things to someone that was trying to help her.  I did start to wonder if I wanted to continue reading but I'm glad I stuck it out because as she starts to settle into her new life we do get to see a nicer side to Jesse.  It was quite funny watching her settle into her new life as a human, she may have spent the last 4,000 years seducing men but she obviously hasn't spent much time in the human world and is easily confused by things that we wouldn't even have to think about.

I did have a few issues with the book though, the first of which was the use of flashbacks.  I don't actually mind flashbacks in general and I was very interested in the glimpses of hell that we got through them but I found the way they were inserted into the story was jarring.  The first time it happened I was completely thrown out of the story and had to flick back a few pages to see if I'd missed something and try to figure out what was going on.  You do get used to this as you continue reading though so it's just a case of getting used to a different writing style.

I didn't feel the romance between Jesse and Paul, we don't know enough about Paul for me to care much about him and I didn't really think there was much of a connection between the two of them.  It was obvious that they had the hots for each other but it didn't seem like anything more than that for me.  I was also about ready to throw the book across the room if Jesse used the words "sweetie" or "bless me" one more time.  I just couldn't get my head around a succubus saying "bless me" - what self-respecting demon would want to be blessed?  It didn't sit right with a character as crude as Jesse could be and really bugged me while I was reading.

Although this wasn't the strongest start to a series compared to others I have read I'm still curious enough about the revelations at the end to want to find out what happens next.  I also really want to find out more about Meg and Daun (2 of Jesse's friends from hell) and hope we see a lot more of them in the next installment.  Considering this was a debut novel I think the series has potential and I'll be interested to see how Jackie Kessler's writing style has developed over time.  If you enjoy an erotic paranormal story it might be worth giving this a try.

Source: Received from Piatkus in exchange for an honest review

Other Reviews:
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Saturday 25 June 2011

Cover Comparison - Bloodlines - Richelle Mead

UK Cover:
UK Release Date = 25th August 2011

US Cover:
US Release Date = 23rd August 2011

Book Description:

Sydney protects vampire secrets – and human lives. As an alchemist, she is part of a secret group who dabbles in magic and serves to bridge the world of humans and vampires.

But when Sydney is torn from her bed in the middle of the night, she fears she’s still being punished for her complicated alliance with dhampir Rose Hathaway. What unfolds is far worse. Jill Dragomir—the sister of Moroi Queen Lissa Dragomir—is in mortal danger, and goes into hiding. Now Sydney must act as Jill’s protector.

The last thing Sydney wants is to be accused of sympathising with vampires. And now she has to live with one . . .

If you've been following the blog for a while you probably already know what a massive fan I am of Richelle Mead.  Her Vampire Academy series is one of my all time favourite YA series but I also really like her adult books too and always stalk the shops when she has a new release coming out!  So as an avid fan it feels like I've been waiting forever for Bloodlines (the first book in Richelle's new YA series that is a spin off from her Vampire Academy books) to come out.  Luckily I don't have too much longer to wait now as Bloodlines is released in the UK on the 25th of August and I can't wait to get hold of my copy!!

What I want to know though is who else is desperately waiting for this book?  I've included the UK and US covers for you to have a look at and I'd love to know which is your favourite.  Personally I adore the UK cover and think it is going to look fab next to the lovely red covers of my Vampire Academy books.  I do like the US cover but to me the UK one stands out a lot more and is quite unusual.  The US version is a bit too similar to the many other urban fantasy books I've got on my shelves.  Which is your favourite?

Friday 24 June 2011

Review: Boom! - Mark Haddon

It was a stupid, insane, suicidal idea.
Which makes it quite hard to explain why I decided to help.
I guess it boils down to this.  Charlie was my best friend.  I missed him.  And I couldn't think of anything better to do.  Really stupid reasons which were never going to impress the police, the headmistress or my parents.

Looking back, I reckon this was the moment my whole life started to go pear-shaped.

This book was originally published with the title Gridzbi Spudvetch! but was updated by the author before being re-released as Boom!

Visit Mark Haddon's website for more information

When Jimbo's older sister Becky tells him that he is about to be expelled his friend Charlie helps him bug the staff room so they can find out if it's true or not.  While they don't hear anything relating to Jimbo being expelled they do hear two of their teachers talking in a strange language that neither of them have ever heard before.  Their curiosity about this language leads them to start an investigation into their teachers which ends up having very surprising results.

I'm a big fan of Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time so was keen to try Boom! but I have to admit that I didn't realise that it is targeted at a much younger age range (I'd guess somewhere between 8-11).  I don't usually read books aimed at this age range so I found the story a little less well developed that I would have liked but I think it is probably perfect for it's target audience.  As an adult you have to be able to suspend belief at the things a couple of young children manage to achieve (driving all the way to Scotland despite the fact that they've never driven before for example) but the story was a fast paced and funny read and I finished it in one sitting.

I would definitely recommend this for younger children, especially those who like science fiction stories but I don't think it will really appeal to most adults apart from as a book to read with their children.  It has left me with the strangest craving to try a cheddar cheese and strawberry jam sandwich though!

Source: Received from RHCB in exchange for an honest review

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Thursday 23 June 2011

Review: Just Like Heaven - Julia Quinn

Honoria Smythe-Smith, the youngest daughter of the eldest son of the Earl of Winstead, plays the violin in the annual musicale performed by the Smythe-Smith quartet. She’s well aware that they are dreadful. In fact, she freely admits (to her cousins) that she is probably the worst of the bunch. But she’s the sort who figures that nothing good will come of being mortified, so she puts on a good show and laughs about it.

Marcus Holroyd is the best friend of Honoria’s brother Daniel, who lives in exile out of the country. He’s promised to watch out for Honoria and takes his responsibility very seriously. But he has his work cut out for him when Honoria sets off for Cambridge determined to marry by the end of the season. She’s got her eye on the only unmarried Bridgerton, who’s a bit wet behind the ears. When her advances are spurned, can Marcus swoop in and steal her heart in time for the musicale?

Smythe-Smith Quartet:
Just Like Heaven
This will be a series of 4 books but I was unable to find names for future releases at the time of writing this review.

Visit Julia Quinn's website for more information

Honoria has known Marcus since she was 6 years old when he became best friends with her brother Daniel and she thinks of him as part of the family.  When Daniel is forced to leave the country he asks Marcus to watch out for his little sister and Marcus takes his responsibility seriously, determined not to let Honoria marry the wrong man.  When an accident caused by Honoria leaves Marcus on his death bed she is determined to do whatever it takes to make him well again.  But as their feelings towards each other start to change will either of them be brave enough to tell the other how they feel?

I have always loved historical romance but for some reason I've hardly read any books in this genre over the last couple of years.  Just Like Heaven has reminded me why I love these books and I'm definitely planning on reading more of them from now onwards.  Julia Quinn is an incredibly popular author but this is the first of her books I have read, it definitely won't be the last though and I'm looking forward to working my way through her back list.

Honoria is a sweet character who loves being part of a big family and holding up their traditions by taking part in the Smythe-Smith musicale.  Even though she knows how dreadful the quartet really is she puts on a brave face and is happy to go along with it just because her family love it so much.  I loved the bantering between her, Sarah, Iris and Daisy as they were practising for the musicale and am looking forward to seeing more of their bickering in future books in the series.  Honoria is 21 and what she wants most is to find a husband and start a family of her own, she is determined to find her man and the antics she gets up to trying to catch him had me laughing out loud on several occasions.  It was nice to have a hero who was a nice man, Marcus isn't a rogue and in fact comes across as quite serious to those who don't know him well.  Deep down though he is just shy and to the few that he is close to he is sweet and funny.  I'll admit he made my heart melt and I loved the way he expressed his feelings about Honoria.

Just Like Heaven is a great light hearted, fun read that I couldn't put down.  I'd heard the story described as Jane Austin meets Bridget Jones and would completely agree with that assessment.  It's a great summer romance and I can't wait to spend more time in the world Julia Quinn has created.  A highly recommended read for fans of historical romance.

Source: Received from Piatkus in exchange for an honest review

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Wednesday 22 June 2011

Review: Darkness Becomes Her - Kelly Keaton

Ari Selkirk has always stood out.  With her teal-coloured eyes and freakish silver hair, it's hard not to.  And she's always been alone.  Her mother died when she was tiny, and she's grown up in foster care, longing for some understanding of who she is and where she came from.  When her search for answers uncovers a message from her mother with the single word 'RUN' on it, Ari realises that someone, or something, is getting too close.  But it's impossible to protect herself when she doesn't know who or what she's running from.

Returning to her birthplace in the rebuilt city of New Orleans, she discovers she isn't so different after all.  But why is every creature she encounters, no matter how deadly or horrifying, afraid of her?  The truth is both disturbing and terrifying . . .

Gods and Monsters Series:
Darkness Becomes Her
A Beautiful Evil

Visit Kelly Keaton's website for more information

Ari was brought up moving from one foster family to another and although she has now found a loving home she has never really felt like she fitted in anywhere.  She also has questions about her birth parents and it is when she goes looking for answers that she finds herself in a whole new world.  After finding a letter from her mother telling her that her family is cursed and she must run Ari decides she must head to New 2 to find answers.  New 2 used to be New Orleans, until 2 hurricanes destroyed the city several years ago.  Unable to fund the cost of re-building the city the government sold the city to an alliance called the Novem and the city has become a haven for outsiders and anyone who is different.  Although the Novem have started re-building a lot of New 2 is still very run down and poverty stricken but Ari finds a group of misfit children and feels like she has found a place where she can fit in at last.

I wasn't really too sure what to expect of Darkness Becomes Her but it is an impressive YA debut and I'm looking forward to seeing where Kelly Keaton takes the series next.  If you're looking for a YA urban fantasy that is a little different then this would be a good place to start, the author has mixed in an interesting amount of Greek mythology and the story stands out from the huge number of YA vampire stories in the market at the moment.

Ari is different from a lot of other YA heroines in the fact that she can stand up for herself and she doesn't take people at face value.  Her past has taught her to be wary and it takes her time before she will trust people.  Although she is vulnerable she is capable of standing up for herself and can kick butt when she needs to.  I did think that the romance took off a little too quickly when she met Sebastian but I liked them as a couple so I was easily able to forgive that.  We are introduced to some great secondary characters who I'm looking forward to learning more about as the series progresses.  Along with Sebastian you have the rest of the misfits Crank, Henri, Dub & Violet and although I liked them all it was Violet who really stood out for me.  She is a weird and quite creepy character but at the same time she was also incredibly sweet and makes you want to look out for her.

The story line is fast paced and full of twists and turns, I'll admit that I had made a good guess at what Ari was before the big reveal but this didn't reduce my enjoyment of the story and I couldn't wait to find out if I was right or not.  There were a few things that I would have liked to have seen expanded but I'd rather have a pacy shorter story than one that is long winded and meanders to the finish line at a snail's pace.  Darkness Becomes Her was a great start to a new series and is an easy book to devour in one session.  I can't wait to get my hands on the next book in the series and would recommend this to any fans of YA paranormal stories.

Source: Received from Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review.

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Tuesday 21 June 2011

Review: Bitten to Death - Jennifer Rardin

Warped as we are, we kinda love it when our odds dip.  Because that's when the real fun begins.

My latest mission has taken me to the ancient Greek city of Patras; but instead of soaking up it's splendor, I'm here to infiltrate a vampire Trust.  Only two vamps have ever escaped one of these tightly bound communities and lived to tell the tale: Edward 'The Raptor' Samos, the most reviled criminal mastermind in recent history, and Vayl, the CIA's number one assassin who also happens to be my boss.

The Raptor is trying to take over Vayl's former Trust.  Unfortunately their new leader has her own plans.

This job will be the death of me.

Jaz Parks Series:
Once Bitten, Twice Shy
Another One Bites the Dust
Biting the Bullet
Bitten to Death
One More Bite
Bite Marks
Bitten in Two
The Deadliest Bite (2011)

Visit Jennifer Rardin's website for more information

The Raptor is trying to take over Vayl's old vampire Trust, the leader has asked for Vayl's help and he and Jaz are determined to take down the enemy they have spent so long hunting.  As they arrive at the Trust they realise that not everything is as it seems, the former leader is missing and the person who has taken over has her sights set firmly on Vayl.  Can Jaz keep hold of her man or will he be led into temptation by an old acquaintance?  And, can they finally take down The Raptor?

Bitten to Death is the fourth book in the Jaz Parks series and I'll admit it was probably my least favourite book so far, having said that I still enjoyed it enough to want to continue reading the series so I'm looking forward to picking up One More Bite.  What I enjoyed most was getting to find out a bit more about Vayl's past but I still have a lot of unanswered questions about him and I hope we find out more in the next book.  I also loved the addition of shape shifters in the series, I don't think we've had any up until this point but I really loved Trayton and would like to see more of him and the pack.

It seems like Jaz and Vayl might finally be ready to start moving forward in their relationship too which has been a long time coming.  Jaz is so frightened of getting hurt again that she is scared to show her feelings, this is understandable but it is good to see her start to realise how much she already cares for Vayl.  Vayl on the other hand is happy to admit that he wants Jaz but he tends to push her away whenever he thinks there might be a chance to find his sons which I have to admit is starting to grate on my nerves.  There is definitely chemistry between them though so it will be interesting to see how things play out between them.

I've always enjoyed this series for it's action scenes and the different types of technology that they have access to via Bergman but this time I felt that the final battle was a little anti-climatic.  Things tied up just a little bit too easily and I would have liked to see a more grisly battle.  I missed the interaction with the other team members, this time around only Jaz, Vayl and Dave are on the assignment so we hardly see any of the others apart from through phone conversations.  The banter between them all is usually one of the highlights of the books so as much as I'm enjoying seeing more of Dave I hope they're all back together in the next book.  I'm also getting more than a little fed up of Cole constantly trying it on with Jaz, I like his character less and less as the series progresses and just want to see Jaz tell him to back off.

Although I don't think this is the strongest book in the series I still think fans will enjoy it and I'm looking forward to reading the next book.

Source: Library

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Winner: Vampirates Series by Justin Somper

With the help of I am very happy to announce that the winner (who gets to pick a book of their choice from the Vampirates series by Justin Somper) is:


Congratulations Vivienne!  You mentioned in your comment that you would like to win the first book in the series Demons of the Ocean.  If you can email me at sarahsreviews at ymail dot com with your address details I will order your book for you.  If I don't hear from you within 1 week then a different winner will be chosen.

Monday 20 June 2011

London Blogger Meet Up - 14th May 2011

A few weeks ago Jo (Ink & Paper and Once Upon a Bookcase) organised another blogger meet up.  Unfortunately she was unable to come along and join us, but if I'd been invited to spend the weekend in Ireland I probably would have changed my plans too lol.  I'd like to say a massive thanks to her for making the effort to arrange everything though, we had a great time but you were missed Jo!

We all met up in the coffee shop in the basement of Waterstones in Piccadilly and spent a good few hours chatting about books and blogging.  There is nothing better than spending time with people who are as obsessed with books as you are!  Poor Michelle was telling us about a publisher who keeps contacting her to ask her to remove a review she has written from her blog.  It was for a book she didn't get on with and didn't finish reading but having now read the review I thought she gave an honest opinion and the review wouldn't have put me off trying the book if it had been one I was interested in reading, having heard about the reaction from the publisher I wouldn't touch one of their books with a bargepole now though! 

We also had quite a long conversation about self-published books and the problems you can experience when you receive them for review.  I've reviewed a few self-published books but it sounds like I've been quite lucky compared to some of the other reviewers.  Overall most of the others said they will no longer accept self-published books to review but I think I'll just take it case by case and see if any books particularly appeal to me.  I'm having to reduce the number of books I accept to review anyway as I have so many on my to read pile at the moment that it sometimes feels like I'll never be able to catch up!  That seemed to be a fairly common problem with the others so it was nice to know I'm not alone.  There was a fair amount of book swapping going on too, I'd taken quite a few books with me for the others but ended up coming home with way more than I was expecting!

Kirsty gave me copies of Die for Me by Amy Plum, Unearthly by Cynthia Hand and Pretty Twisted by Gina Blaxill, Non lent me her copy of White Chin by Marilyn Edwards and Michelle gave me Haunting Warrior by Erin Quinn.  Massive thanks to all of you :o)  I've heard good things about all of them so really need to find the time to start reading them.

Of course we couldn't spend time in Waterstones without at least having a look at the books while we were there.  I had gone with very good intentions not to buy anything but it's impossible to resist when you're surrounded by all those pretty covers and a bunch of bloggers who have a million good recommendations.  Caroline loved Huntress by Malinda Lo so much that I just had to pick up a copy but that left me with a dilemma, it was in a 3 for 2 offer so of course I had to find 2 more books to get!  That actually turned out to be a harder task than I was expecting, everyone had plenty of recommendations but most of them were books I've already read or already have copies of.  In the end I decided on Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater (I own Lament but haven't read it yet but I'm such a huge fan of her Wolves of Mercy Falls series that I'm sure I'll enjoy these too) and Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (I've still not started her Mortal Instruments series but everyone assured me that I will love her books so I must get around to reading them soon).  I've been looking at the Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy for ages now so when I saw the first book was only £1 I had to pick it up too.

It was really great to see everyone again, I always have so much fun at blogger meet ups and hope we can organise another one soon.

Who was there:
David - Les Plumes Asthmatiques (French) / The Breathless Quills (English) - Event Report (written in French but you can use Google translate if you want to read it in English - I had to lol)
Non - Catnip

Sunday 19 June 2011

Review: The Mockingbirds - Daisy Whitney

Some schools have honor codes.
Others have handbooks.
Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.

Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way - the Themis way.  So when Alex is date-raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds - a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of the student body.

In this account of a teenage girl's search for her voice and the courage to use it, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that standing up for someone, especially yourself, is worth the fight.

Mockingbirds Series:
The Mockingbirds
The Rivals (2012)

Visit Daisy Whitney's website for more information

I'm finding it really difficult to write a review for The Mockingbirds because I have such mixed feelings about the story.  Although I'm usually very careful to avoid spoilers in my reviews I'm going to warn you now there will be spoilers here because I can't talk about what I disliked without going into detail.  I'll start by saying that I applaud the author for tackling such a hard topic as date rape, this is something that she suffered herself when she was at college and she has done a great job of capturing the emotions that Alex goes through when she realises what happened to her.  It is easy to sympathise with Alex and what she has suffered, she goes through phases of confusion, doubt and worrying that it was her fault.  She is embarrassed that something like this could have happened especially when Carter starts spreading rumors that she was desperate for it and other students start acting as if she is easy.  It takes a lot of convincing from her friends to make Alex speak out and tell people what happened to her but although I was glad she found the courage to talk this is where the story started to fall down for me.

If her friends had encouraged her to go to the police or a teacher at her school it could have been a powerful message to other teens who may find themselves in a similar situation.  In reality she was convinced to take her case to the Mockingbirds - a group of students who are there to stop injustices happening on campus.  We are expected to believe that although all of the students at school are aware the Mockingbirds exist not a single teacher knows anything about them.  I was horrified by the lack of adult supervision in the story, the teachers are shown as ignorant and oblivious and refuse to accept that their gifted students could possibly do anything wrong.  Despite the fact that the story is told over several months Alex doesn't once mention a phone call from her parents, even though Alex hasn't told them about the rape surely they would want to know how she was getting on at school?

When it comes to the Mockingbirds I actually thought that the idea of a justice system run by students was really interesting.  If the group had a teacher involved and dealt with more minor issues then I think it could have been really effective, the way they run a trial and decide on a suitable punishment was a great idea.  However, I didn't think this was a suitable way to deal with a rape on campus - in my opinion this was definitely something that needed police involvement.  I was uncomfortable with some of the actions taken by the Mockingbirds too, when they agree to take Alex's case they immediately start revoking Carter's privileges (how they were able to do this without the teachers realising something was up is beyond me!).  Rumors are spread about Carter, problems are caused for the whole water polo team and his life is made miserable - all before the "trial" that proves his guilt.  If Carter had actually been found innocent he would have suffered the worst kind of bullying by the very people who are supposed to protect the other students.  Just because he is eventually found guilty doesn't make their actions any better!

The main reason I don't think the Mockingbirds work for a case like rape is that the punishment doesn't fit the crime.  As there is no police (or adult) involvement there will be no record of Carter's offence and as soon as he leaves school his punishment is finished.  What happens if he re-offends in the future?  I'm horrified by the message that sends to teenagers!  In another of the cases taken on by the Mockingbirds a student who took a knife to someone received no punishment at all because the case was tried just before graduation.  The victim states that they were pleased with the outcome because although nothing came of it the case proved that the other person was in the wrong - I'm sorry but I was disgusted by that attitude.

While I understand that the author was trying to encourage victims to find their voice and speak out I think this powerful and important message was lost in the way the case was handled.  While I have no problem with literature about date rape being aimed at teenagers, in fact I think there should be more about this topic, I do think it should encourage victims to talk to a trusted adult and hopefully take the case to the police.

Source: Received as part of a book tour arranged by UK Book Tours, this book has already been sent on to it's next destination.

Other Reviews:
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.

Saturday 18 June 2011

Review: Dark Desires After Dusk - Kresley Cole

UK Cover
A seductive beauty he can never have, yet can't resist . . .
Cadeon Woede will stop at nothing to atone for the one wrong that will haunt him forever. But once he secures the key to his redemption, the halfling Holly Ashwin, Cade finds that the woman he thought he could use for his own ends and then forget haunts him as much as his past.

A tormented warrior she should fear, but can't deny . . .
Raised as a human, Holly never knew that some frightening legends are real until she encounters a brutal demon who inexplicably guards her like a treasure. Thrust into a sensual new world of myth and power, with him as her protector, she begins to crave the demon's wicked touch.

Surrender to dark desires . . .
Yet just when he earns Holly's trust, will Cade be forced to betray the only woman who can sate his wildest needs - and claim his heart?

Immortals After Dark Series:
The Warlord Wants Forever (Novella in the Playing Easy to Get anthology)
A Hunger Like No Other
No Rest for the Wicked
Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night
Dark Needs at Night's Edge
Dark Desires After Dusk
Kiss of a Demon King
Untouchable (Published in the Deep Kiss of Winter Anthology)
Pleasure of a Dark Prince
Demon from the Dark
Dreams of a Dark Warrior
Shadow's Claim (The Dacians book 1)
Dark Skye

For more information visit Kresley Cole's website

900 years ago a foolish mistake by Cadeon lost his brother Rydstrom his throne and the pair have been trying to get it back ever since. Cadeon is full of guilt for his actions and is determined to do whatever it takes to make it up to Rydstrom but their enemy Omort the Deathless won't be easy to kill. In fact they have only one last chance if they are going to defeat him. They must track down the Vessel (a female from the Lore who will give birth to a child of either ultimate good or evil, depending on who the father is) and exchange her for the only weapon that can destroy Omort. Cadeon believes it will be an easy task, until he discovers the Vessel is Holly, the woman he has been watching from afar and who he is convinced is his mate. Now Cadeon has a difficult choice to make - will be betray his brother again, this time loosing the throne forever or will he hand over his mate to an evil sorcerer?

I've been looking forward to reading Cade's story since he was first introduced in one of the earlier books and he didn't disappoint me. There are actually a lot of things about Cade that should make him dislikeable, he is chauvinistic and cocky but it comes across as more of a front that he puts on to the world than his true character. In fact he has a much softer and more caring side that you get to see more and more of as the story progresses. I loved the way he was torn between doing the right thing by his brother and wanting to take care of Holly, he really was between a rock and a hard place and I found it easy to forgive the actions he took. I think he's probably my favourite male in the series so far, he is one HOT demon!

I found Holly a bit too prim and proper for my taste, particularly in the beginning, but it was really good to see how much she changes throughout the story. Her OCD made for hilarious reading and I absolutely loved the banter between her and Cade, she certainly wasn't going to sit back and accept his coarse language or let him force her into anything she didn't want to do. Holly didn't know about her Valkyrie ancestry and has always believed she was a human so it comes as quite a shock to her to discover a world of demons and come into her new abilities. A lot of her problems have been caused by the way she tries to suppress her true nature so the more she starts to accept who she is the better things get for her.

I have to admit that I think Dark Desires After Dusk is my favourite book in the Immortals After Dark series so far. I'm pretty sure you could pick up the series here even if you've not read any of the other books but I'd still suggest reading the books in order. I've just realised that Rydstrom's story is up next so I'm off to order my copy of Kiss of a Demon King!

Source: Library

Other Reviews:
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US Cover
Paperback / Kindle:

Friday 17 June 2011

Review: Shadowmagic - John Lenahan

“Hi, my name is Conor. Other than my father being a bit of an eccentric lunatic, my life was pretty normal until I got attacked in my living room and whisked away to Tir na Nog, the mystical land of the ancient Celts, where it turns out Dad is the usurped heir to the throne and everybody wants me dead because of some prophecy. Don’t you just hate when that happens?”

Shadowmagic is a rip roaring fun fantasy adventure novel by John Lenahan very loosely based on Irish mythology where every chapter ends on the edge of a cliff (or at least a high curb.) Join Conor as he grapples with typical teenage problems like, how to deal with a father's high expectations, how to survive in the world on your own and how to woo a beautiful girl – that wants you dead. Shadowmagic a podcast novel for young adults from 12 to 112.

Shadowmagic Series:
Prince of Hazel and Oak

For more information visit the Shadowmagic website

Conor is a normal teenager, about to graduate from school and enjoying spending time with his girlfriend.  He may have an eccentric father who makes him speak ancient languages and teaches him sword fighting but he never really thought much of it.  Not until the day that warriors break into his house and try to kill him that is.  Soon Conor finds himself held prisoner in a strange new land that he didn't know existed, his father isn't the person Conor thought he was and thanks to a prophecy nearly everyone he meets tries to kill him.  Perhaps he isn't quite a normal teenager after all.

I listened to this book as a free podcast found on iTunes, the story is read by the author and was fun to listen to, I enjoyed the author's accents and the way he tells Conor's tale.  The plot is fast paced and I was interested to see what would happen next but for some reason I wasn't hooked into the story as much as I expected to be.  I was really intrigued by the world of Tir na Nog and the different characters who live there but I would have liked more background information and more character development.  It took me 21 days to finish listening to the story as I was happy to settle for 1-2 chapters a day when normally if I'm sucked into a world I'd finish the book within a couple of days, or a week at the most for an audio book.

Although the description calls the novel a story for young adults from 12 to 112 I think it is more suitable for those at the younger end of the scale or perhaps adults who are fairly new to the fantasy genre.  I can imagine it would make great bed time reading material for families to read (or even to listen to the podcast) together.  I am curious enough that I will pick up the sequel but it isn't one I would be in a rush to get started on.  Definitely worth a try if you're looking for a light hearted adventure story though, especially as you can try it for free to see if it is to your taste or not.

Source: Downloaded as a free audio book on iTunes

Other Reviews:
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Thursday 16 June 2011

Review: Deeper Than Midnight - Lara Adrian

Delivered from the darkness, a woman finds herself plunged into a passion that is DEEPER THAN MIDNIGHT . . .

At eighteen, Corinne Bishop was a beautiful, spirited young woman living a life of privilege as the adopted daughter of a wealthy family. Her world was changed in an instant when she was stolen away and held prisoner by the malevolent vampire Dragos. After many years of captivity and torment, Corinne is rescued by the Order, a cadre of vampire warriors embroiled in a war against Dragos and his followers. Her innocence taken, Corinne has lost a piece of her heart as well--the one thing that gave her hope during her imprisonment, and the only thing that matters to her now that she is free.

Assigned to safeguard Corinne on her trip home is a formidable golden-eyed Breed male called Hunter. Once Dragos's most deadly assassin, Hunter now works for the Order, and he's hell-bent on making Dragos pay for his manifold sins. Bonded to Corinne by their mutual desire, Hunter will have to decide how far he'll go to end Dragos's reign of evil--even if carrying out his mission means shattering Corinne's tender heart.

The Midnight Breed Series:
A Touch of Midnight (Novella included in The Midnight Breed Series Companion, now also available separately)
Kiss of Midnight
Kiss of Crimson
Midnight Awakening
Midnight Rising
Veil of Midnight
Ashes of Midnight
Shades of Midnight
Taken by Midnight
Deeper than Midnight
A Taste of Midnight (Novella)
Darker After Midnight
The Midnight Breed Series Companion
Edge of Dawn
Marked by Midnight (Novella)
Crave the Night
Tempted by Midnight (Novella)
Bound to Darkness
Stroke of Midnight (Novella)
Defy the Dawn
Midnight Untamed (Novella)
Midnight Unbound (Novella)
Midnight Unleashed (Novella)
Claimed in Shadows
Break the Day

Hunter Legacy Series:
(A series of standalone romances set in the Midnight Breed world)
Born of Darkness
Hour of Darkness
Edge of Darkness

Visit Lara Adrian's website  for more information about the Midnight Breed series you will find excerpts from each of the books.  Lara can also be found on Facebook & Twitter where she posts regular updates or you can join other fans to chat about the books over at the LAMB (Lara Adrian Midnight Breed) Forum

Deeper than Midnight is the 9th book in the Midnight Breed series so although this review won't contain spoilers for this book it may include information from previous books.  You might want to skip reading this review if you're not up to date with the series.  If you're new to this series it is one I would highly recommend, it is absolutely my favourite paranormal romance series (for me even topping J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood books) and each book consistently manages to raise the standards and leave you desperate for the next installment.  I would definitely recommend reading the series in order though starting with Kiss of Midnight.

Deeper than Midnight picks up the story just after the ending of Taken by Midnight, Corinne and the other Breedmates have just been rescued by the Order from Dragos' lair and are still struggling to come to terms with the torture they have suffered for years. Corinne was his captive for 75 years and doesn't recognise the world she now finds herself in, she is desperate to see her family but scared that they will have forgotten her and nervous about how they will react when they find out what she has been through.  Hunter was bred by Dragos from the ancient and raised as a lethal killer so he more than anyone else knows what Dragos is capable of.  When he is given the task of returning Corinne to her family he finds himself inexplicably drawn to her but has no idea how to deal with his attraction.

I have been a massive fan of the Midnight Breed series for several years now so I can't tell you how excited I was to get my hands on the latest installment!  I feels like I've been waiting for Hunter's story forever so I couldn't start reading fast enough.  Lara Adrian is my favourite author so be prepared for a bit of a fan girl review, she writes fabulous romances and the ongoing story arc about the Order and Dragos is full of suspense and intrigue that has me on the edge of my seat.

Corinne has suffered unimaginable torture during the years that Dragos held her captive, the worst by far being the loss of her son who was taken from her moments after her birth.  The only thing that kept her sane was the thought that one day she might be able to see him again and now she is free she is determined to track him down so they can finally be together.  She will do whatever it takes to find him but she is unsure of who she can trust to help her.  She is also desperate to see her family again but after finding out that they thought she was dead she is nervous about how they will react when they see her again.  Corinne hopes that they will be able to help her find her son but would never have guessed at the reaction she gets when they see her. 

Hunter was raised by Dragos as a killing machine, as a Gen One Breed male he is strong, fast and powerful and he was trained from a young age to block out all emotion and focus on the task at hand.  Since he was freed and joined the Order he has focused single mindedly on bringing Dragos down and killing anyone who is in league with him.  He comes across as cold and emotionless but that is down to his upbringing, it was seen as a weakness to have feelings and Dragos would not tolerate weakness of any kind.  Hunter is drawn to Corinne but he doesn't know how to deal with the feelings that she brings out in him, when it comes to love Hunter is as naive and innocent as they come but he can't deny his attraction.

I loved watching Hunter and Corinne together, they both had terrible pasts but in their own ways are quite innocent, they are well suited to each other and make a great couple.  We get to see plenty of the rest of the Order and life in the compound which I loved.  Tess and Dante have some exciting news and let me just say that Dante stole my heart all over again (you'll have to read the book to find out why!).  Dragos has been busy plotting against the Order and the warriors find themselves at greater risk than ever before, the action had me on the edge of my seat with my heart in my mouth and I'm still worried about how things will play out in the next few books.  The scene has been set nicely for Chase's story, he has always been my least favourite character in the series, I'm not sure why but I never really took to him.  I have to admit that my opinion has changed and I'm now really looking forward to his book.

I had hoped to find out more about the changes taking place with Jenna but there was so much going on that I didn't really think about that until after I'd finished reading.  The story is fast paced and action packed and I'm sure it will satisfy fans of the series.  I will warn you that the ending almost killed me - I can't believe I've got to wait a whole year to find out what happens next!  Believe me this is one you don't want to miss but make sure you've read the rest of the series before picking it up - once you're drawn into the world Lara Adrian has created you won't want to leave it.

Source: I received an ebook ARC from Lara Adrian in exchange for an honest review but I've already pre-ordered my copy to take pride of place on my shelves with the rest of the series.

Other Reviews:
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Wednesday 15 June 2011

Review: Tiger's Curse - Colleen Houck

Passion.  Fate.  Loyalty.
Would you risk it all to change your destiny?

The last thing Kelsey Hayes thought she'd be doing this summer was trying to break a 300-year-old Indian curse.  With a mysterious white tiger named Ren.  Halfway around the world.

But that's exactly what happened.

Face-to-face with dark forces, spell-binding magic, and mystical worlds where nothing is what it seems, Kelsey risks everything to piece together an ancient prophecy that could break the curse forever.

Tiger's Curse is the exciting first volume in an epic fantasy-romance that will leave you breathless and yearning for more.

The Tiger Saga:
Tiger's Curse
Tiger's Quest
Tiger's Voyage
Tiger's Destiny (2012)
Tiger's Dream (Release date unknown at this time)

Visit Colleen Houck's website for more information

Kelsey is just looking for a summer job to save money for college when she finds herself working for a circus and spending time with a beautiful white tiger.  Little does she realise that Ren is actually an Indian prince who was cursed and has spent the last 300 years as a tiger living in captivity.  With Kelsey's help Ren must travel to India and try to find a way to break the curse.

As soon as I read the description of Tiger's Curse I knew I had to read it and I'm so glad I did!  I love paranormal stories and shape shifters in particular but what I enjoyed most about Tiger's Curse is that it is so different from anything else I've read.  Due to the curse Ren is only able to spend a short amount of time each day in his human form, the rest of the time he is a beautiful white tiger unable to communicate with those around him.  I loved that most of the story takes place in India, this is somewhere I've always wanted to visit but now even more so.  Colleen Houck has done a fantastic job of describing the settings and it was easy to picture the jungle and the temples Kelsey and Ren visited.  She has also woven a lot of Indian mythology and legends into the story which I found fascinating to read.

I liked Kelsey as the main character, she was a little too naive to start with but soon becomes more aware of the dangers she faces.  Throughout the book she is a strong heroine and she is determined to do whatever it takes to help Ren and free him from his curse.  Ren is a hero to swoon over and I'll admit I may have fallen just a little bit in love with him!  I loved watching their relationship develop but I was pleased that although Kelsey is immediately drawn to Ren she is also very aware of the fact that she doesn't know him well and doesn't instantly start declaring her love for him like some of the heroines I've read about.  I've said before that instant lust I can relate to but instant love doesn't usually come across as believable to me.  If the gorgeous Ren wasn't enough to make you weak at the knees you also have his handsome brother Kishan to contend with.  I'll admit I'm still a bit wary of Kishan but I understand we'll get to see a lot more of him in the sequel and I'm curious to find out more about him.

Tiger's Curse is the kind of book I wanted to devour in one sitting (even if it does have 500 pages!), if I'd had a whole day free I would have done nothing but read the story and I'm desperate to get started on the next book Tiger's Quest.  If you're looking for a story full of romance, in a beautiful setting with an adventure that will remind you of Indiana Jones look no further.  I'd recommend this book to anyone and am off to read the sequel now!

Source: Received from Hodder & Stoughton in exchange for an honest review

Other Reviews:
Confessions of the Un-Published
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