Growing Pains (Toronto Connections #3) by Cass Lennox

Gigi Rosenberg is living his best life: performances in the big city, side gigs at a dance company, a successful drag act, and the boy of his childhood dreams who now adores him. Even if the boyfriend part isn’t the sparkly ride of passion he expected it to be, life is sweet. So when his sister’s wedding calls him back to his hometown, he sees an opportunity to show the hicks from his past how wrong they were about him. Only, his boyfriend isn’t quite on board.
Brock Stubbs left their hometown and his parents behind for a reason, and the prospect of facing them again is terrifying. He swore he’d never go back, but Gigi has made it clear refusal isn’t an option, and Brock will do nearly anything for him. There’s just one deal-breaker of a problem: Brock promised Gigi he was out to everyone, including his parents. He lied.
It’s magical to run into the sunset together, but staying the course takes work. For Gigi and Brock, going home feels like the finale of a long, disappointing year. Sometimes love isn’t all you need.
 

If you’re paying attention, you may have noticed that I read the first book in the Toronto Connections (Blank Spaces) series, but not the second (Finding Your Feet) and now I’m reviewing the third. It’s not my usual squirrel brain hard at work, this time I skipped one on purpose. Not sure why, but Finding Your Feet just didn’t grab me, but Growing Pains did. In case you’re curious, I’ll probably skip The Wrong Woman too, but you never know…

Anyway, for what it’s worth, I’m really glad that I decided to read Growing Pains. I really liked Brock and Gigi’s story… for a lot of reasons. I’m kind of a sucker for a story that brings out the ‘momma bear’ in me and Brock did just that. It would have been easy to sympathize with Gigi in Growing Pains, and I did… kind of.

You’ll have to read the story to understand, but one of the reasons why I loved Gigi’s family so much was because they loved him, supported him and they were everything that Brock’s family wasn’t. What made me really respect them was the fact that they saw his faults and weren’t afraid to call him out on them. To Gigi’s credit, he may have complained a little, but he loved them for it. They weren’t perfect, but not many families are. The point is, I loved the honesty as much as I loved the unconditional love. On the flip side, I walked away from Growing Pains with absolutely no respect for Brock’s parents at all.

I may find myself going back to pick up the two books I skipped, but right now I’m fine with the taste of Toronto Connections I decided to read. You’ll have to let me know if I missed anything if you decide to read the whole series. 😉

As I Am (All Saints #3) by A.M. Arthur

asiamWill Madden is healing.
Thanks to therapy and a growing support system, he’s taking baby steps into a promising future. One of those steps leads him to an online chat room, where he quickly bonds with fellow PTSD sufferer Taz Zachary.
Despite their virtual connection, Taz is initially freaked out at the idea of meeting Will face-to-face. A sexual relationship may be the last thing on his mind, but his craving for human interaction—and more of the way Will makes him laugh—gives him the courage he needs to take the next step.
In person, the chemistry between them is undeniable. But Will is hurt when Taz doesn’t seem to be in any rush to get him into bed. Still, acceptance, love and happiness all seem within reach for the first time in forever—until demons from the past threaten the future they both finally believe they deserve.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1

My favorite so far in this series… hands down!

The All Saints series is one of three of A.M. Arthur’s series that have common threads. I love it when a series brings characters from previous books back. Especially when characters are as ‘broken’ as some of Arthur’s. It’s nice to check up on them. 😉 These books take things even further by keeping readers in touch with not only characters from the current series, but with characters from past series. It seemed like As I Am had even more ‘cameos’ than most, but I’m not complaining. ❤

I’m also pretty sure that Taz and Will might also come close to being the most broken couple that I’ve read in a while. Both of their back stories were heart breaking, but they were individually stronger than they gave themselves credit for. I ended up admiring them both for their courage. They had set backs and revelations were revealed that could have easily crushed them… and almost did. They held on though and learned to trust, not only each other, but people outside their tight inner circle. That circle expanded to include several supporting characters that readers had already met. As I Am made me fall in love with some of them all over again.

I’m pretty much caught up on the books in the series that are set in Wilmington, but I still have a few to go. If you want to read a few of A.M. Arthur’s thoughts on her Belonging, Restoration and All Saints series, you can visit her website. It kinda makes me want to start from the beginning 😉

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Rogue Magic by Kit Brisby

roguemagicWhile trapped in a stalled subway train on his morning commute, PR rep Byron Cole flirts with Levi, a young waiter with adorable curls. But Byron’s hopes for romance crash and burn when Levi saves him from a brutal explosion—with outlawed magic.
When Levi is imprisoned, Byron begins to question everything he’s ever believed. How can magic be evil when Levi used it to save dozens of lives? So Byron hatches a plan to save Levi that will cost him his job and probably his life. If he doesn’t pull it off, Levi will be put to death.
Byron discovers that he isn’t the only one questioning America’s stance on magic. And he learns that Levi is stubborn, angry, and utterly enchanting. Time is running out, though. Byron must convince Levi to trust him, to trust his own magic, and to fight against the hatred that’s forced him to hide his true nature his entire life. The more Levi opens up, the harder Byron falls. And the more they have to lose.
 

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1On the surface, Rogue Magic is a paranormal romance between two very different people. You don’t have to get very far into the story to figure out that it’s so much more.

The story is told by both Levi and Byron’s POV, which is good. In the beginning, Byron’s POV is frustrating, only because his mindset is jaded. He’s not a bad person, but he has to change his total way of thinking, everything he knows and has been told is wrong. It doesn’t take him long to turn his thinking around, but it takes long enough. Levi’s POV is heartbreaking. He’s labeled, condemned and alone when all he did was try to save people. Byron and Levi live in a world where there is a very definite line between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ – ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. All of it’s based on how you were born. Something that individuals have absolutely no control over. Sound familiar?

I have to admit, there were parts of Rogue Magic that were hard to read. There’s really no hope for Levi. He’s condemned… trapped… destined to be used, abused and tortured, when he really should have been hailed as a hero. It was beyond scary for him and those who cared about him. Nothing was quite what it seemed, but change couldn’t happen without sacrifice.

This book reminds me of another M/M Paranormal series, but I’m not going to name it. Mainly because I don’t want readers to think that I’m accusing one author of copying the other. The real connection is that there are underlying ‘lessons’ to be learned and I honestly hope that people reading pay attention.

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Say It Right (All Saints #2) by A.M. Arthur

sayitrightAfter his parents kicked him out for being gay, Marc Villegas lived on the streets before getting a second chance. Now he’s giving back by working at a shelter for LGBT teenagers—because helping fight their demons keeps his own at bay. Including his infatuation with the former best friend he’s sure is straight.
Anthony Romano hasn’t seen Marc since Marc left home eight years ago. In his confidant’s absence, Anthony turned to heroin. Now at rock bottom, he has an offer from Marc to help him get clean. Detox is hard and ugly, but not as hard as admitting the truth: he’s in love with Marc. Always has been.
Marc swore he’d never date an addict, but he never dreamed the one in question would be the man he’s always wanted to be with. As the two explore their feelings for each other, Marc faces a difficult choice. Say yes, and it could cost him his sobriety; say no, and it could cost him his heart.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1I can honestly say that I’ve never read a book by A.M. Arthur that I didn’t like. Her All Saints series is definitely no exception. I was really hoping to get to know Marc better after reading Come What May. Say it Again was everything I hoped for from Marc, and then some.

Marc and Anthony had a lot of history. History that had a lot to do with how they both ended up so broken. Marc had worked hard to climb out of darkness he fell into when he was forced to leave home. He never really got over Anthony. Turns out, Anthony never really got over Marc.

There was so much to love about this story, but there was a lot of heartbreak too. I wanted these two to end up together, but I respect the time that A.M. Arthur took in getting them there. They had a lot to work through and even though they needed each other, throwing romance into the mix too soon wouldn’t have been good for either of them.

As with all the books that I’ve read by this author so far, the supporting characters were great. Jonas and Tate were there to offer their support, as well as others new and familiar characters that I’m really hoping readers get to know better. Needless to say, I’m really hoping that there is more to come in the All Saints series.

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Come What May (All Saints #1) by A.M. Arthur

ComeWhatMayJonas needs Tate. He just doesn’t know it yet.
Or at least, he doesn’t want to admit it. Because there is no way Jonas Ashcroft is gay. He’s a straight, carefree frat boy player, just like any good son of a conservative state senator. If only his struggle to convince everyone—especially himself—didn’t leave him so miserable. No matter how many girls or bottles he drowns himself in, Jonas can neither escape nor accept who he is.
Enter Tate. He’s smart, confident, and instantly sees right through Jonas’s surly exterior. Sure, he’s done things in life he’s not proud of, but he knows who he is and what he wants. And what he wants is Jonas. As their easy friendship intensifies into something more, Tate introduces Jonas to a life he’s never known. One filled with acceptance and sex and a love that terrifies and excites them both.
But some inner demons refuse to be shaken off so easily. When Jonas’s old life barges in, he faces a shattering choice, one that could destroy everything he and Tate have fought so hard for. Sometimes love just isn’t enough—and sometimes it’s exactly what you need.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1With every new book and every new series written by A.M. Arthur I become a bigger fan. Come What May didn’t change that. The best part is the connection between the new books and her past series… mostly because I have some catching up to do and each book I read reminds me of that and makes me want to get to know these characters even better. 😉

Speaking of characters, I loved Jonas, even though he was in serious denial about who he was. That wasn’t all his fault though. His parents played a big role in who he was… and not in a good way. I probably don’t have to mention that I really, really didn’t like Jonas’ parents. As crappy as sending him away as punishment seemed to be on the surface, it turned out to be one of the best things that his parents could have done for him.

And then there was Tate. As much as I felt for Jonas, I absolutely adored Tate. He was 100% committed to his family and his job. He was also totally comfortable with who he was, which made it easy for him to want to help Jonas.

Watching these two become close and open up to each other was only one of the best parts about their story. The other reason I loved Come What May was because of the amazing support system that both of these young men had. From friends to family, I’m think I’m going to really enjoy getting to know all of them better. Say it Right is next, and I can’t wait to see what A.M. Arthur has in store for Marc. 😉

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Phoenix (Bellator Saga #4) by Cecilia London

PhoenixOne epic love. Two wounded souls. Three impossible words.
Ripped away from each other by circumstances beyond their control. Reunited in a place they never expected. Separated but never quite apart.
“You’re still the only woman I see. The only woman I need. I know you’re in there somewhere, sweet Caroline. We’re going to find you and we’re going to help you, until you come home to me where you belong. Then we’re going to finish what we started. Together.”
Her confidence shattered, Caroline finally starts to deal with what happened at The Fed. Jack is determined to convince her that she’s more than she thinks she is. That she wasn’t destroyed by her experiences. That their relationship is worth the fight. But will he give up before it’s too late?
Phoenix is the fourth installment in The Bellator Saga. It should be read after the first three novels in the series.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1So yeah, I’m the queen of procrastination, especially when it comes to writing reviews on books I love. It gets worse when I finish a book that I not only loved, but also on books that completely break me… when that same book ends in a cliff hanger that seriously wants me to throw my kindle across the room? Let’s just say I need some serious recovery time. I suppose enough time has passed, so here goes nothing…

Phoenix is the 4th book in the Bellator Saga and the 1st book in the 2nd trilogy. Confused? Put simply, the Bellator Saga is divided into 6 books. The 1st 3  books are Dissident, Conscience and Sojourn. They deal with Caroline’s time with the Fed and her rescue – plus a LOT of background info. The next 3 books, Phoenix, Rhapsody and Triumph make up the 2nd part of the trilogy. Phoenix takes up where Sojourn left off. Now would probably be a good time to reiterate that if you haven’t read the previous books in the Bellator Saga, don’t start here… and don’t read any further. The rest of this review will contain spoilers so consider yourselves warned.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

Just a heads up, if you read Sojourn and assume that because Caroline and Jack are finally reunited… yeah, don’t even go there. Both of them are totally broken. They’ve lived months knowing that the other didn’t survive and, well, the Caroline that Jack knew before the Fed just isn’t there anymore. That doesn’t stop him from trying to find her though.

I can honestly say that this is the first book in the saga that I’ve been truly mad at Caroline. She was borderline cruel to Jack. At first I understood, but the longer she pushed him away the more frustrated with her I became. Being in Jack’s head for a good portion of Phoenix helped with that. His love never wavered and he needed her, but she continually pushed him away.

On the flip side, being in Caroline’s head was painful. She knew what she was doing, she knew she was hurting  him and others around her, but she found ways to justify it. The thing is that it was hard to stay mad at her. Mostly because she wavered and when she did there was a spark of hope and then… yeah… this was not an easy book to read from an emotional standpoint.

Phoenix also kept up with the back story that the rest of the books have had. I really like that aspect, even more than I thought I would. Seeing into Caroline and Jack’s past helped clue readers into what they were both fighting for – both personally and on a much larger scale. Speaking of which, as political dramas go, the Bellator Saga is pretty scary. That’s mainly because truth can sometimes be stranger than fiction and as crazy as things are in this series it wouldn’t take much for some of it to happen and even some of it is not anything that I want to experience… ever. *shivers*

And did I mention that Phoenix ended in a cliff hanger? “Trust the Process” the #evilauthor says “You’ll forgive me in the end” she assumes. I’d hazard a guess that Rhapsody won’t fix everything, but I’m really hoping that Jack and Caroline get just a little bit closer to resolving some serious issues before the saga is over.

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The Heart as He Hears It (Perspectives #3) by A.M. Arthur

TheHeartAsHeHearsItLove can slip through the smallest crack in the door.
While most of his friends have moved on to “real” careers, Jon Buchanan is content skating through life as a part-time waiter and gay porn star. Firmly single thanks to a previous relationship disaster, he focuses his spare time on Henry, a dear friend dying of cancer.
And with Henry’s happiness paramount, Jon is on a mission to help Henry meet his recently discovered grandson.
Isaac Gregory hasn’t set foot outside for the past year. He has everything he needs delivered, and his remaining family knows better than to visit. When a complete stranger shows up claiming to be his grandfather—with a distractingly handsome younger man in tow—his carefully structured routines are shaken.
Despite his instant attraction, Jon senses Isaac is too fragile for a relationship. Yet tentative friendship grows into genuine companionship. And when Henry’s health begins to fail, they realize Fate brought them together for a reason.
Warning: Product contains a neurotic porn star with body image issues, a virgin hero with severe agoraphobia, and a fluffy ball of gray cuteness you’ll want to take home and cuddle. Also contains references to past abuse some readers might find disturbing.
 

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1This is a series that I’ve enjoyed since the very first entry. Noel and Shane started things off in The Truth as He Knows It and then came Gabe and Tristan in The World as He Sees It. It should come as no surprise that I consider The Heart as He Hears It a great addition to the Perspectives series.

Readers were introduced to Jon earlier because of his friendship and working relationship with Gabe. He’s got it all together on the surface, but it didn’t take long being ‘in his head’ to figure out that he was carrying around a lot of emotional baggage. Aside from his friends, his main source of support was his friend and mentor, Henry. The really sad part about that is that throughout most of The Heart as He Hears It, Henry is dying. While trying to tighten up loose ends, he finds out he has a grandson that he never knew about.

Isaac has baggage of his own and because of trauma he experienced, he not only never leaves his home, he doesn’t let anyone in either. There’s something about Henry and Jon though that causes him to let his guard down.

There were quite a few supporting characters in The Heart as He Hears It, not least of which was Bear. This kitten stole everyone’s heart and helped Isaac open up in more ways than one.  Gabe, Tristan and all of Isaac’s family also played important roles. There were tears and laughter, some scary moments and adorable ones. There were also more than a few characters that I hope eventually end up with their own HEA, because they definitely deserve one. 😉

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Selfie (Bluewater Bay #13) by Amy Lane

Selfie_600x900One year ago, actor Connor Montgomery lost the love of his life to a drunk driver. But what’s worse for Connor is what he still has: a lifetime of secrets born of hiding his relationship from the glare of Hollywood. Unable to let go of the world he and Vinnie shared, Connor films a drunken YouTube confession on the anniversary of Vinnie’s death.
Thankfully, the video was silent—a familiar state for Connor—so his secret is still safe. He needs a fresh start, and a new role on the hit TV show Wolf’s Landing might be just that.
The move to Bluewater Bay may also mean a second chance in the form of his studio-assigned assistant. Noah Dakers sees through Connor’s facades more quickly than Connor could imagine. Noah’s quiet strength and sarcastic companionship offers Connor a chance at love that Hollywood’s closet has never allowed. But to accept it, Connor must let Vinnie go and learn to live again.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1You may think that you know by reading the description that Selfie will make you shed a tear or two… Let me just clarify that for you… You. Know. Nothing! This book will crush you. You’ll think the worst of Connor’s pain is over and then he gets blind sided by something or someone and the tears start all over. Yeah, Amy Lane held nothing back in Selfie and I both love her and hate her for it. Connor’s pain was raw and he was falling and there was no turning back from the inevitable crash. This book broke me. So yeah, however many tissues you were planning on having nearby before you pick up this book, triple it. You can thank me later.

To describe Connor as broken is probably an understatement. In the opening of Selfie, he had hit his lowest point. Luckily he had someone to help him pick up the pieces and shove him in a direction that would hopefully get his life back on track. I absolutely loved Jilly. She was brash and honest and wasn’t afraid to admit that she screwed up. She also loved Connor and honestly wanted what was best for him… not your average Hollywood agent.

Then there was Noah… He saw beyond the front that Connor hid behind. He was genuine and funny, honest and caring and he was determined to help Connor, whether he wanted it or not. He was the stability that Connor needed, but it wasn’t always enough. There were some things that Connor had to conquer on his own.

There was so much to love about Selfie, I can’t even begin to convey it all. I loved the support that the Wolf’s Landing community surrounded Connor with. I loved Noah’s family and how obvious it was that they had shaped Noah into the amazing man he had become. I loved the contrast between how comfortable Noah was in his identity compared to how hidden Connor was even though he didn’t want to be. Yeah, there was lot of pain in Selfie, but in the end, the love overpowered it and made every tear shed worth it.

So far, this is one of my favorite installments in the Bluewater Bay series. I’ve said that before and it’s probably not a coincidence that one of my other favorites was the Deep of the Sound, also written by Amy Lane. Like all the other books in this series, Selfie can be read as a standalone, but I have to recommend reading them all. Even though they’re written by several different authors, there is a cohesiveness that flows between the books that I’ve really enjoyed.

Oh, and after you’ve read Selfie and emotionally recovered, follow this link to Riptide’s Selfie page and click on the tab for Extras. There you’ll be able to listen to Vinnie’s monologues… and start shedding tears all over again… *sigh*

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Bitter Taffy (Candy Man #2) by Amy Lane

BitterTaffyRico Gonzalves-Macias didn’t expect to fall in love during his internship in New York—and he didn’t expect the boss’s son to out them both and get him fired either. When he returns to Sacramento stunned and heartbroken, he finds his cousin, Adam, and Adam’s boyfriend, Finn, haven’t just been house-sitting—they’ve made his once sterile apartment into a home.
When Adam gets him a job interview with the adorable, magnetic, practically perfect Derek Huston, Rico feels especially out of his depth. Derek makes it no secret that he wants Rico, but Rico is just starting to figure out that he’s a beginner at the really important stuff and doesn’t want to jump into anything with both feet. 
Derek is a both-feet kind of guy. But he’s also made mistakes of his own and doesn’t want to pressure Rico into anything. Together they work to find a compromise between instant attraction and long-lasting love, and while they’re working, Rico gets a primer in why family isn’t always a bad idea. He needs to believe Derek can be his family before Derek’s formidable patience runs out—because even a practically perfect boyfriend is capable of being hurt.

I’m really loving this series. I knew when Derek was first introduced he was a special kind of guy. I love it when I’m right. I also love it when that special kind of guy finds some one just as special. Even though the only interaction that readers had with Rico in The Candy Man was through phone calls and text messages with Adam, those conversations and the way Adam talked about his cousin were enough for me to gain respect for him. Yep, lots of reasons to fall in love with this series.

Rico wasn’t quite as broken as Adam even though he came from the same crazy family. He carried a lot of guilt though because he hid who he was. What Adam went through proved to Rico that their family wasn’t one he could come out to without serious repercussions. Crazy doesn’t even begin to describe their family. Honestly… Derek was patient and yeah, pretty much perfect, but he was also leery and as much as he cared about Rico and wanted it to work, he didn’t want to risk getting his heart broken.

As much as I loved Rico and Derek’s story, I really enjoyed the fact that the characters from the previous story were not only back, but they played an integral part. I love the quirkiness of Darrin and the way that Finn’s family adopted Rico as their own simply because if he was Adam’s family, he was theirs. Rico found out that there’s more to family than blood and sometimes the family that chooses you cares a lot more about you than the one you were born into.

It probably comes as no surprise that I can’t wait to start the next book in the series, Lollipop. Readers have met both of these characters too and it promises to be another interesting addition to the Candy Man series. 😉

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The World As He Sees It (Perspectives #2) by A.M. Arthur

WorldAsHeSeesItLove knows no limits…but fear could keep them from seeing it.
Gabe lives a double life. As Gabriel Henson, he works multiple jobs to support his remorseless, alcoholic mother. As Tony Ryder, he does internet porn for extra cash and regular safe sex without complications.
Yet when he encounters a scared young man freaking out in a night club, he’s compelled to reach out. Ever since then, the memory of that young man has haunted him.
Tristan Lavelle lives his life thirty minutes at a time. After a traumatic brain injury three years ago, he gets through his day recording his life in spiral notebooks and sticky note reminders.
A month after Tristan’s embarrassingly public meltdown, another chance meeting with Gabe sparks a warm, emotionally fulfilling email relationship. Both men crave more, but fear of the next step stands between them.
Until Tristan gets the opportunity to take part in a clinical trial that could improve his memory—if the side effects don’t kill him. But for Tristan, the possibility of a real life with Gabe is worth any risk…

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1I really liked The Truth as He Knows It, the first book in A.M. Arthur’s Perspective series. I loved Noel and Shane’s story, but I have to admit, as much as I loved these two, their story ended with me being even more in love with Tristan and needing him to get his HEA as well. I wasn’t sure how it was going to happen, I just knew it needed to happen. Needless to say, The World as He Sees It made me a very happy reader 😉

Tristan’s story was heartbreaking. He was dependent on others and had no real hope of living a normal life outside of a continual care facility, much less finding the kind of love that Noel had found with Shane. What others told him and the notebooks full of notes were his only source of memory. It would take a special kind of person to be patient enough to put up with his handicap.

Gabe was dealing with his own kind of trap. He took it upon himself to care for a mother who not only didn’t appreciate his effort, but took full advantage of it. He worked several jobs and never knew what version of his mother he was going to find when he finally got home. I felt as sorry for him as I did for Tristan in a way. I also loved them both.

Speaking of which, there was a lot to love about The World as He Sees It. I still loved the unconditional love that Noel had for Tristan. Even though he was a little over-protective at times, he meant well and had Tristan’s best interest at heart. I loved Shane’s understanding and support. I adored Gabe’s dads for so many reasons. I also really liked the approach A.M. Arthur took to making this relationship work. As much as I wanted Tristan to find his HEA, I wasn’t sure how it would happen. The way they eased into it was perfect and believable.

As much as there was to love, there was also a lot that brought out the ‘momma bear’ in me. The gay bashing that changed Tristan’s life was deplorable, but the fact that his parents basically washed their hands of him was just as bad. I just don’t understand that kind of mentality. It makes me understand and forgive Noel for his overprotective tendency toward Tristan. I’m pretty sure I would have been the same way. *sigh*

I can’t wait to see what direction the Perspectives series takes next, but reading these books has also made me even more determined to pick up more books by A.M. Arthur in her previous series. 😉

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