Thursday, October 31, 2013

Meet Alison Monaghan from Carolina Reckoning

Today I'm excited about a special guest post from Alison Monaghan, the main character of the new book Carolina Reckoning (now available wherever books are sold!) by Lisa Carter (who stopped by earlier today for a Blogside Chat). To get to know Alison a little, I’ve asked her a very important question: Coke or Pepsi?

Without further ado … here’s Alison.




Alison Monaghan here from Carolina Reckoning. I’ve been criticized for why I, a nice, Southern lady, drinks Pepsi-Cola. Yes, it’s Pepsi for me. Let me just state in response to the on-going regional conflict known as the Cola Wars that North Carolinians find themselves in a bit of a dilemma. Sure, Coca-Cola is headquartered in Atlanta, but what many people may not realize is that Pepsi was invented in good ole New Bern, NC.

And for North Carolinians, it’s been a war of Braveheart proportions. Our loyalties tugged in both directions. Families—a bitter reeaactment of the War of Northern Aggression—divided ever since. The Cola Wars have fueled feuds along the lines of the Hatfields and McCoys. Resulted in tragedies reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet.

Old barns dot the NC countryside, sporting Coca-cola or Pepsi logos. Once in a while, you’ll see dear, middle child types who try to walk the middle of the road, appease both sides and display Coke and Pepsi billboards.

Well, let me just say, that wins no friends and influences nobody. Can’t respect a person who can’t make up their mind and stick to their convictions. After all, are we the Tar Heel State or not?

And you know, what happens to creatures who inhabit the middle of the road? That’s right. Roadkill.

Santa has weighed on the issue, too. And by weighed in, I mean weighed in. Small North Carolina children have been threatened, I won’t say who, with their names crossed off the “Nice” list at any breach in family loyalty. This has figured prominently in generation-gap, menopausal/adolescent hormone-riddled conflicts within my own household.

So yes, I drink Pepsi.

But as for Claire, my teenage daughter? What do you think?

If you come for a visit to NC and stop at a roadside stand, country corner store or restaurant, take a good look at the menu before you ask for a soft drink beverage. Be very careful. Or be prepared for the self-respecting waitress to wrinkle her nose and curl her lip. Shotguns may emerge from behind cash registers. Remember, people have been tarred and feathered for less.



Alison, thank you so much for guest posting on i blog 4 books today! I have to admit as a Southern Belle who is a die-hard Coca-Cola drinker, I completely disagree with your choice of drink. But at least you're passionate! [wink!] Seriously, though, thanks for stopping by and letting my readers get to know you a bit better.

Friends, to find out more about Alison Monaghan, including her love of all things Southern—and her Pepsi!—pick up a copy of Carolina Reckoning today! And while we're at it ... what's your drink of choice? Coke or Pepsi?

About the Book
Alison wanted her cheating husband gone, not dead...
When 30-something housewife, Alison Monaghan discovers proof of her husband's infidelity in a photograph with a mysterious woman, she must decide how to confront Frank when he returns home from work. Despite the influence of her best friend Valerie, a strong Christian, Alison remains aloof from God and is determined to handle this crisis her own way. But Alison may not get that chance. Frank never makes it home. Soon his body is found on a lonely back-country road in antebellum Weathersby Historic Park where Frank served on the board of directors and where Alison, with a degree in landscape design, was a volunteer garden docent. 

Homicide detective Mike Barefoot, a Cherokee native from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, immediately puts Alison at the top of his suspect list. He finds himself drawn to her--and not just because she had motive for the crime. As an army veteran, Mike usually keeps his emotional walls high. And as a detective, he knows not to get involved with murder suspects. So why he is so attracted to Alison? Can he fight his feelings for her—and the stirrings in his heart toward God?

If you're interested in learning more about Carolina Reckoning, check out this sneak peek of the first chapter.

Blogside Chat | Author Lisa Carter

I'm super excited to host author Lisa Carter, author of Carolina Reckoning, for today's Blogside Chat!

i blog 4 books: Lisa, welcome! Who encouraged your love for reading and/or writing when you were growing up?

Lisa Carter: My mother is an avid reader and read to us every night when we were children. Over my growing up years, she continued to provide a plethora of reading material, notebooks in which to scribble, and the freedom of golden summers (perhaps unknown to today’s rushed/harried/ overscheduled children) in which to dream dreams and create storyworlds.

ib4b: It seems like most authors have quite an interesting journey to publication. What did you do in your “former life”?

LC: I have a Master’s in education and I’ve taught at the collegiate, high school, and middle school levels. After my children were born, I worked part-time hours as a preschool music teacher. But I’ve also in the course of my life—“put in” tobacco; written ads, copy for websites, college and high school textbooks; created state-wide end-of-course exams; coordinated weddings. And oh yeah, there was that one time I worked as a staff docent at an antebellum mansion . . .

ib4b: What do you hope readers will take away from reading Carolina Reckoning?

LC: In Carolina Reckoning, Alison wrestles with issues of forgiveness and faith in a world where everyone she’s ever loved has abandoned or betrayed her. Like many, she longs to find Someone, anyone, she can rely upon.

I wrote Carolina Reckoning for those who’ve felt alone or faced an unknown future. For those who’ve felt abandoned and betrayed by a friend, spouse or family member.

But in the midst of pain and disillusionment, Alison discovers a Savior and Father God who is always faithful and true. Enough for every need. I am excited about proclaiming that message to readers. It is the story, in a small way, of my life. My own journey, like Alison, toward faith.

Carolina Reckoning is ultimately a novel about hope and that true hope, forgiveness and love will be found in Jesus Christ.

Coupled with a cast of quirky characters for which the South has a well-deserved reputation.

What can I say? We are a fun group.

Carolina Reckoning is a little bit of sweet tea plus a whole lot of southern magnolia. :)

ib4b: Which of your characters do you most identify with? Are your characters based on specific people in your life?

LC: My parents divorced when I was nine year’s old. In many ways, I identify most with teenager Claire who also loses a parent, albeit to death. But like Claire, I was angry at everyone, most of all God, when my world fell apart.

As a teenager I came to a crossroads—to carry an anger that in the end harmed me more than anyone else or to choose to forgive. To forgive someone who’d never asked for my forgiveness nor deserved it. But to forgive anyway, like God had forgiven me. Because unforgiveness brings its own reckoning. It isn't how God wants us to live. And God's way is always the best way.

And with two teenage daughters, it wasn’t too hard to recreate the tone/humor/emotional roller-coaster of Claire and Justin’s adolescent experience.

ib4b: The Alison character has past pains, present wounds, and an uncertain future. A lot of readers can relate. What is your advice to them? Can then learn something through Alison’s experience? Is that teaching/learning aspect always visible in fiction?

LC: Like Alison, I watched my mother wrestle with feelings of anger, forgiveness, and faith. And emerge triumphant on the other side of pain. I, too, longed to find Someone upon whom I could rely. And at the foot of the Cross, I discovered a Father God who is always faithful and true. He is enough for every need, past, present and future.

My mother’s life story—of courage, independence, and faith—is a testament that God is, indeed, enough for every need.

I hope Alison as a single mother infuses readers with the hope that despite less-than-ideal circumstances their families, too, can rise to become more than they ever dreamed possible.

ib4b: What’s next for you? Where can our readers find out more about Lisa Carter?

LC: Aloha Rose, a contemporary romance in the Quilts of Love line, releases November 19 followed by two additional romantic suspense novels in 2014. Beneath a Navajo Moon releases in March and Under a Turquoise Sky in September.

I love to connect with readers at my website, Goodreads, and Facebook. For behind-the-scenes photos, visit the Carolina Reckoning board on Pinterest.



About the Author
Lisa Carter is the author of Carolina Reckoning and Aloha Rose, and a writer and teacher whose articles have appeared in FamilyFun, Thriving Family, MomSense, and Christian Parenting Today. She is a frequent speaker and vocalist at women’s ministry events and has taught at the collegiate, high school, and middle school levels. Lisa is a member of ACFW, RWA and Sisters in Crime. When she isn't writing, Lisa enjoys traveling, quilting, and researching her next romantic adventure. She and her husband have two daughters and make their home in Raleigh, North Carolina.

About the Book
Alison wanted her cheating husband gone, not dead...

When 30-something housewife, Alison Monaghan discovers proof of her husband's infidelity in a photograph with a mysterious woman, she must decide how to confront Frank when he returns home from work. Despite the influence of her best friend Valerie, a strong Christian, Alison remains aloof from God and is determined to handle this crisis her own way. But Alison may not get that chance. Frank never makes it home. Soon his body is found on a lonely back-country road in antebellum Weathersby Historic Park where Frank served on the board of directors and where Alison, with a degree in landscape design, was a volunteer garden docent. 

Homicide detective Mike Barefoot, a Cherokee native from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, immediately puts Alison at the top of his suspect list. He finds himself drawn to her--and not just because she had motive for the crime. As an army veteran, Mike usually keeps his emotional walls high. And as a detective, he knows not to get involved with murder suspects. So why he is so attracted to Alison? Can he fight his feelings for her—and the stirrings in his heart toward God?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Beloved by Robin Lee Hatcher

Beloved
by Robin Lee Hatcher
Where the Heart Lives series, Book 3
Christian Fiction / Historical / Romance
Available September 2013
Zondervan
304 pages

Buy a copy
Read an excerpt
Find out what others think




About the Book
Diana is ready to begin a new chapter in her life—until the husband she believed dead reappears at her engagement party.

Diana Brennan came west on the orphan train and was given a home with a loving couple who cherished and spoiled her. At 17, she fell hard for Tyson Applegate, the son of a wealthy mine owner. After a whirlwind courtship and marriage, Tyson took off for adventures around the world, including fighting with the Rough Riders in Cuba. Receiving no word from him in years, Diana’s infatuation with her dashing husband died an ugly death, and she is ready to move past the old pain and marry again, just as soon as Tyson is declared legally dead.

But when Tyson returns, claiming to be a changed man, he wants to reunite with his wife and run for the senate. While Diana suspects the election is his real reason for wanting her by his side, she agrees to maintain his home and to campaign with him, but when it is over, win or lose, she wants her freedom.

He agrees with one condition—she must give him a chance to change her mind about him.

Best-selling author Robin Lee Hatcher returns to the adventurous American West in the final book of her Where the Heart Lives series, in a story filled with her trademark heartwarming and emotionally-charged message of faith, courage, and love.

My Thoughts
I was immediately drawn into the story when, in the first few pages of the novel, Tyson (Diana's husband who is presumed dead) shows up just as Diana is about to announce her engagement to another man. For reasons she is not even certain of herself, Diana agrees to reunite with Tyson for six months while he runs for political office. This certainly isn't your typical romance novel storyline!

Diana immediately struck me as a strong and complex character. While it seems that she's overcome many of the challenges of her childhood, it's obvious that there are plenty of new challenges in her adulthood. She wants to do the right thing but often acts out of fear and resists vulnerability. Of course, though, as she continues to welcome "strays" into her life, those fears are constantly challenged and vulnerability is required. Tyson too is an intriguing character. He has a wild past but by the grace of God he is determined to be an honest, upright man. I loved how he often reflected on the mistakes of his past as he made decisions about his current circumstances. Mrs. Fisher, Mr. Applegate, and Ned were great additions to the story as well and gave the book a well-rounded feel.

I also liked the way the story alternated between the past and present. It was easy to follow and a unique way to give some of the back story that I definitely wanted to know!

Robin Lee Hatcher has delivered another great novel! With characters that are easy to love and a story full of raw emotion, I enjoyed every moment spent with the story. I highly recommend! [4.5 stars]

I received a free copy of this book from Zondervan and Litfuse Publicity in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Author
Best-selling novelist Robin Lee Hatcher is known for her heartwarming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. She discovered her vocation after many years of reading everything she could put her hands on, including the backs of cereal boxes and ketchup bottles. Winner of the Christy, the RITA, the Carol, the Inspirational Reader’s Choice, and many other awards, Robin is also a recipient of the prestigious RWA Lifetime Achievement Award. She is the author of 70 novels and novellas with over five million copies in print.

Robin enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, reading books that make her cry, and watching romantic movies. Her main hobby (when time allows) is knitting, and she has a special love for making prayer shawls. A mother and grandmother, Robin and her husband make their home on the outskirts of Boise, sharing it with Poppet, the high-maintenance Papillon, and Princess Pinky, the DC (demon cat).

Robin Lee Hatcher Online
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Pinterest

Giveaway
 

High drama amid the rocky cliffs of England

Untitled Document
Can love give them a future?
Reluctant Courtship Honore Bainbridge has been courted by two men, one of whom turned out to be a traitor, the other a murderer. Banished to her family's country estate, where she will hopefully stay out of trouble, she finally meets the man she is sure is exactly right for her: Lord Ashmoor. Tall, dark, and handsome—what more could a girl ask for?

But he too is under suspicion because of his American upbringing and accusations that he has helped French prisoners escape from Dartmoor Prison. Though they find themselves drawn to each other, family obligations may conspire to keep them apart forever. For the sake of her heart, Honore determines to prove Ashmoor's innocence—even if doing so risks her own life.

From the first sentence, award-winning author Laurie Alice Eakes thrusts you into high drama amid the rocky cliffs of Devonshire, England, and keeps you suspended there until the final page.
 
 
Read an Excerpt
 
 
www.RevellBooks.com
 
Facebook @LaurieAliceEakes www.lauriealiceeakes.com
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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

New Release | Letters from Ruby by Adam Thomas

About Letters from Ruby
A young priest, a struggling parish, a search for wisdom and love.

When the newly ordained Episcopal priest Rev. Calvin Harper arrives in Victory, West Virginia, to be the pastor at an ailing parish, he has no idea how much he still has to learn about being a priest. Thankfully, Ruby Redding takes the young man under her wing and teaches him everything she has learned throughout her long, storied life. Seminary never taught Calvin that the only true way to be a witness to God’s presence in this world is to remain in relationships with people no matter what life throws at them. His studies never taught him that detachment is the bane of ministry. He never learned that deep grief comes only from deep love. But in his first year in Victory, Calvin learns all this and more from Ruby, a woman so full of God’s light that it can’t help but spill onto the people around her.

About Adam Thomas
Adam Thomas was ordained to the Episcopal priesthood in 2008 at the age of 25, making him one of the first priests from the millennial generation. His unique voice in the faith community emanates from a combination of his youth, honesty, humor, and tech-savvy nature. A self-described nerd, Adam is the author of Digital Disciple. He also writes the blog WhereTheWind.com, belongs to the Christian Century Blogging Community and Day1.org, and knows everything about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Adam lives in Weymouth, Massachusetts.

Haunting Joy by Lena Goldfinch

Haunting Joy
by Lena Goldfinch
Haunting Joy series, Book 1
Fiction / YA / Paranormal (General Market)
Available October 2013
Indigo Road Teen
156 pages

Buy a copy
Find out what others think




About the Book
Joy’s new dress has a secret – one with a little supernatural history, one that’s a little more than she expected.

It all starts one ordinary afternoon, as seventeen-year-old Joy tries on some thrift-store clothes her grandmother gave her. The little white dress fits perfectly. Trouble is, now it won’t leave her alone. Soon Joy is swept up in an extraordinary journey to help a ghost complete some unfinished business. If only that didn’t involve Joy driving through dangerous intersections...or calling up her high-school crush, Nick...or getting stuck at a cemetery after dark.

Will Joy accept this ghostly challenge to be "more"? And just how far will she go to uncover the truth?

Light Paranormal Novella

My Thoughts
I've never ventured into the paranormal genre before, but I'm pushing myself to get out of my comfort zone a little this year and thought participating in the blog tour for Haunting Joy would be a good chance to try something new. Amber assured me that it wasn't too creepy, so I hopped on board. :)

I was pleasantly surprised! Haunting Joy is a cute YA novella about a girl named Joy who discovers a white dress in a pile of thrift store finds from her grandmother. She feels a connection with the dress and is drawn to it in an unexplainable way. Once she puts it on, she realizes that a "ghost" is haunting her and she won't give up until she figures out why.

I really liked Joy. She's a sweet teenager and as the story goes on, she begins to truly care about others. Her friends Emily and Nick are good additions as well. I also appreciated that Joy's mom plays such a significant role in the book. I get really annoyed when YA novels ignore adults altogether, so it was good to see an adult fulfilling a parental role (even if it was more of a supporting role).

By the way, the "ghosty" elements of the story are pretty minor and not really creepy at all. If you're not sure what to think about paranormal stories, this is a nice introduction to the genre.   [4 stars]

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Author
Lena Goldfinch lives in a scenic small town in Massachusetts with her husband, two kids, and a very spoiled Black Lab. She writes fiction for young adults, mostly light fantasy with a healthy dose of "sigh-worthy" romance. You can visit her online at her blog.

Monday, October 28, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


"It's Monday! What Are You Reading?" is a weekly meme hosted by Book Journey where we share what we're reading and our goals for the week.

What I Read Last Week ...
 I read two GREAT books and listened to another audio book this week! Yay! Seriously, you should check out all three of these!

What I'm Reading Now ...
I'm still in the middle of quite a few books. Work has been so crazy over the past few weeks, and my review schedule has been pretty full. I haven't had a chance to finish some of these ... despite REALLY wanting to get back to them.


What I Hope to Read This Week ...
It's another busy week and I several reviews will be posted this week. I'm hoping to get to some of the following ...

That's what I'm hoping to read this week. What are you reading?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Blogside Chat | Debut Author Karen Barnett

It's been quite a while since I had the privilege of hosting anyone for a Blogside Chat. Today, I'm happy to welcome debut author Karen Barnett to i blog 4 books!

i blog 4 books: Welcome, Karen! Tell us a little about your novel. Where did you get the idea for Mistaken? What is the story behind the story?

Karen Barnett: The idea for Mistaken came from an old family story. My grandparents lived in Port Angeles, Washington during Prohibition. Like the character Johnny Burke, my grandfather and some buddies used to row across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to get whiskey to share with friends back home. On one of their return trips they found G-men waiting for them on the beach and were able to jump overboard and swim to freedom. In later life, he claimed my grandmother had turned him in to officials, but she refused to ever speak of it. Whether this was true or just family lore I'll never know, but I thought it was an irresistible premise for a story.

ib4b: How much of yourself do you put into your characters? Are Laurie and Daniel and Samuel based on anyone in particular?

KB: Laurie is quite a bit like me: introverted, contemplative, private. She also makes snap judgments about people that sometimes prove to be incorrect in the long run. I hate to admit it, but I'm prone to this failing as well. Daniel resembles my own real-life hero—my husband, Steve—a generous spirit who will bend over backward to help the people he cares about and a man with deeply-held beliefs that drive his choices.

ib4b: What do you hope readers will take away from reading Mistaken?

KB: Laurie's deepest desire is to find one man of honor who will never disappoint her. Many women feel let down by men in their lives and sometimes we turn to romance novels to fill that need. I hope that by reading Mistaken, we will all be reminded that everyone sins and falls short. The only man truly worthy of our unfailing trust is Christ.

ib4b: Who encouraged your love for reading and/or writing when you were growing up?

KB: My parents always encouraged me to read, and I picked it up at a young age. It was customary in our house to read for at least 30 minutes before lights-out each night (and that’s when the flashlight became my trusted friend). I also had a 5th grade teacher who assigned weekly creative writing exercises and wouldn’t accept tearful pleas of "I can't do it" as an excuse—as much as I tried.

ib4b: It seems like most authors have quite an interesting journey to publication. What did you do in your "former life"?

KB: My first paying job was in a library—not a big surprise, right? I spent several years working as a park ranger with both the national and state parks. I loved explaining nature to park visitors and encouraging them to look around with new eyes. After we had kids, I was fortunate to be able to stay at home while they were little, and entered into full-time writing when they reached their school-years.

ib4b: What are you working on now?

KB: I am currently writing a three-book series set in 1906 San Francisco, the first of which will be arriving in bookstores next spring. In Out of the Ruins, Abby Fischer prays for a miracle for her dying sister, but doesn’t expect the answer to come in the form of the handsome Dr. Robert King. When Robert’s innovative treatment fails, Abby’s grief is surpassed only by the chaos of the San Francisco earthquake and fires. Will Abby finally find God—and love—in the ruins?

ib4b: Thank you so much for stopping by, Karen!



About the Author
Karen Barnett is the author of Mistaken and several articles that have been published by Guideposts and other national magazines. She lives in Albany, Oregon, with her husband, two children, and three cats. Connect with Karen through her website KarenBarnettBooks.com.

About the Book
Laurie’s judgment about men has never steered her wrong. Until now.

Since alcohol and prohibition have made criminals out of every man in her world, Laurie Burke resolves to find at least one honorable man to fill her life.

Convinced that handsome newcomer Daniel Shepherd is connected with her brother’s rum-running gang, Laurie quickly scratches his name off her list. Federal agent Samuel Brown might be the answer to her prayers—or her worst nightmare.

If you're interested in learning more about Mistaken, check out this sneak peek of the first chapter.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Giving Gifts in Jesus' Name

Children living in poverty rarely—if ever—receive gifts. Let's be honest. If you're struggling to feed your family, to find clean water, and to keep a roof over your head, gifts aren't really a priority. 

One of the ways that Compassion International ministers to children in their program is by giving each child in the program a Christmas gift in the name of Jesus. These gifts are a way to show each child that someone cares about them. Plus, it's a tangible demonstration of God's love.

Many sponsors contribute an additional amount each year to help provide a Christmas gift for their sponsored child. Of course, there are some who are not able to do so. No child is ever left out, but additional funds are needed to help cover this expense. Would you consider contributing to the Christmas Gift Fund to meet this need? A gift of $20 is suggested to provide a gift for one child. 100% of contributions will be used to purchase gifts. (The deadline to give toward this year's Christmas Gift Fund is October 31.)


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Greetings from the Flipside by Rene Gutteridge

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Greetings from the Flipside
by
Rene Gutteridge


About the Book
Hope Landon has been rewriting other people's greeting cards since she was six years old -- there's always a funnier caption. She's all set to chase those creative dreams with her musician fiance in New York City until he leaves Hope at the altar, deciding he must not really love this girl if he can't write a song for her. That may give her something to write about . . .

Hope disappears alone on what was supposed to be the couple's month long honeymoon. Upon returning she learns of her funeral -- everyone in her life concluded Hope must have killed herself after being jilted. Needing a fresh start more than ever, she heads for the Big Apple only to discover it's not that easy to rent a place when you've been declared dead.

Taking shelter at the YWCA, Hope soon lands a job at a Christian inspirational greeting card company as an assistant to Jake, a guy who shut down his organization's humor department. She has lost her faith in love; he needs to find something or someone that will make him laugh.

Is there anything in the cards for these two? Find out in the truly original Greetings from the Flipside by authors Rene Gutteridge (Boo) and Cheryl McKay (screenplay for The Ultimate Gift).

About the Author
Rene is the author of seventeen novels. She also has extensive experience writing comedy sketches, and worked for five years as the director of drama for a church. She has a degree specializing in Screenwriting, for which she earned the Excellence in Mass Communication Award, and graduated magna cum laude.

She is married to Sean, a musician and worship leader, and has two children. They reside in Oklahoma, where Rene writes full time and enjoys instructing in college classrooms and writers conferences.




Rene Gutteridge Online
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

A "Just Because" Giveaway

It's time for a giveaway ... a "just because" giveaway!

Just because it's Wednesday ...
And I've had a long three or four weeks ....
And all I want is to gripe and complain about just about everything. 

Just because I want to try out a new widget called Giveaway Tools ...
(Will you let me know what you think?)

Just because Warning Signs by Katy Lee is a GREAT book ...
And I want to share my copy with one of you!

About Warning Signs
GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT

When a drug-smuggling ring rocks a small coastal town, the DEA sends Agent Owen Matthews to shut it down. A single father with a deaf son, Owen senses that the town's number one suspect—the high school's new principal—doesn't fit the profile. Miriam Hunter hoped to shrug off the stigma of her hearing impairment when she returned to Stepping Stones, Maine. But her recurring nightmares dredge up old memories that could prove her innocence—and uncover the truth behind a decades-old murder. Yet Owen's help may not be enough when someone decides to keep Miriam silenced—permanently.




Giveaway
Enter using the Giveaway Tool below for a chance to win 1 copy of Warning Signs by Katy Lee. Giveaway is open to US residents only and ends October 30, 2013 at 11:59pm CST.

NOTE: All participants must be 18 years or older. The winner will be contacted via email. Once contacted the winner has 72 hours to respond with the required information. If the winner does not respond within the timeframe specified, another winner will be chosen. I am not responsible for shipping mishaps. Void where prohibited.  

(Will you let me know what you think about this new widget—especially if you've used Rafflecopter before? Pros? Cons? How does it compare? Thanks in advance!)

Monday, October 21, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


"It's Monday! What Are You Reading?" is a weekly meme hosted by Book Journey where we share what we're reading and our goals for the week.

What I Read Last Week ...


What I'm Reading Now ...



What I Hope to Read This Week ...
I'm not even going to try to figure out what I might read this week. Let's just say that my TBR list is super long, and the pile by my bed is taller than I'd like to admit. So, I'm hoping to read some. I think that's a good enough goal for now. :)

That's what I'm hoping to read this week. What are you reading?

Friday, October 18, 2013

FIRST Blog Tour | Warning Signs by Katy Lee

Warning Signs
by Katy Lee
Christian Fiction / Contemporary / Suspense
Available October 2013
Love Inspired Suspense
224 pages

Buy a copy
Find out what others think




It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!



Today's Wild Card author is:

Katy Lee

and the book is:

Warning Signs

***Special thanks to Katy Lee for sending me a review copy.***

About the Book
GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT

When a drug-smuggling ring rocks a small coastal town, the DEA sends Agent Owen Matthews to shut it down. A single father with a deaf son, Owen senses that the town's number one suspect—the high school's new principal—doesn't fit the profile. Miriam Hunter hoped to shrug off the stigma of her hearing impairment when she returned to Stepping Stones, Maine. But her recurring nightmares dredge up old memories that could prove her innocence—and uncover the truth behind a decades-old murder. Yet Owen's help may not be enough when someone decides to keep Miriam silenced—permanently.




 


My Thoughts
I was so impressed with Warning Signs! The story was different than what I expected, but I just loved it! I think this was the first time I've read a book that had a main character who was deaf. I thought Miriam was such an interesting character and liked reading about how she dealt with different things as a deaf person. I can't imagine how cut off from the rest of the world she must have felt. Owen was such a great guy, and I really liked seeing how his friendship with Miriam impacted his relationship with his son. 

At first I was suspect of such a huge case focusing on the trafficking of marijuana (it just seemed a bit farfetched), but once I got more into the book, I was able to overlook that one thing. The suspense was fascinating and it seemed like something happened every few pages that had me wondering what was next.

In the end, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and look forward to reading more (hopefully many more) books from Katy Lee! [4.5 stars]

I received a free copy of this book from the author and FIRST Wildcard Blog Tours in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Author
As an Inspirational Romantic Suspense author, Katy Lee writes higher-purpose stories in high-speed worlds. Through her writing, ministries, and teaching, she dedicates her life to sharing tales of love, from the greatest love story ever told to those sweet romantic stories of falling in love. Katy and her husband are born New Englanders, but have been known to travel at the drop of a hat along with their three children.

Katy Lee Online



And Now ... The First Chapter
Drug Enforcement Agent Owen Matthews gripped the wheel of his rented sports boat as he coasted through the North Atlantic at barely half-throttle. The Maine island town of Stepping Stones urged Owen to rush forward to the safety of its shores, but his newly acquired phobia of boats wouldn’t let him speed up even one knot. At this rate the sun would be gone before he arrived at his next assignment.

“What we do for friends,” Owen mumbled through clenched teeth, thinking about his old academy roommate, and the island’s sheriff, Wesley Grant. Even though Wes chose small-town law enforcement and Owen took the federal route with the DEA down to the Mexican border, the two of them kept in touch.

Wes had called, needing Owen’s undercover expertise to take down a recent marijuana problem at Stepping Stones High School. No job was too dangerous or too far for Owen when it came to extinguishing the distribution of illegal mind-altering substances. Even if the job brought him back to these Maine waters where he vowed never to go again.

Owens quashed away the sickening memory. He’d let the guilt return later, but for now he had a job to do. He steered his focus back to the few facts Wes gave him about the case, specifically on how the drugs appeared about six months ago, soon after two new residents moved to Stepping Stones.

Wes was a good cop, but he probably didn’t want to believe a fellow islander could ever bring such harm down on one of his own. Since Owen grew up on the mainland and not with these people, he could offer a more unbiased investigation of all the inhabitants, new and old.

Plus, Owen knew firsthand how the ones closest to us had the power to destroy us—he knew this not because he’d been on the receiving end, but because of the people he’d destroyed. His past offenses convinced him that every islander was capable and a suspect—including the owner of the fishing boat coming at him.

At first, the vessel bobbed alongside a huge rock and lighthouse up ahead, but when it shot off like a bullet, Owen questioned its hurry. Was its retreat an innocent maneuver or had Owen intruded on an illegal happening of some kind?

He kept his undercover status in mind and prepared to make all neighborly with the captain of the…. He strained to read the name of the fishing boat scrawled on its hull.

The Rita Ann.

A harmless enough name. Although typically, a drug trafficker wouldn’t be advertising its wares on its exterior for the world to see. Owen observed more of the rusty, white fishing boat with its tall, lit masthead. A rule follower, it would seem with his adequate safety equipment. But, if one was carrying illegal cargo, it would be in their best interest to keep their light bulbs in working order. Why risk the chance of being pulled over?

Owen searched the dark pilothouse windows for the captain, but only the reflection of the setting sun glinted back at him. He sped up a little to close in, waving his hand high, and slowed to an idle to wait for the lone figure at the wheel to wave back.

Instead, the Rita Ann increased its speed and changed its course—directly on him.

Stunned, Owen’s hand slipped off the gear shift. This couldn’t be happening. Not again. The sun was setting, but he could still be seen. The last time it had been pitch dark. This didn’t make sense.

Snap out of it, Matthews! He ordered himself to reengage, but his stiff hands might as well have been petrified wood. He had to move, but visions of a past splintering boat flying sky-high immobilized his reflexes. Six years of time dissolved into this moment as he relived his first crash.

No, he denied for history to repeat itself. Move! Now!

A surge of adrenaline pushed him to hit the reverse. He blasted back out of the Rita Ann’s path. The fishing boat jetted past him without an acknowledgment.

Owen questioned if the driver had seen him or not. How could he not, though? He watched The Rita Ann chug out to sea. Owen forced his hand to turn the wheel to follow. He would flag it down to find out, but first, he would need to speed up to catch it.

Duty called and Owen’s previous driving-with-caution vaulted to the wind as he kicked up his speed a notch, then another and another. The front bow parted the rolling waves into a frothy wake as he set his sights on the Rita Ann. His attention drilled straight ahead, until a gray object flew past him on his starboard side. Immediately another followed. Owen’s head whipped from side to side in confusion.

They were flat rocks, smaller, less visible than the large one with the lighthouse. The sight of the solid, unmovable masses caused him to slam back the throttle, jolting the craft to a rumbling crawl.

The Rita Ann raced on ahead without him.

It wasn’t the fact that he let her go that choked him, but rather the fact that he could have had a disastrous collision if he had been a few scant feet more to his left.

At least no one was in the boat with me this time. Owen blew out a breath of angry expletives about his stupidity. I have no business being out on these waters. Not even for a job.

With tighter fists than before, he gripped the steering wheel again. In an anxious cold-sweat, Owen drifted with the tiniest bit of gas sent to the engine. In such a slow motion, he realized more and more of these rocks protruded up from the ocean floor around him, leading up to the island of Stepping Stones.

The island apparently got its name from these rocks. The lighthouse itself was built on the largest of them while the others dotted a sporadic path. A beautiful scene for a painting, but in reality, these rocks posed a deadly threat to boats cruising their way up the coast of New England. How the ferry could dock here was beyond him. Maybe that’s why it only came in once a week. Too risky with these formidable pieces of stone that required a wide berth.

Owen made his way back to the rock with the lighthouse. As he approached, something red and gold caught his attention. His rubberneck told him it was a woman.

She lay motionless on the rock, the only part of her moving was a strand of her hair fluttering on the sea breeze. His mind reeled with concern. Was she injured?

Owen swung his gaze back at the departing Rita Ann. Perhaps the woman was hurt by the same hands that piloted the boat. That would explain the hasty departure. Had someone on the Rita Ann dumped her here? Thrown her overboard? Owen’s stomach twisted at the thought. Time was critical if that was the case.

He steadied his gaze on her, but from his vantage point all he could make out was her shock of long, red hair glinting with gold in the sun’s rays. The tresses fanned out against the rock like the rays themselves. He leaned over the steering wheel as if that would get him closer, faster.

With the engine of his boat chugging, he hoped she would hear him approach and lift her head or wave a hand, but she didn’t. Not even when his boat sidled up to the rock and lapped idly in the waves.

“Miss?” he called out over the rattling engine. “Miss, do you need help?”

No answer. No movement, either

Owen cleared his throat and tried again, louder. When that turned out the same, the words ‘deathly still’ crossed his mind. Apprehension niggled at the back of his neck. He rubbed it away with the horrid thought and called out again. “Miss?” he yelled forcefully, but couldn’t deny the waver of uncertainty in his voice.

He hadn’t seen someone this still since his wife, Rebecca, lay in the sand, paramedics going through the motions of saving her only because he begged them not to stop. Owen’s throat filled with a golf-sized blockage. He shot a jittery gaze toward the island, willing someone else to come help this woman.

The docks in miniature glimmered in the sunlight, waiting for his boat to find its place beside them for the night. Oh, how he wanted to do just that. To allow someone else better qualified to help her. He was good at chasing bad guys, not rescuing women. But not one person came into his view. Not one fisherman. Not one loitering teenager. No one at all stood on the pier for him to wave at for assistance.

Owen cut the engine. It has to be me. He dropped his shoulders as he dropped anchor.

He thought about radioing for help, maybe the woman was just in a deep sleep. Just in case she was hurt, though, Owen grabbed the life-saving equipment stored in the rear stern under the padded seats. He yanked open the compartment to find a first-aid kit and blanket, along with life vests. He scooped up the blanket and kit and went portside, reaching out to grab at the crusty barnacle-covered stone.

Swells rocked the woman in and out of his view. With every rise and sway of his boat he caught sight of her one-piece, red and blue bathing suit. He thought it was a mishmash of flowers or something, but didn’t concentrate enough on it to be sure. His full attention was given to the state of the woman’s wellness. In a quick scan, his eyes followed from her bathing suit down her long, muscular limbs of milky white to a set of small feet sprawled motionless.

“I’m coming, okay?” he assured her loudly as he threw his load up on the rock and hoisted his body to follow. Please be sleeping, he thought but said, “Don’t move. You may have a neck injury.” Like Rebecca when she was thrown.

The woman didn’t move. Not even to acknowledge his presence. He watched for any sign of a twinge or breathing as he scraped along the sharp barnacles. Pain sliced through his palms and bared forearms. He used the discomfort to propel him up and forward, but glad for the protection of his denim jeans. Lying flat, he came face-to-face with the still, delicate features of the woman. Long, light lashes rested on pale, freckled cheeks. He hesitated to touch her. Would he find her asleep? Dead? Had his rescue not come in time?

“Miss, can you hear me? Are you hurt? Do you need help?”

Nothing.

His hand reached for the curve of her neck and gently felt for her pulse on skin, icy cold. She moaned and her heart’s life-beating sound brought Owen a mix of relief and elation. She may be hurt, but at least she was alive. Thank you, L-Lord, Owen’s reflexive prayer of thanksgiving had him wiping an old bitter aftertaste from his salty lips.

“God had nothing to do with saving this girl,” he muttered. “God’s not here. I’m here.”

His blunder stumped him for a moment before he launched into the rescue. Owen reached for the scratchy, wool blanket behind him and stretched it over her arms and chest to warm her. Instantly, her eyes flashed wide and another short sound deep in her throat escaped her pale lips. A moan of pain? he wondered. A quick jerk of her head triggered him to brace her just in case.

“Miss?” He gripped both sides of her face and peered into stark, gray eyes, as gray as the stone she lay on. Fear shone up at him. “Don’t move. You could have a spinal injury. Can you tell me if you hurt anywhere?”

She struggled beneath the blanket, arms fumbling and pushing with a strength that caught him off guard. Owen pressed her arms down and shushed her. He couldn’t safely move her to the boat like this.

She moaned again, more forceful, louder. It didn’t sound like a moan of pain now, but rather anger. She was mad at him? For helping her? She shoved harder at the blanket between them. Her lips parted for the loudest most forceful sound yet. It sounded like the word off without the pronunciations of the f’s. It took him a second before her word hit him like a left hook to his gut.

Owen jumped away from the muffled sounds he would recognize anywhere. They were the same kind of sounds his son made when he tried to speak—ever since he lost his hearing the night he’d nearly drowned in the crash.

This woman wasn’t injured at all. She didn’t answer him because, like his son, she was deaf.

*

Miriam Hunter fumbled under the attack of a strong-armed man. The scare tactics to be rid of her had turned physical. Ever since she arrived here, the islanders had made it known she wasn’t wanted. First, the nasty notes and emails, then the late night crank calls, and now this…this assault.

How dare this guy sneak up on her out in this secluded place? At the one place she could fully get away from their angry stares. As though it was her fault drugs had come to their precious island.

Just because the marijuana showed up after she arrived didn’t mean she brought it with her. The bag of marijuana found in her office had been placed there by one of the very townspeople who wanted her gone—perhaps even by this guy leaning over her.

Angrily, Miriam heaved at the heavy material scratching her skin. She didn’t have to think twice as to why he covered her with it. He might as well have sealed her lips with duct tape. She strained against him to free her hands—her voice. He wouldn’t understand a word she signed, but it would make her feel better to put him in his place. She wouldn’t sit here and allow him to silence her. She pushed at him again, but his strength wouldn’t relent.

Who was this guy? Miriam didn’t recognize him as a parent. He seemed too young to have a child in high school. Thirty-two, tops. His dark cropped hair screamed short, clean-cut military, not shaggy, salt-drenched fisherman.

But the eyes….

She stilled to study the rich black currant irises inches from her face. Sharp and assessing eyes, not accusing and vindictive. She thought they held a message of caring, but before she could decipher clearly, all emotion dipped behind their onyx surface like the secrets of the drink, safely hidden beneath murky depths.

His tensed lips moved, too close for her to read. Then as much as she abhorred talking, Miriam broke her vow and opened her mouth to tell him to get off.

The look on his cleanly shaven face abruptly changed from determination to…shock? Her deafness surprised him? If he didn’t know she was deaf then he wasn’t from Stepping Stones. He was a stranger—and she was alone on a rock in the ocean with him.

Every self-defense move Miriam learned in college jumped to attention in her head. She tried to recall if there was a maneuver for when someone had you pinned under a blanket. Never did she think those tactics would be used, but perhaps this was the moment God prepared her for through all those classes. Stay with me, Father, she signed her prayer of petition in her head because her hands were still secured under the blanket. Give me strength and the knowledge to break away. She mindfully pulled out the scripture tucked in her heart for times of darkness.

Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Miriam used the words from Isaiah 41to hurl all her strength at the man again. This time, he jolted back as though she’d burned him. Without waiting another second, she sat up, flung off the blanket, and scooted back.

He fell onto his haunches, hands raised up in surrender, but her flight reflex still had her retreating farther away until she reached the edge of the rock. Her heart raced, pounding adrenaline through her head and body. Even being deaf, she could hear it coursing through her.

He hadn’t moved from his place but spoke again. Miriam studied his lips as her breathing steadied. He said something about kelp. She shook her head in confusion and a bit of annoyance. People always thought deaf people could read lips. She supposed she could read them half the time, but that left a lot of room for confusion, which is why she usually traveled with her interpreter—except in the afternoon when she swam out to the lighthouse to be alone. Never did she think she would need Nick way out here.

The stranger’s tall, lean frame bent to pick up a box labeled with the symbol of a red cross. He held it up to her and clarity came swiftly.

He hadn’t said kelp. He’d said help. He thought she needed help.

But why? What gave him the idea in the first place?

Miriam searched the island and knew it to be about 500 yards away. Not a huge distance for a former competitive open-water swimmer like herself. But this man wouldn’t know she swam out to the lighthouse for exercise each day. He probably thought only a stranded and injured person would be this far from land.

Miriam supposed she could try to speak aloud to explain, but a long time ago, she vowed only to use her voice when absolutely necessary. And giving this stranger her personal information wasn’t necessary.

In fact, the only thing necessary was to get off this rock quickly. Miriam didn’t believe she faced any danger from him anymore, but she also wasn’t inclined to be friendly.

She cagily followed his movements to the other side of the rock where his boat anchored.

He gestured with his hand for her to climb in, pointing toward the island.

Before thinking, she naturally lifted her hands to sign. After the first few signs, stating she would swim back, she stopped and waved her hands to say forget it. He wouldn’t understand anyway. She stood on her edge, still keeping him in her sight while preparing to dive in. But before her feet left the ground, Miriam gazed back at him one last time, and froze.

His hand pointed to his chest, then rose to the side of his temple. She watched his index finger slowly point up toward the sky. “I understand,” he signed.

She nearly stumbled off the rock. He knew her language? Would he say more? She waited, hating herself because deep down she hoped he would. How quickly she willingly trusted this man just because he understood her.

For so long, though, she’d been a foreigner in this world that was supposed to be her home, desperately seeking companionship. Now she stood face-to-face with the one thing she sought after. Forever on the lookout for someone like her, or someone who understood her. Or at least wanted to try.

Poor Nick earned his pay, and then some. But there were only so many current events and primetime television shows to talk about with one person.

Begrudgingly, Miriam knew her traitorous face was lit in anticipation of finding a friend, but even so, she tried her hardest to be nonchalant about the situation. Tentatively, she raised her hands and swirled her fingers in circles. “You sign?” she asked in her language.

His eyes darkened to those murky depths again. He gave one negative shake to his head and averted his gaze past her shoulder.

He didn’t sign.

Miriam did her best to express a lack of caring with a blasé shrug even though disappointment washed over her like a cold wave. Then her mind stumped on the man’s answer to her question. If he wasn’t able to sign, then how did he understand her enough to answer her?

Unless, he did understand her, and didn’t want to talk to her.

Fine…whatever, she dismissed him with a wave of her hand and lifted off the rock in one clean arc. If that was the way he wanted to be, then he was no friend she wanted.

Miriam sliced through the cold water with precision, letting it cool off her temper, amazed her anger could still boil over so easily. She thought God had helped her with that unwanted emotion a long time ago, but sometimes her anger reared its ugly head and reminded her she still had some things to contend with.

Another day, she told herself…again. She wondered if there ever was a good time to reopen old wounds. She thought not, but especially not right now.

She was in the midst of a troubling drug investigation. She had a drug supplier to find. Making friends and digging into her past were at the bottom of her list.

In fact, her past was one thing better left buried. Nothing good could come out of unearthing those dreams—or rather nightmares. Miriam trembled and it had nothing to do with the frigid northern waters she swam in.

The unnatural bulging eyes of those old nightmares stared at her from behind her closed eyelids; a large hand and a flash of something gold blinded her. Images as real today as they were at ten years old. She pushed through her strokes as she pushed the childhood terrors down into the dark abyss.

Mother always said they were a figment of a childish imagination. Except children weren’t supposed to be imagining such horrifying things.

No, I can’t go there. She swam faster, pushed harder. Her hands sliced through the water, jetting her forward. Miriam had a feeling if she continued to delve deeper into that nightmare, she would never emerge. Not even the dark-haired rescuer she left in her wake would be able to save her from the dangers of that watery grave.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Journey of Josephine Cain by Nancy Moser

The Journey of Josephine Cain
by Nancy Moser
An American Tapestry series
Christian Fiction / Historical / Romance
Available September 2013
Summerside Press
336 pages



About the Book
When a socialite from the nation’s capital embarks on a journey to the Wild West, her life is changed forever.

A setting populated by hundreds of laborers, outlaws, and Indians is hardly the place for a wealthy general’s daughter. But Josephine Cain is determined to visit her father, who supervises the day-to-day work involved in the grandest ambition of post-Civil War America: the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. Life with the railroad is far from the proper life Josephine is used to, and she faces deadly gunfights, harsh weather, and vigilante uprisings. She is torn between the West and the East; between her privileged upbringing and the challenges of a new frontier; between the pull of the suitable beau her parents approve of and an attraction to a rough but charming Irish railroad worker. But if Josephine is willing, she just might find a new life, a unique purpose . . . and true love.

Buy a copy  |  Read an excerpt  |  Find out what others think

My Thoughts
The Journey of Josephine Cain is a wonderful historical read. The time after the Civil War is so fascinating to me, and Nancy Moser does a great job of bringing this time to life—both the hope and the hardships.

It was interesting to read about real people in the context of a fictitious story. Abraham Lincoln's assassination was part of the story and other historical figures were included as well.

Josephine is a bit of a difficult character in the beginning. She's spoiled rotten and thinks a lot of herself. However, as she softened, I liked her better and better. It took me a little bit to get into this book, but once I did I really enjoyed it! I would have liked for the two main characters to have a bit more interaction along the way, but again their story was really sweet by the end.

Recommended for fans of historical fiction. [4 stars]

I received a free copy of this book from Summerside Press through Litfuse Publicity in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Author
NANCY MOSER is the best-selling author of more than twenty novels. She is a winner and two-time nominee of the Christy Award, and her latest novel was named to Booklist’s “Top 10 Romance Novels of 2011.” Nancy and her husband have three grown children and three grandchildren, and they live in the Midwest.

Nancy Moser Online
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New Holiday Card Collection from Shutterfly + Giveaway

I can hardly believe that it's already time to start thinking about Christmas cards! As I've said before, Hubs has a pretty strict rule about giving Thanksgiving a chance ... meaning he does NOT like to see Christmas decorations, hear Christmas music, or even think about Christmas until the day after Thanksgiving. Generally, I agree. 

With some things you have to plan ahead, though. And Christmas cards are one of them. :)

Since I'm the one who takes care of Christmas cards, I get to cheat a little, and I'm excited to share a little bit of my cheating with you today and show you some really great card options from Shutterfly. Here are 5 of my favorites!

 I just love the bright colors! It's a fun option if you don't want a balance between traditional and super-contemporary. (And this card has a really cute stripey design on the back!)

We don't get a lot of snow down south, so I find myself gravitating toward snowmen, snowflakes, and pretty much anything snow in my decorating. Add in the aqua color, and you know I'm sold! 

 Tri-fold designs are new for Shutterfly this year! This gives you lots of options to show off your kids, dogs (please, no!), or whatever else is special to you.

I wrapped everything with craft paper last year and just loved the clean, crisp look. This card captures everything I love best the look.

I think this one is my absolute favorite of all the designs I looked at. It's pretty simple, but then you've got the sparkly glitter borders around the photos for a little jazz.

Be sure to check out Shutterfly's new tri-fold cards (so cute!) and back of card designs (love them!).

There are lots of options to choose from (for cards and photo gifts!), depending on your design preferences. Here are a few of this year's design collections ...
  • Classic: Traditional colors, iconic illustrations, aspirational sentiments, snowflakes, monogram
  • Contemporary: trend forward colors, texture and layering, water color techniques, shine, glitter, Instagram pictures are perfect for this style
  • Whimsy: humor and nostalgia meet, fun sentiments
  • Merry and Bright: all about color and having fun
  • Religious: metallic type treatments, incorporated story ideas
  • Photo Basics: multiple colors, vertical type, family name highlights
GIVEAWAY

Shutterfly is giving one of my readers a coupon code worth $50 off your total order PLUS free shipping! Simply enter through the Rafflecopter below. Giveaway ends on October 22.

a Rafflecopter giveaway




Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Shutterfly. All opinions expressed are my own.
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