Christian Chapters – A Beauty Refined: Review, Blog Tour, Giveaway, and Facebook Party

Well-Researched But Less Than Satisfying Historical Romance

A Beauty Refined
by Tracie Peterson

Series: Sapphire Brides (Book 2)
Publication Date: July 5, 2016
Publisher: Bethany House
Length: 315pp
ISBN-13: 978-0764213250

Related Links:
Tracie Peterson’s Website
Publisher’s Website


Buy the Book


About the Author

Tracie Peterson is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than one hundred books. Tracie also teaches writing workshops at a variety of conferences on subjects such as inspirational romance and historical research. She and her family live in Montana.


Publisher Synopsis

What does it take to reveal the true beauty of a hidden gem?

Phoebe Von Bergen, the daughter of a German count, is excited to visit America for the first time while her father purchases sapphires in Helena, Montana. Little does she know, however, that her father’s intentions–both for her and the gemstones–are not what she thinks.

Ian Harper, a lapidary working in Helena, finds the dignified young woman staying at the Broadwater Hotel more than a little intriguing. Yet the more he gets to know her, the more he realizes that her family story is based on a lie–a lie she has no knowledge of. And Ian believes he knows the only path that will lead her to freedom.

Meeting Ian has changed everything for Phoebe, and she begins to consider staying in America, regardless of her father’s plans. But she may not be prepared for the unexpected danger that results when her family’s deception begins to unravel.

My Review

A Beauty Refined, best-selling author Tracie Peterson’s latest release, is the second in her Sapphire Brides series. Although part of a series, the book can be read as a standalone without any trouble. The heroine, Phoebe Von Bergen, travels to the American West with her father, a German count. On a business trip to purchase sapphires, the count is quickly revealed to be not only unscrupulous and demanding, but abusive.

This is my second experience with Tracie Peterson’s work, the first being Treasures of the North. Award-winning Peterson has written over 100 books and has a large, faithful following. Still, I guess I’m either the odd-girl out, or I’ve had bad luck as far as selection goes, because each has left me unsatisfied. Of course, a novelist with such an abundance of works can’t hit a home run every time, and A Beauty Refined is not without merit.

First, let’s talk about where Peterson succeeds. Her research on the time period, the sapphire business in the American West and Ceylon, and the process of stone-cutting, shines through. Additionally, a Prussian character makes reference to the unification of Germany. Little details like that help make the setting come alive.

Quickly paced, the novel is an easy read that can become a page-turner. Peterson’s fast-moving plot gives her reader a desire to find out what happens next. Whether readers will be emotionally invested in those outcomes, however, is less certain. Peterson’s writing puts plot ahead of all else, at the expense of character development, dramatic and emotional tension, and plausibility. Ultimately, the underdevelopment of these elements works to undercut another of the novel’s desired intentions — Christian teachings.

While A Beauty Refined began with potential, for the reasons above, and other qualms which I can’t specifically disclose without heavy spoilers (I’ll just say I often didn’t agree with choices made by characters or the rationales behind them), I was less than thrilled with the end product. By the time I had turned the final page, I was more relieved than satisfied. It’s a shame, too, because under different circumstances, the novel’s lessons about faith, trust, honesty, and love might have had more impact and a broader reach.

— Dawn Teresa


3 of 5 Hearts. Well-Researched But Less Than Satisfying Historical Romance.

The most interesting aspect of A Beauty Refined is the look the reader gets at the sapphire business in Montana in 1907. But characters who too often make unrealistic, illogical, or just plain dumb choices and a too easily resolved plot undercut the Christian message.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Litfuse Publicity Group for providing me with a copy of A Beauty Refined in exchange for an honest review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Blog Tour, Giveaway, and Facebook Party!!

Join author Tracie Peterson in celebrating the release of A Beauty Refined by entering to win her Precious Gems giveaway (details below) and by attending her author chat party on August 9!

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One grand prize winner will receive:

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on 8/9. The winner will be announced at A Beauty Refined Facebook party. RSVP for a chance to connect with Tracie and fellow fans of historical fiction, as well as for a chance to win other prizes!

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RSVP today and spread the word — tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK, TWITTER, or PINTEREST and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 9th!

** For more information about the blog tour, and to read additional reviews about A Beauty Refined, please visit the Litfuse campaign page here. **


Christian Chapters: Dawn at Emberwilde by Sarah E. Ladd

 A Light Regency Romance With a Touch of Darkness

Dawn at Emberwilde
by Sarah E. Ladd

Series: Treasures of Surrey (Book 2)
Publication Date: May 10, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Length: 343pp
ISBN-13: 978-0718011819

Related Links:
Sarah E. Ladd’s Website


Buy the Book


Publisher Synopsis

Isabel Creston never dared to dream that love could be hers. Now, at the edge of a forest filled with dark secrets, she faces a fateful choice between love and duty.

For as long as she can remember, beautiful and free-spirited Isabel has strained against the rules and rigidity of the Fellsworth School in the rolling English countryside. No longer a student, Isabel set her sights on a steady yet unexciting role as a teacher at the school, a safe yet stifling establishment that would provide her a steady environment to care for her younger sister Lizzie, who was left in her care after her father’s death.

The unexpected arrival of a striking stranger with news of unknown relatives turns Isabel’s small, predictable world upside down, sweeping her and her young charge into a labyrinth of intrigue and hidden motives.

At her new family’s invitation, Isabel and Lizzie relocate to Emberwilde, a sprawling estate adjacent to a vast, mysterious wood rife with mysterious rumors and ominous folklore—along with whispers of something far more sinister. And perhaps even more startling, two handsome men begin pursuing Isabel, forcing her to learn the delicate dance between attraction, the intricate rules of courtship, and the hopes of her heart.

At Emberwilde, Isabel will discover that the key to unlocking the mystery of her past may also open the door to her future and security. But first she must find it—in the depths of Emberwilde Forest.

My Review

“We are each on our own journey, and nothing is by accident.”

How often have you looked back at the end of a trying time and understood that what you first perceived as stumbling blocks turned out to be stepping stones? The quote above is spoken by our heroine, Isabel, near the end of Dawn at Emberwilde, the second in Sarah E. Ladd’s Treasures of Surrey series.

In life, perspective makes all the difference. It can be difficult to remember that God is at work when we are too closely connected to the threads of our own story. Eventually, time and distance allow us to begin to view the larger picture. Though we don’t have the luxury of crystal balls or time machines so that we might anticipate our future, we have certain tools at our disposal: prayer and history. We can learn from our past as well as from the stories of others, fictional characters included.

Isabel’s journey begins at Fellsworth School. Though she is a bit of a dreamer, Isabel would never imagine a future for herself that included grand estates, invitation-only dinner parties, dancing, and marriage. Not a chance! She knows her place in the world, and it’s not attending balls or enjoying “a season” trying to secure the heart (or fortune) of an eligible bachelor. As orphaned wards, she and her little sister Lizzie are likely headed for a life as teachers or governesses. But with the sudden arrival of a tall, dark stranger at Fellsworth, Isabel’s life is turned upside down.

Some readers have referred to Dawn at Emberwilde as a Cinderella story or rags to riches tale. You might also consider Isabel as an “Alice” who has gone down the rabbit hole. Indeed, from a utilitarian life as a charity ward, she is thrust into the extravagant world of the landed gentry. Even more disorienting, although there are no strange women hidden in the attic at Emberwilde, the house does appear to have secrets connected to local lore surrounding dark mysteries in the Emberwilde Forest (or as the locals call it — the Black Forest).

Before I wrap up, I want to take a moment to discuss this as a work of Christian fiction. I’ve seen some readers who have wanted more overt Christianity tied into the novel. Some have even gone so far as to say it could have been released as a general market title. In the 19th-century, perhaps. Today? Not likely. Just because the novel doesn’t evangelize doesn’t mean there aren’t Christian messages. I’d argue that, in a sense, this is more Christian because it’s more realistic. We don’t walk through life being pointed to little signs neatly explaining what God is teaching us. Nor do we often run into people with whom we’ve previously spoken very little and suddenly start speaking at length about God and Jesus. Okay, maybe some of you do. But my life hasn’t worked that way. So why should a novel be expected to do so?

Although this is a romance novel, it’s the mystery and the unanswered questions that kept me happily turning the pages. Not to mention the fact that Isabel’s outsider status allows her a critical appraisal of the so-called “good life” of the wealthy. She’s a heroine worthy of your affection. I only wish we could have had more of her story.

Don’t let the fact that Dawn At Emberwilde is the second in a series deter you; the novel stands completely alone. Although this was my first experience reading a book by Sarah E. Ladd, it has not only found a welcome home in my library, but will soon have the company of other Ladd books. This Regency should find favor with folks who enjoy Julie Klassen or Jane Austen. So what are you waiting for? Pick up a copy of Dawn at Emberwilde today!

— Dawn Teresa


4.5 of 5 Hearts. A Light Regency Romance With a Touch of Darkness.

The interplay between dark and light in Dawn at Emberwilde makes for a satisfying experience. Like Isabel, readers will be drawn to the mysterious dark woods in search of answers, buoyed by the wise words of her friend Mary, dazzled by the prestige and privilege of wealth, yet confounded at how anyone could choose a life of stability over a home filled with love. Indeed, with Dawn at Emberwilde, Sarah E. Ladd demonstrates that life is neither all light nor all dark, but a delicate dance between the two — one made more secure, not by wealth or status, but by faith and love.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Litfuse Publicity Group and TNZ’s Fiction Guild for providing me with copies of Dawn at Emberwilde in exchange for an honest review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Non-Fiction Shelves – None Like Him by Jen Wilkin

A Balanced and Readable Christian Study of God

None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different from Us (and Why That’s a Good Thing)
by Jen Wilkin

Publication Date: April 30, 2016
Publisher: Crossway
Length: 163pp
ISBN-13: 978-1433549830

Related Links:
Jen Wilkin’s Blog: The Beginning of Wisdom

Publisher’s Website (includes excerpt and reviews)


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Publisher Synopsis

God is self-existent, self-sufficient, eternal, immutable, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, sovereign, infinite, and incomprehensible.

We’re not.

And that’s a good thing.

Our limitations are by design. We were never meant to be God. But at the root of every sin is our rebellious desire to possess attributes that belong to God alone.

Calling us to embrace our limits as a means of glorifying God’s limitless power, Jen Wilkin invites us to celebrate the freedom that comes when we rest in letting God be God.

My Review

If you’re looking for some new feel-good aphorisms to tell you how special you are as one of God’s created beings, None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different from Us (and Why That’s a Good thing) isn’t that kind of book. And that’s a good thing!

Wilkin’s aim with None Like Him is to help us “consider the majesty of a limitless God” and to make His “perfections” become “the most rational object of our reverence and awe” while asking us “to stare down our tendency to ask others and even ourselves to be what only God is”.

Jen Wilkin leads off by referencing a familiar female favorite, Psalm 31. She then describes two commonly invoked images of the “God-fearing” woman — the staunch, high-collared progenitor whose likeness might be captured in old ancestral family portrait; and the perpetually smiling, always optimistic ‘Suzy Sunshine’ who so dearly loves the Lord.

Luckily, Wilkin gifts us with a discussion of neither of these extremes. Instead, she anchors her analysis to a different verse of scripture: Psalm 111:10 : “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Next, she gives us a working definition for fear that draws a balanced picture of God encompassing both a Heavenly King and a loving Father. From there, to help her reader “learn a holy fear for a God like no other,” Wilkins uses the next ten chapters to explain “10 ways God is different from us”.

Each chapter begins with an anecdote and ends with a listing of verses (previously referenced in the text) for further reading, questions for reflection with space for written responses, and a prayer prompt to help you write your own prayer centered around the chapter’s thematic content. Having the Bible verses listed is a handy tool, as are the questions which help you synthesize and apply what you’ve read. Finally, ending with a prayer personalizes each lesson and take its message into your heart. Having this all in one place, rather than divided into a separate book and study guide/journal/devotional, not only saves space and money, but eliminates unnecessary duplication. I’d like to see this format used more often.

Excluding devotionals, in my experience reading books categorized as “Christian Living,” I’ve generally come across two kinds: theological discourse written by pastors, clergy, or scholars (more often marketed to men — often other clergy/theologians); and encouraging self-help/motivational texts supported by scripture (more often aimed at women and laypeople). I’ve always puzzled over why there appears to be such a divide: emotionally-driven materials are presented to women, while rational/logical arguments are directed at men.

Just as Wilkin sheds new light on the “God-fearing woman” of Psalm 31, she offers up a different, more balanced kind of text — one that combines a conversational, confessional tone with logical, scriptural argument while never getting too bogged down in theology. In essence, None Like Him is the happy medium that can be enjoyed by both the cleric and the layman. The result is a readable, yet never watered-down message that works to increase rather than dilute our reverence for the Lord.

— Dawn Teresa


5 of 5 Hearts. A Balanced and Readable Christian Study of God.

Jen Wilkin combines her conversational tone with rational argument while never overpowering her reader with lofty theological discourse. In essence, None Like Him is the ideal hybrid whose message can be received and appreciated by cleric and layman alike.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Flyby Promotions for providing me with a copy of  None Like Him in exchange for a fair and honest review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Kids Corner: The Lost Twin by Sophie Cleverly

An Atrocious ARC = An Impossible-to-Review-Fairly Book

The Lost Twin
by Sophie Cleverly

Series: Scarlet and Ivy (Book 1)
Original Publication Date: February 26, 2015
This Edition Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Length: 304pp
ISBN-13: 978-1492633396

Related Links:
Sophie Cleverly’s Website
Sophie Cleverly on Facebook

Buy the Book




Publisher Synopsis

Ivy, I pray that it’s you reading this. And if you are, well, I suppose you’re the new me…

When shy Ivy’s troublemaking twin Scarlet vanishes from Rookwood boarding school, Ivy is invited to “take her place.” But when Ivy arrives, she discovers the school’s true intention; she has to pretend to be Scarlet. She must think like Scarlet, act like Scarlet, become Scarlet. What on earth happened to the real Scarlet, and why is the school trying to keep it a secret?

Luckily for Ivy, Scarlet isn’t about to disappear without a fight. She’s left pieces of her journal carefully hidden all over the school for Ivy to find. Ivy’s going to figure out what happened to Scarlet. She’s got to.

But the staff of Rookwood is always watching, and they’ll do anything to keep their secrets buried…

My Review

This was an extremely difficult book to review, primarily because the advance reading copy provided was an absolute mess. Formatting was more terrible than usual in such copies: paragraph indentation did not exist, causing sentences in different paragraphs to run together; dialogue was often printed without breaks between speakers; and justification was inconsistent, each new page’s differently jumbled look distracting from its content. All of this made for a labored reading experience which produced an unpleasant aftertaste when I finished the book. Because of these problems, I could never get into the plot for long, or focus on the characters as much as I wished. This was not my first encounter with a garbled ARC, but it was surely one of the worst presentations of a text I have come across. What made the whole thing strange is that this is a re-publication of a novel first released in 2015, and a cleaner copy ought to have been readily available to give to reviewers.

In addition to the formatting, there was also the occasional error in plot. For instance, in the first three pages of the book we learn: the year is 1935, Ivy is 13 (meaning she was born in 1922), and her Aunt Phoebe’s husband died during the Great War (which ended in 1918). A page or so later we read that Aunt Phoebe’s husband once told Ivy something. But he was dead at least 4 years before she was born! I initially passed this off as another ARC problem, but I checked the sample at Amazon of the 2015 published copy and found the same passages. It’s astonishing that this was not corrected. (Another example is the “hard wooden floor” that, a few pages later, is suddenly covered with a threadbare carpet.)

To judge from the ARC, the author’s prose could use some trimming. She has a tendency to write “my own” and “her own” where “my” and “her” would suffice, and is overly enamored with “sat down”. There are sections where she repeats a word or phrase multiple times, as if she didn’t proof her work with a sufficiently critical eye. How much of this is due to author oversight and how much to the ARC, I can’t say.

The plot was original and interesting, and it was frustrating to not be able to immerse myself in it. Despite the chaos, a few characters stood out, particularly the evil ones. All in all, the finished novel might well-deserve the 4.42 Goodreads rating it has at present. But even making the usual allowances for an ARC, what I read did not.

                                                                                                — Jennifer Michelle


3 of 5 Hearts. An Atrocious ARC = An Impossible-to-Review-Fairly Book.

Judging from reviews at Goodreads, and from those moments when I could connect to the main character and sympathize with her plight, The Lost Twin is not a bad Kids book. But reading this ARC was a chore and so prejudiced me against the novel that I don’t feel I can write an unbiased review. Should I ever have the opportunity to read a final copy, I will update this post.

One thing is certain: It is never a good sign when a publisher cares so little about a book (and, by extension, its author) that it releases such an abysmal copy of the text to reviewers. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky rarely disappoints, but they did so this time.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank NetGalley and Sourcebooks Jabberwocky for providing me with a copy of The Lost Twin in exchange for an honest review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


The Lost Twin

The cover as published in 2015.

Fiction Shelves: If I Run By Terri Blackstock

An Exciting Christian Mystery-Suspense Novel with Depth

If I Run
by Terri Blackstock

Series: If I Run (Book 1)
Publication Date: February 16, 2016
Publisher: Zondervan
Length: 305pp
ISBN-13: 978-0310332435

Related Links:
Terri Blackstock’s Website
Terri Blackstock’s YouTube Channel

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Publisher Synopsis

Casey knows the truth. But it won’t set her free.

Casey Cox’s DNA is all over the crime scene. There’s no use talking to police; they have failed her abysmally before. She has to flee before she’s arrested . . . or worse. The truth doesn’t matter anymore.

But what is the truth? That’s the question haunting Dylan Roberts, the war-weary veteran hired to find Casey. PTSD has marked him damaged goods, but bringing Casey back can redeem him. Though the crime scene seems to tell the whole story, details of the murder aren’t adding up. Casey Cox doesn’t fit the profile of a killer. But are Dylan’s skewed perceptions keeping him from being objective? If she isn’t guilty, why did she run?

Unraveling her past and the evidence that condemns her will take more time than he has, but as Dylan’s damaged soul intersects with hers, he is faced with two choices. The girl who occupies his every thought is a psychopathic killer . . . or a selfless hero. And the truth could be the most deadly weapon yet.

My Review

Though classified simply and mundanely as Fiction on the book jacket, If I Run is part Mystery and all Suspense. From the first sentence – “There’s blood on the bottom of my shoes.” – Terri Blackstock captures our attention; within a few chapters, her heroine has secured our support, something her hero also does quickly once the alternate narration starts. From that point, the characters are increasingly interesting, the plot ever-thickening, and the suspense never-ending.

The story of Casey and Dylan, the hunted and the hunter, unfolds logically and in prose that’s neither overly stylish nor dryly pedestrian. We learn the circumstances behind Casey’s flight later than might be expected, but by then her personality and actions have already convinced us of her innocence. Dylan, the war-veteran-turned-investigator, faces a tougher path to uncovering and accepting the truth as he tracks the elusive (supposed) killer of his friend.

Too many times the storytelling device of multiple narrators elevates one character’s voice and/or situation above the rest and those in-between chapters become a drag to get through. But Blackstock has done a good job of making us like and sympathize with both Casey and Dylan, and has plunged each into their own dramatic quagmire, so neither dominates the other. We are equally happy and at home in every chapter, regardless of who is moving the plot.

If I Run does not hide its Christian light beneath a bushel. God and the teachings of Jesus are frequently mentioned, though never in an intrusive or didactic way. One of the two protagonists is a professed Christian, while the other is a doubter, but on a journey to belief, which lends variety and perspective to the story.

When the final page is turned, the reader is left in a perfect place: She feels satisfied with the present book, but is also eagerly looking forward to the next!

— Jennifer Michelle


4.5 of 5 Hearts. An Exciting Christian Mystery-Suspense Novel with Depth.

If it’s a can’t-put-down heart-thumper you’re looking for in the Christian genre, grab If I Run and join Casey and Dylan for an absorbing, fast-paced, often thoughtful read.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Fiction Guild and Zondervan for providing me with a copy of If I Run in exchange for an honest review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

DVD Giveaway: When Calls The Heart, Season 2: Movies 1, 3, 4, 5

Congratulations to Angela W. for winning

The Luck o’ the Hearties Giveaway!

WTCH Giveaway - Shamrocked


We at ReadLove are huge fans of the Hallmark Channel original TV series When Calls the Heart. But we know we’re only two of thousands of Hearties, so when we got our hands on an extra copy of 4 of the 5 movies from season two, we knew we had to share the wealth. So here’s what one lucky winner will receive:


WCTH Giveaway

(Please note: We do not have Movie 2, but you may easily round-out your collection at the usual online stores!)

How to Enter The Luck o’ the Hearties Giveaway

  1. Visit our Facebook page: ReadLove on Facebook.

  2. Like and Share this post there.

  3. Leave a Comment on the post saying that you Liked and Shared it.

  4. That’s it! But please read the Giveaway Details below before entering!

** Giveaway Details **

The giveaway is open to residents of the United States only, age 13 and older.

The giveaway will end at 11:59pm ET on Thursday, March 17, 2016.

The prize includes four new, sealed DVDs, one of each of the following:

Movie 1: WCTH: Trials of the Heart
Movie 3: WCTH: Heart of the Family
Movie 4: WCTH: Heart and Home
Movie 5: WCTH: Follow Your Heart

The winner will be notified on March 18, 2016 via Facebook IM and is required to respond within five days with the address where the DVDs should be shipped. If no reply has been received by noon on March 23, then a new winner will be drawn.

Disclaimer: The Luck o’ the Hearties giveaway is sponsored solely by ReadLove and is not affiliated in any way with When Calls the Heart or the Hallmark Channel.

The Week in Reviews: ReadLove Recap For the Week Beginning March 7, 2016


Another week has come and gone at ReadLove ! Here’s what you may have missed:


Music Video: “Good Good Father” by Chris Tomlin ft. Pat Barrett

“We all have a picture of who we think God is. When we get down to the foundation of what we believe, the truth is that God is exactly who He says He is – a good, good Father.”

[Read the full post]


Christian Chapters: An Unbroken Heart by Kathleen Fuller

5 of 5 Hearts. Kathleen Fuller Affirms That God Can Heal the Most Broken of Hearts.

Thematically, alongside its message of courage in adversity, Kathleen Fuller’s An Unbroken Heart is a moving and instructive story of love and forgiveness, pain and healing, endings and new beginnings.

[Read the full review]





Fiction Shelves: The Newsmakers By Lis Wiehl with Sebastian Stuart

4.5 of 5 Hearts. Forget ‘Page-Turner’ – This Thriller is a Chapter-Turner!

Lis Wiehl’s latest novel is the first in a new series. She’s done an excellent job of establishing her heroine and filling her world with likable characters. More thriller than mystery, the real pleasure of The Newsmakers is in tagging along with smart, savvy, and strong Erica Sparks on her investigations, rooting for her to figure out what we already suspect and hoping that she can save the day!

[Read the full review]



That’s everything that happened on ReadLove this week. See you next week!

Until then, I’d love it if you shared a bit about your week in the comments!

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