Book Review: Elsa Goody Bushranger by Darry Fraser

Elsa GoodyI’m a big fan of Darry Fraser’s historical fiction novels, she has a way of transporting you back in time so that you just about feel that you are there with the characters. In Elsa Goody Bushranger, I was definitely travelling the roads from Robe, South Australia to Casterton, Victoria in 1896. This was not an easy time or an easy journey for Elsa and her sister Rosie, and there were many times I didn’t want to go any further with them because I was so worried about the outcomes.

It is a time where women don’ t have a great deal of rights, but in South Australia women are just about to be able to vote for the first time and make history in Australia. For Elsa this is of mighty importance, but her sister cannot understand this at all. We take our right to vote to be a given these days, I wonder if we would have fought for that right back then.

When Elsa and her sister Rosie are thrown together after their brother and father die, the two must get to know each other properly for the first time and travel a dangerous road to find out what happened to their brother. Things don’t go as planned, what was supposed to be an uneventful journey becomes fraught with danger from more than one direction and Elsa becomes wanted for helping to hold up a coach.

Hearts are also on the line for both sisters and for the three Jones’ brothers. I enjoyed getting to know the two sisters and the brothers, all so different from the other and all with lessons to learn about what they want in life and what is important. I really liked Ezekiel Jones and his children, who were just gorgeous, and I loved the way they took to Elsa.

This was a journey and a half and though it had me stressed out at times, I found this to be another great read from Darry Fraser. I certainly would not have survived back them, that is a definite.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Australia for a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

 

New Release Book Review: The Scottish Boy by Alex de Campi

The Scottish BoyI truly loved this novel, it had intrigue, romance, and sex galore as well as fighting and dirty politics as was consistent with the time of 1333.

This was another Pigeonhole read, one stave a day, and I so wanted to be able to read the whole thing in one hit, I woke each morning hoping that today’s stave had been delivered early and I could read it before work. There was a lot of discussion during the read, which I quite enjoy and the majority of us really enjoyed it. There were however a few who were not at all happy with the sex scenes, they felt they were far too graphic, and I wonder if this was just because they were between two males and if it had been a heterosexual couple whether they would have had the same complaint or not. I had no issue with the sex scenes and I thought they built the relationship between the two main characters perfectly, showing what an intense relationship they had in every aspect. But I will say that yes, the sex scenes are quite graphic, so if you don’t like this, then maybe this won’t be the book for you.

An LGBT historical novel set in the 1300s, a time I knew nothing about, and a time I am glad I didn’t live in. It was certainly a violent time with wars going on for land and titles continuously, as well as plots to take France or Scotland or for France to take England, so much scheming going on I don’t know how anyone, especially Edward III slept at night.

Harry is young and eager to become a knight, he has very little idea of what this truly entails only having fought and trained in tournaments. Turning up just after a fight he was hoping to be in, he is pulled into a scheme he has no understanding of, but which will change his life completely.

The first fight scenes were gruesome and disturbing, just as fighting would have been in that time, Harry is completely disturbed by this and I stood with him, watching the massacre that was going on with disbelief and horror. There was really no such thing as honour, especially among the men that Harry found himself teamed with. These men scheme throughout the novel, using their love of England as their reason, when really it is their love of power that drives them.

After this first Massacre, a prisoner is taken, Harry has no idea who this Scottish Boy is, but when he is given to him to be his squire, he finds his life entwined with Iain’s and both of their lives will eventually depend upon the other. Iain is a tortured soul who with the help of Harry learns who he wants to be and what truly matters. As much as he wants to be left alone, the secret of who he is won’t allow this to happen.

The book spans many years, many plots, and intrigues and Harry has to learn who he wants to be and who he can truly trust. There are some surprising alliances formed and I really enjoyed the way I was at times not sure where everything was leading and how it was going to end up. 

I have read comments that some of the histories in this novel are not totally accurate, but for me, not knowing the history anyway, it certainly didn’t detract from my enjoyment of this novel. 

Audiobook Review: Black Diamonds by Kim Kelly

IMG_20200402_183440Nearly 3 years ago I read Kim Kelly’s Black Diamonds, an historical fiction novel that is in my top reads of all times. When I heard it was coming out as an audiobook, I was excited, having listened to The Red Earth and The Blue MIle already, I was keen to spend my drive to work and back listening to one of my favourite stories. It certainly didn’t disappoint. At first, I wasn’t sure about the voice actor who played Daniel, he started off reading a bit slowly for me, but he seemed to find his pace better quite quickly and then I was hooked. Both voice actors for Danial and Francine do a fabulous job. This is one thing I really enjoy about Kim Kelly’s audiobooks, that both the main characters get their own voice, this is I guess because the chapters alternate from one character to the other.

This was my original review.

This story was incredible, once I got used to the slightly old fashioned way of the characters speaking I was completely engaged and invested in their journey. From love, joy, heartache, terror and more, I was with them every step of the way. The history and the detail that Kim Kelly weaves into this fabulous story is incredible. I have learned so much and experienced the events in this story as if I was there. The events in Europe during the war were difficult to experience and I can’t even begin to or want to imagine what it was truly like for the millions who died in that war. A remarkable story I highly recommend.

Set in Lithgow a coal mining town just before the start of WWI, there were many hardships that the people had to endure, an unsafe work environment being one of them. Francine is one of the owner’s daughters and starts off thinking she is quite above the coal miners and the people in town. This all changes when Daniel is injured and her father steps in to help Daniel and his family. From here we are swept into a love story that defies the odds and a war that threatens to take everything these two have worked for.

I really did learn so much history from this novel, as I do from every novel Kim Kelly writes. The anti-German feel, the factions who were for and against the war and subscription, the government policies at the time, the union’s input on coal mining particularly, the lack of facilities and the lack of financial support measures in place for miners and their families. These are all issues that are dealt with and ones that both Francine and Daniel feel passionate about.

I absolutely love this novel and will read and listen to it many more times.

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#AWW2020   28/50

New Release Book Review: The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams

I signed up a couple of years ago to The Pigeonhole, it is an online book club where you get to read a book with others one stave at a time. A book is broken down into parts or staves and each day a new stave is released for you to read. It really makes you think about the book you are reading, but when the book is great it can be frustrating waiting for the next stave to be released. The first book I read with The Pigeonhole was Australian author Kim Kelly’s The Blue Mile, she is now one of my favourite authors.

The Dictionary of Lost WordsA few weeks ago I got an email saying they were showcasing The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams, I had seen this novel on Instagram through Affirm Press‘s posts and this book really appealed to me, so I signed up. 10 days ago the first stave was available and I was hooked, I couldn’t wait to get the email each day to read the next part.

This book is now firmly on my list of top 10 books for 2020, it was an interesting, emotional and powerful novel, covering so many subjects. It is a beautiful and engaging book and I had no idea where the story was going to lead me, right through to the end, Pip Williams never failed to surprise me. There were parts where I was silently begging her not to take me where I thought we might be going, and from the other readers’ comments, as we read, I wasn’t alone in this. There were also parts that caused me anger, grief, happiness, and so many other emotions, but I have to admit that the final stave had me in tears more than once.

Pip Williams has a way with words, her ability to convey what people are thinking or feeling, to describe a situation or the environment, to put words themselves into context was remarkable and beautiful. There were so many lines I’d have loved to have pulled out and shared.

The book begins in 1886 and carries us through to the epilogue in 1989, though the majority of the story is between 1886 and 1915. There is just so much in this novel I can’t begin to unpack it and I will be buying myself a copy so I can reread it. Esme is a child hiding under the table in the Scriptorium, the place, a garden shed in fact, where the majority of the Oxford English Dictionary was pieced together over several decades, one letter and one word at a time. It is the place Esme learns about words and their meanings and about the importance of words to different people.

Some words are more important than others – I learned this, growing up in the Scriptorium. But it took me a long time to understand why.”

Esme collects a fallen word, Bondmaid, and hides it in a trunk, this is the start of her Dictionary of Lost Words, it is also the start of a journey to discover more words, words that are missing from the dictionary, words that ordinary people, especially women, use every day, but which are not given the importance that other words are given.

As Esme grows older she discovers the Suffragist movement and the Suffragettes, she discovers the women who work in the markets, the downtrodden and forgotten, the servants, the workers, other women who a person of Esme’s standing shouldn’t be mixing with, and she discovers Words. These are words she has never heard, words that have been left out of the dictionary, or whose meaning has been left out because it didn’t come from a scholarly source. I found this fascinating and reading the author’s notes about how the book came to be and the research she did was just as interesting.

        “I know some quite bad words. I collect them from an old woman at the market in Oxford.”

       “Well, it’s one thing to hear them in the market and quite another to have them roll around inside your mouth.” She took my dressing gown from the back of the door and helped me into it. “Some words are more than letters on a page, don’t you think?” she said, tying the sash around my belly as best she could. “They have shape and tecxure. They are like bullets, full of energy, and when you give one breath you can feel its sharp edge against your lip. It can be quite cathartic in the right context.”

Esme’s life revolves around the Scriptorium, but through words and her experiences, she leads an interesting life. The cast of characters that share Esme’s life are varied, from the scholars in the Scriptorium, Lizzie, a maid in the big house, who becomes so much more, her Aunt Ditte who is a mentor, a teacher and more, Gareth who works in the print shop, and most importantly, her father, who if it wasn’t for the way he brought up his daughter as a single parent, none of what Esme achieved would have happened; all these people and more have a huge part to play in how Esme conducts her life.

Pip Williams shows us the inequality between men and women, not just in societal expectations, but in lack of opportunity for academic achievement, the fact women’s voices aren’t heard or respected, that they can do a degree, but can’t graduate. This is made very clear in how words are chosen for the dictionary that they are building. So many things we now take for granted, but at the same time we still have that inequality.

I highly recommend this novel, I’ve been struggling to stay on track with my reading this past month as I’ve said in previous posts and as I’ve read from many other readers, but this book had me wanting to read, needing to know what was going to happen next.

Thank you to The Pigeonhole, Pip Williams and Affirm Press for the opportunity to read this wonderful novel.

For those interested, there is a great video you can watch on Facebook through Dymocks Books, click here for the link.

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FB_IMG_1577105032228       #AWW2020   25/50

 

 

 

#20Backlistin2020: Book Review: To Wed a Wild Scot by Anna Bradley

To Wed a Wild ScottTo Wed a Wild Scot by Anna Bradley has been waiting to be read since at last July, it feels good to have ticked my third #20backlistin2020 book off the list.

It was the absolutely gorgeous cover that first attracted me to this novel, I haven’t read many regency romances, but Maddison Michaels introduced me to the genre and I have found I really enjoy it, especially if the female characters are strong ones.

Juliana, our main character is definitely a strong female, she’s headstrong, gutsy, stubborn and determined, though at times full of self-doubt. Logan, our leading man is also headstrong, stubborn and determined, but he has a soft heart underneath his imposing character.

I really enjoyed this novel, there were a few times I wished the characters would stop jumping to conclusions and just talk to each other, but this is an ongoing issue I have with many novels, at least they worked things out between them eventually.

I really do love a strong, sexy Scotsman and this novel definitely ticked that box for me. With great secondary characters, as well as a very unlikeable character that they have to deal with, this was an enjoyable read, and I’ll be looking for more books by this author.

Thanks to NetGalley and Lyrical Press for a digital copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

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New Release Book Review: Walking by Kim Kelly

WalkingAnyone who knows me knows I’m a big fan of Kim Kelly’s writing, I would read just about anything she wrote. She has an amazing gift for drawing me completely into her stories , the places and the times, and I live through everything the characters do. All of her novels are written so differently, from the tone to the point of view, they are all completely individual.

Her newest offering Walking is written in two completely different perspectives. Firstly we have Lucy Brynne who tells us the story from her point of view, later in the story we also have Jim telling the story from his point of view, I really loved these chapters from the get go. The other chapters, Hugo Winter and the god-awful Eliot Slade are told from the point of view of a narator telling us their part of the story. I admit to taking a bit longer to get into this style of writing, but once I got used to it I was hooked.

I have to say, not much housework got done the weekend I read Walking thanks to Lucy, Jim, and Hugo (and the god awful Slade). I couldn’t put Walking down. What fabulous tale Kim Kelly has told.

How angry Eliot Slade and the rest of the medical institution made me whilst reading this novel. How absolutely upset and angry I get when I read about the prejudices of people because of race or religion, especially when I hear about it happening in Australia. Things are obviously better now than they were in Lucy and Hugo’s time, but there’s still so much of it that goes on. I thank her for bringing these things to the forefront of people’s minds, maybe it will make them look at how they behave now and how they allow this behaviour to continue to happen. Hmm slightly off track there, but that’s what happens when I get onto a topic I’m passionate about.

Doctor Hugo Winter is a German sugeon who has immigrated to Australia after falling in love. He is a renowned and respected orthapedic surgeon in Germany and has an abrupt manner when dealing with those he finds stupid, I really enjoyed his quirky character which had so much passion and compassion underneath his abrupt and sometimes oblivious manner. Hugo Winter’s character is fictional, but is based on the real life German-Australian surgeon Max Herz. To read more about Kim Kelly’s inspiration behind Hugo click here.  I really liked Hugo, and once I got used to the style his part of the story was written, I embraced him wholeheartedly. The way Hugo was treated during the war, the way most German-Australian’s were treated, was just awful, as I mentioned above, and I can’t for the life of me understand what makes people so prejudiced against those of a different race, especially those they have lived and worked beside for years.

I loved Lucy so much, I’ve been through the sexism she went through most of my working life, but like her I just kept my head down and kept on, for the most part. Lucy is a physiotheraspist, unusual for the 1940s, and she is not given the respect she deserves from the rest of the medical staff, and especially from the nursing staff. Lucy’s journey from her disadvantaged childhood, her accident that required treatment from Doctor Hugo Winter, something that completely changed both of their lives, through to her life now as a physio, was a story I was completely invested in. Lucy spends a lot of time thinking and telling herself off in her head, and I could so relate to this, and where in some characters it can be annoying, I found this suited Lucy’s character so well.

Jim was a great character too, I loved how Lucy and Jim complimented each other so well. From their first meeting in the hospital bed as Lucy’s patient, you just know the relationship is going to become something more. Jim’s accident turns out to be a blessing for many reasons and not just because of the love story between him and Lucy.

There were a couple of other characters worth mentioning, Anton, a friend and colleague of Hugo’s was a wonderful character, I loved his quirks and his drive as much as I did Hugo’s. Then we have our antagonist, the god-awful Eliot Slade, who had no redeeming features at all. He was a horrible, jealous individual, only out for himself, even his patients didn’t matter, and what he puts Hugo through for decades is more than I would have been able to stand.

This is a story about grief, hope, dreams, love, prejudice, racism, sexism and more and I highly recommend it.

Music plays a part throughout the story and in Kim Kelly’s blog post about Walking (that I have linked above), she lists some of the songs, so I have made a playlist on YouTube for anyone interested.

 

I thank Kim Kelly for providing me a digital copy of Walking in return for an honest review.

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#AWW2020 11/50FB_IMG_1577105032228

Book Review : The Pearl Thief by Fiona McIntosh

IMG_20200206_190147The Pearl Thief by Fiona McIntosh was an absolutely brilliant read!

It was my turn to pick the book for my face-to-face book club this month and this was my pick. I received this for Christmas 2018 and thought it was well past time that I read it, it also marks off another #20backlistin2020 books, that’s 2 down 18 to go. This is also my 10th book in the AWW2020 reading challenge.

This could have been just another holocaust novel, but it was very different from any others I’ve read.

We meet Severine/Katerina when she is in London working on secondment at a museum in 1963 and is asked to identify some pearls, this is the start of her journey into remembering the past and seeking revenge and peace in the now. 

There are several stories/timelines happening throughout this novel, we have the 1939-1941 timeline, the beginning of the end for Katerina and her family, the start of the war and the murder of thousands of Jewish people. I had never heard of the kindertransport, trains that were to take Jewish children and babies from Germany and the greater Europe to the safety of Britain, being put up in homes until their parents could once again be reunited with them. For the majority, they never saw their families again. How brave and terrified must those families and children have been, saying goodbye to loved ones, knowing it was unlikely they’d never see them again.

At times I found some of the story very hard to read, especially when Severine/Katerina is telling Daniel about what happened to her and her family due to Ruda Mayek, a man she has spent 20 years trying to forget. Ruda Mayek is an evil man, there were so many of them during the war, I guess, there still are, but it seems like Hitler brought out the very worst in people, especially those who weren’t nice to begin with. As Katerina tells Daniel her story, I was transported to the places she remembers, perhaps too clearly at times due to Fiona McIntosh’s ability to describe things in such detail.

The lawyer, Edward Summerbee, who is in charge of the pearls becomes an important character in the novel and whilst not being willing to break his oath to keep his client’s identity a secret, he is able to help Katerina in other ways. I really liked Edward and his determination to keep to his morals as a lawyer, but his determination to also help where he could, even if he took some persuading.

There was plenty of suspense in the hunt for Ruda Mayek and plenty of secrets to uncover throughout the story. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and must get onto this last year’s Christmas present by the same author, The Diamond Hunter.

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#AWW2020  10/50

A-Z Author Challenge – Q

 

A-Z Author Challenge post #1 is Q, so, obviously I’m not going to be going in alphabethical order like I originally had in mind.

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

 

I listened to the audiobook verion of this book and it is one that worked well for me, I’ll be looking for more by this narrator.

The Alice Network had me enthralled, this dual timeline narrative is set during the first World War and two years after the end of WW2.

The two main female characters were both very strong women, who did a lot of growing during the story.

Eve was a spy during the first World War and she was assigned to the Alice Network which was a real network, the most successful of it’s time. Eve’s story was full of intrigue and heart stopping moments, corruption and fear. She grapples with many issues during this time, one being her relationship formed with a betrayer of the people whilst she is undercover. This man is a truly horrible person and we meet with him in both timelines as what he does and who he is has far reaching consequences.

Charlie is from a rich American family who is being taken to get rid of an ‘unwanted’ problem. On the spur of the moment, with not much of a plan, she absconds from her mothers clutches and goes off to search for her cousin who went missing two years before in France. Her only lead is Eve, who begrudginly agrees to help (very begrudginly). After meeting Eve and hearing her story as she searches for her cousin, Charlie learns to really understand what she wants and who she is as well as learning to heal from the loss of her brother and her cousin.

Finn, Eve’s chauffeur and all job man, was a great character, I loved how he cared for Eve, and I loved how he fought his attraction to Charlie, you could feel his shift in loyalties as he got to know Charlie.

In searching for Charlie’s cousin old wounds are opened and old enemies come to the fore. We learn Eve’s story in alternating chapters, until we reach a time where she begins to tell her story to Finn and Charlie.

There were some important characters that play a big part in Eve’s story, all based on real characters. I can’t imagine the bravery and conviction these women especially, must of had to be spies during the time of war.

Eve and Charlie are both so different, but both broken and searching for something to heal that brokenness. Their relationship grows and changes throughout the story, having big impacts on them both and leading to an ending with unexpected results.

This was my first book by Kate Quinn and I’ll be looking for me to read by her in the future.

 

My top reads of 2019 plus my blog birthday giveaway

This week marks the 1st birthday of my blog and I want to say thank you to everyone who has supported and followed me throughout the last 12 months, I hope to bring you plenty more reviews next year. To say thanks I am doing a giveaway which I’ll write more about after I let you know what my top reads were for this year, It was a tough choice and I changed my mind about the books and the amount of books I was going to list quite a few times. But here are my final choices in no order whatsoever. As with my books of the decade, they had to be books that have stayed with me all year and that required no prompting for remembering.

TThe True Story of Maddie Brighthe True Story of Maddie Bright by Mary-Rose MacColl was a book that evoked many emotions at the time of reading.

My review

 

 

 

IMG_20190514_200721The Lost Boy by Rachael Wright was another book that packed an emotional punch.

My review

 

 

img_20190121_065430Sunshine by Kim Kelly, this is a novel I have read twice this year as well as listening to the audio book.

My Review

 

 

 

img_20190127_200000Only a Breath Apart by Katie McGarry was yet another emotional read (I’m beginning to sense a theme here as I start putting these onto the page)

My Review

 

 

IMG_20191024_203440Invisible Boys by Holden Sheppard was a very emotional read that everyone should read.

My Review

 

 

 

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A Lifetime of Impossible Days by Tabitha Bird is probably the most emotional book I have read this year, this one had me crying for a third of the book, but it was an incredible story.

My review

 

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Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop by Rebecca Raisin was a book that had me looking at my dreams for my life.

My review

 

 

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Daughter of the Sky by Michelle Diener was the first book I read in 2019 and a great historical romance in an unusual setting.

My review

 

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Ridgeview Station by Michael Trant was one of a handful of books I read by male authors this year and was a fabulous read.

My review

 

 

 

IMG_20190309_154143In a Great Southern Land by Mary-Anne O’Connor was another emotional read.

My review

 

 

 

IMG_20190508_003954Under the Midnight Sky by Anna Romer was a book I enjoyed so much I bought it for my mum for her birthday.

My review

 

 

 

IMG_20190309_073822The Scream Behind Her Smile by Athena Daniels was brilliant.

My review

 

 

 

 

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Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee was a confronting look at sexual assalt and our legal system.

My review

 

 

 

Lastly, I’ve listened to a lot of audiobooks this year due to a lot of driving and some of these have been great, some just good and some not so good. The narrator makes all the difference to how well a book comes across. I’ve listened to several novels that friends have loved, but as an audiobook, they just haven’t had that impact for me. Here are a couple that stood out for me this year, if you enjoy your audiobooks you may want to check them out.

This Red Earth by Kim Kelly – My Review

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult – My review

The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein – My review

The Locksmith’s Daughter by Karen Brooks

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed some of these (or not) or are inspired to pick one of them up.

For my blog’s birthday I’m giving two people the opportuntiy to win a kindle copy of their choice from my top reads this year (open internationally). Or a paperback copy of Sunshine by Kim Kelly (open internationally) or a paperback copy of Ridgeview Station by Michale Trant (Australia only). To be in for a chance to win please leave a comment on this blog or my Facebook page. You need to be following my blog of to have liked my FB page to enter (or both).

Happy reading.

 

New Release book Review: The Good Woman of Renmark by Darry Fraser

IMG_20191113_183424Within the first couple of pages, Darry Fraser managed to transport me, once again, to another time and place, and there I stayed for the whole novel. It is 1895 in Renmark, South Australia, and a tough young woman has just defended herself and her friend from a rapist. Fearing repercussion she is now on the run for her life and her freedom.

What a time to live in, where women have a lot fewer rights than men and a man’s word will always mean more than that of a woman’s. Maggie doesn’t think this is fair at all and refuses to live her life being a slave to a man and popping out babies (I so agree with her!).

I really liked Maggie, she was stubborn, tough, opinionated and determined, all things women in that time, and this need to get by (though at times she was too stubborn). I loved Sam, talk about loyal, what a fabulous friend to have in times like this. Sam was so in love with Maggie, throughout I just kept hoping Maggie would see that Sam wasn’t the kind of guy to make her give up her independence and give in to her feelings for him.

This was a great journey down the Murray River, seeing how others in that time lived and struggled to make ends meet. The horrible characters from Renmark, it turns out there is one more than we originally think, are not nice people at all, not in behaviour or morally and there were moments I wished that Maggie had truly finished the job she started when she defended herself and her friend.

This was another great read by Darry Fraser and I truly love being transported to the late 1800s in her writing, I also am truly glad I don’t live in those times.

Thanks to Harlequin Australia for a copy in return for an honest review.

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