It’s a Wrap • Sayanara February

I have NO idea how tomorrow is the beginning of March. HOW HOW HOW? February was full of lots of new adventures, several great books, really cold weather just about everywhere, and way too much time spent looking up YouTube videos.

Here’s a little recap of this February with our most popular Instagram posts. (Are you on Instagram? Find us @ReadingGals, @thatsostelle, and @magan; we’d love to get to know you better, too!)

A photo posted by Estelle (@thatsostelle) on

A photo posted by Magan (@magan) on




Magan’s Pick: Liar’s Inc.

Estelle’s Pick: Girl Before a Mirror

We both HIGHLY recommend: I’ll Meet You There



Buy It:

Girl Before a Mirror by Liza Palmer
The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand
We Can Work It Out by Elizabeth Eulberg
The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds
The Curvy Girls Club by Michele Gorman

Worth It:

Promposal by Rhonda Helms
Cut Me Free by J.R. Johannson
Perfect Girl by Michele Gorman

Borrow It:

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
I’m Glad I Did by Cynthia Weil

Skip It:

Since You’ve Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne

Free Writing:

A cover reveal for Tara Jenkins Reid’s Maybe In Another Life due July 7, 2015
An author chat with Stephen Metcalfe of The Tragic Age
A peek at Jennifer Snow’s Brookhollow series from Harlequin
Kieran Scott shared her love story in the spirit of Valentine’s Day
Estelle’s fictional birthday party (to celebrate her 30th!)
Beyond High School YA Books (for those who seek older characters)

Monthly Features:

#SoRatherBeYoung: Harriet the Spy and Number the Stars (and Hannah’s post too!)
Little Kids: books to show/tell your children how much you love them
Dive Into Diversity Discussion: Religion in YA
Pub Date: Sorta Like a Love Story


What were some of your favorites in February? Let us know in the comments.

Cheers to (hopefully) more sunshine and being one month closer to summer!

It’s a Wrap | Adios January

How is it January 31st already? Are you thinking this too? Wow. One quick month to kick off 2015; that’s all we gotta say. Together we’re reeling from the post-sads after our epic it’s-been-over-a-year reunion in Disney World a few days ago but also looking forward to a big February.

Ears? Check! Reunion? Double check. So excited to be a part of @magan’s first ever WDW trip.

A photo posted by Estelle (@thatsostelle) on


Anyway. As we dab all our tears…

We’ve always enjoyed the end-of-month posts at spots like Perpetual Page Turner, Hello, Chelly, Paper Riot, and The Book Addict’s Guide and since our “shelve its” aren’t as frequent as we would like, we’re joining in the fun this year. We can’t have you forgetting our favorite books now. We just can’t!

shopping list musts

Rather Be Reading January Favorites

Magan’s Picks: Love, Lucy by April Linder | All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Estelle’s Picks: The Boy in the Brown Suit by Jason Reynolds | 99 Days by Katie Cotugno (Preorder this one!)

what to click

summing it all up

Buy It:

Make It Last by Megan Erickson
Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle
Disneylanders by Kate Abbott

Borrow It:

Love & Other Theories by Alex Bass
Perfect Couple by Jennifer Echols
Beneath Beautiful by Allison Rushby
I Was Here by Gayle Forman
Love on the Lifts by Jill Santopolo
Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman (also a #DiversityDive title!)
Twisted Fate by Norah Olsen
Geek Girl by Holly Smale

Worth It:

The Marriage Charm by Linda Lael Miller (a giveaway with this one!)

Free Writing:

To Have and To Discard
When You Relate to a Character You Dislike
What If I Could | #Tuck40th

Monthly Features:

Pub Date (Life By Committee and Reading Resolutions)
Little Kids Table: Magan’s Winter Favorites

don’t forget!

What were some of your favorites in January? Let us know in the comments.

Here’s to a great month! ♥

Dive Into Diversity Reading Challenge

Dive Into Diversity | Intro + Sign Up

Dive Into Diversity Reading Challenge

(Very special thanks to Rachel for designing the amazing graphics for this challenge!)

The best parts of reading are finding books that remind you of you and learning about other people.

We want to relate, empathize, and be challenged by the situations and personalities we don’t know. It makes us well-rounded people, and helps us to understand the world around us. So when the lovely Rebecca at Reading Wishes approached us about co-hosting a diverse books reading challenge, on the heels of the amazing We Need Diverse Books campaign, we were immediately on board.

To be honest, sometimes we shy away from reading challenges because life can get so absolutely hectic and we don’t like to disappoint anyone, especially ourselves so — spoiler alert — we’re making this one easy peasy. Check it out:

the details.

Dive Into Diversity officially kicks off on January 1, 2015 and will run through December 31. Each month, Rebecca and RBR will publish a diverse post  with a Linky. Simply add a review or post you wrote about diverse books to the Linky, and that’s it!

what does diverse mean exactly?

We loved this explanation from the We Need Diverse Books Tumblr: “We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.”

the good stuff.

There are no numbers of books associated with this challenge. Nope. (Though we do hope you challenge yourself to reading at least one diverse book a month.) There is an incentive for those of you who participate each month and also use our hashtag #DiversityDive to spread the word. You know what this means… giveaways and more.

a little help from our friends.

Don’t know where to start and want some suggestions to get you started? No fear, we are here to help! Be sure to check out The Diversity Book Club (they are awesome), Dahlia Adler’s Quiltbag Compredium, and Rebecca’s Diversity Bookshelf on Goodreads.

kick-off giveaway.

Speaking of giveaways, we’re sharing our most memorable diverse books of the year!

the prizes:

1. We will send one book to two winners. The winners will have their option to choose from the seven books below.

2. Rebecca is also giving away a copy of her favorite 2014 diversity read, THE LAST LEAVES FALLING by Sarah Benwell.

The giveaway is open to anyone who can receive shipments from Book Depository, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble. You must be 13 years or older to enter.

#DiversityDive Reading Challenge

The Curvy Girls Club | Everything Leads to You | Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel
Even in Paradise | Rites of Passage | Say What You Will | The Tragedy Paper

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help spread the word.

Feel free to grab our Dive Into Diversity button and display it on your blog. You’ll just need to copy the text below the image. Dive into Diversity Reading Challenge

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<a href=”” title=”Dive Into Diversity Reading Challenge”><img src=”” alt=”The 2015 Dive Into Diversity Reading Challenge” style=”border:none;” /></a></div>




We are so excited to go on this reading adventure with you guys and Rebecca! Make sure you check out her intro post and sign-up below to read more diversely with us in 2015!


official sign-up.

Thankful Hearts


It’s that time again. That little holiday smushed between the grinning pumpkins and twinkling lights — a little day dedicated to sharing our appreciation, taking time away from our daily stresses, and spending it with people who make us smile.

Before you go off to enjoy your holiday, we thought we would share a little bit about our own.

(Are you hungry yet??)


The past 3 or 4 years have brought a ton of change to the traditions I’ve loved since I was a kid. (Something I never imagined happening, sadly.) But I know I can expect an early morning wake-up call to catch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (no matter how late I get in the Wednesday before the holiday), a freshly made pie from my husband (before him, we had primarily store-bought baked goods), and a sweet potato dish I make without fail even if no one loves sweet potatoes except me. (It’s not a selfish thing; I promise. It’s more of a tribute to my grandma. We were the lone sweet potato lovers!)

Baby Estelle at Thanksgiving Way Back When

Baby Estelle at Thanksgiving Way Back When.

I have to say after a long year of so many obligations making it hard to see each other, I’m looking forward to some uninterrupted time with the family. (And watching Santa usher in the holiday season I love so much. Cue the tears.)

Thanksgiving 2013. Photo by Husband.

Thanksgiving 2013. Photo by Husband.



These are my people (circa 2008); please excuse my questionable hair choices.

Every Thanksgiving, our schedule is completely different. Crazily so. Dustyn and I are so, so grateful to have our grandparents and parents to spend the holidays with. Luckily they all live within a 25-ish minute driving distance from one another. This means we spend a lot of time in the car, driving between houses, and eating three entirely different meals because FOOD. Full disclosure: the driving does stress me out. Making sure we’e divvied up the day equally and not cut anyone short means a lot to me.

But truthfully, I know this isn’t forever. So we do it. And we treasure it.


My two grandmothers and me at my college graduation lunch, 2008

In fact, this year will be a little different because there won’t be a big gathering with Dustyn’s grandparents. We’ll visit with them here in Austin at my brother-and-sister-in-law’s house before driving to their hometown to see my paternal grandparents. It seems like things are shifting a little bit and I’m nervous. Our grandparents have never seemed to age and time has sort of stood still, but this year…things are different.

My Grandpa is a die-hard Aggie. The fact that I graduated from UT is unfathomable to him.

My Grandpa is a die-hard Aggie. The fact that I graduated from UT is unfathomable to him.



What will you be doing? What are your family traditions?

Rather Be Reading Turns Three!

Hi, you guys!

Today we’re super excited to celebrate our THIRD ANNIVERSARY! On November 1st, Rather Be Reading turned three! (Flashback to our first post/book report — a review of Sarah Ockler’s Twenty Boy Summer.) Celebrate with us by reading a few then/now comparisons and entering two giveaways below! We thank each and every one of you for stopping by to share our love of reading. Each time we sit down at our computers, it’s because we’re excited to share our thoughts about our books and this blog is a labor of love that wove our friendship together. We’re very thankful for your comments/tweets and the friendships that have evolved because of our little slice of the internet.



  • You guys have definitely witnessed my hair transformations, beginning with my ombre look back in 2011. I loved that hair, but boy it’s been a nightmare getting the ombre out. I’ve been ombred, brown, red, strawberry blonde, and am currently back to a close-to-natural hair color. I don’t know what was up with my eyebrows back in 2011, but I’m glad to see they’ve stopped looking like backwards apostrophes.
  • Back then I had no daughter and hadn’t been a foster parent yet, and I photographed more weddings than any year since (I think). My life was more leisurely and I focused a lot of time on reading, DIYing, and building my business. I currently have a 9 month old daughter, spend time with our foster daughter every other weekend since her return to her bio family, am photographing more families than weddings this year, and DIYing is probably one of the least important things on my mind right now.
  • My reading goal the year we began was 80 books, but I excitedly beat that goal and read 91. I feel almost ashamed to say I’ve gone backwards and have a lower goal this year than I have in the last three years, but it’s true. My goal is 52 – one for every week of the year – and I’m probably still going to be pushing myself in the coming weeks to hit that. This year has involved so, so, so much change it’s almost unbelievable.
  • I used to never watch television, but I have developed a major crush on Nashville, Parenthood, Million Dollar Listing (any city), Modern Family, and am currently re-watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix.
  • My addictions have grown beyond nail polish to include lipstick and eye shadows. It’s a sad, sad thing that an Ulta is opening up within a few miles from me. I’m going to need to drive completely out of the way to get to Target. 😉


Then and Now Rather Be Reading Blog

I miss those glasses.

  • Like Magan, I’ve had a total hair transformation too. The bangs I had in the “then” photo was a total hack job, and I was scared away from them until this winter. Except as you can see from my current picture, I decided to chop off 17 inches of hair and go for the pixie. (I am loving it!)
  • I have a very strong memory of working on early reviews for RBR (pre-opening) at my dining room table in our house with the sun shining through the sliding glass doors. Never did I think we would sell our house a year or so later, move to the city, and James would be going back to school to get his law degree. Yet here we are. There are days I miss our house, but I am so happy we decided to make a move that made US happy. (Plus James graduates in May already. How insane is that?)
  • 2011 was a big year for me because I co-founded This Happy Place Blog AND Rather Be Reading within a few months of each other. (Oh! I also got married.) I am so happy that both are going strong, and I honestly owe both so much. They give me a creative outlet, got me into writing again, brought wonderful people in my life, and kicked up my confidence and taught me a lot I never would have learned otherwise. A few months ago, I started a brand new job and part of me wonders if I would have been on this path without these two projects.
  • My reading is out of control. I have more books in my apartment than I ever had in my house. Piles are everywhere. Ah. In 3 years, I have bought so many books and visited so many bookstores. I never had to think of enforcing something like a book ban (maybe one for clothing). I want to support the writers I love. I can’t help it! Lately, I’ve been thoroughly supporting my library which makes me breathe easy. (And also makes feel like a part of my community.)
  • Fun fact: I’ve traveled to Walt Disney World exactly six times since we started the blog and will head back for the big 7 this weekend. (Only to prove my obsession in this place has only grown. I am a loyalist, what can I say?)

As long as blogging continues to be fun, you can be sure we will continue to make our little home on the web at Rather Be Reading Blog. We like to think of this as the low-cost way the two of us can have “coffee talk” 2-3 times a week while we live in separate states. Now the only thing we need is a definite reunion date… get excited! That will be coming soon! 😉

So thank you thank you thank you for EVERYTHING!

Exciting News + (little kids) Giveaway!

In addition to Estelle’s Big Kids’ Table feature, I, Magan, am going to be sharing children’s book recommendations monthly in a Little Kids feature beginning in January. I read tons and tons of children’s books each week and realize that engaging, adult-friendly kids’ books are a rare gem. Macmillan recently shared a few of their upcoming favorites with me, two of which I’m really, really loving: Special Delivery by Philip C. Stead and Ben Draws Trouble by Matt Davies. Enter below to win a pre-order of each of these books! (Even if you don’t have kids, enter so you can spread the love to a niece/nephew or your friend’s babies!)

The rules: You must be 13 years or older to enter. US residents only, please.



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Anniversary Giveaway!

This year we want to share copies with TWO PEOPLE of the books we’ve reviewed together, KISS KILL VANISH and ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER! We’re also including a few of our favorite non-bookish things as well (there will be fun surprises from us included in the winners’ packages!).

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Estelle and Magan August 2013

Book Report: Kiss Kill Vanish by Jessica Martinez

Well, hello! Welcome back for another Book Report! In the past, we’ve done lots of gushing as we’ve oohed and ahhed over books like ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER, but today’s discussion involves a few differing opinions on our overall opinion of KISS KILL VANISH by Jessica Martinez. Did we love it? Did we agree? How would we rate it? Read our joint review below to see what we thought! Please remember that we try to be as spoiler free as possible, but tread lightly.

Book Cover for Kiss KIll Vanish by Jessica Martinez

Kiss Kill Vanish by Jessica Martinez (website | twitter)
See Also Virtuosity and The Vow by Jessica Martinez
Publication Date: October 7, 2014
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Pages: 432
Target Audience: Young Adult Fiction
Keywords: runaway teenager, family secrets, young adult thriller
Format Read: We both received copies for review from the publisher. (Thank you!)

Summary (from Goodreads): Valentina Cruz no longer exists.

One moment, she was wrapped in Emilio’s arms, melting into his kiss. The next, she was witnessing the unthinkable: a murder in cold blood, ordered by her father and carried out by her boyfriend. When Emilio pulled the trigger, Valentina disappeared. She made a split-second decision to shed her identity and flee her life of privilege, leaving the glittering parties and sultry nightlife of Miami far behind.

She doesn’t know how to explain to herself what she saw. All she knows now is that nothing she believed about her family, her heart, or Emilio’s love, was real.

She can change her name and deny her past, but Valentina can’t run from the truth. The lines between right and wrong, and trust and betrayal, will be blurred beyond recognition as she untangles the deceptions of the two men she once loved and races to find her own truth.

Just in case you need a visual reminder of who we are:

– – – –

Magan Magan
Estelle Estelle

♥ ♥ ♥


Magan So today we’re talking about KISS KILL VANISH by Jessica Martinez. We’ve both read books of hers in the past we’ve really enjoyed (Virtuosity and The Vow), but I think it’s safe to say that we have slightly differing opinions on this one. In two sentences, tell me what you thought!
Estelle Kicking off with a toughie, huh? I think Kiss Kill Vanish was sexy, addicting, and heartbreaking. I also thought Martinez did such amazing things with story structure and dialogue; I was in awe. (I kind of cheated.)
Magan You sneak! Ok, so let’s maybe start off with the story structure because I felt SO intrigued in the beginning, that Valentina ran away from her family (not saying why!). I really admired her decision. But I lost a lot of faith in her as the book went on and I liked her less and less.
Estelle You should expand on that because I didn’t feel that way. (And I’ll explain why in the best way I can!)
Magan I thought it took a lot of strength to leave the comfortable life that she had. She was a girl who had absolutely everything, and she basically cast it all aside because she couldn’t support the truths that were revealed to her. I checked out a bit when she returned to settle things because her decisions felt very immature and she seemed to get in the way much more than she helped the situation. Her young age and naivety really became apparent to me. I think if maybe there was a bit more backstory in the beginning of the book, it would have made more sense to me why she needed to return and have closure. But her decision seemed more vengeful, especially the more she learned once she was there.
Estelle For me, the book started off very slowly and I had the opposite reaction. I thought her leaving seemed so unbelievable for a teenager. This book definitely was one where I had to suspend my disbelief or I wouldn’t have been able to get invested. I think she was a scared little girl who had nowhere to turn, and knew nothing about her history. As the story goes on, even the little she does know, gets turned on its head. I can’t pretend to know what I would do in that position.
Magan I do agree that the actual book starts off slowly.
Estelle Her character really played with my head because sometimes I pictured her so much older than she was, and other times, so much younger.
Magan I think that’s really interesting. I feel like it takes a lot of strength to walk away from something. I really enjoyed seeing her try to scrape by, especially when it was doing a job she hated. I really, really wanted to see her make solid friendships and stand on her own two feet. I think that’s really what might have been the biggest letdown for me. Where I expected the story to go isn’t what happened. Let me rephrase that — in a situation like hers, it takes strength and courage. I think it can be seen as cowardly if a person continually ditches everything they do and doesn’t ever commit to see something through, but in Valentina’s specific situation, I feel she demonstrated maturity.
Her sisters, for example, were atrocious.
Estelle I just had a thought. Maybe I’m reading into it too much but Miami vs. Canada, rich vs. poor, even the two brothers she comes across… the whole book feels like a contest between these halves. Good vs. evil. Truth vs. lie.
Magan Oh, for sure. There are SO many contrasts throughout the story.
Estelle When Valentina was in Canada, she tried to be plain Jane. But she really had no FINAL plan like what was she going to do… pose for portraits forever? Sure, her endgame was getting to Spain but in reality? It felt like she was at a total standstill. Like you, I did want her to make solid relationships but I felt like the possibility of that was so small because she would continue to be on the run.
Magan Yes! I think that’s where a bit of implausibility came into play. Ultimately, I feel like this is a Catch-22. Her returning home was the ONLY thing that really allowed her to break free. But it also was my least favorite part of the book because she made some poor decisions. (I think you feel otherwise here.)
Estelle Does a character making poor decisions affect the likability of the book for you? I’m curious about this.
Magan No, I actually just didn’t think a lot of things made sense here. I hated the main character in TEASE, but ultimately really enjoyed that book.
Estelle Do we put too much of ourselves in the characters we are reading? (I’m not even sure I would have run away.) Can we explain what didn’t make sense without telling secrets?
Magan I think a lot of things felt contrived for me. I don’t feel like I can say specifically because I don’t want to ruin the book, but things blew up and escalated so much and there were a few surprises that I didn’t anticipate, but one in particular about a character I didn’t really find believable.
Estelle I hope that paragraph piques the interest of every one of our readers because I read it and I’m like TELL ME I WANT TO KNOW WHAT WHAT. I’ve read a few other thrillers this year, and those experiences really shaped how I felt about this one. While I enjoyed them and I’m not sad I read them, I think Martinez really succeeded in places they didn’t.
Magan That makes a lot of sense to me. You have recent reads to compare it to. There were great surprises too. I really loved that there were times I just did NOT know what to think about a character. IS HE GOOD? Do I trust him?
Estelle YES EXACTLY. She kept surprising me, she made me fall in love with Miami when I should have hated it, and she made me suspicious of every single character we came in contact with. I don’t think many authors can make you laugh in the middle of some crazy tale like this one either. That’s why I keep bringing up the dialogue. It felt so pitch perfect and natural. That’s hard to do.
Magan I think the suspicion of the characters was a definite positive for me. Especially when it came to the brothers, I was curious, but also felt a little skeezy when I read about her posing for Lucien’s paintings (and they were so innocent).
Estelle Oh agree. It was so so creepy.
Magan I think this will for sure be a read that people will discuss. A lot of it will come down to how black and white you are when it comes to right and wrong. Do you agree?
Estelle Ah! I don’t know how to answer that. I do? I mean, it almost a little controversial. More than anything I appreciate a book that challenges me to think about why a character is doing something and sometimes why a character doesn’t think things through before they move forth with a decision.
Magan I feel like by asking you that question I had this little self-realization. I think I do tend to categorize things into neat little bubbles. I don’t like grey areas. And for me, the family situation was absolutely wrong. There is no question that I had very strong feelings about it. I think that might be why I didn’t understand her interferences. How could she do what she did when she too felt things were so wrong? That’s when things got messy for me. Am I making sense at all?
Estelle I’m reading those questions out loud to myself. Maybe she just went a little nuts? That’s all I got. I think it makes sense. I didn’t get it either. But maybe that goes back to what we were saying before about her being two different things. She acts adult but also childlike and she was sort of throwing a tantrum and taking control.
Magan I think that’s a really great way of putting it. Honestly. So many contradictions.
Estelle It’s uncomfortable for any reader, which is why (and I say this sadly) I know it won’t be for everyone. This is how I feel about Terra McVoy’s IN DEEP as well. (Two recs in one!)
Magan Woot woot! (Still need to read that one.) That’s the thing — even with my reservations about her decisions, I’m not disappointed I read it.
Estelle You’ve read a few other books by Jessica. Don’t you agree it’s so hard to compare them because they are totally different animals?
Magan Yes! I think I’ve just read this one and Virtuosity (haven’t read The Vow yet). In my experience, the common thread is that she likes to clash family members against one another. That’s where the drama stems from in both of those.
Estelle Also the contrasts in decision making and behavior, too. I was just rereading my review of The Vow and I said “is it immaturity or idealism” that makes these characters decide certain things.
Magan Mmmm. Very nice, E.
Estelle There are truly SO many ways to view a story, and I can’t say enough about being given that opportunity. So many times we are spoon-fed beliefs and reasons behind actions in books. Even though you and I didn’t feel the same about the book, I’m so exhilarated by our conversation and even more blown away. This is what reading and discussing these books are all about.
Magan I agree! I’ve really been looking forward to talking about this one, knowing we felt so differently. In the past, we’ve had very similar feelings on many of the books we’ve reviewed together. I love that I can see and understand how you felt, even if I didn’t relate in the same way.
Estelle Exactly! Any final thoughts on Kiss Kill Vanish? Buy, Borrow, Worth It or Skip for you?
Magan Oh, geez. I think it falls between Borrow and Worth It for me. It would make a great book club book — so many different responses to it, I’m sure!
Estelle One thing I wanted to point out was the diversity of the characters in the book. Martinez always seems to get swept under the rug when it comes to this even when she does it well! So yet again, loved the subtly there. As for my rating, definitely a buy it. First of all, the cover is beautiful and second, I have to read this one again because it seems like a book where you discovering something new each time you read it. (Sidenote: there’s a part with feet that grossed me out and almost made me cry. Had to mention it.)
Magan Oh, geez. Yep, that part wasn’t fun at all. I do think depending on what you’re going through at the time you read this, you might have differing opinions.
Estelle Totally. And if you think this might not be your cup of tea, I highly recommend The Vow (which just came out in paperback!).


Add KISS KILL VANISH to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy from Barnes & Noble

Have you read Kiss Kill Vanish? What did you think? 

If you’re on the fence about KISS KILL VANISH, Barnes & Noble is having a sale! Click the link below to save a few dollars!
Friends & Family Sale: Take 20% off a single item! Offer valid 10/9 – 10/13/14.
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