July bookshelf

July 1, 2014

collage 714I updated the Win Books page for July with some terrific new thrillers! As usual, there are NY Times bestsellers, solid storytellers and some newbies.

The Brads are back! #1 New York Times bestselling author Brad Thor delivers his most frightening and pulse–pounding thriller ever, Act of War. In former delta force operator and New York Times bestseller Brad Taylor’s latest Pike Logan thriller, Days of Rage, the Taskforce must stop their most devastating threat yet—a weapon of mass destruction.

A rising media star must battle a diabolical enemy in Eyes on You,  a riveting tale of psychological suspense from New York Times bestselling author Kate White.  In Sam Cabot’s exhilarating new novel, Skin of the Wolf, a vicious murder in Sotheby’s begins a series of inexplicable events surrounding an Iroquois ritual mask and a secret that could unleash the most terrifying chaos and destruction the world has ever seen.

Matthew Quirk gives us The Directive, a tale of two brothers, millions of dollars–and the heist of a lifetime. A.J. Colucci is out with her second thriller, Seeders, which Douglas Preston called “a bravura performance, as good as Crichton, with vivid characters, crisp writing, and exquisitely creepy science.” How can you resist!

Wendy Tyson is out with her second Allison Campbell Mystery, Deadly Assets. If 1830 Scotland makes you happy, you won’t want to miss  A Grave Matter by Anna Lee Huber. This “polished third pre-Victorian mystery” (Publisher’s Weekly) rounds out this month’s bookshelf.

If you are new to the site, each month I run a contest in conjunction with the International Thriller Writers group. We put together a list of books including bestsellers and debut authors, so you can win some of your favorites and find some new favorites.

What makes this contest really special is that all of the books (except eBooks) are signed by the author!

Don’t forget, if you subscribe to the newsletter or follow this blog, you get an extra entry into every contest you enter.

Thanks for reading, and good luck!

Guest Blogger: Mike Bond

July 30, 2014

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Please welcome my guest blogger today, Mike Bond.










HOLY WAR by Mike Bond

The Battle of Beirut is worse than hell, a maelstrom of implacable hatred and frantic love affairs, of explosions, sniper battles and deadly ambushes. Neill, a journalist on a secret mission for Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency, is trying to find Mohammed, a Hezbollah terrorist who could stop the slaughter.

André, a French commando, is also hunting Mohammed, to kill him for the death of his brother, blown up with more than 400 US Marines and French paratroopers by Hezbollah. For Rosa, a remorseless and passionate Palestinian guerrilla, Mohammed is one of few hopes for her people and she will die to protect him. And for lovely Anne-Marie, André is the only one who can save her from hell.

Based on the author’s experiences in Lebanon, Syria and the Middle East, HOLY WAR has been praised for its portrayal of civil war, and for its evocation of men and women caught in a deadly crossfire.

About the author:

Mike has been called the “master of the existential thriller” by the BBC and “one of the 21st century’s most exciting authors” by the Washington Times. He is a bestselling novelist, environmental activist, international energy expert, war and human rights correspondent and award-winning poet who has lived and worked in many remote, dangerous parts of the world and has called more than 30 countries “home.” His critically acclaimed novels depict the innate hunger of the human heart for what is good, the intense joys of love, the terror and fury of battle, the sinister conspiracies of international politics and multinational corporations, and the beauty of the vanishing natural world.

If you’d like to win a copy of HOLY WAR…

Send an email to contest@gmail.com with “HOLY WAR” as the subject. You must include your snail mail address in your email.

All entries must be received by August 15, 2014. One (1) name will be drawn from all qualified entries and notified via email. This contest is open to all adults over 18 years of age in the United States only. One entry per email address. Subscribers to the monthly newsletter earn an extra entry into every contest. Follow this blog to earn another entry into every contest. Winners may win only one time per year (365 days) for contests with prizes of more than one book. Your email address will not be shared or sold to anyone.

Holy War by Mike Bond. Mandevilla Press (March 6, 2014). ISBN: 978-1627040143. 434p.

THE SEA GARDEN by Deborah Lawrenson

July 30, 2014

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Three interconnected stories make up this lush and intriguing latest from The Lantern author Deborah Lawrenson.

Ellie Brooke is looking to really make a name for herself and her garden design business. The restoration of an historic garden on the island of Porquerolles could be just the thing to really get the attention the business needs. But when Ellie meets the family that wants to hire her, she realizes that the job is more complicated than it seems.

In WWII Provence young Marthe has been apprenticing at the Distillerie Musset. Things are changing in their little village and Marthe knows that it’s the result of the war. The Mussets have taken Marthe into their home, offering her shelter and a job, so she feels a certain amount of guilt in suspecting that they are keeping things from her. The truth, that the Mussets are part of the growing resistance in France, could put everyone around them at risk.

Like many of the young women in England, Iris wanted to join up and help the war effort. She’d planned to sign on as a Wren – the Women’s Royal Naval Service – but was recommended for the Special Operations Executive instead. From their office in London, Iris and her colleagues run a specialized spy ring in France. When Iris meets and falls for an operative who later goes missing, though, her job takes her well beyond 64 Baker Street.

These three women and their stories intertwine to become one larger tale in The Sea Garden. There’s even a nod to The Lantern as well, though it’s not at all necessary to have read it beforehand.

I loved the idea of the connected novellas. Each tale is its own all-encompassing story but there are some mysteries as well. The answers to those mysteries come only in completing the book as a whole.

7/14 Becky Lejeune

THE SEA GARDEN by Deborah Lawrenson. Harper (June 24, 2014). ISBN 978-0062279668. 320p.

BIG LITTLE LIES by Liane Moriarty

July 29, 2014

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My first Moriarty book was What Alice Forgot, a fast, entertaining read with memorable characters and an unusual story. Then I picked up The Husband’s Secret, and saw that she really stepped up her game. Big Little Lies is her latest and it appears that Moriarty just keeps upping the bar.

The book opens at a school event for parents in the small beach town of Pirriwee, Australia – but it could be Any Town, USA, too. This costume event – all the parents are dressed as Elvis Presley or Audry Hepburn, is part of  a Trivia Night fundraiser for the public elementary school. The drinks are strong and the food hasn’t arrived yet, so everyone is getting drunk and having a good time, that is until someone dies. The police are called, and then we are left hanging – the story moves back in time to six months earlier.

Sprinkled throughout the pages are little snippets from the police interviews, with parents gossiping about everything that’s gone on that semester. This is black comedy at its best, and the story moves back towards the day of reckoning with lightning speed.

At its heart, this is a story is about bullying. On the first day of school, Amabella (not a misspelling) accuses Ziggy of trying to choke her, and has the bruises to prove it. Ziggy and his very young, single mom Jane have just moved to this small town and he instantly becomes the class pariah. The parents all take sides, with the emotional Madeleine and the super wealthy Celeste forming the Jane triumverate, and the “blonde bobs,” a group of helicopter moms with identical haircuts, taking the other side.

The perfect Celeste is in a deeply troubled marriage, but no one knows. Madeleine’s teenage daughter (from her first marriage) is pulling away from her and towards her new stepmother, the eternally calm, yoga loving Bonnie. And Jane is running away from something.

There are so many secrets in this small town, the malicious gossip is scintillating and  neverending, and the characters are fraught with all the foibles we’ve come to expect from Moriarty. The way she builds almost unbearable suspense is simply magical, especially as we don’t even know who dies until the end, never mind who did it. Moriarty has become one of my favorite authors and this is a page turner of the finest kind. Don’t miss it.

7/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

BIG LITTLE LIES by Liane Moriarty. Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam (July 29, 2014). ISBN 978-0399167065. 384p.

LANDLINE by Rainbow Rowell

July 28, 2014

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Win a copy of the Landline audio book!

Macmillan Audio has offered up an audio book on CD for one lucky reader! Check out this excerpt read by the extraordinary Rebecca Lowman.

Send an email to contest@gmail.com with “LANDLINE” as the subject. You must include your snail mail address in your email.

All entries must be received by August 12, 2014. One (1) name will be drawn from all qualified entries and notified via email. This contest is open to all adults over 18 years of age in the United States only. One entry per email address. Subscribers to the monthly newsletter earn an extra entry into every contest. Follow this blog to earn another entry into every contest. Winners may win only one time per year (365 days) for contests with prizes of more than one book. Your email address will not be shared or sold to anyone.


Rainbow Rowell seems able to shift between Young Adult and Adult books seamlessly. This is her latest, and while ostensibly for adults, those who love teen books will undoubtedly enjoy this one too.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Rebecca Lowman, who also narrated Rowell’s Eleanor and Park.  She does a fine job here.

Georgie McCool is a comedy writer working with her writing partner, Seth, on a hit TV show she hates. Seth and Georgie have their own idea for a sitcom and a week before Christmas, finally get a call from the network looking for several scripts.

Georgie panics as she, her husband Neal and their two young daughters are supposed to go to Neal’s parents for Christmas, out in Omaha.  Georgie needs to stay home and write, so an unhappy Neal takes the kids to Omaha himself.

When Georgie calls, her calls all go directly to voicemail until the mailbox is full. Her daughters call her sporadically, but she never talks to Neal. That is, until the night she crashes at her mother’s house and uses the landline in her old bedroom to call Neal’s house, not his cell. Somehow, she ends up talking to Neal – but not present day Neal, this is Neal back in 1998, a week before he proposes to her.

Suspend your disbelief and go along on an adventure through Georgie & Neal’s past to their present, and let me warn you that you will be laughing and crying along the way. Rowell writes these amazing characters that are warm and loveable yet still feel real,  but most of all, they are simply unforgettable. Teen book or adult, all her books are just a joy to read.

7/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

LANDLINE by Rainbow Rowell. St. Martin’s Press (July 8, 2014). ISBN 978-1250049377. 320p.
Audiobook: Macmillan Audio; Unabridged edition (July 8, 2014). ISBN: 978-1427239327
Downloadable: Audible Audio Edition. Macmillan Audio. Listening Length: 9 hours and 3 minutes.


July 28, 2014

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At the Kingsborough Ball (Book 3)

This book is a Regency romance, which Wikipedia defines as follows:

Regency romances are a subgenre of romance novels set during the period of the British Regency (1811-1820) or early 19th century. Rather than simply being versions of contemporary romance stories transported to a historical setting, Regency romances are a distinct genre with their own plot and stylistic conventions that derive from the works of Jane Austen (and to some extent from distinguished Austen progeny such as Georgette Heyer and Clare Darcy), and from the fiction genre known as the novel of manners. In particular, the more traditional Regencies feature a great deal of intelligent, fast-paced dialog between the protagonists and very little explicit sex or discussion of sex.

I’m bringing this up because it seems to me that this definition is now in a state of flux, due to the enormous popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. Or more to the point, the profitability of romances with explicit sex seemingly has changed the Regencies from tame to taking a walk on the wild side. I, for one, am enjoying the change.

According to the author’s Goodreads page, this is the last book in the Kingsborough Ball series. The books all begin at the same lavish affair, a hugely popular ball given by Anthony Hurst, the Duke of Kingsborough. As this is the first party held at the estate in more than five years, it is a very big deal and the ton are out in full force.

Lady Katherine and Lucien grew up together, neighbors who played together. But as they grow up, Lucien realizes that he is in love with Katherine, but they cannot marry. She is destined to marry a man with a title, and he is the second son. He joins the army to escape, and she marries Lord Crossby, Lucien’s rival all through school.

But Lady Crossby is desperately unhappy in her marriage, although she doesn’t let anyone know about the abuse she endures. Then several events conspire to bring Lucien and Katherine back together – his elder brother and father die, and Lucien inherits the title of Earl. And Lord Crossby dies as well, leaving Katherine a widow with a young baby.

Katherine is convinced that Lucien just regards her as a friend and after her horrible marriage, she has no desire to be married again. Lucien needs a wife, but he only wants Katherine. They are at crossed points until she slowly realizes that her childhood friend has grown up to be a most desirable man. There is also a mystery that runs through all these books that is resolved here, so the mystery is a much larger part of this story.

I enjoyed these characters and the while these books don’t stress the history of the era, they are fast, fun reads and this one was no exception. There was some explicit sex, so if you are used to traditional Regencies peeking through the bedroom door, keep in mind this door has been flung open wide, which works for me.

I’m not sure why Barnes has decided to end the series here. Each book stands alone and they do not have to be read in order. As I haven’t read a whole lot of Regencies, I’m not sure if this device of starting each book at the same ball is a common ploy, but I liked it and thought it was very well done. I’ll be looking for more from this author.

7/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE DANGER IN TEMPTING AN EARL by Sophie Barnes.  Avon (July 29, 2014). ISBN 978-0062245182. 384p.


July 27, 2014

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Franny and Jim Post planned their two week family vacation to Mallorca to celebrate their 35th anniversary and their daughter Sylvia’s graduation from high school. Shortly before they leave, Jim loses his job after having an affair with a 23 year old intern, but they decide cancelling the trip wouldn’t be fair to Sylvia.

Since they are renting a house from a friend, they invite their son Bobby and his girlfriend, the cougar Carmen, and Franny’s best friend Charles and his husband, Lawrence.

Spending two weeks in such close proximity is bound to bring up all sorts of issues and secrets, and it does. Franny doesn’t like Carmen, actually none of them do, even Bobby doesn’t seemed thrilled. To add a bit of romance to the mix, the Post’s hire a Spanish tutor for Sylvia, who turns out to be a real hottie.

Will Franny and Jim find their way back to a marriage or work towards a divorce? Will Sylvia lose her virginity? Will Bobby and Carmen stay together? Will Charles and Lawrence adopt a baby? Lots going on amidst a beautiful setting make a fast, entertaining read with fairly obvious conclusions. Did not live up to the hype for me.

8/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE VACATIONERS by Emma Straub. Avon (April 29, 2014). ISBN 978-0062118196. 384p.

ROADFOOD by Jane & Michael Stern

July 26, 2014

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The Coast-to-Coast Guide to 900 of the Best Barbecue Joints, Lobster Shacks, Ice Cream Parlors, Highway Diners, and Much, Much More (9th edition)

Long before Guy Fieri hit the road (Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives,) indeed long before there was even a Food Network, Jane and Michael Stern took to the road to find the best places to eat on a coast to coast drive. Their first edition of Roadfood came out in 1978 and was subtitled, “the coast to coast guide to over 400 of america’s great inexpensive regional restaurants all within 10 miles of a major highway.” Their 9th edition of this classic book now includes more than twice that number of restaurants.

The first thing I looked for was Florida restaurants. That’s where I live, and most of my road trips extend to traveling around my state. Sadly, south Florida was seriously under-represented here, but the rest of the state seems pretty well covered.

That said, if I was driving across the country, I would treasure these recommendations. You will not find any chain restaurants here, but rather the best places that locals frequent.

The Sterns include location information, website and phone numbers, a brief history of the restaurant, a short review, suggested menu items, and pricing guidelines. Most restaurants are inexpensive, this is not the book  for the best restaurants in major cities. For instance, the few New York City restaurants recommended include Katz’s Deli (think When Harry Met Sally) and John’s of Bleeker Street (terrific pizza,) not Per Se, Peter Lugers or El Posto.

The book is divided into geographical regions – for instance Florida is in the “Deep South.” Other regions include New England, Mid-Atlantic (New York is here,) Mid-South, Midwest, Southwest, Great Plains and West Coast. The back of the book includes a quick guide, an alphabetical listing of restaurants by region.

Even with the price of gas, people still love road trips. And this is the best book you can take along for the ride.

7/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

ROADFOOD by Jane & Michael Stern. Clarkson Potter; 9 edition (March 4, 2014). ISBN 978-0770434526. 640p.

SILVER BAY by Jojo Moyes

July 25, 2014

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For Mike Dormer a trip to Silver Bay, Australia begins as just another work assignment. His firm has set its sites on the area as a location for a new, high-end family resort. The town has little to offer currently, with one exception – whale and dolphin watching – and the locals have almost everything resting on this industry. Even more so, they care about the animals that make their way past the bay every season.

Not only would the new development threaten Silver Bay’s main source of tourism, but it would also threaten the animals themselves. The more time Mike spends in Silver Bay, the more convinced he becomes that his company is making a mistake. Further complicating matters is the fact that his time in Silver Bay has also left Mike more than a little emotionally attached to the locals.

This is one of Moyes’s older titles, recently re-released by Penguin in e format. There are quite a few commonalities between this one and Moyes’s latest, One Plus One. Mike is quite reminiscent of Ed, for example, and the book shares the same multi-viewpoint format.

I did love Silver Bay as a setting and the added element of the whale and dolphin watching industry. These make the book stand out as unique, particularly considering I read both Silver Bay and One Plus One fairly close together.

Liza’s story was another great stand out. It’s clear from the start that she and her family are hiding things, but it’s not until close to the end that the gravity of her story really becomes clear.

The romance element is nice, and – again like One Plus One – evolves in a quite natural way. No love at first sight, insta-romance here. Instead, Mike and Liza warm up to each other gradually in spite of everything that stands in their way.

Silver Bay
is out now as an eBook and will be available in paperback in August.

7/14 Becky Lejeune

SILVER BAY by Jojo Moyes. Penguin Books (August 26, 2014). ISBN 978-0143126485. 384p.
Kindle: Penguin Books (April 29, 2014). ASIN: B00GSB2F5S.

Jack Quick’s TOP FIVE 2014

July 24, 2014

Jack was kind enough to share this list – enjoy!

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THE ACCIDENT by Chris Pavone: The Accident is a somewhat more conventional thriller than Pavone’s fine debut (The Expats, 2012), but he excels at developing characters’ back stories. New York literary agent Isabel Reed plows through an anonymous manuscript in one night and immediately knows two things: The manuscript, a biography of a media mogul, will be a blockbuster, and people will die if word of its existence leaks. She’s also fairly sure she knows who the author is, but he’s dead (or is he??) Word does leak, in New York and Hollywood , and ambitious young women in publishing quickly die violently. Isabel and her chosen editor, Jeffrey Fielder, are on the run from resourceful, relentless killers. Pavone’s plot twists nicely, shifting focus among a large cast of well-drawn characters and using flashbacks and changes of locale ( Copenhagen , Zurich , Manhattan , Hollywood , the Hamptons ) to build suspense. Isabel and Jeffrey, for example, are successful but frightened that changes in their business and the onset of middle age might make them has-beens, and they’re both recalling the mutual attraction they once had but didn’t act on. Like Isabel, many readers will read this one through the night. Highly recommended.

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THE CUCKOO’S CALLING by Robert Galbraith AKA J. K. Rowling. I may be the only remaining person on the planet who has never read a Harry Potter book or watched a Harry Potter Movie. The Hunger Games series shares that same distinction for me. However, after reading this one I may have to change my priorities. After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan , Detective Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office. Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, desperate designers, and his own celebrity parents, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man. I thought it was great.

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HAZARDOUS DUTY by W.E.B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV – Mexican drug cartels are shooting up the streets of Laredo and El Paso . Somali pirates are holding three U.S. tankers for ransom. The President is fed up and has what he thinks is a pretty bright idea—to get hold of Colonel Charley Castillo and his merry band and put them on the case. Unfortunately, that will be difficult. Everybody knows that the President hates Castillo’s guts, has just had him forcibly retired from the military, and now Castillo’s men are scattered far and wide, many of them in hiding. There are also whispers that the President himself is unstable—the word “nutcake” has been mentioned. So how can Castillo “follow” the Presidents orders without creating harm to the nation. It is truly Hazardous Duty.

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THE SACRIFICE by Peg Brantley – Another great read from Ms Brantley. Although it begins in Colorado which Ms. Brantley calls home, most of the action takes place in and around New Orleans , or as we say Naw’lins. Mex Anderson was an honest Mexican cop. The drug cartel punished him by killing his pregnant wife and two children. Now a high ranking member of the cartel has come to Mex with a proposition – find the leader’s missing daughter and he will give Mex the name of the man who ordered the murder of Mex’s family. The leader’s son applies additional pressure to Mex by kidnapping Mex’ s sister to be returned only if his sister is returned alive. Suspense builds until near the end when it all comes together, but wait, the fat lady hasn’t sung yet, so keep on reading. You won’t be disappointed.

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THE TARGET by L J Sellers – With her latest Agent Dallas outing, Ms. Sellers has once again hit it out of the park. Focusing on the world of industrial espionage and cutting edge medical technology, Sellers shows that while greed is universal and seemingly boundless, you can’t keep a good agent down, and Agent Dallas is the best of the best. Dallas lives for the thrill of working undercover and rides high on the adrenaline rush from a tense situation. The death of another agent in San Diego under suspicious circumstances starts her on the new assignment, which quickly becomes high risk. The stakes are high and the other side thinks nothing of taking those who interfere off the board- permanently. Intertwined with the case is the murder of an aging film star. Are the two cases connected? Few authors can do one successful series, but Sellers has two on-going – with Detective Jackson and with Agent Dallas. Which is better? Try both and decide for yourself.

Alabama Jack
Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.


July 24, 2014

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I should have known from the name of this book and the name of this series, “Sweet, Texas” what I was getting into, but I forged ahead anyway. I haven’t read any of the other books in this series (that I can recall, anyway) but from the publisher’s info it could be read as a standalone. I did have the feeling that I would have appreciated it more had I read the earlier books in the series and been more invested in these characters.

Allison Lane is a wedding planner from Seattle who takes herself off to he tiny town of Sweet, Texas when her father tells her he’s getting married. Allie’s parents had a horrible marriage and an even worse divorce, and despite her occupation, she does not believe in happily ever after. She’s worried that her father is making another mistake and she wants to meet the woman who has ensnared him.

Her first night in town, she meets Jesse Wilder, one of five boys in the Wilder family and the town Lothario. There is instant attraction, but Allie has more important things to do that get into a one night stand, so she sneaks out on him. Much to her surprise, Jesse turns out to be her father’s fiancée’s son and they are thrown together quite a bit.

Jesse has never met a woman who didn’t believe in marriage, and he is determined to change her mind about love. Meanwhile Allie just adores his mother, and the rest of the family, and when one of the brother’s upcoming wedding gets severely off track, Alli steps in to help.

The basic boy meets girl, boy loses girl and then gets girl back again are all in play here, but at a very superficial level. This is a simple, sweet love story of what I call the fluffy as cotton candy type. And sometimes cotton candy just hits the spot.

7/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

SOMETHING SWEETER by Candis Terry. Avon (June 24, 2014). ISBN 978-0062237262. 384p.


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