Nick of Time (Nick McIver Series #1)

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Overview

Here at a last is a new novel in the great tradition of grand adventure tales, the likes of which have seldom been seen since the works of Robert Louis Stevenson. This epic adventure is the story Nick McIver, a lad who sets out to become ‘the hero of his own life'. The setting is England, 1939, on the eve of war. Nick and his sister Kate live in a lighthouse on the smallest of the Channel Islands. Nick, Kate and their father are engaged in a desperate war of espionage with the German U-boat fleets that are ...
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Overview

Here at a last is a new novel in the great tradition of grand adventure tales, the likes of which have seldom been seen since the works of Robert Louis Stevenson. This epic adventure is the story Nick McIver, a lad who sets out to become ‘the hero of his own life'. The setting is England, 1939, on the eve of war. Nick and his sister Kate live in a lighthouse on the smallest of the Channel Islands. Nick, Kate and their father are engaged in a desperate war of espionage with the German U-boat fleets that are circling the islands prior to invasion. The information they provide daily to Winston Churchill is vital as he tries to warn England of the imminent Nazi invasion. In a surprising twist, Nick discovers an old seachest sent to him by his ancestor, Captain Nicholas McIver of the Royal Navy. Nick returns to the year 1805 via a time machine and help save Captain McIver and, indeed, Admiral Nelson's entire fleet from the treachery of the French and the mutinous Captain Billy Blood. In the climactic sea battle with Captain Blood, Nick's love of the sea, and his feats of derring-do, indisputably prove his courage and heroism. His sister Kate, meanwhile, has enlisted the aid of two of England's most brilliant detectives, Lord Hawke, and Commander Hobbes, to thwart the Nazis. They prove themselves more than a match for England's underwater enemies, when they discover the existence of Germany's super-secret experimental submarine. In the end, Nick and Kate prove themselves heroes in the eyes of two of England's greatest warriors: Admiral Nelson and Winston Churchill.

Author Biography: Theodore Bell is the Vice Chairman and Worldwide Creative Director of Young & Rubicam, one of the largest advertising agencies in the world. Over the course of his career, his writing has won every top creative prize the industry bestows, including Clios, One Show Gold Awards, and a number of Bronze, Silver, and Gold Lions at the prestigious Cannes Festival. Bell has authored a number of screenplays, one of which was optioned in Hollywood. Nick of Time is Mr. Bell's first novel. He is currently hard at work on his second novel.

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Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times
People who devoured Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series can rejoice this summer at the possibility of sharing the passion for the British Royal Navy with their offspring... There is an undeniable attraction for boys to the figure of the heroic Englishman (though Nick's spunky younger sister will seem to girls the true hero of the novel), and Nick's mantra in times of stress -- "Nelson the strong, Nelson the brave, Nelson, the lord of the sea" -- gets him through the most grueling of moments, when a boy might otherwise give up. The descriptions of the sea battles here are definitely not for the faint of heart.
—Sonja Bolle
KLIATT - Cara Chancellor
The two men appeared seemingly out of thin air, miraculously dry despite the storm howling outside the inn. For Nick McIver, though, this mystery is just one of many. In the past week, he has accidentally uncovered a notebook revealing his father is spying on the Nazis for Winston Churchill, witnessed a secret Luftwaffe flight over his own Greybeard Island, England, and then found a 150-year-old Royal Navy sea chest that somehow looks brand new. When it becomes apparent that the two strangers are willing to secure the chest's contents—a time machine created by Leonardo da Vinci—by any means necessary, Nick is forced to choose strange allies and travel back in time to an 18th-century naval battle in order to save his family, his country, and himself. While Bell's narrative never lacks for excitement, the reader will sometimes feel as though the sum of this story's parts is simply that: parts of other stories that have been packed into a full-length novel. However, for younger readers for whom cannonballs and top-secret German submarines trump occasional plot bobbles—such as Nick's ancestor sending a letter from the past after giving up the time machine—this book will become an instant adventure classic. Reviewer: Cara Chancellor
Children's Literature - Keri Collins Lewis
The son of a lighthouse keeper, Nick McIver is one of a long line of McIvers who have navigated Greybeard Island's rocky reefs, from Gravestone Rock to the treacherous Seven Devils. When a mysterious sea chest washes ashore one day while Nick, his trusty dog Jip, and his little sister Katie are out exploring, a series of adventures begins, for locked inside the chest is the Tempus Machina, one of a pair invented by Leonardo Da Vinci. The small golden orbs can transport people through time and space, but unfortunately, the other time machine is in the hands of Captain William Blood, a ruthless pirate who has wandered the globe for centuries snatching children away from their parents and demanding ransom. When Blood arrives on Greybeard Island seeking the second Tempus Machina, Nick must brave the fortress of Castle Hawke to obtain the help of a reclusive nobleman who has his own score to settle with the pirate—rescuing the two kidnapped Hawke children. Set in 1939 in the outer islands of pre-war England, the bulk of the book's chapters alternate between Katie's collision with Nazis patrolling British waters in a highly sophisticated submarine, and 1805, where Nick and Lord Hawke help Nick's great-grandfather battle Captain Blood and aid Nick's hero, Admiral Lord Nelson, by warning him of a Spanish plot to trap his fleet. Author Ted Bell, well-published in the adult fiction market, includes vast amounts of historical and nautical detail, which add realism to the highly imaginative and action-filled tale. The story's primary weakness is the constantly shifting points of view, which too often puts the reader in the minds of adults. In the end, it is not Nick and Katie who trulyvanquish the enemies and have the final word, but the larger cast of grown-ups who populate the story. Reviewer: Keri Collins Lewis
School Library Journal

Gr 6-9- This is an immensely appealing book about 12-year-old Nick McIver, son of a lighthouse owner, who lives on Greybeard Island off the coast of Great Britain in 1939. Opening with a thrilling near-fatal sailboat excursion, the action kicks into high gear when Nick finds a sea chest containing a mysterious glowing globe. Hunted by pirates from the past who seek the globe, a time-travel device, Nick finds himself bouncing back and forth in time fighting exceedingly nasty pirates, Napoleon's naval forces in 1805, and Nazi spies in 1939. Nick is the pluckiest, most likable boy-hero since Robert Lewis Stevenson's David Balfour (Kidnapped ). With great battle scenes; lots of nautical jargon; and themes of courage, integrity, and honor, this book will appeal to restless boys who can never find books written just for them. Three huzzahs and a great big 21-gun salute to Bell for his first novel for kids. Hopefully, it won't be his last.-Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Public Library, AK

Kirkus Reviews
The author of several Ian Fleming-style thrillers for adults reworks his lengthy self-published 2000 debut into a windy, labored and even longer doorstopper. On the eve of World War II, 12-year-old Nick receives an appeal for help from a Napoleonic-era ancestor about to get blown out of the water while trying to get vital information to Lord Nelson. The desperate message comes with a portable time machine, so off Nick hies to 1805, leaving his six-year-old sister paired with a hypercompetent inventor/British Intelligence Officer to capture an experimental Nazi supersubmarine. Linking the twin plotlines is Billy Blood, a vicious pirate with another time machine and a penchant for holding wealthy children from various eras for ransom-aboard, conveniently, the very French warship that is attacking Nick's ancestor. Needless to say, after extended sea battles Blood is foiled (but not killed, so look for sequels), the children rescued, the sub captured and the dispatches delivered, all amid many gaps in logic and massive contrivances. Bell should have left this one in his sea chest. (Fantasy. 11-13)First Printing of 100,000
From the Publisher
Praise for Nick of Time

"An immensely appealing book...  Nick is the pluckiest, most likable boy-hero since Robert Lewis Stevenson's David Balfour (Kidnapped ). With great battle scenes; lots of nautical jargon; and themes of courage, integrity, and honor, this book will appeal to restless boys who can never find books written just for them. Three huzzahs and a great big 21-gun salute to Bell for his first novel for kids. Hopefully, it won't be his last." —School Library Journal, Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Public Library, AK

"People who devoured Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series can rejoice this summer at the possibility of sharing the passion for the British Royal Navy with their offspring... There is an undeniable attraction for boys to the figure of the heroic Englishman (though Nick's spunky younger sister will seem to girls the true hero of the novel), and Nick's mantra in times of stress — "Nelson the strong, Nelson the brave, Nelson, the lord of the sea" — gets him through the most grueling of moments, when a boy might otherwise give up. The descriptions of the sea battles here are definitely not for the faint of heart." —Sonja Bolle, LA TIMES

Nick of Time is a blast—-the best of Robert Louis Stevenson, Horatio Hornblower, and Harry Potter. The kid in me loved it, and so did the adult.”

—-James Patterson, New York Times bestselling author of the Maximum Ride series

"Nick of Time is one heck of an adventure!  Filled with colorful characters, non-stop action, scary pirates, nasty Nazis, technically advanced submarines, rousing old-time sailing ships, thrilling battle scenes, heart-pounding sea voyages and nail-biting espionage, this story has it all... If you are looking for a thrill and a new hero, this is it."  —TeenReads.com, Chris Shanley-Dillman, author of FINDING MY LIGHT and THE BLACK POND

A brilliant adventure, hidden within a rolling saga, tucked inside an intriguing mystery. That's Nick of Time. Ted Bell proves that he's the master of swashbuckling for both young and old.”

—-Steve Berry, author of The Venetian Betrayal

“Wow! Some books sweep you away.  NICK OF TIME amazed me, dazzled me, and swept my imagination off to sea.... I've been craving an adventure story with a good mystery and this arrived in the nick of time to rescue me.”

—-Diane Chen, School Library Journal.com

Nick of Time reminded me of Brian Jacques, one of my favorite authors. Everything clicks together perfectly. . . . I really like the era and technology of WWII, especially the ‘secret weapons’ . . . the whole pirate thing really appeals to me. . . . The time travel idea is cool, and what’s even better is that da Vinci created it!”

—-Henry Willshire (13 years old)

"In a barnburner of an adventure novel (originally published in 2000), Bell, with more than a nod to Frank and Joe Hardy and Tom Swift, takes readers back to 1939, when villains were truly evil and heroic lads were willing to risk all for king and country... We’ve got chapter cliffhangers, machines and weapons galore, sailing, spying, and pure adventure. Ahoy! Summer reading ahead!" -Horn Book Magazine

 

Nick of Time mixes a sense of honor with a story your son will not be able to put down. I know it’s for teenagers but I read it cover to cover and it is FANTASTIC. I can’t wait for my son to read it…Thank you for writing something where boys can be boys….really a tremendous book…it’s about values and virtues and spirit of adventure and sticking up for your little sister…..” -Glenn Beck from the Glenn Beck Show

 

“This old-fashioned adventure adds a new twist to elements of Treasure Island, Horatio Hornblower, and Indiana Jones …  Every middle school boy (and many girls, too) will relish joining Nick on his heroic adventures.  Charming and thrilling, this book could become a classic with its good, clean, swashbuckling fun.” —Voice of Youth Advocates, June 2008

 

“Pirates, the ocean, time travel, and even a bit of history! How could you not want to read it? The book kept me wanting more… I would greatly suggest this book for those that love a bit of time travel and pirates!”   —Megan, 15-YALSA Award Committee Member

 

“I just got back from vacation and NICK OF TIME  was on top of my pile.  I loved it!  It was truly a combination of all the great adventure books that I've read.  I know that it will be a great sell to boys, but there will be an awful lot of girls (like me!) who will not be able to put it down. Can't wait for a sequel.” —Judy Hobbs, Children's Buyer, Third Place Books

 

"Nick is the old-fashioned kind of hero, adept at all those skills taught in the Dangerous Book for Boys, while being worried about causing his mother concern.  This book is sure to captivate those seeking a crackling good adventure story and would be a great family read-aloud too."   —Anitra T. Steele, Children's Specialist

 

“I loved NICK OF TIME!...  The time travel was very cool, especially how the author tied it to historical events (which love to read about).  I had a hard time putting the book down, even when I had homework.  I read at breakfast, and tried to read at dinner, but my mom made me stop...   Awesome book, can't wait for the sequel!” —Grant, 12

 

“It’s hard to explain how much I loved this book. If you can read, read this book! If you can’t read, have someone read it to you!... I love Harry Potter but this book makes Harry Potter seem like a tale that isn’t very exciting... I do have one request though: make a sequel! It would be awesome to see another adventure of Nick and his friends and family! Blood can’t just wander around time forever! I want to read about Blood getting what he deserves." —Whit, 14

 

“It was almost impossible to put the book down…and I am anxiously awaiting Ted Bell’s second novel.” —Brian,14

 

 "I was always itching for what’s next…” —Zakory, 14

 

“In my lifetime, I have had three books that I have never wanted to end... but the best of all is NICK OF TIME. I have to say that “Nick of Time” was a thrilling, never ceasing, ever changing, three-hundred-and-seventy-five pages of sheer, unrelenting wonderment and enjoyment that I will never forget... The best book I have ever read.”  —David, 12

 

“As soon as I picked up NICK OF TIME, it kept me on my toes until the very end.  I couldn’t put it down!... It was a true adventure novel with a little twist... He was a very realistic character and I found a lot to look up to in the courage and energy he brought to situations."  —Jason,15

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312581435
  • Publisher: Square Fish
  • Publication date: 9/1/2009
  • Series: Nick McIver Series , #1
  • Edition description: STRIPPABLE
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 226,184
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Meet the Author

Ted Bell is the former Vice-Chairman of the Board and World-Wide Creative Director of Young & Rubicam, one of the world’s largest advertising agencies. He is the New York Times bestselling author of Hawke, Assassin, Pirate, Spy, and Tsar. This is his first novel for young adults.

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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER I

The Jaws of Gravestone Rock

• 3 June 1939 •

off greybeard island

Hard a’lee, me boys!” shouted Nick McIver over the wind, “or be smashed to smithereens in the jaws of Gravestone Rock!”

The dog Jip barked his loud agreement.

Nick, at the helm of his small sloop, Stormy Petrel, that afternoon, was almost at the end of his .rst day-long voyage around Greybeard Island. He was hard on the wind, making a good seven knots as he tacked homeward. Just now, he was approaching the treacherous reefs that guarded the entrance to Lighthouse Harbor. Jip, on the bow, was howling into the strong headwind, enjoying the pounding sprays of seawater every bit as much as his skipper.

But now Nick was watching the western sky and the rapidly rising seas uneasily. Maybe he should have nipped inside the huge Gravestone Rock, in the lee of this wind. Probably should have known better than to sail the long way home in weather like this. Should have done this, should have done that, he silently cursed himself. He did know better, in fact.

But he and Jip had been having such a splendid time, bounding through the waves, he’d simply ignored the storm warnings. A little cold spot in the pit of his stomach was growing. He hated that cold feeling. He’d not even spoken its name.

But it was fear.

The glorious empty bowl of blue that had been the morning sky now featured stacks of boiling cumulus clouds, all gone to darkening greys and blacks. Billowing towers of purple clouds loomed on the western horizon, swiftly turning the colors of an ugly bruise. In the last hour, clouds of spume came scudding across his bow and through the rigging of Stormy Petrel. Above the howl of the elements was the high keening whistle of wind in the sloop’s rigging. Salt spray stung Nick’s eyes. But he could still see the sky overhead, boiling and black.

Nick leaned hard into the Petrel ’s tiller, putting the weight of his lean body against it, .ghting to keep his bow to windward of Gravestone Rock. He had both hands on the tiller, and they’d gone clammy and cold. Looking up in awe at the giant rock now looming before him, he wiped .rst one hand, then the other, on his soaking trousers. The Gravestone. A terrible thought shuddered unpleasantly through Nick’s mind. Would that famous stone tower today mark still another watery grave? His own, and his beloved Jip’s? He cursed himself for his stupidity and leaned into his tiller with all his might. Hopeless. The bow refused to answer the helm, to come up into the wind.

However could he keep his small sloop to the safe, windward side of the massive stone looming ever larger before him? And to the leeward side lay the Seven Devils. On a calm day, Nick might pick his way through these treacherous

reefs. But now, in a blow, they were deadly.

He was fresh out of options.

“And you call yourself a sailor, Nick McIver!” he cried aloud. But not even his dog heard his bitter cry of frustration above the roar of wind and water. He should have known better. There was a terrible price to pay for carelessness at sea. Especially when you were anywhere near the Gravestone.

It was a towering monument of glistening black granite that now rose before him. Thrusting from the sea like some angry tombstone, it had claimed the lives of skippers and sailors a good deal saltier than Nick and Jip. As Nick had known from earliest childhood, countless ships and men had gone to the bottom courtesy of the Gravestone Rock. Or the seven deadly spines of rock spreading like tentacles in all directions from its base. The Seven Devils, the reefs were called, and not for nothing either. Here was as .endish a bit of coastline as ever there was.

This perilous coast had .nally led to the building of Nick’s home. Even now, the great Greybeard Light sent yellow stabs streaking overhead through the darkening sky. This .ashing tower atop the cliffs off his port bow held special meaning for Nick McIver. It was both a warning to stay away and a summons to come home.

For Nick lived atop that lighthouse, he was a lighthouse keeper’s son. And now it looked as if the famous rock below it might claim the boy, if the boy didn’t think of something, and quickly. if the gravestone doesn’t get you, the seven devils will! read the legend carved into the mantel at the Greybeard Inn. And the long-dead British tar who had carved it there knew well whereof he spoke. At that moment, Nick wished he himself had carved those ancient words of warning into the pitching deck he now stood upon.

“We’re not going to make it, boy!” shouted an anguished Nick. “I can’t keep her pointed high enough!” Indeed he could not steer, nor will, the bow of his small boat to windward of the ever larger Gravestone. For every foot of forward motion Petrel gained, she was losing two feet to side-slipping. Adrenaline poured into Nick’s veins as he realized the potential for total disaster in what he was about to do.

A whispered prayer to his long-dead hero escaped his lips.

Nelson the Strong , Nelson the Brave, Nelson the Lord of the Sea.

Nick faced a terrible decision. The most brutal maneuver any sailor could make in such a dreadful blow was a jibe. Jibing meant turning the boat away from the wind, instead of into it, so that its brutal force passed directly behind the mainsail. The huge mainsail and heavy boom would then come whipping across the cockpit with a violence that could easily rip the mast from the boat. But what choice did he have? The terrible decision was already made.

“Jibe HO!” he shouted to his shaggy crew. He pulled sharply back on his tiller instead of pushing against it. The bow swung instantly off the wind. “Mind yer heads!” Nick bellowed. The stout wooden boom and violently snapping mainsail came roaring across the small open cockpit like the furies of hell. “Down, boy!” Nick cried, and ducked under the heavy wooden boom at the last second, narrowly avoiding a blow to the head which would have sent him, unconscious, overboard. The lines, the sails, the rigging, every plank of his boat was screaming, at their breaking point. She’d been built of stout timber, but he could feel Petrel straining desperately at her seams. If a plank should spring open now, this close to a rocky lee shore, they were surely done for!

But she held. Looking aloft, he saw his mast and rigging mostly intact. By jibing the boat, he’d gained precious time to think.

Nick feverishly eyed his options, now rapidly dwindling to nil. There had to be a way out of this! Nicholas McIver was not a boy destined to die such a stupid, unseamanlike death. Not if he could help it. He had a healthy fear of dying, all right, but now, staring death square in the face, he was far more afraid of letting them all down. His mother. His father. His little sister, Katie. His best friend, Gunner.

Wasn’t that a fate even worse than death, he wondered? For a boy to slip beneath the cold waves without even the chance to prove to those he loved that he was a brave boy, a boy destined to do great things in this world? A boy who might one day be—a hero?

The already fresh wind had now built into something truly appalling. Petrel was rapidly running out of sea room. The sickly green-yellow sky cast its unhealthy glow over the frothing sea. Nick heard an ominous roar building on his port side. Just as he looked up, a wave like an onrushing locomotive crashed over the windward side of the little boat, staggering the tiny vessel, knocking her instantly and violently on her side. Nick was buried under a torrent of cold seawater. He clung desperately to the tiller to avoid being washed overboard. He was thinking only of Jip, again standing watch up on the bow. As the weight of her heavy lead keel quickly righted the boat once more, Nick, sputtering, strained forward, rubbing the stinging saltwater from his eyes. His dog was still there. Heaven only knew how the creature had managed it. In fact, Jip was barking loudly, surely in anger at the wave that had almost done them in.

“All that lead we hung off her bottom is good for something, eh, Jipper? Hang on, boy!” Nick cried. “I’ll think of something!” But what, his mind answered, whatever could he do? He knew that the next wave they took broadside would be their last. He fought the tiller, determined to get the towering waves on Petrel ’s stern. It was his only chance.

Just at that moment Petrel was lifted high above a cavernous trough by the hand of another huge wave. For a brief moment, Nick could see most of the northern tip of his island. And he knew in that instant what he had to do. There was no escaping to windward of the Gravestone Rock. Since Petrel could never make headway back into the teeth of the storm, he now had no choice. He must fall off to the leeward side of the rock, sailing a dead run before the wind, directly into the waiting jaws of the Seven Devils! Nothing else for it, he thought, more grimly determined than ever.

From the crest of the wave, Nick had seen a small .ash of white on the rocky shore dead ahead. It could only mean a sandy cove, one of many along this coast where he and Kate played on sunny days.

If he could somehow time the waves precisely, so that Petrel ’s keel might just brush the Devil’s deadly tops, he just might have a chance at beaching the boat on the sandy shore of that little cove. Yes, he just might.

Now that he had a plan, the boy’s spirits soared. It wasn’t much of a plan, but it was the only chance he had. If it failed, why, he—

“Shorten sail, lads!” Nick cried to his imaginary crew, clenching the damp and salty mainsheet in his teeth as he loosed the main halyard with his free hand. In a blow like this, reducing sail area by ree.ng the main wouldn’t decrease his boat speed by much, but it might just be enough to control his timing of the waves over the reefs. It was clear that Nick would need all the seamanship, and luck, he could muster to get captain and crew safely ashore.

Jip, as if recognizing the desperate seriousness of their situation, came aft to stand watch beside his master. Nick was glad of his company.

“Steady now, steady,” cried Nick, bracing his knees against the thwart seat and winding the mainsheet round his .st to secure it. The force of the wind on the shortened sail made Nick’s arm feel as if it might be pulled from its socket. “Steady as she goes, lads!” Wind and water were tossing the sloop about like a pond boat, throwing his timing off dangerously. Entering the procession of towering rollers, Nick felt his sloop surge forward. “Look alive, Jip, we’re in for a bit of a sleigh ride!” he cried. Jip growled and stood his ground.

The trick, and it was a good one, was keeping Petrel out of the sequence of huge waves rushing toward the treacherous shore. To wait until the timing was precisely right. “Right” meant that Petrel was lifted at the precise moment her keel was passing over each one of the jagged Devils. It was going to take luck all right, bags of the stuff; luck and no small measure of skill.

“Easy . . . easy ...and ...NOW!” cried Nick, heaving the tiller to starboard to swing his bow around. If there was a tinge of fear remaining in his voice you couldn’t hear it for the wind or the spray or the sheer exhilaration of the moment as he steered the little boat down the broad steep face of the wave toward the deep trough below. Petrel ’s moment of truth had .nally arrived.

“We need to come up, now, boy,” Nick said, holding on to his tiller for dear life. The Gravestone Rock loomed dangerously close to his left as Petrel plunged deeper into the trough. “We. Need. To. Come. UP!” Nick held his breath. He’d seen the ugly spine of the .rst reef from the top of his wave and knew that Petrel ’s keel could clear it if only he had timed his descent into the trough perfectly. He clenched his jaw, unaware how painfully tight it was. Jip, too, was rigid, staring at the wall of water before them, sensing the moment.

Petrel ’s bow suddenly lifted. She was rising high on the majestic swell and Nick waited for the tearing sound of her keel on the deadly jagged rock. It occurred to him in that moment that it would probably be one of the last sounds he would ever hear.

It didn’t come.

At the wave’s crest, Nick could see that he’d timed it perfectly. The waves would now lift him over the two razor-sharp reefs that remained between Petrel and the safety of the sandy cove. Jip scrambled forward once more to his station at the bow. He barked loudly in triumph, daring the forces of nature to do battle once more with the mighty Petrel and her daring crew.

“Hooray!” Nick cried in both relief and exultation. “We did it, boy, we perfectly well did it, didn’t we?”

In the deep bottle-green safety of the cove, it was simply a matter of running Petrel toward shore until her keel beached on the soft sand. That done, Nick quickly freed the main and jib halyards and all the wet canvas fell to the deck. As the boat swung round and listed to her starboard side, a happy Nick and Jip leapt over the gunwale and waded ashore. Nick made fast a line from Petrel ’s bow to a large rock on the shore. Then he and Jip ducked into the mouth of the nearest cave to escape the fury of the storm.

And they had been safe, perched on a deep ledge inside the cave, waiting for the storm to blow itself out before sailing home for supper.

This cave, it occurred to Nick as he and Jip climbed back into the boat, might make an excellent hiding place someday. Either as a place to hide from bloodthirsty pirates, or a place to secret any treasure he and his crew might .nd during their future navigations.

“All right, boy,” Nick said, hauling down on the halyard that raised his mainsail once more. “Time to .y away home!” Now that the storm had subsided, he was con.dent he could pick his way through the reefs with little trouble. After all, he knew their locations by heart.

Yes, you could always rely upon young Nicholas McIver to get his crew home safely. After all, was there a more reliable boy in all of England?

Excerpted from Nick of Time by Ted Bell.

Copyright © 2008 by Ted Bell.

Published in August 2009 by St. Martin's Press.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in

any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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First Chapter

Nick of Time
CHAPTER I
* 3 June 1939 *
OFF GREYBEARD ISLAND
"Hard a'lee me boys!" shouted Nick NcIver over the wind, "or be smashed to smithereens in the jaws of Gravestone Rock!"
The dog Jip barked his loud agreement.
Nick, at the helm of his small sloop, Stormy Petrel, that afternoon, was almost at the end of his first day-long voyage around Greybeard Island. He was hard on the wind, making a good seven knots as he tacked homeward. Just now, he was approaching the treacherous reefs that guarded the entrance to Lighthouse Harbor. Jip, on the bow, was howling into the strong headwind, enjoying the pounding sprays of seawater every bit as much as his skipper.
But now Nick was watching the western sky and the rapidly rising seas uneasily. Maybe he should have nipped inside the huge Gravestone Rock, in the lee of this wind. Probably should have known better than to sail the long way home in weather like this. Should have done this, should have done that, he silently cursed himself. He did know better, in fact. But he and Jip had been having such a splendid time, bounding through the waves, he'd simply ignored the storm warnings. A little cold spot in the pit of his stomach was growing. He hated that cold feeling. He'd not even spoken its name.
But it was fear.
The glorious empty bowl of blue that had been the morning sky now featured stacks of boiling cumulus clouds, all gone to darkening greys and blacks. Billowing towers of purple clouds loomed on the western horizon, swiftly turning the colors of an ugly bruise. In the last hour, clouds of spume came scudding across his bow and through the rigging of Stormy Petrel. Above the howl of the elements was the high keening whistle of wind in the sloop's rigging. Slat spray stung Nick's eyes. But he could still see the sky overhead, boiling and black.
Nick leaned hard into the Petrel's tiller, putting the weight of his lean body against it, fighting to keep his bow to windward of Gravestone Rock. He had both hands on the tiller, and they'd gone clammy and cold. Looking up in awe at the giant rock now looming before him, he wiped first one hand, then the other, on his soaking trousers. The Gravestone. A terribly thought shuddered unpleasantly through Nick's mind. Would that famous stone tower today mark still another watery grave? His own, and his beloved Jip's? He cursed himself for his stupidity and leaned into his tiller with all his might. Hopeless. The bow refused to answer the helm, to come up into the wind.
However could he keep his small sloop to the safe, windward side of the massive stone looming ever larger before him? And to the leeward side lay the Seven Devils. On a calm day, Nick might pick his way through these treacherous reefs. But now, in a blow, they were deadly.
He was fresh out of options.
"And you call yourself a sailor, Nick McIver!" he cried aloud. But not even his dog heard his bitter cry of frustration above the roar of wind and water. He should have known better. There was a terrible price to pay for carelessness at sea. Especially when you were anywhere near the Gravestone.
It was a towering monument of glistening black granite that now rose before him. Thrusting from the sea like some angry tombstone, it had claimed the lives of skippers and sailors a good deal saltier than Nick and Jip. As Nick had known from earliest childhood, countless ships and men had gone to the bottom courtesy of the Gravestone Rock. Or the seven deadly spines of rock spreading like tentacles in all directions from its base. The Seven Devils, the reefs were called, and not for nothing, either. Here was as fiendish a bit of coastline as ever there was.
This perilous coast had finally led to the building of Nick's home. Even now, the great Greybeard Light sent yellow stabs streaking overhead through the darkening sky. This flashing tower atop the cliffs off his port bow held special meaning for Nick McIver. It was both a warning to stay away and a summons to come home. For Nick lived atop that lighthouse, he was a lighthouse keeper's son. And now it looked as if the famous rock below it might claim the boy, if the boy didn't think of something, and quickly. IF THE GRAVESTONE DOESN'T GET YOU, THE SEVEN DEVILS WILL! Read the legend carved into the mantel at the Greybeard Inn. And the long-dead British tar who had carved it there knew well whereof he spoke. At that moment, Nick wished he himself had carved those ancient words of warning into the pitching desk he now stood upon.
"We're not going to make it, boy!" shouted an anguished Nick, "I can't keep her pointed high enough!" Indeed he could not steer, nor will, the bow of his small boat to windward of the ever larger Gravestone. For every foot of forward motion Petrel gained, she was losing two feet to side-slipping. Adrenaline poured into Nick's veins as he realized the potential for total disaster in what he was about t odo.
A whispered prayer to his long dead hero escaped his lips.
Nelson the Strong, Nelson the Brave, Nelson the Lord of the Sea.
Nick faced a terribly decision. The most brutal maneuver any sailor could make in such a dreadful blow was a jibe. Jibing meant turning the boat away from the wind, instead of into it, so that its brutal force passed directly behind the mainsail. The huge mainsail and heavy boom would then come whipping across the cockpit with a violence that could easily rip the mast from the boat. But what choice did the have? The terrible decision was already made.
"Jibe HO!" he shouted to his shaggy crew. He pulled sharply back on his tiller instead of pushing against it. The bow swung instantly off the wind. "Mind yer heads," Nick bellowed. The stout wooden boom and violently snapping mainsail came roaring across the small open cockpit like the furies of hell. "Down, boy!" Nick cried, and ducked under the heavy wooden boom at the last second, narrowly avoiding a blow to the head which would have sent him, unconscious, overboard. The lines, the sails, the rigging, every plank of his boat was screaming at their breaking point. She'd been built of stout timber, but he could feel Petrel straining desperately at her seams. If a plank should spring open now, this close to a rocky lee shore, they were surely done for!
But she held. Looking aloft, he saw his mast and rigging mostly intact. By jibing the boat, he'd gained precious time to think.
Nick feverishly eyed his options, now rapidly dwindling to nil. There had to be a way out of this! Nicholas McIver was not a boy destined to die such a stupid, unseamanlike death. Not if he could help it. He had a healthy fear of dying, all right, but now, staring death square in the face, he was far more afraid of letting them all down. His mother. His father. His little sister, Katie. His best friend, Gunner.
Wasn't that a fate even worse than death, he wondered? For a boy to slip beneath the cold waves without even the chance to prove to those he loved that he was a brave boy, a boy destined to do great things in this world? A boy who might one day be-a hero?
The already fresh wind had now built into something truly appalling. Petrel was rapidly running out of sea room. The sickly green-yellow sky cast its unhealthy flow over the frothing sea. Nick heard an ominous roar building on his port side. Just as he looked up, a wave like an onrushing locomotive crashed over the windward side of the little boat, staggering the tiny vessel, knocking her instantly and violently on her side. Nick was buried under a torrent of cold seawater. He clung desperately to the tiller to avoid being washed overboard. He was thinking only of Jip, again standing watch up on the bow. As the weight of her heavy lead keep quickly righted the boat once more, Nick, sputtering, strained forward, rubbing the stinging saltwater from his eyes. His dog was still there. Heaven only knew how the creature had managed it. In fact, Jip was barking loudly, surely in anger t the wave that had almost done them in.
"All that lead we hung off her bottom is good for something, eh, Jipper? Hang on, boy!" Nick cried. "I'll think of something!" But what, his mind answered, whatever could he do? He knew that the next wave they took broadside would be their last. He fought the tiller, determined to get the towering waves on Petrel's stern. It was his only chance.
Just at that moment Petrel was lifted high above a cavernous trough by the hand of another huge wave. For a brief moment, Nick could see most of the northern tip of his island. And he knew in that instant what he had to do. There was no escaping to the windward of the Gravestone Rock. Since Petrel could never make headway back into the teeth of the storm, he now had no choice. He must fall off to the leeward side of the rock, sailing a dead run before the wind, directly into the waiting jaws of the Seven Devils. Nothing else for it, he thought, more grimly determined than ever.
From the crest of the wave, Nick had seen a small flash of white on the rocky shore dead ahead. It could only mean a sandy cove, one of many along this coast where he and Kate played on sunny days.
If he could somehow time the waves precisely, so that Petrel's keel might just brush the Devil's deadly tops, he just might have a chance at beaching the boat on the sandy shore of that little cove. Yes, he just might.
Now that he had a plan, the boy's spirits soared. It wasn't much of a plan, but it was the only chance he had. If it failed, why, he- "Shorten sail, lads!" Nick cried to his imaginary crew, clenching the damp and salty mainsheet in his teeth as he loosed the main halyard with his free hand. In a blow like this, reducing sail area by reefing the main wouldn't decrease his boat speed by much, but it might just be enough to control his timing of the waves over the reefs. It was clear that Nick would need all the seamanship, and luck, he could muster to get captain and crew safely ashore.
Jip, as if recognizing the desperate seriousness of their situation, came aft to stand watch beside his master. Nick was glad of his company.
"Steady now, steady," cried Nick, bracing his knees against the thwart seat and winding the mainsheet round his fist to secure it. The force of the wind on the shortened sail made Nick's arm feel as if it might be pulled from its socket. "Steady as she goes, lads!" Wind and water were tossing the sloop about like a pond boat, throwing his timing off dangerously. Entering the procession of towering rollers, Nick felt his sloop surge forward. "Look alive, Jip, we're in for a bit of a sleigh-ride!" he cried. Jip growled and stood his ground.
The trick, and it was a good one, was keeping Petrel out of the sequence of huge waves rushing toward the treacherous shore. To wait until the timing was precisely right. "Right" meant that Petrel was lifted at the precise moment her keel was passing over each one of the jagged Devils. It was going to take luck all right, bags of the stuff, luck and no small measure of skill.
"Easy… easy… and… NOW!" cried Nick, heaving the tiller to starboard to swing his bow around. If there was a tinge of fear remaining in his voice you couldn't hear it for the wind or the spray or the sheer exhilaration of the moment as he steered the little boat down the broad steep face of the wave toward the deep trough below. Petrel's moment of truth had finally arrived.
"We need to come up, now, boy." Nick said, holding on to his tiller for dear life. The Gravestone Rock loomed dangerously close to his left as Petrel plunged deeper into the trough. "We. Need. To. Come. UP!" Nick held his breath. He'd seen the ugly spine of the first reef from the top of his wave and knew that Petrel's keel would clear it if only he had timed his descent into the trough perfectly. He clenched his jaw, unaware how painfully tight it was. Jip, too, was rigid, staring at the wall of water before them, sensing the moment.
Petrel's bow suddenly lifted. She was rising high on the majestic swell and Nick waited for the tearing sound of her keep on the deadly jagged rock. It occurred to him in that moment that it would probably be one of the last sounds he would ever hear.
It didn't come.
At the wave's crest, Nick could see that he'd timed it perfectly. The waves would now lift him over the two razor-sharp reefs that remained between Petrel and the safety of the sandy cove. Jip scrambled forward once more to his station at the bow. He barked loudly in triumph, daring the forces of nature to do battle once more with the mighty Petrel and he daring crew.
"Hooray!" Nick cried in both relief and exultation. "We did it, boy, we perfectly well did it, didn't we?"
In the deep bottle-green safety of the cove, it was simply a matter of running Petrel toward shore until her keel beached on the soft sand. That done, Nick quickly freed the main and jib halyards and all the wet canvas fell to the deck. As the boat swung round and listed to her starboard side, a happy Nick and Jip leapt over the gunwale and waded ashore. Nick made fast a line from Petrel's bow to a large rock on the shore. Then he and Jip ducked into the mouth of the nearest cave to escape the fury of the storm.
And they had been safe, perched on a deep ledge inside the cave, waiting for the storm to blow itself out before sailing home for supper.
This cave, it occurred to Nick as he and Jip climbed back into the boat, might make an excellent hiding place someday. Either as a place to hide from bloodthirsty pirates, or a place to secret any treasure he and his crew might find during their future navigations.
"All right, boy," Nick said, hauling down the halyard that raised his mainsail once more, "Time to fly away home!" Now that the storm had subsided, he was confident he could pick his way through the reefs with little trouble. After all, he knew their locations by heart.
Yes, you could always rely upon young Nicholas McIver to get his crew home safely. After all, was there a more reliable boy in all of England?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 72 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(41)

4 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 73 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2008

    'Amazed, dazzled, swept off to sea!

    Wow! Some books sweep you away. Ted Bell's Nick of Time amazed me, dazzled me, and swept my imagination off to sea. The interweaving of pirate adventures at sea with the threat of German U-boats pre-WWII was accomplished so skillfully that I yearned to join them traveling through time. Ted Bell's descriptions were so vivid, I could picture every scene in full-color. With the exciting action scenes, I ignored the outside world to focus on this incredible tale. The history was so enticing, I found myself pouring through WWII texts on England's preparations for war, Churchill's struggles, and maps of the islands. I wanted to experience sailing and its dangers as Nick was able to do. Curse my landlocked childhood! I curled up with this book last weekend while battling the flu, but even the flu couldn't keep me away from the pages of this story. I was compelled to keep reading until past midnight. The last line of the story gave me hope for many more sequels. Please, Mr. Bell, may I have some more? I know you have written books for adults, but this title was truly amazing and I want to experience it again. Someone will be snatching up the rights to make this into a film soon! Give us hope that the sequel is on it's way. The message of heroism in Nick of Time has clung to me this week. I keep reviewing scenes and conversations from the story. Who are my heroes? What if I could travel through time to meet them? Would I have anything to offer them? Are there small roles in history that we could play that would impact others? How many of us could act as well as seven-year old Kate? Also, what has become of the villain Billy Blood? Where will he strike next? Middle school students are going to be so hooked by this book. Perhaps I should change to being a MS librarian just so I can help boys in particular find this book. Don't worry girls, you'll love this as much as I did and there is plenty to ponder after you're finished reading. Just don't think you can read only one chapter before breakfast. I tried and glanced up 80 pages later to wonder what had happened and where I'd been. I've been craving an adventure story with a good mystery and this arrived in the nick of time to rescue me. Nick of Time will be released in May, 2008... read the next great book for kids.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 26, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    "Nick of Time"

    I purchased this book as a gift. I have been told by my nephew that he loved the book and would enjoy more from the same author. Also he gives the book 5 stars for thrilling, story, absorbing,writing, Cover art and characters.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 6, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Marie Robinson for TeensReadToo.com

    Set in 1939, NICK OF TIME is about young Nick McIver and his adventuresome spirit. <BR/><BR/>Nick loves to sail and be out on the water with his trusty dog, Jip. He loves it so much that he often loses track of time and comes home late for dinner, which irritates his tough yet loving mother. One night, Nick also discovers that his father is no ordinary lighthouse keeper. He's also a spy for England. What would become World War II was brewing, and Nick joins his dad in his efforts of spying for Nazis. <BR/><BR/>This story has a lot going for it. The writing is excellent, the story includes sailboats, Nazis, submarines, secret castles, mysterious villains, pirates, squawking parrots, dogs, cats, spies and, as the title implies, travel through time. The one downside is that it takes more than one hundred pages to get to the time travel promised by the title.<BR/><BR/>Nevertheless, it's a fun story, full of adventure and suspense, with a dose of history thrown in.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2003

    'A rip-roaring sea adventure'

    A modern day Treasure Island with a great 12 year old hero!! This book will delight any and all readers but boys 9 and up will absolutely eat it up! Pirates, Nazi submarines, and a dramatic sea rescue of kidnapped children. What a great read and a perfect break for all kids (and moms and dads, too) who are 'wild about Harry'!!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2008

    Best Ever to Get Your Boy Reading!

    This is a great book for everyone, but most especially for boys. Not only is it historical and teaches many historical facts overlooked in school, it teaches values like courage and persistence. It is entertaining for both boys 10 and over and all adults. I read it along with my grandson, and we compared notes each night. He wants to read it again, because he knows he may have missed some important little clues to the entire plot. Great writing. Wish Ted Bell would write many more like it.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2008

    Birth of a CLASSIC!

    Reading this book I felt like I was back in time, a time when books were full of not only adventure, but values such as courage and love of country and boys who were self- reliant and wanting to be heroes! In my view, it's a classic in the making! It may sound old-fashioned but believe me, it isn't! One of the most exciting adventure stories I've ever read. And I am not exaggerating even a smidge. Clearly written for youngsters but this oldster loved it!!!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2008

    Nazis, Pirates and Time Travel

    Bought this book for my 12 year old nephew and sat down to read a chapter to make sure it was 'clean' enough to gift - it is. Got hooked and ended up reading the whole book myself over the weekend. Enjoyment of the book requires an imagination as the time travel and constant non-stop adventures go well beyond reality. However, the characters are well-developed, the plot is fast moving, the historical elements are informative, and each of the short chapters leaves the reader wanting to know what happens next. I think some of the nautical vocabulary and historical context are likely beyond pre-teen knowledge but the story will delight.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    engaging preadolescent time travel fantasy

    As Europe flares up with the latest continental war this time between the allies and the Fascists, twelve years old Nick McIver and his younger sister Kate live with their father in a lighthouse on Graybeard Island, one of the Channel islands. The Nazi U-boats surround their island while their father tries to get important information to the War Office in London. Meanwhile Nick finds a chest containing an odd plea from a long dead ancestor. Apparently Royal Naval Captain Nicholas McIver is in trouble, but has critical information that Lord Admiral Nelson needs. The message accompanies a handy time machine that enables Nick to go back to 1805 to help his antecedent. --- As Nick goes back to the Napoleonic Era, Kate joins Lord Hawke and Commander Hobbes as they try to steal an experimental Nazi submarine. At the same relative time in both eras, pirate Billy Blood uses his portable time machine to abduct the children of wealthy parents from various periods that he takes to his French warship he demands exorbitant ransom if they want their brats back. In 1805 he is about to kill Nick¿s relative in 1939, he considers kidnapping Nick¿s sister. --- Ted bell¿s fine young adult thriller is an engaging preadolescent time travel fantasy in which readers will root for the McIver pair to be in THE NICK OF TIME to save England at sea TWICE a century and half apart. The sea battles are incredibly descriptive in both periods so much so that the audience can compare the navies. Although the non-stop action twists reasoning in order to keep the escapades going, no one will care as readers will cheer on the fully developed young champions while hissing that diabolically bloody pirate. --- Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2003

    Nick of Time

    From its striking dust cover art to its beautiful binding and print, this middle-grade adventure story has it all: boats and the sea, pirates, castles, Nazis, and time travel. It has everything a young reader could want. The writing is crisp, clear, and practically flawless. Description and scene setting put the reader in the middle of things where he or she is immediately drawn into the adventure with the leading characters, Nick and Kate. As the story progresses, more and more actors are sprinkled in until a full host are moving the story faster and faster forward toward a roaring climax. Action never stops in the great novel which rivals Robert Lewis Stevenson's Treasure Island in size and scope. The author covers this book's sometimes rapid point of view changes with seamless transition and skill seldom seen in a beginning writer.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2003

    Nick of Time

    This book is cool. Period. When you're done reading all the Harry Potter books, check this out!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2013

    This is a great book

    Their is amasing stuff in this book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2010

    A THRILLING ADVENTURE!!!!

    I found this book to be captivating from the first page. The reader is pulled into the adventures of Nick and his friends, and kept at the edge of your seat with every turn of the page. Bell has created an adventure for both young and old. I personally can't wait for the next installment.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 12, 2013

    To long. I liked the idea of the book and what the author wante

    To long. I liked the idea of the book and what the author wanted to put across, but the book was way too long and in some instances, boring.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 17, 2013

    Please see my Goodreads review...

    Please see my Goodreads review...

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2013

    Awsome:)

    Gr8 book so much adventure

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2012

    Smell my feet

    U guys suck at spelling, OSUM really, are u people to lazy to spell out a word. Thats just dumb

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2012

    Great book

    Loved it. It was soo good

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2012

    EPIC!:

    Osum!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2012

    Imagineitive....

    Great book. Ive read it abot 10 times now Cant wait for my kids to read it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2012

    Dawn

    Okay:)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 73 Customer Reviews

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