Mini-Reviews: Pride, Beneath the Sugar Sky, & Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Pride by Ibi Zoboi
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 18, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Pride and Prejudice gets remixed in this smart, funny, gorgeous retelling of the classic, starring all characters of color, from Ibi Zoboi, National Book Award finalist and author of American Street.

Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.

When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.

But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.

In a timely update of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi skillfully balances cultural identity, class, and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant reimagining of this beloved classic.

I hesitated to pick up Pride because of all of the mixed reviews I’d seen when it first came out, but I’m glad that I finally picked it up.

This ended up being a great modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, and I absolutely loved that it was set in Brooklyn. Pride pretty seamlessly weaves in some commentary on issues like gentrification, class, and the leaking of nudes without coming across like a lecture. It’s easy to see the parallels with the original, but the book still feels like it tells its own story rather than being a direct copy.

As for negatives, I felt that some scenes went on for a little too long and got a little repetitive. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Zuri and Darius’s relationship since it went from hate to love very quickly, but I guess it also does in the original. But those are pretty minor complaints, and overall, I really enjoyed this book.


Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 9, 2018
Source: Borrowed

When Rini lands with a literal splash in the pond behind Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, the last thing she expects to find is that her mother, Sumi, died years before Rini was even conceived. But Rini can’t let Reality get in the way of her quest – not when she has an entire world to save! (Much more common than one would suppose.)

If she can’t find a way to restore her mother, Rini will have more than a world to save: she will never have been born in the first place. And in a world without magic, she doesn’t have long before Reality notices her existence and washes her away. Good thing the student body is well-acquainted with quests…

A tale of friendship, baking, and derring-do.

Warning: May contain nuts.

As someone who absolutely loves baking, it probably comes as no surprise that my favorite world (so far) in the Wayward Children series is Confection. This nonsense world is filled with whimsical things like a moon made of frosting and a sea made of strawberry rhubarb soda. Not everything is perfect in Confection, though. Like the other worlds, it has its own undercurrent of danger.

Since I loved the world (and the writing) so much, I probably would have given this novella five stars if we’d followed characters from the original book. It is true that Christopher and Kade are here, but our main character is someone entirely new. While this was fine and ended up working out in the end, it did leave me feeling a little disconnected from everything at the beginning.

Overall, though, I’m a big fan of this series and would highly recommend it.


Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Source: Borrowed

Lara Jean is having the best senior year.

And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends.

Life couldn’t be more perfect!

At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks . . . until she gets some unexpected news.

Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

Possibly unpopular opinion time: I don’t think this needed to be a series. I really enjoyed To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, but while the writing was still good in P.S. I Still Love You, I didn’t like the plot and it felt completely unnecessary. I feel the same about Always and Forever, Lara Jean. The writing was good, but let’s be honest. Did this book even have a plot?

This book also uses one of my least favorite tropes:breaking up because a parent tells you to. What a cop-out for drama. I’m still waiting to read a book that features a parent doing this and a main character that stands up to them, because what kind of nonsense is this? It makes me so angry.

In the end, all I can really say is that this is a cute series, but it really could have stopped after the first book.


Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: Supernova, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, & The Last Hope

Supernova by Marissa Meyer
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Source: Borrowed

All’s fair in love and anarchy…

The epic conclusion to Marissa Meyer’s thrilling Renegades Trilogy finds Nova and Adrian fighting to keep their identities secret. While the battle rages on between their alter egos and their allies, there is a darker threat shrouding Gatlon City.

The Renegades’ worst enemy is back among them, threatening to reclaim Gatlon City. Nova and Adrian must brave lies and betrayal to protect those they love. Their greatest fears are about to come to life, and unless they can bridge the divide between heroes and villains, they stand to lose everything. Including each other.

Intrigue and action will leave readers on edge until the final, shocking secrets are revealed.

Overall, I really enjoyed the Renegades series, but I have to admit that Supernova was a little underwhelming. I didn’t hate it, or even really dislike it, but I feel that compared with the rest of the series, it’s the weakest book.

It felt a little bit like the resolution of all the different plot points was just thrown in there and I was left feeling more confused than surprised. Everything that happened felt so convenient, without the suspense or high stakes feeling the previous two books had.

I will say that the epilogue floored me, though. I hope there’s a spin-off, or at least a novella, coming.


Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: June 13, 2017
Source: Borrowed

Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

This is the story of what happened first…

Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.

Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.

They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.

They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

The second book in the Wayward Children series follows Jack and Jill, twins who have absolutely awful parents. They fall into a portal world called The Moors, where they’re finally able to step outside of the very narrow boxes their parents have tried to shove them into and live happily. The world of The Moors is dark, and often scary, but it’s a place where Jack and Jill finally find love and acceptance.

I liked the commentary on gender roles and parenting, but the world of The Moors wasn’t my favorite and Jack and Jill aren’t my favorite characters in this series. Final verdict? This one was good, but I liked the first one better.


The Last Hope by Krista & Becca Ritchie
Rating: DNF
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 13, 2019
Source: ARC via Netgalley

A stunning conclusion to the sci-fi romance duology by writing duo Krista & Becca Ritchie, The Last Hope is filled with twists and turns you’ll never see coming.

Sacrifice all you have to survive.

Imprisoned for weeks on an enemy starcraft, Franny, Court, and Mykal have sat with an unfathomable revelation. But as they fight to stay alive, escaping prison means trusting a young mysterious stranger. He knows everything about their lost histories, and when answers aren’t given freely, the bonded trio are forced to join a mission. One that will determine the fate of humanity.

Legend says, a baby—the first of her species—has the power to cloak and teleport planets. Tasked with retrieving the infant, Court fears the baby is just a myth, and if they fail, they’ll never find the truth about their origins.

As Court and Mykal grow closer, their linked bond becomes harder to hide, and dynamics change when Franny begins to fall for someone new. Vulnerable and with no choice, the hunt for the baby sends the trio on a dangerous path to Saltare-1: a water world where their enemies can’t die and survival comes at a high cost.

Here’s the thing about Krista & Becca Ritchie — I used to be a really big fan of theirs. If you go back in my reviews archive, you’ll find reviews of every single book they’d written up until maybe two years ago. I’m not sure if my reading tastes changed or their writing changed, but this is the second book of theirs in a row that I’ve disliked.

They have a very distinctive, introspective writing style that I think lends itself pretty well to contemporary romance and not very well to fantasy. It was a little weird in The Raging Ones, but I was able to get past it. I couldn’t get past it here. The whole “I’m going to analyze everybody’s every move and what it means” thing was so tiresome. The plot barely moves. After five weeks, I was only halfway done and nothing had happened.

I saw another review that mentioned that it felt like the authors had spent all their time writing book one and then just before book two’s deadline, realized they had to write something. I agree. This is not the level of quality I expect from them, and I’m so disappointed that I had to DNF a book by authors who used to be my favorites.


Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: A Very Stable Genius, You Never Forget Your First & The Mosquito

A Very Stable Genius by Philip Rucker & Carol Leonnig
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 21, 2020
Source: Borrowed

Rucker and Leonnig have deep and unmatched sources throughout Washington, D.C., and for the past three years have chronicled in depth the ways President Donald Trump has reinvented the presidency in his own image, shaken foreign alliances and tested American institutions. It would be all too easy to mistake Trump’s first term for pure chaos. But Leonnig and Rucker show that in fact there is a pattern and meaning to the daily disorder.

Relying on scores of exclusive new interviews with first-hand witnesses and rigorous original reporting, the authors reveal the 45th President up close as he stares down impeachment. They take readers inside Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and the Trump legal team’s scramble for survival, behind the curtains as the West Wing scurries to clean up the President’s mistakes and into the room to witness Trump’s interactions with foreign leaders and members of his Cabinet, and assess the consequences.

What’s interesting about this book is that the authors don’t try to push an agenda or influence the reader’s opinion — they just present quotes and events and let the reader draw their own conclusions. In my opinion, there’s really only one conclusion to draw, but hey. I’m just a book blogger.

Anyway, here are four things I learned while reading this book:

  • Trump thought the attorney general was his own personal lawyer.
  • Putin was the world leader Trump most wanted to meet.
  • He wants to bill other countries for US military support.
  • He thought he might win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Overall: very well-written, would recommend.


You Never Forget Your First by Alexis Coe
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: February 4, 2020
Source: Borrowed

In a genre overdue for a shakeup, Alexis Coe takes a closer look at our first—and finds he’s not quite the man we remember

Young George Washington was raised by a struggling single mother, demanded military promotions, chased rich young women, caused an international incident, and never backed down—even when his dysentery got so bad he had to ride with a cushion on his saddle.

But after he married Martha, everything changed. Washington became the kind of man who named his dog Sweetlips and hated to leave home. He took up arms against the British only when there was no other way, though he lost more battles than he won. Coe focuses on his activities off the battlefield—like espionage and propaganda.

After an unlikely victory in the Revolutionary War, Washington once again shocked the world by giving up power, only to learn his compatriots wouldn’t allow it. The founders pressured him into the presidency—twice. He established enduring norms but left office heartbroken over the partisan nightmare his backstabbing cabinet had created.

Back on his plantation, the man who fought for liberty finally confronted his greatest hypocrisy—what to do with the hundreds of men, women, and children he owned—before succumbing to a brutal death.

Alexis Coe combines rigorous research and unsentimental storytelling, finally separating the man from the legend.
 

I feel like I’ve seen this book everywhere since it came out! I’m not really a historical biography reader — if I’m going to read about politics, I much prefer current events — but I figured the hype had to be there for a reason. And it was.

This is a very different kind of biography. It’s short, hitting all of the highlights within about 300 pages, and never boring. It’s highly informative but still engaging. It dispels a lot of common myths about George Washington, like the wooden teeth and the whole cherry tree thing. All in all, it just shows a much less stodgy side of Washington than we usually see.

If you’re looking to learn more about the first president of the United States, you could sure do worse than this one.


The Mosquito by Timothy C. Winegard
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 6, 2019
Source: Borrowed

A pioneering and groundbreaking work of narrative nonfiction that offers a dramatic new perspective on the history of humankind, showing how through millennia, the mosquito has been the single most powerful force in determining humanity’s fate

Why was gin and tonic the cocktail of choice for British colonists in India and Africa? What does Starbucks have to thank for its global domination? What has protected the lives of popes for millennia? Why did Scotland surrender its sovereignty to England? What was George Washington’s secret weapon during the American Revolution?

The answer to all these questions, and many more, is the mosquito.

Across our planet since the dawn of humankind, this nefarious pest, roughly the size and weight of a grape seed, has been at the frontlines of history as the grim reaper, the harvester of human populations, and the ultimate agent of historical change. As the mosquito transformed the landscapes of civilization, humans were unwittingly required to respond to its piercing impact and universal projection of power.

The mosquito has determined the fates of empires and nations, razed and crippled economies, and decided the outcome of pivotal wars, killing nearly half of humanity along the way. She (only females bite) has dispatched an estimated 52 billion people from a total of 108 billion throughout our relatively brief existence. As the greatest purveyor of extermination we have ever known, she has played a greater role in shaping our human story than any other living thing with which we share our global village.

Imagine for a moment a world without deadly mosquitoes, or any mosquitoes, for that matter? Our history and the world we know, or think we know, would be completely unrecognizable.

Driven by surprising insights and fast-paced storytelling, The Mosquito is the extraordinary untold story of the mosquito’s reign through human history and her indelible impact on our modern world order.
 

Microhistories are something that I’ve recently gotten into, and after having read books like Stiff and How Music Got Free, I was interested to see this almost 500-page take on mosquitoes. But instead of a book on mosquitoes, their spread throughout the world, and the diseases they carried with them, I ended up with this… military history?

Unexpected.

I did learn a few fun facts while reading this book, like that people with Type O blood are bitten twice as often as Type A, and that an old remedy for dysentery was to inject mercury directly into the male urethra, but overall, I was kind of disappointed. I think instead of The Mosquito, a title like Malaria & Militias would have been more appropriate.


Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: Moonstruck Vol. 1, The Steel Prince Vol. 1, & Check Please Book 1

Moonstruck, Vol. 1 by Grace Ellis
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: March 27, 2018
Source: Borrowed
Werewolf barista Julie and her new girlfriend go on a date to a close-up magic show, but all heck breaks loose when the magician casts a horrible spell on their friend Chet. Now it’s up to the team of mythical pals to stop the illicit illusionist before it’s too late.

Collects issues 1 through 5.

I remember seeing Moonstruck floating around when it was first published, and I thought it looked so cute! I had totally forgotten about it until I saw it on Hoopla.

And it was cute. It features all kinds of mythical creatures, a ton of diversity, and great art. Where it kind of fell apart for me was in the actual storyline. Or maybe I should say lack of storyline? It was all over the place in terms of characterization and actual events, and the resolution at the end was really unsatisfying.

This was quick and cute, but I don’t need to keep reading this series.


The Steel Prince, Vol. 1 by V.E. Schwab
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: March 6, 2019
Source: ARC via Edelweiss

Written by #1 New York Times bestselling author V.E. Schwab and torn from the universe of the Shades of Magic sequence, this all-original comic book prequel to A Darker Shade of Magic is perfect for fans of bloody, swashbuckling adventure and gritty fantasy!

Delve into the thrilling, epic tale of the young and arrogant prince Maxim Maresh, long before he became the king of Red London and adoptive father to Kell, the lead of A Darker Shade of Magic!

The youthful Maresh is sent to a violent and unmanageable port city on the Blood Coast of Verose, on strict orders from his father, King Nokil Maresh, to cut his military teeth in this lawless landscape.

There, he encounters an unruly band of soldiers, a lawless landscape, and the intoxicatingly deadly presence of the newly returned pirate queen, Arisa…

Collects Shades of Magic: The Steel Prince #1-4. 

I like V.E. Schwab and I like graphic novels, so reading The Steel Prince seemed like a no-brainer. I was really excited when I saw it on Edelweiss as a new addition, and completely shocked when I was actually approved.

The story was a little jumpy, and I never say this, but I think the pacing was too fast. It was like a whirlwind of Maxim’s life with things happening almost like bullet points on a list. This, then that, then that, then this. I wasn’t a big fan of the art, either, which is very dark. I never really felt like sticking around to look at the images, which is kind of the main point of a graphic novel.

In the end, this graphic novel was fine, but I don’t feel the need to continue with the series.


Check, Please! Book 1 by Ngozi Ukazu
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 18, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Helloooo, Internet Land. Bitty here!

Y’all… I might not be ready for this. I may be a former junior figure skating champion, vlogger extraordinaire, and very talented amateur pâtissier, but being a freshman on the Samwell University hockey team is a whole new challenge. It’s nothing like co-ed club hockey back in Georgia! First of all? There’s checking. And then, there is Jack—our very attractive but moody captain.

A collection of the first half of the megapopular webcomic series of the same name, Check, Please!: #Hockey is the first book of a hilarious and stirring two-volume coming-of-age story about hockey, bros, and trying to find yourself during the best four years of your life.

This is one of the cutest things I’ve ever read. I went into it with basically no expectations since sporty graphic novels and I haven’t always gotten along, but this was just so cute.

I loved Bitty, I loved Jack, I loved all of the characters and all of the baking and all of the vlogging and I didn’t even mind the hockey. The art was absolutely adorable. And that cliffhanger!!

If there’s any character that needs to be protected at all costs, it’s Bitty.

Excuse me while I go read book two.


Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: Soulless, Once and for All, & A Princess in Theory

Soulless by Gail Carriger
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 1, 2009
Source: Borrowed

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations.

First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire–and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

I’d been meaning to read one of Gail Carriger’s books for years, and a prompt about a steampunk romance was the perfect excuse. It was fine. I was under the mistaken impression that this was YA (I think I had it confused with a different Carriger series) and it very much was not. It’s not like I wouldn’t have read it if I’d known it contained detailed sexy scenes, but I probably wouldn’t have listened to it at work in front of all my coworkers. But anyway.

The book is fun. Alexia is a great character, and though I didn’t have any strong feelings for any of the other characters, there was nobody that I full-on hated. The plot is absolutely ridiculous, but in a good way. Kind of like a Victorian Buffy.

I don’t think I’ll be continuing on with this series, but I’m still looking forward to someday reading Etiquette & Espionage.

#romanceopoly: london street


Once and for All by Sarah Dessen
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Source: Borrowed

As bubbly as champagne and delectable as wedding cake, Once and for All, Sarah Dessen’s thirteenth novel, is set in the world of wedding planning, where crises are routine.

Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that’s why she’s cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm’s length. But Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged, now that he’s met the one girl he really wants.

Sarah Dessen’s many, many fans will adore her latest, a richly satisfying, enormously entertaining story that has everything—humor, romance, and an ending both happy and imperfect, just like life itself. 

It really pains me to have moderately enjoyed, but not loved, a book by Sarah Dessen. I’ve been reading her books for almost twenty years now and I think this is the first time this has happened. The biggest reason that I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I would’ve hoped is the subject matter. Apparently this is a spoiler, so I’ve hidden it below my review, but I would highly suggest reading the content warning (and my feelings on it) if you’re unsure if you want to pick this up.

I think this was the least connected I’ve ever felt to a Sarah Dessen book, and it made me very sad. It’s not a terrible book by any means — I still think it deserves three stars — but there seemed to be a lot of drama for no real reason, and there was a ton of instalove.

Content warnings for:A SCHOOL SHOOTING. This book is about a school shooting and NOWHERE does it say this. I don’t generally pick up books about school shootings and I wish I would have known this going in so that I could have avoided it. I also felt like it was thrown in kind of haphazardly since Louna says that she’s sad, but she never really acts as though she’s anything but jaded about love. With the way she acts, anything could have happened. It would have been nice to see her do something about her grief (therapy, talking to literally anyone, doing literally anything) and not just saying she was sad.

A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: February 27, 2018
Source: Borrowed

From acclaimed author Alyssa Cole comes the tale of a city Cinderella and her Prince Charming in disguise . . .

Between grad school and multiple jobs, Naledi Smith doesn’t have time for fairy tales…or patience for the constant e-mails claiming she’s betrothed to an African prince. Sure. Right. Delete! As a former foster kid, she’s learned that the only things she can depend on are herself and the scientific method, and a silly e-mail won’t convince her otherwise.

Prince Thabiso is the sole heir to the throne of Thesolo, shouldering the hopes of his parents and his people. At the top of their list? His marriage. Ever dutiful, he tracks down his missing betrothed. When Naledi mistakes the prince for a pauper, Thabiso can’t resist the chance to experience life—and love—without the burden of his crown.

The chemistry between them is instant and irresistible, and flirty friendship quickly evolves into passionate nights. But when the truth is revealed, can a princess in theory become a princess ever after?

Selected as one of the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2018! 

A Princess in Theory is one of those books that’s been on my TBR for a long time. I picked it up because it was a bonus borrow on Hoopla, and while I did like it overall, it was not what I expected. While it was well-written, there were a few things that just didn’t work for me.

  • First, I think the pacing was off, or maybe the instalove was just too strong for me. Naledi and Thabiso don’t know each other, he starts showing up everywhere, she’s super skeptical of him… and then they’re making out and hooking up. What?
  • Second, anatomically correct descriptions during sex scenes always pull me out of the book, so when Thabiso rubbed against Naledi’s areola, I was out.
  • And third, while I loved that Naledi was studying epidemiology, I didn’t really think any of it was realistic. Why would an epidemiology student be assessing patients? She’s not a physician, she studies the spread of disease.

But overall, this was a cute story. Just maybe not the story for me.


Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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