January 31, 2013

I'm Guest Posting Today...

...over at Bonnie's blog, A Backwards Story, for her blog event A Week of Little Red! This blog event is celebrating the release of Scarlet by Marissa Meyer with a week of posts devoted to the tale of Little Red Riding Hood.

You'll have to read it to find out what my guest post is about, but I will say that I managed to work in my love of psychology somehow... ;)


January 29, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Frustrating Characters Ever

The Top Ten Tuesday meme is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, and as soon as I saw this week's topic I knew I had to join in! I'm sure I've forgotten some very frustrating characters, so these probably aren't really my top picks *ever*, but they're all quite frustrating anyway.

So, in no particular order:

1.) Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment — seriously, dude, just get over yourself already and admit to the police that you're guilty of murder. Enough with the wishy-washy pondering.

2.) Lena from Beautiful Creatures — stop with the melodramatic whining. Please.

3.) Seth from A Witch in Winter — you need to grow a spine. And also possibly a prefrontal cortex.

4.) Jacinda from Firelight — pick something and stick with it. No more of this ridiculous flip-flopping you seem so fond of.

5.) Sunshine from Sunshine — you know, you could try a little harder to live up to your name and not be so jaded and sarcastic all the time.

6.) Lori from Tenderness — you have zero street smarts. In fact, you might even be in the negative.

7.) Marianne from Sense and Sensibility — the world does not revolve around you, Marianne.

8.) Practically every single character in the Luxe series — ENOUGH with the backstabbing.

9.) Practically every single character in Wuthering Heights — grow up and think of someone other than yourself for a change.

10.) London from Forgotten – I know it's not your fault, London, but the whole can't-remember-the-past-but-can-"remember"-the-future thing does get tiresome after a while.

Who's on your "most frustrating characters" list?

January 24, 2013

Bookshelf Scavenger Hunt Tag!

I came across this bookish tag (created by TheLibraryOfSarah) on YouTube and it sounded like too much fun to pass up! Basically, it's a scavenger hunt of your bookshelves where you try to find a book to match each item on the list. You can watch TheLibraryOfSarah's original video here, and then if you do your own let me know because I'd love to see what books everyone comes up with!

The list is:

 • Find an author's name or title with the letter Z in it
 • Find a classic
 • Find a book with a key on it
 • Find something on your bookshelf that's not a book
 • Find the oldest book on your shelf
 • Find a book with a girl on the cover
 • Find a book that has an animal in it
 • Find a book with a male protagonist
 • Find a book with only words on it
 • Find a book with illustrations in it
 • Find a book with gold lettering
 • Find a diary (true or fictional)
 • Find a book written by someone with a common name (like Smith)
 • Find a book that has a closeup of something on it
 • Find a book on your shelf that takes place in the earliest time period
 • Find a hardcover book without a jacket
 • Find a teal/turquoise colored book
 • Find a book with stars on it
 • Find a non-YA book

January 23, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Truly, Madly, Deadly and A Corner of White

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and features books that we just can't wait to get our hands on!

My WoW picks this week are:

Truly, Madly, Deadly by Hannah Jayne

Goodreads' description:

"Sawyer Dodd has it all. She's a star track athlete, choir soloist, and A-student. And her boyfriend is the handsome all-star Kevin Anderson. But behind the medals, prom pictures, and perfect smiles, Sawyer finds herself trapped in a controlling, abusive relationship with Kevin. When he dies in a drunk-driving accident, Sawyer is secretly relieved. She's free. Until she opens her locker and finds a mysterious letter signed by "an admirer" and printed with two simple words: "You're welcome.""

...does that not sound creepy and disturbing or what?! Between the psychology involved in an abusive relationship and the mystery aspect, it looks like it could be quite a gripping read.

A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

Goodreads' description:

"The first in a rousing, funny, genre-busting trilogy from bestseller Jaclyn Moriarty!

This is a tale of missing persons. Madeleine and her mother have run away from their former life, under mysterious circumstances, and settled in a rainy corner of Cambridge (in our world).

Elliot, on the other hand, is in search of his father, who disappeared on the night his uncle was found dead. The talk in the town of Bonfire (in the Kingdom of Cello) is that Elliot's dad may have killed his brother and run away with the Physics teacher. But Elliot refuses to believe it. And he is determined to find both his dad and the truth.

As Madeleine and Elliot move closer to unraveling their mysteries, they begin to exchange messages across worlds -- through an accidental gap that hasn't appeared in centuries. But even greater mysteries are unfolding on both sides of the gap: dangerous weather phenomena called "color storms;" a strange fascination with Isaac Newton; the myth of the "Butterfly Child," whose appearance could end the droughts of Cello; and some unexpected kisses..."

I am a big fan of Jaclyn Moriarty — her books Feeling Sorry for Celia and The Year of Secret Assignments are some of my favourite contemporary YA. And although I haven't been reading many reviews of this one as I don't want to get spoiled, generally everything I've been seeing has been really positive! This book's already out in Australia and I'm so looking forward to when it's published in April in North America.

What books are you waiting for?

January 19, 2013

The Book Lode (11)


There are quite a few memes to choose from now for showing the books we've gotten recently, so I thought to be fair I'd link my posts up to a different meme each month. I'm grouping the posts under the name "The Book Lode," and this month I'm linking up to Stacking the Shelves, hosted by Tynga's Reviews.


The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna
Signed Being Friends with Boys bookmark — thanks to Heidi at Bunbury in the Stacks and the author Terra Elan McVoy!

For review:

Scent of Darkness by Margot Berwin (adult/new adult)
Chanel Bonfire by Wendy Lawless (adult memoir)
The Crossing by Mandy Hager
The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult (adult)

Thanks very much to Random House (Pantheon Books), Simon & Schuster Canada, and Pyr Books!

January 17, 2013

The Unquiet: A Close-Up Review

"Sixteen-year-old Rinn Jacobs has secrets: One, she’s bipolar. Two, she killed her grandmother.

After a suicide attempt, and now her parents' separation, Rinn and her mom move from California to the rural Ohio town where her mother grew up. Back on her medications and hoping to stay well, Rinn settles into her new home, undaunted by the fact that the previous owner hanged herself in Rinn's bedroom. At school, her classmates believe the school pool is haunted by Annaliese, a girl who drowned there. But when a reckless séance goes awry, and terrible things start happening to her new friends—yet not to her—Rinn is determined to find out why she can’t be "touched" by Annaliese...or if Annaliese even exists.

With the help of Nate Brenner, the hunky “farmer boy” she’s rapidly falling for, Rinn devises a dangerous plan to uncover the truth. Soon reality and fantasy meld into one, till Rinn finds it nearly impossible to tell the difference. When a malevolent force threatens the lives of everyone she cares about--not to mention her own--she can't help wondering: who should she really be afraid of?

Annaliese? Or herself?
" (from Goodreads) 

The Unquiet by Jeannine Garsee


For the most part I really liked Rinn. She's a complex character with deep-seated guilt pushed down inside her (some of which she's aware of, like feeling guilty about her grandmother's death). It seems to have come to the point where she doesn't trust herself, and yet she lashes out at other people for not trusting her. She's also got a snarky attitude and a bit of a chip on her shoulder, but she's quite frank and open about who she is.

Nate: Nate's a considerate, good-natured, easygoing, "average" kind of guy. He doesn't have much of a temper and not much fazes him. I thought he was really good for Rinn because she's a little impulsive and unstable at times (especially when she's not on her meds) and she needs someone in her life who's really steady and provides a calming presence. They bicker sometimes, but their romance was cute and I actually could have used a bit more of it — the mystery and ghostly incidents definitely take precedence here. I wish we had more cute scenes with them enjoying themselves, but there are always bad things happening so we don't see a lot of that. Often one or both of them is cranky!

Annaliese: I feel like we could have been given stronger motivations for Annaliese. Spoilers: it seemed a bit farfetched that everything she did was all part of a revenge scheme over this grudge that she had, dating back to her high school days. I suspected there might be some kind of connection there with the parents, though, so I appreciated that the author tried to tie that in, and that there was at least some explanation given.
The adults:

In many YA books the adults are just thrust to the side as the storyline centers on the teens, but in The Unquiet the adults end up playing a fairly significant role, especially in the second half. Although some of the parents in here don't seem to notice what's going on with their kids — Meg's tinnitus and Lacy's headaches are prime examples — and wait way too long to take them into the doctor! (Not that it would actually help, but still.)

Frank: we don't get to see much of him, but it's obvious that Rinn genuinely likes and cares about her stepfather, and she's upset that he seems mad at her and apparently can't stand to be in the same house as her (because he blames her for his mom's death, or at least that's what Rinn believes). I like that even though he's no blood relation to her, she cares so much about her stepdad's opinion of her. Usually in step-parent–child relationships we're shown a lot of antagonism from the child toward the step-parent (they resent them for trying to take over the role of mom/dad in their life) but I'm not sure if Frank and Rinn ever had that source of tension in their relationship. Rather, she feels remorseful, as she at least partially blames herself, and she thinks that he blames her as well. Frank is like a dad to her and she wants him to love and trust her again.


I very much appreciate that The Unquiet features a protagonist who's already perfectly well aware of how her bipolar disorder affects her and is on medication for it. It's not about her discovering that she has bipolar disorder and getting used to that idea and how to treat it, as is so common in YA "issue books." Instead, The Unquiet deals with someone who has had lots of bad things happen in the past because of her bipolar, and she knows how she acts when she's not on her meds. I liked seeing the insight Rinn has into her disorder.

Jeannine Garsee cleverly ties in Rinn's mental health issues with the paranormal storyline, and we get to see her both on and off her meds. She stops taking them at one point to test a theory about what's going on with the ghost, which both allows us to see how Rinn behaves when not on her meds, but at the same time furthers the paranormal plot. Spoilers: people on medication for mental health problems aren't affected by the ghost; the medications serve as a sort of barrier. This is a bit of a stretch, yes, but you have to take some things in this book with a grain of salt anyway.

I liked the way the mental health issues were tackled. The Unquiet touches upon not only bipolar disorder but also (to a much lesser degree) suicide and bullying, and it was neat to see these issues being addressed in a paranormal novel. The paranormal elements probably end up taking up more "screen time" but the author manages to provide a fairly good balance of both. Bipolar disorder is certainly a significant part of Rinn's life, and as far as I can tell the bipolar aspects are presented quite accurately. Rinn's description of how she acts when not on medication, and what we see from her when she (for a short time) stops taking her meds, is in line with the sort of "acting out" behaviours that people with bipolar may demonstrate. It is a little difficult to tell, though, what is due to Anneliese and what is the effect of Rinn's bipolar (which may be intentional).

The bullying and related high school teen behaviour is also believably portrayed. Jeannine Garsee captures well just how spiteful and cruel teens can act to each other, and how shortsighted and impulsive they can be.


It's a little confusing to follow because of the ghostly happenings, as well as that at one point Rinn stops taking her meds, which makes her less reliable as a narrator. As I read, it felt like the plot was meandering and not very coherent, because all of these seemingly unrelated incidents were occurring (that turn out to be related after all).

Compared to the well-done characterization, the paranormal plot is a weaker aspect of The Unquiet. Jeannine Garsee follows a traditional representation of ghosts, which is executed well but doesn't explore anything too different from what's been done before. We don't ever really get a full, satisfying explanation of all the mysterious events. The ghost seems to have a lot of powers without restrictions: she can move around, possess people, make them see hallucinations... and I prefer it when there are specified limits on a fantastical being's powers. Otherwise, too much power is given to the paranormal elements to just explain away all the unusual occurrences.

The climactic scene was not particularly impressive. I really dislike it when the magic that is being used to vanquish evil is vaguely described, and that was the case here. Honestly, I couldn't even tell you what happened exactly because it's so confusing. Spoilers: Rinn throws her arms around the ghost and squeezes her and they're fusing together, and then it's like the ghost devours herself?

The book ended on a perfect note, though — just creepy and unsettling enough to make you think it's not quite a happy ending.

Final verdict: 3.5 shooting stars. It's a pretty dark read, and I really liked the concept of combining a paranormal plot with a character who has mental health issues. A stronger climactic scene and better explanations would definitely have improved my rating.

Disclaimer: I received a copy for review from the author.

January 16, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Still Star-Crossed and Far Far Away

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and features books that we just can't wait to get our hands on!

The picks for my first WoW of 2013 are:

Still Star-Crossed by Melinda Taub
Goodreads' description:

"Romeo and Juliet are gone. Will love live on? Despite the glooming peace that's settled on Verona after the recent tragedy, Montagues and Capulets are brawling in the streets. Faced with more bloody battles, Prince Escalus concludes that the only way to truly marry the fortunes of these two families is to literally marry them together. Everyone is skeptical, but none more so than the pair selected, for the most eligible Montague bachelor is Benvolio, Romeo's best friend, still anguished by the loss of his companions, and the chosen Capulet maid is Juliet's older cousin Rosaline, the girl Romeo first loved and whose refusal of Romeo's affection paved the way for bloodshed. Contrary to their late cousins, there's no love lost between Benvolio and Rosaline, yet they forge a bond to end the renewed feud not only to escape their forced betrothal, but to save their lives and the city of Verona itself."
The premise of this one totally reminds me of Lisa Fiedler's book Romeo's Ex. It looks like Still Star-Crossed might have a more dramatic, less lighthearted take on the twist, though. I'm interested to see what Melinda Taub does with it!
Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

Goodreads' description:

"It says quite a lot about Jeremy Johnson Johnson that the strangest thing about him isn't even the fact his mother and father both had the same last name. Jeremy once admitted he's able to hear voices, and the townspeople of Never Better have treated him like an outsider since. After his mother left, his father became a recluse, and it's been up to Jeremy to support the family. But it hasn't been up to Jeremy alone. The truth is, Jeremy can hear voices. Or, specifically, one voice: the voice of the ghost of Jacob Grimm, one half of the infamous writing duo, The Brothers Grimm. Jacob watches over Jeremy, protecting him from an unknown dark evil whispered about in the space between this world and the next. But when the provocative local girl Ginger Boultinghouse takes an interest in Jeremy (and his unique abilities), a grim chain of events is put into motion. And as anyone familiar with the Grimm Brothers know, not all fairy tales have happy endings. . .
Young adult veteran Tom McNeal (one half of the writing duo known as Laura & Tom McNeal) has crafted a novel at once warmhearted, compulsively readable, and altogether thrilling--and McNeal fans of their tautly told stories will not be disappointed."
I'm keen to see how the fairy tale aspect is tackled here. Gotta say, the premise sounds pretty wild!

What books are you waiting for?

January 8, 2013

A Need So Beautiful: A Panoramic Review

"We all want to be remembered. Charlotte's destiny is to be Forgotten...

Charlotte’s best friend thinks Charlotte might be psychic. Her boyfriend thinks she’s cheating on him. But Charlotte knows what’s really wrong: She is one of the Forgotten, a kind of angel on earth, who feels the Need—a powerful, uncontrollable draw to help someone, usually a stranger.

But Charlotte never wanted this responsibility. What she wants is to help her best friend, whose life is spiraling out of control. She wants to lie in her boyfriend's arms forever. But as the Need grows stronger, it begins to take a dangerous toll on Charlotte. And who she was, is, and will become--her mark on this earth, her very existence--is in jeopardy of disappearing completely.

Charlotte will be forced to choose: Should she embrace her fate as a Forgotten, a fate that promises to rip her from the lives of those she loves forever? Or is she willing to fight against her destiny--no matter how dark the consequences.
" (from Goodreads)

A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young

My reaction: 

A Need So Beautiful was shorter than I expected, and frankly, not that much actually happens in it. Charlotte is part of this epic battle between good and evil, but this first book is just her story of discovering what she is (one of the Forgotten) and then making a critical decision about her future. There are these Needs that she gets, which come more frequently as the book goes on, which unfortunately I didn't find that interesting. I liked that the Needs showcased different types of problems, but we don't get to know personally any of the characters she helps, so they felt somewhat generic.

I enjoyed reading about Charlotte's struggle to make her ultimate decision, as she has to choose between two unenviable options (spoilers, highlight to read: go into the light, burst, and have everyone forget her, or give into the darkness and become an evil Shadow), but after a while her deliberation got tiresome. In other words, Angst Alert!

Harlin was a nice combination of sexy and sweet at the same time, and I liked that his relationship with Charlotte was already established when the book began. All things considered, it doesn't undergo that much drama, despite the fact that she lies to him for almost the whole book. Which bugged me, by the way — I mean, I get that she'd sound kind of crazy discussing her mystical nature, but all her lying just became repetitive.

I also thought Charlotte's friend Sarah was pretty awesome, providing an upbeat personality and attitude that would probably get annoying in a protagonist but was refreshing in a side character.

Best aspect: I can't really talk about this without spoiling things. For me, the best aspect was what I found to be the saddest part of the book. Spoilers commence: the part where people started to forget Charlotte. The torture of having people forget you was very well-conveyed; at first it's just little things, and then it got more and more serious as her friends began to not know who she was. 
I also really appreciated that some "issues" were included but not made a big deal of. Charlotte has an adoptive family, but it's not the focal point of the story; her adoptive brother is gay, but it's just mentioned in passing a few times that he has a boyfriend.
If I could change something... I'd give the story more plot points (besides just the Needs) so the reader can focus on something other than Charlotte's Big Decision. The plot ends up feeling too simplistic, padded out with Charlotte's worries and dilemma-izing instead of actual events.

I'd also explain the magical side of things better. The mythology surrounding the Light and the Shadows was all quite vague — we don't really know anything about how the Light works, who's in charge here, etc. — and yet it's used to conveniently explain away things, which I found kind of annoying. And then there's Charlotte's power, which gives rise to questions like: how does she convince people so quickly? Why do they bother to listen to her?

And I found the climactic scene a little unbelievable. Spoilers: Harlin accepts that Charlotte is an angel way too easily, and the fact that he turns out to be a Seer is rather convenient (and could have been hinted at a little more, since it basically comes out of nowhere...)

If you haven't read it: and you like angst and angels, and you don't ask too many questions when you read a book, then this might be a winner for you. Otherwise, there's probably something better you could be reading.

If you have read it: how did you feel about the plot (or lack thereof)?
Just one more thing I want to mention:
I thought the very end (spoiler: where she wakes up and doesn't know who she is) was a neat jumping-off point for the second book. 

Final verdict: 3 shooting stars. I liked the concept, but I feel like there could have been more done with it. I found myself feeling kind of melancholic afterwards, though, so I guess on some level it affected me. 

January 4, 2013

A Monster Calls: A Snapshot

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

"The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming...

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.
" (from Goodreads)
The subject:
the struggles of a boy whose mother has cancer. Don't kid yourself — while there's a magical realism element at play here, like any terminal illness story it's a tough, depressing read. I found this book emotionally draining, so be prepared for that. (And yes, it even made me cry a little — which is saying something, because I don't cry very often at books.)

I liked that Connor wasn't ashamed of loving his mom and being close to her. He was willing to put her needs above some of his own (like his need for friendship and social interaction). It was really sweet to see their connection and the kind of pure parent-child love that exists.
The setting:
I think it's kept purposely vague, to make the story more generalizable...but I'd say it's somewhere in England where they have yew trees.

Shutter speed:
fairly slow, but evenly paced. There isn't much exciting plot going on here, and the content is inarguably weighty, but the simple writing style helps keep the reader from getting bogged down.

What's in the background?
Amazing illustrations that really made this book special. I wasn't so enthralled with the story at certain points, but I would always be looking forward to the illustrations, because they're just fantastic. Grayscale and done in an impressionistic sort of style, they manage to be very atmospheric, striking and textured.

Zoom in on: the sub-plot about bullying. Frankly, I really didn't "get" the character of Harry and his mindset, but I thought the discussion surrounding Conor's desire to be punished and fear of being alone and invisible was very interesting. Also, I appreciated the acknowledgment of Conor's guilt over the warring desires within him; I thought this was insightful and true, and something many people experience.

An interesting sidenote: there's a fair bit of psychology in here, and something resembling cognitive retraining at the end. The monster distinguishes between the unimportance of thoughts and the importance of actions, and the idea of conflicting thoughts (which might be seen as cognitive dissonance) is also broached.

Anything out of focus? Not really. A Monster Calls accomplishes what it seems to set out to do: tell the story of a parent with cancer in a fresh way.
We never find out how the magic works, but that's not really the point; the magic is more of a vehicle for Connor's psychological and emotional development. The writing style is simple, yes, but very effective and powerful. I think Patrick Ness chooses his words quite carefully, and a simple writing style really suits the subject matter.

Ready? Say...

5 shooting stars. A Monster Calls is one of those books that has a "timeless classic" sort of feel to it. I can imagine this might be a book a teacher could read to their class, or a parent and child could read together. However, even though it's illustrated, it deals with some deep, heavy themes and concepts in a serious tone — giving them the respect and space they deserve — so younger kids might not fully understand or appreciate it

January 3, 2013

2013 Debut Author Challenge

I'm joining the Debut Author Challenge once again! This year it's being hosted by Tara at Hobbitsies, and you can find all the details and sign up over at her blog. The goal is to read at least 12 YA or MG books that are 2013 debuts. The challenge runs from January 1, 2013 to January 31, 2014.

Some of the books I've got in mind include:

- Pivot Point by Kasie West
- City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster
- Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson
- If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch
- Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan
- Parallel by Lauren Miller
- Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross
- Ink by Amanda Sun
- Starglass by Phoebe North
- The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
- Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke
- The Symptoms of My Insanity by Mindy Raf

Which 2013 debuts are you looking forward to?

January 1, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'm Hoping to Read in 2013

It has been far too long since I last participated in Top Ten Tuesday! But it's the start of a new year, so what better time to get back into the swing of things? This meme is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, and this week's topic is "Books I Resolve to Read in 2013", although in my case this is just a list of the books I'm hoping to get to (I never make any official New Year's resolutions, since I am pretty much bound not to keep them!).

Some of these are books that have been sitting on my shelf for a while now, some are for review, and others are books that are due to be released this year.

1.) Bloodlines by Richelle Mead – I got a few chapters into this one, then took a break and haven't gotten back to it. I need to pick it up again! It seemed to be moving rather slowly at the beginning, but hopefully the pace gets a little more lively once things get going?

2.) Legend by Marie Lu – I know a bunch of bloggers really enjoyed this one, and I got it for Christmas back in 2011...so it needs to get read, pronto!

3.) Reached by Ally Condie – I had some issues with Crossed, but I'm still looking forward to seeing how this one wraps the series up.

4.) Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers – Grave Mercy was a gripping read. Fingers crossed that Dark Triumph is as well!

5.) The as-yet-unnamed final book in the Divergent series by Veronica Roth – I'm sure this one is on a lot of other bloggers' lists, and I expect it'll be as heart-pounding and action-packed as the previous two!

6.) The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton – because the intricacy of the storytelling in The Forgotten Garden was quite impressive, and I'm interested to see what her latest book's like. 

7.) Enshadowed by Kelly Creagh – I enjoyed Nevermore, and need to get to this one soon! Should probably re-read Nevermore first though, because it's been a while...

8.) Parallel by Lauren Miller – the premise of this one sounds very cool (it fits into one of my gaps) and plus, it's New Adult!

9.) The Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse – I think this one's gotten some mixed reviews, but from the description it sounds like a good read for when I'm in a Hunger Games-esque kind of reading mood.

10.) Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John – because I needed at least one straight-up contemporary on this list, right? And this one has garnered a lot of positive reviews and is sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read. 

There are many more, of course, but this blog post would be massive if I listed them all!

What books are you resolved, or at least hoping, to read this year? You can link up your posts on The Broke and The Bookish blog here!

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