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review 2019-01-15 23:20
The Forest of Dark Delights - James Cox

Ammetto che non avrei dato un singolo euro alla storia sembrandomi in un primo momento un'idea stupida e trash, utile solamente a creare scene erotiche e situazioni ridicole e inverosimili e invece... si è rivelata una lettura molto carina e piacevole.
La storia è un continuo della famosa fiaba La bella e la Bestia ma con parecchie differenze. Il cattivone Gaston infatti non è morto, è stato salvato dal suo amico Lefou che ahimè ha perso la vita per difenderlo dai lupi. Gaston si ritrova ferito e confuso, in crisi con se stesso e pieno di sensi di colpa, senza un posto dove andare e una famiglia da cui tornare ed è proprio per questo motivo che non trovando pace decide di fare ammenda per i suoi peccati e di tentare in tutti i modi di farsi perdonare dalla Bestia e da Belle. Ritorna quindi al castello e si ritrova... una situazione molto diversa da quella che ci si sarebbe aspettati. La bestia ormai è un uomo affascinante, Adam, nonostante la maledizione sia stata spezzata l'uomo però non è felice. La sua amata Belle infatti ha gettato la maschera rivelando una natura crudele e spietata, la giovane non è innamorata del compagno ma guidata solo dalla sua ossessione per i libri che la spingono a saccheggiare il villaggio e causare dolore ovunque vada arrivando addirittura ad aggredire il dolce Chip e solo perchè quest'ultimo ha osato toccare uno dei suoi preziosi libri. Adam ha quindi mandato via i suoi amici per tenerli al sicuro e ora si ritrova da solo, in un castello ormai in decadenza, un casa fredda e vuota in cui Belle fa a malapena ritorno e quelle poche volte lo fa è semplicemente per portare qualche nuovo libro da aggiungere alla sua collezione, senza preoccuparsi neanche di avvertire il fidanzato o parlare con lui. Adam è solo e disperato e passa tutto il giorno a guardare l'amata allo specchio, maledicendosi per la sua debolezza e incolpandosi per non poterla salvare, l'incontro con Gaston quindi lo sorprende. I due non si erano lasciati nel migliore dei modi, Adam vorrebbe mandare via a calci il cacciatore ma l'ex bestia non ne ha il coraggio, non può rimanere indifferente a quell'uomo che con ostinazione non si arrende e sembra disposto quasi a congelarsi a morte, un pazzo che vuole ottenere il perdono della coppia ed è pronto a morire per ottenerlo. Ed è proprio da questo momento che inizia il nostro libro e la convivenza tra i due uomini, Gaston decide di rimanere al castello per aiutare Adam, promettendo di aiutarlo a salvare Belle. Da questa convivenza "forzata"i due uomini si avvicineranno con non poca diffidenza, iniziando a capire se stessi e i propri sentimenti. La storia è molto originale, ho apprezzato quest'idea nonostante la diffidenza iniziale, non sono rari ormai i re-telling delle fiabe famose e quella della Bella e la Bestia è una delle più quotate, soprattutto in campo erotico è però raro vedere un vero e proprio sequel della storia e soprattutto vedere l'accoppiata Bestia/Gaston, una coppia senza dubbio originale. Ho quindi apprezzato moltissimo la scelta dell'autore che riesce finalmente ad inventare qualcosa di nuovo e mai visto. Ovviamente il racconto non è molto lungo, un centinaio di pagine di conseguenza molti elementi sono lasciati al caso, non capiamo perchè Belle è impazzita, avrei voluto un capitolo di flashback in cui ci veniva spiegato almeno il perchè, l'idea che la giovane sia impazzita di colpo o che fosse già pazza... beh... non regge molto, il rapporto tra i due uomini è più fisico, sessuale e con pizzico di Bdsm vista la natura dominante di Adam e anche alla fine la confessione è affrettata, ok che i due hanno dovuto lottare insieme per salvarsi da Belle e hanno vissuto insieme per giorni e giorni condividendo pure il letto però... passare dal sesso all'amore in un secondo con un Gaston folle d'amore e da diabete, senza neanche un momento romantico o dolcetto PRIMA... meh, non ci vengono presentati i vecchi personaggi, sarebbe stato bello rincontrare almeno Lumiere o almeno un personaggio a parte, anche nuovo per dare qualcosa in più, alla fine diciamo che tutto ruota attorno a Gaston e Adam e alle loro avventure per lo più sessuali ad un certo punto del racconto con un piccolo intervento di Belle sul finale, intervento che si conclude in modo piuttosto affrettato e poco soddisfacente a mio avviso, avrei preferito un altro epilogo, magari un happy ending anche per la ragazza, scoprire che magari era impazzita per aver letto un libro maledetto, avrei voluto che grazie all'affetto di Adam e l'amicizia di Gaston fosse riuscita a salvarsi per poi mettersi da parte e permettere all'amato di essere felice con l'uomo di cui si è innamorato, magari decidendo di andarsene o perchè no, trasformare un'ala del castello in Biblioteca, lavorando insieme all'ex fidanzato e amico per spingere i bambini ad amare i libri o qualcosa del genere, magari decidere di dare un figlio alla Bestia e a Gaston, decidendo di crescere un bimbo e formare una famiglia allargata, un bel e vissero tutti felici e contenti e invece... è stato tutto fin troppo rapido e in un certo senso triste e... mi ha lasciato un po' l'amore in bocca. Rimane in ogni caso una lettura leggera e con un pizzico di erotismo che non guasta mai, se siete fan della storia originale e vi stava particolarmente sulle palle la protagonista... qui avrete una bella e sexy rivincita (muhahaha) una novella leggera, che si può fare benissimo finire in una giornata non essendo troppo complicata e piuttosto breve e perfetta per staccare la spina 

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review 2019-01-12 18:39
“Rathen” officially becomes a developed character and series
Rathen: Into Bramblewood Forest - Grant Elliot Smith,Steven H. Stohler

Rathen: Into Bramblewood Forest by Grant Elliot Smith
S.E. rating: 4 of 5 stars

With this sequel, “Rathen” officially becomes a developed character and series. Highly recommend for fantasy & RPG fans.

Grant Elliot Smith delivers another intense literary-Role Playing Game (lit-RPG) inspired adventure with Rathen: Into Bramblewood Forest; here he continues his Rathen series with co-author Steven H. Stohler. This sequel can easily be enjoyed as a standalone adventure. Whichever one you read, you’ll be excited to read the other.


My review of the predecessor, Rathen: The Legend of Ghrakus Castle holds true for this sequel; both are fun reads, having captain Rathen lead ~a dozen adventurers; as in the first book, the first 50% is the party gathering while they travel; the latter half delivering the real conflict.

Bramblewood unfolds super-fast and is surprisingly easy to read given the number of featured characters (~11 in the main party and ~4 antagonists--all of them have backstories and motivations). Presenting at a pleasant pace and delivering intense action while offering character depth is a testimony to the authors’ ability to unfurl balanced storytelling. The authors must be meticulous dungeon masters. 

Adding a Lich to the party, and ensuring he had a central role in the plot to obtain the Book of Ziz, really provided a unique take on the typical RPG party. Listen below is Rathen’s party, each member you’ll get to know and route for:

  • Rathen: middle-aged captain of the party, and his two buddies from previous adventures: Bulo (veteran gladiator) and Thack (half-orc hunter & bartender)
  • Magom (lich spellcaster)
  • Caswen (female healer,Order of Thandrall) and her guards: Marduke (male knight) & Dryn (female archer)
  • Otherworldly humanoids Rendrak, Garrick, Bandark
  • Apaca (Druid, needed to handle the trees in the titular forest)


Keeping it from a 5-star is the same melodrama that makes the tale enjoyable. There are instances of fast healing that deflate consequences of battle, but still reflect lit-RPG expectations; many subplots come across as artificial (i.e., including a few romantic relationships, and escape scenes) that develop fun tension but approach feeling forced.

Cover Art by Stawicki and Future Rathen: Longtime fantasy illustrator Michael Stawicki provided another great cover. He has illustrated many in his career for Dragon Lance, Monte Cook Games, Milton-Bradley, Hasbro, Wizards of the Coast, Vivendi Games, and others. 

I am committed to the third episode in the works, pitched as “The Battle for Korganis.” 
Combing Stawicki’s website, it is touch to overlook a stunning related work which I hope/speculate reveals the next adventure, artwork called “Rathen’s Descent.”

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review 2018-12-28 16:29
Packaged Thoughts Christmas 2018: More Books Lined Up In A Row!
Daughter of the Forest - Juliet Marillier
Scandal - Amanda Quick
Jurassic Park - Michael Crichton,Scott Brick
Not My Father's Son: A Memoir - Alan Cumming
The Light Fantastic - Terry Pratchett
Chasing Fire - Pamela Clare
How the Dukes Stole Christmas: A Holiday Romance Anthology - Sophie Jordan,Sarah MacLean,Tessa Dare,Joanna Shupe
Stephen Fry's Victorian Secrets - John Woolf,Nick Baker,Stephen Fry

It's that time of year again!  Happy Holidays to everyone!  Or rather, a belated Merry Christmas, as this review came out a few days later than I'd planned.  Of course, it also gave me a chance to include my 100th read book this year, Stephen Fry's Victorian Secrets.

This is a feature I've been hoping to keep up since 2016, with two posts a year, once at mid-year on the first day of June (my birthday!), and one at the end of the year for Christmas!  Whether you like it or not, you're getting a packaged review post!

Meanwhile, in other news, I've been out of touch online, and I hope to get back into more interaction with the holidays winding down.  I'll also have a couple more updates about how the rest of the year has gone, and how my new year will start... maybe.  I'm also needing to post an update on my progress with 24 Festive Tasks--that'll probably get posted this weekend!

 

~*~*~*~

 

 

Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters #1)
by Juliet Marillier
Rating:  3.5 Stars

The only thing I recall describing this book as, when I was talking to my BFF, was how heavy the content matter turned out.  I suppose I was more familiar with Marillier's YA books (Shadowfell, Wildwood...).  It's not that I didn't know what to expect--I'd read some telltale hints here and there about what happens in Daughter of the Forest--trigger warnings, if you will.

Those moments are fleeting, but still a bit surprising.

Anyway, overall, Daughter of the Forest was a good read, even if there were moments that I wished the story would get on with itself.  But Marillier's penchant for whimsical, magical lore and atmosphere more than makes up for those few moments of drag.

 

 

Scandal
by Amanda Quick
Rating:  2.0 Stars

Definitely not one of Amanda Quick's best books, but still had a bit of the same charm I've come to appreciate from her.  Unfortunately, the frustration I had with both of our main characters overshadowed that charm.  Emily was a walking doormat and Simon was just a typical, broody, Grade A jackass.  How this romance is even supposed to work in the long-term will definitely be a miracle.

Meanwhile, I actually found the constant references to the "exotic tastes of the East" a bit distasteful.  It reeks of misrepresentation and false ideals.  And the repetitive descriptions of the metaphysical plane or transcendental communication or some such bullshit got annoying after a while.

But this is Amanda Quick, and I love Amanda Quick.

I just didn't love this book.

 

 

Jurassic Park (Jurassic Park #1)
by Michael Crichton
audio book narrated by Scott Brick
Rating:  4.0 Stars

This book was a "reread," which quite rarely happens, because I'm always worried that reading an old favorite will come back and bite me in the butt.  Especially an old favorite from my younger, teen days.  My tastes have change a lot since then.

But as we can see, I still ended up really enjoying the heck out of myself with this extremely long audio book.  The beginning took a while to start up, but I started getting into the story once the park started getting out of control... though I'd forgotten how bloody and gory this book was.  Considering this is about dinosaurs, it's surprising that I was so startled by some of the blood and guts.

Meanwhile, obviously there were some glaring foibles about Jurassic Park that my high school self managed to overlook.  At present, I'm still going to overlook them in favor of my enjoyment of this book, but I will still acknowledge said foibles.

A wonderful narration by Scott Brick though, and makes me want to jump on into the next book, The Lost World, if he's narrating that one, too!

 

 

Not My Father's Son
written and narrated by Alan Cumming
Rating:  4.0 Stars

This was a wonderful narration and telling by Alan Cumming, detailing a terrible and dark childhood, involving his abusive father and how he has questioned his self-worth his entire life.  Aside from that, it's also a very thought-provoking story, as Alan brings a lot of modern issues to light: child abuse, women's rights, LGBTQ rights...

Alan Cumming is truly an inspirational, and wonderful man, and I'm glad he shares so much of his life with us.  I also love those little tidbits that shine through the bleakness of his telling, that show the sweetness of his love for his mother, Mary Darling, his brother, Tommy, and his husband, Grant.  He doesn't showcase a whole lot of laugh-out-loud humor, but his presentation is more of a "smile warmly to yourself" kind, and I loved it!

 

 

The Light Fantastic (Discworld #2)
by Terry Pratchett
Rating:  4.0 Stars

I'm not sure if it was simply the fact that I'm more familiar with the writing style now, or maybe the characters, but The Light Fantastic was certainly more enjoyable than The Colour of Magic had been.  While there were still some instances where I found the humor a little odd, there were many points in the book I highlighted because I thought it either chuckle-worthy, or simply a ingeniously inserted one-liner.

Pratchett proves that he can easily reel you into the world of Discworld, and I'm definitely looking forward to the rest of the series now.

In fact, the ending of this book kind of gave me a little pang of sadness, in a weird way.  I'm going to miss some of these characters... sort of.

 

 

Chasing Fire (Colorado High Country #7 / I-Team crossover)
by Pamela Clare
Rating:  4.5 Stars

Pamela Clare never fails to bring out the heart in all of her books.  As schmaltzy as some of her dialogue sometimes comes out, she's as equally meticulous about detail and good characterization.  One cannot help but to fall in love with the world she's created, surrounding the beautiful characters from both the I-Team world and the Colorado High Country series.

This is a crossover (not the first) between her Romantic Suspense and Contemporary Romance series, but this time she utilizes more characters from both than simply a guest appearance.  From a story plot standpoint, however, this was more a Colorado High Country book than I-Team, as Erik Hawke, chief of the small Scarlet Springs fire department, pretty much takes center stage in fighting for his life as well as the lives of his townspeople to battle a raging forest fire before it burns down his town.

I've always loved the attention to detail that Pamela puts into the goings-on of the Scarlet Springs Search and Rescue team's every tone out.  And I am especially appreciative of how well she outlines the way in which the fire fighting team battles the forest fire.

This book is less about character development, but more a story being told of how a community bands together to help each other when something this disastrous unfolds.  Man versus nature is a hard battle to fight, really, and I love how she handled this issue.

The truth is, I loved this book enough to give it a full out five star rating.  Of course, her tendency towards schmaltz, and her habit of making all of her characters an exposition fairy every couple chapters can really take away from the telling of the story sometimes.

 

 

How the Dukes Stole Christmas (anthology)
authors include: Tessa Dare, Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan, Joanna Shupe
Rating: 3.8 Stars

I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I had a bias going into this book.  I love Tessa Dare, no matter that her heroines are typically not historically accurate in terms of mannerisms and roles.  But that's what's delightful about them.  And the fact that this is a holiday book helps as well.

The truth is, though, aside from the magical shortbread cookies and the typical Happily Ever After, I don't really have much to say about this book.  I enjoyed each story, and that seems to be about it.

Sarah MacLean's The Duke of Christmas Present was probably the most thought-provoking, in-depth romance, but a bit too angst-ridden for my liking.  I don't remember much about Dare's Meet Me in Mayfair, sadly, considering it was her name that drew me to this anthology in the first place.  I couldn't quite get into Heiress Alone by Sophie Jordan, and thought it was a little hard(er) to suspend disbelief for--as well as having a pretty loosely wrapped up ending.  Christmas in Central Park was by far my favorite, if only because of how fiery the heroine was and how lovely her friendships are presented.

There's also a nod to making of shortbread cookies, which my mother and I discovered first-hand this year what "cream the butter and sugar together" actually meant.  It was the first time we'd ever made cookies, period.  We succeeded after the second batch, and lovely chocolate shortbread cookies were borne!

 

 

Stephen Fry's Victorian Secrets
an Audible Studios Original
written by John Woolf & Nick Baker
narrated by Stephen Fry
Rating:  3.5 Stars

I'm not sure I know how I felt about this one.  It felt like a strange documentary you'd expect to see (or hear) at a theme park, or a random television presentation.  It was entertaining, but I don't know if I'd call it enjoyable since I DID somehow zone out several times.

The book itself was outlined in a rather scattered way, and I found myself realizing that we were talking about a new, different historical instance than what was being narrated five minutes ago, without a very clear transition.

Still, I think I'd give 3 Stars just for Stephen Fry's presentation alone.  Another 0.5 Stars is for the actual book itself because it was entertaining, and also I might have learned a few new things about Victorians, even if the rest were more open secrets than actual secrets.

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2018/12/packaged-thoughts-christmas-2018-more.html
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text 2018-12-22 13:45
EXIT - book release

Remembering to forget
is harder than it sounds...

 

I have a new book. It's called Exit. It's out now. Please buy it...

 

That's what I want to say. The story disapproves of my directness. It wants me to delete the above sentence. I don't. I won't.

 

Many authors will tell you that writing is not easy. I'll happily tell you the same. Once I finish writing, editing, writing some more, deleting, and finally, reading the story, I don't want to look at it anymore. The story feels the same. We glance at each other across the room in an uncomfortable silence. We know too much... of each other and ourselves.

 

It doesn't get any easier.

 

In all honesty, I find writing blog pieces and introductions, like this, the hardest part. I think it's because it comes at the end. By now, my story and I just want to go our separate ways. However, we have to do this. Since I have the fingers, it's my job to do it. The story just peeks over my shoulder every now and then in order correct me or point out a spelling mistake. If ever stories gained fingers... I shudder to think.

 

So, I want you to give a good home to a story. It's well-trained in as much as it can be, however, it probably won't love you. You will probably catch it staring at you from time to time. Those moments when you're alone in the house or flat and you hear a noise... yep, that will probably be the story.

 

So... interested?

 

I don't think I'm alone when I say it would be nice to forget 2018. I shall not mourn its passing in a few weeks.

 

Forgetting the bad years isn't as easy as turning the page on a calendar. The effects and consequences linger on in your life. In some cases, that may be forever. Does it extend beyond forever? We don't know. Perhaps we do it all over again, only forgetting everything in the process. Perhaps it never really gets any better.

 

Can we change ourselves? Our lives? Our past? Can we forge a different outcome?

 

Tommy and Mary would like to think so...

 

What if the soundtrack to your life was forever stuck, unchanging, on repeat.
How far would you go to change the person you are?

 

Tommy and Mary wanted to get out of the city and away from the loop that their life had become. Where better than the backwoods to really forget about everything and find yourself?

 

It is often the quietest places that are the loudest. Silence rings with the echoes of the past bringing with it unwanted memories. Finding himself may prove to be the last thing Tommy wants to do.

 

Remembering to forget is harder than it sounds.

If you haven't guessed it already, the story... Exit... is a little... weird.

 

I started writing the story back in the autumn of 2017. At the time, I was based in Osaka, Japan, and had recently finished writing 01134 and Wednesday Girl.

 

I had initially decided to write a brief flash fiction about a relatively nice American couple that pay a visit to the backwoods and end up being cooked for breakfast. This is not that story.

 

Exit will not appeal to everyone. It is isn't scary. It's not warm and fuzzy. It might be unsettling, but probably not. It is just... weird.

 

As author CW Hawes described it after having the manuscript thrust before him to read: "It's... dreampunk."

 

I think that sums Exit up quite nicely. If you have never heard of dreampunk before, think of Lewis Carroll's Alice in the excellent Through the Looking-Glass or Neil Gaiman's brilliant Sandman (amongst several of his other stories). In both examples, there is something... unsettling... behind the author's words, daring you to look beyond. To perhaps take a second glance at the world you think you know and your place within it. I'm certainly not saying Exit will do that for you (or that it is on par with either work of those great aforementioned writers), but stranger things have happened.

 

True enough, the original idea started out as a simple horror flash fiction. The underlying idea for Exit, however, came to me as a passenger in a car back in 1995. It was just me and a friend. We were driving back from a spur of the moment jaunt to the New Forest in Hampshire, England. I was supposed to be writing an essay for university but decided to procrastinate for as long as possible. When I got a call asking if I was busy, well...

 

Anyway, we were driving back in her banged-up Mini Cooper when I popped a cassette into the tape deck. It was a second-hand deck, nothing special. I think there may have been a CD as well, but the details of the memory are a little vague now. It was the cassette that we were listening to anyway.

 

It was autumn. I remember the sun slowly sinking as we drove, casting a golden glow over the fields and trees. It was one of those occasions where you could just drive forever, stuck in that moment.

 

I was tree jumping in my mind. You know, when you imagine yourself running alongside the car leaping over obstacles along the way We were on the outskirts of Winchester when it all went wrong.

 

We got stuck in traffic on the outskirts near the industrial park. I've no idea why, but I remember it being busy. That was when the tape we were listening to started to warble. We tried to rescue it, but as the deck regurgitated the cassette, it continued chewing on its entrails, leaving great loops of tape stuck inside. I think we may have used a pencil to patch it up, but it was in pretty bad shape and seemed reluctant to be played again after its near-death experience.

 

It was when I would get home that evening that, instead of getting on with writing my essay, I would sit and muse and write. The fragment which stuck in my mind was about that drive back and the unfortunate cassette.

 

You see, perhaps life is that cassette you used to listen to in the car. You have that favourite track, some others that are pretty good, and a few that you could care less about. We glance out the window and see the world passing by. Sometimes we stop. Sometimes we never get going. Other times, we just keep driving, desperate to reach that final destination...

 

Exit is set in America although it isn't really defined as to where exactly. The same is true of the year - it could be now or it could be ten or twenty years ago. Of those I asked, it seemed the answer varied. I like that.

 

In addition, I worked a couple of Easter eggs into the story. They could be rather obscure, but those keen of eye that share something of the same taste will undoubtedly uncover them. Have at it!

 

As with 01134, there will be no separate cover reveal. You can find it at the end of this post. It's a plain and simple one. The image is just stock that I retouched. Yet it conveys everything that I wanted in a cover. The print edition will, of course, have a back cover. Perhaps I'll do a reveal for that. It's sort of fitting, in some ways. Back cover... Exit... you get the picture.

 

I'll post a book trailer and the usual playlist of tracks I listened to whilst writing along with some visual pins at a later date.

 

Exit is available in digital format from yesterday and can be found at all major online stores. The print edition will likely not be available until a few weeks into the new year.

 

Anyway, for those of you sitting on the fence, a sample of Chapter 1... in which Tommy and Mary are definitely not eaten for breakfast... can be read over at the website

 

"LEAVES FROM THE WYLDWOOD"

 

 

----------------------

 

AVAILABLE NOW AT ALL MAJOR ONLINE STORES

 

APPLE   KOBO   BARNES & NOBLE

GOOGLE    AMAZON

 

----------------------

 

 

 

Source: wp.me/s9wl3H-exit
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review 2018-12-13 07:10
The Word for World is Forest
The Word for World is Forest - Ursula K. Le Guin

Has anyone of you watched the movie Avatar and thought the same thing as I did: “It´s worth watching the movie because of its visual style but the story is one of the lamest I ever had to sit through in a cinema.” Leave it to Ursula K. Le Guin to write almost the same story and make it an interesting one out of it. I guess she could write an essay about the telephone book and I would be enthralled by it.

 

What I realized about Le Guin´s writing is:

  • she does an incredibly job in creating the world in which her story is set in.
  • she has the most wonderful way of writing about interspecies friendships. In both “The Left Hand of Darkness” and “The Word for World is Forest” there is a pair of human and alien, who are forming a friendship despite their differences and I feel like the pages are radiating a warmth whenever I´m reading about these friendships.
  • I love how subtle her commentaries on social issues come across in her books. Whether it being the criticism of the Vietnam War (which Mike Finn – Audiobook Addict kindly told me this book is) or gender issues in “The Left Hand of Darkness”, as a reader I never feel whacked over the head by Le Guin´s views.  

 

As you might tell, I loved this book. It´s 128 pages of a highly immersive and spellbinding story and I loved how the ending packed such a punch. Highly recommended.

 

I´ve read this book for the 24 tasks as a book, that has green on the cover

 

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