Format: Paperback

Jazz & Friendship: Wonderful Feels Like This by Sara Lovestam

Posted May 15, 2017 by Hannah in Reviews, Young Adult / 0 Comments

Jazz & Friendship: Wonderful Feels Like This by Sara LovestamWonderful Feels Like This by Sara Lovestam
Published by Allen & Unwin on 29th March 2017
Pages: 318
Format: Paperback, Finished Review Copy
Source: Publisher
BoffinsDymocksBooktopiaPublisher
Goodreads

A celebration of being a little bit odd, finding your people and the power of music to connect us.

For Steffi, going to school everyday is an exercise in survival. She's never fit in with any of the groups at school, and she's viciously teased by the other girls in her class. The only way she escapes is through her music--especially jazz music.

When Steffi hears her favourite jazz song playing through an open window of a retirement home on her walk home from school, she decides to go in and introduce herself. The old man playing her favorite song is Alvar. When Alvar was a teenager in World War II Sweden, he dreamed of being in a real jazz band. Then and now, Alvar's escape is music--especially jazz music.

Through their unconventional friendship, Steffi comes to realise that she won't always feel alone. She can go to music school in Stockholm. She can be a real musician. She can be a jitterbug, just like Alvar.

But how can Steffi convince her parents to let her go to Stockholm to audition? And how is it that Steffi's school, the retirement home, the music and even Steffi's worst bully are somehow all connected to Alvar? Can it be that the people least like us are the ones we need to help us tell our own stories?

Wonderful Feels Like This was a beautiful coming of age story, and something completely different from what I’ve been reading recently, and turned out to be a refreshing contemporary about an unlikely friendship between retiree Alvar and schoolgirl Steffi after they discover their mutual love for all things jazz.

Steffi Herrera is a fifteen year old who loves jazz – especially Pavel Romel and wants to be a great musician one day too. Her quiet demeanour doesn’t fit in with the other kids at school, who torment her relentlessly with name calling, slut shaming and more. It’s in her music that she finds solace, and the power of words and lyrics that gives her strength day in and day out. On the way home from school one day, she hears her favourite piece of jazz, and meets Alvar, a resident in a retirement home in her small town of Bjorke. The pair quickly bond over their shared love for Pavel Romel, and Alvar delights Steffi with tales of his adventures growing up in neutral Sweden during World War Two.

The dual narration in this story was one of my favourite parts. Learning about a country I know little about – both historically and in general, was completely refreshing in a spate of generic reads over the past couple of weeks. It was interesting to see and recognise the parallels between both Steffi’s and Alvar’s life growing up – albeit at two very different periods of time. Alvar’s story of a young, nervous country boy moving to the big city of Stockholm at the age of seventeen at the height of World War Two was adorable and heartwarming all the way through, and really touching.  From Alvar’s stories, we get to see Steffi shine as she comes into herself. His stories give her the hope she needs to continue with her music, and to stand up against her bullies. Despite the doubts that every teenager gets, Steffi was able to persevere, knowing that there was something more for her than small town life and that knowledge she carried with her throughout the whole novel.

A surprising (but completely commendable and lovely aspect) was the understated message of diversity throughout the novel. I love reading about different cultures, and don’t do it nearly enough. Steffi might be a Swede, but her father – or Pappita – is Spanish, and it was interesting to see his cultural influence on his family and in Steffi’s life, especially from a non-English speaking perspective. I need to read more novels like this!! Another theme of the novel was identity. Steffi’s bullies often used lesbian as a slur, and this was something Steffi struggled with throughout the book. Because she didn’t find any of her classmates attractive, does this make her a lesbian? And what’s so wrong about that? The way Steffi draws her own conclusions was empowering to say the least.

As much as enjoyed this novel, I found aspects of it lacking at times. I felt like was on the outside looking in – never really connecting with the story. I wish there’d been a bit more depth and exploration between the characters – most of it seemed surface level, never really getting any deeper. I just liked it – I didn’t love it. I wanted so much more – more from the relationship between Alvar and Steffi. I felt that the ending was a little bit too quick, and then it was over. But in saying that, Wonderful Feels Like This was a heartwarming story that all ages will be able to enjoy.

Wonderful Like This by Sara Lovestam is published by Allen & Unwin and is now available from all good bookstores (support your local!) for RRP$29.99

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Life, Amongst Other Things: Girl in Between by Anna Daniels

Posted May 13, 2017 by Hannah in Adult, Reviews / 2 Comments

Life, Amongst Other Things: Girl in Between by Anna DanielsGirl in Between by Anna Daniels
Published by Allen & Unwin on 1st May 2017
Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher, Finished Review Copy
DymocksBooktopiaiBooksPublisher
Goodreads

Lucy Crighton has just moved in with some gregarious housemates called Brian and Denise . . . who are her parents. She's also the proud mother of Glenda, her beloved 10-year-old . . . kelpie. And she has absolutely no interest in the dashing son of her parents' new next-door neighbour . . . well, maybe just a little.

When you're the girl in between relationships, careers and cities, you sometimes have to face some uncomfortable truths . . . like your Mum's obsession with Cher, your father's unsolicited advice, and the fact there's probably more cash on the floor of your parents' car than in your own bank account.

Thank goodness Lucy's crazy but wonderful best friend, Rosie, is around to cushion reality, with wild nights at the local Whipcrack hotel, escapades in Japanese mud baths, and double dating under the Christmas lights in London.

But will Lucy work out what she really wants to do in life and who she wants to share it with?

Girl in Between is a warm, upbeat and often hilarious story about life at the crossroads. Featuring an endearing and irrepressible cast of characters, it will have you chuckling from start to finish.

There’s something wonderful about connecting with a character and her story, and for me, that’s what Girl in Between was –  a novel of my own heart.

Lucy has just moved back home to her parent’s house in Rockhampton, one failed relationship and a career in journalism behind her. She’s at a crossroads in her life, and figuring out the next step is proving a lot harder than it looks. Throw in romance, friendships and family, Lucy is caught, almost quite literally, as new chapters of her life begin and end – she is the ‘girl in between.’

The Girl in Between was filled with great Aussie humour and witty charm. Lucy’s a country girl at heart, though having spent years in the big city developing her career in TV journalism. A failed attempted at following her ex boyfriend back to Queensland lands her at home with her Mum & Dad, two hilarious characters in their own right. Lucy’s unsure about her next move, or where her path is leading – something that resonates with any twenty or thirty something yet to find their place in the world. With that uncertainty brings a lot of different choices and highlight’s Lucy’s indecisive nature, as well as that worry about whether or not she’s choosing the right path. connected really well with Lucy; she’s the type of person I’d be friends with in real life. We also share the same fears and worries and a lot of her story resonated with me on a personal level.

The supporting cast as well are fantastic – as mentioned, Lucy’s parents are a barrel of laughs as they navigate retirement. I love how supportive of Lucy they are as well, but still encouraging her to find her feet. Lucy’s best friend, Rosie, was a character and bounded off Lucy beautifully. Then there’s the romance – it wasn’t over done, but rather subtle, and I loved that it didn’t eclipse Lucy’s self discovery. Oscar of course, was a dish, and I also enjoyed that the romance wasn’t straight forward, but they were still able to find their way back to each other.

From country Queensland to the bustle of London, Girl in Between was a charmingly funny novel about finding your place in the world – no matter how long it takes you to get there.

Girl in Between is published by Allen & Unwin and is now available from all good bookstores (support your local!) for RRP$29.99

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Five Films to Watch After Reading Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Posted April 2, 2017 by Hannah in Reviews, Young Adult / 1 Comment

Five Films to Watch After Reading Alex, Approximately by Jenn BennettAlex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett
Published by Simon & Schuster Australia on 1st April 2017
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
BoffinsDymocksBooktopiaPublisher
Goodreads

Bailey “Mink” Rydell has met the boy of her dreams. They share a love of films and talk all day – Alex is perfect. Well, apart from the fact that they’ve never actually met . . . and neither of them knows the other’s real name.

When Bailey moves to sunny California to live with her dad, who happens to live in the same town as Alex, she decides to track him down. But finding someone based on online conversations alone proves harder than Bailey thought, and with her irritating but charismatic (and potentially attractive?) colleague Porter Roth distracting her at every turn, will she ever get to meet the mysterious Alex?

From the author of Night Owls comes a story of summer, first love and hidden identities . . .

If you haven’t added the adorableness that is Alex, Approximately to your immediate TBR list, I say: WHAT ARE YOU DOING???? ADD IT NOW!

Alex, Approximately is, in my book, the perfect type of contemporary, one that blends humour, romance and real life issues seamlessly together that will have you laughing, crying and smiling the entire way through. And if you don’t, then I think you’re a monster and will force you to re-read it until you do.

Bailey “Mink” Rydell (I totally see what you did there, Ms. Bennett!) is our heroine, one film loving buff who has decided to move cross country to sunny California, leaving behind her mother who is going through what seems to be an icky second divorce. Bailey has ulterior motives for moving to Cali though – one ‘Alex’, the guy she talks to on a movie lover’s app, who just happens to live in the same town as her Dad. From the start of the book, ‘Alex’ tries to convince Bailey to come out and join him for the film festival happening at the end of the summer, but Bailey, who has self-nicknamed herself ‘The Artful Dodger’ (my kind of girl) is reluctant to let ‘Alex’ know that she’s actually moved across. As Bailey tries to suss out (very unsuccessfully, might I add), who the mysterious ‘Alex’ is, she navigates a world of new and old relationships and thus our story is born, and we get the cutest contemporary ever to grace your hands.

I haven’t read any of Jenn’s other books (Night Owls is sitting on my shelf, so I’m going to have to crack into that ASAP, I think!), but if they are the same quality that Alex is, then I cannot wait. Bailey’s voice is sharp and witty, and she’s also a highly relatable character – even at my ripe old age. Her insecurities and fears touch at your heart, and seeing her relationships grow with her father, Grace, and Porter were so beautiful. Especially her Dad – I adored their easy repertoire. You could see that Bailey was so much more comfortable around her Dad (even though I would have loved a little more resolution with her mother), and he pushed her to be the best person she could possibly be without being overbearing or pushy. It was so great to see a beautiful female friendship that was Bailey and Grace, Grailey and Braice. There wasn’t any cattiness or shaming between either of them, and not to other people as well. Then there’s Porter Roth, man who stole my heart. Banterous, brave, brilliant. I loved how much he challenged Bailey and how much Bailey challenged him. Like any romantic comedy, they were naturally drawn together, and, well…you’ll just have to read the book!

Of course, one of my other favourite aspects of Alex, Approximately was the nod to all the rom-coms and movies out there. Each chapter had a wonderfully accurate quote from movies I adore to pieces, and I was overjoyed that Bailey was a Cary Grant fan (who isn’t?!). In that spirit, I thought I’d choose five films you should watch after reading this amazing gem!

You’ve Got Mail

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Obviously, this insta-classic is one you must watch. In fact, I’m dying for a re-watch myself! This beautiful, quoteable film is one of my all time favourites and is also a comp title for the book. Which I find highly accurate! Definitely the best Meg/Tom rom-com out there, You’ve Got Mail tells the story of Kathleen Kelly as she navigates her way through an online friendship, while at the same time coming to blows with the big bad chain bookstore threatening her sales. It’s adorably nineties to watch now (AOL? What’s that?), but also a timeless classic.

While You Were Sleeping

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Another one of my favourite films of all time, set in Chicago over Christmas has Sandra Bullock mooning over Peter Gallagher (who doesn’t see her) – until one day, she saves him from almost death by train. At the hospital, Sandra tells a little white lie – that she’s Peter’s fiancee – so she can stay and make sure he’s okay. Of course, the family soon finds out, and even though they welcome Sandra with welcome arms, not everyone is convinced – especially the brother. It’s quirky, it’s cute and full of charm.

Roman Holiday

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Another film mentioned in Alex, Approximately, it’s definitely my favourite Audrey Hepburn film, and full of cute moments that any romantic will love. Basically, Audrey plays a European princess who bunks off duty for the day with Gregory Peck, not knowing he’s actually a journo wanting a scoop. It’s hilarious, it’s fun, it’s Rome, and it’s a feel good film. Plus Audrey Hepburn is a goddess and Gregory Peck isn’t bad on the eyes either!

My Best Friend’s Wedding

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I challenge any one to not love this film! Julia Roberts, Dermot Mulroney, Rupert Everett, Cameron Diaz. It’s the perfect cast. Full of hilarious moments, a musical number that will leave you clapping along and an ending so sweet. Basically Julia Roberts plays a woman who discovers that her best friend is marrying someone else…only problem is, she’s in love with him. So of course she’s going to go and break them up. Hijinks ensue, and you’ll finish thinking how glorious it was that perms went out of fashion because Julia, honey, that hair.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

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NOT the badly done 80s version, but we are talking musical here guys. The best thing you’ll ever see. I adored this MGM classic as a kid – and still do! Small town girl Milly accepts a marriage proposal from a farm boy, only to realise that he wants a housekeeper for him and his six brothers more than he does a wife. The musical numbers are glorious, the boys are cute af, and you can’t help but be impressed with the way Milly whips the boys into shape.

Have you seen any of these movies? Or do you have any other recommendations? Feel free to let me know in the comments below!

 

 

 

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Five Reasons to Fall in Love: New York Nights by C.J. Duggan

Posted February 4, 2017 by Hannah in New Adult, Reviews / 0 Comments

Five Reasons to Fall in Love: New York Nights by C.J. DugganNew York Nights Series: Heart of the City #2
by C.J. Duggan
Published by Hachette Australia on 1st February 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher, Finished Review Copy
DymocksBooktopiaPublisher
Goodreads

Sarah Williams is a spirited, independent Aussie who has always dreamed of New York City. So when a job opportunity arises to become an au pair for a successful businessman in the heart of Manhattan, Sarah jumps at the chance to follow her dream.

What she didn't bet on was a beautiful newborn and a distant, abrasive man whose eyes hold a million anguished secrets. Determined to care for his daughter and face the challenges of the impossible Ben Worthington, Sarah was always prepared to follow her heart; she just wasn't prepared to lose it to a complicated man like Ben.

It’s not that hard to fall in love with a C.J. Duggan book. They’re always so perfect for any situation – perfect for a long, warm summer’s night with a glass of wine. Perfect for snuggling on a cold winter’s night – with a glass of wine. Perfect for, well, any occasion really. With a C.J. Duggan book, you know what you are getting – romance, adventure and that good fuzzy feeling at the end of it all.

As for New York Nights? Well, it’s definitely one of my favourites, that’s for sure. Okay, okay, I’m purely judging on my “Duggan Boys,” and Ben is Top 3, that’s for sure (what are the other two? Dean and Sean of course, and not necessarily in that order!), but New York Nights has many other qualities that we can discuss too. So if you’re looking for five reasons to pick this little gem up, here we go!

  1. New York, New York! What a Wonderful Town!

New York is one of my favourite cities in the world, and provides the most gorgeous & lush backdrop to Sarah’s story. We see the city through her eyes –  a first timer, fresh off the plane Aussie and it’s exciting to see her experience it for the first time. New York City is beautiful, and there’s a certain magic to it. Of course, it doesn’t help that the book is mainly set in the Village areas near Washington Park – I’d totally die to have a zipcode there!

      2. What’s Lacking in Plot is Made Up for in Characters

Look, not every book needs to have oodles of plot. And as with a lot of contemporary romances, there’s more of a focus here on the main characters themselves, and not necessarily the plot. With New York Nights, what you see is what you get, and what I love about C.J. is she doesn’t beat around the bush – simply, Sarah is an expat au pair for a broody, hardly-ever-present, single Dad with a newborn. While not exactly enthralling stuff for some, what C.J. does is give us characters that make something of it and turn the narrative into a gorgeous story. Sarah is compassionate, a little naive and stubborn. Which clashes perfectly with an equally stubborn Ben who is finding it hard to transition from workaholic into parent. The secondary characters are stars themselves, and you are left wanting just a little bit more so that you can spend time with them all.

        3. Small Town Aussie Girl, Big City Dreams

I can’t help it, I love it. People who seize their independency and seek the world beyond their sphere are my type of people. Don’t get me wrong, if this is not you, then that’s fine as well. But I see so much of myself in a character like Sarah, one who takes the opportunities that come their way with no bars hold and put aside their fears to grab on to it and make something of themselves. With every uncertainty, we saw Sarah’s sense of humour shine through, and her ability to take on any challenge made me so proud.

       4. Warm Fuzzies Galore

Have I said anything about the warm fuzzies this book gives you yet? Probably, but here it is again. New York Nights is full of cute little moments that have you squeeing and sighing all book long.

      5. Did I Mention Ben Worthington Yet?

HA. Of course I have. Maybe ten or fifteen times, but listen up, I’m going to tell you again. WHY ARE ARCHITECTS JUST SO DAMN ATTRACTIVE? There’s a running joke with my friends that “I’m going to find myself an architect.” Sadly, thus far in life they’ve all been in books. It must be because they’re creative and good at math. But man alive, Ben Worthington was swoon material to the max. He was that broody Alpha male without the over the top you get in a lot of romances. He was kind, he was caring, and why does a baby make guys 1456478% more attractive? I loved how Ben’s relationship with little Grace was adorable and sweet and swoon.

Basically? If you need a pick me up, C.J’s got you covered. I can’t wait to read the other Heart of the City books – Paris Lights is out now, and London Bound is due in March and there you have it, a trio of wonderful reads that will leave you lusting for more.

(legit an accurate representation of me after reading this book)

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Hungry for Wonderland: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Posted December 1, 2016 by Hannah in Blog Tours, Reviews, Young Adult / 1 Comment

Hungry for Wonderland: Heartless by Marissa MeyerHeartless by Marissa Meyer
Published by Pan Macmillan Australia on 8th November 2016
Pages: 464
Format: Paperback, ARC
Source: Publisher
BoffinsDymocksBooktopiaPublisher
Goodreads

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, the infamous Queen of Hearts, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favourite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries.
At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King's marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness and monsters, fate has other plans.

I kind of have a love/hate relationship with Marissa Meyer and her books. I love her as a person – her writing advice is solid, she’s a beautiful person, and she has a great knack for creating really interesting worlds. However…I just don’t ever seem to enjoy the plots of her books. In saying that, I’ve only read Cinder, and haven’t as yet continued with the series. So I was looking forward to reading Heartless, a fantasy standalone back story to the famous Queen of Hearts from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Like many, many people, I’ve been a huge Lewis Carroll fan since I was a young girl (thanks Mum!). I can remember pouring through this really old copy of Through The Looking Glass we had and absolutely being besotted with the rhymes, idiocies and illustrations. So whenever a unique retelling or reimagining crops up, I am there faster than the White Rabbit.

The best thing for me about Heartless was the world. Meyer has created a fantastic backdrop to the story, and it’s probably the reason I kept on reading. Heartless has the whole host of Alice characters we know and love coupled with unique twists that will make any Alice fan smile. I also loved how there were sly little references to other nursery rhymes. For example, one of the characters is Sir Peter, a reference to the nursery rhyme Peter, Peter.  The way it was all put together was simply amazing, and I had so much fun reading all the little details, from the flamingos (‘Ah like shrimp’) to the jumble group of Hatta’s tea parties.

Sadly, that’s where things tend to go a bit south for me. Everything else I found…rather boring. Which is a shame, because I really wanted to love this novel. Cath seemed like a character that I could understand solely for her love of food. But even all the references to sweets and pies and chocolate seemed too much. There isn’t a lot of plot going on in Heartless until the last quarter of the book, as this is, essentially, an origin story for the villainous Queen of Hearts we all know from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The plot is simple: Cath wants to open a bakery, but her parents want her to marry the King of Hearts. Then Cath meets Jest, the new court joker, and everything evolves from there. I can see where Meyer was wanting to go with this – the whole idea of living your own destiny, following your own heart and not the wishes of others – but it just didn’t resonate with us. I felt as if Meyer had spent so much time creating such a wonderfully vivid world that the characters and the plot were swept aside. Even the romance seemed forced, and for a book that’s over 400 pages long, way too instalove for my liking. I would have preferred to get to see Jest and Cath’s feelings develop slowly, rather than all at once. In saying that, my favourite character was probably Hatta, aka the Mad Hatter, and I think Heartless is well worth the read for his story alone.

It’s sad when something doesn’t quite live up to its full potential, but if you don’t mind a (very) slow plot and can look past instalove for the great world building, Heartless definitely belongs on your TBR.

Check out the other blogs on the Australian Heartless blog tour below!

 

 

 

 

 

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Moon Chosen by P.C. Cast

Posted November 21, 2016 by Hannah in Blog Tours, Reviews, Young Adult / 2 Comments

Moon Chosen by P.C. CastMoon Chosen Series: Tales of a New World #1
on 25th October 2015
Pages: 600
Format: ARC, Paperback
Source: Publisher
BooktopiaPublisherThe Book Depository
Goodreads

Mari is an Earth Walker, heir to the unique healing powers of her Clan; but she has cast her duties aside, until she is chosen by a special animal ally, altering her destiny forever. When a deadly attack tears her world apart, Mari reveals the strength of her powers and the forbidden secret of her dual nature as she embarks on a mission to save her people. It is not until Nik, the son of the leader from a rival, dominating clan strays across her path, that Mari experiences something she has never felt before…

Now, darkness is coming, and with it, a force, more terrible and destructive than the world has ever seen, leaving Mari to cast the shadows from the earth. By forming a tumultuous alliance with Nik, she must make herself ready. Ready to save her people. Ready to save herself and Nik. Ready to embrace her true destiny…and obliterate the forces that threaten to destroy them all.

Welcome to my stop on the Blog Tour for Moon Chosen by P.C. Cast, hosted by Pan MacMillan Australia!

I don’t know quite what I was expecting with Moon Chosen, but I was equally parts pleasantly surprised and equally…not bothered?

Moon Chosen is a really unique fantasy that centres around Mari, who is part of a clan called Earth Walkers. Her mother is the Moon Woman of her clan, who by right is a powerful figure within her clan, one whose abilities are passed down to Mari. However Mari’s own powers have had to be remained hidden – and Mari ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ When Mari’s clan is attacked, and her world forever changed.

I’ll admit – it was a struggle to get through most of Moon Chosen. It’s a massive book, almost 600 pages long, and a lot of it is just world building and setting the tone for what is to come, which makes it a bit of an adventure to read itself. I felt like most of the time I couldn’t connect with the characters, and I kept having to flick back through pages as I found myself skim-reading a lot of it, and then missing important things.

In saying that, I think Moon Chosen was such a different type of fantasy than what I’m used to, which was refreshing. Nik (the love interest) came across a bit bland sometimes, and Mari was a tough nut to read for a good chunk of the book, but one aspect of the book that did progress was their character development, and I will say, I’m quite intrigued as to where the series is heading, especially as the last 100 pages or so picked up quite a bit on the action front.

And the best part? The Companions, of course! I loved the concept of having animals that were bonded with certain tribe members. I could definitely do with a Companion.

If you don’t mind books that delve into a lot of back story and world building, then I think you’ll enjoy Moon Chosen. It’s definitely not for everyone, but it does leave you anticipating more, and I am curious to see where the story leads!

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