5.18.2016

Review: Last Year's Mistake by Gina Ciocca

Last Year's Mistake by Gina Ciocca



Before:
Kelsey and David became best friends the summer before freshman year and were inseparable ever after. Until the night a misunderstanding turned Kelsey into the school joke, and everything around her crumbled—including her friendship with David. So when Kelsey's parents decided to move away, she couldn't wait to start over and leave the past behind. Except, David wasn't ready to let her go...

After:
Now it's senior year and Kelsey has a new group of friends, genuine popularity, and a hot boyfriend. Her life is perfect. That is, until David's family moves to town and he shakes up everything. Soon old feelings bubble to the surface and threaten to destroy Kelsey's second chance at happiness. The more time she spends with David, the more she realizes she never truly let him go. And maybe she never wants to.

Told in alternating sections, LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE is a charming and romantic debut about loving, leaving, and letting go.
First Line: "The first day of senior year, he came back."

Review: Right off the bat Last Year's Mistake was a quick read. I read it in under a day and there were so many times I wanted to take my kindle and just throw it across the room because of how frustrating Kelsey was.

There was drama, angst, more drama, and plenty of slut-shaming. And yet here I am still giving this book a three and a half star rating and I'm still confused on why because slut shaming to the extent that was in this book along with the overblown drama usually makes me give a low rating or even dnf a book but here I was reading Last Year's Mistake and devouring it even though I was pissed for majority of the read.

The book is told in alternating chapters between the past and the present so we can really understand the relationship between Kelsey and David. The two were actually friends, best friends at that but after something happened Kelsey packed up and moved. Flash forward to present day, Kelsey has the perfect HS life unlike her previous high school she is now popular, lots of friends, and a hot boyfriend. Everything is great until David walks back into her life and things start to unravel very quickly, she thought she was over him but apparently her heart didn't get the memo.

There was a lot of back and forth between David and Kelsey, one minute Kelsey wanted her current boyfriend then the next David, and David loved Kelsey but dated other girls. It was all so complicated but honestly, it was teenagers being teenagers that is what I chalk it up to. As far as Kelsey went I did not like her that much, at least not present day Kelsey. Her actions made her very unlikeable and I just wanted to smack some serious sense into her. David was a good guy you can tell he obviously still really cared about Kelsey, he had his dumb moments here and there but they were usually provoked by Kelsey.

Overall this book may not be for everyone. Even with all its complications there was something about it that I still can't put my finger on which made it a very fast read for me but I would say preview a few chapters and see if this is the book for you.


Memorable Quotes:

~"Because knowing he hated me would have been a thousand times easier than knowing he didn't love me anymore."

~"I'm kind of an idiot when it comes to you. And I don't know why

5.03.2016

Blog Tour: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi-Q&A


What/Who were your biggest inspirations for the characters in The Star-Touched Queen?

Which character in The Star-Touched Queen did you personally relate to the most and why? For Maya and Amar, they were inspired by the Hades/Persephone. But I imagined those two mythological characters a little more differently. In Maya’s case, I knew that ambition was her defining trait, but I wasn’t sure whether that would manifest as seeking emotional or material fulfillment. Turns out, it was a bit of both. Kamala was inspired by my love of fiendish side characters like Mogget from Garth Nix’s SABRIEL and is probably the character I relate to the most. Her sense of humor can be a little abrasive. But she’s fiercely loyal to her friends. Other people in TSTQ were inspired by a collection of people whom I met/knew/heard of growing up.

Have you always been drawn to Mythology and what are some of your favorite mythological tales? What myth specifically inspired Star-Touched? 

Always! I was raised on mythology. It was one of the most important outlets for me to connect to my Filipino/Indian heritage. My favorite Indian myths are Shakuntula, Nala and Damayanti, and Savitri. My favorite Filipino story is the Igorot tale of the Sky Maiden. My favorite Western myth is Hades and Persephone. TSTQ was specifically inspired by Hades & Persephone.

Let's talk inspiration.  What Indian folklore inspired The Star-Touched Queen and where could someone who might be interested in reading and learning more about it and other Indian stories (cough, me, cough) learn more? 

The main Indian folktales/myths that inspired TSTQ or particular scenes were: Shakuntula (plays on the idea of memory and forgotten loves), Savitri & Satyavan (bargaining with Lord of Death, wily females!) and Narasimha (the fourth avatar of Lord Vishnu who defeated the demon king Hirayankashipu). Honestly, most of these were stories I heard growing up with my family. But my favorite thing to read when I was younger were the Amar Chitra Katha comics! They’re these illustrated tales from Indian mythology and I love them so so so much.

What scene in THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN was your favorite to write? 

Definitely the scene where Amar and Maya are working together in the constellation room. I think it’s an important scene about interpretation, which, to me, is a major theme in TSTQ.

Did you listen to any music while writing this book? If yes, what would you say was your MOST played artist or song?

Sometimes I listen to music when I write. It just depends on whether the song is distracting me or fueling some weird atmospheric part of the scene. Sometimes it’s just one song on repeat. I listen to a lot of hip hop. And when I pretty much rewrote TSTQ in February 2015, I felt furious. Not with anyone. But just with the story. Like it was itching to be told right and I was failing it. I think the songs I listened to the most with TSTQ was either Kid Ink’s “Show Me” or Kendrick Lamar’s “Poetic Justice.”

What is your dream movie cast for STAR-TOUCHED?

LOVE this question. I’ve always envisioned Lakshmi Menon (the Sri Lankan model) as Maya-esque. Amar has some definite Arjun Rampal undertones (swoons forever). Gupta is kinda cheeky and nerdy, and reminds me of Imran Khan (actor not Pakistani cricket player). Gauri is cheeky, but fierce, so definitely Preity Zinta or Deepika Padukone. Nritti: Aishwarya Rai. And Mother Dhina: Rekha.


What is the most exciting part about publishing your first novel? 

Interacting with readers. Talking to the YA community gives me so much life.

How did you build your world and keep everything straight for STAR-TOUCHED?

Flashcards, charts, webs, etc. I know everyone has their own tricks! Flashcards, backs of receipts, corners of napkins. Which is to say, I did not keep things straight at all. This is why you have beta readers. To throw virtual tomatoes at you and point out that given the rules of your world, you cannot do the thing you just did.

What is your next project? Is it in the same world as STAR-TOUCHED?

I just finished the companion novel to TSTQ! So, I’m hoping to get started on edits soon. I can’t wait for y’all to read it. I love it so much.

What is the one thing you want readers to walk away from STAR-TOUCHED with? 

I hope readers see a little of how fairytales and folklore celebrate our shared experiences across cultural spectrums. And I hope their dreams are a little star-touched and that they close the book thinking they’ve tasted fairy fruit and walked through more than one life.


About The Star-Touched Queen

A lush and vivid standalone debut young adult fantasy that seamlessly weaves the Greek myth of Hades and Persephone with Indian folklore. Featuring a smart, independent anti-princess who must take her place as queen and a forbidden romance that defies the odds, debut author Roshani Chokshi pairs beautiful writing with a thrilling pace and compulsive plot, using her own Filipino and Indian heritage to create a culturally diverse and vividly imagined world. 

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you're only seventeen? 

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father's kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran's queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar's wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire... 

But Akaran has its own secrets -- thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most...including herself. 

From an incredibly fresh voice, Roshani Chokski’s THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN is a beautifully written standalone novel that will enchant young adult and fantasy readers until the last page.

“A setting drawn from ancient India, romance with feminist sensibilities, and a unique magic system…a stunning debut filled with lush writing, smart characters, and a mysterious plot that provides as many twists as it does swoons.” School Library Journal, STARRED Review 

“Chokshi's rich, descriptive writing weaves a lush web...a swoony romance, betrayal, and a journey to power and selfaffirmation, with a slightly wicked, slightly funny animal sidekick in the best tradition… work together to create a spell that many readers will willingly succumb to. Richly imagined, deeply mythic, filled with lovely language with violet overtones: this is an author to watch.” —Kirkus Reviews 

“This gorgeous debut promises big things to come from Chokshi, who at barely 25 has decades ahead to dazzle us.” —Cosmopolitan.com on “8 Life-Changing Novels by Twentysomething Women”

“Chokshi’s first novel is filled to the brim with gorgeous, scintillating writing that easily draws readers into its new take on traditional tales. A unique fantasy that is epic myth and beautiful fairy tale combined.” —Booklist

“A heady blend of mythology and metaphor, THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN is sure to appeal to fans of Laini Taylor and Leigh Bardugo. Maya is a great character, full of promise and patience, even as the odds are stacked against her.” —Romantic Times Book Reviews 


About the author:

ROSHANI CHOKSHI comes from a small town in Georgia where she collected a Southern accent, but does not use it unless under duress. She grew up in a blue house with a perpetually napping bear-dog. At Emory University, she dabbled with journalism, attended some classes in pajamas, forgot to buy winter boots and majored in 14th century British literature. She spent a year after graduation working and traveling and writing. After that, she started law school at the University of Georgia where she's learning a new kind of storytelling. 

Connect With Roshani Chokshi



4.25.2016

Review: Starflight by Melissa Landers

Starflight by Melissa Landers



Life in the outer realm is a lawless, dirty, hard existence, and Solara Brooks is hungry for it. Just out of the orphanage, she needs a fresh start in a place where nobody cares about the engine grease beneath her fingernails or the felony tattoos across her knuckles. She's so desperate to reach the realm that she's willing to indenture herself to Doran Spaulding, the rich and popular quarterback who made her life miserable all through high school, in exchange for passage aboard the spaceliner Zenith.

When a twist of fate lands them instead on the Banshee, a vessel of dubious repute, Doran learns he's been framed on Earth for conspiracy. As he pursues a set of mysterious coordinates rumored to hold the key to clearing his name, he and Solara must get past their enmity to work together and evade those out for their arrest. Life on the Banshee may be tumultuous, but as Solara and Doran are forced to question everything they once believed about their world—and each other—the ship becomes home, and the eccentric crew family. But what Solara and Doran discover on the mysterious Planet X has the power to not only alter their lives, but the existence of everyone in the universe...
First Line: "What if nobody picks me? Nothing can be worse than that."

Review: First off let's take a moment to admire that beautiful cover....Now let's do the happy dance because everything inside that beautiful cover was phenomenal and the cover did not betray us! Starflight was everything I look for in a great read. It was funny, great chemistry between the main characters, well developed secondary characters, great world building, beautifully flawed characters, PIRATES! Space Pirates at that, I mean this book was perfection and a total page turner.

I love it when there are two points of views especially when the two main characters, in this case, being Doran and Solara hate each other in the beginning, you get to see them both slowly turn that hate to like to love and those are the best kinds to read about.

I am not going to lie to you, I hated Doran when I first met him. He was the epitome of an asshole. When we first meet him he is a rich snob with a bitch for a girlfriend and he treats Solara like she is the dirt on the bottom of his shoes. So you are wondering how in the world can I fall for someone who I just described in a manner that you would want to stay as far away as possible from? Well, the guy had some major character development and was put in situations that definitely humbled him and thank goodness for his point of view we got to learn about the person behind all that assholery. After he ate that humble pie you can't help but love him, he cared deeply for Solara and did everything in his power to win her trust and the crews. He fought for her and showed us why he deserved her.

I loved Solara she was strong and being an orphan with felony tattoos didn't make for an easy life for her. The romance was nothing but feels between her and Doran...so much feels! There is never and I repeat never a dull moment between the two of them and their witty banter. Another aspect I wanted to touch on was the crew of the Banshee which included the Captain, Renny, Kane and Cassia they were all just as relevant to the entire story and all of them were  interesting in their own way. I loved to see the friendship and loyalty amongst all of them including how they took in Solara and Doran which resulted in a ship full of fugitives and criminals of the best kind!

Overall Starflight was all romance and action and I highly recommend it.


Memorable Quotes:

~"When I walk into a room, you're the only person I see. My brain doesn't get a choice anymore, because there's something inside you so rare it radiates out and block everyone else. You have the kind of beauty that can't be manufactured......"

~"Because I'm more than the sum of my mistakes."

3.17.2016

Q&A with Mona Awad - 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl


This book is full of incredible insight into the life of someone dealing with body image issues. What inspired you to explore this subject? 

Body image is something I’ve struggled with throughout my life. I was a slim child, but then I got chubby as a prepubescent. I lost weight, then got fat as a teenager and then lost weight again in my early twenties. Throughout my twenties it was something I wanted to explore in my writing and I was always taking notes to that end, even as I wrote fiction and poetry on other subjects. When I was twenty-two, I wrote a poem called “Zoology” about not being able to find a plain black cardigan in a plus size store, but underneath, it was really about how marginalizing the experience of being fat was. It felt very good to write, but it was more of a rant than a poem, so it was ultimately not very satisfying— there was so much more I wanted to say. A few years later, after I’d lost weight and was working as a journalist, I wrote a feature article about my and my mother’s experiences with dieting trends in the 80s and 90s, but this didn’t feel like enough either. I didn’t want to explore the subject of weight on a cultural level or even on a strictly autobiographical level—I wanted to do it on a far more creative, intimate level. I was much more interested in this level of experience—how body image can affect your relationships to people, clothing, the way you are in the world. For that I needed the freedom to imagine, to draw out social dynamics and fully explore moments of rage, vulnerability and desire I had experienced both as a fat person and as a thin one. I needed characters that were separate from me and had their own stories—I craved the freedom of fiction.

What was the genesis of 13 Ways? And can you describe your writing process? 

Most of the stories were inspired by a point of tension that I had observed, experienced or imagined— being in a fitting room with a dress that doesn’t fit, for example. I would take that point of tension and I would sit with it, trying to describe it in as much intimate, immediate and honest detail as possible. I would scrutinize it, draw it out, let myself imagine around it. By exploring a moment of tension like this, it would acquire more layers and consequence, and a story would often emerge. Once I had the contours of story, I could push that tension further still—in some cases, to its limits.

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl is a provocative title. How did you choose it?

 The title was inspired by the Wallace Stevens poem, “13 Ways of Looking at a Black Bird,” though really only superficially. What I liked was the idea of using different ways of seeing as a way into the life of one character. In my experience, perception is a huge part of body image. I thought I looked fat before I was fat and, in some ways, that made me get fat. I also continued to see myself as someone who was fat after I got thin. So the idea of looking, for me, is really the most transformative, damaging and powerful driving force in the book. Being fat is also both a highly visible and invisible experience—visible because of the extra flesh and invisible because of the ways that flesh can eclipse you as a person, both in terms of how people see you and how you see yourself—so the title felt connected to that paradox of being both seen and unseen in various ways. It let me organize the overall story around the many ways in which Lizzie might be seen or imagine she is seen by various people in her life: sales women, friends, parents, romantic partners, flings, as well as how she might see herself in these relationships—ways of seeing that she resented, ways of seeing that were simplifications, or generalizations. Take “Your Biggest Fan,” for example. I would take each way of seeing—how Lizzie is seen by the other character, and how she sees him—and then, in the course of the story, try to unsettle and complicate it.

The novel is told in a series of short stories, or vignettes. What made you choose this structure?

 So much of Lizzie’s story is bound up in how she views herself and the various ways she imagines others see her. So I wanted to approach telling her story as a series of glimpses--how she changes in relation to that shifting gaze, real or imagined—and I wanted the structure of the book to reflect that. Each way of looking seemed to be its own story that was connected to but also separate from the whole—another piece of a mirror (however warped) into which Lizzie is looking.

The fairy tale promise of dieting and exercise is that your life will change for the better if you lose weight. But contrary to what we’re told by every women’s magazine and on shows like The Biggest Loser, Lizzie seems as unhappy in her new body as she was before—or maybe more so. Why doesn’t her transformation result in a happy ending?

Transformation is a tricky thing. The idea that when we transform our bodies, we start off in one place and end up in another, is part of a notion about weight loss that this book is definitely trying to explore and challenge. My own experience of transformation was messy and complicated. Even after I got thin, I still felt like my weight was highly visible to anyone who bothered to look. In the way I behaved with others. In the way I ordered salad. Not in the fact that I ordered salad, but in the way I did—like it was penance, not a choice. In the way I wore my clothes—I wore them like they had been hard won, and they were. I felt too, that underneath those clothes, the visible evidence of having been fat was there. This is the case for Lizzie, too. She still has to reckon with her flesh, even its ghost, and so does everyone else around her. Her body, changed or unchanged, is still bound up in how she sees herself. That doesn’t necessarily go when the weight does. In Lizzie’s case, she’s still cognizant of her fat and so it’s still informing the way she is in the world, her relationships—and not necessarily for the better. In fact, in some ways it’s more complicated, because the weight is no longer visible, and so it’s harder for others to understand her.

It seems that our society has made fat-shaming the last acceptable form of prejudice, with the underlying belief that being fat is a “choice”—and not the right one. Did you think about this at all while you were writing?

It still seems culturally okay to make fun of fat people. When I was fat, I avoided going into elevators with people because I was afraid they would make fun of me after I left. In the book, I wanted to focus on depicting Lizzie and my other characters as honestly and with as much care as I could. I wanted to humanize and complicate portraits of people that are often seen as objects of ridicule. And, of course, it’s very telling that after Lizzie loses weight, she is at times guilty of seeing fat people this way herself.

Lizzie forges a connection to her best friend as well as her future husband through music—specifically Goth industrial, a genre that we can safely say doesn’t get much air time in literature. Why did you connect Lizzie with this music, and what is its appeal for her?

There’s a lot of music in the book—it’s definitely important to Lizzie throughout her life as a form of self-expression and self-discovery, and as a way to connect with other people. Certainly music provided that for me. Goth is seen as marginal and underground, and Lizzie, in seeing herself the way she does, identifies with that to some extent. But ultimately I think Goth is more of a phase she goes through in part because of her friendship with Mel—this music is an important part of their bond as teens, but their relationship to it and to each other shifts over the years.

Lizzie’s relationships with other women are often quite barbed, especially when it comes to things like eating, exercise, and shopping—all of which come back, of course, to the body. What does 13 Ways have to say about female friendship?

Female friendship is a subject that has always interested me as a writer. I love paying close attention to what goes on subtextually between women—things that we are not fully conscious of, that pass between us quickly. It goes without saying, perhaps, that body image can complicate these relationships and even come between women. After I lost weight, I definitely noticed a shift in the dynamics of some of my friendships. This is not to say that those friendships are any less valuable—I love and cherish all my female friends more than I can say. But I do think that female friendships can be idealized (or oversimplified in the other direction—as a caricature of petty, “mean girl” competition) and I wanted to explore what might else be going on under the surface. Writing this book gave me a chance to amplify and explore tensions and dynamics that fascinated me in my own experiences and in my observations of female relationships. For Lizzie, of course, all of her friendships and encounters with women are complicated by her own issues. But she’s definitely not alone in the creation of that weirdness.

Clothing plays a meaningful role in this book, and Lizzie endures some very fraught situations in fitting rooms. Why did you feel this situation was important to represent in the book?

Fitting rooms can be places of existential dread for people of any size. When you’re locked in an enclosed place with nothing but an item of clothing and a mirror, you have to reckon with yourself in a way that you don’t elsewhere. It can be a de-familiarizing, humiliating, excruciating experience. I guess because there’s also a yearning there, a desire for transformation, possibility, that fitting rooms offer too. When I was fat, I was angry and humiliated that I couldn’t find a decent dress and still I hoped. When I was thin, I was angry and humiliated that I still struggled to find things that fit me and yet I still hoped. I yearned to fit in. It’s that cocktail of hope and necessity that can make the fitting room experience so excruciating and revelatory, whether you’re in there with just an item to clothe your body, or something that symbolizes your dream self. Lizzie revisits the fitting room because, as much as she rages against it, she is very much a victim of that hope.

 What do you hope readers will take away from 13 Ways?

Above all, a feeling of connection to the stories and the people in them. Fiction and especially short stories have always been extremely important to me.  The books I love, I take to as one would take to a new friend. They have something very personal and urgent to tell me. They give voice to thoughts and feelings and desires and fears that I didn’t know I had. My favorite stories have always been the ones that feel very intimate, like the writer really gave something vital in themselves to the telling of the story. A little of the soul. I wrote these stories and these characters with as much honesty as I could in the hopes of making this book that kind of offering to the reader. I also wrote it, ultimately, to create a story that I would want to read. I can only hope readers will feel the same.

 Are there any books or authors that influenced your writing? What are you reading right now?

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis really made an impression on me, though I can’t say that I was consciously aware of it as an influence when I was working on the book. I think it’s a brilliant, very disturbing and complicated portrait of a monster, who is at the same time a product of his culture and his age. Certainly Lizzie is no Patrick Bateman, but I do think I was interested in exploring a kind of monstrousness, a psychosis that our body image-obsessed culture can bring out in us. Another favorite is The Remains of The Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. Not only is it a wonderful story with an incredibly rich and nuanced first person voice, but I love the way Ishiguro can create a narrator who is so blind to certain truths inside himself, truths that are available to the reader to recognize, but that the narrator cannot access due to his own psychological and emotional blind spots. Mary Gaitskill’s complex characterizations and her interest in tension have always been endless sources of inspiration. I’m also huge fan of humor in fiction, especially with a dark or melancholy edge, so I love writers like Lorrie Moore, Dorothy Parker and Stacey Richter. Right now, I’m writing a novel and preparing to teach creative writing to undergraduates so I’m not reading anything too consistently, despite the tower of books on my bedside table. Though I did just order Where Did You Sleep Last Night by Lynn Crosbie, a great Canadian writer and poet. It’s a novel about a girl who’s in a relationship with the dead spirit of Kurt Cobain, so I’ll probably devour that pretty quickly.


About the book

Growing up in the suburban hell of Misery Saga (a.k.a. Mississauga), Lizzie has never liked the way she looks—even though her best friend Mel says she’s the pretty one. She starts dating guys online, but she’s afraid to send pictures, even when her skinny friend China does her makeup: she knows no one would want her if they could really see her. So she starts to lose. With punishing drive, she counts almonds consumed, miles logged, pounds dropped. She fights her way into coveted dresses. She grows up and gets thin, navigating double-edged validation from her mother, her friends, her husband, her reflection in the mirror. But no matter how much she loses, will she ever see herself as anything other than a fat girl?

In her brilliant, hilarious, and at times shocking debut, Mona Awad simultaneously skewers the body image-obsessed culture that tells women they have no value outside their physical appearance, and delivers a tender and moving depiction of a lovably difficult young woman whose life is hijacked by her struggle to conform. As caustically funny as it is heartbreaking,13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl introduces a vital new voice in fiction.
 

3.16.2016

Waiting on Wednesday:Blood For Blood by Ryan Graudin



Welcome to Waiting on Wednesday
Hosted by Jill by
A weekly event that puts a spotlight on a book we are eagerly waiting to be released


Blood For Blood by Ryan Graudin

Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Publisher:  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 
Genre: YA-Historical Fiction



With the way Wolf By Wold ended I am dying to get my hands on the sequel!

Blurb from Goodreads
The action-packed, thrilling sequel to Ryan Graudin's Wolf by Wolf.

There would be blood.
Blood for blood.
Blood to pay.
An entire world of it.


For the resistance in 1950s Germany, the war may be over, but the fight has just begun.

Death camp survivor Yael, who has the power to skinshift, is on the run: the world has just seen her shoot and kill Hitler. But the truth of what happened is far more complicated, and its consequences are deadly. Yael and her unlikely comrades dive into enemy territory to try to turn the tide against the New Order, and there is no alternative but to see their mission through to the end, whatever the cost.

But dark secrets reveal dark truths, and one question hangs over them all: how far can you go for the ones you love?

This gripping, thought-provoking sequel to Wolf by Wolf will grab readers by the throat with its cinematic writing, fast-paced action, and relentless twists.


What are you waiting for???



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