Sunday, August 20, 2017

Book: Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2) by Sarah J. Maas

I've yet to make my Throne of Glass (ToG) post so posting about the second book of the series, Crown of Midnight (CoM), may be a bit weird -- but I think I need to do this now or risk making the same mistake I did with the ACOTAR saga (finishing it without posting a single review *shame*). So here it is: my thoughts on Book 2 of the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas.

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Blurb:
"A line that should never be crossed is about to be breached.
It puts this entire castle in jeopardy—and the life of your friend."

From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul as black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.
Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.
Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena's world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie... and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.
(via Goodreads)

Celeana Sardothien // source
ToG ended with Celaena Sardothien winning the royal competition and ultimately becoming the King's Champion. As such, CoM began with our protagonist fulfilling her duties to the crown. I've read a couple of books and series from the time I closed ToG so it took a bit of time adjusting to it.  However, I can't pry The Selection series off my mind while I read the first few parts - maybe it's the castle setting, the court, and how for some reason Maxon kept popping in my head whenever Dorian is on page. But once, I finished the first few chapters, the magic immediately returned.

What can I say about this book? Nothing but love, I guess. This was divided into two parts. The first half mostly tackled the fulfillment of her duty to the King. What followed was a series of manipulations and deceit that had Celaena walking in a tight rope around the leash the King had put on her. We get to see a different Celaena than what we've witnessed in ToG. Here, we see her doing what she does best: killing people, action, fighting, becoming every inch the King's Champion and proving that she became Adarlan's assassin for a reason.

In this part we also get to witness how a friendship formed in the most unlikeliest of circumstances developed into understanding and, not unexpectedly, love. I am not sure if I am spoiling things but I am saying it: Chaolaena is my ship. During ToG, it was always about Dorian with all the outright, romantic scenes... but on the side, brewing, forming in the most natural way... is Chaol's feelings for Celaena. The whole thing felt... natural. Like something inevitable. And when the moment came, when that admission came, God that scene! It was sincere, slow -- welcome. It made my heart soar. It's just too bad it didn't last long. And it broke my heart -- chapter after chapter of ripping my heart to shreds.
Chaol Westfall and Dorian Havilliard // via Tumblr
And then, there's Dorian. Sacrifice is one trope I will never get tired of loving. And gaaaah, Dorian, during the first parts of the book really broke my heart. He can't do anything because it's Celaena's choice and all he can do - all he did do - was watch on the sidelines while the two fall in love. He loved her enough to have someone give her the freedom she so desperately wants. He loves Chaol enough to give him something that, for once, he wants for himself. And he knows that he deserve someone who could love him wholeheartedly. 
The Trio // source
Honestly speaking, this is one of the best love triangles I've read in a while. Most times, it's always the girl that's the common denominator -- but this time around, the two guys involved are best friends, and respect their relationship with each other enough not to make rash decisions that may hurt the other and not immediately grab what they want just because they want it. It was heartbreaking, but certainly one of the more realistic, wonderful parts of this book. For a book that deals so much with magic and the supernatural, human emotions served as the tether to keep this story grounded.

Too much, for my heart.

Anyway, that was what Part 1 gave me. The action picked up, however, when the book crossed it's second half. Everything went fast-paced and things are happening one after the other -- it was insane. Looking back at my tweets, I didn't even get to stop to make a decent commentary because it was just THAT awesome. I might've spoiled myself more than necessary even before reading the first book of this series... but STILL! NO WORDS! Sarah J. Maas is the QUEEN of foreshadowing I can't even fathom how she put everything together, place every detail at the most unexpected places. Honestly, it was a good thing I had ToG near me when I read this because I kept on flipping back just to make sure, and confirm what I missed and how exactly I missed it. As with the case of A Court of Mist and Fury, Sarah J. Maas managed to beat the second-book syndrome that most YA series nowadays suffer from. The last few chapters were anything but boring. And that final revelation! oh, of course I was spoiled enough to know it before hand, the way it was revealed -- IT WAS GLORIOUS.. This book was soooooo worth losing my sleep over. I am just so excited for Heir of Fire. No one writes high fantasy YA like The Queen, Sarah J. Maas.

I can see now how this acquired such a passionate following and an active fandom. The storytelling, the characters, the world building: ONE OF THE BEST. This is not a quick read, oh no -- it won't leave your mind for days. But if you want something engaging, something new, other-wordly awesome: then this is for you. Plus the romance, guys, A++. Nothing but love.

My Rating: ★★★★★ (5 out of 5 stars)

If you follow me on Twitter, here's my Crown of Midnight Reaction/Quotes Thread: CLICK HERE.
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Quotable Quotes:

The best lies were always mixed with the truth.

"You must learn to ask the right questions before you can receive the right answers."

"Want and need are different things."

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This is the second book I finished for #TheReadingQuest reading challenge, for "A Book Set in a Different World".

Current Standing:

Book: The Arctic Incident (Artemis Fowl, #2) by Eoin Colfer

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Blurb:
"Artemis rushes from Ireland school to Russia where the Mafiya kidnapped his father. Captain Holly Short of LEPRecon against fairies interrupts him. This time he may have to join the fairies instead of battling them." via Goodreads

Here's the deal: This is the second book of the Artemis Fowl series but for some reason, this is the first time that I got to appreciate it for the easy but thrilling read that each book in this series is.  Maybe it's the timing, the reading conditions, the pressure to finish because of the ongoing challenge  -- but generally speaking, I immensely enjoyed this tons more that the first book. The amount of action is palpable. The transition in the scenes, much like a panning and zooming of a camera, the shift in POVs  -  are all so flawlessly done it's hard not to get carried away.

I haven't drafted my thoughts on the first book but one glaring comment is that it's too hard to imagine Artemis as a mere 12-year old (specially during the beginning parts of the book). But here, Artemis seems so… human. He is indeed more relatable here. The brief moments when his age showed are precious. "He was going to die here alone. He would never be great." and him dubbing the coin toss scene as the "first cool moment of his young life", and oh, that scene when he sobbed so hard out of relief at the end -- my heart honestly swelled… because beneath that deviousness, that genius mind, Artemis is still a child.

The historical moment; a page from the graphic novel version of The Arctic Incident. I. NEED. THIS. NOW. // via source
The continuity was really highlighted in this sequel. New characters were introduced but some of most of the characters that we've grown to love from the first book were brought back. I am honestly resisting the urge to ship Holly and Artemis because yeah that's just how I am -- but we'll see.
 
Honestly speaking, I didn't really expect to be sucked in this world this hard. I mean, the first book was ok (I guess) -- but upon finishing the second book, my love for this series was cemented.  I can't believe I just discovered this series now. I heard this is going to be a movie soon, and if that's the case, I am really excited!  Definitely recommended for a quick read. Eoin Colfer definitely knows how to pack a punch!
 
Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 out 5 stars)
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Quotable Quotes:
 
"Sometimes plans don't translate smoothly from paper to real life."
 
But nature always throws something into the mix that can't be anticipated.
 
After all, humans generally saw what they wanted to see.
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This is the first book I finished as part of #TheReadingQuest reading challenge, under "A Book That Contains Magic".

Current Standing:


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Books: The Selection Series (Books 1 to 3) by Kiera Cass

Book thoughts! Well, this is a first. I normally review each book in a series one post at a time, but I read these books too quickly and I don't think I can even clearly define the borders of the story laid down per book by now. So I guess the smartest thing to do (instead of waiting for everything to settle down and in the end become too lazy to review even one) is to review it straight out -- all in one post. The first 3 books of the series, specifically.

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For the blurbs, kindly click on the links:

The series revolves around America Singer and how her life changed when she was suddenly selected for the Selection, a tradition in their country in which 35 girls are to be selected across all provinces and all castes to have a chance to be the crown prince's wife -- and, in turn, the future queen. So basically, it's like The Bachelor for the royalty.

Anyway, I read this series one lazy afternoon and in roughly a little less than 24 hours (discounting the hours I dedicated for work), and I quickly finished all three! Which is a feat for me, considering the fact that I am a really sloooow reader. I tend to linger -- but in this case, I just flipped and flipped and flipped and flipped, and before I knew it, I was through. Of course this is somewhat thanks to the way Kiera Cass ended her books -- cliffhangers after cliffhangers, you just can't help but read the next one at once. Honestly, if I read The Selection during its first release and the second book is a year away from being published, I would've been really frustrated. Taking into account everything that happened, I do think the whole 3 books can be squeezed into one giant tome - with some filler scenes and story lines cut, readers wouldn't feel too frustrated with how the books were divided.

But I digress. Basically, this falls under the romance genre -- but there are little injections of political and familial drama, bits of rebellion/revolution that somewhat reminds me of the ones in the Red Queen series, though a bit lighter. America Singer, the protagonist and narrator, had a decent character development through out the 3 books. At first, I have to admit that America was insufferable. It's no secret that I hate female leads who think that love is all that matters and as long as there is love, everything will be alright -- which, to be honest, is a pretty pathetic idea because love can only take you so far (hello, inner cynic), right? Not practical at all. So imagine the horror whenever I read "all I want is to be your wife". It was torture reading the first few chapters but I'm glad I pulled through. As the chapters went by, especially by the time she arrived at the palace, everything became exciting. If I gotta say, Prince Maxon's presence made the pages charged. I mean... *swooooon*. There are some things that are too cliche to be easily believed like how he has absolutely no romantic experience but then goes on and be smooth AF with the ladies - it's a bit too hard to process. Despite this, the chemistry he had with America is undeniable... and the moment he appeared on page, I was already #TeamMaxon. I miss obvious romance -- maybe because I've been reading too much SFF lately, so this is really a welcome change. And I also get to read that famous line of Maxon's that's circulating in Twitter for quite a while now:
"Break my heart. Break it a thousand times if you like. It was only ever yours to break anyway."
Relatively speaking, the characters could have been made a lot more interesting... but despite its flaws, I can see why it became a bestseller too quickly. The story is a bit predictable but I can definitely say that it doesn't lack in the entertainment department. I was always drawn to the pages, that even though I know that America would eventually be chosen in the end (is this even a spoiler at this point?), I was still nervous that she would be eliminated because of many circumstances. The journey of it was a heartwarming one. And even at the very end, Kiera Cass managed to bring that thrilling factor to her scenes. That epic conclusion was a dream - that build up to the ultimate admission (of feelings) was palpable. It made it heartwarming-ly worth it in the end.

And can we talk about the covers? They're breathtaking. Aesthetically speaking, these designs make you just want to grab them and run to the nearest bookstore counter to pay for them and take them home. The gowns are gorgeous, catchy. Book cover master class, indeed.

So to anyone who wants to fall in love while having a quick read at the same time (each book averages to 200+ pages only), this is definitely for you. (You can conveniently stop at Book 3 because the next two books involve a different character and plot.) Entertaining, swoon-worthy. Not the best series I've read, but definitely a decent one to say the least.

My Ratings:
The Selection: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5 stars)
The Elite: ★★★☆☆ (3 out of 5 stars)
The One: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5 stars)

The Selection Series (Books 1 to 3): 
★★★☆☆ (3.5 out of 5 stars)

Quotable Quotes:

"The moment you're ready to ask, I'm ready to say yes."

"...true love is usually the most inconvenient kind."

"...but the truth is... there's only you. Maybe I'm not really looking, maybe they aren't right for me. It doesn't matter. I just know I want you. And that terrifies me."

"Because when you're on the bottom, your only choice is to blame the top."

"Mistakes mean it's real."

"You're so pretty when you're a mess."

"The best people all have some kind of scar."

"...this is what it's like; this is how it feels when you fall."

"You are not the world, but you are everything that makes the world good. Without you, my life would still exist, but that's all it would manage to do."

ALL OF MAXON'S LETTERS AND HIS PROPOSAL. BYE. >.<

#TheReadingQuest Sign-Up Post and TBR

Another quest for my reading pleasure! I thoroughly enjoyed the last time I joined a reading challenge for #AsianLitBingo last May 2017. So this month, I am signing up for the #TheReadingQuest! This is a reading challenge based on a video game quest with an interesting 'gameplay' and even more interesting reading prompts. I was really excited when I saw the prompts because it's like a more exciting way of lessening my TBR pile right now - I mean, c'mon, look at the board below:


Anyway, #TheReadingQuest is being hosted by the amazing Aentee of Reading at Midnight which will run from August 13 to September 10, 2017! Last day of sign-ups is until August 13th (today!!!) -- so this is pretty last minute.

Participants will have to select a Character Class and conquer the related quest (path) comprised of several reading prompts in The Quest Board. In my case, I chose to be a MAGE. :)
"As wielders of spells and witchcraft, these players will conjure and summon their way through the First Down path on the quest. Their tomes contain magic and whispers of alternate lands."
And the fun thing about this reading challenge is we can make our own character ID card -- and here's mine:


There are EXP and HP points, level-ups, and treasures that can be gained through this reading challenge so it is really one exciting adventure. :) If you want to know more, head over to #TheReadingQuest Sign-Up post for more information and the detailed mechanics.

And now, for my TBR -- here goes:

THE FIRST BOOK IN A SERIES


Shatter Me (Shatter Me, #1) by Tahereh Mafi  -  I know! I haven't started the series and I thought this is a pretty good opportunity to read it, beginning with Tahereh Mafi's Shatter Me. 

Pages: 338 - 33 HP Points


A BOOK SET IN A DIFFERENT WORLD



Crown of Midnight (Thrones of Glass, #2) by Sarah J. Maas - Continuing on with my S.J. Maas streak is the Throne of Glass series. I haven't made a review for the A Court of Thorns and Roses series + the first book in the Throne of Glass (*hides in shame*) but this is still a good opportunity to continue on the series. (I hope I could post the reviews for these magical books soon!)

Pages: 418 - 41 HP Points


A BOOK BASED ON MYTHOLOGY



The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Yee - To the book that took my Twitter timeline by storm! Even before its release, this has been the talk of the town in YA twitter (along with The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue). Super intriguing and I heard it was super good. I am so excited to read this!

Pages: 336 - 33 HP Points


A BOOK THAT CONTAINS MAGIC



The Arctic Incident (Artemis Fowl, #2) by Eoin Colfer - Continuing on with my dear Artemis Fowl. I recently finished the first book and it turns out I can't get enough. Thanks to a friend of mine for recommending this series, and not it's part of this quest. :)

Pages: 277 - 27 HP Points


A BOOK WITH A ONE WORD TITLE


Want (Want, #1) by Cindy Pon - Another one that's been too hyped up in my Twitter timeline (honestly, I love my Twitter folks). It's time to find what it's all about. Also, intriguing cover!

Pages: 328 - 32 HP Points
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So there, there! 4 out 5 of the books in this quest are part of a series, plus they're all YA. My allegiances are pretty obvious, I know. I hope I could finish this on time, considering the pile of work I'm currently in -- but we'll make a way because we make time for the things we love. That's how we can maintain balance in our lives. Looking forward for all the fun! :3

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Book: China Rich Girlfriend (Crazy Rich Asians, #2) by Kevin Kwan

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Blurb:
On the eve of her wedding to Nicholas Young, heir to one of the greatest fortunes in Asia, Rachel should be over the moon. She has a flawless Asscher-cut diamond from JAR, a wedding dress she loves more than anything found in the salons of Paris, and a fiancé willing to sacrifice his entire inheritance in order to marry her. But Rachel still mourns the fact that her birthfather, a man she never knew, won’t be able to walk her down the aisle. Until: a shocking revelation draws Rachel into a world of Shanghai splendor beyond anything she has ever imagined. Here we meet Carlton, a Ferrari-crashing bad boy known for Prince Harry-like antics; Colette, a celebrity girlfriend chased by fevered paparazzi; and the man Rachel has spent her entire life waiting to meet: her father. Meanwhile, Singapore’s It Girl, Astrid Leong, is shocked to discover that there is a downside to having a newly minted tech billionaire husband. A romp through Asia’s most exclusive clubs, auction houses, and estates, China Rich Girlfriend brings us into the elite circles of Mainland China, introducing a captivating cast of characters, and offering an inside glimpse at what it’s like to be gloriously, crazily, China-rich. (via Goodreads)
One word: CRAZY. I knew even before reading this book and finishing the first one that I am signing up for some other-worldly crazy antics of these outrageously privileged people, but I still came out surprised. Color me slightly weirded out that I am still giving out 4s for books in this series knowing that I have this "slight" (what? the term is relative) aversion to shallow and selfish characters -- but you know what, I don't care. It keeps me entertained and I am not any bit sorry for it. Though I loved the first few chapters leading up to Rachel and Nick's eventual marriage (is this even a spoiler?), the couple took a back seat in this story. Instead, it centered on the opulence of the "china-rich" as they may call them. Of course, there is the over-the-top unnecessary drama - but the books in the Crazy Rich Asians series won't be complete without it. Hilarious (and annoying) characters were introduced and re-introduced. Plot lines were picked up. I loved Astrid's story line since Crazy Rich Asians, and this continued on to China Rich Girlfriend. I think I might even like her more than Rachel Chu. As with my comment in the previous book, I wish they made use of some of the more interesting characters - like Sophie Khoo, who mysteriously disappeared from the pages ever since his brother, Collin's, wedding. I found her to be quite the character and I wish she'll have some part in the next book.

Overall, this is a fun read if you need a quick pick-me-up. Heck, I just read it during my daily taxi ride to the client's office and I still finished it in a whim! I never knew I would get hooked to this. Maybe to compensate with the stressful life I've been leading these past few days? This is definitely a fine distraction and a hilarious way to pass time. Recommended!
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My Rating: ★★★☆ (4 out of 5 stars)
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Quotable Quotes:

Beauty fades, but wit will keep you on the invitation lists to all the most exclusive parties.
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This is the 24th book I've read this year and this has been part of my 2017 Reading Challenge#Bookworm2017

Sunday, June 4, 2017

#AsianLitBingo 2017 Wrap-Up Post

And just like that.... we managed to finish the #AsianLitBingo Reading Challenge. Sad I wasn't able to this in the link-up but who says I can't do a wrap-up? 😁


I've pledged to complete the third line in this board and I am so glad I did. As a recap, the following are the books I've read in this challenge (in no particular order), with the corresponding linked reviews:
  1. SFF with Asian MC: The Star Maiden by Roshani Chokshi*
  2. Contemporary with Asian MC: Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han
  3. Free Space: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
  4. Retelling with Asian MC: The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury
  5. Historical Fiction with Asian MC: Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
* The Star Maiden was actually a short story, a part of the Shimmer Zine, but I got it from the list of recommended items from the #AsianLitBingo master post so I guess this qualifies. :)

That was such a roller coaster ride. I participated from May 9 to May 31 and I barely made it -- see, I'm a veeeeery slow reader. Even I surprised myself by finishing this challenge. Besides from the unusual speed (for me, at least), it was also quite surprising that I liked it - I mean, the books I've read are not the usual book I was used to reading. Heck, I may even confess that, without this challenge, there is a high chance that I wouldn't turn my attention to these (maybe except #2 and 3, y'all know how much I love contemporaries). Well, guilty as charged. So it wouldn't be something new if I say that I felt like my reading roster got wider, more diverse, by finishing this reading challenge. 

If I have to pick my favorites and rank them, it would be like this: The Forbidden Wish came out on top, followed by Crazy Rich Asians. Always and Forever, Lara Jean, on the other hand, came in close third. Everything was unexpectedly good! This challenge aimed to raise awareness of books written with representation in mind -- and it totally did that to me. I would definitely add more of these kinds of books to my TBR. I mean, all the things I've read? Definitely recommended. And, oh, this challenge also helped me finish my 2017 Reading Challenge so early in the year -- so, it's all good! x
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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Book: Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

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Blurb:
For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food . . . and the strength of her very own family. (via Goodreads)
I must admit that I am extremely biased when it comes to book covers. If it is, in any way, good, then there is a high chance that I'll read it. So I am not exaggerating when I say that the moment I saw Inside Out and Back Again's book cover, I immediately decided to read it -- that, and of course, the high rating on Goodreads. I chose this from the roster of book recommendation for the #AsianLitBingo Reading Challenge and I am so glad I did.

Told through the perspective of , this book is written on a verse-like style that is both breathtaking and easy to read. Thanhha Lai managed to capture that innocent voice of a 10-year old little girl that is both innocent and wise beyond her years. Set in the 1970s - when the Vietnam War broke - this book tells the story of a family displaced by war, the racism and discrimination they encountered when they moved to America, and how, slowly, resolve to adjusting and finally settling down to their new life.

I surprised myself with how fast I finished this - maybe it was the rush of the reading challenge deadline (5/31!) - so I think there were a couple of elements I overlooked. It was a rather short book, given the format, and one that targets younger audiences. Thanhha Lai disclosed that most part of this book is based on her actual experience - and I am really grateful that she decided to relive her formative years and share it through this book.  With increasing number of refugees around the world nowadays, this book can really give so much inspiration and hope for those who need it. There were many heartbreaking moments throughout the book, delivered in the most straightforward way in the perspective of Ha. Those moments, especially during the time when they started living in America, makes me cringe at how immigrants are being treated back in the days - like they are lesser creatures. I sure do hope that it wasn't the case now.

Overall, this read was worth it. I might reread this when I had the time because poignant children's books like this always has a way to reveal something new to you at every turn. Read away!
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My Rating: ★★★☆ (3.5 out of 5 stars)
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Quotable Quotes:

"I love her more for her scars."

"But I know at times, words are just words."

"Not the same but not bad at all."

"The more mistakes you make, the more you'll learn not to."
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This is the 23rd book I've read this year and this has been part of my 2017 Reading Challenge. This is also the 5th book I finished for my #AsianLitBingo Reading Challenge for Historical Fiction with Asian Main Character#Bookworm2017

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