Tag: Retellings (page 1 of 2)

BOOK REVIEW: Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) by Renee Ahdieh

BOOK REVIEW: Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) by Renee AhdiehFlame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1)
by Renee Ahdieh
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she's quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she's ever known.

**ARC provided by Penguin in exchange for an honest review**

 At that, the Wolf started to laugh. It began softly, like the rumble of a drum. Then it rose to a steadying rain. It wasn’t a rich kind of laughter. Its sound didn’t fill Mariko’s ears with its honeyed resonance. But it was clear and deep, much like the color of his eyes.
And a part of her couldn’t help but think-were he another boy, in another time, in another place-Mariko would have liked to hear Okami’s laughter.
Would have enjoyed being the cause of it.

Renee Ahdieh stole a place in my heart long ago with Khalid and Shazi’s story. Their love enraptured me from the start, weaving deep into my soul with each passing page. Their love overcame so many obstacles, took leaps and bounds through story-telling and a deeper understanding of a curse that could not be controlled. And now, Renee has captured my heart again through Mariko’s perilous journey to infiltrate the deadly Black Clan not as a woman…but as a man. One of their own.

“Never doubt. Never fear. Never overthink.” Okami watched her as he spoke. As though he was searching for something beyond her. “That is the only way to stay alive.”

When I saw that this amazing author was coming out with a book that had components of Mulan-or hey, even just that this author was producing another masterpiece-I was ecstatic. Also, have you SEEN that cover? It’s just so pretty I can’t stand it. But with this lovely book I saw something that made my heart sink-it came out after my baby was supposed to be born. Luckily, Penguin was more than willing to help me out and get my copy to me early-But, as fate would have it, I also had my baby girl early. Sigh. I had 50% of FITM done when I went into labor and I figured I’d have no chance of finishing it, at that point. How sad is it that when I woke up in pain and just KNEW I was going to be having her that day, my first two thoughts were this:

A) ARE YOU SERIOUS-I can’t go see Beauty and the Beast tonight in IMAX ARGH

And

B) Omg my book. I’ll never finish my beautiful book that Penguin sent me

Priorities. Seriously.

But that just goes to show you how amazing this book was-After a couple weeks of figuring out my little girl’s schedule, I persevered and finished the rest in one afternoon-It’s just a totally unputdownable book.

So here I am, making time to write a review for a book that totally deserves it. With rich story-telling, deep, imaginative characters, and vivid world-building (at least to me), I couldn’t help but fall for each and every character…even those that were not so kind to our Mariko.

Each new day brought new struggles, causing loss of breath for every moment I thought she would be caught by the too-wise Okami (Aka The Wolf), by the antagonistic Ren. And yet…I also held my breath for different reasons.

 “You don’t believe your great love is out there, simply waiting to be found?”
“Do you?” Mariko pitched her voice low. Graveled with disbelief.
Ranmaru’s broad lips spread into an easy smile.” I believe the stars align so that souls can find one another. Whether they are meant to be souls in love or souls in life remains to be seen.”

Okami always knew Mariko was different, that something was off about her-Too soft, too green to be what ‘he’ claimed to be. So Okami was always watching, taunting, waiting for their newest ‘recruit’ to make a mistake. But as he gets closer to Mariko, he begins to feel protective, to almost like him/her…yet all the while Okami feels something is off-and he will find out what, no matter the cost.

Is it bad that all I wanted was for him to find out? To see that the boy he has been teaching and bestowing wisdom upon was actually a girl…a girl he could have feelings for? I held my breath at every twist and turn, just pining for her to make a mistake so I could see them kiss or SOMETHING.

I will admit that this part of the book did baffle me a bit. Just like in Mulan, I have to wonder how you can reconcile feelings for a gender swap, just like that (Meaning, in Mulan, he never knew she was a girl, then all of a sudden he did….and then she saves them all yadda yadda and he knows he loves her, in the end. Just…how?). He knew she was different…and yet he didn’t know to what extent. I won’t spoil anything, but this did give me pause…because I just can’t help but think about these things.

 It was a mistake. All of it. For as long as she’d known him, Mariko had despised the very idea of this boy.
But the truth of him?
The truth was not quite as simple. It was a silent entreaty, A wordless plea.
Don’t stop.

And because of my extreme love for these two people who had no idea they had major tension brewing between them, I forgot to mention the best part! This is most definitely an enemies-at-first-site deal at the beginning-a hate to (maybe) love thing. Mariko despises the lazy Okami, and he finds her to be a liar, an extra burden. It was comical and sweet and…ugh. I just love this book so much, CAN’T YOU TELL??

In order to hate, one must first love.

I’m truly sorry for those who like my reviews and, quite frankly, the publisher because this review is all over the place. But, hey, so is my brain-it might be for a while. I had to write something, though, or I’d have gone crazy knowing I didn’t do my part.

So, for those of you excited about this book…you should be. And for those on the fence? STOP. Don’t be. It’s an absolutely amazing story and this author knows what she’s doing. Don’t doubt her. Just sit, wait, and grab this book the minute it releases. I truly don’t see how this could disappoint…I can’t wait to read it again and again-it was a true beauty-I’m only sorry I had to read it in two parts, two weeks apart. And that my review isn’t what I normally would be able to write. Thank you again to Penguin for the opportunity to read and review this early.

 

BOOK REVIEW – The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

BOOK REVIEW – The Forbidden Wish by Jessica KhouryThe Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

She is the most powerful Jinni of all. He is a boy from the streets. Their love will shake the world...

When Aladdin discovers Zahra's jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn't seen in hundreds of years -- a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra's very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes. 



But when the King of the Jinn offers Zahra a chance to be free of her lamp forever, she seizes the opportunity—only to discover she is falling in love with Aladdin. When saving herself means betraying him, Zahra must decide once and for all: is winning her freedom worth losing her heart?

As time unravels and her enemies close in, Zahra finds herself suspended between danger and desire in this dazzling retelling of Aladdin from acclaimed author Jessica Khoury.

Review:

Buddy Read with my fabulous co-bloggers Anna & Chelsea for Anna’s belated birthday read! ♥

The Forbidden Wish was a magical journey that was fun and enchanting.  It started off with a bang, and each page was wrapped in beautifully, intoxicating words.  I rooted for the boy and the jinni to have a chance.  To find their happiness.  But I did struggle making that connection to Zahra, the jinni, and at times I would forget some of the characters names.  But there were still so many moments that captured my attention and continually kept pulling me back into the story.

He is just a boy, a moment in time that will soon pass. I have known a thousand and one like him. I will know a thousand and one more. He is nothing. I tell myself this, so that I will not hope for him. I am not allowed to hope. I am forbidden a wish of my own.

Before I go any further, I have a teeny tiny confession.  I literally remember nothing from the Disney movie Aladdin.  I saw it when it first released in the theaters, and while I remember what the characters looked like, I don’t remember much else.  Case in point, I thought that the jinni‘s name was Aladdin.  Thank you giggling, gossiping friends from back in the day that I went to the theater with lol.  So while I can’t compare this book to the movie,  I’m glad I went into it partially blind.  It made the characters feel that much more unique to me.

Aladdin raises a tentative hand to my cheek. Immobile with both dread and longing, I can only stare up at him, flushing with warmth when he gently runs his hand down the side of my face. I shut my eyes, leaning into his touch just slightly, my stomach leaping. Longing. Wishing.

Zahra was such an enigma.  She could be so level-headed one moment, and then the next her emotions would get the better part of her.  She had the capability of being a true friend, but she also had to become manipulative at times.  But there was a valid reason for the manipulative part. After thousands of years of being a slave to her bottle and granting wishes for others, she had a chance to be free.  But to do so, she had to manipulate Aladdin.  Which seemed simple enough to her at first.  Yet there’s no way it could be simple once she truly started to see who Aladdin was as a person.

Even a thief may have honor, and even a jinni may have a heart. -Aladdin

Aladdin.  Oh, he was a truly remarkable thief.  Especially when it came to people’s hearts.  But my favorite thing about him was his thoughtful heart.  The moments he was selfless and thought of others firsts was amazing.  So it’s no surprise that his thievery, drunken ways and flirtation with other women didn’t bother me.  Especially when I saw how he interacted with Zahra.  But him and Zahra together was something that could never be.  But then again, rules were meant to be broken at times, right?

I meet his eyes, feeling the vibrations of the thunder outside echoing in my chest. The way he looks at me—steady and silent, bold and bright—makes me feel as if the storm outside were trapped inside me, thunder and rain and light, rolling and crashing.

While I enjoyed the time Zahra and Aladdin were together, I kept trying to find a connection or a link to Zahra.  She had many attributes that were respectable, but I couldn’t click with her.  And since she’s the narrator, it made me feel as though I was a little bit outside of the story, instead of fully immersed.  And unfortunately I struggled with another point.  Names.  We were introduced to a lot of characters and many of their names were unique to me.  So they wouldn’t stick.  I even struggled remembering Zahra’s name at times.  Or the women who surrounded Caspida, I can’t even remember one of their names.  But speaking of Caspida, I would love to learn more about her.  There is so much story in the past and future to be told when it comes to her.

“You know we don’t stand a chance,” I whisper. Aladdin looks down at me, his hand squeezing my arm. “We’re still alive, aren’t we? Come on, Smoky. Where’s your sense of adventure?”

So I had a lot of fun following Zahra and Aladdin on their adventurous tale.  I wish I would have found that connection to Zahra, but maybe you’ll be able to easily make that connection  Regardless, if you adore a retelling, then you should definitely check this one out.  It’s filled with lots of adventure, love and friendship and I can tell that many people are going to fall hard for The Forbidden Wish! PS The nicknames were beyond adorable, with Zahra calling Aladdin thief, and Aladdin calling Zahra smokey.

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BOOK REVIEW – Emerge (Mer Chronicles #1) by Tobie Easton

BOOK REVIEW –  Emerge (Mer Chronicles #1) by Tobie EastonEmerge (Mer Chronicles #1)
by Tobie Easton
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Lia Nautilus may be a Mermaid but she's never lived in the ocean. War has ravaged the seven seas ever since the infamous Little Mermaid unleashed a curse that stripped Mer of their immortality. Lia has grown up in a secret community of land-dwelling Mer hidden among Malibu's seaside mansions. Her biggest problems are surviving P.E. and keeping her feelings for Clay Ericson in check. Sure, he's gorgeous in that cocky, leather jacket sort of way and makes her feel like there's a school of fish swimming in her stomach, but getting involved with a human could put Lia's entire community at risk. So it's for the best that he's dating that new girl, right? That is, until Lia finds out she isn't the only one at school keeping a potentially deadly secret. And this new girl? Her eyes are dead set on Clay, who doesn't realize the danger he's in. If Lia hopes to save him, she'll have to get closer to Clay. Lia's parents would totally flip if they found out she was falling for a human boy, but the more time she spends with him, the harder it is for her to deny her feelings. After making a horrible mistake, Lia will risk everything to stop Clay from falling in love with the wrong girl.

Review:

Have you ever stepped into a series and was left wondering if you missed something?  Maybe you somehow skipped a few chapters beforehand?  Because that’s exactly how I felt when I started Emerge.  By the time I got my footing, it was a little too late.  Which was such a disappointment, because I was so excited for this book!  A curse on the mermaids because of what The Little Mermaid did, and we get to hear the story from one of her descendants?  YES please!  But as I read through the pages of Emerge, that yes sadly turned into a no.

  • Confusion & No Connection
Am I really off the fishhook?

The first chapter was unfortunately where the confusion started for me.  Here is the situation that made me say what,what, what……

Aurelia, who was the descendant of The Little Mermaid, was at a high school with humans and their PE coach was trying to make her swim.  A little fyi….if she got in that pool she would have transformed into a mermaid.  Luckily a human boy, named Clay, got her out of that situation.  In that first chapter we then got to watch Aurelia and Clay have an awkward conversation, Clay date a new girl in school, and then Aurelia see the new couple kiss in a store where she was shopping.  Upon seeing them kissing, she wanted to leave the store because she could not handle watching them kiss.

I was SO lost towards Aurelia’s strong feelings towards Clay and his new girlfriend kissing.  Was this someone she had crushed on forever?  Did they have a history?  I had that small amount of interaction, no backstory, and I was confused.  How was I supposed to be compassionate, let alone feel her emotions, if I couldn’t understand the why behind it.  I finally got the why and backstory at 16%.  Which left me a little confused until that point.

 

  • Timeline?
My father claps his hands once, breaking the somber mood. “I thought the party last night went just swimmingly. Pun intended!”

I am 99.9% positive that I have never complained about a books timeline before in a review.  It’s usually an aspect of the book that never affects me.  But I guess that is why they say never say never, because Emerge’s timeline drove me a little crazy.  It vacillated from slow to fast, such as their party went by in the blink of an eye, yet a conversation that took place in minutes would go on for pages.  I never could get a good grasp on whether something was going to take place in a matter of minutes, days or weeks.

 

  • Easy Peasy Plot Twists
I was probably gaping at him like a codfish.

I love when I have to work hard to figure out plot twists before the characters do.  But this time, they were so easy to figure out.  Maybe that was the point?  But if it was, I wish that I would have at least gotten farther than a quarter of the way into the book before saying aha again and again.  Because then I kept finding myself frustrated with Aurelia as she she completely oblivious to clue after clue.

 

  • An Infuriating Heroine
I shouldn’t do what I’m about to do. It’s wrong. It’s so wrong. But what other choice do I have?

You know what?  All those issues above can’t even hold a candle to my frustration to the heroine.  Aurelia’s decision making abilities was beyond horrid.  She made that statement above at not even the halfway point, and just so you know I loathe when people say that.  A lot of times, there are PLENTY of other options available. And this was definitely one of those times.  She could have asked for help, confided in her best male friend, Caspian, or her older sister.  Yet she took the worst possible of way out again and again and again.  

And I never fully grasped her interest towards Clay, because there was Caspian.  Caspian was her friend and a male mer.  And when the two of them were together, I could see the sparks flying.  But with Clay, I felt absolutely nothing.

 

I did contemplate not finishing Emerge a few times.  But I’m one of those people who always holds out hope.  Hope that something, anything will pull me back in.  Unfortunately, nothing ever did.  But I do have to say that the premise was fascinating.  I just wish it would have been executed differently.  And Emerge did end nicely with lots of options for the next book, but sadly I have no desire to continue this series.  But here’s hoping that if you pick up this book, that you are able to find enjoyment where I could not.

*ARC kindly provided by Month9Books in exchange for an honest review*

BOOK REVIEW – The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

BOOK REVIEW – The Forbidden Wish by Jessica KhouryThe Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury
Purchase on: Amazon
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

She is the most powerful Jinni of all. He is a boy from the streets. Their love will shake the world...

When Aladdin discovers Zahra's jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn't seen in hundreds of years -- a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra's very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes.

But when the King of the Jinn offers Zahra a chance to be free of her lamp forever, she seizes the opportunity—only to discover she is falling in love with Aladdin. When saving herself means betraying him, Zahra must decide once and for all: is winning her freedom worth losing her heart?

As time unravels and her enemies close in, Zahra finds herself suspended between danger and desire in this dazzling retelling of Aladdin from acclaimed author Jessica Khoury.

BR with the astounding Chelsea and Jen

“This place is haunted by ghosts, and I am one of them.”

Told in a beautiful and evocative writing enhanced with sparks of humor, The Forbidden Wish surprised me in the best way possible : indeed albeit being quite romance-focused, it manages to avoid the tropes I hate the most in Fantasy/PNR YA :

☑ There’s neither instalove nor love triangle.(*)
☑ The female lead is always sympathetic toward other women and there’s no such thing as girl hate.
☑ Aladdin’s not perfect by any means (more about him later), but one thing is certain : he’s not a controlling, abusing jerk, and if anything his flaws made him endearing to me.

“Wishes have a way of twisting themselves, and there is nothing more dangerous than getting your heart’s desire. The question is, are you willing to gamble? How much are you willing to lose? What are you willing to risk everything for?”

Enchanting, The Forbidden Wish is not an action packed novel, but not a boring one either. As a retelling of Aladdin’s story, we find layers of the original but that does not mean that Jessica Khoury didn’t add her stamp, because she most definitely did. While original events are seen in a complete different way View Spoiler », the twists make the story even more engaging and captivating (and women friendly). If the plot isn’t the most complex I ever read (hardly), I was hooked from the beginning and I enjoyed my read immensely.

Moreover, contrary to what we find in many retellings, the author made her jinni female and let me tell you : it was FANTASTIC. Oh, and funny :

“You’re a- you’re a-
Say it, boy. Demon of fire. Monster of smoke. Devil of sand and ash. Servant of Nardukha, Daughter of Ambadya, the Nameless, the Faceless, the Limitless. Slave of the Lamp. Jinni.
“… a girl! he finishes.
For a second, I can only blink at him, but I recover quickly.”

Ha, Zahra. I loved her. Witty and self-sufficient, she never comes as pretentious and yet, she knows her worth – She’s a jinni, thank you very much, and she actually sounds like one, which is so rare! Brought to life by Aladdin after a looooong traversée du désert (pun intended), she’s ready to grant his wishes but doesn’t forget her own agenda (her freedom, no less!).

However, despite her hidden goal, Zahra has been eaten by guilt for so long that she has doubts, and who wouldn’t? Trust me, this is NOT a case of “his abs convinced me to die for him, because YUM, can I lick them?”. Nope. Her struggles and hesitations are well-founded, and not driven by Aladdin alone. See, I realize more and more that strong heroines, if they never fail, never doubt, never waver, annoy me as much as their manly counterparts. I want strong heroines in my books, but I want them complex and realistic. What’s strength, really? Is it never hesitating? I don’t think so, and honestly, I sure hope not. I could relate to Zahra, and she never annoyed me – she’s not a heartless cyborg, and I liked her all the more for it.

As for Aladdin… I may be biased, but his character made me smile so much that I couldn’t hold his flaws against him. Yes, he is reckless, charming, flirty, but so endearing, loyal, and more than a little adorable. His past haunts him, and there’s a need for revenge starving deep within him. Their personalities, so different as they are, make for the funniest interactions and I absolutely loved how their dynamics played throughout the book.

“What did Caspida want?”
“To talk about elephants and dead queens.”
“What? Really?”
“Oh, stop frowning. She asked about you too – what you’re like, what kind of person you are. Don’t worry.” I pat his hand conspiratorially and smile. “I lied.”

As I said earlier, although the romance owns an important part of the show, it never bothered me (on the contrary) because what we see isn’t a stupid and very tropey instalove but the slow and believable growth of a friendship which perhaps, perhaps, will morph into something more. And trust me, I rooted for them something fierce. So, yeah, I fought the urge to roll my eyes at some cheesy similes, but I never stopped smiling – it does change something!

“We’re in together, aren’t we, Smoky?” He gives me a crooked, bemused smile.
“But… you’re the Lampholder. Whatever you say goes. I don’t have a choice.”
He laughs, and I frown at him in surprise. “You think it’s funny?” I ask.
“No! Sorry. I should probably say how awful it is you have to go wherever I want, but… When I look at you, I see a jinni who’s not afraid to disagree with me. If I make a wish, you could use it to crush me. You’ve done it before, haven’t you? Ruined your masters with their own wishes?”
I lift a shoulder in begrudging agreement.”

Last but not least, Jessica Khoury offers significant roles for other women. Now, this is so fucking rare : not only Zahra never shows any hateful spite against other women, but they play important roles in the story (and roles that aren’t defined by their relationships with men).

That ending, though? I have to admit that it did feel a little rushed and that I wish some parts had played out differently View Spoiler » but it was satisfying nonetheless.

(*) I am sure that some readers will state that there is a love triangle, but for me there’s really not. How many characters love each others? Two. No love triangle in my book.View Spoiler »

BOOK REVIEW – Alice (Alice #1) by Christina Henry

BOOK REVIEW – Alice (Alice #1) by Christina HenryAlice (Alice #1)
by Christina Henry
Purchase on: Amazon
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

A mind-bending new novel inspired by the twisted and wondrous works of Lewis Carroll...

In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo the screams of the poor souls inside.

In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blond, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place. Just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood…

Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago.

Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful.

And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice.

Bring it, Alice! I’m not scared. Oh, how I should have.

TRIGGER WARNING : Graphic rape (a lot) and violence

By no means is Alice a flawless book, and I’m not gonna lie, the first chapters, if they hooked me, confused me as hell in the same time. Who are these people? What do they want? What are their relationships like? Where the fuck are they? What’s this world, where human traffic, rape and violence are common practices, where the awful way women are treated makes me want to scream?

To be honest, I always thought that Alice in Wonderland was weird as fuck and developed in an undercurrent of crazy violence, and here? Well. Christina Henry sure pictured the characters we know in the most terrifying light. I love this kind of retellings with passion, and despite the horror, I couldn’t help but be mesmerized at all the magical and strange creatures we meet.

► Moreover, as long as it took for me to simply understand what was going on, it didn’t influence my interest, not at any moment. From the first page I was intrigued, horrified, drowned into this sick journey of theirs. It started with my breath thinning, then gasping and struggling for air.

I was there with Alice, who coudn’t annoy me even if she kept following Hatcher around, because after what she lived through, it made sense and she was lucid about her need and their somewhat unhealthy relationship. Perhaps this world forces her to be taken care of by a man, but nobody owns her, and she makes sure that everyone knows it. Fierce, fierce Alice – she’s in no need of saving, after all. Trust me on this. And then, there’s Hatcher. Hatcher whose madness took violent turns sometimes and whose mind we could never really trust, but Hatcher who was ready to do anything to protect her. Starting Alice, I didn’t expect his character, and he surprised me in the best way possible.

This said, I won’t say that their relationship didn’t surprise or make me uncomfortable at times, because it did. What is it that they have? Love? Friendship? Whatever it is, its evolution is beautiful.

► Really, though? Their quest for revenge and blood captivated me and I rooted for them to kill these fuckers something fierce. Whoops.

This said, I didn’t enjoy some parts of it (I’m not lying when I say that this book is really rape-y), and wanted for some men to go over the stereotyping lust (because really), that’s why I can’t bring myself to give it the full 5. If I never got the impression that rape was used as a plot device – but rather as a way to show how monstruous and excruciating this world is, and NEVER condoned in any way – I don’t like the fact that (almost) all men are bad.

Thanks god for View Spoiler », really.

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