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This is the second book in the Sookie Stack house series.  I have to admit that I am not champing at the bit to find out what happens, but I bought the set of 10 books for £19 and I am curious as to what all the fuss is about. We find Sookie trying to navigate her relationship with Bill, although it is becoming clear that he is not the best person for her.

First of all Sookie is attacked by a Maenad as a message to Eric Northman, demanding that she gets a tribute from him.  She is then taken to Eric who, along with a doctor and other vampires declares that Sookie needs a blood transfusion and have the poisoned blood removed, so it is a grand old Sookie picnic for the vamps.  This is the start of Eric gradually showing Sookie that he is an alternative and not all vampires are like Bill.

Then Lafayette, unlike the TV series, is found dead in Andy Bellefleur’s car (while he is in the bar on a bender).  So Sookie, being loyal and always one to defend the underdog, decides that she wants to figure out what happened to him.  She soon discovers that this all centres around an orgy that Lafayette went to, and his inability to keep gossip to himself.

This line of investigation is stalled when Sookie is shipped off to Dallas, it seems that her talents (no longer a disability) has made her hot property and she is to see Stan who has a problem with a missing vampire.  The trip to Dallas is interesting as we see how vampires travel by air, but we also shown how insulated Sookie’s life has been.

When they get to Dallas, Sookie quickly shows her worth and they are all happy as the proverbial pigs in muck, especially when she goes on an undercover ‘mission’ with another human looking into the Fellowship of a Sun, an ultra-Christian group of anti-vampire nutjobs, who seem to have forgotten about Christian values and are all about killing, raping and beating people up.  Good times.  Of course Sookie is on the receiving end of this, but is rescued by a shapeshifter (an introduction of a new group of supernaturals) and then Eric takes care of her while Bill is off gallivanting.  Again he shows how tender he can be and also reliable too, how about that!

Battered and beaten, Sookie is then subjected to a vampire party, which Bill is loving every second of.  He completely ignores Sookie and is chatting up other female vampires, only for the party to be targeted by the Fellowship of the Sun.  Sookie realises just in time  and warns them, but only  the vampires heed her advice.  The scene is carnage, but she is kept safe – why? because Eric threw himself on top of her and took a bullet that was destined for her.  He then asks her to suck out the bullet ick.  Where is Bill?  Is he rushing forward to make sure that she is OK?  No, he is off on a blood crazed mission to chase after the Fellowship peeps who were responsible for the attack.  Sookie is not impressed as he promised that he wouldn’t kill anyone, and goes home alone.

The other half of the book features Sookie, who is still in a strop and not seeing Bill, distracting herself by donning the Miss Marple hat and trying to figure out who killed Lafayette.  Turns out that the rottenness inside of Bon Temps goes right to the core with an orgy featuring certain members of the town, probably encouraged by the Maenad.  She turns to Eric asking him to escort her and being a good sport, he turns up kitted out in lycra.  Of course he wants to be with her, but he isn’t going to force her – I think that he is an actions speak louder than words kind of man, I only wish that Sookie would pay more attention.

The concluding scene of the orgy was fairly grubby and it seems the author did too as she rushed through Sookie finding who the rest of the orgy-ers were, who had killed Lafayette, trying to escape, the Maenad having a hissy fit, Bill turning up like a bad smell and finally the resolution.

Bill and Sookie has a rollercoaster relationship one minute  they are screwing like rabbits and the other time they are arguing with Sookie going off in a strop.  One thing that I felt a little uncomfortable was the growing way in which Bill is wanting to have sex with Sookie all the time, even when she doesn’t feel like it – there is one sex scene when she asks him to “be sweet” and he says that he can’t.  That is a little too close to rape and control games for my liking and she just seems to accept that it is part of the way a vampire treats her.  Maybe this is because she is so naive or maybe it is inexperience or not having a decent male role model, but the way in which Bill treats Sookie is becoming less about love and more about control.

This is highlighted even more so when there is Eric in the picture.  He helps to heal her when she is poisoned by the Maenad; he takes care of her after her experience with the Fellowship of the Sun; he throws himself on top of her and takes a bullet for her – then stays around to make sure that she is OK.  He even humiliates himself in a pink lycra outfit when she needs to have help going to the orgy.  Each time he looks after her when she is scared and vulnerable and not once did he try to force himself on her, can’t say the same for Bill who is addicted to her blood – and can only get to it by having sex.  I hope that this is a subtle way of the author pointing out that Bill isn’t a nice guy who should be kicked to the curb.

This is also the book where we get to meet more mystical creatures, including the shape shifters, there’s more to this world than she realises and when she has barely seen the normal human world, this could be a culture shock. I suppose that this book is all about setting the scene for future books, which is why I am hoping that Book 3 will be better.

Sookie StackhouseI have been debating for a while as to whether I should read the Sookie Stackhouse books.  I had seen some of the TV series,  which were OK, but not something I religiously watched.   I had also read a sample passage from Book 4 in the back of another book (I love those as it’s a great way of discovering new books) and the style seemed OK, but the deciding factor was that I had found a set of 10 books for £19.99 at The Works, which pushed me over the edge 🙂

I have always loved the vampire genre with Dracula bring one of my all time favourites.  It is a genre that can be really, really good, or really, really bad.  Recently I have been dipping my toe into more Urban Fantasy/Mystery books including MaryJanice Davidson’s Undead series and the Twilight books (don’t judge me!).  Like a true addict, I always like to have a new book in the wings and expanding into a new genre means that there are more books to choose from 🙂

First of all, I could see the attraction of making it into a TV series, but there were enough differences between them for me to forget about the plot lines that I vaguely remember.

Sookie isn’t a character that I immediately liked.  She seemed far too lightweight for my liking, with her only depth being her ‘disability’ of being able to read minds.  Sadly, it is this that she blames for her lack of education, social and sex life and why she is a bar maid.  I would have liked to have seen if there was more personality, but the constant descriptions of what she was wearing and then wondering why men are looking at her like a piece of meat, really didn’t help her case.  For someone who has an insight into human nature, she is remarkably naive and stupid (in spite of the repeated claims about her intelligence), set on sunbathing and wearing skimpy clothes.  There really isn’t any depth there, so don’t look for it 😉

The town of Bon Temps has undercurrents of homophobia, racism and general intolerance running through it.  Her family is dead (except her brother – more about that later), so she is relatively alone in the world.  Held back by her telepathy she has been unable to get close to anyone and has lacked any kind of male role model to show her how a man should treat a woman.  From the opening sentence, it is clear that she is fixated upon vampires as a species well before meeting Bill and I wonder if she would have fallen in love/hooked up with any vampire and even moreso when she discovers that she couldn’t hear their thoughts, as she seems to crave peace and normality.

As Sookie is able to listen to other people’s thoughts, the whole town has dismissed her as crazy, and being the accepting bunch that they are, have done a stirling job in alienating her. This has also compounded her loneliness and obsession with vampires.  There are only a few people accepting of her gifts, but only when it suits them – and even then, they don’t want the rest of the town knowing she is helping them.

This is the worse kind of small town, the residents are bigoted, ignorant and highly volatile if their daily life is threatened; even bordering on mob mentality that is reminiscent of the witch trials.  Sadly, there really aren’t that many human characters who are decent people.  Sookie’s Grandma was one of them and Sam just about scrapes in, but only just. The town’s atmosphere gets worse with the appearance of a vampire and the encroaching vampire world and I imagine that this is only the start of the erosion of Bon Temps…

Bill is the first vampire in Bon Temps, who Sookie rescued after being ‘seduced’ by a pair who were offering him blood, but instead wanted to drain him of *his* blood due its magical properties and high market value as a drug (come on, how can someone who is that old be that careless and lacking in street smarts.)  Sookie in turn fell in love with him (or maybe she fell in love with his lack of thoughts) spurred on by the idea of finally have sex, only after she was nearly killed by the people who had assaulted Bill.

While the TV series seemed to show  a relationship between Bill and Sookie, in the book, Sookie was more of a blood donor to him than a lover.  From the first time we see Bill he is putting himself in a dangerous situation to drink some human blood and it is clear that this is what drives him.  I think that Bill is a manipulative wanker.  At one point she asked him not to bite her during sex because she was getting anaemic and feeling sick and he whined that it didn’t feel the same and then complained that she tasted different when she took vitamins.  Hell’s teeth, after hundreds of years of immortality, vampire men are still self centred whiney characters bent solely on getting their rocks off, regardless of the damage to the ones that they supposedly love.  Yeah, you can tell I don’t like Bill 😉

The main story line of the first book is that women who are sleeping with vampires are being killed off, including Sookie’s Grandmother who walked in on the murderer while he laid in wait for Sookie.  Her brother, Jason, is the main suspect, especially since he had also slept with the victims and filmed his S&M activities too.  What a charmer.  In fact, Jason is the human equivalent of the vampire, but rather than blood, what drives him is sex.  It seems that he is just as brutal as vampires when it comes to that.   I wonder if this is the author showing us; that humans can be just as hedonistic and driven by instincts as vampires are.

We get to see a glimpse of the vampire world as Sookie, with her Miss Marple hat on, wants to go to a vampire bar.  Here we are introduced to Eric, who seems to want to be ‘respectable’ in going mainstream, but also doesn’t apologise for the vampires and their ways.  Unlike Bill, at least he admits his differences instead of whining about wanting to fit in, then using ‘vampire ways’ as a cop out for not revealing things.

I think that vampires are perfect in the profession of PR, and in Sookie’s world, they have excelled.  They have managed to convince everyone that they aren’t the undead – oh no, it’s a virus that makes them seem dead.  To top it all, Sookie, despite frequently shagging a man without a heartbeat who fought in the Civil War, believes it.  Then has a wobbly when someone points out that he is dead.  Good. Grief.

The murder mystery part was moderately complex, although when Sookie was ‘investigating’ and listening to everyone’s thoughts, the murderer who was frequently mentioned everywhere else, was skipped over which was something of a pointer for the reader.  I will try and hold off long-lasting judgement about the series until I have read the next book.  This book was an OK read, in that it was a quick, light, fluffy read, although I did feel empty and unchallenged afterwards.  Unlike some books, after I finished I didn’t crave to know what happened next or had questions about Sookie’s world.  However as I have the box set waiting for me, maybe it will grow on me!

Oh and finally, I did not like the murder of the cat, sure, kill off humans – but you don’t kill the animals…

http://www.charlaineharris.com/

 

I am currently sifting through my backlog of book review notes and this is one that I had read last Halloween (it seemed fitting!).  I had strayed from the cozy genre into paranormal with the hope of finding a new series of books to capture my attention…

This was the first book in a year or so where I seriously thought about stopping it, but I soldiered on.  Joy and her friend Roxy go to Eastern Europe where Roxy is in search of the “Dark Ones”, – vampires that she has read about in a book (irritation no.1).  Joy who doesn’t believe in vampires, for a couple of chapters at least, starts to get visions in a pub, when 2 men walk in – it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that one was a regular man and the other was a ‘vampire’ (irritation no.2)

Roxy is obsessed with sex and the vampire and frustratingly the author didn’t give her any depth or redeeming features – someone somewhere should have told her to grow the fuck up and get over her groupie fantasies (irritation no.3).

Soon Joy starts shagging Raphael a head of security, cue skin crawlingly awful sex scenes, (irritation no.4) not to mention that despite her comments about safe sex in the first few chapters, she doesn’t seem to care that the condom split.

Irritations 5 to 30… The plot felt lacklustre as it was obvious who the serial killer was when he walked into the bar; there were also more awful sex scenes and the concept of the Dark Ones felt embarrassingly fan girl as was Roxy’s reaction to the vampires. I had such hopes for this book because of all the reviews and I went from hoping that it was just a ‘slow starter’ to just wanting to get it over and done with as soon as possible.  It really wasn’t my cup of tea.  However if you like Chick Lit, then this might be for you.

http://katiemacalister.com/

Happy New Year! In the early hours of 2012, I finally finished this book which is the first in the China n Chintz Mystery series and I have been trying to write a review for it for a few weeks with the question ‘Did I really not like it that much?’ at the forefront of my mind.  The story features Emerald O’Brien, the owner of a china tea shop and town witch, who is also a single mother to two children Kip and Miranda.  The story starts off with her being visited by the ghost of Susan Mitchell who asks her to help prove that her husband had murdered her, the following day Susan pays another visit with another astral nasty in tow bent on destroying Susan and her family.  This makes up the psychic/mystery part of the story.

I really wished that I liked this book more than I did …it went on for ages, and not in a good way.  Sometimes you start reading and the main character just bugs you.  Emerald has had a hard life, but she is also very smug, spouting her rules and regulations (that she often doesn’t follow herself) to all and sundry.  Her kids’ antics were probably supposed to show how understanding and kind she is, but instead it showed the weaknesses.  Turns out that one of her kids had done a spell which had created a “Mr Big and Ugly” spirit that had set out to kill Susan, her family and friends and destroying her house at the same time.  Getting rid of the spirit almost cost her her life as well as that of her friend too.  The séance and cleansing ritual were covered in great detail, but what seemed really weird was that after all the injury, destruction and fear, the punishment for the kid was grounding and being banned from doing magic, I don’t know, I would have thought that if an entity had been conjured that wanted to kill everyone, that there would be more of a consequence…

The mystery part was totally underwhelming.  There wasn’t really a lot of investigating going on and information just fell into her lap via her friend.  The murderer was introduced in the final quarter of the book, and as soon as soon as he had appeared, there was no doubt who the killer was straight away.  I’ve mentioned this before, but this is always such a disappointment and when there isn’t a strong story line, likable characters or a situation to redeem this, finishing off the book feels like a chore.  The ‘showdown’ seemed rushed and quite clumsy, here’s the bad guy – coincidentally with ‘bad guy’ written over his forehead, and off she goes ferreting around his house looking for evidence. He finds her and he tries to kill her.

With the gaps in the details of the murder and mystery part, there were some really odd moments of highly detailed elements that at the time you think are odd, but hope that later on it will be a clue, but no, detailing how her kid smelt musty because she didn’t shower was just a peculiar detail for no reason.  The final thing that got up my nose were that there were also a lot of ‘personal belief’ statements which again felt more patronising than anything else.  After all of her talk about her ex husband and what she was looking for in a man, she didn’t waste any time in hopping into bed with the new bloke without getting to know him, then when he starts acting like an asshole she’s all surprised and of course in the end his behaviour effects the kids.

So, on the whole, while this book seemed really promising – and I loved the author’s website, it just didn’t work for me. I think that sometimes when you read some truly brilliant books, the ones that are just OK often seem worse, would I read the next in the series?  Sadly, no.

Author’s website http://www.galenorn.com

Hooked on Murder

Molly Pink co-ordinates events at Shedd and Royal books, but ends up stumbling upon the body of Ellen Sheridan, leader of the crochet group and her late husband’s old business partner.  Soon she is being targeted by the policewoman in charge of the investigation whose judgement is clouded by jealousy over Molly’s relationship with Detective Barry and feels like the only way she can get herself out of the sticky situation is to do some investigating herself.

What I liked about this book was that she takes up crochet and it documents her journey into learning different techniques and the slippery slope into yarn addiction.  As a way of de-stressing she joins a crochet group who are struggling to make a blanket which is to be auctioned off for charity, as with most groups there’s a huge amount of politics to be tip toed around, not to mention the rivalry between crocheters and knitters.

I found Molly quite a tragic figure, while she was doing her best to carve out her own life, it seemed like the world couldn’t help but give her a few kickings along the way, not to mention a boyfriend who just wanted a housekeeper and a cook on tap.

The murder mystery part itself was cleverly made (even though the murderer was a peripheral character that was barely mentioned, which as a reader sometimes feels like a cop out) and it was only when there was a face off between the characters that everything fell into place and it went into scary movie territory – the ‘don’t go into the basement on your own’ kind of thing 😉

I would say that it was an enjoyable book that was OK, but didn’t necessarily hit all of the buttons.  Still, as a crocheter I liked the descriptions about the way that they made the blanket and the crochet vs knitters show down.   Let me know what you think!

Betty has her own website http://bettyhechtman.com/and Facebook page as well as photos of the crochet patterns – so get your hooks out!!

I am ashamed to even look at how long it has been since I posted a review, unfortunately when life, especially one that is governed by the pain of nerve damage takes over, I need to make like a slug, pop the pain pills and hope that I’ll emerge out of the other side…ish.  It doesn’t mean that I haven’t been reading and I have been making review notes to kickstart my brain into remembering them.  There has been some good books, great books and others that I would rather forget about…. so here we go…

Thankfully I am feeling much better now and am back blogging again, I have a huge backlog of reviews that I have hand written, so there are lots to cover and when better to start than a Bank Holiday 🙂

Fundraising the Dead, this is the first book in the Museum Mystery series and as someone who loves antiques and museums, I was really excited about this book,  but I really struggled to get into it.  Nell is a fundraiser at the Pennsylvania Antiquarian Society and hours before a large event, she is cornered by Marty, a Board Member, who says that part of her family’s legacy is missing.  Soon Nell discovers that there is more stuff missing and things get worse when the only other employee who knows about the thefts turns up dead.

I am not sure why this book was such a slow starter, maybe it was the relationship between Nell and Charles (the Society’s Director), who just had baddie written all over him… or it was the long descriptions of meetings which never seemed to lead to anything (yes, I know that it part of the work of a fundraiser, but to repeatedly go over the details – it felt like I was there, and not in a good way).  The book started to turn around when Nell, Marty and Jimmy got together to trap the thief,  however the culprit was so obvious that he could have been wearing a sash saying ‘I steal stuff to maintain my lavish lifestyle, ask me how’.

What irritated me most was Nell’s character.  On one hand she is portrayed as this professional woman with high standards, on the other, she is this sexually liberal woman who is willing to have a ‘I’m using him as much as he’s using me’ relationship with her boss, only to act all hurt when she figures out that Charles has been using her (and anything else in a skirt).  Then in a blink of an eye, she is flirting with the handsome FBI agent.  It just seemed disjointed as if the writer took all the stereotypical behaviours of a single 30 something woman on TV and smooshed it into a character.

In all, it was an OK book, but it will be a while before I read the next book in the series, and then only when I am going through a book drought.

The author’s website http://www.sheilaconnolly.com

This is the fourth book in the Booktown Mysteries, featuring Tricia who owns ‘Haven’t Got A Clue’ – a bookshop specialising in mysteries.  Her sister, Angelica, has just launched her career as the new Martha Stewart with her cookery book and on the eve of her book tour there is an explosion in one of the other bookshops in the street.  The owner, Jim, is killed, and Angelica’s boyfriend, Bob, is injured and will not co-operate with the police and is very tight-lipped about the whole matter.

With Angelica away, soon Tricia finds herself taking care of Anglica’s shop and café, attempting to take care of an increasingly hostile Bob, dealing with mourning shop manager, as well as collecting for a fund for Jim’s mother and trying to figure out what happened.  She certainly has her hands full!

This is my favourite book in the series, I had really hoped that Tricia and Captain Baker’s relationship would move on, but instead he put things on hold to take care of his ex-wife who became sick.  To top it all, Revolting Russ has gone from being an irritant to verging on being a stalker.  I can only hope that Captain Baker’s behaviour is a way of illustrating that he and Tricia are made from the same cloth – she deserves a little happiness.  I loved hearing more from Miss Marple, she sounds just like my cat (although a little less set on world domination).

I feel sorry for Tricia, given that she is always trying so hard to help other people – and they rarely seem to appreciate it. The murder plot itself was very clever and as always the reveal showed that there was a lot more at going on in the town that meets the eye.  What I enjoy about this series is that the additional goings on in the town is not just to add colour, but creating sub plots that evolve in the background throughout the series. It also adds updates of what happened in previous books, like Ginny and Eugenia, to prove that even though the crime has been solved, that there are repercussions.

Like the last book, it seems to be that the men are the most disappointing, other than Mr Everett who is an absolute star.  The rest all seem to be lacking (especially Bob and Revolting Russ).  The murder victim, Jim, seems to have been a complete ass in spite of the love of a good woman and even Captain Baker is losing brownie points because of the way that he is treating Tricia.

The final scene revealed that Tricia isn’t totally taken for granted and I loved what happened with the delivery man.  It certainly left a lot of room for new plots and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

This book was very kindly sent to me by Lorna Barrett, thank you.

For fans of this book, Lorna Barrett is the pen name for Lorraine Bartlett and she has a new book series coming out in the autumn called ‘A Matter of Murder’, a craft themed mystery which looks brilliant.  Keep your eyes peeled for this one!

This is the fourth in the Vintage Magic Series and I had forgotten how much I loved these books, Madeira (or Mad) owns a vintage clothing shop and also has a psychic ability to have visions when she touches old clothes, which helps her solve murders.

One morning she is sent a dress she designed for a broadway star and friend, Dom, with a note saying that she is dead and that Mad should use her talents to solve her murder.  Next thing that she knows, she is on her way to New York with her FBI boyfriend Nick and her best friend Eve to help Dom’s son who begged her to help and see if she could pick up on the events leading to her death by reading her clothes.

Annette Blair is brilliant at capturing emotion in her books and soon you are sensing the loss of Dom and the grief that Mad is feeling, but it isn’t all doom and gloom as there are some brilliant comedic moments, usually involving Mad and Werner who is a Detective in Mystic Falls who follows her to New York after Nick has to follow a potential suspect.  In this book Werner is becoming more human, showing flashes of affection for Mad – he even attended a fashion show which Nick declined to go to and ended up being a hero.  I also loved the way that Eve shows such delight in antagonising Nick and her joy when Mad shows interest elsewhere.

The book swings back and forth from Mystic to New York, so there was only the briefest mention of Dante the ghost in her shop, and I really, really missed him.  However we did have some classic Eve vs Nick moments and her Dad and Aunt Fee turned up in New York just when she needed them too.  There are also appearances of characters in her other books (these are romance novels, which I didn’t realise and spent most of the book wondering when someone would hurry up and get murdered!).

I really enjoyed this book, the characters were vibrant and even though the book was set in anther location, the plot didn’t suffer or lose momentum at all.  Also, the murder solving element of the book is double-sided as the characters need to find physical evidence to back up Mad’s visions, which adds extra excitement to the book.

This is the best book yet and I really am looking forward to the next one in the series!

http://www.annetteblair.com/

When ‘A Glimpse of Evil’ dropped through the letter box I promised myself that I would read it slowly and savour it, especially as I had spent the previous week re-reading all of the Psychic Eye books.  Fast forward to waking up at 2 am and not able to get back to sleep, so I thought that I’d read just one chapter… next thing I knew, birds were singing and the sun was up!  This is what happens with Victoria Laurie books, they are just like praline chocolates – you just can’t stop at one.

This is the 8th book in the Psychic Eye series, Abby and Dutch are moving to Texas where Dutch and Brice, a recent Abby convert as well as boyfriend to Candice, is starting a new FBI office specialising in Cold Cases and Abby is their secret weapon.

‘A Glimpse of Evil’ is much darker than the other books.  Abby is thrown into the deep end and is not only pushing herself to the max sorting through dozens of cases to see whether they are solvable (and being awesome, she managed to solve three in the first day).  She has to deal with pretty horrific crimes, as well as an office full of agents who are all sceptical of what she can do.  This only changes when she is sent out with an agent to find some clues, only for him to produce one of his own cold cases for her to look at and then decides to follow her instincts and do a little investigating on the way back.    Next thing they know, she has found two bodies, discovers the murderer and ends up having to defend herself using a gun.  All culminating with her being suspended and at a loose end.

Also with time on her hands, Candice convinces Abby to looking at a FBI cold case involving a serial child killer – of course this leads to another near death experience for Abby!  Thankfully, things are going well with Dutch and Abby, but Candice and Brice are constantly bickering and misunderstanding each other.  There was a brief cameo of Dave (I missed him) and Milo (who seems to be moving to Texas too), but I really missed Cat.

You could really get a sense of Abby spreading herself too thin, torn between her old style of investigating with Candice and doing readings, as well as helping Dutch and Brice at the FBI.  It feels like this book is the one that breaks the camel’s back for Abby and is a natural turning point – and by the ending you know why!  I imagine that the next book will be even darker, especially with Abby working for the CIA.

It isn’t all darkness,  and there are still the usual Laurie style wise cracks – before going to the FBI, Abby had to go on an anger management course and she is trying not to swear coming up with some brilliant alternatives – and why the Hello Dolly not!

This book didn’t disappoint me and it had one of the most complex murder plot twists that I have read in some time.  With the move to Texas and Abby being accepted by the “establishment”, it does feel like a new era for Abby and the Psychic Eye books, but I do hope that we get to hear about Milo, Candice, Dave, Cat, Eggy and Tuttle even when she is a high flying spy.  Wow, what a book – I can’t wait until the next one.

http://www.victorialaurie.com/ Author’s Website

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