Mind Over Phobias…and Curses (A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares – A Book Review)

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares
Author: Krystal Sutherland
Published: 2017

On Goodreads

Semi Definitive List of worst Nightmares - The Scarlet Reader

My Rating: Full boltFull boltFull boltFull boltFull bolt

A family.

A curse.

A greatest fear.

Esther’s family has been haunted by a curse. See, each family member dies from their fear. Dad is agoraphobic. Mom is terrified of bad luck. And her twin cannot be in the dark. All of this leads to Esther living an interesting life.Esther is searching for hers and has an ever-growing list of phobias that might be what she’s cursed with.

When Esther is pickpocketed by Jonah Smallwood, a boy she used to know, she is left stranded at a bus stop. He took everything down to the fruit roll-up and that list of possible fears. They make a strange pair, but Jonah is determined to help Esther through her list. Turns out, she may be afraid of the one thing she didn’t even think about. Love.

This book started out curious and intriguing and snowballed into me loving it a LOT. This was upbeat, yet personally heavy. An incredibly unique story not only about fears and approaching fear, but also dealing with anxiety and other mental illnesses. This book made them so vivid real. For people who don’t fully understand what it’s like, they’ll get a close up

Scarlet Reader - Perfect

There are so many more phobias than I have ever thought about. (Here’s a site where you can have a look for yourself-here.)My best friend has countless. I love her to pieces and always ALWAYS support her and encourage her that it’s okay. It’s no joke to make fun of a person who has them whether they are rational or not. They give people some serious anxiety. I always try to help her work on them, but it’s easier said than done. Mostly, I try be the comic relief. It’s not dumb or ridiculous. I worry about her, but I know she’s a toughie. There are just some things that affect us. I have a fear of spiders sometimes, but that’s because they think I’m a jungle gym. My fight with the dark is worse than an on again off again relationship. More than anything, failure and the thought that I am greatly unneeded, are what often haunts me. By unneeded I don’t mean being a needy human. No, I mean that I have no purpose on this planet and am useless. These fears and matched anxieties are ones I am working on overcoming every day. We should all work on overcoming our fears. Oh, and heights. Heights are tricky because I’m not afraid of climbing them. It’s the idea of falling from them. And I certainly WON’T divulge on my clown fear. They eat people, people! *shivers*

The characters were phenomenal. Seriously. BRAVA. complex, diverse, and opposite of each other. Esther was extremely awesome. From being determined to face her fears even though some of them are pretty scary to dressing up as inspiring characters, both real and fiction, she was brave, strong, and human. Whether she realized it or not, people were drawn to her. Jonah Smallwood, for example. Funny and kind, he was the hot sauce on her ice cream. Sounds gross, but trust me, it’s so GOOD! So spicy and sweet. A fantastic combination if there ever was one. He supports her with no cruelty or frustration or impatience that could be normally received from somebody who doesn’t have any understanding of what it’s like to feel an uncontrollable amount of fear that just squeezes tightly around you like a boa constrictor, taking the air right out of you. He’s even kind to her whole family, not judging or distancing himself just because they have their beliefs with their phobias. I completely melted.

Dead of Winter

The style of story was buoyant, like floating in an air balloon, or so I imagine-the balloon part. All floaty, though there’s that bit of nervousness because all you’re in is a human-sized picnic basket with a massive balloon and a blazing torch keeping it up. So, a little nerve-shaking. But, the view is impeccable. Completely breathtaking and totally worth it. This book is definitely breathtaking. Invigorating even, but I can relate to it so much. The rule-breaking, risk-taking, and life-changing moments were unbelievable. Lighthearted, yet intense and heartbreaking. Just magical with so many emotions so perfectly placed and written.

The ending left me with my jaw on the floor. While the exploration of mental illness was quite serious, I was still left shocked because there was a twist! I was guessing on and off throughout the book about Esther’s serious need to face-off with Death and by the end I was breathless. I had to read it twice. I can’t give too much away, but I was stunned.

mindblown

Overall

Tackling a real world issue in a light of bravery and determination. This wasn’t about love conquering all. It was about overcoming an all-consuming struggle. It encourages understanding for those who face not only fears, but actual illnesses that most people don’t believe

Quotables:

“God, so basic. I can’t decide what would be more tragic, dying at seventeen, or having the most cliché funeral ever.” (Esther, p. 9)

“Fears can’t become full-blown phobias if you avoid them, and phobias can’t kill you if you don’t have them.” (Esther, p. 60)

“Tolkien knew a lot of stuff, but he knew nothing about the dark souls of moths. No way a moth would’ve helped Gandalf. Least believable part of Middle-earth.” (Esther, p. 94)

“Murals were a well-known-gateway drug to feelings, and she couldn’t have any of that.” (Esther, p. 101)

“Depression was a real sneaky asshole.” (Esther, p. 147)

“Love was a trap, a sticky trap of molasses meant to bind two people together. It was a thing that couldn’t be escaped, a weight that people strapped to their own legs before they waded into the water and wondered why they drowned.” (Esther, p. 268)

“Everyone we let into our lives has the power to hurt us. Sometimes they will and sometimes they won’t, but that’s not a reflection of us, or our strength. Loving someone who hurts you doesn’t make you weak.” (Eugene, p.315)

More to come soon…

-K.

P.S. Song today? Lucky Day in Hell by Eel.

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Backpacking Across Worlds (The Ragwitch – A Book Review)

The Ragwitch
Author: Garth Nix
Published: 1991

On Goodreads

Ragwitch - The Scarlet Reader

My Rating: Full boltFull boltFull boltFull boltFull bolt

Paul is easygoing while his sister Julia is adventurous. While playing along the beach one grey afternoon, they happen across a strange spot on the shore and Julia finds a peculiar doll. Suddenly, the siblings are thrust into a world they never imagined.

Paul never imagined being a savior, but that’s the role everyone puts him into. All he wants to do is save Julia. She suffers, possessed by the Ragwitch, an evil that brings ruin. She is not alone though. With allies of her own, she fights for her being as Paul fights the Ragwitch’s army to save her and the Kingdom of Yendre.

Garth Nix, author of the Abhorsen trilogy and Shade’s Children, brings forth The Ragwitch. Nix jumps right into the story without any dawdling. Once moment these kiddos are playing around and the next they’re stepping into a whole different world. I really liked how he just jumps right in. It grabbed my interest instantly.

The story follows both siblings, detailing their journey through both of their eyes. I found this to be unique. Both POVs were incredible, expanding such amazing storytelling from a battle for the Kingdom of Yendre to the battle for one’s soul. The detail was fantastical and reminded of so many other great journeys’ like J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and C.S Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia that leave you breathless and wishing the journey didn’t end. It’s that element that makes you sad when a story ends.

Scarlet Readers - Endings

While this was adventurous and enchanting with magic, it was also silly and cute. This was a splendid balance and Nix did it well. What has surprised me the most is that each person and magical being that Paul happened across during this great pilgrimage has helped him out without a question or expectation. Not once was he treated as an outsider, though it was very obvious that he wasn’t from around Yendre. Lives were given and nobody batted an eye, like he was the savior they’ve been waiting for even though no prophecy was mentioned whatsoever.

Paul and Julia were just mere kids, but that meant nothing with the great responsibilities that they shouldered. These siblings are complete opposites but so close. There were many moments I just wanted to snatch them up and shield them. Paul broke free of his shy shell, though his fainting spells didn’t dim a bit and he fell asleep for most of the journey, he became a warrior and leader alongside Qwerty, A Friend of Beasts, Tanboule, the wise, and even the great elementals. Julia had the hardest battle between the two of them. Rather than hide in a dark crevice of herself and let the Ragwitch win, she rose up to battle for control and to free herself of the evil hag. She risked losing everything. Both of them had their weaknesses though. Paul has a habit of fainting A LOT while Julia wanted to just give up at times. This made me like them even more because this only showed how human they were and humans have limits they have to battle everyday.

Nix’s imagination blew me away. He can build a world that can compete with Tolkien in my opinion. He’s always had strong originality that is pure and untouched. It’s utterly striking how he can create a world like Yendre off the coast of Australia in a far away land. It was beautiful and vast. I can’t talk about it enough.

Overall

Fantasy beyond my wildest imaginings. Creatures unheard of and phenomenal storytelling. Garth Nix has always impressed me. I loved the Abhorsen trilogy and had no doubt that I’d love this one as well. He follows no traditional path and creates such amazing worlds.

Quotables:

“The stars don’t lie—but they can be mischievous. There’s nothing they like more than a joke, particularly if it’s a long one, played on someone who deserves it.” (Tanboule to Paul, p. 79)

“The stars see everything, and look deep into everyone below them.” (Tanboule, p. 306)

“Questions, questions, questions. No one ever just comes for a spell. They always want conversation as well.” (Patchwork King, p. 360)

More to come soon…

-K.

P.S. Song today? Punching in a Dream by The Naked and Famous.

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Double Double Witchy Toil and Drama (Double Eclipse – A Book Review)

Double Eclipse (Summer on East End #2)
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Published: 2016

On Goodreads

Double Eclipse - Goodreads

My Rating: Full boltFull bolt Full boltFull bolt

 

Dear Diary…we’re back.

Twin witches, Molly and Mardi Overbrook are spending another summer in East End with their aunts, Freya and Ingrid. This year they’re avoiding trouble and dedicating themselves to actually enjoying their summer. Mardi is hoping to deepen her new relationship with her boyfriend, Trent and Molly is hoping to forget about her disaster of a relationship from last year. She does just that when she meets the son of the local bartender, Rocky.

When their mother shows up with a mysterious prophecy involving the two of them, their vacation as well as their sisterhood is threatened. Their having strange dreams, father, the great Thor, is hurt, and their emotions are causing strange surges with their powers. They must try to come together if they hope to calm the coming storm that threatens all of East End.

 

Triple Moon

Triple Moonhere

In another whirlwind of a summer, the girls are discovering even more about themselves and that comes with a large amount of magic and heartbreak. Great turmoil grows between Mardi and Molly as their mom tries to get them to fulfill a prophecy.

Double Eclipse

I’m super excited that I finally got to the sequel of Triple Moon. The fire and fierceness was still crackling in this book with Molly and Mardi getting their feisty witchiness on.

This book picks up the summer following last in Triple Moon. The style is steady and really stayed in tune with the characters and the previous book. Mardi and Molly stayed true to themselves; Mardi being fierce and bold, and Molly being elegant and timeless. With new bombs dropping on the Overbrook twins, so many secrets and issues came to light, really testing the twins’ bond. All that magic tied in? Oh boy…

The POV changed up since the first book. The book still flips between Molly and Mardi which is really neat because while they are twins, they are incredibly different. But, the story is told from their diaries which is unique. It adds to their character, Molly being more classic with writing in a diary and Mardi writing on what I’m guessing is either her cell phone or a laptop.

Double Eclipse - Scarlet Reader

(And when I think about it, Nina Dobrev would be a nice fit as the Overbrook twins.)

And the new hottie addition, Rocky, the new hottie on the scene, made me blush! Sadly, previous hottie, Trent, blipped out. It made me upset. He peeked in and then disappeared and I was really looking forward to seeing him again.

There were a lot of open ends left by the end that I had a few questions too. When that happens, I get irritated. According to Goodreads, there isn’t another book coming either, so I’m a little annoyed that those questions will remain unanswered. It drives me crazy!

 

Overall

This was like Gossip Girl meets Charmed. Double double toil and drama! Summer may be over, but this was a great summer read. Even though I had a lot questions at the end and it made me feel unfulfilled, I still loved it. It’s original and sparking with magic on every page.

 

Quotables:

“What is it with gods and secrets?” (Molly, p. 37)

“Life is not a gift that can be taken back. It belongs to all sentient creatures—forever.” (Janet, p. 106)

 

More to come soon…

-K

 

P.S. Song today? All Good Things (Come to an End) by Nelly Furtado

 

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From Another Time, Another Dimension (Watcher in the Woods – A Book Review)

Watcher in the Woods (Dreamhouse Kings #2)
Author: Robert Liparulo
Published: 2008

On Goodreads

Watcher in the Woods - Scholastic

My Rating: Full boltFull boltFull bolt Half bolt

 

It’s not just the house that’s keeping secrets.

After Xander’s mom is kidnapped and dragged through one of the dimensional doorways of the house, the rest of King family rallies together to get her back. Secrets about they really moved into this mysterious house is divulged and the Kings will never be the same.

A new school year begins and the townspeople of Pinedale are starting to suspect the King family of strange things, like abuse. With the mystery of the house, and a strange man stalking them, they have to stand together if they hope to get their mom back.

 

This book was better than the first one by a hair. There were many new elements and characters. Turns out, Dad has been in this house before. There’s an assassin that came through one of the dimensional doors that wants the house for himself. A bully harasses David.

I liked that the novel spread out some, going to school and that clearing where you can nearly fly. New settings really open up a book. However, the clearing (the anti-gravity clearing as I call it) was very strange and out of place feeling. There was so much I Don’t Know that it was just pointless. It didn’t bring very much to my imagination nor did it do anything for me but feel weird. The school was really cool because there was a glimpse of it in the first book. Now, school is in session and obviously, nobody wants to go.

The storytelling didn’t improve by much. I’m still a little confused because the characters aren’t making much sense of everything so neither am I, but I did like that the emotions were higher. Dude, mom is gone. Time to crank this up to eleven! And there’s an assassin! (The flashback of the assassin’s time before getting teleported into the Dreamhouse was out of place feeling, too.) I liked that the intensity was kicked up a notch. Everybody is freaking out.

What is happening

 

Overall

Still not a book that did much for me. My heart got pulled a little. I love my mom beyond words and I’d be going all terminator if somebody kidnapped her so, I can relate to Xander on that level. The storytelling felt like a jumbled mess and therefore didn’t really pull me in even though the imagery was great. A strong feeling of meh.

 

Quotables:

“He thought he could be a hero, and now he was about to get shot or blown up or…something that amounted to the same thing: dead.” (David, p. 4)

“It’s not kidnapping if I asked you to take me.” (Keal to Jesse, p. 280)

 

More to come soon…

-K.

 

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A Door to Anywhere (House of Dark Shadows – A Book Review)

House of Dark Shadows (Dreamhouse Kings #1)
Author: Robert Liparulo
Published: 2008

On Goodreads

House of Dark Shadows

My Rating: Full boltFull boltFull bolt

15/25

 

Dream house…or bad dream?

When the Kings up and move from L.A. to the small town, Pinedale, Xander is more than upset. But when they happened across an old Victorian house hidden out in the woods, they think they’ve hit the jackpot. Everyone gets their own rooms. There’s woods for miles to explore.

Weird things begin to happen as they get ready to move in. There are prints of larger-than-normal feet in the dust. A special door in the linen closet. There a hallway with doors that lead to different periods in time like the Civil War. Xander begins to wonder if this is the coolest thing ever or just a dread nightmare come true.

 

This book marks 15 out of 25 authors, from my New Year’s resolution, that I’ve never read from before. I was really drawn in by the artwork and weirdness.

 

I honestly don’t know how I’m feeling about this book. It felt a little all over the place for me. I know this book is geared toward the independent reader genre, but still, I didn’t feel all that enthralled. Much of the bits were very intriguing, but I felt like they were lost in the story. Crazy things are happening in this old house, but they just didn’t work together, not in any way that made sense to me. My curiosity was piqued for sure, but unsatisfied. I did love the many TV references—Misery, Star Wars, and Supernatural to name a few. It puts the story in the real world, and lets readers relate more.

The setting of the small town and the old house was very cool. Everything was secluded, adding to the growing ominous feeling. The boys, Xander and David got a tower in their bedroom. Call me jealous, I’ve always wanted my own personal tower; a spot where I can read and have my own world. I really liked the blueprint of the house in the beginning of the book. Things like that really make me feel a little closer and involved with the story.

I struggled in following the story. There just wasn’t enough detail to make all of this click. I just couldn’t get emotionally invested either. This was written to get you on the edge of your seat with all of the wild things happening and sadly, I was just wanting it to be over.

ITBT

The closeness between Xander and his siblings was so special. At such a young age, most siblings fight and bicker and that wasn’t the case at all. They were there for each other and protecting one another. However, the parents were very odd. There wasn’t much of a difference between them and the kids. They talked and acted like them. Any real parental authority was overshadowed by them wanting to relate to the kids and be their friend. It really threw me off.

 

Overall: this book wasn’t what I imagined. I knew it wouldn’t be gory or utterly spine-tingling, but I do feel like this should’ve been more to help make the story more vivid and enthralling. Connect the dots. With tigers in the jungle and a creepy man wandering the property and other unexplainable things, I hoped for something more.

 

Quotables:

“What was embarrassing or personal, dreams and fears—it was all fair game in the King household.” (Xander, p. 107)

“We’re humans, not robots.” (Mom to Xander, p. 107)

“Loved ones die. Fact of life.” (Xander, p. 271)

 

More to come soon…

-K.

 

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Rise Up (Children of Blood and Bone – A Book Review)

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha #1)
Author: Tomi Adeyemi
Published: 2018

On Goodreads

Children of Blood and Bone

My Rating: Full boltFull boltFull boltFull boltFull bolt

 

They killed my mother.

They took our magic.

They tried to bury us.

Now we rise.

Across Orisha, the maji used their magic, granted from the gods, to bring peace and balance. Orisha thrummed with life with that magic. Burners awakened flames. Tiders beckoned waves. Zelie hopes one day to be like her mother, a reaper that can summon souls.

Then suddenly, the gods disappear and the ruthless tyrant king destroys maji across the land, destroying Orisha along with it.

Years later, magic reappears and Zelie grasps at the chance to bring it back in full and rise against those that destroyed it and her mother. With her brother and a runaway, they begin a quest to save Orisha. Will they be able to do so before the crowned prince catches up in hopes of stopping them?

 

Not going to lie, this premise actually reminded me of Avatar: The Last Airbender. It’s also partially the reason I picked it up. It wasn’t the whole reason! I’d heard many a great things about this book before it was released and wanted to hop into something fresh, so I plucked it off the shelf at Walmart. Wasn’t let down at all. This book was SO FREAKING, PHENOMENALLY, WONDERFULLY written. Yes, the caps were necessary.

 

The book itself is a work of art. The cover and the map of Orisha on the inside. Left me breathless. It’s truly worth owning the hardback version.

Children of Blood and Bone

The world Tomi built left me in a state of complete and utter awe. It was strong and you could perfectly see the stunning imagery. Such a beautiful, yet tragic landscape with tragic loss and overwhelming fear looming over it. From the scarred towns, filled with treacherous guards that take what they please to wounded temples with the ghosts of its inhabitants still lingering in its stone hallways. I was just blown away.

The characters just blew me away. This story is told from three POVs: Zelie, Amari, and Inan. Each of their strengths and struggles and heartaches plucked at my heart and really pulled me in. Zelie has such a heavy weight in her heart, carrying the past. When she meets Amari, they’re thrust onto a path that changes them forever. It changes Inan forever, too, as he it storn between following his duty to his father and king, and helping his sister. Soon enough, the affairs of the heart complicate these quests even more. The complexity of their emotions twist and twist and there were so many times I forgot to breathe. When Zelie felt her anger melt away into the possibility of love and even a possibility of moving forward with her life, I was spellbound. My heart broke open.

 

And the magic!! Oh, it was incredible! It’s interwoven into a maji’s life, called ashê. I fell in love with just how much a part of life it was. It wasn’t something that was out of the ordinary. It was cherished, and in my opinion wrongfully feared in some instances. This magic, made of elements I’m pretty familiar with already like: time, light, death, fire, water…it’s connected to everything because it comes from so much more than just thin air. It’s from higher beings and not just ones that we guess or hope are there. They’re very present beings. This was one of my favorite parts of the story. It’s beautifully complex, yet not at all because it’s so well written into these characters’ lives and all of Orisha.

It's so beautiful

To get real for a minute, when I read the book I could see some serious parallels to our own world. Yes, I said our, because we all live in it together. The biggest thing I noticed was the relation between the guards in this book that are vile and treacherous and police that have used brutal and unnecessary force and violence on people. I’ve seen the firsthand videos of people being wrongfully abused. This power that police have and even farther up, the government as well, is scary. This country, the U.S., has become a scary place. Tomi wrote about this parallel in her Author’s Note and I was stunned. She did a stunning job in presenting one of the biggest issues in this country in a well-put-together way that not only swept the reader away, but plunged them into a beautiful story. It sends a powerful message.

 

Obviously, I recommend this book. It’s powerful and rich and emotionally rendering. This book is eye-opening and a work of art that’ll move you, like splitting open the earth to see its heart. You’ll want more. Hell, I want more!

 

Quotables:

“Deep down, I know the truth. I knew it the moment I saw the maji of Ibadan in chains. The gods died with our magic. They’re never coming back.” (Zelie, p. 15)

“The truth cuts like the sharpest knife I’ve ever known. No matter what I do, I will always be afraid.” (Zelie, p. 313)

“I hate my magic. I despise the way it poisons me. But more than anything, I hate the way it makes me hate myself.” (Inan, p. 323)

“We don’t need to fear magic. We only need each other.” (Inan, p. 387)

“You crushed us to build your monarchy on the backs of our blood and bone. Your mistake wasn’t keeping us alive. It was thinking we’d never fight back.” (Zelie to King Saran, p. 416)

 

More to come…

-K.

 

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P.S. Song today? Rise Up by Imagine Dragons.

 

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Hanging Out at the Walgreens – (How to Hang a Witch – A Book Review)

How to Hang a Witch (How to Hang a Witch #1)
Author: Adriana Mather
Published: 2016

On Goodreads

How to Hang A Witch

My Rating: Full boltFull boltFull boltFull bolt

Being the new girl is tough. Being the new girl in Salem could be deadly.

Sam Mather is moved to Salem, Massachusetts—the home of the infamous Witch Trials. Being the new girl sucks, and it sucks worse when weird things start happening, all of them coming back to Sam. The Descendants—ancestors to witches—mark Sam like a leper because of her descendant to one of the Witch Trials’ major persecutors. As if her own checkered past wasn’t enough.

Eventually, they all must work together to break a centuries-old curse or else history may repeat itself.

As many have said, this is like Mean Girls meets history class, and they aren’t wrong. Emotions were high. While this book started bumpy at first, I got into it pretty quickly. Sam is such a spunky character on the outside and in, but also deeply caring. Her concern for her dad was incredibly heartwarming. I really loved all the memories she looked back on involving him. Though he wasn’t physically in the book, he has such a strong presence.

The use of the actual history was awesome! The Salem Witch Trials is one of my favorite subjects aside from Stonehenge, the pyramids, and everything strange. The way that this was so interwoven with the Trials really made me geek out. I really liked the way the story unraveled as a curse. Made more dark. The Descendants were more emo than I expected and came off a little cliché, but it was funny. I really found them to be entertaining. I feel the same about Elijah, the ghost of this witchy story. Rules were for ghosts really shocked me. While they can go through solid surfaces, they can also be touched and teleport? Very odd, but completely refreshing. I loved the dynamic between him and Sam. Him being formal and her being her awkward self.

awkard

Now, I know this has a sequel attached to it, but I feel like it could be a full-blown series. I just feel like there are so many possibilities, especially after reading the mini-bio of Adriana at the back. I really do hope that Haunting in the Deep isn’t the only book in this series.

This started out a bit rough for me. It was super awkward! Buuuut, then I remembered, I’m really freaking awkward, so my many grimacing, and cringing, moments aren’t because the book is terrible, because I enjoyed it immensely, but because I get it. Granted there were some rather silly moments that were odd, but nothing I couldn’t skip past, though it is part of the reason I can’t give it a full 5 bolts. Great and quick read.

Quotables:

“They really love their witches here.” (Sam to Vivian, p. 2)

“You never know in life when something unpredictable will happen.” (Elijah to Sam, p. 208)

“I can’t make friends at school, but I can with the dead. So at least I’ve got that.” (Sam, p. 254)

More to come soon…

-K.

P.S. Song today? Cecilia and the Satellite by Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness.

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