Monday, August 31, 2009

~Literary Locals~

It's that time again! Time to spotlight an author from your local area, state, or places that you have lived previously. This is a monthly meme hosted by TIF TALKS BOOKS.

I have had the good fortune of getting to know Sherry Austin, author of several books; The Days Between The Years, Where The Woodbine Twines and Mariah of the Spirits and Other Southern Ghost Stories.

Sherry is a native of Charlotte, NC and now lives and writes in Flat Rock, in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I am hoping that Sherry and I will get to meet in person one of these days! Until then, we use Facebook to keep in touch!

And is Sherry Austin:

Q. Tell us about your writing.
As you know, I operate on two tracks in my writing. One I call the “ghostly/gothic” and the other I call the “Trixie track.” THE DAYS BETWEEN THE YEARS is the first book on my Trixie track. Trixie Goforth is the little old lady character who dominates the book. People really responded to Trixie, calling her a joyful mess, and the right people encouraged me to continue with her so that’s what I’m doing right now. I have another novel about Trixie in the works. In DAYS, Trixie was her fun, full-of-it self, but there’s some bittersweetness. In her blog and on Facebook, Trixie is all fun, and that’s how you’ll find her in any stories about her in the future. She is most active and most appreciated on Facebook, so if you are on Facebook, friend Trixie. Be sure to take a look at her public profile first, though.

WHERE THE WOODBINE TWINES and MARIAH OF THE SPIRITS are my ghostly/gothic books. I also review books in the supernatural fiction genre for “Dead Reckonings,” which is a literary journal about dark fantasy. I recently reviewed Ellen Datlow’s anthology POE, and have reviewed books by and written a foreword for "weird fiction" writer Jonathan Thomas. I’ve written an entry for the ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE VAMPIRE on the psychological vampire theme in the short story “Luella Miller” by nineteenth century fiction writer Mary Wilkins Freeman.

MARIAH OF THE SPIRITS, though essentially fiction, is based on some common and enduring folk motifs such as the vanishing hitchhiker legend. In the title story, Mariah is the ghost of a slave girl on an endless quest for home or wholeness, as is the roadside ghost in vanishing hitchhiker tales. I believe the hitchhiking ghost motif endures because it represents what we all know, on some level, that we're doing: journeying toward home. In several of the stories, I use African American deathlore motifs a lot. I also have stories based on the old man who wouldn’t die, the old woman who was dead and didn’t know it yet, and I use rituals like graveyard workday. The most popular story in that collection is “The Dressmaker’s Mannequin,” about a Civil War-era wooden mannequin made from a cypress tree. The tree spirit lives on in the mannequin, who ends up in an antique shop in New Orleans where a harlequin doll on the shelf above her teases her and taunts her about her love for the shopkeeper.

WHERE THE WOODBINE TWINES is the strangest of my three books, I guess. Though some people love it—like you, Missy, thanks!—and find it a fun read, others find it very unsettling. As you, Missy know, there’s nothing gruesome in it, but it leaves some people with a gritty feel. Southern gothic worthy of the name has this effect, but I think many people react to WOODBINE that way because they simply don’t get the ending. This surprised me. I find that more and more, readers want their endings all sewed up neatly, and WOODBINE very purposely does not do that for you. I cut my teeth on literature, both popular (such as Daphne DuMaurier and the short stories of Ray Bradbury) and “serious” (insert the name of any literary giant here), wherein hitting the reader over the head with “exactly what happens” at the end was considered tacky and insulting to the reader's intelligence.

I think it is partly due to the influence of TV, movies, and internet gaming that audiences today don’t want to think much. With WOODBINE, it would have been a travesty to end it any other way. What happened to Catherine Wiley at the end seems clear to me: she went to the place where the woodbine twines and within the story two descriptions of what that place or state of being is like are clearly stated. There’s also a very clear suggestion that Catherine is happy there: The narrator, Nan, notices a slight spring in Catherine’s step as Catherine retreats into her mysterious world.

Q. Was Catherine Wiley inspired by a real person?

Absolutely. She is a composite of two very real young women I once knew, and the book is dedicated to them. Both of them struggled with being different, though in very different ways from each other. They suffered all their lives because of their oddness. This disturbed me deeply, and at the risk of sounding too arty, I’ll say I had to work away my anguish over their anguish vicariously through Catherine’s in the story. I wanted readers to finish the story feeling a little unsettled by how we treat people not like us.

Q. And the character Nan, who is also the narrator?

The character or narrator who thinks and reflects, who tries to save the odd duck but fails, and who spends her life reflecting on that failure, is present in some form or another in everything I’ve written. That woman is basically me, though Nan’s life situation is nothing like mine.
Q. Why did you choose the South Carolina coast for the setting in WOODBINE?
I’ve always loved the atmosphere of crashing surf and live oak trees hanging with moss, the smell of salt air, swamp air, the way sandy coastal roads glow in the moonlight. I love the undercurrent of gothic mystery that runs just underground in the folklore of the Southern coast. I grew up in Charlotte, NC, and the coastal area of both Carolinas was three to four hours away, the “exotic next door.” I think most of us miss what I call “the strange and the strangely wonderful” that’s all around us or just down the road. For instance, you don’t have to take a trip to the pyramids of Egypt to see evidence of how another people in another time viewed death. It’s everywhere around us, we just don’t have eyes for it because we refuse to see or stop seeing what is close by or familiar to us, or we’re just not educated about it. I've seen Stonehenge, but it's not half as interesting as any old graveyard I've seen. It's just farther away! And, it is, of course, a whole lot older. The inscriptions and symbols on the stones in any old cemetery will wow you if you take the time to look and realize that you’re in an outdoor museum where you can find clues to the many ways humankind perceives the death journey. I went to the coast of the Carolinas a lot with my parents, and I never did the typical beach thing. I looked around me, and what I saw stirred my sense of wonder as much as anything I’ve seen in a foreign country. The geography was different from the Carolina piedmont, and as we neared the coast, we’d drive through the Green Swamp—an endless nothing, or so it seemed. Sandy roads ran perpendicular to the paved road, and those roads would go straight out through the woods all the way to the horizon. Very mysterious! Who lived along those roads? What did they do in such a place? How did they get there? I soon discovered that people who lived there were descendants of Portuguese pirates. The coastal culture was different, too, in some ways, from the culture in, say, Charlotte. About an hour inland from the beach, I’d notice the little concrete block houses with doors and windowsills painted blue. I learned that the people living in those areas descended from slaves and that their ancestors painted the entryways blue because they believed doing so kept out the spirits of the dead. Just that one observation—blue used as a means of keeping spirits away—took me so many places in my exploration of the many different ways we view death. Why blue? Blue is sometimes thought of as a spiritual color. But then why would blue be used to repel spirits? Wouldn’t it attract them? I never found the answer to that question, but it deepened my growing understanding of how fluid myth and belief are, how they change with time and with what we want to believe. I learned that the slaves had a practical reason for using blue, too: because many of the plantations grew indigo, they had ready access to the indigo blue dye. I love all the many ways people use what is at hand to try to make sense of the mysteries around them and to make some kind of peace with death. That's evident in everything I write, including the Trixie story, THE DAYS BETWEEN THE YEARS.

I saw my first bottle tree in that same flat, sparse, sandy region. Often, people who talk to me about my books mention bottle trees because they remember my use of one in the title story of MARIAH OF THE SPIRITS. I later learned that the slaves believed the multi-colored glass bottles would attract and trap ancestral spirits. They might paint their doors and windowsills blue and then strip a small tree of leaves and thread colored bottles on the limbs, as an extra measure of protection. I began to see bottle trees as the stained glass of everyday people. I’d always loved the idea of light streaming through cut or colored glass as a representation of the infinite and unknowable Something that we sense but never see: God or the Great Mystery. I love the idea that people who might never have seen a cathedral found a way to make their own stained glass with the ready material they had--glass bottles, a tree, and sunshine to make the glass magically glow and refract and glitter. Nothing interests me more than how people use what is at hand—in object and in idea—to express their sense of the transcendent and to try to see meaning in death. That’s where my interest in ghosts comes from. That’s why everything I’ve written so far has these elements woven throughout. In WOODBINE, the old tomb with the stained glass window in it is far more important in the story than it seems at first. In the stained glass window, which is called “Where the Woodbine Twines,” we find the most positive suggestion of what the place where the woodbine twines might mean.

~If you haven't read a novel by Sherry Austin, you are really missing out! Not only is she an outstanding NC author, she is a very sweet friend. Do yourself a favor and check out her books.

Thank you so much, Sherry for the interview!

~Mailbox Monday~

I picked up four books last week! 2 came by mail, the other 2 were used bookstore purchases.

The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty - This was a recommendation to me by an employee of Falls River Used Books. I told her that I was a Southern Fiction Fan, and I have never read Eudora Welty - Can't wait to read it!

Gods In Alabama - This also came from Falls River Used Books. I haven't read Joshilyn Jackson before. This book was on the $2.00 bookshelf.

Song of Renewal by Emily Sue Harvey - I won this from Dar at Peeking Between The Pages.

Friends Like These by Danny Wallace - Sent to me from Karen at Hachette - Thanks, Karen!

What did YOU get in the mail last week?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

~More 1981~

1981 was a turning point for me. I felt acceptance for the first time in my life by having my own group of friends to hang out with. We all had similar interests, and we all loved music. There is not a day that goes by that I don't think of one (or all) of those friends....especially if I hear a song from that summer.

That was then (1981)...This is now (2006)

The Music we listened to:

The Movies that we saw:

Saturday, August 29, 2009

~Weekly Geeks - One Title Collection~

This week "Weekly Geeks" question is:

Do you have a collection, (or are you starting a collection,) of one particular book title? If so, what's your story? Why that book, and how many do you have, and what editions are they? Share pictures and give us all the details.

Or perhaps
you dream about starting such a collection. What title would it be and what would it take for you to get motivated to start collecting?

Or maybe it's the works of a particular author you collect (or want to collect) instead a certain book title?

My Answer: I don't have one particular title of any book that I would want to collect. However, I have started collecting books by one certain author. I began this collection because I joined a challenge; The Sarah Dessen Challenge; the challenge is to read all 9 of her novels by the end of 2009 (you can choose your own time limit). I was excited by the prospect of reading all of one author's books. The only other time I have done this religiously was with The Little House On The Prairie series. So, I have begun to collect Sarah Dessen's books. I have all but 2 of them. It makes me feel excited and kind of proud to see all of her books lined up on a my bookshelf; if I have a visitor at some point, who decides to take a look at my bookshelf, they would say to themselves "Wow...she really enjoys Sarah Dessen's books"!

Show Me 5 Saturday

That's A Novel Idea just started this fun new meme!

Here are the rules:
Each Saturday You will post the answer to these questions. The number indicates the number of answers you will provide.

1 Book you read and/or reviewed this week
2 Words that describe the book
3 Settings where it took place or characters you met
4 Things you liked and/or disliked about it
5 Stars or less for your rating

Here's Mine:
1 The Girl ln Times Square by Paullina Simons
2 Fantastic, exciting
3 New York City, Lily Quinn, Spencer O'Malley
4 Liked: the characters, where it took place, subject matter of the story; Disliked: the ending.
5 5 Stars or less: My rating: 4.5 stars

I very much enjoyed this much so that I am giving away my copy so that someone else may enjoy it as much as I did. The ending was not what I did not change the way I felt about the story.

~Flashback - 1981~

President Reagan wounded by gunman, with press secretary and two law-enforcement officers (March 30).

US GDP (1998 dollars): $3,115.90 billion
Federal spending: $678.25 billion
Federal debt: $994.8 billion
Median Household Income
(current dollars):
Consumer Price Index: 90.9
Unemployment: 7.6%
Cost of a first-class stamp: $0.15 ($0.18 as of 3/22/81; $0.20 as of 11/1/81)
  • MTV goes on the air running around the clock music videos, debuting with "Video Killed the Radio Star."
  • The Supreme Court rules to allow television cameras in the courtroom.
  • Pacman-mania sweeps the country.
Movies: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Chariots of Fire, On Golden Pond, Reds, Atlantic City

Record of the Year: "Sailing," Christopher Cross
Album of the Year: Christopher Cross, Christopher Cross (Warner Bros.)
Song of the Year: "Sailing," Christopher Cross, songwriter
This is the year that my parents wanted to disown me. I ran wild with my group of friends and the summer of 1981 was one of the best for me.
Friday and Saturday nights, hanging out, listening to REO Speedwagon's Hi Infidelity album, Phil Collins "In The Air Tonight" and Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl".

Friday, August 28, 2009

~Friday Finds~

Paris Trout by Pete Dexter

There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz

Heart In The Right Place by Carolyn Jourdan

I found these books while browsing on Goodreads.

What did YOU find today?

Want to win The Girl In Times Square by Paullina Simons?

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Happy Friday everyone! What better way to start the weekend than with a giveaway!
I enjoyed this book SO MUCH that I just can't keep it for myself.....

To read my review for The Girl In Times Square by Paullina Simons, please click HERE.

A little info about the book itself; it is a paperback and came to me from PBS, so it is not exactly in pristine condition. I would consider it "good" condition. If you don't mind it not being brand new, then this giveaway is for YOU!

Here's the rules:

Please leave your email address in your comment so that I may find you if you win!

For 1 entry, please leave me a comment to be entered into the giveaway.

+2 if you are a follower or become a follower of my blog. **Please let me know if you are already following my blog, or if you are a new follower.

+3 if you add my giveaway to your blog (sidebar is fine)

+3 if you Tweet about my giveaway.

That's it! The contest will close at midnight on 9/11/09. The winner will be announced on Saturday, September 12, 2009.

Good luck!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

~Book Review - The Girl In Times Square by Paullina Simons~

Lily Quinn is struggling to finish college and pay her rent. In bustling New York City, the most interesting things seem to happen to the people around her - until her best friend and roommate Amy disappears.

That's when Spencer O'Malley, a cynical NYPD detective, enters Lily's world. Though he is wary and wrestling with his own demons, he and Lily are irresistibly drawn to each other.

But fate isn't finished with Lily. Two pieces of extreme, life-changing luck - one good, one bad - are on their way. And, unknown to her, Spencer's search for the missing Amy is heading for a revelation that will make Lily question her most dearly-held beliefs about both her friend and her family...~Back Cover

The night I started reading this book, I found it almost impossible to put down. I was immediately drawn into Lily's world as her boyfriend whom she thinks that she loves, is breaking up with her and moving out. To add to that, her roommate has gone missing. Lily doesn't think it is anything to be worried about yet, Amy has done this before and she always comes home. Lily's grandmother buys her a ticket to go to Hawaii...Maui to be exact. Lily's folks are retired there, and her grandmother says that Lily's mother is going through a difficult time and Lily must go and offer support. Lily goes, but cannot help her mother. Her mother does not want to be helped, and Lily's relationship with her has never been good. She stays a week in Maui, each day calling her apartment to see if Amy has come home. There is no answer. Amy is gone.
Detective Spencer O'Malley is investigating Amy's disappearance, and meets with Lily upon her return to New York.

My Thoughts - I have set the foundation for this book in my short review above, but I have only skimmed the surface. This is an incredible story. I fell in love with Lily. Her character is lovable and exciting...there is never a dull moment. Without giving too much away, this is a mystery/love/survival/luck story that goes beyond the boundaries of any other book I have read. I read this book all weekend and when I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it.

There is one little thing that I did not like about this book and I hate to say it....the ending. This is how I felt...others may feel differently. I felt like I was left saying "What? It's the end? It can't be the end!"

I am giving this book 4.5 stars. It would have gotten 5 if the story hadn't ended the way that it did. (***The ending is not bad - This is just how I perceived it***)

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (March 6, 2006)
  • ISBN-10: 0007118937
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007118939
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5 x 1.6 inches

Booking Through Thursday - "Fluff"

Today's BTT question is: What is the most recent "fluff" book that you have read?

Recently, there has been no fluff -reading. Maybe 6 months or so ago, I re-read a book that I had read back in 1997, and I remembered loving it, to the point that I really wanted to read it again. Much to my delight, I found it in a used bookstore! The disappointing part, is that I did not enjoy it as much the second time around. The book is Dancing At The Harvest Moon by K.C. Mckinnon. It is a sweet story, it really is. But while I was reading it for the second time, I kept shaking my head, saying "this is silly..."

What about you? What is the most recent "Fluff" you've read?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

~Waiting On Wednesday~

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine.

My WOW pick this week is Breathless by Dean Koontz, due to be released on November 24, 2009.

From Amazon:
Product Description
#1 New York Times bestselling author Dean Koontz delivers a thrilling novel of suspense and adventure: the story of a world where good itself is an endangered species and one man will risk his life—and more—to save it from extinction.

Grady Adams lives a simple, solitary life deep in the Colorado mountains. Here the thirty-five-year-old carpenter works out of a converted barn, crafting exquisite one-of-a-kind furniture. There’s little about this strong yet gentle man to suggest the experiences that have alienated him from the contemporary world. But that is about to change.

One day, while hiking, Grady spots a pair of stunningly beautiful furred animals unlike anything he’s ever seen. They flee the instant they detect his presence, but the mystery of that brief encounter remains. In the days ahead, Grady will approach the creatures again, gaining their trust but coming no closer to solving their mystery. For this he enlists the help of an old friend, veterinarian Camellia “Cammy” Rivers, who, in turn, is stunned—and enchanted—by Grady’s new “pets.” But while Grady and Cammy carefully observe these enigmatic animals for clues to their origin, they, too, are being watched.

Soon Grady’s home and hundreds of square miles of surrounding wilderness will be placed under quarantine by Homeland Security. And Grady, Cammy, and the two creatures they’ve come to feel they must protect at all costs find themselves virtual prisoners—and the unwilling focus of an army of biologists, naturalists, and research scientists. But it’s a stunning event no one could have foreseen that convinces Grady and Cammy to do the unthinkable: to escape with the two creatures on a riveting race for freedom.
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (November 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553807153

What are YOU waiting for today?

~You Don't Say......~

The very sweet Arielle from Bookatopia has awarded me with the You Don't Say Award! Thank you so much, Arielle, you've made my day! If you haven't visited Arielle's blog, please pop on over and see her...You will be glad that you did!

I hope that everyone has a wonderful Wednesday!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

~Teaser Tuesday~

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:* Grab your current read* Open to a random page* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! ;)

That was then. This was now. With the gateway to hell behind her, at two in the morning Lily walked through Tompkins Square and sat on the bench and watched wasted people shuffle through the paths, talking to themselves or to each other, rummaging in their ripped pockets, adjusting their rags, looking for a lost bill, or a bit of old powder that they could eat or snort. ~The Girl In Times Square by Paullina Simons

What's your teaser today?

Monday, August 24, 2009

~Mailbox Monday~

It was kind of a light book week for me last week. Here's what I received:

Clara's War: One Girl's Story of Survival by Clara Kramer

by Paul Lisicky

I Can See You by Karen Rose

I am currently reading The Girl In Times Square by Paullina Simons, which I cannot put down. I started reading it Friday evening, and I am more than halfway through it - it is a chunky novel (608 pages) but I have been literally flying through it, unable to put it down. It is a great book! When I am finished with it, I will attempt to complete One Second After. I am 4 or 5 chapters into it, but it's not holding my attention as much as TGITS.

What about you? What books were in your mailbox?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

~The Bingo Award~

This award was given to me by Cecile at All I Want And More. Cecile is a dear, sweet friend, who is always there to give encouragement and friendship. Thank you so much, Cecile...your blog is beautiful and so are you!

The rules:

This award was started by Bookin With BINGO and here are the rules:
This "B-I-N-G-O" BEAUTIFUL BLOG AWARD means that this blog is...

B: Beautiful: Carol at The Writer's Porch; Linda at Wander To The Wayside.

I: Informative: Jess at Barney's Book Blog; Diane at Spunk On A Stick's Tips.

N: Neighborly: Vivienne at Serendipity; Jo-Jo at Jo-Jo Loves To Read.

G: Gorgeous: Bloduedd at Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell; Sheri at A Novel Menagerie.

O: Outstanding: Dar at Peeking Between The Pages; Kitten at The Bookkitten.

~Weekly Geeks~

This week, tell us about a book (or books) you have been meaning to read. What is it? How long have you wanted to read it? And, why haven't you read it yet?

I came across this meme on Gautami Tripathy's page Everything Distils Into Reading, and wanted to join in, because.....this week's question was so perfect for me to answer. There are many books on my shelf that have been sitting there 2 or 3 years. I want to read them...I have planned on reading them....but still, there they sit!

One book in particular is Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. I bought this book at our county librarie's yearly Big Book Sale two years ago! This would be my first Margaret Atwood book, and someone recommended it to me. I was excited when I found it at the sale...but not excited enough to move it to the top of my reading list, apparently! I have not read it yet, because it is on one of my bottom shelves of my bookcase. Not a good excuse, I know. But....I tend to choose books that are directly in my line of sight, only because bending down causes me great pain in my back. What I need to do, is to moved some books from the lower shelves up...that way they will have a chance to be read sooner.

What about you? Is there a book that you have purchased that you have been meaning to read but somehow never get around to it?

~Book Review - I'll Be Watching You by Charles de Lint~

Rachel Sorenson feared she would never escape her ex-husband's abuse. Then a passing stranger came to her rescue - a stranger who had watched her from afar.

He was a photographer, and Rachel was his perfect subject. He lived only to make her happy - and eliminate those who didn't.

Now he wants more than her beauty. She owes him her life - and he means to collect. ~Back Cover

Artist Rachel Sorenson's ex-husband Frank is an abuser. They are divorced, and Rachel keeps moving from apartment to apartment to try to escape Frank's wrath. Frank keeps finding her no matter where she moves. He has caused her to be frightened all of the time, and not to trust anyone. He is her living nightmare.

Psycho Harry Landon lives in an apartment building that is directly across from Rachels. He keeps a telescope trained on Rachel's apartment at all times, so that he may watch her, study her, waiting for the perfect opportunity to introduce himself to her. He must have her - she is the perfect woman. When he catches sight of Frank planning to harm Rachel, Harry steps in.

Frank ambushes Rachel outside of her workplace and Harry is there. He kills Frank, then disappears. Rachel only gets a glimpse of her "hero", and she paints a picture of him, naming him as her "guardian angel". In order for Harry to get closer to Rachel, he decides to make friends with one of her friends, a gay man named Rob Carter. He does this by dressing incognito and posing as different people. He completely changes himself with wigs and colored contact lenses. He becomes "Peter Orlick" a "gay" man who introduces himself to Rob. Rob introduces Rachel to Peter. Peter will become a man that Rachel begins to trust. She lets her guard down, and begins to trust him...a mistake that she will forever regret.

I'll Be Watching You keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the story. You never know what Harry is going to try next, just to get closer to Rachel. There is a surprise ending to this novel...I never saw it coming. This is a fast-paced read. Highly recommended.

Four Stars

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Orb Books (March 1, 2004)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 076530435X
ISBN-13: 978-0765304353

~Flashback - 1980~

Ronald Reagan elected president in Republican sweep (Nov. 4).
Mount St. Helens erupted in Washington, U.S. on May 18 1980, killing 57 people.

US GDP (1998 dollars): $2,784.20 billion
Federal spending: $590.95 billion
Federal debt: $909.1 billion
Median Household Income
(current dollars): $17,710
Consumer Price Index: 82.4
Unemployment: 7.1%
Cost of a first-class stamp: $0.15

John Lennon of the Beatles shot dead in New York City.


  • Raging Bull, Ordinary People, Coal Miner's Daughter, The Elephant Man, Tess, Urban Cowboy, Times Square, Airplane!


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