[Book Rawrview] “Teach Me” or Touching the Forbidden Fruit

I recently finished another fantastic YA read. This one had been on my wishlist for quite a long time and I don’t know why I chose that moment to purchase the eBook as my next read but I’m glad I did.

The story has nothing in common with Me Before You at all but one thing that made me think of that book right away was that it, too, had a description that gives you a different idea of what the book is about, just like I wrote about Me Before You.

It touches the very delicate subject of a romantic relationship between student and teacher and that’s a difficult thing to do. Naturally, there are very strong opinions on that and you won’t exactly find open doors when trying to get the POV of the people involved across, especially the teacher’s.

In this case, the teacher is Mr. Mann. He’s new at Nine’s school. The beginning is pretty much what you’d expect. He’s rather young, his teaching methods aren’t very traditional and she recognises Nine’s potential right away – so of course, she has a crush on him from day one. The story moves along pretty quickly and we learn that the feeling is mutual and that Mr. Mann isn’t even seriously trying to hold back. What’s really charming is that Nine isn’t a youthful temptress who seduces her teacher with a playful innocence wrapped in a perfect body. She’s a nerd, she isn’t very charming and not even very feminine, either. You really want to believe that they find a kindred soul in each other.

But still, so far the story is pretty much what you’d expect. What you don’t see coming is how quickly their relationship spirals downwards. For about two thirds of the book, we deal with Nine’s severe heartache, her struggle with loss and a broken heart and we witness as she’s stuck between being a heartbroken teenager and the young woman she’d almost become under Mr. Mann’s guidance. It does get pretty freaky at some point, especially considering that Nine is lacking the support system most young girls have when they’re dealing with their first big heartache. For one, she doesn’t have many friends. And the people she could turn to don’t know about her relationship with a teacher. So the situation does get pretty strange and serious for her.

That’s the part I didn’t expect. I thought the story would focus more on both of them trying to defend their love and deal with the strong opinions of other. But to my surprise, I didn’t like the story any less this way. Nine is a fascinating character, sometimes old beyond her years and sometimes still heartbreakingly young and innocent. Nelson painted such a likeable picture of a young woman, and his other characters were just as detailed and charming. You can’t help but both, fancy and hate Mr. Mann a little bit and if you close the book at the end without having reserved a special place in your heart for Schuyler, I don’t think we can be friends, I’m sorry. As well as Nine’s dad!

Please, do yourself a favor and read this book. I’m not kidding, it really is that good!

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Girls Who Are Boys Who Like Boys to Be Girls

Gender is a really big subject right now. Which is a good thing because apparently there are a lot of people who do not fit the traditional male-female theme. It can be very confusing and I don’t know about most people but I know that the main reason it’s confusing for me is because I try to understand it. I’m a girl and I feel like a girl and I’m straight and don’t go beyond bi-curious, so I pretty much fit the dictionary description of a traditional female. And yet, I can’t say I understand how straight relationships work or why I feel how I feel. I think I understand it because I’ve grown up thinking that’s normal and that’s really all it takes to be able to accept something. Which is all people should do when it comes to how others feel about themselves. But when we hear about someone who acts or feels different, we instantly try to understand it, like a math problem that begs to be solved.

I think what would really help matters is if people of all kinds of genders, sexualities and preferences found a place in literature and the media. If people are introduced to the idea of this at a very young age, they won’t even get a chance to question what’s right or wrong here but they’ll just accept that people are who they are.

One author who is absolutely amazing at including different lifestyles and preferences in his books is David Levithan. With titles such as Two Boys Kissing or Boy Meets Boy, you’ll guess that a his fiction focuses on homosexual boys. And that isn’t so wrong. Most of the main characters of his books are male, usually gay. But they’re never the heroes because they’re gay. Their homosexuality is never really the focus of things. Sure, sometimes it ends up being in the center but it happens in a way that seems perfectly natural. In a world where homosexuality is still often pointed out and judged, of course there are gonna be situations in which those boys will have to deal with that. But they’re not defined by it and there’s never any magical coming out situations.

Quite often, characters will also be less easy to grasp. There’s rarely any black or white when it comes to gender or sexuality and neither does that happen in Levithan’s books.

My favorite book of his is Every Day. Why? Because the main character, A, has no gender at all. And it also puts the reader in its spot quite nicely. You read the first few pages and you automatically assume that A must be a boy. Actually, A is just a being, a soul if you will, that wakes up in a different body every day. When we get to know them, they’re in a male body. Over the course of the book, A falls in love with a girl. That was enough for me to assume that A must be a male character. And it wasn’t until the book actually pointed out that A is neither male nor female that I noticed my mistake. Why does falling in love with a girl or having a male body automatically make someone male? To be honest, I don’t know if these kind of wake up calls are intended by Levithan but I’ve had moments like that a lot while reading his books and I can absolutely recommend them to anyone, especially parents looking for new books for their teenage kids. Apart from teaching gender lessons, Levithan’s stories are also really gripping and beautifully told.

He’s probably best known as the co-author of John Green for Will Grayson, Will Grayson and while that is one of my favorite books, Levithan’s solo work is just as good but rarely gets the recognition it deserves.

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2014 – A Retrospective

In previous years, I spent the last few days of December thinking about what I wanted to achieve in the next year while simultaneously crying about all the goals I hadn’t achieved. I think that’s pretty much what everyone does and new year’s resolutions are a perfectly common thing. But it also feels like you’re already starting a new year on a bad note, setting yourself up for failure. No matter how often we tell ourselves that they’re no actual goals, just guidelines and rough drafts, we end up thinking of them as some kind of milestone or goal post anyway. And let’s face it, 365 days are a long time. A lot of things can happen. Most of the time, we aren’t even able to tell what tomorrow is gonna be like and yet, we make these resolutions as if the only factor in reaching our goals was us. And even if that was the case, we may change along the way. Our perspectives could change, we may change our directions, there may be a perfectly fine reason why we didn’t go for that thirty pound loss anymore, or that change of jobs, or why we’re still single, and yet, we feel like we’ve failed.

For 2015, I don’t want to do that. I don’t even want to think of what I didn’t achieve in 2014 or all the bad things that happened. 2014 was a bad year for me, yes, but that doesn’t mean I’ll have to spend the last day of the year dwelling on that. The good thing about having had a bad year is that for the next, the only way is up.

What I do want to do, though, is remember the good things, the nice moments and things, the highlights, however few there may be.

Good Things That Happened in 2014:

  • I am fine, my mom is fine. After all the health issues this year, this is something that deserves to be celebrated. I daresay we’re even doing better than before. Especially my mom is filled with more energy than I expected from her.
  • I got a new car. I don’t think I mention it often enough but I love, love, love little Bruce. Not only because it’s finally a black car and I love driving it but also because it’s the first car I ever bought (well, financed) myself. My first two cars were paid for by my grandpa, the third I did buy myself but my mom brought in her own car which she didn’t want anymore and that exchange took a huge chunk out of the total price. So this is the first time I actually got one for myself and that only makes it extra special and I’m proud of my little Dark Knight.
  • I went to not many but great concerts this year. The highlight being, in absence of any AFI shows, of course, Taking Back Sunday.
  • New opportunities. I started a new project at work and also something bigger in my personal life. None of which have led to anything big so far but they’re fun, they’re new challenges and help break the routine a little.

Favorite Songs of the Year

Favorite Books I Read This Year

Favorite Movies of the Year

Things to Look Forward to in 2015:

  • London with Mel in January. Four days in my favorite city with one of my favorite people. I don’t know how often we talked about going on a trip together. And it seems insane that we never made it to any proper day trip but managed to book a whole city trip together. But I’m so looking forward to it. It’s the first time I’m not only in the city with someone else than my mom (who is great company but slow and not very interested in a lot of things) and it’s not part of an AFI tour. Because that always took such a large chunk out of our time and people I went with rarely showed much interest in sightseeing, after over fifteen years of visiting London every year, there’s still so much I haven’t done and seen and Mel and I have already put so many of them on our list. Excited much?!
  • Mallorca with my mom in May. Not even half a year left until I’ll be back on the beautiful island I lost my heart to two years ago. We even booked the same hotel. I always feel a little bad going to a vacation spot twice, and even to the same hotel. There’s so much of the world left to discover! But Mallorca is so beautiful and there’s still so much I haven’t seen or didn’t have enough time to enjoy. We got so little time in Sollér last time and also didn’t make the best of Palma. I’m excited to go back. And hotels…well, there are so many bad hotels out there, why not take advantage when you found one that makes you feel at home?
  • So.many.awesome.movies. 2015 will be one of the greatest years, movie-wise. I should just rent a spot in our local cinema and be done with it. Just a few I can think of right now: Big Hero 6, Into the Woods (won’t be out here before next year), Minions, Cinderella, Mockingjay Pt. 2, Jurassic World
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Thanks to my friend Mel and I’ve already got the first challenge for my inner bookworm sorted for the next year.

Of course, I’ll also set myself a Goodreads goal again, simply because I’m a sucker for these little widgets and because it gives me a motivation burst to see the bar get filled a little more every time I finish a book. But for next year, the stakes will get raised because I’ll also attempt to complete the Popsugar Reading Challenge.

This is gonna be so much harder because I’ll actually have to stick to themes. I did it this year for Lovelybooks, too, but found it very easy to complete because the themes were very vague and rarely gave you specific genres to stick with. Eventually, I stopped paying attention because their website is sort of on and off for me to use, so I don’t remember exactly when I completed it but it was weeks, even months, ago. This one is gonna be so much harder because it tells me to read books within genres I’ve never given much thought to. Plays? Graphic novels? Classic romance? Oh my!

I don’t know if books that complete several of these but I’ll go gentle on myself and just say they will. It’s gonna be hard enough already. But not to make it too easy, I sort of accepted another mini-addition by promising that I’ll finally get around to reading Lord of the Rings. Okay, I’ll promise to read the first book and then take it from there. Chances are, if it’s anything as good as the huge love for the books and movies suggests, I’ll be hooked anyway and then it won’t be much of a challenge. But thing is, just because something is popular and generally high quality still won’t guarantee that it will be for me. I know plenty books and authors that have a huge fanbase and I still don’t really know what to make of them. So I guess we’ll see. But however much or little I’ll like it, finishing that book will meet pretty much half the goals for this challenge. If I like it enough to read the trilogy, that’ll be another one ticked off. Ha! Clever me!

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[Book Rawrview] “Eleanor & Park” or It’s Love, Make It Hurt

I know I already fangirled about Rainbow Rowell in my Book Rawrview of Fangirl, and appropriately so. I meant to do the same for Attachments but kept putting it off and now it seems too far away, so I’ll just say that I highly recommend reading that, too, although it is a book for adults.

Anyway, yesterday I finished another book by Rowell and, as my friend pointed out, I’ll probably never finish a book by her and not say ‘Oh my god, that was the best book I ever read!’ Eleanor & Park touched me on a level that I didn’t even know existed. What sticks out with Rowell’s writing for me is that I can relate to her characters so very, very well. A lot of readers may find them annoying and unnecessarily difficult, like they’re deliberately trying to see the negative side of things. What I see, though, is someone who would love to see another side but is trapped within their own fears and anxiety.

With Eleanor that sympathy reached another level, of course. So far, her story is the most tragic of all the characters in Rowell’s books so far. All of them encountered heartache, family problems, anxiety, self-loathing and a bunch of other personal tragedies. But with Eleanor, her life is so unfair, so full of negativity and both, physical and mental, abuse, it’s hard to read it without cussing every few pages. Her domestic situation is so bad that I don’t think most readers will even begin to understand what that’s like. I certainly don’t and my childhood wasn’t always peachy. And yet, I can relate to her because I know what it’s like to struggle with what was, what is and what will be.

And then there’s the slowly blossoming friendship and then love when she meets Park. It’s an almost violent opposite. When she’s home, Eleanor’s life is hell. When she’s with Park, everything seems bright and beautiful. And yet, Eleanor can’t help herself, she has to be doubtful and cynical about this new situation, won’t allow herself to accept it, let alone enjoy it.

Even though this book is for young adults and what Eleanor and Park share is essentially puppy love, it contains the most beautiful couple scene I’ve ever read. It’s simple, completely innocent and not even a key scene but it made me cry happy tears for them because it was just so, so, beautiful.

I also love that it’s set in the 80’s. Apart from the fact that the absence of the Internet and mobile phones makes communication for Eleanor and Park quite a lot more difficult, the era it’s set in doesn’t make much of a difference for the story. But I just love the 80’s soundtrack of this book (The Cure, The Smiths, Joy Division…) and I also enjoy the mental image of the two of them settled on the floor and listening to cassette tapes on a giant stereo.

This book is so simple but exciting and just beautiful. I wish I could pressure everyone I know into reading it.

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10 Things That Are Wrong With the Maze Runner Movie

(Before I start, let me warn you that this entry contains spoilers. Don’t read if you don’t wanna know!)

I’ve fangirled about The Maze Runner Trilogy by James Dashner before. And I know I mentioned they’re turning it into a movie, too. I can’t remember the last time I was that excited about a movie. I know you American guys got it weeks ago, so I pretty much spent the past few weeks stewing in my own jealousy. Until, finally, last night I went to see it with my friend Mel who I maaaayyy have infected with my obsession just a tiny bit (sorry, not sorry!).

Let me begin by saying I know it wasn’t a bad movie. It some some good acting, a good cast, great special effects…only it had nothing at all to do with the book. If anything, it was a bad case of plot stealing but they changed so many details that it ended up being a completely new story. I know some things can’t be helped but changed but they did it with things that changed nothing about the course of the story, that didn’t make it easier to understand or for any other reason – seemingly – but that they simply wanted to change them.

I just can’t get over how disappointed I was, so let me list all the things that were wrong with this movie:

  1. Thomas’ name: Why did they make him ‘forget’ his name and find it back in such a dramatic way? In what way did that change anything about the story or make anything easier to understand? They only wasted time on a subject that really didn’t matter because it explained nothing about the ‘name issue’ as it is in the book and it didn’t help character development in any way either. Completely pointless.
  2. The whole ‘Ben thing’: They spent ages going into tiny details about Alby and how he got there but they cut everything about Ben so short it doesn’t even make sense anymore. The whole scene in the woods was so ridiculous. How would Thomas even know who he is? Why didn’t they explain anything about his condition before? It’s one of the key scenes in the book, so why did they have to make it so dull in the movie?
  3. The characters’ age: Nothing against some of the actors. Most did a great job. But Teresa looked like she’s in her 30’s. Some of the extras looked even older. I spent a whole minute chuckling about the guy in the background when they were fighting Gally over the issue of whether they should leave the Maze or not. Seriously, if you’re gonna see the movie, look out for him. Ripped undershirt with an unbuttoned shirt on top. And the most awkward 90’s heartthrob  hair I’ve ever seen. He’s at least in his late 30’s. I was like ‘Dude, one of the kids got to bring his perv uncle! How unfair!’
  4. Chuck’s death: That seen crushed me in the book. I was bawling, I wanted to hurl the book across the room. In the movie? Nothing. I mean, it was still a shame because Chuck was the only really good thing about this movie (loved the actor, loved how effortlessly he fitted into the role) but it was so completely void of any emotion. I don’t know if it was me because at that point I was already so over everything that was wrong with this movie but it really didn’t catch me at all.
  5. The Grievers: It may just be my imagination that varies from everyone else’s but they looked nothing like I imagined them. I thought they were a lot more…fleshy. And creepy. They looked way too scifi for me.
  6. When the Grievers come for the kids: Again, this may just be my issue but that mood, that fear when they were told that every night, one of the kids would get taken was one of the best and most intense part of the book. And in the movie…it didn’t happen. Boo!
  7. The way out: This is one of the things I meant when I said they changed things for no apparent reason. Obviously, doing it like it was in the books would have taken special effects. Well, so did the way they ended up doing it. It didn’t add any suspense. It didn’t explain things better. There was no reason to change it at all. So pointless.
  8. Teresa’s and Thomas’ relationship: They changed so many details and scenes about this. And again, for no good reason. Because if you look at it from someone who hasn’t read the books, it’s just as confusing as it was in the original story, if not more.
  9. Character development: They just didn’t dedicate enough time to the characters. I think we can all agree that the situations they are in is extreme and no one can realistically say how and why they react the way they do. But in the book, you could follow their development. You could see that every action had a reaction. In the movie it just seemed like the characters kept switching around to suit the scene rather than the other way round.
  10. The end: I know it got the job done. I know that it was meant to hint at a sequel. But again, there was so much missing. In the book, they got a view of the chaos the world’s in. In the movie, they got a last look at the Maze. The book ended with the letter from Chancelor Paige, in the movie they did this overdramatic staged death thing and her hold a monologue rather than write the quick memo. I personally found the way it was done in the book more dramatic because it was simpler. A lot more fitting for the situation, too, or are they gonna tell me that everyone involved with the planning of all the trials are gathered in that one room? And they could have easily adapted to that in the movie. Wouldn’t be the first movie to end with writing. Lame.

There you go. I could go on forever and ever. But I think these bring across quite well why I was so disappointed. Now bring on Mockingjay so the bitter aftertaste can leave my mouth!

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Books & Food & Rock ‘N’ Roll

Last weekend I took a little timeout from the pile of crap that 2014 has presented me with so far and drove to Frankfurt to meet a friend of mine and spend the weekend doing what we do. Which is so to say shop, listen to music, eat, visit the book fair and get tattooed.

I left work early on Friday and had to take an unplanned quick stop at home because – what a coincidence! – my mom had been admitted to hospital again on Thursday. This time it’s another hospital and it’s more of a ‘better safe than sorry’ thing and she’s feeling fine. But it was still bad timing because she was meant to take care of my cats. I had to get home and clean my place a little bit before I left, so my neighbor, who had kindly agreed to be the cat sitter, wouldn’t die of a shock.

The drive to Frankfurt went surprisingly well. I gotta say I love taking roadtrips by myself. I also like taking them with (the right) people but driving by myself has its own perks. No quarreling over who gets to choose the next song. No multiple stops at every other rest stop because someone always has to pee, needs a snack and plainly wants to stretch their legs. And you get lots of thinking and planning to do in your mind. One of these days I’m probably trying to set up Siri so I can make notes while driving. I had so many good ideas for this project I’m working on but it’s hard to remember them all. I also got a lot of really, really bad singing done. I never sing along to music with people around – don’t ask me why! – but when I’m alone in the car, I give it my all, no kidding. Anyway, surprisingly, I only got stuck in traffic once, for about thirty minutes, the rest went so smoothly, I arrived early enough to freshen up at the hotel. The hotel wasn’t anything special, but nice and clean and I loved the design of everything. A lot of blue and beige and a modern design. The only thing that left us puzzled was the sink that was right in the room instead of in the bathroom. Admittedly, there was already little space in there anyway but still!

The first thing we did on Friday night was head to a tattoo appointment we’d scheduled to get our shared tattoo. It’s half friendship tattoo, half John Green appreciation and I love it. “Okay?” – “Okay.” is something that Hazel Grace and Augustus say on the phone continuously. It’s their thing, a way to reassure and comfort each other. It’s one of the things that screamed ‘friendship’ to me about this book, so it was only right that my oldest friend and I got those, especially since we’re both so in love with John Green’s writing. I got it on my lower arm, just below the elbow. In the picture, mine’s below, the one with the question mark. So far it’s the most painful tattoo I got, even my foot and the spine area were easier to handle. Maybe I’m getting more sensitive with age, I don’t know. I also bled a lot more than my friend. Body, WTF u doin’? Anyway, we got it done at a very cute studio by a very nice and lovely little lady. She had pictures of her work all over the place, as tattoo artists do, and she does a lot of Tim Burton stuff, too. I wanted her to ink me all over!

After we got our ink done, it was time for food. I know it isn’t smart but I never like to eat before a tattoo appointment. I mean, I drink sugary stuff, so low blood sugar won’t be an issue but I don’t like a full stomach while I’m supposed to sit still. So I was ravenous. We ended up at the cutest burger joint I’ve ever seen. It’s called Bully’s Burgers or something like that and their mascot is a little French bulldog. They have pictures of it in different poses and memes all over the place. So adorable! It’s also tiny and we were lucky to get the last table. They pretty much offer only burgers in different variations. I had a Spanish burger with chorizo and ordered sweet potato fries and guacamole dip on the side. The burger was alright, though I wasn’t crazy about the chorizo but the fries were amazing. I kept eating even when I was full.

The next day was dedicated to shopping, shopping and shopping with a side of excessive eating. We drove into town where we’d been told we’d find a place that sells Urban Decay (which, shockingly, we weren’t able to buy in Germany yet). When we got there, though, we were told that we were one week too early. Noooo! So, we had to compensate this shock by spending our cash elsewhere. We raided Primark and then moved on to H&M. It sounds stupid because you can find H&M anywhere but the one in Frankfurt is the only one that also has a Home department. I spent way too much money there but who can pass up a shower curtain with little skulls on them? Or a pillow case with a circus monkey on it? Right?

Otherwise, the city center didn’t really have a lot to offer, so we moved on to the Skyline Plaza, a mall that apparently had a great view of the skyline. This proved to be only half true because it was way too central to over a full view but the roof garden was still great. They had little patches of green up there and also a restaurant with a terrace. Overall, I can’t say that I was disappointed with it. The weather sucked a bit but the sky scrapers still looked pretty cool against the background of the huge clouds.

The mall itself was less spectacular. You got the usual chain stores, some fast food places, nothing surprising. Except that Zara also had a Home store there. I bought two glasses with skulls on them but otherwise found the stuff there too expensive for what it had to offer. Most of the things I bought in that mall, I could have found here as well. Shopping was still fun because I got to do it with a good friend and because it’s always more fun when you do it on a day off and with nothing else on your schedule but I had hoped to find more interesting shops in a big city like that.

Originally, we had planned to go see a movie but then the waiter in the rooftop restaurant messed up our order, so dinner took ages and we couldn’t really agree on anything we wanted to see or hadn’t seen yet, so we went back to the hotel after dinner. My friend showed me the road movie she and her friend took of their last vacation and we just caught up with each other’s lives over a good old round of crappy television. Not exactly a ‘party hard’ kind of night but we had a long day ahead of us on Sunday, so getting some sleep wasn’t such a bad idea.

The next day, we went to the book fair. What a disappointment! I’d been there two years ago and it was pretty cool. This year, we bored ourselves through the fair with nothing to do and nothing to see. None of our favorite authors were there and even though we’d planned to just let it surprise us, we ended up never even finding our way to anything that was going on. The map of the place wasn’t clear on anything and it was so crowded that we were just pushed around all the time. Last time I went, it was a Saturday and less crowded, probably because you can only buy books on the Sunday. This time around, it was like the whole country had decided to come to the fair. And they all brought their tiny kids or came in elaborate cosplay costumes that were great to look at but let’s face it, a huge ball gown or some kind of warrior costume with huge spikes all over the place aren’t really ideal to move smoothly through the masses. Not to mention that every few steps, someone showed up in a really cool costumes and people would stop in the middle of everywhere to take a picture. It’s shocking, I know, but I ended up not buying a single book. I simply couldn’t concentrate for long enough to really read a single sentence, let alone decide if it sounded interesting enough for me to buy the book. So I just took a lot of notes about books I may want to read eventually. The only thing I took away from the fair was a postcard that I felt summed up the weekend quite nicely.

When we left the fair – and paid half a lung for parking – it was time for my friend to get to the train station. We arrived with enough time to have a quick snack together. Again, the waiter forgot my order – boo! – but eventually, it arrived anyway. I had lovely apple strudel with cream. Gotta treat yourself, right? I really haven’t made smart food choices this weekend but considering that I didn’t eat much but walked a lot, it was still okay. And the strudel was so worth it. So, so worth it. I mean, come on, it had marzipan in it. Marzipan! Plus, I went to get a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks for the way home and they didn’t have any. It was the first Starbucks I’ve seen that had pumpkins all over the place and pretty much forced you to order a damn PSL…and they didn’t have any left. What the…?! I’d say food-wise, I wasn’t really lucky in Frankfurt.

Overall, it was a good weekend. Not ideal and some things went wrong or were a little disappointing. But I got to see my friend again, we got to catch up, there was new ink involved, we did some satisfying shopping…and the food was great, once it actually got to me. And since I didn’t get to go to Vienna, at least I got to see Frankfurt this year. That’s a little something at least.


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