Saturday, December 24, 2011

2011 Book Lists Pt. 3: Boy POV; Middle Grade; Fluffy Bunnies; Heavy Stuff



*Back to Introductory Post; Pt. 1; Pt 2; Pt. 4; Pt. 5; Pt. 6; Pt. 7
*Books are linked to my reviews, if available. They're also linked to Amazon. I have read all of these books and written reviews for most, but haven't posted many of them yet. As I do, I will update this page.

Boy POV
*Tired of all those angtsy teen girls? Try reading a book from a boy's POV. Less angst...or angst in a different way.

Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
The third installment of the Caster Chronicles ups the ante yet again. Ethan and Lena are back together after their struggles in Beautiful Darkness. Strange things are happening in town. Insect infestation, freak weather disasters - it seems like the apocalypse. Ethan too is struggling. The natural order has been disrupted and only Ethan and Lena can fix it. (Amazon)

Witchlanders by Lena Coakley
Witchlanders is a quietly enticing novel. A high fantasy that feels foreign yet familiar. The Baens and the Witchlanders have been enemies forever. Each culture has its own myth stories decrying the evils of the other. This is a tale about a Baen boy and Witchlander boy whose lives intertwine unexpectedly. Very interesting, if a little confusing world-building, because of the two very different groups. Easy to read prose that is smooth and welcoming. (Amazon)

Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (Partial Boy POV)
Water horses are beautiful equine creatures that reside in the sea and are wild, vicious killers. Every year, islanders race these horses in the Scorpio Races. Every year, people die. Sean and Puck (aka Kate) enter the races for different races. The characters' emotions and actions are reserved, but this somehow makes the reader's emotions all the stronger. A quiet story that you'll want to re-read over and over to truly sink in. One of the best slow building relationships that feels real. (Amazon)

Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa
My favorite book of the entire Iron Fey series! Ash is determined to trade his fairy sold for that of a mortal, so he can reside with Meghan in the Iron Kingdom. Reminiscent of Homer's The Odyssey, Ash sets off on a long journey of dangerous adventures to reach the place where he might become mortal, joined by his friend/enemy Puck. Full of what Julie Kagawa does best - great action and well developed characters. Plus lots of Grim! (Amazon)

Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima
Jack goes from being a normal kid with a mysterious heart problem to a warrior with incredible strength, power, and purpose. He is a pawn in a vicious game of wizard's chess. Jack has to protect his family and friends and fulfill his destiny on his own terms. Easy read with relatable main character. Interesting world building of wizard society, although not entirely believable. (Amazon)

Red Glove by Holly Black
Great follow-up to White Cat. Full of danger and curseworking. Cassel has to learn to rely and trust on his friends rather than doing everything himself. Great Cassel and Lila moments! The book is a real page-turner yet also has a lot of substance - developed characters and excellend world-building. (Amazon)

Eighth Grade Bites (The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, #1) by Heather Brewer
Vlad is half vampire, half human. Being a vamp isn't that big a deal, as long as it stays secret. His secret is threatened when a teacher disappears and is replaced by a creepy guy who is extremely interested in Vlad. Vlad and his best friend go searching to find his old teacher and discover the new guy's issues. Funny book but has surprising dark side. (Amazon)

Queen of the Dead by Stacey Kade (Partial Boy POV)
Second Ghost and Goth book took the plot in a direction I didn't expect. Will and Alona are on separate journeys in the book - mostly alone. Will is intrigued when he meets other people who can see ghosts and who knew his father. Alona is mourning the fact that the world is moving on without her. Very interesting plot twist at the end. (Amazon)

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendara Blake
Cas is a teenage ghost-buster, skilled at killing the dead until a 17 year old ghost named Anna bests him. Anna kills everyone who enters her home, except for Cas. Still, Cas is determined to kill Anna before she harms again. Mixing horror with romance with friendship with family drama, this book is a unique take on the ghost paranormal genre. (Amazon)

Cracked by K.M. Walton
A good book for a bad mood. Very angry. Victor and Bull have horrible lives - particularly horrible families. Bull bullies Victor to suicide, but they end up as roommates in the same psych ward. The reader feels the characters’ anger and despair. It’s a simple yet hard-hitting prose. The plot is somewhat predictable but not as much as I expected. Both characters are easy to sympathize with, if not like. Very quick read. (Amazon)

Wildwood by Colin Meloy
Wildwood is an incredible concept and a good book, but it fails to reach its full potential. The idea behind it is fascinating. A secret world exists within the city of Portland. The Impassible Wilderness is full of talking animals and humans and it has its own politics, history, and culture. Prue and Curtis venture into the forbidden forest to rescue Prue's baby brother and brave all sorts of dangers.  As you'd expect from Colin Meloy (lead singer of The Decemberists), the vocabulary is incredibly sophisticated. Perhaps too much so. Unfortunately, the book drags and is way too long. Still fun to read, but a bit of a chore. (Amazon)

No Going Back by Jonathan Langford
Mormon teenager realizes that he's gay. Caught in a catch-22 when he realizes that his religion (which he whole-heartedly believes in) and his body are diametrically imposed. Told in alternating perspectives between Paul, his friend, and their parents. Manages to explore both points of view without demonizing or glorifying either one. (Amazon)

Sapphique by Catherine Fisher
Marvelously rich, complex story that bridges dystopia, high fantasy, and science fiction. Alternates between four unlikeable, but always relatable characters. Oftentimes the book is too complex, making it hard to follow, but I admire the author for not dumbing down the series. Strong themes of politics, religion, friendship, and betrayal. No romance - quite refreshing. (Amazon)

Beat The Band by Don Calame
Must read for anyone who loved Swim The Fly, or anyone who likes funny contemporary fiction featuring very normal male characters.  Cooper, a brash, hormone-crazed teen, convinces his friends to enter into the school Battle Of The Bands contest. He envisions their future rock-star gods, and with girls running at them tossing their clothes off. Cooper's plan to become Mr. Cool suffers a setback when he's matched up with Hot Dog Helen to do a semester long project in health class on methods of birth control. Very funny book, although not as funny as Swim the Fly. (Amazon)

Walk the Wild Road by Nigel Hinton
12 year old boy in 1870 Poland is trying to flee to America. Encounters tons of adventure and danger, good friends and enemies, happiness and sadness. Classic boy's adventure story. (Amazon)

Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta
Piper's Son is about the love and pain of a close family and the camaraderie and anger of friends.  A great companion to Saving Francesca. Witty, smart dialogue is the key feature of this story. Melina is a master of creating an enticing story with a relatively barebones plot. The characters and dialogue make this novel. (Amazon)

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
If you're a fan of zombie books, Warm Bodies is definitely something to pick up. If you're not a fan of zombie books - as I am not - don't pass this by. While the book doesn't skimp on the violence of zombie appetites, its most prominent features are beautiful prose, thought-provoking philosophical questions, and a subtle, sweet love story. (Amazon)

Middle Grade
*Not children but not teens. There's something about the tween years that is always enduring.

Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver
Reminiscent of classic children's stories. Set in Victorian era England, Liesl & Po is a book of friendship and loneliness, of greed and generosity, of death and life. Liesl, Po, and Will are all lonely and suffering characters. We watch as all three lives collide and then travel together in an exciting and heartwarming adventure. Oliver's prose is magical. It flows so smoothly that I felt like I was flying while reading the novel. Love the simple yet haunting sweetness of the book. (Amazon)

Home for the Holidays (Mother Daughter Book Club) by Heather Vogel Frederick
The penultimate book in one of my favorite middle grade series, the Mother Daughter Book Club. The five girls are now 15 years old. This year they're reading the Betsy Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. The book very loosely follows the Betsy Tacy books. All the girls are traveling various places, there's a big emphasis on Christmas, and there is lots of arguing as friendships are challenged. Boys of course play a big role in the fights. Overall, a fun book appropriate for all ages. (Amazon)

Wildwood by Colin Meloy
Wildwood is an incredible concept and a good book, but it fails to reach its full potential. The idea behind it is fascinating. A secret world exists within the city of Portland. The Impassible Wilderness is full of talking animals and humans and it has its own politics, history, and culture. Prue and Curtis venture into the forbidden forest to rescue Prue's baby brother and brave all sorts of dangers.  As you'd expect from Colin Meloy (lead singer of The Decemberists), the vocabulary is incredibly sophisticated. Perhaps too much so. Unfortunately, the book drags and is way too long. Still fun to read, but a bit of a chore. (Amazon)

Walk the Wild Road by Nigel Hinton
12 year old boy in 1870 Poland is trying to flee to America. Encounters tons of adventure and danger, good friends and enemies, happiness and sadness. Classic boy's adventure story. (Amazon)

Eighth Grade Bites (The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, #1) by Heather Brewer
Vlad is half vampire, half human. Being a vamp isn't that big a deal, as long as it stays secret. His secret is threatened when a teacher disappears and is replaced by a creepy guy who is extremely interested in Vlad. Vlad and his best friend go searching to find his old teacher and discover the new guy's issues. Funny book but has surprising dark side. (Amazon)

Princess for Hire and Royal Treatment by Lindsey Leavitt
240 pages of pure, unadulterated cuteness. Desi goes from being a nobody 14 year old girl to a substitute princess. Fabulous main character. Despite having the typical low self-esteem of a normal teenager, Desi is independent, brave, and outspoken. Nothing too surprising plot-wise, but thoroughly enjoyable. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall
Travel back in time to a life where children are innocent, kind, and all about having adventures. Set in present day, but feel timeless. In this installment, the three youngest Penderwick sisters are on their own (with their aunt) for vacation when their father, stepmother, and oldest sister all go elsewhere for a few weeks. The plotline sounds uninteresting, but it's fascinating to see what adventures these kids can have. The author does a great job of showing how things that seem inconsequential to adults can be a big deal to a kid. (Amazon)

Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis
A middle grade historical fantasy set in early 19th century England and centers on a family that is just outside the cusp of wealth. Since the family is desperate for money (to pay off Kat's brother's gambling arrears), Elissa the oldest sister is going to marry the horrible (but rich) Sir Neville. Kat is bound and determined to stop this. In a parallel plot line, Kat finds her deceased mother's magic book and ends up being thrust into a world of magic that she couldn't have imagined. The two plot arcs intertwine as Kat has to get her sister away from Sir Neville while also juggling magical powers and magical politics. (Amazon)

Fluffy
*Fun, Fluffy bunnies. When tears and fears just won't do.

The Daughters Take The Stage (Daughters #3) and The Daughters Join The Party (Daughters #4) - Joanna Philbin
Gossip Girl light. In Book 3, Hudson wants to be a jazz singer who performs in little smoky nightclubs. Hudson's mom, mega superstar Holla Jones envisions Hudson's career more on the trajectory of Willow Smith. Hudson has to grow a backbone and rely on the support of her friends to thwart her mom's plans. In Book 4, Emma is the daughter of a presidential candidate. Reckless, brave, and outspoken, she gets in over her head and gains national notoriety for it. She has to rely on her friends and inner character to stay true to herself. Nice characters, strong friendships, some romance, and uplifting messages. Fame, fashion, and wealth. (Amazon 1; Amazon 2)

Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik
Pride and Prejudice meets high school. Derek is the son of uber celebrities. Elise is the daughter of the dorky, social-climbing school principal. The book has all the elements of Pride and Prejudice but doesn't follow the original book's plot so closely that it gets bogged down. Features uber-wealth, celebrities, and fashion. Another Gossip Girl nice. Cute light read. (Amazon)

Home for the Holidays (Mother Daughter Book Club) by Heather Vogel Frederick
The penultimate book in one of my favorite middle grade series, the Mother Daughter Book Club. The five girls are now 15 years old. This year they're reading the Betsy Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. The book very loosely follows the Betsy Tacy books. All the girls are traveling various places, there's a big emphasis on Christmas, and there is lots of arguing as friendships are challenged. Boys of course play a big role in the fights. Overall, a fun book appropriate for all ages. (Amazon)

Princess for Hire and Royal Treatment by Lindsey Leavitt
240 pages of pure, unadulterated cuteness. Desi goes from being a nobody 14 year old girl to a substitute princess. Fabulous main character. Despite having the typical low self-esteem of a normal teenager, Desi is independent, brave, and outspoken. Nothing too surprising plot-wise, but thoroughly enjoyable. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis
A middle grade historical fantasy set in early 19th century England and centers on a family that is just outside the cusp of wealth. Since the family is desperate for money (to pay off Kat's brother's gambling arrears), Elissa the oldest sister is going to marry the horrible (but rich) Sir Neville. Kat is bound and determined to stop this. In a parallel plot line, Kat finds her deceased mother's magic book and ends up being thrust into a world of magic that she couldn't have imagined. The two plot arcs intertwine as Kat has to get her sister away from Sir Neville while also juggling magical powers and magical politics. (Amazon)

Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg
Adorable, fun, light-hearted romance. A must for any Pride and Prejudice fan and a great introduction for those who haven't read Austen yet. While Prom and Prejudice doesn't have the complex social satire as Pride and Prejudice, it still incorporates the key elements of  the original. It was great seeing Elizabeth and Darcy able to get to know one another without the limits if proper 19th century societal expectations. (Amazon)

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall
Travel back in time to a life where children are innocent, kind, and all about having adventures. Set in present day, but feel timeless. In this installment, the three youngest Penderwick sisters are on their own (with their aunt) for vacation when their father, stepmother, and oldest sister all go elsewhere for a few weeks. The plotline sounds uninteresting, but it's fascinating to see what adventures these kids can have. The author does a great job of showing how things that seem inconsequential to adults can be a big deal to a kid. (Amazon)

The Season by Sarah MacLean
A mixture of romance, friendship, and mystery all set in aristocratic Regency-era London. Our heroine Alex was born into great wealth. Her role in life is to socialize and quickly marry well. Alex doesn't want any of it. Our hero Gavin grew up with Alex and her brothers. He is like an older brother to her, treating her at times like a child and at times like an attractive young woman. The dialogue between them was fabulous. Witty, somewhat daring, and sarcastic. A fluffy fun book. (Amazon)

Fins are Forever by Tera Lynn Childs
Typical second book. Quince and Lily are in love and happy happy. Pretty typical start to a second book. Then Lily's cousin Doe shows up and threatens to ruin everything. We get to learn a lot more about the mermaid world, particularly how it interacts or doesn't interact with the human world. Plus the existence of other kingdoms. Some of the plot arcs, particularly Doe's actions are a bit too outrageous to be believed though. All in all, a fun fluffy book. (Amazon)

There's No Place Like Home (Secrets of My Hollywood Life #6) by Jen Calonita
The final installment of Secrets of My Hollywood Life, one of my favorite light, chick lit series. Kaitlin has tons of things on her plate. Her pushy mom only makes things worse, encouraging Kaitlin to do too much and making her seem like she's attention-hungry. Kaitlin's friends (which now includes her former rival Sky) want her to put her foot down and set some limits. But Kaitlin just can't say no. Enter Stage Right...a head-on collision and an It's A Wonderful Life alternate universe. Kaitlin is now from a poor family, in a fancy school, and hated by everyone except her star-crazy friend Liz. (Amazon)

There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones
Normal (well, actually, filthy rich) girl meets teen vampire super-star Beckett Rush on a plane. They end up staying at the same B&B in Ireland. Finley hates Beckett for being famous, seemingly arrogant, and a supposed player. Beckett doesn't take anything seriously, constantly teases Finley, and won't leave her alone. What a surprise that they fall in love. A very predictable plot, but an utterly adorable, Christian romance. (Amazon)

Heavy
*Are you in the mood to be depressed or angry? Check out these books.

Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard
Grace is entranced with Mandarin, the local exotic bad-girl. When Mandarin strikes up a friendship with Grace, everything is exciting, dangerous, and new until Grace begins to realize that Mandarin is deeply troubled. The tale of two troubled girls is beautifully, lyrically written, but hard to read. Grace comes to life and you hate to see her make bad choices or get hurt by her awful family situation. A very intense book. (Amazon)

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney
A beautiful, powerful book. The Mockingbirds takes Alex Patrick on a journey from one of the lowest, most terrifying, humiliating points imaginable to a slow, gradual recovery and a possibility of empowerment. A victim of date rape, her friends convince her to go to The Mockingbirds, the underground school disciplinary squad, and put her classmate on trial. Through Daisy's skillful prose, words fly off the page and the reader lives, breathes, and feels Alex's ordeal. (Amazon)

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
A stark, haunting, beautiful novel. Set in 1906 at an upstate New York resort. Mattie works at a resort where a guest was murdered. But the book is more about Mattie than the murder. She is an avid-booklover and wordsmith. She desperately wants to go to college, get out of her small town, and become a writer. Yet with her mother's death, her father's embitterment, and her family's poverty, the chief burdens of care-taking have fallen upon Mattie. Beautifully written character story. (Amazon)

Cracked by K.M. Walton
A good book for a bad mood. Very angry. Victor and Bull have horrible lives - particularly horrible families. Bull bullies Victor to suicide, but they end up as roommates in the same psych ward. The reader feels the characters’ anger and despair. It’s a simple yet hard-hitting prose. The plot is somewhat predictable but not as much as I expected. Both characters are easy to sympathize with, if not like. Very quick read. (Amazon)

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
A story of friendship and family. Francesca is starting Year 11 as one of the few girls in a former boys' school. And her mother has sunk into a deep depression, bringing her family down with her. Francesca is miserable until she finds a loyal group of friends who build her back up. The highlight of this book is the banter between the characters. The dialogue is worth reading regardless of the plot. You'll fall in love with Francesca, her family, and all her friends. You can enjoy them again in Piper's Son. (Amazon)

Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta
Piper's Son is about the love and pain of a close family and the camaraderie and anger of friends.  A great companion to Saving Francesca. Witty, smart dialogue is the key feature of this story. Melina is a master of creating an enticing story with a relatively barebones plot. The characters and dialogue make this novel. (Amazon)

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
The idea of getting shipped off to Siberia is something I'd heard about most of my life. It's almost a cliche, a joke. In Between Shades of Gray, we are reminded that the horrors of the Stalin regime were no joke. They were raw, senseless, and beyond cruel. An exceptionally dark and powerful book. You will love all the characters, especially Lina. They are all wonderful yet flawed, realistic people going through unimaginable torture. (Amazon)

Inconvenient by Margie Gelbwasser
Painfully real book about parental alcoholism, immigrant life, and just growing up. Alyssa is the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants. She's trying to live a normal high school life with a somewhat immature boyfriend and a best friend who longs to be popular while also balancing her mother's worsening alcoholism. A good cultural read. Also a realistic, non-whitewashed tale about alcoholism. (Amazon)

Lost Voices by Sarah Porter
A very different mermaid story. Abused girls transform into man-killing sirens who gleefully kill humans for fun (since humans never treated them well). Just about as dark as it sounds. But it's also a story of a supportive girl-power group of mermaids and features a sympathetic main character. (Amazon)

The Lost Crown by Sarah Miller
The Lost Crown covers the last four years of the Russian imperial family's life. It starts out at the beginning of World War I, when things are basically fine, with just an undercurrent of problems to come up to the very end of their horrific deaths. Told from alternating perspectives of the four girls: Olga, Maria, Tatiana, and Anastasia. The girls are sweet, innocent, and very sheltered. They try to keep their lives as normal and upbeat as possible. The book is very depressing, because you'll grow to love the characters but their deaths are pre-determined. (Amazon)

Hush by Eishes Chayil
Powerful, heartbreaking story of child molestation in the Hasidic Jewish community of New York City. Witness the devastation that can destroy multiple families when crimes are kept secret for years. Aside from the plot, this is a great cultural exploration of a close-knit religious community that lives as if it were 100 years ago. (Amazon)

Walk the Wild Road by Nigel Hinton
12 year old boy in 1870 Poland is trying to flee to America. Encounters tons of adventure and danger, good friends and enemies, happiness and sadness. Classic boy's adventure story. (Amazon)

No Going Back by Jonathan Langford
Mormon teenager realizes that he's gay. Caught in a catch-22 when he realizes that his religion (which he whole-heartedly believes in) and his body are diametrically imposed. Told in alternating perspectives between Paul, his friend, and their parents. Manages to explore both points of view without demonizing or glorifying either one. (Amazon)

Sapphique by Catherine Fisher
Marvelously rich, complex story that bridges dystopia, high fantasy, and science fiction. Alternates between four unlikeable, but always relatable characters. Oftentimes the book is too complex, making it hard to follow, but I admire the author for not dumbing down the series. Strong themes of politics, religion, friendship, and betrayal. No romance - quite refreshing. (Amazon)

Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Dark, dark. Depressing, depressing. Glimpses of hope. Life is horrible for all but the privileged few in Wither. A disease kills off every human in their early twenties. Reproduction is valued above all else. Rhine was kidnapped and forced to become one of a wealthy son's wives. Touching story about the relationship between the sister wives. Rhine's fast romance with a servant boy Gabriel is good but will probably be better in later books. (Amazon)

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
Heartbreaking, depressing, beautiful. Revolution is the tale of modern Andi who is horribly depressed after the death of her brother. Her father drags her to France where she finds the journal of Alexandrine who was an actress and special friend to little Louis XVII in the French Revolution. Stark, clean language. Very readable. Don't read the book if you need to be cheered up, but definitely pick it up on another day. (Amazon)

Shine by Lauren Myracle
A whodunnit mystery disguised as a novel. Cat's childhood friend Patrick, who is openly gay, was savagely beaten and is in a coma barely holding onto life. Cat sets out to find his attacker. In doing so, she has to confront her past and all the people in her community that she has labeled as ignorant, cruel, or addicts, be they friends or family. A somewhat slow, serious book that makes you think. (Amazon)

Exposure by Therese Fowler
Exposure is a harrowing tale of teenage sexting and the legal system. It shows the horrible consequences that can occur when normal teenagers in love act like teenagers in love, but their actions run afoul of overzealous parents and prosecutors. Definitely a page turner. (Amazon)

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
In the style of literary, award quality YA novels. Told from alternating perspectives of Vera, her dad, and a pagoda. Vera is a trying to heal from her friend's death and deal with her own demons. Vera's dad is trying to keep everything organized and be a good father. The pagoda is in the center of town and sees all. The circumstances of Charlie's death is the frontal plot, but Vera's relationship with her dad is ultimately the most important theme of the book. (Amazon)

4 comments :

  1. Yay for books with boy protagonists! Sometimes it's so nice to escape a girl's POV because there are sooo many of them, and immerse yourself in such a different narrative style. Warm Bodies was fantastic and I've recently just gotten Hushed, and I can't wait to read that one.


    Smiles!
    Lori

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the list. A boy character from the PtG series is going to get his own series. I can't wait to see who.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ahhh such good books! I am starting Warm Bodies after I finish Touch! Hey I saw (I think on Savy's blog) where you wanted Destined in the P.C Cast series, I won it a while back but haven't even gotten to the first book in that series & if you'd like it I'd be more than happy to mail it to you (it's just chillin on a shelf right now). And sorry for posting this in the comments but I clicked on the email button but my laptop sucks & wouldn't open it (and wow this is a long comment, lol) anywho email me at deviantzangel @ gmail <3
    -Shellie

    ReplyDelete
  4. Boy POV! Actually, my favourite reads this year were all boy POV so that must mean something... maybe it's just refreshing to try something different, I guess.

    One of my biggest regrets of 2011 is I hardly read any MG! You have so many there that I want to read, especially Liesl and Po, The Penderwicks, and Kat, Incorrigible. I did initially want to read Wildwood, but I don't know now after reading what you had to say...

    It's strange, as much as the heavy books take so much out of me, and as much as I am never in the mood to be depressed or angry, I find I always appreciate and love the heavy books more than the fluffy bunnies. To each his own, I guess.

    ReplyDelete

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