Thursday, December 23, 2010

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

The World Without Us
Alan Weisman
2007, Virgin, London

A look at what would happen to the earth if all human life disappeared at once.

I found this to be a very interesting book. The author predicts what would happen in the future by taking a look at what happened in the past, so you get some history as well as science. I like information and this book sure had a lot of it. I learned many new things. :)

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Alien3 by Alan Dean Foster

Alan Dean Foster
1992, 1993, Warner Books, New York

Novelisation of the third Alien movie in which Ripley crash lands on a prison planet and discovers a xenomorph has also come along.

This is not a bad story, I really enjoyed the movie and the novel is very similar. However, at times it read like there was more than one author - it could have done with a bit more editing.

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Monday, November 8, 2010

The Gift by Roger Dunn

The Gift
Roger Dunn
1988, McPhee Gribble Publishers, Fitzroy

Little novel based on an Australian children's mini-series in which two children win 1000 acres of bushland in Western Australia.

It was an enjoyable story - the characters were well fleshed out and it had good morals. I like that it was set in a recognisable Australia.

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

The Sirens of Titan
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
1959, 1979, Dell Publishing, New York

A man and his dog are caught up in a chrono-synclastic-infudibula halfway between Earth and Mars and are scattered throughout the Solar System, appearing and disappearing on different planets at regular intervals. To explain any more would complicate things and this novel is a journey for the reader so I wont bother!

I really really really enjoyed this. Vonnegut has a seriously wicked sense of humour. And there was so much going on within the story. I wish they wrote science fiction like this again.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman

The Ice Queen
Alice Hoffman
2005, 2006, Vintage, London

A girl makes a wish one night which comes true and ruins her life. She then grows up and makes another wish which changes her forever.

I enjoyed this up to a point. I liked the storyline and the characters, however, the writing style annoyed me because it was pretentious. Readers are supposed to make up their own minds about the deeper meaning behind a story, we don't need it spelled out to us.

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Simulacra by Philip K. Dick

The Simulacra
Philip K. Dick
1964, Ace Books. New York
no isbn

A novel of the future about a government system headed by a beautiful First Lady and her simulation husband.

This little novel was multi-layered - there were many different aspects that I really enjoyed. And the science behind it all has not dated, even 40 years later.

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Monday, October 4, 2010

The Book Boy by Joanna Trollope

The Book Boy
Joanna Trollope
2006, Bloomsbury Publishing, London

Quick read about Alice, a housewife who cannot read and the teenage rebel who guessed her secret.

This was a very simple book with simple language, and I didn't really find the characters all that believable - they were two-dimensional.

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Friday, October 1, 2010

Star Trek: New Frontier: Missing in Action by Peter David

Star Trek: New Frontier: Missing in Action
Peter David
2006, Pocket Books, New York

The USS Excalibur encounters a large and powerful ship while attempting to keep peace in the New Thallonian region. They find themselves transported to another universe where two warring races threaten to destroy each other.

I am unfamiliar with most of these characters and backstories; it was explained a little bit in the book but it seemed forced. It had traces of the David humour I'm used to, but none of the sparkle. Overall, I was disappointed.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Circles by Kerry Armstrong

The Circles
Kerry Armstrong
2003, Hardie Grant Books, South Yarra

A little self-help book written by Australian actress Kerry Armstrong which deals with our relationships with other people and how to categorise those relationships in order to better understand ourselves.

I was a bit skeptical when I started to read this book as I always am with self-help, but I found it to be interesting and it did have a few little bits of advice which were helpful. I've never really had major issues with relationships but I'm sure that someone who does have would enjoy this little book's advice.

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Bachelor Brothers Bed and Breakfast Pillow Book by Bill Richardson

Bachelor Brothers Bed and Breakfast Pillow Book
Bill Richardson
1998, St. Martins' Griffin
208 p.

Sequel to the book Bachelor Brothers Bed and Breakfast in which two brothers run a bed and breakfast for bibliophiles. This book is a collection of recipes, gossip and stories of their lives.

Not as good as the original but still I had an enjoyable time with the brothers and their crazy townspeople.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Stars' Tennis Balls by Stephen Fry

The Stars' Tennis Balls
Stephen Fry
2001, Arrow Books, London

Ned Maddstone is the son of a politician with the world at his feet. He goes to a great school, is captain of the cricket team and has a wonderful girlfriend. Then he is kidnapped by a group of men and his world is turned upside-down.

I really, really enjoyed this black comedy. Fry is a very good writer - I love his way with words; he uses big words without sounding pretentious (unless that is exactly what he wants to sound like!). And the uber-violence is a nice distraction for when you're at work. lol.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Things You Get For Free by Michael McGirr

Things You Get For Free
Michael McGirr
2000, 2001, Picador, Sydney

Part biography, part travel, part history, Things You Get for Free tells the story of a Jesuit priest and his European holiday with his mother.

I enjoyed this book - McGirr manages to be cynical without being snarky or sarcastic. Reading it was like being told a story while cuddled up in a doona in front of an open fire.

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Next Queen of Heaven by Gregory Maguire

The Next Queen of Heaven
Gregory Maguire
2009, Concord Free Press, Concord

This is a novel published by Concord Free Press who publish books for free consumption on the proviso that the reader makes a donation to a charity of their choice.

Set in Thebes, New York, The Next Queen of Heaven tells the story of a family of misfits, a group of retired nuns and a gay singing group. Their lives entwine in small town life.

This book made me laugh out loud on a number of occasions. Maguire has a way with words. And I enjoyed the story too - it wasn't the tightest telling, but the loose narrative style suited the story.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss

Eats, Shoots and Leaves
Lynne Truss
2003, 2004, Gotham, New York

This is a book about punctuation. Not exactly a style guide, though it does inform the reader of the main conventions of punctuation, it's more of a educated rant from a literate stickler.

I really loved this: it's proof that I'm not the worst grammar or punctuation Nazi around. It also taught me a thing or two I didn't know about the correct use of punctuation, which is fantastic! Now I just have to remember it all and not slip back into old ways.

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ottoline and the Yellow Cat by Chris Riddell

Ottoline and the Yellow Cat
Chris Riddell
2007, 2008, HarperCollins, New York

Ottoline is a little girl living with a Norwegian swamp creature in a house full of her parent's strange collections. When a series of robberies and dog disappearances disrupt her neighbourhood, Ottoline decides to investigate.

This is such a clever, cheeky little book. The illustrations are gorgeous and I liked how they were multi-layered. It's a good story too.

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

For Rouenna by Sigrid Nunez

For Rouenna
Sigrid Nunez
2001, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York

A writer living in New York starts a friendship with a woman, Rouenna, who wrote to her after reading her novel. Rouenna was a nurse in the Vietnam conflict and tells of her experiences.

I enjoyed this. It was disjointed and odd, but I like it like that. The characters were all brought to life gradually and the stories of the conflict and of life in the Project were heartbreaking.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fire Dancer by Victor Kelleher

Fire Dancer
Victor Kelleher
1996, Penguin, Ringwood

Josie and Ivan are two adolescents from the near future who are on a time travel holiday when they become stranded in the past. They must learn to survive in the wilderness with a tribe of Neanderthals.

This was a very interesting premise and I like Kelleher's exploration of time travel theory and the nature of time. However, at times, it felt a little too much like it was trying to be educational from a historical viewpoint ... it seemed to read like a documentary about Neanderthals and their life.

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Friday, June 25, 2010

The Island of the Colour-Blind by Oliver Sacks

The Island of the Colour-Blind
Oliver Sacks
1996, Pan Macmillan, Sydney

This is two books in one - the first is about Sacks' journey to a small Pacific island where a high percentage of the population is totally colour blind; the second is about Guam where a neurological disease causes muscular weakness.

I expected this to be more about the neurology and science of the diseases, but it read more like a travel diary which just happened to centre around a neurologist's study travels. It was interesting to read about these places and conditions which I'd never heard about before but I would have liked a little bit more in-depth.

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Doctor Who and the Zarbi by Bill Strutton

Doctor Who and the Zarbi
Bill Strutton
1965, 1984, Target, London

The Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki are drawn to a planet with strange bug-like creatures who appear to be under the control of an outside force. The TARDIS cannot leave the planet until the team uncover the mystery of the planet.

This is a novelisation of one of my favourite classic episodes of Doctor Who. In the TV show I love how the Zarbi keep bumping into the cameras, and the rather effeminate voices of the Menoptera. I enjoyed the read, though it seemed to take forever to get through.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Rozen Maiden Volume 1 by Peach Pit

Rozen Maiden Volume 1
Peach Pit
2003, 2006, Tokyopop, Los Angeles

Jun is a recluse who likes to order junk from the internet and return it before the grace period expires. When he orders a strange doll, he discovers that he cannot return her and is taken on a strange journey.

This is pretty cool manga. I was expecting it to be a bit childish as it's rated T13+, but I thought the style was quite mature and it touches on some not-so-angsty teen issues. Except now I'm going to have to find Volume 2.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Spare Room by Helen Garner

The Spare Room
Helen Garner
2008, Swann House, Melbourne

Helen offers her spare room to her friend who is undergoing treatment for cancer. The battle is very difficult on both of them and the relationship is strained.

I don't think this is a true story, but the way it is written, it could very well be ... the author and narrator share a first name and the narrator is a writer living in Melbourne. It's a good little book in that it deals with a very sensitive topic without sugar-coating it or turning it into some sweet saccharin tale of a friendship forged through tough times. Very honest voice.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison

Make Room! Make Room!
Harry Harrison
1966, 1973, Doubleday, New York

This is the book the movie Soylent Green is based on. It is the tale of an over-populated world at the turn of the millennium.

I thought this was brilliant. I adored the movie Soylent Green, and when I heard that the main premise of the movie didn't come from the book (y'all know what I'm talking about), I was a bit worried that I wouldn't enjoy the book. But I did! The writing style is beautiful for a little science fiction novel, and there is so much humanity in this book. I'm just glad it wasn't prophetic.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Brighton Rock by Graham Greene

Brighton Rock
Graham Greene
1938, 1985, Penguin, Middlesex

Story of Pinkie - a gang member in pre-WWII England - who murders a gambler who owed him money and the repercussions of that event.

I couldn't say I enjoyed the book - it was bleak and difficult to read at times - but I felt I couldn't stop reading, it sucked me in completely. It's an uncomfortable read. I did however learn a lot of 1930s British mobster lingo!

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Essence of Happiness: A Guidebook for Living by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler

The Essence of Happiness: A Guidebook for Living
His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler
2001, Hodder, Sydney

Psychiatrist Howard C. Cutler talks to the Dalai Lama to find out his thoughts on how we can lived a more happy and fulfilled life. This is an extract from the more complete work The Art of Happiness.

A little book with some good advice - some of it practical, some of it not so much. I will endeavour to be more compassionate towards others now. :)

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Doctor Who: The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Christopher Bulis

Doctor Who: The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Christopher Bulis
1995, Virgin, London

The First Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara land on a planet with dragons, faeries, elves and leprechauns. The TARDIS locks them out so in order to get off the planet they must solve the mystery of the magic.

This was an enjoyable Dr. Who novel - I really like the first doctor. The mystery was intriguing as was the way the fusion of fantasy and science fiction was accomplished.

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank

The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing
Melissa Bank
1999, 2000, Viking, London

This is a book about Jane and her life, the men she meets and her experiences growing up.

Another surprisingly good book for me. Normally I don't read chick lit and enjoy it at all, but this book was subtle and interesting. I didn't find Jane to be amusing however, which is contrary to all the reviews - I found her humour to be that of a 14 year old school-girl. Despite that, I did like Jane and her exploits. It makes a nice change to read something a bit light.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Time Piper by Delia Huddy

Time Piper
Delia Huddy
1979, 1984, Tempo, New York

Luke goes to work for a physics professor in London who is conducting an experiment to create a window into the past.

I was expecting this to be a fantasy story due to the cover, but it was a nifty little sci-fi. The premise was interesting, though very predictable and I thought that the characters were three-dimensional and their motivations were well described.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Time Trap by Keith Laumer

Time Trap
Keith Laumer
1070, 1987, Baen Publishing, New York

Strange things begin occurring around the world - a Portuguese galleon from the 16th Century is picked up by the Coast Guard, Abraham Lincoln walks into an Arabian town, and Roger Tyson meets an alien. Which then sets him off on an adventure through time and space.

This is a silly little science fiction story, but I enjoyed it. And the ending was quite satisfactory, which was a nice surprise.

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

On Chesil Beach
Ian McEwan
2007, Johnathon Cape, London

Short novella about the wedding night of a couple in the 1950s - about their fears and the cultural restrictions of the time.

This book really resonated with me. McEwan has an incredible way of getting into the minds of his characters and voicing their thoughts and feelings. His writing is descriptive and beautiful. I devoured this book.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson

The Men Who Stare at Goats
Jon Ronson
2004, Picador, London

This book makes the claim that highly placed members of the US military believed that they could kill goats by looking at them and that they could walk through walls. They created a unit called the First Earth Battalion in the 1970s which was brought back during the War on Terror.

When I started reading this book I was totally incredulous. I kept thinking "no way, this is all made up", but then the author related it to something commonly accepted as fact and I was like "well, maybe". It's an incredibly disturbing tale. And quite scary in places, if not downright terrifying to think that things like this could have happened.

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Monday, March 8, 2010

Brother Odd by Dean Koontz

Brother Odd
Dean Koontz
2006, 2007, HarperCollinsPublishers, London

Odd Thomas can see dead people and strange creatures which feed on death he calls bodachs. After his girlfriend is killed in a mall shooting, he finds his way to a monastery where he hopes for some peaceful reflection. But of course, he doesn't get it - bodachs begin swarming around the monastery and Odd must find out what they are after before too much blood is shed.

An ok story, but not great writing style. I never felt comfortable in the narrative - it was like the narrator wasn't sure which voice to use, and the story jumped around far too much. Odd should be a fascinating character, but it just doesn't come through which is a shame. The best part of the book was the tete-a-tete between Odd and Romanovich.

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Star Trek: Voyager: Equinox by Diane Carey

Star Trek: Voyager: Equinox
Diane Carey
1999, Pocket Books, New York

Voyager receives a distress signal from another Starfleet vessel. When they investigate, they discover the Equinox, a science ship which was also transported to the Delta Quadrant by the Caretaker and whose crew have been using different means to make their way home.

It's a shame that such an excellent story was spoiled by awful writing. I've never liked Diane Carey and she doesn't fail to disappoint in this novel. This book is supposed to be set in the Voyager universe, but reads more like The Original Series with good old-fashioned sexism and a bit of casual racism to boot.

The writing style is also atrocious. Here is an example of a bad sentence from page 121: 'Sniggering doubts entered her star system.' It's about Janeway arguing a point with Chakotay, but even in context it makes little sense. And there are editing errors which aren't the fault of the author but I see whoever read my copy has fixed some of them!

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Monday, February 22, 2010

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Hound of the Baskervilles
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
1902, 2006, Headline, London

When a wealthy land owner is found dead of a heart attack, his heir suspects the death is part of a family curse - a supernatural dog. He hires Sherlock Holmes to investigate the death and to find the truth about the hound which has haunted his family for generations.

My first Sherlock Holmes and I quite enjoyed it. It has a rather modern writing style and the detective techniques are readily identifiable within a context of modern police stories. And the mystery kept me guessing.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Hover Car Racer by Matthew Reilly

Hover Car Racer
Matthew Reilly
2004, Pan Macmillan, Sydney

Set in the not-too-distant future, a young hover car racer named Jason Chaser has the opportunity to study racing at the prestigious International Racing School and from there could move on to professional racing.

This was a pretty nifty story. Reilly for young people. I liked that it had little moral-of-the-story and life lessons in it. Plus some killer action and sports! I can't believe I actually enjoyed reading a novel which is basically a sports novel. Ticked all the boxes on this one Mr. Reilly.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King

Dolores Claiborne
Stephen King
1992, 1993, Hodder and Stoughton, London

A sixty-five year old woman from Long Tall Island walks into the police station and states that she killed her husband thirty years ago. She then goes on to tell her tale in her own way.

This was an interesting book in the way it was written and how it all came together. Not exactly horror, but thrilling nonetheless. The characters were incredibly well fleshed out and I feel like I know them.

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Into the Wild
Jon Krakauer
1996, Anchor Books, New York

True story of a young American man who gave up his possessions and money to hitch-hike to Alaska to spend time alone in the wilderness. His decomposed remains were found in an abandoned bus four months later.

I had seen the movie based on McCandless' life a little while ago, so it was interesting to read the book. It's a heart-breaking story - some may call McCandless naive and selfish, but that shouldn't take away from the tragedy. Nor should it deny the legitimacy of the beauty that he discovered.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The 5 Greatest Warriors by Matthew Reilly

The 5 Greatest Warriors
Matthew Reilly
2010, Simon & Schuster, New York

Continuation of the story The Six Sacred Stones in which Jack West Jr. and his team fight to save the earth from destruction by using an ancient machine with parts scattered all over the world.

Everything that's great about Matthew Reilly is in this book. Action every step of the way - continually bigger and more hair-raising than what came before. Of course, I'm now suffering from adjective-overload, but that's a small price to pay for such a great ride.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michalel Chabon

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
Michael Chabon
2000, Picador, New York

When Sammy Clay's cousin arrives from Prague during WWII they embark on a comic book writing partnership creating the superhero The Escapist.

I kept expecting something incredible (or indeed amazing) with this book but it never happened. I found it to be a bit bland and lifeless which was very disappointing. I get that it's a big, expansive American novel, yet, at the end of reading it, I don't feel illuminated, or even like I've been on a journey.

Some of the vignettes were beautiful - like the scenes of Joe's relationship with his escape-artist mentor - but they were lost in the quagmire of the rest.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

A Thread Across the Ocean: The Heroic Story of the Transatlantic Cable by John Steele Gordon

A Thread Across the Ocean: The Heroic Story of the Transatlantic Cable
John Steele Gordon
2002, Simon & Schuster, London

The story of the concept, manufacture and laying of the Transatlantic Cable in the nineteenth century.

Wow. An amazing story. It has geography, electrical theory, economics, history, maritime history, war and science. I can't fathom how this was conceived and executed with the technology they had at the time. So many setbacks, and still they strove on. This truly is a heroic story.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Never Say Die by Tess Gerritsen

Never Say Die
Tess Gerritsen
1992, 2006, Mira, Chatswood

Willy Maitland travels to Vietnam to search for her father who was shot down during the war. But someone wants to stop her from discovering the truth about what happened.

I was very disappointed with this. The story and characters are clich├ęd and uninspiring. And the writing style is amateurish. I realise this was early in Gerritsen's career and it just shows how far she's come.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Antarctica on a Plate by Alexa Thomson

Antarctica on a Plate
Alexa Thomson
2003, Random House, Milsons Point

Alexa decides to give up her city-based web-design career to fly to Antarctica and be the cook for a small base.

This was an interesting memoir, however, I was expecting to be wowed by the majesty of Antarctica, but that didn't come through.

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Friday, January 1, 2010

The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer

The Dead and the Gone
Susan Beth Pfeffer
2008, Marion Lloyd, London

Alex is a Puerto Rican teen living in New York City when as asteroid hits the moon pushing it out of its orbit and closer to the earth which has devastating consequences. After Alex's parents go missing in the initial disaster, he must care for himself and his two sisters to ensure their survival.

I didn't think this was as good as the first book. It seemed a bit contrived - like the first book was such as success so the author tried to duplicate it. It was still a good read, but it lacked the magic (and utter heartbreak) of the first book.

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