eBook of the Month – January

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Citizen science : how ordinary people are changing the face of discovery

Have you ever wanted to contribute to scientific understanding, or participate in a community project that aims to generate scientific data? Then you just may be a Citizen Scientist in the making. Citizen science is “scientific work undertaken by members of the general public, often in collaboration with or under the direction of professional scientists and scientific institutions.” Unlike the gentleman scientist of days gone by, citizen scientists are part of a larger picture: collaborating with established science by monitoring, collecting, observing and reporting on large projects that would be inconceivable for an individual to accomplish.

Citizen science : how ordinary people are changing the face of discovery, by Caron Cooper, tells the fascinating story of this movement, from the 19th Century to the present, and just may inspire you to get involved yourself.

If you don’t need convincing, head over to the Australian Museum Centre for Citizen Science,which oversees a number of programs using public participation to increase scientific knowledge.

Some of the ways to get involved include:

  • Tracking frogs
  • Digitising the Museum’s specimens
  • Logging sightings of tagged cockatoos
  • Sharing photos of fish
  • Spotting threatened wildlife
  • Monitoring streams and waterways

Another place to start is the Australian Citizen Science Association’s Atlas of Living Australia This is a collaborative, open infrastructure that pulls together biodiversity data from multiple sources, and makes it accessible and reusable.’ This hub provides access to a number of local projects as well, such as:

  • Jenolan Caves Bioblitz
  • Blue Mountains urban – bush interface studies
  • Streamwatch
  • Weed identification

So dig out that lab coat and get ready to join your fellow Citizens in an adventure in science.

 

 

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Carolyn’s Books of the Month – January

Best Read: A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center, a women’s reproductive health services clinic, its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage. After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic. But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester disguised as a patient, who now stands in the cross hairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard. Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent?

Crime: The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

The text message arrives in the small hours of the night. It’s just three words: I need you. Isa drops everything, takes her baby daughter and heads straight to Salten. She spent the most significant days of her life at boarding school on the marshes there, days which still cast their shadow over her. At school Isa and her three best friends used to play the Lying Game. They competed to convince people of the most outrageous stories. Now, after seventeen years of secrets, something terrible has been found on the beach. Something which will force Isa to confront her past, together with the three women she hasn’t seen for years, but has never forgotten.

Australian Author: The Botanist’s Daughter by Kayte Nunn

In Victorian England, headstrong adventuress Elizabeth takes up her late father’s quest for a rare, miraculous plant. In present-day Australia, Anna finds a mysterious metal box containing a sketchbook, a photograph inscribed ‘Spring 1886’ and a small bag of seeds. It sets her on a path far from her safe, carefully ordered life

General: Table for Eight by Trisha Stringer

A cruise, no matter how magical, can’t change your life. Can it…? Clever, charming dressmaker Ketty Clift is embarking on her final cruise from Sydney before she must make serious changes in her life. Supported by the ship’s all-powerful maître d’ Carlos, she has a mission: transform the lives of those who join her at her dining table every evening. Not only can Ketty turn Cinderellas into princesses with her legendary style-eye, but she has a gift for bringing people together. But this trip is different. As the glamour and indulgence of the cruise takes hold, and the ship sails further away from Sydney towards the Pacific Islands, it becomes clear that her fellow travellers – a troubled family, a grieving widower and an angry divorcee determined to wreak revenge on her ex – are going to be harder work than usual. As Ketty tries to deal with her own problems, including the unexpected arrival on board of her long-lost love, Leo – the man who broke her heart – as well as troubling news from home, she begins to realise this might be the one cruise that will defeat her.

Thriller: Close to Home by Cara Hunter

She was certain it was Daisy in the flower costume. When eight-year-old Daisy Mason vanishes from her family’s Oxford home during a costume party, Detective Inspector Adam Fawley knows that nine times out of ten, the offender is someone close to home. And Daisy’s family is certainly strange–her mother is obsessed with keeping up appearances, while her father is cold and defensive under questioning. And then there’s Daisy’s little brother, so withdrawn and uncommunicative … DI Fawley works against the clock to find any trace of the little girl, but it’s as if she disappeared into thin air–no one saw anything; no one knows anything. But everyone has an opinion, and everyone, it seems, has a secret to conceal.

Thriller: After Anna by Lisa Scottoline

Nobody cuts deeper than family. Dr. Noah Alderman, a widower and single father, has remarried a wonderful woman, Maggie Ippolitti, and for the first time in a long time, he and his young son are happy. Despite her longing for the daughter she hasn’t seen since she was a baby, Maggie is happy too, and she’s even more overjoyed when she unexpectedly gets another chance to be a mother to the child she thought she’d lost forever, her only daughter Anna. Maggie and Noah know that having Anna around will change their lives, but they would never have guessed that everything would go wrong, and so quickly. Anna turns out to be a gorgeous seventeen-year-old who balks at living under their rules, though Maggie, ecstatic to have her daughter back, ignores the red flags that hint at the trouble brewing in a once-perfect marriage and home. Events take a heartbreaking turn when Anna is murdered and Noah is accused and tried for the heinous crime. Maggie must face not only the devastation of losing her daughter, but the realization that Anna’s murder may have been at the hands of a husband she loves. In the wake of this tragedy, new information drives Maggie to search for the truth, leading her to discover something darker than she could have ever imagined.

Saga/Romance: The Last letter from your Lover by Jojo Moyes

When journalist Ellie looks through her newspaper’s archives for a story, she doesn’t think she’ll find anything of interest. Instead she discovers a letter from 1960, written by a man asking his lover to leave her husband – and Ellie is caught up in the intrigue of a past love affair. Despite, or perhaps because of her own romantic entanglements with a married man. In 1960, Jennifer wakes up in hospital after a car accident. She can’t remember anything – her husband, her friends, who she used to be. And then, when she returns home, she uncovers a hidden letter, and begins to remember the lover she was willing to risk everything for. Ellie and Jennifer’s stories of passion, adultery and loss are wound together in this richly emotive novel – interspersed with real ‘last letters’.

EAudio books

Past Tense  by Lee Child (BorrowBox)

Jack Reacher plans to follow the autumn sun on an epic road trip across America, from Maine to California. He doesn’t get far. On a country road deep in the New England woods, he sees a sign to a place he has never been – the town where his father was born. He thinks, what’s one extra day? He takes the detour.

At the very same moment, close by, a car breaks down. Two young Canadians are trying to get to New York City to sell a treasure. They’re stranded at a lonely motel in the middle of nowhere. It’s a strange place … but it’s all there is.

The next morning in the city clerk’s office, Reacher asks about the old family home. He’s told no one named Reacher ever lived in that town. He knows his father never went back. Now he wonders, was he ever there in the first place?

So begins another nailbiting, adrenaline-fuelled adventure for Reacher. The present can be tense, but the past can be worse. That’s for damn sure.

 

The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton (RB Digital)

Jaxie dreads going home. His mum’s dead. The old man bashes him without mercy, and he wishes he was an orphan. And then, in one terrible moment, his life is stripped to little more than what he can carry and how he can keep himself alive. There’s just one person left in the world who understands him and what he still dares to hope for. But to reach her he’ll have to cross the vast saltlands on a trek that only a dreamer or a fugitive would attempt.

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What Library Staff are Reading – December

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver – I found it a great read, timely and fascinating. She creates a parallel between people resisting the new ideas of Charles Darwin in the 1870’s and us now finding it so hard to change our trajectory from runaway consumption to dealing with climate change. Sounds a little dry but she does it through beautifully drawn characters in a very particular place and times. 4/5 stars

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – This is a revisit for me, a refresher before I start watching the series.  Loved it 20 years ago and still love it now. Has all my favourite things – historical drama, set in England, Scotland and Europe with well developed characters.  5/5 stars

The lives of Tudor women by Elizabeth Norton – Taking the Seven Ages of Man as its basis, this is a look at the lives of Tudor women, or a representative woman who was born in 1485 when Henry VII won the English throne to 1603 when Elizabeth I dies.  It’s nice to see what was happening to the other half of the English population while horses shoes were costing kingdoms, wives were being dispatched, the church set in uproar and the Armarda being defeated. 4/5 stars

The way of all flesh by Ambrose Parry – we’re in Edinburgh in 1847 and recent medical graduate Will Raven has taken up a post with famous obstetrician James Young Simpson who is experimenting with the use of ether and chloroform to ease the pain of childbirth.  Edinburgh is famously a city which presents a proper front but which has a very seedy underbelly and seethes with secrets and lies.  Will Raven has his own secrets, but what about his colleagues?  Written by award-winning crime writer Chris Brookmyer and his doctor wife, Marisa Haetzman this was an enjoyable historical thriller – 4/5 stars

Wake in Fright by Kenneth Cook – a recent book group read.  Earlier this year I watched the 1971 film.  I also thought I’d give the new ABC TV series a go but found I couldn’t go through it again.  So when we had to read it this month for book group I was not looking forward to it.  Nor were my book group buddies.  As per the blurb on the back of my edition of the book, “Wake in Fright tells the tale of John Grant’s journey into an alcoholic, sexual and spiritual nightmare”.  Inspired by the author’s unhappy stint in Broken Hill in the early 1950’s, the subject matter is at times (most of the time) apaling but the writing is very good and the reading of it was not as bad as I’d imagined. In fact I think I polished it off in about three sittings.  I understand it was for a long time an school text – unfortunately our teacher member was not at the meeting to confirm that or tell us how it played with teenagers.  Anyway I gave it 3.5/5 stars

Whisky from small glasses by Denzil Meyrick – The about-to-be-promoted-to-DCI Jim Daley is sent from Glasgow to the back of nowhere Scotland after a partially dismembered body turns up in the small, fictional town of Kinloch.  As often happens, the bodies start to pile up and Daley is under pressure to perform.  I thoroughly enjoyed this undemanding novel.  There is lots of broad Scots dialect (Glaswegian and highland) used however, which some readers might find difficult.  Daley is distracted by the arrival of his wife who, we are told ad nauseum, is lovely. I could have done without her but she’s pivotal to the finale. This is the first in a series with Jim Daley set in Kinloch and I think I’ll try another – 3.5/5 stars

My husband and I have been sporadically binge watching The Last Kingdom on Netflix, an adaptation of the books by Bernard Cornwell.  Set in the late 800s this is the story of Saxon-born-Viking-raised Uhtred who helps Alfred become the first king of a (more or less) united England.  Lots of action and it’s probably a good thing that this part of English history is murky so I’m not shouting at the historical inaccuracies as I was watching the execrable Tudors. 4/5 stars for entertainment value.

The Living and Dead in Winsford by Hakan Nesser – I have developed quite a liking for Scandie writers enjoyed the depth of the story and characters 4/5 stars

Prophecy (Audio) – set in Elizabethan times and the fight between Catholics and Protestants. A scary time to live. The politics are amazing. 4/5 stars

Suburbicon (DVD) – wouldn’t want to live here. Black humour. Matt Damon is fantastic, Coen Bros and George Clooney directed and produced 4/5 stars

Made in America (DVD) – I am not a Tom Cruise fan but what a ride he takes you on. 4/5 stars

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje – I was mesmerised by the first half of the book. His language is beautiful and I found myself transported by his writing in way that hasn’t happened to me for a while. The second half left me cold for some reason. I can’t explain why. The only other book I have read of his was The English Patient, which I also thought was wonderfully written. I vowed never to see the movie, because I thought it wouldn’t translate. It has taken me a long time to come back to him, and I would call it a qualified success 3.5/5 stars

Saga volume 9 by Fiona Stables and Brian Vaughan – Nooooooo! The Horror, the Horror. I am not sure if that is spoiler free or not, but 5/5 stars, or 0/5. I can’t decide.

The Unusual Life of Edna Walling by Sara Hardy – A very interesting look at the life of one of our first female landscape designers, definitely an unusual woman in her times. 3.5/5 stars

 

What do our scores mean?

1 star – I hated it / Don’t bother / It felt more like homework than reading for pleasure
2 stars – I didn’t like it / Not for me but worth trying / This book needed something different to make me like it
3 stars – I liked it / Recommended / This book was good. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad.
4 stars – I really liked it / One of the best books I’ve read this year / I’m glad I read it
5 stars – I loved it / One of the best books I’ve ever read / I will probably read it again

 

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Carolyn’s Books of the Month – December

Best Read: The Girl in Kellers Way by Megan Goldin

When a body is found buried near the desolate forest road of Kellers Way, Detective Melanie Carter must identify the victim if she is to have any chance of finding the killer. That’s no easy task with fragmentary evidence from a crime committed years earlier and a conspiracy of silence from anyone who might have information.

Crime: The Killing Lessons by Saul Black

When the two strangers turn up at Rowena Cooper’s isolated Colorado farmhouse, she knows instantly that it’s the end of everything. For the two haunted and driven men, on the other hand, it’s just another stop on a long and bloody journey. And they still have many miles to go, and victims to sacrifice, before their work is done.

Australian Author: Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

The retreat at health and wellness resort Tranquillum House promises total transformation. Nine stressed city dwellers are keen to drop their literal and mental baggage, and absorb the meditative ambience while enjoying their hot stone massages. Watching over them is the resort’s director, a woman on a mission to reinvigorate their tired minds and bodies. These nine perfect strangers have no idea what is about to hit them.

General: My Mother’s Secret by Sanjida Kay

Lizzie Bradshaw. A student from the Lake District, forced to work away from home, who witnesses a terrible crime. But who will ultimately pay the price? Emma Taylor. A mother, a wife, and a woman with a dangerous secret. Can she keep her beloved family safely together? Stella Taylor. A disaffected teenager, determined to discover what her mother is hiding. But how far will she go to uncover the truth? And one man, powerful, manipulative and cunning, who controls all their destinies.

Thriller: One Little Mistake by Emma Curtis

Vicky thought that nobody would know if she just stepped out for twenty minutes. Everything was quiet; it was so easy for her to slip away . . . One little lie. One little secret. One little mistake has changed everything. Now Vicky’s best friend is going to help stop her whole life from falling apart.

Thriller: Second  Life by S.J.Watson

How well can you really know another person? And how far would you go to find out the truth about them? When Julia learns that her sister has been violently killed, she knows she must get to the bottom of things.

Saga/Romance: The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell

Two summers, decades apart. Two women whose lives are forever entwined. And a house that holds the secrets that could free them both. At twenty-six, Lillian feels ancient and exhausted. Her marriage to Charles Oberon has not turned out the way she thought it would. To her it seems she is just another beautiful object captured within the walls of Cloudesley, her husband’s Chilterns manor house. But, with a young step-son and a sister to care for, Lillian accepts there is no way out for her. Then Charles makes an arrangement with an enigmatic artist visiting their home and her world is turned on its head. Maggie Oberon ran from the hurt and resentment she caused. Half a world away, in Australia, it was easier to forget, to pretend she didn’t care. But when her grandmother, Lillian, falls ill she must head back to Cloudesley. Forced to face her past, she will learn that all she thought was real, all that she held so close, was never as it seemed.

eAudio Books:

Suitcase of Dreams [borrowbox]  by Tania Blanchard  (Read by Arianwen Parkes-Lockwood)

After enduring the horror and chaos of postwar Germany, Lotte Drescher and her family arrive in Australia full of hope for a new life. It’s a land of opportunity, where Lotte and husband Erich hope to give their children the future they have always dreamed of.

After years of struggling to find their feet as ‘New Australians’, Erich turns his skill as a wood carver into a successful business and Lotte makes a career out of her lifelong passion, photography. The sacrifices they have made finally seem worth it until Erich’s role in the trade union movement threatens to have him branded a communist and endanger their family.

As the shadow of the Vietnam War looms, the unexpected arrival of her former fiancé Heinrich forces Lotte to a turning point.

Her decision will change her life forever – and to finally understand the true meaning of home.

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Alison’s Picks – December

 

Seeing George by Cassandra Austin.  As a young woman, Violet met a man named George – except that he didn’t look like a man. He looked exactly like a dragon. And nobody but her saw him as a dragon. Her beloved husband Frank, some decades later, gives her an ultimatum: stop seeing George. She has advanced cancer, and doesn’t want to stop seeing him, can’t stop seeing him that way. What can she do? This is an intriguing novel playing with the idea of our perceptions, and whether a moral value is to be attached to them.

 

The Blue Guitar by John Banville. I am listening to a Talking Book rendition of this one. It’s a monologue, brilliantly and theatrically narrated by Irish Gerry O’Brien. Listen to it if only for his voice!  The central character is Oliver Orme, who introduces himself to us as a former painter, and a thief. His life is in ruins; his marriage has ended, his daughter dead; he has embarked on an affair with his best friend’s wife (rarely a good idea) and is hiding from the world. Pieces of his life-jigsaw fall out as the monologue proceeds, and I am still waiting to see where Banville will take me. Terrific writing , in a minor key.

 

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What Library Staff are Reading – November

Monk in White, Seated, Reading – Corot

Wake in fright by Kenneth Cook  – It was for my book group.  I found it predictable, a ‘coming of age’ story, but I have to say the writing is good.  I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

I’ve also listened to a number of M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin which are entertaining but of no great literary merit.  If you want a light hearted read these are for you.

Complicit by Nikki French, eAudiobook on RB digital (also available in AF – print format) – crime novel that keeps you guessing not only about who did it, but what exactly happened in the first place. The chapters alternate between “Before” and “After” a death, giving different perspectives on what may have happened and why. The narrator on the eAudiobook is a little irritating – all the male characters sounded quite similar to me (and none particularly believable as men) – but, setting aside that minor irritation, I enjoyed listening. 3/5 stars

The Lace Weaver by Lauren Chater (audio book) – Loved it, very interesting. Set in Estonia (1941) during Stalin’s rule. I don’t know how those people survived the brutality of Russians and Germans at that time was amazing I felt warm and safe listening to it in comfort. 5/5 stars

Sitting down to watch a film which is based on a loved book is usually a perilous endeavour. Will the film be as good as the book? Will the film ruin the book? Will the characters look and sound as you expect? Can a novel turned film ever be both a loved book and a loved film? And if you really love a film, will you necessarily love the book on which it is based?

For me, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society seems to be that rare beast that succeeds both as loved book and loved film. If you haven’t read Mary Ann Schaffer’s novel, then do so immediately … and if you loved the book but are wary of the film, take courage and watch the dvd. With the story switching between German-occupied Guernsey and post-WWII Guernsey, and with a cast of endearing characters, both the film and book are charming and engaging. 5/5 stars for both book and film.

The Snowman with Michael Fassbender (DVD), from the book by Jo Nesbo – love the Scandi stories. Again felt safe within my own walls watching this so many twists in the story but totally enjoyable and will keep you guessing until the end.  4/5 stars

The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish – it’s a detailed and fascinating story of a young woman scribe in the Jewish community in England around the time of the Plague (1660’s) intertwined with the story of an academic in London towards the end of her career in the 2000’s. It is a very rich portrait of these women, their lives, and loves. The sense of place in the London of the 1600’s is very lush and tangible. 3/5 stars

The Spotted Dog by Kerry Greenwood –  is a return to the bread baking and detecting life of Corinna Chapman, set in modern day Melbourne. You get a great sense of the time and place and characters in the same way as her Phrynne Fisher novels are very evocative of 1920’s Melbourne, and Corinna is a great character. A good quality fun and light read. 3/5 stars

The Golden Age by Joan London – her third novel. I picked this up accidentally and was well rewarded. London is a contemporary Western Australian writer, and again I was struck by how well she creates a rich picture of Perth in the 1950’s in this novel. (Clearly I like a writer who can immerse me in the world she is creating in.) The story revolves around two young people recovering in a polio hospital for children. The hospital is based on a real place in Perth that was called The Golden Age! The novel is much more than just that though, encompassing issues of refugees and belonging, war, love and relationships, and creativity. 4/5 stars

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith – excellent and will keep you guessing and very hard to put down. 5/5 stars

The Break by Marian Keyes – Oh boy …. Does this book open a whole can of worms with regards to relationships.  I haven’t finished it yet but am loving the characters and the thought-provoking idea of having a mid-marriage “gap year” (although in the book it is only 6 months). 4/5 stars

For more information https://www.mariankeyes.com/books/the-break/

Red dog  by Louis de Bernieres – a lovely (except for the sad ending – spoiler alert!), quick, easy read.  3¾ out of 5 stars

Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee. I give it  4/5 stars.

I also (tried to) read Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder and gave up after forcing myself to persist for 100 pages. I’d give it ½/5 stars.

The King’s witch by Tracy Borman – I was attracted to this because it is about a woman accused of being a witch in the reign of James VI of Scotland once he has travelled down to London to become James I of England.  The heroine, Frances Gorges, is based on a real character whose mother was a close friend of Queen Elizabeth I.  Frances is taught about herbs and healing as a girl and this brings her into conflict with the king when she comes to court as lady in waiting to his daughter, Princess Elizabeth.  James VI & I famously wrote a book against witches and instigated witch hunts in Scotland and England. The time is 1605 and the gunpowder plot is underway and Frances gets herself caught up with one of the conspirators.  Tracy Borman is an excellent historian turned novelist so one can be fairly confident of historical accuracy but the romance aspect of this book didn’t appeal to me and I’m giving it 3/5 stars.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie – it was hard to read this without the David Suchet version playing in my head (I am not a fan of the more recent version with Johnny Depp et al).  I knew the ending but the journey was still fun.  I always miss all the clues Agatha Christie gives along the way, but enjoy her novels as a light, easy break from the everyday. 3½/5 stars

In a house of lies by Ian Rankin – the latest in the long-running Rebus series.  Rebus has been retired for some time now. He spent a while in the cold case team but has retired for good (or has he).  While much older, out of breath and dragging a dog about, Rebus isn’t sitting by the fireside to enjoy a quiet retirement. He just can’t keep out of Siobahns case, where he is joined by his old nemesis, Malcolm Fox.  A taut, twisting crime novel as always from Rankin – 4/5 stars

Edward’s Menagerie Dogs by Kerry Lord – 50 canine crochet patterns, beautifully illustrated. Using a basic pattern crocheters can make three different sizes of 50 different breeds of dog.  Patterns are for both beginners with patterns suitable for those coming to crochet for the first time, and some for advanced crocheters and which follow on from the beginners patterns. Find out more by Googling #edsdogs and/or #edsanimals.  I am going to be dropping some very broad hints for my family for my Christmas. 5/5 stars

What do our scores mean?

1 star – I hated it / Don’t bother / It felt more like homework than reading for pleasure
2 stars – I didn’t like it / Not for me but worth trying / This book needed something different to make me like it
3 stars – I liked it / Recommended / This book was good. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad.
4 stars – I really liked it / One of the best books I’ve read this year / I’m glad I read it
5 stars – I loved it / One of the best books I’ve ever read / I will probably read it again

 

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