Showing posts with label M/F. Show all posts
Showing posts with label M/F. Show all posts

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Really Mini Reviews! - 3 #OwnVoices Asian Historical Novels




Asian girls reading






Over half of the world's population lives on the continent of Asia, without counting people of Asian descent or birth who live elsewhere.

My reading certainly doesn't reflect that, does yours?



Thursday, 16 March 2017

Comics Wrap-Up - Tale As Old As Time... Sort Of

Comics Wrap-Up title image







Film Trailers




First up, there's another li'l Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2, trailer for you to sink your little nerdlet-y fangs into!

(Yes, I've had coffee - this is gonna be fun! ๐Ÿ˜Ž)

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Month in Review(s) - February 2017

February. The shortest of months, and the one with Valentine's Day crammed into the middle there.



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Which may explain why four of the 5 books I reviewed this month were romances - guess it even got to yours truly! (I'm not going all soft on you though, dearest nerdlets, I'm still your Rebel Valentine! Lol.)



Monday, 27 February 2017

Review Time! - Outsider by Olivia Cunning


Outsider title image



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Title: Outsider
Outsider book cover
Author: Olivia Cunning

Genre: Romance (M/M/F; M/F; M/M,) LGBTQ+ (and polyamorous,) Contemporary

Series: Exodus End (#2)

Amazon: UK - USA










A few starting notes:

I received a free digital review copy of this book via NetGalley. NetGalley provides review copies from publishers in exchange for fair and honest reviews.

This book is #2 in a series, but they're more companion novels - focussing on different characters - rather than one continuous story.

Plus, even the publishers say that it can be read as standalone (so it's not just me this time!)

This book is 18+ only, on account of the amount of graphic sexy-times.

Huge thanks to Naz @ Read Diverse Books for taking the time to discuss queer and Latinx rep with me - any mistakes are 100% mine.

If any Latinx, queer male, and/or polyamorous reviewers have reviewed this title, let me know - I would love to link to your review.

This was a difficult one to review (which is why I keep procrastinating!) because there's so much the author got right, but also so much she got wrong, and I have to somehow explain all that!

So let's give this a shot!







Premise:

Meet Reagan, the new guitarist with Exodus End. She's kind of feeling like an imposter right now - after all, Exodus End are rock legends.

She's also trying to keep the fact that she's dating both Ethan and Trey, together, as a unit, a secret.

Meet Trey, guitarist with Sinners. Though he's Reagan's public boyfriend, he'd prefer things between him and Ethan to be public too.

Meet Ethan - Reagan's body-guard.

Ethan's still in the closet, so admitting he's in a relationship with both Reagan and Trey is out of the question.

But with the tabloids around, and the music business to navigate, things are not going to be plain sailing!






Best bits:

Trey is a beautiful character - he's such a darling, and Cunning writes him with real affection and a real understanding of his feelings and his vulnerabilities.

Basically, if I had to pick the best aspect of this book, Trey would be it. He's amazing.








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I also loved the way the romance wasn't the only thing going on here - each of our trio has their own life, their own hopes, their own personality. They're complete people, not just defined by their relationship.

I liked that we get scenes from each of the characters' points-of-view (POVs,) without the other main characters present, and that we get an understanding of their relationships with family members, friends, etc.

Can we also point out that polyamory is portrayed as a viable and healthy relationship (albeit not perfect)? I think we can. Guys, that's just awesome.

And the relationship itself is not 2-dimensional. People say the wrong thing, they mess up, but they also make things better, comfort each other, make each other laugh etc.










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Of course, the rock music was one of the draws of this book to me - obviously, you can't hear it, but the whole rock-star deal gave this book a centre and a vibe that was pretty cool.

Cunning also explores the issues of being in the public eye, and the problems with being a woman in what is still predominantly a male industry.

People think you got where you are because of sex, because of your looks, etc. - not because of your talent.
Reagan's frustration at the sexist press, fans, and the band management who want to turn her into a sex symbol, is more than justified.

She knows she's good enough to be there. But everyone else seems determined to undermine her achievements.





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'She knows she's good enough to be there...'    Click to Tweet



















Not so great bits:







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The potentially distressing content in this book is:



- homophobia

- homophobic slurs

- biphobia

- bigotry against polyamory

- sexism

- sexist insults

- grief

- parental rejection/abandonment

- press harassment



- libel


- being closeted


- coming out


- being outed


- past emotional abuse (sexual-related)


- jealousy/overprotectiveness


- rough sexcorner image

- one brief but graphic instance of gore

- references to gangs


- references to bad neighbourhoods and guns


- references to past stalking and physical assault






I think that's everything - sorry if I missed anything.












There's also a lot of swearing, and a lot of graphic sex, often involving three people. And there's some references to BDSM.






OK, there were some issues with the representation of various themes/groups of people in this book, so I'm gonna try and break it down for you the best I can, and as efficiently and clearly as I can.

Spoilers are marked in square brackets [] - and written in white.











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Relationship issues:





[Trey] recounts a tale of emotional abuse with a very sexual element when he has a relationship with [Brian.]

Despite that, he's still friends with [Brian] and sees him in a generally positive light.

Look, this emotional abuse involved (this is potentially triggering as well as spoilerific) [turning him around, refusing to look at his face, and telling him to be a girl during sex.]

From where I'm stood, that's messed up.

The way Ethan acts towards Trey can also be very possessive and jealous - I didn't find it over-the-line, but it wouldn't surprise me if others did.







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'From where I'm stood, that's messed up...'      Click to Tweet













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Latinx (Mexican-American) representation:



(Ethan is Mexican-American, and both Trey and Reagan are white.)





  • Negative trope of the homophobic and unaccepting Latinx family - something which gives the impression that all Latinx people are somehow homophobic, and really shouldn't have been tackled by a non-own-voices author.

  • Ethan fears that his Latino brothers will beat up and harm his precious white boyfriend - I can't be the only one to see a problem there.

  • Strange references to being in a Mariachi band as something shaming to the family, and the family's heritage. This seems inaccurate as Mariachi players take pride in their music, and the music is part of Mexican culture.

  • Ethan has a different last name to the rest of his family. In context, this serves as a distancing of Ethan - who has a more Anglicised name - from the rest of his family, and makes that part of his life and heritage seem more 'Other.'










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Polyamorous representation:



My main problem with this aspect was that, even though I know this is an'erotic romance,' the polyamorous people here are written as being heavy on the sexy times, and 'not satisfied' by only one partner.

While of course polyamorous people can have high sex drives, so can monogamous people.

The linking of libido with polyamory gives the wrong impression about polyamory as a whole.

And the repeated portrayal of sex-hungry polyamory in media can lead to some very persistent stereotyping.







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Queer/LGBTQ+ representation:

  • Ethan takes more offense to the word queer than the word perversion. While I get that queer was being used as a slur in this context... are we just supposed to let the perversion comment slide...?

  • Being gay or bisexual is described as a lifestyle more than once. As I've said before, I don't like this, but it's a personal thing.

  • The author gave the impression of confusion between the terms gay and bisexual (more in the 'sexual fluidity representation' section.)






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Sexual fluidity representation:



Look, you guys know that I'm all for sexual fluidity in books. But you've gotta do it right.

If Reagan is the only girl Ethan has ever been attracted to, then fine, but you've really got to know what you're doing when you write that. And Cunning doesn't seem to.

I like that Ethan is questioning, rather than just going, 'ok, I'm bi now!' but in places, Cunning doesn't really seem to understand that there's a difference between the term gay and the term bisexual.

If that's supposed to be because Ethan is questioning, then say that. Don't just casually put gay in when he's in a relationship with a man and a woman.

(And yes, I know it can be an umbrella term, but since Ethan previously identified as gay, it might be an idea to be clearer about these things.)

It gives the impression of Ethan's sexuality changing simply for the purpose of the plot, and so that Cunning can write three-way sex-scenes, rather than because she supports fluidity or homoflexibility/being gay-fluid.

That's disappointing.









Verdict:


There need to be more polyamorous romances. And I'm glad that this presents a largely positive view of polyamory.

It's an enjoyable book, but there are a lot of problems with it.

These are problems that can't be ignored, and should be learned from.




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'There need to be more polyamorous romances...'  Click to Tweet





























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Monday, 23 January 2017

My 7 Top Picks of 2016's Books

(This post contains a flashing/fast-moving gif which may cause problems to those with photosensitive medical conditions.)


2016 wasn't 100% bad - just, like, 85%, or something. Anyway, there were some pretty awesome books!

I've purposefully picked books with 2016 release dates here - but I should point out that I also read some pretty great 'back-list' (pre-2016) titles during the year, they're just not on the list.




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So, these are my picks of books released in 2016, that I read in 2016. Everyone got that? Great.

(And yes, I know this post is technically 'late' - but I make my own rules dammit!)













I'm also uber-pleased to note that most of these are diverse books - so anyone who says diverse books are lower quality needs to go and ask themselves some serious questions ๐Ÿ˜‡

They are also all written by women - girls rock!





Here we go then (and in no particular order, because I am a wuss who can't rank books over each other):




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Nina Is Not Ok by Shappi Khorsandi


Nina Is Not OK book cover

Amazon links: UK - US




For my international readers (and boy is that a phrase I'm never going to get used to,) who may not have heard of her, Shappi Khorsandi is an Iranian-British comedic genius.

Her first novel though, is not light-hearted. It's not funny. It's not for the faint of heart. And it's freaking incredible.

Seriously, this is one that I'm sooooo happy I had a digital review copy of, because I was so privileged to be one of the first people to read it.

Since then, I've basically been like 'read the thing!' whenever it's been possible to recommend it.

And I'm clearly not the only one, since it was recently nominated for the inaugural Jhalak Prize - though Khorsandi unfortunately withdrew the book from the longlist out of concern that drawing attention to her ethnicity might alienate white readers.

It's a disappointing decision, but it's far from my place to tell a person of colour (PoC) how to market their own book.

And it really is a fantastic book guys! You can see my full review here.






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Swan Boy by Nikki Sheehan


Swan Boy book cover

Amazon links: UK - US




Nikki Sheehan is a definite talent. I can't wait to see what she comes up with in the future.

Swan Boy is a remarkably artistic and lyrical kids' novel (middle grade/MG) and it's just... a stunningly beautiful read.

Honestly, it's amazing.

Check out my full review of Swan Boy here.






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Blood Stain, Vol 1 by Linda Sejic



Blood Stain Vol 1 cover

Amazon links: UK - US




Linda is an amazing person who writes awesome and oh-so relatable comics that make me laugh and bring me smiles when I need them.

You will love the hapless Elliott as she tries to make her way in this bizarre world of adulting (and she has levels of clumsiness and bad luck that most of us will recognise!)

You can see my full review of Blood Stain, Vol 1 here.






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Monstress, Vol 1: The Awakening


Monstress Vol 1 book cover

Amazon links: UK - US




ORHGUIREJNGOIRGHNKETMNHOEIROIJTGGWMKRNGHTOI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There are very few books which I consider '5 star' books guys.

(And I have issues with the arbitrary and restrictive nature of star ratings anyway - which is why I don't use them on this blog!)

But, if there is such a thing as a five-star book, then THIS IS A 5 STAR BOOK.

It has everything - fantasy, world-building, a disabled Asian protagonist, and stunning artwork.

And I want to adopt the small fox child. Soooo cute!

The ladies in charge here - Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda - have a lot to be proud of.

You can see my fangirling ramble review here.





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Santa Muerte by Lucina Stone



Santa Muerte book cover

Amazon: UK - US


One which I haven't reviewed yet (but I will dammit! I will!)

Santa Muerte is an awesome-sauce first instalment in a new-adult urban fantasy series by the lovely Lucina Stone.

What is urban fantasy? It's only an uber-incredible sub-genre of paranormal and fantasy that involves paranormal-types faffing about in cities and/or towns!

Add in the focus on brujas (witches,) and a chatty prose-tone (that's totally a phrase now. Shh,) and what more do you want?!






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Luna the Vampire: Grumpy Space by Yasmin Sheikh


Luna the Vampire book cover

Amazon: UK - US




Do you want grumpy internet-style humour with bright colours and a millennial attitude? Of course you freaking do!

Seriously, Luna makes me smile. And will make you smile too.

Check out my review here.







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Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova



Labyrinth Lost book cover

Amazon: UK - US



Another bruja book, although a lot different to Santa Muerte, Labyrinth Lost is the beginning of a YA series about a bisexual Brooklyn Latina girl, Alex, who has a big mess to clean up.

This one is so involving, and those of you looking for a new YA obsession and/or fandom need look no further!

You can see my review of Labyrinth Lost here.












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Monday, 16 January 2017

#DisabilityDiaries2017 | Review! - Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton



Unspeakable title image




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Title: Unspeakable
Unspeakable book cover
Author: Abbie Rushton

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ+ (M/F; F/F)


Amazon: UK - USA





A few starting notes:

If anyone with, or with first-hand experience of, selective mutism or OCD, has reviewed this book, please let me know - I'd love to leave a link to your review.

I'm not sure how I feel about this book.

There were parts of it I truly loved and parts which... I just wasn't comfortable with. There are a lot of problems with this book.

So prepare yourself nerdlets, we're gonna discuss some sh**.

(Seriously, if you need the loo or whatever, go now and come back, because once I've started I'm not stopping.)





Premise:

Megan hasn't spoken in months. Because there are things people don't know - things about the day when everything changed, the day she stopped talking.

But then Jasmine started at school. Beautiful, bright, bubbly, Jasmine... and for the first time in a long while, Megan might just want to talk again.





Best bits:

I loved that Megan's problems aren't simple.

Too often, depictions of mental health problems are put down to textbook examples, and left there.

The truth is that everyone's problems affect them differently, and that sometimes conditions combine to have a joint effect on someone's life.

I also liked Jasmine - I've seen a lot of criticism of her character, but I liked her. Yes, she's pretty idealised. But she's also not perfect.

And, honestly, the hope that there are people like her in the world - people who will accept you as you are - is not a bad thing. If you're a queer teen, and/or a teen with mental health problems, that hope might just be a lifeline.





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I also thought the relationship between Megan and her mother was realistic and beautiful. They struggled a lot with how to relate to each other, but there's an amazing undercurrent of love between them.

And that part of Megan - written in bold, large, italics - which tells her she ruins everything, which she has to push past, push against, push through? Yes. I've been there. And it felt... real.

It's also exceptionally readable - the prose is skilled and involving throughout, and you really do want to know what happens.

There's just a lot of heart to this book, y'know? And that's great.





Not so great bits:

First things first, there's a lot of potentially distressing/difficult to deal with content, here:
  • grief
  • mental health problems
  • low self-esteem
  • anxiety
  • implied OCD
  • selective mutism
  • bullying
  • anonymous threats
  • guilt
  • violence
  • arson
  • animal cruelty/violence to animals
  • attempted suicide
  • homophobia
  • ableism
  • poverty
  • physical abuse from a parent
  • implied domestic abuse

There's also some swearing, drink-driving, and underage drinking (which you shouldn't do, in case you were wondering.)

I have problems with this book, nerdlets, both in terms of queer representation, and mental health representation.

Let's start with queer rep:

Megan, who is lesbian (although the word is never used, at least not as an identity rather than a slur, she has no attraction to men/boys,) goes on a date with a boy - Luke.

Now, it's entirely true that sometimes questioning lesbian teens go on dates with boys - BUT A NON-LESBIAN WOMAN WRITING THIS JUST FEELS FREAKING AWKWARD.

I don't know Abbie Rushton's orientation, but she mentions her male fiancรฉe in the acknowledgements, so at the time of writing she didn't identify as lesbian.

The whole date felt a) forced and b) a gimmick - 'look! She's not attracted to him! Look at the lesbian!'

She also has Megan kiss Luke and enjoy it - again, if Rushton were lesbian and understood the issues at play here, then fine.






clasped hands





As it is? I don't think she understands enough to be writing these things in. #SorryNotSorry.

That whole plot-point just feels unnecessary and awkward.

Oh, and there's a male character who only exists for the homophobic bullies to pick on. We're not even told if he's actually queer, and we learn nothing about him as a person. #JustNo.

Now for the mental health rep.

This is disappointing, because there is good mental health rep here, but there's also poor mental health rep:

  • Megan's implied OCD is never addressed - we don't know if this is something she had prior to the traumatic event or not, and it just peters out as the story goes on.

  • [Luke's] mental health problems are both skirted over, and scapegoated. Everything's fine because we shoved [him] in a psych ward! The other crazy person did it! Not the 'good' crazy person. *Sighs*

  • Her psychologist acts like a douche. I don't mean just pushes her to explore her problems. I mean he intentionally upsets her. And somehow acting that out of line is ok, and he's some kind of saint in comparison to her 'out of order' response. The message this sends is... troubling.

  • Love cures mental health problems. Ugh. So sick of this. Love is not all you need guys, sorry.

  • Selective mutism is rarely a result of traumatic events*, and certainly the way in which Megan's mutism descends at the event, fully formed, and stays more-or-less stable until Jasmine shows up...? I have a limited knowledge of mutism, but this seems reductive and unrealistic to me. Please correct me if I'm mistaken; like I said, my knowledge of this is limited.

  • Sometimes the impression is given that Megan could speak if she wasn't trying to hide what actually happened. This isn't clear-cut, but is definitely something to keep an eye on. ๐Ÿ‘€





two girls sat on a bench





*where it is the result of traumatic events, it's usually a symptom of PTSD. PTSD is never mentioned in the book, and if this was the author's intent, then I don't feel it was put over clearly enough.






Verdict:

Do I know how to feel about this book now? Nope.

Look, part of me was just really connected to a queer girl with mental health problems... please don't judge me for that.

And parts of this were good. But the representation fell down on more than one front.

That's fine if everyone's going into this with eyes wide open... but there are so many misconceptions about mental health and being queer out there already, that it could do more harm than good.




Buy Now UKBuy Now USAGoodreads







  





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Thursday, 22 December 2016

Review Time! (Graphic Novel Edition!) - Red Sonja: The Falcon Throne



Red Sonja The Falcon Throne Title



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Title: Red Sonja: The Falcon Throne

Red Sonja The Falcon Throne book cover
Author: Marguerite Bennett

Contributors: Aneke, Marguerite Sauvage

Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, High Fantasy, LGBTQ+ (M/F; F/F)

Amazon: UK - USA







A few starting notes:

I received a free digital review copy of this book via NetGalley. NetGalley provides review copies from publishers in exchange for fair and honest reviews.

Ahhhh, Red Sonja - the She-Devil with a Sword.

We come once again, my nerdlets, to the opportunity to review a Red Sonja book (which apparently, as a woman, is beyond my expertise; but it turns out girls can review comics. #TrueStory.)

And to see that this Sonja story had Marguerite Bennett at the helm?

I hardly dared get my hopes up at the prospect of Sonja being given the book she deserved... but I think my fervent prayers to the feminist gods were at least somewhat answered.

Strap in guys, 'cos I got some stuff to say.






Premise:

Hyrkania's king is dying. Sonja believes the kingdom will be better off with someone who... well, basically, isn't her... in charge.

Instead of the She-Devil, someone else comes in to fill the power vacuum.

But will this new leader be a force for good? Or will the prejudices he stirs up become Hyrkania's shame?






Best bits:

WOW. Dudes, this was the Red Sonja book I've been waiting for.

Finally, Sonja is freed from the prospect of painful chainmail wedgies and having to make pathetic doe-eyes at Conan that make her fans (well, some of us,) want to barf.

Instead, we have a still-sexy she-warrior who gets to wear warmer (though still not especially protective) clothes into battle, and doesn't have to worry about rust in her most intimate areas!

(Does anyone else flinch at the idea of non-lined chainmail underwear? *shudder*)

The (in)famous chainmail bikini is the costume male creators and fans have chosen again and again for Sonja; essentially they want an overly-sexualised Barbarian Barbie.

But as Sonja makes very clear - NO-ONE owns her!






red-haired woman






There's also a clear political message throughout this book - hatred against people who are different to you goes against everything that makes us human.

Sonja is revolted by the clear bigotry and outright racism that creeps into Hyrkania, and even more revolted by the support this bigotry has from the people.

Instead of a strong female leader, they have a douchebag bigoted dude. Kind of timely, don't you think?

Sonja's bisexuality is not ignored here: too often, Sonja's character is manipulated to erase her queer aspects - she becomes de facto straight in so many of her books.

But with Marguerite Bennett at the helm, we have a queer woman making sure Sonja is given her dues.

There are also people of colour (PoC) characters with agency, and complexity, and lives of their own.






Not so great bits:

Ok, so, my main problem with this book is that it comes dangerously close to White Saviour territory.

For those who don't know, the White Saviour trope is where a white person comes along and rescues the PoC characters - the implication being that they couldn't possibly rescue themselves, and need a white person to come and do it for them (which ofc is utter sh**.)

This trope reinforces the ugly idea of white superiority, and places PoC in a position where they are never the hero, only the victim.

Here, the PoC characters are pretty much doing things for themselves, but the final save-the-day business is achieved by Sonja - the white heroine and symbol of inspiration.







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It all plays out a lot more complexly than just white-girl-saves-PoCs, but... I'm not saying this necessarily goes over the line, but we can certainly see the line from here, y'know?

And even seeing the line is worrying guys. I don't want to be anywhere near that line.

Parts of the plotting in general are... confused? Maybe? It just feels a bit hectic and out-of-control in places in terms of plot.

Maybe this is a side-effect of trying to make the plot twisty and action-filled, when really, all that was needed was to follow the characters' lead.


There's a bunch of gore and violence pretty much everywhere, swearing, and some non-explicit sexual content.






Verdict:

We verge uncomfortably close to white saviour territory here (*squints suspiciously at book*) and that's not cool.

Aside from that, though, this is the Sonja book her (true) fans have been waiting for - she kicks butt, looks sexy, but never betrays her character or her dignity.

Bennett's Sonja is strong. Bennett's Sonja is my Sonja, finally brought to the page.

This book is a major step-forward for the character. I just hope it can be built on and improved in the future.









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