Category Archives: YA Fantasy

Blog Tour – Anika Arrington’s The Accidental Apprentice

Anika Arrington’s the accidental apprentice
The Accidental Apprentice by Anika Arrington

interview with anika arrington

Tell us a little about yourself and your background? I moved to Arizona when I was 4, and I’ve been here ever since. I’m married to the best guy ever! I just gave birth to my sixth child, and he is just scrumptious. I’m a huge believer in self-education and life long learning, so I read all kinds of non-fiction as well as fiction. I studied at Northern Arizona University for three years: political science, communications, and creative writing. Obviously only one of those really stuck.

When did you decide to become a writer? Decide is such a solid, formal word. I guess I decided not to give up on writing about five years ago. I had started writing stories and given up on them a hundred times before, but I was just in a place in my life where I felt I could really make something happen, and I did.

What are your ambitions for your writing career? Well, at the end of it I would like to look back and be able to say, “I never wrote anything that was untrue to myself.” Beyond that, I just want to keep writing, keep putting books and stories out there, and improving as a writer and a person.

Which writers inspire you? Classical favorites include Dickens, C.S. Lewis, Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, and Oscar Wilde. In a more modern context I love Erin Morgentstern, particularly her Flax Golden Tales on her website. Patrick Ruthfuss is another modern favorite. And I find that a good number of children’s writers really resonate with me: Dr. Suess, Avi, Brandon Mull, Shannon Hale, and Tomie de Paola to name a few.

What are you working on at the minute? Raising my babies. I just had my sixth kiddo in August, and he needs a lot of loving on. So with the release of The Accidental Apprentice I am taking a little break while ideas for the sequel simmer, and then I will jump back in come January. And I am never not working on being a better writer, so while I am taking a break from having a WIP I will do a bunch of reading up on writing and practice and play with older manuscripts like forgotten toys.

Have you written any other novels in collaboration with other writers? Well, I did have a short story published in an anthology, so it was great seeing the group effort behind the scenes, but I’m not sure I have the right temperament for collaboration. It would have to be with someone whose style was either completely different than mine, or who was so in sync with me that they could pretty much write the book themselves.

Do you write every day, 5 days a week or as and when? I wish I wrote every day. i want to. Some weeks I can, others I can’t. I have found that the real change in the way I write in the last year or two is that I don’t wait to feel like writing. I do it when I hate it, when I’m too tired, too stressed, too whatever. And in the end, that’s what it takes to get the work done.

Where do the your ideas come from? A small local honey stand in Pine, AZ.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you? I love writing by the seat of my pants and seeing what happens. But I was forced with Accidental Apprentice to create an outline. And I didn’t always stick to it, but it was really helpful when I got stuck from time to time.

Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors? Writers who don’t read confuse me. But that aside, this year has had me in a bit of a dry spell. I am usually a voracious reader, but between my pregnancy, my other kids, and writing my own book my To-Read list has grown rather than shrunk. Though Patrick Ruthfuss’s “The Name of the Wind” and “The Wise Man’s Fear” were so stinking good I wanted to give up writing and become a professional Patrick fan. I actually don’t tend to latch on to a particular author, but rather individual books that speaks to me. Garth Nix’s “Abhorsen” series was truly excellent, his “Mister Monday” didn’t really do much for me. And that’s ok. That’s the nature of art.

What book/s are you reading at present? “The Circle Maker” by Mark Batterson and “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Senick

Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about. Well, I didn’t have much to do with the cover. The amazing Dale Robert Pease read the descriptions I gave him and then went to work, occasionally asking a few questions. The result is one of my favorite scenes from the book brought to life. I’m really happy with it.

What is your favourite positive saying? Really? I’m a great big cynic most of the time, and yet surprisingly optimistic. I find happy little phrases on the trite side. Just doing my best and being alternatively content and joyful (while making fun of the cheerleaders of the world) as often as possible is enough for me.

What is your favourite book and why? Why do people think that any writer could pick one favorite book? Every book is its own work of art, and thus different. We like different books for different reasons and seasons. I reread Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” every year at Christmas time, but that’s not my favorite. I can recite “Green Eggs and Ham” from memory, but it’s not my favorite. My favorite is whatever suits the mood and the moment. Right now, I would probably say Shakespeare’s “Much Ado about Nothing.”

What is your favourite quote? The word “quote” is a verb. A quotation however, is a noun, and I might have a favorite one of those. “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Socrates

What advice would you give to your younger self? You’re a writer, stupid. Just go with it. And YOLO is not a justification for anything!

What advice would you give to aspiring writers? Be observant. Ideas are everywhere. Write them all down. Play with writing. Do it constantly and faithfully and don’t stop. Also have a day job. Try a bunch of different things to give you the life experiences that will feed your creative endeavors later on.

Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included? Never try to write up interview questions at night when you are exhausted and the caffeine has worn off.

About The Accidental Apprentice

The Accidental Apprentice by Anika Arrington

An Excerpt from The Accidental Apprentice

The Accidental Apprentice by Anika Arrington

 About Anika

The Accidental Apprentice by Anika Arrington

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The Accidental Apprentice by Anika Arrington


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Review: Immortal City

Immortal City
Immortal City by Scott Speer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

17 yr old Maddy works as a waitress in her uncle’s diner in Angel City – the city where the Guardian Angels live, and their fans and followers. After the Civil War, the angels announced their presence and set up a way to be guardian angels for a few select people. Originally there was a council of 12 – the angels that were truly immortal, having descended from heaven. The other angels were their descendants. Or course, protection doesn’t come cheaply, and the guardians are able to live the lives of celebrities, complete with a star on the Angel Walk of Fame. Each year a group of 18 yr old angels are chosen to become the new “recruits after going through years of rigorous training, go through the rituals, and be given their assignments – they are to keep tabs on their protections as they travel through life, and if one of them is in trouble, to yank them out to safety. New angel cams are being tried out, which allows the public to see these saves from the angel’s vantage, right as it happens, on ANN, Angel News Network. Before you had to wait until video taken by someone showed up and was aired. The celebrity status of the angels at it’s highest peak. Among the new recruits, a year younger than his fellow ones, is Jackson Godspeed, step-son of Mark, who sits on the council. He has the most beautiful shimmering blue wings, and is a heartthrob to the millions that watch and hang on to the angels, follow them to events, poster their walls with angel pictures, etc. The teens are the biggest fans, but no one is immune. Maddy’s BFF Gwen is angel mad, but Maddy can’t see the reason – she is focused on working and getting out and going away to college, and she also doesn’t think it fair that rich people can buy the protection, but only a lucky few win the angel lottery, and get it for free. She believes it should be available to all, although there aren’t enough angels to go around. She thinks it’s all a big hype. One day a handsome young man ducks into the diner, and Maddy serves him – she doesn’t know that it is Jackson. He is in some minor trouble, and so he decides to use the cover of asking for a job to get out of sight. Maddy takes him into the back, but is soon joined by her uncle, who demands to know what is going on, and then Mark Godspeed shows up, and they are able to get Jackson out of there. The next day he appears at her school to apologize, and she is furious with him. But not for long. Soon they are an item, although Vivian, Jack’s ex, is jealous, and believes that once he becomes a full guardian angel he will come back to her.

But in the meantime, someone is leaving the bloody stumps of ripped off angel’s wings, their “immortality,” on their star on the Walk of Fame. Once the wings are gone, an angel is mortal and can be killed. Sometimes they are stripped of their wings and are sent back to the mortal world to live as regular humans as punishment, but this is different. Bodies of the angels who have ripped off wings are being found. They try to keep this under wraps, but fear is flying. The wings are being left on the angel’s star, and are killed in order of the stars. The next up is Jackson, who star is to be unveiled after he graduates that week. And so begins a reluctant romance, murders to solve, deception and betrayal, and of course, a look, from a new perspective, about celebrity culture, and how it takes us over. Very unique premise in using angels this way, although it was otherwise a fairly standard book. The writing is fine, but not great, and the characters are the same old stereotypes, the moody teenage girl who won’t join in, the bubbly teen who adores gossip, the brooding young man, and a few jealous girls, etc. But the concept and descriptions of life in Angel City make up for that, mostly.

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Review: Masque of the Red Death

Masque of the Red Death
Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having found I am not safe from corrections on Goodreads, 🙂 ,  And having enjoyed this book I decided to share.  it’s odd though.  In all the reviews I have done, and there have been hundreds since I started doing it a year ago,  no one has bothered to correct mistakes, and I sure there have been many.  My memory is horrid on details. But this one detail, on a companion book to the one reviewed, bothered people on both sites enough to comment on it.  Bacigalupi fans must be true fans.  I love his work, and I don’t know how I got the location wrong, since I placed it in India when I read it.  Sometimes I just am clueless (also, he is roundabout in mentioning locations and pinning them down in all his books).   So I decided to get over my silly hurts and get on with it.   So here is an interesting one:

This is an imaginative retelling of the Poe classic “Masque of the Red Death” in which a bunch of aristocrats hide in a castle to try and evade a plague outside. This one starts out in a similar fashion. The city has been decimated by a plague, with shows with bruised skin and open, pus filed sores. It seems to be in the air as well as contact, although medicine and technology are not as advanced. The richer people are issued masks that filter out the bad air, provided by the “ruler” of the city, one self-styled Prince Prospero, who is holding a tight grip on a city that is falling into ruins. He seems to have no interest in reviving the city, bringing hope to the masses, or even curing the disease or giving masks to the poor. Araby, a wealthy young debutante, or she would be if the world was “normal” spends her time at the Debauchery Club where you can forget your troubles any way you want – liquor, drugs , sex. She forgoes the latter, but seeks oblivion as she feels guilt over the death of her younger brother. There is a guy at the entrance, who checks all the patrons to see if they are clean, so they can remove their masks if they wish, that she seems to connect with briefly in their encounters, She is usually accompanied by her best friend April, a niece of the prince. April introduces her to her brother Elliott, a handsome young an with a goal in mind to rebuild the city. The book details the plans of Elliott, Will, and Araby as they try and make sense of this last chance at beating this plague, as another disease, called the Red Death, comes sweeping in, killing it’s victims in a matter of hours. Great world-building, although somewhat simplistic in vocabulary and writing style, but nevertheless, if you enjoyed Poe, this is a great way to stretch out that classic short story.

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Review: Everneath

Everneath by Brodi Ashton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a modern retelling of the Persephone myth, where Persephone is sentenced to live with Hades in the underground for six months of every year, and when she returns, spring comes. Orpheus and Eurydice are another Greek version. In this one, Nikki is unhappy – her mom died, her father, the mayor of a resort town in Utah, is distant, and she has just found out that the love of her life, her best friend and now boyfriend, Jack, may be cheating on her. Distraught and full of pain, she goes to Cole, a drummer in a band who has been hanging around town, and once before, when she was in physical pain, physical, he managed to draw it away. The book starts out in the underground after 100 years of her emotions being fed upon by Cole, but not knowing the passage of time, and forgetting all but the face of Jack, come to an end. She can chose to stay with him, and become an Everliving herself, or return to the surface for six moths to say goodbye (only six months have passed on the surface, while a 100 years have in Everneath). But if she returns, she will not go back to Cole, but to the Tunnels, where she will be buried in soil, and serve as a “battery,” letting the high court draw on her emotions as food and sustenance. Every 100 years, an Everliving needs to find a new person to feed on. But Cole finds that she is what he calls “the one,” and follows her to the surface, determined to put a wrench in her plans to try and make amends for her abrupt departure the previous time, and rekindlke her feelings for Jack. Cole keeps getting in the way, trying to persuade her to come back with him, where she will, along with his band, rule with him in the Everneath. She is special. But she tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her Return, and the myths surrounding it, so that perhaps she can stay. The books ends on a cliffhanger, so you know there will be at least another. While the dialogue, characters, and writing is trite and follows the teen version of angst and secrets, refusing to tell anyone why yo are feeling as you do, the originality of using the Persephone myth, and her interpretation of it bumped it up from 3 to 4 stars.

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Review: The Dark and Hollow Places

The Dark and Hollow Places
The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the final book in The Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy. This one follows the adventures of Annah, sister of Abigail, or Gabry, from book 2, and Catcher, as well as a few others. It one takes places in the Dark City, where the Recruiters reign supreme, and the city is tightly controlled as to who goes out and esp. in. Life is harsh, and death around the corner, if not from the undead, then from other people, desperate for food and supplies, or the Recruiters themselves. Annah has been waiting for Elias, her ersatz boyfriend, for years now after he left to join the recruiters outside the city, but then Catcher comes and tells her what has been going on. She’s not happy with the turn of events, but she is a survivor. Told in the first person, she refers to Gabry as “her sister” and not by name, which I found annoying, and the action is less in this one, and more about feelings, of loss, love, repudiation, and confusion. While sorting through these feelings, Annah must battle the Returned, and the recruiters, who want her as bait for Catcher. And then the unthinkable happens and they all must decide if they want to live or die, and what it is they want to live for. My major complaint with the book is that it started right out, deep in the story, with very little background information coming through, about characters, and events, and the Return. I had to dig deep, with my faulty memory, to recall what happened, even loosely, in the first two books and was not entirely successful. While it could be a stand-alone novel, for those who read them as they came out, and read a lot, they might not recall enough detail to make it as meaningful as it should. Same thing in the current book I’m reading. There is a way to impart previous information, without being too obvious, and this one had only brief references to previous places, people, and events. I’d recommend reading them back to back.

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Review: Corbenic

Corbenic by Catherine Fisher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a modern re-telling of The Fisher King, and Parsifal. Cal, running away from his drunken schizophrenic mother, is on his way to his uncle’s house where his uncle has grudgingly offered him a trial job in his accountancy firm, and he gets to take a course at the university one day a week, as well as a place to stay. But he gets off the train at the wrong stop, in the dark and fog, and finds himself at Corbenic, but there is nothing there. He decides to wait for a later train, but realizes that one may not be coming until morning and it’s cold and drizzling. So he makes his way up and overgrown path, brushing his way past brambles, until he hears voices and sees a light. It is two fishermen on a river, one of whom directs him to a hotel up the road, and tells him to say that he sent him. So Cal forces his way up the path, and finds a broken down sign for the inn/castle, and goes inside. Inside, there is light, warmth, and it’s beautiful to him. Someone greets him, and leads him upstairs to a wonderful bedchamber, and tells him there is no charge, since he is their guest. Cautious, but low on funds, he decides to stay. The bell rings for supper, and from out of the rooms around him come men and women dressed in fabulous evening clothes, on their way to a banquet. Once there, he is told that the Fisher King wants him to sit at the head table. Feeling decidedly out of place in his cheap new clothes, he goes to the table, where he finds “Bron,” the Fisher King, is one of the fishermen he met earlier in the boat. He eats course after course of delicious food, and as the banquet progresses, suddenly the others fade out, and from a door behind the table he is seated at, comes a procession: a boy carrying a spear that bleeds from the tip, then two more boys carrying candlesticks, and finally, as a cold wind blows through him, and pain comes agonizingly, just as his mother has described her visions, comes a blonde girl in a green gown, carrying a large jeweled, but dented old cup. A light shines from the Grail cup, and then the procession moves on into a doorway that wasn’t there before, and afterwards disappears. The Fisher King asks him to say what he saw, to ask him what it means, but Cal, afraid that he is becoming a victim to the same mental disease of his mother, and scared by what he has seen, says he saw nothing. The Fisher King bows from pain, and Cal, unsure of himself now, quickly leaves for bed, with the Fisher King saying it will be a long journey. When he awakens the next morning, the castle is not the same. It is an old ruin, and gone are the people, the beautiful wall hangings, etc. It is an open ruin, with leaves, and mold and vegetation creeping in. Stuck into the moldy pillow is a beautiful sword, with a note that tells him it will serve Cal as he has served the Fisher King. He stumbles out of the castle, and hacks his way through the clinging vines and finds himself not far from a village, where he finds his way to his uncle, and tries to forget about Corbenic. But he can’t forget, and he falls in with a group of motley re-enactors, who call themselves Arthur’s men, but speak as if they really are them. He decides, after trying to rid himself of the sword several times, to try and learn how to use it. But he is torn between the nice, upscale life he has wanted, and the desire to set things right. And the legend plays out. Once again, Ms. Fisher outdoes herself in the telling of a legend. She is masterful at imagery and at feelings, delineating characters with swift loving strokes of words, and by their actions, shows them to be who they truly are. No one is perfect – all have flaws that they must work to overcome. But Cal must follow his path, until he figures out what Corbenic means, and come to peace with his past.

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Review: Enchanted

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a frothy, silly, enchanting mash-up of almost all the fairy tale memes. Some are crucial to the book’s development, other’s mentioned in passing, and others just plot devices, but they are there. The fun thing, for someone like me who is a fairy tale lover, is identifying them all. Apparently this came out of a challenge at a writer’s workshop in which they were to choose several fairy tale themes from various columns and put them together. She did all of them, inspired by one guy before her who had done the same thing with a different theme set, with The Hand of Don Peron. I used to sit up on Saturday mornings, for years as a kid and pre-teen, reading Andrew Lang’s color fairy books, the Blue Fairy Book, the Lilac, and so forth. He collected fairy stories from around the world, and put them in a large collection of books. Combine that with my own small pb collection, Prince and Princess Stories To Read Aloud, and you get a girl obsessed with the fairy world, and the magic therein. So this book was my delight. It may not appeal to those who don’t have an eye for magic, romance or fey things, but this charming story of Sunday, the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, who happens to catch the eye of a frog, a prince enchanted by a fairy godmother. They begin a friendship that is precious to her, and one day, when she leaves, she kisses him, and true love breaks the spell. but she is already gone back to her woodcutter’s family, and doesn’t know that he has turned into the crown prince. So the prince devises a series of balls, and much mayhem and matchmaking ensues. Plenty of action, drama, danger and romance brought right, as the sisters all find their place in this magical world. A keeper if there ever was one.

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Review: Tyger Tyger

Tyger Tyger
Tyger Tyger by Kersten Hamilton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the first book in the Goblin Wars series. I was going to give it 4 1/2 stars, but couldn’t decide to bump up or down, so I went with up. If the other books prove as entertaining, then it will stay. If not, down to 4 it goes. This is a real adventure about goblins, and various fae people, set in Cincinnati, but drawing heavily on the Irish folklore about the beginning of the world, and how it split up, and how the Mag Mell, or the fae world was sealed. Teagan is living a normal life of a teen, wanting to go to Cornell and be a vet, when one day her long-lost “cousin” comes to stay at the behest of social services. Finn is almost eighteen and they need someplace to put him until he ages out. But there is something different about Finn Mac Cumhaill. Not only does she feel an instant connection with him, but once he arrives, strange things start happening, and she begins to see … creatures. Finn leaves, realizing he has brought the fae world to her home, but it is too late -the family has been touched, and their past history with the goblin world is about to come to light. Full of tons of fun characters, and folklore, this is a breathless adventure through the Cincinnati area, and Mag Mell. You will meet all the dark fae, and be dragged into their world. My only complaint with the book, and that could be my faulty memory, is that at times it got too complicated for me – with all the old Gaelic names and places, and who did what, and who got rid of who or cursed this one, it got confusing for me, after a night’s respite. But that may be me. Others may find it easy to follow. I hope so, for the amount of sheer goblin information she puts into the book is amazing. You come out of it feeling like there should be a cat-sídhe around the corner. Romance, terror, danger and fun.

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Review: Cinder

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Once in a while, and I have been lucky lately, a book comes long that fulfills the promise it makes. Cinder is such a book. At once a fairytale, and also a science fiction book, it is the story of the Commonwealth’s greatest mechanic, a partially cyborg 18 yr old girl named Cinder, who is the stepdaughter of a nasty, vindictive woman, who holds her guardianship after the man who saved her (her guardian’s husband) died, and her two stepdaughters, one kind, Peony, and the other cruel, Pearl. They make Cinder work, so they don’t have to, living in poverty, but putting on airs of a higher status. One day, a handsome young man comes to her booth at the market, and asks if she can repair his android – it is vital. It is the Prince in disguise. And so she says she’ll help him. Now very young girl in the Commonwealth is secretly in love with the prince, and Cinder is really no different, so she tries to hide the fact that she is a cyborg. But a nasty plague is consuming the kingdom and soon consumes those around the Prince and Cinder. And she is drafted by her stepmother to be a test subject for an antidote they are working on. Usually the “volunteers” die, but somehow Cinder does not. And so the adventure begins – twists and turns, an evil queen seeking to marry the prince, a secret long lost Princess of Luna who could overthrow the Queen, and a possible cure for the devastating plague. But this seems to be only the first stop in this riotous, funny, tender homage to fairytales. I can’t wait for more. Minor characters take on life, and you care about them, as well as our hero and heroine. The setting is intriguing, New Beijing, centuries after WWIII, and WWIV, and after a Lunar colony has been established on the moon, had time to grow, and now is a threat. The attention to detail is amazing, and you cheer for Cinder, and cry with her, and generally get all the feelings that a good fairy tale evokes. Since I spent countless Saturday morning hours cozied up in my bed with one of Andrew Lang’s fairy books, this one was a breath of fresh air and a glimpse of my past. Highly recommended if you have ever liked fairy stories. I simply can not do it justice.

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Review: The Floating Islands

The Floating Islands
The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The cover says it all – a marvelously inventive and thoroughly realized fantasy world, set mostly on a chain of flowing islands, held aloft by the power of a fire dragon in the bowels of each. The states are autonomous from the mainland, but the Little Emperor has been eyeing them for strategic purposes, as stepping stones on his way to his next conquest, since his country’s art is war. The books starts with our hero, Trei, now an orphan, making his way to the islands in search of his mother’s brother, after his father’s brother said they couldn’t keep him since he was only half Toulounnese, and half an islander. The Toulanns are a proud people, and take their pride seriously. His mother’s family welcome him in with open arms and he begins to transition to his new life. But he is filled with dreams of the kajuraihi, men who can fly (with the aid of constructed wings), by a special type of “magic” that allows them to see the air currents and use them, and draw small amounts of power from the sky dragons who fly high around the islands. He wants to be one – to enroll in the school. He meets his cousin Araenè, who likes to dress in boys clothes and go to lectures at the local university on cooking – she wants to be a chef, but in the islands, women are seen as household items only – to get married, learn a few womanly arts and be a good wife and mother. They aren’t treated poorly, just restricted from careers. One day, while out walking, she stumbles into a strange, hidden place -the school of mages, and one of the mages takes an interest in her. When tragedy strikes, she returns, and as a boy, enrolls herself as a mage, since the master she met the first time, saw the magic within her. And thus, our two intrepid heros are set on new careers. But Toulonn has decided to set sail against the islands. Normally they are safe from such incursions, being high in the air, but the Toulonnese are using their mages, and some kind of magic to bring the winds down and thus the islands. It is up to our two to save the day. At once intriguing, and with a fully developed world, it is fun, exciting, poetical, beautiful and you want to know more, about everything. Even minor characters are well drawn, even with a quick stroke. The action never stops, and the excitement builds. There is even some small romance. I can only hope there is more on these islands, as I was captivated by them. Just the sort of place I would love to live.

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