Thursday, May 5, 2016

Celebrate May with a Finding Audrey Paperback Giveaway!

 In celebration of the paperback release of Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella on May 3, I'm thrilled to be hosting a giveaway of the book! 


About Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
Published by Random House 

An anxiety disorder disrupts fourteen-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family. 


Find the Book: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository Indiebound
The paperback is on sale now! 



About the Author

Sophie Kinsella is the author of the bestselling Shopaholic series and the novels Can You Keep a Secret?, The Undomestic Goddess, Remember Me?, Twenties Girl, I’ve Got Your Number, and Wedding Night. Confessions of a Shopaholic was turned into a Hollywood movie. She lives in England.

Find the Author: Twitter | Website 


Giveaway

Win a paperback copy of Finding Audrey

Giveaway is for US residents only (Sorry, international readers!)
You must be at least 13 years old to enter
See my policies HERE


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Children's Book Week Celebrates Graphic Novels:
Interview with Chris Schweizer

Tour organized by Macmillan/First Second Books
See the full schedule below

Children's Book Week Celebrates Kids Comics!

It’s Children’s Book Week – where we celebrate how amazing books for kids and teenagers are!  We’re delighted to be celebrating the awesomeness of kids comics this week with a blog tour that features a star-studded line-up of graphic novelists, talking about the creative process, their inspiration, and the books they love.  Follow along throughout the week to see some of your favorite comics creators – and meet new ones, too!

Today, I'm hosting an interview between John Patrick Green, author of Hippopotamister and Chris Schweizer author of The Creeps series.  

Chris Schweizer
John Patrick Green: Your graphic novel series, The Crogan Adventures, is historical fiction, following the adventures of members of the Crogan family line across generations. The research that goes into those books is incredible and must be exhausting. The Creeps is about middle schoolers who investigate monsters and bizarre goings on in their hometown. What are the differences between your approaches to these series, in terms of storytelling or process?  

Chris Schweizer: The biggest difference is the amount of preparatory material that I produce before tackling the stories themselves.  With the Crogan Adventures, I do a lot of advance work, preproduction stuff.  There’s the research, of course, but I also design everything ahead of time.  Every costume, every character, every boat and wagon and saddle and room.  I have binders full of these designs that I reference at almost every stage of the process.  Sometimes I even build models for the more complex set pieces, including a four foot-long tramp steamer.  It has about thirty crew members, each with a specific job, and I use the model to keep track of who is where in any given scene. 

It’s an absurd amount of prep, and while I do think that it helps the stories, it takes more time than I have to spend on it. 

The preproduction work served like training wheels for me.  When I was first starting to make comics, I did what a lot of people do: I made generic backgrounds and generic background characters.  In order to force myself to create a verisimilitude with the comics, to ground the reader in a specific time and place and make it feel like a real place peopled with real characters, I needed this reference so that I could pick, say, pirate number 15 (actually, I name them all) for the background of a particular panel rather than just drawing in a generic pirate inevitably lacking in personality.  The same goes for rooms that they’re in, streets they’re on, etc.

I had a few years’ worth of pages under my belt by the time I tackled the first Creeps book, and so I didn’t feel like I needed those training wheels anymore; I’d conditioned myself to avoid genericism (I hope!).   I wanted to really challenge myself to not create reference ahead of time.  I would design characters or environments only when I reached them in the story, looking at is as a formal challenge, a way to push me out of my comfort zone.

I designed all of the Creeps’ classmates and gave them names when I hit the page in which the class is visible.  I designed their school as they walked through it.  I designed their bikes as they were riding them.  Cars, buildings, the layout of the town… the first time the reader sees them is almost always the first time that I drew them.

There’s good and bad to this approach.  The good is that the characters often surprise me as they come together.  They’re fresher and more full of personality and their appearance tells me how they’ll talk.  And I have a bad habit of writing plots to the geography of the story, and with no maps or buildings I’m better able to let the characters determine the action as the story wants it instead of conforming the story to my designs. 

The downside to not using any reference is that it sometimes makes doing the pages take longer.  I have to keep returning to earlier pages that I drew to see what someone looks like or how the environment is laid out so that the book is consistent, and often the original panel is at an angle where I have to puzzle out those logistics, figure out what it’ll look like from another side, or above, that kind of thing.

Hopefully I can find a happy medium, working up floor plans or quick sketches of a given building if I know I’m going to be using it a lot on The Creeps, and maybe I can tone down the amount of prepwork I do for the Crogan Adventures

John Patrick Green: Where do you get your ideas from? Do you just start doodling and come up with a story as you go, or do you start with a plan?

Chris Schweizer: For The Creeps, I start with a monster, and allow the story to grow from there.  For the Crogan Adventures I pick a specific time period and region and research the heck out of it until I stumble across some fact or anecdote in which I recognize the germ of the story. 

With both I work from a five-ten page outline, but I make up the details as I go in the pencil stage, writing the dialogue concurrently.

John Patrick GreenHave you worked with collaborators? Do you share your work as you're doing it, or work in secret and wait until it's done before showing it to anyone? Howhelpful is feedback from others?

Chris Schweizer: Most of the time I work by myself.  I don’t have the time to take on art for someone else’s writing (drawing takes longer), and often by the time I write something I’m too invested in it to consider sharing. I helped with a series a few years back, a younger readers thing, which I wrote and other folks did the art, good folks whose work I continue to read and admire, but it wasn’t collaborative; I turned in my part, then they did theirs.  I don’t consider that collaboration.  We didn’t work together to craft the book.

 I’m working with Joe Flood (Science Comics: Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers, The Cute Girl Network) on a couple of different projects, though.  He’s my ideal collaborator.  He’s an exceptional artist whose color work is staggeringly good and he’s a bold and pragmatic storyteller.  He’ll have no qualms about deviating from my script if he feels that it’s in service to the narrative, and I have great confidence in his ability to determine that.  I feel like, far too often, the writer is seen as the dominant creative voice in the comics world, but I think that the medium is best served when the writer/artist relationship is more akin to the screenwriter/director relationship.  The script is important, of course, but it’s up to its executor to determine how best to present it to an audience.  Joe is certainly capable of tackling that role (I’ve watched him shape projects from the artist end in the past) and that, coupled with his beautiful art, has made me eager to work together.  We’re teaming up on a franchise property monthly series (it hasn’t been announced yet), and a YA graphic  novel set in the late 12th century.

So far as sharing my work goes, I share with everybody, so long as doing so doesn’t put others in a difficult position (I can’t share work from that monthly series yet, for instance).  I’m not a particularly private person (though I do like to hole up often), and I think that sharing process can be helpful to other artists.  I know that I learned a ton by not only seeing process work but also by hearing about that work as it developed, watching folks struggle over getting it right, what considerations went into those decisions.  I also hope that if I share work in the planning stages then my many mistakes and missteps will be caught before it goes to print.

John Patrick Green: According to your bio in the back of The Creeps, you've had EVERY JOB IMAGINABLE! Too many to list, even! I'll just pick three, so readers get an idea: you've been a puppeteer, a kickboxer, and you've worked in a pancake mix factory. This question has two parts: what careers are left that you'd like to try out, and what experiences from your former jobs can we expect you to turn into graphic novels?

Chris Schweizer: My job-jumping days are likely over, or at least I hope that they are.  I enjoy making comics and telling stories too much and find it difficult to envision anything I’d rather do.  And as so many people are hurting for work I’d hate to take something on as whim for the experience when someone else might wish to provide for his or her family through that channel usurped by me.  I'll dip into substitute teaching every few years, partially to satiate my love of teaching and working with youngsters, and partially to case the joint.   My Creeps stories take place in a middle school and so it helps to find myself in middle schools on a regular basis so that I can take it all in and lock it up in my noggin for when I need it, though lately I've been doing a lot of school visits, which has covered that for me.

It’s unlikely that I’d ever do a longer story about myself, but I often pull in elements from experiences that I’ve had to color the stories that I'm making.

John Patrick Green: What are some of your favorite books from childhood, and what recent graphic novels would you recommend?

Chris Schweizer: My very favorite novel, and one I habitually buy used so that I can give copies to friends who I think would enjoy it, is Charles Portis’s True Grit, a fictional first-hand account of a fourteen year-old girl who travels into Indian territory in the 1870s to capture the man who murdered her father, with the help of a surly inebriate lawman whom she has employed.  It’s well-written, very funny, exciting, moving, coming-of-age book, and I’d argue that it’s the finest YA novel ever written. 

As for recent graphic novels, some of my favorite comics have been Lucy Bellwood’s Baggywrinkles, a collection of short nonfiction stories about how historic tall ships work, and the Last Man series byBastien Vivès, Michaël Sanlaville & Balak, a French import action adventure that’s truly lovely.  Though I won’t be picking it up until this weekend, I’m very excited about Lucky Penny by Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota.  I’ve been waiting for that one for a few years!  I’ve been spending most of my comics-reading time poring over comics by the French cartoonist Matthieu Bonhomme, comics that I hope will be translated into English someday.

John Patrick Green: What advice do you have for the young cartoonists of today?

Chris Schweizer: Have patience regarding response to your work.  Though the desire to receive public and peer approbation for one’s work has surely existed since the first picture was drawn on the wall of a cave, the ability to immediately quantify that reception feels pretty new; we no longer have the luxury of coming to hate our own work before other people do.  Reblogs and retweets and likes and notes make it possible to get a numerical sense of how people respond to your art and your stories within minutes of posting them, and that can breed a tendency to try and tailor the pieces that you produce to fit specific audience appetites. 

This isn’t in itself wrong – people always have and always will attempt to create in keeping with popular tastes, for worse, yes, but just as often for better – but it can sure take the wind out of your sails.  You spend a long time on a piece and think it’s the best thing you’ve ever done and you put it up and it gets three notes.  That dramatically colors how you feel about a piece that scant hours before may have been your crowning achievement thus far in your life.  It can, and does, crush many young artists (and not a few established ones).

Know that online response (or, more specifically, lack of it) is neither a fair nor an accurate measure of your current or potential worth as an artist.  You will, through diligent and regular work, get better and better with each passing week, and by making that work available to the public via whatever means you find most suits it you will steadily garner an audience.  Comics is a long game, often an extremely long game, and the only way to keep running that ball down the field is to do it for yourself.  Fans are wonderful, applause is wonderful, and a win is wonderful, but if you don’t have the love of it to carry you then that ball gets far too heavy and the crowd seems far too quiet and that goalpost seems to move with every step you take.  Pick pieces and projects that you want to do, that you’d want to read, that you’d want to see.  Do them often, do them well, and eventually that audience will find you. 
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Follow the Tour: 

Monday, May 2nd – Forever YA featuring Gene Luen Yang
Monday, May 2nd  – Read Write Love featuring Lucas Turnbloom
Monday, May 2nd – Kid Lit Frenzy featuring Kory Merritt
Tuesday, May 3rd – Sharp Read featuring Ryan North
Tuesday, May 3rd – Teen Lit Rocks featuring MK Reed
Wednesday, May 4th – Love is Not a Triangle featuring Chris Schweizer
Wednesday, May 4th – SLJ Good Comics for Kids featuring Victoria Jamieson
Thursday, May 5th – The Book Wars featuring Judd Winick
Thursday, May 5th – SLJ Fuse #8 featuring Eric Colossal
Friday, May 6th – SLJ Scope Notes featuring Nathan Hale
Friday, May 6th – The Book Rat featuring Faith Erin Hicks
Saturday, May 7th – YA Bibliophile featuring Mike Maihack
Saturday, May 7th – Supernatural Snark featuring Sam Bosma
Sunday, May 8th – Charlotte’s Library featuring Maris Wicks
Sunday, May 8th – The Roarbots featuring Raina Telgemeier

Friday, April 29, 2016

Tone Deaf by Olivia Rivers

Tone Deaf
by Olivia Rivers
Read: February 28 - 29, 2016
Published: May 3, 2016 by Sky Pony Press
Source: Edelweiss (Thank You!)
Category: YA, Contemporary, deaf issues, 

His world is music. Her world is silent.

Description: Ali Collins was a child prodigy destined to become one of the greatest musicians of the twenty-first century—until she was diagnosed with a life-changing brain tumor. Now, at seventeen, Ali lives in a soundless world where she gets by with American Sign Language and lip-reading. She’s a constant disappointment to her father, a retired cop fighting his own demons, and the bruises are getting harder to hide.

When Ali accidentally wins a backstage tour with the chart-topping band Tone Deaf, she’s swept back into the world of music. Jace Beckett, the nineteen-year-old lead singer of the band, has a reputation. He’s a jerk and a player, and Ali wants nothing to do with him. But there’s more to Jace than the tabloids let on. When Jace notices Ali’s bruises and offers to help her escape to New York, Ali can’t turn down the chance at freedom and a fresh start. Soon she’s traveling cross-country, hidden away in Jace’s RV as the band finishes their nationwide tour. With the help of Jace, Ali sets out to reboot her life and rediscover the music she once loved.

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I have been dying to read this book ever since I did a cover reveal for it last fall, and I'm happy to report that I enjoyed it. 


Set up - Ali was on a track to musical greatness before a tumor left her completely deaf. A rock concert featuring a spoiled musician is the last thing she wants to attend, but  she goes anyway to oblige her best friend. Ali's even more dismayed when she wins a backstage tour with the band, and things get worse when she encounters the arrogant lead singer Jase, who seems to hate her because she's deaf. But then Jase notices the bruises that she can't quite hide and offers to help her escape to New York. Desperate to get away from her abusive father, Ali agrees, hoping this is her chance of a new life.

What I loved - Tone Deaf is a great mix of serious themes and a sweet romance, and I'm always a sucker for rockstar romances. Ali is deaf and though I don't know a lot about deaf culture, I enjoyed how that aspect of her - and Jace's - life was put into the book. Although Jase seemed like a jerk at first, it was wonderful to see how much he worked to help Ali once he knew her situation. I really liked watching them begin to open up to each other and the romance that developed between them. Watching Ali and Jase write music together was also a favorite part. I loved that friendships are an equal part of this story, and I'm so glad that Ali had a great best friend, and also the relationships she built with Jase's band mates. 


What I didn't love - As Ali was hiding through much of the book, a lot of the story takes place in Jace's RV and I wish I could have gotten more of his life as a performer, and see Ali interact more within his public life (because that will remain a huge part of him). Also if I'm reading it right, it takes the tour bus 3+ days of driving to go from LA to Albuquerque, with no mention of any other tour stops on the way. Were they driving in circles in the desert, bc that's way too long! The entire book takes place over about of 2 weeks, and I wish we could have gotten more of the buildup of Ali and Jase's relationship over more of the tour. So much of the story takes place in the tour bus, and there's only so many different scenes that can occur in that small space. I think the author did a good job making the setting realistic, and the safest place for Ali was on the bus. But I would love to have seen more scenes in different places. 


Conclusion - The ending of the book ties a nice bow on the package, which I admittedly don't mind for books like this, although it happens pretty fast. Overall, I enjoyed Tone Deaf and found it to be a sweet romance with some depth and diversity in it as well. Those rockstars get me every time!

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: standalone

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Early Review: One Paris Summer by Denise Grover Swank

One Paris Summer 
By Denise Grover Swank
Read: February 29 - March 1, 2016
Published: June 7, 2016 by Blink
Source: NetGalley (Thanks, HC)
Category: YA, Contemporary, Paris, Summer

Most teens dream of visiting the City of Lights, but it feels more like a nightmare for Sophie Brooks. She and her brother are sent to Paris to spend the summer with their father, who left home a year ago without any explanation. As if his sudden abandonment weren't betrayal enough, he's about to remarry, and they’re expected to play nice with his soon-to-be wife and stepdaughter. The stepdaughter, Camille, agrees to show them around the city, but she makes it clear that she will do everything in her power to make Sophie miserable.

Sophie could deal with all the pain and humiliation if only she could practice piano. Her dream is to become a pianist, and she was supposed to spend the summer preparing for a scholarship competition. Even though her father moved to Paris to pursue his own dream, he clearly doesn't support hers. His promise to provide her with a piano goes unfulfilled.

Still, no one is immune to Paris’s charm. After a few encounters with a gorgeous French boy, Sophie finds herself warming to the city, particularly when she discovers that he can help her practice piano. There’s just one hitch—he’s a friend of Camille’s, and Camille hates Sophie. While the summer Sophie dreaded promises to become best summer of her life, one person could ruin it all.
 

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I have mixed feelings about this one. Some aspects I liked a lot. Some, I didn't so much. 

What I loved - I enjoyed the Paris setting and culture, as well as the focus on arts and music through Sophie's piano playing and the sites she visits. But I think my favorite part was Sophie's growth. I loved her transition from the start to the end of the book. In the beginning she is afraid to go anywhere by herself, and by the end she is navigating Paris with ease, but she is also more certain of herself and her own confidence by the end. I really liked how Sophie's relationship with her brother changed from the beginning, though I'd liked to have seen even more of it. Although I'm not sure that I liked either of them, I thought Sophie's parents were both drawn with complexity and flaws (and sometimes dubious advice giving), and I appreciated how real they seemed.


What I didn't love - However, One Paris Summer has a lot of angst and drama all the way through it, and while that kept me reading, it also felt like it was endless and over the top. Sophie's new stepsister Camille was especially despicable, and her behavior became increasingly negative and vindictive, so much so, that this book was hard for me to read. Especially when Dane came and then coupled with the way all her friends continued to support her as she treated Sophie horribly again and again. And I thought the ending was way too easy on Camille! 

I also had some mixed feelings about the romance. On one hand, I was thankful there is no love triangle (it seems like there might be at first, but there is not!), and I enjoyed so many of Mathieu and Sophie's interactions. But I didn't care for the way they had to hide their relationship, even though Mathieu eventually explains his reasoning. And I just could not forgive Mathieu for how he treated Sophie at the end. (Spoiler) First, believing Camille and Dane over Sophie was completely unforgivable. But I also did NOT buy that he tried to text her after she left and he was unable to get through, so he gave up without trying another method of communication! I hate when poor technology use is the excuse for drama and not communicating! (end spoiler)

Conclusion - One Paris Summer kept me reading from the beginning. Once I started the book, I had to get to the end. I loved the setting and watching Sophie's growth throughout this story, but a lot of the angst and drama was too much for me, and I didn't fall as much in love with the romance as I'd wanted. 

Love Triangle Factor: None

Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone 

Note: One Paris Summer is published by Zondervan's Blink imprint, which is not Christian based. Beyond an off mention of church, this book has no religious themes in it.



Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Blog Tour: The Mirror King by Jodi Meadows
Review + Giveaway

See below for the full schedule

The Mirror King

By Jody Meadows
Read: September 19 - 25, 2015
Published:  April 5, 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Edelweiss (THANK YOU!!)
Category: YA Fantasy, queens, masked vigilantes 
Series: The Orphan Queen #2 (Duet + 4 prequel novellas)
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound



Description: Wilhelmina has a hundred enemies.

HER FRIENDS HAVE TURNED. After her identity is revealed during the Inundation, Princess Wilhelmina is kept prisoner by the Indigo Kingdom, with the Ospreys lost somewhere in the devastated city. When the Ospreys’ leader emerges at the worst possible moment, leaving Wil’s biggest ally on his deathbed, she must become Black Knife to set things right. 


HER MAGIC IS UNCONTROLLABLE. Wil’s power is to animate, not to give true life, but in the wraithland she commanded a cloud of wraith mist to save herself, and later ordered it solid. Now there is a living boy made of wraith—destructive and deadly, and willing to do anything for her.


HER HEART IS TORN. Though she’s ready for her crown, declaring herself queen means war. Caught between what she wants and what is right, Wilhelmina realizes the throne might not even matter. Everyone thought the wraith was years off, but already it’s destroying Indigo Kingdom villages. If she can’t protect both kingdoms, soon there won’t be a land to rule.


In this stunning conclusion to THE ORPHAN QUEEN, Jodi Meadows follows Wilhelmina’s breathtaking and brave journey from orphaned criminal on the streets to magic-wielding queen.


NOTE: The Mirror King is the second book in a series. See my thoughts on The Orphan Queen, HERE

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I'm loving the new duet trend, especially when the second book in the series is is as emotional and epic as this one is, and the end of the first installment is as shocking as The Orphan Queen was. In my mind, The Mirror King splits itself well into two halves, but thankfully, I didn't have to wait to read the latter one. This is a win-win for me. I don't want to say a lot about how the book splits itself up, but YOU WILL KNOW, and I am so thankful the book didn't stop at that point.

Many of the secrets from The Orphan Queen, and questions of identity, are no longer hidden from the reader - or Wilhelmina - in this installment. We know the identity of Black Knife and the Indigo Kingdom knows that Wil is the princess of Aecor. But that hasn't really made anything easier for her. Wil's magic is seemingly more uncontrollable, the wraith are coming, and claiming her kingdom still feels out of reach. Not to mention that when the book begins, Tobiah is lying on the floor covered in blood, Patrick is on the loose and what the wraith boy will do next is anyone's guess. All this is to say that this story starts with a bang, and I could not put it down.


Most of all, I fell more in love with Wilhelmina as I read this book. From the start of this series, my heart has belonged to her, and that love continues to grow throughout this installment. Wil is put in one impossible situation to another, and I admired it through it all. Even when she makes mistakes, she always has her people's best interest at heart, and she works as hard  as she can to do the right thing in all circumstances. I hated seeing the moments when she doubted herself, faced criticism or felt less than others. But I was so so proud of her strength and integrity through this book. All hail Wilhelmina! 


If I'm being honest, I struggled with the romance in the first half of the story. The set-up and how it plays out was really hard for me, and I was not happy with how all parties handled it. Much of this is my personal low threshold for complicated things, but, thankfully, I was much more on board with it in the second half, and fully rooting for them - and swooning - by the end. Changing circumstances and growth from both characters was essential to this. 


The Mirror King is a big book that is action packed all the way through. It also brought on the feels from the start and doesn't let up on the intensity - or gasping revelations. Anything could happen (and does) at any moment. Second book slump doesn't exist in these pages. You don't want to miss this series! 

Love Triangle Factor: Feeling's wise none (also none from Wil's POV. But a big 'it's complicated' in relationship set up, because Tobiah is engaged to Meredith when the book begins.

Cliffhanger Scale: Series end!
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About the Author


Jodi Meadows lives and writes in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, with her husband, a Kippy*, and an alarming number of ferrets. She is a confessed book addict, and has wanted to be a writer ever since she decided against becoming an astronaut. She is the author of the INCARNATE Trilogy and the forthcoming ORPHAN QUEEN Duology (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen).

*A Kippy is a cat.


FIND JODI: WEBSITE | TWITTER | GOODREADS | TUMBLR | FACEBOOK

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Blog Tour
Thank you Alexa @ Alexa Loves Books for organizing this tour!

MARCH 28
Q&A
MARCH 29
Review
MARCH 30
Q&A
MARCH 31
Swoon Thursday
APRIL 1
Review
APRIL 4
Review
APRIL 5
Featurette
Review
APRIL 6
Review
APRIL 7
Top Masked Vigilantes
APRIL 8
Q&A
APRIL 11
ABCs: Character Edition
APRIL 12
Q&A
APRIL 13
Review
APRIL 14
Q&A
APRIL 15
Calligraphy Post


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Giveaway

WIN (1) copy of The Orphan Queen + one (1) copy of The Mirror King! 

Open internationally (as long as Book Depository ships to your country).

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