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The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Poirot)
The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Poirot)
by Agatha Christie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Witty Start to a Beautiful Poirot, 23 Oct. 2008
After my flirt with the TV series as a child and enjoying the Doctor Who episode in which the Doctor encounters the great woman herself, my mother bought be a collection of Agatha Christie novels. Among the typical titles known to all - MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS and DEATH ON THE NILE (Probably made famous by the film version starring Mia Farrow) - there was the very first Poirot novel THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES.

The novel introduces us to the world of Hercule Poirot, the great Belgian (French speaking) retired detective gone private detective, through the eyes of his good friend and well-known face to the adapted TV series, Captain Arthur Hastings, who leads us blindly through the novel and being the person we can be dumbfounded with when Poirot reveals the murderer to us.

Mrs Emily Inglethorp is dies in the night from what seems to be natural causes. However when Dr. Bauerstein, a toxicologist, declares it to be poison, all eyes turn to the woman's much younger husband, Alfred. He seems the obvious suspect, as they always are, especially after Emily's best friend Evelyn stormed out of the house declaring that Alfred would kill Emily if she were not careful, and she is first to point the finger at Alfred. In the middle of this is the ever-reliable Hasting who is fortunate enough to be "connected." Enter Hercule Poirot - a Belgian detective exiled to Britain during the war - who out of respect to Emily Inglethorp vows to aid the man she loved so dearly and discover who the real killer is.

And it's not like he's short of suspects - there are her two stepsons the docile John and aloof Lawrence who were known to inherit the fortune should she die and Alfred be "unable" to claim the cash; John's sassy wife Mary who is getting very friendly to the local doctor, and the beautiful, orphaned Cynthia who happens to be an expert in poisons. Hell, even the toxicologist is under suspicion.

THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR OF STYLES is by no means a classic unlike the other novels in the Poirot series nor is it worth any more than being the first Poirot book. Nonetheless if you have to start somewhere you might as well start at the beginning. The plot is basic and easy enough to work out with a bit of hind sight.

With the typical twist and turns of a Christie book, let alone a Poirot, you can easily see how Christie became the Queen of Crime Fiction. This is a crown she still olds today as "STYLES" begins a golden era of crime novels headed by her alone. This is to be recommended to anyone who wishes to read the novels behind the many adaptations or begin their addiction to the Poirot books. It is fledging beginnings like THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES that explains how Christie became the most read and published author of all time, second only to the Bible and Shakespeare; God and Shakespeare as companions? Poirot would be pleased.


Planet of the Apes (Special Edition) [DVD] [1968]
Planet of the Apes (Special Edition) [DVD] [1968]
Dvd ~ Charlton Heston
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.58

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Of Monkeys and Men, 23 Oct. 2008
In recent years sci-fi have been filled with flashing lights, high-budget CGI effects and ridiculous stunts like in THE MATRIX and I, ROBOT. If you don't like one sci-fi film, you're unlikely to like any as they're all the same. However, my dad took down PLANET OF THE APES from our video shelf. Unlike most sci-fi films, it was made in a time that had to deal without CGI and relied completely on the break through movie make-up as well as providing what people have voted time and time again "The Greatest Film Ending". PLANET OF THE APES has a cast of the greatest, easy storyline and it keeps your attention even as the credits are rolling at the end. Based on Pierre Boulle's lesser novel (La Planète des singes AKA Monkey Planet) tells of an astronaut landing on a distant planet and discovering that man's role as the superior life form has been reversed with the apes. The film has many needed changes to it to make it more watch-able and tap into the true fears at the time the film was made. In 1968, everyone lived in fear of an atomic bomb attack and PLANET OF THE APES truly taps into that fear, for reasons I will not reveal but it is understandable why the story was so popular at the time and why it shocked everyone.

PLANET OF THE APES tells the story of George Taylor (Charlton Heston), when he and his doomed astronaut friends find themselves stranded on a distant planet. It seems to be inhospitable with no life. However, after traveling throughout the place, which is famously referred to as "The Forbidden Zone", discover plenty of life including ape like humans and human like apes. Taylor is shot in the neck rendering him unable to speak. Treated as a wounded animal, he is taken to a human-ape study lab where he meets Zira (Kim Hunter), a sympathetic, friendly and intelligent chimpanzee. She almost straight away notices that Taylor's intelligence goes far beyond that of any other human, and she encourages him to speak. However, orangutan leader Dr Zaius, sneers on Zira's and her fiancé Cornelius' (Roddy McDowall) belief in any human intelligence, and won't listen to reason. Despite Cornelius' skeptical feelings towards Taylor, agrees to help prove his intelligence which only proved once he finally says his famous line: "Take your stinking paws of me you damn dirty ape!" Heston is anything other then a likable character. Unlike Ulysse Merou in the novel, Taylor isn't a polite, slightly moody, clever and likable character who values his friendship with Zira and Cornelius. He represents what we, as humans truly are, that is self-centered, violent and dangerous. Though on stage he is reportedly (according to Laurence Olivier) truly a talented actor, on screen and in PLANET OF THE APES, Heston basically turned up and like in many of his other films played himself. Nonetheless the character of Taylor works as you either love him or you hate him. Just like every other work Heston did, the rebel Taylor is no different from the other pushy characters Heston has played over the years. As a sort of physical god-like body, you suppose that the film where the apes are pushing us humans about cause we're basically behaving like apes is just what the doctor ordered.

Of course we all know that it's the two lovable chimps Zira and Cornelius that we remember the most in the PLANET OF THE APES films for their charm and humor they bring to the story. Hunter's portrayal of Zira was a masterpiece on it's own, giving the most powerful performance of its time. It's fair to say that Zira is the strongest and most well developed character in the film. Indeed she's the only ape that Taylor seems to actually like! With her strong-mindedness, wit and admirable sense of humor it's not surprising most people who are asked who their favorite character reply "Zira". Hunter manages to make the character just how Zira was meant to be, more human then ape. In fact, she's more human then most of the beautiful female actresses in the other classic 60's films, despite the fact she looks as ugly as hell in her ape make-up. The charm still shines through.

Of course, if you don't love the intelligent and cool Zira, you always have intelligent and nerdy Cornelius. McDowell, next to Heston, is one of the most credited male actors in the films as he comes over as the sort of nerd of the rebel gang that you just want to hug. In the film, Taylor seems to have a love-hate rivalry relationship with Cornelius as they constantly challenge each other like full-blooded males do no matter how civilized we get. A good example of this is when Zira allows Taylor to kiss her on the lips as a goodbye and Cornelius makes his jealousy clear. However Taylor sticks up for him against Zaius, which shows not as much friendship as understanding. McDowell is the most credited actor in any PLANET OF THE APES version be it this, the sequels or the TV series and is an irreplaceable member of the cast who is impossible to live up to.

PLANET OF THE APES is a mark in cinema history, famous for these talented artists, gripping story line and amazing ending that shocks you, scares you, breaks you and brings you to tears with the realization that you'll never truly experience a film like this again. Anyone who is anyone owes it to himself or herself to watch this film and experience the feeling. Even people who dislike sci-fi are likely to enjoy this. A film that truly did break STAR WARS and challenged it like no other film ever could. PLANET OF THE APES will live on in all of us. It will go on forever, find its way to younger audiences and will win them over just it won over us.


Ripper Suspect: The Secret Lives of Montague Druitt
Ripper Suspect: The Secret Lives of Montague Druitt
by D J Leighton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The not-so-secret life of Montague John Druitt, 21 Dec. 2007
RIPPER SUSPECT is a very well-written book and provides a nice biography for the life of Montague John Druitt. For those who may not know -M J Druitt is one of the more popular suspects for Jack the Ripper. As well has the belief of his family he authored the murders, he committed suicide less that a month after the final murder after his life suddenly went wrong for unknown reasons'. Many respected Ripperologists have backed the theory that Druitt was the Ripper over the years. The Druittist Circle is very large as he is often considered the prime suspect in the Ripper case. Today he still is considered a serious suspect, even by those who may not consider him to actually be the Ripper. Once more, many writers in the Royal Conspiracy still feel compelled to add him to their theories.

However, this is not a book enjoyable for Ripperologists, not only the Druittists. This book argues against Druitt not only as the murderer but as a suspect altogether, and attempts to explain why he couldn't have been the Ripper. After reading this book, while some may be 'blackmailed' into feeling sorry for Druitt and maybe having guilt for labelling him a murderer, Leighton's argument for removing him from the list of suspects is fair from convincing. He appears to lack some knowledge of the case, although it must be said that the cricket appear of Druitt's life has been remarkably well researched. This is probably because this is all he ever talks about! Leighton uses cricket as an excuse for everything. Once more, he clearly believes in the Royal Conspiracy, that Druitt was a 'scapegoat'; the argument for that, alone, is a weak one. Despite all efforts to talk the reader around to his point of few, the argument still remains frail and boring. Leighton appears to be in love with Druitt, and while one can agree that the story is tragic, his clear pity for Druitt affects his ability to make a compelling or convincing argument.

As well as this he makes tiny mistakes about Druitt's life as well as missing some points. One thing that stuck out for me was the reading into Emily Druitt's poem "The Owl and the Admiral" about herself and K Fitzroy. While he reads into all the possible connections - most of which is irrelevant to proving whether or not Druitt was the Ripper - he misses out the fact that Emily's sister was called Katherine Fitzroy Druitt. Ironically, he doesn't even mention Katherine (Known as `Kitty' in the family) despite that fact Montague John Druitt aided her with her Latin. In a letter to his uncle Robert, he also mentions both her and Emily. Although the letter is referenced in the book, Kitty is not, nor her possible connection to the poem! Another point is the discussion of Druitt's brothers William, Edward and Arthur. He makes William out to be a money grabbing man--and his hypothesis is that Edward distanced himself from William because of it, as William left everything to his other brother Arthur. However he appears to miss the fact that Edward had converted to Catholicism to marry his wife in 1887 and in a firmly Anglican family like the Druitts, such an action would be enough for William to cut ties completely with Edward.

This book is certainly not recommended to people starting off in Ripperology or people who are firm Druittists or even people who think very little of the Druittists. The first would find the book confusing (Looking at an anti-Ripper book is not a good start); the second will find the arguments poor and the small mistakes annoying, and the third would be wasting their time. I recommend this book only for people who want to find out about the life of Montague John Druitt, especially his role in his Blackheath cricket club.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 21, 2013 4:12 PM GMT


Howl's Moving Castle
Howl's Moving Castle
by Diana Wynne Jones
Edition: Paperback

52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a dream it fills you up until you're full of joy, 21 Jun. 2007
This review is from: Howl's Moving Castle (Paperback)
Diana Wynne Jones is renowned for being "hotter than Potter" and her books are sold all over the world. They are popular and loved by each generation they touch. Diana Wynne Jones is famous for the award winning THE CHRESTOMANCI SERIES, and other works such as DARK LORD OF DERKHOLM. Yet out of all of her novels there is one novel which is without a doubt the most popular, treasured and loved of them all - HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE. Most people who have read it will confirm that it is a charming tale of magic, love, humour and wonder. It touches the fibres of your heart so greatly that the sound of the character's names "Sophie", "Howl" and "Calcifer" bring a smile to your face. Although each character is faulted they are wonderfully painted so that you love them as if they were real people.

The story follows the tale of Sophie Hatter, the eldest of three sisters, who unfortunately lives in a world where fairytale traits are the laws of physics. For that reason, despite being attractive, intelligent and talented, the eldest child is destined to come to nothing. While her younger sisters go out doing their own thing, Sophie is forced to make hats in their late father's hat shop. However, it turns out that she has a remarkable talent with magic as well as a needle as she speaks life into the hats, giving them personalities so that good things will come to the wearer of the hat. This is how Sophie attracts unwanted attention from the jealous Witch of the Waste, thinking her a rival witch, and turns her into an old woman to punish her. Ashamed of her appearance, Sophie decides to seek help from the infamous Wizard Howl whose moving castle roams the hill above Sophie's home, and is known throughout Market Chipping as a wicked young man who sucks the souls out of young girls and feasts on their hearts.

Feeling unthreatened as an old woman, Sophie ventures inside and instead of finding Howl, she finds his fire demon Calcifer who convinces her to make a bargain with him - he'll lift the spell on her if she breaks the contract between Howl and himself. Sophie soon discovers that far from being evil and cruel, the Wizard Howl is a cowardly heartbreaker who takes pleasure in courting girls but dumping them before it turns serious. Also cursed by the Witch, Howl cannot allow himself to fall in love otherwise he must return to the Witch and give her his heart. In order to save Howl, Calcifer, and her own youth, Sophie has to hurry to find out how to free Calcifer and Howl from their contract before the Witch catches up with them.

A beautifully written tale of a cursed young girl and her cowardly sweetheart, HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE is a light and hysterical novel with a heroine to love; an anti-hero to adore, and a villain to hate and fear, and yet pity. As the novel goes on and the love between Howl and Sophie grows, you heart dances with excitement and joy which rises up and up until the last chapter. The feeling of your heart beat is one of the most important factors of the novel; don't take it for granted. I highly recommend this book to anyone. It is a book you will keep by your bedside forever, re-read every year or so, and cherish forever. I also recommend the animated film by Hayao Miyazaki of the same name. Both are truly stunning works of art.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 17, 2012 7:15 PM GMT


Lexmark X1190 All In One Printer, Scanner & Copier
Lexmark X1190 All In One Printer, Scanner & Copier

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Rubbish, 10 Nov. 2006
We bought this printer new with our computer nearly four years ago as a package deal. I need it for school work... but it's just plain awful. The cartridges cost an arm and a leg, even if they last longer then others, it's still far too much for me to afford. This printer not only costs tones to keep the ink up, but it has a terrible habit of sucking paper back in when you try to print more then one page... to top it off it has a lovely, strong American accent telling you that "there is a problem with the printer" or "paper is jammed" and my all time favourite "please load paper in the auto-sheet feeder."

I wouldn't recommend this printer to a mad stalker writing to his "girlfriend" it causes you that much stress, you find yourself going through piles of paper because the first five goes at printing will either see the cartridges chew the paper of the "auto-sheet feeder" regurgitating the letter you spent hours writing.

I recommend Epson printers to those who have a lot of work to do, but Lexmark I wouldn't offer to my worst enemy... it's an awful printer.


I loved Tiberius: A historical novel
I loved Tiberius: A historical novel
by Elizabeth Dored
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Gone with the Wind" - Roman Style, 5 Sept. 2006
Ancient Rome has fascinated many for centuries and many tales of the historical heroes and villains have been portrayed in Hollywood films like CLEOPATRA and GLADIATOR, plays such as ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA, THE POETASTER and THE FALL OF SEJANUS, and many novels, most notably the masterpiece I, CLAUDIUS by the unforgettable Robert Graves. The novel I LOVED TIBERIUS was translated into English in the late 60s and it is such a crime that it hasn't been re-published in the United Kingdom and United States; its credible uniqueness and gripping storylines tied in with historical accuracy make it a real gem; it is possibly one of the great love stories of them all. The deep message of the tale and the honesty of the characters make it all the more enjoyable.

Elisabeth Dored brings to life the early days of Ancient Rome together with the heartbreaking tale of Julia, Augustus' mistreated and tragic daughter. Beautiful, clever and naïve, she is used as a pawn for her father's political games. Yet through all her desperation and tragic living, Julia is always in love with her stepbrother, Tiberius, and he with her. Childhood sweethearts, they always had a special bond that Julia finds hard to cut. She endlessly is vexed by his stubbornness as a child and he endlessly teases her, yet when grow up a bit more they begin to see each other differently--and as with all love struck boys, Tiberius kisses, he writes her love letters and even does the clichéd initials in a heart on the tree in the garden--Sadly for them, Julia is taken and given a way at fourteen to her cousin Marcellus, who is cold and distant--more interested in another girl--yet he understands Julia's love for her secret "darling" and when both are abandoned, they find comfort in each other as Julia's misery grows when she hears Tiberius has turned to drink and prostitutes.

Once Marcellus dies, she is given to her father's best friend, Agrippa, more then twice her age. It is here that the story really starts, taking up a rather cryptic route that lets you question what the book is really about. The tale takes up a rather GONE WITH THE WIND theme; Julia being our troublesome yet much kinder Scarlet O'Hara, Tiberius is the honourable yet more jealous then kind and useless to his own wife Ashley Wilkes and the man caught in the middle of loving the woman and yet hating her cause she can't love him is Agrippa who by all accounts is Rhed Butler. Though his daughter, his friends and everyone else can't understand why, Agrippa loves Julia dearly, but his is angered by her carelessness and jealous, even paranoid, that she still loves Tiberius. It is within her marriage to Agrippa that we loose most contact with Tiberius, who is mentioned now and then still lusting after Julia and demonstrating his spite to Julia, who is so content with her marriage to Agrippa.

I LOVED TIBERIUS maybe a love story between Julia and Tiberius, but it is so much more then that; it's a story about love in general, from the love between two lovers to the love between a mother and her children. No one in the story is married the person they'd choose, even minor characters; Tiberius loves Julia but she's married to Agrippa, who loves Julia but she loves Tiberius (too I might add) and he is married to Vipsania who is in love with a man called Gallus. The book takes us through the tragic happenings of Julia's life and leads us to the heartbreaking finale that gets you reaching for the tissues, every time. Elisabeth Dored brought to life the character of Julia in a way never done before done, presented it in a clever and entertaining way that one can relate to and brought out the life in Rome as well as Julia, a civilisation, like the Old South, that has "gone with the wind."


Julia Augusti (Women of the Ancient World)
Julia Augusti (Women of the Ancient World)
by Elaine Fantham
Edition: Paperback
Price: £24.99

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful insight on the girl who was Caesar's daughter, 13 July 2006
I have been writing a book centered around this amazing historical character and this was just what I needed and wanted. Painting a clear picture of the world that Julia lived in and the people she lived along side, Elaine Fantham has given us an honest and detailed picture of the witty daughter of Augustus Caesar. We learn about her possible upbringing, her mother Scribonia (who has also been given an unfair amount of bad press by history), her friends, her husbands: Marcellus, Agrippa and Tiberius, who became the emperor and may have murdered both Julia and her only living son, Postumus.

There is such depth and detail into the life of this woman that after reading their book it made me love her all the more and gave me a clearer look on not only the life, the homes, the husbands, the children, the lovers and the downfall of Julia Augusti, but other women and other girls who grew up in the tragic world of Ancient Rome. Julia's story is one that every Ancient historian should read about... she truly was an amazing woman in a dangerous society.

Highly recommended for history students, writers and lovers.


Caesar's Daughter
Caesar's Daughter
by Edward Burton
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, witty, amazing... and the book was good too!, 13 July 2006
This review is from: Caesar's Daughter (Paperback)
I have been unable to track this book for myself, so I had to search for a library. When I found it I sat down and read it, not once putting it down. I was graspped by the beauty and the depth that the book has. Edward Burton isn't the sort of author who you'd expect to write fiction, but this is a masterpiece.
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Tiberius
Tiberius
by Allan Massie
Edition: Paperback

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blows "Augustus" out of the water!, 9 Jun. 2006
This review is from: Tiberius (Paperback)
Clever, witty and original, Allan Massie writes under the name of the emperor who everyone remembers for being bloody and cruel. Tiberius himself, a man who forced to divorce his wife to marry Augustus' own daughter Julia, forced to become emperor and so bitter as to treat Julia and her children so brutally that each one in turn committed suicide just to get away from him. This novel takes us into the mind of Tiberius and gives us a smashing tale of sex, violence and rivalry.

Tiberius grew up with his brother and father until his father sadly died and he is taken into Caesar's home. His mother, Livia, is the wife of Augustus and ambitious for his future. However, growing up he finds his interests in other things such as the army and even worse, his young, beautiful and desirable stepsister. Constantly teasing him, Julia knows that she is able to arouse Tiberius into such emotions that he willingly gives into his desires. When Tiberius takes Vipsania as his wife, he still can't help taking to Julia's bed rather then his wife's. However, once Julia consents to marry Vipsania's father, Agrippa, their affair stops and neither of them see each other again for a long while. Tiberius grows to love Vipsania tenderly and though not passionately, he respects and admires her calmness and softness. After the birth of their son, Tiberius feels happier then ever. However, upon the death of Agrippa, his widow Julia is forced to return to Rome where her father makes Tiberius a new match in the form of the object of his desire...

In the second half of his life, everyone he knew, he loved and lusted are dead: Augustus, Julia, Vipsania and Drusus, his beloved brother, leaving him quite bitter and reproachful. For good reason as he is faced with a creature of an entirely different order: Agrippina, Julia's daughter. While carrying similar beauty to her mother, she lacks anything of the charm, cheerfulness and happy-go-lucky that Julia had, but with the same self-importance and self-perfection that Augustus had and the same snappy and hard going streak as her father Agrippa, that makes Livia look tame. His slow descent into carelessness and cruelty is shown as he slowly begins to write off his harsh punishments of having Agrippina sent to the island of Pandataria where "his poor Julia" had dwelled in exile, and the slaughter of Sejanus and his allies as a thing that had to be done.

TIBERIUS is a vast improvement of the first novel AUGUSTUS, showing entertainment and fairness and making it sound less like a TV-show from the sixties, as AUGUSTUS appeared to do. His dislike of Augustus, his respect for his mother, his affection for Vipsania and his lustful obsession with Julia all of this and more paints a colourful and entertaining book while putting Tiberius into a fresh light where you still see him from the cruel and harsh man he became, yet you see history turned towards the man himself and see things on not what "exactly" happened but what might have. Rather then making him too perfect and self absorbed about things as Augustus does in AUGUSTUS, Tiberius knows he is faulted, cruel and bad, and he shows it without ever having to say it. Whether, of course we were met to believe Augustus was a pompous and self-absorbed man in AUGUSTUS, I'm not entirely sure. After reading AUGUSTUS, rush off to your library; bookshop or friend's house to read TIBERIUS to see not only Tiberius with a clean slate but of characters of the first book, most noticeably Julia, put into a light where they are seen for what they were to another individual rather then everyone. This detail makes TIBERIUS such a joy to read, its more realistic and exciting overview on life from anyone other then Augustus.


Augustus (Vintage)
Augustus (Vintage)
by John Edward Williams
Edition: Paperback

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Underated, unique and witty, 28 May 2006
This review is from: Augustus (Vintage) (Paperback)
I'm just going to tell you to do yourselves a favour and check this book out. Allan Masse, bow your head to the lesser known an appreciated John Williams. "Augustus: A Novel" is written in a very original way, using drafted letters, diaries, memoirs and even poems to tell the story making it a very easy read. You feel that you get to know each of the historical characters and they are written in a believable and stunningly truthful way, it is practically un-faulted. Its only fault is the title, which would have been better, titled as "Augustus and Julia."

Why?

Because the book is told in three parts, and each part has a theme. Where part one is about Octavius and his rise to become Augustus, part two and three revolves around mainly him and his daughter Julia, and it is Julia who dominates the eyes and excitement of the reader making her out to be the more interesting and certainly the more likeable of the two. Nonetheless, the father-daughter relationship between the two is quite touching and you can tell honestly that Julia means the world to her father. Other characters there to excite and delight you are Livia, Maecenas, Agrippa and various other people like Tiberius and Julia's partner-in-crime and ambitious lover Jullus Antonius who also draws your attention as the only living son of Mark Antony, falling in love with Caesar's daughter, Julia, in a non-typical Romeo and Juliet way.

Without a doubt, the best Augustus fiction I've read. If you want a good Roman book to read then I advise you to get this out of the library and give it a go.


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