Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Debut

Attend by West Camel

1-2Every now and then a novel comes along that is something particularly extraordinary and unusual.  Attend is one such novel.  A tapestry in novel form, West has built a story that brings together the threads of three very different lives.  Characters who have suffered, are suffering, who feel broken and cut off. Failures, unable to fit in and yet when it comes down to it, as we weave our way through the story we can see that those around them are just the same, if not worse.  Perhaps these broken souls can actually save themselves and those around them after all.

Deborah is this strange, almost ghost like figure.  She is old, very old.  A lonely, invisible soul who believes she can never die.  She also believes that people can’t see her yet Sam and Anne both stumble across her at a time when each are consumed with a sense of despair and sadness.  Sam has moved to Deptford in the hope to finding his way and to escape the cycle of self hate and one night stands with strange men.  Anne is a recovering addict, ostracised from her family, daughter and grandson.  She’s now clean but those closest to her are set in their belief that she’ll never change, that she’ll always be a disappointment.

For both Sam and Anne, their encounters with Deborah are confusing and almost unbelievable and yet somehow she begins to make them see things a little more clearly with her strange stories and adventures. She seems to lurk in the background and yet is a central character leading the story; the thread that brings them together if you like.

This is a brilliantly written and impressive debut from West.  Words at times can be crass and harsh, making me wince and at other times beautiful and lyrical, perfectly capturing all at once the heartbreak and the brutality, as well as the beauty and wonder of the lives we are visiting.  There is a magical mystery that is held beneath the streets of Deptford, in tunnels where secrets lie still within the dank darkness. Yet these secrets begin to surface as dangerous events threaten those dear to both Sam and Anne. Action must be taken and so both face their own demons head on for the sake of those they love.

This is a tale that shows us the impact our actions can have… they seep out into the world, affecting people and events far more than we realise. No matter how small we feel our lives are, they matter.  Even for Deborah, who felt invisible and forgotten for so long.

Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour and to Orenda Books for a copy of the eBook.  Attend is a wonderful, rich atmospheric novel and I thoroughly recommend it.

Synopsis

‘A highly anticipated debut, blending the magical realism of Angela Carter and the gritty authenticity of Eastenders’

When Sam falls in love with Deptford thug Derek, and Anne’s best friend Kathleen takes her own life, they discover they are linked not just by a world of drugs and revenge; they also share the friendship of the uncanny and enigmatic Deborah. Seamstress, sailor, story-teller and self-proclaimed centenarian immortal, Deborah slowly reveals to Anne
and Sam her improbable, fantastical life, a history of hidden Deptford and ultimately the solution to their crises. With echoes of Armistead Maupin, Attend is a beautifully written, darkly funny, mesmerisingly emotive and deliciously told debut novel, rich in finely wrought characters and set against the unmistakable backdrop of Deptford and South London.

 

About the Author

1Born and bred in south London – and not the Somerset village with which he shares a name – West Camel worked as an editor in higher education and business before turning his attention to the arts and publishing. He has worked as a book and arts journalist, and was editor at Dalkey Archive Press, where he edited the Best European Fiction 2015 anthology, before moving to new press Orenda Books just after its launch. He currently combines his work as editor at Orenda Books with writing and editing a wide range of material for various arts organisations, including ghost- writing a New-Adult novel and editing The Riveter magazine for the European Literature Network. He has also written several short
scripts, which have been produced in London’s fringe theatres, and was longlisted for the Old Vic’s 12 playwrights project. Attend is his first novel.

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Young Adult Fiction

Odette by Jessica Duchen

Odette Cover Image.jpgThere is something rather wonderfully unique about this tale. A fairytale for grown ups with all the darkness and magic that surrounds them. I absolutely adore the ballet Swan Lake; the music, the dancing and the storytelling is all wonderful and something I never tire of. When I read the synopsis of Odette my immediate thought was ‘I have to read this!’ I was curious how this tragic story could be brought into the twenty-first century.

By day Odette lives as a swan and then at dusk she becomes a woman and so it has been for nearly 200 years after being cursed by the evil Baron Von Rothbart. She lost everything that day and ever since has been looking for her one true love, a love that will last a lifetime – as this, she believes, is the key to break the spell. Then on a cold, stormy night she crashes through Mitzi’s window. Mitzi who is nursing her own broken heart after the death of her father and the end of a relationship. Mitzi who now wonders if she might be going mad. After all how else would you explain a woman who is half human, half swan?

With most fairy-tales true love is the key to breaking the spell but this is no ordinary fairy-tale and I was carried along following the twists and turns, wondering if a young woman from the 19th century could actually find true love in the 21st.  The combination of villainy, romance, music and literature all added up to an enchanting read.

I absolutely adored this novel. It is a wonderful story and the ending quite unexpected but perfect. The characters remain with me long after reading the final word and I can still see them all in my mind’s eye. I’d love to know what life has in store for them next.

This is a story about finding love, empathy, loyalty and friendship.  Yet it also touches on contemporary issues such as homelessness, exploitation, illegal immigrants and integration.   It shimmered and shined from beginning to end and held me under it’s spell long after I read the final page. Thoroughly recommended.

SYNOPSIS
When a swan crashes through her window at the height of a winter storm, Mitzi Fairweather decides to nurse the injured bird back to health. At sunset, though, it becomes a human being.

This unexpected visitor is Odette, the swan princess – alone, in danger and adrift in 21st-century Britain, dependent on the kindness of strangers. Bird by day, woman by night, with no way to go home to Russia, she remains convinced that only a man’s vow of eternal love can break her spell.

Mitzi is determined to help Odette, but as the two try to hide the improbable truth, their web of deception grows increasingly tangled…

A narrated concert based on ODETTE is in the planning stages with the award-winning violinist Fenella Humphreys. pianist Viv McLean and Jessica as narrator. Music will include a celebration of Tchaikovsky’s magical score for Swan Lake, plus works by Chopin, Liszt and Gershwin. The first performances will be at Music at Mansfield Street, London W1, 17 April 2019 and St Mary’s, Perivale, 27 April 2019. – This sounds just wonderful!

About The Author

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Jessica Duchen is an acclaimed author and journalist, specialising in words for, with and about music. Her work has appeared in The Independent, The Guardian and The Sunday Times, plus numerous magazines around the world. Her first five novels have gathered a loyal fan-base and wide acclaim. Music plays a vital role in her books, and she frequently narrates concert versions of Alicia’s Gift, Hungarian Dances and Ghost Variations.

Jessica is the librettist for the opera Silver Birch by Roxanna Panufnik, commissioned by Garsington Opera and shortlisted for a 2018 International Opera Award. Current projects include the libretto for a youth opera with composer Paul Fincham for Garsington 2019 (an updating of an Oscar Wilde fairy tale) and two large-scale choral works with Roxanna Panufnik.

She was born within the sound of Bow Bells, studied music at Cambridge and held editorial posts on several music magazines before going freelance to concentrate on writing. She edited a piano magazine for five years and was then classical music and ballet correspondent for The Independent from 2004-2016. Her output also includes plays, poetry, biographies of the composers Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Gabriel Fauré (published by Phaidon) and her popular classical music blog, JDCMB. She lives in London with her violinist husband and two cats. She enjoys playing the piano, cookery, long walks and obscure books about music.

Thank you to Anne at RandomThingsTours for my ebook to read and review and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.  This is definitely one I will be buying for my bookshelves.

For a longer synopsis and an extract from the book please visit: https://unbound.com/books/odette/

LINKS

ORDER FROM UNBOUND

https://unbound.com/books/odette/

AMAZON: PAPERBACK

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Odette-Jessica-Duchen/dp/1789650003/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1539504625&sr=8-1&keywords=Odette+duchen

AMAZON: KINDLE

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Odette-Jessica-Duchen-ebook/dp/B07JC5NJ4Y/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1539504625&sr=8-2&keywords=Odette+duchen

WATERSTONES

https://www.waterstones.com/book/odette/jessica-duchen/9781789650006

JESSICA DUCHEN’S WEBSITE

https://www.jessicaduchen.co.uk

 

 

 

Blog Tour, Children's Fiction, Christmas 2018

And the winner is…

On Monday I kicked off the blog tour for The Night I Met Father Christmas by Ben Miller. This included a giveaway for a finished copy of the book. Thank you to everybody who shared, liked and commented on either the blog, on Facebook or on Twitter.

I have now put all your names in a hat…

and the winner is….

Congratulations Cat! I’ll be in touch. 🙂

Hope you love it as much as I did.

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Fiction, Short Stories

Nici’s Christmas Tale by Jean Gill

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Nici’s Christmas Tale by Jean Gill – Blog Tour

A stand-alone short story in the multi-award-winning Troubadours Quartet series

1157: Aquitaine. The wolves are coming! At midnight on Christmas Eve, while the blizzard blasts snow through every crack in the castle walls, Nici the Shepherd’s Dog stands guard in the sheepfold.

Beside him as usual are his pack and the flock they protect but this night is not usual at all. A small boy braves the snowy night, seeking the protection of his great friend while he is banned from his parents’ quarters in the castle.  Nici recalls other times and other dangers, his trials and failures, the reasons why he ran away with a young girl, now the little boy’s mother.  He would still give his life in a heartbeat for Lady Estela. And yet, on this snowy night, he cannot help her. So, while he waits and comforts Estela’s son, he tells his own puppies the story of a dog’s life.

Nici’s Christmas Tale is a short story, at only 58 pages it is a quick read but each one of those pages is full of rich detail and a beautifully told dog’s tale.

This is my first encounter of the Troubadours Quartet series and indeed of Jean Gill’s writing.  I was drawn to the idea of a dog being the narrator and I think Jean has stepped into the mind Nici perfectly.

Nici is a Great Pyrenees.  My knowledge of dogs is very limited but you can tell that Jean has a great love for the breed and knows an awful to about them.  Nici’s tale is set in the 12th century so it took some research of shepherding of this time for Jean but she has captured time and place perfectly.

Nici’s bond with both his humans and pack is incredibly moving and, from my limited expertise of dogs, absolutely spot on.  I love her take on a new life coming into the world on Christmas Eve, with all the worry and trauma that surrounds the birth, especially during medieval times.  As Nici recounts his story to his pups we are also taken on his journey, following through his hardships, his courage and at times his despair.  This is one brave dog who has encountered great cruelty but never shied away from his duty and what he felt was right.  He is certainly a dog I would like to have by my side.

This is a lovely, unusual Christmas tale that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Although I am not familiar with The Troubadours Quartet and the adventures of Estela and Dragonetz, I have enjoyed getting to know their most loyal companion and I now look forward to reading more of their tales too.

About The Author

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Jean Gill is a Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France with two scruffy dogs, a beehive named ‘Endeavour’, a Nikon D750 and a man. For many years, she taught English and was the first woman to be a secondary headteacher in Wales. She is mother or stepmother to five children so life was hectic.

Publications are varied, including prize-winning poetry and novels, military history, translated books on dog training, and a cookery book on goat cheese. With Scottish parents, an English birthplace and French residence, she can usually support the winning team on most sporting occasions.
Sign up to Jean special readers’ group at http://www.jeangill.com/ for exclusive news, offers and a free book.

You can follow Jean on Twitter: @writerjeangill

You can purchase the ebook of Nici’s Christmas Tale here.

Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour and thanks to both her and Jean for the review copy.  I’ve really enjoyed visiting Nici’s world.

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Blog Tour, Children's Fiction, Christmas 2018, Fiction, Giveaway, Review

The Night I Met Father Christmas by Ben Miller

I’m so delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for The Night I Met Father Christmas by Ben Miller. This novel is a festive feast that captured my heart from the very beginning. It’s been an absolute joy to read and chat about over the last few days. Ben has a wonderful writing style and his humour, wit and personality shine through in the seasonal tale before us. Not only is it as warm and comforting as a mug of hot chocolate topped with cream and marshmallows but it also answers the question… how did Father Christmas become Father Christmas?

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Jackson is a young boy who is having the teeniest of doubts about Father Christmas. In his heart he believes and he argues that logically he must be real – after all who else leaves the presents and eats all the mince pies? And yet the seed has been planted and so Jackson is determined to meet the man himself this Christmas Eve and ask him one very important question… How did he become Father Christmas? And so begins the story of a mean elf called Torvil, his under-appreciated and under-paid assistant Steiner, and of course, a talking reindeer. Torvil is a miser, a Scrooge like figure who puts profit above compassion, generosity and kindness. Yet on this very special Christmas Eve Torvil is given the opportunity to learn from his past and earn himself a happier, brighter future.

The Night I Met Father Christmas has been described as a ‘classic in the making’ and I wholeheartedly agree. It is full of Christmas cheer, memorable characters, humour and adventure.  it would make the perfect Christmas gift and will be enjoyed for many a Christmas to come by readers young and old.

Giveaway!

Now I would like to step in Father Christmas’ shoes and bestow one copy of this fine tale to one of you my dear readers.  So go forth and like, comment and share this post with the hashtag #FatherChristmasBeliever, and of course give me a follow, and I’ll pop your name in the hat.  Enter by midnight on Friday the 7th of December and I’ll announce the winner this coming weekend.

This competition will run via this blog, as well as on Twitter and Facebook. If you take part on all three platforms then your name will be entered thrice.  So please get sharing and remember to follow me here, on Twitter and my Tales Before Bedtime page on Facebook.  Thanks much and good luck.

*Please note this giveaway is only open to residents in the UK.  The winner will be sent a finished copy of Ben Miller’s The Night I Met Father Christmas  direct from the publisher. 

And just in case you missed my earlier posts which include a Q&A with author Ben Miller and Illustrator Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini, here they are…

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The Night I Met Father Christmas by Ben Miller

Jackson knows all about flying reindeer, he knows about the elves and the secret North Pole workshop, he knows about the elves and the secret North Pole workshop, he knows about the magic that allows Father Christmas to deliver presents around the world in just one night, but there’s one thing he doesn’t know…how did Father Christmas become Father Christmas?

That all changes when, one Christmas Eve, Jackson meets Father Christmas Eve, Jackson meets Father Christmas and hears his incredible story.

So begins an enchanting fairy-tale into a magical snowy landscape, where Torvil, a mean-spirited and miserly elf, is about to discover the true meaning of Christmas.  This might not have been the story Jackson was expecting but, as Father Christmas tells him, no good story ever is…

A Christmas classic in the making from actors and comedian Ben Miller that will prove once and for all that Father Christmas really does exist!

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IMG_20181101_194428Ben Miller is pretty well known.  Comedian, actor and now author, he crosses generations with his work.  In our house we know him from his time playing DCI Richard Poole in Death in Paradise and more recently as Bough, the hilarious side-kick to Rowen Atkinson’s Johnny English.  In my school Library we know him for his books The Aliens Are Coming!: The Exciting and Extraordinary Science Behind Our Search for Life in the Universe and It’s Not Rocket Science, both giving interesting, insightful and enjoyable access to their subject matter.  And now he brings us this wonderful festive tale about a young boy named Jackson.  Jackson who has had a tiny seed of doubt planted into his mind about Father Christmas.  So he comes up with a plan to meet the man himself and ask him a very important question.  

I love Christmas.  I love the build up, the magic that seems to fill the air and ever since having my son (eleven years ago now), I’ve rediscovered the joy of being a .  It’s easy as adults to lose that magic and we can quite often become cynical.  So as the big day approaches Christmas stories come pretty close to the top of the list of things that make me happy.  Especially Christmas stories that I can share with my son.  When writing The Night I Met Father Christmas, Ben took inspiration from some great authors to create a wonderful tale that already feels like a classic. I already read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol every year – I love the language, moral and sheer joy that this tale brings – and I can see The Night I Met Father Christmas being enjoyed for many years to come.  So I asked Ben what his favourite Christmas Story is.

‘That one! A Christmas Carol. I am a huge fan of Dickens generally and he has been a huge influence on everything I’ve done. Having English teachers as parents meant I was introduced to him at a very early age and I love his unique and infectious wit and psychedelic warmth. Dickens is the perfect grounding for a career in sketch comedy!’

But how does one go from writing books about science to writing a Christmas story?  This is Ben’s first work of fiction and I asked him if any of the characters were based on himself or people he knows.

‘I based Jackson, the main character, on my own son. I did ask if he as OK with that! He said yes — I hope he feels the same when he’s older. Torvil, I think, is basically me.’

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The Night I Met Father Christmas by Ben Miller with Illustrations by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini

So, earlier I spoke about Ben. Now I would like to mention the beautiful illustrations by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini.

A great story is made even greater by wonderful illustrations and the combined effort of the Simon and Schuster design team and Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini have brought us an absolutely stunning hardback book that will earn precious space on your bookshelf.  It really is a keeper.  The cover is stunning, with gold foil that brings it to life and makes the book literally jump out at you when you see it.  There is so much detail throughout the entire book  and Daniela has created a gorgeous selection of illustrations that complement Ben’s writing brilliantly.  She really is a great talent and I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to ask her the following questions.

How do you begin to create the wonderful art work that brings Ben’s story to life?

‘After having some initial ideas, inspired by the story, I always plunge myself into extensive visual research, mainly to find the kind of visual reference that will support me in drawing characters and things that feel real, that feel like they could exist in a parallel dimension of wonder. The drawing stage always feels quite technical in some ways for me; this is where I sweat to get the composition, anatomy ad perspective right. While the painting stage is really where all the magic happens for me… where I focus on getting the atmosphere and feel right for the picture. And where I feel like I’m in my element. Each stage is very important. But some are more “nerve-wracking” than others….’

If you could choose one other classic Christmas story to illustrate, what would it be?

‘A Christmas Carol of course :), although I would also quite like to make my own version of A Nightmare Before Christmas…’

Do you believe in Father Christmas?

‘Well, I wasn’t sure to begin with if I have to be honest… but reading ‘The Night I Met Father Christmas’ has definitely put the doubts to rest in my mind! I’m definitely going to be putting out mince pies and brandy for him this Christmas!’

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Book Launch – The Night I Met Father Christmas by Ben Miller

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It was a damp and mild November evening when the Fallows family headed up to London.  Nature is giving a wonderful display of autumnal colour; golden brown, fiery reds and burnt orange underfoot with sticky, mushy leaves wet from the rain earlier in the day. This last week we’ve gained an hour and darker evenings for sparkly lights and magical time to curl up with a good book.  Winter is well and truly on its way… and with it comes Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year. Never shy of taking an opportunity to get into the Christmas spirit as early as possible, I was delighted to have been invited to join in celebrating the launch of a bright and sparkling new, Christmas story.

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Flash back to summer.  The days were long, the sun was shining and people were already beginning to panic about ever seeing rain again. I however,  was settling down to read my first Christmas book of the year.  The Night I met Father Christmas by Ben Miller.

There are so many wonderful children’s authors bringing books to our young readers that will inspire and encourage a life-long love of reading.  So when someone we admire for their other work gives us a novel, I always feel a little apprehensive.  I expect it to be good enough to share a place on the shelves of those whose main body of work is children’s fiction.  Children’s books are important, they matter.  As Meg Ryan said in You Got Mail “When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.” With so many other distractions it’s important that we can grab their attention with stories that will fill them with wonder and let them love books rather than see them as a chore and bore.

I very much enjoy watching Ben on the screen.  We’re big fans of Death in Paradise in our household and grew to love his grumpy, yet brilliant Inspector Richard Poole and even more recently his role as Angus Bough, the ever patient side-kick to Rowen Atkinson’s, Johnny English. So I was excited to hear that he had written a Christmas story and keen for him to have done it well. It’s encouraging to know that Ben is not new to the written word, he has already published two non-fiction titles, It’s Not Rocket Science and The Aliens Are Coming!: The Exciting Science Behind Our Search For Life in the Universe.   The Night I Met Father Christmas is his first fictional title and trust me when I say, it is wonderful and very much deserves its place on any child’s (or adult’s) bookshelf.

It was an absolute treat to attend his launch party and Ben Miller is as funny and warm in the flesh as he comes across on the screen.  With a room full of people vying for his attention he took the time to sign copies of his book and my own young Ben was thrilled to meet him (as was I).  We also chatted and mingled with some lovely people and was finally able to say hello to some familiar faces including children’s author, Philip Ardagh.

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When Ben met Ben

The team at Simon and Schuster did Ben proud and the event was lovely.   We had the opportunity to meet the wonderfully talented illustrator Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini, whose stunning illustrations bring the story to life.  Simon and Schuster’s design team have produced a stunning book complementing both story and illustrations. It truly is beautiful and will make a wonderful early Christmas present or perhaps be the perfect book to share with your little ones in the run up to the big event itself.

 

The Night I Met Father Christmas is available to buy now.  It is already generating wonderful reviews and much excitement.

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Blog Tour, Children's Fiction, Christmas 2018

The Night I Met Father Christmas by Ben Miller with Illustrations by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini

So, earlier I spoke about Ben. Now I would like to mention the beautiful illustrations by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini.

A great story is made even greater by wonderful illustrations and the combined effort of the Simon and Schuster design team and Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini have brought us an absolutely stunning hardback book that will earn precious space on your bookshelf.  It really is a keeper.  The cover is stunning, with gold foil that brings it to life and makes the book literally jump out at you when you see it.  There is so much detail throughout the entire book  and Daniela has created a gorgeous selection of illustrations that complement Ben’s writing brilliantly.  She really is a great talent and I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to ask her the following questions.

How do you begin to create the wonderful art work that brings Ben’s story to life?

‘After having some initial ideas, inspired by the story, I always plunge myself into extensive visual research, mainly to find the kind of visual reference that will support me in drawing characters and things that feel real, that feel like they could exist in a parallel dimension of wonder. The drawing stage always feels quite technical in some ways for me; this is where I sweat to get the composition, anatomy ad perspective right. While the painting stage is really where all the magic happens for me… where I focus on getting the atmosphere and feel right for the picture. And where I feel like I’m in my element. Each stage is very important. But some are more “nerve-wracking” than others….’

If you could choose one other classic Christmas story to illustrate, what would it be?

‘A Christmas Carol of course :), although I would also quite like to make my own version of A Nightmare Before Christmas…’

Do you believe in Father Christmas?

‘Well, I wasn’t sure to begin with if I have to be honest… but reading ‘The Night I Met Father Christmas’ has definitely put the doubts to rest in my mind! I’m definitely going to be putting out mince pies and brandy for him this Christmas!’

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I hope I’ve whetted your appetite for this wonderful book.  Tomorrow I will be kicking off the first day of the official blog tour and I’ll be running a giveaway to win your very own copy The Night I Met Father Christmas so do keep your eyes peeled and don’t forget to follow. 🙂

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