Zi71bFS9nQHnivtvUJquhejTHIQ The Story Factory Reading Zone: August 2014

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Back To School Book Blogger Challange: Day Nine

For the sake of anonymity I won't mention her name. She was my classics teacher in sixth form (and if she's reading this I'm sure she'll know who she is). She made classes fun and made us feel like grown-ups.
We had quite a small classics group, which met in one of the upper rooms in the school. It was a lovely group that enjoyed sharing its learning with each other. Part of the reason for this was the way that our teacher made us all feel valued. I particularly enjoyed when she would set us individual or paired tasks to present a certain topic to the rest of the class. These sessions made us go into much greater detail than we would otherwise on a particular subject, and they often played on our own interests. 

Her lessons felt much more like university seminars than other school lessons. We would sit together round a single table discussing whatever we were studying. Often she would bring us cups of tea and we would share biscuits. She used to tell us it was our little secret, as she shouldn't really be bringing us things out of the staffroom. 

She inspired me to love classics, even the architecture bits which I've never enjoyed learning about with anyone else. As a result I went on to do Ancient History and Archaeology at University, and then did my dissertation about how Ancient History is taught in primary schools (focusing on the Romans mostly). I even began to enjoy using my limited Latin skills to translate tombstones, and inscriptions in churches. 

So you can see that she really shaped my future, giving me increased confidence, as well as inspiring my ongoing learning. If you're reading this, thank-you. 

What do you think makes a good teacher?


Monday, 25 August 2014

Back To School Book Blogger Challenge: Day Eight

I think, for me, the most important thing I've learnt is not to be too preoccupied with visitor and follower statistics. 

When I began blogging it all seemed to be about statistics. Every form seemed to ask how many followers you had, every author wanted to know how many visitors would see their review. To get bigger, you were told, you had to make sure you posted at least once a day. It was important to join all the memes you could, check facebook every hour, and join in as many challenges as possible. In short, it was impossible to be a successful blogger and have any sort of 'real world' life. Or at least, that's how it appeared.

Now don't get me wrong, its good to make sure you have lots of contents on your blog. But its more important to interact properly with your followers and readers, and to get a good blogging-life-work balance. That means that stats can't be everything!

And they don't need to be either! I no longer put stats first, but I still get plenty of book review requests. The authors that ask me seem to be attracted by my style of review, the likelihood of getting a positive review, and (more often than not) simply getting their presence onto as many blogs as possible. 

I also enjoy replying to my comments in a way that wasn't possible when I had loads of people simply posting links to their own blogs, It feels like my readers and much more engaged with what I am posting, and not just jumping through hoops to get their own blogs recognised. 
In short, I'm enjoying blogging much more than I used to!

What would your top tip be for a new book blogger?

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Back To School Book Blogger Challenge: Day Seven

We studied quite a lot of books at school, but if I'm honest very few of them inspired me. My memories of school English Literature lessons are trying to understand Shakepeare and books that I generally found quite boring. 

It was the school English visits and writing assignments that inspired me. I watched Romeo and Juliet (The Leonardo DiCaprio version) for my GCSE coursework and rather enjoyed it. We also went to see a rather shocking (for a niave teenage girl) version of the same play (think nudity). At another time we acted out A Midsummer Night's Dream.

I remember going to see authors. The most memorable of these was seeing Anthony Horowitz. Now before I tell this tale you need to know that I have a short left arm (it only grew to just past the elbow). 
My school was lucky enough to go and listen to Anthony Horowitz talk about one of his latest books alongside several other local schools. I was really excited as I'd been reading some of his books at the time (actually one of these may have been assigned by the school, but I can't remember for sure). Being a young teenager this meant that me and my friends were in a rather silly mood. So, imagine the scene, several hundred young people packed together and listening with rapt attention to one of their favourite authors. At the end he starts to answer questions. "Would you ever give up writing?" one person asks. Mr Horowitz replies that he'd rather lose his left hand. 
At which point my rather over-excited friend started nudging me, "put your hand up, go on". And so, a little embarrassed but over-excited myself, I raised my left arm. 
Well, my memory is that Anthony Horowitz went puce. Poor man, I hadn't meant for him to be that embarrassed! At the signing of Groosham Grange he apologised profusely and I now have a very special signed copy.

What does this have to do with inspiring me you may ask. Well, having already made as much of a fool of myself as I could with Anthony Horowitz I didn't feel as nervous as I normal would writing to him. And so, a while later, I wrote to the author enclosing a story that I myself had written and asking if he had any tips. I may not have (yet) become the author I wished to be back then, but his reply did inspire me to never stop writing. So, without Anthony Horowitz I probably wouldn't be writing this here! 

Have you ever written to an author?
Did you receive a reply?

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Back To School Book Blogger Challenge: Day Six

Keep Blogging Smoothly or Mix Things Up?

Well, I hope my blog does a mixture of these two things already, but I must admit that its got harder now that I have a full time job.

Flowing Smoothly
One of the things I'd like to do this academic year is try to schedule some more posts in advance. I'm aware that my blogging can currently get a little slow during term-time and then suddenly speed up in the holidays (especially the summer ones). To combat this I'd like to spend more time in the holidays blogging and then set posts to come up during term time. These could be review posts, topic posts, or guest posts. 

Mixing Things Up
I want to continue to do memes and challenges during the holiday periods. I want to be more active it finding out when challenges (particularly reading challenges) are taking place and join them when I can. 
I also want to continue on doing more posts about England and indie author/ publishers. I need to try to keep up better with what's going on in the publishing world in order to do this. 

Please share about your blog and what makes it special

Friday, 22 August 2014

Back To School Book Blogger Challenge: Day Five

I wrote quite a lot about this yesterday when answering the question how to foster a love of reading in kids. So today I'd like to focus specifically on bedtime reading.
For as long as I can remember my Mum and Dad have read. As a youngster I was aware of books surrounding me, and enjoyed both the school and public libraries. But my favourite time of the day was most certainly bedtime, because this was when I would get to share a book with my parents.

I can't really remember what books I read in those early days. I'm pretty sure 'The Hungry Caterpillar' was one of them though. The readers I got set by school were generally below my level (there was a prescribed order and you couldn't miss any one) so we enjoyed reading books that my Mum or Dad, Grandma or Auntie had bought for me. My Mum used to talk to me about the pictures and what was going on, encouraging me to sound out the letters as I went. This was our routine and I loved it.

As I got older I began to read at bedtime on my own. I remember hiding the book when my Mum came to kiss me goodnight. She'd tell me to go to sleep and not to read too much. At first she would switch off the light herself, then she began to let me do it to give me a little more reading time (if it didn't go off after a while she'd pop her head round the door and ask me to stop reading). Often the book was too good though and I took to hiding a torch it my bedding and then reading by torchlight until my eyelids started sagging. On a few occasions this was pretty late!

So, what made this love of reading? Well, I guess it was partly the routine. But it was also the memories of lovely times with my parents and that feeling of love that was associated with bedtime. And then there was the fact that I'd often dream about what I'd been reading, sending me off into night-time adventures.

And so reading became for me about love, sharing and adventures. And I guess it still is to some extent for me today. How can you not love that?

What do you love about reading?

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Back To School Book Blogger Challenge: Day Four

First of all let me state that I am not a parent, so I can only speak from my own experiences.

My own love of reading began from an early age. I'm pretty sure that having lots of bookshelves around me and seeing my parents enjoying reading on holiday helped me to see books as something enjoyable and part of normal life. My Mum used to read with me a lot, at bedtime and using school reading books. She asked me questions about the books and got me not just interested in the words, but in what was happening in the pictures and the story as a whole.

As I grew up I began to become interested in writing. Again my Mum fostered this, encouraging me my drawing pictures to accompany my stories. This made words fun for me. I read a lot around this time, looking for inspiration for my own writing, and simply enjoying the stories themselves.

I loved reading at bedtime. As a well-behaved child, the slight risk of trying to read my torch-light after I should have been asleep was exhilarating. I loved a fantastical story (The Faraway Tree was one of my favourite books). These fantasy worlds used to go into my play at school as well.

I guess I was partly a natural reader, and I realise that for others it doesn't necessarily come naturally. However, I can see some common themes that seem to have fostered a love of reading in those kids I have babysat and worked with:

  1. Sharing reading as a family. This should start young, in my opinion. Start by reading to the child, then ask them questions about the pictures, and finally get them to read for themselves. A regular reading slot (ideally bedtime) should be a joy for all, especially in a busy household. Parents should let the children see them enjoying the story, and getting excited by the child's own enthusiasm. 
  2. Read fun books. School reading schemes are all well and good, but they do not generally foster a love of reading. It's important to let a child pick what they want to read where possible. Buy books with characters and themes that they enjoy. Take them to the library and let them chose a book. If they like non-fiction then that's OK as well! And don't just read out of book- let them see you making up your own stories or retelling well known ones. One of the things that's shocked me the most at my local Junior Church is that children no longer seem to know you're telling them a story unless it comes out of a book! How can they enjoy making up their own stories if they think they need to be written down?!
  3. Set a good example! By this I mean letting the children see you reading. The best time to do this, in my opinion, is on holiday when you can really settle down and enjoy a good book. Now, I realise this may be easier said than done if you have young children running round your feet. But maybe you could occasionally let them go off to holiday club and return to discover you reading. You need to give the impression that this is more important to you than cleaning or cooking dinner! Then it may become important to them as well!
  4. Encourage reading wherever possible! What are the ingredients on the cereal? Can you read the menu at the restaurant? What does that sign say? Make reading a part of everyday life! And if your children show any enthusiasm then go with the flow! If you want to foster a love of reading then you have to make time for it!
  5. Encourage friends and family to give books as presents. To do this you will need to make sure you keep them up to date with reading ability and interests of your child. However, I think its worth it as then they see reading as something that society values and not just their immediate family. 

To add to all this, I would also suggest making reading a game. Maybe you could join BookCrossing and then they could help you register and wild release books. What could be more exciting than tracking a book's journey round the world? And for the computer lover, it also gives another route into reading by encouraging them to read a book before they can do they ICT part.

What would your tips be for encouraging reading?

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Bout of Books: Day Three Update

Time devoted to reading
I went away for a long weekend, during which I was able to do a little more reading than usual. I went to bed a little early last night and did a bit of extra reading. I also read for about half an hour before lunch today. All in all, I have devoted a little more time to reading than usual. I plan to do a decent amount of reading this afternoon as well.

My goals

I have:

  • read more than usual (so far). I have managed not to be distracted by facebook or twitter
  • joined in with the Book Spine Poetry Challenge

Books To Read 

I have read:
  1. The World of Poo by Terry Pratchett (my August Random Read)
  2. some of Lily: An American Fable by Samuel Bagby (there will be more about this in my review)
I am reading:
  • I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

How are you doing in the Bout of Books Readathon?
What are you reading? 

Back To School Book Blogger Challenge: Day Three

I'm not sure if its my most memorable school memory, but it's probably my most memorable book-related school memory.

My best friend (Joanna) and I used to have the honour and privilege of being school librarians at my primary school. In truth I suspect we were the only ones interested, but being a book lover I really enjoyed it. It meant sorting out the books and keeping them neat and tidy. We learnt how to use the dewey decimal system and the catalogue. We got to help people choose their books. Best of all though, it was a lovely quiet place where we could get plenty of our own reading done.
What are your library memories?

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Bout of Books Day Two: Book Spine Poetry

Welcome to my second day of the Bout of Books Readathon

Updates, reviews etc. coming up soon but, in the meantime, here's book spine poetry:
What is Book Spine Poetry?
Take a minimum of 3 books put them in a pile to make a poem.

Does it have to rhyme?
No.  Not at all.  The poem doesn't have to make sense at all either.

OK. Cool!  What are the rules?
1.  Minimum of 3 books and no maximum.
2.  All words in title of the book go toward your poem
3.  Take a picture of your poem and type it out so we can read it.
4.  Post it to your blog, Facebook, Twitter or wherever.
5.  Fill out the rafflecopter to enter the giveaway.
6.  Add your URL to the linky on My Little Pocket Books 

I can't take a picture at the moment, so I hope you'll forgive me for skipping part of number 3 and trust that I do actually have these books on my shelf.

I Was Just Wandering (Jeff Lucas)
Around The World on a Penny-Farthing (Thomas Stevens)
A New Kind of Christian ( Brian D. McLaren),
The Girl In The Painted Caravan (Eva Petulengro),
"Meet Me At The Olive Tree (Julia Fisher)
Bacon Sandwiches and Salvation" (Adrian Plass) 

Back To School Book Blogger Challenge Day Two

Day Two: Share Your Dream Reading Assignments
If I'm honest, the idea of reading assignments is totally against what I believe in. But, I presume, the English equivalent would be to set homework to go home and read books studied in class. So, I'm going to answer the question 'what books would I like to see studied in schools'.
Now, this is very topical in this country as we've recently had quite a bit of controversy regarding Mr Gove trying to make our reading more 'English' and 'traditional'. Personally I'd like to see some more modern stuff in there that deals with issues people are really interested in.
I thought I'd find it really easy to come up with a list of these sort of books but, to be honest, I'm struggling. I do know I believe all school children should read books by Michael Morpurgo (some good links with other subjects there). Other than that, it is very hard to choose which books to pick. I would like books that cover a range of cultures, times and places; books that stir the imagination; as well as a few that teach them about traditional English stories. I think I would include Animal Farm, and there is certainly room for some Shakespeare (Midsummer Night's Dreams is probably my favourite). I would like Huckleberry Finn to be included as well.
Looking at this from a different, purely selfish, angle, I would like to be able to discuss some of The Chronicles of Narnia, Philip Pullman, and Jasper Fforde's Dragonslayer.
So, my dream reading assignments for a year? Well pick from those above and I guess it would make a truly eclectic mix.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Back To School Blogger Challenge: Day One

I'm joining in with the Back to School Book Blogger Challenge for the next 9 days. As its still holiday season in the UK, I'm looking a these as holiday homeworks.

Day One: Share a Little Bit About Yourself

Hi, I'm Abigail. I live in England, near Oxford. I love reading and making music. Now and again I take up cross-stitch tapestries, making cards, or an interest in history. I like to blog and write, but wish I had more time to do it. In my spare time I enjoy spending quiet time with my books, meditating, journaling, or gazing at beautiful countryside.

What do you enjoy doing?

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Bout of Books 11 Goals

Tomorrow sees the beginning of the Bout of Books Readathon. So, before we start, here are my goals:

Time Devoted to Reading
I'm basically going to read as much as I can during the week. I expect this will be more on the Wednesday and Thursday than on  other days because of my busy schedule. I'm aiming to spend one of these two days mainly reading.

My Goals
  • To spend more time reading than I usually do (not get too distracted by twitter and facebook)
  • To particpate with at least some of the challenges

Books To Read
  1. My August Random Read (still to be chosen when writing)
  2. Lily: An American Fable by Samuel Bagby
  3. I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore  
If I only finish one of these I'll be pleased, but I'm aiming for all three.

What are your plans for this week?

Saturday, 16 August 2014

August Random Reads

My random read this month was number 226 out off 258 books on my 'I Want to Read' shelves (a combination of TBR and books I want to re-read).

The winner is:

The World of Poo by Terry Pratchett

I'm quite please with this as its one of the few discworld books that I haven't got round to reading yet. It been sitting on my shelf waiting for me to read it when I get to the relevant part of Snuff in which its mentioned. Unfortunately, as my discworld readingt in order has slowed down this would have taken a while.

From Goodreads:

A Discworld picture book. At six o'clock every day, without fail, with no excuses, Sam Vimes must go home to read 'The World of Poo', with all the appropriate noises, to his little boy.  A picturebook that picks up a story from 'Snuff!', the brand new Discworld novel.

What are you reading this August?

BookCrossing and London Riverside Trail Book-Benches

Last weekend I was very lucky to be able to meet up with a select bunch of lovely BookCrossers in London. We spent time bagging up books for wild releasing, and most of us had lunch at the Camel and Artichoke.

Then we went off on a release walk, leaving labelled and bagged books for people to find all down the riverside. For those who don't know the idea of bookcrossing is to spread a love of books. Those who find books are encouraged by a little message to go to the bookcrossing website and leave a journal entry to say they've 'caught' it. They can also review the book. We hope that these books will then be 'released' to others, allowing those who have previously had them to track their journey. These are travelling books!

It was great fun trying to sneak books onto benches, but then best bit was looking at London's book-benches. I did take some photos, but as they were on my phone (quite an old model) they didn't come out brilliantly. So the following pictures of my favourite benches are from the Books About Town website:

Paddington Bear

This bear looked really 3D, sitting on the bench eating his jam sandwiches. I used to love watching the Paadington Bear TV programmes when I was younger, so this was a treat to see.
He's also a great example of someone exploring English culture, having immigrated from Lima.

The Librarian
Regular readers of The Story Factory Reading Zone will not be surprised to learn that this was my favourite bench. The choice of The Librarian is a really appropriate one, since he looks after all the books in the Unseen University (and probably on the entire discworld). Incidentally, those who aren't familiar with Terry Pratchett's series may wonder why the books are chained up. Well, quite simply books can be dangerous and have a life of their own!

You can find details of the whole of the Riverside Trial in London here. The benches will be in position until the 15th of September and will then be auctioned for charity. I hope you will get to see them and enjoy them as much as I did.

What literary pieces of art have you seen?

Monday, 11 August 2014

Clear Your TBR Pile Conclusion

OK, so life got in the way again.

In the end I read the following books:

Hopefully I'll have more luck with my next reading challenge: Bout of Books

Do check out more about the Clear Your TBR Pile Challenge at Fly to Fiction

What have you been reading?

Friday, 8 August 2014

Fridayy Feature and Follow- Get Your Hop On

Hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read

This weeks Question:
  Social Share! What is your favorite social network and leave us a link so we can join you!
My favourite social network is Twitter: @story_factory
You can also follow me on Facebook: The Story Factory Reading Zone

Thursday, 7 August 2014

36 Arguments for the Existence of God by Rebecca Goldstein (A Review)

Goodreads Summary:

After Cass Seltzer’s book becomes a surprise best seller, he’s dubbed “the atheist with a soul” and becomes a celebrity. He wins over the stunning Lucinda Mandelbaum, “the goddess of game theory,” and loses himself in a spiritually expansive infatuation. A former girlfriend appears: an anthropologist who invites him to join in her quest for immortality through biochemistry. And he is haunted by reminders of the two people who ignited his passion to understand religion: his mentor and professor—a renowned literary scholar with a suspicious obsession with messianism—and an angelic six-year-old mathematical genius who is heir to the leadership of a Hasidic sect. Each encounter reinforces Cass’s theory that the religious impulse spills over into life at large.

36 Arguments for the Existence of God plunges into the great debate of our day: the clash between faith and reason. World events are being shaped by fervent believers at home and abroad, while a new atheism is asserting itself in the public sphere. On purely intellectual grounds the skeptics would seem to have everything on their side. Yet people refuse to accept their seemingly irrefutable arguments and continue to embrace faith in God as their source of meaning, purpose, and comfort.

My review:
I'm not quite sure what I was expecting from the cover of this book, but what I got wasn't quite what I expected. It took me a little while to consider if this was a good or a bad thing. This wasn't because I didn't enjoy the book, on the contrary I had no negative feelings about it at all. It was just that, for some reason, the whole thing left me so spellbound that at first I wasn't sure what I thought at all. Let me explain.
The characters seemed so real at times that it was hard to believe this wasn't really happening around me. Some moments felt like reading private diaries, others like watching a drama on TV. I felt connected to Cass and Azarya, whilst Klapper infuriated me at times as much as he would of had he been real.
The insights into Hasidic Judaism were particularly interesting to me, as there were lots of things mentioned that I didn't know anything about. It felt like I was being let into a totally new world, and being guided around by someone who really wanted me to understand what was going on.
At the back of the book are the 36 Arguments for the Existence of God I was not sure when to read these. Part of me thought I should use them as a reference too, looking at them each time they were mentioned in the story. However, the flow of the book stopped me doing this. In the end I decided to read them when I had finished the story. I'm quite glad I did this as I think they made more sense that way.
The philosophical arguments were quite hard to follow in places, making this unsuitable for a light read. I found that if I was tired words in these passages could just float over me with no meaning. However, this didn't seem to cause me any problems with the story as a whole.
I think I really enjoyed this book, however there is something so profound about it that I am still struggling to come to grips with my true feelings.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Back To School Book Blogger Challenge

OK so its not back to school yet for us Brits, but that's no reason to not join in with what sounds like a fun blogger challenge!

It's hosted by Parajunkee.com and the idea is that for 9 days starting on the 18th August participating blogs post about a set subject and then link up.

Join me each day during that period and I'll be attempting to post something relevant.

In the meantime:
What's your favourite challenge/meme this summer?

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

First Chapter, First Paragraph Tuesdays Intros & Teaser Tuesday

Introducing 'A Vision of Angels' by Timothy Jay Smith:
The boy shakes his best friend's hand and wills his eyes to express love. He's seen how it's done on the soaps his mother watches, the squinting and forced tears, though there's nothing forced for him. He may never see his friend again.

What do you think so far?
Would you read more? 

Well, here's a little taste more from where I've got to:

Efrahim dragged his lagging feet up another step and attacked the next with his crutches. "I am late. my lovely Katya, because sometimes only the afternoon light can solve a problem a perspective. Alas, today was only darkness.

Monday, 4 August 2014

It's Monday: What Are You Reading? AND Clear Your TBR Pile Challenge Update

I'm still finishing off 36 Arguments for The Existence of God, but I am in the appendix now. It's a very interesting book, not at all what I expected. I will post my final thoughts soon in a review.

Next up is A Vision of Angels by Timothy Jay Smith, a book about Jerusalem and Gaza that I have been asked to review. I think its very appropriate considering current events.

I'm hoping to pick the book after as part of the August Random Reads meme (I've posted a link to where I found out about it, as the official link-up doesn't seem to have appeared yet). That means I don't yet know what my next book will be after that (such fun!). 

What are you reading?


Sunday, 3 August 2014

Review: The No. 9 Bus To Utopia


Singing plants, a spiritual caravan park. a community of Czech dominatrixes and time travel? David Bramwell got more than he bargained for when he went looking for a new way of life.

My review:
Like many of us at some point in our lives, David Bramwell decided that he needed something different from life. For him, this was a quest to find Utopia. But what did Utopia truly mean? This book chronicles to journey to his answer, and helps the reading formulate their own reply.
Each community that David visits in interesting in its own way. He describes every one with feeling and genuine interest, drawing the reader into considering their benefits and negative aspects. It piqued my inquisitive nature, occasionally making me feel as if I'd been let into some hidden world.
As David travels we ca begin to glimpse not just the physical journeys he made during the book, but also the mental and philosophical ones. With frankness, he describes how his out-look was changed and affected by each new experience. Its easy to sympathise (and sometimes laugh) with him.
Most of all this is a truly though-provoking yet easy to read book. I picked it up at the same time as another and yet was so gripped by it that I read the whole thing in less than two days. 
A great book for anyone who is, or has ever searched for Utopia. Or simply for those who like exploring different ways of living through other communities or closer at home. 

What is your idea of Utopia?

Friday, 1 August 2014

Feature and Follow Friday #212

Gain new followers and make new friends with the Book Blogger Feature & Follow!

The Feature & Follow is hosted by TWO hosts, Parajunkee of Parajunkee's View and Alison of Alison Can Read. Each host will have their own Feature Blog and this way it'll allow us to show off more new blogs!

Each week there is also a Featured Blogger, from all different genres and areas. Find out who they are at Parajunkee or Alison Can Read. It is required, if you participate, to follow the Feature and the hosts.

Question of the Week: What is the biggest city you live near (or interesting landmark)? Show us a postcard picture.


A. My nearest city is Oxford, which I guess is a place lots of people know about. Its famous for its university spires and The Bodleian Library amongst other things.

Oxford's Dreaming Spires

Radcliffe Camera (Old Bodleian)

Bridge of Sighs

Of course, Oxford is also famous for being the filming location for many TV series and films, including Inspector Morse and Harry Potter.

Christchurch Dining Hall, (almost) as seen in Harry Potter

Finally, this being a book blog, you can't ignore Oxford's Literary Heritage. Oxford has links with many famous authors including C.S. Lewis, Tolkein, and Lewis Carroll. It is also popular for having several Blackwells bookshops (it should be noted that there is also a Waterstones).

There is lots more I could say about Oxford, and probably lots I don't know as well, but that's all I have time for at the moment.

Have you ever visited Oxford? 
What would you say its most famous for?

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