PHOTOS: Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt at the première of ‘Unbroken’

Big thanks to HarperCollins Australia for the invitations to the première of Angelina Jolie’s new film Unbroken. In particular Kelly Fagan and Kate Mayes. The film is based on the book, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand which is an account of the life of Louis Zamperini – Olympian, bombardier, castaway, prisoner of war and inspiration. Angelina Jolie directed and produced Unbroken which was filmed in NSW and Queensland, Australia.

Louis Zamperini’s life story is one of extraordinary hardship, which makes for some tense viewing, but his indomitable spirit leaves you cheering for each of his small victories. This is a movie for those who want to regain their faith in the human spirit and for those who just like a good movie.

Unbroken is on general release in Australia on 15th January 2015 which gives everyone time to… READ THE BOOK!

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9780008108342Unbroken

by Laura Hillenbrand

The incredible true story of Louis Zamperini – Now a major motion picture

On a May afternoon in 1943, a US bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean. After an agonising delay, a young lieutenant finally bobbed to the surface and struggled aboard a life raft.

So begins one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War. The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. As a boy, he turned to petty crime until he discovered a remarkable talent for running, which took him to the Berlin Olympics. But as war loomed, he joined up and was soon embroiled in the ferocious battle for the Pacific.

Now Zamperini faced a journey of thousands of miles of open ocean on a failing raft, dogged by sharks, starvation and the enemy. Driven to limits of endurance, Zamperini’s fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would depend on the strength of his will…

Grab a copy of Unbroken here

Adam Gilchrist plays Office Cricket at Booktopia HQ!

And who got him out? Watch the video and find out!

(PS: For a limited time, order your signed copy of Gilly’s illustrated memoir here)

adam-gilchrist-signed-copies-available-Adam Gilchrist

The Man, The Cricketer, The Legend

Going in first or seventh, wearing whites or colours, Adam Gilchrist was the most exhilarating cricketer of the modern age.

This is the most complete, intimate and fascinating illustrated autobiography of ‘Gilly’, one of the most loved sportsmen of his generation.

Featuring personal photographs, stories and precious keepsakes from Gilchrist’s private life and illustrious career, this book provides unprecedented access to Gilly, on and off the field. Peppered with anecdotes, reflections and jibes from friends, family and many of the biggest names in Australian and world cricket, this is the ultimate collection for sporting enthusiasts.

Grab a copy of Adam Gilchrist: The Man, The Cricketer, The Legend here

9781922213310-4 9781922213310-3

Grab a copy of Adam Gilchrist: The Man, The Cricketer, The Legend here

40 Years On: Prince Charles roasts Molly Meldrum

The Never, Um, Ever Ending Story:
Life, Countdown and Everything in Between

By: Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum

the-never-um-ever-ending-storyMolly Meldrum’s warm, vivid, often hilarious and always compelling account of life in and out of Countdown.

More than thirty-five years in the making, this is the story of Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum and the television show that stopped the nation.

In 1974 Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum was working as a record producer and music journalist when he was offered the chance to host a new music show called Countdown. It was a show that would run for the next thirteen years and become one of the most-loved and most-watched programs on Australian television. It also turned Molly into a national institution (or ‘mental institution’ as one of his friends put it).

During that period he not only became the most influential voice in Australian music, he endeared himself to millions of viewers with a uniquely unpolished interviewing style and a tangible on-screen passion. For better or worse, whether interviewing Prince Charles or Sid Vicious, Molly was always Molly.

Along the way he talked, partied, argued, exchanged blows and became firm friends with a rollcall of the world’s greatest musical names.

Filled with outrageous anecdotes, an incredible cast of musos, deadbeats, transvestites and international superstars, The Never, Um, Ever Ending Story is Molly’s hilarious, vivid, warm and always compelling memoir of these incredible years.

Click here to grab a copy of The Never, Um, Ever Ending Story

Samantha Verant, author of Seven Letters from Paris, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Samantha Verant

author of Seven Letters from Paris

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Los Angeles at UCLA hospital in October of 1969, and I led the quintessential beach baby lifestyle…until my biological father drove off into the California sunset, leaving my mom and me in the sand. (Where are those tiny violins when I need them?) After spending some time with the grandparents at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, mom and I packed up our bags and headed to Chicago in 1972. In 1975, my mom married Tony, the only father (and best dad in the world) I’ve ever known. He formally adopted me at the age of ten, shortly before the birth of my sister, Jessica.

A classically trained mezzo-soprano, in 1985 I attended The Chicago Academy for the Performing and Visual Arts, choosing theater as my major. In 1986, because of my father’s rising career in the world of advertising, our family moved to Boston and two years later to London. Along with these moves, my interests and dreams metamorphosed and art became a big part of my life. I traded in arias and monologues for advertising design, graduating cum laude from Syracuse University, and moved back to Chicago.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

I suppose I’ve always been a creative type – a bit of a renaissance woman who believes in self-expression, but without the tattoos. I’m terrified of needles. At the age of twelve, I wanted to be singer or an actress, or maybe a dancer. And I wanted to be Nadia Comaneci, the gymnast. (This last career option was cut short when I tried to back-flip off a mailbox and broke my arm). At the age of eighteen, I wanted to be an artist. And at the age of thirty, I was a graphic designer. It wasn’t until my late thirties I discovered a love for the written word, a place where I could express myself by singing with my voice, acting out scenes, and designing worlds all on a blank page. I’m surprised the writing bug didn’t bite me sooner, considering I’ve been a book omnivore since the age of three. Note: I was an early reader not an actual book eater.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

Author: Samantha Verant

Like most eighteen-year-olds, I thought I knew everything about everything. As I grew older, I realized I didn’t have the world figured out. At all. In fact, I’m always learning something new. (Currently, the French language and all those dreaded conjugations keep me busy). Although I try to keep the spirit of my inner-eighteen-year-old alive and kicking, I now know that life is about figuring things out one day at a time and that there are no short cuts.

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

I’ve traveled the world, lived in many places, and worked many jobs. I’ve been married and I’ve been divorced. I’ve had many successes and more than a few failures— always on the search for the one thing that truly excited me. Then, one day, I finally found everything I’d been looking for: a passion for the written word and true love. Writing not only enabled me to open my heart, it led me to southwestern France, where I’m now married to a sexy French rocket scientist I met over twenty years ago. The above has definitely impacted my life and has opened up a new and exciting career path to me. With two books out on the market, I can now proudly say ‘I’m a writer’ without an affected accent. Damn straight. I’m proud.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? Aren’t they obsolete?

What! Say it ain’t so! Books will never be obsolete! Books shape our lives, challenging us to learn and to think. They transport us and open us to new worlds and ideas. The electronic media avenues support books, not vice versa. I chose to write Seven Letters from Paris because I believe it delivers a message of hope. But to get to that message, I needed a beginning, a middle, and an ending– to tell the whole story. And writing this memoir allowed me to do just that. I’m more than happy to talk about my book on TV or on the radio. And, like any writer, I’d love to see Seven Letters from Paris: The Movie. So if there are any interested parties out there, you can find my contact info on my blog. Can I insert a Dr. Evil laugh here? mwa-ha-ha.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Seven Letters from Paris is the true “second chance” story of how I restarted my life and rebooted my heart.

Five years ago, I was on the cusp of turning forty…and a woman on the verge of a potential nervous breakdown. The recent victim of a company wide lay-off, I owed over twenty thousand dollars on three different Visas with no hopes to pay it off. Anger and resentment had taken its toll on what started out as a happy marriage. For eight years, I’d been sharing the guest bedroom with my black Labrador retriever, Ike. I didn’t have actual kids, save for my furry replacement child.

Instead of spinning my wheels on the corner of misery and despair all alone, I met up with my best friend of twenty-something years, Tracey. Over a bottle of pinot noir, our conversation changed from my imminent divorce to happier times, specifically our 1989 trip to Paris. Tracey pitched me an idea: we were going to create a love blog using the seven old love letters I’d received from Jean-Luc, the sexy French rocket scientist I’d met at a café when I was nineteen.

Intrigued by her idea (and looking for an ounce of hope), I pulled Jean-Luc’s letters out of their plastic storage container that very same night. Instead of hope, I found regret. I began questioning things like: why didn’t I have children? Did I really have issues with men because my biological father deserted my mother and me? If Jean-Luc was so special, why did I dump him at a train platform and never answer even one of his seven heartfelt letters? And, more importantly, why did I hang on to his letters?

A realization hit: I’d been so afraid of falling in love I’d never truly done it.

I knew, in order for me to move on and live out the happy life I desperately wanted, I needed to deal with these questions from my past — one regret/problem at a time, starting with the easiest one first. Thanks to Google, it was easy to find Jean-Luc and I got off to a quick start.

When I sent off my two-decade-delayed apology, I thought I was only looking for forgiveness. I wound up getting a lot more than that. One email led to another, and I was able to do something I hadn’t been able to do in the past: I opened up my heart— online. I also found the courage to change everything in my life.

HEA. All the way!

Grab a copy of Samantha’s book Seven Letters from Paris here

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

People need to open up their hearts, to dare to live and to love big, and to not be afraid to fail along the way. I think many people in this crazy world of ours are terrified of change and taking risks, so I’d like to see that change. We only have one life. It’s up to us to take accountability for our happiness.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

This is going to be a clichéd/canned answer: my mother. She amazes me. I mean, how many women on this planet can say that one of their best friends is their mom? Well, mine is. In fact, she is my best friend. This is not to say we’ve never had our issues. I was a sixteen-year-old once. And she can have her “opinions,” whether I want to hear them or not. But my mom and I grew up together. At the young age of twenty-one, she gave birth to little me and was forced to put her dreams aside. Instead of being bitter, she always surrounded me with love and unwavering support, pushing me to be the best person I could be. Not many people are content living vicariously through somebody else. My mom was…and is. Seven Letter from Paris is not just a story about rekindling a romance with a sexy Frenchman; it’s also a love letter to my mom. Yes, she’s read the book. And, yes, it made her cry– happy tears, of course!

9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

Here we go. The cat is about to be let out of the proverbial bag. I’m a genre jumper. Not many writers have romantic memoirs and middle grade books about mutant kids coming out at the same time. (I thought about using a pen name for the MG, but why bother? The truth? It always comes out). With that said, I’d love to write memoir book two, continue writing middle grade, and explore all of my passion projects, one, of which, is a historical fiction/magical realism concept about wine. So, yes, I want to be a successful genre jumper and not hide behind a pen name. Wish me luck?

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Oh, boy! I have a lot of advice. Work on your craft. Connect with other writers. Build up your platform, your social connections. No matter how supportive she is– your mother is NOT a critique partner or a beta reader! And neither is your sister, spouse, or best friend. Put your work out there. Yes, with strangers. Remember that publishing is subjective. Don’t be afraid of rejection. Learn the business of publishing. Never pitch your work as the next big seller. Take critiques with an open mind and don’t get angry. Your writing partners want the best for you. When critiquing others, go for the sugar, salt, sugar method. (What’s good about the story, what needs to be worked on, and what totally rocks). Kill your darlings. (There will be things you think are awesome or funny, but others, simply put, will not). If you’re writing a memoir, hire an editor to work with you on the manuscript before you pitch it to agents and/or publishers. You will need an objective eye. Celebrate your victories…and your defeats. You’re one step closer. Forgive typos; they happen to everybody. Roll up your sleeves, prepare to get dirty, and work hard. Don’t send your work off to an agent or publisher until it’s polished. Revise. Edit. Repeat. Be patient. When you can’t stand to look at your manuscript anymore…it’s ready.

Even if you have to shelve your first manuscript, or the second, no matter how amazing you think it is, don’t let it get you down. The great thing about writing is you can always dust yourself off and turn the page. Write another book. Revise. Edit. Repeat. This business takes guts. Are you ready to earn your racing stripes?

It took me seven years (there’s my number) to get where I am today, meaning two books under my belt. My publishing journey wasn’t easy and there were no short cuts. (Some people get lucky! We will lynch them later.) Alas, the most important advice I can give is: Never give up! It takes an extraordinary amount of courage to put yourself out there. If you really want to be a writer, you can do it.

Sometimes I call myself Seabiscuit. Thankfully, I found the right people who believed in me and pushed me forward. Now that I’ve been trained by the best, it’s off to the races. If I fall down, I’ll just dust off my knees and get back up. Giddy-up.

Samantha, thank you for playing.

 Grab a copy of Seven Letters from Paris here


Seven Letters from Paris

by Samantha Verant

In the best romantic tradition of Almost French, a woman falls madly in love with a Frenchman in Paris, but with a twist. It takes her twenty years to find him again …

Samantha’s life is falling apart – she’s lost her job, her marriage is on the rocks and she’s walking dogs to keep the wolf from the door.

When she stumbles across seven love letters from the handsome Frenchman she fell head over heels for in Paris when she was 19, she can’t help but wonder, what if?

One carefully worded, very belated email apology, it’s clear that sometimes love does give you a second chance.

Jetting off to France to reconnect with a man you knew for just one day is crazy – but it’s the kind of crazy Samantha’s been waiting for her whole life.

Truth may be stranger than fiction but sometimes it’s better than your wildest dreams.

Deliciously funny, honest and beyond romantic, Seven Letters is the perfect feel-good gift for any woman with a heartbeat.

 Grab a copy of Seven Letters from Paris here

BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG : Roy Higgins: Australia’s Favourite Jockey by Patrick Bartley

roy-higginsThe Melbourne Spring Carnival throws up uncertainty as quickly as the odds change in the Melbourne Cup all-in market. The favourite one day, can find himself the despised outsider. Every year we play the guessing game that is the Spring Carnival.

It’s never an exact science, and in my thirty-eight years as a racing writer, I’ve seen Caulfield Cup winners and likely Melbourne Cup victors pull out an indifferent track gallop, draw a bad barrier or rain affected track as the punters watch their hard-earned go down the drain, figuratively speaking.

In the spring of 1965, the Caulfield Cup favourite was scratched the morning of, and only one man thought she’d ever make it to the first Tuesday in November. That man of course, was arguably Australia’s greatest ever jockey – Roy Higgins. I had the pleasure of working with and relying on Higgins for information during my time as a daily paper journalist, and his account of the three incredibly crucial weeks between the two Cups was pivotal to the bond between horse and jockey that would transcend Australian racing and connect with the hearts of the general public.

After nearly falling in her final lead up to the Caulfield Cup, Light Fingers’ trainer Bart Cummings had no choice but to withdraw her from Australia’s second most important handicap. Unlike humans, you can only treat horses to a certain degree. You can’t over-medicate them because they can go off their feed. Light Fingers was a small, lightly framed mare as it was and she needed all the strength she could muster to get to the Melbourne Cup. It was a balance of easing the pain with medication, but at the same time being able to work her into fitness so that she was ready for arguably the toughest race in the Southern Hemisphere.

Ironically, she was in so much pain that she couldn’t have a jockey on her back, and instead Cummings and his team had to swim her in the Maribyrnong River, hoping that those miles of swimming would translate to miles in her legs.

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Patrick Bartley

Higgins told me that during this uncertain time, where his favourite horse, who he called ‘Mother’ because of her calming nature for the other horses in the stable, that he wasn’t sure she would make it to the Cup, but he was willing to forego rides on other fancied runners in the hope that she would make it.

“There was no shortage of outside offers once Light Fingers came out of the Caulfield Cup. Other stables had written her off, but I stood my ground. She had so much to offer, I was prepared to stay with her. I knew, unlike other trainers and owners, that Bart was working around the clock. My filly’s so good that if she gets to the post she just might win and if she does it would break my heart not to be her rider.”

As history tells us, this tiny chestnut mare, who had a heart as big as Phar Lap, not only made it to the barriers, but she wore down another of Cummings’ runners who was a big, strong colt and had had a faultless preparation, called Ziema. Higgins said that because Light Fingers had been used to calm Ziema down when he was being unruly around the stable, that when the colt felt her presence, he started to slow down and wait for her, which was when she stuck her neck out and did the unthinkable.

I remember visiting Higgs’ house many times over the years, and of all the winners he had ridden, and the great races he had won, the only framed photo was of Light Fingers.

Even though that was almost forty years ago, every spring carnival tells similar tales. From Big Philou in 1969 to the Caulfield Cup’s shortest-priced favourite in forty-one years, when Maldivian played up at the start and was withdrawn thirty seconds before the gates opened, the Spring throws up things that no trainer, punter or racing journalist can prepare for, but must quickly adapt to.

Grab a copy of Roy Higgins here


roy-higginsRoy Higgins

by Patrick Bartley

Everyone loved Roy Higgins. A warm and genuine character with a great sense of humour, the boy from the bush was known as ‘The Professor’ for his freakish ability to read the track and his easy eloquence. He became a household name not just for his work in the saddle but as one of the first jockeys to embrace the media.

Higgins’ racing record was extraordinary. He rode Bart Cummings’ first Melbourne Cup winner, Light Fingers, in 1965, and was one of a handful of jockeys to win the grand slam of racing: the Golden Slipper, Cox Plate, Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup. Over his 30-year career, Higgins clocked up 2312 wins, including 108 Group 1 races. All this, despite a never-ending battle with his weight.

Roy Higgins died in March 2014, aged 75. His televised funeral took place in the mounting yard at Flemington, a fitting tribute to the humble man who had a profound effect on horseracing for more than five decades as jockey, commentator and teacher.

This is a celebration of a great Australian, with racing royalty, friends and family sharing their stories and memories of Roy Higgins, the gentle trailblazer who touched their lives.

About the Author

Patrick Bartley is the chief racing writer at The Age. In 2013 he won his second Bert Wolfe Award, the Victoria Racing Media Association (VRMA) award for Media Excellence in Victoria. Leading up to that award, Patrick had won three consecutive VRMA awards for Best News Story. Patrick’s investigative reports with John Silvester, into Tony Mokbel’s racing interests in 2007, were recognised by many as highly influential pieces. Penguin published On the Punt, a collection of Patrick’s columns, in 2010.

Grab a copy of Roy Higgins here

BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: My Journey Started With a Book by Kurt Fearnley, author of Pushing the Limits

In many ways, my journey started with a book. When I was a baby, my mum had been wandering through the maze of disability when someone gave her a copy of Alan Marshall’s I Can Jump Puddles. This book is as close as you’ll get to a ‘how to’ guide for raising a child with a disability in the bush. It’s the story of a boy who lost the use of his legs through polio and follows his growth into a young man. When the medical profession told my mum that the focus should be on me looking normal, Alan wrote about feeling normal. When the medicos pushed the importance of me being kept clean and safe inside the house, Alan spoke of the self-confidence he gained by dragging himself through mud.

Kurt Fearnley credit Tim BauerMy family only wanted one thing for my life, and that was normality. They believed that the worst possible repercussion of my disability was that I would live my life watching it from behind a window. Alan Marshall’s I Can Jump Puddles gave them the confidence to allow me to be out there and in the driver’s seat. Whatever way I would propel myself up every tree and over every damn muddy puddle that I could possibly veer into, it would be a long way from that window.

Another book that I will never forget is Bryce Courtenay’s The Power of One. My sister Tanya would read this to me in my late primary school days. It was before I had found my way into sport but after I had left my cocoon of Carcoar, around the time I had started to figure out that I was different. No matter how much I tried, I would never be the same as my able-bodied peers. I had started to experience people staring at me as they passed by. The confusion I felt when they reflected my difference directly back at me was a hard thing to handle. In a way, I found confidence in Peekay, the seven-year-old boy with dreams of being the welterweight champion of the world. He was different, he was smaller, he was Piss Kop, but he was strong. I must have read The Power of One a hundred times since I was eleven. Before Bryce passed away, I had the good fortune to thank him for giving me Peekay.

I have loved every minute of my journey and I can’t ever understand the adulation that I have received because of it. I find it hard to predict what someone will get from reading Pushing the Limits but I know that I Can Jump Puddles and The Power of One gave me strength when I needed it. If my story offers one ounce of this kind of strength to a reader, then every metre that I have travelled is more rewarding because of it.

Pushing the Limits is a part of Penguin Australia’s Booktoberfest Showcase.
Click here for more details
.


Kurt-Fearnley-560x560Kurt Fearnley was born without the lower portion of his spine. He grew up in tiny Carcoar in NSW, and took up wheelchair racing in his teens. He has gone on to be a three-time Paralympic gold medallist and has won marathons all around the world, including the prestigious New York, London and Chicago marathons multiple times.

His exploits are not confined to wheelchair racing – he has crawled the Kokoda track and the Great Wall of China and sailed with a winning Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race crew. Kurt’s exploits both in and out of sport saw him recognised as the 2009 NSW Young Australian of the Year. He lives in Newcastle with his wife and son.


pushing-the-limitsPushing the Limits

by Kurt Fearnley

When Kurt Fearnley was a kid, he would leave his wheelechair at the front gate and go exploring with his brothers and sisters. ‘You’re going to have to be stronger than we are,’ they told him, ‘and we know you will be.’

The kid from Carcoar was raised to believe he could do anything. At fifteen, he won his first medal. Then he conquered the world, winning three Paralympic gold medals, seven world championships and more than 35 marathons. A world-beater in and out of his wheelchair, Kurt is a true Australian champion.

Inspiring, exhilarating and highly entertaining, Pushing the Limits takes us inside the mind of a kid with a disability growing up in a tiny town, a teenager finding his place in the world, and an elite sportsman who refuses to give up, no matter how extreme the challenge.

Pushing the Limits is a part of Penguin Australia’s Booktoberfest Showcase.
Click here for more details
.

BOOK REVIEW: Hitler’s Last Witness: The Memoirs of Hitler’s Bodyguard by Rochus Misch (Review by Kate Forsyth)

9781925106107Anyone who is fascinated and troubled by Adolf Hitler and his actions will find much to interest them in this memoir written by one of his bodyguards, Rochus Misch. The Führer’s bodyguards accompanied him everywhere, and so were witnesses to many secret meetings and communications. Those hoping for insights into the psychology of Hitler will be disappointed.Misch was chosen as his bodyguard because he knew how to keep his head down, and his ears and eyes shut. He repeats several times that he was chosen because he was someone ‘who would give no trouble.’

Misch is not a natural writer. His style is dry and clipped and to the point (at times I could almost hear his German accent!) Nonetheless, much of his narrative is riveting, particularly as the Germans begin to lose the war and the Führer and his inner circle take up residence in a concrete bunker deep beneath the city. Misch must accompany them, leaving his wife and baby daughter to the mercies of the attacking Russians. He witnesses Hitler’s marriage to his long-time mistress, Evan Braun, and then the murder of the six Goebbels children by their mother. At this action, his matter-of-tone manner breaks down and his real anguish breaks through. ‘The most dreadful thing I experienced in the bunker was not his death. The worst thing was the killing of these children’. Misch was in the bunker till the bitter end, witnessing Hitler and his bride’s suicide and the final admission of defeat by the Nazi generals. His reward for his loyalty was to end up in the Russian torture chambers.

One of the most interesting things about the book is Misch’s unswerving loyalty to Hitler, and the painting of one of the world’s most vicious mass murderers as a normal man and ‘a wonderful boss.’

Grab a copy of Rochus Misch’s Hitler’s Last Witness: The Memoirs of Hitler’s Bodyguard here


Kate FKate Forsyth is the bestselling and award-winning author of more than twenty books, ranging from picture books to poetry to novels for both children and adults.

She was recently voted one of Australia’s Favourite Novelists, coming in at No 16. She has been called one of ‘the finest writers of this generation”, and “quite possibly … one of the best story tellers of our modern age.’

Click here to see Kate’s author page

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