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About lydias

I'm a sci-fi writer who loves lifting weights and hates eating Brussels sprouts.

No Ordinary River: A Review of Badwater

Book cover for Badwater by Travis Liebert. Image on cover shows a green scary face emerging out of vines that otherwise look like normal plants. The face has bright white eyes and looks fearsome. Title: Badwater

Author: Travis Liebert

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: November 8, 2019

Genres: Horror, Paranormal, Contemporary

Length: 27 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars



“I’ve been a search and rescue diver for twelve years. We see a lot of strange and disgusting things. But what I saw last week has me questioning both my job and reality.”

There’s a place in the river where not even search and rescue divers are supposed to go. It’s called Badwater.

But when Joseph Albright dives into this forbidden region, he discovers something beyond comprehension.

Intent on solving a mystery as old as the earth itself, he comes into contact with forces beyond fathom.

Get this riveting new horror story and learn of the terrors that pervade our world.

Content Warning: Drowning and body horror.

A strong current might drown you in this river, but even if that happens it will be the least of your worries.

Joseph was a sympathetic and memorable protagonist. I appreciated how cautious he was around water and how seriously he took his work as a search and rescue diver. These were important things to establish early on in order to explain his later behaviour. They also endeared me to him as a character because I knew how knowledgable he was about safely enjoying the water and how drowning can happen to even the strongest swimmer. If the author ever writes a sequel, I’d sure like to learn more about this world and the other people in it.

My only reason for choosing a three star rating had to do with a plot hole that the narrator never closed. It involved what the powers of the character who controlled Badwater actually were and how far they could be stretched or pushed back against. In some scenes, this character seemed nearly all-powerful, while in others there appeared to be loopholes to the rules. I would have loved to see this clarified as it was the only thing that prevented me from choosing a much higher rating. Everything else about this tale was deliciously scary.

The folklore elements of the storyline were top-notch. They shared enough information for this reader to know what was happening but also left plenty of little details up to my imagination. I also enjoyed taking note of the slight differences in how various characters reacted to the legends about Badwater and why no one was ever supposed to go there. Not only did this make everything feel realistic, it encouraged me to keep reading so I could come up with my own theories about which versions made the most sense to me.

Badwater was a spooky summer read.


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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Older Books More People Should Read

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

A black woman with a large Afro is sitting on the ledge of a window in a dark room. Light is pouring into the room around her as she holds up a hardback book to the light and reads. My questions for this week’s prompt are how far back are people going to go when selecting older books and how many of us will have already read what other folks recommend?

I wish I could peek at everyone’s answers ahead of time to see what you’re all picking and when they were published.

Here are two books I’d add to this list. Their publication years are in parentheses.

Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy (1976)

Why: You don’t often seen both dystopian and utopian futures described in the same novel. I like the ambiguity of the main character’s connection to these futures as well as the idea that nothing is set in stone.


The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields (1993)

Why: Other Canadians may have already heard of this book, but it doesn’t seem to be as well known elsewhere. This is a literary fiction novel about Daisy, a bitter woman who was born in 1905 and lived a long, hard life. You are not always going to like her (or at least I sure didn’t), but her journey was well written and explained why she was so angry with the world when she grew old. There’s something to be said for books that explore the lives of unlikeable characters and show why they behave the way they do.



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Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Mermaid Covers

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

A photorealistic painting of a mermaid swimming in the ocean. The shot is set from a perspective on the ocean floor where the viewers is looking up at the bright sun overhead and a mermaid that is mostly blocking out it’s rays as it swims close to the surface of the water. The mermaid has a large, thick fin and several small, thin, and partially see-through fins on its hips and arms that are helping it to navigate through the water. The original topic for this week was “Books or Covers that Feel/Look Like Summer.” I followed the prompt exactly last year, so this time I’m going to be a little creative with it.

There may not be any real mermaids in Lake Ontario, the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, or any other large bodies of water, but it’s always fun to stare out at those endless waves and imagine what might be swimming around happily just out of sight on a warm summer day.

Being an adult doesn’t mean you have to stop imagining beautiful things after all, and now is a great time to do it.

Here are ten books with mermaids or mermen on their covers.

If Greg @ Book Haven happens to read this post, answer #7 reminds me of the kind of stuff you blog about. I included it specifically to amuse you.

Book cover for Nen and the Lonely Fisherman by Ian Eagleton. Image on cover shows a brown mermaid with a yellow tail sitting on a rock as the ocean crashes against the rock. She is looking at a fisherman wearing a yellow jacket who is in a red boat far away from her.

1. Nen and the Lonely Fisherman by Ian Eagleton


Book cover for The Mermaid in the Millpond by Lucy Strange. Image on cover is a drawing of an all-white mermaid swimming in a pond filled with algae and seaweed next to an old stone house and a tree that doesn’t have any leaves on it. The mermaid is staring at the tree and you cannot see her face.


2. The Mermaid in the Millpond by Lucy Strange


Book cover for The Merman by Dick King-Smith. Image on cover shows a merman with olive skin and white hair swimming in the ocean with his tail flipped out of the weather. He’s looking at a girl who is wearing a red dress. She is sitting on top of a large rock and looking down at him as seagulls fly by.

3. The Merman by Dick King-Smith


Book cover for Tides by Betsy Cornwell . Image on cover shows an Asian mermaid who has just plunged deeply into the ocean. You can see a plume of water and air rising up to the surface behind her as she joyfully begins to turn away from a manatee at the bottom of the shallow ocean flor and swim upwards again.

4. Tides by Betsy Cornwell


Book cover for l Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings (Real Mermaids, #1)  by Helene Boudreau. Image on cover shows a young white mermaid touching their own hands as the back of one hands gently touches their green and blue tail.

5. Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings (Real Mermaids, #1)  by Helene Boudreau


Book cover for The Deep by Rivers Solomon. Image on cover shows a black mermaid swimming up to the light and air as a gigantic whale swims by her.

6. The Deep by Rivers Solomon


Book cover for Merciless Mermaids (Agent 0008, #11) by Clyde Allison. Image on cover shows a vintage, pulpy, 1940s style drawing of a mermaid who has red hair and a gigantic octopus wrapping it’s tentacles around her body.


7. The Merciless Mermaids (Agent 0008, #11) by Clyde Allison


Book cover for The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen. Image on cover shows a Vietnamese kid with short hair and glasses who is wearing a patched jacket and reading a book. There is a faint drawing of a mermaid swimming on the green background behind him.

8. The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen


Book cover for The Little Mermaid by Deborah Hautzig and Hans Christian Andersen. Image on cover shows a brunette Caucasian mermaid sitting on a large rock in the ocean next to a white castle in the distance on the land. Her long, wavy hair is covering her otherwise bare torso.

9. The Little Mermaid by Deborah Hautzig and Hans Christian Andersen


Book cover for The Call of the Deep (The Matchless Deep, #1) by Tracy Lane. Image on cover shows the tail of a mermaid or merman as t they dive deeply into the ocean where there is very little light at all.

10. The Call of the Deep (The Matchless Deep, #1) by Tracy Lane



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A Review of Employment Interview With a Vampire

Book cover for Employment Interview With a Vampire by J Bennett. Image on cover shows a young white woman with dark blond hair that’s tied behind her head in a ponytail. She’s standing in front of a decrepit mansion on an overcast evening and about to walk into the home. She’s wearing an all black outfit. Title: Employment Interview With a Vampire

Author: J Bennett

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: January 8, 2014

Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary

Length: 65 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars


Deidre finds herself out of a job, out of luck, and out of time. The rent is past due, and the list of her employable skills is smaller than the balance of her checking account. Deidre has one shot at staying out of a fast food restaurant uniform. 
A mysterious gentleman with certain “peculiarities” is seeking a housekeeper. 
Deidre squeezes into her only nice pair of slacks, tames her wild orange hair, and starts off for the job interview that will either change her life… or end it!

Get ready for a very different kind of vampire story… While Deidre’s potential boss possesses a wicked set of fangs and a hankering for a certain ruby refreshment (preferably served fresh and hot), he’s also got a fashion sense that hasn’t been cool since the 1800s. Nathaniel adamantly prefers the telegraph over the telephone, votes for Eisenhower in every election, and isn’t so sure these horseless carriages will catch on.

Can Deidre survive her employment interview with a vampire and somehow convince her potential boss that corsets and petticoats aren’t the fashion of the day?

Oh, and what’s she going to do about that geriatric vampire hunter sneaking around the haunted mansion?

If you’re looking for a fun and funny supernatural story with a relatable (and often exasperated) heroine, then you’ve found it! Welcome to the first funny vampire novella in The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles series!

No one does funny new adult vampire fiction like J Bennett.


Content Warning: A few mildly sexist comments. A little bit of body shaming involving the style and cut of clothing Deidre was wearing.

No one has been exasperated to death by a vampire yet, but there’s still time to change that.

Deidre was one of those characters that is hard to explain in a few short sentences. Most of the vampire stories I read are fairly violent, so I spend the first few scenes worried that her naivety and stubbornness was about to lead to her untimely and terrible death. Luckily for her, those traits turned out to be assets when dealing with this particular vampire. I appreciate the way the author flirted with the various interpretations of what a vampire is like as well as the reader’s expectations of what a heroine should do in this genre. Deidre sometimes joined in with the gentle fun that was being poked at certain tropes, and that made me like her even more. She understood the absurdity of her situation, and she leaned into it so hard that I can’t imagine how campy and delightful her future adventures might be.

While I understand that this is the introduction to a series, I would have liked to see more conflict included in this tale that didn’t involve Nathaniel making inappropriate comments about Deidre’s clothing and marital prospects. As much as it made sense for someone who was a few hundred years old to say those things, I found them a little repetitive as time wore on and wished the author had included other examples of how wildly out of touch he was with modern times. There were plenty of other things he found baffling about our era, and I would have gone with a full five-star rating if his rants had included a wider range of topics or if some other sort of conflict had been brought up to reveal the many differences between him and Deidre.

With that being said, Nathaniel was a refreshing take on what a vampire might realistically be like. Of course he would struggle to adapt to changing times, especially given how socially isolated vampires must remain in order to avoid the sun and people who want to kill them. Honestly, I could see Nathaniel being much more offensive than he turned out to be, so it was interesting to think about the perspective changes he had made over the years and who might have encouraged him to rethink his expectations of what various types of people ought to do. There is so much more room here to explore, and I’ll be curious to see how his relationship with Deidre evolves over time.

Employment Interview With a Vampire was a clever twist on vampire fiction.


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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Someplace I’d Love to Visit Someday

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

So here’s the thing: I dislike travelling.

Therefore, I’m going to add a mild science fiction spin to this week’s prompt and pretend like Long and Short Reviews has figured out a way to make Star Trek transporter technology an option for those of us who would rather skip the cramped seats, germs, long hours of sitting still, noisy fellow passengers, and anxiety-inducing security guards that are currently necessary for most forms of international travel.

A photo of a side view of a puffin’s head. The puffin is standing next to some yellow flowers and looking ahead at something we the viewers cannot see. If I could hop into a transporter and instantly be sent anywhere, I’d pick Iceland and Tanzania.

Why? Well, Iceland has a cool, mild climate which I generally prefer to hot, humid ones. I find it easier to warm up than to cool down, and I have some medical reasons to limit my exposure to sunlight as well.

Iceland also has a lot of beautiful natural areas to hike through and explore. Imagine the amazing photos you could take and all of the adventures that could be had while walking through those areas.

Best of all, it has puffins!

I would never touch a puffin, of course, but I also wouldn’t complain if one found me interesting and walked over to get a closer view of me. They’re such fascinating little creatures.


Three adult wildebeests standing on a grassy plain and looking ahead the viewer. The grass is dry and yellow, and the wildebeests brown boasts are shining in the sunlight. Tanzania would be another cool place to visit once I’d made sure I still had my sun hat and plenty of sunscreen to keep my dermatologist happy. (Ha!)

I’d go to Serengeti National Park in January or February during calving season to hopefully see a lot of adorable newborn wildebeests and whatever other animals might be wandering around there.

Lions and giraffes would be neat to see in person, but I’d keep an open mind and be happy with whatever I found there.

I’ve heard there are some nice hiking trails in Tanzania as well, so obviously I’d have to check out one of them for myself.

And, of course, trying the local cuisine would also be high on my to-do list for both countries. With all of that walking and exploring, I’d be bound to build up quite the appetite.


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Top Ten Tuesday: Things That Make Me Instantly NOT Want to Read a Book

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

The word no has been written into wet sand on a beach. Another wave is coming in and will soon begin to erase the word. Yes, I used a very similar stock photo last week. It amuses me and makes me want to go write my own messages in the sand at my local beach.

On a more serious note, here are some things that will make me instantly not want to read a book.

Please note that my first answer briefly mentions sexual abuse and my seventh answer mentions World War II trauma, so feel free to skip past them if necessary.

1. Sexual abuse

It’s an important and worthwhile topic, but I personally cannot read about it.


2. Characters who don’t have common sense.

Not every character I read about needs to be intelligent by any means, but I cannot read about people who repeatedly make ridiculous decisions for no reason at all. They should at the very least have basic street smarts and make choices that are reasonable for the average person of their age and background.

3. Inspirational stories

No offence is intended to fans of this genre in any way. I am simply not a religious person and am therefore so not the target audience for these types of tales.


4. Historical tales that feel modern.

That is to say, the good guys all have twenty-first century political/social views and/or use modern English.

I give historical writers a lot of leeway, but it’s really strange to me to meet characters from 100+ years ago whose speech and views so perfectly mimic how the average person in 2023 behaves. Honestly, I’d rather meet a protagonist whose speech is a little too formal and who has some views that were acceptable for their era but would be considered horribly old-fashioned at best today.


5. Tiny little (metaphorical) boxes

It bothers me to read books that heavily stereotype their characters, and I stop reading them as soon as I notice it happening.

There’s nothing wrong with a character liking things that are “typical” interests of someone their age, sex, class, race, etc., of course, but it strikes me as odd when most or even all characters in a book fit the stereotypes that have been associated with people like them.

That’s not how folks behave in real life.  I’d much rather read about characters who have been given more time to develop into hopefully well-rounded individuals who resemble the wonderfully complex and sometimes delightfully surprising people I know in real life.


6. 99.99% of self-help books 

I like the idea of personal improvement in book form, but I can think of maybe one or two titles from this genre I’ve ever read that were actually helpful. Many of them are so vague or filled with common sense that I don’t find them useful at all. The ones that deal with serious problems are often talking about subjects that are much easier to tackle with the help of a therapist or support group.


7. 99.99% of World War II stories

Yes, of course it’s important to remember what happened and try to keep something similar from ever happening again, but I have a relative who fought for the Allies in World War II and was traumatized by what he saw in Germany for the rest of his life.

When I see World War II stories being advertised, especially if they’re romances, I think about his struggle with those awful memories and how his pain shaped his life as well as the lives of his descendants (to a lesser extent, of course).

It’s totally fine if other people want to read dozens of fluffy World War II romances if that’s their thing. I simply view that era in a grim light due to how many innocent lives it destroyed and how many people were permanently physically and/or mentally scarred by it.



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No Easy Way Out: A Review of Take Care of Your Body

Book cover for Take Care of Your Body by Elton Gahr. Image on cover shows two mostly-leafless trees that have been trimmed to look like two faces looking at each other. A few leaves are flowing from one tree to the next against a cloudy winter sky. Title: Take Care of Your Body

Author: Elton Gahr

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: March 2, 2022

Genres: Science Fiction, Contemporary

Length: 18 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars


Frank is a new kind of personal trainer. The kind that switches bodies with the ultra rich so they can get the benefits of working out without the effort. But his new client has done the unthinkable, escaping with Frank’s body while leaving Frank to answer for his crimes.
Now Frank has to track down his own body and force his client to return it before the FBI can catch him.


Shortcuts can make life easier…if all goes well.

Some of my favourite scenes were the ones that described how careful Frank was when exercising in other people’s bodies. Exercise is one of those things that can be a great deal of fun, a terribly dull chore, or something in-between those two extremes depending on the person involved and what types of movement they actually enjoy doing. Observing Frank’s reaction to his work was fascinating. He respected his clients and did everything he could to help them slowly become stronger and healthier while he was in control of their bodies. It was nice to see how much he cared about perfect strangers.

I had some trouble understanding what was happening in the final scene and needed to read it over again a couple of time to make sure I understood what the author was trying to say. Part of this was due to a character who wasn’t very good at thinking through the logical conclusions of his actions. While he was an interesting person who needed to be written that way for other portions of the storyline to flow nicely, I did find myself wishing for a clearer description of what was happening in that last scene so that both he and I could figure out what was going on there.

The world building was well done. There wasn’t a great deal of time to explain how this mysterious conscious-swapping technology worked given that the author only had eighteen pages to work with, but he explained enough about it for me to understand the basics. Honestly, that was all that was needed before Frank’s dilemma began, so I was happy to quickly move on to how he was going to get his stolen body back before it was too late.

Take Care of Your Body was a wild ride.

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Favourite YouTube Video

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

A round light brown rabbit sitting peacefully while perched up on it’s back paws while it’s front paws are neatly placed between the back paws on a patch of dark green grass.

This isn’t Champis, but it does look a lot like him. (The actual photos of him can be found in the links in this post).

This video was created by a Finnish farmer, but it doesn’t matter whether or not you can speak that language.

About 11 years ago, Champis was a rabbit who lived on a quiet farm in Finland. One day Champis decided to start herding sheep, and his humans soon made a video about his adventures in the sheep pen: Champis – den vallande kaninen*

(YouTube wouldn’t let me embed the video, but the link above should take you to it. The video is about five minutes long).

Nobody trained Champis to behave this way, and it’s not typical behaviour for a rabbit.  His humans were just as surprised as the rest of the world was.

What makes it even funnier is that Champis’ son, Champis Junior, eventually became a sheep herder as well.

You all know how much I love rabbits. I have all sorts of videos, gifs, and photos of rabbits doing interesting things tucked away for when I need something to make me smile. This is one of my all-time favourites.

*Kaninen means rabbit in Finnish. Online translation pages haven’t been able to tell me what den vallande means, so please share if you know of a good translation for it.


Edit: Thank you to Judy Thomas for sharing this translation: “Vallande translates to herding, I found… so probably, Champis, the herding rabbit.”



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Top Ten Tuesday: Things That Make Me Instantly Want to Read a Book

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

The word yes is written into sand on a beach. A wave is just beginning to reach the top of the letter y in yes and erase it. Here are some of the things that make me instantly want to read a book.

1. It’s written by one of my favourite authors.

This doesn’t mean I’ll automatically love a book, but it certainly raises the odds of that happening!


2. Someone in my inner circle recommended it.

Once again, this isn’t a guarantee I’ll like it, but it is a good sign for sure.


3. It’s about prehistory, hunter-gatherers, and/or Neanderthals 

There aren’t enough stories about those topics if you ask them.


4. The narrator breaks the fourth wall.

When done well, there’s nothing like a narrator or protagonist speaking directly to the audience as if they’ve known all along we’ve been following on with them on their journey. I get a thrill every time this happens.


5. It is hard science fiction. 

I am in awe of science fiction writers who are able to write this sort of thing. Someday I’d like to join their ranks.


6. There are biographical elements to the story. 

Autobiographies and biographies are some of my favorite types of nonfiction to read because of how much you can learn about a person and the era they lived in by following someone’s life from beginning to end. I also enjoy fictional stories that are anywhere from loosely to heavily based on the lives of real people.


7. It is a banned book. 

There’s something about banning books that makes me want to read them. Maybe it’s part of human nature?


8. The plot includes humorous moments.

I read a lot of heavy stuff, so I’m always on the lookout for lighter fare to balance out my literary diet.


9. It includes happy pet rabbits who do not die at the end!

Those disclaimers are needed due to how many books about pets have a tendency to end with the pet’s death.

When I see a happy little rabbit featured on a cover or mentioned in a title or blurb, the chances of me wanting to read that book skyrocket even if it’s in a genre I don’t usually pick up like romance or World War II fiction.

I adore rabbits, but they don’t show up very often in cheerful scenes in adult literature.  (Luckily, children’s books do not have that problem, so I still have plenty of rabbit fiction in general when I want it. 🙂 )


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A Review of The Life and Lies of Danny Diaz

Book cover for The Life and Lies of Danny Diaz by Andy Paine. Image on cover shows the title written in a font that’s orange on the left and gradually fades to yellow as you move further to the right of the page. This was all written against a black background. Title
: The Life and Lies of Danny Diaz

Author: Andy Paine

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: January 21, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary

Length: 46 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author

Rating: 5 Stars


An ageing rocker, a journalist, and a small, seemingly inconsequential object. This is the tale of the greatest musical theft in history.

Such a small, seemingly inconsequential object. Yet for ageing rocker Danny Diaz, journalist Henry Lapthorne, and indeed the entire population, it is an object that has aided in the greatest musical theft in history, forever altering the historical landscape of music as we know it.

After years of wilful deceit, Danny’s life has come full circle as he reaches out to the one man who forever doubted him, intent on telling his story, and finding peace with his past. For Henry, it is the story of a lifetime, an unbelievable tale of addiction, regret, and redemption. But can it possibly be true? Or is it just another ruse? Is this tale the fulfilment of Henry’s career, or yet another deception in the decades long animosity between two men who know each other so well, and yet not at all.


Content Warning: Theft, suicide, and deceit. The suicide was mentioned briefly and with no details at all about how it was accomplished.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch…or a free song.

The character development was excellent. Danny was never unlikeable, but he certainly was naive and a little selfish when I first met him. It was rewarding to get to know his personality better and see how the object he carried around for years changed him in all sorts of ways. Without giving away spoilers, this transformation of his was the best part of the entire plot because of how he reacted to it and what he did once he realized how much power he possessed.

I adored the ambiguous corners of this story. The things Danny didn’t know about the small object in his possession were somehow just as intriguing as the many other things he was sure about. After I finished the final paragraph, I sat back and came up with my own theories about the subjects he had partial to no knowledge of. Discovering the limits of Danny’s understanding somehow made him feel both more relatable and more interesting. After all, many of us readers are living with little mysteries every day that we won’t ever fully solve either!

Another memorable thing about this short story was the uneasy relationship between Danny and the narrator who was a reporter who hoped to interview such an important musician. The reporter and Danny both had understandable reasons to be a little wary of each other, so it was rewarding to see them gradually let their guards down and connect with each other as fellow human beings. This was something that was gently hinted at in the first scene, so do keep an eye out for it as the plot progresses.

The Life and Lies of Danny Diaz was a thought-provoking and thrilling read.


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