Book Review: The Twin by Natasha Preston

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Ivy finds out that her twin sister, Iris, is trying to push her out of her own life–and might be responsible for their mother’s death.

Release Date: March 3, 2020

Pre-Order on Amazon!

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Plot Summary:

After their parents divorced, 10-year-old twins Ivy and Iris were split up–Ivy lived with Dad, Iris with Mom. Now, after a tragic accident takes their mom’s life, the twins are reunited and Iris moves in with Ivy and their dad. Devastated over Mom’s death, Iris spends the first few weeks in almost total silence–the only person she will speak to is Ivy. Iris feels her life is over and she doesn’t know what to do. Emmy promises her twin that she can share her life now. After all, they’re sisters. Twins.

It’s a promise that Iris takes seriously. And before long, Ivy’s friends, her life at school, and her boyfriend, Tyler, fall under Iris’s spell. Slowly, Ivy realizes she’s being pushed out of her own life. But she’s just being paranoid, right? And Mom’s accident was . . . just an accident. Right? It’s not like she–or Dad–or Tyler–are in any danger. . . .

Grade: C

Review:

The blurb for The Twin sounded utterly fascinating as I’m always on board when it comes to creepy, evil twins. Plus I know this author for the bestselling series The Cellar (admittedly I haven’t read said series but I figure if you reach the NYT bestselling list then you can’t possibly be a bad writer). So what could possibly go wrong? Apparently, a lot.

I’m not here to bash a book or an author, but this book truly moves at a snail’s pace. Sure, there’s some gaslighting by Iris (the supposedly evil twin) but it doesn’t really escalate till you’re 75% in the book. I was tempted many times to simply give up on this book, but I only prevailed cause reviewers who made it through claimed it was worth the wait.

Sure, Iris acts strange and like Ivy, we’re left questioning her strange bi-polar personality, but other than that, we can’t see her as being purely evil. And for being a YA, it is very tame compared to other edgier books I’ve read in the genre. I’m also baffled by all the reviews that claimed this was a fast-paced thriller. Using short sentences and barely any description doesn’t easily equate to fast-paced. And there’s some suspense but then again since not much happens that I found to be too alarming, it doesn’t really elevate the stakes at hand.

Is Iris really trying to take Ivy’s place? And if so, why? That’s the central question and it would be an interesting one if it had merely moved at a faster pace or had some truly terrible things happen to Ivy. Now I know that this author used to post their writing on Wattpad (I’m not judging since I do enjoy A.V. Geiger’s books a lot and she used to be on there as well) but I can’t help but feel as though Preston’s writing is too simplistic and that her thrillers aren’t even on par with middle-grade thriller books (I mean a lot more happens in a Goosebumps book than what occurred throughout this one).

The dialogue was a bit stilted in this book, especially anytime Iris spoke. I get that she’s weird but the way she speaks doesn’t even sound like a normal teen or one that is popular anyway.

I really wanted to love this book or at least enjoy the ride, but instead, I was bored witless and wish I could’ve been Ivy binge-watching Riverdale instead.

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*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Love or Hype? Michael Jackson’s Thriller Album

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Last year, I ran the segment Throwback Thursday where I rediscovered things that I appreciated in my youth and see if it passed the test of time when I reemerged myself in it. This year, I’ve decided to run a new segment, Love or Hype?, where for the first time I check out something that was immensely popular but I never took the time to check it out.

For my first Love or Hype? of the year, I’ve decided to take a listen to Michael Jackson’s Thriller album. Sure, I’ve heard a song or two from the album in passing (you’ve had to live under a rock to NEVER have heard a Michael Jackson song because he was simply that globally famous), but I’ve never listened to the album in its entirety. Up until now, Thriller is undoubtedly the most bestselling album of all time with 66-million copies sold worldwide. So obviously, it can’t possibly be a terrible album, right?

Let me preface that I’m not a fan of eunuch type male voices (which is the sort of voice that Michael Jackson had), but with the catchy tunes found within this album, there’s a reason why he was coined The King of Pop.

With hits like, Thriller, Baby Be Mine, The Girl is Mine, Billie Jean, and Beat It even the most reluctant dance can’t help but feel themselves itching to move their feet. And even after all this time, the album still proves to be fresh. I know that Michael Jackson’s legacy throughout the years has faltered (either by being too eccentric and weird to being accused of child molestation), listening to this album without thinking about those things makes you appreciate the man as a musician.

And after all these years, I can admit that I can see what the hype was all about. Even if his voice isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, 66-million people weren’t wrong in consecrating this album as the most sold album of all time.

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Review: Kate Somerville Goat Milk Facial Moisturizer

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What It Is: Moisturizing Cream

What It Does: Hydrates and soothes dry skin

Active Ingredients: Jojoba and Avocado hydrate and condition, naturally soothing Aloe helps calm kin, and Grape Seed Oil and Vitamin E, natural Antioxidants, help neutralize free radicals

Verdict: I’ve used Kate Somerville’s skincare products before since Allure has sent me a few samples my way through the Beauty Box. The products I had been sent were indeed good, but nothing too life-changing for me to praise to the heavens for. Now, I recently subscribed to the Fab Fit Fun and I decided to select the Goat Milk Hydrating Cream as one of my selections for the Winter Box. I’ll admit it: I’ll automatically try anything that has Goat Milk. I just love the benefits that Goat Milk provides that I’m willing to give it a go with any product that contains this ingredient. Confession time: When I first got this product I wasn’t quite certain WHERE on the body I was supposed to use it since it simply said hydrating cream. So I’ve been using it on my hands and face, although a quick trip to Kate’s official site claims that it is a face cream. I guess you can use this cream anywhere you have dry skin. I love that it’s purely scentless because while I do like a good scent, some creams have odd scents that can be off-putting or ones that are incredibly overpowering. This cream seriously delivers. It doesn’t matter where on your body you are using it (my mum went so far to put this on her feet since she’s always had cracked heels) you’ll wake up the following morning with rejuvenated incredibly soft skin! The only downside of this cream? For me personally, it’s the hefty price tag. $65 for 1.7 oz. is a bit pricey if you’re going to use this beyond your face. But if you’re just using this as a hydrating cream for your face then it should last longer than if (like me or my mum) you’re using this on your hands or feet. It’s an excellent product and I totally recommend you check it out whatever skin concern you have because a good hydrating cream is hard to come by.

Price: $65

Where to Buy It: https://www.katesomerville.com/

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Excerpts from: Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology

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In five weeks, Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology will drop just in time to celebrate Women in Horror Month. The stories found within this anthology are very diverse. They range from slasher, psychological horror, sci-fi horror, Gothic, mythological, thriller, and speculative. But the common ground is that the girls presented in the anthology are all uniquely strange in their own ways with elements of horror.

If you’re a reviewer on NetGalley, the book is currently there for you to pick up in exchange for a review. For the rest of you, here’s a small sample of what sort of stories you’re bound to come across in the book:

Excerpt from “Tribal Influence” by Erica Ruhe

“Por favor! You don’t understand,” the terrified mother pleaded in Spanish. “My daughter needs special care. Only I can look after her.”
A guard stood stone-faced on the other side of the open chain link gate.
“Ma’am, the child needs to come with me.” He gestured the girl forward. “Vamos, chica.”
“Mama?” The little girl’s dark brown eyes grew wide. Her father stepped in front of his wife and child.
“No!” he demanded. “My daughter is staying with us.”
The overflowing detainment center hummed with apprehension. Confused conversation and the shuffling of feet hung heavy under the musty weight of acrid sweat and fear.
“Por favor, she is a very special girl,” the mother continued. “You must let me stay with her.”
The guard pulled out his baton.
“Sir, step aside. Ma’am—”
“My daughter needs me.” Tears rolled down the mother’s cheeks. “Por favor, let us stay together!”
“Hey!” An impatient supervisor called across the imprisoned throng of immigrants. “What’s the hold up, Sam? We gotta keep these cattle moving!”
“My daughter is not going anywhere,” the father insisted.
“Listen to me!” The guard pointed his baton at the young Guatemalan family. “Escúchame! Tu hija viene conmigo.”
“No, Mama!” the little girl clutched her mother’s neck. “No, Mama! No, no, no!”
The mother began to shake.
“Shh, shh, my love,” she cooed, suddenly sinking to her knees. A strange vacancy filled her face as the blood drained out of her cheeks.
“Mama!” the girl wept.
“Last warning.” The guard pushed the father aside with his baton. “Mueve tu culo.”
“Mama!”
But the father stepped in again, this time turning to his girls.
“Joaquina?” the father asked, tension in his voice. “Joaquina?”
“Enough dicking around!” the guard shoved the father aside. “C’mon!”
He grabbed the mother’s arm but he faltered and gasped.
“Let her go!” the father cried out. “Let her go!”
“What the hell?” the guard yelled, holding up a shaking hand to his face. “What the fuck is happening?”
The mother looked up from her crying child, tears trembling on the rims of her eyelids. She gazed in to the guard’s eyes with an eerie stillness.
“I can’t stop it,” she whispered.
“Sam?” the supervisor called, concerned.
The guard suddenly spasmed, as if stung. He grabbed his heart. Eyes rolled back. Jaw snapped wide. And in the next instant, his terrified scream consumed him.

Excerpt from “Sideshow” by Jude Reid

His tongue is in her mouth again.

Against her back, she can feel the fabric of the tent, the wet canvas smell mixing with the taste of ketchup and soda and Juicy Fruit gum. Her right hand is closed around a guy-rope; her left, for want of anywhere else to put it, is on Richie’s belt. He has taken hold of her right breast and is squeezing it rhythmically and not especially gently. This is your fault, she thinks to herself, eyes closed and mouth open. You didn’t say no.

The tongue retracts back into his mouth, slick, fat and slug-like. She imagines it leaving a trail of thick mucus behind itself, and her stomach lurches at the thought, sending a tide of acid rushing into her mouth. Her own tongue flicks out and runs across her lower lip, as if it were possible to lick away every trace he had left behind.

Excerpt from “The Girl Who Never Stopped Bleeding” by Sam Lauren

Barb washed her panties in the bathroom sink between classes and the water ran pink. It stained her nails. She scrubbed them with hand soap and course paper towels but they never came clean. Neither did the panties.

It was her first time. Some of us knew how she felt. We didn’t give her advice; we teased her as if we didn’t have folded bits of toilet paper stuffed between our linens and our aching, leaking bodies.

By the fifth day everyone knew. Boys wouldn’t touch her. Girls claimed to smell her from lockers away.

The Bible says a bleeding woman is unclean. We thought it was funny, a myth, a lie told by parents to make kids remain chaste. It didn’t prepare us for Barb.

Two weeks in she killed a plant. We can’t prove it but they both sat by the window, wilting in their own filth. The plant hadn’t changed its dirt. She hadn’t changed her panties. Some say she touched the stem of the flower, turned it toward the light, but others say it died just from being near her.

A month later she was still scrubbing her panties after every bell.

Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology drops February 18, 2020 but is available for pre-order!

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Bookstagrammer @hauntedbydeadlines

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Book Review: What Unbreakable Looks Like by Kate McLaughlin

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She’s nobody’s flower anymore.

Release Date: June 23, 2020

Pre-Order on Amazon!

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (Wednesday Books)

Price: $17.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

Lex was taken–trafficked–and now she’s Poppy. Kept in a hotel with other girls, her old life is a distant memory. But when the girls are rescued, she doesn’t quite know how to be Lex again.

After she moves in with her aunt and uncle, for the first time in a long time, she knows what it is to feel truly safe. Except, she doesn’t trust it. Doesn’t trust her new home. Doesn’t trust her new friend. Doesn’t trust her new life. Instead she trusts what she shouldn’t because that’s what feels right. She doesn’t deserve good things.
But when she is sexually assaulted by her so-called boyfriend and his friends, Lex is forced to reckon with what happened to her and that just because she is used to it, doesn’t mean it is okay. She’s thrust into the limelight and realizes she has the power to help others. But first she’ll have to confront the monsters of her past with the help of her family, friends, and a new love.

Kate McLaughlin’s What Unbreakable Looks Like is a gritty, ultimately hopeful novel about human trafficking through the lens of a girl who has escaped the life and learned to trust, not only others, but in herself.

Grade: A-

Review:

Wow….what a ride! This book covers very serious topics like sex trafficking, rape, prostitution, and drug abuse. But despite the heavy topics, this book is very enjoyable to read. I really like how the author didn’t try to sugar coat what had happened to Lex, but at the same time had her be hopeful of her future.

Lex used to be your typical teen till she got sucked into sex trafficking by her much older boyfriend who then placed her in a motel for prostitution purposes. When the police find her, she’s unable to think that her life could possibly get much better as she feels she’s damaged goods. And just when she starts to feel better about her new life with her aunt and uncle, something equally harrowing as her past occurs once more, she’s sexually assaulted by five of her peers at school.

But this time Lex doesn’t back down. She stands up for herself and wishes to take down those who did her wrong. I think this book explores very dark topics but does it with so much poise and dignity that you can’t help but root for Lex and her journey.

This is a very timely novel and I recommend this for both adults and teens to read. Lex is a beacon of hope and light in a world that can too often be the darkest shades of black.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Happy New Year & 2020 Goals

2020

Happy New Year, peeps! I hope that the new year has begun with a bang or at least in a very pleasant way! Just like the years before, I’ve decided to see what goals I had set last year and what I accomplished during the year, and also what my new goals are for the new year.

2019 Goals & What I accomplished

  • Finish writing Girl That You Fear (DONE, just need to edit now)
  • Finish short story Pink Rabbits (Didn’t do, but DID write Fragile Fruit with Erica Ruhe and will be published by Running Wild Press this summer and also have my short story, Good Sister Bad Sister appear in Betty Bites Back)
  • Write Screenplay (Didn’t happen, but DID begin to write a screenplay)
  • Read over 50 books (I actually read 64)
  • I wanted to focus more on book reviews & author interviews and I did
  • I wanted to try more cream-based cosmetics and I did (esp. from Glossier)
  • I wanted to cover more events but didn’t see any that I was interested in, although I did get to cover Comic-Con and Shriekfest.

2020 GOALS

Writing

  • Edit my novel Girl that You Fear & send to agents
  • Finish editing my novel Wicked Game
  • Write a short film screenplay so I can send to Crypt TV
  • Write a feature-length screenplay
  • Complete another poetry book
  • Promote Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology 

Reading

  • Read at least 50 books

Beauty

  • I’ll make this the year that I’ll actually give lip gloss a fair chance (been thinking about trying out either Jeffree Star’s lipglosses or Glossier’s lipgloss)
  • Offer new colours for my Nox Girl Cosmetics Shop
  • Sleep more
  • Try new subscription boxes

Blogging

  • More reviews: films, beauty products, & books
  • Increase readership
  • Will continue my Throwback Thursday segments but won’t do it once a month like last year but once every 2 months
  • Will begin a new segment in my blog that will be once a month called “Love or Hype?” where I’ll try out, watch, read or listen to something that is uber popular but I have never given in to and will report back if I DID enjoy it or if it was just hyped up.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR GOALS FOR THE NEW YEAR?

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Review: Anastasia Beverly Hills Moon Child Glow Kit

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What It Is: Powder Highlighter Palette

What It Does: Creates effortless glow

Verdict: Anastasia Beverly Hills’ name is synonymous with “Brow Wizard” being the one who introduced the two products that have made having “brows on fleek” so effortless. With her Dip Brow Pomade and Brow Gel, she revolutionized brows as we know it. However, she recently dipped her toes in the highlighting pond of miracles and has brought her sorcery even to the newest Moon Child Glow Kit. I knew Allure’s December Beauty Box was going to kick some major beauty ass once it was revealed that it would be centered around Anastasia Beverly Hills products.

I’ll admit that despite owning various highlighters and occasionally using them to some degree, I still feel like a highlighting newbie. This palette packs some serious GLOW that even a highlighting amateur as myself can create some blinding light cheeks.

The palette contains highlighting colours that will suit every skintone possible. Even ones that seem a bit daring (Green? Silver-grey? Violet?) can not only be used as highlighters but also moonlight as glowy eyeshadows.

The colours are highly pigmented and the shadows themselves feel phenomenal. There’s a luxurious feel that is similar to anyone who has tried highlighters from Becca Cosmetics.

This palette is perfect for those of us who wish to ring in the new year with some serious GLOW vibes.

Price: $40

Where To Buy It: anastasiabeverlyhills.com

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Throwback Thursday: Disturbing Behavior

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Confession: This wasn’t one of my favourite movies from my youth, however, it WAS a movie I saw once during my youth that I thought at the time was cool and did want to revisit it, so I did. Well, apparently my memory of this movie was completely rose-tinted as I disliked this movie very much on my second go around.

This was Katie Holmes first role playing the “bad girl” and Nick Stahl was an up and coming rising star (that sadly merely crashed into the pit of anonymity now). The basic plot of Disturbing Behavior is that two siblings relocate to a small idyllic small town with their parents after their older brother committed suicide. The first thing they notice is that all the students there are seemingly perfect, and soon even the so-called revels start to turn. Only backfire? The perfect students seem to become irrationally violent when triggered by sensations of sexual desire.

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I feel like the movie was trying to make some social commentary about how teenagers should be allowed to be themselves rather than be pressured by their parents and school administrators to be perfect as it could cause them to become violent (not sure if the director was trying to allude to the pressure of being a teenager as a reason why there were school shootings or teenage suicide).

However, the movie falls short cause of terrible editing, bad acting, and just overall bad script. Although it seems that the director wasn’t satisfied with the end result either, claiming that the movie got so transformed in post-production that it didn’t even feel like it was the same movie he had shot on set. So who knows, maybe this movie could’ve been better than it was. But for how it stands as a completed project, it’s definitely not that good at all, and not even one that has aged gracefully over time either. In other words, you’re better off checking out The Faculty instead. At least that one didn’t try to take itself so seriously.

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Book Review: The Lucky Ones by Liz Lawson

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How do you put yourself back together when it seems like you’ve lost it all?

Release Date: April 7, 2020

Pre-Order on Amazon!

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Price: $18.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

May is a survivor. But she doesn’t feel like one. She feels angry. And lost. And alone. Eleven months after the school shooting that killed her twin brother, May still doesn’t know why she was the only one to walk out of the band room that day. No one gets what she went through–no one saw and heard what she did. No one can possibly understand how it feels to be her.

Zach lost his old life when his mother decided to defend the shooter. His girlfriend dumped him, his friends bailed, and now he spends his time hanging out with his little sister…and the one faithful friend who stuck around. His best friend is needy and demanding, but he won’t let Zach disappear into himself. Which is how Zach ends up at band practice that night. The same night May goes with her best friend to audition for a new band.

Which is how May meets Zach. And how Zach meets May. And how both might figure out that surviving could be an option after all.

Grade: A

Review:

This isn’t for the faint-hearted. The way the author depicts grieving in this novel is a true punch to the gut. May simply cannot get over the way her brother Jordan was shot and killed during a school shooting while she hid in the closet and did nothing. Feelings of guilt plague her, but she’s also consumed with anger and vengeance. She thinks that nobody can understand her pain until she meets Zach.

Zach has become a social pariah at his school the moment his lawyer mother took a case that left everyone speechless.

Zach and May become kindred spirits until they each realize who they really are. Zach’s mother is defending the shooter that killed May’s brother. And for months May has been rendering Zach’s family life hell by secretly vandalizing their property and leaving threatening letters in their mailbox.

If you’re hoping for a light YA read with romance speckled throughout, then this isn’t the book for you. Sure, this book has the hopes of a blossoming romance, but it isn’t the heart of the novel. The real purpose of this book is to show the reality of surviving a school shooting and how even when you’re the “lucky ones” to survive your new normal is just as terrible as being dead. A must-read for anyone at any age to see just how prominent and damaging active shooters have become in both schools and other locations.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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5 Unique Gifts that Writers Will LOVE to Receive

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Buying gifts can sometimes become a stressful chore, especially when you’re struggling what to give to someone that is close to you. But if you’ve got a writer in your life, don’t worry! I’ve got you covered pals and gals. Below are some seriously awesome gifts that anyone who enjoys writing will be thrilled to receive.

SUBSCRIPTION BOXES

Across The Page

What You’ll Get: Across The Page is a unique subscription box for writers looking to learn and find inspiration from cross-genre writers, specifically screenwriters and playwrights. Each month’s box is curated around a new story and includes a copy of the script, screenplay, book, and movie or stage play. Past boxes have included stories like The Martian, The Handmaid’s Tale, and A Few Good Men.

Scribbler

This box is curated by authors, for authors so of course, I had to include this! Each box comes with one writing theme, one fiction novel, author tips, writing themed gifts, plus the chance to speak to a publishing professional!

BOOKS ON WRITING

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Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody

Novelist Jessica Brody presents a comprehensive story-structure guide for novelists that applies the famed Save the Cat! screenwriting methodology to the world of novel writing. Revealing the 15 “beats” (plot points) that comprise a successful story–from the opening image to the finale–this book lays out the Ten Story Genres (Monster in the House; Whydunit; Dude with a Problem) alongside quirky, original insights (Save the Cat; Shard of Glass) to help novelists craft a plot that will captivate–and a novel that will sell.

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On Writing by Stephen King

The master of horror shares his love for the writing craft and tips on how to do better. The book reads easily, not in a preachy way. It’s in a conversational tone and shows how much King went through to get to where he is. Nobody gets to the top without having a learned a trick or two on the way.

USB DRIVES

As a writer, you always need to save your work and what better way than to keep your precious manuscripts saved than to use the handy USB drives. Every writer needs a couple of them.

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PORTABLE DESK

Don’t always have a desk with you? No worries! Bring the desk with you! Any space can easily become your writing nook with this awesome portable desk.

NOTEBOOKS

When you’re on the go, sometimes writing can be difficult. That’s why any writer will appreciate it if you gift them a notebook. It doesn’t have to be fancy or big. Writers are equal opportunity when it comes to notebooks and journals, we’re not that picky when we just need any scrap of paper to write down our ideas!

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