#19 The Sacrilege of Annotating Books (#24)

This morning I finished my 24th read of 2015, #19 A book based on a true story, in the 2015 Reading Challenge: “More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops” by Jen Campbell. This is a series of apparently true comments made by customers, either to fellow customers or to booksellers in bookstores worldwide. I have absolutely no idea where I heard about this book, but I thought the premise sounded fun and quirky, so I picked up a hardly used copy on eBay.

A couple of days ago I watched a YouTube video by one of my favourite booktubers, Ariel Bissett, who was discussing the sacrilege (or lack of it) of annotating your books. I am actively opposed to this process, except in circumstances in which it is deemed necessary, such as for a literature class, but I decided this was the perfect time to go against my opinions, and annotate “More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops”.

I’m equally surprised and thrilled to say that I loved it. I now have a record of quotes I loved, and some comments on those I felt were worthy. I’m not saying that it will become common practice for me to write in my books (there’s not even the remotest chance it would happen in a first edition), but from time to time I may read a book that warrants such erratic behaviour.

My Goodreads Review
“This is a nonfiction book about, as is apparent in the title, weird things customers say in bookshops. This little book was hilarious – it actually was laugh out loud funny at some points. I wonder how the booksellers managed to keep a straight face when posed with some of these questions! Notable comments include:

Customer: “I’d like to return this ‘Where’s Wally?’ book, please.”
Bookseller: “Why?”
Customer: “Because I’ve found him.”

Customer: “Tell me, is ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ still in print?”
Bookseller: “Yes, of course.”
Customer: “I wasn’t sure if they stopped printing it, you see – surely everyone has a copy by now?”

If you’re in the mood for a quick, lighthearted read, this is perfect.”

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Since I completely went outside my comfort zone by annotating this book, it’s also worth noting that I have yet to read the previous book in this series, (shocker, I know), “Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops”, but fear not, I have ordered it, and I am planning on reading it in May, as a break from all the scary exam revision I’ll have to do!

#19 A book based on a true story – More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops (7/10)

Twenty-three down, twenty-seven to go. (Twenty-four read)

My journey will also be instagrammed frequently on @charlottebibliophile

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#4 Very Good Lives (#23)

“We do not need magic to transform our world; we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”

Without question, my most anticipated book release of 2015 was “Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination” by J.K. Rowling, which was published yesterday (April 14th). This small non-fiction book is her Harvard commencement speech from 2008, which has been astonishingly well published, to benefit her charity Lumos.

Since I myself am graduating (from the same University that J.K. Rowling did, no less) in three months time, (assuming I pass my dissertation and finals), this book really could not have been published at a more opportune time for me.

I absolutely devoured it, despite having previously watched the speech on YouTube, and loved having her thoughts and feelings on paper, which I could read, re-read and read again as I pleased. However, I wouldn’t have felt content putting it towards my 2015 Reading Challenge (as #4 A book published this year) without providing you with some of my favourite quotes…

My Goodreads Review
“‘Very Good Lives’ by J.K. Rowling is a non-fiction publication of her Harvard commencement speech of 2008. The material in this book is nothing new, in fact you can watch the speech on YouTube, but it is presented in written format for the first time.
The book itself is stunning, inside and out, and the speech J.K. Rowling delivered to that graduating class was incredibly interesting, and comprised many excellent quotes, including the following:

  • Achievable goals: the first step to self-improvement.
  • It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you failed be default.
  • You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift.

Drawing on her own experiences, J.K. Rowling reflected on her life since herself graduating 21 years previously, and what she wished she had known at that time in her life.
Two key messages are addressed: the fringe benefits of failure and the importance of imagination, both of which are dealt with individually, and then beautifully concluded.
There are a number of references to ‘Harry Potter’ littered within this book, but it is primarily focused on enriching your own life, by enriching others.
‘As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.’”

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The book itself (under the dustjacket) is one of the most beautiful hardcovers I’ve ever seen – the U.K.’s attempts are pretty hardcovers usually pale in comparison with their U.S. counterparts, but this is stunning! The illustrations in this book are absolutely delightful, and I love how some of the quotes were incorporated into them – I’m not going to provide any further photos, you really should discover them for yourself! Even more delightfully, the proceeds from the sales of this book go to Lumos, helping institutionalised children worldwide – and if that’s not a reason to pick up a copy of this book, I don’t know what is!

#4 A book published this year (2015) – Very Good Lives by J.K. Rowling (8/10)

Twenty-two down, twenty-eight to go. (Twenty-three read)

My journey will also be instagrammed frequently on @charlottebibliophile

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Inspiring Quotes From Books

It’s time for my weekly feature, as created by The Broke and the Bookish, Top Ten Tuesday! I love this day of the week, as not only do I get to share with you my favourites, but I also love reading other peoples posts – please feel free to link your post in the comments and I’ll check them out!

April 14Top Ten Inspiring Quotes from Books (anything that inspires you, challenges you, makes you think, encourages you, etc.)
Right now I’m so thankful my Baratheon Game of Thrones notebook, in which I’ve written a dozen or so quotes from books which have made me think in some way, or I’d really struggle to write this post. These quotes are in order of when they meant something to me (in the case of the first one) or when I wrote them down in my notebook.

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1. “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live” (Albus Dumbledore, ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ by J.K. Rowling)
I simply couldn’t omit my very favourite quote, and my blog title now, could I?! This was the very first quote that stuck with me entirely. From aged seven it has been somewhat of my mantra, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Go Jo!

2. “Fear cuts deeper than swords” (Arya Stark, ‘A Clash of Kings’ by George R.R. Martin)
Arya is strong willed, brave and loyal – I don’t think the sorting hat would have difficulty settling on Gryffindor – and she speaks sense. Since I am notoriously bad at worrying, it has helped me to understand and appreciate that fear is often worse than the truth.

3. “If you’re always early, you’re never late” (Nick Dunne’s father, ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn)
Well done Nick’s father. Not only is this entirely obvious, it is completely accurate, and I love it. I am always that person who is early to everything, mainly for fear of being late, so this is a perfect quote for me.

4. “When you’re flat on your back you’re not on your feet” (Carey Taylor, ‘Bared to You’ by Sylvia Day)
This is simply brilliant. Just get off your bum and do something.

5. “I’m a big fan of the lie of omission” (Nick Dunne, ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn)
Oh Nick, you devil you. In all honesty, I don’t know why this resonates with me, but it is very deep and rather disconcerting.

6. “Sorcery is the sauce fools spoon over failure to hide the flavor of their own incompetence” (Tyrion Lannister, ‘A Clash of Kings’ by George R.R. Martin)
Despite thinking the book wasn’t all that great, there were pearls of wisdom dotted through it, usually spoken or thought by Tyrion – I think he might be the only sane character I’ve come across.

7. “I love you as certain dark things are loved, secretly, between the shadow and the soul” (Etienne St. Clair, ‘Anna and the French Kiss’ by Stephanie Perkins)
I believe this originated from poetry (in fact I know it did). It is too deep for a YA romance book, and would be better suited to some form of fanfiction, but I love the passion behind it.

8. “Sometimes, just saying you hate something, and having someone agree with you, can make you feel better about a terrible situation” (Narrator, ‘The Bad Beginning’ by Lemony Snicket)
I could not agree with this more! Being able to agree with someone about something, good or bad, is a powerful thing. Friendships are created and loyalties are bonded by shared perspectives.

9. “There is no happiness like that of being loved by your fellow creatures, and feeling that your presence is an addition to their comfort” (Narrator, ‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte)
I picked this quote up in ‘Billy and Me’ by Giovanna Fletcher, but since it’s Bronte, I went with the original source. It’s so beautiful – maybe I should give that classic a try?

10. “Nothing worth doing is easy. Especially not in the beginning” (Frank Porter, ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ by Morgan Matson)
Very true. Everyone knows this to be true, it’s just sometimes they don’t want to believe it. You just have to overcome the difficulties to achieve the success.

I hope at least one of these quotes resonated with you. Whether they did or not, I hope you have a great day, and remember “Life’s full of ups and downs, but keep smiling.”

My journey will also be instagrammed frequently on @charlottebibliophile

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#12 A Partridge In A Pear Tree (#22)

After dipping in and out of “My True Love Gave To Me” by Stephanie Perkins, (and eleven other authors), since December, I’ve finally finished this Christmassy anthology! It even seems fitting that the 12th criteria on my 2015 Reading Challenge is a book of short stories, since there are 12 Days of Christmas, and 12 authors contributing to this beautiful little book.

Of the dozen authors who each provided an original story for this collection, I’d only ever read anything by two: Stephanie Perkins (“Anna and the French Kiss”) and Rainbow Rowell (“Fangirl”) so I was jumping in blind for the other ten writers. What transpired was a new love for several, and some level of future avoidance for others.

My Goodreads Review
““Midnights” by Rainbow Rowell (7/10)
This was only the second Rainbow Rowell piece I’ve read (the other being Fangirl) but I was slightly disappointed. I understand that short stories cannot really allow the reader (or author) to get into the characters head, but I just wanted to know more about Mags and Noel. The ending was sweet though.

“The Lady and the Fox” by Kelly Link (2/10)
I really disliked the tone and jumpy nature of this story. I just didn’t connect with it at all. I found myself having to think whom the story was focusing on at any one point. Thankfully the middle of the story was marginally more enjoyable. I genuinely do not understand the plot, and I like to think I’m relatively eloquent.

“Angels in the Snow” by Matt de la Pena (9/10)
Hallelujah! Finally a story I actually enjoyed! This was super cute, I bought into the relationship between the characters and wanted them to end up together. I really liked Shy’s character, and felt emotionally attached to him, which is some feat in a short story. The ending cut off quite abruptly, but it is certainly the best of the three so far.

“Polaris Is Where You’ll Find Me” by Jenny Han (8/10)
This story was cute, short and sweet. It kind of reminded me of Elf the movie (what with a human living with Elves and all). Natty and Flynn were so cute, but the ending where Flynn gives her the address of the human boy was sad.

“It’s A Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown” by Stephanie Perkins (7/10)
Whilst this story was slow to get going, I enjoyed the build up from Marigold and North’s first meeting. Initially North annoyed me a bit, he seemed a bit arrogant, but I fell in love with him as soon as he decided to help Marigold clean her apartment. The romance aspect was cute too, the fact that both characters were holding back their feelings until they exploded. I’m not too sure the ending was as good as it could’ve been though.

“Your Temporary Santa” by David Levithan (6/10)
Whilst I am glad that a gay couple was featured in this anthology, there wasn’t much of a love story here. It felt as though the love was one way, and that the main character was being taken advantage of by Connor, albeit for the benefit of giving his little sister a meeting with Santa on Christmas Eve night. This story felt a little out of place among the previous five in the collection.

“Krampuslauf” by Holly Black (5/10)
I loved the magical element of this story, but it wasn’t until the end that I comprehended that Joachim was possibly a figment of Hanna’s imagination. I found the number of characters was too many, as at times I wasn’t 100% sure who they were and where they came from. I was content with the ending in that Hanna realised that being poor or rich doesn’t have to dictate your future.

“What The Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?” by Gayle Forman (8/10)
This story started off in the right place, by fully engaging me! I loved that it was set at a University campus, as I was able relate to Sophie. It was funny and quirky, and I loved how Sophie’s romance with Russell came about. It was also great that together they celebrated Sophie’s religion, not Christmas.

“Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus” by Myra McEntire (7/10)
The Christmas season is all about forgiveness and love, and that’s exactly what this story encompasses. I loved that Vaughn was a prankster-loner type, and that Gracie was the Christian good-girl, but through the spirit of Christmas, they found they were exactly right for each other.

“Welcome to Christmas, CA” by Kiersten White (9/10)
I absolutely loved this story, which focused on a Hispanic girl who detests everything about her life, and can’t wait to move away to college. Then she meets Ben, who just has a spark of Christmas magic about him, and realizes that home is really where the heart is. There was also a beautiful side story about her mother and step-father, who Maria always believed were stingy, but in fact they were her saviours in disguise.

“Star of Bethlehem” by Ally Carter (7/10)
Initially this story confused me slightly, what with knowing nothing about the main character, other than the fact she willingly swapped her plane ticket with a stranger, and was headed for an undisclosed destination. When the story got going, however, it watas sweet, because upon conclusion it was apparent that Liddy hadn’t had contact with a real family in a number of years, and it felt good for her to be who she is, not who someone else wanted her to be. It was a good discovery story.

“The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer” by Liani Taylor (5/10)
This story didn’t quite fit with the anthology, and I really don’t think it was a good story to end on. It was more fantasy based, with the main character Neve being courted by a God. I enjoyed the gift-giving section, but it all felt a little too far-fetched.”

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Reading this anthology has opened my eyes to the works of ten new authors, four of whom I feel a desire to explore further in the coming months: Matt de la Pena, Jenny Han, Gayle Forman and Kiersten White – if that wasn’t already entirely obvious.

The primary issue I had with this book was that there were, inevitably, stories I loved and stories I disliked. Since I was entirely unaware which way my opinion would lean before I jumped into a 30-odd page story, I was somewhat reluctant to begin a new story, whichever way the previous one went, hence why it took me as long as it did to finish this book. To rate the book as a whole, I have averaged the twelve scores, which came out at 6.66/10. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to round it down, as I don’t think it deserves seven – what can I say, I’m difficult to please!

That being said, I did enjoy the experience of reading short stories, as it has been years since I last read an anthology. I’ve also heard that Stephanie Perkins will be releasing a second collection of short stories in summer 2016, featuring an entirely different bunch (with the exception of herself) of writers, so that should be interesting.

#12 A book of short stories – My True Love Gave To Me by Stephanie Perkins and others (6/10)

Twenty-one down, twenty-nine to go. (Twenty-two read)

My journey will also be instagrammed frequently on @charlottebibliophile

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Get Over It

Yesterday (10/04/15) I went to my second concert of the year – McBusted at Cardiff Motorpoint Arena. It was my 5th time seeing the supergroup! I went with my brother, Joe, who I’ve been to the other four McBusted gigs with, my friend Lucinda, who I’ve been with once, and Joe’s friend Jake.

As is becoming usual with my increasingly hectic life (thanks dissertation), the date rolled around before I could even believe it. Unfortunately I forgot the tickets were e-tickets, so I didn’t download and print them until we were due to leave, and because of that moment of relative insanity, I forgot to take my point-and-shoot camera, so was stuck with my iPhone for the whole concert – and I think we all know how useless they are when it comes to taking photos in the dark, so I can count the number of photos I have that are halfway decent on one hand. I’m sure I’ll get over it. I did take a couple of selfies, one of which Lucinda and I got photobombed in – amazing!

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Since this was McBusted’s second tour, and having recorded an album together last year, they performed several songs that we hadn’t heard on the previous occasions. These received a great reception from the crowd, but nothing compared to the McFly and Busted classics.

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Because we arrived relatively late (7.30pm), we were standing near the back of the venue, but that wasn’t an issue because McBusted had a B-Stage only metres away.

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McBusted always put on a great show, and you can tell they’re having so much fun whilst doing so – and it was just fun to hang out with friends, sing and dance and go crazy for a couple of hours (even if I don’t have the photos I usually would have as memories!)

We left during the final couple of minutes of the show to make a quick getaway (once we got stuck in the car park for an hour), and once we were in the car, we chanced upon Harry Judd (McBusted’s drummer), who was obviously also keen to get home – Joe spotted him – so I opened the window, made a face and he made the ‘rock on’ sign, smiled and waved at us all! That definitely topped off a great evening.

#2 McBusted (10/04/15) ****

NB. Props to my Dad for driving us to Cardiff and back! You rock.

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#10 Fly On The Wall (#21)

Today I finished my 21st read for my 2015 Reading Challenge: “The Girl On The Train” by Paula Hawkins. After seeing that ‘Loose Women’ (a popular lunchtime UK talk show) had launched their own bookclub, and that “The Girl On The Train” was going to be their first read, it gave me the motivation to read it this month. And I flew through it.

I love a good thriller/mystery/detective story – last year I read four, with my favourite read of the entire year being one of them (“The Cuckoo’s Calling” by Robert Galbraith) – and this was the perfect one to kick off 2015’s thriller season (I usually read them in the summer. The winter is far too depressing a time for a scary book).

My Goodreads Review
“‘The Girl On The Train’ follows the life of Rachel, an alcoholic, who commutes to and from London everyday on the same train. She witnesses an event from the train that causes her to possess important knowledge.
The book is told from Rachel’s perspective, but also from two other women, with whom Rachel’s life becomes entangled: Anna and Megan. I found sometimes the prose became repetitive (especially in Rachel’s sections – she’s always drunk or not remembering key events).
This book has been compared to ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn, and having read both, I can see the comparison. This book is less psychologically based, and is also less graphic, but that doesn’t detract from the plot – too much. If you’re after a really hard-hitting novel, I’d pick ‘Gone Girl’ over this book, but there was still plenty going on in this novel as well.
I was hooked very early on with this book, which is something of a rarity. The middle experienced a slight lull in action and clues, but the final reveal was excellent. I did manage to unravel the mystery between half and two thirds of the way into the book, but I was left questioning myself on a number of occasions (not enough to change my mind though).
If this is a debut novel, I for one can’t wait to see what Paula Hawkins writes next!”

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Overall, I enjoyed the tension of “Gone Girl” more than “The Girl On The Train”, but this had me hooked from the start, whereas there was a lot of buildup concerned with the former. I would certainly recommend this book to anyone who wants a quick, generally fast-paced read with a satisfying outcome – however, I don’t think it’s one of those books you can go back and read again.

#10 A mystery or thriller – The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins (7/10)

Twenty down, thirty to go. (Twenty-one read)

My journey will also be instagrammed frequently on @charlottebibliophile

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Characters You’d Like To Check In With

This weeks post, created by The Broke and the Bookish, is all about seeing where my favourite characters are now, following the completion of their stories. If you’ve yet to read or finish the following books or series, please do not read any futher, as there will be spoilers, since this is critical as I am talking about after a book or series has finished: Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games, Cormoran Strike, The Time Traveler’s Wife, Gone Girl

April 7: Top Ten Characters You’d Like To Check In With
(Meaning, the book or series is over and you so just wish you could peek in on the “life” you imagine they are leading years down the line after the story ends). This is an incredibly interesting concept, and whilst some of these responses came easily to me, I had to think seriously about some of the others.

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1. Harry Potter (Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling)
I would usually have said Hermione Granger from all of the characters from this global phenomena, but since she works in the Ministry of Magic, working towards better conditions for House Elves, I certainly don’t find that as interesting as Harry’s career as an Auror. It would be so interesting to see which dark wizards emerge following the demise of he-who-must-not-be-named. It would also be amazing to follow his relationship with his children.

2. Jacob Black (Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer)
I find Jacob to be the most real and developed character in the Twilight books; he has obvious flaws, but is passionate about who he is and what he wants out of life. I would love to see how his relationship with Renesmee develops as she grows up, and how they, Bella and Edward interact together.

3. Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins)
Katniss is a highly developed, strong and motivated character, and whilst I was upset at her choices in the “epilogue” of ‘Mockingjay’, I would love to see how she has come to accept her life with Peeta, and what regrets she has. I think Peeta would be as devoted to her as ever, but I think Katniss would have serious problems adjusting to her new life.

4. Robin Ellacott (Cormoran Strike by Robert Galbraith)
I’m cheating slightly here, but since only two of the Cormoran Strike books have, as yet, been released, I’m dying to know more about Robin. She is the most truly likeable character I’ve read about for a while, and I honestly care about the decisions she makes. It is for this reason that I felt compelled to tweet J.K. Rowling in January the following message:

Unbelievably, I received a reply, and my Twitter went wild (not to mention how much I was fangirling).

Anecdote aside, Robin is to me the adult, less bookish Hermione, and I can’t wait to see where her character development goes.

5. Alba DeTamble-Abshire (The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger)
I’m intrigued by Clare and Henry’s daughter, Alba, a time-traveller, but with the ability to control it in part. I’m curious to see where her ability takes her (literally and metaphorically) in her future, and how her mother copes following her father’s death. Upon research (just to clarify her surname, which I was unable to do), I read a blog post that a sequel about Alba is in the works! Day made.

6. Nick Dunne (Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn)
Ok, Nick was an absolute moron, and at times I hated him, but considering the outcome of the book, I’d love to know how he went about the rest of his life living with a psychopath. Personally I’d like to think he waited until the birth of his child, then kidnapped the baby, leaving psychotic Amy to concoct another evil plan to no doubt reel Nick back in. Whatever happens, it is sure to be interesting.

7. Quentin “Q” Jacobsen (Paper Towns by John Green)
Q was by far the most interesting and relatable character (I thought Margo was just insane), and I’d love to see how his life progressed after that (frankly terrible) conclusion. I’d like to think he moved on, met a nice normal girl and had nice normal children – maybe he had the odd reckless adventure on the side?!

8. Noah Flynn (Girl Online by Zoe Sugg)
Another cheat one here. We’ve all discussed the ghostwriter debate, indeed I wrote an entire post on it, but I can’t wait for more about Noah (Penny I’m less bothered about). I bought into the relationship, which had legitimate love and turmoil. I only hope Noah’s (and Penny’s – probably) fame doesn’t stand in their way – which, lets face it, it will or there wouldn’t be a second novel in the works.

9. Christian Grey (Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James)
Whilst I was content with the resolution of the final book, I’d love to watch how Christian continues to battle his demons as a husband and a father. I’d imagine him as overprotective as ever, but with the best interests of his family at heart. I’d love to watch his interactions with his growing family, and I for one also like to believe Ana brought him closer to his adoptive family as well.

10. Cadence Sinclair (We Were Liars by E. Lockhart)
Creepy as it is, I’d like to see how Cadence dealt with the realisation that the death of her cousins was on her conscience. She has obviously suffered serious mental health problems, but I like to think her family would have offered her the required support to deal with the situation – although if I were one of her aunts, I don’t think I could even look at her again. Yeah, this one’s pretty dark.

I’m not going to lie, I cared less and less about the outcomes of the characters, particularly once I’d finished up with Nick, but this was a very interesting post to write.

Any comments on my choices?

My journey will also be instagrammed frequently on @charlottebibliophile

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