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[LET’S CHAT] You Don’t Need to Follow All the Blogging Advice

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I know what you’re thinking.

“But, Mikaela, you’re giving all this blogging advice this month! What are you talking about???” But, here’s the thing: all blogging advice does not work for everyone. I know that. In the (almost) six months I’ve been blogging, there’s been some helpful advice I’ve taken or should’ve taken sooner, and there’s been some advice that I just ignored. And I survived.

So, I wanted to talk a little about some of the advice that helped me in my blogging career, and some of the advice that I had different experiences with or just aren’t “me” things, because I love talking about my experiences just in case someone else is panicking about these things and doesn’t feel alone, I guess? But let’s get to it!

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1. You must comment back to create relationships.

I have never commented back. Like, ever. And even though I want to work on doing it more, I know that I probably won’t do it ALL the time. I know that, if I’m being honest with myself, commenting back just isn’t my thing. And I know there are some bloggers that consider commenting back as sacred, which is great for them, and will look down on bloggers who don’t do it all the time, and oh well! But, I feel like I’ve made a lot of close blogging friends and created great conversations in my own comments section without feeling like I’m obligated to go comment on someone else’s blog just because they comment on mine. I just prefer thinking that people comment on my blog because they WANT to, and not because they want to add me as a number in their own comments section, but that’s just me!

2. To get on all the social media accounts.

Before blogging, I was anti-social media. I had zero social media accounts. Zero. So, I was really worried when I saw so many bloggers say that to get your blog out there, you need to promote on social media accounts, and listing all the ones you could use. And it was just SO MANY. So, for the first couple of months of blogging, I had no social media. And I got over 150+ followers and pretty good stats and e-ARCs from Netgalley that I was dying for. So don’t feel like your lack of social media means that your blog will never thrive.

3. To ask for ARCs at the 6-month, 500 followers deadline.

I know when I wanted to request physical ARCs, I was SO NERVOUS. I read, like, probably hundreds of “How To” posts, and so many of them said that you should wait until you’ve been blogging for six months and have at least 500 followers. I ended up requesting for physical ARCs after three months, and probably a little over 200 followers. Though I ended up only getting e-ARCs of some of the physical ARCs I requested, I DID end up getting my first ever physical ARC from St. Martin’s Press, and that was He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly! So, don’t stress about it. Who knows what will happen?

4. Do memes to reach out as a newbie.

Lots of veteran bloggers usually recommend doing memes to reach out, and I tried to do that, but, unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it! And I was bored with checking out other people’s WWW Wednesdays. And I didn’t even really meet any fellow bloggers that way. So it’s perfectly fine to not want to join in on the meme hype if you’re a newbie blogger. I gave up on it after posting just a couple of them every week in favor of more original content, and, eventually, it increased my readership to what it is today, so it works out in the end!

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1. Make a blogging schedule.

I’m going to talk about this more in a separate post next month, but when I first started out, I didn’t have a blogging schedule. I just posted sporadically, at different times every day, and it was a terrible idea. I once posted three reviews three days in a row, and the third day I posted, my review only conjured up 5 views. 5 VIEWS. It wasn’t until March where I created a blogging schedule, and it wasn’t until mid-April that I created one that I really enjoyed, and I still keep up to till this day! Personally, it’s something that’s really worked well for me, especially as a planner and one who likes to get ahead.

2. Be consistent.

Again, was definitely not consistent when I started out. Oops. But I know that I really prefer posting things that people expect on the days that people expect them. And I know I’m more likely to follow and pay attention to a blog where I know how many posts I’m expecting from them each week or month. It’s always personal preference, because I know there are some people who are sporadic and that’s just who they are.

3. Write a lot of discussion posts.

Okay, not A LOT. But some. Or maybe even one a month. But discussion posts are not only my favorite posts to read and comment from other bloggers, but pretty much everyone can relate to them, and, it’s true, they do a wonder for your stats. I personally love writing them, and I love the discussions they produce, and I probably won’t stop.

4. Get on Twitter.

I resisted getting on Twitter forever because as someone who’s not on Twitter, just letting you know, it’s viewed as a cesspool (other people’s words, not mine!). BUT, I went ahead and did it. Still not my favorite social media, but it’s a very nice platform for sharing things and getting things out there for other bloggers!

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And those are just some of my experiences with blogging advice!

But, really, you don’t need to! Even with my advice you don’t need to listen to it and do EXACTLY what it says, unless you feel like it’ll work for you. It’s YOUR blog, therefore you can do whatever you want with it, whether other people like it or don’t – which is totally awesome.

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Just another quick reminder that we are in Phase 2 of the Big Blogger, Little Blogger Project, where we dedicate an entire post on our own blog to the Little Blogger we’ve been supporting! If you don’t know what I’m talking about or aren’t very clear about it, the link to the instructions is here! Whenever you publish it, just link it back to one of my posts so I can see it and take note of it! I’m hoping to post the masterpost sometime in July, so hopefully you can get them done in time!

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How do you feel about blogging advice? What are some pieces of blogging advice that you followed or didn’t follow?

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16

[ANNOUNCEMENT] Ask Me Your Burning Questions For My 6 Month Blogiversary!

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So, next Tuesday is my six-month blogiversary!

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I can’t believe that everything has gone by SO FAST. It feels like just yesterday when I pre-maturely started my blog even though I was planning on waiting until January 1. Whoops. (I mean, looking back on it, it was a good decision, but still. Premature.)

But I’m going to be talking about my stats and achievements next Wednesday! For this post, I thought it’d be fun to have a Q and A on my blog to celebrate, so I’m going to be asking you guys to ask me any questions that you have, whether they’re related to blogging, books, reading, music, movies, TV shows, etc. As long as it’s not something like, “What’s your address?” Because, no.

I’ll be leaving this open probably until Tuesday since the blogiversary post is going up Wednesday, and it’ll probably take a while to write it! I’ll also be accepting any questions via Twitter if you want to shoot me one there (my account will be linked at the end of this post)!

I’m very excited for this, so feel free to comment away with as many questions as you have! 

Ask away

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Also, I wanted to mention that Project Big Blogger, Little Blogger is over! I know, it’s so sad! But, that means it’s now time to enter Phase 2 of the project, where we create a post highlighting our Little Blogger in some way! A couple of you guys have already started, and I’ve taken note of that, which is awesome! Just whenever you make the post, link back to me in some way so I know to check it out! I’m hoping to have the masterpost up sometime in July, so just make sure it’s not TOO late. If you have any more questions, all the details are in the original post!

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25

5 Reasons Why You Should Be Adding WANT To Your TBR

 

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Genre: Sci-fi, Dystopian, YA

Rating: 4 STARS

Series: Want #1

Release Date: June 13

Synopsis:

From critically acclaimed author Cindy Pon comes an edge-of-your-seat sci-fi thriller, set in a near-future Taipei plagued by pollution, about a group of teens who risk everything to save their city.

Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits, protecting them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.

Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is, or destroying his own heart?

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I will say, I didn’t even really have this book on my radar until I was so intrigued by the cover, I caved and decided to add it to my TBR, then went ahead and requested it. I’m so glad I was accepted for this one because I can only say that I freaking loved it.

1. The romance was amazing. So, we have this angst-y, forbidden, sexually tense romance between Daiyu and Zhou, and before you roll your eyes and groan, this romance was incredibly done well. There was absolutely no insta-love (in fact, they never say they love each other AT ALL. What is this sorcery?), and it’s all wonderful slow-burn and sexual tension. And when they finally get together, it’s like magic. I’m usually not one to get heart eyes over a ship where the both of them are on different sides of the track, but I loved it.

(Sidenote, I also ship Lingyi and Iris SO HARD. I would not be against a book entirely dedicated to the two of them being cute. Just saying.)

2. The characters were amazing. First of all, this book had a gang at a center of it, and I’m a sucker for any sort of gang or squad – think the Dregs from Six of Crows or the Night Court from the A Court of Thorns and Roses Series – so I was into it. But I absolutely loved all the individual characters and what they brought to the table!

We have Zhou, our wonderful main character who decides to act as the spy, Victor, who is sleek and sauve and hilarious, Arun, who is the scientist, Lingyi, who is the hacker, and Iris, who reminds me so much of Black Widow, and I love her, so it was great. And Daiyu, who isn’t part of the gang but is Zhou’s love interest who is strong and smart and stands on her own. I’m loving this rise of smart girls over ones who can kick ass 24/7 (even though I love those as well). I WANT THEM ALL TO BE MY FRIENDS. I just loved the interactions and relationship between Zhou and the gang, especially near the end.

3. It had great world-building. First off, this book took place in Taiwan, which I’ve never really seen as a setting before, so it was really awesome to have a book take place somewhere different and diverse. I also thought that a world that’s falling apart because of pollution and global warming was pretty much right on the nose considering the fact that Trump pulled out of the Paris Agreement a couple of weeks ago, so it was interesting to see a sci-fi future like this.

4. It was a perfect sci-fi novel. I’ve definitely become more obsessed with sci-fi over the last year, but I haven’t read enough it, and I’m SO glad I had the opportunity to read this one. This one was more of a cross between dystopian and speculative sci-fi (which is my favorite type of sci-fi), and did a fantastic job of holding up a mirror to things such as privilege, class, and taking care of the environment. It was just done SO WELL, and I applaud Pon for it.

5. Basically, it was amazing. If I had to describe this book in any way, it’d be Six of Crows meets Red RisingSix of Crows because of the characters and the aspect of them being in a group and Red Rising because of the whole “lower class goes undercover in the upper class” ruse, which I totally love. So, it was two of my favorite series in one, and I couldn’t be happier. Not to mention that even though this had long chapters, the pacing was still perfect and kept me addicted. AND I WANT MORE. I saw on Goodreads that this might have a sequel, which I’m eternally thankful for. I NEED ONE.

Basically, you will not regret adding this book to your TBR. It’s definitely worth it, and I highly recommend it, obviously.

A huge thanks to Simon and Schuster for giving me an e-ARC of this book, especially since I enjoyed it so much!

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66

I Went to Bookcon 2017! | Recap and Haul

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As you guys know, I was in New York for Bookcon earlier this month!

It was so much fun. SO. MUCH. FUN. Okay, it had a bit of a rough start on Saturday, but everything ended up working perfectly on Sunday, AND I got every single book I wanted (and more)! So, basically, I’m really proud of myself, and definitely will be attending next year (or BEA? It’s up in the air at the moment).

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So, my family and I woke up bright and early around six on Saturday morning because I wanted to be one of the first in line to get to the show floor! I wanted to be there by eight, but we ended up being a little later than that, which was perfectly fine! We were immediately led to the queue hall for getting into the show floor, where we waited for two whole hours. It was so amazing to see the hall fill up with SO MANY book nerds, though! I’ve never seen so many in my life. While waiting in the hall, I was alerted of two things via Twitter: one was that they were giving away ARCs of The Cruel Prince by Holly Black by saying a password and another was that Penguin Teen was giving away a Penguin Teen Game Changers box every top of the hour throughout the day, and whoever said the password first won it. If you don’t know about the whole Game Changers campaign, basically, Penguin Teen is releasing five YA titles back-to-back five weeks during September-October in different genres that they call “game-changers” of its respected genre. AND I WANTED THEM SO BAD.

As soon as it hit ten, we were all allowed to go to the show floor. As soon as I got there, I tried to find the Hachette booth for The Cruel Prince which took FOREVER to find. Once I found it, I said the password, got the book, and was also handed a Novl tote bag. And they had ARCs of Invictus on display and up for grabs, so I grabbed one, of course. I then rushed with my mom and brother to the Harlequin Teen booth for some author signings of their latest ARCs, but the line was capped, and I couldn’t make it. That was disappointment number one of the day. My mom ended up learning that they were doing a galley give-away at three, so we planned to see if we could go to that!

The I Read YA breakfast wasn’t starting for another hour, so I ended up going to the Penguin Teen booth and waiting for the password on Twitter so I could win their box. At eleven, I went straight to one of the attendants, told her the password, and she said I won, which was exciting! On my way there, though, I saw another girl who was handed the box, and once I got there, they said that they had actually given away the prize to another girl because she was in a different area of their booth than I was, and there was nothing they could do. This was AFTER they specifically told my mom and I that we could be ANYWHERE around the booth and go to any attendant to say the password, but now they’re saying we had to be at a specific spot. Disappointment number two.

After that, we raced to the I Read YA breakfast where I got to meet Maggie Stiefvater and get a signed ARC of All the Crooked Saints, which is one of my most anticipated releases! She was so sweet and so nice and I can’t believe I got to meet her face-to-face.

Shell-shocked after meeting one of my favorite authors of all time, I went back to the Penguin Teen booth to try to win the Game-Changers box. Again, no such luck. Twitter notifications failed me and decided to send me the Tweet with the password a full minute after everyone had already screamed it out loud. Disappointment number three. Luckily, my mom was vigilant and complained to the Penguin staff about how I was the real winner of the second box, and one of the ladies was nice enough to give us a card with her e-mail on it and said that if we didn’t win it at Bookcon, we could e-mail her about it and probably get it that way, which lifted my hopes a little bit.

It was around twelve at this time, and all three of us were tired from walking around and were super hungry, so we decided to leave the Javits Center and walk around New York to find something to eat, and stumbled upon Five Guys (which I’ve never eaten from before), and then walked back to the Javits Center. My legs were pretty much dead at this point, just in case you guys wanted to know.

We sat and ate for a moment before getting up and entering the show floor again because Harper was dropping four ARCs at their booth, and one of them was They Both Die At the End by Adam Silvera, which I would literally give anything for, so I raced there, and my mom and brother went to the Harlequin Teen booth for their galley drop. Harper Teen was really strict about not making a line, so basically there were a cluster of people just waiting until two hit so they could push and shove in line, and push and shove they did. I was near the front of the booth, but ended up having to be in the back of the booth because so many people were shoving their way in front of me. So, that was annoying. Then, I basically waited in line for a full hour, and when the giveaway finally started, by the time I got up there, all the ARCs of They Both Die At the End were taken, so I ended up getting my second choice, Release by Patrick Ness, which wasn’t too bad since I wanted it as well!

After that debacle, I met up with my brother and mom, and was really happy to find out they had snagged me ARCs of All Rights Reserved and Daughter of the Burning City, which I was trying to get signed that morning! We ended up wandering around the Penguin Teen booth because they were going to be giving away tickets for Marie Lu’s signing of Warcross, and I just HAD to get one. All the attendants were screaming at everyone to keep walking around the show floor and to stop loitering, so my mom made a plan to make my brother stand in the back of the booth, and my mom and I near the front. Once they started lining up for the signing, we realized that our mob was being pushed to the back, so my mom and I bombarded my brother with texts to GET IN LINE NOW, and, thankfully, he did! We managed to be number 78 in line, and if he hadn’t been in the back, I would’ve missed out on Marie Lu because my mom and I were so far back in the mob, so a big thanks to my little brother.

I ended up waiting in line for probably an hour and a half before I actually got to meet Marie Lu. YES, IT TOOK THAT LONG. While waiting in line, my mom and little brother were kind enough to actually WIN THE GAME-CHANGERS BOX FOR ME. I was so happy, and then just a couple minutes later, I got to meet Marie Lu. She was absolutely wonderful and it was so great to tell her face-to-face that I absolutely love both of her series and can’t wait for her newest book!

(Ah, a blurry picture of my face!)

After that, we went back to the hotel because my legs were actually dead at that point and I was way too tired to go see the Booksplosion Booktube panel. Though Day 1 of Bookcon was rough, it ended up being a really good time! Here’s a picture of my full Day 1 haul:

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Again, my family and I woke up at around six! Because we knew what we were doing this time around, we ended up getting to the Javits Center at 7:30, and was in a pretty good place in line outside, which was awesome. As soon as the doors for the queue hall opened, we sent my brother to coat check to drop off the suitcase, and my mom and I walk-ran to the queue hall line. We were so fast that we ended up being SUPER close to the entrance to the show floor, which was awesome.

Because of the chaos of Saturday, my mom and I planned to the T what times we should be lining up for all the signings and ARC drops I wanted to make it to. You might think, “It’s not THAT big of a deal,” BUT IT WAS.  I kid you not, people would line up two hours early for a signing.  THAT’S how hardcore Bookcon was. We found out early that morning via the amazing Bookcon app that ARCs for Zenith were dropping at the Harlequin Teen booth as soon as Day 2 of Bookcon started, so when the show floor was open, my mom and I rushed to the Harlequin Teen booth. My mom was much faster than me and ended up getting the seventeenth place in line. In line, I talked to two other girls who were super sweet, and the girl in front of me also wanted Zenith, and we both ended up nabbing a copy, which was awesome! It meant that I didn’t have to go through waiting for the mob that would be the signing (especially since I had two other events around that time to line up for)!

After getting my copy, I went to the Penguin Teen booth to meet up with my mom and brother. They were about to give out tickets for E. Lockhart’s signing of her ARC, Genuine Fraud, which I was looking forward to! We all divided and conquered into different places around the booth (and I guess this is where I mention that Penguin Teen actually got security guards because their booth was just THAT popular and crazy once signing tickets were given out the previous day). My brother ended up being in the right line, and got me a fantastic spot for the signing! I took his place and chatted with these other two girls who were awesome while my mom and brother went to the Autographing Area to hold my place for Nic Stone. After meeting E. Lockhart and getting Genuine Fraud signed, I went to the Area and jumped in line with my family.

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There ended up being a bit of a mishap because apparently, something happened with the box of ARCs of Dear Martin, so Nic Stone only signed bookmarks while the lady managing her signing took down our address so she could send the ARC to us at a later date. She was so sweet and pretty, and it was great to be able to tell her how excited for her debut novel I was!

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(Ah, a clear close-up of my face! And probably the worst picture of me, too.)

We then went to go find the Entangled Teen booth because I didn’t want to miss out on Tristina Wright’s signing of 27 Hours. Once we found the booth, we quickly found out that people had ALREADY STARTED FORMING A LINE even though a signing was already still going on at their booth, and Wright’s signing wasn’t even for another two hours. Like I said, Bookcon is hardcore. I had to charge my phone at this point, so my mom stood in line for me for a while as I got it charged, and then I had to go back and get my spot while my mom went to Harper’s booth to get ready to line up for the ARC drop of four books, one of them being This Darkness Mine, which is one of my most anticipated releases.

It was a long, long wait for Tristina Wright, so I passed the time by re-watching Buzzfeed Unsolved videos (totally worth my time, by the way), until she arrived. I was one of the first few people in line, so I ended up meeting her fairly quickly, getting the opportunity to tell her I loved her hair and was excited for her debut novel, and got 27 Hours signed by her!

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I then went and met up with my mom and brother at the Penguin Teen booth because tickets for Leigh Bardugo’s signing of Wonder Woman: Warbringer were about to be handed out, AND BOY IT WAS INSANE. The best way I can describe it is by saying that it was basically like a mosh pit and a mob simultaneously. My mom handed me the ARC of This Darkness Mine she had gotten and stayed near the back while my brother and I were near the side of the booth. We anxiously waited for the tickets to be handed out, and they actually didn’t even hand them out on time, but about ten minutes late. THANKFULLY, my mom was near the back where they were handing out the tickets first, and managed to get one, which made me jump for joy because I WAS MEETING LEIGH BARDUGO. My mom changed places with me and then raced to the Harper Teen booth for the second drop of four ARCs, which included They Both Die At the End.

I waited in line for a LONG TIME. My phone battery was low, I hadn’t eaten or drunk anything since that morning (and it was around three in the afternoon), and my legs were dead from standing and walking since six in the morning. I can’t say it enough, you guys; BOOKCON IS HARDCORE. But it was all totally worth it to meet Leigh Bardugo face-to-face and tell her the Six of Crows duology was one of my favorite series ever and that Jesper was my favorite character and get a copy of Wonder Woman. Unfortunately, they didn’t allow any photos because the line was so long and it’d take too much time, but I have the memory with me.

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After that, I walked over to the Harper Teen booth. My mom was pretty close to the beginning of line, but they hadn’t started the giveaway yet, so I waited around until it happened. It was a super tense few minutes, let me tell you, because my mom was bunched up with a whole lot of people, and They Both Die At the End was going away quickly (they only had about twenty-five copies of each book), but, by the grace of God, my mom managed to snag a copy for me! And with that, my tight schedule for Bookcon was over. I got every book I wanted and every signing I wanted and I was ready to eat and get some water.

After we all ate and drank, we went back to the show floor, stress-free because it was the last hour of Bookcon and we had accomplished everything. Earlier in the day I had seen a girl in line for 27 Hours with an ARC of The Belles, which I wanted SO BAD, so we headed to the Disney-Hyperion booth, and they were all gone. Of course, I was upset (especially since Disney said that the author was only signing a poster and giving away an excerpt of the book, AND NOT THE ARC), but not too upset since I literally got every book I wanted. Since so many people were trading ARCs on the Bookcon app, I decided to advertise the double copy of Warcross I’d won from the box on the app in exchange from The Belles. We visited a couple more booths and my mom bought me Roar for only ten dollars at the Macmillan booth, but with no one responding, we went back to the hotel.

Of course, while on our way back, someone said that they had The Belles and would be happy to trade. My mom was nice enough and said we could meet up with them somewhere, so after dropping off my brother with the suitcase full of books, we walked around New York for a while looking for the meeting place, and then I ended up trading Warcross for The Belles, which I’m eternally grateful for Jennifer for trading for!

And with that, Bookcon was officially over! Here’s my Day 2 haul if anyone is curious:

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So, I decided to go into detail about all the books I got from Bookcon (and one I got from The Strand when I visited there)! The Goodreads links to the books will be found under the pictures of the books! This doesn’t include Dear Martin, which is hopefully being sent to my house as I write this, but I have all the other books!

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Daughter of the Burning City

All Rights Reserved

Wonder Woman: Warbringer

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Things I’m Seeing Without You

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

Warcross

There’s Someone Inside Your House

Jane, Unlimited

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Release

Genuine Fraud

They Both Die At the End

Invictus

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This Darkness Mine

27 Hours

All the Crooked Saints

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The Cruel Prince

Zenith

The Belles

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Roar

The Possible

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And that’s it for my recap and book haul of Bookcon! If you made it through the entire post, a huge congratulations to you!

Anyone, I have no idea what I’m doing next year! I really want to go to BEA next year because I’m a blogger and I’d love to attend one year (and there are way more ARCs, which yes please), but it’s super expensive for my parents, so I might just go to Bookcon. IT’S UP IN THE AIR. But I can say that I’m 98% sure I’m going to Yallfest this year, so yeah for that!

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Did you go to Bookcon? If you did, what was your experience, favorite moment, what books you hauled, etc.? And if you didn’t, which of the books I got do you find the most interesting/do you most anticipate? SHARE WITH ME!

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61

[THE BLOGGING DIARIES] The Evolution of My Blog

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So, my blog has changed. A lot.

You may be thinking, “Mikaela, it’s only been six months. How have you changed your blog so many times?” I’M WEAK, OKAY? And I’m also a huge perfectionist, so I want everything to look right. And I thought it’d be really fun to take a Time Turner and look back at what my blog used to look like, so here goes nothing!

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Theme

Sela

So, my first ever theme was Sela. WordPress gives you a limited number of themes when you first start out, and this one was the most appealing to me. It wasn’t until a month into blogging that I discovered the other themes I could use, so I was stuck with this one for a while. I looked around a lot of other blogs and preferred their style much more than my own, which lead me to…

Button

The Button blog theme! I actually didn’t even mean to activate this theme! I loved the way Puput @ Sparkling Letters‘ blog looked like, and I wanted mine to look more like hers (seriously, her blog is #goals). I didn’t know that bar on the left hand corner of the screen told you specifically what blog theme they used, so I sort of guessed by eyesight, and this was the one I chose.

I actually didn’t hate this one (and I’m pretty sure this was what lead me to theme my blog towards pink because that was one of the standard colors I could use), but doing featured images was SO HARD. Button actually shows the featured images, and if you don’t size them perfectly, they’re all different sizes when you look at the home page, WHICH BOTHERED ME SO MUCH. After I discovered that bar at the bottom, I realized the theme that actually worked for me and transferred to…

Pachyderm

Pachyderm! This is probably my favorite of the three that I chose! Also, much like Sela, this one doesn’t actually show the Featured Image, which makes me super happy, because I don’t have to stress about how it looks on the outside (though I now have all my graphics made in the same size, so it’d probably be fine now, BUT WHATEVER).

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Yes, even my blog name changed. I KNOW.

So, my first blog name was “Fractured Spines.” Yeah, it’s the worst name for a book blog ever. I actually took a long time trying to figure out my blog name, and I wanted a variation of “Cracked Spines” because if you see the spines of the copies of my Harry Potter and Percy Jackson books, you’ll understand what I mean. It’s a hot mess. But, unfortunately, that name was taken by several other book blogs (book blogs that hadn’t been active in YEARS, but still), so I decided not to go with it because you can’t copy someone else’s URL. And “Fractured Spines” was the only variation that hadn’t been taken.

But, I realized that I just really hated the name, so I changed it and my URL about a week later. Thank God I did that. I actually just looked up “words related to books” in Google, and I really liked the word “well-thumbed”! I attached “Reader” to it, and was satisfied with it, and that’s how “The Well-Thumbed Reader” was born!

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Design

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So, this is the fun part. My design and graphics has changed SO MUCH. Here’s a look at my original blog header design:

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As you can see, I was totally digging the minimalism look here. I used this really nice picture of the spines of my Harry Potter books that are all cracked and worn down, hence “well-thumbed.” I used an app called Pic Collage to do this (this was before I discovered Canva). I actually really liked this header, but I up-ended the way my blog looked, and here’s the second one…

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I took a really nice picture for bookstagram that I really loved, so I decided to use it for basically everything – banners, buttons, graphics. I actually really like this one as well (and it introduced me to the Brusher font). I made this after discovering Canva, which is how most of my graphics were made after I discovered it. As most of you guys know, I changed my blog AGAIN in April and this happened…

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I discovered the magical website that is Freepik and used it to make this blog header! I still kept the same font, but made it smaller so only one word is at the bottom, but I do really love this banner (even if it’s pink and flower-y and I’m not like that whatsoever).

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I didn’t have a blogging button in my first phase of blogging, I guess you could say, so it wasn’t until my second redesign that I actually made one after seeing them around. Like I mentioned earlier, I went through this phase where I used this picture as a background for everything, hence this blog button. I felt meh about the way it looked then, and I still feel meh about it now, to be honest.

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Of course, after my third re-design, I had to change the button. I’m actually really proud of how this one turned out! I used the same background of watercolor flowers that I did for my blog header, but I also manged to find a watercolor book to use from Freepik as well! It took a lot of editing to do this, but I’m really proud of how it turned out.

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This is going to be the most interesting part of this post (well, at least to me)! My graphics have definitely changed A LOT, much like my photography. I used Pic Collage to make these graphics at first! I was an avid Books Amino user, and I used these types of graphics as my featured images there, so I thought it’d be a good idea to make them on my blog. Obviously, a terrible decision.

These featured images were also a product of Pic Collage! This was around the time when I had Button as my blog theme and it showed featured images, so I attempted to make them all the same size. It honestly didn’t work out too well, which is probably what irritated me the most. Also, I tried to condense my blog post titles into hashtags, for some reason? I honestly don’t even know why.

Around this time, I got into bookstagram! I remember pulling out all these books on my shelves, pushing them together, and taking photos of them up close. I downloaded this app onto my phone that blurred photos (it was pretty sketchy and would crash after I finished saving the picture, but it did its job), and after doing so, would upload the picture to Pic Collage, edit it, and type up the blog post tile onto the picture, then save it onto my phone. Yeah, it was a lot of unnecessary work. I thought these pictures were good enough for Instagram, and started on there (until I quit a week or so later).

Fortunately, my third phase of graphics didn’t last too long, and I used the same picture for my graphics yet again. This was also around the time I discovered and started using Canva, and I didn’t really know much about what I was doing. I don’t HATE these graphics, but they do look so boring and uninteresting, so I’m surprised that some of you guys still clicked on my posts.

And these are the product of some of my most recent changes (I apologize for these unnecessarily blurry pictures)! I started using my much better bookish photography as the background of my graphics and different ones, which makes the graphic pop (or at least they do in my eyes). At first, I didn’t incorporate emojis, but then I used one for one of my graphics and loved how nice it looked, so I’ve started using them for all my graphics. These are definitely my favorite out of all the graphics I made, and it’s nice to see how far I’ve come!

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Yeah, I’ve even had an abundance of arrows and borders. I’m just a natural at changing things way too much.

My first border was one that I just randomly googled. I don’t have it anymore, and I’m not going to bother to try to find it again because I literally stole it off Google. Thankfully, it’s not on anymore of my posts, but I basically just Googled “fancy black borders,” and copied the nicest one I found. Yeah, it was a bad idea.

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At this point, I was observing all of my favorite blogs because I felt like I wasn’t really doing good enough. I was just doing tags and reviews and memes, compared to all these other awesome book blogs I was following that were posting awesome discussions and had the prettiest blog designs. Hence why I adopted arrows as my borders, like many other blogs. I actually got these from another blogger who provided these as a free download, and edited the second arrow to have “Let’s Chat” on it.

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This isn’t really much different from the first set, but this was around the time when I used the same picture as the background for everything! I went from blue to pink because I started using Pachyderm and had a pink background for that, and I wanted to color coordinate everything. Around this time was when I finally started using social media as well, hence the “Follow Me” arrow.

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Let's Chat

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And here are the gorgeous arrows I’m using now! I downloaded these from Freepik, and edited them in Pic Collage, like I did with the other two, to include the “Let’s Chat” and “Follow Me” phrases on top of them. I definitely prefer these arrows over the other ones just because they look prettier and less boring and gray, I suppose?

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And those are all of the blog changes I went through! 

Obviously, it took a long time before I considered my blog to be in top shape. Even regarding my content, it took a good month before I was happy with what I was writing and publishing. So to those who have just started out or have been after it for a while now and feel unsatisfied or like what they’re doing isn’t good enough, just be patient. I know it’s hard (trust me, I’m quite the impatient person), but with time comes experience!

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What changes has your blog gone through, design-wise, content-wise, or anything-wise? 

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35

[THE BLOGGING DIARIES] How I Take and Edit My Photos

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I’m always asked, “Mikaela, how do you take your beautiful bookish pictures?”

(Okay, just kidding, I’ve never been asked that.)

I asked my followers on Books Amino whether they wanted to see a tutorial of how I take and edit my photos or how I make my blog graphics. By a small margin, the photos won out, so I decided to post this one first (though how I make my graphics will be coming up sometime later this month; don’t worry)! Obviously, I’m no photography expert – I don’t own a camera and I literally have zero previous experience in photography – but I think my pictures look all right, so I’m going for it anyway!

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But what if I don’t have enough books or buy a lot of books?

That’s totally fine! You might think judging by bookstagram that you’ll need an entire library and to buy ALL THE NEW BOOKS, but you really don’t. Some of my books look like trash because I’ve had them for a long, long time, and that’s totally fine! It’s really nothing  to worry about.

But what if I don’t have a good camera or can’t buy one?

I don’t own a camera. If you asked me what types of cameras I could use, I wouldn’t even know the answer. I use the camera on my iPhone, and it works perfectly fine and produces great pictures (at least, I think it does)

But what if I don’t have any money for props or a fancy background?

I worried about this when I first started out because I saw all the bookstagram accounts use props, but you really don’t need them! And as for the fancy background, I literally use my hardcover books and lay them spine-up on a desk in my room. It costs zero dollars!

But what if I have no skills to take pictures?

Unfortunately, I don’t have any of my old pictures because I deleted them a while ago, but trust me, they were ugly as all hell. It took me a couple of months before I started taking pictures I was satisfied in, so you WILL improve with time. Trust me.

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#1: Choose your background and photo-taking space.

Personally, my space is in the corner of my bedroom, on my desk, which is pushed against my window. I decided that the best course of action was to have my desk pushed up against the window because natural sunlight is always the best light! I highly recommend taking your pictures somewhere where sunlight is provided, or anywhere close to light!

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This is a picture of my set-up and shooting place! I took this photo at 7 at night, so, of course, it looks like trash, but let’s pretend this photo looks absolutely stunning.

Regarding your background, it could be anything! Some people use their bedspread, some people use the floor, some people actually buy backgrounds, some people use a table, some people use their bookshelves. There are endless choices out there! I know I personally struggled with finding a background I liked because nothing was working for me, and my room is (unfortunately) in no way aesthetically pleasing. I decided to start using books as a background, and I found myself finally satisfied! Be creative – there’s no need to spend a lot of money doing this.

#2: Set up the shot.

Obviously, it’s up to you what you include in the photo! I know there are some people out there who plan their photos and write down their ideas when it comes to them, but I’m more of the type of girl to just do a photo shoot and just come up with photo ideas on the fly while I’m taking pictures, so it’s all up to you! You can choose if you want a theme to your photo, what books you want to use, what props you’re using them, if you are, etc.

Then, you’ll decide how you use them and where they’ll go! This is when you arrange your shot, use your props the way you want to, decide if there’s going to be a theme concerning your photo, what angle you’ll take the photo at, etc. There are multiple styles out there – flatlays, stacked books, multiple books in one shot, a pile of books, naked books, book rainbows, etc. There are probably a lot more I’m missing out on.

#3: Actually taking the pictures.

Since I use my phone, this is a pretty non-complicated process. I usually take my photos in a wider shot, because I always end up cropping them once I edit (and I like having empty space and such). Personally, I usually only take one or two photos and then move on, but I know there are people out there who take several photos and then choose from all of them which ones they like best and trash the others, so it’s all up to you!

Feel free to change things up in the photo-taking process – take the picture from a different angle, put in a prop that you think will fit in, change the book’s position, etc. I also always look closely at all the photos I’ve taken just in case something looks off-center or doesn’t look right. Usually, I’ll take a picture, look at it to see if it’s easy on the eyes, and if it is, I move on. Definitely not everyone’s photo-taking process, but it’s mine!

And, also, don’t feel like all the pictures you take have to be THE PERFECT SHOT. I struggle with this all the time honestly – I’ll look at a picture and get frustrated with it because it’s not to my liking – and I really hope I can fix this terrible habit. Trust me, editing is a wonderful, magical process, and can make even the ugliest of pictures look like masterpieces.

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I’m sure there are many a photo-editing apps out there in the world, but, personally, I use PicMonkey. It’s a free app, and it makes my pictures look less ugly, so it’s a win-win. If you don’t have a phone, you can also use the website on the computer. Since I take my pictures on my phone, I also edit on my phone, so I’m going to show you how I use the PicMonkey app.

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Here’s the “Before” picture! I took this one last month for one of my posts in May.

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Once you download and open the app, just click the picture you want to edit, and it’ll take you to this screen. On the left hand corner of the picture, you’ll see the “Crop” button, so click that.

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Usually, I’ll choose “Instagram” for my cropping needs. Obviously, you can crop your photos for different social media sites, such as Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, but since I just use my pictures for my blog and for graphics, “Instagram” is the best for me.

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After clicking the check mark in the top right hand corner, you’re brought back to where you started. Usually, this is when I really start editing. Personally, the only thing I play around with regarding editing my photos is “Adjust” (I’ll go more into detail about what I specifically use next), but you also have Effects, where you can choose from a variety of themes; Draw, which is pretty self-explanatory; Stickers, which is also self-explanatory; and Text, which allows you to type things and arrange them on the photo.

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After clicking “Adjust,” I usually edit using four buttons: Contrast, Clarity, Levels, and Saturation. All of these things come together to make my photos look less dull and ten times brighter. I have specific settings for each of these things (you have the ability to scroll left or right on how much of each you want), but you can play around to see what works for you. There are three buttons I don’t use: Brightness, because I take my photos near natural sunlight (though this might be helpful for those who don’t have that); Temp, which just makes your pictures “warmer” – brighter – or “colder” – duller; and Blur, if you want to focus on a specific part of the picture and blur everything else out.

Once I click the top right corner check mark, I click “Save” in the top right corner, click the first option, “Save to Camera Roll,” and that’s it! Here’s the final product of that picture I showed earlier:

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And that’s basically how I take and edit my pictures!

Hopefully, that was helpful to some of you who wanted to know all the behind-the-scenes about how I do things! I’m hoping to do two more tutorials this month (which will be how I make my graphics and how to write the perfect discussion post), but if you guys have any specific tutorials you want me to do, feel free to leave me a suggestion!

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34

5 Reasons Why I (Strongly) Disliked FOLLOW ME BACK

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Genre: Thriller

Series: Follow Me Back #1

Rating: 1 STAR

Synopsis: 

Tessa Hart’s world feels very small. Confined to her bedroom with agoraphobia, her one escape is the online fandom for pop sensation Eric Thorn. When he tweets to his fans, it’s like his speaking directly to her…

Eric Thorn is frightened by his obsessive fans. They take their devotion way too far. It doesn’t help that his PR team keeps posting to encourage their fantasies.

When a fellow pop star is murdered at the hands of a fan, Eric knows he has to do something to shatter his online image fast—like take down one of his top Twitter followers. But Eric’s plan to troll @TessaHeartsEric unexpectedly evolves into an online relationship deeper than either could have imagined. And when the two arrange to meet IRL, what should have made for the world’s best episode of Catfish takes a deadly turn…

Told through tweets, direct messages, and police transcripts.

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So, originally, I was super pumped to read this. A YA mystery/thriller that uses a unique format? Count me in! I’m a huge fan of thrillers, and I’m always there to read thrillers in the YA genre, since they’re really lacking. After being approved for this one, my interest slightly waned when I learned that this was originally published on Wattpad. Not shaming Wattpad or anything (I’ve read amazing boyxboy stories on there, which is mainly what I read nowadays), but most of their stories, especially the extremely cliché ones, can definitely be a bit juvenile. And this one definitely reminded me of why I don’t read Wattpad stories about straight couples anymore.

1. Eric Thorn was a total douchebag. He’s one of the main characters of the novel and also one of the POVs, and being in his head for more than one page drove me up a wall. I’m guessing I was supposed to empathize with him because his record label is trying to change him from this sweet boy-next-door who’s all deep and such into a shallow boy with manufactured songs, but I didn’t. He continually puts down his fans, implying that they’re idiots and all sex-obsessed and that they don’t really care about him (no, Eric, no they don’t. That’s because they DON’T KNOW YOU), but, of course ~Tessa~ knows all about him and is different from all the other girls. Excuse me while I roll my eyes.

Not to mention his horrible songs. “Aloe Vera”? “Snowflake”? Please tell me who in the world would actually listen to a song titled “Aloe Vera” in this day and age.

2. It had one of the worst romances I’ve ever seen. As you can see from the synopsis, Eric sets up a second account under an alias and ends up communicating with Tessa that way. In the span of a couple of months, Eric apparently falls in love with her? It made absolutely no sense. The two of them are simply talking over Twitter DMs, and before you know it, BAM! Eric’s talking about how much he loves her even though he knows next-to-nothing about her, and then before they’re going to meet, Tessa pours out her love for him, even though we never see this develop on her end. It’s utterly ridiculous.

3. The way Tessa’s agoraphobia was addressed. She’s traumatized by something that happened at camp, and decides to stay locked up in her room after that. I just really hated how literally everyone around her treated her like garbage. Her boyfriend, Scott, assumes that just because she feels like she might be ready to walk outside the house that she’ll want to attend some crowded fraternity party (???) and her mom is very short and impatient with her, which I found more concerning. She gets frustrated when Tessa isn’t mentally ready to go outside and sit for a couple of minutes, and her attitude was just so bad. And then, we reach the end of the book, and it’s as if it never even mattered, in my opinion. I just didn’t see the point of it being in the plot.

4. This is barely a thriller. But, for real though. This isn’t really a thriller. This is basically a contemporary that just slaps thriller elements into it in the most ridiculous manner near the final chapters of the book, and that’s basically it. I have to say, even though basically nothing happens, I still ended up being addicted to its pages. So, there was that.

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4. The nonsensical ending. We reach the end of the book, and we find out that Tessa is an undercover psychopath and that she murdered Eric and that she’s fled to Mexico to escape punishment??? Here’s the thing. I’ve already seen this happen twice before: once in With Malice by Eileen Cook and once in Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas, both YA thrillers. So far, Dangerous Girls is the only book to have nailed this. The main character is revealed to have murdered her best friend, but the reason it worked and was such a brilliant plot twist was because the foreshadowing is subtle throughout the entire book, and the last sentence ties it all together. With Malice also did the same thing, and, in my opinion, failed, not only because it was WAY too similar to Dangerous Girls, but also because it just didn’t make sense. We see the main character and how she acts and thinks, and then the final chapters come in, and all of a sudden, she decided to make a last-minute decision to murder her friend out of nowhere. That’s how this felt like. We have zero indication or foreshadowing that Tessa is a psychopath. She seems like a very sweet, shy girl who’s suffering from agoraphobia, and there’s nothing to show she’s an obsessive fangirl who’s out to murder.

Not to mention that this is the most elaborate plot I’ve ever seen. In order for everything to even work out, this means that Tessa had to:

1. Have agoraphobia
2. Write an Eric Thorn fanfiction on Wattpad
3. Create a hashtag and hope that it ends up trending and catching Eric’s eye
4. Somehow play a part in Dorian’s murder to make Eric anxious
5. Get Eric to create a second Twitter account to troll himself
6. Get him to target her and start talking to her
7. Build a relationship over a period of five months
8. Get a crazed fangirl to attack Eric onstage, making him even more anxious
9. Get Eric to fall in love with her
10. Cause Eric to make up a whole contest just to meet her
11. Plan the fact that Blair was going to pretend to be Eric by hacking into his account
12. Escape and not die at the hands of Blair
13. Actually meet Eric
14. Actually carry out the murder

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It literally makes no sense. I know there’s a sequel coming out next year that might reveal things, but it’s so frustrating because nothing adds up. There’s not even a reason or motivation for her to kill him. There’s no context or build-up. It just seems like a plot twist tacked on so people can be like, “OMG!!! Never saw that coming!!!” but I’ve seen it before so many times, that it just made me annoyed.

All in all, a huge disappointment. I honestly don’t recommend this book, and I’m sure you can tell since I gave it one star, and if you know me, I rarely give out one stars for books I’ve actually completed. Apparently, everyone seems to love this one, so I’ll take the position of black sheep, I guess!

Even though I didn’t like this book, a huge thanks to Sourcebooks Fire for giving me a free copy of the book via Netgalley! 

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