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A fork in the road | Taylor Jenkins Reid’s newest

When I think back on a decision crossroads, I always go back to  the first big decision I ever made: where to go to college. If I hadn’t chosen my small liberal arts college near the beach, I wouldn’t have been kicked out and forced to go somewhere else because that college was in debt. Sure, I got to sample two very different college experiences because of this occurrence but this rarity shifted so much for me. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have made the friends I did, met my husband — all of which in many tiny twists of fate led me to Magan and the start of this blog and a whole other series of events that might not have happened. If my one college application hadn’t gotten lost in the mail, maybe I would have went away to school with my best friend and we’d still be close now. Or maybe after all that, I would still be here, relocated to an apartment outside of Manhattan, married to a student from the last graduating class of that defunct college. Maybe it would have all turned out the way it has. Or maybe somewhere, in some other universe, I’m an English teacher in a small town in New Jersey, married to my high school boyfriend.

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

MAYBE IN ANOTHER LIFE by Taylor Jenkins Reid was published on 7/7/15 by Washington Square Press/Atria Books; 352 Pages.

It’s hard to say, but here I am, anyway, sharing Maybe in Another Life — another thoughtful, and wonderful story from Taylor Jenkins Reid. Reid is an author who is always forcing me to evaluate my own life and my decisions — whether its marriage, friendship, or finding comfort in the fact that not everyone has their life figured out when they hit their 30s. In her books, life isn’t about perfection or moving forward safely, it’s about the messy, difficult things that bring us closer to people and push us apart — that make us like ourselves, and make us dislike ourselves a little bit too. It’s so rare to find people that let their walls down, and gladly share their imperfections so it’s a relief to find books like Maybe in Another Life stripped down to the unhappy, sloppy parts without becoming melodramatic. Instead, in Taylor’s books, you find a confidante, someone familiar and questioning just as much as you are.

At 29, main character Hannah is feeling lost. After moving from place to place, she’s finally headed back to California — to her best friend, and who knows what other possibilities. Maybe a second chance with her ex. Hopefully a new job and a place to live on her own. Instead of following along as Hannah goes left or right, readers see Hannah living out two sides of her own story: one where she leaves a party with her ex, Ethan, and another where she leaves the same party with her best friend, Gabby. Where would these parallel circumstances converge? How would my heart take it when I couldn’t decide which life was actually better over the other? Though each story takes a different path, the similarities are there: Hannah’s love of cinnamon buns, the distance she feels from her parents and sister, and, most importantly, her affection and bond with Gabby. I don’t say this about a lot of books (and I wish I did) but Maybe in Another Life is a subtle but solid ode to best girlfriendship in a way I haven’t experienced in a long time. When nothing makes any sense, Gabby is Hannah’s constant and it’s the best love story I could ever imagine.

Fate, love, lust, responsibility, how we take care of each other and take care of ourselves: it’s all rolled up in this riveting and charming story with a special Taylor twist. No matter what road you find yourself on, Maybe in Another Life is a necessary companion for your next adventure.

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I also loved this Q&A that Taylor did with Marie Claire.

December 31, 2015 - 10:16 am

What This Book Gave To Me, Estelle - […] keeping with the highs of the year, both Girl Before a Mirror by Liza Palmer and Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid made me think of the steady females in my life (the golden old ones, and the […]

July 31, 2015 - 9:23 am

Hannah @ So Obsessed With - Ah I love this review, Estelle! I’ll always be thankful that you introduced me to Taylor Jenkins Reid with your review of Forever, Interrupted. I’d hate to think that I might have missed out on these awesome books! I love what you’ve written about Maybe in Another Life, and I wholeheartedly agree with all of it. This was one of my favorite friendships I’ve read in a long time! I love that you call it “the best love story I could ever imagine.” SO TRUE!

July 23, 2015 - 3:54 pm

Emma @ Miss Print - *heart this review*

I love stories like this. Somehow I missed that Maybe in Another Life involved a character following two paths, but I know now and I am so excited to read it.

I think about crossroads like this all the time. Small ones like what if I never joined my college newspaper and big ones like what if I was never forced to quit a job and follow a circuitous path to my current place of employ. Or, even crazier, what if I never had to have an internship in high school and never started working in libraries at all?

I refer, in all seriousness, to Alternate Universe Emma who I sometimes suspect is a bit cooler than me (maybe with pink hair or the tattoo I’ll never get) but it’s hard to imagine–even with all the bends in the road and the uncertainty about other areas–that I’m not right where I’m supposed to be and on track to whatever big finish life has in store.

July 22, 2015 - 12:33 pm

Alexa S. - I loved reading your thoughts on Maybe in Another Life, E! You seriously have a way with words, and I totally feel like you expressed EXACTLY how this story made me feel with this post. So happy you loved it too!

July 18, 2015 - 11:31 pm

Amy - Putting this on my To Read list! I love “friend love” stories, and you are right, I don’t read about them often enough. It’s a special kind of love that doesn’t always make the best prime-time film, but all the early morning phone calls, “please-help” text messages, quick lunch dates are really what helps get me through life. Thanks for your review!

July 16, 2015 - 12:35 pm

Lauren @ Bookmark Lit - I’ve been resisting the urge to write incredibly lengthy comments on every single review for this, because I think about this ALL the time and talk about it way too much. I always alwaysss wonder where my life would be if I made different decisions (esp. in regards to college). Her books sound amazing and I can’t believe I haven’t gotten around to them yet. I think this is going to be the celebratory book I buy tonight for my one year blogiversary! I need it in my life.

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Cousins Siblings Friends | Dive into Diversity

Happy Dive Into Diversity, you guys! So thrilled to have our friend Rachel from Hello, Chelly sharing a great story about her family — a story we’d love to see reflected in the books we are reading more often. Plus it fits in perfectly with Magan’s closer look at family varieties (reminder to check out her stepfamily post!). Feel free to leave comments below, and let us know what diverse reads you’ve been loving lately. xoxo – e & m
Dive Into Diversity Reading Challenge

When Estelle asked me to write about my cousins, she said she’s always thought the fact that my cousins are also some of my best friends was unique about my life. It’s true. I’m so used to thinking of them as the brothers and sisters I never had (I’m an only child) but they really are cousins, siblings and dearest friends all wrapped into one. And that’s something we have our parents to thank for. Since they all love to be together, we naturally learned from their example.

Rachel from Hello Chelly on Cousins as Best FriendsWhenever I talk about a cousin, chances are I’m referring to someone on my mom’s side of the family. My mom was the first person to make the move from the Philippines to New York (Queens to be exact!). So when she got married and had me, it was… just me. It took some time for her other siblings to come to the US so they were still in the Philippines starting their own families there. It wasn’t until her youngest brother moved to NYC too that I had a cousin to play with. My cousin John was born when I was five years old and I still remember making the trip to the hospital to see him for the first time. (There’s a picture of me sitting in my aunt’s room with a hospital gown on and eating cookies.) He was so cute! That is, until he started learning how to walk and talk and insisted on taking all my toys without asking. Suddenly being the only child never looked better. But as much as he annoyed me back then, I loved him was equally as fiercely.

And that’s kind of the way it was with all my cousins as we grew up. Butting heads but loving each other all the same.

The same uncle eventually had another son, who is still the baby of our cousins. Then we all moved to New Jersey and more of my mom’s siblings followed from the Philippines. One uncle, aunt and their two sons moved in with us for years. One was my age and we were instantly like two peas in a pod. The other was older than us, tried to boss me around and me having none of that set the tone for our relationship for a while. As for my female cousins… one was in California and whenever I saw her, I followed her around like a puppy. I adored her and everything she did seemed so cool to me. (In short, I drove her nuts.) My other older female cousin moved in with my family during my senior year of high school. I admit, I wasn’t sure what to make of her at first because I was so used to being the only girl among all the boys. But it wasn’t long before I realized how nice it was to have an older sister figure around.

Looking back, I can pinpoint when we all transitioned from being just cousins to cousins and friends. It’s the same time we started to transition from kids to adults. I remember the first weekend I came home from college and my older cousin was at the house waiting for me. You know, that older cousin who tried to boss me around as a child. I was so shocked but after that, we started talking more and hanging out with whenever I was home. With each of my cousins, we’d make plans whether it was the mall, movies or going to each other’s houses. And the older we got, out of those plans traditions were born.

We watched every Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movie in theaters together. Every Christmas we do a Secret Santa exchange. We all have graduated from college and gotten our grown-up jobs. (Well except for the youngest but he’s getting there!) They were the ones who helped me move into my apartment. I’ve watched some of them get married, where we all were either bridesmaids or groomsmen. We’ve become godparents to each other’s kids. Even the distance doesn’t matter. I visited my cousin in California twice last year and she’s in my thoughts constantly.

Rachel from Hello Chelly on Cousins as Best Friends

I really can’t imagine my life any other way. I know this all sounds rare to most people but I can’t say enough how happy I am that this is my normal.

I tried to think of books where cousins are also best friends and the only one I could come up with was Where The Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller. It’s one of my favorites and I love the friendship that blossoms between Callie and Kat. It’s not an easy road for them but they’re really there for each other as family and best friends.

But given that this is the only book I think of, clearly there needs to be more books like this! Can you think of any that I’m missing? We’d love to know! And be sure to check out Rebecca’s DID post on Reading Wishes.




August 3, 2015 - 1:16 am

Retrospectively Reading (18) | The Reading Shelf - […] “Cousins, Siblings, Friends” @ Rather Be Reading: I am always envious of people with cousin friendships – as someone whose cousins are all older them me, and many of them are decades older than me (they were starting families around the same time my sister and I were born) – so it’s cool to read about someone who has that, no matter how envious I might be. […]

July 31, 2015 - 9:29 am

Hannah @ So Obsessed With - Oh, I adored reading this post! There’s something so special and cool about the fact that y’all are friends AND family. I love that so much! I wish I could think of more books where cousins are best friends (or even siblings as best friends). I feel like I typically read more books with conflict in the family rather than closeness.

July 22, 2015 - 12:16 pm

Alexa S. - I loved reading about you and your cousins, Rachel! I seriously feel the same way about my cousins, particularly on my mom’s side of the family. Moving back to the Philippines had its challenges, but getting to know and love my cousins (first, second and even third) was one of the blessings! I love that I’m really friends with majority of my first cousins, and even friends with some of the seconds. It’s always nice to have family who are also friends, yes? 🙂

July 17, 2015 - 1:52 am

Mara - Loved this post! Where The Stars Still shine is one of my favorites, and I wish I could think of more books with a similar cousin friendship! Will their be more posts on diverse families? I also loved the one on stepfamilies, and would love to find more reads on different types of families!

July 14, 2015 - 10:00 am

Valeria @ A Touch of Book Madness - I love this! I’m very close to my cousins as well, they are all like my sisters (we’re all women). It is so normal to me, that I forget most of the people I know aren’t as close to their extended family. So I loved to see this post! Yay for big united families! And there should be more books about it too. I can’t think of any.

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Fireworks with a Dash of Cinnamon| Pub Date

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Pub Date | Summer of Yesterday and Cigar City BrewingWhat’s more all-American than beer, books, and Disney World? So excited to share today’s Pub Date especially as I prep (a.k.a. procrastinate) for a long weekend away — a much needed break that will hopefully included some brews. I’ll keep you posted.

There’s no BEST time to drink beer (in my opinion) but I do love summer because it means another year of my husband and I taking advantage of the beer passport. What is the beer passport? You may one flat price, and for two full months, hop to different bars around NYC for one complimentary beer at each spot. Nice craft beers range in price here. It’s basically about $6-$10 per pint so you can see how paying $37 per passport is a pretty lovely deal.

This week, we kicked off our beer passport at our favorite neighborhood BBQ place (yay Long Island City); I had a Cigar City Horchata Nitro — a brewery in Florida. This beer was smooth, sweet, and tasted like a cookie (the vanilla and cinnamon combo). I’ve been so curious about Horchata beers; Blue Moon has one but I never buy Blue Moon (it’s not a craft brewery; they are owned by Coors) and I’m not as amped to try a new beer when it makes up an entire six-pack. After a long warm day, this was a nice little drink to have. A six-pack definitely wouldn’t have worked for me, but I’m glad I tried it out. (This is one of those beer flavors I think non-beer drinkers should try. It didn’t even taste like beer.)

Now for a book…

Fireworks on the cover, and time traveling back to the early 80s of Walt Disney World: Summer of Yesterday by Gaby Triana. A YA book on my favorite theme park that is actually well-researched with a main character reeling from her parent’s divorce and falling in love under the most unlikely of circumstances after hitting your head in an abandoned water park (it’s real). I love, love this book and want to see it get all the love. In fact, my pub date pal Maggie also read it and really enjoyed it too.

Now enjoy a brew and a good book, will ya? Happy weekend!

Brittany @ The Book Addict’s Guide | Maggie @ Just a Couple More Pages | Andi @ Andi ABCs

July 13, 2015 - 1:40 pm

Alexa S. - That beer sounds delicious! And Summer of Yesterday was super cute. (Thanks for giving it to me as a gift!) Hope you had an awesome long weekend away!

July 10, 2015 - 1:50 pm

Lisa @ Reading, Writing, and Random Musings - I’m so intrigued with your brew selection. I am sooooooo not a beer drinker (I love my wine), but this sounds like it could be a possibility for me!

July 10, 2015 - 11:12 am

Leah - hahaha, oh E. The title had me convinced you were going to be talking about Cinnamon and Gunpowder!

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Small town lovin’ | Redemption Bay by RaeAnne Thayne

Redemption Bay by RaeAnne Thayne

Redemption Bay by RaeAnne Thayne was published by HQN Books (Harlequin) on June 30, 2015. 384 pages.

If this beautiful cover doesn’t inspire you to check out Redemption Bay by RaeAnne Thayne, here are 5 reasons you should try it out the next time you’re in the mood for some small town romance:

1. You will fall in love with the town as much as you will fall in love with this couple. Sure, small towns rule the romance genre but Haven Point has water, gelato, boat races, and people who are willing to bet a $1000 on homemade cookies for charity. If this place was real, I would be booking a summer vacation there pronto.

2. McKenzie Shaw is mayor of Haven Point, and determined to prove to her old crush/ now billionaire, Ben Kilpatrick, that this town is worth investing in (especially after some rough economic times for its citizens). McKenzie is kick ass because she cares so much for the town and its people (as a good mayor should) and she goes above and beyond to cheerlead for them. I absolutely loved her for her independence and loyalty. (Plus her background story is so different compared to a lot of the romance I’ve read.)

3. A dog friendship. Need I say more?

4. McKenzie and Haven Point aren’t the one ones dealing with a lot of curveballs this summer. Ben is not happy to be back in his childhood home and he’s not exactly filling up his free time with plans to see his mom and his family. Thayne is not easy on Ben (just like most of the Haven Point-ers) but she gives him this well-done character arc, and I was so glad to see him accept his past and gain so much more in these pagesmaking Redemption Bay a nicely balanced story.

5. I love two characters with a history. When McKenzie was young, she was best friend’s with Ben’s little sister and totally in love with Ben. He never noticed her, and because of certain events, McKenzie’s love for the guy turns to extreme hatred. Until she sees him again. This push & pull developed into one of the nicest slow burn romances I’ve experienced in awhile. You could tell the author put a lot of time and care into the details of her story, and wasn’t rushing to throw our couple together. Thayne also made fishing seem incredibly sexy. Who knew?

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The wonderful folks at Little Bird Publicity are offering up a copy of Redemption Bay by RaeAnne Thayne and a bonus gift to one lucky winner in the United States. Enter below to win! Good luck and happy summer romance! xoxo

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An early copy of this book was provided by the publisher. Thanks!

July 17, 2015 - 11:56 pm

Chrystal - I just received an ARC of this book from my BFF. She gave me a box of books and this was one I was interested in. Hopefully I’ll be able to get to it soon, because it sounds so good.

Great review!

July 7, 2015 - 3:30 pm

Quinn @ Quinn's Book Nook - I picked this one up at BEA, but haven’t read it yet. I’m so glad you loved it. Also, you had me at dog friendship!

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A Million Miles Away | ‘Buy it’ this week

Nothing makes a reader feel more spoiled than easily slipping into a book and remaining emotionally invested throughout. It’s even sweeter when it comes as a total surprise. This, my friends, is A Million Miles Away by Lara Avery. The book follows Kelsey as she deals with the death of her twin sister, Michelle, right at the start of their senior year of high school. Kelsey’s grief leads her on an unexpected journey to get to know her sister better. Not to unearth any dirty secrets, but to understand her through art (her passion) and, a bit untraditionally, by corresponding with Michelle’s boyfriend, Peter — not as herself, but as Michelle.

A Million Miles Away by Lara Avery

A Million Miles Away by Lara Avery will be released on July 7, 2015 by Poppy/Little, Brown for Young Readers. 320 pages.

Danger! Danger!

We’re all lying to ourselves if we swear grief will never make us do outlandish things. On one hand, I loved how Kelsey was learning so much about herself and this box she’s been stuck in by uncovering what made Michelle Michelle, and, on the other, how could she not be honest with Peter and tell him that Michelle is dead? This was definitely a situation leading to no happiness for anyone but I almost couldn’t blame Kelsey — and that’s how you know Avery’s writing was so solid — because she wanted so badly not to lose this little piece of her sister that she could hold on to. Maintaining this correspondence with Peter (while he was in Afghanistan) almost felt like Michelle was still alive and how could she let that go?

A Million Miles Away gets messy for our characters as Kelsey finds herself falling for unsuspecting Peter and the suspense builds in such an extreme way that I was yelping from my couch. But I love that in books (especially in a complicated situation like this one) because it shows me so much about this author — how would Avery (and Kelsey) get herself out of this pickle? She did not make it on Kelsey and that was even better because this book is filled with the kind of family and friends we all need in our lives. The kind who call us on our shit and still are on our side. The ones who tell us the truth when we probably don’t want to hear it because it’s not pretty.

Sometimes it’s more difficult to feel close to characters that we are hanging out with in third person but that distance worked here because it reflected Kelsey’s own detachment from the real world. She’s harboring a huge secret, she misses her sister tremendously, and, in some ways, she’s finding out she hardly knew all of these layers to her own twin — and nothing in the world was going to give her that opportunity again. Cue the heartbreak. A Million Miles Away is exactly why I love contemporary YA fiction so much — experiencing the lowest of lows and highest of highs alongside a character who, even in the worst scenario, is discovering a whole new part of herself.

I think it’s time for me to read this one again.

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Book was provided early by the publisher. Thanks!

July 9, 2015 - 10:32 am

Emma @ Miss Print - I’ve been doing some major waffling about reading this book because while I want to see what the author’s writing is like and am intrigued by the premise, it also sounds a lot like a book I didn’t much enjoy that I read earlier in the year. BUT after seeing how much you enjoyed it I am definitely going to give it a try. I’m always happy to hear that a book I’m excited about or hoping to try is one that you really enjoyed, Estelle!

July 8, 2015 - 9:40 pm

Grace @ She Reads Things - I’ve had my eye on this one, so I’m glad to hear it was a good one! Makes me more excited to read it!

Great review!

-Grace 🙂

July 8, 2015 - 11:52 am

Vicky - I like novels to be set in sleepy little southern towns. I like coastal towns too. Really, as long as the writing is good, it can be set any place and I will be happy.

July 6, 2015 - 2:10 pm

Ginger @ GReads! - Yes! I loved this one, too. I read a copy of a friend’s ARC & have been wanting my own finished copy now too. It’s such a great portrayal of grief and how messy and complicated it can be. Yet there’s this beauty in it, too. Lovely review!

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Hooray for Hollywood & Pride

There’s always that defining moment (or a few of them) when you realize you have to break away from what your parents want and do your own thing — even if this isn’t in their best interest. I’m reading a parenting guide for work right now, and the author talks about how parents need to know when to let go, and let their kids make their own choices. How else will they learn to deal with everything the real world throws at them? They need to be able to stand on their own two feet, and coddling (or controlling them) doesn’t make that happen.

Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler

Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler was published on June 30, 2015 by Spencer Hill Press. It’s a YA, dual POV, f/f love story about friendship, tough choices, and Hollywood. 312 pages.

Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler is no parenting guide (although the parents could use one) but is so much about that defining moment when you know you are about to go over the edge and start your life. (Plus fun, sweet, deep, and sexy.) In alternating POVs, we have Josh — a celebrity playboy known for his lavish parties — and Van — an Asian American actress who just lost her best friend to college and is feeling a bit off kilter. Josh is feeling similarly but he would never admit it. His best friend (also an actor) is basically the Zac Efron type — everyone loves him, he’s nabbing all the best roles, and he’s head over heels for Van’s best friend (the feeling is mutual). Josh and Van are unlikely friends but are thrown together in so many scenarios due to their absent best friends and working on the same set. In typical fashion, a reader might think this means these two are going to fall for each other but (and this is not a spoiler) no such luck. Instead, Dahlia gives us the makings of a solid friendship — even if our two main characters don’t know it yet.

This is why life is so great, right? It surprises us all the time.

And Van’s about to face a pretty big surprise herself. When she meets her publicist’s daughter/intern, she’s shocked to admit she’s attracted to her. After being locked in a superficial relationship with another celebrity and projecting the image of a “polite, squeaky-clean” Van — Brianna jolts her awake. Is she gay? This inner turmoil that Van is suddenly consumed with is so pitch perfect. It never felt dramatic. Her concerns are legit. She’s already worried about finding more roles as an Asian-American actress, her parents have lost patience with this “hobby” of hers and pretty much demand she start college or else, and now she might be gay? It’s not only a matter of how she feels about it but how will this LOOK to everyone else. (We may not be in Hollywood but aren’t we dealing with something similar every day with social media?) Van needs to get to a place where the real her takes precedence and everything else falls into place afterward. (And bravo to Brianna who is so refreshingly upfront with Van from the get-go about her own limits and experiences. No games, people.)

Van and Josh are both pushed to their breaking points in Under the Lights. How much longer can they do someone else’s bidding and ignore their own? What is the right next step? There are so many delectable layers to this story; Dahlia writes with such ease and thoughtfulness, and the chemistry between all the characters kept me hooked and reading mostly in one sitting. (I also have a soft spot for dancing scenes, and I am nuts for Light‘s dance scene.) While I highly recommend giving all of Dahlia’s books a whirl, this one, for me, definitely tops her work so far.

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⇒ Follow Dahlia @MissDahlELama & her website. ⇐

August 11, 2015 - 9:59 am

Friends Who Write Diversely... | Dive Into Diversity, Magan - […] thanks to authors/bloggers/Twitter goddesses Dahlia Adler (Under the Lights) and Katherine Locke (Second Position) for being so game for today’s post. Rather Be […]

July 7, 2015 - 1:17 am

Wendy @ Book Scents - I totally agree with you! I loved seeing both Josh and Van’s story unfold and seeing that they’re not the pair that ends up together. I loved seeing their arcs and thought all the characters were so well developed. I kind of want to see more of what Josh does after!

July 1, 2015 - 10:42 pm

Kailia Sage - I need to read this book as soon as possible! Everyone is raving about this book and I love the premise!

July 1, 2015 - 11:37 am

Alexa S. - I 100% agree with your thoughts on Under the Lights! It was such a delight to read about both Van and Josh, to really get to know them beyond what we learn in Behind the Scenes. And Dahlia wrote both their stories so well too!

July 1, 2015 - 10:53 am

Quinn @ Quinn's Book Nook - I really, really need to read Dahlia Adler’s books. I have Behind the scenes ( I think I picked it up after your review) and still haven’t read it. And I really want to read this too.

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