The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

I have mixed feelings for this book. 

I almost gave up on it before the 50 page mark but decided to keep going and start to enjoy the book until the final chapters that take place in 1993.

The book focus mostly on Harper and Kirby but never really expands on Harper. I finished the book with the feeling that I don’t know him that well wich is worrying because I spent a lot of time reading about him. This is also one of the reasons I dislike the final pages of the book. The realisation that the author wasn’t going to explain much more about Harper or the House for that matter. 

If you have a house with magical time traveling abilities that can be controlled by a key and then tells you to kill “Shining Girls” you better explain that. Why did this girls had to die? Why did they shine? Who build the house? 

The idea is there but the execution lacks those details that would make it perfect. Maybe a future tv series ( the rights where acquired by MRC and Appian Way) based on the book can expand on those lacking details. 

In Depression-era Chicago, a drifter named Harper Curtis finds a key to a house that opens on to other times. But it comes at a cost. He has to kill the shining girls: bright young women who burn with potential. He stalks them through their lives across different eras until, in 1989, one of his victims, Kirby Mazrachi, survives and starts hunting him back.

  

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Insurgent

I liked Divergent a lot and after that ending I though that Insurgent would be even better since the action would now disperse a little more with Tris, Four and Caleb on one side and the Dauntless on another both fighting Jeanine and her soldiers but instead this movie focus too much on a tormented Tris going through therapy trying to get some peace of mind over her actions on Divergent.

Insurgent is not a horrible movie by any means but it had potential to be so much more. I didn’t read the book so for all I know this could all be in the book but if that’s true the people in charge should have change things. 

  

Shailene Woodley is fantastic as usual and the other actors do a good enought job in the few opurtunities they have but when the story is this weak there’s nothing they can do to make it better. I blame the CGI heavy sequences to open the box and the weird dreams for that. 

One thing that really bothered me was the machine that told the soldiers how much of a divergent someone was. For one it makes no sense to have that machine and not to use it during the faction selection process. Why not screen them during the process and kill the divergents right there. The second thing that bored me was the 100% Divergent reading on Tris. This makes her a kind of chosen one in the sense that she’s the only one that can open the box. On Harry Potter for example Voldemort attacks Harry because of a prophecy but we later find out that Neville Longbottom was also born that day making Voldemort responsible for choosing Harry over Neville. 

Little is explained about the faction system but the premise that they were all part of an experiment that started 200 years ago is interesting and should make for an interesting sequel but the part where the whole point of the experiment is related with divergents could mean another Tris centric movie wich is not necessarily a bad thing but with a great supporting cast like this is a bit of a shame to waste them on the background. 

Following the assault on Abnegation by Jeanine’s mind-controlled Dauntless soldiers, Eric and his platoon are searching through the wreckage of Abnegation for an artifact, a box of unknown origin containing the symbols of all the factions. Upon its recovery, the box is taken to Erudite, where Jeanine claims that she believes it to contain a message from the city’s founders, and the means to end the Divergent problem once and for all. However, only a Divergent can open the box, and she orders that all Divergents be hunted down and captured.

Tris, Four, Peter, and Caleb are hiding out deep in Amity territory. After Tris and Peter get into a scuffle, Johanna, the leader of the Amity faction, warns Tris that her obsession with revenge will consume her. Soon after, Eric and his fleet arrive to test all occupants for Divergence. Peter gives up the group’s location as Tris, Four, and Caleb escape and board a train headed into Factionless territory. During the ensuing fight with Factionless members aboard the train, Caleb makes his first kill, and, horrified by what he has done, neglects to help Tris as she is attacked by one of the Factionless. Four reveals his true name, Tobias Eaton, to the Factionless, who reply that they have been searching for him.

They are given safe passage into the heart of Factionless, where they discover the leader of Factionless is Four’s mother, Evelyn Johnson-Eaton. Evelyn suggests that Dauntless and Factionless join forces against Erudite, but the discussion becomes an argument about Evelyn’s true intentions, and her past relationship with her son. The next morning the three leave Factionless for Candor to meet up with the remaining Dauntless. During the trek, Caleb tells Tris that he cannot continue with them, and goes in a different direction.

When Tris and Four arrive at Candor, they are welcomed by their Dauntless brethren, and Tris is not entirely truthful with Christina about what happened to Will. Soon, however, they are arrested and brought before Jack Kang, the leader of Candor, who cannot believe Jeanine would go so far as to fraudulently make Tris and Four wanted for crimes they did not commit. Four tries reasoning with Kang, inquiring about the fairness of a trial in Erudite as opposed to one in Candor, and then requests the trial be conducted in Candor through the use of the initiation truth serum.

During the trial, Four admits that he joined Dauntless to escape his father’s abuse, and that he was going to leave Dauntless to be factionless after this last group of initiates but he saw and fell in love with Tris and decided to protect her. Tris then tearfully admits her guilt in shooting Will. This angers Christina, who was unaware that Tris was Will’s killer. The Candor are attacked by the Dauntless traitors led by Eric, and many people are shot with a new simulation serum. Tris and Uriah, who is revealed to be Divergent, discover what is happening and attempt to warn the remaining Divergents, but are captured by Eric. Eric murders a man, and is preparing to murder a young girl whom Tris had saved earlier, but Tris stops him. Eric then tests Tris and discovers that Tris’ Divergence is 100%, making her the perfect test subject to open the box. They are then rescued by Four and Candor, and Eric is taken into custody, where Four executes him.

In Erudite, Jeanine, frustrated that none of the Divergents that she has so far used to attempt to open the box have survived, is approached by Peter, who agrees to pledge his loyalty to Erudite, and suggests that the best way to get Tris to surrender is to play to her humanity.

Back in Factionless, Four reluctantly agrees with his mother Evelyn that war is inevitable and that they must begin preparing. The long term sim serum is activated by Jeanine, causing Marlene, Christina and Hector to stand on a ledge chanting that Tris Prior must turn herself in, or more death will follow, over and over, as they step closer and closer to the edge. Tris and Tori climb the sides as fast as they can, and rescue two of the three, but Marlene plunges to her death. Overcome by guilt, Tris decides to turn herself in. She spends the night with Four, who thinks he has changed her mind, but she leaves in the early hours as Evelyn silently looks on from a window, to turn herself in to Erudite.

The moment she steps through the Erudite screen, she is surrounded and arrested. Jeanine then subjects her to each of the sim trials of the Factions. Tris is almost killed in the process, and Jeanine reluctantly stops the sim, allowing Tris to rest in a cell with her brother Caleb, who is now working with Jeanine. Caleb tells Tris that he is being selfless by turning his only sister over to the Erudites for what he believes is the greater good. Peter, who is now the guard assigned to Tris, jabs her in the back with an injection while escorting her back to the chamber, after she discovers that Four is also captive in the facility.

Once again, Tris goes through the simulations, but before it can be completed, her vital signs drop and she appears to die. Jeanine becomes distraught for a moment, then resigned to the fact that she must once again find another Divergent. Tris’s body is disconnected from the sim cables and wheeled over to Four’s cell. In a vicious display of gloating, Peter shows Four Tris’s lifeless body. Tris then awakens with a deep breath, and Peter assists Four in overpowering the guards, revealing that he is helping them. Peter then goes to the control room to change the security parameters in order to allow access to the sim room for Four and Tris, who now realizes what the box is and why she now needs to open it.

Tris successfully opens the box, and, much to the chagrin of Jeanine, the message inside informs everyone in the control room and testing area that they, the entire walled city, are an experiment, that the Divergents are evidence of the success of that experiment, and that the world is waiting outside for them to return to humanity. Jeanine, realizing the box and its revelation will be the undoing of her power, orders the box buried and Four and Tris immediately executed. Before this occurs, the Factionless army hits the Erudite facility, blowing the doors off the control and sim rooms. Jeanine and Caleb are arrested, and Tris is hailed as a hero by the masses, eager to explore the world beyond the wall.

As Jeanine looks out from her cell, she states that after 200 years since the city was enclosed, there is no telling what awaits them beyond it. Evelyn appears behind her, and tells her that she will never find out, before shooting Jeanine in the back of the head.

  

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The Lazarus Effect

The Lazarus Effect has a talented cast and the glimmer of an interesting idea, but wastes it all on insipid characters and dull, recycled plot points. – Rotten Tomatoes

This line is perfect to describe the movie. Despite having 5 talented actors and a nice idea but it fails at everything. There’s nothing in this movie that makes it worth watching. 

Medical researchers Frank (Mark Duplass) and his fiancée, Zoe (Olivia Wilde), have developed a serum, code-named “Lazarus”. It was intended to assist coma patients but is shown to actually be able to bring the dead back to life.

With the assistance of their friends, Niko, Clay and videographer Eva, they run a successful trial on a recently deceased dog. But the serum has unanticipated effects. The whites of the dog’s eyes disappear, it loses its appetite, and it demonstrates other strange abilities. Tests reveal that the serum, instead of dissipating, is constructing strange new synapses within the dog’s brain.

When the dean of their university learns of their underground experiments, their project is shut down. They are also informed that a major pharmaceutical corporation has bought out the company that funded their research. The company and their attorneys confiscate everything associated with the project.

Frank and his team sneak back into their lab to duplicate the experiment so that they can prove that they created the serum. During this attempt things go horribly wrong and Zoe is electrocuted. Unwilling to let her go, Frank uses the serum to resurrect her. Initially, the procedure appears to be a success, but the team soon realizes that something is wrong with Zoe. She claims that when she died, she went to hell and begins to demonstrate unusual abilities. The Lazarus serum causes brains to “evolve” incredibly rapidly – giving Zoe powers of telekinesis and telepathy.

The serum also causes increased aggression with horrifying consequences. Niko walks into a room and is startled by Zoe. After he refuses to kiss her she uses telekinesis to throw him into a closet and crushes it with him inside killing him. When Clay demands to know where Niko is, she kills him as well by choking him with an electric cigarette. Later, Zoe kills both Frank and Eva. After this Zoe injects herself with an entire bag of the Lazarus serum to enhance her powers. She then injects Frank, in an attempt to bring him back from the dead, presumably turning him into a monster as well. Niko, Clay and Eva also lay dead next to Frank, which indicates Zoe intends to bring them back as well.

  

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The Order: 1886

It took me a while but I finally bought a PlayStation 4 and it came bundled with The Order: 1886 so this became the first game I played on the 4 even though I bought The Last of Us: Remastered as well. 

The Order starts and the first thing I noticed was the graphics who happen to be some of the best I’ve ever seen on a video game. The graphics are incredible and remain that way troughout the game but the gameplay and story are not on the same level.

The gameplay reminds me of Uncharted but never reaching the level of that series. Everything that happens is scripted. We have no control on how to go from point A to point B since there’s only one route to go and there’s a small circle thing telling you that you can interact with it. I hated when the game presents Galahad with a new weapon and I have to move it around for a while just because the game was made that way. The fact that sometimes I want to run but my character refuses and just walks slowly is one of the most irritating things in the game. The fights are repetitive consisting of cover/shoot the enemies and the lucky very few times we have to fight with a sword have to be the worst fights in gaming history since all we can do is press 2 buttons and try to move to one side to avoid the enemy. 

  

  

The story isn’t that interesting either but the premise is somewhat interesting involving the Knights and Werewolves but to be honest I eventually got bothered and just zoned out of those sequences.

During the autumn of 1886 London is plagued by both half-breed attacks and an anti-government insurgency. After fighting off rebels in Mayfair, Sir Galahad pursues the survivors into the Underground where he encounters a number of werewolf-like half-breeds known as Lycans. Galahad’s mentor Sir Percival, one of the Order’s most veteran knights, suspects that there is a correlation between the two and requests permission to investigate the rebel stronghold of Whitechapel. His concerns are dismissed by the Lord Chancellor, who believes that the Order should remain dedicated to fighting half-breeds.

With tacit approval from Sir Lucan, the Order’s Knight Commander and adopted son of the Lord Chancellor, Percival and Galahad undertake a mission into Whitechapel accompanied by the other two members of their team, Lady Igraine and the Marquis de Lafayette. After encountering fierce resistance they reach the rebel headquarters in the abandoned Royal London Hospital, only to find it occupied by Lycans. Galahad and Igrane discover evidence of a rebel plot to infiltrate the Agamemnon, flagship of the United India Company’s airship fleet, and assassinate the company chairman Lord Hastings, a frequent guest to the Round Table. The team boards the airship and foils the assassination attempt before a bomb detonates on board. Hastings and most of the passengers are evacuated, but Galahad and Percival remain on board to search for the rebel leader. A second explosion sends the Agamemnon crashing into Hyde Park, destroying the Crystal Palace in the process. Galahad survives but discovers that Percival has been killed.

In council at the Palace of Westminster, Lafayette is knighted and assumes Percival’s seat at the Round Table. The Lord Chancellor is highly critical of the mission, asserting that Percival’s death and the extensive collateral damage were in vain. The council is interrupted when rebels stage a major attack on Westminster Bridge aimed at killing Hastings, who is once again saved by the knights.

Still enraged by Percival’s death, Galahad returns to Whitechapel seeking a confrontation with the rebel leader, who is revealed to be an Indian woman named Lakshmi. Pleading with Galahad that the United India Company is the true enemy, she leads him to the company’s warehouses in Blackwall where they discover a large number of hibernating vampires packed in crates bound for the Northeastern United States. According to Lakshmi, Lord Hastings himself is a vampire (known to the general public as “Jack the Ripper”) and is acting in response to the Order’s recent success.

At Westminster, Galahad’s concerns fall on deaf ears. Lucan sympathizes with him however, and joins Galahad and Lakshmi in infiltrating the United India Company headquarters in Mayfair. They find evidence of a conspiracy to traffic half-breeds overseas and encounter Hastings in his vampire form. Before Galahad can act against Hastings, Lucan reveals himself to be a Lycan and attacks Galahad. The two fight, but Lucan flees as the authorities arrive. Galahad is taken into custody by Lafayette and Igraine, charged with treason, and sentenced to death.

After several weeks, Galahad escapes captivity in the Westminster Catacombs and attempts to flee only to be cornered. Facing re-imprisonment, Galahad throws himself off a ledge into the Thames and is recovered by Nikola Tesla, the Order’s armorer. Fearing that Tesla has come under suspicion, Galahad returns to Westminster in an attempt to extract him. He finds Tesla alive but also encounters Lucan in the laboratory. The two fight a second time with Galahad emerging the victor. The mortally wounded Lucan expresses regret for having betrayed the Order, claiming that he only did so in order to save his race from extinction. The two are discovered by the Lord Chancellor, who confesses his knowledge of Lucan’s true nature. He reveals to Galahad that centuries before he had fought and destroyed an entire tribe of Lycans, but couldn’t bring himself to kill the infant Lucan, who he adopted as a son instead. The Lord Chancellor orders that evidence of Lucan’s betrayal may not be used to exonerate Galahad and must be kept a secret for the sake of the Order. Still unwilling to kill his son, he leaves Galahad to administer the coup de grace. The two former comrades reconcile, and a remorseful Galahad raises his weapon and fires, killing Lucan, as the screen cuts to black.

In a post-credits scene, Galahad is seen on the roof of a building overlooking London, which has been put under martial law. He is warned by Tesla over the radio that the police could strike anytime and that they should leave the city immediately. Galahad reminds Tesla that he is “Galahad no more”.

The game took me about 5/6 hours to finish wich is too little if compared to other games out there even for mobile platforms. 

It’s 2015 and games need to be better than this. The Order: 1886 feels like playing a movie where you follow the poor script and the director yells at you if you get out of it. 

  

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Problems / Changes

I have been writing this blog for a few years now and like many others I have my own way of doing it that consists of getting a few images to illustrate the article that I wrote on Evernote and then copy the article to the WordPress app on my iPad, add the images and post.

A while ago the WordPress app got updated and I stoped being able to do this since the post would loose the format I gave it, the images would not appear and sometimes not even the article would appear. Not to mention that for some reason it didn’t let me edit my own post since I would go to edit and make the changes and the button to save those changes would not work. 

I wrote the How to Train Your Dragon 2 that way and post it thought the web browser on my desktop PC but it still doesn’t seem to work quite well. 

This resulted in me having a few posts ready to launch but the work involved is too much and the frustration of doing everything and coming up with a terrible post is too much for me. 

I want to publish my posts about Gone Girl, Chapie, My Neighbour Totoro, The Lazarus Effect and now The Order: 1886 but not like this. 

I may need to change my post style to adjust to the new WordPress but I’m not sure I like that. 

Anyway I’m going to try so let’s see how things go for now on. 

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How to Train Your Dragon 2

I liked the first How to Train Your Dragon movie but I skipped it when it arrived in theatres because they only had the Portuguese dubbed version and I wanted to see it with the original voices.

Sequels not always pay out. Some stay too close to the original while others venture too far away from it. How to Train Your Dragon 2 seems to be right in the middle.

The story is interesting and the fact that they made a 5 year jump gives the main characters a more mature take. The characters are well developed but we spend less time with the younger ones with the movie focusing on Hiccup, Astrid, Stoick and Valka.

There’s more dragons in the movie including 2 massive ones called Alphas that spit ice instead of fire. Toothless is still the star of the movie being absolutely amazing and retaining the personality aspects of the first movie making him a more defined character than many played by people in a lot of movies out there (I’m thinking of Hector right now).

Visually speaking this movie elevates what was done in the first and offers some of the best scenes I’ve ever seen in an animated movie.

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Here’s the plot from Wikipedia:

Five years after the Viking village of Berk made peace with the dragons, they now live among the villagers as helpful companions. Hiccup goes on adventures with his dragon, Toothless, as they discover and map unexplored lands. Having come of age, he is being pressed by his father, Stoick the Vast, to succeed him as chieftain, although Hiccup remains unsure if he is ready for this responsibility.

While investigating a burnt forest, Hiccup and Astrid discover the remains of a fort encased in ice and encounter a group of dragon trappers led by Eret, who blames them for his fort’s destruction and attempts to capture their dragons for an insane conqueror named Drago Bludvist. The two dragon riders escape and return to Berk to warn Stoick about the dragon army that Drago is amassing. Stoick orders the villagers to fortify the island and prepare for battle. Hiccup, however, refuses to believe that war is inevitable. After Stoick interrupts Hiccup’s plan to get Eret to take him to Drago, Stoick explains that he once met Drago at a gathering of chiefs, where Drago, mocked after offering the chiefs his service in return for their servitude, murdered them all, with Stoick as the only survivor. Undeterred, Hiccup flies off with Toothless in search of Drago to try to reason with him.

They are captured by a dragon rider named Valka, who is revealed to be Hiccup’s long-lost mother. She explains that she, like her son, was unable to kill dragons. After being carried off during a dragon raid, she spent twenty years rescuing dragons from Drago’s traps and bringing them to an island nest created out of ice by a gigantic Alpha dragon called a “Bewilderbeast”, which controls smaller dragons. Stoick tracks Hiccup to the nest, where he discovers that his wife is still alive. Simultaneously, Astrid and the other riders kidnap Eret to find Drago, but Drago captures them and learns of Berk’s dragons.

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Drago and his army lay siege to the nest, where he reveals that he has his own Bewilderbeast to challenge the Alpha. A battle ensues between the two colossal dragons, which ends with Drago’s Bewilderbeast killing the nest’s Bewilderbeast and becoming the new Alpha. Drago’s Bewilderbeast then seizes control of all the adult dragons, who hypnotically obey. Hiccup tries to persuade Drago to end the violence, but Drago orders him killed. Toothless, under the Bewilderbeast’s influence, approaches Hiccup and launches a blast, but Stoick pushes Hiccup out of the way and is hit instead, killing him. The Bewilderbeast momentarily relinquishes control of Toothless, but Hiccup drives him away in a fit of despair. Drago maroons Hiccup and the others on the island and rides Toothless, again under the control of the Bewilderbeast, to lead his army to conquer Berk. Stoick is given a Viking funeral and Hiccup, now having lost both his father and dragon, is unsure what to do. Valka encourages him by telling him that he alone can unite humans and dragons, and inspired by her words and his father’s, Hiccup decides to return to Berk to stop Drago.

The dragon riders fly baby dragons back to Berk, as they are immune to the Bewilderbeast’s control. They find that Drago has already attacked the village and taken control of its dragons. Hiccup confronts Drago and a brainwashed Toothless while the other riders work to distract the Bewilderbeast. Hiccup succeeds in freeing Toothless from the Bewilderbeast’s control, much to Drago’s surprise. Hiccup and Toothless briefly separate Drago from the Bewilderbeast and confront Drago on the ground, but the Bewilderbeast attacks them, encasing them in ice. However, Toothless blasts away the ice, revealing that both he and Hiccup are unharmed. He then challenges the Bewilderbeast, firing at it repeatedly, which breaks its control over the other dragons, who now side with Toothless as the new Alpha dragon. All the dragons repeatedly fire at the Bewilderbeast until Toothless fires a final massive blast, breaking its left tusk. Defeated, the Bewilderbeast retreats under the sea with Drago on its back. The Vikings and dragons celebrate their victory and Hiccup is made chieftain of Berk.

Afterwards, Berk undergoes repairs while feeling secure knowing that its dragons can defend it.IMG_4138

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Hector and the Search for Happiness

I’m writing a review for Hector and the Search for Happiness as a reminder for myself and everyone who happens to read this that we should never go see a movie based only on the lead actors. 

I like Simon Pegg and Rosamund Pyke but this movie is just terrible. Nothing seems to work and Pegg is capable of acting a lot better than that. 
If you haven’t seen it don’t bother. Go watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty instead. 

Here’s the plot from Wikipedia:

Hector is a quirky psychiatrist who has become increasingly tired of his humdrum life. He tells his girlfriend, Clara, that he needs to go on a journey to research happiness. On a flight to China, he is seated next to Edward, a cranky businessman. Edward takes Hector to a very exclusive nightclub in Shanghai, where Hector meets a young woman named Ying Li and instantly falls for her.

He asks to meet Ying Li’s family. She declines, ashamed of how she makes her living. Their date is interrupted by her pimp, who takes Ying Li away by force. Hector then ventures into the mountains and visits a monastery, where he befriends their leader and talks briefly with Clara via Skype.

Hector departs on a terrifying plane ride to Africa, where a woman invites him to her family’s house for sweet potato stew. Hector runs into his old friend Michael, a physician, with his bodyguard Marcel, and later meets a quick-tempered drug lord named Diego Baresco, who doesn’t believe in happiness because his wife is unhappy due to her medication.

Hector discovers that Marcel is Michael’s lover, and they are happy. His vehicle is carjacked and Hector is kidnapped and locked in a rat-infested cell. When the kidnappers decide to kill him, Hector claims to be friends with Diego to save himself, but cannot prove it. With a gun pointed at his head, Hector asks if he can make one final note in his book about what brings his captors happiness, revealing a pen engraved with Diego’s name to the kidnappers. Upon his release, Hector makes his way back to the village where he celebrates with the locals. He Skypes again with Clara, who is dressed in a fancy gown and seems uninterested in talking to him.

While flying to Los Angeles, Hector attends to a woman with a brain tumour. Hector then goes to the beach in Santa Monica and encounters Agnes, an old girlfriend, who is now happily married with children. Hector calls Clara and they break up in an argument.

Agnes and Hector meet with Professor Coreman, who is studying the effects of happiness on the brain. During a lecture, Coreman points out that people shouldn’t be concerned with the pursuit of happiness, but with the happiness of pursuit. Agnes and Hector check out a project Coreman has been working on, which monitors brain activity in real time and how it reacts to different emotions.

Agnes is instructed to go into an isolated room and think about three things: times when she was happy, sad and scared. Through his brain-scanning technology, Coreman is able to tell in which order she thought about the three emotions. When Hector takes his turn, he thinks about Clara marrying someone else, about his time being kidnapped, and about Ying Li, but his emotions are strangely blocked. He receives a call from remorseful Clara, who tells him she wants to be a mother. Hector explains what he’s learned, that the most unhappy thing he could imagine would be to lose her. Suddenly Hector’s brain scan erupts with a flurry of activity, mimicking the colored flags from the monastery and revealing that true happiness isn’t just one emotion; it’s all of them. Having finally achieved his own happiness, Hector rushes home and marries Clara.



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