Mailbox Monday, Meme

Mailbox Monday, March 11, 2019

Mailbox Mondays

Well this week I received a Paperbackswap order as well as my bookcase.club subscription box. I’m not going to lie, I’m not 100% thrilled on the bookcase.club box selections this month – and this isn’t the first time. I have one more month before my next renewal, and I think I’m going to let it go. I’ve been a subscriber of this box for 8 months and for the most part I haven’t been overly excited over the picks 😦

Anywhoo – from Paperbackswap I got:

A Savage Place

TV reporter Candy Sloan has eyes the color of cornflowers and legs that stretch all the way to heaven. She also has somebody threatening to rearrange her lovely face if she keeps on snooping into charges of Hollywood racketeering.

Spenser’s job is to keep Candy healthy until she breaks the biggest story of her career. But her star witness has just bowed out with three bullets in his chest, two tough guys have doubled up to test Spenser’s skill with his fists, and Candy is about to use her own sweet body as live bait in a deadly romantic game – a game that may cost Spenser his life.  

 


And from bookcase.club:

The White MirrorLi Du, an imperial librarian and former exile in eighteenth-century China, is now an independent traveler. He is journeying with a trade caravan bound for Lhasa when a detour brings them to a high valley hidden between mountain passes. On the icy planks of an old wooden bridge, a monk sits in silent contemplation. Closer inspection reveals that the monk is dead, apparently of a self-inflicted wound. His robes are rent, revealing a mysterious symbol painted on his chest.

When the rain turns to snow, the caravan is forced to seek hospitality from the local lord while they wait for the storm to pass. Li Du receives a courteous welcome at the manor built into the mountain. The dead monk, he soon learns, was a reclusive painter who lived alone in a nearby temple. According to the family, his bizarre suicide is not surprising, given his obsession with the demon world.

But Li Du is convinced that all is not as it seems. Why did the caravan leader detour to this particular valley? Why does the lord’s skittish heir sleep in the barn like a servant? Why is an Italian missionary convinced that there is a lost Christian kingdom in Tibet? And who is the mysterious woman traveling unescorted through the mountain wilds?

These are dangerous times and dangerous roads. Political tension is escalating among the emperor of China, the king of Tibet in Lhasa, and the Mongols in the north. Bandits roam the trade routes. Trapped in the snow, surrounded by secrets and an unexplained grief that haunts the manor, Li Du cannot distract himself from memories he has tried to leave behind. As he discovers irrefutable evidence of the painter’s murder and pieces together the dark circumstances of his death, Li Du must face the reason he will not go home and, ultimately, the reason why he must.

Any Minutes NowRed Rover – the blackest of black ops teams – is betrayed during a top-priority mission to capture and interrogate a mysterious Saudi terrorist. One of their own is killed; the remaining two barely get home alive. Then, without warning or explanation, the team is disbanded.

Greg Whitman and Felix Orteno are left adrift in a world full of deathly shadows, blind alleys, and unanswerable questions. They hook up with Charlize Daou, a brilliant, wildly talented arms expert whose past is entangled with Whit’s. Though Charlie grapples with damage of her own, she becomes their new center, their moral compass, and their reason for resurrecting Red Rover.

The new Red Rover secretly sets out to find the protect Saudi terrorist, the first step in a perilous journey into the heart of a vast conspiracy that involves the NSA, a cabal of immensely wealthy mystics known as the Alchemists, and an ageless visionary out to create an entirely new way of waging war. A war that will destabilize one of the great superpowers and forever rearrange the balance of power across the entire globe.

 

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5/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2019, Review Book, S, TLC Book Tours

Review: Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson

Before She Knew HimAbout Before She Knew Him

• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (March 5, 2019)

Catching a killer is dangerous—especially if he lives next door

From the hugely talented author of The Kind Worth Killing comes an exquisitely chilling tale of a young suburban wife with a history of psychological instability whose fears about her new neighbor could lead them both to murder . . .

Hen and her husband Lloyd have settled into a quiet life in a new house outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Hen (short for Henrietta) is an illustrator and works out of a studio nearby, and has found the right meds to control her bipolar disorder. Finally, she’s found some stability and peace.

But when they meet the neighbors next door, that calm begins to erode as she spots a familiar object displayed on the husband’s office shelf. The sports trophy looks exactly like one that went missing from the home of a young man who was killed two years ago. Hen knows because she’s long had a fascination with this unsolved murder—an obsession she doesn’t talk about anymore, but can’t fully shake either.

Could her neighbor, Matthew, be a killer? Or is this the beginning of another psychotic episode like the one she suffered back in college, when she became so consumed with proving a fellow student guilty that she ended up hurting a classmate?

The more Hen observes Matthew, the more she suspects he’s planning something truly terrifying. Yet no one will believe her. Then one night, when she comes face to face with Matthew in a dark parking lot, she realizes that he knows she’s been watching him, that she’s really on to him. And that this is the beginning of a horrifying nightmare she may not live to escape. . .


Review:

I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review; all opinions expressed are my own.

I have never read a book by Peter Swanson before, although I do have a copy of The Kind Worth Killing on my shelf. So I was excited to get the opportunity to read and review this book!

I am a firm believer that the less you know about this book going in – the better off you will be. It’s full of twists and turns, some you see coming … and some you don’t! There’s one particular twist that it was just like “WHOA! Stop the presses on that one…” I totally didn’t see it coming and it made the book even creepier than it was before.

I really, really enjoyed this one. I found it to be very fast-paced and thrilling. The characters were all well-developed and somewhat unreliable at times. That plot … it may seem like it’s a bit far-reaching (because, you know, most people don’t really think they live next door to a murderer), but Mr. Swanson definitely makes it work in this book.

Overall, a really great book that left me practically breathless! It was a race to the finish to see how it would all end up for Hen.

Highly, highly, highly recommended 🙂


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Peter Swanson AP Photo by Jim Ferguson.jpg
Photo by Jim Ferguson

 

 

About Peter Swanson

Peter Swanson is the author of three novels: The Girl With a Clock For a Heart, an LA Times Book Award finalist; The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger; and his most recent, Her Every Fear. His books have been translated into 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov’s Science FictionThe Atlantic MonthlyMeasureThe GuardianThe Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine. A graduate of Trinity College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Emerson College, he lives in Somerville, Massachusetts with his wife.

Find out more about Peter on his website and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

tlc tour host

Mailbox Monday, Meme, Uncategorized

Mailbox Monday, March 4, 2019

Mailbox Mondays

Well. I’ve got more than a few this week 😀 Should have stayed away from the library book sale, ha!

Anyhoo, I got one book for review in last week:

The Hunting PartyDuring the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands – the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.

They arrive on December 30, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.

Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.

The trip began innocently enough: admiration of the stunning, if foreboding, scenery; champagne in front of a crackling fire; and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous rivalry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.

Now one of them is dead … and another one of them did it.

Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close?


I got two books from my grandmother:

Three Sisters, Three QueensWhen Katherine of Aragon is brought to the Tudor court as a young bride, the oldest princess, Margaret, takes her measure. With one look, each knows the other for a rival, an ally, a pawn, destined – with Margaret’s younger sister, Mary – to a unique sisterhood. The three sisters will become the queens of England, Scotland, and France.

United by family loyalties and affections, the three queens find themselves set against each other. But as they experience betrayals, dangers, loss, and passion, the three sisters find that the only constant in their perilous lives is their special bond, more powerful than any man, even a king.

The SandmanAn emaciated young man named Michael is found wandering outside Stockholm. Thirteen years earlier, he and his younger sister went missing, presumed to be victims of Sweden’s most notorious serial killer, Jurek Walter, who is now serving a life sentence in a maximum-security psychiatric hospital. But Mikael tells the police that his sister is still alive and behind held by someone he calls the Sandman.

Detective Joona Linna sacrificed everything to capture Jurek, but he always thought that Jurek had an accomplice. Any chance of rescuing Mikael’s sister depends on getting Jurek to talk, and the only agent capable of this is Saga Bauer, who will have to go deep undercover and beat Jurek at his own game before it’s too late.


And then here’s what I got at the library book sale:

HeydayThe Killing ForestFinger Lickin FifteenThe Elusive Mrs. PollifaxAuntie Poldi and the Sicilian LionsTrumanDismantledAmerica Afire

Monthly Wrap Up

February 2019 Wrap Up

Well, February ended up being a slightly better reading month than January did (who on earth starts a brand new year in a reading slump?! UGH!) Here’s what I read in February:

Meet Me at the MuseumBack to School MurderJohn AdamsEleven on TopBefore She Knew Him

So there’s a visual of my books read in February. Meet Me at the Museum was the February selection for the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club – it is an epistolary novel, and way outside my comfort zone, but it somewhat surprised me. I can’t say that I loved it, but I finished it and while not necessarily my cup of tea it was a well-written book. I finally got my way through John Adams. Whew. That was a chunky book, and while extremely well-written the writing style was not necessarily what I was looking for at the time. My favorite this month, hands down, was definitely Before She Knew Him. Be on the lookout for my review of that one this upcoming Thursday!

Here’s what you may have missed last month:

Let’s see … on the personal side of things. Hm. We were able to see two movies in the theater this month, Aquaman and Glass. Both were good in their own way. As far as Aquaman is concerned, it was a decent adventure movie – but while I can appreciate that Jason Mamoa is a good-looking guy, I’m not sure I understand the hype about him right now. All my mom friends are obsessed. Glass was a good movie, but a little confusing to me at times. I never saw the two movies before it in the “trilogy” so that may have impacted my overall thoughts on the movie. My weekly running partner and I have signed up for a 5K on St. Patrick’s Day. Eek. I’m not really “ready” Ok, I can’t really say that. We’ve been running every week together and I’m consistently doing 3.5-4 miles with her every Sunday, but the whole idea of a “race” is getting into my head again. But it benefits the American Cancer Society, and all finishers get a really cool medal that is also a bottle opener (hey – I’m all about the race swag!). I don’t really know what else to mention here. So I suppose until next month –

Happy reading!

3.5/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, E, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2019, SERIES, Stephanie Plum

Review: Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovich

Eleven on Top
by Janet Evanovich

Eleven on Top

 

Copyright: 2005

Pages: 321

Read: Feb. 10 – 20, 2019

Rating: 3.5/5

Source: Goodwill

 

Blurb: Stephanie Plum is thinking her career as a fugitive apprehension agent has run its course. She’s been shot at, spat at, cussed at, fire-bombed, and attacked by dogs. Stephanie thinks it’s time for a change. So she quits. She wants something safe and normal. But the kind of trouble she had at the bail bonds office can’t compare to the kind of trouble she finds herself facing now…

Stephanie is stalked by a maniac returned from the grave for the sole purpose of putting her into a burial plot of her own. He’s killed before, and he’ll kill again if given the chance. Caught between staying far away from the bounty hunter business and staying alive, Stephanie re-examines her life and the possibility that being a bounty hunter is the solution rather than the problem. After disturbingly brief careers at the button factory, Kan Klean Dry Cleaners, and Cluck-in-a-Bucket, Stephanie takes an office position in security, working for Ranger, the sexiest, baddest bounty hunter and businessman on two continents. Tempers and temperatures rise as competition s up between the two men in her life – her on-again, off-again boyfriend, tough Trenton cop Joe Morelli, and Ranger. Can Stephanie Plum take the heat? Can you? Ranger.


Review: Stephanie Plum just can’t keep herself out of trouble. It’s rather ridiculous when a reader thinks back about how many times her car is blown up over the course of the first 11 books. Yet for some reason, it still works each and every time.

This particular installment saw Stephanie quit bounty hunting. I kind of liked the change in career. I secretly hope that she continuous on with Ranger’s company – I think it adds a new and interesting  dynamic to the series and I look forward to seeing where it goes from here.

Overall I found this particular installment to be strong, interesting and fun. It definitely makes me look forward to the 12th book!

First chapter, Meme

First Chapter, First Paragraph, February 26, 2019

First Chapter

This week I’m featuring a review book I’ve got coming up:

Before She Knew Him

The two couples met at a neighborhood block party, the third Saturday in September.

I know this introduction doesn’t tell the reader much. But having recently finished this book I really want to say that I feel like the less you go in knowing about this book … the better! I sure hope you’ll come back next week and see my final thoughts when my review posts on March 7th!

4.5/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, M, Non-Fiction, Presidential Reading Challenge, RATING, Read in 2019

Review: John Adams by David McCullough

John Adams
by David McCullough

John Adams

Copyright: 2001

Pages: 651

Read: Jan. 4 – Feb. 19, 2019

Rating: 4.5/5

Source: Goodwill

 

Blurb: In this powerful, epic biography, David McCullough unfolds the adventurous life journey of John Adams, the brilliant, fiercely independent, often irascible, always honest Yankee patriot who spared nothing in his zeal for the American Revolution; who rose to become the second president of the United States and saved the country from blundering into an unnecessary war; who was learned beyond all but a few and regarded by some as “out of his senses”; and whose marriage to the wise and valiant Abigail Adams is one of the moving love stories in American history.

This is history on a grand scale—a book about politics and war and social issues, but also about human nature, love, religious faith, virtue, ambition, friendship, and betrayal, and the far-reaching consequences of noble ideas. Above all, John Adams is an enthralling, often surprising story of one of the most important and fascinating Americans who ever lived.


Review: After having read seven books on George Washington, I was ready to continue on to John Adams (although I am still kicking myself for not buckling down and reading the Ron Chernow book…ugh!). I chose this one to begin with since I figured it would be the easiest to read and a good jumping off place for me.

First I need to state that I knew very little about John Adams other than the fact that he was instrumental to the creation and execution of the Declaration of Independence, was our first Vice President, and our second President. Other than that I knew next to nothing. I mean, I didn’t even realize he was a one-term president! Oops? So I was eager to dive right in.

I have to say that I was really struggling with my decision to start with this book until I got about 200 pages in. I just found it really difficult to get into at first. I think it was the style of writing that really threw me for a loop. This is not your typical biography. At all. And on one hand I can really appreciate that, and as the book moves forward, I enjoyed the way the writing style handled everything. But at the beginning I had issues with it. I wanted more of a “John Adams was born on…” introduction. I guess more linear in timeline than what was introduced here. But I kept going and in the end I was pleasantly surprised.

I also struggled with the fact that Mr. McCullough made it appear to me that Mr. Adams could do no wrong. Everything seemed to be spun in a very positive light. As a student of history (literally, my bachelor’s degree is in history), I had issue with that. Not everything can be all sunshine and rainbows. There has to be some criticism at some point. Unfortunately, I did not see any criticism whatsoever in this book. That’s not to say that I wanted Mr. McCullough to rip Adams a new one – but I think it would have felt a little more realistic had some of the not-so-popular things about Adams been brought into a different light.

Overall this was a very good and well-researched book. If you can get past the informal writing style (or if that’s what you want in a biography), then this book will be quite enjoyable to you. I however wanted a little more analysis than this particular book provided. I can definitely see how and why it won a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for Biography/Autobiography. And it definitely earned a high rating from me. I just wanted a bit more out of it than I got.

Meme, Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday

February 19: Books I LOVED with Fewer than 2,000 Ratings on Goodreads

This one was tough for me … over the years I’ve been able to read lots of good books that were rather unknown. Most of these that I’m including here were review books that I received for review … actually 7 of the 10 on my list were review books. Here’s my list:

Mailbox Monday, Meme

Mailbox Monday, February 18, 2019

Mailbox MondaysSo this week’s post actually encompasses the last two weeks of acquisitions since I didn’t get my act together last week to put together a post. Here’s what I got:

The first one I picked up from my local Barnes & Noble. The author was there signing copies – unbeknownst to me, she apparently lives locally! Small world 🙂

The Stranger InsideThere’s a stranger living in Kimber Hannon’s house. The man tells the police that he has every right to be there, and he has the paperwork to prove it.

Kimber definitely didn’t invite this man to move in. The intruder claims that he knows something about her, and he wants everyone else to know it too.

I was there. I saw what you did.”

These words reveal a connection to Kimber’s distant past, and dark secrets she’d long ago left buried. This trespasser isn’t after anything as simple as her money or her charming Craftsman bungalow. He wants to move into her carefully orchestrated life – and destroy it.

 


This one was my BOTM pick for February. I went WAYYYYY outside my comfort zone with this selection, but it really appealed to me.

A Woman in No ManPalestine, 1990. Seventeen-year-old Isra prefers reading books to entertaining the suitors her father has chosen for her. Her desires are irrelevant, however – over the course of a week, the naive and dreamy girl finds herself betrothed, then married, and soon living in Brooklyn. There Isra struggles to adapt to the expectations of her oppressive mother-in-law, Fareeda, and her strange new husband, Adam: a pressure that intensifies as she begins to have children – four daughters instead of the sons Isra is expected to bear.

Brooklyn, 2008. At her grandmother’s insistence, eighteen-year-old Deya must meet with potential husbands and prepare herself for marriage, though her only desire is to go to college. Her grandmother is firm on the matter, however: the only way to secure a worthy future for Deya is through marriage to the right man. But fate has a will of its own, and soon Deya will find herself on an unexpected path that leads her to shocking truths that will force her to question everything she thought she knew about her family, the past, and her own future.

Set in an America at once foreign to many and staggeringly close at hand, A Woman is No Man is a story of culture and honor, secrets and betrayals, love and violence. It is an intimate glimpse into a controlling and closed cultural world, and a universal tale about family and the ways silence and shame can destroy those we have sworn to protect.


This is a review book that I received for a TLC Book Tour coming up in March:

Before She Knew HimHen and her husband, Lloyd, have settled into a quiet life in a new house outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Hen (short for Henrietta) is an illustrator who works out of a studio nearby, and has found the right meds to control her bipolar disorder. Final, she’s found some stability and peace.

But when they meet the neighbors next door, that calm begins to erode as she spots a familiar object displayed on the husband’s office shelf. The sports trophy looks exactly like one that went missing from the home of a young man who was killed two years ago. Hen knows because she’s long had a fascination with this unsolved murder – an obsession she doesn’t talk about anymore, but can’t fully shake either.

Could her neighbor Matthew be a killer? Or is this the beginning of another psychotic episode like the one she suffered back in college, when she became so consumed with proving a fellow student guilty that she ended up hurting a classmate?

The more Hen observes Matthew, the more she suspects he’s planning something truly terrifying. Yet no one will believe her. Then one night, when she comes face-to-face with Matthew in a dark parking lot, she realizes that he knows she’s been watching him, that she’s really on to him, and that this is the beginning of a horrifying nightmare she may not live to escape…


The next four are ones that I picked up at my local Goodwill:

All Dressed in WhiteFive years ago Amanda Pierce was excitedly preparing to marry her college sweetheart in a lavish ceremony at The Grand Victoria Hotel in Palm Beach. Then, with their guests and families on site, Amanda disappeared.

In present-day New York City, Laurie accepts an uninvited visitor into her office: Amanda’s desperate mother, who begs Laurie and her Under Suspicion television team to investigate Amanda’s disappearance. It’s an appeal Laurie, a widow too familiar with the grief felt by the families of victims of unsolved crimes, can’t refuse. Soon she and the team are re-creating the night of the disappearance at the Florida resort with Amanda’s friends and family in attendance, hoping to shed new light on the mystery, as the series has done in the past.

With Amanda’s former fiance now married to one of Amanda’s bridesmaids, her jealous sister now integral in the family business, playboy groomsmen still behaving badly, a too-friendly wedding photographer, and rumors about the “beloved” bride herself, Laurie and Under Suspicion host Alex Buckley quickly realize everyone has a theory about why Amanda vanished into thin air – and a reason to direct Laurie’s attention elsewhere.

One thing is certain: whoever was behind Amanda’s disappearance plans to keep the truth hidden “until death do they part…”


The Maltese Falcon
A treasure worth killing for. Sam Spade, a slightly shopworn private eye with his own solitary code of ethics. A perfumed grafter named Joel Cairo, a fat man named Gutman, and Brigid O’Shaughnessy, a beautiful and treacherous woman whose loyalties shift at the drop of a dime. These are the ingredients of Dashiell Hammett’s coolly glittering gem of detective fiction, a novel that has haunted generations of readers.

 


The Devil in the White City

Bringing Chicago circa 1893 to vivid life, Erik Larson’s spell-binding bestseller intertwines the true tale of two men – the brilliant architect behind the legendary 1893 World’s Fair, striving to secure America’s place in the world; and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. Combining meticulous research with nail-biting storytelling, Erik Larson has crafted a narrative with all the wonder of newly discovered history and the thrills of the best fiction.

 


The Wife
The moment Joan Castleman decides to leave her husband, they are on an airplane, thirty-five thousand feet above the ocean. Joan’s husband, Joseph, is one of America’s preeminent novelists, about to receive a prestigious international award, and Joan, who has spent forty years subjugating her own literary talents to his careers, has finally decided to stop. From this gripping opening, Meg Wolitzer flashes back to 1950s Smith College and Greenwich Village and follows the course of the marriage that has brought the couple to this breaking point – one that results in a shocking revelation.

With her skillful storytelling and pitch-perfect observations, Wolitzer has crafted a wise and candid look at the choices all men and women make – in marriage, work, and life.

3/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, M, RATING, Read in 2019

Review: Back to School Murder by Leslie Meier

Back to School Murder
by Leslie Meier

Back to School Murder

Copyright: 1997

Pages: 268

Read: Feb. 3 – 6, 2019

Rating: 3/5

Source: Paperbackswap

 

Blurb: It’s back to school time in the peaceful Maine town of Tinker’s Cove, and for mother-of-four Lucy Stone it isn’t a moment too soon. But trouble at the local elementary school soon has the sometime crime-solver juggling family, job, and night classes with another mystery to solve. And it starts with a bang.

A bob goes off with the noon lunch bell, but not before all the kids are safely evacuated, and Carol Crane, the new assistant principal, is hailed as a hero. But days later, Carol is found murdered and everyone is stunned when the most popular teacher at the school is arrested for the crime. However, not everyone is buying the open-and-shut case, including Lucy Stone, who senses there’s more to things than meets the eye.

It soon becomes clear that Lucy is flirting with danger, as sizzling secrets and explosive surprises provide a primer for the most diabolical of motives. Hot on the trail of a clever killer, the dedicated mom and seasoned sleuth must harness the courage and cool aplomb to uncover a crime that just might give her an education in the fine art of murder.


Review: This is the 4th book in the Lucy Stone series. So far I’ve really enjoyed this “cozy” mystery series. (I feel a need to clarify “cozy” here, because while technically classified as a cozy mystery, these books don’t feel as cookie-cutter cozy as others do – that’s probably why I’m so drawn to these books!) I really enjoy Lucy’s character.

In this particular installment, Lucy is really struggling with herself as a woman – not just a mom. I can totally relate. However, she made some boneheaded moves in this book that I didn’t care much for … hopefully she got all that out of her system. Anyway. The one thing that I really struggled with in this book was who the killer ended up being. It just seemed a little far-fetched to me. There were three other perfectly good suspects … and yet the actual killer came out of left field. And it just didn’t feel right to me. I usually love a good twist, but this twist didn’t really work for me.

All that said, it was still a fun read. I enjoyed catching up with Lucy and I’m really looking forward to seeing her continue on at the newspaper in town. I think that will add a lot more depth to the series. I’m definitely looking forward to continuing on. While this one’s storyline probably wasn’t up to par with the previous three, I did still enjoy it. Overall, a fun and easy read.