Blend by Georgia Beers Review

Ice Queen? Check. Woman warm enough to melt said Ice Queen? Check. Fun romance setting that makes me want to run down to my local wine bar and belly up? Check.

I’ve read other novels by Georgia Beers and she is one of my one-click favorites because of her consistency. Her books are always well paced, well written and hit all the emotional beats necessary for a robust romance. She hits all the right notes with this romance set in a Wine Bar. Like the title, Beers’ novel blends the storylines of her main characters Piper and Lindsay in her signature style. The story is subtle, yet compelling as the lead characters grapple with issues of self-esteem, grief, and ethical dilemmas. A low angst tale it still delivers a story rich in heart-rending moments before the characters get their happy ever after.  A well-crafted read, Blend is a marvelous way to spend an evening curled up with a large glass of your favorite vintage.

Brenda Murphy writes short fiction and novels. She loves tattoos and sideshows and yes, those are her monkeys.  When she is not loitering at her local tea shop and writing, she wrangles two kids, one dog, and an unrepentant parrot.  She reviews books, blogs about life as a writer with ADHD and publishes photographs on her blog Writing While Distracted.

You can find her on Facebook by clicking here.

Website: www.brendalmurphy.com

Books available at

Amazon

NineStar Press

Both Ends of the Whip

ONE  

Sum of the Whole 

Dominique and Other Stories

 

Rock/Salt/Stone by Rosamond S. King Review

I had the good fortune to hear Rosamond S. King perform poems from Rock/Salt/Stone and a series from Abattoir as part of her cabaret-style performance of Resident Alien. It was utterly and devastatingly perfect. Her delivery of spoken word poems combined with through-line of song lyrics is powerful, and if you ever have an opportunity to see her perform, run do not walk to the venue.

The theme of her show addresses the experience of being unwelcome in one’s own home because one is queer, black, or an immigrant. Dr. King’s collection of poems Rock/Salt/Stone is a 2018 Lambda Literary Awards Finalist.

If you only read one book of poems this year, treat yourself to this collection. Dr. King’s imagery and language draws on different cultures, African, Carribean, Queer, and American, and folklore. Her poems are lyrical and rich, and her playfulness with language is apparent even as she addresses subjects that are heartbreaking, the positive energy of these poems shines through.

I am ever grateful I was able to hear her performance because now, whenever I read her work I will hear her voice as I read and re-read her poems. Even if you are someone who does not read poetry, particularly if you are someone who does not read poetry, get outside of your comfort zone and read these poems. 

My favorite poems from this collection are in no particular order: the poem wet, {I fell in love with the market woman}, you.nasty., and for Isatoufor Haddy for Adama for Elle.  Be warned the soul of these poems will get under your skin, you will not be satisfied with a quick read through but will want to savor each bite of her razor sharp observations about life dressed up as poems. You can find Rock/Salt/Stone at https://www.spdbooks.org/Products/9781937658618/rock–salt–stone.aspx

And Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Rock-Salt-Stone-Rosamond-King/dp/1937658619

 

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Women’s Voices: Review Amid the Winter Snow*

Four of my favorite fantasy authors in one volume? Four stories that are rich, well written, and glorious in their world-building? Four stories that are my idea of what a winter holiday anthology should be no matter what you celebrate? Bring it. All of it, and give it to me. That is exactly what Grace Draven, Thea Harrison, Elizabeth Hunter, and Jeffe Kennedy have done. Confession: I don’t usually read holiday anthologies. I do not like sticky sweet stories, holiday inspired or not. I like tension, drama, action, and a well wrought HEA or HFN. And that is what Amid the Winter Snow delivers. The anthology is full of strong plots, aching desire, fantastic worlds, and love. Each story had me turning pages and staying up later than I should to finish it. I have not read as much of Thea Harrison and Elizabeth Hunter’s work but am going to remedy that after this book. As for Grace Draven and Jeffe Kennedy, I am knee deep in their fantasy realms and this book reminds me why I started reading them in the first place.

Grace Draven’s story, In the Darkest Midnight, with it’s nod to the Wraith Kings made me ugly cry. Not unusual for Grace’s stories, but be forewarned, she will squeeze your heart hard and then gently release it.

Thea Harrison’s story, The Chosen, had me one clicking her books. I like a bit of intrigue with my fantasy romance and this fit the bill. Steamy and fun, a good read right before bed.

Elizabeth Hunter’s story, The Storm, is a parable of sorts, the characters are well-developed and their story is entertaining, hopeful, and very relatable.

And finally Jeffe Kennedy’s story, The Snows of Windroven, is a tale set in the Twelve Kingdoms universe, featuring Ash and the Queen Amelia. No one writes a slow burn like Jeffe, and it is worth every page you turn to get there. This story stands on its own, so even if you have not read the other books in the Twelve Kingdom and Uncharted Realms series you will enjoy it. Be warned, you may find yourself one-clicking the rest of the series. And you should. Really.

If you are looking for a palate cleansing read this anthology is the perfect antidote to overly sweet holiday tales. It drops on December 12th but you can avoid the rush and pre-order. Links below.

TITLE: AMID THE WINTER SNOW

AUTHORS: Grace Draven, Thea Harrison, Elizabeth Hunter, Jeffe Kennedy

PUB DATE: 2017

As the snows fall and hearths burn, four stories of Midwinter beginnings prove that love can fight its way through the chillest night…

THE DARKEST MIDNIGHT, by Grace Draven The mark Jahna Ulfrida was born with has made her a target of the cruel and idle all her life. During the long, crowded festivities of Deyalda, there’s nowhere to escape. Until a handsome stranger promises to teach her to save herself…

THE CHOSEN, by Thea Harrison In her visions, Lily sees two men fighting for her tiny country’s allegiance: the wolf and the tiger, each deadly, each cunning. One will bring Ys chaos and death, one a gentler path—but she’s destined to love whichever she chooses. The midwinter Masque is upon them, and the wolf is at her door…

THE STORM, by Elizabeth Hunter When her soul mate died in a massacre of the half-angelic Irin people, Renata thought she’d never feel happiness again. She’s retreated to the snowy Dolomites to remember her hurts—until determined, irrepressible Maxim arrives to insist on joy, too. And before she can throw him out, they discover a secret the Irin have to know…

THE SNOWS OF WINDROVEN, by Jeffe Kennedy As a blizzard threatens their mountain keep, the new Queen Amelia of the Twelve Kingdoms and her unofficial consort Ash face their own storm. Ash knows a scarred, jumpy ex-convict isn’t the companion his queen needs. But when a surprise attack confines them together in their isolated sanctuary, the feast of midwinter might tempt even Ash into childlike hope…

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*ARC Review

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Hooray for Queer Sheros- The Edge of the Blade

The Edge of the Blade, the second book in the Uncharted Realms series by Jeffe Kennedy  tells the story of Jepp, the leader and heart of Queen Ursula’s elite guard The Hawks.  After a one night stand with a visiting Prince leads to a diplomatic crisis, Jeep’s love for her Queen leads her to  accept an assignment that delivers her to a culture steeped in misogyny, and sexism, a kingdom where women are kept as bed-slaves or married, and never allowed to lead. A glimpse of hell as far as Jepp is concerned. She uses her wit, her fighting skills and instincts to free herself and Prince Kral from the draconian kingdom that was his home. 

 Filled with sassy, sexy romance and intrigue this is the first book in a long time that I wanted to re-read as soon as I had finished it. Why? Besides the fantastic world building and ripping storytelling, I adored the fact that Jepp, the lead character is a smart, ass-kicking woman, all out of fu@ks to give, and openly bisexual. And not just a glimpse, or a tease kind of bisexual, a hinted at thing that involves a lot of suggestion and fade to black moments. Nope, Jepp owns it.

And in the course of her story where she becomes more involved with a man she only intended to have a fling with she never, ever changes. She does not give over herself to the magic c@ck, that tired trope. Nope, she likes Prince Kral, maybe even loves him and the sex is great but if he can’t get his act together, well its his loss. Bravo Jeffe Kennedy for continuing to write strong women characters who would rather be alone than not be true to themselves. 

This book works as a stand-alone but treat yourself to more of Jepp and read The Twelve Kingdoms series, and The Pages of the Mind before jumping into this book, or be like Jepp and jump in where you want too. 

Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular SFF Seven blog, on Facebook, on Goodreads and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Connor Goldsmith of Fuse Literary.

The Edge of the Blade: Hooray for Queer Sheros

The Edge of the Blade, the second book in the Uncharted Realms series by Jeffe Kennedy  tells the story of Jepp, the leader and heart of Queen Ursula’s elite guard The Hawks.  After a one night stand with a visiting Prince leads to a diplomatic crisis, Jeep’s love for her Queen leads her to  accept an assignment that delivers her to a culture steeped in misogyny, and sexism, a kingdom where women are kept as bed-slaves or married, and never allowed to lead. A glimpse of hell as far as Jepp is concerned. She uses her wit, her fighting skills and instincts to free herself and Prince Kral from the draconian kingdom that was his home.

 Filled with sassy, sexy romance and intrigue this is the first book in a long time that I wanted to re-read as soon as I had finished it. Why? Besides the fantastic world building and ripping storytelling, I adored the fact that Jepp, the lead character is a smart, ass-kicking woman, all out of fu@ks to give, and openly bisexual. And not just a glimpse, or a tease kind of bisexual, a hinted at thing that involves a lot of suggestion and fade to black moments. Nope, Jepp owns it.

And in the course of her story where she becomes more involved with a man she only intended to have a fling with she never, ever changes. She does not give over herself to the magic c@ck, that tired trope. Nope, she likes Prince Kral, maybe even loves him and the sex is great but if he can’t get his act together, well its his loss. Bravo Jeffe Kennedy for continuing to write strong women characters who would rather be alone than not be true to themselves. 

This book works as a stand-alone but treat yourself to more of Jepp and read The Twelve Kingdoms series, and The Pages of the Mind before jumping into this book, or be like Jepp and jump in where you want too. 

Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular SFF Seven blog, on Facebook, on Goodreads and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Connor Goldsmith of Fuse Literary.

 

Review: When the World Wounds

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I confess to a love of short stories. I am obsessed with delicious bites of fiction ranging from petite short short stories to longer works that brush the edges of novella. It is my favorite form of fiction to read and to write.

In October I had the good fortune to meet Kiini Ibura Salaam at a writer’s conference. She gave a wonderful keynote address and I was able to spend some time with her talking about our mutual love of short stories and travel. Her latest collection of short fiction When the World Wounds (2016) is as seductive as her first collection of short stories Ancient Ancient (Winner of the 2012 James Tiptree Jr. Award).

When the World Wounds is filled with evocative tales of transformation. Lush sensual language, intricate world building, and well-developed characters mark this collection as special. The characters in these stories evolve from their experiences, morphing into what they need to become in order to not only survive the changes in their environments, but to thrive as powerful beings. I enjoyed reading the entire collection but “The Pull of the Wing” (more of WaLiLa from Ancient Ancient), “Volcano Woman”, and “Hemmie’s Calenture” were outstanding. When the World Wounds will stand on its own but do yourself a favor and read Ancient Ancient before you read When the World Wounds just to experience that much more of Kiini’s gift.

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Kiini Ibura Salaam is a writer, painter, and traveler from New Orleans, Louisiana. Her work—which encompasses speculative fiction, erotica, creative nonfiction, and poetry–is rooted in speculative events, women’s perspectives, and artistic freedom. Her book Ancient, Ancient—winner of the 2012 James Tiptree, Jr. Award–collects sensual tales of the fantastic, the dark, and the magical. Her fiction has been published in such anthologies as Dark Matter, Mojo: Conjure Stories, Black Silk, and Dark Eros. Her essays have been published in Colonize This, When Race Becomes Real, Utne Reader, and Ms. magazine. Her Notes From the Trenches ebook series documents the challenges of the writing life. She keeps an archive of her writing and art at kiiniibura.com. When the World Wounds is her second collection of short fiction.

 

 

 

Women’s Voices_ Interview with Sonali Dev

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Like many of the authors I have had the privilege of meeting I met Sonali Dev at one of my favorite writer’s conferences Chicago North RWA’s Biannual Spring Fling conference. Sonali’s books are complex sensual stories of love.  I was hooked from her first book  The Bollywood Affair, and continued my obsession with The Bollywood Bride.

Her most recent book A Change of Heart is a departure from the first two in intensity and subject matter. I hope this book will become as much a classic as Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.  While A Change of Heart has a much happier ending than The Bluest Eye it is a riveting unflinching look at the aftermath of sexual assault. A Change of Heart does not gloss over or look away from the lack of agency and threats that women experience because of socioeconomic and cultural  factors. 

How is this a romance you ask? Sonali makes it work and she does it in her signature heartfelt and graceful style. This brutal beautifully written story manages to tell the story of survivors that does not diminish the horror of sexual assault but addresses in a very real way the challenges for any woman trying to find way to not only survive but thrive sexual assault.  

I was impressed with the amount of research necessary for A Change of Heart and Sonali graciously agreed to answer some questions about her process for the blog. 

  1. Change of Heart reflects detailed research in many areas to get the story right. How did you conduct your research?

Sonali Dev: I have to admit that doing research for this book was not fun. I wasn’t at all organized about my research (I never am). The story always comes first for me, and based on the elements and events of the story, I start to realize the gaps in my knowledge and then go in search of information to fill them. For A Change Of Heart, that meant researching Doctors Without Borders, human trafficking, organ trade, transplant surgery, Dharavi (a slum in Mumbai), and the Mumbai police force. I read a lot of archived articles (the internet is a beautiful thing), spoke with subject matter experts, visited Dharavi and watched several documentaries. Some of the transplant videos would have been really interesting if I weren’t so queasy but the rest of it was a struggle to internalize.

  1. Do you draft your story first and then research or is it concurrent?

Sonali Dev: When you’re writing fiction, what your research really needs to do is inform your writing in the form of character choices and reactions. My stories come from things I want to explore and am curious about. So, when the story starts to take form in my head, I tend to research a lot of the aspects of the story and try to immerse myself in the world and the information. For example, once I knew that Nikhil and Jen work for Doctors Without Borders and I started doing research on the organization even before I started drafting. So, some of the story came from the research. On the other hand as the story progressed I had to research a lot of details and specifics about everything from crimes to medical procedures. In the end it was a combination of concurrent and preparatory research.

  1. Did you conduct interviews as part of your research?

Sonali Dev: I did. You can always get a more human and specific perspective from interviews.

  1. How did you organize your research? What system do you use?

Sonali Dev: As I said before, I’m not terribly organized about research. My focus is more on internalizing the research on behalf of my characters so I’m not dumping information on readers but instead informing my fiction so it is authentic and factually accurate. I keep detailed barely organized notes, but that’s about all.

  1. What advice do you have for young/ new/ beginning writers about research?

Sonali Dev: I’m not an academic or a scholar so I can’t answer this question except to say that I do feel the need to be armed with as much information as possible when I write about specific issues. It just makes things easier when you understand the world you’re writing within. At least to the extent it is possible to understand some horrific things as an observer who is trying to emulate an experiencer. But the more informed I am the more solid the foundation of my story feels and the more I feel like I own the characters and their decisions. This is more about creative process for me. I don’t like feeling like an imposter, and knowledge and research really helps with that.

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Find out more about Sonali at her website: https://sonalidev.com/

Award winning author, Sonali Dev, writes Bollywood-style love stories that let her explore issues faced by women around the world while still indulging her faith in a happily ever after. Sonali’s novels have been on Library Journal, NPR, Washington Post and Kirkus Best Books lists. She won the American Library Association’s award for best romance in 2014, is a RITA Finalist, RT Reviewer Choice Award Nominee, and winner of the RT Seal of Excellence. Sonali lives in the Chicago suburbs with her very patient and often amused husband and two teens who demand both patience and humor, and the world’s most perfect dog. Find out more at sonalidev.com.

 

Book Review: Lonen’s War*

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Lonen’s war is the story of Oria, a woman raised in isolation, treated like a fragile child, and Lonen, a man fighting to stop the utter destruction of his people and the devastation of his country.  In a kingdom where control and serenity are prized and rewarded above all else, passionate and willful Oria finds herself the key to her kingdom’s survival.  Struggling to save their kingdoms, bound by their honor, trapped between their cultures, Oria and Lonen must find a way to stop the war that has opened the gates to an evil neither knew existed no matter the personal cost. 

 As a long time fan of fantasy romance, my favorite stories are those that showcase character growth.  Oria resonates as a character and her growth over the course of the book is well done. The relationship between Oria and Lonen develops at a slow but satisfying pace. Dragons, magic, and secrets abound in this first book of the Sorcerous Moons trilogy. If you are a regular reader of Jeffe Kennedy (and if you are not you are missing out,) you will find all the things you expect: strong world building, magic that makes sense, and characters you care about.  Lonen’s War is a delightful read.  Pick up a copy and let yourself be swept up in Oria and Lonen’s world.  Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 9.26.38 AM

You can find out more about Jeffe Kennedy and her other fabulous books at http://www.jeffekennedy.com .

*ARC Review

Book Review: The Pages of the Mind*

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Let me start off by saying I came to the Twelve Kingdom’s series sideways after reviewing Dark Secrets as part of my annual Thirteen for Halloween book post. I enjoyed Jeffe Kennedy’s story “Heart’s Blood” (a dark retelling of the Goose Girl) set in the Twelve Kingdoms so much that as soon as I finished reading it I started the Twelve Kingdom series and have not looked back. The fourth book in the series, The Pages of the Mind is the story of Dafane Mailloux, Librarian with a capital L, scholar, polyglot, and survivor. Sent to gather information for her Queen in a far kingdom Dafane is plunged into the internal intrigue and politics of a foreign land and reluctantly agrees to a marriage of alliance.

Finding herself drawn to the powerful king, now her husband Dafane discovers new powers, abilities, and love. When her queen arrives to rescue her Dafane is caught in a power struggle between the two people she loves most and must use her skills and intelligence to maintain peace in the Twelve Kingdoms. Continuing in the tradition of the other books in the series, this book has everything you expect from Jeffe Kennedy: rich world building, political intrigue, exact pacing and an exquisite love story wrapped in a delectably readable package.

If you have not started the Twelve Kingdoms series you don’t have to have read the other books in the series to appreciate The Pages of the Mind, but if you are a linear type of reader do yourself a favor and start at The Mark of the Tala, dive into The Tears of the Rose, wallow in the Best Fantasy Romance of 2015 The Talon of the Hawk and then sail with Dafane in The Pages of the MInd.

*ARC Review

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Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels.Her most recent works include the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms. The third book, The Talon of the Hawk, won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2015.She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine. Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the Word Whores blog, on Facebook, on Goodreads and on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Connor Goldsmith of Fuse Literary.

Book Review: The Devil’s Doorbell*

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I am a fan of anthologies for two reasons. 1.) I really dig short stories. 2.) It is a  great way to sample work by new-to-me authors.  If you gave up on reading an anthologies after English 101 it is time to try again. Treat yourself to seven delectable stories in  The Devil’s Doorbell,  a collection of hot-as-hell erotic short stories that share a common theme: Women unapologetically taking charge of their own desires and seeking pleasure on their terms.

Seven stories, seven women deciding that they get to decide where, and who with, and how, and when they find pleasure.  Seven delicious stories that display women standing up, pushing through and reveling in their decisions. Survivors. Thrill-seekers. Fem-domes. Explorers. Adventurers. They are all represented here.

In a world that works hard at limiting women’s choices through draconian laws and social pressures this collection of stories is different. The women in these stories are not waiting around for someone to show up and show them a good time. Nope. These women are going for it. Erotica featuring empowered women? Bring it.

The book releases April 26, 2016. Preorder your hotness from your favorite on-line book seller.

“Here are seven tales of sexual empowerment and erotic defiance, featuring the hottest storytellers of erotic fiction.”

Anne Calhoun,  Christine d’Abo, Delphine Dryden, Megan Hart, Jeffe Kennedy, Megan Mulry, M. O’Keefe
In the Garden, by Anne Calhoun

Forbidden fruit is the most delicious… A wedding in the bucolic English countryside offers Kelsey ripe temptation in the form of a hot groomsman, Julian. Will the illicit attraction satisfy an old craving or stoke a new desire?

Exact Warm Unholy, by Jeffe Kennedy

Tonight my name is Mary… Or is it? Sometimes she’s Tiffany or Syd or Bobbi. But whatever face she wears, she returns to the same bar, to find a new man and seduce him, safe in the knowledge that no one will recognize her. Until one man does.

Red Leather, by Delphine Dryden

Some activities are definitely not safe for work. Maggie’s sadness over being dumped quickly turns to relief and excitement when she discovers a new freedom…a new Maggie she could have never been with her ex. Combine New Maggie with Tim the Hot Mailroom Guy and an unexpected vibrator…and the office supply room door becomes the portal to a world of devilish fun.

Drowning on Dry Land, by Megan Hart

Some doors stay open until you close them. Moving on from a past love, Bette Douglas has discovered a whole new world of satisfaction and contentment with her boy Damian…but when the past comes knocking, Bette’s decision to answer it could change everything.

Devil in the Dark, by Christine d’Abo

When developer Shona needs to beta test her new app – The Devil’s Doorbell – she goes out on the prowl for a man who will fulfil her wildest fantasies – oral sex in public. What could possibly go wrong when she finds her devil in the dark?

London Calling, by Megan Mulry

“Face-sitter wanted, in exchange for free accommodation in Mayfair.” -Craigslist

She hadn’t planned on being quite so adventurous when she decided to spend the year in London, but when she read the ad, she couldn’t resist.

We Are All Found Things, by M. O’Keefe

Rennie’s trying to forget her past; her mysterious new tenant is trying to keep his past a secret. But when Rennie finds out the truth about Luka she discovers as much about herself as she does her innocent lover.

Anne Calhoun – http://www.annecalhoun.com/

Christine d’Abo – http://christinedabo.com/

Delphine Dryden – http://www.delphinedryden.com/

Megan Hart – http://meganhart.com/

Jeffe Kennedy – http://www.jeffekennedy.com/

Megan Mulry – http://meganmulry.com/

M. O’Keefe – http://www.molly-okeefe.com/

Cover by Book Beautiful – http://www.bookbeautiful.com/

*ARC Review- See disclaimer page if you have any questions.