Be a Star, Wonder Woman! by Michael Dahl (Author) and Omar Lozano (Illustrator)

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Amazon  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Goodreads

Published: 1 August 2017

Publisher: Picture Window Books

Category: Childrens (Picture Books)

As a new day dawns, a young girl faces the ultimate challenge: school! Follow along as she demonstrates her greatest superpower (sharing), overcomes her worst fear (the playground), and conquers her archenemy (the spelling test).With courage, kindness, and other heroic traits of DC Comics’ Wonder Woman, she’ll turn a difficult school day into an AMAZING ADVENTURE! Along with Omar Lozano’s bright, bold illustrations, bestselling author Michael Dahl (Bedtime for Batman and Good Morning, Superman) delivers an imaginative read-aloud for your littlest super heroes.

Rating: 3 Stars

When I requested this book, it was shortly before I went to see the Wonder Woman movie. I wanted to read this book because the art was very attractive for a picture book and I’ve been looking for things to read to my son. I didn’t realize at the time that this was part of a series from an author I’d previously reviewed: Michael Dahl, author of Bedtime for Batman, which was a 4 star read for me.

What I like about Dahl’s previous Batman book that carries over to his Wonder Woman book is the parallel story between Wonder Woman and the little girl in the story. While Wonder Woman is battling a super adversary, the main character is battling her own “adversaries”: the first day of school, sharing, being brave, meeting new people, etc.

I also like the diversity of the children in the schoolroom. There were several ethnicities represented.

I’m not quite sure who all the DC characters were except for the popular ones (Batgirl, Super Girl), which wasn’t a huge issue, but a small insert at the back with what their names are would’ve been appreciated as I don’t think I’ll be the only one whose child asks “who is that?” and possibly not be able to come up with an answer.

Now, while I liked the parallel stories, I also felt that the text of the book felt a wee bit disjointed between the two. I don’t think that a child (the intended audience) will make as many of the connections between Wonder Woman’s actions and the little girl’s without some explanation from whoever is reading to them. It may well make for a good reading time experience, but for a young one to read on their own, I’m not sure if they’ll like the story so much as the bright and brilliantly stylized art.

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.
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#TheReadingQuest Readathon

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Aentee at Read At Midnight always has the best readathons. I last participated in the one dedicated to Pokemon and it was a lot of fun! This time around, I’m signing up for The Reading Quest Readathon, which is based on a classic videogame. There will be opportunities to level up, keep your HP high, and so on.

As your journey follows a particular character’s path, I’ve chosen to go with the Mage. I love magic and this class is always my go-to. The artwork is also super cute for the Mage (thanks to CW of Read, Think, Ponder for the art she’s done for this readathon!).

What’s my TBR, then, you may be asking? Well, to start out, the Mage has to follow a certain path of 5 books. There’s time for side quests and doing another character’s quests if I finish the Mage, but let’s start here and see how it goes, yeah?


The First Book in a Series

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Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

I’ve got an arc of this and cannot wait to start. A genderfluid assassin that wants to get back at the nobles that destroyed their home? I am HOOKED.

A Book Set in a Different World

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Secondborn by Amy A. Bartol

The concept behind Secondborn sounds terrifying and fascinating (the secondborn child is given up for military service). As a firstborn myself, I’m interested in what a twist of fate would’ve been like in this other world.

A Book Based on Mythology

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Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

I definitely need to have a Neil Gaiman book in this challenge because…well, because any excuse for a Gaiman book is a good one, right? I’ve been looking forward to this since I read Odd and the Frost Giants and then heard that Gaiman was releasing this book.

A Book That Contains Magic

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The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M.J. Rose

I read the third book in the Daughters of La Lune series this year without releasing it was part of a series (The Library of Light and Shadow). Now I have the chance to go back and see more magic in this family, of which there is quite a lot. This book is about the mother of the characters in the book I’d already read and I’m curious to see what she was like in her past.

A Book With a One Word Title

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Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Since I’ll informally be doing #ARCAugust for half of this readathon, Starfish will suit for both that challenge and this one, as I’ve got a copy of Starfish courtesy of NetGalley.


 

This is my current Mage TBR for the readathon. Are any of these on your TBR? Are you participating in #TheReadingQuest Readathon? If you want to participate, you can sign up here. I’ll see you when the readathon starts! 😀

 

 

 

 

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: The Sacrifice by Indrajit Garai

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Published: 25 August 2016

Publisher: Self-published

Category: Fiction/Novella

In this collection, meet:
Guillaume, who gives up everything to protect his child; young Matthew, who stakes his life to save his home; and François, who makes the biggest sacrifice to rescue his grandson.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Indrajit Garai has written a collection of short stories that surprised me in their simplicity and their truth. These stories are fantastical and they’re not always pretty. There’s a bit of harshness to each of them, but there is also goodness that speaks to the people there are in the world that aren’t as bad as some. Reading each story, I took away something that, while not always happy, was important.

The Move

This story, of Guillaume and his dairy farm suffering against bigger, industrial farms and cattle blight, hit home the most of all the stories. I live in a rural area and there are several farms around here that mean a lot. They’re not dairy farms, rather agricultural ones, but it still hits home because these are not large properties. The one I grew up across the street from was up for sale last year and I remember how much fear the town had that it would be sold to developers. While not my family’s property, growing up with it made me sympathize with Guillaume and his son, Hugo.

The struggles that Guillaume went through in an effort to save his farm and provide a life for Hugo were heartbreaking. He fought so hard and while there is a bit of light at the end, the journey to get there had me cursing at some secondary characters!

There were some plot lines that didn’t quite finish up for me, such as what happened to Hugo’s mother, and other’s that I wasn’t 100% sure of (Guillaume and Anais had a past, yes, and there’s a chance that Louis, Anais’s son, is his, but their “resolution” felt funny to me, especially since Anais had been married for quite awhile by then). Also, there were some errors in the language, a few missing words for grammatical accuracy or typos that were spelled correctly but were obviously the wrong word, that took me out of the story from time to time.

The Listener 

Matthew was an admirable character who stood up for what he believed in more than a lot of adults I know. The tree in a nearby plot of woodland, more home to him than the apartment he and his mum share, is at risk of being chopped down for furniture and he does as much as he can to save “her”.

There were some storylines with this short piece that felt a bit underdeveloped, like why Matthew and his mum have a damaged relationship (alluded to but not explained) or Matthew’s friendship with Jerome, a fellow student and a foster child in a care home. The story was able to carry-on without these resolutions, but felt lacking.

There were also one term I didn’t understand and had to look up: children’s center. From what I could make out, in France it’s like American day care, but having to look it up took me out of the story. I couldn’t understand how Matthew’s mum could drop him off there for weeks at a time because the way it sounded in the story, it sounded like an odd children’s hotel, which wasn’t in line with the setting/story.

The Sacrifice

Francois was a brilliant man, trying his best to provide for his grandson. They’ve both had tragedy in their lives, particularly relating to Francois’s daughter/Arthur’s mother. However, despite that, they both went toward the rest of their lives with quite a bit of strength. Francois did everything he could, even though he was 62, to provide a roof for Arthur, even accepting charity food and clothes from the church, which can be difficult to do. Arthur, in turn, was doing his best to help his grandfather: reading his book and giving him notes, studying hard in hopes of winning a scholarship at school.

The ultimate tragedy that befalls these two characters was heartbreaking, after all I’d been through with them via the text. There were some reliefs at the end, though I’m not entirely sure that Arthur would see them that way. In the end, he’d rather have his grandfather than anything.

There were some confusing matters that I wasn’t sure about after reading The Sacrifice. Though they didn’t detract from the story overall, as such, they gave me pause and had me wondering what was going on. Instance one, Francois believes that Arthur is his only legal heir after the death of his daughter, but Arthur believes that there are relatives in Brittany that would inherit anything; which was true? Instance two: who are these people that Arthur is staying with after the death of Francois? Their relationship, and why Arthur is with them, confused me.

Summary

While there were a few linguistics errors that made the text feel rough, the stories and the people within them remained interesting. There was strength and sadness, moments of joy and of tragedy. Garai’s stories are of human interest and are written with them in mind. There’s seemed to be a knowledge that, even if we work our hardest, sometimes things don’t end happily. And then again, there are times, the times worth hoping for, that do.

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: Any Dream Will Do by Debbie Macomber

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Published: 8 August 2017

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Category: Romance/Contemporary

A woman finds the strength to overcome a painful history and faces the challenge of learning to trust and love again in this powerful and uplifting novel.

Shay has never had a happy life. After growing up in an abusive home, she finally secures a job at a bank when her father passes away. Her brother, Caden, quickly falls into the wrong crowd and finds himself indebted to a dangerous drug lord. In a desperate attempt to rescue her only living family member, Shay risks everything, and finds herself sentenced to two years in prison.

When she’s finally released, even the brother she gave everything to save has abandoned her. Dejected and alone, Shay wanders into a church. She catches the attention of Pastor Andrew Douglas, a leader in the community and recent widower. Together, she and Andrew find healing and remember how to open their hearts to a brighter future.

Rating: 3 Stars

What drew me to this book was that the main character, Shay, reminded me of an earlier character of Macomber’s, named Alix, from her Blossom Street series. Alix having been one of my favorite characters in that series, I was curious to see what would be made of Shay’s journey.

Reflecting back on the story and considering what I remember of Macomber’s previous character Alix, I do have some doubts about her fleshing out of Shay. There were a few tweaks to backstory, and Shay was not as bristly as Alix, but they share a lot of similarities, including that they both fall in love and end up with men of the church (Alix’s is a youth pastor, Shay’s a primary one). I think some characterization work could have been done, but Shay wasn’t a terrible one, just a slightly bland person since I’ve read so many of Macomber’s books at this point.

I liked that, while I knew where the relationship would go the whole time (there’s not much mystery in a Debbie Macomber book), it wasn’t as overbearing as some romance books can be. The relationship between Shay, Drew, and even Drew’s children Sarah and Mark felt more naturally cultivated than forced for the sake of plot.

The first 15-20% of the book went by very quickly, not just in terms of the writing style, but in terms of the time that passed in the story. There’s not one scene in which we see Shay in prison (3 years gone), 4 months go by in a flash after she’s released and gets into the Hope program, and then suddenly an entire year is gone since Shay was released. I would have appreciated a bit more time spent on two crucial time periods for our primary character: her stay in prison and people she may have met or communicated with there, and the classes and lessons she learned at the Hope center. We hear tidbits about the Hope center, but these little scraps of information didn’t really feel like enough.

The summary is slightly misleading in two ways. First, it says that Caden has only abandons Shay after her release, something he did long before when he left her to face the consequences of taking the money to save him alone. Also, after not hearing from him for three years, she wasn’t expecting anything from him, so I wouldn’t say it’s a fair assessment to have that air of hope there. Second, not once in the entire book is Pastor Drew referred to as Andrew, a little thing from summary to book that irked me.

For frequent readers of Macomber books, this book will feel quite familiar in terms of character (Shay like Alix) and storyline (every Macomber book I’ve read so far), but in terms of relationship pacing it does have a bit of freshness which in this type of book I appreciated. For a new to Macomber reader, this book is a standalone and therefore wouldn’t necessitate any background reading, plus the familiarity wouldn’t be there for them. All in all, it was a nice book, if not a very special one.

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Chapter by Chapter Book Tour: The Dragons of Nova by Elise Kova – Guest Post by the Author!

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Welcome to my stop on the Chapter by Chapter tour for The Dragons of Nova, the latest book in Elise Kova’s amazing Loom Saga. You can find the complete tour schedule here. This week there will be reviews, spotlights, interviews, and guest posts. Be sure to check out each stop to view a different take, a new guest post, and a chance to win a hardcover copy of The Dragons of Nova plus a swag pack!

For my stop today, Elise answers a question I was really curious to know: You’ve lived all over the world. How have your various living situations inspired your books, whether in style or in content?


 

Elise:

“If you live an ordinary life, all you’ll have are ordinary stories.” – Aurora (Passengers)

While I found Passengers to be a disappointing at best and problematic movie at worst, this quote was the one silver lining for the entire film for me because it resonated so true to everything I’ve known.

No story, even the most fantastical, is created in a vacuum, and our experiences in life influence and shape what we have to say in our narrative and why. While I was born and raised in Florida, I was lucky enough to grow up traveling the world both with my family and alone. I’ve been to five continents, over fifteen different countries, and had the opportunity to live, work, and study in Japan.

It’s natural that these experiences — the things I saw, smelled, and tasted — work their way both consciously and subconsciously into my work. I can try to pick apart my stories and see how traveling influenced my narrative both in obvious ways, like inspirations, and less obvious ways, like wanting to tell a certain story while I was in a certain place.

That all being said, I think the biggest thing that traveling and living abroad has helped with when it comes to writing is how little we, as individuals, know about others and their cultures.

I’ve spent years living in Japan, I studied in in school as an Asian Studies minor, I’ve studied the language, and I wouldn’t say I’m much further into understanding the culture than the tip of the iceberg. Culture shapes every aspect of who we are and what we do in ways that we don’t consciously realize. So when I sit down to build characters and worlds, I try to take this into account.

Do the characters even realize themselves why they think or act in a certain way? How has history shaped them? How do different cultures interact?

When it comes to traveling, I think the largest benefit I’ve seen as an author is learning how to ask the right questions when it comes to building my worlds. If I reach the right answers… well, that ultimately comes down to my readers, but I always think I have more work to do.


 

Dragons of Nova Cover

The Dragons of Nova (Loom Saga #2)

by Elise Kova

Publication Date:  July 11, 2017

Publisher:  Keymaster Press

Google Play | BAM | Chapters | Indies | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | TBD | iBooks

 Cvareh returns home to his sky world of Nova with the genius crafter Arianna as his temperamental guest. The mercurial inventor possesses all the Xin family needs to turn the tides of a centuries-old power struggle, but the secrets she harbors must be earned with trust — hard to come by for Ari, especially when it comes to Dragons. On Nova, Ari finds herself closer to exacting vengeance against the traitor who killed everything — and everyone – she once loved. But before Ari can complete her campaign of revenge, the Crimson Court exposes her shadowed past and reveals something even more dangerous sparking between her and Cvareh.

While Nova is embroiled in blood sport and political games, the rebels on Loom prepare for an all-out assault on their Dragon oppressors. Florence unexpectedly finds herself at the forefront of change, as her unique blend of skills — and quick-shooting accuracy — makes her a force to be reckoned with. For the future of her world, she vows vengeance against the Dragons.

Before the rebellion can rise, though, the Guilds must fall.

 

Giveaway Details:

Hard cover copy of The Dragons of Nova by Elise Kova and a swag pack

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Other Books in the Loom Saga

The Alchemists of Loom

Goodreads

About the Author

Elise Kova

Elise Kova has always had a profound love of fantastical worlds. Somehow, she managed to focus on the real world long enough to graduate with a Master’s in Business Administration before crawling back under her favorite writing blanket to conceptualize her next magic system. She currently lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, and when she is not writing can be found playing video games, watching anime, or talking with readers on social media. She is the USA Today bestselling author of the Air Awakens Series as well as the Loom Saga.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon

 

 

 

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Guest Post by Maya Chhabra: Save the Hypotenuse

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Walking On Knives by Maya Chhabara

Amazon  –  Author’s Website  –  Goodreads

The little mermaid has no idea that as she makes her way on land, she’s being watched over by the sister of the very witch with whom she made her bargain. She has no idea that the witch’s sister is falling in love with her.

When the prince decides to marry another woman, the little mermaid’s secret helper offers her a chance to live. But the price may be too high…

Walking on Knives contains some explicit content and a scene with dubious sexual consent.

Before I discovered Belle and she became my favorite Disney Princess, the Little Mermaid and her story were the biggest fairy tale in my life, at least to my memory. I remember pretending to be a mermaid as a child, watching a cartoon about a mermaid that changed between human and mermaid, only to be trapped in a circus or something of that kind. Nothing, however, was like the original Hans Christian Andersen tale in its darkness and depth of feeling.

Maya Chhabra’s Walking on Knives is a queer Little Mermaid retelling that has an amazing take on the original tale and when I was approached about hosting a guest post, I was thrilled because the summary above sounded beautiful to me. Maya’s post, on what happens in a love triangle and why that’s not always that great, is a unique look into a trope that is quite common in literature today. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did and also pick up Walking on Knives, out today.

 


 

When I started writing my queer Little Mermaid retelling, Walking on Knives, I knew it ended with two women getting together. I also knew I was keeping the prince a prince, not a princess, and that (as in Hans Christian Andersen’s original fairy tale) the prince and the mermaid would not be an endgame pairing.

But I also didn’t want to fall into the trap of Death of the Hypotenuse. Or Vilify the Hypotenuse. Like how in The Hunger Games trilogy, Gale (whom I like quite a bit) is vilified by his actions during the war. The final book doesn’t bother to specify his ultimate fate other than implying that he’s gone off to a richer district. I didn’t want him to “get the girl” when Katniss clearly preferred Peeta, but it rankled to see him dismissed despite all he’d done and gone through.

In Melinda Salisbury’s The Sin-Eater’s Daughter trilogy (which you should all go read, because it’s brilliant) one of Twylla’s two romantic options betrays her horribly. He gets a fascinating arc in his own right as a morally ambiguous character. While this was more satisfying than the previous example, it still settled the love triangle by making one of the characters so very gray that he could no longer be a potential love interest.

I wanted the prince to be a worthy and very real option for my bisexual mermaid, and while I wanted it not to work out, I didn’t want to diminish him as a character. So the novelette has three points of view—the mermaid, the prince, and the love interest.

Though it’s really the story of the mermaid and her female lover, the prince represents humanity, the very thing that the mermaid is striving for. And he goes on his own journey throughout the story as his initially conventional sense of morality is both tested and widened.

Just because someone isn’t the right romantic partner for the protagonist, that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily a lesser person. It may just mean that the way their journey intersects with the protagonist’s is different from what it originally seemed to be.

I hope all three of these very different characters come alive for readers in Walking on Knives. And I reserve a soft spot for the hypotenuse.


About the Author

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Maya Chhabra is the author of the novelette Walking on Knives, out today. She blogs about books at Maya Reads Books. Walking on Knives is available from Amazon and Less Than Three Press.

 

 

 

 

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: Class Mom by Laurie Gelman

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Amazon  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Goodreads

Published: 1 August 2017

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

Category: Fiction/Chick Lit

Laurie Gelman’s clever debut novel about a year in the life of a kindergarten class mom–a brilliant send-up of the petty and surprisingly cutthroat terrain of parent politics.

Jen Dixon is not your typical Kansas City kindergarten class mom–or mom in general. Jen already has two college-age daughters by two different (probably) musicians, and it’s her second time around the class mom block with five-year-old Max–this time with a husband and father by her side. Though her best friend and PTA President sees her as the -wisest- candidate for the job (or oldest), not all of the other parents agree.

From recording parents’ response times to her emails about helping in the classroom, to requesting contributions of -special- brownies for curriculum night, not all of Jen’s methods win approval from the other moms. Throw in an old flame from Jen’s past, a hyper-sensitive -allergy mom, – a surprisingly sexy kindergarten teacher, and an impossible-to-please Real Housewife-wannabe, causing problems at every turn, and the job really becomes much more than she signed up for.

Relatable, irreverent, and hilarious in the spirit of Maria Semple this is a fresh, welcome voice in fiction–the kind of novel that real moms clamor for, and a vicarious thrill-read for all mothers, who will be laughing as they are liberated by Gelman’s acerbic truths.

Rating: 2.5 Stars

I love hearing stories about snarky moms, especially ones that have to deal with classroom settings because I am the mother of a kindergartner-going-into-first-grader and I do not have the mental wherewithal to deal with the politics and such that go along with the PTA and its members. Jennifer sounded like she was going to be a blast because her humor sounded like it would be my cup of tea, especially when going up against the other moms such as those described in the summary.

One of the main reasons I’m rating this 3 stars is that I thought there was a problem with balance in Jennifer and her personality. I definitely appreciated and laughed at her emails in the beginning, emails to the other parents in her son Max’s class that called them out on response times, volunteer excursions, etc., but the amount of snark and sass felt like it was crammed into the first half of the novel with a severe drop in the second half. This isn’t to say that there was none, but I definitely felt the difference and being inundated at the beginning with something of a drought at the end made the book suffer for me.

Another of the reasons is something of the racist comments that Jennifer makes. Very early on in the book she makes a comment in an email to the class parents about one of the parents’ people’s “need for power”. This instance gets called out later on, thankfully, but both the parent in question and is in fact one of the reasons that Jennifer temporarily loses her job as class mom. While she does apologize to Asami, I’m not sure how sincere it was because when she was confronted by the principal she was very vehement about it being a joke.

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There are also other occasions when Jennifer makes a comment about “going native”: once in regard to her friend Nina, who I think was African-American, saying she was going to take her afro “native” and another time when Jennifer herself was talking about her personal female grooming and how it had “gone native” down there. In opposition to the comment she made regarding Asami, these are never addressed on the page and made it feel like they were being condoned, since Jennifer was never caught using them.

Jennifer’s character become a bit more problematic for me when she was making horrible comments (again, never confronted because she “luckily” never said them aloud) about a couple of the parents: the wife she viewed as not attractive while the husband was a “total hunk”. This coupling didn’t fit in with her view and she made snide internal comments about how “hot goes with hot, average goes with average”, how the wife must have money for it to be possible, and how she is determined to find proof that the husband married her for a green card. These moments gave me serious WTF vibes.

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If it weren’t for these moments, I think I would’ve liked the book a bit more. Unbalanced humor aside, the characters were tabloid types that you might expect to see in chick lit. I liked Jennifer’s husband, Ron, and his bonding with his son. While I could see him trying really hard to get Max into sports and things that he liked, he never got super strict and demanded that his son like these things. He tried a lot and found things they could enjoy together, rather than forcing him into something Max would resent him for later on.

Now that the school year is over for Jennifer and Max is going on to the first grade, I have to wonder what next year’s batch of emails to going to be like.

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.