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Friday, 30 June 2017

Reading Round-Up: May/June 2017

Although the weather may seem to say otherwise (farewell, brief summer of 2017) summer is now in full swing, meaning it's time for another Reading Round-Up!

If you missed the last edition, you can catch up here.

A post shared by Lorna Holland (@themaxdog) on


What is reading round-up?

Reading round-up is a simple way for me to keep track of everything book-related, and a fun way to show my readers what I've been reading over the last few months!

Out are the books I've read in May and June.

In are the books I've acquired during that time.

And wishlist are the books I've found out about and want to buy but haven't managed to get my hands on yet!

In
  • Searching for Steven (Whitsborough Bay #1) by Jessica Redland
  • Born Bad by Marnie Riches
  • Perfect Remains (D.I. Callanach #1) by Helen Fields 
  • The Secret Wife by Gill Paul
  • The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square by Lilly Bartlett 
  • Cesspool by Phil M. Williams 
  • The Turning Point by Freya North 
  • The Secret of Orchard Cottage by Alex Brown 
  • The Amulet Thief (The Fitheach Trilogy #1) by Luanne Bennett 
  • Summer at Conwenna Cove by Darcie Boleyn 
  • Surrender by Sonya Hartnett 
  • I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson
  • Obsession by Amanda Robson 
  • The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley
  • The Girls by Lisa Jewell 
  • I Do Not Sleep by Judy Finnigan 
  • The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
  • The Girls by Emma Cline
  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  • The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon
  • The Stranger in My Home by Adele Parks
  • Killing Floor (Jack Reacher #1) by Lee Child
  • Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon 
  • The Salvation Project (Soterion Mission #3) by Stewart Ross 
  • Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner
  • Truth or Dare by Non Pratt
  • Beck by Mal Peet
  • Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
  • Black and Green (Ghost Bird #11) by C.L. Stone 
  • Felicity at the Cross Hotel by Helena Fairfax 
  • We Have Lost the Coffee by Paul Mathews 
  • Forgotten Reflections by Young-Im Lee
  • Revenge of the Malakim by Paul Harrison 
Out
  • The Fall Of Five (Lorien Legacies #4) by Pittacus Lore 
  • The Revenge of Seven (Lorien Legacies #5) by Pittacus Lore 
  • The Fate of Ten (Lorien Legacies #6) by Pittacus Lore
  • United As One (Lorien Legacies #7) by Pittacus Lore
  • Revenge of the Zeds (The Soterion Mission #2) by Stewart Ross
Wishlist
  • The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova
  • Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
  • The Finding of Martha Lost by Caroline Wallace
  • The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza 
  • The Gift by Louise Jensen 
  • The Teacher by Katerina Diamond 
  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman 
  • We Are All Made of Stars by Rowan Coleman 
  • Island by Jane Rogers 
  • The Shadow Year by Hannah Richell 
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  • The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild 
  • Before You Go by Clare Swatman 
  • Exquisite by Sarah Stovell 
  • The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie 
  • Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys 
What have you been reading recently? Have you read a book I should know about? Let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Guest Post: A Few of My Favourite Things by Paul Mathews

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As my main character, Howie Pond, is such a culinary connoisseur, it seems appropriate to start with food. And be prepared... your stomach will be rumbling by the time you’ve read this.

Cheese is one of my great loves. It’s always there when I need it – in the fridge, usually. One of my favourite meals is a Czech speciality called smažený sýr. It sounds exotic... but it’s not. It’s a block of cheese – Edam being the most popular – fried in breadcrumbs and served with tartar sauce or mayonnaise. It’s best eaten with fries and washed down with half a litre of black beer – another of my great loves (it’s a little like Guinness but sweeter, and not so thick and creamy).

I’m also a big fan of Polish pierogi. They are often described as dumplings but they are more like giant ravioli. They are best served lightly fried. They actually taste a little like pancakes, if you allow them to burn a little. Traditional fillings are cheese & potato and mushrooms and cabbage. You can eat them with salad, yoghurt and/or mayonnaise. Yummy! (Or ‘Mniam mniam!’, as they say in Poland.)

Chocolate-covered plums are another Eastern European delicacy that I can recommend. Everyone who tries them absolutely loves them. I have an emergency bowl of chocolate on my desk at home and I can see one right now. And, in fact, I’ve just eaten it. Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

In terms of non-edible things, I love my cat, Lulu, who stops me spending too much time at the computer by demanding attention, food or play time. She’s actually very good at hide-and-seek and enjoys being found and then chased around the flat. It’s good exercise for me, as well.

Finally, after twenty years of commuting into London and working for other people, I love being an indie author who works for himself – it’s very much like running a small business. And I love not switching on a computer and being bombarded with emails.

Five-star reviews on Amazon are also quite nice, obviously. If you’ve read any of my books, feel free to give me one. Thank you.

About We Have Lost The Coffee

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Image: Paul Mathews / Emma Mitchell PR
London, 2045. Three months into the Coffee Wars and Britain’s caffeine supplies are at critical levels. Brits are drinking even more tea than usual, keeping a stiff upper lip and praying for an end to it all. 

A secret government coffee stockpile promises to save the day... but then mysteriously disappears overnight.

One man is asked to unravel the missing-coffee mystery. Hs name is Pond. Howie Pond. And he’s in desperate need of a triple espresso. Meanwhile, his journalist wife, Britt, is hunting royal fugitive, Emma Windsor, on the streets of the capital.

Can Howie save the British Republic from caffeine-starved chaos? Will the runaway royal be found? And just what will desperate coffee drinkers do for their caffeine fix? Find out, in Paul Mathews' latest comedy adventure set in the Britain of the future...


We Have Lost The Coffee is available to buy now.

About Paul Mathews

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Image: Paul Mathews
Paul Mathews is a 40-something British guy who's given up his 9-to-5 job in London to become a full-time comedy novelist. His two decades working as a Government press officer gave him an invaluable insight into all the key elements of modern government: bureaucracy, bungling, buffoonery, buck-passing and other things that don't begin with the letter 'b' - such as politicians with huge egos and very little talent. He's now putting that knowledge to use by writing about a British Government of the future - where, believe it or not, the politicians are even bigger idiots than the current lot.

Before becoming a PR guy, he was an accountant. But he doesn't like to talk about that. And going back further, he went to Cambridge University and studied philosophy. Despite thousands of hours of thoughtful contemplation, he still hasn't worked out how that happened. The highlight of his university years was receiving a £300 travel grant to visit Prague and 'study philosophy'. It was a trip which ignited his love of Eastern Europe where he spends a lot of time writing and drinking black beer.

Other interests include wearing sunglasses and having his photograph taken. Visit his website for more info on this (allegedly) humorous man.

Why not share a few of your favourite things with me in the comments below?

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Reflections on Losing a Pet

Max-dog-pet
Image: Lorna Holland
Some people just aren’t animal people. They’ve never had pets and they don’t see the attraction of having a pet. Put simply, they don’t bond with animals. However, other people are the complete opposite.

Far from the crazy cat lady stereotype, being an animal lover is all about caring for your pets and forming a deep, long-lasting connection with them. From childhood right throughout life, pets can provide unconditional love and companionship – is it really a surprise that many people prefer spending time with animals rather than people?

So when you have a trusted pet that you have spent a good proportion of your life with, it can be hard when that inevitable day comes and you have to say goodbye.

This is exactly what my family and I were faced with a few weeks ago when we made the difficult decision to say goodbye to our dog.

Max-dog-pet
Image: Lorna Holland
Max was a member of our family for eleven incredible years, arriving just before Christmas in 2006. To say he was an unexpected arrival would be a bit of an understatement, to say the least, but little did we know that that nervous, worried rescue dog would be the best Christmas present any of us ever received.

He fit into our family seamlessly, as though he was meant to be our pet and we were meant to be his family. In fact, if ever there was something to make you believe in fate, Max was it.

Wherever we went, Max came with us. We had a running joke that he must be one of the most well-travelled dogs in the country, judging by the amount of caravan holidays he accompanied us on. We could never leave him in kennels – he always loved holidays and all the extra walking, treats and attention they entailed far too much for that.

Max was always so firmly engrained in almost every aspect of our lives that it is difficult now to pinpoint a family memory that doesn’t include him. As I sit here now writing this, memory after memory is flooding into my brain. If nothing else, Max certainly managed to enrich every single day with his quirks and unwavering affection.

He certainly knew he had landed on his feet when he arrived on our doorstep, as we couldn’t have asked for a more loving, docile pet. You could have done anything to Max and he wouldn’t have batted an eyelid – throughout the duration of his life, he never intentionally hurt anyone, and to be able to confidently say that about a dog is an incredibly rare feat.

Every pet owner says that theirs is one in a million, but with Max, he really was.

Max-dog-pet
Image: Lorna Holland
Stubbornly independent to the last, in the months leading up to June, he began losing more and more of his control and freedom to move. He was never in pain, but seeing a once-lively, active dog reduced to slithering around the house and barely managing to drag himself out into the garden was a sight to slowly break your heart. Despite frequent trips to the vet and a cocktail of pills and medication (eagerly awaited in their disguise of meat or cheese each morning), there was nothing anyone could really do to halt the progress of the debilitating degenerative condition that affected the nerves in his spine.

We worked to adapt our lifestyle in order to cater to his new needs as best we could. We shortened his daily walks, bandaged up his paws to stop him scraping them red-raw against the pavement, and even obtained a ‘dog on wheels’ walking frame to hook him up to, courtesy of a kind-hearted neighbour. However, there comes a point in every older pet’s life where you have to make that call – are you keeping them alive for their own benefit or for yours?

When that heart-breaking moment comes, you know their time has come.

A post shared by Lorna Holland (@themaxdog) on


We said goodbye to Max on Saturday 10th June 2017.

I’m told he passed peacefully, in the company of his family. I wasn’t able to go to the vets and accompany him on his final journey, but I don’t regret not being there when he gained his wings.

It might sound strange to say that, but here’s why.

On my 11th birthday, I got my very first pet. My mum took me to the local pet shop after school and let me pick out an adorable little hamster all of my own. I immediately knew which one I wanted – I called her Scamper because she scampered up and down the cardboard box I was transporting her in all the way home.

Scamper wasn’t exactly the most sociable of animals, nor the most active – I think I only remember her actually using her hamster wheel twice throughout her whole life. However, that still didn’t stop her from being the cutest thing I’d ever seen.

Max and Scamper’s lives briefly intersected; Scamper remained aloof towards Max whereas he maintained a strong sense of curiosity towards her.

One morning, I came downstairs to get ready for school and discovered Scamper sitting shivering in a corner of her cage (by this point, she had grown considerably and taken to living in only the bottom storey of her vastly extravagant hamster palace). She remained unresponsive when I picked her up and held her. A few hours later, my first pet passed away in my hands.

The next day at school, a classmate came up to me and asked where I’d been the previous day. When I answered, their response was thus, “I wish I had a hamster so I could have a day off when it died”.

That heartless, throwaway remark has remained with me to this day.

Max-dog-pet
Image: Lorna Holland
Some people’s attitudes to other people’s pets still amaze me, even now. I’m a firm believer in the fact that pets are a real part of the family, so when people are negative about your pets or your relationship with them, it can be a real eye-opener.

On the other hand, the majority of people simply couldn’t be nicer about it. People you barely speak to or people who never even met your pet will share their condolences – losing a pet is a shared grief that all too many of us experience.

While the wounds may still be raw and the grief hides just under the surface, it is important to sit back and reflect on a life which influenced so much of my own.

Goodbye, Max. No words will ever truly do you justice, but here I offer you my best.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Book Review: The Salvation Project by Stewart Ross

* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Humanity’s hope of salvation lies within a single laptop…

A mutation in human DNA means no one lives beyond nineteen. Scientists working to reverse this pandemic died before their Salvation Project was complete, leaving behind the results of their research in a sealed vault – the Soterion.

122 years have passed. The civilisation of the ‘Long Dead’ is almost forgotten, the Soterion has been burned to ashes, and communities of Constants are tormented by brutal tribes of Zeds. Cyrus, Miouda and Sammy flee their burning city with a laptop rescued from the inferno. They believe it contains the key to the Salvation Project. But its batteries are dead, there is no electricity to power it, and murderous Zeds will stop at nothing to get it back…


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Image: Faye Rogers PR
I haven't written a review in quite a long time (especially for a supposed book blogger) so when I was invited to participate in the blog tour for the final instalment of The Soterion Mission trilogy, I jumped at the chance. 

For those who don't know, the author, Stewart Ross, was actually one of my lecturers at university. Even more strangely, I was approached for this tour by the lovely Faye Rogers, meaning that the fact I already knew Stewart was a complete coincidence!

I always find it difficult to review books by authors I know off the page. All the way through the book I find myself imagining the author writing the story and when it comes to writing up the review, don't even get me started. What if I don't like it? Or, worse, what if I end up offending them?

Most authors are used to negative reviews, but taking it on the chin becomes that little bit harder if a scathing review comes from someone you personally know.

However, luckily, this isn't going to be one of those reviews.

Having followed the trilogy right the way through from the first book (cue all the memories of reading The Soterion Mission as an assigned book, followed by group discussions during the writing of the subsequent two books) I was already familiar with the storyline. Just as well, really, as I think you have to read the entire trilogy if you want to really understand all the nuances behind the events of book three. To that end, a quick word of warning - The Salvation Project is definitely not a stand-alone novel.

One thing I've always admired about this series is the fact that it is marketed as children's fiction yet is unapologetically unashamed to deal with a wide range of serious, deep and complex issues. Ranging from violence and death to sex and much deeper psychological concerns, these are topics most children's books either sugarcoat or skip right over. This provides a refreshing change from the norm - even if sometimes certain passages do leave you a little shell-shocked!

All our favourite key characters return again in The Salvation Project, from the stalwart Cyrus to Miouda and the loyal Sammy. Throughout the book, you find yourself constantly willing them to succeed and finally manage to complete the mission, overcoming their enemies and achieving their common goal. Of course, hardships and perils are encountered along the way (what good is a story if everything goes smoothly?) but it is the ending that really manages to pose the biggest questions of all. This whole series has a strong undercurrent involving questioning the modern world and the values and principals of Western society. Definitely one which leaves you with food for thought.

Rating: 3 stars

The Salvation Project, the final novel in The Soterion Mission trilogy, is available to buy now.

Giveaway

If you fancy getting your hands on a copy, there is currently a giveaway running on Goodreads where you can win yourself a copy of your very own - just head on over to enter. Good luck!

Goodreads Book Giveaway


The Salvation Project by Stewart Ross

The Salvation Project

by Stewart Ross


Giveaway ends June 30, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.


Enter Giveaway


Have you been keeping up with the series? What do you think? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Spotlight: Gallowglass by Jennifer Allis Provost

Karina didn’t set out to free the Seelie Queen’s gallowglass. Now she’ll do anything to keep him.


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Image: Jennifer Allis Provost / Bewitching Book Tours
After Karina and her brother, Chris’, lives fall apart in separate yet equally spectacular ways, they leave New York behind and head to the UK. Karina buries herself in research for her doctoral thesis, all the while studiously not thinking about the man who broke her heart, while Chris - who’d been a best-selling author before his ex-fiancée sued him for plagiarism - drinks his way across the British Isles. 

In Scotland, they visit the grave of Robert Kirk, a seventeenth-century minister who was kidnapped by fairies. No one is more shocked than Karina when a handsome man with a Scottish brogue appears, claiming to be the Robert Kirk of legend. What’s more, he says he spent the last few hundred years as the Gallowglass, the Seelie Queen’s personal assassin. When they’re attacked by demons, Karina understands how dearly the queen wants him back.

As Karina and Robert grow closer, Chris’s attempts to drown his sorrows lead him to a pub, and a woman called Sorcha. Chris is instantly smitten with her, so much so he spends days with Sorcha and lies to his sister about his whereabouts. When Chris comes home covered in fey kisses, Karina realizes that the Seelie Queen isn’t just after Robert.

Can Karina outsmart the Seelie Queen, or is Robert doomed to forever be the Gallowglass?


Gallowglass is available to buy now.

About Jennifer Allis Provost

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Image: Jennifer Allis Provost / Bewitching Book Tours
Jennifer Allis Provost writes books about faeries, orcs and elves. Zombies too. She grew up in the wilds of Western Massachusetts and had read every book in the local library by age twelve. (It was a small library).

An early love of mythology and folklore led to her epic fantasy series, The Chronicles of Parthalan, and her day job as a cubicle monkey helped shape her urban fantasy, Copper Girl. When she’s not writing about things that go bump in the night (and sometimes during the day) she’s working on her MFA in Creative Nonfiction.

For more information about Jennifer and her books, please visit her website.

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Spotlight: Where On Earth? by David H. Minton

Dan Richards, an Iraq war vet, is a surveyor for the mining company, looking to open a new silver mine. Scrambling to establish his helicopter charter business in the wilds of Alaska, while trying to stay connected to his teenage daughter, his world soon turns upside down when he rescues a woman and her dog sledding team after an avalanche. 

Samantha Bettencourt, an environmental engineer, is eager to begin her first project with the University. A spokesperson for an environmentalist group intent on preserving the wilderness, she is on the path to saving the wild, but when Dan walks into her life things start to change.

Sparks fly between Dan and Samantha as they find themselves running for their lives - from the good guys as well as the bad guys out to ruin the things they long to protect. Will they be able to escape before it’s too late? Will they get a chance at love or will they lose everything... including their lives?

Image: David H. Minton / Bewitching Book Tours
Where On Earth? is available to buy now.

About David H. Minton

After graduating college, David spent two tours in the United States Military Assistance Command Republic of Vietnam, before beginning his career as a nuclear engineer, then electronics engineer, telecommunications engineer, and software security engineer. He has previously published three non-fiction books, several poems, and many non-fiction technical and historical articles.

Will you be reading the book? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Interview: Cristina Hodgson

For my stop on the blog tour for A Little Bit of Chantelle Rose by Cristina Hodgson, I have an interview with the author to share with you all today.

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Firstly, tell me a little about yourself and your background.

Just a little bit about me, without boring you all! I’m a mum to two cheeky monkeys, who brighten up my day, every day! They are also the proud creators of a few silver streaks in my hair!

A Little Of Chantelle Rose is my debut novel. Amazingly, despite graduating from Loughborough University with a degree in PE and sports science, the novel has nothing to do with running!

How did you first become interested in writing?

I've always loved reading. I never thought about writing myself. Then one day, pretty much out of the blue, I just sat down with a vague idea in my head and three months later, I'd completed my 90 k novel. I think I was more startled to finish the novel than anyone else.

What draws you to writing romantic comedy?

They say “There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed.” This is so true. I find myself crying my eyes out when writing sad scenes. I don't think I could handle writing a whole novel sobbing away, which is why I opt to write, at least for the time being, comedy. I'm not going to contemplate writing thrillers right now either, I have no need to freak myself out on a daily basis. And forget hauntings!

Tell me about A Little of Chantelle Rose.

My debut novel is based on a young woman living in London who is looking to change her life. In the novel, Chantelle, after becoming an extra in a “seedy crime film” is offered the chance of a lifetime, a role to play with a million dollars to win and seemingly nothing to lose; she accepts without thinking twice.
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Image: Cristina Hodgson / Neverland Blog Tours

Little does she know that the role she's been given to play may strip her of everything. Simultaneously, two men seem set on winning her heart, but someone also seems bent on scaring her away. The novel is suitable for young adult readers who enjoy romantic comedies.

How do you get inspiration?

Life in general, and for this, my debut novel, I got inspiration from something that actually happened to me. After graduating from Loughborough University with a degree in Sports Science, I travelled and worked in various jobs. One of which was as an extra in a British-produced gangster film which was filmed in Nerja, Spain. It goes without saying that my sports mechanics and kinetic energy knowledge wasn't put to maximum potential in this part-time job. But it was certainly a fun and unique experience, but most importantly it gave me an idea. A year later I sat down and Chantelle Rose was born.

What’s your writing process?

As in whether I'm a panster or a plotter? Panster. I begin with a vague idea which then propels me off to a journey into the unknown. Which, if you think about it, has to be a plus, because if I don't even know the ending to my novel until the last few chapters I should keep my readers guessing too!

What’s the hardest thing about writing?

You spend hours sitting in a chair without moving much, except your fingers as they dart across the keyboard, but it's so mentally draining it knocks you out, almost as much as marathon running. As I've already said, I graduated from Loughborough University with a degree in PE and Sport Science, so I know what I'm talking about. Then you have your internal doubts as to whether what you're writing actually makes sense, let alone if it's interesting or not! And then there's the dreaded writer's block, which is pretty much when all your imaginary friends stop talking to you.

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Image: Cristina Hodgson

 What do you love most about writing?

Living lives through my characters. It's an escapism really, whilst I'm writing I feel like I'm living another life through my protagonists.

Which authors inspire you?

I would have to say Enid Blyton, no so much that she inspired me to become a writer, rather she made me a reader. As a child, I read all her Famous Five books. She opened a magical world to me and a passion for reading that has accompanied my whole life. She inspired me to read and from the reader, the writer is born. 
I also greatly admire J K Rowling, a huge inspiration, not just for her incredible writing talent, but for her “rags to riches” life story. An amazing lady together with everything she's achieved.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Never give up, which can be applied to life in general. If you have a dream, go and make it a reality. You'll have to work hard because if writing was easy, everyone would be a published author. But the satisfaction of seeing your work in print compensates by far all the time and effort you've channelled into your project, whatever it may be.

What’s your all-time favourite book?

Hard one, but I'd have to go with The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

I'm quite happy to live this experience without thinking too much ahead. To be able to pay off my mortgage with my writing would be incredible, but only a handful of talented authors achieve that. So for the moment, I'd be more than satisfied if I can make my readers smile and for them to enjoy my work.

If you weren’t a writer, what do you think you’d be doing?

I wake up at 5.30 a.m. to write for an hour or so before the school run and the day job. So I guess if I wasn't a writer I'd be having a lie-in every morning.

What are your interests outside of writing and reading?

Having graduated from Loughborough University, I imagine it comes as no surprise for me to say that I love any outdoor sports activity. Triathlon, athletics, skiing, scuba diving and horse riding. Though nowadays I mainly find myself chasing after my two young kids. Which is more energetic than a lot of adventure sports!
What are you currently working on?

This is a bit of a secret at the moment, you'll understand if you read my debut novel.

What are you reading at the moment?

Never on Saturday by Sue Barnard, who actually happens to be my editor.

A Little of Chantelle Rose is available to buy now. 

What do you think? Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!