Review: A Lesson in Vengeance

Title: A Lesson in Vengeance
Author: Victoria Lee
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Thriller, LGBTQ
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Source: Owlcrate
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: August 3, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Felicity Morrow is back at Dalloway School.

Perched in the Catskill mountains, the centuries-old, ivy-covered campus was home until the tragic death of her girlfriend. Now, after a year away, she’s returned to graduate. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students—girls some say were witches. The Dalloway Five all died mysteriously, one after another, right on Godwin grounds.

Witchcraft is woven into Dalloway’s history. The school doesn’t talk about it, but the students do. In secret rooms and shadowy corners, girls convene. And before her girlfriend died, Felicity was drawn to the dark. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; all Felicity wants is to focus on her senior thesis and graduate. But it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget.

It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway, and she’s already amassed a loyal following. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is a so-called “method writer.” She’s eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. Given her history with the arcane, Felicity is the perfect resource.

And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway–and in herself.

Review:

Felicity Morrow has returned to Dalloway School to redo her senior year, after her best friend and secret girlfriend, Alex, died the year before. Her dorm, Godwin House, is rumored to be haunted by the ghosts of five former students who died in mysterious, magical circumstances. Felicity has always been drawn to dark things, but she had to give up her magic beliefs after Alex died. Now, Ellis Haley, a writing prodigy, has moved into Godwin House to complete her senior year. Ellis needs to complete her second book, and she enlists Felicity’s help in researching the ghosts of Dalloway for her project. Felicity can’t help but be drawn to Ellis, until they both take their research too far.

I knew I would love this book as soon as I heard about it! It had a dark, isolated setting in a dormitory of a girl’s school. Their house was separated from the other dorms and close to the woods. The girls didn’t even use cell phones, despite being teenagers, so they were isolated from the rest of the world that way too.

Felicity was a very unreliable narrator, but that kept the story unpredictable. When Felicity would explain certain things or tell a story from her past, it would soon be revealed that it was untrue. Sometimes this can be frustrating in a narrator, but in this case, it made for some shocking twists throughout the story.

I highly recommend A Lesson in Vengeance!

What to read next:

S.T.A.G.S. by M.A. Bennett

Dark and Shallow Lies by Ginny Myers Sain

Have you read A Lesson in Vengeance? What did you think of it?

Review: Spell on Wheels, Vol. 1

Title: Spell on Wheels, Vol. 1
Author: Kate Leth, Megan Levens, Marissa Louise
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Contemporary
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Source: Library
Format: Ebook
Release Date: June 30, 2017
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

A road trip story. A magical revenge fantasy. A sisters-over-misters tale of three witches out to get back what was taken fom them.

Andy, Jolene, and Claire aren’t your average twenty-somethings. They’re legacy witches making their way through a modern world. When a jealous nonmagical ex breaks into their home and steals a spell that could awaken potentials with magical powers, the witches plan their revenge. Traveling down the East Coast, they must retrieve their powerful stolen artifacts and strengthen their friendship… the big bad is even worse than they imagined. 

Collects Spell on Wheels #1–#5

Review:

Andy, Jolene, and Claire are witches in their twenties. One evening, Claire’s non-magical ex-boyfriend breaks into their house and steals a bunch of their artifacts, including a spell that will awaken powers in someone without them. The three witches have to track down everything that he stole and sold on a witch app, while also figuring out who broke into their home and why he did it.

I love witchy stories right now. This one is perfect for the spooky season. Though the characters are in their twenties, the tone of the story was like a young adult story. There wasn’t swearing or anything too mature, so it would be appropriate for a young adult reader.

This story has a witchy theme, but the illustrations had bright colours. Often magical graphic novels with a dark tone also have dark illustrations, but this one has a brighter tone with vibrant colours. The illustration style reminded me of the Archie Comics I read as a kid, so I liked this style.

Spell on Wheels is a fun, witchy graphic novel!

What to read next:

Spell on Wheels, Vol. 2: Just to Get to You by Kate Leth, Megan Levens, Marissa Louise

Heavy Vinyl, Vol. 1: Riot on the Radio by Carly Usdin, Nina Vakueva

Other books in the series:

  • Spell on Wheels, Vol. 2: Just to Get to You

Have you read Spell on Wheels, Vol. 1? What did you think of it?

Review: Outlaws (Royal Academy Rebels #2)

Title: Outlaws (Royal Academy Rebels #2)
Author: Jen Calonita
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers
Source: Library
Format: Ebook
Release Date: October 1, 2019
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The second installment in a brand-new series from Jen Calonita, set in the world of Fairy Tale Reform School! Not everyone born royal is meant to rule… 

After being banished to the Hollow Woods following their discovery of Headmistress Olivina’s secret villainy, a note from an ally urges Devin and her friends to go in search of Red Riding Hood, who they believe can help them figure out what to do next.

Instead, they come across a troupe of fairytale vigilantes, including a former Royal Academy princess, Robin Hood, a pirate named Corden, and more. Alongside their new vigilante friends, Devin and her crew come up with a plan to expose the truth about Olivina to all of Enchantasia, or risk their homeland falling under villainous rule once and for all…

Review:

After Devin and her friends were banished from the Royal Academy after discovering that Headmistress Fairy Godmother Olivina is a villain, they escape to the Hollow Woods. They’re instructed to find Red Riding Hood, who will help them. They end up meeting some other vigilantes who eventually begin working with them to reveal the secrets of the Royal Academy. Devin and her friends have to figure out the smartest way to expose the truth of Olivina before their home of Enchantasia is destroyed.

This fairytale themed story was fast paced and concise. Though there are a lot of characters in the main cast, they’re each distinct and well developed. They all have a fairytale background, and some even have dark secrets that they’re hiding.

There was only one problem I had with this book, but I didn’t count against it in my rating though I thought I should mention it. I read a digital copy of this book from the library, and it had many typos and mistakes. I know there are often a couple of mistakes in a book, but there were many spelling and punctuation errors. It’s especially important for a children’s book to have correct spelling and punctuation, because they are just learning to read. A spelling error can completely change the meaning of a sentence, which even confused me a couple of times. Spelling errors are one of my biggest reading pet peeves, particularly in books for young readers.

Outlaws is a really good fairytale themed story.

What to read next:

Heroes by Jen Calonita

Flunked by Jen Calonita

Other books in the series:

Have you read Outlaws? What did you think of it?

Blog Tour Review: The Keeper of Night (The Keeper of Night #1)

Title: The Keeper of Night (The Keeper of Night #1)
Author: Kylie Lee Baker
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: October 12, 2021
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Death is her destiny.

Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough has been collecting souls in the London streets for centuries. Expected to obey the harsh hierarchy of the Reapers who despise her, Ren conceals her emotions and avoids her tormentors as best she can.

When her failure to control her Shinigami abilities drives Ren out of London, she flees to Japan to seek the acceptance she’s never gotten from her fellow Reapers. Accompanied by her younger brother, the only being on earth to care for her, Ren enters the Japanese underworld to serve the Goddess of Death… only to learn that here, too, she must prove herself worthy. Determined to earn respect, Ren accepts an impossible task—find and eliminate three dangerous Yokai demons—and learns how far she’ll go to claim her place at Death’s side.

Review:

1800s: Ren Scarborough is half British Reaper and half Japanese Shinigami. Reapers and Shinigami collect souls when a person is ready to die. Since Ren is half Japanese living in London, her British Reaper family and community doesn’t recognize her as one of their own. After two centuries of living like this, Ren decides to travel to Japan to find her true identity as a Shinigami. Her half-brother, and only true friend, Neven, travels around the world with her. When they arrive and meet the Japanese goddess of death, Ren is given a seemingly impossible mission, to hunt dangerous Yokai demons, that will finally give her the acceptance she has always craved.

This was an intense and wild story. Ren and Neven encountered many demons and creatures from Japanese folklore. Ren had learned about some of the demons in her studies of her culture, but some of them were not the same as the tales. Both the British and Japanese soul collectors had their own methods of doing their job, so Ren had to get used to a whole new system. Though Ren felt like an outsider at home in England, Neven became an outsider in Japan, since he didn’t speak the language and didn’t look like the residents. It was an interesting look at if it’s harder to be born as an outsider and never know any differently or if it is easier to choose to live in a culture as a visible outsider.

The ending of this story was intense and fast paced. It left me wondering if the next book will be about Ren, based on where the story left off. I’m really curious to see what the next book in this duology will be about.

The Keeper of Night is a great book with Japanese folklore.

Thank you Inkyard Press for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

About the author:

Kylie Lee Baker grew up in Boston and has since lived in Atlanta, Salamanca, and Seoul. Her writing is informed by her heritage (Japanese, Chinese, and Irish), as well as her experiences living abroad as both a student and teacher. She has a B.A. in Creative Writing and Spanish from Emory University and is currently pursuing a Master of Library and Information Science degree at Simmons University. In her free time, she watches horror movies, plays the cello, and bakes too many cookies. The Keeper of Night is her debut novel.

Have you read The Keeper of Night? What did you think of it?

Review: Witches of Brooklyn (Witches of Brooklyn #1)

Title: Witches of Brooklyn (Witches of Brooklyn #1)
Author: Sophie Escabasse
Genre: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Contemporary
Publisher: Random House Graphic
Source: Library
Format: Ebook
Release Date: September 1, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

There’s a new witch in town! Life in Brooklyn takes a strange turn when Effie discovers MAGIC runs in the family. 

A middle-grade graphic novel adventure filled with magical hjinks for fans of Phoebe and Her Unicorn and Making Friends

Effie lost her mom.

Lost her home.

And now she has to live with two strange aunts who she’s never met before.

Life in Brooklyn takes a strange twist for Effie as she learns more about her family and herself. With new friends who will do whatever they can to be there for her, a cursed pop-star, and her new magically-inclined family — Effie’s life is about to get interesting.

Review:

When Effie’s mother dies, she’s sent to live with her mom’s half sisters. None of them are happy with the situation, but they will have to learn to live with it. However, when Effie’s favourite pop star shows up at the house in desperate need of a cure for a curse, Effie learns that her aunts are witches. Then, Effie’s own magic begins to shine through. Her life takes an exciting and unexpected turn.

This story reminded me of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Effie was sent to live with her two aunts, just like Sabrina. Effie also didn’t know about her aunts’ magic or the powers she would develop, like Sabrina. Sabrina the Teenage Witch is one of my favourite characters so I loved this similarity.

Witches of Brooklyn was a fun middle grade graphic novel! I’m excited to read the next one.

What to read next:

Witches of Brooklyn: What the Hex?! by Sophie Escabasse

The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner

Other books in the series:

  • Witches of Brooklyn: What the Hex?!

Have you read Witches of Brooklyn? What did you think of it?

Blog Tour Review: Luminous

Title: Luminous
Author: Mara Rutherford
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: October 5, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

A witch who must learn to harness her power–or risk losing her loved ones forever.

Liora has spent her life in hiding, knowing discovery could mean falling prey to the king’s warlock, Darius, who uses mages’ magic to grow his own power. But when her worst nightmare comes to pass, Darius doesn’t take her. Instead, he demands that her younger sister return to the capital with him. To make matters worse, Evran, Liora’s childhood friend and the only one who knows her secret, goes missing following Darius’s visit, leaving her without anyone to turn to.

To find Evran and to save her sister, Liora must embrace the power she has always feared. But the greatest danger she’ll face is yet to come, for Darius has plans in motion that will cause the world to fall into chaos–and Liora and Evran may be the only ones who can stop him.

Review:

Liora has spent her life hiding her magic from the world. Her skin glows, making her magic immediately recognizable. When Darius, a warlock who works for the King, arrives in town to hunt down mages, he finds Liora. Instead of taking Liora to the capital to work for him, he lets her work for a neighboring witch, and takes Liora’s younger sister instead. Then, Liora’s best friend and first love, Evran, disappears after her sister leaves. Darius has dangerous plans for the future of their kingdom. Liora will do anything to save her sister and Evran, even if it means giving in to Darius’s demands.

This was another great fantasy novel by Mara Rutherford. I liked how fast paced it was. There were a few times when the story was heading in a direction that I thought would lower the tension and slow down the story. However, those parts only lasted a chapter or two, so the story kept its fast pace.

There were a few surprising twists that I didn’t see coming. I had no idea where the story was going to end, and I was really shocked at the ending. I hope there will be a sequel because I want to know what will happen next!

Luminous is a great YA fantasy!

Thank you Inkyard Press for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

About the author:

Mara Rutherford began her writing career as a journalist but quickly discovered she far preferred fantasy to reality. Originally from California, Mara has since lived all over the world with her marine-turned-diplomat husband. A triplet born on Leap Day, Mara holds a master’s degree in cultural studies from the University of London. When she’s not writing or chasing after her two sons, she can usually be found pushin_g the boundaries of her comfort zone, whether at a traditional Russian banya or an Incan archaeological site. Mara is a former Pitch Wars mentee and three-time mentor.

Have you read Luminous? What did you think of it?

Review: B*WITCH (B*WITCH #1)

Title: B*WITCH (B*WITCH #1)
Author: Paige McKenzie and Nancy Ohlin
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Fantasy, LGBT
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Source: Purchased
Format: Ebook
Release Date: July 7, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

A lone witch has powers. A coven has a multitude more.

New girl and secret witchl Iris just wants to get through her first day of school without a panic attack. The last thing she expects is to be taken in by a coven of three witches-soft-spoken Greta, thoughtful and musical Ridley, and fiery and spirited Binx. They may be the first witches Iris has met IRL, but their coven is not alone in their small northwestern town.

The Triad is the other coven at their school. When the Triad’s not using spells to punish their exes or break up happy couples for fun, they practice dark magic. The two covens have a rivalry stretching all the way back to junior high.

When tragedy strikes and one of their own is murdered, the rival covens must band together to find out who is responsible before it’s too late. Someone’s anti-witch ideology has turned deadly . . . and one of them is next.

With an inclusive cast of teen witches who leap off the page with style, attitude, and charm, B*Witch is a singable read perfect for fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Mean Girls alike.

Review:

When Iris moves to a small town in Washington, she doesn’t expect to meet other witches. Greta, Ridley, and Binx have a coven. They have a rivalry with another coven at their school. All of them must keep their witchy powers a secret, because witches are currently banned in the country. An anti-witch group, Antima, have been gaining popularity, especially since the new President has been encouraging them. When one of their own is killed, the teenage witches must join together to find out who is targeting their covens.

The witchy politics in this book were quite relevant to today. The witches felt threatened by the anti-witch group, Antima, who would display their status with a patch in their shirts. This was reminiscent of how certain world leaders have made it acceptable to spread hate against people of different genders, races, or religions. I think teens who are interested in current events will like this aspect of the story.

This was a diverse story with different gender identities and races among the main characters. One character was transgender, though I didn’t realize that at first. This character used their preferred gender identity at school and went by the gender and name assigned at birth while at home. It can be a touchy subject to have a trans character referred to as their deadname, which is probably why I haven’t seen this happen often in books. However this portrayed how sometimes a new identity isn’t as acceptable at home as it is with friends at school. This character could use magic to change their appearance, so this was an easier adjustment to make daily than it would be in the real world.

B*WITCH is a great witchy story! I can’t wait to read the next one!

What to read next:

Witch Rising by Paige McKenzie and Nancy Ohlin

Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury

Other books in the series:

  • Witch Rising

Have you read B*WITCH? What did you think of it?

Review: The Great Bear (The Misewa Saga #2)

Title: The Great Bear (The Misewa Saga #2)
Author: David A. Robertson
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Publisher: Puffin Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: September 28, 2021
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Eli and Morgan journey once more to Misewa, travelling back in time.

Back at home after their first adventure in the Barren Grounds, Eli and Morgan each struggle with personal issues: Eli is being bullied at school, and tries to hide it from Morgan, while Morgan has to make an important decision about her birth mother. They turn to the place where they know they can learn the most, and make the journey to Misewa to visit their animal friends. This time they travel back in time and meet a young fisher that might just be their lost friend. But they discover that the village is once again in peril, and they must dig deep within themselves to find the strength to protect their beloved friends. Can they carry this strength back home to face their own challenges?

Review:

Eli and Morgan have returned home from their first trip to the Misewa, a world that they can only enter through a picture in their attic. They both have to face some tough situations in their real world lives. Eli is being bullied by kids at school for having long hair. Morgan has to decide if she wants to contact her birth mother. To get some help with their problems, they want to return to Misewa and see their friend, Ochek. However, since he died at the end of their last journey, they go back in time to see him again. They find that the world is facing a new threat, so they have to work together to protect their friends.

This was a really good sequel to The Barren Grounds. Since one of Eli’s and Morgan’s friend died at the end of the previous book, they had to travel back in time to see him again. Things weren’t the same in the world as what they remembered, so they had to be careful not to change the future.

Eli and Morgan are both Indigenous foster children. They have to deal with the trauma of their past and figure out how to still honor their heritage while fitting in at school. Eli wore his hair in a braid, but the other children called him a girl. They didn’t understand that it was important to Eli to honor his culture by braiding his hair. Morgan had to make the tough decision of whether to contact her birth mother or not. She has some memories of her from when she was a toddler, but she still feels abandoned. These aspects of the plot will introduce young readers to some of the real problems that Indigenous youth may face today.

The Great Bear was a great sequel! It ended on a cliffhanger that left me with so many questions. I can’t wait to see where the story goes next.

Thank you Puffin Books for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Sugar Falls: A Residential School Story by David A. Robertson, Scott B. Henderson (illustrator)

Walking in Two Worlds by Wab Kinew

Other books in the series:

Have you read The Great Bear? What did you think of it?

Review: Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales

Title: Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales
Author: Soman Chainani
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Short Stories
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Purchased
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: September 21, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

You think you know these stories, don’t you? 

You are wrong. 

You don’t know them at all. 

Twelve tales, twelve dangerous tales of mystery, magic, and rebellious hearts. Each twists like a spindle to reveal truths full of warning and triumph, truths that capture hearts long kept tame and set them free, truths that explore life . . . and death.

A prince has a surprising awakening . . .                           

A beauty fights like a beast . . .

A boy refuses to become prey . . .

A path to happiness is lost. . . . then found again.

New York Times bestselling author Soman Chainani respins old stories into fresh fairy tales for a new era and creates a world like no other. These stories know you. They understand you. They reflect you. They are tales for our times. So read on, if you dare.

Review:

These twelve tales are twisted to give a new perspective on the story. Some of the heroes become the villains, and the villains save the day. Men become witches and girls become beasts. These reimaginings of fairytales show a different side of the stories.

I loved these stories. By changing one character’s role, the entire meaning of the story changed. These were also diverse tales. The characters were from different countries around the world, such as Cinderella in Spain. Some of the stories had gender swapped characters, such as Rapunzel’s father who kept her locked in a tower rather than her mother. These twists to the stories made them unpredictable and exciting.

Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales is a beautiful, modern collection of fairytales.

What to read next:

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

Flunked by Jen Calonita

Have you read Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales? What did you think of it?

Review: Broken Wish (The Mirror #1)

Title: Broken Wish (The Mirror #1)
Author: Julie C. Dao
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Source: Library
Format: Ebook
Release Date: October 6, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Elva has a secret. She has visions and strange powers that she will do anything to hide. She knows the warnings about what happens to witches in their small village of Hanau. She’s heard the terrible things people say about the Witch of the North Woods, and the malicious hunts that follow.

But when Elva accidentally witnesses a devastating vision of the future, she decides she has to do everything she can to prevent it. Tapping into her powers for the first time, Elva discovers a magical mirror and its owner-none other than the Witch of the North Woods herself. As Elva learns more about her burgeoning magic, and the lines between hero and villain start to blur, she must find a way to right past wrongs before it’s too late.

The Mirror: Broken Wish marks the first book in an innovative four-book fairy-tale series written by Julie C. Dao, Dhonielle Clayton, Jennifer Cervantes, and L. L. McKinney, following one family over several generations, and the curse that plagues it.

Review:

1848, Germany: When Agnes and Oskar moved to their new town, they befriended Mathilda, the witch next door. Once Agnes gets help from Mathilda to have a child, she stops speaking to her, breaking the promise that Agnes made to be friends with her. This sets off a chain reaction that creates a curse that will affect her family for years to come. Sixteen years later, Elva, Agnes’s daughter, can see visions when she looks at her reflection. Her family keeps this a secret because they don’t want her to be labeled a witch. However, once Elva sees a vision of her home being destroyed, she realizes that she could get some helpful information from these visions. Elva befriends the Witch of the North Woods to learn how to improve her magical skill, but she’s in danger of ruining her future by taking control of her visions.

I love fairytale retellings. This story had similar plots to a few different fairytales, such as Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, and Snow White. Even the Grimm brothers were mentioned, traveling around Germany to find fairytales for their book.

This book is the first in a series that will follow a family through generations. I love this concept because it will be fascinating to see how this family’s curse, stemming from Agnes breaking a promise to Mathilda, will affect the family over time. The next book, Shattered Midnight, will be released in a couple of weeks.

Broken Wish is a great fairytale!

What to read next:

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao

Shattered Midnight by Dhonielle Clayton

Have you read Broken Wish? What did you think of it?