Breaking News: Evelyn Hugo is a KNOCKOUT!

the orangutan times

seven husbands of evelyn hugoSexy, layered and infinitely complex, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is not for the faint of heart! Orangutan Librarian reports.

Opening in the style of Citizen Kane, an article allegedly reveals “all” the sordid affairs of Hugo’s life- but don’t be fooled. Beneath the reports darker truths lie. With multiple voices- each flawlessly executed- the reality behind the rumours is uncovered in time.

And, of course, it’s all about Evelyn: compelling, deceitful and enigmatic- it’s no wonder Monique is in awe of her at the start. Naturally, she’s not a particularly moral person by my book, and there were times when I had serious problems with her, however one cannot deny that she makes herself Seen. What’s especially brilliant about her characterisation is how the author lifts her up to stardom and then brings her down to our level- much like a tabloid journalist.

It’s certainly sensational enough. With some serious emotional turmoil, the drama and intensity is there throughout- I didn’t want to put it down! As a mystery romance, it has all the hallmarks of a thrilling, twisty tale. I will admit, I did guess the first revelation- yet not the second. Oh boy, that second one was a shocker, making for a great ending.

Most of all, there was a sense of fun to the story. Believe me darlings, I was loving the tone 😉 I adored watching the relationships unfold and I teared up when the love of her life was revealed- it was simply a beautiful moment.

I’m afraid it wasn’t all plain sailing. I had some, shall we say, philosophical differences with some stances… but I am very rarely in the mood to get into politics on my blog (I can direct you to my thoughts on the matter here and here). Plus, I have way too much respect for this effortlessly *fabulous* book to be heavily critical of my personal niggling issues. Easily, this book got:

4½/5 bananas

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So have you read this book? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

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Thousand Perfect Notes Played Like a Dream

A thousand perfect notesI’m so excited to talk about this book today! Especially because it was written by a fellow blogger- the incredible Cait from Paper Fury. I actually bought this book the second it came out- however, it’s taken me so long to read it- partly thanks to, ya know, falling off the face of the earth for a few months last year, but also because it takes me a while to psyche myself up to reading books with extremely dark subject matter.

Cos, fair warning, this deals with domestic abuse and is not an easy read. Now, I’ll be the first to admit, I’m very picky when it comes to books on this topic, but I think Cait did an incredibly sympathetic job. It never shied away from the grim reality and exposed hard truths. There were points when there could have been more build-up and consequently the heightened drama occasionally hit a false note for me- yet anyone that knows music will also know that this makes not an iota of difference when the end result is raw, passionate and beautiful. Looking back on the piece in its entirety, this emotionally charged book reaches sublime heights, delivers a tremendous symphony of action, ultimately flowing to a harmonious conclusion. The whole experience was a spectacle, which explains why most of my notes are simply oohs and ahhs!

Without a doubt, the writing was excellent. I loved the writing style- it was very much in the unique vein of her blog and held so much personality. The language was gorgeous and measured. I really admired the use of fragmentation- it reminded me of Lockhart’s poetic We Were Liars. And most importantly, the descriptions of music were exquisite. Every bit of the sound imagery came together and contributed to the story- creating a resonant narrative about being made to hate the thing you love.

I really liked the characterisation as well- especially of August, whose presence brightened up the novel. I also appreciated the little details, like the Maestro’s nickname, which brought the story to life.

All in all, it was wunderbar (I only know compliments in German 😉 )

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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So have you read this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – March

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Gosh, 2019 has got off to quite the start! I actually felt January went so quickly, while February for me was THE MONTH THAT WOULD NOT END- and the irony that it’s the shortest month of the year was not lost on me. Between work, family visits, more WORK, furiously editing my WIP and my laptop dying, it was a wild month where I sadly didn’t get to be on the blog as much as I wanted (don’t know if this month looks much better… we’ll see). Anyhoo, that’s a little glimpse of what’s been going on behind the curtain- time for the BOOKS! I’m a bit behind on reviews at the moment, but that’s okay cos I’m about to whizz through a few now!

a gentleman in moscow

A Gentleman in Moscow– this was a well-crafted, excellently written book, with realistic characters and moving relationships… but for some reason I just didn’t fall for it the way I wanted to. Technically speaking, it’s effectively structured with good use of foreshadowing and has heart-warming elements reminiscent of Backman. I haven’t the faintest idea why I didn’t connect with this as much as I wanted to- it’s very much a case of “it’s not you, it’s me”.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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night of cake and puppets

Night of Cake and Puppets– ahh now this did capture my imagination. With a fairy tale feel, Taylor delivers yet again. The story is set in the world of Daughter of Smoke and Bone and is told from Zuzana’s perspective. In this deliciously atmospheric story, the reader’s led through Prague on a romantic journey. Sweet, zingy and delightful: this is one to savour. It also features illustrations from Jim Di Bartolo (Taylor’s husband) and adorable acknowledgements from them both. If you’re a Laini Taylor fan and need a little piece of her prose to tuck into before her next book, then I can’t recommend this GORGEOUS little book enough!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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the painted veil

The Painted Veil– I very much admired the crisp writing style and characters in this story- it’s clear how much control Maugham had over language. The only problem I had with this book was that I’d seen the movie already (it’s good btw) so I knew more or less what was going to happen and didn’t get that much out of it as a result.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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think twice

Think Twice- the sequel to Don’t Even Think About It- where teens get telepathy from flu shots- was almost as good as the original. For the most part, I enjoyed it and flew through it like I had superpowers. A few things disappointed me in terms of the relationships, yet I still loved the tone and thought it was an entertaining story. The ending was especially clever!

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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if theres no tomorrow

If There’s No Tomorrow– this got pretty emotional by the end, though it wasn’t always an easy ride. At first, it was hard to like the bland as white bread (her words not mine) main character. And while it was written in an impassioned style, there were times when the descriptions were yawn-worthy and what people were saying could sound like something out of a PSA (public service announcement). The romance was also badly timed- and pointing it out didn’t make up for that issue. Still, it definitely got to me and had some sweet moments.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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the lie

The Lie– this was the biggest disappointment of the bunch. I picked it up on a whim at the library, cos I liked the premise and the opening was very gripping. That said, it quickly went off the boil. All the mystery and foreshadowing didn’t lead anywhere particularly interesting. I will say it dealt with shellshock rather well and the author had a brilliant command of language- her voice, word choices and control of the narrative were all excellent. Sadly, I just didn’t feel the story lived upto that.

2/5 bananas

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And that’s all for now! Have you read any of these? What did you think of them? Let me know in the comments!

Shrugging off Atlas Shrugged

atlas shruggedI’m fairly confident I’m going to disappoint everyone with this post. Going off of the reviews on Goodreads, all people seem to do when they talk about this book is discuss the politics… and I’m not gonna do that. I’m gonna be talking about its literary merit- or lack thereof. Cos *spoiler alert* I did not like this book. And the thing is, there’s a tendency to answer Rand’s attempt at literature with nothing but disdain for her thoughts, when really the question should be is this a book at all? Okay, well it is a book in the technical sense, but I firmly believe this is merely non-fiction masquerading as fiction.

My initial problems started with the fact that *holy hell* I hated the writing style. This waffles between verbose prose and corny moralising. Naturally, it failed to capture my attention and I could think of a million things I’d rather be doing other than reading this (watching paint dry, going to the dentist, clipping my toenails). To give you an idea of the style, it would be only fair to make you suffer through a quote:

“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists… it is real… it is possible… it’s yours.”

It is… so dramatic… because I am… typing… like… this. With lots of compound-words so-that you-feel I’ve-made-a-new-word. Okay, seriously people have a go at Maas for using ellipsis too much in her writing- they have clearly not read this book. Anyone that’s read my writing style or seen my taste knows I don’t generally have an issue with fragmentation- but even I think this is too much. Also “not-quite”, “not-yet” and “not-at-all” are lousy inventions.

Hey- if you found that painful, just know I ploughed through 1200 pages of this bilge. And frankly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Because this IS NOT AN INTERESTING STORY. It breaks the number one rule of storytelling: don’t bore the reader. Anyone telling you that the concept of a failing rail company is thrilling stuff is pulling your leg. I’m supposed to care… because? Where’s the humanity in this? Sure, the likes of Dickens and Gaskell addressed issues of industry- yet they didn’t exclude the human element. Here, the issues feel too impersonal and the characters are too flat to care about. Take Dagny for instance- here’s one of her thoughtful “gems”:

“Dagny sat at the end of the counter, eating a hamburger sandwich. It was the best cooked food she had ever tasted, the product of simple ingredients and of unusual skill”

#AD Seriously though who thinks like this?!?! I see more subtlety from McDonalds. I just don’t know people that speak like this (and if I do, we’re not friends). It comes to something SERIOUSLY insane when I think Christian Grey has more personality than anyone in this book. Heck- I think this book has less artistry than Fifty Shades of Grey. That’s right- I went there.

As a dystopia, this book fails even more spectacularly. There’s no world building. None. Not only does this not reach the heights of 1984 (or *insert any other dystopia including ones I’m not a fan of*), but it doesn’t even come close. It feels like this is floating around in space that’s vaguely American but not. Forget white room syndrome- Rand went full white universe syndrome (never go full white universe syndrome).

If only that was the only way it failed as a dystopia! Now, I’ve discussed before how books can be propagandistic… to a point. This goes far and beyond a reasonable limit- it is nothing more than a dull diatribe. Propaganda doesn’t have to be entirely lacking in artistic merit; philosophy in literature cannot rely on a mere dab of paint. And that’s what Rand seems to do when she relies on overwrought analogies such as this one:

“If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders – What would you tell him?”

“I…don’t know. What…could he do? What would you tell him?”

“To shrug.”

The problem is I’m not lulled by this “enigmatic” statement- one can look right through it and see it makes no sense. Responsibility- as suggested by the Greek image- is not to be shrugged off. Rand cannot even see the contradiction from the image she herself has copied. That would be a good place to talk about stoicism perhaps- not laissez-faire objectivism.

In varying levels of success, this entire book is a lecture. If you are going to read this/have already read it, don’t be surprised to find a fair number of obvious truths scattered in among the endless preaching. But also be prepared for a load of bollocks:

“People think that a liar gains a victory over his victim.”

Literally no one thinks that. That’s why everyone claims to be the arbiter of truth. At the same time, famous liars in history have won victories over their victims (Hitler, Stalin, Mao). Kinda ironic that this is the most obviously false statement.

“I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”

Wowwwww so brave. Okay, I don’t even get how people take the morality of this book seriously at times- being selfless is one of the most important parts of any moral system. I’m not saying that this should to be enshrined into law, but c’mon, don’t push it and pretend like there’s moral value to being utterly selfish.

“There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil.”

Ludicrous. There are frequently more than one side to a debate- in some cases, yes, it’s heads or tails, but in others it’s more like rolling a dice. It’s a little extreme (in my view) to assume there’s no such thing as compromise (but then what do I know 😉 )

“I think, therefore I’ll think.”

Lol at how “profound” this is.

“Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.”

*Applause* for stating the bleeding obvious.

And I do understand why people like this book- they don’t care about it as a book, merely as a means to spout philosophy. Except… why don’t you just try Solzhenitsyn? Gulag Archipelago is far more extensive and factual; Ivan Densovitch is shorter and has the emotional punch this is sorely lacking. The problem with this book is ultimately that it tries to fight ideological extremism with another ideology.

As you might be able to tell, I’m incredibly frustrated with this book. Just WTF with this being called a great novel? No, just no. I may already have a contender for worst book of the year (please book gods: don’t let me anything worse than this). People will want me to make moral statements of my own about this book- so here you are: a story without a soul isn’t worthy of being called a novel. This is a lifeless cask of opinions. I’m not often offended by books- but I am on this occasion offended as a reader and a lover of literature.

Rating: banana peel

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So dare I ask- what do you think of this book? Fan or hater? Let me know in the comments!

Bound to Love Bound

*Received from the author, but all gushy opinions are my own*

bound lawrenceGotta admit: this review is coming a little sooner than I planned. Basically I’m procrastinating on a review of a book that made me less-than-happy with one that made me all warm and fuzzy inside. Makes sense, right?

This novella, which takes place between Grey Sister and Holy Sister, packed *a lot* into the tight space. It was entertaining, emotional and even a little funny. The dialogue had a witty punch to it; the writing was assured and effective. It’s intricately plotted and manages to come full circle in a delightful way.

More importantly, it’s an incredibly sweet tale. There are moments of atmospheric tension, however, above all this is a romantic tale- and you guys know how I love my romance! This was a simply lovely story woven from a seemingly insignificant point. As you might be able to tell, I’m struggling not to give anything away and will only say that this is a narrative that shows us there is nothing more dangerous than a kiss.

What I especially liked was how it felt like a necessary edition to the series- yet is also a delectable treat that whets the appetite for more. As someone that already adores the characters, I was obviously invested, but this gives a little bit more when it comes to going behind the scenes and developing relationships. Bound brings you straight back into the world of Book of the Ancestor, whilst easily being its own thing. In short, it does exactly what a story of this length should do!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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Evidently, I’m having a lot of luck with novellas recently! Has anyone else read this? And do you have a novella you’ve enjoyed lately? Let me know in the comments!

Queen of Air and Darkness Left Me Stumbling In the Dark

*Spoiler review*

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Do you ever feel like a book is such a hot mess that you have no idea how to review it? Well, this was my first book of the year and I’ve been at a loss how to express all that frustration/angst/gosh-darn-whys I’ve been feeling about it for a month now- which is why I’ve decided to recruit some help for this post! *Give it up for the lovely Monkey Baby who’s gonna hold my hand through this review!*

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Bonjourno mon belles bonbons 

Would you guys believe she’s actually much better at French than me? 😉 Now, as you might remember, neither of us were especially happy with the last instalment– nonetheless both of us had high hopes that this one would redeem the series. Fortunately when I cracked this open, it had tumultuous, emotional opening that I was certain I was in for a wild ride. Buuut it all went downhill from there.

Honestly the beginning bored me so bad I was loathe to even continue.

Yeah it was a pity you didn’t even like the opening- especially when it’s such a behemoth of a book. Seeing it in person, you can tell it’s too long. My mum took one look at it and said “they’ve not edited that”. Frankly, I’m not sure it was. Interesting storylines were relegated to needless drama; the best ideas were downplayed and disappointing. There was more than enough fluff here to make a monstrous, gigantic teddy. Thanks to this, the pacing was simply way off. The story stalled at every turn; I realllly struggled to get through it. It took you a while to read too didn’t it monkey baby?

It felt like an eternity on a long disused rickety, lame ghost train to get through. Every time a chapter finished I thought “gosh darn it there’s still so much left to get through of this drivel. Why am I still reading this? For the love of goodness sake someone put a stop to this madness!” I was secretly hoping you’d tell me what happens so I wouldn’t have to continue with that pathetic monster book. 

Well you could have told me that and I’d have spared you it! Okay so we’ve covered the length- let’s talk about the actual meat on these big bones 😉 While the parabatai mystery was fascinating, it unravelled as the plot went on and for me wasn’t resolved in a remotely satisfying way. Nor did I like the Unseelie Queen plot, since it was written more as setup for future series. Even if I enjoyed it in part, I didn’t like that this entire book was a pitch for another series- especially when this was supposed to be a grand finale in its own right. This level of delayed gratification is just. not. cool. Worse than that, it felt like fanfic of itself at this point. There were some goodish twists (and since this started out as fanfic, it’s kinda fanfic of fanfic…). Don’t get me wrong, aspects like the inclusion of Sebastian’s son and their detour into Thule (/what-could-have-been land) were entertaining up until a point. But even that they took wayyy too long with it. Now, I remember you had different thoughts about some of the plot- and what I liked you hated and vice versa- eh sis?

The shadowhunters definitely fell off their high horses- or should I say motorbikes- in this book. The plot was all over the place in the cauldron of characters she created. There were glimpses of interesting moments like the giant angels but for the most part it was so all over the place and please I don’t want to read mortal instruments from how it could have happened perspective. 

Ach- I didn’t even like the oversized angels (even writing that phrase makes me feel silly). One thing we did agree on was this: even the usually-well-done relationships left a lot to be desired. Unfortunately, this was partly due to shadowhunters being a shadow of their former selves. Especially Christina- who left a lot to be desired in the personality department- though apparently not in the desirability one 😉 She literally had NO FLAWS- except that apparently she was simply too lovable. Make of that what you will.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH CHRISTINA!!!!!!!!!! SHE IS MY LEAST FAVOURITE CHARACTER OF ALL TIME!!!! She is the most boring individual to ever grace paper! It felt like she was interloper of the whole story everytime she popped up I just thought oh here we go again. And why was Julian’s character ruined!!! In the first book and even in the second he was such a cute, adorable strong character. I wanted to shmush him:) But blocking part of his emotions was ridiculous!!! It meant that for most of the book he had no character!!! And was almost as dull as Christina! 

I seem to recall you dubbed her “perfect Christina” 😉 The cohort also sucked and not in the good-they’re-scary-villains way- in the *there’s no tension* these-people-are-a-joke kind of way. Now I don’t see why I should have to talk politics, cos this is not what I signed up for with paranormal YA, but it’s kind of impossible not to say anything when they’re caricatures of *EVIL* right wingers (with a definite slant towards the “all conservatives are eeeevil” view) (nice and counter-productive to discourse). It would be bad enough if the preachy levels were though the roof (which they are) or if their being annoying whiners merely took the sting out of how scary they’re supposed to be (which it does) BUT they’re not even consistent in their viewpoints. If Clare wanted to strawman arguments, she could have done better than having the staunchly right wing Zara Dearborn resort to left wing talking points like unearned privileges- I guess they’re staying true to the socialist part of the national socialists? Let’s be real though- the parallel with Nazis is insulting to the realities of history and does a disservice to those that actually suffered at the hands of that regime. Ultimately it’s simply lazy, poorly developed characterisation that fails to reflect the complexity of human thought.

AH the cohort!! HAHAHAHAHA! Please when you’re writing a villain make them actually I don’t know be more villainous!! Every 2 seconds you’ve got Zara pouting or Horace speaking drivel!! And the whole book was self righteous talk that quite frankly I never opt to read and felt like pulling teeth for the sheer hammering it did on my poor brain.And the worst offender of this book is the dreadful names!!! Horace and Zara could these names be any more ridiculous for villains!! just saying them makes me laugh at the thought that they could even be portrayed as so called villains! 

I forgot about the name thing LOL! As much as it used to bug me that all villains were called THE DARK OVERLORD I think it’s worse now that a lot of them end up called Bob or Horace- not exactly intimidating or enigmatic. And that ploy they did at the end was so pointless! Worst. Baddies. Ever. However, like I said earlier in this review, I didn’t entirely hate this book (surprising given the amount of salt here, I know 😉 ). There were some good aspects, I’m simply suffering from more than a little fatigue when it comes to these stories. For me, this was particularly noticeable in the epilogue, where Clare does her typical trick of trying to keep you hooked with new characters and cliffhangers. Sorry, but I’m officially done buying it. This is where I part ways with the shadowhunter world. What about you baby face? I know you said you might continue…

The only mildly redeemable part was Kit, Ty and Ash’s Characters! The stories were pathetic but very promising for a new book! Although I am beyond loathe to touch another of her stories if she persists with this Mary Sue characterisation and political blah blah! I am very torn whether to touch another of her books as I really loved the mortal instruments and clockwork series but this book and series just felt like a landslide of rotten bananas that led to a whirlwind of peels thrown in my face! 

So, I’ve been really indecisive about my rating on this cos it left me pretty conflicted, but in the end I went with:

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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And gallons and gallons of SALT!

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How about you Monkey Baby?

I think for this book it exhausted me so much all I can rate it is a broken heart! 

 

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Hope you enjoyed that! And *lots of love* to the Monkey Baby for her insight here! So have you read this? Were you as salty as Monkey Baby and I were? And do you have any series you’ve fallen out of love with? Let me know in the comments!

Discovering the Heart of the Lost Sisters

the lost sistersSo I wasn’t planning on giving a novella a full review… but *WOW* this packs quite the punch and has more than enough depth to warrant as much attention as I can give it. There are going to be vague spoilers for Cruel Princeso watch out if you still plan to read it.

Why was this so brilliant? Well, because it was completely unexpected. I was thinking this was going to be a simple short story that explained the actions of Tarryn and humanised her a little after her decisions in Cruel Prince. It’s not that at all. If you’re looking for a great explanation that redeems this character… sorry, you won’t find it. In fact, I think it’s actually been miss-marketed in that regard. This isn’t the story of how a heroine went astray- this is a villain origin story.

Right away, we’re plunged into Tarryn’s unapologetic apology. In a thoroughly unsympathetic tone, she reveals why and how she betrayed her sister- time and time again. If nothing else, I was impressed straight away by how distinct and persuasive the voice was. It was a subtle portrayal of a character and really opened a window into her mind. Whether you take her side or not, you’re going to have to admit she’s a very lifelike figure.

For me, this was a great twist on the YA trope of having the heroine do terrible things, but somehow get away with it cos *THEY’RE THE GOOD ONE*. It deals with the holier than thou attitude a lot of YA heroines have and twists it on its head. For me, this undermined that trope completely. The funny thing is Tarryn genuinely believes she’s the heroine in a fairy tale.

In fact, it’s because she views everything as a story that she thinks she can get away with whatever cruelties she commits. She doesn’t actually see how she’s done anything wrong and thinks she’s deserving of forgiveness just because. It’s a really twisted take on what it means to be a heroine and how someone might go down a wicked path.

Thus it perfectly embodies the idea that the villain is the hero of their own story. For all this tale’s simplicity, it’s actually a remarkable view into the human psyche. No, this doesn’t deliver anything new, but it’s quite the journey anyway. And yes, this is only a novella, nonetheless it’s also an ingenious twist on the YA genre and rather a pleasant surprise I might add. Sure, it doesn’t “save” the character’s reputation- and I won’t be expecting her to improve in Wicked King– however it is an excellent character study and is brilliantly executed:

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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So have you read this? Do you plan to? And have you read any novellas recently that have blown you away? Let me know in the comments!