Dreadnought by April Daniels


Dreadnought is the first book in the Nemesis series by April Daniels. We follow the story of Danielle, a superhero who just happens to be transgender. This is a world where superheroes are a part of everyday life and when Danny is confronted by a dying Dreadnought, one of the world’s best superheroes, it isn’t long until her life is completely changed when with his dying breath, he gives her his powers and changes her from the boy she was born into the girl she has always been. Faced with her new appearance and blossoming superpowers, Danielle is drawn into the world of heroes and villains alongside her fellow class-member/masked vigilante, Sarah/Calamity as they work together to stop Utopia, a super-villain hell bent on controlling the world.

Thank you to Netgalley for sending me this.
Goodreads | Book Depository
Fifteen-year-old Danny will take your heart and then proceed to jump all over it. She broke my heart, she made me smile, she made me feel strong just by how positive she could be even when so many bad things were happening. Her dad is unable to accept her transition, immediately finding ways to ‘fix’ her whilst shouting abuse at her and every slur under the sun so I must point out trigger warnings for transphobia. Her mum stands on the sidelines, too frightened to intervene and even fellow superhero, Graywytch constantly misgenders and dead-names her. The one thing that remains positive is Danny. She takes every situation and tries to make the most out of it, even when she wants to give up, she finds the strength to keep on going and not because she’s a superhero, but because that’s the type of girl she is.
The entire cast of characters are diverse – Danny being trans and a lesbian, one character being an sentient android and Calamity being Latina. This, primarily, is the story of the strength behind women and it is their story and although there is no romance, there is a hell of a lot of female friendships. Although this is a story about superheroes, Danny is still an average teenager. She goes to school, she worries about homework and friendships, all whilst saving the world. She experiences what it is like to be a girl on more than just the inside when she experiences blatant sexism from her ex-best friend who assumed because she now ‘looked’ like a girl, they should probably start dating. However, Danny just spends this book shutting everyone down and I had to stop myself from cheering each time.
If I had one problem, it was that the author tended to info-dump a lot of the ‘science’ parts to the point where I had no idea what was going on and found myself skipping through it, whilst still being able to follow the story. Maybe it is because I’m not the most scientific of people, but for me it just seemed like too much thrown at you all at once. The ending of the book is truly like a movie, the action was fast-paced and had me sitting on the edge of my seat.
The best thing about this book is that I wouldn’t just recommend it to people who are fans of superheroes but also to people interested in the trans community or just want to read a coming-of-age story as I truly believe Danny grows so much throughout the course of this relatively short novel. She faces everything head-on and makes light of every situation with a joke – even to the point of asking for food after an epic battle which is what I would probably do. Her relationship with Calamity and Doctor Impossible was a highlight for me – they are three very difficult people but come together again and again and portraying the strength in female friendships. There are so many questions I have and backstory I’d love so I cannot wait for the next book. Read this book, guys. It is fun, important and revolutionary.
Love, Angharad @

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

(Huge thanks to Netgalley for sending me an eArc of this book.)

Jordan Sun is starting her junior year at performing arts school, but being an Alto 2, she’s always struggled to get a role in the school musical. When the school get a mass email informing them that the Sharpshooters, the school’s revered all-male a cappella group, Jordan is determined to make this year different. She cross-dresses as a guy, Julian, and discovers that, as a Tenor 1, she’s just what the Sharpshooters need.
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+ Our main character represents a lot of things. Jordan is a bisexual (which she discovers throughout the course of the novel), Chinese-American girl coming from a poor family. She’s tall and has a low voice, making her easily pass as a guy. All of these things have stopped her from achieving her goals in Kensington, but as a guy, she finds her place. During the beginning of her transformation into Julian, she Googles ways to flatten her chest and comes across a website for trans people. What follows is an important narrative as Jordan compares her cross-dressing as a disguise and lie whereas for trans, it’s a very different and important matter. The book also touches upon sexuality and gender stereotypes as Jordan regularly calls out acts of sexism in her role as Julian.

+ Upon hearing that Jordan would be the only main female character in this book, amongst a group of all males, I was hesitant but this is a very interesting and diverse group of boys. Isaac who is Japanese, Trav who is black, Jon Cox who has a learning disability and Nihal, a Sikh guy who reveals that he is gay. Jordan develops a friendship with each of them and I especially loved her friendship with Nihal who becomes something of a confidante. I just loved the bond between them and their domesticity during rehearsal. I’m a sucker for domesticity!
+ The prose was beautiful, flowing like music itself and despite the book focusing on a subject I’m not clued up on (music, singing, a cappella), the author manages to let it flow naturally, never info-dumping any of the technical terms. The book is split into four parts but it is a novel you can definitely read in one sitting. It manages to touch upon important subjects and represent them without preaching or making the narrative too difficult. It is a style of contemporary that we need more of.

+ Overall, I liked being inside Jordan’s head. I liked her transformation into Julian and how it changed her and also the high expectations she puts on herself to please her parents. Jordan is also dealing with an emotional breakup throughout the course of the novel and it was so refreshing to see her journey through accepting its end. This book just manages to deal with so many topics and issues and yet never rushes over the main story. Riley Redgate just proves that you can still deal with important issues in a YA contemporary novel without it being the main focus. Jordan destroys gender norms one page at a time and it was truly an honour to have met her and the Sharpshooters.



Love from Angharad,

The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid

Nemesis is a Diabolic – a humanoid creature created to protect one individual, and destroy anything that threatens them. Nemesis is bonded to Sidonia, daughter of galactic Senator von Impyrian, whom the Emperor considers a threat and a heretic. When the Emperor summons Sidonia to the galactic court, Nemesis knows this could be a death sentence, and finds only one way to protect her – she must become Sidonia, and visit the court in her place.
Amongst the Grandiloquy, Nemesis discovers the true intentions of the Emperor, as well as of his heir Tyrus, said by all to be a madman. Whilst learning to navigate court intrigue, attempting to hide her true nature, and being away from Sidonia for the first time since their bond was created, Nemesis begins to discover the one thing that she believed Diabolics didn’t have – her humanity. 

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When I first started The Diabolic, I described it to my husband as being “like Ancient Rome but in space”. I’m sticking by this description, as simple as it is. This was a very odd mash-up of worlds – the political and court intrigue in the style of the Roman Empire, with Roman titles and Latin-esque names, but in a futuristic world where Earth has become unsustainable, those living planet-side are viewed as commoners, Senators live on their own huge ships and rule over small sections of the galaxy, and the Emperor’s court is made up of numerous spaceships all docked together. Although I’ve read many Roman/Grecian style novels, I’ve never read any Sci-Fi ones, and I did really enjoy this aspect of The Diabolic and the world-building in it. 

In terms of characters, I loved Nemesis. She went through so much character development, and although “unhuman creature finding their humanity” may sound like a bit of a trope or a stereotype, it really wasn’t in this book! Nemesis’s thought processes and inner conflicts with herself, her feelings and her behaviour played out really well. Because of this, despite her supposedly being unhuman and without emotion (which definitely wasn’t true), she was actually a really easy character to relate to. I loved how protective she was over Sidonia, and how Donia always saw her as an equal and saw her humanity, even if everyone else in the Impyrian household and in the Emperor’s court believed her and other Diabolics to be nothing more than servants without feelings. 
There is a romance in this book, but I didn’t think it was a bad one. It wasn’t rushed into and the way that it was built up, it just seemed to make sense, especially with the events going on around the characters, and with the characters own developments and storylines.

A lot of reviews that I’ve read for this book seemed to think that it was too violent. Perhaps it’s my dark British mindset and sense of humour, but I just didn’t agree with this. Yes, it was violent, it was bloody, and it was packed full of nasty plots and backstabbing, but I just didn’t think it was too much? I’ve definitely read more violent books – the ASOIAF series is darker and bloodier than this book by far. Obviously this is just my personal opinion, as it’s others that it’s too violent, but I just wanted to say don’t let the violence put you off! Chances are you’ll be like me and not see it as being too far. 

Although I was happy with how the book ended and I wasn’t expecting the very final plot twist, I didn’t like what happened to lead to the conclusion, if that makes sense. I won’t say anything else about this as it’s a big spoiler! 

Overall, I enjoyed The Diabolic; it would have been almost perfect if the last few chapters had been slightly different and if they’d maybe been a bit less rushed. I think that this book could have easily had another hundred pages or so and benefited from it, and I definitely would have liked to know some more about certain characters, as well as the world it’s set in in general.

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love,

Nemesis by Anna Banks

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Princess Sepora of Serubel is the last known Forger of spectorium, a living element which provides her land with energy – and that’s why she’s a danger to her country. Sepora flees Serubel, heading to the neighbouring kingdom of Theoria, where she plans to blend in with the Serubelan freed slaves. However, she is captured during her journey and ends up in servitude to King Tarik of Theoria. Tarik and Sepora soon form a complicated bond, made all the more confusing by the fact that the one thing Tarik needs to stop the plague sweeping his nation is spectorium – and although Sepora is the only one who can provide him with the element, she must keep her gift a secret at all costs.


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Nemesis & extras from November’s Fairyloot box

Nemesis just happened to be one of those books that I couldn’t get excited about, but didn’t exactly dislike either. There were definitely high points and low points throughout, but it seemed that the majority of it was just sort of middle points? Anyway. I figured the best way to sum this book up was to do my favourite thing, and make a list!
Likes:

+ The Egyptian inspired setting. Theoria is very much Egyptian, from the pyramids (although Theorian pyramids are made from spectorium) to the clothing style, to the eye makeup. I haven’t read many Egyptian inspired fantasy worlds before, so this was interesting and I think it really worked!
+ The Serpens. Serubelans have these lizard-like things that seem to look like giant snakes but with wings. Legless dragons? I think so. I imagined them as legless dragons. They also have massive needle-like teeth, so maybe they’re more like flying basilisks? I don’t know. Anyway. Most Serubelans seem to see their Serpens as tools, but Sepora really cares for her Serpen, Nuna. There are also different types of Serpens – Defender Serpens, Seer Serpens, etc. More Serpen-lore in the sequel, please. 
+ The changing of the grammatical persons. Both Sepora and Tarik are POV characters, but Sepora’s chapters are written in first person, and Tarik’s in third person. I thought this was really interesting and I haven’t seen it done before – if nothing else, it helped to differentiate between the two character’s chapters!

+ The romance. This isn’t something I often say about this type of book, but I actually liked the romance portrayed in Nemesis! It wasn’t too rushed and I actually liked the idea of the two characters together.

+ The ending. I definitely didn’t expect the plot twist, and because of this I’ll definitely consider reading the sequel once it’s out.

Dislikes:

+ Sepora’s voice. It’s probably an odd thing to say, but I really struggled to connect with Sepora mostly because of the way she spoke. She’s very formal, and yeah, I know she’s a royal, but do royal’s always think in such a formal manner? I doubt it, but if there are any royals reading, do feel free to prove me wrong. 
+ The lack of action. I felt as though Sepora’s journey to Theoria at the beginning of the book could definitely have been shorter – it didn’t seem to develop her character or the plot in any way, and once it was over I felt as though the book picked up a lot. 
+ Lack of character development. Sepora is often referred to by others as being really smart etc, but there isn’t much to show this. I also felt that, as I mentioned, the way that she spoke and acted in her POV chapters didn’t help her character development.

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love,


Heartless by Marissa Meyer

                
Angharad’s thoughts:

I will admit that I had high hopes going into this novel despite never have read a book by Marissa Meyer before. I’m a huge fan of the Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass tale and to read not only a retelling, but a retelling of the series biggest villain sounded amazing. However, it fell short for me and I only ended up giving it three and a half stars. Here are my likes and dislikes –

Likes:
The character of Lady Catherine. It was so interesting reading an author’s interpretation of the Queen of Hearts before she became a ruthless villain. Meyer writes her as a sweet young girl, the daughter of a Marquess and aspiring baker. She is destined to marry the King of Hearts and become a respectable Queen (delving into the idea of female repression in this world) but all she wants is to open a bakery with her maid/friend, Mary Ann. You feel Cath’s desperation at trying to break free of the role forced upon her but it becomes a whole lot more complicated when she falls in love with the new Court Jester, otherwise known as Jest. I haven’t read any of Meyer’s other books but meeting Catherine has made me want to look into her other series. She is a dynamic character and develops massively along the course of the story. 
I loved Marissa’s writing, especially her descriptive text when it came to Cath’s baking. My mouth has never watered this much reading a book! She set the scene wonderfully, allowing us to feel Cath’s love for baking and how much passion she had for it. It makes you all the more desperate to see her succeed even though you know she doesn’t because, you know, the Queen of Hearts probably doesn’t frequent her kitchen. Too busy cutting off heads.
The romance. Okay, it was cliche but it’s a fairytale retelling, it’s going to be cheesy but it developed wonderfully. Catherine and Jest had fun together and protected each other. Even when Cath was courting the King, Jest had to learn to accept it, even going as far as helping the King write his love letters. Their moments were very cute together, especially one of their first moments in the garden after they meet for the first time. 
Raven. Okay, so Jest has a Raven on his shoulder where others would have a parrot but this Raven is based off of Edgar Allan Poe so he speaks primarily in rhyme. I love him. I loved the moment where a lot of panic was happening and Raven pronounced something that didn’t rhyme because he was panicking too. Probably one of my favourite characters in the entire story. Yes, a bird. Especially at the end! I also really enjoyed the character of Hatta. He was a very complex character and he had an interesting story to tell as we meet him at the first stages of his ‘madness.’ And yes, there is a tea party. 
+ I did like the ending but when I say the ending, I mean around the last ten pages. They were amazing! I won’t go into what happens but I just wish we could have had a little bit more because Catherine truly became the Queen of Hearts and everyone bows the hell down. 

Dislikes:
NOT ENOUGH FEMALE CHARACTERS OR DIVERSITY! Other than Cath, there were precious few female characters and if there were, they were poorly developed. The strong friendship between Cath and Mary Ann sours very quickly, Cath’s mother brings nothing to the table other than wanting her daughter to become Queen and another female at court only exists for Cath to dislike and for some Duke to fancy (and at this stage I can’t even remember her name.) It’s such a shame there wasn’t more, especially as Cath herself is a brilliant character. As for diversity, there was none that I was aware of so I can’t even go into that. It’s a retelling! You’re allowed to put your spin on things so spin us some diversity!!
I didn’t like the first half of the book. For me, it dragged incredibly. I’m all for books setting the scene and introducing us into its world but not for majority of the book and because of this, the second half had a lot of action, and although I loved the events of it, the ending felt a bit rushed. I mean, the entire first chapter of the book is dedicated to Cath baking some tarts and although I was hungry, I was bored. 
Becky’s thoughts:

I had quite a lot of thoughts about Heartless but no real ideas as to how I was going to put them into words. So, here’s a little list to make things easier for everyone:

Likes:
+ the character of Catherine.
I loved Cath! She was so authentic, determined and a breath of fresh air when it comes to YA protagonists. Cath is the daughter of a Marquess and therefore expected to be a Lady and be happy about the King taking a liking towards her, but all she wants to do is open a bakery with her best friend. The land of Hearts is incredibly sexist, and it seems that even if she weren’t a Lady, no one would approve of a woman opening a business, but Cath perseveres and doesn’t give up on her dream. This brings me onto my second point…

+ the cake descriptions.
When Cath is first introduced, she’s baking lemon tarts, and I’ve craved the things ever since. All of the descriptions of food are just so perfect, and frankly I’m going to go hunting for some cake right now just thinking about them.

+ the ending.
The last 70 or so pages were amazing! They took a really dark, exciting turn, and although they were tragic, I really enjoyed them. I won’t say anything more though as I don’t want to spoil anything!

+ the world building.
The book is set in Hearts, with the land of Chess, where the White Queen rules, being on the other side of the Looking-Glass. It’s completely Wonderland, but not the Wonderland that you already know. 

Dislikes:
+ the middle-ish section of the book.
I found the middle of the book to drag quite a bit and be quite boring. There was character development during this time, but I would’ve liked a bit more action within the plot as well.

+ most of the secondary characters.
I really liked Jest, Raven, and the Sisters, but apart from that, I couldn’t click with any of the other secondary characters. Cath’s family were awful to her, so were naturally meant to be disliked, but I didn’t think her friend Mary Ann was very well rounded either, and most of the rest of her acquaintances are dull or aren’t explained very well. 

(We’d like to thank Macmillan UK for sending us a proof copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

Love,

    Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

    Vassa in the Night, a retelling of the Russian folklore tale Vasilisa the Beautiful, tells the story of Vassa, a young girl living in an alternate Brooklyn that is plagued by dark magic. Residents of Vassa’s neighbourhood have noticed that, whilst the days last mere hours, the nights last for days – and this all started when the local convenience store,  BY’s, was open by Babs Yagg – a shopkeeper who has a tendency to behead thieves. When Vassa heads out to BY’s in need of lightbulbs, she finds herself tied up in a contract with Babs, and her life will be forfeit if she’s unable to work at the store for three nights without making any mistakes. However, Vassa has help – a magical wooden doll by the name of Erg, made for Vassa by her mother before she passed away. With Erg’s trickery, can Vassa survive three nights at BY’s, and maybe even break the curse upon her neighbourhood?

    Bookmark from Behind the Pages

    I’ve always been a huge fan of Russian-inspired fiction, so when I received Vassa in the Night in September’s Fairyloot box, I was over the moon! I had previously read the tale of Vasilisa the Beautiful, and I would recommend reading it if you’re planning on looking into this novel – if anything, it’ll help you understand what’s going on when the magic gets too much!

    Overall, Vassa in the Night is quite a quirky, nonsensical book – but this is often the case with folklore, and definitely isn’t a negative. It reminded me a lot of one of my favourite books, Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente, but is written in a much more whimsical style to this. The book is very much written like a fairytale, what with the “things coming in threes” aspect, the overarching quest to save Brooklyn, the hero (Vassa) and the villain (Babs). There were also interludes which took place whilst Vassa was asleep, a little touch which I really liked – and these definitely complemented the plot. 

    Vassa as a main character was interesting, but I didn’t fully connect with her. I liked her attitude and sarcasm, but would’ve liked to have got to know her a little bit better. I do feel as though Erg got in the way of this at points, as she could be a very irritating character at times. I sometimes struggle with magic realism as a genre, but it managed to (mostly) make complete sense in this book – it worked well, in any case. It stuck to both the original story and to Russian folklore in general really well, and I appreciated this as the Russian aspects were basically what made me want to read it in the first place. 



    The only negatives I had with this book was that it could be a bit slow at times – considering that the majority of it is set in one location, this is bound to happen. I also did get a bit confused at some points, such as some sort of crazy fight scene towards the end (which confused me so much that I genuinely am not quite sure what happened). There was also a bit of a love interest at one point, which I just didn’t understand – it came from nowhere and had absolutely no build up or purpose.

    I’m not entirely sure who to recommend this book to, just because it’s written in such a niche style, but if you’re interested in Russian mythology or magic realism, I would definitely recommend taking a look at it! 

    Have you read Vassa in the Night? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments!

    Love,

    Caraval by Stephanie Garber

    *Angharad’s thoughts* 
    Recently, after many years of doing anything but, I finally got around to reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Why? Because after the announcement of Caraval, people instantly started comparing so I decided this was the best time to read them both and see for myself. I can easily say that for me, Caraval ticked all the boxes of magic, mystery and plot whereas (and I know I’m alone in this), The Night Circus just wasn’t for me. Both tell the story of a mysterious and magical circus/carnival but that’s where the similarities end. 

    Caraval tells the story of Scarlett who has always lived on a tiny island with her sister, Tella and their ruthless father and became even worse after their mother’s disappearance. Scarlett’s life has already been planned for her, starting with an arranged marriage but from a young age, her wish has always been to see the legendary Caraval, an annual performance where the audience have the opportunity to participate. One night, just a few days before Scarlett’s wedding, an invitation to Caraval arrives and Tella manages to enlist the help of Julian, a mysterious sailor to take her and her sister to this magical event. Upon arrival, things turn sour as Caraval’s illustrious organiser, Legend, kidnaps Tella and thus begins Scarlett’s game with help of Julian, whether they wanted to play or not.

    First and foremost, I’ll talk about the characters because for me, characters are the most important aspect of a story, even in one as elaborate at this. I did really enjoy Scarlett. I love how the story focused on her love for her story and her desperate need to rescue her. Although she started off being quite timid and apprehensive, it made sense because she feared her father and wanted to protect Tella. She grew a lot over the course of the book which takes place during five nights of the Caraval. Although there was a romance aspect, Scarlett never deviated away from finding her sister which can be the case in a lot of YA novels. Unfortunately for me, Julian (whose name I forgot an hour after finishing the book) didn’t stand out for me. He’s like a lot of YA love interests – seemingly arrogant but is actually really nice and has a lot of depth – and even with the mystery surrounding him during most of the book, he still didn’t manage to grab my attention. YET, their budding relationship did from the moment Julian first nicknamed Scarlett ‘Crimson.’ They got on and that’s something I always want in YA relationships. They laughed together and he he helped her even when he barely knew her. I’m excited to see where their relationship goes.

    The plot is definitely the most exciting aspect of this book. Having it set over the course of five days made you anxious to find out what happened and if Scarlett would find her sister in time. There was a few twists and turns, a few moments that made you question the incentives of certain characters and also the added mystery as to Legend’s true identity. There were a lot of plot twists and even when you thought you had something figured out, something else would happen and I definitely think this was the strongest aspect of the book. Although it’s primarily a fantasy book, it has a lot of mystery weaved throughout it. I do wish we had seen more of Caraval, both the environment and maybe some other characters throughout. I think this could have happened as the trio arrive, rather than have Tella kidnapped straight away so nobody is thinking about the event itself. However, the epilogue gave us a very exciting cliffhanger which has made me extremely excited for the sequel. 

    Overall, this book is a must-read. Although there are a few things I would have changed, this young-adult, fantasy novel still manages to grab your attention from the first page. Nothing is straightforward and this seemingly magical world is full of darkness. I hope we find out more about Caraval itself in the sequel, maybe its origins and past players. I’m excited for Scarlett after seeing her witness so much but also grow as a character throughout this novel and also her relationship with her younger sister. This is a solid foundation for the rest of the series and I can’t wait to see where it goes as Stephanie Garber definitely knows how to play with your mind as much as the game plays with the minds of the characters. 
    *Becky’s thoughts*
    There has been so much hype about Caraval, despite it not even being released until next year – and the hype is definitely deserved. Although I haven’t read The Night Circus, as Angharad said, this book has been compared to a more complex, magical version of it.

    Caraval definitely is full of magic. Scarlett, the main character, has been entranced by Caraval all her life, and has been writing to Grand Master Legend of Caraval since she was a child. When we meet Scarlett, she’s been betrothed to a man she’s never met, and this is when she and her sister Tella receive their invitations to Caraval. 

    I really liked Scarlett – she appears to be very timid and scared for a lot of the book, but with the way she was treated by her father and her determination to keep her younger sister safe from him, this is completely understandable, and I’m so glad that Stephanie Garber chose to portray her in an accurate way. I feel like if she’d immediately become more bold once leaving her home and escaping her father, this wouldn’t have been a true to life depiction, so I really am glad that she stayed cautiously brave in her own way. Scarlett’s personality at the beginning of the book also really helped to emphasise her growth throughout, which I loved following. I wasn’t too bothered about the romance in this book, however I do think it’ll be a more compelling one in the second book. 

    Caraval was a very fast paced book, and I really didn’t want to put it down. There are five days of the event of Caraval, and so the book is laid out to complement this – each section of the book is called “First Evening of Caraval”, “Second Day of Caraval”, etc. As Scarlett has a countdown to find Tella after she’s been kidnapped, the book being laid out in this way really added to the suspense that’s created throughout the entire book. 


    What I liked most about Caraval is, although that I’ve finished the book, I still feel very much in the dark. I had a lot of questions towards the beginning of the book, and very few of them were answered, meaning that I probably have even more questions now. Although Caraval was a great book in it’s own right, I do think that it’ll end up being a strong start to a series that just gets stronger and more exciting as it goes along.

    This book is released on January 31st, 2017
    Love,