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Review of opening chapters of The Last Piece Of My Heart by Paige Toon and an admission on my part!

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Please note that the cover image leads to an Amazon buy link for the book
My admission: Okay. So. When I saw this on Netgalley my heart just about jumped out of my chest. Paige Toon, queen of romantic comedy up for request! And so I leaped. Possibly, I can say now, without even wondering WHY this book, that I had read many an excited blogger lust after, that so many of the queens of chick lit had reviewed, that magazines had included in their spreads, threw up a ‘read now’ message as opposed to the normal ‘request’ instruction. Within seconds I realised I had actually been approved to read just an opening segment of the book. I sighed and for the first time ever, turned to the review section of Netgalley, purely to see if others had thought the same.

Either they hadn’t or they weren’t going to admit it. Perhaps there had been a huge caveat beside the cover and I’d missed it (it’s very likely, I was very excited!) There was, in general, a flurry of gushing, although most said it was a pity it was so short (perhaps their diplomatic manner of confirming what I was looking for). There were also a number of people saying they’d have loved to have had an actual ARC of the book. It’s a testament to both author and publisher that there’s so much demand and people are fine about only reading such a short extract, but it was just a little disheartening. Whatever way it happened, it happened, but I will say I’ll have to look before I jump in future, if only to save myself the disappointment of a) thinking the publisher had thought me worthy of being pre-approved (okay, yes, I did feel a little inferior as a result of this, it’s silly but there you go) and b) thinking I was about to sit down and enjoy Paige Toon’s new book. So there you go, a caveat. Perhaps people prefer this way to reviewing a whole book as they know whether they want to read on or not? I’d be interested to know! (If you want, you can read further down for my ‘review!’

What they say:When life feels like a puzzle, sometimes it’s the small pieces that make up the bigger picture… Join Bridget on a journey to put her world back together.

A successful travel journalist, Bridget has ambitions to turn her quirky relationship blog about the missing pieces of her heart into a book. But after a spate of rejections from publishers, she accepts an alternative proposition.

Nicole Dupré died leaving behind a bestselling novel and an incomplete sequel. Tasked with finishing the book, Bridget is thankful to have her foot in the publishing door, even if it means relocating to Cornwall for the summer and answering to Nicole’s grieving husband, Charlie…
The ‘review’: So this is the story of Bridget, who has reached an impasse and decided it’s time to figure out what’s the REAL story with her love life. She had always blamed the first love of her life for mucking up potential perfect future relationships, but he sends her head into a spin with the idea that maybe the truth lies in the relationships since. And so she decides to delve further into this idea.

Ms Toon got me early on with some beautiful phrasing and the fact that this book would include bookish information on travelling that was laden with romance. The premise of the story, looking into TWELVE loves of her life, I’ll admit, had me siding with Bridget’s editor and thinking ‘twelve? Really?’, but that was quickly parked with the introduction of the story of Nicole Dupre, who Bridget is to ghostwrite on behalf of. This most definitely saved the book for me and I most definitely will read on in the future, although it might say something that I didn’t go straight to download from Amazon straight away. So there you go, I’m sorry if this was all a bit bitter and ranty, and the more seasoned among you will probably tell me this happens all the time, I just find it a bit of a pity, both for the bloggers who felt they missed  out, and the authors out there who have struggled to get their book noticed on Netgalley. Sorry!

Blog Tour: Review and Extract: My Husband’s Wives by Faith Hogan

I’m thrilled to be part of the blog tour for My Husband’s Wives by Faith Hogan, with the brilliant Aria, an imprint of Head of Zeus (Thanks to all for the book in return for an honest review) . Below is the review and an extract, and don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour, there’s some amazing blogs in there!

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Length: 260 pages

Please note that the cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say: Better to have loved and lost, than never loved.

Paul Starr, Irelands leading cardiologist dies in a car crash with a pregnant young women by his side.

United in their grief and the love of one man, four women are thrown together in an attempt to come to terms with life after Paul. They soon realise they never really knew him at all.

The love they shared for Paul in his life and which incensed a feeling of mistrust and dislike for each other, in his death turns into the very thing that bonds them and their children to each other forever.

As they begin to form unlikely friendships, Paul’s death proves to be the catalyst that enables them to become the people they always wanted to be.

The Review: So this is the story of the aftermath of the death of Paul Starr, the perfect-on paper, dream doctor who seems almost too good to be true. And it turns out he is. It’s been some time where I’ve read a book where there were so many lives intertwined and I’d forgotten how great it was when you were invested in each and every character, as I was here. The characters were unusual in their range in terms of age and roles in the book, you had stoic, mothering, bright and energetic and finally the innocent, tell it like it is shoulder to lean on. The differences between each of their lives gave us so many issues and experiences, with a few different genres thrown in there too and it made it all the more enjoyable. Each and every female character had me, and the more I read the more I felt for them. Of course in the blurb there is the mention of ‘unlikely friendships,’ and this was most definitely the highlight- the friendship between the four was excellent, heart-warming and beautiful and timely, which is so important to me-it’s a bit of a bug-bear where a friendship or relationship doesn’t evolve, you’re just suddenly hit with it. That didn’t happen here and I was thrilled. I did say ‘female characters’-the only character I didn’t warm to was Paul, or the memories of him anyway, I found him selfish and sly to be honest and I couldn’t understand that for the most part they continued to speak of him in such a fond manner, where I was livid on their behalf, but then Ms. Hogan had a surprise in store in terms of his character …

As you can tell I really liked this book. There were some issues, I don’t know if it was me, but there were times where I felt like parts had been cut out, maybe to make the story more snappy, but I did get confused from time to time. I found myself to be editing in my head a little as I read where it seemed like some sentences that I would have expected to be in a certain place to explain things were later in the page. Saying that, there weren’t many of these issues, and as this was a review copy it’s more likely they’re fixed since (or else, as I said, it’s just me!)

My Husband’s Wives had ups and downs and mini mysteries, peppered with clichéd (and sometimes cheesy!) occurrences that were predictable in a good way and yet not always fully predictable, ensuring it was always vivid and easy to picture in your mind’s eye. It was a book I’d have read in a day (although it says on Amazon this is 260 pages it felt like more, because it’s such a saga, and yet it flew!) had I had the chance (the kids know when I’m enjoying a book and decide to jump in and do their thing) and yet, conversely, one that, had I known I’d enjoyed it so much, I’d have waited until I could ingest it over a few nights, possibly in front of a big fire.

Rating: 4/5

The Extract

Some moments stay with you forever. The day Evie Considine knocked on her door would be one of those that would not fade from Grace’s memory easily, or ever. It was a warm day. They had planned a picnic the evening before, just Delilah and herself.

Delilah left Evie standing in the doorway, as unsure where to put her as Grace was about how to welcome this familiar stranger to their home.

‘Hello,’ Grace said. Her voice held a little trepidation. Why do you always have a fair idea when you are about to hear bad news?

‘Hello – we’ve never actually met, Grace, but my name is Evie. Evie Considine-Starr.’ She was an icy grey-blonde, coiffed and immaculately tailored. Her navy blue eyes were large and childlike beneath lids that hooded with age more than shrewdness. Her voice was porcelain, but softened by nerves. She held herself straight and might be formidable, but there was a little girl quality to her that picked out her vulnerability so she couldn’t hide it, even if she tried. She was absurdly overdressed for the weather and younger-looking than the sixty-five years she must surely be at this stage.

Grace held out her hand. ‘It’s nice to meet you.’ They shared a handshake with no warmth. ‘What can I do for you?’ She reversed backwards into her hallway, feeling as if this perfectly prepared woman who had slipped silently about in her imagination for so long had caught her in the act of some sordid activity. She moved into the nearby dining room that they never used. She could feel Evie inspecting the place as they entered the room. ‘Have a seat.’ But she did not sit. This was not a social visit.

‘I’m here about Paul.’ Her voice was even, unemotional, but Grace knew it couldn’t be good news; she was a million miles off just how bad though. ‘He’s dead.’ Evie said the words with a finality that took all the air from the room between them.

Grace could not speak, she tried to take in the words, but they weren’t hitting home, her lungs had cut off breathing and after a moment she had to remind herself to suck and blow. It was as though someone had bubbled-wrapped the world and insulated her from those two words.

‘I thought you should be first to hear, and of course to tell Delilah.’

‘He can’t be; he can’t be dead – how?’ Grace’s voice didn’t sound as if it belonged to her. She dropped to the nearest chair. Paul, dead? There had to be a mistake. This was all some awful mix up. ‘How…’ Her mind raced. ‘I mean, when…’

‘Look dear, you’re in shock, we’re both in shock, probably. You’ll have to decide how best to break it to Delilah. She’s, what…’ Evie leaned her head to the side. It was strange to hear this woman speak of her daughter as though she knew her well, as though there were some connection there far beyond what Grace felt there was any right to be. ‘She’s sixteen this year, isn’t she?’ Evie nodded sagely, twisted the emerald and diamond band on her wedding finger. ‘A difficult age to lose her father,’ she shook her head, as though it was all a question of timing. Shock, even Grace could see it, she was in shock. ‘All she needs to hear is that it was painless, as far as the doctors are saying. He was driving at the time, so…’

‘Can we see him?’ Grace had to let the fact that Evie knew anything about their lives slip past her. In this moment, she had to concentrate on taking in the news. ‘What about…’

‘It would be better for Delilah to wait; at least until we see what she has to be prepared for.’ Evie picked an imaginary hair from the lapel of her soft expensive jacket. ‘They want us to identify him. Well, they want me to identify him.’ She sniffed. Perhaps it was as close as she came to crying.

‘Oh?’ Grace felt the room spin about her. Her hands were sweating against her bare legs. She’d put on a denim skirt for a day at the beach. It felt sticky and clingy and as though it might have grown a couple of sizes too small. The whole house suddenly moved in closer about her for a moment. She felt she might faint. She took a deep breath, raised her eyes to see Evie regarding her reservedly.

‘It’s shock. Better to be in the boat you’re in than where Annalise Connolly is.’ The words were cold, but maybe Evie too was still in shock. ‘She was in the car with him. They were travelling from the hospital early in the morning, and swerved to avoid a dog.’ Her voice quivered, only slightly, and then she straightened herself, cleared her throat. ‘He careered into one of those big trucks, from what the traffic police could tell me.’ She nodded towards the front of the house. ‘He was trying to avoid a dog. A blasted dog.’

‘Is she… is she going to be okay?’

‘I didn’t ask.’ Evie stared blankly at Grace; perhaps it was just dawning on her that she should have. ‘I suppose she must be or they’d have said, wouldn’t they?’

‘And the boys?’ It was strange talking about Annalise Connolly’s children like this. They never talked about them; Paul talked about everything but his life with Annalise and the two sons they had together.

‘No, it was just Paul and Annalise, from what the guards can make out.’ Evie shook her head. ‘You’d have to wonder…’ She didn’t finish the sentence, but Grace had a fair idea of the sentiment. Maybe before Delilah was born she’d have felt the same.

‘So, do you want to come?’ She was looking at her watch, a simple Cartier gold snake slid about her papery wrist.

‘Pardon?’ Grace had lost track of Evie’s words, as though she’d missed a step somewhere between the kitchen and the front door; the universe had taken a sidestep on her.

‘The guards, they’re waiting outside to take us to see him. It’s only right that you’re there too. After all, you had a child together.’

‘He was my husband,’ Grace said. He’d never divorced her. She still wore her ring most days. He was still a big part of their lives, even if he had fathered the two boys with Annalise Connolly.

‘No, Grace.’ Evie gazed with the fervour of a zealot. ‘No, Grace. He was still my husband. We never got divorced.’

About The Author

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Faith Hogan was born in Ireland.  She gained an Honours Degree in English Literature and Psychology from Dublin City University and a Postgraduate Degree from University College, Galway.  She has worked as a fashion model, an event’s organiser and in the intellectual disability and mental health sector. She lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, children and a very fat cat called Norris.

She was a winner in the 2014 Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair – an international competition for emerging writers.

Author links

Books on Amazon

Twitter @gerhogan

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/faithhoganauthor/

Website  http://faithhogan.com/

 

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Does My Bump Look Big In This? by Amy Lynch

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Length: 329 pages

Note: The cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link  for the book

What they say: the MOTHER of all comedies is due…
Newlyweds Barry and Becky are just back from their tropical honeymoon. The tans are gorgeous, and it was five star luxury all the way. But there’s a problem. Barry’s desperate for a baby, and Becky’s not quite so keen.
Surrounded by pregnant friends and a mother who’s talking about the ticking of invisible biological clocks, Becky starts to feel the pressure. When a surprise pregnancy rocks the boat, Becky’s friends and family are rooting for her all the way. Will she navigate the choppy waters to motherhood? Will she survive antenatal classes? Can she avoid stretchmarks, indigestion and her dreaded boss? And most importantly of all… does her bump look big in this?

The Review: You’ll remember I raved about Bride Without A Groom (read review here), hoping that there was a sequel coming out. How happy was I when I saw that this book was available for pre-order?! Of course then I did what I’ve done to much of and am fixing this year and put it aside and got bogged down with other stuff but I’m happy to say this book was paramount in getting me out of a really bad reading slump.

As you know I adore chick lit and this, that of the ‘Legally Blond’ and ‘Clueless’ variety, is rarely done as well as it is by Amy Lynch. I have seen it likened to the Shopaholic Series by Sophie Kinsella, and it needs to be, because these books are every bit as satisfying, fun and enjoyable as Ms. Kinsella’s (excellent) ones. Again we’re following Becky as she clip clops through life, having opinions on anything and everyone, as well as deciding exactly how everything needs to happen. I loved how you rea

There is a plethora of over the top, inappropriate jokes (I regularly laughed, trying to stop myself as I did) on getting ready to have a baby that are brave and oh-so satisfying, but never crude and again I felt like this book was tailor made with references or mentions of ‘Friends,’ ‘Big Brother,’ ‘Ghost, ‘The Snapper, ‘ ‘Mount Carmel hospital (where I was born!) and ‘Orange Is The New Black.’ Oh and Patrick Swayze, but I’ll lower my head for that particular reference!  This seems like a short review but I think I’ve made my point, you’ll know.

My finishing point is that they say that the sign of a good book is that you want to press it into the hands of others and actually I have a number of people who will adore this. This could be read as a standalone but really, if you know you’ll like it, why would you?! As I did. Cannot wait for Amy Lynch’s next book and I’m pretty sure I’m in for the long haul.

Rating: 5/5

Christmas Under A Starlit Sky by Holly Martin (Book 2 of the ‘A Town Called Christmas’ Series)

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What they say: Step inside a beautiful winter wonderland where love, laughter and cosy nights by the fire will make this Christmas one to remember.

Neve Whitaker loves managing the Stardust Lake hotel. She gets to work alongside her wonderful family and she’s spending Christmas on the most enchanting, snow-covered island in Scotland. So why is her heart so heavy this festive season?

It might have something to do with the gorgeous actor Oakley Rey, the man she finished with before he left for California and the man she loves more than anything. With Oakley’s career in Hollywood soaring, Neve is convinced she’d only hold him back. She had to end it with him – at least that’s what she keeps telling herself.

But now she has a secret she’s struggling to keep, and when Oakley arrives on Juniper Island determined to win her back, Neve is thrown off balance. Will Neve’s fear of having her heart broken again push Oakley away for good, or is it time for her to take a leap of faith?

Get swept away by this deliciously sweet and heartwarming tale, and spend an unforgettable Christmas on Juniper Island.

 

The review: I had heard so much about the first book of this series, Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky, that when I saw this on Netgalley I was absolutely thrilled. I had read ‘Tied Up with Love‘ (by Holly Martin writing as Amelia Thorne) before I started blogging, and knew Ms. Martin’s romance and comedy to be exemplary, and her pacing excellent and again they didn’t disappoint.

There were four main characters in this book- and we meet them at the Stardust Lake Hotel where Neve is manager and Adam is on contract. I say four main characters but actually, there were a lot of minor characters here too, and I think that reading the first in this series would have been better to start with. Neve and Oakley have history and are trying to figure out whether they are willing to make it work (he is a famous actor whose life is in America, she is on Juniper Island in Scotland). It says in the blurb that Neve has a secret to keep and yes, it is a big one, with many missed chances for the revelation coming and going. This will annoy quite a few people, as there were roadblocks a plenty, and yes, some of them I predicted, in a ‘if such and such happened now it would be crazy,’ and then it would happen and yet, this book still hit the mark for me. I’m afraid the only issue I had was that I found some of the story to be a little confusing, in particular I didn’t have a feel for who the characters were in terms of their age and appearance and had to skip back in places to figure out what was going on, this could have been an editing issue or it could have just been me, I’m not sure to be honest.

There was another ‘will they, won’t they’ which was filled with lovely moments that were really sweet and had me nodding along. As I said above, Ms.Martin’s romance is perfection as was the chemistry in the book and the (cough) sex. What with that and the constant drama that had me read this in two evenings, it was a book I thoroughly enjoyed. Thanks to Netgalley for the book in return for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Novella Review: The Snowflake Valley Advice Fairy by Holly Tierney-Bedord

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Length: 95 pages

Please note that the cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say: The author of Right Under Your Nose: A Christmas Story brings you another sweet, festive holiday novella.

At just twenty-five years old, Elinor has landed the job of her dreams: She’s going to be Merry the Advice Fairy for the Snowflake Valley Gazette. She’s ecstatic that she’s about to embark on a fun, cushy career while living in the cutest, quaintest town she’s ever known.

She’s barely settled into her desk at work when that famous Snowflake Valley shimmer starts to fizzle. The real Snowflake Valley bears little resemblance to the picture postcard tourist destination she and her family loved when she was a child. Her new co-workers are uninspiring, to say the least, and the problems that people are submitting to the Gazette are much weightier than what she was expecting.

Losing faith in herself, Elinor considers cutting her losses and moving on. However, the attention of hot young reporter Nile might be enough to get her past her chilly start in Snowflake Valley, and back to seeing its charm once again.

 
The Review: It’s funny that the last line of the blurb uses the word ‘charm,’ because no word is more apt for this gorgeous little novella. From the very beginning, where we meet Elinor as she introduced to her new surroundings at the Snowflake Valley Gazette, I could tell this was going to be special. Elinor has some very romanticized visions of Snowflake Valley brought about by her childhood memories of apple picking at Harvest Fest and caroling there at Christmas time, however she soon realizes that there’s a harsh reality out there, and her job is to deal with it, by turning agony aunt and answering the problems people send into the newspaper. I loved the letters, with problems that ranged from heartbreaking to properly hilarious, with one making me say ‘yes!’ as I laughed out loud.

The characters in this book were excellent, the romance lovely, the story brilliantly spun and actually, this is one that I’ll possibly read again. An extremely satisfying read and an author I will most definitely be back to for more and more (by the way I’ve reviewed Boots On The Ground by Ms. Tierney-Bedord here  , Weekend Immune System here and there’s an author interview here).

Thanks to the author for this book in return for an honest review .

Rating: 5/5

About the author

hollytierneybedford

Website

Blog

Twitter:  ( @hollytierney)

Facebook

Holly’s Amazon Page

Upstairs, Downstairs … and the Lift in Between: A Novella (Drakenfall Book 1)

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Amazon UK

Amazon US

What they say: This is a complete stand alone 15K story with its own happy ending in the Drakenfall Series.

 Computer genius Maisy Potter crosses an ocean to take her dream holiday at the English country estate-turned-resort, Drakenfall … where the winsome Mark Prebys works below stairs. With him, Maisy discovers a carefree happiness she’s never known. But will the troubles dogging her from back home, a secret whispered behind parlour curtains, and misunderstandings to beat the band extinguish the magic they think they’ve found in each other? And if not, what happens when Maisy’s enchanting holiday ends?
The Review: I read this as part of the Love In An Elevator short story anthology (it has since been released as a standalone), and was taken straight away. It is told more in the manner of a Jane Austen classic, which to start with took me a little bit to get into, as it’s like a different language to me (to my shame I haven’t read many classics since my teenage years), then by the end of it I was taking down the book it’s preceding’s name to read. I adored the characters, smiled at the romance, and there were many hidden humor gems that made me nod along in appreciation. Even if I didn’t know of Geralyn Corcillo as one of the most inspirational, fun, supportive, hardworking people on social media, I would be all over this as it’s something that little bit different, so spellbinding and gorgeous that it’s perfect for this time of year. I would say this is one series I most definitely not be missing. Stay tuned for the review of A Drakenfall Christmas which is part 2 of this series as part of its blog tour.
Rating: 5/5

A Home in Sunset Bay by Rebecca Pugh

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Please note: The Cover Image leads to a universal Amazon Link for the book

What they say: There’s no place like home…

Enough is enough! The always perfect Laurie Chapman had jumped in her car and raced as fast as she could from London heading to Sunset Bay and (she hopes!) the open arms of her estranged sister…

Mia Chapman loves running Dolly’s Diner in the picture-perfect coastal Cornish town of Sunset Bay. Now that her and Grandma Dolly’s dream is finally a reality Mia has never been prouder! Until Laurie suddenly turns up on her doorstep… How can she forgive the sister who walked away?

Once upon a time Mia and Laurie were best friends. Back together after so long, the time has come for the sisters to figure out what went so wrong all those years ago – and whether they can ever put it right!

An uplifting romantic comedy about sisters, friendship and the love of good food.

The Review: You’ll remember last year I reviewed Return to Bluebell Hill by Rebecca Pugh. I spoke of how she was one of my favourite bloggers (see her blog here )  and someone who was amazingly helpful when I started on the books scene, both as an author and blogger. It was a relief that someone so nice could put out such beautiful, descriptive writing (horrible when you have to give a bad review to someone you think is so amazing) and I have to say firstly not much has changed, with Ms Pugh’s blog still being one of my first to go to. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, more relief came with A Home In Sunset Bay. This was a beautiful, beautiful book. The descriptions of scenery, locations and people popped, inspiring both the blogger and the writer in me:

“Mia could see a smattering of white blobs, sailboats she realised, which looked as if an artist had smudged them into the distance with her fingertip.”

And so it was back to the wonderful homeliness that Ms Pugh previously delivered in Return to Bluebell Hill with the vivid descriptions that made you feel like you were gazing at a painting instead of reading a book. We meet Mia Chapman and are introduced to Sunset Bay, a picturesque seaside town, where Mia runs Dolly’s Diner, passed down to her by her beloved Grandma Dolly. The establishment is a lively, vibrant diner that jumped out of the pages of the book and contrasted nicely with the next premises we met, the fantastic Honeysuckle cottage (I am a sucker for cottages that as gorgeous as this!). I also have to mention the snippets of Grandma Dolly’s life and love that were given to us, which were so touching.

I liked Mia straight away, paying close attention to the fact that she perhaps was not as satisfied with her life as she made out. Another person not in the ‘satisfied,’ camp, by a long shot, was Laurie, who had decided it was time to get out of London. The chain of events that lead to her escape was excellently done, and I loved her arrival at Sunset Bay, but I’m afraid I hit two glitches here. Firstly the mystery surrounding their ‘feud,’ when resolved, was disappointing, I suspect I wanted more of a bang in the reason as to why they were fighting. The other was that the ‘baddie’ of the book was overdone, and in the same way I started to find the way we were constantly told how amazing Mia was a little bit jarring. That being said I flew through the book so quickly, reading over two nights and not wanting to put it down. The romance was gorgeous, the pacing and the time span the book took place over perfect, and I really enjoyed it all, including the ending, which was a nice surprise. Told in third person, from the viewpoint of both main characters, it was an easygoing read which I really enjoyed and have to admit, I’ll be heading back to read more of Ms Pugh’s work in Down On Daffodil Lane .

Rating: 4/5