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Audiobook Tour: Minstrel’s Call Fantasy Series!

(photo by me)

🎧📚 Audiobook Tour! 📚🎧

I posted about this on Instagram as well but wanted to share it here also today!

I’m SO excited to be sharing about this amazing fantasy series which I ADORE and is now available in audiobook form!

Y’all, I love this epic fantasy series by Jenelle Leanne Schmidt so much! I’ve read the Minstrel’s Song saga twice (well, three of them; need to find time for a reread of the last one!).

It has DRAGONS and other fantastical creatures, quests and amazing characters, humor and song . . . It has everything!

It also features two of my favorite characters of all time, Brant the warrior and Kiernan Kane the minstrel! They’re amazing. That is all. 😍

LINKS

If you want to read my reviews of the books, check those out by clicking the covers below!

Yoriens Hand - Cover Reveal Medium

The Series

  • King’s Warrior
  • Second Son (prequel)
  • Yorien’s Hand
  • Minstrel’s Call

(Also, for the record, I read Yorien’s Hand first. XD So, chronologically, I read them backward — Yorien’s Hand, King’s Warrior, Second Son — except for Minstrel’s Call which one should definitely read last. ;))

(photo by Jenelle Schmidt)

About the Minstrel’s Song series by Jenelle Leanne Schmidt

From time immemorial a world has endured the struggles of the mighty. Creatures of myth have been hidden away for centuries waiting to take their place. But will they be conquerors or protectors?

The Minstrel’s Song chronicles the story of heroes pitting their will and strength against the hidden, personal, and ancient foes seeking to dominate a world poised for a new era.

About Jenelle Leanne Schmidt

Jenelle first fell in love with stories through her father’s voice reading books aloud each night. A relentless opener-of-doors in hopes of someday finding a passage to Narnia, it was only natural that she soon began making up fantastical realms of her own. Jenelle currently resides in the wintry tundra of Wisconsin —which she maintains is almost as good as Narnia — with her knight-in-shining armor and their four hobbits. When she is not writing, she homeschools said hobbits and helps them along on their daily adventures… which she says makes her a wizard.

Thanks for reading! Do you like audiobooks? Let me know in a comment below!

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Blood of the Seer by C.M. Banschbach (Review)

Happy release day to Blood of the Seer, only my most anticipated release of 2021! *flailing* The first book was my favorite read of 2019, and this one is even better if you can believe it (believe it), so here’s my review! (Also known as me shrieking to the hills and flailing forever and a day, but anyhoo . . .)

Title: Blood of the Seer (The Dragon Keep Chronicles, #2)

Author: C.M. Banschbach

  • Date read: January 23, 2021
  • Rating: 5 stars (all of the stars!)
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Age: NA
  • Year pub: 2021
  • Pages: 324 (e-book)
  • Series: Book 2 in the Dragon Keep Chronicles. Book 1 is Oath of the Outcast—read my review of that one here.
  • Fave character: Rhys/the Baron, a.k.a. my smol floof of anger management issues
  • Source: The publisher
  • Notes: I received an ARC from the publisher. This review is my own independent and fair evaluation.

Links

GoodreadsAmazonBarnes & NobleAuthor’s WebsiteSwag Preorder link (through 2/16/21)Signed Paperback

The smol floof of anger management issues that is the Mountain Baron/Rhys is back in this spectacular conclusion to the duology that began with Oath of the Outcast! YOU GUYS. OH MY WORD. This book—THIS BOOK. Just—I don’t even know if I can be coherent enough to review it, especially without spoilers, but let’s give it a shot. I JUST LOVE THIS BOOK AND THIS SERIES SO MUCH.

The stakes and everything have scaled up in this one and everything climbs to another level, as if Oath of the Outcast was the amazing setup and this one drags us deep into a whole new level of epic. DID I MENTION EPIC? (*whispers softly* Epiccccc.) Again, I don’t know how much to say to not spoil things . . . But I’ll just say that you want the Baron and his Cairns on your side if there’s a war going on, or at least not NOT on your side. *grinning*

The scope is broader, we have new characters and already beloved ones, there’s kind of a war on, Rhys is trying not to deal with stuff he really needs to deal with (but being totally awesome in the meantime), and there’s more going on with the Seer/bond/vision world thing which is so fascinating and I shall not spoil. Also, lots of things that only get hinted at in book one are front and center and it’s fabulous. *cackles*

CHARACTERS! Of course, we have our Mountain Baron himself, Rhys MacDuffy (shhhh, he says that’s not his name because banishment, but pffft, details), and he’s still an absolutely growly, terrifying, amazing outlaw with a heart of gold that’s slooowly emerging more than he wants it to and is still prone to go stabby on you if you’re evil or, you know, annoy him. RHYS IS MY FAVORITE FOREVERRR. He’s just the best and following him through all he goes through is just—my feels! He’s my smol floof of anger management issues (yes, I named him that) and I love him so. He totally makes these books. 😀 His arc and story are my favorite.

Then we have Sean, the Seer of the title, and he’s such a cinnamon roll and the brother feels with him and Rhys are realll. I love seeing more of him and finding his fierce side but he’s also just such a goodhearted guy and he and Rhys will do anything to protect each other even if they’re not “supposed” to be brothers and they’re just liiiife. (Brother tropes are the best, hush.)

Alan! Alan is another great almost-bro of Rhys and the loyalty is fierce with this one. His humor and happy-go-lucky, laid-back, chill-seeming self are the perfect recipe to make us laugh (or make Rhys pretend he’s annoyed at him), but he’s also got a bloodwrath warrior side. Alan makes the bestest friend and we all need an Alan, for reals.

Also, new characters! Brother Ennis is a fantastic new addition and I love him so much (this guy! So good-natured, always ready with a soul-seeing remark or a staff to smack with), and there are more of the Cairns who we get to know better and they’re also amazing. (I mean, terrifying. But amazing.) We’ve seen the Cairns a bit in the first one (especially Bryn, Rorie, and Jes, my friendsss!), but they are SUCH an intriguing bunch, and I love how unique they are. *can count off like ten of them by name with info about them but will restrain myself* They’re terrifying outlaws but they follow their Baron anywhere, and it is just the most amazing tight-knit band of bloodthirsty outlaws Celts, essentially. I love them so.

And Ajax, the Baron’s mastiff—aaahh, this dog! He’s basically Rhys’s emotional support loyal hound and it’s great. Everyone needs an Ajax, too. Then there’s DAMON who’s another favorite (oh my word, Damon) and involved with my favorite fantasy trope. *grin, grin* They’re just all amazing! *collapses* Not to mention a certain side antagonist has a veryyyy interesting arc and it’s my favorite. Ahem. (I know I keep saying everything’s my favorite. WELL, IT IS.)

It’s just the greatest cast! AND ALL THE INTERACTIONS AND SNARK (the snark, though) ABSOLUTELY GIVE ME LIFE.

There are some powerful scenes and arcs that give me all the feels and draw me in so hard. Also, I beta-read an early version of this a few years back, and reading the final version was such a rush of coming home as I read these vivid scenes that were already coiled deep in my heart like a beloved dragon and sprang to life. (May I just draw your attention to some clifftop scenes and the castle and standing stones and some Baron-being-dramatic scenes—oh, boy, the TENT, and the forest-court bit—and Damon scenes, and the epilogue scene, and I’m gonna stop now before I list everything.) I just got SO excited to rediscover this book now that it’s published and it was EVEN BETTER and I’m blown away and already want to re-read the duology, even though I just re-read Oath before diving into Seer. (The back-to-back reading experience was amazing, binge-reading them in just over a day.) I know it’s a series I’m going to want to come back to and read again!

It was such a perfect, satisfying conclusion. I adore how it ended. Just. All of it. It. Was. Perfect. IT MAKES ME SO HAPPY. It was everything I wanted and just wrapped up SO WELL and I’m utterly pleased. 10/10 would read about Rhys and this world for a DOZEN books but at least the two we have are absolute perfection, so there’s that. 😀

This one definitely goes down as one of my favorite books and series! Brothers, outlaws, an incredible cast, the Baron (of course!), snark, soul-deep journeys, an awesome fantasy/Celtic feel, and the sheer epic of all of it combined. What is not to love? IT’S. SO. GOOD. I adore, adore, adore this book and I hope it will amaze and delight others as much as it did me. *hugs it forever*

Blood of the Seer is a magnificent conclusion to a stunning Celtic fantasy duology about redemption and brotherhood that you absolutely need in your life!


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Talk to me! Do you like Celtic Fantasy? Are you excited for this one? (Or have you not read Oath of the Outcast, in which case you muuuust!) Thanks for reading! 🙂

Sword of Soter by Ralene Burke (Review)

Back again with a review for a Christian fantasy adventure! I’ve been meaning to read this one for ages, so hurray for finally doing so!

Title: Sword of Soter

Author: Ralene Burke

  • Date read: October 26, 2020
  • Rating: 3.5, rounding up to 4
  • Genre: Fantasy / Christian Fantasy
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 2019
  • Pages: 295 (paperback)
  • Series: Sacred Armor Trilogy, #2 (Book 1 is Armor of Aletheia — read my review)
  • Fave character: Tristan
  • Source: the author
  • Notes: I received an e-ARC of this book for an honest review, and later won a paperback copy. All opinions are my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s Website

(3.5 stars, rounding up to 4)

I’ve been so curious to continue this series since reading Armor of Aletheia and I’m excited that I finally read this one. Following the continuing adventures of queen/prophetess Karina, former bounty hunter Tristan, and their companions, was another wild ride!

Tristan is my favorite—I wish he’d been in it more!—and I loved seeing more of Rashka, who is a super cool elf Guardian; she definitely has some tricks up her sleeves. 😉 We also meet new characters who keep the reader guessing. And if you want to read about a chilling villainess, this is the right book, ack! Plus, I mean, we’ve got scary wolf-like lupens, a griffin (!), and a fun talking horse, a.k.a. Dom (everyone needs a horse like Dom).

I’m afraid I . . . disliked pretty much the entire subplot involving Sam, particularly how it ended up; it just kind of stressed me out, personally. *cough* Maybe that’s just me. But the rest of the book was very interesting and an enjoyable read!

The classic fantasy quest feel, but with new things too, was neat. I loved the castles and caves and tests and escapes. (Mazes, though!) So much adventure! The world was so vivid, and the twists kept me on my toes so I was never quite sure what was going to happen next.

Since it had been quite awhile since I’d read the first book, I didn’t remember as many details about that as I should have . . . So I suspect I may have liked this one more if my memory was better or if I’d reread book one first. And like I said, I wasn’t a fan of the Sam subplot. But for the most part I enjoyed it. 🙂

I’m so excited to read the next book, especially with that unexpected ending twist that’s leaving me very curious about how things will be affected . . . Meep! I can’t wait to find out what’s in store for Karina and Tristan and friends!


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Five Thoughts on Mardan’s Anointed by Kathrese McKee (Review)

Hey, my fellow pagelings! At long last I return to this little blog to attempt to catch up on some reviews I’m wayyy behind on—so let’s dive right in with a review of a fantasy novel I really enjoyed!

Title: Mardan’s Anointed (Mardan’s Mark, #3)

Author: Kathrese McKee

  • Date read: September 25, 2020
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy / Christian Fantasy / Kingdom Adventure
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 2019
  • Pages: 287 (paperback)
  • Series: Mardan’s Mark, #3 (Read my reviews of the other books in the series here.)
  • Fave character: Aldan
  • Source: the author
  • Notes: I received a free e-ARC of this book as part of the street team, and later won a paperback copy. I was under no obligation to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s Website

 Five thoughts on Mardan’s Anointed

1. Another fabulous book in the Mardan’s Mark series! Book one (Mardan’s Mark) was an adventure quest/survival story, while book two (Mardan’s Heir) was much more of a political-intrigue-around-the-palace sort of story. Mardan’s Anointed (book three) skillfully blends the feel of both books, picking up directly where Mardan’s Heir left off and following the separate paths of Princess Srilani and Aldan. Although I missed having them together, I so enjoyed reading their alternating chapters as they both face challenges in who they’re meant to be, and I loved-loved-loved how it ended up for both of them! (The parallels near the end particularly were stunning.)

2. I’m going to try to talk about this without sharing spoilers if you haven’t read the first two. XD Aldan’s quest in the southern kingdom was epic, and there were some unexpected happenings that left me on the edge of my seat! Exciting quests (for thrones and other things), castle infiltrating, woodland ambushes . . . So much awesomeness going down in this book! Aldan is growing SO much in trying to be worthy, and he’s already awesome, so. 😀 (Also, I remember loving his speech on the beach.) Also, all his loyal guys just make my heart happy.

3. Princess Srilani is stuck kind of trying to temporarily run the northern kingdom and being met with all kinds of opposition, but I love that she keeps going despite all that. I enjoyed reading about her (figurative) journey as she navigates politics etc. And where her story goes at the end! Wow, wow! So cool, though I’m looking forward to where it goes after her, too. (Trying to talk about this without spoilers is so hard. XD) Also, I loved how there were some parallels to certain biblical stories, and that whole mountain bit at the end! Yessss. So very cool!

4. I also liked the other side characters and how their stories are developing—like Prince Jamson coming so far, Princess Maelan getting to do stuff, Aldan’s brothers being epic as per usual, etc. I also have Feelings about Judge Elison. And I kinda feel bad for Greyson so I want more of him in the next book, haha! Plus, Raymon is super awesome, and I love him and Lady Elilan together! And I’m totally still shipping Srilani and Aldan and need book four because of it. XD

5. Like I said, there were some fabulous unexpected twists that are leaving me grinning, and I can’t wait for the fourth (and I believe final) book! (Fortunately, this one didn’t cliffhanger like book two did. Still with things awaiting in the fourth book, though! Eep!) It also reminded me a little of Jill Williamson’s excellent Blood of Kings Trilogy . . . So if you enjoy those or are a fan of Christian Fantasy, you’ll enjoy these! (Essentially Kingdom Adventure since there isn’t really anything magical or fantastical aside from one or two miraculous things?) Overall, I had a marvelous time reading this and just felt happy to be back in this world in the Marst kingdoms with Aldan and Srilani and everyone! So enjoyable!


Read my reviews for the other books in the series so far . . .

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Does this series sound intriguing? And let me know what you’re reading lately in a comment. Thanks for reading! 🙂

The Story Hunter by Lindsay A. Franklin (Book Review)

(Whoops, had a glitch there when I tried to post this at first. Hopefully this works better!)

Hey! I have a review to share today! (I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to post, due to not having internet at home right now, but I’m excited to be able to get a post up for this series finale which I just finished last night!)

Title: The Story Hunter

Author: Lindsay A. Franklin

  • Date read: June 4, 2020
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Age: older YA
  • Year pub: 2020
  • Pages: 368
  • Series: The Weaver Trilogy, #3 (Book 1: The Story Peddler — my review. Book 2: The Story Raider — my review.)
  • Fave character: Kharn
  • Source: Amazon
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s Website

What a majestic conclusion to this fantasy trilogy! I’m not sure quite what I expected, but I quite enjoyed THE STORY HUNTER, for the most part!

It was somehow cozy and familiar to be back in this world for the finale of this series, even with my near-panicked uncertainty of AAHH WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN? (You know, like coming into watching Endgame for the first time. XD) I was so curious to find out what was going to happen to these characters — after waiting all this time for the last book to release — and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would!

Which . . . sounds wrong, when I put it that way. But I was bracing myself for a lot more darkness and sadness, on par with the second book, and was pleasantly surprised with how things wrapped up. Don’t get me wrong — this book is definitely somewhat dark and grim, in some ways more than book two (although book two had all the middle-book-darkness-without-any-victory-to-offset-it feel which is, I suppose, why I enjoyed this one more). The stakes also ramped up a bit for the finale, and there were one or two darker parts that weren’t my favorite. But there was also much hope and light sprinkled in, a lot of triumph and unexpected twists, and even a proper eucatastrophe moment, to use Tolkien’s word. So I guess I would say it balanced itself out.

There’s heartache and loss but also love and light, and it wrapped up everything in a mostly-satisfying way and made me pretty happy. ^_^ It did give me all the feels (laughing at banter, shedding a tear or two but in a good way at the beautiful legacies left behind) but it didn’t tear my heart out like I was afraid it would, and overall, by the end, it left me . . . uplifted. Which is something that’s good to feel at the end of a series. 🙂

I quite enjoy the unique world and it just felt cozy to be back in it, like I said. It’s colorful and unique, even shrouded in the darkness that’s fallen across it as of book two. All the caverns and strands were particularly cool! And I loved following the large cast of characters — all well juggled, although I wanted more of Kharn but I suppose under the circumstances that wouldn’t have worked out so well. XD

I’m not mentioning everyone by name because I don’t want to give anything away (awk, trying to write book three reviews without spoilers is hard!) but I will say I was glad to see how several of the characters’ arcs ended, and some of them make me smile. I also loved the beautiful tribute near the end to those lost along their journey, which made those sad parts a little more worth it, somehow.

There were one or two things and/or character actions that seemed to come totally out of the blue and left me kind of bewildered and going “wait, what?”, but I rolled with it and things turned out better than I expected in some cases, so I’m cool with it, mostly. XD (And to be fair, it could just be the fact that I read the previous book a year ago, and the first book two years ago, and I may have just missed certain connections or not remembered seeing things before — like Celyn, who I’m not complaining about AT ALL but had no memory of meeting before.) And, again, a couple of the darker parts I wasn’t fond of, but there you are.

Still, on the whole, I absolutely LOVED how it drew so many elements from the previous two books and wove them together, all the strands weaving into a beautiful, if sometimes scary, tapestry. Everything connected for the finale, in a swirling crescendo of color and characters — I absolutely loved how everything came together for the end! It made me so happy. The adventure definitely kept me on the edge of my seat, worried for everyone at every step, not able to put the book down and reading until midnight to finish.

Overall, I’m so glad I finally got to read the end of this saga, and while there were a few stumbles along the way (and I don’t really recommend the second and third books to younger or sensitive readers), it’s still been quite a journey — an often-fun one, with laughter and tears and a reminder of the good and the light in the world, even amidst the darkness.

Because the light wins and “winter will not last forever.” A magnificent, fitting end to the Weaver Trilogy. ^_^


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Stephen R. Lawhead: In the Region of the Summer Stars (Review)

I have a new favorite book and today I get to shriek about it to you guys to tide me over until I get my hands on the next book in the series! *grins*

Title: In the Region of the Summer Stars

Author: Stephen R. Lawhead

  • Series: Eirlandia, #1
  • Date read: February 29, 2020
  • Rating: 5 stars! (Summer ones. ;))
  • Genre: Celtic Fantasy
  • Age: Adult
  • Year pub: 2018
  • Pages: 333 (hardcover)
  • Fave character: Conor
  • Source: Library
  • Links: GoodreadsBarnes & NobleAmazonAuthor’s Website
  • Quotes: “I sing because I have no more tears,” the bard replied.

Another deftly woven tale by master storyteller Stephen R. Lawhead, this book is sure to enchant fans new and old alike. It certainly delighted me! It felt like coming home. A new favorite! There are usually a handful of books each year that I want to award six out of five stars, and this is one of them.

Lawhead’s Bright Empires books are some of my favorites ever, so I was extremely excited to finally dive into Eirlandia. And book one has so lived up to my hopes! I love it so much and I can’t wait to read the second one soon to prep for the final book in the trilogy, releasing this summer. (Aaahh!)

I loved disappearing between the pages in this utterly absorbing tale, full of adventure and rich detail and characters who spring to life in this green land of wonders and warriors and words. I lived and breathed it, completely captivated. I love Celtic things, and this is a splendid Celtic Fantasy. I need more books like this!

A few things I loved:

THE SETTING + FEEL

From the first page I just felt so at home reading In the Region of the Summer Stars. The feel of this book touched my Irish soul and makes me think back on memories of the tales of old Ireland that I grew up listening to and reading about. Stepping through the page into Eirlandia made me so happy to just be there.

Welcome to a skillfully woven tale of warriors and druids and faery. Travel the rolling hills and secret forests and cliffs by the sea. Join these various clans and feel the strong themes of brothers-in-arms, honor, loyalty, and fierce bravery, but with dashes of good-natured humor. I didn’t know quite what I expected, but it was everything I wanted. ^_^

The way the characters talk is also great—I love how it has an Irish lilt to it just with the way they say things. It makes me happy. (And their lighthearted Irish sense of humor which is the best.) I also loved the familiar words and names, the rich history and lore they’re drawn from, and even the sounds of them. Brehons, Tuatha de Danann, Lughnasadh, Tylwyth Teg, Tir nan Og. Oenach, Aoife, Eamon, Brigantes. Harps and pipes and bodhran drums, checked cloaks and spears and brooches and torcs. Just all of it. ^_^ The sound and feel of it makes me happy like nothing else does aside from J. R. R. Tolkien’s world of The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings. (And yes, I do have an idea of how to pronounce most of those, I promise. XD)

THE PLAYERS

Then there’s Conor. Conor mac Ardan has this marvelous way of being clever and stubborn and loyal and thick-headed and chaotically reckless all in turn. He’s my favorite! I loved following him through the book on his journey. The way he comes up with the most outlandish plans that are sheer crazy and yet somehow he charges in and pulls them off—mostly. It’s the best! And yet he’s super smart, too, sometimes, and a really skilled warrior (honestly, though. So. Epic.), and you won’t meet a more loyal or honorable friend, either. Occasionally Madoc or Donal and Fergal have to smack some sense into him, but that just makes him all the more human. 😉 Conor is the best, okay! My new favorite hero.

I love the other inhabitants of this tale as well! Conor’s brothers-in-arms Donal and Fergal are fabulous. I love their camaraderie with Conor and each other, and their loyalty and joking around! It’s like the best kind of brother/buddy tale and I love it. Madoc is a marvelous mentor-type character—I loved him and his dryness and wisdom, and how he makes Conor work at figuring things out instead of just telling him things. 😛 Rhiannon is fascinating but I won’t spoil info about her. And so many other people. They’re all so real and I just loved reading about them! Oh, and the bits between some of the chapters, from the points of view of other characters than Conor, were fabulous and enlightening. So neat.

I loved seeing some good and wise druids (yesss) and bards, and the faery were magnificent. I was quite pleased with how they were written and hope to see more of them! They felt just right. Another thing I appreciated was the horses and how central they were to the story, and how the warriors cared for them. They were like characters themselves instead of just transportation that gets forgotten about like in some fantasy books. XD The attention to details like that was delightful.

THE STORY + ENDING

While it’s not non-stop action (though there is a bunch of that!), the story definitely kept me absorbed and on the edge of my seat the entire time, full of devious plots and intrigue and mysteries, which were fascinating to follow along as Conor and company attempted to untangle the threads to see the pattern lurking behind all the guile. Threats and invaders, cunning kings and betrayal, secrets and hidden schemes . . . it was all there!

(Just a heads-up that there were one or two scenes that were a tad dark or gruesome etc., so a brief caution to younger readers or those who prefer to avoid it. Other than a couple of parts, though, I wouldn’t have minded reading it in my teen years in the not-so-distant-past.)

There were some marvelous twists at the end that had me going WHAAAAT! :O That ending, though! It was sooo good. So many things going down. O_O I stayed up late and finished around midnight and WOW. It ended on a wee bit of a cliffhanger, so it did. 😉 I need to get my hands on a copy of In the Land of the Everliving as soon as I can, or sooner!

CONCLUSION

Ancient Ireland + warrior brothers-in-arms + mystery/adventure + faery + druids + delightful characters + masterful writing = what’s not to love? IT’S JUST SO GOOD. I love it so much!

In the Region of the Summer Stars was magnificent and blew me away. I’m thrilled to have stepped into Eirlandia in this tale, and I can’t wait to go back. ❤


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Any Lawhead fans out there? Have you read this one? What do you think? Thanks for reading! 🙂