Review: How It All Blew Up

Title: How It All Blew Up
Author: Arvin Ahmadi
Publisher: Hot Key Books (22 Sept. 2020)
Pages: 288
Genre: YA Contemporary

I received an arc of this book from the publisher on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does in no way affect my thoughts on this book.

My thoughts

‘How It All Blew Up’ was a book that I was genuinely looking forward to reading. The blurb sounded promising enough and I was excited to read an own voices book with a main character who will probably end up embracing both his Muslim/Persian side and his gay identity. The good news is, he does. The bad news is, the book probably would’ve needed some great polishing and is missing significant plot.

‘Pretty soon I realized I hadn’t just ruined my future; I had ruined their American Dream.’

This book is a coming out story, with the main character, Amir, torn between being a good Persian/Muslim son and a gay teenager. A high schooler in his final year, he can’t wait to graduate high school and move far far away from his family and the life he is used to as a closeted teenager. I quickly found myself falling for this witty, sensitive and nerdy young boy with big dreams and a big heart, and there were so many passages that made me spontaneously break out into laughter, the way the author played with Persian stereotypes and high school failures and first loves.

Just like you would’ve expected though, things never quite work out in the way we wished. Before Amir even has the chance to come out on his own terms, something bad happens and he spontaneously takes a flight to Rome. And that’s when things get downhill.

As soon as Amir sets foot in Italy, the plot starts to get messy. I loved the idea of a teenager spontaneously setting off on a journey for self-discovery through art, new people and the dolce vita, and while it might’ve worked for the first 20% of his ‘new life’, I quickly found myself losing interest in the people Amir meets and becomes friends with, as well as the Italian stereotype prompts you find in so many other novels/movies. One of the biggest issues I had with this book were the irrelevant and often dispensable relationships the main character creates throughout this book. Instead of making ‘long-term’ quality relationships, we become witnesses of meaningless hook-ups and different types of (sexual/friendship) relationships. This way, I was never able to warm up to his life in Rome, and granted it was only 30 days the main character ends up spending there, it felt somewhat off. There are also several pop culture references (both classics and modern ones) which could’ve uplifted the story but were instead lovelessly woven into the story and hence fell very flat. I did enjoy the small references to the main character’s Iranian side though, and that he finds people to share his culture with.

In addition, it was very hard to see any effective character growth in Amir. Does being open to new relationships and your own sexuality make you a bigger character? Absolutely. The book did however fail to zone in on the main conflict of this book — coming clean to his parents. I wished we would’ve seen more initiatives on his behalf to reconnect with his family, but it was rather his family who had to uncover all the ‘hidden clues’. Being in his constant state of denial made it hard for me to understand his decisions that only dragged him more down.

You look at me, ma’am, like I’m not capable of loving my own son. And that hurts. Because no matter where I come from, I am a mother before I am anything else.

My favourite parts of this book were the ‘excerpts of interrogations’, the part where Amir and his family ends up being detained at the airport for ‘suspicious loud behaviour’. It gave the book a very interesting twist, highlighting two things: racial profiling and moments of family truths. It’s only then that the reader truly starts to understand the family’s struggles on a bigger scale: Failing to be accepted in a world that still has a lot of biases against Muslim people, and even after all these years, people still won’t take them as a whole. It’s especially not easy to empathise with parents that cannot reconcile with the idea that their son might be gay, but the author invested enough time in it to shine a light on their fears and hopes too.

‘Many times, in this country, however, I am made to feel uncomfortable, just like this. It is normal for me, to feel that I have walked into a party that I was not invited to. To be interrogated. To have my every value, every detail of my existence, questioned.’

I do recognise the importance of this book for teenagers (and adults alike), especially those who struggle with their own family’s conservative background. The author more than once empathises that religion really isn’t the problem of the formula; it’s the conservative and strict values that young people grow up with that makes them feel unseen and misunderstood by their family. I think that was a very important and loud message, and that is exactly why the book left at a very sweet note.

Overall I wished the author would’ve stayed in one lane instead of driving the story into a mess of confusing relationships and a journey of getting everywhere and nowhere, because this is exactly how I felt once I read the final chapter of the book. I’m hoping this book will open the door a little bit wider for many other queer books with queer representation to come!

Rating: 52%

interlude: american dirt (not only in america)

Did you hear it? Did you hear that there is an own voices YA book coming out next year featuring a Native Hawaiian character? Did you hear that there’s another book with a Native Hawaiian character coming out at the same time, only that this book isn’t written by a Kanaka Maoli?

Did you read it? Did you read it when Kirkus Reviews released their bold statement the other day, saying they will capitalize “black” in future articles, only to state they will capitalize “white” too in the same breath?

Did you see it? Did you see Good Morning America’s Bookclub discuss Kevin Kwan’s books (Crazy Rich Asians etc) with book club members on their show, only that the readers they invited were mostly white? Did you feel anything at all?

Do you feel it? Do you feel the rage, the disappointment, the sense of being hurt?

Representation matters. Saying you will listen and educate yourself and reflect isn’t enough; actions speak louder than words. For now I’m feeling hurt because society and marginalized groups deserve so much better. Asians do not only exist during May. Claiming you’re capitalizing “white” because you can’t pretend whiteness doesn’t exist tells me that you haven’t understood power imbalance at all. Picking a “minority book” written by a non-own voices person means you’re taking away an important opportunity for own voices authors. Representation matters and matters and matters and matters and matters.

On a side note: I’m not blaming the invited book club members only (don’t kill the messenger after all), but it doesn’t mean they’re guilt-free. Yes, they had to go through an application process to get on the show. But just like Angie Thomas said, what good is a voice if you don’t use it? I’m using my voice right now because it’s painful to see how Asian readers were left out in the discussion round. The women could’ve used their voices to ask why GMA has made so many promises on boosting own voices but has yet failed this community through misrepresentation again. They could’ve used their voices to simply decline the invitation.

Sorry if you came here expecting to read an opinion piece on american dirt. This book is a disgrace. It’s currently the book with the highest ratings on goodreads of this year so far. It’s insensitive, it profits from real people’s pain and it’s tone-deaf.

Spotlight: A Court of Miracles

Disclaimer: I signed up for this blog tour long before FFBC uploaded a very controversial picture regarding the Black Lives Matter movement in their Instagram story. They have since deleted the picture, however I want to clarify that this post will be my last post with the blog tour company at least for the time being because of their highly insensitive remarks. This post is purely book-related because Kester Grant is an amzing author and she deserves all the attention for her new book. Please don’t forget to sign the petitions, educate yourself on a system that actively discriminate against black people and do your part as a good citizen.

Hey guys! I’m so excited to be part of the Court of Miracles Blog Tour today!


The Court of Miracles (A Court of Miracles #1)

by Kester Grant
Publisher: Knopf Children’s
Release Date: June 2nd 2020

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Retellings, Science Fiction


Les Misérables meets Six of Crows in this page-turning adventure as a young thief finds herself going head to head with leaders of Paris’s criminal underground in the wake of the French Revolution.

In the violent urban jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, the French Revolution has failed and the city is divided between merciless royalty and nine underworld criminal guilds, known as the Court of Miracles. Eponine (Nina) Thénardier is a talented cat burglar and member of the Thieves Guild. Nina’s life is midnight robberies, avoiding her father’s fists, and watching over her naïve adopted sister, Cosette (Ettie). When Ettie attracts the eye of the Tiger–the ruthless lord of the Guild of Flesh–Nina is caught in a desperate race to keep the younger girl safe. Her vow takes her from the city’s dark underbelly to the glittering court of Louis XVII. And it also forces Nina to make a terrible choice–protect Ettie and set off a brutal war between the guilds, or forever lose her sister to the Tiger.


Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Kobo | Bookdepository | Google Book


Kester Grant is a British-Mauritian writer of color. She was born in London, grew up between the UK, Democratic Republic of Congo, and the tropical island paradise of Mauritius. As a wanton nomad she and her husband are unsure which country they currently reside in but they can generally be found surrounded by their fiendish pack of cats and dogs.


Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Pinterest

Read an excerpt here!


Don’t forget to enter this giveaway to win in a copy of THE COURT OF MIRACLES! (US Only)

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Announcing the Soshelf Distancing Club, Take 2

Time flies. I can’t believe half of the month is already over and I’m in my third or fourth week of uni already. Days seem to blur together and if you woke me in the middle of the night, I’d 1) hit you because you’re evil and 2) definitely not know what day of the week it is. There’s an exception though.

Claire @clairefy and I started off this project a little while ago because we wanted to create something inspiring during social distancing (click here if you want to find out how we found each other) and now, almost 2 months later, we have officially wrapped up our first round of our book club! (Stay tuned to read my blog post of all my impressions of this book club.)

I still can’t believe we did it. It’s honestly one of the best things that has happened to me during quarantine. We’re a jolly group of girls from all over the world that randomly met in the book bloggersphere. We love reading, talking book gossip and just sharing what‘s on our minds and it’s easily become one of my weekly highlights!

Anyways, to get to the point of this blog post, this is the official announcement that our book club is opening sign-ups again. If you feel like meeting a group of awesome girls, here’s your chance! We normally meet every weekend on Zoom for an hour and I’m not lying if I say that it’s the best way to kick off a weekend.

If you’re interested, fill in the form below and we will get back to you asap. Form closes next weekend (24 May)! For more information on our book club, read our previous announcement here and just in case, here are the key facts:

  • Who? Anyone who feels like discussing books
  • What? We came up with the idea for this book club to create a vibrant group of girls with love for books
  • When and where? At this point, we have mostly met every Saturday on Zoom to socialise during social distancing and to discuss the chapters we’ve agreed to read
  • You can participate even if you’re still in your PJs

Btw, we haven’t picked a book for our next round yet but the genre will be YA fantasy (see the options in the sign-up form). We can’t wait to hear back from you!

If you can’t view the sign-up form on my page, click here:

An Update on Coronavirus Life

Hi guys!

These past few days have been lovely! Spring has finally arrived in Germany and the weather outside is absolutely beautiful. Yesterday I saw the first bee in our garden (I have a childhood trauma from bees and wasps), and I think it’s also the season for ladybug mating because I see so many ladybugs these days!

Here is a little update on my current state. On Wednesday, I was finally tested on corona and the results came in…


Such a surprise! Before that, my brother was tested positive too, just like my mum, so it wasn’t much of a shocker at all. I finally decided it was about time to really get tested (if you didn’t read my previous post: The local health authorities didn’t want to test me and the rest of my family because we weren’t showing any symptoms on the grounds of “no medical indication”, which I highly doubt…) because uni starts in less than 2 weeks and I really had to know if I could “go back” by then (also I wanted to know if I could tell my children one day I was corona positive and that it was so bad and everything).

Anyways, the day I was tested (Tuesday), I was without symptoms, but I think I might’ve developed some? The thing is, I never know if it’s coronavirus or just my pollen allergy. Take my headache for example, which I had the day after my test results came in: I still don’t know if it was from corona/sitting outside in the sun for too long/my pollen allergy/watching too much TV. My sinuses are constantly swollen because of my pollen allergy which would explain why I got a headache in the first place because there’s such a huge pressure in my face area. It could also explain why I’m also slowly losing my senses of taste and smell because my nose is constantly stuffed-up. For example, I wasn’t able to taste/smell ginger today which my dad added into our meals. It’s so weird! Apparently, the coronavirus is able to affect the taste buds which is really fascinating. I asked my brother (who has definitely developed these symptoms) how he felt about it and he said, “I feel great about it! Now I never have to worry about opening the windows to air my room!” I love his way of thinking.

This was a super short summary of how I’ve been feeling lately. I’m currently reading War and Peace (when I picked up the book 4 weeks ago, I was joking that I only read it because I was hoping that by the time I finished it, this whole madness might be over but turns out the joke was on me) and I’m loving this book so much. It connects to my soul in a way I didn’t expect, even though I was never a big classics reader and I don’t find it necessarily easy to connect with them either. Also I started reading Serpent and Dove (so far I think this book is totally overhyped) as well as Yes No Maybe So (funny story: I totally forgot I received an arc of the book last year (I’m so sorry Balzer+Bray) and I actually had to have it resent to me from my uni flat. Yeah I suck).

I hope your week has been treating you well!

Book Talk: A Witch in Time

Title: A Witch in Time
Constance Sayers
Publisher: Redhook  (Hachette)
Publication date: February 11, 2020
Pages: 448
My rating: 88%

A young woman in Belle Epoque France is cursed to relive a doomed love affair through many lifetimes, as both troubled muse and frustrated artist.

In 1895, sixteen-year-old Juliet LaCompte has a passionate, doomed romance with the married Parisian painter Auguste Marchant. When her mother — a witch — botches a curse on Marchant, she unwittingly binds Juliet to the artist through time, damning her to re-live her affair and die tragically young lifetime after lifetime as the star-crossed lovers reincarnate through history.

Luke Varner, the worldly demon tasked with maintaining this badly crafted curse, has been helplessly in love with his charge, in all her reincarnations, since 19th century France. He’s in love with Nora, a silver screen starlet in 1930s Hollywood. He’s in love with Sandra, a struggling musician in 1970s Los Angeles. And he’s in love with Helen, a magazine exec in present-day DC who has the power to “suggest” others do her bidding.

In this life, Helen starts to recall the curse and her tragic previous lives. But this time, she might have the power to break the cycle…

A Witch in Time is perfect for fans of A Secret History of Witches, Outlander, and The Time Traveler’s Wife.

Hi guys! This is more of an informal book talk on A Witch in Time so I hope you don‘t mind my random rambling.

I randomly picked up ‘A Witch in Time’ a few weeks ago because I was intrigued by the blurb. I’m a sucker for witch stories, and the fact that this book would have three different time lines made me really excited about this book.

Quick summary

The story starts with Juliet, a sixteen-year-old girl who begins a naive love affair with a painter (who initially paid her to be his muse…guess he ltook painting her like one of his French girls a bit too seriously and put it on a whole new level) . Once her mothe finds out, she does what any other good mother would do — she drags her daughter down to the kitchen, performs some painful dark magic on her and, there you go, puts a curse on her daughter’s former lover. Too bad she accidentally curses her daughter too. This is where we get to the juicy part: How did she know this sort of magic? And how could this curse go wrong so badly? Too bad Juliet now gets reborn every time she dies and will probably never find out the reason because death has a way of finding her.

Present day Juliet, now called Helen and a recent divorcee, doesn‘t remember a single thing about her past. It‘s only until she meets Luke Varner that her memories come flooding back (the physical consequences low-key reminded me of The Butterfly Effect) and from there we are taken on a wild ride.

My thoughts

This book put me on an emotional rollercoaster. It‘s hard to put it into one box because it has a little bit of everything — fantasy, romance, historical fiction and so much more. What initially seems to be a simple curse only, quickly turns into a much darker story where the lives of Helen/Juliet versions, Luke and Auguste Marchant are unevokably connected to each other.

A Witch in Time is a fascinating read, but what makes it even more intriguing is the character growth each character experiences throughout time. With nothing but a little bit of guidance from Luke as well as her own ‘memories’, Helen is pushed through a series of unfortunate events in her past lives. While she initially wasn’t the most likable character I have ever met (she was a little bit too posh for my taste and living the bougie D.C. lifestyle), she did go through significant changes in a very short time and it surprised me how much character depth the author was able to project on her in this very short period. Even though all four ‘Juliets’ that we meet throughout history bear the same soul, all of them are their own person in their own right. As Helen slowly unveils the secrets to her pasts and the mystery surrounding her mother, she is thrown into a web of betrayal, unrequited love, cruel reality and hope. It was fascinating to follow the different leads that inevitably accumulate in tragic events that shaped the future and curse of Helen forever. It was even more interesting to see how the different side characters have evolved over time, uncovering the different layers to them which at times really surprised me.

I love how the author was able to lead the characters through different times and locations — from late 1890s Paris to 1930s Hollywood, to 1970s LA to present D.C. — the reader is instantly wrapped into the richness of history and the author’s love for details. There is so much charm in every single page and I love how each time epoch read like a single story, yet every story is also connected back with present-day Helen. It was like a quick rewind through history, and with the nostalgic and almost melancholic, at times unexpectantly hilarious writing style, I slowly grew to love the world the author has created.

I expected the story to be much more fantasy-heavy but it was the star-crossed element to the book that was the soul of the story— a bittersweet tragic love story with people that are cursed to experience losses over and over again. It’s a story about trust and friendship and what can happen if you test fate.

The ending

It would be a lie to say that I weren’t blown away by the ending. It was neither predictable nor kitschy and instead gave the reader just the right amount of hope and sweetness. I’m so glad the book had an epilogue — I don’t think I could’ve slept the next few days if we didn’t get to see the last peek at Helen’s future. One of the most unexpected reads that I’ve grown to love during social distancing!

Btw, I cried about 5 times while reading the book and that’s even a high for me as an emotional reader

5/5 stars // 88%

I Have Coronavirus (Very Possibly).

Hi lovelies,

Yes, you read it correctly. There’s no way to sweet-talk out of it — I’m a possibly corona virus-positive person. I know, we are all possibly corona positive, but I know for a fact I was very likely infected.

I’m a very hygiene-conscious person. My hands look like old parchment because the regenerating skills of my skin cells can’t keep up with the amount of soap and hand sanitizer I use all the time (I’m a medical student so there’s that). I stick with the general rules: Don’t go out, wash your hands, don’t touch your face. At the time I (possibly) contracted coronavirus, I wasn’t working and I didn’t leave the house except the garden (not even for grocery shopping).

My downfall was the weekend. You see, my mum is a nurse, and she knows how badly medical staff is needed right now (and she loves her work). She was on sick leave the weeks before (she had the flu, just like most people around that time who paid a visit to the doctor in case you’re wondering), and once she felt fit enough to work again, she immediately returned to work. Hospitals are hopelessly understaffed right now. She did all her shifts and even took up additional ones because someone has to take care of the sick.
On Wednesday morning, she received news that one of the consultants she was closely working with had contracted corona. That means she might’ve run around with coronavirus in her body for 5 days (she had returned to work on Saturday, hence 5 days already; and no, she didn’t go to other places except the hospital and our home). She wasn’t the only person from the medical staff being infected though, there were at least 2 other people in her ward that had contracted the virus too.
Us at home on the other hand, we were in constant contact with her before we even knew she had corona. We always have dinner together, we do the laundry together, yadda-yadda-yadda, and most importantly, we talk. A lot. So when her test results came in positive a day later, we knew we were probably all positive too. According to the official guidelines in Germany, people who were in physical contact with verifiably corona positive people, are required to take a corona test. I fit right into the category, right? That’s what I thought too…. until my mum called the health authorities and they told her that as long as we’re not showing any symptoms, it wouldn’t be “necessary” to take a corona test. If you ask me, this is a completely economically-based decision. Obviously I have very mixed feelings. Period.

Quarantine, but at least with a view

In a nutshell: I probably have coronavirus, but I will also probably never know for sure because health authorities/the German government/a greater power are (basically) denying average citizens like me to take a test immediately if there are “no indications”. I know it’s even worse in other countries, but it’s also frustrating if you know it could be handled better.
My whole family is now in self-quarantine at home (even my mother who showed symptoms such as coughing, fever and pain in the limbs, isn’t staying at the hospital), and as long as we’re not showing any symptoms, that’s the place we will spend the next two weeks at.
We are good. We’re okay and I would even say we’re in a pretty privileged position because we have a big garden to hang out in and good friends who show kindness in these times and do the grocery shopping for us. But it’s frustrating to see there are decisions that are taken away from us for reasons out of or control.

Stay safe, people. Normally I’d finish this off by saying “Hug your loved ones tightly” but just take care, folks.

How the Soshelf Distancing Club Came Rolling Around.

A few weeks ago, social distancing started. My introverted side couldn’t have felt more excited because not going out suddenly became legit, and I didn’t have to come up with excuses of why I preferred staying at home over going out with friends. It was so cool. I started reading again (I never stopped fyi but I didn’t feel guilty about neglecting stuff for uni anymore either.) The German government announced that the new semester would be postponed for two weeks to 20 April. Yay!!!

What I didn’t expect however was that my social side would have this sudden feelings of a person who unexpectantly wins the lottery — an overwhelming fortune that you don’t know how to deal with. I got bored. I read more books (I’m currently reading War and Peace with hopes that by the time I finish, this madness may be over (I’m currently on page 400/1500)). I signed in on twitter after a year of ignoring it. And I tweeted the following:

Please mind the fact that I’ve never been in an online book club. I only wrote it so it wouldn’t be too awkward to say ‘I WANT TO START AN ONLINE BOOK CLUB’. Basically I lied.

Can you see it? I catfished people into thinking I had some experience in doing online book clubs. I don’t. I’ve never even been part of any type of book club, except for one or two readalongs online, which I found to be super stressful to keep up with though — you usually follow a certain thread and hope that someone hasn’t written down your exact thoughts yet OR the thought of writing everything down you want to say scares you so much, you don’t bother writing anything at all. So, I only wanted people to see my tweet so they could invite me to their book clubs hehe. In-person book clubs, if possible. I basically lied to self-invite myself to book clubs. And suddenly, this happened:

Claire @clairefies replied and said she was excited about this idea too! I wasn’t sure what to do with this new piece of information. Could she possibly love the idea of doing live online book club meetings too? As in doing book discussions on Zoom? Would she be willing to team up with me to do a book club? So I nervously DM’ed her and her answer was…YES. Yes, she was feeling my vibes, my vision, my longing to get super bookish in times of corona, yes! Flash forward almost a week later and…

The Soshelf Distancing Book Club was born! And it was even more exciting to see that people around the world were keen on this project too because we had people sign up from places I have never even heard of! Also I don’t know if you noticed but we purposefully named our book club “Soshelf Distancing” because it’s a pun on “Social Distancing”….Yes?

We will have our first meeting on Zoom next Sunday. I won’t know a single person except for Claire (whom I basically only just met too, but we immediately hit it off!) but I’m so happy nonetheless. Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed will be the first pick of our book club (it was so funny when we were brainstorming on which books to put up for voting because oftentimes we only knew the cover but not the title) and I’m stoked about the idea that we might create a small vibrant community where everyone can share his bookish thoughts. It was quite the struggle to even find a right time to set up a first meeting because we all live in such different time zones! But it’s a thing and I can’t wait to see this project rolling.

Thank you so much for reading my post! Have you ever participated in some sort of book club? How did you like it?

I Have a Book Club and You Are Invited to Join!

In a nutshell: Claire @clairefies and I teamed up to found an online book club called the “Soshelf Distancing Book Club” and you are more than welcome to join!!! YES, it’s a real book club where we’ll chat about books during social distancing, and it’s possible to do it without leaving the house!

Here are the key facts:

  • Who? Anyone who feels like discussing books can participate!
  • What? We came up with the idea for this book club to create a vibrant group of readers where everyone can speak his bookish mind and get geeky
  • When and where? We will probably meet every 3 days over Zoom to discuss the chapters we’ve agreed to read
  • No worries, most of the people you’ll meet haven’t met before either
  • You can participate even if you’re still in your PJs
  • Here is the sign-up form (ETA: I’ve added the sign-up form below)

The sign-up form will be open until Saturday, March 28, and we will announce the winner title (which you’ll pick) on Twitter (@clairefies and @bookrapt) right after that. Everything you need to know will be in the sign-up form. We can’t wait to see you!

Leaving the Book Blogging World For Good?

The other day I startled awake and I realised…we’re in our second week of social distancing. I haven’t been on my blog in an entire year. I wasn’t feeling very much like book blogging after years of trying to really do it, being only ‘semi-successful’ and never really finding my own voice. I was trying to find ways to engage with fellow book bloggers and authors but it never felt complete. You get what I mean? I felt like I was posting stuff that everybody was doing anyway — reviews, small opinion pieces (basically repeating other people’s opinions etc). I imagine that for an average blog reader, visiting all the book blogs must be like going to an all-you-can-eat restaurant — the thought of it is really exciting, but after your third visit to one of those restaurants you realise that although they all have different names, most all-you-can-eat restaurant offer a very similar taste in their food.

Then, I also started thinking. How do I even define ‘success’ in the book blogging world? Is it the number of followers? Is it the number of reviews? Is it coming up with creative ideas for new posts? Is it the number of review copies you receive from the publishers? I know, this idea is super shallow. And the answer is always ‘it’s a mix of everything’. But it also hurts a little bit to think that you pour so much time into a post and it receives…exactly zero attention. Okay, that was a bad example. Maybe 3 or 4 people will care enough to read your post, but that’s it. I feel like in nowaday’s world, we want everything to be quick. Quick likes, quick shares, quick articles. If you even bothered to read that far, I thank you very much. Anyways.