The Dispatcher by John Scalzi

Book Description:

Published: October 4, 2016

Format: Audio/Audible

One day, not long from now, it becomes almost impossible to murder anyone – 999 times out of a thousand, anyone who is intentionally killed comes back. How? We don’t know. But it changes everything: war, crime, daily life.
Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher – a licensed, bonded professional whose job is to humanely dispatch those whose circumstances put them in death’s crosshairs, so they can have a second chance to avoid the reaper. But when a fellow Dispatcher and former friend is apparently kidnapped, Tony learns that there are some things that are worse than death and that some people are ready to do almost anything to avenge a supposed wrong.
It’s a race against time for Valdez to find his friend before it’s too late…before not even a Dispatcher can save him.

Review –

Five stars!

Wow, I didn’t know what to expect of this short listen (only two hours and eighteen minutes long) but it was fantastic. I loved the premise and more so the character of Tony, the Dispatcher. I wish the author would have made a series of this book, but alas, it is not.

If you enjoy sci-fi with a mystery story line thrown in, this is the book for you.

 

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Thunderhead (Arc of the Scythe #2) by Neal Shusterman

Book Description:

Published: January 9, 2018

Format: Audio/Audible

Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.

Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?

Review –

Holy cow, what just happened and when does the next book come out?

As the second installment in Neal Shusterman’s Arc of a Scythe series, Thunderhead takes us back to the post-mortal utopia, which is watched over by the benevolent, all-knowing artificial intelligence known as the Thunderhead and where death only comes by the flawed, bloody hand of the Scythedom. But since Rowan and Citra’s last appearance at the conclave, the Scythedom’s political arena has only grown more fractured and dangerous—especially since murdered scythes have started turning up across the country.

Citra, now ordained as junior Scythe Anastasia, continues to glean with respect and compassion. Meanwhile, Rowan has donned a black robe and has given himself the name Scythe Lucifer, living as a vigilante and slaying corrupt scythes. Yet no matter the approach, each character soon learns that there are things in their world far worse than death.

As the Thunderhead watches the scythes tear themselves, each other and perhaps the rest of the planet apart with their nearly unrestricted power, all it can do is find loopholes in the laws and hint at possible solutions. And as its omniscient frustration mounts, the Thunderhead threatens to crack wide open in retaliation.

“Shusterman’s writing in Thunderhead is never predictable, and his skillful control of the narrative is as strong as it was in his Printz Honor-winning Scythe. The addition of the normally placid Thunderhead’s frustrated journal entries interspersed between these chapters is as intriguing as the stories behind the Scythedom’s bloodstains.” a book page.com

The ending was so shocking but not unexpected because even though Thunderhead knew everything that was happening (almost) he could do nothing to stop it and that’s why he melted down and cut everyone off, except for one person and I won’t say who in case you haven’t read this five star follow-up to Scythe. The next book, called The Toll, comes out late this year or early 2020. It’s just mean of Mr. Shusterman to keep us waiting so long!!!!!!

Five stars!

A Thousand Boy Kisses by Tillie Cole

Book Description:

Published: March 15, 2016

Format: Audio/Audible

One kiss lasts a moment. But a thousand kisses can last a lifetime. One boy. One girl. A bond that is forged in an instant and cherished for a decade. A bond that neither time nor distance can break. A bond that will last forever. Or so they believe.

When seventeen-year-old Rune Kristiansen returns from his native Norway to the sleepy town of Blossom Grove, Georgia, where he befriended Poppy Litchfield as a child, he has just one thing on his mind. Why did the girl who was one half of his soul, who promised to wait faithfully for his return, cut him off without a word of explanation? Rune’s heart was broken two years ago when Poppy fell silent. When he discovers the truth, he finds that the greatest heartache is yet to come.

A stand-alone young adult tear-jerker romance, recommended for ages fourteen and up.

Review –

Five FREAKING stars!!!!!

This book has just been given the honor of being on the  top of my list of books that made me cry (sob, blubber) the most.

I’ve enjoyed books, I’ve been moved by books and I’ve cried over books but never and I mean NEVER have we been left so emotionally wrought yet so completely satisfied after finishing a story. 

Poppy Litchfield and Rune Kristiansen created a bond of friendship at five years old that would blossom into a love story to rival the greats. They truly were two parts of one heart in every sense of the word. Despite their tender years, their love was extraordinary and it was epic and there is no doubt this came across in the author’s story as we lived and breathed the enormity of their feelings.

From the innocence and exuberance of childhood to the confusion and pain of youth, we lived it all. I fought their battles and lived through joy and heartbreak with them yet, haven’t even scratched the surface of their story, you couldn’t imagine for one minute how this story plays out. I know I didn’t.

I will not included spoilers because to totally FEEL this book, you must go in blind. Suffice it to say that, childhood love gives into young adult love and though apart for a while, neither, deep down in the hearts, gave up on the other and this would take them through to the bitter end.

I did have a problem with the very end, in that I thought it was too cliché, but the writer knows best and so this book is five stars or ten if that was an option!

 

 

 

Birthday Girl by Penelope Douglas

Book Description:

Published: April 17, 2019

Format: Audio/Audible

From New York Times Bestselling author Penelope Douglascomes a new forbidden love story…

JORDAN

He took me in when I had nowhere else to go.

He doesn’t use me, hurt me, or forget about me. He doesn’t treat me like I’m nothing, take me for granted, or make me feel unsafe.

He remembers me, laughs with me, and looks at me. He listens to me, protects me, and sees me. I can feel his eyes on me over the breakfast table, and my heart pumps so hard when I hear him pull in the driveway after work.

I have to stop this. It can’t happen.

My sister once told me there are no good men, and if you find one, he’s probably unavailable.

Only Pike Lawson isn’t the unavailable one.

I am.

PIKE

I took her in, because I thought I was helping.

She’d cook a few meals and clean up a little. It was an easy arrangement.

As the days go by, though, it’s becoming anything but easy. I have to stop my mind from drifting to her and stop holding my breath every time I bump into her in the house. I can’t touch her, and I shouldn’t want to.

The more I find my path crossing hers, though, the more she’s becoming a part of me.

But we’re not free to give into this. She’s nineteen, and I’m thirty-eight.

And her boyfriend’s father.

Unfortunately, they both just moved into my house.

*BIRTHDAY GIRL is a stand-alone, contemporary romance suitable for ages 18+.

Review –

I’ve been saving this book to read this month because I am a Birthday Girl too. Oh, not like Jordan, I was just lucky enough to be born on the 17th of this month.

Anyway, I LOVED this book. It is a taboo, forbidden romance with a large age gap. It involved Jordan, nineteen, her boyfriend Cole, also nineteen and his father Pike, who is thirty-eight. Because of circumstances the teens have to move into Pike’s house while they save money to get another place of their own. There is immediate sexual chemistry between Pike and Jordan and the story is told in their dual POV.

Pike fights hard against the attraction and temptation of Jordan because of what people will think but more importantly of how it would affect his son. Jordan fights too but when Cole cheats on her, she sees it as the perfect chance to see what would happen if she gave in.

Eventually they both give in and start sleeping together and Cole finds out and there is a separation. I’m not going to give away the ending but know that I cried a bucket load of tears. AND, the epilogue …!

This book is Five Stars and if you love a good forbidden romance, this one should be on the top of your TBR list.

 

A Twist of the Knife (Brigid Quinn #3) by Becky Masterman

Book Description:

Published: March 21, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Ex-FBI agent Brigid Quinn, “the most original female character to anchor a crime series in years,” (The New York Times) is back—on a case staking family, friendship, and a man on death row.

Ex-FBI agent Brigid Quinn, now happily settled in Tucson, doesn’t go back to visit her family in Florida much. But her former partner Laura Coleman, whose life she has saved and who saved her life, is living there now. When Laura calls about a case that is not going well, Brigid doesn’t hesitate to get on a plane.

On leave from the Bureau, Laura has been volunteering for a legal group that is trying to prove the innocence of a man who is on death row for killing his family. Laura is firmly convinced that he didn’t do it, while Brigid isn’t so sure—but the date for his execution is coming up so quickly that she shares Laura’s fear that any evidence absolving him from the crime may come too late.

Edgar Award and CWA Gold Dagger finalist Becky Masterman’s third Brigid Quinn novel is the masterful follow-up to Fear the Darkness and Rage Against the Dying.

Review –

“Even though her father is hovering near death, Brigid Quinn, put out to pasture in Tucson, can’t help responding to another request from her old FBI friend Laura Coleman (Rage Against the Dying, 2013) to help with a cold case that turns red-hot.

Near-bankrupt wine importer Marcus Creighton, whose only hope for repaying his debt to loan shark Manuel Gutierrez seems to have been his wife Kathleen’s insurance policy, was convicted back in 1999 of killing her. Only the missing remains of his three children prevented Florida State’s Attorney David Lancer of throwing even more charges at him. But Laura’s new boss, William Hench, an attorney specializing in appealing old convictions, is convinced that he’s innocent despite the damning testimony of Shayna Murry, the mistress who refused to give him an alibi, and his fingerprint on the plug of the hair dryer tossed into Kathleen’s bathtub to electrocute her. Though Brigid appreciates the convenience of spending time in Vero Beach as her father, stricken with pneumonia, fights for life in a nearby hospital, it’s clear that the members of Creighton’s ill-assorted defense team have their work cut out for them when a judge refuses to stay his impending execution. Some tiny cracks in the case are their only hope—the absence of any phone records that would show Creighton asking Shayna for the alibi she maintains he wanted and the hope that fingerprint expert Dr. Tracy Mack, recently indicted for the fraudulent handling of evidence, got his start much earlier—along with the superhuman determination of abused-child specialist Alison Samuels to find some trace of the Creighton children, who she’s convinced are still alive. Will that be enough to vindicate their father before his date with lethal injection?

Against all odds, the harrowing back story and repeated doses of present-tense violence make the investigation not so much shocking as deeply, heart-wrenchingly sad. It’ll be a long time before intrepid readers who enter Masterman’s latest labyrinth shake off its suffocating spell.” Kirkus Reviews

I love this series and can’t wait for the next one which comes out in June.

Five stars!!!!!!

Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter

Book Description:

Published: August 21, 2018

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Andrea Oliver’s mother, Laura, is the perfect small-town mum. Laura lives a quiet but happy life in sleepy beachside Belle Isle. She’s a pillar of the community: a speech therapist, business owner and everybody’s friend. And she’s never kept a secret from anyone. Or so Andrea thinks.

When Andrea is caught in a random violent attack at a shopping mall, Laura intervenes and acts in a way that is unrecognisable to her daughter. It’s like Laura is a completely different person – and that’s because she was. Thirty years ago. Before Andrea. Before Belle Isle.

Laura is hailed as a hero for her actions at the mall but 24 hours later she is in hospital, shot by an intruder, who’s spent decades trying to track her down.

What is Andrea’s mother trying to hide? As elements of the past return and put them both in danger, Andrea is left to piece together Laura’s former identity and discover the truth – for better or worse – about her mother. Is the gentle, loving woman who raised her also a violent killer?

Review –

“Reading anything by Karin Slaughter is like riding a particularly scary amusement park ride. Reading this one is like booking a season ticket on a ride that never lets you off.” Kirkus Review

I couldn’t have said it better. I am a HUGE fan of Karin Slaughter and have read all of her books and I rate this one FIVE STARS!

Andrea Oliver’s always felt inferior to her parents. Her father, Gordon Oliver, is a trusts and estates attorney; her mother, Dr. Laura Oliver, is a speech therapist. Andy herself has never aspired to any career goal higher than serving as an assistant to someone important. Even when she left Belle Isle, Georgia, for the Big Apple, she got nowhere, and she was only too eager to return home when her mother announced three years ago that she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer.

As the two women mark Andy’s thirty first birthday by sharing lunch in a mall cafe, a crazed shooter opens fire on a mother-and-daughter pair who’ve stopped to greet Laura, and Andy’s life changes in an instant. Or rather two instants, the first when the shots ring out and the second when Laura, after inviting the killer to shoot her next, coolly and dispassionately kills him. It takes the dazed Andy hours to realize that her mother’s not at all who she seems to be, and by the time she’s ready to accept the fact that Laura Oliver is a woman with a past, that past is already racing to catch up with both mother and daughter. Cutting back and forth between Andy’s harrowing flight to nowhere after Laura pushes her out of her home and a back story thirty  years earlier involving the Army of the Changing World, a cell of amateur terrorists determined to strike a mortal blow against greedy capitalists and, it eventually turns out, each other as well, the author never abates her trademark intensity, and fans will feel that the story is pumping adrenalin directly into their bloodstreams. Long before the end, though, the impostures, secret identities, hidden motives, and double-crosses will have piled up past the point of no return, leaving the tale to run on adrenalin alone.

The plot was unlike anything I had read before but the chapters set in the present were more engaging than those set in the past and I found myself speed reading through the backstop just to get back to the present.

Loved it and can’t wait for her new book, The Last Widow, that comes out later this year.

Fear the Darkness (Brigid Quinn #2) by Becky Masterman

Book Description:

Published: January 20, 2015

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Ex-FBI Agent Brigid Quinn thinks she has a second chance at life. After too many years spent in the company of evil, she’s quit the Feds and is working out what normal is meant to feel like. She’s swapped serial killers, stakeouts and interrogation for a husband, friends and free time. But when you’ve walked in darkness for so long, can you stand the light? When a local teenager dies in a tragic drowning accident, the community thinks Brigid might be able to help comfort the family. But when she does so, something doesn’t add up. And it’s no easier at home: after a bereavement in the family, Brigid has reluctantly taken in her niece to give her a break before she starts college. Brigid’s ever-patient husband Carlo tells her they must go easy on Gemma-Kate, the grieving youngster. Which is fine, until she starts taking an unhealthy interest in dissecting the local wildlife. For Brigid, death still seems to be wherever she turns. But as she herself starts to feel unwell, it’s her own mortality that is the most troubling. And as she tries to get to the bottom of a series of allegedly accidental deaths and increasingly gruesome occurrences at home, she slowly realises that maybe this time, she’s let the darkness inside the only place she ever felt safe. Sometimes, death is closer than you think.

Review –

This was another five star, page turner, edge of your seat listen by author, Becky Masterman (IMO).

As a former FBI agent who’s lived a very private and secretive life in many different identities, Quinn is slowly adjusting to being a new wife and to making real friends for the first time. She’s shopping, gossiping, enjoying a glass of wine with new friend Mallory, hiking and attending church socials and local events.

But there are threats in the most unexpected places and hiding just below the surface in the most unlikely people. After her sister-in-law dies following a long illness, Quinn fulfills a promise by taking in her seventeen year-old niece, Gemma-Kate. The girl seems oddly unemotional and occasionally disconnected, causing Quinn to wonder whether Gemma-Kate is involved in the odd occurrences that begin to crop up.

The book’s multilayered characters continue to offer surprises, including Mallory’s (Brigid’s first real friend-ever) bedridden husband, Owen, paralyzed in an accident and unable to speak; and Owen’s doctor, Tim Neilsen, and his wan, lost-looking wife, Jacquie. There’s an added sense of menace when she agrees to look into the strange death of the Neilsens’ son, after she picks up a piece of paper on which Jacquie has secretly scribbled “Help me”.

As Brigid’s unease mounts, she begins to wonder whom she can trust. This story thrives on the unexpected and unforeseen, and as tension builds, readers can expect a plot that morphs into something bigger than a curious death or two. There’s something to boggle the mind on nearly every page and a death-defying scene near the finale that’ll curl your hair. The monsters in the shadows—the ones we thought were completely exaggerated—are only too real.

Rage Against the Dying (Brigid Quinn #1) by Becky Masterman

Book Description:

Published: March 2013

Format: Audio/OverDrive

In her hey-day, ex FBI agent Brigid Quinn not only worked serial killer cases but became their prize. Small and blond, from a distance she looked vulnerable and slight. . . the perfect bait to catch a killer. But as Quinn got older, she realised she needed to find a protegé, a younger field agent to take her place. So Quinn trains a twenty-two year old and lets her loose in the field. The plan works. Until the Route 66 killer not only takes the bait, but kills the bait too.

Years on, Quinn is trying to move past the fact that she has a young woman’s death on her conscience. She’s now the perfect Stepford Wife – until she gets a knock on her door. The girl’s body has finally been discovered. Quinn is pulled back into the case and the more she learns about the killer the more she comes to believe, despite the overwhelming forensic evidence to hand, that they have the wrong man.

Review –

This is my first reading/listen from this author and at first I was conflicted. The character of Brigid Quinn didn’t grab me but the more the story line evolved the more complex she became.  What you see is sometimes NOT what you get!

The authors debut sets a retired FBI agent who thinks she’s seen it all against a serial killer who provides new horrors she’s never seen.

Before shooting an unarmed suspect back in Georgia sent her into early retirement in Tucson, Brigid Quinn had earned a reputation as a brave sex-crimes undercover agent and a skilled investigator. Now that she’s living the good life with her husband, Carlos DiForenza, a priest turned professor, she thinks that’s all behind her, from the adrenaline rushes to the scandal. But she couldn’t be more wrong.

When long-haul trucker Floyd Lynch confesses to being the Route 66 killer who killed eight women over a dozen years—the eighth of them being Jessica Robertson, who’d been working as bait under Brigid’s supervision—Laura Coleman, a Tucson FBI agent who’s always admired Brigid, shares her suspicion that Lynch’s confession is bogus and asks Brigid to work the case with her.

There are only three complications: Brigid isn’t entitled to work any cases anymore; Coleman disappears shortly after getting eased off the case herself; and Brigid shortly has her hands full covering up her own killing of murderous rapist Gerald Peasil.

Readers who can accept the coincidence of two sex killers sharing the same zip code and Brigid’s unconvincing explanation of why she doesn’t just report Peasil’s death, which would manifestly be covered by a self-defense plea, are in for a ride as thrilling as they can find outside the pages of Jeffery Deaver (who’s regularly invoked here), in the company of a heroine whose clear-eyed disillusionment gives each wisecrack a trembling sense of mortality.

I could not believe all the “trouble” Brigid found herself in, most of which she caused herself, but it kept me on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would go wrong next. 

This book in the first in the Brigid Quinn series and I’m looking forward to reading the others very soon.

Five stars !!!!!

The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian

Book Description:

Published: January 5, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

 When Richard Chapman offers to host his younger brother’s bachelor party, he expects a certain amount of debauchery. He sends his wife, Kristin, and young daughter off to his mother-in-law’s for the weekend, and he opens his Westchester home to his brother’s friends and their hired entertainment. What he does not expect is this: bacchanalian drunkenness, a dangerously intimate moment in his guest bedroom, and two naked women stabbing and killing their Russian bodyguards before driving off into the night. In the aftermath, Richard’s life rapidly spirals into a nightmare. The police throw him out of his home, now a crime scene; his investment banking firm puts him on indefinite leave; and his wife finds herself unable to forgive him for the moment he shared with a dark-haired girl in the guest room. But the dark-haired girl, Alexandra, faces a much graver danger. In one breathless, violent night, she is free, running to escape the police who will arrest her and the gangsters who will kill her in a heartbeat. A captivating, chilling story about shame and scandal, The Guest Room is a riveting novel from one of our greatest storytellers.

Review –

Another FIVE STAR read by an author I’m coming to love!

The book starts with a bachelor party that goes horribly wrong. Not only do most of the guests have sex with the two girls who were the “entertainment”, but then two men end up dead and girls are nowhere to be found. Because, see, these strippers aren’t strippers at all, but Armenian sex slaves—and the cue-ball-headed, no-neck bodyguards are their Russian overseers.

Earlier, one of them, a beautiful Armenian girl named Alexandra, almost managed to seduce Richard before he changes his mind. In the aftermath of the murders, Richard is turned out of his house, which has become a crime scene with reporters camped outside, and forced to hire a lawyer. As the consequences of the night pile up, Richard becomes estranged from his wife, is banned from his office, and finds himself the target of a blackmailer from the party who has an incriminating cell phone video of him and Alexandra. And then there is Alexandra herself, who returns to the scene of the crime, tailed by her seriously scary Russian bosses. 

The point of view alternates, with Richard; his wife, Kristin; their daughter, Melissa; and an enslaved girl dubbed Alexandra by her captors, all get a chance to tell the story. Richard has no idea what to do with himself. Kristin is freaked out—not so much because people were slaughtered in her house, but because her husband almost had sex with a girl half their age. Melissa is frightened and bewildered, which is perfectly OK because she’s nine. This, the book says, is how people who thought they had it made come unmade.

The author makes Alexandra the conscience in this conscienceless world, a girl who manages to hold on to her innocence and compassion despite the horror of her life. Her voice, with its sometimes uncertain, quirky English, is rendered with such perfection that it’s easy to forget that the author is male. 

I gave the book five stars but I was disappointed that the author gives the reader/listener a forewarning of the ending and it took away, at least for me, the utter shock of the conclusion.

 

 

 

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

Book Description:

Published: March 20, 2018

Format: Audio/Audible

Vermont, 1950. There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants–the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it’s located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming–until one of them mysteriously disappears. . . .

Vermont, 2014. As much as she’s tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister’s death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can’t shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past–and a voice that won’t be silenced. . . .

Review –

OMG!    Five Stars!

This is the best “edge of your seat” book that I have read or listened to in ages.  I highly recommend this book to anyone that loves a great murder mystery that involves the past colliding with the present.

In The Broken Girls, Simone St. James delivers two gothic mysteries for the price of one. The narrative bobs and weaves through time with two sets of characters.

In the contemporary mystery, Fiona searches for definitive proof that Deb’s murderer is in prison. The deeper she digs, the more she realizes everything has not been tied up into a pretty bow. Plenty of dangerous darkness lingers in the present.

Back in 1950, we meet four vastly different girls—haunted Sonia, abandoned CeCe, athletic Roberta, and beautiful Katie—who become closer than sisters through their experiences at Idlewild and their shared brokenness. Mary Hand is a real presence in their lives, but not nearly as terrifying as the traumas they’ve already overcome.

They love one another fiercely. But one of them won’t leave Idlewild Hall alive.

With this dual narrative, the author produces an excellent  mirage, interweaving historical fiction, thriller, gothic horror, and mystery into an incredibly satisfying and cohesive whole. Every character springs vividly from the page. In a predominantly female cast, St. James shuns stereotypes and creates complicated, flawed women who support one another at any cost.

The societal commentary is frequent and biting: how some lives are prioritized over others; corruption in police forces; psychological trauma going untreated, seen more as a weakness and failing than a genuine problem to be fixed; how society has constantly devalued and oppressed women.

Sisterhood is the beating, undying heart of The Broken Girls; without it, crimes go unpunished and the victims remain nameless.

And, of course, we can not leave out the ghost. Mary Hand takes a backseat to the primary plots—she’s more of a signal post, a ghostly emblem of Idlewild and the horrors the girls have already experienced. Yet her moments are perfectly eerie and unsettling, adding a supernatural, psychological flavor to the already bloody tragedies.

By the last page, St. James has gathered up every thread into a solid knot. The Broken Girls is an intense, emotional lament on loss and pain. 

This is my first read by this author, but it will not be my last !!!!!