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Sons of Blackbird Mountain

Sons of Blackbird Mountain

By Joanne Bischof

The Story

A Tale of Family, Brotherhood, and the Healing Power of Love

After the tragic death of her husband, Aven Norgaard is beckoned to give up her life in Norway to become a housekeeper in the rugged hills of nineteenth-century Appalachia. Upon arrival, she finds herself in the home of her late husband’s cousins—three brothers who make a living by brewing hard cider on their three-hundred-acre farm. Yet even as a stranger in a foreign land, Aven has hope to build a new life in this tight-knit family.

But her unassuming beauty disrupts the bond between the brothers. The youngest two both desire her hand, and Aven is caught in the middle, unsure where—and whether—to offer her affection. While Haakon is bold and passionate, it is Thor who casts the greatest spell upon her. Though Deaf, mute, and dependent on hard drink to cope with his silent pain, Thor possesses a sobering strength.

As autumn ushers in the apple harvest, the rift between Thor and Haakon deepens and Aven faces a choice that risks hearts. Will two brothers’ longing for her quiet spirit tear apart a family? Can she find a tender belonging in this remote, rugged, and unfamiliar world?

A haunting tale of struggle and redemption, Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a portrait of grace in a world where the broken may find new life through the healing mercy of love.

(Back cover summary from Thomas Nelson)

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I had the pleasure of reading an early copy of Sons of Blackbird Mountain, and absolutely fell in love with this book. At the time of writing this review, I have already read it a second time, this time, taking the time to savor the story.

Sons of Blackbird Mountain first appealed to me because of the brothers’ Norwegian heritage. One of my great-great-greats…came over on the boat from Norway, so I’ve always been fascinated with that culture. Then the fact that Thor is deaf was ultra-intriguing. I’ve taken some sign language classes, so I was curious as to how Joanne would portray this character.

This story is as sweet and tangy by turns as the cider that Thor makes, and I think the effort put into this book was just as painstaking and loving. Sons of Blackbird Mountain really took my breath away. The description of the Appalachian mountain area (where I currently live) caught the beauty of this place. The romance made my heart sing, and I didn’t want to put this book down. Ever. It’s a cruel thing for an author to make a reader want to read as fast as possible, and yet savor for as long as she can. I wondered how Joanne would portray a hearing woman and a deaf man falling in love. I didn’t need to wonder, because I feel as if I’ve fallen for Thor just as hard. 😉 His struggle with his addiction felt real, and I felt the pain along with him.

This book is at the top of my best of 2018 reads. It’s real and raw in a way that I long for in the fiction I read. I am so ecstatic that there will be a second book following this one! I don’t think my heart could take it, leaving it as it is.

About the Author

Joanne Bischof is an ACFW Carol Award and ECPA Christy Award-winning author. She writes deeply layered fiction that tugs at the heartstrings. She was honored to receive the San Diego Christian Writers Guild Novel of the Year Award in 2014 and in 2015 was named Author of the Year by the Mount Hermon conference. Joanne’s 2016 novel, The Lady and the Lionheart, received an extraordinary 5 Star TOP PICK! from RT Book Reviews, among other critical acclaim. She lives in the mountains of Southern California with her three children. Visit her online at JoanneBischof.com; Facebook: Author, JoanneBischof; Instagram: @JoanneBischof.

(Biography from Thomas Nelson)

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone.

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You’re the One That I Want

51h96g4pw9L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Book Review: You’re the One That I Want

Author: Susan May Warren

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Taken from Tyndale’s website description of You’re the One That I Want:

Owen Christiansen has been in a downward spiral since an injury ended his NHL career. But a job on an Alaskan crabbing boat offers a fresh start . . . maybe even a shot at romance with Elise “Scotty” McFlynn, the captain’s daughter.

Used to being one of the guys, to never relying on anyone, Scotty doesn’t believe in happily ever after—especially with someone like Owen. Her instinct is confirmed when Casper Christiansen arrives to drag his prodigal brother home, bringing with him a truckload of family drama—and even worse, the news that Casper is wanted for questioning in connection to a crime back in Minnesota.

But Owen is more than the sum of his mistakes, a truth both he and Scotty discover when she escorts both brothers to Deep Haven as part of her new job on the Anchorage police force. Thrust into an unfamiliar world of family, faith, and fresh starts, Scotty begins to see potential for a happy ending . . . if she’s brave enough to embrace it.

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            Yes, I have reached that point…the Christiansen Family Series has come to an end. However, Susie knows how to close out a series, packed with all the action, drama, and poignancy of the previous books.

I admit, I was nervous to read this last book, since it focuses on bad-boy Owen, and so far in the series, I wasn’t really a fan. However, that’s what made You’re the One That I Want such a compelling read. I could hardly put it down. Right from the start we take off running with a dark feeling of foreboding hanging over the fishing vessel we find Owen on. Per usual, the book has multiple points of view, with Casper and the questions about his involvement with the odious Monte keeping me guessing as to how it would end. Owen and Scotty are both so broken and flawed, so real, that it hurt to read about them. I saw parts of them in me, and in people I’ve known, so I couldn’t help but cheer for them to succeed and for God’s love to break through their resistance and touch their hearts (yeah, yeah, I know, they’re not actually real). Faith is tested, family is brought back together, and Susie spins a tale that puts the spotlight on God’s grace.

Because this is a story about grace, God’s grace mainly, and then the grace we show to others. Which is what makes it such a thing of beauty and impact. We all need grace, none of us deserve it, yet God offers it to all who will trust in His Son.

Here are 2 quotes from the book that I absolutely loved:

“Some of God’s best players were His imperfect, broken prodigals. In fact, iffy players are God’s best picks. He specializes in short-tempered, reckless, flawed people to accomplish His plans…God is constantly using broken, messy people to restore the world and bring glory to Himself.”

“…to do something daring and wild and reach out for grace, even though it doesn’t make sense. But I warn you, once you embrace Christ, you too become a rule breaker. Because a life committed to God requires us to live uncomfortable. Inconveniently. Accountably. Bravely. Transparently. Vulnerably. It requires us to love without rules. Welcome to grace.”

Susie hit it out of the park with this last installment in the series, and while I’m sad to see it end, I can’t help but be thankful for these books. Because Susie has discovered how to combine romance, adventure, drama, and faith in an authentic way that makes me think, and teaches me along the way. I would highly recommend any of Susie’s books, but especially this series.

About the Author

Biography from Tyndale House Publishers’ website: Susan May Warren is the bestselling, Christy and RITA Award–winning author of more than forty novels whose compelling plots and unforgettable characters have won acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. She served with her husband and four children as a missionary in Russia for eight years before she and her family returned home to the States. She now writes full-time as her husband runs a lodge on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota, where many of her books are set. She and her family enjoy hiking, canoeing, and being involved in their local church.

Susan holds a BA in mass communications from the University of Minnesota. Several of her critically acclaimed novels have been ECPA and CBA bestsellers, were chosen as Top Picks by Romantic Times, and have won the RWA’s Inspirational Reader’s Choice contest and the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year award. Five of her books have been Christy Award finalists. In addition to her writing, Susan loves to teach and speak at women’s events about God’s amazing grace in our lives.~ To learn more about Susan and her other books, visit her web page: http://www.susanmaywarren.com/

I was given a review copy of You’re the One That I Want from the author in exchange for an honest review. I received no monetary compensation for my review. The opinions expressed are my own.

The Golden Braid

_225_350_Book.1770.coverBook Review: The Golden Braid

Author: Melanie Dickerson

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Taken from Book Look Bloggers’ website description of The Golden Braid:

The one who needs rescuing isn’t always the one in the tower.

Rapunzel can throw a knife better than any man around. And her skills as an artist rival those of any artist she’s met. But for a woman in medieval times, the one skill she most desires is the hardest one to obtain: the ability to read.

After yet another young man asks for Rapunzel’s hand in marriage, Mother decides they need to move once again, but this time to a larger city. Rapunzel’s heart soars—surely there she can fulfill her dream. But Mother won’t let her close to a man. She claims that no man can be trusted.

After being rescued by a knight on the road to the city, and in turn rescuing him farther down the road, Rapunzel’s opportunity arrives at last. This knight, Sir Gerek, agrees to educate Rapunzel in order to pay back his debt. She just has to put up with his arrogant nature and single-minded focus on riches and prestige.

But this Rapunzel story is unlike any other and the mystery that she uncovers will change everything—except her happily ever after.

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I have been a huge fan of Melanie Dickerson and her books since I first read The Healer’s Apprentice when I was a teenager. I have always loved fairytales, and Melanie has a way of taking well-known stories and twisting them into a new, beautiful tale.

The Golden Braid was so much fun to read, from the somewhat arrogant Sir Gerek, to the overbearing and slightly insane Mother Gothel, to Rapunzel herself, in all her misconceptions and quiet strength. The characters in this book were just as interesting and infuriating as in Melanie’s other books. And, as always, the setting is crafted in such a way that it shines through as almost a character unto itself. I enjoyed how the plot touched on those from previous books, allowing us to see beloved characters from another angle.

As usual, I loved Melanie’s latest book, and I eagerly anticipate her next release. She has one more book in the same medieval fairytale vein as The Golden Braid, but she has a new book releasing in February that is a Regency novel, which I am beyond excited to read! What I love about Melanie’s books, is that they are perfect for a teen reader, but they are also well-suited and interesting for an older reader as well. If you’ve never read anything by Melanie, but enjoy books that retell old stories, with romance, adventure, and mystery, then you have got to pick up one of her books!

About the Author

Biography from Book Look Bloggers’ website: Melanie Dickerson is the author of The Healer’s Apprentice, a Christy Award finalist and winner of the National Reader’s Choice Award for Best First Book. Melanie earned a bachelor’s degree in special education from the University of Alabama and has been a teacher and a missionary. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Huntsville, Alabama. Visit her on line at melaniedickerson.com, Facebook: MelanieDickersonBooks, and Twitter @melanieauthor.

I was given a review copy of The Golden Braid from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I received no monetary compensation for my review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Catch of a Lifetime

51fc60cwOSL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_Book Review: Catch of a Lifetime

Author: Candee Fick

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Taken from Amazon’s website description of Catch of a Lifetime:

He breathes football. She shudders at the very mention of the sport. After a tragedy involving a football player destroyed her family, athletic trainer and graduate student, Cassie moves across the country looking for a fresh start, but a change in financial aid lands her in the middle of her worst nightmare. Meanwhile, rookie coach Reed worries his dream career will slip away as injuries plague his players and his star receiver teeters on the brink of ineligibility. As the two work together to salvage the season, sparks fly, and Reed must eventually choose between the game and the woman he loves.

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I had the privilege of meeting Candee at the 2014 American Christian Fiction Writers Conference and we’ve kept in touch since then. Now her book, Catch of a Lifetime, has just released, which is so awesome and I’m honored to tell you about this book.

I liked the peek into college football that I got throughout this book. I know very little about football aside from what happens on the field during playing time, so it was fun to see some of the triumphs and struggles off-field. I liked how Reed was a coach who was a believer and how he struggled to maintain his integrity. It wasn’t easy for him, which I appreciated, because that’s real life right there. Cassie is a sweet heroine who I felt for as she had to work a job she’d never wanted, one she dreaded at first, actually. It was cool seeing how she started to heal from her past and learned how to forgive again. The way Cassie and Reed had to go about their relationship also was fun, yet also edge-of-your-seat. Candee wraps up the story well, I especially liked how she handled Reed’s family expectations. She threw in a twist at the end that had me hurting for Cassie, yet also showed the integrity of the people around her and their love for her, which was so sweet.

In all, I loved this book. I could hardly put it down, and I’m so excited for Candee and what she’ll be putting out next. Excellent fiction debut!

About the Author

Biography from Amazon’s website: Candee Fick is the wife of a high school football coach and the mother of three children, including a daughter with a rare genetic syndrome. When not busy with her day job or writing, she can be found cheering on the home team at football, basketball, baseball, and Special Olympics games. In what little free time remains, she enjoys exploring the great Colorado outdoors, indulging in dark chocolate, and savoring happily-ever-after endings through a good book.
In addition to her inspirational non-fiction titles, Candee has published a dozen articles in publications including In Touch, The War Cry, Exceptional Parent, and Special Education Today. As a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), she was a Double Finalist and WINNER in the 2014 ACFW Genesis contest short novel category, 2011 Semi-finalist in contemporary fiction, and 2009 Runner-Up in women’s fiction. .~ To learn more about Candee and her other books, visit her web page: http://candeefick.com/

I was given a review copy of Catch of a Lifetime from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I received no monetary compensation for my review. The opinions expressed are my own.

The Lost Heiress

22383696Book Review: The Lost Heiress

Author: Roseanna M. White

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Taken from Bethany House’s website description of The Lost Heiress:

Brook Eden has never known where she truly belongs. When her friend Justin uncovers the fact that she is possibly a missing heiress from Yorkshire, Brook leaves the sun of the Mediterranean to travel to the moors of the North Sea and the estate of her supposed family.

The mystery of her mother’s death haunts her, and though her father is quick to accept her, the rest of the family and the servants of Whitby Park are not. Only when Brook’s life is threatened do they draw close–but will their loyalty come too late to save Brook from the same threat that led to tragedy for her mother?

As heir to a dukedom, Justin is no stranger to balancing responsibilities. When the matters of his estate force him far from Brook, the distance between them reveals that their friendship has grown into something much more. But how can their very different loyalties and responsibilities ever come together?

And then for a second time, the heiress of Whitby Park is stolen away because of the very rare treasure in her possession–and those who can save her still aren’t sure whom to trust.

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Bethany House has been doing a superb job the last few months of producing high-quality, Great Britain-based, historical romances. I’ve read some of Roseanna White’s other books, but this one…this one exceeded expectations.

I loved the unique spin Roseanna put on the novel. After all, how many rags-to-riches/finding your way home stories can one read before they get to all be the same? The Lost Heiress starts in Monaco, which is pretty awesome, since I know next to nothing about that place or the Grimaldis. Then the transition is made to England, but we see it through the heroine’s eyes, which sustains the flavor of the exotic.

The mystery in this book was really well-done. I had to keep reading to figure out whodunit, and whydunit. 🙂 I knew for much of the time who the villain was, but how all the different threads tied together and what the villain’s motivation could be wasn’t easily seen until the very end.

Brook is a really fun, spunky, unconventional heiress, which made her oh-so-fun to read about. I loved how she didn’t fit into any mold, instead blazing her own path. She was also flawed in big ways that Roseanna didn’t try to downplay, which made the heroine seem less heroine-esque and more like me. Justin, of course, is a sigh-worthy hero. He’s extremely frustrating at times, but oh, how I hurt for him when family secrets of his own haunted him. I liked how Roseanna brought in Deidre’s story. And the villain…oooh, how I despised him.

To sum up, I loved The Lost Heiress. It’s a bit longer than some novels, but every word, every scene, was totally worth the time invested. The spiritual message in the book was subtle, but thought-provoking. If you enjoy the setting and feel of Downton Abbey, you’ll want to get a copy of this novel. Packed with mystery, romance, faith, and a setting that sweeps you off your feet, The Lost Heiress is not a book to be missed.

About the Author

Biography from Bethany House: Roseanna M. White pens her novels beneath her Betsy Ross flag, with her Jane Austen action figure watching over her. When not writing fiction, she’s homeschooling her two children, editing and designing, and pretending her house will clean itself. Roseanna is the author of nine novels, ranging from biblical fiction to American-set romances to her new British series. Roseanna lives with her family in West Virginia. Learn more at http://www.RoseannaMWhite.com.

I was given a review copy of The Lost Heiress from the author in exchange for an honest review. I received no monetary compensation for my review. The opinions expressed are my own.

A Noble Masquerade

51nPbaqFk8L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Book Review: A Noble Masquerade

Author: Kristi Ann Hunter

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Taken from Bethany House’s website description of A Noble Masquerade:

Lady Miranda Hawthorne acts every inch the lady, but inside she longs to be bold and carefree. Approaching spinsterhood in the eyes of society, she pours her innermost feelings out not in a diary but in letters to her brother’s old school friend, the Duke of Marshington. Since she’s never actually met the man she has no intention of ever sending the letters and is mortified when her brother’s mysterious new valet, Marlow, mistakenly mails one of the letters to the unsuspecting duke.

Shockingly, this breach of etiquette results in a reply from the duke that soon leads to a lively correspondence. Insecurity about her previous lack of suitors soon becomes confusion as Miranda finds herself equally intrigued by Marlow, a man she has come to depend upon but whose behavior grows more suspicious by the day. As the secret goings-on at her family’s estate come to light, one thing is certain: Miranda’s heart is far from all that’s at risk for the Hawthornes and those they love.

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When I first heard about A Noble Masquerade, I thought the story had a lot of promise. Oh my, did Kristi meet my expectations and more! A Noble Masquerade has secrets similar to that of Not By Sight, yet contains the humor and quirky heroines reminiscent of Jen Turano’s novels. Which means I absolutely adored this book.

I loved Miranda. She stood out to me as a character since she is so different from a lot of ladies written about during the Regency period. She’s quirky, clumsy, insecure, and completely endearing. The hero (what do I even call him?!) was also wonderful. I loved getting into his head. He was confident, and sometimes a little arrogant, but I loved him. And I felt for him, the poor man, what with everything in his past. The secondary characters were so well done, with each as unique and intriguing as the main characters. Oh, and Miranda’s sister Georgina, argh, she made me so frustrated sometimes!

The plot kept the story moving forward at a fast pace, so much so that I could hardly wait to get back into the story and continue reading. I also appreciated reading about Miranda’s struggle to trust God with her future and His plans for it, since that is something very relatable in all of life.

A Noble Masquerade was so much fun to read, and I loved every moment of the story. You should definitely try it out too. If you enjoy the humor of Jen Turano’s books, yet also like that mystery element of Not By Sight, you do NOT want to pass up A Noble Masquerade.

About the Author

Biography from Bethany House: Kristi Ann Hunter graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in Computer Science but always knew she wanted to write. Kristi is an RWA Golden Heart contest winner, an ACFW Genesis contest winner, and a Georgia Romance Writers Maggie Award for Excellence winner. She is a founding member and the coordinator of the Regency Reflections blog and lives with her husband and three children in Georgia. Find her online at http://www.kristiannhunter.com.

I was given a review copy of A Noble Masquerade from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I received no monetary compensation for my review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Five Enchanted Roses

FiveEnchantedRosesFinalCoverBook Review: Five Enchanted Roses

Authors: Kaycee Browning, Savannah Jezowski, Jenelle Schmidt, Dorian Tsukioka, and Hayden Wand

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Taken from Amazon’s website description of Five Enchanted Roses:

Rediscover the Enchantment!

A ship bearing the souls of sinful sailors drifts upon a ghostly sea. An abbey looms as the final defense between mortals and ghouls of the underworld. In the stillness of a throne room, statues stand forever frozen in a moment of terror. Monsters and men stalk their prey deep in the jungle’s shadows. A rose blooms in the dead of winter, sheltered in the ruins of an ancient Scottish castle.

And only true love can free the Beast from his prison.

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I try to read two or three novella collections every year, simply because I love the flow of a shorter story and the creativity that can be used in such a collection. After reading the Five Glass Slippers collection from last year, I knew that Five Enchanted Roses would need to be on my to be read list. Beauty and the Beast is my all-time favorite fairy tale, though I know it is also one of the most debated. So, let’s get right into it and I’ll tell you what I thought of this collection.

Esprit De La Rose was fascinating and confusing as I scrambled to keep up with what was going on, just like Cecilia, the heroine had to do. I loved the element of pirates and the amazing creativity the author had to come up with to form the unique story world for the novella. It’s a great start to the collection, one that will press you to keep reading until the end.

Wither was…spell bounding. I couldn’t predict a single thing that would happen in this novella. The Beast of this tale was complicated and who he ends up being was a surprise for me. I liked the heroine’s spunk and the hero’s noble cause. It’s a story that will give you chills, yet also manages to attain the elements of Beauty and the Beast.

Stone Curse twists the original tale on its side and views the story from a new angle, one that kept me guessing and had me intrigued. Rather than have the ‘beauty’ come to the castle, we see that character already there and the beast is not entirely expected. Redemption would be the key word for this tale, for more than one character.

Rosara and the Jungle King was so much fun to read! The setting of the Amazon rainforest was awesome, the villain was truly terrible, and the beast intriguing. I wasn’t quite sure how a happy ending would be attained, or if it would be, but the ending is satisfying and definitely worth the read.

The Wulver’s Rose, the final novella in the collection, sticks closest to the original story yet still has its own unique elements to make it a good read. The use of the prologue and epilogue was excellent, and the motivation of Bonnie was well-done. I felt for the poor girl, as well as for the beast. In all, a good ending to the collection.

Rooglewood Press puts out another great fairy tale retelling collection, again bringing stories bursting with creativity that will keep the reader delighted and entertained, challenged and satisfied. I highly recommend this collection to lovers of fairy tales and the Beauty and the Beast story. In this collection, you’ll find the story as you’ve never read it before.

About the Authors

Biography from Rooglewood Press’s Website: Kaycee Browning is a homeschooled teenager living in North Carolina. She wrote her first novel when she was thirteen and published a novel at age fifteen. When not writing, she is most likely amusing herself by reading, fangirling, hanging out with friends, or (occasionally) doing her schoolwork. She resides with her two amazing parents, her three awesome siblings, and her two bossy dachshunds.To find out more about Kaycee and her work, visit: www.KayceeBrowning.com

Savannah Jezowski lives in a drafty farmhouse in Amish country with her Knight in Shining Armor, who is no less shiny after eight years of matrimony, and a loyal brigade of kitties, who may or may not sleep on the job. Her work has been published in Ray Gun Revival, Mindflights, and in the student publication of Fountains at Pensacola Christian College. She likes books, faeries, writing hats, and having tea with her imaginary friends. To learn more about Savannah and her work, visit: www.SavannahJaysWorkshop.blogspot.com

Jenelle Schmidt grew up in the northern-midwest. She now resides with her husband and their three adorable children in North Carolina where the summers are too hot and there is never enough snow. Jenelle fell in love with reading at a young age during family storytimes. To this day she enjoys creating exciting adventure tales filled with poignant themes and compelling characters in the fantasy and sci-fi genres.To learn more about Jenelle and her work, visit: www.JenelleSchmidt.com

Dorian Tsukioka writes fairy tale retellings, young adult fantasy, and science fiction with just a dash of romance thrown in to keep things spicy. When she’s not writing, Dorian teaches 5th graders in Kansas City, MO, or she can be found chasing after her two, pixie-esque daughters. She has a love of learning and teaching, and loves to talk about books with anyone who will listen, especially if the conversation includes cinnamon-chip scones and caramel lattes.To learn more about Dorian and her work, visit: www.DorianWrites.blogspot.com

Hayden Wand is a Christian and a homeschool graduate who has loved the classic story of Beauty and the Beast since the age of three, when she saw the Disney movie for the first time. When she’s not writing, reading, or bribing her siblings to read the classics, you can find her baking, crafting, practicing her archery skills, or watching her favorite shows on the BBC. She lives in South Carolina with her parents and four energetic younger siblings. To learn more about Hayden and her work, visit: www.everystory-storygirl.blogspot.com

I was given a review copy of Five Enchanted Roses from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I received no monetary compensation for my review. The opinions expressed are my own.