August 2014 Reads

In August, I read 11 books and I’m now at 78 for the year.  With work starting back up again and taking graduate classes, my reading has slowed down, but I’m still hoping to finish 100 books this year!  Here’s what I read in August…

Spellcaster by Claudia Gray — 2 Stars. I was wooed by the cover of this book at the library, but it was just ok. I don’t think I’ll be reading the next installment.  There are definitely better teenage witchy magic books out there.

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers — 4 Stars. This started a little slow for me, and I wasn’t sure I was all that interested. It didn’t take long for me to really become invested in the story, though.  Assassin nuns?  How can you go wrong?  I just picked up the next book in the series from the library, and I can’t wait to dive in.

Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater — 4 Stars. My goodness, I love the way this woman tells a story.  Another book in the Realm of Faerie.  I liked this better than Lament.

The Naming by Alison Croggon — 3 Stars. I’m actually a little undecided as to how I feel about this book.  I liked it, but it didn’t wow me.  Still, for being as long as it is and the constant walking in the woods plot, I am interested in the story and what happens next.  I really do hope there is less walking in the woods in the next installment, though.

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys — 4 Stars.  Loved the setting.  Loved the characters.  Josie is an interesting and unique female protagonist.  She lives in a bookstore and is the daughter of a prostitute.  This was an engaging young adult mystery.

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson — 4 Stars.  This is one of those cases where I would never have picked up the book if I didn’t already like the author.  The cover is just stupid and in no ways conveys anything about the book.  Anyhow.  This was a sweet, fun, sentimental travel adventure about finding yourself.  Ignore the stupid cover.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin — 3 Stars.  This was creepy, weird, paranormal young adult read.  Creepy in a good way.  Only three stars because I wish the story had been more developed.  Perhaps the next book will have more answers for me.

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Calahan — 4 Stars.  This was a fascinating medical memoir.  Like an episode of House, except real.  Extremely interesting non-fiction read.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach — 5 Stars.  This is one of those Great American Novels.  So, so good. I loved the characters and felt like I knew them personally. Don’t be fooled by the baseball premise. This book is about baseball in the way that baseball is about life.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin — 5 Stars.  I checked this out from the library, but I’m going to need to own a copy of this book.  This is going straight to the top of my recommended reads. I can’t even tell you how much I loved this lovely little book. I wanted to take up residence in it. It was over far too soon. If you are a book lover, you will love this book. This book is about a bookstore, books, book selling, and life. Loved every page.

A More Beautiful Questions: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas by Warren Berger — 4 Stars.  This book is about exactly what the title says: the ways that asking questions can help us solve problems.  It took me over a month to read this book because it constantly caused me to stop and reflect.

That’s it for my August reads!  Stay tuned for an exciting bookish announcement later this week!

 

July 2014 Reads

July ended up being my most readingest month yet with 15 books!  Currently, I’ve finished 66 books this year.  At the rate I’ve been going, I decided that my reading goal needed to be a little more challenging, so I’m pushing myself to finish 100 books by the end of 2014.  Wish me luck!

So, what did I read this month?

Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi — 4 Stars.  This is the final book in the Shatter Me trilogy, and I think it might have been my favorite of the three.  Juliette annoyed me as a character throughout much of the trilogy, but I felt like she started to come into her own in this book.

The One by Kiera Cass — 4 Stars.  This is the final book in The Selection trilogy.  This trilogy is so The Bachelor meets dystopia, but I found it to be a lot of fun.  Full of teenaged drama, so be prepared for that!

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell — 4 Stars.  This was a fast, intriguing read that left me with more questions than answers.  It ends quite abruptly, so if you like neat endings, this book is not for you.  A haunting tale about a woman who lost her life to a mental institution.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell — 5 Stars.  I found follow Rainbow Rowell to the ends of the earth.  I love her books so much.  Reading about Georgie and Neal’s relationship left me feeling very emotional and raw at times.  Plus, there was the added bonus of a magic phone.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins — 5 Stars. Jenny recommend this to me, and I just loved it.  I couldn’t put it down.  Such a sweet young adult romance.

School Spirits by Rachel Hawkins — 4 Stars.  I loved the Hex Hall series by Hawkins, so I was excited to discover this at the library.  It definitely didn’t disappoint!  Another great supernatural read from Rachel Hawkins!

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson — 5 Stars.  London, Jack the Ripper, boarding school, and ghosts?  Yes, please!  I devoured this.

Forest Born by Shannon Hale — 3 Stars.  Shannon Hale is a great storyteller, and while I enjoyed this fourth installment in the Books of Bayern, it just didn’t grab me the way the others did.  I had a hard time with Rin as the main character.  I just couldn’t connect with her.

The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation by Elena Aguilar — 5 Stars.  If you work as a teacher leader or coach in any capacity, I cannot say enough good things about this book.  I will definitely return to it again and again.  Such a valuable resource.

Conversion by Katherine Howe — 4 Stars.  Something is happening to the girls of St. Joan’s.  Witchcraft?  This was an intelligently spooky read.

The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson — 4 Stars.  After The Name of the Star, I couldn’t wait to get my hand on the second book in the Shades of London series.  Another awesome read.  And now I want to move to London and hunt ghosts.

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness — 4 Stars.  It just dawned on me that I finished a lot of trilogies this month.  This final installment in the All Souls trilogy jumps right in where the last book left off.  This was a solid end to a thoroughly enjoyable vampire/witch romance.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink — 5 Stars.  I know people probably aren’t as geeked out about psychology and learning as I am, but this was fantastic.  Such a fascinating look at what motivates us and how work and school get it all wrong.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart — 4 Stars.  I loved the voice in this book.  Such a great female lead, too.  I read it in a day.

Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception by Maggie Stiefvater — 3 Stars.  Maggie Stiefvater is a remarkable storyteller.  While this wasn’t my favorite of hers (The Scorpio Races.  Go read it.  NOW.), I really did enjoy it and plan to grab the next book from the library ASAP.

Well, there you have them — my large pile of read books for July.  What have you been reading this summer?  What should I check out next?

March-June 2014 Reads

Remember when I said I would post monthly about what I’ve been reading? Oops. I am determined to get back on track because I love sharing books. Since I’m a few months behind, I’m just going to list titles and link them to my Goodreads reviews, with the occasional comment on a few of my favorites.

March 2014 –

April 2014 –

May 2014 –

June 2014 –

So, that’s what I’ve been reading over the past few months.  What have you read lately that you’ve loved?  I always need more books to add to my neverending to-read list!

Ode to Diapers

Dear Diapers,

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I kind of miss you. I know I complained about your mess, your smell, and having to haul you everywhere. I whined about washing you and longed for the days when I would never have to hose poop off you again.

I didn’t know how good I had it.

You made it so that I didn’t have to drop everything I was doing for a potty break.

With you, I didn’t have to run across Target to make it to the bathroom.

I didn’t have to stop eating mid-bite to take a kid to the bathroom. And then take the second one as soon as I sat down again.

When you were in my life, I didn’t have to squeeze into a public bathroom stall with two kids, squat on the floor to keep them from falling in, or hold them up to the sink to wash hands.

I didn’t have to deal with a kid freaking out about automatic flushers or loud hand dryers.

Most importantly, I didn’t have to worry about little hands opening the stall door every single time I dared to use the toilet myself.

All of this to say, I’m sorry I was so hard on you. I hope your next family appreciates your hard work,

With fondness,
Erin

Three Years

It’s been three years since you left.

It doesn’t seem possible that it’s been that long.

I still have your number in my phone.

I’m still tempted to call you even though I know that number won’t reach you.

It’s just that I want to tell you so many things.

I want to tell you about my crazy and amazing new job.

I want to tell you about how Charlotte names her poops.

I want to tell you about how the girls call sneezes, “Bless Yous”.

I want to tell you about how much Evelyn loves her foof.

The truth is, I can’t write a post long enough to tell you everything I want to tell you.

There aren’t words to explain how much I miss you.

I would give just about anything to kiss your scruffy cheek again.

In my life, I love you more.

February 2014 Reads

I didn’t read quite as many books in February (8) as I did in January (12), but it was still a good reading month!  Here’s what was in my reading stack in February:

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson — 4 Stars.  I always enjoy Laurie Halse Anderson, and this book was no disappointment.  This book tells the story of Haley and her veteran father who suffers from severe PTSD.  Like most of Anderson’s books, this was hauntingly realistic.

Creating Innovators:  The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World by Tony Wagner — 2 Stars.  I was disappointed in this book.  The author told half a dozen redundant stories about the lives of modern innovators and the people who influenced them.  The conclusions he drew appeared to be largely based on personal opinion rather than research.  Wagner lost me fairly early in the book when he referred to a student as a high school and college dropout, yet the student left his boarding school early to attend Stanford and then left Stanford before completing his Master’s degree.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo — 3 Stars.  This book started off slow for me.  It was fine, but not all that into it.  The second half, however, sucked me in and I’m eager to read the next book in the series.  Definitely worth a read if you are a fan of YA fantasy.

Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi — 3 Stars.  I was really looking forward to the conclusion of this trilogy, but it fell kind of flat for me.  The first two books really grabbed me, and this one…well…didn’t.  It wasn’t bad.  It just wasn’t great.  I’d love to hear how others felt after reading this!

Speaker For the Dead by Orson Scott Card — 4 Stars.  I loved Ender’s Game, but I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the sequel.  Turns out, it was great!  I loved seeing Ender as an adult, and the world that Orson Scott Card has created was as fascinating as ever.

The Archived by Victoria Schwab — 3 Stars.  I think I got this for free from the Kindle store.  The premise is interesting —  when you die your life is archived and kept in a library, sometimes those archives wake up.  Another book that started out slow for me, but in the end I enjoyed it enough to want to see what happens next.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion — 5 Stars.  This was, by far, my favorite read of the month.  Don is an adult with Asperger’s (though he doesn’t know it) looking for a wife.  Don’s voice was just fantastic.  This was quirky, sweet, and lovely.  I missed Don and Rosie as soon as I closed the book.  Read it!

 The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood — 4 Stars.  Oh, Margaret Atwood.  Such amazing writing.  Believe it or not, sometimes I like my dystopia a little more grown up.  I loved Oryx and Crake, so I was excited to dive into The Year of the Flood.  It took me a bit to figure out the who, the what, and the when in this book, but overall, it was fantastic.

There you have them, my February reads.  I think my theme for February was “it took me a while to get into this book”.  With the exception of Creating Innovators, I was glad that I stuck with each of these titles.

What did you read in February?

January 2014 Reads

My reading year is off to a great start…so much so that I’m thinking I need to rethink my reading goal.  So far this year I’ve read 12 books.  My goal is set as 60 currently.  So, one month in and I’m 20% done with my reading goal.  I think I underestimated myself a little!

It kind of blows my mind that I’ve already read 12 books this year while working full time and raising my girls.  To be fair, I did have an additional four days off of work this month due to the disgustingly cold temperatures.  Still, that’s a lot of reading!  I frequently get asked how I have so much time to read.  We Still Read wrote a great post this week addressing exactly that, so since they already said it, I’ll save my time for more reading!  The post also includes these great badges to show off when you find time to read.  I love them all, but this is my favorite:

What did I read while drying my hair this month?  So many great titles that I’m excited to share with you!

  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvator — 5 Stars.  This was a great first read for 2014.  I absolutely loved this book.  I had great Maggie Stiefvator’s Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy this past summer and liked them fine.  I was not expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did.  A slightly paranormal young adult read with great characters.  Highly recommended!
  • Cyberstorm by Matthew Mather — 3 Stars.  Adult fiction about what happens when a cyber attack shuts down communications and power just as a giant blizzard hits.  This book was interesting because it really felt like this could happen, and I realized how vulnerable many of us would be without our usual access to communications.
  • The Blight of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler — 2 Stars.  This is the second book in a trilogy that I borrowed from Amazon Prime.  I enjoyed the first book well enough to try this one, but overall this was kind of ‘meh’ for me.  The plot was still interesting enough, but the allegory and deeply religious LDS symbolism were so intense that it actually got in the way.  Not sure if I will bother finishing the trilogy.
  • Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt — 5 Stars.  Oh my heart, I loved this book.  This book tells the story of a young girl grieving the death of her uncle.  The writing was breathtaking and the story heartbreaking.  Definitely check this title out if you haven’t already.
  • Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller — 5 Stars.  This is a nonfiction title about cultivating a culture of reading in your classroom.  Donalyn Miller and Susan Kelly researched the habits of “wild” readers.  A great read if you are a classroom teacher or a parent…or a book lover.  I could listen to Donalyn Miller talk about being a reader all day long!
  • The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvator — 5 Stars.  This is the second book in the Raven Boys trilogy.  I was trying to put it off since I had loved the first so much and the third wasn’t out yet.  I always like to have a highly anticipated read in my back pocket, but I just couldn’t wait.  You shouldn’t wait either.
  • Attachments by Rainbow Rowell — 3 Stars.  Having devoured Eleanor & Park and Fangirl last year, I knew this would be an enjoyable read for me.  Not my favorite by Rowell, but still a sweet, funny love story.
  • The Distant Hours by Kate Morton — 4 Stars.  This was my first Kate Morton, and I really enjoyed it.  This book reminded me of books like The Thirteenth Tale or The Little Stranger.  It’s the perfect kind of book to read on a rainy day with endless cups of tea.
  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvator — 5 Stars.  Hi, my name is Erin, and I’m suddenly addicted to Maggie Stiefvator.  Honestly, her Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy just didn’t grab me the way that the books I’ve read this month have.  I completely and utterly adored The Scorpio Races.  Easily my favorite book of the month, and I think it will be a contender for my favorite book this year.  I always loved horse stories as a kid, and this was the perfect combination of horse story, mythology, and magic.  Ignore your t0-read pile and just read this instead.
  • The Curse Girl by Kate Avery Ellison — 3 Stars.  Fun, fast Beauty and the Beast retelling.
  • Visible Learning for Teachers by John Hattie — 4 Stars.  If I’m being honest, I actually started this book last November and it has taken me this long to finish it.  It’s an excellent book, but it’s dense and full of statistics.  My brain could only handle reading a few pages at a time because there was so much to digest.  This book is a comprehensive look at the things we do that truly impact learning.  If you are a teacher, read this book.
  • The Glister by John Burnside — 2 Stars.  I’m having a hard time with what to say about this book.  We bought it when Borders was going out of business.  We have a mountain of books from that time since Ted would just bring them home.  This one caught my eye on the shelf the other day.  The cover and synopsis make it seem like a suspense/horror type story.  It is, in a way, but really there was very little plot.  The writing was great and the characters were interesting, but I didn’t really get what I expected, so I left a little disappointed.

Looking back, it feels like I was a little heavy-handed with my 5 Star reviews this month, but honestly I got lucky and read a lot of really wonderful books this month.  What have you been reading this month?  What are you looking forward to reading next month?

On Four Years of Motherhood

Four years ago today I became a mom, but I didn’t know it yet.  It was our fourth IUI, but we were already looking ahead to IVF.  It would still be two weeks before I’d take a pregnancy test at home, expecting it to be negative, find it on the bathroom counter 15 minutes later and freak out.  It would still be two weeks until I’d get my blood drawn and spend the day at work with my stomach in my throat waiting for a phone call from my favorite nurse.  It would still be two weeks until that phone call came in the middle of my afternoon class and I found out I was pregnant standing in the hallway at school.  Yet another week until we would find out that we were having twins.

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Four years ago today I became a mom, but I had no idea what the future held.  I didn’t know there were two sweet, funny, crazy little girls just waiting to brighten each and every day.  I didn’t know that I would spend today playing Tinkerbell, making peanut butter sandwiches, and singing Anna & Elsa tunes at the top of my lungs.  I didn’t know that my house would be covered in costume glitter, tiny doll shoes, and piles of artwork from preschool.  I didn’t know that my days would be full of singing, dancing, fighting over blocks, potty training, and bargaining over bites of dinner.  I didn’t know that my life would become this crazy, hectic, magical balancing act, and that I’d love every second of it.

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Four years ago today I became a mom, but it feels like yesterday.  Four years ago, my life changed forever.  It was a long, hard road to get to that day four years ago.  There were so many times I lost hope and so many moments I felt like I would never get here.  Yet, somehow, here I am.  Four years ago today I became a mom, and I’ve spent every day since feeling like the luckiest woman alive.

My Favorite Books of 2013 & Some 2014 Reading Goals

Well, I didn’t do much blogging this year, but I certainly did a lot of reading.  More reading than I’ve ever done before, in fact!  My original reading goals for 2013 were to read a total of 45 books, 5 nonfiction books, and 5 classics.  I only read 2 classics this year, so I didn’t meet that goal.  I read 19 nonfiction books, so clearly more than five.  And, I ended up reading 85 books total this year!  I know.  I’m blown away too.  In 2012, I read 38 books, so I figured that 45 was a reasonable goal.  By mid-year, I’d already reached that goal, so I bumped it up to 60 and eventually to 70 books.  I’m really pleased with my reading life this year, and I can’t wait to see what books next year will bring!  I don’t want to get ahead of myself, though, so let’s talk about what I really loved in 2013…

Fiction:

  • The One and Only Ivan — This is children’s literature, but such a sweet, sad, lovely store.  You can read it in a nap time if you need to.
  • The Little Stranger — A slightly spooky, old-timey mystery.  Loved the writing, the characters…everything!  If you enjoyed The Thirteenth Tale, I think you would like this book.
  • The Snow Child – I absolutely adored this book. It was lovely and quiet and soft and just a little bit sad. I wanted to curl up inside it and stay there. Loved it!
  • Half of a Yellow Sun — Historical fiction from the Nigerian/Biafra wars in the sixties.  Fantastic writing.  Even if African historical fiction isn’t your cup of tea, I still highly recommend checking this book out.
  • Eleanor & Park — This book touched my heart in so many ways.  Lovely, sweet, and sad.  If you haven’t already read this, what are you waiting for?
  • The Golem & the Jinni — A tale of a Golem and a Jinni trying to make their way in the human world.  Different, but so good. I loved the way that the storylines in this book intertwined.
  • Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore — Inventive!  Delightful! Enchanting!  Intriguing!  This book is my new favorite recommendation.  A fun, different story that was a perfect blend of books & technology for me.
  • Fangirl — This book just charmed the pants right off of me.  Absolutely delightful.  Why are you reading this blog post when you could be reading Fangirl?  Seriously.  Off you go now.
  • Oryx and Crake — Dystopia from Margaret Atwood.  Do I need to say any more?

Nonfiction:

  • Into the Minds of Babes: How Screen Time Affects Children From Birth to Age 5 – This book was excellent.  Full of research, balanced, and easy to read.  It was a very pragmatic look at how and why we use media with young children, and what effect that media has.  I think every parent and teacher of young children should take the time to read this book.
  • Mindset – Carol Dweck’s book is amazing.  It’s not a parenting book by any means, but it’s one I think all parents & teachers should read.  The powerful differences in success between those with a growth mindset and those with a fixed mindset speak for themselves.
  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking – I learned SO MUCH about myself as an introvert and really came to understand a lot of why I do what I do. Plus, I feel like I have a much better grasp on the best ways to parent and teach introverts, as well as a good grasp on what it means to lead as an introvert.  Excellent book.
  • Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better — Very readable, well-researched, and simply fascinating.  We are constantly talking about the negative impacts of technology and social media, but what about the good that they are doing?  Clive Thompson does an excellent job of pointing out the positives.

So, that was my reading year in a nutshell…well, that and dozens of YA dystopian novels.  What about next year?  Here are my reading goals for 2014:

  1. Read 60 Books — I feel like I should go for more than I read this year, but I also know that this was a huge reading year for me, sometimes at the expense of doing other things I enjoy.  I think a goal of 60 will help keep my momentum going, but also allow me some time to get back to writing.  Plus, I can always up my goal later if I need to!
  2. Read 5 Classics – I really did want to do this last year and didn’t quite make it.  Time to try again.
  3. Write About My Reading – I’m not entirely sure how I want to tackle this one yet, but I will definitely be blogging about what I’m reading.  Weekly?  Monthly?  Sporadically?  I haven’t decided yet.

I am really proud of myself as a reader this year.  I read a variety of things, and I read a lot in general.  Even with two little girls and a crazy new job.  I’m excited to keep up my momentum and can’t wait to see what 2014 brings to my reading life!

The Hard is What Makes It Great

I have a horrible headache this evening, which really isn’t conducive to writing, but I also have this urge to write.  So, here I am at my computer.  I miss writing, so I’ve decided to write whenever I get the urge.  And in this case, I have very little clue what I’m going to write about.  So, here goes…

Ted and I have been very lucky in that, while we both work full time, we’ve managed not to spend most of our income on childcare.  When the girls were born, Ted was working for Borders.  Now he’s at Trader Joe’s.  Working in retail means that he doesn’t work a typical 9-5 week.  In fact, in our entire marriage, we’ve been lucky to have the occasional day off together.  Now that we have the girls, his flexible schedule means that we only need part time childcare, so we pay someone to come to the house.  When the girls were tiny, my younger sister watched them about 20 hours a week.  Currently, we have a babysitter that watches them 10 hours a week.  I feel so lucky that we are both able to have our careers AND the girls get to be with one of us virtually full time.  Mad props to you parents who have to get your kids ready for daycare before work.  I can barely get myself ready.

There are a lot of wonderful perks to one of us being with the girls, and I am so grateful that we are able to make this work, but it does come with it’s drawbacks.  For example, Ted and I rarely have days when we are both home all day.  We have family mornings or family evenings, but no real family days except in the summer.  Ted solos wake-up 5 days a week and getting the girls to school twice a week.  I solo bedtime 3 nights a week, wake-up 1 morning a week, and getting the girls ready for dance class.  Of course, these are all normal parenting things that many parents do on their own regularly.  But sometimes….it’s just so hard.  Sometimes you just want to drink a cup of coffee while it’s hot.  Or maybe you have a raging headache but there’s no one to read the Pigeon books over and over but you.  For us, the solo parenting is the norm, and it can be really exhausting.*  Sometimes, we just need a break, and it’s virtually impossible to get one with the way our schedules work.  There’s no one to tag in when you need a moment.

This is sounding very whiny.  I swear I’m not whining.  Yes, I wish that we could have more family time with all of us together, but I am so grateful that we have the arrangement we do have.  I’m just having one of those days where I was exhausted before the day even started, my head is pounding, and I miss my parenting partner.  Sometimes I just feel mopey about the time Ted and I miss out on for each other.  Sometimes I want to have dinner as a family.  Sometimes I just want someone else to put the girls to bed.

But then, even on the hardest days, when the house gets quiet, my heart swells with joy at the thought of my beautiful, goofy daughters.  There isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not amazed that they are here and that I’m their mom.  And now I’m teary.  Clearly, this madness that is my life is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.  Yes, it’s hard…but it’s supposed to be hard, right?  The hard is what makes it great.**

 

*All parenting is exhausting.  I can only speak honestly about what my parenting life is like, though.

**Except when my head is throbbing and one child is screaming in her bed because the other child got out of bed and bit her.  Then, it’s not so great.