Category Archives: Horror

Plague Birds by Jason Sanford

Stars: 2 out of 5

If you are looking for a book with a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat and driven by memorable characters… this is not a story you are looking for. If you are looking for a mismatched bag of great ideas loosely wrapped into something resembling a story with characters that have the depth of cardboard, then by all means, give Plague Birds a try.

This was a very disappointing read. I was lured into this book by the excellent cover (I mean, seriously, look at this thing, it’s gorgeous) and a blurb that promised an interesting story set in a unique world. The world is unique, alright, and that’s why this gets 2 stars instead of 1, but the interesting story never materialized.

Instead, I felt like the author had a basketful of interesting concepts that  he really wanted to play with and include in the story, but he couldn’t quite figure out how to weave them into a coherent narrative, so he just tossed them all in, shook it a little and left the end result to chance. So we get villages governed by AI, cannibal monks in a monastery dedicated to preserving the knowledge of a lost human race, a forest that becomes sentient by torturing people who venture into it, and so on and so forth. Yes, those are fascinating and often horrifying concepts that were interesting to explore, but what they add to the main story is unclear.

Speaking of main story. I am still not sure what it was. What was the end goal here? Was it to discover the through behind the death of Crista’s mother? Was it to reach the city of Seed? Was it to catch the villain killing plague birds? The stakes are not clear, and there is no sense of urgency, so the story meanders along with Crista seemingly without purpose. Yes, they need to stop the Veil, but there isn’t a ticking clock to create a sense of urgency. They can hunt those people for hundreds of years without anything bad happening for all we know.

And I could have forgiven this lack of cohesive story if the characters I was forced to follow were interesting. Not the case here. I am still not sure I know Crista even after spending this journey with her. Despite this being told in first person from her point of view, the author does a very poor job actually showing us her thoughts, motivations and inner workings. 

This goes for all the other characters as well. In fact, this book is all tell and almost no show. We get flashbacks and infodumps galore. People react in ways that often puzzle me because the author never explained what made them tick. Though in the case of the main villain, I am not sure even the author knew what made him tick, because his motivation is thinner then rice paper. I mean, he could have killed Crista several times over, but he chose to mess with her mind and/or even help her instead. Why? Never explained.

Another big disappointment for me was that this book reads like a YA story. With all the typical YA shortfalls and tropes. Including insta-love (or should I say insta-lust?). Yet it’s not classified as YA on NetGalley or Goodreads. Had I seen that before I had requested this book, I would never have bothered. I have nothing against the YA genre. I just don’t read it.

PS: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Dead Silence by S. A. Barnes

Stars: 3 out of 5

This book had so much promise! Ghost ship in space! Damaged protagonist! Horror of the psychological and other kind! I couldn’t wait to start it. And for the first three quarters of the book it was really great. I honestly thought that this would be one of the best horror books I’d read in 2022… then the ending botched it all, at least for me.

Then again, I am not a fan of evil corporations doing evil things because they are evil. It’s been done to death by now in books, movies, and video games. Let the corporations rest. Find another villain for your stories. Thanks.

Also, this story was truly frightening as long as we didn’t know what really happened to the Aurora. I was terrified for our characters when they first boarded the ship and started exploring. The obvious signs of violence and the fact that we didn’t know what had cause everyone to go mad was really scary. The ending killed that, in my opinion. As soon as I knew what was behind everything, I didn’t care anymore. As I said, it’s one thing to watch a group of hapless people battle against an unknown entity, and another to see them battle against a corrupt space corporation. I’ve seen the second scenario too many times before.

I loved Claire though. She is a very relatable protagonist. I couldn’t help but root for her the more I learned about her past trauma. And since she has psychological issues of her own, she makes the perfect unreliable narrator here – we never know what is just in her head and what is affecting everybody else. And she doesn’t know it either, which adds to the angst. 

Unfortunately, the other characters were a lot less defined. In fact, most of them were just placeholders: the self-assured jerk, the innocent young girl, the nerdy hacker, the evil corporation goon, the entitled rich guy. I honestly couldn’t care less about any of them. 

I was also not sold on the burgeoning love story. I think it was shoe-horned into the main story just to make the reader care more about the characters. Well, it did the opposite to me. The whole courtship felt so forced that it turned me away from the characters. I think I rolled my eyes every time they interacted. It wasn’t needed. Claire had enough motivation trying to save her team without adding a love interest into the mix. 

Finally, I wasn’t a fan of the ending. It felt a little bit too convenient and didn’t fit with the rest of the story. I understand that the author wanted to give a HEA to the characters and an emotional payoff for the reader, but to me it felt flat. 

All in all, it was a good read for most part. I mean, I finished it in one day. But it could have been so much better. 

The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher

Stars: 5 out of 5.

This was an amazingly, delightfully creepy book! The older I get, the less I seem to enjoy horror books, especially the gore and guts kind of horror. I still enjoy the atmospheric, psychological horror, but I find it hard to find good book that don’t repeat the same tired clichés or manage to completely botch the ending. I’m glad I picked up The Hollow Places, because this book delivered.

I think the best part about it is how slowly it develops the creep factor. We start in this wonderful little museum of improbable and impossible things that might look scary and unusual, but are, most of them fake. And our protagonist is someone who grew up in that museum. Who knows every nook and cranny of that building, who played among the display cases and hugged the stuffed animals as if they were her childhood friends. To Kara, or “Carrot” how her family and friends call her, the museum is the safest place on earth. This is a refuge when her family life is shattered by a divorce. A chance to regroup and start over.

And the author takes time to set the stage and introduce us to Kara and her uncle, as well as the museum itself. It’s done in such a way that as a reader, I was in love with the little building as well. I was feeling warm and safe there.

So when creepy and unexplained things start happen in this safe place, it completely knocks the ground from under your feet along with the protagonist. The horror of what’s happening has an even bigger impact because it is intruding into this safe zone.

The author also introduces the horrors of the Willows very progressively. At first, it just looks like a slightly creepy, but ultimately benign world. Yes, it’s flooded. Yes, there are bunkers everywhere, but no people. Yes, the willows are strange, but they are just trees, right? As more an more bizarre things happen to our protagonists, as the level of horror slowly ramps up, so did my blood pressure. I felt for them. I felt with them, especially after the school bus and their realization that they lost their bunker, and that they are possibly stuck in this weird no-man’s land forever.

I loved Kara. She is funny, she is a mess, but she is so relatable. Maybe because I’ve been in her shoes, with a messy divorce and a husband that acted exactly the same way. Yes, Carrot was slightly too stupid to live when it came to one particular object, but I can let it slide, because I liked everything else about her.

And Simon! If I had to get lost in a weird in-between place of existence with somebody, he would be my first choice. He is cool under pressure, and funny, and also relatable. 

And special shoutout to Beau, the bestest, most adorable cranky cat in literature. 

As I mentioned, the horror in this slowly builds up and finds its culmination when the safe place suddenly becomes unsafe. Unlike other horror books I’ve read recently, the author didn’t drop the ball here. The resolution is satisfying and the ending is everything I wanted it to be. And even though our protagonist win in th end, they are left with physical and emotional scars, which is also very logical and realistic. 

All in all, this was a very enjoyable book. I will definitely recommend it to my friends and I will check out other books by this author. Heck, I already told my husband he absolutely needs to read it.

Last Exit by Max Gladstone

Stars: 2.5 out of 5

It pains me to give a less than stellar rating to Max Gladstone, but this is the first book of his I’ve been disappointed with. How can a book about found family, road trip, end of the world, parallel universes and so on be so… boring?

I loved this author’s Craft series. They are wonderfully imaginative and full of interesting characters and thought provoking concepts. So of course I jumped on the chance to get an ARC of this through NetGalley. And my initial state while I was reading this book, before the boredom set in, was that of bewilderment. Is this the author who wowed me with his other books? Am I reading this wrong? What is going on?

Oh, there are glimpses of the author I love in this story. There are moments that are tightly written and intensely terrifying. Like when the Cowboy first becomes aware of Sarah on the interstate, or the confrontation at the Best Western, or when Zelda is in the bug-infested tunnels under an alt New York. Those scenes had me at the edge of my seat, with my heart in my throat, terrified for the well-being of the characters…

Unfortunately, those moments of brilliance are few and far between. And they are bogged down by pages and pages of flashbacks, introspections, inner dialog about how miserable the characters are and how they think that the world is ending. It’s self-pity and self-recrimination on page upon page upon page. So you get this brilliant scene when the action is non-stop, the stakes are high, and the characters in danger… then you have 50 pages of inner monolog topped with a flashback on their first journey. Momentum – shot dead, not by the cowboy in a white hat, but by sheer boredom. In fact, I think that the book is at least 200 pages too long. My Kindle assured me that it was 400 pages long, but it felt like one of those 1000+ pages door stoppers – never-ending.

I think this approach would have worked if I cared for any of the characters, but I didn’t. They are all unlikeable, selfish people who wear their failures like a badge of honor and wallow in self-pity for most of the book. And since the reader has to follow them and be privy to their most inner thoughts, it makes for a very painful read, and not in a good way. 

Also, it is constantly hinted that their first journey to find the crossroads went horribly wrong and resulted in Sal’s downfall, but the book drags the actual story over pages and pages of hints and self-pity. By the time we actually learn what happened it feels… anti-climatic? I was like, “So all this misery is because of this? Are you kidding me?” Not a good thing when Sal’s downfall and Zelda’s guilt about it are the cornerstone of this story. 

By the end of the book I was so bored with the story, that I just skimmed through the last 10%. Also not good. The ending is supposed to be rewarding. It’s supposed to justify the effort the reader put into sticking with 400 pages of story. It was anything but that. And the big reveal and twist wasn’t all that shocking either. 

When I had finished the other books of this author, I had a sense of satisfaction and joy. I had wanted to savor the story, to re-read passages that I liked the most. When I finished Last Exit, all I had is a sense of relief that the slog was finally over and that I could delete the ARC from my Kindle. 

I will not recommend this book. Max Gladstone is a wonderful author though, so I suggest you read his Craft series instead. 

Goblin by Josh Malerman

 

Stars: 3 out of 5

This was a meh kind of book. It’s a series of short stories book ended by the story of a delivery driver bringing something terrifying to the city of Goblin. The short stories are related only by the location where they happen – the city of Goblin on the same particularly rainy day and night. 

I think that was one of the reasons the book was kinda meh to me. Yes, Goblin in itself is an interesting, if rather unhappy place. A place for the spirits. A place where humans were never supposed to settle and thrive. The short stories illustrate the eeriness of Goblin perfectly. Problem is, they don’t do much more than that. 

I read a book mostly for the characters and then for the worldbuilding. I notice that I tend to lose interest if I don’t have anybody to root for. If I don’t have a tour guide through the world the author is showing me. And that’s what happened here. Goblin is a fascinating place. Unfortunately, the people who live there are a lot less so.

We read stories of several different people who are not connected to each other, so it’s already hard to figure out why we should follow these characters or even care. Those stories are also not connected at all to the prolog, where a delivery driver is bringing something to Goblin. Something horrible… Well, Goblin already has plenty of horrible things. There is the Goblin police, the Witch of the North Woods, the owls, etc. So by the time that horrible thing finally reaches Goblin, it’s rather anticlimactic. It’s just another monster to add to a city already full of them. What’s the point?

Also, none of the stories we read about have any real resolutions, apart from the story of the man who was afraid of the ghosts. That one, we see to it’s logical conclusion. The rest of them leave is suspended in the air, without an explanation or a conclusion to them. I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to say.  And the arrival of this great terrible thing in the end isn’t enough to satisfyingly end any of those stories. 

In conclusion, it was an okay book to pass the time with, but I probably won’t remember what it is about in a month or so. This is the third book by this author I’ve read and found rather underwhelming, so I think I’m just not the intended audience here. A lot of people love these books, so your mileage might vary. 

PS: I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Of Starlight and Plague by Beth Hersant

Stars: 1 out of 5

DNF at 52%

I know that zombie books aren’t a paragon of high literature. I expect that. But when I pick up one, I expect to be entertained at least. This is the first boring zombie book I’ve ever read, so that must be a record. I picked it up because it has a bunch of 4 and 5 star reviews on Goodreads, and now I am honestly baffled. Were we reading the same book? Was there a particular lens I forgot to put on before I started this? I came for mindless zombie fun, what I got instead is a poorly written snooze fest. 

I think the biggest problem here is that the characters are skin deep. Granted, I don’t expect great characterization in a zombie book, since most of them will be zombie appetizer, but I expect to have one or two main characters that I can follow through the story. I need to have somebody I can associate myself with and see the world through their eyes. 

Here, we have no such thing. The two people responsible for the plague die by end of part 1. Which is a shame, because it would have been an interesting story to follow them through the pandemic. To see them realize the horror of what they have unleashed and do everything in their power to stop it before the world is destroyed. It’s a wasted opportunity and it’s such a shame.

Then we have Tammany, an old wise mambo in New Orleans. She seemed interesting and had at least a little depth to her character, even if most of that depth was full of  clichés about voodoo practitioners.  But her story was cut short by the end of part 2. 

By the time I decided to part ways with the book, we were introduced to yet another smart old lady who was planning on surviving the plague with her family. That felt redundant. Why not just continue with Tammany? Why introduce a whole new character, when they serve exactly the same purpose. The story of survival would have been in a swamp in New Orleans in Louisiana instead of a farm up north, but it would have served the same purpose. As it stands, that’s yet another character that has to be introduced, yet another conflict that has to be set up from the beginning. 

And that’s another problem with this book. Since the author has to set up so many characters, the action constantly jumps back and forth in time. We get to the inevitable “zombie” outbreak from the point of view of one character… then we switch to the very beginning of the story again for the next one and follow them to the same precise moment of the outbreak again. Rinse and repeat. This made me feel like the story is just spinning its wheels without going anywhere. And if a story isn’t going anywhere, I eventually loose all interest in it. 

Or the author introduces a character just as they get killed or loose their soul to the New Rabbis then backtracks a few days or weeks to show us how they got there. Problem is, we already know that character is zombie food (or zombie themselves), so why invest time in making an emotional connection with them by learning their story? We won’t be following them for long. 

And what about this irritating way all characters have to quote scientific journals or other sources in their conversations or even in their thoughts? Who, in their right mind does that? Who stops in the middle of their dream to explain a term that she’d known since she was a child? A term that is part of her culture? Yes, that term might be confusing for the reader at first, but most of us are smarter than an average monkey. We can figure out what it means based on the context. Explaining it so blatantly in the text does two things – it insults the reader’s intelligence and it immediately pulls them out of the story because it sticks out like a sore thumb.

Same with incessant quotations of scientific articles and research. I get that the author did her research and is proud of it, but why make your characters shove it down my throat in every conversation? If only one character did that, it would have been a quirk and an interesting layer to their character, no matter how strange, but they all do that. The neuroscientists quote medical journals at each other. Wouldn’t they have read them independently if they are so good at their job? Tammany quotes voodoo research… which is even more weird. Why would a mambo read research done into her religion by outsiders anyway?

All this made for a very frustrating and boring read. This book had potential. But it needs a good developmental editor to unearth that potential out of the confusing heap of dirt the story is right now.

PS: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Nothing but Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

Stars: 2.5 out of 5

I have a hard time formulating my feelings towards this story. On one hand, it was a quick and easy read. The amount of research that went into the Japanese folklore and traditional housing was impressive, though I kept getting a lot of Fatal Frame vibes out of it. Which isn’t bad in itself, because that game scared the crap out of me.

On the other hand, the story itself is rather meh, at least to me. 

It’s a typical haunted house story where a group of friends decide to spend the night in a reputedly haunted house and bad things happen. Well, in this case, two of the friends want to get married in that particular haunted house, like starting your married life by drawing attention of a ghost is such a good idea.

So the premise has been done before. In fact, that’s like the classic of all slasher/horror movies – a group of friends in a confined space, getting offed one by one in horrible ways… Thankfully, this is a ghost story, not a slasher story, so the bloodshed won’t be as pronounced.

My problem with this story is that I hated all of the characters. They were horrible people both to themselves and to each other. Honestly, I had no clue how they could even call each other friends. It seemed like they all hated each other guts. Nothing in their behavior spoke of friendship. Of old resentments that have been left to fester? Yes. Of past infidelities that nobody speaks about but are still there, like a big elephant in the room? Certainly. Real friendship? Not a trace. 

So it doesn’t seem plausible, at least to me, that the protagonist would insist on staying in that house and would follow along with their crazy schemes. From the little background we get on her, I would have imagined that she would have high tailed out of there ASAP, just like their friend Lin suggests. That all “I’m staying because they are my friends” line isn’t plausible when you consider the relationship dynamics described in the book. That’s no friendship. That’s co-dependent abuse.

And because all of the protagonists were such horrible people, I couldn’t care less what happened to them, which also diminished the impact of the story for me. In fact, I’m rather disappointed that more of them didn’t die in that house. If none of them had walked out of there come morning, I would have cheered, actually.

I am beginning to think that this author just isn’t for me. She is great at creating interesting and frankly disturbing worlds and premises, but I simply can’t connect with her characters. I had that problem with the Rupert Wong series, and I have that problem with this novella as well.

PS: I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

Stars: 2.5 out of 5

This book had so much promise! The premise was intriguing, and the book started strong with Vern on the run and not much explanation of what had happened but with a growing sense of urgency that even the reader could feel.

The book was good for the first half at least, while we followed Vern as she learned to live in the woods and tried to raiser her children by herself.

Unfortunately, by the second half of the book, the novelty of the story ran out, and I discovered a couple things that started gradually dampening my enjoyment of the book until they ruined it completely. I’m sad to say that I finished this as a hate read. I was so close to the end that I had to finish it just to say that I did.

First of all, the story just keeps circling the drain for most of the book. Vern knows that the answers to what’s happening to her are back in Cainland, but she never actually does anything to find them. She knows that the woods are not safe anymore for her little family, but her answer is to go back to civilization nilly willy and follow a dream. No recon beforehand, no explanation or basic training for her children before she subjects them to such a traumatic change. It’s a wonder she even got to her destination at all. The way they were dressed and the way they acted, she should have been picked up by cops almost immediately.

I think my biggest problem is Vern herself. I have never seen a more selfish and pig-headed protagonist in my life! It was okay in the beginning because she was young and on the run, overwhelmed by circumstances. Problem is, she never changes. She doesn’t grow up. She doesn’t evolve and mature. She stays the same bull-headed and selfish teenager throughout the book. She is stubborn, and prideful, and rebellious just for the sake of being rebellious, or that’s what it seems at times. She is the kind of person who would stick her arm in the fire and let it burn just because somebody told her not to do that. That’s just incredibly stupid.

She abandons her babies for nights at end alone… in the woods… in a makeshift shelter open to elements. She hurts the only person who had information about Cainland and what was happening to her, instead of listening and trying to get information out of her first. She pouts and shouts, instead of admitting that she can’t read, even though learning to read would help her find the answers she wants.

And the most infuriating part is, despite all those shortcomings and acts of tremendous idiocy, she always escapes scoot free. There are no dramatic consequences to her actions.

She leaves two newborns in the woods all night? Sure, they are all nice and safe in the morning. No animals found them and hurt them. They didn’t get cold or hungry and started crying. In fact, how the heck did they survive for 8 years in the woods and never once got sick with anything?

Vern literally walked them into a mall, dressed them in new clothes, grabbed essential… and just walked out? And the tags on the clothes didn’t’ set off the alarms? The security in the mall didn’t catch her? Right…

The further we venture into the story and out of the woods, the more implausible this lack of consequences gets. To the point that I didn’t even care for any of this anymore. Whatever Vern did, she would get out of it looking better than ever, with an “upgrade” to her supernatural abilities. If the protagonist has a “Mary Sue shield” around her, what’s the point reading her story?

The ending is even more underwhelming because it reads like the final boss level of a video game – Vern gets her maximum upgrades and goes to fight the bad guys who don’t stand a chance. Only it’s all kind of pointless at that point, pun intended.

In conclusion, I wouldn’t recommend this. There are better and more impactful stories out there that don’t need deux ex machina elements to keep the protagonist from dying because of her own stupidity.

PS: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Spec Ops Z by Gavin G. Smith

Stars: 2 out of 5 for the novelty of the idea.

DNFed at 85%. Yes, I know, I was so close to the finish… I really tried to power through, I promise.

It had a fun beginning and an interesting premise. It was fast paced and fun during their attack on NY and their escape from Manhattan afterwards.

It got boring and yawn inducing during the time on the boat. Too much drama and blatant insubordination. I’m not sure about the author’s background, but spetsnaz are ELITE forces, a bit like Navy SEALS. The shit Gulag was pulling in this book would have gotten him shot back in Afghanistan already… and to add insult to injury, Vadim is an idiot incapable of leading a pack of 5 year old’s, least of all a squad of elite soldiers. He has no authority, no personal charisma, and he doesn’t command respect. He is a joke. Fraulein was a more believable commander than him. Come on, author, you could do better than this.

But even the more than subpar protagonist would have been okay. I was looking for gruesome zombie fun, after all… only we didn’t really get much of it after the escape from NY. Mostly it’s people vs. people with the walking dead as a distraction.

Also, the author seems to forget his protagonists are zombies half the time, only remembering their “condition” when it’s convenient. They go from barely being able to keep their sanity every time they are in proximity of human beings to spending weeks with over 100 live humans on a boat. Not to mention that Princess is still alive and by the end, it didn’t seem to bother the rest of them anymore.

Not to mention that being zombies doesn’t make them superpowered. They are dead. They should start decomposing by now. And there is only so much punishment a dead body can take before it isn’t functional anymore. Yet they walk, talk, shoot, etc. without any problems even over a week after turning… after being shot at, beaten, etc. Yeah, my disbelief meter was slowly reaching boiling point.

At this point, I was still resolved to drag myself painfully across the finish line. But then the author introduced fake (and not so fake) Nazis… in 1980s England. Yeah, no. The level of stupid just overwhelmed my desire to finish the book. Welcome to the DNF graveyard.

PS: Thanks to Netgalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

You are invited by Sarah A. Denzil

Stars 2. 5 out of 5

I like a good ghost story from time to time and nothing is more prone to haunting than an old monastery hidden in the mountains, especially when the snow cuts it off from the rest of the world…

This had all the ingredients to be an excellent ghost story that would keep me up at night first rushing to finish it, then being scared by imaginary sounds I hear in my own home. But unfortunately, it wasn’t so.

There are three ingredients for a good ghost story: 1) the characters, 2) the atmosphere, 3) the actual ghost (or the idea of one). It’s essential that all of them mix together perfectly, because that’s when the building becomes alive in our imagination and we root for the hapless characters and are afraid (or pity) of the apparition.

So let’s talk about the ingredient the author did well – the atmosphere. There are numerous beautifully haunting descriptions of the monastery and the mountains surrounding it. I felt the chilly drafts in the old building and the creaking doors. I could hear the howling of the wind and the answering calls of the wolves. I could see the surreal shapes of the trees peaking out of the dense fog. It was beautiful, it was sad, and it deserved a much better story that was told.

The biggest problem with this book is the characters. You HAVE to like at least some of them to care about what happens to them. Here, the characters are so one-dimensional that I couldn’t even picture them in my head. Yes, Irene is beautiful and self-absorbed. Dan is a yoga instructor… and that’s about all he contributes to the story. Nick is a cliche gamer with possible mental issues? Jules is a hapless blogger that happens to befriend our protagonist… And the protagonist… I think the protagonist is the reason why characters don’t work.

I understand the idea behind having the story told by an unreliable narrator, but Cat is too fixated on herself and her progressing schizophrenia to really care about anyone else. She only “sees” the other characters in this monastery to the extent of their reaction to her (and that reaction is often imagined and wrongly interpreted by her as well).

So how can the reader care about them when Cat doesn’t really care about them? Apart from Jules, but even then it’s a stretch.

And the final ingredient is lacking as well. The whole story behind the haunting is horrible, yes, but also too vague and inconsistent. Who is actually haunting this place? Nobody knows, Cat even less so than the others. And with her illness turning into an obsession, all her findings and suppositions are even more unreliable.

As a result, I felt disconnected from the story almost from the beginning. I read about the events that happened, but it felt like I was just looking in through a dirty window. There was no involvement and no connection whatsoever. So there was no fear or even apprehension. I could care less what happened to the animated characters on the other side of the glass. That, my friends, is a ghost story fail in my books.

PS: I received a free advanced copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.