Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: The Girl at Midnight #1
Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she's ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she's fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it's time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, though if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it's how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren't as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

To be honest I was a bit nervous going in The Girl at Midnight because of the mixed ratings that I saw beforehand, but I ended up LOVING it--one of the best young adult fantasy book I've read this year! 

First, I think it's best to go into this one without knowing much about the plot--I am going to be mentioning some plot points because it's unavoidable but read on at your own risk. 

Yes, the synopsis tells you the gist of the story (a human girl must find the mythical Firebird to end the war between two supernatural races), but it doesn't tell you everything. There was sooo much more than that! It doesn't tell you all the fantastic characters and how they ended up coming together despite being at opposite sides of the war, and going on a quest to find the the clues that will (hopefully!) lead them to the Firebird. There's even a bit of a heist kind of feel to it, which I loved! I got a lot more than I was expecting and I was riveted to the pages, wanting to know what will happen next. There was a lot of twists and turns and it was so much fun.

I'm trying to think of my favorite character but it's so hard to pick just one. There were so many that I loved. There's Echo, of course. She ran away from her horrible home life at a young age and was taken in by the Ala, one of the leaders of the Avicen (a magical race of people with feathers for hair). She's kind of a professional thief, because she sometimes gets hired to steal objects for others. She feels more of an affinity towards the Avicen than humans, but she's still an outsider among them because she is human. Then, there's Caius (the Dragon Prince) and Dorian (the captain of the royal guard and Caius's closest friend) who are Drakharin (they're part dragon--where the Avicens have feathers, the Drakharin have scales) and enemy to the Avicen. They're both very interesting, complex characters--I don't want to say more because it will give away too much. You just have to read the book and find out for yourself. And I can't not talk about characters without mentioning Jasper. He was flamboyant and funny, but I question his true intentions. You kind of want to trust him, but you can't quite do so 100%. Oh, and I totally ship him with Dorian! Some of my favorite parts of the novel were their dialogue and scenes together.

The world building was interesting. I'd like to see more, actually, of the Avicen and the Drakharin territories. We kind of had glimpses, but not quite the full picture yet. My favorite though was the underground Avicen marketplace. It reminded me a lot of Harry Potter's Diagon Alley. I think there's a whole lot more to explore in the upcoming books and I'm so excited. We got to learn a bit of the magic also. Echo was able to cast spells and she's able to travel through the in-between to go to different parts of the world (similar to teleporting) with the help of shadow dust and some sort of doorway or portal, but she can't do magic as easily as an Avicen. The Drakharin have similar magic, but they don't need to use shadow dust to travel. I'm not quite clear of the magic and its rules yet, and I'm looking forward to learning more in the next books.

I very, very much enjoyed and loved The Girl at Midnight. It's an excellent start to a very promising series and I am very much invested on the characters and what will happen next. I enjoyed Ms. Grey's writing and voice. I didn't detect any debut author awkwardness, which is great. I just had a great time reading The Girl at Midnight. Even before I got to the halfway point, I was already recommending it to Leslie. I've heard The Girl at Midnight compared to Lainey Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone series and to Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series, but I wouldn't know since I haven't read either series. I did get flashes of Harry Potter, though, especially when it came to the Avicen's underground marketplace. If anything, I'd say it's a mix of Harry Potter (where instead of wizards we have people who are part bird and people who are part dragon, but there were hints that other supernatural creatures may be introduced later) and Ally Carter's Heist Society series. The Girl at Midnight is awesome with interesting, multi-dimensional characters, is action-packed with unexpected twists and turns, and I basically devoured it. Book 2 cannot come soon enough!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Hello everyone,
I hope you all had a nice, relaxing 3-day weekend with a lot of reading done.

I am so excited to be part of the Rescuing the Bad Boy release week celebration. I really loved the first book in the Second Chance series, Bringing Home the Bad Boy (read my review here), and I was so excited to read about Sofie and Donovan. Rescuing the Bad Boy does not disappoint. Read on for my thoughts about the novel and for an awesome giveaway from Forever.

E-ARC: 432 pages
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: May 26, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: Second Chances #2
For Donovan Pate, the lake town of Evergreen Cove is a minefield of tough memories—including the day he had to let go of Sofie Martin. Years later, he still can’t forget the taste of her lips and the feel of her killer curves. He knows he’s too damaged, that he should stay away for her own good. But what the head says and the heart wants are two very different things…

Seven years ago, Donovan broke Sofie’s heart. Now her career depends on playing nice in order to pull off the charity fundraiser of the decade. She vows to keep things professional…yet working by his side every day doesn’t make it easy to fight temptation, and it isn’t long before she finds herself falling for this bad boy all over again. But loving Donovan means helping him face his past–so they can fight for a future together.

First of all, kudos to the cover designer for this series because I love how the background reflects the different seasons in each of the book (and the hot, face-half-cut guy doesn't hurt either): summer for Bringing Home the Bad Boy, fall for Rescuing the Bad Boy and winter for the upcoming A Bad Boy for Christmas.

Jessica Lemmon is quickly becoming one of my favorite contemporary romance authors. Second chance romances are one of my favorite romance tropes and Rescuing the Bad Boy takes everything I love and then some. It was funny, sweet, sexy, heartbreaking and swoon-y. I loved it!

Donny had a crappy home life growing up, having to deal with an abusive drunk of a father and a grandmother who turned a blind eye to what was going on. Then, he met Sofie and she was everything good he thought he couldn't have. He took her virginity and broke her heart. Seven years later, he's back and Sofie, for the sake of her career, have to play nice with him. But they both realize that despite what happened in the past they are still very much attracted to each other.

As soon as I started reading Rescuing the Bad Boy, I was hooked. I loved Sofie right away. She's hard-working, have a sunny attitude, and always ready to help others. She's the kind of person you want by your side. But she also has her insecurities and vulnerabilities that I could relate to and makes her human. Donny was standoffish at first and he came across as cold and unfeeling, but as we get to know him, we find out that he's hiding a lot behind that cold exterior. I grew to love him too and I want a Donovan Pate of my own. Like in Bringing Home the Bad Boy, I love both main characters equally on their own and together. Their story touched me and I was very much invested in their relationship and their happily every after.

I love Donny and Sofie's romance. They have very strong chemistry right from the beginning and it doesn't let up until the end. I love the emotional moments, I love the steamy, sexy moments and I love the sweet, funny moments. The author did such a great job penning all aspects of Donny and Sofie's story. I couldn't stop reading and read way too late into the night without regrets.

I am so excited to get my hands on Connor and Faith's book. We got a little bit of them in this book and I know their story going to be just as wonderful and swoon-worthy as Bringing Home the Bad Boy and Rescuing the Bad Boy. If you have not picked up a novel by Ms. Lemmon, this series is a great place to start. Rescuing the Bad Boy can be read as a standalone, but you don't want to miss Bringing Home the Bad Boy because it's amazing. I highly recommend this series.

About the Author

A former job-hopper, Jessica Lemmon resides in Ohio with her husband and rescue dog. She holds a degree in graphic design currently gathering dust in an impressive frame. When she's not writing super-sexy heroes, she can be found cooking, drawing, drinking coffee (okay, wine), and eating potato chips. She firmly believes God gifts us with talents for a purpose, and with His help, you can create the life you want.

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Happy reading,

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Unpopular Opinions

Thursday, May 21, 2015 with
Hi everyone,
I've been watching a lot of YouTube "booktube" videos lately and there's this really fun tag going around called the Unpopular Opinions book tag, which is started by the vlogger TheBookArcher. All the videos I watched were really fun and I thought I'd do it on this here blog.

There are nine questions. Here we go...

1. A popular book or series that you didn't like.
The Selection has an average rating of 4.15 stars on Goodreads and I gave it 2 stars. I was expecting to love this one, or at least breeze and be entertained. Nope. I couldn't get into it and it took me three long days to finish it. Everything about this book pretty much annoyed me, especially America Singer (WTF kind of name is that?!).

2. A popular book or series that every one else seems to hate but you love.
Hate is a strong word... In the Woods by Tana French has an average rating of 3.71 on Goodreads so readers don't hate it, but I gave it 5 stars. I love this book despite all of its flaws.

3. A love triangle where the main character ended up with the person you did NOT want them to end up with OR an OTP that you don't like.
I only read the first book in the series and I can't speak for what happened in the books after Throne of Glass, but I do not like the Celaena and Chaol together. I am shipping her with Dorian. I do not get the appeal of Chaol. He was grumpy and too serious. Dorian on the other was more fun and they have this joking banter going on, he got her a puppy, he gave her books... Dorian FTW!

4. A popular book genre that you hardly reach for.
Historical Fiction

5. A popular or beloved character that you do not like.
Severus Snape. He's a wonderfully complex character, sure, but even after the big revelations and we find out what he's really all about, I never felt any warm feelings for him. This fantastic article about why "Severus Snape Does Not Deserve Your Pity" eloquently explains all my feelings.

6. A popular author that you can't seem to get into.
It's not that I couldn't get into Kirsten Ashley's writing, but it took me a while to really get used to her voice. She uses a lot of commas, sometimes have strange turns of phrase, and has this kind of rambling, redundant way of writing. Sometimes it feels like she's going around and around to get to the point. I don't know. It's hard to explain, but here's an example from Own the Wind (the one book I read by her).
The pale moved out of her features as pink hit her cheeks, life shot into her eyes, making them vibrant, their startling color rocking him to his fucking core before she bested all that shit and burst out laughing.

He had no idea what he did, what he said, but whatever it was, he'd do it and say it again over and over until he took his last breath just so he could watch her laugh.

He didn't say a word when her laughter turned to chuckles and continued his silence, his eyes on her.

7. A popular book trope that you're tired of seeing. (examples "lost princess," corrupt ruler, love triangles, etc.)
Ones that come to mind right now are manic pixie dream girl love interests (e.g., Margo Roth Spiegelman and Alaska Young), inta-love or an inexplicable romance, "mysterious" billionaire with a dark/secret past

8. A popular series that you have no interest in reading.
Just to mention a few...

9. The saying goes "The book is always better than the movie", but what movie or T.V. show adaptation do you prefer more than the book?
The Notebook movie is better than the book.

Let me know what you thought of my answers and if you agree or disagree with me.

Happy reading,

Monday, May 18, 2015

Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: May 12, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: Hacker #1
Determined to overcome a difficult past, Erica Hathaway learns early on to make it on her own. Days after her college graduation, she finds herself face to face with a panel of investors who will make or break her fledgling startup. The only thing she didn’t prepare for was going weak in the knees over an arrogant and gorgeous investor who seems determined to derail her presentation.

Billionaire and rumored hacker Blake Landon has already made his fortune in software, and he’s used to getting what he wants. Captivated by Erica’s drive and unassuming beauty, he’s wanted nothing more than to possess her since she stepped into his boardroom. Determined to win her over, he breaks down her defenses and fights for her trust, even if it means sacrificing a level of control he’s grown accustomed to.

But when Blake uncovers a dark secret from Erica’s past, he threatens not just her trust, but the life she’s fought so hard to create.

Hardwired tells a familiar story of a young woman with a difficult past falls for the mysterious billionaire. But I had such a great time reading Hardwired anyway.
If you've read the Fifty Shades of Grey series (I haven't, but I've seen the movie) or the Crossfire series (I read the first two books), you're not going to find anything really new here. Hardwired does follow a similar plot, but I was very surprised how much I enjoyed reading it.

The most important reason why I enjoyed Hardwired was that it's not a BDSM story. I am not a huge fan of BDSM--not just my cup of tea--and that's really the reason why I avoided picking up Fifty Shades all this time. The sex scenes here were definitely on the steamier side, but there wasn't anything crazy or kinky (at least not in this first book--maybe the author will take it farther in the next book?). Don't let the cover (which just screams boudoir sex) fool you that Hardwired is just sex, sex, and more sex. There was a lot more going on and I thought the sex scenes were well-placed and helped to move the story. It had just the right amount of steam for me.

As soon as I started reading it, I knew I was going to enjoy it based on the writing alone. It was very readable and while nothing really surprised me about the plot, the author told the story in an entertaining way that kept me reading. I really like the author's voice. There were no weird turns of phrases and the writing was solid throughout the novel. 

I liked Erica right away. Having just graduated college not that long ago, I connected with her about leaving school and facing the real world, of feeling alone as friends move on. But Erica, despite her traumatic past, was smart, strong, ambitious and had some control issues. She knew what direction to take her business and she pursued it. She's no wallflower like Anastasia was and she's not an over-the-top drama queen like Ava was. 

It took me longer to warm up to Blake, though. He didn't really make a huge impression on me apart from the very beginning when he was going at Erica Shark Tank-style during her business presentation to potential investors. But after that, he kind of lost some of his sparkle and became like all the other billionaires I've read before. His character didn't feel very special to me for most of the novel though he did eventually grow on me. He also had control issues and I wanted to know more about him and his past.

Overall, I really, really enjoyed Hardwired. The plot is not original but I liked the characters, the writing was fantastic,  there was good chemistry and tension between them, and it had the right amount of steam. I was very entertained. Hardwired is a great start to the series and I am definitely interested in reading the rest of the books. If you're like me and do not like BDSM novels, but still like the whole mysterious billionaire plot line, then you should really give this series a try.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Hello everyone,
Welcome to the last leg of the Tessa Ever After Blog Tour. I am so excited to be part of this really awesome blog tour. I really enjoyed Tessa Ever After. Read on for my thoughts about Tessa and a fun Kiss, Marry, Kill Q&A with author Brighton Walsh.

In this grippingly emotional New Adult novel from the author of Caged in Winter, what you want isn’t always what you need…

Jason’s been living (and loving) the rich playboy lifestyle for five years, but now his parents are pressuring him to get involved in the family business. The last thing he wants is another obligation, but when his best friend moves out of state and asks Jason to look after his sister, he can’t just say no.

Tessa had to grow up way too soon. After dealing with the aftermath of her parents’ deaths, then becoming a teenage mom, she knows the meaning of responsibility. Which is why, at twenty-two, she’s looking for so much more than a party boy. She’s looking for someone who can stand by her and her daughter…forever.

A relationship between them is doomed from the start, but who says they can’t have a little fun? But as Jason gets closer to Tessa—and her daughter—fun starts to turn into something else… Something Jason’s not sure he’s ready for.

I almost passed on picking up Tessa Ever After because I haven't read Caged in Winter, but after a very gushy email from Jessica at Berkley I couldn't. I had to see for myself and I am so happy I did. Thank you Jessica! Tessa Ever After is an awesome read.

Tessa is Cade's younger sister from Caged in Winter and she's an over-worked single mom. Ever since her brother left, all the responsibility of taking care of her daughter Haley, keeping house, working a full-time job and cosmetology school falls on her shoulders. She feels like she's in over her head, but good thing Jason (her brother's best friend) is around to help out.

Growing up with Cade, Jason had always thought of Tessa as a sister. But lately he had been seeing her differently and feels a strong attraction to her. Unfortunately for Jason, Tessa is reluctant to start anything serious with him. She still sees him a player with a revolving door of women. Thinking about her daughter, she wants someone who is committed in the long run and will stay for the long haul. Jason wants to show her that he just may be the man for her and Haley, but he also has to deal with his parents who wants him to take over the family business.

I thoroughly enjoyed Tessa Ever After. Jason and Tessa were great characters. I love a good friends-to-lovers story so I really liked that they were already friends before the story began. I admired Tessa and how hard she worked and how she juggled motherhood with everything else. I understood why she was so reluctant to start anything with Jason. She doesn't have just herself to think about, but also her 4-year-old daughter. I haven't read a new adult novel where the heroine has a younger daughter so this novel offered a different perspective. 

Jason was supposed to be a wild, rich playboy who had a different woman every night and a no-relationship kind of guy, but I never really got that from him. I haven't read Caged in Winter so maybe that's where he showed his playboy partying ways? Except for this one scene early on when he was in a bar with his friends and there was this girl trying to get his attention, I don't recall him ever going out or hanging out with other women. He just seemed like a good guy--he went to class, was a phone call away when Tessa needed him, and he enjoys just hanging out with Tessa and Haley at their house. I really liked Jason and I love his relationship with Haley. They were so cute together and loved all their scenes together.

Since I didn't read Caged in Winter I feel like I'm missing some of the background information early on in the novel, like what happened to Tessa's parents (I know they died since it said that in the synopsis but I wanted to know the how). I wanted to know about Haley's dad and what exactly happened to him and Tessa and why he's not in the picture. I'm thinking that maybe most of that information was in Winter? Maybe. But I am the kind of reader who likes to know the who, what, where, when, and why of characters' background early on. Eventually, things were mentioned here and there and I piece things together and got my answers so it wasn't too big a deal.

Tessa Ever After was an easy, entertaining read. I would read for a chunk of time and when I emerge from my reading haze, I was always surprise at how far I've read. I love reading books where you forget your flipping pages and is just immersed in the story. I like Brighton Walsh's writing--it was easy, clean and very readable. There were no weird turns of phrases or similes that take you out of the story--I've noticed lately, especially in new adult novels, that authors like to make strange comparisons. There were none of that here, though. Tessa Ever After is my first novel by Ms. Walsh but it certainly won't be my last. I'm looking forward to reading more by her and I have added Caged in Winter on my list of books to acquire.

Author Brighton Walsh
Who would you Kiss, Marry or Kill among these men and why:
Cade (from Caged in Winter), Jason (from Tessa Ever After), Adam (from Winter and Tessa)

I’d marry Cade. He’s the perfect mix of swoony, sensitive guy and hot, possessive alpha male. And he’s a chef. Kind of a no-brainer. Plus: MUSCLES FOREVER. I’d kiss Jason because let’s face it: He’s got moves. And by kill, do you mean, kill with kindness? Okay, Adam.

NA Heroes:
Lucas (from Easy by Tammara Webber), Josh Markley (from Take What You Want by Jeanette Grey), Paul Hudson (from How to Kill a Rock Star by Tiffanie DeBartolo)

I’d marry Lucas. Swoons for life. I’d kiss Paul because he’s got that focused intensity. Plus, rock star. That leaves poor Josh. I’m only killing him because you’re making me.

Who would you Want to Be (take over their life), Want to Roommates With or Push off a Cliff among these and why:
Winter (from Caged in Winter), Tessa (from Tessa Ever After), Paige (from Winter and Tessa)

I’d want to be Paige because I just pretty much love everything about her. She’s a sassy girl who doesn’t take crap and has a lot of fun in life. I’d want to be roommates with Tessa because she’s relaxed and doesn’t get up tight about stuff. Plus, hair stylist as a roommate = awesome hair for me. As for push off a cliff? All four of us would go off, Thelma and Louise style.

NA Heroines:
Jacqueline (from Easy by Tammara Webber), Ellen Price (from Take What You Want by Jeanette Grey), Eliza Caelum (from How to Kill a Rock Star by Tiffanie DeBartolo)

I’d want to be Jacqueline because A) she’s got Lucas and B) she’s strong and she totally knows how to take care of herself. I’d want to be roommates with Ellen because she’s a total smarty pants and strikes me as a neat freak. Probably not much to complain about with her. And I wanted to strangle Eliza enough times during HtKaRS that she can go here, though I would strangle her lovingly, then maybe slap her a little and tell her to get her crap together.

Thank you Ms. Walsh for being game in answering my Kiss, Marry, Kill questions. Also, a huge thank you to Jessica and Berkley for including our blog on this fun blog tour.

About the Author
Brighton Walsh spent nearly a decade as a professional photographer before deciding to take her storytelling in a different direction and reconnect with writing. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and two children.

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Paperback: 384 pages***
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: Hitman #3
Naomi: When I was kidnapped I thought only of survival. I don’t thrive well in chaos. That’s why I gave my captors exactly what they wanted: my skill with computers. Making millions for a crime lord who kept me imprisoned in his basement compound kept my family safe. When he was taken out, I thought my ticket to freedom had arrived. Wrong. I traded one keeper for another. This time I’m in the hands of a scarred, dark, demanding Russian who happens to be the head of the Bratva, a Russian crime organization. He wants my brain and my body. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t intrigued, but I can’t be a prisoner matter how good he makes me feel.

Vasily: At a young age, I was taught that a man without power is a puppet for all. I’ve clawed—and killed—my way to the top so that it is my heel on their necks. But to unify the fractured organization into an undefeatable machine, I need a technological genius to help me steal one particular artifact. That she is breathtaking, determined, and vulnerable is making her more dangerous than all of my enemies combined. But only I can keep her safe from the world that she now inhabits. Soon, I must choose between Naomi and Bratva law. But with every day that passes, this becomes a more impossible choice.

I didn't even get to the halfway point of Last Kiss** and I was already ordering the first two books in the series. Yep, that good.

Characters. It's not mentioned in the synopsis but Naomi has Asperger. Her thought patterns are different, the way she acts and speaks is different, she has a few atypical idiosyncrasies (for example, she avoids eye contact, she hates being touched, a germaphobe, etc.) and she prefers the company of computers (she's a computer hacking genius) than people. I didn't connect to her character at first but she grew on me. She's endearing in her own way and I enjoyed reading her chapters a lot since she offers a different perspective.

Though he does not have Asperger's like Naomi, Vasily also had his idiosyncrasies. This guy is a very gray character and leans more towards the dangerous side. He has his own set of principles and he doesn't flinch pulling the trigger. Granted, the people he killed were trying to kill him, but you don't want to meet this guy in a dark alley. Like Naomi, he grew on me. He'll never be on my list of swoon-worthy heroes and book boyfriends, but the way he cared for Naomi and didn't see her as anything but a woman was so sweet and wonderful.

Romance. I love Naomi and Vasily. Both are unlike any romance novel hero and heroine I've come across before. Both are so interesting on their own and together they are well-matched. They are not easy people to get along with, you know, because they both have their own quirks. But they just work. The sex scenes are on the steamier side so you might want a cold drink next to you when reading.

Setting. I loved that the setting didn't stay in one place. We went from Russia to Brazil to Italy then to Russia again. Like, you know sometimes a book is set in Europe somewhere but it still feels like Any-City, USA? Not in Last Kiss. I actually kind of got a feel for all the countries Naomi and Vasily traveled to. Oh, and in pursuit of the artifact they were looking for, Vasily and Naomi went to some very interesting, sometimes cringe-worthy [underground sex clubs] places.

Writing. I love the writing in Last Kiss. I'm not surprised because I've read books by Jen Frederick before and she's a really good writer and can write some very, very smexy scenes (see Losing Control). I haven't read anything by Jessica Clare, though I'm planning to check out some of her solo works soon. The writing is so seamless that you cannot tell it's by two authors. They did such a great job with everything: the characters (main and secondary), setting, romance, dialogue, and the pacing--I was riveted and engaged the whole time.

Final thoughts. I'm trying to think of something to compare Last Kiss to and one that I can come up with is dark mint chocolate. Last Kiss is like delicious dark mint chocolate. Naomi and Vasily are not your typical romance heroine and hero, their world is dark and dangerous and they got into some crazy, dangerous situations in the dark underbelly of Russia, Brazil and Italy but there were also moments humor, banter and fun. I thoroughly enjoyed Last Kiss and I am very much looking forward to reading the first two companion books in the series. I highly recommend Last Kiss for readers who love dark, steamy, well-written romances.

**Last Kiss is the third book in the Hitman series but it is a standalone novel. It can be read and enjoyed without reading the first two books in the series.

***The paperback edition of Last Kiss includes a short bonus story about Nikolai and Daisy from Last Hit (book 1).