Mixed Emotions: The Last Few Weeks

Hey everyone. I’ve been slowly trying to put my thoughts together as, every day, new information keeps coming faster and more confusingly to the point where I’m not even sure where to start because I feel like this story isn’t linear.

I got the news today that one of my high school classmates just died a couple of days ago.

For simplicity (and privacy), I’m going to call him DD. DD was one of the nicest kids in my class, easily. He was genuinely sweet and would talk to anyone. The one time I remember him getting in trouble at school was in middle school where he wore a “cereal killer” t-shirt with a spoon printed underneath it. (This kid had a legitimate obsession with cereal and everyone knew it. Like, would eat it by the box. In a sitting or two.)

With the sudden flood of tributes on Facebook, I learned that a year and a half ago, he participated in an outdoor sleeping event to raise awareness for homelessness. Like, this doesn’t surprise me at all. This is exactly the kind of person DD was. He was heavily involved in his faith in a town where many proclaimed their faith but few actually did anything to make the world better. He did.

This year (OMG, I think it’s TODAY?!) marks the 10th anniversary of my graduation from high school. In that time, I don’t honestly remember losing any of my other classmates. Three died while we were in school (accident, suicide, cancer), so those are the ones I usually remember. This is hitting me kind of funny. I hadn’t seen DD since we graduated, so I hate to jump on a bandwagon and proclaim my sorrow when…that doesn’t feel like the right word. I’m definitely sorry that bright light has been taken from the world, but…I don’t know what I’m feeling. Confused and surprised mostly, with a twinge of sadness.

Mostly, I’m just starting to feel old.

All of this came on top of going more than 24 hours without electricity in my house as the remnants of Tropical Storm Cristobal passed through my town. You truly don’t know how much you take electricity for granted until you suddenly lack the ability to go to the bathroom without a flashlight.

Humor aside, I’ve basically spent the last two days (or the last three months, honestly), thinking about life and how much we take for granted. I took for granted that my classmates were all young and healthy and we’d all theoretically be around to go to the reunion after the COVID fears pass. I took for granted that DD would be around to change the world.

I took it for granted that a police officer would find his humanity before he killed someone by cutting off his air and blood flow for nearly nine minutes.

Look, I hate talking politics outside of a very small group of people consisting of my immediate family, my boyfriend, and my best friend. That’s it. It’s part of my introverted-people-pleasing-conflict-avoidance tendencies.

But this is just ridiculous.

This isn’t the first time I’ve found fault with the police. I’ve heard all the other stories over the years on the news. I’ve heard a Latina friend of mine complain about how she or her family have been treated by cops. So this isn’t the first time I’ve seen the problem or thought something should be done. I’ve watched the Patriot Act with Hasan Minaj segment about police unions. I’ve seen the John Oliver Last Week Tonight segment about police brutality. (Why yes, I do get most of my informed news from comedians. I find they tell it to you more truthfully and fully than actual news channels.)

My city protested along with all the others that last week of May. And I was happy for them. I even thought briefly about joining them. (COVID and social anxiety kept me at home though.) A few hours later, the protest turned violent. Tear gas, rubber bullets, looting. It all looked exactly the same as what I saw happening everywhere else–except I had never seen it in my city before, with people I knew. I watched as reporters suffered from the effects of the gas. I watched the police antagonize the crowd. I also watched a lot of protesters hurl bottles and debris at police, and protesters surround cars with people simply on their way home from work. Simply put, I tried to see both sides.

I’ve watched the videos from around the country. It’s been hard not to. It’s been very hard to ignore how some police are making things worse by beating, pushing, or trapping peaceful protesters.

It’s harder still to watch a single group constantly singled out for abuse. I can’t stand seeing how Black Americans–because they are Americans–are targeted so often and for so little reason.

(It’s also worth pointing out that many of the tactics police are using are against the Geneva Convention, which is mortifying and horrifying.)

When “Defund the Police” became a common refrain, I looked into it. In my moderate sized urban city (roughly 200,000 residents), what did we spend on police? I wanted to do my own research.

The results astounded me.

On publicly released documents that I easily found online with about 3 clicks, I spent about 45 minutes looking over documents. The city’s annual budget is in the ballpark of $110 million. $64 million went to police. That’s 58% of the annual city budget. It didn’t go to city improvements, it didn’t go to health or public works. No, the majority went to one branch of the city.

As I dug deeper, they actually do a more itemized list of their expenses. A huge amount went to wages, which I expected, but I also discovered that the city buys a new armored vehicle (worth over $200,000) every other year. You can’t tell me that the vehicles get ruined that quickly, so why do we need multiples of these in what is generally considered to be a safe city?

After finding this information, I’m fully on board reallocating some of these funds elsewhere. Let’s set up some kind of city department that responds to issues of mental health and social service needs–let’s shrink the size of the police department and focus instead on helping people. I don’t want to go so far as to say we should completely dismantle the police department in my city, but we need to seriously reconsider what “policing” looks like.

That was a lot of darkness, I know. I’ve been swirling in a pool of confusion and fear and anxiety for months. Just as one national emergency starts to end, another begins. 2020 is really shaping up to be a wild ride, I will give it that.

But I’m also hopeful. I think this time–finally–change is coming. I see attitudes shifting within my own community. I see it changing the national conversation, an acknowledgement of wrongdoing. I see the power of the people, the way the Founding Fathers intended it. (Seriously–not only do we have the right to protest, but the Declaration of Independence essentially says if the government’s not working, it’s the responsibility of the people to overthrow it–and this is a form of that.)

I’m not going to lie, I’m more than a little gleeful to see the statues being toppled. It’s about time Columbus and others were brought down.

YA Trends: Cartoon Covers

Ok, so I really enjoyed writing the last YA Trends post, so I thought I’d do another one.

This one’s about covers!

Cover Trends Aren’t New

Amazon.com: Tweet Cute: A Novel (9781250237323): Lord, Emma: BooksIf you’ve been in the YA game for more than a couple of years, you’ve probably seen a cover trend.  It used to be the girls with half a face. Or girls in big ball gowns, even if that didn’t fit the story at all. Or the minimalist covers of like, dandelion fluff or a shoe on the side of a road.

It’s just that now, we’re starting to get more into the cartoon-looking covers. And they kind of drive me crazy.

What are “Cartoon Covers”?

I’m sure there’s some kind of technical term for these covers, but they look like computer-generated cartoons to me, like someone was just messing around and made fan art of their favorite character(s) in the story.  Or like they’re trying to Disney-fy everything. It does have a distinctly innocent, Disney look to it.

More Than Maybe by Erin HahnAnd this trend is everywhere, but most prevalent in the YA romance category.

To do some research for this, I opened a Goodreads list called 2020 Anticipated YA Romances. Even I was shocked when I saw that the first 11 books on the list employed the look I’m talking about. Only about 18 out of 71 of the YA romances on this list did not use this cartoonish look. That means about 75% of them did.

I understand this is not scientific in any way, shape, or form. But as an informal survey, it’s incredibly enlightening to say the least. I mean, I didn’t even realize it was that common.

Why is this taking over?

Amazon.com: Fangirl: A Novel (9781250030955): Rowell, Rainbow: BooksAs with any trend, be it in fashion, movies, music, or books, something sold well and everyone is trying to copy it. I can’t figure out what book started this trend (my best guess is last year’s Red, White, & Royal Blue), but I know that it’s not new. The anthology My True Love Gave To Me from 2014 uses this kind of cartoonish look to depict each of the couples in each story. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell even employs this same style, though with a few differences. So this isn’t something that just got invented.

The point of covers is to help sell the books. Whatever’s going on in marketing right now must point to the success of this style. Maybe it’s simply that people got bored with the previous cover style and are intrigued by the new style. Maybe this allowed for brighter eye-catching covers. Maybe it was “easier” to highlight diversity instead of finding models to fit the look. (I can’t help feeling that this somehow plays into it. I could just be cynical, but it’s ironic that the moment stories start getting more diverse, you suddenly don’t have real-life models on the covers anymore.)

What’s wrong with it?

Besides what I just mentioned about not truly depicting people of diversity in any real capacity, my issue with this is that it seems to trivialize the stories because they’re “just romances” or they’re “for girls.”

Amazon.com: A Sky Beyond the Storm (An Ember in the Ashes ...Compare, for example, the types of covers you’re seeing coming out in other genres that are marketed for boys or mixed audiences.  Sabaa Tahir’s newest, A Sky Beyond the Storm, is a fantasy novel with a very strong multicultural girl on the cover. The Hunger Games prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, has a gold emblem on it that reminds me of Katniss’s mockingjay pin. Rick Riordan’s The Tower of Nero involves a battle scene on the cover. Karen M. McManus’s upcoming release, The Cousins, has family pictures with giant red X’s through the faces.

None of these are as cartoonish as the romance novels. Even the ones that are computer generated (Riordan, maybe Tahir) still make their effects look lifelike and three dimensional.  The cartoons don’t even do that.

Obviously, I realize that romances are supposed to mostly be light and fluffy reads. They use the covers to immediately tell the audience that these books are different than, say, McManus’s mystery or Tahir’s fantasy novel. Covers are very indicative of genre. It’s intentional.

You Say It First by Katie CotugnoHowever, I just balk at the idea that romances are nothing but fluff. Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed was one of my heaviest reads this spring–and yet it’s given a cartoon cover to emphasize the romance of the story rather than its political edge. You Say It First by Katie Cotugno is another with a political edge and a cartoon cover.

Breath Like Water by Anna Jarzab deals with a wannabe Olympic swimmer who might be losing her career if she can’t force herself past her edge.

American Royals and the sequel, Majesty, by Katharine McGee are full of people with the weight of the world on their shoulders, social media vitriol, and manipulations from every angle.

Don't Read the Comments by Eric SmithThe Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly by Jamie Pacton is about a waitress at a medieval-themed restaurant who disguises herself as a knight to join the joust–something that only the guys can do. And Kit isn’t going to let the bosses say a girl can’t do it.

Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith is about a professional gamer using the money she makes to help her mother pay the rent and internet trolls who are now threatening her in real life.

But yeah, sure, let’s just focus on the romance in these and give it a cute, poppy cover that don’t highlight at all that there’s more depth to the story than that.

I hate the misconception that romance is just about the love stories and that’s it.  That’s like saying Titanic is just about Jack and Rose when there’s so much more to the story than that.  Do they have romantic elements? Yes. But something like The Hunger Games also has a very obvious romance in it as well and that’s de-emphasized to highlight the action.

Last Thoughts

Like any trend, this will probably only be around for a year or two and then start to disappear. It’ll be something new before we know it. It just bothers me that this is so pervasive at the moment and that it seems to be impacting diversity disproportionately. From the covers alone, you’d never be able to tell how multicultural they are. That seems to be intentional to “broaden the appeal”; however, it just perpetuates the problem.

I’ll get off my soapbox now. I’m just hoping we can get to a point again where we can acknowledge that YA romance is about far more than romance.

 

YA Trends: The Unsolvable Mystery

Hey everyone!  I tell you what, being in quarantine has put me more in touch with the YA world than I have been since college.  (I did the math the other day–I’ve read 21 books these past 2 months.  Last year during this time?  I read 4.)

As I was doing dishes the other day, I started to realize there was a low-level trend taking place in YA that really isn’t getting a lot of attention.  And I wanted to talk about the pros and the cons about it.

Amazon.com: And Then There Were None (9780062073488): Christie ...What is it?

I’m titling this trend the “unsolvable mystery.” Basically, this is a mystery that is crafted in such a way that the reader is not supposed to know who the killer is (because it’s usually a murder story) until The Big Reveal. The best non-YA example of this I can think of is Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None (which is a classic that you totally need to read if you haven’t).  And, to a lesser extent, the Sherlock Holmes mysteries fit this as well.

What are some examples?

I’m so glad you asked.  Well, I asked for you, but still.  These are the examples that immediately came to mind:

  • Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco
  • Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
  • All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban
  • One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus  (I’m currently reading this, which inspired this post!)

I will refer to these (and occasionally And Then There Were None) as necessary to make my points.  But if you haven’t read them, no worries.  I intend to stay spoiler-free.

What’s awesome about this trend?

Amazon.com: Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper (1 ...First of all, anyone who’s paying any attention to YA will know that two or three out of the four I listed are huge bestsellers.  Truly Devious, a trilogy revolving around the kidnapping and disappearance in Vermont, just wrapped up this year.  Karen McManus just dropped the sequel to One of Us is Lying a few months ago.  And Stalking Jack the Ripper has been an incredibly popular series for years.  (All Your Twisted Secrets only just came out recently and is a standalone, putting it in a slightly different category than the others, as series. Popularity is a little harder to judge in that case.)

Obviously these books sell very well.  Why?

Well, because the stories are a puzzle. You’re introduced to a high-stakes mystery early on in the story. In One of Us, 5 kids went to detention but only 4 left alive. In Twisted Secrets, there’s a scholarship dinner that turns out to be a trap, leaving the 6 students locked in a room with a bomb and a clock counting down.

Truly Devious (Truly Devious, #1) by Maureen JohnsonThey also sometimes make the focus of the story more about character. Truly Devious and Stalking focus on characters obsessed with solving crimes, which allows us to experience the stories from an “expert” standpoint.  In these stories, we can basically count on the fact that our main character is more observer than participant in any crime.  The other stories? That line gets blurred.

Because these stories focus on crimes, the suspense level is usually quite high. Twisted is a heart-pounding, can’t-put-down read because the secrets slowly start coming out. What I’ve read so far of One of Us, it seems very similar. Stalking follows a serial killer most of us are fairly familiar with (some more than others).

So these stories are exciting, hard to put down, and keep the reader guessing.

So what’s the downside?

In my opinion, they’re starting to get predictable.  That happens with just about any trend that picks up speed, from mysteries to contemporary romance to vampire tales.

Amazon.com: All Your Twisted Secrets eBook: Urban, Diana: Kindle StoreLet’s start by discussing the Queen of Mystery, Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.  This story completely revolutionized the mystery genre in 1939. No one had written anything like it. 10 strangers are brought to an island through a mysterious millionaire’s letter and stranded there, only to find that they’re all hiding secrets they’re desperate to keep hiding. And the body count is rising.

Sound familiar?

It’s basically the plot of One of Us and Twisted Secrets. You trap people with dark secrets in a small space and see what happens.

Or how about the fact that Truly Devious and Stalking are like updated versions of Sherlock Holmes with highly intelligent girls taking it upon themselves to play detective?

Obviously, there is a trope here. Mysteries usually fall into one of those two categories because they’re compelling and entertaining. This is nothing new. People have been following these templates for decades.

Amazon.com: One of Us Is Lying (9781524714680): McManus, Karen M ...So why is this different? Because these books are all trying to pass themselves off as “unsolvable.” They drop very few clues the entire story and when they do, it’s almost always a red herring. (A “red herring” is a clue that is intentionally misleading, pointing you in the wrong direction.) Nearly every mystery novel I’ve ever read involves red herrings, but these have an extraordinary number of them.

The point of these mysteries is to make every character a suspect–which, paradoxically, means none of them is a suspect. You truly have no idea who did it because there are no clues–it’s all about who has the darker motive and that changes all the time.  This can be detrimental to the story because readers know they aren’t going to get answers until the end–so the 300 pages between the beginning of the mystery and The Big Reveal are essentially pointless. This can leave the reader feeling frustrated.  I mean, if you’re trying to pin a murder on 5 different people, then you truly have no suspect.

Amazon.com: The Vanishing Stair (Truly Devious Book 2) eBook ...You’re not going to know what has truly happened until the very end when the killer inevitably has to tell you exactly how and why they did it.  Prior to them telling you exactly what everything means, it is virtually impossible to see it coming. It’s a Scooby Doo mystery without the clues.  Or an episode of The Masked Singer.

These books are all coming out around the same time, and that’s leading to all kinds of comparisons. I read Twisted Secrets a few months ago and now, starting One of Us (which was technically published first), it seems like it’s the exact same story.  There are differences, especially in the writing and how the narrative plays out, but the basic structure is the same. It’s boring.

So…are they all bad?

Of course not.  Truly Devious is high on my list of recommendations for anyone looking for a mystery.  Maureen Johnson does a good job of intertwining multiple mysteries, interesting characters, and actually giving the reader satisfaction throughout. The main mystery might not be solved, but you’re going to get answers to other questions you have.

Amazon.com: Hunting Prince Dracula (Stalking Jack the Ripper (2 ...And I found Twisted Secrets to be a stunning psychological read because the fear and the pain the characters are feeling is very visceral and real.  I couldn’t put it down.

But I am struggling with the other two. While I loved the first Stalking book, I found the sequel to be essentially the same book as the first. It became boring. And One of Us has a slower build than Twisted Secrets and lacks the sharp terror and suspense that drew me in to the latter.

Mysteries are finicky things and while I’m glad they’ve come back into fashion, I’m finding I’m very picky about how exactly the writing crafts the story. There’s a difference between making readers feel like they’re part of process of solving the mystery and making them feel like useless bystanders.

Some YouTube Channels I’m Watching Now…

Hey everyone!  As we’re all struggling to find things to do stuck at home (although maybe not for some of you if your states opened?), I’ve been desperately seeking interesting YouTube channels to fill in the void.  And let me tell you, they run the gambit of All My Interests.

Let’s start with my latest obsession.

Some Good News

I would be remiss if I missed mentioning this.  John Krasinski’s uplifting “news” channel is so good and funny and emotional that I usually end up tearing up before the end.  If you haven’t watched any of these, YOU NEED TO RIGHT NOW.  I drop everything when there’s a new video to watch them.  It makes my heart feel good.

Lindsay Ellis

I stumbled on this channel on accident really.  The video was about making a case for Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame and my allergies were bad that day and I just wanted to lay on the couch, so it worked.  And immediately, I started searching out other videos of hers.  She does film criticism (typically focusing on Disney and musical theatre, which is PERFECT for me), but it’s very insightful and usually is grounded in what was happening at the time (eg., what was happening at the Disney company at the time, how the animation world was changing, or even the historical context in which the original Hunchback or Phantom of the Opera was written).  It’s very smart and, if you don’t have time to watch a 30-45 minute episode, she’s also got a segment she does called “Loose Canon” where she talks about how common characters like Hades and Santa and the Wicked Witch of the West have changed over time in various film and media adaptations.

REACT

This channel is just fun fluff.  I don’t even necessarily like all the different segments they do, but it’s fun.  Basically, this channel has teens, college kids, and/or adults react to different things (80s technology, 2000s music videos, etc.) or play some kind of game (Guess the Movie Quote, Guess the Song, etc.).  The videos are like 10-15 minutes long and I’ve already started figuring out who among the usual “contestants” if you will are my favorite.

MsMojo

This is a channel completely devoted to making lists.  Some of them are about books (Top 10 Book to TV Show Adaptations of this Century), TV shows (Top 10 Times Brooklyn Nine-Nine Got Real), movies (Top 10 Things You Never Knew About The Notebook), and more.  Usually I end up watching these 10-15 minute videos when I’m eating lunch because I can watch a couple of them and react along with their picks.

PS, I do agree with a number of these picks in this video.

Joe Santagato

I should warn you right away that this channel is super raunchy.  Lots of profanity and immaturity and dirty jokes.  But I fell in love with this channel a couple years when I found one of his videos on Facebook.  Joe and his brother Keith play this Mad Libs game where they try to make the Mad Lib as dirty as possible and then they have to have water in their mouth when it’s read back and usually water ends up everywhere.  I’ve watched the videos so many times and my sides still hurt every time from laughing so hard.  That’s my favorite segment of his, but there are so so many that he does.  Idiots of the Internet, The Weirdest Laws in the US, What’d Ya Say?, and games where his family plays Pictionary and Catch Phrase and stuff.

Like I said, it’s dirty stuff, so if you’re planning on checking this out…be prepared.

 

Write This Down! Isolation Notes

Hey guys!  I’m currently in the process of writing up a bunch of reviews and things that I’ve definitely fallen behind on this month, so I’ll have a lot of new content now that I have more time at home!  (My Kindle will soon be getting a workout.)

But if you’re looking for something to do while you’re stuck at home, I’ve started doing this recently at the recommendation of a Social Studies teacher and friend.

We are in the middle of unprecedented times.  None of us know what’s happening and the news is changing so quickly.  Because we are the ones currently living this, it’s a fantastic idea to write a journal/diary of what’s happening with you.  Primary sources, people!  It’s like how we read the letters and diaries of people who lived in Atlanta during the Civil War or how we still read Anne Frank’s diary.  Perhaps you think your story is insignificant, but future generations will look back on these things and see the value.

I started writing (literally handwriting, but the choice is yours) mine on Wednesday last week.  I really should have started sooner because I took the first entry to recount all the necessary details: what COVID is, how everything was normal one week and unrecognizable the next, etc.  Let me tell you, my hand was sore by the end of all that.  It was a lot of writing.

Most days, my entries are about what I’m doing that day, what I saw on the news, the newest case/death totals to track the progression, etc.  I’m even recounting things like how the check-out line at my local grocery store literally wrapped around the store.

That first day, I felt more like a historian in my writing.  It’s slowly turning into more of a diary, which is fine.  I think the more human I can make it, the better.  If someone wanted the facts, they could easily look up the articles posted about it.  I want this to be what it was like for ME.  (Later generations may read it and go, “What’s a Wii and why is she playing it for so long?” Well, future kids, it’s because it’s a game and it gets me moving!  I don’t care that the games I own are literally 5-12 years old!)

Anyway, I thought I’d pass on the idea to you guys as well!  I’ve seen it making the rounds online anyway, so it’s out there, but truly, it’s kind of helping me make sense of everything.  My mood is so up and down each day that it’s hard to feel anything but trapped.  Being able to write it all down helps.

Stay safe out there!

~Holly

COVID-19 and the Coming Days

Hey everyone.  Look, I didn’t want to tag along with all of this (and I’m not going to be sharing numbers or anything like that), but I think there are a few things we need to talk about.

As a teacher, this last week has been literal hell.  Between the time change, my school doing one of our standardized tests, and COVID-19 news every single day (with my entire county shutting down all schools from now until early to mid-April), I’m honestly not sure how I’ve survived this week.

Like, by Wednesday we teachers knew a closing was coming. We were getting a ton of information on how to do e-learning with video chats and it just seemed like it was coming sooner rather than later.  Lo and behold, Friday afternoon the news broke and we still had to scramble to get everything pulled together.

This is an incredibly stressful time for all of us.  As I told my students, none of us have ever lived through anything like this.  Every few hours, when I check the news updates, something else has happened that I never expected to happen.  (Interest rates at 0%, states ordering restaurants and bars to close, etc.)

I could put an incredibly lovely spin on this and say something like, “Look at all the time we have to catch up on our reading/Netflix shows/calling friends we haven’t talked to in a while!”  But the reality is that, for now, we’re all still a little too freaked out whether we admit it or not.  I’m still not entirely sure it’s all sunken in yet–for me or the other people around me.  I have family that keep going out to restaurants, even though they can’t go to school or work.  Coworkers of mine are still considering going on their Spring Break vacations.  My own father won’t stop visiting my 83-year-old grandmother who has literally all of the risk factors that make COVID deadly.

Like, I can’t tell if people are ignorant, in denial, or just stupid.  Are we going to go stir crazy?  Absolutely.  I’ve been home for 2.5 days and I’m already starting to get tired of my walls.  My library system has closed.  Stores are closing.  Even if I wanted to leave the house, I can only basically hang out in my yard or take a walk.  Cabin fever is going to be a real thing for many of us, including the introverts.  I mean, we’re making all the jokes now, but it’ll get difficult eventually for us too.  I’m hearing that many schools in my 3-4 state area may not reopen this school year.  Period.

With my anxiety, I’m struggling with this on many levels.  I about had a panic attack/break down at school on Friday.  I can’t escape people talking about COVID, nor can I just ignore the news updates that come multiple times a day.  I’ve taken to meditation and yoga every day just to decompress, but it’s not always enough.

I’m lucky enough right now to be dating a wonderful guy who understands and is able to help me cope.  He’s in-tune enough with my emotions that he can read when I’ve been quiet a little too long or if I can’t mask the beginnings of my anxiety and is quick with a joke or a hug, whichever I need.

It’s going to take some time to adjust to this “new normal.”  (I cringe just typing that because if a closed library is the “new normal,” then I’m definitely going crazy.)  I think a lot of our anxiety comes from the uncertainty (or at least mine does), so once we can get through a few days without a dozen new surprises, I think we’ll start feeling a little better.

At least, I hope that’s the case.

At any rate, I suppose this means I’ll be able to catch up on reviews I haven’t done lately.