Fiction feasting in October

Did October go by at record speed or what? I’m not even mad about it (even though I love October) because it means we’re SO CLOSE to Nonfiction November.

Get ready, because November is going to be a glut of nonfiction. I know some participants read fiction during the month but I am not that person. I have even forced my book club to choose a nonfiction title so I can keep going.

But before we get to all that, let’s take a look back at some of the books I read this month!

Assuming I finish the book I’m reading by month’s end, 10 of the 12 books I read this month were fiction. Three of them (Undercover Bromance, A Rogue of One’s Own and American Royals) were Romance which is very unheard of for me! Undercover Bromance was a chance to revist some of the characters from The Bromance Book Club but I would have liked more connection with the main characters from the first book. Still going to read the next one. American Royals was angsty and had a lot of feelings but it is also YA so I’m totally fine with all of that. I was warned that this book ends on a cliffhanger so I knew I’d need the next book soon. Going to make sure I have it ready after November.

And A Rogue of One’s Own! Last year I wrote about how much I loved Bringing Down the Duke and the same applies for A Rogue of One’s Own. I honestly should have bought this instead of taking it out from the library. I will need to buy the third one and if they keep being this good, I will buy every one of Evie Dunmore’s books. Keep ’em coming!

Keeping with the romance theme, I also reread The Age of Innocence for Literary Wives (come back for that post in early December) with a very different lens than I remembered the first time I read it. I also read The Queen’s Fortune by Allison Pataki, about Desiree Clary, Napoleon’s first fiance and eventual Queen of Sweden. I loved Pataki’s books about Elisabeth of Austria and I liked this one but I’m not sure that it hit me quite the same way. I had wanted to read more about Desiree since reading Desiree by Annemarie Selinko years ago. You should for sure read that one.

And then. The big guns. The books everyone has been talking about for ages. I read Anxious People by Fredrik Backman and Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi.

Fredrik Backman is a Paperback Princess MVP. I love everything he’s written. Anxious People was very different in style to his other work and it took me a minute to get into it. But when I did, the emotional payoff was worth the work. Especially right now, a book about the things that really do matter, about working together to make good things happen, it’s what I needed.

I also loved Yaa Gyasi’s debut Homegoing. It has remained on my mental list of books that I really, really loved. I loved the structure, the story, it felt so original. Transcendent Kingdom is completely different. It’s melancholy and takes on this massive theme of faith vs science. The main character kind of holds everyone, including the reader, at a distance which made it hard for me to connect with it even while I was bowled over by the writing. There’s no doubt that Gyasi can write. Transcendent Kingdom gave me a lot to think about but I’m not sure I’d classify it as a favourite.

And hands down the most intense book that I read this month was Alyssa Cole’s When No One Is Watching. If you’ve read it, let’s discuss. If you haven’t, I’m not going to say anything because I don’t even know what I read! It was WILD.

I’m working my way through J. Courtney Sullivan’s new one, Friends and Strangers and I’m already relating to it 100 different ways. I loved her book Saints for All Occasions so I’m hoping this is another winner.

A fiction feast before my nonfiction binge. What was the best book you read in October?

See you next week for Nonfiction November!


Five books that have held my attention this year

This has been an uneven reading year. With so much going on, I know a lot of readers have had a hard time finding the focus necessary to get through a book. This reader attempted to read Know My Name by Chanel Miller in the early days of the pandemic, where things were getting shut down and every day felt like a new, scary chapter in a dystopian novel I would never read. The timing of that read meant I wasn’t able to do justice to a remarkable story.

But every once in a while, I found a book that took me out of 2020 completely and I happily spent hours with them, my phone on do not disturb, ignoring my child and household responsibilities. Those were blissful days. Here are some of those books:

Pages and Co: Tilly and the Bookwanderers by Anna James. Tilly lives with her grandparents above a bookstore in London. Her mother disappeared when she was little and she’s at an age where she’s wondering about who her mother was and what their relationship might have been like. This is also the age where she suddenly starts seeing characters from her favourite books come to life in the shop; suddenly she’s having conversations with Anne Shirley and she’s pretty sure her grandmother has tea with Elizabeth Bennett. It turns out that Tilly is a Bookwanderer, she can travel into stories and she’s not the only one. Soon she is initiated into a whole society of people who can do the same. There are rules to learn and secrets to be uncovered and this book, the first in a series, is a complete joy to anyone still in touch with their inner child bookworm.

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman. Two brother and their wives live in apartments in the same building, the family business is located around the corner. One brother has only daughters, the other only sons. The wives are pregnant again, due around the same time. On a snowy night that prevents the wives from getting to a hospital, with only a midwife and one of the daughters present, the babies are born: a son for the family with daughters and a daughter for the family with sons. This night ripples through the lives of both families for decades after. It’s one of those quiet, every-day, generational family stories and I couldn’t stop reading it.

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner. If you’re looking for a gentle book with a cozy vibe and Jane Austen connections (too niche?), look no further. The Jane Austen Society follows the residents of a small English village as they deal with some of the things that have happened in their lives in the last few years, mostly as a result of the war. Each of them reads and re-reads Jane Austen’s novels to escape the realities of their lives and eventually they form a book club dedicated to her work. There’s more to it but I don’t want to give the whole thing away. This is the kind of book that demands to be read with cozy socks and a warm beverage.

Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of “The View” by Ramin Setoodeh. This. Book. Was. Everything. If you’ve ever stayed home for the day from school or work you have seen The View. I’ve seen LOTS of episodes of The View and I’ve always been curious about what it’s really like behind-the-scenes. Especially in the last several years when the co-hosts were just as likely to make headlines as their Hot Topics. Setoodeh had the access, pretty much all of them spoke with him. The give up the dirt and reading this book will make you fall down a YouTube rabbit hole revisiting the moments talked about.

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue. This book wasn’t really gentle or an escape as it deals with the Flu Pandemic of 1918. But there was something weirdly comforting about reading a book that was so eerily similar to what we’re experiencing, knowing that their pandemic ended and eventually things went back to how they were before. But this book is also kind of brutal and I wouldn’t recommend it to any reader who is pregnant for the first time or anyone who has any kind of birth trauma. This book follows a nurse, her helper, a doctor and their patients on a flu ward for pregnant women over the course of three days. It is gripping and propulsive and my favourite of Donoghue’s books.

Revisiting these books makes me want to read all of them again. What books have captured your imagination (and focus!) in the last several months?


Let’s Talk Library Holds

I didn’t start using the hold system at the library until this year.

Wow, OK, that feels good to finally say out loud.

I used the library all the time as a kid but I never used the hold system then because the whole thing with the library was going to the library to pick my books. Then I started making my own money and I stopped going to the library and spending all my money on books, a theme that continues to this day if I’m honest.

I came back to the library when I lost my job the first time as an adult. Suddenly aware of a finite amount of money to my name, uncertain about when I’d find a new job but also aware that I still needed fresh reading material, I started taking the bus to the library. That’s when I started reading Agatha Christie and PG Wodehouse and finding all sorts of hidden nonfiction gems. But still, never holds. Again, the whole point was the going to the library.

But this year, obviously, has changed the way we do everything. First we were all cut off from our libraries (I’m assuming that was the same for everyone). Sure, I could have started reading the books on my shelves that I’d bought but I’m a mood reader and suffer from FOMO thanks to #bookstagram so I need new books all the time.

Sure, I ordered some from bookstores online but the postal system was kind of flooded with orders so it took a while to get anything. Did I mention that I don’t read ebooks? Audiobooks neither.

Once the library re-opened, they were doing the curbside pick up thing. So if I wanted books, I had to use the hold system.

It was revolutionary.

I could choose the books I wanted to read and the librarians would make sure they were ready for me. I could check online and see how many books were ready and decide if it was worth the trip or if I should wait a few days. I was checking every day, willing there to be a little green number in the corner telling me that my books were ready for me. I started putting more books on hold, up to 15 at a time. Sometimes I was first in line, other times I was 27 on 8 copies.

I started getting too many all at once. I didn’t have time to read them all. I focused on reading library books but then my purchased books would show up and they’d be ones I was excited to read but I had a time constraint on my library books, ones I’d waited to read for weeks. Other people were waiting for them, renewing wasn’t always possible.

Now I’m looking at Nonfiction November, hoarding planning books to read next month. I still have fiction holds coming in but a finite time in which to read them and hold onto them. I have nonfiction books on hold and I’m hoping they are ready as close to November 1st as possible, understanding that I have zero control over the timing.

So, my question to you all is: what’s the secret to streamlining my hold system?

Now that I work from home, my library isn’t right around the corner anymore. I can really only go on the weekends. I want all the books but understand the book limits. I only have a handful of books out right now and my holds list was short and I probably wasn’t going to get anything until December but I went on a hold spree the other night so I’m very much back in the hole.

Tell me all your tips and tricks. I’m a library hold system convert but still very much a novice.


Bookish limbo

Early on in the pandemic, I had to be careful about what I was reading. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. The world was so scary and awful that I didn’t have the focus for more serious books.

But then, I got used to living in a dumpster fire. And I’ve managed to read way more books since the world shut down than I was reading before.

But I’ve stumbled. Something has happened to my focus in the last few days. Did my brain finally break?

Last week, my little family and I went to visit my in-laws, near a lake. The kind of place where you bring a stack of books and the only decisions you need to make are what to drink, what to eat and what to read. I blitzed through four books in six days and made good headway through a fifth on the drive home. I finished that book the day after we got home, and finished two more in the two days after that.

And then.

I started one and read about 10 pages (of Singled Out by Virginia Nicholson) and decided it wasn’t for me right now (I still want to read it!) and then started another one (Beautiful, about the life of Hedy Lamarr by Stephen Michael Shearer) and I can’t decide if I’m enjoying it or not. When I read a fictional account of a portion of her life I really wanted to read about her whole life and this was the biography I settled on. But it’s not gripping me and I normally love movie star biographies.

The author is being a little dismissive of her so maybe I picked the wrong one. It’s a library book so on the one hand there’s no pressure to finish it because I’m not out any money. But on the other, it’s not something I can just pick up later. Especially if, God forbid, the libraries close again.

I’m finding myself in a bit of bookish limbo after months of voracious reading. And I’m not sure at all what to do to dig myself out: do I keep going with Beautiful or find something else that hopefully strikes my fancy?

Is anyone else feeling this?


#LiteraryWives: Alternate Side

It’s time for Literary Wives, a blogging club that looks at the depiction of wives in fiction!

As always, if you haven’t already please make sure to check out the posts by the other wives and join in the discussion if you’ve read Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen! There are definitely spoilers ahead.

Cynthia @ I Love Days
Kay @ Whatmeread
Lynn @ Smoke and Mirrors
Naomi @ Consumed By Ink

The Book

alternate side

Nora and Charlie Nolan have been married for a long time. They live in a beautiful house on a dead-end block in New York City, the kind of block where the residents all know one another and what’s going on with them. Their twins are about to graduate from college and it’s just Charlie and Nora living in this big house with their old dog, Homer, and assistance running the home from the housekeeper, Charity, and occasional handyman, Ricky.

Things are humming along for the most part but Charlie wants to eventually leave the City and Nora can’t imagine ever living anywhere else. One day, when coming back from a run, Nora witnesses something happening on the block that becomes the thread that unravels everything.

My Thoughts

This is definitely more of what one might call a character-driven novel but I really like it. Sometimes in books like this, it can feel like it takes a while to get to the point but I didn’t feel that way with this one. I thought Quindlen did an excellent job with the pacing of the story, giving readers enough to stay on to find out what’s going to happen.

Alternate Side had a lot of layers to it as well. I appreciated the kind of quiet take on racism, classism, marriage, feminism, and motherhood. For a book that’s less than 300 pages, Quindlen sure packed a lot in. Even the peripheral characters felt fully formed and actually brought something to the table, versus being pawns to move the story along.

What does the book say about being a wife?

I felt like Alternate Side was saying that it’s easy to let a lifetime of little things be all that keeps you together. When you’re first married, you have the rush of being newly married, of having proclaimed to all your family and friends that you love each other. And then maybe you add kids, your work gets more challenging, you have a house to look after, chores to get done, maybe you add a pet or two. Early on, I think you are conscious of being a team; to survive kids and life, you have to work together.

But then things become more rote, more everyday and you slip into a rhythm that’s hard to shake. Something like what happens to the handyman has to shake you out of your rhythm, makes you take a hard look at your partner, whether or not you’re on the same page, if you want the same things, and crucially, if you want to keep going together.

Nora is of the generation that very much sees men as additional children they have to look after. Being his wife means making his life more comfortable, going to the dinner parties and work events as his plus-one, talking him out of the things that she thinks he’s not that serious about, like moving out of the City.

“But ultimately, arranging things for someone is not the same as loving him. It’s work, not devotion.” (p. 253)

Nora has a group of girlfriends that she meets for lunch and they always talk about marriage and one friend, Jenny, has never been married. And then she meets someone and he’s not at all what anyone would have assumed she’d go for (she’s an academic and he’s a cabinet maker who has been caring for a sourdough starter for a decade) but he makes her happy and they get married. At the same time, Nora’s marriage is ending and it strikes her how crazy it is that most of us get married when we’re young and don’t yet know anything:

“You had to really, really, really like being with someone. Yet somehow that was a decision they were all expected to make when they were too young to know very much. They were expected to make all the important decisions then: what to do, where to live, who to live with. But anyone could tell you, looking at the setup dispassionately, that most people would be incapable of making good choices if they had to make that many choices at the same time, at that particular time of their lives.” (p. 249)

In the end, Alternate Side isn’t about big life events. It’s about how the little things add up to make a life, how those every day things are the ones that grate and grind and change the path you thought you were on.

“Nora had been married to Charlie without seeing him for a long time. She realized that they all assumed that if their marriages ended, it would be with a big bang: the other woman, the hidden debts. […] The truth was that some of their marriages were like balloons: a few went suddenly pop, but more often than not the air slowly leaked out until lit was a sad, wrinkled little thing with no lift to it anymore.” (p. 253)

For Nora, being a wife is one of her many roles and one that doesn’t quite fit anymore. Nora and Charlie make the decision to end their marriage quietly and mutually. Free of the burden of expectations the other has for them, of how they each see the other, they are able to explore different endings.

Be sure to visit the other blogs and get in on the discussion! And come back in December when we’ll discuss The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. I will be curious what I think about this one – the last time I read it, I gave it 5 stars.


#20BooksofSummer recap

There’s a slight chill in the air and a desperation for most people to be out wringing the last few drops of joy out of summer which means it must be September.

That also means that I have failed at my #20BooksofSummer Challenge!


Let’s recap shall we? I only put 12 books on my list. I managed to read 7. I reviewed three.

To be fair, when we started this my library still wasn’t open and I wasn’t sure it would anytime soon. Then suddenly, the libraries reopened. And I have been making excellent use of it!

I never did read How Toddlers Thrive and I’m returning it to the library at long last. I’ve kept it out this whole time and it’s time for some other desperate parent to get a crack at it. But I did read No-Drama Discipline and got a lot out of it so I’m not feeling too badly about it.

I didn’t read Singled Out but I did finally manage to get through Servants, even though it was kind of a disappointment. Still, I loved Perfect Wives by the same author as Singled Out (Virginia Nicholson) so when I do read it, I suspect I will enjoy it.

I learned that I don’t need to spend time reading the Rivers of London series but I am looking forward to reading the Trickster books by Eden Robinson. Son of a Trickster was a gritty, magical mess of a book (in the best possible way) and I can’t wait to get my hands on Trickster Drift.

The Fifth Avenue Artists Society didn’t scratch my historical fiction itch but the library has provided me with many books that have.

Ultimately, I didn’t do a very good job picking the books that I needed to read for this challenge. I cleared some books off my shelves but in their place are countless others.

Story of a reader’s life eh?




A changed reader

Have you found that books or authors that you usually enjoy have lost something for you?

I’m in the middle of an Isabel Dalhousie book by Alexander McCall Smith, The Careful Use of Compliments. Typically, his books are a welcome respite from the world, full of philosophical musings, gentle mystery, and the kind of misunderstandings that elicit a smirk from me. I love how very Edinburgh his books are, allowing me to spend time “in” one of my very favourite cities.

But I’m reading this now, in the middle of a pandemic, as the disparities between rich and poor become bigger by the minute, and racist systems threaten to topple a democracy and suddenly whether or not a painting is a forgery or a steal at 25,000 GBP doesn’t delight me as it once might have.

The first time I remember this happening to me was in December 2016. I had been a fan of Jen Lancaster for a long time, reveling in her ball-busting rhetoric, laughing at her dogs’ antics and neatly glossing over her more right leaning tendencies. It was a simpler time! I needed something to make me laugh and picked up one of her books and couldn’t even finish it. Her focus on the renovations of her dream home, her delight in all these things; she was exactly what I didn’t need.

I had dabbled some in social justice reading before 2016. But there was also a lot of fear because I didn’t want to feel bad. I especially avoided reading too much about Indigenous issues in Canada, preferring to read about racism in America as a Them problem where I didn’t need to take much accountability.

I pushed through that. Now I regularly read anti-racist books, books about sexism, about experiences that are different to mine. I search them out. I look online at #ownvoices recommendations to add to my TBR, I listen to podcasts featuring BIPOC hosts or guests. I am actively trying to educate myself all the time, getting my representational reading to 32% (which is still not great but better than it used to be before I was intentional about it).

And I guess one of the results is that I’m not able to enjoy all books the same way. Isabel Dalhousie musing about the rights of countries to decide who gets to gain citizenship and thus access to the benefits of said country (in a book from 2007) is just not hitting me in the same way it would have had I read it in 2008. I would have probably rolled my eyes but I’m not sure it would have made me want to throw the book across the room.


I’m not as into thrillers where women are the victims anymore. I read far fewer books by men (21% to date this year), especially if there’s a violent element to them (since it’s nearly always perpetuated at women). I think part of my issue with this Isabel Dalhousie book is it’s a man writing a woman and the whole time I’m like “this is a man thinking he’s thinking like a woman.”

With so many amazing books written by women, why do I even need to read books by men anymore? (I kid, I kid. But for this reader, male authors are not the default)

And yet, I’ve found romance novels and I love them! I never would have read them before we set the world on fire but now they provide a delightful escape. Give me all the Jasmine Guillory books, put me on the holds list for the new Bromance Book Club book, and yes I would like to read the next book in the League of Extraordinary Women series!

So I am a changed reader but it’s books that have changed me in the first place. Anyone else feeling like this?


Library obsession

When this all first started, the thing that I found the most difficult to deal with was that the library was closed. And I know that that is a statement that is loaded with privilege.

My office is a block away from a library that is SO GOOD. I had become very accustomed to popping in once or twice a week and casually browsing or collecting holds while dropping off the books that were due back, most read, some unread. And suddenly not only did I not have that experience, I had no way of getting a hold of new free books and I had a lot of free time!

I don’t read electronically and even a pandemic couldn’t induce me to start!

It got expensive pretty quickly, ignoring the 75 or so unread books I still had in my home.

But then, at the beginning of the summer, the library partially reopened. At first they would package up your holds and you made an appointment to collect them. Now you don’t need an appointment but you still can only put books on hold if you want to take any out.

Reader, I have abused the largesse of the library. I currently have 7 books on hold and 13 books out. Two of those holds are ready to collect and it is taking so much willpower not to go back and put more books on hold that I could bring home with me at the same time.

wizard books

This always happens to me – cut me off from books for a period of time and I will go very overboard when the restriction is lifted. Here’s what I have out from the library right now – what do I absolutely have to read?

Akin by Emma Donogue. I have been chasing the love I had for Room through all of her books and so far neither Frog Music nor The Wonder have done it. Maybe Akin will hit the right note?

Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen. This is the next book we’re discussing for Literary Wivesat the beginning of September!

Beautiful: The Life of Hedy Lamarr by Stephen Michael Shearer. Earlier this summer I read The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict and I immediately put a hold on a biography of Hedy Lamarr.

The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams. Remember what I was saying about reading more Romance than ever before? I keep hearing about this book, I waited for ages for my hold to come in for it and now I keep not reading it.

The Careful Use of Compliments by Alexander McCall Smith. The 4th in the Isabel Dalhousie series because sometimes I really need to spend time in Edinburgh amidst Smith’s philosophical musings on love and life.

How Toddlers Thrive by Tovah P. Klein. I have had this in my possession since MARCH.

I Found You by Lisa Jewell. Here is an author that really delivers every time. It’s always a good idea to have a Lisa Jewell kicking around in case you need to reset your reading mojo.

Lost Girls: An American Mystery by Robert Kolker. I recently read his book Hidden Valley Road about a family of 12 children, six of whom had a form of schizophrenia. I couldn’t pass up the chance to read another book of his in the true crime genre!

Park Avenue Summer by Renee Rosen. I’m actually reading this one right now and let’s just say I’m really glad it’s a library book.

Pride by Ibi Aanu Zoboi. I heard about this one on the Currently Reading podcast and it sounded like something I should read immediately, even though it’s YA and that’s for sure not a genre I read a lot of.

I have a lot of books to get through and since my library has also reinstated due dates, I no longer have the option of keeping these for forever. Not that I want to! But I’m going to have to be strategic about what I read, what to maybe return unread, and what can be renewed.

Have libraries reopened where you are? Or do you actually live in the 21st century and read ebooks?



Getting reacquainted with Grace Kelly

Iv’e really been enjoying historical fiction this year. It’s always been a genre favourite of mine but I’d been having a hard time finding ones that I connected to. I don’t always like a first person narrative and that can be a challenge to work around in historical fiction.

But this year quite a number of them have clicked. Last year I read and loved The Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Maher (it led me to read the biography Kick which remains a favourite) and recently I followed that up with The Girl in White Gloves also by Kerry Maher.

Years ago, as part of my ongoing Read About Royal Women project, I read a biography of Princess Grace by Donald Spoto. It was so boring I assumed I didn’t need to ever read about her again. She just seemed like a beautiful woman who always did everything right and people adored her and then she died.


Well, that is not the story told in The Girl in White Gloves and I know it’s fiction but there has to be some kernel of truth in this story. This book starts with Grace Kelly at acting school and moves forward through her career, how she dreamed of being on Broadway and “settled” for being in the movies, her relationships with the men she worked with, the way she butted heads with her parents, and finally to her relationship with Prince Rainier. And then the book checks in with her at different points in her marriage: before her 40th birthday when Rainier asks what kind of party she wants and she knows she should just tell him what he wants to hear to avoid the fight, when she’s back home in Philadelphia before the death of her father, in Paris with her two daughters worried about Stephanie and the choices she’s making where men are concerned, a moment she shares with a young Lady Diana, before her wedding where Princess Grace tells her to call her anytime she’s having a hard time.

Maher is extremely skilled at bringing these women to life and showing that there is more to them than how they are viewed by history. I had an idea of Princess Grace and this book kind of smashed that and I’m really glad! Maybe I picked the wrong biography of her all those years ago, one that was sanctioned, that white washed the details of a more interesting life.

I also really enjoyed the googling that came with this read. I spent a lot of time looking at pictures of Grace Kelly, her gigantous engagement ring, her wedding gown, her civil ceremony outfit, her dresses in High Society (I was reminded that that’s her actual engagement ring she wears as Tracy Lord) etc etc.

Kerri Maher is two for two for me and I am anxiously waiting for whatever her next book is.

Have you ever read something that changed how you felt about someone/thing?


We’ve been here before…

Oh hey. I wonder how many posts I have that start like this? You know, the ones where I’d recently ‘decided’ that I was back to this blogging lark and meant to really get back to it and then…didn’t.

I think about it all the time. But the doing, that’s the hard part.

I’ve been reading a lot. And a lot of the books I’ve read this year have been incredible. If there’s anything good about this year it’s that the universe knew we’d need quality reading material and it delivered. I’ve been drawn to a lot of non-fiction for some reason. As though while the world is raging, I could at least use the time to learn something. I’ve also been drawn to lighter reads for obvious reasons. I’ve read more romance than I think I ever have before and I’m loving it.

Since we found ourselves in quarantine on March 16th (I was one of the first to not have a birthday 🙂 ) I have finished 60 books. Not that that means I’ve finished the 20 Books of Summer Challenge!

If you follow me on instagram (@paperbprincess) you have seen some of my reading. But none of those posts are ever super in-depth – my poor hands can’t type on a phone keyboard for very long and instagram is really about the pretty pictures anyway – and I have found that I miss the interactions that blogging offers.

So I’m going to make more of an effort to be in this space. Because I really do like it here. And what else am I going to do these days?