Review of A Fine Romance (2013) by Susan Branch

Bottom line: A peaceful armchair journey for a rainy afternoon.

Rating: Recommended If you’re in the mood for a vicarious wander through southern England.

Review:

The full title of this book is, “A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside” and you will do just that, I promise you. For anyone who has been to England, this book is like one long nostalgic sigh. You get to travel along with the author through her handwritten and illustrated journal, enjoying the English countryside. Of course, it will stoke your wanderlust, if you are of that type, and you may have to remind yourself, “Self, if you went to England, it would NOT be via the Queen Mary 2, and you would be taking a toddler and an infant on at least two plane rides of 12 hours, and would most likely be staying in hostels with said young children.” But it’s nice to dream anyways, and A Fine Romance is a lovely dream. Best read with a nice cuppa and a biscuit or two.

Get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Book Review: Matt Archer: Monster Hunter by Kendra Highley

Bottom Line: A gritty YA fantasy definitely worth the read.

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Blurb:

Fourteen-year-old Matt Archer spends his days studying Algebra, hanging out with his best friend and crushing on the Goddess of Greenhill High, Ella Mitchell. To be honest, he thinks his life is pretty lame until he discovers something terrifying on a weekend camping trip at the local state park.

Monsters are real. And living in his backyard.

But that’s not the half of it. After Matt is forced to kill a strange creature to save his uncle, he finds out that the weird knife he took from his uncle’s bag has a secret, one that will change Matt’s life. The knife was designed with one purpose: to hunt monsters. And it’s chosen Matt as its wielder.

Now Matt’s part of a world he didn’t know existed, working with a covert military unit dedicated to eliminating walking nightmares. Faced with a prophecy about a looming dark war, Matt soon realizes his upcoming Algebra test is the least of his worries.

His new double life leaves Matt wondering which is tougher: hunting monsters or asking Ella Mitchell for a date?

Review:

This is one of those books that languished on my Kindle for a very long time. I’d grabbed it on sale, but just didn’t get started on it for one reason or another. Then I found myself stranded in an airport for several hours one Saturday morning – WITHOUT my toddler – and I have to say, those were pretty much the most relaxing hours I’ve had since December 2012, when said toddler entered my life. I sat in an airport restaurant, drank my weight in tea, and read Matt Archer: Monster Hunter.

It was very, very good. It’s the classic YA tale of a normal teenager finding out he has powers, and must use them to fight for his family and his world. However, there were a few things done differently that I thought elevated it above the general YA fantasy offering. I loved that adults are fighting the evil as well, and they are mostly skeptical of bringing this kid into the mix. It seemed much more realistic than say, the Percy Jackson books, where the issue of “but where are all the adult demigods and why aren’t they doing anything?” is pretty much glossed over. I also loved its international outlook. Matt’s an American kid, and the story is based in America, but instead of everything happening in the states, there are incidents popping up all over the world.

Another issue I have with some YA fantasy series is that so often it feels like watching an old school video game. Each book is a level, and you have to make it to the end of the level to fight the boss, and then you start a new level with its boss,  then at the end of the whole game, you fight the big boss. Each book neatly wraps up one year of school or a summer between school years, with the bad guys conveniently making their move during finals or right before school starts up again, depending on the series. And while I understand authors wanting to contribute to the overarching series plot, while giving readers closure during the individual books as well, it so often just feels contrived. Matt Archer’s plot moved along in a very natural progression. He’s fighting monsters, and he’s also going to school, but it didn’t feel like the monsters were timing their attacks around the school year.

Ranting aside, Matt feels like a very realistic teenage boy. He’s likeable, has character flaws, and reacts in a very believable way to all the weird stuff that has now become his life. I loved his family and friends and hope we get to know them better.

The author, Kendra Highley (who I can claim to know slightly through the power of social media – and is a lovely person as well as talented author), was in the process of releasing the fifth and last book in the series while I was reading the first, so I’m excited to have a completed series to plow through as time, energy, and budget allows. I am a little nervous to do so because this book started off grittier and more intense (and with an older protagonist) than many YA series, and I’m guessing it follows the pattern of becoming darker as the story progresses. I don’t handle stress all that well in general, and definitely not when I’m pregnant. I mostly want everything to be rainbows and sunshine and unicorns. I’m pretty sure people are going to die in this series…people I like. Oh well.

If you like YA fantasy, this is a book that must not be missed!

Get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Family Fridays – If Everybody Did

Book: If Everybody Did (1960) by Jo Ann Stover

Category/Age: Picture Book (Older)

Blurb:

The hilarious and terrible consequences of everyone doing his own thing are portrayed by author/artist Jo Ann Stover in If Everybody Did. Children and adults alike will enjoy this precautionary tale with its concise rhyming text, and amusing illustrations.

Review:

This book resonated very strongly with me when I read it as a child. The basic message is that if everybody acted selfishly, the world would not be a very nice place. Even today, when I see adults exhibiting discourteous behaviour, this book pops into my head and I want to smack them upside the head with it, then force them to read it cover to cover.

<Side note: this was especially true when I was taking public transit every day to work. I wanted to write a special version just for adults on the light rail: “What if everybody put their bags on seats when the train was full? What if everybody screamed profanities into their cellphones? What if everybody put their feet on the seat so no one else could sit down there? What if everybody told long explicit stories about their latest medical issues?” >

Written in 1960, it is more timely than ever, especially for a generation that is being told they are special snowflakes and the only thing that matters is their own happiness. This book shows the consequences of everybody making small choices that negatively impact others, and then what would happen if everybody made choices that positively impacted the world, and how it would be a much nicer place for everyone.

It manages to do all of this while being fun and not preachy, no mean feat. I was shocked to discover that I didn’t have it, and it is on my list to buy the next time I snag a Barnes and Noble coupon.

Get it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

I’m baaaaaack!

Well, it’s been a few months, so welcome back to the blog! I hope to be bringing new content on a more regular basis. At least more regular than every three months or so! I’ve taken the summer off because I’m pregnant again (yay!) but have been feeling really sick (boo!) and tired (double boo!). I’ve been going to bed ridiculously early, which is probably good for me and the baby, but between that and chasing after a todder all day, I haven’t had a lot of time to read. However, I did manage to sneak a book in here and there over the summer, in between sweating and moaning about how hot it was, and I hope you’ll enjoy what I’ve got lined up for the next few weeks.

To kick things off, I’m recommending my favorite pregnancy book: Expecting 411 (Amazon, Barnes and Noble). I found this while pregnant with my first, and I really liked it. It’s conversational without being annoying, and informative without being alarmist. I like the paper version better than the e-book version, since it’s easier to flip through when you have a specific question. I found it a helpful guide to pregnancy, and keep meaning to get the others in the series, particularly Toddler 411 (Amazon, Barnes and Noble), but I’ve been too busy chasing after said toddler to actually sit down, buy it, and read it! The toddler years are fun, but they sure are exhausting!

What are your favorite pregnancy/parenting books?

 

Review of The Martian by Andy Weir (2012)

Bottom line: Highly recommended for sci-fi fans and/or survivalists.

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Blurb:

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Review:

Wow, that’s a long blurb. I won’t say much about the story, since it’s all pretty much covered. I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s sci-fi meets the good old-fashioned survival story. The character of Mark is completely realistic and charming, and I like that in this survival story, it’s actually believable how the main character has the knowledge and skills needed to survive.

There are a lot of f-bombs in here, but frankly, it fits his character and the man has been stranded on Mars. Some interesting stylistic choices are that it’s mostly told through Mark’s official NASA log/journal, which works much better than I would have thought, and Weir gives a LOT of detail and numbers on how exactly Mark is going about survival, including oxygen input, water consumption, etc. I kind of loved those things since it gave a realistic feel to the proceedings, and I’m a numbers nerd anyways. I asked my husband (NOT a numbers nerd) who’d liked and recommended the book to me and he said he just kind of ignored them.

There are a lot of secondary characters, and at first I had a hard time keeping track of who was who. However, as the story progressed, I became impressed at how he was able to fill out the characters in just the few quick strokes we get from Mark’s journal, or the glimpses we get as we watch them try to bring Mark home.

This is a really fun book, and the best contemporary sci-fi I’ve read recently.

Get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Family Fridays – the Non-Weirdo’s Guide to Cloth Diapering

Well, it was earth day this week, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to talk about poop. I’m coming out of the closet and taking a stand: I cloth diaper my baby! I thought I’d write up the Cloth Diapering for Non-Weirdos guide to hopefully give a little nudge to any parents who might be on the fence about trying it out.  Why non-weirdos? Well, I’m not really sure, to be honest. There’s a stigma that people who cloth diaper are weird – it’s the strange choice, the not-normal thing to do. My favorite conversation about cloth diapering happened with a man, who when told we were cloth diapering, just stared at me and went, “why?” in a tone of voice implying I’d somehow taken leave of my senses.

This might seem like a fairly rational response (it’s certainly not uncommon), but what makes this interaction particularly hilarious is that this man was, at the time, living in a Winnebago heated by a wood stove (he’d hacked out part of the shell for the chimney to fit), on the other side of a river that had to be either forded or kayaked across (no road/bridge), growing his own crops, raising and slaughtering his own meat, and using an outdoor composting toilet with a door but no walls. It says something about where society is when this kind of man thinks cloth diapering is weird. (His wife informed him that they would be cloth diapering when they had kids.)

So – why DO I cloth diaper my son? I’m not really a crunchy granola hippie type, but I do try to conserve where I can. When those areas also save me money, I get especially excited. So I do it because it saves us money, it’s better for the environment (it takes a lot of water to wash the diapers, but I believe this is better overall than importing from halfway across the world, then putting into landfills, every single time I change a diaper. In our global economy, people forget that India and China are actually quite far away, and that big container ships are really, really bad for the environment), there’s no weird chemicals or artificial scents pressed right up against his man parts, and they’re really, really cute. Also, I’ve found that they leak less. We’re not hardcore about it – when travelling or when he goes to mother’s day out we put him in disposables and don’t worry about it. I think parenting should be a realistic mix of idealistic goals and practicality. Strive for your ideals, but do what works best for your family and move on.

Here’s our current cloth diaper setup. We have 19 BumGenius 4.0 Snap Pocket Diapers, 2 PlanetWise Large Hanging Wetbags, 24 Thirsties Hemp Inserts, and 12 Thirsties Fab Cloth Wipes (if we have another kid, I’m buying a whole bunch of these and throwing out all my other baby washcloths. They’re SO SOFT.)

IMG_1799Why, yes, that is a nerdy math diaper. Squee!

I really love the website Kelly’s Closet (all the links above are to them), and buy most of our cloth diapering supplies from them. They have fabulous customer service, a great rewards program, and a big enough selection to find what you want, but not too big that it’s overwhelming. You could buy all of these supplies there for full price for about $500, and that does not include sales or rewards or volume discounts. I haven’t found that our utilities went up when we started cloth diapering, so that hasn’t been much of a cost for us. We do buy special cloth diaper detergent, and I think we’ve bought maybe 3 bags of that over the last year, for an additional $48. So all told, you could spend $550 for the first year of diapering your child, plus the second year will be free except for laundry and detergent costs. And the diapers will also last through multiple children.

We’d tried Fuzzibunz (yes, everything in the cloth diapering industry has a ridiculous name) previously, and found they just didn’t fit our son very well, so we switched to BumGenius when he was around 4 months, and they’ve worked fantastically (he’s currently 15 months). The BumGenius diapers are a “one-size” which means that theoretically you can use them from birth (though you’d have to have a pretty big newborn) to potty-training. You start with them on the smallest setting and the “newborn” insert (the inserts go in a slot/pocket in the diaper which is why they’re called pocket diapers), then as your baby grows, you change the snaps to a bigger size, and as he starts to pee more, you can change out the newborn for the regular insert, then you end up using both inserts together. We just had to buy the Thirsties inserts because he was starting to saturate and leak out of his diapers, but these inserts (coupled with the BG regular insert) will give us more time before he outgrows the diaper capacity (oh, and we use a regular insert plus two Thirsties inserts for overnight – no more wet baby in the morning!).

So a typical (wet) diaper change is as follows, take off wet diaper, and remove the wet inserts, then toss the whole shebang in the PlanetWise wetbag that’s hanging nearby. Then use either a disposable wipe or a cloth wipe wet with some water, or water/soap mixture (I keep an old handsoap dispenser by the changing table for this purpose) and clean him up. Toss disposable wipe in trash or toss cloth wipe in the wetbag. Snap a new diaper on the baby, either using or not using a disposable liner, and you’re good to go! If there’s only wet diapers in the diaper bag, I typically don’t zip it up, but if there’s a poopy one in there, you WILL want to zip it up. (Side note, these wet bags are awesome. I have a medium sized one I use as a laundry bag when we’re travelling and they do an awesome job of holding in leaks and smells and the usual gross baby stuff.)

One of the things that scares parents off of cloth diapering is the poop. Yes, poop is gross. Babies in general are pretty gross. Yes, you will end up touching poop no matter how you diaper your child, which is the common response from the cloth diaperers. However, I’ll be honest with you – it is more gross to deal with a poopy cloth diaper than a poopy disposable. But not that much grosser. With a poopy disposable, you just toss it in the trash (which, by the way, you’re not supposed to do, and yes, I know that everyone does it). With a poopy cloth diaper, you generally want to remove as much poop as possible from the diaper before putting it through your washer. (If you have a baby, there will be poop and pee going through your washer anyways, I promise you that.) You can use disposable liners, some of which are flushable, or some people use diaper sprayers or scrapers to put the poop in the toilet. Sometimes I just swipe at it with a disposable wipe to get the bulk off. Then you remove the inserts and dump everything in the laundry bag. Occasionally my son will go through phases where he’s pooping on a schedule, which is awesome, because then we’ll just use a disposable diaper for the poopy time. However, if he’s not on a schedule, we typically use the disposable liners in the morning (higher probability poop times), and just the plain cloth diapers later in the day, dealing with the consequences as necessary. As I said, it’s grosser, but not really that much grosser.

When it comes time for laundry, I unsnap the bag from the door handle, and invert over the washing machine, dumping everything in, including the bag. (You don’t have to touch anything gross at this point). I run a cold wash, no soap, no extra rinse, then soak it overnight. Then the next day I run a hot wash, with cloth diaper detergent (Rockin Green), and an extra rinse cycle. When that’s done, I’ll either hang up the inserts or dry them in the dryer, and I always hang up the shells (the colored part of the diaper). Since we’ve been using the hemp inserts, it takes two dry cycles to get them dry (they hold a LOT of water!), or some combination of hanging and drying. While this is happening, I’m using the second wetbag as our diaper pail. Once everything’s dry, I’ll assemble the diapers – some for day, some for night (with the extra inserts), and carry them up to his room, where they sit in neat, adorably colored stacks. Once a month, I throw in some bleach as per the BumGenius guidelines, and twice now (over a year) I’ve “stripped” the diapers – there was starting to be a build-up of smells, so you wash the diapers with Dawn dishwashing liquid and then do a bunch of rinses and the diapers are as good as new.

IMG_1797A good overall picture of our cloth diapering setup. I hang the nighttime stuffed diapers off the edge of the basket so it’s very clear which ones are which.

If you hate laundry, cloth diapering is not for you. Laundry happens to be about the only chore that I don’t hate – I mean, really, you put nasty, dirty things in a magic box, go away, and when you come back, they’re clean! Awesome! Also, I have a SpeedQueen washer and dryer, which I love more than words can express. The whole process does take a lot of time, it’s true. BUT – not much of that is hands on time. I’m a stay at home mom, so for me to walk downstairs a couple of times to hit buttons on the washer is not a strain. I’d say it takes maybe 3 minutes to set up the initial wash cycle (this gets rid of any solids and washes away a lot of the pee), another 2 minutes to go down and start the soak cycle, go to sleep, wake up the next morning and spend 2 minutes closing the lid so the soak cycle drains, then 3 minutes to go down and set up the hot wash cycle with detergent. Maybe 7 minutes to separate out the shells, inserts, and wipes,  and hang some and put some in the dryer, then another 2-5  minutes to go down and either restart the dryer or hang up the inserts to finish drying. It takes maybe 10-15 to assemble the diapers (mostly depending on how distracted you are while doing it) and bring them back upstairs. So I’d say, generously,  it’s an active 37 minutes every two days. Most of that is me walking up and down the stairs – our main living areas are upstairs and laundry is downstairs.

So that’s our routine. I find it to be totally worth the initial monetary investment and the continuing time investment. An added perk for me at least is that I have a very sensitive nose, and the artificial scents in disposable diapers can give me a massive headache. Plus, cloth diapers are really, really cute*.

IMG_1801*I told you they were cute. In my defense, I do normally put pants on him.

One last bit of advice for those of you thinking of trying cloth diapering is that you can’t really dip your toe in the water with it. You don’t really know if it’s going to work for you unless you have a full day’s worth of diapers and can test out your washing routine. So I recommend using a store that offers (like Kelly’s Closet)  a 30 day trial period, where you can buy all the diapers you need, and try it for a couple of full cycles (there is a bit of a learning curve) to see if it’s going to work for your family. If you hate it, or it feels like too much extra work, send them back in and get your money back. Life is too short to do things you hate.

Have you cloth diapered? Would you ever consider it for your kids?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Review of Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews (2007) (Kate Daniels #1)

Bottom line: Good, but gruesome

Rating: Recommended

Blurb:

Earning a living cleaning up magical messes, mercenary Kate Daniels is drawn into a power struggle between two factions–necromancers and shapeshifters–within Atlanta’s magic circles when her guardian is murdered.

Review:

This is one of those books that makes me wish I were WAY more desensitized to violence. I enjoyed the writing, the characters, and the unique setting (magical power comes and goes, alternating with technology – and her take on vampires was really interesting, and far more believable than sparkling demi-god-like figures). It is sort of a murder mystery/urban fantasy mashup, with the emphasis on the urban fantasy: both of which I love.

However, and this is a big however, it was really gruesome. There was a lot of violence, particularly sexual violence against women. The worst of it takes place “off screen”, but is no less present for that.

I’ve heard that the rest of the books in the series aren’t quite as awful in this particular way, so I stepped out on a limb and reserved the second one (Magic Burns) at the library. I’m hoping it’s less graphic, as there were many things I liked about the first book. The author nicely balanced the tension of wrapping up the story arc at the end of the first book, while leaving plenty of unanswered questions about the characters that make you want to keep reading.

Have you read the book or series? What did you think?

P.S. One of the things I loved about the character is that she dresses for practicality, not to be sexy. How could you not love a character who wears “jeans loose enough to let me kick a man taller than me in the throat”?

Get it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Family Fridays – I Kissed the Baby

Book: I Kissed the Baby (2003) by Mary Murphy

Category/Age: Picture Book (Younger)

Blurb:

It’s so exciting! News of the baby is buzzing from animal to animal, with each one — fish, bird, squirrel, insect, frog — boasting of seeing, feeding, singing to, tickling, and kissing the tiny little thing. With bold, graphic black-and-white illustrations, Mary Murphy’s simple, singsong story captures the giddy commotion that only a baby can bring.

Review:

Because I am a nerd, I love it when books for kids – including babies – have some educational value. This board book is aimed at young babies, with a mostly black and white style, with some pops of color. But, it includes something for each of the five senses, which I think is cool. Plus, when you’re reading it for the 5,000th time (it’s a board book, so you WILL end up reading it approximately that many times) you can add in hand motions or asides talking about the different senses.

Speakin of asides, I think the best boards have enough text that you don’t have to make up your own words (books that have hardly any text at all are difficult to read), but are rich enough image-wise that you can add in your own comments or things to talk about if you can’t handle just reading it straight ONE MORE TIME!

Anyways, this is a cute and charming book, and maybe the best part of it is the page where the momma kisses her baby again – be sure to take full advantage of that, complete with loud kissy sound effects.

Get it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Tools of the Trade – book swaps

A while ago, my neighborhood hosted a community book swap. Show up, donate your books and dvds, come back a week later and take home as many books and dvds as you want!

Truth be told, the Saturday of the event I had forgotten about it until the last minute, so by the time I showed up it was rather picked over. However, I STILL came home with about 6 books I’m excited to read. None of these books are new releases, but I found a couple of authors I’d been wanting to try, and a couple of old favorites, and a couple of new-to-me books by favorite authors, so it was a very nice mix. Next year, they’ll probably end up back at the book swap where they can be loved by someone new.

I think book swaps are a great way to connect with fellow book lovers, and a great way to be efficient about your bookshelf space and your reading budget. And, you know, the environment and stuff. See if your library or a community group puts one on, or host one yourself! I think that would be a ton of fun.

I will include a cautionary tale: my husband and I backpacked around Europe for our honeymoon, mostly staying in the cheapest hostels we could find. Many hostels have take a book, leave a book areas, and I would often utilize these. In some ways having a limited selection was really nice because I was forced to read outside my comfort zone, and I found some great books this way. However, at one fateful stop, I picked up a really intriguing mystery. I got sucked into the story and the characters and I couldn’t figure out whodunnit. Then, as I finally got to the big reveal…back cover. What?!? The last 5 pages or so were ripped out and I spent the rest of the trip fuming because I’d missed the ending.

But in general, this is not likely to happen to you. You’re more likely to bring home some new friends, try something new (this is easier to do when it’s free), and free up some space on your shelves.

Have you ever gone to a book swap? Would you consider hosting one?

 

Family Fridays – The Boxcar Children

Book: The Boxcar Children (1924) by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Series: The Boxcar Children

Category/Age: Early Reader / Beginning Chapter Book :  ages 6 and up

Blurb:

One Warm Night four children stood in front of a bakery. No one knew them. No one knew where they had come from.” So begins Gertrude Chandler Warner’s beloved story about four orphans who run away and find shelter in an abandoned boxcar. There they manage to live all on their own, and at last, find love and security from an unexpected source.

Review:

Let’s pause for a moment, shall we? 1924. This book was published in 1924. That’s just a few years after the end of the first world war – and 90 years ago. The language does feel a bit dated in places, but not nearly as much as you might think. This classic has been beloved for almost a century because it’s easy to read, and just plain fun.

I’ve always been a sucker for survival stories, from Julie of the Wolves to The Martian (review forthcoming). The nitty-gritty, mundane details of survival I always find fascinating, and this book falls solidly into the survival genre for much of the book, which I hadn’t remembered going into it. Where do they sleep? What do they cook in? Where do they get clean? Those types of details are answered in a realistic way for the children, and you can definitely see why it would resonate in the minds of young readers – it’s like the ultimate game of playing house.

As an adult, my only quibble with the book was how fast the ending was resolved – I felt like the major conflict set up (with the grandfather) was glossed over for expediency – but overall this is a fantastic chapter book for early readers.

I vaguely seem to remember reading dozens of the other books, and enjoying them greatly as well.

Did you read The Boxcar Children in your childhood? What did you think?

Get it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.