Review of Paper Souls by Allie Burke

91Omq2as16L._SL1500_From the author of the bestselling genre-defining Enchanters series, comes a new literary tour de force about Emily, a young woman balancing two worlds between her fingertips: the one that is real to her and the one that is real to everyone else…

The question is: which one will she choose?

Never romanticizing what it means to be a twenty-something schizophrenic in a world broken by normalcy and half-baked fairytales, Allie Burke’s latest novel unites Emily and her world at large, spanning from the streets of Russia, to the sheets of her bed, to the idiosyncratic comfort she gets from worlds that don’t exist at all.

Woven with angst and darkness, bursting with heartache, Paper Souls tells of the irreparably damaged and broken, and how they survive.

I finished Paper Souls a few weeks ago. It’s taken me this long to figure out exactly how to review it. Upon gobbling up the last pages, I felt every single emotion all at once. I wanted to write the review right then and there. But…what do I have to say? Everything and nothing. How do you describe something extraordinary with mere ordinary words?

Some authors tell us a story, others show us. Burke injects it into our veins. We don’t meet Emily Colt, we become her; or, rather, she becomes us. And, again, she doesn’t tell us or show us what it is like to have schizophrenia, she gives it to us. From this intimate transferal, she teaches us the most beautiful of lessons…that we aren’t any different than Emily. And from this realization, that we, all of us, some part of us, is Emily, we fall in love with her, and ourselves, and all the beautifully tragic perplexities that make up each of our tortured psyches. Delicately weaved into the pages is a new appreciation and understanding of humankind, of human nature.

The prose is rigid and raw, sexy and disturbing; a deep crimson river of love and heartache coursing through us. The story line is harsh and soft, simple and complex; a perpetual contradiction. And it works so perfectly, magically. Each word, a gift.

Some books are like fast food. This book isn’t meant to be devoured, although it is so deliciously tempting from the outset. The filet mignon of literature, you’ll want to savor each word, each page, each experience. Let the buttery goodness linger, and slip down into your soul. Fulfilling you in a way you never knew words could.

This book isn’t for the faint of heart. It isn’t for the unexperienced reader, the innocent human. This book requires a soul to nurture it and appreciate it for what it is – pure unbridled brilliance.

If you think you are ready to experience something you’ve not yet encountered, if you’re ready to let your mind go, pick up a copy. But know, this impeccable writer and this exquisite tale will leave you changed…forever.

Available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

61EW9hVHD4L._UX250_An American novelist, book critic, and magazine editor from Burbank, California, Allie Burke writes books she can’t find in the bookstore. Having been recognized as writing a “kickass book that defies the genre it’s in”, Allie writes with a prose that has been labeled poetic and ethereal.

Her life is a beautiful disaster, flowered with the harrowing existence of inherited eccentricity, a murderous family history, a faithful literature addiction, and the intricate darkness of true love. These are the enchanting experiences that inspire Allie’s fairytales.

From some coffee shop in Los Angeles, she is working on her next novel.

Connect with Allie on her website, Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

Book Review: The Poor Man’s Guide to an Affordable, Painless Suicide by Schuler Benson

The Poor Man's Guide - FRONT COVER PROMOTIONALTwelve stories, fraught with an unapologetic voice of firsthand experience, that pry the lock off of the addiction, fanaticism, violence, and fear of characters whose lives are mired in the darkness of isolation and the horror and the hilarity of the mundane. This is the Deep South: the dark territory of brine, pine, gravel, and red clay, where pavement still fears to tread.

The Poor Man’s Guide to an Affordable, Painless Suicide is the debut collection of stories by Schuler Benson. The stories center on the inhabitants of rural America and for the most part are quite dark and gritty.

The characters and their stories are distinctively simplistic and yet they pack quite a punch, but not in the way you might expect. Often with short stories there is this shock and awe when you reach the end. Here, something different happens. There is a palpable sadness intricately weaved throughout the book with a sprinkle of humor here and there. The heavy impact of the stories sneaks up on you and slaps you right in the face when you reach the end of the collection. It hits you, how very much you loved everyone you met. And more than that, how very much you can relate to these ordinary, everyday people. And you find yourself wanting to start reading it all over again.

It is evident that Benson’s muse threw a noose around his heart; the stories bled onto the page. And it feels as though he has left more than just a piece of himself in each of these stories; he’s left a piece of all of us.

Grab your copy here

Schuler Benson’s fiction and poetry have appeared in Kudzu ReviewHobartThe Idle Class, and elsewhere. He has been nominated for a Sundress Publications Best of the Net Award, a storySouth Million Writers Award, and three Pushcart Prizes, and he placed second in The FallenPortfolio Sky Review’s 2013 Speculative Fiction Launch Contest. He completed his undergraduate studies at University of Arkansas and is currently enrolled in the MA program at Coastal Carolina University. The Poor Man’s Guide to an Affordable, Painless Suicide is his first book. You can find him on Twitter at @schulerbenson and on Facebook at /schulerbenson.

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2fe5b39b_oAs always, thanks for reading, sharing, commenting…all that good stuff.
Interested in my words? They are available for purchase on Amazon.
Yes, that was a shameless plug…shoot me.

Book Review: Message from a Blue Jay by Faye Rapoport DesPres

A1P8z4TKzsL._SL1500_Message from a Blue Jay is the debut of Author Faye Rapoport DesPres and is a non-fiction collection of personal essays. Some writers are storytellers and gather their readers around a fire and share their tales. Rapoport DesPres is different. She holds the reader’s hand tenderly and invites them into her heart and takes them with her on her journey.

Just a few lines in, a feeling of peaceful familiarity washes over you. The words that fill the page are warm and comforting and envelope you like the embrace of a long-lost friend. The author shares with you some of her deepest and most intimate of fears and thoughts and experiences, whispers them into your ear. And even though you may not have traversed the same winding road as she, you can relate to the struggle of attempting to clear the hurdles along the way.

Like a warm sip of tea on a bitter cold day, the essays which make up Message from a Blue Jay are ones you’ll want to savor. Because weaved into each heartfelt experience is a beautiful lesson. A lesson you’ll want to lean back and mull over. Sometimes for an entire day.

Rapoport DesPres is a true artist. Her writing is exquisite and it is obvious she was exceedingly careful in selecting each and every word before painting them onto the page. And the whole experience the reader is afforded, and that is exactly what it is, an experience, is one that lingers long after the last page is turned. Her words will forever have a place in my heart.

Message from a Blue Jay is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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a44198480c8d0a7e9d9afb.L._V341671626_Faye Rapoport DesPres was born in New York City, and over the years she has lived in upstate New York, Colorado, England, Israel, and Massachusetts. Her personal essays, fiction, book reviews, and interviews have appeared in a variety of literary journals and magazines, including Ascent, Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, Eleven Eleven, Fourth Genre, Hamilton Stone Review, Necessary Fiction, Platte Valley Review, Prime Number Magazine, Superstition Review, and the Writer’s Chronicle. Her award-winning short story “Who Let the Cats Out?” is included in the Mystery Times Ten 2013 print anthology, and her first full-length book is a memoir-in-essays titled “Message from a Blue Jay” (Buddhapuss Ink, May 2014).

Faye currently lives in the Boston area with her husband, Jean-Paul Des Pres, and their cats.

Connect with Faye on her website and follower her on Twitter.

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2fe5b39b_oAs always, thanks for reading, sharing, commenting…all that good stuff.
Interested in my words? They are available for purchase on Amazon.
Yes, that was a shameless plug…shoot me.

Book Review: Reconciled People by Michael La Ronn

81cqHwytxbL._SL1500_They say great things come in small packages. And the same can be said about La Ronn’s Reconciled People.  A compilation of short stories which will satiate even the most ravenous of appetites.

La Ronn’s effortless and lyrical writing style sends the reader afloat a river of literary brilliance. The ride is smooth and tranquil. And weaved into each morsel of a tale is a grand lesson. Every action and every choice in life comes with a consequence. La Ronn forces us to come face-to-face with these consequences, be they good or bad ones. I am an instant fan of books which leave you not only utterly satisfied, but wiser.

My first reading of Reconciled People was actually not a reading at all, but a listening. The audiobook version is stunning and Lori Faiella’s voice suits the stories perfectly, making the book come alive in unexpected ways. Only 1 hour and 38 minutes long, the lessons and beauty will linger on in my heart for much longer.

Therefore, I wasn’t quite done with these tales after just one listening. I then decided to sit down and devour the ebook version. And what happened? I took away even more from each of the tales. It was bittersweet to reach “The End” and say goodbye to all my great new friends.

La Ronn is anything but an ordinary storyteller and his words are sure to transcend time. I very much look forward to savoring more from this impeccably talented author.

 Reconciled People is available for purchase from
Amazon, Audible, Barnes & Noble, and other fine retailers

La Ronn is a fantasy author, who also writes short stories and poetry. No matter what he is writing, his goal is to create well-written, interesting, and e91578a8dd930ac1d188bb.L._V362731133_SY470_entertaining stories. He can be unpredictable at times, but he likes it this way. He believes writing, along with reading, should be a journey that takes you to unexpected places. La Ronn will go anywhere his artistic spirit takes him in order to tell a good story.

You can connect with Michael on Facebook, Twitter, and his website.

 

Book Review: Above All Men by Eric Shonkwiler

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Years from now, America is slowly collapsing. Crops are drying up and oil is running out. People flee cities for the countryside, worsening the drought and opening the land to crime. Amid this decay and strife, war veteran David Parrish fights to keep his family and farm together. However, the murder of a local child opens old wounds, forcing him to confront his own nature on a hunt through dust storms and crumbling towns for the killer.

In Above All Men, Shonkwiler thrusts us into the future, but not the kind of future you might expect, yet one that is painfully possible. The economy has collapsed. The landscape isn’t lush and healthy. Life isn’t filled with ridiculous gadgetry, as one might expect to encounter in a far off version of our now.  Instead, the unfortunate inhabitants of our tomorrow are forced to live a worse-off version of life than their long-ago ancestors once did. And the desperation which plagues this future is deliciously palpable and drips off the page, dances its way right into our hands and our hearts. And for as hard as times might be for our main character, David Parrish, the words which are used to tell this story are anything but. Page after page, you’ll quickly find yourself immersed into one of the most beautifully and artfully crafted tales about courage and strength and the power of resilience. It takes an author of real talent to tell a tale that is filled with a lot of ugly and make it anything but. And that’s what Shonkwiler is – an author of immense talent.

Above All Men now resides on my list of top reads of my lifetime. If you like your fiction more real than not and you’re a fan of magnificent literature, you’ll want, no, need to pick up a copy.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Eric Shonkwiler has had writing appear in the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Millions, Fiddleblack, [PANK] Magazine, ed2383dd5d4e0a7f023591.L._V361843851_SY470_and Midwestern Gothic. He was born and raised in Ohio, received his MFA from The University of California at Riverside, and has lived and worked in every contiguous U.S. timezone. Above All Men is his first novel.

Connect with Eric on Facebook, his website, and follow him on Twitter.

Book Review of Scars from a Memoir by Marni Mann

“So many times, I had questioned whether I would make it…”

imagesIn Scars from a Memoir, the follow-up novel to Marni Mann’s spectacular debut, Memoirs Aren’t Fairytales, readers follow Nicole Brown as she works her way through rehab and through the pain of her past, trying to pave the way to a better future.

Life isn’t easy. And sometimes we find ourselves stumbling down a path we didn’t mean to traverse. Nicole’s entire life has been a path she never planned to traverse. And just as she learns to let go of the hand that has threatened to strangle every ounce of life from her, she also learns that letting go and coming to peace with it doesn’t mean it’s gone. Our past – the dark and light bits – is a permanent fixture in our very being. Forever.

Nicole’s story is a hard one to read. And you don’t have to be a drug addict to relate to it. I’m not a recovering addict, but I am a recovering sufferer of life. Having spent the better part of a decade in a very dark and lonely place. Having made my fair share of very bad choices, and having to come to terms with the consequences of those choices, I often found myself sitting back after reading a few chapters and reflecting on my own journey. And the many hiccups along the way.

So many novels give us an unrealistic view of life and paint the picture of a cheery perfect ending, but the hard truth of the matter is… life is anything but a fairytale. And while fairytales are wonderful to read, they don’t really give us hope. It’s the stories we can relate to, the stories that, although riddled with sadness and doubt, also show us hope and kindness and love. Those are the stories we learn the most from.

Anyone who has crawled around in the pits of despair knows how hard it is to wash the stench of the darkness off.  But, while it does take a great deal of effort, it is possible to be clean again. And while there is no escaping our past and no guarantee of what lies ahead, we should never stop trying to be better. To help others. And to find happiness. And love. Nicole reminds us of this.

Nicole’s story is one that everyone should read, young and old. For the younger readers, her story serves as a lesson of what can happen. And for the older readers, a reminder that we have survived.

To say that Marni Mann is going places in the literary world (and in life) would be quite an understatement.  Her words, and their lessons, I know, will transcend time.

Marni’s series is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

downloadA New Englander at heart, Marni Mann, now a Floridian is inspired by the sandy beaches and hot pink sunsets of Sarasota. A writer of literary fiction, she taps a mainstream appeal and shakes worldwide taboos, taking her readers on a dark, harrowing, and gritty journey. When she’s not nose deep in her laptop, she’s scouring for chocolate, traveling, reading, or walking her four-legged children. Scars from a Memoir is her second book, a sequel to the highly regarded Memoirs Aren’t Fairytales: A Story of Addiction.

Connect with Marni on her websiteFacebookGoodreads, and follow her on Twitter.

Book Review of Forbidden Fire by Kimberly Kinrade AND a GIVEAWAY (Yay!)

Forbidden Mind sealed my fate as a fan for life of Kinrade. However, still, I was a little worried about Forbidden Fire for a few reasons. One, I knew for a fact that this installment was written from varying point of views. And, while I quite like the idea of multiple POVs, not many authors can pull it off effectively. I was also worried because this was the second part of a three-part series. And from previous experiences, often, the books in the middle just sort of rehash the same ideas over and over, dragging it all out, and so often they fail to serve up much in the way of excitement.

Oh, but it only took a few pages of Kinrade’s writing to put a smile on my face, to cause me to scoot to the edge of my seat, to make me laugh at myself for even letting a worry surface about her impeccable writing. Because Forbidden Fire thrusts the reader into the depths of the story without pause. And I can tell you, Kinrade more than pulls off the varying POVs. The switch between narrators is effortless and smooth, and downright thrilling, leaving us hanging with the end of each section. Pulling at us. Forcing us to just keep turning, keep hanging on.

Her writing is simple, and I mean this as a compliment. She doesn’t get bogged down with too much description, and, yet, she gives us enough to satiate our growing curiosity. Her imagery is vivid, and the love which these characters share is sure to not only cause you to fist pump the air rooting for them, but cause you clutch at your chest as they invade you and warm your heart.

I can’t tell you how impressed I am with this series. How perplexed I am that anyone would ever not read these. Even if you don’t read YA or paranormal romance normally, I dare you to pick up this series and put it down. In fact, no, I double dog dare you.

So where does the last installment, Forbidden Life, take us? I’m not sure, but bring it on Kinrade. I’m ready.

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New to the Forbidden Series? There’s still time to get caught up before the final installment, FORBIDDEN LIFE, releases on October 2nd (did you hear that? Oh, don’t worry, it was just my epic squeeeeee of excitement!!)!!

Check out Kinrade’s books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Connect with her on her website, Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

**AND if all this wasn’t exciting enough, you can enter to win signed books and more by clicking here**

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The road to redemption begins in darkness. 

A sinister force waits for them in darkness, ready to devour their powers and take their lives.

Sam’s baby is the key to a lock that must never been opened. To keep her child safe, Sam will do anything.

Drake might have found a way to get his powers back and save his family, but is it too late?

Luke and Lucy uncover secrets in an organization they thought they could trust, and the lives of all Rent-A-Kid children are at stake.

In this last Forbidden Trilogy installment, the secrets to Rent-A-Kid will finally be revealed.

Unlock the secrets: October 2, 2012

Do you review books? Yes. Yes, I do.

Book reviews. People ask me about them all the time. And I write a fair amount of them. And I’m endeavoring to schedule more time to read, and write, and relax, and work on finding that clone army I so desperately need. But, yes, on a serious note, I thought it was time that I address my thought process and rules behind book reviews, so that authors know a little bit more about me and how I work.

First and foremost, you should know, I do not write reviews for every single book I read. I’m sorry. I don’t. And just because I do review a book on Amazon and the like, doesn’t automatically mean I’m going to post it on my blog. I don’t generally post reviews for books that I feel are not, at the very least, worthy, in my insignificant opinion, of three stars or more. There are several reasons for this:

  • Genre: It may be a genre that I generally don’t really care for, but, for whatever reason, I decided to give it a go, and, well, discovered my tastes had, indeed, not changed. In this instance I don’t want to leave a bad review, because it has nothing to do with anything the writer did. It is, just my opinion on the genre and would serve of no benefit to readers. So what don’t I read? For the most part, Fantasy and Sci-Fi are not my cup of tea. But if you do a good job selling your story to me, I might just give it a try ;)
  • Unable to Finish: If I am unable to finish the book (yes, sadly this has happened). I also will not write a review because I don’t think it’s fair to the author for me to base my opinions on a story I did not read in its entirety. However, I will contact the author in a more private setting to let them know.
  • 3 Stars or Less: If I complete a book and feel, for whatever reason, the book is not worthy of at least a 3 star review, I will not post a review. I will, also, however, contact the author to let them know. I know authors appreciate feedback and some feedback, in my opinion, doesn’t need to be blasted all over the interwebs.

And don’t be upset if you tell me about your book and I tell you I’m going to read it and, boom, three months goes by and nothing. I assure you, I haven’t forgotten about you. You see, I’m not just a reviewer or a writer. I’m also a full-time legal secretary, student, runner, and baked goods eater (this takes up more time than one would think). So my free time is often limited. With this said, I will, for those writers whom I have a particularly close relationship with, and who have a big promo or release coming up, will do whatever I can to push them up the pile and get a review out when or as near as possible to their event. Otherwise, just be patient with me, I’m getting to it (I promise!).

And, lastly, please don’t just spam me with links to you book. Engage me in some conversation. Tell me a little bit about yourself and your writing.

So those are my rules. You don’t have to like them or agree with them, you just need to be aware of them. ;)

Questions? Got a book you want me to review? Want to be featured on my site? Easy – shoot me an email at lisa AT lmstull DOT com and we’ll talk.

Until next time, Happy Reading!

Book Review of Three Worlds by Nick Palmer

With influences of Robert Frost, Max Ehrmann and Roger McGough, in his superb first collection of a collection of thoughts, Nick Palmer explores the three worlds of human experience; what we are like on the inside, the beauty that inspires us to do great things, and the shadows that snare our hearts.

You know you’ve stumbled upon something special when you find your eyes drinking up the pages so quickly that, by the end, you’re intoxicated and in need of more.

In Palmer’s Three Worlds he offers up an impressive selection of poetry in a myriad of styles and themes. Impressively written, stunningly palpable, and relatable, Palmer’s collection has something for everyone. Broken up into three sections, I found the pieces which comprised the last two worlds my absolute favorite, and, in fact, revisited many of them several times over upon completion to let the beauty and wonder of each phrase seep into my soul some more.

With this collection, he’s created an addict in me. And I can’t seem to stop myself from returning to read a poem or two here and there. I do have one complaint with the collection… it has an ending! I want more Nick Palmer!

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Nick was kind enough to let me share with you one particular poem which I have re-read more times than I care to admit since first enjoying it. And, so, I share with you…Black Tea

As the birds begin the Dawn Chorus,
A sign that today has begun,
I’m drinking black tea and thinking
And waiting for sleep to come.
She asked what I was doing
Sitting alone in the morning sun
I said I’m drinking black tea and thinking
And waiting for sleep to come.
She said that she felt mistreated
Because I’m always moody and glum
I said I’m drinking black tea and thinking
And waiting for sleep to come.
She said she’d found a new lover
And all that we were was done
I said I’m drinking black tea and thinking
And waiting for sleep to come.
She left because she didn’t understand me
And now I’m lonely and numb
So I’m drinking black tea and thinking
And waiting for death to come.

Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Nick is an intelligent, funny and lively postgraduate student and library worker (by day), and a playwright/poet (all the other times). He lives in Leicester, UK, and enjoys bourbon biscuits. Born in Spalding, Lincolnshire, Nick enjoyed growing up in the flatlands of the fens. He started writing stories when he was very young, as well as writing poetry. He moved to Leicester in 2003 to attend university and has not left the city or the university yet; now on his third degree – a PhD in History. He started writing plays in 2007, and finds it to be the best form of expression, though he is still very attached to poetry. He also feels he still has a few stories in him.

Connect with him on his website, Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

Book Review of The Last Dance by Wyatt McIntyre

James Mueller has spent a lifetime of devotion to his wife Alejandra, and now as her life draws to a close, he looks back to the beginning when it seemed that time and fate conspired to keep them apart. 

A story that ends even as it begins, The Last Dance tells of two souls meant to be together but torn apart by war, misunderstandings and hurt. Bittersweet and deeply romantic, it moves through the significant moments in the lives of these two star-crossed lovers, raising the question not of if but how James and Alejandra will ever find their way back to each other and the love they were destined to share.

From a chance meeting to a look and a touch, to the promises made and the disappointment found, The Last Dance is a story of loss, longing, hope and faith, as James and Alejandra are forced to examine who they are and what they really need if they are ever to turn their fairy-tale romance into a lifelong love.

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McIntyre has produced a lyrical masterpiece with The Last Dance, a novel which follows the story of James and Alejandra as they traverse the often daunting road of love.

In its opening pages, The Last Dance reveals to its readers the ending. And you would think knowing this – where our James and Alejandra end up – would spoil their tale. When in fact, it does anything but. The finality of their story is so captivating, so heart wrenching, and so emotional, that it grabs us. Speaks to us in the most special of places deep within our heart, our soul, and makes us want to join them. To see how they got there. For their story is not a fairytale or fantastical in any way. It is real. And it is what all of us wish and dream and hope for each and every day.

Told at varying points in their lives, McIntyre feeds us little morsels of their journey. Satiating our hunger for more just enough to keep us turning. Keep us begging. The words which fill this novel are eloquent and roll off the page with a stunning ease.

Just as is the case in real life, love doesn’t come easy, nor at the moment or way we expect it. But in their tale, we are reminded of what makes love and life and everything in-between possible: hope and faith. It is a reminder that happiness awaits each of us if we fight hard enough and, most importantly, never stop believing.

It is quite symbolic that the author chose this title – The Last Dance – as it reads as one long, beautiful, and soulful song. It is as if we see James and Alejandra dancing, swaying gracefully to the heartbeat of their story.

In a sea of familiar, it is hard to find novels which stand out. The Last Dance, while filled with emotions and fears and characters which all evoke a palpable familiarity in its readers, is anything but familiar in a literary sense. It is anything but “just good.” The Last Dance is a story for all ages. For anyone who has hoped and dreamt, loved and lost, and ultimately lived to try it all again. It is a story written to and for and about each of us.

McIntyre has done a beyond superb job and should know he has gained a fan for life in me.

Curl up in a comfy chair, grab a box of tissues, open your heart, and let the beautiful words of The Last Dance seep in.

Get your copy on Amazon

Born in Valleyview Alberta and currently residing in Woodridge Illinois, as an amateur woodworker, Wyatt McIntyre sees crafting a story in the same way he carves. Starting with a blank and rough surface, each word, each sentence and line is meant to express a vision that slowly turns the original material into a finished work of beauty. Along with The Last Dance, his first novel, Wyatt is also the author of the theological work, Coping Through Christianity: Strengthening the Wounded Heart and Broken Spirit through God’s Love.

Connect with Wyatt on his website, Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.