Barbara L. (Barbllm) - Reviews

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Abandon (U.S. Marshalls, Bk 6)
Abandon (U.S. Marshalls, Bk 6)
Author: Carla Neggers
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 267
Review Date: 4/28/2013


Occasionally, I suffer from insomnia and lie awake in bed, trying to return to sleep. Last night, I awoke at 12:10 am and decided that if I couldnt sleep, I would read. I picked up this book, having never read one of Carla Neggerss books before. I finished it at 1:27 am. And barely remembered who the main characters were.

The book is classified as romantic suspense, and there is romance between US Marshal Mackenzie Stewart and FBI agent Andrew Rook; they share a couple of hot nights together. But theres no suspense here, only a lackluster story about two men, one of whom is newly divorced from a Federal judge, trying to blackmail a violent sociopath named Jesse, who does add some tension to the book but not enough to save it.

I probably wont seek out any more of her books if this is any indication of how she writes. Id rather re-read Patricia Cornwells Scarpetta series.


Abiding Love (Love Inspired, 252)
Abiding Love (Love Inspired, 252)
Author: Kate Welsh
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 25
Review Date: 5/1/2009


Alexandra Lexington comes to Laurel Glen in hiding from an abusive husband and takes shelter with Elizabeth, a woman raped by her brother years ago. The two form an unlikely friendship and, as Alexandra rebuilds her life, she runs across the Mark, the handsome son of even handsomer ex-Navy SEAL Adam, who is also trying to rebuild his life with his newly found son.

The past rears its ugly head a few times, and it's to the author's credit that she makes the characters believable. Could you befriend someone related to a man who raped you? Could you find love after being physically abused by someone? These aren't easy questions, and no pat answers or platitudes are given.

However, one thing did bother me. At one point, Adam is described as logical and methodical, but faith as illogical. Biblical faith is most certainly not illogical; it is based on reasoning and evidence. It's not simply a matter of believing, as some might think.

All in all, a good day's read.


Abomination (Rock Harbor, Bk 4)
Abomination (Rock Harbor, Bk 4)
Author: Colleen Coble
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 31
Review Date: 11/20/2009


A woman and a small child are discovered by the roadside. The woman has amnesia, which prevents her from remembering who she is or even who the child is. However, it soon becomes apparent that she's one of the targets of a "missionary killer", that is, a serial killer who specifically targets people who he believes have sinned.

Coble's characters are somewhat realistic, if a little simplistic at times. The plot is very well fleshed out, and there's a lot of detail regarding the lives of Michiganders in the Upper Peninsula (I almost wished she'd include the Greek recipes she describes) as well as the sport of geocaching to be found. Her research is top-notch.

A couple of the characters featured in this novel, Bree and Kade, are also featured in the author's Rock Harbor series.


Admission
Admission
Author: Travis Thrasher
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 25
Review Date: 11/20/2009
Helpful Score: 2


This is an excellent read for high schoolers as well as adults. Jake Rivers, owner of a mountaineering/adventure travel company in Colorado is hired by a man, Mr. Jelem, ostensibly to find his daughter Claire, last seen in the company of one of Jake's college pals, Alec. However, once Jake begins revisiting his college friends, someone tries very hard to stop Jake from finding out what really happened.

The book's narrative flips back and forth from Jake's early 1990s college years (alt-rock bands are name dropped excessively) to 2005, when Jake begins his investigation. There's also a romantic subplot involving reformed party animal Jake and his college sweetheart, Alyssa.

The concept of reformation is nicely handled. The reader sees Jake's drunken antics in college and his turning away from alcohol later. The college, Providence, is a Christian college, yet the behavior of Jake and his friends well illustrates the apostle Paul's point "Bad associations spoil useful habits."


Any Man of Mine (Love Inspired, No 355) (Larger Print)
Any Man of Mine (Love Inspired, No 355) (Larger Print)
Author: Carolyne Aarsen
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 19
Review Date: 11/20/2009


What I first liked about this novel is that it's written in the first person, which gives you more sympathy for the main character, a put-upon social worker named Danielle Hemstead. She's caring for her invalid father and dealing with three brothers who care more about tractor parts and calf roping than they do about people--or so it seems.

She's immediately introduced to James (aka Jigs), a handsome and rugged man who likes Schubert and poetry and can also ride a bucking bronc. Danielle is afraid that she'll end up with a guy (like her brothers): in her head, someone who trips over dirty laundry and doesn't know how to run a dishwasher instead of a man, someone who reads poetry and understands how to make a good cappuchino.

She wants to leave Preston, the small town she's lived in for the big city and a job with an adoption agency. But James and her brothers, not to mention her best friend Tracy, have other ideas in mind for her. Danielle is an appealing and funny heroine. She is absolutely real, and seeing her finally stand up for herself is great. James is equal parts tough guy and softie, as he aids his sister, Robin, and her new baby. Danielle's brothers initially come across as literary versions of the Dukes of Hazzard but eventually show their more humane side as well.


Apocalypse of the Dead (Dead City, Bk 2)
Apocalypse of the Dead (Dead City, Bk 2)
Author: Joe McKinney
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 25
Review Date: 5/2/2013
Helpful Score: 1


Joe McKinney skillfully balances several groups of characters as they trek across a ruined America to the North Dakota Grasslands where they hope to avoid the hordes of zombies that have resurrected since hurricanes destroyed a portion of the Gulf Coast. The government had hoped that quarantining the cities affected by the hurricanes would stop the outbreak, but a boatload of refugees makes it to the Florida coast and, unfortunately, all but two of them turned.

Its not absolutely necessary to read the authors prequel book Dead City but it wouldnt hurt; the events in Apocalypse are set two years after the events of that book. Most of the humans left are unprepared for the total collapse of society. A group of Florida retirees led by Ed Moore meet up with a blind woman and an escaped convict to form one group of characters; two buddies, Jeff and Colin, along with the porn stars they hired for Colins bachelor party, form another group; a devilish preacher and his Family form the third, and a vicious motorcycle gang form the fourth. Its impressive to see the characters develop throughout the story, some for the better (Jeff and Aaron) and some for the worse (Michael Barnes).

The question is whether or not humanity is capable of rebuilding society from the ruins, or if anarchy will continue until all the dead are gone. Its a good post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel that warrants comparisons to Stephen Kings The Stand.


The Apprentice (Rizzoli & Isles, Bk 2)
The Apprentice (Rizzoli & Isles, Bk 2)
Author: Tess Gerritsen
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 528
Review Date: 10/13/2014


Gerritsens sequel to The Surgeon is pretty good as far as sequels go. Gerritsen created Jane Rizzoli, a female Boston homicide detective who is as intense and complex as Patricia Cornwells Kay Scarpetta. However, the book falls flat when it comes to the plot; it seems a re-tread of other, better serial killer novels.

Warren Hoyt, the Surgeon himself, returns but its not great; hes basically a Hannibal Lecter clone and several small chapters/prologues are written in italics in his words. Gerritsen pairs Hoyt with another serial killer known to the Boston PD as the Dominator whose modus operandi is similar to Hoyts. The discovery of a corpse in a ritzy Boston suburb starts the plot rolling.

Rizzoli sees the connection between the Dominators victim and Hoyts other victims, and visits Hoyt in prison. Later, we learn that Hoyt and the Dominator have contacted each other by mail. Added into this volatile mix is Dr. ODonnell, a psychiatrist who wants to understand the human monsters but whose work is viewed with disdain by the police.

There is a great deal of suspense, particularly when Rizzoli realizes that shes the next target of the killers. Theres a lot of forensic information here, as is the case with novels like this. The grisly nature of the murders is sensationalistic. Rizzoli also gets a new love interest in the form of FBI agent Gabriel Dean, and this is handled with realism and subtlety. Dean has the uncanny ability to know where to look for evidence, and what kind of evidence to look for. The ending is very suspenseful, but there are a lot of loose ends unaccounted for. Not the greatest book that Gerritsens written.


The Architecture and Design of Man and Woman : The Marvel of the Human Body, Revealed
Review Date: 5/29/2009


An awesome guide to human anatomy utilizing state of the art medical imaging and 3D computer rendering technology.


Area 7 (Scarecrow, Bk 2)
Area 7 (Scarecrow, Bk 2)
Author: Matthew Reilly
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 147
Review Date: 11/20/2009


This is a somewhat inferior sequel to Reilly's "Ice Station" and features USMC Shane Schofield, Mother, and Libby Gant (now Shane's girlfriend) from that book. The setting is predominantly the American Southwest and the plot hinges on keeping the President of the United States alive in order to foil a terrorist attack that will literally set the U.S. back a couple hundred years.

Reilly's character development is almost nil and this is problematic because we can't root for the heroes if we don't know their real motivations behind their actions. Also, there's a crucial plot twist in the next novel in the Schofield series, "Scarecrow", that isn't quite justified simply because we don't know much about the characters. I think the plot twist helped the novel, but at the same time, I wondered if I should care about someone I knew so little about.

Reilly, however, is a master of action and his scenes don't disappoint. Gunfights in airline hangars as well as a flooded pit filled with Komodo dragons (yes, really) factor into the novel as well, and they're the prime reason I love his books: the off-the-wall action. It's like Indiana Jones/James Bond/Jason Bourne on meth.

Reilly does raise a few points on treason and traitors in this novel. What does it mean to betray your country? What if you feel that your country has betrayed you? I thought it was well handled, especially given the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 as well as the many state militias who openly declare their mistrust or outright hatred of the United States government. Reilly's novels make it clear that you don't always know who you can (or should) trust.

This obviously isn't Great Literature (TM) and certainly won't be compared to Chekhov or Shakespeare, but he does give Clive Cussler and Tom Clancy a run for their money.


At Home in His Heart (Canyon Springs, Bk 3) (Love Inspired, No 654)
At Home in His Heart (Canyon Springs, Bk 3) (Love Inspired, No 654)
Author: Glynna Kaye
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 6/10/2013


I have to give Glynna Kaye credit here: this book really pissed me off on several occasions, and thats mostly because of the spinelessness of the heroine, Sandi Bradshaw, and the general bitchiness of her mother-in-law, LeAnne Bradshaw.

Sandi is the curator of Canyon Springs historical society and her dream is to expand it to include all the veterans whove served in the military including her late husband, Keith. However, donations are sparse and the rent is being increased due to the benefactors grandson, Bryce Harding, returning from active duty. Bryce is hoping to angle a firefighters job but city budget cuts have put that on hold, so he agrees to do handyman work for Sandi. This leads to several people thinking that theyre a couple and to LeAnnes near-constant reminders that Bryce is a bad man.

Seems that Bryce got it into his head to warn Keith off from marrying Sandi. Which, given LeAnnes nasty personality, might not have been a bad idea. LeAnne tells Sandi more than once that she wasnt good enough for her son, Keith. A sane woman with a spine would have said, But he married me anyway, so shut your piehole. Whereas meek little Sandi just ignores the verbal jabs instead of standing up for herself.

The fact that Sandi simply does nothing while LeAnne insults her, while other townspeople tell her that shes not a good curator for the society, or while her daughter attempts to adopt Bryce as her uncle is infuriating at timescome on, Moses was also meek but even he spoke up when the situation demanded it. And LeAnnes nastiness supposedly comes from her not getting over her sons death. This is somewhat excusable, but her insulting Sandi by saying that she wasnt good enough for Keith is inexcusable. A woman with a spine would have told her to go back to her condo and never plan on seeing her granddaughter again until she [LeAnne] learns some manners.

There are many misunderstandings, and it takes a lot for Bryce and Sandi to see eye to eye. The reader roots for them as a couple, but also for them as individuals to stand up for themselves and not take everyones opinion seriously. Recommended.


Baby, Drive South (Southern Roads, Bk 1)
Baby, Drive South (Southern Roads, Bk 1)
Author: Stephanie Bond
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 61
Review Date: 4/12/2013
Helpful Score: 1


This is the first of a trilogy set in the north Georgia mountains in the fictional town of Sweetness, which was razed to the ground by an EF-5 tornado a decade ago. How this tornado managed to raze an entire town without any loss of life is something the reader must simply believe. Three brothers, Porter, Kendall, and Marcus (all good old southern boys with washboard abs) are rebuilding the town. They invite women from Broadway, MN, to come down for companionship (i.e., sex) and to help with the rebuilding.

After a fall from the towns water tower, the cocky and charming youngest brother, Porter, makes the acquaintance of the newly arrived town doctor, Nikki Salinger, who is hoping to rebuild her life after her fiancé leaves her for a stripper named Tori. Add to this mix a bet, some desperation, two older brothers, a cantankerous mountain doctor who uses herbs to treat broken bones, almost a hundred other women (some of whom are simply caricatures), and you have a pleasant, off-beat southern ride.

Some of the minor characters are simply stereotypes of southern men and northern women. All romances are, to a degree, formulaic, but this one held my interest for a while.


The Bachelor Boss (Love Inspired, No 725)
The Bachelor Boss (Love Inspired, No 725)
Author: Judy Baer
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 5
Review Date: 6/10/2013


Normally, I like Judy Baers romances but for all her hits, this is a definite miss. Hannah St. James, one missed mortgage payment away from homelessness, is hired on the spot by a millionaire exporter named Tyler Matthews to care for his invalid grandmother, a 90-year-old spoiled child-woman named Lily.

I can suspend my disbelief on occasion. I cannot and will not suspend my disbelief that the woman who dented his Mercedes is the perfect companion for his grandmother; that Hannahs college educated sister, Trisha, does not know how to pay bills; that Hannahs spunky 8-year-old son Danny likes to hang around with older people; and that somehow, through the magic of plot convenience, everyone lives happily ever after. Find a better fairy tale and read that instead of this book.


Batman: A Death in the Family
Batman: A Death in the Family
Author: Jim Starlin, Jim Aparo, Mike DeCarlo
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 8
Review Date: 10/13/2014


Tragedy hits close to home for Batman once again. The death of his parents led him to becoming Batman, and with A Death in The Family the current Robin (Jason Todd, an orphan adopted by Bruce Wayne) is killed while searching for his birth mother.

The previous person to wear the red, green and yellow costume of Robin was Dick Grayson, who saw his parents killed before his eyes at the circus. He outgrew the sidekick role and became Nightwing, taking as his home Bludhaven, a town slightly less corrupt than Gotham. Jason, unlike Dick, didnt always follow instructions carefully or clearly and his recklessness got him into trouble more than once. The book is divided into four chapters. In the first chapter, the Joker fancies himself an arms dealer and attempts to sell a nuclear missile to Middle Eastern terrorists. This seems a bit out of character for him.

Jason tracks down his birth mother as a relief aid worker in the Middle East, however, the Joker finds her first. Theres a great dramatic twist involving Jasons mother that leads to his deathwhich was decided by polling the readers. Whether this is seen as a milestone (like the DC retcons or crises) or simply a cynically written story is up to the reader.


Bayou Justice (Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense)
Bayou Justice (Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense)
Author: Robin Caroll
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 21
Review Date: 11/20/2009
Helpful Score: 1


This is the first entry in a series revolving around the lives of the denizens of Louisiana's Bayou country. Alligator conservationist Coco LeBlanc discovers the body of the man who's recently served her family with an eviction notice and immediately becomes a suspect--along with her beau, Luc, in his murder. Their past history is one of deception--both had relatives in the KKK years ago--and both wonder if they can trust each other.

There's actually some pretty interesting Confederate history contained here, as well as (of course!) a romance between old loves. It was nice to see that Coco's Cajun relatives who practice voodoo were not treated as outcasts as well, although she doesn't condone their practices. Coco's younger sister, Tara, came across as annoying in a couple of scenes. However, the real star of the book is the bayou itself.


Better Off Without 'Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession
Review Date: 2/7/2013


Hardcover (edit)
review I gave it four stars because it amused me in places. That being said, Thompson erects the largest straw men he can think of regarding the beliefs and values of Southern people and then spends the entire book tearing them to shreds. He commits several logical fallacies along the way, and doesn't do much to further his cause or his argument.

There are, of course, people who believe that religion should be involved in politics. Many live in the South. Newsflash, Mr. Thompson: I live in Pennsylvania, and there are people here who also believe that. To suggest, as Thompson does, that the entire North is somehow more intelligent and enlightened than the entire South of the United States is a gross overgeneralization. He and Anne Coulter should go for a beer together sometime.


Birds of a Feather (Bird, Bk 2) (Signet Regency Romance)
Birds of a Feather (Bird, Bk 2) (Signet Regency Romance)
Author: Allison Lane
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 15
Review Date: 10/13/2014


Author Allison Lane crafts an enjoyable, funny Regency romance that seems more a short story than an actual novel. Bearing a great deal of similarity to Julia Quinns The Viscount Who Loved Me, Lanes novel pairs plain chaperon Joanna Patterson with the dashing rake Lord Sedgewick (or just Sedge), the arbiter of fashion in England. They go together like sequins and sand, but the storys Beauty and the Beast like plot rolls merrily along.

Lane uses many terms that were unfamiliar to me, but were common during the time period that Regency romances cover. A dictionary might be helpful if this is your first Regency romance. Also, the dialogue between Joanna and Sedge crackles and sparks, and its the best part of this novel. Joanna and Sedge are forced into a marriage of convenience after running into each other (literally) a few times and exchanging words. Found in a compromising position by societys worst gossips, they wed quickly and quietly, but love surpasses the separation of classes in Regency Englands haut ton.

Interestingly, the character of Lord Sedgewick first appears in another of Lanes novels, A Bird in Hand, which provides more backstory than this novel. Sedge is a dandy to be sure, but underneath his heroism and kindness are notable. Id love to see what happens to Sedges brother Reggie (Lord Ellisham), who appears to be pining for Joanna when Sedge marries her.

Joanna herself is a strong, complex, intelligent, likable character. She and Sedge both seek something deeper than the shallow world of high society London. I like Lanes complicated plots and complex characters. I also liked her realistic portrayal of Regency England and its social issues. I loved her dialogue. Shes an author I will be reading much more of in the future.


Black Hills Bride (Love Inspired, No 90)
Black Hills Bride (Love Inspired, No 90)
Author: Deb Kastner
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 9
Review Date: 11/20/2009


Dixie Sullivan believes it's God's plan for her to open a retreat/dude ranch in the Black Hills of South Dakota after her fiance, Abel, leaves her for missionary work in South Asia. She's not that knowledgeable about running a ranch, but she has help in the form of her foreman, Erik Wheeler, a skeptic but an honest, hardworking man. Asking if true love will bloom between Dixie and Erik is beside the point.

The only thing that rings false in this story is Erik's sudden conversion. If you doubt God because of family or personal tragedies, you're not immediately going to toss your skepticism in the trash because you've met someone. Dixie, to her credit, lives her faith and provides a good example to Erik.

The book provides a few insights into how God answers prayers. Sometimes God doesn't give us the desires of our heart. Why? "The heart is treacherous," we're told at Jeremiah 17:9. What we want might not be what's best for us (Dixie marrying Abel, for example). In that respect, a Christian has to allow himself or herself to follow God's will on the matter and not try to work it out on their own. The Bible also states that "whatever we ask of him, according to his will, he gives us."

Notice the condition: according to his will. God doesn't give us exactly what we want all the time. To suggest that he should is to behave like a spoiled, whiny child. God gives us enough so that we can make the right decisions and live a good life, as well as look forward to the future.


A Blessed Life (Hickory Ridge, Bk 1) (Love Inspired, No 188)
A Blessed Life (Hickory Ridge, Bk 1) (Love Inspired, No 188)
Author: Dana Corbit
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 10
Review Date: 11/22/2011


Serena Jacobs is trying to do it all: she's a single mother to Tessa, a sweet little girl who's developed juvenile rheumatoid arthritis; she's also a freelance writer looking for assignments; she's also a committed Christian whose church attendance has slipped of late.

Enter youth minister Andrew Westin (riding a Harley, no less!) who asks Serena to help with the teenagers at their church. She agrees and she and Andrew become close friends. However, this sets off pseudo-Christian Charity, who is a caricature of a gold-digger (although in this book, it's not money she's after, it's being a minister's wife). Charity tells a lie about Andrew and Serena that threatens their relationship and his job.

However, Andrew and Serena are protecting a secret about the reverend's daughter, Hannah, and neither is at first willing to come forth with any information. Andrew's behavior here is also silly, as it wouldn't have been any breach of confidentiality on his part. His faith is a little too simplistic.

Watching the growing attraction between Serena and Andrew is sweet. However, where Charity's concerned, she should have (at the very least) been censured or even expelled from the congregation for slander. And Andrew's passive aggressive behavior where she's concerned is infuriating. Look, if you're not interested, tell the person you're not interested.


Blessings of the Heart (Love Inspired, No 206)
Blessings of the Heart (Love Inspired, No 206)
Author: Valerie Hansen
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 54
Review Date: 11/20/2009
Helpful Score: 3


Writer Brianna (Bree) Walker moves to the Arkansas hills to find peace and quiet in order to continue writing her romance novels. Her wish isn't granted due to a massive thunderstorm that floods the area her cabin is in, and completely destroys the cabin of single parent Mitch Fowler and his young sons, Bud and Ryan. They, along with a bedraggled dog, head to Bree's cabin for shelter.

Hilarity ensues.

Hansen wrote my favorite of the Love Inspired series ("The Perfect Couple") and her sense of humor is again on display here as clean freak Bree deals with children, a dog, and her growing attraction to Mitch. The kids do come across as bratty at times, but Hansen's characters are all very human and very flawed.

The issue of whether or not to have children is an interesting one, since I have many friends who've opted to remain childless. Bree's reasons for doing so relate to her homelife and watching her develop a bond for both Bud and Ryan is nice.


Blindsighted  (Grant County, Bk 1)
Blindsighted (Grant County, Bk 1)
Author: Karin Slaughter
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 346
Review Date: 4/12/2013
Helpful Score: 2


This isnt my first foray into the twisted world that Karin Slaughter creates, and it wont be my last but she does have a hard time keeping me interested in reading about the goings-on in Heartsdale, Georgia. The book begins with a shocking scene: a blind teacher has been raped and apparently (nearly) gutted but is alive when local pediatrician/coroner Dr. Sara Linton finds her. Sara, unable to save her, now faces the task of explaining to her ex-husband, police chief Jeffrey Tolliver, what happened. She also now has to explain what happened to the teachers sister, detective Lena Adams.

The three characters, Sara, Jeffrey, and Lena, create an explosive triangle of distrust, hero worship, and off-beat friendship. However, they also come across at times as very unlikable people, people who are so damaged they cant function in normal society. They behave inconsistently and, in Lenas case, stupidly at times and its hard to believe that people with advanced medical degrees or years of job experience would do some of the things that these characters do.
The plot is nicely paced, but there is a lot of dialogue and backstory to wade through.

Interestingly, though, I believed that Lena was going to be the central character in this book since her sister, Sibyl, was the teacher murdered at the outset. But the central character is Sara, whose past rape is described clinically via a court transcript in a later chapter. I guessed the killer before the end, since there werent that many suspects to begin with (hey, it is a small town). One of the more problematic aspects of this book is how the author describes the killers raping of his victims. She practically eroticizes it, and this is uncomfortable to read. I had the same complaint about Patricia Cornwells book Predator. She doesnt simply let the readers know about the killers fetishes; she wallows in it.

Slaughter has been compared to Cornwell by other reviewers, but Cornwells books are more sharply detailed and her characters more likable. Dr. Sara Linton is no Dr. Kay Scarpetta. And her niece, Lucy Farinelli, would pistol whip the damaged Lena Adams before shooting her.


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