Tag Archives: Must Reads 2020

The Guest List by Lucy Foley #BookReview #TheGuestList @lucyfoleytweets @HarperCollinsUK

Today I’m thrilled to share my review for The Guest List by Lucy Foley, I have a feeling this book is going to be one of this year’s hits. Read on for my thoughts but first the book description…….

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A REMOTE ISLAND. AN INVITATION TO DIE FOR.

A gripping, twisty murder mystery thriller from the No.1 bestselling author of The Hunting Party.

an island off the windswept Irish coast, guests gather for the wedding of the year – the marriage of Jules Keegan and Will Slater.

Old friends.

Past grudges.

Happy families.

Hidden jealousies.

Thirteen guests.

One body.

The wedding cake has barely been cut when one of the guests is found dead. And as a storm unleashes its fury on the island, everyone is trapped.

All have a secret. All have a motive.

One guest won’t leave this wedding alive . . .

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Welcome to the wedding of the year.…I love a wedding, the romance, the chance to wear a new outfit and enjoy celebrating the union of two people,  but I’m so glad I didn’t receive an invitation to this wedding! No sooner have the celebrations begun, the unthinkable happens, a murder of all things! I’m not sure about you but I’ve been to some weddings that might have got a touch out of hand, but I can’t say I’ve ever attended one where there’s been a murder, so much for the ‘happy ever after’ it’s more of a case of ‘death do us part’. The Guest Party is the latest offering from Lucy Foley, and what an extremely entertaining, atmospheric murder mystery this book turned out to be.

The Guest List follows the high profile wedding of television presenter Will Slater and online magazine publisher Julia Keegan, the setting is a storm-swept island off Irish coast. The island gives the book an ominous atmosphere, it’s a bleak setting and one that’s shrouded in ghostly folklore. The story moves from the present to the past and back again. It is told from the perspective of multiple characters, this could have made the plot a muddled one, but this style of storytelling works really well I thought it added tension and mystery to the read. Like any wedding there are guests that are unpleasant, in this case it’s the ushers who are a bunch of arrogant bullies, entitled private old-public schoolboys who have a dangerous pack mentality,  not the most endearing qualities I have to say, but it’s their fears, secrets, lies and amidst the drink and drug fuelled wedding festivities which add an ominous air of impending doom.

There’s a mounting sense of unease as secrets from the past mix in a cauldron of anger, resentment, guilt and jealousy. There are a number of suspects, which made this book even more enjoyable to read, I felt like Mrs Marple as I discounted one suspect after another, although I must  admit I wasn’t surprised when the killer was unveiled. Another aspect I really enjoyed about this novel is the fact the murder victim isn’t revealed until the last few chapters, the author leads you down many a dead end, before we reach that point. The Guest List is a slow burner, but like any good author Lucy Foley uses this time to give the reader the background and dynamics of the characters, which builds on the tension and suspense.  I really enjoyed this deliciously dark murder mystery, it’s one I will definitely be recommending to fans of this genre. 

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (20 Feb. 2020)

Buying link: Amazon UK 🇬🇧

My thanks to the publishers for my ARC in exchange for an unbiased and honest review. 

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I Am Dust by Louise Beech #BookReview @LouiseWriter @OrendaBooks #IAmDust #BookHangoverAward

Today I’m thrilled to share my review for I Am Dust by Louise Beech, a book that’s definitely going to be one of my top reads of 2020. Read on for my thoughts…..

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When iconic musical Dust is revived twenty years after the leading actress was murdered in her dressing room, a series of eerie events haunts the new cast, in a bewitching, beguiling and terrifyingly dark psychological thriller…

The Dean Wilson Theatre is believed to be haunted by a long-dead actress, singing her last song, waiting for her final cue, looking for her killer…

Now Dust, the iconic musical, is returning after twenty years. But who will be brave enough to take on the role of ghostly goddess Esme Black, last played by Morgan Miller, who was murdered in her dressing room?

Theatre usher Chloe Dee is caught up in the spectacle. As the new actors arrive, including an unexpected face from her past, everything changes. Are the eerie sounds and sightings backstage real or just her imagination? Is someone playing games?

Is the role of Esme Black cursed? Could witchcraft be at the heart of the tragedy? And are dark deeds from Chloe’s past about to catch up with her?

Not all the drama takes place onstage. Sometimes murder, magic, obsession and the biggest of betrayals are real life. When you’re in the theatre shadows, you see everything.

And Chloe has been watching…

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For once I’m lost for words, or rather the written word, I’m not sure I can put my thoughts into a coherent review for I Am Dust by Louise Beech. So how about you just buy the book and save me the trouble of trying to write a review that can do justice to this extraordinary, haunting novel. Louise Beech is such an extraordinary author, she doesn’t just write a book; she gives each book a heart, a heart that gives life to her stories and her characters. I Am Dust takes you on a journey of magic and murder, love, ambition, jealousy and loss. It’s a ghost story entwined with a murder mystery, but it’s not the kind of ghost story that’s outside the realm of possibility, it’s plausible, heartbreaking, unnerving and creepy. 

I Am Dust moves flawlessly between the past and the present, Chloe and two friends, Ryan and Jess are attending a Summer youth theatre group and decide as a group to experiment with an Ouija board, events spiral out of control, friendships are tested, and the horror of those days will continue to haunt Chloe into adulthood. These scenes are so powerful and hauntingly creepy, they crackle with anticipation, horror and an increasing sense of dread. Fast forward to the present and Chloe is working at The Dean Wilson theatre as an usher, when she is told Now Dust, the iconic musical, is returning after twenty years, a show that never made it past its fourth performance when the show’s star was found dead in her dressing room. Chloe should be elated, but instead she feels a premonition, a growing sense of dread, as she experiences eerie noises and ghostly sightings, and forgotten memories from her past come back to plague her. 

The scenes set in the Theatre are wonderfully descriptive; they conjure up the excitement of a new performance, the glitter and the glitz, and the hustle and bustle of a working theatre, a place where glitter and dust collect and move as one. The theatre is shrouded in a tragic story, one that has led to ghost stories, hauntings and strange occurrences, it’s the setting along with the characters that capture the reader’s imagination.  As the novel progresses Louise Beech weaves Chloe’s past and present together creating a mystical, all-consuming read that’s nigh on impossible to put down. 

Chloe’s story is one that will break your heart, it’s haunting, emotional, her character will capture your heart, she will linger in your thoughts, you sense Chloe’s vulnerability, the emotions she experience are raw, emotive and powerful. When I reached the last pages of I Am Dust the tears flowed at the beauty of this story, for Chloe and for the power of Louise Beech’s written word. Definitely a contender for my book of the year and my favourite Louise Beech read so far. Highly recommended.

  • Print Length: 300 pages
  • Publisher: ORENDA BOOKS (16 Feb. 2020)

pre-order link:   Amazon 🇬🇧

And yes in case you hadn’t already guessed I’m giving I Am Dust my shiny Book hangover award, It’s given to a book I feel is particularly outstanding, a book that covers every aspect of what I look for in a read, an original  plot, great characters and a storyline that draws me in from the first page and keeps me in its grips until I reach the very last page.

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My thanks to Karen Sullivan for my ARC in exchange for an unbiased and honest review.

Never Look Back by A. L. Gaylin #BookReview @Orionbooks

Today I’m thrilled to be sharing my review for Never Look Back by A. L. Gaylin, a new author to me so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Read on for my review but first the book description……..

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She was the most brutal killer of our time. And she may have been my mother…

When website columnist Robin Diamond is contacted by true crime podcast producer Quentin Garrison, she assumes it’s a business matter. It’s not. Quentin’s podcast, Closure, focuses on a series of murders in the 1970s, committed by teen couple April Cooper and Gabriel LeRoy. It seems that Quentin has reason to believe Robin’s own mother may be intimately connected with the killings.

Robin thinks Quentin’s claim is absurd. But is it? The more she researches the Cooper/LeRoy murders herself, the more disturbed she becomes by what she finds. Living just a few blocks from her, Robin’s beloved parents are the one absolute she’s always been able to rely upon, especially now amid rising doubts about her husband and frequent threats from internet trolls. Robin knows her mother better than anyone.

But then her parents are brutally attacked, and Robin realises she doesn’t know the truth at all…

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There’s nothing I like more than picking up a book I know nothing about, it means I have no expectations, sometimes it can all go terribly wrong and I end up reading a book that’s really not my ‘cup of tea’ but thankfully that wasn’t the case with Never Look Back by A. L. Gaylin in fact it was quite the opposite I ended up loving this twisted absorbing, addictive tale of psychological suspense.

True crime podcast producer Quentin Garrison, is investigating a series of murders in the 1970s committed by teens Gabriel LeRoy and April Cooper. The victims included members of his own family. For Robin Diamond, a columnist, the podcast produces some startling evidence. When Quentin contacts her about it, and starts asking questions about April Cooper and tying her to Robin’s own mother, Robin isn’t convinced by his story, but the more she delves into the murders, the more she can’t help wondering.

Never Look Back moves between the present and 1976, mostly narrated by Quentin and Robin, past events unfold through a chilling number of journal style letters written by April Cooper. Using a dual time line to convey a story can sometimes confuse a story, or even worse make a story feel stilted, but that’s not the case here, as the two flow perfectly, enhancing the story rather than hindering. April Cooper’s letters made for a chilling read, but they give the reader an insight into a complex character and her relationship with partner in crime and murder Gabriel LeRoy.  I wasn’t convinced April was being completely truthful, she takes no responsibility for her part in the crimes.

The author has created characters who are compelling, you can’t help but become invested in their stories. Most of them are seriously damaged, or at least flawed! I chiefly felt for Gabrielle whose grief and anger is visible throughout his investigation. The plot is very much character driven, and what a fascinating array of characters they turned out to be, love them or hate them they each have a role to play in this must read thriller.

Considering the subject matter I expected gory crime scenes, but these never materialised and I’m grateful for that (a first for me as I’m not averse to some gore!) as this book is very much about the mystery surrounding April. One thing I wasn’t expecting to find in this book were the powerful emotional scenes that explore the anger and guilt that fester for those that are left behind. This book reminded me of Bonnie & Clyde, I’m not sure if that’s what the author intended but it worked for me. Never Look Back has it all Lies and betrayal, painful secrets and events, Murder, and oodles of mystery. Highly recommended 

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Orion (4 July 2019)

Buying links:  Amazon UK 🇬🇧    Amazon USA 🇺🇸

My thanks to Orion Books for my ARC in exchange for an unbiased review.

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Liar Liar by by Mel Sherratt @writermels @AvonBooksUk #BookReview #BlogTour #LiarLiar

Today I’m thrilled to be opening the blog tour for Liar Liar by Mel Sherratt, alongside my partner in crime (excuse the pun!’) Kaisha, you can find her review at https://thewritinggarnet.wordpress.com/. 

Liar Liar is published today so you don’t even have to wait to get your hands on a copy, just one click and it’s yours. Before I share my thoughts, here’s the book description…..

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The truth can be a dangerous thing…

When a young boy falls from a balcony in a block of flats, DS Grace Allendale witnesses the shocking aftermath of the tragic event. But strangely, no one will admit to seeing anything – and the parents will only tell the police that it was an accident.

Determined to sort the truth from the lies, Grace is thrown into a case that takes her to the darkest corners of the criminal world – and strikes closer to home than she could have ever imagined…

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Mel Sherratt’s back! with Liar Liar the third instalment in the DS Grace Allendale series. As the title suggests there are so many lies, and half truths buried within this story, Grace has her work cut out that’s for sure! The book opens with a shocking scene when a young boy called Tyler falls from a balcony in a block of flats. From the start of the investigation it’s apparent the boy’s parents are being evasive, their story doesn’t quite ring true, but why would they lie? Did Tyler fall over the railings? Or is there a far more sinister reason behind his accident? The author leads the reader a merry dance through a tangled web of lies and deceit. As I mentioned this is the third book in the series, however Liar Liar could be read as a standalone, although if you are anything like me I prefer to read books in order! It’s won’t be any hardship as it’s shaping up to be a cracking crime series. 

For the residents of Harrison House there’s a familiar mantra around the investigation ‘I never saw nothing, ‘I never heard anything’ seems to be the favourite. Residents don’t trust the police, hell they don’t even trust their neighbours! Living day in, day out,  alongside crime, the residents have their own code, ‘you never tell the police anything’, after all no criminal wants to be labelled a ‘grass’! The book alternates between chapters that follow one of the main characters past, and the present day investigation, sometimes I find that dual time lines get over complicated, but that wasn’t the case with a Liar Liar, but it’s these past chapters that provide the reader with an insight into one of the characters, and their motivation for the choices they make. 

Liar  Liar’s focus is set firmly On the back story of its characters, Grace has a much smaller part to play in this book, which worked really well, as the main plot wasn’t overshadowed by police procedures and the investigation. Thinking about it Liar Liar felt very different to the last two books in the series, but I mean that in a good way as it’s great to see an author not stick to a specific formula for each book. One of Mel Sherratt’s strengths is her capacity to delve into the darkest corner of the criminal world and create unlikable, violent and authentic ‘shady’ characters. The tension ramps up as the lies begin to unravel, and more crimes are committed. Liar Liar made for a gritty, hard-hitting read, and although I wouldn’t consider this a fast-paced read, there’s plenty to keep the crime lover eagerly turning the pages.

  • Print Length: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Avon (10 Feb. 2020)

Buying link:  Amazon UK 🇬🇧

About the author

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I live in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, with my husband and terrier, Dexter (named after the TV serial killer) and makes liberal use of my hometown as a backdrop for some of my books.

I’m not sure which I am most proud of – being on the list of Stoke-on-Trent’s top 100 most influential people 2018 or after years of rejection going on to sell over one million books.

Shortlisted for the prestigious CWA (Crime Writer’s Association) Dagger in Library Award 2014, my inspiration comes from authors such as Martina Cole, Lynda la Plante, Mandasue Heller and Elizabeth Haynes.

I regularly appear at festivals, conferences and events across the country – my favourites being London Book Fair and Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival, Harrogate.

So that’s me in a nutshell. Don’t forget to sign up to my newsletter and follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Follow the blog tour….

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The Dilemma by B A Paris #BookReview @BAParisAuthor #TheDilemma @HQstories

Today I’m thrilled to share my first review of 2020, it’s for The Dilemma by B.A. Paris, it’s very different to the authors previous reads, but in a good way. Read on for my thoughts…..

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It’s Livia’s 40th birthday and she’s having the party of a lifetime to make up for the wedding she never had. Everyone she loves will be there except her daughter Marnie, who’s studying abroad. But although Livia loves Marnie, she’s secretly glad she won’t be at the party. She needs to tell Adam something about their daughter but she’s waiting until the party is over so they can have this last happy time together.

Adam wants everything to be perfect for Livia so he’s secretly arranged for Marnie to come home and surprise her on her birthday. During the day, he hears some terrible news. He needs to tell Livia, because how can the party go on? But she’s so happy, so excited – and the guests are about to arrive.

The Dilemma – how far would you go to give someone you love a last few hours of happiness?

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I have read previous books by B.A Paris, which I would class as psychological thrillers, so I was pleasantly surprised to find The Dilemma. a departure from her usual genre. The Dilemma is a powerful, emotive family drama that packs a hell of a punch. The story is told from the dual perspectives of Adam and Livia, a married couple with two teenage children Marnie and Josh. Livia has been meticulously planning her ‘perfect’ 40th birthday party for years, and finally the day has arrived. 

It will come as no surprise considering the title of the book that both main characters are faced with dilemma’s, not the “what dress will I wear to my party?” kind, but the earth shattering ones. Livia has a secret but doesn’t know how to tell her husband,  and Adam has shocking news, but cannot find the right moment to tell his wife. Both are aware that once they share their news with each other, their life will never be the same.

As each character struggles to find that right moment to share their closely guarded news the tension builds, like the characters you are constantly waiting for the ‘right moment’ when all will be revealed. B. A. Paris describes both character’s emotions with such clarity, you can feel their anguish, fear, and despair as the moment of truth grows closer. I’m not sure I would have made the same decisions, although I do understand the reasoning behind Adam’s choice, it’s one of those ‘what if books’ that make you ponder what you would do faced with a similar situation? 

What an emotional rollercoaster this book turned out to be, and it’s all thanks to the authors ability to get inside the heads of her characters, you can’t help but become invested in Livia and Adams  heartbreaking story.The Dilemma explores familiar themes of loss, love, resentment, families and friendships, but B.A Paris provides the reader with an original read, that’s poignant, and thought provoking read. This would make a brilliant book club read, as there’s so much to discuss and debate. Highly recommended to those who enjoy a compelling family drama

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HQ; edition edition (9 Jan. 2020)

Buying links:  Amazon UK 🇬🇧   Amazon US 🇺🇸

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The Murder House by Michael Wood #BookReview @MichaelHWood #CrimeFiction @0neMoreChapter_ #TeamDarke @HarperFiction #MustReads2020

Today I’m sharing my review for The Murder House by Michael Wood, it’s the fifth book in the ‘Matilda Darke’ series, and it’s one of my favourite crime series. Read on for my thoughts….

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They were the perfect family. It was the perfect crime.

The new gripping DCI Matilda Darke crime thriller about the dark secrets that lie within a perfect family. For fans of Patricia Gibney and Angela Marsons.

It’s the most disturbing crime scene DCI Matilda Darke has ever seen…

The morning after a wedding reception at a beautiful suburban home in Sheffield, the bride’s entire family are stabbed to death – in a frenzied attack more violent than anything DCI Matilda Darke could have imagined.

Forensics point to a burglar on the run across the country. But cracks are starting to appear in Matilda’s team, someone is playing games with the evidence – and the killer might be closer to home than they thought…

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I have been (im)patiently awaiting the fifth instalment of the Matilda Darke crime series, as hand on heart I can say ‘ I absolutely love this series’. When I  enjoy a series so much I always worry the book won’t be as good as previous books in the series, but I’m delighted to report that any worries I had were unjustified, in fact I would say The Murder House is the author’s best book yet, it’s dark, erring on the gory side with an intriguing plot that will leave you blurry eyed as you forsake sleep for ‘just another chapter or ten!’

Give Michael Wood his due he knows how to get the reader’s attention from the off, the first chapter opens with a wedding and ends in a bloodbath when three members of the same family are murdered in the most appalling way. On first appearance the victims appear to be the ‘perfect’ family, pillars of the local community, they regularly fundraised and contributed to local causes, so why would someone want them dead? What possible motive could they have?  I must admit rather like Matilda and her team I had no idea! 

 For me a crime thriller is never more satisfying, than when you have a list of suspects as long as your arm and the author makes it’s almost impossible to guess the culprit, for me it makes the read that more thrilling as you try to search for clues, hold on to the suspects every word looking for the slightest slip up. I felt like a detective (admittedly an amateur one!) working alongside Matilda to capture the murderer, each character came under scrutiny. 

As for Matilda I love the way her character is evolving, she’s strong and determined and yet she has a sense of vulnerability mostly due to a cold case that haunts her, Matilda feels she failed missing child, Carl Meagan, who was never found. The case is a disturbing one and one which has a big impact on the team, when you add in budget cuts, and personal issues you realise this is a team that could buckle as they are tested to the limits. These are characters with feelings, real emotions, and depth which made the read that more authentic. As the case gains momentum,  the tension intensifies urging the reader onwards, through red herrings and misdirection. 

Although this book could be read as a stand-alone I would urge you to start at the beginning, just because this is such a cracking series, it would be a shame if you missed out on the four previous books. I almost shrieked in frustration at Michael Wood as he winds up the The Murder House with the biggest teaser yet! Such an ingenious ploy as now I’m left counting down the days to the next book in the series.The Murder House is fast-paced read ‘whodunnit’, that I would happily recommend to all crime thriller lovers.  

Publisher: One More Chapter (31 Jan. 2020)

Pages in book: 400

Buying link:  Amazon UK 🇬🇧

My thanks to the publishers for my ARC in exchange for an unbiased and honest review.

Other books in the Matilda Darke series

 

The book review café book of the month for **January 2020**

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Here we are in February, thank god for that is all I can say! January wasn’t the best for me I’m afraid I was laid up with flu! and I mean the flu I have never felt so ill or felt so completely worn out it knocked me for six, so I’m hoping this months going to be a better one. Roll on the summer, 😎 I hate the dark nights, and I’m definitely not a lover of the cold.

As usual I’m digressing here in January I read some brilliant books, with a fair few of them belonging to the Orenda family. Can I just say? what fabulous books Karen Sullivan founder of Orenda Books, publishes.  Each books,  highly original, captivating and brilliantly written which brings me to my next dilemma, two books really stood out for me last month, but my rule is ‘one book for one month’ so after much thought, deliberation and tossing and turning, here’s my book of the month……….

The Home by Sarah Stovell

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I’m not sure I can convey just how much this book affected me, The Home by Sarah Stovell is a book that will swallow you up, and then spit you out, your heart will break, you will live and breathe the tragic and horrifying story of three young girls Hope, Lara and Annie. These characters will burrow their way into your heart and mind leaving you bereft as this haunting tale reaches its final pages. The Home is part mystery, part thriller, and yet it’s so much more, it’s an emotive, deeply moving, and tragic tale of those who live amid abuse and poverty. You can read my full review here….The Home by Sarah Stovell @sarahlovescrime @OrendaBooks #BookShelfReads #BookHangoverAward

Highly recommended

You can read my reviews here…..

Queenie by Kimberly Chambers @kimbochambers @fictionpubteam @flisssity #BookReview #Queenie #BookHangoverAward

All The Rage by Cara Hunter #BookReview @CaraHunterBooks #AllTheRage @DIAdamFawley @penguinrandom @PenguinUKBooks

The Perfect Mother by Caroline Mitchell #BookReview @Caroline_writes @BOTBSPUBLICITY @AmazonPub #BlogTour #thriller #thomasandmercer

#Beast by at Matt Wesolowski #SixStories @OrendaBooks @ConcreteKraken #HangoverAward

Nine Elms by @robertbryndza @LittleBrownUK @BooksSphere #NineElms #MustReads #BookHangoverAward #BlogTour

Mine by Case Kelleher @CaseyKelleher #Mine #psychologicalthriller #MustReads2020

When Stars Will Shine compiled by Emma Mitchell @emmamitchelfpr #BookPromo #WhenStarsWillShine #HelpForHeroes

Books I’m hoping to read in February

As you know I have cut right back on the blog tours, which gives me plenty of freedom to read ‘what ever takes my fancy’ so here are just a few of the books I may or may not read depending on my mood 😂 some of them are ARC’s but I’m determined to read more books off my own personal bookshelf this year too.

Which books that you read in January would you recommend? Did you have a favourite? Please feel free to leave a comment I’m always looking for new books to add to my TBR pile 🤣