--Debbie Macomber, New York Times #1 bestselling author
In a Drought, It's the Darkest Cloud
That Brings Hope
It's 1954 and Perla Long's arrival in the sleepy town of Wise, West Virginia, was supposed to go unnoticed. She just wants a quiet, safe place for her and her daughter, Sadie, where the mistakes of her past can stay hidden. But then drought comes to Wise, and Perla is pulled into the turmoil of a town desperately in need of a miracle.
Casewell Phillips has resigned himself to life as a bachelor...until he meets Perla. She's everything he's sought in a woman, but he can't get past the sense that she's hiding something. As the drought worsens, Perla's unique gift divides the town in two, bringing both gratitude and condemnation, and placing the pair in the middle of a storm of anger and forgiveness, fear and faith.
This debut novel is splendid. The story is genuine and heartfelt, with just a touch of the Divine. A story of forgiveness and reckoning, and realizing love does cover a multitude of sins. Thomas will be a go-to author after you read Miracle in a Dry Season.
--Rachel Hauck, bestselling author of The Wedding Dress and Once Upon a Prince
Charming, whimsical, and intelligently written, Miracle in a Dry Season is a beautiful debut novel!
--Ann Tatlock, Christy-award winning author of Promises to Keep
|Publisher:||Baker Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
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Miracle in a Dry Season
By Sarah Loudin Thomas
Bethany House PublishersCopyright © 2014 Sarah Loudin Thomas
All rights reserved.
WISE, WEST VIRGINIA
Casewell's stomach grumbled. He hoped no one in the surrounding pews could hear it. He'd thought to eat some warmed-over biscuits this morning, but the barn cat had slipped into the house and found the bread wrapped in a dish-cloth on the back of the stove. Even though most of a biscuit remained, Casewell knew better than to eat after a cat.
His stomach growled a little louder, and he wondered what he could rustle up for dinner. Normally, he'd have Sunday dinner with his parents, but they were visiting his aunt, who had lost her son—his cousin Harold—in the Korean War a good two years ago. She had yet to get her feet back under her, as his mother put it, so they visited when they could. In the meantime, Casewell would fend for himself.
He could scramble an egg and fry a potato, but he'd burned more than one pot of beans, and his attempts at biscuits and corn bread never browned right. He'd always assumed he'd leave his parents' house for a home with a wife in it, but at the advanced age of thirty-five, he lived alone in a house he'd built with his own two hands.
Pastor Longbourne invited the congregation to bow their heads for the closing prayer. Casewell sighed and did as asked. The pastor could get windy at the close of service, and Casewell thought to pray for a short prayer but decided it wasn't proper. He shifted his six-foot-four frame on the hard pew to find a better position and scratched his jaw where his red beard covered a scar that ran from his ear to the corner of his mouth. The wound had healed decades ago but still itched from time to time. A reminder of ... Casewell forced his attention to the prayer. He didn't need any reminders.
The prayer was indeed long, and toward the end, Casewell's belly growled loud enough for the dearly departed in the cemetery outside to hear. He heard a giggle from the pew behind him. He dared to peek over his shoulder. A child—a little girl of perhaps five or six—covered her mouth as her mother placed a quieting hand on her shoulder. The girl stilled, but she grinned at Casewell so he forgave her giggles. He was grateful his parents weren't there to hear. His father would not hesitate to offer criticism.
"Amen," intoned Pastor Longbourne, and the congregation echoed him.
The pastor walked to the door of the church, and his flock began filing out past him, shaking his hand and offering compliments on the sermon. Waiting his turn, Casewell got a better look at the little girl and her mother—at least he assumed this was her mother. They were new to the church. The pair appeared to be accompanying Robert and Delilah Thornton, who lived in the heart of the little community of Wise—such as it was. Robert kept the one small store that served the immediate area. Locals had to drive eighteen miles to reach a chain grocery store, and no one there would know the local gossip, so the Thorntons did well enough. Perhaps the woman and child were family come to visit.
The woman stopped to speak to the pastor, offering her hand and ducking her head. A little thing, she had cornsilk hair under a scrap of a hat, rosy cheeks, and pink lips. She was pretty enough, but Casewell knew pretty didn't guarantee pleasant.
The little girl peeped out at Casewell from behind her mother's skirt and giggled. He grinned back without even meaning to. And there was little point in considering how pretty her mama was—nice or not—since there was almost certainly a papa in the picture.
Casewell's turn to clasp Pastor Longbourne's hand finally came, and then he stepped out into the soft spring air of the churchyard, eager to make his way through the crowd so he could head home and find something to eat. He could always resort to a jelly sandwich, though it would be a far cry from his mother's Sunday fried chicken.
As he walked through the crowd, Casewell caught snatches of conversation.
"... young when she had the child ..."
"... what kind of husband would ..."
"... too pretty for her own good ..."
Casewell fought the urge to plug his ears. As he neared the gate to the churchyard, Delilah Thornton intercepted him and grasped his arm. "Casewell, allow me to introduce my niece, Perla. She's staying with us ... for a time. You might remember her family—they moved from here back in '45."
Casewell wondered at the slight hesitation, but then Perla stood before him, and her clear, blue eyes completed the pretty picture he'd been noticing inside. She smiled, though there was something solemn lingering around her eyes.
"Pleasure to meet you," he said, dredging up a vague memory of a girl with blond curls. "And is this your daughter?"
The little girl smiled up at him as she clung to her mother's leg. "This is Sadie," Perla said, placing a hand on the child's strawberry-blond curls. "She has little to say but finds a great deal to laugh at." Sadie giggled again, as if to prove her mother right.
At that moment Casewell's belly rumbled so long and loud that there was no question of pretending otherwise. Casewell felt his ears grow warm and scuffed a boot in the dirt.
"I'm afraid I missed my breakfast this morning," he said. "And I had best be getting home to my dinner."
He gave the group a nod and started toward the gate when Delilah said, "But your family is off visiting. I'm guessing there's not much in your cupboard. Please come eat with us."
"Right, Casewell," Robert said. "Put your boots under our table. There's a mighty fine pork roast in the oven at home, and Perla here has a knack for gathering spring greens. I know you won't get a better meal in all the county."
Casewell opened his mouth to decline, but after one look into Perla's china eyes, he heard himself agreeing to go along. He blamed his moment of weakness on the promised pork roast. The group walked toward the Thorntons' 1949 Chevy sedan. Casewell admired how good it still looked after several years of use—certainly better than his beat-up '38 truck with the paint peeling off the fenders. Sadie left her mother's side and slipped a little hand into Casewell's large, rough one. She looked up at him with huge brown eyes, and he felt his heart squeeze. Whether or not the mother charmed him, the daughter certainly did.
* * *
The pork roast sat succulent under a crisp, roasted layer of fat. Casewell cut his portion carefully so he got a little fat with each bite. He also ate turnips boiled and mashed with butter and cream, fresh-baked light bread, and the promised greens wilted in bacon grease. Casewell was beside himself.
After eating his fill, he sighed and pushed his chair back a little. "That might've been the best meal I've ever eaten," he said. "I thank you."
"Perla did most of this," Delilah said, smiling at the younger woman. "She claims she needs to work for her keep, but of course she doesn't."
Perla ducked her head and scrubbed at Sadie's chin, as though the speck of grease from the greens couldn't wait another minute.
"And you'd best take home a mess of these leftovers," Robert said. "It's the darnedest thing—anytime Perla cooks we seem to have leftovers for a week."
Casewell protested but not very long or loud.
"Come see my dolly," Sadie said, breaking into the adult conversation.
Perla shushed her daughter. "Don't be silly, sweetheart. Casewell is a grown man and men don't take much interest in dolls."
"I make it a habit not to contradict pretty ladies," Casewell said, feeling expansive. "But I'd be pleased to see Miss Sadie's dolly."
Sadie jumped up; then she plopped back down. "May I be excused?" she asked.
"Yes, you may, but don't keep Mr. Casewell long. We'll have some dessert out on the porch directly."
These were quite possibly the only words that could add to Casewell's feeling of satisfaction with his current lot in life. He stood and allowed the little girl to lead him into what Delilah referred to as the parlor. Casewell sat on the Victorian sofa with its high back and lumpy cushions. It sloped in such a way that Casewell felt the need to dig his heels into the carpet to keep from sliding onto the floor.
Sadie made a beeline for the corner, where a doll sat on a block of wood with a small board propped up behind it to form a simple chair.
"This is Amy," she said, retrieving the doll. "She knows my secrets."
"It's important to have someone you can trust with your secrets," Casewell said. "But then, you probably don't have too many yet."
"Only the one about not having a daddy," Sadie said with a sigh. "Everyone else has a daddy, but Mommy says it's our lot in life to get along without one."
Casewell raised his eyebrows. A widow, then. Or she was ... well, surely she was a widow. He started to ask and then caught himself. What a question to ask a child.
"Well, it's good you have Amy," he said. Then his eyes fell on the makeshift chair. "But is this all the furniture she has?"
"Yes," Sadie said. "Mommy says I mustn't leave Amy on the big people furniture, so she made me this chair. I wish Amy could have a bed, too, but she sleeps with Mommy and me for now. Mommy says that's okay, since it's just us."
Casewell smiled to himself, thinking that he knew how he could thank Perla for the fine meal she'd prepared that day. Delilah called them to the porch for dessert—huge slices of angel cake with sliced and sugared strawberries.
"The chickens have taken a laying fit," Delilah said as she handed Casewell a slice big enough for two men. "Got to use all them eggs up somehow."
Although the slice was large, it was so light and airy Casewell made short work of it. He declined a second slice for fear he might appear a glutton.
"Too bad you don't have your mandolin with you," Robert said. "A sweet piece of music would be just the tonic to settle that meal."
Casewell grinned. He would play a piece of music anywhere, anytime, for anyone. Music was the only thing he liked better than a good meal cooked by a pretty woman.
"You're a musician?" Perla asked.
"Oh, some would call me that, but I mostly just fool around with the mandolin my granddaddy gave me. I guess it wouldn't hurt your ears."
Robert laughed. "Casewell is one of the finest musicians in Hartwell County. He's being modest. We'll have to get up a dance here before too long—maybe after the spring planting gets in. You put Casewell on the mandolin, George Brower on the banjo, Steve Cutright on the fiddle, and sometimes I pitch in with the harmonica or some spoons, and you've got something you can shake a leg to. 'Course, Casewell here likes them solemn tunes that wail. But he'll save them till everybody's too tired to dance. Yes sir, mighty fine, mighty fine."
"Oh, that would be fun," Delilah said. "We haven't had a dance in ever so long. I'll start putting a bug in the ears of all the ladies as they come by the store." She smiled at Perla. "It's always up to the women to organize something like this. The men just come when we tell them and eat up all the food."
Perla's smile seemed a little uncertain. She bit her lower lip. "I'm not sure I ought to be dancing," she said.
"Whyever not?" Delilah asked.
"Well, with Sadie and all ..."
"Nonsense. And anyway, if you don't want to dance, you can sit and listen. There's plenty of ladies who prefer to sit out the dancing and visit."
"The old ladies," Robert said with a snort. "And it would serve them better to exercise their feet and let their tongues rest a minute."
Delilah frowned and Casewell tried to hide his smile.
"Oh, do have a little dignity," Delilah said. "Perla can help with the food. She has such a knack for cooking, and we always seem to have too much for just us. What she needs is a crowd to feed."
Casewell stood. "Well, I, for one, would be happy to play and to eat anything Perla cares to cook. Count me in. But for now, I'll be heading home to tidy up my place before Ma gets back and has a fit over how I've let things go."
"Bachelors," Delilah said in a way that sounded scornful and affectionate all at once.
Sadie scampered inside to bring Casewell his Sunday hat. He dropped to one knee so she could help settle it on his head. Casewell felt self-conscious and awkward until he looked up and caught Perla watching him. The look in her eyes made him hope, against his better judgment, that she was a widow.
* * *
After helping Delilah tidy the kitchen, Perla went to the room she now occupied at her aunt and uncle's house. Her gaze drifted from object to object. The quilt her grandmother made lay folded across the foot of the bed, the Bible her mother gave her when she turned eighteen sat on the bedside table, her brush and comb on the dressing table. It was the sort of room she'd always dreamed of calling her own.
Her eyes came to rest on the child napping peacefully on top of the coverlet. Here was something she had not dreamed of. She adored her ginger-haired Sadie, just turned five, but some days being a mother was simply too hard. And now this.
Perla's mother had agreed that it was probably for the best when Perla suggested going to Wise to stay with her aunt and uncle. "Robert and Delilah have a real nice place. Least it was last time I went out there," her mother had said, as if that would make leaving easier. "You probably remember the store well enough from when we lived there. You can be a help in the store. Won't nobody know ..."
Perla thought back to her mother's final words before her father drove her—in silence—the six hours from Comstock to Wise. "You hold your head up," her mother said. "If it weren't for all that food, I think folks would overlook ... the child. But take the two together, and it makes everyone uneasy." Perla remembered her mother stepping forward to take her hand, squeezing it hard. "Daughter, God doesn't make mistakes, and I say that child and your way with cooking are both miracles straight from heaven. It's just miracles don't always feel like it at the time."
Perla hadn't wanted to come. She might have even whined about it a little. She'd certainly carried on more than a grown woman of twenty-four should. When her mother released her hand, Perla missed the pressure and the warmth. She'd felt oddly bereft standing there in her parents' house. She'd tried to tell herself she could always come back.
Excerpted from Miracle in a Dry Season by Sarah Loudin Thomas. Copyright © 2014 Sarah Loudin Thomas. Excerpted by permission of Bethany House Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Miracle in a Dry Season is a delightfully light and heart-warming read .Bethany House Publishers gave me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. Their Synopsis: It’s 1954 and Perla Long’s arrival in the sleepy town of Wise, West Virginia, was supposed to go unnoticed. She just wants a quiet, safe place for her and her daughter, Sadie, where the mistakes of her past can stay hidden. But then drought comes to Wise, and Perla is pulled into the turmoil of a town desperately in need of a miracle. Casewell Phillips has resigned himself to life as a bachelor . . . until he meets Perla. She’s everything he’s sought in a woman, but he can’t get past the sense that she’s hiding something. As the drought worsens, Perla’s unique gift divides the town in two, bringing both gratitude and condemnation, and placing the pair in the middle of a storm of anger and forgiveness, fear and faith. Miracle in a Dry Season is a book of hope, faith, and miracles. Perla, a cautious mother to a captivating five-year-old daughter, moves to a close-knit Appalachian town, where her aunt and uncle live, hoping to remain as anonymous as possible and follow a quiet life. A single mother in 1954, she already has experience with being looked down upon for being such, and does not want to complicate things further by allowing others to find out about her special way with food. Everything Perla cooks seems to multiply, keeping her family and those around her fed and supplied. This however, becomes impossible when the town is hit with drought and crops begin dying. Perla must use her gift to help save the town. A touching book with light drama, a bit of romance and a feel-good story, Miracle In a Dry Season was an easy and enjoyable read.
I love Miracle in a Dry Season. It is packed with drama, romance, and light humor. My favorite scene is when Casewell is in the kitchen. It was such a funny scene. I found myself feeling sorry for Perla at times for the treatment she receives from the townspeople. My heart just ached for her. Being a lifelong resident of the Blue Ridge Mountains, I think the author did an amazing job capturing 1950s Appalachia. I mean, with names like Casewell and Perla, you cannot get more Appalachia than that. And I literally laughed out loud when I saw the phrase “shootfire”. The author definitely knew how to speak my family’s language. I kept thinking the characters and town as my family because I felt so close to them. A lot of the scenes reminds me of stories that my Grandpa used to tell me through the years. This book is an amazing debut and I look forward to reading more of the series, as well as, more by the author. I think she has great talent for telling beautiful stories of faith and love. Job well done, Sarah! Job well done. 5 plus stars.
This Appalachian novel is a great start to a new series...am looking forward to many more like it.
Wonderful book about judging others and acceptance. Great read!
This is a wonderful story of forgiveness. Shows the struggles of family and a bond that can't be broken. Not my usual reading material, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Miracle in a Dry Season is the first book in Sarah Loudin Thomas’ Appalachian Blessings series, and is also the first book I have ever read by her. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect going in, but I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. I actually really enjoyed this sweet story, and will have to add Sarah to my list of favorite authors. She did a fantastic job of tying this story together, and I loved how she weaved in miracles, the drought, and Perla’s gift. It really made for a very interesting plotline that kept me captivated until the very end, especially since there were a few unexpected twists and turns there near the end. Perla Long is definitely a very sweet character, and I couldn’t help but love her and feel so much compassion towards her situation, especially since she felt so down upon herself because of other’s—somewhat wrong—opinions of her. She does her best though, by Sadie, and her aunt and uncle, and everyone else around her, and I really admire her for that. Her love and compassion for others made her all that much more lovable of a character, and that only helped to make this story that much more enjoyable. Casewell Phillips is also a wonderful character. Though he does take a while to come around when it comes to Perla, he most certainly makes up for it in the end, and I couldn’t help but loving him no matter what his struggles. He proved to be a wonderfully sweet character who truly cared for those around him, especially his parents, and I really loved watching his love for Perla grow as the story progressed. All in all, I really enjoyed this story, and can’t imagine giving it anything other than all five bookshelves. I really enjoyed the way this story progressed, and by the time I had finished this novel, I couldn’t wait to read the second book in the series. I’ve already finished it, if that is any indication as to how excited I was for it. Anyway, I’d highly recommend this novel, as it is super sweet and captivating, and I can’t wait to read even more novels by Sarah in the future! (This review is from my blog, spreadinghisgrace.blogspot.com
Read both books and the novella and loved them all. Characters are rich and as one review stated the one thing I didn't like is turning the last page . If you live in a rural area or have ever wanted to you will enjoy these books. Though considered a Christian author the books are not preachy and as a person who is not a "religious" I found the books enjoyable.
All though I found the characters could be developed a bit more I felt the story was good and the writing extremely well done. I ran across one spot that seemed a bit draggy, but it didn't last long. I am not really a romance type of reader, but this was very well done, not a bunch of mush, sex and innuendos, just down to earth wholesome love. I will diffinatly watch for more from this author.
This is a wonderful look at small town life in 1954. This is Sarah Loudin Thomas's debut novel. I found it to be a fantastic piece of writing. She did a marvelous job of creating a variety of characters that were easy to understand. Some of them just plain frustrated me, but then again to be honest I get frustrated with people at times in real life. The interaction between the characters was very realistic. The two main characters, Perla Long and Casewell Phillips were easy for me to connect with though. They had a number of very heavy obstacles to negotiate just to get through everyday life. The story explores some deep issues about judgment and forgiveness, so in that sense it is not a light read. But it is done in a small town setting and that helps to make it feel lighter. I especially enjoyed the way that the characters grew and developed in their own lives and in how they related to each other. I loved the paths that many of them took as they were learning about the importance of forgiveness to personal lives as well as to the well-being of an entire community. I received a free copy of this book through The Book Club Network in exchange for my honest opinion.
Miracle in a Dry Season is an awesome debut novel for Sarah Loudin Thomas. It is easy to read but packed with meaning. The characters have their own stories that all blend together to make a wonderful, realistic town in the 1950's. There are plenty of problems encountered but with faith anything can be accomplished. I look forward to reading more works from this author. I recieved this book from the Book Club Network in exchange for my honest opinion.
This book takes place in the 1950s which was a simpler time. But the problems the people experience are timeless. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and have recommended it to my friends.
Miracle in a Dry Season is a story I won’t soon forget. It is written in a gentle, yet straightforward way. The author’s writing style made me feel that I was truly back in West Virginia during the 1950′s. The book is full of interesting characters. Some are accepting of the young mother and daughter who have moved into town, and others have nothing but condemnation for them. I really enjoyed the way that the author revealed things in this story, whether it was revealing past secrets and sins, or exposing judgmental attitudes. It was done well. The romance is gentle and sweet. Perla and Casewell have plenty of failings, yet they try their best. There are events that can only be explained as miraculous, and the importance of recognizing God’s grace and forgiveness in our lives is clear. I look forward to reading more books in this Appalachian Blessings series. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House, through The Book Club Network, in exchange for an honest review, which I have given.
This was a very good read. It ended up a little different than I thought it would but I liked it. Perla Sadie and Casewell all end up working well together and help solve each other's problems. I look forward to more books by Sarah. I received a copy of this from Bethany House for afair and honest opinion.
This is definitely one of the very BEST books I have read this year! If you like a mystery with some good clean romance (no graphic details and no profanity!) This is definitely the book for you. You will NOT be disappointed! Loved it!
The storyline was great and the characters won my heart
This story, set in the mid twentieth century, is the journey to forgiveness for the people of the small farming town of Wise, West Virginia. When a drought hit the area, the townsfolk reacted in many negative ways and the undercurrent promoted by the town’s minister produced fear that an evil among them was the cause. The “evil” he referred to was Perla, a single mom who with her child, Sadie, came to live with her aunt and uncle in order to escape the scorn in her own home town. However, it seemed that wherever she went, she was judged for her sinful act while no one, except her aunt and uncle, could admit that everyone is a sinner. Even Casewell, the town’s godly and fair bachelor judged her. In spite of how mean the people were to Perla, she continually demonstrated acts of kindness to all. The author used this character to illustrate God’s grace even in difficult circumstances. By incorporating the inner thinking of several of the townsfolk, the author has woven the harshness of a judgmental attitude, the breakdown of selfishness, and the exposure of mental instability to take the reader on the journey from judgment to forgiveness. I received this free book from Book Club Network in exchange for my honest review.
Nutshell: A new lady in town with her daughter stirs up a lot of conversation of her past life. A wood working mandolin player man who's interest is peaked by this newcomer. A drought reveals the newcomers gift of the biblical story of five fish and two loaves that keep multiplying. She is blessed with the gift of making food stretch and keeps the town alive through the drought. A story of forgiveness of the past, understanding of God's love and a sweet love that brings the entire town together. Pro's: A quick read. A sweet filled story of love that makes you feel good after reading it. Con's: Not a deep story and seemed a bit choppy in parts of the story that took a bit to figure out what was going on. Recommendation: If you'd like an easy read, then you'll like this. Not a lot of depth, but a good story for the heart. Bethany House Publishers sent me this complimentary book to review for them.
This is a new author and I didn't know what to expect when I started this book. I was in love with the characters and the story. This is a wonderful story of forgiveness and I would definitely recommend it. I won this book in an online giveaway and was asked to write a review.
This is a totally honest review and I wasn't given a copy by the author, for the one reviewer who thinks otherwise. I loved this story! The only thing I didn't like was turning that last page. Very sweet read.
Sarah Loudin Thomas brings the history and people of Appalachia to life in her debut novel! Set in 1954, Miracle in a Dry Season is a heartfelt tale of small town life. I found the unique storyline to be unexpected and enchanting, with a colorful cast of characters. I enjoyed visiting Wise, West Virginia, and look forward to reading the next book in the Appalachian Blessings series! I received a complimentary copy of this book through The Book Club Network. All thoughts expressed are my own.
Summary: Miracle in a Dry Season by Sarah Loudin Thomas takes place in 1950s West Virginia, and follows the story of Perla Long and her daughter Sadie as they arrive in the town of Wise to stay with Perla's aunt. Perla hopes that the move to Wise will quiet all the rumors that swirled around her in her previous home, and she can lead a normal, quiet life. At least, a life as quiet as can be with a small child, no husband, and an unusual gift-every time she cooks, it seems like it multiplies ten-fold. But, things aren't any better in Wise. The gossip is relentless, and when a drought begins to plague the area, people begin to blame Perla for that too-thinking she is a curse. Will Perla ever have a home untainted by her past? Will anyone ever be able to look past her sins and accept her as she is? And why does she have this strange gift-is it really a curse as some people say? Review: This book picks up where Appalachian Serenade ends (an e-book prequel, that I believe is still free, and I have previously reviewed on the blog.) I loved Appalachian Serenade, and had been looking forward to this book as well. I was not disappointed. I love Loudin's writing style, and am particularly impressed with this being her first book. It was well-written, entertaining, and had some good twists and turns. It also has a really great message about forgiving others-no matter what. I enjoyed this book tremendously, and will definitely be reading anything else written by this author. This is a "keeper" book for me! As always, I thank Bethany House for providing me a complimentary copy of this book for my unbiased review.