Saturday, August 8, 2020

Off-Balance by Brigham Vaughn (Spotlight, excerpt, and review) GBP ADULT title

Brigham Vaughn

Publisher: Two Peninsulas Press (Indie/Self-Published)

Cover Artist: Brigham Vaughn

Release Date: August 3, 2020

Genre/s: Contemporary M/M Romance

Trope/s: May/December, age gap, hurt comfort, rich man poor man, workplace romance

Themes: Grief, family acceptance/homophobia, exploring light kink, friends and chosen family, emotional baggage.

Heat Rating: 4 flames 

Length: 104 535 words/ 260 pages

It is the first book in a new series

Love doesn’t always add up.


Russell Bishop is a rising star at Vantage Marketing.

Stephen Parker is the company’s CFO.

A spilled cup of coffee gives them an opportunity to act on the mutual attraction they’ve both been trying to ignore. But attraction isn’t enough with an almost twenty-year age gap and clashing expectations about their relationship.

Fiercely independent, Russ isn't sure he's ready for long-term commitment and Stephen is afraid history is repeating itself.

Their relationship reaches a crossroads when the death of Stephen’s father forces them to visit his hometown in southern Georgia. Estranged from his family, Stephen must come to terms with his past and say goodbye to the father whose expectations he could never live up to. The small, conservative town provides its own challenges as Russ must find the strength to be the man Stephen desperately needs. 



“Hopefully, I’m not keeping you from a hot date tonight or something.”

Stephen let out a small snort of amusement. “Russ, I can’t remember the last time I had a hot date. Frankly, it’s been months since I’ve had a date of any sort. And they were lukewarm at best. If you’re asking if I’m single, the answer is yes.”

Embarrassed, Russ cleared his throat. “I was curious.”

“Nothing wrong with curiosity.”

“I’m single too,” Russ said. He cringed internally. Jesus. He’d had game once. Okay, maybe not game because he’d never had time to really develop it, but he used to be at least slightly smooth. This … whatever this was, was truly pathetic.

But Stephen didn’t seem too put out by his awkwardness. “Haven’t met the right person or no time to date?”

“Maybe a little of both,” Russ admitted. “It can be hard to meet men when you’re working fifty, sixty hours a week.” There. He’d at least managed to work the fact that he was gay into the conversation without doing it in the most cringey way possible.

“Absolutely,” Stephen said. “Though, from what I hear, you’re doing very well at Vantage.”

Russ blinked. He had no idea Stephen had even known who he was, much less that he’d been paying attention to how he was doing. “I had no idea you’d noticed me at work.”

“Oh, I noticed.” Stephen gave him a slow smile. “You needn’t worry about proving your worth, if that’s why you’re working those kind of hours.”

“I like to be thorough,” Russ said.

“Thoroughness is good.”

Was it Russ’s imagination or was there a hint of heat in Stephen’s eyes now and a faint rasp to his voice? “I like to make sure I take my time and fully grasp a topic,” Russ countered. “Get a real grip on it.”

“Traits like that will certainly allow you to get far at whatever you choose to do.”

Including with you? Russ wondered. “I’m trying to get ahead.”

The corner of Stephen’s mouth curved up even further. “That much is clear.”

“Think I’ll succeed?”

“I suppose it depends on what you’re trying to succeed at.”

“You don’t know?”

“I try not to make any assumptions about anything until I’m sure.”

Goddamn it. They were talking in circles and getting nowhere. Maybe Russ needed to try a different approach.

“I appreciate all of your help today,” Russ said. “I seriously can’t thank you enough.”

Stephen looked away from the TV again and shook his head, glancing at Russ with a small smile. “It’s the least I could do. I feel responsible for what happened.”

Russ smiled back, Stephen’s earnestness relaxing him. “Let’s call it even then, I guess. Or we could be up all night with this.”

Stephen quirked an eyebrow up at him, eyes crinkling at the corners with amusement. Fuck, what a turn on. Why older men were such an attraction for him, Russ would never be sure, but he’d realized it in college. He’d had a brief fling with a professor named Jack Burns after the semester was over. It wasn’t the forbidden aspect of it—they’d both waited until after Russ was no longer his student—but he liked the age difference.

A man with a fit body, handsome face, graying hair, and a killer smile always got Russ going. Hell, his head and ankle ached and he was still thinking about what Stephen would be like in bed. And was he flirting? God, Russ hoped so. “Well, being up all night isn’t always a bad thing.”

Stephen’s lips turned up at the corners in amusement. “You don’t think so?”

Russ shrugged. “It depends on the reason, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, I suppose it does,” Stephen murmured. He shifted to face Russ. “I’m afraid all of the best reasons are off the table at the moment though, aren’t they?”

“Too bad.”

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited


About the Author

Brigham Vaughn is on the adventure of a lifetime as a full-time author. She devours books at an alarming rate and hasn’t let her short arms and long torso stop her from doing yoga. She makes a killer key lime pie, hates green peppers, and loves wine tasting tours. A collector of vintage Nancy Drew books and green glassware, she enjoys poking around in antique shops and refinishing thrift store furniture. An avid photographer, she dreams of traveling the world and she can’t wait to discover everything else life has to offer her.

Her books range from short stories to novellas to novels. They explore gay, bisexual, lesbian, and polyamorous romance in contemporary settings.

Author Links



My review:

3.75 out of 5 stars

Off-Balance by Brigham Vaughn features Russell Bishop and CFO Stephen Parker from the same marketing firm. Their unexpected attraction requires adjustment, both at work and in their personal lives, especially since there is an age gap, and each man must learn to keep past experiences from ruining a potential future together.

This contemporary gay romance is the first story in ‘The Peachtree’ series and features a couple of men who have quite a few potential obstacles to overcome. I love stories that reaffirm that there is someone for everyone, and these guys have quite a few disparities in their lives to deal with. The gap in their ages plays into the difference in their positions in the company, their residences, and their financial status. Although I like that they took their time getting to know each other, I found it frustrating that they didn’t communicate as well as they could have about their respective triggers and past histories and that caused a lot of unnecessary angst, as far as I was concerned. There is a very slow burn, although they do work through that eventually, but I was more impatient for them to actually sit down and express themselves and deepen the relationship.

There is an emotional evolution that takes place in the second half of the story, and I was touched by the interactions with Ms. Esther while aching at her backstory as well. Given the mutual love and respect, I was a little surprised that better contact wasn’t maintained. There are several very thorny issues touched upon that play out in today’s headlines, and I was saddened to be reminded that progress comes slowly, even in modern society. This is a gently unfolding and thought-provoking story that is aptly titled, as both main characters are often a little off-kilter.

A copy of this title was provided for review

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Merlin Raj and the Love Me Not Race by D. G. Priya (Spotlight, excerpt, review, and GIVEAWAY) GFT

D. G. Priya


GENRE: Illustrated early reader chapter book



Do kids want to read a coding book? Not as much as dog stories.

Read the series called "...emotionally resonant...enjoyable STEM-centered novelfor young readers..." -- Kirkus Reviews

My name is Merlin Raj. I have a teeny tiny weakness for socks which makes life as a service dog difficult. Usually, I only have to worry about helping my boy, Matthew, walk at school. But when my family signs up for their first 5k race, this super-smart golden retriever who wears glasses will also have to become a racing trainer.


Will Boolean math help me uncover the heart of a champion?

Appealing to readers of all ages, Merlin Raj and the Love Me Not Race is the continuing installment in this ILLUSTRATED chapter-book series. From artists to astronauts, the jobs of the future will deal with computers.

With a Computer Science degree and a passion for preparing kids for the future, author D. G. Priya blends technology with animal stories to stimulate a desire to read. Each book in the series introduces a new programming skill. If you or your child like delightful dog tales that explores universally positive themes, including empathy, kindness, dedication, and the importance of being true to one's self, then you'll love D. G. Priya's tail-wagging adventure.



Yes meant go. Yes meant on.

I turned on, bounding through the park to the tree. Not too fast because Matthew still wore the loop of the leash around his wrist. I galloped as Matthew grabbed the length of the leash and ran behind me.

The Zombie-bunny ducked into the hedges in a desperate attempt to escape, but I wasn’t having it. I thrust my face, nose first, into a hedge.

“No, Merlin,” Matthew yelled.

No meant stop. No meant off.


Buy Link:

Google Play


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Priya Ardis also writes as D. G. Priya for her new early reader chapter book series, Merlin Raj and the Santa Algorithm, a computer science fundamentals book for kids. She has a Bacherlor’s degree in Computer Science from University of Texas at Austin, #8 ranked in computer science. Her passion for early education in computer science comes from her experience as a senior engineer, parent, and volunteer. Her love for service dog stories is inspired her own golden retriever.




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The tour dates can be found here


My review:

3.75 out of 5 stars

Merlin Raj and the Love Me Not Race written by D.G. Priya and illustrated by Shelley Hampe features young Matthew Raj and his service dog, Merlin Raj, as they and the family navigate the challenges of a family activity that will challenge them all, hopefully in only the best way. Binary code helps Merlin analyze the minds and actions of the humans around him so he can be the best help possible to his boy, Matthew.

This whimsical children’s book is part of the ‘Merlin Raj’ illustrated series that helps introduce multiple subjects to young readers. The beautiful illustrations bring the characters to life, and give an idea of some of the challenges that a person with a non-visible disability faces, while the text explains coping mechanisms as well as the contribution family, teachers, and everyone around make in that person’s life. Sprinkled throughout the story are the elements of binary code, as Merlin frames actions and decision in 0 (no/false) or 1 (yes/true) terms. An upcoming marathon provides a challenge for the entire family, and Merlin does his best to help all of them to navigate through to the winner’s line.

I love the multi-culturalism and educational aspects of this story. There were many new concepts introduced in between glimpses of family life, including grocery shopping, gym class, and doctor’s visits. The binary code was a bit confusing to me when it came to Matthew’s older brother and his strictures about racing, and I thought the interactions among the children during Coach Boole’s initial training were disorganized and not reflective of the sensitivity training I would expect if a special needs person is included in the group. I also wasn’t quite sure how the entire group of children were automatically included in the race nor why the issue of whether Merlin was allowed in the contest even came up, as I vaguely thought that service animals were allowed anywhere their person was. I also am unsure why Merlin has corrected vision, lol.

There are great elements provided by having Merlin as the narrator, including the propensity for identifying humans (two-socks) by their socks and footwear and the rules that a service dog must obey, no matter how hard. The whimsy of having him be a little bit vain about his beautiful golden fur AND wearing glasses makes this a fun story that provides both entertainment and education, and I hope to see much more of Merlin and his human family in the future.

A copy of this title was provided for review

Monday, August 3, 2020

Fruits (actually veggies, lol) of the garden and a recipe for a simple dinner

One of the benefits to being stuck at home so much is that I'm paying a bit more attention to the garden.

About 8 weeks ago, the tomato vines started having ripe fruit. (Alas, the plant doesn't look ANYTHING like this now).

One of the harvests from the end of June

July 22, 2020 harvest

Flowers from the sweet potato vine last fall

I also have a sweet potato (or yam, I never know which is which) pot going, and I THOUGHT it wasn't doing much...but when I dug around yesterday, surprise! There actually was a tuber down there.

Swiss chard from last year's seeds

and then there's the green onions (the spiky plant behind the Swiss chard and next to the strawberry plant...yes, I tend to stick  all kinds of things together).

So, it gives me great satisfaction to prepare a dinner that includes several of these items (with mushrooms, capers, and salmon from the store). I think I've mentioned before that I'm not a complex I cut up the chard and put it in a covered pot to simmer with about 4 oz. of water while I prepared everything else, soaped up and scrubbed the sweet potato then stuck it with a fork several times and popped it into the microwave (3 minutes per side), heated olive oil in a large skillet, put the salmon in (3 minutes on one side, 2-3 minutes on the other--I cut the thinner section off and put it on a plate to warm in the oven while the rest cooked that extra minute), while the thicker section of salmon was cooking, I put in the green onions, then the mushrooms, and finally the cut-up tomato pieces, tossed a couple of teaspoons of capers in, and sauteed for a minute. The hubby buttered the sweet potatoes, and we plated.

Didn't it turn out nicely?

Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Duke's Forbidden Love by Debra Elizabeth (Spotlight, excerpt, review, and GIVEAWAY) GFT

Debra Elizabeth


GENRE:   Historical Romance



Miss Amelia Beckwith should be over the moon with happiness when the Earl of Lincoln proposes. Unfortunately, the handsome earl is not who he appears to be in public.  She is desperate to escape Lincoln’s cruelty and has only one option left to leave the nightmare behind—RUN.

Racing back to his estate during a horrific thunderstorm, James Harlow, the Duke of Warwick, spots a young woman walking along the road when a bolt of lightning startles her. She tumbles down the ravine and lays like a broken doll at the bottom. Warwick rescues her and with the help of his staff nurses her back to health. There’s only one problem—the woman who has captivated his heart has lost her memory and cannot tell him who she is or where she comes from. Can he find out the identity of this delicate beauty before fate steps in and ruins everything he loves?



Richard Blackwood, the Earl of Lincoln, exited his carriage and walked up the stairs to the Beckwith townhome. It was extremely early for a morning call, but he wanted this business over with. The sooner he got the marriage contract signed, the sooner he could marry Lady Amelia and get his heir on her. He had not liked her little show of defiance last night on the balcony and would make sure she understood that that kind of behavior would not be tolerated in the future. He didn’t care for the chit, but she was the prettiest this Season, and he wanted to ensure that his future son and heir had the best chance of being handsome like his father. He cared not for daughters and would visit the marriage bed only until he had his heir and a spare.

He lifted the knocker and let it bang down.

A somber-looking butler opened the door. “My lord, you are expected. This way, please.”

Lincoln followed him down the hall to the baron’s study. Before they reached the door, a hysterical scream pierced the air. “What the bloody hell was that?”

The butler turned a shade of white and hurried toward the stairs with the earl hard on his heels. They bounded up the stairs to the family level and were met by the baroness, screaming outside a bedchamber.

The baron was trying to calm his wife but wasn’t having any luck. “Grace, calm yourself. This is not helping the situation.”

“What is the meaning of this?” Lincoln demanded, taking in the sight of the hysterical baroness and her husband.

“She’s gone, she’s gone,” wailed the baroness, throwing herself in her husband’s arms. “My darling girl must be kidnapped.”

Lincoln had a sinking feeling that he would not like what the answer he was about to receive. “Who’s gone?”

“Lincoln, I’m afraid Amelia’s missing,” Dudley said, taking a step away from his distraught wife.

Lincoln looked between the baron and his wife, trying to parse out the story. “What do you mean missing? Perhaps she is out walking.”

Dudley shook his head. “Her maid is here. Amelia would not go out without Dolly. She is a very responsible young woman and I am afraid I agree with my wife’s assertion that Amelia has been taken against her will.”

Richard strode into the bedchamber. His hands began clenching and unclenching as his fury built. “Where is the maid? I wish to question her.”

A timid-looking maid stepped forward. “I’m Dolly, my lord,” she said with a curtsey.

“What makes you think Miss Beckwith is missing?” he ground out between clenched teeth. He was having a difficult time controlling his anger at this hitch in his perfect plan, but until he had all the facts, he would keep himself in check.

The maid flinched at his tone. “Her bed is cold, my lord, and none of her dresses or personal items are missing.”

Richard pushed past the maid, wanting to see the chit’s room for himself. He took in the scene. Everything seemed to be in order, with no dresses strewn about to indicate a hurried packing of her things. There was also no sign of a struggle, and that led him to believe that, more than likely, Amelia had left of her own volition. “Is there a valise missing?”

Dolly shook her head. “No, my lord. Her valise is still in the armoire.”

Richard pushed aside the dresses. The maid was correct—in the corner sat a valise. If Amelia had run, why wouldn’t she pack a few essentials? Then the truth slammed into his gut. Amelia was much more clever than he had anticipated and hadn’t wanted to leave any clues behind when she fled the townhome.

“Dudley, I’ll talk to you in your study,” Richard said, striding from the room.

“Of course,” the baron said, disentangling his wife from his arm. “I’ll return shortly,” he whispered to her, then directed Dolly to help his wife to her bedchamber.

When Dudley entered his study, Lincoln was pacing like a caged lion. He didn’t get a word out before the earl grabbed his cravat and tightened it in his fist. “What nonsense is this? Where’s your daughter?”



AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Debra writes sweet romance in contemporary romance and historical romance. She enjoys telling stories and has been pouring out her passion for romance since her teenage years. When she’s not writing, she enjoys working in her garden, motorcycle rides throughout New England with her husband and playtime with her granddaughter.

She enjoys hearing from fans and you can contact her at: She is also the author of the blog, Two Ends of the Pen. The blog features all things books—author interviews, new releases, guest posts and reviews. Be first to know about new releases and contests and sign up for her newsletter at



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The tour dates can be found here


My review:

3.5 out of 5 stars

The Duke’s Forbidden Love by Debra Elizabeth details the plight of Miss Amelia Beckwith, who is suddenly being strongly encouraged to accept the hand of the Earl of Lincoln. When she realizes he has a cruel sadistic side, she flees, only to become victim to an accident that takes her memory but lands her in the care of the reclusive widowed Earl of Warwick. Their instant connection is disturbing to each of them, but for vastly different reasons.

This historical romance is part of the ‘Age of Innocence’ series and gives a glimpse of some of the drawbacks to the rigid system of courtship among the aristocracy. One can’t help but feel sorry for the heroine and root for her to find a way out of her conundrum. The story felt a little compressed to me, with the shift from the shocking opening scene to the plight of Amelia, then the quick romance, but I figure part of that is due to the limitations conferred by this being a novella. Many of the elements that I love about historicals are present—fancy balls, the aristocracy, beautiful clothing and jewels—but I would have liked a little more substance to some of the events.

 Although I was able to read this as a stand-alone, I suspect that some of my questions are due to me not being familiar with the series, since I’ve discovered that one of the characters I wanted more background on had his own time in the spotlight in a previous book. Perhaps it would be helpful to read the other books in the series to appreciate the nuances of this one

Those in search of a quick, light historical romance tale should give this story a try.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Cooking for Ghosts by Patricia V. Davis (Spotlight, excerpt, review, and GIVEAWAY) GFT

by Patricia V. Davis


GENRE:   magical realism, women's paranormal fiction, mystery



Do hearts broken long ago forever leave a tangible trace?

A Vegas cocktail waitress. An Indian herbalist. A British chemistry professor. An Italian-American widow. Four unique women with one thing in common: each is haunted by a tragedy from her past.

Cynthia, Rohini, Jane, and Angela meet on a food blogging site and bond over recipes. They decide on impulse to open The Secret Spice, an elegant café on the magnificent ocean liner, the RMS Queen Mary, currently a floating hotel in Long Beach, California. Rich in history and tales of supernatural occurrences, the ship hides her own dark secrets.

The women are surrounded by ghosts long before they step aboard, but once they do, nothing is quite what it seems. Not the people they meet, not their brooding chef's mystic recipes, and not the Queen Mary herself. Yet the spirits they encounter help them discover that there's always a chance to live, as long as one is alive.

An Official Pulpwood Queens Book Club Selection, and read by Ann Marie Gideon, COOKING FOR GHOSTS is an unforgettable tale of love, redemption, and divine female power.



Unconcerned with what her business partners were up to, Rohini was giggling with excitement. Hugging herself, she whirled in circles, then flung her arms up over her head and collapsed back in dizzy elation onto the enormous bed in the glorious stateroom. Everything was glorious. She was here. This was her room. The Secret Spice was, in part, her restaurant.



And when she’d first seen the Queen from the back seat of Cynthia’s preposterous little car, she knew she was headed to exactly where she should be. She couldn’t stop smiling, until, abruptly, a lump formed in her throat and her eyes misted with tears.

“I made it, Zahir,” she whispered. “I made it.”

She sobered as she thought of him, of all he’d done for her, and all that she might still need to do on her own.

But that wasn’t for today. Today was for celebration and thankfulness. Getting up from the bed, she opened her case, pulled out all the little plastic sacks of spices and herbs she’d packed, and sighed with relief. Not a one had opened or torn. Even so, she could smell their pungent bouquet right through the protective wrappings. Rauvolfia, Serpentina, Jaiphal, Javitri, Khus Khus, Ashwagandha and more — why did cinnamon always smell the strongest? There were dozens of varieties that she’d stuffed inside shirt sleeves and trouser legs and white cotton gym socks, just like a drug dealer might hide a stash. The TSA had missed them completely. They’d even affixed a sticker to the top of her bag: “Checked by Homeland Security.”

Giggling again at that, Rohini placed all the smaller sacks into a large white bag she’d found in the wardrobe. The bag had a price list for various laundry services printed on it. With that mission accomplished, she took her treasures downstairs to the kitchen.

But she wasn’t two steps in before she stopped stock still and remained right where she was, listening.

“Oh, my,” she murmured to herself. “Oh, my, my, my.”

Now she understood why she’d felt that the ship had summoned her. To anyone else who might peek in, the kitchen appeared silent and empty. But not to Rohini. She could hear the walls sighing.

Gradually, she walked further inside, and the sighs turned to whispers. She stood still, breathing cautiously, waiting, watching. In unison, the stainless steel cooking utensils dangling from the long, narrow cylinders that were screwed to the walls began to sway, soundlessly. The copper pots that hung from the ceiling over the two spanking-new ovens and eight burner stoves began to twirl, gracefully. Every inanimate object in the room that wasn’t bolted down was waltzing eerily, on its own. To Rohini, the dance seemed sad rather than ghoulish.

Walking quietly, listening carefully, she followed the hushed sounds as they moved along the walls, leading her back to the scullery. As she approached, an ancient, enormous, floor-to-ceiling freezer blew out a puff of ice cold air as its door swung wide open as though it were greeting her, then gently clicked closed again.

Unafraid, Rohini observed it all. Still clinging to the laundry bag filled with her precious sacks of spice, s she turned in a full circle, leisurely, so as not to miss any of it. After a while, she set the bag down on one of the gleaming stainless steel work tables. Bending into a full and formal curtsy, she spoke aloud.

“It is my great honor to meet you, Your Majesty.”

Buy link:


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

PATRICIA V. DAVIS's debut novel series, THE SECRET SPICE CAFE, is comprised of three books: COOKING FOR GHOSTS (2016) SPELLS AND OREGANO (2017) and DEMONS, WELL-SEASONED. (2019) The audio books will be released in 2020 by Tantor Media, and narrated by Ann Marie Gideon. 

Patricia lives with her husband, who is both a poker player and a rice farmer, so she divides her time between southern Nevada and northern California. 

Say hello to Patricia at her author website

TikTok:        @patriciavdavis



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The tour dates can be found here 


My review:

4.25 out of 5 stars

Cooking for Ghosts by Patricia V. Davis is the first book in the ‘Secret Spice Café’ series, and features a quartet of women who have parlayed an Internet friendship into a business venture on the famed Queen Mary steamship. The women have gathered to make their dreams a reality, but between their secrets and the secrets the popular attraction holds, the new restaurant may never launch.

This mystery story blends fascinating historical facts with challenging contemporary and cultural details in an intriguing story. Multiple points of view shift back and forth, so one has to pay attention to whose perception is being used, but once I got used to that, I enjoyed the way the story unfolded. The combination of multiculturalism and tidbits from the past mixed with the mysticism that personifies “Mary” herself, plus the various spirits who have their own significant contributions makes this a compelling story that grabs one’s attention and heightens curiosity for how various conundrums are going to be solved.

I’m a pretty squeamish person and not fond of horror or ghost stories, but I definitely enjoyed this story and I am curious about the other books in the series. I think that what fascinated me the most was the way past tragedies were touched upon using vivid descriptions that brought them to life while present-day challenges were made relevant, even to one who doesn’t understand how a different culture could be so misogynistic. There are multiple threads to follow, and lovely romances, plus the enigmatic ship herself as an active character, and I enjoyed the lighter moments that leavened some of the drama (fencing against attacking cookware!). Those with triggers should be warned that there are some heartwrenching scenarios touched upon that involve violence against women, but they are sensitively portrayed.

I also feel that a great facet of this book is the way women in all of stages of life are portrayed, including the obstacles that have to be overcome, the difficulties of being a single mother, the hassles of co-owning a business with three other opinionated women, and the euphoria and heartache of being a small-business owner. That the setting is a beloved local landmark is a wonderful bonus, and almost makes me want to book a room there…one of these days!

A copy of this title was provided for review