January 2017 Wrap Up

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So January kicked off a bit sluggishly for me this year and I made a very impressive dent in my 2017 Goodreads Challenge (Which is 50 again this year. I couldn’t quite get there last year but I’m determined to this time). I read 7 books in January. And boy did I read some crackers.

I’ve not done a monthly wrap up before but I think it might be a nice change this year.

  1. Drums of Autumn – Diana Gabaldon 

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… Ok, so I technically read 70% of this book in December 2016, but I finished it in the new year so i’m counting it. Man oh man was this book good. Without giving too much away of the previous three books, the fourth book shifts location and offers Gabaldon’s unique view of history for a totally different country. Gabaldon has such a fantastic way with words and her characters are so real and human, its hard to reconcile that they’re fictional. While two of the rising stars- Briana and Roger have been known to us previously, Gabaldon ensures we’ve fallen totally in love with both of them. A stellar fourth book; so good in fact, that I actually would have been satisfied if the series had ended here…. BUT I’M SO DESPERATE FOR BOOK 5 IT’S INSANE.

2. An Ember in the Ashes-  Sabaa Tahir

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So I waited to read this book for a very long time. I found out about it when the advanced readers were singing it’s praises and eagerly awaited it’s release. I was unable though to get my hands on it after it came out so I was left waiting listlessly for it. OMG this book is SO worth the hype. This book was not what I expected at all but I bloody love it. The summary is so misleading but in a good way; the characters are strong, determined and each powerful in their own rights. A corrupt government, a filthy, irredeemable villain and notorious rebels, make for a complex and rich plot. It’s a diverse novel that just works. I was on the edge of my seat the entire book.

3. A Thousand Nights – E. K. Johnston

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I was really worried this book would be too much like ‘The Wrath and the Dawn’ which I read last year and adored. I need not have feared though, this book was SO different. Worlds apart. With a fresh style that’s unlike any I’ve read, Johnston weaves a lush story. Johnston’s story is pretty faithful to the original folk tale, but diverges about half way through. Lo-Melkhiin is hideous and i’m glad Johnston didn’t try to romantasize him. I loved that the main character was left really ambiguous; with a nice trick at the end I didn’t see coming. You can tell Johnston knows her stuff; the way she described the land was so authentic and genuine- it was obvious she drew inspiration from real life. A fantastic interpretation of a classic.

4. Divergent- Veronica Roth

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I’m sure you’ve noticed a trend;- I tend to be super late to the party for most over-hyped teen franchises. When Divergent came out, I religiously avoided it; some part of me shied away from what I thought would be a dull and under-cooked book. I’d seen the movie but hadn’t felt a great tug towards it. I listened to this as an audiobook; summer radio in Australia is impossibly dull, and a 30 minute commute each way needed some filling. I got so into it, I used to listen to it in the afternoons when I got home from work. I was so pleasantly surprised by this book. I got so sucked up in the story, I forgot I was listening to a story. Is it worth all the hype, nah probably not. But I still quite enjoyed it. It’s an awfully dark tale for a teen audience, but I think it holds an extremely relevant commentary for current world affairs.

5. Passenger- Alexandra Bracken

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This was another one of those books that I’d meant to read for a very long time. I loved Alexandra Bracken’s work on the Darkest Minds series and I’ll honestly go for anything she publishes, she’s got that much skill and command. But time travel? Sign me the heck up! This book delivers. It’s certainly not what I thought it was- I was definitely lead down the wrong tunnel when listening to people’s book reviews. While the romance in there was cheesy at times and a little bit cringy, the time travel aspects were very well done. The sense of urgency is really well conveyed without rushing the plot. The side characters were well thought out, and Bracken spends the time to remind the reader how dangerous time travel is. Definitely for the Doctor Who fans- this book is original and fresh.

6. Illuminae – Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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Sci-fi -especially Sci-fi aimed at Young adults- always tends to be under-baked and totally unrealistic. This was one of the most god-damn interesting books I’ve read in a really long time. Holy Shmooze balls is this book GOOD. This has to be one of the most original ways to tell a story that I’ve come across; told via case-files, audio transcripts and instant message logs, this is fantastic. Kaufman and Kristoff have poured so much hard work to create texture and life into each and every page. Each page is an image- scribbles, black sections from sensors, memo style backgrounds, logos the works. No expense has been spared. The story is fantastic- it’s gritty, it’s complex, thought provoking and dynamic. The scary thing is, it’s really not that hard to put aside your disbelief; this honestly feels like it could happen. The book cleverly taps into everyone’s deep dark fears; Multi-national corporations, Artificial Intelligence, the deep- unexplored dark nothingness of space and war. It’s bloody brilliant and everyone needs to read it. Also can we please just appreciate some Aussie excellence (YEAH KAUFMAN AND KRISTOFF!!! REPRESENT!!)

7. Adulthood is a Myth- Sarah Anderson

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Funny story; I pre-ordered this book on the Book Depository 3 months before it came out last year and they cancelled my pre-order without notice or warning a few weeks out from publication… yeah it’s not actually that funny… I was pretty devastated to be honest. This book was so worth the wait though. I found Sarah and her work in 2015 and absolutely fell in love with her. Like literally, her comics are so real and so cute I just cant even. Anyway, I eventually got my hands on this book (it was a case of post-Christmas “treat yo self”) and I savoured every last page. Its only a relatively small book of comics, but I treated every last page like royalty. Anderson is a genius- her work is funny, well executed and so god-damn relatable. This is literally the perfect pick me up; after a long day of pretending to be an adult, the comics go down as nice as a cold glass of Chardonnay on a Friday arvo. 10/10 would recommend.

 

 

So there you have it… what a month. Can honestly say I didn’t read a bad/meh book in January. This is surely a good sign for the reading year ahead. Leave a comment below with any recommendations for me this year and if you have a reading challenge. I’d love to see what everyone’s goals are for the year.

 

Stay golden!

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Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

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A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness 

or: SOMEONE GET ME ON THE NEXT PLANE TO LONDON STAT!

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Synopsis: Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell. Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos.

What is more interesting than vampires and witches in Oxford? Clearly nothing. Everyone else go home, Deborah Harkness has just won at life.

I LOVED this book.

This is one of those books that sucks you in so deep you scarcely even realise you’re addicted until you look at your clock and realise its 11:30pm and you have to get up at 6:30am. This book’s pull is so tantalizingly gentle and mesmerizing that it’s almost as if Matthew is whispering suggested advice in your ear.

I’ve always wanted to study at Oxford- it’s one of those dreams you know will never happen but you wish like hell for it anyway- and Harkness brought me there, swathing me in loving prose and dense descriptive language.

Harkness has a unique writing style that reeks of the pragmatism of someone who learned to write through essays and scholarly styles. Yet while this should lead for a dry book, it doesn’t. Her writing is carefully paced and all paragraphs carefully constructed. Conversation between all characters is effortlessly natural at the same time not prone to monologues or un-realistic cues. Action happens in the same way life happens; the characters don’t know what’s going on and struggle to find their place.

And that’s what I like about Harkness’ writing; she doesn’t play the all-knowing author. There’s none of that arrogance that sometimes lingers when the author plays the ‘great puppet master’; Harkness shows a humility and respect in her writing that’s obvious from page one and made me respect her from the very beginning.

This book is incredibly detail dense. Harkness takes pains to develop the story at a grass root level, leaving in swaths of ‘pointless’ days for Diana, including the human things – like daily exercise and endless hours at work- that most authors shy away from or cut out as it doesn’t suit their grand plan. Don’t be put off, this makes everything work. You don’t resent Harkness for leaving this in; it allows the audience to become very connected to Diana, and makes the story live, breath and feel like it COULD happen.

Harkness, doesn’t present the glamour witches and vampires that we are used to. She revels in their weirdness. Witches aren’t the hobbled old granny-crone, nor are they the glam child wonder that we are suffocated with;- there rather presented as real, run of the mill people who just so happen to have a different sense of the world. Harkness’ witches are more wiccans than actual supernatural beings. And I bloody loved it.

The vampires were rude, stuck in their ways and struggled with food. I loved it.

The deamons- an interesting new addition to the mythological world from Harkness- much like the witches, felt real enough that it’s easy to imagine passing them on the street in real life.

And that’s where the power of this book lies. Harkness has created a dual world that has such strong tethers to actual life, that she seduces you into thinking that all of it, has the possibility of being true. She seduces you through witty one-liners, a complex and deeply intriguing plot that just keeps flip flopping, and very very detailed descriptions and prose.

Harkness is a world builder, and the world she built for this story is so tempting that it’s hard to tear yourself from the pages. This is a monster of a book, and upon receiving it, I was more than a little intimidated. But I barely noticed the 800 pages that I churned through in two weeks. This such an intriguing story and I was so compelled to work out the mysteries and why things worked, that I found myself at the end before I realised I had past half way.

I am more than a little desperate to find out what happens next;- the cliff hanger absolutely sucked me dry (HA. Get it?) but as I’ve been on a self imposed book buying ban (which I failed miserably) since early March, I’ve had to tough it out since finishing this book in early march. The next book- what appears to be another significant beast- I’m hopping to read in the next few months. Harkness has set up a very interesting series and I am really hoping that the next book doesn’t let me down and does this one justice.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go look at pictures of the Oxford campus and cry because I can’t attend.

Review: Miss Peregrines Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Higgs

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Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

or: Holy crap this is so creepy…. give ME ALL THE BOOKS

Goodreads ||   The Book Depository

Synopsis: A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs. A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

I don’t usually read the more creepier side of the fantasy world. As someone who has zero tolerance for scary movies/books, I just cant deal. I get nightmares and its just not a fun time for anyone.

BUT THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD I DON’T CARE IF I GET NIGHTMARES FOR YEARS

I highly recommend this book, and I highly recommend going into this book with zero ideas or expectations of the plot. Trust me stick with the Vague summary- the shock value just adds to the experience, and trust me, this book is an experience.

The beginning of this book is a little bit slow. I found myself stopping and starting during the beginning chapters, just reading in short random spurts whenever I had a few minutes. After giving myself a well deserved night off from tedious assignments, I decided I wanted to get stuck into it.

Best. Decision. Ever.

This is definitely a winter book; the winter winds and the dreary weather today made this book even better or if you live in a country that celebrates Halloween, save this until then.

All of this book is amazing, but a definite highlight of this book is the creepy antique photographs of children that appear sectioned throughout. I’ve worked in a local museum- i’ve seen creepy photos *shudders*- but nothing compares to these ones. They’re so coooool. Creepy, but cool as heck. These pictures aren’t just in there for the sake of being in there- these add to the story and makes the universe Higgs has created more vivid.

This is exactly the first book you want in a series- it sucks you in, makes you invested in a new and wacky world and makes you itch to go straight out and grab the next books in the series. I love how Higgs sustains such an elegant mystery- he’s so careful about what he releases. He merely hints at things and teases you mercilessly with the information you don’t have. The villain becomes a good old fashioned, curl your toes villain; except there are no dramatic soliloquies revealing his master plan. This is perfect though, it adds to the mystery. There’s nothing worse than guessing what the villain is up to before it happens because an author reveals to much. I hate it. But this is certainly not the case with Higgs. If anything Higgs is the opposite and you could possibly accuse him for releasing too little information on the master plan.

At first I was very wary about the main character of Jacob. I was really worried we’d get the painful “I’m a privileged whiny teenage boy” stuff  that often happens in opening chapters. I didn’t need to worry, Higgs didn’t fall into the faux par. We learn about Jacob’s personality and family as he goes through a mental break down. Higgs understands mental health and pays careful attention as to how he presents it; he could have charged in like a bull in a china shop but his delicacy is admirable and his research impeccable.

Higg’s writing is typical of this style- simple, quick paced and no use of unnecessary words. A refreshing change from the prose and descriptive ladden sort of books I usually read. Even though his style is economic, its still easy to imagine the landscapes, people and action as it occurs. Riggs creates a rich fictional world that is impossible not to be drawn into.

I’ve been fortunate this year to read some good books, and this is most certainly one of them.

Read: On my Kindle. 

Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

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Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

or: AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

Goodreads   ||  The Book Depository

Synopsis: There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up. Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs. The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost. Friends can betray. Mothers can disappear. Visions can mislead.Certainties can unravel.

Don’t you love it when books in a already brilliant series just keep getting better?

As the third installment in the Raven Cycle Series, my expectations for this book were astronomically high. I adored the first two, the second one being my favourite, and was curious to know if this book was as good as the others.

It was better.

This book is stunning.

This book series came to me in much the way the Boys came to blue- totally unexpectedly. I read the first book at the beginning of 2014 and the second in mid 2014. I knew there were more books but forgot about them for some weird reason. I am SO glad I stumbled across the existence of this third book.

While taking it slow and purposefully trying to draw out the book, I couldn’t help myself and ended up finishing the second half of the book in a couple of hours one night.

While this book is distinctly more mobile plot wise, it’s a neat culmination of all the character building and world creating that Stiefvater has created in the first two books. If you felt any reservations for Stiefvater’s ability to carve a complex and thrilling mystery it should be totally erased by the skill executed in this book.

This book delivers. Why this series isn’t more well known I have no clue. With main characters so well rounded and equal like Gansey, Adam, Ronan and Blue, it’s hard to pick a favourite. This book however was clearly Blues. While Adam definitely came into his own in this installment Blue was a pleasure and her transformations were stunning. Stiefvater has crafted these characters well and with a practiced ease.

The cover art is gorgeous, the plot fascinating and the reader-character connections strong. You can’t help but love these characters and their flaws.

The plot twists were stunning and definitely caught me by surprise.

The main mystery of the book- the mystery of the three sleepers- is fascinating and highly original. Sticking again to medieval mythology, Stiefvater neatly slides this myth into her previously used mythology. Like Blue and the boys, the reader yearns to understand this mystery and Stiefvater cleverly creates a strong sense of urgency in her audience; we need to work out the riddle and work it out quickly. By the end of the book, though the resolution of the quest to find the three sleepers is complete, there is still unfinished business with the quest and it makes you crave book 4 all the more.

Blue Lily introduces many characters that have been hovering at the periphery for a while, and while we get to meet Mr Gray’s former boss (who quickly became a favourite) we also dance around the unnamed and largely unexplored figure of Blue’s father. To avoid spoilers I’ll stop right here about her father, but I’d just like to warn readers that they may not be satisfied with the outcome. Hopefully that resolves itself in book 4.

This book really develops many of the boys abilities, particularly Ronan and Adam. We come to understand both boys better as they band together to fully understand themselves in an uneasy partnership. Its refreshing that Stiefvater develops and continues to give opportunities to two very nontraditional YA heroes and places a character like Gansey in the stereotypical role for once. This is a series that generally shakes up the typical YA stereotypes and this book is no different. I realise that for some people this is what makes the book unattractive for them. But this is, for me, one of the many reasons I love this series.

Without giving the other books in the series away, i’m sort of limited to what I can discuss here, because I really want people to experience this series with a fresh mind. This is one of those must-read series for me and I’ve got no clue why this series isn’t  popular, this deserves the hype often wrongly placed on other books. But my inner hipster is kind of glad, because surely if it had hype some marketing person would stuff it up.

And boy, what a cliff hanger! Each book in this series contains several cliff hangers from chapter to chapter but Stiefvater always finishes the books with a big one. I’d say this is the most intense one ever. I got tricked into believing on the last couple of pages that there wouldn’t be one. Boy was I wrong. This is definitely a book you need to read to the last sentence. Because the plot points and characters you think are dead, really aren’t.

WILL SOMEONE JUST GIVE ME BOOK 4 ALREADY?!?

Review: The Ruby Circle (Bloodlines 6) by Richelle Mead

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The Ruby Circle by Richelle Mead (Bloodlines #6)

Or; I cant remember a time without feels. Someone send help my heart is dead

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This review contains massive spoilers for all of the preceding Bloodlines Books as it is the last book in the series. If you intend to read this series, it’s probably best to skip this review and wait until you’ve reached this point.  

Synopsis: Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets – and human lives. Their forbidden romance exposed, Sydney and Adrian find themselves facing the wrath of both the Alchemists and the Moroi in this electrifying conclusion to Richelle Mead’s bestselling Bloodlines series. When the life of someone they both love is put on the line, Sydney risks everything to hunt down a deadly former nemesis. Meanwhile, she and Adrian becomes enmeshed in a puzzle that could hold the key to a shocking secret about spirit magic, a secret that could shake the entire Moroi world and alter their lives forever.

I was both desperate for this book to be released and defiant that this was the last book in this universe I would ever read. I was not, and will never be, ready to give up the world of the US Moroi and Alchemists.

This is the one series that I will never let go.

6 years. For the last 6 whole years I’ve been following the Vampire Academy Series and Bloodlines series. 6 years of desperately waiting for books to be released. 6 years of falling in love with every nuance of each book; every character and every plot twist. 6 years of tears, laughter and every emotion in between.

This book shaped my teenage years and early adult life. It saw me through the tough and angsty years of high school and the tumultuous University years. In the time I read this series, I’d lost and then gained best friends, got my HSC and my Bachelors Degree and fell in love.

If Harry Potter defined my Childhood, then VA and Bloodlines defined my Teens. A bold claim, but a true one. Mead’s world holds the same importance to me that Harry Potter does, and that’s not something said lightly.

I don’t want to leave this universe and I don’t want Mead to finish these books. But this was by far the neatest and most well done wrap of a series I’ve seen.

Mead hits all points again, and her balance of humour and wit with the intense action sequences seems to become only better as each book goes on. The sophistication but empathetic nature of her writing creates a strong bond between the reader and the character, and its hard not to picture yourself standing right next to Sydney and Adrian the entire time.

I’ve long been a fan of Sydney and developed a strong connection to her in Blood Promise, so I’ve really enjoyed this series as a whole. This was an appropriate ending for such a strong and worthy character and I’m pleased with the ending.

As always, Mead’s ability to throw around twists shocks and delights and as always, there was a few I did not see coming at all. Two in particular come to mind as artfully done, and, to avoid revealing spoilers, I must say, be prepared for things you never saw coming.

The book is fast paced but not rushed, with plot points evenly spaced throughout the book. There is always something happening, and while not everything is prevalent- the story’s told from both Sydney and Adrian’s points of view so seeing everything would be stupid- Its easy to forgive anything she misses. The build up to the ‘final battle’ is tantalizing and if you love adrenaline page turning plot then this is your book.

Its hard to write this review as I’m worried I’m going to spoil the entire series for someone and that would be unforgivable. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go sob in the corner and repeat “the center will hold” a couple of times

Review: Living Dead in Dallas (Sookie Stackhouse 2) by Charlaine Harris

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Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris

or: Man These Books Are So Different From The TV Series

Good Reads    ||     The Book Depository

Synopsis: Sookie Stackhouse likes living in Bon Temps, Louisiana, and she likes working as a cocktail waitress at Merlotte’s. But she is having a streak of bad luck. First her co-worker is killed, and no one seems to care. Then she comes face-to-face with a beastly creature which gives her a painful and poisonous lashing. Enter the vampires, who graciously suck the poison from her veins (like they didn’t enjoy it). The point is: the vampires saved her life. So when one of her bloodsuckers asks for a favour, she obliges-and soon Sookie’s in Dallas, using her telepathic skills to search for a missing vampire. She’s supposed to interview certain humans involved, but she makes one condition: the vampires must promise to behave, and let the humans go unharmed. But that’s easier than done, and all it takes is one delicious blonde and one small mistake for things to turn deadly...

Let me begin by warning you- This is the second book of a series, beware of spoilers.


It’s been at least 5 years since I first read the first book in the Sookie Stackhouse series but finally getting onto this one has been a pleasure. I don’t believe I appreciated these books enough 5 years ago; I’m kind of glad I left it now as I believe I can appreciate these books more with age.

Harris’ characters are strong and her dialogue witty and its so easy to glide through page after page, totally immersed in the world of Bon Tempe.

Even if you’ve seen the tv series- which I have recently devoured (hehehe)- the books are just different enough that it doesn’t feel old. The differences between the tv series and the books at first jarred me immensely, but I quickly forgot these differences and they became permissible. It’s hard to hate Harris’ work.

The style of these books is a more grittier take than the more upbeat style chosen by the screenwriters but I think that’s what makes these books work. Definitely a member of the adult genre, it’s probably best to remember that the series is rated R for a reason. The sultry scenes are done well and tasteful and so tantalizing that you find yourself wishing for more. Against the series, the book probably wins in terms of the way the naughty stuff is done.

Being more of a Bill fan, I enjoyed this book immeasurably – this book was packed with Bill (Suuuuooookkkkiieee) but the book definitely fluffs out Eric’s character. While Eric is not as present in this book as he is in season 2, I can’t bring myself to mind. Godfrey is like 100 times scarier and Harris does not present him as the tortured romantic creature at all. This pleased me greatly.

Not sure if there are others like me, but sometimes I get tired of authors painting vampire characters as redeemable. Harris certainly doesnt and its a releif to have vampires who are bad to the core and have humans the same. The Fellowship of the Sun is presented as the nut-jobs that they are and it was amazing to see the parallels Harris draws between the two species.

It’s amazing how much content and plot Harris can pack into such a little book, and the plot moves refreshingly fast, barely snagging on difficult plot circles. If you are looking for a quick, entertaining read, this is your series. It only takes a couple of hours and you’re done.

This book has definitely rekindled my love for the series and at the next opportunity, I’m definately going to get my claws on more