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What I Read in January

Ok folks, I seem to have forgotten how to blog. Or, rather, I can’t seem to get my blogging mojo off the ground. In my defence I’m going through some stuff and there are too many things that are overwhelming me. Being online, blogging, social media… those are a big chunk of the GAH! feelings so I have been avoiding the internet as much as possible. It’s helping me so that’s good. On the other hand, I miss blogging and having handy reference of what I read online, so here I am with a mini update!

I managed to read 7 books in total throughout January! This was surprising to me since I didn’t think I’d actually gotten that many read! I read some great books and some not-so-great books and here’s my rundown in one post because I’m just not up to multiple blog posts right now.

Reconstructing Amelia
by Kimberly McCreight

In Reconstructing Amelia, the stunning debut novel from Kimberly McCreight, Kate’s in the middle of the biggest meeting of her career when she gets the telephone call from Grace Hall, her daughter’s exclusive private school in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Amelia has been suspended, effective immediately, and Kate must come get her daughter–now. But Kate’s stress over leaving work quickly turns to panic when she arrives at the school and finds it surrounded by police officers, fire trucks, and an ambulance. By then it’s already too late for Amelia. And for Kate.

An academic overachiever despondent over getting caught cheating has jumped to her death. At least that’s the story Grace Hall tells Kate. And clouded as she is by her guilt and grief, it is the one she forces herself to believe. Until she gets an anonymous text: She didn’t jump. (goodreads.com)

This book was the first Featured Book from the 50 Book Pledge hosted by The Savvy Reader. It sounded pretty interesting and I was looking for less YA novels and more adult ones. I’m feeling mystery or suspensy these days and very little is holding my attention, I had hoped that this book would be a nice change of pace – I wasn’t wrong! This was a great mystery to read and I think it would be a prefect bridge-book between adult and YA fiction since the story is told in two points of view – that of Amelia and her mother. This has the added bonus of a Prep school. It’s not a boarding school, but there are still rich kids being all mysterious and secret societies! I love that stuff. Woo!

Notorious Nineteen (Stephanie Plum, #19)
by Janet Evanovich

New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum is certain of three truths: People don’t just vanish into thin air. Never anger old people. And don’t do what Tiki tells you to do.
(goodreads.com)

I saw a bunch of complaints about this nineteenth book in the Stephanie Plum series, but I didn’t think it was that bad. I am seriously hoping for some sort of character progression in Stephanie’s case over time, but ultimately this book made me laugh. Laughter is something I seriously look for in one of these mystery novels. I also love me some steamy Ranger scenes and although he was in the story a lot, there wasn’t a ton of steam. I don’t know if the love triangle will ever be resolved, but Morelli is getting a tad boring for my liking. He used to be a bad boy and now he’s just feeling like an old man. Hmm. At least Stephanie seems to be slightly more competent in her bail bondsman job. She’s not always failing miserably and I will admit to a certain amount of glee every time one of her cars blows up! Hee!

The Gospel of Winter
by Brendan Kiely

As sixteen-year-old Aidan Donovan’s fractured family disintegrates around him, he searches for solace in a few bumps of Adderall, his father’s wet bar, and the attentions of his local priest, Father Greg—the only adult who actually listens to him.

When Christmas hits, Aidan’s world collapses in a crisis of trust when he recognizes the darkness of Father Greg’s affections. He turns to a crew of new friends to help make sense of his life: Josie, the girl he just might love; Sophie, who’s a little wild; and Mark, the charismatic swim team captain whose own secret agonies converge with Aidan’s. (goodreads.com)

This one was sent to be by Simon & Schuster Canada after an email exchange I had with my pub rep. Once she told me it had been one of her favourites I admitted I was extra curious about it. It’s certainly a subject that’s pretty taboo and not often written about. I didn’t see many favourable reviews on goodreads for this one so I was apprehensive as I began it but I was surprised by how much I liked it. Maybe it’s my Catholic upbringing (now majorly lapsed) but this story was pretty riveting and I thought, well told. I liked Aidan a lot, too. As troubling as the story itself was I found the book to be quiet and calm, sort of like a snowfall. It was sort of nice to read an “issue novel” from the point of view of a male protagonist, too. I am very happy that I was able to have included this novel in my 2014 reading.

The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy, Book 1)
by Marie Rutkoski

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. (goodreads.com)

Release date: March 4, 2014

You might have seen photos of the epic packaging floating around the internet for the ARCs of The Winner’s Curse - they came with a dagger! I didn’t get the epic packaging, but my friend did send me an ARC and although this doesn’t come out until March, since I was so desperate to read a book that I could connect with I tried this one out. It’s an easy read and a nice fantasy but my problem with it was the constant pining between Kestrel and Arin. I wrote this on Goodreads, “I’d really like someone to write a YA fantasy novel that isn’t just a romance in disguise. I wanted to like this one more than I did but there was just too much pining between Kestrel and Arin and it overshadowed all the rest. :( ” I KNOW Rutkoski can write an amazing fantasy novel because I adored her middle grade  Kronos Chronicles trilogy. I think the problem here is that YA novels always have to have this stupid OMG I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT YOU UR SO PRETTY ZOMG! theme to them and I am so, so tired of that crap. Do I want to continue with the series? Probably. Mostly out of curiosity though.

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, Book 2)
by Sarah J Maas

Eighteen-year-old Celaena Sardothien is bold, daring and beautiful – the perfect seductress and the greatest assassin her world has ever known. But though she won the King’s contest and became his champion, Celaena has been granted neither her liberty nor the freedom to follow her heart. The slavery of the suffocating salt mines of Endovier that scarred her past is nothing compared to a life bound to her darkest enemy, a king whose rule is so dark and evil it is near impossible to defy. Celaena faces a choice that is tearing her heart to pieces: kill in cold blood for a man she hates, or risk sentencing those she loves to death. Celaena must decide what she will fight for: survival, love or the future of a kingdom. Because an assassin cannot have it all . . . And trying to may just destroy her. (goodreads.com)

Oh, look. Another YA fantasy novel that’s 80% PINING! This sequel to The Throne of Glass might just have ended the series for me. The first half of the book is all about how Celeana and Chaol can’t be together because OMG THE LUST and OMG THE DISTRACTION! And let’s not forget about how Darion can’t even look at her because OMG SHE WANTS CHAOL! Ugh. Then (SPOILERS) there’s this entire section of the book that’s nothing but sexsexsexsexsexsex all of the time and I just wanted to throw the book across the room in disgust because it added NOTHING to the story. Nothing. Nada. The last quarter of the book things got more interesting but then we’re totally thrown for a loop with a plot twist that I am still trying to decide between it being obvious and unoriginal or a surprise. Jury is still out on that one. I didn’t even like Celaena anymore. I’m not sure if I’m going to continue with this series or not. We’ll see how I’m feeling when the next book comes out.

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B
by Teresa Toten

When Adam meets Robyn at a support group for kids coping with obsessive-compulsive disorder, he is drawn to her almost before he can take a breath. He’s determined to protect and defend her–to play Batman to her Robyn–whatever the cost. But when you’re fourteen and the everyday problems of dealing with divorced parents and step-siblings are supplemented by the challenges of OCD, it’s hard to imagine yourself falling in love. How can you have a “normal” relationship when your life is so fraught with problems? And that’s not even to mention the small matter of those threatening letters Adam’s mother has started to receive  (goodreads.com)

Now THIS book was FANFREAKINGTASTIC! I picked it up for my Kobo with some gift cards I’d gotten at Christmas. I bought this one on the recommendation of my naturopath of all people. When I went to an appointment in January she mentioned having just read a great YA novel about teens with OCD and that totally piqued my interest. I am so happy that I found out about this book because it was just amazing. Yes, there is romance-ish between Adam and Robyn but it’s not the over-the-top swoony kind that you get in most novels these days. This book is so raw and real and just heartwarming you are rooting for Adam the entire time. This was a great story about mental illness that will make you laugh and cry and feel uncomfortable but also happy and hopeful. It even has a bit of a mystery within the story that kept me on my toes until the end. I know I’ve only read seven books (now 8, since I just finished one in February) so far, but this is the best one I have read so far.

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls
by Claire Legrand

At the Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, you will definitely learn your lesson. An atmospheric, heartfelt, and delightfully spooky novel for fans of CoralineSplendors and Glooms, andThe Mysterious Benedict Society.

Victoria hates nonsense. There is no need for it when your life is perfect. The only smudge on her pristine life is her best friend Lawrence. He is a disaster ;lazy and dreamy, shirt always untucked, obsessed with his silly piano. Victoria often wonders why she ever bothered being his friend. (Lawrence does, too.)

But then Lawrence goes missing. And he’s not the only one. Victoria soon discovers that The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is not what it appears to be. Kids go in but come out different. Or they don’t come out at all.

If anyone can sort this out, it’s Victoria; even if it means getting a little messy. (goodreads.com)

To be honest, I wasn’t really going to write about this one because I don’t think I liked it much. With the way things are for me right now, I don’t feel like blogging about each and every book I read anymore. Also, I just don’t have the time to do that. And I’m not reading nearly as much as I normally do. But I was looking for something “creative” to do today that wasn’t just sitting here and surfing the internet. I’m trying to slowly back away from social media and it’s been working somewhat. Mostly due to the fact that my husband and I just watched about 2.5 seasons of Buffy in about 4 days. And I might have to go back to work next week. So, you know, time will be less.

Anyhow, things I did like about this particular middle grade mystery were: the writing, the story telling and the extreme creepiness of the plot. Bugs. Yuck. Puppets. Yuck.bThings I didn’t like about this book: Victoria. I disliked her almost instantly and she didn’t grow on me at all. I find it very difficult to read a story when I have zero connection with the protagonist. But I was determined to read this story all the way through because I had been wanting to read it for ages. And I bought it. So I was going to read the blasted thing.

I also didn’t really like how creepy it was. But that’s more of a me thing. Then again, I don’t think I’d give this book to my niece to read because it’s dark and gloomy and there’s creepy death. It’s an odd sort of middle grade book. It’s one of those “smart” type books as I call them. It’s not simple in its writing or plot and it is very well written. There’s just something about it that rubs me the wrong way. I believe that’s mostly due to my dislike of Victoria. I don’t actually feel that she was trying to find Lawrence because she was his friend, I feel like she was trying to find him because it was wrong for her to not have him around anymore to boss around and pick on. I didn’t feel as though this friendship was real – or healthy.

But you know something, the entire story felt exactly the shade of brown as on the cover. It’s a dark story, but it’s a cardboard, dirt sort of dark. Like everything was beige, brown and black in the story. The clothes. The people. The houses. The atmosphere. I didn’t sense any colours other than those. All dull, dirty colours and that makes me anxious.

I think this is a pretty good “spooky story” to read in October and around Halloween if you have kids who can handle these sorts of things. But there’s no whimsy in the spooky. It’s not quite the same as Harry Potter creepy/spooky. It’s not quite the same as other middle grade books that also have death. This one was different and I can’t put my finger on why I am feeling this way. The only thing I can think of is that I didn’t like the characters so I wasn’t as “in” the story as I normally am so I was more focused on what was happening around them than TO them and how they should be reacting?

I do like stories about houses that are alive though. Creepy or not. I like houses that change in books. I don’t want one of my own, but I like when other, fictional people have them. :)

This Song Will Save Your Life

This Song Will Save Your Life
by Leila Sales

Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing. (goodreads.com)

I had tears in my eyes by the second page of this book. I knew just by Elise’s voice and the words on those first two pages that this book was going to resonate so deeply within me and I was right.

This Song Will Save Your Life was the book I ended the year with. After the year that I had, I think a book like this was the perfect ending. There is something so genuine and piercing about Elise. Her words. Her fears. Her actions. Although I couldn’t exactly relate to the sneaking out and DJing at an underground dance party, I did connect with the other parts of her. The parts that “knew” being different was wrong. That being yourself and not fitting into the cookie-cutter cutout rules and norms of the rest of the teen world would result in being punished.

It was almost like Leila Sales took parts of my actual life and wrote them into a story. Obviously she didn’t because she doesn’t know me from Adam, but there were so many things in there that were my life. Starting in the 4th grade. It was scary and fascinating all at the same time.

Elise was rescued from her life though, so many others aren’t. However so many others are too scared to take the leaps and chances that can find them refuge among the wars that wage between high school walls.

The idea that some idiot can make a fake blog and write as someone else in a way to bully another kid is just terrifying to me. I don’t know why that idea never crossed my mind before because I’ll bet you it’s common. It’s just another example that has me pretty certain I’d have not survived growing up if the internet had existed back then.

This story is one of the few that gets the teen voice right. The struggles, the fears. And it’s not completely depressing, there’s humour among all of the angst and the angst isn’t superficial. I was just about bawling when Elise tries to save her sister from the same fate she feels she’s had. The lesson here is don’t be different. Don’t be yourself. Blend in. 

Honestly for most of my life I had the same mantra although it didn’t ever work. I’m still learning that being myself and being different isn’t something that deserves punishment. Unfortunately it took me 30 years to get to the point that I could start understanding and trusting that.

I thought this was an amazing book. I’m still thinking about it three days later and I’m still full of emotion over it. This book might have been one of the best gifts I have ever received and I am so happy that someone chose to send it to me. It was exactly what I needed to end my 2013. It helped me settle down my energy for 2014. It moved me. It made me laugh and cry. It made me want to check out the other books written by this author.

Mostly, it made me happy to be ME.

Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends

Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends (Ever After High, #1)
by Shannon Hale

At Ever After High, an enchanting boarding school, the children of fairytale legends prepare themselves to fulfill their destinies as the next generation of Snow Whites, Prince Charmings and Evil Queens…whether they want to or not. Each year on Legacy Day, students sign the Storybook of Legends to seal their scripted fates. For generations, the Village of Book End has whispered that refusing to sign means The End-both for a story and for a life.

As the daughter of the Evil Queen, Raven Queen’s destiny is to follow in her mother’s wicked footsteps, but evil is so not Raven’s style. She’s starting to wonder, what if she rewrote her own story? The royal Apple White, daughter of the Fairest of Them All, has a happy ever after planned for herself, but it depends upon Raven feeding her a poison apple in their future.

What if Raven doesn’t sign the Storybook of Legends? It could mean a happily never after for them both.

First I saw the dolls in a store flyer. It was love at first sight. Then I saw the book in the store and I promptly told my husband he was buying this for me for Christmas. Then I discovered the website and the theme song and the webisodes so it’s pretty safe to say I have become slightly obsessed with this series.

I knew that this book was going to be for kids even before I watched the animation. But I also knew I was going to love it to pieces and I wasn’t wrong.

The book is pretty. The pages are pretty. It’s full of puns and life lessons and Morals of the Story and just so much fun, fairy tale goodness. I keep thinking it’s Disney, but it’s Mattel. It’s my Jem and the Holograms obsession for this decade. I don’t care about Monster High, but I was instantly drawn to fairy tale legends. What can I say?  I like fairy tales.

There is mystery and deception and friendship and broken friendships. There’s hope and whimsy and humour and gossip.

I loved everything about this book. It is an exceptionally light and fun read but it’s just what I needed after Christmas and the months I have been having. It was FUN. I laughed out loud. I rolled my eyes. I smiled A  LOT while reading this book. It’s fun.

And the theme song isn’t so bad either. It has a good message.

They told you everything was waiting for you,
They told you everything was set in stone,
But now you’re feeling like a different ending,
Sometimes you gotta find it on your own.

It’s an open book,
A road in reverse,
A brand new hook,
Forget that curse!
It’s a Rebel cause,
With a Royal heart,
Rewrite, ignite, restart!

Cause it’s your life,
It’s your time,
Go forward or rewind!

And it’s a pretty freakin’ catchy bubblegum pop song. Even my husband dances to it with me. Heh.

Shush now. Let me have my whimsy. =P

Cress

Cress (Lunar Chronicles, #3)
by Marissa Meyer

Rapunzel’s tower is a satellite. She can’t let down her hair—or her guard.

In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can. (goodreads.com)

Release date: February 4, 2014

I don’t normally like to post too early about soon to be published books, but I figure a month and half (ish) isn’t too bad… Also I need to just be able to read and blog when I am able to these days. So you’re getting an early review of Cress. I shall try not to spoil anything, but I suggest you continue reading at your own risk. ;)

My gosh. I started this post a week ago…but I’m just not feeling the book blogging mood anymore. Ugh.

I might be in the minority, but I found Cress started off really slow and I wasn’t entirely certain I was going to like the book in the end. Turns out I started liking the story a lot more by the second half, which made me happy.

With each book being about a different main character, it’s bound to happen that a reader might not connect much with a specific story. This is how I felt about Cress. I didn’t particularly like her. There was nothing special about her personality that I can blame on my dislike of her. Maybe it’s that I felt she didn’t actually have any personality. She seemed sort of one dimensional and bland. Can’t say I blame her for it. I gather her circumstances lead to her blandness, but maybe she could have been written a little more endearingly or something.

I didn’t hate her. I just didn’t care anything about her. That actually makes me sad because I’d much rather hate a character than be indifferent to one. With the hatred I know they have been portrayed in a way that makes them more realistic and well-rounded.

On the flip side, this book had a lot of Captain Thorne and I adore his character. He always makes me laugh. I like that he got to expand from his side-kick, comic relief role a little and we get to know more about him. Even if it’s with Cress.

And really, I liked Cress slightly more by the end of the story. But I still like the other characters more. Heck, I even adore Iko more and she’s a robot.

However I am seriously looking forward to the fourth and final book - Winter. Because the brief glimpse we have of that character was enough to make me exclaim, “ooo, this is going to be GOOD!” when I was done reading.

Even though I received an ARC of this book (not for review, as gift) I am going to purchase the hard cover when it comes out in February because I do love this series. I love this sci-fi, fantasy take on Fairy Tales I know and love so well. The writing is excellent and the stories are captivating. The cover art for these books is just beautiful as well and they are books I will be happy to have in my collection for ever and ever.

The Lunar Chronicles

  1. Cinder
  2. Scarlet
  3. Cress
  4. Winter - 2015

Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse

Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse
by Chris Riddell

Ada Goth is the only child of Lord Goth. The two live together in the enormous Ghastly-Gorm Hall. Lord Goth believes that children should be heard and not seen, so Ada has to wear large clumpy boots so that he can always hear her coming. This makes it hard for her to make friends and, if she’s honest, she’s rather lonely.

Then one day William and Emily Cabbage come to stay at the house, and together with a ghostly mouse called Ishmael they and Ada begin to unravel a dastardly plot that Maltravers, the mysterious indoor gamekeeper, is hatching.

Ada and her friends must work together to foil Maltravers – before it’s too late! (goodreads.com)

I feel like I should take out a giant ad in all of the papers and magazines of the world because I finished a book. In one sitting. Mind you, I was sitting on a train for 2.5 hours, but still!

This book showed up at my house as a surprise and a mystery. I knew I hadn’t bought or ordered any books, especially this one. Thanks to the internet I found out that it was from the amazing Jenny at Wondrous Reads and she thought it was a book that would be my cup of tea. Boy was she right! This random act of kindness was very needed in my life right now and words cannot express how much I appreciate it. :)

Since I haven’t been able to read things and nothing has been even remotely interesting to me, I wasn’t sure how this would go, but I needed to occupy my mind on that train ride and I really wanted to disconnect from the internet as much as possible this past weekend. It was nice. I brought two books with me this one, and the ARC of Cress I had. I had hoped – and I was right! – that Goth Girl would be the kind of book to help me forget my troubles and just enjoy a book. Just the physical book was enough to start that escape. Photos cannot do this book justice. It is GORGEOUS. The page edges are sparkly, purple. The cover is embossed and shiny. There are illustrations on every single page (in black and white, but they are adorable!) and at the end of the book… there is a SURPRISE MINI BOOK! Which just made me so crazy excited my husband laughed at me. heh

There is even a ribbon bookmark attached to the book! This is one fantastically packaged novel and it was the most entertaining and whimsical story I have read in a long time.

Goth Girl is a wonderful mix of silly-but-not-TOO-silly, mystery, and whimsy. Ada Goth is a sweet girl who makes interesting friends and helps both magical creatures and her father out in this story. Ada has a bitter-sweet story, her father doesn’t like to look at her because she reminds him too much of her mother, who died when Ada was very young. I sort of found that part of the story to be heart breaking. Poor little Ada can only see her father once a week and he won’t even look at her. She has to wear super clompy boots around the house at all times so her father, Lord Goth, can hear her coming and avoid her. So sad!

But Ada is charming and sweet and curious and she doesn’t let this get her down too much. She explores the house and surrounding land (and YAY! There is a MAP in this book! With all the silly-named locations noted! I almost squealed out loud on the train when I saw it!)

This book held my attention for pretty much the entire train ride and I finished it at the stop before mine. I decided half-way through that this is a book I will lend my sister to read to my 7-year old niece. I hope they enjoy it as much as I did!

Thanks so much, Jenny for the gift of this book! It was everything I needed and more right now!

 

Something Special – Cover Reveal & Release Date for BLOOD QUEEN (and a little something extra)!

Blog readers! I know you know that I don’t normally do these things and I know you know that when I do do something like this it’s because I am totally and completely 100% crazy about it and behind it. So I am more than excited to be part of the limited reveal of the new cover for Rhiannon Hart’s third book of Lharmell, Blood Queen!

So pretty!!

Rhiannon is someone I befriended through blogging – my book blog, specifically and I have devoured her first two YA fantasy books in this series. This third book is set to release on April 15, 2014!

And if you’re like me and you think that’s still WAY TOO FAR AWAY! Never fear! There is a short story about to drop on December 9 – only 6 days away!!

Life in tatters and far from home, Rodden Lothskorn struggles to cope with the harming menace and his own harming nature. When an offer of marriage reaches his friend, Prince Amis, Rodden discovers that the bride’s inhospitable homeland might contain one part of the harming poison he would dearly like to get his hands on. But if summoned northwards, will Princess Lilith bring something – or someone – he dreads most with her? Locked in a years-long struggle with the Lharmellins, Rodden senses the battle is only now about to begin.

Blood Phantom is a short story of Lharmell and a prequel to Blood Song.

Blood Phantom is a short story that will be released soon! SOON! And it’s a prequel to the first book in the series, Blood Song.

These books will be released as eBooks and I *think* they should be simultaniously available in Australia, North America and the UK. If you love fantasy and you love YA, and especially if you love fantasy  - I encourage you to pick up these books and start your reading right now!

Rhiannon writes an amazing fantasy series (so far, at least ;) ) and even though her characters have a problem with not eating while on the road questing (I mean, really, is it too hard to write in a stop or two for stew or hunks of bread and cheese?) I think you’ll  be more than happy with the rest of the story. ;)

I don’t promote things I don’t love and although my blog has been quiet lately and I am having some trouble reading, I am happy to have a book to look forward to that I know I’ll love! Hurry up, April! I need my Zeraphina and Rodden!