Fantasy, paranormal, romance, urban fantasy

Series Review: Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews

 

ilona andrews books

Title: Kate Daniels Series
Author: Ilona Andrews
Publisher: Ace
Length: Varies from 260-400 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Overall Series Rating: 4 folded pages out of 5

Magic Bites Blurb:

Atlanta would be a nice place to live, if it weren’t for the magic…

When the magic is up, rogue mages cast their spells and monsters appear, while guns refuse to fire and cars fail to start. But then technology returns, and the magic recedes as unpredictably as it arose, leaving all kinds of paranormal problems in its wake.

Kate Daniels is a down-on-her-luck mercenary who makes her living cleaning up these magical problems. But when Kate’s guardian is murdered, her quest for justice draws her into a power struggle between two strong factions within Atlanta’s magic circles.

The Masters of the Dead, necromancers who can control vampires, and the Pack, a paramilitary clan of shapechangers, blame each other for a series of bizarre killings—and the death of Kate’s guardian may be part of the same mystery. Pressured by both sides to find the killer, Kate realizes she’s way out of her league—but she wouldn’t have it any other way…

Review:
What better way to start my comeback than with a huge series. The Kate Daniels series, by the husband and wife writing duo Ilona Andrews, currently has 9 main books, 5 novellas, and one online only snippet from a different character’s point of view. The tenth and probably final book is set to come out early 2018.

Let me just say, I LOVE this series. I read the entirety of it in about 3 weeks. I was so sad when I realized I had to leave the wonderful world and character building behind because I’d finished all the books available. I’m not even one to read novellas for series I love because usually I find they don’t really add much for me. But I read every single one.

I want to be Kate Daniels when I grow up. She’s fierce, independent, and caring. Honestly, reading from her point of view and seeing everything she does in these books made me want to start taking some kind of martial art or self defense course so I could be just one tenth of a bad ass that she is. Through the series you see her grow and develop in a way I hadn’t realized a book character could. Keep in mind this is the first series I’ve read that’s longer than Harry Potter.

I love all the side characters pretty much equally. Even the ones your supposed to hate or at the very least find annoying like Saiman. I was always sad when her adventures didn’t bring her into contact with the him even if he was absolutely infuriating at times.

On top of all this, Andrews’ writing is superb. It’s fast paced and snappy. I hardly ever found myself bored even in the middle of info dumps or plot set up; both of which get absolutely tedious in fantasy novels for me.

This series is a must read for urban fantasy lovers. It’s so good I’m already considering rereading it to try and catch things I may have missed. Also, don’t be put off by me saying it’s also a romance. It’s very light and definitely stays on the back burner when compared to the plot.

As a side note: The covers of these books are absolutely horrendous and it’s a surprise I read them at all but please don’t let them fool you. The stories inside are amazing.

Fantasy, romance, steampunk

Book Review: Heartless by Gail Carriger

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Title: Heartless
Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher: Orbit
Length: 448 Pages, Paperback
Genre: Fantasy, Steampunk, Romance
Rating: 4 Folded Pages

Warning: Spoilers for books 1-3 possibly in blurb and review!

Click to see previous book reviews for the series – First book: Soulless Second book: Changeless Third book: Blameless

Blurb:

Lady Alexia Maccon, soulless, is at it again, only this time the trouble is not her fault. When a mad ghost threatens the queen, Alexia is on the case, following a trail that leads her deep into her husband’s past. Top that off with a sister who has joined the suffragette movement (shocking!), Madame Lefoux’s latest mechanical invention, and a plague of zombie porcupines, Alexia barely has time to remember she happens to be eight months pregnant.

Will Alexia manage to determine who is trying to kill Queen Victoria before it is too late? Is it the vampires again or is there a traitor lurking about in wolf’s clothing? And what, exactly, has taken up residence in Lord Akeldama’s second best closet?

Review:

More and more with this series I find myself both really enjoying and kind of not enjoying it. Heartless had me completely enthralled for the first 200 pages or so but then it got to the action bits and the climax and I sort of lost interest. I think I just don’t care for the way Carriger writes her action scenes but the build up is always a lot of fun.

As always, Alexia was delightful. I loved how it was obvious to everyone the pregnancy was effecting both her brain and her body but she refused to see it. It seems like something Alexia would do. She couldn’t believe she could change simply because she was pregnant even though she was definitely more forgetful and emotional. I really enjoyed seeing this side of Alexia.

Lord Akeldama and Floote were just as charming as before, too. Carriger has no problem building and maintaining interesting characters and I’m very glad to see this. However, Lord Maccon was absent just a bit too much in this novel for my liking, especially considering the previous novel had Alexia and Lord Maccon fighting and not being together.

I still really enjoyed this novel and once I have a small break from the steampunk I’m excited to read the final book in the Parasol Protectorate series.

Manga, romance

Manga Review: Kaichou Wa Maid-Sama by Hiro Fujiwara

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Title: Kaichou Wa Maid-Sama (The President is a Maid) Volumes 1-7
Author: Hiro Fujiwara
Publisher: Tokyopop
Length: ~200 pages each
Genre: Manga, Shoujo, Romance, Slice of Life
Rating: 4 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Brilliant and overachieving, Misaki Ayuzawa is the President of the Student Council at Seika High School, formerly a boys’ school. Unfortunately, most of the students are still male and stuck in their slovenly habits, so man-hating Misaki really socks it to ’em in an attempt to make the school presentable to attract more female students. But what will she do when the sexiest boy in school finds out that after school, Misaki works in a maid cafe.

Review:
I’m not sure if many people know this but I subscribe to so many fandoms it’s hard to count. One of those fandoms is anime and manga. I’ve been in the mood for Manga recently but find a new one to read is always difficult. I’m very picky with manga because I can’t read it for very long. It’s fun but long on going series bore me and short one offs don’t seem to be worth it. Instead of searching for something I didn’t know if I’d like, I decided to pick up the manga of one of my favorite animes.

Kaichou Wa Maid-Sama is considered a shoujo manga. Basically it’s written for females and typically focuses on some completely unrealistic romance. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine if I’m honest. Most shoujo manga/anime isn’t very feminist. The male characters usually land somewhere on the spectrum of douchey/controlling that in a real person would be absolutely appalling but I can’t help but love when it comes to the media I consume.

Misaki is adorable and fun. She’s very hardworking but also a little clueless and naive. She’s very smart book wise but not so much street wise and it’s endearing. I love watching her interact with the world Fujiwara has created.

Thankfully, Usui, the main male protagonist doesn’t fall into the douche type too much. He’s fiercely protective and a little bit controlling but for the most part I wouldn’t consider him douchey. He’s cute and funny and I mean, look at how he looks at Misaki.

Usui

The whole premise of this manga is that Misaki works at a maid cafe even though she’s a hard ass as student council president at school and Usui discovers it. The high jinks, fun, and romance ensue from there.

The art style is really detailed and fun. It can be so pretty but also so adorable. I love how versatile manga artwork as a whole is and Kaichou Wa Maid-Sama is no different.

I loved reading this manga even if the anime seems to closely follow it. It’s fun and cute and the perfect lightweight romance to help balance out all the hardcore fantasy I’ve been reading recently.

I can’t give it 5 folded pages only because there are some aspects I’m not okay with as a feminist and woman, but I will unapologetically love what I love even if it’s problematic.

coming of age, Queer, romance, Uncategorized

Webcomic Review: Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu

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Title: Check, Please!
Author: Ngozi Ukazu
Genre: Comic, Sports, Romance, Queer, Coming of Age
Rating: 4 Folded Pages

Blurb (Taken from the Check, Please! tumblr):
Eric Bittle—former Georgia junior figure skating champion, vlogger extraordinaire, and amateur pâtissier—is starting his freshman year playing hockey at the prestigious Samwell University in Samwell, Massachusetts. And it’s basically nothing like co-ed club hockey back in the South. For one?

There’s checking.

It’s a story about hockey and friendship and bros and trying to find yourself during the best 4 years of your life.

Review:
I was scrolling Tumblr a few weeks ago when I stumbled upon one of the frames from this comic. It was a mere 3 hours later that I had completely caught up with the comic and subsequently followed tons of blogs dedicated to Check, Please! I have become a bit obsessed with this cute webcomic and wanted to share it.

Eric “Bitty” Bittle is one of the most adorable and endearing characters I’ve ever encountered. It’s very hard to present a personality in a few quick comic frames but Ngozi does such a wonderful job of it. All the other side characters in Check, Please! also have amazing and decipherable personalities which is such a hard feat to accomplish with such little writing. I’ve fallen in love with all of the characters.

I’d say the main theme of this comic is friendship and growing up. It does have a romance aspect (that I won’t spoil) but the comic truly shines when revealing friendship dynamics and how much the hockey team supports and loves each other.

The art style of the comic is also super cute! I mean, just look at these adorable characters.

Bitty has a Twitter (that’s currently locked so spoilers for the current season don’t get out) and it’s interactive. Transmedia (as made popular by The Lizzie Bennet Diaries) is such an interesting thing to pursue. I love that transmedia is now being used for media other than videos.

The only thing that doesn’t make this a 5 folded pages review is that the series isn’t finished. It’s an ongoing series that mostly follows real-time. I don’t know if I’ll love where the series will go in the future and I’ll probably do an update review whenever it finishes but for now. This comic is AMAZING and I need more people to read it and love it as much as I do.

Here is a “slideshow” that can give a more in-depth description of Check, Please!

Here is the beginning of the comic. Beware you’ll become obsessed. Feel free to gush with me on Tumblr once you are hooked!

Podcast

Podcast Review: Fansplaining

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Title: Fainsplaing
Hosts: Flourish Klink and Elizabeth Minkel
Producer: Self-published
Length: Typically an hour
Genre: Education, culture
Rating: 4 Mics

Summary:
Fansplaining is a podcast about fandom: not a fandom, but fandom and fan culture in general. How are fans making an impact on pop culture? On industry? How has fandom changed over the years? And what truly is the best fanvid ever? Fansplaining features fan, academic, and entertainment industry guests, and it’s hosted by Flourish Klink and Elizabeth Minkel. New episodes come out every two weeks.
Taken from the Fansplaining About page

Review:
It’s no secret that fandom has been a huge part of my life for almost as long as I can remember. So you can imagine just how jazzed I was when I found out about this podcast. Basically they discuss fandom and fan culture in an academic way. It’s interesting and I enjoy analyzing something I love in an academic way.

Flourish and Elizabeth are great hosts. They have great chemistry and the friendship between them is obvious. They also have great podcast voices. Each voice is distinguishable and they generally speak slowly enough to catch but fast enough to not feel boring.

I love their transitions as well. The music they use is relevant and I’ve found many a good band through the transitions. Also, since it’s a small podcast you don’t have the annoying and/or tired commercials that a lot of podcasts tend to have.

I do think that some of the episodes could be a little more focused. Also, since it is self-produced there are some parts that could be better. There have been some audio issues and sound quality issues that will hopefully be fixed as they become more experienced and get better.

On a better note, both of the hosts have a good sense of humor that keeps the podcast from getting too serious. There have been many times where I laughed outloud. They also transcribe all their episodes if listening to podcasts isn’t for you!

I also have to applaud their interactions with the listeners. I tagged them in a post on my tumblr asking a question and they answered it in the most recent podcast (I’m still stoked Senpai noticed me!!!). They try to get to all the questions they get from fans and I’m super glad that they try to address the topics brought up by their listeners.

Overall, I’m super into this podcast and I can’t wait to see where it goes. Fandom and fan culture is a relatively new topic of study and it’s not very accessible to people who aren’t in the academic world. I’m glad Fansplaining is around to help bridge the gap and allow fans everywhere to think critically about their fandoms and fan culture.

Here are two of my favorite episodes:
Episode 15: ~Fanspeak 
As an English major, my favorite episode would be the one where they talk to a linguist about the language fans use and how it came to be. I’m super interested in how the language fans used developed and the different lexicons of different fandoms. This episode helps explain some aspects.

Episode 4: Buncha Lawyers
This episode is super interesting. One of the biggest topics in fandom is copyright and this episode addresses it. It talks about plagiarism vs copyright infringement and what’s covered under fair use. I think this topic is super interesting especially being a book fandom and how authors typically view fanfiction.

Fantasy, romance, young adult

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Razorbill
Length: 464 Pages, Hardback
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance
Rating: 4 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

Review:
I’m not sure if something’s wrong with me or not but I think this book may have been overhyped. I definitely didn’t love it as much as others seem to. That’s not to say I didn’t like it but I’m not sure it deserves all of the glorifying it’s received since it came out.

I like Laia. She seems very real. She’s destined to save the world or something but she still has doubts about herself and her skills. I like that. I’ve had enough of the heroines who just decide they no longer have fear and suddenly have skills. It’s a breath of fresh air.

I also like Elias. He just wants to escape the hell he’s been forced into. He’s not really out to save the world or anything. He’s sweet but doesn’t know where he stands and I like that about him.

Honestly I love all the characters. From Cook to Izzi, to Keenan and even the Commandment because she’s evil but that kind of person exists in the real world and we even get to see bits of other sides of her.

Tahir does an amazing job with her characters honestly. I really enjoyed them all. Her writing is also beautiful.

So why don’t I love this?

I found it incredibly boring at some parts. I’m not exactly sure why either. The book was mostly action packed and yet there were certain parts where I was like oh my god is anything different going to happen.

As I write this, I’m realizing it might have to do with lengthy exposition. As much as I like Laia and Elias, I think Tahir may have spent too much time writing out their inner monologues that say the same things about the character over and over in different words. It was boring. There’s a reason one of the biggest pieces of writing advice is “show, don’t tell” and I think Tahir did a little too much telling sometimes.

Aside from this, I absolutely loved the book. I’m looking forward to the sequel. I’m also hoping it will be better. This was Tahir’s debut novel after all so I’m hoping she grows from book to book.

Fairytale Retelling, romance, science fiction, young adult

Book Review: Winter by Marissa Meyer

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Title: Winter (The Lunar Chronicles Book 4)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Length: 832 Pages, Hardback
Genre: Science Fiction, Romance, Young Adult, Fairytale Retelling
Rating: 4 Folded Pages

See my review for the first 3 books in The Lunar Chronicles here.
Warning: This may contain spoilers for the first 3 books.

Blurb:
Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend–the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters? Fans will not want to miss this thrilling conclusion to Marissa Meyer’s national bestselling Lunar Chronicles series.

Review:
This was probably my most anticipated book of 2015. Unfortunately it came out during my great November/December reading slump so I didn’t get to it until this month. Mostly because the book was on hold for forever at my library.

This book is massive. The paper is just slightly thicker than bible paper and I think how big it is lends itself to why I found the book very stop and go with action. I found some parts weren’t actiony enough and other parts were almost too actiony.

The book is still a super satisfying ending to an amazing series but I almost wish it was split into two books and the action bits more detailed to help offset some of the slowness.

I both liked and disliked Winter. Some parts with her were very annoying but in others she was endearing. I don’t think she stands up well to the other characters in the series though. She falls kind of flat compared to Cress, Cinder, and Scarlet. Jason also seems very two dimensional.

I don’t want to give much away so that’s all I’ll say on the matter. I think Cinder is still my favorite book in the series and while this ending is satisfying I feel like it was missing something in the writing and I wish it would have had steadier pacing.

Fantasy, paranormal, romance

Series Review: Southern Witch Series by Kimberly Frost

southern witch series

Title: Would Be Witch, Barely Bewitched, and Halfway Hexed
Author: Kimberly Frost
Publisher: Berkley
Length: 308 Pages, 322 Pages, 339 Pages, Ebook
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Paranormal
Rating: 4 Folded Pages, 3 Folded Pages, DNF’d

Would Be Witch Blurb:
In the small town of Duvall, Texas, the only thing that causes more trouble than gossip is magic.

The family magic seems to have skipped over Tammy Jo Trask. All she gets in the way of the supernatural are a few untimely visits from the long-dead, smart-mouthed family ghost Edie. But when her locket—an heirloom that happens to hold Edie’s soul—is stolen in the midst of a town-wide crime spree, it’s time for Tammy to find her inner witch.

After a few bad experiences with her magic, Tammy turns to the only one who can help: the very rich and highly magical Bryn Lyons. He might have all the answers, but the locket isn’t the only thing passed down in Tammy’s family. She also inherited a warning…to stay away from anyone named Lyons…

Review:
I picked these books up on the ebook system my library offers. I was craving a romance heavy fantasy and these books looked perfect. There’s five books in the series so far and I fully read the first two but I couldn’t get through the third unfortunately.

Tammy Jo has endearing moments especially in the first book. I liked her character. She was flawed and fun and a little bit stupid but I could handle it. The second book her character ebbed more on the stupid and in the third book I couldn’t handle it as it just got worse and put the book down forever.

I’m not sure how but as she learned more about her powers she lost intellect. Maybe this has a plot point somewhere, but for me, I can only take so many stupid actions by characters before I get completely fed up and put the book down.

I’m sad because I really loved the first book. It was fast paced and funny. Even with the not so great love interests (one a controlling asshole and the other a manipulative asshole) I enjoyed the storyline and even the over the top tropes of the guys in her love triangle.

Speaking of the love triangle, by the end of book 2 it was very obvious which of the assholes was better. She had more chemistry and dependence on the less assholely of the two and yet she still wavers between them and was still doing so in the beginning of the third book. One of the guys wasn’t even in the picture at that time because he left on some soul searching journey or something.
I’m angry that these books got progressively worse because the first one was SO good. I really liked it and I wish Tammy Jo had progressed forward instead of backward. That would have saved this series from ending up on my “never finish” list. There’s 5 books in the series so far and I’m not sure if she plans to write more but I know I’m never going further than this with the series.

chicklit, contemporary, romance

Audiobook Review: Austenland by Shannon Hale

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Title: Austenland
Author: Shannon Hale
Narrator: Katharine Kellgren
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Length: 6 hours, 20 minutes
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Chicklit
Rating: 4 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Jane is a young New York woman who never seems to find the right man-perhaps because of her secret obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. When a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-obsessed women, however, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become more real than she ever could have imagined. Is this total immersion in a fake Austenland enough to make Jane kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

Review:
I’ve been meaning to read this for a while and after listening to Daughter of Smoke and Bone I needed something light and this was perfect! I actually finished listening to it in about 4 hours because I sped up the audiobook and I really enjoyed it.

Jane was both endearing and annoying but I tend to like my heroines with flaws so it worked for her. She was naive and a bit silly for a woman in her 30s but very believable. I enjoyed her character over all and thought she was really funny.

The beginning of the story was kind of hard to get into though. Her aunt understanding her just from seeing the DVDs and gifting her the vacation made it hard to suspend my disbelief but once I got passed it I was in the story just like any other contemporary.

I didn’t see the plot twist coming actually which is honestly such a good thing. Normally I can spot contemporary plot twists a mile away. There were two actually, but the one I did see coming.

I can’t really talk about the other characters without spoiling anything but most of them felt really 2D, which I found okay for a story like this. Because almost all the other characters were supposed to be actors I think it’s better that they didn’t feel real. I think it made the plot twist a lot harder to see actually.

 

The narrator did a great job as well. She had an American accent for Jane but was able to do the British accents for the other characters very convincingly. She read a bit slower than I normally like but thank goodness you can speed up an audiobook for things like that.

I definitely recommend giving this book a try if you’re on the edge about it. Maybe I enjoyed it so much because the book I read before it was so heavy but it’s definitely a perfect light read. I almost wish I had read it at the beach over the summer.

Fantasy, romance, young adult

Audiobook Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

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Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Narrator: Khristine Hvam
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Length: 12 hours, 33 minutes
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance
Rating: 4 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Karou leads two lives. One is in the tangled streets of Prague, as an orphan and art student; the other in a clandestine workshop, overflowing with jars of teeth and wishes, run by the ram-horned magician, Brimstone—the closest thing to family Karou has ever known. She doesn’t know where she came from, but she’s about to find out. When Karou meets stunning, haunted Akiva, she finds a love whose roots drink deep of a violent past, and an ancient war that is far from over. Master storyteller Laini Taylor imagines a wholly unique fantasy about a forbidden love, an epic battle, and hope for a world remade.

Review:
Honestly, I had absolutely no idea what this book was about going into it. I just knew that I’d seen it all over book blogs and booktube and the cover was pretty. I was looking for an audiobook on my library website and it was available instantly so it worked. I’d never read the blurb until I had to find it to write this review.

I was very pleasantly surprised by it! It’s very interesting and the story feels fresh. Even the insta-love feels fresh because of how Taylor built the story around it. It’s still insta-love and kind of gets so cheesy I found myself thinking oh get a room while listening to it but I still enjoyed the romance aspect.

The book itself felt like three separate books. I’m not sure if I would have felt the same if I wasn’t listening to the audiobook version but I didn’t mind that it felt kind of separate. It’s quite a long book to listen to so I think the feeling of 3 books in one made the pacing feel faster.

I really love Karou. She’s bad ass but isn’t afraid to feel her emotions (most times). There were times where I was annoyed with her actions/decisions but that happens with every character. I do think her personality changed it bit drastically in certain parts but circumstances in the book may be able to account for that.

My favorite character is by far Zuzana, she’s feisty and definitely the voice of reason in the story. I’m not sure how I feel about Akiva. Sometimes I think he has a personality and other times he feels as flat as a sheet of paper. I hope he’s fleshed out more in future books.

The narration for this audiobook was amazing. Hvam uses different accents and tones for different characters and it totally immersed me in the story. She’s very good at various accents as well. Her pacing was perfect as well.

I really enjoyed this book and I’ve already started Days of Blood and Starlight. I really enjoy the titles in this series, too. They feel majestic.