Review | Killian’s Dead by Josie Jaffrey

Love is for losers.

Jack doesn’t care about anything except music. All she wants to do is find a decent gig, stand by the speakers and let the bass roll through her. It’s the only reason she gets out of bed.


Until she meets Winta. In the space of a second, everything is different. Winta knows what she wants and for one night, what she wants is Jack. It feels like the start of forever.


Then Winta disappears and Jack faces a choice: should she go back to her life, or track down the only girl who can change it beyond recognition?
One things’ certain: Jack has no idea what she’s getting herself into.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was super excited to pick up this short story introducing us to Jack Valentine before diving into May Day, and I’m glad I did. This was a great introduction to Jack as a character as well as some motivations I have a suspicion will come up in the future.

As with any short story, you do sometimes wish for a little more background information, but there’s only so much an author can provide. With Killian’s Dead I feel like Jack’s internal monologue sometimes helps fill these holes and reveal why she is the way she is. Reading this story definitely got me hyped to continue on with May Day and see what happens to Jack in the future!

Happy reading!

Review | Ghost Squad by Claribel Ortega

Coco meets Stranger Things with a hint of Ghostbusters in this action-packed supernatural fantasy. For Lucely Luna, ghosts are more than just the family business. Shortly before Halloween, Lucely and her best friend, Syd, cast a spell that accidentally awakens malicious spirits, wreaking havoc throughout St. Augustine. Together, they must join forces with Syd’s witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, to fight the haunting head-on and reverse the curse to save the town and Lucely’s firefly spirits before it’s too late. With the family dynamics of Coco and action-packed adventure of Ghostbusters, Claribel A. Ortega delivers both a thrillingly spooky and delightfully sweet debut novel.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I cannot adequately emphasize how much I loved this book. If you enjoy middle grade and want a great adventure including Dominican folklore, tons of Goonies references (and that’s a sweet spot for me), an amazing grandmother and spooky ghosts with nefarious motives. There are so many characters I loved that I can’t tell you specific favorites, but the fireflies are definitely special.

Ortega’s writing flows wonderfully and I really love the voices that she gave her characters. Lucely herself has a lot of baggage that she’s dealing with and trying to figure out, but it’s not always at the forefront of her thoughts. There’s a strong found family element, but also knowing and loving where you come from. I just loved Lucely and Syd’s adventures and will definitely be checking out what comes from Ortega in the future.

There’s so much more I could say about this book, but I’m going to resist so that you all can experience it too! I’m lowkey upset with myself that it took me so long to read, since I preordered it – still I’m so happy I was able to include it in my October reads.

Happy reading!

NaNoWriMo Prep | 2 Weeks to Go

So here we are and it is exactly two weeks to the start of NaNoWriMo – how is everyone doing? Myself? I’m excited and terrified if I’m being honest. Anyone who has been following me for a while knows that I didn’t “win” last year, and both rounds of Camp NaNoWriMo this year didn’t go as well as I would have liked. Since it’s 2020 I’m hoping for it to go well but I’m also very aware that it may not.

I’ve narrowed my story choices down to a few and really it’s going to depend on what I’m feeling on November 1st itself. It’s going to be a lot of going with the flow to be honest, since I do have other obligations that are going to come first. NaNoWriMo is an extra for me in the grand scheme of things, so if I can’t complete it, but do enjoy the process then I will consider it a win.

So what does prep look like? Besides preparing my boyfriend for my typing and grumbling? A lot of self care. Self care has really needed to be a theme for 2020 and November will be no difference. So to anyone else prepping for NaNoWriMo I have a few things to say.

  1. Don’t get upset if you don’t meet your daily goals or don’t win NaNo this year – you tried and you made progress. That’s what’s important. (Yep, I’m saying this to myself too.)
  2. NaNo is not a chore, have fun with it and really try to enjoy whatever you get done.
  3. Whatever story you’re telling, no matter how long it takes – tell it!

So compile all your notes, get your emergency snacks supplies ready and in two weeks – let’s write!

Blog Tour | A Golden Fury by Samantha Cohoe | Excerpt

Thea Hope longs to be an alchemist out of the shadow of her famous mother. The two of them are close to creating the legendary Philosopher’s Stone—whose properties include immortality and can turn any metal into gold—but just when the promise of the Stone’s riches is in their grasp, Thea’s mother destroys the Stone in a sudden fit of violent madness.

While combing through her mother’s notes, Thea learns that there’s a curse on the Stone that causes anyone who tries to make it to lose their sanity. With the threat of the French Revolution looming, Thea is sent to Oxford for her safety, to live with the father who doesn’t know she exists.

But in Oxford, there are alchemists after the Stone who don’t believe Thea’s warning about the curse—instead, they’ll stop at nothing to steal Thea’s knowledge of how to create the Stone. But Thea can only run for so long, and soon she will have to choose: create the Stone and sacrifice her sanity, or let the people she loves die.

A GOLDEN FURY and the curse of the Philosopher’s Stone will haunt you long after the final page.

Buy Link | Macmillan

Today I’m thrilled to be able to share an excerpt from the book!

My mother was screaming at the Comte. Again.

I slammed the front doors behind me and walked down the carriageway, under the dappled shade of the pop- lars that lined it. A hundred paces away, I still heard her, though at least I could no longer hear the Comte’s frantic endearments and low, rapid pleading. He should know by now that wasn’t the way. Perhaps I should tell him. Adrien was the first of my mother’s patrons I had ever liked, and I did not want to leave Normandy just as spring was break- ing. Just as we were beginning to make progress.

Though perhaps we were not. Mother would not be screaming at the Comte if the work were going well. She would not take the time. Alchemy was a demanding sci- ence, even if some scoffed and called it charlatanry or magic. It required total concentration. If the work were going well, the Comte would scarcely exist to her, nor

would I, now that she would not let me be of use. The com- position must have broken again. This was about when it had, last round. I could not be certain, since she had taken away my key to the laboratory. She could hardly have de- vised a worse insult than that if she had tried, and lately she did seem to be trying. The laboratory was mine as much as it was hers. If she did succeed in producing the White Elixir—which turned all metals into silver—then it was only because of my help. She had found Jābir’s text languishing in a Spanish monastery, but it had been I who translated it when her Arabic wasn’t nearly up to the job. I had labored for months over the calcinary furnace to make the philosophic mercury the text took as its starting point. I had the scars on my hands and arms to prove it. And now that success might be close, she wished to shut me out and deny my part, and claim it for herself alone.

But if she was acting ill and cross, it meant she had failed. A low, smug hum of satisfaction warmed me. I didn’t want the work to fail, but I didn’t want her to suc- ceed without me, either.

A distant smashing sound rang out from the chateau. My mother shattering something against the wall, no doubt.

I sighed and shifted my letter box to the crook of my other arm.

I knew what this meant. Another move. Another man. The Comte had lasted longer than the rest. Over two years, long enough that I had begun to hope I would not have to do it all again. I hated the uncertainty of those first weeks, before I knew what was expected of me, whether Mother’s new patron had a temper and what might set it off, whether he liked children to speak or be silent. Though I was no

longer a child, and that might bring its own problems. A chill passed over me, despite the warm afternoon sunshine. God only knew what the next one would be like. My mother had already run through so many of them. And with the recent changes in France, there were fewer rich men than ever looking to give patronage to an expensive alchemist, even one as beautiful and famous as Marguerite Hope.

I veered off the carriageway, into the soft spring grass, dotted here and there with the first of the lavender anemo- nes. I sat by the stream, under the plum tree.

There was no screaming here, no pleading, no signs that my life was about to change for the worse. I inhaled the soft, sweet scent of plum blossoms and opened my letter box. If this was to be my last spring in Normandy, I wanted to re- member it like this. Springtime in Normandy was soft and sweet, sun shining brightly and so many things blossoming that the very air was perfumed with promise. Everything was coming extravagantly to life, bursting out of the dead ground and bare trees with so much energy other impos- sible things seemed likely, too. I had always been hopeful in Normandy when it was spring. Especially last spring, when Will was still here. When we sat under this very tree, drank both bottles of champagne he had stolen from the cellars, and spun tales of everything we could achieve.

I took out his last letter, dated two months ago.

Dear Bee,

This is my address now—as you see I’ve left Prussia. It turns out that everything they say about the Prussians is quite true. I’ve never met a more unbending man than my patron

there. One day past the appointed date and he tried to throw me in prison for breach of contract! He thinks alchemy can be held to the same strict schedule as his serfs.

Laws against false alchemists were very harsh in Ger- many, as Will knew full well when he sought patronage there. I had begged him to go somewhere else, though he had few enough choices. He was my mother’s apprentice, with no achievements of his own to make his reputation. His training had been cut abruptly short when Mother found us together under this plum tree, watching the sun- rise with clasped hands and two empty bottles of cham- pagne. She’d seen to it that Will was gone by noon. It was no use telling her that all we’d done was talk through the night, or that the one kiss we’d shared had been our first, and had gone no further. He had behaved with perfect re- spect for me, but she wouldn’t believe it. My mother had imagined a whole path laid before my feet in that moment, and scorched it from the earth with Greek fire.

I turned to the next page.

I blame myself, of course, Bee, for not heeding your advice. I can picture your face now, wondering what I expected. It would almost be worth all the trouble I’ve caused myself if I could come to you and see your expression. You must be the only woman in the world who is never lovelier than when you’ve been proven right.

The keen thrill of pleasure those words had brought me when I first read them had faded now, and left me feeling uncertain. Should I write back knowingly, teasing him for his recklessness? I had tried this, and was sure I sounded like a scold no matter what he said about my loveliness when proven right. I took out my latest draft, which struck a more sincere tone. I read the lines over, saying how I worried for him, how I missed him. I crumpled it in my hand halfway through. Too much emotion. It didn’t do to show such dependence on a man. My mother had shown me that. I didn’t wish to emulate her in everything, but I would be a fool to deny her skill at winning masculine devotion. I tried again.

Dear Will,

I am sitting under the plum tree where we had our last picnic. I know how you feel about nostalgia, but I hope you will forgive me this one instance. I fear this will be our last spring in Normandy—perhaps even in France. Many of my mother’s friends have left already, and though you may well condemn

them as reactionaries, the fact remains that there are very few good Republicans with the ready cash to pay for our pursuits.

I sighed again and crumpled the page. Somehow I could never seem to write to him about the Revolution without a touch of irony creeping in. I didn’t want that. Will had put his hopes for a better world in the new order, and even though I was less hopeful than he, I loved him for it. At least he wanted a better world. Most alchemists simply wanted better metals.

I tried to imagine he was here. It wouldn’t be difficult then. He was so good at setting me at ease. His admira- tion was as intoxicating as wine, but unlike wine it sharp- ened my wits instead of dulling them. I was never cleverer than when Will was there to laugh with me.

My chest constricted at the memory of Will’s laugh. I didn’t know anyone who laughed like him. The Parisian aristocrats I had known all had so much consciousness of the sound they made when they did it. The Comte wasn’t like them, but he was a serious man and laughed rarely. My mother didn’t laugh at all.

But Will. He laughed like it came from the loud, bursting core of him. Like he couldn’t have kept it in if he wanted to, and why would he want to? And when he was done laughing, he would look at me like no one else ever had. Like he saw only me, not as an accessory to my mother, but as myself. And not as an odd girl whose sharp edges would need to be softened. Will liked the edges. The sharper they cut, the more they delighted him.

“Thea!”

I threw my letters into the letter box and snapped it shut. I looked around for somewhere to hide the box, and noticed too late that one of my crumpled drafts had blown toward the stream. My mother appeared on the hill above me, the late afternoon sun lighting up her golden hair like an unearned halo. She walked down the hill with measured steps and stopped a few yards above me, I assumed because she wished to enjoy the experi- ence of being taller than me again for a few moments. Her eye moved to the crumpled paper. I ran to it and stuffed it into my pocket before she could take it, though

my haste in hiding the failed letter told her all I didn’t wish her to know.

“Oh dear,” said my mother. “I do hope you haven’t been wasting your afternoon trying to find the right words to say to that boy.”

My mother was tolerant of my letter writing these days, perhaps because she was confident I would never see Will again. She had smiled when she heard of Will’s contract in Prussia. He won’t find it so easy to charm his way past the Prussian alchemy laws. In Germany, one must deliver results, not pretty smiles, or end in prison.

“I wouldn’t have an afternoon to waste if you would let me into the laboratory,” I said.

“Don’t be pitiful, Thea,” said my mother. “Surely you can think of something worthwhile to do when I don’t happen to need your assistance.”

I clenched my teeth so tight that my jaw ached. Shut- ting me out of the laboratory, our laboratory, was the great- est injustice she had ever committed against me. Worse than all the moving about, worse than sending Will away, worse than any insult she could think to level at me. Before she had done that, I believed we were together in alchemy at least, even if nothing else. That she had raised and trained me not simply to be of use to her, but to be her partner. Her equal, one day. Throwing me out of the lab- oratory just when we might achieve what we had worked for told me that Will was right. She would never let me claim credit for my part of the work. She would never ac- cept me as an alchemist in my own right.

And yet she described it as though she had simply let me off my chores. As if I were no more necessary than a

servant. There was no point in arguing with her, but even so I could not let it stand.

“I am not your assistant,” I said.

“Oh?” she asked. “Do you have news, then? Have you found a patron on your own merits? Do you intend to strike out on your own?”

“Perhaps I will,” I said, my face growing hot. “Perhaps I will stay here when you are finally finished tormenting the poor Comte.”

My mother had a perfect, deceptively sweet beauty: golden blond and blue-eyed with a round, doll-like face. It made the venom that sometimes twisted her expression hard to quite believe in. Many men simply didn’t. They preferred to ignore the evidence of their minds for the evidence of their senses. I, of course, knew her better than they did. I tensed, preparing.

But instead of lashing out, my mother turned aside, a hand to her chest. A tremor passed over her; she bowed her head against it.

Mother had been strangely unwell for weeks. At first I responded to her illness as she had taught me to, with distaste and disapproval, as though falling sick were an ill-considered pastime of those with insufficient moral for- titude. But if she noticed how unpleasant it was to receive so little sympathy when unwell, she did not show it. She had locked herself away in the laboratory every day until late at night, ignoring my silence as much as she ignored the Comte’s pleas that she rest. I had not thought much of it until this moment. Any pain great enough to turn her from chastising me for thinking I could do alchemy with- out her must be serious indeed.

“Mother?” I asked.

“You will go where I tell you.” Her voice was low and breathless, almost a gasp. “For now, that is to dinner. Wear the green taffeta.”

“The robe à la française?” I asked, perplexed. I hadn’t worn that dress since before the Estates General met. Its style was the hallmark of the ancien régime: wide pan- niered hips, structured bodice, and elaborate flounces. “But it’s out of fashion.”

“So is our guest,” said my mother.

She went up the hill again, then turned back to me at the top.

“Thea,” she said, all the sharpness gone from her voice. “I know you do not believe it any longer, but everything I do is for you.”

It was the sort of thing she always said. Before this year, I had always believed it, more or less. At least, everything she did was for the both of us. She had considered me an extension of herself, so that doing things for me was no different than doing them for herself. Why else take so much care to train me, to see to it that I had the tutors I needed to learn every language necessary—more even than she knew? To take me with her in all her travels to seek out manuscripts? She was an impatient teacher at times, but a good one. A thorough one. And in turn I was a good student. The best.

Until we were close to our goal. Then, suddenly, I was a rival. And my mother did not tolerate rivals.

“You are right, Mother,” I said. “I don’t believe that any longer.”

Samantha Cohoe writes historically-inspired young adult fantasy. She was raised in San Luis Obispo, California, where she enjoyed an idyllic childhood of beach trips, omnivorous reading, and writing stories brimming with adverbs. She currently lives in Denver with her family and divides her time among teaching Latin, mothering, writing, reading, and deleting adverbs. A Golden Fury is her debut novel.

Social Links | Twitter | Instagram

Happy reading!

Review | With a Dog AND a Cat, Every Day is Fun by Hidekichi Matsumoto

Welcome to the Menagerie!

With both a cat and a dog, there’s double the antics, double the fun (and double the kibble!) but while Inu and Neko coexist peacefully, they have their own distinct personalities, which play out in unexpected, charming ways during these short-form stories.

Whether you’re a dog-person or a cat-person, there’s plenty to love about these homegrown sketches of daily life shared with four-legged friends!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This collection was super cute, with short manga comics detailing the behaviors and daily escapades of the author and their cat and dog. The two animals had two very different personalities, which is very evident in each little story. These were great vignettes into the every day life of pet owner’s, especially when there are multiple pets in one home.

I do wish some of the stories had been more connected or expanded upon, but I understand that these were meant to be short often single page glimpses. Still, it was fun to read and great for anyone who deals with cats or dogs on a daily basis.

Happy reading!

Blog Tour | Sisters of the Moon by Alexandrea Weis | Review

Sisters of the Moon
Alexandrea Weis
Published by: Vesuvian Books
Publication date: September 22nd 2020
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy

** A Novella ***

A monstrous fate will turn a girl into a legend.

On an island in Lake Obersee, where The Sisters of St. Gertrude abide, a destitute Moor named Durra arrives. Sold for taxes, she and her two companions tend to the nuns and their collection of cats. At night, she combs the library for details on the order, the remote island, and the beasts howling outside her window.

But when a prank reveals the sisters’ gruesome secret, Durra is forced to accept a new fate. Bestowed an unearthly power, she must choose between life as a nun or living among the monsters beyond the convent walls.

Her path is about to change the tide in the ultimate war. The war between good and evil.

Goodreads / Amazon


I wasn’t expecting this book to be horror, I knew it had paranormal elements, but I’m so glad that it was horror and that I wasn’t fully aware of that going in – it made the reading experience so much better. As soon as I started reading this story I couldn’t put it down and found it to be a quick and well paced read.

This was perfectly suited to the spooky mood I’ve been in and seeing these girls who have been sold to pay tax debts be able to empower themselves and grow was an added bonus. I really enjoyed it’s gothic feel and the way it used history to display how women were treated. In a way this story dismantles that in some way, giving them power. In that way I really enjoyed the kind of dual layers of this story, while also fully enjoying the horror aspects as well.

Author Bio:

Alexandrea Weis, RN-CS, PhD, is a multi-award-winning author, screenwriter, advanced practice registered nurse, and historian who was born and raised in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Having grown up in the motion picture industry as the daughter of a director, she learned to tell stories from a different perspective. Infusing the rich tapestry of her hometown into her novels, she believes that creating vivid characters makes a story moving and memorable.

Weis writes romance, mystery, suspense, thrillers, supernatural, and young adult fiction and has sold approximately one million books. She lives with her husband and pets in New Orleans where she is a permitted/certified wildlife rehabber with the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries and rescues orphaned and injured animals.

She is a member of both the International Thriller Writers Association and the Horror Writers Association. http://www.AlexandreaWeis.com

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Newsletter


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Review | The Sacrifice of Darkness by Roxane Gay

A tragic event forever bathes the world in darkness. Follow a woman and a man’s powerful journey through this new landscape as they discover love, family and the true light in a world seemingly robbed of any. As they challenge the world’s notions of identity, guilt and survival, they find that no matter the darkness, there remain sources of hope that can pierce the veil.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

On the surface this is a touching story about families and rising above through adversity, but really it is so much more. There is a lot of discussion about class, specifically the disparity between the working class and the wealthy, and how the working class can often be dehumanized. I loved the story as it progressed and how it told two timelines involving some of the same members of one family. The art style and colors used perfectly portrayed the world and it was easy to see the difference between the timelines because of the differing color schemes.

Happy reading!

Review | Secrets of Camp Whatever Vol 1 by Chris Gine

Eleven year-old Willow doesn’t want to go to her dad’s weird old summer camp any more than she wants her family to move to the weird old town where that camp is located. But her family—and fate itself—seem to have plans of their own. Soon Willow finds herself neck-deep in a confounding mystery involving stolen snacks, suspected vampires, and missing campers, all shrouded in the sinister fog that hides a generation of secrets at Camp … Whatever it’s called. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

As soon as I saw the premise of this one I knew I wanted to give it a read. Spooky creepy summer camp and characters, that’s right up my alley! Overall this was a super enjoyable read and I’ll definitely want to pick up the next installment if/when it comes out.

In this story we follow Willow, whose pretty disgruntled about everything at the beginning. She doesn’t want to go to summer camp, she doesn’t like that her and her family are moving, none of it. At first Willow is a bit annoying in her attitude and behavior, she doesn’t want to be there so she seems like she doesn’t care about anything or anyone but herself. That does change over the span of the story as she and her new friends start to learn more about the island and its inhabitants. I did love the mythology/mystical elements that were thrown in, but did find myself somewhat wishing for more. I hope that the next volume includes more of that and expands on some of the characters we’ve met.

All in all this was a great spooky summer camp story that included all sorts of mythical creatures and the adventures of a ragtag group of kids as they try to solve some mysteries.

Secrets to Camp Whatever doesn’t come out until March 2021, but make sure to pick up a copy when it does!

Happy reading!

Blog Tour | The Code for Love and Heartbreak by Jillian Cantor | Review

In this contemporary romcom retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma by USA TODAY bestselling author Jillian Cantor, there’s nothing more complex—or unpredictable—than love.

When math genius Emma and her coding club co-president, George, are tasked with brainstorming a new project, The Code for Love is born.

George disapproves of Emma’s idea of creating a matchmaking app, accusing her of meddling in people’s lives. But all the happy new couples at school are proof that the app works. At least at first.

Emma’s code is flawless. So why is it that perfectly matched couples start breaking up, the wrong people keep falling for each other, and Emma’s own feelings defy any algorithm?

BUY LINKS | Harlequin  | Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble |
Books-A-Million | Walmart | Google | iBooks | Kobo

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Full disclaimer – of all of Jane Austen’s books, Emma is my least favorite. I don’t dislike it, but I have a weakness for being drawn to retellings of it to see if I like a reworking of the story itself. I really enjoyed this take on it and in some ways can completely empathize with Emma’s opinion that math can be easier to understand and communicate with than people. The idea of Emma having to kind of figure out herself after the one person she felt comfortable with, her sister, decided to move away for college was a great starting point. Not only does she not know anything about love, but she doesn’t know how to be by herself and be ok in her own skin by herself. It was a touch predictable who would be end game, but that didn’t effect the reading experience. The romance was slow burn as they moved through the story and the pace of writing made for a quick read. This was definitely a re-working of Emma that I really enjoyed and suited the modern setting.

Jillian Cantor is the author of award-winning and bestselling novels for adults and teens, including In Another Time, The Hours Count, Margot, and The Lost Letter, which was a USA Today bestseller. She has a BA in English from Penn State University and an MFA from the University of Arizona. Cantor lives in Arizona with her husband and two sons.

SOCIAL LINKS | Author Website: https://www.jilliancantor.com/ | TWITTER: @JillianCantor | Facebook: @AuthorJillianCantor |
Insta: @JillianCantor |
Goodreads: ttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1651861.Jillian_Cantor

Happy reading!

Review | Lemonade Code by Jarod Pratt

This is a fully illustrated graphic novel about a middle school super genius who starts a lemonade stand to fund his ultimate top-secret project, only to find unexpected competition right across the street when the new kid starts a rival stand.

Robbie Reynolds isn’t just a genius. He’s a super SUPER genius! But he doesn’t have the cash to fund his ultimate (and top secret) project. That’s why he’s opening a lemonade stand. Not just any lemonade stand: this one is state of the art, and his automatista can make you any flavor of lemonade your heart desires! Bacon, salsa, potato salad, dirty diaper—anything you want.

Unfortunately, Robbie isn’t the only one in the Lemonade Hustle. Daphne Du-Ri, his new across-the-street neighbor, has her own setup going, and something about her lemonade is resonating with people in ways Robbie’s can’t. Before the week is over, Robbie and Daphne are in a full-on Lemonade War.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The premise of this one sounded fun to me, and that was exactly what I was looking for. In this story we follow Robbie, who lauds himself as a super genius, and the story is the perfect example of the responsibility that comes with power. We follow Robbie as he competes in the realm of lemonade stands, his being super futuristic and able to provide any flavor and his neighbor, Daphne’s being classic lemonade. He’s determined to find out what she’s doing to bring in customers and make them so happy, sure that something nefarious is afoot.

This was a fun adventure that was full of quirky characters, friendly rivalry and many mad scientists – it was an enjoyable and fun.

Happy reading!