Book Review: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Title: Howl’s Moving Castle
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Series: Castle #1
ISBN: 006441034X
Publisher: Eos
Pub. Date: 1986
Source: Library
Genre: YA/Children/Fantasy/Magic
Pages: 329
Rating:  4/5

From Goodreads:  In the land of Ingary, such things as spells, invisible cloaks, and seven-league boots were everyday things. The Witch of the Waste was another matter.  After fifty years of quiet, it was rumored that the Witch was about to terrorize the country again. So when a moving black castle, blowing dark smoke from its four thin turrets, appeared on the horizon, everyone thought it was the Witch. The castle, however, belonged to Wizard Howl, who, it was said, liked to suck the souls of young girls.  The Hatter sisters–Sophie, Lettie, and Martha–and all the other girls were warned not to venture into the streets alone. But that was only the beginning.  In this giant jigsaw puzzle of a fantasy, people and things are never quite what they seem. Destinies are intertwined, identities exchanged, lovers confused. The Witch has placed a spell on Howl. Does the clue to breaking it lie in a famous poem? And what will happen to Sophie Hatter when she enters Howl’s castle?  Diana Wynne Jones’s entrancing fantasy is filled with surprises at every turn, but when the final stormy duel between the Witch and the Wizard is finished, all the pieces fall magically into place.

My Reveries and Ramblings: I first heard of Howl’s Moving Castle when I saw the trailer for the movie.  Of course, me being a child at heart, I went out and got the movie.  What a wonderful and beautiful adventure!  So when I found out it was based on a book, I had to read it.  I don’t regret it at all.  The film has several plot differences from the book.  But the basic plot is still the same.  Howl’s Moving Castle is about a girl, Sophie, who gets cursed by The Witch of the Waste.  The curse turns her into an old woman.  Refusing to let her family see her as old and ugly she runs away hoping to find her fortune and maybe even break the curse.  While traveling she sees Howl’s moving castle.  Everyone knows that Howl eats the hearts of young beautiful girls.  But Sophie isn’t worried because she is old woman now.  So she lets herself in the castle.  She ends up working as Howl’s cleaning lady after making a deal with the fire demon, Calcifer, that powers the castle.  Calcifer wants Sophie to help him break the contract he made with Howl in return he will break the curse on Sophie.  However, Calcifer cannot discuss the terms of the contract so he has to drop Sophie hints, which she never catches.  Likewise, the Witch of the Waste made it impossible for Sophie to tell anyone that she is under a curse.  Howl doesn’t seem to care for Sophie and her cleaning but he puts up with her, letting her live in the castle.  Howl and his apprentice, Michael, make simple spells and charms for people of several towns.  They are always in the moving castle but the door to the outside is like a portal allowing them access to several places.  Howl is being pursued by the King to find his brother as well as the Wizard Suliman who disappeared.  Howl doesn’t want responsibility or commitment, therefore he tries his best to sully his name/reputation in town and with the king.    However, with the Witch of the Waste wanting him for her own, Howl is constantly on the run, dragging Sophie, Michael and Calcifer with him.

I adored this book.  I loved the movie and was so happy to find the book a bit different.  It was so much fun to read!  It was like going on an adventure.  At the beginning of the story, Sophie is working as an apprentice in her family’s hat shop.  She has no backbone and is overly shy and quiet, spending more time talking to the hats she makes then to people.  One day the Witch of the Waste comes into the store and curses her, making her into an old woman.  As the story progresses, Sophie’s personality matures and changes, she becomes more aggressive.  Instead of feeling that her fate has been decided for her she goes out and makes it how she wants.
Howl hates being tied down to one place.  His character was so interesting.  He is a natural coward, yet brave when he has to be.    He is also such a drama king!  He’s like a spoiled kid obsessed with vanity.  It made for some very hilarious situations.  Throughout the book he is constantly nagging at Sophie and blaming her for everything bad that happens. Howl hates Sophie cleaning and messing up all his stuff-but he never kicks her out.  Underneath the surface he is kind and compassionate-very deep under the surface.  These two traits come out very rarely and only for an instant at a time.  He is always begging for attention.  It’s quite funny.  One of the funniest scenes was when Howl got a cold. I reread it several times and laughed out loud each and every time.  Calcifer was awesome.  He is a fire demon who made a contract with Howl and because of that is stuck inside the castle until the contract is broken.  He is so funny.  I would love to have a friend like Calcifer, even if he is a bit scary looking.
The whole book was beautifully written.  The world was interesting.  It takes place in Ingary, which is like another dimension, where magic exists.  The ending is suspenseful and sweet.  There is no cliffhanger.  It has a HEA ending but I would still love to see more of Sophie, Howl, and Calcifer.  Hopefully they show up in the next books.  Without trying to give anything away I will say that there is a little bit of romance, very little.  It is sweet and very PG.  The other stuff, not so much.  I wish there was more romance BUT, it is still worth it!  I loved every minute of it!  I wish I could read it again.  Actually I’d recommend reading it twice so that once you discovered everything by the end you can go back and see the reasons behind certain things, and pick up on Calcifer’s hints-which even I had some trouble picking up.  Overall, it was a VERY unique and imaginative book.  It was charming and engrossing.  I enjoyed every minute of it.

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Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle, #1)

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Book Review: Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward

Title: Lover Awakened
Author: J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #3
ISBN: 978-0451219367
Publisher: Signet
Pub. Date: September 2006
Source: Kindle
Genre: Paranormal/Romance/Urban Fantasy
Pages: 464
Rating:  5/5

From Goodreads:  In the shadows of the night in Caldwell, New York, a deadly turf war rages between vampires and their slayers. There exists a secret band of brothers like no other-six vampire warriors, defenders of their race. Of these, Zsadist is the most terrifying member of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.
A former blood slave, the vampire Zsadist still bears the scars from a past filled with suffering and humiliation. Renowned for his unquenchable fury and sinister deeds, he is a savage feared by humans and vampires alike. Anger is his only companion and terror his only passion-until he rescues a beautiful female from the evil Lessening Society.
Bella is instantly entranced by the seething power Zsadist possesses. But even as their desire for each other begins to overtake them, Zsadist’s thirst for vengeance against Bella’s tormentors drives him to the brink of madness. Now Bella must help her lover overcome the wounds of his tortured past and find a future with her.

My Reveries and Ramblings: First things first:  Black Dagger Brother series by J.R.Ward is OUTSTANDING! Okay, got that out of my system, now on to the review.  This book was hard to get through.  Zsadist rescues Bella after she was kidnapped in the previous book, Lover Eternal.  Zsadist was the only one who didn’t give up.  Everyone else assumed she was dead since she was kidnapped by lesser.  The lesser who kidnapped her, David, wanted her to be a replacement wife since she looked so much like his dead wife.  When Zsadist finally finds her, she is beaten to a pulp, unconscious, and has David’s name etched into her stomach.  The brothers bring her back to the main house.  There they try to get Zsadist to leave her alone, but he won’t.  He insists on caring for her.  After Bella awakes she tries desperately to get him to want her.  Zsadist does want her! His past keeps him from doing anything.  The other brothers are also hesitant to allow Zsadist to spend time with Bella.  The other story arcs are also in this installment.  Phury’s character and history are discussed.  J.R. Ward also shows life in the Wellie-Tohr-John Matthews family.
J.R. Ward wrote such amazing characters in The Black Dagger Brotherhood series. All the characters are so complex-especially in Lover Awakened.  For romance novels, these have a ton of depth.  Zsadist is a very tortured character. Having been a blood and sex slave (I’m leaving out all the gruesome details….and believe me its quite horrifying) before being rescued by Phury, Zsadist finds sex revolting.  He is mentally as well as physically scarred by his past.  The abuse he suffered caused him to think he was dirty, evil, and impure.  When Bella wants to be with him, he refuses.  He thinks she is too pure, good, and beautiful to be soiled by him.  Over time, however, Bella breaks down most of the walls that Zsadist built.  This huge change, from feeling hatred to love, causes Zsadist to become confused.  He spends most of the book sorting through his issues.  J.R. Ward also used a bit of symbolism in Zsadist’s eyes.  The eyes are windows to the soul.  His soul and state of mind were reflected in the irises of his eyes.  Phury, Zsadist’s brother, also loves Bella.  He is torn between his love for his brother and his love for Bella.  She is the only female that has ever threatened his vow of celibacy.  However, when he sees the transformation happening to Zsadist, he backs off, but not happily.
After being kidnapped, Bella has some issues, although no where near as terrible and complicated as Zsadist’s.  While she was being held captive by David, she prayed, hoped, and wished Zsadist would come for her.  After ending up with the brotherhood, Bella tries everything to be with Zsadist.  At first she’s not that successful because whenever she gets close to him, he pushes her away.
David, the main villain in this story, was sick and twisted.  Ugh!  I hated him….awful…terrible….evil…..I could go on forever.  Before becoming a lesser he was married.  He was physically and emotionally abusive to his wife.  When she died, his insanity got worse.  After joining the lessers he started looking for his “wife.”  One day while searching Mary’s house for her he saw Bella walking across the yard.  Since she looked like his dead wife, he kidnapped her.  He never raped her, because, well, he can’t really feel anything like that down there so it would be pointless.  But he did use her as a punching bag.  He’s very violent so whenever he was upset, or angry he would take it out on her.  He would then follow the abuse with an “I love you.”  Poor Bella.
This series is amazing!  I’ve been getting these books from the library, but after this one I’ve decided to go ahead and by the whole series.  Every time I had to return one of the books, I wanted to cry.  Lover Awakened is my favorite in the series so far.  Zsadist, who was more of the villain on the good side, turned into the true hero-so touching.  This book is very emotional.  You might find yourself crying, laughing, and screaming.  A side note:  Zsadist and Bella’s story reminded me of a rated R and slightly altered version of Beauty and the Beast.  I highly recommend this series.

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Lover Awakened (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #3)
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Book Review: Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

Title: Tuck Everlasting
Author: Natalie Babbitt
ISBN: 9780374480097
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Pub. Date:  1975
Source: Library
Genre: Children/Supernatural/Victorian/Fantasy
Pages: 139
Rating:  5/5

From Goodreads:  Imagine coming upon a fountain of youth in a forest. To live forever–isn’t that everyone’s ideal? For the Tuck family, eternal life is a reality, but their reaction to their fate is surprising. Award winner Natalie Babbitt (Knee-Knock Rise, The Search for Delicious) outdoes herself in this sensitive, moving adventure in which 10-year-old Winnie Foster is kidnapped, finds herself helping a murderer out of jail, and is eventually offered the ultimate gift–but doesn’t know whether to accept it. Babbitt asks profound questions about the meaning of life and death, and leaves the reader with a greater appreciation for the perfect cycle of nature. Intense and powerful, exciting and poignant, Tuck Everlasting will last forever–in the reader’s imagination. An ALA Notable Book. (Ages 9 to 12) –Emilie Coulter

My Reveries and Ramblings:  Ooooooo this was such a cute book!  Underneath the innocence and beauty of the story, there was a much heavier undertone.  The story is about the Tuck family. Eighty-something years before the events of the book, they drank from a fountain in the woods.  When they never grew old, or died of injury or disease, they realized it was the water.  At first they were happy and went out and did whatever they wanted, but over time they realized it was more of a curse than a blessing.  Everyone around them grows old and dies and then new people come into the world.  The Tucks will forever be the same.  The two sons of the family, Jesse and Miles, can never have families because of it.  It is so sad.  Winnie Foster, the 10 yr. old daughter of the owner of the woods that the Tuck family lives in, decides to runaway one day.   While walking in the woods she sees Jesse drinking from a fountain at the base of a tree.  After talking for a bit, Winnie is brought to the Tuck’s house.  At first she doesn’t believe that they can live forever and just wants to go home, but she grows to love the family, especially Jesse, and wants to protect their secret.  In town, there is a man in a yellow suit whose heard of the Tuck family and wants to find the fountain of youth by taking advantage of Winnie’s “kidnapping.”
This was such a beautiful story.  Unlike most people, I had never read this book when I was younger.  In fact, this was the first time I’ve ever read it.  I was astounded by how much I enjoyed it.  Even though Tuck Everlasting is a children’s book and for the most part written through Winnie’s 3rd person POV, it can be enjoyed by adults, maybe even on a deeper level.  Winnie’s POV added an innocence to the writing.  As an adult I could see past the innocence right to the seriousness of the situation.  The Tuck’s want to die, or at least grow old and then die.  They would do anything to be normal again.  But they can’t and they force Winnie to realize that without death, there is no life.
“Everything’s a wheel, turning and turning, never stopping. The frogs is part of it, and the bugs, and the fish, and the wood thush, too.  And people. But never the same ones. Always coming in new, always growing and changing, and always moving on. Thats the way it’s suppose to be. That’s the way it is.  If we didn’t move it out ourself, it would stay here forever, trying to get loose, but stuck.  That’s what us Tucks are, Winnie.  We ain’t part of the wheel anymore.”
“You can’t have living without dying. So you can’t call it living, what we got. We just are, we just be, like rocks beside the road.”
I just adored this book.  Babbitt wrote with an illustrative style.  Her word choice and descriptions brought the woods to life.  It was all so vivid in my mind-the world was so lovely and charming.  In 2002, Disney made a movie of the book.  Even though the film is slightly different from the book (Winnie being 15 instead of 10-makes for a good romance-and a few other smaller differences) it captures the spirit of the book, making it a fantastic film.  If you’ve never read Tuck Everlasting, I recommend you do- no matter how old you are, you will love the Tuck family just like Winnie did.

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Tuck Everlasting
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Book Review: Everlasting by Angie Frazier

Title: Everlasting
Author: Angie Frazier
Series: Everlasting #1
ISBN: 978-0545114738
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pub. Date: June 2010
Source: Library
Genre: YA/Romance/Adventure/Fantasy
Pages: 336
Rating:  3/5

From Goodreads:  Sailing aboard her father’s trade ship is all seventeen-year-old Camille Rowen has ever wanted. But as a girl of society in 1855 San Francisco, her future is set: marry a man she doesn’t love, or condemn herself and her father to poverty.
On her final voyage before the wedding, the stormy arms of the Tasman Sea claim her father, and a terrible family secret is revealed. A secret intertwined with a fabled map, the mother Camille has long believed dead, and an ancient stone that wields a dangerous—and alluring—magic.
The only person Camille can depend on is Oscar, a handsome young sailor whom she is undeniably drawn to. Torn between trusting her instincts and keeping her promises to her father, Camille embarks on a perilous quest into the Australian wilderness to find the enchanted stone. As she and Oscar elude murderous bushrangers and unravel Camille’s father’s lies, they come closer to making the ultimate decision of who—and what—matters most.
Beautifully written and feverishly paced, Everlasting is an unforgettable journey of passion, secrecy, and adventure.

My Reveries and Ramblings:  Several months before Camille’s marriage, she goes on one last voyage with her father.  Just before reaching their destination in Australia, Camille discovers a secret her father has kept for 16 years-her mother did not die during childbirth and she is still alive. Before Camille can extract more information from her father, the ship goes down with her father-leaving Camille in the care of Oscar, her father’s first mate.  He agrees to go with Camille to see her mother and get the map to the stone of Umandu.  If Camille can get to the stone before her father’s rival, then she can bring her father back to life.  With the help of Ira, their Australian guide, and Monty, Oscar and Camille travel through the wild Outback.  With each day comes a bunch of near-death experiences and fast paced action scenes.
I wanted to love this book.  The first half of the book was a bit disappointing.  There were a few really juicy scenes that I loved, but overall, I thought it was okay.  The second half blew me away.  I found myself flipping rooting for Oscar and Camille.  I loved their relationship.  Oscar was constantly caring for Camille.  He saves her life many times throughout the book.  It’s so cute.  My absolute favorite part of the whole book was actually in the beginning when they were on the ship and the storm was bringing it down.  Camille ran on deck and was scared.  Oscar embraced her and said “My Camille” calming her and letting her know that he’d keep her safe.  It was just TOO cute.  My heart was melting!  Basically whenever Oscar opened his mouth I was melting.  He just had that effect on me.  I found Camille, while ahead of her time with her independence, quite selfish at times.  I thought choosing to marry Randall instead of pursuing her interest in Oscar, at the beginning of the novel, because her father’s business was failing was honorable of her.  However, there was one scene where I wanted to slap her.  She basically was wondering why she couldn’t marry Randall and still continue her thing with Oscar.  I mean come on!  That is so selfish.  She only decides it wouldn’t work, not because its wrong, but because she thinks Oscar wouldn’t like to be considered second best.  But I other than that I thought she was brave and had a back-bone.  I loved Ira.  He was so funny-kind of like an uncle.  He stuck with them through their journey even though he would get nothing out of it.
While I was disappointed with this book, I still thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was a swashbuckling adventure.  Everlasting read like a movie.  I literally could see everything very clearly in my mind, including music!  Think Pirates of the Caribbean meets Titanic.  It was great.  I liked Everlasting and will definitely be reading the next book when it comes out.

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Everlasting (Everlasting, #1)
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Book Review: Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews

Title: Bayou Moon
Author: Ilona Andrews
Series: The Edge #2
ISBN: 978-0441019458
Publisher: Ace
Pub. Date: September 2010
Source: Purchased
Genre: Romance/Fantasy/Paranormal
Pages: 447
Rating:  4/5

From Goodreads: Cerise Mar and her clan are cash poor but land rich, claiming a large swathe of the Mire, the Edge swamplands. When her parents vanish, her clan’s long-time rivals are suspect. But all is not as it seems.
Two nations of the Weird are waging a cold war fought by feint and espionage, and their conflict is about to spill over into the Edge-and Cerise’s life.

My Reveries and Ramblings: Bayou Moon is the second novel of Ilona Andrews’s The Edge series.  It follows William’s story two years after the events of On the Edge.  William is sent on a mission by The Mirror to find the object that Spider, the villain, is looking for.  On his way to the Mire, a swamp area in the Edge (where Spider is), he is forced to travel with a homeless-looking girl, Cerise.  He later finds out that it was only a disguise.  As soon as he sees what she really looks like, he wants her.  Then, when he sees how she fights, he wants her more.  Cerise’s parents were handed over to Spider by her family’s enemy.  After running into several creatures and hunters looking for her, William decides to stick with her, for the time being anyway.  Nothing is as it seems.  Lies, blood, and death surround Cerise as she tries to find her parents and destroy those that get in her way.
Ilona Andrews floored me with the amazing characterization in this book.  William was so complex!  He is a changeling-both human and wolf.  There are times when he acts and thinks like a human.  However, with every strong emotion, the wolf comes out-maybe not physically, but mentally.  Whenever this happens his thoughts go from normal and rational to “I want….” and “Must have…..”   Very primal.  Cerise notices when he switches to wolf-mode.  She can see it in his eyes, but she doesn’t know that he is a changeling.  Andrews juggles the two mind-frames very well.  Changelings, in their fundamental nature, act on instinct, not thought.  William always has to remind himself that he is also human and he cannot just take what he wants; he has to ask for it and be ready for rejection if it comes.  This was very sad yet admirable.  He really wanted to be with Cerise for most of the book.  He always reminded himself that women didn’t want him; he was a monster that could not be loved.  William had to deal with a ton of inner conflict, besides the wolf/human one.  He was always scared that once Cerise found out who he was, she wouldn’t want him anymore.  Before he can be with Cerise, he has to come to terms with his past and that it does not define him-his actions define him.
I felt so bad for Cerise.  After her parents are kidnapped she has to lead the family in a battle not only against their rival clan, but also Spider.  Meanwhile, her younger sister is slowly going insane-thinking she is a monster who deserves to live in the woods.  Because she is the new head, she has to hold her emotions in so that the family respects her.  The only person she truly lets in is William.  She trusts him, and loves him.  Because he looks like a Blueblood, noble of the Weird, she calls him Lord Bill when she first meets him.  Even though it was just used to mock at first, she continues to call him this as the story progresses.  I love the nickname, its so cute.  It has a teasing/flirty edge to it in the book.
There were a lot of different elements mixed into Bayou Moon.  First, there was a lot of gore, violence, and family feuding going on.  The action is suspenseful and bloody.  The fight scenes were depicted with a great attention to detail.  I felt like I was in the middle of them.  There were times when I was definitely shutting my eyes and muttering “ew.”  Second, there was romance.  William and Cerise’s relationship was intense.  There were a lot of “almost” scenes.  They were both obviously attracted to each other.  Cerise even admits to her family that she loves him, but he can’t take a hint.  William is very straightforward and doesn’t understand flirting.  He also doesn’t believe she wants him so he always pulls himself back when he wants to kiss her (or more).  This leads to many tension filled scenes that had me screaming “Just kiss her already!”
I liked On the Edge a bit better than Bayou Moon.  Not too sure why, but Bayou Moon is still a great book.  It’s emotional, action-packed, and romantic.  The other characters, besides William and Cerise, are for the most part three-dimensional.  There were so many, I thought I’d get confused (especially within Cerise’s big family) but Ilona Andrews did such a great job writing them, that it never was the case.  Rose, Declan, and the boys from On the Edge appear briefly at the end-which was nice.  All in all, I thought Ilona Andrews crafted an excellent book.

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Bayou Moon (The Edge, #2)

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Author Interview with Jason Ancona

I had the incredible honor of interviewing the author of the Covert Youth Agency series (The Case of Tangled Love and The Sext Crime) and Debugging Tori Redding.  Not only did I interview Jason Ancona, but I also had the chance to interview my two favorite characters of the C.Y.A. series.  That’s right, I interviewed Lightman and Tollhouse.  Just thought I’d say-It was awesome!  Now, let’s start this interview!

BB&R: What (or Who) is your greatest inspiration?
JA: Time spent with friends and family, kind gestures, and emails from one of my three fans. I’ve heard from a couple of moms who told me their daughters giggled when they read my book. That inspires me to write more.
BB&R:  If you could go back in time to when you were in high school, and relive those years, would you create a group similar to the C.Y.A.?
JA:  Most definitely. I wish I would’ve thought of it back then. Was going to create a C.Y.A. site now, where students could have secret forums and run a branch of the agency at their schools. But that seems like a lawsuit waiting to happen.
BB&R: When you first began writing, did you know you wanted to write for teens?
JA:  Not really. My first script, Notch 22, is about a freshman in college who pledges a fraternity to win the heart of a girl. It’s definitely R-rated because of the world it’s in. But it is a coming of age story that deals with growing up. I enjoy exploring those times. When you’re figuring out who you are.
BB&R:  I love how you include music in your books.  Did you listen to certain songs while writing The Sext Crime?
JA: Not while I’m writing. If I had music playing I would start singing along in my chair, which would definitely take me out of the story. It’s harder to finish pages when your hand is shaped like a pretend microphone. “I throw my hands up in the air sometimes. Saying AYO.” Gotta love Taio — Dynamite
BB&R: My favorite characters in the C.Y.A. books are Lightman and Tollhouse.  Other characters in the books have hinted at a possible “crush” on both sides of their relationship.  In future books, do you think their relationship will grow to be more than friends?
JA: Those two are combustible–sparks of love would be dangerous. Never know though.
BB&R: Are you currently working on anything?  (A new C.Y.A. book possibly???)
JA: I’m brainstorming for my next book–taking a stab at an adult one. My librarian sister wants me to write a romance novel, but a couple of fans have said they like action/thriller stories. Still deciding. Any votes out there? After I finish that project, I’ll start on C.Y.A. book three.

Jason Ancona’s Favorites:

Character Interviews:

My Interview with Lightman:

BB&R: When and how did you first meet Pi and Tollhouse?
L: I met Pi playing World of Warcraft online. Found out he went to Trenton, so we got together I.R.L. (in real life). His friend tagged along for our first meeting at the library. Tollhouse has been annoying me ever since.
BB&R: Tollhouse enjoys making you wear costumes that you’d rather not wear.  If you could wear one costume to wear backstage during the C.Y.A. client meetings, what would it be?
L: First of all, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Or how you could possibly know about C.Y.A. meetings and the whole costume deal. Second of all, I’ve never worn anything Tollhouse has given me, put out for me, or touched with his filthy fingers. What costume would I wear? Please. I’m a freshman, not in fifth grade.
BB&R: If you had a theme song what would it be?
L:  I have a theme song–the soundtrack from The Bourne Identity. And it plays in my head when I’m on a mission for the C.Y.A. Or in class when I already know what the teacher is talking about, which is most of the time.
BB&R: What is your favorite line from a movie?
L: “Mr. Wizard. Get me the hell out of here.” I can see from your blank stare that you don’t know it’s from the movie The Matrix. Neo said it. And I’ll say it now, “Mr. Wizard. Get me the hell out of here.”
BB&R: Do you ever hack into Tollhouse’s computer when he’s not home, or when he’s asleep?  Find anything interesting? 
L: Not that I’d admit. Let’s just say that if you checked his browser history you’d find out he’s active on the Gossip Girl message board. And I’m confident that he posts under the screen name “Bernice.”

My Interview with Tollhouse

BB&R: You seem to not like Lightman very much.  When you first met her, did you dislike her?
L: When I first met her I liked her–until she opened her mouth. I don’t dislike her. Lightman’s not all that bad. But when she pushes my buttons, I’m going to push back–most of the time.

BB&R: Favorite cookie?
L: Nestle’s Toll House Chocolate Chip. Fresh baked. Right out of the oven. There is no substitute.
BB&R: If Lightman ever cooked/baked something for you,  would you eat it?
L: Not unless you tried it first. To make sure it’s safe.
BB&R: If you could pick one costume to wear backstage during the C.Y.A. client meetings, what would it be?
L: Lancelot–with all the armor. And the cool helmet. I could make a big entrance onstage with my sword drawn. Although that might scare off the person coming to the C.Y.A. for help. I don’t think Pi would go for that.
BB&R: Deeks seems to be obsessed with finding out who the members of the C.Y.A. are.  Are you worried, especially after the events of The Sext Crime?
L: Heck yes I’m worried. I don’t need any more urinal cake feedings. Hopefully the goose chase Pi sent Deeks on keeps that guy off our tails.
I would like to thank Jason Ancona (as well as Lightman and Tollhouse) for taking the time to answer these questions.

Book Review: The Sext Crime by Jason Ancona

Title: The Sext Crime
Author: Jason Ancona
Series: C.Y.A.: Covert Youth Agency #2
ISBN: B004PYDOCI
Pub. Date:  February 2011
Source: Kindle
Genre: Espionage/YA/Humor/Mystery
Rating:  4/5

From Goodreads:  SNAP–a girl sexts racy pics of herself.
She thought the fun shots would stay between her and her boyfriend.
SNAP–an anonymous hacker hijacks her photos.
If she doesn’t obey, she’ll be exposed.
SNAP–the Covert Youth Agency takes the girl’s case.
The agents jump headfirst into Operation: Sext Crime. Their new client has less than a week to surrender to the hacker’s ultimatum. Or else the naughty photos go “wide.”
SEND–a squad of goons are closing in on C.Y.A. members.
Agent identities may be unmasked.
REPLY ALL–end communication.
It’s not safe.
WARNING–this book contains NO explicit sexual content.
Material suitable for ages 12 and above. May contain some humor.

My Reveries and Ramblings:  The Covert Youth Agency (C.Y.A.) series is about a group of teenagers in high school who run the C.Y.A., a secret crime fighting group that helps students (like the C.I.A. for high school).  The CYA is made up of three members: Pi, Tollhouse, and Lightman.  Pi is the leader; Tollhouse is the main field agent; and Lightman is the computer genius.
In this installment, the group gets involved in the student council elections.  When Meredith, one of the candidates for student council president, gets blackmailed into dropping out of the race, the C.Y.A. steps in.  But whoever hacked into Meredith’s phone is extremely skilled.  After Meredith dropped out, the C.Y.A pushes for another candidate to run against the remaining one, supporting the same issues in hopes that the blackmailer might try to strike again.  However, this time, the hacker/blackmailer targets Pi.  Now it’s a race against time.  Meanwhile, Deeks, the gym teacher, is out to get the C.Y.A. since they blackmailed him into resigning from his coaching job since he was responsible for the bullying of the “Noble Nerds.”
I was smiling and laughing the entire time I was reading The Sext Crime.  Tollhouse and Lightman had the BEST scenes.  Just having them in the same room together brought at least five minutes of straight-up-out-loud laughing (per scene!).  Honestly, they are my favorite characters.  They have a love-hate, well, maybe a like-hate relationship.  They are always bickering; but deep down, and I mean deep deep down, I think they like each other.  Unlike the last book, Lightman is allowed to work in the field.  Although she quickly regrets it when she realizes that being undercover means going shopping with “the girls” for a dress.  Lightman is so smart and can be nice when she wants to (very rarely).  She uses her genius status to bully the principal and teachers in to letting her do what she wants.  Tollhouse is a likeable nerd.  He’s not the coolest guy in the world and he does get picked on by the jocks, but he is very easy going.  He can get along with anyone (well, anyone that’s not trying to bully him-and Lightman).  Pi was such a cute nerd!  Seriously!  Some of my favorite Pi scenes involved rap music, youtube videos, and some awkward dancing.   One word: hilarious!  He’s a bit insecure when it comes to social interactions with people other than family and very close friends.  When it comes to the C.Y.A., he’s in his element and the insecurity disappears.
Jason Ancona did a great job!  I was drawn back into the world and did not want to leave.  I felt like I was back in high school with all the drama.  Ahhh, it was so funny.  I really wish Pi, Lightman, and Tollhouse went to my high school (if it was co-ed).  I would SO want to be in the C.Y.A..  Also, if I was Vera, Pi’s crush, I’d give Pi a chance.  He’s so sweet.  The whole book was very entertaining.  I can’t wait until the next book (fingers crossed that there will be a next book).

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The Sext Crime (C.Y.A. : Covert Youth Agency)

Covert Youth Agency Trailer:

Book Playlist:

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Book Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Title: Delirium
Author: Lauren Oliver
Series: Delirium #1
ISBN: 978-0061726828
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pub. Date: February 2011
Source: Library/Kindle
Genre: YA/Dystopia/Romance
Pages: 448
Rating:  5/5

From Goodreads:  Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love — the deliria — blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.  But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

My Reveries and Ramblings: The beautiful message of Delirium:  Love.  A four letter word.  A word that has caused people to write poetry, songs, and countless novels.  A word that has led people to take their own lives.  Love is complex.  Love can be happy and sad at the same time.  Love can be overwhelming.  It is like chocolate for the soul.  One can survive without it, but, they can not live without it.  Love doesn’t always have to be romantic, it can be parental, or between friends or siblings.  It can take any form, but without it, we aren’t really alive.
Delirium is, down to the binding, a book about love.  In a society where love, deliria, is thought of as a lethal disease.  At the age of 18, people are “cured.”  This involves going through a surgery that will ultimately cure you of deliria and keep you from getting it.  The summer before Lena is scheduled to be cured, she meets Alex.  Originally thinking he is cured (she sees this “surgery” scars), Lena talks to him.  However, soon she discovers that not only is he uncured, but he is also a rebel, an Invalid.  The Invalids are people who live in the Wilds, outside of the borders.  They hate what the US government is doing, controlling people by removing their ability to love.  After confessing who he really is, Lena is petrified that she has become infected with deliria.  She has always been scared of contracting the disease. Her mother had it, even though she went through three separate surgeries to get it removed.  It destroyed her.  After getting saved by Alex during a raid, Lena officially falls for him.  Their love opens her eyes to how dead she was before she fell in love.  The tightly controlled loveless world she has always known is wrong.  It is with Alex that she realizes that everything she has ever known, all the rules she was molded by, is a lie.  Their love is a tragedy waiting to happen.  Lena only has a few months before getting cured.  After that she will go to college and marry her assigned match.  Before Alex, she couldn’t wait. Now, she would rather die than live without love.
I had a love/hate relationship with this book.  I find dystopian literature interesting, but very hard to get through.  I almost always have to put the book down after each chapter or so because I’m so angry or scared.  Dystopian societies are frightening.  Which is why I rarely read them.  When I do, I read a lot of reviews on the book to make sure it is worth the emotional roller coaster I will most likely be going on.  This one intrigued me because not only are people oppressed, but they think it’s the only way.  They want to be cured.  The population is brainwashed through the government’s control of communication.  By controlling what people read, watch, listen to, etc., the government convinced people that love (deliria) is a terrible disease.  Without love, people don’t feel the need to die unnecessarily or fight for anything.  It’s probably the strongest emotion a human can have.  However, the idea that people are forced to undergo a surgery to never love, that pains me.  This book was so hard to get through because I was so shocked at the cruelty of it.  Those who knew the truth about it were severely punished or killed (usually the latter).
Lena is a seventeen yr old girl who is looking forward to being cured at the end of the summer.  She always follows the rules, and believes that the government and the cure are protecting her from a painful death.  She wants nothing more than to live her life without the fear of contracting deliria.  Her transformation in the book was slow and gradual.  Written through her POV, the reader sees the uncertainty and fear in her. She started scared, insecure, and very ignorant.  As the story progresses she finds love, learns the truth, and finds strength in having her own mind.  Alex, an Invalid, was born in the Wilds and moved around a lot.  He falls in love with Lena, forcing her to rethink everything about herself, essentially a mild identity crisis.  Alex teaches Lena about love and how it’s those who can’t love that aren’t really living.  He opens her eyes.  Their relationship is very Romeo-and-Juliet-esque.  He risks his life every day to see her; if he was caught he’d be killed.  The only other person who knows about their relationship is Hana, Lena’s best friend.  She is not looking forward to the cure.  People in this society would call her a rebellious teen, however in reality (the reader’s world) she would be seen as a normal 17 yr old.  She supports their relationship and helps Lena sneak out after curfew to see him.
Lauren Oliver wrote a story that makes you think and reflect on the importance of love and how we, as human beings, sometimes take for granted that we can love.  She also explores the lengths people would go through to keep love and those they love.  Delirium invoked so many emotions in me.  Alex and Lena’s love was beautiful.  It was slow and shown through actions.  The words “I love you” are rarely said.  But the intention, the love, is there.  You see it in the sacrifices and risks made.  Everything about Delirium was amazing.  Instead of hating Lena for believing in propaganda the government puts out to brainwash, Lauren Oliver shows us through her POV so that the reader understands.  Delirium wasn’t exactly action packed.  There were a few action scenes, but not many and they were spread out.  The book is filled with suspense.  It looms over the story sending chills through your spine and increasing your heart rate.  Lena and Hana could be running and you still feel that weight, that feeling of being watched that fills you with apprehension.  I’m so glad I picked up this book.  This heartbreaking novel will leave you in tears.  I cannot wait until the sequel comes out!
Warning: Cliff-hanger ending.

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Delirium (Delirium, #1)
TV Show Trailer (<< updated on August 30, 2015)
Book Playlist:
(click here to listen to Lauren Oliver’s official playlist for Delirium)
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Book Review: Lover Eternal by J.R. Ward

Title: Lover Eternal
Author: J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #2
ISBN: 978-0451218049
Publisher: Signet
Pub. Date: March 2006
Source: Kindle
Genre: Paranormal/Romance/Urban Fantasy
Pages: 464
Rating:  4/5

From Goodreads:  The Barnes & Noble Review

J. R. Ward returns to the shadows in Caldwell, New York, and the world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood in her second intense paranormal thriller that will have new fans and old begging for more.
Once again, the plot revolves around a band of highly trained vampire warriors who have been targeted for extinction by the Lessening Society, but this time the spotlight is on Rhage, the best fighter, the most voracious lover. As a result of a curse by the Scribe Virgin, Rhage is left with an inner demon unlike all others; Mary, the mortal woman he meets falls in love with, has been cursed by her own kind of inner demon — cancer.
Readers will love their evolving relationship, at turns passionate, tender, and fierce, as well as the heart-pounding pace as the two try to escape their enemies. Again, a glossary introduces the reader to the structure and history of this new world. Ginger Curwen

My Reveries and Ramblings: I did not expect to love this book.  I guess I thought that it would be too similar to all the other books I’ve read, even though I loved the first BDB book, Lover Eternal.  I was so wrong.  Rhage is different from Wrath as well as the rest of the brotherhood.  He has his own demons to face, personality, and way of thinking.  The character depth in this installment surprised me.  There was definitely more of it in this book than in the first.
Lover Eternal is Rhage and Mary’s story.  Rhage meets Mary when she and her vampire friend, Bella, take John Matthews, a 23 yr-old mute guy, to see the brotherhood.  At this point Mary doesn’t know her friend is a vampire and that John Matthews will eventually turn into one.  Since John Matthews doesn’t speak, Mary goes to be the translator using ASL.  That is where she meets Rhage.  Rhage immediately falls for her, but Mary pushes him away because she has cancer and will most likely die.  Despite her best efforts, she falls for him and moves into the house.  They have a very bumpy relationship.  Mary is constantly having second thoughts, mostly due to her worsening health.  Rhage’s inner beast/curse wants to come out whenever he is around Mary, putting her in danger.  The lessers are also planning on taking Mary.
Goodness, I was gushing throughout the entire book.  What Rhage does to keep and save Mary was just so amazing selfless.  Now that’s true love! I’m not going to give anything away, but its just sooooo cute.  Also, the mystery behind John Matthews, the pre-change vampire with the mark of the brotherhood begins.  Zsadist story line with Bella starts out in this book and will continue in the next, Lover Awakened.  There were many moments in this book that tore at me emotionally.  I find cancer to be very scary, even though I’ve never had it.  Mary’s struggle with the disease was frightening.  Even though J.R. Ward didn’t go into too much detail with it, I still found myself getting nervous and scared.  Rhage was there for her, which was so nice.  Mary needed to stop pushing him away.  At one point, I remember saying out loud “Come on! Stop it already.  He loves you.  Deal with it.”  Rhage and Mary fought quite a bit, which annoyed me because he was trying to help her.  At the same time it was realistic because couples sometimes fight no matter how much they love each other.
The Black Dagger Brotherhood series is about love and fighting for what you believe in.  This isn’t just a romance novel (and series).  J.R. Ward created complicated characters.  That’s one of the best things about this series.  I haven’t read too many romance novels, mostly because the characterization is just not there.  Many have flat, clichéd characters.  The mythology surrounding the world J.R. Ward built is multifarious.  The characters inhabiting the world are full of personality and refreshing.  Their decisions are ruled by their past and who they are as individuals instead of a formula created by an outline of what is in a romance novel.  These books do have romance, don’t get me wrong.  There is plenty of erotic love for everyone.  But there is so much more to these novels then the sex.  This is what makes them unique.
I thought this book was fantastic.  I liked the first one a bit more, probably because it was the first and my introduction into J.R. Ward’s exciting and remarkable word of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.  She created an engrossing story filled with love, pain, passion, and violence.

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Lover Eternal (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #2)
Book Playlist:
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Book Review: Dark Lover by J.R. Ward

Title: Dark Lover
Author: J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #1
ISBN: 978-0451216953
Publisher: Signet
Pub. Date: September 2005
Source: Kindle/Paperback/Library
Genre: Paranormal/Romance/Urban Fantasy
Pages: 416
Rating:  5/5

From Goodreads:  In the shadows of the night in Caldwell, New York, there’s a deadly turf war going war going on between vampires and their slayers. There exists a secret band of brothers like no other-six vampire warriors, defenders of their race. Yet none of them relishes killing their enemies more than Wrath, the leader of the Black Dagger Brotherhood…
The only purebred vampire left on the planet, Wrath has a score to settle with the slayers who murdered his parents centuries ago. But when one of his most trusted fighters is killed – orphaning a half-breed daughter unaware of her heritage or her fate – Wrath must usher the beautiful female into the world of the undead…
Racked by a restlessness in her body that wasn’t there, Beth Randall is helpless against the dangerously sexy man who comes at night with shadows in his eyes. His tales of brotherhood and blood frighten her. But his touch ignites a dawning hunger that threatens to consume them both….

My Reveries and Ramblings:  Wow! I had heard a lot of really great things about this series, but I wasn’t expecting to love it this much.  It’s a romance book so obviously there’s more than a few graphic sex scenes.  However, the book dives deeper.  I was drawn into a world inhabited by vampires, humans, and lesesrs.  A world where vampires are heroes, humans are blissfully ignorant, and lessers are pure evil.
The Black Dagger Brotherhood series is about a group of vampire warriors who are as close as brothers.  They protect the civilian vampire population, as well as the humans from the lessers, people who sold their soul for immortality.  The lessers freaked me out.  They were so evil; it was difficult to read some of the parts that included them.  I found myself skimming over some of the Mr.X, the main lesser in Dark Lover, parts.  The lesser are led by Omega, a nefarious villain.  Dark Lover tells the story of Wrath, the Blind King, before he ascends the throne.  After one of the brothers dies, Wrath goes searching for that brother’s half-breed daughter, Beth.  Vampires cannot turn people to make more vampires.  They have to be born.  However, they are born as a “human,” and go through the change in their twenties. If Beth is going to survive the change, then she needs to be around and drink the blood of a male vampire.  Beth had a hard life, from being orphaned to foster care to being very nearly raped; she takes life day by day.  When Wrath shows up, she becomes captivated by him.  She sees the real Wrath under his hard exterior.  Wrath did not plan or want to fall in love with Beth, but he did.  She not only becomes the center of his life, but also the object of the Mr. X’s impromptu plan.
The Black Dagger Brotherhood is addicting.  I loved Wrath.  Actually, let me correct that, I love all the brothers.  J.R. Ward is so talented.  These books aren’t only about sex, but also about love.  True love.  Love that lasts forever.  The lessers pissed me off so many times with what they did.  They were/are merciless.  Thank goodness the Brothers fight them.  J.R. Ward made the Brothers into real, three-dimensional characters. Each of the brothers has their own personal demons they have to face.  Those demons define how they act and what they do.  The BDB series has a feel similar to the Underworld movies- very urban fantasy with lots of guns and leather.  Ward changes POV throughout the book, even though the focus of the book is on Wrath and Beth.  I don’t know what I’ll do when the series ends, and there will be no more books.  I’m getting depressed just thinking about it.

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Dark Lover (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #1)

Fan-made Music Video:

(one of my favorites for this series!)

Book Playlist:

[spotify https://open.spotify.com/user/121171848/playlist/2IDqY2Qb329vdB3ZMrf3Ep]