Book Review: Beyond the Highland Mist by Karen Marie Moning

743599Title: Beyond the Highland Mist
Author: Karen Marie Moning
Series: Highlander #1
ISBN: 9780440234807
Publisher: Dell
Pub. Date: Marc 1999
Source: Purchased
Genre: Paranormal Romance/ Historical Romance/ Fantasy/Adult
Pages: 375
Rating:  4/5

From Goodreads:   He would sell his warrior soul to possess her. . . .
An alluring laird…
He was known throughout the kingdom as Hawk, legendary predator of the battlefield and the boudoir. No woman could refuse his touch, but no woman ever stirred his heart–until a vengeful fairy tumbled Adrienne de Simone out of modern-day Seattle and into medieval Scotland. Captive in a century not her own, entirely too bold, too outspoken, she was an irresistible challenge to the sixteenth-century rogue. Coerced into a marriage with Hawk, Adrienne vowed to keep him at arm’s length–but his sweet seduction played havoc with her resolve.
A prisoner in time…
She had a perfect “no” on her perfect lips for the notorious laird, but Hawk swore she would whisper his name with desire, begging for the passion he longed to ignite within her. Not even the barriers of time and space would keep him from winning her love. Despite her uncertainty about following the promptings of her own passionate heart, Adrienne’s reservations were no match for Hawk’s determination to keep her by his side. ..

My Reveries and Ramblings:  I bought this book while I was reading Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series. I was waiting for Shadowfever and needed something to help me get through the waiting period. So I turned to her Highlander series…
Beyond the Highland Mist begins with Adrienne getting transported back in time to Scotland in the early 1500s by some faeries that want to see a certain man in misery. Hawk is that man. He is perfect in every way. Women would literally kill to be with him. Even the faerie queen likes him. This enrages both the faerie king and Adam Black, also known as Puck or Robin Goodfellow. The plan: find a beautiful woman that hates beautiful men and place her in Hawk’s path. What follows is pages and pages of pure enjoyment. Yes, this is a romance novel, but Moning makes it so much more. She constantly pushes the Adrienne and Hawk together and just when you start to think “YES! FINALLY!” she pulls them apart. I raced through this book. I kept me on edge and wanting more. I think I’ve reread it several times since I finished it the first time. Each time I’m just as on edge as I was the first time.
Some of the best moments in the book was when Hawk was trying to get Adrienne to sleep with him and she would go to great lengths to get away from him, only to end up in Adam Black’s arms and want to run right back to Hawk. I would HIGHLY recommend this amazing time travel romance. You seriously won’t regret it! I am definitely going to finish reading the series.

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Beyond the Highland Mist (Highlander, #1)

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Book Review: Shadow Fall by Erin Kellison

7938254Title: Shadow Fall
Author: Erin Kellison
Series: Shadow #2
ISBN: 9780505528308
Publisher: Leisure Books
Pub. Date: July 2010
Source: Publisher
Genre: Paranormal Romance / Fantasy
Pages: 322
Rating:  4/5

From Goodreads: Sacrifice
Custo Santovari accepted pain, blood, even death, to save his best friend. But a man with all his sins just isn’t cut out to be an angel.
Mystery
One moment he’s fleeing Heaven; the next, he’s waking up stark naked in Manhattan. In the middle of a war. Called there by a woman who’s desperately afraid of the dark.
Shadow
It gathers around Annabella as she performs, filled with fantastic images of another world, bringing both a golden hero and a nightmare lover.
Wolf
He pursues her relentlessly, twisting her desires even as she gives herself to the man she loves. Because each of us has a wild side, and Annabella is about to unleash the beast.

 

My Reveries and Ramblings:  If you haven’t read the first book, stop reading now and go read it (Shadowbound).  Now, for those of you who have read Shadow Bound, get ready for a whole dose of action, romance, and suspense. The story begins with Custo in heaven. He’s somehow ended up as an angel, much to his displeasure. Wanting to help and warn Adam of a betrayl, Custo tricks Shadowman into switching places with him. Lost and trying to find his way back to Segue, Custo sees a woman dancing and is drawn to her power, just as the wolf is. Wolf has been hunting Annabelle trying to find a way out of Shadow and into her world. When Custo accidentally lets him into the real world, both his and Annabelle’s worlds are upturned.  My favorite thing about this series is Ms. Kellison’s characters. She doesn’t write her characters in terms of good or bad. Each character has good and bad qualities. Custo is my favorite example of this. He’s not good. And he knows it. At the same time, he’s not evil. Every choice he makes is based off what he can gain. This is true of every character in literature, except that Custo is very selfish. The only times he is not selfish is with Adam and Annabelle. There are so many layers to Custo’s character-I love it!
Annabelle was also different from most heroines. She’s a principle ballerina in her company. Having sacrificed so much and worked so hard, she starts to reap the rewards. However, after Wolf notices her hidden power when she dances, he becomes obsessed. Cue Custo. After he saves Annabelle, she is forced to accept protection from both Custo and the Segue Institute. Throughout the book, Annabelle is torn between her love of dance and her love for Custo. Her journey to find the balance between the two was interesting to read.
I really liked this book, even more than Shadow Bound. I adored Custo and all of his complexities. Wolf is a creepy, perverse, and terrifying villain-which made this book all the more absorbing. This book is very well written, engaging, and so worth reading!

 

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Shadow Fall (Shadow, #2)

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Book Review: Spellbound by Cara Lynn Shultz

10118172Title: Spellbound
Author: Cara Lynn Shultz
Series: Spellbound #1
ISBN: 9780373210305
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pub. Date: June 2011
Source: NetGalley
Genre: YA Romance/ Paranormal Romance
Pages: 324
Rating:  4/5

From Goodreads: What’s a girl to do when meeting The One means she’s cursed to die a horrible death?  Life hasn’t been easy on sixteen-year-old Emma Connor, so a new start in New York may be just the change she needs. But the posh Upper East Side prep school she has to attend? Not so much. Friendly faces are few and far between, except for one that she’s irresistibly drawn to—Brendan Salinger, the guy with the rock-star good looks and the richest kid in school, who might just be her very own white knight.
But even when Brendan inexplicably turns cold, Emma can’t stop staring. Ever since she laid eyes on him, strange things have been happening. Streetlamps go out wherever she walks, and Emma’s been having the oddest dreams: visions of herself in past lives—visions that warn her to stay away from Brendan. Or else.

My Reveries and Ramblings: Oh. My. Goodness. This book seriously surprised me. Going into it, all I knew was that it was a YA paranormal romance. Boy, was I amazed to discover there was so much more. For starters, Cara Lynn Schultz successfully wrote from a teenager’s perspective. I never once cringed at the language used. (Don’t you hate it when a YA author starts throwing around the word “Yo”). Actually, I really enjoyed Emma’s voice. She was nice, funny, and completely relatable. She has insecurities, like every teenager. She worries about her hair, if she will fit in, and what Brendan thinks of her. Also, Emma is not a push over. Especially when it comes to the kids at school who constantly gossip about her. Cue the jerk: Anthony. He just makes Emma’s life a living hell at school (and outside it). At first its just a matter of ego, but it soon turns into something much more dangerous. As the story progresses, Anthony’s darker side surfaces. He is seriously insane. By the end, I was scared of him.

The second thing that literally brought this book up a full kiss was the fact that it a) has a tragic love story for a base; b) involves soul mates; and c) involves past lives/reincarnation. As you know, I love books that contain even just one of those. But this one contained all three! The tragic love story: Emma and Brendan are cursed to fall in love over and over again only to be torn apart by an untimely death. Something is different this time around. They might have a shot at breaking the curse. If they don’t hurry, it could all end, once again.
Poor Emma. In every life she is born poor. This one was especially brutal for her. After her mom and brother die, she lives with her step-father who would rather drink and abuse her then man-up and be a father for her. After getting into a DWI accident with Emma in the car (she gets injured), Emma escapes to her aunt’s home in NYC. Going to the exclusive Vince Academy has Emma feeling even more of an outsider with all the rich students (think Gossip Girl).
Yes, it does have a HEA. But, you know, it was still a lot of fun to read. The ending was suspenseful. The romance was lovely. And Brendan was just soooo cute. You can’t see me, but I’m crossing my fingers hoping there will be a sequel.

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Spellbound (Spellbound, #1)

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Book Review: The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker

22238196Title: The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker
Author: Leanna Renee Hieber
Series: Strangely Beautiful #1
ISBN: 978-1428511453
Publisher: Leisure Books
Pub. Date: August 2009
Source: Publisher
Genre: Paranormal Romance/Historical Romance/Urban Fantasy
Pages: 322
Rating:  4/5

From Goodreads: What fortune awaited sweet, timid Percy Parker at Athens Academy? Hidden in the dark heart of Victorian London, the Romanesque school was dreadfully imposing, a veritable fortress, and little could Percy guess what lay inside. She had never met its powerful and mysterious Professor Alexi Rychman, knew nothing of the growing shadows of the Ripper and other supernatural terrors against which his coterie stood guard. She saw simply that she was different, haunted, with her snow white hair, pearlescent skin and uncanny gift. This arched stone doorway was a portal to a new life, to an education far from what could be had at a convent and it was an invitation to an intimate yet dangerous dance at the threshold of life and death.

My Reveries and Ramblings:  I was shocked! I did not expect to love this book as much as I did. Ms. Hieber captured me in the very first few words. Her world is so gothic and romantic. I just love it! It was like Jane Eyre meets Harry Potter meets Ghostbusters.
The Guard was blessed with powers to rid the civilian population of evil ghosts/spirits and other demons. In order for them to succeed they must work together. As soon as they split, they weaken. Besides ridding the world of evil beings, they are looking for the reincarnation of Persephone, the goddess who gave them their powers. All they were told was that she would be their peer, to look for a doorway, and to be careful of imposters.
When Percy Parker arrives at Athens Academy after leaving the convent that raised her, she is immediately regarded as odd. With her white hair, glowing eyes, and uber-pale skin she has always felt she was different. By covering herself up, she protects herself from the gawking stares of others. That is until she starts spending her nights being tutored by Prof. Rychman, who insists she removes her “barriers.” The first time Alexi, Prof. Rychman, sees Percy without all the scarves and glasses he becomes mesmerized. During the course of their tutoring sessions, Alexi becomes more and more convinced that she is Prophecy. However, the Guard refuses to believe that she is their seventh since she is not a peer but a student. Instead they do everything they can to convince Alexi that the real Prophecy is Miss Lindon. Alexi must choose between the two. The wrong choice could mean the end of the world.
Ms. Hieber’s writing blew me away. I find that most historical romances have great stories, but the writing is weak. That was not the case in this one. When the characters spoke, their word choice as well as their sentence structure was appropriate for the time. I was so happy to not hear the words “yeah” or “Oh my god” or even worse, “buddy.” Nothing ruins a historical romance like 21st c. talk. Ms. Hieber’s Victorian era writing is itself ,enough for an applause. Her word choice and descriptions were just perfect. Seriously, this book could have been written in the Victorian era and there probably wouldn’t have been a difference in word choice or style.
Now onto characters. When we are introduced to Percy Parker, she is scared and alone. Her friends see her as “strangely beautiful” while others avoid her, if not for her strange looks then for the possibility of being mad. When she arrives at Athens Academy, she finds that her professors don’t think she is crazy when she (rarely) talks of seeing visions (or dreams) and speaking to ghosts. One professor in particular finds her fascinating. His name? Professor Alexi Rychman. Before I continue I must say his name bears a striking resemblance to one Alan Richman (aka Professor Severus Snape). After reading about half of the book I found out that Professor Snape was who Ms. Heiber had in mind when writing this character.

tumblr_nyw8l2yylq1ud2p0eo3_500 Alexi is cold, mean, stiff, and lonely. He is hard on Percy and considers her failure to do well in his class a major flaw. However, he falls more and more in love with her over the course of the book. Alexi was so frustrating (and oh so swoon-worthy). Shortly after reading The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, I watched BBC’s North and South. The second Richard Armitage came on screen, I almost fell out of my chair! It was Alexi! This was exactly how I had envisioned my Alexi! This was before I found out that Miss Hieber had actually mentioned him in an interview (at Darkly Reading) as an alternative to Alan Richman (too old now) for Alexi.
The romance was knit with so much sexual tension, you could almost see the sparks. Yet, there was very little kissing. The tension alone just made me want to scream “Get together already!” It was awesome. There was also a few subplot romances going on within the Guard which were equally fun to read. I can’t wait to read the rest of the books to see more of those play out. This book doesn’t really have a cliffhanger. These books are more like Harry Potter where there is a beginning, middle, and end, but there are certain story arcs that span across the whole series. Although I do want to find out what happens with Alexi and Percy. Basically, I love this book. I’ve read it several times since finishing it, stopping every once in a while to daydream about Alexi *sigh*. I love the eeriness of it-very gothic.
If you like: retellings (ancient greek myth of Persephone), Historical romance (Victorian era), Paranormal (ghosts, demons, etc.), Gothic Romance (swoon-worthy hero, eerie qualities), and apocalyptic scenes, then you’ll love this book.

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The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker (Strangely Beautiful, #1)

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Book Review: Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houck

9284655Title: Tiger’s Curse
Author: Colleen Houck
Series: The Tiger Saga #1
ISBN: 978-1402784033
Publisher: Splinter
Pub. Date: January 11, 2011
Source: Library
Genre: Fantasy/YA/Romance
Pages: 448
Rating:  4/5

From Goodreads: Passion. Fate. Loyalty.

Would you risk it all to change your destiny?

The last thing 17-year old Kelsey Hayes thought she’d be doing this summer was trying to break a 300-year-old Indian curse. With a mysterious white tiger named Ren. Halfway around the world. But that’s exactly what happened. Face-to-face with dark forces, spellbinding magic, and mystical worlds where nothing is what it seems, Kelsey risks everything to piece together an ancient prophecy that could break the curse forever.

Tiger’s Curse is the exciting first volume in an epic fantasy-romance that will leave you breathless and yearning for more.

My Reveries and Ramblings:  Tiger’s Curse begins with Kelsey starting her new job at a visiting circus. While working, she becomes attached to one of the animals, a very tame white tiger. When Kelsey is given the opportunity to help transport the tiger back to India, she readily accepts. Once she arrives in India, she finds out that the tiger, Ren, isn’t really a tiger, but a cursed prince. The real reason she was tricked to escort the tiger was to help break the curse. What follows is a journey filled with love, friendship, heartache, magic, and adventure.
Tiger’s Curse is such a refreshing YA novel. I have yet to come across a novel for teens that takes place in India. The romance was just so beautiful. It was touching and very real. It felt very natural. Although Kelsey’s inability to make the, ahem, correct decisions at the end made me angry. I could go on an on and on about the awesomeness of their relationship and how devoted Ren was to her. It was so cute! I had a big smile on my face for 2/3 of the book. The other third was when Kelsey had her nightmare (which by the way, I was freaking out, I felt like I was in the nightmare-scary!) and the few chapters when Kelsey was acting irrational.
I absolutely loved every moment of this Indian adventure. There was so much going on. Ms. Houck kept throwing complicated Indian names and myths/legends around, but they all made sense later. The only problem I had was with Kelsey-specifically at the end, but I think I ranted enough about her. I did love her optimism, though. Her ability to compartmentalize was astounding. I wish I could do it that well.
The only problem I had with the whole book was that the quest was too easy. Yes, there was a lot of traveling. But, whenever they needed something, it somehow appeared. I never felt that life and death urgency. It was more like well-even-though-we’re-camping-since-you’re-a-tiger-you-can-run-a-few-miles-back-and-get-us-some-food type feeling. The only time when I was actually nervous or scared for the characters was towards the end when they were attacked by the kappas. However, even though this was something I had to overlook, I really loved this book. Kelsey’s narration was funny and interesting to read. My favorite aspect of this book was the romance. The sweetness of it, just made my heart ache. I borrowed this book from the library. But I’m having pre-separation anxiety about it. I’m probably going to buy the book so I can re-read my favorite parts. While I’m out, I might as well buy the second book Tiger’s Quest-because i can’t just leave the series as is. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves re-tellings, traveling, quests, and a rich and beautiful romance.

<<SPOILER ALERT-RANT-highlight to read>>
Oh My Goodness!!! I could just kill Kelsey for what she did. Doesn’t she realize how lucky she is?! Ren loves her so much and she just leaves?!?! I would have done the exact opposite if I were put into the book. Ren’s just too good to pass up. I wish I had a guy like Ren. A guy who’s passionate, straight-forward, strong, confident, sweet, charming, and a prince all rolled into one package. Seriously, a girl couldn’t ask for more. But nooooo, Kelsey just throws it all away because she’s scared. I mean, I did understand why she did what she did; but at the same time I also didn’t like her decision. She most definitely made the wrong one.

 

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Tiger's Curse (The Tiger Saga, #1)

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(I took many of the songs from the official Tiger’s Curse Playlist mostly because I listened to that while I read the book).

Book Review: Abithica by Susan Goldsmith

11050827Title: Abithica
Author: Susan Goldsmith
Series: Abithica #1
ISBN: B004WOYNGC
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Pub. Date: April 2011
Source: received an ebook arc copy from the author

Genre: Supernatural/Romance/Fantasy/Paranormal/Paranormal Romance/YA
Pages: 287
Rating:  4/5

From Goodreads:  What if you knew you were about to be torn from your body and replaced by an imposter in a seamless switch forever separating you and the one you love? Would you do whatever it took to stay? Even if YOU happened to be the imposter? Abithica must borrow all that she is from others: names, lives, even bodies. When she switches into the troubled life of Sydney Turner, she breaks the rule that has sustained her, the one thing in her control—never get attached. Lane Riley has no idea he’s fallen for Abithica, wearing Sydney Turner’s body and that a future with her is impossible. Desperate to stay with him, Abithica uncovers the mystery of what she is, only to learn she’s a pawn in a battle over souls, and that she’s probably one of the “bad guys.” What will happen if she refuses to leave Sydney’s body?

My Reveries and Ramblings: Abithica is the story of a spirit/being/whatever you want to call her for right now(not giving anything away) who is thrust into people’s bodies taking over their lives.  She stays with her host until she has completed whatever needed to be done.  She sees her predicament as a punishment from God.  She sees herself as a parasite or demon.
The book opens in Arizona with Sydney collapsing into her food at a restaurant because the spirit being mentioned (in the previous paragraph) has just entered her body.  As Sydney, the spirit starts trying to improve her life starting with Sydney’s damaged relationship with her mother, Faith.  At first “new” Sydney is having a hard time because the real Sydney is being resistant.  During a trip to Faith’s work (at the mall), Sydney meets Lane and his much younger sister, Shae.  It’s love at first sight for “new” Sydney and Lane.  However, “new” Sydney is very resistant because she doesn’t want to hurt him when she leaves Sydney’s body.  Also, she is scared of falling too hard because she knows it will all be ripped from her.  Besides the romance, there is also an element of danger from the gang that Sydney belongs to, the Legnas.  They are a dangerous gang that brands their members and like to kill, a lot.
Abithica takes the reader on a journey with the protagonist as she discovers who and what she is.  She discovers her real name at the end.  Poor girl.  Every time she forced into a new body she forgets most of what happened before.  However, the one thing she does know is that she wants to fall in love and stay that way.  That is her greatest wish/dream.  This is impossible, though.  To prevent herself from getting hurt she decided that she would never get attached.  Of course Lane changed that.
Lane is just * gush * amazing!  He knows there’s something different about Sydney as soon as he meets her (I’m talking about “new” Sydney).  No matter how many times she pushes him away he comes back even stronger and more cling-y (in a good way).    He loves her so much.  The most beautiful aspect of their love is the fact that he loves who the “new” Sydney is-meaning he loves the spirit inhabiting Sydney.  (Yes, I know, it sounds confusing on paper, but it really isn’t).
The novel contains many other great characters.  Among them are Shae, Lane’s adorable little sister; Faith, Sydney’s shoe obsessed mother; the ever helpful Father Gabe; and Marge, a saint-like doctor.
When I started Abithica, I was enjoying it.  But about half-way through, OMG! I was hooked.  There were moments where I was screaming at my computer screen (ebook), yelling at the characters.  Then there were moments where I was on the verge of tears.  The protagonist’s voice easy to read.  I felt a connection with her-there were moments where I could completely relate to her.  Mrs. Goldsmith did an awesome job with the writing.  Even when she wrote through Shae’s POV, it was readable at the same time as sounding like a little girl.
Now, even though I really really liked this book, there were a few things that just didn’t click with me.  I didn’t like reading the Legnas parts of the book-but I think this is just a matter of personal taste.  I never like reading the antagonist’s POV in any book.  Also, Lane annoyed me in the beginning.  He was talking about marriage very VERY early on in their relationship- they had only gone out a few times together.  But, of course, I was able to come to terms with it, and even accept it later on in the book.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to all who love a good romance.  Yes, it is Christian Lit., but it’s not overwhelming (which is good).  Also, I seriously read the last 50 pages four times-it was just too fantastic to not reread! I can’t wait until the sequel.

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Abithica

Book Review: To Catch a Pirate by Jade Parker

493051Title: To Catch A Pirate
Author: Jade Parker / Rachel Hawthorne
ISBN: 978-0439026949
Publisher: Point
Pub. Date: May 2007
Source: Library
Genre: YA/Romance/Adventure/Historical Fiction/Historical Romance
Pages: 320
Rating:  4/5

From Goodreads: Once caught, it’s harder still to let a pirate go.  When Annalisa Townsend’s ship is set upon by pirates in search of her father’s treasure, one of the crew, James Sterling, discovers her in the hold.  When he moves to take her necklace, she begs him not to, as it is all she has left of her mother.  He accepts a kiss in exchange for the necklace.  “A fair trade, m’lady,” he tells her afterward, before disappearing.  A year later, with a forged letter of marque, Annalisa is intent on hunting down the wretched James Sterling and reclaiming her father’s treasure from him.  But now she’s in danger of him stealing something far more vulnerable this time: her heart.

My Reveries and Ramblings:  After the death of her mother, Annalisa Townsend and her father sail to the Caribbean, with a treasure chest filled with some of the King’s gold, to build a new port.  When their ship gets attacked by pirates, the gold is stolen and many lives are lost.  The survivors, including Annalisa and her father, report the attack.  Because they survived, Annalisa’s father is accused of either being a pirate or associating with pirates and is thrown in jail.  Annalisa goes out with her friend, Nathaniel to find the pirate, James Sterling.  He was the very attractive pirate who held her at knifepoint, stole her ring, and kissed her while the pirates were searching the ship.  In fact, he saved her life, by keeping her whereabouts a secret.  Since her father is incarcerated, she wants nothing more than to kill the pirates that forced her into ruin.  Using her dowry, Annalisa finds a ship and crew and begins hunting for the pirate that stole her treasure.
Annalisa was such a strong character.  For a woman in the 1700s to chase pirates and captain a ship-that’s pretty darn incredible.  James Sterling couldn’t believe she (a woman) was commanding a ship.  Of course, she had Nathaniel’s help; but still.  Grrr….Nathaniel.  I did not like him.  Since this book reminded me so much of the Pirates of the Caribbean (without the supernatural aspect), Nathaniel reminded me of Norington.  James Sterling was just Ahhhh *swoon*.  He was like a combination between Captain Jack Sparrow and Will Turner.  After stealing Annalisa’s kiss and ring he is marooned on an island along with his friend Ferret for betraying his captain.  When he gets off the island he ends up running for his life from a pirate hunter.  When Annalisa finally catches him, she treats him well, or tries to at least.  Nathaniel can see the growing attraction and does not like it.  He does terrible things to James, like beating him.  James is the better man, even though he is a pirate.  Now partnered with James, Annalisa goes out to find the buried treasure.
This book was so great.   It had romance, sword fighting, pirates, adventure, and suspense.  I would definitely recommend reading this awesome book.
Side note: The author is actually Rachel Hawthorne.  She wrote To Catch a Pirate under “Jade Parker.”

 

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To Catch a Pirate

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: 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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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)

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