Review: Prince in Disguise by Stephanie Kate Strohm

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Published: 19 December 2017

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Category: Contemporary/Young Adult/Romance

Someday I want to live in a place where I never hear “You’re Dusty’s sister?” ever again. Life is real enough for Dylan—especially as the ordinary younger sister of Dusty, former Miss Mississippi and the most perfect, popular girl in Tupelo. But when Dusty wins the hand of the handsome Scottish laird-to-be Ronan on the TRC television network’s crown jewel, Prince in Disguise, Dylan has to face a different kind of reality: reality TV. As the camera crew whisks them off to Scotland to film the lead-up to the wedding, camera-shy Dylan is front and center as Dusty’s maid of honor. The producers are full of surprises—including old family secrets, long-lost relatives, and a hostile future mother-in-law who thinks Dusty and Dylan’s family isn’t good enough for her only son. At least there’s Jamie, an adorably bookish groomsman who might just be the perfect antidote to all Dylan’s stress . . . if she just can keep TRC from turning her into the next reality show sensation.

Rating:  5 Stars

Prince in Disguise is a good, sweet, fluffy romance that was a great read in the lead up to Christmas. Dylan is the younger sister of Dusty, the winner of the titular show, who is now preparing for her wedding to Ronan (who, actually, is a Lord, but still…). Roped into the filmed special about the wedding, Dylan goes to Scotland for the Christmas Eve wedding and finds that, while a lot of what she feared about having a camera in her face 24/7 is true, there are some benefits to being there too.

The setting being in Scotland, I liked the mysterious castle that belongs to Ronan’s family and the description of the Atholm Arms, the local pub. I might have appreciated a bit more description of the landscape and what have you, but considering it was the middle of winter and shortly after Dylan arrives and it snows heavily, I’m not terribly upset, especially since this weather did lead to some fun dates.

Dusty meets Jamie, a groomsmen of Ronan, who turns out to be a great friend and, eventually, date material. Not quite sure I’d say boyfriend, but romantic interest for sure. Bonding over their dislike of being filmed constantly, their friendliness grows. Jamie is a boon for Dylan, with his constant quotes and sense of adventure. Exploring the castle, secret passages included, is a relieving activity, considering they have to deal with Florence, Ronan’s mother and Dusty’s #1 fan (HAH! Not really…), and Pamela, the coordinator of the show who DOES NOT CARE about anyone unless there’s value to the show and even then she’s a horrible person. I get that she has a show to create, but I didn’t get a good sense of her humanity, if it exists. These two were easily the “villains” of the piece, what with their behavior and the shenanigans they orchestrate/get up to.

Dylan has a strong family and you can really see it. Dusty and her aren’t the closest siblings for two reasons: Dusty is a bit older than Dylan (ten years at least is my guess) and they’re interested in different things. Dusty was a pageant princess and is more interested in all the accompanying activities and Dylan is interested in running and eating (food challenges, etc.). Their mother, who raised them mostly on her own, is doing the best she can in the scope of reality t.v. and even with that hovering over their shoulders, she has her Mama moments when you see the kind of person she is off-camera.

One of my favorite things about the book was that, while there was a romance for Dylan, it wasn’t a forced instalove situation. Both she and Jamie do mention that they could love each other, and they certainly like each other quite a bit, but they never have one of those over-the-top I Love You scenes. I think it would have been one step too many for their budding relationship. It’s not certain whether these two sixteen-year-olds will stay together at the conclusion of the story, primarily because they live on separate continents, the way in which the final page ends is hopeful and I like to think they do.

The big “twist” in the book was not quite obvious; I think I figured it out about half way through, but up to that point I will say that I didn’t suspect it. It was kind of an “oh s*&$” moment when I realized where the story was going and I was excited to get to it, rather than realizing what it was and being disappointed. There was also one other small “twist” that I thought was well written, particularly when we got to see the main cast and others reacting to it, Dylan’s keeping it a secret, and then the reveal, both to Dylan’s family and the show’s staff.

All in all, this was a fast read I would recommend for when you’d like a fluffy read. It was relaxing and easy to sink into. The only thing I might have liked a bit more would be seeing Ronan more, but as this was Dylan’s story more than Dusty and Ronan’s, I was happy with the glimpses we got. The reality show process cannot be easy and while I might not like the majority of them in real life, reading about Dylan’s experience made it obvious on the page that there are real people behind these cameras, these personas that the network wants to create. Whether they’re good or not is another story, of course, but in this instance, Dylan and Jamie and their families were wonderful. Funny, caring, intelligent, and sometimes unexpected.

What a great way to spend Christmas: at a castle in Scotland or, at least, reading about it. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Paperback Release Giveaway: The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

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Published: 28 November 2017 (Paperback Edition)

Publisher: Simon Schuster

Category: Fiction/Young Adult

A love letter to the 1980s and to nerds everywhere—The Impossible Fortress will make you remember what it feels like to love someone—or something—for the first time.

Billy Marvin’s first love was his computer.

Then he met Mary Zelinsky.

Do you remember your first love?

It’s May 1987. Fourteen-year-old Billy Marvin of Wetbridge, New Jersey, is a nerd, but a decidedly happy nerd. Afternoons are spent with his buddies, watching copious amounts of television, gorging on Pop-Tarts, debating who would win in a brawl (Rocky Balboa or Freddy Krueger? Bruce Springsteen or Billy Joel? Magnum P.I. or T.J. Hooker?), and programming video games on his Commodore 64 late into the night. Then Playboy magazine publishes photos of their idol, Wheel of Fortune hostess Vanna White, Billy meets expert computer programmer Mary Zelinsky, and everything changes.

Back in March I reviewed The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak (review here) and found in it a tribute to nerds of the 80’s as well as a fun game online and a musical playlist that was the perfect accompaniment to the novel.

The book itself was quite funny and outlandish at times, but you can really feel the joy of the author as he writes about the admittedly silly and sometimes dangerous antics of these boys growing up when a computer hard drive was only 20MB and the most fascinating thing for them was the possibility of snagging a copy of Playboy.

Aside from that, though, there was real passion for computer programming and other aspects of a typical 80’s nerd and while I missed living it myself (being between 0-5 years old at the time), it evoked a nostalgic feeling. I think nerds new and old will enjoy reading about Billy and his love of computers. It’s all on level so even if you’re not familiar with coding, things make sense. Whew!

To celebrate the paperback release of The Impossible Fortress, Simon Schuster is sponsoring a giveaway of the book! The Rafflecopter below will show you all the ways you can get an entry.

The giveaway will be open starting today, December 10, and run until December 17 at 12:00AM EST. Open US only.

While you’re entering and waiting for the winner to be announced, be sure to try out the game Jason Rekulak created bearing the same name. 3 levels of dodging baddies and collecting “coins”. Easy, right? Heh heh… 😉

The Impossible Fortress Game

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

 

 

 

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#ReadersCrossing Readathon – My TBR

#ReadersCrossingBingoBoard

Aentee @ Read At Midnight is at it again with a fun as heck readathon based around another of my fandoms: Animal Crossing! Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp has finally been released worldwide (to my knowledge) and, while Australia had a bit of a head start, now everyone can play camp site manager, doing all the fun things you do as an Animal Crossing avatar.

The reading challenges are based around four of the different themes within the game. Since I chose Natural when I first started the game and as Goldie, a Natural character, is my favorite, I decided to start my reading challenge off with that pathway.

Set In The Wilderness

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Sasquatch, Love, and Other Imaginary Things by Betsy Aldredge and Carrie DuBois-Shaw

 

Animal On The Cover

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An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

 

A Classic

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A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

 

Yellow Cover

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Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

 

Set In Your Country

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Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger

 

Are any of  these books on your #ReadersCrossing tbr? Which one would you start first? Let me know in the comment section as well as: which center space challenge would you like me to try first?

#readerscrossing id

 

 

 

 

 

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Review: The Authentics by Abdi Nazemian

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Published: 8 August 2017

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Category: Young Adult/Contemporary

A fresh, funny, and thought-provoking debut YA novel about a fifteen-year-old Iranian-American named Daria, who is launched on a journey of self-discovery when she discovers she was adopted

Daria Esfandyar is Iranian-American and proud of her heritage, unlike some of the “Nose Jobs” in the clique led by her former best friend, Heidi Javadi. Daria and her friends call themselves the Authentics, because they pride themselves on always keeping it real.

But in the course of researching a school project, Daria learns something shocking about her past, which launches her on a journey of self-discovery. It seems everyone is keeping secrets. And it’s getting harder to know who she even is any longer.

With infighting among the Authentics, her mother planning an over-the-top sweet sixteen party, and a romance that should be totally off limits, Daria doesn’t have time for this identity crisis. With everything in her life changing—can she figure out how to stay true to herself?

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Caution: there is some discussion near the end of the book about difficulties during pregnancy, miscarriages, and a stillbirth.

Adoption is a story I’m interested in because my own family has experience with it and I’m curious in how it’s portrayed in fiction. Add to that that I cannot recall many books with Iranian-American main characters and I was curious to see what The Authentics held in terms of storytelling and character building.

Daria’s confusion and hurt at finding out about her history and identity because of a school project for which she submitted a DNA swab felt brutal in its honesty. It can be a difficult choice to come to, whether or not to tell a child they’ve been adopted, when to tell them, etc. There are so many facets to the decision that one book couldn’t possibly cover them all. Her hurt, and the things we learn about her mother Sheila, showed more in common than I think even Daria realized.

I liked Nazemian’s writing because the events of the book, even the parts I didn’t care for as much, felt like they kept a good pace. There were a few parts that were emotionally tense, whether it was Daria and her mother Shelia confronting each other about something or Daria having a revelation about herself or even a fight between friends, and each was written so that I could feel those things in the pit of my stomach. While it took me awhile to get through this because I was distracted by other books, I think it could easily be finished within a day or so if you have the time and energy.

What I didn’t like about the book comes from two parts: one being a character’s toxic judgement of a former friend and the other being a relationship the author wanted me to believe in, if only for some of the book.

Daria had some moments that made her difficult to like as a character. The event that leads to her identity crises is intense and I don’t doubt that she would have been overwhelmed, but it’s about her aside from the feelings expressed towards that revelation. She makes some comments about Heidi, a former friend, that come off as toxic because Heidi is now popular and has started dressing in American fashions. Daria’s attitude toward this doesn’t seem to come from Heidi treating her badly as a friend (which she does, but that’s irrelevant to my point), but from the fact that she’s changed. Her judgement against Heidi, for her clothes and popularity, was misplaced. Dislike her because she’s a bad person, not because how she likes to dress now.

The “romance” between Daria and Iglesias felt weird. There was of course the fact that he was the stepson of her biological mother and while they’re not related by blood, it still seemed a bit strange to get into some kind of relationship in that situation. It didn’t seem to bother them until the end of the book, though, when the parental figures all around found out and voiced their objections. Then it was…over? They’re friends and nothing more now? It was oddly abrupt and while I didn’t care for it to begin with, if it was a relationship that I was supposed to put any stock in, I think it failed because both parties seemed to change their minds about it on a dime.

One part I’m not entirely certain how to feel about is Daria’s genealogy presentation at the end of the book. It’s what started her on the process to figuring out the secret of the book and the conclusions she draws came out badly in the text. The quote “part of an Iranian, Mexican, Chinese, American, Muslim, Jewish, and agnostic family.” felt poorly worded because it felt to me like she was assuming parts of the cultures, for example, of her Chinese brother-in-law. We don’t see much of him in the book and Daria’s only met his parents once. Her biological father is Jewish, but her one interaction with him was without either of them knowing the other’s identity. Being a part of a family that is all these things is not the problem I have, more the wording chosen to express it.

I hope to read more from this author, as I think his writing is a style that would yield more interesting books. While there were some issues, overall I think the work was a good one, both as a fun read and one in which something could be learned, whether it was about empathy or discovery or finding your family, whoever makes up that group of people.

 

 

 

 

 

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Debut Authors Bash 2017 Spotlight: Where I Found You by Heidi R. Kling

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Where I Found You (Sea #1) by Heidi R. Kling

Genre: YA Contemporary

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Published on December 4th, 2017

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Goodreads  –  Entangled Publishing

After her mother’s plane went missing over the Indian Ocean, seventeen-year-old Sienna Jones gave up everything she loved about living in California. No more surfing. No more swimming. No more ocean, period. Playing it safe, hiding from the world, is the best call.

Until her dad throws down the challenge of a lifetime: spend the summer with his humanitarian team in Indonesia, working with orphans who lost everything in a massive tsunami.

The day they arrive, Sienna meets a mysterious boy named Deni, whose dark, intense eyes make her heart race. Their stolen nights force her to open up and live in a way she thought she couldn’t anymore. When she’s with Deni, she remembers the girl she used to be…and starts to feel like the woman he sees in her.

A woman he wants for his own.

Gulp.

But when Deni’s past comes looking for him, Sienna’s faced with losing another person she loves. She can’t do it. Not again.

Fortunately, this time, she has a plan.

About the Author

Heidi R. Kling writes about normal girls in fantastic situations. PAINT MY BODY RED, a romantic thriller about a girl fleeing secrets from home launches November 2 with EntangledTeen, followed by several more novels on various Entangled imprints. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the New School, but has been writing books, plays and screenplays since she could practically hold a pencil.

Her first novel, SEA (Putnam), was a Gateway Readers Award Finalist & Northern California Book of the Year nominee, was a Summer 2010 Indie Next Pick and a Goodreads “Mover and Shaker”.

Website  –  Goodreads  –  Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

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Waiting on Wednesday: Burning Magic by Joshua Khan

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event created by Breaking the Spine in which we highlight a title we’re looking forward to reading. You can find their website here.

 

Burning Magic (Shadow Magic, #3)

Burning Magic by Joshua Khan

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Published: 28 April 2018

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Category: Fantasy/Middle Grade

In Book 3, when Lily, aka the “witch queen” and bat-rider extraordinaire Thorn travel to Sultanate of Fire, things go terribly wrong. Instead of celebrating a reunion with their old friend K’leef, they are thrust into royal murder, an epic quest, and a deadly battle for the throne. While investigating the murder, Lily learns shocking truths about her life that could destroy all she has achieved. Yet, among the ruins of her old life, she has the opportunity to become someone greater . . . and more terrifying. Thorn and the magnificent bat, Hades, join the timid K’leef and the idiotic Gabriel Solar in a quest to find a phoenix. These fire birds are the key to saving the sultanate, but they nest within the Shardlands. The boys must defeat not only the monsters of that magical wilderness, but also rivals eager to claim the throne for themselves. Rivals that include a renegade from House Shadow . . . Chilling surprises, ghostly encounters, and belly laughs are just some of the treats in store for readers of this burning-hot desert adventure.

I’ve been a fan of Joshua Khan’s since I first read Shadow Magic, the first book about Lily and Thorn. This being the third book, I am anxious to see what happens to my favorite characters next, particularly since they’re visiting new territory only spoken about previously.

Things can’t be simple though, can they? It sounds like all the danger and adventure of home will be following them as they travel to visit an old friend and are faced with new dilemmas.

I am hoping this won’t be the final book in the series because they’re really fun reads and, since Lily and Thorn are fairly young, there’s always the possibility of following them for many more years/adventures.

 

 

 

 

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Review: The Little Red Wolf by Amélie Fléchais (Illustrator/Author), Andrea Colvin (Editor), Jeremy Melloul (translator)

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Published: 3 October 2017

Publisher: Diamond Book Distributors – Lion Forge

Category: Graphic Novel/Fantasy/Childrens/Fantasy

A young wolf, on a journey to bring his grandmother a rabbit, is charmed by the nice little girl who offers to help him… but nice is not the same as good.

Rating:  5 Stars

I’ve heard of retellings before and am quite a fan of them. However, one that I had never considered before, at least not at great length, was what if it was the wolf going through the forest and a young girl that lured him off the forest path on the way to grandmother’s house?

Freely inspired by Charles Perrault’s Little Red Riding Hood, Amélie Fléchais turns the classic story into a tale of her own with a renewed point of view while still retaining the darkness of the original story.

The little wolf has the mannerisms of the main character of a fairy tale. He wants to trust, but his good heart is too good and it gets him into trouble when he meets the young girl who lives in the forest with her hunter papa. Through her he learns not only why he should fear humans, but why he should heed the warnings of his parents.

What is interesting about Amélie Fléchais’s version of the Red Riding Hood story is that we get a little more story to the feud, so to speak, between the adversaries. The young girl tells the little wolf why she and her father hate the wolves and, at the conclusion of the book, we find out why this isn’t the only side to the story. It’s an good metaphor for real life because there just as in Little Red Riding Wolf, there is always more than one side to a story.

Fléchais’s artwork was a blessing for the story because it enhanced the story. I’m not entirely certain of the methods used, but to hazard a guess I’d say a mixture of watercolors and graphite pencils. Whatever was used, the colors were blended well to bring to mind a fairy tale story, muted when the narrative called for a subdued tone, and bright when the little fox had hope and his family was there for him.

I’d recommend this book for fans of all ages, though caution parents that they may need to explain why the little fox is bringing a visible rabbit to his grandmother to eat/snacks on it along the way. The visuals are not graphic, exactly, just alluded it in a way that might inspire questions from some astute young ones.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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