Friday, December 15, 2017

ARC Review: Prince in Disguise by Stephanie Kate Strohm

Prince in Disguise
Author: Stephanie Kate Strohm
Publication: Disney-Hyperion (December 19, 2017)

Description: 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.

My Thoughts: Dylan finds herself swept off the Scotland for her sister's destination wedding. Her sister Dusty won Scottish laird Ronan's hand on the Prince in Disguise, a reality show, and now they will be filming all that leads up to the wedding. Nothing could make camera-shy Dylan less happy. Of course being left at the train station by the best man and rescued by cute Jamie gives her adventure quite a start.

Dylan and Jamie become good friends as they both try to avoid the cameras. Dylan was a great character. She loves her sister and mother as much as she hates being part of a reality TV show. She really doesn't want her budding romance with Jamie to become a plot thread on the program but she is willing if it will distract the producer from Dusty's secret.

The story is filled with great characters from the over-the-top best man to the evil future mother-in-law to Dusty who can turn on and turn off Southern Belle at will to Jamie who is a geeky, gawky hero with a secret of his own. I liked Dylan's relationship with her absentee father who shows up to walk Dusty down the aisle. I thought it was realistic that she had no interest in forming a relationship with a man who walked away from his family before she even knew him.

This was by turns funny and touching and romantic. I recommend it to fans of romance and reality TV.

Favorite Quote:
"And I willna drop it. I'm a very delicate touch. Hands of a baby angel. 'S what all the girls say."

"No offense, but I can't imagine anything I'd like to touch me less than the hands of a baby angel." I shuddered.

"Not even a giant squid?" Jamie asked.

"Hands of a baby angel is creepier. Why is the angel a baby? Why is it touching me? Am I dead? If the giant squid is touching me, I'd assume it was by accident. Like, I swam into its space."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Book Review: Almost Everything by Tate Hallaway

Almost Everything
Author: Tate Hallaway
Series: Vampire Princess of St. Paul
Publication: Berkley; 1 Original edition (February 7, 2012)

Description: Ever since her father banished the half-witch, half-vampire Ana Parker and vampire knight Elias from the court of the Northern vampires, Ana has been trying to live a normal life. But when the Prince of the Southern Region vampires informs Ana that they're on the brink of war and she accidentally offers up Elias as a peace offering, the princess knows that she's going to need some help to get out of this situation.

With Ana's boy drama meter hitting an all time high, summer in St. Paul is heating up for all the wrong reasons...

My Thoughts: Ana and Elias are getting used to being exiled from her father's court but that doesn't mean the vampires are through with them. Ana is visited by the Prince of the Southern Region who needs to form an alliance or they will need to go to war. Inadvertently, Ana offers Elias and is surprised when her offer is accepted. But before she loses her vampire boyfriend they have to deal with vampires who need to hunt and can only be satisfied by hunting a witch. In the Southern Region, the witch queen willingly sacrifices herself which won't do for Ana since the witch queen is her mother. In other regions, a lottery is used to pick the witch who will be sacrificed. Ana wants to find a way to satisfy the hunt without anyone having to die.

While trying to find a way to change the hunt, Ana is still juggling three potential love interests. Elias was her vampire betrothed until her father exiled both of them. Even with the betrothal ended the two still have a blood bond. Nik is her witch/rock star boyfriend who happens to be in training to become a vampire hunter. Then there is Matt Thompson who is mundane and who shares her interest in acting. Ana would so like to be normal that Thompson appeals to her even though she can't share her secrets and the two don't have much in common.

I love the humor in this series and Ana makes a great main character. The book is action-packed and engaging.

Favorite Quote:
The other reason I loathe going to my father's court was because the dress code freaked me out, in that they didn't have one. Vampires will tell you that they are "natural" creatures, more like elves than demons. For this reason, they liked to cavort in the buff. Buck naked. Nude. Completely in the altogether.

I swear I put twenty bucks in my future-therapy fund every time I saw my dad in his birthday suit.
I bought this one August 11, 2012. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Book Review: Almost Final Curtain by Tate Hallaway

Almost Final Curtain
Author: Tate Hallaway
Series: Vampire Princess of St. Paul
Publication: Berkley; 1 edition (May 3, 2011)

Description: Craving the spotlight is in her blood.

Ever since high school student Anastasija Parker discovered she was vampire royalty, her life has been sort of crazy. The half-vampire- half-witch just wants some normalcy, and trying out for the spring musical seems like the perfect fix.

But when the ancient talisman that stands between vampire freedom and slavery to witches is stolen, Ana has to skip rehearsal and track down the dangerous artifact before someone uses it to make this year's curtain call her last...

My Thoughts: This is the second book in the Vampire Princess of St. Paul trilogy. Ana is trying to find her own path and still be an ordinary high school kid. She is having some issues with her trainee vampire slayer/rock star boyfriend that places them on a break which is just fine with her BFF who is more than eager to lend him a shoulder to cry on. It is hard to be on a break though when he is working with the theater director to update the music for the Spring musical - My Fair Lady. Tryouts are coming and Ana is up for the female lead. Of course, once the school finds out that Nik is doing the music, everyone wants to tryout including Thompson who has been Ana's nemesis at school. Turns out he's not such a bad guy and has a great voice.

Beyond the school drama is something bigger. The magical talisman that allowed the witches to bring the vampires from another dimension and make them slaves has made a reappearance. It was thought to be lost but now both witches and vampires want to find it and control it. When it goes missing again, neither side knows who took it. Elias even defied the vampire king in his quest to locate the talisman and has been exiled. Now Ana has a vampire living in her basement.

This was another fun episode in an entertaining urban fantasy series. I like Ana's desire to be her own person despite being pulled by each parent to choose their side. I also liked that Ana is still dealing with all the usual high school activities and schoolwork around trying to save her vampire subjects. Urban fantasy fans will enjoy this one.

Favorite Quote:
Great, now my head was really spinning. So not only did I have the talisman resurfacing, the breaking and entering I ordered Elias to do, and Nikolai's game-changing something mysteriously illegal, but now I also had my BFF's conspiracy theory to contend with.

And I'd forgotten to read today's history chapters.
I bought this one August 11, 2012. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Book Review: Almost to Die For by Tate Hallaway

Almost to Die For
Author: Tate Hallaway
Series: Vampire Princess of St. Paul
Publication: Berkley (August 3, 2010)

Description: Twilight meets The Princess Diaries in the new series from the author of Honeymoon of the Dead

On her sixteenth birthday, Anastasija Parker learns that her so-called deadbeat dad is actually a vampire king. And he wants Ana to assume her rightful position at his side, in spite of the fact that she has witch's blood running through her veins-from her mother's side.

Too bad witches and vampires are mortal enemies. And now Ana's parents are at each other's throats over her future. It's up to Ana to make a choice, but deciding your eternal destiny is a pretty big deal for a girl who just wants to get through high school.

My Thoughts: Ana Parker has a memorable sixteenth birthday - and not in a good way. She is worried about the ceremony that is supposed to confirm her as a True Witch but it requires magic and, despite what her mother tells her, she can't do magic. She learns that her father is a vampire king that her mother has never mentioned and won't answer questions about. Both of her parents want her to choose their side in the war that was supposed to be ended when her parents married and had a child.

Ana doesn't know what to do. She meets Elias who is a member of the vampire king's guard who swears to protect her and who gives her some information about the witch-vampire fight. She also gets closer to Nikolai who is a member of the coven and who she has known for a while. She is interested in him but felt he was out of her league and, besides, her best friend also had a crush on him. Nikolai has been training all his life to become a vampire slayer which is sort of a problem because Ana is half-vampire.

I enjoyed the St. Paul setting and seeing some familiar locations included in this story. This was an entertaining urban fantasy story. I liked Ana and sympathized with the tough decisions she had to make about her future. Personally, I'm on the side of the vampires since all of the violence and coercion came from Ana's mother who, it turns out, is queen of the witches.

This is the first book in a trilogy. I can't wait to read the rest. 

Favorite Quote:
Okay, new question. Elias Constantine: (a) dashing vampire protector or (b) creepy stalker guy.

What would have been an easy "a" ten minutes ago now had me wondering. Maybe it was the way the light caught his unblinking, steady gaze that seemed to bore right through me, or the fact that I was hyperaware that I held Nikolai's hand under the table.
I bought this one August 11, 2012. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, December 1, 2017

State of the Stack #66 (Dec. 1, 2017)

This is my monthly State of the Stack post. It is my way to keep track of my review books and to hopefully reduce the stack that I have waiting for me. I take a look at my review commitments on or near the first of the month. Link with Avalalinha's Books (description below) to check out other people's progress. She has just recently started a meme about review books.

Here is my Review Books Spreadsheet I list them in publication order and sort them by month. I can quickly see how many books I have for each date. Ideally, this keeps me from over-committing to review books. Check my spreadsheet to find out where I got each book.

I also do this post because sometimes (frequently) review books sit on my stack for a while before I read and review them. I try to read and review books within two weeks of publication date. Sometimes I can't, though, if too many books are releasing on the same date or if the book arrives too near its publication date and my calendar is already full.

I am very grateful to the authors and publishers who support my reading habit.

My Review Pile

A Wedding at Two Love Lane by Kieran Kramer (Jan. 2)
Dragon Blood by Eileen Wilks (Jan. 2)
What Doesn't Kill You by Aimee Hix (Jan. 8)
The English Wife by Lauren Willig (Jan. 9)
A Mortal Likeness by Laura Joh Rowland (Jan. 9)
Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Jan. 9)
A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn (Jan. 16)
Cast in Deception by Michelle Sagara (Jan. 23)
Let's Talk About Love by Claire Kann (Jan. 23)
Final Siege by Scarlett Cole (Jan. 30)
Heat by Donna Grant (Jan. 30)
Baby, I'm Howling for You by Christine Warren (Jan. 30)

This Fallen Prey by Kelley Armstrong (Feb. 6)
Look for Me by Lisa Gardner (Feb. 6)
Survive the Night by Katie Ruggle (Feb. 6)
The Greed by Scott Bergstrom (Feb. 6)
Death & the Viking's Daughter by Loretta Ross (Feb. 8)
A Cold Day in Hell by Lissa Marie Redmond (Feb. 8)
The Philosopher's Flight by Tom Miller (Feb. 13)
The Ambrose Deception by Emily Ecton (Feb. 13)
The Sweetest Kind of Fate by Crystal Cestari (Feb. 13)
No One Can Know by Lucy Kerr (Feb. 13)
The Cat of the Baskervilles by Vicki Delany (Feb. 13)
The Tombs by Deborah Schaumberg (Feb. 20)
Fire and Bone by Rachel A. Marks (Feb. 20)
Pitch Dark by Courtney Alameda (Feb. 20)
Ink, Iron, and Glass by Gwendolyn Clare (Feb. 20)
The Policeman's Daughter by Trudy Nan Boyce (Feb. 27)
Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman (Feb. 27)

Lethal in Old Lace by Duffy Brown (March 13)
Searcher of the Dead by Nancy Herriman (March 13)
Losing Leah by Tiffany King (March 20)
Lost Crow Conspiracy by Rosalyn Eves (March 27)
Hot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston (March 27)

They Lost Their Heads by Carlyn Beccia (April 3)
The Window by Amelia Brunskill (April 3)
The Shadow of Death by Jane Willan (April 10)
Bad Neighbors by Maia Chance (April 10)
The Reckless Rescue (The Explorers) by Adrienne Kress (April 24)
White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig (April 24)

No Cure for the Dead by Christine Trent (May 8)
Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton (May 22)

I Read This Month

These are listed in the order I read them. Links go to my reviews for all that have been posted already. Otherwise, the date the review is scheduled for is listed.
  1. Rosemarked by Livia Blackburne (Nov. 17)
  2. Lure of Oblivion by Suzanne Wright (Nov. 25) 
  3. Pathways edited by Mercedes Lackey (Nov. 30) 
  4. No Place Like You by Emma Douglas (Dec. 2) 
  5. A Case of Syrah, Syrah by Nancy J. Parra (Dec. 5) 
  6. Bury the Past by James L'Etoile (Dec. 7)
  7. A Murder for the Books by Victoria Gilbert (Dec. 9)
  8. Killman Creek by Rachel Caine (Dec. 13)
  9. Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins (Dec. 21) 
  10. Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley (Dec. 28)
Read Previously, Reviews Posted This Month
  1. Much Ado About Murder by Elizabeth J. Duncan
  2. Unholy City by Carrie Smith
  3. Truth Be Told by Kendra Elliot
  4. A Spoonful of Magic by Irene Radford
  5. Fragments of the Lost by Megan Miranda
  6. City of Lies by Victoria Thompson
  7. Haven by Mary Lindsey
I Added These Books

These are listed in the order I received them. Links go to Amazon. Date published is listed in parentheses.
  1. They Lost Their Heads!: What Happened to Washington's Teeth, Einstein's Brain, and Other Famous Body Parts by Carlyn Beccia (April 3)
  2. The Reckless Rescue (The Explorers) by Adrienne Kress (April 24)
  3. Killman Creek by Rachel Caine (Dec. 12)
  4. Cast in Deception by Michelle Sagara (Jan. 23)
  5. Searcher of the Dead by Nancy Herriman (March 13)
  6. Fire and Bone by Rachel A. Marks (Feb. 20)
  7. The Philosopher's Flight by Tom Miller (Feb. 13)
  8. Bad Neighbors by Maia Chance (April 10)
  9. No Cure for the Dead: A Florence Nightingale Mystery by Christine Trent (May 8)
  10. The Shadow of Death by Jane Willan (April 10)
  11. Lethal in Old Lace by Duffy Brown (March 13)
  12. Survive the Night by Katie Ruggle (Feb. 6)
  13. Baby, I'm Howling for You by Christine Warren (Jan. 30)
  14. A Wedding at Two Love Lane by Kieran Kramer (Jan. 2)
  15. Heat by Donna Grant (Jan. 30) 
  16. Final Siege by Scarlett Cole (Jan. 30)
  17. Black Star Renegades by Michael Moreci (Jan. 2)
  18. Look for Me by Lisa Gardner (Feb. 6) 
  19. What Doesn't Kill You by Aimee Hix (Jan. 8) 
  20. A Cold Day in Hell by Lissa Marie Redmond (Feb. 8)
  21. Death and the Viking's Daughter by Loretta Ross (Feb.  8)
  22. The Tombs by Deborah Schaumberg (Feb. 20)
  23. This Fallen Prey by Kelley Armstrong (Feb. 6)
Next Month's Plan

It looks like my reading in December will mostly consist of January releases. January won't have much variety either as I tackle even more February releases. I really can't accept any more books that have release dates in January or February. My calendar for those months is already packed full. 

I am also linking up with the State of the ARC meme. Here are the explanation and rules.

State of the ARC is a monthly meme at Avalinah’s Books meant to motivate you to finish up all your long overdue ARCs (Advanced or Early Reader Copies). You can track your reading progress and link up with your own post. Most commonly it comes out on the 30th of every month.

Rules of State of the ARC:

  • Mention that you’re linking up with State of the ARC @ AvalinahsBooks, which is a fun way to share our ARC progress, challenges, wins, woes and mishaps.
  • Include the link to this post, or the current State of the ARC post. You can use my State of the ARC image too.
  • Don’t forget to visit all the other people in the link-up and comment.
  • And most importantly – have fun!

Book Review: Charles Darwin by Kathleen Krull

Charles Darwin
Author: Kathleen Krull
Series: Giants of Science
Publication: Viking Books for Young Readers (October 14, 2010)

Description: All his life, Charles Darwin hated controversy. Yet he takes his place among the Giants of Science for what remains an immensely controversial subject: the theory of evolution. Darwin began piecing together his explanation for how all living things change or adapt during his five-year voyage on HMS Beagle. But it took him twenty years to go public, for fear of the backlash his theory would cause. Once again, Kathleen Krull delivers a witty and astute picture of one of history's greatest scientists.

My Thoughts: Charles Darwin was a fascinating man. Born rich, he had time to follow his interests and spent years studying nature. After abandoning a potential career in medicine (because he couldn't stand the sight of blood), Darwin was offered the position of gentleman naturalist on the Beagle and spent almost five years traveling around the world and collecting specimens of plants and animals. Despite a ferocious seasickness that never went away, Darwin took thousands of pages of notes about his observations.

When he returned to England, he spent years going through and studying his specimens and coming up with proof of the theory of evolution. The theory was not new; his grandfather had proposed a variation on it. What Darwin did was provide all sorts of evidence to support his theory.

Being a non-confrontational sort of person and plagued with a variety of illnesses, Darwin sat on his research and continually improved it for years before publishing his masterwork On the Origin of Species. It sold well in part because it was written in a way that the average educated reader could understand it and in part because the time was right in Victorian England for that kind of work.

After publication, he took sort of a backseat and let his "cheerleaders" - other prominent scientists who agreed with his theory - do the publicizing. Darwin turned his attention to other scientific studies - barnacles, orchids, and worms, among them - where he could put his keen sense of observation to work.

This was an engaging story about an intriguing man and a theory that has changed science and is still changing it today.

Favorite Quote:
"At last gleams of light have come," he wrote in 1844 in a famous letter to his friend Joseph Hooker, "and I am almost convinced (quite contrary to opinion I started with) that species are not (it is like confessing a murder) immutable...I think I have found out (here's a presumption!) the simple way by which species become exquisitely adapted to various ends."
I bought this one April 16, 2013. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Book Review: Albert Einstein by Kathleen Krull

Albert Einstein
Author: Kathleen Krull
Series: Giants of Science
Publication: Viking Books for Young Readers (October 15, 2009)

Description: Albert Einstein. His name has become a synonym for genius. His wild case of bedhead and playful sense of humor made him a media superstar: the first, maybe only, scientist-celebrity. He wasn't much for lab work; in fact he had a tendency to blow up experiments. What he liked to do was think, not in words but in "thought pictures." What was the result of all his thinking? Nothing less than the overturning of Newtonian physics. Once again, Kathleen Krull delivers a witty and astute look at one of the true "Giants of Science" and the turbulent times in which he lived.

My Thoughts: Einstein is a scientist who has always fascinated me while baffling me with his discoveries. So I was pleased to find a biography written for middle graders that was both entertaining and informative. Kathleen Krull has written about Einstein in a way that makes him understandable both as a human and as a scientist.

The descriptions of his discoveries were clearer than any other I have read but by no means easy to understand. I was intrigued to learn that Einstein was a visual thinker rather than a verbal one. I also enjoyed learning that he never lost his curiosity about the world and had the extreme patience to allow himself to work on a theory for more than thirty years.

I liked learning how many things that are commonplace today wouldn't exist without Einstein's discoveries. I liked learning that he was much better with science than he was with people but disliked his treatment of his wives and children. I liked his devotion to pacifism and his distress that his theory of relativity lead to the development of the atomic bomb.

I enjoyed this biography because it humanized one of the great names in modern science.

Favorite Quote:
The four papers he published in 1905 revolutionized scientists' understanding of the universe. Space and time no longer meant what people thought they meant; they behaved in ways that didn't seem to agree with common sense. Scientists are still working on the implications of what he discovered.
I bought this one April 16, 2013. You can buy your copy here.