Friday, June 27, 2014

Doctor Who Series 8 gets a premiere date!

It was announced today that Doctor Who's eighth series -- and Peter Capaldi's (!!!) debut as Twelve -- will happen August 23rd! THERE'S A DATE AND EVERYTHING, PEOPLE!!! It seems so real now. *wink* Here's a new teaser...not much to speak of in the way of new footage, but I'll take what I can get. :)

Endeavour Series 2

So, I guess it's officially summer since PBS is finally providing viewers with Masterpiece Mystery-themed programming -- and the one I've been most looking forward to is the return of a young Endeavour Morse!! Endeavour kicks off its second series on PBS this Sunday, June 29th, and runs through July 20th. The first series of this show was just FABULOUS -- from the period setting, costumes, and atmosphere, to the scripting, to each and ever single cast member -- this show is a positive dream come true for this mystery lover. And Shaun Evans' performance as a young Morse is pitch-perfect. Here are a few previews to whet your appetite for the premiere. Enjoy!

Series 2 Preview:

What is Endeavour?

The Musketeers

In case you missed it Sunday (and I forgot to blog about it -- BAD RUTH!), BBC America aired the premiere of The Musketeers and it was GLORIOUS. Amazing actors, lots of leather, swords, and tons of swagger -- I am SO THERE. The cast features Luke Pasqualino as D'Artagnan, Tom Burke (lately of The Hour, may it rest in peace!) as Athos, Santiago Cabrera (I. LOVE. HIM. His Lancelot in Merlin was a thing of beauty!) as Aramis, Howard Charles as Porthos, Hugo Speer as the Musketeers' captain, and Peter I'M THE NEXT FRIGGIN' DOCTOR Capaldi as Richielieu. And Tamla Kari as Constance and Maimie McCoy as Milady, and not to knock their performances but the last time I watched a Musketeers adaptation for Milady was, well...never. *wink*

Here's a preview:

My friend Deborah is recapping the show for Entertainment Weekly - you can read her first post HERE.

The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy

Yesterday, thanks to a discussion thread on a friend's Facebook wall, I discovered the existence of this delightful webseries - The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy. I've only watched through episode four, but so far I am thoroughly enjoying this fresh, modern take on J.M. Barrie's classic! Here are the first two installments:


Growing Up (Episode 1):

You can access the rest of the episodes through the main website or YouTube channel.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Review: Cinderella's Dress by Shonna Slayton

Cinderella's Dress
By: Shonna Slayton
Publisher: Entangled Teen


The better part of Kate Allen's youth has been spent coming of age in a world at war, never forgetting the twin mantras of making do and doing without in order to support the war effort. But now, on the cusp of adulthood, she finds herself caught between the life she's always known and dreams of making a name for herself, of doing something to set herself apart. While her mother has long harbored dreams of stardom for her only daughter, shuttling her from auditions to fashion shows, Kate would much rather be known for her creativity than her figure or dubious acting talents. With the end of the war at long last in sight, Kate pushes to realize her ambition of breaking into the male-dominated world of window design at the department store where she works. And when she catches the eye of handsome Johnny Day, the owner's son, she seems tantalizingly close to realizing both her professional dreams and, at long last, the promise of romance.

But when Kate's great-aunt and uncle unexpectedly arrive on her doorstep, everything changes. Elsie and Adalbert bring with them not only stories of war-ravaged Poland, but a large trunk containing their most closely-guarded secret. Within the trunk lies the real-life Cinderella's dress, and with its possession a familial legacy of honor, heartache, and danger. As Kate quickly discovers, the dress -- and its powers -- are real. And how she responds to the legendary garment and its call on her life promises to impact both a centuries-old feud and the course of her own future.

I was thrilled when approached with the opportunity to review Cinderella's Dress, for beyond that gorgeous cover image, it promised to combine my two great reading loves -- World War II history and re-imagined fairy tales. For her debut, Shonna Slayton set herself the ambitious task of translating a beloved fairy tale into a believable fashion into an already rich, real-life historical framework. And while the end result isn't quite what I anticipated, I must applaud Slayton for this fresh take on the ever-popular trend of retelling classic tales, particularly in such a unique and fresh way.

Going into the novel, I expected more dress-specific impact to the storyline -- more of a direct translation of the fairy tale to Kate's twentieth-century world. Instead, Slayton delivers a wartime coming of age tale lightly-colored by Kate's unique family history, inspiring her own Cinderella-esque romance. I wish the importance of the dress and the role it would come to play in Kate's life had been established sooner in the narrative. Instead, over the course of this relatively slim novel, the dress lingers in the background, an on-going mystery while months pass and the war eventually ends. While this stalls the forward momentum of the narrative, it does reveal Slayton's greatest strength -- and that is in the establishment of a wholly believable, 1940s-era teenage voice in Kate. I LOVED watching Kate grow up, push boundaries, and fall in love. The letters interspersed throughout the text were an especially welcome touch -- my only complaint is that there weren't enough of them! The letters also illuminate the issue of pacing and the passage of time in this novel -- one or two brief missives may span a time jump of months, leaving readers to assume a growth in Kate's friendship with Johnny that I would have preferred to see explored in greater depth on the page.

Slayton has a wonderful knack for evoking wartime New York. From Kate's relationship with her mother and brother, their collective concern over her father in Europe and her brother's upcoming enlistment, to Kate's relationship with her best friend and their conversations about everything from film and fashion to Frank Sinatra (LOVED that!), and her desire to break into a male-dominated profession, the homefront springs to life on the page with a refreshing authenticity. Cinderella's Dress may be light on the fairy tale-related drama, but as a sketch of the hopes and fears of those on the wartime homefront it succeeds marvelously.

I was pleasantly surprised by the manner in which Kate's slowly-blossoming romance with Johnny mirrors the story beats of the Cinderella tale, with a thoroughly modern twist. No wicked stepfamily here, just a working girl falling in love with the gorgeous, artistic-minded "prince" of her workplace. While the twist of a real Cinderella dress was a promising concept, what enthralled me most about this debut was Kate's pitch-perfect period teenage voice, career aspirations, and relationship with Johnny. In fact, until the novel's final act, the Cinderella conceit felt *almost* unnecessary. What color it does add to the story I wish had been explored in greater depth, but for a debut I love the gamble taken here in seeking to incorporate the twin passions of history and folklore.

While Cinderella's Dress is less of a historical fairy tale and more of a slow-burning period character study, I thoroughly enjoyed my introduction to Slayton's writing. I desperately wish some of her promising concepts had been given more room to develop, making the dress lore aspect of the story more prominent. But that aside, Slayton has a clear affinity for the time period and a charming ability to pen a sweet romance that left me thoroughly charmed. I would love to see more historical fiction of this ilk, and with clearer pacing and a stronger integration of the fairy tale and historical elements, I have high hopes that further ventures of this type from Slayton's pen may well outshine the first!

About the book:

Being a teen-ager during World War II is tough. Finding out you’re the next keeper of the real Cinderella’s dresses is even tougher.

Kate simply wants to create window displays at the department store where she's working, trying to help out with the war effort. But when long-lost relatives from Poland arrive with a steamer trunk they claim holds the Cinderella’s dresses, life gets complicated.

Now, with a father missing in action, her new sweetheart shipped off to boot camp, and her great aunt losing her wits, Kate has to unravel the mystery before it’s too late.

After all, the descendants of the wicked stepsisters will stop at nothing to get what they think they deserve.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy - UK trailer

An actual, useful trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy! Yay! Now I feel as though I actually have some idea of what this movie is about, as opposed to sci-fi space heroes who like "Hooked on a Feeling" and "Spirit in the Sky."

Monday, June 16, 2014

Amazing grace, indeed.

I love Nicole & Keith and to see that the would choose to sing this song - one of my FAVORITES - when visiting hospitalized kids, that means so much!

Friday, June 13, 2014

best news EVER

I logged onto Facebook this morning to discover the BEST news! Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, which I absolutely ADORE, has finally been confirmed for a third series! This was in doubt for several months, presumably due to budget cuts, but thanks to its popularity, awards, and a successful fan campaign, Miss Fisher and Jack (!!!) and Hugh and Dot will return!! I AM THRILLED. The announcement on the show's official Facebook page states that filming is scheduled to start in October!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Review: Lord Perfect by Loretta Chase

Lord Perfect (Carsington Brothers #3)
By: Loretta Chase
Publisher: Penguin
ASIN: B000P2A45Y


Benedict Carsington, Viscount Rathbourne and oldest son of the Earl of Hargate is a paragon. Known throughout the ton as Lord Perfect, he is a shining beacon of respectability and responsibility, the one Carsington brother who would never give his parents a moment's worry or even dream of causing a scandal. He knows all the rules, knows what is expected of him, and follows society's guidelines to their logical and well-ordered end...for uncontrolled passions and rule-breaking only beget one thing: chaos. And Benedict has enough brushes with chaos thanks to his nephew and godson Peregrine, who had the misfortune to be born to a set of parents prone to emotional hysterics and with an insatiable urge to question everything. As a widower and an acknowledged example of social perfection, Benedict was oft-times called on to exert his considerable force of will in an effort to mold Peregrine's character into a gentleman worthy of his antecedents, a task he's come to appreciate as within his nephew Benedict sees a boy seeking to become a man after his own heart -- one who seeks reason and order in a world of emotional chaos. But when Bathsheba DeLucey Wingate, of the infamous Dreadful DeLuceys, and her hellion of a daughter Olivia enter their lives, suddenly an orderly life holds little appeal if it means living bereft of the beautiful widow's company her and astonishing ability to disorder his life with a mere glance...

Bathsheba Wingate wants nothing more than to live a quiet, respectable life, the very antithesis of her upbringing among the scandal-ridden branch of the Dreadful DeLuceys. But her beloved daughter Olivia is determined to make her mama's quest as difficult as possible, for what allure can respectability hold when compared to the secrets her DeLucey-ish daughter can coax from pawnbrokers or glean from the pages of a scandal sheet? When "Lord Perfect" inquires about appointing Bathsheba as a drawing tutor for his nephew she knows any intimate acquaintance must be guarded against at all costs -- for a paragon such as Benedict, one whose smoldering good looks and quick whit belied his reputation as a virtuous bore, a relationship with the likes of Bathsheba could end in further infamy staining her reputation, for no respectable man could ever look past the DeLucey history.

Olivia is nothing if not enterprising, and wishing to alleviate some of her mother's burdens (and have an adventure in the bargain) she sets off in search of a DeLucey ancestor's famed treasure -- and manages to ensnare Peregrine in her wild scheme as an accomplice and escort. When the children are discovered missing, Benedict and Bathsheba reluctantly join forces and set off in pursuit, eager to avoid a scandal. But their quest is fraught with danger, from townsfolk determined to brawl with traveling strangers, to the dangerous and undeniable attraction simmering between Bathsheba and Benedict, threatening to explode. For if Lord Perfect were linked to a Dreadful DeLucey, the scandal that would erupt would make their children's shenanigans pale in comparison...

People, I am so in love with the Carsington brothers. This installment is the best yet, following Alistair's story in Miss Wonderful and Rupert's in Mr. Impossible. Compared to his brother Alistair, a war hero, hapless with women, and Rupert, a self-proclaimed blockhead and the despair of all who know him, Benedict is -- dare I say it? -- positively dull. But one cannot come from a family as colorful and close-knit as the Carsingtons and not have hidden reservoirs of scandalous potential. Like its predecessors, Lord Perfect sparkles with Chase's whip-smart humor, delightfully sarcastic dialogue, and sizzling romantic tension, but multiplies all by a factor of ten (at least). This book is an absolute delight from start to finish, firmly cementing Loretta Chase as one of my favorite historical romance authors.

One of the many things I loved most about Benedict's story is that both he and Bathsheba are relatively older romantic leads, both having been married before and experienced the loss of a spouse. And, contrary to social expectations regarding Bathsheba's antecedents, both have been convinced that the route to, if not happiness, than contentment, lies in operating within their respective, strictly proscribed social spheres. Both possess a strong sense of duty and responsibility, thus making the push-and-pull of their forbidden, sure to fail attraction all the more deliciously maddening. She loves his unlikely relationship with his incorrigible nephew and the golden promise of reliability, fruit of his ethical center and "perfect" reputation, while he comes to adore her sense of humor, intelligence, and fierce desire to not be defined by her relations. How can a romance that seems so right possibly survive in a world that would see both vilified by society for daring to subvert social expectations -- and therein lies this novel's delicious, heady appeal, for within the romance trope, an attraction such as Benedict and Bathsheba's cannot be denied for long.

Chase's supporting players just shine here, as Peregrine and Olivia's unlikely friendship and headlong rush into adventure (and scandal) mirrors their guardians' -- minus the passion, given their youth (they are slated to appear in Last Night's Scandal, the fifth Carsington novel -- and I cannot wait to revisit them as adults!). From the moment Olivia "marks" Peregrine as a potential money-making target, the boy is doomed, but smart enough to not go down without a fight. *wink* I loved his passion for Egyptology, his matter-of-fact, oft-times exasperated response to Olivia's flights of fancy, and the preternatural maturity with which he views his parents' unaccountable flights of emotionalism. And Olivia is an absolute delight! The letters she writes Peregrine (not to mention their conversations) are hilarious, complete with a "wretched excess of capital letters" indicative of an "overly romantic turn of mind," detail her Family Curse and the Tragic Circumstances leading to her treasure hunt so that that she and her mother would no longer be Outcasts and Lepers. Circumstances are DIRE, dear Reader, necessitating this unlikely Quest to Bristol, and if it results in the Noble Deed of bringing together their respective guardians, so much the better, eh? *wink* And I ADORED the Earl's view of his son's new romance, resulting in my favorite and most poignant example yet of good-natured parental "meddling" within this series.

Lord Perfect is a romance lover's perfect storm (no pun intended), a glorious confection of spine-tingling romantic tension, laugh-out-loud humor, high adventure, and Chase's incandescent gift for a sly, understated turn of phrase. Benedict is a hero cut from the Heyer mold, a noble of impeccable pedigree and manners and a razor sharp gift for sarcasm. The manner in which the entire plot plays out is reminiscent of a Heyer or other more traditional Regency (particularly when compared to the series' first two installments), particularly in Chase's emphasis on the social obstacles between Benedict and Bathsheba's would-be romance. Every aspect of this book clicked for me, from the sparkling characterizations and fast-paced plotting to the dialogue positively sparking from the page with romantic tension and humor. Benedict and Bathsheba were an absolute joy to spend time with, so much so that I was loathe to leave their world -- and anticipate revisiting it at the earliest opportunity. This book is an absolute GEM, easily one of my favorite reads this year!

About the book:

The heir to the Earl of Hargate, Benedict Carsington, Viscount Rathbourne, is the perfect aristocrat. Tall, dark, and handsome, he is known for his impeccable manners and good breeding. Benedict knows all the rules and has no trouble following them -- until she enters his life.

Bathsheba Wingate belongs to the rotten branch of the DeLucey family: a notorious lot of liars, frauds, and swindlers. Small wonder her husband's high-born family disowned him. Now widowed, she's determined to give her daughter a stable life and a proper upbringing. Nothing and no one will disrupt Bathsheba's plans -- until he enters her life.

Then Bathsheba's hoyden daughter lures Benedict's precocious nephew into a quest for a legendary treasure. To recover the would-be knights errant, Benedict and Bathsheba must embark on a rescue mission that puts them in dangerous, , intimate proximity -- a situation virtually guaranteed to end in mayhem -- even scandal! -- if anyone else were involved. But Benedict is in perfect control of events. Perfect control, despite his mad desire to break all the rules. Perfect control. Really.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

All by an airport.

If you haven't seen this video yet, it's absolutely hilarious! Love this guy's sense of humor (and song choice, ha!).

All by myself from Richard Dunn on Vimeo.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Review: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Dorothy Must Die (Dorothy Must Die #1)
By: Danielle Paige
Publisher: Harper Collins
ASIN: B00DB3D302


One year after Amy Gumm's father abandoned his family and four years before the accident that robbed Amy of her mother, leaving her addicted to pain pills, she learned the difference between the haves and the have-nots. She was Salvation Amy, trailer trash and social pariah -- a status underscored by her mother's subsequent emotional abandonment. Tears weren't worth the effort, and if she was ever going to escape her hardscrabble Kansas existence, the only one she could rely on was herself. After getting expelled and fighting with her mother, Amy makes a fateful wish: "There's no place like anywhere but here." When a tornado threat materializes, striking her trailer park, the unthinkable happens -- drawn into the storm's furious power, she awakens on the edge of a steep ravine, saved from tumbling to her death in the only home she knows by a boy with emerald green eyes. A boy who tells her that she's not in Kansas anymore...she's in Oz.

But this is no hallucination. The story Amy grew up with is true, but the reality of Oz is a far cry from the Technicolor-splendor that fed her childish imaginings. Oz's emerald-green, poppy-strewn countryside has been leeched of color, turned into a post-apocalyptic wasteland, with all of its resources, the magic that makes up the land's very essence, being mined and pulled to one central location: Emerald City, where Dorothy Gale sits on the throne. Amy quickly learns that the story didn't end with Dorothy's return to Kansas -- the gingham-clad heroine returned, attached herself to Ozma, and with the help of her allies the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and not-so-cowardly Lion, began to lay claim to Oz's magical resources. Can one outcast girl from Kansas undo another's unspeakable crimes? For joining the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked has a cost, for if Dorothy must die, Amy must find the power within to seize her fate, or risk falling prey to the various factions within Oz locked in a bitter power struggle.

At the beginning of the year I devoured Paige's prequel novella, No Place Like Oz, and fell in love with her deliciously subversive continuation of The Wizard of Oz. The original story and film are undeniable classics, but I've always gravitated towards retellings that turned the original story on its head -- Wicked the musical, SyFy's Tin Man miniseries, and most recently the Oz-centric arc on ABC's Once Upon a Time. In No Place Like Oz, Paige hit all the right notes when transforming Dorothy the innocent into a selfish, would-be princess. Paige's Dorothy is a study in teenage immaturity run amok, and with her full-length debut she delves into the resultant fallout of Dorothy's fateful choices through Amy's eyes, a girl more like her tornado-traveling predecessor than she'd like to believe.

And so it was with great anticipation that I delved into the pages of Paige's full-length debut, and Amy's decidedly modern, 21st-century take on her beloved childhood classic gone very, very wrong. I've read some reviews commenting on their disappointment that this is the first of a series, and not a self-contained story. Somewhere between reading the prequel novella and this book's release, I read about the proposed sequels, so I was prepared for this to be the first installment in a longer, epic journey. However, I will say that as such, the headline-grabbing title is a bit misleading -- for while Dorothy's death may be the desired endgame for Amy and her rebel friends, it is far from resolved in this installment.

Pacing is an issue here, as our introduction to this deliciously twisted take on Oz spans over four hundred pages and succeeds in barely scratching the surface of what is necessary for Amy to learn in order to bring Dorothy down. Nearly sixty percent of the novel covers Amy's introduction to Oz, her commission by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked, and training. In that respect it ticks all the boxes necessary to be classified as dystopian YA -- spunky heroine with untapped potential, brooding love interest (Nox! *swoon*), eccentric supporting players, and a level of action and violence reminiscent in its intensity of The Hunger Games (or, I presume, Divergent, based on having seen that film). While there's far too much time spent prepping Amy for her mission into Dorothy's palace, I can't complain too much because I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Having read several of the original Baum novels as a child, I loved seeing Paige twist the source material into something new, capable of spine-tingling chills and surprises by virtue of turning classic characters and their world on its head.

If Dorothy's original journey was about finding home, and getting the Tin Man a heart, the Cowardly Lion his courage, and the Scarecrow a brain, then Dorothy Must Die is a study in consequences. How those consequences play out remain to be seen, as this first volume only hints at Paige's ultimate narrative arc. However, I'm fascinated by the concept of Amy as a "new Dorothy" being tasked with undoing a grave wrong. For while the items they valued - heart, brain, courage -- are in and of themselves good, Amy's experiences call into question whether or not those gifts should ever have been granted. Did the gifts change the recipients? Or did what each individual in question most value subsequently change, and in doing so unleash havoc beyond imagining on Oz and its people? Therefore, if Amy's ultimate mission is to undo everything her predecessor put into motion, that begs the question -- how will Oz impact her, and vice-versa? It's a conceit I cannot wait to see play out in subsequent volumes!

While Oz's traditional heroes are find themselves transformed into villains within the pages of this volume -- to horrifying effect -- the lesser known, or new supporting characters that Paige crafts to flesh out her world are among the story's highlights. I particularly loved Ollie the one-time flying monkey, and his quest to free his imprisoned sister. The flying monkeys TERRIFIED me as a child, and Paige's spin on their powers and motivation adds a welcome layer of depth and poignancy to these previously nameless terrors. I also LOVED how Glinda, Oz's traditional "good" witch, is transformed into a villain and contrasted with her dark-magic twin Glamora. Glamora is hilariously snarky, but her harsh demeanor masks a heart-breaking history with her sister, a relationship that perfectly underscores the fact that nothing -- and no one -- is as it seems in this new Oz.

Dorothy Must Die is an absorbing, thoroughly entertaining, if flawed, debut, one that's left me incredibly eager for the next installment of this dark, twisted re-imagining of the classic Oz. The first third is incredibly exposition-heavy, but on balance I found Paige's decision to slowly and carefully dole out Oz's backstory wholly absorbing, as fascinating and appalling in turns as it must've seemed to the newly-arrived Amy. This is an Oz living in terror of being convicted of the Crime of Sass and sentenced to one of Dorothy's Official Attitude Adjustments, one where everything that was once good has gone horribly wrong -- and most terrifying of all, no one is immune to evil's seductive siren call. Despite its arguably excessive length and almost leisurely introduction to Amy and her mission, I absolutely devoured this book. By the final fourth, when Amy's mission kicks into high gear and the Wizard is introduced -- but his status as friend or foe remains to be seen -- the pages flew by, and the revelation of what exactly it will take to defeat Dorothy unfolds with a positively cinematic flair. Now that the exposition and set-up are complete, with a tighter narrative I have high hopes that subsequent installments will positively shine -- and I cannot wait to see where Paige's wonderfully twisted sense of humor and  inventive imagination takes readers next!

About the book:

I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero.

But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still the yellow brick road, though—but even that's crumbling.

What happened?

Dorothy. They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I'm the other girl from Kansas.

I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.

I've been trained to fight.

And I have a mission:

Remove the Tin Woodman's heart.

Steal the Scarecrow's brain.

Take the Lion's courage.

Then and only then—Dorothy must die!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Dark Victory

I was thrilled to get the chance to talk about one of my favorite Bette Davis films, Dark Victory, for BreakPoint's series on The Films of 1939. You can read my take on this classic HERE...and if you've never seen it, I hope you'll check it out!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Review: Royally Lost by Angie Stanton

Royally Lost
By: Angie Stanton
Publisher: HarperTeen


As the heir to the throne of Mondovia, Nikolai's future was mapped out from birth. The only problem is, finished with school and on the cusp of adulthood, he's no longer sure the monarchy is an institution of which he wants any part. It's a relic of bygone days, essentially powerless and with a figurehead king, draining the resources of Mondovia to prop up obsolete traditions. And so when his parents inform him that he's to follow tradition and join the military, desperation strikes and Nikolai does the unthinkable -- he runs. Traveling across Europe incognito gives the wayward prince a taste of the freedom he craves, particularly when he meets a beautiful American tourist. But when his secret is discovered and duty catches up with him, what hope does a cross-class, cross-country summer romance have?

The last place Becca wants to be is wasting her final summer before college touring Europe with her family -- the family that has been one in name only since her mother died and her father remarried. But her perspective on the trip changes when she catches a glimpse of a handsome traveler -- a boy with gorgeous eyes whose smile turns her knees to jelly. When the hero of her fairy tale romance is revealed to be an actual prince, Becca is crushed, for how can their fledgling romance hope to survive public scrutiny? And can a headstrong American teen and a prince bound by the weight of tradition, both desperate to forge their own path in life, teach each other something new about the value of tradition and the power of dreams?

I wanted to love this book, I really did. The cover is absolutely ADORABLE, and the premise is the stuff of fluffy chick-lit gold, reminiscent of films like The Prince & Me or Chasing Liberty. The idea of royalty (or the American equivalent in a First Daughter) escaping their obligations and falling in love with a "commoner" while on a whirlwind adventure has endlessly captivated the public, a trope perhaps first and most popularly immortalized by Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. No matter one's age, the romantic appeal of this concept is, I believe timeless -- which makes the manner in which it falls flat within the pages of Royally Lost all the more disappointing.

Both Nikolai and Becca are incredibly immature, but perhaps as a fellow American I found Becca's attitude toward the trip and her family more galling than Nikolai's. Yes, she's lost a parent, she feels neglected by her father, she's suffered a break-up -- but when we meet Becca, she comes across as nothing more than a spoiled, petulant brat. She won't give her stepmother the time of day when the woman does nothing but try and connect with her over and over, only to be rebuffed time and again. And yes, her father is checked out, but to lie about trip plans in order spend time with a guy she just met is not only foolish, but given her track record of exhibiting complete self-centeredness and ZERO common sense, dangerous. I simply cannot relate to a person with a pulse who is given a trip to Europe and then complains about the wealth of history and culture laid at their feet. *sigh*

Of the two, Nikolai fares somewhat better. As a royal and a subject of the relentless paparazzi, one can at least appreciate the fact that his private life is, for good or ill, subject to intense scrutiny. I suppose on some level I can imagine the appeal of an individual like Becca, the antithesis of anyone Nikolai would meet within the social sphere of European royalty -- but the complete lack of anything deeper than the most superficial chemistry between them doomed their romance from the start. I did, however, appreciate how Nikolai eventually comes to terms with his role in Mondovian society, respecting tradition while standing poised to bring fresh energy and modern thought to his family's storied heritage.

Royally Lost has a great concept that unfortunately falters under the weight of two leads whose collective selfish immaturity negate any escapist factor to be found within the pages of this charming concept. Stanton delivers a workmanlike view of the storied sights and sounds Nikolai and Becca encounter on their travels, but their view of the wonders they encounter dulls what could otherwise have been the sparkling backdrop of their summer romance. Flashes of character development and maturity come late in the text, and Nikolai's arc is particularly effective, but unfortunately any late-blooming signs of maturity come too late to imbue this summer romance with the spark I craved. While the concept holds promise, this fairy tale lacks the effervescent charm needed for this type of romance to truly soar.

About the book:

Perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen, Susane Colasanti, and Jenny Han, Angie Stanton's brand-new romance asks the question, What would it be like to fall in love with a prince?

Dragged on a family trip to Europe, Becca wants nothing more than to go home. Trapped with her emotionally distant father, overeager stepmother, and a brother who only wants to hook up with European hotties, Becca is miserable. Until she meets Nikolai.

Nikolai has everything—he's a crown prince, heir to the throne, and girls adore him. But the one thing he doesn't have is freedom . . . so he flees his kingdom and goes on his own European trip.

And when Nikolai and Becca meet, sparks fly. But Becca's family vacation ends in a matter of days. Will Nikolai and Becca be forced to say good-bye, or will they change history forever?

new blog alert!

My friend Rachel McRae, formerly of A Novel Bookshelf, is not blogging at Shelf Life! Just wanted to give you a heads up, so any Novel Bookshelf followers can update their subscription links!