Royce Rolls

I’m typically not one to watch “reality” television (with the exception of Survivor). I don’t care about keeping up with anyone, any sort of dynasties, or housewives from major cities. I see enough on social media to know that there’s not much that’s real about these shows, and I prefer my celebrities to have actual talent.

I tell you all of this to introduce my latest read, Royce Rolls by Margaret Stohl. This book is, of course, fiction, but it takes readers behind the scenes of what life on a “reality” show may be like. The action revolves around Bentley Royce, middle child in the family featured on Rolling with the Royces. It’s almost immediately clear that the Bentley shown to the public is nothing like the real girl, and she’s growing tired of the charade. If only her family felt the same way.

Bentley Royce has spent much of her life in front of cameras. It kind of goes with the territory when your family is the subject of the number two reality show in the nation. But Rolling with the Royces is in trouble. Cancellation looms, and Bentley is hopeful that this could be her chance to live life on her own terms instead of following the network’s idea of who she should be.

But the Royces have never been a family to go down without a fight. Bentley’s momager, Mercedes, is ruthless and will stop at nothing to get her family back on top. Her older sister, Porsche, isn’t much better. Bentley’s only possibly ally is her younger brother, Bach, but he’s dealing with his own problems with gambling.

While Bentley longs for freedom from the insanity around her, she quickly realizes that it’s not that simple. Without the show, who are the Royces? The family could very well crumble without the show keeping them afloat, and that’s simply not acceptable to Bentley. So she’ll do what she must–including embracing the Bad Bentley character the public seems to love–to ensure that her family stays on the air.

As Bentley is giving the paparazzi a show, her sister has her own idea for avoiding the show’s demise. What else but a celebrity wedding? Porsche announces that she’s getting married (to a guy that no one knows anything about), and the family drama gets even more insane. Now, Porsche is planning the wedding of the century, Mercedes is shooting daggers at her future son-in-law, and Bach’s gambling addiction is worse than ever.

It seems, as always, it’s up to Bentley to get things back on track. But how can she keep her family in the spotlight while stepping out of it herself? Is there any way out of this mess? Who can she turn to for help? In a world that never looks below the surface, can she find anyone that sees and supports the real Bentley Royce?

Discover just how far one resourceful, desparate girl will go to save herself and her family when you read Royce Rolls, the latest book by best-selling author Margaret Stohl.

Whether you love or hate reality television, Royce Rolls definitely makes you think a bit more about what you’re watching. In turns both hilarious and serious, this book makes it abundantly clear that what we often see on screen is not even remotely real. That doesn’t mean, however, that the people on these shows aren’t dealing with very real problems. I couldn’t handle cameras in my face 24/7, and I now have a little more empathy for those who do. (That doesn’t mean I like–or even respect–any of them, but I get that their seemingly charmed lives may not be as easy as they appear.)

Royce Rolls is a great book for people who both love and loathe reality TV, particularly Keeping Up with the Kardashians…which had to be the inspiration for most of the book’s characters. I would recommend this book to a high school audience, but it should be fine for mature middle school students as well.

If I have one complaint about this book, it would be the footnotes. From what I gather, they are production notes, but that isn’t clear at the beginning of the book, so I find them distracting and not altogether necessary.

For more information on Royce Rolls and others by the fabulous Margaret Stohl, check out the author’s website. You also definitely need to take a look at this totally awesome book trailer for Royce Rolls.

Girl in the Arena

I initially picked up my latest read, Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines, because it was nominated for my state’s 2011-12 Young Adult Book Award.  I try to read as many of these as I can.  I was also intrigued by the book’s concept–a female gladiator in the modern world.  I enjoy books with strong female characters, and I looked forward to reading about how a gladiator culture would fit into the world as we know it.  After reading this book, however, I don’t think it is one of the top twenty books for young adults, and I think the book’s concept wasn’t executed as well as it could have been, and that only served to weaken the strength of the main character.  On the other hand, the author does paint a vivid picture of how easy it would be for a neo-gladiator culture to not only survive but thrive in our modern-day world.  It’s actually a little scary.  Girl in the Arena is a book with some flaws, but it’s also a book that makes a reader think.  Do with that what you will.

Lyn is the daughter of seven gladiators.  She has grown up in the neo-gladiator culture, but she knows that she wants more out of life.  That decision, however, may be taken out of her hands.  When her seventh father, Tommy, is killed in his last match, and his opponent, Uber, claims Lyn’s dowry bracelet, the unthinkable happens.  According to GSA (Gladiator Sports Association) rules, Lyn must now marry the man who killed her father.

Lyn’s mother, a troubled woman immersed in Glad culture, seems to support the match, especially when it becomes clear that the family will lose everything if Lyn goes against GSA rules.  Lyn also has to consider her younger brother, Thad, a boy with special needs who requires constant care.  What choice does she really have?  Well, there is one…

As Lyn faces tragedy after tragedy and the possibility of a life that mirrors her mother’s, she makes a drastic and difficult decision.  She will fight for her freedom.  She will enter the arena as a gladiator and face Uber for the right to make her own decisions.  Lyn knows that this may well be a fight to the death, and the GSA is known for not fighting fair.  What will they throw at her?  And how can she fight Uber, a young man she’s gradually grown closer to?  Will Lyn be able to fight for her own life and her family’s redemption?  More importantly, will she be able to win?  Read Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines to find out.

The main character in this book, Lyn, reminds me a lot of Katniss in The Hunger Games.  She’s strong, and she’ll do whatever it takes to take care of her family.  She’s also troubled and dealing with her own demons.  I just wish this book as a whole was as strong as the main character.  The lack of quotation marks was jarring to me, and it was often difficult to follow the flow of conversations.  And call me crazy (many people have), but I like a happy ending.  There wasn’t a clear resolution at the end of this book, and I honestly don’t think there’s enough material for a sequel, so more closure would have been nice.

Even though I’ve been a bit more critical of this book than is typical of me, I would recommend Girl in the Arena to fans of The Hunger Games and readers who like strong female characters.  I also encourage readers to think about how a neo-gladiator culture would fit into our current world that is obsessed with violence and death.  All too easy, right?

For more information on Girl in the Arena and author Lise Haines, visit

Audrey, Wait!

Greetings, dear readers!  (Please note the cheerful tone of this post.  I’ve been a good mood for an entire week, which I’m sure is some kind of record for me.)  My latest read in Robin Benway’s Audrey, Wait!  This is a great book, especially if you follow “indie” music at all.  Each chapter begins with a line from a song that most people my age have never heard of.  (Thankfully, I am not like most people my age.)  Some of the bands mentioned include:  Cowboy Junkies, The Velvet Underground, Radiohead (Yay!), R.E.M., Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and many, many others.  This alone gave me an inkling that I would like this book.

Audrey’s life has just been turned upside down.  She broke up with her musician boyfriend Evan, and he decided to write a song about it.  The next thing she knows, the song, Audrey, Wait!, is a hit, and her life will never be the same.  She’s being hounded by the press and the paparazzi, people she’s never met want to be her friend, and her name is known worldwide.  At school, she has to do all of her work in the office because her new–and unwanted–fame has caused all kinds of distractions.  Other bands think of her as a muse, and want to use her to jumpstart their own careers.  It’s a mess.

Audrey doesn’t really know what to do about this new stuff in her life.  She never asked for any of it.  Some people, like her best friend Victoria, think she should take advantage of all this fame while she can.  Others, like her new boyfriend James and her parents, just want life to return to normal.  But normal may be a thing of the past in Audrey’s world.

Read Audrey, Wait! to see what one music-obsessed, sarcastic-to-the-core, sixteen-year-old girl will do about the fame she never wanted.  Will she embrace it like so many others before her?  Or will she find a way to be normal again?  Is normal even possible?  I’ll leave it for you to figure out.  Enjoy!