Friday, November 29, 2013

Review: Best Forgotten by Paula Vince

Book Cover and Synopsis:
A young accident victim wakes up in hospital and can't remember who he is. Why does he have nothing in common with his family? Why does he despise the person he was supposed to be? Why has his best friend disappeared without a trace? Is somebody after him? His family can offer no solutions. His girlfriend is strangely aloof and he cannot shake off a feeling that the answers will prove more unpleasant than his amnesia. Somehow he must find out as it seems time is running out. Paula Vince has woven elements of secrecy and suspense with her trademark warmth and compassion. Best Forgotten is an inspirational masterpiece you won't forget.

My source for book: Review Copy
My Thoughts:
Best Forgotten is a bit outside of the normal genre that I read, but I actually did enjoy it. The characters are well thought out, with a wide range of personalities and motives. Though the mystery element takes precedence in the story, there are also aspects of family dynamics, a blooming romance, and the search for faith coupled with the struggle to truly believe.

Courtney's amnesia leaves him as a grown man with no memories...a blank slate, if you will. I loved the innocent air this gave him in his interactions with others; he's very open and honest, even in tough and unfamiliar situations (which there are plenty of!). I really liked the idea that experiences and memories shape a person, and ultimately form their personality. Strip all the memories away, and you are suddenly a completely different person, able to view the aspects of your own life with an outsider's objective perspective. It's quite an interesting topic, and definitely something to ponder on...

I must admit that the author did an excellent job of keeping the cards close to her chest, so to speak. Little pieces of the mystery of Courtney's past were slowly revealed as the story progressed...enough to make me extremely curious as to what the urgent thing was that Courtney felt compelled to remember, but couldn't. Interestingly enough, even though small clues were often uncovered, I still didn't have the foggiest idea what the mystery would turn into. Ultimately, it stayed a secret (that I couldn't even begin to guess at) until the big reveal came, close to the end.

If you're looking for something unique and out of the ordinary, Best Forgotten is certainly worth looking into. The Australian setting gives it a unique feel, with slightly different phrases and wording than American novels offer. There are a couple instances of minor language (h*ll and d*mn) from the "bad" guys, but otherwise I can't think of anything objectionable. The story really made me stop and consider if I would like what I'd see were I able to look at my life with an objective opinion, not being swayed by emotions or memories. Honestly, it's an opportunity I hope to never personally have, however, in the case of this story, the trauma of amnesia actually turned out to be one of the biggest blessings in Courtney's life.

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Thank you to the author for providing me with a review copy.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Review: Made to Last by Melissa Tagg

Book Cover and Synopsis:
Miranda Woodruff has it all. At least, that's how it looks when she's starring in her homebuilding television show, "From the Ground Up." So when her network begins to talk about making cuts, she'll do anything to boost ratings and save her show--even if it means pretending to be married to a man who's definitely not the fiance who ran out on her three years ago.

When a handsome reporter starts shadowing Miranda's every move, all his digging into her personal life brings him a little too close to the truth--and to her. Can the girl whose entire identity is wrapped up in her on-screen persona finally find the nerve to set the record straight? And if she does, will the life she's built come crashing down just as she's found a love to last?

My source for book: Local Library
My Thoughts:
When I think of Miranda, I can't help but remember the old saying, "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive." Though I don't condone her deception, it sure is a load of fun to read about!! What I really like about Miranda is the fact that she seems like a normal everyday person--with faults and insecurities--despite the fact that she is a celebrity. She's easy to like and sympathize with, which is what makes it so comical when her deceptive scheme starts to spiral out of control!

Even early on it was fairly obvious that Matthew, the reporter shadowing Miranda, would eventually uncover a scoop about her...but what I couldn't predict was how the scenario would end up unfolding. (Let me just say, things did not turn out the way I imagined, and it was ten times the better for it!) I enjoyed seeing Matthew struggle with his ethics while deciding if he should reveal the scoop or not, as it gave him a very realistic feel and clearly separated him from the ruthless image that reporters often have. I also really liked Matthew's relationship with his young niece; it's uncommonly sweet, and leaves you with a hopeful feeling.

While Matthew is a solid leading man, I have to admit that Blake (Miranda's "pretend" husband) was very close to stealing the spotlight. He had a fun and goofy way about him, yet he had a surprisingly serious side as well. His antics really added a lot to the story; he is honestly one of the best characters I've come across in quite a while. I've heard Blake will also be in Miranda's upcoming book "Here to Stay", and I am ANXIOUSLY awaiting the chance to read more about him!

This is Melissa Tagg's first novel, but it's so solid that you would never guess it to be her debut. I'm quite impressed, actually. The characters were all very realistic feeling, and I absolutely loved the comical scenes that were periodically thrown in. (I also really enjoyed the behind the scenes look at the production of a tv show, and seeing that even "how-to" shows have multiple takes, etc.) I've found a new author to follow, and there's no doubt that I'll be snatching up her next book as soon as it's available!

My Rating: 4.5 stars

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Review: Once Upon A Prince by Rachel Hauck

Book Cover and Synopsis:
Susanna Truitt never dreamed of a great romance or being treated like a princess---just to marry the man she has loved for twelve years. But life isn’t going according to plan. When her high-school-sweetheart-turned-Marine-officer breaks up instead of proposing, Susanna scrambles to rebuild her life.

The last thing Prince Nathaniel expects to find on his American holiday to St. Simon’s Island is the queen of his heart. A prince has duties, and his family’s tense political situation has chosen his bride for him. When Prince Nathaniel comes to Susanna’s aid under the fabled Lover’s Oak, he is blindsided by love.

Their lives are worlds apart. He’s a royal prince. She’s a ordinary girl. But everything changes when Susanna receives an invitation to Nathaniel’s coronation...

My source for book: Review Copy via NetGalley
My Thoughts:
Oh my, what a lovely story! Though it's completely set in reality, it very much has a fairy tale feel, in a modern sort of way. British royalty mingling with every-day Americans, and a forbidden romance in the air. These types of events just don't happen to everyday people, but that's what makes this story so much FUN to read!

I do have to admit that the first chapter was rather slow (it started in the middle of a break up scene), but once it moved past that scene I found myself immediately hooked. Susanna is easy to sympathize with, and I found it easy to relate to her issues of learning to trust and wait on God no matter the circumstances. Her family is a lot of fun and adds amusing chaos to her life; I especially enjoyed the atmosphere at Susanna's parents' restaurant and the playful banter between everyone in the midst of their work.

Nate has a gentle air about him that immediately drew me in, but his British speech and mannerisms certainly didn't hurt! ;) He seems just like an ordinary guy, not at all like a prince or king, but that is what makes him so great. I loved how he tried to seek God's guidance for his decisions; it was really cool to see someone in such a power position seeking to follow God like that. (It gives hope that godly rulers can still be found!)

Overall, I have to say that I really enjoyed this one. The interaction between the characters was great, and I really enjoyed the sweet and slow pacing between Nate and Susanna. Rachel Hauck has definitely delivered a winner with Once Upon A Prince! It gives me high expectations for the rest of the series, which I am anxiously awaiting. It doesn't matter if you're a royalty watcher or not; this is one that I think you'll enjoy!

My Rating: 5 stars

Thanks to the publisher (Zondervan) for providing me with a review copy via NetGalley.