Monday, August 31, 2015

Review: At Bluebonnet Lake by Amanda Cabot

Book Cover and Synopsis:
Marketing maven Kate Sherwood’s world is fast-paced, challenging, and always changing. The last thing she wants to do is slow down to a crawl at Rainbow’s End, a dilapidated resort in the Texas Hill Country. But she cannot deny her ailing grandmother’s request to visit the place where she and her deceased husband spent one glorious week (albeit fifty years ago). There Kate meets Greg Vange, the resort’s handyman. But there’s more to Greg than meets the eye–billions more, in fact, as he recently sold his successful software company and is at the resort in search of what’s next for his life.

Kate isn’t looking for romance, but she can’t deny the sparks of attraction that fly every time she and Greg are together. She even starts to see potential in the rundown resort. Could there be a future there? Or will Kate’s long-sought promotion take her back to the big city?

My source for book: Review Copy
My Thoughts:
Rainbow's End resort may not be a 5 (or even 4) star location, but it's the type of place that can start to grow on you. I enjoyed seeing the different ways that people reacted to it, some seeing nothing but run-down buildings while others saw the unique character and potential of the location. Kate's opinion is initially not very favorable, but she's kind of stuck there because her grandmother loves it. I enjoyed seeing what ultimately happens to Kate the longer she's there, unplugged from her big city job and all her technology (there's no cell service!). The adjacent small town is also a charming place with its unique little shops, and it compliments the resort setting nicely.

I liked how the story shows Greg--a billionaire--as just an average everyday guy with normal problems like everyone else. He's very down-to-earth and at first glance you'd never know he has oodles of money. Sometimes it's easy to think rich or famous people are different than everyone else, but they really aren't and Greg is a great reminder of that. I was amused and intrigued at the way he was sort of a handyman at the resort simply because he saw stuff that needed doing, and not because he actually had a job there (he didn't!).

I thought it was interesting how the story not only shows the growing relationship between Kate and Greg, but also the relationship between Sally (Kate's grandmother) and her possible suitor. Novels don't often show romance in the later years of life, and I appreciated the storyline even though I couldn't relate to it as well (simply due to my age, I'm sure).

This one sat around for quite a while before I read it; it was actually lost in my to-be-read pile for months. I'm glad I unearthed it though because it really is an enjoyable story. I've previously read some of the author's historical novels, and while they've been good I have to say I like her contemporary writing even better. This is the first in the Texas Crossroads series, and I'm definitely going to be checking out the rest of the series as it's released. I'm curious to continue the story of the Rainbow's End resort to see where it leads, and also to see what other relationships might be kindled there.

My Rating: 4 stars

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

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Review: Said and Unsaid by Amanda Hamm

Book Cover and Synopsis:
Alexa Fenley has some complicated relationships in her life. With her mom, she’s trying to keep her temper. With her dad, she’s trying to avoid any subject more emotionally charged than what one would write on a postcard. And with her sister, she’s just trying.

Now Alexa has met someone new. She’s trying to get to know him, trying to stop herself from falling too hard too fast, and trying not to let him know what she thinks of his name. But it’s possible that this new relationship isn’t nearly as complicated as Alexa thinks it is.

My source for book: Review Copy
My Thoughts:
Oooh, this is a fun one! Alexa's "voice" feels genuine and real, and I found her inner thoughts and troubles amusing and also extremely easy to relate to...from the way she talks to her dog like he's a person, to her sticky family relationships. She has some OCD tendencies (though it's not specifically labeled that), and her noticing of things that aren't quite right or even--such as unlevel earrings or mismatched numbers on doors--are humorous and to a certain degree even reminded me of myself. I also really enjoyed how Alexa so badly wanted to further her relationship with Tracker but at the same time she was too afraid to make it known. That's just so real!

I loved how Tracker was kind of persistent--in a non-threatening way--about getting to know Alexa, but at the same time he also seemed a bit shy and unsure at times. (Great combination!) I really enjoyed the large amount of bantering dialogue between Alexa and Tracker as they got to know each other, often just asking random humorous questions to see what the other would say. Since the story is told in first person from Alexa's point of view we never get to see inside Tracker's head, but I actually like it this way as it keeps the interest alive by keeping some of his thoughts and motives a mystery, just like in real life.

The story ultimately shows how small miscommunications and mis-assumptions can easily alter a relationship and unknowingly give people a false impression of our motives. I really really enjoyed it, and there are even some good messages woven in as Alexa tries to deal with her sticky family situation (which is at times a bit comical). Some of Tracker's advice to Alexa actually came around and bit me in the back after I finished the story, and though I didn't appreciate it and it's hard to implement, Tracker really was right. The story leans more Catholic than straightforward Christian (basically they go to mass), but it's very light and nothing doctrinal is discussed so even if your beliefs are slightly different it should still be enjoyable, as it was for me.

I've read and enjoyed most of Amanda's books, but I really feel each one is getting progressively better. "Said and Unsaid" is right up there at the top of my favorites list, and I'm anxious to check out the rest of the Coffee and Donuts series as it becomes available.

My Rating: 5 stars

Thanks to the author for providing me with a review copy.