Tag Archives: Zondervan

Audiobook Review: Once Upon a Prince by Rachel Hauck

Title: Once Upon a Prince
Author: Rachel Hauck
Series: Royal Wedding, Book 1
Print Publisher: Zondervan
Audio Publisher: Oasis Audio
Narrator: Eleni Pappageorge
Genre: Contemporary Christian Romance
Published: 2013

Once Upon a Prince is the first book I’ve read — or listened to — by Rachel Hauck and I want to read more. Starting of course, with Princess Ever After (next in her Royal Wedding series).

Book Description (from Oasis Audio’s Web site):

A royal prince. An ordinary girl. An extraordinary royal wedding.

Once Upon a Prince, the first novel in the Royal Wedding series by best-selling author Rachel Hauck, treats you to a modern-day fairy tale.

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 breaks up with her instead of proposing, Susanna scrambles to rebuild her life.

The last thing Prince Nathaniel expects to find on his American holiday to St. Simons 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 an ordinary girl. But everything changes when Susanna receives an invitation to Nathaniel’s coronation.

It’s the ultimate choice: his kingdom or her heart? God’s will or their own?

My Thoughts on the Story:

This sweet contemporary romance is all fairy tale, and I enjoyed every minute of it.  The premise itself requires some suspension of disbelief, but the payoff is a fun and lively story complete with a dream-come-true happily ever after ending.

What girl wouldn’t love the idea of being swept off her feet by a prince who’s ready and willing to come to her rescue, who’s not above getting his hands dirty with honest work, and who sees something special in her that even she can’t explain?

From the beaches of St. Simon’s Island, Georgia to the grand ballrooms of Brighton Kingdom, the settings are lovely and really emphasize just how different Nathaniel and Susanna’s backgrounds are.  And to watch each exploring and getting to know the other’s world?  Priceless.

Besides the sweet romance, there’s also a faith thread woven throughout.  Both hero and heroine must rely upon their faith, and recognize the importance of seeking God’s call for their lives and being ready and willing to go and do what He calls them to, even when things don’t seem to be headed in a direction they’d prefer.

Of course, in the end… well, you can probably guess.  But the journey along the way is an entertaining one full of misunderstandings, paparazzi, tricky political entanglements, barbecue ribs, and of course, true love.  Well worth the journey.

My Thoughts on the Narration:

Yes.  Just yes.

If you’re even thinking about going with the audiobook edition of this book, then go for it.  I absolutely loved the contrasting accents the narrator, Eleni Pappageorge used for Susanna and Nathaniel.  From distinctly Southern to classy British, the accents fit the dialog and the characters perfectly and brought them to life for me.  With clear enunciation and excellent pacing, the narrator made listening easy.  Both male and female voices were well done, and the narration blended into the background, highlighting and adding an extra dimension to an already beautiful tale.

Enjoyed this review?  Come back next week for my review of the audio edition of Princess Ever After – next in Rachel Hauck’s Royal Wedding series.  Or consider subscribing to my blog so you won’t miss a thing!  Meanwhile, what do you think?  Is this a series you’d like to start reading?  Or maybe you already have?  Either way, please take a moment to share your thoughts in the comments.  Or just say hello.  I love hearing from other readers… and listeners!

Book Review: The Prodigal by Brennan Manning and Greg Garrett

Title: The Prodigal: A Ragamuffin Story
Authors: Brennan Manning and Greg Garrett
Publisher: Zondervan
Genre: Contemporary Christian Fiction

Jack Chisholm was lead pastor for a megachurch with three campuses and thousands of members.  He was a best-selling author and a public figure known by some as “America’s pastor.”  Then some poor decisions he made one night off the coast of Cancun lead him into sin he would not have thought himself capable of.  When his actions come to light he is disgraced, and he loses his job and his family.  Jack’s life is in a tailspin, until his estranged father seeks him out and brings him home.  It’s in the small town in Texas where he grew up that Jack reconnects with friends and family, learns some important lessons about grace and forgiveness, and discovers that God may not be through with him after all.

I know a lot of people, both Christian and non-Christian, who have misconceptions about what it means to be Christian.  I wish those people would read this book.  It’s that good.  Seriously.  The story is character driven, based on believable three dimensional “people,” primarily Jack, his father, and the local priest called Father Frank.  While the take home message of the story will not surprise anyone familiar with Manning’s work, it was skillfully woven into the story, seeming to arise naturally from the characters and situations, not tacked on as an afterthought, so it didn’t feel intrusive or overbearing.

I thoroughly enjoyed the vivid and out of the box  descriptions found in this book.  I’m reminded of the way Charles Dickens could paint a memorable secondary character in just a few brush strokes.  Here’s a particularly vivid example from The Prodigal:

“Carlene Petsch was the city secretary.  Carlene had been called ‘Petshop’ in their youth, if only rarely to her face.  It made her cry, got people sent to the office.  She had grown into a hard, hefty woman, the kind of hausfrau who could bake an apple pie and then beat you to death with her rolling pin.”

The ending of The Prodigal  felt a little abrupt to me.  I would have liked to see a little more resolution following Jack’s moment of epiphany, in a few specific areas that I probably shouldn’t mention for fear of spoiling the ending.  That said, if you’re going to err one way or the other, better to leave us wanting more than to make us beg for it to end.  And, much as I wanted more closure, I do think this approach left things hopeful without downplaying the consequences of Jack’s actions by tying everything up in a neat little bow.  It also left room for speculation on where the story might have gone next had it continued.  Which would be great fodder for a book discussion group.  All in all, an excellent read, and I would highly recommend it.

I would like to thank the publisher, Zondervan, for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book through NetGalley for my review.

Discussion Questions:

This book comes with some excellent discussion questions for consideration, but I couldn’t resist coming up with a few questions of my own as well.

  1. How and why did Jack’s beliefs and behavior change over the course of the story?  Did you find his decision at the end of the book consistent with what we know about him?
  2. In what ways was this story similar to and different from the story of the Prodigal Son as told in the Bible (Luke 15:11-32)?  Given the definition of the word “prodigal” as well as its usage in the Bible story, do you think The Prodigal as title is a good fit for this book?  Why or why not?  Can you think of an alternative title?
  3. Where do you think the story could have gone from here, had it continued beyond “The End”?  Were you satisfied with the conclusion as it was, or did you want to know more of what the future held for the characters?