These are the ramblings of a wanna-be writer and enamored reader. They promise to be raw, enthusiastic and probably repetitive and ramble-y. But they are a true representation of my word-filled mind trying desperately to sort out the feelings and thoughts that consume me as I read. Enjoy?

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Secretly Smitten

I've been crazy busy moving across town...that's my excuse this time. I'll make up for it in quantity. 

If anyone out there cares.





Okay. Here's the next review for whoever is or isn't reading it. I'm going with the same discussion-question format that I did for the first Smitten book.

Authors: Colleen Coble, Kristen Billerbeck, Diann Hunt and Denise Hunter

Pages: 377

Preview:  There's a secret in Grandma Rose's attic - a forgotten set of dog tags belonging to her first love. But David Hutches was killed in action and never returned to Smitten. How did the dog tags end up in the attic?
The mystery intrigues Rose's three granddaughters - Tess, Clare, and Zoe - and they decide to investigate, though their mother, Anna, warns against meddling. But as the seasons turn and the mystery unravels, the three young women and their mother encounter some intriguing men of their own. Has a sixty-year-old puzzle sparked something new for this close-knit family of women? 

1. What heroine did you most relate to: Tess, Zoe, Anna or Clare? Why?
At first, I could totally relate to Tess's insecurity about her looks and being convinced an attractive man couldn't be interested in you. I found Zoe annoying, honestly. In the last Smitten book, she was portrayed as the gossipy type that you had to be careful around. It made it difficult for me to care about her or her story. It wasn't bad, but it was my least favorite. I liked Anna's story, and I thought she was a likable character. However, I found that Clare and I were the closest match. We're both cautious creatures of habit and routine. But on the inside, when someone cares enough to get past the (insert dull/cold/boring adjective here) exterior, they find a caring heart with beautiful dreams. 

2. We women can be so insecure. We wish we were thinner, blonder and prettier. Instead of focusing on what you don't like about yourself, what do you like?
It speaks to that insecurity that this question makes me uncomfortable. Hmm. Physically, I'll be honest and say there's not much I love. I wish that were different, but it's not. It won't fix itself overnight either. Working on the inner and outer process of loving me. Anyway, if I had to choose, I would say my eyes. People are always complimenting my long, dark lashes and I must say I don't mind them. ;) 

Inwardly is easier. I'm a compassionate, empathetic person. I root for the underdog and I truly want to take care of people at their lowest. I also love my love for books and words. <3 font="">

3. Tess mothered her sisters and everyone else but left little time for herself. Wt one thing can you start doing for yourself today? 
I could totally relate to Tess on that level. Being the oldest sister, I tend to mother/smother my younger sisters. I have also been told that I leave little room for myself sometimes, because I think of other people. From my perspective, I still see plenty of selfishness, and I feel like I do so much for only myself at home, the least I can do is focus on others when I'm with them. Anyway, that's not the point. What can I do for me? I can...forget perfection. Easier said that done.

4. Have you ever had anyone in your life who was a manipulator like Ryan's sister-in-law? How did you handle that person? 
I had to distance myself. 

5. Zoe didn't want to go to college, though everyone else wanted it for her. Have you ever gone against the grain because you knew something wasn't right for you? Was it the right decision? 
I am fortunate to have a family that is supportive either way, but for a long time I balked at the idea of college because it was what society expected. However, it wasn't because I was trying to be my own person and make my own path. It was because I was scared of failing. It was the easier route. Thankfully, God started to lead me toward college and showed me where to go and what to do, and now I couldn't be more excited for the challenge. 

6. William carried a sea turtle with him to remind him that home is where you make it. Have you ever carried something special to remind you of something? Do you think William really wanted a place to call home and not just a reminder of it? 
I used to wear a purity ring to remind me to love my future husband in my choices and my life and heart though I still haven't met him. Unfortunately, the ring broke, but it's just a ring, not the promise. I think William definitely wanted the real thing rather than the reminder. I want the real husband more than I want a replacement ring. But it's a good concept to have visual reminders that God's timing is better than your own, and you can make the best of what you've been given right now. 

7. William is a born worrier. Zoe takes life as it comes. Do you have a friend in your life who complements your weakness? How so? 
Absolutely! My best friend is my complete and total opposite. We have virtually nothing in common, to the point that it doesn't really make sense that we are even friends. I'm thankful that we met at a time in our lives when they wouldn't matter. I am the worrier. She is the free spirit. Sometimes she completely stresses me out, but other times she teaches me to laugh and live. I teach her to chill. At least I try. ;) We help each other change and grow by being ourselves and loving the other where they are. She's the best.

8. Betrayal in Anna Thomas's life created a fear in her of trusting others. She finally had to let that go and trust God, the only One who never fails. Have you ever struggled with that? If so, what did you do about it? 
I think every person ever had struggled with that. People are fallible, and that's all we can see, so it's all too easy to doubt that God will come through on his promises. At least for me. What I can't see is unpredictable and scary. I find it hard to trust. I question too much. I worry. I freak out. I need to be reminded that God won't fail me. I'm thankful He doesn't tire of showing me that He loves me and nothing I can do will change that. He's not going anywhere.

9. Michael let his life get out of balance with his job eating up much of his family time. That created relationship problems between him and his son. What are some ways we can keep life in balance? 
I don't know, honestly. I don't have a lot to balance at the moment and things are still out of balance. I spend too much time on meaningless things. Maybe it takes a strong reminder. Maybe it takes just choosing and changing. 

10. Anne didn't like confrontation for any reason. Sometimes in life, however, there is no avoiding it. When you're being confronted or you're the one doing the confronting, how do you handle it? 
Oh my gosh, that is so me. I hate rocking the boat. I hate even the possibility of hurting feelings. However, I am learning that being a Christian and a nice person doesn't mean you're a doormat. It's not a fun lesson and I'm not sure how well I'm handling it yet. Eek. 

11. When Ethan confronted Clare about her fear of change, she rejected the truth and became defensive, making a decision she soon regretted. Share a time when you've found yourself in a similar situation.
I, like Clare, am not a fan of change. I'm not impulsive either, so when someone has said that to me, I probably just pouted. I may have said things I regretted. That's about all the choice I have in my actions at this point - my words. It's a big choice though, and can have the biggest effect, because it can tear down relationships. 

12. Clare discovered that dreams without a plan of action get you nowhere. Is there a dream you've had on the back burner for too long? Is it time for you to make a plan of action? 
I actually kind of have the opposite problem. I have dreams and plans, and I feel stuck while I'm trying to pursue them. Circumstances pop up and block my path. It's frustrating, and I need to trust God in the down time. It's so hard. 

13. After losing Ethan, Clare realized that "sometimes taking no risk is the biggest risk of all." Have you discovered this to be true in your own life? Share a time when you avoided a risk only to realize it was a mistake? 
That would be a big, fat yes. I have found that I feel most like I am truly living when I take a risk. It's not worth it if there's nothing to lose. That's too easy. I wish I would remember that when I'm afraid to jump. 

Random fun facts: I'm pretty sure a few of the writers in these Smitten novellas are fans of the show LOST. There was a Sawyer marrying a Kate in the first book (Ew. Being a diehard Jack/Kate shipper, that was kind of annoying to read. Haha.), and an Ethan and a Clare in this one. Not that I can blame them...my family and I are finishing the 3rd season tonight 

There was a typo in this one. It said "finace" instead of "fiance". 

I love when books become real to me. I love it when authors interact closely with their readers. I get a bunch of both loves with the Smitten novellas. They're so real that the authors have created a website for this fictional piece of paradise. Sawyer Smitten even has his hit song for you to hear. How cool is all that? Enjoy: 


Monday, June 3, 2013


Author: Dee Henderson

Preview: FBI agent Luke Falcon has a dead woman on his hands, a fresh victim from his old adversary, Frank Hardin. This time, Frank won't walk away. But even that case will have to wait when Luke's extended family disappears over Labor Day weekend. Is there a harmless explanation? Or could they have been victims of a sordid crime?

Fifth-grade teacher Caroline Lane cares deeply for Luke, but she's not certain she can handle the pressures of dating someone in his line of work. When foul play strikes his family, she gets a far closer view of those pressures than she ever wanted. She's grateful that God brought Luke into her life. But will they share anything more than tragedy by the time the storm passes? 

Luke has never worked a case involving family. It's tempting to let his hardened exterior weaken, given the circumstances. But he has to be strong if he's going to bring them all home. When the ransom delivery doesn't go down as planned and the bodies start piling up, so does Luke's frustration. He fears that innocent people may not survive this crisis...and neither will his relationship with Caroline. 

Thoughts: In honor of Caroline's (any my) love for lists, I think I'll do this review in list form, as I did the last. 

- The mystery was satisfying. It was interesting, though predictable at points, and easy to follow. I finished it in two days.
- The characters were well rounded and unique. Luke was rough around the edges, but likable. I enjoyed the family interactions that showed such love.
- I liked the aspect of a relationship already in the works between Luke and Caroline. It was confusing at times, with the will-they, won't-they thing, but I think that's how Caroline was feeling about it too! - There were many quotes and moments that I wrote down as inspiration for my own writing. I think it had to do with the established relationship - I always like a deeper connection. :) I especially liked this:
 "Bravery comes when you know the risks might happen and you go on with your life."
- The interactions were adorable, if a little unrealistic at times. He may be a smart kid, but nine year old boys don't relay information that accurately and descriptively. Although, that may be a writer's quirk, because I found some of the adult conversation oddly worded as well.
- A definite writer's quirk was Henderson's use of the phrase "for the..." (Example: She grabbed a sweater, for the night had turned cold. He turned off the coffee pot, for it had finished brewing. They sat silently, for words were not needed.) It reminded me of a period novel rather than a present day mystery.  It wouldn't have been so distracting if it hadn't appeared every few pages!
- There was some implication of cursing by a few of the agents, but it was done much more tastefully and subtly than in Trinity. 

All in all, a book I would recommend to friends. Four and a half stars. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Author: Ronie Kendig 

Preview: A year ago in Afghanistan, Green Beret Heath Daniel’s career was destroyed. Along with his faith. Now he and his military war dog, Trinity train other dogs and their handlers through the A Breed Apart organization. The job works. But his passion is to be back in the field. The medical discharge says it can’t happen due to the traumatic brain injury that forced Heath to the sidelines.

Until. . .

Military intelligence officer Darci Kintz is captured and the geological survey team she’s covertly embedded with is slaughtered while secretly tracking the Taliban. It’s clear only one dog can handle the extreme conditions to save her. Trinity. Only one man can handle Trinity. And time is running out on the greatest— and most dangerous— mission of their lives.

Thoughts: I want to be careful writing this review. I want it to be clear that I don't think it's a bad book. I think it's very well written for its genre, and the author has a talented for weaving multiple, complex, action packed stories together. However, it was just so not my thing.

The only reason I read this was because I (without knowing what I was getting into) won a copy of the sequel, with a promise to the author to feature it on my blog. I have a thing against reading/watching anything out of order, so of course I had to borrow this one from the library. Well. It took me about a month to get halfway through, and it was rough! After that, I skipped to the last few chapters to get the ending. It was okay, but I have no desire to read the second book. I will eventually, because I said I would, but I don't wanna. 

I took notes on my phone while I was reading this, and here's what I have: 

- Hard to get into at first. (Little did I know, it wouldn't improve). Not my kind of thing, and I don't like having to check the acronym list constantly.
- I do like the feisty banter between everyone at the beginning.
- I don't like all the names/nicknames/fake names. It's confusing. The names in general are very romance novel-y. I like Heath okay, but that's about it. Timbrell Hogan is awful. 
- I do like that it starts with their stories being told separately, setting up and preparing the characters for when they'll need each other. (I ended up NOT liking this though, because they were supposedly "in love" while never being around each other for more than a day or two.)
- So many women! I wish Heath would get with Aspen or even Hogan, but I guess I'll decide later if I like his interaction with Darci. 
- Heath can be harsh, but I like that he's respectful enough to apologize to his friends.
- He's a well written character. He's rude and grumpy, but not irritatingly so. It's easy to feel compassion for him. I'm more irritated with the people who treat him as inferior or with kid gloves. 
- Borderline cursing - I don't know if I like the added "realism" or if I think it's risky. (I think I decided it was no big deal, but not entirely necessary.)
- For some reason, Heath and Darci's first meeting made me like her as a character more. Definite chemistry there too, so I guess he can be with her instead. (I take this back now. I never really warmed up to her, and I didn't understand what Heath saw in her. I think Aspen or Hogan would've been a better match. He had much more chemistry with them.)
- I wish I liked the plot more, because I like the people and the real way they're portrayed. (Heath, anyway.)
- I actually like that he's a ladies man and a flirt. That's surprising for me, but I find it oddly charming because he's classy about it.
- I like that they're upfront about the attraction right away. That's different. They are both equally interested and apprehensive. 
- Her (Kendig) fragment sentences are almost like an action version of Karen. I can't complain though. because I've picked up her style by now.

There were pros, but there were a lot of cons. I was so happy to get back to Tidewater Inn after this, because it felt good to WANT to read a book again. 

But please remember my disclaimer at the beginning of this post: the author is obviously talented. If action and war are your area of interest, give it a try! I just couldn't follow, and I don't like reading when it's a chore. I respect her greatly for tackling such a meaningful subject, and I especially respect the people and dogs it was inspired by. I wish I could get into it more, but I'll leave that to others who can truly appreciate it. 


You're in for a treat, you guys. A long overdue treat by now, because I've been busy moving, but a treat nonetheless.

If you think my reviews of ONE story are scatterbrained and weird and way too long, just wait til you see what I come up with for this spectacular 4-in-1! 

It's no secret that I am not a fan of novellas. I don't like the lack of character development and the lack of feeling and attachment. I don't like the hastily resolved story lines or the wishing for more when it's all said and done. 

Let it be known that Smitten is the exception. I adored this book. I was addicted. I was, ahem, smitten. 

Given my history with novellas, it may surprise you that I gave this one a fair shot. Well, I have several good reasons. First of all, look at the names on that charming cover. I will read anything with the names Colleen Coble or Denise Hunter on the cover. Those ladies are so talented. I'm sorry to say that I have not read anything by Diann Hunt or Kristen Billerbeck before Smitten, but I thoroughly enjoyed their talent as well. 

Secondly, I read it because I had to finish what I had started. Several months ago, I spent the day at Books-A-Million while my mom was at work. I picked up Smitten and went straight to Denise Hunter's story. (I like her, can you tell?). I read it, loved it, and started back at the beginning of book. Sadly, I had to leave and didn't have the money for it that day. I had to borrow it from the church library this week, because I won a copy of the sequel, Secretly Smitten. It was actually really cool, the way I won it. I suggested a title for the third book, over at girlswriteout.blogspot.com and they liked it, but said it was too similar to another title coming out at the same time. Being the kind authors they are, they sent me a complimentary copy of Secretly Smitten anyway. I cannot wait to go back to this darling town! 

Thirdly, it was just so much better than most and deserved to be read straight through.

Authors: Colleen Coble, Kristen Billerbeck, Diann Hunt and Denise Hunter

Pages: 403

Preview: The proposed closing of the lumber mill comes as unwelcome news for the citizens of Smitten. How will the town survive without its main employer? A close-knit group of women think they've got just the plan to save Smitten. They'll capitalize on its name and turn it into a tourist destination for lovers - complete with sweet shops, a high-end spa, romantic music on the square, and cabins outfitted with fireplaces and hot tubs.
But is this manly town ready for an influx of romantically-minded guests? Country music sensation Sawyer Smitten, the town's hometown hero, wants to help by holding his own wedding there on Valentine's Day. And little Mia's lavender wreaths hang all over town as a reminder that faith can work miracles. Along the way, four women spearheading the town's transformation - energetic Natalie, sophisticated Julia, graceful Shelby and athletic Reese - get in the spirit by reviving their own love lives. 

Instead of reviewing each story individually, (and trust me, I could), I decided it would be fun to use the discussion questions provided at the end of the book. Enjoy! 

1. Which protagonist (Natalie, Julia, Shelby or Reese) did you relate to and why?
Oh goodness. I related to all of them in one way or another. Natalie and I both have trust issues, and make assumptions about people that can be difficult to move past. Julia and I share a love for New York City and a desire for a true sense of home. Shelby and I both appreciate manners and class. Reese and I are both planners. I think, if I had to choose, I would say that I relate to Reese the most. I have always been considered "one of the guys", although I am not athletic in the slightest. I just tend to gravitate toward guys as friends, because I am not a fan of the drama that comes with girlfriends. I love MINE, but females in general can be sooo annoying. Anyway, I can also relate to her dream of opening a unique place of business, and being afraid and having a hard time trusting God. I can REALLY relate to falling for your best guy friend. It's a shame my life isn't a novel. (Inner voice: God's got a story for you. Just you wait. I know.)

2. After a lack of stability in life, Natalie craved being in one place. What made Smitten special to her? Have you ever felt like that about a place?
I definitely know where Natalie is coming from. I grew up in the same North Carolina town, with the same friends at the same church, until I was eleven. From then on, we have moved every year and a half, and I am now 20. We have lived in several different towns in South Carolina, but we have also lived in Honduras and briefly in California. In my heart, Raleigh is home. It's where I feel the warm fuzzy, safe feeling. I think it has to do with growing up and having my grandparents there when I was younger. I feel closer to them when I'm there. However, the people I love and want to be around are here in South Carolina now. Even still, I get bored here. I want more adventures in the great wide somewhere. I can't wait to see where God takes me in my someday. It's a crazy, mixed up, heart-in-a-million-places life, and it's not easy. It's scary and frustrating and so sad to leave people and places behind that have become so familiar and beloved. I don't think it ever gets any easier. It will always hurt to a degree,  but it doesn't always have to be bad. It can be bittersweet, because you know that what lies ahead will be wonderful in its own way. It stings a little less once you have learned that lesson. It took me nine years, but I am excited and ready for the adventure of moving back to an old town in the next few weeks. True, it's one I am familiar with now, and maybe I'd feel differently about a new place, but I am learning. I am learning trust God to guide me until I'm all the way home with Him. Bring on the adventures! 

Smitten is absolutely storybook beautiful. It's quaint, yet thriving. It's romantic and family oriented. The sense of community is overwhelming. A little slice of heaven. 

3. Natalie believed her sister's report about Carson. Have you ever believed gossip and wished you hadn't?
I am sure that I have believed something negative about a person that was not true, probably many times. I can't think of a particular situation, but I can think of the opposite; a time where I chose not to believe it. Before I met my best friend in the world, I met a mutual friend who had experienced a falling out with her. This girl (who is now one of my dearest friends, and my BFF's as well. God can heal any friendship!) said some very negative, nasty things about the girl who is now my "other half". I am thankful every day that I did not let that opinion keep me from getting to know the real her. You never know until YOU know.

4. When Julia returns to Smitten, long-lost feelings for her brother's best friend, Zak, resurface. Has coming back to a familiar place ever brought back unresolved feelings? Did you have to deal with them the second time? How did you resolve them?
Well, I can absolutely relate to having feelings for your brother's best friend. I had it bad for my brother's best friend for almost five years. Unfortunately, he turned out to be not the best person to have feelings for. But feelings are funny things. I think if I saw him again after these years apart, there might be a little flutter. I'm so glad that I know not to fall into those feelings anymore. I think they would be more of a wistful, "Ah, I remember how nice it felt to like him' way, not a 'I still care' way. Let me tell you, that's a big accomplishment and it makes me proud of myself. 

5. Julia loves her friends and her hometown, but going back to New York City feels easier. Have you ever had to make the harder choice to do the right thing? How did you know it was the right decision for you? 
Absolutely. I haven't had much (okay, any) choice in our many moves thus far, but I have to choose the harder path all the time, especially when it comes to the relationships that don't go my way. Recently, I have had to learn the hard lesson of letting go and truly forgiving people who have hurt me. It was a tough pill to swallow, but oh so worth it! I feel so free from my bitterness, and I am now in contact with someone I swore I'd never be friends with again. I'm still waiting for God to work in more than one situation, but I know all things are possible! On a different note, I can absolutely understand the lure of New York City! It is the most incredible city in the world, and if I had the opportunity to live there, it would be so hard to walk away! Although, I think I'd feel more at home in the small town, as Julia did, but wow! What a city!  

6. Julia has a strong independent streak, but ultimately discovers that counting on others can make life easier and more fulfilling. Have you ever tried to do something alone only to discover the lesson was in submitting to others? What was the outcome?
I can't recall a certain situation where my "independent streak" showed until I had to learn the hard way. I don't have much of a problem relying on people. I tend to go the opposite way - I lean too much on people, and I struggle to gain independence. There are many factors that contribute to this, most of them being out of my control at the moment. I get frustrated with myself so easily because I feel like I can't do anything on my own. I want to be patient and realize that God has me in this season for a purpose, but it's one of the hardest things to get through my head. I want to get on with life.

7. When the girls support Reese in her outfitter's store dreams, they do things they wouldn't otherwise be interested in - such as rollerblading. Do you have friends who expand your world that way? How has it made you a better person? 
Absolutely! I think I can say that all of my closest friends have expanded my world. That's the best part of connecting with other human beings - they show you parts of themselves that become parts of yourself. My best friend comes to mind, especially. She and I could not be more opposite. She is so outgoing, I am an introvert, through and through. She is "flashy" and adventurous. I am reserved and cautious. It's not hard to see how knowing her has expanded my world. I wouldn't be who I am today without her. Many other friends come to mind too - Amanda, Alyx, Valerie, and the list goes on. 

8. Shelby had some major issues with her dad. Before they could have healing in their relationship, she had to truly forgive him. In fact, he had to forgive himself. Have you ever had a relationship like that? Did you choose to forgive (with God's help) and receive healing, or are you still holding on to the bitterness? What can you do to let it go?
Oh wow. I guess it was a God thing that I was delayed in posting this. I just recently resolved a few bitterness/unforgiveness issues in my life. Neither are "big" deals in the grand scheme of things, but they meant something to me and were making me think negatively about those people. They were a long time coming, and I am so glad I listened to God's prompting to take the first step. As I mentioned above, I'm waiting for God to move in a few more, but I am thankful for progress! 

9. Sometimes life isn't fair. Circumstances can change in an instant. Nick's circumstances changed when his ex-wife died and his daughter, Willow, came to live with him. Despite the challenges, they settled into their new life together and shared a relationship they wouldn't have otherwise. When life hands you challenges, do you fight them or do you try to learn from them and make your life better?
I fight them. Not the best answer, but I'm just being honest. I want so badly to be a go-with-the-flow kind of girl, but it's hard when all I've ever done is resist change and unraveled plans. I can learn though.

10. Shelby gained strength and support from her friends. She also offered that same support back to them. Do you have someone like that in your life? Are you that someone to someone else? Reach out today.
I am blessed to have a few pillars of support in my life. I hope they feel the same about me.

11. The more Shelby and Nick got to know each other, the more they had to work through in their relationship, but difficulties can bring growth in a relationship and make it stronger. Think of the relationships in your life. What has truly made them grow?
Time, perseverance and honesty are what comes to mind. Getting to know someone means taking the time to get to know them. Ask questions, give answers, be more open as you learn that they are trustworthy. No need to rush, but be moving forward unless there's a reason not to. Relationships take perseverance, because sometimes it seems like the hard times are so not worth it. It would be so much easier to walk away when people get annoying or frustrating. But you never know what is on the other side of that misunderstanding or struggle. Be honest with people. Sometimes this can backfire, but not if it's not supposed to. It's better for you, I think, than holding things inside until you explode with "honesty"!

12. It's clear from the beginning of 'All Along' that Reese MacKenzie is a planner, but it doesn't take long for her plan to make Griffen love her go awry. Have you ever been so committed to your own plans that God's will got lost somewhere along the way? How did you come to that realization? What happened as a result?
Um, yes. I don't wanna talk about. Kidding. I am absolutely a planner, and I don't stop to even ask God what He wants! I've lost count of the times I've done this, unfortunately, but I can tell you without a doubt that there is so much more peace when I seek His will instead of using all MY planning in the world. Things go more smoothly. Even when they don't, at least you're not left with a pile of regrets. 

13. In what ways did Griffen balance Reese? Who provides balance for you, and in what ways?
Griffen made her chill out a little. My best friend balances my personality when we're together. My friend Amanda, and especially my mom, balance me on a daily basis and keep me from "going over the edge". 

14. Reese's faith falters as they approach Sawyer's wedding and the finalization of their plan for Smitten. Why do you think having faith can be so difficult? When was the last time your faith faltered? What got you through that time?
I hate to admit it, but I struggle with true faith a lot. I feel like I can trust when things go well, but I forget it all when the going gets rough. I have belief, but I get so freaked out sometimes that I forget to acknowledge that God's got everything under control. I think the times when I HAVE hung onto real faith, (and I can point those out, so I know it's possible), are when I have stopped in the midst of craziness and actively chosen to give it to God over and over. I also struggle with beating myself up when I don't trust. I doubt and I fall, but it's not about me and what I do or don't do. It's about Him and what He did and will do. If only I'd learn to stop and remember more often.

15. How did the friendship between Natalie, Julia, Shelby and Reese serve as a support system spiritually, emotionally, and physically? Who is your support system and how do you hold each other up? 
I love their friendships! They reminded me of myself and my three best friends from my childhood. We have since grown apart, but this makes me nostalgic for that time. Now, my support system, if I had to narrow it down to three (with me being Reese) consists of my mom (Natalie), my friend Amanda (Shelby), my best friend Auburn (Julia). 


Natalie - Jen Kuhn - I don't remember if she was described as a redhead, but every group of friends needs one, and I pictured her with a dark auburn. I think this actress captures the gorgeous, sweet mom look. ;)

Julia - Jennifer Lawrence - I think she had the right attitude and basic look. Not to mention, my BFF loves her and would love the idea of "her" character being portrayed by her.

Shelby - Jenn Proske - She reminds of a Shelby I know, and I can see her hosting dinner parties and looking oh so classy with red lipstick and pearls. 

Reese - Reese Witherspoon. The obvious choice, but I love her and she fits the character.

And there we go! Up next: Trinity by Ronie Kendig (because Secretly Smitten is at my new house!)

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Trouble With Cowboys

I guess I was wrong about finishing The Trouble with Cowboys in just twenty-four hours. 

It was more like twenty-six, but who's counting? It only took that long because I had to stop and eat and go places. I would say I had to sleep too, but I only got an hour or two last night, because I just couldn't stop reading. Ah, I have missed books that keep me up all night! I also took it in the car everywhere. I was early to church this morning, so I sat in the car and read just one more chapter. We went out to dinner for my brother's birthday, and I was so anxious to get back to reading. I know, that's probably bad, but it was just that good. 

Author: Denise Hunter

Pages: 289

Preview: Annie Wilkerson is Moose Creek's premiere horse trainer and equine columnist for Montana Living. Money is tight as she tries to put her kid-sister through college and provide for her young nephew. When Anne's column is cancelled, she's given first shot at a new lovelorn column - and she can't afford to turn it down. Only problem is...Annie's never been in love. Always resourceful, she reluctantly strikes a deal with the town's smooth-talking ladies' man Dylan Taylor. She'll work with his ailing horse, Braveheart, if he'll help her answer the readers letters. Working closely with Dylan is harder than Annie imagined, and she quickly realizes she may have misjudged him. But her unwavering conviction that cowboys are nothing but trouble has kept her heart safe for years. And she can't risk getting hurt now. The more Annie tries to control things, the more they fall apart. Her feelings are spinning out of control, and her sister's antics are making life increasingly more difficult. Annie knows she needs to turn the reins over to God, but surrender has never come easily. When Dylan reveals his feelings for her, Annie doesn't know what to trust - her head or her heart. The trouble with this cowboy is that he might just be exactly what she needs.

Thoughts: I guess I kind of gave away my initial thoughts already. It was so fantastic! I've actually had it on my shelf for quite a while, but other books kept getting pushed up on my TBR list, and I knew I wanted to be able to really enjoy it. Oh boy did I! Denise Hunter never disappoints, truly. When I was about halfway through, it occurred to me that, with all the books I have waiting for me on my shelf, all I really wanted was a dozen more books from Denise Hunter to just devour. (Unfortunately, this was the last one I have that I hadn't read. I know what I'll be doing with any birthday money!) The Trouble with Cowboys is definitely my favorite of the Big Sky Romance series, and *probably* my second favorite book by Denise. I don't think any book could take the #1 spot from Surrender Bay, but this one is tied with Saving Grace. (Yeah, I rank my books.) 

I loved: Everything. The story line was wonderful. It was sweet and sometimes sad and surprising, but not in a way that made me struggle through reading it, if that makes sense. I left feeling happy. I love the advice column theme and the snippets before each chapter.

I loved the characters. Annie reminded me of myself - mature and cautious, with a love for romance novels. Oh, and a headstrong little sister. Sierra was a great contrast and perfect for the story, but I found myself getting frustrated with her along with Annie. Ryder was just TOO cute, and reminded me of my little brother. I loved seeing the cast of characters from the previous two books, especially Miss Lucy! And then there's Dylan. Um. Wow. Dylan is...just, wow. What a man. That's all I'm gonna say. *swoon*

I loved the names. It might be a weird quirk, but a character's name can really influence how I feel about them. I've always had a thing for names, and a thing for books. Makes sense that I would want them to work well together. They definitely did here. Annie is a sweet, classy, name for a sweet, classy, reserved woman. I thought the idea of her possibly becoming Annie Oakley was great. Sierra makes me think of a fiery redhead, so that was perfect. I love the name Ryder, and it's perfect for a cowboy story. I've always loved the name Dylan (I actually begged my mom to name my little brother this, but she didn't.) and it fit him perfectly. I even liked the last name Taylor. It reminded me of Andy Taylor and the handsome, charming gentleman type with a killer smile. I also really loved the name Braveheart for Dylan's beloved horse. That's such a COOL name!

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Nobody can write a kiss, or near kiss, or any type of physical chemistry like Denise Hunter. Not that the characters are only interested in the physical. Not at all. It's clear that it goes much deeper, but the attraction does makes it so much more realistic. I think a lot of Christian authors shy away from a lot of passion because they don't want to be too "sexy". That's fine, and I'm glad to have clean love stories to read. But of course you're going to be attracted to the person you fall in love with! I appreciate Denise's way of creating a chemistry so strong it's like a force that can't be reckoned with...while still completely respecting a Godly boundary for relationships. My heart does flips when I read her books, because ya know what? Sometimes cowboys are just hot. :D

I didn't love: N/A. Really, there wasn't a thing I disliked. Oh wait!! I dislike that the Big Sky series is over. I knew it was ending, but I must have been in denial, because I was so disappointed when I read it again in the acknowledgements at the end.

Cover Story: This is definitely my favorite cover from the Big Sky series, too. I remember when it was released on Facebook and I instantly fell in love with it. I absolutely adore the autumn colors and the blue of the sky. I love the landscape. Dylan looks perfectly flirty and Annie is stunning. I really love her hair...and her face...and I totally want her outfit.

More than Words: This isn't a quote, but I wanted to mention that I learned a lot while reading this book. If I'm being honest, even though I read Christian fiction almost exclusively, I often ignore the lessons once I've closed the book. I might think, 'Oh that's nice' and not really give it another thought. Unless it's truly extraordinary, I certainly don't consider how I might apply it to my life. Not so this time. 

Because I related so closely to Annie, the lessons she learned stung me a little bit. I'm a control freak. Not just with my sister, but I have actually seen that very thing happening lately. We're too different to live life the same way, but that's okay, because God made us different for a reason. 

It really stung when I realized (with Annie) that I am judgmental. Nobody wants to admit that. I am, though, and it's been worse lately. I think I'm so mature and sensible that I'm better than other people. I think they are reckless. Turns out I'm actually jealous of their ability to let go and just have fun. Ouch. Not the most fun revelation, but something I needed to hear. I'll be praying about how to change that, for sure. My prayer will be like the one Annie prayed that hit home maybe a little too much:

'I've been wholly unlovely, God. Forgive me. Help me to see people as they really are and not as I've believed them to be. Help me to see myself for who I really am, not for what I believed myself to be.'


I've always known that I am too cautious. "Cautious" being a nice word for "fearful". I have a long way to go with that one, but this book helped me see a little more clearly how it's possible to get past my tendency to build walls. Life means taking risks. (Ah, that's scary!) Someday, falling in love will mean taking a risk. (And I do want that!). Trust means letting go. (Deep breath). Something else I hadn't thought of before I read it: 

'The scariest thing about a leap of faith was the first step.' 

So. True.

Casting Call: 

Dylan Taylor - When I first saw the cover, I thought of Joshua Jackson:

I think he's cute, and does look like the guy on the cover. However, after reading about Dylan, I picture someone even more attractive. Almost impossibly so. But for this post, I'm torn between Chris Pine:

And Paul Walker (with darker hair): 

I think the playful expressions on both of their faces are very "Dylan", but for either you'd substitute intense blue eyes for melt-y chocolate brown ones. *sigh*

Annie Wilkerson - I was actually confused about Annie. She is described as having black hair, but the cover picture looks like a dark auburn to me. Because I had loved the cover so much, and specifically her hair, I pictured her with wavy auburn hair. I picture her exactly like the cover, but similar to Sarah Drew: 

This is one of those books that is going to make the next one hard to get into...

Saturday, March 23, 2013

And The Worst Blogger Award Goes To...

I'll pretend that people actually read this thing enough to miss me and apologize. I'm sorry. I'm sorry it has been over a year since my last post. I don't know if it's laziness or if it has something to do with the fact that I had my heart completely shattered by an author that I trusted, and I might be holding on to a touch of bitterness even still. (I'm looking at you, Karen). It might be that. I don't know. Anyway, I have returned for now, but I make no promises. You just never can tell when things will get too painful, and the blog posts will just disappear again.

Tonight, I just have a craving to write, and what better way to satisfy it than to write about what I'm already talking about, thinking about and dreaming about? No, not being swept away by a cowboy who looks suspiciously like Joaquin Phoenix...although...okay, maybe that a little bit, but this time I mean books. Glorious, beautiful, timeless, feels-like-home, books. Ahh. 

Which you probably already gathered from all the book reviews...yeah... 

So yeah. I'm back, doing the same old, same old. 

I apologize for the excessive giddiness of this post. You see, I just started The Trouble with Cowboys by Denise Hunter tonight, and let me tell you, oh boy can she write. (As evidenced by my last enthusiastic review, among others). Not just any story either. No, sir. She writes the best daggum cowboy-CUTIE-sweeps-you-clean-off-your-feet-and-kisses-you-like-he-means-it story you'll ever read. If you're a fan of Christian romance (you're here aren't you?), you simply must read every book of hers you can get your hands on. Thank goodness for libraries, right?

Stay tuned for my review of TTWC sometime soon. At this rate, maybe tomorrow night. Tonight, however, I'm featuring the book I just finished - an intriguing novel with a charming name - Larkspur Cove by Lisa Wingate.

Author: : Lisa Wingate

Pages: 355

Preview: After surviving the worst year of her life, Andrea Henderson moves home to sleepy little Moses Lake, Texas, to rediscover her shattered faith and build a life for herself and her son. Game Warden Mart McClendon finds himself in Moses Lake for a different reason: to forget a tragedy for which he can't forgive himself. But when a mysterious little girl is suddenly seen with the town recluse, these two unlikely allies are drawn together in a search for her identity. As wounded pasts collide, will their quest bring the redemption and hope they need - or consequences neither of them expected?

Thoughts: Initially, I did not enjoy this book. I read a few chapters and did not find the characters appealing or the story captivating. However, when I picked it back up a few days ago and struggled a few pages more, I discovered a really, really good story. The cast of characters was actually fantastically quirky (not annoyingly so, as I first thought), and the story was very compelling. If you feel yourself dragging through the first chapter or two, don't give up! I literally could not put it down. I took it to the dinner table, in the car - I even read while my shower was heating up! I haven't done that in a while, and it felt good. The poor book was put through the wringer before I was done with it. I spilled both coffee and food on it, I got something sticky on the front,  lost it multiple times (back a few months ago, before I wouldn't let it leave my hands), and it got crushed in the car door at one point. Now it's perfectly worn and loved. I'll be keeping this one on my shelf, and probably buying the two sequels...someday.

I loved: The writing was beautiful! I hadn't read any of Lisa Wingate's books before, but I'm definitely a fan of her style in this one. I hear that it's different in her other series'...maybe I'll check those out eventually. The setting was also really neat. Moses Lake sounds so peaceful and absolutely gorgeous. I love the idea of the artist colony nearby, and all the secret places to discover in the middle of all the beautiful landscape. I loved the characters, and the interactions between them. I absolutely adored the way they treated Len with such compassion. I was expecting them to portray him as a monster, but even when they suspect the worst, they treat him lovingly. He was precious, as was Birdie. 

I didn't love: The loooooooong chapters. It was hard to read a whole one when  I was about to fall asleep at night, and I don't like stopping in the middle. ;) 

Cover Story: This had actually been on my TBR list long before I bought it, and I always had in mind that the picture was of a woman emerging from the water with hair in her face. I have no idea. Apparently I just wasn't that observant. The little girl makes so much more sense, and I think it fits the story perfectly. 

More Than Words: There were quotes at the beginning of the chapters, meant to be from the diner wall, left by vacationers visiting Moses Lake. I thought that was neat touch and it made it seem realistic and cozy. There were also a lot of good quotes and life lessons, but I didn't write them down. 

Casting Call:

Mart McClendon - Clive Owen

Andrea Henderson - Mary Louise Parker - But I imagined her hair a little lighter. 

Picture It: I thought I'd try something new. It might not makes sense, but when I think of different novels I have read, I get these colors and patterns and shapes in my head that represent the story and the feelings I experienced throughout the story. I thought it might be fun to try to actually "paint" them out. This is Larkspur Cove in my head. I realize I might be a little schizo. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Surrender Bay

**I've changed my review format a little bit. Just 'cause.

Denise Hunter

Pages: 281

Preview: When Samantha Owens's estranged stepfather dies, she inherits his cottage in Nantucket - a place she left years before, never planning to return. As a single mom, Sam can't afford to pass up a financial windfall like ocean-front property. So she travels home to fix up the house and sell it...never suspecting that Landon Reed still lives two doors down. As their long dormant romance begins to bud again, Sam must face the fact that Landon still doesn't know why she left the island. Will the secrets hidden all these years tear them apart...or is Landon's love really unconditional as he claims?

Thoughts: Wow, wow, wow! I L.O.V.E. this book. Good stories about best friends falling in love are sadly few and far between (unless I'm looking in the wrong places - if you have a recommendation, please let me know!), but they are my absolute favorite. I love the depth and connection it gives the love between them - it just makes it seem so much more real to me. Not to mention that I've always dreamed of falling in love with my best friend. I am so glad to have found this story about BFF love. It is by far the best I have ever read. It's everything I look for in a love story, or any book. It's wonderfully thought-provoking, deeply emotional and achingly romantic. I fell in love with every single character, and I hated to see them go. I love that it's an allegory of Christ's love for us, and His relentless pursuit of us. It was clean, without any actual mention of God or church, making it appealing to non-Christians as well, and still getting the message across very clearly. It also explains why Landon was so completely flawless. :) It's the kind of book you can't stop thinking about long after The End.

I loved: Everything, from the overall story to the littlest details about the cottage. I loved characters, and I loved their names, too. I have always loved Sam for a girl. Caden Elaine is totally on my favorites list now - my middle name is Elaine, and I want to pass it down to my daughter someday. My previous favorite was actually Kadence "Kady" Elaine, but I think Caden "Cady" Elaine is even better! LOVE IT. Landon has been my absolute favorite name for years, and I am determined to name my son Landon one day. I also have Jonathan Reid on my favorites list. Awesome!

I didn't love: I honestly don't know if there was anything I disliked about Surrender Bay. Except the fact that they experienced so much pain, which is the whole point, and the fact that I felt bad for fictional people is a testament to what a great story it was.

The Cover Story: I really like it! Before I read it, I didn't pay lot of attention, and thought she was sitting on the edge of a canyon or something. But it's her's and Landon's dock. Aww. I love how she's looking out into the blurry blueness of the water. It isn't clearly defined, making it look endless and intimidating - like the future. Yet, she dangles her feet over the edge, and Landon is by her side.
Maybe I'm reading way too much into the cover, but I'm loving this whole symbolism theme going on here.

More than Words: I kept coming back to this section on page 140, because it was just so beautiful. I literally read it like four times during the course of the book.

He was Landon, her trusted friend, but in that moment he was so much more. He was passion, he was affection, he was mercy.
I want that. In my relationship with God, and the man he created for me one day, I long for passion, affection and mercy. Woah.