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?

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.