Review: Bless Her Heart by Sally Kilpatrick 

Some people might rate this book 4 or 5 stars for the authentic southern characters that Kilpatrick introduces with such aplomb you feel like you’ve known these people forever. Some readers might fall in love with “fun Posey” who uses the 7 deadly sins as a guide to make up for 10 sucky years married to a controlling, manipulative jerkhead.  And some readers might call this book a winner for its excellent writing – and easy dialogue among a hippie mom, sisters named after natural elements, and a best friend who literally saves more than one day. 

I’m giving Bless Her Heart a bunch of fat stars because it made me so sufficiently mad at Chad Love, so ticked off that he thought it was okay to treat any human being the way that he treated his wife, and so angered with a patriarchy that thinks “Wives, submit to your husbands” isn’t part of a speech that says “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her … Love your wives like your own bodies,” that now I am taking steps to help some people who are in situations like Posey’s. Sally Kilpatrick, any gratitude that comes my way from women who are tired of being controlled and interrogated and mentally beaten down – that gratitude is due to you. 

-calliope

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Review: A Vicarage Christmas by Kate Hewitt

I knew I couldn’t go wrong when I saw Christmas, Vicarage, and Kate Hewitt all on the same cover. Then to find out there are four sisters in the family… I was delighted! So this first book in a series is Anna’s story. She reluctantly returns home for the holidays – home to the vicarage where her parents live.  When things at home get too overwhelming, Anna’s introverted self traipses down to the local pub to get a moment of respite. She finds some kind of respite alright – on a barstool next to a handsome, witty, sensitive, take charge kinda guy – and from there on in her life has changed. 

Obvi I love the superficial parts of this book, but I also enjoyed the sister dynamics, the push and pull of a long-standing marriage, and the self-discovery of a woman who spent quite a many years avoiding her feelings. And I’m pretty excited to read three more! I think this quadogy or whatever it’s called really works for me: enough of a series to motivate me to get invested, but not too long of a series where storylines seem to repeat after a while. So fun. 

-calliope 

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Review: The Proving by Beverly Lewis

I really adore Amish fiction. Beverly Lewis is a pro at delivering believable plot lines, excellent writing, and characters so real that I start mimicking their facial expressions when reading dialogue. 

Mandy is a capable girl who left her Amish community because she was emotionally hurt. I was so glad Mandy ended up with a reason to return to her home – even if it wasn’t her first choice to do so. Though she had some family struggles and some uncertainty with the community and faith she grew up with, Mandy’s sister helped her see the truth about herself and her true home. 

I love all things B&B-related, so I was in my element with Amish baking on the inn’s farm table, sheets drying on the line, and guests who came for respite and left refreshed.  Getting to know the guests is always fun, and the carriage rides aren’t bad either. 

I read The Proving after a slew of September mediocrity, and I was very relieved to be able to effortlessly enjoy the inn, the sisterhood, and the faith of Mandy and her family.  
-calliope

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Review: Second Chance Girl by Susan Mallery

Life carries on for the artistic and moody Mitchell brothers.  This story centers on Mathias, who has repressed his creative side for practicality. Until he stumbles upon an unlikely muse – his neighbor Carol’s giraffe. Or maybe it’s his neighbor Carol. 😉

Second Chance Girl is filled with the family dynamics of the Mitchell family as they try to avoid their famous but angry father, and the sweet family dynamics of Carol and her sister Violet. There’s a worthy cause, British humor by a Duke, sparkly buttons, a few art shows, some broken glass, and some broken hearts. For the soft-hearted, there are two well-deserved and well-written romances, a charitable event, and a very cute puppy.  

Happily, Inc is no Fool’s Gold, but it’s still a nice place to visit. 

-calliope

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Review: The Summer That Made Us by Robyn Carr

This reminded me of Beaches. Yep, the movie. The plot wasn’t the same, but it just had that same kind of feel. 

Sister and cousins all return to a beach house one summer to share memories from their childhood summers, and to spend time with Megan who has cancer. 

The beginning of the book pretty much focuses on Megan and her needs. Then we hear about Charley and her current life problems as they relate to her childhood problems… but Megan kind of fades away in the background. I was like Hey! Don’t forget about that Megan character! 

Sadly, it happened again when we are introduced to Krista, the ex con. Megan is barely mentioned, and Krista totally overshadows the Charley character. I had just gotten invested in Megan and Charley… and they were dropped like a hot potato. 

Carr’s Virgin River series illustrated how to have a developed protagonist as well as an ensemble cast. I was hoping for the same in The Summer That Made Us. Had the character development been more balanced, and had the characters not been such stereotypes, this novel would have an extra star!

I enjoyed the somewhat predictable plot, I appreciated the well-written dialogue, and I was impressed that Robyn Carr still comes up with fresh ideas for new novels. This one just wasn’t for me. 

-calliope

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Review: Caleb and Kit by Beth Vrabel

Adults can usually see the big picture, but all Caleb sees are the obstacles of Cystic Fibrosis and the shadow of his older brother. Kit’s big picture life is dysfunctional and challenging, and in order to survive it she creates a smaller, magical world … and invites Caleb in. 

Every Beth Vrabel book I review includes the caveat that I’m not really a YA/middle grades fiction fan. Well call me a convert. I just can’t say it anymore, because I truly love Vrabel’s tales of kids living with a disability, finding their place, figuring out who their true friends are, and growing into independence and self-advocacy. 

Vrabel uses humor to explain Caleb’s CF troubles, in a way that any middle-grader will find entertaining (i.e. there’s mention of poop). She also creates a family that loves Caleb so much it’s stifling — a feeling most tweenagers know well. Reading Caleb and Kit, I was totally schooled on how much effort it takes to get through a day when you have a medical condition – or, in Kit’s situation, a dysfunctional home life. And Vrabel writes it all very casually and brightly… no gloominess allowed when describing the facts of someone’s daily existence. 

When Caleb and Kit find each other, they create a special kind of friendship that isn’t based on dependence, but on believing in each other so they might believe in themselves and grow to be independent. As Vrabel explains scientifically, just look at the trees and you’ll see! 

You’ll have to read the book to find out where their friendship ends up, but know this: Over the course of the chapters, my heart grew tender for Caleb and Kit, and yours will too. 

-calliope

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Review: The Promise of a Letter by Kathleen Fuller

Leanna is one of my favorite protagonists! She doesn’t apologize for being different (and that’s something, when you’re not a naturally domestic kind of gal, but you *are* Amish), and she doesn’t resent being different, either. Leanna uses her talents to work in a mechanical shop, and she loves it! But author Fuller doesn’t stop there; she fleshes out the full character of Leanna – a loving sibling, a fun caregiver, and a fiercely loyal friend. 

And then we meet Roman. He’s Amish too, sort of. And he is also a mechanic, sort of. He’s on a journey of self-discovery, self-acceptance, and reconciliation with his brother. 

Fuller does a great job illustrating modern Amish life, touching on family dynamics, spirituality, unconventional career choices, education, and romance. I appreciate that Fuller wrote a strong, feminine character that performed a “man’s” job,  without making Leanna into a stereotype or a mascot for feminist politics. And I am pleased that there was a happily ever after for more than one couple. 

-calliope 

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