Review: From Bags to Riches by Sandra D. Bricker

  
I like these Jessie Stanton novels. Jessie is a young woman who was burned by her no-good cheating ex husband, but made a new life for herself based on her love and talent for fashion merchandising. 

This third installment is probably my favorite– mostly because it’s the most romantic! The love stories don’t necessarily take a front seat, because there’s a lot going on in Jessie’s life; but the romance doesn’t take a back seat either. Besides the ex husband, Bricker writes men who adore the women in their lives, who blow off steam by getting back to nature (surf’s up), and who serve others as a way of serving God. 

Not a preachy novel by any means, Bricker uses upheaval in Jessie’s life to show how a faithful circle of support can make all the difference. Jessie’s girlfriends love her unconditionally and help her focus on her business. The God-fearing men who surround Jessie help her focus on her heart. 

In the end, the good guys win in ways we don’t usually think about, and the heroine learns to lean on a new person for the really important things in life. 

-calliope 

Buy FROM BAGS TO RICHES

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Review: A Girl’s Guide to Moving On by Debbie Macomber

  
A Girl’s Guide to Moving On is a REFRESHING look at getting over someone, developing a support system, and meeting new people. 

I so appreciated that Nichole and her mother in law Leanne leaned on each other and really loved each other. Making them live so close to each other was a little forced, perhaps, but it made the rest of the story flow: Nichole running into Leanne during a tough time, Leanne babysitting Nichole’s young son, etc. 

The ex-husbands are slimeballs, but I guess even slimeballs have redeeming qualities. Macomber does a good job allowing for situations where the reader might sympathize with them, yet not quite take their side. 

As a romance fan who adores a good happily ever after, I’ll tell ya that Nichole’s friend Rocco was a terrific hero. He may not have outwardly shown sophistication or refinement on a regular basis, but he certainly demonstrated it at the end when it truly mattered. Likewise for  Leanne’s friend Nikolai. Nikolai knew when to step back and when to step up, and I could’ve just cried over all the bread baking going on. Read it, you’ll see. You might want to start baking bread for – and breaking bread with – someone special, too. 

-calliope

Buy A GIRL’S GUIDE TO MOVING ON

Review: Written on My Heart by Morgan Callan Rogers

 
I loved this book about young newlyweds struggling to prioritize their marriage, children, employment, roots, and friendships. Dottie and Florine have a close, sisterly relationship based on honesty and support. Bud and Glen base theirs more on beer than honesty, and Morgan Callan Rogers outstandingly illustrates their desire to balance machismo and independence with responsibility and growth. I enjoyed seeing the men develop and regress, and then finally take the steps forward to become better men. 

The women change, too.  Through the grace and lovingkindness of her mother in law, Florine discovers the best way to demonstrate love to Bud… without compromising her values. Dottie grows in confidence and is able to be her authentic self — and a happier person. 

I adored this study on the ebb and flow of relationships, set in “local” down Maine. I liked the intertwined mystery, the ever-presence of Florine’s late mother, and the constance of children’s joy and a mother’s wisdom. 

-calliope

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Review: The Friends We Keep by Susan Mallery

    
Life sure surprises us. Maybe we get comfortable for a while, but sooner or later the road we’re on takes a sharp turn. How we handle the turn makes all the difference. 

So it is with friends Gabby, Hayley, and Nicole. Whether it’s upheaval in marriage, with children, or at work, the ladies lean on each other for support and laughs. 

The ladies really worked on being good people to themselves and each other. It was nice to read good conversation that reflected positively on women and their families. 

The beginning seemed very planned, bordering on contrived. I felt like I could practically see the framework of the plot — and it should be invisible to the reader!  However, as the characters grew into themselves, the story flowed better and seemed more natural.  The development of secondary characters helped, too. 

By the end, Mallery had me crying. I appreciated each character, flaws and all, and I saw exactly why these friends were keepers. 

-calliope

Buy THE FRIENDS WE KEEP

The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee by Talya Tate Boerner

  
Gracie Lee rocks! She has a mean, alcoholic father, a timid mother, and a copycat sister. They’re in Arkansas in the 70s, where the success of the cotton crop determines life or death, and the path to heaven is via the local Baptist church. 

Gracie Lee cuts through as much baloney as she can. She plays with her Barbie and dumps beer down the drain when her daddy isn’t looking. She confides in the church pastor when she really needs an adult who will listen and guide. Best of all, Gracie Lee invents her own little mystery that allows her to feel like she’s needed and valued. 

Gracie’s story is charming and poignant and smart. I laughed and cried.  I also got pretty mad – which goes to show how invested I was. Why anger? Well…

Gracie Lee’s dad really ticked me off, especially when he asked her for a favor at the end of the book. Ugh, like she owed him ANYTHING, especially something that she would burden her. Selfish selfish man. 

This book was a little slow, but really a wonderful story that I’m grateful to have experienced. In the end, I think Gracie Lee saved HERSELF with her cleverness and courage. And personally I believe she had some backup from the man upstairs. 

-calliope

Buy THE ACCIDENTAL SALVATION OF GRACIE LEE