Stealing Home Book Review – Book 1 of The Sweet Magnolias Series


In December, I broke out of my four-month reading slump with a not-so-great (1 star) book. I didn’t want to end the year with that, so I decided to sneak in one more book. Stealing Home was the perfect positive and inspiring book to end the year on a high note.

Little Gold Book

Stealing Home by Sherryl Woods

Genre: Romance

Date Started: December 29, 2020

Date Finished: December 31, 2020

Rating: 4/5 star

(Note: I tend to rate books against others in their own genre. A 5-star romance book looks a lot different than a 5-star fiction novel.)

By Its Cover

The first book in the series that inspired Netflix’s Sweet Magnolias, Stealing Home is an uplifting story about a woman finding herself following a divorce. In her early forties, mother of three Maddie Townsend suddenly finds herself facing a divorce that she never expected. Her husband Bill has impregnated his mistress, a nurse at his pediatric practice who Maddie herself hired. For the first time in twenty years, Maddie has time to focus on what she wants and how to build a life of her own. With the support of her two best friends, as well as some encouragement from the town’s hunky baseball coach, Maddie begins her second act. 

Stealing Home Book Quote image - dark pink background with white and yellow text. "I thought we'd be a family always, but sometimes life doesn't work out the way we expect. When it doesn't, we just have to accept it and make the best of things." -Sherryl Woods, Stealing Home  

In My Book

My mom lent me her copies of the entire The Sweet Magnolias series after I mentioned that I wanted to read them before watching the new Netflix series inspired by the books. (I prefer inspired by, rather than based on. Even though I haven’t seen the show yet, I’m sure there are quite a few adaptations from the novels). She lent them to me over the summer, when I happened to be in the midst of a mega reading slump, and so they sat on my shelf quietly calling my name. After reading a quite awful “romance” novel, I needed something to shake up my spirits and end 2020 with a bang. 

Although the bang was quieter than I’d anticipated, Stealing Home did just that. I’ll admit, it took me a while to get into this book. It’s not a fast-paced, laugh out loud, raunchy romance by any means. Instead, it focuses on Maddie’s first months as an independent woman following a twenty-year marriage. The plot unravels slowly, telling the heartwarming tale of a woman finding herself again. 

Stealing Home is based in the fictional small town of Serenity, South Carolina, not too far from Charleston. I enjoyed the small-town life detailed in the book. Woods did a good job of balancing the positives against the negatives of small town life. As Maddie’s relationship with baseball coach Cal Maddox develops, the gossips in town raise major backlash at them, threatening both of their careers. There’s a bit of good triumphs over evil in that storyline, with Cal’s job being saved at a public hearing after he expresses his devotion to Maddie. It was a little over the top for my taste, but still sweet nonetheless. 

Friendship is a focal point in this novel, as Maddie’s best friends Helen and Dana Sue support her through this trying time in her life. The friendship between the three is quite beautiful, having existed since they were in elementary school. I enjoyed the contrasting personalities of this trio and how well they complemented each other. Helen and Dana Sue’s unwavering support of Maddie is the type of friendship I’d be honored to have. They lent Maddie their confidence when she was shaken up by her husband’s betrayal and helped her figure out what her life should look like. They could be a bit pushy, but I think we all need that at times. I look forward to reading Helen and Dana Sue’s stories in the next books in the series. 

I had a bit of trouble connecting with the main character Maddie, but that’s not entirely surprising when I reflect on it. I’m not a mother, nor do I have any desire to be. I have the utmost respect for women who can run a home with three children and promote their husband at the same time, but it’s not a life I envision for myself. In addition, Maddie was incredibly cautious, almost to the point of neurotic, about any decision she made. While I am certainly a risk-averse person, it was sometimes painful to read her waffling over decisions that seemed obvious to me. I think because I didn’t click with her on a personal level, I didn’t extend her the patience that I could have. 

My one other gripe occurred in the final chapter. As the first book in a series, I knew there would be hints as to what the next book’s plot would entail. Totally fine; it usually draws me into the next story. This time though, it was too heavy-handed. Instead of being able to join this book’s happy ending, the attention was pulled away to the next book. It left a bitter taste in my mouth to wrap up an otherwise enjoyable read.

Stealing Home book quote - yellow background with dark pink text. "That was the thing about best friends, she supposed. Sometimes they just acted without waiting to be asked." -Sherryl Woods, Stealing Home

To Close the Book

My goal for this read was to end the year with a quick, feel-good novel. Stealing Home did just that! I’m looking forward to continuing the series later this year. Plus, now I have a new Netflix show to add to my queue. 

Have you read any of The Sweet Magnolias series? Or watched the Netflix series? Let me know what you think in the comments section below!

Check out my other reviews here.

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Reading Quotes – Monday Mantras #1

I’ll be honest with you – this is my third try at starting a blog. The first one was called “Broke But Loving It” and I started it shortly after college. I didn’t really have a sense of purpose. I honestly just wanted to be writing. Without a niche or focus, it didn’t last long. I ran out of ideas within months. Plus, I really didn’t know what I was doing!

Then last February, I started “Caitlin with the Curves”. This time I sort of knew what I wanted to talk about. After over a year in therapy and taking mental health medication, I wanted to talk about my journey toward self-love. I wanted to talk about my highs and lows during my mental health journey, and provide support to others going through it. I did lots of research, learned new tools like Canva, worked hard on my Pinterest game – everything that I needed to do to create a successful blog.

It started out as a great idea. And then…COVID happened. My mental health tanked. It’s still not great, honestly. I could barely get out of bed and work most days, so the inspiration for my self-love and mental health was pretty much non-existent.

This time, I’m keeping things simple. I created a blog because I want to share my love of writing and reading. I see it breaking down in three ways – my own works, be it fiction or essays; book reviews; and quotes. Different ways of sharing my love of words, all in one place. I do love my words; I am a Wordo after all!

Hopefully the third time is the charm for me as a blogger. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Now, on to the reading quotes!


"She read books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live" - Annie Dillard


"We read books to find out who we are." -Ursula K. Le Guin


"No two persons ever read the same book." - Edmund Wilson


A blue wooden counter backs against a bright blue painted wall. A stack of nine books sits on the left side of the picture, atop the counter. Against the wall reads the following quote: "A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies." -George R.R. Martin


"There is no friend as loyal as a book." - Ernest Hemingway


"A book is a dream that you hold in your hand." -Neil Geimen


This last one really hit home, since we haven’t been able to travel due to the pandemic. With no end to that in sight, I’m really looking to books to transport me to new places this year!

Did I pick one of your favorite reading quotes? Leave your favorite in the comments below 🙂 

Check out other Monday Mantra posts.

From one Wordo to another, thanks for tuning in! See you next time!



And Then the Phone Rang – A Stream of Consciousness Flash Fiction

The phone rang, and nothing was the same again.

I was only ten at the time, but I remember it as clearly as what I ate for breakfast. Or at least I think I do. I read somewhere that each time you remember a memory, you are merely remembering the last time you remembered it.

Well, that’s mind-boggling, isn’t it? So do your memories really exist? Or are they just memories of memories of memories of memories…?

Anyways, back to that phone call.

I was sitting at the kitchen table, working on my math homework. We had just learned about dividing fractions, and I was having trouble understanding what to do. Which way did things have to flip? What’s cross-multiplying? It just didn’t make sense.

Looking back now, I scoff at how much time I spent working on my math homework. Little did I know how far technology would advance in the coming decades. I haven’t done math by hand since middle school, I think. Do kids these days still do math by hand, or do their smartphones just tell them all the answers?

Wait, I’ve gotten off track again. What are we talking about?

Oh, yes. The phone call.

I was ten years old and sitting at the kitchen table, doing my math homework. Mama was sitting next to me, clipping coupons from the newspaper. Mama sure did love her coupons. She could take a $100 grocery bill down to $2.50 with her eyes closed. She took pride in her penny-pinching and bragged to all the neighbors about the deals she scored each week.

Coupons are funny, don’t you think? Sales, too. Why not just charge people what you want to charge them rather than making them jump through hoops or wait for a certain day to get that price?

Sorry, got lost in my thoughts again.

So there we were, Mama and I. Sitting at the kitchen table, each working on our little projects. Baby Cooper was in his high chair, eating some cereal. Well, maybe not so much eating. Playing, more like. Cooper loved food, but mostly to make a mess with rather than to eat. The amount of food we cleared off his chair tray and the floor under him could’ve fed two kids his age.

Maybe that’s why Mama needed her coupons so much. Instead of feeding one baby, she needed enough to feed three!

It was a typical day, really. Or it had been up to that point.

The three of us were each in our own little world. Just one chair sat empty.

It wasn’t always empty thought. It was Daddy’s seat. Facing the living room TV and closest to the refrigerator. Daddy could watch his baseball games while chowing down on dinner Mama made with her coupon-bought food. Always a beer in hand. His special juice, he called it. It kept him calm, Mama said.

Not too calm, though. Not if he had too many. When that happened, I could hear him yelling at Mama for hours. Baby Cooper screamed until his face was purple when that happened. I tried to keep him quiet, so Daddy wouldn’t try to find us. But boy, did Baby Cooper have a good set of lungs. Those nights were far from calm.

I try not to think about those nights too much. I guess I remember those memories a lot less because I try not to remember them. But when I do, I can still feel myself shaking.

Those fractions were driving me nuts. I finally put my pencil down and looked up at the clock. When did it get so late? The big hand was inching closer to the faded gold seven.

That wasn’t right. Daddy was always home right when the big and little hands stretched straight up and down.

Mama looked up to see what I was staring at. I could tell she was thinking the same thing I was because her brows tugged together. I called that her thinking face. Usually, I loved Mama’s thinking face because it meant she was coming up with a new game to play. But not this time. This wasn’t a good thinking face.

Before I could open my mouth, the phone rang. I knew that this wasn’t any old phone call. This was a big one.

And I was right. Nothing was the same again.

But at least I didn’t have to smell Daddy’s special juice ever again.

Prompt: The phone rang, and nothing was ever the same again.
Prompt source: @promptedtowrite

Check out my other writing prompt-inspired works!

"And Then the Phone Rang" A Stream of Consciousness Flash Fiction by Caitlin M Griffin


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My Donation – A Short Story about Friendship and Devotion

Ava was sick almost our entire lives. I still don’t know the exact name of her illness, but basically, her kidneys didn’t work. We met when we were both seven when my family moved next door to her. Ava and I became instant best friends. We had a glorious year together where we were both healthy, spending every day after school together and having sleepovers almost every weekend. Our parents became close friends as well, best friends even.

Just after our eighth birthdays, Ava was hospitalized for the first time. It seemed as if her kidneys stopped working out of nowhere. Ava has endured dialysis and all kinds of painful procedures, all to no avail. The doctors put Ava on the transplant list within months of her diagnosis. Everyone her family knew, including my parents, were tested, but no one came back as a match.

Ava’s kidneys couldn’t stop our friendship, though. Even though she couldn’t run around and explore like we used to, we still spent all of our time together. We were inseparable.

Things seemed like they might be changing when we were twelve. Our families were together for our weekly movie and homemade pizza night when suddenly, her dad’s cellphone started ringing. We could all tell by the look on his face that this was big. They had found a match for Ava! Ava and her parents rushed to the hospital. Within weeks, Ava was feeling much better and leading an almost normal life for a twelve-year-old.

But things took yet another turn for the worse within a year. Ava was getting sick regularly, and we soon found out that her body was rejecting the kidney. Within weeks, she was back on dialysis. Our teen years passed by, with Ava still mostly bed-bound. Yet our friendship grew stronger still.

As our eighteenth birthdays arrived, Ava and I had to face the fact that we would be apart for the first time in over a decade. I was heading off to college six hours away, the closest college to our hometown, and we wouldn’t see each other for months. On top of that, Ava’s healthy had been slowly but steadily declining as she continued to wait for a kidney donor.

One of the requirements for living on campus was that I get a physical exam. I considered going to my pediatrician that I’d seen my whole life, but after discussing it with Ava, we decided I should see a “grown-up” doctor instead. This way, I could ask about sex and birth control without worrying about my mom finding out from one of the nurses.

Part of seeing a new doctor, I learned, meant that they asked a lot of questions. Did I have a boyfriend, where was I going to college, what did I want to major in, who was my best friend? That last question got us talking about Ava. I told this new doctor about Ava’s crap kidneys and how she looked weaker and weaker the longer she was on dialysis. She smiled sadly at me as I told her about Ava’s vivacious personality with which her frail body could never keep up.

And then she asked one last question. THE question. A question I had never before asked myself. Could I be a match for Ava? Had I been tested?

I felt my world stop at that moment. How had I never considered this? Why hadn’t my parents gotten me tested?

As soon as my mom got home from work that night, I started spewing questions at her. I needed to know why they hadn’t had me tested? How could they let Ava get sicker knowing that I could be a match? She explained, reasonably enough, that I was too young to donate my kidney. Plus, they figured that since they weren’t a match, then I wouldn’t be either.

Then my mom asked the second question that stopped my world that day. Why was I so sure that I was a match?

I couldn’t explain the feeling. I knew it. I just knew!

The first thing the next morning, I was back in the doctor’s office demanding I be tested. I couldn’t wait any longer to find out. Ava couldn’t wait much longer, either. She had been looking paler and weaker with each passing month. I was already worried about leaving her for college. I couldn’t live with myself if she died while I was gone.

It felt like years were passing as I waited to get the results. The wait was killing me. I hadn’t told anyone except my mom. Even though I was sure I was a match, I couldn’t bear to give Ava and her family false hope. They were facing enough already.

But Ava knew something was off with me. I had never kept a secret from her. She pestered me with questions, but I dodged them by saying I was nervous about moving so far away from her and my family when the semester started in a few weeks.

Finally, the week before I was to move on campus, my doctor called. She didn’t want to give me the results over the phone, but I couldn’t stand to wait. I begged, and finally, she gave in.

“You’re a match. You can donate your kidney to Ava.”

I went immediately to Ava’s house to tell her. I knew it would be tricky to convince her. Ava wouldn’t want me to change my college plans to help her. But college didn’t matter to me. Ava, my best friend, did. After hours of talking and convincing, Ava finally agreed to let me be her donor.

The next days rushed by in a blur. As soon as we told our families, we were able to get the surgeries scheduled quickly. I had to do some extensive testing, but we all knew Ava’s time was running out. We had to get her a new kidney before she came down with a cold or anything else that would exacerbate her already frail state. I was a little nervous about the procedure, but mostly over the moon that I had the potential to give Ava her life back.

Before I knew it, Ava and I were in a double hospital room together, waking up from anesthesia to see our families and doctors beaming at us. The surgery was a success! Not only would Ava live, but she could finally lead a normal life again, without constant doctor’s appointments and treatments.

I looked around my first-year seminar class as I finished telling my and Ava’s tale to see astonished looks staring back at me. Their reaction startled me – how did they expect my story to go?

A classmate raised her hand to ask me something, and when we locked eyes, she asked, “So you risked your life and future health to donate a kidney to your friend?”. I didn’t know how to respond to that. Of course, I did. How could I not? How could I not everything possible to save my best friend?

Looking back, I realize this was the first lesson college taught me, the first of many. While I thought of my donation as an almost obligatory act of love and kindness, others viewed it as reckless and excessive. Something I found an ordinary thing to do was extraordinary to others.

I had never thought of myself as extraordinary before. I’m just…me.



Prompt: Write a story about something that seems ordinary to your protagonist but would be perceived as extraordinary for something else. 
Prompt source:

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