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Monday, December 18, 2017

The Charm Bracelet & The Hope Chest by Viola Shipman - Book Review, Interview & Giveaway

Reviews by Suze

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Don and Mattie are close and have a good marriage. Mattie's been diagnosed with ALS and moving around is becoming difficult for her. That is why Don feels they need to leave their beloved home. He's exhausted and finally hires someone to help him care for his wife. This person needs to fit into their little world, as Mattie might no longer be able to do everything she loves to do, but they still have time to spend together and he wants to make her as happy as he possibly can.

When Rose and her daughter Jeri meet Rose's new employer they immediately feel a connection. They've only just met Don and Mattie, but it's like they've known each other for a long time. Mattie might not be able to go out and be active any longer, but she still has many stories to tell. She has a hope chest that's filled with memories she'd love to share with Rose and Jeri. Through the items in the hope chest Mattie, Don, Rose and Jeri become closer. This gives them the courage to deal with everything that lies ahead.

The Hope Chest is one of the most moving stories I've ever read. It's a gorgeous story filled with love, hope, memories and traditions. I loved how each item in Mattie's hope chest has a heartwarming history. Viola Shipman's fantastic detailed descriptions are making it come to life incredibly well. The Hope Chest is a story about the past, the present and the future and I loved how everything's connected. The main characters each have special character traits that made me love them straight away. Jeri is endearing. She's wise for her age, she's a little girl with great instincts and she's a real sweetheart. Rose is kind and caring and she has so much love to give. Don feels deeply and he's willing to do anything for the woman he loves. Mattie is a sympathetic woman with a talent for story telling. Viola Shipman has chosen the exact right characters for a beautiful emotional story and The Hope Chest is very special.

Viola Shipman has a warm and welcoming writing style. I was immediately spellbound by the hope chest and its limitless possibilities. I like the topic, it's fascinating and it's filled with family history. Viola Shipman combines this with a difficult matter, being gravely ill. ALS is a terrible disease and the emphatic and precise way this is being written about makes the story very impressive. Mattie is being cared for with so much love and dedication and this regularly put tears in my eyes. Her stories mesmerized me and I couldn't turn the pages quickly enough to find out what she'd talk about next. Viola Shipman's execution of her stories is flawless. The Hope Chest is a brilliant charming and endearing book.


If you love emotional stories about traditions, family and love you should definitely read The Hope Chest.

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Lolly's family has a charm bracelet tradition. Her mother used to give her charms for special occasions, for example on her birthday or other important days in her life. Lolly didn't get to keep her mother for a very long time, but she continues the family tradition. Both her daughter Arden and granddaughter Lauren have charm bracelets. To let them know Lolly hasn't forgotten them she sends them charms. When they decide to pay her a surprise visit Lolly is over the moon. They get a chance to reconnect, to share old and new stories and to find themselves.

I love charm bracelets, they are very special. That's why I couldn't wait to read The Charm bracelet. It's a wonderful book about family history. The connection between Lolly, Arden and Lauren is strong. Even though Arden and Lauren haven't visited in a while they really enjoy being at Lolly's romantic cabin at the lake and they realize how time flies when you're busy chasing a career that will bring in money, but not fulfillment. Both Arden and Lauren are creative, but they don't follow their hearts and that's exactly what Lolly thinks they should learn how to do. I liked the life lessons in this book very much. Doing what makes you happy and living is important. The positive attitude is one of the best things of the story for me, it put a big smile on my face.

The Charm bracelet is a beautiful story. The writing flows easily and I read this book in one sitting. I fell in love with it as soon as I started reading. I think Lolly is a sweet woman and I like how she celebrates life even when things are hard. The charms of the bracelets all stand for an important message and moment and I enjoyed reading about them, the charms are fantastic. The Charm Bracelet is a heartwarming read, I absolutely loved this book.


If you love a beautiful story about life, love and living you should definitely read The Charm Bracelet.

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For Kate holidays are her income. Decorating is her passion and her business is successful. This year she isn't looking forward to the holidays though. Her heart is broken and she isn't ready to celebrate yet. However, her next job might change this feeling. She has to decorate Chad's home. Chad is a single dad, who is also not ready to enjoy Christmas. Will the magic of Christmas and guardian angels be able to make them change their minds?

Christmas Angels is a sweet romantic story about two people who are having a difficult time. Both Kate and Chad aren't looking forward to celebrating Christmas, while it used to be something they loved. They are grieving and have to find a way to fall in love with life again. I loved the warm and compassionate way Viola Shipman describes their careful steps towards the idea of not skipping Christmas and I couldn't turn the pages quickly enough to see if they'd find a way to heal.

Viola Shipman has written an enchanting story about angels, beautiful Christmas decorations, traditions, family and second chances. Christmas Angels has the exact right festive spirit and it's a story that made me smile. The ending is wonderfully romantic, fitting and adorable. I absolutely loved this heartwarming story.


If you love quick Christmas reads about angels and Christmas magic you'll definitely like Christmas Angels.

About Viola Shipman

The Charm Bracelet is a tribute to my beloved grandmothers - as well as all our elders - whose stories and lessons helped shape us and make us the people we are. 

It was through the charms on my grandmothers' bracelets that I got to know my grandmothers not just as my grandmas but as incredible women who lived extraordinary lives filled beauty, hope and tragedy. They taught me that the simplest things in life - family, friends, faith, fun, love and a passion for life and what you do - are truly the grandest gifts. 

I couldn't be prouder of this novel, and truly hope that you are charmed by The Charm Bracelet.

Viola Shipman is a pen name for Wade Rouse, a popular, award-winning memoirist. Rouse chose his grandmother’s name to honor the woman whose charm bracelet and family stories inspired him to write his debut novel, which is a tribute to all of our elders. Rouse lives in Michigan and writes regularly for People and Coastal Living, among other places, and is a contributor to All Things Considered. To date, The Charm Bracelet has been translated into nine languages.


Facebook: viola shipman


1. Who is Viola Shipman?

Viola Shipman was my maternal grandmother, and I chose her name as pen name to pay tribute to the woman whose heirlooms, life, lessons and love inspire my fiction and also inspired me to become a writer and, I hope, the person I am today. I grew up with my grandparents, and they sacrificed greatly for me to have the life I have today. I also grew up in my grandmas’ kitchens and sewing rooms. They taught me that the simplest things in life – family, friends, faith, fun, love, and a passion for what you do – are truly the grandest gifts. My fiction is meant to honor the elders in our lives whose sacrifices and journeys helped make us who we are today.

2. How did you get the idea to write about a hope chest?

My novels – The Charm Bracelet, The Hope Chest and my new novel, The Recipe Box – are all inspired by my grandmas’ heirlooms. My Ozarks grandmothers didn’t have a lot of money, and their heirlooms meant the world to them. I can still hear the jangling of their charm bracelets as clearly as the call of the whippoorwill, the scent of their hope chests as vividly as cedars after a spring rain, and the memory of their burnished wood recipe boxes stuffed with family recipes still makes my mouth water. My grandmothers kept their hope chests with them their entire lives. The idea of something so symbolic that is given to a girl early in her life, and the meaning of the items (and all of the hopes and dreams) she placed inside moved me, especially considering how much women’s lives and society have changed over time. It was a great way to move a story from the present to the past. 

3. The hope chest in your story contains many meaningful items. How did you choose them, and do some of them have a personal meaning for you? 

Most of the items I chose to center the novel’s chapters around were ones my grandmothers had that were eventually passed along to me. McCoy vases, desert rose dishes, embroidered pillowcases and aprons, scrapbooks and a family Bible are things that I still use nearly every day in my own home, and they have incredible personal meaning. I can never part with them. 

4. In The Hope Chest, one of the main characters, Mattie, has ALS. How did you prepare to write about such a difficult illness?

My uncle, Don, battled ALS for nearly a decade (longer than most). He passed away a few years ago. Don was always the picture of health: A wonderful tennis player, a healthy eater, a fit man. ALS robbed him of all that. And yet my uncle demonstrated – in the midst of this horrific disease – what true grace and strength really mean. As his body deteriorated, his mind remained intact. I used my experiences and relationship with him – as well as those of my aunt, who was his prime caregiver – as the foundation, along with stories of my mom’s career as a hospice nurse. I also spoke with many people, caregivers and organizations about the disease, its progression, how those afflicted feel (the anger, the pain, the loss, the determination). I also wanted to focus on how those around ALS patients deal – and often don’t – with someone’s illness. More than anything, I wanted to show the strength of Mattie and Don’s relationship (I named the husband after my uncle) and how it stayed strong, real and beautiful in the midst of all the horror, just like my aunt and uncle’s did. 

5. Your fiction is inspired by your grandmother. What’s her influence on your writing? 

She wanted me to follow my dreams, something that she really never had a chance to do in her lifetime. Although she was happy as a mother and grandmother, she dreamed of being a fashion designer, but didn’t have the means or support to make that happen in her era. She worked as a seamstress in a factory her entire life. She wanted more for me. She would always bake me a cake and invite me to sit at her pink Formica kitchen table. “Dream big,” she would tell me, “but be happy with the simplest of things. And come back to tell me all about your adventures!” We read Erma Bombeck together, and she gave me my first typewriter and writing journal. She was also a great, Southern storyteller like my mom … tales that contained no commas, or periods. My family taught me how to tell a great story before I sat down to write one. 

6. You write about items that represent something, their value is emotional. What makes those items so precious? 

These heirlooms (be it charm bracelets, vases, dishes, quilts) are things you can’t buy at a box store; they tell a story, they have a history. My grandmas scrimped and saved to buy these items, or spent endless hours making them. When I place fresh-cut flowers (which started in my grandmas’ gardens) in a vase, or set the dinner table with their dishes, it’s as though they are with me still today.

7. How do you prepare for the most emotional parts of a story, the most heartbreaking and heartwarming? 

It’s never easy for me – or any author – to prepare for the most emotional parts of a story. I’ve written four memoirs and three novels, and each time I write a heartbreaking or heart-affirming passage, I am either reliving the most painful or meaningful parts of my life, or those of my characters. Most often, I end up an emotional wreck: I weep, I cry, I heave. Or, I laugh so hard that I spit coffee. But that’s when I know I’m getting it right. And, after the 10th reading, if I’m still crying or laughing at the exact same scene or moment, then I know I’ve done what I set out to do. Typically, when I write a book, I become a sort of emotional castaway for months at a time. I don’t really know what’s happening around me – in the world or my own home – until I’m done. 

8. What does family mean to you?

Everything. Even more now that I’ve lost my immediate family, including my brother, mother and father. I think that’s why they fill my work: Because I can keep them near and remember them. 

9. What’s something you want to pass along to the next generation?

The importance of our elders. We are in a social media-obsessed age, where we are no longer talking as much, reading as much, sharing as much. Our society has the attention span of a gnat, and it’s vital to remember who we are, where we came from, who came before us. It’s foundational for us as humans and souls. We need to take a break from technology on occasion and ask our parents and grandparents about their lives, what they dreamed, what they sacrificed. It is the appreciation of that which makes us better people, stronger people. I hope my novels get that message across. 

10. What are your plans for the future? 

My next novel, The Recipe Box, publishes in March! And I’m currently in the midst of writing my fourth novel, The Summer Cottage, which will publish in 2019!

The Recipe Box is based on my grandmothers’ recipe boxes and features many of my family’s beloved desserts. I’m so proud of this novel which celebrates the women and food that connect us as well as our past to the present. 

The story in The Recipe Box centers on the novel’s endearing heroine, Sam Mullins, who felt trapped growing up on her family’s northern Michigan orchard and pie shop, where generations before her have lived and run the business. She left with dreams of becoming a classically trained pastry chef and making her own mark in the world. But life as an overworked, undervalued sous chef at a reality star’s New York bakery is not what Sam imagined, and she returns home to take inventory. One beloved, flour-flecked, ink-smeared family recipe at a time, Sam begins to learn about and understand the women in her life, her family’s history, and her passion for food through their treasured recipe box. As Sam discovers what matters most in her life, she opens her heart to a man she left behind, but who now might be the key to her happiness.

My tiny grandmas and their little kitchens seemed larger than life to me as a child: Vintage ovens anchored one side, while sparkly countertops were engulfed by bread boxes that held Little Debbies and Wonder Bread slices. But the most prized possession in their kitchens were their recipe boxes. Brilliant bakers, my grandmas cherished the burnished wood boxes jammed with beloved and secret family recipes, all organized into different categories – Pies, Cakes, Cookies, Breads – and all written in their slanting cursive. 

When my grandmothers died, my mom inherited my grandmother’s recipes. After my mom passed, I became the keeper of those recipes and memories. If you’re like me, you treasure your family’s recipes as much as your favorite books. We all have special recipes, ones we make every holiday and special occasion, the ones we ask our moms, grandmas, sisters and aunts to make because they capture treasured memories and transport us back in time. Even if our loved ones are no longer with us, when we get out that old recipe card and make that favorite recipe, they are still with us in the kitchen, and we remember their hands on ours as they taught us to roll a pie crust or add just a pinch more cinnamon.


One very lucky winner of With Love for Books will receive a paperback copy of The Charm Bracelet and a hardcover copy of The Hope Chest.

The winner will be notified by email and has 3 days to respond. All of our giveaways are international.


  1. These all sound like very interesting books, love how they connect back to your grandmother :-)

  2. Both books look and sound great! I like how old memories hidden in old forgotten objects is made the core of the books. At least the first two books!

  3. Both books sound like beautiful, emotional stories about family, life, love and living.

  4. these sound fantastic! I do love books with well thought out storylines and characters xx

  5. I love a good holiday read! Thanks for the review!

  6. I've never read a book by Viola Shipman but THE CHARM BRACELET has been on my wishlist for way too long. Thanks for this lovely introduction. Always enjoy hearing inspirations for an author's book. And, beings I was unaware of THE HOPE CHEST, I'm adding that one, too.

    Happy holidays!!

  7. These kind of remind me of a series I love by Bette Lee Crosby. I'd love to read these. And thanks for the fun interview:)

  8. They sound like awesome reads, thanks for sharing them.

  9. I love the premise of these. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Both of these books sound great! Thanks for sharing!

  11. Thank you for introducing me to this book, it sounds like something I'd really enjoy reading!

  12. I have my charm bracelet that my grandma added to over the years for me. It's full now, but has such things like a house where the roof comes off and there is tiny furniture inside. A lovely memory of the happy times we had on Christmas Day when there would be at least 12 of us for dinner.

  13. These books sound wonderful! Thank you for introducing me to a new author!

  14. You are a new to be author but I do enjoy books about families.

  15. Sounds great! I'm so excited to read it.

  16. Love the look of the book and the cover is great!!

  17. these books sound lovely, look forward to reading them

  18. Your books sound truly beautiful and be lovely to read

  19. It's touching that you got to know your grandmother more through her charm bracelet, and that this helped you shape your book. I have one grandparent left and it's so important to preserve their memories.

  20. Thank you for sharing - I love to get to know New authors to me! Happy New Year!

  21. The most emotional parts of the story are hard for readers, too, even tho they're often the best scenes.

  22. These look like really interesting reads and out of my normal comfort zone for books. I love to try new authors and new genres though.

  23. Thanks for the great prize and competition. Good luck everyone!

  24. I look forward to reading The Charm Bracelet. I love the whole concept of charm bracelets, and one day I’d love to own a day!....