October and November 2019 Book Reviews

Books to carry you through the holidays!

Heart wrenching memoir: Buy the Little Ones a Dolly Buy the Little Ones a Dolly by Rose Bingham

Wisconsin author Rose Bingham pens this heart wrenching memoir of her life after her mother abandons their family in 1952. Rose is the 15-year-old big sister to six younger siblings. The youngest is only three. As you can imagine, much of the child-rearing duties and housework fall to her. We follow Rose and her family through their struggles and into adulthood.

What is so striking about this story is that it is true! This well-written account of her life is more engaging, intriguing, and heart-tugging than any fictional novel for the simple reason that Bingham persevered against odds that were certainly stacked against her. Bingham is clearly an excellent storyteller. Her writing precisely describes moments that must have been painful to relive, and yet she brings us into these private moments with grace and skill.


In a small, close-knit Wisconsin community, a mother goes into town and never returns. It’s 1952 and Rose, at 15, is the oldest of seven children, the youngest of whom is only 3. As hard as Rose and her father tried to keep things together on the home front, with the help of kind relatives and sympathetic neighbors, in 1954, the children were ultimately placed in an orphanage, and later split up into five different foster families. “Buy the little ones a dolly” were some of the last words Rose received from her mother in a Christmas letter, sent without a return address. Rose made it her lifelong mission to maintain contact among the siblings. Rose intimately escorts the reader on her journey through trials, tribulations, joy, and love. The mystery surrounding her mother’s disappearance comes to light 59 years later.


Close Quarters: A novella of the joy of familyClose Quarters by Amanda Zieba

Amanda Zieba is also a Wisconsin author who writes for the children’s audience as well as adults. This novella for her adult readers is a delightful story of cousins who come together after their grandmother’s death to start a bookstore. The setting is LaCrosse, Wisconsin—so if you’re from that area you will recognize the supporting role of many locations in that city. Now, any story about a real or fictional family working together wouldn’t be complete without some conflict. Zieba navigates family drama, writing with expertise as she weaves together the four cousins’ hopes, dreams, worries, and arguments. But all that is set aside when there’s a major crisis for one of the cousins along with a decades old mystery that threatens the success of their new business venture. This is an entertaining, imaginative, funny, and warm story with a surprising twist or two you won’t see coming.


Kelly, Lindsay, Mia, and Harper grew up not only as cousins but as best friends. Kelly has always been the dreamer and Lindsay the one with all her ducks in a row. Mia claimed the role of wild child the day she was born, and Harper will forever be the baby. Separately they are flawed, but together, the Ames cousins are convinced they can do anything. Then, without warning, their grandmother, the infamous Midwestern literary critic, Ingrid Ames dies. Suddenly, they each find themselves unsure of how to move forward without her guiding presence in their lives. As they attempt to pick up the pieces after the funeral, the cousins come together to open a bookstore in her honor. Unfortunately, their vision of tribute seems to be jeopardized at every turn. A surprising pregnancy, mysterious deliveries to the store, a deployment, and — most unexpected — time with each other, threaten to collapse the entire operation. This new novella from Amanda Zieba, explores the tribulations of being a woman in today’s high expectation world, the complexities of close-knit families and the power of friendship.


Beautiful short stories from Amy Laundrie.Laugh, Cry, Reflect: Stories from a Joyful Heart by Amy Laundrie

Amy Laundrie also writes for both the children’s and adult audiences. Her short story collection is a lovely antidote to the struggles of daily life. Laundrie’s writing prowess along with her sense of humor and powers of observation make her stories both insightful and uplifting. This book is perfect for busy schedules, giving you the chance to treat yourself to some charming stories.


Laugh, Cry, Reflect is a collection of short yet powerful personal stories. Some will make you laugh—like when you find out why the author’s 12-year-old daughter requested a home pregnancy test. Other stories may tug at your heartstrings—like when you learn what item was placed on a beloved relative’s casket. Many of these poignant essays will prompt you to reflect on moments from your own life. All are offerings of hope, wonder, and joy.


Special Romantic Christmas Stories just .99Hiding from Christmas: A Holiday Time Travel Romance by LoRee Peery

This is one of 24 stories being offered for $.99 each as part of Pelican Book Group’s Christmas Holiday Extravaganza. Pelican is a Christian publisher, so you’ll find that all of their titles will be sweet reads, often with religious or Biblical references. Hiding from Christmas by LoRee Peery is no exception! These are novellas, so slightly shorter reads that will warm your heart during this busy season.



After her grandparents as forced to live apart through assisted living, and then die within nine days of each other, intrepid entrepreneur Calissa Ladd is devastated. She's always wanted to experience the same lifelong love modeled by her grandparents, but her heart isn't where it needs to be as she clings to the past for answers and then starts having vivid dreams of a long-ago time period. Deferential banker Monte McQueen has loved Calissa since they were children, but he procrastinates making a commitment to her. He stands by as Calissa gets stuck in the past. Calissa clings to the decrepit homestead that belonged to her family, searching and seeing visions into the past. Will she overcome her skewed beliefs and reclaim her relationship with the Lord as Monte pushes his love of Christmas on her? Or will she forfeit her happily-ever-after?


Six more titles in this 24-book Extravaganza:

Mistletoe Mission by Stacey Weeks


Great Christian Christmas reads -- only $.99While her own relationships always end up doomed, Emily Colt is still determined to create happily-ever-afters through her wedding and event planning business. In hopes of expanding, she enters her latest project--staging the Christmas wedding of the year--into a town-wide contest. But between crossing paths with the first man to break her heart and dodging a saboteur, she doubts success is within her grasp. Jilted pastor, Luca Wilson, fled to the mission field to escape a broken heart. All the hurt rushes back when he returns home to officiate his cousin's wedding, and he finds Emily--the girl to whom he once promised forever--organizing the celebration. Despite Luca's lost faith in love, their unforeseen reunion rekindles a spark, and Luca vows to help Emily save her struggling business. But to succeed, they will have to learn what it means to trust each other and believe in the God of Christmas miracles.

Clear as Ice by Penelope Marzec.99 QUICK CHRISTMAS READS


When Ethan's prayers for his mother's life go unanswered, he abandons his faith, tossing it out with his mother's Christmas ornaments. The loss of his hope leaves him empty and he begins to shy away from relationships, but when his dog Rufus, a rescue from a shelter, develops a fondness for a woman skating on the frozen lake behind his house, he's annoyed. Not only does he resent her using his pond, he doesn't understand her fear of dogs.

Haylie, once an Olympic figure skater, is afraid of more than just Ethan's dog. She lives in constant fear due to threats from a stalker, but one day Ethan's dog chases the danger away, so Haylie decides to try to lose her fear of dogs...But then the stalker's plans expand to include revenge toward Ethan as well. If they are to remain safe and live to see a happily-ever-after, Haylie and Ethan must put aside differences and learn to trust each other. This Christmas season promises to be the most challenging and the most meaningful of their lives.

Christian Romance Novellas just .99Crazy Creek Christmas by Lisa J. Lickel


Crazy Creek, Wyoming saves Leah Hanes's life. Running on fumes and bald tires, she thanks heaven for Cookie and Jeanette Wimmer who recommend her to the Rocking J Ranch as a winter cook. Leah arrives to discover the ranch and the people need more than a cook.

Noel Johansen, heir of the Rocking J, happily left for the big city years ago. When he loses his family in a terrible accident, the best thing for everyone is to sell the place, ditch the memories, and move on. But his brother-in-law has other plans, and the beautiful new cook they've hired for the season threatens Noel's desire to remain detached. The ranch represents Noel's future and selling it becomes more important than ever when one more tragedy leaves him with nothing. But memories can't be bought and sold, nor can a broken conscience heal itself. Home, heart, and future are irrevocably tied in Crazy Creek.

Unseasonable by Ruth Buchanan

BUY HERESweet Christian Romance for the Holidays just .99

Ann Cooper does not panic. From her demanding job training horses to her family role of keeping tabs on her high-maintenance sister, Ann remains cool, calm, and collected. At. All. Times. This holiday season, however, Ann's fortitude will be tested like never before. Not only is she pondering a potential shift in an important relationship, but she's also facing the prospect of riding out an unseasonable hurricane with the doubtful help of her sister Rachel. This December, Ann's patience and faith will both be stretched. Will the risks involved in taking a leap of faith outweigh the possible rewards?

Christian Christmas romance just .99Mistletoe Melody by Stacey Weeks


Former musician, Melody Staff, spends Christmas at a bed and breakfast in the village of Mistletoe Meadows. While everyone sings familiar carols of Christ drawing near, Melody stumbles over misplaced notes. Her recent diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis has scared off her fiancé and thrust her life into a grand pause. She's not sure her heart will ever sing again.

Quentin Oxford has endured a devastating year. His preteen daughter suffered a stroke, and they've grieved his wife's sudden death, but the Lord coaxes a surprising refrain from Quentin's heart as God rewrites his and Melody's score into a holiday love song that will last for Christmases to come.

The Unexpected Christmas Gift by Carol James

Give yourself the gift of Christmas Romance -- only .99


Eli Walker is a fun-loving entrepreneur. His job is to advise and restructure struggling companies. Holly's mission is to save the company she works for by finding new customers at a trade show in Dusseldorf. But when she fulfills her promise to her boss to visit the cathedral in Cologne, her quest changes. Filled with twinkling lights and snowflakes, Christmas markets and a romantic ferris wheel, Eli and Holly's time together in Germany is an unexpected gift. But when they return home, Eli must make a decision that could cost him what he wants most in life...Holly.

Happy Holiday Reading! - Valerie


Book Review Disclaimer

Please know that I only recommend books that I feel are worthy of your time! Some of the links included in my posts are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.



Valerie, thanks so much for promoting my memoir, as well as the other books. So well done. My reading list has just expanded.

You're very welcome, Rose. I truly love your writing and the way you told your story! - Valerie

Thank you for mentioning Hiding from Christmas, Valerie. It's a pleasure to be part of Pelican Book Group's Christmas Extravaganza.

Hi LoRee,
You're so welcome! Thank you for reaching out to me! I appreciate the enduring Christmas spirit of your book and the other titles in this fun grouping! - Valerie

Thank you for the reviews, Valerie. I’ve read Crazy Creek Christmas and Buy the Little Ones A Dolly—both wonderful reads.

Hi Amy,
We obviously have similar tastes!! Thanks for writing such a fun collection of short stories! - Valerie

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