Reviews by Wendy F. (Kalamazoo, MI)

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Next Year in Havana
by Chanel Cleeton
Next Year in Havana (10/29/2017)
Absolutely loved this book. Chanel Cleeton helps us experience the rich heritage of Elisa Perez and her family. Elisa's granddaughter, Marisol Ferrera, discovers family secrets on her trip to Cuba to scatter her grandmother's ashes. Her journey is 'always a double edged sword, Keeping her close to me, but it also makes me feel her presence more acutely.' As Marisol finds out more about her family's history, she also finds her family's homeland draws her in despite the dangerous regime that is still in place. The difficult past continues to affect those who were born in the country as well as their descendants. 'What does it say about a place that people will risk certain death to leave it?' Marisol posits. But Cubans 'exist in a constant state of hope.' Ms. Cleeton's language is full of grace and beauty. Although there are parallel love stories, this is definitely not a 'romance novel' and the cover is a bit deceiving. It is a great historical tome that gives us a glimpse into loyalty and betrayal both. Beautifully written.
Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After
by Heather Harpham
Happiness (6/28/2017)
I fell in love with this family at the first page. Reading about the love story and struggles of Heather and Brian was enthralling. One line that truly caught me was "Memory is fluid and shape-shifts to our desires." How true.

A story of love, tragedy, loyalty...FAMILY. I enjoyed her prose and insight.
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
by Kathleen Rooney
Lillian (10/1/2016)
I love Lillian Boxfish. What a lovely story. At her advanced age, she has lived, loved and overcome so much. I enjoyed learning about her as the story was told. I want to be like her when I'm that age. Hope I can be.
North of Crazy: A Memoir
by Neltje
North of Crazy (7/9/2016)
I started out enjoying this book. A sad story that proves that money and status do not always equal happiness. The book just ended up very slow moving and I had a hard time finishing it. She led an interesting life that is for sure but the writing was a bit sluggish.
The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs
by Matthew Dicks
The Perfect Comeback (6/2/2015)
I loved this book. Read it in a day. How many of us have wounds that still surface on occasion from something that happened in childhood? I'd say the great majority of us. This book talks about just that. For all of you who were not a part of the "in crowd" growing up, you will enjoy reading the trials and tribulations of Caroline Jacobs. At times raucously funny and at others sensitively sad, this book brings you back to your school days. I found it interesting that Matthew Dicks was able to capture the female perspective so well. Great read for the summer.
Make Your Home Among Strangers
by Jennine Capó Crucet
Interesting read (5/18/2015)
A couple of things made Make Your Home Among Strangers an interesting read. First, it hearkens back to the time of Elian Gonzalez and all the drama that unfolded during that incident in our history. But also with the new relationship between the United States and Cuba, it is good to see how lives of Cuban immigrants are different and see how they are similar. The book was a little slow for me but it may have been due to a busy schedule. I'm glad that I read it as it gave me insight into a culture I know little about.
Her Name Is Rose
by Christine Breen
Rose (2/17/2015)
A sweet walk through the lives of the Bowen family. Iris Bowen loses her husband and his dying wish was that she find their adopted daughter Rose's birth mother. He wants to make sure that if something happens to both of them, Rose still has family to count on. Christine Breen's writing truly did remind me of Maeve Binchy's writing including the fact that it is set in Ireland. I enjoyed getting to know the Bowen's and sharing the struggle of trying to find her family. I had just seen the movie Philomena and so much of this also reminded me of that movie. Just a lovely story!
A Fireproof Home for the Bride
by Amy Scheibe
Fireproof Home for the Bride (12/31/2014)
This novel hearkens back to the innocent time of the early 1950's Midwest. Emmaline Nelson is coming of age during this time, not sure whether to follow the expected way that was being created for her or to break out on her own. The changing times of the civil rights movement are brought forward in this book and actually offer a chilling mirror image of what is happening in our country today.
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: The Untold Story
by Barbara Leaming
The Untold Story (12/2/2014)
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It gave new perspective to someone that I have admired greatly over the years. I was just a babe in arms when President Kennedy was killed but I have always had a fascination with the Kennedy family.

The book focuses on the fact that Jackie Kennedy suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. While this was not diagnosed at the time nor was it classified as a specific illness, it makes perfect sense after what she went through. How many of us would have handled a loved one dying in our arms in such a violent manner with the amount of dignity that she displayed. Also interesting were the sections on how she was used as a political pawn by Lyndon Johnson, the Kennedy family and others. The fact that she was close to suicide on several occasions was also something that is not surprising however I had not heard this before.

It was startling to read of how the public "turned" on Jackie after her efforts to block the publishing of a book about the assassination and her subsequent marriage to Aristotle Onassis. This "second injury" had to have been so difficult for someone who had been much idolized.

The feeling that President Kennedy's murder had "set something loose" in the country that allowed the violence to continue in the deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy rings true and I think we are still feeling it today.

The one disappointment I had was that Barbara Leaming did not delve much into Jackie's relationship with her children, Caroline and John. She was a fiercely protective mother and I think it would have been nice to have more information about their closeness.

Overall a very good read
Her
by Harriet Lane
Her a bit disappointing (6/2/2014)
The strange story of Emma and Gina is entertaining but has some flaws. It's a subtle stalking story that you really can't quite figure out until the twist is revealed later in the book. As a short book, it is entertaining and the final dagger does catch you off guard. Some of it just didn't seem to work for me and was a little disappointing.
Mating for Life
by Marissa Stapley
Mating for Life (3/26/2014)
How can three sisters grow up to be so different? Or are they. Marissa Stapley's Mating for Life is an entertaining look at three women whose mother was a Joni Mitchell-esque singer who never really thought much about marriage. Until….in her later years she is contemplating this while her daughters are dealing with their own partnership issues. Fiona states toward the beginning of the novel, "how strange it was that there were truths that could exist in families that everyone ignored, even though they were devastating." Many of us can relate to that I'm sure. Each daughter's father was absent in some way either by death or non-interest. Do we need that man to guide us or do we just need each other? Interesting stuff. As Fiona discovers and states with a Cezanne quote, "We all live in a rainbow of chaos." And yes, I believe we all do!
The Deepest Secret
by Carla Buckley
Secrets (12/30/2013)
Does everyone have a secret? As we meet Eve Lattimore, her family and neighbors, this is definitely the case. The secrets may be small and insignificant in nature or they may be life changing and devastating but each member of the cast has them. Carla Buckley weaves this tale of mystery and family drama in such a way that I could not stop reading it. The turmoil that each of the characters experiences throughout this two week period in which the novel is set is heart wrenching. Also interesting is the tendency for people to turn against each other in times of stress as well as defend and protect those close to them. A very well written book that I would recommend to anyone.
Close My Eyes
by Sophie McKenzie
Close My Eyes - Suspense!! (4/23/2013)
Sophie McKenzie's Close My Eyes was a great suspenseful read. Hearing Geniver's story of heartbreak from losing her daughter to the unbelievable possibility of Beth being alive leads the reader along a series of twists and turns. You are not sure if the cover up is real and you are constantly wondering who might be involved. It begs the question, do we really know the people close to us? An engaging and satisfying mystery!
Where You Can Find Me: A Novel
by Sheri Joseph
Where You Can Find Me (3/13/2013)
Unfortunately I was disappointed in this book. I thought the premise sounded so interesting and was looking forward to reading it however it just didn't quite measure up. I felt Lark got lost in the story and could have been developed a lot more. Marlene seemed unbelievably permissive once they arrived in Costa Rica especially the way she was portrayed in the beginning of the book during the time Caleb was gone. It held my interest enough that I wanted to finish to find out what happened but I found it dragged a bit.
Calling Me Home
by Julie Kibler
Journey (12/4/2012)
Calling Me Home affected me more than any book has in a very long time. The emotions that run through Isabelle's story of her past and the current difficulties that Dorrie is dealing with bring us a rich and satisfying tale.

Their bond grows as Isabelle unravels her life in words along the road from Texas to Cincinnati. O. Henry-like twists occur that take your breathe away.

Friendship often does come in the most unlikely places. This couple's friendship is truly a special one that deepens as Isabelle's story is revealed. Calling Me Home brought laughter as well as tears. Journey along with these amazing women and find love and longing as their journey moves forward.
Indiscretion
by Charles Dubow
Indiscretion (10/30/2012)
Great read! I fell in love with the characters throughout their happy times as well as struggles. Although there was a familiarity about certain parts of the story, I didn't want it to end. The beautiful and loving Maddy, handsome, witty Harry, the newcomer Claire and of course Walter, all caught up in a complex web of emotion. Thank you Charles Dubow for giving me this engrossing read.
The Woman at the Light: A Novel
by Joanna Brady
Woman at the Light (7/16/2012)
Really enjoyed this book. Good story with love, loyalty and deception. After recently visiting Key West, it was interesting to get a bit of the history of the area. The Heroine, Emily Lowrie, shows so much strength in taking over the lighthouse and running the family. All of the trials she and her family endures and she continues to over come are engrossing to read. Joanna Brady gives us the gamut of emotions and adventure in this one for sure.
Wife 22: A Novel
by Melanie Gideon
Wife 22 (4/27/2012)
I needed a novel for a bit of an escape from the stress in my life when Wife 22 arrived. It was just what I needed. Melanie Gideon brings us into Alice Buckle's household where we get to see the lives of a long married couple and their two teenage kids. Alice is a bit bored with her life and decides to engage in a marriage survey that she receives via email. That's when we learn even more about this family and what goes on in a 40-something woman's mind when let to wander. I really enjoyed the story although it might have been a little predictable in parts. Fun and thoughtful read!
Wayward Saints
by Suzzy Roche
Wayward Saints (11/6/2011)
Mary Saint left Swallow NY to become a raunchy rock star but never really shook the pull of home. This was an entertaining book but some things I felt were never really explained. What really happened with Garbagio? What was the back story of Mr. De Sockie? The characters were engaging and I would like to know more about them. Maybe in the next book?
Next to Love
by Ellen Feldman
Beautifully Written (7/25/2011)
Next to Love brings us into the minds and hearts of those affected by war. The setting happens to be WWII however it could be describing families from any war engagement. From the very first chapter when Babe is pulling the death notices off of the teletype machine, this book grabs your heart. We see not only how the lonely military wives deal with their time alone but also how their relationships change upon their loved ones return. We get to see how there is no “after the war” because the war continues in their memories. Thank you to Ellen Feldman for her keen insight and beautiful story.
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