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MERMAIDS OF LAKE MICHIGAN: A Novel ~Suzanne Kamata

Monday, March 20th, 2017

MERMAIDS OF LAKE MICHIGAN is one of the most beautiful coming of age stories I have ever read.  Perfect for young adult readers and people who have lived a full life.  The writing is like a lovely tea party and the characters are so full and well imaged.  The problems were real and inviting even though there was sadness, which rested in the heart.

Who are you like in your family tree?  Will you manifest a life like that or will you be the mystery person on the tree; always doing your very own “thing”?  Or do you have no family and must truly make your way in many situations and are you invested or maybe indifferent?  What does you lifeline say?

MERMAIDS OF LAKE MICHIGAN is about a family who is with the Coast Guard attached to the Lake.   Mom was the Coast Guard Princess of the parade and now has two daughters, one traditional and one wondering about what will come next.  Elise is fascinated by the water, her town and reading all she can.  She is not a social butterfly but does find a friend in the young woman who comes to live with Grandmother a few doors down.   They have adventures and fall into love and ride the merry-go-round at the Carnival.   Music draws them together.

Elise has a Great Grandmother too who seems to be apart of her that wants to share in her adventures.   Great Grandmother was a wreck diver on Lake Michigan, she saw a mermaid, and truly her own spirit.

The story unwraps the mysteries of growing in a smooth language that draws one into the situation until you can feel as embarrassed as Elise or as concerned.  The characters questioning brings us right to the “Aha” moment and then lets us in without saying a word.  There is hope for the joy, which might just come with the realization. Secrets are exposed, are intimated, and revealed without saying a word.

There is definitely magic.

There is the tension found in the teenage life and tension of road trips that might now answer the questions.  There is love, lots of love and not true abandonment.

This story is a lovely capsule of life and living and tells a story that might just lead you there-you know to see a mermaid!    I just enjoyed every page.

TLC Book Tours sent me MERMAIDS OF LAKE MICHIGAN for review.

A CHARMINGLY BEAUTIFUL STORY

Suzanne Kamata was born and raised in Grand Haven, Michigan. She is most recently from Lexington, South Carolina, and now lives in Tokushima Prefecture, Japan with her husband and two children. Her short stories, essays, articles and book reviews have appeared in over 100 publications including Real Simple, Brain, Child, Crab Orchard Review, and The Japan Times. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize five times, and received a Special Mention in 2006. She is also a two-time winner of the All Nippon Airways/ Wingspan Fiction Contest, winner of the Paris Book Festival Award, and winner of the Half the World Global Literati Award for the novel.

Suzanne Kamata Website
Suzanne Kamata Twitter

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MY THINNING YEARS: Starving the Gay Within ~Jon Derek Croteau

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

“From the time I was a child in such an unsafe household, I’d been putting on layers of emotional fat, thickening myself for years to protect myself from the inevitable truth.  I must have been preparing myself for the ultimate rejection I assumed would come from my father, and eventually, everyone else.” (from page 210 of Advanced Copy Uncorrected Proofs)


MY THINNING YEARS is another self-help/recovery book from Hazelden Publishing.  It is a well written biography of a young man having to deal with identity issues in a verbally and often physically abusive household.  The author’s father only wanted certainly things for his three children and then they could not do them “right”.   His father was determined to destroy any “sissy” tendencies in his youngest son and determined that he was going to be a sports star in school – especially in baseball.   Croteau was a sport’s star but only in tennis.  His mother was very supportive and tried to protect her children managing her anger by chain smoking.

Food was a big issue along with perfect grades and achievements.  For the author, this translated into anxiety, anorexia, obsessive behaviors, perfectionism, and nearly suicide.  Many of his friends were females and neighbors who allowed Croteau access to their homes when his father rampaged.   Many of these friends stuck by him all of his life and protected him at school.  He loved to sing but was only allowed to be in theater productions required at school.

Croteau’s mother got him counseling help as best as she could provide by cashing checks at the grocery store and having a teacher provide the transportation so husband/father would not know.   His brother and sister had a hard time too, but not as tough as Jon because they were great at sports and not as sensitive.  Appearance was important and not having any “faggy” behaviors.

This is a well written account of how difficult it was in the 80s and 90s to find an identity and become self-affirming.  At one point in my career I was working with a group of teens as a counselor – all had eating issues, identity issues and food issues.  4 of the males in the group were anorexic and I wished I had had a copy of this book to share with them all; they were not alone it was a struggle for many.

I could identify with Croteau’s pathway too, because my home was run by a quiet perfectionist who used criticism as a tool.   My siblings were not safe or protective we were all in competition for attention and sometimes food.  Many, many people could relate to this recovery process and issues of self-affirmation.  It is good story telling.

“Jon Derek Croteau, Ed.D. is vice president at a leadership consultancy for higher education and health care clients across the globe. He is the author of three academic books on staff development and leadership as well as numerous articles for journals and periodicals, and he is a member of the speaker’s bureau of the National Eating Disorders Association.  Jon legally married his partner, Justin Croteau, in 2007 and currently resides in Vermont”

TLC Online Book Tours   and Hazelden sent me a copy of this book for review. MY THINNING YEARS is a very good read and resource.  Thank you for the opportunity.

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FLINGS: Stories ~Justin Taylor

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

“And it’s true that the only thing the kids remember about most of this stuff is buying it: the jolt of commercial desire followed by the soft shock of success as the parental wallet opened – and then the getting bored.”  (page 94 ‘Mike’s Song’ of an uncorrected proof copy of the book)


We’ve got a dozen stories by a good writer in FLINGS and I very much enjoy short stories these days and I would call it a good read and an interesting experience.   FLINGS was just right for the business of my life in the autumn harvest and before the winter big read season.

The reader experiences an excerpt of the whole life story of a great many characters in FLINGS.  Although one character from a story as a secondary pivot character, finds his own chapter later on, this is not a group of connected stories like OLIVE KITTERIDGE  or WHAT THE ZHANG BOYS KNOW. What the characters have as a common thread is that they have left some place or state of being and are now trying to identify their next move and forward motion.  The characters all seemed like New Yorkers though much of the action took place in other locations such as Hong Kong, Portland,Oregon, Ohio, Canada and Tennessee.   I don’t know if I can say this but as the characters wander about in search of their new states of being, the writing has a driven aspect that keeps the reader moving page after page.

Lots of themes about academia, music and writing with an overall literary quality; fascinating to read about what young men think about women and college girls these days.  The movies too reveal a lot of just random sex, and never much about the meaning of life or the depth of communication or relationship possibilities.  Maybe they will just wander into the right place or the right person for them while trying on 6 or 7 at a time.   Life as performance art and auditions.   I lost interest in several stories because of this lack and actually several books recently because of this current writing trend.

Several of the characters are well developed because of the fine writing; there was a searching quality to many of the stories which left me sometimes searching myself, wanting more so I would create what I thought would happen next.  Limbo?  Younger writers like this wanting feeling, I do not want it in all twelve stories.  I had to dig to find humor even though several reviewers found it very fun.  We all search for connection and our spot in life just maybe we do not find it until as the Baptist’s in my town say: “He’s been called home.”

Justin Taylor is the author of the story collection Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever and the novel The Gospel of Anarchy.  He lives, writes and teaches in New York City.

Harper Collins site for Taylor
Taylor’s Website
TLC book tours

It was a pleasure to read FLINGS and I am thankful for the opportunity.

“Every choice makes us and remakes us.  What’s incredible, Danielle thought, is not that we might have been somebody else, or nobody, but rather that despite everything we are somehow still ourselves.” (Page 207 of uncorrected copy.)

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