EXCERPTS FROM READERS’ REVIEWS ON AMAZON
To read all reviews, go to www.amazon.com and enter “Winter’s Bloom.” There are 24 reviews with an average star-rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars. Here are a few excerpts:
Mary Lynn Dahlman 5/16/2016 5 STARS A GREAT READ
As an avid reader, I am always searching for my next good book. Winter’s Bloom delightfully fits the bill!. I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying every page of this beautifully written book.
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Rolla B 5/24/2016 5 STARS A THOUGHT PROVOKING SUMMER BEACH READ
…Winter’s Bloom is a great read…just as life isn’t simple, neither is the plot. It moves fast…I found it hard to put down.
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Lenda 73/2016 5 STARS WONDERFUL
Loved this book. Made me want to be a member of the family. I would give it more than 5 stars if possible. Recommended for all.
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Suburbanmom 7/11/2016 5 STARS RELAX AND ENJOY A GREAT BOOK
…From the moment I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down…This book does not disappoint. I’m so happy I purchased it and you will be too!
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Andrea Kessel 7/18/2016 5 STARS LOVED IT
…I love the detail that is woven through this book of the landscapes and the way the writing flows makes it easy to read. And, I always love a good romance.
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Amazon Customer 7/20/2016 5 STARS A STORY OF FAMILY AND LOVE
This is a story of family, finding love late in life, a renewed understanding of what is important and the wonder of caring for and loving a dog. The characters are real and drew me into their lives from the first page. I liked these people and I felt like I knew them personally…
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Deborah Bacon 7/23/2016 5 STARS A FAST-PACED PLOT AND EXCELLENT CHARACERS GRACE THIS NOVEL
I started to read this book and could not put it down…John Wemlinger makes his characters not only believable, but likeable. Let’s hear more from this writer.
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Kathy Roberts 8/5/2016 5 STARS I FINISHED THIS BOOK IN TEARS! IT TOUCHED ME
I finished the book in tears! It touched me on so many levels…I felt as if I was in the story and reading about my friends…John Wemlinger is a gifted writer.
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Amazon Customer 9/4/2016 5 STARS
…deeply heartwarming…Lake Michigan comes alive…Good reading with life’s realities always with us.
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Winter’s Bloom was entered in The Writers Digest Self-Published Book Awards Competition.
Here are the reviews of 3 of the contest’s judges.
Numerical rating: 5 out of a possible 5. Judge’s Commentary: Author creates a nice sense of connection at the start with the feeling of sleeplessness to which the reader can relate. We have had that moment of it being easier to get up than to try to sleep. Well done. A very human and universal feeling. We get a nice sense of setting throughout, especially as we’re introduced to the author’s family and home life. Author uses sensory details well, elevating the already strong writing, allowing the reader to immerse in it fully. Well done. Author excels at characterization, differentiating speaking voices and relying more on nuance than on physical description. Relationships evolve naturally and sometimes surprisingly, and even pet love is included to the reader’s delight. The flow is natural and engaging, as we travel an authentic path through the author’s recollections and the deeper feelings in these interactions. Author has done an exceptional job of taking the feeling of winter and making it a living, breathing character here as well. Winter has a range of feelings for us, and author demonstrates good instincts in pacing sentences with breathers and space in which we can paint our own pictures. In the absence of tension, we get a warm feeling of connection that grows organically. Dialogue shines in many instances, and author has shown a smart sense of giving the reader touchstones for many moments here that stay with us after reading. Well done.
Numerical rating: 4.7 out of a possible 5. Judges Commentary: WINTER’S BLOOM by John Wemlinger is a heartfelt novel with lots of appeal to a broad swath of readers: lovers of romance novels, those interested in the military and who care about our veterans, readers who love Michigan, those who like to read about recent economic effects, animal lovers—the range of potential readers is boundless. Most readers enjoy stories of perseverance and resilience and WINTER’S BLOOM delivers. A great job! This is a talented artist I want readers to root for. Kudos.
Numerical rating: 4 out of a possible 5. Judge’s Commentary: WINTER'S BLOOM is a novel that follows two grieving people – one a veteran of the Vietnam War, one a grieving and wealthy widow –after a chance encounter on the shores of Lake Michigan leads the two of them to each begin confronting their own past and begin to build a life for themselves and each other. Rock Graham previously lived in a room above his friend's garage, still suffering the physical and emotional damage he suffered in Vietnam. He decides to seek out solitude to deal with his past by renting a cottage, but the aforementioned chance encounter disrupts his plans. There is a lot to like in the novel, and readers looking for stories of grief, reconciliation, and budding relationships will likely find the book very enjoyable.
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FOREWORD CLARION REVIEW
Mission Point Press (Apr 27, 2016)
Softcover $16.95 (316pp)
Clarion Rating: 4 out of 5
Far from a standard romance novel, Wemlinger’s book showcases contrasts and human connections.
In John Wemlinger’s Winter’s Bloom, a frozen, solitary Lake Michigan shoreline provides the perfect backdrop for an unlikely friendship between a wealthy widow and a reserved Vietnam veteran. This is a thoroughly engaging story of love, loss, and the power of saving graces.
After returning from Vietnam, Rock Graham takes a job at the Flint General Motors, and he remains there for four decades, until the 2008 crash forces him into retirement. Still suffering from PTSD, he heads to an off-season rental cottage for solace and quiet contemplation.
There, courtesy of their respective dogs, Flotsam and Flower, Rock meets the wealthy Claire Van Zandt. They find themselves taking long walks together, having heartfelt conversations, and forging a connection, despite unfolding family drama.
A colorful secondary cast of characters enlivens the intricate story line, including landlords, concerned friends, feuding siblings, and a manipulative, sexy beautician who has her eye on Rock. Their stories provide layers of texture.
The plot is steadily paced and fluid, with creative chapter subtitles that effectively introduce new characters and events. Still, some hints at future plot developments, such as around a character’s health concerns, are excessively delayed for effect; such choices come to seem overly dramatic.
The text is filled with rich, authentic details that capture events from the past and present, both good and bad. Developments are juxtaposed between periods: panic-induced flashbacks reveal Rock’s traumatic and vivid memories of war-torn DaNang, while in the here and now, a dog’s frantic behavior at the water’s edge heightens the tension of the scene. Quieter, happier moments add balance to the text, such as through a picturesque farmhouse, “something out of “Currier and Ives,” where a friendly gathering of relative strangers shares intimate conversations and a bountiful Thanksgiving feast.
Far from a standard romance novel, Wemlinger’s is a book that showcases both contrasts, in its settings defined by socioeconomic differences, and human connections, as people come to deep realizations about what they share in common. Kindhearted characters of conscience who strive for the greater good make this an appealing work.
A climactic surprise for the central characters helps preserve and continue the book’s core themes about altruism and caring. While the final denouement is bittersweet, it brings the story full circle in a positive way.
Winter’s Bloom is a poignant contemporary tale full of enticing and heartfelt relationships.
Reviewed by Carol Davala
October 3, 2017
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PERSONAL NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR
It has been almost a year since Winter’s Bloom was published. In that time, I have been honored and humbled by the overwhelmingly positive response to the book. Not every reader is comfortable writing a review. But I would like to invite every reader to do so. Or if that is just too far outside of your comfort zone, please feel free to contact me and tell me what you thought of this book. I have so enjoyed speaking to so many of you over the last year. Thank you.
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By John Wemlinger
Review by Michigan in Books
Where to start? Frankly, this was a book I was hesitant to pick up. The cover art and blurb described the book as “a poignant tale of loss, love, and redemption” involving a war hero and a wealthy widow. Romance and heaps of sentimentality just aren't in my reading wheelhouse. Then I saw the dedication which, in part, reads, “In admiration of the citizens of Flint, Michigan, who endured the incredible corporate and governmental ineptitude resulting in the Great Recession of 2009. Now you must endure the monumental failure of government that caused Flint’s 2016 water crisis. You are America’s most resilient city!” As a Flint native, this was the first time a book’s dedication was the hook that made me turn to page one. Ironically, only a small portion of the book takes place in Flint but it does contribute to one of the book’s major character’s development.
Rock Graham is retired after a thirty-year career as a Flint shop rat. A few wise investments and a lot of 60-hour weeks on the line have provided him with a comfortable retirement in Flint where he lives in a pleasant apartment above the garage of his life-long friend and his wife. And although the year is set in 2008, Rock is not greatly affected by the collapsing economy or GM’s flirt with bankruptcy. Rock is also a Vietnam vet and PTSD is still a constant presence in his life. With his landlords heading to Florida for the winter, Rock decides to rent a house for the winter an hour north of Holland on the Lake Michigan shore. Within a week of moving in an injured, malnourished border collie shows up on his doorstep and is quickly adopted.
Claire Van Zandt lives in Holland and has been widowed for three years and still occasionally considers grief counseling. She is also obscenely rich and although she owns three houses, five cars, and the money still flows in from her dead husband’s company like water over Niagara Falls, she gives millions away every year to food banks and other charities. She is especially aware of how the economic situation is hurting the poor. One daughter is planning her marriage and the older daughter is putting her job before her child and trying to make a go of a stressed marriage. On a whim, Claire decides to spend some time at the family cottage an hour north of Holland with her constant companion, a yellow lab. As fate, or the author, would have it, Claire’s cottage is next door to the one Rock has rented for the winter.
The dogs bring the two neighbors together for long walks on the beach. Rick and Claire enjoy each other’s company and a budding friendship develops. The friendship results in thoughtful discussions of the day’s issues and glimpses into their backgrounds and lives. Each slowly begins to inhabit the other’s life, and love blossoms. And with it come a number of problems, including medical, family, and social. Wemlinger has written an often moving and sensitive book about two aging loners who find someone to share their life with without drowning the story in sentimentality or melodrama.
The author, a retired U. S. Army Colonel, has written an honest book about to two characters and their lives before and after they met. Rock and Claire seem as real as the reader’s next door neighbors. And whether they are discussing the issues and economics of 2008, dealing with friends, family problems, health, or the displeasure of Claire’s oldest daughter on her mother’s choice of a companion the book very seldom hits a false note. This is not so much a modern romance as it is a novel of two single people, on the cusp of old age, who are lucky enough to find someone to enjoy and share their lives with. John Wemlinger has written an impressive and very promising first novel.
FOREWORD CLARION REVIEW
Operation Light Switch
Mission Point Press (Aug 3, 2017)
Softcover $16.95 (304pp)
Clarion Rating: 5 out of 5
Operation Light Switch is a superior military thriller that captures the essence of what it means to serve one’s country.
In Operation Light Switch, John Wemlinger proffers a wronged hero and a scarily plausible world scenario. It’s a meticulously written story that hits all the right notes.
Cleveland Spires, a highly decorated and respected former US Army Command sergeant major, was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. After he is released from prison, he returns to his hometown. For his greatest enemy, however, his prison term wasn’t enough. The crime’s real perpetrator is too paranoid to let Spires live out the rest of his life.
Through a series of unusual but plausible events, Spires learns of a plot to shift the global balance of power from European to Asian hands. He decides that he can’t just sit back and let that happen; nor can he allow his enemy’s plan to be realized. The potential for destruction, on both personal and global levels, is too great. Spires’s personal code of honor requires him to get involved. He is written as the quintessential military hero—a person who puts in significant service, and who remains someone you’d want watching your back, no matter the tenuousness of a situation.
This is a tightly written and absorbing story, with an underdog hero and themes of injustice upended and courage maintained. Spires is a fully realized character, with insecurities despite his strong moral compass and personal righteousness. He has serious doubts regarding the possibilities for his life after prison, even as he reunites with his wife and son. He is hesitant to trust anyone. These vulnerabilities are built up believably through evocations of his tough experiences. He is always sympathetic, and cheering him on becomes natural. The forces arrayed against him are formidable, and the stakes are high on all sides.
In the wide but well-handled cast, supporting characters are impressively fleshed out, from Spires’s loving and supportive mother to the vile and pernicious villain. Even minor characters are brought to life in a convincing manner. The story’s pacing is natural, allowing events to unfold in an easy-to-absorb manner and capturing attention ably and consistently. Wemlinger’s writing style is smooth and involving, neatly wrapping up all the threads of story by the book’s end. Operation Light Switch is a superior military thriller that captures the essence of what it means to serve one’s country, even when that service is tarnished by outside forces.
Reviewed by J. G. Stinson
October 17, 2017