Two books to check out

 Cover for Chanel Cleeton's book The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba
The second book I’ve read by Chanel Cleeton.

I finished reading two books this week. “The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba” by Chanel Cleetom and “The Matchmaker” by Elin Hilderbrand.

The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba

I read a book by Cleeton earlier this summer called “Next Year in Havana” and absolutely loved it. Although “The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba” is good, it comes in second place to the prior book I read. This story takes place in Cuba and the United States during the Spanish American War amidst the battle of two newspaper empires, Pullitzer and Hearst.

The novel tells the story of three women, a reporter Grace Harrington in New York City based on Nellie Bly, the real-life Cuban revolutionary Evangelina Cisneros, who becomes famous as the “most beautiful girl in Cuba,” and Marina who left the comfort and safety of her wealthy Cuban family to marry her love, a poor Cuban farmer and fighter.

I recommend this book, but it took me about a third of the way in to get engrossed. In both of Cleeton’s books I’ve read, she has the same main family of Perez’s. I enjoy following their stories from different generations. I’m starting a third novel by her today, “The Last Train to Key West.”

Bookcover for The Matchmaker
Elin Hilderbrand’s The Matchmaker

The Matchmaker

I have read at least a dozen Elin Hilderbrand books and enjoy them. I get lost in the scenery of Nantucket, the Caribbean, or the other backdrops which become as much of a character as the people in her novels.

I get caught up right away and find she creates easy, fun reads. Although there’s usually common threads of death and cheating spouses, her stories fascinate me.

This is the story of a high school couple who are madly in love their entire lives, although not together after college graduation when Clendenin takes a job in as a reporter on the other side of the world. The main character, Dabney stays on Nantucket and becomes the director of the Chamber of Commerce and literally runs the island as a single mother. Eventually, she gets married to a famous economist Box, who becomes a great father and husband.

I won’t give away more of the story, but I got kind of annoyed. This one requires a lot of kleenex and I just wasn’t in the mood.

Have your read books by these authors? What are your opinions of them? What are some good books you’ve read lately and can recommend?

My quirky habits with books

I’ve always loved to read. That’s why I wanted to be a writer beginning when I was a young girl reading all the Anne books over and over. My mom used to take me to a used book store at the “U District” in Seattle — that’s the area surrounding the University of Washington. I loved hanging out with the musty smells of thousands of aging books. I’d always find a treasure like “Little Women” or a book called “Liz” written by Jean MacGibbon. copyright 1966.

Anne of Green Gables book cover Classic

Back then, I treated the books and characters like old friends. I loved C.S. Lewis series, Anne, Harriet the Spy, and Ellen Tebbits by Beverly Cleary. My parents thought it was odd that I could read a book more than a dozen times. I hung on to many of my favorites from my childhood. They have a sacred place on my bookshelf.

Liz book cover by Jean MacGibbon

Today, I rarely read books more than once. But here’s my new quirk. If I really like a book, I have trouble finishing it. I’m reading “The Dutch House” by Ann Patchett. I love the characters, the story, the setting. The house that’s a central character in the book. I have less than 20 pages left. But it has sat on my nightstand for the past two nights untouched. I don’t want to finish the book and leave it.

Cover art of The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

I had the same trouble two weeks ago with “Next Year in Havana” by Chanel Cleeton. The characters and setting, along with the story about a family’s life in Cuba during Batista’s years and their escape to Miami under Fidel Castro was fascinating. So was the jump forward to the granddaughter’s life when she visits Cuba for the first time and tries to discover pieces of her grandmother’s life. It was a good story because the author had characters on every side of the issues. There are revolutionaries, debutantes, sugar cane millionaires. You get to view Cuba’s history through many points of view. Many Cubans who stayed resented those who moved to America and flourished. Definitely worth a read. But it took me so long to finish those final chapters. The good news is there another book about the same family in the works.

Next Year in Havana book cover

What are some of the good books you’ve enjoyed lately? What are your favorite books from your childhood? What are some of your quirks reading books? Do you have certain genres you read? Who are your favorite authors?