Thank you to my Amazon reviewers!


A big thank you to everyone who took the time to write a review of my novel Windy City Sinners and post their thoughts at Many thanks to my 5-star reviewers! Here’s what they have to say:

5 stars: My Kind of Town
on October 14, 2016
Prepare to read this devilishly clever satire with your overcoat buttoned up tight, your back to the wind, and a firm grip on the real thing.

5 stars: The most hilarious sinners in town
on September 17, 2016
Just when I thought the plot couldn’t get any more laugh-out-loud outrageous, it does. From a Black Madonna to a Goose Goddess, from a disgruntled priest who channels Vivaldi to a psychic cat; from a wide range of scoundrels to a Virgin Birth, Villines entangles her characters in a rollicking tale that kept me turning pages to see how they would all turn out. Her knowledge of Catholicism — with its saints, ceremonies, and myths — undergirds the plot. Sinners were never so much fun to watch!
5 stars: Great characters!
on September 7, 2016
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Melanie Villines can flat out write; the prose sparkles and the event-filled plot moves along. My interest never flagged and I looked forward to reading every chance I got. Best, the book is filled with memorable characters. The various sinners remain human in their weakness, easy to judge, but sympathetic (for the most part) nonetheless. Melanie Villines is great on Northwest Chicago, especially the interaction between the ethnic Italians and Poles, but also on criminals and the police. I especially loved the character of the infinitely self-justifying Grazyna, the Polish immigrant grandmother and nascent entrepreneur. Some of the characters, these Windy City Sinners, find something close to redemption. The book is engaging and very, very funny.
5 stars: You’ll love this novel!
on August 18, 2016
Did you grow up in an area of a big city? Do you miss it? Do you miss the voices, the words of languages spoken, other than your own? Do you like the myriad of occupations a city employs, the idiosyncrasies of those employees? Did the word “parochial” have any influence on your youth? If so, you will love this novel! It’s a rapid page-turner, an “I can’t wait to see how this all comes together.” book. I absolutely laughed out loud at some junctures. Religious statues, ghosts, a clairvoyant cat, a mailman artist who needs “in the zone” time, a jealous, dead music composer–so many voices of the city wanting to be heard. Melanie Villines juxtaposes her characters, her plot up and down the blocks of the NW side of Chicago, intertwining all and resolving every issue with help from neighbors.

5 stars: An Ode to Chicago from a great writer
By N. Nicholson June 28, 2016
A truly enjoyable read with remarkable detail and fun characters. Ok, I won’t go on about the goose and the Virgin statue–not to mention the Vivaldi–as I don’t want to spoil it. But the plot is well thought out and has some enjoyable twists. As someone from the Chicago area, I really enjoyed the way author Villines handles the characters including Polish immigrants straight out of my childhood. It’s a snappy fun read that also leaves you thinking. Villines starts the book with a quote from Studs Terkel: “Chicago is not the most corrupt American city. It is the most theatrically corrupt.” Villines has that right.
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5 stars: Weaving Laughter and Insight
By Tina Hacker on June 15, 2016
If author Melanie Villines worked with textiles, she would be a Master Weaver. In Windy City Sinners, a disparate cast of people, ghosts, plastic and plaster objects plus a psychic cat are seamlessly woven together. They create a coat of many laughs adorned with threads that sparkle with both astute and sly insights into human nature and faith. I grew up in Chicago and found myself thinking, “That’s so Chicago” time and again with lines such as, “The man planned to get Marek a license by bribing someone at the Secretary of State’s office.” Villines, a poet, adds another layer of texture with imagery: “Jerry’s dream of salvation drifts away like so much steam from a summer sidewalk.” In between hilarious situations, universal truths enlarge the reader’s perceptions of the story: “Happiness, like love, often comes unbidden—and must be enjoyed while it lasts.” For some reason, I started counting sins as I read and ended with Sin 107. This gave me the urge to take a blouse to the “Redemption Dry Cleaners” but only after my house was scoured by the “Spotless Souls HouseKleening Service.” If I could stop chuckling.

5 stars: Criminals with Heart and Soul
By Amazon Customer on June 15, 2016
I loved this book! Magic realism is a new genre for me. The characters are funny, all too human with endearing qualities as well as some dark issues that they must deal with. Sin, greed, guilt, love—each factor into their actions and decisions.The charm of these ‘criminals’ makes me want more, more, more of them!

5 stars: I was taken with the authors creative thought process throughout the story.
By A. Morris on June 7, 2016
Windy City Sinners by Melanie Villines is a story that kept a smile on my face, and more than once, had me laughing out loud. Villines’ characters are developed by giving the reader only small piece of each story at time, and gradually each life – initially driven by some form of self-interest or rationalization, begins to intersect and affect the lives of other characters. I was taken with the authors creative thought process throughout the story. Although I am not from Chicago and probably missed some of the subtleties of this setting, I found Windy City Sinners an enjoyable read. I will recommend this book to my book club.

By Fred Voss on May 30, 2016
Chicago, that windy, jazzy sin-city is Melanie Villines’ kind of town. She’s Been There, Seen That and her fascinated, astute literary rhythms and finely tuned familiarity flows and ebbs and captivates the reader throughout this stylishly fabulous book. With the wit and film-noir mystique of Hitchcock, the earnest appeal of Agatha Christie and some wonderland Alice, Melanie Villines has created crime novel art nouveau all her own. Windy City Sinners would make a great movie!

5 stars: Can’t Stop Reading It
By Tim Philippart on May 28, 2016
I put Windy City Sinners aside to read over the Memorial Day weekend. That plan failed because the book was so much fun to read that, I finished it up on Saturday. Now, I have to find something else for the next two days. Thanks a lot to the author, Melanie Villines, who created such compelling characters— some human, some animal, and one plastic with an extensive wardrobe. Quick moving and easy to read, I found that, like the potato chip that you just can’t stop eating, I wanted one chapter after another, until I had consumed the whole book.

5 stars: It’s always nice to see my city represented in art
By Vincent R. Francone on May 24, 2016
It’s always nice to see my city represented in art, and it’s especially nice in this case to see this area– the northwest side– given such loving attention. The novel is hilarious at times, shockingly honest at others. A fun read with oddball characters that are ultimately very real, even when the events surrounding them are fantastic. All hail Tony the cat.

5 stars: Not to mention the plastic goose!!
By MaryM on March 15, 2016
Light and delightfully hilarious, but finally a statement about the basic redeemability of all humanity. Plot revolves around a cache of cocaine stolen by a rogue cop, now in prison, who has strong-armed another cop to stash it until he gets out. This guy is off the job, laid up with a bad back, and he ends up hiding the coke in a plastic lawn ornament statue of the Virgin Mary. Thus the fun begins! the cast of characters includes an elderly Polish cleaning woman who steals plastic flowers from gravesites, her immigrant nephew, who is her live in handyman/indentured servant who resorts to a string of robberies he hopes will finance his return to Poland and a new career as a HipHop performer, a Mafia enforcer who loves cats and wants out of the mob, a vain priest who dreams of creating great music and is used by the ghost of Vivaldi to channel his post mortem masterpieces, a dry-cleaning Queen who gets her only wish–to become pregnant–and believes she will be the mother of a sacred child, even though she is 60, who also turns her dry-cleaning business into a sin-removal business, and hits the jackpot, because everyone has sins to get rid of.–oh, and there’s also the gay postman who wants only to pursue a career as an artist–with peace and quiet and room enough to paint. Things get pretty crazy with all these dreams and desires tangled up with hiding and finding and losing and using that stolen coke, disputes about ownership of the magical clairvoyant cat, and competing dry-cleaning and house-cleaning babka run businesses thriving on the promise of cleaning away your sins, not just the dirt and stains on your clothes and homes, but on your souls. The story is full of hilarious developments, but the resolution is warmly satisfying, all these flawed characters discover/recover their own basic humanity as the action winds down, and we are left with them, to find what has true and lasting worth.

5 stars: BIG SMILES
By Rosmarie Epaminondas on February 22, 2016
WINDY CITY SINNERS is a great read to cheer you up. I don’t want to give the game away, but between a sin-absolving dry cleaners, a mobster who wants to be the good guy, a coked out Mary and a priest channeling Vivaldi (oh, not to forget a faithless cat) you won’t be able to hold on to a bad mood. Seems a very filmable story to me.

5 stars: I really liked that combination
By Tricia Whitworth on January 26, 2016
I found WINDY CITY SINNERS to be ultimately a very lovable book. The characters conspire to do wrong things, try to make them right, leave it up to fate, conspire some more, and keep trying in life. I wasn’t that familiar with “Magic Realism” but after reading both Melanie Villines and Haruki Murakami, I am a convert! WINDY CITY moves quickly and at first I found the short paragraphs and quick cut-a-ways a bit disorienting. Then I found the groove of the book and went with it. A wise cat who moves through people’s lives, along with a decorative dressed-up goose who is an unknowing catalyst to certain characters, create a world that pulls you in. The people are Chicago people – tough, caustic, sly, good-hearted, suffer-no-fools type. Okay, these are the people of many cities (and countries, immigrants are prevalent in this book) but if you’re from Illinois/Chicago, you recognize these people, and their locales, right away. Many delightful things happen that are hilarious. And there are lots of deep thoughts and realizations carefully threaded throughout. I really liked that combination. . .this book will not disappoint you in terms of spirituality, tenderness, humanity and darkly-humored goofiness.

5 stars: A Delightful Read
By Ellaraine Lockie on January 1, 2016
I confess that when I saw the genre, Magical Realism, on the description of WINDY CITY SINNERS that I paused in my decision to order the book. This was because I was not familiar with the term, and it sounded . . . well, weird. But knowing Melanie Villines to be a superb writer and editor, I decided to give the book a try. And I’m completely thrilled that I did because the story is charming and funny (laugh-out-loud kind) with characters that I hope will appear in a sequel. I found myself reading this book during breakfast and lunch, and the only reason dinner wasn’t included is that books aren’t allowed at the table in my house at dinnertime. I ended-up ordering a second copy as a gift!

5 stars: Fantastic read!
By John Brantingham on November 12, 2015
Great book by a master. I love her work and I recommend it completely!

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