My 2015 Favorite Reads


The year has been memorable for many things: personal, professional and global. A few of those things have been great reads.

euphoriaEuphoria, by Lily King. One of my first reads of the year and still one of the best. Here’s my earlier post:


The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins. Page-turning, mind-51oYEfb+0WL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_twisting, fun.


danish girl book

The Danish Girl, by David Ebershoff. I can’t remember ever reading such a compelling book at the exact moment in time the subject of the book was such a global phenomenon. I can’t wait to see the movie.

Saint Monkey cover

Saint Monkey, by Jacinda Townsend. A perfect mix of jazz, Southern history and coming of age.


Patron Saint Cover 65

The Patron Saint of Ugly, by Marie Manilla. A beautiful, magical journey to the home of a reluctant saint in an Italian village in West Virginia.


the rocks

The Rocks, by Peter Nichols. Actual Italian location, family problems, romance and history.

I can’t wait to dig into next year’s reading pile: The Secret Chord, A Little Life, White Teeth, My Brilliant Friend, Mosquitoland, Bringing up the Bodies and Flight Behavior are all waiting.

I hope your 2015 included at least a few great reads too! Happy Reading!



My Reading Year


“Overdue Book Calendar” auntjune’s Etsy shop.

As the New Year approaches, I have begun a review of this one. What did I accomplish, what did I fail to accomplish, what is worth remembering and what would I rather forget? I’ve had the pleasure of traveling to the San Miguel Writers Conference, attending the Carnegie Center of Lexington’s Books in Progress Conference, the Kentucky Women Writers Conference and the Appalachian Writers Workshop. I met and learned from a number of wonderful writers, including: Rosalind Brackenbury; Jacinda Townsend; Marie Manilla; Hannah Pittard; Ronni Lundy; Scott Turow; Rebecca Gayle Howell; Robert Gipe; and David Joy. Most overwhelmingly joyously, I signed with Folio Literary Management’s Senior Vice President Erin Cartwright Niumata for representation. My website is up and running,, and Erin has my novel “After the Race” out to multiple editors and publishers for sale. It’s been a busy, exciting, successful year and I am so thankful for all those who have helped and guided me.

And I’m thankful for you readers. On average, about 100 people read this blog daily. I hope you have found a book you weren’t aware of, or a recipe, or maybe a playlist. I hope it’s made you laugh, or curious, or on occasion, thoughtful.

Today, I’m providing an overview of the books read in my book club. Tomorrow, I’m going to reveal my best reads of 2015 — not necessarily published in 2015. And as always, I’d love to hear what your book club is reading, what your favorite book of 2015 was, what you’re cooking or listening to while you read.

Book Club 2015 Reads

I Am Malala, Malala Yousafzal. Published in 2013, this is the autobiography of the teenage Nobel Prize winner. Our hostess served a Mediterranean platter of hummus, tzitaki, vegetables and pita.

A Dog’s Purpose, Bruce Cameron. See my earlier post:

Delta Scarlett

A Touch of Stardust, Kate Alcott. This novel, published in 2017, is supposed to be about a young woman from Indiana who becomes involved in the lives of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard during the filming of Gone with the Wind. It was simplistic, a bit silly, and our book club was not impressed.

The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins. This book was a success with everyone. See my earlier post:

Life after Life, Kate Atkinson. Also a big success. I’ve posted about Life After Life and Atkinson’s follow-up A God In Ruins

Saint Monkey, Jacinda Townsend. Whenever we can find a novel that has a Saint Monkey covertie to our locale, we certainly try to read it. Townsend’s Kentucky to New York odyssey had us in thrall. See my earlier post:

We Were Liars, E. Lockhart. A Kennedy-esque mystery of sorts.

archie ap comicUnbecoming, Rebecca Scherm. Another guessing game involving a triplet of would-be thieves with literary undertones and one of our favorites. I need to blog about this. Author Rebecca Scherm, as I understand, went to the same high school as I did.

Black Chalk, Christopher J. Yates. Another twisty page-turner that I can’t believe I haven’t blogged about! Look forward to that one.

Under the Wide and Starry Sky, Nancy Horan. The author of Loving Frank, which we all loved, followed up with this novel about Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife, which we did not love. See my earlier post:

Logo_-_MameMame, Patrick Dennis. Who doesn’t love Auntie Mame with her outrageous clothing, behavior, match-making and travels? It was a perfect, classic to end the year.


So there’s our year of book club reads. Tomorrow, my favorite reads of 2015.

Happy Reading!



Go Set a Watchman


Oh, how I did not want to read Go Set a Watchman.

I’ve followed this story since I first became aware there was a “new book by Harper Lee” to be published and have written here about that development, Additionally, I’ve written here about The Mockingbird Next Door, by Marja Mills,

To sugo-set-a-watchman-harper-lee-cover-678x1024mmarize, I’m skeptical, despite publisher’s claims, that Harper Lee wanted this book to be published. The whole situation . . . Harper’s sister Alice, her lawyer and confidante, died in November of 2014. Shortly thereafter, Harper’s new attorney “found” the manuscript for Go Set a Watchman and after ascertaining that Harper Lee wanted it to be published, sent it on to her agent.

In any event, so many people have pinned via Pinterest, googled, and commented on my earlier posts about Go Set A Watchman, I decided I needed to read it in honor of my readers’ interest. I really didn’t want to though.

Setting all that aside, which is very difficult for me to do, Go Set a Watchman is a very talky, nearly-preachy, seemingly early draft of a young woman on the cusp of figuring herself out. She’s fighting between her Southern upbringing and her New York-leanings during the early days of the Civil Rights movement and finding it difficult to reconcile the two.

She was accustomed now to having her family desert her one by one. Uncle Jack was the last straw and to hell with them all. Very well, she’d tell him. Tell him and go. She would not argue with him; that was useless. He always beat her: she’d never won an argument from him in her life and she did not propose to try now.

“Yes sir, I’m upset about something. That citizens’ counselin’ you’re doing. I think it’s disgusting and I’ll tell you that right now.”

Her father leaned back in his chair. He said, “Jean Louise, you’ve been reading nothing but New York papers. I’ve no doubt all you see is wild threats and bombings and such. The Macomb council’s not like the North Alabama and Tennessee kinds. Our council’s composed of and led by our own people. I bet you saw nearly every man in the county yesterday, and you knew nearly every man there.”

Atticus and TomJean-Louise’s father is, of course, Atticus Finch. Hero of To Kill a Mockingbird and nearly every even-slightly idealistic person who ever went to law school, including me. Atticus Finch’s defense of wrongfully-accused defendant Tom Robinson is the stuff of American legend, literary and film classic. But in Go Set a Watchman, Atticus seems like a different person to us. He is tarnished by his stated beliefs in the status quo, opposing civil rights. He has feet of clay.

And Atticus’s brother Uncle Jack and sister Alexandra play huge roles in Go Set a Watchman. Jack and Alexandra were, to me, far more familiar as parts of Nell Harper’s own family as explained in The Mockingbird Next Door than from my recollection of To Kill a Mockingbird. Neither Uncle Jack nor Alexandra ever enters the room without a lengthy and wordy message for Jean-Louise and the reader. Calpurnia is barely there and Jem, Dill, Miss Maudie and even Boo Radley are missing!

Even the trial of Tom Robinson, the subject of much of the substance of To Kill a Mockingbird, is given incredibly short shrift. Here’s the narrative of the trial from Go Set a Watchman, in full:

Atticus Finch rarely took a criminal case; he had no taste for criminal law. The only reason he took this one was because he knew his client to be innocent of the charge, and he could not for the life of him let the black boy to to prison because of a half-hearted, court-appointed defense. The boy had come to him by way of Calpurnia, told him his story, and had told him the truth. The truth was ugly.

Atticus took his career in his hands, made good use of a careless indictment, took his stand before a jury, and accomplished what was never before or afterwards done in Macomb County: he won an acquittal for a colored boy on a rape charge. The chief witness for the prosecution was a white girl.

Atticus had two weighty advantages: although the white girl was fourteen years of age the defendant was not indicted for statutory rape, therefore Atticus could and did prove consent. Consent was varies to prove than under normal conditions. The defendant had only one arm. The other was chopped off in a sawmill accident.

Atticus pursed the case to its conclusion with every spark of his ability and with an instinctive dictate so bitter only his knowledge that he could live peacefully within himself was able to wash it away. After the verdict, he walked out of the courtroom in the middle of the day, walked home, and took a steaming bath.

After reading it, I’m more convinced than ever Harper Lee didn’t, or wouldn’t have (or shouldn’t have) wanted this book published. I’m going to try to put it away and forget about it; leave the impression of To Kill a Mockingbird beating strongly in my heart. But . . . you decide for yourself. As Uncle Jack tells Jean-Louise, “Every man’s island, every man’s watchman, is his conscience. There is no such thing as a collective conscience.”


Seagrams Whiskey

Ice Cream


The Soundtrack from Ray, released 2004, or any and all Ray Charles music


Jean-Louise — Jennifer Lawrence

Atticus — Tommy Lee Jones

Uncle Jack — Robert Duvall

Aunt Alexandra — Ellen Burstyn

Happy Reading!




Woodford Brave, by Marcia Thornton Jones


In Woodford Brave, Corey Woodford’s dad is gone to war, serving in the US Armed Forces during World War II. A statue of Corey’s grandfather, a World War 1 hero cements the center of Corey’s town. But Corey isn’t so sure about his own heroic status. He jumps at stray cats, fears ghosts in the house next door, and can’t quite bring himself to confront his best friends’ teasing. He would rather just escape into the Cosmic Adventures of the Mighty Space Warrior comic books he reads or into his own alter-ego as “The Kid” in the comics he draws to send to his dad.

Marcia Thornton Jones, author of the Bailey School Kids’ series, brings a wolfhoundspersonal approach to Woodford Brave, a mid-grade novel. I was fortunate to be at an early reading and signing of Marcia’s for this book. She said it is one of her most personal works: “there are scenes from my life, my family” in this book. One of which is the fearful Irish Wolfhounds who patrol the yard of the neighbor Corey suspects is a German spy. Marcia’s own childhood experience of confronting two such beasts inspired their appearance here.

Woodford Brave confronts some tough issues: bullying, absence of a parent, death, prejudice. Marcia said that she conceived Woodford Brave as a book about the Vietnam War era, but ultimately was convinced to transfer the book to the Second World War. I think it works well, maybe better. The earnestness of Corey yearning to become the kind of man he believes his father and grandfather to be somehow seemed to me more closely linked to the landscape of the “greatest generation.” Corey’s frustrations and goals seem pretty universal though.

I was sick of not being taken seriously, of always having to prove myself. I was tired of the way my best friend laughed when Sawyer made fun of me, and how they both acted like the fact that my father and grandfather were both war heroes had absolutely nothing to do with me. My veins carried the blood of the brave, and they knew it . . .

One striking aspect of Woodford Brave is the incorporation of Corey’s comic strip, written by Marcia and illustrated by Kevin Whipple, to advance the plot. Through his character, “The Kid,” Corey communicates with his dad about things that he, Corey, can’t find a way to say.

comic book

I quite enjoyed Woodford Brave, so much so that it will be under the Christmas tree for a few people!


As you might expect, the food in Woodford Brave is kid-friendly. Peanut butter sandwiches, ham and biscuits, jam. There’s mention of cakes, canning tomatoes and Victory Gardens. I like making mini-muffins, layering the muffin with a bit of fig jam and country ham for a delicious alternative to a plain ham and biscuit.


Great song and group references!

Glenn Miller, Chattanooga Choo Choo

Benny Goodman, Taking a Chance on Love

Frank Sinatra

Doris Day

Leo Brown

Bing Crosby

MOVIE CASTINGwoodford brave

I have to punt on the child actors. But for the adults:

Ziegler — Christoph Waltz

Mrs. Woodford — Bryce Dallas Howard