The Nominees on the Page

the oscarsTomorrow is Oscar night and so many of this year’s nominees owe their origins to some brilliant novelists. Here’s a look at the novels I’ve reviewed that will be center stage on the red carpet. Each review includes a book club novel-inspired menu, playlist of songs and sometimes my own movie cast.

David Ebershoff’s gorgeous love story, The Danish Girl, is nominated for:danish girl book

actor in a leading role, Eddie Redmayne

best actress in a supporting role, Alicia Vikander

costume design, Paco Delgado

production design, Eve Stewart

Here’s a link to my review:

the martian book

The Martian, originally self-published by Andy Weir chapter by chapter on his blog, is nominated for:

best picture

actor in a leading role, Matt Damon

production design, Arthur Max

sound editing

sound mixing

visual effects

best adapted screenplay, Drew Goddard

My review:

A charming little book by Jonas Johansson called The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out a 100 year old man bookWindow and Disappeared is a Forrest Gump-like view of the 20th Century. I’d love to see the movie but it hasn’t made it to either Netflix or my city yet. Nominated for:

makeup and hairstyling

My review:

roomRoom by Emma Donoghue is nominated for:

best picture

actress in a leading role, Brie Larson

directing, Lenny Abrahamson

writing, adapted screenplay, Emma Donoghue

My review:

I haven’t read Brooklyn by Colm Tobin but I’d love to; the movie was beautiful.

Any predictions for winners? Oscar-statue



Oscar’s Week: Books at the Movies


On Sunday, February 28, 2016, the Academy Awards will be presented to actors, directors, videographers, music makers, costumers, special effects masters, sound engineers, make-up artists,  . . . oh, yeah, and a few writers. Two actually: one for best original screenplay and one for best adapted screenplay.

Yet where would the silver screen be without the men and women who put the words, the scenes, the feelings and atmosphere on the page to be interpreted? Let’s give some credit where credit is due.

This week, I’d like to focus some attention on books and the movies. Today’s entry: books about the movie industry.

BlondeBlonde, by Joyce Carol Oates. The interior life of a bleached blonde bombshell movie star whose career is a lot like Marilyn Monroe, though Oates always calls this a work of fiction and not a biography. It is heart-rending: the torturous thoughts and abusive treatment of this woman who finds her worth determined by the men around her, their use of her body, her face, her aura . . . and it is never enough.

“I live now for my work. I live for my work. I live only for my work. One day I will do work deserving of my talent & desire. One day. This I pledge. This I vow. I want you to love me for my work. But if you don’t love me I can’t continue my work. So please love me! – so I can continue my work. I am trapped here! I am trapped in this blond mannequin with the face. I can only breathe through that face! Those nostrils! That mouth! Help me to be perfect. If God was in us, we would be perfect. God is not in us, we know this for we are not perfect. I don’t want money & fame. I want only to be perfect. The blond mannequin Monroe is me & is not me. She is not me. She is what I was born. Yes I want you to love her. So you will love me. Oh I want to love you! Where are you? I look, I look & there is no one there.”

A Touch of Stardust, by Kate Alcott. Star-struck young woman moves from the Midwest to stardustHollywood, land of dreams, not to become a star but to become a writer! She finds work as Carole Lombard’s assistant during Lombard’s marriage to Clark Gable while Gable was filming Gone With the Wind. A behind-the-scenes, intriguing look at Hollywood in the thirties and how women like Lombard, who had power, and those without, managed to stay and make their mark in the game.

“Movies teach us how to do that,’ Carole had confided. ‘Create a set, sprinkle a touch of stardust. Who gives a shit if it’s real? Just make it good enough to believe.”

AudreyBeing Audrey Hepburn, by Mitchell Kriegman. This coming-of-age book centers on a young, Manhattanite who tries on Audrey’s Breakfast at Tiffany‘s Givenchy dress and changes her life. Not my favorite book about the movies, or about Audrey Hepburn. But it qualifies.

Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter. Now this, THIS is a book. I’ve exalted Jess Walter’s glorious BeautifulRuins_small-330-exptome before on this blog. In summary, this is a big, gooey, interlocking glory of a book with Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Italy, Hollywood, screenwriters, actors, producers and World War 2. My goodness, if you haven’t read it, buy it right now. Full review here:

“Weren’t movies his generation’s faith anyway- its true religion? Wasn’t the theatre our temple, the one place we enter separately but emerge from two hours later together, with the same experience, same guided emotions, same moral? A million schools taught ten million curricula, a million churches featured ten thousand sects with a billion sermons- but the same movie showed in every mall in the country. And we all saw it. That summer, the one you’ll never forget, every movie house beamed the same set of thematic and narrative images…flickering pictures stitched in our minds that replaced our own memories, archetypal stories that become our shared history, that taught us what to expect from life, that defined our values. What was that but a religion?”

Get Shorty
, by Elmore Leonard. Want a quick, funny, off-beat take on the movies by

America’s master of funny, off-beat crime novels? Chili, a Miami loan shark, decides it’s time for him to get into the movies. From there, chaos ensues.

tycoonThe Last Tycoon, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald’s great unfinished novel about America’s obsession with movies, stars, and money. “You can take Hollywood for granted, like I did, or you can dismiss it with the contempt we reserve for what we don’t understand. It can be understood, too, but only dimly and in flashes. Not half a dozen men have ever been able to keep the whole equation of pictures in their heads.”

Crowned Heads, by Thomas Tryon. This actor-turned-writer is most famous for The Other, a best-selling horror novel from 1971 turned into a movie. But Crowned Heads is the book that haunts me. I read it in high school (warning: do not give to young readers) and the story about the movie star with a warped relationship with her plastic surgeon haunts me to this day.

1-louise-brooks-ca-late-1920s-everettChaperone, by Laura Moriarty. An unfortunately lifeless tale of the woman who
accompanied Louise Brooks to New York City as she became a star. Full review here:



Literary & Sweet Valentines


Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, which means some of you are racking your heads over a sweet gift for your sweetie. Here’s daeandwrite to help you. I’ve combed my bookshelves and my brain to find the best romantic books and just for you, I’m pairing the books with a delicious Valentine treat for you to add to the book to sweeten the deal.macarons

The Little Paris Bookshop
by Nina George. A boat, a book and a lost love on a river tour of France. It’s a beautiful story of old love, new love and the love that was left behind. The perfect accompaniment to this French treat is Paris’ favorite: macaroons.

French Chocolate BonBons72Chocolat by Joanne Harris. I’m sure you’ve seen the luminous movie with Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche. The novel of a magical connection between a gypsy and an outcast that upsets an entire town, and the weather, is equally, possibly exceedingly, delicious. Pair a beautifully-wrapped copy with one divine bon bon, or a box of temptingly fine chocolate.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. (I’m sensing a theme . . .) The exquisite sensuality with which Tita prepares her meals causes outlandish, extreme acts of passion, sadness, love. The novel is set in Mexico. Add a generous helping of piping hot churros dusted with cinnamon sugar and spreading love with one bite into the toasted crisp crust.

ms_cherry_liqueurs_2Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. Set in New York City in two decades, the Rules of Civility conjures a world of possibilities, losses, triumphs and achievements. It’s a gorgeous book and one of my top recommendations. Present it wrapped in a red ribbon with a box of chocolate covered cherries and save a couple to make Manhattans.

violet candyThe Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton. Though I read this a couple of years ago, I still recommend this haunting novel of a little girl born with wings. How she comes to love herself and then others is a great read. Pair with violet pastilles, which you can order on line, or find a stash of lavender candy of all flavors at a party store.

Griffin & Sabine by Nick Bantock. All the rage in 1991, Griffin & Sabine remains fascinating in 2016 as part epistolary novel, part art book, part stalker-fantasy. Give the book with one of the huge sampler boxes of chocolate — a little bit of every choice.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. Another of my favorite, favorite novels involving Hollywood movies, the Italian Cinque Terre, Richard Burton, the Donner Party and family. Present the beautiful novel with a bella box of Baci Perugina chocolates and a kiss. Baci is Italian for kiss. (Even the label is romantic.) Baci_Box

Seven perfect pairings. Your Valentine will thank you.


What to Read for Super Bowl 50

Ready for the big game? Or ready for a nap during the big game? If you’d rather express your fan support by reading, I’ve got some novel suggestions for you.

Denver_Broncos4Denver and Colorado

The Shining, Stephen King

The Hour I First Believed, Wally Lamb

Breathless, Dean Koontz

The Song of the Lark, Willa Cather

American Gods, Neil Gaiman

panthersCharlotte and North Carolina

Nicholas Sparks novels The Notebook, A Walk to Remember

Outer Banks, Anne Rivers Siddons

The Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver

Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier

Look Homeward, Angel, Thomas Wolfe


free-super-bowl-retro-vector-backgroundNovels Featuring the Pigskin or Players

A Hundred Summers, Beatriz Williams

Bleachers, John Grisham

End Zone, Don DeLillo

North Dallas Forty, Peter Gent

Semi-Tough, Dan Jenkins

Playing for Pizza, John Grisham


chickensMy Favorite Super Bowl Recipe

Buffalo Chicken Dip

2 can of premium white chicken

2 8 ounce packages of cream cheese

3/4 cup Hot Sauce

1 cup ranch dressing

1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Save out one half of the cheddar cheese, then mix all ingredients on stove top or in a crock pot. Top with the other half of the cheddar cheese. Serve with crackers or celery.




The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared by Jonas Johansson


Allen Karlsson has quite a taste for vodka. This affinity, with a similar affection for blowing things up, has more or less defined the path of his century of life. Right up to the age of 100.

Born in 1905 in Sweden, Allen Karlsson is the Forrest Gump of his time. Karlsson doesn’t just meet Harry Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, Mao Tse Tung, Stalin, a young Kim Jong-il, Franco, Richard Nixon, various Soviet and American spies, petty dictators, gulag officials and Winston Churchill, he has drinks with them.

Absolut-Vodka-2-Andy-font-b-Warhol-b-font-Oil-Painting-Repro-font-b-Museum-bBut that’s all in the past. In Jonas Johansson’s novel, The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared we meet Allen, he’s climbing out the window of an old folks home right before his 100th birthday party. His goal is just to get away, no matter what obstacles may be in his way.

“It was hardly more than a metre high, but Allan was a centenarian, not a high-jumper. Malmköping’s bus and train station awaited him on the other side, and the old boy had just realised that this was where his shaky legs were taking him. Once, many years ago, Allan had crossed the Himalayas. Now that had been difficult. Allan thought about that, now, as he stood there faced with the final hurdle between him and the station. He thought so intensely about it that the stone wall in front him began to shrink down to almost nothing. And when it had shrunk down to its lowest point, Allan crawled over it, age and knees be damned.”

But Allen has no plan. He ventures to the bus station, hands over a few dollars and says he wants to go as far as his money will take him.

Vintage Soviet Advertising for Foreigners (2)Johansson’s amusing, adventurous, road trip, fairytale lands the centenarian in the middle of a kidnapping, murder, drug conspiracy, crime spree involving several nefarious individuals, an almost-doctor/veterinarian/literature expert, a beauty, an elephant and a dog. And lots of vodka. (Did I mention vodka?)

But the spree at year 100 is not the first of Allen’s adventures. Told in flashbacks interspersed with the current narrative, Allen’s life story is one for the ages. (Pun intended) A prison term in a Russian gulag, fighting in the Spanish Civil War on both sides, blowing up various things and helping to create the Atom Bomb as well as a small trip across the Himalayas . . . on a camel.

I listened to the Audible version of this book while driving and was completely immersed in the story and in reader Steven Crossley’s humorous voice. Johansson has put to word Shakespeare’s image: “but man . . . plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven as make angels weep.”

There’s a little something for everyone in your book club in The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared: romance, adventure, crime, travel. And if you have reluctant, there’s a film version (nominated for an Oscar for makeup and hair design) that I intend to watch this weekend. Here’s the trailer:
100 year old man book


Um, vodka


Swedish Meatballs


And anything else from any country basically anywhere that you might feel like including

iTunes has the soundtrack to the movie available

Another fun route would be to choose food/music from each decade of Allen’s life, or each country he visited.





United States


North Korea


Enjoy! Happy Reading.