Snow Day Reads

snow day reads

Image by Peace Hill Press

Here in the Ohio Valley, we are waiting for 2016’s version of Snowmagedon, complete with snow, ice, bitter winds and court cancellations. HURRAH! I’ve got a book on tape I’ve been listening to while traveling — The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out A Window by by Jonas Jonasson — and several books on the read in my hands: No Mud, No Lotus by Thich Nhat Hanh, White Teeth by Zadie Smith, and Written in my Own Heart’s Blood, an Outlander novel by Diana Gabaldon.

I’ve got my grandmother’s potato soup cooking in a pot, some leftover turkey and black bean chili in the refrigerator and thinking about putting together some oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies, just in case things get desperate. And yes, a couple bottles of red wine.

What are you reading this weekend? If you need a suggestion . . . or a recipe . . . I don’t mind sharing.

black chalk

Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates. Shades of The Secret History as a gang of school friends embarks on a series of increasingly volatile games. The tension is hot enough to keep you warm. It’s available on Kindle so you can download it immediately.

Italian affair

An Italian Affair by Laura Fraser. Molto bene, Laura Fraser takes us on her real-life, personal journey falling in love in Italy. The landscape is gorgeous, the food is great, the romance is juicy. And Laura’s a great writer. I had the pleasure of taking a class from her at the San Miguel Writers’ Conference last February and would love to go on one of her writing excursions. Also available in kindle edition.


The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr. A true life mystery of recovering a lost Caravaggio. “Jonathan Harr has taken the story of theThe Lost Painting lost painting, and woven from it a deeply moving narrative about history, art and taste–and about the greed, envy, covetousness and professional jealousy of people who fall prey to obsession. It is as perfect a work of narrative nonfiction as you could ever hope to read.” —The Economist Also available on Kindle.

fault in our

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Want to lose yourself in a weepy love story? Read the book. Then watch the movie. Then pick up your old Riverside Shakespeare from college and read Romeo & Juliet. Kleenex necessary.


Any of Peter Mayle’s Provence books. Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. Or pull out one of those classics you sort of read in college moldering on your bookshelf: Vanity Fair (Thackery), The Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck), Oliver Twist (Dickens). Whatever it is, I’d love to know what you’re reading.

Stay warm.reading in snow





Summer Reads 2015

dog_driving_carHeaded Out for A Little Fun in the Sun?  Want to take the perfect book(s) with you?

I thought I might be able to help.  All of these are in paperback, because I find it much more difficult to haul 5-8 hardbound books.  Any of the below books would be divine at the beach or the pool, on the campground or in the air.  I often try to match my reading to my destination, hoping to add a little insider info to my trip.  Just a tip.

Happy Vacating!

In Euphoria, Lily King’s intoxicating trek into the exotic locale of Papua, New Guinea, three anthropologists (Australian, euphoriaAmerican and British) find themselves far from home.  King’s anthropologists are simulacrums of Margaret Mead, her husband Reo Fortune and her future husband, Gregory Bateson.

Originally reviewed:

f_doerr_allthelight_fAnthony Doerr’s gorgeous novel won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize.  All The Light We Cannot See encompasses WW2 within an examination of the lives and worlds of two teenagers:  Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a blind French girl, and Werner Pfenning, a German whiz-kid desperate to live the coal mine fate of his home town of Essen.   Written mostly in the present tense, with recurring flashbacks throughout both children’s lives, All The Light progresses inevitably to their meeting during the siege of St.-Malo, France, in August of 1944.

Originally reviewed:

the secret place

Tana French has become one of my obsessions.  She publishes a new book, I must have it in hard back and begin reading immediately.  In the Woods, her first novel, remains my favorite of her five books; however, all are excellent.  Her most recent, The Secret Place, is my second favorite.  These are page-turning, mystery novels set in Ireland with a cast of realistic, driven and haunted characters.


Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.  On the rugged, Mediterranean coast of Italy, a land of five towns clings stunningly to the edge of the cliffs;  accessible only by boat, offering fresh seafood pulled daily from the Ligurian sea by men whose families have done the same for centuries and a hiding place from the modern world, the Cinque Terre seems just the place for Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor to have sought refuge during the filming of Cleopatra in Rome.  In Jess Walter’s sumptuous novel Beautiful Ruins, they do just this.  And the tale of the IT couple’s visit to Porto Vergogna, a lonely innkeeper, a starlet, star-crossed lovers, a wannabe screenwriter (whose big concept is “Donner!,” a movie about the Donner party,) a nauseating Hollywood producer and fifty years of frustrated confusion make the novel one of my top five reads.

Originally reviewed:

VacationersA New York family brings a large set of first world problems to Mallorca, where even more challenges await:  a Spanish tutor both mom and daughter have the hots for, a retired Spanish tennis stud and lots of gorgeous food and descriptions and you have The Vacationers by Emma Straub.

Other books that would make great traveling companions:  The 19th Wife, by David Ebershoff (Utah); Boy, Snow, Bird (Maine); Where’d You Go Bernadette, by Maria Semple (Seattle); The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion; The Perfume Collector, by Kathleen Tessaro (Paris), Dominance, by Will Lavender.

I’d love to hear what you’re reading!

Seaside Resort in the South of France 1927 by Paul Klee 1879-1940

Rosie Is (to be) Read. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion


       What’s a fun-loving, socially-awkward, unknowingly-Aspergers-afflicted, genetics professor got to do to find a wife?  Don Tillman is sure he has found the answer via a sixteen-page questionnaire.  He intends to post said questionnaire, which Don refers to as The Wife Project, on-line and to offer it to females he encounters in various other social settings.  Don’s life revolves around his scheduled work-out, his Standardized Meal System, household cleaning tasks, his work assignments and his only two friends, Gene and Claudia.  After hitting on the brilliant idea of The Wife Project questionnaire as the most efficient means of identifying suitable partners and eliminating unsuitable (vegetarian, smokers, drinkers, and women who run late) partners, Don takes the final prototype to share with his friends.  If you’d like to see “Don’s” questionnaire, in part:

“I explained that I had followed best practice in questionnaire design, including multiple-choice questions, Likert scales, cross-validation, dummy questions, and surrogates.  Claudia asked for an example of the last of these.

“‘Question thirty-five.  Do you eat kidneys?  Correct answer is c) occasionally.  Testing for food problems.  If you ask directly about food preferences, they say, ‘I eat anything,’ and then you discover they’re vegetarian.'”

Don’s adventures as he confronts “females” (his term) with the questionnaire at dating events including Table for Eight, “a commercial matchmaking operation,” a singles party and speed dating, are predictably disastrous and hilarious.  Gene agrees to vet on-line applicants and Don ends up on a date with the completely inappropriately pescatarian, smoking, drinking and always tardy Rosie Jarman.  Despite all of Rosie’s flaws, Don finds himself drawn to her.

The rest of The Rosie Project shoots between an international genetic search for Rosie’s father and Don and Rosie’s internal struggles to decide whether they are the appropriate male and female partner for one another.  At one point, even Gregory Peck makes an appearance to assist Don in his search.  Who can do anything but love a book with Gregory Peck and a sixteen page dating questionnaire that does not come from eharmony or Neil Warren?


Your book club will love The Rosie Project.  It’s intelligent, fun, quirky, (in fact so quirky that the upcoming movie producers should just go ahead and give the part of Rosie to Zooey Deschanel) but Mr. Simsion disagrees with me:

“A big caveat here: I originally wrote The Rosie Project as a screenplay, and Sony Pictures have optioned it. If they go ahead, they’ll doubtless engage a professional casting director, who (experience tells me) will do a much better job than I would. I’ve made a bunch of short films, and have been amazed by what inspired casting can do. Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind. Who’d have thought it? Dustin Hoffman in Rain ManJack Nicholson in As Good as it Gets (OK, that one feels like a natural, but perhaps only in retrospect.) The Rosie Project takes us into not dissimilar territory. And, of course, anything I say here does not reflect the views of Sony Pictures, its agents, etc, etc.

“That said, rather than second-guess Sony’s choices, I’ve cast my mind back to when I expected that if the movie was made, it would be in my home country of Australia, and imagined an all-Australian cast.

“How about:

Eric Bana as Don. He’s known internationally for dramatic / action roles but he started off in comedy.

Melissa George as Rosie. Loved her in In Treatment.

Anthony LaPaglia as Gene. My wife assures me he has the “bedroom eyes” necessary for the role.

Toni Collette as Claudia – great comedy credentials as well as the heart to be the moral center.

Cate Blanchett as the Dean. Because I can.”

So Eric Bana would be ok with me, but I have no idea who Melissa George is and Anthony LaPaglia seems a bit long in the tooth for Gene.

Image     MENU for The Rosie Project Book Club

Lobster, mango and avocado salad — buy lobster meat.  Cut up mango and fresh avocado.  Lightly dress with champagne vinaigrette. Serve chilled.

Australian wines (Simsion in his acknowledgments suggests Drappier rose champagne)

Mango Ice Cream and Peach Ice Cream — for an experiment in identifying flavors post-chilling of taste buds.

Music for The Rosie Project Bookclub

Anything fun and happy.  For example, Happy by Pharrell Williams, Michael Franti, maybe a little bit of Katrina & the Waves Walking on Sunshine.