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





School Classics


   Hard to believe the school buses are on the streets running prep routes, the teachers are supplying their classrooms and students are mourning (while parents celebrate) the “end of summer.”  I swear, I don’t think we ever went back to school before the final week of August, and of course, it was uphill, both ways, in the snow.

  If your student was supposed to read a book over the summer and didn’t because he/she couldn’t get too excited about it, or for future reference, here are links to some classics I’ve reviewed.

    Adapt the book club theme to a family meal and VOILA!  Instant Excitement!  Or perhaps a public “Oh mom that’s so stupid” with a private, “My mom is the coolest.”  Fix a family feast based on the book club menu included in the review and play the music list to generate a little excitement about the book.  Ask your student who they would cast in some of these characters’ roles, too.

The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger:

Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain:

The Great Gatsby, by F.Scott Fitzgerald:

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte

A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez:

archie ap comic

   And if you are just wanting to engage a teenager with the written word, here are some wonderful young adult books, again with menus and music suggestions.

 Breakfast Served Anytime, by Sarah Combs:

 The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green:

  Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell:

apple box 1

   Happy Reading & Eating!

*Images are vintage cards and Archie Comics.

OKAY. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green


The Fault in Our Stars was the number one movie at the box office the weekend of June 6-8,  In honor of that, I’m reposting this.

There’s a little movie coming out next weekend.  You may have caught one of the (ahem) few promos for it.  It’s a small, (cough cough), low-budget (more throat-clearing) adaptation of John Green’s modest young adult love story, The Fault in Our Stars.  So before the Hollywood has a chance to ruin this lovely story of two doomed teen-agers sharing one night of love on a final romantic trip to — ah, you thought I was going to say Verona, didn’t you? — Amsterdam, read the durn book people.

If you insist on cheating, here is a link to the movie trailer:

The novel is beautiful, in the way only a book about teen-agers in first love (with a touch of osteosarcoma or thyroid cancer with lung mets) can be.  And I’m not giving anything away here.  Hazel Grace, the narrator, tells us on page one that “Cancer is a side effect of dying.  Almost everything is, really.”  Hazel Grace is a courageous, funny, warm, imminently empathetic narrator.  She provides startlingly humorous insights into the world of “cancer perks” for “cancer kids,” the support group happening “literally inside the heart of Jesus,” and the philosophy of living metaphorically.  She addresses her life with black humor that particularly appears when a friend, nurse and/or family member makes a reference such as “I could have died.”

Hazel Grace has a quest involving a book and an author and how can you not love a girl like that?  Augustus Waters meets Hazel during support group and after reading her book, decides to become involved and help make her wish come true.

I’ve written before about the urgency of young love, first love.  Without their youth, Romeo and Juliet would just seem foolish.  But at sixteen, everything, especially love, is literally a matter of life and death.  Pardon me for the use of literally there, Hazel Grace.  But I meant it literally, unlike the number of instances in which the word is incorrectly used as Hazel and Gus enjoy pointing out to one another.

The only way to increase the urgency would be if one of those lovers were about to be married off to a loathsome spouse . . . or dying of a fatal and incurable disease.  And for Hazel and Gus, they are young and in love.  And John Green has just one-upped William Shakespeare.

Image Doesn’t sound like it leaves a whole lot for them to celebrate.  And yet . . .

      And then we were kissing.  My hand let go of the oxygen cart and I reached up for his neck, and he pulled me up by my was it onto my tiptoes.  As his parted lips met mine, I started to feel breathless in a new and fascinating way.  The space around us evaporated, and for a weird moment I really liked my body; this cancer-ruined thing I’d spent years dragging around suddenly seemed worth the struggle, worth the chest tubes and the PICC lines and the ceaseless bodily betrayal of the tumors.

I realized that my eyes were closed and opened them.  Augustus was staring at me, his blue eyes closer to me than they’d ever been, and behind him, a crowd of people three deep had sort of circled around us.  They were angry, I thought Horrified.

. . . And then they started clapping.  All the people, all these adults, just started clapping, and one shouted “Bravo!” in a European accent.  Augustus, smiling, bowed.  Laughing, I curtsied ever so slightly, which was met with another round of applause.


Augustus and Hazel have a lovely vegetarian meal in Amsterdam.  I am relaying it here.  I don’t have any recipes as yet, but if I can locate any, I will share them.


White asparagus with lavender infusion

Dragon Carrot Risotto

Sweet Pea sorbet

Green Garlic Gnocchi with red mustard leaves

Crémeux with passion fruit


Gus and Hazel live in Indianapolis and travel together to Amsterdam.  Given my love of John Mellencamp, I would definitely include his music, most definitely Jack and Diane.  Starry, Starry Night by Don McLean.  I Only Have Eyes for You, by Nat King Cole.  Stardust (by Hobie Carmichael — also a Hoosier).  The Avett Brothers’ music matches perfectly the mood of this book.

So read, enjoy and make sure you finish it sitting in a big, comfy chair with a box of tissues.