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!



RLS: Under the Wide and Starry Sky and Treasure Island

pin-up pirateNancy Horan certainly found treasure with her debut novel, Loving Frank, a fictionalized account of the life and loves of Frank Lloyd Wright. In Under the Wide and Starry Sky, Horan reaches for the skies above Robert Louis Stevenson, Scotland’s beloved author of Treasure Island. In my and my book club’s opinion, the second book was less successful, perhaps because we could find no one to really like very much.

Robert Louis Stevenson.(OBIT. 3975)

Robert Louis Stevenson. (OBIT. 3975)

Robert Louis Stevenson, despite his adventurous tales, was consumptive most of his life. For some unfathomable reason, he fell head over heels in love with the (in Horan’s telling) vain, neurotic, self-centered Fanny Van de Griff Osborne, an Indiana native, who had run away from her cheating husband in California. Fanny took care of Louis far better than her own son who died before she and Louis returned to California to seek and obtain Fanny’s divorce so she could marry.

All of this — and I MEAN ALL — is recounted in great detail in Under the Wide and Starry Sky. Clearly, Horan’s research was in-depth, wide-spread and exhaustive. As I reader though, I just wasn’t quite sure I needed to know exactly what they had for lunch on July 28, 1887 or the name of the third purser to the second captain on the boat they didn’t take. I jest, but after 470-some pages, you will see what I mean.

fannyThe New York Times had a far better opinion than I, calling Under the Wide and Starry Sky “a novel that shows how love and marriage can simultaneously offer inspiration and encumbrance, especially when the more successful partner believes that, as far as artists go, “a family could tolerate only one.” The Stevensons’ story is full of morbidity and sacrifice, chronicling losses and gains — and, of course, the writing of classics like “Treasure Island,” “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and “Kidnapped,” none of which, Horan suggests, would have been possible without Fanny Stevenson’s careful nurturing of her husband.”

Fanny, in Horan’s hands, holds no charm for the reader.

The carved clock on the mantel ticked off a minute before she said dully, “Just write.”

She resisted being joked into a happier humor.

“A good novel might cure your boredom,” he suggested when he realized Fanny had stopped reading books or writing stories. Only the Lancet held her attention.

“This article says that some vinegars erode your intestines.”

Under the Wide and Starry Sky depicted Stevenson’s creative process in an engaging, inviting manner. Enough to cause me to download and listen to the audiobook of Treasure Island, a classic novel I’d never made time for in the past.

Louis spread out a piece of paper on a table and began painting an island with some watercolors. Below the drawing, he wrote “Treasure Island.”

“Imagine that there is an island where a chest full of gold is buried,” he said to Sammy. “There is a boy named Jim who, quite by chance, comes into possession of a map of the island. The map has been drawn by a crusty old sailor of questionable morals, a man named, ah . . . Billy . . . Billy Bones. And through some series of events, the boy goes off on a schooner to look for the treasure. He is traveling with a collection of sailors, some of them decent fellows, and some scoundrels bent on killing the other men when they find the gold . . .”

johnny-depp-pirates-of-the-caribbeanI had no idea that in Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson essentially created out of whole cloth the entire peg-legged, parrot-carrying, shivering-me-timbers, x-marks-the-treasure-spot, dead-men’s-chest pirate that we know and love, OH JOHNNY DEPP how we love ye, today.

But he did. And he came up with the names Ben Gunn, Long John Silver, Billy Bones, the Hispaniola. Treasure Island is a fun, but somewhat tedious on audio, adventure. But maybe I’m just partial to my Kentucky homie Mr. Depp. Treasure Island though I can recommend without reservation to read for your book club. It is one of the most frequently dramatized of all novels and a fun one to read to your children. It’s got those little passages that send a shiver down the timbers.

“His stories were what frightened people worst of all. Dreadful stories they were–about hanging, and walking the plank, and storms at sea, and the Dry Tortugas, and wild deeds and places on the Spanish Main. By his own account he must have lived his life among some of the wickedest men that God ever allowed upon the sea, and the language in which he told these stories shocked our plain country people almost as much as the crimes that he described. My father was always saying the inn would be ruined, for people would soon cease coming there to be tyrannized over and put down, and sent shivering to their beds; but I really believe his presence did us good. People were frightened at the time, but on looking back they rather liked it; it was a fine excitement in a quiet country life, and there was even a party of the younger men who pretended to admire him, calling him a “true sea-dog” and a “real old salt” and such like names, and saying there was the sort of man that made England terrible at sea.”

MENU rum

I marked several passages of food in Under the Wide and Starry Sky and the narrative travels from Scotland, England, France to San Francisco, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands. In one scene on a particularly warm evening in Bournemouth, Scotland, they serve a large bowl of mashed potatoes with lamb. When Louis takes off on a donkey for a road trip, he takes with him “black bread, a bottle of brandy, a leg of mutton. . . .Tin of chocolates and sausage.” On the Pacific Island, due to a shipping halt, at one point, RLS and Fanny shared one avocado for dinner. The salts of Treasure Island drink lots of rum, brandy and eat lots and lots of salted goat (ugh). So have at the salted goat if you want, but here’s my Treasure Island-inspired menu:

Rum Punch

2 cups spiced rum

2 1/2 cups pineapple juice

2 1/2 cups orange juice

1/4 cup lime

Mix and serve over ice.

Shrimp Cocktail

Barbecued chicken legs or wings

Those little gold coin chocolates


There is mention of a Mozart sonata or two in Under the Wide and Starry Sky, and Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum repeats and repeats (and repeats) in Treasure Island.

My playlist would include

Jimmy Buffet’s A Pirate Looks at 40.

Ray Steven’s The Pirate Song

Soundtrack from Pirates of the Caribbean

Happy Reading!







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