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5 Novels for Cold, Dreary Days

By Pam Lamp February 01, 2023 Lifestyle

As I looked over the Oscar nominations last week, I grimaced at a couple of the movies vying for Best Picture. But, I reminded myself, we all enjoy different sorts of films.

And it’s the same with books. The novel one woman raves about may not be her walking partner’s cup of tea. An employee may rave about a mystery that falls flat for her supervisor. I recently finished a book with 50,000 five-star reviews and didn’t get what all the fuss was about.

We all like different things. And I hope you find a book on this list to dive into…

The Blue Butterfly by Leslie Johansen Nack

‘I was William Randolph Hearst’s girlfriend, and I had everything a girl could ever dream of – except for an authentic life.”

This delicious novel transports readers to the era of silent films and lavish Hollywood soirees. Marion Davies is a beautiful teenager, dancing in the Ziegfeld Follies, when she captures the eye of William Randolph Hearst. He admires her and courts her. And, with his wealth and connections, he propels her into stardom during the golden age of Hollywood.

Despite its glamorous moments, Marion’s decades-long affair with the publishing tycoon offered equal parts adventure and heartache. For years, Hearst promised a divorce – and Marion imagined a life together – that never materialized.

Before reading this book, I knew nothing about the movie star, a secret baby, her relationship with Charlie Chaplin, or the basis for the movie Citizen Kane. And, although I lived in Northern California for 12 years, I cannot believe I never visited Hearst Castle. Someday!

The Retreat by Sarah Pearse

For fans of Ms. Pearse’s dark and twisty The Sanitorium, Detective Elin Warner returns to solve another haunting case. This stand-alone thriller offers fast pacing and short chapters. And I stayed up waaaaay too late reading it.

Three sisters – Hana, Jo, and Bea – and a few extended family members travel to a secluded island resort with creepy undertones. Despite the posh accommodations at South Devon’s LUMEN luxury resort, the island’s thick woods, eerie rock, and murderous history create a chilling atmosphere.

And the family’s getaway takes a sinister turn from the start.

As Elin battles to overcome her demons and prove herself, the mysteries of the present crimes collide with those of the past. Although Hana knows all families have secrets, why is she always the last to know?

The British author weaves a suspenseful tale that will keep readers glued to the pages long past their bedtimes.

Typecast by Andrea Stein

My genre is not usually romance, but who can resist a Hallmark-style read on a cold, dreary day? I devoured Typecast in one sitting – one of those lovely, rare days when I ignored my to-do list and disappeared into a book.

Callie is a 30-something preschool teacher who discovers her ex-boyfriend is a screenwriter. And his new movie, about to hit theaters, chronicles their breakup.

Although they haven’t talked in a decade, the movie’s buzz causes Callie to reflect on the good points of the couple’s relationship. Did she blow it all those years ago?

Living in her parents’ home – they’ve retreated to warmer climes – Callie questions if she’s stagnated. Does she need to move out – and on? When her know-it-all older sister, workaholic brother-in-law, and adorable niece move in with her temporarily, Callie receives all sorts of help with her dilemma.

Despite its romance classification, this book is not syrupy, visual, or graphic. It’s fun! And I found myself rooting for Callie all along the way.

The Second Life of Mirielle West by Amanda Skenandor

I love people stories, and this is a great one! This historical fiction novel tells the little-known tale of Carville, a Louisiana leper colony in the 1900s. The author, a nurse, weaves a spellbinding account of life with this disease.

It’s the Roaring Twenties in Los Angeles, and Mirielle is the spoiled, selfish wife of a silent film star. After a doctor visits her home and examines a burn on her hand, life as Mirielle knows it takes a devastating turn.

Tossed in a boxcar, Mirielle makes her way to Carville and an isolated life with leprosy. As patient 367, aka Pauline, Mirielle joins others ostracized from society and families. Although staff physicians experiment with new treatments for the disease, Mirielle discovers her colony mates wait years – and lifetimes – to heal and return home to families who may not welcome them.

Nowadays, individuals treated for Hansen’s Disease – the medical term for leprosy – lead everyday lives. Once believed to be highly contagious, the medical community now realizes this is false.

Published in the summer of 2021, this novel may not have a long hold list at the public library. And it’s an engaging read for book clubs.

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

Alright, alright, alright!

My online book club read this memoir last month, and we all enjoyed it. My recommendation? Listen to the audiobook – many platforms offer a free trial. The talented actor voices most characters and brings his story to life in an entertaining fashion.

I’ve long been a Matthew McConaughey fan. He’s a proud Texas Longhorn. He takes his wife and kids along to filming locations. He gives back to the community. And, he was once yanked out of his house –  naked as a jaybird – and shoved into a police car.

After listening to this non-ghostwritten book, I now have a deeper appreciation for the How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days star. And the other women in the book group concur. In amusing detail, he describes how he broke into acting, his transition from romcoms to more serious films, his strong work ethic, and his life decisions.

He did allude to his good looks several times! But who can disagree? I certainly can’t!

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you read a book everyone seemed to love but you? Any Oscar-nominated movies you particularly enjoyed? What are you reading now?

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Terese Davis

Finding really good books & new authors is so exciting & challenging for me. I’d consider myself a book nerd reading 75 books last year. Kathleen Basi’s “A Song for the Road” was such a great discovery! I liked it more than Lessons in Chemistry.

Pam Lamp

I’m disappointed this book isn’t available at my library. But, after researching it, it sounds very good, and I will find it! Thanks for the recommendation.


So excited to read the book about Marion Davies. She is one of my all-time favorite actors.

Pam Lamp

I’d love to know what you think! Hope I didn’t oversell- ha ha!


I just finished Colleen Hoover’s Hopeless. Just started reading her books and so far liked them.

Susan E Lambert

I just purchased Colleen Hoover’s Verity. It will be my first of her novels. Looking forward to it.

Pam Lamp

I will have to check out Colleen Hoover’s books. Thank you!

Pam Lamp

I will have to look into Colleen Hoover’s books. Thank you!

Thanks for these great cozy recs! I haven’t been to Hearst castle either though I live in CA! i have, however I have played music at events at the Marion Davies Beach House which is now a public beach club, in Santa Monica. I know nothing about her so I will enjoy reading The Blue Butterfly! I just finished reading Prince Harry’s Spare and really enjoyed it.

How very cool that you have played music at the Marion Davies Beach House! Maybe we can meet at Hearst Castle someday! I’d like your input on SPARE. Readers seem to have very differing opinions.


Adding Mirielle West and The Blue Butterfly to my holds at the library. LOVED The Retreat also. I so look forward to your recs.

Pam Lamp

Thank you so much! I hope you enjoy them. I learned a lot from both of them.


The Author

Pamela Lamp is the author of Do the Next New Thing. At Who I Met Today, a blog and podcast, she interviews people from all walks of life. Through conversations about health, hobbies, books, food, and travel, she invites you to join her, explore uncharted territory, and expand your horizons.

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