Book clubs

Is your book club reading one of our books? We would love to participate in your discussion. Depending on the location, we can do so in person, over the phone, or through free Skype/web cam. If interested, please contact us at janiceandgina @

Also, we can send signed labels that you can stick in your copy of our books. Email us at janiceandgina @ if interested. Many thanks to Ellen in Atlanta for this great idea!

We participated in a book club in Milton, Ontario that took place in a beautiful historic home with delicious food - take a sneak peek!

The Wolves of St. Peter's Reading Group Guide
1) Why does the Vatican maintain its allure and attraction? Why does it make a good backdrop for a novel?

2) While researching 16th-century Rome, we saw parallels between what Francesco faced then and what Jack Nicholson faced in the movie Chinatown. Discuss these parallels.

3) Discuss the women in the novel. What choices did they have (or not have) in their lives during this period of history?

4) Do you feel the book stayed true to the time period? How well is the era conveyed? Did you learn anything new about Renaissance Rome?

5) What kind of a person is Francesco? He thinks of himself as a humanist and religious skeptic. How do his views differ from those of other characters in the book, in particular Susanna and Michelangelo?

6) How do the historical characters in the novel compare with other depictions of them or your own preconceived ideas of them?

7) What do you think of the title? What are the different wolves of St. Peter’s?

Ciao Bella Reading Group Guide
1) Discuss Graziella’s role in the Nevicato family as both an outsider and a binding force. How would life be different for the family if she had never come to Italy?

2) Graziella’s role as a healer is a somewhat reluctant one. Would you say she is ultimately successful?

3) Pippo the plane, known only in Northern Italian oral history, was one of our greatest discoveries in the course of researching the novel. Ask anyone in the north of Italy about their wartime experience and they will inevitably mention Pippo. It had a distinctive buzz, was never seen from the ground, was suspected of dropping bombs, and only took wing at night. No one ever knew if it was friend or foe, its allegiance changing from village to village. Many years later, scholars surmise that it was a British surveillance plane and that the pilots who flew the model never had any idea they were terrorizing parts of the Northern Italian population. What role does Pippo play for the characters in Ciao Bella?

4) Before writing Ciao Bella, we held many preconceived notions about World War II. Yet in the course of research, we learned that its events and people were not quite as black and white as often presented in school. Note where these nuances of right and wrong, of heroes and villains, of good and evil, come through in the story.

5) How does Enza’s story fit with the ideas presented in Question #4?

6) What decisions does Frank the American soldier make in the course of the story and does he make the right ones? Could different decisions have radically changed the novel’s outcome?

7) Discuss various issues of fertility and infertility throughout the story. How much do these issues sway the course of events?

8) How do you feel about the ending? Are you satisfied? Does the epilogue influence your feelings at all?

The Sidewalk Artist Reading Group Guide

1) The chapter titles form a poem (see below). What does the poem mean? From whose point of view is it written? When are they speaking?

2) Tulia’s present story influences the past story/her novel. Give examples of this. Also, how does the past story influence the present? Provide examples of this as well.

3) How does the sidewalk artist influence/steer Tulia’s novel?

4) Find examples of how clues to the ending can be found right from the beginning of the novel.

5) What are the various incarnations of Raphael? Do you think one is more proven and/or truer than any other? Give examples.

6) What is the role of italics in the novel? Look especially at the love scene at the Tuscan villa as well as the epilogue.

This story begins with the rain
Smoke rings like afternoon halos
Drifting across rosy skies
And there you were
I almost forgot
The poor little angels
On the day balloons filled the sky

And then you were gone
Trying to fly
Lost in a maze of water and stone
I almost forgot
Angels rest in quiet places
Saying prayers
Singing songs too ancient to remember
I thought it was the end

On an island of wild roses
A new story begins

Hoping to reach you
I almost forgot
Where it all began
And begins again

Passing by vineyards
Where the sun sleeps
And dreams awake
Beneath Italian skies

Not soon shall I forget the day
I almost forgot
How I wept when I remembered
That summer died

The last time
We said goodbye
And tears fall
On the wings of angels

I’ll never forget

This story begins with the rain