Review: Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins
By Jess Walter
(Harper Perennial, Paperback, 9780061928178, April 2013, 352pp.)

The Short of It:

Fitting title for a book that just didn’t work for me.

The Rest of It:

This story bounces back and forth between 1962 and the present. Pasquale Tursi, an innkeeper at the not so illustrious Adequate View Inn, finds himself in the middle of a scandalous cover-up. Dee Moray, an actress on the set of Cleopatra is sent away to deal with her cancer. At least, that is what SHE has been told when in reality, what she is dealing with is an unwanted pregnancy and the father happens to be none other than Richard Burton himself.

The Italian setting is lovely as is Pasquale Tursi. Even with his broken English, he is wonderful but there isn’t nearly enough of him in this novel. And Dee? A pleasant girl but clueless. Not really anyone I wanted to get to know. And the entire Richard Burton back story? Please. I will say this, I liked the parts set in Italy much more than the parts of the story set in Los Angeles. That whole Hollywood scene just isn’t my thing and I live here!

Many have given this book high marks. It’s been described as hilarious and fun. I didn’t find it hilarious or fun. At times I found myself frustrated with the back and forth and other times, I just didn’t care what happened to these people. Had it not been a book club pick, I probably would have put it down. It seemed a little cartoonish and stereotypical and as deep as I dug, I didn’t find any depth whatsoever.

I will say this though, with Walter’s work being so well-received by others, I would absolutely read another book by him. I think in this case, the subject matter just didn’t work for me.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

The Sunday Salon: Book Club Reading

Sunday Salon

Yesterday, my book club met to select our reading list for the year. We each get to pitch two books and then we go through a couple of rounds of voting to narrow it down to twelve or thirteen books. But yesterday, we didn’t have a lot of people show and some people only pitched one book so we only had to eliminate three books to get our list down to twelve.

The three that were eliminated:

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
The Cuckoo’s Calling by J.K. Rowling
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

It was a great meeting. There was food and lots of good book talk plus the day was so pretty so we ended up outside.

The final list is below, and I will also post it under the Book Club tab at the top of the page. I also list the previous lists there in case you are curious.

Final List: (Begins with March since we already had Jan & Feb chosen from last year, see full list on Book Club tab)

MAR –  Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
APR –  Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
MAY –  And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
JUN –  The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
JUL –  The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
AUG –  Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick
SEP –  Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
OCT – I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
NOV –  Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink
DEC- A Gathering of Old Men by Ernest Gaines
JAN –  TransAtlantic by Colum McCann
FEB – Havisham by Ronald Frame

I pitched Never Fall Down and Twelve Years a Slave but overall, I think these books will generate plenty of discussion.

As for today, not a lot going on. The sky is a very strange color. It sort of looks like it could rain but there is no chance of it happening according to the weather reports. It makes me want to just hang around the house though, which is perfectly fine by me. Next week, I have a parent meeting for The Girl’s track team, more rehearsals and I need to figure out what to bring to the Super Bowl party we are going to.

What am I reading?

Finishing up The Secret of Raven’s Point and then maybe I’ll start Orfeo by Richard Powers.

What am I cooking?

Nothing special. I might make a chicken stir fry for dinner. Sometimes you just want chicken and rice or something simple and today is one of those days.

What am I watching?

I just watched this week’s American Horror Story. What’s happened to that show? The first season was so brilliant. The second, strange but still watchable. This season is just a blood fest. With them being witches, they are killed and resurrected so many times, I can’t even keep track of who is alive anymore.

I think I need to go back to watching Leave it to Beaver.

Friday Stuff

Coffee and a Book

It’s Friday!! Thank goodness. The week felt so long to me. Mostly because The Girl came down with a cold. She was sneezy and grumpy and totally out of it and that tends to throw me off my game. But, she’s better now and back to her perky self.

Do any of you read before work? I get to work super early to avoid traffic snarls so I have the luxury of getting a little reading in before I start my day. Typically, I’m walking during this time and the book in question is an audio book but my walking has been non-existent since the break so right now, it’s me sitting in my windowless office with a book and a cup of coffee. It’s kinda like a little reading cave. You’ve got to use your imagination when you never see the light of day.

At some point today, I need to think of some books to pitch for the big book selection meeting on Saturday. The book club that I’m in picks books for the year which tends to work out really well for most of us. But, it’s a big deal. We each get to pitch a book and then vote on it. I really have no idea what to pitch. I came across Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick which looks like it would be a good discussion book, but I’m not sure. Has anyone read it?

Never Fall Down
The rest of the weekend will be spent looking up recipes for the Super Bowl. For the past. I don’t know, five years, we have not been able to go to a Super Bowl party because the kids were always in a production that weekend. This year, production week begins the following week so we actually get to enjoy the Super Bowl like normal people! I can’t tell you how excited I am about this. So, I plan to make something really killer to take to the party. Did I just say KILLER?

Happy Friday! Hope you all have a good weekend.

Book Clubs

I’ve mentioned it a few times here on the blog but I’ve been a member of a book club for 14+ years. Wow. How can that be? Anyway, the club has been around forever and for years and years I’ve enjoyed it but recently, say within the past year it’s been a struggle. I can’t really say it’s due to any one thing but the biggest issue is probably just new people and how some of them just rub me the wrong way. I read the books but I am not attending the meetings. I haven’t really decided what to do long-term.

I considered starting another club but conflicting schedules are always an issue and I know if I do not have a set date and time it will get bumped and I would hate for that to happen. Plus, the new people component. I am a friendly type for the most part but stupid people piss me off. I’ve no patience for stupidity or rudeness and it’s impossible to keep them out when you create a public group.

So then I considered an online club but do they work? Are they fun? I’ve been IN a few and although I loved the hosts and we talked on the side about the book, the conversation piece of the group (between all of the members) was challenging. To really get in on the conversation you have to turn notifications on and when you get dozens of emails dumped into your inbox you suddenly get resentful. The online clubs I am referring to were setup in Goodreads. If you use another venue that works better, let me know.

I think that is why I enjoy blogging so much. I love to talk about books with all of you and although there are many of you that I haven’t met in person, I’ve gotten to know you pretty well. These days, interactions span several days (if not weeks) and flit across social media platforms such at Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. There is not a day that goes by where I am not connecting with readers in some way and I love it! No time constraints either. I can wake at 4am and know that someone is out there talking about books. It’s like a dream to me.

So my question for you is this:

Do you think traditional (face to face) book clubs are as popular as they were three years ago? Why, or why not?

Book Club Possibilities…Thoughts?

Possible 2012 Book Club Picks

My book club has been meeting for over thirteen years. That’s a really long time and we’ve read plenty of good books, a few great ones, and a few stinkers. What book club hasn’t? On January 19th, we choose our books for the year. Yep, the year. We each come up with 1-2 choices, pitch it to the group, and then take a vote. This works extremely well for us because when it comes down to it, we whittle it down to a near perfect list and having the entire list before us, allows us to move books around to balance it out a bit.

This year, three titles continue to pop-up in my mind even though I’ve only read one of them. I’m not sure which two I will pitch and let’s be honest, I could completely change my mind come the 19th. For now though, these are the three I am considering:

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (Booker Prize winner)
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (It’s been on my shelf for far too long)
Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam (Loved it, reviewed it here)

The other book that caught my eye, is Dance Lessons by Aine Greaney. There’s been a lot of buzz about it. Sounds interesting, but I’ve no idea if it’s discussion worthy. That’s the thing, I don’t really care if the group “likes” a book. It’s nice when that happens, but to me, it’s not a requirement. I’d rather have a book stir you up emotionally and create a lot of discussion rather than it being a “nice” read.

If you’ve read any of these, what do you think? Will these stir people up and create discussion?

Or… if you have another book that you think might fit the bill, please share it. As always, I will post the final list under my Book Club tab.

Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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