Saturday, November 22, 2014

Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful RuinsBeautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beautiful Ruins was a suggested reading selection for the University of Wisconsin writers' workshop: Weekend With Your Novel, in Madison, WI November 14-16. If you write fiction, and you're within 12 hours of Madison, this workshop is worth your time.

This is the story of Dee Moray, an up-and-coming American actress, and Pasquale Tursi, owner of the struggling Hotel Adequate View in a crumbling town along Italy’s Cinque Terre coastline. It’s a story of paths not taken, of regret, of secrets, hidden agendas and delusions, and of the impact a few moments can have on an entire lifetime. The author, in an interview, describes Beautiful Ruins as “a multigenerational, multi-genre, multi-point-of-view book about 1960s Italy, present-day Hollywood, World War II, and the Donner Party”.

My favorite line in the book is one uttered by the least likable character, Hollywood Producer Michael Deane: “All we have is the story we tell. Everything we do, every decision we make, our strength, weakness, motivation, history, and character—what we believe—none of it is real; it’s all part of the story we tell.”

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty

A Grown-Up Kind of PrettyA Grown-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A pot-boiler! I listened to this on my recent drive to Madison, Wisconsin to attend a writers' workshop and it kept me occupied the entire way (eight hours).

This story is told from multiple viewpoints: Big/Ginny, the 45-year-old grandmother; Little/Liza, the 30-year-old mother; and Mosey, the 15-year-old daughter and granddaughter. Liza has had a stroke, caused by extensive drug use in her extreme wild-child youth, and they all live together and take care of each other. Early in the book, a metal box is unearthed in the back yard. The box contains the bones of a newborn baby, along with a blanket and toy that Ginny recognizes. Liza can only make limited, garbled noises, so Ginny and Mosey separately try to find out what happened and if Liza was involved.

Each character is well-developed, and the story is intriguing, disturbing and realistic. It's a feel-good mystery/mother-daughter tale/coming of age story.  Enjoy!

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

Z: A Novel of Zelda FitzgeraldZ: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Zelda Fitzgerald is someone for whom I never spared a thought.  Everyone knows she was selfish, jealous, shallow and more than a little crazy, right? Wrong! Therese Anne Fowler portrays Zelda as a smart, supportive wife with plenty of aspirations of her own. She was artistic and interested in women's rights (or lack thereof) and overcame some challenging personal struggles and health issues. She even wrote many of her own essays and books, some of which bore her husband's name! I felt page rage (similar to road rage) on Zelda's behalf when I read about the credit she deserved but never received.

I recently read The Paris Wife, which explores Hemingway's first marriage from his first wife's perspective; this is a nice follow-up book, as the timeline overlaps The Paris Wife, and then goes beyond it.

Zelda Fitzgerald was born before her time; if she were alive today, she'd be influencing our daughters.

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