Monday, January 27, 2014

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Beautiful Book (Of Love and Life)

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter begins in 1962 in the beautiful Cinque Terre section of northern Italy with a few scant homes and one small hotel clinging to dramatic cliffs in a small village overlooking the Ligurian Sea. This picturesque setting is where we meet innkeeper Pasquale Tursi who welcomes an American actress, Dee Moray, working on the movie Cleopatra being filmed in Rome.  We quickly discover that the actress is dying.  It is this brief three-day encounter that sets the stage for the rest of the book that takes turns explaining the backgrounds of people who were in some way connected to Pasquale and Dee, directly or indirectly with regards to this timeframe. The book is a reminder that sometimes the lives we briefly touch can stay with us a lifetime.  In the chapters that flip from 1962 to present day, we learn that nothing is black and white; all is not what it seems. As we read on, each person’s story slowly develops like a roll of film until we see the entire picture in full Technicolor. 

I really enjoyed this book (as did one of my sisters who read it). The beautiful cover was my first hook. It looks like an aged picture of a sunny Italian coastline with a burst of colorful homes jutting out of the rocks. And while you can’t judge a book by its cover, it creates a powerful first impression. It already makes me want to dive in and take a journey there. The narrative, of course, is what urges me to keep turning the pages. Jess Walter beautifully and effortlessly weaves together disparate lives into a full and rewarding story with surprises, humor, and heartbreak along the way. I give it an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

My book club added this to our list after I had already read it. Consensus:  Everyone loved it.  No surprise to me, of course. One member mentioned how at the very beginning she was a little startled at how abruptly the chapters switched to a totally different place and time, but that uneasiness dissipated and she quickly fell into the rhythm of the book. 

Happy Reading,

Annette


What did you think of this book? Post a comment or email: Readinginthegarden@gmail.com

Monday, January 13, 2014

Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

It’s a Zoo Out There  (Action Packed)

Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge is an action-packed, page-turning thrill. Animals are turning against the two-legged population in alarming numbers. Jackson Oz is a biologist who is studying the Human Animal Conflict (HAC) that seems to be gaining momentum all over the world.  Weird incidents start sporadically.  A pride of lions attacks wide-eye, adventure-seeking tourists in an African Safari. Sorry, no refunds if eaten by the wildlife.  But then it goes global and cute little family dogs like Chunk, Nikko, Waldo, and Gertie suddenly morph into Cujos.  Puppies are marked off Christmas wish lists as they run in packs attacking families and strangers alike. And they don’t just bite the hand that feeds them; they chomp down and eat both hands, feet, and eyeballs. They lick the platter clean.  If graphic descriptions of animals feasting on humans make you squeamish, then this may not be the book for you. If it sends electrifying quivers up and down your spine to read that a lion’s jaw makes a “popping sound as his carnassial teeth efficiently peel meat off the bone,” well, then get ready for a heart-thumping ride. To make it even more suspenseful, the book is written in past tense, until we come to the animal attacks. Those adrenalin-flooding events are written in present tense so you feel like you’re right in the middle of the action. You can practically hear the growls and smell their foul, carnivorous breath. You feel the tension and fear bunch up and chafe like a wedgie.  So, what’s causing this alarming trend?  The answer had me scratching my head and wondering if such a thing could be possible.  Was I really part of the problem? 

As for my book club, it was a huge hit!  Everyone liked the quick pace, short chapters, and the plot. This book was so good (and non-chick-litish) that a couple of the husbands even read it. 


Other Reader Comments:
An online reader had this to say about the book. 
"Really exciting book.  Lots of surprises.  I loved it."-Martha


Happy Reading,

Annette


What did you think of this book? Post a comment or email: Readinginthegarden@gmail.com