BOOK REVIEW: Beautiful Ruins – by Jess Walter

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Title: Beautiful Ruins
Author: Jess Walter
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: June 2012
Finished reading: February 16th 2015
Pages: 337
Rating 3

“Stories are people. I’m a story, you’re a story… your father is a story. Our stories go in every direction, but sometimes, if we’re lucky, our stories join into one, and for a while, we’re less alone.”

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My copy of Beautiful Ruins had been collecting dust on my TBR pile for quite some time before I actually picked it up. When I first saw the cover, I had a flashback of my months living in Southern Italy. So when I found out the story was actually set in a small town along the Italian coastline I was immediately sold. I didn’t realize Jess Walter didn’t stick to the Italian 1962 setting and switches back and forth to contemporary Hollywood though. Those who know me, know I don’t like romance or Hollywood scenes for that matter. I guess that’s why that part of this book let me down; I just didn’t expect Beautiful Ruins to turn out that way. Still, the Italian chapters are interesting. In true historical fiction style, the chapters take you back to 1962 where Pasquale Tursi owns a small hotel and is surprised to have not one, but two American guests staying there at one point. One of them is a retired soldier and now writer (Alvis Bender), the other an actress (Dee Moore) who is sent away from a movie set in Rome when she became ill… The Hollywood chapters are full of cliches and not exactly to my liking; the Hollywood producer Michael Deane a despicable person and hard to relate to. In short, I’m having mixed feelings about this novel, but I guess it’s worth reading if you don’t mind historical fiction being mixed with contemporary Hollywood scenes and (cheesy) romance.

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It is 1962 and Pasquale Tursi is back running the only hotel in his small village after his father died. Porto Vergogna is too small to have any tourist attractions, but Pasquale dreams of changing his village into one American tourists would enjoy. An American writer, Alvis Bender, visits his hotel every year, but the young Italian wants more… Then one day his dreams seem to come true when a mysterious American woman shows up at his small beach. Dee Moore is an actress who is part of the Cleopatra movie currently being made in Rome, but she became sick on set… They sent her to Porto Vergogna to recover and wait for a special treatment in Switzerland. Pasquale starts to have feelings for the woman even though they have problems communicating, and doesn’t hesitate helping her when the producers seem to have forgotten Dee. He travels all the way to Rome to confront them, and soon finds out the truth about Dee’s disease…

Meanwhile in contemporary Hollywood, Claire is not happy with her current life. When she started working for famous producer Michael Deane, she didn’t expect to be making cheap TV programs instead of interesting movies… So when they offer her a job as a movie museum curator, she is highly tempted. Her stripclub visiting boyfriend is also getting on her nerves, and she is wondering whether she needs a fresh start… And that is when Shane and Pasquale turn up at the studio. Claire doesn’t know it yet, but her weekend is about to become way more interesting when her boss asks her to help him locate a ghost from the past…

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There is also a third storyline set in the UK that I’m not mentioning in the summary because of potential spoilers. What I can say is that this storyline adds some dept to the story and is definitely better than the Hollywood chapters. There were too many cliches used in Beautiful Ruins though, which is a shame because the story itself has a lot of potential. I especially enjoyed the chapters set in Italy; the way Jess Walter describes the scenery makes me want to pack my bags and travel to Italy straight away. Alvis and his unfinished book about his experiences in WWII are a welcoming distraction from the Hollywood scenes and I liked the fact that Jess Walter decided to include some Italian in his prose. (I found out I still remembered some of my crappy Italian, hurray!) In short, Beautiful Ruins is a nice novel to read if you like historical fiction and don’t mind a few cliches and Hollywood scenes… I guess it would be a perfect beach read.

WWW Wednesdays #27 – February 18th

wwwwednesdaysOriginally featured at Should Be Reading and now hosted by Sam at Taking On A World Of Words, WWW WEDNESDAYS is still about answering the following three questions:

  • What are you currently reading?

theoceanattheendofthelanethesecretgardenI’m about to finish The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman, and I must say I’m absolutely loving this adult fantasy story with magical realism elements. I have a feeling this one will have a high rating! And since I’m going to start The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett today, I’m counting this classic as one of my current reads as well. This one is part of my TBR pile challenge and I’m looking forward finally reading it.

  • What did you recently finish reading?

beautifulruinsI finished Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter the other day, and I cannot say I’m impressed much. I enjoyed the chapters set in Italy; the descriptions just made me want to travel to Italy straight away. The other chapters: a lot of cliches, too much romance involved… Not that good. A full review will be posted later this week.

  • What do you think you’ll read next?

gardensofthemoonI will probably finally give in and read Gardens Of The Moon by Steven Erikson. I have been wanting to read this one for ages now, and I guess it is about time I read it. Although I might end up reading a mystery/thriller/crime novel instead…

WWW Wednesdays #26 – February 11th

wwwwednesdaysOriginally featured at Should Be Reading and now hosted by Sam at Taking On A World Of Words, WWW WEDNESDAYS is still about answering the following three questions:

  • What are you currently reading?

harrypotterandtheorderofphoenixbeautifulruinsI’ve decided to continue my HP series reread and I’m currently reading the fifth book: Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix. This is probably my least favorite of the bunch, mostly caused by Umbridge, but I’m enjoying travelling back to the magical world of Harry Potter anyway. I’ve also started to rad Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, a historical fiction/romance novel that will be perfect to get in the mood for Valentine’s day. Or so I hope; I’m keeping my fingers crossed it’s not too cheesy…

  • What did you recently finish reading?

beautifulcreaturesthecatcherintheryeI’ve finished Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia the other day, and I must say I absolutely loved it! A magical Caster family with a curse, a teenage girl trying to escape her fate… The dose of romance was just right, and this is one of my favorite YA fantasy reads so far. Review coming soon! I also finished The Catcher In The Rye, a classic I unfortunately wasn’t able to enjoy the way I thought I would… This novel by J.D. Salinger just didn’t convince me.

  • What do you think you’ll read next?

Again, I’m still not sure what to read next… I will probably read something romance related for Valentine’s day depending on how long I take to finish my current reads, but other than that I don’t have a clue what to pick.

Top Ten Tuesday #8 – September 23rd: Books On My Spring TBR

toptentuesday The Broke And The Bookish presents us every week a new top ten with a different theme. And this Tuesday’s theme is the Top Ten Books On My Fall Spring TBR list. Since I live in Argentina and the seasons are different here, I made a little alteration so the list will fit in with the current season I will be enjoying. (Spring is my favorite season! 😀 ) I tried to put together a varied list with a lot of different genres and themes:

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Friday Finds #9 – September 5th

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FRIDAY FINDS is originally featured at Should Be Reading and showcases the most interesting books I’ve encountered during the last week and have added to my neverending TBR list on Goodreads.  I know my list is already exploding with almost 300! titles, but I can’t help myself and don’t want to miss any potential treasures. So I’ve just accepted the TBR list will always be bigger than the amount of books I’ve read… Sigh. You can find a selection of my newest additions below:

My finds:

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