“Beautiful Ruins” opens on a remote Italian town off the coast of the Ligurian Sea. Innkeeper Pasquale dreams of creating an international tourist destination here. One day, to his amazement, a beautiful American movie star unexpectedly arrives to stay at his humble inn. This seems an answer to his prayers and the beginning of a lifelong infatuation. However, the starlet is ill with an apparently fatal disease and entangled in an illicit Hollywood romance.
This sprawling novel spans decades, alternating between Italy and L.A, as well as between past and present. At once a love story and a witty critique of Hollywood’s shallow commercialism, perhaps the novel’s main theme is the tension between our dreams and the reality of what a good life might actually be. Although theme and characters could be more fully developed, the novel is nonetheless an entertaining read.
Life for a 13-year-old girl with no arms cannot be easy, but when her parents decide to move the family and manage Stagecoach Pass, a rundown Western theme park in Arizona, Aven’s life is forever changed. Her adoptive parents never coddled her, so she has never felt “less-than” due to her physical differences. Entering a new middle school is hard enough, but imagine having to cope with gawking students while you complete everyday tasks with your feet –writing, eating, even going to the bathroom. The ridiculous Stagecoach Pass is the perfect setting for Aven’s new life and the mystery that she and her two new friends must solve. A funny and beautiful story of friendship, overcoming obstacles and acceptance.
Subtitled “Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks; A Librarian’s Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life,” this is a profanity-laced but often hilarious book. Whether she is writing affectionately to “Frog and Toad Storybook Treasury” or telling “Misery” by Stephen King that he really, really needs to move out, you will never look at great works of literature (along with the not-so-great) in quite the same way. Also included is a section called I’d Rather Be Reading, which is a series of excuses to stay home and read. This is a must-read for anyone tasked with finding the next choice for their book group.
The Great War is nearing its end, but the fighting still goes on. Nurse Bess Crawford is waiting for transport back to her post when she meets Cpt. Alan Travis from Barbados. He is later brought to her aid station suffering from a head wound and tells her that he believes his cousin shot him. Later on, he once again is brought to the station with a more severe wound and insists that his cousin is out to kill him. Bess inquires about his cousin and realizes he couldn’t be responsible for Alan’s injuries and starts to wonder about his sanity. After going home on leave, Bess discovers Alan in the hospital and decides to go to his cousin James’ home and see if she can sort this mystery out.