Tag Archives: book club

Two Sentence Book Club

5088254388_3a32e61ab8_bLooking at past posts, I realized that the last book review I did was Beautiful Ruins and the last book I mentioned was Wuthering Heights. Well, folks, I’ve done a LOT of reading since then. And while I’m not as prolific as my friend Alison, I feel like I can hold my own when it comes to literary talk. So, as the weather gets colder and you’re more prone to curl up on the couch with a book, I figured everyone could beef up their reading list with these quick two sentence reviews.

Must reads:

Stay away:

I could go on but figured this would get you started. I’m currently reading “Bringing Up Bébé” by Pamela Druckerman, a book on French parenting seen through the eyes of an American in Paris. It’s fascinating, considering my background, but definitely not a good fit for everyone.

What have you been reading lately? Any thoughts on the books I posted above? Disagreements? What should be on my book list?

Image: az by d-221 books

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What Adam’s Reading: “Beautiful Ruins” by Jess Walter

11447921Well, January has come and gone – I blinked and it was over, which means everyone should be wrapped up with “Beautiful Ruins,” our first book club read of the year! In typical book club fashion, I pulled a couple of discussion questions below in the hopes to guide our conversations throughout the comments. I also wanted to give a typical “That Guy” review, similar to what you’ll find here. So, skip down to whichever section interests you most and check back tomorrow for the announcement of our pick for February!

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When choosing this book with my friend Alison, we were looking for an undeniable hit from 2012 that we hadn’t tackled yet. Appearing in most “Best of 2012” lists, the decision seemed easy.

Side note: My first choice would have been “Bring Up the Bodies” by Hilary Mantel but that’s a sequel so I’ll have to read the two installments in my spare time. 

What intrigued me about the plot was the fact that it spanned over multiple decades, usually ensuring depth of character and story, and claimed to be a great example of how chance encounters and impromptu relationships can influence individuals’ lives. The latter, I would agree with; the former, I would not.

Critics were right when referencing the scope of the book, but what they failed to elaborate on is that there are basically three instances when the protagonists interact with each other: late 1960s, on the set of Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor, early 1970s, and today. You’re filled in on the holes of their respective histories throughout the novel but very rarely is there dialogue between the main characters beyond their first encounter, making their relationships come off as superficial.

That’s why I fully agree in regards to the fact that this novel can be looked to as a literary interpretation of the “It’s a Small World” phenomenon: the moment when you have lost friends and acquaintances reappear in your life. It’s perfectly accurate to think that paths would cross at some point, but it’s somewhat presumptuous and cheesy to give them intense feelings for each other that would never be there in real life.

I don’t mean to make this book sound horrible, but in my mind it was just mediocre, especially going into it with such high expectations. I will say that the ending wraps the whole story up with a nice bright bow on top, leaving no doubt as to what happens to the heroes later on in life. Sometimes, it’s nice to not have cliffhangers.

Summary:

  • Grade: C. Really just an average story.
  • What’s it about: You meet five characters off the coast of Italy who are involved in the Elizabeth Taylor scandal on the set of Cleopatra. Fifty years later, they reunite, a whole life of memories and regrets between them.
  • Who should read this book: Someone who is interested in knowing what the hype is all about.
  • When should you read it: When you want a quick read that isn’t airport-quick.
  • Where to find it: Amazon.com for $18, still only available in hardback.

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This section is for all of you who read the book and want to talk about it. WARNING: SPOILER ALERTS! I found these questions more thought-provoking than others since they provided a new perspective. Feel free to answer the same ones or pick another from this list.

One of Jess Walter’s concerns in Beautiful Ruins is how real life intersects and influences art. Talk about the numerous ways that idea plays out in the novel.

This was something I didn’t notice until it was pointed out but when you think about it, every character was an artist, whether they be an actor, a author, a musician, a painter etc. Throughout the book, they’re constantly creating something and the output is reflective of their personal experiences:

  • Dee, as an actress, pulls emotions from the disappointment she feels at the turn her life took.
  • Alvis, the author, is writing about a moment he lived through during the war.
  • Shane, the screenplay writer, is using material (Donner!) from when he was a kid.
  • Michael Deane, the author, publishes a book outlining how to succeed in Hollywood, the same way he did.
  • Lydia, the actress/playwright, literally uses her and Pat’s lives as material.

The only person who this doesn’t apply to is Pasquale and when you dwell on it, it might be to emphasize his more earthly personality and real-life aspirations: have a family and settle down versus becoming rich and famous.

Of the seven main characters, which is your favorite? Least favorite (don’t all say Michael Deane)?

What I liked about this question is that Michael Deane was probably my favorite character. He’s the practical one, the smart one who is able to follow his instincts and be right. He learns from his failures and builds on his successes, taking one challenge at a time. I feel that most everyone in the book could have learned a thing or two from Deane and not been living with regrets. Dee Moray, Pasquale, Pat, Lydia – I’m looking at you!

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2013 Book Club

Screen shot 2013-01-04 at 10.56.01 AMIt’s no secret on this blog that I love to read. I don’t always do a good job of reporting back on what I’m reading but I do try to always have my nose in a book – except in September when fall TV starts and I need to vet all the new shows … Anyways, my friend Alison keeps me accountable as she reads even more than me! In the past, we tried to decide on a book of the month, which you might remember from here, but that quickly fell to the wayside when our busy lives caught up to us. We want to change that and what better time to do it than with the new year? So, without further ado, I invite you to join us on our 2013 Book Club journey! Feel free to pick and choose which ones you want to join in on, or even read all of them, but hopefully this will help us read more in 2013 than we did in 2012.

The best part about this book club is that we want to span multiple genres and types of books, which is why we’ve decided on a theme for each month. Some are contextual, like a love story in February for Valentine’s day, while others are making sure that we’re reading the classics as much as the contemporary works. This is the list that we came up with:

  • January: Best of 2012, because there were so many good books this past year and we’re just chomping at the bit for reasons to read them
  • February: A love story
  • March: Non-fiction
  • April: Classic – no reason to not brush up on your literary must-reads
  • May: Summer, to get everyone pumped for the warm weather
  • June: Essays. This was one of those different genres that we felt like we should include
  • July: History, to get us in the mood for the Fourth of July
  • August: Education, because even though we’re not going back to school, we like to pretend like we are
  • September: Sports – football season! M-I-Z!
  • October: Thriller – boo!
  • November: Our favorite books, since we’re thankful for friendship
  • December: The holidays! Because of Kwanza, Hanukkah and Christmas – duh

These are obviously not set in stone but give us a good guide as to what to expect for the coming 12 months. What do you think? Is there a genre that we missed? Any books that you recommend?

11447921As for our January BOTM (pronounced “bottom”), we decided to go with “Beautiful Ruins” by Jess Walter. It made three of the most popular “Best Books of 2012” lists and seemed like the perfect note to start the year on. Spanning two continents and fifty years, this novel mixes the glitz of Hollywood with the rustic charm of Coastal Italy to create a novel that is hailed by NPR’s Fresh Air program as a “literary miracle.” Does that not get you excited or what?

Check back at the end of the month to read our thoughts, share your own impressions and get the DL on our pick for February. Happy reading!

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