Book chat: ‘Love, Lucy’ by April Lindner

Love, LucyThe summer before her freshman year of college, Lucy Sommersworth embarks on a European adventure for a taste of freedom before sacrificing her dreams of acting to focus on business in school. Accompanied by Charlene, a new friend and fellow college student, the pair purchase rail passes to crisscross the continent and meet many characters along the way.

Landing in Florence, Lucy and Charlene check in at a hostel in the heart of the city with the goal of exploring the famous Italian locale — and it’s not long before they meet Jesse Pallatino, a New Jersey native currently bumming his way around Italy busking for cash.

What follows is a whirlwind romance that sizzles in the Florence sun . . . but threatens to implode when Lucy returns to Philadelphia, where she begins her practical education but struggles to forget the amazing summer they shared. As the pair try to determine if and how they fit into each other’s lives, Lucy undergoes a metamorphosis all her own.

April Lindner’s Love, Lucy is a sweet — if predictable — young adult novel perfect for armchair travelers. With its warm Italian breezes, vivid scenery and romantic settings, Lucy’s time in Europe reads like something out of a dream . . . especially when a guitar-playing free spirit comes on the scene.



Florence cafe

Scenes from Florence, 2007

Though I’ll admit to liking the first half of the book — set abroad — more than the second, Lucy is a likeable heroine struggling to appease her difficult father while still being true to herself. In love with theatre, she feels alive on stage . . . but her dad, who happens to be footing the bill for her college education, has little interest in the arts.

After their chance meeting and mutual attraction, it’s Jesse that gets Lucy thinking about how life could be should she leave the safe path her parents have laid for her to chase her dreams. I found the conflict realistic and, for many, familiar: choose the comfortable route, or dare to be bold?

Though Lucy and Jesse never felt totally formed as characters, I didn’t mind the lightness with which I read Love, Lucy. It was sweet, uncomplicated and relatable, especially as Lucy struggles to choose between a new love interest and the wild Jesse. Intimacy definitely plays a role in the storyline, so bear that in mind for younger readers.

If you’d like to take a walk through Italy without leaving the comfort of your porch, Lindner’s fun story may be your ticket. The scenes in Florence and Rome took me back to my own trip there in 2007, and I loved reliving that experience through Lucy’s eyes.

3.5 out of 5

Pub: 2010 • GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy kindly passed along by Estelle. Thank you!

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Views of Tuscany in 2007

On a dreary week in November, I found myself thinking about my family’s Italian vacation in 2007 — and got a hankering to look through my old photos. Considering I’ve become thoroughly obsessed with photography in recent years, I edited a few with my new knowledge — and loved reminiscing about my first time in Europe. These shots were taken in San Gimignano, just before the clouds broke and the fog burned off.

For more about the trip and my process of editing old pictures, check out this post I wrote for my photography club’s site. And for more Wordless Wednesday, visit here!

Book review: ‘Beautiful Ruins’ by Jess Walter

When the beautiful Dee Moray first steps off a boat and into his isolated world, Pasquale Tursi
is a young man with dreams of putting his small Italian village on the map. He’ll build a tennis court on a cliff, he imagines; he’ll improve his family’s aging hotel, bringing Americans and their fat pocketbooks to Porto Vergogna. Dee appears like a phantom, the manifestation of everything he so desperately wants: love, security and beauty in the ruins. It’s 1962, and Pasquale will do anything to make her happy.

Decades later and a world away in L.A., disillusioned filmmaker Claire Silver is waiting for something to move her. Stuck in a boring relationship and feeling utterly stagnant, Claire logs long hours working for Hollywood legend Michael Deane, a man never afraid to call in a favor, and the pair are seeking redemption through whatever means necessary. When an aging Pasquale Tursi shows up at their door, calling in a favor himself, everyone’s life is turned upside down . . . before it’s righted again.

Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins is spellbinding. Readers searching for something to sweep them up and out to sea need look no further than the author’s latest, and I can promise you the plot is every bit as delicious and enticing as the lush cover photo suggests.

Fluctuating between the making of the Liz Taylor and Richard Burton classic “Cleopatra” in Italy and present-day Los Angeles, Walter introduces a cast of unforgettable characters. Though I was innately more interested in the scenes from 1962 than the modern plotline, both were crucial to Walter’s story of love lost and found — and honor redeemed. Pasquale is a hopelessly endearing character — someone you want to hug and help. Naive, lovely actress Dee entrances him immediately, but it’s hard to tell if it’s Dee that effortlessly captures his heart . . . or the idea of what she could finally bring to his colorless life.

You know how sometimes you’re reading, grow bored and just skim a bunch of paragraphs . . . only to realize you’ve missed absolutely nothing? I hate that. And Beautiful Ruins is the opposite of that reading experience. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it masterpiece of many intricate stories, and the setting made me feel like I could step in and share a glass of wine with the motley Italian crew. Even Michael Deane, a selfish baffoon who royally screws up others’ lives, manages to somehow seem likeable.

The book’s story-within-a-story quality completely sucked me in, too. Beyond the fate of the principle characters, we’re given the movie treatment of a heartwarming tale of . . . cannibalism. (Yes: cannibalism.) And somehow it still sounded like a moving, captivating film I might want to see. Honestly.

Readers craving a vibrant story offering glimpses at old Hollywood, the Italian seaside, the effects of war on the innocent and the bonds (and sacrifices) of love need only grab Beautiful Ruins. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year (adding to this list!) and one that certainly deserves a spot in your beach bag.

5 out of 5!

ISBN: 0061928127 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review

My happy place

Everybody has a happy place.

When I’m having a bad day — or a stressful day, or a weird day — I think back to visiting Lake Garda, Italy, in 2007. Fresh from college and vacationing with my family, our excursion abroad was awesome in so many ways. Over two weeks, we traveled to London and all around Italy, making stops in Venice, Rome, Tuscany and Florence.

But it was here — Lake Garda — that has stayed with me more than anywhere, that has inspired blog posts and recollections and daydreams. Our hotel there was at the top of a cliff and the view above was what I saw standing on our balcony. We were there just one night and it was chilly and cold, but nothing could have dampened the way my spirit soared looking at that view. I remember trying to read on a tiny chair just outside our hotel room, but I was too distracted by the mountains and sunset. I just stared — maybe for hours. I looked and watched and waited.

I’ve been to some amazing places. I’ve fallen in love with England, with California, with my own hometown — but Lake Garda? Well, Lake Garda is in a league of its own. It was a total surprise on a trip full of surprises. A beautiful place that challenged my preconceived ideas of what I would experience abroad.

I have to get back there someday. Preferably when it’s warmer.

Where is your happy place?

Where In The World Weds.: Lake Garda, Italy

It’s Where In The World Wednesday! As part of that great European vacation I took with my family in 2007, I found myself in one of the most beautiful and strangely unexpected places ever: Lake Garda, the largest of the Italian lakes and positioned between Milan and Venice. Popular among Swiss travelers, Lake Garda is cold — and windy! — but breathtakingly beautiful. My dad famously referred to it as “something out of ‘Lord Of The Rings'” — it just had that majestic, sweeping feel to it.

While visiting Lake Garda on our Italian tour, we took a boat out on the lake . . . and I felt 99 percent sure I was going to tip over the side with the wind gusts a few times. Thankfully I survived to write this blog post — and share these photos with you. Sit back, relax, draw a jacket tighter around you and take a trip to an Italian lake with me!

Where In The World Wednesday: Trevi Fountain, Rome

It’s Wednesday — and that means it’s time for my friend Jess’s weekly Where In The World Wednesday! As an avid travel bug, I can’t believe I only recently discovered this fun feature. And since Jess featured Rome this week, I figured I would, too!

That lovely lady to the right is yours truly at the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy. In May 2007, mere days after I graduated from the University of Maryland, I spent 10 days traveling through England and Italy with my mom, dad and sister Katie, and I saw and experienced so many fantastic things . . . it’s crazy for me to even think about everything we did.

Between the gorgeous sights (I don’t think I ever put my camera down!), awesome food, great traveling companions (we were with a tour group) and time with my family, it’s definitely a vacation I’ll remember for the rest of my life. It was my first time in Europe and to see such a different world there — so different than my familiar American culture — was incredible.

And, you know, it brushed my obsession with the UK into an uncontrollable fire. And for that? I’ll always be happy!