Book Review: An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin

An Object of Beauty, Steve Martin, 2010

An Object of Beauty, Steve Martin, 2010

First of all, I was not expecting this type of writing from the likes of Steve Martin… yes, that Steve Martin. I was pleasantly surprised by the text as well as the story itself. My appreciation for this book mostly stems from my interest in and passion for art and art history. Jasper Johns. Matisse. de Kooning. Art of the 20th and 21st centuries are discussed throughout the entire book. As a college graduate with my B.A. in Art History, this book can officially be listed as one of my Top 10’s.

Spoilers Ahead…

Daniel Franks knew Lacey Yeager was something special the day he first spotted her in class. This was twenty years ago. It is the twenty years that come after that first meeting that are told in his first book. Lacey’s story is worth writing. Daniel (the narrating character of the novel) follows Lacey’s beginnings in the art world, her climb to the top, her dangerous missteps and tumbles, and eventually her treacherous fall.

Lacey Yeager, independent, charismatic, fierce, and unrelenting, emerges onto the New York art scene at its lowest entry point, an internship at Sotheby’s. Her low-paying job has her digging through the mailroom of the fine art auction house. While the monetary gains aren’t even worth mentioning, Lacey’s keen eye and sharp wit help advance her status among colleagues and her boss.

Daniel Franks stays friends with Lacey throughout her time in New York and is privy to her deepest secrets and flaws. Over the years, Lacey moves her way up at Sotheby’s and finds herself working in a gallery, learning the inner workings of the art market. She learns how to bend the system and break the rules, which for a while go unnoticed. She opens her own gallery, which goes through its own ups and downs, like the terrorist attacks of 9-11, and the economic troubles that followed. Lacey’s bold, fraudulent adventures eventually catch up with her.

Lacey is someone you love to hate. You want just half of her confidence, a fourth of her swagger, and none of her problems. Her troubles seem the least of her worries, if you can even tell she has them at all. At her worst, she’s still better than your best, at least as far as you can tell. She’s mysterious and deceiving. She’s beautiful and wanted. She’s unpredictable.

Steve Martin has written a book that is both fiction and non-fiction. While Daniel Franks or Lacey Yeager may not be real, the characters they represent certainly are. Martin, a devoted and passionate art collector, depicts the behind the scenes dramas of the art world. The build of the art society in the 1990s and its fall after 2001 are brilliantly portrayed. An Object of Beauty is a love story. It’s the love story between artist and art, collector and prized painting, gallery owner and sales commission. Lacey Yeager was entangled in every fiber of the art world, the greed, the want, the failures, and the distortion.

Portions of the book were slow, and yet important overall. Lacey’s story made me laugh, caused me anger, disappointed me, confused me, earned my pity, and all the while made me want to have drinks with her. I can’t say much for those who don’t know art; you may find yourself wanting to learn more, you may absolutely hate it. If I hadn’t previously studied art history, I wouldn’t have caught the subtle hints, metaphors, irony, or the art jargon. If you are, however, involved in the art world, studied art, work in art, or appreciate the works of the 20th and 21st century, read this book.

P.S. : Amy Adams is rumored to be starring (most likely as Lacey) and producing the film version of this book. Dates of release are yet to be determined.

Book Review: Real Murders, an Aurora Teagarden Novel, by Charlaine Harris

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Book #1 in the Aurora Teagarden series, 1990

Mostly recognized for her Sookie Stackhouse novels – the inspiration behind HBO’s True Blood, Charlaine Harris, is also the author of a number of other mysteries. Although Real Murders, Best Novel 1990 nomination for the Agatha Awards, was written in 1990, it is a read that shouldn’t go overlooked.  This is the first mystery to catch my interest and now I think I’m officially hooked on the genre.  I figured there might be a few other readers who weren’t familiar with the author’s earlier books and decided to write this review…

*Spoilers ahead…*

Lawrenceton, Georgia isn’t a particularly busy town, with its tight-knit, everyone-knows-everyone southern comfort, no one would ever suspect it would become the target of a brutal killing spree.  These killings aren’t just random murders either.  Each one involves individuals and is committed in ways that mimic famous historical victims and murders.

Aurora Teagarden aka Roe, a librarian at the local Lawrenceton library, is a quiet woman; she isn’t particularly noticeable and her life is pretty average if not somewhat boring, although, in the midst of all the strange happenings, she wouldn’t mind having that lifestyle back.  As member of the Real Murders club, a group of individuals who share a particular interest in mysteries, she is a prime suspect for the killings. The fact that she always seems to be around during the aftermath certainly isn’t helping her case.

The Real Murders club meets once a month to discuss historical murders, solved and unsolved.  They discuss the facts, decide who they think the murderer was or wasn’t, and try to figure out anything left unresolved.   With twelve members, each is able to lecture on the murder of their choice; this particular month belonged to Roe.

Close to the start of the meeting, Roe notices a couple of missing members and decides to check around the building (VFW Hall) before she starts her presentation.  Stepping into the side kitchen, Roe is startled by the sight of the massacred, bloodied, and brutally beaten body of the first victim.  Being familiar with famous murders, she immediately recognizes the similarities of the scene she just encountered.

As the days pass, more and more murders are committed, each matching up to that of a famous historical murder:  a politician stabbed in a bathtub just like French radical Jean-Paul Marat and a couple dismembered in their home just like the victims of the Lizzie Borden murders, just to name a few.  The parallels are starting to be much too similar to ignore and Roe can’t help but get involved…

While I enjoyed the book and have been converted to a mystery fan (I will soon be stepping up my game and delving into some Patterson and Evanovich), I was a little disappointed in the lack of “steaminess” I expected from Harris.  Besides that, the book was a quick read, fast paced – the murders beginning within the first couple chapters, and unique.  While some may be bored with the lack of “thriller” parts, it was a pleasant (in terms of gory details and chilling encounters) introduction into the realm of murder mysteries.

Have you read any books by Charlaine Harris?  Which series was your favorite?  Have any suggestions for what to read after this series?  Who’s your favorite mystery writer?

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Book Review: Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close

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Girls in White Dresses, Jennifer Close, 2011

*SPOILER* Although this read is probably considered old in the world of books, seeing as it was released in 2011, I am just now getting around to reading it. Having finished it, I am glad that I read it later rather than sooner…

Close focuses on the post-college years of a group of girlfriends. (I just graduated from college this spring and can more closely identify with the awkward, yet hilarious events and problems these women encounter.) She accurately portrays the what-the-hell-am-I-going-to-do-now years that follow that long awaited college graduation. The story is filled with confusing decisions, depressing breakups, the lonely loveless nights, and the horror and jealousy of having to watch every one of your friends walk down the aisle while you’re still terrifyingly single… at 30. Close tells the story of Isabella, Mary, and Lauren; through chapters written like short stories, the author recounts the years after graduation through their twenties, ending at a significant point of change in their early thirties.

Isabella, Mary, and Lauren are the “main characters” of this charming and relatable narrative. The three all eventually end up living in New York, stuck in the midst of bad dates, grad school, horrible jobs, and miniscule apartments. The girls are all confronted with their fair share of weird guys: Lauren’s “sleazy bartenders,” Isabella’s lazy potheads, and Mary, well she doesn’t have time for dates until she passes the bar exam, after which she kisses her engaged boss. You can be happy to know that fortunately, they all will eventually meet there match after years of failed attempts. Who they end up becoming and who they end up with was an amusing discovery.

Close depicts characters that represent different paths one’s life might take after college, she also gives each character a distinct personality, making the women entirely relatable. It would be hard to read this story and not find yourself laughing because you know exactly how they’re feeling or are reminded of a similar situation that you’ve experienced. Overall, Close has delivered a fast read that can be described as entertaining, lighthearted, and witty.

Personally, it reminded me of HBO’s Girls. A very real portrayal of life for the average twenty-something: certainly not glamorous, sometimes stressful, full of “is this really happening to me right now” mistakes and lessons learned the most baffling and bewildering ways possible. This book will leave you either thinking about your own years left in the twenty-somethings era and how you can go out and make the best of them or reminiscing about your own past and how you dealt with all the craziness it brought.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Did you relate to any of the characters? If you haven’t read it, do you plan on reading it now?