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Monthly Archives: December 2011

Review of “An Object of Beauty” by Steve Martin

This book has been on my radar for the past year, but I just never got round to reading it.  It’s most likely the last book I’ll read in 2011, and I don’t think it’s a bad one to end the year.

It’s usually very hard for me to like a book if I can’t like the protagonist. But I must be broadening my horizons this year.  I thoroughly enjoyed “Steve Jobs” (he was undeniably brilliant but just so hard to like sometimes) and now I’ve found another book with a fairly loathsome main character that I still managed to really enjoy. 

Steve Martin can write.  His prose is clear and evocative, and I was easily able to imagine the New York art world in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.  “An Object of Beauty” is a story about a woman named Lacey Yeager and is told by an art writer who claims “I am tired, so very tired of thinking about Lacey Yeager, yet I worry that unless I write her story down…I will be unable to ever write about anything else” (p. 3).  Yeager, an art history graduate, begins working at Sotheby’s, researching paintings and learning to assess their worth.  She quickly starts to see these objects of beauty as objects of value, which is when she engages in some unethical and possibly illegal activities.  Yeager seems to be morally bankrupt, which makes it possible for her to also see people as objects of value – she is constantly manipulating situations and people to her advantage.  She uses men and then throws them away, and her beauty, vivacity, charm, and wit keep them interested long after they should be.  She becomes quite successful, part of that due to luck and some of that due to her foresight and sheer will.  She seems to live a charmed life – paintings she bought for a song fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars just a few years later.  Yeager opens her own gallery, which does quite well.  Then the crash of 2008 hits, and she hits rock bottom.

This book made me wonder if everything has a price.  In his novel, Martin talks about how even true collectors are willing to part with a piece if the price is right.  But I think we see Yeager as an example of how terrible and destructive this thinking can be.  Lacey makes herself an object of beauty, and is often willing to sell herself (and not even to the highest bidder).  I also began thinking about the nature of beauty.  Humans are naturally attracted to beauty and driven to possess that beauty.  Which explains why so many men fell for Yeager.  But in the end, that kind of desire is never satiated, especially when the beauty doesn’t come with any substance.  We see this behavior in Yeager herself, who never seems to be satisfied.  She is always lusting after more money, better paintings, and other men.  Which makes for one unhappy life.

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Posted by on December 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

What’s Coming Up

Sorry for the brief hiatus, folks.  I had the chance to go home for a few days to spend time with my family, including my ridiculously cute nieces and nephews.  But it’s good to be back in Azle! 

We have a lot of great things planned for this new year.  If the huge crowd at the gym last night was any indication, people are already feeling guilty about the excesses of the holiday and ready to get back in shape.  So, be sure to join us for What’s Cookin’ on January 9th at 4:30 p.m. when we’ll have chef Paula Ambrose teach us how to make heart healthy salads.  Then on January 11th, we’ll be hosting the National Archives of Ft. Worth, who will show us how to preserve our important documents, including family photos.  Be sure to bring your documents so you can receive advice on how best to take care of them.  The Main Street Book Club is meeting Tuesday, January 17th at 6:30 p.m. to discuss “Peace Like a River” by Leif Enger.  Incidentally, this happens to be one of my top three favorite books of all time.  This book contains equal measures of beauty and sadness, and there is music in Enger’s language (it should probably be read aloud).  Finally, on Saturday, January 21st, Home Depot will be showing us how to winterize our homes.  We don’t have exact times on this yet, but the workshop will be repeated a few times between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

Whew!  I’m exhausted, but excited, just thinking about what’s coming.  We love planning new events, and we always try to do this with your wants and needs in mind.  So, if you have an idea for a program, please feel free to call or come in and ask for Meg.  I’d love to talk to you!

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Main Street Book Club

You are cordially invited to attend the Main Street Book Club’s special December book discussion.  We’re meeting Tuesday, Dec. 20th at 6:30 p.m. in the Library’s Community Room.  This month is a You Pick!, which means that you get to choose a holiday book to read and then share with the rest of the group (sharing is voluntary, of course).  We tried this format in October with scary books, and I think everyone had a great time and learned about some new books to read.  I’m reading Jean Shepherd’s charming and hilarious book, “A Christmas Story.”  So quotable and so funny.  It’s making me remember how, when I was little, the whole year did indeed revolve around Christmas and the magic that inevitably happened on that day.  We’ll also be having a potluck, so bring a dish of your choice to share with everyone.  Can’t wait to see you there!

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Nancy’s Favorite Books of 2011

Posted by Nancy Novak, Children’s Librarian

Meg asked me to name a few of the best books I have read in 2011.  Talk about an impossible task!!!  But, brave soul that I am, I will try to pick out some clear winners, the books I didn’t want to end, or ones that made me want to look further into the subject matter.

Non-Fiction (Adult)

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson:  If you loved Larson’s Devil in the White City, you will equally love this book about a murder in London, with the apprehension of the criminal enabled by Marconi’s emerging wireless technology.  Larson excels in blending true crime of a particular period with a major historical event.  I learned so much about Marconi himself and his death defying efforts to develop wireless communications.  The crime itself was wrapped in a lot of intrigue, which just made the tale more fascinating.

1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart:  Goodheart takes part of 1860 and part of 1861 and digs into events and people that are not normally front and center of Civil War history.  He provides great insights into the country’s feelings about slavery at the time, both in the North and the South. And if anyone continues to insist this war was NOT about slavery, hopefully reading this book will finally disabuse them of that belief, given that slavery drove not only the economy in the South but in the North as well.

It was interesting to follow the North’s movement toward a collective belief that slavery is truly wrong, and how certain people/events in 1861 were pivotal in that movement. I never knew about Benjamin Butler until I read this book. His lawyerly decision regarding three slaves who escaped to Fort Monroe at the beginning of the war was truly a catalyst for much of the transformation.

Fiction (Young Adult)

The Curse of the Wendigo (Monstrumologist #2)  by Rick Yancey:  Yancey has crafted a tale of horror that characterizes vampires as human nature’s tendency toward insatiable desire for someone or some thing.  There are lots of wonderful historical facts about New York and other areas of the 19th century woven into the narrative. I am not one for horror novels, but Yancey’s Monstrumologist trilogy is one that I am enjoying immensely, not only for the high quality of the writing, but the themes Yancey presents within, which elevate the horror above the sensational.

Fiction (Juvenile)

The Memory Bank  by Carolyn Coman:  This would be a great book for a kid who does not feel loved to pick up and read. The story of a girl, who has never experienced parental affection, searching for her sister, who has literally been abandoned by the parents, is touching. I loved the illustrations and how they were so integral to the story. A reader will come away with this: dreams in life are paramount, hope must spring eternal, and we all must be loved in some way in order to do well in life. Makes you just want to put everything down and hug your kids as if it might be the last time.

The Sixty-Eight Rooms  by Marianne Malone:  This is a delightful story about the magic of imagination, as well as the magic that can happen when you help others. I lived most of my life in the Chicago area, have been to the Art Institute dozens of times, but never discovered the Thorne Rooms, if you can believe that. I only knew about Colleen Moore’s miniature dollhouse rooms at the Museum of Science and Industry (and those I would see every time I went there). So the Thorne exhibit is now definitely on my bucket list.

It’s a simply written story.  I like the way Malone explains things that a younger reader might not understand, from certain words to feelings you have at certain times. I also enjoyed the weaving of historical events into the story – and I hope young readers will see how history can come alive when you look into the stories of the people who lived at that time.

The magic of course is improbable, but it was sweet, and in the end helped a lot of people in Ruthie’s and Jack’s time begin new and exciting adventures.

 

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Best Books of 2011

It’s that time of year again.  The time when we look back at all the wonderful and not-so-wonderful books we’ve read over the past 12 months and decide which we liked best.  I have an account with LibraryThing, which very conveniently and efficiently organizes my books for me so I don’t forget what I’ve read over time.  Because who can remember what books they read last January?  Even when books are spectacularly mind-blowing, it can be hard for me to recall them months later.  So, I suggest you take some time out from your busy holiday schedule and think about the books you’ve read that have changed your life a little this past year – maybe you learned something new or gained a new perspective.  Here is a list of a few of mine:

Fiction: 

“Elizabeth I” by Margaret George – I have to admit that I’m giving this book as a Christmas gift to a few people on my list because it’s that good.  I’m usually wary of historical fiction because I find that I’m either bored with the lack of conversation among characters or skeptical because the author has taken too many liberties.  Well, George has struck the perfect balance with her novel about one of the most impressive and influential queens in England’s history.  I devoured it.  Plus, the cover is absolutely stunning!

“A Discovery of Witches” by Deborah Harkness – I don’t know why, but give me a book set in Oxford, with its lovely ancient buildings and academics who have dedicated their lives to some esoteric branch of knowledge that most people don’t even know about, and I’m a happy girl.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve always harbored a secret wish to cloister myself away in some ivory tower, doing research about the Bronte sisters or 18th century Romantic poetry.  The setting of this book was fabulous, and the fact the author also manges to throw in a bunch of witches, a vampire, and some demons – well, what more could you ask for?  And you don’t have to be a Twilight fan to appreciate this book.  It’s coming out in paperback right after Christmas, but of course, we also have a copy!

Non-Fiction:

“Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson.  I will admit that I had my heart set on this book and immediately snatched it off the book cart and read it in a matter of days.  I was absolutely fascinated by the life of a man who has changed so many other lives but could be such a misanthrope.  He was often rude and belligerent and mistreated those around him in the most stunning ways.  His drive and exacting vision and commitment to perfection are also what led to some of the coolest, most elegant products we’ve seen.  I know a lot has been said about him, and I won’t add to it.  Suffice it to say that I think you’ll enjoy this book.  It’s well-written and chock full of wonderful details.

“Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand.  This story broke my heart every other page.  It was work to get through, and not the work that other books require (i.e. I have to read this for my neighbor’s book club, so I’m forcing myself to read 50 pages a day), but work because the story’s brutal events were just so draining.  I found I had to take breaks from it, which was hard because you really just want to inhale the book, especially because you’re rooting so strongly for the book’s subject, Louie Zamperini.  He was an Olympic runner who became a POW in Japan after his plane was shot down during WWII.  I don’t want to give anything away – the beauty of this story is in the unfolding of it, so take my word for it and check this one out.  I plan to have our book club read it as soon as it comes out in paperback.

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Toyland at the Library

 

Enter the secret world of toys as the Azle Memorial Library explores toys from around the world, toys from long ago, and toys of today.  Participants will get to make a toy or two to take home.  This FREE workshop is geared for children ages 6-12.  Join us Tuesday, December 13th from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. in the Community Room. 

If you plan to attend, we ask that you let the Children’s Librarian know so that we have enough materials on hand.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Time to Exchange Some Cookies

After looking at this picture, Monday can’t come soon enough!  And that’s because it’s cookie time at the Library!  That’s right – you heard correctly.  We regularly feed your minds with our awesome variety of books and movies, and now we plan to feed your tummies, too!  Here are the details:

Be there or be square Monday, Dec. 12th at 4:30 p.m.  Please take particular note of the time.  We often start our monthly cooking classes at 2:00, but we’re starting later because we want all of the kiddos to have a chance to join us.  We’ll have sugar cookies for them to decorate, and we’ll be sharing some fun facts about cookies and cookie exchanges.  I’m going to demonstrate my mother’s awesome frosting that is a no-fail, go-to recipe that I use all the time.  Now for the exchange:  If you want to participate, please bring 2 dozen homemade cookies (bar cookies and brownies are acceptable, too) that you would like to share with the group.  We would also love to have your recipe, so please bring it with you.  We plan to make copies of all of the recipes to distribute to everyone at the party.  We’ll then display all of the cookies and give everyone a chance to grab a few from each plate – you’ll eventually end up with 2 dozen to take home to share with your family and friends (or keep all to yourself!).  And you’ll have some great, new recipes to try out this holiday season.  Ah, I already have visions of snickerdoodles, mint brownies, and rolo cookies dancing in my head.  Like I said, Monday can’t come soon enough!

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

 
 
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