Annabel's House of Books

Noli domo egredi, nisi librum habes – Never leave home without a book.

Month: December 2010 (page 1 of 3)

Art is a commodity not for looking at!

An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin

Steve Martin’s latest novel is not funny. He plays it straight in An Object of Beauty as the world chronicled within is so full of self-parody that there’s little need to add extra layers of satire to achieve a certain sort of vicious comedy.

Set in New York during the 1990s, the story is narrated by Daniel, an art critic and observer of the scene and friend of Lacey Yeager.  Lacey is determined to get to the top however she has to do it, and through a mixture of making her looks and wardrobe work wonders for her along with her willingness to do whatever it takes (including hard work and sex) she will get her own gallery. She gets into some scrapes along the way, but being a user wriggles out of them.

What becomes clear is that true art collectors are rare things.  Art and particularly contemporary art is really a commodity and once Lacey learns to look at art with dollar signs instead of an appreciative eye, she is lost – but then that’s what she wanted from the start. It’s a horrible world full of horrible people mostly. Daniel our narrator being on the edge comes out better than most, and you can feel enormous sympathy for the French dealer Patrice who falls for Lacey but gets spat out when he comes to the end of his usefulness. Lacey of course is the object of the title with Daniel worshipping her on a pedestal from afar, though her beauty (like much of the art within?) is totally superficial.

Given that I know nothing about American contemporary art really bar Warhol, natch (and he’s dead!), it was really useful to have many of the real artworks mentioned pictured in the text.  This gives the novel a more biographical feel, but was also very useful to see what they were talking about.

But all good things come to an end. The contemporary art world collapses after 9/11 and everything just fizzles out, which made a slightly damp squib of an ending to this otherwise very enjoyable story.

I felt that Martin knows what he’s talking about – I’d hope he’s a collector though! (8/10)

Book chosen from a list supplied by Amazon Vine to review.
To buy this book from click below:
An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin

Reading Resolutions 2010 – How did I do?

Back in January, as always, I made some reading resolutions.  There were just four of them, so how did I do this year?

1. As always, try and reduce the TBR mountains – goes without saying really. That also means acquiring less books – but I’m not going to impose any out and out purchasing restrictions. Instead I shall try to think more about all the good reads waiting that I already have. FAILED

Out of over 100 books read in 2010, a large number, 37 to be exact were published in 2010, and a further 27 were published in 2009 and so hadn’t been in the TBR long if at all – mostly paperbacks of hardbacks released in 2009 I’d wager.  Looking through my list, I could only count around 20 that were definitely acquired further back in time (and that’s counting the Lord of the Rings as three books).  I have plans to address that this year!

2. Read the Canongate Myths series – This was one from 2009 that I failed to achieve at all, but if I make an effort to read one volume a month, it’ll be fun, and I love re-tellings of this kind. PASSED PARTLY

I started well and managed four out of the dozen or so titles in this series so far. I rather got sidetracked onto the Mabinogion later in the year – which are also retellings of myths, so think I can just about say I passed.

3. Again try to read more books published before I was born. (Between you and me that means pre-1960). I’m thinking of finally getting to grips with Wodehouse for starters, and more Thomas Hardy. PASSED

In 2009 I read just five books published pre-1960, so it couldn’t be hard to do better.  In 2010 I read 13 (again counting LOTR as three though).  That is a respectable pass as far as I’m concerned even though I still haven’t got around to Wodehouse or more Hardy!

4. Re-read a few books that I really enjoyed the first time around. Last year I revisited just one book fully and it was an excellent experience, so I should definitely do it again more often. PASSED

I joined in the LOTR readalong and loved it all over again.  Also I re-read Ella Minnow Pea and The Spy Who Came in From the Cold for book group, both books standing up well to being re-read – Spy turning out to be my Book of the Year.  I was planning to take part in DGR’s War & Peace readalong, but didn’t get started in time.  I think that’s about the right level of re-reading given my un-read TBR so that’s a pass.

I’m still musing on updating my resolutions for 2011. I’m not a great one for challenges and the like, so shall keep things simple – but that’s another post …

How did you go against your Reading Resolutions if you made them?

It’s Christmas!



& Best Wishes for 2011

Wherever you’ve ended up, have a good one!

See you back here soon.

Annabel  xxx

Bah Humbug!

I Am Scrooge: A Zombie Story for Christmas by Adam Roberts

Given that Yellow Blue Tibia by Roberts was both the maddest and best SF book I read this year, I had high hopes of this zombie take on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol as a bit of fun this festive season.  Would it live up to the fun I had with Pride & Prejudice & Zombies ? (reviewed here last year).

Whereas P&P&Z keeps Austen’s prose moreorless intact, adding the ‘zombie mayhem’ into the original, I am Scrooge keeps the main characters and then riffs on the story telling of a rather different Christmas night for Scrooge as the ghosts show him how the world will become populated by zombies if he doesn’t change his ways.

Marley was dead, to begin with. Dead for about three minutes, that is: then he got up again. The clergyman, the clerk and the undertaker had all certified him dead: and these were all men experienced in the business of dealing with dead bodies. They were all astonished, then – and more than astonished – to hear his corpse groan, and to see it shake and move. If their surprise did not last long, it was only because it very quickly turned to terror as Marley reached out and sank his fingers into the soft flesh of the clerk’s and the undertaker’s throats, and, using them as leverage, pulled himself forward to bite down hard into the face of the clergyman…

So it begins – and I stopped the quote before it gets truly gory! Marley is the first zombie of many lurching out in search of brains to eat, but Marley wants Scrooge’s in particular.  The story starts promisingly, with touches of corny humour and bucketloads of gore, but goes downhill with the arrival of the second ghost of Christmas future.  This phantom is irritating to the core, talking in modern argot like Ali G – with nah, innit, bruv and amirite all over the place – this was bizarre as the future Scrooge is shown is 1899.  Sadly, this wasn’t funny at all and submerges the plot under its weight.  I did like the twist at the end though …

This one misfired for me, but it won’t stop me reading more of Roberts’ SF though. (6/10) O

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To buy these books from, click below:
I Am Scrooge: A Zombie Story for Christmas
Yellow Blue Tibia: A Novel
A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings (Penguin Classics) by Charles Dickens
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance-now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem! (Quirk Classics) by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

The TBR Dare – are you brave enough to take it?

In a possibly mad moment of bravery, I’ve signed up for the TBR Dare over at Ready When You Are CB.

Deliberately posed as a dare rather than a challenge, participants are asked to commit to reading only from their TBR piles for a certain length of time or a number of books. The dare will finish on April 1, and if you’re interested click through to the sign up page above.

My TBR pile has been so out of control for so long, I don’t know how many books are in it, except that they go into four figures – my own personal library, so I’ve signed up for the full three months (with a pass for book club reads).

Simon S of Savidge Reads has not bought a book all year, and Simon T of Stuck in a book has managed his Project 24, so it’s not impossible to buy less books … will I be able to do it for just three months? As they say – Watch this space!!!

My Books of the Year

Now I’ve read 100 books and it is nearly Christmas, I thought I’d look back on my year of reading and pick out my favourites from a very varied bunch.  To celebrate that depth, I’ve chosen a bunch of categories to separate them into,  so without further ado, here are my top eleven (couldn’t manage just ten), and the links will take you to my post about them …

There are a few more bubbling under, Stone in a Landslide by Maria Barbal in translated, Donovan’s Brain by Curt Siodmak in SF, White Ravens by Owen Shears in Myths, and Direct Red by Gabriel Weston in Non-fic are the runners-up.

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But which of the above is my Book of the Year? Well it’s the one I’ve registered for as a giver on World Book Night and I’m crossing my fingers that I get picked as I’d love to get people to read this book … It’s …

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John Le Carré

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