Much Ado about Magic by Shanna Swendson
Texan Katie Chandler is normal. She has no magical talents, but is immune to magic and can see through illusions. She returns to MSI in New York City to work in marketing. MSI is run by Merlin. Yes, that Merlin. Her boyfriend, Owen Chandler, is a sweet, shy, powerful wizard. A rival accuses Owen, who’s adopted, of having evil wizards as parents, and of causing the havoc in Manhattan that he stops. There’s a lot of humor with flying gargoyles, a clumsy fairy, magical illusions and spells, and her department’s constant partying while Katie’s trying to plan a big event in Central Park. Her roommates know her secret, and try to help when Owen and MSI are in trouble. Not your typical urban fantasy, it’s more of a romantic comedy with fantasy elements. This is book five in the series that begins with Enchanted, Inc. Read more about Katie on the author’s website. Book 6 is now available, and we own the whole series in print, and as e-books on Media on Demand.
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman
I like cookbooks. I select them for the library’s collection, and I also collect them, skim them, look at the photos, flag promising recipes, and bake or cook recipes from each. But I don’t generally read them out loud. Deb Perelman’s entertaining first book, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, was meant to be read out loud. She is young, has a tiny New York City kitchen, a husband, and a toddler. She also loves to cook and entertain, and find new dishes at a restaurant and then experiments (or obsesses) with getting them just right in her kitchen. Her wildly popular blog, smittenkitchen.com, is full of recipes and observations on food and life. In the cookbook, the notes for each recipe are often hilarious, and guaranteed to make you hungry. I’ve already tried a few recipes, and my coworkers at the library agree that Deb’s Brownie Roll-Out Cookies are delicious.
Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin takes another look at happiness, after her 2009 book, The Happiness Project. When her younger daughter starts kindergarten, Gretchen decides to take the next nine months to focus on happiness within the home and family. She describes herself quite frankly: how she’s trying to use her “mean face” less often to her family, how a perfect day is one spent at home, that she doesn’t like to make phone calls, and dreads driving (not so surprising as she lives in New York City). Older daughter Eliza and Gretchen go on Wednesday afternoon adventures together, often to museums. Gretchen collaborates on a children’s book project with her sister, finally deals with the backlog of family photos, and asks her family to knock on her office door so she can greet them more pleasantly.
I like her suggestions to keep clearing clutter, focus on your family’s happiness, be yourself, and how spending fifteen minutes a day on something you’d rather put off can actually make you happier. I enjoyed her explorations of good scents, having a miniature landscape created for the family, and how she practiced under-reacting to problems. She decided to celebrate minor holidays with festive breakfasts, and make the family happier by emailing anecdotes and cute pictures of the girls, including young Eleanor’s first loose tooth. I suggest starting with her first book, The Happiness Project, but I enjoyed another visit with Gretchen and more ideas to make home a happy, peaceful place. Read more at the author’s website.
Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles
will be discussed on Tuesday, Sept. 18 at 10am to open our fall book discussions. Late 1930s New York City comes to life from the point of view of Russian American Katey Kontent, a secretary from Brooklyn who rooms with Midwestern Evelyn Ross. They meet banker Tinker Grey on New Year’s Eve, 1937, at a jazz club, and both roommates are smitten. Katey’s New York City is full of jazz, art, parties, work, love and loss; partly inspired by the stories of the author’s grandmother. The book is framed by Walker Evans’ photos of subway riders and Tinker’s fascination with George Washington’s Rules of Civility, a booklet of moral and social codes. The trio are involved in an accident that injures Eve, and Tinker feels some guilt and takes care of Eve, even taking her on a cruise to Europe. Katey gets a chance to leave her secretarial job and become a publisher’s assistant, and makes some connections among New York City’s upper class. As the year progresses, the friends grow apart, each charting their own path. Reviewers have compared first novelist Amor Towles’ writing to Edith Wharton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Truman Capote, but I think he has his own unique voice. George Washington’s rules are at the end of the book, and you can view the subway photos of Walker Evans here. For more about New York City in the 1930s, visit the author’s website.
An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin
“Great paintings live on because they’re not quite explicable.” says Steve Martin. In “An Object of Beauty” , Steve Martin puts his considerable knowledge of the art world in full display. This novel is part fictional memoir, and part primer on the business of fine art collecting. It takes place in New York City and covers a period from about 1997 through 2008.
The novel is narrated by Daniel Franks, a writer for art world publications but who is really a stand in for Martin. The main character is Lacey Yeager, who is young, ambitious, gorgeous, quick witted and morally suspect. We follow her from art school to an internship at Sotheby’s, to working for a private art dealer to opening her own art gallery. Lacey is a master manipulator of men. She has Daniel Franks in her thrall throughout the book. Lacey sleeps with every man she meets, except Franks. She commits fraud for personal monetary gain, spies on competitors, and makes the big time.
The art market is booming along with the housing bubble in the early 2000s with money coming in from Russia and China. But as they say what goes up must come down as her career slides in the collapse of Wall Street and the subsequent drying up of the big money. As Martin states: “Art as an aesthetic principle was supported by thousands of years of discernment and psychic rewards, but art as a commodity was held up by air. The loss of confidence that affected banks and financial instruments was now affecting art as well.”
As we go through the book the works of art that Martin is talking about are displayed in full color inserts so that we can better appreciate them.
Steve Martin is an American actor, comedian, author, playwright, producer, musician and composer, and an avid art collector. I knew he was funny but had no idea he was such a good writer. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.