How to Kill Your Husband (and Other Handy Household Hints) by Kathy Lette Monday, Feb 20 2012 

Title: How To Kill Your Husband (and Other Handy Household Hints)
Author: Kathy Lette
ISBN: 0743248066
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
First Published: 2006
No. of pages: 326

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:
All women want to kill their husbands some of the time: “Where there’s a will, I intend to be in it,” wives half-joke to each other. Marriage, it would appear, is a fun-packed frivolous hobby, only occasionally resulting in death. But when Jazz Jardine is arrested for her husband’s murder, the joke falls flat. Life should begin at 40 – not with life imprisonment for killing your spouse. Jazz, stay-at-home mum and domestic goddess; Hannah, childless career woman; and Cassie, demented working mother of two are three ordinary women. Their record collections are classical, not criminal. Cassie and Hannah set out immediately to prove their best friend’s innocence, uncovering betrayal, adultery, plot twists, thinner thighs and toy boys aplenty en route but will their friendship survive these ever darker revelations? Sexy, funny and wise, Kathy Lette’s irresistible new novel is about women not Having It All But Doing It All. It’s about how today’s mother is often a married lone parent. It’s about the fact that no woman has ever shot her husband while he was vacuuming.

Review:
While reading this book I was subject to odd looks from my colleagues as they watched me laughing to myself in the corner of the cafeteria. I had to explain to several very worried-looking colleagues that no, it’s not a DIY manual and I am not planning the gruesome murder of my beloved spouse; it is merely an incredibly funny novel which really appealed to my wicked sense of humour and I just happen to have a laugh so evil it’s developed a sinister personality of its own.

The chapter titles alone are enough to set me off on a giggle-fest:

Ch 5 If He Wants Breakfast in Bed, Tell Him to Sleep in the Kitchen
Ch 10 The Reason I Don’t Tell You When I’m Having an Orgasm Is Because You’re Never There
Ch 19 I’m Having My Period So Can Therefore Legally Kill You
Ch 25 Where There’s a Will, I Wanna Be In It

Sincerely though, I highly recommend for all you lovely ladies to pick up a copy of this hysterical look at marriage gone awry… and then delight in terrorising the man in your life by grinning like a maniac while reading it in his presence.

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver Monday, Feb 20 2012 

Title: We Need To Talk About Kevin
Author: Lionel Shriver
ISBN: 1852428899
Publisher: Serpent’s Tail
First Published: 2003
No. of pages: 400

Rating: 1/5

Synopsis:
Two years ago, Eva Khatchadourian’s son, Kevin, murdered seven of his fellow high-school students, a cafeteria worker, and a popular algebra teacher. Because he was only fifteen at the time of the killings, he received a lenient sentence and is now in a prison for young offenders in upstate New York. Telling the story of Kevin’s upbringing, Eva addresses herself to her estranged husband through a series of letters. Fearing that her own shortcomings may have shaped what her son has become, she confesses to a deep, long-standing ambivalence about both motherhood in general and Kevin in particular. How much is her fault? Lionel Shriver tells a compelling, absorbing, and resonant story while framing these horrifying tableaux of teenage carnage as metaphors for the larger tragedy – the tragedy of a country where everything works, nobody starves, and anything can be bought but a sense of purpose.

Review:
If you’re planning on reading this book at all, please don’t read any further, as it really will spoil it for you – I’ll be talking about major plot revelations.

(more…)

Emma by Jane Austen Monday, Feb 20 2012 

Title: Emma
Author: Jane Austen
ISBN: 0755331486
Publisher: Headline
First Published: 1815
No. of pages: 484

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis:
Often said to be Jane Austen’s most perfect novel: Beautiful, clever and rich, Emma Woodhouse thinks she knows best. She only wants to help others arrange things as she thinks they should be done, and convinced she’s just not destined to find true love herself, she believes that she must instead devote herself to playing Cupid for others. But absolutely nothing goes to plan – and in the process, Emma has a lot of learning to do: about others, but most of all about herself…

Review:
Only 3 chapters in, I wondered if I was being coerced into seeing Emma as she is seen by Mr. Knightley, as he appears to feel she is a thoroughly spoiled creature who is completely enamoured of her own cleverness – exactly as I did. One could almost believe that the story is actually being narrated by Mr. Knightley and that he is including himself as a character in the third person.

As much as I could appreciate it, I can’t say I’m actively enjoyed this novel. I found too many of the characters thoroughly annoying in a million little ways and just couldn’t see the attraction towards any of them as people. I know for a fact that if I were stuck with Highbury Society as shown here, I’d shun the lot of them. Except, perhaps, Mr. Knightly, as I found I agreed with him and felt he was not in it nearly enough for my liking.

I did, however, persevere to the end, as I was determined to finish it. I’m eventually got to grips a little more with the excessively formal style, but found it felt stilted in the reading and, as a result, it felt like it took forever to plough through.

I think that the main part of the problem was that I found the lives of those in this particular area of Regency Society very trivial, and the heroine vacuous and pointless. I’m more used to something a bit meatier in my historical choices, such as the Elizabethan or Tudor courts, or Roman legions in Britain, whereas all those polite exchanges and constant gossiping wore on my nerves more than a little.*

Unfortunately, Emma has not tempted me to read any more of Austen’s novels, which is a shame, because I had intended to, but I don’t think I could stand to wade through them now.**

* I’m aware that this doesn’t actually qualify as historical fiction, as it was written as a contemporary novel, but it feels like historical fiction to me, if rather more bland than my usual tastes.

** Since writing this review in 2006, I have gone on to read and enjoy other Austen novels and now appreciate them far more. However, I still feel the same about Emma. It remains my least favourite of her novels.

Broken (Women of the Otherworld 6) by Kelley Armstrong Monday, Feb 20 2012 

Title: Broken (Women of the Otherworld 6)
Author: Kelley Armstrong
ISBN: 1841493422
Publisher: Orbit
First Published: 2006
No. of pages: 444 pages

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:
Book 6 in Kelley Armstrong’s supernatural series marks the return of werewolf Elena Michaels from Bitten and Stolen. When half-demon Xavier calls in the favour Elena owes him, it seems easy enough – steal Jack the Ripper’s ‘From Hell’ letter away from a Toronto collector who had himself stolen it from the Ripper evidence boxes in the Metropolitan Police files. But nothing in the supernatural world is ever as simple as it seems. Elena accidentally triggers a spell placed on the letter, and manages to tear an opening that leads into the nether regions of Victorian London. Toronto may be looking for a tourism boost, but ‘Gateway to Hell’ isn’t quite the new slogan the city had in mind…

Review:
This was a very welcome return to the lycanthropic inhabitants of Stonehaven (they have been relegated more to the background over the last three installments in the series) and although I didn’t feel this quite lived up to Bitten and Stolen, it came pretty close! There were times that I felt Elena was perhaps being a little reckless for someone who is pregnant and very vocal on the subject of being careful whilst carrying her child and this detracted a little from the reality that Armstrong has carefully constructed as a home to her characters.

The supernatural aspect of the Ripper legend was a nice twist on an old and well-loved theme, and there was the element of sleuthing as well as the usual thrills, chills and spills you’d expect from the Women of the Otherworld series.

All in all, Broken is an excellent addition to the WotOW catalogue and I very much look forward to seeing how Armstrong further develops her characters in future novels.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov Monday, Feb 20 2012 

Title: Lolita
Author: Vladimir Nabokov
ISBN: 0140 264078
Publisher: Penguin
First Published: 1955
No. of pages: 315

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:
Humbert Humbert is a middle-aged, fastidious college professor. He also likes little girls. And none more so than Lolita, who he’ll do anything to possess. Is he in love or insane? A silver-tongued poet or a pervert? A tortured soul or a monster? Or is he all of these?

Review:
“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth, Lo. Lee.Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly in school. She was Dolores on the dottedline. But in my arms she was always Lolita.”

So begins one of the most controversial novels of modern times, charting the unconventional relationship between the older man, Humbert Humbert, and a girl of twelve. It’s a tale told from the point of view of Humbert (a character so good they named him twice!) and is surprisingly persuasive in garnering sympathy for a man who is, essentially, a pedophile. The torment he suffers through his obsession with Lolita and the length to which he will go to possess her are beautifully told – at times poignantly poetic – in a style that illustrates the author’s love of a language which isn’t his mother tongue (I could almost cry at how beautifully he writes!).

This is truly a modern classic and the subject, though fraught with danger, is tactfully engaged so that the reader is forced to re-evaluate conventional thinking in terms of relationships between adults and children who are often less innocent than one might believe. It’s a tale of epic proportions, a telling commentary on life, love and obsession, and an amoral love letter to every nymphette who ever lived.

Bad Kitty (Bad Kitty 1) by Michele Jaffe Monday, Feb 20 2012 

Title: Bad Kitty
Author: Michele Jaffe
ISBN: 0141319763
Publisher: Puffin
First Published: 2006
No. of pages: 302

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:
Jas thinks that everyone has a super power: Everyone, that is, except herself – unless you count her extraordinary ability to get herself in trouble. But the last thing Jas expected to do on her family holiday in glitzy Las Vegas was to survive a cat attack and solve a celebrity murder mystery. As she finds herself tracking an unknown killer through a bevy of Vegas parties, Jas develops a huge crush on the possibly evil – but gorgeous – Jack, and manages to collect some valuable life lessons for her “Summer Meaningful Reflection Journal” along the way. Little Life Lesson Number 5: when you go to prison, try not to be wearing a bikini. But despite a few ‘mishaps’, Jas finally solves the case. And to top it all off, Jack isn’t evil, and has a bit of a crush on Jas too. Perhaps she does have some super powers after all…

Review:
If you’re looking for fun, fashion and super-sleuthing, then look no further than Michele Jaffe’s heroine, Jas Calihan! Jas attracts trouble like moths to a flame, so when she tries to enjoy a family holiday in Las Vegas, it’s no surprise to her friends that she ends up embroiled in a mysterious plot involving kidnapping, murder and incredibly good-looking guy who’s totally Visa (read the book – you’ll know what I mean!).

This is the first in what promises to be a witty and hilarious series – it have me giggling from the get-go and guessing till the last minute. It’s jam-packed with action, adventure and the occasional haiku, yet still manages to keep things real. Not to be missed!

Incidentally, my own superpowers are speed-reading and an ability to run down flights of stairs whilst carrying full mugs of hot coffee – without spilling a drop!

The Rainbow Bridge (The Louise Trilogy 1) by Aubrey Flegg Monday, Feb 20 2012 

Title: The Rainbow Bridge
Author:
Aubrey Flegg
ISBN: 0862789176
Publisher: O’Brien Press
First Published: 2004
No. of pages: 269

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis:
Over a century has elapsed since Louise sat for her portrait. The painting has passed from person to person, unsigned and unvalued. Then, in 1792, as Revolution sweeps through France, Gaston Morteau, a lieutenant in the Hussars, rescues the canvas from a canal in Holland. Louise becomes a very real presence in Gaston’s life, sharing his experiences — the trauma of war, his meeting with Napoleon. When events force Gaston to give up the painting to the sinister Count du Bois, Louise becomes embroiled in a tale of political intrigue and Gothic horror. In the ashes of the Delft explosion, Louise made a choice for life. Now she has to face the realities of love, loss and pain that this life brings.

Review:
Set during the French Revolution, the second in The Louise Trilogy is packed with the excitement, danger and trauma of war as well as taking a look at the people left at home, away from the battlefield. Despite being the second in a trilogy, The Rainbow Bridge can easily be read and enjoyed without having previously read its prequel, with no loss of enjoyment or understanding of the plot.

Even when dealing with the universal themes of love, loss, pain and hardship, this is surprisingly upbeat and hopeful, never becoming maudlin or trite, and instead is an engaging tale of changing relationships and survival during a time of great upheaval that would change France forever.