Saturday, December 30, 2006

How to Kill your Husband (and other handy household hints)

“All women want to kill their husbands some of the time” says the blurb on Kathy Lette’s How to Kill your Husband. You might be forgiven to expect a bitter tale of matrimonial misery, but the book is pure chick lit for the thirty- and forty-something crowd, with a lot of laughter thrown in to counterbalance the deadly accurate reflections of nuptial life. In fact, it probably contains too many one-liners for my liking. Normally I adore one-liners, but when I encounter three on every page, I tend to feel somewhat distracted from the actual plot.

Not a deep or memorable book by any means, it is nevertheless a good book to throw at your husband (be it figuratively or otherwise) when the going gets tough.

Some of my favourite quotes:
“A woman needs a man to desire her. At least half as much as he desires victory for his country in the cricket.”
On being told by your best friend’s husband that you (as opposed to her) must be very creative in bed: “Oh yes, I am. I do origami, macramé and needlework.”
Husband’s excuse for not helping with the kids on a particularly busy and late morning: “I knew I’d just get under your feet. You’re so brilliant at multitasking!” (Sadly, that’s not the husband who gets killed....)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Warning: too little stress leads to reading

I don’t know whether I’m less stressed this week because I’m reading again, or whether I’m reading again because I have more time to myself because there are no stressful fires to kill... but anyway, I’m reading.

The first book in the marathon was Nicci French’s “Catch me when I fall”. Normally, I adore the work of this married duo of authors hiding under the pseudonym of Nicci French, because their work is both very female (emotions, great characterisation) and male (fast pacing, logical intricate plots with twists).

Now, before you all flame me for the sexist remark, and point out all the great male writers who use emotions and all the great female writers who do logic, let me tell you why I’m not too crazy about “Catch me when I fall”: it failed to have strong female as well as strong male attributes. It was difficult to get into the heroine’s head (admittedly, it may have been done on purpose to illustrate the enigma of somebody suffering from a bi-polar disorder), not much was emotionally at stake, the plot didn’t hold many surprises nor was it particularly menacing. The premise seemed to have lost the plot, and what could have been a gripping thriller about how a drunken one night stand with a mentally unhinged person could affect a happy marriage (I believe when Glenn Close cooked the bunny, she did not say everything there is to say on the topic), the book turned into a case study of a person suffering from a bi-polar disorder. Even the lost house key, like the proverbial gun hanging on the wall, failed to discharge by the end of the book. While the book was hard to put down thanks to the excellent writing, it was overall disappointing given the author(s).

The second book was Kathy Lette’s “How to kill your husband” (almost too hilarious), and the third “Between, Georgia” by the author of “gods in Alabama”. Watch this space.

Oh, a quick plug here: my "Murder @ A Little Bead Shop" is now availalbe from Echelon Press. Have a look on http://yewalus.kiwiwebhost.net.nz/.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Family Baggage

What do you have in your pocketses? What’s your personal Family Baggage? Mine is so varied and colourful, it would easily take a 500-page novel to examine.

Which is why I was a bit disappointed by Monica McInerney’s book by that title. “Family Baggage” implies a suitcase of morsel-size secrets packed neatly in tissue paper as padding for one huge fragile skeleton. What you get is an Australian family saga with a small secret blown totally out of proportion.

Fortunately, you also get a set of lively characters, each of whom you’d be lucky to call a friend. You get a warm fuzzy feeling and cool dialogue. You get a free tour of Cornwall (which is now on my “new places to visit” list just below Japan). All in all, a good comfort read.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

gods in Alabama

There, on page 16 of the hardback version, is the quote that made me decide to buy this book:

“It can’t be that you’re smart, or handsome, or interesting, or successful, because you can’t be any of those things when you’re in Possett, Alabama. You will be much too busy being black. When you’re with my family, being black is such a big job, it takes up your entire definition. You don’t get to be anything else.”

gods in Alabamawritten by Joshilyn Jackson and published by Warner Books, is a beautiful book. Cleverly crafted with realistic characters and plot twists in every chapter, it is written with humour and an effortless style. It’s a murder mystery, of sorts, but it’s much more than that. It’s a subtle social commentary on “Steel Magnolias”, and it’s much better done than the original. The book will make you laugh and cry and think twice about ever having racial prejudices.

What more can I cay? I wish I’d written it. I actually dropped the book I was reading (“Everything is illuminated” by Jonathan Safran Foer, which received great reviews, but is actually a schlep to read) for this one. And I never looked back.

Plot hook into “gods in Alabama”: Before leaving Possett, Alabama, Lena made three promises to God: she will not tell another lie, she will stop fornicating and she will never return home if only the body is never found....