Tag Archives: review


21 Sep

Fame by Tilly Bagshawe, 2011

The captivating FameI don’t know what to say about Tilly Bagshawe’s Fame. There’s just so much wrong with it – the writing, the plot, the cover, the blurb. But it’s a trashy beach read, so what did I expect? Wuthering Heights?*

It’s all very Jackie Collins-esque. Set around the filming and promotion of a Massive Hollywood Movie, the book is populated with several apparently jaw-droppingly gorgeous film stars, powerful directors, bitter wives, and a quiet but determined girl who doesn’t know how beautiful and wonderful she truly is. There are sex scenes in which women orgasm at a single touch, and, conversely, romantic scenes in which couples get engaged before even making it to first base.

There’s also writing like this:

“All you need to be fighting for is your strength,” said Dorian soberly, marvelling for the thousandth time at Sabrina’s limitless ambition. Even with a broken heart, and having just emerged from a coma, she was thinking about her next career move.

See? A coma! And a plucky comeback from a coma! That’s the mark of a quality read if ever there was one.

By the way, the blurb doesn’t seem to be about this book – I don’t think whoever wrote it has actually read Fame. It mentions three – yes, THREE! – events that aren’t in the book. Come ON Tilly Bagshawe! Did you really sign off on this? You, who wrote the following sexy, sexy passage?

Her hair spread out across the bedspread like an arc of peacock feathers, and her breasts rose and fell beneath the delicate lace of her bra like two ripe peaches quivering on a tree.

(Ah yes, the peacock-feathered quivering peach tree. I know it well.)

Also, the woman on the front cover doesn’t resemble anyone in the book.

But Fame is what it is. Yeah, it’s trashy, but I admit I was compelled to make it to the end so I could find out what the hell happened to the characters (and yes, it was just as odd as I’d hoped).

So… well played, Tilly, well played.

*This is an in-joke, as the movie they’re filming is actually an adaptation of Wuthering Heights. The 0% of my readership who have read Fame would know that.

This was another installment in my MS Novel Challenge series. Sponsor me?



13 Sep

Damned by Chuck Palahniuk, 2011

Chuck Palahniuk Damned What’s hell to you? Is it an author who uses a handful of literary devices over and over again until you want to throw his damn book across the room? A book that’s probably trying to go somewhere, but you’re not sure, and you’re confused about the point it’s trying to make for a reeeeally long time? Okay, these aren’t hellish exactly, but goshdarnit if they aren’t really annoying by the end of a novel.

Anyway, those points aside, Chuck Palahniuk offers a pretty good idea of hell. It’s all grimy and gross, and the landscape is dotted with features such as the Great Ocean of Wasted Sperm, Mountain of Toenail Clippings and Swamp of Partial-birth Abortions. Demons roam, torturing then devouring the souls they encounter (naturally, the torn-apart bodies reassemble themselves, the damned unable to ever escape their fate).

Oh, and those annoying market research calls you get at dinnertime? They’re made by people in hell who are just doing their job.

I’m a fan of the Chuckmeister – I like his voice and the way he seemingly always sets out to jar people out of their everyday existences. And I did enjoy this book. The narrator, Madison, is quite likable: she’s a recently deceased 13-year-old girl, the daughter of a billionaire and a movie star, who was on that weird border of being interested in boys but not really knowing what to do with them anyway. She tells the story of her life – and, eventually, her death – with a charming mix of innocence and precociousness.

But sometimes there was just too much imaginative detail about hell thrown in, making me wonder if the story was actually going anywhere. Some parts just seemed to drag: a lengthy chunk was devoted to a single encounter with a giant demon (and the description of one of Madison’s friends giving said giant demon oral pleasure). It wasn’t even a very exciting encounter (in spite of the giant oral sex action). It was lucky I was really hungover so I was physically unable to do anything other than read on the day I picked this up, or I may have put it aside for a while.

Anyway, drifting plotlines aside, was there an eventual payoff? Yes. Was it worth it? Well… yeah, actually, it was. The Chuckster does love a bit of a twist, and the one finally offered in Damned was pretty sweet. And in the end, I was wondering if all that meandering had been on purpose after all. That crafty bastard.

This was the third book in my MS Novel Challenge. Sponsor me?

Dedication: the cover (and its four thrilling sequels)

8 Sep

Why does one book need five versions of the cover? Okay, once it hit New York Times bestseller status (WTF?) it could have used an update telling everyone how great (?) it was. But what’s the explanation for the others?

For the record, the copy I reviewed features the half-girl looking up while posing on an overstuffed suitcase.

Why so many covers, Dedication?

Sooo… which do you prefer?


8 Sep

Dedication by Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin, 2007

NB: This is the first post on this book – you can also read a note on its cover(s).Alternative text for alternative covers

You know the story. Girl meets Boy in early high school. Boy stuffs Girl around. Eventually Boy and Girl fall in love. Boy stands her up on prom night, leaves town and becomes international recording star. Girl spends next 10 years trying to get over him, not helped by the fact that Boy’s omnipresent songs are all about her, their sexual exploits, and her family secrets. Boy returns to hometown, Girl decides to resolve things with him. Things happen.

I went into Dedication with high hopes. I’ve often wondered what it would feel like to have dated A Famous Person before they hit the big time (specifically Brad Pitt. No reason, of course!), and this seemed like the book that was going to explain it all.

Then the structure intervened. The first chapter was set in the present; the second was set in the sixth grade, when aforementioned girl first lays eyes on the Future Megastar. The next chapter was again in the present; the fourth was in Year Seven. This alternating timeline continues throughout high school and into the uni years. But it wasn’t the structure itself that got on my nerves – it was the dialogue and scenarios created in those early high school years. Let alone the fact that these rural kids have a case of Dawson’s Creek-itis (what 12-year-old has a perfect comeback for every snide remark?), the main character actually stands on a table, in the middle of class, to declare that she likes the boy. She is then, apparently, allowed to live this down. What world do these people live in? Why was that event not made into a huge thing? Realism, where are you?!

Anyhoo, I was originally dreading every second chapter and its crappily crafted stories, but as the characters got older they grew into their sass and became much more believable. And then – gasp! – I actually started to enjoy the damn thing. There were some great passages – especially the descriptions of early love and lust, which just made me want to be a teenager in love. A teenager in love with a tortured boy. Who can sing beautiful songs he’s written just for me. Also, he has a really great body. Sigh.

It’s not all about the twists and turns of this relationship, by the way – there’s some family drama packed in there, and questions are posed about friendship, loyalty and growing up. Some of the subplots are a bit blah, but the big one just keeps pulling you back in. WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE COUPLE? I can’t tell you, obviously. Unless you really want to know – then you can contact me and I’ll tell you privately. I just don’t want to put it out there and ruin it for everyone because I know EVERYONE ELSE wants to read this now 😉

So what IS it like to go out with someone who became famous after you knew them? You’ll have to read it to find out. Yes, you may be gritting your teeth to just get through those early high school years… but isn’t that a lot like real life anyway?

BTW: This was the second book in my MS Novel Challenge.


5 Sep

Bossypants by Tina Fey, 2011

Her pants are full of bossy.The Novel Challenge has begun*! Well, I started it on the first of September, but haven’t had time to write about it since then. On the upside, I’ve already finished a book: Tina Fey’s Bossypants. I know it’s probably still too early to call, but this may be my favourite book of the challenge. Yep, it’s all downhill from here, folks.

Ms Fey’s book-writin’ is as hilarious as her TV-writin’. I started out bookmarking pages I found especially amusing or clever, but soon realised it was a fool’s errand. Bookmarking every page doesn’t work.

Naturally, there are a lot of stories about Tina’s career, including the creation –and ongoing filming – of 30 Rock. Background stories! Behind-the-scenes hilarity! Poor ratings dramas! Or, as the book says:

We were trying to make Home Improvement and we did it wrong. You know those scientists who were developing a blood pressure medicine and they accidentally invented Viagra? We were trying to make Viagra and we ended up with blood pressure medicine.

But it’s not all about the comedy biz; Bossypants gives a pretty good view into Tina’s life, from growing up in a somewhat idyllic environment to her college years. There’s stuff about her unrequited crushes (“What 19-year-old Virginia boy doesn’t want a wide-hipped, sarcastic Greek girl with short hair that’s permed on top? What’s that you say? None of them want that? You are correct”), but she doesn’t go into much detail about her later life with her husband – in fact, the first time he’s even mentioned is in a chapter about their honeymoon. Oh well, I guess she’s gotta leave something for the second book (kidding! But not really!).

Then, after all that, comes a section that generally deals more with motherhood and the Eternal Struggle of the Working Mum. As a kind of response to the “How to create ‘me-time’ when you’re a mum” articles in parenting magazines, Tina writes:

Go to the bathroom a lot. Offer to empty the dishwasher. Say you’re going to look for the diaper cream, then go into your child’s room and just stand there until your spouse comes in and curtly says, “What are you doing?”

I’m TOTALLY saving that advice.

Lastly, there are some genuinely lovely moments mixed in with her laugh-aloud anecdotes and cleverly worded observations on life as a woman and TV/movie star. One part actually made me cry – not tears of laughter, but tears of “Awww, so sweet!”. What were these wise words? A comical yet oh-so-touching description of cleaning poo off her daughter’s neck. Aww indeed.

And now I’ll leave you with that image of a faeces-smeared neck as I move onto book two of my challenge. Enjoy.

Read it if you like to laugh, or are female, or know a female.

*But it’s not too late to sponsor me, if you haven’t already – do it now!

Stuff (that) Mel gives me

18 Jul

How does one feel when one’s friend starts a blog populated solely by items one has emailed to that friend in the past? Flattered, sure. And a bit weird, to be honest. And thirsty, definitely thirsty. Where's the blog of the stuff I've emailed YOU, huh?

My friend Shaun (of the now possibly defunct Popcorn and Wine blog, and the definitely defunct blog I could have sworn was called Random Ramblings, but I can’t find any remnants of it anywhere so maybe not) has started a blog called ‘Stuff that Mel gives me’*. Over the years I’ve apparently emailed him hundreds of links to videos, images, articles and whatever else can be found on the internet. I thought he would have been giving them a perfunctory glance before sending them to the trash, but it seems he’s been saving these emails and links, and is now showcasing some of them on the blog.

I love the idea. Like everyone else, I send links to my friends with the hope that they laugh or cry or are enlightened by the content. But it’s also a bit nerve wracking – after all, every time I send a random link to someone I have a mini moment of “What if they hate it and they lose whatever respect they had for me?” Now, with this blog, EVERYONE IN THE WORLD CAN LOSE THEIR RESPECT FOR ME. Exciting times, people, exciting times.

Of course, it also totally appeals to the narcissist in me – I naturally have impeccable taste and want everyone to see the wonders I’ve curated from the world wide web (albeit filtered through what I thought Shaun would like, then what he chooses to post on the blog).

You should totally bookmark the site, sign up to email updates or add it to your RSS feed right now… after all, with Shaun’s record, it seems this blog may not last long.

*The blog itself is titled ‘Stuff that Mel gives me’, but the address reads ‘Stuff Mel gives me’. The inconsistency is troubling in itself, but it’s also not factually correct – it would be much better if it was ‘Stuff Mel has sent me links to’ or ‘Stuff Mel has directed me to on the internet’. Catchy, no? Anyway, Shaun is aware of this, and I’m sure his next blog will be named in a more correct manner. We can all relax.

A Young Girl’s Diary

2 Jun

A Young Girl’s Diary by AnonymousA Young Girl's Diary, DailyLit

(This post references the DailyLit site I’ve reviewed in the past. To understand what I’m talking about, you might want to read that entry before continuing with this one.)

I knew almost nothing about A Young Girl’s Diary, by Anonymous, when I started reading it on DailyLit. I knew it was about a young girl as she grew into her early teens, and that it was written in diary format (yes, I am quite the detective). But I liked the idea of it because a) I like books written from a young adult perspective, and b) it was short (99 instalments of average length, compared to the 423 of Anna Karenina, for example).

But by the end, those 99 instalments just weren’t enough – which is funny, because for most of the story, nothing massively huge happens.  It really is just a girl’s diary as she grows into her teens – she’s going to school, realising boys might not be so bad after all, avoiding her condescending older sister, and sharing her secrets with her BFF.

One point of difference between A Young Girl’s Diary and similar novels: it’s set in Germany in the early 1900s. This means there are maids, noble families, evidently socially acceptable public crushes on female teachers, and passages like this:

 I’ve taken to wearing snails*. Father calls them “cow pats”; but everyone else says they’re exceedingly becoming.
*Flat rolls of hair-plait covering the ears – Translator’s note.

So, you know, it’s educational! Cow pats!

But there are also sections that remind you how good writing is timeless. Sitting on top of a hill, the narrator notes:

When I see so extensive a view it always makes me feel sad. Because there are so many people one does not know who are perhaps very nice.

I’ve felt like that. It was perfect.

However, the time and culture in which the novel was written does raise its head. A lot of the diary – especially later on, as the writer gets further into her teens – focuses on boys and even (gasp!) sexual matters. When talking about these things, the author uses so many vagaries that I was left wondering if she was even writing about what I thought she was writing about.

Dora says she took a dislike to S. from the first because he — — — –. It’s an absolute lie! — — — has clammy hands. It’s simply not true, on the contrary he has such entrancingly cool hands.

What the hell… clammy hands?  Was this scandalous at the time? Sexy? How confusing… yet intriguing. Men, do YOU have clammy hands? Is this a sign of sexual deviousness? Let me know.

But overall, hand moisture mysteries aside, this was a fascinating read. Family tragedy intertwines with the whole coming-of-age thing, but the author doesn’t dwell on the sad times. It’s just a girl growing up, and these are the things that happen to her, wonderfully noticed.

* Word on the street is that the author was actually a psychoanalyst who specialised in child psych matters, not an actual teenage girl. It doesn’t really matter.

Read it when you want to find out how it felt to live as a somewhat-pampered German girl in the early 1900s, annoying siblings, frenemies, crushes on older boys and all.