2012 REVIEWS: GENERAL #4

I’VE GOT YOUR NUMBER

Author: Sophie Kinsella
Bantam Press RRP $32.95
Review: Monique MulliganI've Got Your NumberSophie Kinsella has a proven knack for delivering pacy, charming and laugh-out-loud reads centreing around a hapless heroine with a tendency to attract trouble. Her latest novel, I’ve Got Your Number, is all of that and then some.

The story starts when a panicked Poppy realises she has lost her family heirloom/engagement ring while at a charity do – her friends are trying it on for size, as you do, and then the fire alarm sounds. In the panic that ensues, the ring is lost…and while Poppy tries to make a call, a thief steals her phone. So she can hardly be be blamed when she spies a discarded phone in a rubbish bin and decides to keep it just in case the ring is found. Finders Keepers, right?

Wrong, according to the phone’s owner, businessman Sam Roxton. He wants his phone back and is not too impressed with the deal Poppy offers – just let her use the phone just for a while until the ring is found. In the meantime, she’ll happily forward on all his messages…after reading them first, but he doesn’t need to know that. Before long Poppy is in over her head, juggling wedding preparations, in-laws, hiding her left hand and helping Sam write nicer messages.

Kinsella has perfected a winning formula for escapist, sweetly silly romance novels – in that sense, there is nothing new with I’ve Got Your Number. Poppy is similar to Becky of the Shopaholic series – a lovable twenty-something who means well but messes up a lot – and Sam bears a strong resemblance to Luke. And Mr Darcy. You know, the strong, silent type. The pragmatic man with a soft centre who drives women crazy with their aloofness, but makes them swoon anyway (eventually). Is this a bad thing? I’m not tired of it yet – I’ve Got Your Number made me laugh out loud, cringe and smile. All good things. Even the cringing.

I did find the footnotes distracting – Poppy uses them because they’re “handy” and look impressive. It did add an original touch to the novel and more than a few giggles, but after a while I blocked them out. Too much of a good thing, perhaps.

There are times when I need a good, escapist read – something that is simply fun. That’s what I’ve Got Your Number was for me – fun. Yes, it was predictable. Yes, it was pretty obvious how it would all turn out. So what? Despite that, I really enjoyed this book – at the time, it was just what I needed. It’s the perfect laughter therapy that borders on slapstick without quite getting there. The only problem was that I finished it too fast.

Available from good bookstores and Random House. This copy was courtesy of Random House.


HOUSE ON WILLOW STREET, THE
Author: Cathy Kelly
Harper Collins RRP $39.95
Review: Monique Mulligan
The House on Willow StreetWhen a bit of light reading is prescribed, Cathy Kelly’s novels generally do the trick and her latest release, The House on Willow Street, was no exception. I picked this one up after reading a number of particularly thought-provoking novels, and what I needed was something to lighten the mood a little. A comfort read, if you will.The storyline follows four women from Irish coastal village, Avalon: just-separated mother-of-two Tess, her older, more flamboyant sister Suki, the enigmatic Danae, and Danae’s free-spirited niece, Mara. While Tess is dealing with her marriage break-up, her true love returns to Avalon after a long absence. Suki also returns, on the run from a cunning biographer who threatens to reveal all about her former husband’s family, and there are some things she can’t afford to be made public. Danae also has her secrets, but when recently dumped-for-a-younger-taller-bustier-model Mara comes to stay, her regular trips away begin to be questioned.

An unknown person said, “Wherever you go there you are”. Each woman in The House on Willow Street has at times – whether physically or emotionally – tried to hide from the past. But what they find is that by hiding, they are still holding on; their past is always with them. Now they have the opportunity to let go. The question is, can they? And at what cost?

The book started slowly and took a few chapters to really engage me; the initial slow pace could distract readers who need an immediate hook. I am glad I persevered – the outcome was an enjoyable, if formulaic, read. Kelly introduces a variety of likeable characters in The House on Willow Street –­ although at times I felt they were lacking in depth, particularly Suki. True, her character was meant to be on the more shallow side, but I felt that all four women needed a little more development. There was a little too much going on to really get into the meat of who they were. The storyline is relatively predictable, except perhaps for Danae’s secret, which was heartbreaking and had the reader willing her to “let go”. I related to her story and Tess’s character the most, and wished I was as confident as Mara when it came to wearing vintage clothes.

I wish the book hadn’t ended as suddenly, because I just felt I was getting to know the characters, but at 400 pages, it had to end sometime. That said, in reality, we only ever know fragments of peoples’ stories; we don’t always know the ending or what happened next. Do we always need to know everything?

If you, like me, need a light-and-easy read, free from the weight of too much thinking,The House on Willow Street is, overall, an enjoyable book and worth taking to the reading chair with a cuppa. Both will leave you with a warm, comforting feeling.

Available from good bookstores, Booktopia and Harper Collins. This copy was courtesy of Harper Collins Australia.


JANE EYRE LAID BARE: THE CLASSIC NOVEL WITH AN EROTIC TWIST
Author: Charlotte Bronte and Eve Sinclair
Pan Macmillan RRP $19.99
Review: Monique Mulligan

Jane Eyre Laid Bare: The Classic Novel with an Erotic TwistWith 50 Shades of Grey (E.L. James) raking it in moneywise, it’s fair enough that other publishing houses want to ride the fan fiction meets erotic bandwagon. Likewise, it’s fair that any move to spice up the classics would also arouse debate, even criticism from readers. I’m in the “leave them alone” camp, but I decided to give Jane Eyre Laid Bare a fair crack of the whip. It took three pages to put me in a state of frenzy. Of indignation, dear Reader, not panting breathlessness. No! I cried silently. That’s not Jane!Author Eve Sinclair begins her retelling with Jane’s flushed-with-excitement arrival at Thornfield Hall. Before long, her senses are “all astir”, but she can’t shake the feeling that a “deeper satisfaction” eludes her. When she meets Mr Rochester (a strange horseman) her imagination is quick to take hold. Before long, she finds herself drawn into a sensual world far beyond her inexperienced imaginings, with Mr Rochester thrust into her spotlight. Gone is the restraint of Charlotte Bronte’s novel. Here are restraints. And more, more, more…

Eve Sinclair, a self-confessed lover of the original Jane Eyre, sought to explore the smouldering chemistry between Jane and Mr Rochester in keeping with the original passionate tone … just spiced up a bit. Actually, a lot. The narrative contains plenty of arching, bucking, buckling, twitching, ragged breathing, submitting, trembling and panting … and that’sbefore the fourth chapter. Once Mr Rochester is on the scene, the gloves are off and the games begin. Charades will never be the same for me. As for horse-riding … that scene left me quivering. With indignation, you understand. There is only so far you can suspend belief. Add in voyeurism, Brazilians (seriously?), threesomes, a dominatrix (guess who) and some interesting sex aids … it’s hard to take this book lying down.

Reader, this novel has left me somewhat worked up. In fact, I’m almost wordless (not with desire) when it comes to reviewing this book because in my mind it’s so hard to separate the original from the fan-fic. I can’t accept Jane as the sex-obsessed, hedonistic character she is made out to be. This retelling is not true to the character of Jane at all – when she speaks of love, she is befuddled by lust. When she looks at Mr Rochester she sees an object – consider this excerpt from the scene where Jane saves Mr Rochester from the fire in his bedroom: “In the burning light, I could see his form beneath the thin sheets, the spread of his loins, the bulge…”. Stop!

Sinclair writes well enough and has delivered a pacy, racy read that might get Jane Eyre virgins a bit hot to trot. Butt. I mean, but, as for me … I’m getting myself all tied up about the ins and outs of this book, so I have three words for the author: less is more.

Available from bookstores and Pan Macmillan. This copy was courtesy of Pan Macmillan.


LOSING YOU
Author: Susan Lewis
Century RRP $32.95
Review: Monique Mulligan

Losing YouAuthor Susan Lewis has delved deep into the power of a mother’s love with Losing You, delivering an emotional story built around two families joined together in tragedy and forced to confront shattering truths and secrets.Lauren Scott is bright, talented and beautiful. At eighteen, she is the most precious gift in the world to her mother, and has a dazzling career ahead of her. Oliver Lomax is a young man full of promise, despite the shadow his own, deeply troubled, mother casts over him. Then one fateful night, Oliver makes a decision that tears their worlds – and their families’ worlds – apart.

The story is told mainly through the eyes of two of the parents – Lauren’s mother Emma and Oliver’s father Russ. Both are dealing with painful relationship issues: Emma’s former husband has remarried and had more children, while Russ’s estranged wife is a self-destructive and manipulative alcoholic. Both want the best for their children, so when tragedy strikes, they are forced to reconsider what really is best. Emma, in particular, is shocked by what she finds out about Lauren’s secret life.

The title hints at loss of some sort and the whole novel deals with aspects of loss, from loss of innocence, trust and relationships to loss of control, dreams and privacy. Of course, the most powerful example that Emma may lose her daughter – and in some ways, she already has. But it is also a novel of hope, for new beginnings in a multitude of forms.

I did find the novel a little slow to get started; it took a few chapters to really hook me in. However, once I was hooked, I was there to the end. At times heartbreaking, at times uplifting, this is a powerful, raw read. Great for a rainy day afternoon.

Available from good bookstores and Random House. This copy was courtesy of Random House Australia.