Aphrodite is…snuggling up on colder days with some good reads

Like my top three recent releases (below). One fills in the puzzles where some very old friends are concerned, one is a lesson in history (and female power), and the third is all about best medicine from someone who’s been bringing laughs to millions of people throughout the world. Don’t prefer to snuggle? Take one to the park instead and soak up some sunshine while tuning out. Perfect weekend material.

1. Summer and the City, by Candace Bushnell ($24.99, Harper Collins): In this sequel to The Carrie Diaries, we find out how Carrie was transformed from a small-town girl into a girl about New York, and more importantly, how she met Samantha and Miranda. It’s a coming-of-age where one of our favourite characters is concerned, and brings with it some interesting relevations – like Samantha’s nickname for Carrie (country ‘sparrow’).

2. The Maid, by Kimberly Cutter ($29.99, Bloomsbury): If the Catholic girl is happy with a book written about an iconic Catholic girl turned warrior turned Saint, then we know it’s pretty true to life. Like all cynical people, I kept waiting for the defamation of Joan of Arc to come, but was pleasantly surprised that author (and widely published freelance writer) Kimberly Cutter stuck to what history tells us is the original tale of the teenage girl who heeded the voices of the saints (these days we would have just handed her some Xanax) to crown the dauphin of France, and free her country from war (and inevitable defeat). Unfortunately many of those who supported her, and whom she saved, like the Dauphin himself, turned against her, and she was treated very harshly by the Church she loved and served and ultimately executed. Kimberly Cutter’s first book is a phenomenal look at the life of a female warrior who stood her ground and lost her life for it. Love the way she keeps her real with glimpses into her normal teenage mind – relationships, insecurities, dreams.

3. Bossypants, by Tina Fey ($32.99, Sphere): If you don’t know Tina Fey then you’re a moron. If you do, and like zillions of other people reckon she is an Aphrodite of humour, then you’ll want to check out the biography that tells us how it all began, complete with pictures, written family portraits and the kind of sarcasm and self-deprecation that we all love best. One for nerds, girls, and wannabe bossy-ladies everywhere. And people who like to laugh out loud on peak-hour trains.

Kerri Sackville: When my husband does the dishes

Aphrodite is…knowing that you’re not the only dysfunctional family on the block.

I’ve only been married for five months. Now is the time for blissful mornings under the doona, being spoilt on my birthday and numerous I love yous sent via Twitter, Facebook or sms throughout the day. Except it’s not. In our house, it is the time for screeching argument matches about the grocery shopping or my inability to cook anything other than shoddy stir-fry, for birthday wishes that are muffled and inaudible because they’re made while he’s still in bed and I am getting ready for work, and criticisms about everything from my lack of devotion to my appearance (it’s not exactly Aphrodite) and his lack of devotion to anything other than his job and his video games. Still, we’re happy to talk about bringing numerous little people into the dysfunctional home, once we’ve settled down and made our lives more, erm, accomodating to teeny human lives.

Clearly, there’s no such thing about ‘settling’ into such things. It’s more about accepting them, if Kerri Sackville’s memoir When My Husband Does the Dishes ($32.95, Random House) is anything to go by. I know this because I have had it by my bedside for a week or so now, and my glimpses into someone else’s living room, bedroom and kitchen have allowed me to breathe a sigh of relief that I am not the only one who has not got home life down pat (or any other aspect of life for that matter). Not only am I breathing for a change, but I am laughing instead of worrying, and it’s all thanks to Sackville’s ability to take those crisis-worthy, or bitch-session-worthy moments and turn them into hilarious sentences that make you want to say, sorry M Stew (Martha Stewart) but, no, I will never be like you. And maybe, nor do I want to be. Because even though I cry and sook and bemoan my existence, sometimes it’s actually an immense source of fun.

Sometimes, it’s nice to go beyond the bullshit that perpetuates status anxiety. Not everyone’s life is perfect and not every woman is a stepford mum (who has time for a career, no less) with a doting husband by her side and clean child geniuses to call her offspring.

If you want to laugh at the situations that stem out of the banalities of human life, or if you want to feel better about your insecurities, then this memoir is for you. Sackville, a freelance writer, Mama Mia contributor and short-listed Australasian Blogger of the Year for 2010, has done a marvellous job weaving together observations and reflections about weight loss and body image, sex, motherhood, marriage, friendship and grief in a highly relatable manner.

A must read for all women, mothers or not, it’s partly about guiding you through life, and partly about sharing experience, mistakes and frustrations in a highly personal way that’s not over-the-top and actually believable. Think of it as your new bestie, therapist and diary in one, and you’ll love it the way I did.

Aphrodite Factor: 4 hearts.

Sweet Valley Confidential: The Aphrodite in catching up with old friends, and new gossip

Sweet Valley. Two words depicting a destination in Southern California where we all played as kids, where we did assignments at friends’ houses after school while discussing prom dresses and boyfriend dramas, where we went to College at SVU and learnt that there are some things that we can’t escape. Like the love of a series that made us think we did all those things, even though in reality we didn’t. All because we lived vicariously through two blonde, blue-eyed California girls named Elizabeth and Jessica.

And now they’re back. And Aphrodite Chasers everywhere are rushing to catch up on their latest gossip. But this time, things are very different in Sweet Valley, so much so that one of our favourite sisters doesn’t live there anymore – after an epic fall out with Jessica, Elizabeth’s moved away and gone to pursue her journalistic aspirations as far away from Sweet Valley as possible. In New York, no less. And Jessica has no hope of forgiveness, let alone a response to an answering machine message.

This is where Francince Pascal’s Sweet Valley Confidential picks up – 10 years after we last heard from the girls. Admittedly, the excitement surrounding the launch of the book, in my opinion, far outstripped the actual quality of the storyline. Much as I loved catching up with old buds, an Aphrodite that is pretty much incomparable with anything, I couldn’t help but think I would have loved the book a hell of a lot more had I felt the author did not go to so many lengths to change characters, their relationships, and such. It was almost as though she was going for the OMG factor in more than just the main plot, which was a bit frustrating to read, but admittedly, it is still something worth reading for that sense of closure where some our fave characters are concerned.

The blurb tells us that the tables have turned in Sweet Valley, that it is Jessica who’s longing for forgiveness and Elizabeth who is seeking revenge, and it couldn’t be truer, albeit Elizabeth’s quest for revenge falls short as the good twin has always lacked the passion behind the evil that her sister possessed. But either way, most of the characters that we loved growing up make an appearance, with surprising reactions sure to be had.

So tell us, have you read it? What are your thoughts?

Sweet Valley Confidential, published by Harper Collins, out in bookstores. $32.99.

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