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Femme bookend: Your heart will be in your mouth

The Big Novel

Give Me Your Heart by Joyce Carol Oates (Corvus) is an icy, nasty series of short stories about an unpleasant bunch of creeps. Entertaining, but ooh, chilly.

In the title story -- a tableau vivant in which the reader gradually comes to realise the plot, rather than following it in a linear way -- a letter to a psychotherapist reveals the long-planned awfulness about to happen to him, courtesy of the aul wan he seduced and spurned in her youth.

In Strip Poker a girl vibes out a gang of rapists with the terrifying story of her psychopathic father's revenge on a man who once threatened her... And so on, one story ickier than the next.

A great book to cheer you up if you've been thinking too much about the Celtic Tiger -- you'd be hard pressed to find any real life people as horrid as those here.

The Chicklit

Roses by Leila Meacham (Sphere) is a big-hair novel that's stepped right out of the 1980s, star-crossed lovers, ruthless businesswoman and all.

"God made the land but the Tolivers made the plantation," Mary Toliver's father might as well have said. He makes a will that will destroy his family -- leaving the plantation to go-getting 16-year-old Mary instead of his wife Darla or his son Miles.

Miles sends Mary off to boarding school while he institutes his liberal principles, and almost wrecks the farm.

Mary pushes aside the passionate proposals of patriarchal Percy Warwick, neighbour and rival, in favour of running the business. Darla rages her way into alcoholism, Miles fecks off to France to marry his beloved -- well, you get the idea.

A bodice-ripper in the great tradition -- complete with corny symbolism, dramatic death and sexy sacrifice.

The Big Non-Fiction

Sterling's Gold by Roger Sterling (Lionsgate) is a Little Book of Calm for the cynical, the 'memoirs' of Sterling, the ad man of Mad Men, the cult TV series.

Sterling, in the series, is constantly murmuring bons mots into his dictaphone, and here they all are, collected: "Throw yourself on the grenade," advises Sterling. "Protect the agency." And (deep wisdom this): "One egg is good. Two eggs are better." And (true, so true): "You want to be on some people's minds. Some people's you don't."

It's distilled Mad Men, the basis for a zingy cocktail.