Sunday, May 27, 2012
Serving Crazy with Curry by Amulya Malladi
Devi grew up in a traditional Indian family that moved to California before she was born. Her relationship with her mom isn't very close because her mom is constantly nagging and blaming Devi. Her relationship with her sister is also strained because so much competition has been fostered between the two. She is close to her father and grandmother but doesn't feel like she can confide in them when she loses her job (again) and miscarries a child from a married man. Those two events push Devi over the edge and cause her to attempt suicide. Thankfully, her mom finds her in the bathtub, when she uses the spare key that Devi has told her before not to use to enter her house whenever she wanted. After a trip to the hospital, Devi is left in the care of her parents until she heals.
Back at her parent's house, Devi starts cooking up a storm. She throws weird combinations to traditional Indian food that wows her family. This seems to compensate for the fact that she's stopped talking. Her family keeps trying to get her to talk and Devi just keeps cooking rather than addressing the issues that caused her to attempt suicide.
The start of this book was very slow for me because Devi's mom was so obnoxiously annoying. She has to be one of the most stubborn characters written to novel and the author would repeat her most stubborn callings as if trying to get the reader to believe that she was stubborn. Eventually though, this turned in to a nice novel about family and marriages. Some marriages worked out, some didn't, but at the end of it all family always sticks together.
First Line: "The DOW was down almost 600 points the week Devi decided to commit suicide."
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
The Last Hiccup by Christopher Meades
In 1930s Russia, Vladimir is a young boy who suddenly starts hiccuping and can't stop. All of the normal cures are tried, including scaring him, but none of them work. Concerned, his mom takes him to a doctor who takes on his case as a personal mission to rid Vlad of hiccups. The attempted cures become more and more drastic but nothing helps poor Vlad, who continues to hiccup every 3.7 seconds. His doctor takes him to a psychologist thinking that perhaps the problem is mental rather than physical and the conversation that Vlad has with this psychologist scares the doctor, who comes to view Vlad as evil.
Vlad is taken away to Mongolia hoping that that region and its people will help cleanse Vlad of his evil.
Having read Meades' previous novel Three Fates of Henrik Normard, I expected a short, quirky novel that was very easy to read and this certainly delivered. This novel has a more muted humour than his previous, but Meades would still throw in something completely off the wall and pass it off as regular which had me chuckling throughout the book.
I didn't really like any of the characters and was never really sure what to make of the character Vlad, whether I liked him or didn't trust him, but that was part of the charm of the story for me. This was a fun, enjoyable read though I think I'd recommend Meades' first book before this one.
First Line: "They first appeared unexpectedly on Vladamir's eighth birthday, following the swift consumption of three bottles of soda."
Thursday, May 17, 2012
The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld
It's 1909 in Manhattan and Sigmund Freud and a group of psychoanalysts is coming to his first visit to the USA to give a series of lectures. He meets up with an American follower of this theories, Stratham Younger. The two are quickly involved in a murder mystery when a prominent young woman is found murdered in her expensive apartment. She was tied up, whipped, and strangled to death. Knowing that this is going to be a big case, the mayor hands it over to the only person he can trust, the coroner. The coroner selects Detective Littlemore to help him solve the mystery. They don't get too far until there is an attempted murder on Nora Acton, another prominent young lady. Acton can't remember what happened to her though, so Younger is brought in to use psychology to help her remember.
The story is partial explanation of Frued's theories and partial murder mystery. Frueds theories are applied to the characters in the book to try to get back Acton's memory and understand her family issues.
I enjoyed the story but felt there were some parts hard to believe and some loose ends that weren't wrapped up. The author kept mentioning that fingerprints were being taken from crime scenes. Was fingerprinting even used in 1909? From what I can tell, New York started fingerprinting criminals in 1903 but I still find it hard to believe that detectives would be collecting prints in 1909 and using them to help solve their crimes. Also, Freud brought Carl Jung with him to America and Jung was starting to break away from Freud's teachings and acting weird. That story was never fully resolved though. I'm sure that could make an interesting story to itself.
First Line: "There is no mystery in happiness."
Tuesday, May 08, 2012
The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore
The small town of Pine Cove, California is back for a second Christopher Moore book, this time close to the Christmas holiday. The town, quirky as ever, is preparing to celebrate Christmas when a stranger with glowing blonde hair appears, as police officer Theo Crowe runs over him. Being an angel, no harm comes to this stranger, though Theo doesn't know that's why he isn't hurt. The angel is in town to provide a Christmas miracle, though he'd really much rather use his sword and kill some people.
True to Moore's style, these characters are completely off the wall. Molly is off her meds, thinking she's a Warrior Princess again, Gabe is studying the effects of lust on rats, Theo is back to smoking pot, and the town is just generally off its rocker.
I enjoyed this book more than its predecessor, Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove. It still wasn't laugh-out-loud funny, though there was a part at the beginning at the book that had me smiling to myself on the train, however it was still an enjoyable read.
There's an additional chapter added to the end of this book and I'm not sure why it's there. It seemed unnecessary to tell the story.
First Line: "Christmas crept in to Pine Cove like a Creeping Christmas thing: dragging garland, ribbon, and sleigh bells, oozing eggnog, reeking of pine, and threatening festive doom like a cold sore under a mistletoe."
Friday, May 04, 2012
The Denniston Rose by Jenny Pattrick
Mining in 1880s New Zealand is a tough business, a fact that the isolated town of Denniston knows well. Isolated on a high plateau, the only way in and out of the small community is up a very steep incline, one that many don't take down. Five year old Rose and her mother arrive up this incline in the middle of a storm. They stay with the local drunk, Jimmy, whom it is claimed is Rose's father. Not enjoying her family life with her drunk father and promiscuous mother, Rose ventures out frequently and the community feeds her and takes care of her. She learns of all the different members of the community; those from England who are true miners and those who depend on the miners for their jobs.
Rose is considered a smart girl for her age and the adults can't seem but to help her. She isn't quite sure what her mother is up to, but her mother does have a plan, one that should eventually allow them to leave Denniston.
Though Rose is painted as a cute kid who many of the characters love, I couldn't really warm up to her. I know I shouldn't hold some of her actions against her because he mother was never around to teach her right from wrong but I still couldn't get past her shortcomings. This book really highlights how a small community comes together (or doesn't) to help raise their children. I enjoyed reading about this mining community and found that it was a fairly easy read.
First Line: "Rose of Tralee and her mother arrived on the Hil at night during a storm."
Tuesday, May 01, 2012
The Last Hiccup
Vladimir is celebrating his eighth birthday when he starts hiccuping and continues and continues. Of course, his mother is very concerned and when the hiccuping does not stop travels from her small town in Russia to a bigger one in order to consult with a doctor. This doctor tries all the tried and true methods of stopping the hiccups to no avail.
Vlad is brought to Moscow by Sergei Namestikov, a famous physician. Numerous treatments are tried; bizarre, painful and unsuccessful. Sergei's nemesis and an even more famous doctor, Alexander Afiniganov is brought in to see Vlad.
Alexander believes that Vlad is the essence of pure evil and spirits him away from Moscow into the outer reaches of Mongolia. Vlad grows up comforted by his hiccuping and returns to Moscow a changed man.
This book is quirky and filled with dark humour. It is vaguely historical as it is set in 1930s Russia. I thoroughly enjoyed the read but felt I would have liked to read a bit more of Vlad's years in Mongolia.
I love the quirkiness of Christopher Meades' works. They really appeal to me. And I loved, loved, loved the ending.
First Line: "They first appeared unexpectedly on Vladimir's eighth Birthday, following the consumption of three bottles of soda."