Monday, December 26, 2005

For Matrimonial Purposes

I always wonder if all women push the envelope on getting married. Is it a social construction? Is it our upbringing?

For Anju it's all she has been striving for. A Bombay girl and a first born at that, her mum and dad have been trying to get her married since her best friend was engaged at 17. But noone seemed quite right for her, and face it, not too many came calling either. Anju was nice enough...educated and sweet, but she had a fierce independent streak as well.

After some convincing, she is off to "Umerica" to stay in Fort Lee NJ with her Aunty and Uncle while attending NYU for further studies. We follow Anju's next decade in NYC with frequent trips back to Bombay during the wedding season "for matrimonial purposes". Once she hits her 30s, will Anju find her husband?

An interesting blend of chick lit meets Indian fiction. The story is peppered with culture and tradition as well as all of the trappings of contemporary chick lit. Anju works in fashion, attends fabulous parties (aside from those Bombay weddings), and is very Sex and the City minus the sex part.

It was a fun little read that sated my post Christmas read need along with a love story jones. Very Beachy, indeed.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Al Capone Does My Shirts

So, I have to admit...this is one of those books that I sort of, pretended to have read for about a year now. Whenever the kids at school would ask me about it, I'd say, "yeah...this one is great!" and leave it at that. I had heard Jen's booktalks about it a hundred times, but for some reason, I just didn't feel like reading it. I just picked it off the shelf at the public library last week.

Moose Flanagan is not living a typical life. It's the 1930s and he is living on Alcatraz Island where his dad does double duty as an electrician and a prison guard. Moose is not the only kid there. His sister Natalie, Piper (the warden's daughter), Annie, Theresa, Jimmy and baby Rocky are on the Island too. Everyday Moose takes the ferry into the city to go to school.

The warden has told all of the kids on the island that they are not supposed to talk about the cons. Especially not about notorious gangster Capone. Piper has other ideas... she talks about Alcatraz all the time. She is full of money making schemes that she needs Moose's help for, and they all involve breaking the warden't rules.

Getting in trouble is the LAST thing that Moose needs. He already is stuck taking care of his sister everyday. Natalie isn't a typical sister...she has special needs. Moose knows that the warden isn't too happy having her on the Island at all and he does his best to keep Natalie out of the warden's way. But his family is full of secrets...some of them involving his sister. Can Moose find a way to help his family, or will he forever follow the rules?

This is a fast read with some fascinating facts about prison life in Alcatraz in the 30s. Choldenko has also provided facts about autism in a unnamed and detailed way. While this is not the flashiest book out there, it is a solid read that will most likely open up the mind's of readers to questions of justice on many different levels.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson

Yay! Another great book! A friend recommended this to me and in turn, I am going to recommend it to my grown-up friends!

The seemingly unconnected lives of Olivia, Amelia, Julia, Victor, Jackson, Marlee, Laura, Mrs. Rain, Caroline, Michelle, and Theo (among others) are slowly drawn together in an amazing story about family, love, murder, abuse and self discovery. I know that probably sounds like a bit much, but at first the story is truly overwhelming. I was crying over my eggs benedict at a little cafe around the corner. Let me give you an example of the writing.

" "And anyway," he shouted after her, "maybe I don't want to eat bloody coriander!" She came to an abrupt halt, whiplashing the baby in the pushchair. She turned round and said, "Well maybe I do," and glared at him for the longest time, wishing she had the woodcutting ax with her, the ax that would split his skull like a melon or a pumpkin cleaved in two. No, not a melon, melons were sweet and exotic, not pedestrian enough for his head, and pumkins were vegetables that belonged in fairy tales. A turnip. Turnips were brutal, yokel vegetables. And he would drop like a headless scarecrow, right here in the field, and sink into the soil and never be seen again, and she could give the baby to her mother and ruin another life." (pp. 36-37)

There are so many subplots and characters that I am not sure how to even write about this title to give it any justice. The characters are compelling, they all have secrets and even the ones that I didn't like I still wanted to know.

I am definately going to pick up Atkinson's previous novels.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Indigo*s Star

I have to start off by saying that I have never read McKay's companion Saffy's Angel. I just picked Indigo up off the shelf of the library for something to read.

Indigo is headed back to school after a mono induced semester off. Indigo is not the type of kid who minds missing that much school. He is the target of the red-headed bully and his gang of minions. Upon arrival back, Indigo discovers the bullies are waiting, but there is a new target as well...American Tom. Slowly but surely Tom and Indigo forge a friendship of circumstance that develops further.

The story is as much about Indigo's family unit, as the boy himself. Artist parents living apart (label conscious dad's in London, mum paints in the back shed) and coloured named sibs all weave in and out of Indigo's days. A large part of the story belongs to little sis and art prodigy Rose, who is the most likable of the bunch.

I am really interested in what kid's think of this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but saw my adult perspective interpreting every event. It was a nice under the covers and tea read!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

each little bird that sings

Anyone who knows me knows that there are certain qualities that are favourites for me in books. The cover is important, and I love settings in India, the South, and Eastern Canada. I also love a book that will make me cry.

each little bird that sings gives me the South and a close cry.

Comfort Snowberger lives a life that some would consider a bit odd. She lives above the town funeral parlour with her brother Tidings, sister Merry, mother Joy, father Bunch, great uncle Edisto, great great Aunt Florentine. Her best friend is Declaration Johnson. (You HAVE to love these names!)

Soon, everything is changing. Uncle Edisto is the first in the house to die, followed soon by Aunt Florentine. Declaration has been acting real strange and stuck up since she came back from Mobile, and the only comfort that Comfort seems to get is from her dog Dismay.

The day of Aunt Florentine's funeral, Comfort, Dismay, Declaration and cousin Peach fatefully decide to walk to the cemetary instead of going in the car. A thunderstorm and flashflood will change their lives forever.

Now, I know folks who sobbed over these pages. I got a lump in my throat, but I know the reason why I wasn't overwraught. I won't put it here because it would spoil this book for the rest of you. Deborah Wiles has penned a sweet, sad, southern of the best kind, I reckon!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Maya Running

Be careful what you wish for!

How many times has that statement turned out to be true? For Maya Mukherjee, they should have been words to live by.

It's the mid 1970s in Manitoba, and Maya is not a happy girl. Her friends call her lunchtime dal "barf", her parents are making her hang out with the Ghose boys, she has a huge crush on Jamie, and Brian just called her the "N" word. The only bright spot is that Maya has convinced her parents to let her beautiful cousin Pinky come over from India for 3 weeks.

Pinky is beautiful and actually seems exotic to Maya, with her saris, kohl lined eyes and her Kathak dancing. Pinky has also brought along a golden statue of Ganesh. When Jamie's affections turn from Maya to Pinky, Maya turns to Ganesh for help. Little does she know that this sweet loving trickster god will turn her life upside down.

Eventhough Maya starts to live the life she thought she wanted, she is not feeling very good about it. Her parents are shadows of their former selves, and her friends just aren't themselves. And Jamie ... his adoration is becoming downright scary.

This is a clean tween read that would be great for anyone who feels like the odd one out. The story obviously relies heavily on the author Anjali Banerjee's own life, and though it is dated in the 1970s, the journey for self discovery is a timeless one.