The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel or These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach

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Published: 15th April 2005 (print)/ 1st April 2013  (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Vintage/Clipper audiobooks
Pages: 288 pages/1 disc
Narrator: Nina Wadia
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
★   ★  – 2 Stars

When Ravi Kapoor, an overworked London doctor, reaches the breaking point with his difficult father-in-law, he asks his wife: “Can’t we just send him away somewhere? Somewhere far, far away.” His prayer is seemingly answered when Ravi’s entrepreneurial cousin sets up a retirement home in India, hoping to re-create in Bangalore an elegant lost corner of England. Several retirees are enticed by the promise of indulgent living at a bargain price, but upon arriving, they are dismayed to find that restoration of the once sophisiticated hotel has stalled, and that such amenities as water and electricity are . . . infrequent. But what their new life lacks in luxury, they come to find, it’s plentiful in adventure, stunning beauty, and unexpected love.

I think the best summation of this book is ‘eh’. I didn’t hate it, I didn’t love it. I’m not even 100% I liked it. I felt like it had the potential to be so much better. I think I liked 1 maybe 2 characters, the rest I felt I could have if they hadn’t’ve been so…themselves. The writing is at times cringeworthy, the characters are certainly racist and sexist, whether or not this is just their character “charm” as it is sometimes portrayed, but it’s gross to listen to. And India is turned into some mystical place that is romanticised by these white British while subsequently criticised by them on the next page. 

The book’s title has been changed to coincide with the movie, it was originally These Foolish Things, but I think most physical books are retitled now too.  Very rarely is this the case, but I have to say, the movie is so much better. Just watch that. This isn’t even really like it at all, it’s not overly enjoyable, there’s more parts that are offensive in some way or another, and there isn’t a grand plot to keep you interested. I listened to the audiobook and to her credit, the narrator was quite good, she used distinctive voices and emphasis as she told the story, and she brought to life each character’s individuality. It was just a shame that that what she brought to life wasn’t very enjoyable.

 

You can purchase The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel via the following

Book Depository | Dymocks

Amazon | Amazon Au

Booktopia | Wordery | Barnes & Noble

 

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What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Published: May 2010Goodreads badge
Publisher:
PanMacmillan Australia
Pages: 476
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
★   ★  – 2 Stars

Alice Love is twenty-nine, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child.

So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over — she’s getting divorced, she has three kids and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade, and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time. She has to figure out why her sister hardly talks to her, and how is it that she’s become one of those super skinny moms with really expensive clothes.

Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over.

I could not get excited by this book. I couldn’t understand why Alice couldn’t just simply state things outright and ask people what she wanted to know. I get she may have been in shock and what have you, and her personality wasn’t the tough assertive one she develops, but she lets people just talk at her, or ignore her. It annoyed me so much she didn’t just shout out ‘what part of I remember nothing do you not understand?’ Even when she doesn’t tell anyone she never asks questions, just wonders what it all means, what she has to do. Even when she does outright ask who someone is or what is happening, people don’t just answer her. I can’t understand, why wouldn’t you tell someone the full details? It would make them look like less of a fool and not annoy me as much I assure you.

The whole premise is Alice is missing ten years of her life, and in that time she loses friends, makes new ones, and becomes a person with a new personality. It’s not good just telling her that she’ll understand when she gets her memory back, or that she won’t feel as confused, it doesn’t help her in the moment. Yes Moriarty is trying to create suspense, and make us realise that there is more than just memory loss at stake, but truly. It was so frustrating having to put up with so many non-answers and people somehow unable to comprehend what no memory means. Even Alice’s mother just prattles on at her, not even having a proper conversation. Ugh. Of course when we do find out even a tiny something of what happened it comes in a weird one scene rush and answers are given and it feels like a trick having this information just given to us after we’ve suffered so far unawares.

Anyway. I could complain about this book for ages and not say anything constructive. You do start to get a small hint that something isn’t as it seems around halfway through. You’ve accepted Alice is Alice, and all these characters are just being their own weird selves so you focus on the story. Moriarty draws out the suspense in that way, you are meant to hang on as Alice almost gets answers and then loses them, almost gets her memory back but fails.

The story takes place over a week or so since Alice’s accident but a lot happens in that time. You see how Alice’s family have changed and evolved, you see how personalities have shifted, friends aren’t as close anymore. I really liked Alice’s sister Elizabeth; her chapters are fun and interesting, filled with emotion and intrigue. I also didn’t mind Franny’s parts either; it was a nice change having her blog provide bits of info and a commentary on what’s going on. Having that alongside Elizabeth’s journal you get relief from Alice doing all her stuff. Those two characters make the novel worth reading in my opinion, them and perhaps Alice’s children, they were quite fun.

You can purchase What Alice Forgot via the following

QBD | Book Depository | Amazon

Wordery | Dymocks

Fishpond | Booktopia

 

Julie and Julia by Julie Powell

Published: 1st September 2005 (print)/28th September (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Little Brown and Company/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 310 pages/8 discs
Narrator: Julie Powell
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Non Fiction
★   ★  – 2 Stars

Trapped in a boring job and living in a tiny apartment in New York, Julie Powell regularly finds herself weeping on the way home from work. Then one night, through her mascara-smudged eyes, Julie notices that the few items she’s grabbed from the Korean grocery store are the very ingredients for Potage Parmentier, as described in Julia Childs’ legendary cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. And The Project is born. Julie begins to cook – every one of the 524 recipes in the book, in the space of just one year. This is Julie’s story, as gradually, from oeufs en cocotte to bifstek sauté au beurre, from ‘Bitch Rice’ to preparing live lobsters, she realises that this deranged Project is changing her life. The richness of the thousands of sauces she slaves over is beginning to spread into her life, and she begins to find the joie de vivre that has been missing for too many years.

The complete title of this book is Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen: How One Girl Risked Her Marriage, Her Job, and Her Sanity to Master the Art of Living which is a nice fun mouthful. I’ve also seen it more commonly be called Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously. I chose to read this because I love reading the books movies are based on, and I enjoyed the movie so I thought I would give this a go, even if it was nonfiction. I have to say, the movie was, not better, I guess, but certainly more interesting.

The odd thing is I didn’t dislike this book, I liked the premise, it is told well. I listened to the audio book which was narrated by Julie Powell herself so that was good. The issue I had was that I wasn’t invested, nothing really happened. I had to keep reminding myself this was a nonfiction book based on a blog so that explains the lack of story, because life doesn’t have key moments planned out and an arc that propels you along. But Julie’s told her story well, there is a rise and fall of events, you follow her journey and are meant to celebrate with her and mourn her mistakes. And I did for the most part.

The problem was, I realised that I could tune out for a time and come back and not have missed anything, not be lost or need to rewind. There are a lot of detailed instructions about the cooking Julie does, understandably, and the lives of her friends and herself. Understandable as I say, it isn’t a memoir really, it’s a book based on a blog about cooking, there will be a lot of cooking mentioned. This is why I am confused. I didn’t dislike it, it just…was. Pleasant enough but it felt like it dragged on. Again, it’s nonfiction it is what it is, but towards the end I was losing interest in her journey.

I was intrigued by the parts about Julia Child. There aren’t many but it was interesting to have snippets of her life included, as a story and not as facts. It was a true side by side of their lives.

I actually watched the move afterwards and realised a lot of what was in the book had been included, save a few changes here and there. So that was nice, seeing it told in almost truth.

You can purchase Julie and Julia via the following

Booktopia | Wordery

Fishpond | A&R BookWorld

Amazon | Dymocks

Book Depository

Chu’s Day by Neil Gaiman

Published: January 2013Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 HarperCollins Children’s
Illustrator: Adam Rex
Pages: 30
Format: Hardcover Picture Book
★   ★  – 2 Stars

Chu is a little panda with a big sneeze.
When Chu sneezes, bad things happen.
In dusty library, diner pepper, circus tent,
Will Chu sneeze today?

This may be the shortest review I’ve done yet, even for a picture book. I just don’t have much to say about it. After seeing Gaiman talk about writing and publishing this book for so long I was excited to find it at the library. Having now finished it, I have to say I’m a little disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, it was cute. But I also kind of expected more.

The layout is nice, it’s suspenseful in how Rex and Gaiman have set out the text and the illustrations, but there is just something missing. I don’t even think I know what it is, but I finished and kind of went, is that it? I’ll give it credit, it’s cute, the story I can see would appeal to some people, but I found it a tad anti-climactic unfortunately.

Raw by Scott Monk

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Published
: 1st April 2005Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Random House Australia
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★  – 2 Stars

Brett Dalton is filled with hate and not afraid of a fight, but when he is sent to The Farm, his only opponent is himself. Brett Dalton is a tough guy—hardened, angry, uncaring, and always ready to use his fists. When the world hates you, you might as well hate it back. But when Brett is busted by the cops for stealing and sent to The Farm for rehab, there are no fences to keep him in and anger—and love—get in his way. Brett’s trapped in a grave new world, a world where he’s not hardened at all; he’s raw.

What disappointed me most about this book is how much I didn’t really like it. I adored Monk’s other book, Boys ‘R’ Us, and it’s a shame that didn’t happen with this one.

Brett is a hard character to like, he demands things, he never listens or learns, and you want to yell at him yourself for a lot of the book. He fights against those trying to help him, which is to be expected, but he isn’t someone you want to root for either. Just when you think he is starting to learn he goes and does something stupid again. It just makes you hate him even more.

It’s the standard story, Brett hates the world, gets into trouble a lot, gets sent to a rehab facility to straighten him out and befriends the man in charge who uses tough love and friendship to get him to change his ways. It leaves you feeling unfulfilled and while there is character development, it’s unsatisfying and a bit cheesy at times.

It wasn’t overly bad, but Brett manages to get himself in a lot of situations that are sometimes his fault and others they aren’t. It’s a typical story that was enjoyable enough but not one I would read again. It has been on my TBR list for about 15 years so at least I can say I finally crossed it off if nothing else.

You can purchase Raw via the following

Dymocks | Book Depository

BookWorld | Kobo

Booktopia | Audible

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