Midnight Riot – Ben Aaronovitch

Ben Aaronovitch’s Midnight Riot (PC Peter Grant-1) centers around the life and adventures of Peter Grant, a young apprentice wizard and a police constable with the Met. Following his encounter with a ghost while guarding the site of a macabre homicide, Peter’s investigations land him under the tutelage of Thomas Nightingale, head of the supernatural investigations branch and London’s only wizard in residence. Added to the crime investigation is the increasing tensions due to the long time feud between the river gods.rolba

The narrative was witty and light yet became an albeit boring walking guide to the streets and rivers of London. Then there are the undertones of racial profiling as the plot progresses. The anthropomorphic river spirits and gods’ and their petty disputes forms a sub plot and rapidly overtakes the primary plot which involves chasing a revenant spirit and a vengeful ghost. This is further muddled by a brief meeting with vampires who serve as the extras in this delightful novel. And Peter’s attempts at a crash course in magic won’t mean much unless you’ve experienced the wonderful world of Harry Potter. While JK Rowling didn’t go overboard in her attempts to explain magic, her description of the outcome of a spell was enough to connect to the Latin wording. Here, Aaronovitch attempted to amalgamate science with magic, which rendered the entire concept ambiguous and took the charm out of magic.

As for monsters, they appeared to the principal cast while Nightingale seemed like an extra in an epic movie on monsters. And there are the key terms constantly referenced “Lux” and “Vestigia” which overwhelm the plot so much so that I speed read the rest of the book closing my mind off from these terms. In the end, these didn’t mean much since any normal police procedural would involve an armed detective and plenty of clues for a sharp mind to close in on.

Constant references to Harry Potter gave plenty of evidence of Aaronovitch’s source of inspiration but not maintaining the plot at an even pace made this novel flat. I know I sound critical but it gets difficult to praise a novel all the time even when you don’t like it much. I suspect that the reason for its popularity stems from a lack of Harry Potterish characters in the market and Peter Grant, while not perfect seems to cut very close.

April 16 Reads

Now that Spring is officially here, I was hoping to settle down on the patio chair with a book and a cup of tea on weekends. What ends up happening is I wake up at noon and most of the time goes either in catching up on TV series or just heading out. I started a new routine wherein I wake up a few minutes earlier than intended, make myself a cup of coffee in microwave and read a couple of pages while I finish the aforementioned coffee. While it isn’t much in the way of progress, it does give me that tiny bit of satisfaction.

The Fur Person by May Sarton was the first book I’ve read this April. This is a short and sweet narrative of a stray cat who considers himself The Cat Person and his quest to find the perfect human to cater to his needs. Highly recommended for all cat lovers!

April was also a month where it took me longer to finish some of the books and as a result, I was able to get through only a few –

brooklyncColm Toibin’s Brooklyn was bittersweet yet an intense and fabulous read! This coming of age novel traces Eilis Lacey’s journey from small town Ireland to America as she struggles to overcome home-sickness while gathering the courage to sit for bookkeeping certifications. She finds friends in the unlikeliest places and so does romance come eventually.

A tragedy in the family turns out to be a test in disguise, for the choices she must make means leaving a loved one behind. Its as cryptic as I can get without giving away much. The prose was beautiful, slow paced and evocative prompting the readers to close their eyes and picture the scenes, Eilis’s emotions as she struggles to take the right step or say the right words. With the exception of perhaps the last few pages which were a tad too long, this book is simply beautiful. I loved it more than Nora Webster.

 

avmbkAnimal, Vegetable, MiracleBarbara Kingsolver’s books had rave reviews on both amazon and goodreads, especially her latest book titled Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. This lengthy book documents Kingsolver’s year long experiences as she and her family embark on a transformative phase of moving from Tucson, Arizona to their ancestral farm in Appalachians, of moving from grocery store purchases to sustaining themselves on fresh seasonal produce grown on their farm by the family. As Kingsolver notes, the journey is tough at first what with having to give up soda, candies, fruits and a lot more items, then making the resolve to buy seasonal produce at the local farmers market. She also provides plenty of facts and numbers on the amount of fuel consumed for moving food across the countries, amount of fuel consumed to get out-of-season produce to the grocery stores across the US. Another alarming fact which I was vaguely aware of having seen the struggles of farmers in India is the extensive control that Monsanto has over the seed and fertiliser market, its quest to crush farmers who are trying to save the genetic strains of vegetables and fruits that were consumed by Americans centuries ago not to mention the hidden havoc that GMO crops might be wreaking on human bodies (the rise of allergies).

Overall, this was an eye-opener for me and R as we are trying our best to stick to seasonal produce. While in New Jersey, we often bought locally grown organic produce, this book just strengthened my belief to hopefully continue the same in Cali.

 

lalaLyrics AlleyLeila Aboulela’s depiction of life in Sudan and Egypt in the early 1950s through the lives of Mahmoud Bey Abuzeid, his family and friends evokes the times gone by when peace and prosperity ruled Africa. The story is inspired by the accounts of Aboulela’s uncle who was a poet and this can be witnessed through the lyrics and poems composed by Nur Abuzeid, the heir apparent of the Abuzeid dynasty, whose dreams are dashed by a fatal accident. Nur’s journey in seeking solace from a broken heart and a broken body forms the crux of Lyrics Alley. Beautiful and vivid portrayal of characters, each with their own background. The story also portrays the transformation they undergo following Nur’s accident.

For me, it is also a book that gives you glimpses into a world where things are perfect, just the way you would like them, a sudden catastrophic event could change everything and everyone you’ve ever known. Religion, politics and women’s liberation form a strong backdrop as witnessed through the conversations between the protagonists and the surrounding cast of characters. Yet another all-time favorite!

 

Deborah Madison popped up on my radar through a chance search on Amazon. Seeing how her books were rated high on goodreads, I borrowed The Greens Cookbook and Local Flavors from the library. Madison lists off the popular recipes that she and her team created at her famous restaurant in the Greens Cookbook. Also, this one is predominantly aimed at Vegetarians. Local Flavors on the other hand touches lightly on meat and poultry based dishes and when I say lightly, I mean a few recipes are scattered about. What Local Flavors does highlight is the importance of using fresh seasonal produce, the flavor profile of unusual varieties of greens not to mention exotic fruits and vegetables. I loved the Greens Cookbook a lot more than I did the Local Flavors.

And then came May!

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

FHJL coverThe book cover featuring  a furiously cheerful Racoon did it! I was convinced that I had to reserve it at the library and so I did with an anticipation that I would love reading it and I wasn’t disappointed. Lawson witty and frank take on her battles with depression and anxiety disorder had me going “hmmm”, “huh?!”, “seriously” but it also had me nodding my head when I read the dialogue between Lawson and her mother. Battling insomnia…I know what it feels like to be wide awake because i’ve been there and even to this day I go through nights where I fall asleep for a few hours and then end up just lying awake until dawn or even reading/watching TV. Insomnia for me is a great trigger for migraines which always have me wishing that I could just deposit my brain somewhere..just for the duration of the migraine.

As I turned the pages, Lawson’s description of the stuffed animals did creep me out a bit perhaps because I never liked nor understood the fascination with taxidermy. So although Rory the raccoon looked funny, the underlying creepiness didn’t quite ebb. Having recently witnessed the horrific wonders of a brain affected by tumor and having gone through a very very mild depression a few years ago, I could very well empathize with Lawson’s struggle with the mental illness.

It reminded me of similar conversations with my parents who would refuse to accept the situation when I spoke of being mildly depressed few years ago. And often times when you come across articles stating scientific breakthroughs, be it for specific mental illness or the brain, you know that we are a long way from understanding the functions of our body much less normalize any deviations without unwanted side-effects. And I am glad that Lawson told her story to the readers at large, a truly moving book!