Thursday, June 28, 2012

Zombie Candy (An Annie Ogden Mystery)

Title of the Book: Zombie Candy (An Annie Ogden Mystery)
Author's blog: Frederick Lee Brooke
Author's page on GoodReads
Available on: Amazon (in print and Kindle) and on other similar sites

Extract of the gist on GoodReads:
You know early on, from the color of the inappropriate bra in the opening scene, that Zombie Candy is going to be a black comedy. Most people could sympathize with the male obsession for sex and zombie movies, but who would put up with a husband who covered every dish with cilantro? Frederick Lee Brooke serves up another literary treat with this bizarre and comical tale of love and betrayal. Candace Roach enlists her best friend Annie Ogden (our favorite sleuth from Doing Max Vinyl) to find out what her husband is really up to on his weekly business trips – but their home-cooked aversion therapy gets out of hand and hurtles along an astonishing highway of the undead.....
But with each shocking discovery in the investigation of her husband, the friendship between Candace and Annie is further put to the test. Candace ultimately takes matters into her own hands and, in an elaborate ruse, stages a nightmarish zombie drama in which her husband plays the starring role.
Weaving elements of mystery, horror and romance in a story that starts in Chicago and ends in a quaint medieval town in sun-drenched Tuscany, Zombie Candy transcends any single genre. Embark on a journey that will tickle your taste buds as it wakes up your funny bone.(less)

My views:

Those who know me, are well aware that I hate horror stories and stay well away from books written by Edgar Alan Poe or Stephen King. But I knew this book was not just a mindless book on Zombies and I enjoyed reading it. The Zombie theme did run across the book and how, but the book was about human emotions and interplay between people - be it Larry (the splitting image of Russel Crowe) who cheats on his wife Candace, or that between Candace and her best friend Annie, who after being a war veteran in Iraq has just got her private investigator license or the unique friendship (a platonic one) that developed between Larry and Roberta, who he once wanted to jump in bed with.

Larry is addicted to sex and to zombie movies and has since long stopped caring for his wife. His utter disregard for her, is aptly captured through his actions such as sprinkling heaps of chopped cilantro on her gourmet meals - thereby drowning their very flavours, pinching her midriff - even as she is sensitive about being called fat (thanks largely to her need to get over her depression of a failing marriage by binging, and her gourmet cooking classes). The novel opens up with Candace finding an itsy bitsy black bra in Larry's suitcase - it certainly doesn't belong to her. There is a showdown, just as the couple, Annie, Annie's sister and husband are sitting down for a meal lovingly prepared by Candace. Annie reluctantly takes up the task of unearthing more skeletons in Larry's cupboard with her former instructor, Salvatore. Well, Larry falls for each and every bait thrown in his wake, perhaps with the sole exception of Roberta who becomes his close confidant. His infidelity opens up old wounds and the going is tough not just for Candace but also for Annie -- but their friendship continues to be strong.

Candace has enough evidence on her hand to get a divorce, but she wants revenge and it does not stop at her scratching Larry's car or even shooting him (her aim isn't that good anyway, she is a beginner). She uses his fantasy of Zombies to get back at him and how!

Like any other person, going through a bad marriage, Candace begins by despising herself, she then feels helpless, this is followed by anger -- the entire gamut of emotions that she goes through are captured well in this book. When Candace buys a gun, I go "Oh, no!, she will kill Larry and this will be the end of it." But the author has some fantastic ideas in store when it comes to Candace taking revenge.

The 'revenge-plot', if I may term it as such, is set in the quaint fictional Italian town of Monte Chianti in Tuscany. Candace becomes quite the icon for the village belles, who help her take revenge and learn never again will take things lying down, at least not from a cheating husband! I shall not add spoilers by saying how the book ends, believe me you, there are many unexpected twists and turns. I loved the setting of Monte Chianti, the importance of 'family' to Italians was well brought out.

While reviewing books of most Indie authors, one tends to come across a typo or two or a few grammatical errors that has been overlooked. This book was flawless (guess one can attribute this to one of Fred's past occupations as a teacher -- see brief bio below) and is exceedingly well written. Both the story and the language made it a page turner. I read it at one go.

A big bonanza are Candace's recipes which are available at the end of the book. I can't wait to try out Eggplant Cutlets with Spicy Red Pepper and Yoghurt sauce (Eggplant with Youghurt are basic ingredients of an Indian recipe called Baigan Ka Bharta). But just like the book, this recipe promises to be different and interesting. I say yes, to cilantro (just a sprinkling of it, unlike Larry's habit of drowning out the flavours of a meal with cilantro) but I also say a big YES to this book.

One cannot really classify this book into any genre, it is a blend of chick-lit, mystery, has a sprinkling of horror, lots of dark comedy, capturing of human emotions, all very cleverly blended together and dished up to make it a good read.

Frederick Lee Brooke gamely agreed to answer a few questions.

1) I recall reading somewhere that you just celebrated your first anniversary of giving up your day job to become a full time writer. Could you share with other writers your experiences of giving up this 'security' to plunge into the big bad world of writing?

Somehow I managed to write my first book, Doing Max Vinyl, over a period of almost three years while working full-time and as an active father and family member. Finishing that book was a wonderfully fulfilling and satisfying experience, which gave me the confidence to say to myself, "You can write books. You just have to focus on it." So finishing Doing Max Vinyl, and of course the very positive reception it got, gave me the courage to quit my full-time job. I believe people have the right to reinvent themselves in this life, and so in a sense I am only asserting my rights. Now that my second book has come out, Zombie Candy, I feel even more certain that I made the right choice.

2) Coming to the book, Tuscany provided just the right setting, but what made you choose this quaint Italian town?

They say you should write about what you know, and although I am not Italian I have had the pleasure of visiting the country something like forty or fifty times. I live in Switzerland, which shares a border with Italy, and I do speak the language, too. So on our many trips there, I gradually soaked up the beauty of the landscapes and the culture in several real towns in Italy. The fictional village of Monte Chianti in Zombie Candy is an amalgamation of several little towns or villages. Due to several twists and turns in the plot, this seemed to be the perfect place for the action in the second half of the book.

3) Each character in your book is so well thought out, who is your favourite character in this book, and why?

That would have to be Annie Ogden. The true mysteries of Annie have eluded me until now. She tantalizes me. She is flawed in her own special ways but she is also the most balanced of the characters; she has her feet squarely on the ground. I love the other characters, too, but they are each quite bizarre in their own unique way. Annie is a person I want to get to know better, and spend time with.

4) Zombie Candy- An Annie Ogden Mystery is your second book. Tell us something about your first book, 'Doing Max Vinyl', which first introduced Annie Ogden. What's next for Annie?

In my first book, Doing Max Vinyl, Annie has just arrived home from the war, and her mind is damaged. She discovers that things like surveillance and violence have a calming effect on her, and she also has a strong sense of right and wrong that doesn't seem to fit in with people back home. So in Doing Max Vinyl, Annie is on a journey of discovery. But that book covers a span of just five days, so her voyage of discovery is cut short just as it's getting started.

In Zombie Candy, Annie's voyage of discovery continues as new revelations about her past come to light. You could say Annie makes progress in this book, and it covers a longer period in her life, almost a month. But Zombie Candy is really her friend Candace's story more than Annie's, so we will have to wait for the third book in the series to really get to the bottom of Annie's psyche. In the third book Annie plays a starring role, and I think her fans will feel satisfied.

5) I love the dedication to your parents in this book, 'thank you for making me a reader' as a child who was your favourite author? Who is your current favourite author/s? Do you draw inspiration from your favourite authors?

As a child I loved Richard Scarry's Busy, Busy World books. Then later books like The Cay, The Pushcart War, The Mouse and the Motorcycle kept me reading. My kids have grown up with Harry Potter books; I read quite a few Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books. Majoring in English in college gave me an excuse to read all sorts of classics, from Tolstoy and Proust and Beckett and Joyce to Dickens and Thomas Pynchon.

I take inspiration from any good book I read, and I like to read all different genres. Recently I read Treasure Me, by Christine Nolfi, a beautiful story of redemption in small-town America, with elements of Civil War history and romance thrown in. I am a great fan of Tracy Chevalier, author of Girl With the Pearl Earring, and Marina Lewicka, author of Two Caravans.

6) Tell us a bit about your love for cooking and your favourite dish. While visiting Kerala, South India, on a short trip, which dish did you really love?

We were in Kerala many years ago, staying with friends at their house. I still remember perfectly the papadams we had for breakfast, a feathery-light sort of biscuit made from chick-pea flour, which we ate with different jellies and chutneys and yogurt. Also we had palak paneer, a spinach dish with paneer, a kind of very mild cheese (or curdled milk).

I could eat Indian food every day because it is so wonderfully various and tasty, and I am a vegetarian. My own curries are a sad imitation of the food we get here in the many Indian restaurants in Basel. I also like to cook Italian and American recipes. For me it's therapeutic to chop up onions and garlic and other vegetables and start simmering or frying them. What could be more fun than that?

Thank you very much for the interview!

Thanks Fred for the book and the interview.

Author's Bio: Born and raised in the Chicago area, Frederick Lee Brooke graduated from Amherst College and studied writing at the University of Montana. He has worked as an English teacher, language school manager and small business owner. Having lived in Germany, France and Switzerland, he has also travelled extensively in Tuscany, the setting of part of Zombie Candy. The first book in the Annie Ogden series, Doing Max Vinyl, appeared in 2011 to wide acclaim.

Source of the Photograph: Downloaded from Flickr and used as per the terms of the Creative Commons License.


Geek Girl said...

Both books sound interesting. Kudos for making the change to do what you love - write books!

Raj said...

Hell hath no fury, like a woman scorned. Like the author, I like to cook also and take over my wife's kitchen on a Sunday.

Lubna said...

@GeekGirl:Thanks Geek Girl for visiting. Yes, what Fred did is truly awesome. I really enjoyed his book and can't wait to read the next one.
@Raj: Do you have a blog? If so, please share the url. Enjoy your Sunday.

Jeannette Paladino said...

Lubna -- I don't think I'll ever read the zombie or horror genre. Just not my cup of tea!

JP said...

This sounds like a very interesting book and I love you interview with the author. It adds so much to the post when you get the author's views.
Great work.

Jeri said...

Thanks for the great book review. It's always refreshing to read that a book written by an Indie author shows such care and attention to detail.

Lubna said...

Jeannette, JP and Jeri, thanks for dropping by
@Jeannette - Me neither, I don't touch horror books, but this ain't a horror book at all. Let us just say it is different and as I mentioned I really cannot categorise it in any genre.
@JP-- Thanks JP. I greatly admired the author for following his passion
@Jeri -- Yes, this book paid great attention to detail and was flawless.

Lubna said...
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Lubna said...
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Kevin Surbaugh said...

I seen your post on linkedin and had to checkout your blog. As others have said the book sounds very interesting. The guy that you described sounds like a real jerk (personally I hate cilantro). Unfortunatley there are to many men around just like this jerk, giving us men a bad name. At the same time though there are some women out there just like this guy.

Lubna said...

@Kevin: Thanks for dropping by. It does take all sorts to make this word. We the human race is pretty complex.