Thursday, June 28, 2012

Book Review: Chihuahua Karma

By Becky Gulc

The cover for Debby Rice’s debut novel is, I expect, a bit like Marmite, you’ll either love it or hate it. As soon as you look at it you know it’s going to be a bit different, quirky perhaps, involving a vicious dog? After finishing "Chihuahua Karma" (available as an e-book for 99 cents on Kindle), I feel happy that the cover sums up the novel overall, it is definitely quirky and different, the dog isn’t mean though, so don’t let the cover put you off! So what’s it all about? Here’s the synopsis:

‘Gregor’s nightmare was a cockroach. Cherry Paget’s is a Chihuahua.

Cherry was young, beautiful and rich—just golden enough to imagine that she had the world by the balls. Death was the furthest thing from her mind. But even a morbid obsession with the afterlife could not have prepared her for what happened.

Chihuahua Karma chronicles the horrendous consequences of Cherry’s bad choices. She trades love for a Black American Express card. She dumps veterinarian, Richard Preston, to marry gangster, Larry Finkelstein. And, when a smudge of magenta lipstick confirms that Larry is cheating she washes down a fist-full of Vicoden with a bottle of wine for breakfast. That mistake is the beginning of her problems.

In an inebriated attempt at tanning, Cherry plunges from the terrace of her penthouse to the street below. She escapes extinction only to encounter a more complicated fate. Cherry regains consciousness trapped inside the body of a very tiny dog.

Cherry’s diminutive prison is a mini Chihuahua named Sugar. The Lucky Dream Dry Cleaners is her dismal new home. With the unwitting assistance of her former housekeeper, Cherry escapes the dirty clothes and cotton dust. Once again ensconced in Larry’s luxurious penthouse, she becomes his girlfriend’s prized purse-buddy.

In her diminished state, Cherry finds new perspective. She yearns for Richard. And she forms an unlikely alliance with Don Paco Fernandez, a temperamental ghost with a taste for tequila and pretty ladies. Through Don Paco, Cherry discovers that only she can save an orphaned child from her impending adoption by a sinister couple. The cast of off-beat characters collides, and Cherry meets her destiny at a casino night Christmas party. (courtesy of

I’ll be honest and say that even though I love dogs and am open to ghost stories etc, based on the synopsis I wouldn’t have chosen to read this book off my own back. It perhaps all sounded a bit silly and not my cup of tea, BUT, having read it I’m pleased to say I enjoyed it and I can see an audience for it amongst Chick Lit Central followers.

The characters aren’t all that likeable, particularly initially but some of them grow on you, especially those that become central to the narrative: Cherry/Sugar, Lucille (the orphaned child) and Richard. When Cherry first dies and finds herself in Sugar’s body, there are some great comical moments as she adapts to life as a dog. Since Cherry wasn’t that likeable as a human, you don’t feel that sorry for her, but you feel her frustration. There are plenty of characters worse than Cherry to dislike, such as her cheating husband Larry who practically moves his latest squeeze in before Cherry is even dead in the ground. Cherry/Sugar become more likable as she starts to realise her purpose (earthly mission) thanks to a philandering ghost...a positive difference she can make as a dog. It is only upon achieving this mission that she will resolve this predicament in which she finds herself. How will this resolve itself? We just don’t know.

I felt the viewpoint worked well throughout the opening chapters, it was well-written and it made me think about how life would be different if you were suddenly to become a dog (that feels bizarre to write that!). In the later chapters I felt this was lost a little bit, for example there was a moment when Sugar becomes injured, but none of the description is about how Sugar is feeling even though it’s told from her viewpoint, just about how others react to her injury.

Overall I thought the book had a feel good-factor, it was amusing, different (which is a good thing!) and had characters who finally learn what is important in life. Question is, if Cherry is already dead, this is a lesson learnt too late surely? I had no idea how the story was going to develop and as it’s pure fantasy it maintained the suspense throughout, I didn’t guess where it would end so I was gripped. If you want to read something a bit different to the norm, you may well enjoy this quirky book!

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