Month: June 2014

BOOK REVIEW – Chop Chop by Simon Wroe

Chop Chop is the inventive debut novel from former chef Simon Wroe. New to the ‘proper’ world of work our narrator, Monocle (affectionately called by his colleagues) is hot out of University and still has high hopes for his new found education. Time soon becomes his worst enemy; he’s is behind on rent, he’s slowly becoming depressed….and then he answers an advert for a low level kitchen job at a formerly illustrious restaurant. If he thought he was depressed before, he can think again!

After he runs through all the usual ‘breaking-in’ rituals that the workplace has he grows an affinity towards his workmates and finds that they’re actually not all that bad. Each has their own little quirk that makes them who they are, their own little ticks that make them well…tick. But when exactly does a quirk become more than that? When do people stop being weird and start being altogether more sinister and twisted? Soon Monocle is part of a mastermind plan to eradicate a washed-out has-been who could very well be the one person they all need out the way.

Its difficult to not say that the climax is brilliant, but it really is just that. The build up to the ending is one that you find makes you want to absorb the pages quicker than you can actually read. However, rather than being all in the ending, Chop Chop is excellent in the way that the whole book feeds off of itself and it grows and you grow with it.

The ride to the climax is enjoyable, hilarious, twisted, often bizarre and darker than I’d first perhaps realised it would be. If you enjoy eating out often…or even if you just enjoy or appreciate food then this book will mean even more to you. Other than this being a stupidly good work of fiction, it also taught me a huge amount about food, terms that I’d never known before and now firmly embedded in my head.

You’ll devour this book as you would a sumptuous meal, whether its Haute cuisine or a greasy spoon fry up, this book takes both, mashes them together in word form and comes out on top.

Bon Appétit!

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Out now from Penguin Books
ISBN: 9780241000007



BOOK REVIEW – The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey

This is not your average post-apocalyptic, zombie thriller…this is The Girl With All The Gifts!

We’ve seen zombies everywhere now. The zombie, undead, walker, hungry (as this book calls them)…whatever you call them, they’ve become part of our mainstream media culture nowadays. Each new addition to the genre adds something a little different, an inflection here and there to make it their own and M.J. Carey’s offering does the same too.

Melanie spends her days split between school and her cell. School is a haven where she can be free and find out about all the things she never knew. Her cell is the complete opposite. She’s locked away for hours on end with no form of entertainment and nothing to take her mind of the current state of the world. For her, the outside world is just a distant memory and those memories are what she clings on to for dear life.

Her classmates come and go, with no apparent explanation from teachers. Are they being taken away to somewhere new? Somewhere better? Or somewhere worse, perhaps?

A sudden event forces Melanie to fight for her life and flee the world she has come to know with her only ally in the world, the brilliant Miss Justineau and a few other select members of the ‘school base’. Melanie discovers that she is far more than the average girl- she has a gift; a gift that she needs to share with the world.

Although its easy to paint this story with the typical zombie thriller brush, it is far from that. This story is about ‘human’ relationships through tough times and knowing who you can really rely on during those days. The relationship between Melanie and Justineu is reminiscent of the adoration of Miss Honey by Matlida in Roald Dahl’s classic tale about similar themes. I seem to relate a lot of the things that I read to Roald Dahl, but the backbone of this story really is Matilda through and through. An individual, largely alone in the world, who finds solace in one person who they then trust with their life. This is Matilda with zombies (but for a much older audience)!

This is one of those books that I’ll be recommending to anyone and everyone!

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Out now from Orbit Books (Little Brown imprint)
ISBN: 9780356500157

BOOK REVIEW – Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

Beginning in 1910 Edwardian England, ‘Journey to the River Sea’ by Eva Ibbotson tells the story of Maia, a thirteen year old orphan who is being sent to start a new life with relatives thousands of miles away….up the Amazon river! She doesn’t travel alone, however, as she is joined by her strange and unfathomable governess (Miss Minton) who secretly wants to take the journey for reasons of her own.

The world they encounter along the way is just as exotic as they had predicted, complete with new experiences and characters that they would never have met back at home. For Maia, the journey is intriguing and astonishing, yet when they finally arrive at their destination of Manaus, things aren’t quite as planned. The long lost family they are to stay with are nothing if not odd. Mr Carter has tucked himself away from ‘modern life’, his wife is scared of the world around them and the less said about their twins…the better! All of this is sent to test Maia and Miss Minton, but they take it all in their stride and they soon begin to enjoy the way of the Amazon.

This book is so beautifully written and the description of the surroundings, people and world in which Maia now lives will whisk you away with her. For me, this was the quintessential story for children, featuring excellent characters with brilliant narration from Maia, lovely and vivid storytelling and subtle moral undertones (as is to be expected from stories like this).

Journey to the River Sea
reminded me of The Water Babies by Reverend Charles Kingsley as some of the themes are quite similar. I also couldn’t help but think of Roald Dahl too, as the descriptive passages are also very reminiscent of some of Dahl’s books for earlier readers such as Esio Trot and The Magic Finger.

This was a very enjoyable read which is perfect for all ages but would be more suited for older children/younger teens as the underlying theme of finding your place in the world, separate from your guardians prevails throughout.

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Out now from Pan Macmillan
ISBN: 9780330538817