Wednesday, March 26, 2014

'Chop Chop'

Rough, emotional times call for a book that contains:

  • Sarcasm
  • Craziness
  • Drugs
  • Murder
  • Cooking food
  • Coworkers who constantly make inappropriate sexual references/actions
  • Nicknames that shall remain nameless
  • A fat man
So, after suffering a tremendous loss last week, I found myself escaping into a book that is brilliant, hilarious, somewhat tender, and lacking in social graces.

Of course, I have to recommend it.  'Chop Chop', the first novel from Simon Wroe, is exactly what I needed.

I laughed my butt off while reading one passage, and then found myself wondering just who the Fat Man really is.

Our narrator is fresh out of college, ready to take on the world and write the biggest bestselling book the world has ever known.  But reality smacks him in the face:  Soon two months behind in rent, he takes a menial job in the kitchen of The Swan, a once-grand restaurant that is now struggling to survive.  Having never worked in the restaurant business (and not knowing a knife from a spatula), his new coworkers hassle, torment, and give him the nickname, 'Monocle', because of his useless English lit degree.  But Monocle assimilates quickly (although he still fumbles with knives and cooking in general), and the sadistic head chef, Bob, soon finds a new victim of his cruelty, a cruelty that knows no bounds and sets the wheels turning.

But a darker tale begins to unfold when the mysterious Fat Man appears.  While Monocle and his coworkers plot to overthrow Bob, Monocle's deadbeat dad comes to stay, and his mere presence sets off a thrilling, dark, and ruthless conclusion.

Wroe's brilliant descriptions of his characters and his talent for expressing impending doom perfectly bring about a great ending, one that totally surprised me.

It's safe to say that I could barely set this book down, although I have three other books waiting.  I just couldn't stay away from 'Chop Chop'.  When this book is released, buy it for friends/family who are in the restaurant business.  Buy it for someone who loves dark comedy.

Buy it for someone who is going through a sad time.  It takes a great talent to make someone laugh through their tears.

And Simon Wroe has it.

'Chop Chop' will be released in April 2014 by The Penguin Press.  Book Hog thanks the publisher for the advance copy!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

'But I Digress...'

It's been a difficult, tear-filled week...

My reading and reviewing is suffering, but it's nothing compared to the suffering I'm experiencing right now.

You see, I lost my 'little girl', my darling cat, my Molly.  She had cancer, and it had been hiding until very recently.  It was discovered on Monday.  And that's when I spent almost an hour saying goodbye to her.  The vet was kind and compassionate (he recently lost his beloved dog); he gave me options, but told me that it would just prolong her suffering.

I first met her when she was about 8 weeks old.  My daughter brought her home, and when I saw the little thing, I immediately said, "I will not fall in love with it!  I refuse!" (we had just lost a cat about a month before).  So, as I stomped off to the kitchen, the little black and white bundle followed me.  Of course I fed her.  Of course I stared at her.

Of course I fell in love with her.

She has been with me for (almost) eleven years; she would have celebrated her birthday just this November.

But life is cruel.  Life takes away the ones you love, and I loved her to the moon and back.

My Brave Little Toaster investigating the dog
She licked my tears when I cried.  She cuddled me while I was reading.  She jumped into the laundry basket the minute after I filled it with clean, warm clothing.  She always made me follow her to the litter box because one of our other cats loved to torment her when she was at her most vulnerable.  She was tiny and delicate; feminine and dainty.  But she could be fierce.  She stood her ground with the best of them.  She was my 'Brave Little Toaster'.  She was the one who had the courage to sniff the dog, and welcome our Porch Cat.  

Molly is the inspiration for the children's book I'm writing.  She is (and always will be) the president of the Evil Plan Bureau, an association created to get rid of our visiting dog, who, by the way, simply adored the little cat.

Every time I look at my 'reading chair', I picture her sleeping there.  But it hurts now to know that that was the last place she slept.  

It hurts to lose a best friend, especially one who was so devoted to me.  I'll miss her 'bee noises', that little deep trill she made whenever she jumped onto my lap.  

Although most people might scoff at the notion of a 'Rainbow Bridge', I do not.  I know that she has crossed it and is now playing with my other beloved animal friends, chasing butterflies and begging for a nice bowl of milk.  She might even be waiting for me.  

But today, I did something I thought I'd never do:  I asked her to come back to me.

And she will.  

They always do.

Rest in peace, my sweetest little friend.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

'The Song of the Quarkbeast'

In January 2013, I reviewed a children's book written by one of my favorite authors, Jasper Fforde, author of the amazing book, 'The Last Dragonslayer'.   The second book in the series was published late last year, but because Jasper is a popular guy, it seemed to take me forever to get 'The Song of the Quarkbeast' from the library.

It was worth the wait (although I would have been happier if I had had it much sooner).

Reading about the further adventures of Jennifer Strange (foundling, acting manager of Kazam Mystical Arts, and friend to all-downtrodden-creatures) made me feel as if it were 'old home week'.  Jennifer reminds me of another of Jasper's most remarkable heroines, Thursday Next.  They are both very brave, very smart, and very funny, while most around them are incredibly silly.

Yes, silly.  Fforde's silly dialogue and situations abound, and he has a gift of translating them for the younger crowd.  

Magical power is finally on the rise, and King Snodd IV of the Ununited Kingdom realizes that whoever controls magic controls the world.  But one person stands between Snodd and his diabolical plans:  Jennifer Strange.  By rigging a bridge-building contest between the magicians of Kazam and the magicians of iMagic, Snodd and his cohorts are certain they will soon control all magic.  

The characters are so finely and unforgettably written that it isn't hard to immerse yourself in the second book.  And there is even a touch of romance that is at once sweet, yet frustrating.  

But it is the dialogue that is most remembered by this little Book Hog.  Full of silliness and jokes, I found myself laughing out loud many times.  Fforde has a definite grasp on his audience, and while I was in the midst of reading the 'Thursday Next' series once again, it was a real pleasure to switch to his new series.  I didn't miss a step.

And neither did Jasper Fforde, Master of all Silliness.

'The Song of the Quarkbeast', published by Harcourt Publishing (a division of Houghton Mifflin), is available at your local library and independent bookstores.  

Thursday, March 6, 2014

'Finding Colin Firth'

All of us face difficulties, sometimes.  We get stressed, we get scared, we worry. Money, rent/mortgage payments, food, utility bills.  It's to the point that quite a few of us can't get a full night's sleep.

So, after facing a most difficult week (and a huge disappointment, job-wise), I turned to the only thing that could take my mind off my problems.

I escaped to a bathtub full of hot water and a good book.  Not a heavy book, mind you. Something light.  Something that would make me smile.  Can't overwork the brain when there are already a million things swirling around in there.

My book of choice this time was 'Finding Colin Firth', a delightful story written by Mia March.  The plot is easy to digest, and, yes, it made me smile.  After reading it in one sitting (or, should I say, soaking), I stepped out of the tub feeling a bit better.

A film company has set up shop in the small, coastal Maine town of Boothbay Harbor, where rumors swirl that actor Colin Firth will be starring in the movie.  Journalist Gemma Hendricks, recently let go from her job on a newspaper in New York, is sure that getting an interview with the actor will revive her lost career and save her rocky marriage.  But she finds herself on a richer path when she discovers the local unwed mother's home and decides to write a story about it.

Bea Crane is a twenty-two year old woman who finds out that she was adopted. Learning that her birth mother, Veronica Russo, lives in Boothbay Harbor, Bea travels there to meet her, but she is finding it hard to find the courage to do so. Veronica has traveled all over the country, and has come back home to face her past.  Known for her famous 'healing pies', she is a legend in the town not just for her baking, but for the fact that she had given birth to a child when she was just a teenager.  Upon learning that the film company is hiring extras, Veronica finds the courage to apply...and is hired.

These three women come together and share their stories about life, motherhood, the past, and their mutual love of Colin Firth.

Although the book is a quick read, it delighted me, nonetheless.  

And the mention of Colin Firth stepping out of the lake in 'Pride and Prejudice'?

The stress magically disappeared.

'Finding Colin Firth', published by Gallery Books (a division of Simon & Schuster), is available at your local library and independent bookstore.