Archive for June, 2014

Extraordinarily Bad Book

June 9, 2014

<a href=”; style=”float: left; padding-right: 20px”><img alt=”The Museum of Extraordinary Things” border=”0″ src=”; /></a><a href=””>The Museum of Extraordinary Things</a> by <a href=””>Alice Hoffman</a><br/>
My rating: <a href=”″>1 of 5 stars</a><br /><br />
I wanted to love this. I really did. Because I loved “The Dovekeepers” and I wanted more Alice Hoffman.<br><br>It was awful.<br><br>The prose was clunky and felt forced. The structure, whereby the story is told in first person by one protagonist, then shifts into third person from the same protagonist’s POV, and then switches to first person for the other protagonist and then third person for him, kept me from building up any kind of reading momentum.<br><br>I could not believe it was written by the same author as “The Dovekeepers”. The male protagonist is supposed to be a Jewish street kid who skirts the wrong side of the law. The female is a teenage girl who’s been kept as a curiosity by her magician/”scientist” “father” in his Museum of Extraordinary Things. She’s got a deformity in her hands that makes her look fish-like. I guess. But anyhow, he’s directed her reading and she’s read a lot of the classics. The problem here is that both protagonists sound exactly the same. There’s no difference at all between their voices. And the third-person accounts sound the same as the first-person ones. It’s terrible.<br><br>Then there’s the prose. Two examples of badness follow.<br>”Coralie kissed him quickly, then whispered that she had given him her heart. It was not possible to live without one’s heart (NO DUH — my comment), yet she was smiling when she backed away.”<br>Then, this gem:<br>”And what of monsters?” Coralie wished to know. … “Can they love?”<br>Maureen tenderly ran a hand over her charge’s dark hair. “We know quite well they can,” she murmured. “For we know that they do.”<br>Isn’t that some kind of circular logic? I know because I know?<br><br>Then there’s the “plumlike butter”…I understand what she means, it’s a butter-like spread made from plums. “Plumlike butter”, however, to me means butter that is round, fleshy, and covered with a skin. It’s inaccurate.<br><br>I almost didn’t finish this and I don’t know why I did. I was hoping it would get better…no. It didn’t.<br><br>There’s three days of my life I can never get back. Did this get good reviews when it came out? I’d look, but I’d rather forget about it now that it’s over.<br>
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Kitchen Dreams, Kitchen Nightmares

June 5, 2014

Chop ChopChop Chop by Simon Wroe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s a dark comedy, but it’s a family story. It’s about a restaurant, but it’s also about finding one’s place in the world. It’s about that most concrete of human needs — food — but there are interludes almost fanciful in their detail. It takes place at the beginning of a young man’s adult life, but it’s really about our pasts and how we can’t ever truly leave them behind.

Simon Wroe draws upon his experience working in kitchens to tell the story of Monocle, a recent university graduate knocking around London, who takes a job as a commis in the kitchen of The Swan, a neighborhood restaurant in Camden Town. As the low man on the cooks’ totem pole, he does the scut work and bears the brutality of boss Bob, along with the rest of the kitchen staff. The interwoven stories of these men, Monocle’s father, and the dreaded patron named The Fat Man lead us to three downfalls, all terrible and different from each other.

It’s hard to believe that Wroe is a first-time novelist, given the surehandedness of his prose and the tight storytelling. He’s written a funny, touching, snarky, and very realistic story. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

*Since I get to edit this, I have to add “gleefully obscene” to this review. The kitchen staff is perfectly rendered and their constant chatter fits them to a T.

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