Four Kitchens – Lauren Shockey

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I have been waiting to read this book for ages, slowly chipping away at my un-readimage pile of books and finally it reached the top.

There are a few attributes that I love separately – travel, food, inspiration – that all come together in Lauren Shockeys story. Being non-fiction there are no twisted plot lines to unravel, no overly-complicated characters to love or hate, just raw truths wether pretty or not. I fell in love more and more with each page I read. With my own questionings in regards to career filling my head at the moment, I probably picked up this book at the perfect time.

With a love for food and cooking, Lauren is unfulfilled with her desk job within the food industry and to her parents bewilderment she makes herself a drastic yearly plan that she jumps in to, guns blazing. Four stages (unpaid kitchen internships) in four countries, each 3 months long to experience different styles, cultures and cuisines.

Stop one takes her to molecular gastronomy restaurant wd-50 in New York. Probably what I read as the hardest experience, if for no other reason than it was the first. Being thrown in to an unfamiliar environment, not knowing quite how to behave or how others would behave towards her, the hours and hours of menial prep work and experiencing for the first time the gruelling long hours. However, with so many new tequines and ‘sciency’ ingredients to play with, as well as the owner Wylie Dufresne cooking on the line every night there were so many valuable lessons.

Next up we find her in Hanoi restaurant La Verticale. This experience was my faviourite and the most fun to read. The colourful backdrops, talk of spices and delicious street food and the endearing people we get to know. Her colleagues, as well as new friends, are loveable and give the sense of a family away from home – keep an eye out for Thanh, he pulls my heartstrings. During her time here Lauren learns the importance of flavour and intuition over technique.

Now we travel to Tel Aviv and the Carmella Bistro. Amoungst shopping in the local markets and enjoying home cooked, comforting, holiday feasts with new friends, Lauren also gets her first taste of responsibility in the kitchen. Being bumped to a higher status than apprentices normally do, she finds herself in charge of a section and working the line during every service. With a job offer on the table, she still decides to finish out her yearly plan.

Naturally, the last stop brings us to Paris. Where else could it possibly be? Wanting to learn within a Michelin star environment we are dropped in to 2-star Senderens. A completely different world to anywhere she has worked before, the Holy Grail of work spaces, precicion skills and flawless dishes. Though, while her time here is invaluable, she also finds it has its flaws – dropped back to the endless hours of prep work seems a downgrade after her affair with responsibility and she notices that not only does Alain Senderens not work within the kitchen, she doesn’t even meet him.

With a scattering of recipes breaking up her tales and an unexpected ending, everything about this book is nothing short of endearing and inspiring, with a strong message to just go ahead and follow your dreams. I urge you to pick up a copy ASAP!

Let me know what you think…

The Perfect Man – Sheila O’Flanagan

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The best thing about going on a beach vacation to Fiji (okay maybe not the best, but it’s a bonus) is that you can take a pile of books, stretch out in the sun and zone out imagefor hours on end. So why not start with a classic, easy beach read…

And easy beach read it was. Just a girly love story with your classics ups and downs, will they or won’t they’s and of course, an appearance of the completely wrong woman. Now that’s not the complaint it may sound like, it’s just that if you’re after some mystery or twists and turns, this maybe wouldn’t be the book for you.

I love a girly beach read as much as the next person, my only dislike it that you can usually work out the ending within a couple of chapters. Which I found was the case in this book.

Britt and Mia McDonagh – opposites in both looks and personality – set off on the Valentines cruise aboard the Aphrodite. There to host writing seminars after her book The Perfect Man sky-rocketed to a best seller, Britt found herself unexpectedly without an assistant to accompany her – cue her sister Mia. Given her hard, and sometimes difficult exterior, there is no one else Britt could have pictured herself being cooped up with for 2 weeks and although struggling with the thoughts of leaving behind her 3-year-old daughter, Mia feels she deserves a little adventure.

Leo Tyler can’t understand how he ended up alone in a VIP suite during a Valentines cruise –  it certainly isn’t how he imagined his honeymoon. Encouraged to go-it-alone, find some single women and “move on”, Leo isn’t immediately convinced. What kind of single women would be on a couples cruise?

Despite initial suspicions of a growing interest between Leo and Britt, it’s up-coming model Pippin Costello – tagging along with her parents – that grabs his attention in the end, much to the sisters’ surprise.

Surprisingly, the adventures of the characters continued on after the cruise ended and delved a little more in to their regular lives.

As she attempts to make decisions that are best for her daughter whilst not losing her own identity, Mia struggles to decide wether her feelings lie with Alejo – her daughters father – or with hunky cruise director Steve Shaw. Whilst Britt, deep in to her second novel, starts to wonder if she will find her Perfect Man…

Tell me what you thought…..

Ink – Amanda Sun 

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inkOne thing that I find after you read a lot of books is that sometimes they start to sound similar. You find patterns of mirrored story lines, familiar characters and the like. If you’re looking for something unique then this is a great novel to pick up!

Bearing that in mind, you need to throw reality out the window and accept the existence of descendants of Japanese gods and some seriously cool ‘super powers’.

The story is based around Katie Greene, who has just moved to Japan to live with her Aunt after her mother passed away. Thrown in to a new country and new school where she barely speaks the language, she struggles to accept this new life.

When she runs back in to school to get something she left behind she accidentally becomes an eavesdropper on the break up of the schools bad-boy Tomohiro. When a bunch of drawings falls at her feet, she swear she sees one move, but how could that be possible?

After more and more snarky run-ins with Tomo, Katie decides to follow him and see what he’s up to. She can’t help but notice that whenever something strange happens, he is always nearby. However what she finds – as is with most bad-boys – is that there is a different side to him than the front he puts on.

Soon after a series of unbelievable events starts to unravel; drawings flying off the page, kidnappings by the Yakuza & a shocking experience at a ‘love hotel’. With danger increasing more by the day, Katie has to decide between her heart & her safety.

Let me know what you think…

The Catcher in the Rye – J. D. Salinger

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Catcher-in-the-rye-2.jpgSometimes you pick up a classic novel with the uneasy feeling that it may be a little bit of hard reading that you really need to get in to the zone for. You read them anyway though because hey, it’s a classic for a reason right? Then sometimes you get pleasantly surprised and find a gem that you love.

For me this was one of those times. I really enjoyed this story, the way it was written and how it reads. The style of writing was quite unique and unlike any other book I’ve read. It’s written in a way that reads as if the main character, Holden, is speaking directly to you. It is done in a very unpolished way, at many times he repeats himself & is calmly erratic – if there is such a thing.

Holden is a teenager who jumps from school to school as he is continuously kicked out from one after another. Not in a trouble making sense, he is quite intelligent, just not particularly interested in being there. His disinterest leads to failing grades in the majority of his subjects.

This particular story from Holden is set over only a couple of days. We start with him leaving yet another school just before the holiday break starts & taking refuge in the city so his parents don’t suspect anything is amiss.

Sneaking in to bars, trying to find some female companionship & over-thinking fills up the hours of his time. Giving us flashbacks in to his family life – learning about his brothers, the older a successful writer in Hollywood, the younger deceased from pneumonia.

Personally the story read a little sad and lonely to me but there were also strong tones of love and family. Let me know what you think….

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne

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Now before you read my thoughts about this new book, img_0055you must know that I am an EXTREME Harry Potter fan. Think mint condition book collections, Quidditch jerseys and even a Deathly Hallows tattoo.

When I heard that they had published this play, I was a little sceptical to read it. As much as I love the HP series & was sad when they ended, I’m under the belief that when it’s over it’s over. When series – or even one-offs – end so well, I think they should be left that way. Just think about how many terrible sequels are out there!

But it’s here… So I had to read it. How could I not?

In my personal opinion – and it is only an opinion because I’ve heard many different thoughts about this one – I don’t think it lent anything to the original stories. I didn’t feel that it read anything like the other books, almost even a little juvenile.

Whilst the books main characters are ones we have not experienced before, when it did jump to flashbacks and ‘familiar faces’ you didn’t really get the same sense of them as you did in books past.

Of course it was nice to get taken back in to Hogwarts, the Ministry of Magic and other old spots of our favourite wizarding world. However, in future I think I will stick to re-reading the old classics to get my Harry Potter fix.

These thoughts aside, any HP fan should give this a read just for the fact that it’s there. Let me know what you thought…

 

The Beach House – Mary Alice Monroe 

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This is definitely one of those rare stories that is so happy yet so sad  all at the same time.

Lovie Rutledge lives and breathes for the Summers spent at her beach house. Dedicated to her ‘Turtle Team’ who have helped the Loggerhead turtle nests hatch safely for countless years, she yearns for just one thing. A chance to reconcile her relationship with her daughter Cara.

Independent and longly seperate from her family, Cara is her own person. Distancing herself from her Southern routes she has formed her own career driven life in the city and never looked back. When she receives an unusual letter from her mother around the same time she is let go from her job unexpectedly, Cara makes a snap decision to pack her stuff and head to her childhood beach house.

Returning to a million memories & her strained relationship with her mother she soon notices someone else living in the house. A young girl – Toy – with a big attitude and even bigger pregnancy belly catches her off guard. Hostility flaring straight up, Cara spends the majority of her first week in bed trying to come to terms with the sudden upheaval in her life.

Soon she comes to realise that everything is not quite what it seems… Lovie is rapidly deteriorating from cancer. This will be her last Summer.

Between family feuds, a teenage pregnancy, summer romance & long lost secrets Cara must decide where her loyalties and future lies.

This is a no-brainer, light, easy read but in a great way. With the sand filled backgrounds & talk of sunburn and fresh seafood, it’s easy to get lost within the story.

Let me know what you think…

 

The Girl On The Train – Paula Hawkins 

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It has been a long time since I read a book that I could
not put down, but this is it! Had that annoying little thing called work not gotten in the way, I would have finished it in one sitting (…. Two, max!).

My favourite category to read has always been Thrillers, I love the feeling of them keeping you on the edge & denying yourself that bit of extra sleep just so you can read a few extra pages.

Rachel is a rather sad character. Depressed, alcohol dependant and always unsure & confused. A London train commuter, she is overly observant of the occupants of the houses she passes by every day. In particular ‘Jess and Jason’ who’s seemingly happy marriage she pines for, after her own has diminished.

Until one day she sees something that shocks her..

The next day ‘Jess’ – who we discover is actually named Megan Hipwell – is reported missing and Rachel just can’t let it go. Feeling that she knows (but has drunkenly forgotten) more to the story, she struggles to piece together her memories and have people take her seriously. The truth becomes very tangled between the characters and ends with an outcome that is an explosive shock.

Told between alternating perspectives of Rachel, Megan and Anna (the new wife of Rachel’s ex-husband), the structure of the book creates even more complexity of the characters.

I won’t say any more as you should experience this great read for yourself however I will say it is a must read. Let me know what you think…

 

Killer Heels – Rebecca Chance

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“The Devil Wears Prada” was all my brain was image
thinking for the first few chapters of this book. It was annoyingly similar to the point where I was reading just for the sake of it. The slave-driver boss who everyone is afraid of, the heavier less stylish girl who unexpectedly scores the vacant assistant position… Even down to the detail of staff not getting in to the elevator with Miranda.. Or in this case, Victoria.

However, no matter how much – or little – I am enjoying a book, once I start, I finish it.

The story started to steer away from TDWP once you got a little further in which made for a more easy-going read. Jodie (an unfashionable name which her new boss quickly changes to Coco) scores her dream job working for the editor of Style UK Victoria Glossop. Whilst over demanding and blatantly rude, there is nothing that Victoria delegates that Coco can’t achieve and when Victoria bullies herself in to the Style US editor position she takes Coco along for the ride.

Dedicated to not only her job, but also making herself a size 0 glamazon, it’s not long before Coco starts climbing the fashion magazine ladder. Her fast changing looks and English wit quickly catch the attention of her exceedingly weather CEO, Jacob  Dupleix. With sexual tension through the roof it takes but one dinner date for the pair to become an item.

Cue a secret lesbian affair, a three-way battle of dirty tricks to make it as alpha female, an unexpected proposal and a dramatic suicide leap – there’s not much in the drama category that this book is missing.

An easy read but not a stand-out for me. Let me know what you think….

The Briny Cafe – Susan Duncan

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Have you ever read a book that just makes you think ‘I wantthebrinycafe
to go there!’. This is definitely one of those books.

It has all of those elements that make you feel at home and really care about the story. A close community, heart-warming characters and locations that are as much a part of the family as any of the people.

The story resides in Cook’s Basin, a small offshore community where everybody knows each others name. At the heart of the town stands the Briny Cafe, a resident in its own right, owned and run by grumpy Bertie and his only helper Julie. A central spot where you will always see a familiar face, even if the coffee and food are rather questionable.

It is in the Briny that we meet the pillars that hold Cook’s Basin together. Sam, the straight forward but lovable guy who works on the barge and is forever saving out-of-towners from the waters. Fast Freddy, driver of the water taxi and Ettie, mother to all who is wondering if she has left it too late to start over from her un-fulfilling job as a cleaner.

Devastating news reaches the residents when they learn from Julie that Bertie’s health is on a rapid downwards spiral and is too ill to continue to run the Briny. Will it be closed down and demolished by a stranger who doesn’t know it’s importance to the locals? In an undeniable act of kindness Bertie offers Ettie the opportunity of her lifetime.

When newbie Kate moves in to town, almost everybody writes her off as another no-hoper on limited time. Everybody except for Ettie. Seeing a good heart and an immense amount of potential she quickly befriends the new girl and makes her a (questionable to others) offer. Would she like to go partners in the Briny Cafe?

With a quick refurb in desperate need and an undesirable neighbour moving in, everyone bands together to make things right. Bertie deserves to see the Briny in its full glory once more. A couple of new budding romances, a heartbreaking murder of a dog and a last-minute wedding keeps everyone on their toes.

A really nice story plus a couple of warming touches – the monthly community newsletter and some of Ettie’s very own recipes – really make you feel at home while you read it

Let me know what you think…

 

 

Priceless – Nicole Richie

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Take two for a Nicole Richie novel. Whilst her first priceless
book was semi-autobiographical, this one is pure fiction.

Whilst there was no great thinking required and some parts may have been somewhat predictable, it was still an easy and pleasant read. A ‘beach read’ some would say.

Going with the write-what-you-know theory this story is about rich and privileged socialite Charlotte who has just arrived home after some time abroad. Accustomed to living the good life with little to no consequences, her world is rocked when her father is arrested on fraud charges.

Having no other family and less than loyal friends, Charlotte struggles to deal with the repercussions of her father’s scandle. Suddenly poor, alone and dealing with anonymous death threats she flees the media and head to New Orleans to stay with her childhood nanny.

Enjoying the simpler life and making some new genuine friends, she feels ‘free’ for the first time in her life. However this new feeling is short-lived. A hateful website about her surfaces and she is followed by the paparazzi & the earlier threats on her life.

Getting caught up in a whirl-wind romance and a potential new singing career she is left wondering if she can ever leave her past and fathers mistakes behind.

Let me know what you think…