Saturday, 3 October 2015

Shizzle Inc. by Ana Spoke, reviewed by Mari Biella

I should start this review with a little admission: my Kindle is stuffed full of free books. I’ve always had an eye for a bargain, and if a book is on a free promo and looks even mildly interesting, I’ll almost always pick it up. Do I always read these freebies? In truth, no. Many a free book is currently mired in the metaphorical mud at the bottom of my Kindle, probably never even to be glanced at again, yet alone read.

I picked Shizzle Inc. up for free. Unlike other freebies, though, I started reading it almost straight away; unlike other freebies, I not only finished it, but loved it. It’s not even the kind of book I’d normally read, which is a great lesson in the importance of trying things outside one’s comfort zone. Sometimes, it really pays off. It certainly did so in this case.

The novel follows the gloriously dippy Isa Maxwell, whose life is changed forever when she applies for a job at the eponymous Shizzle Inc., a ‘global conglomerate of value creation processes’, owned by one Mr Hue. Mr Hue has somehow managed to build up this company despite being an idiot of the first order, and despite the fact that he does no discernible work whatsoever. He’s fabulously wealthy, and enjoys splashing his money around on things like private limos and a helicopter, which is ‘fitted with a thermobarbic warhead ... You have to be prepared for anything these days.’ He employs ditzy, uncoordinated young women on the basis of their personal appeal. ‘You never know where you might spot a Shizzle type,’ Hue says at one point. ‘I usually find them in exclusive bars, luxury resorts or private golf clubs, but every now and then one just walks in, like you did.’ He spouts dubious wisdom about business, such as this: ‘What I’ve learned, I’ve learned by doing stuff. And what I’ve learned is that we are in the business of doing stuff.’

Wait a minute! If you’ve read one of the more surprising publishing sensations of recent years, all of this may be sounding a tad familiar. Is this a parody of Fifty Shades of Grey?

I think it probably is, in many ways. And yet it’s not simply a parody. Isa Maxwell is not really anything like Ana Steele; she doesn’t get involved in any borderline-abusive BDSM relationships, and she actually shows signs of growing and becoming a better person as the book progresses. She’s also, surface dopiness notwithstanding, a resourceful young woman who once started a ‘business’ ‘where I called the customer service number on the back of every food package and complained about the quality of their products. I had refund checks and coupons waiting for me in the mailbox almost every day.’

Such inventiveness comes in handy during Isa’s progress in Shizzle Inc. Given that she was employed for a job in which she has absolutely no training or experience, however, it’s only a matter of time before things go uproariously wrong. Throw in a housemate who is not all she seems, a dysfunctional family, a disgruntled ex-employee and a policeman who appears to be stalking Isa, and you’ve got a recipe for hilarity. For once I’m not exaggerating when I said I laughed out loud on occasion and could hardly put the book down, and I think I’m generally quite a tough customer. Shizzle Inc. really is that good.


I’d like to conclude with a personal apology to author Ana Spoke. I feel bad that I got your book during the free promo, especially when it was worth every penny, and more, of the asking price. I’ll buy the next one, I promise.

To buy Shizzle Inc. - and yes, it really is worth buying - go to Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.