Category Archives: Humour

Beelzebelle- Heide Goody and Iain Grant


Beelzebelle is the fifth book in the Clovenhoof series

Synopsis

Only Jeremy Clovenhoof could accidentally acquire a baby, but he’s ready to be a Dad- in his own way.

Meanwhile Michael has discovered a new church, Ben has found a new hobby in taxidermy, and there is a wild beast roaming around Sutton Coldfield.

Review

I’m glad to see the series back with Clovenhoof, not that I didn’t like the others, I just missed that group.

Clovenhoof approaches parenthood like no other, including hiring a monkey assistant  and joining a mother’s group in a quest for milk for the baby. Of course things don’t quite go to plan, especially as he’s not really the baby’s father!

A lot of the more action-y part of the story is focussed around Michael who finds a new church which rewards its members for ‘good deads’, a bit like a supermarket loyalty card. and also, accidently creates a beast in the lab where he works.

As with most of the clovenhoof novels most of the action is towards the end, but there is an amusing journey to get there.

4/5 

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Kindle (£3.50)

Paperback (£8.99)

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Hellzapoppin’- Heide Goody and Iain Grant


Synopsis (from amazon)

Life at St Cadfan’s is never dull. There’s the cellar full of unexplained corpses. There’s the struggle to find food when the island is placed under quarantine. And there’s that peculiar staircase in the cellar… Being a demon in Hell has its own problems. There’s the increasingly impossible torture quotas to meet. There’s the entire horde of Hell waiting for you to slip up and make a mistake. And there’s that weird staircase in the service tunnels… Brother Stephen of St Cadfan’s and Rutpsud of the Sixth Circle, natural enemies and the most unnatural of friends, join forces to solve a murder mystery, save a rare species from extinction and stop Hell itself exploding. The fourth novel in the Clovenhoof series, Hellzapoppin’ is an astonishing comedy featuring suicidal sea birds, deadly plagues, exploding barbecues, dancing rats, magical wardrobes, King Arthur’s American descendants, mole-hunting monks, demonic possession and way too much seaweed beer.

Review

Hellzapoppin’ is the fourth book in the Clovenhoof series, but can easily be read as a standalone novel. We have seen the characters in previous books in the series, but they were minor characters, and the events in the previous books they appeared in don’t really have an effect on the events in this one (I would recommend reading the others anyway).

This one did take a little more getting into than the first couple (probably about the same as Godsquad though), and it had less of an action focus.

I did like seeing the image of what Hell might be like though- again a little bit of a poke at bureaucracy that we first saw in Clovenhoof. I also likes the friendship between Ratspud and Stephen. It seems like an unlikely friendship- a monk and a demon, but actually they ended up bringing out the best in each other.

I also liked some of the odd inventions in hell, and the inclusion of Escher and C.S Lewis. If you know the work of Escher you can probably imagine how hellish a piece of architecture based on his work could be. C.S Lewis is known for being a Christian and his Christian writings so it’s interesting to see him here, ‘on loan’ from Heaven.

escheromhoogomlaag

I enjoyed the comedy of the events at the monastery, even the dark humour which isn’t always to my taste.

Part of the reason I picked up Hellzapoppin’ was because of my loss of reading mojo, which I thought this might get through, and I was right.

4/5

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Kindle (£2.99)

Paperback (£7.99)

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Juliet, Naked- Nick Hornby


Synopsis (from amazon)

Annie lives in a dull town on England’s bleak east coast and is in a relationship with Duncan which mirrors the place; Tucker was once a brilliant songwriter and performer, who’s gone into seclusion in rural America – or at least that’s what his fans think. Duncan is obsessed with Tucker’s work, to the point of derangement, and when Annie dares to go public on her dislike of his latest album, there are quite unexpected, life-changing consequences for all three.

Review

Wow it’s been a long time since I’ve read a book this quickly, took me just over a day. I’m not convinced it’s all down to the book, I was phoneless at the time (ok that’s not quite true, I had the boyfriend’s old iphone which is so out of date that apps just aren’t compatible with it) so there were less distractions.

Part of it was the book though. Hornby is very readable, and the story was engaging. It had a bit of a High Fidelity feel about it, although I wouldn’t say it’s up to the same level.

Part of what I liked but also sort of disliked was that the characters were rather unlikeable. I suppose that makes them more real, which is good, but it did mean I didn’t feel that much of a connection with them.

The ending sort of fizzled out too which was disappointing but maybe true to life.

4/5

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Kindle (£3.99)

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Oddjobs- Heide Goody and Iain Grant


Disclaimer: I was given this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis (from amazon)

It’s the end of the world as we know it, but someone still needs to do the paperwork.
Incomprehensible horrors from beyond are going to devour our world but that’s no excuse to get all emotional about it. Morag Murray works for the secret government organisation responsible for making sure the apocalypse goes as smoothly and as quietly as possible.
In her first week on the job, Morag has to hunt down a man-eating starfish, solve a supernatural murder and, if she’s got time, prevent her own inevitable death.

Review

I’ve been really enjoying the Clovenhoof books by Goody and Grant (I’m reading Hellzapoppin’ at the moment) so when they sent me an offer to read the first book from their new series I jumped at the chance.

Oddjobs has the same humourous tone that the Clovenhoof books do but I think it has a bit more of an edge to it.  It’s a little bit political, about work in general and probably a lot about more about government work (I’ve only ever really worked in that sector so I’m not sure how true it would be of other sectors).  Basically about red tape and silly ideas.

It has more action throughout that the Clovenhoof books too, which makes it readable in a different way.

Clovenhoof is probably a bit more easy going, but I think overall this might be a more interesting series, I’ll be looking forward to the next one.

4/5

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Kindle (£3.50)

Paperback (£6.99)

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Look Who’s Back- Timur Vermes


Synopsis (from amazon)

Berlin, Summer 2011. Adolf Hitler wakes up on a patch of open ground, alive and well. Things have changed – no Eva Braun, no Nazi party, no war. Hitler barely recognises his beloved Fatherland, filled with immigrants and run by a woman.

People certainly recognise him, albeit as a flawless impersonator who refuses to break character. The unthinkable, the inevitable happens, and the ranting Hitler goes viral, becomes a YouTube star, gets his own T.V. show, and people begin to listen. But the Führer has another programme with even greater ambition – to set the country he finds a shambles back to rights.

Review

This book has had some controversy. Mainly focusing about is it right to write a humorous book about Hitler? I think the main problem people see in it is that it sort of makes light of Hitler and in doing so somehow makes light of what he did.

I think the people who say this miss the point somewhat however. It’s a book about Hitler in the basics, but really it’s more about the media and how life now views Hitler. He’s seen as a sort of spectacle. Think of all the tourist destinations which wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for Hitler. Is this about the point of not forgetting so it can’t happen again? Or is it more of a morbid curiosity or some sort of extended rubbernecking?

I think it shows how something similar could happen again. Hitler in this book became known and famous. Maybe he would never have been taken seriously as a politician, but the start of it was there. It does make me think somewhat of the popularity of people like Trump, many people are against him, but he also has a certain amount of support- and that could be dangerous.

On the surface this is a humorous book, and it did make me laugh. You could probably read it just as an entertaining read if you wanted to. If you didn’t feel the need to justify it.

It won’t be for everyone. I know it’s something that could offend. I understand why. But I liked it.

4/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£6.29)

Kindle (£4.99)

Hardback (£13.49)

Other reviews:

Plastic Rosaries

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Godsquad- Heide Goody and Iain Grant


Disclaimmer: This book was given to me free of charge (by the author) in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis (from amazon)

The Team:
Joan of Arc, the armour-plated teen saint of Orleans.
Francis of Assisi, friend to all the animals whether they like it or not.
St Christopher, the patron saint of travel who by papal decree has never existed – no matter how much he argues otherwise.

The Mission: An impossible prayer has been received by Heaven and it’s a prayer that only Mary, Mother of God, can answer. Unfortunately, Mary hasn’t been seen in decades and is off wandering the Earth somewhere. This elite team of Heavenly saints are sent down to Earth to find Mary before Armageddon is unleashed on an unsuspecting world.

Godsquad:
A breathless comedy road trip from Heaven to France and all points in-between featuring murderous butchers, a coachload of Welsh women, flying portaloos, nuclear missiles, giant rubber dragons, an army of dogs, a very rude balloon and way too much French wine.

Review

Godsquad is the fourth book in the Clovenhoof series. However it’s rather differ to Clovenhoof and Pigeonwings and can easily be read as a stand alone novel. It contains some of the same characters as the pervious books but they have been relatively minor characters before. It contains neither Satan or Gabriel.

I always rather liked Joan of Arc in the previous books so I was looking forward to seeing more of her, but on the other hand I found Francis of Assisi annoying- so wasn’t so much looking forward to seeing more of him.

In terms of action and adventure Godsquad did seem to promise more than either of the previous two books, so I found myself a little disappointed that the action didn’t get started earlier. It was somewhat interesting to see the saints adapting to modern life, but we have seen a lot of that in previous books and it might have been nice to have something different.

However when the action did get going I did find in very engaging, and the second portion of the book went very quickly for me.

I still really liked Joan of Arc by the end- more so if possible, and Francis of Assisi had grown on me too- although there are still annoying elements to him, and I liked Christopher too.

I found Mary to be a rather amusing character. Feminist, anarchist, anti-capitalist, but pretty much clueless really- that’s why she was amusing.

In fact on reflection I think it may be my favourite in the series.

4/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£2.99)

Paperback (£8.99)

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Pigeonwings- Heide Goody and Iain Grant


Pigeonwings is the follow-up novel to Clovenhoof.

Synopsis (from amazon)

As punishment for his part in an attempted coup in Heaven, the Archangel Michael is banished to Earth. The holiest of the angelic host has to learn to live as a mortal, not an easy job when you’ve got Satan as a next-door neighbour.

Michael soon finds that being a good person involves more than helping out at Sunday school and attending church coffee mornings. He has to find his purpose in life, deal with earthly temptations and solve a mystery involving some unusual monks and a jar of very dangerous jam.

Heide Goody and Iain Grant have written a wild comedy that features spear-wielding cub scouts, accidental transvestites, King Arthur, a super-intelligent sheepdog, hallucinogenic snacks, evil peacocks, old ladies with biscuits, naked paintball, stolen tractors, clairvoyant computers, the Women’s Institute, and way too much alcohol.

Review

This book follows on from Clovenhoof but his time instead of focusing on Satan it focuses on the Archangel Michael who has recently been banished from Heaven.

It was my first read of 2014 (and I’m only now writing the review!) and it was a fun way to start the year

I must admit I didn’t enjoy Pigeonwings as much as I enjoyed Clovenhoof, Michael just wasn’t as exciting as a character.

Having said that there were more topics which verged on the serious, as Michael fried to re-establish his relationship with God, something which he had taken for granted before. It was interesting to see him explore faith in different ways, and finding how difficult it can seem for a human to have a relationship with God.

Ultimately though it was still funny, and there waa less dark humour than there was in Clovenhoof, which I personally am not a big fan of anyway. I think it was less funny overall though as well.

There was the mystery side of it which I liked however.

I’m looking forward to the next one which is due out later this year.

4/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£2.99)

 

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Humans: An A-Z- Matt Haig


Synopsis (from amazon)

DO YOU

A) Know a human?

B) Love a human?

C) Have trouble dealing with humans?

IF YOU’VE ANSWERED YES TO ANY OF THE ABOVE, THIS BOOK IS FOR YOU

Whether you are planning a high level of human interaction or just a casual visit to the planet, this user-guide to the human race will help you translate their sayings, understand exotic concepts such as ‘democracy’ and ‘sofas’, and make sense of their habits and bizarre customs.

A phrase book, a dictionary and a survival guide, this book unravels all the oddness, idiosyncrasies and wonder of the species, allowing everyone to make the most of their time on Earth.

Review

Humans: An A-Z is a sort of companion book to The Humans. It’s like a guide book for visitors to earth. Sort of an extended version of the tips for being human at the end of the novel itself.

It was, as I expected, amusing, but it lost most of the heart warming aspects that I liked in the main novel.

I had it on kindle but would personally recommend the hard copy, it would have been nice to be able to flick back and forth, especially as some sections refereed to others, it would have been good to be able to cross reference.

In the music section Haig writes about music for different mood, sometimes songs, sometimes albums. I made a spotify playlist for it, and everything was there (which was nice after my playlist for 31 Songs was a bit of a failure)

 3/5

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Paperback (£5.99)

Kindle (£1.79)

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Texts From Jane Eyre- Mallory Ortberg.


Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book (from the US publisher) in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis (my own- for once!)

Texts From Jane Eyre is a collection of text conversations between various (generally famous) literary characters and writers.

Review

I’m rushing through my notable books in my backlog of reviews because I want reviews of the ones I might mention in my review of the year. I’m doing this one first partly because I really enjoyed it, and partly because I bought it for my sister for Christmas so I had been waiting to write it.

This is my most recommended book currently (although since finishing How to be a Heroine over Christmas that may overtake it). I recommended it on both my Book Blogger Holiday Card Exchange cards, and I bought it for my sister (I ordered it from The Book Depository because it’s not out over here yet).

Actually when I was first sent the offer of an advanced copy of this I was unsure. Sometimes these types of things can be more annoying than funny, but then I read some reviews and realised I had to say yes. I’m so glad I did.

It was funny. Especially when I knew the writers or characters. In fact the only bad thing about it really is that a lot of the humour is lost if you haven’t read the books in question.

My favourite bits were the Poe sections:

“whoa
I wasn’t LOOKING at a bird
wow where is this even coming from?
the BIRD
wouldn’t stop LOOKING
at ME”

and the William Blake sections:

“Is it a picture of someone being flayed?”

“Well

sort of

I mean they’re already flayed but they’re not getting flayed

it’s not like a double flaying

ooh wait

hang on”

It’s a good flick through book too, so probably better in the physical book format. That is a problem with kindle books, no good for flicking.

Basically anyone who likes books should appreciate it, and should read it.

4.5/5

Buy it from amazon:

Hardback pre-order (£14.99) – released November 2015

Buy it from The Book Depository:

Hardback (£11.00)

Other Reviews:

So…I know I had said I read reviews on a load of blogs, but apparently none of these bloggers have put them on goodreads, and feedly doesn’t allow me to search (unless I pay..booo!), so if you have written one please put a link in comments and I will add it here.

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Clovenhoof- Heide Goody and Iain Grant


Synopsis (from amazon)

Charged with gross incompetence, Satan is fired from his job as Prince of Hell and exiled to that most terrible of places: English suburbia. Forced to live as a human under the name of Jeremy Clovenhoof, the dark lord not only has to contend with the fact that no one recognises him or gives him the credit he deserves but also has to put up with the bookish wargamer next door and the voracious man-eater upstairs.

Heaven, Hell and the city of Birmingham collide in a story that features murder, heavy metal, cannibalism, armed robbers, devious old ladies, Satanists who live with their mums, gentlemen of limited stature, dead vicars, petty archangels, flamethrowers, sex dolls, a blood-soaked school assembly and way too much alcohol.

Review

Clovenhoof was one of the books I got at the Birmingham Independent Book Fair (I also got the sequel, Pigeonwings, which I haven’t yet read). My boyfriend read it before me and compared it to Good Omens (which I haven’t read), a book he had enjoyed. He was excited to see where I was whilst reading it too.

It was a funny, and quite light read. It was interesting how the reader was made sympathetic to Satan, to even like him, and to dislike the angel Michael. It should really be the other way round, shouldn’t it?

I suppose in a way it shows how bureaucracy has good intentions, but sometimes you have to break the rules so that things will work, and some rules are more important than others. Or even that sometimes old rules loose their importance as things change. I guess what I’m trying to say is that there’s a bit of a serious message which you can read into Clovenhoof.

There’s also a bit of a message about there really being no absolute good or evil, because something meant for good can have bad consequences, and things meant for bad can have good consequences.

You don’t have to make it serious though, you can just read it as a funny story about the devil having to live on earth.

Plus it’s sent in Birmingham, it’s always nice when a story is set somewhere you know.

There’s a great twist at the end too.

4/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£2.00)

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The Rosie Project- Graeme Simsion


the rosie project, books, book, Graeme SimsionSynopsis (from amazon)

‘I’m not good at understanding what other people want.’

‘Tell me something I don’t know . . .’

Love isn’t an exact science – but no one told Don Tillman. A thirty-nine-year-old geneticist, Don’s never had a second date. So he devises the Wife Project, a scientific test to find the perfect partner. Enter Rosie – ‘the world’s most incompatible woman’ – throwing Don’s safe, ordered life into chaos. But what is this unsettling, alien emotion he’s feeling?

Review

Everyone in the book blogosphere seems to have read The Rosie Project, and most of those people have loved it, I’ve not seen one negative review. I am no exception. I loved The Rosie Project.

It was cute and funny, and romantic, and quirky. Don was such a unique, yet believable character. He was a little bit of a less asexual Sheldon Cooper (of The Big Bang Theory).

Big Bang Theory, Sheldon, Sheldon Cooper, Bazinger, books, The Rosie project

Sheldon

Rosie is Don’s complete antithesis, but, for some reason, it works. Rosie takes Don completely out of his comfort zone, she helps him to relax.  Don is so clever, but he’s blind when it comes to women, when it comes to Rosie. It means you see lots of times that Don is being clueless, you want someone to come and show him everything objectively- I think that could have worked for him.

I did love Don as a character. I loved reading the story through his voice. He obviously cares about things, he always works really hard at everything, but he doesn’t understand that you can’t learn everything from books, or in an intellectual way. It’s kind of adorable.

When looking for reviews of The Rosie Project I found out that a sequel is coming out this year. I’m excited to see the sequel but not sure if it will really work, especially if it was written just because The Rosie Project itself was so popular. I fear it won’t meet up to the amazingness of The Rosie Project, but I’ll still read it.

5/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£3.80)

Kindle (£2.99)

Hardback (£9.52)

Other reviews:

Giraffe Days

The Little Reader Library

Bookjourney

Under A Gray Sky

So Many Books, So Little Time

Sam Still Reading

As The Crowe Flies (And Reads!)

Words For Worms

No Page Left Behind

Chrisbookarama

Leeswammes Blog

Farm Lane Books

What Hannah Read

Have I missed your review? Leave me a link in comments and I will add it here.

 

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The Meaning of Liff- Douglas Adams and John Lloyd



Synopsis (from amazon)

In life, there are hundreds of familiar experiences, feelings and objects for which no words exist, yet hundreds of strange words are idly loafing around on signposts, pointing at places. The Meaning of Liff connects the two. BERRIWILLOCK (n.) – An unknown workmate who writes ‘All the best’ on your leaving card. ELY (n.) – The first, tiniest inkling that something, somewhere has gone terribly wrong. GRIMBISTER (n.) – Large body of cars on a motorway all travelling at exactly the speed limit because one of them is a police car. KETTERING (n.) – The marks left on your bottom or thighs after sunbathing on a wickerwork chair. OCKLE (n.) – An electrical switch which appears to be off in both positions. WOKING (ptcpl.vb.) – Standing in the kitchen wondering what you came in here for.

Review

I’m not sure I can really call this a review, I have so little to say about this book.

It was humorous, generally speaking, but may have worked better as a book to dip in and out of rather than as one to  read from cover to cover (as I did). Some of the words are words that it might be nice to have a word for too, and some of them even make sense connected to the place name used. I’m not sure why they used place names, it was probably easier than making up entirely new words, however entirely new words would have been better I think, and they might have even crept into use (flange of baboons anyone?).

I would recommend the hardcover as a book to flick through, it is a rather handsome volume too, so might make a good coffee table book (if your coffee table isn’t already covered with papers, and pens, and glasses, and books and various other items as every surface of our house tends to be).

3/5

Buy it:

Hardback (£6.99)

Kindle (£4.49)

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The Uncommon Reader- Alan Bennett



Synopsis (from Amazon)

The Uncommon Reader is none other than HM the Queen who drifts accidentally into reading when her corgis stray into a mobile library parked at Buckingham Palace. She reads widely ( JR Ackerley, Jean Genet, Ivy Compton Burnett and the classics) and intelligently. Her reading naturally changes her world view and her relationship with people like the oleaginous prime minister and his repellent advisers. She comes to question the prescribed order of the world and loses patience with much that she has to do. In short, her reading is subversive. The consequence is, of course, surprising, mildly shocking and very funny.

Review

I think I would think much more of the queen if I knew she read widely, with all that travelling she should be able to, right?

This was a pretty simple, short, read, and entertaining you could quite easily finish it in one sitting.

I found it had me laughing out loud on a number of occasions, and it certainly makes me want to read more Alan Bennett.

If nothing else it really made me love reading. It’s really a book which champions reading, and all it’s wonderful effects.

I find it hard to write a review. Others have done a better job than me. All I can really say is you won’t regret reading it.

4/5

Buy it:
Paperback (£5.75)
Kindle (£4.19)

Other Reviews:

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A Long Way Down- Nick Hornby


Synopsis (from Amazon)

‘Can I explain why I wanted to jump off the top of a tower block?’ 

For disgraced TV presenter Martin Sharp the answer’s pretty simple: he has, in his own words, ‘pissed his life away’. And on New Year’s Eve he’s going to end it all . . . but not, as it happens, alone. Because first single-mum Maureen, then eighteen-year-old Jess and lastly American rock-god JJ turn up and crash Martin’s private party. They’ve stolen his idea – but brought their own reasons.

Yet it’s hard to jump when you’ve got an audience queuing impatiently behind you. A few heated words and some slices if cold pizza later and these four strangers are suddenly allies. But is their unlikely friendship a good enough reason to carry on living?

Review.

Previous novels which I’ve read by Nick Hornby have both been books where I’vd seen the films previously (you can see my reviews of Nick Hornby’s other works by using his tag) I’m not entirely sure what effect this has had on my reading of them, I enjoyed both so I certainly wouldn’t say it had a negative impact but it did give me some expectations.

I’ve been meaning to read some other of his novels for some time but was unsure where to go. A Long Way Down probably wouldn’t have been my first choice except that it was in the 12 days of kindle deals after Christmas so it seemed sensible.

Why wouldn’t I have gone with A Long Way Down? Well, my experience with funny suicide novels is not the best. I didn’t get on well with A Spot of Bother, and I wasn’t that enamoured with The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim either, but I did enjoy A Matter of Death and Life. I did know though that it’s Nick Hornby’s forte to manage to write light novels about serious subjects.

Well as far as funny suicide novels go it was pretty good. It did make me laugh, sometimes to the point that I felt a little bad about laughing, it was absurd but maybe believable. However I did feel it skimped a bit on the emotion. I never felt particularly attached to the characters, or especially emphatic- although my empathy did grow a little as I got to know them better.

There was only one character that I really felt had a halfway decent reason to want to commit suicide, but strangely she was also the one who I wanted to succeed the least.

3/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£6.99)

Paperback (£6.74)

Other reviews:

The Eye of Loni’s Storm

If you have reviewed this book leave me a link and I will add it here.

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Charlotte Street- Danny Wallace


Image from amazon

Synopsis (from amazon)

It all starts with a girl… (because yes, there’s always a girl…)

Jason Priestley (not that one) has just seen her. They shared an incredible, brief, fleeting moment of deep possibility, somewhere halfway down Charlotte Street.

And then, just like that, she was gone – accidentally leaving him holding her old-fashioned, disposable camera, chock full of undeveloped photos…

And now Jason – ex-teacher, ex-boyfriend, part-time writer and reluctant hero – faces a dilemma. Should he try and track The Girl down? What if she’s The One? But that would mean using the only clues he has, which lie untouched in this tatty disposable…

It’s funny how things can develop…

Review.

A while ago I read a review of Charlotte Street on Ellie’s blog; Curiosity Killed the Bookworm. Ellie loved Charlotte Street and I just had to add it to my wishlist. Well the other week I managed to get myself stuck in Waterstone’s. I had intended just to browse. I told myself I could buy two books from the buy one get one half-price selection, but only if one was from The Rory List. I didn’t see any books from the Rory list in that selection so I decided to leave. Unfortunately when I reached the door I saw that the rain was coming down like a Monsoon. I mean, I couldn’t go out in that could I? So I was stuck in Waterstone’s, and my will-power was wearing down…I had no choice. So I came out with Charlotte Street and Scarlett Thomas’ Going Out. Both books on my wishlist, neither on The Rory List.

Anyway this is meant to be a review, right? Not the story of how I got forced to buy books!

Charlotte Street was one of those books that made me both sad and satisfied to have finished. It’s been a long time since I last got this feeling from finishing a book. I wanted it to carry on, even though I knew it had definitely reached a conclusion.

I liked the characters, especially Dev. I quite often thought they were idiots but that just made them more realistic. Jason was certainly the flawed hero- if you can call someone whose behaviour borders on stalker-ish a hero! He did sometimes doubt whether he should be behaving the way he was, but there was always a friend to put him on the ‘right’ path, and I loved that.

In some ways you could actually call Charlotte Street a coming of age story. Maybe it was later in life than the typical coming of age story but Jason (and actually the other major characters too) certainly learnt something from the beginning of the book to the end and entered a new stage of life.

Wallace’s writing style reminded me a lot of Nick Hornby’s books, especially High Fidelity. Flawed hero- check, love interest- check, geeky friend- check, shop- check. It wasn’t a copy my any means but there were a lot of parallels. Amusing but in a real-life way rather than an artificial humour.

I had meant to read something by Danny Wallace for a long time, in fact since reading Are You Dave Gorman? when I was at school, and finding out Danny Wallace had written solo books, but somehow it hasn’t happened until now. This is probably the worst book to start on seeing as it’s Wallace’s first fiction book, but it has made me more eager to read something else by him.

5/5

Other Reviews:

Ellie @ Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

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Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination- Helen Fielding


Image from Amazon

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Enter Olivia Joules: fearless, dazzling, independent beauty-journalist turned master-spy – a new heroine for the twenty-first century. In Miami for a face-cream launch, she spots Pierre Ferramo across a room. Dangerously charismatic and undeniably gorgeous, with impeccable taste, unimaginable wealth and exotic international homes, he seems almost too good to be true. But what if Ferramo is actually a major terrorist bent on destruction, hiding behind a smokescreen of fine wines, yachts and actresses slash models? Or is it all just a product of Olivia’s overactive imagination?

Review

Last week I was having real reading trouble. Nothing on my TBR pile (either in paper books or e-books) inspired me, I was tired and run-down with a cold, I had next to no concentration, and what energy and concentration I did have I was using for work. I tried to read my current paperback, I tried a few things on my kindle, nothing was working. I needed something light and easy, and, well, I don’t usually go for light and easy, so there wasn’t anything of that type around.

However on Wednesday I went to a coffee shop which just so happened to have a bookcrossing shelf. I thought why not have a look? I might find something to fix my slump. Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination is what I came back with.

I read Bridget Jones’ Diary when I was about 17 (I think) when it was at the height of it’s popularity (wow that’s like 8 years ago…I’m still 21 dammit!), and at the time I didn’t really get the hype around it. It was ok but nothing special when it came to chick-lit (and I read a fair bit of it at the time). I didn’t really like Bridget, I found her to be a bit of an idiot to be honest. Maybe I would have got it more if I was a 30-something singleton…maybe not…I don’t know.

Anyway I expected Olivia Joules to be a similar fit. Easy to read but a bit of fluff. I had never looked into reading it because I didn’t like Bridget Jones, so why read something I thought would be similar? I was wrong though. Well maybe sometimes Olivia is an idiot, she jumps to conclusions, but when she is it tends to be funny rather than annoying. There was a little bit of love fluff but mainly it was a bit of a mystery/crime/action story, and that made it much more enjoyable. The funny made it not like other action type books, and because of Olivia’s overactive imagination I was always second guessing myself, not sure what was going to be true and what would be imaginary. It was a little far-fetched but I think that worked well with her having an overactive imagination.

It still had the readability of Bridget Jones but plot wise I much preferred it. It was the perfect thing to get me out of my reading slump.

3.5/5

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Skios- Michael Frayn


Image from Amazon


Disclaimer: This book was given to me free of charge in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis (from Amazon)
On the sunlit Greek island of Skios, the Fred Toppler Foundation’s annual lecture is to be given by Dr Norman Wilfred, the world-famous authority on the scientific organisation of science. He turns out to be surprisingly young and charming — not at all the intimidating figure they had been expecting. The Foundation’s guests are soon eating out of his hand. So, even sooner, is Nikki, the attractive and efficient organiser. Meanwhile, in a remote villa at the other end of the island, Nikki’s old school-friend Georgie waits for the notorious chancer she has rashly agreed to go on holiday with, and who has only too characteristically failed to turn up. Trapped in the villa with her, by an unfortunate chain of misadventure, is a balding old gent called Dr Norman Wilfred, who has lost his whereabouts, his luggage, his temper and increasingly all normal sense of reality — everything he possesses apart from the flyblown text of a well-travelled lecture on the scientific organisation of science…

Review

Michael Frayn is probably best known for his novel Spies although he has written lots of different novels, plays, articles and non-fiction books too. Spies is one of those books I have known about and been interested in for a long time but somehow never gotten around to actually reading. Part of the reason I accepted the request to read Skios  was because I thought it being a review book would make me read it rather than just putting it on my to be read pile, and if I liked it I might actually get around to reading  Spies.

I suppose Frayn’s reputation made me expect quite a lot from this book, maybe to much. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it exactly but I didn’t think it was some amazing piece of work either. For quite a while I found it just a bit absurd. There were just to many confusions and to many coincidences. Once I just accepted that it was going to be a bit absurd however I did start to enjoy it quite a lot more. I still found that characters and the situation a little stupid but I was more able to see the humour in it all, and it certainly made me start to laugh. In fact I think that’s why it was so absurd, not so much to make a story but to make a bit of entertainment, you just hjad to laugh at how absurd it was or you would be despairing! By the end it actually got so absurd I even got the sense that Frayn was just taking the Micky out of himself- or maybe even out of novels in general- I mean it’s all made up really isn’t it? Or maybe I just wanted there to be something behind the absurdity!

Certainly I would say it’s enjoyable if you’re not going to take it to seriously, if you want to read a serious novel though go for something else because you really won’t like this one!

3/5

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Bears, Recycling and Confusing Time Paradoxes- Greg X Graves


Image from Amazon


Synopsis (from Amazon)

Do you want to recycle but aren’t sure how? Are you concerned that a potential suitor may be a vampire? Have you attended a job interview only to be greeted by Hideous Telepathic Space-faring Lizardmen in Mansuits? The Guide to Moral Living in Examples educates on these and many more common moral conundrums, offering bite-sized advice for nearly every improbable situation. Fueled by years of unintentional research on the connections between robotic bears, talking tattoos, and the best type of soap to remove irremovable rings, Greg X. Graves gives simple, friendly yet essential guidance on the twisted path to moral life. With an introduction by Brenton Harper-Murray and stunning illustrations by Jeff Bent, this anthology is a must-have for young and old aspiring moralists alike.

Review

Well what can I say. This book was completely crazy, weird, like no other book I have read before. A first I liked the strangeness. It was kind of funny, especially when the morals at the end seemed to have barely anything to do with the story- or even when they had to much to do with the story! But after a while it began to seem just a little to strange- almost as if Graves was trying hard to be unconventional. Now I like things that are a bit beyond the norm but by the time I was about halfway through I was beginning to long for something a bit more, well, ‘normal’.

By themselves the stories were entertaining and funny. Graves use of imagery was quite incredible in parts, and even though the stories he told were completely unbelievable he wrote them in such a way that made them quite easy to imagine. I think my main real problem was that I read the book all in one go. I imagine if I had read each story as an individual story, alongside another book, I would have found it easier.

3/5

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The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim- Jonathon Coe


This book was read as part of the Take a Chance Challenge

from bookdepository

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Maxwell Sim seems to have hit rock bottom: separated from his wife and daughter, estranged from his father, and with no one to confide in even though he has 74 friends on Facebook. He’s not even sure whether he’s got a job until suddenly a strange business proposition comes his way which involves a long journey to the Shetland Isles – and a voyage into his family’s past which throws up some surprising revelations.

Jonathan Coe’s new book is a story for our times: Maxwell finds himself at sea in the modern world, surrounded by social networks but unable to relate properly to anyone. Yet as he delves into his family history he manages to find the resources to survive.

Review

I really want to talk about the end of this book but I think maybe the end is not the best place to start!

Overall The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim made me think of Mark Haddon’s ‘A Spot of Bother‘. The character of Max was very similar to George, or at least their situation was. However while I found A Spot of Bother a little disturbing, and found it difficult to see through to the jokes, I found that a lot of The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim was funny, even what could have been depressing bits were delivered well, they didn’t seem too gloomy. [highlight for A Spot of Bother spoiler]In fact my overriding memory of A Spot of Bother is of George trying to cut off his excema with a pair of scissors. The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim has no such disturbing scenes (although apparently the scene in A Spot of Bother is meant to be funny.)

There were a fair few twists and turns as well that were good. One though seemed really unneccessary and I don’t really get why it was included. I’m not going to spell it out which bit because I think if you’ve read it you’ll know, and spoilers are tempting to read!

The only really problem I’m say with this book is that it can be quite mundane at times. You just feel like you’re reading the life of any old person really, but maybe that is the point. Max is meant to be someone who could easily be you.

So the end. That was one twist and half. I’m still trying to get my head around it two days later. In some ways I kind of get why it was there, something to do with Jonathon Coe talking about himself, or maybe just writers in general. It just seems a bit out of place.

Certainly not the best Coe I’ve ever read, but still worth the read.

3.5/5

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A Matter of Death and Life- Andrey Kurkov


Synopsis (from Amazon)

Marital troubles? Sick of life? Suicide the answer? Why not get yourself a contract killer? Nothing easier, provided you communicate only by phone and box number. You give him your photograph, specify when and where to find you, then sit back and prepare to die. Murdered, you will be of greater interest than ever you were in life. More to him than met the eye will be the judgment. A mysterious killing lives long in the popular memory. Our hero meticulously plans his own demise, except for one detail: what if he suddenly decides he wants to live? This darkly funny tale is Kurkov on top form.

Review

Having read Death and the Penguin and Penguin Lost in the past I just couldn’t resist this book when I spotted it. And I wasn’t disappointed. It was certainly on par with Death and the Penguin, possibly even better. It made me chuckle in quite a few places [highlight for spoiler]especially the idea of hiring a hitman to kill a hitman you had hired so he couldn’t do his job! I really liked the main character (and narrator) and felt he could be real. Comparing this suicidal man to the woman in The Bell Jar there were actually quite similar in ways but the tone of this book was completely different and a bit of light relief. It’s interesting to see how two different authors can deal with the same subject in different ways. Great book.

4.5/5

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