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Posts Tagged ‘amusing’

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Mike Gayle is known for his fiction writing, but he takes a foray into non-fiction here, and from my personal point of view, it’s a great success. Having finally decided it’s time to become a fully fledged grown-up, Gayle makes a to-do list which ends up with 1277 items (!) and gives himself a year to complete it. Some of the items are the kind of thing we will all be familiar with (such as sort out the drawer which is full of takeaway menus), and then there are a few more unusual items, one of which involves him flying to New York to buy a mug!

The book gives an insight into Gayle’s personal life, and his marriage to his lovely wife Claire. He comes across as likeable, genuine, and the sort of person who you would want to be friends with. I also felt a ripple of pleasure as Gayle lives in Birmingham, which is local to me, and there are several mentions of Wolverhampton, which is my home town.

If you are a fan of Mike Gayle’s fiction – or if you just like an amusing and daft story – then I highly recommend that you give this a go. Lots of laughs, and plenty of relatable moments make this a hugely enjoyable read.

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For anybody who has ever thought Shakespeare dull or dry, this book is perfect reading!  It gives a brief introduction to Shakespeare’s life and work, and provides a short synopsis of all of his plays.  It also provides other interesting information such as words that Shakespeare created (assassination, luggage, moonbeam, cater – to name very few of a long list!) and phrases that he coined – if you’ve ever thought of jealousy as a green-eyed-monster for instance, then you have Shakespeare to thank!  It also provides a list of all of the main characters in Shakespeare’s plays, and a brief description of their roles.

The book is written in a clear, easy to understand, and often amusing fashion, and even for someone who is not particularly bothered about Shakespeare, it still makes for interesting reading!

As an academic book, I probably would not recommend this – it is really only the briefest introduction to The Bard’s life and work, but if you have ever seen a film adaptation of one of his plays and would like to learn more, this would be a great place to start.  It is only a short book – I read it in two sittings, but it could easily be started and finished in a couple of hours.  So while it may not cover it’s subject in great depth, it certainly opens the door to learning more about Shakespeare, and left me wanting to know more.  Definitely recommended!

(Author’s blog can be found here.)

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Derren Brown is well known for his apparent mind-reading skills, and magical illusions.  However, he is always totally honest about the fact that he has no belief in psychic ability whatsover.  In this book, he explains much about how he does some of his tricks on stage, and delves into the subjects of memory, illusion (where he explains the basics of how some illusions are created), the power of suggestion and susceptibility, and how psychics and mediums carry out their work – and the truth behind their ‘skills’.

I should say that I am a huge fan of Derren Brown, and was therefore perhaps predisposed into liking this book.  However, I think that anyone who had never heard of him would also find this a very entertaining read.  

At the beginning of the book, after a brief introduction as to how Brown came to be interested in his subject, he teaches a few simple tricks with coins and cards.  

There is then a subject on memory, with some tips and exercises for improving yours).  I liked this section a lot, and have tried the ‘linking’ system myself with measurable success.  I did feel that this section got a little bit bogged down, especially when talking about the ‘peg’ system (the system seemed harder to remember than it would be to recall whatever it is that it’s supposed to help you remember!).  

The sections on hypnosis and seances were very fascinating, exposing much about how these work.  

However, most interesting to me was the part where Brown talks about psychics and mediums, and shows how they can fool an audience using intuition and cunning and confusion (but no psychic ability) to yield apparently incredible results.  I would mention that of course many people have found much needed comfort from such quarters, and may find this part of the book upsetting for this reason.  I do not believe in the abilities of those who claim to be able to contact the dead, and therefore I thoroughly enjoyed reading about it.  Brown does go on something of a mild rant, due to his belief that such people prey on their audiences’ grief and distress.  He breaks down and analyses how psychics (particularly those who have made a celebrity career out of their work) fool their audiences, cheat and use their guile.

During the whole book, Brown makes for an engaging, witty and involved narrator, with a style instantly recognisable to anybody who has ever seen any of this television or live shows.

There is also a comprehensive list of suggested further reading at the back of the book, on all of the subjects covered.

Overall, definitely recommended and not only for fans of Derren Brown.  This book is challenging, funny and insightful.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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Miss Pettigrew is a down on her luck governess, who is given the chance to work for the glamorous Miss LaFosse, a beautiful night club singer.  Miss Pettigrew has never had friends, never been kissed, and has had no fun in her life.  She is soon drawn into Miss LaFosse’s exciting life, and finds herself rescuing her new friend from unsavoury men, and attending social events and night clubs.  Soon, Miss Pettigrew is experiencing everything which she thought had passed her by, and she finds herself wanting to live her life to the fullest.

This Cinderella story is an amusing and wonderfully entertaining novel.  Miss Pettigrew is a very likeable heroine, and Delysia LaFosse is a wonderful character, taking the part of Miss Pettigrew’s Fairy Godmother, who shows her a life full of adventure and laughter which was previously unimagined.

The writing is charming and this was a gently told lovely tale, which was perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon curled up on the sofa.  It is populated with lots of colourful characters and amusing situations, with a very endearing central character.  I really enjoyed seeing the day through Miss Pettigrew’s eyes.

Overall, this is a sweet, old fashioned fairy tale, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading.  

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This is the story of three generations of one family.  Charlotte Cooper is 17, about to do her A levels, and suddenly discovers she’s pregnant.  Her mother Karen is furious with her, not least because she had Charlotte at the age of 16, and has always tried to stop her daughter making the same “mistakes” that she did.  But it’s not long before Karen finds something out which makes her question her role in her family and wonder whether there isn’t a better life waiting for her somewhere.  Meanwhile, Karen’s mother, Nancy Hesketh, who lives with them, is slowly succumbing to dementia, which is causing all sorts of chaos.  But when she’s not posting her grandaughter’s homework in the toaster, or hiding letters under the sofa, she reminisces silently about her life.

This is a very enjoyable and undemanding read.  The multiple narrators (Charlotte, Karen and ‘Nan’) ensure that we see events from each point of view – although Nan’s contributions are generally short and relate to the past rather than the present situation.  The main body of the story is told through Karen and Charlotte’s narration.

All of the three main characters are believeable.  The constant locking of horns between Charlotte and her mother will also have many teenagers and parents of teenagers nodding in recognition!  The story is touchingly told, and there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments as well.

My only niggle with this book was the ending seemed rushed, almost as if the author had said what she wanted to say and just wanted to end the book quickly, and a few smaller aspects of the story did not seem completely resolved.  But overall, this is a good book – probably aimed more at the female market – and one which I enjoyed a lot more than I expected to.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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When troubled rich girl Emily (Alicia Silverstone) fakes her own kidnapping to get her father’s attention, she ends up getting more than she bargained for!  Her plan is that her father will pay a ransom and she will then be found safe and well in the trunk of her car.  However, car thief Vincent (Benicio Del Toro) is unaware of all of this when he steals the car, with Emily in it!  When he discovers that he has not only stolen a car, but has also unwittingly stolen a person, he just wants to get Emily away from him, before he winds up getting blamed for the kidnapping which she faked in the first place.  Initially he and Emily can’t stand each other, but as they spend more time together, they grow to respect each other and find an understand that neither of them has been able to find anywhere else.  Meantime however, Emily’s Uncle Ray (Christopher Walken), is on their tail…

I really enjoyed this movie.  Alicia Silverstone is as cute as a button in the part of the feisty Emily, and Christopher Walken gives a great performance, as always.  But this movie really belongs to Benicio Del Toro.  Now I might be slightly biased, because I think Benicio is more delicious than a bar of Green and Black’s chocolate wrapped in Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, but there’s no denying that he is perfect for the role of Vincent, who may be a car thief, but who  has an air of naivety, and – car theft aside – only wants to do the right thing.  I’ve always thought that he is a great actor, who can convey an emotion with just a slight change in expression – he also possesses great comic timing.

This is the perfect kind of movie to relax with, and one I can definitely see myself watching again sometime in the future.

Year of release: 1997

Director: Marco Brambilla

Writers: Max D. Adams, Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais

Main cast: Benicio el Toro, Alicia Silverstone, Christopher Walken

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In the rural village of Glennkill in Ireland, a flock of sheep are horrified to find their shepherd dead, with a spade stuck through him.  The sheep decide that they must investigate the murder and work out who killed their beloved master, in order that justice can be done.  Along the way, the encounter various obstacles, face their fears and learn a few lessons about life.

I thought this was an adorable book.  The premise is unusual – a flock of sheep make for an unlikely detective squad.  But these are no ordinary sheep!  Their dead shepherd, George Glenn, had read to them every day of their lives and treated them as proper friends, holding conversations with them.  As a result, they are able to think things through and make plans.

Each sheep has a distinct character.  The main characters are Miss Maple, the cleverest sheep in all Glennkill and maybe the world; Othello, a black ram with a mysterious past; Mopple the Whale, a sheep with an amazing memory and a seemingly inexhaustible appetite; Sir Ritchfield, the elderly lead ram; and Zora, a sheep with a head for heights.

If the reader can accept the premise of this unusual murder hunt, the book is very enjoyable.  The flocks literal interpretation of human conversations and interactions make for some laugh-out-loud moments, and the secret of who killed George Glenn is kept until almost the very end.

Definitely a book I would recommend – heartwarming and amusing. However, it’s put me off eating lamb chops for a while!

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