Posts Tagged ‘funny’

Coming in at under a 100 pages, this amusing (and occasionally hilarious) book is a collection of conversations between two men in a Dublin pub, during 2011-2012.  It’s somewhat unusual in that we never learn the men’s names, there are no other characters, and the whole book is just their dialogue.

It really works too.  The men make reference to the news stories of the day (the London Olympics, the deaths of Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston and others, and the whereabouts of Colonel Gadaffi – who one of the men is convinced is working as a cleaner at Dublin Airport), and discuss snippets of their lives.

A funny and enjoyable book, which can be easily read in one sitting.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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This books opens on July 15th 1988, when Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew have just met for the first time, and are at the start of a lifelong friendship.  The book then tells the story of Emma and Dexter through every subsequent July 15th, right up until the mid-noughties.  Sometimes they happen to be together on that date, and sometimes they are not even in the same country, but always, somehow, they are each a part of the other’s life and thoughts.

I absolutely adored this book.  The unconventional format worked perfectly – it provided a perfect snapshot of where the characters were at that point in their lives, and made it easy to pick up what had happened in between each July 15th.

The two characters are so fully developed that I really felt like I knew them well at the end of the book.  They have strengths and flaws, sometimes do stupid things, and often feel like they don’t know what they want to do with their lives – in other words, they are like everybody else.  They are also sometimes embarrassingly familiar and I felt myself wince in recognition at some of the things they thought or did.

Emma and Dexter don’t always seem like two people who would even like each other, let alone become close.  Emma is funny, bookish, earnest, intelligent principled, and yes sometimes, self-righteous.  She is very easy to warm to.  Dexter is charming, lazy, irresponsible and often downright thoughtless – at times I wanted to actively dislike him, but somehow Nicholls manages to keep the character just on the right side of sympathetic.

Other friends, lovers, partners, acquaintances figure in the story, and there are several twists which I didn’t see coming (including one which I couldn’t believe; I had to read the same page three times to make sure that I had read it correctly).

The writing is so fluid, combining plenty of humour with poignancy and sadness – all tied up with an ending that I could never have predicted, but which actually was perfect for the story.

I had heard so much hype about this book that I felt almost certain I would be disappointed.  I was wrong – this is one of my favourite reads so far this year.  If you haven’t read One Day yet, I highly, highly recommend it.

(Author’s website can be found here.)


funny, poignant, sad, squirmingly familiar

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The Pan of Hamgee is charming, funny, quick thinking – and a coward.  The only thing he’s any good at is running away.  It’s a pretty good skill though, and explains why after being blacklisted for five years, he’s still alive when the rest of his family are dead, and his whole existence is treason.  Perhaps there are some people in his home world of K’Barth who don’t want to kill him, but they seem to be few and far between.  It’s probably lucky then that he literally has eyes in the back of his head.

He puts his getaway skills to use as a driver for a gang of bank robbers, but when they inadvertently steal a precious thimble which has magical powers, he is set on a road to disaster, which pits him against Lord Vernon, the despot leader of K’Barth.  Lord Vernon is prepared to go to any lengths necessary to stop the rightful leader from becoming known – and just because The Pan got in his way once before, there’s no way either of them want that to happen again.

The Pan has never believed that ethics and principles are very helpful in the art of survival, but all of a sudden he finds himself fighting for what he believes in, trying to escape with his life, and becoming captivated by a young woman whose name he does not even know.  Will he survive?  Will he get the girl?  And might he even gain some courage along the way?…

Fantasy is not normally a favourite genre of mine, as I can find it hard to suspend disbelief.  However, I did not have this problem with this book.  It’s packed with humour and action, and held my attention throughout.  The struggles for independence and survival by both The Pan and the residents of the land to an extent reflect real life events which happen in our world.

The Pan is a great hero, precisely because he does not possess the usual ‘heroic’ attributes.  He is happy to admit that he is a coward, who is just desperate to stay alive.  For someone who tries so hard to avoid confrontation, he finds himself in many sticky situations and often exacerbates matters by talking before thinking.  But he has charisma and is very likeable.  I also liked his employer Big Merv, who had hidden depths which are revealed throughout the book.

Lord Vernon made for a formidable villain – powerful, intelligent and without a shred of compassion.

The writing flows easily and the story moves along rapidly, with plenty laughs, and detail about the world of K’Barth which is both similar and very different to life on earth.  This book is the first in a trilogy and I was definitely left feeling that I wanted to know what happened next.

Recommended, especially to fans of fantasy, but also to those who might usually avoid it.

(I would like to thank the author for sending me this book to review.  M T McGuire’s website can be found here.)

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This is the second book in the Cornelius Quaint series, and the events follow straight on from where the first book ends (there is a brief recap of the events in The Equivoque Principle – the first book – for anybody who has not read it).

Cornelius has left most of his beloved circus family behind, to travel to Egypt accompanied only by Madame Destine, the circus fortune teller and faithful friend of Quaint.  In Egypt, Quaint has to stop a plan masterminded by the Hades Consortium to poison the River Nile and cause death to countless Egyptians.  Along the way, he encounters desert thieves, has to deal people who are determined to kill him by any means necessary, and deal with long buried secrets which resurface.

Just as in The Equivoque Principle, this is an enjoyable romp, full of surprising twists and turns – a situation could turn on it’s head very rapidly! –  and like Quaint himself, the reader is never entirely sure who can be trusted.  Our hero is again full of witty quips and smart asides, and I found myself rooting for him all the way through.  He and Madame Destine actually find themselves separated for a large portion of the story, and the opportunity is taken for both characters to be explored further.  (This was particularly welcome to me in the case of Destine, as she was the one character I found hard to warm to in The Equivoque Principle; I liked her a lot more when reading this book).

Initially I did think that I would miss some of the characters from Quaint’s circus troupe, who he takes his leave of in the first few chapters.  I especially hoped that his valet Butter might go to Egypt with him, but he was tasked with running the circus in Quaint’s absence.  However, I actually realised about halfway through the book that I was not missing these characters at all, due to the new characters that were introduced in this book.

The plot is outlandish at times, but I think this must have been entirely intentional – as with the previous book, the book does not take itself too seriously and I don’t think the reader should either. It is simply a rip-roaring and highly enjoyable adventure story, which made me smile.  A wonderful bit of escapism – go enjoy:)

(I would like to thank the author for arranging for this book to be sent to me for review.  Darren Craske’s website can be found here.)

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Jack Singer (Nicolas Cage) loves his girlfriend Betsy (Sarah Jessica Parker, in her pre-Carrie Bradshaw days), but has no intention of ever getting married.  But when he realises that if he doesn’t commit to marriage, he will lose Betsy, he decides that they should go to Las Vegas and get married straight away. However, when they arrive in Vegas, and before they go to get married, they are seen by Tommy Korman (James Caan), a wealthy professional gambler. Korman immediately falls for Betsy, because she reminds him so much of his dead wife.  He sets up a rigged poker game with Jack, and when Jack inevitably loses and ends up owing Korman $65,000, which he has no hope of being able to pay, Korman suggests that he gets to spend the weekend with Betsy in lieu of payment.  Jack is reluctant and Betsy is furious.  However, she agrees to the plan, and even starts to have a good time with Korman.  Jack meanwhile is overcome with jealousy and decides to follow the couple…will Betsy fall for Korman’s charms – or will true love conquer all?

I really enjoyed this movie.  Sarah Jessica Parker is as endearing and sweet as ever, and Nicolas Cage – not normally an actor I particularly enjoy watching –  is perfect in his role.  James Caan meanwhile, is suitably devious.  There is also a great cast of supporting characters, and while the film never strays far from the main storyline, there are a couple of extremely funny scenes which, while probably not necessary in terms of moving the story forward, certainly added to the laughs.

This film is a romantic, old-school comedy, with some tender moments, and some slapstick moments.  In many ways, it had a similar plot to the drama Indecent Proposal, which came out a year later, but this film is far more enjoyable.  There are plenty of laugh out loud scenes, and I certainly came away from it with a big smile on my face.  Highly recommended!

Year of release: 1992

Director: Andrew Bergman

Writer: Andrew Bergman

Main cast: Nicolas Cage, Sarah Jessica Parker, James Caan

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Chicklit is not a favourite genre of mine, but I’m glad I picked this book up.  It is set in Churchminster, an affluent village in the Cotswolds, and we follow a number of the residents as they go about their lives.  Caro Belmont is married to the arrogant Sebastian and is worried that he might be having an affair (he is, as we find out within the first few pages).  Meanwhile her sister Camilla is feeling unfulfilled in her relationship with beer swilling farmer Angus, and both girls are worried at the news that their youngest sister, the outrageous Calypso, is returning to the village.  Their grandmother Clementine Standington-Fulthrope is the matriarch of the family, and watches over her brood with equal mixtures of strictness and love.

Other residents in the village have their own problems – at the age of thirty, Camilla’s best friend Harriet is despairing of ever losing her virginity, and Freddie Fox-Titt just can’t understand why he is feeling so lethargic and wanting to eat huge amounts of chocolate!

The whole village is excited when former pop star Devon Cornwall moves into the area, but an even bigger shock awaits them, as an evil land developer wants to buy part of their hometown and build a huge building estate on it.  All of a sudden, everyone pulls together in an effort to thwart his efforts…will the Save Churchminster Ball and Auction be enough to raise the money they need to buy the threatened land themselves?  Will Mick Jagger turn up at the ball?  And will certain members of the community find the strength within themselves that they need to make themselves happy?

I really enjoyed this book.  It’s very light-hearted, and moves quickly. Characterisation is not particularly deep (Sebastian for example, is practically a cardboard cut out character), but Jo Carnegie’s quick wit and perceptive sense of humour makes this a pleasure to read.  (I giggled all the way through one excruciating dinner party scene, and the book often made me laugh out loud.)

It’s unself-consciously outrageous in parts, with some of the most over-the-top character names imaginable, but it’s easy to lose yourself in Churchminster life even if this depiction of wealthy rural life is often verging on satirical.

Overall, the book was an enjoyable read, and I would definitely be interested in reading more by Jo Carnegie.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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Lucifer Box is the narrator and hero of this tale.  He is London’s foremost portraitist, and a charming wit and dandy, with an eye for pretty ladies (and men).  He is also a secret agent in the employ of His Majesty’s Government, in Edwardian England (who lives at number 9 Downing Street, no less – as he says, “Well someone has to live there”).  He is tasked with investigating the mysterious deaths of two eminent professors, and the murder of one of his fellow secret agent in Naples.  As Lucifer heads to Naples himself he finds himself drawn further and further into the mystery.  He tells the story in his own inimitable style, peppered with saucy wit and smart witticisms.

This is a hugely enjoyable satirical romp – Lucifer is perhaps the James Bond of his time, and finds himself entangled in many outlandish and incredible situations, which require all of his guile and cunning to extricate himself from.

Both Edwardian London and Naples are brought vividly to life, and Box’s descriptions of Pompeii made me want to visit that famous site.

Lucifer himself is a terrific hero – he is brazenly immoral, doubtlessly charming and the sort of rakish cad who I couldn’t help liking, despite myself.  The writing made me laugh out loud on several occasions, and it was impossible not to root for him.

The supporting cast of charcters have wonderful names such as Christopher Miracle, Kitty Blacklash and Charlie Jackpot, which add to the fun and served to remind me of the satirical nature of the plot when things sometimes took on a slightly more serious nature.  Yes, it requires the reader to suspend belief, and yes it is an outrageous story – but that’s fine, because that is exactly what it is supposed to be.  The subtitle of the story is ‘A Bit of Fluff’ – and that sums the book up perfectly.  It’s not to be taken seriously, it’s meant to be funny, sharp and pure entertainment.  And that’s precisely what it is. 

I very much look forward to reading the next book in the series.

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This book is a definite return to form after the disappointing True Confessions. In this episode of Adrian’s life, he is 24 years old, and living in a box room in the flat of Pandora Braithwaite and her husband(!) However, he spends much of the book being bounced from one home to another.

He also encounters a new love interest named Bianca, jealousy over the success of his old adversary Barry Kent, and the trials of trying to finish his own novel ‘Lo! The Flat Hills of My Homeland’.

This book is what all Adrian Mole books should be – funny, touching and surprisingly perceptive on behalf of the author, while Adrian himself still displays his usual signs of self-delusion. Very enjoyable indeed.

(For more information on the Adrian Mole series, please click here.)

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It is the mid-1950s, and England is recovering from the ravages of the second world war.  Penelope Wallace is 18 years old, and on the verge of a new and exciting life which starts when she encounters a girl named Charlotte, who quickly becomes Penelope’s best friend.  Together with Charlotte’s sardonic and sarcastic cousin Harry, Penelope and Charlotte become involved in a whirlwind of parties and dinners, and things take an unusual turn when Henry asks Penelope to do him a huge favour.

In the midst of all this, Penelope has to deal with her beautiful mother, who is still grieving over the loss of her husband to the war; a once grand house that is now falling to rack and ruin, and her unrequited love for the pop singer Johnnie Rae…

I enjoyed this book very much.  One of the reviews on the back of my copy states that if Jane Austen were alive now, this is the kind of book she would be writing, and I would tend to agree with that.  it is a very charming story, and while it is not altogether unpredictable (although there were certainly a few surprises along the way), the real beauty of this story lies in the characters. The main characters are Penelope, Charlotte, Harry, Inigo (Penelope’s brother), Talitha (her mother) and Charlotte’s Aunt Clare.  Each and every one of them is well drawn and very believable.  Moreover, they are characters who I came to really enjoy getting to know throughout the story.

The writing is lovely – clean and never over fussy, but still managing to describe perfectly the time period in which the book is set, and the old house which the Wallace family live in (where a lot of the story is set).

It is also very amusing in parts – the author has a sharp eye for wit, and infuses her narrator (Penelope) with a wry sense of humour.

I’m not a huge fan of chick-lit, but if this book falls into that category, it certainly is one of the best examples I have read of this genre.  It’s perfect for curling up with on a cold day and losing yourself in for a couple of hours.  I will certainly be looking out for more work by this author.

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Dawn French is of course well known as one half of the comedy duo French and Saunders (Jennifer Saunders is in fact the “Fatty” referred to in the book’s title). This is Dawn’s biography of sorts – it is told in the form of various letters to people who have played some role in her life.

Many of the letters are written to her father who committed suicide when Dawn was just 19 years old.  The memories of him and his love have clearly been a huge force in her life and she writes honestly and openly about the good and the bad times she spent with him.  Other letter recipients include her mother, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn’s husband Lenny (Henry), her Best Friend (BF, whose name is never revealed in the book), old schoolfriends, Val Doonican, Madonna and The Monkees.

Some parts of the book read better than others.  The earlier letters, which more or less chart Dawn’s childhood and early family life were not as interesting as the later ones, which tell her life from the age of about 20.

Family is clearly of huge importance to her – when she writes about her parents, husband and daughter and her brother, the love comes shining through and is genuinely touching.  I admired her honesty in talking about a rough patch her marriage went through – she described her whole gamut of emotions, from anger to fear to forgiveness in a way that was easy to empathise with.  Another letter which actually moved me to tears (and highlighted the perils of reading while waiting in a supermarket queue) was the one to her friend Scottie, who died of AIDS – yet she juxtaposes the sadness with a hilarious tale about her mission to scatter Scottie’s ashes in the location he had intended.

Comic relief (no pun intended) is provided through a number of her letters to Madonna (who repeatedly refused to appear on the French and Saunders show) and doting-schoolgirl missives to The Monkees and David Cassidy.  I also enjoyed reading about the early days of the Comic Strip, and her work on The Vicar of Dibley.

Overall, after a slow start, this was an enjoyable read, which perfectly illustrated the warmth and humour for which Dawn French is so much admired and loved.

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