Category Archives: Comedy

A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman – Book Review

I naturally seem to gravitate towards psychological thrillers and dramas and, recently I realised that my reading had got quite dark – just over the past couple of months I’ve read books covering murder, cults, incest and more. A Man Called Ove was my attempt to change that – I was looking for something heartwarming and humorous, and this was perfect. I really enjoyed this book.

A Man Called Ove

Everyone has someone a little like Ove in their lives. He doesn’t mince his words, he’s a stickler for rules and he’s the epitome of the term ‘stuck in their ways’. He’s only driven one brand of car his entire life, and he can’t quite understand why anyone would want to do any different. Each morning, he walks a circuit of his neighbourhood to check for burglaries, even though one has never occurred in the decades he’s lived in the area. But scrape back the curmudgeonly veneer you’ll find a softer side to Ove. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Comedy, Drama

Our Chemical Hearts, Krystal Sutherland – Book Review

I received Our Chemical Hearts in exchange for an honest review

The Goodreads summary for this book reads: ”John Green meets Rainbow Rowell in this irresistible story of first love, broken hearts, and the golden seams that put them back together again.” And this is one of those rare cases where the blurb is pretty much spot on.

Our Chemical Hearts

Our Chemical Hearts isn’t a hugely original tale – it felt strongly reminiscent of other novels in the genre, particularly Jennifer Niven’s All The Bright Places and Paper Towns by John Green. But while there’s echoes of other stories I’ve read, this debut author has a voice all of her own. I whizzed through this book in just a day or two – it’s the type that will have you laughing out loud in some places, but also break your heart just a little in others. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Comedy, Romance, Young Adult

How To Build A Girl, Caitlyn Moran – Book Review

I’ll be honest, I went into this book at the tail end of last year with pretty low expectations – humorous coming-of-age tale isn’t my usual cup of tea as I generally read for escapism, not realism. If it wasn’t for the local link (it’s set less than an hour’s drive from where I live – a rare occurance) I may not have actually got around to picking it up. But it’s always great when a book surpasses your expectations so spectacularly. This book probably isn’t for everyone – it’s honest, down-to-earth and down-right rude. But I loved it.

How To Build A Girl

Johanna comes from a large family living on a council estate in Wolverhampton. With plenty of mouths to feed, little money and parents with their own problems, she’s kept pretty busy and so she considers her dog her best friend and spends most of her own time either masturbating or writing. And through the latter of those hobbies, she finds a way to escape her current existence. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Comedy, Drama

What Milo Saw, Virginia MacGregor – Book Review

I received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

View on Amazon

If you’re going to read What Milo Saw, prepare to have your heart thoroughly warmed. It’s got a lovely old gran, a determined little boy who won’t let his disability get in the way of doing what’s right and even an adorable teacup pig.

What Milo Saw

This debut novel could have easily ended up a little too sickly-sweet and contrived, but, for me, MacGregor got it pretty much spot on. This book is so sweet it literally had me cooing at various points throughout the book; I challenge you to read it and not smile. It didn’t resonate with me as much as other novels I’ve read this year – it had a tough act to follow following Station Eleven – so I can’t rate it a full five stars, but it’s pretty damn close to flawless.

The main protagonist is Milo, a twelve year old boy who suffers from Retinitis Pigmentosa. This means that can only see the world through a small pinhole; his eyesight will worsen as he grows older and he’ll eventually go blind. But that’s not the only way he differs from the other children in his school – despite his visual impairment, Milo is more observant than the other children; “It was easy; you just looked for the thing that you thought no one else would notice.”

He also loves spending time with his Gran (and Hamlet the teacup pig) and it’s these two things which lead to him embarking on a mission to expose Forget Me Not, the local nursing home where his Gran has recently been placed.

The book switches between multiple narrators; Milo, his Mum Sandy, his gran Lou and Tripi, the homeless immigrant cook from the nursing home, one of the only people who really understands and listens to Little Milo. Although Milo’s is the strongest voice, the multiple narratives really work, revealing the layers of generations involved in the story and providing a more adult perspective.

But Milo is the main character here, and what a character he is. His naive but righteous voice really shines through, and this is one of those books which made me feel guilty for being such a cynical adult, who just accepts society in its current form and rarely trues to do anything about it. Milo sees something wrong, and he’s proactive in trying to change it. He’s a bit of an amateur sleuth, but his perseverance is inspiring, and it pays off in a truly touching ending.

I’d recommend this book for anyone looking for a heart-warming tale; What Milo Saw really highlights the importance of family, love and standing up for what’s right. A perfect read, especially around the Christmas season.

1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Comedy, Drama, Family, Humour

Looking For Alaska, John Green – Book Review

“When adults say, “Teenagers think they are invincible” with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don’t know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old.”

Looking For Alaska

I should have known the sort of writing to expect from John Green after reading The Fault In Our Stars, but Looking For Alaska still completely knocked me for six. I started reading expecting some light entertainment about a boy’s adventures at boarding school, but this book goes much deeper than that. It’s emotional; John Green has an uncanny knack of making me feel for and miss his characters as if they were genuine friends.

The story is about Miles Halter, aka. Pudge, a lonely, skinny 16-year old who has few friends in his hometown. He is obsessed with memorising famous people’s last words, and inspired by François Rabelais’s last words; “I go to seek a Great Perhaps”, he decides to search for his own Great Perhaps and start anew at Culver Creek Boarding School.

School-life is as clique-y as you’d expect, with the main divide being between the ‘weekend warriors’ (the rich kids who commute and go home every weekend) and those who stay full time at the boarding school. There’s plenty of one-upmanship between the rival groups, and playing pranks on each other and the teachers is a regular part of the boarding school life. There’s a really nice, light-hearted atmosphere near the beginning of the novel, as Pudge settles into life at the school and finds his first real friends in the full-time boarders. There’s The Colonel, his extremely intelligent but slightly unhinged roommate, quirky Takumi, the lovely Lara from Hungary and Alaska – “the hottest girl in the world”.

From the moment he sets eyes on her, Miles is falling hard for Alaska. She’s gorgeous, she’s a little wild, and at one point Miles reflects: I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.”

I’ve seen some reviewers who struggled to understand the way Alaska is put on a pedestal, but I don’t think that she is supposed to be perfect; she’s just seen through the rose-tinted glasses of a boy with his first big crush. She’s actually pretty similar to any teenage girl; she’s angsty and complicated, just beginning to discover alcohol and sex and going a little overboard. But she’s an interesting character too – intelligent and multi-layered, and as the story goes on Green reveals a darkness in her past which helps the reader understand her better.

The only criticism I would have about her and other characters in the story is that there is a lot of banding around quotes from famous poems, last words and famous novels – almost intelligence purely for intelligence’s sake. It felt a tiny bit pretentious at times. This may not be down to the writer but more the characters though – I can imagine that some of the teenagers at at an elite boarding school could behave this way.

The story is really a tale of two halves; it begins ‘one hundred and thirty-six days’ before and each chapter counts down. Even throughout the fun times as friendships are forged, there’s a sense of menace lurking and I was dying to know what it was all building up to. Then the ‘After’ hit and, as the blurb states, nothing is ever the same again.

This book was completely unexpected, and it’s quite difficult to review as revealing the one crucial event which takes place part way through the book would completely spoil the story for those who haven’t read it. The entire atmosphere and tone of the book changes, and while it may seem like Miles is growing up as he discovers new things in the first half of the novel, he and his friends get a much more brutal awakening in the second half. There’s a lot of books which are described as ‘coming-of-age’, but this novel probably encapsulates the phrase more than any other I’ve ever read. It didn’t quite live up to TFIOS for me, but I’d still highly recommend it.

1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Comedy, Drama, Romance, Young Adult

The Silver Linings Playbook, Matthew Quick – Book Review

This book has been on my to read list for a long time. I don’t know why I took so long to get round to it, as it’s a book I was certain I would love, and I was right.

Silver Linings Playbook

The Silver Linings Playbook reminds me a little bit of The Rosie Project and a little of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but for me personally I think it’s a cut above both of these novels. What they do all have in common is a protagonist with a unique outlook on the world. In this case, it’s Pat Peoples, a 30-something who has recently been released from a mental institution. His perspective is naive, innocent and unwaveringly optimistic – although Pat has lost a number of years of his life to a mental breakdown and is estranged from his wife, he believes in silver linings, saying:

“If the clouds are blocking the sun, there will always be a silver lining that reminds me to keep on trying, because I know that while things might seem dark now, my wife is coming back to me soon. Seeing the light outline those fluffy puffs of white and gray is electrifying.”

But, despite Pat’s incredibly hopeful outlook, things are not right. All of the photographs of his wedding and his wife have been removed from his family home – his mother tells him a burglar stole them all, but Pat’s not so sure. Then there’s the incident which put Pat in the institution in the first place, which he can’t quite grasp from his memory. And why does the song Songbird by Kenny G. make him want to hit something?

As Pat struggles to piece his life back together, he is supported by a host of characters – his enduring mother, his cold father, his down-to-earth brother, his unconventional therapist and the recently widowed dancer, Tiffany. Each character is 100% believable and they all bring their own influence to Pat’s story, helping his recovery in their own way. But whilst the supporting characters are excellent, the star of the story is definitely Pat. From the first few pages, I loved him. The writer has set the tone of voice perfectly, his optimism is infectious, and I sympathised with Pat’s plight every step of the way.

As part of Pat’s plan to get his wife back, he embarks on reading a number of books from her English literature syllabus. There are entire chapters dedicated to Pat’s point of view on classics such as The Bell Jar and The Great Gatsby. Pat is unhappy with their lack of silver lining, but it works as a clever way to give a subtle nod to some classic literature in a modern novel, and I really enjoyed these parts.

I don’t want to say a lot about the plot of this book as I think it’s best read with as little spoilers as possible, but The Silver Linings Playbook is one of those books which will have you welling up on one page and laughing out loud the next. I haven’t seen the film but I’ve seen a number of reviewers comment that the film is better than the book – if that’s the case, I can’t wait to watch it. This book has even been compared to The Fault In Our Stars, and whilst I wouldn’t draw a direct comparison myself, they do both carry themes of finding light even in the darkest situations. This isn’t a lighthearted story – there are dark, underlying themes which highlight the fragility of the human psyche – but it is uplifting.  Because, whatever happens, you can be sure that Pat will find a silver lining.

2 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Comedy, Drama, Romance

The Room, Jonas Karlsson – Book Review

Advanced reader copy received from the publisher via NetGalley

Release date (UK): 15th January 2015

View on Amazon

Read as part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge (Task: A book that was originally published in another language)

The Room

This was one of the first books I ever requested on NetGalley, and I left it sitting around for almost six months after receiving it. The truth is, I went a little out of my comfort zone with this book, a surreal tale which is difficult to pinpoint to one genre. But once I finally got around to reading it, I got through this short story very quickly.

The Room tells the story of Bjorn, a decidedly odd but ambitious office worker who takes a new job at the mysterious ‘Authority’, with the aim to work his way up to the top of the company as quickly as possible. He’s clearly intelligent, but also completely socially inept and has a severe superiority complex. He is quick to make judgements of his colleagues with crude observations made for the reader’s benefit –  “Hannah with the ponytail was one of those women who laugh readily and can talk for hours without a single sensible thing being said”. He also struggles with the usual social interactions which come naturally in an office, attending the Christmas party and commenting “I walked around among people who made various excruciating attempts to engage me in conversation. As you might imagine, it was a pointless task.”

Bjorn adopts a strict regime for his working hours, consisting of 55 minutes solid work followed by intermittent 5 minute breaks, avoiding the usual coffee and socialising at all costs. It is on one of his breaks that he first discovers the Room. A perfectly ordinary little office room, situated between the lift and the toilets on his floor, but to him it offers an oasis of calm within an office environment where he doesn’t belong. Good things happen to him in the room, and he can’t help but keep returning to it.

Bjorn is getting on with his quiet life and enjoying his moments in the room, until his colleagues start to question what it is he is doing between the lift and the toilets. They deny the room’s existence, leaving Bjorn convinced that they are conducting some sort of psychological warfare against him. But who is right? Is the room a figment of an overactive imagination, a result of a mental illness? Or is there something more mysterious going on? And what is the Authority anyway?

The book was a really refreshing and original read. It wasn’t what I expected, but then I don’t think I really knew what to expect. This book was written in Swedish and has a Scandinavian feel to it which adds to the atmosphere. It loses nothing in the translation and works on a lot of levels. It’s a bleakly humorous office satire, with a touch of melancholy, and examines all manner of issues from workplace bullying to mental illness. The protagonist, Bjorn, isn’t exactly likeable – I don’t think I’d enjoy working in an office with him. He is incredibly condescending towards his colleagues, telling them at one point “It’s perfectly natural for more straightforward individuals to feel alarmed by someone of talent”.

But at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. Bjorn is alone in his life – others around him do not see things the same way as he does, and the presence of the room simply exacerbates this fact. As things at work spiral downhill for him, he muses “I suddenly felt how lonely it is, constantly finding yourself the only person who can see the truth in this gullible world.” The writer does a brilliant job of getting inside the mind of someone who doesn’t fit into society, who truly ‘thinks outside the box’.

This novel was completely different to most things I read, but I enjoyed it and got through it in a day. It’s a short, sharp read which builds layers upon layers and offers an original take on modern office life, and what it means to be different.

1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Comedy, Drama, Satire

Landline, Rainbow Rowell – Book Review

I’ve heard so many good things about Rainbow Rowell lately, and after this book won the Goodreads Choice 2014, I decided I had to give it a go. And, after all the hype I have to admit I felt that the book started out fairly slowly, and the writing was average. This book is pure chick-lit – a genre I don’t read very often – and maybe I’d expected a little too much from it. But I needed something light and cheerful after just finishing Stephen King’s Revival, so I ploughed on with an open mind and, after getting over my initial disappointment, I have to admit I got sucked into the story and swept up in the romance of the tale.

Landline

Georgie and Neal’s marriage comes to breaking point close to Christmas. They had planned to spend the festive season in Omaha with Neal’s family and their two children, but at the last minute Georgie lands a lucrative opportunity in her work as a comedy writer, and has to stay home over Christmas to work on a show with her best friend, Seth. So Neal takes the children and goes home for Christmas, leaving Georgie to spend the holiday without her family.

Even though Georgie insists to those around her that the Christmas separation is simply a perfunctory arrangement made for convenience, deep down she knows it’s more than that. She feels her husband is slipping away from her. She tries to get in touch with him to reconcile their relationship, but instead stumbles across a “magical fucking phone” which allows her to speak to Neal in the past.

The element of the magic phone makes for something a little different. It’s another of the reasons I picked the book up in the first place; when done well, romance weaved with a little fantasy can be a real treat. But at it’s heart, this book is all about the relationships; the phone simply acts as a device to bridge together past and present; a tool which asks the reader if you had the chance, would you change the past? In present day, Georgie and Neal’s relationship is stale, and Georgie wonders whether the opportunity has been presented to help her fix her marriage, or erase it altogether. But as she speaks to a younger Neal, less jaded by the stress of their present-day lives, she begins to remember why she fell in love with him in the first place.

The book moves between present day and flashbacks to their relationship’s formative years. I think the flashbacks to their early relationship were probably my favourite parts of the book – Georgie and Neal are young and naive, they fall in love hard and they move fast, with none of the apprehension or anxiety of their older selves.

“You don’t know when you are twenty-three. You don’t know what it really means to crawl into someone else’s life and stay there. You can’t see all the ways you’re going to get tangled, how you’re going to bond skin to skin.”

Rowell doesn’t only capture young romance well, but she captures the disillusioned, embittered nature of a marriage on the rocks too. Present-day Georgie is realising that love isn’t always enough, that she is to blame at least as much as Neal “Because she wanted him more than she wanted him to be happy.” Rowell illustrates perfectly how the years can eat away at that young hope, even when the love remains.

“It’s like you’re tossing a ball between you, and you’re just hoping that you can keep it in the air. And it has nothing to do with whether you love each other or not. If you didn’t love each other, you wouldn’t be playing this stupid game with the ball.”

I guess Landline was a mixed bag for me – it’s cheesy, but it’s also poignant and surprisingly realistic in places. I didn’t realise before I started this novel that it was set around the festive season, and culminates on Christmas Day. This kind of explains its Goodreads award – I think everyone was just feeling full of festive love. This is the perfect novel to read around Christmas – it’s not groundbreaking, but it’ll leave you with the warm, fuzzy feeling that a holiday romance should.

3 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Comedy, Fantasy, Romance

Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan – Book Review

“The book will fade, the way all books fade in your mind. But I hope you will remember this: A man walking fast down a dark lonely street. Quick steps and hard breathing, all wonder and need. A bell above a door and the tinkle it makes. A clerk and a ladder and warm golden light, and then: the right book exactly, at exactly the right time.”

Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore has been talked about a lot over the past year, but I knew little more going into it than that it was about a man, some books and a bookstore. I’m glad I went into it only knowing this, as it made it an original, refreshing read which is hard to pinpoint to any one genre or theme.

The story revolves around Clay Jannon, a tech-savvy 20-something who goes from a role managing the website for NewBagel, to working in a musty bookstore alongside the by the intriguing, mysterious and elderly proprietor, Ajax Penumbra.

Stranger than Clay’s change in career is the bookstore itself; a shop that stays open 24 hours a day and yet only has a small selection of repeat customers who visit in the dead of night, always desperate for their next book. They never pay for their books, but instead swap one for the next, flashing a special membership card to a club Clay doesn’t fully understand.

It seems a peculiar way for a store to run, and one which piques the curiosity of Clay and his newfound Googler girlfriend, Kate. Together with Clay’s handy rich friend Neil, they embark on a journey to get answers.

And that’s where things really get interesting. Clay takes advantage of the technology at Google to understand age-old books in a story which wonderfully combines old knowledge with new technology, with a sprinkle of magic along the way. It’s a journey which takes him to the heart of a 500-year-old cult, across America from San Francisco to New York to a wonderfully quirky, creepy and enthralling reading room, as they delve through coded books and arcane mysteries in order to find answers.

Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is entertaining and lighthearted throughout. It explores the concept of new vs old technology in a completely new way and it does it well. However, I’ve got to admit that I never felt that much empathy or connection with the characters; the story flows quickly, but without a huge amount of character development. They felt a little stereotypical and one-dimensional at times – the good guy searching for answers; the clever and beautiful girlfriend; the mysterious, wizard-like bookshop owner.

This story is more an exploration of a love of books and technology, both of which I could relate to. The writing style is enjoyable, and the text is littered with a combination of witty one-liners – “He has the strangest expression on his face – the emotional equivalent of 404 PAGE NOT FOUND.” and more profound proclamations such as this: “There is no immortality that is not built on friendship and work done with care. All the secrets in the world worth knowing are hiding in plain sight.”.

All in all, Mr Penumbra is a book which will make you laugh and make you think – it may even make you cry. I enjoyed it immensely, but as a character-driven reader, it won’t make it into my all-time favourites.

2 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy

How To Fall In Love, Cecelia Ahern – Book Review

I’ve loved Cecelia Ahern’s books for years; they just have a touch of sparkle which, for me, makes her stand head and shoulders above most other chick lit authors. Whilst some of her books are not as good as others, they all have her unique style, and I was keen to read her latest.

How To Fall In Love

How To Fall In Love follows Christine, a self-help addicted recruitment consultant who has recently left her husband, realising she didn’t love him after just a year of marriage. Her life is entwined with Adam’s when she walks past the Ha’Penny Bridge one night and sees him posed to jump off. Christine has her own reasons for being strongly anti-suicide and, unlike most onlookers who just watch on with distant concern, she gets up on the bridge and speaks to Adam, guiding him back from the edge. But in her attempt to stop his suicide she makes a promise she is bound to keep; that she will help him fall in love with life again, and show him why it is worth living. Not only this but she has to do this all within two weeks; before his 35th birthday, otherwise he will attempt suicide again.

Cecelia Ahern never seems to fail to find such original and ingenious premises for her stories; they are never straightforward boy meets girl. This story is no different. The challenge is set and it’s a great way to plunge two strangers’ lives together in a way which would never occur under normal circumstances.

Christine quickly realises that the deal she made is in no way trivial; turning around the views of a  man with such serious issues that he was prepared to take his own life is not something to be taken lightly, particularly when she has a crazed ex-husband of her own to deal with.

It’s not only Adam’s mental state that she has to deal with, but the tangible problems he faces too. His father is terminally ill, and soon Adam will be required to step up and take his father’s place as director of a large multi-national company. A company which Adam doesn’t want to run. On top of this, he recently found out that his girlfriend and the love of his life has been cheating on him with his best friend. So, in order to turn Adam’s opinion around, Christine needs to help him shirk his duty as company director and win back his cheating girlfriend Maria. She turns to her trusty self-help books and together they embark on a number of adventures and challenges to help Adam enjoy life again.

How To Fall In Love was an enjoyable read, but not particularly memorable. Having finished it over a week ago but only just got around to reviewing it, I’m already having trouble recollecting the details. The story is fairly predictable (the title gives away the ’twist’ somewhat) but it’s still a an enjoyable journey and, like with all of her books, there were lines which made me laugh out loud and part which were truly touching (the scene early on with the ‘Christine’ egg was my personal favourite!). What Ahern does do extremely well in this novel is encourage us to appreciate the little things in life. She inspires hope, where sometimes it feels like there is none.

If you’re trying Cecelia Ahern for this first time, I wouldn’t recommend this – she’s done better (PS. I Love You and If You Could See Me Now are my  favourites). But if you’re already a fan, you’re sure to enjoy her signature style.

4 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Comedy, Drama, Humour