The World Cup of Everything

Which country in the world is best at football? Argentina? Brazil? England? France? Germany? Every four years, the world’s finest footballing nations gather and we find out which country is the best at football. Other sports do the same. But what about finding the best of things outside of sport? Enter The World Cup of Everything!

Continue reading my review of The World Cup of Everything

Clovenhoof

A new system is introduced in Hell and Satan is subject to performance reviews. When his performance is judged to be sub-standard, he gets banished to live on Earth. Solihill to be precise. Something that he’s not happy about as he struggles to adapt. It would probably be fair to say that his neighbours are also not best pleased as Jeremy Clovenhoof causes chaos. But things are not quite as they seem in Heaven. And Jeremy Clovenhoof can put it right…

Continue reading my review of Clovenhoof

The Liquidator

British Special Security are tired of embarrassing situations; it inevitably leads to embarrassing questions. It’s decided that action is needed to avoid situations in the future. Mostyn, the second-in-command is entrusted with ensuring that problems are removed before they become a problem and he believes he knows just the man – Boysie Oakes. When Oakes heads off for a weekend away with Mostyn’s secretary, he soon finds himself embroiled in a plot that would result in a situation beyond embarrassing. Can Oakes save the day?

The Liquidator is the first in the Boysie Oakes series and gives the back story as to how Oakes became a secret agent. It also shows what type of character Oakes is and he’s not the standard secret agent/assassin material.

A gentle comedy combined with a thriller, it’s different to what I’ve read before and was an enjoyable read.

Rating (out of 5): ****

The Complete Dregs Of History

We’ve all heard of Henry VIII. And Elizabeth I. And William Shakespeare. And countless others who have made an impact on history. But what about the everyday person? Or someone who has had an impact for a strange reason? Enter ‘The complete dregs of history’

Numerous characters are introduced in chronological order, with a summary of what they did and why they are included. Fripley’s characters are all entertaining and the book was easy to read and enjoyable. The characters can be a bit hit and miss, but none are worth skipping. A book to return to and pick a character at random.

Rating (out of 5): ***

Erasmus Hobart and the Golden Arrow

How true are legends? We’ll never know. To know the truth behind legends, we’d need to travel back in time. Which is just what Erasmus Hobart, a school teacher (History and Physics) is able to do. He’s developed a time machine and decides to find out the truth behind the legend of Robin Hood ahead of the school play.

The opening chapter reads like the opening to a James Bond film as we’re introduced to Hobart and his time travelling machine. He’s travelled back to when Lady Godiva took to the streets and is lucky to escape. His journey back to Robin Hood’s time is trickier when he makes an enemy of Guy Gisborne and gets separated from the machine. He soon discovers what Robin Hood was like and has to ensure that he doesn’t ruin history. What was Robin Hood like? Well, that would spoil the book!

An easy to read and enjoyable book. Hobart’s adventure is a great one to follow and I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Give it a go and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Rating (out of 5): *****

Very British Problems Volume 3: Still Awkward, Still Raining

There seem to be so many unwritten rules in Britain and Very British Problems highlights them. The problems are separated into different areas and it’s amazing how many you have encountered or, even better, do yourself. I would have to agree that it’s close to impossible to watch cricket without miming a forward defensive shot. The ones I recognise myself doing were the ones I found funniest.

As well as being an enjoyable read (although being British, I should probably say it’s, ‘alright’) it got me thinking about other things that may be termed British problems. I wonder if I’m the only one who will cross the road at traffic lights checking that the light has turned red; it’s for two reasons: I want to make sure that the green man actually means I can cross and also to let the drivers waiting that I can see it’s red so I know I should be crossing.

It’s a short book and quickly read, but every page is excellent.

Rating (out of 5): *****

Memoirs of a bar steward

Jacob Cox is named as the landlord for the pub his family have bought on the coast. He has the vision to make the pub one of the most successful in the country, nevermind the town. His family just can’t see his plans and how they will lead to success. Of course, it might just be because the ideas aren’t actually that great…

A short book that’s easy to pick up and get in to. It is humorous throughout and ends on a cliffhanger after Jacob’s visit to a rival pub. Well worth a read.

Rating (out of 5): ****

Foggy’s Blog

Morton Astley Fogarty (Foggy) is blogging about his life. He lives at home, works in an insurance call centre and is involved in an amateur dramatic production of Grease. However, in all aspects, he’s out of his depth. Despite being out of his depth, he’s blissfully unaware and looks for the best in everyone and everything. This results in plenty of mis-understandings, the highlight being when Foggy is called in for a disciplinary meeting at work. Foggy is a lovable character and it’s a short, amusing book.

Rating (out of 5): *****

The Pirates! In an adventure with Moby Dick

The Pirate Captain decides that their ship has seen better days (with the mast constantly collapsing, he’s probably right). The Pirates buy a new ship from Cutlass Liz. She’s famed for dealing with non-payers brutally. Which could be a major problem as the Pirates don’t have the 6000 doubloons the new ship costs. The Pirate Captain has a number of ideas to raise the necessary money, but they don’t work out and keep on bumping into a character called Ahab, who lost his leg to a whale and wants revenge. The reward to anyone who catches the whale? 6000 doubloons. The Pirates look to find the whale, claim the reward and pay for their ship.

An easy read and fun story. The pirates are named according to distinguishing features that they possess and the Pirate Captain is a lovable character, but often seems out of his depth. I recommend this to everyone.

Rating (out of 5): *****

Book review – Utter Folly

Olly invites his friend James to his house in the country. But then Olly gets arrested and can’t make the weekend, although he does ask James to pick up a package for him. James could never have been prepared for what he encounters, with Olly’s family best described as being eccentric. James could also not have been prepared for the situations he finds himself in and is also unaware of what’s in the package he’s asked to collect.

Utter Folly is a comedy set in the English countryside. James is pretty hapless, but a lovable character who is well out of his comfort zone and little match for the formidable characters he encounters. An easy read and funny throughout.

Rating (out of 5): *****

Book review: Second Chance

Second Chance follows Biffo Brimstone, who quits his high-paid job at a television company in protest at having to work on quiz shows. He breaks the news to his materialistic wife and children and ends up leaving the house. He travels and ends up in Fondling-Under-Water, a village in the countryside.

Fondling-Under-Water is populated by eccentric and lovable characters. The pub is a danger to all newcomers, but is the focal point for the village. Along with the cricket team. It’s not long before Biffo gets called up. But it’s just not cricket…

The characters are all developed and the villagers take to Biffo, making him one of their own. There are only a couple of cricket matches in the book. There are believable aspects to the game and also some that are less likely to occur. You would not have to be a cricket lover to enjoy the book and it reads like Wodehouse at times. An excellent book.

Rating (out of 5): *****

Book Review: Thrift

Thrift follows a secondary school teacher during the Autumn term. He admits that he is not a good or successful teacher, but the school management seem to be able to overlook this and give him the job of the school play (that has resulted in previous teachers leaving), and lesson observations with the local newspaper and OFSTED. Surely such a poor teacher cannot survive these three events and come up smelling of roses? Especially with such a modern twist on Hamlet when the Headmaster is repeatedly shown to be interested in something much more traditional…

Thrift is a comedy and an excellent one. The management team at the school seem more concerned with reputation and meaningless phrases than how things are actually going, whilst the narrator easily gives up in the face of any opposition from his students. He is prepared to resort to bribery if it will make him look good, despite the consequences for others. The book has several laugh out loud moments and is a thoroughly enjoyable read that goes at a great pace. Sequels for the Spring and Summer terms would be most welcome!

Rating (out of 5): *****

Book review: The Unhappy Medium

The Unhappy Medium focuses on Dr Newton Barlow. He appears to be a very successful physicist, but things take a turn for the worse as he loses his job, his wife and pretty much any hope. At his lowest, he is approached for some unusual work – to remove history’s worst characters from Purgatory. Barlow is successful, but when history’s most evil man comes back, Barlow is up against it.

It did take me quite a while to get into the book as there are a number of different back stories to begin with. As the novel progresses, they make sense and the links between the characters become clear. Barlow initially can’t believe the proposed job and there is plenty of humour as he tries to come to terms with everything that he has never believed in because he had no way of proving it. That’s not to say that’s the only injection of humour as it runs throughout the story. The characters are believable and clearly defined and there is some occasional action once Barlow gets into his unexpected role, especially when faced with the Cardinal.

Although it does take some time to get into, it is worth sticking with and is very enjoyable.

Rating (out of 5): ****

Book review: Lucia in Trouble

Lucia in Trouble sees Mrs Lucas made Mayor of Tilling, surely the pinnacle of her social career. However, she discovers she must have a Mayoress and decides to appoint Mrs Mapp-Flint in an attempt to keep her under control.

Lucia in Trouble is the final book in the Mapp and Lucia series and as with the others, it is a comedy of manners. The two central characters continue to vie with one another for supremacy over Tilling. Unlike in Mapp and Lucia and Lucia’s Progress, Mrs Mapp-Flint has success and everything does not go Lucia’s way. Lucia is forced to work hard to keep her role as unofficial Queen of Tilling, with key supporters of her becoming disillusioned and believing what Mrs Mapp-Flint says. The battles remain just as ferocious between the two and the book is a fine ending to an excellent series. This book follows on immediately from Lucia’s Progress, so I would strongly recommend reading that before this.

Rating (out of 5):****

Book review: Lucia’s Progress

Lucia’s Progress sees Mrs Lucas continue with her adventures in Tilling. Miss Mapp (now Mrs Mapp-Flint) is still there and remains her rival for control of Tilling, but Lucia’s increasing wealth through success on the stock market allows her to bestow gifts upon Tilling and gain offers to various committees.

As with all the other books in the series, this is a comedy of manners, with the two protagonists being charming and polite to one another in person (generally), whilst plotting to ensure they stay ahead of their rival. Benson’s sympathies appear to lie with Lucia, who thwarts Mapp at every turn and increases her power by drawing the residents of Tilling to her at the expense of Mapp, who tries her best to keep pace but is unable to.

Rating (out of 5): ****

Book review: Mapp and Lucia

Mapp and Lucia begins with the news that Mrs Lucas is in mourning for the death of Mr Lucas and has withdrawn from society in Riseholme. In her place, Daisy has taken over and will have the lead role of Queen Elizabeth in the summer fete. Lucia decides her only option is to be away at that time and rents Miss Mapp’s house in Tilling. Inevitably, the two formidable women clash in the confines of Tilling.

Mapp and Lucia is a gentle comedy, with the two women plotting how they can best snub one another whilst appearing to remain incredibly polite. Much like the Cold War, the two protagonists and the super powers, with everyone else relegated to the role of pawns as open warfare is just about avoided. Lucia seems to get the better of the exchanges, but the novel finishes with Miss Mapp landing a blow of her own. The effort that they go to in their constant game of one-upmanship means that there is not a dull moment.

Rating (out of 5): *****

Book review: Lucia in London

Lucia in London sees Mrs Lucas gain a house in London as a result of an inheritance. She soon sets about climbing up the social scene in London, but to the detriment of her hold over Riseholme.

Lucia in London is a gentle comedy, as Lucia shamelessly gets involved in London social life, whilst the residents of Riseholme ignore her upon her return. Lucia is generally successful in London, but struggles when Riseholme rejects her. However, when Lucia returns, she is able to quickly re-establish her hold over Riseholme, to the disappointment of her rival, Daisy.

Rating (out of 5): ****

Book Review: Miss Mapp

Miss Mapp tracks events in the village of Tilling, where Miss Mapp is undoubtedly in charge. Apart from possibly Diva Plaistow, who always seems to be discovering new things to the interest of the rest of the village. Miss Mapp is determined that Tilling will remain her village though.

This is a very gentle comedy, with Miss Mapp trying to ensure that she remains as the focal point of the village. However, her plans do not always go to plan and chaos and embarrassment ensue. Miss Mapp is devious in the way that she tries to take credit for fads introduced by Diva and make herself the centre of the averted duel between the Captain and the Major. The duel (or lack of and resulting fallout) was my favourite part of the novel, allowing Tilling to become a real place as opposed to a setting for a character.

Rating (out of 5): ****

Book review: Queen Lucia

Queen Lucia tracks the events in Riseholme, where Mrs Lucas is seen as the ruler of the village. However, Mrs Quantock appears to be a rival as a result of trends she gets into, but Mrs Lucas (Lucia) is strong enough to dominate over her. A bigger threat is Olga Bracely (an accomplished opera singer and Italian speaker), who seems to cause accidental embarrassment to Lucia at every turn and takes Lucia’s best friend/lackey, Georgie.

The novel is set in 1920s Britain and is a very gentle comedy. It reminded me in many ways of a P G Wodehouse novel, with a rural setting and embarrassing events, mixed with some kind of romance. The characters are less wealthy than might be found in a Wodehouse novel, but are still privileged people. The story is straight forward, reflecting that there is little secrecy in a small village. An enjoyable, relaxing read.

Rating (out of 5): ****

Book review: Royal Flush

Royal Flush follows The King, who has become king due to no-one else wanting the role. The King enjoys executing people, which might go some way to explaining his unpopularity in the Kingdom. As well as not being liked, he is ridiculed by the newspaper and unable to find a wife.

The King is followed in four separate chapters, named after the suits in a deck of cards. There are common themes and characters running throughout and the author makes several knowing references throughout the novel. The attempts of the King to find love are amusing, but the funniest part is when he is deposed and becomes a much-loved outlaw. If you are looking for an easy-to-read comedy with some excellent moments, I would recommend this book.

Rating (out of 5): ****