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): ****