Newest Humour Reviews

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The Life of a Scilly Sergeant by Colin Taylor

4.5star.jpg Travel

Meet the Isles of Scilly. (I know they should be called that – the author provides a handy guide to the etiquette of their name, their nature and location, etc.) For our more distant readers, they're several chunks of granite rock out in the Atlantic, where Cornwall is pointing, with just 2,200 permanent residents. They're big on tourism, and big on growing flowers in the tropical climate the Gulf Stream bequeaths them – although the weather is bad enough to turn any car to a rust bucket within years. They're so wee, and so idyllic-seeming, especially at night, you can be mistaken for thinking there would be no need for a police presence. But there is – at least two working at any one time. And one of them in recent years has been Colin Taylor, who has done his official duty – alongside maintaining a well-known online existence, which has brought to life all the whimsical comedy of his work. Full review...

'Twas the Fight Before Christmas: A Parody by Josie Lloyd and Emlyn Rees

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It's Christmas Eve and Mum has arranged everything. All she now has to do is await the arrival of the relatives and the food shopping delivery. Little does Mum know that those two elements alone have the potential to ruin everything. Full review...

Romeo and/or Juliet by Ryan North

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For all those who think tragedy plots are too restricted and prescribed, read on. In these pages you too will see that Romeo had lots of options en route to hitting the bottle. Likewise, she could have turned away from her predestined path at no end of junctures. And to what result? Well, happy marriage and a kid called Ben, because the leads have just banged people's heads together and stopped the quarrelling, or Death by Tybalt (him) or a long life running an establishment curing murderous women, such as a Lady M (her). Full review...

The Virgin Mary's Got Nits by Gervase Phinn

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Christmas in our house is the time we tend to get on a plane and head to either sun or snow, anywhere that is far, far away from the madness at home, last minute dashes to the shops on Christmas Eve, and food cupboard stockpiles that would imply supermarkets are shutting for a month, nor a mere 36 hours. But I do remember the feeling of Christmas when I was younger, back when it was magical, and back when you knew exactly what the season would bring with carol concerts and school nativities and Christmas parties. This book is an anthology of those moments, and it took me right back to the wonder of Christmas as a child. Full review...

Shoot by Kieran Crowley

4star.jpg Crime

I make something of a habit of being late to discover good writers, in this case getting to Crowley after he is no longer with us. The result is that what is billed as an F.X. Shepherd mystery with all the optimism of there being more to come has the poignancy of being, if not the last of a short line, certainly one of a few. F.X. Shepherd – he doesn't like his first name and prefers just "Shepherd" is, technically, a columnist. He's been sacked by one New York newspaper and is writing a weekly column for another. I don't know much about journalism, but I'm guessing one column a week doesn't pay much as a rule…which explains why Shepherd's soap-washed-foul-mouthed editor (read the book, you'll see what I mean) expects him to turn in some genuine journalism as well: front page, seat of your pants stuff. Full review...

The First Ever Christmas: And Who to Blame by Gray Jolliffe

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If I tell you a secret, will you promise not to tell anyone? Well, I really don't like Christmas: it's my least favourite time of year and whilst some people count down to the day itself, I look forward to that point when I can say that it's all over for another year. It's all too commercialised for me, with a coating of faux religion. I've never found it in the least funny - that is, until I found Gray Jolliffe's The First Ever Christmas: And Who's to Blame. Amazingly, I'd never encountered Gray Jolliffe either, but I'm a convert to his skills as a cartoonist (if not to the idea of Christmas) after reading this collection of Christmas-themed cartoons from his archive. Full review...

Pugh's New Year's Resolutions by Jonathan Pugh

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If there's one thing that's for certain, it's that the world is changing. We're dating online, we're communicating in ways that make email seem redundant, and when we're shopping we just tell a website where and when it can be delivered, and how much leeway they have to swap our wishes for whatever it is they do bring us. But those changes are also supposed to be affecting us – we're supposed to use a smart watch to tell us if we're moving or not, we have to keep up with the latest fads, and we're supposed to prick our ears up and take note when the proverbial 'they' change their minds about what we're supposed to eat. Full review...

Invasion by Luke Rhinehart

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Super-intelligent furry aliens suddenly appear from another universe. And they've come to earth to have fun. Alien Louie follows fisherman Billy Morton home one day, and he and his family quickly come to love the playful alien. But when Louie starts using their computer to hack into government and corporate networks, stealing millions from banks to give to others, they realise that Louie and his friends mean trouble. As Billy and his family begin a roller coaster ride of fame and fortune, as well as a ranking high on the FBI's most wanted list, the Government soon decides that these aliens are terrorists, and must be eliminated. Whilst the aliens are playing games they hope will help humans to see the insanity of the American political, economic and military systems, they soon come to realise that the Powers that Be don't play games: they make war. Full review...

Only Fools and Horses: The Peckham Archives by Rod Green

4star.jpg Entertainment

We are in the world of one of the country's most famous and well-loved sitcoms – even if it was sort-of killed off for Christmas 2003. Yes, there have been specials since, and more repeats to clog up the BBC schedules than is really pukka, but very few people failed to succumb to its charms at one time or another. I'm sure there have been books before now celebrating the stony-faced reception of that drop through the open bar hatch, and that chandelier scene, but this is much more meaty. Purporting to be the family archives, found dumped in Nelson Mandela House, the documents here were passed from pillar to post, from one council worker in a department with a clumsy acronym to another, from them to the police – and now here they are being published for their social history worth. Will enough readers find them of worth, as the series quietly celebrates its 35th birthday? Full review...

Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame by Mara Wilson

5star.jpg Autobiography

Mara Wilson has always felt a little young and a little out of place: as the only child on a film set full of adults, the first daughter in a house full of boys, the sole clinically depressed member of a cheerleading squad, a valley girl in New York and a neurotic in California, and an adult the world still remembers as a little girl. Tackling everything from how she first learned about sex on the set of Melrose Place, to losing her mother at a young age, to getting her first kiss (or was it kisses?) on a celebrity canoe trip, to not being cute enough to make it in Hollywood, these essays tell the story of one young woman's journey from accidental fame to relative obscurity, but also illuminate a universal struggle: learning to accept yourself, and figuring out who you are and where you belong. Full review...

Writing Lines by Tony Stuart

4.5star.jpg Humour

George Gordon Wentworth (1946-2011) lived a humdrum life. He was a barely adequate teacher in a fairly world renowned independent school in Kent and kept a copious diary of his quotidian existence. Most of what he recorded was dross. However, amongst all the utterly uninteresting tailings of his life there were some nuggets and grains to catch the attention. Author Tony Stuart has created these amusing anecdotes, panning them out over twenty six episodes which give us the best of Wentworth – comedy gold. From losing all the pupils in his charge on a school trip to being arrested on suspicion of terrorism; from waking up in bed between the married couple the morning after their wedding, to destroying a ski run; from appearing full-frontal naked in a sheep-farmers' gazette to triggering an air-sea rescue; Wentworth was, blinkered and befuddled, the subject – of these and so many more unlikely but highly amusing events. Full review...

Driving Mad: Maniacs, Morons and the Advanced Motorist's Club by Graham Fulbright

3.5star.jpg Humour

I passed my driving test when John F Kennedy was in the White House and I've recently had to reapply for my driving licence having achieved a venerable age. When I started driving the roads were kinder, more forgiving places - or put another way, the idiots were fewer and further between. I don't know how long Graham Fulbright has been driving, but he certainly knows his motoring morons and in Driving Mad he brings us a fictional sample of their eccentricities. Well, I'm pretty certain that they're fictional - but these days you never know... Full review...

Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano

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Poldi had not long been widowed when she decided to move from Bavaria to Sicily with the intention of drinking herself to death. She could, of course, have done this in Germany, but she felt that a sea view was essential. Once there, new friends, family already resident on the island and the corpse of a young man, his face blown off by a shotgun, whom she found on the local beach, intervened to give her life some meaning. For a while she was a suspect, but that (and her wig) were no obstacle to her falling for Commissario Vito Montana who was assigned to investigate the case. Assisting him (or having him assist her) came naturally to Poldi and before long there was an investigative and personal partnership. At least so far as Poldi was concerned. Full review...

My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

5star.jpg Horror

1988, Charleston, South Carolina. High school sophomores Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fourth grade. But after an evening of skinny-dipping goes disatrously wrong, Gretchen begins to act...different. She's moody. She's irritable. And bizarre incidents keep happening whenever she's nearby. Abby's investigation leads her to some startling discoveries - and by the time their story reaches its terrifying conclusion, the fate of Abby and Gretchen will be determined by a single question: Is their friendship enough to beat the devil? Full review...

The Brilliant and Forever by Kevin MacNeil

3.5star.jpg Humour

You know sometimes when someone tells a joke, everyone else laughs, and you're sat there wondering what was so funny? Full review...

Bryant and May: Strange Tide by Christopher Fowler

3.5star.jpg Crime

The thirteenth outing for Bryant and May is looking very much like it will be their last. Arthur Bryant is on compassionate leave whilst tests are continuing, which are likely to confirm that he is suffering from Alzheimer's. His condition is worsening almost by the day, memory lapses are morphing into full-scale hallucinations. Full review...

The Voyage of the Dolphin by Kevin Smith

5star.jpg Historical Fiction

Dublin 1916: Among the unrest and anti-British feeling worsened by the threat of conscription into a war seen as nothing to do with the Irish, Trinity College faculty has other distractions. They'd like a trophy; the skeleton of an Irish 'giant' to be precise. The only glitch is that the main trophy contender, Bernard MacNeill's skeleton, is somewhere difficult to access and all seasoned explorers are otherwise engaged. There may be hope though. They turn to Fitzmaurice, a student not good enough for anything else. Fitzmaurice agrees, picking his friends Crozier and Rafferty to go with him. So… Gentlemen, lace up your strongest boots and pack your warmest underwear – we're all off to the bloody Arctic! Whether battle cry or epitaph, three men and a dog… and an iguana… are going anyway. Full review...

Once Upon a Time in the West… Country by Tony Hawks

3star.jpg Travel

I have often complained in a jokey voice to my partner about life in the sticks, and the way she moved me from an inner-city flat to slumming it in the suburbs with fewer busses, no takeaways within walking-and-keeping-food-hot distance, and no 'Polish' shops for a can of beer whenever you fancy one. Things are different with Tony Hawks, as here he has purposefully decided to up sticks from London to Somewhere, Devon – a tiny village where the people who built their own homes decades ago still live in them, where slugs are a lot more of a problem for the wannabe lettuce-grower than they are for the metropolitan commuter, and where village halls have the power to turn you into both a Pol Pot dictator if you get on their committee and into a quivering, bruise-inducing wreck if you're the wrong gender at a Zumba class… Full review...

Making It Up As I Go Along by Marian Keyes

4.5star.jpg Entertainment

Oh, how the book reviewing gods like to give, and equally like to take away. Here before me is a brand, spanking new collection of journalism by the wonderful Marian Keyes – but it's a proof copy, so there's no photo of the author. Even if over the years I have stopped reading her novels, I have always turned to the author picture to remind myself such sights exist in this world. Himself is a lucky man, for sure. But beyond sounding like a letch, what can I say about this – the beauty's third large dose of essays, web columns and other journalism? I can start with agreeing that I am not the target audience, but it's easy enough to see from these pages exactly what the target is. So much like that test you do – you know the one, that formulates decisions about the age and commonality of all things in space to come up with how many billions of planets are likely to have alien life on – you can narrow things down quite readily here, and still come up with a huge number. Full review...

Asterix and the Missing Scroll (Album 36) by Jean-Yves Ferri

5star.jpg For Sharing

Asterix is those rarest of book series; one designed for kids which is actually even funnier when you are an adult. I used to love Asterix as a child, but now that I reread them I can't help but wonder why, because they are so full of hilarious jokes that I definitely wouldn't have understood when I was younger. I laughed loud and hard to myself twice within the first two pages of Asterix and the Missing Scroll, so I'd definitely say that this was a hit. Full review...

Braver Than Britain, Occasionally by Spadge Whittaker

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In which Spadge researches Britain's top ten fears and faces them all over the course of a year. We're quite a fearful society, you know. And the things we fear most are, in order: heights (acrophobia), snakes (ophidiophobia), public speaking (glossophobia), spiders (arachnophobia), small spaces (claustrophobia), mice (musophobia), needles (trypanophobia), flying (pteromerhanophobia), crowds (agoraphobia) and clowns (coulrophobia). Full review...

Trust by Mike Bullen

4star.jpg General Fiction

Greg and Amanda are happy. Unmarried, but together thirteen years and with two young daughters, they are very much in love. Dan and Sarah aren't so fortunate. Their marriage is going through the motions, and they're staying together for the sake of their troubled teenage son. Following a business conference away from home, one bad decision sends a happy couple into turmoil, and turns an unhappy couple into love's young dream. As secrets and betrayals threaten to send both relationships out of control, there's only one thing that can keep everything from falling apart: Trust Full review...

When the Professor Got Stuck in the Snow by Dan Rhodes

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Two people are on a train on their way to, of all things, a WI meeting where the ladies of All Bottoms will be lectured on the non-existence of God. One of the two people is Professor Richard Dawkins, rampant atheist, hectoring scientist chappie, and all-round devotee of Deal or No Deal. The other is Smee, his mono-named assistant, amanuensis or 'male secretary'. Smee will come to the fore when the weather sets in and the train journey has to be abandoned some way short of its ultimate destination, Upper Bottom. Instead the pair fetch up at the isolated yet friendly community of Market Horton, and the only option for accommodation is taken – yes, the died-in-the-wool non-believer has to be housed by a retired vicar and his wife. This clash of titanic opinions, peppered with social faux pas aplenty will provide for a particularly English kind of farcical comedy, but one with the legs to go as far as any other Good Books have reached in the past… Full review...

Very British Problems Abroad by Rob Temple

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Meet, if you haven't already, the phenomenon of the Very British Problem. In this format they're in pithy little comments (of, ooh, about 140 characters in length, for some reason…) and detail the minor things in life that we like nothing more than to inflate to a major factor of life. They can involve manners, staring at things until they mend themselves, hitting things ditto, or the fact that nobody apart from you and I know how to queue properly. And if the idea hits the world outside our shores, then – well, you certainly have a book full of content regarding our attitude and ineptitude abroad. Full review...

Stuff Brits Like by Fraser McAlpine

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With over 100 chapters on different aspects of Britain and Britishness, this book is both fascinating and hilarious. Just looking at the list of subjects is enough to produce a sardonic twist of that stiff upper lip: the chapters cover topics that range from offal to curry, from pedantry to banter, from conkers to rugby. There may be many chapters but this is no academic tome - each chapter is just two to three pages long, each is written with endearing affection, each is easy and satisfying - and quirkily funny - to read. Full review...

What I Tell You in the Dark by John Samuel

3.5star.jpg Humour

A man called Will is fighting fiercely against corruption – desperate to expose his company's dodgy dealings to the press. Overcome with doubt and fear, he goes to kill himself. But, at the exact moment he attaches his noose to the back of the door, he is saved. By a curious housemate or a concerned girlfriend? No, by an Angel. Not the white-feathered guardian Angel you may expect, but one who wishes to help Will achieve his ends, and so possess the body of the hapless Will in order to finish what he started. It goes without saying that the Angel is hoping things go better than they did with the last guy he possessed – a hapless young man from Galilee called Jesus… Full review...

The Sunshine Cruise Company by John Niven

4.5star.jpg Humour

Susan Frobisher and Julie Wickham live in a small Dorset town. Friends since school, they live fairly uneventful lives – Susan has a lovely house and a lengthy marriage to accountant Barry, whereas Julie is doing slightly less well – living in a council flat and working in an old people's home. When Barry is found dead trussed up in a sex dungeon, it transpires that he has been leading a hidden life for years, and his expensive fetishes lead to the bank moving to take Susan's home. Struck by both desperation and a sense of injustice, Sue and Julie conspire to rob a bank, taking along their friend Jill – a devout Christian conflicted due to lack of money and a terminally ill grandson, and Ethel – a foul mouthed resident of the nursing home longing for adventure. Full review...