Top Banana by Kath Middleton

Top BananaThis came as a welcome relief after the last three books I’d read proved such heavy going that I’d given up on each of them.

No such problem here. This is the third book I’ve read by this author and although they are very different, they have something in common; they are all well written. The writing flows smoothly, introducing well-formed characters and carrying the reader through plot developments in an undemanding way.

This is the story of 24-year-old Steve, an under-achiever still living with his parents – and therein lies his problem. His mother controls his life rigidly, routinely undermining his self-confidence as if any sign of success on his part would be a personal affront. But things change when Steve is bitten by a tropical spider, an event that has a curious effect on his attitude to life.

Will his new attitude enable him to escape his mother’s control and turn his life around? How will his mother, and his put-upon father, react? You’ll have to read the book to find out. In doing so you will find that this is a pleasing tale told with humour that at times verges on farcical slapstick, but below the layer of humour there’s a warm empathetic understanding of human relationships.

It is available from Amazon in print and ebook formats.

The Tent, the Bucket and Me by Emma Kennedy.

Cover imageI enjoyed many camping holidays through the 1970s and I thought this would be a gentle reminder of the pleasures and pains of those trips. The book would have been more acceptable if described as a comic novel, but it is supposed to be a true account of family holidays: frankly, I don’t believe it. The first chapter sets the standard. The family car has starter motor problems. When Father gets to his mother’s house he refuses to stop the car so aged Granny has to dive into a moving vehicle. Really? If he’s having problems with the starter motor a driver would naturally be reluctant to stop the engine, but that doesn’t mean he can’t stop the car – they have clutches for just that purpose. When they get to the campsite they pitch the tent on a slope so steep that when Father and Grandmother fall over in the mud they slide down the hill and narrowly avoid going over the cliff. Father then breaks into an unoccupied caravan so they can shelter from the storm, but their movement dislodges the caravan from its mounts. They jump out and watch the caravan roll down the hill, END OVER END, and into the sea. Hmmm! Apart from such outlandish events, the book relies for its humour on endless pee and poo incidents and the fact that Mother swears like a trooper.
Emma Kennedy has an impressive writing pedigree. She has written for radio, television and the theatre and has the Wilma Tenderfoot series of children’s books to her name. She is also the current travel writer for The Guardian. How strange, then, that she should be so far off the mark with this one – and how baffling that there are so many 5* reviews on Amazon.

The book is available from Amazon The Tent, the Bucket and Me

 

The Diary of a Nobody by George Grossmith.

Cover imageI don’t think this book has ever been out of print since it was first published 120 years ago. A number of the editions are now available as free Kindle downloads.
George Grossmith was a very talented man – actor, singer, pianist, author, journalist, stand-up comedian. Jointly with his brother, Weedon, he wrote a series of humorous articles for Punch. These were expanded and published as the novel.
If you haven’t read it I recommend that you treat yourself to this delightfully funny, warm and charming tale of socially insecure Charles Pooter who believes that his diary will be recognised as a work of literary and historical merit.
It is possible that the reader needs to have adult children to fully appreciate the relationship that Pooter has with his son, but even without that extra insight I’m sure you’ll enjoy this classic.

I obtained it as a free download for Kindle from Amazon. The Diary of a Nobody

Pompomberry House by Rosen Trevithick

cover imageThis is a delightful journey into the angst-ridden world of the indie author. No one escapes ridicule: the obsessively self-promoting, deluded ‘authors’; the ascerbic reviewer acting as the self-appointed guardian of literary standards; the traditional publisher bewildered by the rapidly-growing, amorphous enemy at the gates. But this is much more than just a funny book, nominally of the crime genre, accurately aimed at some deserving targets; it’s an entertaining tale very cleverly structured using the obvious plot devices commonly found in novels of the common genres – so the whole dull, formulaic book industry is under fire. It seems to me that here we have a very talented writer hoisting the standard of what indie publishing should be about.

I bought it for Kindle from Amazon. Other formats are available. Pompomberry House

 

The Vacant Casualty by Patty O’Furniture.

Cover imageThe title might suggest that this is a parody of The Casual Vacancy, but the title is just a clever marketing ploy to make sure that the book catches the eye of browsers. There are similarities in that both are set in in a small town and involve members of the local council; there is also mention of a very famous author living in a mansion on the edge of town and a school where the children dress curiously, fly on broomsticks and the staff appear to be famous actors. We also have central characters with strangely similar names (Terry Fairbreath/Barry Fairweather), but despite all this, the book is not a parody of JKR’s books, but parodies the police procedural genre. A would-be crime novelist teams up with an inept, newly-promoted detective and, in trying to obtain the material for a possible book, manipulates the policeman into behaving in the manner of the genre archetype.
What follows is a manic romp, played entirely for laughs, that includes outlandish characters, corny jokes, and slapstick humour combined with the odd really weird creation, for example, alien visitors and an ogre.
It’s an undemanding book that provides a few hours entertainment. It’s well written and rattles along at a good pace. I would have enjoyed it more if the humour hadn’t been so dependent on the results of excessive drinking and drug-taking.
It came as no surprise when a little research revealed that Patty is actually Bruce.

I bought it for Kindle from Amazon, where it’s also available in print format. The Vacant Casualty

The Boy Who Kissed the Sky by David Haynes

Cover imageThis is an out-of-the-ordinary book that provided a very enjoyable read. It has a wonderful collection of vividly-drawn characters. I loved them all – even the cringeworthy Van. And there’s a warm, engaging, very human feel about the story. It takes the reader on an entertaining journey in delightful company. I find it impossible to place in any particular genre; it’s part road trip, part fantasy, part family drama, part humour. That often seems to be the way with independently-published books. Whatever the genre, treat yourself; negotiate The Great Clap Outbreak of 1991 and join George in his two-tone Ford Fiesta on his European mission in a search for the truth behind a childhood experience when he is convinced that he flew from his bedroom window to the ground.

I bought the Kindle edition from Amazon. The Boy Who Kissed The Sky

The 100-year old man who climbed etc by Jonas Johansson

Cover imageAfter all the acclaim it has received I was looking forward to reading The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared. The central character has gone through his life with three objectives: to drink vodka, and never to get involved in politics or religion. The book follows two threads: his adventures after climbing out of a window to avoid his 100th birthday party in the old people’s home where he lives, and flashbacks to incidents in his long life – incidents where he is ludicrously implanted into many of the major events of 20th century history.

It starts out well enough with a nice line in quirky humour that has a Spike Milligan feel about it, but for me it soon fell flat. There is no attempt at character development, or any of the usual features of a novel that involve the reader, just a sequence of nonsensical events with insufficient humour to carry it off. I found it dull and predictable. So why has it sold so many copies? Well, the title may have something to do with it. The curious length makes it appealing to Press reviewers which has resulted in a great deal of publicity. That title also conveys what has to be a very attractive theme of a novel; the very idea of a 100-year-old climbing out of a window and making his escape, has an undeniable attraction. And in the UK at least, Amazon had the book on special offer at only 20p which must have boosted sales enormously.

I was one who took advantage of that 20p offer when I bought for Kindle from Amazon. Print format also available. The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

A Novel Way to Die by Lynda Wilcox

Cover of A Novel Way to DieI came to A Novel Way to Die immediately after reading Strictly Murder and Organized Murder so I was well into my Verity Long stride and this kept the rhythm going nicely.

The first two books are full-length novels. This is a fairly short novella that rattles along, making it a quick and easy read. It provides another helping of perky, humourous, amateur sleuthing with Verity again indulging her taste for wine, and dodging amorous men, during a literary weekend where many of the delegates have more than books on their minds. In a work of this length there’s not much scope for character development; the  assembled cast are larger than life and readily pigeon-holed.

Of course, what makes this special fun for members of the UK Kindle Users Forum are the familiar names given to the characters. As I only know members by name, I can’t comment on the accuracy of the descriptions. I think we can safely assume that the descriptions are pure fantasy; otherwise, who’s going to own up to being the lady with the build of an armchair?

Tucked away among the murderous frolics are some rather fine descriptive passages dealing with the surrounding countryside and gardens. I wouldn’t be surprised to see something very different from this author in the future – and I think I’d rather enjoy it.

I bought the book for Kindle from Amazon. A Novel Way To Die (The Verity Long Mysteries)

Organized Murder by Lynda Wilcox

Cover for Organized MurderThis is the second in the series of murder mysteries featuring Verity Long. It’s another attractive cover on a well-written, well-produced book.

This time Verity gets tangled up with a theatre group, one of whose members is found hanging in the church adjacent to the rehearsal room. Again we have serious crime handled with a light touch. Some of the characters from Strictly Murder are further developed and Verity’s still uncertain love-life again interweaves with the murderous plot as she strives to solve the crime before she becomes the next victim.

I found it a fun read and if perky crime-solving is your thing, so will you.

I bought it for Kindle from Amazon. Organized Murder (The Verity Long Mysteries Book 2)

Strictly Murder by Lynda Wilcox

Cover image Strictly MurderThis is the first in a series of books featuring Verity Long. The first thing that strikes me about the books is the very attractive covers. Verity is the young personal assistant to a famous crime writer and somehow finds herself embroiled in muder. I enjoyed this book. Despite the sprinkling of murders, a hit-and-run death and a missing teenager, it’s written with a pacy jauntiness that makes it a fun read. In Verity Long we have a more perky Poirot, a thoroughly modern Miss Marple.

She shares with the Christie characters a determination to force her way into criminal investigations and do the work of the police, but this is a young Miss Marple with an appetite for men and merlot.

I thought it a well-written, well-produced book. If you like your crime to be entertaining and served up with a good slice of humour, then this is one for you.

I bought the book for Kindle from Amazon. Strictly Murder: Volume 1 (The Verity Long Mysteries)