Archive for funny

THE PSYCHOPATH TEST By Jon Ronson – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2013 by stanleyriiks

Never judge a book by its cover, so goes the saying. Well, as far as I’m concerned that’s arse. The first book I picked up and bought as an adult (at the tender age of fourteen, but I consider that as adult as I’ve ever got) was a Conan book with a lovely cover. It wasn’t a Frazetta but it was that style, and it was awesome. The fact the cover didn’t have hardly anything to do with the contents of the book didn’t put me off at all. I continue to purchase books because they have great covers. I can barely put back on the shelf a book with artwork by Jon Sullivan.

What I would suggest though, is don’t pick a book because of a title. That’s how Jon Ronson got me. The Psychopath Test sounds like a quality book. There’s likely to be madness in it, and may be some murder. And there is, just not the sort I thought there would be.

Perhaps I need to explain a little further. I don’t read blurbs, those paragraphs on the back of the book that tell you what’s going to happen. Why would I? It’s like a film trailer, it shows you the best bits, it tells you what’s going to happen. If I’ve seen the best bits why watch the rest? If I know what’s going to happen what’s the point in reading the story? So I had no idea that this book was even non-fiction.

I also don’t read quotes, not before I start reading anyway. This book has quotes all over it. I can’t help but think they were reading a different book to me.

I didn’t realise this was written by the same bloke who wrote The Men Who Stare At Goats, that’s a film I’ve been meaning to watch because it has a great title. Ronson, it seems, is pretty good with titles.

So, what’s this book about? It’s about an investigative journalist (Ronson) searching out the meaning of mental health, or rather, psychopathy. He meets people in mental hospitals, he tells the stories of child bipolar disorder, he meets the man who created the psychopath test, a scientologist who believe psychiatrists are con-men, ex-dictators, and ex-CEOs. From the quotes all over this book you might expect it to be funny. I didn’t expect it to be funny until I read the quotes, and up until then (almost at the end), I had found some vaguely amusing parts, but nothing that made me do more than almost crack a smile. This isn’t Ben Elton or Stephen Fry.

So, what is this book?

It’s a look at the crazy world of the madness industry. It’s quite interest, mildly amusing in parts, quite frustrating in others. Repetitive, not particularly insightful, but quite short. Never judge a book by its title, a lesson learned.

BE READY WHEN THE SH*T GOES DOWN: A SURVIVAL GUIDE TO THE APOCALYPSE By Forrest Griffin and Erich Krauss – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 21, 2013 by stanleyriiks

Forrest Griffin is my hero. He is the former UFC light heavyweight champion, and one of the top-rated mixed martial artists in the world. I know because I’ve seen him fight (on the tv), in fact I’ve followed his career from close to the beginning when he rose to fame on the first ever series of The Ultimate Fighter. I watched the epic battle between Forrest and Stephan Boner for the first Ultimate Fighter prize, I watched him work his way to the top of the UFC’s light heavyweight division and I saw him beat Rampage Jackson, with some devastating leg kicks, to win the title. I also watched him lose the title, and be badly beaten by Anderson “The Spider” Silva.

I also read Forrest’s first book, Got Fight? Probably one of the funniest books I’ve read, and the best book I’ve read about fighting. OK, it is the only book I’ve read about fighting, although I have a few in my collection that I really must get round to.

So here Forrest again puts his trademark sense of humour down on paper to treat us to instructions for surviving the apocalypse. Like others before him, Forrest describes the planning and preparing, goes through likely scenarios for the end of the world, and gives step by step instruction on how to survive it.

In his own unique way.

Filled with humour, useful tips, and some deeply disturbing material, this is a book that readers of the first book will enjoy as it’s more of the same. Readers with no previous experience of Forrest might take a while to get used to him. Offering more insight into the great man who will become a god after the end of the world, this is unique, and laugh out loud funny. A treat that might just help save you from certain death.

Follow Forrest’s instructions, and then follow Forrest. He will lead us to our survival.

DOWN UNDER By Bill Bryson – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2011 by stanleyriiks

I bought this book just before going to Australia myself and never got round to reading it. I have to say that although it’s an interesting account of Bryson’s travels around Oz, and his amusing anecdotes offer a little insight into the country, I didn’t really miss much.

It’s an interesting book rather than fascinating. Amusing rather than funny.

The problem is exactly what drives people to read Bryson’s books, their very ordinariness. His adventures (using the term loosely) around Australia were almost as exciting as mine. The places he visited similarly to mine, although I didn’t get to the outback or Perth, I definitely saw more of Melbourne than he did, and my brief trip to Sydney seemed to encompass more than his.

The insights aren’t anything special either. You only have to talk to a couple of Australian and visit their cities to see the issues they have with the Aborigines.

Australia is an interesting and very new and empty country, and you get that idea from Bryson’s book. His travels around the country offer an insight if you haven’t ever been, but it’s much more fun to explore yourself. You’ll likely come to similar conclusions.

Where Bryson’s book does excel is his research. There are some fascinating histories in here amidst the middle-of-the-road traveller’s adventures. He seems to spend every evening in a bar having a beer, a traditional Aussie past-time perhaps, but hardly exciting for the reader.

Down Under isn’t a massive success, nor is it a massive failure. It’s difficult to get excited about the book either way. I neither feel compelled to read another of his book, nor bothered to remember not to.

Unlike a guidebook you don’t feel the sense of exciting of discovery, and Bryson’s mild excitement isn’t really enough to make you want to discover more.

May be this is one of his off books, and may be they’re all like this. I just can’t be bothered to find out.

THE WASP FACTORY By Iain Banks – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 21, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Oh my god! Fans of Watership Down should not read this book. In fact, fans of cute bunny rabbits, or pets of most kinds, should not read this book. It is damaging. It is brutal and twisted and absolutely marvellous.

The listverse has this book listed in their top ten most disturbing novels, and remarkably, I think they may be right.

Entering the world of Frank, a teenager who lives with his father on a small isle in Scotland, and who entertains himself by killing things, taking revenge, getting drunk and dealing with his crazy brother who has escaped from a mental hospital and is heading home. Frank also has some issues because his penis was bitten off when he was three years old while his youngest and now dead (murdered by Frank) brother was born. Frank is about seventeen, and has been a killer for about ten years.

The Wasp Factory of the title is another of Frank’s torture devices, where he puts in a wasp and kills it in some unique way, burning them to death, spiking them, and all manner of other imaginative ways. Each way telling him the future like some kind of murderous divining machine (Jigsaw would have been proud).

As we delve further into Frank’s thoughts, dreams, and history, through his first person narration, the twisted reality continues to unravel. This is truly an insight into a diseased and disturbed mind, but what makes it even worse is that Frank is a sociopath, not believing he is doing anything wrong. Quite frightening really, especially as he sees his brother’s nefarious activities in a much different light. Burning rabbits good, burning dogs bad; obviously.

Deviously clever, ridiculously evil, and remarkably disturbing. This is the type of fun that makes you feel immensely guilty for enjoying it. It should definitely carry a mental health warning.

Rumble Tumble By Joe R. Lansdale – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Hap Collins and his buddy Leonard are always getting themselves into some mischief. Rumble Tumble sees Hap and Leonard caught up in a whole hell of a mess, when Brett, Hap’s girlfriend, finds out her daughter is being used a as whore in a brothel in Oklahoma. They are sold this information by a red-haired midget called Red, and a huge muscle-bound moron named Wilbur.

When Hap ponders on this predicament, Leonard offers to help out, and the three set off towards Oklahoma to help free Brett’s daughter, encountering a whole slew of trouble on their way, including bikers, gangsters, preachers and whores.

Lansdale has a unique style that sets his East Texans apart from your normal crime fiction heroes. Hap and Leonard don’t want to be heroes, they get themselves into troublesome situations and they just want to get out with their lives, shooting people’s feet off, pistol-whipping midgets, and all sorts.

Picking up a Hap Collins book you know how it’s going to go, Hap and Leonard will argue like The Odd Couple, but they’ve always got each others’ back, and you know they’re going to get themselves into some trouble, whether intentionally or not. It’s the journey you take with these guys that makes the books, you know they’re not whiter than whiter, they cause much of the trouble themselves and have to break some rules to do what they gotta do, but you can’t help admiring both of them for sticking their necks out and trying to do the right thing. Especially when it’s not the easiest path to take.

Lansdale has produced another fine novel in this continuing series, and Hap and Leonard’s adventures are not like any other crime novel you will ever read. Stylish, funny, energetic and poignant, Lansdale continues produce the goods, and I for one will be following him whatever direction he decides to go in.

STAIRWAY TO HELL By Charlie Williams – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2009 by stanleyriiks

I approach all new authors (new to me anyway) with a mixture of trepidation and excitement, wondering whether this new bloke is likely to be added to my list of authors to collect, or to go in the pile for the charity shop.

Charlie Williams is neither, but not through any fault of his own.

Let me explain…

Stairway To Hell is told by our erm… hero (which he truly is, although unconventional) Rik Suntan, a mustachioed singer and winner of the Pub Idol contest two years in a row. Rik delights his fans with his renditions of Cliff Richard classics at the Blue Cairo in the small town of Warchester, whilst waiting to hit the big time.

But one terrible night Rik gets hit with a bottle thrown at him while he’s performing on stage, he gets the sack and his girlfriend dumps him. To top if off he’s attacked by a midget.

As if things couldn’t get any worse, Rik finds out that his body is in fact, home to the stolen soul of David Bowie, and he joins a group of other interred souls to try to get back into their proper bodies, by any means necessary. Even if that does involve murder, robbery, and black magic.

Stairway To Hell is in some ways perfectly modern, but in some ways completely retro. It has the feel of returning to a British seaside town you used to visit when you were young, it’s familiar, it’s fun, and it feels comfortable. It harkens back to a yesteryear that never really existed except in your own rose-tinted memories.

The book draws you in completely, Rik’s narrative is warm and funny, you can’t help laughing with him as well as at him. A difficult trick for Williams to pull off.

This is what the BBC call “Light Entertainment”, a kind of Dad’s Army or Last of the Summer Wine, but with young people, and music, and madness, and black magic! It’s also got a bit of mystery going on to help things along.

This is not top of the heap comedy, it’s not going to compete with Stephen Fry or Ben Elton but who possibly can. But it is certainly funny, it’ll make you smile a lot, and even a few chuckles and a lol!

This would make a perfect British Comedy film, and perhaps someone should send a copy to Richard Curtis, the maker of many a perfect British Comedy.

Williams should sit beside Tony Parsons and Nick Hornby, he’s not really as insightful as either of them, but he’s funnier than both. In Rik Suntan he has created a legend in his own lunchtime, a character so realistic, so pathetic, so empathetic, and in the end so heroic, that you can’t help but laugh at him and see a bit of yourself in him at the same time, as sad as it is to admit that.

Stairway To Hell is the perfect book for the man in your life who has everything, and everyone has one of those. Unique, funny, and in its own small way, brilliant.

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