Book read: Fatty O’Leary’s Dinner Party by Alexander McCall Smith

fatty I read this very funny book for the Readathon (April 2016).  This short book was highly entertaining and ideal for the readathon.

Fatty O’Leary is a well-proportioned American of Irish descent. Together with his wife Betty, he spends a holiday in Ireland, hoping to find his roots. However, Ireland isn’t prepared for people of Fatty’s size and many things go wrong for him. Is it him or is it the Irish?

Read this when you need a good laugh and see what you think: is that Lord Balnerry playing tricks on him, or is he really just friendly?

The publisher says: “[Fatty O’Leary’s] loving wife Betty plans a trip to Ireland for his 40th birthday and almost immediately things go wrong: the seats in economy class on the plane are too small; Irish bathroom furniture is not as commodious as he’d have liked. And all the time Fatty must put up with the unthinking cruelty of strangers.

In an hilarious and touching portrayal of a kindly and misunderstood soul, McCall Smith has created yet another memorable character who will become an instant favourite to his many fans.”

 

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Book review: The Jesus Cow by Michael Perry

The Jesus Cow by Michael PerryThe Jesus Cow: What it is about

From Harper Publishers: “Life is suddenly full of drama for low-key Harley Jackson: A woman in a big red pickup has stolen his bachelor’s heart, a Hummer-driving predatory developer is threatening to pave the last vestiges of his family farm, and inside his barn is a calf bearing the image of Jesus Christ. His best friend, Billy, a giant of a man who shares his trailer house with a herd of cats and tries to pass off country music lyrics as philosophy, urges him to avoid the woman, fight the developer, and get rich off the calf. But Harley takes the opposite tack, hoping to avoid what his devout, dearly departed mother would have called ‘a scene.’

Then the secret gets out—right through the barn door, and Harley’s “miracle” goes viral. Within hours pilgrims, grifters, and the media have descended on his quiet patch of Swivel, Wisconsin, looking for a glimpse (and a percentage) of the calf. Does Harley hide the famous, possibly holy calf and risk a riot, or give the people what they want—and raise enough money to keep his land—and, just possibly, win the woman and her big red pickup truck?

Harley goes all in, cutting a deal with a major Hollywood agent that transforms his little farm into an international spiritual theme park—think Lourdes, only with cheese curds and t-shirts. Soon, Harley has lots of money . . . and more trouble than he ever dreamed.”

The Jesus Cow: What I thought

This was a humorous story about a man who only wanted peace and quiet. What he got was a veritable theme park in his back garden. He was trying to hide the calf with the Jesus image on its side, but didn’t manage. There come the crowds!

A fun read about a small town with its awkward relationships, secrets, and envy. Although only a few people are highlighted, it feels like a (small) town full of individuals. They all have their own interests at heart, and they clash. When the cow is discovered, for a while it seems the winners and losers have exchanged places. But are there really any winners now?

No one really knows what to do with all the crowds, until the men from Hollywood come in and sort it all out (including the money!). Poor Harley is more interested in his new girlfriend. Will she stay with him?

The ending is a little abrupt but is also the only way it could really have ended.

A real adventure involving a small town and its townspeople. And a cow.


Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars (good to very good)

Number of pages: 288

First published: 2015

I got this book: for review from the publishers, Harper

Genre: contemporary fiction

 

Book Review: Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

Horrorstör by Grady HendrixHorrorstör: What it is about

From the publishers: “Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Columbus, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring wardrobes, shattered Brooka glassware, and vandalized Liripip sofa beds—clearly, someone or something is up to no good. To unravel the mystery, five young employees volunteer for a long dusk-till-dawn shift—and they encounter horrors that defy imagination. Along the way, author Grady Hendrix infuses sly social commentary on the nature of work in the new twenty-firstcentury economy.

A traditional haunted house story in a contemporary setting (and full of current fears), Horrorstör comes conveniently packaged in the form of a retail catalog, complete with illustrations of ready-to-assemble furniture and other, more sinister accessories. We promise you’ve never seen anything quite like it!”

Horrorstör: What I thought

From the moment I heard of the book, I was smiling: this sounded like great fun! Like a holiday that is booked in advance, I was very much enjoying the anticipation of reading the book. My I*EA catalog arrived in the same week as this book, and it looks so similar! Well, from the outside, although some of the pages inside include a map of the showroom, pictograms of how to order and assemble the furniture, an order form, and some money-off vouchers.

Each chapter starts with the description of a piece of furniture (with unpronounceable names), its features, the size and color scheme, and product number. After a few chapters, the pieces of furniture become less pleasant pieces of horror equipment. The story starts during the day, but the further we get into the night, the darker it gets and the worse the experience for the brave shop employees that stayed behind to find out what is bothering their store at night.

They’re happy to find that the homeless man staying in the shop at night is the cause of the trouble. Problem solved. Oh wait! There is something strange about him. Wait, things are getting even stranger: there are noises and smells and fluids in the dark and fake doors in the displays leading to non-existing corridors. Oh people, it gets… terrible!

The ordeals are real, but the writing is smooth and fun. The story is seen through the eyes of Amy, who has a tendency to run away from responsibilities and for whom the job is just a job. But during the course of the night, Amy finds out things about herself, and becomes a braver and better person.

I loved this book as much as I hoped I would love it.

 


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars (very good)

Number of pages: 248

First published: 2014

I got this: for review from Quirk Books

Genre: contemporary fiction, supernatural

 

Book Review: Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

Notes from a Small Island by Bill BrysonThis is a book I read for my real-life book group. Several of us have a special connection with England and we were curious about this book, in which the author travels around Britain and remarks upon remarkable things he comes across.

Notes from a Small Island: What it is about

The publisher says: “After nearly two decades in Britain, Bill Bryson took the decision to move back to the States for a few years, to let his kids experience life in another country, to give his wife the chance to shop until 10 p.m. seven nights a week, and, most of all, because he had read that 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another, and it was thus clear to him that his people needed him.

But before leaving his much-loved home in North Yorkshire, Bryson insisted on taking one last trip around Britain, a sort of valedictory tour of the green and kindly island that had so long been his home. His aim was to take stock of the nation’s public face and private parts (as it were), and to analyse what precisely it was he loved so much about a country that had produced Marmite, a military hero whose dying wish was to be kissed by a fellow named Hardy, place names like Farleigh Wallop, Titsey and Shellow Bowells, people who said ‘Mustn’t grumble’, and Gardeners’ Question Time.”

Notes from a Small Island: What I thought

This was a very enjoyable travel story. I lived in England for many years and recognised so many of the situations and habits. For people not familiar with Britain, some things will not ring a bell. But the gist of the story will be clear anyway.

There were a lot of funny moments in this book of the laugh-out-loud quality. Especially Bryson’s visit of a Glaswegian pub was funny. He didn’t understand the accent of the men there at all however hard he tried.

This book gives a really nice insight in Britain with all its quirks and its funny and friendly people. A fun to read, and to chuckle over.


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars (very good)

Number of pages: 400 (Dutch edition)

First published: 1995

I got this: from the library

Genre: non-fiction, travel

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