Tag Archive | humor

Book review: The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley

The Grave's a Fine and Private Place (Flavia de Luce #9)The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Six months after the death of their father, Flavia de Luce and her sisters, Daphne and Ophelia, are on a summer boating holiday with family retainer Dogger, in a desperate attempt to jolt themselves out of their gloom and come together as a family once again. As luck would have it, and as one has come to expect when 12-year-old Flavia is involved, a body turns up — in this particular instance, it’s snagged by Flavia herself as she trails her hand in the river while they are punting along.

The boating party pulls ashore and Dogger goes off to fetch the local constabulary. While Daffy and Feely stand watch on either side of the soggy corpse, a delighted Flavia begins her investigation. And thus we’re off on another romp through our intrepid sleuth’s thinking process as she sifts clues and calculates advantages and outcomes.

Lots of lovely secondary characters here: I was nearly as enamored with Hob, the undertaker’s son, as Flavia was. He seems to be cut from the same jib as our young heroine: determined, spunky, and with a little larceny in his soul.

Yes, with each book, Flavia becomes a little more devious, I think, in the sense that she recognizes there are certain things the adults mustn’t know or they won’t let her continue with her favorite hobby. She generally wracks herself with brief moments of guilt over these little deceptions, but the ends always seem to justify the means. She’s more than a little frightening, actually. But she’s also starting to grow up here: she’s seeing her sisters in a more forgiving light, which is a good thing since they’re orphaned and have only each other now (leaving aside Aunt Felicity, of course).

Oh, almost forgot. Of course Flavia solves the mystery. Because she wouldn’t be Flavia otherwise.

I look forward to the next installment.

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Book review: The Gates by John Connolly

The Gates (Samuel Johnson, #1)The Gates by John Connolly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Samuel Johnson is a curious kid, in more than one sense of the word. Curious as in inquisitive, and curious as in just a little bit odd. This year he decided to get a jump on Halloween by trick-or-treating a few days early, to beat the rush and maybe get the best candy. Unfortunately, the adults in his neighborhood didn’t find his initiative as charming as this reader did, especially the Abernathys. Mr. Abernathy shooed Samuel off the front stoop as quickly as he could; and then returned to the spell-casting in which he and Mrs. Abernathy and another couple were engaged in the basement. When their spell is an unexpected success and they accidentally open a portal into Hell (simultaneously causing an issue with the Large Hadron Collider), Samuel, still lurking about outside the house, noticed. And the demons who jumped through the portal noticed Samuel noticing.

And then all Hell proceeded to break loose.

Written in a light quirky child-like voice, this is a quick, fun read filled with humor and memorable characters. First in a series, aimed at a YA audience, but entertaining enough for adults.

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FO Friday and Book Review: The Serpent of Venice

The Serpent of Venice: A NovelThe Serpent of Venice: A Novel by Christopher Moore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Pocket is back, and as irreverent as ever.

We first made Pocket’s acquaintance in Fool, a comic re-imagining of King Lear. (Yeah, I don’t know exactly what magic Authorguy used to pull off that feat, either, but it worked.)

Here, Christopher Moore plunks Pocket down smack dab in the middle of a combination of Othello and The Merchant of Venice, with a little The Cask of Amontillado tossed in for seasoning. Add a mysterious “mermaid” with rather specialized sexual proclivities and a taste for blood, and you’ve got all the right ingredients for the stew entitled The Serpent of Venice: A Novel. And I mean “stew” in a good way: tasty beef and potatoes and carrots and celery and herbs and spices, simmered just long enough for the ingredients to blend and become flavorful.

So, Pocket is in Venice after Cordelia’s untimely death. But because he is who he is, he opens his mouth once too often and finds himself chained to a wall in a dungeon, where he makes the acquaintance of that mermaid. His mates, Drool the Natural and Jeff the Monkey, are imprisoned, as well, albeit elsewhere. Plot points and hijinks ensue as Moore’s mash-up of two of Shakespeare’s most well-known plays, one a comedy, the other a tragedy, unfold their convoluted and, yes, somewhat twisted, plots.

Personally, I never really considered The Merchant of Venice a comedy; it’s awfully dark behind all those lovely speeches. I was pleased to see Moore’s reinvention take some of the sting out of that play’s ending. Regardless, Moore has a gift for seeing the absurd in classic literature, and he uses that gift well here.

That said, I’m giving three stars for “I liked it” only because Goodreads doesn’t allow half-stars. It’s a 3-1/2 star, enjoyable, fluffy read. With lots of bad language and sex. So, yeah, for mature audiences only.

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7cde9-fofridayYes, my entry for FO Friday is a finished book. Wanna make something of it? I thought not. So, why don’t you click on the badge over there, instead, to see what other folks have finished this week?

Book review: Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward

Heads You LoseHeads You Lose by Lisa Lutz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Take one mystery involving marijuana-cultivating siblings in Northern California. Add two dueling authors writing alternate chapters. Throw in a headless corpse, a cat with an unnecessary backstory, a mysterious plane crash, snippy footnotes, and increasing disagreement over the direction of the plot. Mix thoroughly.

This is the recipe for Heads You Lose, a new laugh-out-loud entry in the cozy mystery shelf of your local book store.

When siblings Paul and Lacey Hansen find a corpse on their front lawn one night, their first thought involves law enforcement, but not in the sense of “Quick, call the sheriff!” Instead, their first thought is, “Quick, get rid of this body so no one finds the pot plants in the basement!” And so they trundle the corpse into the back of the pickup and dump it in a remote area of the county. Cue one verse of “The cat came back, he wouldn’t stay away…” and the corpse reappears on the lawn within another day. This time they decide to hide their cash crop and call the sheriff.

Thenceforth, our hero and heroine get pulled in multiple misdirections depending on who wrote the chapter. Authors Lisa Lutz and David Hayward write notes to each other between chapters, and footnotes in the chapters. Said notes begin in a civil enough manner, but quickly become snippy, rancorous, and even downright rude, but they’re funny as hell, especially when they begin to reference events from their past romantic relationship which apparently ended rather badly….Ms. Lutz accuses Mr. Hayward of pretentious literary aspirations and Mr. Hayward dismisses Ms. Lutz’s chapters as “Nancy Drew escapades”. New characters show up as a deus ex machina with a tidbit of necessary information. Established characters are killed off in retaliation for events in a previous chapter. And just what exactly is going on with the folks in the assisted living facility and what about that plane crash?

All these questions, including whether or not the authors can satisfactorily finish the book with sanity and plotline intact, can be resolved by setting aside a few hours and tickling your funny bone by reading this highly entertaining and original novel.

Thank you to Goodreads First Reads Program for the opportunity to read this book. It was pure delight.

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Book review: Fated by S.G. Browne

FatedFated by S.G. Browne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Did you know that various immortals watch us at every moment? They do, and they report to God, who prefers being called Jerry, by the way. But they’re not supposed to interfere with us humans. In fact, Rule Number One is Don’t Get Involved.

Fate, however, has broken Rule Number One. He’s fallen in love.

Fate, who prefers being called Fabio, has grown tired of watching all of us screw up and wander off the paths he assigned us when we were born. This creates new work for him, assigning us each new fates, which we proceed to blithely ignore as well. Jerry damn that free will thing. But every now and then, Fabio runs into an individual whose path he cannot see. And when he runs into Sara repeatedly — by Chance, at first, and then deliberately — he knows she’s on the Path of Destiny, and he can’t see her future, but that doesn’t matter. In fact, it makes her even more appealing….

And so, there goes Rule Number One. Which subsequently leads to breaking other rules, such as Rule Number Five, Never Materialize In Front Of Humans, followed closely by Rule Number Six, Never Dematerialize In Front Of Humans. And so forth.

But it’s when Fabio breaks Rule Number Two, Don’t Improve Anyone’s Assigned Future, that things really start to get hairy.

The thing about Destiny is she’s a nymphomaniac.
The thing about Lady Luck is she has ADD.
The thing about Jerry is he’s omnipotent. But busy.
The thing about Gossip is…well, you know.

And the thing about S.G. Browne is he’s following in Christopher Moore’s footsteps, and doing a bang-up job of it. Which is why I hadn’t even finished this book before I went out and bought his other title, Breathers.

Many thanks to LibraryThing‘s Early Reviewers Club for the opportunity to read this book.

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