Category Archives: humor

P.J. Tracy — Ice Cold Heart

Not having read the previous books in the Monkeewrench series, this was a standalone for me. It was well written, and I enjoyed it.

The characters, good and bad, are interesting, some with unique backgrounds and personalities, but there are too many to follow. I was almost to the end of the story before I had them all sorted out. It probably would have helped to read earlier books in the series first. But they were warm, sometimes humorous, and the baby in the office at Monkeewrench added insight into some of the characters.

I won’t summarize the story; it’s covered many times in reviews. The plot had many twists and turns, but I feel it overdoes the coincidences and connections between crimes, like cop shows on TV. I can’t believe that happens often in real life.

There were several bad guys in this story, and I spotted them all early before they were revealed even though some were painted as good or harmless. But there is a twist at the end.

“You ever notice that when it’s this cold, snow doesn’t crunch, it squeaks?” The bitter cold Minneapolis setting made me shiver, reminding me of my many years living in the north. I’m glad I now live in Florida.

Overall a good read. I would recommend it, but with the caveat that you read other books in the series first.

Catriona McPherson — Scot Free

I’ve been looking for some humor, and in Scot Free, I found it. The last book I picked up to read that was supposed to be humorous didn’t do it for me, but this one makes me laugh.

I read some reviews where McPherson fans were disappointed in this novel, but since I haven’t read any of her previous books, I had no expectations. Her characters are ridiculous and outlandish, and I love them. The residents of the Last Ditch Motel, where Lexi ends up entirely by accident, are unbelievable but loveable and laughable.

Lexi’s descriptions of California life from the point of view of a recent immigrant from Scotland are delightful. The plot is silly and unbelievable but entertaining.

Erin Morgenstern — The Starless Sea

The Starless Sea is a story about the love of stories.

The main plot lies mostly underground in a world filled with stories—in books and paintings and sculptures and even in people. Zachary Ezra Rawlings finds an uncatalogued book with no listed author in the library. The book contains a story about him when as a young boy he missed the opportunity of opening a door painted on a wall. But the book is older than Zachary. How could the author know his story? His search for the source of the book leads him to the labyrinth of stories lying under his feet.

Morgenstern’s novel is filled with unrelated stories, fables, fairytales, and myths that intertwine and finally connect at the end of the book. These individual stories contain romance, loss, time and fate, humor…

I’m not usually a fan of fantasy, but I was absorbed in this book and Morgenstern’s excellent writing. She has a fantastic imagination.

Candice Fox — Redemption Point

Fox writes a dark, twisted murder mystery filled with convoluted characters.

Ex-police officer turned PI, Ted Conkaffey, has moved north from Sydney to a small town in the Australian rainforest trying to hide from his past. Although innocent and never prosecuted due to lack of evidence, accusations of child rape plastered his name and face all over the news and the internet and completely disrupted his life—lost job, broken marriage, strangers who react to his familiar face. He lives with a family of geese that he brought into his yard to rescue from the crocodiles.

Ted’s partner, Amanda Pharrell, has no emotions, but strangely possesses the ability to read other people. When she was a teenager, she accidentally killed a girl and spent time in prison, which she refers to as the best time of her life. She’s an upbeat, smiling personality who rides her bike everywhere, refusing to drive a car.

Pip Sweeney, on her first assignment as Detective Inspector, hooks up with Ted and Amanda to investigate the murder of two young people at a rundown bar. She’s fascinated by Amanda. Pip carries guilt from when, as a child, she sat and watched her father die of a heart attack and did nothing to save him. She’s young and naïve and relies heavily on Amanda’s quirky insights.

The author adds excerpts from the diary of the perpetrator of the crime of which Conkaffey was accused. Another weird character, sick and twisted.

There are other off-beat minor characters—the father of the raped girl, who comes after Ted, then turns to looking for the real offender; the owner of the bar where the two bartenders were killed; a crime kingpin in Sydney; some of the neighbors around the bar; the girlfriend of the young man murdered in the bar. Almost every character is quirky, strange, or dark.

This second book in a series about Ted and Amanda covered the previous story thoroughly enough that I don’t feel I need to go back and read it. The plot kept my interest, there was even some humor here and there, and the setting in the rainforest felt real. But I didn’t connect at all with the scenes in Sydney; I couldn’t picture the city. The weird characters kept me reading. Definitely a character-driven book.

Chris Hammer — The River

I decided to read this nonfiction book after reading the author’s novel, Scrublands. I wanted to learn more about Australia and the area where the story took place. I’ve never visited Australia, but I can picture the drought-ridden area of Queensland and New South Wales now that I’ve read The River. Chris Hammer is an excellent writer.

Hammer spent weeks and months traveling the Murray-Darling river basin. He introduces us to the residents of this harsh land, tells their real stories, their memories, and their yarns. He covers the heartbreak of failing towns and farms, the determination and humor of the people who live there.

There are lessons in this book about water and how we use and abuse it. Hammer doesn’t preach, he gives us the differing opinions of the people living with the lack of water. Some of those lessons are relevant to the US as well as Australia.

Louise Penny — Kingdom of the Blind

I have not read any of the previous books in this series, which may be a disadvantage in reading Kingdom of the Blind, but it reads well as a stand-alone.

The cozy comfort of the small town of Three Pines stands in stark contrast to the back streets of Montreal. Some of the gatherings of Gamache’s family or friends in the village, discussing the murder or just babbling about life, at times seemed confusing or unnecessary, possibly due to my unfamiliarity with the characters. But these gatherings were comfortable, friendly, and humorous. The story is filled with family connections (both relational and families of friends or coworkers), some full of love and understanding and some underlined with distrust.

One unusual thing about Penny’s writing is her use of omniscient point of view. You might even call it “head-hopping.” She often jumps POV from one character to another and back. I found it distracting at times, but overall, she did a reasonable job of making it feel seamless.

The setting in Canadian winter made me feel the chill and the crunch of the snow underfoot. The plot was interesting. Occasionally I was ahead of the story and guessed what would happen, other times I was surprised.

I may go back in time and read other novels in Ms. Penny’s Gamache series.

Lisa Gardner — Look for Me

Lisa Gardner creates interesting characters and manages to keep them entertaining through multiple books. I can read them out of order, which I did, and still enjoy each book.

The plot of Look for Me is twisted, with multiple suspects for the murder of a family. One daughter, Roxy Baez, survives because she is walking the dogs. Then she disappears. Boston police detective D.D. Warren looks for her with the help of survivor turned vigilante, Flora Dane. Is Roxy running from fear, or is she the shooter?

Another excellent tale by Ms. Gardner.

Jude Deveraux — A Willing Murder

This novel is a cozy murder mystery with a dash of chick flick, some romance, some humor, some family saga, and a lot of small town gossip and rumor. Realtor Kate Medlar moves to Lachlan, Florida and stays in an old mansion with her aunt Sara Medlar, romance novelist, and Sara’s friend Jake Wyatt, builder. When a tree falls over in the back yard of a house Jake is remodeling, the unlikely trio of sleuths find the bones of two women in the roots of the tree.

I did figure out the villains in the story long before the end. And I could see that Deveraux left relationships to be explored in the next book.

The novel is a well-written, quick and easy read with believable, lively characters and small town dynamics.

Steven Axelrod — Nantucket Counterfeit

The book is a cross between a cozy mystery and a police procedural. Henry Kennis, Police Chief of Nantucket, is trying to solve the murder of Horst Refn, Artistic Director of the Nantucket Theater Lab. The crime follows the plot of the play the Theater Lab is working on, so of course, the author of the play is a person of interest. But the suspects are numerous, almost everyone who knew or worked with Refn. It appears he’s been scamming half the island. Even Kennis’s girlfriend Jane is identified by a witness as leaving the scene of the crime.

Kennis is a likable, easygoing detective who leads us down several wrong paths before landing the killer. The story is told with wit and warmth, and the setting of Nantucket takes me back to my visits to the island (although it seems a lot more crowded than 30 or so years ago).

Definitely a fun read.

Lee Child — The Midnight Line: A Jack Reacher Novel

A few days ago I watched a video of Stephen King interviewing Lee Child. Two of my favorite authors talking about writing—I loved it. In the interview, Lee Child talked about his lack of plotting. He said he asks a question at the beginning of the book and answers it by the end.

A friend had dropped off a copy of Child’s The Midnight Line and it was at the bottom of my “to read” pile next to my bed. I moved it to the top of the pile and quickly consumed it. I found that not only is there an unanswered question at the beginning, but there are more questions cropping up throughout the book. Each question needs to be answered, not necessarily in the order they appear in the story. The original question is answered long before the end of the book, but there are so many more that need answers, which kept me reading to the end.

In The Midnight Line Reacher finds a woman’s West Point class ring in a pawn shop in Wisconsin. His curiosity about why someone would pawn a ring that is so difficult to earn leads him to track her down and find out why. Reacher smells trouble and in his usual vigilante style sets out to solve the mystery and save the damsel in distress. His trek takes him through South Dakota into a sparsely populated corner of Wyoming.

Pronghorn in Wyoming

I read some reviews on Amazon and found a number who were not happy with this book. (Many more gave it high ratings.) The low raters all seemed to think it didn’t have enough action and violence. To me, there is much more to a Reacher novel than violence, and this one had plenty of action even though he wasn’t killing a lot of people.

I find Child’s unique writing style fascinating. I’m not sure I can describe it. Rhythmic, quick, and precise are words that come to mind. This book has an underlying theme about the current opiate addiction crisis and the government’s poor treatment of veterans. He gives in-depth pictures of characters and lets us follow Reacher’s calculation and planning. We even get a look at the possible thoughts and behaviors of addicts. Child took me on a journey through the back-country of Southern Wyoming.

The book has all of my three H’s—head, heart, and humor. I feel he’s an excellent writer and storyteller. He doesn’t follow the rules, but that makes the reading more interesting. You never know what to expect.