Category Archives: humor

Robert Olen Butler — Late City

Historical novels are not my favorite, but Late City is more about how our experiences shape our view of others, our morality, our choices in life. Sam Cunningham, as he lies dying at age 115, reviews the first half of his life (nothing about his later years after the death of his wife) in conversation with GOD.

The story covers his youth in Louisiana, growing up with a brutal father. He hates his father and disagrees with his beliefs and ideas but carries many of them into his own life. Specifically what it means to be a “man.” We spend time with Sam as a sniper in the trenches of WWI, meet his wife and son, follow his career as a Chicago newspaper man.

There is far too much to cover in the complicated story. Two things that stood out for me. One was the underlying theme of people’s acceptance of evil, from Hitler to Al Capone to Trump and others. The second was Sam’s obliviousness to the feelings of the people around him (which the author points out specifically at the end of the book). Sam is all about the facts, not just in his news reporting but in life. He neglects to connect.

Excellent writing kept me engaged from beginning to end.

Laura Dave — London is the Best City in America

The back of this book says it’s a romance novel, but I would call it an anti-romance. People have a tendency to stick with a relationship on expectations of what they want it to be. This is a story of ending those relationships and getting on with life. It was somewhat humorous, a little too repetitive, and for some strange reason divided into five parts. If you read it with your sense of humor in tact, it’s enjoyable.

The characters were likeable. The brother sister relationship was believable. Emmy finally got out of her rut in the end.

I read this book because I recently read Laura Dave’s The Last Thing He Told Me, which captured me.

Martha Wells — Fugitive Telemetry

Murderbot Diary #6 follows an almost standard closed room (an isolated section of Preservation Station) murder mystery plot line. Muderbot works as a consulting independent private investigator (SecUnit or security bot) working with the police (security system and space station personnel). But the imaginative SF setting and the grumpy, paranoid, snarky, and protective personality of Murderbot set the story steps above a normal murder mystery.

The story starts with an unidentified victim with unknown who done it, how, why, and even where was the murder committed. Murderbot is limited in his investigation because of an agreement he’s made not to hack the station’s systems.

As always, I’m fascinated with Murderbot, the SecUnit who wants to spend its time absorbed in media and is disgusted by humans but can’t overcome his urge to protect them. Wells is extremely creative with characterization (mainly with Murderbot but also with other characters) and her world-building settings are definitely “out of this world.”

Great SF series. Martha Wells has a terrific imagination. She creates a cyborg character who is more human than some people I know. She’s good at world-building, plotting, characterization, and keeps my attention throughout. She writes with the three H’s — head, heart, and humor.

Having read #1 through #6, I’m looking forward to more. I understand that Wells has at least three more Murderbot books in the pipeline.

Lee Child and Andrew Child — The Sentinel

Browsing through reviews of The Sentinel, I see a number of readers think Reacher has lost some of his personality being co-authored by Lee Child and his brother Andrew. I didn’t feel that way. Reacher might be a little older, a little mellower, but he’s still the same loner with a wanderlust that keeps him traveling throughout the country. He’s still a magnet for people in trouble and can’t resist jumping in to help. He continues to have the unbelievable ability to win every fight no matter how many opponents he faces. And he still travels with only a toothbrush. He did have a phone for a short time in this story, but he gave it back in the end.

I like Reacher’s personality—positive and upbeat, helpful in the extreme, no greed, no depression, no guilt. The two Child brothers have maintained that temperament. And I see humor in the exaggeration of character traits, especially the villains, and in Reacher’s deadpan dialog. It’s not laugh-out-loud humor, but it’s there.

I will keep reading more Reacher books as long as they keep publishing.

Martha Wells — Network Effect

I read this as a stand-alone, not having read the first 4 Murderbot novellas. Maybe if I’d read them, I would have given it 5 stars instead of 4, because I was a little confused from time to time.

I love SecUnit Murderbot and the transport AI ART and their quirky “relationship,” full of the dreaded “emotions.” Lots of humor there. Murderbot attempting to learn to be a person while despising humans always gave me a laugh.

Martha Wells writes very well, but her use of parentheses drove me crazy until after a few chapters I learned to ignore them.

Great read. Maybe I’ll read Murderbot 1 through 4 (and then 6?).

Elly Griffiths — Postscript Murders

Amazon calls this book a “Editors Pick: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense,” and lists it under “Gothic Mysteries” and “Police Procedurals.” I don’t think any of these genres apply. It’s a cozy mystery with a group of amateur detectives working with DS Harbinder Kaur because they believe their 90-year-old friend Peggy was murdered. It’s not gothic and the police procedurals are mostly about following instincts and vague clues. The story bumps along at a fairly slow pace (even with a few murders thrown in), not a fast-paced action-packed thriller.

The characters in the story are humorous and entertaining—Edwin, an 85-year-old neighbor of Peggy retired from BBC; Benedict, ex-monk, now a café owner; and Natalka, Peggy’s caregiver, an immigrant from Ukraine.

The climax of the novel is like rolling over a gentle hill instead of climbing a peak. And the wrap-up after the murders are solved goes on for a few chapters.

I read this as a stand-alone even though it’s the second book in the Harbinder Kaur series. I read the first book but didn’t connect until after finishing. It was a pleasant read if not all that exciting.

Candice Fox — Gathering Dark

Another good read from Candice Fox, but I prefer her books set in Australia. I read plenty of crime fiction books with LA as a backdrop. I’d much rather read the unknown to me settings in Australia where my imagination can take flight.

As they are in Fox’s other books, the characters are strong but quirky; many are mean and nasty. There are so many “bad guys” in this story it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of who’s who. All the cops are shady and twisted, some even criminal. Even Jessica Sanchez, the protagonist, pulls some very bad stunts in revenge on her partner after he fails to back her up on a call. Blair Harbour, the other main character, is only a year out of prison for killing her neighbor. She tries to be good but doesn’t always succeed. Blair’s friend “Tweat” (Blair is trying to help her find her daughter) is a thief and a liar.

I’m not sure if some of the outrageous and improbably situations the characters found themselves in were meant to be humorous, but they made me laugh.

Ray Bradbury — Dandelion Wine

One of my favorite books of all time.

Dandelion Wine draws you in with all your senses—the smell of cut grass and the sound of the lawnmower, the heat of an August day, the pattern of green leaves against blue sky, the feel of running barefoot and the comfort of new sneakers, the dark earthy aroma of a ravine, the taste of Grandmother’s abundant meals, and on and on… Add the excitement of learning you’re alive and the sadness of the loss of friends and relatives, plus so much more to wrap your mind and feelings around. Bradbury’s elegant prose makes me feel young and alive.

I pulled this book off a back shelf recently to re-read for the fourth or fifth time—the first time I read it as a teen sixty-something years ago. It’s one of very few books I like to re-read. It’s filled with life and death, inquiry and imagination, the delights and sorrows of youth. But what sticks with me over the years is the JOY of being alive.

Rebecca Serle — In Five Years

I’ve read some reviews by people who are disappointed that this is not a “love story.” But it is a different kind of love story, not a romance novel, not sexual love, but the story of the love between two very different women who are lifelong friends. Dannie, a lawyer, is organization personified, planning every moment of her life in advance. Bella, an artist, is a free spirit, living and enjoying life as it happens.

The plot is unique (at least to me). Dannie has a realistic dream, a premonition, where she wakes up five years into her future in a different apartment with a different boyfriend—a different life. She spends the next five years determined to make her planned future happen, not the one in her dream. The story ends with a twist, which I like.

This novel is full of love, laughter, anger, heartbreak, and tears.

Walter Mosley — Blood Grove

Mosley is a descriptive writer—settings, characters, actions—all are vividly detailed. You can see them in your mind’s eye. His characters are never one-dimensional. He digs deep and finds good and bad in heroes and villains alike. He describes LA of 1969 so well that you feel as if you’re living there.

In this story, Easy Rawlins is almost accidentally drawn into uncovering a complex plot of theft and murder when he sets out to find a missing girl for a PTSD veteran. Even after the young vet is murdered, Rawlins can’t let it go. He wants to finish the job, and if he doesn’t untangle the mystery, he could end up dead like his client.

The only thing that kept the novel from being five stars for me was too many characters to follow, even though each one felt distinctive.