Category Archives: humor

Alexander McCall Smith — Precious and Grace

I’m not sure The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series of novels fits in any genre—maybe cozy mystery. If you are tired of reading fast-paced thrillers, this book will slow you down. It’s a relaxing pleasant read.

The protagonist, Mma Precious Ramotswe, owner and founder of the detective agency in Gaborone, Botswana, has a unique personality unlike any I’ve encountered in other novels or in real life. She sees the positive in life and in the people around her, overlooking others faults and misbehaviors, especially those of her “partner,” Mma Grace Makutsi. Even though Mma Ramotswe owns the agency and hired Mma Makutsi as a secretary, Grace self-promoted herself to assistant detective and now co-director, even insinuating to a client that she started the business. Unlike Precious, Grace is not tolerant of others real or perceived faults. But Precious doesn’t like to argue; she would rather relax with a cup of tea.

The plot revolves around a Canadian woman who was born in Botswana and left when she was eight years old. She wants to reconnect with her past and is looking for the house she lived in and the woman who cared for her as a child. This is difficult because the Canadian only has a very old fuzzy photo and Gaborone has grown and changed much in thirty years. No crime involved there, but there are subplots.

A part-time assistant of Mma Ramotswe, Mr. Polopetsi, becomes involved in a pyramid scheme. Precious takes it upon herself to unwind Mr. Polopetsi from the tangle into which he’s naively fallen. And there is also a stray dog who keeps showing up that Precious feels needs a home.

As I said in the beginning, this is not a fast-paced thriller. This is a gentle, people oriented, relaxing novel.

Iain Pears — Arcadia

A delightful fantasy about time travel, which skips between times as characters accidentally or purposefully pass through to past and future worlds. Angela Meerson, a psycho-mathematician, has created a machine to take people to alternate worlds. She discovers that those worlds are all in her own timeline. Angela escapes her own time some two hundred years in the future to mid-twentieth century in Oxford, England and takes her notes with her in order to prevent the use of her invention. It is far too dangerous to be messing with time.

She creates a gate into imaginary Anter-world based on a fantasy written by her friend Professor Henry Lytten. She leaves the gate in Henry’s basement. One day In the 1960s, Rosie, a young teenage friend of Henry’s finds the gate and steps through.

The story, which takes place mainly in three times, is full of interesting characters. The plot twists and turns, but it all resolves nicely in the end. The settings for the different times are interesting and easily pictured in my mind. There is imagination and humor.

From the front flap text: “If the past can change the future, then might the future also indelibly change the past?”

Meg Rosoff — Jonathan Unleashed

Jonathan is a young man just out of school with his first job that he hates, an apartment in NYC that he may lose at any time when the owner gets out of jail, and a girlfriend who is his total opposite. The best parts of his life are the two dogs he is keeping for his brother (currently on an assignment in Dubai) and the comic books he creates as a hobby. His girlfriend doesn’t like the dogs or appreciate the comics. He’s trying hard to squeeze into a life that doesn’t fit him.

Rosoff writes with humor and insight. For me this was a front-to-back read at one sitting. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Janet Evanovich & Phoef Sutton — Curious Minds

As a fan of Evanovich’s early Stephanie Plum novels (although I’ve become disenchanted with the unchanging characters and plots), I wanted to check out this start to a new series with different characters and settings.

The two protagonists are quirky and fun. Emerson Knight is a billionaire eccentric with no social skills who wants to see his gold, which is deposited in a megabank. Riley Moon, recent graduate of Harvard and newest employee at the bank, is assigned to handhold Knight. They chase around the country trying to find the gold. The plot is unbelievable at times, but it’s entertaining.

I enjoyed it enough that I will look for the next book in the series.

Colin Cotterill — I Shot the Buddha

I reviewed another of Cotterill’s novels in 2012, one of my first posts. He still holds my interest throughout. The combination of humor, fantasy, and mystery set in Laos in the late 70’s sounds weird (and it is).

Dr. Siri Paibour is a retired coroner. He and his wife, Madam Daeng, love a good mystery. There are three mysteries, three plots in this story. One takes Siri and Daeng to Thailand, accompanying a Buddhist monk. Then there is the disappearance of Buddhist monk Noo, who Siri leaves in the hands of police officer and friend, Phosy. Another mystery concerns a claim for a new Buddha. Civilai, a retired Lao official and another of Siri’s friends, is asked to investigate.

The book is filled with spirits, good and evil. There is a village populated by psychics and a town practicing the Buddhist version of “Black Mass.” All of this is contained in a good plot and told with a sense of the absurd.

This is the last book in the Dr. Siri series. If you haven’t read any of them, you might want to start at the beginning with The Coroner’s Lunch, which was republished in 2015. Or you can jump in anywhere and enjoy.

Irene “Susie” Smith — Angel of Tears

Angel of Tears
This story of a young girl, Summer, growing up in Detroit is a rewrite of an earlier novel. There are some added details and an epilogue. I enjoyed every minute of it, especially Summer’s connection with her neighbor, an old albino woman.

Irene’s characters are believable and likeable (except those who are not so nice). Her story flows and keeps you reading to the end. Her descriptions of Detroit in the fifties takes you back to another time.

The author writes from the heart. She makes me laugh, she makes me cry.

Steven Rowley — Lily and the Octopus

If you like quirky stories and love dogs, you will enjoy this book. It is silly and sad, touches your heart, and makes you laugh.

Lilly is Ted Flask’s aging dachshund—his closest friend. He holds conversations with her. One day he sees an “octopus” on her head. Not facing reality, he tries to find ways to rid Lily of the octopus. He even talks to the creature attached to his dog’s head. At one point in the book, Ted goes off on a fantasy trip with Lily. They take a ship out into the ocean to defeat the enemy in his own territory.

This is Rowley’s first novel, and I hope not his last. He captures the emotions of his protagonist (and the reader).

Alexander McCall Smith — The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine

bots-MMAP-md

The author has a unique voice and style of writing. The pace is pleasant and meandering through the heat of Botswana in southern Africa. This is the latest in the series about The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.

His main character, Precious Ramotswe, owner of the detective agency, wanders through the story with her mind drifting to related and totally unrelated subjects from whatever problem she is trying to solve. She is a big, warm-hearted woman who is always concerned with doing the right thing for her clients, her friends, her employees, her husband, and most anyone she meets.

In this novel, Mma Ramotswe has been persuaded to take her first vacation since she started her business. She is leaving the agency in the hands of her partner, Mma Makutsi. She is concerned about how the office will be run while she is away and not enjoying her vacation. She encounters a young boy on the streets of Gaborone and feels obliged to help him. Then Mr. Polopetsi, a school teacher who works part-time for her agency, asks her for help with a new client. She doesn’t want to interfere with her partner and how she is running the business, but ends up helping. She may not be going into the office, but she is not on vacation.

The setting is wonderful. I can feel the dry heat of the land, can almost smell the cattle when Precious goes into the country. The author captures the culture of Botswana. I can visualize the people in the streets of Gaborone.

The point-of-view is different. It is mostly third-person subjective from Precious’ viewpoint. But when she is in conversation with other characters we are sometimes privy to their thoughts as well.

Alexander McCall Smith’s writing is slow-paced, scattered, and delightful at the same time. I normally read books that are fast-paced thrillers. His writing is a pleasing change of pace.

Cory Doctorow and Charles Stress — The Rapture of the Nerds

Full Title:  The Rapture of the Nerds 
A tale of singularity, posthumanity, and awkward social situations.

I read somewhere that speculative fiction that predicts the future is truly about the era in which it is written. I believe this was in reference to one of the classic dystopian novels, Brave New World or 1984. The Rapture of the Nerds is written in our far-flung future but definitely reflects our current world.

The novel is set in a future Earth where most of the population has chosen to leave and become part of “the cloud,” which occupies the inner solar system. The protagonist, Huw, is quite happy in his simple home and garden in Wales where he spends his time throwing pottery. His parents gave up their earthly bodies and left for the posthuman cloud fifty years ago.

Huw volunteers for jury duty to judge whether or not to accept the latest technology tossed back to Earth from the cloud. This leads him to being chosen as witness for those still living on our planet when a decision is eminent as to whether to preserve Earth or use its resources and move everyone into the cloud.

The book is ridiculously funny, full of pokes and prods at today’s world. If I read it ten times I would probably catch something new each time.

I have read other novels by Doctorow but none by Stress. Together they wrote a rollicking good story.

Tom Corcoran — Crime Almost Pays

key-west-southernmost

Dubbie Tanner and Wiley Fecko have started a Key West private-eye firm called the Aristocrats. They are drawn into a job which pays way too much money for a small task. It turns out to be complicated and dangerous, involving Cuban tourists, a weird federal agent, street fights, kidnapping, scams…

They enlist the help of cab driver Kim Salazar, police detective Beth Watkins, and a few street people who are friends of Fecko’s from his past days of drink and living off the grid. The best part of this novel for me was the Key West setting. Corcoran captures the look and feel of wacky Key West and its characters.

This author is new to me, although he has a number of previous novels. I enjoyed the ride and will look for more of his books.