Tag Archives: humor

Review: Thank You, Goodnight by Andy Abramowitz

I received an advanced review copy of this title from Touchstone through NetGalley.

My Review:
Thank You, GoodnightTeddy Tremble is a lawyer at a Philadelphia law firm and when we meet him we get the impression that he is vaguely dissatisfied with his life.  He is on his way to Ireland to take a deposition for his law firm and he doesn’t seem interested in anything that his going on around him.  He makes a few phone calls back home to his long-time girlfriend and he also seems indifferent towards her.

We find out that being a lawyer was not Teddy’s first career choice and he and his band “Tremble” had a rather successful stint in the nineties as a rock band.  When their second album was judged a complete flop by the critics the band broke up and all of its members went separate ways.  Through a series of hilarious circumstances, Teddy suddenly has the itch to make music again and revive the band.  But convincing the other members, who all have very different lives and careers now, won’t be an easy task.

Teddy sets out on a series of road trips to convince each former band mate to make another go at a new album.  The first band member we meet is Jumbo, a guitar player and the hot mess of the group, who lives in his ex-wife’s basement and has an odd “career” as a midwife.  Jumbo is on board right away with Teddy’s scheme but when Teddy reconnects with his loveable but irresponsible friend again Teddy begins to wonder if he has made a terrible mistake by reviving the band.

The other two members of the group, Warren the drummer, and Mackenzie the bass player, are much harder to convince to drop their lives and rejoin a band whose last hit was more than a decade ago.  Warren is a music teacher at a high school and he has a wife and young son; he has no desire to drop a successful career and spend long hours away from his family in order to fulfill what he thinks is Teddy’s midlife crisis.  And Mackenzie, with whom Teddy had a fling that ended Teddy’s marriage, is now a sex therapist and Teddy isn’t sure that she will even speak to him.  We are left in suspense for a good part of the book wondering if Teddy will triumphantly pull together his band mates for one last musical hurrah.

The strength of this book lies in Abramowitz’s ability to write witty and humorous dialogue and sustain it for the three-hundred plus pages of the book. Teddy is crabby and sarcastic and looks at the world through a negative, yet hilarious lens.  It is difficult for an author to sustain such comical quips throughout the writing of an entire book but this author does it with aplomb.

I also have to add that this book is a great read for anyone who appreciates music and wants a trip down a musical memory lane.  It is obvious that Abramowitz plays, writes and listens to a wide range of music; his references to Geddy Lee, the legendary bassist from Rush, and quotations from Rush’s hit “Limelight” sold me on his in depth knowledge of music.  It would be interesting for the author to make a playlist available on his website of all the great songs and artists that are mentioned in the book.

Last summer one of my favorite books was I am Having So Much Fun Here Without You which was also published by Touchstone.  It looks like they continue their streak of excellent summer reads with THANK YOU, GOODNIGHT.

About The Author:
AbramowitzAndy Abramowitz lives in Center City Philadelphia with is wife and two daughters. He practices law by day and various artistic endeavors by night. Thank You, Goodnight Night, his first novel, is the product of frequent bouts of insomnia.

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Filed under Humor, Summer Reading

Review: Greenery Street by Denis Mackail

The purpose of my blog has been to connect with like-minded readers and share great books.  This title was recommended to me by one such like-minded reader whose recommendations of books for me always seem to be spot on.  For a full list of wonderful titles from Persephone Books please visit their website: http://www.persephonebooks.co.uk/

My Review:
Original-Greenery-Street-cover-422x600Greenery Street is the perfect place in London for the blissfully happy newlyweds with its “thirty-six narrow little houses.”  The street is so charming that every couple moves in with the intention of staying there forever, but as soon as the first baby arrives each couple realizes that Greenery Street is too small to contain a growing family.  This book treats us to the first several months in the life of the charming and adorable newlywed couple, Ian and Felicity Foster.

Ian and Felicity’s courtship and engagement is not an easy road for them especially since Felicity’s father, “Old Humphrey” objects to his daughter’s marriage.  It’s not that he doesn’t like Ian, but it just seems to him that Felicity would never have to do something as complicated as getting married and leaving home.  Old Humphrey is famous for dodging touch decisions and he does this by getting a fever and having to lie in bed for several days whenever a pivotal moment in life arises.

Some readers might this this book mundane since it is the chronicle of a happy marriage.  Mackail’s sense of humor and witty dialogue make ordinary matters like shopping, having lunch, dealing with the servants and paying bills funny and entertaining.  Ian and Felicity are so nice and polite of a couple that when their servants are taking advantage of them and drinking on the job, they can’t even bring themselves to fire them.  The house-parlor maid, who is particularly cranky and awful at her job, is affectionately and secretly called “The Murderess” by the newlyweds.

I was truly delighted by the happiness of this couple and the little ways in which they found to show their love and devotion to each other.  Felicity waits eagerly on their little balcony everyday to greet Ian when he gets home; Ian apologizes and soothes Felicity even when he is not sure what he has done wrong; Felicity secretly sells her grandmother’s pearls when she wants to pay the builder’s bill and not worry Ian over money.

I highly recommend GREENERY STREET as a charming, witty and well-written book.  I could not put this book and read it in only a few sittings.  I am eager to read other titles from Persephone Books.

About The Author:
Denis MackailDenis Mackail was born in Kensington, London to the writer John William Mackail and Margaret Burne-Jones, daughter of the painter Edward Burne-Jones. Educated at St Paul’s School, Hammersmith, he went to Balliol College, Oxford, but failed to complete his degree through ill-health after two years.

His first work was as a set designer, notably for J. M. Barrie’s The adored one and George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion (1914). The outbreak of World War I interrupted this promising start, however, and Denis, not fit enough for active service, worked in the War Office and the Board of Trade.

In 1917 he married Diana Granet, only child of the railway manager Sir Guy Granet, who was a director-general for railways in the War Office. The couple had two children, Mary (born 28 March 1919) and Anne (born 12 January 1922) and lived in Chelsea, London. It was the necessity of supporting his young family that led Denis to write a novel when office jobs became insecure after the end of the war.

With his novel published, his first short-story accepted by the prestigious Strand Magazine and the services of a literary agent, A. P. Watt, Denis was soon earning enough from his writing to give up office work. He published a novel every year from 1920 to 1938 and among his literary friends were P. G. Wodehouse and A. A. Milne.

During the 1930s Mackail lived at Bishopstone House, Bishopstone near Seaford, Sussex

As therapy from a nervous breakdown, Denis agreed to write the official biography of J. M. Barrie, which appeared in 1941. He went on to produce seven more novels and some books of reminiscences, but after the early death of his wife in 1949, he published no more and lived quietly in London until his death.

 

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Filed under Classics, History, Literary Fiction, Persephone Books

Review: The Jesus Cow by Michael Perry

I received an advanced review copy of this title from the publisher through TLC Book Tours.  Michael Perry is a humorist who is known for his nonfiction books.  This is his debut fiction novel.

My Review:
The Jesus CowHarley is a simple bachelor living in rural Wisconsin on a very modest 15 acre farm.  Although he works 12 hours a day in a factory, he keeps a few beef cattle as a hobby.  When a calf is born on Christmas Eve with the image of Jesus on its hide, he views it as a bad omen.  He does everything he can to keep others from finding out about his special calf.  His best friend, Billy, thinks he should cash in on his holy bovine, but Harley doesn’t want to disturb his quiet life.

But when the calf gets out of its pen and the mail lady sees it, the pictures of this special calf go viral.  The scenes in the book in which droves of the faithful are clamoring to get a look at the “Jesus Cow” are hilarious.  The only way that Harley can stop this madness is to hire a California public relations firm that closes off his property with security forces which the President would be jealous of.  Harley’s quiet, unassuming life has been shattered in a matter of hours.

Harley also has a love interest throughout the book.  When he spills coffee on Mindy at the local gas station he can’t keep his mind off of her.  She is a character full of quirks and surprises; she lives in an old granary and is an artist who uses metal and welding as her medium.  The entire cast of characters in the book are all quirky for that matter.  Maggie, widowed at a young age, runs her own towing and car wrecking business; Carolyn is a former, disgraced academic who lives at the base of the town’s old water tower.  And Klute is a failed real estate tycoon who is addicted to listening to ridiculous motivational tapes.

In the end, the lives of all these lonely characters end up intertwined.  My only complaint about the book is the rather abrupt ending for which the reader is not really prepared.  It felt rushed and incomplete.

THE JESUS COW is a funny and entertaining story that makes for the perfect light beach read this summer.  Michael Perry finds humor in small town life, religious fanaticism and the perils of modern technology.

About The Author:
Michael PerryMichael Perry is a humorist, radio host, songwriter, and the New York Times bestselling author of several nonfiction books, including Visiting Tom and Population: 485. He lives in rural Wisconsin with his family

 

 

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Filed under Humor

Review: Don’t Try This at Home by Angela Readman

I received an advanced review copy of this title from And Other Stories.  They are a small not-for-profit literary press with am impressive selection of books.  Please visit their website for a complete list of great titles: andotherstories.org

My Review:
Dont-Try-This-at-Home-_-cover_-FINAL1-300x460This is a quirky, bizarre collection of tales that also deal with serious social topics.  Child custody, divorce, and gender issues are all explored with an accompanying twist of magic or fantasy.  In one story a mum who works at a chip shop is tired of her mundane life; it is only when she transforms herself into a hip-shaking Elvis that she feels happy and fulfilled.  This story is an interesting commentary on gender identity and the ways in which we suppress our true selves when we try to conform and fit in.

Some of the stories seem downright absurd.  In the title story, “Don’t Try this at Home ”  a woman wants to spend more time with her husband, so she chops him in half.  When the couple needs more money, she chops him in quarters and eighths so he can work more at various jobs.  When one of his other halves has an affair the woman has mixed feelings about her decision to chop up her husband into so many different persons.

I particularly enjoyed the last three stories.  They featured individuals that are misunderstood by their family, friends and neighbors.  In “Keeper of the Jackalopes,” a man lives in a run down trailer with his six-year-old daughter and taxidermies animals for a living.  Business has been very slow so they rely on food tossed into dumpsters behind grocery stores for their meals.  The loyalty that the little girls shows towards her father is very touching and it is this little girl’s advice at the end of the story that helps him deal with some sad issues in his life.

DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME is a fantastic and entertaining group of stories with memorable characters.  I highly recommend that you add this collection to your summer reading list.

About The Author:
Angela-Readman-_Photo-by-Kevin-Howard-460x250Angela Readman’s stories have appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines, winning awards such as the Inkspill Magazine Short Story Competition and the National Flash Fiction Competition. In 2012 she was shortlisted for the Costa Short Story Award for ‘Don’t Try This at Home’ – an award she would go on to win in 2013 with the story ‘The Keeper of the Jackalopes’. Readman is also a published poet.

 

 

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Filed under Art, Humor, Literary Fiction, Short Stories

Review: The Librarian by Mikhail Elizarov

I received an advanced review copy of this title from publisher through NetGalley.  The original book was written and published in Russian in 2007 and this English version has been published by Pushkin Press.

My Review:
The LibrarianI recently read an article in The New York Review of Books by Ian Frazier in which he describes Russian satire and humor and the ways in which it differs from the rest of Europe and the United States.  Frazier writes, “Given the disaster Russian history has been more or less continuously for the last five centuries, its humor is of the darkest, most extreme kind. Russian humor is to ordinary humor what backwoods fundamentalist poisonous snake handling is to a petting zoo. Russian humor is slapstick, only you actually die.”  Elizarov’s The Librarian is a perfect literary example of  Frazier’s description of Russian humor.

The book opens with a description of a fictional Soviet-era writer named Gormov whose books were mass-produced but were of such poor quality that they were relegated to the bargain bin in used bookstores almost immediately.  After the fall of the Soviet Union, Gormov’s books are rediscovered and are also found to have magical effects on their readers.  The Book of Joy, for instance, puts readers into a temporary state of euphoria that is reminiscent of a drug high.  There are seven such magical books in the Gormov collection.  As groups acquire copies of these powerful books, they are called “Libraries.”  These libraries then engage in ridiculous, epic battles to fight for ownership of Gormov’s books.

The most absurd “library” of the bunch is a group of frail and senile old women living in a nursing home to whom the Book of Endurance is read.  All of a sudden their newly acquired strength turns these geriatrics into a fierce and bizarre army of warrior-like Amazons who kill people by the hundreds in order to protect their precious library.  There is an excessive amount of stabbing with knitting needles and pounding heads with hammers which ridiculous and droll scenes present us with the “slapstick” humor that Frazer describes but where characters “actually die.”

The main character of the book is a meek young man named Alexei whose only concern in life is to be an actor.  Of course, his acting career has never taken off so he finds himself divorced and living at home with his parents.  When his uncle dies he is asked to put his things in order and sell his uncle’s apartment.  The contents of the apartment contain one of Gormov’s books so naturally Alexei is drawn into the world of the libraries.  His lack of reaction as people are stabbed and killed around him in order to protect the book is ridiculous and comical.  He eventually dons his own armour, which consists of old truck tires, and launches himself headlong into the bloody fray.

The problems with Alexei’s own library and its inevitable clash with other libraries is the topic of the second half of the book.  There are many battle scenes where the rival libraries have more and more comical battles in which the clash of these book warriors resemble video games.  In the end, Alexei is saved by the brigade of geriatric warriors who lock him up and want to use him as their guinea pig to test out the effects of reading all seven books at once.  The ending has a more serious tone then the rest of the book and provides and interesting commentary on worshipping and overvaluing objects, blindly following leaders without questioning their motives and the sacrificing of one person for the safety of the whole community.  For a sampling of Russian humor and satire THE LIBRARIAN is a perfect choice, but I will warn you to be prepared for a wild ride.

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Filed under Humor, Literature in Translation, Russian Literature