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Surprise Me–will surprises keep a marriage vital?

Surprise Me

by Sophie Kinsella

Surprise MeI have really enjoyed books by Sophie Kinsella and was looking forward to reading her newest book Surprise Me. At first I felt like I was the one “surprised” in a disappointed kind of way. The characters in Surprise Me are two-dimensional, the premise is bland, and the attempts at humor are not very effective—for the first half of the book. The novel was good enough for me to plug on, however, and I’m glad I did. The pace and interest pick up dramatically in the second half. The characters grow and develop and become people you can actually care about. The original proposition seems silly: how do you live with and love the same person for over sixty years?  I know the world is changing a lot in terms of longevity of marriages, but there are many examples that demonstrate the success of long marriages and the happiness of people in such marriages.

There are many surprises for the reader and the main character Sylvie as she discovers that she does not really know the people close to her as well as she thought she did. In encountering difficulties, she discovers a strength she never knew she had. There are a lot of negative feelings associated with this book and a lot less fun fluff than initially appears to be the case or is usually associated with Kinsella’s books such as the Shopaholic series. Although I came away with mixed feelings, I also took away some serious musings about the ability of testing in life to help build character.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Random House (Dial Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Romance

Publication:  February 13, 2018 — Random House (Dial Press)

Memorable Lines:

Living with five-year-old twins is like living in a Communist state. I don’t quite count out the Shreddies into the bowls every morning to make sure things are equal, but… Actually, I did once count out the Shreddies into the bowls. It was quicker.

“Oh, marriage.” She makes a snorting sound. “Did you not read the disclaimers? ‘May cause headache, anxiety, mood swings, sleep disturbance, or general feelings of wanting to stab something.’ ”

“If we don’t stick up for the ones we love, then what are we good for?”

Superman and the Miserable, Rotten, No Fun, Really Bad Day

Superman and the Miserable, Rotten, No Fun, Really Bad Day

by Dave Croatto

Superman and the MiserableAs you were growing up, did your storytime include Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst?  Or maybe you read it to your kids. As a teacher, I saved it for a really bad day for the initial read in my classroom. It’s one of those special books that puts problems in perspective and a smile on your face.

With those memories in mind, pick up Superman and the Miserable, Rotten, No Fun, Really Bad Day. MAD promotes it as 100% parody, and I think you will get a kick out of the story and illustrations. Poor Superman is just having one of those days. He wakes up to broken glasses and cell phone. Kids on the bus and the other superheroes don’t give him the respect he deserves. He gets a lousy assignment at work. You just need to read it yourself to learn of all the “miserable, rotten, no fun, really bad” things that happen to the Man of Steel. Maybe your problems won’t seem so bad!

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to DC Entertainment/MAD for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Comics, General Fiction

Notes: Parody

Publication:   October 17, 2017— DC Entertainment/MAD

If You Give a Man a Cookie–spousal humor in parody format

If You Give a Man a Cookie

Written by Laura Joffe Numeroff

Illustrated by Brian Ajhar

If You Give a Man a CookieFor as long as I can remember, our family byword for “one thing leading to another” has been “if you give a mouse…” We don’t even have to finish the title; we all know what it means. I’m sure a lot of my readers can identify with that as you grew up with If You Give a Mouse a Cookie as a storytime favorite. Or maybe you were one of the many adults who shared this book with children.

Laura Joffe Numeroff has since produced many variations on this children’s book, but now she has written one for adults: If You Give a Man a Cookie. In this humorous parody, a woman offers up a cookie to her husband and, to nobody’s surprise who has read the original, he asks for milk to go with it. The book progresses in this delightful fashion with lots of helpless husband scenarios that may seem familiar to patient spouses.

Whereas Felicia Bond is responsible for the sweet, funny, and appealing artwork in Numeroff’s children’s books, the illustrator of If You Give a Man a Cookie is Brian Ajhar. His style is very different with sharper lines in a more comic book manner, with more appeal to its adult target audience. Be sure to note the dog who appears on almost every page adding to both the story and the humor.

This book would make a fun, less serious gift for the woman who has it all, including a man with 24/7 needs. I think most men would even find the humor in it. Also, consider it for those contemplating marriage; they might have second thoughts!

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Andrews McMeel Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Entertainment, Humor

Publication:   October 10, 2017—Andrews McMeel Publishing

Bad Housekeeping–a humorous cozy mystery

Bad Housekeeping

by Maia Chance

Bad HousekeepingBad Housekeeping is a fairly typical cozy mystery that will keep you laughing and shaking your head in dismay as Agnes, recently dumped by her professor boyfriend, and Effie, her quirky great aunt, drive from adventure to misadventure in a “borrowed” Cadillac. This is a fun read, not intended to shake your world or be a realistic portrayal of anything. It is a great diversion as a summer beach read or a session curled up on the couch.

Agnes, freshly returned to her Dad’s home, has literally the clothes on her back. Effie gives her a job helping save the condemned Stagecoach Inn. Agnes stumbles over a body at the inn, precipitating a murder investigation and leading to the uncovering of lots of personal secrets in the little town of Naneda.

The plot clips along at a good pace with some twists and turns as the story develops. The characters are predictable in a comfortable sort of way with a stuffy ex-fiancé and an old high school flame with boy-next-door kind of appeal. The police hover in the background, but all of the successful investigation is done by Agnes. While this book is not destined for number one on the New York Times best seller list, it will provide a good afternoon’s entertainment.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Crooked Lane Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #1 in the new Agnes and Effie Mystery Series

Publication:   June 13, 2017—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines: 

Maybe salvaging a wreck of a building is a metaphor for salvaging the wreckage of our own lives. It’s like we’re telling ourselves, See? It can be done. It’s never too late. I’m not sure if it’s tragic or inspirational.

I tried not to notice Otis’s tanned biceps. Yes, I know, women may have evolved to be attracted to muscles as a way to select mates with better survival odds. But this is the twenty-first century. The wise thing these days is to find a little nerd like Bill Gates if you’re interested in survival odds.

“I cannot believe you’re wearing poor little dead animals,” I said. “It’s vintage, darling. Vintage fur doesn’t count. These little animals have been dead since the Nixon administration.”

Do Not Take Your Dragon to Dinner–fun picture book

Do Not Take Your Dragon to Dinner

written by Julie Gassman

illustrated by Andy Elkerton

Do Not Take Your Dragon to DinnerAlmost any child will enjoy Do Not Take Your Dragon to Dinner; its predictable rhyming patterns and repetition will charm. Its descriptions of all the rude behaviors a dragon might engage in are sure to disgust to the delight of children. Dinosaur lovers will be particularly happy reading this book. The illustrations are bright, colorful, large, and seem to jump off the page. The illustrator worked hard to be inclusive of children of both genders and many ethnicities. The best part of the book’s structure is that after showing all the annoying and disgusting things a dragon might do at a restaurant, the author suggests that the child teach the dragon dining etiquette at home so he will be welcome in a restaurant with the child.

This book bears a strong resemblance to How Do Dinosaurs Eat their Food by Jane Yolen. The focus of Do Not Take Your Dragon to Dinner is, of course, dragons, but these dragons strongly evoke fanciful dinosaurs. If your child enjoys Yolen’s “How Do Dinosaurs…” books, then he or she would probably enjoy Do Not Take Your Dragon to Dinner. My ultimate test for a good children’s book is to decide if the adult will enjoy reading the book with the child as read-alouds should always be a time of pleasure for all involved. In the case of this book, I personally give it two thumbs up!

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Capstone Young Readers for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Humor, Children’s Fiction

Notes: suggested for ages 3-7; fun for home or school

Publication:   September 1, 2017—Capstone Young Readers

Memorable Lines: 

A rude guest like a dragon disturbs everyone.

He barges right in. He spoils the fun.

A wing in your face! A tail in a drink!

And worst of all, that distinct dragon STINK!

Double Up–witty cozy

Double Up

by Gretchen Archer

double upDavis Way is a former security officer and investigator for Bellissimo Casino and is currently a stay-at-home mom for twin baby girls. Blitz, Inc. buys up land in the same town for a competing casino and Davis’ home and livelihood are in jeopardy. To make it worse, Davis is convinced that it is her fault that the Bellissimo Casino is about to go under.

There are many humorous aspects to this story–both in situations and in characters. As always with books from the Davis Way Crime Caper Series, this cozy mystery is very witty with Archer frequently popping dialogue with one liners that Davis thinks, contrasting them with what she actually says. The plot moves quickly especially during the second half as extreme action kicks in. Think: explosions, auto theft, murder, decaying seafood, and dumpster diving. Two really quirky characters emerge: Bea, Davis’ ex-ex-mother-in-law, who is lacking in basic hygiene and good taste and takes physical action in her determination to set things right and “the House” which responds to voice suggestions by controlling Davis’ huge suite in a very frustrating way. All of this (and more) adds up to a fun book worth reading.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Humor, Mystery

Notes: #6 in Davis Way Crime Caper Series, but works as a standalone

Publication:   March 21, 2017–Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

[Bea to Davis] “That’s one thing I like about Don Juan.” She took me into her confidence like I was her best girlfriend. “No back talking. ‘Course I don’t speak Italyish, so he could be back talking my ears off and I wouldn’t know it.”

If I’d been doing my job, I could have stopped it. Or at least slowed it down. At the bare minimum, we could have been prepared. To say I felt responsible was to say there were stars in the sky, the desert was hot, and Bill Gates had a little money in the bank.

Our daughters, who’d never known anything other than computer-generated, gender-neutral, max-volume broadcasts interrupting our lives via seventy hidden speakers followed by their parents yelling back, didn’t think a thing of it. One day they’d realize they lived in the world’s only home that spontaneously shrieked and yelled and demanded an explanation, but for now, they mostly hollered along. (“Aaagaah!” and “Gaahaah!”)

Death by Chocolate Lab–humorous cozy mystery

Death by Chocolate Lab

by Bethany Blake

death-by-chocolate-labI realize there are a lot of cozy mysteries that feature dogs or cats, but I had never even picked one up. Death by Chocolate Lab caught my eye because I am a sucker for basset hounds, and there was one soulfully staring at me from the cover of this book. How could I resist? Right from the start I knew I would enjoy this book as it humorously begins with Daphne, a petsitter with a PhD. in philosophy, walking her charges, three Rottweilers. These huge dogs are being corralled by a tiny somewhat mangled Chihuahua, a foster dog who is really just scheming to be picked up. They are accompanied by Daphne’s personal “sidekick,” a wise basset hound named Socrates.

Although there is a serious murder, with the victim discovered by Daphne, that starts a series of investigations led by handsome detective Jonathan Black, there is an undercurrent of humor throughout the book. Daphne is a semi-hippie vegetarian with a “vintage” pink VW van who lives on a farm with her type A personality veterinarian sister.  Other interesting characters include her girlfriend, hair stylist Moxie, and her sister’s vet assistant Dylan, an equally laid back former surfer with whom Daphne has a nebulous relationship.

Death by Chocolate Lab is a mystery with lots of twists and turns, interesting characters, and a good dose of humor throughout.  I am looking forward to reading the second book in the series, Dial Meow for Murder which is due for publication in September of 2017.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: Book #1 in the new Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery series

Publication:  February 28, 2017–Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

Was it odd that one of the things that brought us together was knowing we could be apart?

She was walking with my basset hound sidekick, Socrates, who considered himself above group walks and never hurried. He shambled along at Piper’s side, his droopy, solemn eyes fixed on something in the distance. He might’ve been interested in the dark clouds gathering ahead–a storm was definitely brewing–but I suspected that his real focus was inward. Socrates wasn’t the type of dog who obsessed about where his next treat was coming from. I was convinced that he dealt with more profound issues.

Was there such a thing as mal de vivre?

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