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The Screwtape Letters–twisting good into evil

The Screwtape Letters

by C.S. Lewis

Welcome to the inside-out, topsy turvy world of The Screwtape Letters, correspondence supposedly written by Screwtape, an experienced devil who is mentoring his nephew Wormwood, a junior tempter, in the process of keeping the human assigned to him from becoming a Christian and making good choices. The human is considered a “patient.” God is called “the Enemy,” and Satan is referred to as “Our Father Below.” As you can imagine, this short book is not a quick read as you have to turn familiar designations of God and Satan, as well as your whole thought process, around so that the book will make sense.

First published in serial form in a newspaper, it is divided into chapters which are letters generally focused around one topic such as gluttony or humility and gives advice on how to twist things that God has created in beauty and purity into something that will draw the patient away from God and onto sinful paths.

I am glad I read this book, but I didn’t enjoy it in the same way I would an entertaining mystery or a gentle romance. It is quite witty with tongue-in-cheek humor throughout. It challenged my mind and spirit as I tried to decipher C.S. Lewis’ message. Reading The Screwtape Letters is rather like looking into a mirror. Beware! As you see a reflection of yourself in some of the passages, you may be inspired to make changes in your own life that will result in your reflecting God’s image rather than the one Satan would appreciate. With much food for thought, The Screwtape Letters could be read and studied many times, especially over the course of a lifetime, deriving a new depth of meaning applicable to you personally with each reading.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Fiction

Notes: C.S. Lewis was one of the intellectual giants of the 20th century. He is the noted author of many works of fiction and nonfiction including The Chronicles of Narnia and Mere Christianity. The Screwtape Letters was originally published in 1942.

Publication: 1959—Macmillan Publishing Co. 

Memorable Lines:

All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them, but this is specially true of humility. Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, “By jove! I’m being humble,” and almost immediately pride—pride at his own humility—will appear.

Music and silence…how I detest them both!…Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile—Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples, and impossible desires.

And since we cannot deceive the whole human race all the time, it is most important thus to cut every generation off from all others; for where learning makes a free commerce between the ages there is always the danger that the characteristic errors of one may be corrected by the characteristic truths of another.

Botched 4 Murder–endangered golf courses in Arizona

Botched 4 Murder

by J. C. Eaton

Botched 4 MurderIf you like your cozy mysteries with a heavy dose of humor, look no farther than J. C. Eaton’s Botched 4 Murder. Once more, Sophie, who works as an accountant for Williams Investigations, gets dragged into a Sun City West murder investigation by her mother, Harriet, who insists she use her connections to help solve a crime. The main thread is finding the murderer of Sorrel, an eco-activist who wants to change many of the community’s golf courses to neighborhood parks, a very unpopular cause with Harriet and many members of the community, mostly seniors and snowbirds, who are concerned about their privacy, their property values, and crime rates. Was Sorrel murdered because of her activism in this issue or were other factors at play?

This cozy mystery rapidly becomes and stays complicated with quite a number of threads. Sophie has trouble saying no, and she finds herself physically in danger. Her boss, Nate, and her boyfriend and coworker, Marshall, urge her to stay out of the investigation for her own safety, but they have to admit that she gets more information from her informal interviews than they do as private investigators. The whole book is peppered with humor, mainly centering around Harriet and the other seniors who tend to dramatize everything and oil the wheels of the rumor mill.

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: #4 in the Sophie Kimball Mystery Series, but, due to the author’s efforts and the nature of the book, it works well as a standalone.

Publication:   December 18, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

Thank goodness I was at the other end of a phone line because my eyes were rolling around in their sockets like balls on a roulette wheel.

“The venom went through that guy like prep medicine for a colonoscopy.”

“I already made plans. With my mother and her friends. Bagels ’N More. You’re more than welcome to join me.” “And what? Get interrogated because we haven’t solved Sorrel’s murder yet? No thanks. The Salem Witch Trials would’ve paled in comparison to what I imagine tonight’s conversation will be like.”

Lessons from Lucy–LOL funny

Lessons from Lucy

by Dave Barry

Lessons from LucyLessons from Lucy has to be the funniest self-help book ever written. Dave Barry, the humor columnist, takes his lessons on aging from his also aging, happy, contented dog Lucy. There are indeed words of wisdom in these pages but in making his points Dave, in his typical fashion, goes off in side splitting fashion with outrageous opinions and funny anecdotes that combine to provide the reader with an outrageously funny good time. From the man who is famous for saying “I did not make this up” are totally fabricated footnotes for nautical terms and tales of marching with the World Famous Lawn Rangers of Arcola, Illinois, in the Broom Corn Festival. They are a “precision” drill team complete with lawn mowers, brooms, and silliness. Those members with a higher rank even have toilet plungers. No one takes themselves seriously, and they all have a blast. I had to do an Internet search to confirm the truth. Yes, the Lawn Rangers do exist and Dave Barry has more fun than a three year old when he can participate in their good-natured nonsense. 

Lessons from Lucy is a fast read, and you may hope it won’t end. I think it would probably be fun to read again and just as funny the second time around. Dave Barry is an unexpected introvert who never fails in the humor department. At age seventy he proves he still has what it takes to keep us laughing.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Humor, Self-Help

Notes: There are a few instances of profanity and more instances of bathroom words that three year old boys would find funny. Neither kept me from enjoying this book.

Publication:   April 2, 2019—Simon & Schuster

Memorable Lines: Please note that there is no way for me to truly share the humor of this book because so much is lost when it is taken out of context, but here are some comments that make me nod and smile.

That’s what Lucy does: she makes the best of things. She’s way better at this than I am. I know much more than she does, but she knows something I don’t: how to be happy.

Even if you can’t travel, you can still find ways to have genuine fun. The key, I think, is to stretch your boundaries, to escape the numbing routine that old age so easily decays into, to take a chance, get out of your comfort zone, maybe risk making a fool of yourself.

1. Lucy spends every second she can being as close as she can be to the people she loves. This makes her a happy dog. 2. Mike Peters, who is a busy guy facing constant deadlines, still makes a point of making time for, and jumping on the trampoline with, the people he loves. and he is the happiest person I know over the age of three.

The whole world is way too angry these days. If you want proof of that, don some eye protection and take a look at Facebook. In case you just woke up from a coma, I should explain that Facebook is a social-media website that literally billions of people visit regularly for the purpose of making some person named Mark Zuckerberg insanely rich.

Getting Old Can Hurt You–light, humorous, senior mystery

Getting Old Can Hurt You

 by Rita Lakin

Getting Old Can Hurt YouThis is my first opportunity to read a book in the Gladdy Gold Detective Agency Mystery Series. I found it amusing, but not hilarious. The main characters in Getting Old Can Hurt You by Rita Lakin are a group of seniors who consider themselves a detective gang under the leadership of Gladdy. Just as young people are not all alike, neither are these seniors. They run the gamut from down to earth to not quite all there. They are generally up for an adventure even if it is limited by arthritis, pee breaks, and walkers and canes.

A long-lost granddaughter arrives at the senior apartments looking for the grandmother she hates. It seems, however, that she has other plans in mind besides reconnecting with her grandmother. Having survived a difficult childhood, she travels across the country to solve her personal mystery, hiding the fact that she is being followed. Will Gladdy’s gang be able to help her? They are determined to try!

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

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #8 in the Gladdy Gold Detective Agency Mystery Series. I had no problem understanding the story as a standalone, but readers might enjoy it more with additional background on the characters.

Publication:  October 1, 2018—Severn House

Memorable Lines:

We know we’re all in the checkout line for the big deli in the sky, but until then we are totally involved in the Gladdy Gold detective agency. Our motto, “Never Trust Anyone Under Seventy-Five.” Senior Sleuths to Senior Citizen. Our slogan—“We Take Care of Our Own.”

Lola never says much when Hy’s around. There’s only room for one ego.

“When I got older I found my happy hobby. Stealing do-re-mi to help old folks who needed surgery.” Sophie adds, gushing, “You were so good at it. Loved the plastic gun in the pastrami sandwiches.” Izzy blushes, pleased with the compliment. He shrugs. “Jail time reformed me finally, and now you’re caught up. Here I am. I’m looking into another happy hobby.”

Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Say Nothing at All

Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Say Nothing at All

by Karen Ehman

Keep it ShutHave you ever stopped to think about the “aweful” (and sometimes awful) power our tongues can have? Like, maybe, when you put your foot in your mouth…again? Or, perhaps, you have pondered the good in your life when someone spoke words of kindness and encouragement. Karen Ehman has written a special, down-to-earth book for those interested in taming the tongue: Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Say Nothing at All.

This book is humorous and full of anecdotes. It is also biblically based and gets REAL about the issues that all honest women will admit arise in their lives from time to time—especially in this digital age.  Ehman addresses various problems of communication including listening, talking to God before talking to others, gossip, flattery, and anger. She shares verses from Proverbs as the original tweets, and they are powerful. It turns out the Bible has a lot to say about what we have to say.

Ehman concludes Keep It Shut by summarizing tips and tricks derived from the body of her book as a quick and easy way to refer back to those truths. She discusses ways to find time and opportunities to get away with God for a few minutes or hours to be grounded in Him so you can make Godly decisions about what to say and when to say it. She lists ten verses that will “help you watch your words.” She has questions to ponder to help you examine your motives and decide if something is gossip or not. Ehman doesn’t stop at the negative. She also includes “powerful phrases” to speak to various people in your life and Scripture verses, quotes, and phrases that you can photocopy and display around your home or office as reminders.

Keep It Shut had a surprisingly big impact on me, giving me a lot to think about. One example is the “white lie.” Yes, I do tell white lies occasionally to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. Ehman discusses the dangers of that and offers alternatives. I recommend Keep It Shut for the humor, the chatty presentation, and the Godly truths found in its pages.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Nonfiction

Notes: Ehman addresses women in her book because psychologists have shown that women speak a lot more words every day than men (20,000 compared to 7,000). Of course there are exceptions, but in general women have a lot more opportunities to get in trouble because of things they say than men.  Men, the biblical truths in this book would not be wasted on you either!

Publication:   January 6, 2015—Zondervan

Memorable Lines:

Don’t say something permanently painful just because you are temporarily ticked off.

All the humans you encounter throughout the course of the day are “on purpose” people. God plopped them into your life for a reason.

When we harden our hearts and let every little offense poke a hole in our happiness, we only hurt ourselves…But when we soften our hearts with love for others, and toughen our skins against their barbs, we are better equipped to show the compassionate love of Jesus to a watching world.

Bad Neighbors–another fun ride with Agnes and Effie

Bad Neighbors

by Maia Chance

Bad NeighborsGrab your hat for a whirlwind ride with Agnes, a self-professed nerd, and her wacky Aunt Effie in Maia Chance’s new cozy mystery Bad Neighbors. Agnes, recovering from the breakup of a long term relationship, has still not unpacked her boxes as she continues to try to figure out her future. Meanwhile Agnes, Effie, and cousin Chester take on their first four guests at the Stagecoach Inn, which they have only barely begun to remodel. Their four nonpaying guests are part of a tour group who have come to small town Naneda to view the changing leaves. Unfortunately their bus broke down. The whole town scurries to accommodate the tour bus participants because the town is also hosting their Harvest Festival along with the obnoxious judge of a yearly contest among towns in the area.

With this autumnal backdrop, the plot thickens as one of the locals is found murdered and Agnes’ old high school flame Otis is a suspect. Along the way there is a lot of suspicion thrown on various characters, and Agnes picks up a lot of ridicule from various townspeople who resent her sleuthing. Her arch rival turns out to be the snarky cupcake queen Delilah who sets her eyes on Otis.

Agnes, Effie, and their gaggle of equally quirky guests engage in numerous adventures in the name of investigations. Agnes has some close brushes with death and seriously considers leaving the craziness of the Stagecoach Inn behind to return to graduate school. What will it take to discover the murderer and to invest Agnes fully in life in Naneda? The end of this fun and humorous cozy mystery will reveal all.

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: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Agnes and Effie Mystery Series, but works as a standalone

Publication:  April 6, 2018—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines: 

…in my “new” car. This was a fifteen-year-old whitish minivan that looked like a cross between a handheld Dustbuster and the Space Shuttle. Its undercarriage was about two inches from the ground and bumped and scraped on every last pebble. At speeds over forty-five miles per hour, it felt in danger of disintegration.

To say I had butterflies in my stomach is an understatement. It felt as if I had pterodactyls swooping around in there.

Over the past weeks, our new relationship had felt like a fragile, enhanced bubble. I had made sure not to get too comfortable, because if I got comfortable, settled in, made myself at home, it would hurt that much more when the bubble inevitably popped. 

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?”

Ditched 4 Murder–murder mystery with a side of humor

Ditched 4 Murder

by J.C. Eaton

Ditched 4 MurderPhee (Sophie Kimball) is still acclimating to Arizona’s high temperatures: quite a change from Minnesota. She is employed as a bookkeeper at Williams Investigations, on a year’s leave of absence from the Mankato Police Department. She makes it clear that she is not a Private Investigator and has no ambitions to be one. Despite her inclinations, she gets dragged into several murder investigations because of her family ties. Her mother and her looney aunt, a soon-to-be-bride in her seventies, are already part of the aging retirement community in Sun West City, and they call on her frequently for support and particularly in tough times. Phee is in her forties and is quite likable and intelligent. Although she is single, there is no potential love interest in this book.

Ditched 4 Murder is a cozy mystery by J.C. Eaton. I enjoyed the Arizona setting, the characters, many of whom are in the catering business, and the plot with multiple threads and many complications. Especially appealing is the author’s sense of humor, a delight throughout.

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: #2 in the Sophie Kimball Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone

Publication:  November 28, 2017—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

“Quaint! Don’t you know what that means? It means no air-conditioning, no cable TV, forget about a mini-fridge and a microwave, and we’ll be lucky if they stick a fan in the room. There’s only one thing worse than quaint, and that’s rustic. Thank God she did’t pick rustic. That means no electricity and an outhouse!”

…honey, we spend the first fifty years of our lives collecting things and the next fifty giving them away.

“You ever think about doing that detective stuff, Phee?” I walked to the outside office. “Sure, I think about it. It’s right up there with trekking the Andes and riding an Icelandic horse across glacial rivers.”

Bones to Pick–vegan delight

Bones to Pick

by Linda Lovely

Bones to PickBased on the cover of Bones to Pick, I expected a light-hearted mystery featuring a pig. Instead, I found Linda Lovely’s first book in her new Brie Hooker Mystery Series to be a humorous cozy mystery with a tangled plot. The pig has only a very minor role, and the focus is on Brie Hooker, an MBA carrying former banker turned vegan chef. A lot of the humor in the book is derived either from her food preferences or her relationships to two “hunky” guys who are also best friends, Paint and Andy.

The death of a beloved aunt segues into a story of spousal abuse, murder, corrupt cops, mysterious investments, death threats, and a very old feud. Brie has to sort her way through small town South Carolina politics and relationships with the help of her family and friends to solve this mystery. Helping out with a large goat farm and producing award-winning cheese that only a non-vegan could love may not be part of Brie’s original dream, but she now has lots of reasons to make Ardon County her new home.

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: Mystery, General Fiction (Adult)

Notes: #1 in the Brie Hooker Mystery Series

Publication:   October 24, 2017—Henery Press

Memorable Lines: 

Even minus an introduction, I figured this tall glass of sweet tea had to be Paint, the legendary owner of Magic Moonshine. Sunlight glinted off hair the blue-black of expensive velvet. Deep dimples. Rakish smile.

As usual, Dad had sole custody of the TV remote. Did Mom even know how to use it?

Pools of water camouflaged the potholes that occupied half the graveled roadbed. My bouncing headlamps lit up the rutted drive like a reverse Rorschach ink blot test. The water appeared as blobs of shimmering yellow splattered across a black canvas.

The Trouble with Harriet–what is in that urn?

The Trouble with Harriet

by Dorothy Cannell

The Trouble with HarrietThe Trouble with Harriet is different from many cozy mysteries that start with a crime to immediately draw the reader in. Instead the reader is enticed with more personal events—a chance meeting with a gypsy, a prospective getaway trip to France, and the appearance of a surprise visitor.

Replete with quirky characters displaying a flair for the dramatic, this book reads like a play from the era of Arsenic and Old Lace. I can picture cousin Freddy climbing with little ado through the living room window to make his entrance. Ellie’s father possesses a penchant for the dramatic. The Hoppers, who resemble stacking Russian dolls, are the things comedy is made of. The vicar in his dotage who rarely remembers what he should be doing provides all kinds of interesting possibilities. This book is quite enjoyable and would make an amusing theatrical production, featuring a play within a play.

The mystery develops gently during the course of the book, but with the reader unaware of it. It begins simply, but adds complexity as the book progresses. The Trouble with Harriet is an enjoyable book in an enjoyable series.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery, Historical

Notes: #8 in the Ellie Haskell Mystery Series (which currently has 13 books). In spite of having previously read only #7, I found this book delightful. I’m sure reading the whole series would be fun, but not necessary.

Publication: June 13, 2017—Random House Publishing Group (Alibi)

Memorable Lines:

She had a fatal flaw as a listener. She enjoyed the sound of her own voice.

And the world is filled with qualified interior designers, although possibly not in Chatterton Fells, where people tend to consider switching a picture from one side of the room to another a major renovation.

“You can’t go through life being an irresponsible charmer and not expect impressionable females to fall all over you.” “Sometimes I feel like a pound of bacon during wartime rationing.”

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