Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “humor”

narfna’s #CBR4 Review #59: Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

bernadetteWell, let this be a lesson to those who would open their mouths and spew venom into the world. I once wrote very publicly and loudly in a review that I could never love a satire — don’t even remember which book I was reviewing. The point is, this book has made me eat my words. This fucking book, man. I loved it. It’s my cheese, my oreo cookie, my soft blanket on a cold winter’s night, my let’s pack everything up and head out for an adventure because FUCK YEAH WE’RE ALIVE. I’m so glad I randomly picked this book up at my library. Like, last second, I was checking out and there it was, and I just grabbed it. Best last minute decision ever.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a modern day epistolary novel, but not like one of those ones you read as a teenager with like whiny emails and diary entries from lovelorn pimple-faces, it’s like layers and layers of subtle genius. Bee is fifteen and loves her mother, her eccentric and troubled mother, who one day disappears. The book is a meta-compilation supposedly put together by Bee of emails, articles, and other assorted correspondences that tell the story of Bernadette: what made her who she is, and what led up to her disappearance. The first 75% of the book is just a delightful satire, on the wealthy and privileged, on the self-deluded and spiritually empty — but what really makes it are the bits of real emotion that are constantly peeking through. This story genuinely made me feel things, and like I mean that it in all caps, FEEL THINGS. Plus, it’s just wacky. Maria Semple used to work on Arrested Development, if that gives you some idea of what I mean by ‘wacky.’

Now, just to warn you, I’m writing this all high off the ending (which was just fucking lovely), so I might be a bit biased, and you might end up reading it and being like, Ashley, what the fuck? Just keep that in mind. But to put it in frame of reference, I liked this book almost as much as I liked Ready Player One (and I fucking love Ready Player One), but it’s a different kind of love.

I don’t want to say anymore because I just want you to go read the book. I mean it. GO!

taralovesbooks’ #CBR4 Review #46: Hilarity Ensues by Tucker Max

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Cannonball Read IV: Book #46/52
Published: 2012
Pages: 448
Genre: Humor

Sigh. I don’t even know where to start with this one. I read Tucker Max’s first book when I was in college (roughly 5 years ago…eek!) and thought it was hilarious. The guy was an asshole, no doubt, but he owned it at least. The second book was okay. Funny, but it lost some the charm of the first book. This third book? Completely lost any charm that may have ever existed.

Read the rest in my blog.

ElCicco #CBR4 Review#48: Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles

Care of Wooden Floors is a sometimes amusing, sometimes unsettling novel, with several tips of the hat to Edgar Allan Poe. The story’s narrator, an Englishman who is never given a name and whom I shall hereafter refer to as “N,” has just arrived in an East European country to stay at his friend Oskar’s flat while he’s in California. Oskar is a successful composer, fastidious and demanding, with high standards for everything — music, food, drink, living space. The man loves and craves order. His best known composition is based on the theme of tram schedules and he is working on a piece that will be an homage to the Dewey decimal system. His apartment is a newly renovated masterpiece with fine wooden floors. When it comes to things, Oskar demands and gets the best. When it comest to people, he is often disappointed. His wife has left him and returned to California to divorce him (the reason for his absence) and his friend, the narrator, is watching the apartment and cats while Oskar is away.

Why Oskar is friends with N is puzzling to both reader and narrator. N is not particularly successful at anything in his life. He wants to be a writer but is employed as a pamphleteer for his local council. His girlfriend has left him, his apartment is a dump. Oskar and N met in college and maintained a friendship, it seems, because N was the only person willing to put up with Oskar’s persnickety ways and Oskar has worked at maintaining the friendship over time despite his seeming disdain for N’s slovenliness and overall mediocrity. Their personalities are quite opposite. In telling N about his divorce, Oskar says, “People say, this is difficult, that is difficult. It is an excuse for failing, for doing something wrong. It is not difficult — it should not be difficult. As long as there are some rules, some agreements, people should know how to do things, then everything should be easy.” For N on the other hand, “Perfection is aggressive. It is a rebuke.”

When N arrives, Oskar has already gone to California and has left written instructions for N throughout the apartment, often in unexpected places, as if he knows in advance what N  is going to do. Oskar is especially concerned about his floors and has left explicit instructions to call him if anything happens. Naturally, something does happen and N does not call. N seems afraid of Oskar’s reaction but also welcomes the opportunity to put one over on Oskar by somehow hiding what he has done. N thinks he can fix the problems, but as he bumbles about, trying to salvage an increasingly degenerating situation, it is as if Oskar has anticipated every fumble that N would make and has a note waiting. This contributes to N’s frustration and makes him more adamant that he will not give in, he will not call Oskar.

In some ways, this story is like one of those contemporary Hollywood comedies wherein the “hero” is a drunken lout who, through carelessness and bad luck, has to deal with problems that get worse as he tries to fix them. N actually compares his situation to that of Wile E Coyote at one point. Since the narrator is indeed a drunken lout, and he is presenting from his point of view alone, the reader is not always sure if N’s version of events is accurate and truthful. And as story progresses, the reader knows something truly awful will happen. In fact a couple of really awful things happen, and the reader might start to wonder about the reliability and mental stability of the narrator.

Care of Wooden Floors is quite suspenseful and drives the reader forward to see what is going to happen. I was not wholly satisfied with the ending of the novel. I had hoped for something unexpected, even macabre, but the author gives us something worthy of a Hollywood comedy (and not a terribly funny one). Overall, it was an okay book and I feel bad saying that because I feel like I should have loved it. Just didn’t.

Cfar1′s #CBR4 Review #12 of Edmund Crispin’s The Case of the Gilded Fly

The second of the Edmund Crispin books I bought was The Case of the Gilded Fly.  It was actually first in the series, but the second I read.  In this book, a theater company comes to Oxford University to try out a new play.  The producer and author of the play is famous, but his last production flopped, so he is bringing his leading lady/mistress with him and using a local acting company to test this play with a smaller audience first.  The lead actress of the local group is a rather hated young woman who was previously dumped by the producer.  Shortly after rehearsals start, she gets shot in the bedroom of the chapel organist and hi jinks ensue.  I didn’t find the book as humorous as the previous one.  I also had some issues with the solution.  It seemed sort of lame and a cop out.  There was some humorous dialogue and the murder was almost a surprise, but I just didn’t buy it.  Overall, I enjoyed reading the book for the entertaining characters and the atmosphere, but plot, pacing and mystery were seriously lacking.

Funkyfacecat’s #CBR4 Review #14: Snuff by Terry Pratchett

I’ve really come to like writing these reviews, getting into it and meandering verbosely through a book (whether many people manage to wade through my prolixity is another matter). However, this means that I tend to put off writing them till I’m in the right frame of mind and have enough time, and now the year is well more than half over and I’m very behind, so I’m going to try and do some very quick ones. Exposition, highlighting of a main theme, evaluation, quote, boom. Let’s see how that works out.

Terry Pratchett’s Snuff returns us to the inimitable Sam Vimes, reluctant Duke, loving husband, adoring father and experienced – perhaps too experienced for his own comfort – policeman. Forced to go on holiday by the subtly joined forces of his wife Lady Sybil and benevolent (or pragmatic) tyrant Vetinari (who have quite different motivations), Vimes nevertheless manages to find crime and oppression and wades into its midst, determined to stamp it out despite the fact that his trusty boots are far from his familiar streets. There is smuggling, murder, a secret world of goblins hidden in a hill, and the rural charms of beetroot ale and games of crockett.

It seems to me that as Pratchett gets older, Vimes’s pure blazing fury that blasts through shades of grey and lights the darkness in people’s hearts and deeds burns brighter, although it casts shadows of its own. Vimes will not see innocent (or rather no worse than human) beings trodden down and exploited; he will not allow anyone, regardless of class or wealth, get away with more than he can possibly help. This will sometimes comes into conflict with Vetinari, with the rest of the world, but here Vimes’s family provides much-needed comfort to him (and us?) amid the bleakness of his (and our) world, while the battle of interests provides great food for thought on morality and ethics and how not to treat sentient beings like things.

There are a couple of flaws in Snuff, to my mind; a subplot connecting the Ankh-Morpork force to events in the country and abroad could have perhaps been cut, and a family of daintily-dressed sisters on the marriage market could have cropped up more often after their introduction (like the Chekovian orchard ladies in The Fifth Elephant)  – I was disappointed when they disappeared. The great talent possessed by the oppressed beings is awfully convenient, but then again I think his point was the importance of looking beneath the exterior. Overall, however, Snuff is a gripping read; there are plots and chases and plenty of room for Vimes’s trademark speeches while accosting evildoers. There is lots of humour as well, bouncing in a typically Pratchettesque (Pratchettian?) fashion from arch literary references to mocking manners and mores to slapstick and wordplay to the frankly scatological – Young Sam takes great delight in exploring the world of poo. I very much enjoyed Snuff, continue to adore Vimes, and find the development of Vimes the Family Man an increasingly appealing layer in the novels set among the police force. I would not, perhaps, recommend Snuff as the starting place for discovering Pratchett, but it’s a great continuation of the wonder that is Discworld.

“Sam Vimes knew that the best thing he could say was nothing, and he sank back into the depths, thinking words like fiddler, sharp dealer, inserter of a crafty crowbar between what is right and wrong, and mine and thine, wide boy, financier, and untouchable

Gently drifting into a world where the good guys and the bad guys so often changed hats without warning, Vimes wrestled sleeplessness to the ground and made certain that it got eight hours.” (219)

Pratchett, Terry. Snuff. London: Transworld (Corgi), 2011.

narfna’s #CBR4 Review #52: Redshirts by John Scalzi

CANNONBALL!!!!

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself, and I really couldn’t have picked a better book for my #52. Scalzi is now officially on my list of my favorite authors ever, and not because what he writes is necessarily deep or profound or written in the most complex language, but simply because the guy knows how to write a smart, fun book. I know I’ve compared Scalzi’s books to Mexican food before, but really it’s the best comparison. Reading Scalzi, and Redshirts in particular, is the literary equivalent of eating a really good burrito — it’s not the most nutritious food in the universe, but it fills you up, and damn does it taste good going down.

A redshirt, for those of you who don’t know the term (and where have you been living?) is a character type popularized by the Star Trek franchise. A redshirt exists only to die, a cheap and easy way to up the ante in any given situation, and in the original Star Trek series, they almost always wore the red shirt of a Starfleet security officer. Scalzi takes this concept and runs away with it, making a group of redshirts in a Star Trek spoof universe his main heroes. Instead of Captain Kirk, we have Captain Abernathy. Instead of the USS Enterprise, we have the Universal Union’s flagship, the Intrepid. The new recruits, led by narrator and protagonist Ensign Andrew Dahl, quickly realize there is something horribly wrong aboard the Intrepid — awful, catastrophic things seem to occur on a regular basis, especially on away missions, and while the five most senior officers on the ship always seem to survive, at least one crew member always, always dies. The entire crew lives in fear that they might be next, and none of them understand why.

Redshirts is a tongue-in-cheek, laugh out loud spoof, but it’s also a loving homage to a subject that Scalzi clearly feels affection for. Even if you aren’t that familiar with Star Trek in any of its incarnations, Star Trek itself has had such a huge impact on popular culture that you’re going to get the jokes in this book, because you’ve seen them other places in the forty-five years since Star Trek first aired. It’s part of the zeitgeist. And even if you don’t get the jokes, Redshirts is still a rip-roaring good yarn with likable characters and a zippy, clever, lightning-fast narrative. Redshirts also comes with three codas, each a sort of epilogue to the main narrative that fills out the Redshirts universe and some hanging plot threads that weren’t crucial to the main narrative. All three are fun little vignettes that I’m glad Scalzi included — I like to see authors getting experimental every once in a while.

If you like science fiction at all, run out and get Redshirts right now. You’ll laugh your asses off, and it will remind you of the many reasons you love the genre in the first place. I guess the rest of you can suck it, because WTF? What is wrong with you. Anyway, you might like it, too.

[Cross-posted to Goodreads]

taralovesbooks’ #CBR4 Review #21: Sloppy Seconds by Tucker Max

Cannonball Read IV: Book #21/52
Published: 2012
Pages: 288
Genre: Nonfiction/Humor

I read the first two Tucker Max books back in college. For some reason, they were definitely more funny back then. Anyways, his stories are still pretty entertaining, but the older I get the more irritated I get by his immature antics that occasionally go beyond the realm of funny and venture into just plain cruel.

Read the rest of my review in my blog.

Katie’s #CBR4 Review #33: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Title: The Eyre Affair
Author: Jasper Fforde
Source: library
Rating: ★★★★★
Review Summary:  There aren’t many books out there which remind me of Catch-22 or Douglas Adam’s novels, but this is one of them and it’s hilarious.  Witty, fun, a great plot, and a happy ending – I loved it.

In The Eyre Affair, in an alternate reality London, Thursday Next works for a special operatives group devoted to literary crimes.  Theft, forgery, and violence related to great literary works is becoming more common in a world including a cult devoted to proving Francis Bacon wrote the works of Shakespeare and kids playing collectible card games based on obscure authors. And things are only going to get more exciting as the evil-for-evil’s-sake Acheron Hades begins kidnapping fictional characters from original works, threatening to re-write the classics if Thursday doesn’t stop him.

Read more here…

narfna’s #CBR4 Review #48: Stiff by Mary Roach

I love Mary Roach and this book was fascinating, but I think it might have been just a little bit too morbid for me.

As I noted in my review of Bonk, Mary Roach is a curious lady. She seems to think it her life’s mission* to pick areas of interest and then dive into them in ways that most people either haven’t thought of, or have thought of but were too embarrassed to ask about. Stiff was her first book (before that she was a freelance writer, mostly doing humorous yet educational pieces for Reader’s Digest, Vogue, GQ, Discover, and The New York Times Magazine), but somehow I ended up reading the Mary Roach body of work backwards, and this is actually the last one I’ve read, even though it was first published. In case you care (you don’t), I like the ones about sex and space the best, but that’s probably because I like reading about sex and space. One of the great things about Roach’s writing is that it’s remarkably consistent, and her same curious and irreverent (but always respectful) manner can be applied to all manner of topics — you always know what you’ll be getting into when you pick up one of her books. And who the heck knows what she’s going to write about next.

*Either that, or she’s making a shit ton of money off of doing that exact thing over and over, so why not just keeping do it? Mary Roach’s publishers say, “More please!”

In Stiff, Roach examines the many things that happen to our bodies after we die, but her main avenue of inquiry is what happens to bodies people have “donated to science.” As you’ll find out if you read the book (or the next couple of sentences that I’m about to type), donating your body “to science” could mean any number of things. She writes about surgeons practicing techniques on severed heads, cadavers being preserved for eternity as art exhibits*, bodies being used as crash-test dummies to make cars safer for those of us who are still living, and the use of cadavers in weapons and ballistics research. There’s even a whole chapter about gravedigging, which was the main way that doctors/researchers obtained human remains to study way back in the day. One of the things Roach is careful to note is that when you donate your body to science, you have no choice over where you will end up. I might consider donating my body to science if I could guarantee I’d end up as a skeleton in a classroom, or as an exhibit at Bodyworlds, but there’s no way I’m getting my head chopped off so plastic surgeons can mess around with my face muscles. NO THANK YOU.

Even though it was really interesting, for most of the book I found myself slightly sick to my stomach, and kind of appalled at what physically happens to us after we die. The last chapter made me feel slightly better — Roach goes into detail about a Swedish (or was she Belgian? I can’t remember) scientist who is pioneering composting as a means of burial. If this is a thing ever I want it to happen to me (not as creepy as it sounds — they don’t just bury you and let you naturally turn into fertilizer — there’s this thing they do to halt the natural decaying process and then you just kind of gradually merge with the dirt without so much as making one little stink). I used to joke that I wanted to be encased in honey in a glass tomb and then lowered to the bottom of a very clear lake, but I think this composting thing might be a more realistic option. Instead of getting all moldy in a grave or burnt to a creepy crisp, I can grow my very own dead Ashley tree!

Anyways, check this Mary Roach shit out, ya’ll. Especially Packing for Mars, because there is a whole chapter about pooping in space!

DragonDreamsJen’s #CBR4 Review #33 Invincible by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Invincible is the second book in the Chronicles of Nick YA series written by Sherrilyn Kenyon.  Like the first one, it is a wonderful romp into the Dark-Hunter world that Kenyon created, without the overtly detailed romance scenes that made her adult novels so popular.  Nick Gautier survived the zombie attacks in the first novel and is slowly adapting to the idea that the world as he knew it is not all that it seems.  While his fortunes may be turning around, the new football coach has a dark side that is far more sinister than anyone   realizes and the powers of darkness are still intent on getting him to give in to an Evil destiny which could destroy the world.  The future doesn’t have to be set in stone, but can the advice from “Cousin Ambrose” be trusted?  Will those closest to him keep him from turning into a monster to rival his father or betray him in the end?

Sherrilyn Kenyon knows how to keep a reader on the edge of their seat and laughing out loud at the same time!  The main character in this novel is so endearing and so full of teenage boy attitude that you don’t know whether to hug him or hit him at times.  His ability to struggle with what is thrown at him and the strange powers that he is developing gives readers hope that they can face challenges in their own lives with half as much determination and tenacity.  Despite incredible odds, Nick manages to find solutions that allow him to triumph in his own unique way, set against the rich, intricate backdrop of Kenyon’s Dark Hunter world. I found myself begrudging the times I had to put this book down for such mundane things as cooking supper and taking care of other household chores.  I inhaled Invincible in a day and after reading the shocking last few sentences, I knew that there was NO WAY I could wait for the third book to come out in paperback… so it was added to the basket on my very next trip to the bookstore!

Paperback format, 420 pages, published in 2011 by St. Martin’s Griffin

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