Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “funny”

Krista’s #CBR4 Review #14 – 20, too many books to mention

You guys! I have totally hit 52 books (actually, just finished #53 tonight!) and have been thinking about how it is going to be impossible to write these dang reviews. But here I am, sitting down and doing it because I don’t want all of that reading to go to waste! Of the 53 books I’ve read, I’ve already reviewed 13 of thew (PHEW!) and tonight I got seven more reviews down (to varying degrees of reviewiness). Here are the links to the full reviews on my review blog:

14. You Have Seven Messages, Stewart Lewis
really, really wanted to like this novel. I was — and still am — in love with the concept. Conceptually, it is a great idea, and one that could work very well in the hands of a skilled writer. Unfortunately, Stewart Lewis is not that author and while I did enjoy, for the most part, reading this book, there were a lot of things that just. didn’t. work.

15. Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys
I’m no history buff and I don’t know a lot — if anything! — about this part of World War II and the Holocaust, but I really found this to be a well-written, touching novel. The level of human suffering that was experienced made my heart ache, and I wanted to find Sepetys personally and give her a giant hug.

16. Interrupted, Jen Hatmaker
I think this book nails the gospel message on the head. It’s funny, as per Jen’s usual MO, but it’s although amazingly thought-provoking. Jen shares some staggering statistics about poverty, orphans, and disease that exists not only in the world but in the US.

17. Mended, Angie Smith
Mended is Angie’s 3rd book and is pretty amazing. It’s a collection of blog posts written throughout the years, edited and condensed into a format that would work well for a book. Most of the chapters I’ve read before in their original blog format. Many people might find it kind of sucky to read a bunch of blog posts again, only in a book format, but I was really happy with the way this turned out. It was such an inspiration to read through these funny, honest, raw posts. I’m reminded time and time again that there are Christian authors whose works are not full of cheese and sap.

18. Christian History Made Easy, Timothy Paul Jones
This will be my most concise review ever.

19. Friends Forever, Danielle Steel
I don’t usually by Danielle Steel books because a) she is an awful writer and b) nope, mostly because she’s just an awful writer. I’ll read them if they were free from the library or from a friend, but for some reason I thought I’d read this. I’m not sure what possessed me to buy this one because I hadn’t read any especially heavy books before this, so… call it a moment of insanity.

20. The Condition, Jennifer Haigh
To be honest, I was initially disappointed when there wasn’t actually that much focus on Turner Syndrome as the description of the book made out, but after reflecting on what “the condition” even meant, I realized it was something that had so much more meaning than Gwen’s condition.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #2 – Now it’s Funny – How I Survived Cancer, Divorce, and Other Looming Disasters

Michael Solomon went through quite a lot during the early 2000s.  The year he turned 40, he saw a doctor about a colonoscopy.  Not for fun, but because his family had a pretty serious history of colon cancer, and his dad had been bugging him for years.  During his visit with the doctor, the doctor randomly said “you should get a chest x-ray too.”  Michael avoided the colonoscopy itself for months (for obvious reasons), but decided that the chest x-ray wouldn’t be that big a deal.  And it wasn’t.  Until it was.

A week later, his doctor calls him.  At 9 o’clock at night.  You know that it’s not going to be a happy call when your doctor calls you that late.  There is something small, probably not alarming, and he should have a CT scan just to be on the safe side.  The good news was that the small thing on the x-ray was nothing, but they found something in the other lung, and maybe something on his liver, too.  So it’s off to the pulmonologist.  After some more tests, needles, scans, and biopsies, many of which sound awful and painful, it’s official:  lymphoma.  Now he has to tell everyone, including his 6-year old son, and decide what he wants to do.  Chemo?  Radiation?  Surgery?

I won’t go into the details of his treatment, which is frustrating and often painful.  While he’s going through cancer treatment, Michael’s marriage is ending.  Oh, and September 11, 20o1 happens. I don’t know if he dealt with all of this with the humor and aplomb he describes at the time it was happening, but according to the introduction, he wrote most of this book while he was having these experiences.  Regardless, the re-telling is very funny and encouraging.  It is possible to go through multiple traumas (traumae?), knowing that you could possibly die, and come out the other end stronger, and with your sense of humor intact.

I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying that Solomon survives.  It is clear that this is not your typical cancer memoir.  Maybe it should be required reading for anyone dealing with a diagnosis.  Solomon is honest about everything, even the embarrassing parts, the gross parts, and the parts where you think you can’t go on.  He did go on, lived to tell about it, and lived to make us laugh with him about it.

rusha24’s #CBR4 review #11: The Fallback Plan by Leigh Stein

I’m pretty sure The Fallback Plan was written for me. I mean, literally me. It concerns a 22 yo girl (er, young woman?), recently graduated with an arts degree, who moves back in with her parents in Suburbia because of a lack of savings, direction, motivation, or a plan. I just turned 23, graduated last year with a degree in creative writing, and am about to move back in with my parents in Suburbia. Sure, I have “plans” to find a job and work on applications to MFA programs (screenwriting, just like Esther the protagonist, of course), but I’m still floating back to a place that’s not really home, aimless for the most part, and inclined to offer up a big “fuck you” re The Future. (Not really. Really, I’m just scared.)

I guess what I’m trying to say is that while The Fallback Plan is not exactly a great book (though not bad), I happened to read it at precisely the time at which it would have maximum impact on someone like me. The author herself, Leigh Stein, is of a similar age to me, with similar pop-culture predilections, so every single allusion to a song, a book, Facebook interactions, college experiences, a childhood memory—these all rung uncannily true for me.  So while the writing was decent but nothing special, the voice funny but not uniquely engaging, I felt this character in a very real way.

This character is Esther, an actress in college, depressed but not in a severe or manic way—it’s more of an afterthought. She gets impatient showing her dad how to change fonts on the computer, tells herself she’ll write a screenplay about pandas, gets drunk with old childhood friends who never managed to escape their hometown, even for school, and half-jokingly wishes for a disease— not debilitating—that would enable her to get government subsidization and live without any real purpose. With her mom’s nudging, Esther gets a job watching the 4 yo daughter of a nearby couple who are still recovering from the tragic loss of their baby daughter the year before. She manages to become the confidant for both adults, while developing genuine maternal instincts for the daughter; essentially, she finds herself entangled in a family which is experiencing both what she dreads and is nostalgic for—real pain and the innocence of childhood.

The book is a very quick read, light and easy to digest, but it’s got its finger on the pulse of my current generation, and I think that kind of relevancy deserves some respect. Esther is neither unlikable nor particularly endearing, yet she is undeniably emblematic of the many young, white, middle-class 20somethings that are both entitled and adrift, immature but also facing the inheritance of a truly fucked-up society, one which seems to reward perpetual infantilism. Yet Esther grows up during the course of the book. Not a lot, no leaps and bounds, but a noticeable difference. Baby steps. (Not an accidental term here.) Here’s hoping I take longer strides during my year at home.

Malin’s #CBR4 Reviews #40-42: Empowered volumes 1-3 by Adam Warren

The somewhat ironically named Empowered is a C-list superhero whose powers are given to her by her ultra skintight supersuit (so much so that she can’t wear underwear underneath it and even has to have very careful personal grooming so that nothing shows when she’s wearing it). While the suit is intact, she’s strong enough to lift and throw cars and even zap people from a distance, but the suit is also ridiculously fragile, prone to ripping if she catches on a nail, thorn, tack or say, gets shot at. The more the suit tears, the faster she loses a her powers, leaving her frequently captured, bound and gagged (in ridiculously skimpy, yet conveniently strategically covering tatters) by various super villains. Her team, “The Super-homeys” rarely take her seriously, and she’s most frequently used as bait. She’s blond and buxum, but has terrible self-esteem issues and is convinced that her butt is too big.

The first volume is pretty much a series of short vignettes, interrupted by fairly meta chapter breaks where  “Emp” explains her origin as a bondage prone sketch Adam Warren would draw for fans at conventions, then flesh out with a back story and turn into a surprisingly sweet and very clever satire on sexy superhero comics. Over the course of the first volume, Emp (her real name isn’t revealed until volume 3) meets her boyfriend, a sometime super villain henchman, and her best friend, Ninjette (who is unsurprisingly a ninja), and ends up sharing a flat with the “Caged Demonwolf”, a cosmic beast entrapped in alien bondage gear who lives atop her coffee table (possibly my favourite character). In volumes 2 and 3, the stories are longer, and continue to explore the world of Empowered, the Superhomeys, the various rather ridiculous super villains they fight, and the myriad ways in which  poor Emp can be captured, humiliated, bound and gagged.

While the art is very sexy, and Emp is frequently more unclothed than not, there is never any complete nudity, the book is very good about equal opportunity cheesecake art, with Emp’s boyfriend Thugboy frequently shown just as scantily clad as her. It’s clearly a aimed at an adult audience, with quite a few sex scenes in especially volumes 1 and 3 and quite a lot of violence (in a very manga style) in all 3 volumes. Refreshingly, as a female comics reader, I never felt this comic is as insulting to or exploitative of women as several more mainstream superhero comics. For all it’s near nudity and bondage prone heroine, the main premise of the comic is sweet. I very much agree with this article on Comics Alliance, that Empowered is a comic that gets sexy superheroes just right. I will absolutely be getting more, as soon as my budget allows it.

Crossposted with my blog, Malin’s Blog of Books.

LurkeyTurkey, #CBR4 Review #15, Wild Thing by Josh Bazell

Hello, fellow Cannonballers!  I’ve fallen off the literary map lately due to a move from Our Nation’s Capital to the Windy City.  But now I’m back, and only slightly worse for the wear.  “Wild Thing:” Impossible to live up to the first Bazell novel, “Beat the Reaper,” which was gruesome, hilarious, irreverent, and terrific.  “Wild Thing” is…. less so?

The novel continues with the protagonist, Dr. Peter Brown, though this time around, courtesy of the WITSEC program, he has a new name and a phony medical license.  He is serving as the junior medical doctor aboard a cruise ship, which is apparently the kiss of death for practicing doctors.  The descriptions of staff life aboard the cruise liner are hilarious and depressing, in classic Bazell style.  He is still trying to come up with the cash required to “finish” his ruined relationship with the Mafia, and as such gets connected with a perhaps-insane-billionaire and a wild-ass plot device, replete with a smoking hot paleontologist named Violet.  Uh huh.

I suppose I would best describe this as a kitchen-sink kind of novel: everything was thrown in, including the protagonist.  Peter Brown was somewhat wasted on this trek to find out if the Loch Ness Monster, Part Deux, actually existed in North America and had a taste for mammalian blood.  There are some interesting characters, but by the time a real-life political figure works their way into the book, it simply doesn’t have enough focus (or connection to reality) to conclude in any really satisfying way, which is a shame.  Bazell nearly pulls it off, but then not quite.

I’m hoping this is a sophomore slump, and the next book in the series will be back to a kick-ass kind of madness. Not a bad read, and we listened to it on audiobook from DC to Chicago, which passed the time in an entertaining, if NSFW, way. Thanks, Josh Bazell, now get out there and write another Peter Brown book!

rusha24’s #CBR review #6: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

I just finished reading David Foster Wallace’s mammoth Infinite Jest, and though it wasn’t the first time I’d read it, I still feel exactly the same as the first time I came to the last page—shattered.  There’s something about it that seems to leave you bare, strips away much of the pretense that saturates the way we interact with each other. I’m pretty much at an utter loss as to how to write this, because I’ve never read a book that seems to defy a review as much as this one. Intense examination, deep analysis, extensive rumination—it both calls for and deserves all of these. But summation, cursory critique, the “give-it-to-me-in-a-nutshell?” Impossible. Infinite Jest is sprawling, terrifically ambitious, truly epic.  It concerns teenagers at a tennis academy, a Boston half-way house, and a filmmaker’s lost magnum opus—rumored to be a piece of entertainment so perfect that its viewer is lost to a permanent state of stupefied ecstasy. But if someone were to ask me “what it’s about,” I’d have to say (knowing full well how vague and banal and unsatisfying this must sound) that it’s about what it means to be human.

The book takes place in the near future; as the national calendar has been corporatized, each year represents the highest bidder: the Year of the Whopper, the Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad, etc. Much of the book’s events take place in the Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment, though the narrative is anything but linear—not as much moving forward and back as it moves sideways. Wallace’s predilection for footnotes is on full display here—footnotes within footnotes, whole chapters buried in footnotes, footnotes that only allude to other footnotes. In fact, all of Wallace’s favorite stylistic flourishes and fetishes can be found draped all over the 1,000 plus pages of Infinite Jest, things that have often earned him critiques like: pretentious, tedious, gimmicky, obnoxiously Post-modern, and turgidly erudite.

The thing is, some of those critiques might be deserved.  Or rather, I wouldn’t argue them. There are sections of the books that groan under the weight of ponderous description. The footnotes can be a bitch (though the fragmentation is very much intended and effective, I think), and some pages you simply have to slog through. Sometimes the zany plot gets too, well, zany. I admit all this. But really: it’s all beside the point. Because all of that pales next to what the book manages to do as a whole, which is to speak to the absolute hilarity, the depraved depths, the loneliness and heartbreak and sheer joy that is being alive.

Near the middle of the book, we get this: “The older Mario gets, the more confused he gets about the fact that everyone at E.T.A over the age of Kent Blott finds stuff that’s really real uncomfortable and they get embarrassed. It’s like there’s some rule that real stuff can only get mentioned if everybody rolls their eyes or laughs in a way that isn’t happy.” David Foster Wallace has never liked this rule, and in Infinite Jest, he tells it to “fuck off” like he never has before. He gets “really real uncomfortable” and dares you to roll your eyes.  You probably will. And you’ll probably laugh, too.  But if you keep reading, it’ll hit you in the stomach. This is stomach-level stuff.  It’s tremendously sad, sometimes even depressing, but it’s also the most honest book about happiness I’ve ever read.

HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #21: Trail of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz

This is document 5 in Lisa Lutz’s Spellman series, and it was wonderful. For those of you haven’t been introduced to the wonderfully dysfunctional family of private investigators, the Spellmans, I recommend starting with document 1, The Spellman Files. It’s not necessary, because the book contains an appendix reviewing all the major players, but it helps. Lutz introduces a few new characters in this book (an ex-con, Demetrius, their grandmother, Henry’s mom) and brings back some of our favorite old players (Bernie, Fred).

These books are just funny. Laugh out loud funny. There’s an appropriate level of romance, with Isabel’s on again/of again relationship with the (probable) love of her life, Henry the cop. There’s quirk, but not reaching New Girl levels of quirkiness. The family is goofy, the things they do to each other in a never ending series of revenge stunts are ludicrous, and there’s usually some kind of mystery tossed in for good measure.

More…!

Figgy’s #CBR4 Review #8: “The Devil Wears Prada” by Lauren Weisberger

“Think of the worst boss you ever had. Think of every ridiculous habit, every ridiculous demand, ever time you wanted to set the building on fire because of them. Now multiply that by, oh, a thousand, and you’ll end up with Miranda Priestly, the villain of this book and one of the most hilariously evil characters I’ve ever read.”

 

Read the rest of the review here!

Figgy’s #CBR4 Review #6 and #7: “Kiss of the Highlander” and “The Dark Highlander” by Karen Marie Moning

Oh, boy. How do I get out of this one? How do I admit that I read not one, but two romance novels about sexy, sexy Highlanders who have racy adventures with plucky, virginal girls? I buck up, that’s what. I sit my butt down and try to review them as quickly as possible so that we can all forget that this ever happened.

Read the rest of the review here.

Malin’s #CBR4 Review #9: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

I have never watched a single episode of the American version of The Office (I know, what cave have I been living in?), but after reading Mindy Kaling’s very funny autobiography, I’m absolutely going to mainline as many seasons as I can find.

 Last year, I read Tina Fey’s Bossypants, and it was as many other people have also agree, absolutely hilarious. Through CBRIII and IV, and on other review sites on the interwebs, I saw mention of Mindy Kaling’s book, and while not as funny as Fey’s book (possibly made funnier by me loving Mean Girls and 30 Rock), it still made me burst out laughing (to the point where I got weird looks on public transport) about once a page. It’s a delightful and very quick read. To quote Kaling herself: “This book will take you two days to read. Did you even see the cover? It’s mostly pink. If you’re reading this book every night for months, something is not right.”

 Kaling makes humorous observations about her childhood, living in New York, Hollywood (her list of movie piches especially cracked me up), life, romance anddating, her own appearance and the media’s perception of her. She even includes a selection of photos from her Blackberry and instructions for her own funeral. It’s not in any way a profound or soul searching book, it’s written to entertain, and suceeds brilliantly. I suspect that if you read and enjoyed Bossypants, you’ll like this too. If you don’t find that sort of biography funny (what’s wrong with you?), you should probably give it a miss.

 First published on my blog: http://kingmagu.blogspot.com

 

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