Three Funny Books

The only thing these three recent reads have in common is that they made me laugh. Since that’s my favorite kind of book, it’s what you’re likely to find here more often than not.

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Razor Girl: I love Carl Hiaasen’s books. I lived in Florida way back when, but that’s not a prerequisite for appreciating Hiaasen’s hysterical recombining of things that actually happen there. As usual, this novel has a razor-girlmyriad of characters whose lives become improbably tangled together, the main one being Andrew Yancy, former detective reduced to health inspector, determined to get his badge back by involving himself in matters he really should avoid.

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As for the Razor Girl of the title, she certainly has carved out a unique occupational niche for herself, and brings an unexpected helping of madcap adventure into Andrew’s life.

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Featuring bearded reality(?) stars, Gambian pouched rats, bizarre pharmaceuticals, Hollywood talent agents, fake service dogs, and a mongoose, Razor Girl is a fine example of Hiaasen’s frenetic storytelling.

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From This Fae Forward is the second installment in AE Jones’ Paranormal Wedding Planner series. This time out, Bennett Bridal’s exercise instructor, Sheila Hampton, finds herself having to pretend that ex-SEAL andfrom-this-fae-forward security expert Charlie Tucker is her fiance for thirty days. The operative word here is pretend, because Sheila is a woodland nymph and Charlie is a sea nymph, and never the twain shall meet. Or marry.

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That’s not so much of a problem for Sheila, who has been banished from her clan, or Charlie, who has cut ties with his, but it sure upsets Sheila’s father and the rest of the woodland faction, who have been holding a grudge against the sea folk for generations (to the point that no one really remembers why). No, Sheila and Charlie’s problem is that they don’t like each other. Well, that’s what they try to believe, but it isn’t really working out that way.

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All the characters from In Sickness and in Elf are back, planning a fabulous nymph wedding for Sheila and Charlie (who are about the only people who don’t expect the wedding to happen) and From This Fae Forward is just as much fun as the first story.

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Diane Kelly’s Above the Paw continues the adventures of Forth Worth Police Officer Megan Luz and her four-above-the-pawfooted partner Brigit. This time around we find Megan going undercover to search for the drug dealer selling Molly to university students. She hasn’t been out of school more than a few years herself, but going back is something of a culture shock. Brigit, posing as an epilepsy alert dog, enjoys all the attention. Megan’s investigation leads in unexpected directions, and puts her and Brigit in danger when they get too close to the truth.

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I never miss one of Kelly’s books, and this one does not disappoint. With mystery, humor, and Brigit, how could it miss?

Recent Reading

When I cut my work schedule back to three days a week, I hoped to have more time for reading, writing, and sleeping.  I’m doing fine on the sleeping (driving into Houston an hour later really helps), and not too badly on the writing (a couple of writing group challenges have been keeping me on track).

On the reading, not so much.  I’ve still been falling asleep with the TV on and/or a book in my hand most nights.  Lately I’ve been wondering, though, if that might have something to do with the new bedside lamp I bought a while back.  It’s a very nice study/desk lamp, with some sort of high tech bright light.  But it doesn’t throw a very wide area of light, and I’ve been finding myself curling onto odd positions to read with it.  Last evening I unplugged it and brought back my old standby, a standard table lamp with a 200-watt incandescent bulb.  And last night I read for forty minutes before I got sleepy (and by then it was 12:45 AM).

The problem, and the reason I was looking for a new lamp to begin with, is that it’s getting harder to find 200-watt incandescent bulbs, and the compact fluorescent 42-watt bulbs (roughly the equivalent of 150 old-style watts) aren’t on every shelf, either (and require in most cases a different style of lamp shade).  I like the smaller CLFs that fill the 40-, 60-, and 100-watt spots around the house, but I’m still looking for the perfect reading strength.

Dying On The VineLighting conditions aside, I have managed to read a couple of good mysteries recently.  Aaron Elkins’ series about Gideon Oliver, the Skeleton Detective, has been a favorite of mine for many years, because of my own background in anthropology and archeology.  Oliver is a forensic anthropologist, a professor in Washington state, but most of the stories takes place in exotic locations where he happens to be lecturing, visiting friends, or doing research.  In Dying on the Vine, the seventeenth in the series, Oliver and his wife are visiting friends in Tuscany when he is called upon to unravel the mysterious deaths of a vineyard owner and his wife, missing and presumed dead for a year, whose remains have recently been found.  Add a family feud, food and wine, a tour of Florence, and old Sicilian customs to the mystery and you have a very entertaining read.

I’ve been a fan of Carl Hiaasen for years, too, for entirely different reasons.  Hiaasen writes wildly funny novels about south Florida, where I lived from the time I was ten until I graduated from Florida State.  My family and some friends Bad Monkeystayed longer, and although I don’t have any strong connections there now, I still love to read about the place.  I started to call Hiaasen’s writing “satirical,” but so much of Florida is so bizarre on its own that perhaps that word doesn’t apply.  I’m not sure Hiaasen’s novels really fall into the mystery genre, either, although there is generally some sort of mystery to be solved.  In the latest, Bad Monkey, the protagonist is Andrew Yancy, a former Monroe County sheriff’s deputy demoted to roach patrol (restaurant inspector) for assaulting his girlfriend’s husband with a vacuum cleaner in a most personal way and a most public venue.  Yancy figures if he can solve the mystery of the human arm brought up by a fishing boat (and stashed in Yancy’s freezer), he can work his way back up the departmental ladder.  Along the way he meets a wide variety of  remarkable characters, including a charming coroner, a not-so-charming real estate developer, a Bahamian voodoo queen, a couple of practitioners of Medicare fraud, and the bad monkey of the title.  Hop on Carl Hiaasen’s rollercoaster for a wildly enjoyable ride.

Adjusting to Change

Change is seldom easy, even when you’ve been looking forward to it.  Not that I’m complaining about my new schedule, not at all.  This is my second long weekend, and it’s not over yet.  Tomorrow is Monday, and I don’t have to go to work, don’t have to get up at 6:15, don’t have to drive into Houston.

It’s just that I’m having my usual trouble relaxing, reminding myself that my schedule is looser now, that I don’t really have anything pressing I have to do before tomorrow.

I’ve been sleeping seven or eight hours a night,  instead of the five or six I’ve been managing with for so long.  I wonder how long it takes to recover from chronic sleep deprivation, and one friend tells me he’s still trying to catch up with the sleep he lost doing shift work forty years ago.  Another friend, who retired from teaching to write full time a few years back, tells me I’ll soon be just as busy as I ever was.  She may be right, but I’m hoping most of that busyness will be of my own choosing.

I’m still too tired to read much when I get into bed, but this afternoon I sat and read for an hour (Carl Hiaasen’s Bad Monkey)–while doing the laundry, before an hour of ironing.  Some things don’t change.  I haven’t cracked any of the DVD movies I’ve been saving, but I’ve caught up on a few TV shows On Demand.

We’ve gotten some rain this week, and today it was overcast, relatively cool, and extremely humid.  Fortunately I mowed the lawn last Monday, but that’s about all I’ve done in the yard, except for collecting several bags of toad stools before they could spread even more spores across the lawn.  And the rain woke up the mosquitos.

More BooksI’ve done some shopping, of course, some of it necessary (groceries) and some for fun (books).  I’m still buying books, or downloading them to my Kindle, far faster than I’m reading them, but that’s nothing new.  Last weekend I went to Barnes & Noble for several books by friends (Lady in Red by Maire Claremont, Summer Is For Lovers by Jennifer McQuiston, Spy’s Honor by Amy Raby, and Find Me by Romily Bernard), and that lovely anthology of the first five Oz books–with the original illustrations!  This weekend, I went to Half Price Books and picked up the latest novels by two authors I’ve read regularly since their first books came out, Sue Grafton’s W Is For Wasted and Steve Berry’s The King’s Deception.

Yesterday I did get up at 6 AM, to make the long drive across town to the West Houston RWA meeting.  My term as president is almost over–one more meeting, and some planning and paperwork to take care of, and then I can pass that on to the next board.  It’s not an onerous job, but it’s time consuming, and two years is quite enough.  I’m lightening the load.

I’m still a bit in vacation mode.  I haven’t made appointments or plans for any of those easier-done-on-a-weekday projects I’ve been saving.  But I’m working on my latest writing project again, and I have eight pages to read to my critique group tomorrow evening.

And lots of books to read.

A Visit to the Book Store

Every once in a while I remind myself that if we book buyers don’t buy at least some of our books at the remaining brick and mortar book stores, we have only ourselves to blame if those stores disappear.  So yesterday I drove over to the local Barnes & Noble, looking for two books in particular, but open to browsing.  And I didn’t even have a gift card.

The up side of book store shopping is good old instant gratification.  Yes, that’s always available on your e-reader, but if you want a physical book, even Amazon will make you wait a few days.

The down side, in a strange way, is the aforementioned browsing.  When I look for something on line, I usually know what I’m looking for, at least within limits.  When I wander through the aisles at B&N, I’m haunted by the knowledge that I’d really like to read about half of what I see, in spite of all those running feet of unread books waiting at home.  Cozy mysteries, which I love, seem to be taking over the racks, with backgrounds involving cooking, knitting, quilting, jewelry, witchcraft, and heaven knows what else.  They all sound like fun, and I will never get to most of them.

So I tend to feel a bit overwhelmed in a brick and mortar book store, and some times I go in with metaphorical blinkers on, protecting me from temptation.

Bad MonkeyThe first book that caught my eye as I walked in was Bad Monkey, the latest novel by Carl Hiaasen.  I’ve read all of Hiaasen’s hilariously wild novels, and I couldn’t pass this one up.  Even after reading the flap, I have no idea what part the titular monkey plays in the story, and I don’t care.  Perhaps because I lived in South Florida, where all Hiaasen’s tales are set, I have an extra appreciation for the ambiance, even though I haven’t been back in many years.

Then I went looking for the books I’d actually come in for.  The first was The Lotus Palace, by Jeannie Lin, who has proved The Lotus Palacethat there is in fact a market for romances set in ninth century China.  I’ve read several of her short novels and novellas set in that era and enjoyed them all.  The Lotus Palace is a longer book dealing with the courtesan culture of the Tang Dynasty, and I’m looking forward to reading it.

The Sound and the FurryNext on my list was The Sound and the Furry, Spencer Quinn’s latest installment in the adventures of Chet and Bernie Little, detectives extraordinaire.  Chet, who narrates the stories, is a dog who flunked out of police K9 training (“something about a cat,” as he vaguely recalls), and Quinn just nails his fuzzy, easily distracted, and totally loyal point of view.  I have all the previous Chet and Bernie mysteries on my shelf, and I was delighted to find this one (its official release date is still two days away).  The earlier stories have been set in an unnamed valley in the desert west (Bernie worries a lot about water conservation), but this time the team is headed for New Orleans.

I don’t read as much science fiction as I once did (but then I don’t seem to have time to read as much of anything as I used Mistto), but I let myself wander down those aisles, too, and there I spotted a novel by Susan Krinnard.  I read several of Krinnard’s futuristic romances when I was first introduced to the subgenre, but that was quite a few years ago.  The novel I picked up on Saturday, Mist, is about a Valkyrie trying to live a normal life in contemporary San Francisco.  I’m betting the Fates won’t allow that.

I know, I know, I didn’t need four more books for the TBR shelf, not after that long evening I spent reorganizing the embarrassingly large collection I already have.  But need doesn’t really come into the equation with books, does it?  At least I spread them out: a romance, a mystery, and a science fiction/fantasy.  I have no idea how to categorize, or even describe, Carl Hiaasen, but I recommend his books wholeheartedly.