Humor

GOOD OMENS: THE NICE AND ACCURATE PROPHECIES OF AGNES NUTTER, WITCH by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman –and– “GOOD OMENS” (2019)

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When the Anti-Christ arrives in the unassuming Oxfordshire village of Tadfield, and the countdown to the apocalypse begins. Although most of the Earth’s inhabitants are unaware of the Anti-Christ’s presence, the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley are more than a little unhappy that the Earth will be ending so soon. After 6,000 years or so, they’ve gotten attached to certain Earthly comforts and the humans they live with. And although they’d never admit it to their respective Head Offices, they’ve gotten more than a little attached to each other as well. So they decide to do what they can to influence the Anti-Christ’s upbringing and avert the apocalypse altogether. But due to a mix-up, partly due to chance, and partly the incompetence of certain Satanic nuns in the Chattering Order of St. Beryl, the Anti-Christ does not end up in the family of an American diplomat as Satan intended, but rather grows up in a typical English family in Tadfield. Of course all of this was predicted by Agnes Nutter, witch, centuries ago, before she exploded at the stake, and her own ancestor, Anathema Device, is searching for the Anti-Christ as well. With the end of days only days away, Aziraphale, Crowley, Anathema, and a couple of barely-competent witch-finders scramble to find the boy who may be bringing about the end of the world.

If you’re a Pratchett or Gaiman fan, you’ve probably already read this one, and you know it is a hilarious, witty, occasionally poignant work of pure genius. I am reviewing it now due to the recent Amazon mini-series adaptation. Could it possibly be as good as the book, you ask? Yes. Incredibly, yes. I did not like the adaptation of Stardust nearly as much as the book, but somehow with this quirky, insane, erratic novel, Neil Gaiman has produced an equally brilliant screen adaptation. Through use of a narrator, it mimics the style of the book beautifully. The characters are perfectly cast, the dialogue in most cases taken directly from the text to preserve each character’s personality. The somewhat scattered writing style in the book actually works perfectly for cross-cut scenes in the series.  Obviously some changes are made to bring the book into the 21st century. Added characters (such as Jon Hamm’s Gabriel) and added scenes tracking Aziraphale and Crowley through the centuries are incorporated so authentically that they merely enhance the satire of the celestial war and the characterization of Aziraphale and Crowley.

In short, the screen adaptation is as perfect as the book. Loved it!

A MAN CALLED OVE by Fredrik Backman

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Ove is ready to leave the monotony of this life behind.  He is tired of making his morning rounds to insure that all of the neighbors are abiding by the residential association’s rules.  He is particularly tired of dealing with people, most of whom he finds to be incompetent and lazy.  And most of all, he misses Sonja, who has been dead for six months now.  As soon as his affairs are in order, he has resolved to join her.  That is, until some new neighbors move in and drive their vehicle down into the residential area (although the sign Ove installed clearly states that this is a violation of the rules!) and back into his mailbox.  Somehow, the reluctant Ove gets swept up into their lives and reinvested in his community which, as it turns out, needs him as much as he needs them.

This international bestseller is humorous, quirky, feel-good book about the importance of community and relationships.  Engaging and occasionally absurd plot threads propel this story about a diverse cast of unconventional but lovable characters.  I highly recommend it to adult readers of realistic fiction who like humor in their thought-provoking novels.

FUNNY GIRL by Nick Hornby

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As she walks onto the stage as Blackpool’s beauty queen, Barbara suddenly gets a glimpse of her future; she will marry a local business owner, have kids, get fat, get old, and die.  She will never do anything noteworthy.  She will never be Lucille Ball.  Unless, that is, she escapes now.    In London, two disillusioned radio writers, a timid BBC producer, and a bitter radio actor prepare to film a crappy TV show pilot, unaware that a quick-witted and determined comedienne is about to change their lives forever.

Set in the 1960s, Funny Girl tells of the transformation not only of its principal characters but also of the British entertainment industry.  Quirky and endearing characters keep the story engaging as it spans decades of their lives and changing situations.  I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy being immersed in the world of the (not too distant) past  and even readers who enjoy realistic fiction about relationships.  I also recommend the audiobook.

If you liked Funny Girl,  you might like Landline by Rainbow Rowell.

INSANE CITY by Dave Barry

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Seth can’t believe he is marrying Tina.  More specifically, he can’t believe Tina wants to marry him, and he can’t believe that the wedding (the insane wedding that Tina’s family has been spending millions of hours and dollars planning) is in just two days.  As he arrives in Miami, all Seth wants is a nice, simple bachelor’s party—not too much booze, and definitely no strippers.  So how does he end up in a pimp’s car with a snake handler’s girlfriend and an angry orangutan trying to rescue some illegal Haitian immigrants from the clutches of his fiancé’s billionaire father’s thugs?  Well, it is Miami. . . .

The title pretty much says it all.  This is a reasonably suspenseful novel in which a whole lot of random, silly, absurd, unbelievable, insane things happen.  As is typical of Dave Barry’s writing, the novel is funny and definitely light.  I never got completely invested in it (it didn’t keep me turning pages the way many of Dave Barry’s books do).  But it was entertaining, and readers who like his style of comedy will certainly enjoy it.

TO BE OR NOT TO BE: A CHOOSEABLE-PATH ADVENTURE by Ryan North, William Shakespeare, and You

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Ever get sick of those predictable Shakespearean tragedies where everyone dies at the end?  Then this is the book for you!  Ryan North has turned the bard’s best known tragedy into a choose-your-own adventure book.  Decide whether you’d rather go through the story as Hamlet, Ophelia, or Hamlet Sr.—spoiler alert: if you choose the latter, you get to be a ghost!—and the choices you make will determine the outcome of the story.  This book will be especially hilarious to those familiar with Shakespeare’s play who can appreciate the inside jokes and twists on the original.  A really fun read!