Showing posts with label humor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label humor. Show all posts

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Good Omens 2019 TV Miniseries Review

Lovers of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman rejoice! Good Omens finally has been released as a television miniseries for Amazon Prime Video and BBC Two viewers.

Good Omens TV miniseries on Amazon Prime Video - image courtesy of Amazon

When Pratchett and Gaiman's World Fantasy Award-nominated satirical fantasy novel Good Omens was published 29 years ago, it was my first introduction to Neil Gaiman's wonderfully twisted mind and wickedly funny sense of humor. If Neil Gaiman’s name doesn’t ring a bell, you may know him from the big-screen adaptations of some of his novels, such as the 2007 movie Stardust starring Claire Danes, Charlie Cox, Sienna Miller, Mark Strong, Rupert Everett, Ricky Gervais, Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Peter O’Toole or the 2009 3D stop-motion animated film Coraline featuring the voices of Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French.

My husband and I have long been huge fans of Sir Terry Pratchett's work, especially his well-known and much-loved Discworld fantasy novels. We have read or listened avidly to pretty much every Pratchett book or audiobook we could get hold of (many of them multiple times). So when Good Omens was published, we were quick to buy the paperback. It was bizarre and intriguing, but it had such a huge cast of characters, many in fairly minor roles, that I found the story hard to follow and had to listen read it a second time. Both Pratchett and Gaiman are brilliant – and hilarious – but they do require their readers to do their part by giving the their full attention to their extraordinary writing, especially if you don't wan't to miss all the puns and dry humor. Admittedly these authors' works aren't to everyone's taste, but my husband and I love them.

We also love audiobooks, so when Good Omens was released as an audiobook narrated by one of Pratchett's favorite narrators, Stephen Briggs, I downloaded immediately. I enjoyed it immensely - much more than the print edition. Briggs' distinctive voices for the different characters also made it much easier for me to keep them all straight! Sadly, that recording is no longer available for some reason, but there is a very good unabridged audiobook of Good Omens on Audible narrated by Martin Jarvis.

Good Omens – The Miniseries That Almost Wasn't


After listening to Good Omens I thought what I always do after reading or listening to a Terry Pratchett novel: "Wouldn't this make a great movie?" I didn't hold out much hope, however, since none of Pratchett's books have been made into movies and only three of his Discworld novels have been made into television miniseries: The Color of Magic with Sean Astin as the naive and ever optimistic tourist Twoflower, David Jason as the hapless "wizzard" Rincewind and Jeremy Irons as the wily Patrician; Hogfather; and my personal favorite, Going Postal starring Richard Coyle as Moist von Lipvig, Claire Foy as Adora Belle Dearheart and David Suchet as dastardly Reacher Gilt. (Pratchett's characters' names are always a hoot!)

However, there were, indeed, concerted efforts to have Good Omens made into a movie, to be directed by Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame, which continued long after the book’s publication in 1990. Then in 2011, Gaiman’s website announced that a television series adaptation of the book was “in the works” from another member of the Monty Python troupe, Terry Jones. But in 2016, Gaiman announced that he himself was writing the scripts for a six-part TV series at the request of Terry Pratchett in 2015 shortly before his death from Alzheimer’s disease.

When my husband and I heard that Amazon Studios and BBC Studios would be co-producing a miniseries based on Good Omens and written by Gaiman himself, we were really excited, especially when the cast was announced, including David Tennant (our favorite Doctor Who), wonderful Welsh actor Michael Sheen, Mad Men star Jon Hamm, Miranda Richardson and the voice of Frances McDormand!

Often, movie or television adaptations of books are poor imitations of the original. In the case of Good Omens, however, having to streamline the story for video made the TV miniseries even better than the book in many respects. It makes the intricate story line much easier to follow. (Even so, this isn't something you'll want to watch while checking email, or you're likely to miss an important detail or plot point.)

What I Love About Good Omens, the 2019 Television Miniseries


The Fabulous Cast and Terrific Performances

While the entire cast is wonderful, David Tennant and Michael Sheen are simply outstanding. Sheen, an actor I wasn't familiar with before watching Good Omens, is marvelous as the fastidious, antiquarian bookshop-owning angel, Aziraphale, who sometimes chafes at the restrictions of being "good" by the book, especially when it prevents him from doing what he believes is right. He's the perfect foil for Tennant's inspired portrayal of  Crowley, a creepy yet strangely likeable demon who enjoys his powers and revels in the freedom of being "bad" but who also, deep down, shares Aziraphale's secret desire to do what's right for humanity.

Jon Hamm's Archangel Gabriel pulls heavily from his Mad Men character, Don Draper (without Draper's infamous womanizing tendencies, obviously!). Miranda Richardson is perfect as the endearing medium and former madam with the heart of gold, Madame Tracy. And Frances McDormand is perfect as the voice of God, who narrates the miniseries.

The Authors' Perspective on Good vs. Evil

The interplay between the "good" angel Aziraphale and the "evil" demon Crowley is brilliant. Watching these two find common ground over the course of centuries in pursuit of a worthy goal –saving humanity from Armageddon – is both fascinating and believable.

The Brilllant Script and Deft Word Play

Pratchett and Gaiman share a deep love of language and word play (as well as irreverent but affectionate satire), such as placing common phrases in uncommon or ironic settings. For example, Crowley catches himself starting to say, "Thank God!" and Aziraphale catches himself starting to say, "What the hell..."

In Gaiman's script for the miniseries, the conversations between Aziraphale and Crowley are masterpieces where what isn't said is as important as what is said. These conversations serve to draw the arc of growth for these two central characters as these historical enemies first learn to understand each other, then work together and, finally, develop a true and lasting friendship. And, even though they can never overtly state their affection for one another, Tennant's and Sheen's superb performances allow us to watch its growth over the course of the show.

What's Not to Love? 


The Questionable Motives of both Divine and Infernal Characters

Gabriel, Beelzebub and their respective followers in Heaven and Hell are absolutely obsessed with starting Armageddon, just to see which side wins.

The Negative Portrayal of Organized Religion

The authors of Good Omens appear to view organized religion as a human construct that has been used as a tool for both good and evil throughout human history.

The Implication That Neither Good nor Evil is Absolute 

There are no purely "good" guys or purely "bad" guys in this story, an idea that some people may find disturbing.

An Irreverent Religious and Social Satire


Humans often struggle to determine the right thing to do in a particular situation, especially when the only option seems to be choosing the lesser of two (or more) evils. The fundamental message of this extremely funny, firmly tongue-in-cheek story seems to be that most humans – and even an angel and a demon who live among us and have become extremely fond of our kind – are neither purely good nor purely evil, and that human morality is not absolute and may sometimes depend on the circumstances.

In Good Omens, there are no sacred cows (as it were). The authors lovingly and humorously poke fun at everyone and everything, although that humor also points out serious human failings. For example, Pestilence has retired as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and has been replaced by Pollution, a scourge of humanity's own making. The story also puts a humorous, contemporary twist on things. For instance, The Horsemen – actually, two horsemen and two horsewomen – ride motorcycles.

Fair warning: if you find religious and/or social satire offensive, Good Omens is definitely not for you.

The Good Omens television miniseries provides nearly 6 hours' worth of rollicking entertainment with a brilliant script, a fabulously talented cast and extraordinary sets and special effects. It definitely doesn't take itself seriously, and neither should its viewers.

Good Omens Main Characters


Aziraphale – the angel who is Heaven’s representative on Earth; previously the guardian of Eden’s eastern gate, now the owner of an antiquarian bookstore in London. Fastidious in his dress, language, posture and manners. He loves humans even though he's often disappointed in them.

Anthony Crowley – the demon who is Hell’s representative on Earth; previously known as Crawly, the serpent who tempted Eve with the apple. His most prized earthly possession is his beloved, pristine 1926 Bentley. Predictably hedonistic, coarse and jaded, he swaggers, slouches and lounges. He's grudgingly grown fond of the humans he routinely tempts as part of his demonic duties.

Agnes Nutter – a 17th-century witch, history’s only 100% accurate prophet and author of The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. Burned at the stake in 1656 by a mob of Agnes’s neighbors led by Witchfinder Major Thou-Shalt-Not-Commit-Adultery Pulsifer. Like the witches in Pratchett’s Discworld novels, Agnes wore many hats, including those of midwife, doctor, herbalist, wise woman, psychologist, undertaker, showman and the moral center of her witching “territory”.

Anathema Device – witch, occultist, Ph.D. holder and distant descendant of Agnes Nutter. Also, the only person who can prevent the impending Apocalypse – if she can just figure out what Agnes’s cryptic prophecies mean in time.

Adam Young – a sweet and charismatic but also odd boy with a dog; also, respectively, the Antichrist and his hellhound. Due to a hospital mix-up by Satanic nuns under Crowley's direction, the newborn Adam was switched at birth with the baby of a random couple, Mr. and Mrs. Young, instead of with the baby of the U.S. ambassador to Britain and his wife, the Dowlings.

Newton Pulsifer – a failed, would-be software engineer whose attempts to fix any electronic device are pretty much guaranteed to render it unusable. A descendant of Witchfinder Major Thou-Shalt-Not-Commit-Adultery Pulsifer, Newt is working as an overqualified wages (payroll) clerk when he is reluctantly recruited into the Witchfinder Army by Witchfinder Sergeant Shadwell.

Gabriel – archangel and leader of the forces of Heaven; hell-bent (so to speak) on winning the Ultimate Battle Between Good and Evil against the forces of Hell, led by Beelzebub. Sees humans as a way to keep score in the final battle between.

Witchfinder Sergeant Shadwell – the last remaining member of the Witchfinder Army; invents fictitious additional members with names inspired by whatever his eyes light upon, e.g., Sergeant Cabinet. Lives above the rooms of Madame Tracy.

Madame Tracy – professional name of Marjorie Potts, an over-the-hill but warm-hearted madam; also a medium who offers weekly séances for the gullible. She has a soft spot for crusty Sergeant Shadwell, who calls her Whore of Babylon, Painted Lady, Jezebel, etc., yet still grumblingly joins her for afternoon tea and accepts her financial help when he’s a bit short of funds.

Good Omens Plot


Two of Hell's Dukes, Haster and Ligur, deliver the newborn Antichrist to the demon Crowley who, in turn, entrusts him to the Chattering Order of St. Beryl, a Satanic sisterhood that runs a hospital in Lower Tadfield (a fictitious village in South East England). Crowley instructs the nuns to switch the newborn Antichrist with the infant son of U.S. Ambassador Dowling and Mrs. Dowling. But, thanks to a mix-up at the hospital, Satan's spawn is given instead to Mr. and Mrs. Young, a perfectly ordinary Tadfield couple. While Mrs. Young is sleeping after giving birth to her biological child, Sister Mary Loquacious suggests several names to her husband for the newborn he believes to be theirs. But Mr. Young rejects those names (e.g., Damien, Wormwood) in favor of "a decent English name," which is how the Antichrist was christened Adam Young.

The Archangel Gabriel and Beelzebub are both gung-ho for long-awaited Armageddon to finally start so they can see, once and for all, which side will ultimately win,  But their earthly representatives, the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley, respectively, aren't exactly keen on their bellicose and very competitive superiors' plans to destroy the human race.

After spending hundreds of thousands of years living side by side with humans and intervening in their lives, both Aziraphale and Crowley have grown extremely fond of them. And while the angel and demon are enemies in theory, in reality their shared love of humanity, coupled with the humans' very brief lifespans, have made the unlikely pair each others' only real friends. Crowley accepts this reality with equanimity, but Aziraphale is loathe to admit their friendship, even to himself. His inner conflict about collaborating with Crowley while trying to stay true to his "good" principles is portrayed very cleverly. For example, his deeply ingrained good manners compel him to hold the door open for Crowley while saying to him, "Get thee behind me, Satan!" – followed immediately by a polite, "After you."

Crowley persuades Aziraphale that they will need to collaborate if they are to have any chance of thwarting their higher-ups' elaborate plans to trigger Armageddon, The frenemies hatch a plan to provide Adam Young with Divine and Satanic influences in equal measure during his formative years, in the hope that he will grow up as an ordinary boy and not fulfill his dreadful destiny. They help cover for each other so Gabriel, Beelzebub and the rest of their minions won't discover their disobedience as they try to protect humanity.

In fact, it is Aziraphale's and Crowley's plan that is thwarted, Even a decade later, no one has found out about the Satanic sisters' mix-up at the hospital. So the pair have spent the past 10 years focusing their efforts on the U.S. ambassador's son, Warlock Dowling, whom everyone on both sides still believes to be the Antichrist. The hellhound designed by the Infernal Powers to obey and protect the Antichrist is destined to appear to him on his 11th birthday. Crowley and Aziraphale anxiously await the arrival of hound at Warlock's birthday party, but when tit doesn't materialize, they realize that something has gone dreadfully wrong and that they've been trying to influence the wrong boy for the past 10 years!

They rush back to the hospital run by the Chattering Order of St. Beryl to find out what happened to the infant Antichrist 11 years earlier, After Crowley finally gets the truth, he has to figure out which child is the Antichrist and more importantly, where he and Aziraphale can find him before it's too late. Then, as if things weren't bad enough, their bosses find out what they've been up to. Now they're really in Trouble, with a capital T!

Fortunately, Crowley and Aziraphale aren't the only ones trying to prevent Armageddon.

Back in 1655, rural witch Agnes Nutter published The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. To this day it remains the only book whose prophecies were 100% accurate, as well as extremely cryptic. (For example, one of her prophecies mentions "an apple you can't eat," which turns out to refer to Apple Computer.) The following year, knowing she was soon going to be burned at the stake by Witchfinder Major Thou-Shalt-Not-Commit-Adultery Pulsifer and the mob of locals he has riled up, prophetic Agnes arranged to have the book passed down through various interim caretakers over the next three hundred-plus years  and, eventually, given to far-distant descendant, Anathema Device. Anathema will need to finish decrypting Agnes’s huge volume of prophecies in time to prevent the impending Apocalypse.

Anathema has spent most of her life working her way through Agnes Nutter's prophecies and, as a result, has moved to a cottage in Tadfield. She meets Adam Young, who seems like a sweet boy and the natural leader of his inseparable group of four friends. She shares with him some of her collection of magazines on the occult  and conspiracy theories, which he devours with fascination, while his friends pooh-pooh his assertions that Atlantis and aliens are real.

Meanwhile, Newton Pulsifer, a hapless, would-be software engineer working as a payroll clerk and, more importantly, a distant descendant of Thou-Shalt-Not-Commit-Adultery Pulsifer, becomes a reluctant recruit into the Witchfinder Army. While doing his witchfinder research, Newt finds what might be clues to witchy doings in Tadfield. Witchfinder Sergeant Shadwell sends him off to Tadfield to investigate, where he meets Anathema.

These two descendants of enemies from 300 years earlier are thrown together and must work together if the end of the world is to be prevented. In Good Omens, religion, rather than politics, makes strange bedfellows.

I'll stop here so as not to spoil the fun. As you can see, the plot is pretty complex, but fortunately, the 6-part television miniseries makes everything perfectly clear and the fabulous acting makes watching it a wonderfully fun and funny experience.

By now, you're probably wondering...

  • Will Crowley and Aziraphale escape their dooms at the hands of Beelzebub and Aziraphale?
  • Will Newt destroy Anathema before she can finish decrypting Agnes' final prophecies and prevent Armageddon?
  • Will Atlantis rise from the sea and little green men in UFOs land in England?
  • Will Adam Young fulfill his destiny as the Antichrist?
  • Will you laugh out loud while watching all the insanity unfold?

The only way to find out, of course, is to watch the Good Omens TV miniseries on Amazon Prime Video or on BBC Two, starting with the Episode 1, "In the Beginning."


An Inside Look at the Making of the Good Omens TV Miniseries 

I always enjoy behind-the-scenes special features. Since the bonus behind-the-scenes video of Good Omens is only 2 minutes long, I'd love to get the companion book to the miniseries, The Nice and Accurate Good Omens TV Companion by Matt Whyman. Since it's edited by Neil Gaiman, it's sure to be both excellent and accurate. And it's full of photos from the sets. Fun!

The Nice and Accurate Good Omens TV Companion by Matt Whyman, edited by Neil Gaiman, image courtesy of Amazon


Watching Good Omens on Amazon Prime Video


As Amazon Prime members, we were able to binge-watch all six episodes of Good Omens on Amazon Video for free, as well as two short bonus videos (a trailer and a 2-minute behind-the-scenes look at the making of Good Omens), as soon as the miniseries was released in the U.S. on May 31, 2019. For our friends across the Pond, the Good Omens miniseries will also will be shown as six weekly broadcasts on BBC Two.

IMPORTANT! In the US,  only Amazon Prime members can watch Good Omens and the TV miniseries adaptations of Terry Pratchett novels. 



We have been Amazon Prime members for years and have found the many benefits of membership well worth the annual fee, especially the enormous libraries of free video, music and Kindle content. This high-quality content includes Oscar, Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning Amazon Original TV and movie productions, such as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Manchester by the Sea, Sneaky Pete, Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle,. Other benefits of Amazon Prime Membership including free 2-day shipping, free 1-day shipping (depending on your ZIP code) and Prime Now local delivery service with free 2-hour delivery (including groceries from Whole Foods Market), among other benefits. If you'd love to try out all those benefits and more without obligation, you can get a free 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime.

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Good Omens TV miniseries on Amazon Prime reviewed by
Margaret Schindel


Read more Amazon Originals and movie reviews on ReviewThisMovies.com.




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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A Man Called Ove Book Review

Fredrik Backman's novel, A Man Called Ove, is a story about the grumpiest man ever. I really, really had to struggle to put Ken Follett's enthralling Fall of Giants down in order to read Ove for my next book club meeting. This problem seems to keep happening to me; that is, having to put one book down for a book club book. That's okay though. Part of the reason for joining a book club is to read books you might not have chosen on your own.

My husband, as always, was good at pushing me to the book I needed to be reading. Whenever Chris saw me with the wrong book in hand, he’d raise an eyebrow and I would reluctantly put Fall of Giants down in trade for Ove. My heart, however, was not in it. At least, not at first...

In the end, I cared. I cared about Ove and how he had come to be such a grumpy old curmudgeon. The cover suggests that reading this book will cause you to feel sympathy for the curmudgeons in your life, which might well be true but I am so very glad to say that I do not know anyone even a little bit as grumpy as Ove. He is, as Amazon says, "the bitter neighbor from hell."

Ove complains about everything. He is a strict believer that rules are meant to be followed, signs obeyed, things put in their place. If you do not feel the same way, be prepared to hear about it. He rejects most of modern technology believing computers, mobile gadgets and even modern vehicles to be bad news. He has strict routines and principles to be adhered to.

Despite Ove, or perhaps I should say because of Ove, A Man Called Ove is an entertaining book. It tells his life story and the story of the people who become his friends despite his off-putting personality. It does a good job of illustrating how one life affects the next and then the next.

Believe it or not, I would RECOMMEND this grumpy old man’s story. You will laugh and you will cry though I do remember laughing more than crying.

There were a number of surprises in this book. The one that bothered me is the age of this grumpy old man. I was jaw smacked when I finally found out how old he was and I see from other reviews online that I am not the only one who takes exception to the age that author Backman set for a grumpy old man.

If you pick up and read A Man Called Ove, be sure to come back and let us know what YOU think about Ove’s story (and about his age.) You can find it quickly and affordably priced on Amazon by clicking right here.

If you are looking for more books by Fredrik Backman, you might like to check out this review of My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by another contributor here on Review This.

Stay tuned for more book reviews!

Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

More Book Reviews:

Steve Berry's Amber Room.
John Sandford's Extreme Prey.
The One Man by Andrew Gross.


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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sayings to Write in a Get Well Card

Funny Sayings to Write in Cards
One of my personal 'crazy skills' is the ability to quickly create lists of 'sayings' - Yes It's a bit strange
If we were face to face and you gave me a 'Topic' and 5 minutes to come up with 20 quote-sayings about it, I would most likely be able to get it done. In fact, here's an entire section I've created on original sayings you use to write in cards.
So onto today's challenge:
Review a List of Things to Say in a Get Well Card
Finding just the right thing to say in a get well card can be challenging, so I've put together a collection of things to say according to the emotion you want to convey: humor, sarcasm, or inspirational. You'll find things like, 'If you're really sick, I'm sorry, if you're faking it, you're my hero!'
Yes it's always easy to get a card that has something written inside of it, and then just sign your name, however even if you select a pre-written card, it's makes for a lovely personal touch to add some words in your own handwriting.
Humorous Get Well Sayings you Can Choose from:
  1. Getting well is hard work, being well is harder work - so milk it!
  2. Don't be a baby when you're sick, I heard you do that when you're well !
  3. The world found out you were sick today, and the whole planet was given the day off !
  4. I was so upset to hear you were sick today, that I held a party in your honor (too bad you were sick)
  5. When you're sick, I'm sick - because I have to do your job!
  6. You need to get better fast, I can't take the pressure!
  7. You don't look sick, you don't sound sick, those Acting Classes are paying off
  8. You're probably the best looking sick person I've ever seen in my life
  9. You look better sick than I do well !
  10. Natural healing - it isn't fun is it
  11. So you thought getting sick would keep me away from you, well you thought wrong there pumpkin
  12. Here take these two Heal-Me Pills - possible side affects; your nose will fall off, your ears will turn green, your house may get termites, you could wake up with four flat tires on your car, and your eyeballs could end up on the side table when you're sleeping - other than that, you should feel better by 6am (OH! and you're dog might hate you)
  13. If being sick is some sort of a grand plot to get the attention of everyone at work, well congratulations you little genius it's working! In fact I think you've received a raise and a promotion while you've been off!
  14. As long as you're sick, I was wondering can I borrow $1000 bucks to buy you the best present ever!
  15. Did you get sick to just give us all a break ... well we all got together to thank you and to say that you would be happy to know that NOTHING is getting done while your sick!
  16. Don't worry, nobody is stealing your glory while you're sick, 'cause everyone refuses to do your job! (apparently your job makes people sick)
Inspirational Things You Can Say In a Card to Someone's Who Isn't Well:

If someone you know is quite ill, often times it's hard to know what to say when you want to say something nice. So below you'll find some ideas. Feel free to use them as is, or simply as an idea to expand upon with your own words.
  1. You deserve a medal for perseverance and fortitude; the way you've handled this illness is an inspiration to all of us and we're very lucky to be in your life
  2. You always carry yourself with dignity and grace no matter what challenges come your way
  3. We want you to know that you can count on us to be there for you because you've always been there for everyone else
  4. Time takes a hold of our heart and with a gentle squeeze it reminds us why we're here - to love deeply, and to live with purpose
  5. We've all signed a petition and asked God to help you through your illness because we all love you and need you here with us
  6. When we face a severe challenge, we are given an opportunity to re-evaluate ourselves, but everyone agrees you're the only exception to the rule - you've lived with honor and are a rare bird; a triple A person in every aspect of life
  7. Good health is a gift you deserve more than anyone we know
  8. When you're at your best, all of us are at our best - you're an amazing inspiration to us all
Sarcastic Funny Things to Put in a Card for Someone Who's Not Well and Appreciates a Laugh
  1. So you decided to get sick to avoid me right!
  2. You are the sunshine in my life, the reason I am who I am - what a load of garbage, just get well ok!!
  3. You're really sick right? Really right? really honestly and truly right? Darn 'cause I needed you to paint the house!
  4. Give me six reasons I shouldn't be mad 'cause you're sick, go ahead...I'm waiting...see NOTHING! I'm mad that you're sick, 'cause I miss you
  5. In order to get well you have to actually be sick, so this card is a 'stop faking you're sick card' so you can actually get sick so I can get you the right card..a get well card. Gheesh you frustrate me!
  6. There's a chance you're just faking sick to avoid responsibility right? You better puke soon or you're done!
  7. Not everyone is scared to touch a sick person - hope those people can visit you 'cause I sure the h*ell can't !
  8. You want to know why you're sick, it's because you do too much, talk too much, help too much ... the only cure is to become totally selfish and useless like me
  9. If I could find the answers to life itself, I would be able to become the kind of person who writes extremely profound diatribes in a card - aren't you glad I'm a selfish tool now!
  10. Give me three reasons you became sick...never mind allow me....(1) You needed an excuse to get some time off, (2) You're looking for payback by making me do all the work now, or (3) You're really sick and I'm an A-hole.



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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Review of The Obituary Society by Jessica Randall

Review of The Obituary Society by Jessica L. Randall
Sometimes light escape reading is just right when we aren't feeling up to tackling nonfiction or literary novels. Times of illness or convalescence call for lighter than normal reading. That is what I wanted after my cervical spine surgery.

Perhaps with flu season fast approaching, it would be good to have this book on hand -- just in case. Of course, it's also a fun read when you are perfectly healthy and just don't want to get involved in a book that you can't put down when you have commitments to keep. 


I was only in the hospital overnight and through lunch the next day. I did manage to start and finish one book on my Kindle before I went home: The Obituary Society by Jessica L. Randall. I was in a post-op drug and sleep-deprived haze when I read the book, but I remember enjoying it. 

It's set in Auburn, a small town in the Midwest, and the main character, Lila, inherits her grandfather's house there. She lives with her Aunt Ada while the house, which needs a lot of work, is being repaired. Strange things happen whenever she's working at the house, however, and it would seem that someone doesn't want her there. Some incidents are even a bit frightening.

There is a lot of humor in the book that revolves around the relationships of Aunt Ada's friends and associates in her church. Some of the ladies collect clippings of the obituaries of their friends and neighbors in scrapbooks and discuss them at meetings of their Obituary Society.

There is also mystery. Lila has been warned never to go near the pond at the back of her property, but she decides to explore it by herself anyway. What happened there almost killed her. It was a place most people avoided because it was considered dangerous.

One of the most humorous series of interactions provides a touch of romance. One of Ada's friends, Gladys, tries in very obvious ways to match Lila with her grandson, Max, whom Lila doesn't like much at all.

This book was just right for hospital reading. It had enough action in the plot to grab me and keep me interested in spite of my condition, and I needed the humor. I was satisfied with the ending that resolved the mysteries and put the right people together. Another thing of interest at the end is a collection of all the recipes mentioned in the book. Many of the chapters deal with church dinners and such and women who have special recipes they are known for.

If you're looking for some easy light reading, The Obituary Society is a winner. It would be ideal to have in front of you when you are waiting for slow websites to load or programs to update. I often have my kindle handy for such occasions when I can only read in spurts, with one eye on the computer so I can click at the right times.  Enjoy. 


For more of my book reviews, please check out Bookworm Buffet, where you will find a varied menu for bookworms.





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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Train Your Cat to Use the Toilet

Kitty Toilet Training Kit!
They actually have Training Tools for this!

Back in the 1970's we had a very smart Siamese cat who learned to do this, but believe it or not we DID NOT train him!

True Story

In the middle of the night my dad, the jokster teaser type, woke up to use the washroom in the master bedroom ... before he could do his business, he sees our Cat squatting on the toilet taking a pee-poop (cause the cat did both on the toilet!) .... I can just imagine dad's expression!

The next morning he told Mom and the rest of us about it, and NONE of us believed him, we just thought he was joking as usual.

Well, mom was the next person to see our Cat do his magic, then I was the third.

Our cat learned this simply by watching people in the bathroom. WOW - Now that should scare the heck out all of us.  He was so incredibly smart!

When our neighbor would watch our cat, she only had to flush the toilets. Can you imagine telling your cat sitter, 'there's no litter to change, just freshen up the food dishes and flush the toilets' ... and be sure the lids are always up! When I think back, I can hardly believe it.

I've read online about these kitty toilet training kits featured above, but if your cat is smart enough to learn by watching like ours was, then save the money and just let them in to observe on a regular basis!

Here's a video from YouTube that shows you how to train your cat to use the toilet

I like to think my Cat was a Pioneer, after all, he didn't require training, and mastered this in the 70's before Kitty knew he could get famous on YouTube.

I should add, although we've had many pet cats since this little genius, not one of them was able to duplicate this ... and we've never attempted a training. He still holds the record in our house for the 'most outstanding cat of his and many generations'.







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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Review of Novels that Take You Behind the Scenes in Book Publishing Houses

Two Novels Let You Peek into the World Of Book Publishing


Have you ever wondered how the authors of best selling books get to the top? I just discovered two authors new to me whose novels provide a peek into the offices of publishers and their agents, as well as insight into book marketing and the publishing industry. I will review these novels here.  


Spider Web with Scott Quote, photo from Pixabay


Marsha Grimes offers a humorous look at the competition between publishers, editors, and agents for popular authors . Just to make it interesting, a few hired killers with scruples are added to the mix.

 Writer Steve Martini's thriller, The List, shows another aspect of the publishing industry that focuses on the marketing of an author persona. In this book, an author's idea for promoting her new book involves a bit of deception that almost gets her killed in the end.


Martha Grimes Novels about Publishing


Buy Foul Matter at Amazon
The two books I read by Martha Grimes are Foul Matter, my favorite, and The Way of All Fish, which bored me. Many of the same characters populate both books. We meet the first of those characters, Paul Giverney, in Foul Matter. He is trying to choose a new publisher who will meet his conditions – a publisher who would do whatever it takes to get whatever he wants. He decides that Bobby Mackenzie of Mackenzie-Haack is his man. 

Mackenzie wants Paul badly because Paul writes best-selling books that would carry the costs of marketing them and make money for Bobby, but Paul will only come on board if he can have Tom Kidd, who doesn't like to edit the kind of commercial fiction Paul writes, as his editor. Tom Kidd only likes to edit literary fiction, especially that of Ned Isaly.

Paul is now a free agent and the big publishers are competing to sign him. Mackenzie wants Paul's book, but Paul has one condition that is blocking the deal. Paul insists Mackenzie drop Isaly. Paul wants Kidd to edit his books, but almost everyone knows that if Ned Isaly is dropped, Kidd will also go and he would take Mackenzie's best literary authors with him, including Isaly, who has won a lot of awards for his fiction. Besides that, Isaly is still under contract for one more book. Breaking the contract isn't legal. Paul insists the legal team could find a way if they really wanted to. 

Clive Esterhaus is second in command to Mackenzie, and handles acquisitions along with some editing. His job is to get Paul Giverney under contract. He just doesn't see how he can get rid of Isaly without breaking the contract and also losing Kidd and his literary authors. 

Mackenzie puts a book written by Danny Zito, an ex-mob contract killer who is now in the Witness Protection Program, on Clive's desk, and hints that maybe Danny would like to write another book. Clive knows the real hint is that Danny still knows people who might be able to solve their Isaly problem for them. Danny refers Clive to hit men Candy and Karl, and Clive contacts them. Bobby Mackenzie hires them to get rid of Isaly.

Candy and Karl are unlike any hit men you've ever seen and have their own conditions. They don't want to “do” anyone they don't think deserves it. They take the advance money and study the potential “project” for a couple of weeks until they decide whether they want to take the job. If they decide they don't, they return the advance. Candy and Karl ask Bobby and Clive why they want Isaly eliminated and they can't believe the answer  they get. Karl would actually like to write a book himself, and is fascinated by what he's learning about book publishers. 

As the book progresses, we often see Ned and his friends Saul, Jamie, and Sally, at Swill's bar, where many literary folks hang out. The friends also run into each other in the park, another place they frequent.  Saul, like Ned, is a literary author. Sally is a wannabe writer who is an assistant to Tom Kidd. Jamie is a romance writer. Saul sometimes takes them for dinner at the Old Hotel, which is known for including and excluding dinner guests, and even some who only want a drink at its lobby bar. No one knows what criteria determines who gets in and who doesn't. Clive is one of the anointed but neither Bobby nor Paul can get in on their own. No matter where they get together, Saul, Ned, Sally, and Jamie often discuss their books and the writing process. There's a lot of shop talk.  


Novels that Take You Behind the Scenes in Book Publishing Houses
Photo Courtesy of Pixabay


Ned is at the very end of the process of completing a book.  He's been struggling over what to do with his character Nathalie in the final scene. He has left her in a park after her lover has ended their affair, and he keeps "hearing" her entreaties not to leave her there like that. On one such occasion his thoughts are distracted by his realization that he can't remember what Pittsburgh, the town he grow up in, looks like. This bothers him, and he decides its time to visit his hometown. He thinks that might help him figure out how to end his book. He tells everyone he's going to Pittsburgh. 

Naturally, Candy and Karl follow him so they can observe him and decide whether to take him on as a project. Sally, who had overheard part of a meeting between Bobby and Clive discussing how to end Ned's contract, senses something is up that's not good. She has mentioned this to Saul. Each of  them separately decides to go to Pittsburgh when Ned does without telling Ned or each other. In the meantime, Clive is afraid Candy and Karl might really kill Ned and he might get blamed. So he hires someone to follow Ned and protect him. Her name is Blaze. Clive decides to go to Pittsburgh himself, as well, just to keep and eye on things.   

Paul, although he stays home, is worried at what his demands may have set in motion. He has nothing personal against Ned, so he hires Arthur Mordred to protect Ned. Ned himself is oblivious to all of this. He only vaguely senses someone may be following him.  He does wonder why Candy and Karl seem to be turning up everywhere he goes. 


Arthur Mordred, Candy and Karl know each other and wonder why they are seeing each other on the same turf. It seems like the whole gang is in Pittsburgh, though Saul and Sally don't let Ned or each other know they are there at first. The Pittsburgh chapters are fun for the reader, with Ned mostly just looking around while all the others follow him as inconspicuously as possible, often in disguise. The last day the disguises come off and everyone acknowledges everyone else, but not why they are there. Then everyone goes home and they all manage to get back to New York safely, including Ned Isaly, so the problem of what to do with him remains.  You will have to read the book to see how the situation is resolved, and only at the end is it revealed why Paul wanted Mackenzie to break Isaly's contract. 

The best parts of the book are the conversations between Candy and Karl as they “research the project” and interact with everyone. They provide a lot of comic relief. It was, in fact, this humor and the spoof on the publishing industry that made the book interesting. The characters were not very well-developed, but the dialogue was great. The whole scene (several chapters) in Pittsburgh is hilarious. Some readers may find Ned's mental interactions with Nathalie a bit tedious. though. 

A reader might pick up the idea that in spite of having written the popular Richard Jury novels, which I've not yet read, Grimes is not especially fond of how the publishing industry operates and that would also apply to the way books are marketed and get to the best seller lists. Steve Martini picks up some of these same themes in his legal thriller, The List.

Review of The List by Steve Martini


The title refers to the  New York Times Bestseller List that every author wants their book to be on. I'm classifying this as a legal thriller because two of the main characters are lawyers. The book is much different in tone and style than Martha Grimes Foul Matter. In the Grimes books, there were plenty of opportunities to laugh and the fun was in seeing the characters interact and learning what they really thought of each other. In The List, you will find yourself holding your breath and unable to put the book down. It is full of action and suspense. 

Book Review of The List
Buy The List at Amazon
 The List begins with a Prologue in which Abby Chandlis is running for her life on an old docked ship. She is trying to reach Morgan Spencer, her lawyer, whom she is sure is aboard. She is fleeing two men on the dock, whom you will meet later in the book. Then the book moves to Chapter One and we discover Abby is a lawyer who works with Morgan Spencer. It's obvious the two are very good friends, but not lovers. Abby wants to keep it that way. Morgan doesn't.

Abby has written a book, but since she has written previous books, which although published never got very far, she is reluctant to publish her new book under her own name. She has chosen the pen name of Gable Cooper. She is afraid that if she submits the book under her own name she will get less for it because she's a woman and it wouldn't be marketed well because her other books weren't best sellers. She knows her new book is blockbuster material.

We next meet Carla Owens, who is looking for Gable Cooper. Carla is a powerful literary agent, and she tells Abby that she must get hold of Cooper because a major publisher wants the book and expects it to be very successful. Abby says Cooper is in South America researching another book and cannot be reached. The truth is that Abby hasn't found anyone to play the part of Cooper for the book jacket, interviews, and book signings. She promises to try to find Cooper. She is his legal representative in the negotiations. 

The scene then shifts to Jack Jermaine, a frustrated writer who is currently at home in Coffin Point, South Carolina, using his rejection slips for target practice. He is handsome, rugged, and very good at shooting.

Meanwhile, back at Abby's office, she explains her problem to Morgan, to whom she tells everything. He's upset because they have a new boss, Cutler, whom he doesn't like. It appears Cutler wants to downsize, and that means both Abby and Morgan could lose their jobs. Abby asks Morgan to file a copyright for her on the new book so she can prove, if there's ever a problem with the person she gets to lay the part of Cooper, that she herself wrote the book. The only other person who knows about her authorship is is her best friend Theresa, who is divorced because her husband Joey has abused and almost killed her. Abby had acted as Theresa's divorce lawyer, and Theresa is currently living with Abby.

Morgan, as Abby's lawyer, wants all the details of how Abby intends to pull off letting someone play her part without the publisher and agent finding out who really wrote the book. They discuss all the details of how Gable Cooper will sign papers and contracts that deposit Cooper's advances, signed over to Abby, in Abby's account. Then she will pay Cooper his share. Morgan wants to be sure only he, Abby, Theresa, and whomever turns out to be Cooper, are the only ones who know Abby really wrote the book. Because he doesn't trust Cutler, he tells Abby he will keep all the documents safely at his home.

Abby, realizing she has to come up with a Gable Cooper soon, goes with Thersa to L.A. to hire someone to play the part. She settles on the handsome Jess Jermaine. Theresa is staying with friends. Abby stays in L.A. to continue briefing Jess on his part. After that her plan is to fly to New York, meet Carla alone, and then after the two of them have worked out the details, they would meet Jess at the airport together.

Meanwhile, back in Seattle, Joey has broken into Abby's home and torn it up, waiting for Theresa to appear so he can abuse or kill her. While he's there, the people trying to get the movie rights to the book appear looking for Cooper. Joey answers the door, plays along, pretends he is Cooper, and agrees to sell them the rights for only $25,000.

Abby gets into New York at 2 AM and after only a few hours sleep prepares to go meet Carla. Under her hotel door she finds a handwritten note from Jess saying he can't be Cooper after all, but not to worry, he's made arrangements. She imagines her entire book deal flying away and is furious, but when she calls Carla's office about the change in plans for picking up Cooper, Carla very happily tells her that she has been chatting in her office with Cooper and he's wonderful. Jess had arranged for his brother Jack, older and just as handsome, whom we met earlier in Coffin Point shooting up rejection slips, to substitute for him. Abby is extremely angry that Jack got to Carla before she did, but she's in a bind and finally has to accept the situation in order not to blow her own deal.

Since this is a review, not a synopsis, I won't tell you about all the dead bodies, romance, and double-crossing that follow or even introduce all the players in this drama. The plot is too intricate for me to do that here. I did not pay careful enough attention to all the details on my first reading, and so I was more surprised than I should have been at the end. What I could not do is put this book down. As I'm rereading parts of the book today, I find myself laughing at some parts I'd forgotten about. There is touch of humor because of who the people are and how they interact, even though the mood of most of the book is tense.

Novels that Take You Behind the Scenes in Book Publishing Houses


My Recommendations 


I would recommend either Foul Matter or The List to writers or anyone else interested in the publishing industry. Foul Matter is a light book with a lot of comic relief. Most of the action is intellectual, and most battles take place with words. The “goons,” Karl and Candy, have their own version of justice. They tend to find an appropriate punishment to fit whatever is crime in their eyes. 

Although The List has a bit of humor, it has much more violence and suspense than Grimes' books. It, too, has some vigilante justice, but it's more violent than in that in Foul Matter.  You will find language and behavior in both books you would not want your grandchildren to imitate, but nothing worse than they would see in a PG-17 rated movie or much of today's television, or overhear in conversations. The F-word is used often by some characters because it fits their personas. There aren't any sex scenes in Foul Matter that I can remember, but The List has a few that would be rated R if they were in a movie. Forewarned is forearmed. I didn't see anything that seemed inappropriate in its context, and I enjoyed both books, different as they were from each other.

Which of these books do you think you'd want to read first?



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