Posts Tagged Humor

Xanthan Gumm – Robin Reed

Storyline: I could chew on Xanthan Gumm all day long! Ms. Robin Reed takes our normal and almost boring planet, Earth, and makes it extremely interesting and exciting.

Xanthan Gumm is a sweet little guy that’s not from Earth, but has been a fan of our movies for an extremely long time.  Xanth (as he likes to be called) flies to Earth to star in the Movies that he and all of the other creatures in Galactic Central have been watching and studying for decades.

Only upon his crash landing and subsequent trials, tribulations and troubles does he realize that it’s going to take a lot more than he originally thought to be the next big Movie Star. Instead of instant fame, it might even take as long as week!

Grammar/Spelling: I noticed some minor grammatical (incorrect pronoun or character’s name, capitalization and punctuation) issues throughout the story, with an increase in formatting problems (spacing, paragraph indentation, random characters) towards the end of the book. These are easily corrected by another read-through by a beta reader.

Character Development: The main character, Xanth, is adorable in his naive and innocent outlook on humans and their way of life.  Xanth isn’t dumb, he’s just very literal. Apparently, things are more straight-forward in Galactic Central than they are on Earth. He is very easy to love and the reader only wants him to be in the Movies. Xanthan almost makes the reader wish that life were as exciting as the Movies.

General Les S. Moore is likeable even in his misguided and misdirected patriotism. He is driven by his desire to protect Earth from the enemy, be it the “Commies” or otherwise. Apparently, Xanth falls into the “otherwise” category. With his overbearing mother helping to push him towards his ambition along with his over-the-top chin, General Moore will stop at nothing to achieve that goal.

Writing Style: Ms. Reed’s use of an “intergalactic” vocabulary is completely made up, yet very believable and just absolutely adorable. Her use of pop culture references is refreshing and helps move the story along quite well.

Continuity: No issues with continuity noted. The red cars remained red.

Overall Rating: 4

This story, with some minor editing for content, could easily translate into a Pixar or animated Disney film. I can almost hear Tim Allen’s deep voice as General Les S. Moore and Ewan McGregor’s soft voice full of awe as he tells everyone of his plans to be in the Movies.

Ms. Reed gave me a series case of the giggles in several points throughout the story.  Xanthan Gumm is a great lighthearted and sweet story about a little guy who just wants to make it big – something that even we, as somewhat oblivious humans, can relate to. I recommend this book to just about anyone with a great sense of humor and a true appreciation for the Movies and achieving the American Dream. Or at least trying to achieve it.

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Twists & Turns – A “Red Adept Reviews” Collection

Featuring: Jessica Billings, Brendan Carroll, T.L. Haddix, Lynn O’dell, C.S. Marks, John Philpin, Patricia Sierra, Michael Sullivan and J.R. Tomlin

Storyline: Well, what can I say? This anthology was full of twists, turns and surprises of the finest kind. Each author took their turn around the campfire and delivered perfectly!

For brevity’s sake, I’m going to see if I can fit the summary of ALL of the stories into one mega-sentence.

Ready? Here goes!

*deep breath*

A God machine, a were-pug, a terrible day at work, a klepto grandmother, the quest for perfection and understanding, an obsession, some shameful secrets, a hungry dragon and a do-over all await you in this gargantuan collection of greatness!

Grammar/Spelling: I hardly noticed any errors. I like to think it is due in large part to the magnitude of talent contained within this collection and due to the laser-like precision of Red Adept’s editing skills.

Building God – Jessica Billings: I can absolutely see why this story won first place. It was wonderfully written with a spectacular twist. It was supremely suspenseful and had a great Twilight Zone feel. It kept me almost distracted as I tried to figure out what would cause the spike and then drop in the number of people in the world so I had to keep reading to find out!

Should Have Seen it Coming – Brendan Carroll: At first, I really didn’t like Kurt. He was a complete and utter jerk. But, as the story progressively gets scarier and the suspense builds up, I found myself actually worried about Kurt and wondering what really happened to his puggins (doggie) and, oh yeah, his beloved. And I totally didn’t see it coming!

Granny Theft Auto – T.L. Haddix: Oh man…this one was awesome! I could absolutely imagine a small town (my hometown even!) turning a blind eye to the old woman’s thievery and her poor son… He was trying to do the best with what he had. I will say that it seemed as if the ending was a bit over-explained. I don’t believe that it needed as much of a wrap up as was given.

Fired – Lynn O’dell: Utterly and completely perfectly written short story. It was the perfect combination of build up and story only to end with a sudden bang. This could have really happened to anyone. The ending brought about a giggling fit only matched by those you’d get during church when you’re trying your best to focus on the sermon and not all of the crazy inappropriate things that just randomly pop into your mind at the wrong time.

Unbroken Mirror – C.S. Marks: This was a beautifully written fantasy epic and I really would love to read the full story. It really sounds like a gorgeous and amazing world. It does seem a bit long-winded and heavy for a short story though. Maybe if some of the back story was pared down a bit?

42jorie – John Philpin: Another great short story with a wonderful balance of suspense and surprise. I really got into Peter’s frustration and annoyance with the smug Marjorie. Of course, sometimes, you have to be very careful about what information you share on the Interwebz. It could really lead to some major problems.

Leo’s Wife – Patricia Sierra: This short story was very well-written and I’m sure it’s happened to more people than would care to admit. Another inappropriate giggle escaped me while at work. (You guys are SO going to get me in trouble!) I did figure it out about 2 or 3 sentences from the end. But, I think that was the author’s intent. Sort of an “oh my God” moment and then disbelief that it actually happened.

Traditions – J.R. Tomlin: Some traditions are meant to be broken and changed… I could really feel the terror and then determination of the girl as she resolutely set out to take control of her own fate. I felt every step she took and was really racking my ol’ grey matter trying to figure out what the sacrifice was all about. Of course, in the end, the story did end up asking some pretty important moral and ethical questions. Sacrifice for the greater good by staying the same or buck tradition and, for better or worse, change the world around you?

Overall Rating: 5+

You guys did an amazing job on these short stories! I really felt like each of you nailed the surprise twist and ending. I hope that each of you continue to churn out more short stories. What can I say? I’m greedy! I would also like for Lynn to be able to create a second anthology of greatness. Soooooo…get to it, y’all!

On a side note: I think we should ALL encourage Ms. Lynn O’dell (Red Adept, herself!) to write more for our viewing pleasure! Thank you so much for sharing, Lynn!

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The Gaslight Journal – Carla Rene

Storyline: Ms. Carla Rene seems to have been born in the wrong century and I mean that in the best way possible! The Gaslight Journal is an excellent foray in the Jane Austen and Charles Dickens’ style of writing.

It is the early 1880s, prime Victorian age in the United States and propriety and society is the end all be all of any young lady’s existence. Miss Isabella Audley is a member of that same high society and while home from college for Christmas, she learns what it truly means to be shunned and to be loved by people she would have never expected to do one or the other.

After a strange comment upon her arrival in town, Isabella begins to see that things aren’t what she originally thought them to be. After she finds her father’s journal, the ugly truth changes her life forever.

Grammar/Spelling: I noticed some slight errors – very slight issues. For example (and this might be one of 3 errors that I noticed): “She continued to struggle; he continued to stared.”  Correct these small instances and The Gaslight Journal is perfect!

Character Development: Ms. Rene’s characters each fulfill their part in the grand scheme of the era: social climbers, snarky socialites and the occasional genuine good soul that manages to look past social status.

Isabella is a smart, out-spoken and vivacious young woman and is hard-pressed to keep her thoughts to herself. As much as she bucks against the tradition of the Victorian Age of thinking, she enjoys her status as one of affluence. Though, somehow (through sheer talent by Ms. Rene, I’m sure!), she is still quite likeable even with her sometimes shallow outlook on the world around her.

Izzy is quite easy to relate to because as a modern woman (read: I’d have been burned at the stake back then!), I too have a hard time keeping my thoughts to myself and refuse to let society dictate how I should interact with those around me.

Writing Style: As I stated before, The Gaslight Journal could easily fit into a collection of stories written by Jane Austen or Jane Eyre (Must have been a very popular name for the era!). The only thing that it lacks is the considerable length that is normally associated with their great works. Though, in these modern times, the length was perfect!

Continuity:  There were no issues with continuity.

Overall Rating: 4

I have to admit, I would have never chosen to read this novel on my own as this style isn’t really my cup of tea (hardee har har!). But, I’ll be darned if I didn’t end up really liking this work!

Ms. Carla Rene’s The Gaslight Journal would make an excellent “starter” novel for even younger readers to help pique their interest for other books in this genre.

Ms. Rene has even included some splendid short stories at this end of this book and these only add credence to her mastery of this style of writing.

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The Cutting Edge – Darcia Helle

Storyline: Darcia Helle’s The Cutting Edge kept me right on the edge the entire time with her razor sharp wit and even sharper critiques of the main character’s agonizingly annoying hair salon clients.

We meet Skye at the peak (or would it be low point?) of her career as a small town hairstylist who has just about had it up to her eyeballs with the daily complaints, snarky comments and just general absurdity of her clientele. Skye begins to have morbid and detailed fantasies about giving her customers something to actually complain about.

And that’s when the murders begin. Someone is killing women and calling themselves The Mass Avenger. The killer claims to be righting the injustices of those who feel they’re entitled in this world.

The Cutting Edge is a quick, hard to put down and delicious read that’s absolutely hilarious and keeps the reader guessing until very nearly the end.

Grammar/Spelling: I noticed some very minor grammar/formatting discrepancies. Perhaps one more read-through from a beta reader would clear that up.

Character Development  Poor Lilly Skye Destiny Summers. All she wants to do is her job: cut, color and style hair and all she seems to get are women (and even men) who do nothing but complain about this, that and bacon fat. Now all Skye wants to do is commit hairstyle homicide with her surgically sharpened shears. Skye is very relatable because everyone has been there: the fake plastic smile; the underappreciated work; the selfish people that we must put up with in our daily lives…  How great would it be if we could really give some of those people a good what-for?! Ms. Helle makes it possible to live vicariously, somewhat, through Skye’s daily grin and bear it grind.

Diane is Scott’s (Skye’s husband) vindictive ex-girlfriend and mother of their now 18 year old daughter.  Her goal in life is to make Skye and Scott miserable by demanding them to fork over money for her selfish daughter’s life.  She is the epitome of a heinous hag and, needless to say, Skye has several fantasies of causing grievous harm to her as well. I’m not sure if Ms. Helle could have made her anymore perfectly terrible. Nearly anyone with a terrible ex can understand and truly feel this situation.

Writing Style: The Cutting Edge is told through the eyes of both Skye and an anonymous serial killer. This aspect helps push the story along without being bogged down too many details that can often happen in a first person narrative.

The story does have some graphic scenes (one of the main characters is a serial killer, you know!), but it has enough laughter throughout to more than make up for the dreadfulness of the killings.

Continuity:  I noticed no issues with the continuity.

Overall Rating: 4+

I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who has just about had it with their service industry based job. Or just about anyone who has ever been underappreciated in their line of work. I would warn that this novel does have some adult themes, language and contains depictions of violence. The violence isn’t overwhelming nor is the imagery extremely detailed, it is there and it is realistic. I did have a few “Ohhh! *inward hiss*” moments as Ms. Helle described certain aspects of the serial killer’s choice of torture.

As I said before: for every horrendous act of the killer, there are multiple moments of genuine laughs. Ms. Helle did an excellent job and I look forward to reading more books in the future from her!

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Take the Monkeys and Run! – Karen Cantwell

Storyline: Well, Karen Cantwell, you’ve really nailed it with this crime-slash-mystery-slash-comedy-slash-romance story about a middle aged housewife with a boring life, an obsession with movies and monkeys in her yard. Take the Monkeys and Run is truly splendid!

Poor Barbara. She’s a newly single housewife that leads a rather dull life in a sleepy little cul-de-sac in rural Virginia. Well, it’s quiet until a moving van shows up in the middle of the night with a mysterious (and rather cheeky) cargo at the equally as mystifying empty house next door. After some cursory investigating, Barbara decides to call it a night and wakes up to some chattering monkeys in her trees!

As the mystery of the vacant house and the simian interlopers deepens, Barbara discovers that she and her well-intentioned friends may be in well over the heads! Barbara calls her ex boyfriend, Colt, a private investigator for a little back up. Colt arrives in town, unabashedly good looking and looking good at (maybe) filling the void recently vacated by her husband.

Barbara quickly becomes the center of a deadly cat and monkey game and must figure out a way to go from Sweet Suburban Mom to Super Hero Mom to save the day.

Grammar/Spelling: I noticed a few errors with punctuation throughout. As always, another thorough read through by a beta reader would probably take care of this.

Character Development: Oh Babs! She’s so sweet, naïve and innocent. She loves movies, dreams about making her directorial debut and even has a website dedicated to movie reviews. Well, sort of… She has yet to really make any true headway with it.

Ms. Cantwell really nails the modern day, stay at home mom who dreams big but is too afraid to follow through with those dreams. I loved how Barbara was able to turn almost any situation into a major motion movie with just her imagination. (I do this all of the time too! Glad to know that I’m not the only one!) She even picked out George Clooney to play her estranged husband. Barbara’s reactions to some pretty hairy situations were very realistic and quite hilarious.

Writing Style: The style was great it was very well written and flowed quite nicely. Ms. Cantwell really knows her pop culture and seems to have sort of opened up the door for her book to translate easily into a blockbuster movie!

There were some minor adult situations and adult language. (We’re talking mafia thugs here! Of course they have a less than savory vocabulary!)

Continuity:  No problems with continuity.

Overall Rating: 5

Overall Rating: Take the Monkeys and Run by Karen Cantwell could easily become one of my favorite books of all time. But, I won’t say that because then she might write something else and then I’d be made into a liar and I just can’t have that on my conscience! But, I will say it is definitely up there and I would whole-heartedly recommend this to anyone who enjoys mystery, mayhem and monkeys!

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Learn Me Good – John Pearson

Storyline: What can I say about Learn Me Good by John Pearson other than it really are good?! It’s better than good; it’s gooder even! Mr. Pearson’s hilarious book chronicles his first year of teaching through a series of emails to a former coworker. It almost makes me want to be a teacher. Almost.

Jack Woodson was laid off from his engineering job that he worked at for nearly 4 years and decided to become a school teacher.  After all the necessary tests, certifications and teacher’s training, he is now a brand spanking new math and science teacher at a Dallas area school with his very own class of 3rd grade students to mold into future world leaders.

Jack decides to share his day to day adventures and misadventures with a former colleague at the thermal design firm he was let go from. Learn Me Good is based on actual events. The names of the parties involved have all been changed to protect the innocent and deter the guilty from being too proud of their “accomplishments.” Jack pokes fun at his old coworkers, even comparing their maturity level to that of the 3rd graders he teaches and all the while, sharing anecdotes about the 8 and 9 year olds’ views on life, liberty and the pursuit of recess.

Grammar/Spelling: I did not notice any grammatical or spelling issues. (As to be expected, I mean, Mr. Pearson IS a teacher!)

Character Development: There were plenty of characters and plenty of character development. Mr. Pearson navigates through the first year of teaching with an ever-changing cast list in his class and a consistent group of players back at his old job. I could go on for ages about each character, but I’d not only be stealing Mr. Pearson’s thunder, I’d also be doing him a disservice with simple summations of each person’s integral part to the overall experience.

We have Marvin: the ultimate example of how ADHD cannot be “cured” with simple medication. He means well, he’s just…how do you say? Exuberant? Full of life? Yeah, that’s it. Marvin is a simple soul who sees the world as it is: in shades of “I didn’t mean to…”

Thompson is an aspiring rap star and dresses the part – in miniature, of course. He is subject to sudden and intense “rap attacks” when he pops, locks and lays down some serious (if inaudible) lyrical genius. At times, he even borrows verses from other lyrical geniuses – even if he doesn’t quite know what all of the words mean.

Then we have hapless Larry: one of Jack’s former coworkers and the butt to nearly any and all of Jack’s jokes both in these emails and when he worked with him. There was even a prank involving Larry’s unattended computer, a picture of the boss and an audio file set at full volume. I’ve been a witness to that sort of joke before. Always a good time for nearly all parties involved!

Writing Style: The writing style was straight-forward and full of laughs. At times, I could read between the lines and feel some of his frustrations with the entire standardized testing system; but, I could definitely see that he genuinely cared about his students’ successes and failures.

Continuity:  No issues with continuity.

Overall Rating: 5+

Learn Me Good was practically impossible to put down, hilarious and pretty inspiring. Just when I was fairly certain that our public school systems were full of teachers that don’t care and are just focused on standardized testing, Mr. Pearson proves that there are at least a couple who strive to go beyond the dreaded test. There were numerous times when I threatened to spit water out onto my keyboard when reading it. (“Yes, Generic Student?”)

I hope that Learn Me Good is the first in a series of hilarious school year stories. I could read these for DAYS. Or, if not a series, at least it will be the first of many great books to come from the very talented Mr. John Pearson.

Anyone with a child, anyone who works with children or has worked with children in the past or is planning on working with children in the future or, heck, anyone who can read at nearly any level, should read Learn Me Good! There is simply a lack of any good reasons not to read it!

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Hard Day’s Knight, Vol. 1 – John Hartness

Storyline: Beatles’ fans can relax! No groupies were harmed in the reading of this book! Hard Day’s Knight Vol 1 written by John Hartness is a surprisingly refreshing take on the sudden interest in all things fang and blood sucking related.

Jimmy and his best friend, Greg, are detectives who also happen to moonlight (Get it! HA!) as vampires. They are, or were, two 20somethings with only a minimal life outside of videogames, being nerds and just flying below the radar… until they were turned into vampires and decided to be good guys. Now, they may have bitten (Oh my God! Somebody STOP me! HA!) off more than they can swallow!

It appears that someone or something is kidnapping children in Charlotte, NC for a Halloween ritual that will undoubtedly end poorly for everyone inovolved. Jimmy and Greg, along with the best friend come priest, Mike, must figure out how to stop the dead from rising, the world from ending and the police from arresting them before time runs out.

Grammar/Spelling: I noticed a couple of punctuation issues throughout.  Hardly worth mentioning.

Character Development: The story is told from Jimmy’s sarcastic and twisted perspective. He’s quick to point out that his strengths (or weaknesses – depending on if someone finds him funny or not) lay in his humor, quick-thinking and his loyalty to Greg and Mike. Jimmy is also more of the action “man” in their partnership; whereas Greg is more the brains of the operation. They definitely have a symbiotic relationship. As much as they would deny it…  Both of these guys could be friends of mine – hell! I probably DO have friends like this!

Writing Style: From beginning to end, Jimmy’s flowing narrative carries the reader from his unfortunate kidnapping to fighting zombies in the middle of town. I really enjoyed the swipes that he took at the more *ahem* sparkly of his brethren and dispelled a lot of misconceptions that are associated with creatures of the night. Mr. Hartness does a phenomenal job with keeping the story fluid (HA! ANOTHER vampire pun! It’s like I have a SICKNESS!) and contemporary with enough pop culture references to keep it current without overdoing it.

The story contains adult language, violence and situations. So, it’s not for everyone.

Continuity:  No issues with continuity.

Overall Rating: 5

I really enjoyed this book and believe that Hard Day’s Night Vol. 1 will be a wonderfully entertaining series. Mr. John Hartness has written a fang-tastic (Last one…I promise!) vampire novel that isn’t just an ordinary self-loathing, angst-ridden story about a sad vampire who is just trying to fit in. He’s started a vampire detective series that I hope has many volumes!

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