Archive for the ‘Humour’ Category

I’ve finished reading my twelfth novel for 2021, The Diamond Brothers in Two of Diamonds, by Anthony Horowitz. He wrote the book for World Book Day 2013. World Book Day and World Book Night are creative initiatives designed by all those in the literary industry on both sides of the fence in the UK and Ireland. They run the events annually in both countries to encourage people of all ages to read. Now that’s an idea I can get behind.

The Diamond Brothers are among Anthony Horowitz’s least known characters. The elder Diamond, Tim, tagged as ‘the world’s worst detective,’ makes for an intriguing start. Then I love the twist that it is the kid brother, Nick, who is the protagonist and who is solving all the mysteries. Tim bumbles from one error of judgment to another and has his neck saved repeatedly by his underestimated little brother. The entire premise is kid-centred and a hoot.

Two of Diamonds gives us two stories,The French Confection (2002), and I Know What You Did Last Wednesday (2002) packaged together, with a special cover that “comes to life” when you download the app and hold your phone over it. 

Though I had heard of his name, this was my first time reading an Anthony Horowitz. After reading the line, ‘I like horror stories–but not when they happen to me.’ I knew to expect these stories would be firmly tongue-in-cheek. Here is an author going for the laughs and the fun quotient. ‘It’s not fair. I do my homework. I clean my teeth twice a day. Why does everyone want to kill me?’

The Nick Diamond character is relatable and lovable. How many of us have had the experience of being the beleaguered sibling in the family? Here, poor Nick has to look out for his elder brother, Tim, portrayed as thick as a plank. The smarter younger brother Nick watches over the hapless Tim in an easy-going way that endears Nick to us. He is literally “saving the cat” throughout every case. But that’s what the key is to our interest in the characters and the series, is that the elder boy is an oaf while his thirteen-year-old brother saves his bacon on the regular. Kids win. Score! Meanwhile, the eldest is none the wiser and still thinks he know best. Hilarious. It’s a premise to have every child reader groaning with recognition–a deft move by Horowitz.

The enjoyable part is that in Nick’s superior intelligence he can have a little laugh at the elder brother’s expense, which is enough to make any kid titter. ‘Tim said little on the journey. To cheer him up, I’d bought him a Beano comic and perhaps he was having trouble with the long words.’ It makes the child reader feel they are in on the joke, which is a pleasant feeling. The sense of irreverence coming through in the wit and humour is cool, too. ‘The boat was old and smelly. So was the captain.’

Yet Horowitz does not shy away from the tough stuff. The trail of bodies surprised me. It gives his stories an unexpected element. It keeps the reader on their toes. Anthony Horowitz, OBE, is an English author who has been writing fiction all his life. He is best known for his Alex Rider books. He is also the writer and creator of award-winning detective series, Foyle’s War, and more recently event drama Collision. In 2011, he gained a significant feather in his cap, being the first author ever endorsed by the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle to write a new Sherlock Holmes novel, titled The House of Silk.

As for Two of Diamonds, where did Horowitz get it right? In the unique premise, the humour, the “in joke” of the siblings, the tone, the mystery aspect. Everyone, young and old, gets sucked in by a mystery. I think the entire thing works and made me an instant fan. Where did Horowitz go wrong? Great premise, intriguing characters but the books are too short, about 80 pages per story, which left me wanting more. Great story, but not enough meat on the bones! Some critics also complained that the mysteries were too easy to figure out. I’m guessing they were adults and as this book is for middle-grade readers, I think it is fine. To be left wanting more is a good sign, right?

My rating: Two and three quarter stars.

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

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“I don’t think anything takes the place of reading.” ~ Beverly Cleary

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Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to yvettecarol@hotmail.com

I’ve finished reading my twelfth novel for 2020, Plan B, Further Thoughts on Faith, by Anne Lamott. I can’t pass a thrift store or book fair without looking at the books, and Anne Lamott is one of those authors that the title doesn’t matter: you snatch it up, anyway. It wasn’t until I brought Plan B home I realized it was an autobiographical account written in part about her struggle with the Bush administration and an internal tug-of-war around her faith.

I’ll admit I felt hesitation. I wasn’t sure if it would get past one page. But after reading the first line I was in hook, line and sinker.

Who could resist a book that begins, ‘On my forty-ninth birthday I decided that all of life was hopeless, and I would eat myself to death.’

The book is mesmerizing, a searing, endearingly honest account of one woman’s struggles in life with herself, her child, her mother and with her Christianity. It is tough stuff to tackle and yet done with such disarming honesty you forget your preconceived concepts and tag along for the ride. Plan B follows on in the same vein as Lamott’s first memoir, Travelling Mercies. Plan B is a series of articles on everything from the Bush administration to single parenthood, to judgement of others and self, to grappling with her mother’s Alzheimer’s, and her son’s adolescence, to getting older and losing friends.

Some reviewers have called Plan B ‘a spiritual antidote to anxiety and despair in increasingly fraught times.’ This is spirituality presented by someone who never takes themselves too seriously. Because of the deceptive ease with which Lamott deftly handles the big subjects, we find ourselves drawn to contemplate our own stand in life. At the same time, we appreciate the lightheartedness, the rawness that reminds us even the top writers are human and we’re all in this together.

Anne Lamott, April 10, 1954, is an American novelist and non-fiction writer. She is also a progressive political activist, public speaker, and writing teacher. Born in San Francisco, she now lives in Marin County, California. Most of Lamott’s nonfiction works are autobiographical and of her books, they have made The Midnight Gospel, Raise Hell: The Life & Times Of Molly Ivins into TV shows and movies. Her father, Kenneth Lamott, was also a writer. Anne wrote her first published novel Hard Laughter for him after his diagnosis of brain cancer.

Freida Lee Mock researched Lamott’s life in the fascinating documentary Bird by Bird with Anne. After the documentary aired, Lamott became known as “the people’s author.” We feel there is a familiarity there.  Marked by self-deprecating humour, Lamott is unafraid to share the difficult issues like alcoholism, depression, solo motherhood and faith, or as one reviewer on Newsweek said, ‘call it a lowercase approach to life’s Big Questions–she converts potential op-ed boilerplate into enchantment.’

Lamott is nothing short of genius and she is a really interesting character to read about.

In Plan B, we recognize ourselves and our frailties. Lamott reflects our imperfections and the continuous life lessons on self acceptance. By revealing she has learned to love the jiggly parts of her legs and butt (“The Aunties” as she calls them), she allows us to see ourselves yet in such a light-hearted way that we laugh too. As a narrator of her own experience and ours, the essays in Plan B are eclectic and often unexpected, but always eye opening, warm and relatable.

Of her writing, Lamott has said, ‘When I am reading a book like this, I feel rich and profoundly relieved to be in the presence of someone who will share the truth with me, and throw the lights on a little, and I try to write these kinds of books. Books, for me, are medicine.’

Here is someone speaking my language. Plan B surprised me. I read it avidly to the end; I laughed and sat thinking deeply too. The essays cover the broad, raw spectrum of life and are given with nothing withheld. Lamott’s candour is as refreshing as taking a dip in a pool of fresh water. A novel I would put aside for a few years, then pick up and gladly read again.

My rating: Four and a half stars.

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

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I try to write the books I would love to come upon, that are honest, concerned with real lives, human hearts, spiritual transformation, families, secrets, wonder, craziness—and that can make me laugh. ~ Anne Lamott.

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This week, at Toastmasters, I attempted to pull off my first ever roast. ‘A roast’ is a speech that relies on wit, humour and satire to ‘poke fun at a person in a good natured way.’ Can you imagine? I can’t think of too many speeches that would be harder to pull off. However, in the Toastmasters system, you choose your projects and most come in bundled sets, so when you take on a certain manual or a pathway you take on every challenge in that bundle. I chose Special Occasions Speeches (from the old paper manual system), not realizing that one of the projects therein was “The Roast.”

I have a terrible track record with humorous speeches, having bombed abominably once or twice.

In conversation, I can raise a laugh, but I still don’t know how to use humour in speeches. In my nervousness, I over do it. I’m just not that funny. So, I avoid the humorous speech contests each year like the plague, and I never attempt comedic speeches. I know my strengths and humour is definitely not one of them.

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When I discovered there was a roast among the projects in Special Occasions, I was quaking in my boots. I wanted to put the manual back, but it was too late, I was already three speeches in. So I’m going to tell you a little secret. I repeated project 2, five times over a period of five months. I couldn’t bear to do the roast. So I put it off by repeating the project I preferred, “Speaking in Praise.”  At first, I wondered if I could get away with it, because surely people would notice I was doing the same project.

Strangest thing. No one noticed.

I spoke in praise of Charlotte’s Stitches, I spoke in praise of my father, I spoke in praise of Korucare New Zealand, I spoke in praise of Sam (my son with Downs’ syndrome), and I spoke in praise of my grandmother. No one said a thing!

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I could have gotten away with it longer probably, but I made the mistake of mentioning to one of the other members, last week, that I was scared of doing the roast.

He said, “You can’t not do a project just because it’s hard. You’ve got to do it anyway!”

The gauntlet was down. I was determined I was going to write a funny speech. I would ‘do it anyway!’ I determined that this week, I would roast our most senior member and club treasurer, at our Toastmasters’ meeting.

Did I roast him? Yes. Was I successful? I don’t know. I can’t seem to do funny conversational. I go immediately to clown and cartoon, and it often falls flat. My first two jokes didn’t get much of a response and I already had that sinking feeling. Various audience members told me afterwards they enjoyed my roast. I did raise a few laughs, but not anywhere near what I’d expected. Now, I know for sure that I’m not that funny.

However, what I do know is that I am brave.

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I am so proud of myself for doing that roast.

That’s a good feeling to have about yourself.

I don’t like to stretch my neck out any more than the next person, but I notice that when I do take a risk sometimes it reaps dividends. So, accepting a challenge is worth the effort, once in a while.

I was petrified of trying to roast someone. I did not want to do it. I would have procrastinated forever, if I hadn’t been hustled out of my cave. Roasting someone was something so far out of my comfort zone it was a new frontier. Yet, I accepted the challenge and went and did it anyway. Sure it wasn’t perfect. Sure, I didn’t captivate everyone, one guy looked down the whole time I was speaking and didn’t look up till the end. Sure, I didn’t bring the house down. But I did go out on the “stage,” into the bright lights, and deliver a bloody roast.

I think that’s pretty cool.

What about you? Have you ever thought of joining Toastmasters, or some other club? Have you stepped outside of your comfort zones lately?

Yvette Carol 2

Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Failures I consider valuable negative information – Dr. Goddard

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com