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Toil & Trouble

In his latest memoir, Augusten Burroughs, once again, delivers a story filled with laughter, heartache, and yes...magic. In this story of moving from the big city to the country, he reveals that he is a witch. Yes, a witch! Yes, I was a bit thrown over this revelation, but through his candid telling of his own life, I grew to appreciate him even more.

As always, he includes a fantastic cast of characters you really can connect to. If you are a fan of his work, you will not be disappointed. In Toil & Trouble (2019), he reveals much more of himself to his fans than just being a witch.

Visit Overdrive to read the ebook or listen to the audiobook.

Poppy Harmon Investigates by Lee Hollis (2018)

poppyWhen retired actress Poppy Harmon discovers that her recently deceased husband left her bankrupt, she wonders what type of job would be suitable for her. After a little thought, she decides to open the Desert Flowers Detective Agency with her best friends Iris and Violet. They find that no one wants to hire three women in their sixties, so they recruit Matt, who is Poppy's daughter's boyfriend (and a very good-looking actor) to join their team. With the addition of Violet's twelve-year-old grandson, Wyatt, in charge of all the computer (i.e. hacking) work, they are good to go.

Their first case is finding out who is responsible for a series of burglaries at a local retirement community. With lots of humor and very vivid characters, Poppy Harmon Investigates by Lee Hollis is a perfect read for those who love cozy mysteries.

 
 
 
 

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson (2016)

msbixbysWritten from the alternating perspectives of three sixth grade boys, this exceptional novel follows their quest to create a very special "last day" for their teacher, recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and unable to finish the school year. Clever, funny, and heartwarming, this quick read will take you through a range of emotions as you are part of Steve, Brand, and Topher's mission for their beloved Ms. Bixby.

Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson is among the 2019 Bluestem and Caudill Award nominees for the State of Illinois, designed for students in grades 3-5 and 4-8, respectively, but grownups, don't discount the opportunity to enjoy this book as well!

Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan (2013)

dadisfatI just listened to Dad is Fat on audio. Read by author Jim Gaffigan, it is a laugh-out-loud collection of essays of what it is like to be the father of five kids and their adventures of living in New York City. The humor is universal and the love for his family comes through in each chapter.

Spotlight: Calvin and Hobbes

calvinhobbesWhy do we care so much about an egotistical, obnoxious, bratty kid, and his stuffed cat?  I know that I—along with billions of other fans— love Calvin and Hobbes, but I have to ask myself why.  Calvin is certainly not admirable in any way, other than maybe the expert use of his imagination, and his undying devotion to his tiger.  Mostly he can be counted on to be more intent on mischief than on doing good, taking an almost disturbing sense of pride in this. And when he isn’t “up to no good,” he can be found doing something totally unproductive, like watching bad television.

And yet we do love Calvin and Hobbes, because they’re undeniably charming and childlike, with that sense of abandon that we wish we still had. Plus, Hobbes is the voice of reason, after all—a good foil to Calvin’s enthusiastic hedonism and reckless sense of adventure. Though, most of the time, we have to admit Hobbes doesn’t put up much of a fight…

Check out Bill Watterson’s work.

Adulthood is a Myth by Sarah Andersen (2016)

adulthoodmythThis was my first go at a graphic novel, so I was pleased to find that this book is a collection of short graphic anecdotes. It was easy to read a few pages here and there in between other activities. Adulthood is a Myth is incredibly relatable, especially if you're a 20-30 something female, but anyone in that age bracket can definitely connect with Sarah Andersen's humorous spin on life. If you do enjoy Adulthood is a Myth, don't miss the additional installments in the Sarah Scribbles series, Big Mushy Happy Lump, which came out in 2017, and Herding Cats, due out in March 2018.

The Relic Master by Christopher Buckley (2015)

Political writer Christopher Buckley retreats to the 16th century for this hilarious story as he believed the U.S election of 2016 was sufficiently self-satirizing to demand his attention. In 1517, relic hunting was a good business for Dismas until he conspires with the artist Durer to produce a creditable shroud for sale to an affluent but corrupt noble. The noble was greatly displeased when the fraud was uncovered and Dismas escapes with his life only after agreeing to steal the true shroud for the noble. The reader then journeys with Dismas and Durer to Chambery in hopes of substituting a shroud of equal or better quality (according to Durer) for the true shroud. Many misadventures and missteps occur for the reader to enjoy until the pair of travelers are rewarded for their efforts. The reader should then read again the 2017 news report at the beginning of The Relic Master to see what the author is suggesting.

It's. Nice. Outside. by Jim Kokoris (2015)

itsniceoutsideJohn Nichols is on a road trip from Chicago to South Carolina to attend his oldest daughter Karen's wedding. Accompanying him is his nineteen-year-old son, Ethan, who has autism. Travelling with Ethan is so difficult that John feels they can only drive several hours each day. In fact, living with Ethan has put a strain on everyone in the family, and John and his wife, Mary, divorced after he had an affair. John also has a secret agenda for this trip: a spot has opened up at a group home in Maine for Ethan to live full time. Mary and John agreed a while ago that the place is perfect for Ethan. They just didn't expect an opening so soon. How will the family let Ethan go after he has been such a huge part of their lives for so many years? In It's. Nice. Outside., Jim Kokoris has written a realistic, at times humorous, look at how each member of a family is affected by living with a special needs child.
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Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (2012)

bernadetteSomething snapped in Bernadette a long time ago. No one knows for sure. She quit her job at the peak of her architectural career. She had several miscarriages. Now she is a recluse who tries to hold it together for the sake of her brilliant daughter Bee. She thinks she has found the answer with the help of a virtual assistant, but everything goes wrong when the family is about to embark on a trip to Antarctica.

Check out Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette along with other stories told through letters, emails, diaries, etc. in our list of Epistolary Novels.

Man at the Helm by Nina Stibbe (2015)

manatthehelmIn the early 1970s, a woman from a wealthy background suddenly finds herself divorced and living in a small English village, where divorced women are suspect (it would seem for good reason). The book is told in the first person by ten-year-old Lizzie (looking back as an adult) and has quite a funny tone and wonderfully set pieces. Nina Stibbe’s Man at the Helm is very funny, but sad too.

I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems by Cats by Francesco Marciuliano (2012)

icouldpeeonthisDelight in to this amusing short book of poems from a cat’s point of view. The poems in I Could Pee on This really capture a cat’s quirky personality and behavior. Cute photos enhance enjoyment of Francesco Marciuliano’s book.

One poem I particularly liked:

“Busy, Busy”

It’s 8 a.m. and time to rest
It’s 10 a.m. and time to relax
It’s noon and time for repose
It’s 3 p.m. and time for shut-eye
It’s 6 p.m. and time for siesta
It’s 9 p.m. and time to slumber
It’s midnight and time to snooze
It’s 4 a.m. and time to hang upside down from your bedroom ceiling, screaming

Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott (1994)

Bird by Birdbirdbybird is Anne Lamott's book on writing. She covers a wide variety on life and writing including chapters called "Sh**ty First Drafts," "Jealousy," and "Writer's Block." She begins with a simple example from 30 years ago of her then 10-year-old brother struggling with a report on birds that was due the next day. He didn't have any idea on how to even begin. Their father came to comfort him and said that he all he needed to do to complete the report was to take it "bird by bird." It is a simple and touching beginning that summarizes the entire book. This book is inspiring and hopeful to all writers and artists who are struggling to complete their writing goals. I recommend it to anyone who likes to create.

The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs by Alexander McCall Smith (2005)

index.aspxEnjoy the very funny adventures of Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld in The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs. I listened to the audio version, which was read by Hugh Laurie. His voice and delivery complimented Alexander McCall Smith’s text.

The first book in the series is titled Portuguese Irregular Verbs.
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Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (2000)

Me Talk Pretty One Day is a series of funny essays by David Sedaris. In the first half of the book, he recounts humorous anecdotes about his life in the United States, but my favorite is an essay about his time living in France and trying to learn French with transplants from around the world. The class eagerly attempts, in very broken French, to try to describe to a Muslim woman what Easter is. It is one of the funniest things I have ever read.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (2012)

Rachel Joyce’s first novel –  about a retired Englishman setting off to visit a dying colleague, Queenie Hennessy – sounds excessively sentimental, but it is an inspiring kind of book.  Harold’s need to reconnect with Queenie sends him on a wandertour up England, but his journey becomes one of self-discovery.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is a novel told with humor and charm leading to a powerful climax. I found it to contain insight into the thoughts and feelings we all carry (sometimes buried) within our hearts.

The story is so compelling it becomes a comic and tragic joy and I love it when I find a book that is this funny, wise and charming!
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