Tag Archives: humour

Review: Random Acts of Murder, by Christy Barritt

Random Acts of Murder, by Christy BarrittRandom Acts of Murder, by Christy Barritt (River Heights Press, 2014)

Having only a year to live affects a person’s choices. Social worker Holly Paladin knows she can’t change the world, but she can make a difference for a few people – even if her random acts of kindness could get her in a heap of trouble.

Case in point: she breaks into a client’s empty home to clean it. The occupant is a single mom, overworked, underpaid, and out of hope. Won’t a surprise cleaning job give her a boost?

We’ll never know, because as well as a mess, Holly finds a dead body. She flees in panic, but now her cleaning supplies, and maybe her fingerprints, are present at a crime scene.

Afraid to confess to the police and bring scandal on her exemplary family, Holly lives in fear of being found out. The murderer has already found her out, and starts leaving identical cleaning supplies at the scene of his next murders. “The Good Deeds Killer” has been born.

Holly’s family love her but don’t understand her. Her good friend, Jamie, does both. And Chase Dexter, who humiliated her in high school but who claims he’s changed, seems to understand her too. Which may be a bad thing, since he’s the detective assigned to the case.

Favourite lines:

She was tiny and blonde and wore expensive business suits and handed out her business card with all the ease of a little kid spreading the flu. [Holly describing her mom. Kindle location 366.]

Maybe being alone outside wasn’t the smartest idea after being shot at twice, but I refused to live in total fear. Partial would have to do. [Kindle location 1437.]

I had forgotten how much I enjoy Christy Barritt’s sense of humour. She’s the author of the Squeaky Clean Mystery series and other novels, and she’s so prolific that I’ve fallen behind with her books. I definitely want to read the next one in this series, Random Acts of Deceit. For more about the author and her books, visit www.christybarritt.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

On Dandelions and Happiness

This rebuttal to last week’s post, On Dandelions and Sin, is brought to you by guest blogger Dan D. Lion.


Dan D. Lion,
Worldwide Coalition of Dandelions

On behalf of the Worldwide Dandelion Coalition, allow me to address the slurs cast upon our species in a previous blog post comparing us to spiritually and physically harmful human behaviour.

While the similarities pointed out in that post are apt, we at the Worldwide Dandelion Coalition categorically reject any inference that we, therefore, are a menace in need of removal. Our “fuzzy yellow suns, milky seed-puff moons,” to quote the offending post, provide much benefit:

  • our blossoms are signs of spring, warming hearts
  • we provide plentiful blossoms for loving children to give as bouquets
  • we add colour, especially on overcast days
  • children play with us, making dandelion necklaces and flicking our golden orbs at one another
  • they also love to blow our seed globes, an act that causes much laughter and wonder among the young
  • we hold our stark caps high once the seeds have blown, examples of standing strong and authentic with no pretense at youth and no shame about our lost beauty
  • certain of our roots and leaves are, in fact, edible, and humans can enjoy us as greens, wine, coffee substitute, tea and herbal remedies (The Morning Chores site lists “21 Surprisingly Tasty Dandelion Recipes“)
  • our graceful stems that bow under lawnmowers and then stand again are examples of resilience
  • we may be considered the symbol of courage
  • the way we allow the wind to scatter our seed can show humans the value of trusting the Creator to direct each one’s path – contrary to implications in last Friday’s post, we do not plan a calculated invasion and instead we bloom where we’re planted
  • the Creator’s care for us is meant to remind humans to trust His even greater care for them (Matthew 6:28-30)
  • there are 250 species of dandelion – this speaks to humans of accepting diversity and of adapting to new circumstances
  • honeybees love us – and humans love honey
  • to those who appreciate us despite our hurtful designation as weeds, we illustrate maxims such as “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and “One man’s treasure is another man’s poison”
  • while still maligned as a “noxious weed” in parts of Canada, dandelions have mercifully been removed from the city of Calgary’s hit list and are even embraced by the province of British Columbia as an “agricultural commodity” (read Dandelions Finally Get their Day in the Sun: National Post, 2010)
  • we’ve also inspired production of dandelion paperweights (see the completed Kickstarter campaign here)
  • the sight of us can be a simple pleasure
  • we have inspired poetry
  • watch this video: Time Lapse Dandelion Flower to Seed Head, filmed by Neil Bromholl. Aren’t we beautiful?

Whether you can accept us on your property or not, dandelions are here to stay, and we invite you to appreciate us as much as you can, and to let us brighten your spirits.


Dan D. Lion
Spokesblossom, Worldwide Dandelion Coalition
“We come in peace.”

Writer’s Block

Thoughts on faith and fiction.

That’s what I write here, in non-fiction form, and it matters to me. But I love writing fiction. I’ve had some short stories published and hope someday to introduce you to some of my imaginary friends in a novel.

One Christmas, my characters “bought” me one of the novelty shirts from Signals.com:

Writer's Block

My youngest son, who shares my fiction habit, wrapped it on their behalf. This is the tag he wrote:

From the voices

(If you can’t make that out, it says “Yours, from the voices.” With a heart.)

Review: Sinking Deeper, by Steve Vernon

Sinking Deeper cover artSinking Deeper: Or My Questionable (Possibly Heroic) Decision to Invent a Sea Monster, by Steve Vernon (Nimbus, 2011)

Fourteen-year-old Roland lives in the dying seaside town of Deeper Harbour, Nova Scotia. His parents have separated, and when he’s with his police-chief father, he sleeps at the jail while his dad does night patrol.

Except when his grandfather convinces him to sneak out for some prank-type vandalism. That’s how the story opens, and lest parents be concerned, there are consequences and restitution. There’s also, through a madcap series of events, the inspiration of how to revitalize the town’s tourist industry so Roland’s mom won’t make him move to Ottawa in search of a better future.

Roland, along with Grandpa Angus, 15-year-old Dulsie, and her father Warren, will create a sea monster. And they do—through spreading rumours and building an actual “Fogopogo” for the townspeople’s “sightings”.

The story is told in the first person with evocative descriptions like this one:

I … squoodged the sleep-sand out of my eyeballs with the sides of my fists. (p. 3)

And observations like this one:

The idea that had been sneaking around the basement of my imagination jumped up and smacked me directly between the eyes. (p. 30)

This is a fun novel, heartwarming in places, and with plenty of humour. It also has plenty of depth, which, sadly, makes for a more realistic ending than I’d hoped. But the characters are delightful, and Roland discovers new layers to these people he’s grown up with and thinks he knows.

I heartily recommend Sinking Deeper for young adult readers and adults who are still in touch with their 12-to-14-year-old selves. Sinking Deeper was nominated for the Silver Birch and Hackmatack Awards.

Steve Vernon is the author of four collections of Maritime ghost stories, the children’s picture book Maritime Monsters, and more. He and his publisher, Nimbus, are local to me, but I heard of this book through a blog giveaway (and won!) You can learn more about Steve Vernon at his blog and on Facebook.

[Review copy won from Polilla Writes.]

Review: Duke the Chihuahua Writes! by Donna Fawcett

cover art: Duke the Chihuahua WritesDuke the Chihuahua Writes!, by Donna Fawcett (Smashwords, 2012)

Duke is indeed a Chihuahua. He’s, shall we say, mature in years. Bee is an adolescent German Shepherd. Donna Fawcett is an award-winning author of fiction (under the name Donna Dawson) and non-fiction, and a former writing instructor. She’s also a speaker and a singer-songwriter.

When Donna began chronicling Duke’s writing misadventures on her blog, they were so well-received that Duke the Chihuahua Writes! was born. As an eager novice, Duke gets himself into some “teachable moments” on his writing journey. Between them, he and Bee encounter just about everything a new writer needs to learn. Duke even tries his paw at NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

In 67 short chapters, the book covers the basics that beginners need to know: research, queries, self-editing, managing submissions, handling critiques and rejections, genres, characters, and more.

Duke and Bee make great company through the book, and readers will have more fun learning vicariously than reading a traditional “do this, don’t do that” instructional approach. The humour is appealing, and some of the author’s word choices are great. For example, Duke is a gentlepooch who, although he drinks cap-pup-chinos, leaves the pawdicures to Bee.

The book’s full title is Duke the Chihuahua Writes! A Self-Help and Slightly Crazy Book on How To Write. It’s available as an ebook through Smashwords. You can learn more about Donna Fawcett on her website. For more about her canine writing buddies, visit Duke and Bee Write or check out their blog.

[Review copy provided by the author.]

The LaTisha Barnhart Mystery Series, by S. Dionne Moore

The LaTisha Barnhart Mysteries Series, by S. Dionne Moore (Spyglass Lane Mysteries)

Murder on the Ol Bunions cover artLaTisha Barnhart and her husband, Hardy, are a middle-aged black couple living in the fictional town of Maple Gap, Colorado. They’re still very much in love after almost 40 years, and the amount of sass they fling at one another to cover it up is funny.

Hardy has retired from the workforce, but as the series opens, LaTisha is fighting empty-nest syndrome by taking an online degree in police science. She quit her last job—or was she fired?—and when she finds her ex-boss murdered, she’s afraid she’ll be suspect number one. That’s book 1, Murder on the Ol’ Bunions.

Book 2, Polly Dent Loses Grip, takes Polly Dent Loses Grip cover art place in a nearby town as the Barnharts try to get Hardy’s elderly mother settled into a retirement residence. Management dismisses an on-site death as accidental, but LaTisha sees murder in the mix. As well as Polly Dent (whose hands may have slipped on some powder), there are other amusing names in this book: Sue Mie is an angry young woman with attitude, and Thomas Philcher is rumoured to be a bank robber.

Your Goose is Cooked cover artYour Goose is Cooked is book 3. LaTisha and Hardy are back in Maple Gap and they’re the new owners of a restaurant called “Your Goose is Cooked.” Their cook overhears a threat on the mayor’s life but is afraid to go to the police, leaving LaTisha to investigate. Add a murder and an attempted hit-and-run on LaTisha herself, throw in small-town rumours and an election campaign, and things get a bit wild.

This is a fun, light-hearted mystery series, and I recommend starting with book 1. The stories build on one another, from Murder on the Ol’ Bunions to Polly Dent Loses Grip to Your Goose is Cooked. They’re 99¢ each for Kindle and at Smashwords, so why not collect all three?

I won an e-copy of Your Goose is Cooked at Lena Nelson Dooley’s blog, A Christian Writer’s World, and liked it so much I bought books 1 and 2.  The draw is over, but if you click here you can read an interview with S. Dionne Moore and an excerpt from book 1, Murder on the Ol’ Bunions.

S. Dionne Moore writes historical romance and cozy mysteries. To learn more about her and her books, visit her website.  Your Goose is Cooked is only available in electronic format, but her previous books are in print as well as ebooks.

[Book 3 provided by S. Dionne Moore and Lena Nelson Dooley, with no strings attached. Books 1 and 2 purchased from Smashwords. The choice to write a review was mine.]

Catchy song, clever lyrics, and some smiles

Veggie Tales make me chuckle. A lot. Here’s In the Belly of the Whale, with footage from the “Jonah” movie and music from the Newsboys. Gotta love a song that legitimately includes the word “expectorated”.

The Opener — Jonny Diaz

I saw Jonny Diaz perform “The Opener” at Maple Noise 2011. I really like his serious songs, especially “More Beautiful You” and “Scars” but it’s great to laugh once in a while. You can see the video for his new song, “Scars,” on the Jonny Diaz website. The site also has a link to follow him on Twitter–definitely worth doing if you like to smile. Here’s “The Opener” for another smile:

Review: Murder in Hum Harbour, by Jayne E. Self

Murder in Hum Harbour book coverMurder in Hum Harbour, by Jayne E. Self (Harbourlight Books, 2011)

Part-time medical receptionist, part-time jewellery crafter, Gailynn MacDonald thinks she knows everything about everyone in Hum Harbour, Nova Scotia. That’s the way she likes it. But when her former employer Doc Campbell turns up dead aboard his beached yacht, and her sister-in-law becomes the prime suspect, quirky, over-excitable Gailynn vows to unmask the killer. With Geoff Grant, Doc’s handsome replacement, by her side Gailynn uncovers secrets and confronts childhood fears. And in the process she discovers that catching a killer is a lot like crafting her sea glass jewellery… it’s all in the details. (From the publisher’s website)

This is a short romantic suspense, perhaps a little longer than a Love Inspired book. As such, there’s not a lot of room for multiple plot lines. Both the mystery and the romance work well, and I like the author’s touches of humour (Cousin Mimi names her Daschunds Oscar, Meyer and Frank).

Canadian author Jayne E. Self does a fine job of bringing the characters of the small, coastal town of Hum Harbour to life, and she absolutely nails the feel of the setting.

The novel is told first-person from Gailynn’s point of view, and she’s an enjoyable narrator. She’s impulsive, independent, and in over her head with this mystery.

I look forward to reading the next novel in the Seaglass Mysteries series, to see what misadventures Gailynn gets herself into but also to see how things work out for some of the other inhabitants of the town.

Murder in Hum Harbour is Jayne Self’s first traditionally-published novel, available in print and ebook formats from the publisher and most online bookstores. Caught Dead: A Dean Constable Mystery appeared on the Presbyterian Record site in 2010 as a weekly serial. According to the author’s website there are sequels in the works for both stories. You can learn more about Jayne Self at her website, and see the novel’s trailer here.

PS… if you’ve never seen sea glass, it’s lovely, especially if you find it on the shore and it’s still wet from the ocean. For examples of how it can look as jewellery, see the Sea Glass Jewelry site.

[Review copy provided by the author in exchange for a fair review.]


Review: The Realms Thereunder, by Ross Lawhead

The Realms Thereunder - cover artThe Realms Thereunder, by Ross Lawhead (Thomas Nelson, 2011)

The Realms Thereunder is a fun ride. Eight years ago, 13-year-olds Daniel and Freya discovered an underground world with sleeping knights and dangerous creatures. Today, Daniel lives on the streets of Oxford, England, and Freya is a university student there. And the lines between the visible and hidden world are blurring.

The novel tells both stories, in scenes clearly labelled “eight years before” and “now,” and it held my interest from the very beginning. The plot is complex but understandable, Daniel and Freya are real characters with real issues and neuroses (Daniel’s home life scarred him, and Freya hasn’t recovered from her first experience underground.)

There’s some delightfully understated humour, like Daniel’s reaction to a stone he’s supposed to put in his mouth, and there are mythical and disturbing creatures of all kinds. (Love the conversation about how to dispose of dead trolls in present-day UK.)

Naturally, most people around Daniel and Freya deny the encroaching danger, but there are a few who don’t: Scottish police officer Alex Simpson and the mysterious Oxford-based group, the Society of Concerned Individuals.

The Sleeping Knights (once awake) and their people use archaic names and titles, complete with some ancient letters that I can’t reproduce on this blog. The author is careful to have Daniel or Freya pronounce the key words phonetically the first time so readers can do the same. And there’s a pronunciation key at the back of the book if needed.

I applaud the publisher for allowing at least some of British spellings in the novel (they wimp out on manoeuvred and go for maneuvered). Words like honour, armour, colour, are a subtle way to remind readers that we’re in England. As a Canadian, I hope this is precedent for novels set in Canada.

On the other hand, this intricately-plotted story would have benefited from more careful polishing and copy-editing. We see a horse’s reigns and a creature trying to wretch, and a character exalt at the prospect of adventure, all simple spell-check issues. And there’s text with repeated words or phrases (“find purchase” three times close together) that a quick polish would fix.

These are minor things and hardly worth mention for most readers, but they’re evidence of a disturbing trend as even the big-league publishers find themselves with more work than time to do it.

The Realms Thereunder is Ross Lawhead’s first novel. I thoroughly enjoyed it, quickly passed it on to my son, and am looking forward to the next in the series, The Fearful Gates, available September 2012.

Click to read an excerpt of The Realms Therunder, and you can learn more about Ross Lawhead at his blog.

[Book has been provided courtesy of Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Thomas Nelson]