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Search tags: Satire
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review 2018-11-20 14:37
Domestic noir, dark humour, and a fantastic new voice
My Sister, the Serial Killer - Oyinkan Braithwaite

Thanks to NetGalley and to Atlantic Books (Doubleday) for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

The title of this book hooked me. The fact that it was set in Lagos, Nigeria, made it more attractive. I could not resist the cover. And then I started reading and got hit by this first paragraph:

“Ayoola summons me with these words —Korede, I killed him. I had hoped I would never hear those words again.”

Told in the first person by Korede, the book narrates her story and that of her “complex” relationship with her younger sister, Ayoola, beautiful, graceful, a successful designer, beloved of social media, irresistible to men, the favourite of everybody… She’s almost perfect. But, there is a big but, which you will have guessed from the title. She is a serial killer.

This is a short and very funny book, although it requires a certain kind of sense of humour on the part of the reader. You need to be able to appreciate sarcasm and dark humour (very dark) to find it funny, but if you do, this is a fresh voice and a different take on what has become an extremely popular genre recently, domestic noir. I kept thinking about the many novels I had read where I had commented on the setting of the book and how well the author had captured it. There are no lengthy descriptions in this novel, but it manages to capture the beat and the rhythm of Lagos (a place where I’ve never been, I must admit) and makes us appreciate what life must be like for the protagonists. Because, although Ayoola is a murderer, life goes on, and Korede has to keep working as a nurse, she is still in love (or so she thinks) with one of the doctors at the hospital, their mother still suffers from her headaches, Ayoola wants to carry on posting on Snapchat, the patient in coma Korede confides in needs to be looked after, the police need to be seen to be doing something, and there are more men keen on spending time with beautiful Ayoola…

I found Korede understandable, although I doubt that we are meant to empathise with her full-heartedly. At some points, she seems to be a victim, trapped in a situation she has no control over. At others, we realise that we only have her own opinion of her sister’s behaviour, and she has enabled the murderous activities of her sibling, in a strange symbiotic relationship where neither one of them can imagine life without the other. We learn of their traumatic past, and we can’t help but wonder what would we do faced with such a situation? If your sister was a psychopath (not a real psychiatric diagnosis, but I’m sure she’d score quite high in the psychopathy scale if her sister’s description is accurate) who kept getting into trouble, always blaming it on others, would you believe her and support her? Would you help her hide her crimes? Is blood stronger than everything else?

I loved the setting, the wonderful little scenes (like when Tade, the attractive doctor, sings and the whole city stops to listen, or when the police take away Korede’s car to submit it to forensic testing and then make her pay to return it to her, all dirty and in disarray), the voice of the narrator and her approach to things (very matter-of-fact, fully acknowledging her weaknesses, her less-than-endearing personality, sometimes lacking in insight  but also caring and reflective at times), and the ending as well. I also enjoyed the writing style. Short chapters, peppered with Yoruba terms, vivid and engaging, it flows well and it makes it feel even briefer than it is.

If you enjoy books with a strong sense of morality and providing deep lessons, this novel is not for you. Good and bad are not black and white in this novel, and there is an undercurrent of flippancy about the subject that might appeal to fans of Dexter more than to those who love conventional thrillers or mysteries. But if you want to discover a fresh new voice, love black humour, and are looking for an unusual setting, give it a go. I challenge you to check a sample and see…

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text 2018-10-06 17:33
Reading progress update: I've read 332 out of 332 pages.
Wyrd Sisters - Terry Pratchett

One of those Discworld books that only get better with every single reread.  Pratchett absolutely hit his stride with this ... one of my all-time favorites, by far not for the Shakespeare references alone.

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review 2018-10-02 01:30
The Fourth Bear (Nursery Crimes, #2)
The Fourth Bear - Jasper Fforde

What can ever be said about a Jasper Fforde book that would make sense to anyone that hasn't read one?  This is the second in what is, so far, a two book series about what crime would look like if Nursery Characters lived in the real world.  Jack Spratt, the head of the Nursery Crimes Division, investigates several seemingly unrelated crimes:  Porridge smuggling, a missing Goldilocks, the escape of the Gingerbread man, and his new car that never ages, with a painting in the boot that does.  All while fighting suspension based on a pending psych evaluation after being swallowed by the Big Bad Wolf.

 

It's not all Mother Goose either, side characters include Spratt's daughter Pandora and her soon to be husband, Prometheus and at least one character from Shakespeare.  Oh, and an alien.  Because, why not?

 

In spite of sounding (and mostly being) silly, it's not an easy/breezy book to read.  There are layers in the writing and the jokes and the references that are easy to miss.  There's a subtle - very subtle - disregard for the fourth wall, where the characters not only recognise they're in a book (a la Thursday Next), but will make subtle reference to the author and the reader.  So not only is it a book where the overload of satire is best enjoyed in small doses, but one that if carefully read will give more humorous dividends than a quick read would.

 

Generally it's just a hell of a lot of fun to read.  The puns get punnier towards the end and there was at least one *snort*chuckle in the last 30%.  It might have been it was late and I was tired, but 

 

cuculear power 

(spoiler show)

 

made me laugh.

 

I read this for the Modern Noir square in Halloween Bingo.  It's a gimme for the Grimm Tale square, but I've already read that terrible retelling of Snow White and it's not going to have been for nothing, and Spratt's attitude and methods are definitely noir-ish.

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review 2018-09-23 08:21
Worst best luck and a tourist
The Color of Magic - Terry Pratchett

This is my first Pratchett, and I had so much fun.

 

It was all the elements: the zanny world, all the stabs at our world's and several sub-types of fantasies usual conventions, Rincewind's quality of "Luck's *shhhhhhhh!* The Lady's plaything" and Twoflower's perfect embodiment of the "too oblivious and exited to get it" tourist. And the luggage. The luggage was awesome, and the way it kept coming back the gift that kept on giving.

 

It ends in a cliff-hanger, but I'm not too anxious over it, because I was on the ride for the humour more than closure.

 

And apparently, this is not the best to be had in the Discworld... Sold on the author.

 

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review 2018-08-21 10:56
Toucan Keep a Secret (Meg Langslow, #22)
Toucan Keep a Secret - Donna Andrews

I was going to save this book for Bingo, but I'm hoping to attend a few panels Donna Andrews is on at Bouchcon, and it seemed appropriate to be up to date on my favorite series beforehand.

 

The story didn't work as well for me as others have, but it did feel edgier, which was a compelling surprise.  The criminal suspects are really criminals, and at one point someone shoots at Meg.  Not the standard fair for Meg and her eccentric and fabulous family. 

 

Even though I say it's not as strong as others in the series, it's still better than most cozies out there right now.  It's definitely the best humorous cozy series you're going to find, and Andrews has the awards to prove it.  The plotting is still strong too, even after 22 books - I certainly never came close to guessing the ending.

 

Opening one of these books is like coming home to your favorite people, where everyone is kind, funny, competent and believes in something bigger than themselves, whether it's family, community, God, or all of the above. 

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