Category Archives: Humor

Ann B. Ross. Etta Mae’s Worst Bad-Luck Day. New York: Viking, 2014.

“What I wanted more than anything else was to be somebody. Somebody who was respected and listened to and treated in a nice way all the time. What I wanted was to be in a situation where nobody would ever again look at me and, without blinking an eye, think the worst.”

That’s Etta Mae Wiggins talking, and this is her story.  Readers of Ann Ross’s Miss Julia Series know Etta Mae as the cheerful, voluptuous manager of Miss Julia’s trailer-park and an occasional sidekick in Miss Julia’s adventures.  It was Etta Mae who Miss Julia recruited to rescue J. D. Pickens when he was in danger in West Virginia, and Etta Mae found a housekeeper–her granny–to manage J. D. and Hazel Marie’s household after their twins were born.  Miss Julia knows that she can count on Etta’s Mae’s energy and good heart to help her solve the problems of family and friends in little Abbotsville.

In this book, Ann Ross takes a half-step away from the Miss Julia series to give us Etta Mae’s back-story.  Etta Mae is from the poorer part of Abbot County, and her people–the Wiggins clan–have been considered lazy and shiftless.  Etta Mae grew up already judged because of her family name.  Etta Mae hasn’t help herself by her way of dressing and her complicated romantic history; some of her own missteps only reinforced people’s negative opinion of her.  And Miss Julia was one of those doing the judging.  We learn that Etta Mae and Miss Julia did not immediately get off on the right foot, and that it took Hazel Marie’s intervention and some spiked punch to break the chill between them.  This is only one of a number of funny scenes in this gentle, enjoyable novel.  Etta Mae gets her man, and some of the respectability she seeks, but that’s not to say that everything works out as she planned.

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Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Henderson, Humor, Mountains, Novels in Series, Ross, Ann B.

Ann B. Ross. Miss Julia’s Marvelous Makeover. New York: Viking, 2014.

makeoverFear not, gentle reader–Miss Julia is not giving up her classic, understated, age-appropriate look.  The subject of the makeover is Trixie, a twenty-something distant relative who has been sent to live with Miss Julia.  Trixie’s “Meemaw” thinks that Miss Julia is rich and uppity, but Meemaw wants the girl off her hands, so she puts Trixie on a bus to Abbotsville. Meemaw hopes that Julia will spruce up Trixie and find her a suitable husband.

Trixie’s visit comes at an inopportune time. Miss Julia and Sam are about to embark on a new adventure as Sam runs for a seat in the state senate.  Just as Sam’s campaign is taking off, he has to have surgery for a cantankerous gallbladder.  Suddenly, Miss Julia has to stand in for Sam at various campaign events.  Public speaking terrifies Julia, but little Lloyd adds moral support by accompanying her and even doing a little speech writing.

At least all is well again with the Pickens family.  Hazel Marie–with help from from James and Granny Wiggins–has her household back in order, with the twins well cared for and Hazel Marie feeling like her old self.  Hazel Marie helps Julia by taking Trixie off her hands.  Under Hazel Marie’s gentle guidance, and in a two-steps-forward, one-step-back process, Trixie begins to groom and dress herself better.  Unfortunately, Trixie attracts the attention of Rodney Pace, a young man on the make–for money.  Pace’s ambitions are focused on setting up a new funeral parlor in town–on land that Julia owns.  Soon Julia needs her full team of family and friends to thwart his plot, and what was to be a quiet summer in Abbotsville gets very hectic even before the Fourth of July fireworks get cold.

This is the fifteen novel in the Miss Julia series.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Henderson, Humor, Mountains, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Ross, Ann B.

Ann B. Ross. Miss Julia Stirs Up Trouble. New York: Viking, 2013.

miss juliaReaders of this series know that Miss Julia has come to love Hazel Marie and her son Lloyd, who is the illegitimate son of Miss Julia’s late husband.  They are family.  So much so that Julia and her new husband, Sam Murdock, have settled the pair, along with Hazel Marie’s husband, J.D. Pickens, and their twin girls into Sam’s old house.  Not only does the Pickens family have a nice house, but Sam’s cook, James, has stayed on to help.  This is a blessing because Hazel Marie was never much of a cook and those babies have her worn down.  But James is no spring chicken and when he injures himself in a fall, the Pickens household is in crisis.  James needs help to get in and out of bed, so Hazel Marie must tend to him and her babies, keep the house in order, and cook the kind of meals that keep a man at home. (J.D. was a womanizer before he married Hazel Marie and he travels quite a bit for his work–all of which causes Miss Julia to worry about this marriage.)

Of course, Miss Julia steps in.  She has trouble finding a temporary cook, so she lines up various friends to come over and both cook and give Hazel Marie cooking lessons.  (The recipes that are used are scattered throughout the book.)  Organizing all these cooking lessons is quite a juggling act, but it is nothing compared to managing the personalities sharing space at the Pickens house.  James proves to be a demanding patient, Hazel Marie’s sleazy uncle, Brother Vern, is back in town and has moved in, and Granny Wiggins, who Etta Mae has recruited to clean, is a tornado of energy–and opinions.  Plus, Miss Julia and Lillian have both spotted J.D. with another woman and they will do anything to keep Lloyd from finding out that his new dad is no saint.  This, the fourteenth book in the Miss Julia series, is a tasty dish of misadventure, misunderstanding, and southern charm.

A note on the dust-jacket:  The imagery on dust-jackets has become stereotypical and formulaic–and sometimes even misleading.  It’s not uncommon for the image on the cover to misrepresent some basic element of the location or the main character by, for example, making the heroine a blonde when the book says she’s a brunette, or showing a mountain lodge out of Travel + Leisure when the action takes places at an abandoned hunting cabin.  The dust-jacket for Miss Julia Stirs Up Trouble is an exception to this trend.  It’s a delight to look at the image and see so many items mentioned in the book–everything from a bag of Gold Medal flour to a grilled cheese sandwich to J.D.’s aviator style sunglasses.  Kudos to the people at Viking Press.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Henderson, Humor, Mountains, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Ross, Ann B.

Mark Schweizer. The Treble Wore Trouble. Tryon, NC: SJMP Books, 2012.

There is never a dull moment in the (fictitious) little town of St. Germaine, North Carolina.  In this latest installment in the Liturgical Mysteries series, a body is found in the alley behind the town beauty parlor, and a young child is kidnapped.  Are these two events related?  Police Chief Hayden Koning thinks so, but before he gets far in his investigations, a singer is electrocuted during a service at St. Barnabas Church.  (It isn’t a Liturgical Mysteries book unless a death occurs in or near St. Barnabas.)  This, the tenth book in the series, contains the same cast of characters and many of the usual elements (another new rector, conflicts over the church’s liturgy, interesting minor characters) along with a few zany new additions–a truffle hunting pig and a Christian astrologer.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Humor, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Schweizer, Mark, Watauga

Ann B. Ross. Miss Julia to the Rescue. New York: Viking, 2012.

Change is on the way. Even though Miss Julia has known all along that Lloyd (her late husband’s love child) would leave her cozy nest someday, she never expected to dread it so much. To cope, she takes on a fun project: renovating the house for when her husband, Sam, returns from the Holy Land.

Just as Miss Julia has settled into her summer routine, she receives an ominous phone call. It sounds like it is from Mr. Pickens, a private investigator who is away on the job, but the connection is lost before she can confirm it. Knowing that Hazel Marie, his wife, is worried about his well-being after not hearing from him, Miss Julia embarks on an expedition to find him. She picks up Etta Mae Wiggins on the way out of Abbotsville, and the two women soon find themselves in the backwoods of West Virginia. When the local sheriff refuses to give them any information about their friend, our steel magnolia performs a jail– er, hospital-break to get the injured Mr. Pickens back to North Carolina.

Even though everyone is back in their proper places, all is not well. The West Virginia lawman is sure to follow the trio back to question Mr. Pickens, and that could mean trouble for Miss Julia and Etta Mae. A strange local has returned to town, and she has set her sights on hijacking Miss Julia’s carpenter, Adam. Worse than stealing her talented worker, Miss Julia fears this New Age religious leader is trying to influence his thinking. As always, Abbotsville is lucky to have Miss Julia save the day!

Miss Julia to the Rescue is the thirteenth novel in the “Miss Julia” series.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Henderson, Humor, Mountains, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Ross, Ann B.

Mark Schweizer. The Organist Wore Pumps. Tryon, NC: SJMP Books, 2010.

It’s been two years since St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in St. Germaine, North Carolina burned to the ground, and the holidays are just around the corner. Police Chief  Hayden Konig, also the organist at St. Barnabas, is looking forward to a long month of Advent music and writing bad prose between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly for those familiar with St. Barnabas, murder and mayhem intervene. First, Old Man Hiram Frost, the town grump, dies after the bank forecloses on his property. At the resulting auction, Hayden gets sucked into a bidding war with a stranger over three cases of French wine. A week later, the mystery bidder shows up again…floating face-first in Tannenbaum Lake. Additionally, St. Barnabas has a new deacon: the aptly named Donald Mushrat (that’s Moo-shrat). Deacon Mushrat is oily, overfond of the word “awesome” and obsessed with tithing. Everyone feels blessed that the beloved Rector Gaylen Weatherall will still be giving the sermons, but thanks to a terrible car accident, Rector Weatherall is put out of action for a time, opening the way for Deacon Mushrat’s pontificating. Even worse, Konig was in the car with Gaylen during the accident…and his arm is broken. A substitute organist is found, and Konig will just have to grit his teeth and endure their “creative differences.” But when another murder occurs and it becomes clear that a killer is stalking St. Germaine, the Chief finds he has bigger fish to fry.

Filled with the hilarity and quirky characters that are distinctive of The Liturgical Mysteries, this book includes a live creche, an inflammatory (literally) Christmas parade complete with a tap dancing Virgin, a scoodle of skunks, and the “liberation” of a priceless medieval reliquary by a gang of hyperactive children trapped in the church for a lock-in. It may be many things, but at least St. Germaine is never boring.

Check the availability of this title in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Humor, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Schweizer, Mark, Watauga

Schweizer, Mark. The Tenor Wore Tapshoes. Tryon, NC: SJMP Books, 2005.

With writing that compares the rustling of a woman’s gown to the sounds of a cockroach rooting in a sugar-bowl, it’s safe to say that Police Chief Hayden Konig will never join the greats of American literature. Still, he insists on trying, even purchasing an old typewriter that once belonged to Raymond Chandler. Mr. Chandler, and his pipe, even show up on occasion to compliment Hayden’s efforts. Poor prose and ghostly sightings notwithstanding, Konig is an excellent police chief, and a talented organist at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in the small, sleepy mountain town of St. Germaine, North Carolina.

Hayden has just settled in from his last crime-solving adventure, which included the theft of a valuable diamond, a dead chorister, and multiple trips to England. You’d think that life would resume its leisurely pace, but this is just when St. Germaine chooses to get…interesting. First, there’s the body that parishoners discover hidden in the altar at St. Barnabas. Next, the local bakery produces a miraculous cinnamon bun in the shape of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is soon stolen. Poor Hayden loses a bet with his beautiful girlfriend Meg, and is made to enroll in a program designed to help him discover his religious masculinity, known simply as the Iron Mike Men’s Retreat. As if this weren’t enough, an itinerant preacher blows into town with his large revival tent and a feathered assistant known as Binny Hen the Scripture Chicken, who helps him select passages from the Bible.

Reeling from the amount of insanity a small town can apparently inflict in such a short time, Chief Konig somehow also finds time to be troubled by the arrival of a charming attorney called Robert Brannon, who immediately worms his way into everyone’s heart, and the very center of church politics. Hayden is also perplexed by the crimes that have sprung up throughout the community–very specific crimes that seem to follow a popular hymn depicting the trials of the saints. Will Konig solve all, or any of these mysteries? More importantly, will he have time to pay attention to what, or who, really matters? And will she say yes?

Check the availability of this title in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Mark Schweizer. The Mezzo Wore Mink. Hopkinsville, KY: St. James Music Press, 2008.

The Mezzo Wore Mink has some familiar elements–Hayden’s lovely girlfriend Meg, the quirky residents of St. Germaine, church politics, the discovery of a body in St. Barnabas’ Episcopal Church, and another unsuccessful interim rector.  But there are new elements too and they take the Liturgical Mysteries series to a new level of zaniness.

It’s fall in St. Germaine, and mayor Peter Moss is worried about his re-election chances. The big issue is economic development, and although Mayor Moss has recruited new businesses, not everyone appreciates what they add to the local scene. The naysayers seem to be correct when a body is found in the garden behind the new spa and animals from the new fur farm get loose in the town. Mix in the theft of a head from the local cremation center and a Thanksgiving pageant called The Living Gobbler, and you know that this will be a fun read.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, Humor, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Schweizer, Mark, Watauga

Mark Schweizer. The Bass Wore Scales. Hopkinsville, KY: St. James Music Press, 2006.

The plot moves along at a leisurely pace in this, the fifth book in Schweizer’s Liturgical Mysteries series.  Hayden is experiencing writers block, so he is talked into a bit of competitive writing. Several locals want to enter a bad writing contest, and Hayden is certain that this kind of challenge will help jump-start his creative process.  St. Barnabas Episcopal Church is once again the site of mishaps and humor–the church is now sponsoring a NASCAR team and bad luck with the birds at the Pentecost service leads yet another rector to leave town under a cloud. But at least this time St. Barnabas is not the scene of a murder–that dubious honor goes to New Fellowship Baptist Church.  The pastor of the church, Brother Kilroy, is found dead in his study.  Although it appears that he was killed by Kokomo, a gorilla, Hayden knows that things are not always what they appear to be.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2006, Humor, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Schweizer, Mark, Watauga

Ann B. Ross. Miss Julia Rocks the Cradle. New York: Viking, 2011.

Everyone in Miss Julia’s household has been preparing for the birth of Hazel Marie’s twins.  Hazel Marie has moved into the bedroom on the first floor, Etta Mae has agreed to help out when the babies are born, and copious amounts of baby supplies have been bought.  But Mother Nature has her plans too.  In one of the funniest scenes in this series of books, the twins are born in Miss Julia’s living room during a blizzard.  Miss Julia practically passes out from the shock, but Lillian takes charge, and the babies are delivered safely.

J.D., the babies’ father, and Miss Julia’s husband, Sam, miss the excitement, since they are both in Raleigh on business.  They return to a household in turmoil.  The babies are not nursing well, and no one is getting enough sleep. Just when the babies settle down, another problem arises.  A body has been found in a nearby toolshed.  Since the body was found on the property of Lloyd’s teacher, Miss Petty, Miss Julia can’t resist poking around.  She soon wishes she hadn’t.  The dead man is someone Miss Julia had financial dealings with–dealings that Sam did not know about–and this is the last straw for Sam. Suddenly, Miss Julia’s marriage appears to be on the rocks, and this shakes our heroine to her core.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Henderson, Humor, Mountains, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Ross, Ann B.