Tag Archives: Humor

Whitney Taylor’s Definitions of Indefinable Things – Snarky, Savage, Hopeful

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Whitney Taylor’s Definitions of Indefinable Things – Snarky, Savage, Hopeful

It’s hard to write a funny book about depression.  First, well . . . Duh – depression is depressing.  Second, humor can make depression look a lot less painful than it really is.  I felt like Whitney Taylor managed to walk the thin line between the two in Definitions of Indefinable Things.  It is hilarious, but it is also pretty honest about the realities of depression. I thoroughly enjoyed this book because of that balance, so this is a solid four star read.


Goodreads Summary

This heartbreaking, humorous novel is about three teens whose lives intersect in ways they never expected.

Reggie Mason is all too familiar with “the Three Stages of Depression.” She believes she’s unlocked the secret to keeping herself safe: Nobody can hurt you if you never let them in.

Reggie encounters an unexpected challenge to her misanthropy: a Twizzler-chomping, indie film-making narcissist named Snake. Snake’s presence, while reassuring, is not exactly stable—especially since his ex-girlfriend is seven months pregnant. As Reggie falls for Snake, she must decide whether it’s time to rewrite the rules that have defined her.

My Thoughts

I like my leading ladies savage and snarky, and I’m not sure any character is more savage and snarky than Reggie.  Watching her navigate the ridiculousness of her life is so worth your time.  The thing I liked most about her is that, while she lashes out, she really does have a heart.  She cannot overcome her innate goodness, even when spewing venom.  Now, this is an unflinching look at depression. If you have never had it, you will walk away understanding exactly how it feels.  If you have, I think you will recognize the black hole.  But what really makes this book amazing is that it is also a look at life getting better.  It isn’t a fairy tale. Things aren’t perfect or quick, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  So, don’t skip it just because you don’t want to read something depressing.  This book is so much more.  While the language and situations are frequently mature,  I think it will speak more to my high school students about the unbreakable human spirit and believing in the good things life has to offer.  I’m adding it to my classroom library wish list.  Grades 10+.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Margaret Stohl’s Royce Rolls – for those who love (and love to hate) reality tv

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Margaret Stohl’s Royce Rolls – for those who love (and love to hate) reality tv

I really enjoyed Margaret Stohl’s Royce Rolls despite (or because of) my innate cynicism about modern reality TV.  I’ve always delighted in pointing out every staged scene in my husband’s favorite shows, and this book confirmed all I believe about what goes on behind the scenes.  This is the perfect book for someone who wants a funny, fluff mystery read.  I gave it four stars, but fans of the author are a little more torn.


Goodreads Summary

Sixteen-year-old Bentley Royce seems to have it all: an actual Bentley, tuition to a fancy private school, lavish vacations, and everything else that comes along with being an LA starlet. But after five seasons on her family’s reality show, Rolling with the Royces, and a lifetime of dealing with her narcissistic sister, Porsche, media-obsessed mother, Mercedes, and somewhat clueless brother, Maybach, Bentley wants out. Luckily for her, without a hook for season six, cancellation is looming and freedom is nigh. With their lifestyle on the brink, however, Bentley’s family starts to crumble, and one thing becomes startlingly clear–without the show, there is no family. And since Bentley loves her family, she has to do the unthinkable–save the show. But when her future brother-in-law’s car goes over a cliff with both Bentley and her sister’s fiancé inside-on the day of the big made-for-TV wedding, no less-things get real.

Really real. Like, not reality show real.

Told in a tongue-in-cheek voice that takes a swipe at all things Hollywood, Royce Rolls is a laugh-out-loud funny romp with an LA noir twist about what it means to grow up with the cameras rolling and what really happens behind the scenes.

My Thoughts

A Kardashian-esque family is the center of this story, and they manage to be absolutely fake and absolutely real at the same time.  The main character’s irritation with the whole fame-for-the-sake-of-fame scheme plays well to readers like me.  She is dark and witty, and quickly became the trusted voice of reason in her mother and sister’s insane last grab for fifteen more minutes of fame.  There are plenty of twists and unexpected turns, and the opening lines set up a nice mystery that is engaging to unravel.  There is also plenty of glam for those who want it, but beneath the clothes and makeup, there is some depth.  I will say the ending is a little overproduced, but it is acceptable because the story does take place in a TV world where anything goes.  I absolutely enjoyed reading this book, and I think my high school students will as well, so I’m adding it to my classroom library wishlist.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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We Are Still Tornadoes 

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We Are Still Tornadoes 

What a fun read!  We Are Still Tornadoes is funny and smart and sweet in all the right places.  This is a five star read that will engage a broad audience.  Lived through the eighties?  You will appreciate the references.  Just lived your first year away from home?  You will be so connected.  It wasn’t what I expected, but it turned out to be exactly what I wanted.


Goodreads Summary

It’s the summer of 1982, and for Scott and Cath, everything is about to change.

Growing up across the street from each other, Scott and Cath have been best friends for most of their lives. Now they’ve graduated high school, and Cath is off to college while Scott stays at home trying to get his band off the ground. Neither of them realized that their first year after high school would be so hard.

Fortunately, Scott and Cath still have each other, and it’s through their letters that they survive heartache, annoying roommates, family dramas, and the pressure of figuring out what to do with the rest of their lives. And through it all, they realize that the only person they’ve ever wanted to turn to is each other. But does that mean they should think about being more than friends? One thing is clear: Change is an inescapable part of growing up, and we share unbreakable bonds with the friends who help us navigate it.

My Thoughts

I’m always cautious about novels that are in the format of letters – it is easy to loose character voices or skimp on the  imagery when forced to rely only on the words the characters actually commit to the page.  I can honestly say that nothing was lost in this book.  Cath and Scott are vivid and distinct voices, and their letters make it easy to picture exactly what is taking place both within and between the lines.  I was quickly drawn into their dramas and their daily lives alike.  Their comraderie shines through every exchange, and it is charming.  The story their exchanges tell is a universal one – it is the story of growing up and seeing things through a new, more adult perspective.  While I think my high school readers will enjoy this book, it will really hit the mark with the new adults and beyond crowd because this is the audience who will better understand what Cath and Scott are going through the first year out of high school.  I’m adding it to my high school classroom library wish list, but this is also one I would definitely recommend to my adult friends, especially those who enjoyed Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments. Language and situations are appropriate for mature high school readers.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Quests of the Kings by Robert Evert is not what you expect 

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Quests of the Kings by Robert Evert is not what you expect 

The blurb for Quests of the Kings had the magic words: “. . .  for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Kristin Cashore.”   That turned out to be pretty misleading.  Since my expectations where high, I was pretty disappointed.  The biggest difference is tone, and if you understand and embrace that before you begin reading, I think you have a better chance of enjoying the book than I did.


Goodreads Summary

From the author of the Riddle in Stone books comes a thrilling new series for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Kristin Cashore.

Across the realms, the kings’ quests captivate the imaginations of nobles and commoners alike. These dangerous competitions pit the most daring adventurers against each other as they compete for riches and glory for their kingdoms. 

Plain and ordinary Natalie, a sixteen-year-old peasant girl, loves listening to stories about famous adventurers, but the thrilling action of the kings’ quests seems far removed from her everyday life of mucking out stables and working every odd job she can find to support her siblings and disabled mother. However, after a violent run-in with Brago, a ruthless adventurer who believes Natalie is a threat to his mission, she is dragged unwillingly into the latest contest. 

On the run from Brago, Natalie seeks refuge with a rival adventurer, the legendary Sir Edris, and his squire, Reg. As they toil together to find the object all of the kings desire–an ancient golden harp–Natalie starts to feel safe with the fatherly knight. Yet, despite Edris’s protection, Brago is never far behind. When one of Brago’s cruel plots separates Natalie from her protectors, she must become as strong and cunning as the adventurers of old to save her friends and stay alive. 

My Thoughts

So, you think this sounds and looks like a serious book, right?  You would be wrong.  This reminded me more of the T.H. White take on Arthurian legend.  It is lighthearted, even at the most dire of times, and the quest is complicated and strung along as characters bumble and fumble around.  Entire pages are dedicated to conversations and bickering about unimportant things for the sake of humor, and the really terrible things are treated with fleeting gravity.  It is very Monty Python at times.  If that is what you enjoy, this book does play the comedic element to the hilt.  The main character’s appearance is made fun of in a variety of ways, her feminist stance takes the form of tirades that everyone ignores, and her ideas always go really wrong.  The men who get stuck with the thankless job of protecting and rescuing her frequently end up really regretting it.  I don’t particularly enjoy the style, so this became a chore rather than a pleasure to finish.  The language and sexual references are intended to be comedic and are pretty harmlessly bawdy and immature, but I’m not sure they are appropriate for the crowd most likely to appreciate the style – middle school readers.  I would say this is probably grade 7+ interest level but more appropriate for grades 9+. 

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Other F Word

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The Other F Word

Natasha Friend’s The Other F Word is a funny and honest look at the mess that is family.  I enjoyed it, even though it made me cry a teeny, tiny bit.  I gave this book a four star rating.

Goodreads Summary

A fresh, humorous, and timely YA novel about two teens conceived via in vitro fertilization who go in search for answers about their donor.

Milo has two great moms, but he’s never known what it’s like to have a dad. When Milo’s doctor suggests asking his biological father to undergo genetic testing to shed some light on Milo’s extreme allergies, he realizes this is a golden opportunity to find the man he’s always wondered about.

Hollis’s mom Leigh hasn’t been the same since her other mom, Pam, passed away seven years ago. But suddenly, Leigh seems happy—giddy, even—by the thought of reconnecting with Hollis’s half-brother Milo. Hollis and Milo were conceived using the same sperm donor. They met once, years ago, before Pam died.

Now Milo has reached out to Hollis to help him find their donor. Along the way, they locate three other donor siblings, and they discover the true meaning of the other F-word: family.

My Thoughts

I enjoyed the dual narrative perspectives – it was a smart and interesting way to give two viewpoints about the topic, and the fact that it gave a male and a female perspective made this a book that I would hand to readers of both genders.  The narrators are funny and embarrassed of their family and amazed by their family and pretty much feel like real teenagers.  The decisions the characters face bring up a lot of emotions, and the book does a good job at portraying them honestly and in a way that allows readers to connect with them even if this is nothing like their own situation.   I also appreciated the fact that it gave both of the main characters a journey that was meaningful.  This really is a book about family, and it does highlight the fact that family can mean a lot of things.  Themes of grief, independence, and belonging add a nice weight to the story. I’m adding it to my high school classroom library wishlist and recommending it my my school librarian.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 8+, but adult readers of YA can enjoy it as well.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Optimists Die First

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Optimists Die First

I was not convinced that I could really enjoy a quirky book, but I really did this time.  From a stealth pooping cat named Anne of Green Gables!!! to a difficult apology that involves sun bonnets and dialogue straight from Little House on the Prairie – this book cracked me up.  I gave Optimists Die First a five star rating, not because it was perfect, but because it was perfectly fun to read.  High five, Susin Nielsen!  


Goodreads Summary

Life ahead: Proceed with caution.

Sixteen-year-old Petula De Wilde is anything but wild. A family tragedy has made her shut herself off from the world. Once a crafting fiend with a happy life, Petula now sees danger in everything, from airplanes to ground beef.

The worst part of her week is her comically lame mandatory art therapy class. She has nothing in common with this small band of teenage misfits, except that they all carry their own burden of guilt.

When Jacob joins their ranks, he seems so normal and confident. Petula wants nothing to do with him, or his prosthetic arm. But when they’re forced to collaborate on a unique school project, she slowly opens up, and he inspires her to face her fears.

Until a hidden truth threatens to derail everything. 

My Thoughts

Look, this book made me laugh a lot.  That means something, especially considering these characters are dealing with some real downer stuff.  It’s just that they are all so surprising and still easy enough to imagine as real people who might populate your own art therapy class from Hell.  They feel genuine, and the situations feel honest.  I admit that it took a few chapters to convince myself that I could roll with Petula, but now we are fast friends.  I will say that tough girl Koula almost stole the show for me, and I hope she gets a story of her own someday.  Her tattoo alone is worth the read.  Themes of forgiveness, grief and friendship add nice depth and go surprisingly well with the humor.  I want this in my high school classroom library.  I know there are many of my students who could appreciate the most disfunctional and bizarrely heartwarming version of The Breakfast Club I have ever seen.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 10+.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Enter Title Here – this is one crazy book about overachieving in ways that even Tracy Flick would find over the top. 

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Enter Title Here – this is one crazy book about overachieving in ways that even Tracy Flick would find over the top. 

Enter Title Here – a book with enough buzz that I actually heard about the buzz.  In truth, it is a buzz-worthy read.  The main character, Reshma, is a real deal antihero – driven, calculating, and selfish.  The tiny evil part of your soul is going to recognize her as your kindred or, if you really are that nice, you will be appalled by her.  Real people, though, will probably feel both by turns.  This is such a unique read – I’ve never really seen anything like it – and that means you might not love it at first sight.  I wasn’t sure I loved it by the end.  I do have to say, though, that it is a stunning testament to the author’s creativity.  I gave it four stars.

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Goodreads Summary

I’m your protagonist—Reshma Kapoor—and if you have the free time to read this book, then you’re probably nothing like me.

Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all.

What’s a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote for Huffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent’s help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she’ll finally have the key to Stanford.

But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she’s already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success—a character arc librarians and critics alike will enjoy.

Of course, even with a mastermind like Reshma in charge, things can’t always go as planned. And when the valedictorian spot begins to slip from her grasp, she’ll have to decide just how far she’ll go for that satisfying ending. (Note: It’s pretty far.)

My Thoughts

However you feel about Reshma, her story is one you will keep reading because you can’t give up the hope that, eventually, she will have that epiphany that will turn her from a monster into a functioning human. Or for the moment when her conniving and manipulation finally pays off.  I’m not going to tell you whether you get those moments or not.  Half the fun is seeing exactly how far this crazy train will go, and I can assure you that Reshma is the most determined character I have ever encountered (so she gives the energizer bunny a run for its money).  I’m not going to tell you if she gets her just deserts or if hard work really does pay off in the end.  That, too, is one of the best knots to work through in this novel. I am going to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the journey.  Funny, unexpected, and unbelievably and horrifyingly honest – this is a book that digs into the dark heart of a girl with a goal and the venom and cynicism that won’t let her fall short.  I would say this is a book that will appeal to fans of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl because Reshma is the younger, Indian equivalent of Amazing Amy.  It will also appeal to anyone brimming with potential that others can’t see, folks who have ever been taken down by that ridiculous overachiever in your high school, and people who like to laugh – that should cover just about everyone.   Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Learning to Swear in America – the (possible) destruction of Earth has never been so charming and funny

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Learning to Swear in America – the (possible) destruction of Earth has never been so charming and funny

Sheldon Cooper, move over because Yuri Strelnikov just took your place as the most loveable, socially awkward scientist in my heart.  I love him for his brain and his ineptitude with articles and for his ego and his shortcomings.  And I think he is about to take the YA Geek nation by storm.  The book wasn’t too bad either.  I gave this funny, heartfelt read five stars.

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Goodreads Summary

Brimming with humor and one-of-a-kind characters, this end-of-the world novel will grab hold of Andrew Smith and Rainbow Rowell fans.

An asteroid is hurtling toward Earth. A big, bad one. Yuri, a physicist prodigy from Russia, has been called to NASA as they calculate a plan to avoid disaster. He knows how to stop the asteroid: his research in antimatter will probably win him a Nobel prize–if there’s ever another Nobel prize awarded. But Yuri’s 17, and having a hard time making older, stodgy physicists listen to him. Then he meets Dovie, who lives like a normal teenager, oblivious to the impending doom. Being with her, on the adventures she plans when he’s not at NASA, Yuri catches a glimpse of what it means to save the world and save a life worth living.

Prepare to laugh, cry, cringe, and have your mind burst open with questions of the universe.

My Thoughts

Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the blurb for Learning to Swear in America, but the mix of humor, real life awkwardness and one bad A of an Asteroid is a winning combination.  Themes about perspective and what it means to grow up (or down) add depth to the tale, but the real reason you pick this book up and read it straight through is because it will make you laugh.  If you’ve ever felt lonely or like the only person who doesn’t get a joke, you are going to connect with this odd-ball cast of characters in their certain death scenario.  I can’t wait to get this book in my classroom library because it is the perfect read for so many of my guy readers who hate the sports books that are always thrust in their direction, but the jocks and the fairytale girls, and the romance-only gals are going to enjoy it as well if they give it a chance (not because it has those things in it but because it is generally awesome).  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+, though adult readers of YA will be just as enchanted.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Loose Ends List – an awesome YA about loving life and letting go

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The Loose Ends List – an awesome YA about loving life and letting go

Half of this book will have you snorting with laughter, and the other half will leave you searching for tissue.  Seriously.  It’s a feelings read, and even the hardest hearts (me, for instance) will find it hard to resist the cast of vivid characters and their collective journey.  I liked the world travel and the ridiculous antics, but I also liked the lessons about dealing with the hard things in life.  I gave this book five stars.

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Goodreads Summary

First loves. Last Wishes. Letting go.

Seventeen-year-old Maddie O’Neill Levine lives a charmed life, and is primed to spend the perfect pre-college summer with her best friends and young-at-heart socialite grandmother (also Maddie’s closest confidante), tying up high school loose ends. Maddie’s plans change the instant Gram announces that she is terminally ill and has booked the family on a secret “death with dignity” cruise ship so that she can leave the world in her own unconventional way – and give the O’Neill clan an unforgettable summer of dreams-come-true in the process.

Soon, Maddie is on the trip of a lifetime with her over-the-top family. As they travel the globe, Maddie bonds with other passengers and falls for Enzo, who is processing his own grief. But despite the laughter, headiness of first love, and excitement of glamorous destinations, Maddie knows she is on the brink of losing Gram. She struggles to find the strength to say good-bye in a whirlwind summer shaped by love, loss, and the power of forgiveness.

My Thoughts

First, and foremost, this is a book about love, and sometimes it’s about finding and reveling in love, and sometimes it’s about letting go of the things you love.  This lesson comes at a pivotal time in the narrator’s life and is the right mix of levity for young adult readers who are probably facing some of the same heartbreaking and breathtaking experiences.  Older readers will draw from the story in a different but equally compelling way.  The characters are rich, the plot is unexpected, and the culmination is absolutely worth your time.  I want it for my high school classroom library because it is the equivalent of hiding the broccoli in the cheese – so good that the kids won’t even notice the important messages they are also getting.  This book does take a stance on assisted death, and there are some pretty frank (and hilarious) discussions about sex as well as a few scenes of sensuality, so it isn’t for everyone, but I think it is appropriate for mature high school readers.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Geoff Herbach’s Anything You Want – as thoughtful as it is hilarious

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Geoff Herbach’s Anything You Want – as thoughtful as it is hilarious

If you can tolerate the lovable idiot who narrates this book, you will find a pretty amazing story inside.  I do not tolerate lovable idiots easily, so trust me when I say this – Anything You Want is definitely worth the read.  It is so funny and so full of heart, and I can’t imagine a smarter way to entertain and still engage readers in thoughtful commentary on big life lessons.  I do have to say that this is one time I really scored a book a lot higher than other critics.  I gave it five stars, but it only has a three star average on Goodreads – again, you have to commit to the lovable idiot and actually finish the book to see what I saw.

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Goodreads Summary

Expect a bundle of joy—er, trouble—in this hilarious, heartwarming story from the award-winning author of Stupid Fast Geoff Herbach

Taco’s mom always said, “Today is the best day of your life, and tomorrow will be even better.” That was hard to believe the day she died of cancer and when Taco’s dad had to move up north for work, but he sure did believe it when Maggie Corrigan agreed to go with him to junior prom. Taco loves Maggie- even more than the tacos that earned him his nickname. And she loves him right back.

Except all that love? It gets Maggie pregnant. Everyone else may be freaking out, but Taco can’t wait to have a real family again. He just has to figure out what it means to be a dad and how to pass calculus. And then there’s getting Maggie’s parents to like him. Because it would be so much easier for them to be together if he didn’t have to climb the side of the Corrigans’ house to see her…

My Thoughts

Taco’s relentless enthusiasm and optimism keep the story from getting too heavy without minimizing the issues.  This book really tackles universal themes and truths about growing up and being a family, and Taco’s clueless perspective is sometimes exhausting, but it makes these themes a lot more palatable to the YA reader.  I see this being a big hit in my high school classroom library, and a book that both guys and gals can embrace.  It is exactly the kind of book I want to hand my readers because they will come for the party that is Taco, but they will stay for the business that is real life.  It is definitely going on my classroom library wish list.  Language and situations make this most appropriate for high school readers, but I bet there are many adults who will still get a real kick out of this read.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.