Book reviews, School libraries

Tag: Humour

Book Review: Plot Twist

Plot Twist – Bethany Turner – Thomas Nelson – Published 14 June 2021

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Synopsis

February 4, 2003, is just another day for Olivia Ross—a greeting card writer whose passion project is a screenplay of her own. After she and a handsome, struggling actor have a near-magic encounter in a coffee shop, they make a spontaneous pact: in ten years, after they’ve found the success they’re just sure they’re going to achieve, they’ll return to the coffeehouse to partner up and make a film together. The only problem? Olivia neglected to get the stranger’s name. But she doesn’t forget the date.

For the next ten years, every February 4, Olivia has an exceptional day, full of coincidences and ironies. As men come and go and return to her life, and as she continues to write her screenplay, she still wonders about the guy from the coffee shop—the nameless actor she’s almost certain was Hamish McDougal, now a famous member of the Hollywood elite.

But a lot can happen in ten years, and while waiting for the curtain to rise on her fate, the true story of Olivia’s life is being written—and if she’s not careful, she’ll completely miss the epic romance playing out right before her eyes.

My thoughts

As I have come to expect from Bethany Turner, this book is hilarious in the most bizarre way. If you just suspend disbelief that anyone could be this ill-timed and that so many celebrities would make an appearance in one’s life, then this might be classified as realistic fiction.

It is funny and romantic (sort of, actually a lot of it is romance gone wrong or so many missed opportunities it’s NOT funny). Despite a Christian publisher, this is general fiction, with no Christian references (unless you count one reference to Narnia) but it is clean (unless you count kissing someone else’s boyfriend…twice….but by accident…sort of…..)

When Olivia connects with a guy at a coffee shop they make a pact – they will meet back there on the same date ten years form now. He vows to have made it big as an actor and she vows to have a screenplay ready for him to star in. Over the next ten years, that date becomes a strange day for Olivia, full of men from her past, present and maybe future, missed opportunities, and disasters of the heart. Will she finally realise that the love of her life might have been there all along or will she wait for the guy she promised ten years ago.

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Book Review: Charming As A Verb

Charming As A Verb – Ben Philipp – Balzer + Bray – Published 8 September 2020

 

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Synopsis

Henri “Halti” Haltiwanger can charm just about anyone. He is a star debater and popular student at the prestigious FATE academy, the dutiful first-generation Haitian son, and the trusted dog walker for his wealthy New York City neighbors. But his easy smiles mask a burning ambition to attend his dream college, Columbia University.

There is only one person who seems immune to Henri’s charms: his “intense” classmate and neighbor Corinne Troy. When she uncovers Henri’s less-than-honest dog-walking scheme, she blackmails him into helping her change her image at school. Henri agrees, seeing a potential upside for himself.

Soon what started as a mutual hustle turns into something more surprising than either of them ever bargained for. . . .

My thoughts

As charming as its title and main character, Charming As A Verb is a sweet realistic novel about growing up, falling in love, and finishing high school.

Henri Haltiwanger, Halti to his friends, is a hard worker. He needs to be if he’s going to make into his dream college, the college he and his father have always planned. As well as balancing debate team and maintaining his grades at the prestigious FATE academy, Henri runs his own dog walking business. When a classmate figures out his business is less of a corporate company and more a one-man show, she blackmails him into helping her fix her image at school. If anyone can charm their way into the popular crowd, it’s Henri. But what starts as blackmail, quickly turns to friendship.

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Book Review: Early Departures

Early Departures – Justin A. Reynolds – Katherine Tegen Books – Published 22 September 2020

 

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Synopsis

What if you could bring your best friend back to life—but only for a short time?

Jamal’s best friend, Q, doesn’t know that he died, and that he’s about to die . . . again. He doesn’t know that Jamal tried to save him. And that the reason they haven’t been friends for two years is because Jamal blames Q for the accident that killed his parents.

But what if Jamal could have a second chance? A new technology allows Q to be reanimated for a few weeks before he dies . . . permanently. And Q’s mom is not about to let anyone ruin this miracle by telling Q about his impending death. So how can Jamal fix everything if he can’t tell Q the truth?

My thoughts

An honest, heartbreaking yet humorous look at death and saying goodbye, Justin A. Reynolds brings his trademark style and humour to this incredible story you’ll have to read to believe.

What would you do if you could bring someone back from the dead? Even if it was only for a short time? That’s exactly the question Jamal must face when his ex-best friend dies in his arms. When Quincy’s mother and Jamal are taken to a secret facility they are offered a mind-blowing option – reanimate Quincy. But it will only be for a few days. For Jamal, it’s a chance to make things right with his once best friend, to heal the hurt between them, a chance to finally speak his mind and a chance to say goodbye, a chance he never got with his parents. But Quincy’s mother doesn’t want to tell Quincy he only has a few days left on earth and Jamal isn’t sure that’s the right way to handle things.

This book just felt so incredibly authentic. The grief, the hurt Jamal is carrying, and most especially the wonderful, broken but still clicked-in friendship bond the two boys share. Flashbacks in the form of videos the two boys made show the depth of connection they share.

Parts of this book are heartbreaking. Yet other parts of this book are honestly hilarious. Jamal and Quincy both have a wonderful sense of humour and are constantly making witty quips and jokes. Quincy dreams of making it big as a comedian. But it’s not just Jamal and Quincy that bring the laughs in the book. Despite the topics of grief and loss, the death of Jamal’s parents and the impending death of Quincy, there are some wonderful light-hearted moments in this book and that’s what brings home the message about living well and enjoying every minute.

As much as I adored Jamal and Quincy, there are some fantastic side characters, especially Jamal’s sister and Quincy’s mother, both who play important roles in the story.

Looking for a meaningful yet lighthearted novel that will have you smiling, crying and rejoicing all at once, then look no farther than Early Departures.

The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.

More information

Category: Young adult fiction

Genre: Contemporary

Themes: Death, grief, friendship, best friends, humour, comedy, family,

Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.

Advisory: References to death. Vague sexual references. F*** (16), sh** (24), pi** (5), di** (1), as***** (4).

Representation: Main characters and side characters african american. Heterosexual relationships.

Published: 22 September 2020 by Katherine Tegen Books

Format: Hardcover, ebook. 400 pages.

ISBN: 9780062748409

Find it on Goodreads

Book Review: The Dating Charade

The Dating Charade – Melissa Ferguson – Thomas Nelson – Published 3 December 2019

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Synopsis

Cassie Everson is an expert at escaping bad first dates. And, after years of meeting, greeting, and running from the men who try to woo her, Cassie is almost ready to retire her hopes for a husband—and children—altogether.

But fate has other plans, and Cassie’s online dating profile catches the eye of firefighter Jett Bentley. In Jett’s memory, Cassie Everson is the unreachable girl-of-legend from their high school days. Nervously, he messages her, setting off a chain of events that forces a reluctant Cassie back into the dating game.

No one is more surprised than Cassie when her first date with Jett is a knockout. But when they both go home and find three children dropped in their laps—each—they independently decide to do the right and mature thing: hide the kids from each other while sorting it all out. What could go wrong?

My thoughts

The Dating Charade is a delightful surprise of a novel. It’s quirky, funny and delivers a whole heap of enjoyment. It is both light hearted and yet touches on some serious topics, from child neglect to the importance of families. My only criticism is that I wanted more of Cassie and Jett. I wouldn’t mind a whole extra book to fill in the time between the last chapter and the epilogue, just because it’s so lovely to hang out with them and their families. If you love humorous romance novels, The Dating Charade is for you.

Cassie has almost given up on love and her dream of a family. She’s an expert at escaping from terrible dates. When firefighter Jett Bentley sees Cassie’s online profile, he is intrigued. She seems different from the girl he knew—and crushed on—in high school. No one is more surprised than Cassie when the date goes well. But when one of the girls from Cassie’s work at Girls Haven, a refuge for young girls, needs a safe place to stay, Cassie doesn’t hesitate to take in the teenager and her two younger sisters. And when Jett’s sister arrives and unceremoniously leaves him with her three small children, he knows he must do the right thing and look after them, even if he has no idea what to do with babies and toddlers. Uncertain of their future, Jett and Cassie hide their new young charges from each other, while trying to learn to balance, work, life, and dating with a new family.

I really enjoyed The Dating Charade. Far more than I expected, actually. The deception isn’t quite as bad as what is hinted at in the official summary. When Jett and Cassie first meet and start dating, neither has a family. Yet just a few dates in, through various circumstances, both must become the carers of three children. It’s totally understandable that neither feels comfortable disclosing their uncertain futures with the other and they don’t deliberately hide them from each other (until Cassie has an incident with a cat, a Christmas tree and a certain young lady calling the fire department.)

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Book Review: Puddin’

Puddin’ – Julie Murphy – Dumplin’ #2 – Balzer+Bray – Published 8 May 2018

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Synopsis

Millie Michalchuk has gone to fat camp every year since she was a girl. Not this year. This year she has new plans to chase her secret dream—and to kiss her crush. Callie Reyes is the pretty girl who is next in line for dance team captain and has the popular boyfriend. But when it comes to other girls, she’s more frenemy than friend. When circumstances bring the girls together over the course of a semester, they will surprise everyone (especially themselves) by realizing they might have more in common than they ever imagined.

My thoughts

Puddin’ is a delightful, uplifting, and empowering novel about friendship, fitting in and standing out – for all the right reasons.

Millie has no intention of returning to Fat Camp this summer. She just hasn’t told her mother yet. Millie dreams of becoming a journalist, even if it means she must stand up to the people who would attempt to dissuade her. Callie has the perfect life -boyfriend and co-captaincy of the dance team. But when a dance-team revenge prank gets out of hand, Callie ends up taking the fall – alone. Thrown together, Millie and Callie seemingly have nothing in common. But if anyone can break through Callie’s rough exterior, it is Millie. What starts as forced slowly becomes a strong friendship and the girls realise they might have more in common than they first thought.

Puddin’ is (I’m a little ashamed to admit) the first book I have read by Julie Murphy. Many of her other novels, especially Dumplin’, have been on my to-read list for ages, but for some reason I have never got around to reading them. That will change in the immediate future. While Puddin’ is a companion novel to Dumplin’ I was able to read, enjoy, and understand everything in Puddin’ without any trouble as it is a complete story in its own right and a standalone title. There were a few references that left me very intrigued, though, so I am really looking forward to finally reading Dumplin’. And seriously, how awesome is Willowdean?

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Book Review: Jacked Up

Jacked Up – Erica Sage – Sky Pony Press – Published 3 April 2018

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Synopsis

It’s bad enough that Nick’s sister is dead and, in some bizarre attempt to force him to confront his grief, his parents are shipping him off to Jesus Camp. But he’s also being haunted by the ghost of Jack Kerouac—who’s surprisingly annoying, for a genius.

And if arguing with a dead beat poet weren’t enough to qualify Nick for antipsychotics, he’s pretty sure Eden Springs Church Camp is going to drive him insane. The campers ride donkeys into the desert campsite; a retired magician dressed as Jesus seems obsessed with converting him; and Nick’s practically shunned for uttering the words “Harry Potter.”

Worst of all is the PC Box, into which every camper is required to place a nightly prayer or confession. In hopes of getting Jack to stop nagging him about it, Nick scribbles down his darkest secret—a secret about his sister’s death—and drops it in the box.

But then the box is stolen, with Nick’s secret inside of it. When campers’ confessions start appearing around the camp, Nick is desperate to get the box back—before the world learns the truth about what he did. The truth he can’t even face, himself.

My thoughts

What a crazy book! Jacked Up is a uncontrollable snort laugher inducing, hypocrisy identifying, gut punching, grammar fixing, donkey jokes kind of crazy book. With all the finesse and humour of its authentic male narrator, Jacked Up is an upfront and honest novel that delves into the aftermath of suicide, grief, and guilt, in a way that is easy to read and lots of fun.

In the wake of his sister’s suicide, Nick’s parents are sending him to Bible Camp. Sure it is the last place on Earth that could help him, especially considering the soul-eating secrets he is hiding, Nick is reluctant at first. Arriving at the camp only increases his doubts – are these people serious with their Bible character dress-up selfie moments, donkey lotteries, and box of prayers and confessions? But when the PC box goes missing, containing Nick’s biggest secret, he will do anything to get it back.

I jumped into Jacked Up with little prior knowledge of its aspirations as a novel. And it totally surprised me. There were so many fun moments. Nick is an awesome narrator and totally realistic of a teenage boy. And the book doesn’t shy away from anything – coarse language, sexual references, innuendo, jokes of every description. Honestly, I’m not sure there is a teen boy (or maybe girl) alive who wouldn’t love to read this book. Unless you consider those who might be offended by it…. And let’s face it, there are many people who might be offended by the revealing of this teenage boy’s mind.

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Book Review: Goodbye Days

goodbye-days

Goodbye Days – Jeff Zentner – Andersen (Aus/UK) (Crown – USA) – Published 6 April 2017 (Aus) 7 March 2017 (USA)

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Synopsis

Can a text message destroy your life?

Carver Briggs never thought a simple text would cause a fatal crash, killing his three best friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake. Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident and even worse, there could be a criminal investigation into the deaths.

Then Blake’s grandmother asks Carver to remember her grandson with a ‘goodbye day’ together. Carver has his misgivings, but he starts to help the families of his lost friends grieve with their own memorial days, along with Eli’s bereaved girlfriend Jesmyn. But not everyone is willing to forgive. Carver’s own despair and guilt threatens to pull him under into panic and anxiety as he faces punishment for his terrible mistake. Can the goodbye days really help?

My thoughts

Hilarious and heartbreaking, Goodbye Days is a winning combination. Perfection itself.

Goodbye Days is an incredibly poignant and relatable story. How many lives have been affected by the tragic deaths of teenagers – friends, classmates, sons or daughters? How many stories of death and grief are punctuation by questions of why, what if, if only? Guilt and sorrow mixing to form a potent poison. Goodbye Days captures all of that emotion and mixes it with a friendship so strong it can only be called a brotherhood. Mixes it with humour and levity and life so bright it dances in front of your eyes. I was crying one minute and laughing the next.

The day Carver Briggs sent a simple text message irrevocably changed everything. Now his three best friends are dead after a fatal car crash – a crash that may or may not have been caused by Carver’s text message. With a pending criminal investigation and guilt heavy enough to level him, Carver begins to form a new connection with Eli’s girlfriend as they both cope with their grief and he accepts Blake’s grandmother’s request to spend one final day celebrating Blake’s life.

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