Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books That Will Make You Laugh

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Books That Will Make You Laugh.

1. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray – What do you get when a plane full of teenage beauty pageant contestants crash lands on a deserted island? Hilarity, my friends. Hilarity.

2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – This fantastically absurd book starts with the destruction of Earth to build an intergalactic superhighway…and gets crazier from there.

3. The Trouble With Flirting by Claire LaZebnik – This retelling of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park is full of little quips, observations, and tongue-in-cheek comments that kept me laughing almost constantly. (see my review here).

“I’m fairly hopeful you’ll survive this injury, Franny.”
“Unless gangrene sets in.”
“Gangrene always sets in,” he says darkly.
“What are you talking about?” asks Julia as they all gather around us again. “No one gets gangrene anymore.”
“They do in old books. If Franny were a Hemingway heroine or something, gangrene would set in and she’d lose her leg. Or her life.”
“But I’d be very attractive on my deathbed,” I add.

Book cover for Beauty Queens by Libba BrayBook cover for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas AdamsBook cover for The Trouble with Flirting by Claire LaZebnik

4.  Abandon by Meg Cabot – All of Meg Cabot’s books are hilarious, but I was especially tickled by her plucky heroine in this Hades-and-Persephone-inspired novel.

5. The Lynburn Legacy trilogy by Sarah Rees Brennan  This series is one of the funniest I’ve read in a very long time. Barely a page went by that didn’t have me cracking up. And I’m not just talking a few giggles – I mean full-on snort laughing.

“What are you doing?” Angela complained. “Are you trying to make me jog? You know I think people who jog should be shot at midday.”
“Why at midday?” Kami asked absently.
“There’s no need to ever get up at dawn,” Angela told her. “Not even to shoot joggers.”

6. Carter’s Unfocused, One-Track Mind by Brent Crawford – The antics of 15-year-old Carter and his friends provide a constant stream of amusement, to the point where I laughed so hard I was wiping tears from my eyes and struggling to catch my breath.

Book cover for Abandon by Meg CabotBook cover for Unspoken by Sarah Rees BrennanBook cover for Carter's Unfocused, One-Track Mind by Brent Crawford

7. How I Paid For College: A Novel Of Sex, Theft, Friendship and Musical Theater by Marc Acito – Ed’s methods for scrounging up college tuition may not be legal, but they’re certainly creative, raunchy, and hilarious.

8. The Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare – Will Herondale is one of my most beloved book boyfriends for a variety of reasons, his wit being one of them. He’s always got a clever remark, whether those around him want to hear it or not.

“They’re not hideous,” said Tessa.
Will blinked at her. “What?”
“Gideon and Gabriel,” said Tessa. “They’re really quite good-looking, not hideous at all.”
“I spoke,” said Will, in sepulchral tones, “of the pitch-black inner depths of their souls.”
Tessa snorted. “And what color do you suppose the inner depths of your soul are, Will Herondale?”
“Mauve,” said Will.

9. The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare – After I finished reading The Infernal Devices books, I moved on to The Mortal Instruments series and discovered they were just as funny, if not more so. Jace Wayland, with his sarcasm and cockiness, gives Will a run for his money.

Book cover for How I Paid For College by Marc AcitoBook cover for Clockwork Angel by Cassandra ClareBook cover for The City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

10. Hot Stuff by Janet Evanovich and Leanne Banks – I don’t read a lot of adult fiction, but this quick, light mystery is a ton of fun and kept me chortling from beginning to end.

Book cover for Hot Stuff by Janet Evanovich and Leanne Banks

I’m always looking for recommendations for funny books. Leave me a comment and share your favorites!

Review: The Trouble With Flirting by Claire LaZebnik

The Trouble with Flirting Book Cover The Trouble with Flirting
Claire LaZebnik

Franny's supposed to be working this summer, not flirting. But you can't blame her when guys like Alex and Harry are around. . . .

Franny Pearson never dreamed she'd be attending the prestigious Mansfield Summer Theater Program. And she's not, exactly. She's working for her aunt, the resident costume designer. But sewing her fingers to the bone does give her an opportunity to spend time with her crush, Alex Braverman. If only he were as taken with the girl hemming his trousers as he is with his new leading lady.

When Harry Cartwright, a notorious flirt, shows more than a friendly interest in Franny, she figures it can't hurt to have a little fun. But as their breezy romance grows more complicated, can Franny keep pretending that Harry is just a carefree fling? And why is Alex suddenly giving her those deep, meaningful looks? In this charming tale of mixed messages and romantic near-misses, one thing is clear: Flirting might be more trouble than Franny ever expected.

Review: 

It’s no surprise that I enjoyed The Trouble With Flirting – after all, it’s a retelling of Mansfield Park, my favorite Jane Austen novel. What did come as a shock was just how MUCH I enjoyed it. I love, love, LOVE this book, and I want you to love it too. 

Here are the things you need to know about The Trouble With Flirting:

It’s set at a summer theater camp for high school students. Franny Pearson, our protagonist, is suckered into spending her summer with her stodgy aunt working in Mansfield College’s costume department. As you might imagine, a theater program full of aspiring teen actors has no shortage of colorful characters. The zany kids and the melodrama that they bring are part of what makes this book so much fun; LaZebnik’s portrayal of the theater world is so spot-on that it’s almost comical. There’s the drama of people not getting their coveted roles, or wanting to have a say in their costume design, or being upset that their crush is running lines with their rival. It brought back memories of my own theater days and kept me smiling throughout.

Franny is an utter delight. Hilarious, smart, and entertaining as hell, I couldn’t have asked for a better heroine than Franny Pearson. She’s one of those characters who’s always up for meeting new people and trying new things, which allows her to be drawn into interesting scenarios and relationships. She’s easygoing and fun, and even when she isn’t thrilled about a situation she takes it in stride and tries to make the best of it. She approaches all things with humor and directness and isn’t afraid to speak her mind. She’s also flawed, like all great characters, which adds to her believability.

There are great romantic twists and turns. I was positively giddy over the romance in this book. There’s a love triangle with two guys who are each appealing and multi-dimensional; relationships peppered with humor, banter, and actual conversations; and dates that are fun, sweet, and sexy. Best of all, the relationships aren’t predictable. The title, cover, and synopsis may make The Trouble With Flirting sound like light-hearted fluff, but there’s more to this book than summer flings and casual romance. LaZebnik is able to flout clichés and take the plot and characters down unexpected paths, making the romance that much more rewarding.

It’s gut-bustingly funny. Franny has a wicked sense of humor, as does Harry, and in scenes where they play off each other LaZebnik had me laughing so hard I was close to tears. I was so charmed by their exchanges that I couldn’t stop smiling. The little quips, observations, and tongue-in-cheek comments kept me laughing almost constantly; I’m talking giggles, snickers, and even outright guffaws. Here are just a couple of quotes to highlight this point:

“I want to ask the guy up front if he has any antique books about the care and feeding of dogs. My mother collects them.”

“Really?” Isabella says. “My mother collects diamond bracelets.”

“My mother collects headache medications,” I say.

And:

“I’m fairly hopeful you’ll survive this injury, Franny.”

“Unless gangrene sets in.”

“Gangrene always sets in,” he says darkly.

“What are you talking about?” asks Julia as they all gather around us again. “No one gets gangrene anymore.”

“They do in old books. If Franny were a Hemingway heroine or something, gangrene would set in and she’d lose her leg. Or her life.”

“But I’d be very attractive on my deathbed,” I add.

LaZebnik is a master of writing teenage relationships. She excels at capturing the camaraderie of a bunch of theater kids thrown together for the summer. Every scene involving Franny and her friends feels organic and right, whether they’re taking a trip to the beach, eating lunch, or simply hanging out in the student lounge. It’s the little details that make the relationships ring true – the playful nudges, the bickering and teasing, the way Franny’s friends crowd together and sprawl on top of each other on the common room couch.

It’s impossible not to have a great time reading The Trouble With Flirting. I was charmed, delighted, and surprised by this Mansfield Park retelling, and it will be a while before I stop grinning whenever I think about it.

Review: 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith

100 Sideways Miles Book Cover 100 Sideways Miles
Andrew Smith

Finn Easton sees the world through miles instead of minutes. It’s how he makes sense of the world, and how he tries to convince himself that he’s a real boy and not just a character in his father’s bestselling cult-classic book. Finn has two things going for him: his best friend, the possibly-insane-but-definitely-excellent Cade Hernandez, and Julia Bishop, the first girl he’s ever loved.

Then Julia moves away, and Finn is heartbroken. Feeling restless and trapped in the book, Finn embarks on a road trip with Cade to visit their college of choice in Oklahoma. When an unexpected accident happens and the boys become unlikely heroes, they take an eye-opening detour away from everything they thought they had planned—and learn how to write their own destiny.

Review:

Phew…my head is spinning right now. I’m not really sure what to think of this book. On the one hand, 100 Sideways Miles features great characters who are entertaining and hilarious. On the other hand, it is also random and – as much as I hate to say it – kind of pointless.

In a way, 100 Sideways Miles reminds me a bit of The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand. In addition to not having any discernible message or point, both books follow a male protagonist who feels as if he’s trapped, stuck on a path he can’t get off of no matter how much he tries. In the case of 100 Sideways Miles, this protagonist is Finn Easton, an epileptic boy with a tragic childhood and an author father whose wildly popular sci-fi novel features a character based on his son.

Finn is a little peculiar. He measures life in distance, not time – something to do with the speed the Earth travels – and gets pretty philosophical about things like atoms and stars and molecules. He hates that his father’s book has made parts of his life public and feels he can’t live his own life, be his own person, etc., etc. I didn’t have a lot of patience for this. Apart from “borrowing” parts of Finn for his novel, Finn’s dad does not in any way pressure Finn to be a certain type of person or live his life a certain way. It made no sense to me why Finn feels so trapped or why the sci-fi book causes him to go through a mini existential crisis.

Then again, there’s not a whole lot in this book that does make sense. It’s a bizarre hodgepodge of random tidbits that don’t really have a point but are nonetheless a lot of fun. There’s Finn’s wacky school, which has an all-boys German Dance Club and a history teacher who frequently comes to class costumed as Betsy Ross, Charles Lindberg, a Nazi, etc. There’s Laika, Finn’s rat terrier, who likes to roll around on the carcasses of dead animals. There are jaunts to an abandoned penitentiary, road trips to Oklahoma, random ghost appearances, and dead horses that fall out of the sky. There’s a lot of cursing and vomiting and talk about erections. The whole book is just weird and funny and completely out of left field.

It’s also entertaining, due primarily to Cade Hernandez, Finn’s best friend. Cade is one of the most memorable – and outlandish – characters I’ve ever come across. He’s gross and hilarious and annoying and spectacular all at once. He’s got a knack for stirring up trouble, an astonishing ability to get people to do whatever he wants, and is capable of convincing the entire student body to participate in wild schemes. He’s popular, intelligent, insane, courageous, and strange, and I absolutely loved him. Here are a couple of quotes about Cade:

“Cade Hernandez was the kind of kid you’d dedicate hundred-foot-high monuments to, just so he wouldn’t kill you with his lethal powers of annoyance.”

And:

“Cade smiled and kept his unblinking eyes focused on our teacher. It was a look that was particular to Cade Hernandez – a seducer’s look. It was magical and unavoidable and caused women to willingly enslave themselves to him. And I’ll admit it – sometimes when Cade Hernandez looked at me with that particular expression, I’d get flustered and embarrassed and have to turn away in frustration and sexual doubt.”

The boy has no shame; he frequently announces his masturbatory habits to the world, asks questions about boners in class, and gets Finn into all kinds of trouble. And yet you can’t help but love him. He’s all himself, all the time, and he’s my favorite part of this book.

Watching Cade and Finn interact is hilarious. If there’s one thing that Andrew Smith excels at, it’s writing great bromances. It was evident in Winger, and it’s evident in 100 Sideways Miles. Whether they’re hanging out at baseball practice, sitting in class, lounging by the pool, or getting into trouble, Finn and Cade are hysterical together. The ribbing and banter between them is stellar, and there’s a scene where the boys go to a 7-Eleven to buy condoms that had me laughing till I cried.

As much as I was entertained by 100 Sideways Miles, I still wish there’d been a little more meaning to it. If you’re simply looking for fun and laughter this book may be a good choice for you, but if you want something more I’d look elsewhere.

Review: FML by Shaun Hutchinson

FML Book Cover FML
Shaun Hutchinson

Tonight’s the night: Simon’s big chance to finally get with Cassie. Cassie, who he’s loved for ages. Cassie, who is newly boyfriend-free. Cassie, who just happens to be throwing the biggest party of the year. Simon’s plan is simple: He’ll go to the party, she’ll fall in love with him, they’ll make out like crazy, and the night will be a complete success.

But things don’t ever go as planned…especially when it comes to Cassie.

In two alternating plotlines, Simon goes after the girl of his dreams and stumbles toward his destiny. It’s one night, one party, and a thousand ways for things to go wrong…but a million ways for them to go right.

Review:

I never went to any real parties back when I was in high school (yeah, yeah, I was a dork), but if they were anything like the party in FML I really missed out during my teenage years.

If you’re in the mood for a fun, clever story featuring unique characters, a wild party, and a dose of alternate realities, FML is the book for you. Simon, the protagonist, has had a crush on Cassie, one of the most popular girls at school, for years. When he hears that she’s having a senior year blowout – and that she’s newly single – Simon decides to use the opportunity to finally profess his love for her.

FML starts as one story but quickly diverges into two separate storylines, showing the different ways the party could unfold based on Simon’s decisions as well as events that are out of his control. It’s almost like one of those old “pick your adventure” books in that it allows you to see how different decisions affect the outcome of the story.

At times it was a little confusing trying to keep the events of both storylines straight, but doing so was well worth the effort. It was really cool watching how the same events and interactions occurred in both plots but in very different ways. Plus, everything came together perfectly at the end – I couldn’t have asked for a more fitting resolution.

I had such a great time reading FML. There are a lot of wild, entertaining stunts going on at the party, from contact Scrabble to a poolside re-enactment of Romeo and Juliet. There’s also the really fun aspect of the party being a “barter” party, which basically means that all of the party-goers are running around the whole night trying to come up with crazy schemes to trade one object for another until they end up with a specific target object. The revelers and their zany antics serve as a great backdrop for the story; in a way they’re almost like part of the setting more than they are actual characters.

The characters who do serve a purpose beyond being part of the background aren’t your normal teen scene stock characters. Cassie isn’t conventionally beautiful, nor is she confident and bold like many popular girls in books and movies. She has depth, flaws, and unique personality traits, and I could see why Simon likes her. Likewise, Cassie’s ex-boyfriend isn’t a tool, but a good guy who legitimately loves her and is nice to her and others, even the less-than-cool kids at school. Simon’s gay best friends are popular, not the objects of ridicule, and there’s not one big, bad bully but several, each of whom is very distinct.

Again, I may not have gotten to go to any actual parties as a teen, but reading about the one in FML is the next best thing. If you’re up for a crazy, unexpectedly fun read, check out FML today.

Review: OCD, the Dude, and Me by Lauren Roedy Vaughn

OCD, the Dude, and Me Book Cover OCD, the Dude, and Me
Lauren Roedy Vaughn

From the first day she began at her alternative high school, Danielle Levine has obsessively chronicled the highs, lows, and really lows of teenage life in her “me-moir,” a sacred color-coded, locked binder kept securely boxed under the bed wrapped in a pillowcase.

Determined that her senior year mark the major change she’s been waiting for, Danielle resolves to trade her Friday night reenactments of scenes from Jane Eyre (complete with puffy sleeves, petticoats, English accents, and her parents) for invitations to Friday night parties with the popular kids, including the object of her unrequited love.

OCD, The Dude, and Me offers up an intimate, humorous insight into the life of one charmingly obsessive outcast. Danielle fastidiously archives her experiences through essays, rants, journals, e-mails, and other written exchanges with an observant wit. In a year filled with the unexpected, including surprise friendships, a glorious feeling of self-acceptance, and a life-altering viewing of The Big Lebowski, Danielle realizes she may not be as alone as she thought.

Review:

OCD, The Dude, and Me is one of those wonderful stories that manages to be amusing, heartwarming, sad, and inspiring all at the same time. Despite being a quick read, it leaves you feeling as if a better world is possible for anyone who seeks it.

The protagonist in this novel is Danielle Levine, a slightly overweight redhead battling Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and ultra-low self-esteem. She’s got endless idiosyncrasies, such as a penchant for wearing unusual hats – berets, fedoras, straw hats, even bonnets – and a tendency to rearrange her snow globe collection on a regular basis.

Danielle suffers from OCD anxiety attacks, frequently has to hide under piles of laundry in her room in order to cope with life, and changes into combat boots and her conductor hat as necessary in order to feel more in control. She’s a bit of a mess, socially awkward and very aware of this.

Danielle’s dysfunction is a source of amusement and sadness throughout the book. There are scenes where her quirkiness made me laugh, like when she decides to write a mental health missive to the imaginary Commitment Hearing Committee “so they know what was the beginning of the end of any piece of sanity I had left in high school.” However, there are also scenes where the severity of her OCD made me pity her, like when she’s on a trip with her classmates and becomes so distraught that she has to lock herself in a bathroom and put different hats on her head in a certain order while singing the entire album of her favorite band. In this case, it isn’t comical. It’s heartbreaking, because you know she has serious obstacles to overcome

Needless to say, Danielle’s life and circumstances give her a very distinct worldview, and a distinct voice to go with it. This voice comes through loud and clear in the book, which is written in the form of letters, notes, school writing assignments, and journal entries. They give you a strong sense of how hilarious and honest and neurotic Danielle is, all at once. For example, there’s a section where Danielle writes about hoping for “things that might help me become a more interesting person. Although, I think by some accounts I may already be interesting but in a bubonic plague kind of way. The bubonic plague is very interesting.”

At first I couldn’t understand why Danielle hated herself and had so many self-esteem issues. I was initially convinced that all of her problems were in her head and that her life couldn’t be as bad as she was making it seem. Eventually, though, it became clear that Danielle is struggling with real problems, and that high school truly is miserable for her. It’s hard enough being picked on and singled out, but it is especially difficult when you are already dealing with other significant issues, such as a learning disability, feelings of inadequacy, and traumatic experiences from your past.

Teachers, family, and psychologists push Danielle to try new things, open herself up to new experiences, and put herself out there; in other words, they want her to not be afraid to live life and love herself as she is. Vaughn does a great job of showing Danielle’s journey to self-acceptance and her development of the courage necessary to live a normal life in spite of her OCD. I highly recommend this book.