Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe (Book Review)

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Page Count
: 336

I have said it before and I will say it again, there’s something about Ben Philippe’s writing that just works for me. I was utterly smitten with The Field Guide to the North American Teenager and extremely pumped to read Charming as a Verb. From the first couple of pages, you just sort of get the characters and their personality. They come to life easily and grow on you quickly.

All children are charming as an adjective, but you’re charming as a verb. 

Henri “Halti” Haltiwanger is, in all possible meanings of the word, charming. He has a Smile (yes, capital S) for every situation and knows how to navigate people like the back of his hand. In addition to that, he is also extremely smart and funny and handsome – a combination that makes him likable in every social circle he encounters, despite some massive income differences between him and his other classmates. And while you read, you get it! Henri is a go-getter and not beyond a little con here and there to get to the places he needs to go. He just knows exactly what to say and makes his flaws look endearing, so, it comes as little surprise when Corinne, the social opposite of him, blackmails him into helping her get a social life. A meet cute started by blackmail, not something you see every day!

“You want me to She’s All That you?” I manage to say, hiding the smile creeping on my lips.
“What’s that?”
“Oh, my God,” I groan. “Watch more movies. Maybe that’s been the missing ingredient all along.”

From there on, things evolve quickly and you have a sort of rivals to friends to lovers situation. Corinne and Henri are incredibly cute together and will have you smiling like crazy with their banter and endearing get-to-know phase. However, this book isn’t just a romance. It’s about so much more!

A much bigger component, and the source of many a problem, is the fact that Corinne, Henri and their friends are in their senior year at High School. Being at a very competitive private school is one thing, but Henri simultaneously has to keep his dog-walking-business running, help out at home and fulfill his dad’s dream of getting into Columbia. And that’s the source of one of the main issues!

Despite our both being the O-Generation – a concept I have to admit rings terribly true the more I think about it – Corinne isn’t an immigrant. Or the child of immigrants. It’s a distinction that’s mostly irrelevant except in the moments like these, where it could easily place us on two different wavelengths. There’s no Haitian in her, no Jamaican, no Puerto Rican. Her Blackness is American, born and raised. Stolen and enslaved, technically, but still, it’s rooted here. She never aspired to be here from another shore elsewhere. She might not understand.
“If I give up on Columbia, then … I don’t know.”
“Then it’s like you’re no longer Haltiwanger Hungry?”
“Something like that.”

So, Henri has to figure out why he wants to go to Columbia and how far he is willing to go to get there. I call it the main issue, because it leads to Henri doing something that just made me so irrefutably angry. Maybe it’s not fair for me to hold Henri to such a high standard, but I truly expected better from him and that just made me so disappointed in his actions.
Then again, that’s another sign of great writing! I was so invested in the life of the characters, I wanted them to do better. I wanted everyone to succeed and live their dreams. And I don’t even speak of just Corinne and Henri here, who were so lovable, but also side characters like Henri’s best friend Ming. That dude was exactly the kind of friend I wish everyone had!

To recap, Ben Philippe’s writing style is still something that I enjoy very much. He manages to not feel the need to detail every second of every day the characters live through and yet you always feel like you have the full picture. His characters are full of life, relatable and fun. I didn’t enjoy the conflict in this one as much as in The Field Guide … but I still thought it had amazing parts focusing on the family-theme and very cute romance moments!

Fazit: 3/5 stars! I really wish Halti hadn’t done that one thing …

3s

Are you planning on reading Charming as a Verb? Have you read Philippe’s other book? Let’s talk!

Random Movie Recommendations: Rom-Coms

So, I don’t know who all remembers this feature, but it pops up pretty rarely since I am more of a TV rather than movie person. Anyway, it’s fairly simple, I pick a theme and then recommend two or more movies that I recently watched and thought the world should know about. There is no in depth analysis, but really just a short and sweet paragraph or so to let you know why people should watch it.

Here we go! This time I really want to showcase some great Rom-Coms (short for Romantic Comedies). Despite a lot of critics complaining about them, I KNOW that people have been craving a comeback of that genre. There is nothing wrong with some formulaic love story every now and then, because that in no way means it cannot be entertaining and memorable. These are my picks:

Set It Up

I have been screaming about this movie for what feels like weeks now. First of all, the casting is more than stellar, I adore every single person on this movie and would have watched it if it had been a potato sack commercial. Luckily, it was not and instead I got one of the best romantic comedies in recent years. I know, I know, that is high praise, but here’s some reasons why it works so well.

While it does play into certain stereotypes, it simultaneously fights against them. Women aren’t given an expiration date or are made to choose between love and a career. There are no double standards for gender roles and friendships are shown how they are supposed to be – supportive with that kick in the butt when necessary. People struggle with what they want in life and make mistakes and there are consequences, all the while this movie is highly entertaining with both hilarious and relatable dialogue and quotes that I’ll probably reference to friends for years to come.

And on a side note, if you are a writer, this movie gives some really good advice. Never thought I’d take advice from a Netflix flick either, but here we are!

Ibiza

Okay, fine! I only watched this because Richard Madden was in it and I haven’t really seen him in a movie or show since Game of Thrones. Not going to lie, I don’t hold Ibiza in the same high regard as Set It Up, but it was still a lot more fun than I thought it would be.

Granted, this isn’t exactly my kind of humour, so that’s probably part of why I wasn’t head over heels into it, but if you are looking for some women who aren’t afraid to have a fun time and an adorkable love interest – Ibiza delivers. Gillian Jacobs and Richard Madden were just the right amount of awkward and cute, their scenes were the best part for me. It gives you that total vibe of a summer romance that could be more if you are brave enough to try.

When We First Met

Before starting this movie, I messaged my friend how I thought the movie would end I was 100% right. As I mentioned in the opening of this post, I don’t think there is anything wrong with movies, especially in this genre, being a little predictable and it didn’t bother me here either. It doesn’t change the fact that When We First Met is a feel-good movie and exactly the right thing if you just want to be entertained.

Overall, it’s a little like Groundhog Day with a twist, a movie with ideas that may have been executed before and in better ways also, but that’s still enjoyable. It stays down to earth and has a cast you will surely recognise from other shows and movies. I always like when you have those worlds-collide-moments.

Have you watched either one of those movies? Would you be interested in getting some rom-com type movie recommendations with teen characters as well? Let me know in the comments below!

Random Movie Recommendations #2

The mood has struck me again to do one of these random recommendation posts. (You know the drill, those aren’t really reviews, but just very brief thoughts on the films!) If you’ve kept up with my trailer rambles, you’ve probably noticed that I am a bit frustrated by the lack of romantic comedies or romance movies in general. When I was younger, I feel like they were coming out each week and now there is a trailer for a movie like that maybe once a week. So, that’s why I chose it as the theme for this post!

Home Again

I’ve had this movie in my trailer round up a couple of times and now that I finally watched it, I can only say that I am in love! I know that some people were concerned about the romantic aspect or the amount of love interests for Reese’s character, but let me tell you, worry not! I sat in that movie with the biggest grin on my face, awe-ing every other minute and completely falling in love with everyone.

What you can’t see from the trailer is that the three twenty-something guys are actually in the film business and that just made the whole story even more appealing to me. Also, it’s not so much about the romantic aspect in general, but family and a sense of belonging and knowing who you are and what’s important to you. I thought it was done in an incredibly sweet and funny way, I could have watched those people for hours and hours more.

It’s not the perfect movie, but it is the perfect escape. It’s easy to watch, makes you feel good and is great for a girl’s night out!

Carrie Pilby

I may not be a genius, but I could relate to Carrie on SO many levels! She loves reading, she sometimes has a difficult time going out and meeting new people, her dating life is a catastrophe … and so on! I haven’t read the book it is based on, but I am curious about that too now.

This may not be a RomCom so much as a comedy on the verge of drama, but in general, I just adored the casting and the vibe of the entire movie. It had such a charm to it, had some sharp dialogue, was hilarious but it also got you thinking a lot. It’s about finding your place in the world and the right people that will accompany you on the way. And, it’s about making the decisions that are right for you and that you can live with.

I highly recommend this for a binge on a rainy fall/winter day!

What are some comedies you’ve watched and liked lately? Have you watched either one of my films?

 

The DUFF: Book vs. Trailer

In my Taylor Swift Book Tag I mentioned how much I was looking forward to reading the DUFF (=Designated Ugly Fat Friend) by Kody Keplinger and now I finally got around to it. As you may or may not know, I buy a lot of the books I read after watching the trailer for their movie adaptation and this one was no exception. All throughout the comments on YouTube people complained about how different the movie looked from the book. I thought this was just the usual annoyance that came with movie adaptations barely ever being faithful to their underlying material, but now I can tell you that the two are really nothing alike. I don’t know what the studio was thinking when they produced this film, but it has nothing to do with the story the book tried to tell.

So, basically the movie looks like a typical generic teenage RomCom – nothing wrong with that. Themes like the one from “She’s All That” and “Mean Gilrs” have been copied a million times for a simple reason: they work. I’m not one to judge them for that and quite honestly I would watch it for the simple reason that it has Robbie Amell in it, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s not the book.

Warning: from here on there will be Spoilers for the book (and possibly the movie)!

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger is about Bianca Piper, a cynic girl who deals with her problems by entering into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with the person she hates the most: Wesley Rush. She starts avoiding her friends and bottles up her emotions which inevitably leads to a lot of chaos. Despite what the trailer suggests, the story is a lot deeper and deals with multiple issues that not only teens are confronted with. Here are some of the major differences I’ve spotted:

  • Bianca doesn’t come to Wesley for help. She despises him and solely uses him as a means of escape, well until it turns into something else. It’s different than in the movie though. She doesn’t want to change her appearance, or herself in general, to make anyone like her and he doesn’t fall for her just because she’s slowly changing for the better, but because they have a genuine connection. Bianca knows that for the people who really care about her, she doesn’t have to pretend.
  • I have no idea who Bella Thorne is supposed to be. There is no mean girl in the story. Of course there are the obligatory bitchy cheerleaders, but not a particular mean girl who rules the school. Was that really necessary to add?
  • There is some hope in me that they will deal with the family issues of the characters in the movie, even though it doesn’t look like it from what I could tell from the trailer. But I thought it was important to have Bianca’s father’s alcoholism and her mother being away all the time as well as Wesley’s judgmental grandmother, his sweet little sister and so on in the book. The cast list doesn’t really reassure me though … we’ll see.
  • The movie makes it look like the goal of it all is to make Bianca datable for prom – she doesn’t even go to prom! Neither does she go to the Homecoming or any other school dance, because they just aren’t her thing. There better not be some big showdown at prom …
  • The Nest just doesn’t exist. Seems sad to me, since I really wanted to see Joe.
  • I suppose there will be a lot less sex in the movie. Just an educated guess.
  • I suppose the only thing that will be the same in the movie and the book is moral of the story, which means that Bianca soon discovers that everyone who has friends feels like the Duff at some point.

I hope it came across that I really don’t think the stories have anything in common. I mean not even the set up is the same. Have you read the book? Let’s talk about it!

NaNoWriMo Week 1

So, the first week of NaNoWriMo is coming to it’s end and this is a little recap of how it went. If you don’t know what I am talking about, click here to read my previous post!

The first week went really well so far and I didn’t have a hard time reaching my daily goals. I am currently at a word count of 10,859 words, which means I am about 20% done (YAY!). Yet, it wasn’t all easy peasy the entire time and here’s why:

When you first start considering doing NaNoWriMo, there are a couple of things they tell you to do or not do. First, it is recommended that you put your inner editor in the kennel while writing, since it’s all about quantity and not quality. I can tell you, that is something I am not capable of doing! Of course you’re allowed to rewrite stuff if you start to contradict yourself or just changed your mind about something, but you’re not supposed to keep re-reading what you already wrote and to try and find a better way of saying it. But that is exactly what I am doing every other day. I just can’t continue to write something new if I am not happy with what I’ve already written. And at some point during the past week I just freaked and thought my story was an utter failure, because something just wasn’t right. I know, I know … the first draft is never that good and I can edit it all I want when the month is over, that is if I managed to finish it, but the thing is, I didn’t dislike the story in general, I was just unhappy with parts of it. So, I decided to not follow another recommendation.

While you’re writing, you can tell the whole world that you are doing NaNoWriMo, but you don’t actually show your story to anyone. If you want to work on it after the month is over, it is a great idea to show people the final version in order to get feedback, but you’re not exactly supposed to do this while you’re still working on it. It completely makes sense, because before you know it, everyone has an opinion on what is best and how it could continue, even though you are quite capable of coming up with these things all on your own. But I needed help and confirmation that I wasn’t going entirely over board and in the wrong direction with my story. I showed it to one person and as of today, she is still the only person who was granted a glimpse at my writing. I talked with her and she confirmed my suspicions about a problem in my story and gave me feedback, which immensely helped me fix it. In addition to that, she also boosted my confidence and gave me new motivation. I don’t know if this will work for everyone, but I was stuck and knew that I needed an outside opinion to keep the story from turning into a full blown disaster.

So, breaking the “rules” worked for me, but I am interested in seeing how it will go the second week. Motivation usually starts to drop around that time, but I am still determined to reach the 50,000 words and to finally finish a writing project. If you’re wondering what I am writing about, I still want to keep it a secret, but I can tell you that it is a Contemporary Romantic Comedy (aka ConRomCom) with the title Break Up Buddy. If you suspect that it is cheesy at times, you are absolutely correct, but that is just me – forever the hopeless romantic.

I hope your week proved as fruitful as mine! Read you tomorrow for the finale of Doctor Who!