Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zentner

I’m going to start this off by saying I’m a huge Jeff Zentner fan and 100% recommend his books (warning: you will cry).

“For a long time, I shined my light for someone other than me. But not anymore. Now I shine bright for me.”

What’s it about?

Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee is about two high school seniors named Josie and Delia. They have a show on public access TV called Midnite Matinee where they act as horror movie TV hosts. But it’s their senior year and life is trying to tug them in different directions. In a last ditch effort to make their TV show big, Josie and Delia go to a convention down in Florida.

That is just a brief summary of what the book is about, but I promise you, you will laugh until you cry and cry until you laugh while reading this.

The Good:

Josie. Josie’s dream is to make it on TV which is why she started Midnite Matinee with Delia. And let me tell you: Josie is has a perfect TV personality. She is also one of my favorite (and the funniest) characters I have ever read about.

“Me [Josie]: Why is is totally ok to melt cheese on scrambled eggs but you can’t on boiled eggs?

Delia: OMG you’re right. The thought of cheese on boiled eggs makes me wanna vom.

Me: First off you gotta make the boiled eggs hot and that is the grossest thought.”

Lawson. Lawson is an MMA fighter who sometimes makes appearances on Midnite Matinee. I don’t know what to say about him without spoiling what happens besides he is an angel.

Delia’s and Josie’s relationship. They have a great friendship that consists of watching bad horror movies and cheering each other up. They get into hilarious conversations that had me crying with tears. Also, they have someone who works with them named Arliss, whom they have a funny and wonderful relationship with, as well.

Delilah’s story. Her dad left them when she was young and she spends the story trying to track him down. I’m obviously not going to say anything more about what happens, but a lot of lessons are learned through this subplot.

There were many, many more things that I liked about this story, but then you would be reading this review for days. However, these were the main things that I loved about the story but know there is so much more to discover.

This is the time where I would now go on and talk about the things I didn’t like, but there wasn’t a thing that bothered me about this book (other than the fact my heart felt like it was ripped from my chest many times). Anyway, thank you for reading my review and I hope you pick up this book!

“I’m glad things end, though. It forces you to love them ferociously while you have them.”

Days of Blood & Starlight, by Laini Taylor

 

Days of Blood & Starlight, the sequel to Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor, was an engrossing continuation of a shocking first book. It picked up directly where the last ended, which was with a shocking climax that I can’t describe without spoiling. There were multiple points of view throughout the book, and as usual, some were more engrossing than others, but towards the middle, all parts were equally interesting to me, which was refreshing.

My main issue with the book was that it spent a huge amount of time simply restating what happened in the first book without doing much to set up a new conflict. This was nice for me to read as I had read the first book around four years ago, although I could see something like this annoying those who are reading them consecutively. The first one hundred pages were very slow but there was a turning point that really allowed the captivating details of the world to shine through and become the focus of the novel. Overall, not much actually happened in the book, but it allowed the characters to develop loads and was a good bridge to a high stakes finale.

The characters are extremely fleshed out, allowing the reader to easily differentiate between them beyond their names. The two human characters Mik and Zuzana became my two favorites; their humor carried the book and lightened the mood for more than just the monsters they performed for. Karou, the main character, is more down to earth and spends a lot of time focused on what happened and how to fix everything. From what I remember, Akiva was a character I liked a lot, but in this book, he just proved to be annoying with his every thought being about Karou.

Despite developing so many characters, one of the main villains, Thiago, wasn’t developed enough to explain his actions later in the book and I wished that he had more interactions with Karou so we could get to know him like we did his sidekick, Ten.

The romance is very complex, and Taylor subverts expectations by continuing to keep the characters apart, as they should be considering everything that occurred between them in the previous book. Throughout the story, there were many moments I thought Karou would have the opportunity to get in a relationship with someone other than Akiva, which many other authors would have included, but refreshingly there wasn’t any new romance introduced. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the connection between Karou and Akiva anymore and don’t want them to get back together as I’m sure they will in the final book. I’m not quite sure why I feel this way as most people seem to like them together, but perhaps the final book will change my mind.

Overall, I would rate Days of Blood & Starlight 6/10 dragons for its realistic characters and intriguing world.

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate Dicamillo

Cover of Because of Winn Dixie

Opal Buloni and her preacher dad move to little ol’ Naomi, Florida from little ol’ Watley, Florida. Even though it’s a new place, ten-year-old Opal isn’t digging it. She misses her friends, her home, and her mother who left her when she was a little girl. Life is pretty rotten.

Enter Winn-Dixie, a mangy stray dog that Opal befriends as he ransacks a grocery store.The lovable mutt falls in love with Opal and the preacher, they fall in love with him, and voila! Opal’s summer suddenly takes a turn for the better.

Thanks to Winn-Dixie’s easygoing nature, he manages to introduce Opal to new friends in Naomi — the little old librarian, Miss Franny; the alleged witch, Gloria Dump, and the shy pet store worker, Otis. Opal spends each day swapping stories with these new friends, despite taunts from the neighborhood bully patrol.

As Opal’s brain gnaws on the stories, she learns that, like Bertie Botts Beans, what you see ain’t always what you get. She also aches for the loss of her mother, wishing she could have story time with her.

Things go on like this for a while, and then Opal and Gloria Dump plan a shindig. Opal invites everyone, including the bully patrol. Everything is going swimmingly until a storm comes and poof! freaks out Winn-Dixie, who is ridiculously afraid of thunderstorms. Poof again! Winn-Dixie disappears.

Opal and her dad search and search, coming up with nada. Then, as her dad tries to convince her to give up, Opal has a mother of a meltdown. Literally. It’s about her mother (you know, the whole “abandonment” thing). She and the preacher have a heart-to-heart. Opal realizes that her mom isn’t coming back, but she has a father who loves her, friends who love her, potential friends to love her, and she’ll be okay.

Plus, Winn-Dixie was hiding under the bed at the party the whole time. So Opal still has a mangy dog that loves her, too. But it’s not just that. She can love each and every one of them in return, for as long as they are in her life. It’s a happy, happy day in Opal’s world. Life lessons learned; warm fuzzies felt.

The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

Cover of The Tell Tale Heart

“The Tell-Tale Heart” is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe first published in 1843. It follows an unnamed narrator who insists on his sanity after murdering an old man with a “vulture eye”. The murder is carefully calculated, and the murderer hides the body by cutting it into pieces and hiding it under the floorboards. Ultimately the narrator’s guilt manifests itself in the hallucination that the man’s heart is still beating under the floorboards.

It is unclear what relationship, if any, the old man and his murderer share. It has been suggested that the old man is a father figure or, perhaps, that his vulture eye represents some sort of veiled secret. The ambiguity and lack of details about the two main characters stand in stark contrast to the specific plot details leading up to the murder.

The story overall displays the effects of guilt on a man and how it drove him into a mad man. This story is great if you are looking for a short interesting read on a short car ride.

The Thief Lord, by Cornelia Funke

Cover of The Thief Lord

From the books I have read that have been written by Cornelia Funke, The Thief Lord has set my standards of a good book pretty high. Since when could a merry-go-round change your age? Since when did an evil uncle and aunt make their nephews run away in the dead of night?

The book, which is based in the magical city of Venice, Italy, has its own secrets down every alley and up every staircase. Of course, any story is boring without any good characters and a plot so delightful, nobody would be able to put it down, so that is where Prosper and Boniface (Bo) come in with their gang including Hornet, Riccio, Scipio, also known as the Thief Lord, and Mosca. All are orphans, except Prosper and Bo. They are runaways from their evil Aunt Esther and Uncle Max Hartlieb.

Throughout their stay with the gang, they meet a detective who is hired to capture them who instead helps them, a secret that’s been kept from them for a long time, and recover a merry-go-round that turns time around. They have to keep friendship alive, trust one another, and face their fears all in one big adventure! Only then will they find a secret hidden within all the others.

Overall, this book was highly enjoyable. It was a great read, and I could not put down the book until the very last page. I don’t believe there was a part I did not like. Some parts of the book were sad and some were confusing. However, all the parts in the book were knitted well together which made for a terrific story in the magical world of Venice, Italy. I would definitely recommend it, especially for those who love reading about fantasy and magic. This was also about family and friendship all the way. Anyone who likes Harry Potter would find this enjoyable and Wings of Fire fans would like this book, too.

I rate this book a 9/10.

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by AVI

Cover of The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

With the words, “Not every thirteen-year-old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial, and found guilty”, Charlotte’s tale begins.  Charlotte swears to tell us the truth of her voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in 1832 in all its detail and, as a narrator, she does not disappoint.  Set in an age where propriety was the main concern, Charlotte is the lone female passenger on a ship bound for America.  To complicate matters further, the ship’s captain is losing his mind and his descent into madness is heightened in intensity by the plotting of his mutinous crew.

More than that, however, the story is about Charlotte herself.  She grows from the first pages of the book from a naive girl into a young woman who questions what she knows is not right.  There are few literary heroines today who demonstrate the same amount of self-awareness, candor, and moral compass that Charlotte does. She learns that, ultimately, your choices in life are what define you, not your circumstances.

This book is not so much made for teens as it is for younger kids like 5th or 6th grade. But the number of times I have read this book since 5th grade shows how it can attract any audience.

Wicked Saints, by Emily A. Duncan

Cover of Wicked Saints novel

Wicked Saints, written by Emily A. Duncan, is an action-packed fantasy filled with love and betrayal. It follows our main character Nadya, a cleric from Kalyazin who can speak to the gods, while she works to save her people. She meets Malachiasz, a blood mage from the rival kingdom Tranavia, who she works with to end the war. The book also follows Serefin, the crown prince, who is just trying to figure things out with his kingdom while trying not to die by the hands of his father. I would highly recommend this book so beware of spoilers down below.

The magic system in this book is refreshingly unique. Nadya herself has powers gifted to her by the gods and she speaks with them to get her power. The mysteries of her magic are explored throughout the book and it’s very intriguing. The Tranavians use a power called blood magic, which Nadya continuously calls heresy. They must use their blood to activate spells they draw into their spell books.

The plot of the book was similar to other young adult fantasy books: save the kingdom and end a war. What differs is that there is a clash in religion. While Nadya and her people believe in the gods and are very religious, the Tranavians seem to be atheists. The battle between the two opposing belief systems becomes a real conflict that can be shown in today’s society to some extent. It also leaves the reader in a peculiar position of not knowing which side to be on and wondering who they should really be rooting for.

The romance was very well done and heartbreaking. The rivalry between the two’s beliefs create the “forbidden romance” and adds to the confusion Nadya feels as she navigates her journey. The character development was amazing. Each had their own personality that was distinguishable from the others, which you don’t always find in young adult books. They all have internal struggles that could be relatable to some people. Serefin is the most relatable character and his personality is unlike others I’ve seen, which is refreshing and makes him a lovable character. The development for Nadya was smooth and believable, although the romance did move quickly at the beginning, so it could have used some more pages and adventures to flesh it out. Malachiasz was a confusing character towards the end of the book. As a perpetual liar, it was hard to distinguish what was real and what wasn’t, which could have been the author’s choice, but it left me a little frustrated.

The two of the side characters felt a little underdeveloped and sort of didn’t need to be there, so hopefully, Duncan gives them a chance to shine in future books. There was plenty of diversity in the book that didn’t feel forced, which will make it easier for all readers to feel connected to the book in some way.

The book is very dark and the characters have some morally grey areas that they have to cross when dealing with religion, so I would recommend this book to older teenagers if those topics bother you.

I would rate Wicked Saints 9/10 dragons for its unique story and heartbreaking romance.