Book Reviews

Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“Sometimes small and unspectacular things can be a universe.”

cover art for Rayne and Delilah's Midnite Matinee by Jeff ZentnerFor most of high school best friends Delia and Josie have spent every Friday night transforming themselves into Delilah Darkwood and Rayne Ravenscroft, hosts of Midnite Matinee their public access show on TV Six where they show a campy B (or C) horror movie with their own shorts in between.

The movies are never good and Delia and Josie’s segments aren’t much better, but it’s their show that they built up from scratch which counts for a lot. Even if it isn’t enough to ensure the show will continue now that high school is ending.

Josie is eager to pursue her lifelong dream of being on television when she goes to college but isn’t sure what to do when her dreams might be leading her away from her hometown and her best friend.

Delia, meanwhile, is desperate to find a way to help Midnite Matinee grow beyond its current syndication so that Josie can pursue her dream without leaving Delia behind the way her father did.

With one last summer to make it big or call it quits, Delia and Josie’s friendship and their show will be tested as they confront old hurts, embrace new dreams, and take one epic road trip to a horror convention with the potential to change everything in Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee (2019) by Jeff Zentner.

Find it on Bookshop.

Zentner’s latest standalone contemporary is a funny, strange story that explores all of the things that brought Josie and Delia together and all of the things that are starting to pull them in different directions.

Josie and Delia alternate first person narration in this story and by the end of the novel both girls completely won me over. Although Delia and Josie are facing some big decisions, they do it all with levity and obvious affection for each other as well as the other important people in their lives.

Zentner has filled this book with Easter eggs from his earlier novels as well as some amazing jokes–I can’t reveal too much but let’s just say I’m still cracking up about the baby Basset Hounds.

Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee is a story about big dreams, big chances, and the mediocre results we sometimes end up with as a result. Josie and Delia are hilarious, endearing, and some of my favorite characters to date. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo, The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo, Happy Messy Scary Love by Leah Konen, The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta, Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills, Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke, How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford, Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood

You can also check out my exclusive interview with Jeff about this book!

Chit Chat

5 Reasons You Should Be Watching “Mr. Selfridge”

PBS started broadcasting a new series this month called Mr. Selfridge. It is my new favorite thing.

Here are five reasons you should be watching it:

  1. Jeremy Piven: Who doesn’t love Jeremy Piven? He stars here as Mr. Selfridge and is his usual wonderful self. He is also surrounded by a superb supporting cast. This is an ensemble show that works because of the great actors.
  2. The Story: Set in 1908 this is a story about American Mr. Selfridge who moves to England with is family to build and open the first department store. (Think Macy’s or Harrods.) It might be because I love department stores but watching the stories of the store and the employees unfold is fascinating.
  3. It’s historical: As  I said, it’s set in 1908 so you know the costumes and sets are going to be fantastic!
  4. The Writing: Based on real events (and a book chronicling those real events) this is the kind of story that is almost too amazing to be true. Selfridge puts an airplane in the store, Anna Pavlova visits the store, there are affairs, drunken parents, romantic tension, and hats–so many hats. After the premier, episodes run an hour and they pack in so much excitement and plot and wonderfulness that it’s impossible to believe a full hour has passed by the time the end credits start to roll.
  5. It’s Just That Good: I love this show and I fully expect it to only gain in popularity as others realize how great it is. You should get in on the ground floor and start watching now BEFORE everyone else starts asking you about it.

Mr. Selfridge airs Sunday nights at 9pm Eastern on PBS.

You can watch all of the previously aired episodes (and get more info on the show) at PBS’s website here:

Book Reviews

The Selection: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Selection by Kiera CassAt seventeen years of age, America Singer already knows exactly what life she wants. She also knows, without doubt, that taking part in the Selection will do nothing to help her get that life. While every other girl in her province dreams of being chosen as one of the girls to compete for Prince Maxon’s affections and the chance to be Illea’s next princess, America is desperate to avoid the Selection altogether.

But with her mother desperate for America to have a chance at becoming a One instead of a lowly Five and her boyfriend insisting she will regret not entering on his account, America’s own wishes go overlooked. Worse, America’s hope of the Selection passing her by proves impossible when America is chosen as one of the lucky girls Prince Maxon will be courting while the entire country watches.

At the castle, it isn’t as easy for America to remember exactly what she wants. In her new surroundings she finds unexpected friends and a life she never dared to imagine. Circumstances beyond America’s control brought her to this point. Now, America will have to decide for herself whether or not she wants to stay in The Selection (2012) by Kiera Cass.

The Selection is the first book in a trilogy. It is also already being adapted into a television series.

Cass brings together the unlikely elements of a dystopian setting and a Cinderella-like fairy tale story in this delightful story. America’s narration is frank and candid providing excellent details about Illea’s past and its rigid caste system as well as more personal details about her family and the Selection itself.

Superficially The Selection is a story with a love triangle and beautiful settings. However its artfully developed characters and a compelling world built with just enough details to pique interest and make way for lots of revelations later in the trilogy, The Selection becomes a novel with more depth.

Well-paced and immediately engrossing, The Selection has already gotten its fair share of buzz. With its clever world and appealing characters,The Selection is also a would-be fairy also with some definite staying power.*

*And a really neat cover that, for me, really captured America.

Possible Pairings: Crewel by Gennifer Albin, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, Wither by Lauren DeStefano, The Jewel by Amy Ewing, Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George, Princess Academy by Shannon Hale, Legend by Marie Lu, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Divergent by Veronica Roth, Bring Me Their Hearts by Sara Wolf, The Bachelor

Exclusive Bonus Content: I felt a bit strange compiling the “possible pairings” for this one since it felt like I was just throwing every recent dystopian at it that I could think of and waiting to see what stuck. But, truly, I think the pairings work. This is a great read for anyone who loved how Catching Fire focused on what happens after a Tribute wins the Hunger Games. It’s as much a Cinderella story as Cinder. The caste system is very similar to Divergent’s factions. Hopefully you get my point. And it is definitely, strikingly appropriate for readers who want a read alike for Princess Academy but with older characters.

Book Reviews

We Are Not Eaten by Yaks: A (Not Accidental) Review

We Are Not Eaten by Yaks by C. Alexander LondonCelia and Oliver Navel are eleven years old. They are twins (Celia is three minutes and 42 seconds older). They live on the 4 1/2th floor of Number Seven East Seventy-fourth Street.

Number Seven East Seventy-fourth Street is the home of the Explorers Club. Celia and Oliver’s parents, Dr. Navel and Dr. Navel, are the explorers in residence of the club. Or, at least their father is. Their mother went missing some time ago while searching for the Lost Library of Alexandria. That kind of thing happens to explorers. They also trek the globe, climb mountains, and get bitten by exotic lizards.

Celia and Oliver do not much like explorers or trekking the globe or climbing mountains. It’s not so much that Oliver dislikes getting bitten by exotic lizards as he is tired of getting bitten by exotic lizards.

The Navel Twins do like television. Even if they don’t have cable.

Unfortunately for them what looks like a very promising summer spent watching all of their favorite shows and nothing else is cut painfully short when their father once again embarks on an ill-fated expedition with his children (unwillingly) in tow. Along the way, the children will miss all of the favorite shows while facing poison witches, yetis, and a decidedly unusual yak. The good news: If the expedition is successful, the twins might finally get cable. If not . . . well it’s better not to talk about that in We Are Not Eaten by Yaks (2011) by C. Alexander London.*

Find it on Bookshop.

We Are Not Eaten by Yaks is the first Accidental Adventure chronicling the (mis)adventures of our resourceful, if not intrepid, heroes. Celia and Oliver lack curiosity or interest in anything involving adventure or excitement. They would, truly, be very happy sitting in front of their television all the time. What I like about this story is that their television viewing becomes one of their greatest assets along with the unusual skills acquired by residing with a bunch of dotty explorers.

London uses a conversational and confidential tone to convey facts (some of which are entirely true as explained in the author’s note at the end of the book) and move the story through the twin’s daily lives and  their adventures in Tibet.

Filled with action, mayhem, and lots of television shows (of course) We Are Not Eaten by Yaks is a clever adventure reminiscent of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events and other books featuring reluctant heroes who, in this case, might have more mettle than they realize. This is a promising introduction two unlikely heroes and an exciting start to a new series for readers (and explorers).

*The book also features artwork by Jonny Duddle which, if the cover is any indication, will be pretty neat. I cannot comment further because the artwork was not in the advanced copy I received for review.

Possible Pairings: The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, The Fairy Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley,  The Flight of the Phoenix by R. L. LaFevers and Kelly Murphy, Jungle Crossing by Sydney Salter, The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

The book was received for review from the author. (Who I know in real life. I’m kind of friends with an author, just saying.)

Exclusive Bonus Content: Some very unscientific research revealed that December 5 is Explorers Day. It may or may not be related to this petition to rename Columbus Day as National Explorers Day to offer a fuller picture of the people who helped discover (and map) our world. I have no other information about the day or what it celebrates specifically, but it seemed like the perfect time to post a review about explorers even if Celia and Oliver aren’t generally fans of exploring or explorers themselves.

Chit Chat

Leverage is awesome

I decided to not mince words with my title for this post.

TNT (home of that other really great show The Closer) has a new show out called Leverage starring Timothy Hutton. From 2001 to 2002, Hutton starred in (and produced) another series on A & E called Nero Wolfe based on mystery novels written by Rex Stout. Set in the 1930s or 1940s, Hutton played Archie Goodwin–assistant to genius detective Nero Wolfe. The show was brilliant and I never quite recovered from its cancellation.

So, I had very high hopes when I heard that Hutton was returning to television with a new show. And I was not disappointed. Every episode is a combination of two of my favorite types of movies: the heist movie and the grift movie.

Hutton’s character, working with a group of thieves, find people who need help and using their various skills provide “leverage.” (Not that many people will remember this show, but it’s kind of like The Equalizer but with a team instead of one guy and Leverage is less gritty.) On top of that the show has the snap and verve I had come to associate with Hutton during his tenure as Archie Goodwin. The ensemble cast is also excellent, especially since it includes Gina Bellman–one of the stars of a a BBC show called Jekyll (yes, that Jekyll).

Anyway, it’s a really good show and you should give it a gander. Here’s a picture of the cast that you can give a gander first:

the cast of Leverage