sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

July 24, 2019

into the stacks 2019: may
posted by soe 1:08 am

Perpetually behind in my reviews, but always aspiring to catch up…

I finished four books in May:

Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee, by Jeff Zentner

Delia and Josie are best friends about to graduate from high school, who co-host a weekly horror creature-feature on their local cable access channel while dressed as the vampires Delilah and Rayne. Think Elvira meets Mystery Science Theatre 3000. Delia, who thought up the show because she and her absentee dad used to watch cheesy horror films together when she was little, is heading to community college and looking to expand the show beyond its small syndication to a national audience. She plans to stay on her meds, which help with her depression, and hopes she can help her mom, who struggles with her own depression and, thus, with finances. Josie, who aspires to a job in mainstream media, was supposed to go to a college nearby and keep hosting the show with Delia, but also has gotten into a bigger, more illustrious program out of the area that her upper middle-class parents are pressuring her to pursue. How does she pick? And how does her feelings about Lawson, an über-sweet, teenaged MMA fighter, who is an impromptu guest on their show one night, play into her decision?

When an opportunity to meet the most famous has-been producer in cheesy horror arises, bargains are made and compromises hang in the balance. Will Josie and Delia’s friendship survive a trip into that creepy basement? What will emerge from the mysterious lagoon of their future?

This book was a lot funnier than I expected it to be (the meet cute hinges on some dim acquaintances who think that a beagle eventually grows up into a basset hound) and a lot sweeter:

But the thing with a best friend is that you’re never talking about nothing. Even when you’re talking about nothing, it’s something. The times when you think you’re talking about nothing, you’re actually talking about how you have someone with whom you can talk about nothing, and it’s fine.

Neither of Zentner’s other novel premises have particularly appealed to me, but I really liked this story and will reconsider his earlier work based on this. Recommended to those who pursue their dreams and who still sometimes miss out on them, but also those with best friends they can’t imagine their lives without.

Pages: 400. Library copy.

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, by Tony Cliff

Delilah (how often will you read two Delilahs in a single month?) Dirk is a biracial treasure-hunter with a flying ship, who has come to Turkey to rob a sultan and who surprises a gentle palace guard, Selim, who would rather make tea than bash heads, when he finds that he is inexplicably drawn to her and her tales of adventures. In the first of a graphic novel series, the two of them flee Constantinople (not Istanbul), crash her ship (helium-filled transportation is not a good place to make a pot of tea), and then escape across the countryside, swords blazing. As with Selim, Delilah has gotten in my head, and I look forward greatly to many more misadventures with her in the future.

If you like Indiana Jones, swashbucklers, and kick-ass feminist fantasy heroes on the page or screen, you should definitely check out this super-fun series. (I admit that I was worried about how race and gender would be covered since it’s written and drawn by a Western white guy and focuses on two people of color in the Middle East, but I was pleasantly surprised. I did a little googling to make sure my own white privilege wasn’t blinding me to what might glaringly concern others, but I have not come across any thus far.)

Pages: 176. Library copy.

For Every One, by Jason Reynolds

While I love Jason Reynolds, book-length, self-helpish poems aren’t really my scene and I probably would have skipped out on reading this if it hadn’t been for a tornado warning. I was biking home one afternoon when a severe thunderstorm popped up and I decided it was unsafe to try to race it the dozen remaining blocks home. I took shelter in a library along the route, all our phones suddenly sounded alarms, and I found myself a seat and some reading material that looked like it might be done around the same time as the warning.

It was really good. Like pick this up for every person you know who is doubting themselves and their dreams, which is probably like 98% of us. I mean, while Jason says he wrote this before any of his success found him, acclaim has certainly moved into his house since then, and no one would have blamed him if he chose to burn this or read it only in dark of night when his edits aren’t going well. He didn’t have to share it. But he did because he knows how much it sucks when you’ve got a burning desire to do something, be something, and then that thing doesn’t happen on the timetable you expected. He knows how it feels when everyone, including your rational self, tells you to give up, move on, pick something safer, be more realistic. He wants you to know that he sees you and he believes in you and that you should believe in you, too, because it’s never too late and it’s never too early and it’s never on time.

Highly recommended. Plus, it’ll only take you the length of a tornado warning to read if you want to sample it from your local library or while you’re browsing at the bookstore.

Pages: 112. Library copy.

Caraval, by Stephanie Garber

Scarlett and her younger sister, Tella, have grown up on a remote island under the tyranny of her father, the governor, but she is nearly ready to escape into an arranged marriage with a wealthy older man she has never met, but one who will let her rescue her sister. She also is nearly ready to give up on her dream of experiencing the Caraval, a magical annual performance in which some audience members take part, that her grandmother related stories of at bedtime years ago. After all, her secret letters to its magician host have gone unanswered all these years. Yet now that her letter informs him that this will be her final correspondence, he replies and sends invitations for her, Tella, and her fiance to join him in this year’s festivities, should they be able to travel to his location in time.

Scarlett does not want to jeopardize her sister’s safety, so is willing to miss the performance after all, but Tella does not want to see her sister settle, particularly when neither of them is positive what lies at the other end of their escape. So she pays a young sailor to kidnap them and transport them across the sea in time to reach Caraval before it commences.

But their safety is still not assured. The sisters are separated and then it is announced that the game participants must find Tella, who has been whisked away, with her life as penalty if they do not. Scarlett is frantic and does not know whom to trust. Can she trust the young man who colluded with Tella to kidnap her? What about the strange people she meets as she follows clues about her sister’s whereabouts? And, most dangerous of all, can she trust her own heart and mind, when the stakes are at their highest?

I’d heard many accolades from members of my book club about this engrossing introduction to a fantasy trilogy, but kept forgetting to pick it up. With the third book in the series out earlier this year, I finally got around to starting it. I’m excited to still have two more books to see how this story plays out and what the future holds. Recommended if you enjoy role-playing, literary sisters, or heroic fantasy.

Pages: 407. Library copy.

May stats:

Total number of books read: 4.
Total pages read: 1,095.
Intended audience: All young adult.
Source: All from the library.
Format: All in paper.
Classification: 2 fiction; 1 book-length poem; 1 graphic novel.
Diversity of authors: 3 Americans, 1 Canadian. 1 author of color (Black). One woman.

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