BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Are You Watching? – by Ralph Vincent #RandomThingsTours #blogtour #AreYouWatchingMagpieMan @PenguinUKBooks @VincentRalph1 @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Are You Watching? Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I admit I was intrigued as soon as I saw that cover and read the blurb. I don’t read nearly enough YA thrillers and I loved the sound of the social media angle, so deciding whether to read Are You Watching? was truly a no-brainer. And my instincts were definitely right about this story! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: Are You Watching?
Author: Vincent Ralph
Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: January 6th 2020
Publisher: Penguin
Finished reading: December 22nd 2019
Pages: 371

“It was Dad who gave the murderer his name. He said he Magpie Man liked shiny things and Mum was the shiniest of all.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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We are living in a time where social media seems to be taking over our lives and it has been playing an increasingly important role in the everyday life of most people in recent years. Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Youtube… While it’s true that they are clever tools to connect and share your views with the rest of the world, most don’t seem to be realizing what the underlying dangers are of plastering your whole life all over the internet. What if someone up to no good tries to access and use all that information against you? Without doubt a terrifying thought…

Are You Watching? addresses a slightly different angle: instead of the villain, it is the main character Jessica who uses social media to try and catch the serial killer who took the life of her mom and a dozen others. Talk about an original premise! This premise alone was enough for me to add this debut to my must-read list and now I’ve had the chance to read it, I can confirm that this story is without doubt a lightingfast and thrilling pageturner. What a ride! You will definitely want to clear your schedule for this one, because once you start the first chapter you will find it impossible to stop reading. I was actually reading a different story when I started Are You Watching? (some situations ask for my kindle instead of a physical copy) and I literally had to put my other current read on hold even though I was enjoying it as well. Such is the power of Jessica’s story!

The success of Are You Watching? is in the combination of a serial killer thriller and the social media angle, which gives the story its unique touch and shows us the power of social media and how it could be used to catch a killer who up to that moment didn’t leave any clues behind at the different murder scenes. This social media element is without doubt the true star of this story and plays a key role in the plot as well. The idea of the live Youtube shows and Jessica using her day to make people remember her mother’s death again and hopefully catch the Magpie Man killer is both original and highly entertaining… The twists involving the developing Youtube show and the response of the viewers on social media without doubt added a healthy dose of suspense to the plot.

Other elements play a role as well, including grief, family and friendship. Jessica’s relationship with her family and friends give the story a personal touch while also giving this story its distinctive YA feel. And guess what? There is almost no romance involved in Are You Watching?, which was definitely a huge bonus for me personally. Instead, the main focus is on friendship and the live Youtube show Jessica participates in. It was fascinating to see how Jessica uses the show to try and put the spotlight on the murder cases again and tries to find new witnesses and evidence to finally catch the killer.

The plot itself is well developed, exciting and definitely has quite a few twists and turns in store to keep you guessing; they were definitely successful in misleading me at least. Action and suspense are mixed with lighter moments to release some of the tension, but Are You Watching? will definitely keep you on your toes… You will find yourself turning those pages like there is no tomorrow just to find out if Jessica is able to achieve her goal. Things are definitely heating up in the second half, but the story in general is without doubt a real rollercoaster ride. The characters are solid and it was interesting to see them develop over time. Even the Magpie Man, while not that present or developed beyond the typical serial killer boogeyman image during most of the story, was an intriguing character to follow due to the mystery around his identity and motive behind his murders. The whole angle with the family of the murder victims (including Jessica and her father) was probably the most interesting though.

Basically, there is a lot to love in Are You Watching? and it is without doubt a true pageturner. If you enjoy a well written and fast-paced YA thriller with an omnipresent social media angle and an unique touch, Are You Watching? should definitely be on your wishlist.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Vincent Ralph has been writing in one form or another since his teens and
always dreamed of being a novelist. He owes his love of books to his mother,
who encouraged his imagination from an early age and made sure there were
new stories to read.

Vincent has lived in London, Cornwall and Chester but he now lives in his home
county of Kent with his wife, son and two cats.


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ARC REVIEW: Come Tumbling Down – by Seanan McGuire @torbooks

Title: Come Tumbling Down
(Wayward Children #5)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: January 7th 2020
Publisher: Tor
Finished reading: January 2nd 2020 
Pages: 160

“For people like her students – people like Eleanor herself – belief was the rarest gift of all.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Tor in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’ve been a Wayward Children fan ever since I read the first book back in 2018, and each sequel so far has only reconfirmed my love for this series. I’ve been waiting impatiently for book number five ever since I finished In An Absent Dream last year, so of course I was over the moon when my request for Come Tumbling Down was actually approved and I was offered the chance to read this sequel a few days early. I literally dropped everything I was doing and devoured this little gem in a matter of hours after it appeared on my kindle… And guess what? I have just found a new favorite Wayward Children installment!

Oh yes, I already loved my previous meetings with Eleanor West’s students, but there was just something about Come Tumbling Down that made me love this newest adventure even more. From the very first pages to the last, I was completely under the spell of both the writing, plot and characters. First of all a disclaimer: this is definitely a series you need to read in order, because you will both be missing out on crucial information about characters and their worlds as well as finding yourself spoilers for the previous adventures otherwise. Trust me: you won’t regret reading them, as every single one has been fantastic so far in the first place… That said, in Come Tumbling Down we return to the horror world of Jack and Jill, a world we first learned about in the second book Down Among The Sticks And Bones. A selection of other students make their appearance as well as they join Jack on a new quest when she returns to ask for help. You will find multiple references to the previous books along the way, both regarding the characters and the things that happened… I personally loved those little reminders and it definitely made me want to binge reread all books together to see if I remembered everything right.

I have loved the worldbuilding behind this series since the beginning, with the students finding doors to different worlds and afterwards being trapped in the real world again. Regular fiction is mixed with fantasy and it has been fascinating to learn more about the different worlds the students once belonged to and now want to return to. Each world is unique in its own way, and the Moors Jack and Jill traveled to is without doubt one of the most brutal ones. Like the second book, Come Tumbling Down is essentially a very dark read with quite a few horror elements; those including the vampire and mad scientist references. It was absolutely fascinating to learn more about how the Moors exactly work, with its electricity and the delicate balance between the different powers at play.

As for the characters… Most characters we already know, and meeting up with them again felt like meeting up with old friends. The main characters in general are easy to like and being able to see them evolve over time has been a true pleasure. We have some new characters as well, including Alexis and Gideon, and I liked what they added to the plot. The plot itself is quite complex for a story this short, but well rounded and with an ending that is without doubt satisfying. I loved every single minute with Come Tumbling Down and I already know it will appear on my list of 2020 favorites even this early on in the year. Oh yes, it’s THAT good! Simply electrifying.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #139 – The Shadow Cabinet & Next Year In Havana

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two books I read for the Magical Readathon Winter 2019 challenge… The first, The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson, turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, but the second, Next Year In Havana by Chanel Cleeton, turned out to be absolutely fantastic.


Title: The Shadow Cabinet
(Shades Of London #3)
Author: Maureen Johnson

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal 
First published: February 5th 2015
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Finished reading: December 15th 2019
Pages: 385

“We’re both broken right now. Something’s happened to us. But we can do this. We have to.”


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Say hello to another unpopular opinion ramble! I really enjoyed the first book of the Shades Of London series when I read it back in 2016… And even though I wasn’t as impressed by the sequel when I finally read it a few months back, when I discovered I had to read an urban fantasy for the Magical Readathon Winter 2019 challenge my thoughts went to this series almost immediately. I decided to give Rory another shot, and see if the third book would make me fall in love with the series again… Sadly, it wasn’t ment to be and The Shadow Cabinet turned out to be the weakest link of this series yet. I honestly start to believe Shades Of London would have worked better as a stand-alone, going out with a bang after the Jack The Ripper inspired case and just leave it at that… The plot in The Shadow Cabinet seems even more jumbled and farfetched than the sequel, and with many eyebrow raising moments and the characters being possibly even more annoying (Rory, I’m looking at you!) I’m still not sure why I even kept reading. I definitely didn’t enjoy reading about the direction this story seems to be taking, and to be honest I don’t really mind that there still isn’t any news about a possible book four? It’s truly a shame I ended up having this reaction after such a positive first experience with this series, but it is what it is I guess.


Title: Next Year In Havana
Author: Chanel Cleeton

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: February 6th 2018
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: December 18th 2019
Pages: 394

“You never know what’s to come. That’s the beauty of life. If everything happened the way we wished, the way we planned, we’d miss out on the best parts, the unexpected pleasures.”


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I have to say I’m still kicking myself for not picking up Next Year In Havana sooner… I’ve been wanting to read it ever since I first heard about it last year, and despite the glowing reviews it took me way longer than expected to actually do so. Say hello to another top read of 2019, just in time before the year is over! Oh yes, I loved every single minute of this story and it will without doubt stay with me for a long time… And I also can’t wait to read When We Left Cuba soon and learn more about Beatriz. First things first though, and let’s talk Next Year In Havana. I do love my historical fiction, and the 1958 Cuban setting was both absolutely fascinating, well researched and excellently described. Chanel Cleeton was able to truly make the setting come alive, using detailed descriptions to paint the perfect portrait of a complicated time in Cuban history. This is a story that will not only entertain, but also teaches you about both past and present. Facts are mixed with fiction in a seamless way, and the two complement each other flawlessly.

The story is told using a dual timeline and two different POVs: Elisa in 1958 and her granddaughter Marisol in 2017. Dual timelines can go both ways for me, as it is extremely hard to balance the two correctly and one normally tends to fall short for me. But not in this case. I absolutely loved both present and past chapters and both Elisa and Marisol are the perfect characters to help us understand more about Cuban life and its history. The characters are another big reason I can call this story a new favorite, and I was able to warm up to them almost instantly. Elisa and her sisters, Ana, Pablo, Marisol, Luis… There are so many characters I loved in this story, and they all play their role in teaching us more about Cuba as well. The plot itself is complex, multilayered and shows a thorough research into Cuban history as well as a wonderful romance story to counter the darker elements in Next Year In Havana. This story is an absolute must-read for historical fiction fans!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #138 – The Family & A Curse So Dark And Lonely

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two 2019 releases belonging to two completely different genres… But both turned out to be winners. I already knew I was going to enjoy The Family, as I love everything Louise Jensen writes, and my instincts were absolutely right! And I had some doubts about A Curse So Dark And Lonely, but I ended up enjoying it a lot better than I hoped I would.


Title: The Family
Author: Louise Jensen

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: October 3rd 2019 
Publisher: HQ
Finished reading: November 30th 2019
Pages: 383

“Family should stick together. Protect each other. Instead, I chose to come here.

This is all my fault.”


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It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of anything Louise Jensen writes, so I guess you can imagine how sad I was when I discovered I couldn’t request an ARC this time around… I preordered a finished copy instead, and I’ve been waiting impatiently to read it ever since my copy arrived. I can now guarantee you: Louise Jensen has done it again. I started reading The Family late on a Friday night and after only a couple of pages I decided to stop before I couldn’t stop anymore… Because I already knew I was going to want to keep reading. And that is what I did the next day: I cleared my schedule, sat down and kept turning those pages until I reached the end. The Family is definitely one of those psychological thrillers you will want to read in one sitting! And between the plot, writing, character development, secrets and twists, you will find it a very easy job to do just so. The story is told using different POVs, sometimes staying with the same character during various chapters and sometimes switching rapidly between chapters and characters. These everchanging dynamics add to the overall suspense of the story and definitely gives The Family a little something extra. The plot itself is fascinating as well. The cult like feel of the Oak Leaf Farm and its inhabitants, the vulnerability of Laura and her daughter, the secrets and twists that keep you guessing… And on top of that, the plot development is simply spot on and truly enhanced the reading experience for me. The main characters themselves are without doubt interesting as well. Flawed, well developed and realistic, they form the bricks this story stands on and they help turning The Family into the psychological thriller masterpiece it is. Fans of the genre are missing out if they haven’t read The Family or her other titles yet!


Title: A Curse So Dark And Lonely
(Cursebreakers #1)
Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: January 29th 2019
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s
Finished reading: December 1st 2019
Pages: 496

“We are all dealt a hand at birth. A good hand can ultimately lose – just as a poor hand can win – but we must all play the cards the fate deals. The choices we face may not be the choices we want, but they are choices nonetheless.”


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There has been quite some hype around A Curse So Dark And Lonely this year, and you all know how hyped books and me tend to get along… I’ve been avoiding this first book of a new series by Brigid Kemmerer to be honest, but I just couldn’t resist any longer when I was in the mood for a little something different. I haven’t read nearly enough YA high fantasy this year, and it turns out I was long overdue for a dose of the genre. I ended up enjoying A Curse So Dark And Lonely so much more than I hoped I would! While it’s true that I’m not a big fan of Rhen, I LOVED Grey’s character and Harper was a solid lead as well. The details involving Emberfall and its curse are without doubt intriguing and well developed too. It was interesting to see fantasy and the real world collide and there was quite a some action involved as well. I also appreciated that the romance wasn’t omni-present in this first book. Instead, it’s mostly slowburn romance with only a hint at a possible love triangle… And I just loved the romance between Jack and Noah! A Curse So Dark And Lonely definitely ends with a cliffhanger though, so I’m happy the wait for the sequel won’t be too long. I do hope we’ll see more of Grey in the second book, or else I would probably end up quite disappointed…


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YVO’S SHORTIES #136: The Fountains Of Silence & Recursion

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two Goodreads Choice Awards finalists both written by authors I’ve loved books of in the past… And this time around they turned out to be winners as well. The Fountains Of Silence is hands down my new favorite Ruta Sepetys and one of my top reads this year as well. Recursion by Blake Crouch also turned out to be a fascinating read.


Title: The Fountains Of Silence
Author: Ruta Sepetys

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
First published: October 1st 2019
Publisher: Philomel Books
Finished reading: November 27th 2019
Pages: 512

“What is the cost of silence? If she remains quiet about her suspicions, is she granting acceptance of what is happening?”


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I’ve been a fan of Ruta Sepetys‘ work ever since my first experience with her books, so I knew I HAD to read The Fountains Of Silence even before I discovered it was actually set in Spain during General Franco’s dictatorship. I’ve always had a special interest in Spain and its history, and the fact that this story is mostly set in a city I’ve had the pleasure to live in and love during my Erasmus student exchange made my expectations grow to a record hight. Even so, The Fountains Of Silence managed to completely blow me away and I was left without words to describe my feelings about this story as well as with a new all time favorite to add to my list. It shows that so much research has gone into this story and I bow to the author for her detailed descriptions and thorough information about what happened in that difficult time period in Spain. It’s true that there are quite a few different characters and POVs to deal with, but I personally didn’t mind as it only added to the richness to the plot. Each different character helps giving us some insight in different parts of life in Madrid under Franco’s dictatorship. These same characters will win over your heart almost instantly and your heart will go out for them as their story slowly evolves over time. Daniel and Ana are the stars of this story of course, but there are so many other characters I found myself rooting for and there were without doubt a quite a few heartbreaking moments. Make sure to keep your tissues closeby just to be safe! I loved The Fountains Of Silence from the very first page until the very last… If you are a historical fiction fan who appreciates a complex and rich plot with fantastic descriptions and brilliant character development, you are missing out if you haven’t tried this story yet.


Title: Recursion
Author: Blake Crouch

Genre: Science Fiction, Time Travel
First published: June 11th 2019
Publisher: Crown
Finished reading: November 29th 2019
Pages: 336

“We think we’re perceiving the world directly and immediately, but everything we experience is this carefully edited, tape-delayed reconstruction.”


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Dark Matter is on my list of all time favorites, so I’ve been curious about Recursion  ever since I first heard about it. The premise of this story sounds absolutely compelling, and now I’ve had the chance to read this story I can say that it definitely lived up to expectations. It’s true that I don’t read a lot of sci-fi as it’s not really my thing, but I can now officially say that I’m making an exception for Blake Crouch. The idea of time, memories, the memory chair and time travel in Recursion is absolutely fascinating. Using a dual POV, switching between main characters Barry and Helena, we slowly learn more about  Helena’s invention and how her work will change the world forever… I’m keeping this short as I want to avoid any spoilers, but I really liked how the plot was constructed and how the idea of memories and time being fluid plays such a key role in the story. Recursion introduces some fascinating concepts that will definitely make an impact on you. And even if you are not really a sci-fi fan, I can still recommend trying Recursion if you enjoy complex, thrilling and captivating stories.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #133 – SHOUT & With The Fire On High

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! …


Title: SHOUT
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Poetry
First published: March 12th 2019
Publisher: Viking Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: November 7th 2019
Pages: 304

“untreated pain

is a cancer of the soul

that can kill you”


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While it’s true that I’m not exactly a big fan of poetry, I do like to try it every once in a while if the subject matter speaks to me. SHOUT has been recommended to me a couple of times, and when I saw it was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards I decided to give in and finally read it. First of all I have to say that I truly admire Laurie Halse Anderson for not only speaking up about what happened to her, but also inspiring others to open up and talk about their own experiences. I confess I’ve yet to read Speak, but it’s on my TBR and I’m definitely hoping to get to it some time soon. SHOUT is 100% free verse, so don’t expect clear poetry structure and elements, but I guess the structure works as it helps the author talking about a wide variety of subjects including her childhood experiences, her time in Denmark and more recent events including author related experiences. Trigger warnings are definitely in place for difficult elements as (child) abuse, rape, violence, mental illness, alcoholism and drugs. They are the main reason behind this poetic memoir though: SHOUT is all about the author wanting to give victims the right to shout what happened to them from the rooftops as well as telling about her own experiences. I have to be honest here and say I wasn’t always able to connect to the writing style all that easily, and some ‘chapters’ worked better for me than others. This is purely talking about the form, not the content, which is both powerful, heartbreaking and harrowing. This memoir might not be for everyone, but there is no denying its power.

Title: With The Fire On High
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: May 7th 2019
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: November 10th 2019
Pages: 400

“And I know the past isn’t a mirror image of the future, but it’s a reflection of what can be; and when your first love breaks your heart, the shards of that can still draw blood for a long, long time.”


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Elizabeth Acevedo’s books have been on my radar for quite some time now, and as I’m a huge foodie I just couldn’t resist picking up her newest book With The Fire On High first. My expectations were high after reading various glowing reviews, and I have to say that expectations were more than met. Because from that gorgeous cover to the very last page this story simply delivers. The driving force behind With The Fire On High is the main character Emoni. Strong, driven, talented and determined to do whatever is best for her family despite difficulties life keeps throwing at her… The fact that she is a teenage mom, but not afraid to fight the prejudices, show the world what she is worth and fight for the ones she loves is truly inspiring. The development of both Emoni and the other characters is thorough, spot on and really made them come alive for me. As a girl with Puerto Rican/black heritage, Emoni’s character is able to teach us more about prejudices, race related struggles as well as community and culture. I loved the introduction of not only Spanish words and sentences, but also Latin flavors, spices and food in With The Fire On High. I also loved just how big of a role food plays in the story in general, and all those mouthwatering descriptions and recipes definitely made me crave food. And as someone who has lived in Spain and visited Sevilla herself, those chapters brought back great memories. The writing itself is beautiful and something to savour on its own, but With The Fire On High turned out to be the perfect YA realistic fiction recipe with a dash of slowburn romance to sweeten it all. Recommended!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #132 – The Flatshare & Rayne And Delilah’s Midnite Matinee

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time a dose of 2019 contemporary releases… The Flatshare was the winning title on Twitter last month as the first 2019 contemporary romance title I should pick up; it was an excellent choice and I really enjoyed it! And I’ve been meaning to pick up Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee ever since it was released, because I LOVED his previous books.


Title: The Flatshare
Author: Beth O’Leary

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 10th 2019
Publisher: Quercus
Finished reading: November 3rd 2019
Pages: 336

“There is no saving of people–people can only save themselves. The best you can do is help when they’re ready.”


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I’ve been hearing great things about The Flatshare even before I was released back in April… While the contemporary romance genre and me don’t always get along, there are exceptions and sometimes I’m just in the mood for a good romcom. I asked romance readers to help me with my next read, and The Flatshare turned out to be a clear winner on Twitter (I’m reading the Goodreads winner soon as well). And I’m definitely happy with the choice of the Twitter voters, as I had an excellent time reading this story. If you are looking for a fast-paced and entertaining romcom that isn’t afraid to go heavy as well, The Flatshare is an excellent choice. Because this isn’t just a romance story. So many different elements are in play… We have the book editor angle, as one of the main characters Tiffy works editing crafts books and is currently working on a crochet book. I loved the little insights in the industry as well as the crochet mentions! We also have the pallative care angle, involving the other star character Leon. I really liked how this element was developed and how certain patients ended up playing quite an important role. We then have the psychological abuse and abusive ex-boyfriend element, which definitely gives the story a heavier note and is the cause of frustration when it comes to how Tiffy handles the whole Justin situation. BUT. As someone who has suffered from a toxic relationship herself in the past, I do think the author did a good job showing us just how difficult it is to escape and recover from such relationship. And this is not all that the story has in store for us. We also have Leon’s brother Ricky, who has been charged for a crime he didn’t commit, and is fighting to prove his innocence. On top of that, we have Leon’s hunt to find someone before it’s too late… It might seem like a lot going on, but all these different elements helped enrich the plot and make the whole ‘flat and bed sharing’ basics of the plot a whole lot more interesting. I really liked the characters too despite the fact that I was SO frustrated with some of Tiffy’s actions… But characters were portrayed realistically and the flaws only made them come alive. In short, if you are a fan of the genre and haven’t read The Flatshare yet, you should definitely add it to your wishlist straight away.


Title: Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee
Author: Jeff Zentner

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: February 26th 2019
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Finished reading: November 6th 2019
Pages: 400

“For a long time I shined my light for someone other than me. But not anymore. Now I shine bright for me. You can create light even when everyone’s left you behind because that’s what you do. It’s what I do.”


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I absolutely adored Jeff Zentner’s previous books, so it’s easy to understand that Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee was on my list of most anticipated 2019 releases. I’m still not sure why it took me this long to actually pick it up, but I’m definitely glad I did. I do have to say that this book felt quite different from his other two books… Unique and quirky once again, but somehow a lot more upbeat and a different tone? Not necessarily a bad thing, but I did feel the spark of the previous books was missing somehow. I’m not say I didn’t enjoy reading Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee and I definitely loved the idea behind the old horror movies TV show and everything it entailed. The humor was right up my alley as well, and there were quite a few funny moments included to lighten up the story after more heavy moments. Still, somehow the story never managed to blow me away completely… And yes, that is even with easy to like main characters and prose that is extremely easy on the eye. Were my expectations too high? Maybe. Would I still recommend it to fans of the genre? Most definitely. Because while it’s not my favorite Jeff Zentner, it still makes for a very quirky, goofy and sometimes even heartbreaking read.


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