Amanda’s Top Ten Tuesday – Reasons I Love Jeff Zentner

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. Each week we talk about our top ten with a different topic provided by Jana. This week’s topic is Reasons Why I Love [insert your favorite book title, genre, author, etc. here]

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“I’ve made books my life because they let me escape this world of cruelty and savagery.”

“I’m glad things end, though. It forces you to love them ferociously while you have them. There’s nothing worth having that doesn’t die.”

“I sometimes look at my bookshelf now and think about how someday I’m going to die without ever reading a lot of the books there. And one might be life-changingly good and I’ll never know.”

“So when I watch trains, it makes me think about how much movement there is in the world. How every train has dozens of cars and every car has hundreds of parts, and all those parts and cars work day after day. And then there are all these other motions. People are born and die. Seasons change. Rivers flow to the sea. Earth circles the sun and the moon circles Earth. Everything whirring and spinning toward something. And I get to be part of it for a little while, the way I get to watch a train for a minute or two, and then it’s gone.”

“Grief is weird. It seems to come in these waves out of nowhere. One minute I’m standing in the ocean, fine. The next minute I’m drowning.”

“It’s comforting to know that you don’t have to be excellent to not be completely forgotten.”

“We live in a series of moments and seasons and sense memories, strung end to end to form a sort of story.”

“Weird how we’re programmed to get pleasure from destroying ourselves.”

“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.”

“For the most part, you don’t hold the people you love in your heart because they rescued you from drowning or pulled you from a burning house. Mostly you hold them in your heart because they save you, in a million quiet and perfect ways, from being alone.”

This week I wanted to give reasons why I love Jeff Zentner and his books. I think these quotes are a great example of his writing and why his books speak to me. What did you do for this week’s top ten Tuesday?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

Summary:
One day Carver Briggs had it all—three best friends, a supportive family, and a reputation as a talented writer at his high school, Nashville Academy of Arts.
The next day he lost it all when he sent a simple text to his friend Mars, right before Mars, Eli, and Blake were killed in a car crash.
Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident, and he’s not the only one. Eli’s twin sister is trying to freeze him out of school with her death-ray stare. And Mars’s father, a powerful judge, is pressuring the district attorney to open a criminal investigation into Carver’s actions.
Luckily, Carver has some unexpected allies: Eli’s girlfriend, the only person to stand by him at school; Dr. Mendez, his new therapist; and Blake’s grandmother, who asks Carver to spend a Goodbye Day with her to share their memories and say a proper goodbye to his friend.
Soon the other families are asking for a Goodbye Day with Carver, but he’s unsure of their motives. Will they all be able to make peace with their losses, or will these Goodbye Days bring Carver one step closer to a complete breakdown or—even worse—prison?
Goodbye DaysReview:
Jeff Zentner has done it again. Goodbye Days had me laughing and crying and heartbroken. I loved every page. It was such an interesting story with so many different dynamics and perspectives. I thought it brought a really interesting conversation to the table. There are many different things I loved about this book.

“Funny how people move through this world leaving little pieces of their story with the people they meet,  for them to carry. Makes you wonder what’d happen if all those people put their puzzle pieces together.”

The first things were the characters. Carver was flawed but relatable. He starts having panic attacks after his three best friends die, then starts seeing a therapist, Dr. Mendez. I loved Carver as our main character. He was a really get voice to tell this story. With all of the grief he’s dealing with, he’s also trying to work through the guilt of thinking he’s the cause of their death. He goes through all the what if’s and maybes, all while dealing with starting a new school year, without his friends. I liked Carver because he showed that it was okay to be vulnerable and flawed. That you didn’t have to have it all figured out. He showed that therapy is something that’s okay and can really help. I thought that was a really great part of the story. It brought an interesting conversation about mental health and guilt and grief all together in one setting.

“Grief if weird. It seems to come in these waves out of nowhere. One minute I’m standing in the ocean, fine. The next minute I’m drowning.”

Georgia, Carver’s older sister, was a wonderful addition to the story. I love books with siblings in them and this was an excellent one. The relationship she and Carver had was realistic and warmed my little heart. I adored that Georgia was here for Carver when he really needed her. She looked out for him and I’m a sucker for a good brother-sister relationship.

“The more I consider the mysteries of the universe, the less I understand them.”

Jesmyn was Eli’s girlfriend and then became Carver’s friend. I thought she was sweet and funny and a great influence on Carver. She isn’t afraid to set him straight but she’s there to support him when he needs it. I like that she’s there to experience and move through the grief alongside Carver.

“Dignity is overrated. People can live without it. I know because I did. But people can’t live without laughter. I’ll gladly change dignity for laughter because dignity is cheap and laughter is worth everything.”

Then there’s the Goodbye Days. I thought this was a really interesting concept. A day to share memories and stories. I thought it was interesting how Carver talked about it before letting his guilt agree to it for him. I really enjoyed how the Goodbye Days kind of came full circle. The first was exactly what it was supposed to be, each becoming a little less positive until the third ended the way it should have been all along. That’s super vague but I don’t want to give anything away about the story.

“We assume that it’s better to survive things, but the ones who don’t survive don’t have to miss anyone.”

Overall, I loved every page of this book. It was sad but funny at times. It was thought-provoking, but also an enjoyable story. I loved all of the little things that came from Zentner’s real-life experiences that he talks about on social media and elsewhere. I also absolutely adored the tidbits from The Serpent King that we got to see in this story. This is a new favorite book without a doubt.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Summary:
Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life—at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.
The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. The end of high school will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is happy wherever he is thanks to his obsession with the epic book series Bloodfall and the fangirl who may be turning his harsh reality into real-life fantasy. Dill’s only escapes are his music and his secret feelings for Lydia—neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending—one that will rock his life to the core.
Debut novelist Jeff Zentner provides an unblinking and at time comic vie of the hard realities of growing up in the Bible Belt, and an intimate look at the struggles to find one’s true self in the wreckage of the past.
The Serpent KingReview:
The Serpent King is a story that leaves a mark. We follow three characters Dill, Lydia, and Travis who are as different as different can get. But they are the best of friends. I enjoyed these three so much. They really drove the story. The plot was based on the actions and decisions of the characters. Really the whole storyline was these friends deciding their futures after high school. I thought this was a really interesting way to tell the story. It was very well written, well-paced, and interesting. Even when I didn’t like what the characters were doing or saying, I still understood and liked them overall.

“Nothing makes you feel more naked than someone identifying a desire  you never knew you possessed.”

Lydia is fierce and unapologetic about who she is. I loved her. She was witty and sharp, quick to spit back anything she was given. She was loyal and full of love for her people. Aware of the things that she has that others might not. She was ambitious and knew exactly what she wanted from life and how she was going to get it. She pushed her friends to go after what they deserve in life.
Travis was the nerd. Always with his face in a book (something I could relate to), and wishing he was in his favorite fantasy world. He really got the shit end of the stick with his family. I think I would have liked to see a little more of his perspective though. More of him dealing with his own issues. I think he had the best character development and I will forever be mad at Jeff Zentner for the way he ended Travis’s storyline.

“Why would God make such a universe in someone and then destroy it?”

Finally, there’s Dill. A kid that faces the consequences from his father’s actions every day. I think what I liked most about Dill was that he kept his faith despite his less than ideal circumstances. He still believes in God despite the things in his life that make have taken faith from another. I didn’t like Dill all the time. He too often threw himself a pity party because he wasn’t going to let himself make a better life because of others. But by the end of the story I loved him again and really respected him.

“And if you’re going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things.”

Overall, I enjoyed The Serpent King immensely. This story talks about depression and how to let others support you when you need it. It also talks about doing what’s best for yourself and your future without letting the ideas of others hold you back from your full potential. I loved the messages in the story told through realistic and relatable characters.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zentner

GoodReads Summary:
Every Friday night, best friends Delia and Josie become Rayne Ravenscroft and Delilah Darkwood, hosts of the campy creature feature show Midnite Matinee on the local cable station TV Six.
But with the end of senior year quickly approaching, the girls face tough decisions about their futures. Josie has been dreading graduation, as she tries to decide whether to leave for a big university and chase her dream career in mainstream TV. And Lawson, one of the show’s guest performers, a talented MMA fighter with weaknesses for pancakes, fantasy novels, and Josie, is making her tough decision even harder.
Scary movies are the last connection Delia has to her dad, who abandoned the family years ago. If Midnite Matinee becomes a hit, maybe he’ll see it and want to be a part of her life again. And maybe Josie will stay with the show instead of leaving her behind, too.
As the tug-of-war between growing up and growing apart tests the bonds of their friendship, Josie and Delia start to realize that an uncertain future can be both monstrous…and momentous.
Rayne & Delilah's Midnite MatineeReview:
I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of this book from NetGalley to read in return for an honest review. This is one of my highly anticipated 2019 releases completely because of Chelsea Dolling Reads talking about it on her channel all the time. So, when I saw it on NetGalley I couldn’t resist hitting that request button. Much to my surprise, I was approved and immediately dove into the story. I have to mention, there was an author’s note in the beginning that I’m not sure if it will be in the final copy, but it talked about where the inspiration for this story came from and that it was intended to be funny with a few serious moments here and there (the opposite of the rest of his books that focus on heavy topics with a few moments of funny). I mention this because I have to say that Jeff Zentner NAILED it. I do most of my ebook reading when my daughter is napping, she’s usually falling asleep in my arms before I put her down. Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee was the WRONG book to read during naptime. I was legitimately laughing out loud at times and praying I hadn’t woken up my child. Thankfully, I didn’t but there were some really close calls.
I loved our two main characters. I’ll start with Josie. Josie reminds me of parts of myself in high school. All the good and positive (read: angsty) parts of myself. She’s happy with her friends she mostly knows what she’s doing with her life, she meets a great guy that she tries not to let take over her life despite the strong feelings she has for him. She also tries really hard to please everyone. She wants to make her parents happy, but making them happy means disappointing Delia which is the last thing she wants to do. She was also sassy and unapologetic about what she loves and wants. I really loved Josie.
As much as I enjoyed Josie, Delia was most definitely my favorite. I could relate all too well to the things she was going through. Dealing with the fact that her father left when she was a kid and she never knew why, she clings to his memory with their shared love of old horror movies. She spends this book clinging to those in her life that she loves and trying to come to terms with the fact that her father left. She is terrified that everyone she loves will always leave her. This is something I went through in high school and even parts of college. Having an absentee parent, one that leaves when you’re young, really leaves you with a lasting fear that if your own parent won’t stick around, why would anyone else? I felt for Delia because I have struggled with the same feelings that she is trying to accept and move past in these pages. But like Delia, I had a best friend that did her best to hold me together. We shared a love of books and she’s my partner in crime (Yes, I’m talking about Antonia.)
I think the friendship between Josie and Delia was the heart and soul of this book. The dynamic they have was everything. They made me laugh and warmed my heart with their love for one another. They fight and forgive and laugh and cry and I loved every page with my whole heart.
Overall, I adored this book. I recommend it to anyone that loves a friendship-based story. This was well written and full of everything good. Excellent and well-developed characters, funny moments, sad moments, heartwarming moments. I really couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.