The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel

summerthatmeltedeverythingThe Summer That Melted Everything
By Tiffany McDaniel
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
ISBN: 9781250131676
Pages: 320
Genre: Fiction

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Fielding Bliss has never forgotten the summer of 1984:
the year a heatwave scorched the small town of Breathed, Ohio.
The year he became friends with the devil.

When local prosecutor Autopsy Bliss publishes an invitation to the devil to come to the country town of Breathed, Ohio, nobody quite expected that he would turn up. They especially didn’t expect him to turn up a tattered and bruised thirteen-year-old boy.

Fielding, the son of Autopsy, finds the boy outside the courthouse and brings him home, and he is welcomed into the Bliss family. The Blisses believe the boy, who calls himself Sal, is a runaway from a nearby farm town. Then, as a series of strange incidents implicate Sal — and riled by the feverish heatwave baking the town from the inside out — there are some around town who start to believe that maybe Sal is exactly who he claims to be.

But whether he’s a traumatised child or the devil incarnate, Sal is certainly one strange fruit: he talks in riddles, his uncanny knowledge and understanding reaches far outside the realm of a normal child — and ultimately his eerily affecting stories of Heaven, Hell, and earth will mesmerise and enflame the entire town.

Devastatingly beautiful, The Summer That Melted Everything is a captivating story about community, redemption, and the dark places where evil really lies.


My Thoughts

It seems appropriate to be reviewing a book titled The Summer That Melted Everything as I sit here drenched in our living room watching the thermostat slowly crawl towards 90. My only complaint would be the obvious fact that it is way too hot and that I postponed reading this book for way too long. I did have the pleasure of interviewing Tiffany. You can check that out here.

Read the synopsis and then read the book. I am not going to spend my time dissecting and recapping the plot (because I am recommending this to all) but rather explaining to you why this unexpected gem spoke to my most inner core not only as a reader but as someone who grew up in the surrounding area of which this story unfolds.

“A foolish mistake, it is, to expect the best, because sometimes, sometimes, it is the flower’s turn to own the name.”

It is hard to narrow down the success of The Summer The Melted Everything to one specific attribute, but if I were challenged to do so, I would give credit to its endearing and quirky cast of characters. Told from 13 yr old Fielding Bliss’s perspective, we are introduced to an ensemble that ranges from a young boy Sal who claims to be the devil to eccentric, often close-minded citizens of the town. I soon discovered a solid affection for Fielding and each in their own personal way. They are flawed, facing internal struggles and present a range of moral questions and dilemmas. They also feel viable and familiar. I found that it was easy to attach characteristics of each to my own acquaintances and family.

“This was what law and order looked like in Breathed. A house with a termite problem that made the gray boards like stewed wood.”

The setting of Breathed is based upon the area in which I grew up, Southern Ohio. And being a product of the 80s, I found myself immediately immersed into a world and summer that I knew. Every page offered recognizable aspects ranging from surroundings and dialogue to the behavior and mannerisms of the town folk.  The author spent her childhood summer’s in Southeastern Ohio and it is evidenced by her knowledge and presentation of each. The result is an enveloping and almost tangible experience that whisked me back to my own summer days.

McDaniel delivers her story with a prose that is lyrical and jarring at the same time. Carrying the reader through a triumphantly emotional tale that evokes an incredible range of feelings and questions. The entire process is highly impactful and heart-wrenching yet unfolds with tremendous ease due to her seamless pacing and narration.

“All love leads to cannibalism. I know that now. Sooner or later, our hearts will devour, if not the object of our affections, our very selves.”

The Summer That Melted Everything is an incredible exploration of humanity’s ugliness presented in perhaps the most stunning fashion I have ever encountered. Tiffany McDaniel addresses themes that include racism, a failing legal system, homophobia, the aids epidemic and religion in a poetic and nostalgic manner. With an authentic voice, she hands the reader the necessary elements of the familiar, quickly establishing a successfully strong message that speaks resolutely to the heart of good versus evil and the battle against intolerance.

TW: Includes themes and content that address racism, homophobia, violence, suicide and intolerance.

*I was gifted a copy of this book from the author. The above review is my own, honest and unbiased opinion.

tea cup

 

Pairs beautifully with an iced cold sweetened black tea and twist of lemon.

Grab a Copy: Amazon.com Book Depository

*Disclosure: I use affiliate links and may earn a small commission for purchases made through them. Click here for details.

Happy Reading,

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I Am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall

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I am thrilled to be sharing Kate Alice Marshall’s new release I Am Still Alive today. This is a heartwrenching tale of strength, survival and one young girl’s determination to overcome the odds stacked against her, and it captivated me from the very first page.

The Book

I am still Alive coverI Am Still Alive
By Kate Alice Marshall
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9780425290989
Pages: 336
Genre: Young Adult Fiction

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Cheryl Strayed’s Wild meets The Revenant in this heart-pounding story of survival and revenge in the unforgiving wilderness.

Jess is stranded in the woods. She has few supplies and only her dog for company. Her survival skills are limited, and she has disabilities that make physical labor a challenge. And winter is on its way. How did she get here?

Alternating between the past and the present, this tightly-paced novel tells the story of a girl who survived a car crash that killed her mother, then was pulled from foster care and sent to live with her estranged survivalist father in the remote Canadian wilderness. Jess was just beginning to get to know her dad when a secret from his past paid them a visit, leaving their cabin burned to the ground and Jess’s father dead. Now, Jess must fight with everything she has to forage and hunt for food, build shelter, and keep herself warm. But she will survive. She has to survive. Because she wants revenge.

Grab a Copy: Amazon.com Book Depository


My Thoughts

Every now in then, I love to deviate from my normal reading habits and explore something different. I knew immediately upon reading the synopsis for I Am Still Alive that this was the perfect opportunity to do exactly that. And it proved to be a solid reminder of why it pays to explore books!

I A Still Alive_Aesthetic.pngPhotos above are not owned by me and were obtained via Pinterest.

This is Jess’s story. She has had her life turned upside down and finds herself dealing with the loss of her mother and an injury that has left her with very limited use of one leg and disfigured after a terrible car accident. When she is sent to live with her off the grid and estranged father in a remote part of the Canadian wilderness, her life spirals further out of control as men from his shady past come to collect a debt he cannot pay. As Jess remains hidden in the nearby woods, he is shot and killed while her only remaining home is burned to the ground. Now, alone and stranded with no means to seek help, she must fight for her very existence. But Jess wants more than survival, she wants revenge.

Kate Alice Marshall’s delivers an outstanding tale in the form of a brilliant protagonist. Jess presents as very pragmatic and relatable, establishing an effortless connection with the reader that only strengthens as the story unfolds. Each decision, response, setback, and accomplishment feel viable, convincingly exposing the reader to Jess’s solitary trials. I never found myself doubting or questioning her feelings or actions, I simply felt for her and with her.

The plot unfolds at a consistent pace that makes for a fast read. We are shown what is happening instead of being spoonfed unnecessary details and the result is an immersive experience that draws the reader in and feels complete. If I were to mention any possible issues with I Am Still Alive, it would be that I had anticipated more of a revenge-oriented tale based on the blurb. However, I was not disappointed as Jess proved to be an unexpected heroine who evolved beautifully. I was with her each step of the way. And therein lies the true reward of this survival tale.

I Am Still Alive manages to deliver on multiple fronts with an unlikely protagonist and a successful survival story. Offering a unique before and after narrative and quick pace, it proves that strength truly comes from within and is not to be limited to physical abilities.

TW: Grief, loss, disabilities, violence and some graphic scenes with animals.

tea cup
This is another book I paired with an earthier blend. I enjoyed it with a Pu-erh tea that had a hint of cocoa.


KateMarshallPhoto About The Author

Kate Marshall lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family. She works in the gaming industry as a writer and designer, most recently focusing on educational games for kids of all ages. She spends her winters cheerfully avoiding the rain, and during the summer ventures out to kayak and camp along Puget Sound. As Kate Marshall, her short fiction has appeared in venues such as Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Crossed Genres.


I would like to thank Penguin and Viking Books for my copy and allowing me to participate in the tour today. The above review is my own honest and unbiased opinion.

Happy Reading,

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One of Us by Craig Dilouie

one of usOne of Us
By Craig Dilouie
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 9780316411318
Pages: 390 (per review copy)
Genre: Science Fiction

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They call him Dog.

Enoch is a teenage boy growing up in a rundown orphanage in Georgia during the 1980s. Abandoned from the moment they were born, Enoch and his friends are different. People in the nearby town whisper that the children from the orphanage are monsters.

The orphanage is not a happy home. Brutal teachers, farm labor, and communal living in a crumbling plantation house are Enoch’s standard day to day. But he dreams of growing up to live among the normals as a respected man. He believes in a world less cruel, one where he can be loved.

One night, Enoch and his friends share a campfire with a group of normal kids. As mutual fears subside, friendships form, and living together doesn’t seem so out of reach.

But then a body is found, and it may be the spark that ignites revolution.


My Thoughts

One of Us offers readers an alternate reality that unfolds in Georgia, 1984. Most of the world is much like you may remember or have heard of, however, a sexually transmitted disease has caused mutations in many unborn children. These children have been cast out by society, deemed inhuman and sent at birth to live in homes where they are raised under harsh conditions and used as labor on local farms. They are monsters.

But Enoch, also known as Dog, dreams of a better life. One where the children will live in society among the normals and grow to earn respected jobs and possibly even love one day. When Enoch and his friends have a chance encounter with the local normal kids and a friendship begins to develop, this life feels even closer than he had hoped.

Then a body is discovered and a grisly accident occurs and the town is looking for someone to blame. What unfolds could very well be the events that begin a revolution. Will Enoch and his friends find their rightful place among mankind or will they claim it?

“Enoch was the name the teachers at the Home used. Brain said it was his slave name. Dog liked hearing it, though. He felt lucky to have one. His mama loved him enough to at least do that for him.”

One of Us is not a fun or easy ready. At times, I found myself taking small breaks to digest what was happening and to even recover from a few graphic moments. I am not quite sure what I had in mind when I picked it up, but I think it was something along the lines of a light, fast-paced science fiction story with a few memorable characters at best. What I received was a heavier, unexpected exploration of humanity that tackled themes of discrimination, hate, and intolerance in the most unlikely but ultimately rewarding manner.

Dilouie crafts a world and cast that perhaps rely on their own familiarities for their true success. Once we strip away the mutation, we are left with a setting and group of characters we can relate to with incredible ease. Enoch and his friends are just teenagers trying to find a small slice of happiness in a life that has dealt them a shit hand. It is 1984 and prejudices and bigotry are common problems in many towns, and here is no exception. The mutation is simply another example, albeit a very extreme one. The fact that One of Us utilizes children to deliver its theme cleverly amplifies it.

“Again, my goal for you kids this year is two things. One is to get used to the plague kids. Distinguishing between a book and its cover. The other is to learn how to avoid making more of them.”

A tale of caution, One of Us exposes us to the real horrors and challenges us to face actual monsters in the form of intolerance and hate. Dilouie offers something truly unexpected, a cleverly written, beautifully executed story with an unbelievable amount of heart masquerading as your typical science fiction but ultimately proving to be something much greater.

Contains graphic, violent & sexual content with a heavy theme of intolerance and hate.

*I would like to thank Orbit for this advanced copy. The quotes included above are from the advanced copy and subject to change. This review is my own, unbiased and honest opinion.

tea cup

 

Serves well with earthy blends such as your favorite pu-erh.

Grab a Copy: Amazon.com Amazon UK

*Disclosure: I use affiliate links and may earn a small commission for purchases made through them. Click here for details.

Happy Reading,

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