ARC REVIEW: The Summer That Melted Everything – by Tiffany McDaniel

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Title: The Summer That Melted Everything
Author: Tiffany McDaniel
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: July 26th 2016
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: July 21st 2016
Pages: 320
Rating 5qqq

“The heat came with the devil. It was the summer of 1984, and while the devil had been invited, the heat had not. It should’ve been expected, though. Heat is, after all, the devil’s name, and when’s the last time you left home without yours?”

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

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Wow. It doesn’t happen often, but this book left me speechless. The reviews were definitely right; this debut by Tiffany McDaniel is simply brilliant! I have to be honest and say I wasn’t sure it was going to be for me, because I normally don’t really like stories with a ‘strong’ religious touch… But The Summer That Melted Everything turned out to be so much more than that. I still feel overwhelmed by this story and the feelings it managed to provoke; the prose is just THAT strong. In fact, both the excellent writing, the hint of magical realism and the discrimination/intolerance theme turned The Summer That Melted Everything into one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. Through the eyes of the main character Fielding Bliss and that dreadful summer of 1984 in the town Breathed, Ohio, we get to see a whole different version of the ‘fairy tale’ 80s. Racism, discrimination, AIDS, intolerance… The heat brings out the worst in the inhabitants of Breathed, and not just because of the rumor that the devil has come to town in the form of a black boy. Each chapter starts with a quote from Paradise Lost and alternates between an older Fielding and the young Fielding during that summer in 1984. And both Fielding and the other main characters are without well developed and intriguing characters! There are many different elements to the story, but Tiffany McDaniel did an excellent job of interconnecting them (the increasingly unbearable heat being a great symbol for the rising tensions). In short, I can say The Summer That Melted Everything is without doubt a must-read for any fan of contemporary and literary fiction with a touch of magical realism.

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During the summer of 1984, the lives of those living in Breathed, Ohio, have changed forever. It all started when Autopsy Bliss, the local prosecutor, invited the devil in an article and not soon after a bruised and tattered thirteen-year-old boy showed up out of nowhere claiming to be the devil himself. Fielding Bliss is the one that found him and when he brings Sal home, he is welcomed into the Bliss family assuming he is a runaway. But not everybody is happy to welcome Sal into their town. In fact, more and more people seem to suspect his claim to be the devil, especially after an unbearable heat wave rolls into town at the same time Sal showed up. The increasing temperatures only make tensions rise even further, and when strange accidents start to happen, the town starts pointing their fingers to that strange black boy; believing that Sal is exactly who he claims to be and that he has to be punished. Will the heat drive them to do something terrible?

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This book turned out to be even better than I hoped. Not only is the prose simply brilliant, but it also addresses quite a few important themes in such a way that it can definitely be called an eye-opener. These themes are mixed with a touch of magical realism that only made this story that much more original; the intriguing and well developed characters and the descriptions making it really easy to enjoy this book. The Summer That Melted Everything will be published tomorrow and is without doubt worth the read!

BOOK REVIEW: Ruler Of Beasts – by Danielle Paige

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Title: Ruler Of Beasts
(Dorothy Must Die #0.6)
Author: Danielle Paige
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Retelling
First published: February 16th 2016
Publisher: HarperCollins
Finished reading: July 20th 2016
Pages: 84
Rating 3,5qqq

“You are not Wicked, dear Lion. But sometimes you put what you want over what is good for Oz.”

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Although I still think the novellas are not as good as the actual series, I do think Ruler Of Beasts is one of the most entertaining prequel short stories of the bunch. Unlike some of the other novellas, this one actually adds a whole new possible angle to the actual story. I’m going to keep my fingers crossed the Nome King will make another appearance in the actual books, because his character is without doubt an interesting one! Like with the rest of the series, Danielle Paige‘s prose turns Ruler Of Beasts into a really easy and fast read. The beginning is a bit slow and Glinda is annoying, but I think one of the reasons I enjoyed this particular novella so much is the huge part both the Lion and Ozma play in the story. Lion can become a bit whiny, but he does know how to spice up a story. If you have read the previous novella, you will surely enjoy this one as well. I can’t wait to finally start the third book though!

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When the Cowardly Lion first started his journey with Dorothy and the others, he wanted to have courage above all else. The Wizard gave him what he has always wanted, and now we find out what happens afterwards. The Lion’s wish has finally come true, but his life is not how he had imagined it. Sure, he is the courageous ruler of the forest and the beasts, but with Ozma ruling and Oz this peaceful, the Lion is bored. He misses the days of his adventures with Dorothy, the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow, and now he is desperate to find something to liven up his day. Then Glinda shows up on his doorstep with a mission, and even though the Lion is not sure if it’s wise to accept, he jumps at the chance to do something exciting anyway.

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I think Ruler Of Beasts is one of my favorite novellas so far. I really enjoyed the fact that Ozma played an important part in the story and the Nome King surely is a great new character! I’m keeping my fingers crossed he will make another appearance in the future, because it will definitely add a nice plot twist to the main story. Like I said before, if you enjoyed the other novellas, definitely make time for this one as well. It’s not a must-read, but Ruler Of Beasts is without doubt entertaining.

BOOK REVIEW: The Neverland Wars – by Audrey Greathouse

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Title: The Neverland Wars
Author: Audrey Greathouse
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Retelling
First published: May 9th 2016
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Finished reading: July 20th 2016
Pages: 302
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“People think that only the serious is important. They forget how essential it is to remain whimsical.”

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I have to confess I’m confused. Did I miss something and The Neverland Wars is actually the first book of a series? Because I really had the feeling the actual story was still missing after I reached the final page. I mean, for a book that is called the Neverland WARS, there isn’t much explained about this supposed war between the children and adults… And the story kind of ended right when it was starting to become interesting. I have to be honest and say I wasn’t really impressed by this book, and even thought of DNFing it once or twice. The first part had quite a slow pace and the prose/tone really bothered me. For a teenager not wanting to grow up, Gwen sounds awfully dull and ‘adult’. Just to give an example:

“Absorbed in their own antics, the young children did not much care as Gwen slunk away from the table. They continued boisterously, but she crept through the forest, stepping softly with her bare feet.”

Tell me I’m wrong when I say this doesn’t sound like YA appropriate prose. And definitely when it’s supposed to be about a teenager that doesn’t want to grow up… The tone just feels all wrong and the prose is ‘distant’ and doesn’t seem age-appropriate.  I agree things become better once they are in Neverland, but it didn’t stop bothering me. I wasn’t really a fan of Gwen in general, although I liked the general idea behind The Neverland Wars of an older Peter Pan and a teenager being torn between average teenage life and Neverland. I just wish the plot itself would have made more sense; less cliche teenage life and more Neverland magic, and of course more focus on the war itself. I kind of hope there will be a sequel focusing on the war… Because that truly was the most interesting part of this retelling.

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Gwen is just like any normal sixteen-year-old girl with a place on the debate team and a crush on the soon-to-be homecoming king. She doesn’t really want to grow up, but doesn’t really believe in magic either… And she definitely didn’t know her little sister Rosemary could actually run away with Peter Pan, or that magic does really exist. Because that is exactly what  did end up happening, and Gwen soon finds herself chasing after her little sister so she can bring her home safe. But Neverland is without doubt a magical place, and Gwen is starting to like it there even though she feels out of place as a teenager. And her sister doesn’t seem to want to leave either. Gwen will have to make the difficult choice whether to stay in Neverland or return to reality, and the war isn’t making things easier.

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I was really looking forward to this Peter Pan retelling, but unfortunately The Neverland Wars didn’t live up to expectations. I enjoyed the part that was set in Neverland and the descriptions of the fictional place, but I wasn’t too convinced by the plot itself. I wish there would have been more about the war and less about Gwen and her cliche teenage life… Because that is what would have made this read truly interesting. And I think I have already made it clear I wasn’t convinced by the prose/tone either.

Friday Finds #96 – July 22nd

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FRIDAY FINDS is originally featured at Babs Book Bistro and showcases the most interesting books I’ve encountered during the last week and have added to my neverending TBR list on Goodreads. Below a selection of my newest additions; click on the book descriptions to go to its Goodreads page! 😀

My finds:

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Continue reading

It’s All About Books is going Dutch!

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Those who follow my blog will probably already know I will be traveling to the Netherlands next month… Since I won’t be having access to my computer, files or PhotoFiltre, I have decided It’s All About Books and me will be going on on a hiatus starting August 14th.

This also means I will not be accepting any new ARCs/ review copies until further notice. I’m honored for the offer, but I won’t be able to post reviews properly for the time being. (And I’m way behind with my pending books as it is.)

Since I will be in the Netherlands for paperwork and I have no idea how long this will take (weeks, months??), I have no fixed return date yet… And I probably won’t be posting anything new after August 14th until I’m back home. I will still lurk in the shadows though, so you might see a comment or two! And I will be reading a lot, so I will have tons of new reviews for when I’m back. 😉

BOOK REVIEW: The Ice Twins – by S.K. Tremayne

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Title: The Ice Twins
Author: S.K. Tremayne
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Horror
First published: January 29th 2015
Publisher: Harper Collins
Finished reading: July 18th 2016
Pages: 373
Rating 4qqq

“It’s not so much my own death that is intolerable, it’s the death of those around me. Because I love them. And part of me dies with them. Therefore all love, if you like, is a form of suicide.”

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I’ve heard a lot of great things about this book ever since it was published last year and it was on my list of most-anticipated-releases in the first place… I’m not sure why, but somehow I never actually read The Ice Twins though until now. And I kind of wish I had picked it up earlier, because I can definitely see why so many people seem to love this book! Sure, the plot itself is a bit simple and if you look critically nothing much really happens during the story. But there is no doubt that S.K. Tremayne is a master when it comes to creating a suspenseful atmosphere. The Ice Twins is well written with excellent descriptions that make it feel like you are right there on the tiny Scottish island with the main characters. I personally loved the setting and the spooky atmosphere, and I really enjoyed reading this story despite the lack of action. The plot twists are subtle, but have a big impact on the story and the characters. I personally didn’t really like Angus OR Sarah, especially because of the way they handle the whole situation, but their development is well done. The ending is interesting as well, and the twins are without doubt spooky and helped set the right atmosphere. If you are looking for a creepy and well written mystery/thriller, make sure to give The Ice Twins a go!

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Angus and Sarah Moorcraft saw their lives fall apart after one of their identical twin daughters died in an accident a year ago. Their suriving daugher, Kirstie, is suffering as well, and they decide to make the move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his granmother hoping to put together some of the pieces of their shattered lives. Things don’t exactly improve though when Kirstie claims they have mistaken her identity; that she is in fact Lydia and that Kirstie was the one that fell out of the window. Their world comes crashing down again and they don’t know how to deal with all of this. Isolated on their tiny Scottish island, their surviving twin is growing more disturbed and both parents start to have problems of their own as well…

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Like I said before, The Ice Twins is more about the character development and the spooky setting than the actual actions. It’s a well written read with excellent descriptions that make it feel you are right there with the characters, and the story definitely creeped me out at points. The ending was definitely surprising! If you enjoy reading the genre, I can definitely recommend this book.

WWW Wednesdays #100 – July 20th

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100TH WWW MEME CELEBRATION EDITION!!!

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WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

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I’m currently reading The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel and it is turning out to be an interesting read. I’m glad the reviews I’ve seen so far convinced me to get a copy of this book! I’ve also finally started my last TBR jar pick The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz, which is ok enough so far, although I do hope the plot will get a little more interesting in the future. I still have to finish The Neverland Wars by Audrey Greathouse as well… I actually thought about DNFing it because I am really struggling with it, but since I already made it this far I will just finish it.

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

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* The first book I finished since last week is Wanderlost by Jen Malone, which turned out to be a quick, fluffy and entertaining summer read. Not perfect and in a way a bit cliche, but I loved the road trip details!
* I then finished The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey; probably one of the first stories with zombies I absolutely loved. I still can’t believe it took me this long to pick up this book! Well written, excellent worldbuilding and Melanie is probably one of my newest favorite characters.
* I also finally continued The Stepmother by Claire Seeber, but unfortunately I wasn’t completely convinced by it. I liked the fact that  it reversed the roles of the typical ‘evil stepmother’ plot, but the pace is quite slow and I REALLY disliked the main character.
* The last book I finished is The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne, which turned out to be a well written, spooky read with great descriptions. The plot was a bit uneventful, but it is without doubt a great read.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

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Depending on what genre I’m in the mood for, I will read When We Collided by Emery Lord. I might read The Fire Child by S.K. Tremayne first though; especially since I really enjoyed her other novel. Talon by Julie Kagawa is most likely my next fantasy read; I have been wanting to read another dragon story for too long now! Secret Letters by Leah Scheier is another Sherlock Holmes retelling and my newest TBR jar pick.