It’s better to have a chalk smile: A review of The Chalk Man

Throwing another book review your way because I got way behind on posting these!

I just finished The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor last night and it was quite a thrill. I received this book as one of my December picks from the Book of the Month Club (see my post script for a sales pitch on why you should join and a referral code).

The Chalk Man was a classic thriller. It’s full of questionable characters, twists you don’t always expect, and creepy events.

This book follows Eddie in both 1986 and 2016. In 1986, he is 12 years old and spends all of his time with his friends (Fat Gav, Metal Mickey, Hoppo, and Nicky). The five of them started a secret code between the two of them. Color-coded chalk men. They use these drawings to talk to each other and send messages that only they can understand. Until, one day, chalk drawings lead them to a dismembered body in the forest and their lives change forever. Thirty years later, Eddie is a poorly adjusted adult whose past comes to haunt him in the form of a letter containing a single chalk drawing. At first he thinks it’s a prank, but when one of his childhood friends turns up dead, Eddie must dig up the past to save himself.

I was on the edge of my seat for a good portion of this book. It was interesting and definitely gave me chills in parts. This book alternates chapters between 1986 and 2016 so the events unfold at the same time. While I think this was intended to build the suspense of the novel and was executed well, it is a format that I do not enjoy very often. One positive of this format was, because each chapter ended in a cliffhanger, it kept me reading. I wanted to know what happened at the end of each chapter and the events wouldn’t be resolved until two chapters later.

The best part of this novel is that Tudor did an excellent job in creating a classic 80s-inspired thriller. The Chalk Man was full of the characteristics that make a good mystery. It was similar to Stranger Things or IT, a group of friends who face gruesome events that no kid should have to face (however, The Chalk Man did not have any supernatural elements). I think my favorite part was the relationships. I enjoyed reading the relationships between the characters (especially those involving Metal Mickey) in 1986 and comparing them to 2016. It was really interesting to see how the events of 1986 changed their lives and pushed their relationships in other directions.

I’ve been in need of a good thriller and The Chalk Man didn’t disappoint. I did not expect what happened at the end of the novel and only had small suspicions of the culprit. This book introduced many suspects and brought to light many different motives. I found myself wanting to read this book every night because I needed to know what happened. All of these are elements of a good thriller.

In the end, this book gets three out of five stars from me. I really liked the story and enjoyed reading this book. It was well-written, creepy, and definitely thrilling. What kept it from a higher review was the format. I am a very impatient person and love instant gratification, so the format of alternating years and storylines (that do eventually come together) was not for me. However, if you’re a fan of thrillers, The Chalk Man is definitely worth a read and I recommend it!

PS. If you’re interested in joining Book of the Month Club, click this link for my referral code! You’ll get your first month for only $10 and a free tote bag. Book of the Month Club is one of my favorite monthly subscription services. It has been a great way for me to discover books I wouldn’t have read otherwise. You can skip any month (without losing credits) if the selections aren’t for you. Seriously, check it out!

His pride never deserts him: A review of Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe

Angry people are not always wise.

— Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

I received Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe as an ARC from St. Martin’s Press through a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

As evidenced by the Jane Austen quote above, I may not have been very wise in this review because this book made me incredibly angry and I still finished it. The only reason I finished it was to say, without a doubt, that I did not like this book.

Being completely honest, I hate giving one-star ratings to books, especially ones that I finish, but this book was fully deserving of one star.

I was really excited for the premise of this book. A gender-swapped, modern Pride and Prejudice? Count me in! Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz? No, I want nothing to do with this book.

This book follows a 29-year-old Darcy Fitzwilliam who is a self-made millionaire who works had and has a lot of money (don’t worry if you forget that part, she’ll remind you). Darcy returns home after eight years after her mother suffers a heart attack shortly before the Fitzwilliam annual Christmas party. It is at during the Christmas party where Darcy reconnects with the frustratingly handsome and, maybe, lazy Luke Bennet. They have a couple romantic encounters and Darcy is left wondering if Luke is the one for her.

Let’s get some negatives out of the way…

First things first, the pacing in this book is terrible. Their love story (including two make-out sessions, countless fights, what I think was a break-up, and engagements to other people) all take place in about 5 days. This alone makes the book so frustrating. I even tried to participate in some suspension of disbelief, but couldn’t make it happen for this. None of these events would happen in real life. Not even something close to that would happen.

Another thing that killed me while reading this book were the constant reminders of Darcy’s wealth. It was like de la Cruz never wanted you to forget that Darcy was independently wealthy. Ever. In almost every chapter there was some line that either explicitly talked about her wealth or hinted at it. There was designer name brand dropping for day and really cheesy dialogue with her family about how much money she has made.

All of the characters (especially Darcy) were selfish and childish. The dialogue was one of the worst parts. Nobody actually speaks the way these characters do. The romantic scenes seemed forced and some lines of dialogue came out of nowhere. At one point Luke actually calls himself a gentleman for not having sex with Darcy when she’s drunk (not raping someone does not make you a gentleman). Darcy has a lot of internalized misogyny moments which made me cringe… This book was just utterly disappointing.

The one good thing was the relationship between Jim and Bingley. I thought they were a positive addition to the story, but they were never focused on. If this book was all about them, it might have been better!

Personally, I do not recommend this book. It has a lot of negatives and not enough positives to balance it out.

We had something. That kiss was magic.: A review of Snow Falling

“I’ll see you tomorrow and then everyday for the rest of our lives.”

— Michael Cordero Jr., Jane the Virgin

As a long-time fan of The CW’s Jane the Virgin, when I found out they had made Jane’s book a reality, I cried a little bit.

Jane and Michael are my all-time favorite fictional couple and seeing their love story again made my heart melt. It was hard to review this book based on how strongly I felt about the couple and the show, but here are my final thoughts…

Snow Falling by Jane Gloriana Villanueva (ghostwritten by Caridad Piñeiro) was an absolutely lovely love story. It is a historical romance that takes place in 1902 and follows the story of Josephine Galena Valencia. Josephine is newly engaged to detective Martin Cadden and has larger than life dreams for her future. That is until the attractive, captivating Rake Solvino reappears in her life. In a night fueled by champagne and heartbreak, Josephine and Rake partake in an indiscretion that results in a huge life complication. While dealing with this complication, Josephine must decide who she truly loves. Her dear Martin or the dashing Rake?

This book is a retelling of Jane and Michael’s love story from the first few seasons of Jane the Virgin. This book is important to the TV show because the most recent season has followed Jane’s journey to getting the book published and finally writing a book.

While the writing was poor at times and the pacing seemed strange, I adored this book. I think I may have bias clouding my judgement on my rating of this book because the show is one of my favorites, but I truly loved it after I put it down. My heart felt full and happy because I got to relive one of my favorite love stories of all time.

From an execution standpoint, this book was so-so. The dialogue seemed forced at times and interactions between the characters was strange. From a nostalgia standpoint, Snow Falling was absolutely perfect.

This book did end up getting five out of five stars from me because of all of the feelings and thoughts I had at the end. I truly enjoyed reading this book. It made me want to rewatch the entire series and see Michael and Jane on screen again.

If you are a fan of Jane the Virgin, I do highly recommend this book! However, I feel like to people outside the fandom, this book won’t deliver for you.

Podcasts that you should probably (definitely) listen to!

Since I am not a fan of audiobooks or the radio (and sometimes I need a break from the Hamilton soundtrack…), I usually fill my commutes with podcasts. Podcasts are a great way to get a daily dose of comedy, positivity, or insight on specific topics.

I’ve been listening to podcasts for a couple years now and have found some really great ones that I think everyone should give a try at some point in their life.

5. Wonderful!

Wonderful! is a podcast hosted by Griffin and Rachel McElroy, a husband and wife super duo. This podcast is based completely on positivity. Griffin and Rachel post an episode every week where they talk about the things they love. This ranges from music albums, video games, food, and so much more. The whole point of the podcast is to talk about the things that are wonderful in their lives. They end each episode with listener submissions so that everyone gets to hear what makes others’ lives wonderful.

My favorite thing about this podcast is it’s positivity. It has given me a new appreciation of the small things in my life that make me happy. I also think that Griffin and Rachel have really great banter throughout every episode. You can tell they work really well together (personally and professionally) and I enjoy hearing them talk every week.

Wonderful! is a part of the Maximum Fun network. You can learn more about it here or on iTunes!

4. Myths and Legends

The Myths and Legends podcast was started by Jason Weiser because of his love for traditional English literature. The Myths and Legends podcast brings you stories from folklore, fairy tales, mythology, etc. that have shaped our world. Some are stories you’ve heard tons of variations on (think Disney princesses or Grimm fairytales), others are stories that are seldom told.

This podcast spans generations and cultures. Jason shares stories from cultures you may not know and does an excellent job researching each story. With every story he provides his own commentary which provides an interesting look at classic tales.

As a book lover, this podcast is everything. It gives me a chance to listen to classic stories that may not be written down and shows me origins of stories that are being told today. Jason is a wonderful, funny host and this is one of my favorite podcasts to listen to on a long drive.

If you want to learn more about The Myths and Legends Podcast, check out their website or check out iTunes!

3. Cold Case Files: The Podcast

As a lover of true crime, this podcast is one of my favorites. If you’ve ever watched Cold Case Files on A&E, you’ll probably love this podcast. It is Cold Case Files in audio format. This podcast explores cases that have been cold for years and what it took to solve these cases. With breakthroughs in forensic technology and the advent of social media, cases that have been cold for decades are coming back into the the light.

Cold Case Files: The Podcast is hosted by Brooke Gittings. Brooke provides interesting insight to these cases. In addition to Brooke’s commentary, this podcast also includes interviews with detectives and others involved in the cases.

You can check out Cold Case Files: The Podcast on PodcastOne or on iTunes!

2. My Brother, My Brother, and Me

I think MBMBaM is might be my favorite podcast. It’s the podcast that got me into podcasts. MBMBaM is “an advice show for the modern era” (Maximum Fun). Three brothers (Justin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy) take questions from Yahoo Answers and listener submission and provide hilarious “advice”.

This podcast has been going strong since 2010 and the brothers get funnier with age. The three of them have great chemistry and bounce jokes off of each other almost professionally. Sometimes they have guest-perts (Lin Manuel-Miranda, Jimmy Buffet) who they interview, sometimes they have surprise segments (Munch Squad, Haunted Doll Watch), but they always answer your questions and provide you with the best possible advice they can come up with.

The McElroy brothers are hilarious and I always find myself laughing when I listen to them. If you want to learn more about MBMBaM or any of their other shows, check out their website! For more information about MBMBaM specifically, check out Maximum Fun or iTunes.

PS. My Brother, My Brother, and Me has a TV show. If you want to watch the McElroy brothers in their hilarity and give really great advice, check it out here!

PPS. They also have two other podcasts that sporadic, but hilarious. If you want to list to the only annual, eternal podcast in existence, check out Til Death Do Us Blart. The McElroy Brothers Will Be in Trolls 2 follows the McElroy Brothers’ journey to get parts in the Dreamworks movie Trolls 2.

1. My Dad Wrote a Porno

MDWaP is probably the best podcast in production. Ever.

This podcast is based on book. A book that happens to be an erotic novel written by one of the hosts’ dad. Jamie Morton’s dad, Rocky Flintstone, is the author of the internationally renowned novel Belinda Blinked.

Jamie Morton is joined by his friends Alice Levine and James Cooper as they read through Rocky Flintstone’s Belinda Blinked series. They release a new episode every Monday (appropriately named “Porno day”) and a footnotes episode on Thursdays where they dive deeper into the Flintstone lore and have special guests. Some of these guests include Michael Sheen, Nicholas Hoult, and Mara Wilson.

I have had the most fun listening to this podcast. Belinda Blinked is gross and terribly written, but the most hilarious erotic novel to ever exist.

This show is definitely for adult audiences, but for anyone over 18 My Dad Wrote a Porno is an amazing show that makes any Monday better. You can learn more about it on their website or on iTunes!

Honorable mentions:

Bold. Valiant. Just.: Review of Renegades by Marissa Meyer

The line between good and evil is permeable and almost anyone can be induced to cross it when pressured by situational forces.

— Philip Zimbardo

Renegades by Marissa Meyer was utter fun. Renegades takes place in a dystopian future where a group of superheroes, called the Renegades, lead the city of Gatlon. The story starts with Nova, a young prodigy who has every reason to hate the Renegades. The failed her when she needed them most and they took away her only family. Nova wants vengeance for what the Renegades took from her, but then she meets Adrian. Adrian is the adopted son of two original Renegades (Captain Chromium and The Dread Warden). Adrian’s mother, Lady Indomitable, was murdered when he was young and, ever since then, he has wanted justice. When Adrian and Nova end up working together, their beliefs are put into question and they must determine what they truly believe in.

I think my favorite part about this book was its characters. Meyer’s characters had very unique powers and abilities that aren’t always typical superhero powers. For example, Adrian has the power to bring his drawings to life as long as he wills it. I also loved the amount of time she spent creating the origin stories of her characters, especially the side characters. The members of Adrian’s team all had interesting back stories and weren’t just born with their powers. All of the characters were charismatic and interesting. I found myself rooting for all of the characters (yes, even the villains).

The world that Meyer created was also incredibly well thought out. You could tell she spent a lot of time thinking about the state of Gatlon in the present as well as the power struggle to get there. I could see both sides to the story. Ace Anarchy, prolific supervillain, wanted prodigies to have freedom and acceptance. He didn’t want prodigies to rule, he just wanted to save his kind from persecution. But, I can also see why the Renegades ended up in power and why they want to maintain their power. That’s what makes this a good example of dystopian fiction! When you can see both sides and how they got into this conflict and where one side doesn’t seem any more right than the other. It really paints the picture of how the citizens in the book ended up in the place they did, as well.

What kept this book from five stars for me, was that it needs a sequel. Renegades a very introductory novel and left a lot of unanswered questions at the end. While I don’t always mind a cliffhanger, this book had a lot of loose ends. You can definitely tell Meyer wrote this with the sequel at the front of her mind. Now I just have to wait patiently till it comes out next year!

Overall, this book got a four out of five stars from me because it was fun, interesting, and kept me wanting more.

2018: The year of the big books

2017 was the year of reading.

I set myself a goal at the beginning of the year to read 50 books. Once I hit that goal I decided to stretch my goal to 100 books. Just this past week, I met that goal. It was a pretty exciting moment to realize that over the past 11 months, I’ve read 100 books. That’s an average of 9 books a month!

I’ve started to think about what I want to accomplish in 2018 and have decided that 2018 will be the year of the big books. These are books that ended at the bottom of my to-be-read pile because they intimidated me. I found myself so focused on the number of books I wanted to read, that I set aside really good books because of how big they were.

Some of these books include the ones pictured above. I plan on starting the year with Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King. This is Stephen King’s newest novel that he partnered with his son to write. This book takes place in the future where women are enveloped in a cocoon when they fall asleep and are transported to another place. If they are awoken, they become violent and feral creatures. Men are left to their own devices and are becoming increasingly primal. There is only one woman who is immune to the sleeping blessing/curse, Evie. It is unclear if Evie should be studied or destroyed. I am hoping this book will be a good introduction to the world of Stephen King (though I’ve been recommended The Shining by many people).

Another book that will be an early 2018 read is The Name of the Wind by Patrick RothfussThe Name of the Wind is the first book in The Kingkiller Chronicle and has been endorsed by the amazing Lin-Manuel Miranda. I’ve heard nothing but good things about this series and I need to get through it before the show adaptation is released on Showtime!

Hame by Annalena McAfeeTheft by Finding by David SedarisDracula by Bram Stoker, and World of Tomorrow by Brendan Mathews are other giant books that I know I want to read in 2018.

I may not hit 100 books again next year because of how much longer it takes to read giant books and that’s okay. I’ve been neglecting the stories in all of these pages and want to get to them more than I want to read a lot of books!

Do you guys have any giant book recommendations? What is your reading goal for 2018?

An interview with author Tiffany McDaniel

After reading The Summer that Melted EverythingI had the pleasure of interviewing the author, Tiffany McDaniel. McDaniel was such a pleasure to talk to and I really enjoyed learning more about her through these questions.

What is the first book that made you cry?

I was introduced early to books through my mother who instilled in us the importance of reading and who read to us every night, so the first book that made me cry was probably a book I read when I was a kid and that’d be Donkey, Donkey by Roger Duvoisin. It’s about a donkey who is sad about his ears. He doesn’t feel they are beautiful like the other animals and their ears on the farm. There is an illustration in the book where the donkey gets his ear cut on a farm tool. The illustration of the blood and of the subsequent pain on the donkey’s face was shocking to me as a kid and I still remember the feeling of sadness that cut through me.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

The most surprising thing is learning about the industry of publishing itself. While The Summer that Melted Everything is my first published novel, it’s actually my fifth or sixth novel written. I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen, and wouldn’t get a publishing contract until I was twenty-nine for TSTME. It was a long eleven-year journey to publication, full of lots of rejection and heartbreak. I was often told I wasn’t publishable in today’s commercial marketplace, but I never gave up. Another surprise was to learn how slowly traditional publishing moves in today’s fast-paced world. Even after TSTME was on contract, it was over a two-year wait to see the book on the shelf as two years is the average time it takes to move a debut novel through a publishing house. So all told it was close to fourteen years before I got the chance to see one of my novels on the shelf. Starting out as an eighteen-year-old novelist seeking publication, I had no idea of the struggle and the years that lay ahead.

What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

As authors we need to be able to craft characters of every gender, race, religion, and age. Prior to writing a novel, I don’t write character sketches or outline, so for me the story evolves with each new word and page I write. Perhaps this is the reason why I don’t find a challenge in writing characters who are not like myself. I’m in the head of the character and so focused on delivering the truth of the character to the page, that I don’t stop to think about the differences between myself and the character I’m writing because at that moment the only voice I am hearing is that of the character’s.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

Going into having a book published, I didn’t realize how much of the marketing and publicity falls on the author’s shoulders. I started the marketing outreach about four months prior to the hardcover’s July 2016 release, and have continued the marketing since then, whether it be reaching out to book bloggers, offering interviews such as this, Skyping with book clubs, and attending the book fairs and festivals. Part of having that working relationship with bloggers and reviewers is that you read the review when it comes in. Sometimes the review is great, sometimes it’s the opposite. Having the rejections I’ve had and the struggle to get published has made it so I struggle to feel deserving of a good review. On the flip-side of that, it’s never easy to receive a bad review, especially in today’s world in which we’re often reviewed on a 24/7 cycle with the internet and that level of criticism can erode a person’s spirit. In addition to the emotional reaction to a review, a review has the power to turn readers on or off of a novel, which in turn affects not just sales of a book, but an author’s very career. Reviews are powerful things. You can get a million good reviews, but it’s always the bad reviews that you remember, oftentimes, line for line.

Where did you get your inspiration for the Bliss family?

When I write a novel, the characters always feel like real people to me. So much so, that if there is anything after this life, I feel as though my characters will be among those I meet on the other side. I have written novels in which characters are inspired by real people. Such as the first novel I wrote which was based on my mother’s life coming-of-age in southern Ohio and the sexism and racism she faced growing up. But in the case of the Bliss family, it was the Bliss family members themselves who inspired me to write them. The father, the mother, the sons, it’s all through listening to them with the goal of writing their truths to the best of my ability, that they came to life on the page. It is their love and connection as a family that makes them so special. For many of us, they are the “bliss” of the family unit we all crave.

No spoilers, but what was your hardest scene to write in this novel?

The hardest scene was Sal’s scene toward the end of the novel. I can’t say any more than that without giving anything away. But I will say Sal was such a wonderful character to write. He’s so creative and intelligent. He’s also a contradiction being an old soul in a young body. That type of character is always a pleasure to spend time with.

The names of the characters in this book are so fun and interesting, how did you select them? Specifically Autopsy’s.

With names I try to add a subtle meaning to the characters. In the case of Autopsy’s name, I had seen the word “autopsy” the day I was writing his character. I was familiar with the word and its meaning of the dead body on the cold slab about to be cut open and examined. Then I dug a little further to the word’s Latin roots which mean “to see for oneself”. I thought it the perfect name for a man who one day invites the devil to town. My hope with his name is that as readers continue to repeat the name Autopsy throughout the course of reading the novel that they began to see older Fielding, getting up on the cold slab, and cutting himself open, trying to figure out what has killed him and his spirit. In essence the whole book can be seen as one big autopsy Fielding is performing on himself.

There are some characters I can’t reveal the meaning behind their names without giving something away, but I’ll say Dresden was named so because here in Ohio there is a small town called Dresden that I have fond memories of, but she was also named Dresden for dresden porcelain, which is fragile and easily broken, in many ways a representation of her character.

Fielding is named so because when I thought of him, I thought of a field and its two possibilities. On one end, a field can be a nurturing place, a land of fertile possibilities in which great things can grow. On the other side of things, a field can become barren, unable to grow again. Fielding experiences both sides of a field as he comes-of-age.

As for Elohim, Elohim means God in the Hebrew bible. So we have the one who is called “god” in Elohim and the one who is called “devil” in Sal, only it’s about taking these two ideas and turning them on their heads, emphasizing that we should look beyond what people are called to understand them and to see for ourselves who they truly are.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning The Summer that Melted Everything?

For this novel, the research centered on learning more of the cultural identity of the 1980s as well as the emergence of AIDS and how the disease was shaping the nation as a whole. I didn’t want to weigh the story down with too many facts from the 80s because I always want my books to feel timeless, as if they could have taken place in any decade because even though our fashions, music, and hairstyles will change, there are some things about being human that will never change. We will always love and we will always hate. There’s no research involved with understanding and writing that part of the story, because as humans, these emotions are what we experience throughout the course of our personal and societal evolution.

Did you pull from personal experience when writing The Summer that Melted Everything?

The town in the novel, Breathed, Ohio, is a fictional town based on a real town in the southeastern portion of Ohio, where I’d spend my childhood summers and school-year weekends on the farm my father was left by his parents. It was from my memories and experiences of coming-of-age there in those hills that I pulled from as I wrote of Breathed. In all the novels I have written thus far, Breathed, Ohio has been in all of them. That southern Ohio landscape and culture has shaped me as an author.

How did you decide to write this from an older Fielding’s perspective?

I wanted to explore not just that summer of 1984, but the ripple effects of that summer that carried throughout the rest of Fielding’s life. Melting is such an important theme in the novel, because once something is melted, it can never be put back together again. Melting changes the very chemistry of something and of someone. I wanted to explore this with Fielding in an attempt to show that something that happens in our life can have lasting effects.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

Perhaps Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It’s a beautiful story about two sisters who are living in their dilapidated family mansion. Together, the sisters try to come to terms with who poisoned the rest of their family. Jackson has a wonderful delivery that makes her an author more people should read.

I usually end up needing a break from my work throughout the day, how do you de-stress from the writing process?

Art is a wonderful way to de-stress for me. I enjoy painting and drawing. It’s that fluidity of the movements that I find therapeutic. I love plants, so gardening is something that energizes me, especially given writing is a process in which one is constantly staring at a computer screen. It’s nice to step away from technology and really focus one’s eyes back out on the world around us. I also enjoy baking, crocheting, and spending time with all the animals in my life.

What books have most influenced your life?

One of the books that had an effect on me as a child, an effect I have never forgotten, is Barbara Cooney’s Miss Rumphius. It was the first book I remember reading as a child that had a main character who was female. She lived life on her own terms, without male involvement, whether good or bad. By the end of the novel, she had changed the world through something so seemingly simple, and yet so powerful. As a girl coming-of-age, it was important to read a book that celebrated a woman’s independence.

A good villain (or devil in this case) is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain to write this book. Was there a real-life inspiration for him/her/it?

I knew going into this that I didn’t want to write the stereotypical devil, the one of red flesh and horns that has almost become cartoonish in our society with his fire breathing manners and pitchfork ready to stab us. I wanted to explore the good and evil within the human spirit. So while there was no certain real-life inspiration for the villain in this story, I think it’s a villain that we recognize in its human form. Without giving too much away, I will say that the villain of the story is not who readers may think going into the novel.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?

There’s nothing about the story that I would change. It’s a novel that upon completing it, I knew I had laid down the truths of the characters and there is a sense of peace in that. As far as getting it published, so much of publishing is out of the author’s hands that even if there are things I would change, I wouldn’t be able to. One of those things would certainly be the time it takes to publish a book, though.

Do you have any future projects we should be on the lookout for?

I have eight completed novels, as well as a completed compilation of poetry. I thought with a novel already published, it’d be easier to get a second book published, but the two novels I’ve pitched to editors since TSTME’s release has been rejected with editors citing the riskiness of my storytelling, which is something I think female authors hear more than their male counterparts, especially in the literary fiction genre. In addition to that, editors go by the sales of a book, and if a debut undersells, that can make it a struggle to get published again. While it’s up to the publishers if I get published again, I’ll not give up, which is something all us authors must never do.

Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?

While I don’t have social media, readers can always reach me direct through my website where I personally answer every email sent to me. As authors we must never forget to value our readers and to make sure they feel appreciated because without readers, and their support and championing of a novel, we authors do not have a career.

The home stretch: My stack of December TBRs

Happy December everyone! I’ve pulled together a list of books that I’d love to get to before year’s end. That being said, I probably won’t get to them. That’s why I’m calling them my December Hopefuls!

Some of the books in the hopeful list will definitely make the cut. One of them being The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh. I’m reading this book with some lovely friends next week (shout-out to Lauren, my soulmate, and Stephanie!). This book is about a small town that is populated by criminals who have had their memories altered. It is after a murder and suicide are committed in town that the residents revolt. The sheriff must protect the town’s secrets as well as his own.

Another book making the cut is Snow Falling by Jane Gloriana Villanueva (ghostwritten Caridad Piñeiro). Does that name sound familiar? If you watch the CW’s Jane the Virgin it should! The channel made her book a reality to coincide with her publish date in the show.  It’s her retelling of her love story with Michael (who is my favorite fictional husband ever) and I plan on reading it after my buddy read of The Blinds. 

Another book I’m planning to get for sure this month is The Oracle Year by Charles Soule. I was graciously sent an advance copy of this book by Harper Perennial in exchange for an honest review. This book is about Will Dando who is a normal man until one day he wakes up with 108 predictions about the future in his mind. This book seems like it’s going to be a wild ride and a lot of fun.

The final book that I’m definitely planning on picking up this month is Nimona by Noelle StevensonNimona is a graphic novel that follows the adventures of Nimona who is a young shapeshifter and sidekick to supervillain Lord Blackheart. The two of them have a mission to show the people that the Institution of Law Enforcement aren’t as heroic as everyone believes them to be. I haven’t read a lot of graphic novels, but this one seems like a lot of fun and super interesting.

The rest of the books in this stack are just hopefuls. Books I want to read, but I’m not sure if something else will push them out of place (like my December Book of the Month picks). Here’s a quick list of them with links to their descriptions and authors:

The book that melted my heart… and by melted I mean utterly destroyed.

“You know where the name hell came from.” He crossed his hands on his lap.

“After I fell, I kept repeating to myself, God will forgive me. God will forgive me. Centuries of repeating this, I started to shorten it to He’ll forgive me. Then finally to one word, He’ll. He’ll.

“Somewhere along the way, I lost that apostrophe and now it’s only Hell. But hidden in that one word is God will forgive me. God will forgive me. That is what is behind my door, you understand. A world of no apostrophes and, therefore, no hope.”

— Sal, The Summer that Melted Everything, Tiffany McDaniel

I want to extend my deepest gratitude to Tiffany McDaniel for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I am so glad I had the experience of reading this book.

I mean this so seriously, if you’re looking for a new book to pick up this holiday season please make it The Summer that Melted Everything

I am so broken-hearted by this book. It absolutely wowed me and wrecked me. Tiffany McDaniel is an incredibly skilled writer. Not only did the plot have me hooked from the beginning, but so did the prose. It was beautifully written which I think made the events of the book that much more tragic.

The summer of 1984 is the summer that changed the course of Fielding Bliss’ life. It’s the summer a heatwave ran through his town, Breathed, and the summer he became friends with the devil. Fielding’s father, Autopsy, invited the devil through a letter in the paper. What Autopsy didn’t know is that the devil was a thirteen-year-old boy named Sal. Fielding meets Sal first. Sal shows up in town with dirty overalls and asks for ice cream. Sal looks suspiciously like a runaways from a nearby towns who definitely aren’t the devil.

Not everyone in Breathed is happy about Sal’s arrival. As the heat rises, so do tensions in the town. Fielding and his family are convinced Sal is just a boy. Others in town believe Sal is exactly who he says he is as strange accidents start to occur throughout town. The accidents are blamed on Sal. The heat is blamed on Sal. And it’s all because he is a young black boy who claims his is the devil. While the Bliss family deals with their own personal demons, the town is dealing with its own and slowly pushes itself toward catastrophe.

The best part of this book is its characters. McDaniel is an expert at character creation and development. Each character from Fielding to Sal to Grayson Elohim were human and developed as humans do. What made their development beautiful was that some characters developed forward and for the better and others devolved. It was utterly human.

The characters were flawed and beautiful and (most) were lovable. I felt for almost every character. I think my favorite characters were the Bliss family. While reading their story, I felt like I had become part of the family. They were quirky and fun an, until the summer of 1984 and even throughout it, there was so much love in that family. The relationship between Fielding and Grand reminded me a bit of the relationship I had with my younger sister. McDaniel’s characters came to life on the pages of this book. Their struggles came to life.

Another thing McDaniel excelled at was creating humanity within her pages. Each of the character’s struggles (including side characters) and how they dealt with it was so human. They didn’t always handle things perfectly or rationally. Some characters acted out and others withdrew. In addition, the topical issues addressed in her book were incredibly relevant. McDaniel dealt with topics that humans still struggle with today. Homophobia, mob mentality, the criminal justice system, and racism. By including these issues, but not hitting you over the head with it, McDaniel made her book relevant in 1984 and today. She made me sit and think about how the citizens of Breathed dealt with these issues and how the citizens of America today are handling them. The Summer that Melted Everything really made me sit and think about what is means to be a good human in the face of these issues.

The ending was heartbreaking and disturbing and as much as I wanted to say, “That wouldn’t happen in 1984, let alone 2017…” and dismiss the events as far-fetched, they do happen. When telling my boyfriend about the ending and how I had that initial reaction, he raised an eyebrow and, without missing a beat, said, “But they do.”

Events as disturbing as the end of this book did happen in 1984 and do happen today, as much as I want to pretend they don’t. I think how rooted in truth this book was is what made it so much more heartbreaking and beautiful. McDaniel didn’t shy away from honesty in this book. It was brutal and disturbing, but one-hundred percent honest.

This book was wonderful in that each chapter revealed more and more about the characters struggles of what is bad and good. While the ending was where most of the revelations were, the book slowly introduced to the ideas and events that happen later on.  All of the events at the end of the book shocked me, but one in particular completely broke me. I had truly come to love the Bliss family and having them torn apart in the way they were tore my heart apart.

The Summer that Melted Everything is compelling and strong and a must-read. It gets five out of five melted stars from me. In today’s current climate it is incredibly timely and so important. It is definitely one of the better books I’ve read this year, I think it may even be one of my favorites. It is definitely heavy and heartbreaking, but as a reader and as a human, everyone should pick up this book.