Heartless by Marissa Meyer

                
Angharad’s thoughts:

I will admit that I had high hopes going into this novel despite never have read a book by Marissa Meyer before. I’m a huge fan of the Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass tale and to read not only a retelling, but a retelling of the series biggest villain sounded amazing. However, it fell short for me and I only ended up giving it three and a half stars. Here are my likes and dislikes –

Likes:
The character of Lady Catherine. It was so interesting reading an author’s interpretation of the Queen of Hearts before she became a ruthless villain. Meyer writes her as a sweet young girl, the daughter of a Marquess and aspiring baker. She is destined to marry the King of Hearts and become a respectable Queen (delving into the idea of female repression in this world) but all she wants is to open a bakery with her maid/friend, Mary Ann. You feel Cath’s desperation at trying to break free of the role forced upon her but it becomes a whole lot more complicated when she falls in love with the new Court Jester, otherwise known as Jest. I haven’t read any of Meyer’s other books but meeting Catherine has made me want to look into her other series. She is a dynamic character and develops massively along the course of the story. 
I loved Marissa’s writing, especially her descriptive text when it came to Cath’s baking. My mouth has never watered this much reading a book! She set the scene wonderfully, allowing us to feel Cath’s love for baking and how much passion she had for it. It makes you all the more desperate to see her succeed even though you know she doesn’t because, you know, the Queen of Hearts probably doesn’t frequent her kitchen. Too busy cutting off heads.
The romance. Okay, it was cliche but it’s a fairytale retelling, it’s going to be cheesy but it developed wonderfully. Catherine and Jest had fun together and protected each other. Even when Cath was courting the King, Jest had to learn to accept it, even going as far as helping the King write his love letters. Their moments were very cute together, especially one of their first moments in the garden after they meet for the first time. 
Raven. Okay, so Jest has a Raven on his shoulder where others would have a parrot but this Raven is based off of Edgar Allan Poe so he speaks primarily in rhyme. I love him. I loved the moment where a lot of panic was happening and Raven pronounced something that didn’t rhyme because he was panicking too. Probably one of my favourite characters in the entire story. Yes, a bird. Especially at the end! I also really enjoyed the character of Hatta. He was a very complex character and he had an interesting story to tell as we meet him at the first stages of his ‘madness.’ And yes, there is a tea party. 
+ I did like the ending but when I say the ending, I mean around the last ten pages. They were amazing! I won’t go into what happens but I just wish we could have had a little bit more because Catherine truly became the Queen of Hearts and everyone bows the hell down. 

Dislikes:
NOT ENOUGH FEMALE CHARACTERS OR DIVERSITY! Other than Cath, there were precious few female characters and if there were, they were poorly developed. The strong friendship between Cath and Mary Ann sours very quickly, Cath’s mother brings nothing to the table other than wanting her daughter to become Queen and another female at court only exists for Cath to dislike and for some Duke to fancy (and at this stage I can’t even remember her name.) It’s such a shame there wasn’t more, especially as Cath herself is a brilliant character. As for diversity, there was none that I was aware of so I can’t even go into that. It’s a retelling! You’re allowed to put your spin on things so spin us some diversity!!
I didn’t like the first half of the book. For me, it dragged incredibly. I’m all for books setting the scene and introducing us into its world but not for majority of the book and because of this, the second half had a lot of action, and although I loved the events of it, the ending felt a bit rushed. I mean, the entire first chapter of the book is dedicated to Cath baking some tarts and although I was hungry, I was bored. 
Becky’s thoughts:

I had quite a lot of thoughts about Heartless but no real ideas as to how I was going to put them into words. So, here’s a little list to make things easier for everyone:

Likes:
+ the character of Catherine.
I loved Cath! She was so authentic, determined and a breath of fresh air when it comes to YA protagonists. Cath is the daughter of a Marquess and therefore expected to be a Lady and be happy about the King taking a liking towards her, but all she wants to do is open a bakery with her best friend. The land of Hearts is incredibly sexist, and it seems that even if she weren’t a Lady, no one would approve of a woman opening a business, but Cath perseveres and doesn’t give up on her dream. This brings me onto my second point…

+ the cake descriptions.
When Cath is first introduced, she’s baking lemon tarts, and I’ve craved the things ever since. All of the descriptions of food are just so perfect, and frankly I’m going to go hunting for some cake right now just thinking about them.

+ the ending.
The last 70 or so pages were amazing! They took a really dark, exciting turn, and although they were tragic, I really enjoyed them. I won’t say anything more though as I don’t want to spoil anything!

+ the world building.
The book is set in Hearts, with the land of Chess, where the White Queen rules, being on the other side of the Looking-Glass. It’s completely Wonderland, but not the Wonderland that you already know. 

Dislikes:
+ the middle-ish section of the book.
I found the middle of the book to drag quite a bit and be quite boring. There was character development during this time, but I would’ve liked a bit more action within the plot as well.

+ most of the secondary characters.
I really liked Jest, Raven, and the Sisters, but apart from that, I couldn’t click with any of the other secondary characters. Cath’s family were awful to her, so were naturally meant to be disliked, but I didn’t think her friend Mary Ann was very well rounded either, and most of the rest of her acquaintances are dull or aren’t explained very well. 

(We’d like to thank Macmillan UK for sending us a proof copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

Love,

    Caraval by Stephanie Garber

    *Angharad’s thoughts* 
    Recently, after many years of doing anything but, I finally got around to reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Why? Because after the announcement of Caraval, people instantly started comparing so I decided this was the best time to read them both and see for myself. I can easily say that for me, Caraval ticked all the boxes of magic, mystery and plot whereas (and I know I’m alone in this), The Night Circus just wasn’t for me. Both tell the story of a mysterious and magical circus/carnival but that’s where the similarities end. 

    Caraval tells the story of Scarlett who has always lived on a tiny island with her sister, Tella and their ruthless father and became even worse after their mother’s disappearance. Scarlett’s life has already been planned for her, starting with an arranged marriage but from a young age, her wish has always been to see the legendary Caraval, an annual performance where the audience have the opportunity to participate. One night, just a few days before Scarlett’s wedding, an invitation to Caraval arrives and Tella manages to enlist the help of Julian, a mysterious sailor to take her and her sister to this magical event. Upon arrival, things turn sour as Caraval’s illustrious organiser, Legend, kidnaps Tella and thus begins Scarlett’s game with help of Julian, whether they wanted to play or not.

    First and foremost, I’ll talk about the characters because for me, characters are the most important aspect of a story, even in one as elaborate at this. I did really enjoy Scarlett. I love how the story focused on her love for her story and her desperate need to rescue her. Although she started off being quite timid and apprehensive, it made sense because she feared her father and wanted to protect Tella. She grew a lot over the course of the book which takes place during five nights of the Caraval. Although there was a romance aspect, Scarlett never deviated away from finding her sister which can be the case in a lot of YA novels. Unfortunately for me, Julian (whose name I forgot an hour after finishing the book) didn’t stand out for me. He’s like a lot of YA love interests – seemingly arrogant but is actually really nice and has a lot of depth – and even with the mystery surrounding him during most of the book, he still didn’t manage to grab my attention. YET, their budding relationship did from the moment Julian first nicknamed Scarlett ‘Crimson.’ They got on and that’s something I always want in YA relationships. They laughed together and he he helped her even when he barely knew her. I’m excited to see where their relationship goes.

    The plot is definitely the most exciting aspect of this book. Having it set over the course of five days made you anxious to find out what happened and if Scarlett would find her sister in time. There was a few twists and turns, a few moments that made you question the incentives of certain characters and also the added mystery as to Legend’s true identity. There were a lot of plot twists and even when you thought you had something figured out, something else would happen and I definitely think this was the strongest aspect of the book. Although it’s primarily a fantasy book, it has a lot of mystery weaved throughout it. I do wish we had seen more of Caraval, both the environment and maybe some other characters throughout. I think this could have happened as the trio arrive, rather than have Tella kidnapped straight away so nobody is thinking about the event itself. However, the epilogue gave us a very exciting cliffhanger which has made me extremely excited for the sequel. 

    Overall, this book is a must-read. Although there are a few things I would have changed, this young-adult, fantasy novel still manages to grab your attention from the first page. Nothing is straightforward and this seemingly magical world is full of darkness. I hope we find out more about Caraval itself in the sequel, maybe its origins and past players. I’m excited for Scarlett after seeing her witness so much but also grow as a character throughout this novel and also her relationship with her younger sister. This is a solid foundation for the rest of the series and I can’t wait to see where it goes as Stephanie Garber definitely knows how to play with your mind as much as the game plays with the minds of the characters. 
    *Becky’s thoughts*
    There has been so much hype about Caraval, despite it not even being released until next year – and the hype is definitely deserved. Although I haven’t read The Night Circus, as Angharad said, this book has been compared to a more complex, magical version of it.

    Caraval definitely is full of magic. Scarlett, the main character, has been entranced by Caraval all her life, and has been writing to Grand Master Legend of Caraval since she was a child. When we meet Scarlett, she’s been betrothed to a man she’s never met, and this is when she and her sister Tella receive their invitations to Caraval. 

    I really liked Scarlett – she appears to be very timid and scared for a lot of the book, but with the way she was treated by her father and her determination to keep her younger sister safe from him, this is completely understandable, and I’m so glad that Stephanie Garber chose to portray her in an accurate way. I feel like if she’d immediately become more bold once leaving her home and escaping her father, this wouldn’t have been a true to life depiction, so I really am glad that she stayed cautiously brave in her own way. Scarlett’s personality at the beginning of the book also really helped to emphasise her growth throughout, which I loved following. I wasn’t too bothered about the romance in this book, however I do think it’ll be a more compelling one in the second book. 

    Caraval was a very fast paced book, and I really didn’t want to put it down. There are five days of the event of Caraval, and so the book is laid out to complement this – each section of the book is called “First Evening of Caraval”, “Second Day of Caraval”, etc. As Scarlett has a countdown to find Tella after she’s been kidnapped, the book being laid out in this way really added to the suspense that’s created throughout the entire book. 


    What I liked most about Caraval is, although that I’ve finished the book, I still feel very much in the dark. I had a lot of questions towards the beginning of the book, and very few of them were answered, meaning that I probably have even more questions now. Although Caraval was a great book in it’s own right, I do think that it’ll end up being a strong start to a series that just gets stronger and more exciting as it goes along.

    This book is released on January 31st, 2017
    Love,

    Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

          “How many times have you told me you’re a monster? 
         So be a monster. Be the thing they all fear when they close their eyes at night.” 

    *Becky’s thoughts*
    The ending of Six of Crows guaranteed that Crooked Kingdom would be about one simple but necessary thing: revenge. And hey, the revenge in this book was sweet

    Crooked Kingdom plays out in quite a different way from Six of Crows – where the first book shows the gang’s planning and journey to pull of one main heist in the Ice Court, Crooked Kingdom is made up of many smaller heists, tricks, sabotages, escapes and bargains around Ketterdam, leading up to the final play in a long game. It is written in an even more complex style than the first book, with more point of view characters, more of Kaz’s hidden tricks and plans, and in some ways, even higher stakes than in Six of Crows. In the first book, the dangers of Fjerda and the Ice Court added pressure to the gangs mission; in Crooked Kingdom, they are fighting for their lives in their own home, many of them fighting for a way out of the country without getting a bullet through their head due to the numerous wanted posters scattered around Ketterdam that feature their names and faces. 
    Although a good chunk of Six of Crows was set in Ketterdam, and there was an incredible amount of world building of the city in that book, Leigh manages to expand it even more in Crooked Kingdom. I feel as though I know that city so well that I’ve visited it a few times, am planning my next trip, and considering buying a holiday home in West Stave. 
    Now, onto the main focus of Crooked Kingdom: the characters. I absolutely adored all six members of the gang in Six of Crows, and after Crooked Kingdom, I just love them all even more. The character development in this book was out of this world, as well as the building of the friendships and relationships between them all. Characters that already had multi-layered stories are given even more complex pasts, and with those pasts come their weaknesses. On the topic of character development, I am so happy that Wylan had his own POV chapters in this book. I loved being able to finally see into his little innocent brain. 
    All three ships that were established in Six of Crows, in my opinion, played out perfectly (for the most part). Nothing is rushed between any of the couples and it is just so realistic, something that you don’t often see in relationships in young adult books.
    By the end of Crooked Kingdom, I definitely wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Kaz, Inej, Jesper, Wylan, Nina and Matthias. However, if I had to say goodbye to them, the ending of this book was definitely the best way to do so. I won’t go into detail, but the second to last chapter left me with happy-tears pouring down my face in the middle of a packed train (a girl opposite me later asked if I was enjoying the book I was reading, and I think I sort of hiccuped in her direction. Hopefully that’ll be a good enough recommendation and she’ll be stuck into this series right now). I’m still kind of hoping that some sort of spin-off will be announced (Ms. Bardugo, I hope you’re listening), but for now, I’m just going to go and cry in a corner again and fondly remember my favourite gang of misfits. 

    *Angharad’s thoughts*
    Unfortunately for me, Crooked Kingdom was released during my biggest reading slump this year which meant it took me about twenty years to complete. I’m going to start off by saying I did not enjoy the plot itself as much as Six of Crows, however, the character development in this sequel was off the charts – both the characters as individuals and their friendships/romances. I thoroughly enjoyed the heist in Six of Crows as the whole book worked up to that one heist, whereas in Crooked Kingdom, it was about the gang dismantling various players in Ketterdam. There were a lot of twists and turns and a lot of things going on which is difficult to do as readers, such as myself, can enjoy some aspects more than others.

    The characters of this duology are probably some of my all time favourite fictional characters. Kaz, my super intelligent, beautiful, damaged crow boy who secretly cares so much about his Dregs but can’t show it. Inej, my darling Wraith with her beautiful Suli proverbs and incredible skill-set who is the kindest person ever. Nina, my curvy bisexual princess who is literally me when somebody takes away her chocolate biscuits. Jesper who will flirt with anyone with a pulse but is too in love with Wylan. Matthias, my blond wolf boy who spends majority of his time drooling over Nina (same) and finally Wylan, who is a golden retriever puppy in human form. Even Kuwei who the gang take under their wings. They make me so happy, they are all so damaged and broken and have had such hard lives but they come together and they understand each other, they work together to achieve the impossible and most importantly, they love each other. My little misfit children will always have a special place in my heart. I mean, Kaz is a morally-grey, disabled character, both Inej and Jesper are confirmed POC and Jesper and Nina are bisexual. The diversity in just two books is fantastic.
    There are three main ships in this duology and although they were set up in Six of Crows, they developed beautifully in the sequel. None of them were rushed and no couple were the same. The relationships are built on trust and are slow-burning. Nina and Matthias have a beautiful domesticity amongst the gang, completely comfortable in their love for each other. Wylan and Jesper just constantly flirt and Wylan constantly blushes but it’s the most innocent and lovely thing ever. Kaz and Inej are perfect for each other – two sides of the same coin and their slow-burning relationship (which made me happy cry in the end) has made them one of my all time favourite YA couples. I have to also mention the friendships in this group – Inej and Jesper having this beautiful understanding, Nina and Inej comforting each other like sisters and Matthias finding his home amongst people who he was taught to hate. Amongst the fast-paced plot was the Dregs and their trust in one another and to me, that was the heart of the duology.


    Show Spoiler

    Overall, I did enjoy this book but if I had to choose, I preferred the events of Six of Crows. However, Leigh Bardugo has once again put herself at the top of YA fiction – her writing is flawless and her characters are diverse. I have fallen in love with the universe she has created and just pray that she is planning on more novels set in the Grishaverse. For now, I’m going to go ahead and reread the Grisha trilogy whilst missing my Dregs terribly.

    Have you read this duology? If so, what are your thoughts?
    Love,

    Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

     

    + Angharad’s thoughts +
    This book is a collection of poetry split into four parts: hurting, loving, breaking and healing. It is combined with beautiful illustrations that I just want tattooed all over my body. I must admit I’m not usually a huge fan of poetry. For me to like it, I need to connect with it and I connected to this book from its first poem. It hurt my heart in ways I didn’t know a heart could hurt. I experienced everything with the author, every emotion, every revelation, every hurt. I hurt, I loved, I broke and I healed alongside her. Things got close to home but in a beautiful way. Rupi Kaur reminds us to love ourselves and love one another, to accept our femininity, to be okay with our broken parts. She encourages women to love one another but most importantly, for us to love ourselves. As she says ‘you are your own soulmate.’ A line so simple and yet something that we so often forget to remember.

    This book is important to me, I want to clutch it to my heart and thank it. It is honest and raw. It is eye-opening and it is addictive. I think every person, especially every woman should read this book. Rupi Kaur doesn’t shy away from all the parts that make a woman. The miracles our bodies can perform, the pain that we can withstand. All the horribly beautiful things that make us. I’m happy a book of poetry like this exists, written by a woman who has known pain but has also known healing.

    we are all born so beautiful
    the greatest tragedy is being convinced we are not.

     

     


    + Becky’s thoughts +

     

    I’ve been a fan of Rupi Kaur’s work for a while now, after seeing many of her poems on Instagram and always being to relate to them in some way. I’m so glad that I finally decided to pick up Milk and Honey so I could read more of her work – although I can appreciate some poetry every now and then, I’m not the biggest fan of it and I’ve never read a poetry book until now. Despite that, I’m confident that this was the best possible book of poetry I could have read. I jumped straight into this book and read it in one sitting, and then went back and read the entire thing again. These poems made me feel so many things, and many of them felt like they’d been plucked right from my own thoughts.
    Milk and Honey’s overall theme is one of relationships; from how they begin to how they end, and all of the hurt and healing that happens in between and during those two defining moments. It focuses on mental health, feminism, and emotional and physical pain. It looks at relationships within families as well as with spouses, and how the ruination of one could affect the other throughout someone’s life. 
     
    “If you were born with the weakness to fall you were born with the strength to rise.” 
     
     
    Have you read this book? If so, what were your thoughts?

    Love,

    Asking For It by Louise O’ Neill Review

    Thank you to Netgalley for providing us with a digital copy.

    Taking place in Ireland, Asking For It tells the story of Emma O’Donovan, an eighteen year old girl full of confidence and life. She is popular, beautiful and happy – and she knows it. One night there is a party and everyone is there but the next thing Emma remembers is waking up on her front porch with no memory of the night’s events. What follows is a series of explicit photographs surfacing on social media of Emma and what happened to her. However, like many victims of sexual assault, Emma isn’t believed and her community take the side of her attackers.
    (TW: Sexual Assault)

    Angharad’s thoughts:
    This book is important. This book is horrific. This book will make you angry. It deals with rape culture and the affects of social media. It shows us how much gets taken away from the victims and how half of the time, nobody believes them anyway. It makes you think of how many victims haven’t made their voices heard because they are afraid. Most importantly, it shows that no matter what sort of person you are, no matter what gender, no matter what situation you are in, rape is rape and it is never your fault.

    ‘I make my mind go blank. I am not that girl anymore. I am an It. I am a collection of doll parts, of pink flesh, of legs spread open for all to see.’

    For obvious reasons I know that going into this book, I was going to spend majority of the time being angry. I wasn’t wrong. The story starts with Emma being a very confident young girl. She’s beautiful and she knows it. She has many friends, she’s popular and she’s sexually aware. I really love that Louise O’Neill wrote Emma like this. Yes, she was sexually active, confident and beautiful but does that mean she was asking to get raped? Absolutely not. The only complaint I have with the beginning of this book is that there are a lot of characters, who are all named. This made it difficult during the party scene because there were so many names floating about. I got quite confused but this was such a minor annoyance that I couldn’t mark the book down. 

    The second half of this book was heartbreaking, especially when the story continues a year after the event. Emma is a completely different person – she has been ostracised by all her friends and the entire community, she has stopped going to school, her family is falling apart and Emma herself is just an empty shell. She keeps having invasive thoughts, she still blames herself. This is not an easy book, it hasn’t got a happy ending, it hasn’t even got a ‘satisfactory’ ending but it’s realistic. This is happening all over the world and whether it’s in the media or not, it is too common. It makes me angry to read these books but I feel a need to so I can spread the word. 

    ‘My body is not my own any more. They have stamped their names all over it.’


    Becky’s thoughts:
    Honestly, I really struggled with this book.

    I’m not saying that because I disliked it (as you can probably tell from the five stars that I gave it) but because it was just so painfully true to life that I really felt for Emma, the main character, and it hit me hard how the plot of this book could easily be the reality of so many girls around the world right now. 

    Asking For It tells the story of Emma, a young, confident Irish girl, and what happens to her one night when she goes to a party. When she wakes up the next day with no memory of what happened or how she got home, photos from the night before begin to circulate the internet and accusations and rumours start to spread. Emma is the victim of the situation, but in the eyes of her community, she becomes the perpetrator. 
    (How many boys?)
    (What were you wearing?)
    (How much did you have to drink?)

    Asking For It is a must read. It delves into rape culture, slut shaming, and the dangers of social media in a way that I’ve rarely seen done in a novel before. I cannot emphasise the importance of this book. 

    I thought it was intriguing how the author almost tries to turn the reader against Emma in the beginning of the book, emphasising her self confidence and her need to be the most beautiful girl in town, as well as bringing up her sex life. It brings up the question of, despite the way Emma acted or dressed, was she still asking to be raped? Of course she wasn’t.
    I had liked it before. I had encouraged them.
    (Maybe I had been asking for it.)

    I almost knocked a star off my rating for this book, purely because I was dissatisfied with the ending, but then I realised – that’s not what this book is about. Despite using a fictional situation with fictional characters, this book tells a true story of possibly millions of girls, so many of whom would have been dissatisfied with the ending to the story of their trauma. 

    As Louise O’Neill states in the afterword:
    We need to talk about rape. We need to talk about consent. We need to talk about victim-blaming and slut shaming and the double standards we place upon our young men and women. We need to talk and talk and talk until the Emmas of this world feel supported and understood. Until they feel like they are believed.


    Have you read this book? What were your thoughts? 
    Let us know in the comments below!
    Love,

    The Summer That Melted Everything Review & Interview

    (We were kindly asked to give an honest review by the author, Tiffany McDaniel. Thank you to both her and Netgalley for providing us with a copy.)

    This is what I thought he’d be. A spectacular fright. I was wrong. I had made the mistake of hearing the word devil and immediately imagined horns. But did you know that in Wisconsin, there is a lake, a wondrous lake, called the Devil? In Wyoming, there is a magnificent intrusion of rock named after the same. There is even the most spectacular breed of praying mantis known as the devil’s flower. And a flower, in the genus Crocosmia, known simply as Lucifer?

     

    Why, upon hearing the word devil, did I just imagine the monster? Why did I fail to see a lake? A flower growing by that lake? A mantis praying on the very top of a rock?’

    Becky’s thoughts:

    Wow. The Summer That Melted Everything is absolutely unlike anything I’ve read before – this book blew me away. You may see the title and immediately think that this is a warm, light-hearted YA contemporary. If you did think that, you probably couldn’t be more wrong. The Summer That Melted Everything is deep, dark and gritty; it’s filled with suspense and delves into some important issues (specifically religious extremism, racism and homophobia amongst others) which are still so relevant today despite the book mostly being set in the 1980’s.
    The plot centres around Fielding Bliss’s reminiscences of the summer of 1984 – the year when his Father invited the devil to their town of Breathed, Ohio. At the beginning of the summer, Sal turns up, claiming to have answered this invitation, and brings the blistering heat with him. He almost instantly becomes the fifth member of the Bliss family, but not all citizens of Breathed are as welcoming towards him. The heat begins to take it’s toll, and although the town may not have expected the devil to look like a thirteen year old boy, they begin to believe that appearances can be deceptive.
    So many mysteries surrounded this book whilst I was reading, and many still do – who was Sal, really? Could the events of summer 1984 in Breathed, Ohio have been avoided if he hadn’t turned up on the Bliss’s porch, or if Autopsy Bliss hadn’t invited the devil to the town in the first place? Last but not least, why was Sal so obsessed with ice cream?

    I thought that the way social issues were used, in comparison to the mindset of many in the 1980’s, worked so well. Sal is subjected to so much racism throughout this book, and the citizens of the small town of Breathed compare his race to his claims of being the devil from the very beginning. Despite the devil being a thirteen year old boy, the members of the growing cult within the community are able to demonise him because of the colour of his skin.
     
    ‘To them, Sal was just a black boy who by calling himself devil was personifying the white mans claim.’
     
    I can’t express how perfectly this book was written. Not only the plot and the characters, but the writing itself flowed so well throughout the book, and I couldn’t put it down. Each sentence was like it’s own small poem and the metaphors worked so well. I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of this book from reading it once, and I can’t wait to read it over and over again to uncover more of the secrets that are hidden throughout it. Overall, The Summer That Melted Everything is such a darkly beautiful book – in my opinion, it’s the perfect debut, and I feel so honoured to have been able to read it.
    Angharad’s thoughts:
    I went into this book without having a clue what it was about. I usually hate doing that but in this case, it worked in my favour because it isn’t usually a book I would think about picking up. This novel tells the story of Fielding Bliss as he reminisces and tells the story of his summer in Breathing, Ohio, 1984. That is the year he became friends with the devil. 
    I wouldn’t even know what genre to fit this book into. Adult fiction? Magic realism? Historical Fiction? All I know is that from the first page, I was hooked. It has some heavy themes such as racism, homophobia, religious extremism and mob mentality but it still entwines itself with some happy moments between family and also what it means to be family. The Bliss family accept the devil (A.K.A, Sal) as their own and this leaves us with the age old question, why do we assume the devil is the bad guy? What if he’s just a young boy with a love for ice cream. Fielding tells his story as an old man, scared of letting people close to him, he tells the story of his brother Sal, the devil in dirty overalls. Grand, his brother struggling with his sexuality. His mother who is afraid of the rain and his father, Autopsy who invites the devil in the first place. The familial relationships in this book were perfect. Fielding who is as much in love with his big brother as it is possible for a young boy to be. Stella and Autopsy who protect and love Sal despite everything. Sal who helps Stella leave her house and to not be scared of the rain. It is so important to read a novel in which a love between a family is this strong.
    What amazed me most whilst reading this is the writing itself. Tiffany McDaniel writes as though she was born with poetry in her veins. Everything flows, everything is a metaphor, she makes the horrible beautiful. Each chapter starts with an excerpt from Milton’s Paradise Lost.Everything ties together through her beautiful writing. I would read anything written by her hand. Simple lines that cut you deep and make you wonder why you’ve never constructed a sentence like that yourself: ‘Granny was my first loss, my first emptying.’
    Fire burned throughout the entire novel, from start to finish. This is not a happy book and it certainly doesn’t end happily. This is the story of a summer in which the heat took everything. Nobody left unscathed. It shows us that we are all capable of monstrous acts, sometimes monstrous acts which are necessary. My heart ached for some characters and my blood boiled because of others. I felt every emotion reading this book and I would recommend it to anybody. I’ve never read a book like this and I’m so glad that I was given the opportunity to. 
    Overall, Tiffany McDaniel managed to write a book with such heavy themes that it could have failed but instead she wrote a book with a whimsical, yet dark feel and at the centre, this beautiful family who love each other, faults and all. The devil really is in the details of this book. I want to read it again. I want its words tattooed on my skin. Congratulations to Tiffany on this spectacular debut that will live with me for a very long time.
     
    We also got the amazing opportunity to interview the brains behind this beautiful novel. 
     
    The familial relationships in this novel were very strong, even to the point that the Bliss family immediately accepts Sal as one of their own. Did you purposefully set out to write a book with a family being at the heart of it?
     
    When I wrote the first line in the novel, I didn’t think family would end up being the heart of the story.  I thought this is a story that is going to invite attachment from the town and beyond.  I thought it was going to be a story where the events were shaping people at a national, if not worldly stage.  But then it came back to the Bliss family.  The story really doesn’t exist without them and their bond.  The father, the mother, the sons, and Sal included in that.  Family became the answer to the opposing side.  Family became that which bore the brunt of the events, but it is also that which made the events matter.  Family is the universal statement of love, after all.  
    What inspired you to write about the devil? More specifically, a devil who isn’t monstrous and goes against its stereotypes?
    I always say the characters themselves inspire me.  They feel very real to me.  As if they exist and in some other plane or bend of the universe I may one day be able to touch them and feel them touch back.  So I didn’t have a plan to write about the devil.  Sal came along and really made that a reality.  I didn’t want a devil who was stereotypical.  We know that story already.  We know how that story begins and ends.  If I was going to write about the devil, that devil was going to be someone who broke the stereotypes.  We’ve seen the monster before.  It’s time to see what else there is.
    Unfortunately, I wasn’t born until the late 90s so I have no personal knowledge of this time and yet I felt nostalgic for a place I’ve never been. Was this story always going to take place in the 80s? 
    When I thought of the time period this story would take place in, I immediately thought of the 1980s.  To me it always seems like the 80s were a decade-long summer with its neon colors, big hair, and big ambitions.  Maybe this is a stereotype of the decade.  I was born in 1985, so I can’t attest to how true this really is, but there really is no other time for the story to take place in.  The 1980s is that summer’s true home. 
    Why did you choose to start each chapter with an excerpt from Paradise Lost? Did this work inspire the story or did you add it later?
    I was thinking of how I wanted to begin my chapters, because I always title chapters in my novels.  And Milton’s epic poem immediately came to mind.  I had read it for the first time in my early twenties in college.  It’s one of the works I was immediately attracted to because it was about that which has always fascinated me, that being the fall and the balance between good and evil.  I can only hope that my inclusion of the quotes in my novel would make Milton proud.  I only hope I have done right by him and his words, which far surpass my own.
    I love that Sal was a POC. Did you always see him as such? Do you think his story would have ended differently if he hadn’t of been?
    I did always see Sal that way.  When he appeared in my mind, he did so incredibly clear in his overalls and with his bruises, his dark skin and green eyes.  I always say my characters are themselves.  I’d like to say I created Sal, but I feel like he just existed and I’m the vessel through which his story is brought into our world.  If Sal hadn’t of been who he was, his story and really everybody else’s story would have without a doubt ended differently.  Sal was what happens when we lose to our own ignorance and when racism wins.  
    The one question we all want to know the answer to. Why did Sal want ice cream so much?
    This is so difficult to answer without giving spoilers away, but a little hint: Think of Elohim and what he was doing.  Sal was not really asking for ice cream when he asked for ice cream.  He was saying something much bigger about the reasons for the melt, and the melt yet to come.
    And finally, if your readers could take one thing away from this book, a message or a moral, what would it be?
    That we are only as godly as the love we give.  We are only as devilish as the hate we spread.      
     
    *This novel will be published on July 26th, 2016*

    Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas

    “Wouldn’t we all look guilty, if someone searched hard enough?”


    Dangerous Girls is a contemporary mystery thriller. It’s the story of Anna, a girl who is away in Aruba for Spring Break with a group of friends, when one morning they find her best friend Elise stabbed to death in her room. Anna is immediately labelled as the prime suspect. The book follows Anna’s desperate attempts to prove her innocence, and as the mystery is unravelled further, it grows clear that some members of the group are hiding things from the night of Elise’s murder… 


    Angharad:



    Okay, I just read this book in one sitting and now my eyeball hurts. I am in too much shock to form a coherent review so I’ll do some bullet points. Okay? Good.


    THE COMPLEXITY OF TEENAGE GIRLS AND THEIR RELATIONSHIPS. Were Anna and Elise more than just friends? Probably. Does it matter? No. I think we will all have our opinions about the nature of their relationship but deep down, it is two girls with an obsession with each other. And obviously, if you’ve read the book, obsession isn’t always a good thing. 


    The entire justice system. I wanted to scream because it couldn’t be real but at the same time, yes it is. We see this happen in real life, like Anna says, it is all like a well-constructed play and everybody has their parts. It doesn’t always matter whether a person is innocent or guilty. Also the whole media coverage?? It really makes you think how much is real.

    Anna is such a complex character? I can’t get too much into my thoughts about her because she is just one big mystery but woah, her character was so amazing to read. She was so unpredictable and also relatable to me. 

    – Overall, this is a book that you will start and within a few pages, will become hooked by. I just wanted to get to the end (in a good way) so I could find out what happened. The novel includes transcripts, phone logs and even a floor plan which makes you feel so much more immersed in the story and trial itself. I haven’t previously read any of Abigail Haas’ work before but I definitely will from now on. I’m so annoyed that this book has been on my shelf for so long. 

    – Go and read it!

    – But prepare to have your mind blown!




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    Becky:
    Dangerous Girls is such a compelling read. I loved this book so much that I finished it in just a few hours – it drags you in and keeps you captivated throughout its entirety. I couldn’t put it down as I had to know who had killed Elise – I really couldn’t concentrate on anything else until I’d found out! Then, when I did find out, I was so shocked but at the same time, so happy. This book had such a perfect ending. 

    Everything about this book was so complex, from Anna and Elise’s relationship and what their possessiveness over each other entailed, to Anna’s character in itself. I loved the way that the story unfolded, starting with Elise’s death, and how the reader was allowed to see more and more of ‘behind the scenes’ and flashback moments as the book went on, as well as floor plans of the holiday home and other pieces of evidence used in the trial. It allowed you to form your opinion on each character and on who committed the murder, change those opinions constantly as the book went on, and then have your mind completely blown when you reach the end and find out that everything you thought you’d worked out in this book was a lie.

    I can’t recommend Dangerous Girls enough – I’m not always a fan of contemporaries, but this beautiful little contemporary mystery-thriller just blew me away. I can’t wait to read Dangerous Boys!




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    Have you read Dangerous Girls? Let us know what you think of it in the comments!