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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Author Interview: Tiffany McDaniel

I am so very thrilled to welcome Tiffany McDaniel, author of "The Summer that Melted Everything," here to A Bookish Affair today!

Tell us a little bit about "The Summer That Melted Everything."
The Summer that Melted Everything is about an eighty-four-year-old man named Fielding Bliss, who is looking back on his life during one summer in 1984 when he was thirteen-years-old and his father, Autopsy Bliss, invited the devil to their small town called as Breathed, Ohio.  Who answers the invitation ends up being a thirteen-year-old boy in overalls and bruises.  This boy calls himself Sal, a combination of Satan and Lucifer.  Sal’s arrival comes the first day of a hell-hot heat-wave that carries through the entire course of the summer.  This is not just a story about the heat, but a story of everything that melted in that heat.  Family, friendship, innocence, and even lives.  Puddles of all of these things melted down.  That is what this story is.  A man trying to survive ferrying these puddles, which to him have become oceans he must cross to once again find the bliss of his name.   
What drew you to writing this story?
This novel started out as a title.  It’s origin being one hot summer day in Ohio, where I felt like I was melting into a puddle of myself.  I always began a new story with the title and the first line and from there everything falls into place.  The characters become who they are meant to be.  The story carries through to its natural end.  I’m always drawn to the story itself.  Like a moth to the flame that is my laptop, waiting to type, type, until I have done right by these characters and their story, which really is their own.  
Who is your favorite character in this book and why?  
I always hesitate to say my favorite character.  But I will say one of my favorite characters to write was Grand.  He is Fielding’s older brother and really Grand is the older brother we all want.  The one who protects us and guides us through the fog of our own lives.  Seen through Fielding’s eyes, Grand is purposely pristine.  And yet his struggles are universal to us all.  Grand was a character I thought about longer than the others.  He journeys through the story almost like a ribbon flying in the wind.  And one day he gets caught in the branches of the highest tree where we can’t reach him.  Sometimes he felt like that to me.  Unreachable.  And in the end, he proved that way to Fielding as well.  
Can you tell us about your favorite scene in the book?
I have several favorite scenes.  One of my favorites is when Fielding and Sal meet for the first-time.  Sal is introducing himself as the devil, but their meeting really comes down to two boys meeting for the first-time in the summer-time and there’s an immense sweetness to their coming together.  Even though it’s the beginning of a lot of terrible things to come their way, it is also the beginning of their friendship and very much so, the beginning of them being brothers.
If you could bring three people (dead, alive, or fictional) with you to a deserted island, who would you bring and why?  

There are so many people I could bring.  I think my answer will probably change every time I answer this.  But answering now, I’d say I’d bring along Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice.  That character has stuck with me ever since I saw the movie as a kid and I haven’t stopped wanting to hang out with Beetlejuice and eat Zagnut bars with him.  Ever since that movie I’ve also always wanted my very own copy of Handbook for the Recently Deceased, and maybe Beetlejuice will bring a copy along to the desert island with him.   My second person would be Ray Bradbury so he can tell me about Martians and Dandelion Wine and the way paper burns at 451 degrees Fahrenheit.  Perhaps the two of us would go around and carve stories in the trunks of all the palm trees like I imagine writers on a desert island would do.  And lastly, I’d bring with me Sal from The Summer that Melted Everything.  So he can tell me again what it’s like to be fallen here from the sky, like the prince he is.    

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Giveaway Announcement!: Summer of History Giveaway

Hello! I wanted to highlight a great giveaway that some of my very favorite historical fiction writers are holding. You can win books and even a $100 gift certificate (to buy more books with of course). The list is really fantastic and features a lot of books that I've read. The giveaway ends August 1st so don't delay getting your entry in!

Still on the fence about whether or not you want these books? Check out my reviews of some of them:
 Ready to sign up? Check out the giveaway here!

Review: The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel

Title: The Summer That Melted Everything
Author: Tiffany McDaniel
Format: Ebook
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publish Date: July 26, 2016 (Today!)
Source: Author

What's the Story?:

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

Sal seems to appear out of nowhere - a bruised and tattered thirteen-year-old boy claiming to be the devil himself answering an invitation. Fielding Bliss, the son of a local prosecutor, brings him home where he's welcomed into the Bliss family, assuming he's a runaway from a nearby farm town.

When word spreads that the devil has come to Breathed, not everyone is happy to welcome this self-proclaimed fallen angel. Murmurs follow him and tensions rise, along with the temperatures as an unbearable heat wave rolls into town right along with him. As strange accidents start to occur, riled by the feverish heat, some in the town start to believe that Sal is exactly who he claims to be. While the Bliss family wrestles with their own personal demons, a fanatic drives the town to the brink of a catastrophe that will change this sleepy Ohio backwater forever.

My Two Cents:

Not only is the title "The Summer That Melted Everything" the perfect title for this week if you're sitting under the heat dome as I am but it is a great story! Fielding Bliss is young in the summer of 1984. An oppressive heat has settled over his mid-western town and his father has invited the devil to him. The devil comes in the form of Sal, a 13 year old boy who will change everything. And that is only one story line in this intricate and engaging debut novel (super impressive for a debut novel)! This book is literary fiction with a touch of magical realism and some horror elements thrown in for good measure and it is like nothing I have read before! 

There is a lot going on in this book. You have Sal the Devil. You have Fielding facing events that will lead to his downfall decades later as an adult. The heat itself plays a huge role in the book and then there is the story line of Fielding's older brother, Grand, who is trying to figure out his own life in the face of discovering who he is. There is more having to do with Fielding and Grand's father who feels major regret over a case that he once pursued where he ended up being dead wrong and is now fixated on his guilt over the situation. I only go into what these story lines are so that you can see how varied they are and so you can understand my amazement at how deftly McDaniel is able to put these story lines together and keep them flowing. Each story line is robust enough to stand on its own but tied together, it becomes something really special! In less talented hands, this could have just been a mess of too much going on but the way that McDaniel weaves everything together creates a story that is truly unique and so powerful.

Not only is the storytelling good, the writing is good as well! The book is told from the perspective of Fielding through different ages and periods in his life. I liked how the author showed the progression of Fielding from a very typically hopeful child to a broken grown man. Some of the turns of phrase used in the book were both thought provoking and beautiful. 

This book definitely has me anxious for what the future holds for Tiffany McDaniel! She is definitely already on my "to watch" list!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Review: Don't Tell Me You're Afraid by Giuseppe Catozzella

Title: Don't Tell Me You're Afraid 
Author: Giuseppe Catozzella
Format: ARC
Publisher: Penguin Press
Publish Date: August 2, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "At eight years of age, Samia lives to run. She shares her dream with her best friend and neighbor, Ali, who appoints himself her "professional coach." Eight-year-old Ali trains her, times her, and pushes her to achieve her goals. For both children, Samia's running is the bright spot in their tumultuous life in Somalia. She is talented, brave, and determined to represent her country in the Olympic Games, just like her hero, the great Somali runner Mo Farah.

For the next several years, Samia and Ali train at night in a deserted stadium as war rages and political tensions continue to escalate. Despite the lack of resources, despite the war, and despite all of the restrictions imposed on Somali women, Samia becomes a world-class runner. As a teenager, she is selected to represent her country at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She finishes last in her heat at the Games, but the sight of the small, skinny woman in modest clothes running in the dust of athletes like Veronica Campbell-Brown brings the Olympic stadium to its feet.

Samia sets her sights on the 2012 Games in London. Conditions in Somalia have worsened, and she must make the arduous migrant journey across Africa and the Mediterranean alone. Just like millions of refugees, Samia risks her life for the hope of a better future."

My Two Cents:

"Don't Tell Me You're Afraid" is the novelization of the life of Samia Yusuf Omar, a Somali runner who competed in the 2008 Olympics and had her eyes set on attending the 2012 Olympics as a better, more competitive runner. Unfortunately, the story takes a turn for the worst when Samia is trying to escape her war-torn country as a refugee. This is an incredibly powerful book that had me cheering and crying! A perfect pick for the lead up to this year's Olympics, this book sheds light on the strength of the human spirit as well as the horrible humanitarian situation in Somalia.

Before reading this book, I had never heard of Samia before but after reading the book, I had a very difficult time seeing how her plight is not more well known. The book covers from her very young life as a girl training to run with her childhood best friend by her side in a place that is constantly under attack. I loved the way that the author wrote the book from Samia's point of view, which really allowed me to get into the story.

As a keen follower of world events, I thought that I had a pretty good grasp on what was happening in Somalia but this book shed a lot of light for me. It showed me just how wide spread and invasive the violence and terror of Al Shabaab was and still is in Somalia. It was very difficult to read these parts of the book!

This book was a difficult read due to the subject matter. The author uses Samia as a vehicle to give a human face to the plight faced by so many in Somalia. This was such a good story that ran me through so many different emotions. I know this is one that I will be recommending a lot!  

Friday, July 22, 2016

Review: Paris Nights: My Year at the Moulin Rouge by Cliff Simon

Title: Paris Nights: My Year at the Moulin Rouge
Author: Cliff Simon
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Waldorf Publishing
Publish Date: July 15, 2016
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "Paris Nights: My Year at the Moulin Rouge opens with a bored twenty six year old Cliff Simon staring out at the ocean from his beachfront house, wishing he was somewhere else. Gavin Mills telephones him from Paris inviting him to join him at the iconic Moulin Rouge. Cliff sells everything he owns, leaving Johannesburg, South Africa for the City of Lights. He learns that his spot at the Moulin is not guaranteed, and is forced to audition. Making the grade, "he is put into can can" school before he is allowed into the company. His adrenaline is pumping from excitement and fear, both of which he has faced before. Taking a look back we see twelve year old Cliff helming a racing dinghy in the midst of a thunderstorm on the Vaal River. His father yells at him not to be a sissy, and he brings the boat back to shore alone. We then travel to London with his family escaping the tumult of Apartheid. He trains for the Olympics, but drops out, enrolling in the South African military where he subjected to harsh treatment and name calling - Fokken Jood. After a honorable discharge, he works in cabaret at seaside resorts, and is recruited as a gymnast in a cabaret, where he realizes that the stage is his destiny. The memoir fast forwards to Cliff's meteoric rise at the Moulin from swing dancer to principal in "Formidable." Off stage he gets into fights with street thugs, hangs out with diamond smugglers, and has his pick of gorgeous women. With a year at the Moulin to his credit, doors open for him internationally and back in South Africa. He earns a starring role in "Egoli: Place of Gold," and marries his long-time girlfriend, Colette. On their honeymoon to Paris, Cliff says, 'Merci Paris for the best year of my life.'"

My Two Cents:

In "Paris Nights," actor and dancer (who knew?) Cliff Simon recounts his year as a dancer at the famed Moulin Rouge in Paris. He also throws in some other stories from his life throughout the book so the book is not all about the Moulin Rouge but more of a memoir of some key events throughout Simon's life. This is  a quick read that will give readers a taste of what it is like to perform at the Moulin Rouge, a place which has captured the imagination of so many over the years!

I have never been to Paris but if and when I get a chance to go, I would love to go see the Moulin Rouge. It has such a rich and fascinating history. You get a bit of a taste of the shows that are put on there in this book, which I really liked. The book definitely whet my appetite even more for getting a chance to visit. The book is mostly focused on what it is like to put on a show rather than the history of the theater or anything like that. I loved the detail that the author included about the performances!

The writing of the book is good. The storytelling is a little choppy as the parts of Simon's life that he chooses to focus on don't seem to be in any order. First, he finds out that he has a chance to work at the Moulin Rouge and next, he's talking about his childhood in South Africa. Because the stories were interested, I still enjoyed the book but I don't think that I got as into it as I could have with all the jumping around as that was a little jarring. Overall, this was an interesting read that could have been served by a little more focus.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Review: Jonathan Unleashed by Meg Rosoff

Title: Jonathan Unleashed
Author: Meg Rosoff 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Viking
Publish Date: July 5, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Jonathan Trefoil’s boss is unhinged, his relationship baffling, and his apartment just the wrong side of legal. His girlfriend wants to marry someone just like him—only richer and with a different sense of humor. He doesn’t remember life being this confusing, back before everyone expected him to act like a grown-up.

When his brother asks him to look after his dogs, Jonathan's world view begins to shift. Could a border collie and a cocker spaniel hold the key to life, the universe, and everything? Their sly maneuvering on daily walks and visits to the alluring vet suggest that human emotional intelligence may not be top dog after all."

My Two Cents:

"Jonathan Unleashed" is a quirky romantic comedy about Jonathan whose life is shook up when his brother leaves his two dogs with him to take care of. Jonathan isn't really a dog person but he falls for the dogs and the dogs open his eyes to the life he is missing out and may even help to find him a new love as his current girlfriend is simply comfortable but doesn't give him any passion!

Jonathan himself is a very quirky character. Throughout the book, he can never seem to say what he means, which I found a little frustrating. Eventually the dogs give him a little more confidence to step out of his comfort zone and find what will really make him happy. The dogs were definitely one of my very favorite parts of the book. I think the book speaks to the changes that animals can make in our lives so I think my fellow animal lovers will enjoy this one.

The writing style of this book is very unique. The author has a fairly clipped style, which worked really well for Jonathan's character. This style also kept the book moving at a good pace. The style also made me interested in seeing what the author's other books are like. Overall, this was a fun read with a unique style.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Giveaway Winners!

I am pleased to announce a couple giveaway winners tonight!

Jane Steele:

The Last Woman Standing:
Meredith M.
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