The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross + exclusive Q&A with author Leife Shallcross

Release Date: May 2018
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (Hachette, Australia)

“I am neither monster nor man—yet I am both. I am the Beast. The day I was cursed to this wretched existence was the day I was saved—although it did not feel so at the time. My redemption sprung from contemptible roots; I am not proud of what I did the day her father happened upon my crumbling, isolated chateau. But if loneliness breeds desperation then I was desperate indeed, and I did what I felt I must. My shameful behaviour was unjustly rewarded. My Isabeau. She opened my eyes, my mind and my heart; she taught me how to be human again. And now I might lose her forever.”

Firstly, we would like to give our special thanks to Hachette Publishers: Date A Book Team for an Advanced Review Copy we received at their exclusive Blogger Nighte and to author Leife Shallcross for being part of our personal read along journey and taking part in our exclusive blog interview. Such an exciting experience as we engaged in a read along with 2 amazing bloggers “Sydney Editor 1” and “Tien’s Blurb” who are also dear friends of ours and the author, Leife Shallcross herself! (Now a dear friend to us all) A lot of fun as we communicated spoiler free updates to each other and Leife sharing her writing experience and inspirations with us as we read along.

Our Thoughts
This was so beautifully written, I felt like I was reading a classical, melodic, fairytale with all the feels that really came to life in my mind!!! An amazing story that developed beautifully, fantastically well-defined characters, the author did such a great job in reimagining the tale that’s old as time and really took us deep into the heart of the beast. This is a story no one has heard before and a must read now. Beautiful writing and language, amazing characters you grow to love and a beast who I just want to hug!  Oh.. the love.. the feels.. for a first time in a very long time, I found this to be a book I needed to take a moment of silence for right at the end, it was that beautiful.
– Annie

This book is so beautifully written, you’ll feel the magic, the intricate storytelling, the love, all the feels that you can expect from a Beauty and the Beast retelling. I love that it’s set around about the 17th-century era, the restraint, the language and politeness all add to the charming storytelling. I love the characters, my fav has to be Marie. I’m also totally in love the Beast too as you’ll see everything from his perspective! This is a wonderful, magical and a timeless book and retelling. I only wish it came in hard copy as I feel I would be re-reading this book anytime I need to escape reality. There are so many parts that hit me right in the heart.
– NJ

Exclusive Q&A with author Leife Shallcross

What is the title of your debut novel and what inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always loved fairy tales (I use them a lot in my writing), and I particularly love Beauty and the Beast because the two protagonists actually get to spend time falling in love. But one of the big story problems for me was always the question of how you make a romantic hero out of a man who has done something so awful that someone was compelled to put him under a curse for 100 years. So I wanted to explore that. I also wanted to create a fairy tale world I could just sink into and lose myself. My novel is The Beast’s Heart, and will be published by Hodder & Stoughton (Hachette) in May 2018. It’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast from the Beast’s perspective.

What sort of research goes into writing a book like this and how did you come up with the characters for your story? Were you reading other books or going online to search how one may dress at a particular time?
I did a fair bit of research into the historical details. There were so many little bits and pieces that I had to tweak to make them accurate! For example, in France in the 17th Century, people were usually married on the steps of the church, rather than inside at the altar (I didn’t know that before I started!) I did a lot of my research online, but obviously this means I had to be a bit careful about using reliable sources. Contemporary paintings are a great resource for things like food, clothes and table settings, but I had to bear in mind these were usually painted to hang in the houses of the rich and convey a sense of their wealth. I used original sources where I could (like church registers for names – it’s surprising how many are available on the net). My characters are mostly the ones you find in the usual B&B fairy tale, but I have tried to give them their own personalities, motivations and story arcs. I’ve added a few extra ones of my own devising, though!

If your book became a film adaptation, who would you cast to play your characters?
Such a tricky question! Perhaps Aidan Turner for the Beast. Or Theo James. And maybe Maisie Williams or Lily Collins for my heroine. I think you’d need someone very striking to play the Fairy. Perhaps Tilda Swinton or Eva Green?

Are you a reader yourself? What is your favourite genre and your favourite book?
Of course! I read a lot of fantasy and sci fi, and predictably I particularly love fairy tale retellings. I subscribe to the belief that before you can be a good writer, you have to be a devoted reader. But how am I supposed to choose a favourite book???? Argh! All time favourites include Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne-Jones, Beauty, by Robin McKinley and Red As Blood by Tanith Lee. Recent faves are Uprooted by Naomi Novik and the Shades of Magic series by V E Schwab. I could go on forever…

If you had the chance to create a soundtrack for “The Beast’s Heart” what would the track list look like?
Here’s a few:
-Green, by Alex Lloyd
-1000 Oceans, by Tori Amos
-Heartlines, by Florence & the Machine
-Photograph, by Ed Sheeran
-If Time is All I Have, by James Blunt.

During your writing journey, what was the best piece of advice you were ever given?
Find your writing community (and it can’t just be any old writing community, it has to be the right one. Your writing community. Your tribe. People who are going to get what you’re trying to write.) Writing can be a very lonely business, and it’s not just about being a good writer. You have to know about the industry and how to be professional about your craft. I’ve learned so much invaluable stuff from the wonderful, generous people in my writing community (the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild). I don’t think I’d be here today without them.

Advertisements

Kidz Korner Round Up

With our passion for reading, we still engage in children’s books so we can continue to make book recommendations for parents and our younger audience. Here is a round up for our children’s reading recommendations!!!

Hugo Makes a Change by Scott Emmons and Mauro Gatti

Hugo the vampire craves red, juicy meat for every meal! But when his eating habits leave him feeling sluggish and bored, he goes on the prowl for something new. After trying fruits and vegetables for the first time, he discovers the joys of a more balanced diet. The story is told in rhymed verse accompanied by simple, charming, graphic illustrationsA fun read. Hugo learns what fun it is when you try eating new and exciting food produce. In his it was fruit and vegetables. Hugo also learnt not to judge certain foods by what they look like. I had fun going on the adventure with Hugo as he went exploring. A great read for those fussy little eaters!!! Suitable to readers under 5 years old. Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Meredith

Ivy and the Lonely Raincloud by Katie Harnett
Everyone loves the warm sunshine—except the lonely raincloud. No one wants to be his friend! But one day, he stumbles across a grumpy little florist, could she be looking for a friend too? In this charming tale, a solitary raincloud finds a way to make a sad little girl happy again, by using the very thing that most people dislike about him—rain! This is a picture book about finding friends that are right for you. It shows that being with the right friends can make you happy. An important lesson to surround yourself with people who make you feel good. Suitable to readers 6 years old and up. Special thanks to Walker Book Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Amanda

Swan Lake by Anne Spudvilas
The iconic ballet Swan Lake, the tragic love story of a princess transformed into a swan by an evil sorcerer, has been revered for more than a century. In this atmospheric adaptation, the picture book reimagines the classic tale of passion, betrayal and heartbreak in the dramatic riverscape of the Murray-Darling. This is such a beautiful picture book illustrating the classical ballet, the art work is so well done, a book where charcoal art speaks a thousand words. Very beautiful and flows so well, a book you would want to read over and over again. Suitable to children and families and recommended as a family storytime book. Special thanks to Allen and Unwin Pubishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

The Poesy Ring by Bob Graham
It’s 1830 in County Kerry, Ireland, and a gold ring is thrown into the wind by a young woman on a black horse. As the seasons pass, the little treasure finds itself on the most astonishing journey, finally settling at the bottom of a deep sea. Will the ring, inscribed with “love never dies”, ever fulfil its destiny, and find the finger of a woman truly loved? It doesn’t matter what form one might take, this book shows us that you can always have an adventure. Whether your adventure is sitting on top of a hill, in a field being plowed by a farmer, flying through the air with wings or even in the ocean – take your time and enjoy the adventure you are on. A wonderful read suitable for children ages 6 and up. Special thanks to Walker Book Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Meredith

Horses by Iris Volant and Jarom Vogel
The beautiful honrse has been part of us for centuries. These
iconic animals have been a part of human history–they’ve plowed our fields, pulled our carts, fought in our wars and been our beloved companions. Journey through the history of human and horse interaction in this beautifully illustrated book. A great and insightful history that captivates the attention of youngsters. Suitable for ages 5 years old and up. Special thanks to Walker Book Publishers for a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

“This is what good leaders do,” he said…”They make sacrifices for their people.” – The Last Namsara

Review (Iskari book 1):

What doesn’t this book have? This new YA fantasy series is just amazing, let me count the ways – fire-breathing dragons that love ancient stories, a cursed title and a lifetime scar for a childhood mistake, a dragon slayer trying to prove her worth, her betrothal to a cruel commander when she has given her heart to his slave… need I say more? I think this book got me hooked from the first page, and then the mini stories within the book just hooked me in even more. I was doubtful at first whether I needed another “dragon” story but this one was really good and it’s not just about the dragons. I really liked how the story gave dimensions to the supporting characters – like their motives, hope and their goals; the story also did really well in world-building like setting up the mythical history of the Namsara and Iskari, the slave system, the history of Firgaard and its connection to the dragons. I highly recommend this for fantasy lovers! Have you read it yet? What do you think? Comment below!

– NJ

Book blurb:

In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.

Special thank you to Hachette Australia Publisher for providing this E-ARC for my honest review.

City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson

Review:

Fast-paced and an action-packed read. I love a good revenge story any day. This young adult, mystery thriller is a really good read, filled with action and plot twists. The main character Tina is courageous and tenacious in her pursuit to avenge her mother’s death, which included joining the local gang and becoming a master thief. It’s a really great exploration of choices, identity, and doing the right thing. I think what I liked most about this book is that the story incorporated real and current issues regarding human rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The storytelling does not feel preachy. After learning more about the context of this book, it makes me feel sad that human slavery and rape still happens across the world today. I highly recommend this read for fans of mystery or those who like a plot-driven story that is inspired by real-life issues.

– NJ

Book Blurb:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Gone Girl in this enthralling YA murder mystery set in Kenya.

In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn’t exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill’s personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it.

With revenge always on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving on the streets alone, working as a master thief for the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job for the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving her the chance for vengeance she’s been waiting for. But as soon as she steps inside the lavish home, she’s overtaken by the pain of old wounds and the pull of past friendships, setting into motion a dangerous cascade of events that could, at any moment, cost Tina her life. But finally uncovering the incredible truth about who killed her mother—and why—keeps her holding on in this fast-paced nail-biting thriller.

 

Special thanks to Penguin Random House Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T Anderson

 

In a world where technology takes over and ATMs lead the charge!!!

An alien invasion story like no other!!!

When the vuvv first landed, it came as a surprise to aspiring artist Adam and the rest of planet Earth – but not necessarily an unwelcome one. But is it really an invasion when the vuvv generously offered free advanced technology and cures for every illness imaginable? Apparently… yes…

I found this to be a quick and very interesting read that takes a different turn on alien invasion stories!!! Normally when we read about sci-fi and alien invasions we think green monsters or intergalactic soldiers defending earth against the universe.. this however treats an alien invasion as a colonisation – and to be honest, I can’t see how different this story is from the real world!!! A world where robots will take over and ATMs will lead the charge to help the economy and automate literally everything!! So where does automation leave families? Following the main character, Adam who is an artist and is battling what he calls an embarrssing illness. He takes it upon himself to support his family in an age of high unemployment in light of this technological invasion and the only way to get ahead is to be part of this alien reality tv show. The plot was quite unique and the story was quite cleverly executed. I found this to be a very fast paced read, all the while thinking – actually, this is happening right now!! I recommend this to readers who enjoy contemporary with elements of sci-fi.

Many thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

 

One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake

 

(Three Dark Crowns – Book 2)

One Dark Throne is definitely a more fast-paced, plot-driven novel than its predecessor. Three Dark Crowns (book 1) was all about world building and character orientation whereas this second book is all about the action/fight between the sisters Mirabella, Arsinoe and Katherine for the throne. Their relationships with each other and those around them become more complex, there is more at stake and their past will come and haunt them. I’ve really enjoyed this second book in the series and each queens’ character development. I also like the fact that you don’t know where the story will take you. There are some mysterious elements in Katherine’s storyline in which I hope will be explored further in subsequent novels. Overall, One Dark Throne has got political intrigue between the Arrons and Westwoods, twists and turns in the fight for the throne as well as more demonstration of each queen’s special powers. I’m constantly torn between who I want to win the throne, my thoughts while reading this book is “why can’t we all just get along?” and “I will ask Santa this year for a mountain cat as a pet!” Happy reading everyone.

Book blurb:

The battle for the Crown has begun, but which of the three sisters will prevail?
With the unforgettable events of the Quickening behind them and the Ascension Year underway, all bets are off. Katharine, once the weak and feeble sister, is stronger than ever before. Arsinoe, after discovering the truth about her powers, must figure out how to make her secret talent work in her favor without anyone finding out. And Mirabella, once thought to be the strongest sister of all and the certain Queen Crowned, faces attacks like never before—ones that put those around her in danger she can’t seem to prevent.
In this enthralling sequel to Kendare Blake’s New York Times bestselling Three Dark Crowns, Fennbirn’s deadliest queens must face the one thing standing in their way of the crown: each other.

I recommend this series for fantasy lovers!

Special thanks to Pan Macmillan Publishers, Australia for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review

– NJ

 

 

Knights of the Borrowed Dark by Dave Rudden

First installment of the Knights of the Borrowed Dark Trilogy – A book you wont put down!!!

Denizen Hardwick is an orphan, and his life is normal. Sure, in storybooks orphans are rescued from drudgery when they discover they are a wizard or a warrior or a prophesied king. But this is real life—orphans are just kids without parents. At least that’s what Denizen thought…
One dark night, the gates of Crosscaper Orphanage open to a car that almost growls with power. The car and the man in it retrieve Denizen with the promise of introducing him to a long-lost aunt. But on the ride into the city, they are attacked. Denizen soon learns that monsters can grow out of the shadows. And there is an ancient order of knights who keep them at bay. Denizen has a unique connection to these knights, but everything they tell him feels like a half-truth. If Denizen joins the order, is he fulfilling his destiny, or turning his back on everything his family did to keep him alive

Once I started to read Knights of the Borrowed Dark, I couldn’t put it down. It dragged me right in. I found myself not caring that I have work tomorrow… I had to finish reading this book. I was not to move until I had finished it. Knights of the Borrowed Dark is well worth the read. I’m going to be tracking down the second book as soon as work finishes tomorrow!!!

Many thanks to Penguin Publishers Australia for sending me this review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Meredith