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.

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Flying Through Clouds by Michelle Morgan

A wonderful Historical Fiction YA novel set in Sydney, Australia in the 1930’s!!!

It’s not easy being a teenage boy growing up in the tough neighbourhood of Glebe in the 1930s. It’s even harder when your dream is to become an aviator, your parents are dead against it, and your girlfriend’s father is the School Principal. But Joe has even bigger challenges he must face and obstacles to overcome if he wants to achieve his dream. He has a plan and won’t let anyone stand in his way…

First of all, I would like to sincerely thank the author, Michelle Morgan, for posting me a copy of her book in exchange for my review. This book really touched my heart as I have a personal connection to a lot of the references made in the story. This story was set in Sydney during the 1930’s and it follows the story of Joe who is a 14 year old Catholic boy living in Glebe who idolises Kingsford Smith and wants to be an aviator when he grows up. Not only was this story set in the same era as my catholic Grandfather and late Grand Uncle, Joe’s friend shares the same name as my late Grand Uncle – Pete. They both loved cricket and Sir Donald Bradman and even remember the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932!!! Can’t say anyone in my family wanted to be an aviator though… But still, I found a lot of references to the 30’s and Sydney in this story that my family was able to relate to which made it a bit more personal experience.

This story is so well written and easy to follow, I would recommend this to fans of YA and is suitable for readers 12 years and up. Such accurate historical referencing throughout the story, it would be an enjoyable history lesson for a young audience. A book that brought me happy tears, this is one of my 2017 favourites.
-Annie

 

Heart of Mist by Helen Scheuerer

The first installment of “The Oremere Chronicles” this is a gripping fantasy series of epic proportions!!!

Heart of Mist is a dark and interesting tale set in a realm where toxic mist sweeps the lands and magic is forbidden, all Bleak wants is a cure for her power. Still grieving the death of her guardian and dangerously self-medicating with alcohol, Bleak is snatched from her home by the Commander of the King’s Army, and summoned to the capital. But the king isn’t the only one interested in Bleak’s powers.
The leader of an infamous society of warriors, the Valia Kindred, lays claim to her as well, and Bleak finds herself in the middle of a much bigger battle than she anticipated.

I found this lived up to its initial pitch – it really was an interesting and dark tale of a woman’s lonely journey through self-destruction, loss but finally owning her own destiny. An intense story that is action packed but doesn’t flow too quickly for the reader. There’s a great balance between an intense story line, well defined characters and action in a world of fantasy fiction. I am not a fan of e-books so this took me awhile to read but I really made an effort to read this as I found the premise to be very promising and the concept of the main character, Bleak’s, forbidden magic captivated me. Imagine having a power so forbidden because you’re in a realm where magic is forbidden and the only way to manage your day to day activity is through drowning your power with alcohol. I really enjoyed this book now I will find a hardcopy and re-read it!!! This is very well written and the world building was so well done it doesn’t bore you. If anything, it held my attention.

Many thanks to author, Helen Scheuerer for giving me an Advanced Review E-Copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

Convergence by Marita Smith

An ancient secret… A genetic key… A planet in peril…

For scientist Robyn Greene, her laboratory is a second home. Here she searches for the ancient gene that is supposed to enable humans to communicate with animals. After years of failure, she’s beginning to wonder if the gene is a myth. But when she stumbles across a strange genetic mutation, Robyn’s world turns upside down. In a race against time, Robyn must track down the individuals with this rare gene before the wrong people seize control as this ancient cycle is designed to keep the Earth in balance – in the wrong hands, it could be chaos.

I really enjoyed this book as I found it brought science/chemistry to life in the form of fantasy fiction but I wouldn’t call it Sci-Fi as it appears to be more than that (well to me anyway). This isn’t like anything I have read before. The premise and plot twists were so cleverly executed throughout this book and I found the characters interesting. What was also interesting was how I found myself anxiously following the plot to determine what happens next and in between the story, we learn about well-defined characters and their own inner struggles which did have a relevance to the storyline. Great world building and character development, the story moved along at a brisk pace and the structure kept me turning the page to the end.

A story about an ancient secret, a genetic key, betrayal and paradigm shifting discovery that could either make or break this world.

I highly recommend this book to fans of YA Fantasy – especially those who are seeking a unique read.

Special thanks to Harbour Publishing House for sending me an Advance Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

Blog Tour: Take Three Girls by Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell and Fiona Wood

3 amazing women collaborate on 1 amazing book.. This is a must read for all teens!!! It’s the ultimate Aussie Contemporary YA of 2017!!!

Take Three Girls follows 3 students: Kate, a quiet boarder, making some risky choices to pursue the experimental music she loves. Clem, shrugging off her old swim team persona, exploring her first sexual relationship, and trying to keep her annoying twin, Iris, at arm’s length.  Ady, grappling with a chaotic family, and wondering who her real friends are, she’s not the confident A-lister she appears to be. When their private boarding school, St Hilda’s, establishes a Year 10 Wellness Program in response to the era of cyberbullying, the three girls are thrown together and an unlikely friendship is sparked. One thing they have in common, each is targeted by PSST, a site devoted to gossip and slander that must have a source within St Hilda’s.

Who can you trust when rumour is the new truth?

While I was reading this book, I couldn’t help but feel thankful that I’m not a 16 year old in today’s world.. This book covered many issues teens face in today’s world but one issue that resonated with me was the aspect of cyber bullying and social media trolling. When I was in high school, yes bullying existed in the school yard which was bad enough but that’s where it stayed – in the school yard. In today’s world it creeps into cyber space where it effects the home environment and it’s also immortalised. Even if you were to pack up and move away for a fresh start, cyberbullying can follow you.
I felt this book is relevant, important and sends positive messages to all teens through a raw and funny means of reading about deep themes that need to be discussed – effects of cyberbullying, the sense of identity, friendship and even feminism. I loved the format of the book as I was reading journals and a story narrative. The dialogue was intelligent and humorous and I loved the friendship between Kate, Clem and Ady and regardless of how diverse they were in social status, background or current issues, the wellness program brings them together and it was just great to read about.
  A great book… A fantastic collaboration of 3 female Australian authors.. I would have to say this is the ultimate Aussie YA Contemporary of 2017!!!
Special thanks to Pan Macmillan Publishers for inviting me to be part of this Blog Tour and for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

Because you Love to Hate Me: 13 Tales of Villainy Edited by Ameriie

An awesomely unique compilation of 13 short stories written by brilliant authors from around the world and collaborated with influential booktubers.

I say this is unique as these short stories are from the perspective of misunderstood villains and are written by fantastic authors as challenged by influential booktubers. What I enjoyed most about this book was the short stories that were entertaining as well as the short pieces written by the book tubers when they challenged the authors to write a short story on various themes. The pieces were that good, I can see these booktubers publishing their own books one day. This was one anthology I struggled to pin point a favourite as they were all pretty good, I also found it interesting to see a villain’s perspective as it gives you an idea as to why they were ‘tipped over the edge’ and moved over to the dark side. I would highly recommend this to fans of YA or if any of the noted authors are your ‘autobuy’ author, they wont disappoint in this fabulous compilation. Once again, I didn’t read this from beginning to end – I bounced around various authors starting with my favourites (lol). It’s quite different and a lot of fun to read!!

Edited by international popstar, now writer, Ameriie, the authors who teamed up for this compilation feature: Renee Ahdieh, Soman Chainani, Susan Dennard, Sarah Enni, Marissa Meyer, Cindy Pon, Victoria Schwab, Samantha Shannon, Adam Silvera, Andrew Smith, April Genevieve Tucholke, and Nicola Yoon. The Booktubers: Benjamin Alderson (Benjaminoftomes), Sasha Alsberg (abookutopia), Whitney Atkinson (WhittyNovels), Tina Burke (ChristinaReadsYA blog and TheLushables), Catriona Feeney (LittleBookOwl), Jesse George (JessetheReader), Zo Herdt (readbyzoe), Samantha Lane (Thoughts on Tomes), Sophia Lee (thebookbasement), Raeleen Lemay (padfootandprongs07), Regan Perusse (PeruseProject), Christine Riccio (polandbananasBOOKS), and Steph Sinclair & Kat Kennedy (Cuddlebuggery blog and channel).

Special thanks to Bloomsbury Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.

-Annie

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland

Ever since Esther Solar’s grandfather was cursed by Death, everyone in her family has been doomed to suffer one great fear in their lifetime. Esther’s father is agoraphobic and hasn’t left the basement in six years, her twin brother can’t be in the dark without a light on, and her mother is terrified of bad luck. The Solars are consumed by their fears and, according to the legend of the curse, destined to die from them. Esther doesn’t know what her great fear is yet (nor does she want to), a feat achieved by avoiding pretty much everything but she keeps a record of in her semi-definitive list of worst nightmares. On a random day, Esther is pickpocketed by Jonah Smallwood, an old elementary school classmate and her first crush. It wasn’t enough Jonah pick pockets her, he also steals her list of fears. Despite the theft, Esther and Jonah become friends, and he sets a challenge for them: in an effort to break the curse that has crippled her family, they will meet every Sunday of senior year to work their way through the list, facing one terrifying fear at a time, including one that Esther hadn’t counted on: love

This book was interesting. I feel the author has grown since her first novel as like everything else, practice and experience makes perfect. This was a great mix of serious and quirky! The author did very well in writing a novel that confused me in the beginning (lol but in a good way) as I wasn’t sure whether this was a Contemporary YA novel or a Fantasy YA novel but turns out it’s a funky, quirky, contemporary novel that has a uniquely clever way of telling an important story. At the end of reading this novel I read the reviews and it was it was interesting to see how one particular reader interpreted the ‘fantasy element’ as potentially the protagonist’s overactive imagination – I guess I will have to let you as the reader decide. The way the story was told made me feel the author had very important issues she really wanted to raise awareness about but through a story that did not making the reader feel so overwhelmed or heavy hearted in the end. The pace of this book was stable from beginning to end – it wasn’t full action packed or info dumped, it just travelled along nicely but as you continue reading the deep, important issues arise. Issues such as mental illness, facing your fears and even self-harm are covered in this book which, in this day in age I felt to be very important for teens to read. The author really did well in using metaphors to describe these facets which made it all so real, even gave me a better understanding as I know people who suffer anxiety and depression – it painted a clearer picture. I have to say I did enjoy this book, I found it to be a clever story with funny dialogue but a frightening storyline. I believe this is more suitable to older teens and adults.

Many thanks to Penguin Random House for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.

Due for release: end of August 2017
-Annie