A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

Release Date: End of January/Early February 2019

“We are all dealt a hand at birth. A good hand can ultimately lose – just as a poor hand can win but we must play all the cards fate deals. The choices we face may not be the choices we want, but they are choices nonetheless”

A contemporary fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast – none like you have ever read before!!!! 

“Fall in love, break the curse… Break the curse, save the kingdom..”

Rhen: It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope…

Harper: Nothing has ever been easy for Harper Lacy. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world…

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. Powerful forces are standing against the land of Emberfall and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people…

This was a fantastically, amazing beauty and the beast retelling!!! None like I have ever read before!!! I enjoyed the dual perspective as it was to distinguish both characters: Rhen and Harper. The story made grow to care for the characters very much. I have to be honest, I found Jake annoying, Noah to be lovely but my heart is with Grey!! From beginning to end, the story traveled and developed at a great pace. I loved how as we progressed, more secrets are unlocked and wow that ending – I honestly did not see it coming!!!

This was the first time I ever read a book either cerebral palsy representation and I feel it was written very well. I did a buddy read for this book with a dear friend who also has cerebral palsy and throughout the reading, I cross referenced what we read and she too agreed an individual with cerebral palsy was represented very well in this book. What I admired was how Harper, who is the character with cerebral palsy, did not have her condition define her. If anything, she is someone who just happens to have cerebral palsy. She is a very head strong, loyal and determined young lady above everything else.

I strongly recommend this book to all who enjoy YA fantasy fiction and story retellings. It is truly one of my 2019 book loves already!

Special thanks to Bloomsbury Publishers for sending me an advance review copy of this book.
-Annie

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To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

A dark tale you wont forget in a hurry

Princess Lira is a siren of royal blood and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. As punishment for this crime, The Sea Queen (Lira’s mother) transforms Lira into a human, robbed of her song and has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever. As for Prince Elian, the ocean is the only place he calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than a hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of the siren kind for good—But can he trust her?

This book felt like reading The Little Mermaid meets Pirates of the Caribbean meets Mr & Mrs Smith (yes please forgive me for doing that). This is definitely a dark fairytale retelling that is written very well and easy to follow even with the dual perspectives as you can easily differentiate between the characters as the story progresses.  It’s reasonably paced and what I enjoy the most is how steady relationships develop throughout the story among the characters. It keeps you engaged from the first chapter. I recommend this book to readers who, like me, enjoy fairytale retellings or love fantasy fiction stories set at sea.

Special thanks to Allen & Unwin Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Annie

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.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

To simply call this a fairytale retelling would do this story an injustice.. This is a uniquely, magical story in its own right…

This would be one of the best books I have read this year… A story of mystery, identity, magical betrayal and intrigue.. A story of one crown – two women: Mina, whose heart is made of glass.. Lynet, who is made of snow.. both brought to life by a magician the kingdom is taught to fear..

A step-mother/step-daughter relationship based in a kingdom in need of only one queen. At sixteen years of age, Mina’s mother is dead, her magician father is vicious. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees their king for the first time, Mina makes it her mission to win the king’s heart through her beauty to become queen and finally know what love is. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother to Lynet, who at aged fifteen, is the  splitting image of her late mother but one day Lynet discovers why… A magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order but rather than filling the shoes of her late mother, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. What started as a bond between step-mother and step-daughter may soon become a fight to the death for the crown…

 I gave this book a standing ovation. This story takes you into a whole new world of twists, turns and mystery whicht left me gaping, page turning and confused as to which character had my allegiance. This story had fantastic world building and was mildly paced so it allowed me to immerse myself into this new world as well as the character development but the suspensful plot got the heart pumping and captivated me to the very end!!! Such an amazing story and I highly recommend this to fans of fairytale retellings (although I find this book is more than that) and fans of YA Fantasy Fiction… This is on the shelf as one of the best of 2017!!!

Special thanks to Pan Macmillan Publishers for sending me a Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

The Book of Pearl by Timothee de Fombelle

Elegant and Sophisticatedly Complex

This would have to be one of the best books I have read this year!!!

A compelling story of a first love that defines a lifetime which is told with an intricate and beautiful writing style.

The main character who we get to know as the story progresses is Joshua Pearl. He is from a world that our own no longer believes in – a world of Fairytale. Pearl knows that his great love is waiting for him in that distant place but he is trapped in our time. As his memories begin to fade, he discovers strange objects, tiny fragments of a story from a long time ago that help in piecing his life back together.

What I liked about this story is how unique it was – the storyline and how it was so cleverly written.  As Joshua Pearl is trying to piece together his memories to circle back to the one he loves after being thrown from his own world to our world, I felt just as confused as Pearl but each chapter develops – each fragment, pieces together a puzzle that guided me to the next part of the story and so on, which finally came together with an answer!!! A tale intertwines fantasy with historical fiction finding you going through the stages of World War II. This was such an absorbing read.

I recommend this to fans of fairytale retellings, historical fiction and YA fantasy.
-Annie

Frogkisser! by Garth Nix

The Last Thing She Needs Is a Prince – The First Thing She Needs Is Some Magic

Advanced Review Copy Blog Duet with Annie and Sarah S. rating this book 4.5 Stars!!

Frogkisser!
Princess Anya is forced to live with her evil stepmother’s new husband, her evil stepstepfather. Plagued with an unfortunate ability to break curses with a magic-assisted kiss and forced to go on the run when her stepstepfather decides to make the kingdom entirely his own. Aided by a loyal talking dog, a boy thief trapped in the body of a newt, and some extraordinarily mischievous wizards, Princess Anya sets off on a Quest to hopefully free her land and teach her a thing or two about the use of power.

I have to say, I really enjoyed this fun retelling of “The Tale of the Frog Prince”. The story was full of fun adventure that would instigate the fright, magic and humour of readers of all ages. Frogkisser! starts out with detailed world building that really shapes your understanding of the protagonist, Princess Anya, rightful heiress to the throne, who, like me, would rather spend her days in the library reading and expanding her knowledge however she is approached by her sister, Morven, who begs Anya to help her get her beloved prince back once he was transformed into a frog by their evil stepstepfather who is attempting to usurp the throne. Reluctantly, Princess Anya agrees and what do you know – Princess Anya must embark on a Quest in an attempt to create a lip balm that will give Princess Anya’s lips the strength to kiss frogs back to human life. I loved the imagination the author put into creating such interesting human and non human animals and the way the land was built and told to the reader was so intricate, it really places you there. I also enjoyed the amusing quest Princess Anya had to endure – when focusing on one goal, she’s roped into several.  I also found the story brought back fond memories of my childhood and my love for Fairytales and elements of “The Wizard of Oz”. Frogkisser! is very well written, very imaginative with such innocent adventure, I would most probably read this again. I recommend this to fans of fairytales of all ages!!!
-Annie

Frogkisser covers familiar fantasy ground: an evil step-parent, a princess in a tower, a frog transformed into a prince, a fearsome creature in the castle moat and a threat to the rightful succession of the throne. Fortunately, Garth Nix takes these basic ingredients and transforms them into a surprising and whimsical tale, which thwarts readers’ expectations in nearly every respect. Our protagonist is Anya, the second-oldest princess of Trallonia, who is much concerned with her burgeoning education in sorcery and would like nothing more than some quality time in the library. Anya’s studies are sadly interrupted by a request from her sister (Morven, the crown princess on the cusp of coronation) to turn a frog back into a handsome prince, the result of their evil stepfather’s interference. What should have been the work of an afternoon unfolds into a much larger quest to reunite a divided kingdom and return civil rights to the people. The book offers strong growth of its protagonist as well as welcome and necessary representation of women in traditionally male roles, such as wise wizards, knights, leaders and heralds. Frogkisser is appropriate for audiences from 8-88 years, providing all of the magic, friendship, excitement and charming animal companions any child could ask for. The prose style also has shades of Terry Pratchett and Diana Wynn Jones, and with its many subversions of classic fantasy tropes adult readers will find much to enjoy here.
-Sarah S.

Special thanks to Allen & Unwin Publishers for sending us an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for our honest review.

Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige

An interesting concept I would like 3.5-4 out of 5 stars

A creative story line that made me think “Girl Interrupted” meets “Frozen” or “The Snow Queen”. The story starts in a mental asylum, where the protagonist, 17 year old Snow, believes she’s a menace to herself and possibly others however she slowly learns that it may not be a mental instability she is suffering but a power she possesses that’s being suppressed by those who are responsible for her. Trapped in the walls of Whittaker Institute, day by day Snow just feels she really does not belong there – she’s experiencing strange dreams and mysterious unexplainable events until one night, an orderly comes to her with an opportunity for self discovery and she has to decide whether to stay in this high security mental asylum or embark on a new adventure that could be the key to her life and possible gifts. 

The prologue captured my attention very quickly and as the story commenced, it was intriguing however I found part way through the plot appeared to be put on pause as Snow was going through her self discovery. Although I read mixed reviews on this book, I personally didn’t think it was a bad read at all. The mystery of who she is and other characters she meets keeps you turning the page.

This book is now available in stores.. Many thanks to Bloomsbury Publishers for sending me an Advance Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.

-Annie