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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The Wonderling by Mira Bartok

A beautiful middle grade steampunk fantasy adventure story…

This story is set in the Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures. An institution run by evil Miss Carbunkle, who believes her terrified young charges exist only to serve and suffer. Part animal and part human, the groundlings toil in classroom and factory, forbidden to enjoy anything regular children have, most particularly singing and music.

For the innocent-hearted, one-eared, fox-like eleven-year-old with only the number 13 etched on a medallion around his neck and does not have a name, this place is the only home he has ever known but unexpected courage leads him to an unexpected friendship and the loyalty of a young bird groundling named Trinket, who gives him two amazing gifts: a real name “Arthur” like the good king in the old stories and friendship. From here, they embark on an excitingly scary adventure that will take them out into the wider world and down the path of Arthur’s true destiny.

This was such a wonderful book to read. So beautifully written and just so heartwarming. It brought back memories of my childhood when I embraced The Chronicles of Narnia – the friendships formed in the “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” as well as the characters and adventure. This is a middle grade fantasy fiction story however an adult can really enjoy this. A fantastic tale of courage, friendship and adventure with amazing illustrations that really brings the story to life. It’s one collectable you will want to keep on your shelf forever and a story you will want to read over and over again.

Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me 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.

Night of Cake and Puppets by Laini Taylor, Illustrated by Jim Di Bartolo

The Ultimate Novella to the number one best seller: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton (Hachette, Australia)

In this book, Laini Taylor brings to life a night only hinted at in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy — the magical first date of fan-favorites Zuzana and Mik. A story told in alternating perspectives, first following Zuzana who really wants to talk to Mik, aka “The Violin Boy”  and does so by leaving a wonderfully elaborate treasure hunt of a plan that will take Mik all over Prague on a cold winter’s night before finally leading him to the treasure: Zuzana herself!!

I really enjoyed this book, I felt it was like a prequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone but in fact, it’s a non-cliche story about Zuzana and Mik’s first meeting. I found this to be a cleverly executed short story with dual perspective, elements of creepy puppets, gothic magic and amazingly detailed architecture. A lot of fun to read and very easy for me to lose myself into. The illustrations were absolutely brilliant, they were so creative and really brought the story to life throughout the book. I also LOVED the independent graphic novel scene from Daughter of Smoke of Bone.

A must read for the fans of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series!!!

-Annie

 

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

BOOK 1 of the Hex Hall Series

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It’s gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie’s estranged father—an elusive European warlock—only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

My review
If you love Harry Potter then you’ll love this book and will be up until 3am in the morning not wanting to put it down just like I did! Sophie just like Harry Potter grew up in the human world and well it’s an interesting twist with the boarding school she ends up going to where it’s more like juvie for the supernatural, but the things is that Sophie actually doesn’t know how to do any magic yet. Follow on her journey to making friends, making enemies, getting into trouble, saving her friend, dealing with a boy crush on someone she can’t have and let’s not forget the evil groups that want her and her school mates dead. A fun filled series that I’m eager to keep reading about.

Recomendation
I’m going to say ages 8 and up but I think anyone at an age that can understand the imaginary and loves books about magic will love this book. Also great for Harry Potter fans who love stories about teenage witches and even twilight fans will enjoy the vamipire and other mythical beings elements in this book.

– Crystal

Moon Called by Patricia Griggs

Mercy Thompson Series – Book 1

Mercedes Thompson, aka Mercy, is a talented Volkswagen mechanic living in the Tri-Cities area of Washington. She also happens to be a walker, a magical being with the power to shift into a coyote at will. Mercy’s next-door neighbor is a werewolf.

Her former boss is a gremlin. And she’s fixing a bus for a vampire. This is the world of Mercy Thompson, one that looks a lot like ours but is populated by those things that go bump in the night. And Mercy’s connection to those things is about to get her into some serious hot water.

A slow and steady start which slowly but surely drags you in. A great way to start a series.

There’s some action, magic, fae, and other magical creatures.

The main character is a mechanic and she’ll hold her ground when she needs too. And fight (beware when she starts to fight, you won’t expect it coming).

-Meredith

Red-Haired Stepchild by Jaye Wells

Sabine Kane Series – Book 1

In a world where being of mixed-blood is a major liability, Sabina Kane has the only profession fit for an outcast: assassin. But, her latest mission threatens the fragile peace between the vampire and mage races and Sabina must scramble to figure out which side she’s on. She’s never brought her work home with her—until now. This time, it’s personal…

The acknowledgments and the extras at the end of books are starting to be a major pain in the backside, for me. It leads me into believing that there is more chapters to the story.

Throughout ‘Red-Headed Stepchild’ I kept wishing that I was either beside Sabina to help her out or that I was her.

All I’ve got to do now is to wait for the bookstores to open later this morning (which will be in about 10 hours).

-Meredith