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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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

 

Secrets Between Friends by Fiona Palmer

“What is really important in this life?”

A wonderful page turner… A story of hope among family, friendship with a hint of romance…
You will laugh, sigh and shed a
tear.. or two..

A story of three best friends who embark on a luxury cruise and long-held secrets that spill in the confines of a cruise ship

 

Release Date: September 2017

Before I read this novel, I read that this is the first time the author had written something that was not a rural romance as it is set in the city and on the coast so I was interested in giving this a go as I’m sure writing this story would have taken the author out of her comfort zone. I also don’t normally read adult contemporary fiction so this book really was a nice change of pace for me.. and I was not disappointed.

This story follows besties Abbie, Jess and Ricki who are about to set sail on a cruise ship as they did when they were still in school and without meaning to, their secrets are exposed while they’re on their voyage. As the story flows, it explores such deep issues that I didn’t expect to see in a story – issues that are common among adults that everyone seems to take for granted – things like domestic violence, terminal illness or on a smaller scale, how adults feel when they are stuck in ruts whether in their jobs or social spheres.

Set in Australia, the story was so beautifully written and for someone who doesn’t normally cry whilst reading fiction, this story felt real – it felt like I was listening to a conversation among my girlfriends. I would recommend this to readers of adult contemporary fiction and if you are a Fiona Palmer fan and are used to her normal style of writing, I am sure you would enjoy this one too.

Special thanks to Hachette Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy + the cute novelty beach chair 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

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde BLOG TOUR

TIME TO GET YOUR GEEK ON!!!

Three Friends – Two Love Stories – One Convention
-FUN FUN FUN!!!-

Wow, this book was a lot of fun to read! It was so entertaining from start to finish, I virtually smashed this book in about 2 days! I love reading stories that are set at what I call “geek conventions” as I am big fan of pop culture myself so I really get wrapped up in entertaining reads like this one that follows BFFs Charlie, Taylor and Jamie who go to the SupaCon with expectations of an epic time but what they don’t expect is it will change their lives forever. I found it easy to place myself with the characters and following their journey in this book even though they switched from one character to another throughout the story. What I found unique and quite clever about this book was how the relationships between the characters were beautifully woven into the story and the strong representation of diversity within the characters. A fun, humorous story relating to strong friendships regardless of diversity and covers important themes through a positive story.


Here’s a quick Q&A with the talent behind “Queens of Geek” Jen Wilde!!

What kind of research was involved in writing Queens of Geek?
A lot! I spent hours and hours researching everything from lines at conventions to character stereotypes and tropes to avoid. I watched YouTube videos and read blogs and found twitter chats about writing different characters. I read up on autism and anxiety too, because even though I am autistic and anxious, my experiences are not the only experiences of it. I listened to what other writers and readers were saying about both harmful and positive representation and applied it to my work. There’s a wealth of knowledge out there for writers and I think I must have devoured it all, and still do. 

The book cover for Queens of Geek is GORGEOUS. How much of a say did you have in the final cover?Thank you! I’m obsessed with it! The designer came up with four amazing covers, and then Swoon Reads opened up voting so people could choose their favorite. This cover had my heart from the moment I saw it, so I was secretly hoping it would get the most votes, and it did!

Can you recommend a few LGBT YA novels you’re loving at the moment? 
Oh, it’s so hard to choose! I love Everything Leads to You, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, You Know Me Well, and Juliet Takes a Breath. I’ve also got When The Moon Was Ours, Tash Hearts Tolstoy, and Meg and Linus on my TBR.

Special thanks to Pan Macmillan Publishers for approaching me to be part of this Blog Tour and for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

The Diet Starts on Monday by Tamar Chnorhokian

Blog Duet by Amanda and Annie – both rating this sweet book 4 stars

“Finding True Love Will Taste So Sweet”
Zara is size 22 – has a secret crush on the hottest boy in school who happens to have a skinny girlfriend – Zara hangs out with her best friends Carmelina and Max and she learns some of life’s hard lessons when she puts these friendships on the line and goes on a diet to win the boy of her dreams..

Amanda:
This book transported me back to high school. The emotions in this book are authentic and I found myself experiencing Zara’s emotions along with her. Set in Western Sydney, it was a real treat to be able to recognise all the places and streets mentioned in the story. I also liked how diverse the characters in the book where, which is an accurate representation of Australia. This book will make you feel a range of emotions and explores a range of issues self esteem to finding out who your true friends are. It’s always a pleasure to read an Australian story and in particular, one that discusses important issues.

Annie:
This YA Contemporary read keeps it real.. I laughed, I cringed.. I was wrapped in this story an read it in only 2 days!!! It was interesting to see that this book focused on other youth issues that do not get a lot of attention – body image and weight obsession. The teenage years are a difficult time in our lives and many books have demonstrated the challenges teens face from socio-economic to cultural differences however this book follows the story of Zara who invests her time into losing the weight she feels is needed to get the boy of her dreams who incidentally – already has a girlfriend. While reading this, I kept thinking.. WHY!? if you want to lose weight – do it for yourself not for a guy!!! What I liked most about this book was the structure.. In the beginning, it doesn’t delve into a plot line straight away, it takes you through getting to know each character and how so well defined each person is. The dialogue was quite funny and it was a lot of fun reading a book that’s set in places I recognised – Western Suburbs of Sydney!!!

Read3r’z Re-Vu recently hosted a session with theme “Snack Time” that allowed members to review a book of their choosing that related to snacks or a favourite book they remembered reading whilst enjoying their favourite snack (or crave their favourite snack). The author of this book, the lovely Tamar Chnorhokian joined us as our special guest author. We want to extend our special thanks to Tamar for taking the time to talk to us about her journey to publishing her debut novel and for the great stories she shared with us!
Tamar, we hope to see you again one day soon!!!

Into the Darkness (The Dark Angel Trilogy, Book 1) by Kat T. Masen

4.5 stars – R18+ – restricted to adults only readers

What began as an affair seven years earlier has since become a tragic love story, a tale of two souls fighting to be together with only their love to guide them. But as people make mistakes, they find themselves once again reliving the past, asking the questions that have remained unanswered. Until Now.

Recommended for adults 18+ that enjoy a good romance story that has many twists and turns. This book had me intrigued from page 1 as it gave me glimpses back to where the romance started and the chain of events that lead up to where they are in their lives now. To be honest, I did get a little frustrated at first with a few of characters telling the story in their own point of view as it repeated the same events but I still could not put this book down. I was intrigued throughout the story and what was creative was the story provided snippets of relationships that eventually all comes together.

The book has a mix of dark secrets, hot steamy (descriptive) sexual encounters with lots of emotion, wit and humour. Yes, I laughed out loud while reading some chapters. Although scenes were descriptive, there is a plot that had me engrossed from beginning to end – I just had to keep turning the page to learn more and more about the development of the characters and what happens next. The moment I finished this book, I was yearning for book two.

-Lisa