I’ve got three reviews for you today: a YA fantasy retelling, a MG contemporary(ish), and a YA novel in verse. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!
A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
Series: A Curse So Dark and Lonely #1
Published by Bloomsbury YA on January 29, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retellings
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing; Violence)
An instant New York Times Best Seller! In a lush, contemporary fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Brigid Kemmerer gives readers another compulsively readable romance perfect for fans of Marissa Meyer.
Fall in love, break the curse.
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.
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.
Break the curse, save the kingdom.
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. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.
This book! So much perfection! Lately I’ve honestly been slogging through a lot of my reading. I’ve been tired and unmotivated and most of the books I’ve read have felt really long. I don’t think it’s been the books’ fault—it’s just the state of mind I’m in. And then I picked up this book. And I flew through it. Every time I put the book down, I was just waiting for the moment I could pick it back up. It was pure magic.
It’s hard to imagine a fresh take on the Beauty and the Beast story, but this one has so many nuances: First off, there’s the heroine with cerebral palsy whose condition doesn’t define her in any way–it’s just a fact about her (but that doesn’t mean it’s ignored). It is so incredibly refreshing to see this! Then there’s the concept of having a Beast whose been attempting to find his Beauty for a very long time, and he’s lost all sense of hope. We don’t have a Gaston character in this version of B & B, but the villain is truly despicable without being a caricature. And, of course, a slow burn romance that’s sure to enchant you.
Easily the best Beauty and the Beast retelling I’ve ever read, this book kept me furiously turning the pages to find out how the characters I’d come to know and love would fare. This is truly spectacular storytelling, and I can’t wait for the next book!!!
The Simple Art of Flying by Cory Leonardo
Published by Aladdin on February 12, 2019
Genres: Middle Grade, Contemporary Fantasy
Source: The Publisher
My content rating: MG
Quirky characters, plucky humor, and a heartwarming message come together in this big-hearted debut novel about friendship and the true meaning of family.
Sometimes flying means keeping your feet on the ground…
Born in a dismal room in a pet store, Alastair the African grey parrot dreams of escape to bluer skies. He’d like nothing more than to fly away to a palm tree with his beloved sister, Aggie. But when Aggie is purchased by twelve-year-old Fritz, and Alastair is adopted by elderly dance-enthusiast and pie-baker Albertina Plopky, the future looks ready to crash-land.
In-between anxiously plucking his feathers, eating a few books, and finding his own poetic voice, Alastair plots his way to a family reunion. But soon he’s forced to choose between the life he’s always dreamed of and admitting the truth: that sometimes, the bravest adventure is in letting go.
This is the story of a grumpy parrot who wants nothing more than to escape captivity with his sister and bring her out into the wild world where he’s sure they’ll both be better off. Alastair is endearing, even though he’s a cantankerous curmudgeon–mostly because his heart is in the right place. He’s spent his whole life trying to protect his sister, and you can’t help but empathize with him, even when you think he’s going about things all wrong. The story features some delightfully zany characters (both human and animal)–my absolute favorite by far is Bertie, the elderly woman who ends up adopting Alastair. And I enjoyed Alastair’s poetry, which is mostly based off of reimagined classic poems. The pacing in the middle felt a tiny bit slow, but the fabulous ending was worth it, and I appreciated the central messages of finding happiness in your current circumstances (even when they aren’t what you planned) and finding people who care about you in unexpected places. Overall, a wonderful middle grade read!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
The Language Inside by Holly Thompson
Published by Delacorte on May 14, 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Verse
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing)
A nuanced novel in verse that explores identity in a multicultural world.
Emma Karas was raised in Japan; it's the country she calls home. But when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, Emma's family moves to a town outside Lowell, Massachusetts, to stay with Emma's grandmother while her mom undergoes treatment.
Emma feels out of place in the United States. She begins to have migraines and longs to be back in Japan. At her grandmother's urging, she volunteers in a long-term care center to help Zena, a patient with locked-in syndrome, write down her poems. There, Emma meets Samnang, another volunteer, who assists elderly Cambodian refugees. Weekly visits to the care center, Zena's poems, dance, and noodle soup bring Emma and Samnang closer, until Emma must make a painful choice: stay in Massachusetts, or return home early to Japan.
This verse novel takes you inside the world of a girl whose life has been turned upside down. Emma’s mother is sick, so her family has decided to move back “home” to America so that she can recover with family around her. The only problem is America doesn’t feel like home to Emma. She’s lived in Japan since she was a baby, her friends are Japanese, and with the tragedy of the tsunami in Japan, Emma feels like she should be there helping to rebuild, not thousands of miles away.
I thought it was really interesting to see the world through the eyes of an “American” girl who has been raised in Japan. She feels Japanese in many ways, but when people look at her, that’s not what they see. She feels intimately tied to the people and culture of Japan but also feels like she has no right to lay claim to that culture. She never felt out of place in Japan, but so much about America feels wrong to her, even though people expect her to fit right in. It’s a perspective we don’t often imagine and a wonderful reminder that we shouldn’t snap to judgments about other people’s experiences.
The relationships in the book are wonderful, especially the tight relationship that forms between Emma and Zena, a woman with locked-in syndrome who Emma helps to write poetry. The romance is sweet and the close-knit family relationships are fantastic as well. I recommend this to anyone who loves a fish-out-of-water story.