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.
Love your review for A Curse So Dark & Lonely! Even though I’m not much a fantasy reader I am so, so tempted to pick this one up. I already know I love Kemmerer’s writing (I adored Letters to the Lost and More Than We Can Tell) and the Beauty and the Beast retelling aspect is a plus. Especially since you say it’s the best BatB retelling you’ve ever read! You have me so excited for this one!
If you’re a Kemmerer fan, I’d definitely give it a try. She writes all of her books with so much heart–it’s what draws me to both her contemporaries and her fantasy/paranormal.
Ooh, I like the sound of The Language Inside. The American/Japanese identity thing sounds like something I haven’t seen before. Great reviews!
Yes, it was an interesting twist on the question of cultural identity.
I am *this* close to reading the Kemmerer book, because I loved her contemporaries and EVERYONE is raving about this book. It’s outside my normal reading zone, but I am seriously considering it. I am intrigued by The Language Inside. That is such an interesting situation in the book, and I like novels in verse too. Great reviews!
If you’re going to give fantasy a try, Curse is a great one to do it with!
Read it Sam!
Yeah, listen to Lindsi! 🙂
Ohhh I’m so happy you enjoyed A Curse So Dark and Lonely so much! I’ve heard great things about this book lately and I’ve been craving a good Beauty & The Beast retelling and that one sounds amazing. I’ll have to give it a try! 😀
Oh, if you love a good B&B retelling then I definitely recommend this one!!
I just finished A Curse So Dark and Lonely as well Nic and absolutely loved it! I was surprised because Brigid Kemmerer is often a hit or miss author for me and I expected it to have been pretty bland. So pleasantly surprised! I fell in love with Grey. He didn’t see Harper’s cerebral palsy but viewed her as the strong and determined young woman she is. That ending KILLED ME. How the hell are we supposed to wait for book two? Loved the reviews Nic, really enjoyed them!
I was definitely surprised at how well this book captured my heart since I’ve had a hard time feeling fully invested in the books I’ve been reading lately. This one had me from the get-go and didn’t let me go!
I really want to read A Curse so Dark and Lonely! Reviews have been coming through and all of them have been glowing. And I love a great, refreshingly unique retelling. I don’t read books set from an animals point of view unless it was gifted to me, so I don’t think The Simple Art of Flying is for me but I am glad you liked it. And I would be curious to see from the perspective of an American who grew up in Japan as well, in The Language Inside!
Yes, it seems that the consensus is that Curse is amazing—glad to see so many people agree with me!
Ooh, I want to read A Curse so Dark and Lonely! I liked Letters to the Lost, so I was thinking of trying this one out.
I hope you read it and love it!
I’ve been interested but kinda on the fence about A Curse So Dark and Lonely, but I’ve been seeing some great reviews from bloggers I trust, so I’m gonna have to give it a try! I haven’t seen the disability mentioned much, so I’m glad to hear it seems like the kinda rep I like, it’s not the main thing, but it’s not ignored either 🙂
Yes, based on what I know about you, I think you’d be pleased with the disability rep. The fact that she has cerebral palsy occasionally affects things, but it never becomes the “thing” that she’s working against–it’s just a part of her that sometimes affects how she relates to the world. And there’s no magical cures or anything like that. 🙂
I’m so glad you enjoyed A Curse So Dark!! It’s easily one of my favourite fairy tale retellings now too…so magical and yet unique to the original too?! I LOVED Grey. But that ending sort of threw me for a loop. ahhh. This is apparently the year of authors loving giving us cliffhangers. ?
Very true. I’m definitely interested to see how it all plays out, though!
I’m so happy for Brigid and A CURSE. I hear great things about it and I have my copy. I’m excited to read it!
I hope you love it!
I LOVED A Curse So Dark and Lonely! It’s easily a new favorite. The storytelling was phenomenal, and I absolutely loved all of the characters. They were amazing, well-developed, and relatable. Everything was awesome! I’m so happy you enjoyed it, too. I cannot wait to see what happens next.
Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? ?
Totally agree! It’s the best book I’ve read in a long time and might end up on my All-Time Favorites list.
I really need to read a Brigid Kemmerer book. They all sound so good! Love the cover of the middle grade book. Will keep it in mind to share with the middle school librarians in the district. Great reviews!
Isn’t that cover adorable? I just adore parrots, so it was fun to see a parrot MC.
A Curse So Dark and Lonely is a book that I’ve been dying to read, so I’m thrilled to hear how much you loved it. I love Kemmerer’s contemporaries so I have very high hopes for this fantasy.
I hope you love it!
Just looking at the covers for The Curse…and The Art….makes me want to read them. Thanks for the bite sized reviews.
I totally judge books by their covers. I have no shame about it. 🙂
Enjoyed the mini reviews. Thank’s!
Thanks for stopping by!