Excerpt and Book Review: By A Charm and A Curse by Jamie Questell

Excerpt and Book Review: By A Charm and A Curse by Jamie QuestellBy a Charm and a Curse by Jaime Questell
Published by Entangled: Teen on February 6th 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 300
Goodreads
four-stars

Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic isn’t like other traveling circuses. It’s bound by a charm, held together by a centuries-old curse, that protects its members from ever growing older or getting hurt. Emmaline King is drawn to the circus like a moth to a flame…and unwittingly recruited into its folds by a mysterious teen boy whose kiss is as cold as ice.

Forced to travel through Texas as the new Girl in the Box, Emmaline is completely trapped. Breaking the curse seems like her only chance at freedom, but with no curse, there’s no charm, either—dooming everyone who calls the Carnival Fantastic home. Including the boy she’s afraid she’s falling for.

Everything—including his life—could end with just one kiss.

By A Charm and A Curse welcomes you to Carnival Fantastic, where everything “razzles and dazzles” but not everything, or everyone should be trusted.  This should have been the warning on the ticket Emmaline King bought as she and her friend Jules arrive to the carnival. However, even if it was, Emmaline is far too excited about the carnival to pay warnings much notice.  Her mom abandons Emmaline and her brothers with her dad for a year while she goes off on an thrilling investigation in Guatemala. At least that is how it seems to Emmaline, now stuck in boring Claremore, Oklahoma where nothing ever happens.

Soon after entering the carnival Emmaline is tricked by a strange boy and ends up inheriting his curse. The curse is what keeps the carnival “charmed” along with everyone in it. No one ages, no one gets hurt, but the price to pay is that the curse has to live inside a living being.

This person becomes the “Boy or Girl in the Box”, which is basically a human-like puppet that tells fortunes during the carnival’s open hours.  Now Emmaline must come to grasps with her new life, and what she will have to do if she ever wishes to return to her family and live a normal life.

MY REVIEW:

I love circuses, and carnivals, I always have. There is something whimsy, exciting and a little bit dangerous about them. Which is why I really enjoyed reading By A Charm and a Curse. Jamie Questell creates a fantastic setting with everything one could want in a traveling carnival. Her characters are vibrant and all have a very distinctive voice. Though I did want more back story on a few of the characters, especially Sidney.

The concept of the “Boy/Girl in the box” reminded me of those “Zoltar” fortune telling machines seen in the movie BIG or many arcades. I think they are a bit creepy, but it never keeps me away from seeking my fortune.  I loved this whole concept. It is a tragic thing to end up a Boy or Girl in the box. But even more tragic is to have the responsibility and guilt of tricking someone to take your place.

The story alternates between the POV of Emmaline and Ben. This works out well as we get to see how they each view the carnival and Emma’s situation differently. Eventually Emma and Ben have a love connection, and I am very happy to say that it wasn’t INSTA-LOVE. I really applaud the author for taking her time with their relationship and allowing it room and space to develop.

The main “MAGIC” in this book is the curse and charm that keeps the carnival working. I know this was an issue for some readers, but not for me. From the vivid world building to the colorful characters I felt completely submerged into Carnival Fantastic. As for the ending  I guessed it early on, but I credit that to all the YA reading I do.

By a Charm and a Curse is a fast, fun and entertaining read. I highly recommend it if you are looking for something different and whimsy in the genre of YA fantasy. Readers who like me love circus-y books and carnivals will revel in the world Jamie Questell creates in her book.

 Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an E-ARC of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Excerpt from By a Charm and a Curse:

Leslie smiles at the girl with a mixture of pride and tentative hope. “It took us a few days to get Sidney set up somewhere else, and I’m sorry about that. But this wagon belongs to the occupant of the box.” Leslie strokes the side of the ladder that leads to the door. “What you’re going through is terrible, we know it is, though we can never truly understand. It’s a small comfort, but we want you to have a place that’s just your own, a place that you can use to escape.”

A weak, wobbly smile lifts the corners of the girl’s mouth as her gaze roves over the outside of the wagon, a shadow of the smile I saw the other night, when she was with her friend. I wonder what it would take to get her to smile for real.

“What about Sidney?”

“Sidney can make do.” Leslie’s smile broadens into a grin. “Have you seen the way he’s been eating? I wouldn’t be surprised to see him waddle out of the cook shack one of these mornings like Templeton the Rat.” She dangles a small copper key from the end of a length of faded red ribbon. “It’s like I said—the carnival owes the person in the box. This is the least we can do for you in return.”

The girl’s hand shakes as she reaches for the key, and she wraps her slender fingers around it tightly, as though she’s afraid of dropping it. I lose sight of her as she steps inside, and all I can do now is hope she likes the wagon.

I turn to head home and feel the sickening lurch as my foot lands in a slick patch of mud and whips out from beneath me. I throw out my arm. A flash of white-hot pain flares through my hand, but I manage to keep my footing. I step out of the mud that had nearly sent me sprawling on my ass, unsure as to how I even missed it in the first place. Then my hand begins to throb.

A gash runs diagonally across my palm. Blood wells from the wound, filling my cupped hand. The pain sets in, a deep pulsing starting in my palm and radiating up my arm. I glance over at the trailer and see a splash of red smeared along a sharp flap of metal. I must have sliced my hand on that as I tried to grab onto something to keep from slipping.

Falling on carnival grounds doesn’t happen; the charm sees to that. But my bloodied hand begs to differ.

 

About By a Charm and a Curse:

Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic isn’t like other traveling circuses. It’s bound by a charm, held together by a centuries-old curse, that protects its members from ever growing older or getting hurt. Emmaline King is drawn to the circus like a moth to a flame…and unwittingly recruited into its folds by a mysterious teen boy whose kiss is as cold as ice.

Forced to travel through Texas as the new Girl in the Box, Emmaline is completely trapped. Breaking the curse seems like her only chance at freedom, but with no curse, there’s no charm, either—dooming everyone who calls the Carnival Fantastic home. Including the boy she’s afraid she’s falling for.

Everything—including his life—could end with just one kiss.

 

Author Blurbs:

STARRED REVIEW: “A dark idea for a YA story, executed deftly and with feeling.”  Kirkus Reviews

“A real page-turner! I was so charmed by this book filled with mystery and magical mayhem that I wasn’t able to put it down until the end.”Brenda Drake, New York Times bestselling author

“What a ride! From the very first page, By a Charm and a Curse took me on a roller coaster of emotionsand I never wanted to get off!” Pintip Dunn, New York Times bestselling author

 

Buylinks: https://entangledpublishing.com/by-a-charm-and-a-curse.html

 

About Jaime Questell:

Jaime Questell is a writer and graphic designer from Houston, Texas. She has also been a bookseller, a professional knitter, a semi-professional baker, and an administrative assistant. None of these jobs involved wrangling corgis, which is quite sad. She lives in the ‘burbs with her husband, children, and pets.

 

Author Links:

Author Website: jaimequestell.com

Author Twitter: @jaimequestell

Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jaimequestell/

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15396319.Jaime_Questell

Newsletter: http://jaimequestell.com/events/

 

 

four-stars

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