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By a Charm and a Curse

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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.

300 pages, Hardcover

First published February 6, 2018

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About the author

Jaime Questell

1 book78 followers
JAIME QUESTELL grew up in Houston, Texas, where she escaped the heat and humidity by diving into stacks of Baby Sitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High books. She has been a book seller (fair warning: book lovers who become book sellers will give half their paychecks right back to their employers), a professional knitter, a semi-professional baker, and now works as a graphic designer in addition to writing. Currently, she lives in the suburbs with her family, one derpy dog, and one imperious cat. If she had her way, she’d have an army of corgis, like the Queen of England.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 259 reviews
Profile Image for Chelsea *Slowly Catching Up* Humphrey.
1,390 reviews77.2k followers
February 14, 2018
Sorry, but if you don't like stories about carnivals or the traveling circus, we can't be friends. Just kidding, but I do have an affinity for all things weird, strange, and entertaining. In 2016/2017 I highly enjoyed both Caraval and Daughter Of The Burning City, and this book felt like a nice blend of the two while doing it's own thing. I can dig that. I enjoyed this one so much that I finished it in a span of 36 hours; it was that type of compulsive read that begins as a slow burn (as most fantasy novels do), but then ramps up the pacing after the initial "world building" is set. By world building, I'm really referring to the carnival, as By A Charm And A Curse takes place in a contemporary setting, but the carnival contains a world of it's own. Once we see how everything works and what the rules are, it's game on.

"Jules, I can say with some certainty that never have I ever experienced a candy-induced joygasm."

"Then I can say with some certainty that you aren't living your best life."

Ah, yes. I know the writing won't be for everyone, but this book gets me. As I flipped along I felt a growing, kindred spirit in Questell; we have a similar sense of humor and I like that she didn't depend on a bunch of cheap sex scenes to sell this book. It's very much upper YA level in my opinion, as there's language and thematic elements that may be disturbing for younger readers, but she kept the romance very tender and soft. There was more of a focus on the longevity of what love expects of us rather than the physical, "busty and lusty" stage of a young crush. That's not to say I'm hating on the hot and steamies, simply that for THIS book and the flow of THIS story, I think the author made the right choice in how to portray that portion of the plot.

"The carnival is all I've ever known. I'd do anything to keep it alive. But everything ends, Emma." She turns her bright-blue eyes to me, and tears sparkle at the edges. "Everything."

I don't want to say much more, because obviously I want you to pick up the book instead of just reading all about it in my review, but I'd like to include that this novel is just as lyrical and dramatic on the inside as it is on that beautiful cover. Even though it was only around 300 pages long, By A Charm And A Curse gave the feel of a sweeping drama that took place over multiple decades. I thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in the atmosphere and love that the author blended a feel of historical and contemporary, or as I like to call it "histemporary". If you enjoy this feel of a novel in a young adult setting, please consider giving By A Charm And A Curse a try. I can't wait to hear if anyone else was holding their breath on the edge of their seat in the final chapters as I was.

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy.

Profile Image for Carrie.
3,039 reviews1,499 followers
November 15, 2017
To the casual observer Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic seems just like any other traveling circus with it's flashing lights, death defying shows and plenty of rides and games to entertain all who visit. But this traveling circus has existed for centuries benefiting from a curse upon one of it's own while the others enjoy a charm that protects them. All those who perform and work for the circus stop aging at adulthood and accidents never happen to their group as long as the cursed one stays in the box with the circus until the curse can be passed on to another.

Emmaline King has moved back to the small town of Claremore, OK to live with her father while her mother is away overseas working on a grant. Emma has had a bit of trouble adjusting to her mother leaving and trying to reform the friendships she'd once had in this small town but with the circus visiting she's determined to have a good time with her old friend. Things take a turn for Emma though when she's left behind only to meet the boy in the fortune telling box.

By a Charm and a Curse by Jaime Questell is a romantic young adult fantasy read. Once I picked this one up I simply couldn't put it down until finished with it's fast pace and unique story. The idea behind this traveling circus being charmed with the exception of one poor soul was a rather intriguing concept that I couldn't wait to find out more about.

The story is told by alternating the point of view between the two main characters of the story, Ben and Emma, both of which I came to like quite a bit during the read. One major positive here too is that Ben and Emma are not the victims of the old young adult insta-love trope, their relationship within the pages builds slowly as the action keeps a fast pace in the story around them. The author did a wonderful job giving the reader just enough at all the right times to keep the story moving and the pages turning Definitely would recommend checking this one out for those looking for something a bit unique in a young adult fantasy.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

For more reviews please visit https://carriesbookreviews.wordpress....
Profile Image for Jasmine from How Useful It Is.
1,217 reviews334 followers
February 15, 2018
By a Charm and a Curse – Review & Blog Tour

About: By a Charm and a Curse is a young adult fantasy written by Jaime Questell. It was recently published on 2/6/18 by Entangled Teen, an imprint of Entangled Publishing and distributed by Macmillan, hardcover, 291 pages. The genres are fantasy, young adult, romance, magic, and fiction. This book is intended for readers ages 14 and up. This book is the author’s debut.

My Experience: I started reading By a Charm and a Curse on 2/7/18 and finished it on 2/11/18. This book is an excellent read! Another circus book yes, but much different than The Night Circus and Caraval. For one, it’s modern. They travel from Oklahoma to Texas to Louisiana by trucks and trailers and make stops for gas. Dogs doing circus tricks and performers balancing on horsebacks. I like all of the characters’ personalities and their humor. I like their individual backgrounds that lead them to Le Grand’s. This book mostly reads like a YA contemporary and the only fantasy part is the curse.

This book is told in the first person point of view following Emmaline (Emma, Em) King and Benjamin (Ben) Singer. Emmaline and her friend Juliet (Jules) are browsing around Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic exploring the sights and the foods. Benjamin works behind the scenes on the carnival grounds and has been trying to save up enough cash to leave the carnival’s life for good. He wanted somewhere to call home and when he found it, it was where he least expected to be. Emma has a love at first sight for Sidney, the Boy in the Box when she first set eyes on him. She throw herself at him and ended the night with a kiss. The kiss is no ordinary and the curse is then passed onto Emma. She is now the charm and the curse that act as the center point to hold the carnival together, keeping everyone in it young and safe. This curse left her as the new Girl in a Box, without taste, feel, or smell and cold to the touch, among others. Being condemned to this curse is worse, but when accidents started to occur where it had never occurred before and everyone at the carnival started to blame her, Emma has to find a way to fix it before her life ends in far worse than a curse.

This book is well written and developed. It’s a great love story and the meanest form of punishment for cheating. I enjoy the plot and the characters. I like Ben being projected as attractive even with his glasses on. I don’t remember reading about any heroine wearing glasses so this detail is a plus! I like the curse and the charm concept and how it was originally created. I like Whiskey and Gin’s nicknames. I feel such an adrenaline rush when I know something will happen and just waiting for it to happen is nerve racking. Even though knowing what will happen, the ending still gives me a happy feeling and I highly recommend everyone to read it!

Pro: fast paced, page turner, easy to read, humor, dual POV, adrenaline rush, cover

Con: none

I rate it 5 stars!

***Disclaimer: Many thanks to Entangled Publishing for the opportunity to read, review, and host a blog tour! Please be assured that my opinions are honest.

Jasmine at www.howusefulitis.wordpress.com for more details
November 29, 2017
Story ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
So, i really had different expectations from this book. I thought it was something like Caraval or the Night Circus (even though i haven’t read the last one yet). It had less magic in it, so it wasn’t a book full of magic. Just a bit to sparkle things up.
In the story after a really exciting night Emma gets magically trapped inside of a circus. There she meets a lot of interesting people working in the circus and Ben who’s trying to help her get out of there.
It’s a really short book and some parts were a little bit slow, but in general it was a nice pace.
It wasn’t perfect, but good.
Definitely readable.

Characters ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I need to say, I liked nearly all the characters. They were so different and funny and I loved that to me they felt so human, so real.
They weren’t perfectly written characters, but i still liked them, they were good.
I didn’t connect to any of them, but I still wanted to know what happened to them.
So, as you can see, I’m a little bit uncertain.

Relationships ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Ben and Emma’s relationship was just so so cute. They had a really slowly growing love, so it wasn’t something like love at first sight.
It wasn’t too much ♥️, even though the drama was big at the end.

Writing style ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
It was a nice writing with some jokes in it.
I really enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Rusty Grey.
143 reviews1 follower
July 5, 2018

DNF at 30% (31% actually)

I wasn't expecting this from me . My first dnf book . Which has received rave reviews from many of my fellow reviewers . But this is not my cup of tea . It is just sooooo boooooring .

What is a charm and a curse after all . Aren't they just like pros and cons ? The only pro of By a Charm and a Curse is that it is a standalone novel (I couldn't even complete it) . And the cons . They are many .

I mainly disliked this novel due to its protagonist Emmaline . A fifteen - something girl , diagnosed with an infectious disease , which has spread like a wildfire since the post-twilight era , known as 'The Bella Syndrome' .

Especially , angsty teenage girls get afflicted with it . And its symptoms are - feeling of loneliness when moved in a small town(Claremore in this case) , and loathing towards it .Those of you who are diagnosed with it . Sorry . There is no known remedy for this disease . Only that people who have this get into a lot of trouble('cause of boys) .

This is no exception . When Emmaline goes to the circus with her friend Juliette , she gets frustrated by her . Reason - Juliette was trying to include Emma in her friends's group .

I see no problem there . If anyone shows me that kind of kindness in a new place I will be grateful to him/her forever .

Next . She meets some guy who spoke nicely to her . Therefore,she abandoned her friend and goes on a ferris wheel ride with the said guy . Alone! With a person she hasn't known for more than five minutes .

The worst is still left . When that guy offers her booze to drink , she accepts the offer to impress him .

HOW CAN YOU BE THIS NAÏVE ? Emmaline is epitome for naïvety . A perfect example . For all you know this guy can assault you (this is a very real and grave situation) . All this happened in the first three chapters .

There was nothing special or extraordinary about this book to hold my attention . So rather than wasting my time on this book I should give chance to the other books . In the age of sassy , strong and fearless female protags , the character of Emmaline is old-fashioned .
Profile Image for Alyssa.
1,069 reviews838 followers
February 4, 2018
Confused by all of the low ratings. Y'all over here complaining about "love" being thrown around so quickly, when in fact that word was not thrown around until the 75% ish mark... like TWO MONTHS into the story. Fam. Two months is definitely enough time to fall for someone. Or did y'all not realize that two months passed? Didn't pay attention? *headdesk* This book was pretty good. It has a lot of potential and could have used some improvement in some areas, but definitely not two-star bad. And if your main complaint was the romance? SMH. It's so slow-burn, and they don't even kiss until the 90-something percent mark... I swear some people just don't read.

Anyway, my review will be posted on January 29th, on my blog. Spoiler free!

***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog***

By a Charm & a Curse by Jaime Questell
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

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.

What I Liked:

Someone needs to help me out here. Before I began reading this book, I went on Goodreads to pull link information to set up my review post, and I saw a slew of two- and three-star reviews, as well as DNF reviews. I respect the reviewers and their opinions, but a lot of the things they were complaining about were... wrong? Several reviewers were mad about "love" being thrown around too quickly; that's hilarious because that word is "thrown around" at the 3/4 mark of the book - nearly two months into the story. Anyway, I'm confused as to why reviews are so negative because I did not have the same experience. The first 5% or so was a little tough to get through, but I was hooked once Emmaline's entrapment began. This debut novel deserves a little more credit because it really was not a bad story at all.

The story begins with Emmaline and her friend Juliet attending the carnival in Claremore, Oklahoma. Emmaline has just moved there with her brothers, to live with their dad, since their mom is doing research in Guatemala. The carnival is magical and enticing, and it's not long before Emmaline gets swept up into the atmosphere. She agrees to hang out with a boy in a jack-in-the-box tent, during his break, and everything falls apart. Suddenly she is now in possession of the carnival's curse, which forces her to stay there and take the boy's place. She is cursed with no sense of touch, and she can only get rid of the curse by transferring it to someone else, just as the boy did to her. Emmaline is forced to travel with the carnival and leave her family behind. It's not just the curse she holds, but the carnival's charm as well. But what if she could break the curse? Will she risk it and doom the carnival - including the carpenter boy she has fallen for?

The first 5% or so was a little slow, and my interest kept fluctuating. It wasn't until Sidney transferring the curse to Emmaline that I really started to get interested in the story. Emmaline is trapped and completely helpless, and no matter how badly she wants to go home, she can't. The rest of the story shows her adjustment (or lack thereof), and how the charm starts to deteriorate for some strange reason... you'll have to read the book to find out why and how.

In the beginning of the story, Emmaline is tentative and a little shy, with low self-esteem and little confidence in herself. It was easy for Sidney to selfishly pass the curse to her, because she was so taken by someone paying attention to her. She is helpless and lost when she realizes her situation, and angry too, but mostly lost. But as the story goes on, she starts to become more resolved to find a solution to her problems - like breaking the curse once and for all. It was nice to see Emmaline grow and strengthen herself, despite her situation. I felt so bad for her, being trapped as she was, but I also liked how selfless she was in never trying to pass the curse to someone else.

This book is told in dual first-person POV, the other person being Benjamin, as narrator. Benjamin is a young carpenter and painter - not a performer in the carnival, but one that does odd jobs and maintenance to keep things flowing. He is kind and clever, and also very stubborn and determined. He wants to reach out to Emmaline from the start, to help her, and he befriends her despite his mother warning him away from Emmaline. Benjamin is a sweet boy with a good heart.

The romance is suuuper slow-burn and really cute. Benjamin and Emmaline don't interact very much when she is first trapped, but Benjamin starts to approach her and is kind to her. He knows she needs a friend and he wants to help her fit in and feel less lonely. The romance goes at a slow pace, but the two develop strong feelings for each other. I personally didn't see insta-love here, ESPECIALLY since they don't really realize the depths of their feelings until about three-fourths of the way into the story - which was about two months since the beginning of the story. A lot of time passes, clearly. Their friendship becomes stronger and deeper, and though they dare not do anything about their feelings, the feelings are there. They don't kiss until the very end of the story. To me there was no insta-love or insta-lust - just a very sweet friendship-turned-romance. Also - no love triangle. It's all Benjamin and Emmaline.

The story focuses on Emmaline's adjustment to becoming the Girl in the Box (who is the most important person to the carnival - she holds the curse, and therefore, the charm). But then things take a sinister turn, with more accidents occurring, and several deaths following. The theory is that the charm is weakening - but how? And why now? I won't spoil anything, but everything goes right down to the end of the book.

The ending, in my opinion, was very good! There was a bit of sadness to it, in terms of some secondary characters, but things worked out in a way. I will say that there is a HEA for the primary characters, but you'll have to read the book to know exactly what kind of HEA it is. I liked it!

What I Did Not Like:

I don't think I have any specific complaints, besides the very beginning being slow! I could see some people DNFing the book after a few %, because of the slowness of the story in the beginning. But it's really not that bad. Just keep going!

Would I Recommend It:

If you like fiction centered around intriguing carnivals (who doesn't!), I definitely recommend this book! It's not as complex as The Night Circus, but I got some Caraval vibes, though it is VERY different from both The Night Circus and Caraval.


4 stars. I am glad I decided to read this book, despite whatever the Goodreads reviews were saying! Sometimes I look at the reviews and think to myself, y'all didn't pay enough attention. But that happens. I'm glad this story worked for me. By a Charm & a Curse is a sweeping, captivating standalone tale that had me hooked and turning pages until the very end. I am definitely looking forward to more books by Jaime Questell!
Profile Image for Yusra  ✨.
249 reviews510 followers
April 15, 2018
2.5-ish stars ✨
This book has me extremely conflicted. I’ll give you a wrap up of the pros & cons.

+ Pros +

-carnival setting, world building
-writing style (very descriptive and realistic)
-ALL THE SECONDARY CHARACTERS. so much love for all of them

- Cons -

-main characters (Emma & Benjamin)
-cringe ass romance
-unbelievable (not in a good way)

let’s elaborate, shall we?

the story goes as so;
-Emma’s sad because she’s in a new town
-Emma is having a perfectly good time with her friend, Juliet (I thought she was 6 years old / Emma’s little sister for the longest)
- all of a sudden
- Emma gets sad again
- Juliet leaves Emma to talk to another group of friends
- Emma spies a boy
- she gets a fortune that says “You will take a fall” or something… how is that charming?
- she goes with this random boy on a Ferris wheel
- starts drinking with him.
- kisses him.
- falls off the Ferris wheel ( or should I say, is pushed by the aforementioned cute and handsome boy )
- now she is cursed!!
- sees another cute boy
- they start holding hands and cuddling
- he falls in love w her and essentially becomes Emma in the situation ( kisses her! drinks wine! falls off Ferris wheel! )

don’t hate on me if that last part isn’t accurate, it’s how it felt to me tbh .

I think it can be agreed upon that characters are so crucial in making a book what it is - either a bestseller, or the type of book that you forget a week after reading. This one fell into the second category, bc I could not bring myself to give two fucks about Emma and Benjamin. They were so utterly generic and boring? They had no logic whatsoever in their brains? I found the characters so lacking.
On the other hand, I loved every single one of the secondary characters. which is a real shame, bc it shows the potential the author had to make everyone as amazing ; I just don’t know where it fell short.

Audrey - I swear, she was the only one who actually was logical . I didn’t understand Ben’s stupid need to get away from her, when all she did was care for his well being and try to protect him from A GIRL WHO COULD CURSE HIM. her way of thinking was completely understandable! she was being cautious! she had valid reasons not to trust the curse that ruined her life! goddamn! kinda was consistent in rooting for her.

Sidney - my boyyyy Sidney ;) I actually really liked him, not really sure why… but all of his dialogues seemed so sincere and truthful in a way. he’s a bit of a mess, but I mean, who isn’t.

Marcel & Gin - I decided to put these two together because their relationship was the only one that I was rooting for TBH … cause it made sense? they’ve grown together? it’s cute? if they were the narrators of this book, it’d be muuuch better for me. also. gin rides horses. that’s a plus.

Whiskey - a bit extra and not that realistic , but she’s still pretty wild and I love it

Duncan and Pia - MY FAVS. Duncan was hilarious and Pia was so cute. also fortune tellers hold a special place in my bookish brain bc they’re so interesting, so I was hoping for more from them… but meh.

Leslie - loved her cold hard determination to do the best for her family business.

aight, so now’s when you’re thinking “why is Yusra such a bitch all the time? she just mentioned so many things she liked and she’s STILL giving it 2stars?”
I’ll tell you.
You can’t expect me to love all the secondary characters and then be unfeeling towards Ben and Emma, the main characters, the narrators. They were both sooooo stupid and soooo cringe. what are you guys SAYING when you say that it wasn’t instalove? it sure as heck was! they literally knew nothing about each other (EMMA SAYS THIS HERSELF AT THE END OF THE BOOK, DON’T @ ME) and believe they have such true love (love that Sidney and Audrey couldn’t accomplish in the 100 years they’ve loved each other) to break the curse.
I rolled my eyes way too many times and went to sleep with a headache, no joke. I wanted to skim through everything with them.

another problematic issue was the way everything was… just laid out for everyone? like it just seemed like everything was happening coincidentally… but unbelievable in a way.

but I am a sucker for anything based in carnivals and circuses , so that added a lot to the experience. as well, Questell’s writing style is really nice. easy to follow, and descriptive in a way that isn’t purple prose.

tbh, I’m just glad this was a short book and I finished it so fast. I doubt I’ll ever reread it (and I’m glad I got it from the library, it’s 25$ CAD for a hardcover which is wayyy too expensive for such a short book). a not so bad debut, if you subtract the main characters and their instalove.
Profile Image for Cindy ✩☽♔.
948 reviews769 followers
March 3, 2018
Rating 2-2.5?

This book is somewhat hard to rate for me. Did I enjoy it? Sure, I guess. But I enjoyed it the same way I might enjoy a Wendy's cheeseburger. It is generic, standard and I know exactly what to expect.

Let me try summarize it for you guys, avoid this section if you hate any sort of spoilers, but I will do my best to be generic and vague.
1. Girl is in the new town/not her hometown
2. Girl feels lonely and misunderstood
3. Girl ditches her friend in an unfamiliar place
4. Girl gets tricked by a handsome guy
5. Like the synopsis says, girl gets cursed
6. A typical girl meets boy situation
7. Boy and girl decide to try and break the curse
...Skipping ahead...
The solution to breaking the curse has been right in front of their faces, which was pretty obvious to any reader with an ounce of YA experience or, you know, common sense. Want to guess what it is?
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Do not get me wrong, I have nothing against true love. Also, I did actually like Ben and Emma, but it seemed like such an obvious, cliche, solution to the problem. And, just like Emma, it is just hard for me to believe that in such a short amount of time these two have a love strong enough to break such a curse. But I suppose maybe I was simply expecting too much.

This book had a rather interesting premise, but unfortunately for me, it failed to deliver anything new or exciting. Most of the characters were okay, but I think due to the length of the book we were not given enough character depth and development to the point where I cared all that much about what happened to them. Even with our main characters Ben and Emma, I felt like I barely knew them. And when you do not know or understand someone you just inherently care less. I think this book could have been a lot better if it tried just a little harder, alas that is not the case. But maybe if you are new to the genre or you're just looking for a quick book to pass the time this would be alright to pick up.

Verdict? If you gave me this as a gift I would not be mad, but I am not buying myself a copy.

*I received a free ARC copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*
Profile Image for Faye*.
315 reviews94 followers
March 5, 2018
Initial reaction (4 March 2018)

I don't knowwwwwww

Actual Review (5 March 2018)


Here’s the deal: This isn’t a bad book. It has a cool premise and kind of a unique setting. Unfortunately, I was rather underwhelmed by the execution of it all. There was nothing new, original, or even engrossing about the story.

Side note:
I have read both The Night Circus and Caraval, both of which I have heard this book be compared to. Apart from the similar setting, I don’t really think this has anything in common with either of the two but to give you an idea of my reading taste: I adored and reread The Night Circus, while I want to take a star off of my 3-star Caraval review every time I think about it. Now on to the actual review.

By a Charm and a Curse follows Emma who is tricked into staying with a travelling Carnival by a boy, who transfers his curse to her with a kiss. Everything up to there is in the synopsis, everything from there is more or less predictable.
My main issue with this book is the characters. While I did kind of like them, I felt they had not depth at all what had me stop caring for them at some point. Which was the point when I started to feel that not only wasn’t there much happening but this all didn’t really make a lot of sense other than fulfilling a bunch of clichés.

I have read a lot of YA books by now and I concede that someone new to the genre might have more fun with this than I did. Also, I didn’t hate it, so if you're in the mood for a quick read, you could definitely try it. I think the writing style is enjoyable and makes for a smooth read. But in the end, it felt a bit empty. The synopsis had promised so much more than the book actually delivered. And I think it could have been more, which is just a real pity.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a free e-ARC in exchange for an honest opinion
Profile Image for Natalie Monroe.
588 reviews3,479 followers
Want to read
August 26, 2016
All the blurb is saying is it's Snow White meets Pinocchio. To which I say, "Shut up and take my money."
Profile Image for Ardent Reader.
221 reviews211 followers
January 24, 2018
3.5 stars

I received this copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The main reason that I requested the book was because of the attractive cover. But, I didn’t enjoy it as I have expected it to be.

The story is being told by the two main characters point of view, so it’s not difficult to understand the story.

I quite enjoyed the relationship between Emma and Benjamin. The writer was able to convey their lives in a very interesting manner.

The story line is somewhat unique and different although it is very fast paced. This book is little similar with the Caraval book.
Profile Image for Inge.
377 reviews883 followers
January 27, 2018
I always love it when a book has a circus setting - there's such a specific atmosphere around it, that hint of whimsy that leaves you filled with a sense of amazement and wonder. The circus in By A Charm and a Curse has real magic, the kind that comes with (you guessed it) a charm and a curse. The charm: none of the circus performers ever get hurt. The curse: the circus has to have a Boy or Girl in the Box as its anchor, one person doomed to live as a human-like wooden puppet. Our main character becomes that anchor. (This actually works in her favour because aside from the curse, she's about as exciting as watching snails race.)

Honestly, sometimes circus books bring high expectations but fail to deliver. This one, however, delivered on all accounts. It's a little bit Pinocchio and a little bit Snow White, which seems like an odd combination but worked really well.

I loved the world-building and thought the side characters were fleshed out pretty well - I had a lot of love for Gin and Whiskey especially, and, in the end, Sidney. The love interest, Benjamin, was a bit dull but a precious cupcake overall. On top of that, instead of one villain, you had three brothers who were all equally despicable.

Could've done with a more interesting protagonist, but really, I don't have much to complain about. I thought this was a really fun and magical story, and would highly recommend it to fans of circus settings and fairytale retellings.

(Seriously though did the dog have to die)

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy
Profile Image for Elisa.
284 reviews211 followers
April 25, 2018
Let me preface by saying: this book is not perfect. The dialogue can be a bit flat, and the switching POVs don’t feature narrators with well-distinguished voices.


You guys, this was a really satisfying witchy/magical read for me!! After so many duds, this was a treat.

The location reminded me of the show Carnival, which was dark and creepy and awesome; and let’s face it, it’s an intriguing location, no matter whether it’s been done before. (Also the cover really sets the mood, so well done to the designers!! 👍🏼👍🏼)

The premise is really interesting — a bit creepy, and you wonder from the start how the heck this is going to be resolved.

The characters are just so relatable and likable — even in a fantasy novel you need realistically-portrayed characters! Even the villains, they were the perfect bullies.

I could also picture it all unfolding at the carnival, with the trailers and tents and booths and all. It could have been slightly more atmospheric, but it worked for me.

I am rating this higher than some novels I’ve read that have better writing, because
a. It hit the spot
Listen up authors and publishers, we all know and like twists, but make sure you don’t “mask” your novels. Don’t promise me a creepy read and then give me a romance. Don’t promise me The Craft and then give me Pretty Little Liars. I won’t stand for that.

So I’m giving this 4 STARS, fair and square.
Profile Image for mith.
723 reviews253 followers
November 11, 2017
This book had potential! With an interesting backdrop and an intriguing curse, there was a lot that could have been done with By a Charm and a Curse.

But things moved waaaaay too fast. It didn't feel fast paced and full of high stakes; it felt rushed, and that's partly the reason the execution failed. Considering that this is a pretty short book, there's not nearly enough time to fully immerse yourself with the characters and the world.

Had this book been longer, I think the issue might have been fixed. The writing itself wasn't bad--both main characters had voices that distinguished them. But with more time, they--along with the story itself--would have been more authentic and developed.

Overall, the potential was there but alas. I did like it, for what it's worth, but mostly, I would have just liked to see more.
Profile Image for Melissa Chung.
903 reviews325 followers
February 18, 2018
I received this YA Fantasy for free from Entangled Teen for an honest review.

I have hit another jack pot with Entangled Teen books. I recently saw this book on a YA upcoming releases list and thought it sounded very much like The Night Circus, which is one of my favorite books. I immediately requested the book from the publishing house and was included on the book tour.

I must say this can definitely be considered a little sister to The Night Circus. A Skipper to Barbie kind of comparison. It's not as Fantasy heavy as The Night Circus or as whimsical, but it definitely has a great plot, wonderful villains and a love story that is for the most part realistic. Is it a fast love story, meaning the teens fall head over heals pretty darn quickly, you betcha! That doesn't take away the fact that it's a sweet story and I was able to read this entire book in one sitting or in 6 hours.

Our story takes place in a traveling Carnival. Our main character Emmaline King is a teen girl staying in a boring small town. She used to live in this town when she was younger and has recently been returned to said town while her mother is away studying in Guatemala. I can't remember without getting the book for reference, if it's bugs the mom is studying. Doesn't really matter because the mother isn't in the story, but twice and only through verbal acknowledgement that she exists. Emma, as she prefers to be called, is visiting said traveling Carnival with her childhood friend Julia. They come across a fortune teller box with a creepy doll-like human inside. Not as cool as the one from the movie' BIG' starring Tom Hanks. Julia deposits her quarter and the "puppet" drops a fortune card in the dispenser. Emma decides she would like to try her luck as well. Her friend takes off to meet some school buddies and Emma tells her she'll catch up. When Emma drops her coin into the slot, she too receives her fortune. It's not all what she expects.

I really liked the tone of the story. It kept me guessing. I was fully invested after the first couple of chapters. I needed to see it to its end. What would happen to Emma. What would come of the Carnival and the Curse. So good. There are a handful of side characters and they all impact the story's progression. I was really happy they all had a place and they weren't just random names being spewed into the mix.

Let's see... anything I can add to this review that I didn't like.... maybe the time frame. Emma, I think is at the Carnival for about 3 months. It just seems too short of a time for a strong friendship and a love story. It also had a quickish ending. Ending, meaning, in the last page or so we get a picture of the future and I just felt I needed a bit more about Emma's family.

Overall I still give this book a 5 star read because 1) It kept me engaged. I mean I didn't put the book down today and I read it in one sitting. 2) The love story isn't cringe worthy or a bit cheesy. 3) It had just enough realistic qualities mixed with the fantasy. All of the characters were well established and the magic surrounding them wasn't too out of the ordinary. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Jen .
345 reviews136 followers
February 15, 2018
This book surprised me. I didn't think that I would like it as much as I did. There were many elements to it, romance, magic, family dynamics, friendship, carnival to name a few. Now that I have let it soak in I find that days later I am still thinking about the story. I still keep thinking about the unique setting of the carnival and the vibe that the book had. Now, in saying that there are definitely problems with the story. The main issue that I had was that you did not get much back story on the characters or what their motivations were. That's not to say that this was the same for every character, some were fleshed out better than others. I don't know if that was a technique of the author to be able to build more books, as to add additional characters stories in the future, but it worked against the book a bit as you didn't know why certain decisions were made. I also thought the ending needed more explanation and description. If you can overlook those things and just let yourself fall into the setting and the stories of these characters, you'll find an enjoyable read with a very unique background. I will look forward to seeing what this author does in future books.
You can also see my video review for this on Youtube at ReadingwithPugs
Profile Image for Danielle (Life of a Literary Nerd).
1,125 reviews245 followers
January 4, 2018
“Things that are linked cannot be unbound. Things set in motion cannot be stopped…”

I have some mixed feeling about this - I loved the humor that the story started out with, and the carnival setting, but the humor almost immediately disappeared and the characters fell flat. By a Charm and a Curse follows Emma King as she’s captipulted into Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic, trapped as the holder of a charm that helps the Carnival thrive. But the Carnival’s charm is Emma’s curse and she’s desperate to break it.

Things I Liked
I liked the carnival setting and the charm/curse that affect it. I feel like the setting was just so perfect for the vibe the story was going for. And I loved all the information we got about the charm and curse, and what it means for the carnival’s people.

Things I Didn’t Like
I felt like a lot of the story was just weak overall. I didn’t love how the curse transfer happened in the beginning of the story, I didn’t connect to any of the characters, everything was happening so quickly I didn’t have time to setting into the story, and I thought the resolution was underwhelming. The story didn’t necessarily feel rushed, but nothing really had an impact either.

By a Charm and a Curse felt like a complete story - there was a clear beginning, middle, and end, but it all felt pretty superficial. I just really wanted more from the story, and to connect with the characters.

I received a copy of the book from EntagledTeen via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Xiomara Canizales.
286 reviews30 followers
January 25, 2018
Nope. Sorry. No!
The story is about Emmaline (Emma, Em) who catches a curse and has to get it out to get her life back.
Emma's life is SO DEPRESSING... her mom left her with her dad because she went to another county and now Emma has 'no home' she feels that she doesn't fit anywhere. So, there she is in this carnival with her friend, trying to be social. In the first place I don't understand what is she doing there, I got the sense that she didn't want to be there but anyways her friend wanted her to date a boy that is in her friend circle but Emma is not comfortable with that idea. Instead of leaving she finds another guy and after he made her ONE QUESTION she feels this guy gets her, that she wants to hold his hand and then they kiss... Just like that, to a stranger! A teenager kissing a stranger just because he 'cares' about her...
That is all the investment I putted into this book. There is not going to be a carnival setting at all, so if you go to this book expecting any 'Caraval' vibes you won't find it... You are not going to find Fantasy or Magic, expect for the curse transfer.
The premise was interesting but with a terrible execution.

Setting: I have no idea...
Profile Image for Aimee Ferguson.
192 reviews21 followers
February 7, 2018
I was so excited for this book. I think that needs to be said immediately, because my expectations were quiiiite high. I think that's always a dangerous thing for any book, but I have a particular love of circus/carnival books that will not listen to rhyme nor reason. It's also very very hard to live up to, and I knooow I'm picky. So, you know, several grains of salt. 

Luckily, it absolutely had the circus vibes that I've been craving. I mean, it felt a little more Mr Galliano's Circus than Caraval or The Night Circus, but that wasn't necessarily a downfall (just unexpected). This circus focused more on the travelling aspect than other books I've seen (which is why I think Mr Galliano), and I think that combined with the daily life and maintenance the carnival city made for a very grounded setting for this story. It was easy to imagine this as one of the many circuses that come to Melbourne, which made the magical twist even more appealing.

And what a twist! I mean, the premise of a curse passed with a kiss, and the charm that keeps the circus together is one that I'm far too weak for. I was ecstatic when I realised I'd been approved for this book, because I honestly didn't know how I was going to wait till Feb 2018 to get my hands on it. 

The characters were actually very solid. I enjoyed both Emma and Ben's POV of chapters, and they were easy enough to differentiate even when I started reading faster and ignoring the chapter headings, which is always a good sign of distinct voices. I really like that you can see their characters not just in the way they react to the world, but what they focus on/describe too. 

I especially liked Emma's dilemma, as the new recipient of the curse. I liked that she was immediately aware of the consequences of what had happened, and kinda shouldered that burden (without endless moping or resistance). At the same time, you could also see that it wasn't an easy transition (I mean, duh, that's not a fun time) and I liked that you saw her struggles, especially with her new shape. I did think there'd be more protest about leaving her family, and the reality of the charm which she accepts very easily. But we'll forgive her because she didn't drive me up the wall. 

I also have to say that I'm a big fan of the way the curse actually acted. I was expecting tied to the circus, but I missed the Pinocchio retelling in the blurb?? That was a very nice surprise, for me. Apparently that was one of the pitches for the book , and its execution was absolutely wicked. I loved the whole creepy puppet sort of vibes it gave everything, and it gave a really genuine twist that added to Emma's motivations to get rid of the curse.

Ben was a sweetheart. I was quite fond of this carpenter's son. The Jack of all trades sort of role fit him really well, and it allowed us to see a side of the circus outside of performers, as well as the conflict between them. (Esp when it came to who belonged there, and who was more invested). I liked that he wanted to make a place for himself outside of the circus, and also that he had interests outside of his role (painting). I only wish that side of him had been developed a little more.

I also liked that he had a really solid relationships with both guys and girls his own age, which is somewhat rare for male MCs? Like if they do have a female friend, she's usually a rival or a love interest... It was nice to see just genuine friendship?? It reinforced that sort of family vibe that I love to see in circuses, but also gave him a very realistic sort of dynamic to fall back on when things got tough.

My biggest problem was probably with the pacing of the relationship between Ben and Emma. It was frustrating, though, because they actually worked well together? I enjoyed the way they both were around each other quite a bit. That's vague, but often relationships make the characters sort of diluted versions of the characters they were before, but if anything I think their characterisation was stronger when they were together.

It just happened so quickly. It's hard to call this insta love because the story does take place over a long period of time (like several weeks pass at a time, and multiple places are visited). But... I dunno, I think it's just because I like my burns so slow that they'd put Jane Austen to shame, but it felt like it was all at once. One minute he sees a girl he thinks will pass through the circus, the next she's stuck and he's almost immediately dedicated to her. One moment she is cursed and trapped and feeling alone and scared, the next she's all lovey dovey with the first boy who is kind to her (right after being cursed by a kiss!!) and she believes she can trust him because he seems honest. If there'd just been a beat of scepticism, and a chance for Ben to earn this, I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more.

When some of the plot points came back to this love, it was hard for me to really feel them. I mean I want to feel the real ache of the love and the decisions characters have to make, but it just wasn't there. Also decisions that relied on the characters trusting each other didn't work, because I wasn't sure why they would yet. It just didn't work for me.

The thing that did make up for this, though, was the side characters. I really enjoyed them, and the various side plots that linked them all together. My favourite character was Sidney, and I'm dying to know more about him. I mean, we were given bits of pieces and a rather large twist that absolutely kept me reading, but I could read a book just about him. His particular combination of heartbreak and jerk was a very well done one? And his guilt was one of the most human and convincing reactions in the whole book. 
I think if other characters had been given the Sidney treatment - more emotions and more glimpses of a very good?? backstory?? - I would have absolutely fallen for this book. It just needed more time to develop the story and really immerse us in the circus life. I'm a pretty greedy reader, and though it's nice to be able to finish a book in a sitting, I would have had the patience with such a cool premise to get to things a little slower.

All this said, it was a good read. I did finish in an afternoon, and I wasn't even procrastinating anything. I would recommend it for someone looking for a quick romance with some circus vibes, with the caveat that the romance is pretty set from the get go. Also for people who are excited by the idea of Pinocchio x the circus x curses and magic meets the real world, but with not super super high expectations, like I had.
Profile Image for Melissa (YA Book Shelf).
741 reviews133 followers
September 5, 2017
By A Charm and A Curse is magical. Jaime Questell takes you right inside the confines of the travelling carnival with an ensemble cast of carnies, the sights, sounds, smells, and day-to-day life as part of the carnival that is held together by the titular charm and curse.

With alternating POVs, readers get a thorough glimpse into the life of a roustabout named Ben and a new entry into the carnival entertainment with Emma as the newest curse victim, the girl in the box. It's also filled real emotions and characters and situations that readers won't soon forget.

Don't miss it in February 2018!
Profile Image for Beth.
657 reviews569 followers
September 7, 2019
I’m quite surprised I enjoyed this as much as what I did, but here we are!

- Carnivals
- Creepy Doll Like characters
- Romance
- Rivalry
- Friendship

Yeahhhhh I’m kind of here for it!
Profile Image for Jenn.
1,683 reviews288 followers
February 27, 2018

Come one, come all!

Ok, so Carnival's creep me out. They don't seem safe and there's clowns running around everywhere and no...I just can't deal with that. But I find that I do enjoy stories with a carnival setting. This one was no different. While I had minor issues with the book as a whole, this was a solid debut from Questell.

Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic is a special carnival. It has both a charm and a curse placed upon it (hence the name). When Emma visits the carnival one night with her best friend, she falls victim to the curse and is forced to give up the life she knew and become something - inhuman. But with the help of Benjamin, a carpenter at the carnival, she sets out to break this horrible curse and get her life back. But at what cost? And what about the carnival employees who rely on the magic surrounding their traveling show to make a living?

One of my favorite parts of this book was the imagery. Questell's carnival comes alive and I swear, you can smell the scents of the carnival and hear the sounds like you were there - that's how descriptive it is. She was really able to bring this world to life. Aside from the world, the characters also lent to the lifelike quality - well, some did. And then the romance was also sweet. Because of Emma's cursed position, it really forced her and Ben to communicate and really get to know each other - even if they fell in love super fast. I liked that we got to see both of their POV's: an insider and an outsider, so to speak.

What I had issues with were relatively small, but when combined together, lent to the 3 star rating.
-Emma's disappearance from her life - this seemed to be easy. She just disappeared and, yes, the police came by the carnival but that was all.
-Ben's mom- she was a horrible mother and person all around. I don't really care that she had her heart broken when she was younger, there's no reason for her to act how she did toward both her son and Emma
-the evil tumbler brothers - I get their good, but I don't believe someone would keep them around with their attitudes and acts of harm toward other employees. But I guess we needed villains?
-the ending. Just really poor planning when it came to the ending.

So overall, it was a solid debut and I do look forward to seeing what else Questell has in store. But I don't know if this will be one that stays with me, ya know?
Profile Image for Melissa Souza.
185 reviews50 followers
March 13, 2018
3 stars!!!

I'm usually a huge fan of circus novels but unfortunately, this one just didn't do it for me. I guess I was expecting a whole lot of fantasy with exceptional worldbuilding but I just didn't get any of those things. Let me elaborate further.

Firstly, the book doesn't have much worldbuilding. Yes, the author describes the acts and the atmosphere which was pretty nice but it wasn't immersive enough for me. When I hear fantasy, I expect all weirdly wonderful things but since the story has a contemporary setting, it just felt like an ordinary circus albeit with a small curse/charm thing going on. In addition, this so called charm/curse is quite rudimentarily explained and can be broken pretty easily. So this made me feel even less inclined to get invested in the story.

Secondly, the MC Emma is your typical YA heroine. She makes the silliest mistakes and has the usual backstory of a girl who doesn't fit in, has moved to a new town and abandons her only best friend to get sucked into a dangerous situation. Plus, she does the usual stupid thing of kissing a strange boy to then become a "special snowflake". Moreover, I found her POV of the plot pretty boring as half of the time her narration was pretty repetitive. Ben, on the other hand, had a bit of spunk and I liked his backstory. However, he loses his own voice when he starts interacting with Emma. Their romance was very instantaneous which was another cliche. Plus, there were times in the book whether I was confused as to who was narrating because their voices are very similar. There was no real distinction. In terms of the side characters, I felt they were more well rounded and I liked reading about the various backstories. This helped the book feel a lot less one dimensional.

Last but not least, the pacing of the book was not too slow which made for a quick read. The storyline was pretty straightforward and the resolution seemed pretty obvious from the very outset. However, the book does have some action and takes a few, although, not so surprising twists. I would say it was a pretty average read. I've read better YA circus themed fantasy books. I would recommend giving this one a try if you have nothing else on your TBR list and you need to pass the time.
Profile Image for Jaime Questell.
Author 1 book78 followers
January 9, 2018
Hi all! I'm the author of this book and I'm going to use this space to keep you up-to-date on all things CHARM!

CHARM is out in less than a month and I am crazy excited. To thank everyone who has preordered a copy, I have a preorder campaign going on now! Email proof of your preorder to jquestellauthor@gmail.com, and I'll send you a bookmark, signed bookplate, and fortune teller fish. One person will win a grand prize pack including all of the items listed above and a Ferris wheel necklace, Ferris wheel bracelet, and a book sleeve (that I sewed myself)! To see a photo of these items, check out the pinned Tweet on my Twitter account (@jaimequestell).

All the best,
Profile Image for Miranda.
729 reviews111 followers
February 5, 2018
By a Charm and a Curse was an entertaining and unique book! This was a quick read that definitely can be done in one sitting!

The beginning of By a Charm and a Curse was a bit chaotic and too fast paced for me. I actually had a hard time keeping up with everything that was happening and truly understanding what was going on. I liked that the author kept me on my toes, but I just wish the pace would have been toned down a little bit in the beginning. However, after the first couple chapters, the book found a great pace and stayed consistent throughout the story.

The setting of this book was interesting a truly magical. The glamour and the allure of the circus was beautifully showcased in this story. I loved getting a behind the scenes look of this circus and the curse that was holding everything together. The setting alone made this book addicting!

One of the things the author pulled off really well was making a memorable cast of characters! There were so many side characters that made such an impact on the story and stood out! The side characters all had unique personalities, which added so much depth to this story. The main male character, Ben, was an adorable cinnamon roll. He was a character that I constantly wanted to hug BECAUSE HE WAS SO STINKING CUTE. The main female character, Emma, was a passionate and kind girl. I do think she made some dumb decisions throughout the story, but I enjoyed her overall! The romance between Ben and Emma was cute and full of swoony moments! I did think the romance developed a little too quickly for my tastes, but I thought they made a good couple.

Overall, By a Charm and a Curse was a magical and exciting book! I would recommend this to readers who are intrigued by the idea of reading about a cursed circus!

3 / 5 Fangs

*This ebook was given to me in exchange for an honest review. *

MrsLeif's Two Fangs About It
Profile Image for Sarah (thegirltheycalljones).
402 reviews284 followers
May 11, 2018
Well well well.
In one sentence : it was good but I didn't feel very involved with the characters and their issues.
Another carnival-circus book that I liked but didn't love, which is starting to become annoying as it may be my favourite setting ever...

I loved loved loved the idea of the curse and its...mechanism. It was handled really well and kept me at the edge of my seat for many pages.

Emmaline, the female MC, is a good character. She's not super special, she's not irritating, she goes through all the logical phases when being trapped in the Carnival, etc. But despite those facts, she didn't really stand out as a memorable MC.

Benjamin, the male MC, is very likeable. He's not the typical-YA-badboy, he's actually a nice person and it works perfectly! But I'll probably not remember him by next week.

Despite the author's efforts, it still did feel like insta-love. A tiny bit. But well, a tiny bit of mango is still mango, y'know?

The rest of the cast is pretty generic - though they're all pretty, which is inducing many eye-rolls - and more or less what you'd expect to find in a carnival from YA Lit.
All of them except one who should have been the real MC, imo, because I WOULD HAVE READ THAT STORY, GUYS.
Sidney's the best thing this book had. He's quite a central character but his story deserved more screen time. I can't say more without spoilers but I kept reading for Sidney, who's one of the best secondary characters I've met this year.
(this is a real spoiler tag with a real big spoiler under it)

A pleasant read, but except for the original idea, I will not remember much of it.
Profile Image for Nicole M. Hewitt.
1,389 reviews284 followers
February 8, 2018
This review and many more can be found on my blog: Feed Your Fiction Addiction

Who doesn’t love a book about a magical circus? A circus with both a charm and a curse? Sign me up!

What Fed My Addiction:

The circus atmosphere.
I don’t know what it is about a traveling circus or carnival, but I just love this setting. There’s already such a sense of awe and wonder there that it works really well for a fantastical story. Plus, they’re a little creepy (I think I always think back to Something Wicked This Way Comes), which works well for this story.

Emmaline’s curse.
The curse itself is, again, creepy in all the best ways. Emmaline is turned into something along the lines of a living puppet. She’s solid, her senses are dulled, and she’s suddenly living a sort of shadow life. There was a lot to play with here, and Questell does it well. You couldn’t help but feel sorry for Emmaline as she suffers the effects of the curse.

Poor Ben has been trying to escape the circus life for a long time, but he can’t seem to break ties with the people there that he loves. His mother is overprotective of him (for a reason, but still) and he can’t really live his own life. I enjoyed the romance between Emmaline and Ben, though it did perhaps move a little quickly into true love territory.

What Left Me Hungry for More:

Few plot holes?
I had a hard time understanding why everyone seemed to act like Emmaline would be able to trick someone into taking her place almost immediately when the last person had been in her position had been there for years. And why did no one seem to know the specifics of the charm and the curse or be all that interested in them? It seemed odd to me. But the biggest lack in logic was that when things started to go wrong, people didn’t immediately figure out that it was tied to the curse—Emmaline and Ben, especially—I didn’t understand the doubt there.

Bullying villains.
The tumbling brothers were bullies for the sake of being bullies, it seemed. The book just needed a villain, maybe?

This book was utterly unique and it was definitely entertaining. I had enough hang-ups about the plot that I was close to cutting it down a half star, but I eventually settled on 4/5 Stars. A solid debut.

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
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