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Monday, May 15, 2017

With Love For Horror Books: The Beast Is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale - Book Review, Interview & Giveaway

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Review by Suze

Alys has trouble sleeping and one night when she wanders she meets the soul eaters. The soul eaters are each other's mirror image, they're twins and they are always together. When their father sent them away for their own safety their life as soul eaters slowly started. They've grown wild, they devour people's souls and there's an insatiable hunger inside of them. People fear the soul eaters as much as the Beast, which they believe is great evil, but what does that mean exactly? Alys can resist the lure of the soul eaters and her life is being spared. The grownups in her village aren't so lucky, they can't escape the two sisters.

Alys and the other children of her village need a fresh start, but they will never be able to shake what happened to them. Somehow Alys has a connection with the soul eaters. She also meets the Beast, which scares her and makes her curious at the same time. There's a difficult task ahead of her, but will she succeed? Or is she just like the twins, dark inside without any goodness? Alys has to find out who she is exactly and only then can she become who she's supposed to be. There is no safety for anyone though and the danger keeps growing, will she have enough time?

The Beast Is an Animal is a fantastic creepy story. The soul eaters are both awful and fascinating at the same time. They are together, but they are one instead of two. They are hungry for souls, they're the nightmarish characters of nursery rhymes and they strike at night when people least expect it. They can erase entire villages and those who have faith are willing to keep evil away, they are trying to stay safe at all costs. This has a reversed effect and I loved how Peternelle van Arsdale plays with the boundaries of good and evil, she does that in a marvelous thought-provoking way. I couldn't wait to find out what would happen to the two sisters, the Beast, the children and Alys and the people she loves. This kept me on the edge of my seat and I read The Beast Is an Animal in one sitting because I was completely spellbound and couldn't put it down.

Peternelle van Arsdale has a beautiful writing style. I loved the way she describes what's in the hearts of her main characters. Alys has an amazing multilayered personality. She constantly struggles with what she is and who she is and I was captivated by her from the beginning. Peternelle van Arsdale's vivid imagination is gorgeous and because of it Alys has a versatile personality that's based on contrasts. She is fierce and loyal, she's kind, but defiant, she's light and dark and she isn't afraid to look into her own soul. That is something I really enjoyed about The Beast Is an Animal, it shows the importance of self-knowledge and that makes the story extra special. Alys is going through plenty of emotions, each of them interesting and unexpected. Her story reads like a fairytale and is just as enchanting. I really loved this incredibly well written scary book.


If you love stories about creepy soul stealing creatures, witches and beasts you should definitely read The Beast Is an Animal.

About Peternelle van Arsdale

I'm a book editor turned young adult novelist. I still love to edit, but I’ve discovered that I like to make up my own stories even more than I like to fix other people’s. It’s less stressful. Also, I’m controlling, and I pretty much get to say what goes in the worlds that I create. I live in New York City, where I own a Metrocard and drive as little as possible. I have perfect control over my feet.

If you’re not interested in the minutiae of my career, please feel free to stop reading now. I won’t be offended (and, really, how would I even know?). If, however, you’re curious about how a book editor became a novelist, read on.

Right out of college I started working as a sales assistant for Pocket Books, which is a division of . . . my novel’s publisher, Simon & Schuster! How’s that for coincidences? I guarantee you, this never would have occurred to me back when I ate soft pretzels for lunch because they were only a dollar. Back then, I was pursuing the only job I ever wanted: editing other people’s words. After a short while at S&S, I became an editorial assistant at HarperCollins.

There I glamorously climbed the ladder of publishing. And by “glamorously” I mean that I typed a lot of rejection letters and did a lot of Xeroxing until I was promoted to assistant editor, then associate editor. Then I managed to acquire a novel (Sisters & Lovers by Connie Briscoe) that became a really big hit, and I was promoted to editor, then senior editor, and finally executive editor. I worked at a number of other publishers—Doubleday/Anchor, Hyperion, and finally Putnam—before I realized that, while I loved editing, I really didn’t like a lot of the business aspects of publishing. I admire the people who do it well, but it wasn’t my strength or my passion. What I really loved was to help writers do their best possible work. After I became a freelancer, in addition to editing, I also ghostwrote a number of books. No, I can’t tell you which books, because that’s confidential. What I can tell you is that it’s really hard work. Really. Hard. Work. You can read a little more about my editing business if you visit

Once an editor always an editor. Back in college, I edited my friends’ papers (I once tried to edit Heidegger, and my friend pointed out that it was a quote and therefore off limits; I still maintain it needed editing). There is a particular satisfaction I get from solving the puzzle of improving someone else’s story—whether a memoir or a novel. It’s like performing therapy on a book. What does this book want to be? How can I help this book be its best self? Now that I’m a storyteller as well, I like to think the two skills work in tandem. My editorial experience makes me a better writer, and my writing makes me a better editor. Certainly I know far more about constructing novels now that I’ve done it from the inside.

All that said, I really love being a novelist. The Beast Is an Animal is my first. My second novel will also be a dark fairytale. And if I get my way (remember, I am controlling), so will my third and fourth.

Author links



1. Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I never thought I’d write a book, although I was an avid reader even as a young child. As soon as I left college, I went right into book publishing and worked my way up to being an Executive Editor for several large book publishers. I only worked on adult books as an editor, but when I came up with my first novel idea, it was for young adults. I really love writing about characters at a time in their lives when they’re still figuring out who they are. I think many adults are still trying to figure out who we are, but we’re expected to hide it so we don’t seem troubled or incompetent. Younger people are more open about their questions. For the last several years I’ve been a freelance editorial consultant helping authors develop their ideas and editing their work, both before and after they find publishers.

2. What makes your heart beat faster?

Originality. When I read a book or watch a film or a theatrical performance that does something I’ve never seen before, or tells a story in a way that surprises me, that really excites me.

3. Which horror monster do you fear the most?

Anything demonic. When I was a young child, “The Exorcist” was in movie theaters, and it scarred me for life. I’m also a minister’s daughter, so I figured if the devil was coming for anyone, then I had a big target on my back.

4. If the zombie apocalypse would happen today, what would you do?

This is one of my favorite topics of conversation. My son and I have even had heartless conversations about who we’d want with us. Max Brooks had an interesting theory in his book WORLD WAR Z that zombies would freeze in colder temperatures. So I think I’d pack up an RV with propane and canned goods, dry beans, and rice, and I’d get a select few to do the same, and we’d head north to Canada. Among the select few would be a medical professional (with a good supply of antibiotics), someone who knows how to chop wood and build a fire, preferably a hunter, and someone who knows how to forage mushrooms. Because my son loves mushrooms. And yes, I’ve thought about this a lot.

5. What's your favorite horror movie?

Oh. This is hard. There are horror films that scared the daylights out of me, but I don’t think they’re particular good movies. And there are some that are fun for shock value while you’re watching them, but they don’t really stick with you. I grew up on vampire movies, but truthfully they don’t really scare me.I love a movie that scares you as much (or more) after you’ve finished watching it. Two movies I watched recently that I really loved were “The Babadook” and “The Witch.” They’re both frightening and beautifully made and so well acted.

6. What's your worst nightmare?

Well, the real life nightmares are far worse than anything supernatural one could make up. The loss of a loved one would be the biggest.

7. If your book was made into a movie, who would play the lead characters and why?

I would prefer that my protagonist, Alys, be played by someone we’ve never seen before or is fairly unknown. I didn’t know who Anya Taylor-Joy was before I saw her in “The Witch,” and I thought she was wonderful. I wasn’t distracted by associating her with any other role. Of course a talented actress can make any part her own, but I do lean toward a fresh face, and preferably one who is age appropriate. I don’t like it when teenagers are played by actors in their twenties. There are such physical differences between a 15 year old and a twenty year old.

8. What inspired you to write horror stories?

I’ve always loved horror stores. I read Bram Stoker’s DRACULA when I was about ten years old, and I spent many Saturday afternoons as a child in our basement watching bad old horror films. THE BEAST IS AN ANIMAL is really a dark fairy tale, and some of the first scary stories I ever read were classic fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm—many of them are quite creepy. So certainly all of that inspired me.

9. What do you like the most about the horror genre?

I always say about my novel that the story might be fiction but the fears are real. And I think the best horror gets to the heart of what we’re afraid of—and that says a lot about us as human beings. What is more basic than identifying threat and defending ourselves against it? And what is more terrifying than not being sure where the threat is coming from, or what the threat even is—and then not knowing how to guard against it? The horror genre allows me to dig deep into my characters while also telling a page-turning story. When people are afraid, they reveal a lot about themselves.

10. What can we expect from you in the future?

I’m at work on my second YA novel now. It’s also a dark fairy tale and definitely explores deep fears.


One very lucky reader of With Love For Books will receive a signed The Beast Is an Animal book plate, a bookmark, a temporary tattoo, and a button.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

The winner will be notified by email and has 3 days to respond. All of our giveaways are international.


  1. This sounds like it has the feel of an old fairy tale, dark and creepy. Love those types of books.

  2. sounds gothic and interesting! perhaps one of those you stay up all night to finish!

    1. I read it in one sitting and indeed stayed up ;).

  3. Wow, this sounds intriguing and spooky at the same time. It sounds a bit like an old fairy tale but for grown-ups (I mean that it a good way).

  4. This book sounds incredibly awesome. Right up my alley of favorites.

  5. A really dark fairy tale in the Gothic sense with plenty to give you nightmares about!

  6. Love story about witches. Will love to read it.

  7. It sounds very creepy! I love it!

  8. What a fascinating book! I enjoy dark and creepy fairy tales. Thanks for sharing.

  9. This sure sounds like one for me. I do love the horror genre. And that cover has enchanted me.

  10. Sounds really eerie entering this one for my daughter she loves a good creepy book

  11. Thanks for the giveaway.


  12. Loved the review so much! And I really need to read the book.

  13. Would love to read this book. I agree with your choice of the Exorcist being the horror monster you fear the most. Even as an adult i cannot watch that film ever again, even though its tame by todays standards

  14. Thanks so very very much for your generosity 😊

  15. Ooh, this sounds like no other book I've ever read! Hope I win!

  16. Love a new book, this one sounds intriguing!!!