Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: Cold Hearted by Serena Valentino

Cold Hearted (Villains Series #8) by Serena Valentino, Hardcover | Barnes &  Noble®

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Serena Valentino’s Cold Hearted explores the background and story of Disney’s Cinderella from the perspective of Lady Tremaine, the villainous stepmother. Lady Tremaine, reeling from the loss of her beloved husband, seeks a new spouse as a supporting father for her two daughters. When she meets the picture-perfect Sir Richard, her dreams are seemingly fulfilled as she is suddenly whisked to a new land with her daughters. However, she discovers that her destiny as a wicked stepmother is set in stone, with supernatural forces in play. Will Lady Tremaine live out her happily ever after, or is she doomed to her prewritten destiny?

Having only read one of the books from this series, I went into this mainly because I enjoyed the Twisted Tale series. I recognized they had different overall narratives, but I recalled that the book about the Beast felt similar to the Twisted Tale series, and believed this series was in the same vein. I was wrong. This is strictly a retelling of the source material from the perspective of the villain, but acknowledges the other stories from this series as a part of a shared universe. Another assumption I had about this book was that there would be some sort of diversion from the actual tale being told, but this was only a device for the villain’s perspective of the story. Though I enjoyed it, I felt a little bit disappointed as the story felt as if it was stopped short. The connection to the other Disney tales within its universe is only explained at the beginning and end in about 10 pages or less, so I had to piece the puzzle together without any prior knowledge. I will, however, acknowledge that Valentino’s writing style immersed me in the retelling of Cinderella, and I almost forgot how it tied into a bigger narrative. Outside of that, this book was unexpectedly not what I thought it was going to be, but it was not bad.

The most memorable part of the book was retelling the relationship between Cinderella and Lady Tremaine though the lens of the latter. Knowing Lady Tremaine’s thought process throughout Cinderella’s life and her backstory made me sympathetic towards her. This sympathy reminded me of the Disney movie Cinderella 2, where they gave a redemption tale to Anastasia, one of Cinderella’s stepsisters.

Reviewed by Allyson, Twin Hickory Library

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Read + Review: The Medusa Quest by Alane Adams

The Medusa Quest: The Legends of Olympus, Book 2 (The Legends of Oympus,  2): Adams, Alane: 9781684630752: Amazon.com: Books

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The Medusa Quest whisks readers to the beloved realm of Greek mythology and its dauntless heroes. Phoebe Katz, the headstrong daughter of Zeus, is dissatisfied by her mundane city life and longs for adventure. When she discovers popular Greek myths have changed drastically, an oracle informs her that her previous quests in the mythic world disrupted the destinies of the champions of Olympus.  Phoebe must return to Olympus and rewrite shattered history, or Greek heroes would inevitably meet their deaths. Accompanied by Damian and Angie, Phoebe endeavors to prevent Medusa from turning her twin brother Perseus to stone. Additionally, she must amend her errors and set history onto its rightful path. Monsters, magic, and myths collide in Alane Adams’s thrilling sequel that teems with action and suspense.

The descriptive, yet entertaining writing style never ceases to engage readers. I quite enjoyed viewing the tale from Phoebe’s point of view since it masterfully expressed her character while driving the plot. Furthermore, I was pleased at the astounding accuracy of Greek mythology and its utilization in the story. The characters were diverse in personality and still complemented each other. However, I felt that the plot became somewhat rushed and convoluted as the book progressed. Overall, The Medusa Quest adheres brilliantly to Olympus’s heroes while maintaining an exhilarating creativity of its own.

One memorable aspect of the novel is the author’s creative element in the traditional magic of Greek mythology. While it typically depicts Zeus simply hurling lightning at all those who oppose him, Phoebe’s lightning is quite versatile. She has used it as a weapon, as protection, and for handling simple tasks. For example, she was able to sculpt lightning into a torch and even pick locks.

Reviewed by Soumya, Twin Hickory Library

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Read + Review: Cemetary Boys by Aiden Thomas

Amazon.com: Cemetery Boys (9781250250469): Thomas, Aiden: Books

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Cemetery Boys follows the story of Yadriel who is determined to become accepted among his family as a brujo after coming out as transgender to them. When his cousin Miguel suddenly goes missing and his family begins to scramble to find his spirit before Dia de Muertos, Yadriel becomes determined to complete the ritual of becoming a brujo himself and help free Miguel’s spirit. With the help of his cousin and best friend, Maritza, Yadriel completes the ritual and tries to summon his cousin’s spirit. However, he ends up summoning the spirit of Julian Diaz, the local bad boy of his school. Julian is determined to not leave this earth until he finds out what happened to him and Yadriel finds himself agreeing to help Julian in exchange for finally getting the chance to prove himself as a brujo. The only problem is Yadriel isn’t so sure he wants Julian to leave the longer he spends time with him.

I absolutely loved this book and the plot. The mystery and romance in the book left me smiling while also on the edge of my seat. The characters in this book were amazing and written really beautifully. Furthermore, I would’ve never been able to predict the plot twist towards the end. It left me shocked, betrayed, and sad all at once and I honestly felt bad for Yadriel most of all.

My favorite part of the book was the friendship between Julian, Yadriel, and Maritza. I became really attached to these characters and their lighthearted friendship to the point where I would die for them. Julian Diaz really did become a character I loved because even though he was a ghost, someone who was transparent and incorporeal, he was just as solid and real as he was alive. Cemetery Boys destroyed the brooding bad boy trope with Julian by showing him as someone who was bright and would do anything for the people he loved. Overall, the book was amazing with the characters, representation, and plot.

Reviewed by Tasnia, Libbie Mill Library

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Read + Review: Sylvie by Sylvie Kantorovitz

Sylvie by Sylvie Kantorovitz

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Sylvie Kantorovitz renders a beautiful graphic memoir that delineates her path to adulthood. Born into a Jewish family in Morocco, Sylvie moves to France with her parents and explores her new home. She lives in a school where her father is the school principal, and most of her classmates are French. She enjoys anything related to art, but her mother isn’t supportive of letting her do it for a living. Instead, she pushes Sylvie to take mathematics and physics to benefit her future. In her elder years, the pressure of choosing a career becomes hard on her. After receiving her Baccalaureate Diploma (an entrance ticket to a university), she moves to Paris and finds out what she wants to be, alone from the external pressure around her.

This book has many things to adore, especially the details, the doodling, and every artistic aspect. Sylvie is such a passionate artist, and I can see that through her commitment to the skill. The image panels were easy to follow, even though they were without words or speech bubbles. However, the author could have shown continuation between chapters since some parts of the plot felt incomplete. Otherwise, the story was straightforward, and the ending was convincing. The overall tone was very comforting, making it a quick and easy read.

I liked that the book stood out from typical memoirs, where they seldom involve violence or the author’s struggles in life. Sylvie was different. Her life was so simple yet very interesting to read. From being a shy person, she had become much more confident with her decisions near the end. It was surprising to see this inner transformation, which added more to her personality.

Reviewed by Sruthi, Twin Hickory Library

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Read + Review: Like Home by Louisa Onomé

Amazon.com: Like Home (9780593172599): Onome, Louisa: Books

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Louisa Onomé’s Like Home is a breath of fresh air that reminds us of our childhood days and fond memories. Chinelo, or Nelo, a Nigerian Canadian, loves her beloved neighborhood, Ginger East, Toronto, and is happy with the way things are. But things changed after an arcade homicide, which has painted the community in a bad light since then. Many of her close friends started to migrate to nearby places, except Kate (Nelo’s best friend), whose store has been a staple to the area. After her store gets vandalized, Nelo fears that she will leave, too. Moreover, new stores have been moving in, gentrifying the community and displacing businesses. As Nelo regards these changes as harmful to her neighborhood, she finds a way to overcome them and stand for Ginger East, her home.

The book hooked me right from the cover till the end. The prose is very readable, and all the characters are given a lot of insight. Nelo was like a reflection of myself, and her youthful, sensible voice kept me invested in the book. I also adored Bo, Rafa, Kate, and Mr. Brown since each of them had a distinct personality and a story to contribute. I also liked how the author pressed on the concept of how change can be good and acceptable, and resisting it could only hurt you more. Likewise, Nelo learns to accept reality and realizes that changes aren’t always bad. Other themes of the book, like gentrification, stereotypes, and friendship dynamics, were closely examined without stagnating the flow of the story.

One memorable thing about the book is the connection between Nelo and her friends. The text messages and their banter made me giggle here and there, and their friendship was so authentic, which is quite rare these days. The closing was well-crafted, presenting a good vibe for the readers at the end. It left me thinking about Nelo and her friends long after the last page. Overall, it is a great debut novel, and I look forward to reading more from Onomé.

Reviewed by Sruthi, Twin Hickory Library