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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: Straight on Till Morning by Liz Braswell

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In a magical retelling of the classic Peter Pan story, Straight On Till Morning tells the tale of sixteen-year-old Wendy Darling and her exasperation with her life in London – routines start to feel droll, waiting after her brothers becomes taxing, and her want of adventure overtakes her dreams. Wishing her life were different, she writes of the trials and tribulations of a Peter Pan in Neverland, who she nearly ran into four years ago. She knows she’ll have to come visit again, since she’s got something of his he needs desperately. When adventure presents itself to her wrapped in a pirate ship, Wendy finds it hard to say no. As she explores the very thing of her dreams, Wendy will soon answer the question: Should you meet your heroes? Or is it better to become one?

Peter Pan has been one of my favorite reads for all my life, and any chance I get to read a retelling of the story, I never turn down! I thought this book was great! I loved how it gave us more of an insight into Wendy as a character. In the original Peter Pan, Wendy is kind and motherly, yes, but she exists only to be a mother to the rest of the characters. However, in this read, she actually has hopes and dreams, and while she cares for her family, we see how she feels about her society and about what could become of her future. Wendy is beyond that timid little thing we first meet in the classic. The plot was also fantastic! It moved quickly, and never left you bored or waiting for the chapter to be over.

Something memorable about this book was the relationship between Wendy and Tinker Bell on Neverland. In the original, there is a jealousy between the two. Both girls have a special place in their hearts for Peter, and it becomes a battle of who he keeps in his heart. In this book, however, there is a friendship between them that we’ve never seen before, making it all the more remarkable.

Reviewed by Shishira, 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: Court of Swans by Melanie Dickerson

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Delia, the only daughter of Earl of Dericott, lived with her seven brothers on an estate in the English countryside. Her life was rather peaceful, though her father was infrequently home, which allowed for her stepmother to always be unpleasantly controlling. One day in 1381, she was hit with the news of her father’s death. Just two weeks later, all of her brothers, most of whom were still children, were arrested by soldiers on the accounts of treason against the king of England. Delia suspects political meddling to be behind this. No longer able to bear her stepmother, Delia herself acts to save her brothers from certain execution. She travels to London, a city unfamiliar to her, with the help of her aunt’s connections and under the disguise of working as a seamstress for the king’s court. Can she save her brothers from their fate while staying out of the countless secret agendas of the court?

For me, the book’s storyline was very intriguing, which I loved. I also found the book’s setting and how it is involved with the plot to be intriguing. It is also very realistic that a girl from the English countryside would be overwhelmed by a city such as London, which plays into the dynamics of the story. The characters’ backstories and their dialogue drew me into the book and I could not put it down. The book’s flow was great and the transitions between chapters made the plot move at just the right pace to not bore nor confuse the readers. However, I also felt the character development seemed a bit too fast and was a bit anticlimactic at times. The word choice used in this book could have also been much stronger and helped with the plot. Overall, the book is a great read!

As a history enthusiast, the most memorable part of the book is the time setting the book takes place. The medieval era is not commonly written about in fiction novels. The author, Melanie Dickerson, however, appears to be experienced with writing about medieval times, because the setting is masterfully applied in many details throughout the book.

Reviewed by Qingyuan, Twin Hickory Library