Tag Archives: Disney Books

What Once Was Mine (Twisted Tale #12) by Liz Braswell Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

The latest novel in acclaimed author Liz Braswell’s TWISTED TALE series hones in on the infamous story of Rapunzel from Disney’s Tangled, but flips the script when Rapunzel’s mother is given the wrong flower to heal her during birth, and Rapunzel is born with silver hair as white as the moon and given destructive power instead in the latest book in the series, “What Once Was Mine”. 

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The Synopsis

The 12th installment in the New York Times best-selling series asks: What if Rapunzel’s mother drank a potion from the wrong flower?

Desperate to save the life of their queen and her unborn child, the good people of Corona search for the all-healing Sundrop flower to cure her—but mistakenly acquire the shimmering Moondrop flower instead. Nonetheless it heals the queen, and she delivers a healthy baby girl with hair as silver and gray as the moon. With it comes dangerous magical powers: the power to hurt, not heal. For her safety and the safety of the kingdom, Rapunzel is locked in a tower and put under the care of powerful goodwife, Mother Gothel.

For eighteen years Rapunzel stays locked away, knowing she must protect others from her magical hair. But when she leaves the only home she’s ever known, wanting only to see the floating lights that appear on her birthday, she gets caught up in an adventure across the kingdom with two thieves—a young woman named Gina, and Flynn Rider, a rogue on the run. Before she can reach her happy ending, Rapunzel learns that there may be more to her story, and her magical tresses, than she ever knew. 

The Review

What a fun and truly entertaining take on the classic story of Rapunzel and the Disney version in the film Tangled! Truly, the story does a great job of laying the groundwork for this retelling by introducing a brother whose sister is in the hospital being treated for cancer and decides to retell her the story of her favorite movie while adding his own twists on it to help keep her mind occupied. This really added a personal and human element to this fantasy retelling, especially when readers learn of this story point’s origin in the author’s afterward.

The haunting, atmospheric tone that the author lays down in the tale of Rapunzel is great to see unfold. The inclusion of magic and witchcraft into the narrative to explore this twist on her origins was great to see unfold. Yet it was the characters that really sold this story, from the inclusion of characters like Countess Bathory, a new villain based on the historical figure to be included alongside Mother Gothel, to Gina, whose strength and partnership with Flynn give them both a stronger voice in the narrative overall. 

Yet it was Rapunzel and Gothel who stole the show. The protagonist’s knowledge of her origins (up to a point), and her desire to keep others safe was a unique twist on her character, as was her complex and emotional relationship with her “mother”. Gothel’s manipulations and selfishness took up all-new levels in this retelling, and the action-packed final confrontation these two had in the midst of a shockingly larger confrontation was powerful for the story Tangled began all those years ago.

The Verdict

A haunting, magical, and engaging dark fantasy take on this Disney classic, author Liz Braswell’s “What Once Was Mine” is a brilliant story and one of the year’s top contenders for the fantasy novel of 2021. A gripping tale of magic gone wrong, betrayal, and the bonds between mothers and their daughters, the addition of a more grounded narrator and a rich tapestry of mythology from beyond Disney’s typical storytelling background made this story shine brightly. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy of this incredible book today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

After the sort of introverted childhood you would expect from a writer, Liz earned a degree in Egyptology at Brown University and then promptly spent the next ten years producing video games. Finally she caved into fate and wrote Snow and Rx under the name Tracy Lynn, followed by The Nine Lives of Chloe King series under her real name, because by then the assassins hunting her were all dead. She also has short stories in Geektastic and Who Done It and a new series of reimagined fairy tales coming out, starting with A Whole New World—a retelling of Aladdin.

She lives in Brooklyn with a husband, two children, a cat, a part-time dog, three fish and five coffee trees she insists will start producing beans any day. You can email her at me@lizbraswell.com.

https://www.lizbraswell.com/

Pahua and the Soul Stealer (Rick Riordan Presents) by Lori M. Lee Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A young Hmong girl with the ability to see the dead discovers she is a powerful shaman warrior must travel through the spirit worlds in order to find her brother’s stolen soul in author Lori M. Lee’s “Pahua and the Soul Stealer”, part of the Rick Riordan Presents series.

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The Synopsis

Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents Lori M. Lee’s middle grade debut about a lonely Hmong girl who discovers she’s a powerful shaman warrior in this fantasy inspired by Southeast Asian mythology.

“I love the adventures Pahua has in this book. I also love the sense of humor, the clever plotting, and the fantastic cast of characters. But most of all I love Pahua: her courage, her kindness, and her love for family.”–NYT best-selling author Rick Riordan

Pahua Moua has a bit of a reputation for being a weirdo. A lonely eleven-year-old Hmong girl with the unique ability to see spirits, she spends her summer days babysitting her little brother and playing with her best friend, a cat spirit no one else can see.

One day Pahua accidentally untethers an angry spirit from the haunted bridge in her neighborhood–whoops. When her brother suddenly falls sick and can’t be awoken, Pahua fears that the bridge spirit has stolen his soul. She returns to the scene of the crime with her aunt’s old shaman tools, hoping to confront the spirit and demand her brother’s return. Instead, she summons a demon.

Thankfully, a warrior shaman with a bit of an attitude problem shows up at the last minute and saves her butt. With the help of this guide, Pahua will have to find her way through the spirit worlds and rescue her brother’s soul before it’s too late. Little does she know she’ll have her own discoveries to make along the way. . . .

With its unforgettable characters, unique nature-based magic system, breathtaking twists and reveals, and climactic boss battle, this story based on Hmong oral tradition offers everything a fantasy lover could want.

The Review

Such a spectacular and awe-inspiring new middle-grade and YA novel that brings the fantasy genre to all new heights. While I am a big fan of mythology, I must admit that I was not very well versed in the mythology of the Hmong people. After this book, I am ready to take a deep dive into this rich culture and mythos that I never knew waited for me. The author did a fabulous job of finding the right balance of rich culture and mythology with the more personal character development of protagonist Pahua, who must balance her own unique gifts, her destiny, and her struggle as an outcast amongst her schoolmates with her mission to save her brother’s soul. 

The themes that the author employed in the narrative really did grab the reader’s attention. The classic story of a young kid gifted with a perilous and heroic destiny, who must take control of her life and face untold dangers to save the life of a loved one is a story as old as time itself, and yet the unique mythos gave the theme new life, as did the theme of a young person considered an outcast not only finding their footing in the world but becoming the hero no one knew they needed. The connection to family and ancestors also struck a unique chord with me, as we all like to think that our loved ones and ancestors are watching over us, and this novel really incorporated that well. 

The Verdict

A heartfelt, magical, and entertaining middle-grade and YA Fantasy read, author Lori M. Lee’s “Pahua and the Soul Stealer” is a must-read novel of 2021, and a contender for the best middle-grade read of the year. This fantasy novel does a fantastic job of introducing readers to a mythology that may not be as familiar to some as say Greek or Egyptian mythology but holds so much fascinating history and culture that could rival either of those cultures as well. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Lori is an avid writer, reader, artist, and lover of unicorns. She should probably spend less time on the internet (but she won’t). She considers herself a unicorn aficionado, is fond of talking in capslock, and loves to write about magic, manipulation, and family.

Hello, Cruel Heart by Maureen Johnson Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A young girl surviving on the streets of 1960’s London as a petty criminal gets a taste of high society after befriending two young scions and seeks to make her dreams of becoming a world renowned fashion designer a reality in author Maureen Johnson’s fantastic new retelling of a Disney classic, “Hello, Cruel Heart”. 

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The Synopsis 

An electric new story of teenage Cruella de Vil in an original novel inspired by the upcoming Walt Disney Studios Live Action Film, Cruella.

Swinging London, Summer 1967. Sixteen-year-old Estella, gifted with talent, ingenuity, and ambition, dreams of becoming a renowned fashion designer. But life seems intent on making sure her dreams never come true. Having arrived in London as a young girl, Estella now runs wild through the city streets with Jasper and Horace, amateur thieves who double as Estella’s makeshift family and partners-in-(petty)-crime. How can Estella dedicate herself to joining the ranks of the London design elite when she’s sewing endless costumes and disguises for the trio’s heists?

When a chance encounter with Magda and Richard Moresby-Plum, two young scions of high society, vaults Estella into the world of the rich and famous, she begins to wonder whether she might be destined for more after all. Suddenly, Estella’s days are filled with glamorous parties, exclusive eateries, flirtations with an up-and-coming rock star, and, of course, the most cutting-edge fashions money can buy. But what is the true cost of keeping up with the fast crowd-and is it a price Estella is willing to pay? 

The Review

This was a truly riveting narrative and perfect spin on the classic story of Cruella. Estella is an endearing and tragic figure, highlighting the person beneath the persona that is destined to become a classic Disney villain. The struggle between Estella’s journey to the streets of London and her petty crimes to striving for the posh life she always thought she wanted and even trusting and falling in love all culminate in a series of events that drive the protagonist to face her darker self, Cruella.

The pacing and setting really stood out in this narrative, highlighting the late sixties in London, an era known for great music, upscale fashion and the seeds of rebellion and so much. The story expertly creates a new layer to the legend of Cruella while honoring the character’s arc and setting the tone for the villains eventual rise, all while making Estella an empathetic protagonist that shows the woman she never had the chance to become, a fate many people have had to endure throughout their lives.

The Verdict

A brilliant, edgy yet heartfelt retelling of a classic character’s history, author Maureen Johnson’s “Hello, Cruel Heart” is a must-read YA novel. The perfect blend of classic Disney characters meeting a retro-style setting and a YA narrative direction, this is the perfect companion read to the hit Disney film Cruella, and a fantastic summer read for 2021. Be sure to grab your copy today!

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About the Author

Maureen Johnson is the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of several YA novels, including 13 Little Blue EnvelopesSuite ScarlettThe Name of the Star, and Truly Devious. She has also done collaborative works, such as Let It Snow with John Green and Lauren Myracle (now on Netflix), and several works in the Shadowhunter universe with Cassandra Clare. Her work has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Buzzfeed, and The Guardian, and she has also served as a scriptwriter for EA Games. She has an MFA in Writing from Columbia University and lives in New York City.

https://www.bookbub.com/books/hello-cruel-heart-by-maureen-johnson

Gamora and Nebula: Sisters in Arms by Mackenzi Lee Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Two sisters raised to be assassins and warriors by a ruthless villain find themselves stranded on a planet being mined and quickly deteriorating, forcing them into a series of events that explores their rivalry and the source of the distance between them in author Mackenzi Lee’s “Gamora & Nebula: Sisters in Arms”.

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The Synopsis 

The second book in the hit series from New York Times best-selling author Mackenzi Lee!

This three-book series explores the untapped potential and duality of heroism of popular characters in the Marvel Universe. The first book in the series, Loki: Where Mischief Lies, was an instant New York Times best seller and received two starred reviews!

The relationship between teenage adopted sisters Gamora and Nebula is as volatile as ever. When they end up on a deteriorating planet being mined for its valuable resources, the two sisters are faced with a series of events that force them to explore the source of their rivalry-and where their loyalty truly lies. This action-packed yet sincere story will tug on the heartstrings of anyone who has ever had to learn how deeply weird and changeable trust can be.

The Review

As a longtime fan of all things Marvel Comics, I was immediately drawn to this book. The author does a fantastic job of balancing the source material of the characters with the creativity and originality of this novel’s narrative. The writing expertly paints a vivid image in the reader’s minds of this vast Marvel Universe, exploring the vastness of the universe that has relatively been unexplored in the comics while adding new layers and context from the creative mind of the author.

What stands out of course is the strong character development of this narrative. From the complex and emotional struggle of sisters Gamora and Nebula, who has been driven against one another and brainwashed by the vile Thanos and his war machine. The interesting thing is that the author utilizes concepts of the comics rather than the MCU as a whole into the narrative, exploring the effects Thanos’s relationship with the personification of Death has had on both protagonists. Even the humorous and tricky personality of The Grandmaster shines brightly in a grim and gritty corner of the Marvel Universe. 

The Verdict

Emotional, action-packed, and entertaining superhero storytelling, author Mackenzi Lee’s “Gamora & Nebula: Sisters in Arms” is a must-read sci-fi and fantasy read. Expertly crafting an original science fiction narrative within a well-established Marvel Universe is an extraordinary feat, and the author excels at navigating the complex relationship between the protagonists and their villainous adoptive father, which has always been a crucial part of the fabric of Marvel’s Cosmic storytelling. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

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About the Author

Mackenzi Lee holds a BA in history and an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Simmons College. She is the New York Times bestselling author of the historical fantasy novels THIS MONSTROUS THING, THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE, which won a 2018 Stonewall Honor Award and the New England Book Award, and its sequel, THE LADY’S GUIDE TO PETTICOATS AND PIRACY, which debuted at #3 on the New York Times bestseller list. She is also the author of BYGONE BADASS BROADS (Abrams, 2018), a collection of short biographies of amazing women from history you probably don’t know about but definitely should, based on her popular twitter series of the same name.

When not writing, she works as an independent bookseller, drinks too much Diet Coke, and romps with her St. Bernard, Queenie.

http://www.mackenzilee.com/

https://www.instagram.com/themackenzilee/

https://www.bookbub.com/books/gamora-and-nebula-sisters-in-arms-novel-book-2-by-marvel-press-book-group



Go the Distance (A Twisted Tale: Hercules) by Jen Calonita Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

After Hercules defeated Hades and saved Mt. Olympus, he was welcomed back as a god. Yet when his immortality threatens to keep him away from his true love, Meg must navigate a treacherous road of untold dangers in a quest to gain immortality herself in author Jen Calonita’s “Go the Distance”, the next entry in the “A Twisted Tale” series.

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The Synopsis

What if Meg had to become a god?

After Hercules proves he’s a true hero and regains his godship, all seems right in the world. That is, until Zeus tells Meg that she can’t be with Hercules because she’s, well, mortal. Luckily, Hera has a solution, offering Meg a chance to prove herself worthy of a spot on Mt. Olympus–as a god. All Meg has to do is complete a mysterious quest.

The mission? Oh, just to rescue her ex’s current wife from the Underworld. The ex-boyfriend she saved by selling her soul to Hades. The ex-boyfriend who immediately moved on to someone else while she was stuck in the Underworld. Can Meg put her past behind her and use her quick-wit to defeat monsters and gods alike, including the nefarious Hades? Will she finally figure out her place and contribution to the world? Or will her fear of commitment have her running away from an eternity of godhood with Herc?

Written by the author of Mirror, Mirror and Conceal, Don’t Feel, Jen Calonita’s latest twist is sure to delight and surprise.

The Review

Thank you to Disney-Hyperion for this arc, because wow this was an incredible journey. As both a major Disney fan and fan of Greek Mythology, this book was the perfect blend of them both. Getting to explore a scenario where Meg and Herc had to fight for their happy ending together was great to see unfold.

Immediately the author delves even deeper into Greek Mythology than the Disney film had done originally, exploring a variety of new monsters and even various new locations that longtime enthusiasts of the mythology will be well aware of. Readers even get a chance to better explore the realm of the gods, as the narrative introduces the gods to Meg along her journey.

However, it is Meg who takes center stage and makes this story shine. The author brilliantly explores Meg as a character and explores why Meg became involved with Hades in the first place. From the tragic past with her mother to the shocking untold truths behind the boyfriend who betrayed her and the near-impossible journey to open up her heart to Hercules and those around her, Meg’s character evolution is the most gripping and engaging aspect of this novel, and expertly adds a new and much-needed chapter to the story began in the film.

The Verdict

A masterful, entertaining, and epic story, author Jen Calonita’s “Go the Distance” is a must-read YA Fantasy and Romance tale. The book is evenly-paced and perfectly captures the magic of the Disney film with the darker side of Greek Mythology and all of the amazing levels to that complex part of history. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

I’m Jen Calonita, a MG and YA author who loves what I do because it lets me connect with all of you (and no, I wasn’t intending for that to rhyme!).

I’ve been writing ever since I can remember, but it was fourth grade when I put my “three wishes” for a genie down on paper. They were:

#1. Buy all the Cabbage Patch Kids in the world and give them away for free (because apparently that was how I rolled).

#2. I wanted a mansion, limo, lake house, pool and speed boat (still sounds quite nice).

#3. I wanted to be an author for young readers, which I am!

I love writing novels for teens (and for savvy grown ups who know that YA rocks at any age). My first series was “Secrets of My Hollywood Life” and it followed a teen star named Kaitlin Burke who struggled with the fame game. I have also written the stand-alone novels Sleepaway Girls, it’s companion book, Summer State of Mind and the Belles series.

I’ve been writing middle grade too and am having so much fun with my series Fairy Tale Reform School! The fourth book in this series about a school run by former villains is called Tricked and will be out March 2018. Ever wonder what it would be like if your parents got a job with someone like Taylor Swift? My other middle grade series, VIP, follows super fan Mackenzie Lowell as she tours with her favorite band, Perfect Storm.

I promise to give book updates here, and on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or my website. I hope I hear from you!

xo

Jen

http://www.jencalonitaonline.com/