Posted in reviews

Cold Hearted (Villains #8) by Serena Valentino Review

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

The true origin of one of the most notorious evil stepmothers is revealed in author Serena Valentino’s “Cold Hearted”, the eight book in the VILLAINS series.

The Synopsis

It’s a familiar tale: A kind and beautiful young girl, reeling from loss. A doting father, frantic to bring a mother’s love back into his daughter’s life. And the selfish, cruel woman who insinuates herself into that family―a woman so unfeeling, so cold hearted, that when her new husband dies, she makes the girl a servant in her own home.

But who is that evil stepmother, that icy lady of the house? How did she become so closed off that, in the face of a child’s grief, she thought only to seek wealth and power for herself and her abhorrent daughters? Before that fateful ball, before the glass slipper and the prince, there was another story―a story of love and grief, of hope and of dreams dashed. It is the story of Lady Tremaine.

Even the coldest of villains are sometimes wives and mothers, women who loved and lost and hoped for

something grander for their lives . . . once upon a dream.

The latest novel in Serena Valentino’s deliciously devious Villains series introduces the most famed and hated wicked stepmother of them all―but turns everything you know about her on its head.

The Review

A truly haunting and engaging story, the author has masterfully brought to life the story of Cinderella in a whole new light. Seeing the story through Lady Tremaine’s eyes was amazing, not only showcasing who she was before her marriage to Cinderella’s father, but showcasing how all the girls of the household became victims of his cruel nature. Even Cinderella, beloved by her father, found herself a pawn in his game of control. The pacing of the novel really helped draw readers in, while the setting changes from London to the Many Kingdoms highlighted the change in magic and it’s effect on those not of that world.

The character growth was definitely the highlight of the narrative. The story helped balance the original characters and gave them more dimension. From Cinderella inadvertently giving her father the means to push Lady Tremaine over the edge to the inclusion of the Fairies and their dark counterparts, The Odd Sisters, and even the tumultuous path that put the step sisters in the path of villainy, readers won’t be able to help feeling sympathetic towards the women.

The Verdict

A brilliant, entertaining, and chilling take on a classic fairy tale, author Serena Valentino’s “Cold Hearted” is a must read YA novel of the summer. Capturing the essence of classic fairy tales and elevating the narrative to include much more well rounded characters, the book is one readers won’t be able to put down. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

About the Author

Serena Valentino has been weaving tales that combine mythos and guile for the past decade. She has earned critical acclaim in both the comic and horror domains, where she is known for her unique style of storytelling, bringing her readers into exquisitely frightening worlds filled with terror, beauty, and extraordinary protagonists. The books in her best-selling Villains series are best enjoyed when read in the following order: Fairest of All, The Beast Within, Poor Unfortunate Soul, Mistress of All Evil, Mother Knows Best, Odd Sisters, Evil Thing, and Cold Hearted.

https://www.serenavalentino.com/

https://www.twitter.com/SerenaValentino

https://amzn.to/3qS8knn

Posted in reviews

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/

Posted in Personal Blog Posts

Hope At The House of Mouse (Disneyland 2018)

My Day At Disneyland

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The blazing Southern California heat couldn’t touch stop us from having the time of our lives. When the world thinks of Southern California residents, they have a certain image of us. They see beach dwellers, Hollywood obsessed actors and non-stop party goers. They see the glitz and glamour of the entertainment industry, and the pitfalls of crime and horrors on the streets of our cities. Thanks to social media, a lot of people also tend to assume that anyone who lives in Southern California goes to Disneyland all the time. They would be wrong.

When I was a kid, trips to Disneyland were a once a year adventure. They were ingrained into our childhood memories, like sand mixing into the fibers of a carpet. No matter how hard you try not to dwell on the past and yearn to return to a happy time, those memories just won’t go away. For someone like myself, who struggles with physical disabilities 24/7, getting down to Anaheim and the Happiest Place On Earth is no easy task.

Entering The Park

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For the first time, I got to experience a day at Disneyland and California Adventure like never before. Setting out with my fellow Disney obsessed fans (who happen to also be my mother and sister) we ventured into the park and experienced it like it was the first time. From our first time eating lunch at the famed Carnation Cafe to the soothing ride on the classic attraction Jungle Cruise, the day was like someone scavenged through the memories of my childhood and plucked it out of my mind.

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Honoring My Grandfather

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The highlight, (one of many), of the day for me came in New Orleans Square. Years ago on Christmas Eve, my family and I had the misfortune of having to say goodbye to my grandfather, my mother’s father. He was a kind, caring family man who may not have been perfect, but he loved his family dearly. He was the kind of man who wouldn’t let you get into his home without bombarding you with affectionate hugs. He gave my mother, sister and I our love for cheesy horror movies and musicals. He is the man who introduced my mother, and subsequently me, to the works of Stephen King, the author who would inspire me to become a writer in the first place. He was an amazing soul who worked his entire life as a carpet layer to provide for his family, and gave everyone a lifetime’s worth of memories to cherish.

It was one of those memories that led to this momentous day at Disney. While in New Orleans Square, my mother surprised my sister and I with a glass figurine each. We learned that as a child, her father would take her to Disneyland, and together they would watch the glass figurines being made in that shop, the Cristal d’Orleans. Then he would buy her one of the figurines. It was a symbol of the great memories she made at the park with her father, and for years she dreamt of passing it down to us. After a decade away from the park, we finally had the opportunity to learn of this experience she had, and together we had an emotional bonding moment I will cherish for the rest of my life.

California Adventure

Then we continued our fun in California Adventure. An area of the park we never experienced as children since it had yet to come into existence fully, we explored the fun and excitement of the park. It was Pixar Fest, and we got to see some amazing sights. We traveled back in time to the days when boardwalk games were still popular and won some fun prizes. We listened to amazing Mariachi Music, including a wonderful rendition of our current favorite Disney tune, “Remember Me” from Coco. We shopped and dined, and together we experienced one of the best days of our lives.

Some may not understand fully why a day at Disneyland could be so magical to a family of adults, but to us, honoring our childhood and the memories we shared, is something everyone should experience throughout their lives. The world of Disney helped shape part of our lives, giving us the means to explore masterful storytelling, emotional highs and lows in life, and best of all, discovering the magic of hope. In our daily lives, we experience physical pain from our disabilities, emotional pain from those illnesses and the despairing world around us, and mental pain knowing those things aren’t something we can change overnight. Yet in that one day, we got to experience nonstop wonder, excitement, fun and best of all, hope.

A Day To Cherish

We laughed. We cried. We made memories together, and we made promises to one another. Promises to honor the day we had with one another and make it an annual trip (hopefully) in the future. To make it a goal to get to the park at least once a year, and honor the memories we shared with one another. To honor those who are no longer with us in body, but remain in our hearts. To look adversity and pain in the face and smile, as the hope for a brighter tomorrow races towards us. For myself and my family, that is what the happiest place on Earth means to us. That’s what Disney has done for our family.

What is your favorite childhood memory? What’s one place you will never stop wanting to go to no matter how old you are? Leave your comments below.

https://disneyland.disney.go.com/

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Posted in reviews

It’s A Bright World TO Feel Lost In by Mawson Bear Review

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

We all had that one special toy, that one stuffed animal that was always a source of comfort, friendship and love when we were children. In author Mawson Bear’s book It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In, adults and children alike can reconnect with that special connection we all shared with that special toy in our lives, and remember what it’s like to search for love and your place in the world. Here’s the synopsis:

Are you feeling a little lost? Got that ‘left in the spare room’ emptiness about you? Mawson does too.

He sits atop his cushion and ponders about baffling things.

The world is a funny place for a curious teddy bear to live in. Friends approach him about their own dilemmas. They seek instant answers that will make everything all right. Mawson does his best. But after he ponders deeply, most things remain for him just as baffling as they were before.

Take a moment out of your day to pawse with him and explore the world. For the many frazzled readers who feel, secretly, much the same, he offers the comfort that the world is a bright place to be.

This book has a surprising emotional pull for adults that you wouldn’t expect just looking at this book’s cover. While it features a stuffed animal bear as the narrator, the story takes a wonderful journey of self discovery as we explore what it means to be needed and loved. It highlights the simplistic yet care free nature of being a child, and the painful process of growing up. The theme of the story reminds me a lot of the overall theme of Disney and Pixar’s Toy Story franchise. It’s the story of growing up, and finding a way to still be wanted or needed in the world.

Overall this was a wonderful story. Filled with heart, emotion and a unique picture book style with photographs in lieu of artwork. The story felt personal, emotional and incredibly powerful. If you haven’t yet be sure to pick up your copy of Mawson Bear’s It’s A Bright World to Feel Lost In today!

Rating: 10/10

https://www.amazon.com/Its-Bright-World-Feel-Lost/dp/1922200441/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1522411782&sr=1-1&keywords=9781922200440