Bookworm Reviews

Also known as MRHavisham.

Bookworm Reviews

Also known as MRHavisham.

Everything you need to know about ARC reviews

All those reviews are honest and spoiler-free. I add spoilers in the reviews of the final versions. They are generally ARCS I won with contests on social medias or that I was given access to via NetGalley and that I reposted here from the latter or from Goodreads.

 


Mistress of All Evil: A Tale of the Dark Fairy ( ARC)

'Before the sun sets on her sixteenth birthday, she shall prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die''!

Ah, a chilling quote shoots during the christening of an innocent child. You heard of this tale and its maddening curse. What was left unheard, however, is the reason why Maleficent, the evil fairy (or the witch ? Or the dragon ? Read and find out) cursed Aurora. Because she was angry for not being invited to her christening? Oh boy, if only you knew. There's a deeper and crucial reason for this action. The fourth installment in Serena Valentino's series shows us the entire life of the self-proclaimed Mistress of All Evil: her childhood, her teen years, the birth of her evil side, her whereabouts during the movie and her point of view through its most iconic scenes ( the spinning wheel, dragon, and christening one mostly).

I identified so much with her and I think you will too, as her life experiences can hit home for a lot of people out here. This literal fairy tale is not only a long, complicated, and gut-wrenching tragedy. It's a tome filled with grief, anger, despair, and dark magic. I really enjoyed learning more about Maleficent when she was young, as the other books didn't explore that much the earlier lives of villains. I loved her links with Disney( and Serena's) characters. The author completely extends her realm here, with the apparition of a fairy kingdom and land where some familiar faces witness the current events in the Many Kingdoms: Between Ursula's death at the end of Poor Unfortunate Soul, Maleficent's arrival, the coma of the Odd Sisters, and the introduction of '' a book about book characters''.

For those of you who read the previous novels and I hope you have, to understand all the connexions, you will be happy to learn that some characters from the previous installments are back and bring a lot in the story. And Aurora is very important too, definitely more than Belle, Ariel and even, Snow White. You will indeed read her musing during some chapters. I was literally shocked while reading this book because there are so many twists and secrets. I'm still blowminded  by all I learned. And the last chapters broke my heart because we already know Maleficent's fate... And we don't want her to die, we understand her motivations and this moment was extremely hard to read.

This story is probably my favorite from the series, I find the themes really interesting. Serena did an amazing job with this iconic character who is my favorite Disney villain. Even if I read the ARC of it, even if this is not a finished book, it was very well written, she put a lot of work and heart in it. I will never watch Sleeping Beauty the same way EVER AGAIN. The reason behind her curse, her green face, her powers, the peoples she met, the symbolism behind her dragon form, her relationship to her raven Diablo, the origins of her castle, and goons, everything is explained with a lot of details. And for those of you who wanted to learn more about Ursula, don't worry! There is more about her in this book, wrapping her story in a satisfying way. I can't wait to read the final version of Mistress of All Evil and to read the next books in the series. 

Serena Valentino offers here, what I regard as the best book in the series ( and my favorite!). With her own sense of storytelling and ability to give to Disney villains , a deep and awesome story, she brings us into beautiful castles, dark forests, ruined sea cities, and let us know her appealing and moving characters with whom it is easy to recognize ourselves.

This skilled author and her books deserve so much love from Disney fans and passionate readers of retelling. Find yourselves immersed in a world so different from ours yet with common issues such as racism, rejection, hypocrisy, and the irritating sensation to be unable to escape your destiny. And you will feel exactly what I felt by reading this masterpiece. If you're a found of Maleficent and of Disney villains, Serena Valentino's books are for you!


Mother Knows Best : A Tale of the Old Witch (ARC)

First of all, I would like to thanks Serena Valentino for organized a trivia contest on her Facebook page for an advanced reader copy of Mother Knows Best. I will keep this review simple with no spoilers in order to tease you and make your mouth water without revealing the plot and the twists.

 

The story begins with a beautiful pragmatic young woman who wanted to see the world but decides to stay in her home birth by respect and love. No, I'm not talking about Rapunzel. The life of this young woman starts many years in the past, a hundred centuries before the events of Tangled in a frightening landscape. This is the story of the old witch who hoarded a golden magic flower. An eerily, selfish person who kidnapped a child in order to stay young forever. We know all about Rapunzel's life. but what about the flower's life? And the long existence of this old witch?

Gothel has always been one of the most mysterious villains in the Disney Pantheon, and probably the most undeveloped. Every time I watched Tangled she intrigued me more and more. I always wanted to know more about her. They were so many unanswered questions. But with this book, I have now the feeling that I know Gothel much better and I can even relate to her.

Serena explores her entire life, first with her teen years when Gothel was living with her family then the beginning of her adulthood, concluding with the events of the movie. I honestly was positively gobsmacked by her story, not only because she is incredibly disturbing compared to the rest of the series but this tale filled with secrets and twists as shocking as the ones in Mistress of All Evil enlight the fact that she is probably the most realistic villain, being an abusive mother, but also being capable to feel emotions every human feel. She was a very different person when she was younger, yet still, a girl fighting against her worst demons.

Though I already knew how she would end up and what choices she would make, Gothel surprised me and I must admit I rooted for her, for all the tragic events in her life. That is to say, I can't excuse what she did to Rapunzel or the path she chooses but I can still understand. I would have probably done the same thing too. And the moment when Gothel starts to age and turns into dust was still an abrupt end once we get to know her best( small pun word) and that we start to love her ( or hate her? So many mixed feelings about this character).

Of course, though the book was centered on Gothel, we get a study of other characters that provide more POVs and background on the old witch. The family of Gothel gets its own background which was quite interesting and one of my favorite aspects. Gothel's relationship with her sisters Primrose and Hazel was beautiful. I daresay that this story is also theirs. Those three brave and brilliant ladies are strong female characters, the heart of the story, and a perfect example of a powerful sisterhood, despite their differences and the trials to overcome. Manea, Gothel's mother was probably as enigmatic as her black-hearted daughter was in the movie and their relationship really helped to get to know Gothel better. 

With the addition of two supporting, yet not one dimension but well-written characters: Sir Jacob who personally was one of my favorites and Mrs Tiddlebottom, familiar faces from the series step into our old witch's life like the exceptional Odd Sisters and their little sister Circe but also their cat Pflanze as well as a famous Disney Princess. We learn some secrets about them and I can't wait to see them again in the Odd Sisters Book.

If most of the plot takes place in a creepy land, Serena shows us once again how much she can alter between beauty, madness, and monstrosity, sometimes even mixing the three of them. This creates a beverage as good as a hazelnut soup with a sleeping potion. If this book is the creepiest of the series, there are also beautiful and heartbreaking scenes as well as comic moments. Serena respected the plot of Tangled and its atmosphere but also give to Gothel the world she fit in. And this is just proof of how creative and brilliant her storytelling is.

The scenes of the movie are well transcribed, the writing style is still exquisite, the references to fairy tales and Disney characters continue to bring even more magic there is a few error spelling in this unfinished version which shows how much the author tries to make it sound like a real book ( and she succeeds because it didn't felt choppy), Rapunzel, Flynn, and Pascal have some moments and last but not least the relationships and the background of Gothel are amazing which cause this story to be one of my favorite in the series with Maleficent's one.

For the fifth time, Serena brought us in a world with dark magic, love, evil, powerful women, and show us how less we know someone's life until we read it. This new installment is totally different from the rest of the series but in a good way and reflects the best aspects of her work and her writing career. You won't be disappointed. Reading this novel is like eating a slice of a hazelnut chocolate cake.

And remember that the world is dark, selfish, and cruel. If it finds even the slightest ray of sunshine, it destroys it. Trust me, dear. Our mothers ( or at least some of them) know best.


Evil Thing: A Tale of that DeVil Woman ( ARC)

 

(Advance Reader Copy Review, Spoiler Free).

 

Dahlings! Cruella De Vil here. You may wonder what an icon like me is doing here. Just to be clear, I don't own this foolish website and I will never own it in the near future. Instead, I decided to annoy a French reader of Serena Valentino, Hugo, while he was writing an annoying review of my MARVELLOUS MEMOIR. You know what people say: If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself! We are our best advocates, in the end.

That's why I decided that I will write an amazing review of my own book( and this is also the reason why this book is told by me unlike the rest of Serena's series which is by the way, not as good or interesting as my novel).

Okay, duckies. Now you are probably wondering how ME and well, this gothic cool woman with her horrible dog Gozer met. Let's say our relationship is as complex as the one I have with Anita. You know, the dishrag that married a foolish songwriter after his stupid dog threw them both in the pond. The answers to those questions are in EVIL THING: A TALE OF THAT DEVIL WOMAN. I know... This title sucks. It should have been: Cruella De Vil: The fashion girl we all deserve and need.

Just to be clear, forget those stupid fairies, those odd creepy triplets sisters, or all the other nonsense you've been known. My life is in London during the Roaring Twenties. No stupid dead forest in my world but my family's mansion, Miss Upturn's Academy, a beautiful estate and finally Hell Hall( it wasn't always its real name, dears. But you will have to read my book to know why). That's right: No spoilers, only teasers! This absolute masterpiece will reveal all about my childhood, my relationship with my parents ( both of them were very different), how I handled dim-witted servants, how I was kind to a stupid girl named Anita as well as the origins behind my love for furs.

But that's just the beginning. We start the story when I'm eleven, then we're arriving at my sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, and twenty-fifth birthday. ( I hate time jumps. They were so many details we could have told about me and we should have explored every year of my life but Serena refused. And she didn't want my story to be divided in three- uh I mean- tenth books- hell to a series of its own. Though I'm much more interesting than an old witch who wants to stay young with a golden flower ( and yet her book is the longest in the series, ugh).

 

This installment is obviously the best one in the series: It's in the real world, it's about me, told by myself...

And Serena Valentino did an amazing job by transliterating my beautiful life. I would say she is a talented one and I might consider inviting her to the signing in Hell Hall. About that, duckies, preorder my book! Buy it, rate it, review it, and make sure I can use the royalties to buy furs, a new car, gin, jazz records, diamonds, and other treats for myself. And Serena Valentino deserves it too for her brilliant ideas through the series. When I was coughing because of smoke or couldn't express my feelings well, she helped me so that it would felt authentic in the book AND she brought someone at my place: an inn-between to save me from a spider. That sounds strange, isn't it? It's a private joke.

Don't pay attention to those white rats and their insipid owners or to the two bloody fools of henchmen I mistakenly hired. Of course, they are in this story but the most important part is the before and... well the after of it. You will have to decide if I'm responsible for my acts ( I'm not, of course) and if I deserve recognition and success ( I do)!

Don't forget something, sweeties: Distinguish yourselves. It's the most important message in this book. Cheerio. Cheerio dahlings. I know you're not imbeciles nor idiots or fools and will read my memoir! It's THE book to read.

MR.Havisham: This is a magical turn page book that I've read in one sitting, about the dreams and descent into madness of an emblematic character...

More thoughts once it will be released but Cruella expressed clearly my thoughts about this book.

 

 

 

 

 

 


I have always been a sucker for old British things, books about large households, aristocrats, and the  Victorian era. TV shows like Upstairs Downstairs or Downton Abbey were my favorites. I was surprised that this book both had elements of it and yet, was a strong story on its own, featuring a request for closure but also a powerful reflection about what life is worthy of. Abigail Wilson has this skill to describe feelings in such a deep way they hit close to home. And projects this story in front of you, as if you were witnessing it from a magic mirror. I truly enjoyed this book. Thank you to Net Galley for such an amazing time, for allowing me to read this little treasure.

Cold Hearted ARC REVIEW

Many thanks to Disney Press and NetGalley for providing an e-ARC of this book.

Everyone heard of this fairy-tale, about a young girl forced to work in her own château as a servant. This punishment was inflicted by her cruel and cold-hearted stepmother. But how this cycle of abuse start and whatever happened to the stepfamily of this young girl after becoming queen? In Cold Hearted, the eight installments of Serena Valentino's freshly New York Times Bestselling Villains series, we go back in time before Cinderella's family reconstruction, to understand how everything crumbled down.

Lady Tremaine possesses a form of independence with an essential amount of money of her own, two daughters quite bossy, a household where servants are treated well, and a massive hole in her life after the death of her first husband. Everythings's rushed and become complicated when she decides to marry a new man, moving to his land and home, in a place where stepmothers are destined to become wicked. Cinderella's stepmother and stepsisters are allowed to tell their version of the story this time, as we learn about their upbringing, friends, customs, and troubles. What makes Cinderella’s stepmother so terrifying is that she doesn’t need magic to be threatening. A sinister glare and hurtful words, without raising her voice, are enough to make her feared and hateful: Serena Valentino portrays her in the most accurate way possible, therefore. Though magic plays a pivotal role in this story, it isn't the only factor responsible for the Tremaines' unhappiness. The backstory crafted for Lady Tremaine, Anastasia and Drizella is based on what makes Serena Valentino’s writing style so admired and magical while creating a unique story: we found ourselves once again in beautiful parlors with French doors or giant ballrooms in dreamy estates with discussions about destiny and how fairy tales are cautionary stories as well as different types of relationships explored between women, all done in a refreshing tone. Though the focus of Lady Tremaine’s story is heavily ( not entirely) based on her love life, it does not diminish her character and give a layer to her motivations. Her reason for her hatred towards Cinderella is revealed, and as you may have guessed, it’s way more important than a story of jealousy and beauty.

The confrontation between a normal world and a magical one finds its place here, as this is the first time a villain residing in the Many Kingdoms didn’t grow up there but rather came to live in it later on. Though I won’t reveal where the Tremaines are from, I’d say it’s another great idea, fitting the personality of Lady Tremaine: stoic, serious, and way too realistic to belong to a fictional, fairy tale kingdom. It’s also unbearable ( in a good way!) that her story feels extremely claustrophobic, as the ambiance of the animated feature did, especially as she passes by symbolic places through her journey to the Château that actually foreshadows what's awaiting her. The roles of fairies and their opposition to witches are furtherly developed while revealing important secrets about Nanny, the Fairy Godmother, and Circe. We also see Cinderella from a different angle and one can't help but feel even more sorry for her.

The special items and characters from the original ( the mice, the slippers) are given a brand new role, and the lack of screentime for the Tremaines in the 1950's movie is counterbalanced by their richly detailed backstory, offering to Anastasia and Drizella an important role at the side of their mother, much like Gothel's sisters in Mother Knows Best. As mentioned earlier, magic isn’t the only factor that created the cold-hearted personality of Lady Tremaine: It is the idea that if someone had helped her the moment, she needed it the most, a lot of things could have been avoided. This is a storyline that started in Mistress of All Evil, was tackled in The Odd Sisters, and find finally its conclusion here. Magic was always present in Lady Tremaine’s life from the beginning, and one can only wonder what could have happened if she had learned to use it to run away from the terrible situation, she found herself trapped in.

The writing style is still extremely visual and emotional, almost as if we were traveling to those foreign lands from home, escaping lockdown to immerse ourselves in new places and allowing ourselves to root for Cinderella’s stepfamily without condoning some of their actions. This book is more heart-breaking and disturbing than dark, but a touch of Mommy Dearest, Grey Gardens, and Great Expectations create creepy well-written scenes that only Mrs. Valentino can pull off. Much like the Evil Queen and the Beast, Lady Tremaine isn’t really given a name but this isn’t something that particularly bothered me, just like I enjoyed Fairest of All and The Beast Within for the same reason. Lord Tremaine and Cinderella’s father, in return, are given proper names, Anastasia and Drizella are granted nicknames, and ‘’Lucifer’’ is also explained as well as his origins.

Though there is a small section in the Fairylands at the beginning of the book, readers are ultimately reintroduced to the Many Kingdoms at the same moment Lady Tremaine and her daughters step foot in it for the first time: this is brilliant storytelling, as it allows the return to this magical place in an original way, after its absence in Evil Thing. Our favorite troublemakers, the Odd Sisters are also back, making an iconic return by paying a small visit to the Tremaines and though there isn’t a lot of pages dedicated to them, their role remains extremely important.

It is fitting to conclude that, though Serena Valentino worked with a lot of supporting people at Disney, as mentioned in her dedication, there’s no doubt the Villain Series was granted its Best-Selling status thanks to her hard work and creativity. Indeed, though this is her eighth installment Mrs. Valentino has already won her spurs a long time ago and we surely all can’t wait to read the rest of her work: Book 9 will hit the shelves during Summer 2022 and three more Villains books have been announced as well as one secret novel and a graphic novel of Evil Thing! There is obviously so much more to analyze and talk about Cold Hearted, but I’ll leave it for a final book review.