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review 2017-04-05 02:52
Book 15/100: The Beast Within by Serena Valentino
The Beast Within: A Tale of Beauty's Prince - Serena Valentino

This series keeps disappointing me, but I keep reading it anyway. :p

In Poor Unfortunate Soul: A Tale of the Sea Witch, my main issue was that too much of the book was dedicated to non-canon characters. While that was also an issue in this book -- although to a lesser extent -- one of the things that annoyed me about this one was the way it tried to shoe-horn existing characters into parts of the story where they didn't really belong. I just had a lot of trouble buying that Gaston and Beast used to be friends, even if they did explain that the Beast had "forgotten" about these years after his transformation. A lot of how the prince/beast was portrayed in this book just didn't feel congruous with the one we know in the book, and his redemption seemed to happen too quickly and easily considering how awful Valentino had set him up to be prior to Belle's arrival. I did like the idea of the curse taking hold slowly rather than all at once, though.

Oh, and this book doesn't give a crap about the movie timeline ... as far as I can tell it takes place over a period of two years or so, rather than 10. And it doesn't address the oh-so-awkward issue of the prince being 11 when he is cursed -- he is in his teens (i.e., old enough to know better) in this version. That was just one more thing that made this interpretation feel sloppily done.

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review 2017-03-21 19:20
Book 11/100: Poor Unfortunate Soul - a Tale of the Sea Witch by Serena Valentino
Poor Unfortunate Soul: A Tale of the Sea Witch - Disney Storybook Art Team,Serena Valentino

I love Ursula, but, alas, this was not the Ursula novel I desperately wanted it to be.

What annoyed me about the book was that it was not a "standalone," which I really feel like the books in this villain series should be in order to give each villain's potentially complex backstory and motives their full due. About half the book was focused on follow-up to events from the previous book in the series, The Beast Within: A Tale of Beauty's Prince, which I wasn't really invested in. Overall, it felt more as if the author was more interested in continuing the story with the auxiliary characters that she had made up for the series than really delving into Ursula's story, which felt somewhat tangential to the story Valentino seemed to REALLY want to tell about the "odd sisters" machinations regarding the various villains in the Disney-verse. Overall, this gave the book a somewhat disjointed feel of two stories being told in parallel, one about Ursula's perspective of The Little Mermaid, one about Valentino's own characters that never appear in the Disney movies and thus don't garner a ton of investment from me.

Despite these issues, I still gave the book three stars because the parts that were focused on Ursula's backstory, especially her relationship with King Triton, were well done. The book was also a fun, quick read and an enjoyable bit of escapism. The writing is passable, and despite my disappointment with this series (and other Disney novel spinoffs overall), I know I will keep reading them because, well, Disney.

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video 2016-11-13 21:19

It’s quite frightening to think it’s now November, which means before you know it it’ll be Christmas!!


It’s safe to say I was rather determined to finish more books after last month. At the start of the month I had read 21 out of the 30 books I wanted to read this month.


In this post I wanted to share with you some of my favourite books not only perfect for Halloween, but perfect for the winter months drawing closer. There are the classics like Frankenstein and Dracula, or you could go for a short story such as The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories by Tim Burton. This is such a quickly little book filled with illustrations just as wonderfuly bizarre.


Or for something to really sink your teeth into try Anna Dressed in Bloodby Kendare Blake (review) and the sequel Girl of Nightmares (review). I won’t lie I was a tad nervous about reading these as I don’t do “scary” books, but I really loved these. But let’s not talk about what happened in the basement or the forest.

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review 2016-10-28 20:02
Fairy Tale Re-told
Poor Unfortunate Soul: A Tale of the Sea Witch - Disney Storybook Art Team,Serena Valentino

What happens to someone when they have been wronged by another? Usually we feel hurt. We feel lost. We get angry and try to get back at the other. But when they apologize for wronging you, you may be able to forgive but you will never forget what they have done. And it may ruin a good relationship, or you could move on and try to rekindle the love you have that other person.

Or you could have a heart full of rage and hatred that no matter what anyone tells you, you will have blood. Either their blood or someone close to them. But somehow, somewhere you will get your revenge and nothing will be sweeter.

That is the basis of The Sea Witch, Ursula. She was wronged all those years ago by humans for being different. She was tossed aside like she was nothing by her own brother. And now more then ever, she wants blood to exact revenge on those who wronged her. Doesn't matter who she uses, she'll kill them in the end. No matter who she hurts, no one could match her pain. She sees red, and the world better see it too.

Only problem: she wronged the wrong sisters.

There are three witches who are powerful, full of hate and can do wonders for anyone who has a villainous mind BUT there must be a reason. A reason for the hatred. Not just a feeling of "because I want to". No, there has to be a bloody well good reason for this kind of illicit hatred for them to help. But now that one of their own is missing, the three sisters feel lost and can't think straight. Ursula knows their pain and knows how to use it to her expanse. The three sisters go along with the her plan without question.

Till someone comes along and tells them Ursula's big secret. A secret that will answer the three sister's answers. A secret that could have been useful to Ursula but damaging to the sisters.

Now that the three most powerful sister witches know Ursula's secret and how she was going to use them, well let's just say they aren't very pleased.

Pleased to the point of ruining Ursula's big plan of revenge and stopping her from taking over the world in her hatred. Even allowing a princess....a PRINCESS mind you to get away with love...once again. But this time, the three sisters don't care. They care for one thing and Ursula tried to have her captured and killed. Not while the three sisters still live will they allow this.

Serena has done it once again with these fairy-tale re-tellings from the villains point of view. This time, Serena dives into the Little Mermaid story with the Ursula's point of view.

You poor unfortunate soul for not have read this yet.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1731094188
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review 2016-08-05 06:41
The Beast Within: A Tale of Beauty's Prince by Serena Valentino
The Beast Within: A Tale of Beauty's Prince - Serena Valentino

The Beast Within: A Tale of Beauty's Prince takes place primarily before Belle met the Beast or even before the Prince became the Beast. Readers learn that the Prince (who is never given a name) was, in fact, once friends with Gaston. Also, the enchantress that the Prince rejected prior to becoming the Beast was actually his beautiful secretly-a-witch girlfriend, Circe, who had three wicked witch sisters. Circe's curse didn't immediately take effect, but rather gave the Prince time to meet and court another young lady, Princess Tulip Morningstar. Although lots of familiar characters make appearances, the story fans of the movie are familiar with doesn't really start until the last quarter of the book, and even then there are some changes.

This was from my pile of old unread ARCs. Based on the cover and the vague description on the back, I expected it to be a retelling of Disney's Beauty and the Beast from the perspective of the Beast. It had the potential to be boring, since I already knew the story, but Beauty and the Beast has always been my top favorite older Disney movie, so I was still looking forward to it.

It started in a familiar enough place, with the Beast avoiding going into his own castle shortly after Belle's arrival. Then three witchy sisters appeared and sneered at the Beast, and I began wondering what was up. It's been many years since I last saw the movie (I need to fix that – I know I have it somewhere in my DVD collection), but I hadn't thought my memory was that bad. From what I could recall, he was cursed by a single person who was gone before the story even started. Where did the three sisters come from?

I became even more bewildered during the flashback to the Beast's past, when it was revealed that he (as the Prince) was good friends with Gaston. Gaston. The Disney villain girls are most likely to (unfortunately) meet in real life, and who I was sure had never shown any sign of knowing either the Prince or the Beast in the movie.

What was I reading? A reboot of Disney's Beauty and the Beast? A retelling with huge continuity errors? In the end, it turned out to be neither, but this wasn't revealed until the last quarter of the book. I suppose that means this information counts as a spoiler, but I'm going to include it anyway: the reason why the Prince and Gaston didn't remember being friends, Belle didn't remember going to a ball at the Prince's castle, the details about Circe got muddled, and no one remembered that the Prince had ever existed (and had been at least as awful, if not more so, than Gaston) was because Circe's curse either wiped everyone's memories or blurred them.

Part of me feels like I should be glad the story held so many more surprises than I expected, but mostly I'm just annoyed. Annoyed that the explanation for what this story really was came so late in the book, that the author resorted to “magical amnesia” rather than write something that fit the movie continuity better, and that so much time was spent on the Prince's early days. Writing about the Beast before he became the Beast was a terrible idea. The entire point of the Beast was that he was an awful person who got cursed because of that. I could have done without the full details of his awfulness.

But boy did I get those details. The Prince was basically Gaston with a good bloodline. He wanted to marry someone with a similarly good bloodline. His future bride also had to look perfect at all times, fawn over him no matter how he behaved, and just generally be sweet and passive. Here's a good example of what the Prince thought about Tulip, the fiancee he chose after breaking things off with Circe: “He liked that she showed no interest in books, and that she didn't prattle on about her pastimes. In fact, he had no idea how she spent her time when she wasn't in his company. It was as if she didn't exist when she wasn't with him. He imagined her sitting in a little chair in her father's castle, waiting for him to send for her.” (page 107 of my ARC - I don't have the published book to check it against at the moment)

I imagine the author wrote lines like this to encourage readers to see the difference in how the Prince thought of Tulip versus how he came to think of Belle in the movie, but all I felt was grossed out by the Prince and sad for Tulip. Tulip, by the way, wasn't that bad. She was frustrated and sometimes a little embarrassed by her lack of a decent education (beyond good ladylike things, like how to walk prettily), but she wanted to marry a nice guy and be a good wife. She seemed genuinely sweet, and this book made me feel so sorry for her because of the view it gave me into the Prince's thoughts of her and because I knew that at some point things would go badly for her. I could only hope that she'd end up with someone better.

Yeah... About that... Since the bulk of this book was completely new material, I'd have appreciated it if that stuff had been wrapped up better. Unfortunately, things went very badly for Tulip (spoiler:

she attempted suicide by throwing herself into the sea

(spoiler show)

). She was saved (off-page), but her ultimate fate was never mentioned in detail and, darn it, by that point I cared more about her than I did about the Prince/Beast. I wanted to know that she and her family were going to be okay, and the author didn't give me that info.

This was such a strange book. Everything about its packaging screamed “for fans of the movie,” and you have to have seen the movie at least once for some of the scenes and many of the minor characters to have any impact, and yet I think I'd be more likely to recommend this to people who disliked the movie and wanted further justification of their dislike. The Prince was not a good person. At all. He viewed women as objects for him to collect, display, and throw away as he pleased. He arranged, via Gaston, for a minor character to be assassinated. He was apparently once a nice little boy, he liked his servants, and he and Gaston were good buddies and childhood friends, but none of that negated his basic awfulness. The 50 or so pages at the end devoted to scenes of the Beast falling in love with Belle also weren't enough.

There were some good things to be found here. The way the curse came upon the Prince was wonderfully creepy, with aspects that Belle and others couldn't see. It was nice to see more of Lumiere, Mrs. Potts, and Cogsworth as humans, even though they only had a very minor part in the story. I enjoyed the references to other Disney movies (The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, and possibly others I missed), although I could imagine the cross-over annoying some Disney fans. I sincerely hope that Cinderella's Prince secretly hated having to ever be in the same room with Belle's Prince. In the end, though, this was a disappointing read that left me with no desire to try the other two in the set (series?).


Rating Note:


I was originally going to give this 2.5 stars. Then I started working on this review and decided to chop off another half star.


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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