Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 5: Cinderella’s Secret Diary (Book 1: Lost) by Ron Vitale

Cinderellas Secret Diary Book1As many before me have mentioned, willing members of the CBR5 were lucky enough to receive free copies of Ron Vitale’s two books about Cinderella and the life she experienced after the ball.

Vitale’s story starts off with an interesting premise: what if Cinderella wasn’t actually living happily ever after? What if the Prince was actually a philandering brute who didn’t love Cinderella at all? What if the Royal Family was only putting up with Cinderella in their lives so that she could produce an heir? Cinderella talks about all of this — and much more — in her daily journal entries, which start off as letters to her Fairy Godmother, who’s help she could use once again.

The story then takes a bit of a left-turn, as Cinderella goes to France and meets another man. She has an affair of her own, and becomes pregnant. Still interesting…having had enough of being treated like garbage by her husband, she enjoys the attentions of a young, handsome Frenchman. When Cinderella is told (by the local witch, who Cinderella was sent to see for help with her fertility) that she is carrying Henri’s baby, she decides to sever ties with the Royal Family and try to make it on her own…with only the assistance of the witch. And this is where the story lost me for good.

Vitale then changes the entire plot to be about magic. Cinderella’s magic, her late mother’s magic, the witch’s magic, her Fairy Godmother (who isn’t exactly as she seems), and the world of Dark Faerie Magic. The two plots simply didn’t seem to work together, in my opinion. I would have preferred to read about Cinderella living on her own, raising a child OR to read a story about dark magic and faeries. Not both together.

There has been lots of discussion on the CBR pages about the quality of the writing in this story. As a former editor (mostly non-fiction), my issue was more with the editing (or the lack thereof). The same words and phrases were repeated constantly, there was often a lack of continuity in the story (Cinderella couldn’t get her glass slippers off no matter how hard she tried, and on the next page, she’s wearing boots, etc…). A careful and thorough edit — even if it meant cutting huge chunks out of the story — would have improved the reading experience for me. I’m not interested in critiquing the writing. I’m not an author, and can only dream of being able to actually write  a book. But I feel comfortable saying that a new editor might change these books for the better.

I’ll admit that I am not the target audience for this story. I’d be interested to know what a younger reader, maybe someone a bit more open to a Twilight-esque story, might think.

Petalfrog’s #CBR5 Review #8: Cinderella’s Secret Diary (Book 1: Lost) by Ron Vitale

Disclaimer: I received this book for free through the Cannonball Read. I must give thanks to the author for being kind enough to share his work with us.

Unfortunately, despite my disclaimer and appreciation of the author, I have little to nothing good to say about this book. I’ll get my one good thing out the way – the premise is pretty decent. The book takes place a few years after Cinderella’s “happily ever after.” She has escaped the clutches of her evil stepmother and stepsisters, and is now a princess. However, she remains fairly miserable and unfulfilled as the prince neglects her for long periods of time and she cannot produce an heir. She has a volatile (at best) relationship with the queen. She convinces the queen to send her and Clarissa to France, ostensibly to meet with a witch who may help her with her fertility issues. Her two solaces are her best friend, Clarissa, and writing in her diary to her fairy godmother.

The latter is what makes up the narrative basis of the story. Each chapter is written as a diary entry to Cinderella’s fairy godmother. The only break from this is when FG writes back to Cinderella. Cinderella is imploring FG to come and rescue her from her bland existence, to bring joy to her life again. Unfortunately, this narrative device results in a lot of “telling” and not “showing” (as a fellow CBR reviewer pointed out). Everything that is told to us, is Cinderella’s memory of what happened. We only ever know her side, and even that is removed. As a result, we never feel in the moment of what’s going on and are only given Cinderella to side with.

This is another major problem with this book. Cinderella is a character we all know and love, but here she is weak, simpering, bratty at times, and very difficult to root for. She is constantly going for walks at night (I have no idea to what end) and has long reflections on her difficulties, yet these are written in such a vague fashion there is no connection with her as a character. At one point she reflects upon her relationship with her father and stepmother,

I had grown beyond that and needed to think about my own future and not my past. The past was the past and so it is.

Not only is this totally trite writing, but at no point do we get to see her grow past this. Rather, she goes and visits her father and this is shoe-horned in. It would be so much more effective if Cinderella actually had a confrontation with her stepmother, and we saw growth from this. In another example, we are told that Cinderella is in training for (I assume) being a witch, but we learn nothing of this training (perhaps Vitale ran out of ideas?).

There are also numerous instances of plain bad plotting that should have been caught by any decent editor. Early on, it is established that the queen dislikes Cinderella, yet seemingly out of nowhere this little gem is included,

The queen allowed both meetings to take place with minimal protection from the guard. Her continued support I cherished.

Once FG was revealed to Cinderella she continued to write, this time to her in-utero daughter (yes, she gets pregnant, and also somehow knows she’s having a girl). Not only does she write extensively about her love affair which I would consider inappropriate for her child to one day read, but her writings include lots of blah blah about powers, and long discussions with her witch-mentor, Renee. Suddenly, we’re supposed to buy into Cinderella being a witch, despite nothing in her mythology (that I know of) to indicate such. At this point, Vitale really seems to be writing whatever he wants and is using the Cinderella thing as a way to just get people reading… there is no connection any longer to her original story.

The writing itself is also pretty awful. The book is set in England and France, during Napoleon’s rising, so I understand the need for a more particular and proper style of writing (especially when the characters are speaking), but that does not excuse some of the most poorly constructed sentences and dialogue I’ve read in a while. In reference to her pregnancy:

“I feel not as nauseous today as I have on this journey.” Loud bangs on a drum distracted me for a moment, and then I continued. “I am more comfortable today.”

We also get this word smash-up, that I literally had to read several time to decipher what was going on,

Renee has shared with me how the sisterhood can help thwart Napoleon will also be discussed.

Finally, this book is supposed to be a Young Adult book, but quite frankly I can’t see this appealing to anyone except maybe the stereotypical sad, middle-aged cat lady. There is nothing youthful or fun in this book, despite the amount of fantasy. Vitale’s attempt to sell a feminist message and present a strong female characters falls flat. He also seems to lack connection with a female character, in general. Granted, it may be quite difficult for a male author to truly understand and embrace their female characters, but I’ve seen it done. Alas, this was not the case here.

While I did not like this book, I truly appreciate Vitale’s graciousness (and courage, knowing we are not obligated to write kind reviews for the CBR) in sharing his book with us.

Read more of my reviews at my blog!

webelos8’s #CBR5 Review #2: “Cinderella’s Secret Diary: Lost” by Ron Vitale

We in the CBR were offered the chance to read and review two books by Ron Vitale, “Cinderella’s Secret Diary: Lost” and “Stolen: Cinderella’s Secret Diary”.

Since I never turn up my nose at anything free, I read the first one, with the understanding I had to be honest, and place it in the “priority read” pile.

I did both.

Lollygagger’s #CBR5 Review #6: Cinderella’s Secret Diary: Lost by Ron Vitale

In the past I’ve read reviews of books and thought ‘damn, that was harsh.’ And while I maintain that some critics come across as snotty jerks, after reading this book I’m starting to understand that, if forced to read many of similar quality throughout my career, I might start to lose a little bit of my tact despite my best efforts.

As others have mentioned, Cannonball Readers were offered this book (and its sequel – which I will not be reading, because I try to avoid making the same mistake twice) for free with the understanding that we would read quickly and report back.

This is not a horrible book. In fact, I can imagine where the inspiration came – other fairy tales are starting to have origin stories (or perhaps always did, but are experiencing a resurgence now). And the idea of following the ‘happily ever after’ is really interesting. It just wasn’t well done in this instance – there is simultaneously too much and not enough going on in the storytelling, the devise used doesn’t really seem to work for this story, and the characters are, in my opinion, almost universally unlikable (including Cinderella).

I have a few issues with this book so I’ll work through them here. First off, the author is clearly not short on ideas; unfortunately there is a whole lot of telling and very little showing. Part of that likely comes from the challenge of a first person narrative in diary form, but my experience reading Silver Linings Playbook showed me that it’s possible to create a rich, complex and interesting character who is telling the story without filling it with lines like “I know you are a good person.” Cinderella may be a good person, but having her best friend say it doesn’t do much for me – I prefer a book show it to me. Or perhaps show me she ISN’T a good person, and that her friends don’t understand her. Something.

Other times statements were made that suggested something had taken place – the most glaring example was the line “All my training had prepared me for this moment.” Huh? Granted, I did find myself bored at times, but I read the whole book, and that line stood out like a sore thumb. Cinderella had been training? I know she was off with her mentor ‘getting ready’ and ‘preparing’ but what did that mean? What was the training? How was she ‘preparing’? What was she doing? It’d be much more interesting to see her in that moment if I had an understanding of what she was calling upon to get through it.

I also have to disagree with another reviewer who thought the writing was good. I don’t think it was horrible, but it wasn’t good. As the book is set in Europe during Napoleon’s time, the author tries to make the language formal and a bit flowerier. I don’t have a lot of experience with modern-day re-tellings of fairy tales but I really, really hope that they don’t all suffer from this forced language. It took me nearly half of the book to get past the feeling that every single paragraph was written in a struggle with an author’s guide to 19th century writing.

I did appreciate the author’s attempt to give the book a bit of a feminist spin, but I think he missed the mark. Nearly all the ‘good’ women in the book are witches, and every single man she encounters either directly causes her pain or is indifferent to her. If the author was going for ‘girl power’ and the idea of saving yourself, he seems to have gone a bit too far. I love that she doesn’t need a man, but does every man need to be totally unlikable?

I still want to find a book like this that I would enjoy reading – I don’t spend nearly enough time reading fiction and I know I’m missing out. I just wish that I hadn’t spent the last six days with this one.

KatSings’ #CBR5 Review #8: Cinderella’s Secret Diary: Lost by Ron Vitale

In the interest of full disclosure, this is a book I received free from the author (along with its sequel, which I will not be reading/reviewing for this blog).  He was kind enough to send a number of copies of both books to those of us participating in CBR this year, and that is wonderful, and I thank him for his generosity.  I hope more authors continue to do the same, regardless of how we review their works, because it’s such a lovely way to get your material out there and read.  And I imagine other people who happily accepted this offer may have more positive feedback than I’m about to.  It’s hard to be less than glowing about a book someone was nice enough to send you for free, but being anything other than honest defeats the purpose of writing these reviews in the first place.

I wanted to like this book, I really did.  And I didn’t hate it – the writing is good, if stylistically different than what works for me.  Some of the ideas working there are really good ones.  It just didn’t quite hit the mark for me.  I’ll be skipping its sequel, and wishing Ron Vitale well on his future endeavors!

loopyker’s #CBR5 Review #01: Cinderella’s Secret Diary: Lost (Book 1) by Ron Vitale

Cinderellas Secret Diary Book1

Disclaimer: This was given as a free e-book to interested CBR5 readers. This in no way influences the outcome of my review.

I was excited to accept the free e-book of Cinderella’s Secret Diary: Lost since both young adult fantasy and the retelling of fairy tales are amongst my favourite genres and I’m always happy to discover more. This story also includes a little taste of historical fiction – another of my favourites.

As the title suggests, this book is written in first person from the viewpoint of Cinderella’s diary a few years after her marriage to the Prince. They are very far from living “happily ever after” at this time and Cinderella is very unhappy with her marriage and her whole life in the castle where she is under great pressure to produce an heir for the Royal family. She is dealing with big decisions about her life, marriage and motherhood. Hints of political intrigue around England and Napoleon are also entwined with the magical elements of fairies and witches.

It all sounds great to me in theory, but fell short of my hopes in practice.

Read the rest of my review at Loopy Ker’s Life.

Kathleen Jaffe’s #CBR5 Review #4: Cinderella’s Secret Diary Book 1 – Lost by Ron Vitale

Cinderellas Secret Diary Book1

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic version of this book for review purposes. However, the opinions expressed here are my own and exactly what they would have been had I paid for this book.

Cinderella’s Secret Diary Book 1: Lost by Ron Vitale is, at its simplest, the story of what happens to Cinderella after ‘Happy Ever After.’ A few paragraphs in, I thought, ‘Hmmm. He’s novelized Into the Woods.’ (It’s a Stephen Sondheim musical, for the non-theatre geeks out there.) This is not a bad thing; anyone who knows me well knows of my deep and abiding affection for all things Sondheim.

The novel is written in the first person by Cinderella in the form of a diary that’s more a series of letters (to her long-gone Fairy Godmother) than it is a confessional, and beginning about four years after the fateful ball when she met and fell in love with her Prince.

not this one

not this one

Read the rest at my blog.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #8: Cinderella’s Secret Diary: Lost by Ron Vitale

We all know the story of Cinderella, right? Stepmother, evil step-sisters, forced to work as a lowly servant, Fairy Godmother, magical shoes and dress, meets the Prince at the ball, falls in insta-love, loses shoe, Prince finds her again thanks to magical shoe only fitting her of all the girls in all the land, and then they live happily ever after. Like that…or possibly not.

What if some years into their marriage, the Prince is more interested in hunting, carousing, flirting with other ladies and sowing his wild oats? The Queen, his mother is unhappy about the lack of heirs being conceived  and while Cinderella (actually name Sophia) is a princess, she is constantly lonely and frequently reminded of her lowly background. She dreams of re-kindling that first spark of love with her husband, and also wants to go to Paris and see the world.