By the Book (Meant to Be Series) Book Review

The haters to lovers trope is one that had been used many times, by many authors, in many different ways. The figurative beauty of this well-known narrative arc is its ability to be dynamic and uniquely moldable to a new perspective.

By the Book is the second book in the Meant to Be Series. Written by Jasmine Guillory and published in May, it is essentially a modern-day rom-com version of Beauty and The Beast. For the last three years, Isabelle has been working at her NYC-based publishing company, hoping to be noticed by her manager. In her mid-twenties, she is one of the few African American employees and starting to become disillusioned.

While on a work trip to California, she finally seizes upon an opportunity to get the appreciation she deserves. Beau is a well-known author who has been radio silent on the status of his manuscript. She decides to try to talk to him in person. When Isabelle finally meets Beau, she discovers that his reputation of being impersonal and hard-headed is not too far off from reality.

Getting Beau to open up is a bigger task than Isabelle initially expected it to be. But as they spend time together, both Beau and Isabelle learn that each of them is lost in their own way and may find what they are looking for in one another.

This book had me at hello. It was delicious, romantic, funny, and held me by the lapels from beginning to end. Guillory holds tight to the Disney narrative while remaking it in her own image. I loved Isabelle’s spunkiness, Intelligence, and drive. Beau, as the leading man, has his own troubles, making him relatable and enough of an asshole to challenge both the reader and his future other half.

Do I recommend it? Of course.

By the Book (Meant to Be Series) is available wherever books are sold.

Beauty And The Beast Ballroom GIF by Disney - Find & Share on GIPHY

Cruel Beauty Book Review

One of my favorite things about fairy tales is that the narratives are malleable. There is no rule that says that these stories have to fit within a certain mold.

Cruel Beauty, by Rosamund Hodge, was published in 2015. Since she was a girl, Nyx has known her fate. Upon turning seventeen, she marries the ruler of her kingdom, known as The Gentle Lord. Known for being a trickster and not well-liked by the people, Nyx’s goal is to kill him and free them all from his tyranny. But her new husband is not who she expected him to be. While she reconsiders how to end his life, she also starts to fall for him.

This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. The best way to describe it is a YA dark fantasy adaptation of Beauty and the Beast with an undertone of Greek mythology. Nyx is a heroine is a perfect heroine for our era and her story is absolutely worth reading.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Beauty And The Beast Love GIF by Ordinary Nadee - Find & Share on GIPHY

A Lady for a Duke Book Review

I hope and believe that anyone’s greatest wish is to love and be loved in return, regardless of who they are.

Alexis Hall‘s new regency romance novel, A Lady for a Duke, was published last month. Up until Waterloo, Viola Caroll hid her true self. When it appeared that she did not survive, she took the opportunity to become the woman she knew she was inside. But there was a price to pay for being herself.

Among her losses is her best friend Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood. When they reunite years later, Gracewood is a shadow of his former self. Relying on alcohol and other substances to dull the pain, he has become a recluse who is living in the past.

Doing everything she can to bring back the man she knew, new feelings of both the physical and emotional kind bubble to the surface. Viola wants to tell Justin the truth, but doing so may cost her everything she has fought for.

I love that the cover is giving me Beauty and the Beast vibes. I also love that the heroine is transgender. It was a lovely change to a genre and a narrative that many of us know all too well. The problem is that the spark between the main characters is missing. While the author does a great job of keeping us in Viola and Justin’s heads, the all-important “will they or won’t they?” question is missing. I badly wanted to root for them. But the chemistry that should have pulled me in was simply not there.

Do I recommend it? A highly disappointed no.

New Randy Rainbow Videos: PINK GLASSES (A YouTube Exclusive) & Lida Rose/Will I Ever Tell You? (A YouTube Exclusive)

One of the beauties of the internet is that it opened the door for new artists/performers whose work might have gone unnoticed or unappreciated. Randy Rainbow is one of these artists/performers.

Rainbow released two videos this week. Both songs come from his new album, A Little Brains, A Little Talent.

Co-written with Alan Menken (Beauty and The Beast, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, etc), I love how this song is about being yourself and not caring what someone else thinks.

When you love something, it shows. Rainbow’s affection for Broadway musicals is obvious as he pays tribute to The Music Man. There are some who would pretend to like something for their career or their bank account, but not him. Underneath the hilarious parodies, there is a sincere love for the genre. He knows these shows in a way that allows him to spoof whatever is going on in the world while remaining true to both the characters and the narrative.

As regular readers know, I am a huge fan of Randy Rainbow. I love these videos and I look forward to whatever he is going to do next.

RIP Meat Loaf

Every decade has its own music artists that represent the period. There are few that transcend time, entertaining generations of fans.

Meatloaf was one of those performers. He passed away last Friday at the age of 74.

Both a versatile singer and a respected actor, he moved between both mediums seamlessly. On stage, he was a powerhouse vocalist whose theatricality made his performances extra special. If I could have seen him in concert, I would have. I’m sure that it would have been nothing less than a bucket list experience.

I love the Beauty and the Beast inspiration for this video. It’s just perfect.
The best part of this video is the voice of the female character. Instead of just giving him what she wants, she hits back with equal force.
A reboot of a Celine Dion song, it is sad, sweet, and full of regret.

Thank you, sir, for the years of joy you have given us. Rest in peace.

Emma Watson is Wrong About Israel

As a proud Jewish person, I get tired of the antisemitic, anti-Israel bullshit. For once, I wish we would just get over it and move on with their lives. As I see it, it takes way too much physical and emotional energy to hate another person simply because of who they are. Why not just live and let live?

Recently, Harry Potter and Beauty and the Beast star Emma Watson made a rather controversial post on her Instagram account.

Outside of her work as a performer, Watson is known as a feminist and a humanitarian. The fact that she is committed to both causes is nothing to sneeze at. But they are undermined when Israel is marginalized and demonized due to either purposeful lies or ignorance. Watson seems to be an intelligent and educated woman with a dedication to creating a better world. The problem is that she, like many people either ignore the facts or doesn’t bother to do their research before professing support of a terrorist organization. The issue grows tenfold when someone who has a platform as she does spreads lies.

I have nothing against those of Palestinian origin. My problem is when a government uses their resources not to build up their country, but to destroy another and convince the people that the neighbor is to blame. One of the podcasts I regularly listen to, Israel Story, had a recent episode about the Sbarro suicide bombing that occurred in the summer of 2001. Instead of just interviewing the surviving victims and their family members, they also interviewed the family of the person responsible for the attack. While I find it heartening and revealing is that the brother of the bomber partially places the blame on his government, not on Israel (start at 1:12:39).

Is she antisemite? I don’t know, I’ve never had the opportunity to meet her in person. But I do know that Israel is the only nation in that region in which women are fully enfranchised. The Tel Aviv Pride parade is one of the biggest gay pride parades in the world. It is a full-fledged democracy in which all citizens, regardless of any societal labels, have the same rights and responsibilities.

I don’t want to tell her to shut up and look at her next script. But I do want to give her a history book and recommend that she do a little reading before making her next broad and misleading statement.

Saying Goodbye to Melania Trump in the Best Way Possible: With A Song In Her Heart, Melania Trump Returns To New York

Imitation, we are told is the sincerest form of flattery. It can also reveal truths that we would rather not deal with.

For the last four years, actress Laura Benanti has been satirizing former First Lady Melania Trump on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Last Tuesday, Benanti stepped into the shoes of Mrs. Trump for the last time.

Start at 3:53

It’s as if they were saving the best for last. Using the opening number from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast as a baseline, the song speaks to how much we want her and her family out of the city.

I hate to say it, but there is one thing I will miss about you know who and his family. It is the comedy that is writing itself.

Mulan Review

Back in 1976, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich made the following statement:

“Well-behaved women seldom make history”

Among the myths that exist in Chinese history, the story of Hua Mulan is one of the most well known. In 1998, Disney released an animated film based on her narrative. In September, the live action adaptation premiered on Disney Plus.

Mulan (Yifei Liu) is not your average young woman. Girls in her world are expected to be meek, mild, and subservient. The highlight of her life is her future as a wife and mother. But Mulan is the opposite. She is a tomboy who would prefer to be active rather than submit to the path that is prescribed for her.

When the kingdom is invaded, a decree is sent out. Every family must send one man to fight. But Mulan has no brothers and her father is partially crippled from the last invasion. Disguising herself as a boy, she joins the army, knowing full well that the revelation of her gender is a dangerous one.

Among the live-action updates of Disney’s animated films (Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast), this is the best of the three that have so far been seen by audiences. It is darker and grittier than its predecessor, enhancing what was already there. I also loved the addition of Xianniang (Li Gong). Though she is initially introduced as the typical Disney villain, there is more to her than meets the eye.

One of the updates that I think makes the movie is the question of how gender is perceived. Though the subject was threaded into the screenplay in the 1998 movie, it is much more prevalent in this version.

If there was one takeaway from this film, it is to thine own self be true, even if the revelation is a difficult one to process. Given the changes in our culture in regards to gender, sex, and sexuality, the message comes through loud and clear.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Mulan is available for streaming on Disney Plus.

Thoughts on Wear a Mask (Be Our Guest Parody)

For the last 7 months, we have been reminded to wear our masks when we leave our homes.

In case there are fools out there who think that they don’t need to wear a mask, this lovely reminder from Beauty and the Beast could not be clearer.

In other words, shut up and just put on a dam mask.

New Randy Rainbow Video “THAT DON! – A Randy Rainbow Song Parody”

Last week’s impeachment of you know who is nothing short of history making.

That being said, the impeachment opens many doors for those who are ready, willing and eager to satirize the process and the man being impeached.

Randy Rainbow’s newest video, “THAT DON! – A Randy Rainbow Song Parody” uses the song “Gaston” from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast“.

With his usual genius and spot on comedy, Rainbow makes us laugh at what is in reality a serious event which has implications to forever change the the political face of this country.

I can’t think of a better way to start the week.

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