Category Archives: Fairy Tales

Tokyo Ever After Book Review

Many girls dream of becoming princesses when they are young. But what happens when you discover that you are a princess?

This is the jumping off point of the new YA novel, Tokyo Ever After. Written by Emiko Jean, the book was published last month. Izumi “Izzy” Tanaka is a high school senior living in a small town in California. One of only a handful of Asian-Americans students in her school, she is used to the not so polite questions and stares she receives from her her classmates.

Raised by her single mother, she never knew her father. That is, until her best friend does some digging. Izzy’s father is the Crown Prince of Japan. Before she knows it, she is in Tokyo, meeting her father and family that she never knew existed. The world of the Imperial family is an ancient one, bound by rules, traditions, and expectations that are a 180 from the middle class life she knew in the United States. Torn between the life she knew and the life that she could have, Izzy has to make a choice.

The narrative is somewhere between What a Girl Wants and The Princess Diaries. I truly loved this book and Izzy as a main character. The tension between her want to fit in with her new relations and being true to herself felt very relevant to me as a reader. I loved the details of the Imperial Palace, the images were so visceral that I felt like I was there with Izzy.

Do I recommend it? Yes .

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Raya and the Last Dragon Review

Emotional growth and maturity does not appear out of the blue. It requires us to step out of our comfort zone and be willing to go on a journey that by definition is never easy

The new Disney movie, Raya and the Last Dragon, premiered earlier this year. In the ancient realm of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. When the Druun threatened it’s inhabitants, the dragons stood between the invaders and humanity. But as much as they tried, the dragons were not able to protect themselves or their human neighbors.

500 years later, Kumandra is now split into five different kingdoms. Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) is daughter of Benja (Daniel Dae Kim), who is chief of the Heart kingdom. He believes in peace and is eager to return to the days when everyone lived together, but his dreams are just that. Benja brings together the leaders of the other four kingdoms, hoping that it will generate some sort of good will towards one another. What starts out a lovely afternoon turns into terror.

Years later, Raya is searching for a way to fulfill her father’s dreams. She has become a cynic, unwilling and unable to trust almost everyone she meets. On her journey, she releases Sisu (Awkwafina), the only dragon to have survived the massacre. Sisu has an open heart and believes in the good of humanity. This odd couple will have to work together to undo the past and return Kumandra to what it was.

As Disney movies go, it was pretty good. Raya is a real and relatable heroine. Her story, unlike her Princess sisters, is of self discovery and learning to trust. There is not even a mention of a romantic relationship. The closest parallel, if there is one, is the love between Raya and Benja. In most fairy tales, the father of the female protagonist is either dead or emotionally absent. It was lovely to see a parent who loves and supports his daughter beyond the traditional “find a man and settle down” narrative. I also loved that the filmmakers let Awkwafina be her full comedic self and that it felt authentically Asian without pandering to anyone.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Raya and the Last Dragon is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.

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Snow White & Fox News: Nothing More Than a Distraction

Have you ever gone to a magic show and closely watched the magician while they were doing card tricks? The real trick is in their left hand, but they are distracting you by making you focus on what is in their right hand.

The latest brouhaha to come out of Fox News revolves around the updates made to the Snow White’s Enchanted Wish ride at Disneyland. Their claim, as ridiculous as it sounds, is that cancel culture is again rearing its ugly head. The target of the moment is Snow White.

These people need to get over themselves. Instead of dealing with the real issues like Covid-19, the economy, the still prevalent race issues, etc., they talk about nonsense. Its as if these people purposefully put their heads in the figurative sand. They hear and see what they want to hear and see. If it doesn’t interest them or directly support their point of view, it is wrong or bad somehow.

No wonder this country is going to Hades in a handbasket.

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Thoughts On the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Interview

The fairy tale books we are read to when we are young present images of royal perfection. Though the characters exist within this world have problems, those issues are resolved by the time the story ends. But that is fiction. But, as we all now, real life is not as simple.

Last night, the interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle aired on CBS. Sitting down with Oprah Winfrey, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex explored issues relating to their marriage, mental health, the overwhelmingly negative and racist press coverage, and the decision to step back from the Queen’s inner circle.

The overwhelming message I got is that the family, known as “the firm” is an institution that is more concerned with the external image than the well-being of individual members. The treatment of Harry’s mother, the late Princess Diana, contains more than enough evidence of that fact. The thing about intuitions is that while tradition is all well and good, one must roll with the times. Just because something was rolled under the rug two or three generations ago does not mean that rolling it under the rug now is going to make it any easier to deal with.

I appreciated both Meghan and Harry’s honesty. It must have been cathartic to get all of that off of their chest, especially in front of an international audience. I also appreciate that instead of being a tabloid-ish tell-all, there were some boundaries. Harry could have easily revealed who made the awful comment about his son’s potential complexion. Instead, he chose to keep that information private.

I have nothing but admiration for the both of them. The problem with a toxic environment is that it is often too familiar. It takes a lot of courage to step into the unknown and even more courage to emotionally move on from what is keeping us from living a full and happy life.

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The Heir Affair Review

Fairy tales end with the line “they lived happily ever after”. But as anyone who has ever been married can tell you, the wedding is only the beginning.

The Heir Affair (the sequel to The Royal We), by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, was published last year. It takes place right after the first book ended. Nick and Bex are newlyweds, but life is not all sunshine and roses. The scandal that nearly ended their engagement has forced them to go into hiding. When they are forced to return to London, Bex knows that she and Nick must face the music. Adding to their troubles is the revelation of a family secret and a question of succession.

I loved this book. I didn’t think it would have possible to top The Royal We, but somehow the authors were able to. As a reader, I was able to relate to the characters because it is the story of an imperfect family, who, at the end of the day, are no different than any other family. I wont spoil the ending, but I will say that it humanized these people, instead of elevating to images of royal perfection.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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The Royal We Book Review

From an early age, of the most common fairy tales are told is the story of the marriage between a prince and a commoner. But as perfect and straight forward as these narratives are, they are a just a tad boring.

The Royal We, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan was published in 2016. Rebecca “Bex” Porter has always had an adventurous streak. Transferring to Oxford University to finish her degree, she is met at the door by Nick, one of her new housemates. What starts off as a friendship turns into love. But Nick is not just any guy. He is Prince Nicholas, heir to the British throne.

It is not easy dating a future King of England, given the fame and the responsibilities Nick has on his shoulders. It quickly becomes apparent that Bex will have to make a choice about her life and her future. To say that the decision is not easy is an understatement.

Loosely based on The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge‘s early years as a couple, I found this book to be charming, romantic, and delicious. Both Bex and Nick are drawn in a way that they are fully fleshed out characters, instead of the 2D Hallmark movie leads they could have been.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Best Movies of 2020

  1. Soul: Though it is marketed as a kids movie, the subtext of appreciating life feels appropriate and potent this year.
  2. Mulan: The live-action reboot of the 1998 animated film Mulan rises above its predecessor, making it fresh and relevant.
  3. Emma.: Anya Taylor-Joy stars as Jane Austen‘s eponymous heroine, Emma Woodhouse, introduced as clever, rich, and handsome. Directed by Autumn de Wilde, this adaption is entertaining, funny, and a lovely addition to the list of Austen adaptations.
  4. The Trial of the Chicago 7: The film tells. the story of the 7 men accused of being responsible for the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests. Though it is set in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it feels very 2020.
  5. Portrait of a Lady on Fire: This LBGTQ historical romance between a young woman and the female artist hired to paint her portrait is sweet, romantic, and powerful. It proves once more that love is love is love.
  6. Ordinary Love: Joan (Lesley Manville) and Tom (Liam Neeson) are your average middle-aged couple. When she is diagnosed with Breast Cancer, they both must deal with the rough road ahead.
  7. The Assistant: Jane (Julia Garner) is an assistant to a Harvey Weinstein-esque powerful movie producer. She starts to notice things that don’t sit right with her.
  8. I am Greta: This documentary follows teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg as she advocates for the world to pay serious attention to climate change.
  9. Mank: Gary Oldman plays Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz in a performance that is nothing but Oscar bait.
  10. #AnneFrank-Parallel Lives: Narrated by Helen Mirren, this documentary tells not just Anne’s story. It follows other young women who survived the Holocaust. Parallel to the stories of the past, the viewer is traveling with another young woman as she visits different countries in present-day Europe.

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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.

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Cinderella Is Dead Book Review

We all know the story of Cinderella. Her tale has been part of our culture for an untold number of generations.

Cinderella Is Dead, by Kalynn Bayron, was published back in July. In the fictional kingdom of Mersailles, women are chattel. At the age of sixteen, young girls are required by law to present themselves at the annual ball. If any one of them is unable to find a husband by the time she turns eighteen, her fate is either servitude or disappearing forever.

 Sophia Grimmins is sixteen. She would rather marry her girlfriend, Erin, than be forced to say I do to a man she does know or care for. But she also knows what could happen to her parents if she does not attend. At the ball, Erin falls in line with the other girls. But Sophia is having none of it. After she escapes, she finds herself in Cinderella’s mausoleum. Meeting Constance, a direct descendent from one of the step-sisters, the girls hatch a plan to remove the King from the throne. Sophia also learns that the tale of Cinderella that has been drilled into her is missing a few critical pieces of information.

This book is interesting. A sort of The Handmaid’s Tale meets YA/LGBTQ fantasy, it is not our grandmother’s simplistic, Disney-fied version of the story. Which is perfectly fine with me, I am always up for a fractured fairy tale. I love the author’s creativity, the world she created is nuanced and feels closer to our world than the traditional world these narratives take place in.

The problem is initial chapter and the concluding chapters feel rushed. Instead of dropping the big reveal on the reader and letting it soak in, she pushes through it as if it were a minor plot point. Which, to be honest, was a little bit of a letdown because I wanted to feel the climax. But I didn’t.

Do I recommend it? The answer is a strong maybe.

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HOW WILL YOU VOTE? – A Randy Rainbow Song Parody

In only a short few days, Americans will know who will be leading the country for the next four years. While millions have already made the choice known, others will be going to the polls on Election Day.

Randy Rainbow released his newest video on Friday. Entitled HOW WILL YOU VOTE? – A Randy Rainbow Song Parody, the song is based “That’s How You Know” from the 2007 movie Enchanted.

I loved this video. Over the last week or so, the reminders to vote have come at us in all directions. Though we are told every year that that year’s election is the important, this year’s election is critical. If we do not vote you know who out, the United States as it exists today may not be there tomorrow.

#BidenHarris2020

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