Diana, William, and Harry: The Heartbreaking Story of a Princess and Mother Book Review

There is no bond as important as a mother with her children.

When the late Princess Diana was killed in a car crash in 1997, she left behind two young men who were forever changed. The new biography, Diana, William, and Harry: The Heartbreaking Story of a Princess and Mother, by James Patterson, was published last month. It tells the story of Diana and her sons as human beings, not just celebrities or royals who live in a gilded cage.

While ensuring that both of her boys know what their responsibilities and futures will be like, she also gave them the opportunity to be ordinary kids. After her untimely passing, they grow up (with the usual and unusual hurdles due to the family they were born into) into responsible men, husbands, and fathers who continue Diana’s legacy.

What struck me was that Diana learned how to work within the system while rebelling against a way of life that may seem archaic to some. Her love for her sons, specifically when her marriage to Prince Charles (now King Charles III) was falling apart, was evident from the word go. Even when her own mental health issues weighed heavily on her, her boys still came first.

Choosing to live and parent as she did, she set up William and Harry to become empathetic and understanding of the idea that not everyone lives like they do. In doing so, she set the English monarchy on a path that allows tradition and modernity to exist concurrently.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Diana, William, and Harry: The Heartbreaking Story of a Princess and Mother is available wherever books are sold.

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Thoughts On the Disenchanted and The Little Mermaid Trailers

It’s easy to be cynical in an adult and complicated world. Then you put on a Disney movie and you become the child believing that anything is possible.

Last week, the trailers for Disenchanted (the sequel to Enchanted) and the live-action reboot of The Little Mermaid were released.

The premise of Disenchanted is as follows: It’s been ten years since Giselle (Amy Adams) and Robert (Patrick Dempsey) had their happily ever after. But when Giselle starts to question that happiness, things go horribly wrong.

When it was announced some time ago that Halle Bailey was taking over the role of Ariel, I was not sure about that casting. To be perfectly honest, it was simply about the hair color, nothing more. If it came off as racist, I apologize. That was not my intention. Ariel is such an integral part of my childhood that she is a part of my essence. I just feel very protective of her.

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Though it is only a teaser trailer, I have seen enough to be excited. Bailey has a beautiful voice and I look forward to seeing the film when it comes out next year.

Disenchanted will be released on DisneyPlus on November 24th. The Little Mermaid will be in theaters next May.

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Pinocchio Movie Review

Within every fairy tale is a morality tale. The purpose is to teach our children (and our adults) how to behave.

The new film, Pinocchio is a live-action reboot of the 1940 film of the same name. Based on the story by Carlo Collodi, Geppetto (Tom Hanks) has one wish: for a child of his own. He gets his wish when the Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo) brings Geppetto’s newest creation, a puppet to life. Named Pinocchio (voiced by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth), he wants nothing more than to be a real boy and make his father proud.

But like any child, temptation pulls him in other directions. Jiminy Cricket (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) tries to guide his charge to do the right thing, but he can only do so much. Will this puppet become a real child or is his fate to be just pieces of wood that only slightly resembles a human?

There is a nice balance of updating the narrative for our time while remaining true to the original cartoon. As usual, Hanks is the MVP, playing a complete 180 from his last film.

I noticed a couple of things that I obviously would not have seen as a child. The first is praying to a higher power or the universe (whichever one believes in), may actually bring in the desired results. The second is that you have to work for what you want. Pinocchio was not automatically turned into a human being, he had to earn it.

I haven’t seen the 1940 film in decades, but the message came through loud and clear. Though the story could be seen as slightly moralistic, the idea of listening to your gut applies to anyone of any age.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Pinocchio is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.

P.S.: Keep an eye out for easter eggs.

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.

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The Buccaneers: A Novel Book Review

Marriage is a risk. Though you are saying “I do” to that person, you cannot know if this relationship will last decades or burn out before it really had a chance to begin.

The Buccaneers: A Novel, was co-written by Edith Wharton and Marion Mainwaring. Wharton passed away in 1938 while writing the novel, leaving it unfinished. Mainwaring picked up the baton decades later and finished the story.

In the 1870s, a group of five American heiresses have come of age and are ready to enter the marriage market. But because they are “new money”, they are looked down upon by the establishment. At the recommendation of their governess, the young ladies turn their eyes to England. The men they marry are titled but lack the funds to maintain their ancestral properties. While some live happily ever after, others question if they made the right choice.

I truly enjoyed this book. The first half has a fairy tale-esque quality to it. The second half reveals the reality of this world and the experience of marrying into another world that is so different from your own. It forces the characters to make decisions that they would not have made if they had married a local boy.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The Buccaneers: A Novel is available wherever books are sold.

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.

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Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris Movie Review

Dreams are a wonderful thing. But without work, faith, and a little hope, they remain a distant fantasy.

The new film, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, is based on the book, Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris, by Paul Gallico. Set in Britain in the late 1950s, Ada Harris (Lesley Manville) is a middle-aged woman that, for the most part, goes unnoticed. After losing her late husband in World War II, she earns her living cleaning houses. Among her clients are wannabe starlet Pamela Penrose (Rose Williams) and Lady Daunt (Anna Chancellor). Both see her, but neither truly appreciates her.

When the workday is done, she goes to the local pub to have a drink with pals Archie (Jason Isaacs) and Vi (Ellen Thomas). While working at Lady Daunt’s one day, she discovers a Dior gown and falls in love with it. The cost of the gown is obviously well beyond Ada’s meager paycheck.

After scrimping and saving (and with a little luck), she finally has the funds to afford the dress and travel to Paris. She expects to just pick up the dress and return home in a day. That plan derails the moment she enters the building. The first barrier is the directress and gatekeeper Madame Colbert (Isabelle Huppert). The second impediment is the 1% clients who are not happy that they have to compete with a British cleaning lady of all people.

But Ada is not alone. Among her new allies is the company accountant André Fauvel (Lucas Bravo), lead model Natasha (Alba Baptista), and a possible new love interest, the Marquis de Chassagne (Lambert Wilson).

Visually, this film is a feast for the eyes. It is a trip back in time that is half a Cinderella story, and half a narrative about a woman who achieves the impossible on her own terms. Ada is an everywoman who has a pollyannaish perspective that does not go too far into naivete or pie-in-the-sky beliefs. I love that she learns to stand up for herself and believe in herself when many would either look down on her or walk past her without seeing her.

My only complaint is that a good twenty minutes could have been cut and the movie would have been just as good.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is presently in theaters.

The Princess Movie Review

The stereotype of a fairy tale princess is as follows: a damsel in distress (who may or not be unconscious) waits for a man to rescue her and save the day.

The new Hulu movie, The Princess, takes this stereotype and smashes it into pieces. When we first meet the title character, simply known as The Princess (Joey King), she is laying on a bed and wearing a beautiful white wedding dress. Opening her eyes and sitting up, her hands and legs are chained together. After refusing to marry King Julius (Dominic Cooper), she must fight against an army to save her family and her kingdom. Aided by Linh (Veronica Ngo), they join forces to stop Julius before he takes what is not his by any means possible.

The Princess is easily one of my favorite films of the year. This is my kind of princess. She is a badass, she is intelligent, and is not afraid to fight for what is important to her. It is a glorious, bloody, and gory 90-minute tale of a young woman who is not waiting to be rescued. We need more stories like this.

Do I recommend it? 100%.

The Princess is available for streaming on Hulu.

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If the Shoe Fits (Meant to Be Series) Book Review

At its heart, Cinderella is the story of finding the good in life and rising about the shit that fate has sent our way.

If the Shoe Fits (Meant to Be Series), by Julie Murphy, was published last year. Cindy Woods is a plus-sized recent college graduate. After spending the last four years in New York City, her career path is stuck in first gear. With no other options, she returns to Los Angeles and her childhood home. She is welcomed with open arms by her stepmother, Erica Tremaine, and her stepsisters.

Cindy is a fashion fanatic. Due to her size, finding the latest and greatest clothing that fits her has always been a problem. When Erica’s Cinderella‘s themed reality dating show, Before Midnight (a la The Bachelor), is down a contestant, Cindy agrees to step in. It was supposed to be a way of getting her designs noticed. It also doesn’t hurt that the guy at the center of the program is good-looking.

Instead of quietly staying in the background, Cindy becomes a fan favorite. She also starts to fall for the guy. She will have to take a jump into the unknown, not knowing if it will end in heartbreak or a happy ending.

I loved this book. Murphy pays homage to the 1950 animated Disney film while writing her own story. In another narrative, Cindy would either have to lose weight to achieve her goals or be forced into the fat and funny sister/best friend role. The cherry on top for me is that Cindy is not looking for a man, her priority is her professional future.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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A Prince on Paper Book Review

Love sometimes comes when we least expect it. It also comes from the one person who we do not see coming.

A Prince on Paper, by Alyssa Cole, is the third book in the Reluctant Royals series. Published in 2019, it follows the love story of Nya Jerami and Johan von Braustein. After a family scandal, Nya left home for New York City. Returning for a wedding, she discovers that she is not the only passenger on the plane. Johan, whose stepfather is the King of Liechtienbourg does not exactly have the cleanest of reputations. Johan’s best friend is the groom and Nya’s cousin is the bride. Their first meeting does not go well.

In order to protect his country and his younger half-brother’s future as King, Johan fake proposes to Nya. She accepts, knowing that it is nothing more than a ruse. But as they spend time together, the engagement becomes real, as do their feelings. The question is, are they bold enough to reveal what is in their heart or will they walk away?

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On a scale of 1-10, the hotness factor is a six, whereas the previous books in the series were a nine or ten. However, Cole’s writing is so easy to read that it made that number not seem so bad. I appreciated that both Nya and Johan came with emotional baggage, which made their relationship seem real and fraught with enough complications that I needed to read on.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

A Prince on Paper is available wherever books are sold.

P.S. I love that Johan is a redhead. It’s about time that redheaded men got some love.

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