Cinderella Review

I went to see the new Cinderella movie with a friend last week and absolutely loved it. It was sweet and innocent and just all around lovely. My only issue? Not enough Helena Bonham-Carter (she’s been a long time favorite of mine). But the real stand out here was the set and costume design, both of which were absolutely magnificent. It was a glorious riot of Rococo, Victoriana, and 1940’s influences that, at times, had me paying more attention to what people were wearing and where they were standing than what they were actually talking about. So rather than talking about the movie, I’ll just show you.

The young Cinderella and her mother.

The young Ella and her mother.

Cinderella's daily wear- nicer than most of my good clothes.

Cinderella’s daily wear- nicer than most of my good clothes.

Cate Blanchett as the stepmother and the two stepsisters. I liked that the stepsisters weren't physically ugly, they just had pretty ugly personalities.

Cate Blanchett as the stepmother and the two stepsisters. I liked that the stepsisters weren’t physically ugly, they just had pretty ugly personalities.

I loved the rather lurid pinks and yellows that the stepsisters were dressed in. They always matched exactly and they always wore their color. And the dresses were beautiful, just maybe not in a color I would ever wear.

I loved the rather lurid pinks and yellows that the stepsisters were dressed in. They always matched exactly and they always wore their color. And the dresses were beautiful, just maybe not in a color I would ever wear.

Prince Kit, also known as King in the North. I like him better scruffy but he makes a good, clean cut Disney Prince. Most of his costumes were military style, but they were still ornate with beautiful details like the design seen on this hunting coat.

Prince Kit, also known as King in the North. I like him better scruffy but he makes a good, clean cut Disney Prince. Most of his costumes were military style, but they still had ornate and beautiful details like the design seen on this hunting coat.

Helena Bonham-Carter looking absolutely luminous as the fairy godmother. At times I found her even prettier than Cinderella (but that could just be my own personal bias...).

Helena Bonham-Carter looking absolutely luminous as the fairy godmother. At times I found her even prettier than Cinderella (but that could just be my own personal bias…).

The step family at the ball. There was always so. much. going on with the sisters' gowns.

The step family at the ball. There was always so. much. going on with the sisters’ gowns.

Cinderella's marvel of a ball gown. I wanted to touch it so badly. All those petticoats! The shimmeriness! The tulle! The twirliness! I can't get enough of it!

Cinderella’s marvel of a ball gown. I wanted to touch it so badly. All those petticoats! The shimmeriness! The tulle! The twirliness! I can’t get enough of it!

I'm not normally a huge fan of wedding dresses but this one was pretty nice. Surprisingly subdued, but look at the embroidery on it! Lovely.

I’m not normally a huge fan of wedding dresses but this one was pretty nice. Surprisingly subdued, but look at the embroidery on it! Lovely.

Has anyone else seen this version yet? What did you think of it?

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The Turnip Princess

Almost exactly three years, I wrote about the discovery of a collection of previously unknown fairy tales by Franz Xaver von Schonwerth. At the time, a small collection had been published in German but there was no word on when an English translation would become available. But I just found out a paperback collection of 72 of the tales was published this past February and it is now available to purchase! That is very exciting news. I hope to purchase a copy for myself soon and look forward to adding new fairy tales to my repertoire. The book is of course available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and probably anywhere else that sells new books.

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Here is a review from NPR: It’s All Charm and Wolves in “The Turnip Princess”

Here’s a review from the Washington Post: A newly discovered trove of unknown fairy tales: “The Turnip Princess”

And here’s a story from the collection called “Tricking the Witch” that was originally published on the Slate Book Review.

An evil witch kidnapped three princesses and would not set them free. While they were in captivity, the girls learned a few magic tricks from the witch.

One day a young prince lost his way in the woods, and the two-faced witch welcomed him warmly, but she was actually plotting to kill him that night.

Although the princesses were not allowed to speak, the youngest of the three, Reinhilda, alerted the prince to the perils facing him. She had taken a liking to him, and she whispered in his ear: “When the old woman takes you to your room, don’t step on the threshold but jump over it! When she gives you something to drink for the night, don’t touch it because it will be a sleeping potion. Don’t sleep in the bed but under it. Leave everything else to me!”

After dinner the witch took the stranger up the stairs to his bedroom, and the youngest of the three sisters lit the way with her candle. The young man jumped over the threshold, and when the witch handed him something to drink, the candle went out, as if by accident. The prince poured the brew into his boot and settled down to sleep under the bed. Later that night the princess woke the prince up and fled with him using the magic she had learned while in captivity.

The two were able to soar through the air, but just as the day was dawning, Reinhilda realized that they were being followed. And indeed the witch, as soon as she had woken up, had known exactly what had happened with the prince and the youngest of the three princesses. She had sent one of the two other princesses out to catch her and bring her back.

It looked as if the two were about to be caught, when the princess said: “I’m going to change into a rosebush, and I’ll turn you into a rose. My sister is chasing us, and she won’t be able to do a thing because she can’t stand the smell of roses.” Just when the girl was closing in on them, a fragrant rosebush sprang up right in her path with a magnificent rose in bloom. The girl had been tricked, and she had to turn back. The witch scolded her to no end. “You stupid girl,” she grumbled angrily. “If you had just plucked the rose, the bush would have followed.” And then she sent the eldest of the three to find the two fugitives.

In the meantime the couple returned to their human shapes, and they continued on their way. Reinhilda turned around at one point, and she saw that they were still being pursued. She decided to take advantage of her magic powers again, and she said to the prince: “I’m going to turn myself into a church, and you are going to climb up into the pulpit and hold a stern sermon about witches and their sinister magic.”

When the third sister caught up with the pair and was just about to overtake them, she suddenly found herself near a church, and right there in the pulpit was a preacher raging against witches and their black magic. The sister returned, and when the old woman asked her what she had seen, she said: “I could see her from a distance, but when I reached the spot where she had been, there was nothing but a church there with a preacher denouncing witches.”

“Oh, you foolish thing!” the old woman said. “If only you had just shoved the preacher out of the pulpit, the church would have come back with you. Now I have to go after them. Well, they don’t stand a chance against me.”

The princess resumed her natural form, but now the old woman was chasing the two of them, and she was hot on their trail. “My magic is not as powerful as a witch’s,” Reinhilda said to her beloved. “Give me your sword. I’m going to turn myself into a pond and you will become a duck. Just stay in the middle of the pond, no matter how much the old woman tries to lure you to come on shore. Otherwise we will be lost.”

The old woman did what she could to bring the duck on land, using terms of endearment and throwing tasty morsels on the water, all in vain. The duck stayed in the middle of the pond and would not paddle any closer. Then the old woman climbed to the top of a dam in the pond and drank every drop of water in sight. The princess was now in the belly of the witch. She turned back into a human and cut the witch open from inside with the sword the prince had given to her. The witch was now as dead as a doornail.

The loving couple were reunited and in safety. The princess gave her hand to the prince at the altar, and the two lived happily together with the sisters, who had been freed from the spell.

Pengboom Society

It’s been a long time since I last posted anything about web comics. (Here are part 1 and part 2 of a series I wrote a few years ago.)  But I, for some strange reason, logged on to tumblr the other day, scrolled through a few posts and found a recommendation from the amazing Kate Beaton. I checked out the site and now want to share it here!

All of the comics I mention can be found at the main site for the Pengboom Society. A word of warning: only 1 of the comics is finished (and it’s a very short wordless one) and the other two only have a little more than 30 pages each (which is not that much once you start reading!). Anyways. They’ve managed to hook me already so here’s to weekly updates!

A House Divided

Orphan Henrietta Achilles has just inherited her uncle’s mansion, an uncle she has never met and didn’t even know she had.

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There are all kinds of suspicious circumstances in town when she arrives and once she gets to the house, she is met by quiche stealing brigands.

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Yes, quiche.

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There are hints about a fortune and a hidden vault and I’m looking forward to the weekly Thursday updates.

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Kletschmore

It’s a bit harder to see where this one is going but here’s the official description: When man’s greed threatens their existence, the fey leave our world and take refuge in the realm of their ancestors. As the fairies rediscover the birthplace of their race, unspeakable tragedy disrupts the newfound peace: Murder. The first among fey.

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So far there’s a cute enthusiastic mouse, creepily beautiful walking fungi, and a sinister, mysterious hunting party.

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Beautiful art and updates every Monday!

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Eberhart & the Phoenix Chicken

Short, with no words, it tells the story of a anthropomorphic boar (I think?) and the chicken he discovers that also happens to be a phoenix.

Enjoy!

The Anti-Romantic List

Despite a longtime love for Disney princesses and Jane Austen, I’ve never been a fan of romantic stories. I know there are plenty of other people who share my indifference (or outright distaste) for overly sappy love stories so I’ve decided to compile a list of books where women are the main characters and the main plot line has nothing to do with a romantic relationship (and maybe a few movies/TV shows if I feel that they are outstanding examples). If you’ve read some or all of these examples you will know that some of these stories do have a romantic side plot- that’s fine for me, I’m really just looking for books where the main focus is elsewhere. Since I would like to continue adding to this list (for myself and for anyone else that is interested), I will also be creating a new page and updating it as I come across other examples. (Links to previous reviews if I’ve written them.)

Please send me suggestions for other books if you can think of any; there are certain areas/authors where my knowledge is woefully short!

THE LIST

1) The Queen of The Tearling by Erika Johansen. I have a feeling this will skew towards romance between two characters at some point in the trilogy, but in the first book at least there is very little.

2) The Old Kingdom books (Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen, Clariel) by Garth Nix. There’s a smidge of romance in Sabriel and Abhorsen but these books are all mainly about girls saving the world.

3) The Rook by Daniel O’Malley. One of my favorite books. Even better- a sequel, Stilletto, is coming out in just months!

4) Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis. Even though this is a retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth, the main story is about the love of Orual for her sister Psyche.

5) Chalice by Robin McKinley. This was the first book I read by Robin McKinley and I loved it enough to keep reading more of her work.

6) Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey. Another of my favorites. There is a love interest, but it’s a side story. It could easily stand without it.

7) The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. This changes drastically in the second and third books, but Lyra is one heck of a (non-romantic) heroine in this book.

8) A Series of Unfortunate Events books by Lemony Snicket. I’m fudging a bit on this one, but 2 of the three orphans are female so I’m including it.

9) The A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. Can we count this? It’s my list so I say yes. I love these books and I love the female characters in this series (mostly) but I would tremble to see what Martin would ever write as “romantic”.

10) The Amulet Series by Kazu Kibuishi. Beautiful art, cool female characters.

11) Wild Girls by Mary Stewart Atwell. I didn’t particularly like this book but it is a fantasy and the book deals mainly with the mystery behind the girls’ behavior.

12) The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland by Catherynne Valente. Another book I didn’t particularly like but, again, a girl character is kicking butt.

13) Sea Change by S. M. Wheeler. Heavily inspired by the Grimms’ fairy tales, Lily goes on a journey to save her best friend, a kraken, who has been captured. This book was unsettling and I ultimately decided not to review it here once I finished it. It was good, but not something I would ever want to read again.

And to finish, some movies that really need no description:

14) Brave.

15) Pacific Rim. (Technically, Mako Mori is a co-main character I guess, but I love this movie and she’s not just there as a prize to be won.)

16) Hanna.

17) Alien.

So I notice that a lot of these books have young girls as the protagonist but hopefully, now that I’ve started this list, I (or you!) will start noticing/reading more books where the main female does something besides fall in love. And again, suggestions are always welcome!

The Queen of The Tearling

I should have known better than to start a series that isn’t finished yet. Because, naturally, I loved this book. And, naturally, it’s only the first book of a planned trilogy. So who knows when I’ll get to finish it. (*sigh*)

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Written by Erika Johansen, The Queen of the Tearling tells the story of 19 year old Kelsea who has lived her life in hiding as she is trained to be the new Queen. Her mother, the former queen, was beautiful, vain, and silly, and Kelsea’s guardians are adamant that Kelsea will be a completely different kind of ruler. Kelsea herself is actually quite plain (and not in the standard female protagonist way of “I’m tall and thin with striking features and there are 2 or more men desperately in love with me but I’m sooo ugly”). She’s a weird mixture of self conscious girl and selfless ruler and it makes her seem like a regular person. She’s always known that she would be queen but she’s lived a secluded life that’s made her a bit naive and fiercely idealistic (which causes trouble once she arrives at the capital).

The setting of this book is also a bit strange: we never got a cohesive explanation of the history but at some point in the past (in our future though), a group of people made a Crossing (to where or from where has not been satisfactorily answered yet) led by William Tear, a socialist that dreamed of creating a machine and technology free utopia. It failed and Queen of the Tearling takes place several centuries after the Crossing. So the world is a strange mixture of medieval like practices (horse riding, sword fighting, feudal society, etc.) and present day knowledge (genetics, mentions of Rowling and Tolkien, birth control, etc.).

Since this is the first book, there are a lot of unanswered questions and open plot lines when the book finishes, like who is Kelsea’s father, who is the mysterious Fetch, what is the story behind the villainous Red Queen, and where are these people?!? (I really hope the Crossing history gets explained in more detail.) But I still loved it. It is a slow moving book but I think (hope!) that the rest of the series will be just as good as this one.

A Bit of Horror

Despite the fact that I am an absolute coward, I still love a good horror movie. And no, I don’t mean movies like Saw or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre where the fear factor comes from crazed maniacs wielding sharp objects and blood splashes across everything. I’m talking the sort of movies that unsettle you and make you wish you weren’t alone. I recently watched two movies that have been highly praised although one turned out to be very disappointing. (Spoilers to follow)

I’ll start with the movie I liked least. Oculus, directed by Mike Flanagan, came out in 2013. This seemed like the type of horror movie I like best- scary, not gory, with an actual plot. Kaylie and Tim are siblings in their early 20’s. Eleven years before, both parents went insane, their father shot their mother and then Tim shot their father. Tim was charged for their father’s death and has spent the time in a mental institution while Kaylie went through the foster system and spends her life to tracking down the mirror that she believes is responsible for the horrors they went through. In present day, Kaylie is working in an auction house where the mirror is now being kept and Tim has just been released from the mental institution after finally accepting that he was responsible for the death of his father. So far so good. But while it’s generally well-reviewed, it just seemed to lack something to me. Not scares, that’s for sure, as there were plenty of times where I was looking anywhere but the screen. But some of them were expected, some were hard to believe, and some were downright stupid. For example, please watch this clip:

Right after that clip ends, Kaylie goes to investigate the cloth covered statues. All three are still there, including the taller one in the middle that mysteriously appeared in the mirror. But instead of pulling the cloth off that one- the one in the middle that first appeared while she was looking in the mirror- she pulls the cloth off the side statues first! I realize that those statues seem to have moved as well but any thinking person truly investigating that would have looked at the middle statue first! Right? I mean, does that not seem weird to anyone else? It’s a dumb decision that seems created only to lead to a cheap scare. There’s also an issue of deciphering what’s real and what is simply happening in the characters’ heads. I had several smaller problems with the story but these were the major ones. And while it was well acted, this did not turn out to be a movie that I could really recommend.

And now moving on to the movie I did like: Willow Creek. Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, Willow Creek is a found footage movie about Bigfoot. Kelly and Jim have traveled to the real life Willow Creek in Northern California to film a documentary. Jim, an avid Bigfoot believer, has always wanted to travel to Willow Creek, which is the real life location of the Patterson-Gimlin film to try and get his own footage (technically the 1967 footage was filmed in Bluff Creek, but Willow Creek is considered the gateway to Bluff Creek and other claimed Bigfoot sighting locations). It’s a slow build kind of creepy and doesn’t get truly terrifying until the last 5 or 10 minutes but it’s an incredible film that I fell in love with instantly. Highly recommended if you can get your hands on it.