Saturday, January 9, 2016

Princess of Glass Review

I am reviewing this novel as a part of the Cinderella Week. Today is the last day.

Princess of Glass follows Princess of the Midnight Ball, a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Poppy, one of the middle princesses of Westfalin, is the protagonist in this twist on Cinderella, although of course, as a princess, she is not Cinderella herself. I will offer a warning, if magic bothers you, stay away from this trilogy. All the books deal with dark enchantments more in the style of the original fairytales. Despite the darker themes, the tone and style of these novels are light and fun, and the Princess of Glass tells a unique version of the Cinderella story.

Princess Poppy, while on a simultaneously diplomatic and family visit in another country, discovers her cousin's bratty maid, Ellen, once the noble Lady Eleanora, is enchanted. Ellen, selfishly bent on her own schemes, refuses aid until her enchantment begins harming herself. Even after asking for help, she still clings to the wish to marry Poppy's Prince Christian, despite the faithfulness of her own true love, Roger.

Several aspects of the plot mirror the Cinderella story exactly while others give a distorted reflection. Poppy and her cousin Marianne can be seen as two nice stepsisters while Ellen-Ella-Eleanora is an ungrateful, rude, selfish Cinderella. Ella has a relationship with a prince, Prince Christian. But that relationship is the result of enchantment, and Christian's true love is Poppy while Eleanora's is Roger. The story includes a fairy godmother and magic, but both are cruel. The glass slippers, part of the enchantment, are torturous and turn Ella's feet into glass themselves.

The mirror similarities include Ellen-Ella-Eleanora's transformation from servant back to a fine lady again. She meets her future love, a childhood friend named Roger, from whom she has been separated during her poverty, and who is a wealthy man. After finding, or rather being found by him, she causes another separation by opportunistically chasing Prince Christian. True love triumphs after Christian claims Poppy, and Eleanora then turns to the long-suffering Roger. The iconic glass slipper moment occurs when Poppy is playing Lady Ella in an attempt to stop the enchantment, and Prince Christian finds her shoe.

Although much of the story seems dark, the light writing style, fast-paced plot, and fun characters cause the story to flow pleasantly. There is light in the story itself too. Poppy always does what is right in the face of Ella's unpleasantness because she sees something sinister is occurring. And of course, everything turns out happily in the end.

Here Are Heidi's Cinderella Guidelines As Stated Here:

1. The relationship between the Prince and Cinderella has to be central to the story
2. They have to come from different "worlds," so to speak
3. Over the course of the story they meet each other, lose each other, and are reunited
4. There needs to be a ball scene involving some sort of iconic moment (i.e. her coming down a staircase and/or her lost slipper, etc.)

And on another note, I love the author's descriptions of clothes both in this book and in her Dragon's Slippers trilogy. I always love when books describe elegant and unique clothing.

Friday, January 8, 2016

More Movies

Definitely the cutest of the recent spate of animated movies. I want to own this one.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
I did not think this lived up to the other three . . . and not just because Will and Norrington were not there. I felt Jack was not quite his usual, clever, witty self, and he usually fell in the shade of the less interesting characters (everyone else). Nevertheless, I am still greatly looking forward to the next installment of Pirates.

Inside Out
Well, it looked cute but it was faaar sadder than I realized. I was almost crying almost right from the start. The characters were EXCELLENT though, and we like to talk about which of us correspond to which characters (one sister was deemed Bing Bong and another Sadness, not really because of the emotion but because of the character's personality, yes that makes sense). I think I would watch it again now that I am more used to it; it is the details, not the plot, that make this movie. For example we greatly enjoyed the preteen boy's reaction to Riley handing him his water bottle.

The Mockingjay Part 1
The Saturday after Christmas a couple of my sisters and I had a Hunger Games marathon (Dad joined us for the last one) which included a lot of adoring Peeta commentary and enjoyment of Gale's looks (lets be real, his sole purposes are to be eye candy and provide a little love triangle drama). I really want to see part two now. I do not have much to say about part one beyond how well-done the portrayal of crazy, tortured Peeta was. Right now, Catching Fire is still my favorite.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Review of Mara: Daughter of the Nile

This review is part of The Cinderella Week.

Historical fiction can be a tough genre since as many insipid books about. But there are some gems; I found my favorites in middle school and high school when we used the Beautiful Feet history guides. Mara: Daughter of the Nile is one such gem. I put it on my re-read list, and when I saw all the Cinderella adaptations, I thought this book fit the rags-to-riches, alone-in-the-world-to-beloved-of-a-prince plot (loosely, for it is much more than that).

A chilling, austere agent of Pharaoh Hatshepsut buys a slave girl named Mara to spy out a plot by friends of Prince Thutmose to overthrow the usurping Hatshepsut. Almost immediately after, Mara is forced by Sheftu, a mighty lord in disguise as a scribe, to work as a spy for him on behalf of Thutmose. Torn between fear for her life, desire for wealth, and love for Sheftu, Mara maneuvers through the ancient royal Egyptian court in her role as double-agent. Her life, Sheftu's life, and the fate of the Egyptian monarchy hang in the balance.

There are many Cinderella parallels in Mara's story. First is Mara's poverty in contrast to Sheftu's wealth. Also, the novels hints that Mara was probably born to a better life which parallels Cinderella's better life before her step-family reduced her position in the family from sister/daughter to servant. Then Mara's position is suddenly, almost magically changed, but tentatively and temporarily similar to Cinderella and her few hours of glory at the ball. Then everything spirals out of control, and Mara's new life, and new love, vanish. She is caught as Cinderella is trapped by her stepmother. Then just as startlingly and suddenly as Cinderella is reunited with her prince via her marvelous glass slippers, so Mara is startlingly and suddenly saved and acknowledged by Sheftu when he realizes her faithfulness to him and love for him as evidenced by her refusal to betray him under bribery and torture.

I love Cinderella stories, but this books takes a simple plot and weaves it into a fantastic tale. We long to know more of Egypt while reading of the exotic details and the dramatic court intrigue. The strain of suspense is woven tightly as Mara becomes dangerously enmeshed in that intrigue. And the romantic tension rises as Mara falls in love with one of her masters while she wonders if the enigmatic, suave, almost unnaturally self-controlled Sheftu responds at all. History, suspense, and romance, what a perfect combination!

Here are Heidi's Points of Comparison for Cinderella Adaptations (see this post).

1. The relationship between the Prince and Cinderella has to be central to the story
2. They have to come from different "worlds ," so to speak
3. Over the course of the story they meet each other, lose each other, and are reunited
4. There needs to be a ball scene involving some sort of iconic moment (i.e. her coming down a staircase and/or her lost slipper, etc.)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Some 2016 Reading Challenges

I started some reading challenges in the middle of last year . . . and have not finished them. I want to try to finish them this month. I will note which books I read after the deadline.

I was not super crazy about the categories on my 2016 challenges, so I created a less restrictive, but more serious fiction challenge. Also, I tried to set a more challenging goal for nonfiction. I am aiming at one new-to-me book per category unless noted otherwise. I set the books in the non-fiction to be two a month which I feel is completely reasonable . . . as long as I do not get behind.

Fiction Challenge 2016

1. 4 more weighty Continental European canon classics
2. A book in its original language
3. A book 1000 years old
4. 2 award-winning books
5. Two (new) local authors
6. More of first read local
7. Regional author(s)
8. Southern U.S.
9. African-American
10. Native American
11. General U.S. authors
12. South American
13. Canadian
14. Asian
15. Continental European
16. 5 poets
17. 2 playwrights
18. Science Fiction
19. Westerns
20. 2 modern

Non-Fictions Reading Challenge Categories for 2016

1. A scholarly monograph on a subject of history
2. A scholarly monograph on a subject of US history
3. A general history (non-European and non-US)
4. Collection of firsthand accounts
5. Biography or autobiography/memoir
6. Biography or autobiography/memoir
7. Relationships/personality/psychology
8. Epidemiology/history of medicine
9. A book about religion/theology
10. Church history
11. Personal growth/Bible study type book
12. Creationism
13. Apologetics/worldview
14. Critical thinking/formal logic
15. Ethics/current events
16. World cultures, manners, differences
17. Geography
18. Travel
19. Art (participatory read)
20. Music (participatory read)
21. Photography (participatory read)
22. Foodie book (participatory read)
23. Historical fashion (if small, read several)
24. Manners/etiquette
25. 20 scholarly journal articles on subjects of history
26. Any extras

Also, I want to work on my Classics Club list and indulge in some re-reads (I want to try to participate in this although not really as a challenge because I do not want re-reading to be a huge percentage of my reading). I also would like to participate in the Anne reading challenge because I have been meaning to re-read that series for a while. I also might participate in the Jane Eyre read along because although I re-read it last year, after I watched the movies I felt like I needed to study it more.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Christmas Day

We had quite the sweater Christmas. I received two cardigans and two pullovers myself, and my four sisters received at least five sweaters, one poncho, and one sweater dress between them. I also received two lovely coats; for, as we all said, whenever the weather really decides to be winter. The above right photo is my outfit, with a new cardi (I also wore the pink coat and my maroon cloche) for Christmas dinner with my grandparents.

Those are my gifts, sans the wedding ones. I kept it simple. I bought my brother and sister-in-law a combined Christmas and wedding gift (three games; and he scared me, he almost bought one) and took it to the wedding (I later asked them not to open them as we did a brief Christmas with them on the 27th). I did not bother with a gift for my dad at all. He is SO hard to buy for, and he can buy whatever he wants when he wants it. I gave my mom her gift early, and I had bought a lot of my sisters gifts at an art fair in June.

I already received cookies at our cookie exchange (I did share some) and fudge and candy from managers at work, and then Mom really lavished us with candy as you can see. I am going to have no teeth. My sister remarked whilst eating cookie dough as she made cookies recently that she was trying to make herself diabetic. I am sure I shall be. We had lovely candy-cane fudge and meringue Christmas trees at Christmas Eve, our traditional massive cinnamon rolls for Christmas breakfast, and we will be having our traditional doughnuts for New Year's. Also, I randomly, re-actively try to eat healthy as if that carrot stick will somehow undo all the candy damage :)

Oh, yes. And Mamau always gets the dogs and cats gifts. And my sister's little bratty dog (Holly) kept trying to steal our lab/beagle mix dog's bone, and Snickers finally snapped, and we had a small dog fight during which Holly gave a pleasant display of her hideous Chihuahua teeth and after which she was grounded upstairs. Rather hilarious although a bit scary because Holly's barks are piercing, and she is considerably smaller than Snickers.

Here is what I received before Christmas dinner with my grandparents. We have such a lovely traditional sit-down dinner at my grandparents with ham and beef and rolls and plenty of vegetables.

I meant to post this the week after Christmas, but since I did not I will briefly mention New Year's Eve and Day. I worked about 5 hours on New Year's Eve, and then went home and finished a new skirt. New Year's Day is when we have people over for doughnuts and pork (we need to rethink the menu . . . and entire process; we had people over starting too early and lasting too long . . . ten hours is an excessive party).

Monday, January 4, 2016

Cinderella Blog Party Tag!!!!!!

I love blog parties. Here is the link to the Cinderella Week. I am hopefully going to post two reviews of two Cinderella novel re-tellings later this week.

Cinderella Party Tag:

1. In the vast array of fairytale heroines, what particular character qualities most define Cinderella? 

Meekness and patience . . . and sorry, but rather a bit (or more) of flightiness/excessive-optimism depending on the retelling.

2. What are some of the deeper, big picture differences you see between retellings where both stepsisters are nasty and others where one is nasty and one is kind? How do you think the two takes differently develop/illuminate/affect Cinderella’s character and also the overarching story itself?

The only nice step-sister I can think of is Jacqueline in Ever After, and she was a bit weak in her kindness, but she definitely grew and added depth to the already deeper version of the story. I think that Danielle had more overall support in this version between her servant friends, Gustav, and Jacqueline. This may have made some things easier, but some things harder because they never helped her completely either because they were powerless or fearful. I think that Danielle was more independent speaking rather than actually self-sufficient independent like the 2015 Cinderella; words rather than actuality. 

3. Are you an animal lover? Would you eagerly count mice, lizards, cows, and geese as friends? Dogs and cats? 

I love cats, and like dogs, but I hate when all animals are unnecessarily killed (e.g. by horrible drivers).

4. After asking question #3, I realized how remarkably many of the adaptations I’ve seen have Cinderella either horseback riding or involved with horses. Have you ever ridden? If so, have you ever ridden sidesaddle or bareback? 

I have ridden a very few times and most rides were carefully regulated and on very docile horses. I would like to perhaps take lessons and would like to try bareback. Side-saddle seems rather uncomfortable and could be dangerous.

5. Your favorite Cinderella dresses? 

I loved Cinderella's wedding dress in the 2015 movie. I loved the style of the blue dress, but I wish it was pink.

6. Do you ever think of Cinderella while doing your household chores? :)

Well, whenever we complain we tease each other about being Cinderella.

7. What major character traits do you think are essential in a faithful prince? 

Besides the implied faithfulness and loyalty, I think honesty, confidence/humility, and bravery/honor are essential.

8. Your top THREE favorite fairy tales (as in the original folk tales, not adaptations). 

I find the originals can be rather dark/immoral/disturbing. I have not read all, but I have read some in The Blue Fairy Book. As far as more lighter, but basic plot versions, I think I like Cinderella and The Twelve Dancing Princesses best. I am not sure about the third.

9. Your top FIVE current favorite fairy tale/legend type films (BESIDES any Cinderella adaptations). 

Well, Tangled is my favorite Disney princess movie, but I am not exactly sure about my other favorites. Here are some I enjoy though: Enchanted, Swan Princess, Thumbelina, and Anastasia.

10. If you could play Cinderella and the story could be set in any region of the world and any time period, what would you pick? And what would your dream ‘ball gown’ for it be like? 

Roman Britain hopefully before they harvested all those famous shellfish to extinction because I would want to have a lavender silk gown. 

11. And (purely for fun :))… what color/s do you immediately associate with Cinderella?

Blue, but the Disney movie has her in silvery white. I do not know why they changed it to blue in all their other products; I drives me and my sisters nuts. I am not crazy about the blue; I preferred the pink.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Bridemaid Hairstyle

I originally wanted a cross between Hermione's Yule Ball hairstyle . . .

. . . and Lucy Steele's hairstyle in the 2008 Sense and Sensibility.

But (decisions, decisions) . . .

I switched to wanting a complete updo after a sister mentioned that she thought that would be better, and the above photo was my inspiration. 

I had a bit more indecision but went with complete updo. However, I ended up with more structure than the above photo. I think looser, more romantic hairstyles are harder because unless you are very careful and gifted, they ended up looking sloppy. One day I want to master the romantic look.

I watched and rewatched Youtube tutorials before the wedding and during prep. Here are some of them: here and here (I used a couple from the second channel).

The first one I really liked, but I really needed more techniques and help. So this ended up being more an inspiration. I used my silver floral bobby pins, two in each side of my hair (with one leaf end up and the other down, so it looked more like one piece), like the hair piece in this video.

I put a little bit of my center back hair in a small bun former and then smoothed a couple locks over it for a form like the above Youtube hairstylist shows. I also needed to loop my curls into more than one barrel curl, and I tease and sprayed some curls a bit, so that the curls would not slip over. I tried to minimize the hairspray though since it makes my hair frizzy.

Overall (and in hindsight), I found this a fun learning experience. I would like to try it more often . . . under less pressure (although I was rather preternaturally "calm" for most of the wedding day).