“A Line in the Sand” by Teri Wilson | Book Review

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“When his Uncle Henry retires, Max Miller moves to Turtle Beach, North Carolina, to take over his aquarium and sea turtle hospital. Little does he know the business is struggling, and he’s being called in to captain a sinking ship.

After a recent heartbreak that left her feeling lost, Molly Prince is desperately trying to find her direction in life. That’s easier said than done when you’re distracted by a new puppy named Urusla and overbearing advice from parents who own the beachfront house you’re living in.

Max and Molly meet during a near-drowning incident and feel instant attraction, but their acquaintance is quickly put to the test when uptight Max decides an aquarium is no place for a mermaid and her puppy, with or without the lobster costume. His first day on the job is a disaster, and he realizes his rash decision cost the aquarium its heart and soul. The town points their justified anger towards him, and he almost caves, but there’s something about Molly’s attitude that puts his defenses back up. He sticks by his decision and tries to manage the financial mess in front of him without thinking about the blonde mermaid who happens to be his next door neighbor. When things start to look up thanks to a fundraising idea from Molly and the unique ability of her puppy to sniff out sea turtle nests, the pair realize they might have no choice other than working together. Will they be able to get along and save a business they both love, or has the sun set on their chance at both friendship and romance?”

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*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Sourcebooks Casablanca through NetGalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

I don’t often dive into the romance genre, pun intended, but “A Line in the Sand” spoke to my inner child. As a 90s baby and 2000s kid, I was obsessed with Aquamarine, H2O: Just Add Water, and Lisa Frank. Summers were reserved for waking up early and swimming in the pool for at least three hours. Needless to say Teri Wilson’s romance between a marine biologist and mermaid might as well have been plucked from the imaginations of millenials. 

There were side elements that gave this book potential as a nice summer read. The North Carolina island setting almost made me feel positive towards summer, which is a feat if you know me as the cold-loving November baby that I am. The snippets of the senior citizen activity agenda had me feeling exhausted; that lively group put my sedentary life on blast, and I’ll admit I felt shamed into being more busy. Ethel Banks, Opal Lewinsky, and Mavis Hubbard, known around town as “Charlie’s Angels,” were hilarious, always sticking their noses where they don’t belong and trying to move things along between a certain couple. My favorite part was learning about the day-to-day operations of the aquarium and sea turtle hospital. If the “Angels” are giving a tour with complimentary frozen Milky Way lattes anytime soon, count me in!

Unfortunately this is where the aquatic fun ends. Even though it was supposed to be the crowning jewel, the romance was a huge letdown. There was a muddle of tropes: several handfuls of enemies to lovers with a dash of fake dating and insta-love. I don’t mind tropes, but pick a lane if none of the scenarios are going to go far enough to be worth the time. Everything felt skin deep and not fleshed out enough to make me feel invested in Max and Molly’s relationship. I was left feeling “meh” which is probably why I felt irrationally irritated by the overuse of Ursula’s breed “Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.” I know that breed is special to the author, but I think Ursula’s adorable face on the cover and the first or second mention of the full name is enough. I also didn’t love Molly as a character, although her love of The Great British Bake Off was a redeeming trait. She came off as petty and whiny at times which annoyed me as someone who’s more like Max, very serious and a little awkward in situations meant to be loose and fun.

I was much more invested in the last fourth of the book and flew through it so my rating is rounding out to three stars. This was not a new favorite, but perhaps it will work for readers more acquainted with the genre. I would recommend this book to romance fans but only those who genuinely enjoy an easy, fluffy read. Think of it as the literature version of a Hallmark movie, and you should be fine. Play an ocean ambience video for extra beachy vibes!

-> -> -> -> -> OUT ON AUGUST 2ND! <- <- <- <- <-

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Content Breakdown: 

*Disclaimer: I read an uncorrected ARC so certain things might change in the final copy.

Alcohol: Rosé, Whisky, Wine, general mentions of alcohol, & one instance of being drunk

Language: Molly uses the term “lady bits” while referring to her mermaid tail.

Ethal, Mavis, & Opal wear sun hats to SandFest, two of which say “Cheers Beaches” & “Resting Beach Face.”

Ethel & Opal argue over a game of Scrabble because one of them wants to use “vayjayjay” as a word.

Steaminess: Ethel Banks remarks in chapter 5 that Max is “even more good-looking dry than he is wet,” referring to his appearance after nearly drowning at the dog beach. 

Max and Molly constantly admire and think about each other’s physical assets (i.e. Max’s abs & Molly in her clamshell bustier & mermaid tail). Their physical contact stays in the realm of hand holding, hugging, almost-kissing, & kissing.

Toxic Relationship: There are several mentions of Molly’s previous boyfriend who cheated on her.

Violence: Max has a complicated relationship with his Uncle Henry; in chapter 3, he’s upset & contemplates killing Henry for real, though it’s not a serious threat. 

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– Lauren Michele ❤️

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“Wretched Waterpark” by Kiersten White | Book Review

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“The Sinister-Winterbottoms are looking forward to a family summer, but their parents abruptly change the plans in the middle of the night. Twelve-year-old twins Alexander and Theodora and their older sister Wilhelmina are dropped off with Aunt Saffronia, now stranded at a strange house in the care of a relative they’ve never met for the next few months. It quickly becomes clear she has no experience with children so her suggestion to visit a waterpark is eagerly accepted . . . until the siblings arrive at the front gates and realize Fathoms of Fun is equally as strange as their new accommodations. There are coffins instead of inner tubes and mausoleums instead of cabanas; the waterslides are tongues jutting out of the mouths of gargoyles sitting atop a tall, dark tower. Alexander, Theo, and Wil try their best to enjoy the vacation they’ve been handed, but the kookiness is too much to ignore and leads them to a disturbing mystery: The waterpark owner disappeared inside the Cold, Unknowable Sea, otherwise known as the wave pool. When Wil goes missing following a lead, the twins are left to sleuth on their own. Will they be able to save their sister and the waterpark before it’s too late?”

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*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Random House Children’s Books through NetGalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

I grew up in the “A Series of Unfortunate Events” era so the cover of “Wretched Waterpark” was enough to grab me, but the synopsis pushed it over the top. Lemony Snicket’s famous series has been mentioned along with Scooby-Doo for marketing purposes, but allow me to enlighten you on something even more synonymous with the Sinister Summer series: the Addams Family.  *snap snap*  Aunt Saffronia is Morticia’s twin with pale skin, long hair, and a black dress that makes her appear as though she’s floating instead of walking. Fathoms of Fun is a dream, nay, nightmare for the lost souls in search of a resting place . . . pardon me, vacation spot. The mystery is simple and easy to solve for adult readers, but I’m not holding that against a book aimed at a middle grade audience. The macabre atmosphere and humor are immaculate, and the tease of book two has me jumping out of my skin in anticipation of the September sequel. My rating is five stars, and I’m urging you to walk, DON’T RUN, to pick up this book if the summer heat has you missing spooky season.

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Content Breakdown:

*Disclaimer: I read an uncorrected ARC so certain things might change before the final copy is printed.

Adoption: It is briefly mentioned that the oldest Sinister-Winterbottom sibling Wilhelmina is adopted.

Blood: There is a conversation about blood in chapters 12 & 13.

Dark Humor: The siblings have to sign paperwork before entering the waterpark, & it mentions drowning & lost souls.

Upset about the summer plans forced on her & her siblings, Theo says she’s “gonna walk into traffic now.” Alexander responds by offering to test out the sharpness of a knife on her hand. When Wilhelmina doesn’t respond in a responsible way, they wonder if texting her about getting matching tattoos or ingesting small doses of poison would get her attention. Later on the twins tell Wil a man offered them candy & a ride in his van, which receives the same distracted response.

Disappearance: The owner of Fathoms of Fun walked into the wave pool one day and never came back out; this occurred off-page but is described a few times. More missing persons are mentioned later on.

Spooky: If you’re trying to gauge how dark this book gets, especially for young readers, I would recommend you compare it to things like “A Series of Unfortunate Events” & Scooby-Doo but especially the Addams Family. That is the exact level of macabre atmosphere & humor the reader needs to be comfortable with. Expect a casual mention of coffins or a character with the surname “Widow” or a joke about death. If you’re curious about the direction of the series, the next book is about vampires.

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– Lauren Michele ❤️

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“The Thursday Murder Club” by Richard Osman | Book Review

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“Every Thursday, the Jigsaw Room in Coopers Chase retirement village is reserved for The Thursday Murder Club and their cold case discussions. Each of the four members comes from a unique background: former spy Elizabeth Best, former psychiatrist Ibrahim Arif, former nurse Joyce Meadowcroft, and former trade union leader Ron Ritchie. Crime is exciting to dissect from afar, but when a murder happens on their doorstep, the club jumps at the chance to solve a case in real time, even if their input is unwanted by local police. They contribute life experience and wisdom, but the victim is the unpopular owner of their retirement village so the suspect list is endless, and every answer leads to more questions. Will Elizabeth, Ibrahim, Joyce, and Ron be able to bring the killer to justice, or is a murder investigation too much to handle for four seventy-year-old retirees?”

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Seeing rave reviews beforehand drove my expectations sky high, but thankfully I had a pleasant reading experience. The small English village setting where everyone knows everyone gave me the cozy mystery vibes I was looking for. Warning: Do not expect a thrilling amount of action! Aside from the descriptions and discussions of criminal cases ranging from smuggling to murder, you’re following four sleuthing seventy-year-olds who live in a retirement community. They’re plucky and capable of more than expected but still have their limits. If you align your expectations with the acitivity levels of Marple or Poirot, you’ll have a much better chance of enjoying this slow but steady mystery.

Despite more than ten characters and one hundred chapters, the Thursday Murder Club stays front and center, mentioned or appearing in approximately seventy-five percent of the book. Included in those ninety chapters are twenty-five diary entries from Joyce Meadowcroft, giving personal updates as the murder investigation moves along. Joyce is definitely my favorite character so far. She brings medical knowledge to the table as a former nurse, and I relate to her being underestimated just because she’s quiet. Using that to her advantage, she gets the inside scoop and spreads the word before you even know she was there. Turning lemons into opportunity. I love it! I’m assuming the next three books will feature POV chapters from the other club members which is a nice way to get acquainted with the main characters. I’m excited to learn more about them, especially enigmatic, former spy Elizabeth. She has secrets, and I want to know every single one.

Let’s go back to what I discussed earlier because the one element holding “The Thursday Murder Club” back from a perfect rating is pace. I’ve read and loved slow burn mysteries before but this time found my attention wandering every few pages. I had to purpose to sit down and focus because I wasn’t feeling eager to dive back in. Eventually I got into a reading groove and enjoyed the story, even getting emotional a few times. It was interesting to read about an age group looking at the end of their life and dealing with the circumstances that come with that. The main characters carry some heavy burdens such as disrespect from younger persons, loved ones with dementia, and grief over the constant loss of friends and acquaintances. That kind of subject matter makes you realize there is no age when you know everything, and your days are smooth sailing. Every phase of life come with its own set of challenges, and you will always be a student, learning through the ups and downs. Struggles aside, I’m so glad I picked this up because the age aspect was outside my comfort zone and thought-provoking. I’m settling on four stars and recommend this book to cozy mystery fans who don’t mind a slow burn and a tear or two.

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Content Breakdown:

*WARNING: This section of my review is thorough and might contain SPOILERS.

Alcohol & Smoking: Mentions of a bar/pub, beer, being drunk/tipsy, B&H cigarettes, brandy, cigarette & pipe smoking, cuban cigars, a flask, gin & tonic, whisky, & wine

Crime: Mentions of arson, drug dealing, money laundering, murder, robbery, & smuggling

Drugs: Mentions of cocaine, counterfeit viagra, death by overdose, drug addict(s), fentanyl, heroin, opioids, a syringe of parpobarbital, & unspecified drugs as well as a company used as a front for drug dealing

Blood & Violence: There’s a discussion in chapter one about the murder of a woman stabbed multiple times with a kitchen knife under the breastbone; the case is mentioned a few more times with added detail such as the victim being left to bleed out & die.

Brief mention of a hypothetical bullet wound in the shoulder

One mention of a scoutmaster burned to death

A character is described as the type to break your arms or kill you if things don’t go his way.

One mention of torching someone’s car because of an argument

A murder is described as it happens in chapter ten: the victim is hit on the left temple with a spanner, & the blood pools around the body. There are many discussions later on about the circumstances using terms like “bludgeoned” & “blunt force trauma to the head.”

There are numerous mentions and a description of a pub shooting that left a young drug dealer dead, the bullet piercing his stomach. The driver who helped dump the body was also shot as a precaution to cover up the murder.

One mention of a situation in which foxes were killing ducks so a man killed the foxes.

During a discussion about the murder case, the mafia & triads are mentioned.

The Thursday Murder Club inspects & discusses the bones of a man they believe to be a murder victim shot in the femur.

Description of a bullet wound in the leg that bleeds out & leads to death

Two instances of death by syringe

Death & Loss: One mention of a character losing his mother at the age of 19; she died of a stroke while alone in her home.

Chapter 88 deals with grief over the loss of a spouse

Illness: Multiple appearances by former Thursday Murder Club member Penny who is bedridden & hooked up to a heart monitor. Doctors suspect she can’t hear anything, but her husband sits with her daily, & Elizabeth frequently visits to share all the Coopers Chase gossip.

In Chapter 24, there is heartbreaking detail about Elizabeth’s husband Stephen who has some form of dementia. She takes care of him the best she can, simultaneously trying to keep her own mind healthy. He makes a few appearances throughout the book.

Misogyny: While having a business conversation, Ian thinks about the woman across from him, picking apart her appearance which disgusts him: her fifty-year-old face with no botox, her un-moisturized hands, & her wardrobe which implies to him that she’s given up on life. He manages to slip in the thought that they’re the same age, but men & women are different when it comes to age & aging. Major eye roll!

Language:
Ars*
Bull
Chrst Chrst’s Sake
Dmn Hll
Jss
Middle finger
Screw it
Silly sod
WTF

DCI Chris Hudson says “OK, folks, I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” in jest, meaning he’ll share his latest discoveries in the case if his team will share their latest discoveries.

Joyce tells Bernard a story from her nursing days about a junior doctor who got his “bits trapped in a Hoover nozzle.”

One brief mention of a police interviewee with an “I kill coppers” tattoo

Prejudice: While scoring murder suspects including members of the Thursday Murder Club, a drunk Ron gives Ibrahim a seven, one reason being he’s an immigrant who the public views as someone who comes in & steals jobs. This is said in jest between friends but still a hurtful thing to say.

Religion: The retirement village Coopers Chase is built on the land of an old convent so there are frequent mentions of Catholicism, nuns, priests, & a statue of Jesus Christ.

There’s a major conflict over digging up the old convent’s cemetery Garden of Eternal Rest which holds the bodies of nuns who passed away while serving; some digging does occur.

While discussing a murder, Ron implies that the Catholic church is involved, saying they always have their hand in one thing after another.

Ron drinks a can of Stella beer while sitting at the feet of a Jesus Christ statue.

Sensual/Sexual: One brief mention of porn

Ron asks Ibrahim if he thinks Bernard is banging Joyce.

VAGUE SPOILER -> -> -> -> -> An intimate relationship from the past is discussed, a romance between two people serving the Catholic church who were supposed to be celibate.

There’s a discussion about the dating apps Grindr & Tinder; it’s mentioned that most use the app for one night stands, some single & some married.

Sexual Violence: After a Tinder date tried to grope her, Donna “punched him in the balls.”

A character tells a story about inviting a man back to her place where it’s implied they were about to sleep together before he, already naked, attacked her & ended up dead from self defense.

Suicide: Suicide by pills in chapter 88

Description of a discovered body in chapter 100, suicide by hanging

There are a few other brief mentions of suicide throughout the book.

Weight: A character internally worries that her daughter is too thin due to her new boyfriend.

There are a few mentions of DCI Hudson struggling to maintain a healthy diet & exercise routine, correlated to him not buying new clothes or going on dates. There’s a moment when he describes himself as overweight, & former nurse Joyce internally agrees, telling him out loud that eating after 6pm is the key to preventing diabetes. Later on he remarks that he’ll never be able to wear a tight t-shirt.

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– Lauren Michele ❤️

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“The Woman in the Library” by Sulari Gentill | Book Review

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“It was a normal weekday morning, nothing out of the ordinary, until a woman’s scream echoed throughout the Boston Public Library. During the subsequent lockdown, strangers Cain, Marigold, Whit, & Winifred connect while sitting at the same table. They form a fast friendship & start spending more time together than apart. The library incident is initially ruled a false alarm, but soon after a body is discovered. Now the newly-formed group of friends is caught up in a police investigation, & it seems like not all of them are innocent witnesses. One of them might be guilty of murder.”

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*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Poisoned Pen Press through NetGalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

If you’re currently in search of a mystery that’s a thrill ride from the very first chapter, look no further than “The Woman in the Library. I hadn’t done much research before reading so the first nine pages were enough to hook me. The story lagged a bit in the middle but didn’t take long to pick back up. I finished this book in less than three days because I had to know what happens; it was all I could think about!

The first twist is common knowledge so I’m going to discuss it. The prologue is a letter from American writer Leo Johnson to Australian author Hannah Tigone; they’ve been pen pals for quite awhile but haven’t yet met in person. As a fan of her work, Leo politely but insistently asks for a new book, offering to be her beta reader. We now move into chapter one, setting up a story about four strangers connecting in the Boston Public Library during a police lockdown. After the final sentence, which is quite the enticing cliffhanger, we see another note from Leo to Hannah revealing that he’s test reading her new book. The main plot is her manuscript, & the side plot is her correspondence with Leo, though we only ever see his notes to her. I’d never read anything like that before & thought it was such a brilliant idea. I’ve seen a few reviews saying the line between fiction & reality is confusing at times, but I strongly disagree. It’s always very clear when you’re reading Hannah’s book & when you’re reading Leo’s letters. There is a clear question of how much inspiration she takes from reality, but I would call that intrigue rather than a source of confusion.

I want to give this book all the stars for it’s unique format, but the story did not completely deliver. The whodunnit reveal made sense but disappointed me; I thought there would be more to it, more connection to real life. Speaking of the side plot, there was less development as it went on, & the abrupt resolution was not satisfying. I do feel let down overall, but I must admit the final chapter left me with intriguing questions & theories floating around in my head. My biggest question is why Hannah ended her book the way she did; at the risk of sounding dramatic, that creative choice blew my mind. My final rating is three stars, & I still recommend this thrilling mystery despite an ending that fizzles. The format is a bibliophile version of Inception & fascinating to experience; you won’t be able to put this book down until it ends!

Preorder your copy now because the release date is not too far away: June 7th, 2022.

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Content Breakdown:

*Disclaimer: I read an uncorrected ARC so certain things might change before the final copy is printed.

Abuse: An abusive stepfather is mentioned throughtout the book; Chapter nineteen depicts verbal & physical abuse as well as attempted sexual abuse.

Alcohol, Cigarettes, & Drugs: Mentions of alcohol, alcoholics, bars, intoxication, cigarettes, & junkies; morphine & painkillers are also mentioned in relation to a hospital patient.

Blood & Violence: Multiple mentions of blood & blood splatter | A hypothetical murderer is discussed, the killer pounding his or her victim’s head into a hard surface. | Dead bodies described with bloody hair, cut throats, and/or injuries to the breast & pubic areas | Description of a young girl leaning over a lookout to take a picture & falling to her death because of a loose guardrail | One mention & two depictions of attacks that lead to head trauma | Two mentions & one depiction of a stabbing 

Insensitive Language:

A character makes racially insensitive comments about black people, such as being identifiable by living in a certain neighborhood or wearing hoodies.

A character from “It” by Stephen King is referred to as the “fat kid” who might get the “pretty girl.”

In reference to hospital janitors, a character says “Immigrants, they get the job done.” He’s referencing the musical Hamilton but is met with the response “That’s not less offensive because it’s Hamilton.”

Two men involved in a bar fight are described as “thugs”; their physical appearances are not described, but that particular word could be perceived as racially-motivated & offensive.

Language:

*$$hole

Chr*st / Chr*ss*kes

D*mn

F*ck / F*cking

Good L*rd

H*ll / H*lluva

J*sus

My G*d / Oh My G*d

Sh*t

Son of a b*tch

A bakery’s products are described as something that would “make you believe in G*d & willing to forsake Him at the same time.”

Sensual/Sexual:

A character removes her shirt to show off her tattoos; her nakedness is mentioned as well as the sight of her “small breasts.”

Some of the characters go to a restaurant called Oh My Cod which is known for sexually suggestive decor & menu items, a few of which are described. Someone from the group refers to the restaurant as a “sex shop.”

Someone is called a “courteous porn star” in jest.

There’s a detailed discussion about methods of murder that give the killer sexual gratification (i.e. A certain movement while sitting atop a victim or the motion & penetration of a blade).

Two characters sleep together; the scene doesn’t fade to black, but their intimacy is described with minimal detail. In another chapter, they’re in bed together, but nothing happens beyond the two of them waking up side by side.

Two other characters sleep together off-page; it’s mentioned in a conversation with very little detail.

Stalking: There is evidence of one or more characters being stalked: robbery, phone calls, text messages with photos of front doors, & a physical attack.

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– Lauren Michele ❤

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“The Latke in the Library & Other Mystery Stories for Chanukah” by Libi Astaire | Book Review

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“Thanks to a handful of nasty falls, mystery writer Agatha Krinsky is moved into an assisted living facility with the help of her nephew Sheldon. On her first day she gets lost and finds herself inside the library with a dead body. To her dismay, no one believes her story or offers to call the police. She is taken to the dining room where she meets Ukrainian PI Herschel Perlow, knitting enthusiast Miss Eppel, and husband and wife team Ronny and Rubles Bernfeld. As they take turns reminiscing a la “The Tuesday Night Club,” Agatha impatiently waits for another opportunity to bring up the body in hopes that someone will do something. Will her new friends help, or are they too distracted by their mystery-solving memories?”

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In my search for Hanukkah books, this short story collection caught my eye because Agatha Christie is my favorite author. I was excited to start reading but also nervous because those are big shoes to fill. I couldn’t help but smile at all the details added to make her characters and stories Jewish. The names and Yiddish vocabulary and mentions of Hanukkah were great, but the transition was not flawless. The mystery-aspect got lost in the shuffle, leaving behind more novelty than quality. I know this is a short read for the holiday season, but don’t promise me Agatha and not deliver on the intrigue.

It’s hard to rate something that tugs on my Jewish heartstrings, but I have to be honest. 3 stars for novelty and 2 stars for quality which averages out to 2.5 Stars. If you’re a Jewish Agatha Christie fan, this book is good for a one-sitting read and some fun. Don’t expect too much from the mysteries and enjoy it for what it is.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

If you’re not knowledgeable about the works of Agatha Christie, here’s a cheat sheet:

Characters:

Agatha Krinsky – Agatha Christie

Agatha’s nephew Sheldon – Miss Marple’s nephew Raymond West

Ukrainian PI Herschel Perlow – Belgian PI Hercule Poirot

Miss Eppel – Miss Marple

Ronny & Rubles Bernfeld – Tommy & Tuppence Beresford

Inspector Haddock & his grandfather Sir Harold Withering – Sir Henry Clithering & his godson Detective Inspector Dermot Eric Craddock

Stories:

“The Latke in the Library” – “The Body in the Library”

“Evil Under the Wick” – “Evil Under the Sun”

“And Then There Were Gornisht” – “And Then There Were None”

“The Olive Cracked” – “The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side”

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Subscribe to my blog to receive email notifications, and check out my other links listed below.

– Lauren Michele ♥️

 ⬇️ Important Links ⬇️  

• Previous Post: 14 Live Action Disney Remakes + Sequels Ranked

• Previous Video: Amateur Swiftie Reacts To Fearless (Taylor’s Version)

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• Youtube

Ha Bracha | A Blessing Over 2021

It’s a gross understatement to say 2020 was a rough year so I won’t say it. Instead I’ll look forward to the new year with cautious optimism & lots of prayer. Speaking of prayer, I recently heard Joshua Aaron’s Hebrew cover of the song The Blessing, & it is a spiritual experience. It’s the perfect prayer to lead us into the coming year so I recommend you find a quiet spot, close your eyes, & let the song wash over you. Wishing you & yours a healthy 2021! 💙 

“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” ’ “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”  – Numbers 6:22-27

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzqrWae5lK4

• 🎵 • 🎶 • 🎵 • 🎶 • 🎵 • 🎶 • 🎵 • 🎶 • 🎵 • 🎶 • 🎵 • 🎶 • 🎵 • 🎶 • 🎵 • 🎶 • 🎵 • 🎶 • 🎵 • 🎶 • 

Yevarechecha Adonai, VeYishmerecha • The LORD bless you and keep you • יְבָרֶכְךָ יהוה, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ⁠

Ya’er Adonai Panav Eleycha ViChuneka • Make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you • יָאֵר יהוה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וִיחֻנֶּךָּ⁠

Yisa Adonai Panav Eleycha, VeYasem Lecha Shalom • The LORD turn His face toward you and give you peace • יִשָּׂא יהוה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם

Yehi chasdo aleicha le’alfei dorot • May His favor be upon you to a thousand generations • יהי חסדו עליך לאלפי דורות

Mishpachtecha viladecha • Your family and your children • משפחתך וילדיך

Dorotecha achareicha • Your generations after you • דורותיך אחריך

Rucho telech lefaneicha • May His presence go before you • רוחו תלך לפניך

Letsidecha achareicha • Beside you and behind you • לצידך, אחריך

Misvivecha belibecha • All around you and within you • מסביבך, בליבך

Hu itcha • He is with you • הוא איתך

Baboker uvaerev • In the morning in the evening • בבוקר ובערב

Betzetecha uvoecha • In your going and your coming • בצאתך ובואך

B’sivlotecha beoshrecha • In your weeping and rejoicing • בסבלותיך ואושרך

Hu itcha • He is for you • הוא איתך

Hu itanu im kulanu • He is for us, He is with us • הוא איתנו עם כולנו

Hu itcha • He is for you • הוא איתך

Shalom • Peace • שָׁלוֹם

• 🎵 • 🎶 • 🎵 • 🎶 • 🎵 • 🎶 • 🎵 • 🎶 • 🎵 • 🎶 • 🎵 • 🎶 • 🎵 • 🎶 • 🎵 • 🎶 • 🎵 • 🎶 • 🎵 • 🎶 •

Subscribe to my blog to receive email notifications, and check out my other links listed below.

– Lauren Michele ❤

⬇ Important Links ⬇

• Previous Post: Goodbye 2020 | Hello 2021

• Previous Video: The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society | Reading Rush 2020 Day 6

• Art Blog

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• Twitter

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Goodbye 2020 | Hello 2021

–   J a n u a r y   1 s t   –

Goodbye 2019, Hello 2020 ( Lifestyle Blog )

–   J a n u a r y   3 r d   t o   5 t h   –

• Saying Goodbye to Waitress on my Art Blog:

What Baking Can Do

She Used To Be Mine

Everything Changes

–   J a n u a r y   6 t h   –

• Best Dressed | Golden Globe Awards 2020 ( Art Blog )

–   J a n u a r y   2 6 t h   –

The world lost Kobe Bryant & his daughter Gianna along with Alyssa, John, & Keri Altobelli, Ara Zobayan, Christina Mauser, & Payton & Sarah Chester. Kobe was my favorite athlete & one of my biggest inspirations; I still don’t have the words to describe the deep sorrow I feel or how much I miss him. 💔

–   F e b r u a r y   1 0 t h   –

Best Dressed | 92nd Academy Awards 2020 ( Art Blog )

–   F e b r u a r y   2 4 t h   –

Mamba + Mambacita ( Art Blog )

Riposi in Pace ( Lifestyle Blog )

–   M a r c h   1 5 t h   –

Just Want to Say Hello (acknowledging the virus on my Lifestyle Blog & checking in with everyone)

–   M a r c h   2 2 n d   –

Activities for Social Distancing ( Lifestyle Blog )

–   M a r c h   2 5 t h   t o   2 9 t h   –

The Bookie Trials Royal Weekender | Team Mage ( Lifestyle Blog )

📚 Books Read: 1

“The ABC Murders” by Agatha Christie ( ✔️ Clairvoyance – Read a 5-Star Prediction ✔️ Tome Champion – Finish One Book ✔️ Magi Might – Read a Book With Purple on the Cover )

📖 Pages Read: 247

🥇 Badges Earned: 7 out of 8

–   A p r i l   1 s t   t o   3 0 t h   –

O.W.L.s Readathon 2020 + Stay at Home Reading Rush ( Lifestyle Blog )

📚 Books Read: 12

“The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins ( ✔️ Care of Magical Creatures exam )

“The Dark Knight Returns” by Frank Miller ( ✔️ Arithmancy exam )

“Batman Beyond: Hush Beyond” by Adam Beechen ( ✔️ Potions exam )

“Every Crooked Path” by Steven James ( ✔️ Charms exam )

“The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson ( ✔️ Transfiguration exam )

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling ( ✔️ History of Magic exam ✔️ Read a Book in the Same Room the Whole Time ✔️ Read a Book Set Somewhere You Wish You Could Go ✔️ Read a Book That Will Make You Smile )

“Catching Fire” by Suzanne Collins ( ✔️ Astronomy exam )

“The Night Country” by Melissa Albert ( ✔️ Ancient Runes exam ✔️ Read a Book With a House on the Cover )

“Every Deadly Kiss” by Steven James ( ✔️ Muggle Studies exam )

“At Bertram’s Hotel” by Agatha Christie ( ✔️ Defense Against the Dark Arts exam )

“The Cornish Coast Murder” by John Bude ( ✔️ Divination exam )

“Mockingjay” by Suzanne Collins ( ✔️ Herbology exam )

📖 Pages Read: 3,836

Reading Prompts Completed: 4 out of 4

Ordinary Wizarding Levels Completed: 12 out of 12

–   J u l y   2 0 t h   t o   2 6 t h   –

Reading Rush 2020 ( Lifestyle Blog )

📚 Books Read: 7

“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” by Jenny Han ( ✔️ Read a Book in a Genre You Want to Read More of badge )

“P.S. I Still Love You” by Jenny Han ( ✔️ Read the First Book You Touch badge )

“Always & Forever, Lara Jean” by Jenny Han ( ✔️ Read a Book With a Cover That Matches the Color of Your Birthstone badge )

“Stuart Little” by E.B. White ( ✔️ Read a Book That Inspired a Movie You’ve Already Seen badge )

“Aquaman, Volume 1: The Trench” by Geoff Johns ( ✔️Read a Book Completely Outside Your House badge )

“The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society” by Annie Barrows & Mary Ann Shaffer ( ✔️ Read a Book That Takes Place on a Different Continent Than Where You Live badge )

“The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” by Agatha Christie( ✔️Read a Book That Starts With The Word “The” badge )

“Capturing the Devil” by Kerri Maniscalco ( Started in October 2019, doesn’t count as a complete book )

📖 Pages Read: 1,911

🥇 Badges Earned: 13

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPXkMvjQnYU&t=4s

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WInx_BC_SMs&t=2s

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSC9ZL8vF6M&t=6s

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTgRwZYJZZY

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJsjEZfJ9iM

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_JrncGyfM0&t=2s

➡️   R e a d i n g   R u s h   D a y   7   C o m i n g   S o o n !   ⬅️ 

–   J u l y   3 0 t h   –

• I restarted my college photography project on social media, posting a photo(s) every Wayback Wednesday, Throwback Thursday, & Flashback Friday:

Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/CDSabCQAIWa/

–   A u g u s t   1 s t   –

Dawsey + Juliet ( Lifestyle Blog )

–   A u g u s t   2 0 t h   –

Support the Irish Arts ( Art Blog )

–   A u g u s t   2 4 t h   –

Starbucks Kiwi Starfruit Refresher | Drink Review ( Lifestyle Blog )

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CH9W1wmKeWU&t=3s

–   A u g u s t   2 6 t h   –

Birds of Prey ( Lifestyle Blog )

Girl Power! ( Art Blog )

–   A u g u s t   2 8 t h   –

Ballad of Mulan ( Lifestyle Blog )

Loyal, Brave, True ( Art Blog )

–   A u g u s t   3 0 t h   –

Long Live the King, an art tribute to Chadwick Boseman

–   S e p t e m b e r   1 s t   –

Alta Mar is Over ( Lifestyle Blog )

–   S e p t e m b e r   1 8 t h   –

Shanah Tovah | Happy New Year ( Art Blog )

–   O c t o b e r   1 s t   t o   1 6 t h   –

• Disney Remake + Sequel Reviews on my Lifestyle Blog:

Reviewing 14 Disney Movies

Alice in Wonderland 2010

Maleficent 2014

Cinderella 2015

The Jungle Book 2016

Alice Through the Looking Glass 2016

Pete’s Dragon 2016

Beauty and the Beast 2017

Christopher Robin 2018

Dumbo 2019

Aladdin 2019

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil 2019

Lady and the Tramp

The Lion King 2019

Mulan 2020

14 Live Action Disney Remakes + Sequels Ranked

–   O c t o b e r   1 7 t h   –

Disney Magic Remade ( Art Blog )

–   O c t o b e r   2 8 t h   –

• A Day at Dunder Mifflin Elementary | Unboxing + Flip Through

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ezeg7p6aIOU&t=4s

–   N o v e m b e r   8 t h   –

• Old Salt Raincoat – Kiel James Patrick | Unboxing + First Impressions

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFWdmmOfPZI&t=5s

–   N o v e m b e r   1 1 t h   –

• My 1st Squishable Haul | Mini Pumpkin Spice Latte + Storm Cloud

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9T7aNUVjy34&t=3s

–   N o v e m b e r   1 3 t h   –

• “Uprooted” + “Spinning Silver” by Naomi Novik | Illumicrate Unboxing

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYwDqm9qUVM&t=3s

–   N o v e m b e r   1 4 t h   –

• Poirot, Sherlock, & . . . | Once Upon a Crime Collection | North Ave Candles Unboxing

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41sXwE8SKt8&t=2s

–   N o v e m b e r   2 6 t h   –

• Friends 50 States Challenge | Thanksgiving 2020

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0GQHSGfZ-0&t=2s

–   D e c e m b e r   1 2 t h   –

• Mini Squishable Dreidel Unboxing | Happy Hanukkah!

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vf0dF_ertbo&t=11s

–   D e c e m b e r   1 5 t h   –

• MinaLima Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone Illustrated + Signed Edition | Flip-Through + Review

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6R-Fj5uAGk&t=1s

–   D e c e m b e r   1 8 t h   t o   2 4 t h   –

• Artmas 2020:

A Christmas Carol

Bunnybee Baking + The Cookie Gallery

Holiday on Ice

Hannah Detterbeck

Little Nero’s Gingerbread

The Show Must Go On

Christmas Advertisements 2020

–   D e c e m b e r   2 6 t h   –

I Had the Holiday Blues ( Lifestyle Blog )

–   D e c e m b e r   3 0 t h   –

• Instagram Top Nine:

Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/CJfj_pPgxfD/

🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

🕯   A moment of silence for all the people who lost their life because of COVID-19. May their memory be a blessing!   🕯 

🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

Farewell to Alex Trebek (Jeopardy! host), Carl Reiner (actor, author, comedian, director, & screenwriter), Chadwick Boseman (actor), Conchata Ferrell (actress), David Lander (actor, baseball scout, comedian, & musician), David Prowse (OG Darth Vader), Dawn Wells (actress), Diana Rigg (actress), Eddie Van Halen (musician & songwriter), Fred Willard (actor, comedian, & writer), Gianna Bryant (#2 Mambacita), Grant Imahara (MythBusters), Helen Reddy (actress, author, singer, & songwriter), Jeremy Bulloch (OG Boba Fett), Jerry Stiller (actor, author, & comedian), Joe Ruby (Scooby Doo Co-Creator), Kelly Preston (actress & model), Kenny Rogers (actor, entrepreneur, musician, record producer, singer, & songwriter), Ken Spears (Scooby Doo Co-Creator), Kobe Bryant (#8 & #24 Black Mamba), Lynn Cohen (actress), Mary Pat Gleason (actress & writer), Max von Sydow (actor), Naya Rivera (actress, model, & singer), Nick Cordero (actor), Olivia de Havilland (actress), Orson Bean (actor, comedian, producer, & writer), Regis Philbin (actor, singer, & TV host/presenter), Richard Herd (actor), Sean Connery (actor), Tom Lister Jr. (actor & wrestler), & Wilford Brimley (actor & singer).

🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

Let’s take a look at the numbers: I ended 2020 with 497 art blog followers (up from 486), 475 lifestyle blog followers (up from 472), & 293 subscribers + 140,868 views (up from 274 & 121,601). I must admit those numbers are extremely disappointing & feel like a slap in the face after a year of work. Even though I wasn’t very active creatively, I put my all into every single blog post & video I produced. I’m letting my self stew in misery for a bit, but then I’m going to suck it up, hold my head high, & do better in 2021.Onwards & upwards! ➡️ ⬆️

📖 This Bible verse feels very appropriate after the year we just endured so I’m leaving you with Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to break down and a time to build up; A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain and a time to lose; A time to keep and a time to throw away; A time to tear and a time to sew; A time to keep silence and a time to speak; A time to love and a time to hate; A time of war and a time of peace.”

Subscribe to my blog to receive email notifications, and check out my other links listed below.

– Lauren Michele ❤

⬇ Important Links ⬇

• Art Blog

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• Instagram

• Pinterest

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• Youtube

I Had the Holiday Blues | Belated Blogmas 2020

Another year, another failed Blogmas. I like to be consistent. 😂 This year my excuse isn’t work because I had less shifts than I’ve ever had in December thanks to 20% capacity in malls. My excuse this year is . . . um . . . well, I’m not actually sure what it is. Lack of motivation? I was excited for the holiday season back in October, but something inside me fizzled as the days went by. I didn’t put up my family’s nativity scene or watch my favorite Christmas movie The Nativity Story. In fact, I barely watched any holiday movies. I did listen to a fair amount of festive music, but that was about it. If you’re feeling left out in the cold over here on my lifestyle blog, I didn’t do Vlogmas for my YouTube channel either. I desperately wanted, nay, needed to be in the Christmas spirit this year, but I just couldn’t muster up the energy to celebrate. Despite an undercurrent of sadness draining my energy, I still managed to have a lovely day at home with family on the 25th. I watched The Santa Clause & played Crash Team Racing with my brother, cooked a repeat of Thanksgiving with my mom, & watched the Lakers game with my dad & brother. The Lakers beat the Mavericks! 💜💛 We ended the festivities with a fire, popcorn, & Wonder Woman 1984. I didn’t like it as much as the first movie, but it was still a lot of fun to watch. Highly recommend! After that my brother & I watched Friends until midnight, the official end of Christmas. I guess all of that is a good metaphor for 2020, feeling down but making the best of the situation. In the words of Hugh Martin & Ralph Blane, “From now on we’ll have to muddle through somehow so have yourself a merry little Christmas now.” 💚 🎄 ❤

H A P P Y   H A N U K K A H  🕎  M E R R Y   C H R I S T M A S  🎄  H A P P Y   N E W   Y E A R  🎉 

Subscribe to my blog to receive email notifications, and check out my other links listed below.

• Art Blog

• Goodreads

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• Twitter

• Youtube

14 Live Action Disney Remakes + Sequels Ranked

• 🐇 • 😴 • 👠 • 🎩 • 🐉 • 🐅 • 🌹 • 🍯 • 🧞‍♂️ • 🐘 • 🐕 • 🏰 • 🦁 • 🌸 • 🐇 • 😴 • 👠 • 🎩 • 🐉 • 🐅 •

After fourteen movie reviews, the time has come to rank these Disney remakes from best to worst, & I am S-C-A-R-E-D. I can be a critical person, but I like to have fun when I watch movies; I always try to find the positives & not focus on the negatives. This was a difficult task for me, & I’m still not sure if these are truly my final rankings. But, I need to wrap up this blog series so I’m stopping & giving you the results of many, many, many hours of deliberation.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Here is a blank list you can print & fill out with your own remake rankings. Have fun!

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

I don’t want to make you wait any longer than you already have so here they are, my remake rankings. I took into account many different factors: my favorite remakes, the remakes that were most successful, the remakes that improved upon the original film, the number of complaints I had for each remake, etc. Because of that, there might be a few surprises. Cinderella is currently my favorite remake, but it came in 3rd because The Jungle Book & Christopher Robin are the only remakes I couldn’t come up with criticisms for. Pete’s Dragon isn’t the remake I’ll rewatch the most, but I think it’s a huge improvement over the original movie; the stunning visuals & heartwarming story are the two main reasons why it earned the 4th spot on my list. Beauty and the Beast is an absolute shock to me, but rewatching it made me realize it’s a better movie than I’ve given it credit for, shortcomings & all. Aladdin edged out Mulan because it only has one mediocre villain versus two mediocre villains. The Lion King is in the middle of the pack because while it has stunning visuals, it didn’t perfectly replicate the original movie or make any improvements. I really like Alice in Wonderland, but it got edged out by improved special effects post-2010 & remakes of movies that I have more of a personal connection to. Maleficent was good enough to close out my top ten followed by the adorably imperfect Lady and the Tramp. Two unsuccessful & unnecessary sequels find themselves at the bottom of the list along with Dumbo which will always be one of my least favorite Disney movies. There you have it! Those are my rankings . . . for now. 😉

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Here are my rankings of the original animated movies. There are only 11 because the remake sequels were not based on an original movie. Christopher Robin is the exception, but it wasn’t based on one particular film so I didn’t add one.

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This is a side-by-side view of my animation rankings & my remake rankings. Two movies line up: Alice in Wonderland in 8th place & Dumbo in 11th place.

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These are the Rotten Tomatoes scores of each remake from the audience & the critics respectively; the sequels are not included. One movie lines up: Dumbo in 11th place.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

This is a side-by-side view of the audience Rotten Tomatoes scores & my rankings minus the sequels. Three movies line up: Beauty and the Beast in 4th place, Alice in Wonderland in 8th place, & Dumbo in 11th place.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

This is a side-by-side view of the critic Rotten Tomatoes scores & my rankings minus the sequels. Two movies line up: The Jungle Book in 1st place & Dumbo in 11th place.

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These are the Rotten Tomatoes scores of each remake, sequels included. One movie lines up: Maleficent in 9th place.

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This is a side-by-side view of the audience Rotten Tomatoes scores & my rankings including the sequels. Three movies line up: Lady and the Tramp in 11th place, Alice Through the Looking Glass in 13th place, & Dumbo in 14th place.

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This is a side-by-side view of the critic Rotten Tomatoes scores & my rankings including the sequels. Three movies line up: The Jungle Book in 1st place, Cinderella in 3rd place, & Beauty and the Beast in 5th place.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Alice in Wonderland 2010 | Movie Review

Maleficent 2014 | Movie Review

Cinderella 2015 | Movie Review

The Jungle Book 2016 | Movie Review

Alice Through the Looking Glass 2016 | Movie Review

Pete’s Dragon 2016 | Movie Review

Beauty and the Beast 2017 | Movie Review

Christopher Robin 2018 | Movie Review

Dumbo 2019 | Movie Review

Aladdin 2019 | Movie Review

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil 2019 | Movie Review

Lady and the Tramp 2019 | Movie Review

The Lion King 2019 | Movie Review

Mulan 2020 | Movie Review

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For those of you that stuck around for 16 days, I hope you’ve enjoyed this series. I would love to hear your rankings down below in the comment section. There are more Disney remakes coming so keep an eye out for more movie reviews. Which ones are you looking forward to most? I’m excited for CruellaHercules, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, & Lilo & Stitch. 😊

• 🐇 • 😴 • 👠 • 🎩 • 🐉 • 🐅 • 🌹 • 🍯 • 🧞‍♂️ • 🐘 • 🐕 • 🏰 • 🦁 • 🌸 • 🐇 • 😴 • 👠 • 🎩 • 🐉 • 🐅 •

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– Lauren Michele ❤

⬇ Important Links ⬇

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Mulan 2020 | Movie Review

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🎥 Cinematography by Mandy Walker

👗 Costumes by Bina Daigeler

🎬 Directed by Niki Caro

🎞 Edited by David Coulson

🎼 Music by Harry Gregson-Williams

📋 Produced by Chris Bender, Jason T. Reed, & Jake Weiner

📝 Screenplay by Amanda Silver, Elizabeth Martin, Lauren Hynek, & Rick Jaffa

🌟 S T A R R I N G

🐪 Arka Das as Red Fez

🍵 Cheng Pei-pei as the Matchmaker

🗡 Chen Tang as Yao

⚔️ Donnie Yen as Commander Tung

🗡 Doua Moua as Chien-Po

🦅 Gong Li as Xianniang

🐎 Jason Scott Lee as Böri Khan

👑 Jet Li as The Emperor of China

🗡 Jimmy Wong as Ling

🦗 Jun Yu as Cricket

📜 Nelson Lee as The Chancellor

⚔️ Ron Yuan as Sergeant Qiang

👩🏻‍🦱 Rosalind Chao as Hua Li

👨🏻 Tzi Ma as Hua Zhou

👧🏻 Xana Tang as Hua Xiu | Elena Askin as young Xiu

👩🏻 Yifei Liu as Mulan | Crystal Rao as young Mulan

🗡 Yoson An as Chen Honghui

• 🇨🇳 •🍃 •🌾 •🌸 •🏔 •🔥 •👩🏻 •🗡 •🐎•🎇 • 🇨🇳 • 🍃 • 🌾 • 🌸 • 🏔 • 🔥 • 👩🏻 • 🗡 • 🐎 • 🎇 •

The final Disney remake I’m reviewing is Mulan, the most recent offering to grace our screens. The original is my favorite Disney princess movie so I’m going to be very thorough & very honest. Buckle up!

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First of all, I’d like to acknowledge that Gong Li has been on this blog before. Check out this Cannes red carpet blog post from 2019. I promise you won’t have to scroll too far!

 Staying consistent with mentioning all the themed intros, a Chinese landscape was added around the castle. I actually wondered if the castle itself was a nod to the Shanghai Disney park so I looked it up. My intuition was correct! It is indeed the Enchanted Storybook Castle from Shanghai Disneyland.

It wouldn’t be right for me to start anywhere other than the cinematography because off the top of my head, there are at least five shots I want to frame & hang up around my bedroom. Seriously, the picturesque scenery is breathtaking. It’s right up there with the New Zealand landscapes that created what we know as Middle Earth. Funnily enough, some of the Mulan scenes were filmed in New Zealand. Small world! 🇳🇿

I am head over heels in love with the costume choices for each part of the movie, especially the vibrant colors in the different cities & villages. One of the most interesting costumes is worn by Xianniang. Her flowing sleeves & metal skirt mimic the feathers & wings of the hawk she transforms into. Her crown & belt are made of bones which is very creepy but also incredibly cool. On top of all that, her hands are talons, even when she takes a human form. I had high hopes for this villain, & you’ll find out my final thoughts later . . .

The score is beautiful & atmospheric, incorporating melodies from the original soundtrack which is a nice dose of nostalgia. Right before the matchmaker scene, Mulan says “I will bring honor to us all,” & the melody of Honor To Us All can be heard. The melody of Reflection plays during the night training scene, & Mulan’s reflection is visible in the water. Many fans were upset about the omission of musical numbers, but this interpretation is meant to stand on its own. I’ve seen people giving bad reviews because the remake deviated from the animated movie, & I don’t think that’s fair because Disney made it very clear that this would be a different kind of Mulan movie. It would not have worked as a musical.

This reimagining of Mulan’s story is narrated by Mulan’s father Hua Zhou, a perfect choice. At the very heart of this movie, you won’t find a romance or even a warrior’s tale; it is the story of a bond between a father and daughter. When everyone else is annoyed by Mulan’s antics and faux pas, her father is always there, supporting her the best that he can. It’s obvious that he’s proud of her, even before she returns home from war a decorated hero. In fact, when that time comes, all he cares about is that she’s back home safe & sound. I’M NOT CRYING, YOU’RE CRYING!! 😭

Mulan’s chi is an early indication that she could be seen as a witch by the general public, her ultimate connection to Xianniang. Hua Zhou tells her chi is meant for warriors, not daughters, & she needs to hide her gift away & silence its voice. Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about this addition to the story. Mixed in with some of the martial arts sequences, it felt very cheesy. For example, young Mulan jumping off the roof or adult Mulan running up & across palace buildings. I just don’t think the spiritual element blended seamlessly; it could’ve been cut completely & not affected the movie at all.

Our first villain sighting is Xianniang taking over a merchant’s body as a disguise, a hint that she’s a witch. Next we see her cohorts, the Rouran army, in black clothing riding black horses toward the outpost where she’s located. Right from the start, they’re portrayed as a brutal group. Xianniang is especially cutthroat during the invasion, killing many soldiers herself & not giving it a second thought. She is very powerful, but the leader Böri Khan sees her as nothing more than a lackey, causing division within their partnership.

I was so excited to see Jet Li as the emperor, but something was not right about his voice & audio. Every time he talked, specifically in the throne room, it seemed like his mouth wasn’t synched with the audio.I hate to say this, but it’s very cringey & something that shouldn’t have been overlooked. Speaking of audio, there’s another mistake in the first throne room scene. The lone soldier who survived the Rouran invasion tells the emperor that Böri Khan is fighting alongside a witch. The problem is that the audio says “woman,” but the actor said “witch” in the original scene. They obviously changed that part of the script & re-dubbed the audio. I know that’s such a small thing, but I’m the kind of the movie watcher who will notice.

Mulan’s horse Black Wind looks exactly like Khan from the animated movie. That detail alone tugs my heartstrings! ♥️

Spotted: Mulan’s cherry blossom comb! I respect the changes made to give this remake it’s own voice, but I also love the details brought over from the 90s movie that make it feel like a familiar book I’ve read over & over again. 🌸

Remember the chaos the spider caused in the matchmaker scene? I felt that in my arachnophobic soul! 🕸 🕷 😱

First of all, it’s incredibly messed up that Mulan’s father is expected to fight with a leg injury. Second, I love that before he bravely commits to fighting, he pointedly says he has no sons but the blessing of two daughters. Later on while he’s  preparing for battle, Mulan says that if she were a son he wouldn’t have to fight. He tells her that he regrets nothing about his life, implying he doesn’t wish his daughters were sons. I must reiterate that their bond is the heart of this story. I cannot praise Tzi Ma’s performance enough! 👏🏻 👏🏻 👏🏻

Around the 25:30 mark, Mulan’s face can be seen in her father’s sword reflected back from the camera. Yifei Liu improvised knowing that would happen, & it was executed so well that it was kept in the movie.

I’ve seen some negative comments about Mulan not cutting her hair. Even Ming Na Wen poked fun at this omission! The crew did this on purpose because Chinese soldiers kept their hair long. Mulan would’ve looked more feminine with short hair, making her disguise useless. I’m not an expert on this subject, but one quick Google search says this is historically accurate, at least for certain dynasties.

Just like the animated movie, Mulan prepares to take her father’s place while the score takes on an 80s vibe. It feels very much like a Rocky training montage before a big fight. I dug it in the 90s, & I dig it now. 🎶

When Mulan walks away from her home dressed in her father’s armor, the shot ends with the white phoenix statue bathed in warm light. Nice touch! Later on a real, colorful phoenix appears & becomes Mulan’s silent guide for the rest of the film. I understand that it was meant to be a more serious replacement for Mushu, but it was too cheesy. Perhaps it would’ve been better as a white spirit like her father’s crest, a bit more subtle than a colorful bird.

 I’m so glad I saw a comment about the character named Cricket because I had no idea he was meant to be a namesake & tribute to Cri-Kee. He is so sweet & adorable! He tells his fellow soldiers that his mother calls him a good luck charm because he was born under an auspicious moon. 🦗

Donny. Freakin’. Yen. That’s literally all I have to say about him. WOW! 💥

The remake isn’t dripping with comedy like the animated movie, but there are bits of humor added at appropriate times for lightness. One such moment is Mulan’s first time in the soldiers’ tent. It doesn’t take long for her to close her eyes & quickly volunteer for guard duty. Hilarious! 😂

I haven’t seen anyone else mention the statue from the 31:30 mark. It’s the same statue seen in the daylight at the 29:10 mark. At night in the darkness, I think it resembles Shan Yu, the villain from the animated movie. I’m not sure if this was purposeful, but it caught my eye.

Before training begins, Sergeant Qiang references lyrics from I’ll Make A Man Out Of You: “We’re gonna make men out of every single one of you.” Later on Commander Tung says “Tranquil with a forest but on fire within.” The line is supposed to be “Tranquil as a forest but on fire within.” I’m not sure if that was a mistake or intentional.

Eagle-eyed fans should be able to spot Yao, Ling, & Chien-Po. Their appearances aren’t exactly the same as their animated counterparts, but they’re easily recognizable based on personality.

During the meal scene, Chien-Po quotes the song A Girl Worth Fighting For. I’m pretty sure there’s a few more lines from this conversation inspired by the animated movie. Please note that Chen Honghui doesn’t laugh when Mulan, disguised as Hua Jun of course, describes his perfect girl as courageous & smart with a sense of humor. *sigh*

The bathing scene is another nod to the animated movie. It’s a little different without Mushu & the rest of the soldiers, but it’s meant to be a serious moment between Mulan and Chen Honghui. Well, as serious as it can be. Obviously it’s still a humorous situation!

I thought the martial arts stunts were a great addition to this movie. I do have a note from my brother John who’s an avid martial arts movie-watcher: “Most international martial arts films have a director and a martial arts director. This movie would’ve benefitted from that.” I’m not sure if this movie had a martial arts director or not, but I think his point was that the martial arts scenes could’ve been better.

I know I mentioned the scenery before, but I need to rave a little more. The landscape in the battle scene when Mulan & Xianniang meet is stunning. The fog, the green hills, the yellow ice (Is that what that is?!). It doesn’t even seem real! . . . probably because it isn’t. The crew searched for a real landscape to fit their sulfurous vision but ultimately built it themselves.

Just like the animated movie, Mulan’s identity is revealed after an injury. The difference in the live action remake is that Mulan isn’t truly injured, & she decides to reveal who she really is. When she enters the battle as herself, WOW WOW WOW!!! What a warrior moment! I definitely sobbed the first time I saw that scene. After she reveals herself as a woman & kicks butt, the enemy runs away thinking she’s a witch. This is another hint at her connection with Xianniang, setting up the very end of the movie.

I hate to be nit-picky (not really), but I have to mention another audio error. A Rouran soldier yells “Enemy on the ridge” when Mulan shoots an arrow their way. The audio doesn’t match up with whatever he said in the scene, specifically the word “ridge.” It’s possible he messed up the line in the heat of the moment & had to fix it in post.

Just like her animated counterpart, Mulan sets off an avalanche to take out the enemy. It is just as genius when you see it happen with real people. 🏔

When Mulan & Xianniang meet for the 2nd time, the witch invites her to join her cause so they can form a powerful team. Basically, it would be a slap in the face of all the men who’ve held them down. Mulan says no because she is nothing like Xianniang.

I love love LOVE that Chen Honghui doesn’t hesitate to call out Commander Tung’s hypocrisy. He point blank asks why he won’t believe Hua Mulan when he would believe Hua Jun. FACTS!

I knew Jet Li wouldn’t see much action as the emperor, but it was nice to see him fight a little bit. Actually, that’s when he looked most comfortable. 😊

The animated versions of Yao, Ling, & Chien-Po are the comedic relief of the army. I don’t mind that, but it was nice to see something a little different in the remake. They go from weak boys in training camp to brave men on the battlefield. They don’t disguise themselves as women to distract the enemy. They just fight!

In the final battle scene, Mulan is still wearing her red soldier robe. I love the symbolism! She joined the army to take the place of her disabled father. Whether she’s Hua Jun or Hua Mulan, she’s still a soldier.

In their third meeting, Mulan pleads with Xianniang to do the right thing & save the emperor from Böri Khan. This is where the villain arc loses me. Xianniang barely needs convincing to help Mulan. She already didn’t like Böri Khan, but it still seems like way too quick of a turnaround. There are hints throughout the movie leading up to this moment, but it doesn’t hit me emotionally when she takes an arrow to save Mulan. I understand the strong female empowerment message her story arc was meant to embody, but it didn’t work for me. She was brutal as a villain but never reached her full potential therefore her transformation doesn’t feel as dramatic as it should. That would’ve been rectified had we witnessed another brutal villain onscreen, but Böri Khan did not live up to Shan Yu. He had the appearance and intimidation working in his favor, but all that fizzled in the final scene. I didn’t think the martial arts choreography flowed well, and the chi was over the top. Mulan leaping from roof to roof looks like a person being carried through the air by wire, and the sequence of the emperor catching Böri Khan’s arrow & Mulan kicking it into Böri Khan’s chest is too cheesy. Two mediocre villains leading up to an anticlimactic ending left me feeling let down. It was probably my least favorite part of the movie because I thought the villains had so much potential in the beginning.

Speaking of the final scene, I was not a huge fan of the phoenix, but I do love the camera shot of the wings behind Mulan after the emperor tells her to rise up like a Phoenix. Gorgeous! 🔥

I would recommend you have tissues handy for the end of the film. The classic song Reflection plays once again while fireworks erupt in the sky. Inside the palace Mulan is introduced to the emperor by Ming Na Wen, the voice of Mulan in the animated movie. I cannot tell a  lie. This part had me SOBBING! 😭

Fun Fact: When Mulan apologizes to the emperor before rejecting his offer to join the emperor’s guard, Ming Na Wen’s daughter Michaela Zee can be seen in the crowd turning her face toward the camera.

Mulan is not the typical Disney princess so I’m glad this film didn’t rely too heavily on a romance. Mulan & Chen go from rival trainees to respectful colleagues to friends. Their final scene together hints at something more, their true feelings for one another. *SQUEAL* I love that! I also the love the pinkish purple hue of the lighting. Incredibly romantic! 🥰

Mulan’s reunion with her family had me crying AGAIN. Her mom Hua Li gets so emotional despite being so harsh early on. STOP! I didn’t mention this earlier, but I like the addition of her sister Hua Xiu; they obviously have a very special bond. STOP IT! It’s her dad Hua Zhou who really turns on the waterworks for me. In the animated movie Mulan presents her dad with the sword of Shan Yu & her medal from the emperor; he throws them aside to hug her because that’s all he truly cares about. That sentiment is exactly the same in the remake. Mulan apologizes for everything she’s put her family through, & her dad says it is his daughter that means everything to him. STOP IT RIGHT NOW! 😭

The red & black visuals behind the closing credits are stunning & made even better by Christina Aguilera’s new song Loyal Brave True. This is followed by Reflection sung in English by Christina and a Chinese version from Liu Yifei. 🎶

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6PZm8vhm6I

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNprQYHenNI

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxPGNjhpOAc

💬 Closing Thoughts: Even though the martial arts movie shell wasn’t perfectly executed, I think the heart & soul of the story hits deeper than people are giving it credit for. I’ve seen a lot of criticism regarding the acting & lack of connection with the characters. I strongly disagree! I think Mulan’s personal journey & relationship with her father are the best parts, grounding the movie and saving it from being mediocre or worse. Addressing the nostalgic lamenters, most of the elements people missed would not have fit into this version: Cri-Kee, Mushu, musical numbers, etc. I think the element I missed most was Grandmother Fa, but there’s an easy solution: watch the animated movie! Let’s address one more criticism: Many people complained about how many times the word “honor” was said. If I counted correctly, “honor” was said 6 times & “dishonor” 2 times. Personally, I never felt annoyed by it. My biggest issues were the cheesy chi & the mediocre villains. Other than that, I like this remake & definitely see myself watching it again.

• 🇨🇳 •🍃 •🌾 •🌸 •🏔 •🔥 •👩🏻 •🗡 •🐎•🎇 • 🇨🇳 • 🍃 • 🌾 • 🌸 • 🏔 • 🔥 • 👩🏻 • 🗡 • 🐎 • 🎇 •

🍅 Rotten Tomatoes: 73% Critics | 50% Audience

🏆 Major Awards: TBD

❓ Original or Remake: The remake should be applauded for its efforts to be different. However, the original movie is perfect so this decision is easy. Original!

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Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KK8FHdFluOQ

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Alice in Wonderland 2010 | Movie Review

Maleficent 2014 | Movie Review

Cinderella 2015 | Movie Review

The Jungle Book 2016 | Movie Review

Alice Through the Looking Glass 2016 | Movie Review

Pete’s Dragon 2016 | Movie Review

Beauty and the Beast 2017 | Movie Review

Christopher Robin 2018 | Movie Review

Dumbo 2019 | Movie Review

Aladdin 2019 | Movie Review

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil 2019 | Movie Review

Lady and the Tramp 2019 | Movie Review

The Lion King 2019 | Movie Review

• 🇨🇳 •🍃 •🌾 •🌸 •🏔 •🔥 •👩🏻 •🗡 •🐎•🎇 • 🇨🇳 • 🍃 • 🌾 • 🌸 • 🏔 • 🔥 • 👩🏻 • 🗡 • 🐎 • 🎇 •

🎥 Stay tuned for my final rankings tomorrow! 🍿

• 🇨🇳 •🍃 •🌾 •🌸 •🏔 •🔥 •👩🏻 •🗡 •🐎•🎇 • 🇨🇳 • 🍃 • 🌾 • 🌸 • 🏔 • 🔥 • 👩🏻 • 🗡 • 🐎 • 🎇 •

Subscribe to my blog to receive email notifications, and check out my other links listed below.

– Lauren Michele ❤

⬇ Important Links ⬇

• Previous Video: NEW Kiwi Starfruit Refresher + Lemonade + Star Drink | Starbucks Review

• Art Blog

• Goodreads

• Instagram

• Pinterest

• Twitter

• Youtube