movie review: mulan

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Fearful that her ailing father will be drafted into the Chinese military, Mulan (Ming-Na Wen) takes his spot — though, as a girl living under a patriarchal regime, she is technically unqualified to serve. She cleverly impersonates a man and goes off to train with fellow recruits. Accompanied by her dragon, Mushu (Eddie Murphy), she uses her smarts to help ward off a Hun invasion, falling in love with a dashing captain along the way.

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‘Mulan’ has always been one of those movies I enjoyed watching but didn’t really love.  I lumped it in with other [personal] Disney disappointments like ‘The Little Mermaid’ and ‘Pocahontas’.  But last night I watched it and, well, I kind of adored it.  And now I don’t get why it isn’t more popular!

For starters, the characters are something special.  The only complaint I have about Mulan is that sometimes her voice actress doesn’t seem to be a very good actress. 😛  But other than that, Mulan is a young woman with a fierce love for her family – something even stronger than her fierce warrior skills.  I love her compassion and bravery.  I love her.  And her dad is probably the best Disney dad ever. (All their scenes together make me tear up.  Except maybe the very first one, ’cause it’s pretty funny.)

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I can’t get over how much I liked Sheng on this rewatch!  He’s such a well-developed character.  He wants his father’s approval, he wants to protect his troops, he wants to understand this weird guy, Ping.  You can almost see the conflict in his mind when he’s supposed to execute Mulan – loyalty to his country’s laws or loyalty to what he knows is right?

(By the way, I take issue with what that plot summary says about Mulan falling in love with Sheng ‘along the way’.  I personally don’t see that she fell in love with him, except maybe at the verrrry end.  And even then it was more of a, “I could like this guy if I had the chance”.  Not actual love.)

"You fight good." #Mulan

Mushu still irks me at times, but he can be legitimately funny.  And he’s not half as annoying as Olaf, so that’s a definite plus.

The artistry that went into ‘Mulan’ is astounding.  Every time there’s smoke or steam or what have you, it’s rendered so artistically.  And who can forget the iconic shot of the Huns spilling over the snowy clifftop? *literal chills*

And then there are the songs.  They’re a little different than the typical Disney songs because there are no villain songs, no love duet…just two funny songs, the “I want” song, and THE SINGLE MOST EPIC SONG DISNEY EVER PRODUCED. (Jerry Goldsmith’s score is also worth a listen.)

I got "I'll Make A Man Out Of You"! Which Disney Song Should Be Your Theme Song? | Quiz | Disney Playlist

The themes in ‘Mulan’ – loyalty, family, doing one’s duty – all strike a chord in me.  Now, more so than ever.  Which is probably why I like it so much.  There are moments of humor throughout ‘Mulan’ but I think it’s Disney’s most grown-up princess movie.  It’s also one of the most underrated.  If you don’t enjoy ‘Mulan’ and haven’t seen it in a while, I highly suggest you give it another try.  You might be pleasantly surprised.

Have you watched ‘Mulan’?  What do you think of it?

Eva

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two book reviews: ‘a bound heart’ & ‘we hope for better things’

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Though Magnus MacLeish and Lark MacDougall grew up on the same castle grounds, Magnus is now laird of the great house and the Isle of Kerrera. Lark is but the keeper of his bees and the woman he is hoping will provide a tincture that might help his ailing wife conceive and bear him an heir. But when his wife dies suddenly, Magnus and Lark find themselves caught up in a whirlwind of accusations, expelled from their beloved island, and sold as indentured servants across the Atlantic. Yet even when all hope seems dashed against the rocky coastline of the Virginia colony, it may be that in this New World the two of them could make a new beginning—together.

So, I have mixed feelings about A Bound Heart.  On the one hand, it’s a rather well-written story (especially for a Christian historical romance) with some good characters, but on the other it took me a while to slog through it and there were some characters I didn’t appreciate.  To begin with the good, I really liked the main character, Lark.  She was refreshingly unique for the Christian historical romance genre.  She has an actual job (tending beehives and growing herbs) and is quite courageous throughout the whole story.  I feel like this would have been a better book if it focused on her and didn’t try to stick in romance.  Larkin was a dear – one of the few authentic, non-cloyingly-sweet babies I’ve read about.

The main thing I disliked about A Bound Heart was the romance.  Magnus is one of those Christian romance heroes that you can tell was written by a woman.  Which may sound confusing and sexist, but basically he’s fake.  He’s so perfect and ‘manly’ that he’s unlikable because you know that guys like him don’t really exist. (If we’re being honest.)  There were two other potential love interests for Lark that I liked way more because they seemed like real guys you might bump into.

Overall, A Bound Heart was a well-written story with an atmospheric portrayal of Scotland but some annoying Christian romance cliches.

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When Detroit Free Press reporter Elizabeth Balsam meets James Rich, his strange request–that she look up a relative she didn’t know she had in order to deliver an old camera and a box of photos–seems like it isn’t worth her time. But when she loses her job after a botched investigation, she suddenly finds herself with nothing but time.

At her great-aunt’s 150-year-old farmhouse, Elizabeth uncovers a series of mysterious items, locked doors, and hidden graves. As she searches for answers to the riddles around her, the remarkable stories of two women who lived in this very house emerge as testaments to love, resilience, and courage in the face of war, racism, and misunderstanding. And as Elizabeth soon discovers, the past is never as past as we might like to think.

OH MY WORD.  MY HEART.  I CAN’T.

This book drew several tears from me.  On the cover it was compared to To Kill a Mockingbird and while it’s quite a different story and not as good, We Hope for Better Things is one of the most beautiful novels I’ve read in a long time.  The writing is crystal clear, engaging, and evocative.  The story was a bit reminiscent of a Lynn Austin book because of the multi-generational thing, but more serious.

Books that deal with racism always grip me and this one was no exception.  There are many hard things and many heartbreaking things…but many wonderful things as well.  Through the three couples – Mary and George, Nora and William, and Elizabeth and (oh, man, I forget his name and it’s awful of me) ?Tyrese? – you get three incredible stories (though I definitely don’t agree with the choices Mary and George made).  Each of the characters became dear to my heart.

My only complaints about We Hope for Better Things were that sometimes it was hard to keep track of who was related to who and it seemed like the book ended with a rather large unanswered question…but it doesn’t look like there’ll be a sequel.  Still, I adored this book.  Highly recommended to those who enjoy well-written historical fiction.

Have you read either of these novels?  What did you think of them?

Eva

mini book review: code of valor + response to your feedback!

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What Detective Brady St. John really needs is a relaxing vacation. Unfortunately, just as the sun is setting on his second day at a friend’s cabin on Lake Henley, he hears a scream and races to rescue a woman from her would-be killer. When the killer escapes only to return to finish the job, Brady vows to utilize all of his many resources to keep her safe–and catch those who would see her dead.

Financial crimes investigator Emily Chastain doesn’t trust many people. And even though she let the detective who saved her life in on a few pertinent facts about why she was being attacked, there are some things you just don’t share with a stranger. Little does she suspect that the secret she is keeping just might get them both killed.

I haven’t read too many police thrillers (is that what this book is?) but Code of Valor was a fast-paced, entertaining read.  Maybe I’m getting soft, but there were actually a couple scenes that made my heart pound with worry/fear.  Which was exciting.  I hardly ever read books that have that effect on me (The Maze Runner is the only other one I can think of), so yeah.  Even though this book is the third in the Blue Justice series (and I haven’t read the other books), I easily read it as a standalone.  The writing was good, the characters well-written (if not stellar), and the plot was a wee bit confusing (though that might have been because I was reading the end so fast).  Recommended for fans of clean thrillers.

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You know, I actually enjoyed writing that review.  I think it’s more my style.  And you know why?  Because I actually enjoyed reading the book! (Duh.)

So, a couple days ago I asked you guys for feedback regarding these ‘forced’ reviews and, yeah, you gave me plenty.  Seven responses in all, and they said basically the same thing: ‘I skip these reviews’.  Ouch.  But completely justified because I don’t care much about these reviews (because I don’t care about the books), so why should you?

I have two more reviews coming – A Bound Heart and We Hope for Better Things (both of which look really good, tbh) – and then I’m implementing my new policy.  Which is that I won’t request books at random.  I’ll only request books to review if I a) know and like the author or b) have a really, really good feeling about a book.  So no more random books.  There are a couple of programs that only require reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, so I’ll still request randoms from them, but not for this blog.  This blog has been going for over three years and I owe it to myself and to you to not let it degenerate.

Thanks so much for all your feedback!  It was much appreciated (even if it did sting a little at first).

Eva

i need feedback, y’all

I love books.  (Everyone knows this.)  And I love blogging. (Ditto.)  And when I married those two loves (wow, that sounds weird) to create this blog, you guys responded – you love my blog (at least, I think so!).  I currently have 346 followers (whaaaat) and because of that high follower count, I’ve become part of several book review programs.  Basically, I request books (e-copies or hard copies) from all these different programs, read the book, and then write a review on my blog (as well as Goodreads and Amazon).

So, free books!  Which is awesome.  But it’s also started to worry me because, since I can’t pass up a free book that looks good, pretty much all my book blogging is reviewing those books…and I feel like the quality of my blog has suffered because of it.  I can’t remember the last time I reviewed a book on here that had no strings attached to my review.  There are so many books I loooove and I’ve reviewed so few of them. 

The last twelve books I reviewed on this blog were review copies.  Some of them I truly loved, but most I didn’t care about.  And I feel like that dilutes the integrity of my blog.  I know I can’t give up requesting free books entirely, but I think I need to step back a little (even now, I currently have four books waiting to be reviewed – and one of those reviews is coming on Monday).  I want this blog to truly represent the things I love.

I’ve also noticed that my book reviews don’t get a lot of comments compared to my other posts and I think it’s because y’all can tell my heart isn’t in them.  So what I’d like to know is – is that true?  Are you annoyed by this flood of reviews of books that I’m ambivalent about?  Please let me know!  And I promise to work harder at writing blog posts that truly mean something to me…and to you guys. (After I get those four books reviewed, that is. ;))

Have a great day everyone.

Eva

book review: retrieve (+ book tour & giveaway!)

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Sarah Addison-Fox, author of the beloved Allegiance series, has recently published a new book (spoilers: it’s great).  I’m here today to review Retrieve and give you all the details about the awesome giveaway that goes with it.

And if you’d like to connect with Sarah, you can find her at any of the places below!

Author Website
Facebook & Facebook Fan Group
Instagram
Twitter
Blog

Retrieve is the first book in the Stormers Trilogy (I can’t wait to read the other two books) and here’s the cover and synopsis for y’all!

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What if the job you took to stay alive might be what kills you?

Kade knows what it is to suffer. He knows what it’s like to lose everything and everyone around him.

His job in a Stormer Unit guarantees not just his survival in the decimated country of Azetaria, but his sister Meg’s. Even if it means facing the Numachi warriors baying for his blood, he’ll do what it takes to keep her safe.

Hadley is alone and surviving the only way she knows how. By hiding where predators won’t find her and scavenging enough just to keep her alive.

When desperation drives Hadley to search for her missing brother, she mistakenly accepts the offer of recruitment into the Stormer’s camp, only to be partnered with Kade and sent as a scout into Numachi territory.

The intimidating young Stormer may just know where her brother has gone. But can they stay alive long enough to find him?

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MY REVIEW: This book surpassed my expectations!  I wasn’t actually sure what to expect because I have a weird aversion to reading plot synopsises and there were some things about the Allegiance series that I didn’t love.  But did I enjoy Retrieve?  The answer is a resounding “Yes!”.  I read it in pretty much one sitting; it was very easy to lose myself in the story and the characters.

Hadley was a great heroine and I felt that she was different from most of the ‘action girl’ heroines that you read about these days.  She made plenty of mistakes but that didn’t stop her from learning and growing.  She didn’t welcome pain or hardship or battles but she didn’t shy away from them either.  Basically, she was tough without losing her heart.  Kade was intriguing – I really hope Sarah explores his backstory in the next two books because I could definitely see myself falling for him if she deepened his character. (He was still a well-drawn character, though.) (Although, tbh, I don’t think any of Sarah’s characters could take Torrance’s place in my heart [he’s from the Allegiance series].)

The plot was super interesting and fast-paced.  Really dug it.  And there were a few surprises along the way which made me happy.  I feel like there’s a great, amazing world waiting to explode in the next two books.  I only got a few glimpses here and there but I’m trusting Sarah not to mess it up. (She’s really good at world-building.)

As for the overall writing, I’d say that the writing is way better than in the Allegiance series (I know I keep comparing the two, but I can’t help it!).  Tighter, more evocative, and stylistically better in pretty much every way.

Overall, I’m hugely excited to see where this series goes!  If you enjoy action/adventure/romance stories set in fantasy worlds, please give Retrieve a try. (You can buy it on Amazon and add it to your ‘to-read’ shelf on Goodreads.)

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review.

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And now for the giveaway!

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Doesn’t it look amazing?  You can enter here.

Have you read Retrieve yet?  And if not, does it sound like something you’d be interested in?

Eva

mini-book review: once we were strangers

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Once We Were Strangers is a beautifully written book but I had some problems with it.  These mainly have to do with my religious and political views, which I’m not going to get into on this blog (at least not much).  The main issue I had was that the author and the Syrian man the book is about both claim that the God of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims is the same.  I can’t agree.  There are clear differences in all three religions and God is completely consistent.

However, as I said before this book is well-written and short enough that it could be read in a day – a quick, clear read that fans of memoirs should enjoy.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Eva

mini book review: i’d rather be reading

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I’ve always thought of myself as a voracious reader but after reading Anne Bogel’s essays on her love of reading, I confess to feeling a little inadequate.  Her passion for books is palpable on every page.  Some of the essays were a tad boring, maybe because I don’t know Bogal personally, but overall I’d Rather Be Reading was a delightful book that paid homage to the beauty of the written word.  Highly recommended to story lovers everywhere!

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Eva