Today I Read…Ella: a Stepmum’s Tale

Today I read Ella: a Stepmum’s Tale by J.L. Higgs. Image result for ella a stepmum's tale

Ah, the story of Cinderella. Every one knows it, right? The beautiful girl, the handsome prince, and the Wicked Stepmother who tried to keep them apart. Well, gentle viewers, this is celebrity reporter Sylvia Stark here with an exclusive interview with Charlotte Johannson Baker, the Wicked Stepmother herself, with her side of the story. You decide who is the innocent one and who is the villain.

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I was excited when I won this book from a Goodreads First Reads contest, because I love rewritten fairy tales, and I have a soft spot for the villains. I wrote a short piece defending Cinderella’s stepmother myself for a high school assignment. Unfortunately, this one just wasn’t that great, due in large part to a main character who is a complete twit. Reporter Sylvia Stark keeps claiming she is very bright and deserves to be an investigative reporter instead of a celebrity news reporter, but she misses every clue and sounds inane both on camera and off. Her asides to cameraman Stuart (who is as smart as Sylvia thinks she is) are unprofessional and annoying. Sylvia claims it is all an act, but when she’s not “acting” for the cameras she behaves exactly the same. At one point, she thinks “I try to sound as intelligent as possible.” But the next sentence is “Hey, I am blonde and beautiful so why do I need to be brainy as well?”

And as an aside, she wants us to believe that photography didn’t exist just a few years ago when she was in school, but now she can do on-location camera spots for television as a young reporter? Either understand how technology develops, or say it’s magic. As it is, the world-building is a mash-up of fairy tale and real world that just doesn’t work.

And the scene with Cinderella and the stepmother playing naked Twister is just plain weird. And that is not a euphemism or a joke.

I wish this book was better than it is, and it has an interesting premise, but it desperately needs a good editor.

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Today I Read…Cubs in Toyland

Today I read Fables volume 18: Cubs in Toyland, written by Bill Willingham and illustrated by Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Gene Ha, Andrew Pepey, and Dan Green. Cubs in Toyland

Fables is an award-winning comic book series created by Bill Willingham, in which fairy tale creatures fled their homelands to create a new home for themselves called Fabletown, located in the middle of New York. The series has won 14 Eisner awards.

Therese, daughter of Snow White and Bigby Wolf, is jealous. She’s so pretty, and yet her sister Winter was chosen to succeed their grandfather as the King of the North Wind. Then Therese’s toy boat tells her that she must come with him and rule a magical kingdom of her very own. When she gets to the island, it isn’t quite what she imagined–it’s dirty and muddy and all of the toys who live there are broken, and there’s nothing to eat. Soon Therese discovers the terrible secret of Toyland–all of the toys who live there are murderers, toys who accidentally killed their children, by catching fire or smothering them or drowning them or choking them or cutting them… She also discovers why they brought her there, because Toyland needs a living ruler to restore the land and its inhabitants. Too bad Therese is starving to death, since there is no food since toys don’t need to eat.

But what Therese doesn’t know is that her brother Darien is also on the island looking for her, and that he will sacrifice everything to keep her safe…

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Fables has never shied away from hard stories to read. It goes back to the original stories for source material, the bloody, violent, lust-filled stories where Cinderella’s stepsisters are pecked to death by birds and Bluebeard keeps his dead wives in his tower. Disney has no place in Fabletown. And while the Fables are essentially immortal, gaining their strength and longevity from humans who believe in them and tell their stories, they can still die.

Therese is a spoiled, selfish little girl who wishes for a kingdom, and ends up with subjects as spoiled and mean as she is. It takes her brother’s willing sacrifice so that she can live to open her eyes to what she is and make her change, and she drags the toys along with her. The bad toys got the queen they deserved, but she turned into the queen they needed. Darien may have been a bit of a bully to his younger brothers and sisters, but his father always told him to look after his packmates, so in the end he is a good big brother to Therese.

Fables is definitely a comic for adults, not children.Fans of mythology and legends and fairy tales may get a little more out of the references, but the general reader will still be able to follow the storyline. The series is very violent, but not gratuitously so–the violence is meant to hurt, not to become inured to. People die, and it’s supposed to be painful–you should be hurt when people die, even fictional people.

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