Rotten to the Core

Today we are talking all things Descendants. As most of you probably know by now, I’m a HUGE Disney fan. However, when I was younger I wasn’t really allowed to watch Disney Channel.

That all changed when a little movie you might have heard of came out.

In 2015, Descendants premiered, breaking the classic Disney Channel film High School Musical record for being the most widely watched and broadcasted Disney Channel Original Movie (keep in mind that these statistics are not factoring in the amount of television watched, the amount of kids watching, and other important stuff. But still. Pretty impressive, right?). I had no idea what this new “Descended” thing was, but it looked intriguing. The more advertisements and trailers that came out, the more excited I became.

When I finally watched the movie, I was beyond enthralled. Children of Disney’s greatest villains meets cotton candy high school? Yes, please. And it only got better when the animated series, Descendants: Wicked World, premiered that fall. I bought Melissa de la Cruz’s book before even seeing the movie and now that it had garnered such popularity, there were now multiple books for the reading. Since the newest film has come out and within a short week become such a hit both with myself (seriously, I watched the film twice in the first two days) and fans everywhere, I decided to do a little post on the Descendants storyline.

Keep in mind that this is about the sequential storyline. Any books mentioned actually have a story independent from the movies, unlike the junior novelization , Mal’s Spellbook, and Mal’s Diary, which are basically retellings of the movie’s story.

Without further ado, shall we begin?

The first item on this list is Melissa de la Cruz’s original novel: Isle of the Lost. In this wicked tale, we are first introduced to the core players of the Descendants universe. Here Mal, Evie, Carlos, Jay, and all the other unfortunate misfits/villains eke out a living. When a mishap causes Carlos and Evie to break through the magical barrier surrounding their island, Diablo awakes bringing news that Maleficent’s staff has been awakened – and it’s all on her daughter’s shoulders to bring it back. With a bitter bond between Mal and Evie already separating the group, can they manage to bring it back and prove they’re rotten to the core after all?

This book is a real treasure. Melissa de la Cruz’s creative storytelling and engaging narrative kept me loving the characters, the plot, and everything else. I fell in love with these characters the minute I met them.

Next up is the original movie itself. Descendants premiered on July 31st of 2015. It became an instant success. With its showstopping musical numbers and memorable characters, this movie was a classic in the making. When soon-to-be-king Ben decides to grant amnesty to villain kids, he opens up a whole new world of discovery, fun, and adventure. Mal, Carlos, Evie, and Jay are the wickedest of the bunch and Maleficent doesn’t plan to let this perfect opportunity go to waste. Their mission? Steal Fairy Godmother’s wand and break the villains out from their prison. But Auradon proves to be more enticing than expected, especially when Mal finds her love spell on Ben providing unexpected side effects. Can these VKs follow their parents’ plan? Or will they discover that being good isn’t so bad?

The movie was amazing, even if it has slightly embarrassing moments. This is still one of my favorite movies (sue me; I like a Disney Channel film that much) and I was over the moon by the credits. And I discovered a strong desire for purple hair and leather jackets…. In all honesty though, I loved the message of the movie, that good is stronger than evil. I also loved that the movie shows high school as being loads of fun and that teenagers can be positive. This is what I wish high school was like.

Moving on we come to Descendants: Wicked World. This series probably takes place in the first month or two after the events of Descendants. In the series the focus is on Mal and Evie as they try to prove that they have changed, not including the new characters introduced, evil plots thwarted, and multiple parties thrown. My favorite new character was probably Freddie, daughter of Dr. Facilier. She’s sarcastic and funny, traits I appreciate in a place where your dress being ruined is the end of the world. During the run of the series, there were three books released under the smaller title School of Secrets. These include CJ’s Treasure Chase, Freddie’s Shadow Cards, and Ally’s Mad Mystery. Within the last month there was a new title released to take place around the events of Descendants 2, titled Lonnie’s Warrior Sword. I haven’t read the latter, but hope to as soon as it arrives at our local library.

We then arrive at Return to the Isle of the Lost. Like the first book, it is a wonderful ride. In this story, the original VKs (in case you were confused by this nickname previously mentioned, it stands for villain Kids. The AK’s are Auradon kids) have finally settled into a regular, evil-free lifestyle. That is, until they each receive mysterious messages, threatening them to return to the Isle. When a dragon that looks strangely familiar begins terrorizing the country, Mal and her friends must return to the place they never thought they’d see again. Home sweet home.

This was also a great read. I hope Melissa de la Cruz does not stop writing these books, or at least doesn’t stop for a while.

The next book in the Descendants lineup is Rise of the Isle of the Lost. This is another de la  Cruz novel, although I believe Ally’s Mad Mystery is supposed to take place between the last book and this one. In this book we first meet Uma (daughter of Ursula) and her pirate gang, including Harry (son of Hook) and Gil (son of Gaston). While the threesome make an unlikely team, they’re determined to find the recently lost Trident of Triton and break through to wreak havoc on Auradon. Mal and her friends (of course) are the only ones who stand in her way. With a little help from King Ben and a little luck, they’ve got to stop one of their biggest nemeses – before it’s too late.

Again, this was a great book. I enjoyed this one, although I think I preferred the original two books better.

That brings us back around to Descendants 2. This movie came out not even a week ago, but it’s already become as popular as its predecessor. I can’t stop singing the music and I don’t think there’s a friend I know that hasn’t seen it or doesn’t want to.

In this amazing sequel, Mal is feeling the pressures of Auradon life. Stuck trying to be the princess to Ben’s royal status, she feels the call of evil more than ever. When a fight breaks out, she decides it’s time to save Auradon – by taking herself out of the equation. Back on the Isle of the Lost, Uma’s sick of seeing Mal win every time. She’s ready to break free and luckily a hapless Ben, trying to get his girlfriend back, seems like just the right tool. With large musical numbers that will make you want to dance, new characters (plus original characters’ development), and plot twists that will keep you begging for more, this sequel proves that the second movie can be just as great as the first.

Whew! Crazy, right? There’s so much to enjoy in the world of Descendants and at the heart of it, there’s a powerful message of good conquering evil, and positivity and diplomacy. There’s action, there’s music, and there’s a tad bit of romance. This is the Disney Channel movie series that you’ve been waiting for. To finish off today’s post, I include a quote from both Descendants movies:

“What? You didn’t think this was the end of the story…

Did you?”

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Sweet Sixteen OR The Scariest Number Ever

Some people dread those little gray hairs they find in the mirror. Some people think that if they turn twenty, their life will truly begin – free from all parental supervision. Some wish they weren’t so old…when they turn thirty. Some people are jumping around, dancing, and enjoying life at 90.

And some, like me, balk at the scariest number in the world.


Now, you’d think like most girls my age, I want to grow up. I get to wear heels, makeup, drive, get a job, go out with boys, and basically become a grownup. Fun, huh? Except everything just mentioned terrifies me. I have yet to master the art of looking graceful in a one-inch heel, I have no idea what most of the makeup brushes are for or how to use half of the products, the only time I’ve tried to park the car I thought I’d have a heart attack, I don’t want to get a job quite yet, and going out with boys is best reserved for when I’m an adult who can actually take it seriously.

As I’ve gotten older and that number has gotten closer, I’ve become more and more nervous. Grownup? Who said anything about being a grownup, I want to be a kid! Recently though, I read a book by a very limber 90-year old who reminded me about part of any growing stage. In his book Keep Moving, Dick Van Dyke reminds all of us – though the book is primarily for those in the older category – that life is meant to be enjoyed no matter where you’re at. Keep smiling, keep moving, and keep giving back. It inspired me, because he is about seventy-four years older than me and yet it definitely made me think.

All those things I just mentioned? Mere challenges. Heels? I’ll wear them so well I’ll be able to do karate in them. Makeup? I’ll research and fine-tune it for myself. Driving? Once I get over the initial few moments of “I’m going to crash!”, I’ll enjoy it. Job? Okay, so maybe that’s a mountain I’ve yet to climb, but still. Everything I’ve just brought up is part of the growing stage that I should be enjoying. I can’t ever get my highschool years back, so I’m going to delight in them while I can. Maybe I lose the ability to elbow little kids out of the way for an Easter egg and maybe wearing a plastic princess crown looks far less-attractive, but hey – no one can say I didn’t have fun while it lasted.

Before I close this post, I’d like to take a moment to pray. Would you please pray over my sixteenth year with me?

                       “Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for all the blessings You’ve heaped upon me. My life is the best kind of crazy and I thank You for every moment of it. As I grow older and go out into the world, I pray that You would protect me and keep me safe. I pray that I would become wise and strong, and that I would grow in You. And so, Lord, I just close this prayer with thanks and a hope that I can grow to become something good. Amen.” 

Thanks for joining me this week and I leave you all with this quote that I love:

“Even though you’re growing up, you should never stop having fun.”

-Nina Dobrev


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Happy Independence Day!

This week, I decided to take a break from my usual blog schedule to honor the USA. Though many people favor Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Easter, etc. as their favorite holidays, none is so intrinsically American as Independence Day.

Often I think we take for granted where we live. I know when I was younger I took for granted that I had a good home, good education, and a world of opportunities ahead of me. It’s not until I’ve become older that I’ve realized how much I have by being an American citizen. God has truly blessed me in this area. What’s more is He has given me a heart for my country. I love the US. I love being an American. I am so proud of what America stands for.

Every day should be the 4th of July for us. We should be celebrating where we are, declaring our patriotism loudly, and standing firm on the values on which we were founded. I know I am. This Independence Day, I hope ya’ll are too. I hope you’re watching fireworks, or having a barbecue, or spending quality time with family and friends. And I hope in everything we do, that we’d be grateful that there is a USA.

“God bless America, land that I love,

Stand beside her, and guide her,

Thru the night with a light from above.”  

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My Inspiration

Normally, I’d do a post on books that I’ve read from the Summer Reading Program. I’ve got a post already planned out for next week (hint: it involves several adventure series, combined with a good deal of fantasy…) But today, I want to talk about part of what makesme, well – me.

Here’s to the most inspirational woman I know. Who suffers through it all and has somehow managed to keep on waking up every morning acting like Mary Poppins. She teaches, cleans, cooks, manages, schedules, overplans, and listens to us. She overachieves, pushes us to our limits, and drives me crazy with all the planning that she does (which I will always eventually thank her for). If there is one person in this world I would like to be, I’d pick my mom (sorry, Pop, but it’d be a bit awkward to have a goatee on my chin…). She is an endless source of inspiration for me. Her long-suffering, her charm, her wit, and most importantly, her love are always there for me. 

And when I get jealous of her good looks – well, at least everyone says I look exactly like her, right?

Thanks to the greatest woman in the whole world. I couldn’t have made it here without you.

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Summer Reading – Week 2

This week I’m reviewing a series rather than a selection of books from this week’s picks. I read this series a while back and decided to get them again to enjoy.

Enola is alone spelled backwards. And that is exactly what Enola is: alone. With her independent mother suddenly missing and her brothers trying to force her into finishing school to be squeezed into the monstrosity called a “corset”, Enola Holmes is on the run. With the help of gifts left behind by her mother, her ingenious brain, and a certain amount of deductive reasoning like her brother’s, she’s navigating London and solving crime – all whilst trying to solve the mystery that’s most important to her. What happened to her mother?

This series is loads of fun to read. It’s told from the perspective of an enigmatic and sympathetic character who manages to survive by her wits and solves mysteries while doing so. I also love that this series centers around Enola Holmes, who is quite as brilliant as her brother and shows a keen affection for him. The humanization of Holmes in any series is welcome as I have mentioned before and I happen to love the voice of Enola Holmes.

The one thing I will say is that I was dissatisfied by the ending to the series. I felt that the ending did not quite satisfy the frustration and anxiety of the main character’s hopes being thwarted again and again in previous books. I won’t say anymore; it’s up to you to find out why and make your own decision. 

Otherwise, this series is fantastic! It’s highly enjoyable, easily readable, and only a little bit of knowledge is required to read these books.

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Summer Reading – Week 1

With so much reading going on this summer, I’ve got too many books to post a review of just one book a week. So I’m doing a quicker review of selected books from my 50-book list of the week. This week’s three book picks all seem to correlate on the genre of mystery, all cleverly told in their own way.

First up is Effie Starr Zook Has One More Question. When Effie moves to Penn Creek to spend the summer with her aunt and uncle, she discovers family secrets and strange incidents. For example: Who are the Yonders? What does Mr. Odbody, the bookstore owner, know? And why does everyone seem to be hiding a secret that they’re not telling her? This book is sweet, funny, and well-told. Effie is a very relatable heroine and Penn Creek – secrets and all – sounds like a very quaint place to live.

Next is Spy on History: Mary Boswer and the Civil War Spy Ring. This book is superb in that it features audience participation. The readers – with the help of a spy decoder, acetate, maps, a page from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and queerly cut vellum – are invited to solve the mystery of Mary’s past. With the help of the clues on the page, the story, and their handy-dandy tools (included in the book), they can decipher what the answer is to the Vigenere cipher and where Mary’s hidden diary is. This book also includes the story of Mary Bowser, as she risks her life to discover the plans of Confederate president Davis. It’s a thrilling ride through history, earlier spydom, and mystery that will keep readers engaged and interested in reading more on all subjects.

This last book is my personal favorite, because it is a gift from my generous Tia Nene. May I present: The Lost Files of Nancy Drew! This book is similar to the ‘Ology books (Pirateology, Wizardology, Spyology, etc.) in that it is more of a scrapbook, with things to read, pull out, flip open, and explore. But I love it for that! This book is so great because it talks about the classic books, the evolution of Nancy, her tips and tricks, and features vintage art that is irresistible. Seriously, the inside of these pages is just a treasure trove of colorful illustrations and fun wonders to find. I own half if not more of the Nancy Drew series already, so I really am enjoying owning this “companion” book. It definitely makes me think about the books more when reading them. Once more a shoutout should go to my amazing aunt for giving me this book. She is too amazing and I can’t thank her enough for this book.

Well, that’s all for this week, folks! Along with these three books, I will be submitting about thirty or forty other books for collection on my Summer Reading list at the library. Yikes! Hope I can keep up the pace all summer long.

What’s on your summer reading list?

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School’s Out!

With the end of the school year – the official one, not ours – coming around, it’s time for us to pull out those dusty water guns, throw those bathing suits in the laundry, and check to see what days are free for the beach. It’s finally summer!

When I was little, summer was unlike most kids’. Though we got the two months, those two months were filled with academic activities to stimulate my mind and keep me active until we could return to “actual” learning. For the most part, this wasn’t too bad. To a six, eight, and then ten year old, this arrangement worked fine for me. But when my siblings got older, my mom noticed we weren’t retaining information as well as we should. Except for the basics and the portions we really loved, that year of schooling was just flitting away. So she made a decision, one that I imagine would be hard for any parent or teacher, especially the parent who loves their kid.

She decided to nix summer break.

This was sort of a shock, but luckily we were all at that perfect age where we weren’t too little or too old to get upset about something like that. According to Mom, we were losing our summers to give way to – hold on – another school year. Yup, that’s right. My ice-cream-eating-Beach-Boys-listening-pool-swimming-time was being given up to go right back to school. We’d have a three week-break, she explained. And every six weeks we’d get one week of break. It was a perfect arrangement and in the long run it gave us more breaks, she insisted.

Looking at the decision from a few years down the road, I can see her point and actually enjoy doing our year this way. It isn’t such a long haul from one break to the other and it gives us something to look forward to by the fourth week (my brother repeatedly asks my mom every week how much more until break). This also works well because we get bored easily. Getting past that first perfect golden week of device-and-sleeping-in-filled euphoria, we find ourselves quickly wanting something to do. A standard conversation goes like this: “M-om, I’m bored.” “Why don’t you read a book?” “I’ve read all my books”. “Why don’t you play outside or paint or”-  -“I don’t want to do that. I’ve done all that.” “Well then what do you want to do?” “I don’t know. Do something?”

It’s funny reading it, but this is the truth of the situation. We’re homeschooled kids. We’re used to always being active, always participating in some kind of fun activity, always learning. After the first week, our eager minds are looking for the next challenge.What challenge is that? Who knows! For now, I plan to spend my first week of break pretending I’m taking a vacation. Who knows, we may get around to taking a weekend trip somewhere in the three weeks.

Chime Time! Do you do year-round schooling? If so, how? If not, what do you do to keep your kids active?

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Lock and Key: the Initiation

James Moriarty is one of the greatest criminal masterminds the world has ever known. But before he became the scheming, remorseless villain he is now, he was just my older brother, James…At Baskerville, an elite private boarding school founded by our ancestors, James started drifting to the darkness. It was there he met his roommate, the insufferable Sherlock Holmes. From the very beginning, the two were at each other’s throats, literally and figuratively. But as much as the two frustrated each other, an incident at the school – and some would say destiny – forced the two together. 

One fateful day, during a vicious game of hide-and-seek (played the Moriarty way), Moria – along with her big brother James – hears something secretive being moved around in their father’s study. After an attack on the house, their father sends them to Baskerville Academy with instructions for Moria should the worst happen to him on his “travels”. But what travels would send kidnappers, a secret society, and mysterious thieveries into their lives? Meanwhile Baskerville Academy has its own brewing trouble. What with the impetuous Sherlock Holmes on the move, a seedy headmaster, and more family secrets, Moria isn’t sure who to trust. It’s a shadowy game against time, mysterious players, and uncertain forces that ends in a fantastic conclusion that will have you begging for more.

I should have reviewed this book before as I enjoyed it so much. I devoured it in one day, completing it despite the fact that we were out from about eight to three in the afternoon. It was so good and had me hooked from the first look (I know they say don’t judge a book by its cover, but…). This book is so well-told and actually sort of funny in some ways. I already am a fan of Ridley Pearson, having read Peter and the Starcatchers many, many times. I’ve also read Kingdom Keepers a lot – probably more than the previous series – so I was looking forward to the contents of this book. I was not disappointed.

The contention between the ever-darkening James, know-it-all Sherlock, and clever Moria adds to the story and I found it interesting that the author does emphasize the point that many of us think about Holmes: he’s intolerable. Don’t get me wrong; he’s a brilliant detective. But as a person, it’s hard to like him for the way he acts. He is insensitive and often rather annoying in the fact that he always presumes to know things (though even more frustratingly, he’s usually correct). So I thought it interesting that not only is it James who can’t stand him, but Moria as well. I thought it even more intriguing that she finds herself trying to prove to both Holmes and James that she is more than – in her brother’s mind at least – a stupid girl. Her relationship with Holmes (that of him annoying her and yet still giving her credit where credit is due) is also intriguing because Lock and Key shows us a side of Holmes that is less puffed up. The fact that he becomes friends with Moria makes him more human, which is to be appreciated.

As for readers, I think you will highly enjoy this. I believe there are a couple cuss words, so parents be forewarned. However, for older kids or parents, this is a highly enjoyable book with twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the very end and begging for a second book.

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Willy’s Stories

Every week I walk through these doors and something incredible happens. I go on amazing adventures. 

Come with me and I’ll show you…

With colorful images and a fun, quizzical way of telling the story – or stories, one might say
– Anthony Browne’s Willy’s Stories is a wonderful book. As usual, I found this book while volunteering. This book is whimsical, well-paced, and interestingly told. It caused me to think and I’m sure it will cause you as the reader to want todo a little research. As with next week’s pick, this book really shows us the power of a good story. I know I am as captivated as this monkey when I read.

Chime Time: Which stories with anthropomorphic characters have you read with a fun twist?

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Cleopatra in Space

What do you get when you take one of the most famous characters in history and mash it up with science fiction? Cleopatra in Space

The first graphic novel in the series introduces us to our spunky heroine, depicting her discovery of a mysterious tablet which jets her into space thousands of years in the future! With no way to get back home, Cleo must try to navigate her way through an intergalactic military school, a prophecy surrounding her, and the looming threat of evil aliens on the horizon.

Book two picks up almost immediately after, giving us more information on the prophecy, the sword of Kebechet, Octavion (hint: he’s the evil mastermind), Cleo’s best friend Akila, and more! Packed with a ton of action and an amazing library, Cleopatra in Space: The Thief and the Sword is a sequel that will not disappoint!

As usual, I found this series while volunteering at our local library. The colorful art caught my eye and I was delighted to see after finishing the first book that it was a series. This comic series is extremely interesting, funny, and well-told. I also like that the artwork is highly saturated. Sadly, I have only been able to find the first two of this series, though there are four books out. Like The Nameless City I’m still waiting for the rest of the books to come to our library.

Your Turn! What odd genre mashup have you ever read and enjoyed?


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