The Savior’s Champion Tag

tsc cover

I am really psyched about the release of Jenna Moreci’s book The Savior’s Champion.
A couple days ago, I found out about The Savior’s Champion tag from Jenna’s YouTube channel. Consider this a #FF and a list of recommendations for anyone looking for something cool to read or something new to watch!

  1. SP Love: Love for a Self-Published Author This is my shoutout to Erin McCole Cupp whose trilogy Jane E, Friendless Orphan has become my favorite version of Jane Eyre to date.
  2. Fantasy Love: Favorite Fantasy Book The Silver Chair by CS Lewis. I love The Chornicles of Narnia, but my favorite of the 7 books is The Silver Chair. It centers on Eustace and his friend Jill as they journey through Narnia in search of the missing prince Rillian. My favorite character in the book, however, is Puddleglum, a Marsh-Wiggle who worries about everything and yet shows amazing courage in the face of the villain. I wish more worry-warted characters and brooding men could learn from him.
  3. True Love: A Book With Healthy Relationships Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I feel like a lot of people misunderstand this book. People see Elizabeth Bennet as being practically perfect and Mr. Darcy as a dark, brooding, bad boy. In truth, Elizabeth is flawed and Mr. Darcy is actually a man of good principles. Both of them have to learn to overcome their initial perspectives about the world and themselves. You see, Elizabeth prides herself too much on being able to read people when she really just puts labels on them based on her first impressions. Mr. Darcy lacks the ability to socialize beyond what propriety demands and also has to learn to see past his prejudices towards those he thinks are lower class as well as the ability to laugh at himself. It’s a true marriage of the minds as well as hearts and minds.
  4. Representation: A Book With All The Diversity There are three books that I want to recommend for this. Technically, one is a series.
    1. One is The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. The cast of the series is racially diverse and they also have other species within its sci-fi universe. I really loved reading this series and if you’re a fan of fairy tales, I say give it a shot.
    2. The second recommendation is American Panda by Gloria Chao, which centers on the life of a Chinese-American girl trying to figure out her identity as she starts college. It gives a great insight into what it’s like to have traditionally Asian parents and the struggle to pursue one’s individual desires in spite of whatever plans your family has for you.
    3. The third recommendation I have is When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. A wonderful romantic comedy novel about two Indian-American young adults who are technically in an arranged marriage but manage to fall in love anyway. The main character is working in STEM (computer programming/app development) and it also shows a little bit of class/race issues with the Aberzombie antagonists.
  5. Tobias: A Book/Movie/TV Show With a Gentle Warrior. Gorgeous Marvel heroes aside, I want to pick a lady for this one because I haven’t read any books with a gentle male warrior. I have gotten into Xena: Warrior Princess. I’m late to the party, I know, but this is basically my excuse to gush over how much I love Gabrielle. I’m only on Season 2 and I kind of have an idea on what she will evolve into, but so far, she is the gentlest warrior that I know. If not, then just read Lord of the Rings because I also consider Aragorn and his comrades to be amazing warriors with gentle souls.
  6. Deadly Beast: A Book With a Monster Character Dracula, no question. Not only does Dracula brainwash one guy to become his minion, but he also turned Lucy into a baby-killer. In fact, most of the victims in this book were children and virgins. I don’t think it can get any more monstrous than that.
  7. Peaches: A Book with Symbology. Shakespeare’s The Tempest. A play with a lot going on, there’s a lot of symbology in the setting and the situations the characters find themselves in. Captivity is one theme symbolized in Ariel, Miranda, and Caliban. There’s also the theme of forgiveness. The storm itself is obviously a symbolic one. It’s one of my favorite Shakespeare plays.
  8. Brutal Battles: A Book/Movie/TV Show with Awesome Fight Scenes. Gonna have to go with a TV show here. Ahem. The 2012 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. Professional martial artists with signature weapons and yet there are five whole seasons filled with unique fights. Not to mention that each of the characters have a unique style and personality.
  9. Not What It Seems: Crazy Plot TwistJenna Moreci’s Eve The Awakening. I love this book. But one thing I did not see coming was who the actual bad guy was. She was really good at misleading me into thinking that a few characters could have been the leader of the Interlopers and then when I realized who it was, I was all “You son of a *BLEEP*!
  10. Self Love: Talk About My WIP I’m currently planning on revising my contemporary women’s fiction novel Love Notes which centers on an aspiring pianist with Asperger’s Syndrome competing on a talent search reality show while entering into a relationship with the bass-player of a semi-famous rock band. I shared the first four pages with my writing class at Rice University last month and they totally loved it!

American Panda by Gloria Chao -A Book Review

AMERICAN PANDA cover hi-res

This book caught my eye while I was in the middle of a Target run. It’s been a long time since I saw a YA book with an Asian-American protagonist. Not since Fresh Off The Boat by Melissa de la Cruz to be exact. This book, however, has a Chinese-American protagonist who is starting out college at the tender age of 17 and finds herself torn between the life that she wants and the life that her parents have planned for her.

Family loyalty is a theme that I can relate to, being Filipino, so Mei’s struggles are totally something I can relate to. She falls asleep during Biology class and has a mild case of mysophobia (fear of germs), which already deters her parent’s plans for her to be a doctor. On top of that, she teaches traditional Chinese dance classes to earn some extra money and develops a crush on a Japanese classmate.

(Side note: Never have I ever been so happy to be Filipino because as traditionalist as Filipinos can be, they are majorly easygoing compared to Mei’s parents and relatives!)

She tries to make the best of both worlds, to the point that she is almost living a double life. On the one hand, she visits her parents every weekend and tries to be the dutiful daughter, even as her family life spirals out of control when her estranged brother announces his wedding. The reason her older brother is estranged is because he plans to marry a woman whose odds of having kids are low at best.

In spite of her parents’ disapproval, Mei reconnects with her brother and tries to explore what it could be like to be a doctor, since her brother is in med school. She also looks into the life of a doctor through a fellow Chinese-American doctor who works close to the MIT campus. Sadly, she can’t find the life appealing and fears that she will become empty inside, losing everything she loves in the name of family duty.

Now I know what you 21st century millenials are thinking: What is the big deal?! In America, rebellious teenagers who cut themselves off from the family to pursue their dreams are a dime a dozen. The thing is, though, that for Mei, and for a lot of Asian-Americans (myself included), family is very important to us. Our lives may be as dysfunctional as an ABC family sitcom, but we still want to make our parents happy.

This book shows that family loyalty is a two-way street. Even though children being loyal to their parents is shown as serious business, it also implies that parents have to be more open-minded to what their children want and at least meet them halfway. Mei learns that she doesn’t have to go through the extremes, one way or the other, in order to be happy. By the end of the book, Mei gets to have the best of both her worlds, even if it’s on a bittersweet note. I like to think that in the long run, her parents eventually accept the life she has chosen and also bring her brother back into the fold, even if it flies in the face of strict tradition.

I love the supporting characters in this book, especially Ying-Na AKA Christine Chu. At first, you think Ying-Na is just some urban legend. In fact, she’s this book’s version of Margaret Cho, a childhood friend of Mei’s who became a stand-up comedian. (For some reason, I imagine Gong Li from Memoirs of a Geisha playing her if this book ever became a movie.) Mei’s parents can be seen as awful, but it’s implied that they will soften up eventually. Mei’s brother is endearing in how he tries to stick to tradition even when he gets cut off from the family. Darren Takahashi is a great love interest, even though I think being 6 feet is kinda unrealistic by Asian standards. (And this is coming from a girl whose own grandfather was 6 ft and had a great uncle who was taller than that.)

What I love best, though, is Mei. She is not your typically beautiful Asian-American. She’s fat, somewhat flat-chested, and has what she describes as a “man-laugh.” She’s not perfect, but she at least tries her best and she’s a totally endearing character. I love how Chao described her near-sightedness, too, and I’m shocked that Mei doesn’t wear glasses! I related to her so much, even if some of the stuff she said got lost in cultural translation. (What’s the big deal between MIT vs Dartmouth?)

I highly recommend this book to any Asian-American young adult, but I also challenge Asian parents to read this as well. I think this book is a great way of understanding the struggle Asian-American teenagers have in establishing their identity and not defining it by their family or tradition alone.

 

 

Coco: Pixar’s Most Catholic Movie

coco

I realize that I’m late to the Coco party. However, with Divine Mercy Sunday around the corner, I decided that this would be a #FlashbackFriday type of review. I honestly think that Coco is the most Catholic movie that Pixar ever made and I’m not just saying that because the movie is inspired by Mexican culture. What makes this movie Catholic are the themes: family, forgiveness, and never forgetting to honor the dead.

Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen this movie yet. I highly recommend at least renting the movie. It’s available on Redbox. It’s definitely worth a watch.

The emphasis on being loyal to one’s family is established early on in the movie. It’s clear from the beginning that Miguel loves his family, in spite of the fact that his abeulita tries to keep music from their lives a little too much. Miguel is especially close to his great-grandmother Coco.

Side note, but I think this is the first Disney/Pixar movie to feature an entire family unit. Both of Miguel’s parents are alive and aside from the relatives who are living in the land of the dead, nobody in Hector’s family gets killed off. Not only that, but you see a family working and living together.

The conflict that drives the movie is Miguel’s desire to pursue music, even if it means ignoring or even outright cutting himself off from his family. It’s clear that he’s a great musician and for a while, it feels as though his family takes the anti-music stance way too far, especially when Miguel’s abuelita destroys his guitar. However, the events of this movie show Miguel that it’s important to stay connected to your family, especially when he learns that Ernesto got his fame by murdering his songwriter friend Hector.

I love the character of Hector, by the way. The movie does a great job at making you suspicious of Hector at first, but he slowly becomes more endearing, especially when he encourages Miguel and shows that he cares for him and is protective of him, even though Miguel is just a stranger.

The theme of remembering the dead is what drives the subplot of the movie: Hector wants to visit his daughter and be remembered or else he will disappear into oblivion. It’s never said where the souls of the forgotten go after the “Final Death,” but it compels the audience to take on a very Catholic tradition: to pray for those who have no one to pray for. In that way, no soul is ever really forgotten.

On a similar note, the land of the dead really reminds me of Purgatory, final death thing put aside. It’s not exactly heaven, given that a murderer like Ernesto is living there, but it’s not Hell, either. It’s a place for departed souls to live and there’s still a link to those who are living, even if it’s just one day a year.

One good thing that came out of the broken pedestal experience though is that Miguel finds out that Hector is his real great-great-grandfather. This leads into the second Catholic theme of the movie, which focuses on forgiveness. When Miguel and Hector are reunited with Miguel’s deceased relatives towards the end of the second act, his great-great grandmother Imelda is reluctant to forgive Hector for leaving her.

What makes the relationship with Hector and Imelda interesting is that Imelda never remarried. She cut Hector and her love for music out of her life, even though she loved both very much. When she confronts Ernesto, she berates and hits Ernesto for “murdering the love of my life.” In classical tsundere fashion, she still claims to be mad at Hector, but she at least loves Hector enough to know that he doesn’t deserve to be forgotten.

I love that forgiveness is shown to be a process. Imelda goes from hating Hector to defending him to finally allowing him to be in her life and her family. This is shown in the climax, when Miguel has to return to the land of the living. At the start of the movie, Imelda wants Miguel to promise her to never pursue music again when he returns to the land of the living. In the second attempt to get Miguel back, Miguel is actually willing to make good on that condition. The third attempt, however, is made with no conditions. Just the type of selfless love that seriously has me reaching for the tissues.

The two themes of family and forgiveness get tied together in what I feel is my favorite scene: Miguel plays “Remember Me” for Coco in front of his family. His abuelita tries to stop him, but his father allows Miguel to play. The song restores Coco’s memory and allows her to tell everyone in her family about all the mementos she kept from her father and how her parents both loved music.

One year later, Miguel’s deceased relatives, Hector and Coco included, get to spend time with the living on the Day of the Dead. Miguel and his family join in on a song and it’s shown that Hector is playing along with him. All is forgiven and music has returned to the lives of the Rivera family. I love the ending of this movie because it shows that pursuing one’s passion should never come at the expense of family.

One last side note: I love the animal sidekicks in this movie, especially Dante the Xolo dog. He’s a lot like Scooby-Doo in that he seems so goofy and is kinda cute even if he’s a hairless street dog, but he is also foreshadowed to be a true guide in the land of the dead, instinctively throwing Hector and Miguel together a lot. Plus, the name is very fitting as those familiar with The Divine Comedy or at least Inferno recognize the name from the protagonist of those stories, who literally goes through a journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven.

This movie isn’t just great to watch for the Day of the Dead. It’s one I recommend watching for Lent and even now, in the Easter season.

Pray for the souls of those who’ve died, especially those who have no one to pray for.

 

Thoughts on The Good Doctor, Season 1

good doctor title

April is Autism Awareness Month. As such, I wanted to follow up on my thoughts on The Good Doctor. I also want to give a shout out to Steve from the Youtube channel Tostemac. He is currently doing a series of reviews for each of the episodes on The Good Doctor and I highly recommend them as Steve is someone who also has autism and gives some great perspectives.

Some spoilers ahead!

The second half of The Good Doctor introduced a lot of new characters. Sadly, Lea left after Islands, Part 2. It totally sucks because I wanted to see Shaun explore his new relationship on top of his work. Instead, she goes off to Hershey, Pennsylvania to work with her brother in repairing cars. Soon after Lea leaves, Shaun has a new neighbor named Kenny. I was willing to give this guy the benefit of the doubt because he was nice to Shaun, but unfortunately, his criminal past and the way he acted in the finale have taken away my good faith in him.

Speaking of characters I hate, the show also introduces a couple new residents. Doctor Morgan Reznick, whom I not-so-affectionately call “Doctor Barbie” has become the new Hate Sink/Scrappy for the way she fakes nice to patients, but acts mean, manipulative, and cutthroat to basically everyone else, especially Claire. She also dismisses Doctor Kalu as she doesn’t think he’ll get a permanent job at the hospital and sometimes gives bad advice to both him and Shaun.

I call Morgan “Doctor Barbie” because she’s blonde and fake. There’s a way to write Jerkass Doctor characters and still make them likeable. Doctor Cox and his ex-wife Jordan from Scrubs are great examples of this. (I’m not counting Dr. Kelso because he’s basically a Designated Villain.) Dr. Cox is a total jerk to everyone, but it shows that he really does care about people underneath it all. He loves his kids and he even loves JD, but he will never willingly say it out loud to JD’s face. Jordan is self-centered, but her advice is always honest and she’s even affectionate at times. Doctor Morgan has yet to show any depth or any instances where she has to face responsibility for her mistakes. IF she comes back for Season 2, I want to see her undergoing a trial with major stakes because right now, she’s all privilege and no sympathy.

Doctor Alex Park also joins the residents as an ex-cop. I definitely like him, but he almost feels like he should be on another medical drama, like  Chicago Med.  He’s cynical, especially when it comes to anyone with a criminal background. I get that as a cop he’s probably seen the worst of humanity on a daily basis, but doctors aren’t supposed to be judgmental and, you know, most people prefer to use the whole “innocent until proven guilty” mindset. Then again, I consider myself to be an idealist, so it might just be my personal bias.

Doctor Kalu is one character who’s changed the most out of all the residents. After attacking a lecherous doctor in the locker room for harassing Claire,  he gets fired, but gets re-hired by threatening to sue the hospital. His relationship with Claire goes down the drain by “Heartfelt,” but he starts dating someone new towards the end of the season. It’s also shown that he’s looking for other places to work, as it’s very unlikely that he’ll have a permanent job in San Jose. I’m also glad that he’s trusting Shaun and stands up for him when the situation calls for it.

Poor Doctor Claire had a lot to deal with this season. Not only was she harassed by a doctor, but she has to deal with the cutthroat Doctor Morgan and her mother, who is clearly a moocher. In spite of all this, though, she’s still a wonderful character and a great friend for Shaun. I’m still not on the Claire/Shaun ship, though, because there are more moments that tease an interest in Doctor Melendez, who has broken up with his fiancee.

I think Doctor Melendez has really grown on me. He begins to trust Shaun a lot more and he’s shown to be a very fair-minded doctor. He doesn’t get much personal development in the second half beyond the fact that his relationship with Jessica has ended. It’s also implied that Jessica and Glassman were friends in the past, but it’s never given any detail as to how. Based on the finale, I think Jessica knew Glassman’s deceased daughter, but I wish that their friendship was explained more.

The jury is still out on Doctor Andrews. Although he was helpful to Shaun, helping him socialize with others during the fundraiser in “Heartfelt,” he’s still gunning for Glassman’s job in the finale. It’s also shown that he and his wife are trying to have kids, but he has low motility. He’s also mad at Kalu for playing the race card in his attempt at suing the hospital, but I still side with Kalu.

As far as the plots for individual episodes go, I liked some episodes more than others. “Seven Reasons” and “She” are a bit too political for my taste as I don’t believe for a second that Shaun would presume a Muslim patient to be a terrorist just because she was handling chemicals. I get that the patient was lying, but Shaun is way too smart to presume something so extreme. The situation with “She” is also too dicey a subject for me to talk about here.

I liked the episodes “Heartfelt,” “Pain,” and “Smile” more because Shaun gets to interact with patients who either inspire him to change or just connect with him in a sweet way. For example: the patient in “Heartfelt” inspires Shaun to be courageous enough to socialize at the hospital fundraiser. The patient of the week in “Smile” is my favorite, though, because Shaun is reasonable and honest with her and he ends up making her laugh.

I kinda wish some things relating to autism were explored more. The patient of the week in “Pain,” a man who is wheelchair-bound from a spinal cord injury, asked Shaun about if he would hypothetically try out something that would cure autism. That question never gets answered or discussed again. The guy has good intentions, but the problem with that line of thinking is that unlike a spinal cord injury, autism isn’t something that needs to be treated or cured.

I’ve compared autism to having a brain that’s programmed differently, similar to how Macs and Linuxes have different programming than a PC. People with autism need to learn how to better interact with neurotypicals, but there’s nothing short of a frickin lobotomy that will make an autistic person “normal.” You can’t bleach it out of them.

So overall, the first season of The Good Doctor was a great start. And I look forward to Season 2. I hope that the supporting cast gets more development and that the episodes get a little less political. Still, I recommend this show to people on the autism spectrum and for those who want to understand autism. It’s definitely a series that can open up some much-needed discussions.