Thoughts on the Princess Diaries Series, 11 Years Later

This has been a strange year for reading. There are times when I’ve devoured books, and other times where I don’t read anything (except required reading) for weeks. I wanted to reread a series, more for comfort than anything else, and I decided to pick something other than the Harry Potter books, which I reread often. It had been a long time since I’d read the Princess Diaries series, and that’s what I picked.

At the beginning of the Bay Area lockdown, it was pretty difficult to get your hands on a physical library book, which left eLibrary options like ebooks and audiobooks. I decided to listen to the audiobooks, since I’ve only ever listened to the first 2 or 3, which are narrated by Anne Hathaway. The remainder of the series is narrated by Clea Lewis, who is not quite as engaging as Hathaway, but who nevertheless manages to capture some of the breathless charm of Mia’s voice.

If you haven’t read the book(s) or seen the films, here’s the summary: Mia Thermopolis is a normal (white, upper middle class) girl, growing up in Manhattan. She has regular problems like being terrible at algebra and generally not liking her appearance. She cares about the environment and her cat. Her mom is an artist and her friend has her own local public access TV show. One day, her dad tells her that he has cancer and can no longer have kids, making her, his illegitimate daughter, heir to the throne of a small European principality, Genovia. Shenanigans ensue. For 10 books. Basically there’s some major romance and the quest that Mia goes on to find where she belongs and what her purpose is beyond being a princess.

I think these books are still the light and frothy entertainment they were meant to be. The problem is that, unlike when I was 14, I no longer have any desire to be a princess. I also find Mia a little….self-centered. I didn’t feel that way as a teenager. Instead I felt that her problems were as big as mine (or bigger), and I definitely identified with her struggles with anxiety and depression (I still feel like this is the highlight of the series). However, I think that her very narrow world view keeps her from being a really empathetic character, which in turn diminishes my sympathy for her. She’s also frustrating. I have very little patience for her lack of awareness and the way she jumps to mind-boggling conclusions without seeking evidence or using any kind of reasoning. Of course, I feel that way about a book I’m reading right now that was written for adults, so maybe this is just a frustration with this character type. I prefer characters who are more introspective, logical, and self-aware. Otherwise, they venture very quickly into poor-me/why-me territory or are just totally beaten down, and that’s just not that fun.

However, I like that Mia struggles between her principles and her lived experience. This is totally relatable, and it forces Mia to grapple with her privilege–something I wish the series did more. In Princess Diaries IV 1/2: Project Princess, Mia volunteers with a Habitat for Humanity type of program to build houses for a family in a rural area. Never having experienced a wooded, forest environment, Mia romanticizes this experience before she goes since she loves the environment. She learns that this love does not extend to bugs, and not having clean drinking water, and sleeping on the ground. In a real way Mia is forced to experience something very different from the privileged environments that she grows up in and challenges her assumptions about the people who live there. I wish more of the series forced Mia out of her comfort zone.

Although Mia is a fairly liberal and progressive character, you can definitely tell that this series was written more than 10 years ago and that conversations have progressed around ideas of feminism (Mia is a feminist but has basically zero awareness of intersectional issues) and climate change. Whereas Mia is worried about whales and polar bears, today I am worried not only about widespread extinction but also massive forced migration from rising sea levels, food insecurity, massive climate events like fires and hurricanes, the evils of plastic and our lack of real recycling–generally the prevention of a Wall-E level planet destruction. I also feel like Mia mostly helps the environment by donating money rather than on the ground activism, but maybe this is an unfair feeling because she does try to make policy decisions that help the environment and uses her celebrity to talk about these issues.

Reading this series was deeply nostalgic for me, but I have to admit one of my biggest takeaways was how glad I am not to be a teenager any longer. I do not miss how overwhelming all my problems felt. What I’ve come to appreciate about reading is that we (hopefully) come across books when we need them and that not every book stands up to a new phase of life. And that’s okay. Even if one of my favorite teen authors is no longer my favorite author–it doesn’t mean that the experience of reading those books as a teen has been diminished. It’s not that the books have changed or were less good than I thought they were, it’s just that I’m a different person now than I was when I first read them. Honestly, that’s probably a good thing.

Have you reread a book recently? Do you feel the same way about it now that you did the first time? Let me know about your rereading experiences/your thoughts on the Princess Diaries in the comments!

Baking for Bookworms: Crab Cakes from Meg Cabot’s Royal Wedding

IMG_3389.jpgI apologize for not having a picture of the crab cakes. I turned my back and they were gone. But I promise I will update this post with a picture because I plan on making these again very soon…

There are few proposals more tried and true than proposing over dinner. Princess Mia has gone through her fair share of craziness, but luckily she has her future prince-consort Michael who plans a special proposal complete with a ring in a glass of champagne (which always seemed like a problematic method to me, but I’m glad she didn’t swallow it or break a tooth on it as I always imagine people would do.):


“I did tell him that we are absolutely one hundred percent going to have to elope because there is no way I’m going through what William and Kate did on their wedding day. That was completely ludicrous. Sweet to watch on television if you weren’t there yourself, but the behind-the-scenes drama was insane.

He agreed.

Except a little while later, after we’d finished dinner—I have to admit, I was so excited and happy I could barely finish my shrimp pasta, though I did manage to polish off all my crab cakes and lemon sorbet in limoncello—and we were both in the hammock, looking for shooting stars (I do not think that last one was a satellite no matter what he says), he said, ‘My parents are going to be really disappointed if we don’t have a wedding.”               119


Meals take on special import when they’re centered around special occasions (where would cake be if not for birthdays and weddings?) and I love the simple, yummy meal Michael puts together for himself and his new fiancée. I also love that even the most serious moments for Mia area always injected with a kind of fun and appreciation for life.


Crab cakes are a very easy dish to pull off—usually the biggest problem is getting them to stay together in a cohesive patty. This recipe holds together and tastes great—even with imitation crab, which means this meal is budget friendly too. You can make this recipe dairy-free by omitting the cheese and yogurt in favor of 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise.


Crab cake recipe adapted from Jo Cooks.



  • 8 oz crab meat (imitation okay)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 heaping tablespoons ricotta cheese
  • 1 heaping tablespoon Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan
  • 1 tsp (more or less to taste) sriracha
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste (about ½ tsp each)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, for pan frying


Combine all ingredients in a bowl except for the olive oil. Mix thoroughly. If mixture is too wet, add a little more panko, if mixture is too dry, add a little more mayo or yogurt.

Form into patties (I made about 10). In a pan over medium heat, heat the oil. Cook patties until golden brown about 3-5 minutes per side.

Serve with some sort of green vegetable or other dish of your choice (I made roasted veggies—I put whole mushrooms, a head of cauliflower—broken into florets, and a pint of grape tomatoes on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. I drizzled them with olive oil, added a little salt and fresh ground pepper and some minced garlic. They roast for 20 minutes at 400F and are a lovely, simple accompaniment).


Is there a dish or treat that reminds you of a special occasion?

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books I Wouldn’t Mind Finding Under My Tree


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature  brought to you by the Broke and the Bookish.

I think my mom was heartbroken when I asked her if Santa was real in the second grade. She loved the magic of it. She told me that while Santa and fairies might not be real, the magic of Christmas and giving was. My mom told me that it was my job not to spoil the magic for anyone else, and I solemnly vowed not to reveal Santa’s mythical origins to anyone who believed.

Whether or not you still believe in Santa, there’s no denying that a book is a perfect Christmas present. For more on how books started modern Christmas gift giving, read this.

I try to be really choosy with the books I ask for. I’ve either read the book before, or I’m pretty certain that it will meet the criteria to stay on my bookshelves after I’ve read it (it’s good enough to reread or I would recommend it to someone else).

So here are ten books I asked for this holiday season:

  • The Last Love Song Tracy  Daugherty– This biography of Joan Didion (who is amazing by the way–read her books, especially her first collection of essays) was written by a college professor of mine. I took his Joan Didion class and found it interesting and illuminating. No doubt the book will be the same.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Alan Moore–Another professor talked to me about this book when she was trying to convince me to think about graduate school. She said I could find an illustrator for some awesome idea I’d yet to come up with.
  • The next books in Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series that I don’t have.  I consider these books to be a guilty pleasure–historical fiction replete with spies, dashing escapades, and the right amount of romance.
  • A collection of Oscar Wilde’s plays–The Importance of Being Earnest is probably my favorite play of all time. Wilde’s wit just spews forth like a fountain. I wish real life were as clever as this play.
  • Leaves of Grass Walt Whitman–I enjoy Whitman’s poems whenever I read them, but I don’t have this book. I love broadening my poetry collection, and I almost always keep poetry books, even if they’re not my absolute favorites.
  • The Master and Margarita Mikhail Bulgakov–This book is fantastic. I want to read it again, and I want to recommend it to everyone.
  • The Princess Bride William Goldman–ditto
  • As You Wish Cary Elwes–I’m really eager to read this, even if it doesn’t make the bookshelf.
  • Royal Wedding Meg Cabot–I got rid of all my YA books when I went to college, so now I’m borrowing the Princess Diaries series from the library so that I’m ready for this book, you know, mentally.
  • The complete Lord of the Rings series–I haven’t read these, only The Hobbit, and I really want to do so next year.

How do you choose books for people? Do you ask what they want? Have the perfect formula? Give the same perfect book? Let me know in the comments (and also link you own TTT’s if you made one).