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The Female Perspective: I’m Back!

Welcome! This is a weekly blog* by Author J.L. Metcalf where I discuss anything and everything that strikes my fancy. If you have ideas on what you think I should write about, please send me an email via my website! Or find me on Facebook at @JLMetcalfAuthorArtisan!

For now, sit back, relax and enjoy the blog!

*All views expressed in “The Female Perspective” are those of J.L. Metcalf, not Great Stories, Inc


Hello friends! I have returned from my hiatus and am looking forward to a 2017 filled with exciting and entertaining blog posts.

Today I want to say that I finally saw Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and it was a pleasant surprise! On top of being a really hard name to spell, Peregrine is a delightful character, if a bit creepy.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

I have not yet read the books based on the Tim Burton film and I’ll be honest when I say that I wasn’t all that thrilled about seeing the movie either. The trailer did nothing for me and I find Eva Green really creepy- even though I loved her on Penny Dreadful. Green seemed an odd choice for a children’s-type movie. Now I know better!

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This movie, while about a group of kids and centered around a young man named Jake, is not a traditional children’s movie, which I should have known when Tim Burton signed on as the director. It’s a movie about bad guys wanting to eat children’s eyeballs. Yes, eyeballs and they are freaking scary when they do it.

It’s not a perfect movie, and to a certain extent it lacks the typical Tim Burton charm that makes his movies both magical, disturbing, and endearing. Even movies like Big Fish, a story about a son discovering the past his dying father kept hidden, are full of magic and beauty. This one was beautiful in certain ways (the ship rising from the sea was very cool, and the kids had some really great powers), but it was also more in the realm of creepy and demonic than magical and endearing.

Even the books look creepy!
Even the books look creepy!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good creepy, demonic film, I just have these expectations of Burton that fell a little short for me in this one. All that being said, the cast was great and Eva Green won me over as the titular Miss. Peregrine. She was still dang creepy, but she had fun with it and it suited her character to a T. I’ll say that even with the flaws of the movie, it made me curious about the books and I plan on reading those (expect a review when I do!) to see how they compare to the movie.

Now, what are you reading or watching friends? Anything I should check out? I am making my way through the graphic novels Y The Last Man that I am very much enjoying and plan on doing a blog about soon and next up I am going to be reading the iZombie graphic novels as well. I love the show and can’t wait to dig into the books.

Until next week, enjoy life and smile at the little things!

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The Female Perspective: What I’m Reading, the “American Gods” Edition

Welcome! This is a weekly blog* by Author J.L. Metcalf where I discuss anything and everything that strikes my fancy. If you have ideas on what you think I should write about, please send me an email via my website!

For now, sit back, relax and enjoy the blog!

*All views expressed in “The Female Perspective” are those of J.L. Metcalf, not Great Stories, Inc


“All your questions can be answered, if that is what you want. But once you learn your answers, you can never unlearn them.”
~Neil GaimanAmerican Gods

By Neil Gaiman
By Neil Gaiman

I am just about finished with my 2nd read of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, his take on the old Gods, the new Gods and what a man caught in the middle does when he learns their secrets. I read this book a couple years ago and I’ll admit, I wasn’t a huge fan. I had heard so many good things about it, but I wasn’t ravenously inspired by the story nor did I quite understand why it was such a popular novel. I decided to give it a 2nd read because I am excited about the upcoming show and I thought, “Let me give this bad boy another chance to impress me.”

The 2nd read has done it folks. I am loving this book now. I totally get it. This book is fantastic. Maybe not in my top 5 favorite books, but definitely in my top 10 without question.

I admit also that I’m not a huge Neil Gaiman fan. I thought the Stardust movie was better than the book and while I enjoyed what I’ve read of the Sandman series, I’m not so overcome with love for Gaiman that I have to devour every book he puts out. I think I’ll be giving his catalog of books a 2nd chance though because I like how he writes. He’s like Stephen King, but with a strange, twisted in a non-horrific way that I totally dig.

**SPOILERS AHEAD!**

If you have not read the book, stop here if you don’t want to know anything about it.

Take the main character in American Gods, Shadow, first off, great name. Secondly, you kind of fall in love with him immediately. He’s down on his luck, in prison for a crime and sure, he’s a criminal, but you immediately sense that there is more to this guy than just doing something wrong and going to jail for it. Besides, he just got out of prison early because his wife is dead. He seems lost, out of sorts, unsure of what to do in the free world.

Then he meets a mysterious man and things get seriously weird.

“People believe, thought Shadow. It’s what people do. They believe, and then they do not take responsibility for their beliefs; they conjure things, and do not trust the conjuration. People populate the darkness; with ghosts, with gods, with electrons, with tales. People imagine, and people believe; and it is that rock solid belief, that makes things happen.”  ~Neil Gaiman, American Gods

We start to suss out the story, there are Gods on Earth. Old Gods and the New, more annoying, Gods. We have Gods of the media, of electronics, of our pop culture that reflect back at us our own failings, our own systemic-self indulgence. We (as the reader) look at the new Gods and we scoff at them, thinking, I don’t believe in a God of TV. But the fact is, we do– In our own way– worship the boob tube and we will continue to do so until our dying day. We think, the old Gods are so much cooler than the new Gods. But then the story is over and we realize that the old Gods are just as messed up and flawed as the new ones and they are lead by liars and cheats.

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“American Gods”, art by Chris Buzelli

American Gods is a story about worship, about the culture we live in, about lies and truth. Belief and disbelief. Shadow is trying to make sense of this world he’s stumbled into and it continually zigs and zags away from him, become more confused and convoluted with each God we meet. And we meet some good ones, Odin, Loki, Horus, Gods from Hindu mythology and Gods I have no idea where they came from. In the midst of it all, a storm is coming, a war is imminent and we think we know which side is the “right” side, but by the end that’s all flipped and maybe we realize there is no right or wrong side. There’s just the side that wants blood and the side that doesn’t.

“There’s never been a true war that wasn’t fought between two sets of people who were certain they were in the right. The really dangerous people believe they are doing whatever they are doing solely and only because it is without question the right thing to do. And that is what makes them dangerous.”
~Neil Gaiman, American Gods

American Gods is a great tale to read today, with our insane politics and just in general in the midst of a world obsessed with selfies and Instagram and Snapchat. We’ve created new Gods even in the time since Gaiman wrote this. Gods of Facebook, Gods of Twitter. It’s amazing how the tides of worship flit from one to another, creating a God and then abandoning it to flounder and starve when it is ignored, unloved. It’s a fascinating idea, to think that belief in a thing can make it into something “real”, something with ideas and feelings, and it’s even more fascinating to think that once the tide of belief has turned to something else, that God that’s been created is left in a world that no longer cares as it desperately attempts to become relevant again.

American Gods is a mix of fantasy and mythology. It’s also a love story, a story about a man trying to find his way in a world that’s forgotten him and a story about belief. It’s so much more than I thought it was when I first read it and if you’ve read it and didn’t love it, I suggest you give it a 2nd read because you might just see more than you thought was there. You might begin to believe.

“Gods die. And when they truly die they are unmourned and unremembered. Ideas are more difficult to kill than people, but they can be killed, in the end.”  ~Neil Gaiman, American Gods

Super excited for the upcoming STARZ TV version of "American Gods'!
Super excited for the upcoming STARZ TV version of “American Gods’!

What are YOU reading? Have you read American Gods yet? Are you planning on watching the TV show? Why or why not? Sound off in the comments!

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The Female Perspective: Book Review Time!

Welcome! This is a weekly blog* by Author J.L. Metcalf where I discuss anything and everything that strikes my fancy. If you have ideas on what you think I should write about, please send me an email via my website!

For now, sit back, relax and enjoy the blog!

*All views expressed in “The Female Perspective” are those of J.L. Metcalf, not Great Stories, Inc


If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know I’ve been watching Game of Thrones and I also just began the task of re-reading the books. Before I began reading that series, I finished re-reading (what can I say, it’s been a re-read kind of summer) one of my favorite Stephen King books, 11/22/63.

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I wanted to re-read it because I had watched the Hulu TV series made from the book and while I liked the show quite a bit at first, as I got deeper and deeper into the book I realized that I the show really wasn’t that good. In fact, when compared to the book, I got seriously bummed out about what was left out.

Now, before I get into things you should know there are spoilers afoot and that also, I quite certainly realize that they can’t put everything into an adaptation. I just have to wonder at the choices made is all and why they would leave out some of  (what I think) are the best parts of the book in order to make a multi-part TV “event”.

The Beginning

In the beginning we get a moment with Jake Epping where he tells us;

I have never been what you’d call a crying man … I wish I had been emotionally blocked, after all. Because everything that followed–every terrible thing–flowed from those tears. ~Stephen King 11/22/63

Epping is a teacher and he reads a theme one of his students rights, an older man named Harry who is off, a little slow, a little different. It’s because his father, in a drunken rage, killed his family with a hammer and while not killing Harry, he whacked him in the head and gave him some brain damage. This moment, this small, few pages of talking, is what sets into action the events that unfold in 11/22/63 and while that’s touched upon in the TV series, it’s not given the importance it should have gotten.

I also think that James Franco was bad casting, but that’s a different blog post.

Regardless of casting, what unfolds in the first portion of the book is that Jake is told by his buddy Al that there is a time traveling portal in a closet at his restaurant and Al needs Jake to do something for him, something big, something world changing.

Al wants Jake to go back in time and prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Why can’t Al do it himself? Well, because Al has cancer and he’s dying. When you go through the portal you continue to age even though in the current world (at that 2011) only 2 minutes pass by, years can pass by for our intrepid time travelers and Al is simply too sick to carry out the mission. When you step through the portal you are in 1960 and it have to then wait potentially 3 years to take care of business. After some hemming and hawing, Jake finally decides to give it a try, but first he has to know the rules of time travel.

Before Al dies, he gives him as much info as he can, he even has a notebook full of notes about Lee Harvey Oswald’s movements up until that fateful day in 1963.  But Jake wants to test this theory of what happens when you change time, Jake wants to see if he can not only save Kennedy, but maybe he can help his student too.  Maybe he can prevent the death of that mans family and his brain damage and give him a real chance at life (or so he thinks).

The thing about this portal is that every time you go through, it resets itself. So if you change things in 1960, go back to 2011 and then go back to 1960, everything resets itself, so you have to be sure you have things right or you’ll be doing them over and over again, like a twisted version of Groundhog Day. This happens to Jake as he screws up his first attempt at preventing the murder of Harry’s family, has to go back through the portal and do it all over again (but this time, he does it quicker), but not after putting a phone call through to Harry to see what happened to him and discovers it’s not such a good future for Harry after all.

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The Repercussions of Time Travel

We all think about it, or at least, I have anyway. What would happen if you changed one event in a persons life? How would things turn out? Would they still find their way to that point in time? Would they have a better life? Would the world around them be the same? In 11/22/63 we get Stephen King’s answers to those questions. What Jake discovers is that changing an element of a person’s life has a profound effect on them, but it’s not always a good thing. If Harry is never injured, he ends up at Vietnam and he ends up dead. But that doesn’t stop Jake because he thinks, if Kennedy lives, maybe there is no Vietnam for Harry to die in. Maybe he can prevent Harry’s premature death if he keeps Kennedy alive!

It’s a mind twister of a book because Jake is constantly faced with the idea that time is obdurate and that it does not like to be changed. We see that a little bit on the TV show, but not to the extent we see it in the book. Jake also ignores the advice of his friend Al who tells him not to get involved in the lives of the people in the “Land of Ago”, he ends up falling in love with a woman, making friends, establishing a life. Which of course turns out to be a big mistake. This is a Stephen King novel after all, while we don’t see the death toll rise like in a George R.R. Martin book, King doesn’t always do perfect happy endings.

For Jake Epping, his life in the 1960s slowly becomes more real to him than his life in 2011. He says, near the end of the book, after everything has gone to Hell and he has to make a choice he doesn’t want to make,

I should also tell you that I  no longer think of 2011 as the present. Philip Nolan was the Man Without a Country; I am the Man Without a Time Frame. I suspect I always will be. Even if 2011 is still there, I will be a visiting stranger.  ~Stephen King

My Thoughts

I’ve already said that 11/22/63 is one of my favorite Stephen King books, right after The Stand and Eyes of the Dragon. The reason why I love it so much is that it isn’t a typical King book. It’s not horror, it’s more of a sci-fi adventure. It’s a love story. More than anything else, it’s a toe dipped in reality, the “what-if” scenario that so many of us wonder about.

What if Kennedy had lived?

I won’t tell you what King’s answer to that question is, but it’s a hum-dinger, that’s for sure. The quick reveal of 2011 post-Kennedy Alive was a shocker to me and it is a reminder that these things happen for a reason. If presented with the opportunity to change a moment in history, would you, and more importantly should you even try to change it? Who are we to play at being God? Who are we to mess with the strings of the Universe? It’s an amazingly thought-provoking book and a great summer read. If you like history mixed in with fiction, then 11/22/63 is a great choice.

Also, read the book before you watch the show if you can. It’s so much richer and more interesting. Besides that, I am seriously bummed out that they really lessen the impact Harry’s life had on Jake. For pete’s sake, Harry is the entire reason Jake goes back! Harry is the reason Jake gives up years of his life to try and stop Kennedy’s assassination. And yet, Harry is barely a footnote in the show. To me, that was an opportunity lost to really showcase the acting Franco can do and how poignant the story really is.


Pick up your copy of 11/22/63 online or borrow one from your local library!

What do you think? Would you change the past if you could? Why or why not? What would you change? Sound off in the comments!

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The Female Perspective: Why I Finally Started Watching “Game Of Thrones”

Welcome! This is a weekly blog* by Author J.L. Metcalf where I discuss anything and everything that strikes my fancy. If you have ideas on what you think I should write about, please send me an email via my website!

For now, sit back, relax and enjoy the blog!

*All views expressed in “The Female Perspective” are those of J.L. Metcalf, not Great Stories, Inc


If you read this blog every once in awhile you have picked up on the fact that I like to read, I like science fiction, I like the mysterious and all that good stuff. I even wrote last week about the fact that I recommend the Song of Ice and Fire series (aka Game of Thrones) as some good summer reading. The reason it’s in my mind so much right now is because I have finally decided to sit down and “catch up” on the 6 seasons of Game of Thrones and finally find out what all the hoopla is about (mild spoilers ahead).

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Now, you might be wondering, if I am such a huge fan of the books, why would I wait so long to watch the series? It’s a good question so definitely pat yourself on the back for that one! For years now I’ve been totally wishy-washy about the show because I watched the first season when it first aired and was just frankly bored by it. It’s mystified people for years that I would recommend the books as highly as I do and yet never watch the TV show that people are adoring. Well, that time has passed and as Ygritte says to Jon Snow on more than one occasion, “I know nothing.”

As I’ve gotten older I’ve pushed aside my stubbornness and pride and actually listened when people recommend things to me. It’s how I finally ready the Harry Potter series and it’s how I finally decided to watch Game of Thrones. My boyfriend was watching the current season and loving it and he kept saying how he wished he could talk about it with me, and he’s right, at this point, the show is ahead of the books and therefore he can’t really talk to me about it. Not to mention, it’s been years now since I’ve read the books so they are a bit foggy in my mind. I decided that he has good TV taste and therefore I should give it a second chance (it’s how I fell in love with iZombie as well, fantastic show and I had given up on it after the first season!).

Oh Jamie, you disgusting hero-type.
Oh Jamie, you disgusting hero-type.

I have now zipped through the first 3 seasons and I am LOVING this show. I forgot how rich and wonderful the world that George RR Martin created is. I’ve forgotten how violent it is well, but also how strong and powerful the women characters are, how flawed each character is and how you want to hate them, but you also find reasons to love them a tiny bit. Jamie Lannister is an excellent example of this and one I remember from the book. I hated that guy, he is horrible. Pushing kids out of windows and having relations with this sister, gag, yuck, gross! But then…He gets captured, he loses his hand while also being keenly aware of the honor of Brienne of Tarth and coming to her rescue more than once. He is flawed, yes, his sins are the worst kind, but he also…He’s got an honor, a bravery that  mystifies.

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Martin manages characters that are awful but lovable. Flawed but honorable. Characters you enjoy watching every week and you are devastated when they die, because make no mistake, they are all going to die eventually. Martin isn’t sentimental about his characters, he isn’t trying to shock people, he’s proving a point that life was hard back then and life was short. In 2014 he penned an open letter regarding the deaths (beware, profanities abound!) that is worth reading and he makes some good points. The fact is, the death in Game of Thrones is for a reason, they serve a purpose and honestly, as a writer nowhere near close to Martin’s talent, they create a world that leaves you wanting more, that leaves you unsure about the future of your favorite character (Tyrion!) and his writing inspires my own.

Not to mention, he writes some of the strongest women characters I’ve ever read. He has taken male-dominated landscape and turned the tables so that the women are in charge. The Mother of Dragons is forever my hero, and she also makes me want to have dragons at my disposal, so handy for setting ones enemies on fire!

Baby Dragons!
Baby Dragons!

If you haven’t checked out either the show or the books be warned that there is a lot of violence, foul language and brutality, so if that isn’t your cup of tea, this series might not be for you. If you don’t mind bad words and sex, then go for it! It’s well worth your time and effort.

Tell me what you like to read! Sound off in the comments! I’m always looking for more books!

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The Female Perspective: Summer Reading Is Where It’s At!

Welcome! This is a weekly blog* by Author J.L. Metcalf where I discuss anything and everything that strikes my fancy. If you have ideas on what you think I should write about, please send me an email via my website!

For now, sit back, relax and enjoy the blog!

*All views expressed in “The Female Perspective” are those of J.L. Metcalf, not Great Stories, Inc


Summer is a great time to dig into some new books, it’s (hopefully) got a slower pace and there are more days spent by the pool, at the beach or just chilling in your backyard while the family plays and barbecues. To that end, I thought I’d give a shout out to some of my personal favorite summer reads.

How do I pick summer reads? Well, I pick them like any other book I want to read, does it sound interesting? Does it have a cool cover (I know, I know, don’t judge them that way but a lot of times a cover is what calls me to a book, the synopsis is what keeps me reading)? I don’t think that summer reads have to necessarily be shorter, less intense (as many summer reading lists would suggest), I think summer is a great time to dig into an intense series or a nice, long book so that you have plenty to read at the beach. There’s not much that’s worse than finishing your book with a long day ahead and having no backup!

That being said, here are my Top 5 Summer Reads!

1. The Stand by Stephen King

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Nothing says summertime fun like the end of the world, am I right??? I’ve talked about The Stand a few times because it is hands down one of my top 5, all time favorite books to read and I find myself gravitating to it almost every summer. Maybe because the story starts in the summer? The story itself (if you don’t know) is an engaging one, told in typical Stephen King fashion, that brings us hero, villains and the fight over the soul of the world. It’s a tale that is simply about good and evil, but at over 1,000 pages, it’s much more than that. To me it is King’s finest works and it is worth a read.

2. A Song Of Ice and Fire (aka Game Of Thrones) by George R. R. Martin

Bookset

The first time I read this epic series it was during the summer I was laid off from work so I had a lot of time on my hands. It was recommended by a good friend and since I am a huge fan of anything similar to Lord of the Rings I thought it had to be a win-win. I have to say that I was instantly hooked, while also being completely devastated when characters I had fallen in love with were brutally slain. The end of the first book made me realize that Martin isn’t fooling around, your favorite characters will die and no one, literally no one is safe (Red Wedding anyone?), which is why I love these books. I am finally getting around to watching the HBO show and am feeling the urge to re-read these beauties to invest once again in the rich, Tolkien-esque world that Martin has created, while also refreshing myself for when he eventually releases the next volume, The Winds of Winter.

3. Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

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No list of mine would be complete without some Harry Potter and honestly, it took me a very long time to get into this series. I was finishing up the 6th book when the final book came out so I never had to wait between books like so many others. I cannot say enough good things about these books, it is about friendship, magic, doing what’s right even when it feels wrong and so much more. I cry all the time when some of my favorite characters die because I feel like they are truly alive. The power of Rowling’s work is in her words, she is a master of her craft and one day I hope to be half as good as she is. If you haven’t read Harry Potter yet, get on that, and summer is a perfect time to start enjoying the adventures of Harry Potter, Ron and Hermoine!

4. American Gods by Neil Gaiman

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Another one that it took me way too long to read. I admit to not being a huge Gaiman fan (I actually liked the movie version of Stardust better than the book), but this one was a great read. For being as long as it is, it’s a lot of fun. I never really knew where the book was going to go, but I knew I wanted to be along for the ride. The characters are engaging, interesting and some of them are downright annoying, but that’s what makes the book so much fun! That and an upcoming TV adaptation makes this a must-read in my eyes.

5. The Martian by Andy Weir

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This book is AMAZING. Seriously. Check it out. It’s not super-spacey at all (even though the guy is on Mars), it’s this amazing story of survival and science. When I first started reading this it’s because I saw the movie trailer and was instantly intrigued. When I realized it was from the point of view of the guy trapped on Mars alone I was instantly curious, how do we keep a book going that’s one person, alone, on Mars? Well Weir did a fantastic job of that. He crafted a character that is funny, smart and oh yeah, super funny. The quips and jabs that Mark Watney make had me laughing out loud as I read along. But never forget, this guy is trapped on Mars and just as you settle in to enjoy his diatribe about disco music, something explodes and you are reminded just how dangerous his existence is. It’s a great read, perfect for a day at the beach and it will keep you on the edge of your seat. The movie adaptation is also pretty darn good, Matt Damon is a perfect Watney.

There you have it folks! Some of my favorite summer reads, how about you? What are some of your go-to summer reads? Tell me in the comments! I’m always looking for new books!

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The Female Perspective: Celebrate Banned Books Week In Style!

Welcome! This is the weekly blog* by Author J.L. Metcalf where I discuss anything and everything that strikes my fancy. If you have ideas on what you think I should write about, please send me an email via my website!

For now, sit back, relax and enjoy the blog!

*All views expressed in “The Female Perspective” are those of J.L. Metcalf, not Great Stories, Inc.


This week it’s been brought to my attention that it is Banned Books Week (Sept 27-Oct 3), a glorious week for those of us who love the written word and cannot possibly understand why anyone would want to BAN others from reading a book.

Truly, it boggles the mind.

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I have written previously about banning books and this week I wanted to write a blog post about what Banned Books mean to me, because I’ve read some of them (often without realizing that they are even banned) and there are many, many others that I wish to read as soon as I have the time (ha-ha!) but more than anything else, I wanted to share this information with others so that they too can check out these books that cause such a kerfuffle among parents and other administrators. Why the fuss? What’s the big deal? Why don’t we want our kids to learn about all aspects of life? Even the messy bits are important in shaping their minds into … Well, bigger, better minds. If we shield them from everything, how the heck will they learn?

First off, here is a good list from the Banned & Challenged Books website that lists some of the top 10 most challenged books.  Tell me, how many of these have YOU read?

1)      The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”

2)      Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi

Reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint. Additional reasons: “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” “graphic depictions”

3)      And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

Reasons: Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “promotes the homosexual agenda”

4)      The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison

Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “contains controversial issues”

5)      It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris

Reasons: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group. Additional reasons: “alleges it child pornography”

6)      Saga, by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Reasons: Anti-Family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group. Additional reasons:

7)      The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence

8)      The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “date rape and masturbation”

9)      A Stolen Life, Jaycee Dugard

Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group

10)  Drama, by Raina Telgemeier

Reasons: sexually explicit

~From the Banned & Challenged Books 

I have to say that I have only read two of those books, The Kite Runner and The Bluest Eye, both were excellent books and both were chock-full of challenging (i.e. difficult) material. More importantly, both were chock-full of amazing writing, vibrant ideas and brilliant thematic elements. Both were well worth my time and the time of many others.

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When I then look at a list of some of the most challenged literary classics, there are many more I’ve read  because I was lucky to have decent teachers who wanted us to actually read the classics and no one stopped them. There was an appreciation for the literature. Others, I have read since school and have enjoyed immensely.

1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
6. Ulysses, by James Joyce
7. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
8. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
9. 1984, by George Orwell
10. Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
11. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
12. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
13. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
14. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
~See the full list here!

Oh man, some of these are favorites of mine, Animal Farm is one of the best books I’ve ever read and that one, along with 1984, are both extremely topical in today’s bizarro and often frightening political landscape. Along with that you have Beloved which is a horribly tragic, yet utterly compelling read and The Color Purple which blew my mind the first time I read it. I could go on and on but if you’re any kind of reader, you get the idea.

Banned Book Staff Picks 2012_Page_1
FYI this is from a previous year, this year Banned Books Week runs September 27th through October 3rd.

To put this into simplistic terms, banning books is wrong. Who gave anyone the right to decide what’s “appropriate” reading material for others? Who gave that power to one person (or persons)?

We all have minds (supposedly) and should be allowed to choose for ourselves what we want to read and absorb. Not to mention, parents who fight to ban books in the name of their (or other kids) so-called innocence are fighting the wrong battle. Pay better attention to what your kids are ingesting or who they’re hanging out with, not what they’re reading. Just be glad they’re READING and not looking at a computer screen. Yeesh.

banning-books-quote_03

In my searching for material for this blog, I came across a beautifully written post where a teacher had to defend their right to teach Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaids Tale, a story I read many years ago and really need to revisit again. It is a brutal tale about a dystopian world where women are basically “incubators on legs” – it does not paint a pretty picture but it’s also so well-written and thought out that to not read it seems a disgrace in many ways. Regardless, this teacher sums up quite beautifully why reading such book is actually important in schools and why it is a valid choice to teach children critical thinking.

I’ll only include the last line from it here but if you wish to read the entire post, click here.

 I would add only that one of the functions of literature is to shed light into the corners of our world, even if what we find there is unpleasant.

~Josh Corman

I couldn’t say it better myself. Without literature, we would not have the light that illuminates our thoughts, our ideas, our very own creativity and critical thinking abilities. While some literature is better than others, it is all valuable in that it offers a passage into other worlds, some good, some bad, but almost all are worthwhile and all should be able to be accessed by anyone who wants to enter that world.

Finally, I came across this other article on Book Riot about how, according to Slate, Banned Books week isn’t really necessary anymore because books are widely available online or at other libraries or stores you can easily  drive to. The author, who is rebutting Slate’s idea, makes a good point about what libraries are there for;

When books are challenged, even when the result is not a full ban!, nobody wins.

Consider that libraries aren’t there to shrug and suggest Amazon when you’re looking for a book. They’re there to provide the books, not only to those who can’t afford to purchase all of their reading material, or are unable to drive to the next nearest library, but to anybody with an interest.

Libraries are a marketplace of ideas, and if they’re going to operate in a truly democratic fashion, all ideas should be represented. ~Michelle Anne Schingler

The point is, just because we can order everything on Amazon, it does not mean that everyone else can too. It doesn’t mean that challenging or banning books is ever going to be okay simply because you can then go online and buy it. There are many who cannot do that. Who will never know the sadness of reading The Diary of Anne Frank or the mind boggling medical mess that is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. There are many who will not get to read some of these banned books because they are banned and they’ll never cross those people’s radars. Banning books is wrong, it is futile and it is a problem that has persisted for hundreds of years. This is why Banned Books Week is important, because it reminds us all of the power of the written word and it brings to light all those books that maybe someone hasn’t gotten a chance to read but now will see and read and it will change their life view just a little bit more.

Make sure to pick up a banned book this week and every week!

What do you think about banned books? Have you read any that you love? Do you agree with the parents that try to ban books? Sound off in the comments section below. I want to hear your thoughts!

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The Female Perspective: How “Harry Potter” Changed My Life

Welcome! This is a twice-weekly blog* by Author J.L. Metcalf where I discuss anything and everything that strikes my fancy. If you have ideas on what you think I should write about, please send me an email via my website!

For now, sit back, relax and enjoy the blog!

*All views expressed in “The Female Perspective” are those of J.L. Metcalf, not Great Stories, Inc.


I was reading about the upcoming illustrated edition of Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone and it made me think about how much Harry Potter has changed my life.

“Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all those who live without love.”
~J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Let me start at the beginning, I wasn’t always a Harry Potter fan. In fact, I rallied against it for many years before a good friend (yes, Celeste, it’s you) and my dying Grandmother made me see that this might be a series worth checking out. Boy were they right. I admit to being 100% wrong on this one.

The world is a better place because of Harry Potter and his gang.
The world is a better place because of Harry Potter and his gang.

By the time I read the Harry Potter books JK Rowling was well into the series and in fact, I was able to read the first 6 without having to wait. Then I, like the rest of the world, had to wait for the final book, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows. I remember that day vividly. I was in CVS on my way to work and I happened to see copies behind the register. I eagerly bought one (even though my mom had pre-ordered a copy for me, I couldn’t wait to pick it up from her house, I had a total moment of the right nows for that book. As in, it had to be in my life right now). I remember getting to work and having about 15-minutes to spare before I had to go in so I looked at the book. I almost didn’t want to open it because I knew once I did I would never have that first moment again. I actually sat for a moment, my hand on the cover and took a couple deep breath’s, preparing myself for the awesome that was sure to be inside.

I then suffered through 6-hours of work!

Once I got home all I did was read, for hours. I read the entire book in that one day. I was done with it by midnight of that sunny Sunday and I was a crying mess. Never before (or really, since) had I read something that touched me so deeply. That made me feel all the feels. That made me so achingly sad and happy at the same time.

An image of Hogwarts by artist Jim Kay who did the new illustrated edition of "Harry Potter & The Sorcerers Stone"
An image of Hogwarts by artist Jim Kay who did the new illustrated edition of “Harry Potter & The Sorcerers Stone”

I love books. I LOVE them. I will never ever replace my library of beautiful pages and paper with electronics. Never. I will always carry a book with me when I go places. I will always enjoy looking at my books, touching them, reading them under a dim light. For me, reading the Harry Potter books was proof of how magical books can really be. I had forgotten that magic in the hustle and bustle of grown-up life. Now, it seems quite silly that I could ever forget how books can transport you to a new (and sometime, better) world.

What struck me about Deathly Hallows was how final it was. I know that Rowling has said since that she would never say never to revisiting the Hogwarts crew but for so many, that was the end game. The final tale to be told about our beloved Harry, Hermoine and Ron. So many of my favorite characters died in those thousand or so pages, so many friends I wished I could meet and so many creatures and adventures I wished I could have … and I did, thanks to Rowling and her ability to craft a story of beautiful words, wonderful people and even more amazing tales.

I’m going to keep going until I succeed — or die. Don’t think I don’t know how this might end. I’ve known it for years.”

~J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I think my favorite part of the final book is when Harry finally goes to confront Voldemort in the woods. He uses the Deathly Hallows to resurrect the people he loved who had passed on. They urged him on, they kept him stumbling down that hill to an impossible fate. To a choice that no child should ever have to make.

Harry Potter: Why are you here, all of you?

Lily Potter: We never left.

Harry Potter: Does it hurt, dying?

Sirius Black: Quicker than falling asleep.

James Potter: You’re nearly there, son.

Harry Potter: I’m sorry. I never wanted any of you to die for me. And Remus, your son…

Remus Lupin: Others will tell him what his mother and father died for. One day, he’ll understand.

Harry Potter: You’ll stay with me?

James Potter: Until the end.

Harry Potter: And he won’t be able to see you?

Sirius Black: No. We’re here, you see.

Harry Potter: Stay close to me.

Lily Potter: Always.

~JK Rowling, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows

To this day, I cannot read that passage in the woods (or even see the movie) without crying. It’s so powerful. For all Harry’s bravery and smarts, with all the love that surrounds him, he is still afraid and he wants his family around him. It’s a comfort to imagine that all those that we have lost in this life are still here with us, maybe not in ghostly form, but at least nearby, urging us on, keeping us going, keeping us brave because we are loved and they are always close.

By JK Rowling
By JK Rowling

So how did Harry Potter change my life? Easy. Those books made me see that magic can exist wherever you expect it least (look at Harry, he was in a hopeless situation when that dang owl showed up and everything changed).  I learned that the true measure of a man/woman/etc is how they treat others; that true friendship means sometimes standing up against them when they are wrong.

More than anything, it taught me that the power of love is always, ALWAYS greater than hate (take that Donald Trump) and that no matter what happens, those you love will be with you forever.

JK Rowling also made me a better reader and a better writer. The lessons I learned reading her words and how she crafted them together influenced my own writing and every time I read, every time I re-read Harry Potter I become better at my own craft. If I ever got the chance to meet her I hope I would be able to say that. More likely than note I will go deaf and mute at the sight of her and others will have to speak for me!

What about you? Did you have a mind-blowing Harry Potter experience? Do you love the books? Hate them? Are you like me and going to snatch up the new illustrated edition as soon as you can? Sound off in the comments! Tell me YOUR Harry Potter story.

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The Female Perspective: It’s Post-Apocalyptic Survival Month!

Welcome! This is a twice-weekly blog* by Author J.L. Metcalf where I discuss anything and everything that strikes my fancy. If you have ideas on what you think I should write about, please send me an email via my website!

For now, sit back, relax and enjoy the blog!

*All views expressed in “The Female Perspective” are those of J.L. Metcalf, not Great Stories, Inc.


Seriously, I just discovered that this is a thing, September is honestly known (to some) as Post-Apocalyptic Survival Month. It seems a silly thing to celebrate since September is other things as well, but this struck me as a fun topic to write a blog about.

If the end of the world happened, what would YOU take with you in your backpack?

Don't just survive, thrive!
Don’t just survive, thrive!

The Essentials

No list would be complete without the essentials, the stuff you really actually need if you are running for your life from some kind of disaster, we’re going to say it’s a Zombie disaster because that’s just less depressing than a nuclear disaster (and also less plausible, which makes this “game” more fun). The fact is you have to leave your house, it’s too close to a city and you want to find your loved ones. What do you bring?

Here’s what I’d bring …

1.) Change of clothes – I’d only bring one because I only have so much room in that backpack and until I get a bigger, better one, I’m going to have to use the space that I have. Hey, it’s the end of the world, I can always snag some new threads at a local shop when I have a better pack. For now I’d bring a spare pair of jeans, a warm shirt, a tank top (or maybe even two, they’re small), underwear and socks. Anything else is unnecessary. Actually, a spare pair of boots would be a good idea except I don’t have a spare pair of boots so we’ll just walk on with the ones I have.

2.) Medicine – I am NOT leaving my home with the medicine I need, I’m not talking vitamins and daily meds (we’re going to have to figure life out with that stuff eventually so just take what you have I suppose), I’m talking stuff for headaches and body aches because spending all day walking is going to cause some aches baby. Tylenol and anything else that helps with bodily distress (Pepto, Imodium, etc) is a good idea.

3.) Canned Goods – this is tricker and heavier but I’d snag whatever canned goods I currently have, plus water (again this is tough) and pack them up. I know I’m going to have to scavenge on the land but for the first few days I’d like to have something right at hand.

4.) Backup weapon – this is a must! I’ll have something great, like a baseball bat or my trusty MagLite and then an extra weapon, just in case I drop, break or lose my weapon in some kind of melee. Extra weaponry is half the battle in getting through this alive.

Knowing your weapons is half the battle.
Knowing your weapons is half the battle.

That Other Stuff

So what else would need to happen if the end of the world occurred? With shows like The Walking Dead and Z Nation and Fear The Walking Dead, it’s actually an interesting question. What kinds of things would need to happen in order to be really well stocked/prepared for the apocalypse? I think I would go to the local nursery and get myself some seed packets, in case I ever settle in one place and want to start actually growing food instead of eating it out of cans. I’d also make sure I had these seed packets packed up really good so water, dirt, etc can’t get into them and destroy them. Nothing is worse than happily homesteading and then discovering that you have no seeds with which to create a home.

I also think that breaking into or walking into a library is a good idea. You can find books on gardening (if you’re like me, you have no clue), building and more that can really help in a pinch. I mean, no one knows how to do everything so this is where books can come in really handy.

Click here for some handy book title suggestions from Book Riot. Even if the world never ends, some of these titles can be a good read … just in case.

For Now…Read a Book!

Right now the world is alive and doing well, um, it’s doing okay. The fact is, none of us know what’s going to happen and I’d like to hope that the world keeps on spinning for millions of years to come. Until such a day as the end of the world, I’d say pick up any of these books, recommended by Tor.com for some light, post-apocalyptic reading.

My personal apocalypse books have to be The Road by Cormac McCarthy and I simply adore World War Z. Another great one is The Passage and it’s sequel, The Twelve by Justin Cronin.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

"The Road" by Cormac McCarthy
“The Road” by Cormac McCarthy

This is a tough one, as a lot of McCarthy’s books often are. The movie version (if reading isn’t your thing) is excellent and fits with the book amazingly well. The story is a simple one, the world has ended (nuclear explosion) and the tale is about the boy and the man. We never get their names and that makes it a tad bit easier to remain detached from the characters, but the story is not a happy one. We encounter cannibalistic behaviors and more in this post-apocalyptic read and there isn’t a post-apocalyptic book list that would dare omit this title from it’s list. If you have a strong stomach, this is well worth the read.

World War Z by Max Brooks

"World War Z" by Max Brooks
“World War Z” by Max Brooks

Chances are, you’ve heard of this one. The movie version is okay if you’ve never read the book since it really doesn’t follow the book at all. The book itself is a great twist on the Zombie tail. It’s told by dozens of characters, from dozens of points of view. It is totally the oral history of the outbreak, the battle and the aftermath. Max Brooks does a wonderful job in fully encapsulating the true disaster that would be the zombie apocalypse but makes it easy to read, almost fun, and easy to believe. I remember there being some sections that brought me to tears. It’s a well-done and interesting view of what the zombie infestation would look like in today’s world.

The Passage & The Twelve by Justin Cronin

"The Passage" by Justin Cronin
“The Passage” by Justin Cronin

When I read The Passage I was blown away. It’s a complex tale about vampires. Yes, you read that right, vampires. They take over the world (much like zombies would) and this is a tale that is not a quick read but it’s well worth it. Cronin crafts a story that is unbelievable in it’s scope, showing us how the “bat virus” would be found and brought to the US and then destroy it all. It is a story that leaves you wanting more, which is good because Cronin intended for The Passage to be the first in a trilogy. The second book, The Twelve, is equally as intense and challenging and not quite as good. It is, however, a fascinating look at how people have survived this disaster for years upon years and what they have to do when they realize they are running out of resources. I honestly cannot wait for the third book and writing this makes me realize that I have to re-read the first two!

Honorable Book Mention

Oh, also, if you are looking for a sort of apocalyptic book choice, why not pick your local blogger and author JL Metcalf? I wrote a collection of short horror stories that are perfect for the pre or post-apocalypse! Check out Menagerie Of The Weird!

"Menagerie Of The Weird" by JL Metcalf
“Menagerie Of The Weird” by JL Metcalf

The End Is Nigh?

No matter how you choose to celebrate this illustrious (aka, little known) month, make sure that whatever you do, it involves picking up a good apocalypse book and enjoying all that you have around you and of course, making a plan.

Now tell me, what would you pack and why? 

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The Female Perspective: IT, The Movie

Welcome! This is a twice-weekly blog* by Author J.L. Metcalf where I discuss anything and everything that strikes my fancy. If you have ideas on what you think I should write about, please send me an email via my website!

For now, sit back, relax and enjoy the blog!

*All views expressed in “The Female Perspective” are those of J.L. Metcalf, not Great Stories, Inc.


Even though I didn't read "IT" until I was an adult, it scared the bejesus out of me.
Even though I didn’t read “IT” until I was an adult, it scared the bejesus out of me.

I am a huge Stephen King fan but I wasn’t able to summon the mental fortitude to read his book IT until a couple years ago. After having seen the Tim Curry TV movie I was honestly too terrified to crack the book. I have always been an avid reader and I know that books are almost always scarier than TV or movies. Our minds can go places no one else can and my mind can be a very scary place indeed.

That being said, I was over the moon excited about the film adaptation. They were going to split it into two films AND it was to be directed by True Detective genius Cary Fukunaga. The only sticking point was the actor they cast as Pennywise the clown, a relative newcomer named Will Poulter who was in the Jason Sudeikis comedy, We’re The Millers. I was intrigued though because Poulter, while relatively unknown, might be a good choice simply because he is unknown. I have wracked my brain trying to think who could possibly fill Tim Curry’s amazingly twisted shoes as Pennywise and could not really come up with anyone. I think a newcomer would be a welcome addition because expectations are low and therefore, the hope is that Poulter can only meet them and then some.


“We all float down here.”


 

You can imagine my disappointment when Fukunaga walked recently from being the director. He has since been replaced by  Andy Muschietti, the director behind the Guillermo Del Toro-produced Mama. 

Sigh.

Did you see Mama? It did nothing for me and I have to wonder, does this guy have the chops to take on something as huge as IT? Will the same theory about Poulter hold true for Muschietti? Maybe someone relatively unknown is better. I’m not sure because the reasons that Fukunaga left are because he and the studio could not agree on the direction of the film. Fukunaga had a “vision” people and Muschietti will do what he is told. I’m not sure how to feel about this. I know that no matter what, I will be seeing IT but until I see an actual trailer for the film, I won’t be able to decide if it’s worth my time or not.


Poulter in “We’re The Millers” – Funny, sure, but can he be Pennywise?


 

Not to mention, what about Beverly? Who is going to play what is essentially one of the most important roles in the film? Certainly, the most important female role in the film. It needs to be someone with chops, with a soft toughness that translates well for the character. If you’ve read IT you also know the bizarro ending King put in there that involves Beverly and all the boys in their group. I’m not sure if that ending would translate all that well onto film. It was strange to me in the book, though I think I understand why it was there, but it would be even stranger (and maybe even disturbing) for the film. There’s a lot about Stephen King’s IT that might be weird on film and I’m VERY curious to see how someone would bring such a strange, mystical and horrific book to life in a  way that would both terrify and intrigue audiences.

I blame Tim Curry for my hatred of clowns.
I blame Tim Curry for my hatred of clowns.

As a writer myself, I would be lying if I didn’t say that I sometimes wonder how my books would translate into film and I wonder what someone would do to adapt them. Stephen King is no stranger to adaptations of his work and some of them have even been really good (The Green Mile, Shawshank Redemption, Carrie and Pet Cemetery are just a few) and some of them have been really pretty bad (sadly The Stand (my favorite King book ever) did not stand up after all these years and the TV adaptation of The Shining was pure crap) but I think with someone like King, he has such a HUGE body of work that there’s bound to be a few flops in the mix. I just really hope that IT isn’t one of them.

What do YOU think? Did you read IT? Do you love it? Hate it? Who would you want to see play the main characters and Pennywise? Who would be your dream director? Tell me in the comments!


P.S. Come see ME and 19 other Rhode Island Authors this Saturday at Barnes & Noble on Bald Hill Rd in Warwick, RI. We’ll be there from 1-3pm signing and selling our books!

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The Female Perspective: “The Darkangel Trilogy” – A Review

Welcome! This is a twice-weekly blog* by Author J.L. Metcalf where I discuss anything and everything that strikes my fancy. If you have ideas on what you think I should write about, please send me an email via my website!

For now, sit back, relax and enjoy the blog!

*All views expressed in “The Female Perspective” are those of J.L. Metcalf, not Great Stories, Inc.


If you read this blog that you have some idea that I am a huge book nerd along with being an all-around other stuff kind of nerd. I feel then, as a blogger, to make special note of books that I particularly enjoyed. Recently I’ve read two such books (and a review on the other will be forthcoming), one is The Darkangel Trilogy by Meredith Ann Pierce. I stumbled upon this trio of books while perusing the internet and someone had done an extremely extensive review of the story. It had vampires, a girl on a quest and gargoyles. I was sold.

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Now, to me, I love a good opening line. It doesn’t have to be particularly poetic or inspiring, it doesn’t even have to be a cliff-hanger or dramatic. It simply has to set the tone of the book.

Aeriel rested the broad basket against her hip and adjusted her kirtle. – The Darkangel

See what I mean? I’m instantly curious. Why does Aeriel have a basket? What is a kirtle? What a great name for a character. Is she the main character or is she secondary? All of these questions just from a few simple words.

Book One in "The Darkangel Trilogy"
Book One in “The Darkangel Trilogy”

The plot of the three books is simple. Aeriel (a slave) and her mistress (and sort-of friend) Eoduin are on a mission to collect a certain kind of flower for her sister’s wedding. They are climbing high up on the mountain and Aeriel, we find out, is a clutz and a nervous-nelly. She worries they are going to high for she had heard tales of the Darkangels that swooped from the skies and kidnapped pretty ladies.

It is quickly made apparent that Aeriel is a plain-Jane, she is nowhere near as beautiful and graceful as her dear Eoduin and everyone tells her this. Even the Darkangel (because, yeah, he shows up).

“I am to be your bride,” she said, not questioning. The certainty of it overwhelmed her.

The dark angel looked at her then and laughed, a long, mocking laugh that sent the gargoyles into a screaming, chattering frenzy. “You?” he cried, and Aeriel’s heart shrank, tightened like a knot beneath the bone of her breast. “You be my bride? By the Fair Witch, no. You’re much too ugly.” – The Darkangel

Yeah, Aeriel does not get much love at first.

Book Two in "The Darkangel Trilogy"
Book Two in “The Darkangel Trilogy”

I don’t want to spoil the series for you so I’ll try to sum up without spoilers for you. Basically, Aeriel gets taken by the dark angel to be his servant girl to his twelve wraiths, women he has taken as his bride and stolen their souls, they are thin creatures, barely sane and horrid to look upon. Aeriel also finds herself in the precense of gargoyles, ferocious beasts that really only suffer from a lack of love and attention.

Some stuff happens and we start to see that Aeriel is more than just a slave, she is more than just an “ugly” girl. She is a smart, resourceful woman who manages to make the best out of a really REALLY bad situation. In the darkangels house she lives under the constant threat of death and yet, she manages to find some good in her life.

Sufficed to say, in all three books of The Darkangel Trilogy we get to see Aeriel grow up and become a woman, a force, to be reckoned with. She is tasked with many things throughout the three novels and each task is arduous and damn difficult for her but she does it all.

My biggest complaint about the books is that a few times things are happening and the reader (aka, me) knows exactly what is about to happen and yet our heroine seems clueless and in the dark, that frustrates me because it makes Aeriel seem stupid or slow and she is neither. What I loved about these books is that she isn’t weak, she is extremely resourceful and she is amazingly kind. Even as she grows into a beauty, she never relies on her looks to get her way. She never expects a man to save her. She is her own hero and that, I simply adore.

Book Three of "The Darkangel Trilogy" also known as, "The Pearl At The Soul Of The World" - ack! Doesn't that make you want to read it?
Book Three of “The Darkangel Trilogy” also known as, “The Pearl At The Soul Of The World” – ack! Doesn’t that make you want to read it?

In a world where vampire novels are a dime a dozen The Darkangel Trilogy deserves your time. It is a new take on a classic villain and besides that, it’s not even really about vampires! It’s about an entire WORLD that Pierce creates that rivals some of the stuff that Tolkien or Martin have created (granted, it is not nearly as in-depth as their works). It’s a series written by a woman about  a woman who is able to be the best parts about feminism and humanity.

I can say with 100% certainty that if you are into fantasy literature, then this series is for you.

To purchase, click here!

Have YOU read The Darkangel Trilogy? If so, did you love it? Hate it? Feel indifferent about? Want to make tiny babies with Talb? Tell me about it in the comments section!