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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

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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: 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: Banning Books and Why It’s Dumb

Welcome! This is a Tri-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.


A Look At Banned Books By Printerinks

Banning books (or trying to) is nothing new in America. Parents become outraged and want books of “questionable” material removed from libraries and, so they think, the hands of their innocent children. First, allow me a moment to snicker at the idea of children these days being innocent over the age of 10 (and I’m being generous with that). Okay, I’ve gotten my snicker out of the way and now it’s on to more serious business.

There are a few terms that might confuse someone if they aren’t familiar with them, because I love books, ALL books, even the bad ones (I’m looking at you Fifty Shades of Grey) and I detest the idea of one person trying to choose what another person reads or is able to read. Reading is a privilege, a right and a joy! I would not be the writer/person/weirdo I am today if I hadn’t been able to read whatever I wanted to read when I was a kid. My parents never restricted my reading and I can remember reading Stephen King at 11 or 12, Jackie Collins around 13 and tons of stuff that the folks who want to ban books would be horrified about.  Gosh, I read Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying when I was 14 I think and I remember be scandalized at some of her ideas…but also inspired.

What Does It Mean To Ban or Challenge A Book?

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There are two things that a person intent on interfering with the right to free speech can do. They can challenge a book or ask for a book to be banned. What’s the difference? Is a challenge where the person against the book and the book itself face off in a duel of wits? If so, my money’s on the book honestly.

A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.  A banning is the removal of those materials.  Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.  Due to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection.

American Library Association

This is heartening to read for a book lover/nerd/geek like me because librarians are the stewards of a lot of our school libraries and other collections. They supposedly became a librarian because they had a love of book that made them want to be around them all the time. I have mad respect for librarians and I enjoy libraries, they’re such peaceful, beautiful places that simply smell…well, if you go to the library, you know the smell of delicious old books!

Banning Books and Concerned Parents/Parental Groups

Every year there is a celebration of all banned books, September 2015 is your chance to take part!
Every year there is a celebration of all banned books, September 2015 is your chance to take part!

The fact is, parents and other “concerned” groups challenge books pretty much all the time. I came across a story about a group of concerned parents who wanted to ban Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye because it contained material unsuitable for children under the age of 18. By whose standards exactly? As I said above, I was reading stuff that according to these parents, would have been unsuitable for my delicate eyes.

One of the books being questioned is called ‘The Bluest Eye’ by award-winning author Toni Morrison – about a young African-American girl after the Great Depression – and deals with issues including racism, incest and child molestation. – NBC-2.com

The fact is, The Bluest Eye does contain explicit and potentially upsetting material. That’s kind of the point of the book. It’s also meant to portray a life that many will (luckily) never know but that’s the thing about books, they transport you, for good or bad, into the shoes of another person. They teach you stuff. Sometimes the stuff is really great (like in books like The Wizard of Oz or The Hobbit) and you are transported to a wonderful place that you wish with all your heart was real. Sometimes the books take you to a horrible place you never want to visit (like The Stand or Fifty Shades of Grey or The Road by Cormac McCarthy). Even the books that horrify you are teaching you something. They’re teaching you about your own likes and dislikes, they’re teaching you about who you are.

Does this mean that I want a 5-year-old reading about sex and violence? No. Would I ban the book to keep them away from it? No. I would be a concerned and involved parent and I would KNOW what my 5-year old was reading (wait, do 5-year olds read?)…same goes for an 8-year-old or older. I think banning books is toeing the line to burning them and we cannot allow that happen. I mean heck, I don’t ever throw books away, they are always donated or sold if I no longer want them- which is not really something that happens. My books are my friends and I treasure them, they comfort me and sometimes they overwhelm me, especially when my “To Be Read” pile is a huge stack taller than I am!

FYI, The Bible was banned in the USSR from 1926 – 1956. The BIBLE for pete’s sake! Add to that the fact that Dr. Seuss’ beloved classic (yes, I said DR. SEUSS), Green Eggs and Ham was banned in China from 1965 – 1991 for its portrayal of Marxism (click here for more crazy book banning facts). You can tell that anything can get banned for a period of time if it is deemed “offensive” by parties in power. That’s what makes it so scary, I mean, there are kids in China who didn’t get to learn about green eggs and ham!  Seriously though, it seems arbitrary what books get banned and it’s offensive to me in a lot of ways. Not to mention, it is all about perceived opinions, not fact.

The First Amendment

The First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees our right to free speech, which includes the right to read and write books that might be considered by some to be too violent, hateful, or offensive. Because this freedom is one of our fundamental rights as Americans, some people feel that any form of censorship is wrong. Most people fall somewhere in the middle, believing that people should be free to read whatever they choose, but that in some rare instances censorship is acceptable.

According to the ALA President Carol Brey-Casiano, “Not every book is right for every person, but providing a wide range of reading choices is vital for learning, exploration, and imagination. The abilities to read, speak, think, and express ourselves freely are core American values.”

Some people feel that schools, libraries, and governments should be the judge of what books are good for kids. Others believe that kids or their parents should have the freedom to decide for themselves, and shouldn’t have others’ viewpoints imposed on them. –Infoplease.com

That last point is what really speaks to me, it shouldn’t be up to the government, the library or even schools to decide what is right or wrong for someone to read. It should be up to the kids parents, plain and simple. A parent’s job is to look out for the welfare of their children, this means keeping an eye on their internet usage, their Smartphone usage and what they read. It’s about being involved in their life.

That being said, just because a parent doesn’t like a book for their kid, does not mean it should be banned from a library. What one kid shouldn’t read, another probably should. Book banning is a symptom of a much larger disease, a much larger sickness in the culture, where a few try to decide the rights of everyone and that, dear readers, is not okay.

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Fight For Your Books!

Book banning has been with the world for as long as any other oppressive force. It doesn’t appear to be going away but what stops it from becoming truly insidious is that people stand up for the books, they stand up for free speech and that even if a book gets banned, it still finds a way to get to the people who need it most and that’s what really matters.

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What do YOU think? Is book banning done with good intentions? Are the parents crazy to even bother? Should they simply become more involved? Tell me what you think in the comments!