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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: You Should Be Watching…

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.


Are you looking for a new TV show to enjoy? Do you enjoy dystopian fiction? Post-apocalyptic craziness with teens and adults? Romance? Double crossing? Swordplay? Then I’ve got the perfect show for you! The 100 is seriously one of the best shows that I finally just caught up with recently. My boyfriend has been telling me to watch it for awhile now and I just didn’t have the time. Fortunately, a cold laid me up for a few days and it was the perfect time to binge watch The 100 on Netflix until I caught up to the current Season 3.

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The 100 is based on a trilogy of books by author Kass Morgan released in 2013. According to Wikipedia, TV execs were interested in the stories before the books were officially published and the show premiered in 2014 on the CW. (Authors note: That is one extremely lucky author. I’ve never heard of a book being optioned before it’s even published! I’m super jealous now.) The show itself has a fairly simple, if depressing premise, 97 years after the world is (supposedly) destroyed by nuclear bombs we find that humanity has managed to survive by living on space stations, called The Arc, but their time is running out, their air is running out. To help save air and to also see if the Earth is habitable (though science and logic say it takes about 200 years for the world to clear after nuclear war but hey, it’s TV!), the powers that be on The Arc decide to send the juvenile delinquents/offenders down to Earth, and guess how many of them there are? You guessed it! 100 teenagers go down to Earth and find that Earth is actually livable, sort of.

What the kids quickly come to discover is that Earth is not all it’s cracked up to be, yeah sure there are trees and fresh air and flowers and radioactive butterfly’s, but there are also people throwing spears and running through the woods in pretty fearsome ensembles. Which can mean only one thing, Earth harbors survivors.

These kids seriously never get a break, from the moment they land on Earth things go sideways crazy. Grounders (the habitants of the Earth post-war) run rampant and we soon learn about the Mountain Men as well. There’s lots to fear on this new Earth, not the least of which is a 2-headed deer that roams majestically through the forest and acid fog that kills in bloodthirsty fashion.

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Things aren’t looking up for the grownups on the Arc either, they are running out of air faster than expected and everyone is angry and looking for a way out of their space Hell. It’s a compelling story in many ways, not the least of which is that what turns out happening is that women end up being pretty much in charge. The main character, Clarke Griffin (played by Eliza Taylor) is quickly shown to be strong, smart and more than capable of wrangling these kids who have become a hipster-esque post-apocalyptic version of Lord Of The Flies. Her mother (the main doctor on The Arc) is equally in control up in space. Then, when we meet the Grounder’s leader, we see that it is also a woman.

It’s freakin’ fantastic.

I cannot stress enough how surprised and pleased I was to discover that women seem to be the ones running things in this new world. Sure, it’s not perfect, but what is? What I really dig about The 100 is the fact that characters are constantly changing. Someone I think is a really dink turns out to be smart and savvy. A love triangle that could have bogged the show down for season after season instead resolves itself in an episode or two and it’s dang refreshing, it’s adult but yet, it’s about teenagers. It’s a paradox of themes and ideas and yet, they all work astoundingly well.

Take one of my favorite characters, Octavia, not only does she have a fabulous name, but she also becomes this total bad-ass warrior woman by the current season 3. She starts out kind of devil may care, party girl but quickly, once confronted with death of someone she loves and her own injuries and more, she becomes stronger and more capable than you would have expected when you first meet her. It’s smart writing. It’s a smart show. It reminds me that writing smart young women is actually something that can happen (and something that the writers on Supergirl should take note of). I used to think that TV shows on the CW were silly and boring tales of soap opera romance but with such hits like The Arrow and The Flash and now The 100, I have definitely rethought my stance on the CW. It’s a network that isn’t afraid to take chances with it’s shows and it makes them better, smarter and infinitely more enjoyable to watch.

The Arc
The Arc

Currently The 100 is in the middle of its 3rd season and has been getting some heat lately due to the death of a prominent character who was also a lesbian. Many are saying that killing off a lesbian character is unfair and “too fast” but the fact is, it made sense for the timeline of the show, it had to happen to keep things moving forward. This season is ripe with political intrigue that mirrors our own current political quagmire as well as raising issues of what’s right and what’s wrong in a world at war and complex themes of love and honor. It’s what makes the show as smart and interesting as it is. Is the 3rd season as good as seasons 1 and 2? The jury is still out on that one, I for one was kind of glad the character died last week because I thought she weakened the story a bit and it was getting a bit tired. It’s a brutal world they live in now and death happens a lot, it makes sense on this Earth.

Regardless of any controversy, The 100 is a show worth checking out. If you are a fan of strong women who know how to fight for what’s right (hopefully) then you’ll enjoy the holy heck out of The 100!

Have you seen The 100? Do you love it/hate it? Tell me why in the comments! Do you have any show recommendations? Tell me!

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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.

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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.

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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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