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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.

11-22-63

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.

card-1963

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: 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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Case Files: Horror Movie Franchises Gone Wrong

Chris Mills is the founder of Great Stories and sometimes blogger.  He enjoys coffee, hockey, strategy games, traveling with his wife, and tracking the movements of his favorite vigilante.

I know it has been a while since I have written a proper blog here at Great Stories.  But I was moved to write this little piece after experiencing some disappointment in some recent movie choices.  Netflix streaming services have been a blessing for movie fanatics, such as me.  There is never a shortage of choices, and new content being added every week.  Horror movies, in particular, are always in plentiful supply.  So after I cheated on Netflix by renting Jupiter Ascending at a local Redbox (that movie was just dreadful), I had to make good with movie partner by settling in for an immediate screen of Leprechaun: Origins.  One of the finest horror movie franchises ever made, the Leprechaun series is known as the playground for the wonderfully talented Warwick Davis (the first ever little person leading man in Hollywood)!

Warwick Davis as the infamous Leprechaun
Warwick Davis as the infamous Leprechaun

His comedic delivery and charisma rivals that of his contemporary Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger.  The result?  A movie villain that you find hard to route against!  Yes, while Davis has made a career of dispatching pesky greed hounds trying to get his gold, he is without a doubt both the protagonist and antagonist of every movie.  Quite the conundrum for those people who like to square things away in tidy little categorical boxes, but for those of us who just enjoy B-rated cinema, it is sheer delight.  OK, back on point about the latest sequel.  With the wife sitting in a Dean College classroom, the TV was mine, and I was not to be denied.  Hitting the play icon, I sunk back in my seat for another fun romp with a wise-cracking Irish mythical menace, when I suddenly spied the words WWE Films on my screen.  NO NO NO NO NO NO!  Have they ever produced anything approaching decent quality?  I think not!  But, it’s alright.  My man Warwick was going to set things right with his wit, passion for the role, and on-screen presence…..but wait.  No mention of him in the opening credits.  Could it be?  Yes, they did it.  They made a Leprechaun movie without the ingredient that made this series so wonderful.  How could you WWE?  I soldiered on, however, and watched the catastrophe unfold before my eyes.  And by the time the credits rolled, Leprechaun: Origins had not so much undone a franchise, as it had revealed itself as some inferior cinematic doppleganger, lacking any of the endearing charms (lucky or not!) of the previous entries.  The other films did not take themselves too seriously, and as a viewer, that disarming quality can allow one to bask in the sugary and not so nutritious type of film without any trace of guilt.  The fact that the makers of Origins did not retain the sense of humor or the iconic character is not so much the crime, however.  It is doing all of this and then having the audacity to slap the Leprechaun franchise tag on the whole affair is where I take most umbrage.  Had they made their own movie under a different title, I may have actually enjoyed this one far more.  Is this a reasonable position, or perhaps just some middle-aged movie tantrum?  Who knows?  But my head and heart are certainly aligned on this one.

Fun Fact:  Jennifer Aniston's big screen debut was in Leprechaun way back in 1993!
Fun Fact: Jennifer Aniston’s big screen debut was in Leprechaun way back in 1993!

WWE and Leprechaun: Origins are far from alone in this criticism.  Horror cinema is chock full of franchises that churn out sequel after sequel on relatively short money, milking their creative properties for all they are worth.  And more often than not, the artistic integrity suffers.  Quantity over quality is far too often the modus operandi.  Leigh Wannell and James Wan created a masterpiece in the movie Saw, but the series has (in my opinion) been dragged into the depths of repetition and cheap gore-induced shock horror.  Properties like Poltergeist, Friday the 13th and Nightmare of Elm St have been resurrected by studios intent to seize upon recognizable trademarks with proven commercial success without really telling any new stories and “re-making” what should have just been left alone.  And it is all too rare to have a horror franchise release a sequel that meets or exceeds the standard set by the forerunner (Aliens, 28 Weeks Later, and Phantasm 2 being examples of those aforementioned rarities).

Enough already!
Enough already!

Picking on horror films is easy…there are plenty of obvious targets to be had.  I say this as a huge fan of the genre.  I am perfectly willing to sit through many bad movies to find the diamonds in the rough.  I just want to see film-makers have a bit more respect for their viewing audience as they go about their job.  Horrors (along with their polar-opposite romantic comedies) may be the least-respected genre of film to the critics out there, but there is no reason for the artists and creators to put the exclamation point on the punch line.  The fans don’t care what they (the critics) have to say anyway, so it is my hope that when the next studio decides to cash in on a name, they exhibit a small ounce of integrity by not changing the characteristics that best define that intellectual properties success.  Oops….too late!

Who sold out Cujo?
Who sold out Cujo?

As I write this, news has broken of a remake of Stephen King’s Cujo.  The new movie will be entitled C.U.J.O. (Canine Unit Joint Operations).  Seriously….this is what I am talking about Hollywood!  King’s chilling story of a neighborhood pet driven mad by rabies seems to be getting the very poor Ally Sheedy “Man’s Best Friend” treatment.  Stephen King can’t be happy about this, can he?

I would love to hear your thoughts!

-Chris

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The Female Perspective: Book vs. Movie, Why Are Some Adaptations So Bad and Does It Matter?

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!


Turning books, graphic novels or comics into movies is nothing new. We see it all the time (because Hollyweird can’t seem to come up with their own ideas these days) and what continually fascinates me is the fact that people get hung up on details that aren’t translated “correctly”. Take, for example, “The Hunger Games” – I remember hearing people complain that the cat was the wrong color. I also heard recently that someone was disgruntled with “Daredevil” because Matt Murdock wasn’t a ginger and that Kingpin wasn’t “big enough”. These types of complaints are the norm when adaptations happen. The fact is, there is no adaptation that will ever satisfy everyone. That being said, I also think that people need to relax a bit.

Daredevil is available now on Netflix. It's well worth the watch!
Daredevil is available now on Netflix. It’s well worth the watch!

This is in no way a judgement on people being upset that something they loved wasn’t translated word for word. I know their pain, there have been plenty of adaptations that have broken my heart for taking something that seems important to me and completely omitting it or ignoring it in the adaptation.

So what’s the solution?

There really isn’t one, what I’ve found is that I go into these adaptations with an open mind and low expectations. I try not to hope too much that they’ll translate it word-for-word. I go in knowing that there will be changes and I may hate them. I mean, take a look “World War Z” – it’s this fantastic book that’s an oral history of the Zombie outbreak. It’s broken up into chapters about different people’s struggles before, during and after the outbreak. It’s a brilliant novel and I was psyched to see the movie. Then I saw the movie…the only similarity between the movie and the book is the title. I quickly realized this and let go of my expectations and allowed myself to just enjoy the action/adventure film they had turned it into. Was I 100% pleased? No. Did I manage to enjoy it? Yes. Do I hope they never do it again? Uh, yeah. Please don’t get my hopes up again!

Movie and Book could not have been more different. A disappointment but not the worst by far.
Movie and Book could not have been more different. A disappointment but not the worst by far.

This doesn’t always happen of course, sometimes I come out of the movie royally peeved off that the directors and screenwriters did a horrible job – didn’t they have any respect for the source material??? No other place is this easier to see than in the many, MANY poorly done Stephen King adaptations. I personally loved “The Shawshank Redemption”, “Carrie” and “The Mist” but I was really disappointed in “The Stand” TV series (it does not hold up after all these years) and the remake of “Carrie” was a disaster.

The remake of "Carrie" was horrid, especially when compared to the horror masterpiece of the original.
The remake of “Carrie” was horrid, especially when compared to the horror masterpiece of the original.

The fact is, we all know that there are bigger issues at hand but the thing about entertainment is that it makes us forget the stress of our lives, the problems in the world (and the upcoming Presidential election…more on that later this week) and to be disappointed by our entertainment is a weirdly devastating blow. We want to be taken away and left feeling happy! Movie studios just don’t care about the fans of the source material, they want to create a movie that makes money and appeals to a large quantity of people.

I want to hope that upcoming adaptations, such as “The Dark Tower” series that’s been rumored, “The Stand” movie series and the many other upcoming adaptations on their way satisfy the fans and the masses. That might be a bit too much to hope for though. Oh well, my fingers are crossed!

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What was your least favorite adaptation? What was your favorite? Let me know!

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The Female Perspective: April Fools Fun!

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!


It’s April Fools Day, a day that I find equal parts amusing and annoying. I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of playing or having tricks played on me. Maybe that makes me a party poop but hey, such is life! I know it’s part of the day.

To that end, I wanted to do a quick post today about some of the funnier, more annoying posts I’ve come across today. Read on and be amused! And come back on Friday for your regularly scheduled post.

graphic1

1. Stephen King will write for The Walking Dead

Today a post has been making the rounds saying that Mr. King is going to pen the season opener for next years Walking Dead (I totally fell for it too). Which is an intriguing concept and it definitely made me click the link to read more, I then read about how he’s going to kill a bunch of people off, including the guy with the crossbow. Hmmmm…perhaps this is fake?

Click the link to see! (It’s pretty funny)

2. Voltron Kitty Condo

The Voltron Kitty Condo!
The Voltron Kitty Condo!

Every year, ThinkGeek creates some pretty funny gag items that make you laugh and also make you kind of hopeful. This years crop is no different, they include a 360-degree Selfie Stick and this awesome Voltron Kitty Condo that I really wish was real! They also have some awesome Power Wheels Desert Drifters, straight outta Mad Max!

3. Alex & Ani Bought Naming Rights to Rhode Island

The smallest state with the longest name, just got longer thanks to Alex & Ani.
The smallest state with the longest name, just got longer thanks to Alex & Ani.

This one really cracked me up, not only is the title enough to make you want to click, the article attached is actually very funny. Well done Motif Magazine!

4. CERN Researches Confirm the Existence of The Force

Real the Force Is...
Real the Force Is…

I love this one, its fun and … well, fun!

“The Force is what gives a particle physicist his powers,” said CERN theorist Ben Kenobi of the University of Mos Eisley, Tatooine.

Click here for the full story!

Those are some of my fave’s, what about you? Did you see any really juice April Fools Jokes flying around? Share them in the comments!

Happy April!

 

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The Female Perspective: My Favorite Book Is…

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!


I thought that I would change things up a bit today and write about something dear to my heart, books. I admit it, I have an addiction to the written word (duh) and I cannot possibly ever have enough books. Not eBooks mind you but REAL, physical books. To that end I sat down today and tried to contemplate what my “favorite” book is.

Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy.

The fact is, I had to go with the book that has made the biggest impact upon me, the book I read over and over again on an almost yearly basis. Each time I read it, I find some new nugget of wisdom, some new moment or some new lesson.

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For me, that book would have to be Stephen King’s The Stand. It is by far one of the most well written of his works and the sheer expanse of the book can be overwhelming to most. At a healthy 1,472 pages you don’t read this book unless you are serious about it.

For those of you who haven’t picked up this novel yet (and shame on you, kidding!) The Stand is Stephen King’s answer to the “end of the world” genre. He doesn’t create zombies or a flood or any other type of disaster. No, King decides that the world will be caused by a mistake at a military base that studies (and creates) nasty, nasty germs. This particular bug is dubbed the “super flu” by many and “Captain Tripps” by others. It’s a truly devastating virus, causing delusions, high fever, lots of gross mucous and the infamous “tube neck” – it ends up killing about 80% of the human population in the span of a month or so.

But that’s not all…

King diabolically crafts a story about death and disease but includes a true battle between good and evil. The “good” being the folks who meet up with a 108-year old woman named Mother Abigail. They make camp in Denver, Colorado (that was oddly the scene of a mass exodus during the epidemic so it is strongly lacking in corpses like so many cities). They are a varied group of survivors. From the musician and playboy, Larry Underwood to the stoic and brave cowboy that is Stu Redman. They know, from dreams they all have that evil  is preparing for an onslaught and they have to prepare themselves.

The “evil” is represented by Randall Flagg, also know as “the walking dude” or “the black man” – he is a creature made of pure evil. He is unsure of his past but he knows he has been an integral part of so many uprisings and brings a feeling of dread to everyone he meets (even his followers). This camp sets up in Las Vegas (of course!) and includes criminal Lloyd Henreid (as his lieutenant) and The Trashcan Man (who is an insane pyromaniac who actually ends up being a sort-of hero). This camp is made up of criminals, drug addicts and confused souls who though that “the walking dude” was the right path for them.

Randall Flagg is one bad man...or creature...
Randall Flagg is one bad man…or creature…

Where Flagg is a tyrant, Mother Abigail is a welcoming and open soul. Flagg crucifies people who don’t follow his “rules” while Mother Abigail mostly leaves her people alone to do their (and God’s) will. It’s a wonderful study in duality. We see that the world truly can be broken into two camps, good and bad, God and The Devil. It’s also a story about redemption and discovering who you are. Many of these folks never had a real purpose in their lives before it the world ended. Nick Andros (one of the “good” guys) is a deaf and mute young man who drifted from town to town, doing odd jobs. He becomes a powerful force and finds that he can be a leader. Same with Larry Underwood, who is said to be “no nice guy” at the start of the book but in the end, manages to summon his strength and bravery and do his best to save his people.

I don’t want to spoil the end (and it’s a good one folks) but I want to say that it’s well worth reading. The Stand might be one of King’s finest works because it doesn’t rely on gore or cheap scares. No, he shows us how great a writer he truly is by crafting a story of biblical proportions.

Nick Andros is an important character and he gets the holy heck beat out of him more than once...
Nick Andros is an important character and he gets the holy heck beat out of him more than once…

Currently, The Stand comes in every format you can imagine and is easily found at bookstores and online. What’s really fun is that it also comes in a graphic novel addition which is well worth a ready. The editors did an awesome job editing this massive story into a comic format. The artwork is a lot of fun and I highly recommend it!

So tell me, what’s YOUR favorite book and why?