Is There Such a Thing as “Too Much” Story?

Hi everybody! It’s been a hot minute since I’ve posted anything. I keep meaning to post more book reviews but I always feel the need to read multiple books at once and I just end up slowing myself down. You all know how it is.
Today, though, I wanted to talk about something I’ve noticed other book nerds and authors talking about which is: when should a story truly end? This whole conversation has been spurred on by the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald, which is the much anticipated (and slightly controversial) sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I haven’t seen the movie yet so I can’t give my opinion on it but it got me thinking about franchises and if there really is such a thing as ending a story, especially when it is incredibly popular. (Note: I’m mostly going to be focusing on mediums like books, movies, and television. I’m not going to be talking about anime or video games as I don’t know much about those mediums and they would warrant their own discussion.) 

Let’s start with examples of franchises who have done a great job with universe expansion. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is the first one that comes to mind. First off, the franchise has lasted for a decade now with some of the most successful trilogies and crossovers in the history of film. Regardless of whether you are in this fandom or not, you have to admit that the MCU has done an incredible job with story telling. They took the usual superhero story formula and found ways to twist it and shape into nuanced and interesting stories. They’ve introduced characters and remade characters that were, at one point, laughable. While MCU hasn’t “ended” certain characters’ stories, they have realized that other characters deserve a spotlight. Audiences are still getting answers about the original characters as well as the new characters. These have even spawned successful tv series. When they decide to “end” certain characters’ stories, audiences will still have other characters to follow. That is what will keep a franchise going. (Granted, MCU does have a vast collection of source material to choose from.) Comic book based franchises have always tended to do the best. The DC tv shows have been some of my favorites in the past couple of years because they took notes from MCU. These franchises know how to  keep audiences looking for more at the end of each episode or movie, just as the original source material did. 

Other franchises, however, have done this without a printed source material. The Star Wars franchise is a really good example of this. The newest trilogy has done a great job introducing compelling new characters and reviving the lore that fans want to learn more about. This is also what Fantastic Beasts has done and I truly enjoyed the first movie. What all of these franchises have in common is they know how to revive stories instead of just redoing the same old thing or trying to do too much with newer things that fans don’t care about. Taking it back to the printed word, authors often can’t help but  continue world building. JK Rowling is constantly dropping little tidbits about the Harry Potter series and, while I do love it, it can also be exhausting sometimes.  There are authors like James Patterson who are just constantly releasing books in every genre and it’s hard to get excited about these books anymore because you just can’t keep up with these series. It is really hard to get audiences excited when they have a market that is so saturated with extended franchises. That is why the actual world building process has to be carefully though out, like the MCU. The Harry Potter series has a really rich history and has characters like Newt Scamander, who have their own adventures. Authors, writers, and directors who genuinely care about their creative properties are going to have the most success in having a long lasting series. 

Let’s get to the franchises that flop. The biggest reason for this is because of money. Horror movie series are the biggest offenders of this. Over the summer, I saw the newest Jurassic Park movie and you could tell they tried really hard to make it fresh and new. At the end of the day, though, dinosaurs ate people and no one learned anything. JK Rowling is going to be mentioned in this section as well for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The play fell victim to its own hype. The lore got muddled in the process. The new characters fell flat while the older characters didn’t get any proper development. It shouldn’t feel like the writers are reaching for substance. I’m also fully aware that finances plays a part in why some of these franchises feel the need to keep going but, I’m not going to focus on that too much. The lack of involvement of the original authors has also caused problems. Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson series, has spoken about how he regrets not being involved in the movie adaptation process. You can’t just cobble together a franchise because one particular part worked out nicely. 

In conclusion, franchises can be kept alive if it is a well thought-out effort on everyone’s part. It is perfectly fine to end a franchise, even if fans will be sad about it. It is better to have a fulfilling ending than an empty sequel. There really is no such thing as “too much story” when the story is written in a dynamic and thorough way. 

Thanks for sticking around if you made it this far. I really appreciate it. Let me know your opinions about franchises and extended universes. 

Where the World Ends is Where You Must Begin: Reviewing The Gunslinger (Book One of The Dark Tower Series) by Stephen King

Hi everyone! It’s time for me to stop padding this blog with random posts and start giving you some actual book reviews. I was grateful to receive the entire Dark Tower series from my aunt not too long ago. I have mentioned in the past that it has been awhile since I have read a series. I’m also a Stephen King fan so this was all very serendipitous. Now, here are my thoughts on The Gunslinger. 

The mysterious man called the Gunslinger is on the hunt for the equally enigmatic Man in Black. As he travels across the desert, the Gunslinger must survive many magical obstacles in his path as well as protect Jake, a kid from Earth in order to reach his arch nemesis. King’s mix of epic fantasy and classical Western tales provides a surreal backdrop for the thrilling and dark tale of the Gunslinger and his quest.

As you have probably seen, I have reviewed King’s horror novels in the past but I have not read one of his non-horror novels yet. The Gunslinger had a surreal and gritty atmosphere that brings together all of the classic elements of a Western story with the kind of fantasy I’ve read in Lord of the Rings. The story is certainly not structured in any traditional way. It took me a bit to realize that as the story simply flows together and isn’t broken up by so many chapters. The Gunslinger is actually a quick read but the story makes you pay attention to detail as King certainly follows the “show don’t tell” rule of story telling. I finished this book feeling intrigued. King does inject his usual gory form of story telling into this novel, so you have been warned if you are sensitive to violence. At times, the writing did carry a certain sexual overtone that made me a little uncomfortable. It wasn’t enough to deter me but, again, you may not enjoy this if you are sensitive to this kind of content. In the end, I found myself very intrigued by The Gunslinger. I love the mashup of two very different genres and will definitely be reading the rest of the series. I’ll go ahead and recommend this novel to fans of fantasy novels. The Gunslinger is an epic exercise in pushing the limits of action and fantasy.

Note: I know the movie adaptation came out a year ago or so. I haven’t seen it but let me know if you think it is worth watching. I would like to know.

How I Pick My Novels

Hi everyone! I’m both glad (and not so glad) to be back home. I had spend this past weekend in New Jersey and New York. One of my college graduation presents was tickets to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway so I was beyond excited. I also got to visit Sleepy Hollow. Overall, it was a very exciting weekend. Now that I’m back, I decided to do a blog inspired by a author/Youtuber I follow, Jenna Moreci. Some of you may have heard of her as she has recently released her debut novel, The Savior’s Champion. She is very funny so I definitely recommend you look up her channel. She recently did a video called “How I Choose My Novels.” Naturally, I’m copying her. All credit goes to Jenna Moreci for this.

Genre: Like the rest of you, I have preferred genres. All of them fall under the fiction category. Within that, I like to see which genre I haven’t read recently so I can mix it up. I also like to see novels that break genre. I want to give myself a variety, as well as you who read my blogs.

Author: Normally, I don’t concern myself with authors too much but, obviously, I do gravitate towards my favorite author. I also like to know which authors are up-and-coming so I can hop on a bandwagon. I like being a part of fandom, as do a lot of you.

Reviews: There are many books I’ve picked up solely because I heard many people enjoyed it. Reviews really do have an impact on which books I choose. In fact, your reviews have helped me pick books. I prefer to read book by average readers rather than professional critics. I feel like professional critics can be “too” judgmental at times. I just want to know if a book was good or not. I don’t want an analysis.

Book Length: As much as I would love to read super long books, I don’t always have the time or the patience. I tend to have a short attention span so I’ll avoid thicker books. I would love to buckle down and read something like Les Miserables or War and Peace but, let’s be real, my last three brain cells wouldn’t be able to handle that.

The Blurb: Ah yes, the might blurb! I must read the blurb of every book in the store before I make a decision. A vague blurb isn’t going to interest me and a long blurb is going to lose my attention. I need a nice sized-blurb with just enough detail. The blurb is what’s going to sell your book.

The Cover: Unlike the popular phrase, I do judge books by their cover. I even did a post where I talked about book covers. A nice, eye-catching cover is the first thing that makes me pick up a book. I’m not going to gravitate toward something with a bland cover or a cover with too much happening. I will most definitely avoid a book with a movie poster as the cover. (I think it’s tacky but that’s just me.) We do judge books by their covers and we can all admit it.

 

Bookish Mysteries and Conspiracies

Hi everyone! I’m heading out of town this week so hopefully I’ll get some reading done. Since it is October, however, I decided to compile a list for you all about real life crimes and mysteries surrounding famous authors and/or their novels. I’ll leave links with more information if you find yourself intrigued. Let me know if I missed any or if you have a favorite. I love true crime as much as I love fictional crime.

The Life, Death, and Drama of Edgar Allan Poe: Poe, my favorite author lived a life that was just as macabre as any of his stories. Did he predict a real life ship wreck? Was his death a suicide, an accident, or a murder? Who paid tribute to him years after his death? To this day, we may never know the real story behind the godfather of gothic fiction.

The Disappearance (and Discovery) of Agatha Christie: In December of 1926, famous mystery author Agatha Christie disappeared in the early hours of the morning for eleven days. She remembered absolutely nothing and was found in perfectly good health. Many have speculated as to what happened but no one knows the answer except Christie herself. (Note: Doctor Who did an episode about Christie’s disappearance called “The Unicorn and The Wasp.” I highly recommend it.)

Did Shakespeare Even Exist?: This is quite possibly of one the oldest and most famous author related-mysteries. Is it possible that the greatest playwright of all time never actually existed? Theories range from Shakespeare being a collective group of people, a single female author, or even the pseudonym of Sir Francis Bacon. The topic is still up for debate.

The Voynich Manuscript aka The Most Mysterious Book Ever Written: Named after its discoverer, the Voynich Manuscript is a codex written in an unknown language and filled with illustrations that seem to be of an alien planet. Many have tried to decipher this book but no one has been successful. Who (or what) wrote the Voynich Manuscript?

The Disappearance of Ambrose Bierce: Years before Christie disappeared and reappeared, Ambrose Bierce took a trip to Mexico and never returned. Most known for his psychological horror stories, Bierce captured America’s imagination during the Civil War then he vanished into thin air. No one knows what happened to him and his body was never found.

Was Albert Camus Killed by the KGB?: Albert Camus, author of The Stranger and a Nobel Prize winner, was killed in a car accident on his way to visit his family, or was he? A new theory has emerged that Camus was killed by the KGB after publishing an article that criticized Russia’s military. Is there more to Camus’ death or was it simply a tragic accident?

The Book Sent by the Angels Themselves: John Dee, famous mathematician and occultist, found the Book of Soyga. This manuscript consists of 40,000 randomly distributed letters and, when decoded, reveals magic spells, astrological charts, and alchemy. Dee claims to have contacted the archangel Uriel in order to reveal the secrets of the book. Also, legend has it that anyone who decodes the book will perish in two-and-a-half years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Wants To Live Forever?: Reviewing The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

Hi everyone! I know it has been way too long since I’ve posted last. I’m trying not to neglect this blog but life happens sometimes and, unfortunately, that prevents me from reading. Anyways, I wanted to talk about a novel that I went in knowing nothing about and only picked up because I heard good reviews. Sometimes, you never know what you’re going to find. I will now tell you about Chloe Benjamin’s The Immortalists. 

In the summer of 1969, Daniel Gold heard rumors of a woman in his apartment building who could predict the future. Eager to know his fate, he convinces his three siblings to come with him and they each learned what day they would die on. Over the next fifty years, the Gold siblings must deal with this information. The youngest, Simon, runs away to San Francisco with no direction. Klara studies to become a magician, dreaming that she may defy death. Daniel struggles to maintain his career as an Army doctor. The oldest, Varya, studies longevity. As the lives of the Gold siblings unfold, each must learn what it means to live forever and what to do when you know on what day your life will end.

Like I said, I picked up this book with no real expectations and I have to say that I was impressed by what I read. Benjamin’s writing has a surreal and almost magical feeling while the plot itself is very much steeped in reality. The characters are very well fleshed out and dynamic in their own ways. The story does span a large amount of time but Benjamin dedicates plenty of time and detail to each story without making it feel as though it’s dragging on. The novel is part love story, part family drama, part mystery, and part tragedy. Benjamin does an excellent job testing the idea of fate versus free will without getting overly philosophical. There’s still plenty of philosophy but it is woven into the story lines. The Immortalists certainly surprised me in all of the best ways and I would definitely recommend this book to anyone.

Between Always and Never: Reviewing Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

Hello everyone! I am finally back with another book review. I mentioned in a previous post about how I really enjoyed the movie adaptation of Aciman’s novel. Of course, it was only natural I read the original novel. I’ll give some comparisons in this review for anyone who might be interested in seeing the movie after reading the novel or vice versa. But first, I will give you my review of Call Me By Your Name. 

Everything changed for Elio when a handsome stranger came to stay at his parents’ summer house. The two find themselves inexplicably drawn to each other as they spend more time together. Elio and Oliver must navigate their way through the passion, obsession, and desire as they hurdle towards a romance that neither was prepared for.

Before I begin this review, I wanted to address the one thing in this novel that everyone takes issue with: the age gap between Elio and Oliver. Elio is about sixteen in the beginning of the novel while Oliver is twenty-three. Nothing about their relationship, however, is predatory for either party. In fact, the age gap is actually an important topic in the novel for both characters. With this being said, Call Me By Your Name is a sentimental and thoughtful novel told through the eyes of Elio, an intelligent and self-conscious young man. The novel is written in a stream-of-consciousness style and keeps a romantic tone without glossing over Elio’s complicated emotions. The characters felt very nuanced and unique in their thoughts and actions. Aciman balances between intimacy and passion in a way that doesn’t detract from the serious underlying topics of this novel. I also want to add that the end of this novel is much more satisfying than the one in the movie. Call Me By Your Name is an exploration in love and sexuality that is unlike any other romance novel out there. I would definitely recommend this novel for any fans of romance or someone who may not be a fan of romance. Call Me By Your Name was thoughtful, touching, and it kept me invested until the very end.

No Good Men Left: Reviewing Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Hello everyone! I was really hoping to post this review sooner but a storm took out the WiFi for a two days then I had to go out of town for a family reunion. The plus side of all of this was that I was finally able to finish this particular novel. I also got a whole new pile of novels plus Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. Be sure to expect more book reviews soon. For now, I will give you my review of Vicious by V.E. Schwab.

Elliot “Eli” Cardale was on the brink of discovery. With the help of his roommate, Victor Vale, they were able to test the boundaries of human nature and unlock something supernatural. Unfortunately, this discovery leads the two brilliant and calculating young men down a dangerous path that they can’t come back from. Years later, Victor and Eli must face off in a merciless battle for revenge.

Vicious is a fast-paced and violent novel that doesn’t hold back. The characters are incredibly interesting as none of them can really be classified as “good guys.” It’s almost up to the reader to decide who the real protagonist is. Like I said, novel is fast-paced and it actually jumps around in time but it doesn’t lead to any confusion. Schwab excellently handles this non-linear story telling. There is plenty of gore and violence but it doesn’t take away from character development. One of the reviewers describes novel as “comic book-like” and I would have to agree with that. In fact, I would love to see this novel in comic book form. In conclusion, I highly recommend Schwab’s Vicious to any one looking for something violent and addictive to read.

The Best (and Worst) Books I Read in High School

Hello everyone! While I would prefer to have a book review by now, I feel like I just haven’t had the time or energy to continue reading. Closing shifts are the worst. Anyone who has worked retail can relate to how I feel. I mentioned in my last post that I wanted to do something like this. I thought about making this about my required reading in grade school but I really don’t remember much of what I read back then. I do, however, have very distinct memories of my Honors English classes in high school. I had some very interesting teachers who had some interesting teaching methods. I can get more into that in another post if you want. (Note: I’m also going to be including plays I read on this list).

The best books I read:

  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (Sophomore Year)
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Junior Year)
  • Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare (Sophomore Year)
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (Junior Year)
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker (Senior Year)
  • The Color of Water by James McBride (Sophomore Year)
  • The Crucible by Arthur Miller (Freshman Year)
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding (Senior Year)
  • Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (Freshman Year)
  • Fences by August Wilson (Junior Year)

The worst books I read (with explanations):

  • Anthem by Ayn Rand: I know a lot of people of Rand but I just couldn’t bring myself to enjoy her writing. This book, in particular, is very confusing as it is written without singular pronouns. That is an important aspect of the book as it is a dystopian novel but it doesn’t make it any less confusing.
  • Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom: I just found this book to be way too sappy for my tastes. I understand the sentiment behind the story but it was just too depressing, even for me.
  • Black Boy by Richard Wright: It always sounds bad when I tell people I didn’t like this book but it’s not because of the subject matter. This book is his autobiography and the first half of the book is incredibly interesting. The second half of the book, however, is all about Communism and it just gets super preachy. The end just felt like a let down.
  • The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros: I’m not a huge fan of poetry but I can always appreciate. This book, however, was too abstract for my tastes. Again, I understand the subject matter but I just thought it was so vague.
  • Seven Events that Made America America by Larry Scheikwart: This book was so bad that my teacher decided to not have us even finish it. It’s written from a very Conservative standpoint and also the events weren’t even that important. The entire book is just this guy ranting about the “liberal media.” It was not something that I cared for in high school and not something I care for now.

Let me know if you read any of these books in high school or tell me your favorites or least favorites. I had some odd experiences in high school English so my experience is probably very different that yours. I’d love to hear about it though.

 

Books I Grew Up With

Hello everyone! I’m not going to begin this post with an apology about not having a book review. You’ll get that when you get that. Since I have moved back home, I have had to do some sorting in my room. My book obsession started early so I had to sort through the years of books I had accumulated. As I was going through all of them, I couldn’t help but reflect on how much some of these series or stand alone-novels piqued my interest in writing. I decided to create a list of some of the most important books that got me through the confusing and whimsical time of childhood. (Note: I am talking about the books I read up to eighth grade. I think I might make another post about the best and worst books I read in high school.)

  • Where would I be without the Harry Potter series? It was the first full length novel I ever read on my own. It was my first real “fandom.” It was the first book that showed me a character like myself. I was Hermione for more than one Halloween. I even had a Harry Potter quote on my graduation cap. To this day, my dedication to this series knows no bounds.
  • One thing a lot of people don’t know about me is that I am fascinated with the paranormal. My interest for this topic began when I started reading R.L. Stein’s Goosebumps series. I read so many of these books. I even wrote book reports about some of the novels. Along with this series, I also read the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series. I still remember being terrified and thrilled by both of these series and I still remember a good portion of what I read.
  • As I got older and entered middle school, the vampire craze swept the nation. I soon fell in love with the Twilight series and the Vampire Diaries series. As cheesy as these books are, I loved the romantic aspect of vampires. The books were more “grown up” than Goosebumps and really played into my romantic side. I give these books credit into easing me into more mature books that I read nowadays.
  • As a lot of you know, I’m a big fan of crime/mystery novels. Obviously, this had to come from somewhere and it came from the Nancy Drew series and A Series of Unfortunate Events. I used to love the Nancy Drew computer games. Much like with Hermione Granger, I saw similarities between myself and Nancy Drew. Lemony Snicket, on the other hand, offered such an interesting writing style full of cynicism, tragedy, and intelligence that most people don’t expect to see in a children’s book. I definitely connected with his writing style. (Note: I highly recommend the Netflix adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events.)
  • Another genre I do love is sci-fi. Scott Westerfield’s The Uglies series only fueled my fascination with the genre. In fact, I am excited to say that Westerfield is releasing another book in the series called Impostors. I am very excited to read it as it takes me way back. I was also a huge fan of James Patterson’s Maximum Ride series. I was incredibly dedicated to that series for a long time. I’m almost sad I lost track of that one. I still own a chunk of the series and have fond memories about them.
  • Going back to the fantasy genre, another book series that I loved (and still love) is the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. It was a natural progression from reading Harry Potter. I was always interested in mythology, particularly Greek mythology. I might even go so far as to say that Riordan might have inspired me to eventually study Latin. (In case you didn’t know, I actually took Latin classes in high school and have a minor in Latin.)
  • I’d be silly not to mention some early childhood staples, such as the Judy Moody series and the Junie B. Jones series. I feel like a good majority of girls latched onto those books in grade school. I was certainly no exception as I lived vicariously through these outspoken characters. Looking back, I might think of Junie and Judy as being kind of bratty but, I have to give them credit where credit is due. I was (and still am) way too nice to be as bold as either of them.
  • I distinctly remember reading the Wayside School series as a child. I feel like this series is somewhat obscure but it was essentially about this grade school that was built like a giant tower and all of the students and teachers would get into wacky adventures in the bizarre building that had no 13th floor. I really hope some of you remember this series because I loved how weird it was.

That is the end of my list. There were a bunch of books I didn’t mention, such as the Magic Treehouse series and A Wrinkle in Time. Let me know what kind of book you read as a kid. Maybe there were some I forgot or some I didn’t read fully. Either way, I’d love to know about your favorite childhood books.

The Princess, the Damsel, the Queen, and You: Reviewing The Princess Saves Herself in this One by Amanda Lovelace

Hello everyone! I know I had promised another book review to you earlier but (of course) I get sidetracked with other books because I have no self control. Back to the topic at hand, I am excited to talk to you about Amanda Lovelace’s first collection of poetry, the princess saves herself in this one. I may have mentioned that I’m really not a diehard poetry fan but that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to explore the territory. You can read my reviews on Rupi Kaur’s poetry collections. Before that, please read this review of the princess saves herself in this one. 

In her debut collection of poetry, Lovelace does not hold back from exploring the difficulties that she has faced in her life. Her whole narrative is beautifully tied together with her fairytale metaphors, that help the reader to better understand the situations she is describing. Personally, I felt a deep connection to Lovelace through her poems. She often describes herself as “bookmad” and I think that is a wonderful term. Though the book does cover very heavy topics, such as abuse, self-harm, death, and bullying among others, there is still a message of hope. Modern poets, such as Lovelace, are unafraid to express their fears and hopes, which makes such an impact on the reader. If you are a fan of Rupi Kaur, I highly recommend Amanda Lovelace to you.

Note: Lovelace recently released her second collection of poetry, the witch doesn’t burn in this one. Stay tuned for that review.