Discussion: The Hero’s Arc

The morning my post I Read Shadow Scale and I Was Disappointed went live, I was thinking about what is it that makes me “approve” of a hero’s arc, because really, that is what makes or breaks an ending for me. Do I feel the hero’s journey changed them, was worthwhile, helped them grow? I discussed this briefly in my post Plot Vs. Character?, but wanted to go more in depth with the idea of a character’s arc.

If you’ve ever read any of my book reviews on the blog, you’ve probably seen me character arc. If you’ve seen me fangirl about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, you’ve probably noticed the character arcs were a big part of that show for me. I just love to see characters go through a significant change. I may be adverse to change in my own personal life, but that’s a different story. ūüėČ

It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.

I haven’t even read¬†The Two Towers, but thanks to ¬†the movie I became familiar with this monologue from Sam and it’s my favorite passage from a fictional book. It so perfectly encompasses what we expect from great story telling. We want the character to overcome trials. In the end, we want them to come out stronger, that’s what makes the story worthwhile.

In Star Wars, we see Luke overcome the power of the Dark Side, even though it means opposition against his father. In Harry Potter, we see Harry defeat Voldemort and usher a new era for wizards through sacrifice. In Lord of the Rings, we see Sauron defeated through two little hobbits’ tumultuous journey. These are stories I think most all of us agree are powerful.

Not every story that is told is going to be on the same epic levels as the aforementioned examples, nor do they need to be.¬†The resolution of a story doesn’t even have to be tied up neatly where everyone and everything is happy for it to be satisfying. I just need to glean emotional satisfaction from the main character’s journey, that they are changed in the end, hopefully for the better. If not for the better, I need to feel satisfied with the reasoning of why, of what the journey was about then, instead.

I think one reason I enjoyed Jane Austen’s Emma¬†so much is that, though the story is about romance, it’s also largely about Emma making mistakes, learning from them, and becoming a better person. It may not be a sweeping epic journey, Emma lived a pretty normal life in regency England, but she grew in the story, and there’s more to it than just her happily-ever-after.

In the movie Inception, Dom’s one goal is to get back to his family, but there are complications caused by his inability to let go of his deceased wife and what caused her tragic death. While the last image of the ending is left somewhat ambiguous (which¬†is appropriate given the theme of dreams vs. reality), Dom has let go of his wife and is home with his children, thus completing his journey emotionally at the very least.

We get frustrated with TV series finales at times because we don’t like where the character ends up, what their absolute resolution is. I’ve discussed before how the TV show finales for Chuck and Star Trek: Enterprise really left the characters worse off than before for reasons that seemed senseless and meaningless, whereas¬†the show Fringe resolved all the emotional aspects of the character’s journey and, even if it was logically confounding, put them back in a place where we wanted them to be and made it overall satisfying.

Frodo-Sam-hero-journeyWhat about you? What makes a story’s ending satisfying, the character’s journey worth it to you?

Also check out this recent post on Publishing Crawl about writing about change. 

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Top 10 Beach Reads

Top Ten Tuesday¬†is a meme hosted by¬†The Broke and the Bookish. This week‚Äôs topic is¬†Top Ten Books¬† I Plan To Have In My Beach Bag This Summer or Ten Books I Think Make Great Beach Reads. Yet again, this topic comes right after I get back from the beach, and this trip was shorter than last year’s, so I didn’t quite get to devour as many books this time. However, I wanted to share what I brought with me, what I would want to bring with me if I could go again, and what I would recommend you take on your beach trip.
beachbag2015-1

The Well of Ascension/The Hero of Ages/Beach Tote

OK, so I actually didn’t get to finish The Well of Ascension on my trip, much less touch The Hero of Ages, though I did bring it on the trip with me. I actually love reading fantasy on the beach because you have the hours at a time to absorb the world you’re reading; I discovered this last year when I read¬†Shadow and Bone¬†on my beach trip.

beachbag2015-3The Distance Between Us/The Winner’s Crime/The Start of You and Me/The Hunger Games/Beach Tote

This list assumes I decided to get physical copies of the first three books since I don’t want to take my e-reader to the beach (I have the e-book of The Distance Between Us and the other two I have holds on the e-books through my library). As far as The Hunger Games go, I would really like to re-read the trilogy this year, and the beach seems like a nice place to do it!

beachbag2015-4All Fall Down/The Young Elites/Leviathan/For Darkness Shows the Stars/Beach Tote

If you’re looking for any rhyme or reason to these choices other than the fact that I enjoyed them all, good luck because there isn’t really a theme here at all! We’ve got contemporary (with a hint of thriller), fantasy, alternate history steampunk, and sci-fi all for the taking here.

Which books would you like to read at the beach?

Star Trek TNG Season 4: My Top 5 Fave Episodes

As my husband and I are going through our second full watch of Star Trek as a couple, I thought it would be fun to report on the highlights along the way. So I decided to copy the same format as Charlene at Bookish Whimsy, who is going through her first-ever run of Star Trek and sharing her favorite episodes for each season. To compare, see her top 5 favorite episodes of season four of The Next Generation.

So this was an interesting season for me. Season 3 I felt that most episodes were pretty consistently good, and I thought I probably felt the same way about Season 4… until I looked back on the list of episodes and realized there were more “meh” ones than I recalled. Some had some things I liked about them before something weird happened or the resolution was unsatisfying. However, I came with five that I did feel were pretty consistently good. I have to say I’m a little surprised by what I haven’t seen yet at this point, so these later seasons should be good as I see some of the episodes I remember from before.

5. Family

tng4-familyAfter his experience with becoming Borg,¬†Picard goes back to his home on Earth and visits with his family. This episode has an extremely sad undertone if you’ve seen a certain TNG movie, but it is interesting to see Picard where he grew up and interacting with his brother, who has very different interests and ambitions.

4. Redemption, Part One

tng4-redemptionI am seriously appreciating the Klingon episodes more this time around. In this episode, we get some important set-up for the future of the Klingon Empire and important development for Worf’s character. This part one doesn’t end in a real cliffhanger, but it certainly sets things up in a shocking way with something that was alluded to in a previous episode (holy Deep Space Nine, TNG has continuity after all!).

3. First Contact

tng4-firstcontactWhat I enjoyed about this one is that you get to see things from the perspective of those outside the Federation. No, it’s not told from their viewpoint, but you get to hear more of their viewpoint than you normally do in a typical Star Trek episode. You understand why someone who has never, ever heard of Starfleet would not necessarily jump at the chance to join them. You see aliens react to humans like we would to aliens. It makes for good food-for-thought.

2. Data’s Day

tng4-datasdayThis episode is a fun one. We get introduced to Spot (Data’s cat) and Keiko, who marries Chief O’Brien. I’ve actually forgotten a lot of the details of this one already, but I do remember enjoying it.

1. The Drumhead

tng4-thedrumheadThis episode was a real standout for me this season. I think a large part of it is because I found it crazy relevant for something happening in my life right now, but even so, it’s not hard to think of just how relevant this episode is, period. Immediately your mind will take you to the Salem witch trials and the 1960’s Red Scare. This is an episode that you can appreciate even without really knowing anything about Star Trek, and I¬†highly recommend it to really anyone reading this right now. Queue it up on Netflix if you have it.

What are your favorite episodes of TNG, season 4?

The Top Ten Authors I Feel I Should Probably Read

Top Ten Tuesday¬†is a meme hosted by¬†The Broke and the Bookish. Today‚Äôs topic is a Freebie, so I decided to go with the top 10 authors I feel I should probably read. Some have specific books I have my eye on, some don’t, but either way, I want to read them eventually! Here are my choices, in no particular order.

1. Sarah Addison Allen, author of Garden Spells

sarah-allen-gardenI’ve heard good things about her fiction and I want to try to read more adult fiction, so she’s someone I think whose work I’ll have to check out.

2. L.M. Montgomery, author of Anne Of Green Gables

I had no idea how much people loved these books until I had been blogging for a while. I knew of them as a kid but I was just never interested in them (like Harry Potter… clearly my younger self didn’t know anything).

3. Ruta Sepetys, author of Between Shades of Gray

ruta-shadesI don’t know why I’m so drawn to read Ruta Sepetys and yet haven’t yet. Too many other books! She was at a writing conference I attended last year, and though I didn’t get to hear much from her she seems really neat. And she lives in Tennessee!

4.¬†Madeleine L’Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time

Again, late to the game here. Actually, the book of hers I’m most interested in reading is called Walking on Water, which Annie quoted multiple times in a blog post and it really piqued my interest!

5. Shannon Hale, author of Austenland

shannon-hale-austenI’ve heard good things about the Princess Academy books, and I love Jane Austen stories, so I think I’m definitely going to have to check out some Shannon Hale sometime.

6. Charlotte Bronte, author of Jane Eyre

I don’t know if I’ll like Bronte or not, but I feel I ought to at least try. After all, her biggest fan, aka Charlene, gave Star Trek a chance. ūüôā

7. Susan Dennard, author of Something Strange and Deadly

susan-something-strange

I love her writing advice and get her weekly emails, so I feel like I should probably read at least one of her books (but hopefully more!).

8. Neil Gaiman, author of Stardust

He’s so prolific, so I feel ought to read something of his for sure!

9. Victoria Schawb, author of A Darker Shade of Magic

schwab-darkershadeI know, I know. I fail at life.

10. Elizabeth Gaskell, author of North and South

I’ve heard some talk about North and South and after reading the synopsis I became interested in checking it out one day. Might be a hit, might be a miss, but I’ll never know unless I try!

Which authors do you feel you need to read?

Movie Review: Avengers Age of Ultron

I saw this movie on opening night. I enjoyed it. I went home.

I almost forgot about it.

Almost.

avengers_age_of_ultronBut let me back up. I love what Marvel has done with superhero films. I think what made Iron Man so great¬†was that it didn’t take itself too seriously. It was self-aware. It was what we all wanted deep down and didn’t even realize.

i-am-iron-manCaptain America was very different, more historical and tragic, but it was about the American spirit and hero we all want. It touched something different inside us than Iron Man did.

captain-america

And then Thor was different because it took place in Asgard, a whole new world that was fascinating. And he’s a fish out of water when he’s on Earth.

thorAnd all these movies have great lines and great side characters: Pepper Potts, Peggy Carter, Sif and Loki, etc.

Where The Incredible Hulk unfortunately suffered in all this is that it was still just a regular superhero movie, like all the others we had seen before Marvel and Christopher Nolan changed the game. Apparently Edward Norton, who played the Hulk back then, was super involved in the writing of the movie, and he was a big fanboy of the Hulk. This sounds awesome in theory, but I wonder if he was trying so hard to fit the Hulk in this box that he had created that it didn’t give the character the chance to shine.

I’ll admit, I still wasn’t sold on Mark Ruffalo’s version of the character in the first Avengers movie, but I can give Age of Ultron the credit for making me care about him much more this time around. Or maybe what I should say is for making me care about Bruce Banner, the person underneath the Hulk.

bruce-bannerWhile we are talking about character exploration in Age of Ultron, I’m going to say that is the movie’s strength, and that is what has stuck with me since walking out of the theater.

There’s been a lot of talk about Black Widow in this movie, and say what you will about her role, but I think we got to see a whole new side of her and I was really glad to see it. Would it be cool if this was explored more in a movie or TV show? Yes. Will I move on with my life if it’s not? Yes. We see a much more vulnerable side of Natasha, but I don’t think she’s ever portrayed as weak. And while (mild spoiler) the interest between her and Banner did kind of surprise me and I wasn’t entirely sure I was 100% there with it (since we’ve had no build-up to this it felt like it came out of left field), I don’t think this weakened her either. It made her human. Same with their talk about infertility, which¬†he¬†started.

natasha-blackwidowI also appreciated that we finally got more from Hawkeye, after that poor guy got brainwashed in the first Avengers movie. His character has become a more relatable, almost every-man sort from this movie, and I thought that was a nice touch.

hawkeyeThe addition of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch really didn’t do a whole lot for me, though funnily enough, their best moments were when they were with Hawkeye. Quicksilver and Hawkeye had their running, “What, you didn’t see that coming?” joke, and Hawkeye hyped up Scarlet Witch for the battle against Ultron.

(Highlight for spoilers) Ultimately, the death of Quicksilver did very little for me. It made me sad for his sister, because it obviously put her in a lot of shock and pain, but I wasn’t sad for anyone else or for me. I had barely started kind of liking the guy when he died, though I appreciated the act that led to his death, especially when I was starting to worry that Hawkeye was going to be a goner. There was no real emotional resonance with it.¬†

There’s also the introduction of Vision, who is sort of interesting? We’ll have to see what happens to him in the future. We really get very little development with him at all.

Now let’s talk about the villain, Ultron. Even though he demonstrates just how much he is capable of, I never really feared that the whole entire world was actually in danger of this guy. I know it sounds ridiculous to say the stakes weren’t high enough when the whole idea was that he wanted to destroy the world but seriously, they weren’t high enough, because I was never worried that he would actually accomplish this, and not just because it’s a movie and I know it’s going to turn out OK in the end. But that could have been part of the problem. In Captain America: The Winter Solider the movie ends with SHIELD in shambles. It’s not a happy ending. While it was still probably surprising for many people watching the movie (unless they watched Agents of SHIELD, which they should have, honestly), destroying SHIELD is a much more viable option for a movie ending than destroying the world. But really, I think it was mostly that Ultron never truly frightened me enough.

But, the way Ultron was created was fascinated and I hope that comes back up because even though there is heated debating about it in the movie, it definitely feels kind of glossed over in  the grand scheme of things.

All in all, this is another solid movie from Marvel, enjoyable, witty lines, and some pretty good character development, but there were some weak spots in the movie that keeps it from being a favorite in the long run.

4stars2If you’ve see Age of Ultron, what are your thoughts?

Thoughts on The Deathly Hallows & the Harry Potter Series Overall

In case you are not a frequent visitor of my blog and thus unaware, I spent the latter part of last year and the early part of this year reading all the Harry Potter books and watching all the Harry Potter movies for the first time ever. I have really enjoyed my experience and am so happy that now I understand all HP references and don’t have to worry any more about spoilers!

I wanted to discuss briefly my feelings on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, book and movies, and then give a bit of a recap on my feelings of the series overall.

deathlyhallowsOn the Thursday I intended to start reading The Deathly Hallows, I got some bad news that ended up kind of working out for me. I felt pretty terrible the night before, and woke up feeling not significantly better, so I decided to go to a walk-in clinic. I ended up testing positive for strep throat and was instructed to stay home for the next two days. So while I didn’t feel so great, and would have rather been at work than not feeling good, after taking my first antibiotic and a quick nap, I was feeling well enough to start reading.

And in my time home sick, I devoured this book. A book that would have normally taken two weeks to read over my lunch breaks took me just slightly over 2 days at home (a friend of mine told me recently that he read this book in 4 hours, and I pretty much hate him for that because I don’t even know how that’s humanly possible). So while I wonder if I¬†might¬†have had a problem with all that camping out had I taken my time to read this book, I had no problem with it while reading it in large chunks. In fact, I really never wanted to put the book down. I was completely engaged and wanted to know exactly what was going to happen.

Truly, all the fantastic character moments in this book was what I had been waiting the whole series for. Everyone who’s read Harry Potter talks about how much they love the characters, and while reading this book I completely understood why. I don’t even know how to express in words my strong love for Hermione, Luna, and Neville now, but I think you guys understand. And I had somehow (thankfully) been spared of details of how it all went down between Harry and Voldemort, and all I can say is WOW.

And the movies? They were near flawless. Seriously, again, these were the Harry Potter movies I had been waiting for! I gave them both 4.5 stars, which considering I pretty much only give a movie 5 stars if I know it’s going to be one of my absolute faves, is pretty dang good. There were a lot less changes, and the ones they had didn’t bother me. Like that scene of Harry and Hermione dancing? LOVE. And that cute Neville and Luna thing? Oh yeah, you know the director totally shipped them (me too!).

luna-nevilleI will voice one opinion I have that will not be popular. I still don’t really get the Snape thing. I will say, I thought I could never forgive him or find him redeemable and actually found myself doing so (but he was still a bullying jerk to Harry and it was not cool), so that’s not “the Snape thing” I’m referring to. It’s referring mostly to¬†these famous lines…

After all this time?

Always.

When I read those words I was like, “Wait? What?” I was confused as heck. He’s just cast a Patronus and is talking to Dumbledore. This exchange made literally no sense to me. I had a hunch, and it was right, but until it was spelled-out I felt myself frustrated for reading these famous lines and not feeling whatever it was I was supposed to feel. So just that moment being over-hyped kind of made me not care for it much. And really, why does this surprise Dumbledore? It’s clear Snape isn’t Harry’s number one fan, and that his motivation to care about him at all in the first place would still be in tact otherwise he would have pulled the ripcord and gone back to Voldemort the second he had the chance.

All in all though, I was extremely satisfied with the series. The ending was pretty close to perfection. I understand all the love, it’s well deserved. Bravo, J.K., bravo.

Overall assessment…

My ranking of the books:

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (5 stars)

2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (5 stars)

3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban  (4.5 stars)

4. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (4.5 stars)

5. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (4.5 stars)

6. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (4 stars)

7. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (3.5 stars)

My ranking of the movies:

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2 (4.5 stars for both)

2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (4 stars)

3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (4 stars)

4. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (4 stars)

5/6. (tie) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone/Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (I don’t remember the differences enough to choose one over the other) (3.5 stars for both)

7. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (3 stars)

And then of course, like everyone else, I have fantasized about living in Harry’s world, going to Hogwarts, and all that jazz. After I finished the book I signed up for Pottermore solely for to get my official House Sorting. I knew it was between Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, and I had even taken an “are you a Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff quiz” shortly before and gotten Ravenclaw, but the Sorting Hat spoke and…

hufflepuffSource

Even before I read the series I was aware of the Hufflepuff hate, so this sorting made me a little less excited than I feel it should have. I mean, Hufflepuffs are good people. They are loyal and hardworking. For some reason people don’t like that. Cedric was a good guy. So, whateves. I’ll claim it.

Also: like half the reason why I wanted to be Ravenclaw so I could be BFF’s with Luna, which I think ironically just proves I’m probably more Hufflepuff.

What are your thoughts on The Deathly Hallows book and movies? Who are your favorite characters? Which house do you belong in?