Now that the first day of November has finally arrived, it’s time for me to reflect on my participation in this year’s ‘31 Spooks of October’. First of all, I’d like to thank K, from K at the Movies, for allowing me to contribute to their event. I enjoyed reading their thoughts on various short stories and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for next year’s line-up. As I look at the collection of articles that I’ve published, I can honestly say that I’m proud of what I accomplished. While I didn’t complete everything I wanted to, I did create a variety of posts that are interesting and, hopefully, entertaining. These articles are:
What disappoints me is how I wasn’t able to complete my reading goal. But this experience has taught me a lesson. Before the month of October started, I thought that I would be able to read five books in one month. However, several blog related projects prevented this from happening. I did read more for this year’s Spookathon readathon by reading two books instead of just one! Also, this was my first year taking part in the Sbooktober readathon! After this experience, I think it would be better to focus on reading two books a month. As for the books I didn’t read? I’ll read them this November, especially since I have started Murder on Ice. If I were to participate in ‘31 Spooks of October’ again, I think publishing a post a week is a good idea. That way, I can contribute to the event and complete others projects that I want to publish.
Are you a fan of ‘31 Spooks of October’? Do you have any suggestions for future Halloween themed articles? Please tell me in the comment section!
This is a question that I asked when I saw Queen of the Damned for the first-time last year. I was curious how this particular character was able to afford his lavish lifestyle while balancing his endeavors as a rock-star. The more I thought about my question, the more I thought about the wealth of the other characters from this movie. How did they acquire their wealth? What is their net worth? Since I haven’t seen a post like this on WordPress before, I decided to write an editorial where I attempt to figure out these characters’ net worth. I’m not a historical or financial expert, so my information will be based on guesses and assumptions. I haven’t read any of the source material that Queen of the Damned is based on, so I turned to Vampire Chronicles Wiki only to determine birth dates and the years when these characters became vampires. However, I didn’t rely too much on this site because the film and the source material share more differences than similarities. To determine net worth, I looked at items from the auction website, Sotheby’s, that correlated with these significant years of the characters. All of the items’ prices will be included with its United States Dollar value. Because we don’t know the year when the film takes place, we will assume it takes place around Halloween of 2002, especially since Marius was seen reading a magazine where the back cover says “All Hallow’s Eve”. I also turned to Jen, from the blog, Bookworm, because she has read the books and seen the movie. This means that she would know these characters better than me. Here’s the link to Jen’s blog if you want to check it out!
This post is not only created for the Gothic Horror Blogathon, it also corelates with ‘31 Spooks of October’ and my recent achievement of publishing 125 movie reviews! Before we begin, I just want to let you know that this is probably the longest editorial I’ve ever written. Also, all of the pictures that are featured in this editorial are screenshots that I took with my cellphone.
In the Queen of the Damned film, Khayman is one of members of the Ancients group. According to Vampire Chronicles Wiki, Khayman was Akasha’s chief steward. But this detail was not brought up in the film, so we will assume that this was his occupation before he became a vampire. The reason for Khayman’s negative feelings toward Akasha is unknown in the movie, but it seems like she made a decision that did not sit well with Khayman. On Sothebys, I found three items that shared the date of or around 4,000 B.C.; the approximate date when Khayman was born and became a vampire. The first item, An Anatolian Figure, was sold in 2001 for $6,600. For the sake of this discussion, we will assume that if Khayman owned this item, the aforementioned price will be the worth of the item. Another item that sold in 2001 was a set of Three Stone Mace-heads. This set had a final price tag of $2,700, so this will the worth of the set for this conversation. The last item, an Egyptian Hardstone Jar, has an approximate worth somewhere between $8,000 and $12,000, so we’ll just say that it’s worth $12,000. If we add these prices up, it totals to $21,300. Remember when I mentioned that Khayman was Akasha’s chief steward? Well, let’s say that throughout his career, he received a third of her finances, which would be approximately $11,944. When we include that number with the prices of the previously stated items, Khayman’s net worth totals to the amount of $33,244.
Before starting this project, I had assumed that Akasha would be one of the film’s more wealthier vampires. But Jen, from Bookworm, brought up an excellent point that changed my perspective on Akasha’s net worth. Jen told me that Akasha wouldn’t have any money due to Marius taking care of her while she was in her semi-comatose, statuesque state. In the film, Akasha was seen in this state and stayed that way for the majority of the story. For this editorial, however, we’re going to assume that she was able to keep at least three possessions before she turned into a statue. The first possession would be an Egyptian Cosmetic Case, which sold for $1,693 in 2002. One year earlier, in 2001, a Stone Figure from the 6th Millennium sold for $19,150. An Egyptian Porphyritic Diorite Vase, which has a date of around the time when Akasha became a vampire, is worth $10,000 to $15,000. For this project, we will guess that this vase is worth $15,000. Adding up those numbers together, the total worth of these items would be $35,843. This means that this number represents Akasha’s total net worth.
For the first vampire ever created, this financial amount seems low. But, in the movie, Akasha spent more time in a semi-comatose, statuesque state than she did ruling over Egypt. Because she broke out of this state in 2002 after thousands of years, she probably wouldn’t be able to access the money she had as easily as the other vampires. In fact, she probably squatted the California house that she took Lestat to after taking him from his concert. Jen, from Bookworm, brought up another good point that puts Akasha’s financial situation into an interesting perspective. Even though, in the film, she doesn’t have any known family or children in existence, we would assume that she had a will. But if she did have a will, it wouldn’t be effective when she eventually died at the end of the film. Akasha traveled to Death Valley, California to take Lestat from his concert and she later died in Maharet’s house in the Sonoma area. As Jen told me, there’s a good chance that Akasha did not have any sort of legal U.S. citizenship, so any legal documents relating to finances would likely not be accounted for.
Not much is known about this particular character. Even in the movie, the only information that’s shared about him is that he’s an Ancient. But, according to Vampire Chronicles Wiki, Mael was born and became a vampire in 10 A.D. By taking a look at three items from this time period, we can guess his potential net worth. Two of these items are manuscripts. One of them is a Collection of Large Papyrus Documents, which has a worth of about $4,908 to $8,180. For this discussion, this collection will be worth $8,180. The other one, a Collection of Egyptian Papyrus Manuscripts, is worth $31,034 to $46,551. We’ll just say that if Mael owned this collection, it would have a worth of $46,551. The last item is a Roman Black-ware Miniature Amphora. For the sake of this project, let’s just say that this one item is worth $1,200. When these numbers are added up, Mael’s total net worth would be $55,931.
On the Vampire Chronicles Wiki website, it says that David was born in the 20th Century. Since his age is never mentioned in the movie, we are going to guess that David is 43 years old during the course of the film. The reason for choosing this age is because that’s how old Paul McGann, the actor who portrayed David, was in the year when the movie was released. As we can see in the film, David has a prominent position in a detective agency known as Talamasca. In fact, the Vampire Chronicles Wiki website clarifies his position is a “superior general”. Because salary was never brought up in the film, we’re going to assume that it would mirror the typical salary of an investigator. Since David’s standing in the Talamasca is pretty respectable, the assumption is that his salary is on the higher end of the spectrum. According to the website, SalaryList, this would be $189,592. Over his 43 years, David would probably have collected family heirlooms. For this project, we will highlight three items that could belong to him. The first item would be a Set of Danish Silver Dinner Plates. This collection is worth $12,000 to $18,000, so we’ll just say that the worth on the plates is $18,000. The next item is a Heriz Carpet, which has the exact same worth as the aforementioned dinner plates. Again, we’ll assume that this particular item is also worth $18,000. The final item is a Library Table, which has a worth of $20,000 to $30,000. Let’s make a guess that if David inherited this item, it would be worth $30,000. All of this means that David’s net worth is likely $255,592.
The Queen of the Damned movie reveals very little about Pandora. Even the Vampire Chronicles Wiki website doesn’t clearly state when she was born or when she became a vampire. After doing the necessary math based on what was written on the previously mentioned website, I assume that Pandora was born in 10 B.C. and that she became a vampire in 21 A.D. Though not mentioned in the film, the Vampire Chronicles Wiki website shares that her father was a Roman Senator, who happened to be wealthy. We’re going to assume that, after Pandora’s father died, she inherited $1,000,000. We’re also going to assume that she was able to hold on to some possessions she might have had before she became a vampire. One of these items would likely be a Conch Pearl Necklace. According to an article from Sotheby’s, “the Romans prized pearls as the ultimate status symbol”, so Pandora having pearls in her collection of heirlooms would make sense. This particular necklace has a worth of $305,784 to $407,712, so we’ll say that it’s worth the latter for this project. Speaking of jewelry, the next item would be a set of Lazuli, Beads, and Pendants from the 1st Millennium, when Pandora was born. This collection’s worth is between $3,000 and $5,000, so we’ll guess that it’s worth $5,000. The final item would be a Roman Marble Fragment, which has a worth of $19,288 to $32,147. In this discussion, we’ll just say that this item is worth $32,147. When we add these values, Pandora’s net worth ends up being $1,444,859.
As Pandora indicated in a deleted scene for the Queen of the Damned film, Armand was taken under Marius’ wing and became his vampire son. Because of this, there’s a chance that he would receive at least half of Marius’ net worth, which would be $3,959,059. Before becoming a member of Marius’ vampire family, Armand was born in 1480. After Armand was taken in by Marius, he became a vampire in 1497. Because we know very little about Armand’s biological family, we will guess that Armand was able to keep at least one item from them. This item, for the sake of this project, will be a Northern European Brass Pot. The brass pot is worth $2,000 to $3,000, so we’ll say that it’s worth $3,000.
In the film adaptation of Queen of the Damned’s predecessor, Interview with the Vampire, Armand owned the building where Theatre des Vampires, a group of performers who are also vampires, hosted shows. Armand was also the leader of this group. To determine the revenue that the theater possibly generated, I searched for theaters that had a similar date and location to Armand’s. The one I chose for this editorial is Théâtre de l’Ambigu-Comique, which, ironically, faced a similar fate to Armand’s theater. Before we talk about that, let’s go back to the discussion of revenue. In the 1800s, when Armand’s part of the story takes place, the cost of a theater ticket was around 30 cents. If there were 1,250 seats in Armand’s theater, the same number of seats that Théâtre de l’Ambigu-Comique had at one point, that means that the total sale of tickets for one show would be $375. If Armand’s theater hosted 36 shows throughout a single year, the total revenue would be $13,500. In the Interview with the Vampire film, Armand’s theater burns down and Armand becomes the only survivor of that situation. He even references this event in the aforementioned deleted scene. Because insurance has been around since the 2nd to 3rd millennia B.C. and because accident insurance existed in the 19th century, we’ll assume that Armand received an insurance settlement of $1,000,000. After all this is said, Armand’s net worth is revealed to be $4,975,559.
When he makes his debut in the Queen of the Damned film, Marius tells Lestat that he’s “a noble by nature”. Since we don’t exactly know what he meant by this statement, we’ll just assume that he was a literal noble before he became a vampire. If this were the case, it would make sense. One of the benefits of being a noble is having access to at least one estate. Through Lestat’s journalistic flashbacks, we see that Marius has a very large home on a private island. This estate would likely be valuable. In fact, I looked toward another structure that was built around the time when Marius became a vampire; 10 A.D., in order to determine the house’s worth. This structure is ‘Pyramid of the Sun’ from Mexico. One of the materials that was used to build this pyramid was limestone, so we’re going to assume that this material was also used to build Marius’s island home. In an article from History Channel, limestone was used to cover the pyramid’s walls. Also, according to Sotheby’s, a Limestone Head is worth somewhere between $6,706 to $10,730. Because one side of the pyramid is 733.2 feet, we’re going to multiply this number with the higher end of the price spectrum of the Limestone Head, which equals $7,867,236. This is the value that we will put on Marius’s island home for the sake of this discussion.
Marius’s house is not the only thing he owns that would be worth a lot of money. One of these items is likely be a pair of Egyptian Glass Eye Inlays, which is worth $7,715 to $10,287. For this project, we will say that this pair is worth the latter amount. Throughout the movie, we see Marius as an artist, creating a few paintings at various moments. Because of his status as an Ancient, let’s just guess that Marius is the Michelangelo of the vampire world. One work of Michelangelo’s, “Profile of a Man” has a worth of $1,504 to $2,257. Let’s say that Marius sold ten paintings for $1,504 each. This means that he collected a total of $15,040. Remember when I talked about Akasha’s net worth? Well, when she and Lestat got “married”, that marriage was not made legitimate. This is because their marriage was based on “he said, she said”. In one of Lestat’s flashbacks, Marius explains that he keeps Akasha and her husband in their statuesque states in his house. After she died, it would make sense for Marius to receive Akasha’s net worth. So, overall, Marius’s net worth rounds out to $7,918,119.
Another wealthy Ancient is Jesse’s aunt, Maharet. On the Vampire Chronicles Wiki website, she lived around the time of Akasha, becoming a vampire in 4,000 B.C. I found three items that share this date that we’re going to guess Maharet would own. The first item is a Porphyritic Diorite Vase that is similar to Akasha’s. Because I already talked about this vase’s worth, we’re going to restate that it’s worth $15,000. The next item is a Stone Figure, which is worth $15,000 to $25,000. For this article, we are going to say that it’s worth $25,000. The last item is a Basalt House Figure, which is worth six to nine thousand dollars. But because this item sold in 2001 for $19,150, let’s say that this is the worth of this figure.
The Queen of the Damned film never reveals how Maharet acquired her wealth. But the Vampire Chronicles Wiki website shares that she “could communicate with spirits”. I’m guessing that this is the equivalent to a “medium”. So let’s say, before she became a vampire, Maharet ran a business where she used her talents to help others. We’re going to assume that the price of these “communication sessions” cost a total of $10. If she conducted four of these sessions throughout a month, she would make $40. Now if she ran this business for a year, she would make $480. If she ran her business for 2,000 years, her total revenue would be $960,000. In the movie, the climax takes place at Marahet’s house, which is located in California. On realtor.com, there’s a listing for a house in a location and with a style similar to the one in the film. It’s listed at $6,700,000. If this was the worth of Maharet’s house, it would be included in her net worth of $7,719,150.
Shortly after meeting Marius for the first time, Lestat tells him that he’s the “lord of a great man”. Like what Marius said about being a “noble”, we’ll just assume that Lestat was being literal about being a lord. On the website, Prestige Property Group, I found two houses that look like a property that Lestat’s family could have owned. One of them has a price tag of $984,500 and the other one has a price tag of $2,267,100. For my editorial, we will guess that Lestat’s family home would be worth $3,251,600. Toward the beginning of the film, we see that Lestat has a run-down house in New Orleans, where his soon-to-be band mates are seen practicing. I found a listing for a house on realtor.com that could resemble the house in the film. In this listing, the New Orleans house is listed for $4,995,000. For the sake of this project, we will assume that this price is the worth of Lestat’s house. We’ll also assume that Lestat held on to three personal possessions from before he became a vampire. The first of these items is a Louis XV Giltwood Mirror, which is worth $3,000 to $5,000. We will say that this mirror has a worth of $5,000. A Louis XVI Tapestry is the next item, with an approximate worth of twelve to eighteen thousand dollars. In this discussion, we’ll just assume that the tapestry is worth $18,000. With a worth of $12,000 to $18,000, a George I Cabinet on Chest is the last item. Like I said about the tapestry, we’ll say that the worth of the cabinet is also $18,000. Because, in the film, Marius turned Lestat into a vampire, he could receive half of Marius’ net worth of $3,959,059.
One of the biggest factors of the Queen of the Damned film is Lestat being a rock star. This definitely plays into Lestat’s total net worth, even though he is a member of a five-person group. In the film, the band’s concert took place in Death Valley, California. The layout was different from that of a typical stadium, which sets separate prices based to where the seats are located. Also, this was the only concert that band was hosting, because Lestat didn’t want to repeat his performance. This means that tickets for this concert might have been very valuable. In an article from Princeton University, it was reported that “in 2001, the average concert ticket price was about $40, with the average high-end cost close to $60”. But because of what I just said about the aforementioned concert, we’re going to make a guess that the range of prices for this concert’s tickets were $50 and $100. Now, let’s say that 1,000 people attended the concert. Half of them bought the $50 tickets, while the other half purchased the $100. When we multiply the first half, we get a total of $25,000. The total of the other half would be $50,000. While the overall revenue would end up being $75,000, it’s important to figure out what Lestat’s piece of the pie would be. Not only do we see at least one music video from this band, we also see several pieces of advertising about the concert. Let’s say that some of the concert revenue went towards paying the music video’s filming team and covering the cost of marketing, which we’ll keep at 10% each. Divide this number with $75,000, this payment would be $7,500 each. This leaves the $60,000 to split between five people, which now means that Lestat would walk away with $12,000. If you think this is a low number, consider that Lestat’s band also made at least one CD. Based on an article from Electronic Musician, which reported in early 2002 that CD prices could be lowered to $9.99, we’ll assume that in the Queen of the Damned film, a typical CD costs $10. We’re also going to assume that a million copies of this CD were sold. When those numbers are multiplied, we get a total of $10,000,000. But remember, there’s five members in this band, so Lestat would end up receiving $2,000,000. After all of this information is accounted for, Lestat’s total net worth is likely $14,258,659.
The Vampire Chronicles Wiki website says that in the Queen of the Damned movie, Jesse was “in her early twenties”. So, for the sake of this discussion, we’ll guess that Jesse was 25 years old. This was the age of Marguerite Moreau, the actress who portrays Jesse, in 2002, so this is why I have chosen this age for this project. As we can see in the movie, Jesse works for the same Talamasca that David is the superior general of. But, since her position is that of an “apprentice”, her salary would be on the lower end of the spectrum. Going back to the website, SalaryList, it would likely be $39,370. Remember, Jesse is Maharet’s niece, so it’s possible that she would receive half of her aunt’s net worth. This number would be $3,859,575. Receiving this money would have allowed her to live in London, travel to California, and attend Lestat’s concert. Speaking of Lestat, he was the one that turned her into a vampire toward the end of the movie. This means that she could have access to half of Lestat’s net worth, which is $5,149,800. While the exact state of the Lestat and Jesse’s relationship is unknown, it is assumed that they decided to pursue a romantic relationship at the end of the film. Jen, from Bookworm, told me that vampires do not marry, but it’s possible that Lestat and Jesse would have come up with a financial agreement if their relationship grew stronger. Overall, the grand total of Jesse’s net worth is going to be $9,048,745.
Yesterday, I finished the second book I had planned to read during “31 Spooks of October”, Murder, She Wrote: The Highland Fling Murders! This book took me longer to read than California Angel. The only reason for this is because of how busy I’ve been working on other blog related projects. Since October is almost over, I don’t think I’ll get around to reading the last two books on my TBR (to be read) list. However, I will try my best to read Murder on Ice before the month is over. But now that I’ve finished Murder, She Wrote: The Highland Fling Murders, it’s time for me to talk about on it!
Murder, She Wrote: The Highland Fling Murders was a much better book than California Angel! This story is a new tale that takes place within the world of the Murder, She Wrote show. This made me appreciate the book more, since it wasn’t just a novelization of a pre-existing episode. However, the narrative did remind me of the two-part episode Nan’s Ghost, due to the similarities between them. The descriptive imagery and character development were very well-done. I was able to visualize all the locations that were described, from London to Wick, Scotland. Throughout the book, there were comments made about each character to help the reader remember who was who. Since there were a lot of characters in this book, I appreciate the attempt to make each person distinctive from one another. The show adopted a third person perspective when it came to visually telling the story. The book, however, incorporates a first-person perspective from Jessica herself. This new approach was different from the show, but I found it to be interesting. Similar to the show, there were a few thought-provoking moments and statements in this novel. It made me contemplate what I was reading as well as stay invested in the book.
There were only two things that I didn’t like about Murder, She Wrote: The Highland Fling Murders. The overall story was not as suspenseful as I expected it to be. Because I’ve seen several episodes of Murder, She Wrote prior to reading this book, I thought that it would have at least 50% of suspense. The other issue was how most of the story focused on Jessica and her friends going on vacation. A very small percentage was about Jessica solving a mystery abroad. This is different from the show, as there is a 50/50 presentation of the vacation adventure and the mystery itself.
For this blog follower dedication review, I decided to take a different approach when choosing the next film. Instead of the usual system that I apply to these posts, I chose a film that felt like an appropriate choice for ‘31 Spooks of October’, the event I’ve been participating in. Since K, the creator of this event and K at the Movies, wrote about vampire related short stories recently, I thought that reviewing Vampyr would be very fitting. Last week, I was nominated for the Liebster Award by the Brannan sisters from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society! In their article, they offered an invitation to their Third Annual Great Breening Blogathon. Because the purpose of this event is to promote the preservation of the Breen Code, I felt that I had an understanding of the kind of entry that the Brannan sisters were looking for, especially since I participated in “Clean Movie Month” and “A Month Without the Code”. Vampyr was released in 1932, so through this review, I will try to determine how the Breen Code could be applied to this film!
Things I liked about the film:
The cinematography: While watching Vampyr, I was very impressed by the cinematography! Because this movie was created in the early ‘30s, some of the visual tricks that the film’s creative team incorporated into their project felt like they were ahead of their time. Throughout the movie, there were shadows that were presented inside an abandoned warehouse and around the grounds of a hotel and a mansion. When the protagonist, Allan Gray, first sees these shadows, one of them is seen digging in reverse. This is something that audiences probably take for granted today, but was revolutionary back then.
The music: All of the music in this movie was orchestral, similar to silent films. It was used to effectively convey the mood of each scene. Whenever there was a part of the film that was suspenseful, eerie music could be heard. There was even sad music that was playing when a sad moment was presented on screen. This film’s music helped explain what was happening even when no dialogue was spoken. It became an integral part of this project.
Audio that could be heard: This film was styled and constructed like a silent film. But what’s different about Vampyr is that the orchestral music wasn’t the only audio that could be heard. Audible dialogue from the actors replaced title cards. Things like knocks on doors and ringing bells could be heard by the audience. At one part of the film, the sounds of a parrot were included with the visual presentation of the bird. In a film that was created in this specific way, hearing all these sounds was a pleasant surprise!
What I didn’t like about the film:
A limited presence of vampires: When a movie’s creative team assigns a particular title to their project, they make a promise to their audience about what they can expect from the movie. With Vampyr, the subject of vampires wasn’t brought up until thirty-four minutes into the film. The very first vampire was revealed in the second half of the movie. In this project, vampires don’t play as big of a role as I expected. This shows that the creative team didn’t exactly fulfill the promise that they had made.
A simplistic story: For a movie like Vampyr, a sense of mystery in the story is to be expected. However, this plot felt too straight-forward. While there was a little bit of mystery, it wasn’t enough to maintain a consistent level of intrigue. It felt like the script put more emphasis on explaining through visuals what was going on instead of letting the visuals present things as they are. One perfect example is when a book about vampires is given to Allan Gray, in an effort to tell him what’s about to happen. It caused the narrative to be more simplified than it needed to be.
Some confusion: During this film, there were times when it felt like some of the mystery was kept at an arm’s length from the audience. Even though these mysteries were solved, it took awhile for the answers to be presented. Throughout the film, there was one character that kept reappearing. The audience didn’t learn who this person was until after thirty minutes. This extended explanation caused some confusion to happen in the narrative.
My overall impression:
Before I share my overall impression of Vampyr, I want to thank all of my followers for helping 18 Cinema Lane reach this milestone! Every success that happens here is because you gave this blog a chance! Speaking of chances, I’m glad I gave this film a chance! While it had its errors, I ended up liking it more than I expected. The creative team behind this project adopted story-telling elements that were creative and interesting. Before watching this film, I learned that Vampyr was restored through the incorporation of two different versions of the movie. In the opening credits, there were a lot of names listed, indicating who was involved in the restoration process. This raises a good point of how many people it takes to restore a film. It makes me appreciate the work that’s involved in a cinematic procedure like this. Because this movie was released in 1932, it means that it wasn’t approved by the Breen Code. If it had been created two years later, these are the things that would need to change in order to meet Breen Code standards:
During the film’s introduction, it was said that the main character, Allan Gray, studies the subjects of “devil worship and vampires”. While the story does contain vampires, the first part of that statement would need to be rewritten.
When the subject of vampires is being explained, there were several references to “The Dark One”. Even though vampires are meant to be villainous in this film, any mentions of “The Dark One”, would need to be rewritten or omitted.
There were two times when God’s name was said in vain and one swear word was included in the script. New word choices would have to be made before production started.
In one scene, a pool of blood was shown on screen. This scene would have to be removed.
A few dead bodies can be seen on screen. These scenes should be rewritten, in order for the deaths to be implied.
Overall score: 7.6 out of 10
Have you seen Vampyr? Is there a film from the 1930s that you want me to see? Tell me in the comment section!
I was going to publish my second review for The Second Spencer Tracy & Katherine Hepburn Blogathon today. But since I finished the first book for 31 Spooks of October/Spookathon and Sbooktober yesterday, I decided to post my movie review tomorrow. If you read my article called “I’m partaking in 31 Spooks of October!”, you would know that the first book I chose to read was California Angel. When I published this particular post, I was half-way through the book. Now that I’ve completed the novel, I not only met the four challenges that were associated with California Angel, but I will also share my thoughts on it.
When I read the acknowledgements section that was featured in my copy of the book, the way Nancy Taylor Rosenberg, California Angel’s author, talked about the story made it sound like Touched by an Angel meets a typical Hallmark Movies & Mysteries movie. Since those are programs that I like, I thought that I would thoroughly enjoy this book. Sadly, I was mistaken. California Angel ended up becoming the worst book I’ve ever read. Why, you ask? Well here are a list of reasons why I didn’t like this book:
I found the majority of the female characters to be unlikeable. For this post, I’m going to be talking about just two of them. Toy Johnson is one of the worst protagonists I’ve ever read about in literature. She was self-centered, entitled, hypocritical, judgmental, close-minded, and ungrateful. What makes things worse is she used the ideas of selflessness, charity, and even faith as an excuse for her behavior. Let me share a passage from this book to give you an example of how selfish Toy really is. Just to preface, Toy is talking to her husband, Stephen, about how one of her dreams connects to an event that happened within the world of the story.
“No, you’re wrong. It’s something spectacular, something magnificent. Something about me is different from everyone else. I’m being dispatched on missions, like missions of mercy. What else could it be? All these dreams I’ve had. In every one there are children in some kind of grave danger. And I make a difference,” she said proudly, a fanatical fire burning in her eyes. “I feel great. It’s like my whole existence on earth has finally been validated, like I’ve been searching for this all my life”.
You see how often she refers to herself? That’s just one passage, Toy acts like this throughout the entire story. As you read, she is so set in her ways, that she doesn’t allow herself to take other people’s beliefs, views, and perspectives into consideration. A good example of this is her conflict with Stephen. This part of the story felt so one-sided, with Toy making Stephen look like an antagonist just because his way of approaching situations is different from her own. She also has a negative effect on those around her. One of them is Sarah Mendleson, who is the female friend of Raymond, an artist with Autism. Shortly after Sarah meets Toy, she decides to take advantage of Raymond, who, at that point in the book, is facing one of the lowest points in his life. She disguises herself as Toy, whose encounter with Raymond left a positive impact on him, even going so far as to dye her hair the same shade of red as Toy’s hair. Sarah does this to trick Raymond into thinking she’s Toy and to try to make him her future husband. The sad part is how Sarah’s plan seems to work, as she becomes his girlfriend by the end of the book. Speaking of Raymond, all of the male characters in California Angel are either villainized because of their profession or are used just to, simply, make the female characters look good. Raymond is just one example. He was my favorite character and I found his story to be interesting. However, Raymond’s story ended up getting taken over by Sarah. After a while, his purpose turns into becoming Sarah’s love interest and standing up for Toy.
About 90% of this story revolves around Toy. Because of how unlikeable she was, it was difficult for me to get through this book.
I found the chapters in this novel to be longer than they should have been. In a typical thriller/mystery book, the pace is faster. This is done in an attempt to keep the audience on the edge of the seat and engaged in the story. But because the chapters in California Angel were too long, this make it difficult to enjoy the book.
In the synopsis listed on the back of the book, it says that Toy, within the story, is accused being a kidnapper and murderer. However, this part of the novel doesn’t happen until the last five chapters. The book had suspenseful moments sprinkled throughout the story. However, it was not a thrilling narrative from start from finish like I had expected.
There are several inconsistencies and flaws in logic that can be found in California Angel. In this book, Toy believes that the only way she can help children is in her dreams, which happen to translate into actual events within her world. However, Toy is a teacher and has provided financial assistance to one of the families that belong to her school community. Therefore, her actions and choices contradict her argument. When Toy receives letters from all over the world, her mother, Ethel, tells her that the letters were written by “little children” and “older people”. But two pages letters, she references the letters again, saying, “all of them from lovely little children”. So, were children the primary authors of these letters then?
The way that Autism is talked about in California Angel sometimes feels outdated. In at least two parts of the book, Raymond refers to his Autism as an “illness”. After Toy’s encounter with Raymond, that happens in a prologue, it says that “Raymond had simply snapped out of it” and he recovered from Autism. I’m not as educated on this particular subject as other people are. But, based on what I do know, I know that this is not how Autism works. Autism is a neurological disorder that one must live with. Sure, there are ways to manage and even overcome the symptoms associated with this medical condition. However, it’s not something that simply goes away.
While reading this book, it felt like Nancy used her story to try to capitalize on Touched by an Angel and the remake of Miracle on 34th Street (which were both released in 1994, a year before California Angel was published) without showing a complete understanding or attempting to show a complete understanding of why people like those stories in the first place. In this novel, there was a courtroom scene that felt like a repeat of the aforementioned Christmas film. Even some of the events leading up to this scene felt reminiscent of that moment from the movie. But the difference between California Angel and Miracle on 34th Street is that Santa, for the entirety of the story, was portrayed as a likable character. This made it easy for the audience to root for him.
Back in August, Fable Fox and K, from K at the Movies, asked for feedback on potential topics for this year’s ’31 Spooks of October’, an event created by K. Thinking that this would be something worth my time, I chose to answer Fable and K’s call for content ideas. After putting a lot of thought into what I would contribute to this event, I decided to talk about something that doesn’t always get discussed on 18 Cinema Lane: reading. While my blog primarily focuses on movies and movie related topics, I try to add books into the conversation whenever it’s appropriate to do so. Last year, I participated in the readathon called Spookathon. In case you’re not familiar with this concept, a readathon is an event that requires participants to read a certain amount of books within a pre-set period of time. For last year’s Spookathon, I only read one of the three books that I had attempted to read. Because I came very short of reaching this goal, I wanted to try again at finding readathon success. So, I thought that “31 Spooks of October’ would be a perfect time to do this. This month, there are two readathons that are taking place around the same time; Spookathon and Sbooktober. I will be stretching my participation throughout October, instead of reading exclusively within the weeks set aside for these events. Below is my TBR (to be read) list and which challenges each book meets!
California Angel by Nancy Taylor Rosenberg
The first book I’m reading, which I’m already half-way through, is California Angel. For Sbooktober, which has a Harvest Festival theme, this book will fit the challenges for “a book you’ve been scared to read” and “a book that features transformations”. Out of all the books on this TBR list, California Angel has the greatest number of pages, with 359 to be exact. I’m also not enjoying the book, so far. But I’m hoping the second half is better than the first. Because the protagonist, Toy, is a teacher and because, according to the synopsis, she gets accused of committing a crime, she ends up transforming the lives of those around her. For Spookathon, this book will fulfill the requirements to “read a thriller” and “read a book with red on the cover”. California Angel is labeled as a “thriller”, especially on Goodreads. The copy that I own has a ruby ring on the cover, which means it contains the color red.
Murder, She Wrote: The Highland Fling Murders
The second book I’m planning on reading is Murder,She Wrote: The Highland Fling Murders. This novel will satisfy the challenges to “read something you wouldn’t normally read” and “read a book with a spooky setting” for Spookathon. I don’t usually read books that are based on pre-existing television shows. But, since I’ve been watching Murder, She Wrote lately, I think this is a story I might enjoy. According to the synopsis, this story features a haunted castle, which is, indeed, a spooky setting. This book will also meet Sbooktober’s requirements for “a book that features water”, “a book with a journey or quest”, and “a book with orange on the cover”. In this book, Jessica and her friends take a journey to the British Isles and Scotland. These locations are surrounded by the ocean and, as you can see in the photo, this book has an orange cover.
Murder on Ice by Alina Adams
The third book that I hope to read is Murder on Ice, which is the first book in the Figure Skating Mystery series. It will fit Sbooktober’s challenges for “a book with a flower on the cover”, “a book you think will have twists and turns”, and “a book from a unique perspective”. Because this is a murder mystery, I’m guessing there will be several twists and turns in this story. The protagonist, Rebecca “Bex” Levy, is a figure-skating researcher, which is a profession and perspective that isn’t featured on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. It also helps that Alina Adams, the author of this book, was also a figure-skating researcher. In the photo at the top of this article, you can see that there is more than one rose on the cover. This book will also fulfill only one challenge from Spookathon: “read a book with a spooky word in the title”. For Murder on Ice, the spooky word of choice is “murder” because murder mysteries are spooky.
Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards
The fourth book on my TBR list is Mandy. Julie’s book will only meet one challenge from Sbooktober: “read a book someone “picked” for you”. When I asked a family member to pick a book for this readathon, they suggested this one! I’ve owned this book for so long, but now I have an excuse to finally read it! It’s also the only book of these five that isn’t a mystery.
Closed for the Season by Mary Downing Hahn
My final book is Closed for the Season. It will meet several requirements for Sbooktober: “a spooky book”, “a book with an animal in it”, and “devour a book in 24 hours”. Because this book is 182 pages, I think I can read it in a day or less. According to Goodreads, this book is featured on the shelf called “A boy and his dog”, so I’m hoping there’s a dog in this story. Since Closed for the Season takes place in an abandoned amusement park and it’s a murder mystery, it has the potential to be spooky.
Have fun at the movies!
If you want to learn more about these events, you can visit the Youtube channel, booksandlala, or type “#SPOOKATHON 2019 ANNOUNCEMENT” into Youtube’s search bar. You can also visit the Youtube channel, Paper Faerie, or you can type “SBOOKTOBER 2019 ANNOUNCEMENT!” into Youtube’s search bar. For the Sbooktober video, the portion about the readathon starts at 4:50 and ends at 6:31. If you want to read Fable and K’s post that I referenced in this article, here’s the link: