Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
This story is set in Brooklyn in 1912 through 1917.  It follows the life of a poor family, the Nolans, mainly from the point of view of the precocious Francie.  I really liked it, I thought it was an easy read, the characters were likable and relatable. I even liked Johnny (the drunken father), I have a soft spot for characters who are truthful with themselves. He knew he was a drunk, he tried to do right by his family, but he never denied what he was. I think stopping drinking is what actually killed him, he was going through withdrawal and that is why his hands shook so. I loved that Francie had a love of reading and how her mother cultivated it. I understand Katie's desperation to give her kids a better life than she had herself, I think that is what all parents want. I can relate to the being poor, although as a kid we weren’t that bad off, or if we were my parents did a better job of hiding it that Katie did. I didn’t like the ending though, the whole novel felt so real and gritty, and then the fairytale came true that they had enough money and the kids could finish school thanks to Daddy Warbucks, I mean officer McShane. If Francie had continued to fight and put herself through school it would have seemed much truer to the story to me and I would have been happier. But overall I liked the book.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The Secret History
This is the final BOTM book for 2012.  I wish I could say the year ended on a high note, but I can’t. 
The Secret History, the first novel by Mississippi-born writer Donna Tartt, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1992. The story is an inverted detective story, not a Whodunit but a Whydunit.  It is set in New England, The Secret History tells the story of a closely knit group of six classics students at a small, elite Vermont college, Hampden College. The novel explores the circumstances and lasting effects of a student’s death on the academically and socially isolated group of Classics students of which he was a part.
We meet the Narrator Richard Papen in the prologue, and he is reflecting, years later, on the situation that led to a murder within the group, the murder being confessed at the outset of the novel but the events otherwise revealed sequentially.   In the prologue we find out that 5 students kill their classmate Edmund “Bunny” Corcoran, although few details are given. In the first few chapters, we meet all the main characters and participants of the classics group: Henry Winters, Francis Abernathy, Charles Maculay, Camilla Maculay, and of course our dead student Bunny. Richard, is an outsider, whom has managed to get himself invited to join the very exclusive Classics department student body, of which is comprised solely of these six students. While reading about it, it has a cult like feel, and the teacher Julian is the leader. There are a lot of secrets that happen behind the scenes of the group that Richard is not privy to when he first joins but that are slowly revealed throughout the novel. The original five members are the typical rich kids who have no concept of the real world around them, and Richard is trying so hard to fit in that he comes up with a completely bogus past that is what he thinks they will accept. Richard is of course in love with Camilla, who doesn’t even register him on her romantic radar. So predictable.
We come to find out that Henry, Francis, Charles and Camilla, whom I have dubbed the fantastic 4 (can you tell what my 3 year old has me watching?), while creating some sort of Greek ritual, murder some poor farmer in his field. They of course have no memory of it but were covered in blood and gore, so know they are responsible. Bunny wasn’t there but he finds out shortly after it happens because he sees them all gory. Of course the fantastic 4 want to cover up the murder, god forbid these spoiled brats stand trial, and lord help us get convicted for committing a murder! So they cover it up, for some reason, that I’m not clear on, Bunny doesn’t tell either. But he does begin to blackmail them by expecting expensive trips and meals etc. He makes a ton of sly jokes to get under their skin. Bunny is a greedy sot! Making Camilla iron his shirts and Henry take him to Rome, then wants Paris, which WE know isn’t going to happen. I think he really pushed the envelope, and since he was blackmailing them, I don’t feel as sorry for his death as I probably should. He is just a real ass in the end.
So because Bunny is blackmailing the fantastic 4, the only option to them is to commit another murder, really? Didn’t they ever hear the saying two wrongs don’t make a right? Then when Richard is told all this, again for some unknown reason he sides with the fantastic 4, and even becomes an accessory in Bunny’s murder. I don’t understand Richard’s thought process, I mean it’s not like the fantastic 4 are a great bunch of people, what is the draw?
And the plans, the elaborate and complicated schemes that Henry originally came up with, poisoned mushrooms, creating a whole back-story, and then they just push him off a cliff. Seemed a bit haphazard and out of character. Also it was dull, the murder was boring, they waited on a path, when he came up they pushed him off the cliff. No arguments, no excitement, just bye bye.
The search for Bunny's body took forever to find and the funeral was a joke.   Then Richard is having nightmares, Francis is having panic attacks, Charles has become a drunkard. Guilt? About freaking time.   From the moment I found out Charles was angry at Camilla and Henry I knew that they were sleeping together and that was what Charles was so angry about. What I didn’t see coming was that Charles and Camille was in some incestual relationship not just a onetime thing for the bacchanal. Ewwww. Totally made me think of Flowers in the Attic.
I was happy when Richard began to connect the dots and see that Henry had masterminded and manipulated the whole situation. What I am confused about is why he did it? I mean he just ended up killing himself, so what was the point? I thought Henry was going to kill Charles and because Richard was shot call it defense. I agree turning the gun on himself was out of the blue and it didn’t seem in line with the character. I also thought that Henry trying to kill Charles and I thought maybe Henry killed them all and Richard was writing his memoirs so that when Henry came for him the authorities would know who did it. I was just hoping for a better ending I guess.
The reading bored me, the storyline is slow and this academia stuff makes me want to nap. I want the book to hurry up and get to the action of the murder already, then it skips it and goes to the boring aftermath. None of the characters are likable, and mostly they are bores, literally. Although, on a side note, I think Bunny would have been a great employee of Mr. Wednesday from American Gods.  I sort of wish we had Bunny’s perspective of things.  I didn’t absolutely hate this book like I have some we read earlier in the year, but I won’t re-read it either. I finished it and on time so that is an accomplishment.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Book Four of Merlin’s Decedents: Guardians of the Promise by Irene Radford

Guardian of the Promise
I received this eBook free from the LibraryThings early reviewer program.  This is the fourth book in a series of novels focusing on the mythical bloodline of Merlin. As this was the fourth book, I decided when I received it that I would find and download the first three in the series.  I hate coming in to the middle of a series.  I have already posted my reviews of the prior three books.  This story is set about 13 years after “Guardian of the Vision,” which places the story in the 16th century, it is about the children of Griffin and Donovan Kirkwood, whom were the protagonists of “Guardian of the Vision.” The main protagonist is Deidre (Dee) Kirkwood the illegitimate daughter of Griffin Kirkwood and Roanna Douglas.  Unlike the prior books in this series, to know what is happening, the reader really does need to read at least the third book if not the entire series first.  In this installment Elizabeth still rules and England is plagued by werewolves.  There is confusion as to who will be the next Pendragon, Dee or one of her Cousins Hal (whom Dee is in love with) or her other cousin Betsy (who is insane).  This book spans a 16 year period and we see Dee, Hal and Betsy grow from pre-teens to adults.  The Antagonist is Meneur de Loups more commonly known as El Lobison and his pet Werewolf Yassmine.
Many of the characters from “Guardian of the Vision” return in this book, so it was nice to know the backstory, although I suppose maybe if I hadn’t read the earlier novels this one wouldn’t have seemed so tedious.  This book took me 2 tries and 4 months to read, I was just unable to focus on the story and had to take copious notes to not forget what happened from one chapter to the next.  I think Radford made the same mistake in this book as she did in “Guardian of the Vision,” instead of focusing on and developing one character she spread herself to thin developing multiple characters.  Radford had Dees storyline, Hal’s storyline, Betsy’s storyline, Donavan’s Storyline and Yassmine’s storyline.  It was too much.  I was unable to connect to any of the characters, they were all too shallow.  What I really liked about the first two books in the series (which focused on a single protagonist) was that Radford went deeply into the characters, I connected to them.  These last two books the characters are like shadows, an outline of what they could be with not enough detail to really see them.  Also Radford dwelled too much on the history and not enough on the story.  I like having historical facts being part of the story, but if I want to read only historical events and details I’ll pick up a history book.
Overall I give this book a 1 star.  I have also received the fifth installment in this series through the LibraryThing early reviewer program, but I am not looking forward to reading it.  I’m hoping Radford goes back to her writing style of the first two books, but I wouldn’t place money on it.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

“American Gods” by Neil Gaiman

American Gods
Welcome to yet another BOTM club analysis.  Sometimes I am forced to read a book that drags and makes me pull my hair out to read, but this month is a winner.  Where have I been that I missed a) this book and b) this author.  American Gods is my favorite type of book one that takes something we think we know (in this case the classic myths) and adds a new twist.  I loved this read, even though my comments are taking a little bit to post because I had mommy duties get in the way.
American Gods is a strange road-trip story wrapped around a deep examination of the American belief system. The main character Shadow gets out of prison early when his wife is killed in a car crash. Shadow then takes up with a mysterious character called Mr. Wednesday, who is much more than he appears. Together they travel America rounding up forgotten Gods in preparation for an epic battle against the upstart deities of the Internet, credit cards, television, and all that is wired. Armed only with some coin tricks and a sense of purpose, Shadow travels through, around, and underneath the visible surface of things, digging up all the powerful myths Americans brought with them in their journeys to this land as well as the ones that were already here.
I think the Gods exist because of our faith, but they are tied to our Faith and as it fails and fades so do they. Let’s look at the new Gods, the television was created, people began to take time out of their day to watch it, i.e. worship it, and the TV god was created. She remains strong because people spend hours watching it every day. The Technology god seems computer based, and so let’s says he was created with the first computer. Look at how much we rely on our computers, we use them at home and work constantly, and become more dependent on them every day. We have faith that they will work, and will allow us to do our work faster so we can have more free time to do things like worship the TV god. Of them all that we haven't met I think the most powerful new god would be the internet god, it is everywhere, on our computer, our phones, our gaming systems. In fact I bet if this book was written now, there would be a Facebook god.
The first section is introducing us to the characters and getting the story of the new vs. old Gods set up. The second section of the book seemed a little ho hum. The running around and getting the gods on board with the plan just seemed like filler. The third section moved along much better, the war and the conclusion felt very solid.
I like Gaiman’s style of writing from the start – easy flow of the narrative. When I do sit down to read, the pages have just flown by and I’m way further in the story than it feels like. What does slow me down is writing down who the gods are and looking them up, if I was more disciplined I would have waited until the end of the reading to look them up, but then I think I would have missed some of the innuendos Gaiman put in, such as Odin being called Mr. Wednesday. I won’t list all my research here, because it would take up way too much time and room. All I will say is I am having lots of fun with it! Also I am loving all the quote potentials in this book, most of my notes are “quote – pg. blah blah” LOL I won’t bore you all with my notes on that front either.
I do want to make a comment on Mr. Wednesday, strangely, I have a mental picture of my high school drama teacher with red hair and I have no idea why, but as I read about him that is who I see. Although somehow I missed that Mr. Wednesday had only one eye until Chapter 4.
I like that Shadow’s last name is moon. I thought maybe he was a hidden hero from a myth, but when I looked him up all I could get was a reference to Japanese film Character from the Kamen Rider series and a book by Chris Claremont and George Lucas. The book was the continuation of the movie Willow (The Chronicles of the Shadow War), which makes me happy to know about and I will be looking to read the series, but still leaves me a little unfulfilled. I feel like with a great name of Shadow Moon there should be some mythological reference, like the shadow of the moon is where the Gods reside or something. Drat!
Shadow is special to the old Gods because of his acceptance, he doesn't fight against Mr. Wednesday and the things he see, he just accepts that is the way the world is and that I think gives the Old Gods a power, not as much power as belief and worship, but he still accepts them. I think that if the new Gods had reached out to Shadow first, I think he would have worked for the opposition; he doesn't have a stand besides getting paid. Again I think that is a part of what makes Shadow special, his acceptance, he accepted the old gods and he accepts the new gods, and he doesn’t take sides.
I have mixed feelings about Shadow and his dead wife Laura, who happens to be a walking corpse. Shadow talked to her 5 days before he was to be released and they exchanged “I love you’s.” Which is great and all because he got to tell her that before she died, and she did say that she wasn’t going to leave Shadow for Robbie. But still she was a cheater, I mean she died giving another guy a blow job, so leave poor Shadow alone already. I know that she is coming back because of Mad Sweeny’s coin, although I’m not a hundred percent sure why. But anyways back to Laura’s death, I find it interesting that Shadow had made up this whole story about Robbie being drunk, and in actuality he had it all backwards, Laura was the drunken one. It is like Shadow had his life with Laura backwards, I wonder if what he remembers ties to the reality of their relationship. And how does Laura follow him? I mean is this dead woman walking the highways following her husband, or does she manifest wherever he is? I think Shadow wants to bring Laura back because he feels it is his fault she is there. He thinks it has something to do with Mad Sweeney’s coin. And also, there was something in the first section after he talked to Zorya Polunchnayay about listening to the Dead and it is important to give them what they ask for, but I can’t find the passage. I don’t think he should do it, I think it will mess with the balance of the world, although he isn’t given the option he just kills her by taking back the coin in the end, so no balance upsets here.
What is up with all the coins being given: Low Key Lysmith, gives Shadow the coin he uses for all his coin tricks; Mad Sweeney gives him the coin that brings Laura back from the dead, Zorya Polunchnayay gives him a Silver Liberty Coin – Moon which is the moon. I am sure that there is a theme here that I have missed somehow, or that will be explained later, but all I seem to have noticed that Shadow collects coins not just does tricks with them.
And finally something that is mundane but really bothers me, isn’t Shadow on probation, I mean he just got out of prison early he should be and if so doesn’t he need to check in with his probation officer, and he couldn’t be traveling so much if he is on probation, to many permissions needed to go places. I mean I know it is fiction, but it just glares at me every time Shadow hits a new town. Which is why in Lakeside when Shadow got busted for skipping parole I did find it a little justifying; I even said out loud “I told you so!” Not my finest moment, but it still felt good to know Gaiman didn’t just forget the parole factor.
Although, I do really like all of Mr. Himzelman’s tall tales. Lakeside reminded me of the town from Gilmore Girls, very close knit and quirky in an idyllic setting, but instead of Luke’s they have Mabel’s. I think there is more to Lakeside and the disappearing children, but it seems like that should be a different story almost, it just didn’t fit well with me. I would read a book about the mystery of the Lakeside missing children, but it didn’t fit with this story. Mr. Himzelman being a kobold, or whatever he is did surprise me, I didn’t see that one coming at all. And I really liked his character too, I felt very betrayed.
Again this whole section felt like filler to me rather than moving the story along. I really felt like there must be more to Sam Black Crow, she didn’t seem as random as I thought she was as the hitchhiker. Although I was sad to find out that she really wasn’t all that important in the end.
In the third section when it talked about the Gods camped at lookout rock seemed a little jumbled to me, but I think that was because the Gods are half-forgotten and jumbled anyways. Also they are a very disorganized crew.
At the start of part 3, I went back to the first section and refreshed my memory of Mr. Wednesday and Shadow’s bargain. Mr. Wednesday would take care of Shadows needs and Shadow would:
  1. Protect Mr. Wednesday.
2. Transport Mr. Wednesday.
3. Run errands for Mr. Wednesday.
4. Hurt people for Mr. Wednesday, emergency situations only.
5. Hold a vigil for Mr. Wednesday.
It was the vigil that made me look it up; I wanted to know if the section talked anymore about the vigil. It didn’t I did see that Mr. Wednesday said “in the unlikely event of my death” when he made the bargain, it wasn’t an unlikely event. Mr. Wednesday knew full well that he was going to die. So if the bargain was made under false pretenses, did it null the bargain? How was Shadow supposed to protect Mr. Wednesday, if Mr. Wednesday had already planned his own death?
I looked up Louise Brooks, just because I wanted to know if she was real, apparently she was the iconic flapper from the 20’s and her signature was the bob haircut. She worked in silent films, and I recognized her picture, she also did one of the first lesbian scenes in a movie. Who knew that silent films could be so controversial? I feel like I should see if I can find one of her movies on TMC or Netflix or something, just to see what all the hype is about.
The fact that the whole war was a two man con thing, it didn't really surprise me, but I didn't predict it either. And we had definite foreshadowing of it. Mr. Wednesday was right, that his death did more for the cause than his life had. Mr. Wednesday did say it would take him 9 days to come back, 3 days in the tree, 3 days in the underworld, and 3 days to find his way back. That seems a little excessive, jeez Christ only took 3 days total to be resurrected. And how long was Shadow hanging in the tree? 9 days or years?
I liked the death of shadow, the journey was great, we got lots of stuff cleared up and answered. One thing that stuck with me was when Bast took his heart; it was the color or pigeon blood. Am I missing something, is pigeon blood a different color than other types of blood? I just feel like it was a weird simile, why pigeon blood? Oh and the squirrel, what was the point of the squirrel? So which way do we think Bast sent Shadow? The way that makes him wise or the way that makes him whole? I think he went the way that killed him, I mean he did die and all. Did Shadow become a Shadow, is that the result of him giving up his true name or the result of him taking the middle path?
Shadow being Mr. Wednesday's son didn't faze me either, again not surprised but didn’t predict either. I did have to look up the part where Mr. Wednesday said "Unfortunately for the most part people like me fire blanks....nowadays it’s possible, but so unlikely as to be almost unimaginable." So I guess we had foreshadowing, hehe fore shadowing. Sorry couldn’t help myself.
In the epilogue I was confused as to why Shadow was in Iceland, but I think it has to do with his powers. He made the Lakeside Sherriff, Chad forget what happened with Himzelman, then he gave Sam the flowers and she never saw him. I think he did become somewhat of a shadow.
Another thing I noticed was that when Laura killed Low Key that she said, “I dedicate this death to Shadow.” Low Key was supposed to say “I dedicate this battle to Odin” so they could absorb the power from the battle. I think he still did. But what does that mean for Shadow, because Laura dedicated the death to him, is he some semi-demi-god that could absorb Loki’s death power?
Overall I really like this book I was very excited to discover this author and I would defiantly recommend it as a read, just have your Google handy.
On separate side note, for those of you who do research, I was able to download a free version of the Histories of Herodotus from This is the book from prison that Low Key gave to Shadow.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Stand The Complete and Uncut Edition by Stephen King

The Stand
Hello Book of the Month Book Club, you did me right.
The Stand is a post-apocalyptic horror/fantasy novel.  It was originally published in 1978 and re-published as this expanded edition in 1990.  King restored some text originally cut for brevity, added and revised sections, changed the setting of the story from 1980 (which in turn was changed to 1985 for the original paperback release in 1980) to 1990, and updated a few pop culture references accordingly.  The Stand is split into 3 books/sections; Captain Trips, On the Boarder, and The Stand.

Because this is the extended version, I have a two part preface; it talks about how book will probably be a movie and who he would want as actors, none of whom did actually act in the movie. It also says King republished because he had to cut out parts of the original manuscript for cost reasons not by editing choice. He added back in stuff he thought add a "richness and dimension" to the story.
The plot of this book is that a plague wipes out most of the population, then there are the good guys whom form a community and the bad guys who form a community. The bad guys want to wipe out the good guys and the good guys have to stop the bad guys. Add in some elements of magic and the devil and we have our plot. I could do a complete plot breakdown, but to me the characters were more interesting, and as I took my notes while reading I took them based on characters not plot movement.
Stuart “Stu” Redman – he is just a good’ol boy, does the right thing and stands up for what he knows is right. You can count on him to stand by you when times are tough, hell he already did with his Mom and Brother, he won’t complain, he just does what needs to be done. He is one of the good guys. When reading about his character I thought he must be old, then I find out he is just 30. He has seen a lot of hard times and it has aged him, but we need a character with the wisdom of an old man and the youth to do the work an old man couldn’t do. I love the fact that he has been kidnapped and essentially erased and he refuses to just roll over. Go Stu! When Stu was leaving the hospital place and thought he was being chased it totally made me think of Dr. Who. “The idea grew so strong that he became afraid to turn around, afraid that if he did he would see a white-suited figure striding after him, a white-suited figure with no face but only blackness behind a Plexiglas plate.” Was River in the suite?
Frannie Goldsmith – I can imagine how scary it is to be 22 years old, pregnant, single and with a judgmental mother, she is scared about the direction her life has taken. Then BAM the end of the world comes! But she has a solid head on her shoulders. She is a no-nonsense type of girl, who makes decisions based on facts. She isn’t willing to do what is wrong because someone tells her to, she proves that when she refuses to marry Jesse her boyfriend just because she is pregnant. She admits she doesn’t love him and isn’t willing to be unhappy for the rest of her life. But she is not so realistic that she can’t have a fantasy every now and then.
I love that she sees her Father’s workshop as an Alice in Wonderland place, and that she someday hopes to walk in and find a Hobbit hole. I admit I have often hoped to find a Hobbit hole of my own with a Bilbo Baggins to show me how to make smoke rings and fix me a second breakfast. Speaking of her Father, I am so happy that he finally stood up for Frannie to Carla, she needed a setting down as it was. I’m glad that Frannie knows her father has her back. I did find it interesting that Fran never looked for Jesse. She fell out of love with him and all, but man she didn’t care at all that the father of her unborn child was alive or dead. That is a little harsh. When her father died I thought she might look for Jesse then. Peter’s passing made me very sad. He was a good guy and he would have been a great grandfather. I think that is the one character that I am most sad didn’t make it.
Some of Fran’s things in her diary made me sad to think that her social commentary issues have never been resolved.  Where is our 60 mpg prowler? Ha my research showed it got between 19 to 22 mpg. I guess the same issues of fuel economy existed in 1999 as it does now. I’m a little sad that we aren’t really any further along, besides Toyota that is.
Harold Lauder - wow he is a gas bag isn’t he. So full of himself and can’t back it up. The fact that he sees Frannie as his is absurd and will lead to nowhere good for his character. I can’t stand Harold, and I think King planned it that way. Leaves room for Stu to be attracted to Fran. Harold has green eyes, I guess with his jealousy he is the incarnate “Green Eyed Monster.” Finally at the end Harold gets ousted.
Larry Underwood – is a classic never do well musician. He gets in trouble and runs home to Momma. He wants to be a better person, but he just isn’t. King was really not subtle in his foreshadowing that Larry is a redemption character, and will be an important part of the finale. His Mom is great, Alice see the world as it is, she has no illusions about her son, but that doesn’t stop her from loving him. I wish she stayed around, she was a great, I think she would have been a great survivalist.
Larry and Rita, when you say not if you were the last person on earth, be careful he/she may be. That is the only reason they would stay together. When they first found each other Rita filled the role of Mother for Larry. He needed someone to take care of him and she seemed to be the person for the job, but then after time he finds out she isn’t as together as he thought. In fact she’s a little crazy. Larry and Rita were not a well matched couple, they brought out the worst in each other I think. And Larry began to see her more as a burden than a savior he thought he had found. He tried to be better and take care of her, but I’m not sure anyone could have taken care of Rita. I think that even if the world hadn’t ended she would have OD’d in her Manhattan apartment. The fact that Larry sees himself as a bad guy for her death, give credence to my theory that he is a redemption case. Larry wanted to take care of her, he wanted to be the good guy, but circumstances were out of his control and he blames himself, just as a good guy would. The relief he feels is normal, he was in a bad relationship, and when you leave a bad relationship you feel relieved it’s over. It just happens that the end of this relationship was death not breaking up.
Reading about Larry’s adventure in the Washington tunnel gave me the willies! I think that when Larry was camping in the park alone and he heard the dusty boots on the pavement, Flagg was looking for him and it was a good thing Larry stayed quiet.
I think it is interesting how Larry was recruited to the council, but we as readers knew that he would be. He was not really wanted but he was still recruited.
Joe and Larry, I do love watching their relationship develop. Joe/Leo is like Tom in a way, able to see into things and read peoples minds. Joe/Leo foreshadowed Larry’s death, when talking about Nadine going away, Larry says to Joe/Leo that Joe/Leo can always talk to him or Lucy-Mom and Joe/Leo responds “But not for always!”
Nadine – She is always making the wrong choice. Wanting Flagg instead of Larry is her biggest. Mother Abigail is right, she does have a good one and she makes the fatal mistake and goes for the bad boy. Sigh, we all learn about that one the hard way though don’t we? And the more bad things Harold and Nadine do, the more her hair turns white. I guess we could judge her moral compass by the color of her hair.
Nick Andros – a 22 year old deaf mute, who left the system at 16 and hasn’t let his disabilities or his aloneness stop him from bettering himself and being a good person. He stays out of trouble and has been attempting to get his GED through correspondence classes while never staying in the same place long enough to make home. That shows some drive and makes me root for him. He stays to take care of the Sherriff and the Sherriff’s wife because it was the right thing to do, even though he had a chance to run, and I hate to say that most of us would have gotten the hell out of Sick Shoyo and not looked back. I felt bad for Nick, getting his eye damaged, because the poor guy needs one more handicap right?
I think that is interesting that everyone defers to Nick – He is the Mastermind! So we know that
Nick was special, and he was supposed to lead the boys west, but then he was killed. Why? Why wasn’t he protected more? Did Flagg take out his biggest threat? I truthfully forgot that Nick died, for some reason I thought it was Glen, so it was a bit of a let down when he died.

Mother Abigail – I think it is funny that Mother Abigail is described as being the Oldest Woman in the states, it isn’t hard to be the Oldest Women when most of the world had died. That phrase makes me think of someone who is over a hundred or something, but she could easily be 52 and still be the Oldest Woman. Mother Abigail is 108 and is the hand of god. Prophecy is the shinning lamp of God. Love that Mother Abigail distrusted Harold immediately.
Glen Bateman and Kojak - I felt a very Zen sense when reading his portions and his philosophy’s. I love the fact that Glen talks to Kojak like he is an errant child, just bring a happy mental picture to my mind. I know King doesn’t include dogs in his stories as often as say Koontz does, but he always does them justice when he does. Just for fun, I researched the James D. L. Staunton study on no-shows for cancelled flights. I only found him in connection with The Stand. Many have had a similar experience in their search for Staunton, and so they conclude that Staunton was not real but merely fictional.
Very sad they originally left Kojak behind.  But I always knew that Kojak came back. It just sucks that he got so beat up, poor baby. I really love that King lets us know that Kojak is not a fatality of the final battle. Which I assume everyone has figured out is coming.
So it is done, and because I knew what was happening on this second read through I caught something I hadn't noticed the first time. Glen called it! Glen essentially laid out the entire plot of the book when talking to Stu in Ch. 37, but man he did. Then in Ch. 50 he does it again.
Tom Cullens - I forgot about M-O-O-N spells Tom. He is a bit of a sideline, but he is a good supporting character.
Lloyd Henreid – a man in over his head. He is a villain from the start robbing and killing without a second thought or any regrets until he learns he will get the chair. Then boy is he sorry. I think my favorite part about our introduction to Lloyd is the image of Bill Markson in his Stetson holding a pack of Luckies shooting Poke, calm and collected as any gunfighter. I imagine him to be a cross between the Marlboro Man and Clint Eastwood (as Blondie not Dirty Harry).
Randall Flagg – our main villain, he is Satan or the Grimm Reaper, depending on whose review you read. I just see him as a bad Mamma-Jamma. Ohhh...Eye of the Dragon is my favorite King and I never made the Flag connection, just got goosebumps!
Randall Flagg is Legion, both in this book and in the Dark Tower series. So I researched it. A legion is 2,000 roman soldiers or the demon from Gadarene from the bible. The Demon in the bible says to Jesus “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And Jesus cleansed the man by having the demons leave him and enter pigs.
So then I did more research and Randall Flagg has appeared in 9 of King’s novels: The Stand, The Eyes of the Dragon, and The Dark Tower series ( 7 books). There are suggestions that Raymond Fiegler from Hearts in Atlantis is Flagg.
From Wikipedia: “Stephen King initially attributed Donald DeFreeze, the lead kidnapper in the Patty Hearst case, as his inspiration for Randall Flagg. According to King, he was remembering the Patty Hearst case when he began to write a description of DeFreeze. King started by writing, "Donald DeFreeze is a dark man.” He remembered through the photographs taken of the bank robbery that Patty Hearst took part in that DeFreeze was only partially visible, hidden under a large hat. What he looked like was based on guesses made by people who only saw a portion of him. This inspired King, who then wrote, "A dark man with no face." After reading the motto, "Once in every generation the plague will fall among them," King set to work writing The Stand, and developing the character of Randall Flagg
In 2004, King stated that Flagg's real inspiration just came to him "out of nowhere", while he was attending college. According to King, he just had this image of a man in cowboy boots, denim jeans and jacket, who was always walking the roads. This character inspired King to write "The Dark Man", a poem about a man who rides the rails and admits to murder and rape. To the author, what made Flagg interesting was the fact that he was a villain who was "always on the outside looking in". King has stated that he believes that Flagg has been present since he first began his writing career.”

I think the book title come from Ch. 65 when Flagg is eating his rabbit in the desert after Harold tried to shoot Nadine. “Once, he was quite sure, he would have done a quick fade when things began to get flaky. Not this time. This was his place, his time, and he would take his stand here.”
When Flagg was talking to the new minions in the end he said "I've come to teach you how to be civilized." And Glen said somewhere, I can't find the reference though was that civilization was the downfall of men. Organization = politics and intrigue does it never end.
Trashcan man - Great character, I love the fact that he is a crazy pyromaniac. See electric shock therapy helps no one. Is he a pyromaniac because he was meant to be one, because his dad was crazy or a combination? I think a psych major could have fun doing an analysis of his character. I didn’t realize the first time I read the book how much foreshadowing happened in Trashcan’s chapter. “My life for you” sounds familiar and I can’t remember if I remember it from the first reading or if it is some other of King’s works.
Makes me sad that to be accepted trash can man needs to go to Flagg (bad camp). I wonder if he had gone to Mother Abigail instead, would he gave been as easily accepted? Are the bad guys really bad through and through or do they just do bad things. I sympathize with trashcan man, I know he is a bad guy, but I guess I wonder if he is a character that is just created for a nature vs. nurture argument. Was he the way is because it is his nature, or is he irredeemable because he wasn't helped early enough, and shock therapy does not count as helping.
Dreams bring back the supernatural element. King does a lot with dreams in his books, sometimes I think it is a fall back technique, because it is an easy way for him to get his characters connected and to meet.

I think the scariest thing about this book is how realistic the possibility of this happening is. This is King and there are some supernatural occurrences, but for the most part he plays on a very realistic scenario. I know that in this day and age there is germ warfare research going on, and it isn’t just conspiracy theory paranoia, I think most people in America know the possibly of virus fuck-up is possible. The truly scary thing is how the government reacts, by trying to contain, when that fails, spreading to rest of the world, and killing anyone who resists. I have faith in our government, but that doesn’t mean I’m a blind fool I see this reaction as completely plausible, possibly even likely. The military keeping everyone in the dark is part of the fear factor. The military does lots of things and they call it classified so they don't have to explain themselves, or even explain amongst themselves.
As a final comment, I last read this book before being a mother and I admit, reading about sick and dying babies makes my heart hurt, and when Sammy came into the room with a runny nose I had a moment of panic. The first baby taken by Captain Trips Virus is the same age as Sam and I teared up some. That is the magic of King, 10 pages in and I am already invested enough in the story and the characters to cry when a minor one dies. So Chapter 38 was depressing talking about how even stupid people survive and still can die stupidly after the world ends. I think it was meant to show that King didn’t save just the brilliant characters. Although I HATED the part where Sam Tauber (5 ½ years old) falls down a well and dies. Stupid King hitting my Mommy button. What is King’s obsession with wells anyways?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye
Another BOTM Club read.  I went into it dreading it, thinking it was going to be another boring classic.  I was wrong, I loved it!  I loved the conversational style of writing, and the ease of reading.  
The hero-narrator of The Catcher in the Rye is an man-child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield.  Holden leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. Finally his little sister is able to bring him home, and from there he is in a rest home for metal distress, which is where he is telling this story from.  But nobody really reads book reviews for the plot summary, they want to know what someone else thinks of the book.  If you want a plot summary, read the back cover.
I think Salinger did a great job of capturing a teenager character, when I read Holden's thoughts I can totally picture the greaser teenager rebel boy from the 50's, trying so hard to be a "cool" guy. Do you remember being a teenager and thinking you knew it all and nobody, especially not an ADULT could understand you or your problems?  Salinger captured that feeling and made me remember those many years gone.
And of course a teenager thinks he is better than everyone else, teenagers are egotistical beyond belief, that is what drives their parents so nuts. I mean to an extent teenager think about other, but mainly they think about themselves and what will may them the coolest or most popular. I think Salinger did a great job of capturing the teenager mindset in Holden. Nobody understands him and when he is talking to his professors you can get that he knows the adult is trying to help him, but how can he help Holden if he doesn't understand where Holden is coming from?  I remember as a teenager that we picked stupid fashion, and clung to it as a way to express our individuality, the hunting hat just leads more credence to the teenager persona. I'm trying to think of something stupid that was big when we were kids, the only thing that comes to mind is the guys in high school wearing those stupid dog choke chains as necklaces, but I'm sure there were other things.
Holden also has a ton of misconceptions about women, and I’m not sure if that is his nativity or the era. Although he does seem to be a flop with women, mainly I think because of his misconceptions of them.  Gosh teenage romance was always more dramatic than it needed to be, too many hormones and not enough confidence. Holden didn’t interact with girls anywhere in a mature way because he thought he might look uncool, then he gest frustrated with himself for not speaking up.   Then when a classmate  (Stradlater) has a date with Jane (a girl Holden likes) he get jealous and starts a fight for no apparent reason, or at least no apparent reason to the other guy.  Again falls inline with teenage character acting without thinking.
I think that lately all the teenagers in books are these deep, profound, mature characters. Teenagers aren't really like that, they are whiny, self-centered and conflicted. They often have shallow thoughts and come up with hair-brained ideas, that an adult would never do because they have too much sense to do stupid stuff. Teenagers cuss a lot, because especially in the 50's, it was a taboo thing, they were not supposed to use that language and to rebel its goddamn this and goddamn that.   It makes me laugh a little at my lack of annoyance at Holden, I usually have low tolerance for self-centered characters. But I am able to remember what drama teenagers create in their own lives, and how disconnected from adults that they can feel. I get it, I get what Salinger is trying to do he has captured a teenager boys perspective of the world around him during a troublesome time.
Holden is quite the liar, he lies to everyone, although they aren’t malicious lies, in fact they are almost benevolent lies, when he tell the kid’s mom that the guy is swell and was nominated for class president, it was to make her feel better not himself. And I know a liar is a liar, I just find it interesting that the nature of his lies are for the benefit of others and not so much himself.
This kid has lost a brother and I bet he is having so many problems in school and with people because he probably didn't really deal with the death, it was the 50's its not like they put him in grief counseling, he was expected to be a man and just get over it. Remember in the 50's men were men and not emotional, so how does a teenager who has tones of puberty hormones and emotions also deal with the grief at the loss of his brother, he takes it out on the world around him.   I think Holden is just a very lonely boy, who is trying to find someone, anyone he can connect with. I think that is why he asks such oddball questions of complete strangers and gets so upset when they don’t respond in a kind manner. I think it was another cry for attention when he just wanted to talk to the prostitute, a bit cliché but still it is what it is.  I think the questions are trying to find a deeper meaning in life and death.
I think Holden is still just trying to deal with Allie’s death, he is really focusing on his memories of his brother and trying to deal with them on his own, it makes me sad for him. Also the poor kid got his ass kicked twice in one day, I wonder if he is looking for fights because the physical pain of getting his ass kicked takes away from the emotional pain of missing his brother.
I thoroughly enjoyed  this book, and I love the line "I'm quite illiterate, but I read a lot." To me it summed up so many teenager contradictions, I have actually thought about this line multiple times since I read the book. What was Holden getting at, did he mean that he read a lot, but didn't retain what he read? Did he mean he read a lot, but not what would be considered by Adult's to be good books? Did he mean that he read a lot, but that he didn't understand what he was reading? Did he mean he read a lot of types of books, not just a genre?   Someone who reads a lot can't be illiterate, by definition. But Holden is using the word to express other people's standards. I think that what he really means is "I don't read what they want me to read, but I read a lot."  Throughout the book Holden does what he wants, but it still doesn’t make him feel good.  That element of approval is missing, and so he reads a lot, but not what would be approved, and so he fails again.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin

Pride and Prejudice
This is another of my Book of the Month club reads. 
The Bennett's have five unmarried daughters—from oldest to youngest, Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia—and Mrs. Bennett is desperate to see them all married.  When the news that a wealthy bachelor Charles Bingley has rented the manor of Netherfield Park, Mrs. Bennett begins scheming to marry one of her daughters to him.  At a ball that the Mr. Bingley and the Bennett girls attend we are introduced to Mr. Bingley’s friend Mr. Darcy.  Mr. Bingley is quite taken with Jane, and Mr. Darcy is quite untaken with Elizabeth.  Over the weeks as he interacts more with Elizabeth this begins to change.  There is a mysterious fiancé and hurt feelings, but in the end Jane and Mr. Darcy reconcile and marry.  This is classic Austin, I know that she has many fans and I know that when she was writing she lived in a different era for women, but I am just not able to reconcile the facts with me feelings.  Being a on a constant husband hunt bores me, and yes Jane does assert some independence, but she is still a husband hunter who fears being a spinster school teacher.  At least she isn’t willing to settle for the first bloke that asks or she would have been unhappily married to Mr. Collins, so there were some indicators of a strong woman.  I think this is one of the reasons I can’t classic literature, I always want the heroine to say the hell with it and decide not to succumb to society and run off and become a successful businesswoman who never marries, even though I know it will never happen.  Overall, though once my irrational suffrage rights feelings are set aside, it wasn’t a bad book.  Little long winded in some spots, but that is the genre.  Austen is a classic because she is a good writer and she tells a good tale.  Overall I would say it was a 3 star read.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Book Three of Merlin’s Decedents: Guardians of the Vision by Irene Radford

Guardian of the Vision
This is the third book in a series of novels focusing on the mythical bloodline of Merlin. This story is set about 300 years after “Guardian of the Trust,” which places the story in the 16th century. The protagonist of this novel is mainly Griffin Kirkenwood, but he shares the limelight with his twin brother Donovan Kirkenwood.  The historical facts of this installment focus on Queen Elizabeth’s reign in England and the conflict with Mary Queen of Scots.  By switching the protagonist to a male character, the story lost much of its appeal the prior two novels had held for me.  Griffin and Donovan were not strong enough characters to make me want to read about them.  In fact, this book has been dragging on for more than a month, I am unable to get into the storyline and I feel no affection for the brothers.  I just keep praying the story will end soon, which is the main theme of the story.  Griffin is on a spiritual journey to find his faith, he has become a catholic priest and has let his magic lay fallow, as a result chaos almost takes England.  The premise of the story is interesting on its own but Radford just was unable to follow through.  Overall this was a very tedious read, and I had to force myself to continue with the book to the end.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Book Two of Merlin’s Decedents: Guardian of the Trust by Irene Radford

Guardian fo the Trust
This is the second book in a series of novels focusing on the mythical bloodline of Merlin. This story is set about 800 years after “Guardian of the Balance,” which places the story in the 13th century. The protagonist of this novel is Resmiranda Griffin, nicknamed Ana.  She is the descendent of Arthur and Wren many generations down the line.  The story takes place during the rule of King John Plantagenet, best know as the villainous King John from the story of Robin Hood, i.e. Robin Locksley.  This story takes place many years after the Robin Hood tales, Robin Locksley is still against the King, but he is not the main male character nor even still actively antagonizing the King.  The King has been ensorcelled by his half-brother Radburn Blakely who’s mother was half demon.  Blakely wishes to rule Britain and only Resmiranda has the heritage and inherited power to resist him.  While Resmiranda has to fight with herself to embrace her “pagan” magic which is abhorred by her Christian upbringing.
There are many references to places and people from the “Guardian of the Balance” but if you haven’t read “Guardian of the Balance” it does not deter from “Guardian of the Trust".”  As this book deals with a completely new set of characters, the references from “Guardian of the Balance” just give a sense of history behind the story, but doesn't revel plot secrets. 
Radburn does a wonderful job of mixing historical fact with fiction to provide us with a magical tale.  King John is not the villain I thought he was, he is a conflicted and complicated character like most of Radburn’s characters.  And Resmiranda has a deep inner struggle that allows most of the plots conflicts to be internal rather than external.  The writing style of “Guardian of the Truth” was a much easier read than “Guardian of the Balance.”  The story seemed to just flow easily in and out of history seamlessly.  Resmiranda is a strong woman and in a time when women had little power, Resmiranda is written into very powerful role and is very relatable and likable.  This was a quick read for me, I was drawn into the story and couldn’t put it down, I read the whole book in two days.  This felt like a book written by an experienced writer who knows what makes a good story.  Guardian of the Truth is a great historical fiction novel. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Book One of Merlin’s Decedents: Guardian of the Balance by Irene Radford

Guardian of the Balance
This is the first book in a series of novels focusing on the mythical bloodline of Merlin.  This story is set in the late 5th century and early 6th century.  The protagonist of this first novel is Arylwren, nicknamed Wren,  the daughter of Merlin and the goddess whom he serves. Wren grows up in the shadow of and falls in love with the boy who will one day inherit the title of Pendragon. Meanwhile, to protect her from political and religious intrigues, her father forces Wren into a loveless marriage. Wren has a long and difficult journey through life and pursues a destiny spun for her by the goddess of the land, but whose contributions to Briton behind the scenes make her as important as Arthur himself.  Wren must balance the old with the new and her love with her duty.
This is not the first book Radford has ever written, but it feels like it.  The writing style in the first half of the book is rough, and the story line is choppy.  The second half of the book things begin to move smoother as Radford’s writing improves.  During the first half of the book, Radford throws out details regarding many Celtic rituals and Gods with no real enhancement to the storyline, it seems almost as if she want to show off her knowledge rather than enhance her story.  Thankfully, in the second half of the book the Celtic ritual details do enhance the story line and makes the reading much more enjoyable.  It is the second half of the book that drew me in, and I had trouble putting it down.  Radford kept most of the classic Arthurian legend details but her own spin on them that made the story seem fresh and engaging.
The personalities and reasons behind the actions of well known characters such as Morgaine and Merlin mad the story seem new and sometimes I wished for different outcomes than what I knew must happen.  There are also new players to the legend working in the background that add some depth to the story and provide new antagonists to thwart Arthur, Wren and Merlin, and lead to the conclusion that we all know must happen.  For example Nimue, is corrupted by her greed for power and her laziness to complete a task as instructed, if here flaws did not hinder her so, she could have been a larger threat than she was.  But, if her father Carrdoc had not been such a brutal man, she may have been able to user her power for good, and at first I felt sorry for her, in the end she got what her deeds deserved, but I still felt sympathy for the character, which shows that when Radford choose to focus on the story and the characters she could weave a magical tale.  I love that fact that “Guardian of the Balance” follows Arthur and Wren from childhood to death, and sets up the next book to be about their decedents rather than carrying the story of Arthur and Wren.  I am looking forward to “Guardian of the Truth”

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Fifty Shades Trilogy

Fifty Shades Trilogy
I went through these books so quickly, that I didn’t leave time to do individual reviews of each book, instead I am doing a review of all three read together.  I first heard about his trilogy on Good Morning America, and thought it would be on my future reading list.  Then a friend said she had them and loved them and loaned the trilogy to me.  My friend stated that they were along the lines of Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty trilogy, but I find that to be a gross misstatement.  The Fifty Shades Trilogy does have intense sex scenes with Dominant/Submissive tones, but unlike the Sleeping Beauty trilogy there is an actual story and character growth. The characters of Christen Grey and Ana Steele are very likable and wanting to get to know them better kept me turning the pages. 
Fifty Shades of Grey is where were are first introduced to Christen and Ana.  Christine is a vastly wealthy businessman, self made and controlling of all aspects of his life.  Ana is incredibly naïve and yes virginal.  Christen has a very specific type of relationship with women, and Ana must discover if she can provide that, especially since she has never been in a sexual relationship before it tests all her boundaries.  This book is mostly about Ana discovering who she is and what she will and won’t do in a relationship.  Christen is an enigma to both Ana and the reader, and leaves us both hungering for more information and insight into his character. 
Fifty Shades Darker is the next step in Christen and Ana’s relationship.  Christen is willing to test his relationship boundaries to give Ana what she wants and needs from him.  This book is mostly about Christen pushing and expanding his emotional limits.  There is also the excitement of an ex-lover coming for Christen and/or Ana and the suspense of how the unstable woman will attack them next.  I could not put this book down, I think I finished it less than 24 hours.  To me this was the best book of the three, EL James combined suspense, romance, and humor masterfully and the story just unfolded effortlessly and I found myself devouring it.
Fifty Shades Freed we continue with Christen and Ana’s story after they are married and there is yet another unstable person attacking them.  Jack Hyde is after revenge, but revenge for what?  This was the most boring of the three books, the suspense element wasn’t as good as in book two and the sex scenes felt a bit repetitive.  Also, the happy newlyweds did not really inspire me.  They were settling into boring married life, rather than exploring either’s emotional or sexual boundaries as in the first two books.  Still a great read though.
Overall the Darker Shades Trilogy is a great story of relationship boundaries, with some really hot sex scenes thrown in for fun.  The characters are memorable and make you love them within the first few chapters.  Christen and Ana are such extreme opposites and such extreme character types that you can’t help but cheer for their happiness.  Now I understand what all the hype was and agree is a hot summer read.

A River Runs Through It and Other Stories by Norman Maclean

A River Runs Through It
I am part of a book club, we read a book a month. This month we are reading A River Runs Through It and other Short Stories.    There are 3 short stories in this collection.
The 1st story in the book is A River Runs Through It, this is a story about fishing and family.  It is about the Maclean brothers Norman and Paul in the late 1930’s in Montana.  The narrator is the older brother Norman who talks about a fishing trip with his younger troubled brother and Norman’s attempt to help Paul get straightened out.  The Macleans are a Presbyterian family that describe life through their religion and their passion for fly fishing.  Personally, I found all the fishing commentary boring and tedious, but it is obviously important to MacLean and his story line.
The 2nd story in the book is Logging and Pimping and “Your Pal Jim, this is a story about Maclean’s summer working as logger with a adversarial partner Jim.  It tells how they spent the summer working against each other instead of with each other.
The 3rd story in the book is USFS 1919: The Ranger, the Cook, and the Hole in the Sky, this is a story about MacLean’s time in the forest service.  I was unable to complete this story, by page 16 I was so bored out of my mind I just couldn’t finish reading it.
Personally, I find Norman MacLean’s writing flat and uninteresting.  He narratives of his stories are of his family and experiences, but they are not engaging events.  MacLean seems to focus on unimportant details that have no purpose in the story and he describes these details to a painful degree.  For example, in Logging and Pimping and “Your Pal Jim, he spends an entire page of the story describing Jim’s logging boots and the boots have no significance to the storyline beyond this description.  The stories seem to ramble and do not have a point, there is no epiphany found at the end that gives us a reason to read the story.  In a way, I felt like I was listening to an old man talk about his youth with no point behind his recollections, just a desire to talk and not forget who he was when younger.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire

A Lion Among men
This is the third book in the Oz trilogy.  In this book the Cowardly Lion is interviewing Mother Yackle regarding Elphaba and Liir, and during the interview we find out more about the Lion’s life.  And finally we find out what happened to Nor.  This book still leaves a great many mysteries unresolved.  Some mysteries are solved and/or clarified but if I told you which ones I would spoil all the fun.  A Lion Among Men was a more difficult read for me, the storyline seemed less cohesive then the first two books.  The storyline jumped between the Lion’s story, Mother Yackle’s story, and Nor’s story in such a way that the entire book seem disjointed.  The jumps sometimes were too abrupt and did not allow for a good flow.  I was glad to know the backgrounds of the characters and it made some events in the first two books clear, but it made it hard to read and follow too.  In the end there were still a great many things left unresolved hopefully Out of Oz will finally answer all my questions.  It seems to me in this book that Maguire has lost some of his story telling mojo.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire

Son of a Witch
This is the sequel to Wicked: The life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.  This book takes place ten years after the death of Elphaba, Liir is found beaten almost to death and as he lays in a comatose state we find out his adventures since Elphaba’s death.  Liir is tasked by the Elephant princess, Nastoya, to find a cure for her half life and return her to her Elephant body to die.  Liir also tasks himself with finding out what happened to Nor. 
The rich landscape and world of Oz from Wicked is still present in this book, although it seemed a little duller to me.  Maguire’s writing did not seem as rich or insightful in this book as in Wicked.  There was very little social commentary or political intrigue.  Most of the plot is about Liir’s internal struggle to find himself.   Liir’s character did not have the depth that Elphaba did and therefore the internal struggle wasn’t nearly as interesting.  This was a nice continuation of the story to see what happened to Oz after Elphaba’s death, but it just left me wanting something with more meat to it, this was too light   I give it a 3 1/2 star rating.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

The Wizard of Oz
** Note: Third Paragraph has spoilers for both The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.
As I stated in my last post I wanted to read the original Wizard of Oz to compare it to Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, so I did. 
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is an easy read with short chapters that are perfect for reading one or two chapters to my three year old son as a bed time story each night.  Also, it keeps his attention while reading even though there are no pictures to look at, so that gives the book a big thumbs up from a Mom perspective.  I was surprised at how close to the film version the book is, there were no surprise facts or story lines when reading the book that I didn’t know from watching the movie, which is a kudos to Warner Bros, but it left me a little disappointed that I knew exactly what was going to happen and no surprises.  I give the book a 3 star rating, good story and great for children’s bed time story, but a little slow in some parts.
When I compare the original to Wicked, I was very surprised at how closely Gregory Maguire followed the events of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but with a few creative differences.  For example, in Chapter 3 of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Dorothy does have dinner with Boq and his family the same as in Wicked, however in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Boq is  wealthy Munchkinlander and in Wicked Boq is poor.  In Chapter 5 of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz we learn how the Tin Woodsman was cursed by the Wicked Witch of the East paid by an old woman whom didn’t want her serving girl to marry him, the same as in Wicked, surprisingly even the payment of a cow and two sheep was the same.  Maguire however made them a Cow and two Sheep, which of course are Animals that can speak rather than the normal animals presented in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz .  I was very surprised to find how closely Maguire followed The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’s storyline, if I had not already given Wicked a 5 star rating Maguire’s diligence with staying true to the original storyline would have caused me to increase my star rating.  Wicked is about the Wicked Witch of the West, and so the storyline does not meet Dorothy until the final section, but Maguire does a great job of leading us to the meeting and staying true to original chain of events created by L. Frank Baum.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire.

This is the second time I have read Wicked, and I really enjoyed it the first time I read it.  I finally bought the entire trilogy and decided that I needed to re-read the first book before starting the second. I have not read the original Wizard of Oz, and I am only familiar with the story due to my love of the movie as a child.  My E-Book version of Wicked came with the original L. Frank Baum story included.  After finishing Wicked and writing this review I decided to read the original and my next post will be review/comparison to Wicked
Wicked is the story of the witch from the story of Oz.  Gregory Maguire describes an Oz that has a much deeper and richer landscape and history than just watching the movie would lead one to believe. Oz is a land full of political intrigue, espionage, murder, faith and of course magic. Maguire did not write a fluffy version of the Wizard of Oz from the Witch’s point of view. Wicked is full of social and moral commentary. Maguire addresses religion, ethnic suppression/genocide, slavery, tyranny, and the idea of good vs. evil in a way that makes the reader think not only about Oz’s landscape and political environment, but about the state of the world around us as well. These issues are not blaring in your face, but are more subtle, so that at the end of chapter or section discussing them you may not immediately think “How does this apply to the world around me?” But later while watching TV or beginning to doze off you may find yourself contemplating that exact question.
Maguire provides a ‘background’ for not only the witch, Elphaba born with a green skin and sharp teeth, but also for the Glinda, the Wicked Witch of the East, the Lion, and the Tin Man, weaving their stories into Elphaba’s. We follow Elphaba, the renown Wicked Witch of the West, from her birth to her death.  Maguire weaves a tale that explains how all the decisions made, both large and small, lead to the Elphaba’s fateful death.   Elphaba is a complex and complicated character.  She has an independence and sense of righteousness that all revolutionaries must possess.  There are hurts and dark periods of her life that mold her into the famous woman that she is. Through Maguire's writing I am drawn to her character and I find her not evil, but not always likable either, and completely fascinating.  Although I knew what her fate was to be, I was enthralled with the events that lead to it.  Elphaba goes through a journey of self discovery to find herself and understand the reason behind her actions.  And though everyone know how the Witch meets her end, the story Maguire weaves that describes how she reached that point draws the reader in and doesn’t let go.
My star rating:  5 Stars

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


I am a prolific reader and I have decided that it would be fun to review the books that I read, I thought about keeping a reading journal, and I do have a notebook I jot things down in as I read, but what I really have always dreamed of is to be a book reviewer, and as I have no idea how to get paid to read.  I have decided that I can still review books, I just have to do it on my own dime.  So here is my opportunity. I initially tried to blog about my family life and life as an accountant and I love my family, but I found the blogging dull and it just petered out.  But as I love to read and to talk about books I am hoping that this is an outlet that will allow me to do that.  I don’t know that anyone would read this blog, but at least I am following a dream.  So let the adventure begin.