April 16, 2015

You'll never look at The Wizard of Oz the same way ever again

Most people are aware of the reimagining of the classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in the form of the book entitled Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire and/or the musical by Winnie Holzman. However, Dorothy Must Die takes a completely different spin on the classic tale. In Paige's version, Dorothy has returned to Oz and she is the epitome of all things evil. The Tin Woodman, Scarecrow, Lion, and Glinda are her willing participants in turning Oz into a fearful, corrupt place devoid of any happiness (other than Dorothy's own). Amy Gumm (also from Kansas) has stumbled into this world and she is tasked with the ultimate mission: Kill Dorothy. This book is the first in a series (which I will HAVE to read just as soon as I can get my mitts on the prequel novellas) and the sequel has just come out entitled The Wicked Will Rise. I highly recommend this to anyone who is 1. A fan of the original Oz series by L. Frank Baum. 2. A fan of Wicked. 3. A fan of fairytales being turned on their head (think Once Upon a Time). Trust me, guys, this one is worth your while.

Whenever I'm feeling conflicted about which book to pick up next, I hit the stacks in the library and wait for inspiration to strike. That's how I came across The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott. Some of you may remember Little Women, Little Men, and Jo's Boys which were also authored by Alcott. That series was one of my absolute favorites (and still is come to think of it). I remember bringing it home from the school library and telling my mom in excited tones about these sisters (I'm an only child) who lived in a different time. So when I saw that there was a book by her that I hadn't read much less heard of I had to take it home with me. The Inheritance was written when Alcott was just 17 and in fact was her first work. It was unpublished until 1997 when it was discovered by biographers. It's a flowery romantic story that centers on a character named Edith who has all the charms and graces of an aristocrat without any of the legitimacy of the class...or does she? Guess you'll have to check back in later this week for my review to find out (or should I keep it a secret?).

PS It was made into a tv movie and I think you know what means. There's my Friday night sorted!

April 10, 2015

Talk about your twist ending!!

Whoever wrote the blurb on the back of The Secret Keeper, was not exaggerating. You will most definitely be surprised by all the twists and turns of this mystery. It is so multilayered that I often wondered how all of the different narrative threads converged...then about 30 pages from the end I started to suspect I had figured out the BIG reveal. In a book that was almost 500 pages long, this is quite the feat. Morton's characters are so vibrant that they fairly leap off of the page. It's separated into 4 different sections that focus on different characters and help to gradually fill in the details of the secret (hence the name) that has loomed large over Laurel's life since she was sixteen years old. Most of the story is focused on London during the Blitz of WWII and it's clear that the author did her research on the time period which further enriches the story. In fact, Kate Morton has earned herself a spot on my Favorite Authors List. (Also, I bought another one of her books that I'll be reviewing a little later this year.)

Since I'm traveling this weekend, I chose a book that I'd been eyeing for a while to read next. I'm going to be reading and reviewing Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige. Of course, after I picked this one up I discovered there were two prequel novellas also available...only time will tell if I'll have to pick those up as well (and there's a sequel too!). These books tell the story of Amy Gumm who hails from Kansas and made her way to Oz like another girl we've all heard of: Dorothy Gale. However, Amy's experience is decidedly disparate from the story we all know and love. Amy's been recruited by an organization known as the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked and she has been tasked with a mission...killing Dorothy. As a fan of the original L. Frank Baum Oz series which began with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, I am intrigued to see the direction in which Paige has taken these beloved characters. I'll be updating you soon with my thoughts!!

What books are you guys reading? Have any recommendations for me? Leave a comment below! :-)

April 3, 2015

Quick review: The Iron Giant

One of my favorite animated films is The Iron Giant so when I discovered that it was based off of a book by the same name...well I had to read it didn't I? Ted Hughes, late poet laureate, created something truly special with this book. It's incredibly short (79 pages to be exact) but so much is crammed within those pages that it spoke more to me than some books three times that length. It is the tale of an Iron Giant/Man who arrives in a small town and begins wreaking havoc among the farmers by eating all of their metal machinery. At first, the farmers believe he is a monster and they trap him in a pit. However, when he escapes a little boy named Hogarth speaks upon the Iron Giant's behalf and comes up with a compromise. For a time, there is peace. And then (here's where the movie deviates) a creature born from a star lands on Australia. This creature is gigantic and shaped like a dragon and it demands to be fed living things. The people of earth decide to go to war against this creature instead. (Remember this is a "children's" book and it has already tackled prejudice (the farmers against the Iron Giant) and now it's taking human beings predilection for warfare head-on.) The weapons unleashed are unparalleled in their ferocity and yet the creature only smiles. It delivers an ultimatum and the people of earth are terrified. Once again, Hogarth (and yet just like a children's book to put the power in the hands of a child) has an idea. He asks the Iron Giant for help. A challenge of strength is issued which the dragon creature accepts.

I don't want to give away the ending. In fact, I feel slightly bad having said as much as I already have. I do hope you'll check this book out. It's worth your time (it took me no time at all to read it), I promise. It's lauded as an exceptionally brilliant read for a reason. There is so much to be gleaned from the story.

PS I'm still working on The Secret Keeper but I'm trying to stick to a somewhat regular posting schedule so I thought I'd try out something a little different with this quick review. Let me know in the comments what you thought of it. :-)

March 29, 2015

Zamonia or bust OR Walter Moers has ascended to my top authors list

It's been awhile since I enjoyed a book as much as I enjoyed The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear. From start to finish, it was an imaginative romp through a fantastic land full of creatures with names that would make Roald Dahl weep with pride. The main character, Bluebear, describes the first half of his 26 lives as he travels through Zamonia (a continent that used to exist on earth along with several others which you might not have heard of) meeting creatures such as Troglotrolls, Minipirates, and Shark Grubs. Bluebear is a remarkably resilient sea bear who acquires new skills and knowledge through every stage of his journey. However, the best part of this book (of which there are many) are the illustrations which were done by the author himself, Walter Moers. I absolutely love how they are blended and incorporated into the story. This book is the first in a series which Moers created about Zamonia and I'm not ashamed to say that I've already ordered the second in the series which is all about a Wolpertinger named Rumo. O_O  This is the kind of book which would be perfect for reading aloud with your kids. It would probably work best for kids in 4th grade and above as the vocabulary is quite advanced and there are some slightly adult themes. Of course, if you're like me then it doesn't matter what age the book was intended for if you enjoy it. Some of my favorite books are considered 'children's literature' and there's certainly nothing wrong with that. :-)

Next up is a book which my best friend recommended. The book is by Kate Morton and is titled The Secret Keeper. (She had me with 'mystery in England' to be fair.) A crime was witnessed by the main character, Laurel, when she was a child and it has her seeing her mother in a completely different light. However, she doesn't dare ask her about this event until many, many years later and the truth that is revealed might be more than she and her family can bear. I can't wait to come back and let you know what I thought of it (especially you, Krystle)!

Until next time, happy reading!!!

March 20, 2015

Breaking News: Lancelot was NOT a hottie

First of all, it turns out that I really know very little about the Arthurian legends. Here are some things I've learned from The Once and Future King: 1. It's spelled Merlyn. 2. It's spelled Guenever.
3. Lancelot is considered quite ugly. 4. This is not the authoritative volume of all things Arthurian. There is actually a series of books by Sir Thomas Malory collectively called Le Morte d'Arthur (I've just ordered the first book so get ready for that in the future) which were referenced more than once in The Once and Future King. This was a beautifully written book and had me so caught up that I actually missed my stop on the train...twice. It's full of damsels in distress, knights in glittering armor, love beyond measure, and above all chivalry. There's a reason that many consider this book to be the best fantasy novel ever written.

You know how websites recommend items to you based on earlier purchases? Well, as you know I have a fondness for children's literature especially German-to-English translations. Therefore, it will come as no surprise that the next book I'm reading was originally written in German and has been (thankfully) translated to English. Have any of you heard of The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear (Zamonia #1) by Walter Moers? Neither had I but apparently it's what would happen if J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter), Shel Silverstein (Where the Sidewalk Ends), and Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) had a baby. I'm 53 pages in and I can confirm that this is indeed the case. I can't wait to review this for you guys!!

I hope the weather isn't tamping down your enthusiasm for reading. What are you guys reading right now? Any recommendations for me?

March 7, 2015

A++ children's literature

I have a lot to say about The One and Only Ivan so get ready. Firstly, I'd like to thank Katherine Applegate for getting it. She understands the importance of children's literature and how it can fundamentally change the life of a child when they find the "right" book. I bet that this book would be just exactly right for a lot of children (and adults if they gave it a shot). As frequent readers of the blog will know, I am passionate about cultivating lifelong learners and lovers of reading. It is heartening to see this passion take the form of an excellent book for children. Secondly, I had no idea that the seed of this story was based off of a true tale. There really was a gorilla that lived in a shopping mall for almost 3 decades. (Just typing those words makes me ill.) Of course, the rest was fictionalized as the story is narrated by Ivan and it would be impossible to know what he was actually thinking and/or feeling during and after his captivity. Thirdly, I appreciated that the back of the book included Applegate's Newbery Medal acceptance speech. She touched on the importance of allowing children to read books that might make them sad or angry. For some reason, parents are always wary of allowing their children to experience any kind of negative emotions in literature. Do they truly believe that kids have no concept of pain, fear, or sadness? Wouldn't it be better if they read about it and discussed it with their parents afterward in a safe and loving environment? What if by reading a book that made them think and question the world around them they became more well-rounded human beings? In conclusion, don't censor your child's reading. If they want to read a comic book, let them. If they want to read a series with a gazillion books in it, let them. If they want to read Little Women, let them. And if they want to read this book, read it with them.

Many, many moons ago I read a book which blew my mind. The name of this book was The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley and it told the story of the women from the Arthurian legends and in particular Morgaine. Until I had read this book, I hadn't really given a whole lot of thought to the story of Arthur, his knights, or Merlin. After I read it, I kinda wanted to go on an epic quest with only females by my side. Since then, I've learned a wee bit more about these mythical men (thanks Merlin!) but I think it's time I read the book that started it all. That's right. It's time for The Once and Future King by T.H. White.

March 6, 2015

From tasty treats to salty tears, these are the days of my life

I've marked several recipes to try for my next party and I've learned heaps of trivia about food and famous mystery writers (and characters). For instance, did you know that you can use milk as a kind of invisible ink? (You know I'm going to have try this out now.) Fans of Agatha Christie won't be surprised to learn that the author used poison in over half of her 66 novels as the murder weapon. These were usually hidden in food or drinks such as coffee, marmalade, and even curry. Each of the recipes contains a short blurb about the author, a famous mystery character, and the food item itself. There are some really hilarious ones such as Sue Grafton's 'Kinsey Millhone's Famous Peanut Butter & Pickle Sandwich'. It was so funny that I'm determined I'll try it at least once. The best one, however, might be the last one of the book: Lee Child's 'Coffee, Pot of One'. Now THAT is a recipe I can get behind. ;-) Bottom line: If you're a foodie and/or a mystery enthusiast then The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook is the one for you. It goes on sale March 24th! :-)

I just received my next book in the mail as an early birthday present (my friends know me well) and I have a feeling it's going to make me cry. It's a Newbery Medal winner and if you know anything about children's literature you'll know that this means this book is cream of the crop. I'll stop teasing you...it's The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. It's the tale of a gorilla who lives in a shopping mall and what happens when he makes a new friend by the name of Ruby who is a baby elephant taken from her home. From what I can see, this promises to be a story about perspective, discovering your true identity, and the meaning of family. We'll see if I'm right in my next post!

PS How did you guys celebrate World Book Day earlier this week? I celebrated by turning my place upside down trying to find one of my favorite books. Spoiler alert: It's still MIA.