Posts Categorized: Read-Alongs

Wizard of Oz Read-Along
Book 4 – Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz

April 30, 2017 Books, Read-Alongs 2

We’re not in Kansas California anymore, Toto Eureka….

Book 4 – Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz

During a California earthquake Dorothy falls into the underground Land of the Mangaboos where she again meets the Wizard of Oz.

My Thoughts:

Perhaps I’m just being a bit too curmudgeonly, but I thought this was the most disjointed and unsettling book of the Oz series so far.

Don’t get me wrong, Baum’s talent for inventing absolutely bonkers places and people is still evident. For example: How the heck did he come up with a land of sentient vegetables who live in glass houses? But that’s where the charm begins and ends for me.

The last part of the book, where Dorothy et al. end up in Oz and the horse characters decide to run an inexplicable race and a talking cat is charged with murder, seems weirdly disjointed. It’s as though Baum had a grand old time sending the kids and the Wizard on yet another whimsical adventure, but then felt obligated to provide a kind of “fanservice” with all the old gang making an appearance.

I’m also not quite sure what to think of the Wizard at this point. Did he send Ozma to Mombi as a power grab, or was the whole thing actually orchestrated by the witch(es), or what? Does the Wizard have amnesia or something? Is he villainous or just plain stupid?

I’m honestly not looking forward to finishing the series at this point. What started out as charming and imaginative seems to be devolving into something kind of half-baked and formulaic (if the formula was smashed to bits and glued back together in not quite the right way). But maybe I’m being too grouchy. Tell me what you think!

Questions:
  • What do you think the deal is with the Wizard at this point? Bad guy, complete idiot, or just plain annoying, or something else?
  • We’ve met several new characters over the last few books — are you enjoying this expanding cast, or do you wish the originals would get more of the spotlight?

Are you reading this series along with me? If you have reviewed or discussed this book online, please feel free to post a link to that in the comments. (But you don’t have to be an “official” participant to discuss this book in the comments if you feel so inclined.)

Please note: Even though I try to avoid major spoilers in my blog post, I can’t promise that the comments will remain spoiler-free too — so read at your own risk!

Want to participate in this read-along? Sign up here.


Wheel of Time Re-Read-Along
Book 4 – The Shadow Rising

April 17, 2017 Books, Read-Alongs 6

Welcome back to our little 15-book re-read-along!

Book 4 – The Shadow Rising

The seals of Shayol Ghul are weak now, and the Dark One reaches out. The Shadow is rising to cover humankind.

In Tar Valon, Min sees portents of hideous doom. Will the White Tower itself be broken? In the Two Rivers, the Whitecloaks ride in pursuit of a man with golden eyes, and in pursuit of the Dragon Reborn. In Cantorin, among the Sea Folk, High Lady Suroth plans the return of the Seanchan armies to the mainland.

In the Stone of Tear, the Lord Dragon considers his next move. It will be something no one expects, not the Black Ajah, not Tairen nobles, not Aes Sedai, not Egwene or Elayne or Nynaeve.

Against the Shadow rising stands the Dragon Reborn….

My Thoughts:

This is one of my favorite books in the entire series.

It’s also arguably the last mostly-awesome installment in the series up until the last few (and the prequel, though that’s a little controversial in and of itself).

That’s not to say that this is the last book in the series worth reading — this is just a fair warning that things get a little… rougher… as the story goes along from this point.

SO MUCH happens in this book (which I think is one of the longest, if not THE longest), it’s hard to parse through it all after finishing the book and sitting down in front of a keyboard to whip up this discussion post. I think for future books I’ll need to work on the discussion post draft as I go along.

Anyway, one of the main reasons that The Shadow Rising is a favorite of mine is the Aiel. This isn’t the first we’ve seen of them, but they do finally have major roles to play, and Rand & Co.’s little jaunt to the Aiel Waste and all the cool stuff that happens there is just a big world building, character developing, decently violent, “You Know Nothing, Jon Snow” bundle of fun.

The Three Rivers characters in particular are all growing up nicely by now. They’re evolving from slightly bratty farmboys/girls into intensely motivated and courageous (accidentally or on purpose) grown-ups with goals. Makes a reader proud, it does. *sniff*

Questions:
  • What are your thoughts on the Aiel at this point? Does their culture strike you as interesting, savage, too cultural appropriation-y, or… ?
  • Do you think that the younger main characters we started out with are really maturing/developing, or do you still find yourself wishing they’d just grow up already?
  • There are a lot of surprises and twists in this book; did any of them in particular really shock you?

Are you reading this series along with me? If you have reviewed or discussed this book online, please feel free to post a link to that in the comments. (But you don’t have to be an “official” participant to discuss this book in the comments if you feel so inclined.)

Please note: Even though I try to avoid major spoilers in my blog post, I can’t promise that the comments will remain spoiler-free too — so read at your own risk!

Want to participate in this read-along? Sign up here.


Wizard of Oz Read-Along
Book 3 – Ozma of Oz

April 16, 2017 Books, Read-Alongs 4

First and most importantly: If you’re reading this series along with me, thank you for your patience. I’ll try to do a better job of sticking to our schedule in the future!

Book 3 – Ozma of Oz

Blown overboard while sailing with her uncle, Dorothy finds herself in the fairy realm of Ev. She sets out with her friends to rescue the Queen of Ev and her ten children, who have been imprisoned by the cruel Nome King. But even Ozma, the wise Ruler of Oz, is no match for the clever king, and it’s up to Dorothy to save everyone from terrible danger. But will the Nome King’s enchantments be too much even for the plucky little girl from Kansas?

My Thoughts:

Basically the entire book (entire series?) might be summed up like so:

Sensible reader: Dorothy, no
Dorothy: DOROTHY YES

I mean, take the very first scene of this particular book:

Captain: Storm’s a-comin’
Storm: *happens*
Captain: OK, everyone stay off the deck and you’ll be fine
Captain: Idiot says what
Dorothy: What???
Storm: *intensifies*
Dorothy: LEEERRROOOYYY JEEENKIIINNNSSS

But I will confess that it’s kinda endearing how hilariously optimistic our little heroine is throughout her adventures and the way she just takes weird things in stride.

She laughs and then takes a dang nap after getting washed overboard on a chicken coop, acts like it is perfectly normal when a similarly marooned chicken starts up a conversation (and renames said chicken because it has an inappropriately masculine name and that can’t be allowed), happily eats a mysteriously “ripe” packed lunch off of a packed-lunch tree, and… well you, get the idea.

One funny, sort of creepy thing about reading this is that it triggered some very vague, unsettling memories. First it was the Wheelers, then Tik-Tok… these characters seemed so familiar and it was easy to picture them in my mind. I read Maguire’s Wicked (upon which the popular musical show is based) and at least one of its sequels several years ago, so I assumed that’s where I was getting my ideas of these characters.

It wasn’t until Langwidere and her exchangeable heads that I realized where I’d actually encountered these characters before: the 1985 movie Return to Oz, a much darker work than the 1939 musical despite being produced by Disney.

The movie isn’t precisely faithful to the source material, although it does include several of the most recognizable characters/scenes. Frankly, the movie is creepy beyond belief and it both fascinated me and gave me nightmares as a kid, which is probably why I remembered-yet-suppressed it until now.

Questions:
  • Have you seen the Return to Oz movie — and how did you feel about it?
  • Do you find Dorothy charming, idiotic, something in between, something altoghter different?
  • Any other particularly awesome/terrible characters from this book in your opinion?

Are you reading this series along with me? If you have reviewed or discussed this book online, please feel free to post a link to that in the comments. (But you don’t have to be an “official” participant to discuss this book in the comments if you feel so inclined.)

Please note: Even though I try to avoid major spoilers in my blog post, I can’t promise that the comments will remain spoiler-free too — so read at your own risk!

Want to participate in this read-along? Sign up here.


Wheel of Time Re-Read-Along
Book 3 – The Dragon Reborn

March 19, 2017 Books, Read-Alongs 4

Oops! I apologize for posting this later in the month than usual — “real life” has distracted me a bit from reading/blogging as much as I’d like. Anyway, onwards and upwards!

Book 3 – The Dragon Reborn

The Dragon Reborn – the leader long prophesied who will save the world, but in the saving destroy it; the savior who will run mad and kill all those dearest to him – is on the run from his destiny.

Able to touch the One Power, but unable to control it, and with no one to teach him how – for no man has done it in three thousand years — Rand al’Thor knows only that he must face the Dark One. But how?

My Thoughts:

I have to admit that Rand REALLY got on my nerves in this book. I mean, on the one hand, I kind of understand why he went haring off alone… the poor guy was dealing with some really rough personal issues (to put it mildly) and he didn’t want to accidentally hurt someone else. BUT. Dude. The entire rest of the cast is either trying to find him or trying to help him in some way… maybe disappearing like a crazy person is not the best way to convince other people you aren’t crazy (yet), yeah?

Anyway, I actually quite liked getting POV chapters from not-Rand characters more than Rand’s POV. Perhaps my favorite scene in this book is Mat’s unexpected yet well-done defeat of the princes during their Warder fighting practice at Tar Valon. Oh Mat, that scamp — he’s starting to grow on me now that his annoying little thieved-treasure problem has been more or less resolved.

I hadn’t thought about it on previous reads through the series, but I noticed this time around that repentance/redemption seems to be a bit of a theme. Ingtar did his bit in the last book during the battle at Falme, and in this book it was the thief-catcher Juilin’s turn, and I vaguely remember a couple of other instances… don’t worry, no spoilers. I just think that these remorseful “sinners” are an interesting contrast to the Forsaken and the Black Ajah — some of the “bad guys” turn out to be good guys at heart, though of course some of the good guys might not be as good as we think they are!

Questions:
  • Did anyone else pick up on that whole repentance/remorse thing, or am I reaching for some kind of meaning that isn’t really there?
  • Have your opinions of any of these characters started to change now that we’re a few books in?

Are you reading this series along with me? If you have reviewed or discussed this book online, please feel free to post a link to that in the comments. (But you don’t have to be an “official” participant to discuss this book in the comments if you feel so inclined.)

Please note: Even though I try to avoid major spoilers in my blog post, I can’t promise that the comments will remain spoiler-free too — so read at your own risk!

Want to participate in this read-along? Sign up here.


Wizard of Oz Read-Along
Book 2 – The Marvelous Land of Oz

February 27, 2017 Books, Read-Alongs 7

Welcome back to Oz!

Book 2 – The Marvelous Land of Oz

Young Tip runs away from his guardian, the witch Mombi, taking with him Jack Pumpkinhead and the wooden Saw-Horse, and flees to the Emerald City where he learns the incredible secret of his past.

My Thoughts:

Uh… what just happened? That was a wild ride!

OK, I admit that I was a little annoyed by Tip at first. I know Mombi is supposed to be a Bad Guy, but for some reason I found her much more interesting and slightly more sympathetic than the Wicked Witch of the West in the previous book.

I also have to say that I was a little confused by the whole coup thing with the Scarecrow… but that scene between him and Jack Pumpkinhead and their “translator” was adorably funny. Cheesy, sure, but cute. I like a little cheese every once in a while.

Actually, several scenes were a little confusing. Or maybe not so much “confusing” as “WTF just happened” or “was there a point to this”? Don’t get me wrong, this was a good fun romp of a story, but… are ALL the Oz books going to be as random/manic as this?

I quite enjoyed the addition of all the wacky new characters/creatures, like The Gump in particular — I hope it shows up again in future books. And the Woggle-Bug’s terrible puns were DELIGHTFUL.

I do wonder if Baum was trying to get political with all the Girl Power / Evil Feminazi stuff. The book seemed to be simultaneously poking fun at feminists while praising other leading ladies — even so far as turning a boy into a girl. I’ve tried not to read too much into all this, though — after all, the book was written while the 20th century still had the shiny on it and the 19th Amendment was still nearly 2 decades off.

So… tell me what you thought of this one!

Questions:
  • Did you particularly like any of the new characters/creatures? Or were you hoping for more old favorites from the first book?
  • Do you ever feel a little twinge of sympathy or unwarranted fondness for “bad guy” characters?
  • What did you think of all the gender politics stuff in this book? Do you think Baum was making an eloquent point about the feminism of his day, or is that maybe reading too much into a wacky little kids’ book?

Are you reading this series along with me? If you have reviewed or discussed this book online, please feel free to post a link to that in the comments. (But you don’t have to be an “official” participant to discuss this book in the comments if you feel so inclined.)

Please note: Even though I try to avoid major spoilers in my blog post, I can’t promise that the comments will remain spoiler-free too — so read at your own risk!

Want to participate in this read-along? Sign up here.


Wheel of Time Re-Read-Along
Book 2 – The Great Hunt

February 18, 2017 Books, Read-Alongs 4

Welcome to The Adventures of Rand & Friends, Part 2.

Book 2 – The Great Hunt

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and pass. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow. For centuries, gleemen have told of The Great Hunt of the Horn. Now the Horn itself is found: the Horn of Valere long thought only legend, the Horn which will raise the dead heroes of the ages.

And it is stolen.

My Thoughts:

Dude, SO MUCH happens in this book. It’s hard to kind of wrap my mind around all of it at once.

One of the worst/most surprising series of scenes in WoT World happens in this book. In an attempt to avoid spoiling anyone who hasn’t read it yet (WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE, GO READ IT), I’ll just say it starts with the scene involving the four “Too Big For Their Britches” girls meeting the scary invaders who like to keep people as pets. I couldn’t stop cringing over it for days after I read it the first time.

On a lighter note, one of my favorite characters in the series — maybe my absolute favorite character? — shows up in this book: Verin, of the Brown Ajah. The way she just casually tells the Amyrlin and Moiraine that she knows what shenanigans they’re up to and she wants in on it is pretty funny. And… not to be too spoilery, but a revelation that we get about Verin several books from now is actually hinted at here, and I have to brag that I caught it the first time I read the series — although, at the time I thought it was some kind of continuity mistake, so I can’t take too much credit.

There are a few scenes that really captured my imagination. The first is the scene where Rand is introduced to/interrogated by the Amyrlin and only manages not to make a complete fool of himself thanks to Lan, Moiraine’s Warder. Just… something about this battle-hardened, Aes Sedai-beholden man doing what he can to help out Idiot “The Chosen One” Farmboy, despite everything… it’s nice, you know? I also thought Nynaeve’s test to become Accepted was interesting, and Loial’s little flirtation at the stedding was cute.

Finally, I just really enjoyed the addition of all these unique characters to the cast. Verin, of course, and Siuan and Leane, Hurin, etc. I guess I like stories with lots of interweaving plots and varied character perspectives — although, if I remember correctly, this series starts to get a bit overcrowded and the addition of new characters won’t be quite as exciting after the first few books.

Questions:
  • Was there a particular scene (or more than one) that you really enjoyed, maybe even made you laugh?
  • Conversely, were there any scenes that you totally did NOT enjoy, either because something Really Bad happened or because the characters were just being buttheads/idiots?
  • Were you actually surprised by the behavior or revelations of any of the characters? (The first time you read it, if this is a re-read for you.) Or did you see all the little “twists” coming a mile away?

Are you reading this series along with me? If you have reviewed or discussed this book online, please feel free to post a link to that in the comments. (But you don’t have to be an “official” participant to discuss this book in the comments if you feel so inclined.)

Please note: Even though I try to avoid major spoilers in my blog post, I can’t promise that the comments will remain spoiler-free too — so read at your own risk!

Want to participate in this read-along? Sign up here.


Wizard of Oz Read-Along
Book 1 – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

January 30, 2017 Books, Read-Alongs 10

Welcome to the Oz! Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

Book 1 – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Dorothy thinks she’s lost forever when a tornado whirls her and her dog, Toto, into a magical world. To get home, she must find the wonderful wizard in the Emerald City of Oz. On the way she meets the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion. But the Wicked Witch of the West has her own plans for the new arrival — will Dorothy ever see Kansas again?

My Thoughts:

I vaguely remember reading this as a kid, but unsurprisingly the book story was supplanted by the movie story in my memory and the only thing I really recalled from the book was the whimsical illustrations and Dorothy’s silver shoes. But some scenes came back to me during this little re-read: Boq the Munchkin, the dainty people of China Country (my favorites for some reason), the goofy green glasses worn in Emerald City, and the Wicked Witch having only one eye.

There seemed to be rather a lot more gore and property destruction than I remembered, too, what with all the chopping off of heads and the smashing up of buildings and suchlike. Probably not the kind of story that could get a G rating if Disney tried a true-to-the-book animated film version these days — not that I’m complaining, it just wasn’t expected. I seem to have taken it all in stride when I read it as a child, which seems to be pretty common — grown-ups notice and are sometimes shocked by “bad” things in stories that kiddos wouldn’t blink an eye at.

A lot of the characters (all of them?) are not all that well fleshed-out. And a lot of them are just idiots. Still, it’s a charming little story, and I’m a huge sucker for creative/insane world-building, so that wasn’t too much of a problem for me. There are better children’s fantasy books out there these days, but it’s easy for me to see why this one was so well-loved in its time and gained “classic” status so quickly.

Questions:
  • Have you read this book before? How did your re-read match up with your memory? Or if you haven’t read it before, did the book live up to your expectations?
  • If you’ve seen the 1939 musical film, how do you think the book compares? Do you like one a whole lot better than the other?
  • Did you have a favorite character or culture/land?

Are you reading this series along with me? If you have reviewed or discussed this book online, please feel free to post a link to that in the comments. (But you don’t have to be an “official” participant to discuss this book in the comments if you feel so inclined.)

Please note: Even though I try to avoid major spoilers in my blog post, I can’t promise that the comments will remain spoiler-free too — so read at your own risk!

Want to participate in this read-along? Sign up here.


Wheel of Time Re-Read-Along
Book 1 – The Eye of the World

January 15, 2017 Books, Read-Alongs 9

Welcome to the Two Rivers… and the rest of the world of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

Book 1 – The Eye of the World

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, and Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

My Thoughts:

I remember thinking the first time I read this book that it was very Lord of the Rings-y. And it is, right up until the end — purposefully, obviously. There are the clear parallels between characters (Lan = Aragorn, for example), outright rip-offs (Mountains of Mist = Misty Mountains), and then the winking references that seem meant to tell Tolkien fans that it’s all in good fun (The Nine Rings, an inn named after an adventure story that our MC Rand really likes). Now, upon re-reading it and taking the series as a whole into account, I kinda think the LotR references/homages are bordering on red herring status.

Something else I remembered about my initial read of these books was how much my opinions of the characters changed over the course of the series. Not gonna go into a whole lot of detail about this because I do want to avoid spoilers for newbie readers, but I do think it speaks to Jordan’s skill with character development over the long term. Of course, there is PLENTY of room for character development over the course of 15 books….

I’m glad I chose to re-read this series, in large part because it’s so enjoyable to see all the little clues that Jordan seriously planned ahead plot-wise. There are the hints from Min, of course, but there are also little clues scattered in the dialogue and behavior of the characters. I’d say the writing kind of got away from him and the series is at least one book too long, but it doesn’t change the fact that this story is a feat of calculation/foresight.

Questions:
  • What did you think of the parallels to LotR? Fun, annoying, not worth mentioning?
  • If you’ve read this series before, did your opinions about some characters change as the series went on? Or have you had a favorite character or OTP ship from the very start?
  • If you haven’t read this series before, do you really like or dislike any particular characters right now?

Are you reading this series along with me? If you have reviewed or discussed this book online, please feel free to post a link to that in the comments. (But you don’t have to be an “official” participant to discuss this book in the comments if you feel so inclined.)

Please note: Even though I try to avoid major spoilers in my blog post, I can’t promise that the comments will remain spoiler-free too — so read at your own risk!

Want to participate in this read-along? Sign up here.