Archive for book review

Review of Oz Book 5: The Road to Oz (1909)

Posted in books, Classic literature, pop culture, Wizard of Oz with tags , , , , , on June 11, 2012 by Paxton

Following the Yellow Brick Road

One year after Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, Baum released the fourth Oz sequel; The Road to Oz: In Which Is Related How Dorothy Gale of Kansas, The Shaggy Man, Button Bright, and Polychrome the Rainbow’s Daughter Met on an Enchanted Road and Followed it All the Way to the Marvelous Land of Oz.  Yes, that is the “official” title.

Road to Oz

Like the other books in the series, this book is a “road trip” book. A bunch of characters start off walking and meet a bunch of other crazy characters before eventually arriving in Oz. And in this book, that summary is literally what happens. There’s really no villain in this book. No threat or conflict to resolve. The characters just journey from Point A to Point B and end up in Oz for a celebration. That’s it.  So, the story is a tad thin. However, the illustrations by John Neill throughout the book are gorgeous and very detailed.  In fact, in the front of the book, we are treated to a really nice illustrated map of the land of Oz and the surrounding magical countries that Baum keeps adding to the landscape in each successive book.  And I’m sure this map will change as I get further into these books.

Oz map

So, the story starts off with Dorothy back in Kansas. She’s out strolling around the Kansas plains with Toto (who returns for the first time since Book 1). Dorothy bumps into a wandering vagabond called The Shaggy Man. Obviously not fearing for her life that a disheveled hobo has shown interest in her, Dorothy begins giving him directions but stops because she believes this hobo to be stupid. Dorothy, again, in this book is kind of a dick. She corrects people’s grammar and, like just happened, she tells people they are too stupid to understand certain directions she is giving them. Anyway, the Shaggy Man is in possession of something called a “love magnet” (yeah, I know) that causes anyone that sees him to fall madly in love with him. Where he got it, he doesn’t say. Dorothy leads the Shaggy Man to a crossroads that should lead him where he wants to go, but as she turns to leave, the crossroads multiplies from 2 to 7 to 18 to infinity. Confused, the travelers decide to just pick a road and begin their journey to wherever the hell they are supposed to go. Along the roads they meet Button Bright, a child in a sailor suit who is anything but bright, and Polychrome, the rainbow’s daughter. It’s this group that will travel the fairy roads to Oz.

The first stop is in Foxville, home of a bunch of anthropomorphic foxes. The Fox King magically turns Button Bright’s head into a fox as a reward for being “clever” but doesn’t know how to turn it back when Button Bright objects. So the group leave and end up in Dunkiton, where a similar fate is bestowed upon Shaggy Man, except it’s a donkey head. The group is told that the only thing that will fix them is the Truth Pond, only found in Oz. So the adventurers head towards what they hope is Oz.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2009: The Frankenstein Papers book review

Posted in books, Frankenstein, Halloween, holiday, reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on October 20, 2009 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest banner

Frankenstein book week continues.

After deciding that I would read Frankenstein this Halloween, I wanted to also read a few other books that were inspired by or based themselves on the original Shelley novel.  One of the books I chose was Fred Saberhagen’s The Frankenstein Papers.

Saberhagen Frankenstein Papers

The Frankenstein Papers billed itself as somewhat a sequel to Shelley’s novel.  Fred Saberhagen is a popular genre writer. He’s written several series of books including The Berserkers and The First Swords saga. Saberhagen has also written several books based on Stoker’s Dracula. The Dracula books (as well as this Frankenstein book) tell the events of the original novel from the monster’s point of view. It’s a clever idea that I found fascinating enough to order it from PaperbackSwap.

Frankenstein papers

This book, not surprisingly is written in a very similar style to Shelley’s novel. The events in this book happen during and in-between the events of the original novel. The monster, after the events in the original novel, is trapped in the far North and finds the captain’s log in the abandoned ship, The Argo (titular ship from the original novel). The monster begins writing down his side of the story, which means the majority of this novel also happens in flashback. As I said, the style and writing is remarkably similar to Shelley’s novel. And, like the original, it starts off a tad slow. But as the story moves forward, the book gains momentum and you start to see the events of the original novel from the monster’s point of view. Also, several events in the original novel are expanded upon. In Shelley’s tale, Victor Frankenstein becomes interested in electricity after watching a tree get struck by lightening. A family friend who’s also an expert in electrical energy happens to be there to explain some of the science to him. This event is given even greater importance in Saberhagen’s book when the identity of the “family friend” is revealed to be Ben Franklin who begins searching for Victor and the monster as he feels partly responsible for the monster’s creation. This chase for the monster and certain revelations about the nature of the monster make this a fun read. The book answers the “truth” about Frankenstein’s monster and what really happened that night of the creation. And it’s…odd. Like completely out of left field. I have to admit, I didn’t see it coming. And it’s so weird that you will either love it or hate it. It’s gonna be that polarizing.

However, despite the ending, The Frankenstein Papers a good book that starts a little slow, picks up in the middle and has an intriguing ending. If you liked the original novel, I believe you’ll like this, however you may hate the ending.

Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

Weekly Geeks 2009 – 11 – My favorite historical fiction

Posted in Billy the Kid, books, pop culture, reviews, Weekly Geeks with tags , , , , on March 26, 2009 by Paxton

Weekly Geeks

Weekly Geeks #11. This week’s theme is about historical fiction.

Do you have a favorite book that really pulled you back in time, or perhaps gave you a special interest in that period? Include a link to a review of it on another book blog if you can find one (doesn’t have to be a Weekly Geek participant).

At first, I wondered exactly what they meant by historical fiction. Most commonly, historical fiction includes books that take place entirely in a past time period including a mix of real and fictional characters.  However, there are newer books that have become popular that mostly take place during the present. Books like Angels & Demons and Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown as well as The Alexandria Link by Steve Berry and many of the Indiana Jones fiction books investigate and examine past historical events, but do it from the present.  Many times including passages that take place entirely in the past.  I really enjoy reading these newer books because they are usually good adventure tales, but it feels like I’m learning a bit of history too. I would consider this historical fiction, but looking around the net, it doesn’t seem like other people do. I was set to pick one of the above books, but I’ll dig back into my “Books I’ve Read” shelf a bit further for a more traditional historical novel. It takes place in one of my favorite genres that, now that I think about it, I haven’t read in years; the western. I used to love reading books about and that took place in, the Old West.

Young Guns

I think what actually got me interested in the Old West was the 1988 movie Young Guns staring Emilio Estevez.  More specifically, it got me interested in the history of one William H Bonney, aka Billy the Kid.  After seeing the movie I read everything I could get my hands on having to do with gunslingers and the Old West.  Many of the books I read told the real history of the west, but I also started reading fiction based on legends of the Old West.  There was an old “Garage Sale” store in Birmingham I used to go to in order to search for old and interesting books to read.  In fact, this was the same store in which I would purchase my collection of Back to the Future movie novelizations.  Inside its musty book room I found a ton of old paperbacks featuring gunfighter stories.  Louis L’Amour’s The First Fast Draw, the Cemetery Sam western series, old fiction books about Wild Bill Hickock and Butch Cassidy.  I bought them all and devoured them.  Especially anything that focused on Billy the Kid, my favorite western gunfighter.

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Reviews of My Christmas Reading List

Posted in Agatha Christie, books, Christmas, holiday, pop culture, reviews with tags , on December 18, 2008 by Paxton

santa_reads1Well, December is upon us. The year is almost over. So, even though stores started putting up Christmas decorations 2 days before Thanksgiving, I waited until December 1 to really start thinking about Christmas. A few weeks ago I decided to read nothing but Christmas books through the end of the year. I thought it might help “jump start” myself into Kris Kringle mode. I picked my festive list of books first before I started reading because I wanted to be prepared and not caught off guard by finishing a few and then having to scramble to find some more. Many are older classics that I never really got around to reading in the first place and one is one I re-read because it was short and I enjoyed it.

So, I finally finished my Xmas reading list and I thought I’d let you all know what I read and what I thought about them.  It’s an eclectic list, and I didn’t enjoy everything I read, which is to be expected, I guess.  But enough of my incessant babbling, here’s the list of reviews.  Some of this stuff may put you in the Xmas mood, some of it may put you in the mood to punch some random Salvation Army Santa in the gut.  Pick your poison, my friend.

The 13 Problems
A Christmas Tragedy by Agatha Christie
– This is one of Agatha’s short stories found in The 13 Problems collection.  Honestly, I was a bit disappointed.  The events of this short story just happen to take place during a Christmas party, that’s pretty much the only tenuous connection to the holiday.  The mystery is short and sweet, but not one of her best.  I find that Agatha is best at the novel length stories where she can build character and suspense.  When she writes short stories, there is no time to build the suspense then have a nice reveal.  It’s too quick.  So, this was only a so-so entry to my holiday reading list.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2008!!! A Look Back at the Crestwood Monster books

Posted in AWESOME-tober-fest, books, Halloween, holiday, movies, pop culture, reviews with tags , , , , , on October 30, 2008 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest banner

Welcome to AWESOME-tober-fest Week 5!!! I revealed yesterday that there will be an article a day starting yesterday, so here’s today’s installment.   FYI…I got sick yesterday afternoon.  So  I want you to know the Herculean effort it took to get this article out.  That’s the kind of sacrifice I do for you, my readers.

Today, I want to talk about the the keystone topic I’ve wanted to talk about all month. It’s a series of books I remember vividly from elementary school. I finally acquired copies of the first six books in the series late last year. It was late enough that I didn’t really get a chance to talk about them last Halloween. However, now I’ve had a year to look at them so let’s take a stroll down memory lane at the Crestwood House Monster Series.

Crestwood Monsters cover

I have a very vivid memory of checking these books out from the HW Gwin Elementary school library. The vibrant orange color of the cover and the cool monster subjects made them a popular choice amongst my friends. Each book focused on a monster or creature from a movie or series of movies. The first six books included Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolf Man, King Kong, Godzilla and Mad Scientists. Most were published in the late ’70s and early ’80s. As you can see, they are also the inspiration for my blog header this Halloween.

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Defending the Galaxy: Reviewing the video game bible of 1981 Part I

Posted in 80s, books, humor, pop culture, reviews, video games with tags , , , , , on May 7, 2008 by Paxton

Cavalcade Arcade

As some of you will recall, I went to the Jacksonville Book Fair a while ago and found a bunch of really cool books, all for about 50 cents each. One of these finds was my favorite. it was a video game book from the early ’80s called Defending the Galaxy: The Complete Handbook of VideoGaming.

Defending the Galaxy front coverDefending the Galaxy back cover

This book, according to the cover, lets the readers in on how to “blend in” and “look like” an elite video gamer. Seriously, it’s written with the assumption that the reader is not currently in the video game crowd, but let’s them in on the secrets of looking and acting like a top tier gamer. Needless to say, the book is funny. Ridiculously so. The book’s assumption that non-gamer folk even want to be “in” with the gamer folk is very presumptuous, but it leads to some really funny “tips and tricks”. What is a non-gamer supposed to do once they’ve assimilated themselves amongst the video game crowd? Study them? Learn their habits? Is this a National Geographic special? What if, while posing as a gamer, the non-gamer is asked to play a 2 player game of Defender? How do they fake their way through that? The answer is, there’s no faking your way through a game of Defender as it’s widely considered one of the hardest games ever created. You’ll have your backside handed to you by the real gamer and then be ostracized by the gaming community. So teaching you to look like a gamer when you aren’t is also teaching you to be a poseur. But, if you follow the instructions in this book, the road to becoming a poseur is awesome.

I was 8 when this book was released. At that time I was a huge video gamer and loved to go to the arcade and play whenever my parents would let me. Any trip to the local mall meant I got to play at Aladdin’s Castle. I could play Donkey Kong or Asteroids at Dino’s Hot Dogs. There was a stand alone video arcade named Wizard’s Palace that I rarely got to visit. We’d go to Six Flags on a family vacation and I’d want to spend a few hours in the video arcade instead of going on rides. My dad kept saying that he didn’t spend 40 bucks to get me in the park to play games I can find in the mall at home. That’s how much I loved video games. In my defense, there were several games in that Six Flags video arcade that I never saw at my local arcade including Super Punch Out!, Return of the Jedi and Mad Dog McCree.

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The End: Harry Potter Book 7

Posted in books, Harry Potter, pop culture with tags , on August 1, 2007 by Paxton

Harry7Well, I finished the book at lunch today. What can I say, I am almost a little stunned right now. The ending hasn’t had a chance to sink in, but I can easily say that the ending was everything I wanted it to be. Well, really, I would have accepted almost any ending Rowling would have given us, but I really enjoyed this one.

As a whole, the book, as some might say, drags a bit in the middle. However, I started the book at a leisurely pace. I wanted to savor it. If you look closely at the picture I posted on my entry last week, I was only about 200 pages in…and that was Wednesday…4 days after the book had been released. I was really taking my time enjoying the book. This is why I think that part in the middle didn’t drag for me at all. It actually had some really good character moments for our 3 heroes. Then, right after this, the action in the book really picks up and by last weekend I was starting to get excited. I really started pounding through the book. I read at lunch, in bed at night (much to the dismay of my wife), even in the bathroom at work (oh yes, my book has been ‘flagged’). I was obsessed again with the story and the final 200+ pages just flew by.

There are some unbelievable moments in this book that pretty much wrap up all my questions and answer some lingering questions I never really knew I had. Some of the actions in the book had me screaming and throwing the book across the room, only to be bawling like an infant 2 chapters later. It’s an emotional roller coaster ride. As I finished reading the book at Firehouse Subs today, people gave me the “eye down” as I started whimpering and crying like a 9 year old girl with a skinned knee. Yes, it was embarrassing, but I couldn’t help it. Wonderful, wonderful book that I loved with my whole heart. I loved the characters, I loved the world created in the book, I loved the journey the stories take us on. Just unbelievable writing. Makes you wonder how far ahead this was planned. I mean, the end had to have been planned by at least book 5. At least. Probably even book 4. Wow.

Like I said, I’m of few words right now because I’m literally only a few hours from finishing it. A journey that began in the Tampa airport in 1999 has finally reached it’s destination, and I couldn’t be happier. I think I may take a day or two before I read another book. A respectful, reading silence if you will, for what will surely go down as one of my favorite book series of all time.

I eagerly look forward to JK Rowlings next venture. Hope everyone else enjoyed it. Potter-palooza can now end (at least until the final 2 movies come out).


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