Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Goodbye to Oz

While it's true the month of November is drawing to a close, as months are wont to do, that doesn't mean that Oz is going away! Oz has become part of our collective consciousness. Just the other day I recommended the name Dorothy to a friend for her upcoming baby and she said it was too "Ozzy" (meaning wizard of, not bat biting Osbourne). Over a hundred years later and that name still brings up images of tornadoes and checked gingham. We might not be able to physically get there, but just by opening the pages of a book we will be instantly transported, without the need of a cyclone, typhoon, earthquake or magical accessory. If you've been reading the reviews I've posted, you'll probably notice I'm rather harsh on the failings of the main characters and sometimes the repetition of the plots. The thing is though, while Oz has failings, they do not take away from what has been created here.

Oz is some of the most magical worldbuilding you'll ever read. Baum created a magical fairyland that has spanned centuries! He started writing this books during the reign of Queen Victoria, and to this day we have new adaptations, new books, new satires, all because this world he created is so loved. The few reviews I've written only span about half of the Oz books Baum himself wrote, having written fourteen books and a series of short stories all about that wonderful world. I hope that if nothing else, this month has increased peoples knowledge of Oz, showing there's more than just the one book, and made everyone realize how awesome Flying Monkeys are. How can they not be awesome! You still have a few hours to have one of your own!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tuesday Tomorrow

Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
Published by: Penguin
Publication Date: November 29th, 2011
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"What better place to spend the holidays than Cold Comfort Farm?

Available for the first time since its original publication more than fifty years ago, Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm is a charming collection whose hilarious title story features Christmas dinner with the Starkadders before Flora's arrival. With Adam playing Santa while draped in Mrs. Starkadders's shawls, the family shares their traditional "Christmas pudding"-a mélange containing random objects of doom foretelling the coming year: a coffin nail for death, a bad sixpence for financial ruin, and a menthol cone to indicate that the lucky recipient will go "blind wi' headache." These lively tales will delight anyone who loves Stella Gibbons and her signature wit."

For Cold Comfort Farm fanatics, this is the Holy Grail. Stella Gibbons wrote two followups to her classics, Cold Comfort Farm: Conferance and Cold Comfort Farm and Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm. If you're lucky, like me, you found a copy of Conferance at Cold Comfort Farm for under $100 at some time in your life. But Christmas... ah, I' don't know if I've ever seen one below $500, most ranging aroun $1000... so imagin my joy that FINALLY I'll be able to read it! (Conferance at Cold Comfort Farm has also been recently re-released in England).

Spring Muslin by Georgette Heyer
Published by: SourceBooks
Publication Date: November 29th, 2011
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Sir Gareth Ludlow is just about ready to settle for marriage with Lady Hester, a plain woman who falls below his standards (according to his sister). Despite her protests, however, Gareth sets out to propose marriage.

Along the way, he encounters young Amanda wandering unattended. Honor-bound to restore her to her family, the gallant Sir Ludlow finds he has more than he bargained for with his young charge and her runaway imagination."

The week for reprints is apparently upon us. I love the gorgeous SourceBooks editions of Georgette Heyer's novels, so pretty, must have them all.

Vintage Type and Graphics by Steve Heller and Louise Fili
Published by: Allworth Press
Publication Date: November 29th, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 212 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
""Type lovers and history buffs alike will enjoy this gallery of vintage typefaces, ornaments, letterheads and trademarks."—ID Magazine

Exquisite graphic design artifacts comprise this unusual collection culled from the pages of type and typography books dating from 1896 to 1936. Design professionals, students and teachers of graphic design, and anyone with an interest in vintage design will be delighted to find rare, never-before-reprinted type specimens, vintage layouts, logos, and decorations that will serve as an inspiration and resource for practicing and aspiring graphic designers. 400 black-and-white illustrations."

Not that I'm TRYING to give people ideas for what to get me for Christmas... just that this is a very lovely new Steven Heller book...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Book Review - L. Frank Baum's The Road to Oz

The Road to Oz (Oz Book 5) by L. Frank Baum
Published by: Books of Wonder
Publication Date: 1909
Format: Hardcover, 267 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy

One day Dorothy is sitting with Toto on her farm in Kansas, when a Shaggy Man appears and asks the way to Butterfield. Dorothy agrees to help, despite the fact he is very unkempt and shaggy. The Shaggy Man insists that she is helping him due to the fact he has the "Love Magnet" and all who meet him must therefore love him and do his bidding. Yet on the way to the road to Butterfield a strange thing happens, where once there was one road there are now many. Dorothy knows the signs of the start of adventure, she has been on four previous ones. She informs the Shaggy Man that they must just go along for the ride, because an adventure they must have.

Along the way they pick up several travelling companions, Button-Bright, the boy who doesn't know where he's from, and Polychrome, the daughter of the rainbow, who accidentally fell off. They also meet some odd people as well. The Fox-King is so certain that foxes are superior, he turns Button-Bright into a fox, while the Donkey king is so convinced donkeys are superior, he turns the Shaggy Man into a man with the head of a Donkey. They also meet the Musicker, the man who makes music which each breath and annoys them all beyond measure. They also encounter an entire race of people who purposefully live their lives invisible to avoid the danger of the Scoodlers and being eaten by them. Luckily they finally reach the border of the great desert that Oz is bounded by. Because of course all fairy lands lead to Oz. With the help of Johnny Dooit, they cross the vast desert, return to themselves via a pond of truth and make it in time for Ozma's birthday party in the Emerald City. It was Ozma after all who started Dorothy on the road to yet another journey.

This is easily the book of Oz I dislike the most. I mean, all Oz has something to offer, being Oz... but here there is nothing. First, let's look at the way the book is bound. It is gimmickly printed on many different colored paper stocks, changing to green once we're in Oz. Also it references their journey, each task or event being a different color and the fact that the rainbow's daughter is their dew drinking travelling companion. Blurg is what I say. It seems it was a gimmick that was thought up and then the book was written around it.

Yet, the gimmickry that is used to package the book, that of which I'm sure that humbug of a wizard would approve, isn't my main problem. My main problem isn't even the fact that we have yet another book that ends in a party. Because parties ending books can be fun, the party just can't be the purpose of the book, which it is here. Also, I don't take undue measures to point out how creepy the "Love Magnet" is... really it's just a way to take away free will, and the fact it's used on a child... hmmm and ewwww and no. My main problem is Dorothy's superiority complex. I know I have mentioned before how annoying all the characters going on about how wonderful they are is, but here it's not just self contained. It's not just one person bragging, it's Dorothy actually being mean to the Shaggy Man. She's insulting to almost everyone she comes across and it really made me want to slap her. Just because she's been on all these adventures and is the especial friend of Ozma doesn't mean everyone else is dirt. Her "friends" got turned into a fox and a donkey because they where a little too sure of their awesomeness. I wish somehow Dorothy could be smacked down a peg. I think I realize every time I read these books that more and more the world needed Gregory Maguire to smack some sense into Oz and show what a ruby slippered tyrant that little Dorothy was.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Book review - L. Frank Baum's Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz

Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (Oz Book 4) by L. Frank Baum
Published by: Books of Wonder
Publication Date: 1908
Format: Hardcover, 272 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

Dorothy once again ends up in the land of Oz because of a natural disaster. This time it isn't a storm at sea or a tornado. This time the ground literally opens at her feet from an earthquake and down she tumbles. She was on the way with her new kitten Eureka to meet up with her Uncle at his Brother-in-Laws ranch in California after the long trip back from Australia when Dorothy, her cousin Zeb, and the horse and buggy went a tumbling down. And they tumble and tumble, falling far but apparently not increasing in speed. They seem to be slowing down. A weird fairy world appears below them illuminated by multicolored suns where all the buildings are glass and gravity seems far more flexible. Also as it's a fairy world Jim the horse pulling the buggy and Eureka soon start chatting away. The people whom they descend on aren't at all pleased with their arrival. The Mangaboos quickly take the trespassers off to their wizard when whom should appear above? Dorthy's own wonderful wizard of Oz!

The Wizard has good timing and not only saves them all from the Mangaboos' wizard, but performs some wonderful humbug magic with nine cute little piglets, that Eureka thinks looks decidedly tasty. The Mangaboos are a strange and cold people, it's like they have no blood, which it turns out they don't, being vegetables! They soon revolt and throw the motley crew out of their land, wherein their true adventure begins, travelling through a land of invisible people where invisible bears are there, oh my. Wooden gargoyles and dragonettes all block the path on their way out of the center of the earth. Luckily when all seems lost, the deus ex machina of Oz swings fully into action and the wizard returns to the land he belongs in.

Looking back on this book I have this odd memory of hating it. Maybe that belief let me free up my expectations and just love it. The wizard is an unlikable humbug, Zeb doesn't do much, Jim the horse has to do the majority of the heavy lifting, but Eureka and the piggies are a delight in this odd comical children's version of what Journey to the Center of the Earth would mean to them. There's a Roald Dahl playfulness that is sometimes lacking in the earlier books that has Baum almost forcing the plot and the characters to interact. Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz felt like it just flowed from his pen. Though I do still have Dorothy issues. Dorothy, in another sign of her egocentrism, never thinks of what hell she's putting her family through until she gets bored and it's time to go home. Her Aunt and Uncle where actually MOURNING HER! Full on, black mourning. She almost killed her Uncle with her disappearance on the way to Australia, where they where going for HIS health, and here it is a few months later and she scares them again. There really needs to be a way to not scare the heck out of these good Kansas farm folk. Also, in a total non sequitur, how stupid is Toto? All other animals get to Oz or a fairy land and start chattering away, yet Toto never spoke once in the first book. He must be a total dullard.

Enough odd rantings, I want to state clearly why this book is the best Oz book. Eureka! This kitty cat is all the best qualities of cats, which none cat lovers will probably see as negatives, not understanding the subtlety of cat awesomeness. She's manipulative, vain, only out for herself and never hides the fact that she wants to eat those pork filled piggies. Everyone in Oz always extols their virtues and how wonderful they are, showing them to be pompous asses. Eureka just is. No one really likes her, no one really cares to have her around, but she never justifies, never apologizes, and just is. She won't even defend herself when she is brought to trial on charges of murder (one of the piggies of course). If all the characters would just learn to "be" this series would work so much better. Don't talk about it, don't extol, just be. And if you can, be a cat.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Tuesday Tomorrow

Micro by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston
Published by: Harper
Publication Date: November 22nd, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 448Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Three men are found dead in the locked second-floor office of a Honolulu building, with no sign of struggle except for the ultrafine, razor-sharp cuts covering their bodies. The only clue left behind is a tiny bladed robot, nearly invisible to the human eye.

In the lush forests of Oahu, groundbreaking technology has ushered in a revolutionary era of biological prospecting. Trillions of microorganisms, tens of thousands of bacteria species, are being discovered; they are feeding a search for priceless drugs and applications on a scale beyond anything previously imagined.

In Cambridge, Massachusetts, seven graduate students at the forefront of their fields are recruited by a pioneering microbiology start-up. Nanigen MicroTechnologies dispatches the group to a mysterious lab in Hawaii, where they are promised access to tools that will open a whole new scientific frontier.

But once in the Oahu rain forest, the scientists are thrust into a hostile wilderness that reveals profound and surprising dangers at every turn. Armed only with their knowledge of the natural world, they find themselves prey to a technology of radical and unbridled power. To survive, they must harness the inherent forces of nature itself.

An instant classic, Micro pits nature against technology in vintage Crichton fashion. Completed by visionary science writer Richard Preston, this boundary-pushing thriller melds scientific fact with pulse-pounding fiction to create yet another masterpiece of sophisticated, cutting-edge entertainment."

When Michael Crichton died unexpectedly it left a major hole in the publishing world. I know some people are against him, some people say he's too populist, but he, more than any other author, is what turned me into a biblophile. Here is what was going to be his next bestseller and will now be his last. A partial manuscript finished off, in what we can hope is a way Michael Crichton would approve.

The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin
Published by: Reagan Arthur Books
Publication Date: November 22nd, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The Complaints: that's the name given to the Internal Affairs department who seek out dirty and compromised cops, the ones who've made deals with the devil. And sometimes The Complaints must travel.

A major inquiry into a neighboring police force sees Malcolm Fox and his colleagues cast adrift, unsure of territory, protocol, or who they can trust. An entire station-house looks to have been compromised, but as Fox digs deeper he finds the trail leads him back in time to the suicide of a prominent politician and activist. There are secrets buried in the past, and reputations on the line.

In his newest pulse-pounding thriller, Ian Rankin holds up a mirror to an age of fear and paranoia, and shows us something of our own lives reflected there."

This one's for my mom, the Ian Rankin addict. Maybe I shouldn't have put this on her and just surprsied her for Christmas...

The Doll: The Lost Short Stories by Daphne Du Maurier
Published by: William Morrow
Publication Date: November 22nd, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 224 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The lost stories of Daphne du Maurier, collected in one volume for the first time.

Before she wrote Rebecca, the novel that would cement her reputation as a twentieth-century literary giant, a young Daphne du Maurier penned short fiction in which she explored the images, themes, and concerns that informed her later work. Originally published in periodicals during the early 1930s, many of these stories never found their way into print again . . . until now.

Tales of human frailty and obsession, and of romance gone tragically awry, the thirteen stories in The Doll showcase an exciting budding talent before she went on to write one of the most beloved novels of all time. In these pages, a waterlogged notebook washes ashore revealing a dark story of jealousy and obsession, a vicar coaches a young couple divided by class issues, and an older man falls perilously in love with a much younger woman—with each tale demonstrating du Maurier’s extraordinary storytelling gifts and her deep understanding of human nature."

For those of you who where actually able to wait a few extra months for these stories to be available stateside, you're in for a treat. While the story The Doll does disappoint, if you've read any summaries, the rest of the stories are so stellar, one wonders why they have been out of print so long!

Agtha Christie: An Autobiography by Agatha Christie
Published by: Harper
Publication Date: November 22nd, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 544 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In an all-new edition, an engaging and illuminating chronicle of the life of the “Queen of Mystery,” complete with a bonus CD featuring the voice of the grande dame herself

Agatha Christie was a woman of mystery, in every sense of the word. Her novels made her the world’s best-selling author, but her private life was hidden from view. For many years she dodged reporters and gave no interviews, and for a brief time she famously disappeared. She started writing her autobiography in April 1950 and finished it fifteen years later, when she was seventy-five years old and decided “it seems the right moment to stop.”

In this book, which was originally published in 1977 in the United States by Dodd, Mead & Company, Agatha Christie sheds light on her past. She tells of her childhood in Victorian England, her volunteer work during World War II, her rise to success, her working habits, the inspiration for her most famous characters—Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple—and the places and people that influenced her. After being out of print for several years, this book is being brought back in a new hardcover edition with a CD featuring excerpts dictated by Agatha Christie herself."

Yeah for new updated swanky edition of a book every Christie fan should have. They literally should not be without this book!

Adele Blanc-Sec by Jaques Tardi
Published by: Fantagraphics
Publication Date: November 22nd, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 96 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The saturnine heroine returns for further adventures in early 20th century Paris.

After establishing the world of the prickly heroine with the first two episodes of this classic series (combined in Fantagraphics’ The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec, Volume 1), Jacques Tardi plunges us back into Belle-Époque Paris for another double dosage of heroic derring-do, evil and crazy malefac- tors, mad actresses (yes, Clara Benhardt makes a return appearance) and monsters!

In “The Mad Scientist,” the science that brought us revived dinosaurs now results in a pithecanthrope stalking the streets of the City of Light, climaxing in an amazing car chase involving a foe from the previous volume. Will the perpetually inept Inspector Caponi just make things worse? Probably. Then in the second episode, “A Dusting of Mummies,” the mummy glimpsed in Adèle’s apartment in previous episodes comes alive! The volume concludes with the sudden startling (and delightful) incursion of some characters familiar to Tardi fans, and a shocking climax that leaves the future of both Adèle and this series in doubt as World War I erupts. (It’s the only story in the entire series not to feature an “in our next episode” teaser.)

The Extraordinary Adventure of Adele Blanc-Sec, Volume 2, is the lucky seventh book in Fantagraphics’ acclaimed series of Tardi reprints, showcasing the rich variety of graphic novels from one of France’s greatest living cartoonists."

Seeing as this book came out in France in the 70s, it's about time they got here right? But I really didn't find it all that great. Too many characters that are drawn too similarily and a meh plot. Plus, knowing I can't finish the series for years and years (again, stupid translators, I should take up French again) makes this kind of a pass for me.

Lady Gaga: Dress Her Up!
Published by: Carlton
Publication Date: November 22nd, 2011
Format: Paperback, 34 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Ooh, la, la, Gaga! She's sold millions of albums, turned heads with her crazy outfits, and continues to scandalize the world. Now the Lady Gaga: Dress Her Up! paper-doll book gives you your own Gaga to adorn in a range of wild, surreal outfits, from her black lace bodysuit to her controversial Meat dress. Choose from 20 costumes, plus added accessories and hairstyles such as the Telephone hat and Bow hair. And there are illustrations of her spectacular stage sets, so you can place Gaga in “Orbit” and carry her in the “Egg!”"

I really can't be the only one out there who finds this totally hilarious!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Book Review - L. Frank Baum's Ozma of Oz

Ozma of Oz (Oz Book 3) by L. Frank Baum
Published by: Everyman's Library
Publication Date: 1907
Format: Paperback, 624 Pages
Rating: ★★★
To Buy
Dorothy and her Uncle are headed to Australia for his health. The sea voyage turns into a harrowing experience when Dorothy is blown overboard. The plucky little girl from Kansas is resourceful and is able to cling to a chicken coop and ride through the storm, soaking wet, but without fear. This is just the beginning of another adventure. Come morning she is making for landfall in what she takes to be a fairy land. It isn't Oz, because Oz is surrounded by a deadly desert on all sides, but it is most definitely fairy, how else would the chicken Billina be able to talk to her. Animals only talk in fairy worlds. Soon after landing the fact that this world is magical is increased by a tree that grows lunch pails, men called wheelers who have wheels on there hands and feet and a windup man, Tik-Tok, who works through his wonderful engineering.
Once Dorothy gathers a posse, she heads inland to the capital city where the royal family have been enslaved by the evil Nome King and the country is run by a vain relative of the royals, Princess Langwidere, who has a room full of heads that she switches out whenever she wants to be prettier, or in a different frame of mind, that raven haired head sure has a temper. Soon all the denizens of Oz arrive in this land, which, as Dorothy surmised, was close but not Oz. Dorothy is reunited with all her friends and finally meets Ozma, whom she becomes fast friends with. The delegation from Oz has come to rescue the royal family after hearing of their plight. They all set out for the Nome King's domain to find that he is a tricky and conniving man who will twist any situation around to his advantage. Yet, never underestimate a plucky chicken from Kansas!
Back when the Oz books where being re-released and I was starting my journey into reading I totally held this as my favorite Oz book. But looking back I realize it's less because of the book and more because of the movie Return to Oz. When I was little I remember finding a comic book adaptation of the movie in my school library. I remember reading it up to where Dorothy leaves the asylum. Also being extremely traumatized by it. Dorothy going to get electroshock treatment was enough to do permanent psychological damage to me. After I read the comic the first time I was never able to find it in the library again. I cannot account for that, but it made me start to think I had made the whole thing up and that, like Dorothy, Oz, like this comic, wasn't real.
Of course I got a little older and realized that it was a movie, which also traumatized me. Take the wheelers, add in a psycho who keeps heads in glass cases and switches them like we would clothes, and it was the stuff of nightmares. When I finally got to read the books I realized that this movie was an amalgam of The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz, more heavily influenced by Ozma. But the movie took the best bits and omitted all the boring stuff. If there's one thing that annoys me about Oz it's that every time we have a reunion of the characters it's unendurably long with lots of crying and kissing and discussing how they are better than everyone else. Because, these characters really think they are awesome. I'm surprised all the egos fit in one room! But despite all the faults, every time I read about the tree with lunch pails growing from it and the wheelers and the castle of the Nome King with people being turned into knickknacks, it takes me back to my childhood. This is a book for nostalgia, the horror and the magic that lives when you are young, and to get that back, even for a few minutes, is magic indeed.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Book Review - L. Frank Baum's The Marvelous Land of Oz

The Marvelous Land of Oz (Oz Book 2) by L. Frank Baum
Published by: Everyman's Library
Publication Date: 1904
Format: Paperback, 624 Pages
Rating: ★
To Buy

Tip lives with the wicked witch Mombi. Though she's not technically allowed to call herself a witch, she is truly wicked. Tip has been with her as long as he remembers. Basically a glorified slave or indentured servant, Tip takes every opportunity to get one over on Mombi. So one day when she heads over to a neighboring warlock's house to swap secrets, Tip laboriously creates Jack Pumpkinhead. Jack is a tall scarecrow like creation with a face carved out of a pumpkin with a maniacal grin. Tip even gives Jack working joints. Tip places Jack where he's sure he will startle Mombi on her return. Mombi is a hard one to scare, so instead she sees in Jack the perfect experiment. She has just gotten some "Powder of Life" and decides to test one of her precious three doses on Jack. It works marvelously. Jack is brought to life. What's more, Jack will be a far better servant than Tip, who has to eat and sleep, so Tip is thrown out. As revenge Tip steals the "Powder of Life" and Jack and heads south in order to find a new life in the Emerald City of Oz.

Soon it become apparent that Jack isn't as well made as Tip thought he was. He might rot or his joints might break from all the walking. Tip decides that Jack needs a stead, and makes a saw horse come to life as a real horse. The three continue on their way to the Emerald City but are soon separated and set upon by an approaching army. General Jinjur and her comely all-girl army of revolt are on their way to the Emerald City to depose the Scarecrow and claim the city and all it's jewels for themselves, armed only with their indignation that they have to do all the household work and knitting needles. Jinjer is successful in becoming queen, but she soon looses her Scarecrow captive who, with the help of Tip and his unlikely allies, rescues the Scarecrow and heads off to the Tin Man's Empire, where dear old Nick Chopper is a benevolent leader to the Winkie's, unlike the Wicked Witch before him. Soon the motley crew is planning on reclaiming the thrown, but things never go to plan... and it soon falls to Glinda to straighten things out and bring back the rightful ruler of Oz, Ozma, who has been missing these many years.

This book sets out to establish more of a history to Oz, with it's hidden princess and the evils the Wizard of Oz wrought, some with Mombi's assistance. The fault though lies in the fact there is no Dorothy. Dorothy was our access into the world, because she, like us, is an outsider. We have no literary conduit, instead we have a rag-tag group of self centered and self impressed asses. Each character spends almost the entire time saying how they are better that the others. The Scarecrow has the best brains, but Nick assures him, that without a great heart like his, he's nothing. How are these people friends? They never converse, they only shout monologues out into the air and occasionally they offend someone and use their superiority as an excuse. They grate on the readers nerves. But the egocentric character flaws are nothing compared to General Jinjer.

General Jinjer and her very attractive army are my problem! They are all "very attractive" and no longer want to do "women's work" so with a symbol of their imprisonment they march on the Emerald City, knitting needles in hand. Why do they really want the throne? For the jewels of course! For Baum, who was supposedly a big supporter of the Suffragettes, his depiction of these soldiers is rather sexist. They just want to be lazy and pretty, but are easily defeated the first time because some mice scare them. Talk about stereotype! Also, the women of Oz gladly taking back their chores at the end of the book because their husbands where useless, seems... stupid. It says to anyone reading this book that girls are only good for domesticity. Which is odd considering that the power base of Glinda is based on girl power as well... but a far more dangerous sword wielding kind. But Glinda's army is an army to maintain the status quo. But the status is not quo. This book implies that women should stay home and only take up arms if that status is upset. EXCUSE ME! Fight for your right for household chores? Mr. Baum, I think you really need to look to yourself. I think you're a hypocrite and I think this might be the worst Oz novel, if I remember correctly from my previous readings.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Folded World by Catherynne M. Valente
Published by: Night Shade Books
Publication Date: November 15th, 2011
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"When the mysterious daughter of Prester John appears on the doorstep of her father''s palace, she brings with her news of war in the West--the Crusades have begun, and the bodies of the faithful are washing up on the shores of Pentexore. Three narratives intertwine to tell the tale of the beginning of the end of the world: a younger, angrier Hagia, the blemmye-wife of John and Queen of Pentexore, who takes up arms with the rest of her nation to fight a war they barely understand, Vyala, a lion-philosopher entrusted with the care of the deformed and prophetic royal princess, and another John, John Mandeville, who in his many travels discovers the land of Pentexore--on the other side of the diamond wall meant to keep demons and monsters at bay. These three voices weave a story of death, faith, beauty, and power, dancing in the margins of true history, illuminating a place that never was."

I know you're all excited about a new book by Cat Valente!

The Feng Shui Detective Goes West by Nury Vittachi
Published by: Felony and Mayhem
Publication Date: November 15th, 2011
Format: Paperback, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Feng shui master C.F. Wong has never been to the West, but he knows he doesn't like it. It is unquestionably full of Westerners, with their large noses and their disgusting food and their habit-he has seen it many times in movies-of fighting with each other on top of speeding trains. And yet C.F. is going to England. The Family has been having a bad time. The Family needs a feng shui master. Only Wong can bring balance to Buckingham Palace."

So, I've never heard of this series till now, but just the fact that it has a good luck kitty on the cover and is published by Felony and Mayhem has me sold.

Saul Bass: A Life in Film and Design by Jennifer Bass
Published by: Lauren King Publishers
Publication Date: November 15th, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 428 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"This is the first book to be published on one of the greatest American designers of the 20th Century, who was as famous for his work in film as for his corporate identity and graphic work. With more than 1,400 illustrations, many of them never published before and written by the leading design historian Pat Kirkham, this is the definitive study that design and film enthusiasts have been eagerly anticipating. Saul Bass (1920-1996) created some of the most compelling images of American post-war visual culture. Having extended the remit of graphic design to include film titles, he went on to transform the genre. His best known works include a series of unforgettable posters and title sequences for films such as Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo and Otto Preminger's The Man With The Golden Arm and Anatomy of a Murder. He also created some of the most famous logos and corporate identity campaigns of the century, including those for major companies such as AT&T, Quaker Oats, United Airlines and Minolta. His wife and collaborator, Elaine, joined the Bass office in the late 1950s. Together they created an impressive series of award-winning short films, including the Oscar-winning Why Man Creates, as well as an equally impressive series of film titles, ranging from Stanley Kubrick s Spartacus in the early 1960s to Martin Scorsese s Cape Fear and Casino in the 1990s. Designed by Jennifer Bass, Saul Bass's daughter and written by distinguished design historian Pat Kirkham who knew Saul Bass personally, this book is full of images from the Bass archive, providing an in depth account of one of the leading graphic artists of the 20th century."

I have been waiting years for this book! No joke either! It would have made my presentation on Saul Bass for Typography so much easier. But at least better late than never, plus, Martin Scorsese doing the intro! Can't go wrong there.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Book Review - L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Published by: Everyman's Library
Publication Date: 1900
Format: Hardcover, 240 Pages
Challenge: Victorian Literature 2011
Rating: ★★
To Buy

Everyone knows The Wizard of Oz. Or at least everyone thinks they do. Let me disabuse you of a few notions. There are no ruby slippers. The flying monkeys aren't the creatures of the Wicked Witch, they only answer to her because of a golden cap. The Tin Man cut off his own  limps because of an enchanted ax and has a bit of a problem with wanting to chop off other creatures heads French Revolution style. The Emerald City is only Emerald colored because of a nice little trick with colored glass. Likewise, the Wicked With isn't mentioned as being green, only having the deformity of a single eye. Glinda the good witch doesn't meet Dorthy at the start of the Yellow Brick road, but only till the Wizard is gone and Dorothy journeys to the land of the Quadlings. There are no lions and tigers and bears oh my, or manic singing. There aren't a lot of things that where changed to make cinema magic. And finally, it wasn't all just a dream.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was written in an attempt to create a new class of Fairy Tales distinctly American. I can think of no other literary character so closely connected to America, except perhaps Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Dorothy is an icon in literature, which is why it's frustrating that not more people have read the book and rely on the film to know about Oz. The story is a cute little voyage of discovery where Dorothy lands in a magical utopia that is very primary color based (all the countries really LOVE their color) and meets a few friends and gives them a better life and then gets her wish to go home. Because, while a fairyland is well and good, the movie did get it right that "there's no place like home." Or at least, not until the depression comes and your whole family moves to Oz to be treated as royalty...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Welcome to Oz

Oz is that magical place. That land that everyone knows about even if you haven't read the books, because that movie is part of who we are. I defy you to find someone who doesn't know all the lyrics to "Over the Rainbow." Most people don't know that the books, instead of just being one, actually number into the double digits. L. Frank Baum wrote a land that everyone loved and could never get enough of, so much so that many authors took up the mantel of "Royal Historian of Oz" long after his death. One of the best "Historians" is Gregory Maguire. If the Oz books have failings it's that they are sacarine and sweet and sometimes too much of a sweet thing can give you a taste for bile. You want to know darker things, see bad things happen to Dorothy and side with the "wicked" witch. That's where Gregory Maguire's Wicked and subsequent volumes come to fill a void. It's Oz, but not quite as we know it. In honor of the final volume in his "Wicked Years," I am devoting the month of November to Oz. And what's a theme month without a giveaway?

Prize: This adorable flying monkey!

The Rules:
1. Open to EVERYONE, just because you haven't been following me all along doesn't mean you don't matter, you just get more entries if you prove you love me by following.
2. Please make sure I have a way to contact you if your name is drawn, either your blogger profile or a link to your website/blog or you could even include your email address with your comment(s).
3. Contest ends Wednesday, November 30th at 11:59PM CST 4. How to enter:

Answer me this: What would you rather have? A Heart, A Brain or Courage?

5. And for those addicted to getting extra entries:

  • +1 for answering the question above
  • +2 for becoming a follower
  • +10 if you are already a follower
  • +10 for each time you advertise this contest - blog post, sidebar, twitter (please @MzLizard), etc. (but you only get credit for the first post, so tweet all you like, and I thank you for it, but you'll only get the +10 once). Also please leave a link!
  • +25 if you comment on any of the posts this month, with something other than "I hope I win" or a variation thereof.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Tuesday Tomorrow

Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
Published by: Knopf
Publication Date: November 8th, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 880 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Not so very long ago, Eragon—Shadeslayer, Dragon Rider—was nothing more than a poor farm boy, and his dragon, Saphira, only a blue stone in the forest. Now the fate of an entire civilization rests on their shoulders.

Long months of training and battle have brought victories and hope, but they have also brought heartbreaking loss. And still, the real battle lies ahead: they must confront Galbatorix. When they do, they will have to be strong enough to defeat him. And if they cannot, no one can. There will be no second chances.

The Rider and his dragon have come further than anyone dared to hope. But can they topple the evil king and restore justice to Alagaësia? And if so, at what cost?

This is the much-anticipated, astonishing conclusion to the worldwide bestselling Inheritance cycle."

How long have I waited? YEARS! I remember, back when it was a trilogy not a "cycle" waiting for the final book and then having my hopes dashed because it was not, in fact, the final book. Now it finally is! YEAH!

How to Break a Dragon's Heart by Cressida Cowell
Published by: Little Brown
Publication Date: November 8th, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Stranded on the exceptionally dangerous, and possibly haunted, Beach of the Broken Heart, Hiccup must face Ug the Uglithug and complete the Impossible Task--or die trying. Along the way, he'll have to battle Berserks, dodge Scarers, and save Fishlegs from being fed to the Beast, all while being hunted down by an old enemy with a dark secret about the mysterious Lost Throne. With Toothless by his side, and time to stage his rescue running out, what's a Hero to do?"

Ever since the movie came out a few years ago I've been dying to since my claws into these books!

Betsy-Tacy Treasury by Maud Hart Lovelace
Published by: Harper Perennial Modern Classics
Publication Date: November 8th, 2011
Format: Paperback, 736 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"There are lots of children on Hill Street, but no little girls Betsy’s age. So when a new family moves into the house across the street, Betsy hopes they will have a little girl she can play with. Sure enough, the moment Betsy meets Tacy, one of the most heartfelt friendships in all of children’s literature begins.

The Betsy-Tacy Treasury brings together the first four books in Maud Hart Lovelace’s classic series: Betsy-Tacy; Betsy, Tacy and Tib; Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill; and Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown. Tracing the girls’ lives from early childhood to the brink of adolescence, Lovelace illuminates their innocent, mischievous fun and their eye-opening adventures exploring the world around them—from the stories Betsy spins from their neighborhood bench and the sand stores they run in their backyards, to their first experiences at the library, the thrill of the theater, and the sight of their first automobile."

The have slowly been re-releasing this lovely books in PS editions with nostalgic covers. Finally we're getting the early books versus the later ones!

Friday, November 4, 2011


It's said everyone has a novel in them... if that's true then November, being National Novel Writing Month, is going to prove it. Every year I think, man, I should do this, and every year I don't. One year I will, because will the superfluity of words I write in this blog every year indicates that perchance I could write words in book form too. Though maybe non-fiction... Many authors even do this. Why? Because it's a way to get your ass in motion, also, a way to entertain you readers with really funny bios, Patrick Rothfuss's being the funniest I've read in years:

"Patrick Rothfuss sprung fully formed from Marge Rothfuss, his mother, in Madison Wisconsin. In a mere three months, Pat grew to the height of a man while teaching himself to read and write using only a shovel and a dead cat.

When the voices told him to, Pat left home to attend college in at University Wisconsin Stevens Point where he joined Slytherin house and had many wonderful adventures. After graduating, Pat evolved into a being of pure light and energy. Then he went to grad school and evolved even further into being composed entirely of bile, rage, binder twine, and sweet, sweet, methadone. After grad school Pat joined forces with five plucky Japanese schoolgirls to form a giant robot that fights crime.

Through all of this Pat has read fantasy, watched fantasy, and written fantasy. Some academics have suggested that Pat eats, sleeps, and breathes fantasy, but this is simply untrue. The truth is that Pat eats burritos, sleeps like a drooly baby, and breathes a white-hot plasma composed of molten gold and rage."

Damn, I wish I could have a bio half as cool...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Winners Announced!

Well, seeing as October had not one, but two giveaways, I think it's time that I announce the winners, seeing as they have already been notified and are doing little dances of joy (or so I asume from the joy in the emails).

Snuff is being sent out to Carol, who would like to be Susan, as would I, as would I.

Haunted Wisconsin is being sent out to cyn209. Get those lightbulbs changed, you won't want to be in the dark once you start reading this stories!

Thanks to everyone who entered, come back in a week because I have a feeling another fun giveaway will be starting.

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