The Land of Oz, by L. Frank Baum

After finishing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which was super-interesting in a “So that’s how the story is meant to go!” way, I figured it couldn’t hurt to try out a completely unknown-to-me Oz story. It didn’t hurt, certainly, but it was… weird.

Which, I mean, it’s weird in the same ways that the first book is weird, because that’s how Baum rolls, except that this time I wasn’t prepared for the specific weird-ities and so was like, what?

So there’s a kid called Tip, and he tries to pull a prank on his guardian, Mombi, except that the prank totally backfires and now Tip is running away to the Emerald City with a formerly-inanimate pumpkin-head scarecrow-thing called Jack. Along they way, Tip meets a girl called Jinjur who is set to overthrow the Scarecrow as bigwig of the Emerald City because, of course, all of those shiny emeralds and whatnot would be much better served as necklaces and other shiny things for Jinjur’s girl army. Of course. So, Tip finds the Scarecrow and they all go running off but even though the Scarecrow is all about abdicating, Jinjur still apparently wants them dead, so she recruits Mombi to pull some hocus-pocus and trap the group. And then some appropriately Baum-weird stuff happens and it turns out that there’s someone else who’s meant to be leading Oz…

It’s all very strange, but also very delightful, and Anna Fields is absolutely perfect in narrating this series. There’s not much else to say, really! I am sad that I don’t have quick access to the next few books, but considering all I’ve got on my plate for the near future, I think that’s all right!

Recommendation: For those days when you just need something that makes you smile at its ridiculousness.

Rating: 8/10

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum

Dorothy. Toto. Witches. Wizard. Hot-air balloon. The end! Review over!

Okay, no. I’ll tell you more, as I actually found this book quite intriguing. My experience with Oz is primarily Wicked, the musical, which is fantastic; Wicked, the book (and its first sequel), which is frickin’ weird; and The Wizard of Oz, the movie, which I have seen all the way through maybe twice and probably not more recently than a decade ago. So as I was reading the book, I was constantly asking the husband, who has seen the movie many times, whether these things in the book were the same at all. Mostly, they were, but even the things that were the same were a little bit different!

The general story is the same, with all those words up at the top. Kansas is still super-duper grey, but no one bicycles outside the window during the tornado. Dorothy still squashes dead the Wicked Witch of the East, but no one really cares about her. The Good Witch of the North is not Glinda, and is also awesomely self-important (see her line that is something like, “The witches of the North and South are the good ones, which I know because I am one”). There’s a wonderful road of yellow brick, Dorothy meets some needy fellows, Oz is like, “I’m totally all-powerful but could you maybe go kill the Wicked Witch of the West for me?” Said W3 has not only flying monkeys, but also wolves, crows, and bees, but even with all that at her command she gives Dorothy a bucket of water which ends up melting the witch. The Wizard is like, crap, and placebos the needy fellows but offers Dorothy a ride in his hot-air balloon, which Toto totally screws up. Dorothy journeys to actual-Glinda of the South for help, with the needy fellows getting offered kingships along the way, and Glinda’s like, “Well, you could just use those shoes you took off of W2E and wish yourself home,” and Dorothy’s like, “Sweet,” and does just that.

So, interesting! I think that the book version manages to make more internal sense than the movie, except for that whole bucket of water thing, but of course there is no singing in the book and that is just disappointing! So, I should probably go watch the movie again, preferably with my cute little cousin-in-law dressed up as the Tin Man, as she is wont to do.

Recommendation: For lovers of delight and those who want to complete their movie experience.

Rating: 8/10

The Phantom of the Opera, by Gaston Leroux

It is April, and I am now on my second of twelve TBR Challenge books. This is going swimmingly.

On the plus side, I found this and another TBR book on the OverDrive app I just downloaded for my phone, which makes listening to things at work very slightly easier since I don’t have to transfer them from CD to iPod. Of course, I’ve only found a few books I’m interested in available on the app, but that could change.

Anyway. Phantom. I’ve loved the musical soundtrack since high school, and I saw the musical back then with my bestie (love to Laura!), and also sometime around then I purchased a copy of the book. This is like six or seven years ago. I’m pretty sure I haven’t even cracked open the book. Oops. -gets up from couch-

-cracks open the book on principle-

-returns to couch, is attacked by cat, is now writing this while peering over a cat-

Right, yes. So these days, I am not quite as obsessed with Phantom as I was back then, which is probably good because the book? Not so much the same. Not as different as, say, Wicked (holy heck those are two different beasts), but still I found myself thinking, “This didn’t happen in the musical. This DEFINITELY didn’t happen in the musical. Oh, this part happened, kind of.”

It’s the same baaaasic plot. There’s an Opera Ghost, he teaches a young woman (Christine) to sing amazingly well, he becomes jealous when an old friend of Christine’s (Raoul) shows up all lovey, he tries to make Christine his wife through force. This is never a good idea.

But the Opera Ghost of the novel, Erik, is much more menacing than I recall the musical Phantom being — he weighs heavily upon Christine and Raoul’s relationship much earlier, and his retaliation for their love is scarier and rather more psychopathic. I can see how Erik would not appeal to a mass audience.

What I did like more about the book is that it is presented as a frame story, which I am a sucker for, and so Leroux makes it out like he’s actually researched this Opera Ghost and learned all about him through testimony from the various characters (including a “Persian” who pretty much writes the last few chapters), and he does that thing I sometimes like where he gives away what’s coming up and I get all antsy waiting to see how it’ll happen.

Overall, though, I think I’ll stick with my beloved Michael Crawford; the book is quite good, but the musical is just happier!

Recommendation: For fans of the musical or of psychological horror. That’s sort of a strange combination, I think.

Rating: 7/10
(A to Z Challenge, TBR Challenge)

The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Arthur Conan Doyle (2 September — 3 September)

I’m finally getting a start on that Baker Street Challenge I’ve been neglecting! Yay! (And it’s a mystery and kind of creepy, really, so I’m gonna throw it in with RIP as well.)

This is one of those books that I’ve never read but that I feel like I’ve read because I saw a version of it on television, though it was many many years ago and it was the Rescue Rangers “Pound of the Baskervilles” and I don’t remember it very well but I don’t think it was much the same. 🙂 It might have been, though.

In the novel, a Dr. Mortimer seeks Sherlock Holmes’s help in a supernatural mystery; Mortimer’s patient and friend Sir Charles Baskerville has died in mysterious circumstances that fit in with the family legend of the Hound of the Baskervilles. This Charles was declared dead of a heart attack, but Mortimer believes that a large hound was involved, judging by some footprints a ways away that the police didn’t care about. If that wasn’t bad enough, the last remaining Baskerville, a Sir Henry, is on his way to take over the estate and Mortimer fears for Henry’s life.

Holmes, as ever, does some deducting and sends Watson out to the moor with Sir Henry to watch over him and report back. While there, Watson encounters some rather odd things that make him wonder if there isn’t a spectral hound out to get the Baskervilles!

So, now I have read this book, and it was good! And, I will admit, the atmosphere and the case were just creepy enough that I was a little jumpy toward the end of the book and in fact was briefly scared by Scott holding a Wiimote over my head. And then I was just confused. 🙂

Rating: 7/10
(Baker Street Challenge, RIP Challenge)

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