Let me first say that I am a Wizard of Oz nut. No, I'm not talking about the 1939 MGM Judy Garland film, which don't get me wrong, is a great film. I'm talking the Oz books by L. Frank Baum and those by Ruth Plumly Thompson and others who wrote about the traditional Land of Oz. However, I am not a purist. I enjoy movies and stories about Oz that are non-traditional. Phillip Jose Farmer's Barnstormer in Oz comes to mind. The miniseries Tin Man falls into this category. Imagine a Land of Oz that, while still filled with magic, lacks the Munchkins, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion. Instead you have The OZ (The Outer Zone) which was once ruled over by a beloved queen and her advisors. The marshals became known as Tin Men because of the tin stars they wore; their appearance is much like that of the modern western lawman with long brown trench coats wearing their guns at their sides.
Tin Man stars Zooey Deschanel as DG, the daughter of the beloved queen of The OZ sent to Kansas as a child to escape the clutches of the wicked queen who has taken over her kingdom. DG is raised on a farm by her aunt and uncle and she has no memory of The OZ. The wicked queen played by Kathleen Robertson has punished and/or exiled all who remained loyal to the former queen. She has removed half of the brain of the queen's main advisor, Glitch (Alan Cumming), leaving him an apparent idiot with a zipper down the center of his skull. DG is forced to return to The OZ and, in a journey that mirrors that of the traditional OZ stories, accumulate an entourage to help her defeat the wicked queen. One of these, of course, is a former marshal or Tin Man (Neil McDonough) of the title who has his own score to settle with the wicked queen.
Tin Man moves quickly with a number of twists and turns, some of them unexpected others telegraphed so you know they are coming. Those familiar with the Wizard of Oz will have no trouble figuring out which of the characters of The OZ correspond to those in the original Oz stories. Tin Man is a more adult story than the Oz books and movies, but still likely to be enjoyed by the whole family. If I had a complaint about the series it is that it is too short by about 45 seconds. It isn't that the ending was unsatisfactory, but I was expecting at least one more line. Everyone I've talked with who has watched this film mentally filled in this line or one like it and it really isn't needed to finish the series, but it would have been nice. (Sorry, you'll just have to figure out what the line is yourself as it would be a definite spoiler.)
Our next book to be discussed is a thrilling read about early 70’s Britain. I always enjoy novels set in the author’s youth. In an interview, McEwan describes this period of rock and roll and changing mores as the time of his life, ”when it was very bliss to be alive.” Rent was cheap even in London. For only three pounds a month, McEwan scored a large apartment, and could live off writing a few reviews and articles each month. He spent the rest of his time, reading, writing, and socializing.
Want to read a novel but feeling pressed for time with all the craziness of back-to-school and fall a-coming? If so, try this new one, the highly lyrical Snow Huntersby Korean-American Paul Yoon. It tells the story of a North Korean prisoner of war who refuses to return home after the Korean War. Instead the administrators of his prison camp finds him a placement in Brazil. Yohan boards a cargo ship where the sailors befriend him and they set sail for South America.
Yohan arrives at a small unnamed town in the rain as a young girl on a bicycle rides past. She gives him her umbrella. Yohan shelters himself under it as he goes in search of the tailor Kiyoshi who has agreed to give him an apprenticeship.
The former Japanese tailor and Yohan develop a relationship that is at first wordless. Neither speaks the same language. But Kiyoshi is both very kind and very observant. When Yohan wakes in the middle of the night with Read more about A North Korean Emigré to Brazil
Even though the days are still hot and it technically isn't fall yet, the students are back so we know summer is on its last legs. Fall book previews are out and I am excited to see that some of my favorite authors have new titles coming out in the next few months.
One of my favorite nonfiction authors, Malcolm Gladwell has a new book out this fall called David and Goliath. His previous books include Outliers (my favorite), Blink and The Tipping Point. Gladwell is a journalist who has turned some pop and academic research on the social sciences on its head. The chapters usually are distinct journalistic pieces unto themselves and make for some unexpectedly fascinating reading.
Dave Eggers has a new thriller coming out in early October called The Circle. I didn't love his most recent novel, A Hologram for a King. I liked the story and found the Saudi Arabian setting interesting but I found the main character too unsympathetic. I did love the characterization, setting and unique narrative voice of 2007's What is the What so much that I might possibly have to read everything he ever writes. Read more about Fall Books!
Summer--a great time for reading novels--is also a good time to catch up on more episodic reading. This memoir is perfect for a short period listening to the cicada orchestra from the porch swing, or a quick read before bed.
In twelve varied segments, poet and former New Yorker/Talk of the Town writer Zarin shares important milestones in her life as well as a passion for several material objects that she has become attached to over the years.
The strongest and most emotionally-charged piece is the title one in which Zarin describes a typical day on the Cape with her and her husband’s assorted brood of kids, when the youngest gets ill. “It began with a cough. Her brother had a cough. And, after all, what was a cough?” By this time, Zarin had treated countless upset tummies and sore throats. But two emergency visits later, she found herself kneeling next to her daughter while the ambulance raced to Children’s Hospital in Boston.
The diagnosis: the rare Kawasaki Disease, which is the leading cause of heart damage in children. This segment shows how quickly our ordinary lives can turn frightening and possibly tragic. Read more about An Enlarged Heart
August means back to school, the first touch of a chill in the morning air, and football, of course! This year, three of the Rosie Award nominees are about or related to football – in very special and different ways. Geoff Herbach's novel Stupid Fast is set in the exciting and bewildering world of high school football, where Felton Reinstein has gone from being a bullied failure of a stand-up comedian to a seriously fast, seriously gigantic football player in his sophomore year. There's a decent amount of football action (including off-season training) and a bit of romance, but Herbach's strong point is how he balances a story about a neglectful mother with Felton's often hilarious struggles to control his newly grown-up body and the popularity it brings. Fans of Carl Deuker or Paul Volponi's sports novels will enjoy this one. Read more about The Rosies Are Ready for Some Football