Monday, March 30, 2009

Review: Wicked by Gregory Maguire

This book probably needs little introduction for most avid readers. based on L. Frank Baum's classic Wizard of Oz series, it re-tells the story of Oz from the point of view of Elphaba, the little green girl who grows up to be the Wicked Witch of the West. Maguire draws on Baum's entire Oz series in his world creation, not just the first volume most of us are familiar with from the movie, and he creates a vividly drawn world as riven by race and class issues as ours. Highlights of the story include Nanny, a childhood nurse who appears later in the novel and offers tantalizing glimpses of Elphaba's later childhood; her university friendship with the high-born Galinda who becomes the good witch, and her heartbreak in the Emerald City, which casts her once and for all into the fringes.

Maguire shows a logical progression to Elphaba's actions, and she never stops being a sympathetic character. I did find the novel fell apart a little for me toward the end, when events in the book start to mirror events in the movie. Maguire's Dorothy comes across as a bit of a Mary Sue, and the reactions to her from several characters rang false. But the book was, on the whole, a thoroughly enjoyabke one and I plowed throug it at record speed. I have the two sequels on my reading list next; I hope they are just as satisfying.

Fictionwise is advertising the ebook version as being 'packed with extras' including a reading group guide which I believe is in the print version too, and the original Wizard of Oz story on which this was based (and which is in the public domain and hence available at many internet freebie sites already). I like the concept of ebook extras and hope this evolves over time to offer ereaders actual incentive to pay the unreasonably high prices publishers seem to be demanding.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Review: Calling by Jack Brokenshire

Calling is a book came recommended on the Mobile Read forums and had good ratings at Fictionwise. I found it a little disappointing. The concept was clever enough: a man discovers his old cell phone can call heaven, and drama ensues. But it was written in an odd narrative style: all telling, no showing. The man just narrates what happens. The result for me was a sort of distance from the story. I never quite bought into the characters as real people with real lives. The tiny details that make characters come alive for me---routines, descriptions, dialogue, names----just weren't there. And toward the end, it got a little preachy.

I did find it an interesting little read. But I don't know that I would shell out for it again, in hindsight.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Review: Witchy Woman by Karen Leabo

Witchy Woman is a fun little story about a woman who grew up as a witch and as an adult, has turned away from her 'mysterious' past---until a handsome reporter and an ancient cursed cat force her back into action to deal with her 'magic' once and for all.

The romance between Tess and Nate is deftly played. He is decently chivalrous in spite of his professional interest in her story, and Leabo gets that plot point out in the open fairly quickly, which is nice. Her response to Nate's intentions, romantic and otherwise, are heartfelt and realistic.

The book felt like it could have been a bit longer. But for what it is, it was an entertaining read and a fun story. Recommended.