Thursday’s Tale: The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

In his introduction to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which was first published in 1900, Baum wrote that the story "aspires to being a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heart-aches and nightmares are left out.” It has been considered the first American fairy tale because of its references to clear American locations like Kansas and Omaha. While agreeing with authors like Carroll about fantasy literature and its importance for children along with numerous illustrations, Baum also wanted to create a story that had recognizable American elements in it like farming and industrialization. It's a mix of fantasy: witches and wizards, and the everyday: scarecrows, puppy dogs. I have watched three movie versions of the Wizard of Oz over the years - the classic from 1939, the Muppet version, and last year's Oz the Great and Powerful. Each has aspects of the original story, but none capture the whole adventure. We all know Dorothy is...
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Grim Shadows by Jenn Bennet

I have to admit that at first I was a bit annoyed with the male lead, Lowe Magnusson. When he first meets Hadley Bacall, he just keeps going on and on about her rear-end. Thankfully he eventually moved on to noticing her as a person. And they are a good match. Lowe is a con-artist, liar and a thief, but he has a truly good heart. Who doesn't love that type of bad boy, the kind that's just bad enough to be interesting but isn't going to intentionally hurt the people he cares about? Hadley has spent her life proving she's worthy and trying to keep her spirits at bay. Because they do want to kill someone, they're just waiting for her to get angry enough to let them. And she comes close - Lowe is quite good at pushing people's buttons. While this is a romance, Lowe and Hadley are also on a mission. They need to collect the pieces of an artifact, but...
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Thursday’s Tale: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

I know "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is not actually a folk tale, but it has become so familiar to us, so much a part of our culture, that I think it still fits in my rather loose Thursday Tales collection. I've read the story of the schoolmaster, Ichabod Crane several times and I love the descriptions of the area and the locals. It really sets the stage for the story. They are given to all kinds of marvelous beliefs, are subject to trances and visions, and frequesntly see strange sights and hear music and voices in  the air. The whole neighborhood abounds with local tales, haunted spots, and twilight superstitions; stars shoot and meteors glare oftener across the valley than in any other part of the country, and the nightmare, with her whole ninefold, seems to make it the favorite scene of her gambols. The dominant spirit however that haunts this enchanted region, and seems to be commander-in-chief of all the...
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The Paradise of Devils by Franco Di Mare

I enjoyed the rather meandering quality of The Paradise of Devils. The story centers around Carmine Cacciapuoti, but skips around in time from his present, to his childhood, to defining moments in his life. Carmine is a lot like Naples itself. He's a philosophical former scholar, who has become a hit man. His girlfriend Lena, a teacher, thinks he's a computer salesperson of some type and he is trying to keep the two parts of his life, his home and his job, separate. Of course, you can only keep secrets like that for so long before the whole thing starts to unravel. The book is translated from Italian and as far as I could tell it was done well enough. There are a couple of odd Americanisms, like Lena wondering if Carmine would say he was working with the Secret Service or FBI - of course not, he's in Italy; that would be a stupid lie to tell. Carmine is many...
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The Lazarus Curse by Tessa Harris

I could break The Lazarus Curse down into three parts: the mystery- what happened to Matthew Bartlett, the botanist/artist who disappeared upon returning from Jamaica; the background research and storyline on the plight of slaves who were brought to England by their masters; and what's going on with Lydia, Thomas' lover. The mystery was okay. There's supposedly a Lazarus Potion that can bring people back from the dead, and the theory is that the expedition found the formula and someone killed Bartlett for the information. There were a couple of suspects but no good option. The wrap-up to this part surprised me in a good. It was interesting how it worked out, even if I don't entirely understand the reasoning. The part of the plot centering around the slaves was the most engrossing. There were Americans currently staying in London. In England at the time, slavery was not legal, but the American's slaves are still more or less considered property for all intents and purposes. Thomas sees the unfairness...
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Audiobook Review: The Long Way Home by Louise Penny

I don't know where to start with my feelings about The Long Way Home. I love this series, but this was not one of my favorite installments. Even though it's a mystery, it's more interested in character than plot, in thoughts and feelings than actions, which has been true of all Penny's books; it's what makes them stand out. It also makes it a series best read from the beginning, to know the characters, to learn their stories, the things that are important to them, how they interact with each other. However, it can also make it slow, a bit plodding. It's also not a typical mystery in that it doesn't start with a crime, it starts as the search. There are eventually crimes uncovered, and there is a murder, but not til late in the story. I don't think that's really a spoiler: there's always a murder in her mysteries. I hate to admit that I didn't actually like Peter....
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