Book Review! Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire

Hi everyone!
Today’s post will be a review on “Out of Oz” by Gregory Maguire. This is the last in a series called the “Wicked Years”, based on “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” series by L. Frank Baum. It started with “Wicked”, which eventually became a Broadway show, followed by “Son of a Witch”, “Lion Among Men”, and finally, “Out of Oz”.

While I have read all 4 books recently, you won’t find reviews for them on this blog. The reason for this is, I read & fell in love with “Wicked” many years ago, but wasn’t that interested in finishing the series. Then I started this blog & compiled my “Books To Read” list & “Out of Oz” found its way on there…but I didn’t realize it was part of the “Wicked Years”. I thought it was a stand alone book. Once I realized it was the final book in the series, I re-read “Wicked” & finished the other books to get a fair understanding of what Maguire was trying to create.
Perhaps you’re thinking, why review “Out of Oz” at all, without bothering to have reviewed the other 3 books? I pondered over this & decided that as this is the final book, it made sense to put the nail in the “Wicked Years” coffin, if you will, with a final book review on the subject. As always, I will try to keep Spoilers to a minimum.

Initial Thoughts:
Hallelujah this series is OVER! I generally enjoy this genre, fantasy based on popular stories & given their own twist, but I had a tough time getting through this series. I really enjoyed “Wicked”, the Broadway musical is one of my favorite shows, but the series declined for me after that. I kept reading because I was curious to see where Maguire took the story, yet I can’t say I really enjoyed the journey.

Plot:
“Out of Oz” starts out with a short summary of all the stories, family trees, maps of Oz, & a timeline of when each story took place in relation to each other. This reminded me of Tolkien/LOTR but was a bit redundant for me because I read the stories back to back so I had good retention of the timeline & how the characters were connected.
We meet Dorothy again & she’s transported back to OZ via the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Scenes like this are what make me love Maguire’s writing. He’s so clever in the way he took something that happened in real life & found a way to make it fit with his story. However, I was disappointed in his version of Dorothy. She’s not the brightest girl in the world & after the first mention of her, she disappears. 100 pages later, I was wondering if she was ever going to make another appearance. I suppose that makes sense though because this series is really not about Dorothy.
The book continues to tell the story of the political going ons in Oz & to be honest, some of it was confusing. At a certain point I felt like I was reading a political mystery with Fantasy characters & I lost interest because it’s just not my cup of tea.
Another aspect of the plot I was intrigued yet ultimately disappointed by was Maguire’s use of characters from the original L. Frank Baum series. I appreciate him incorporating the “real” history of Oz yet I feel like he could have made it even more his own. Without giving too much away, if you’re at all familiar with the original series, theres’s a huge spoiler in regards to one of the characters that kind of kills the whole story because you already know how it’s going to end.
Maguire ends the story with a cliff hanger & when I first read it I was annoyed because I felt like he was setting it up for another book, even though this one was marketed as the last in the series. However, after re-reading the first Quote I mention below, I have a new understanding of why he left it open-ended & I think it’s kind of…beautiful. He’s acknowledging the fact that this universe he created is going to “continue on” – in a fantasy universe obviously – even though the written story has ended.

Quotes:
– At the beginning of the book with the maps/timeline etc: “We believe the explanation we hear last. It’s one of the ways in which narrative influences our perception of truth. We crave finality, an end to interpretation, not seeing that this too, the tying up of all loose ends in the last chapter, is only a storytelling ruse. The device runs contrary to experience wouldn’t you say? Time never simplifies – it unravels and complicates. Guilty parties show up everywhere. The plot does nothing but thicken. – Michelle de Kretser, The Hamilton Case”
WOW! I love this. This quote really made me think. I ended up sharing it with a friend & we debated its meaning – that’s what I love about good literature. It should make you think, feel, & want to share it with others. To me, this speaks to the idea that these stories are their own universe & continue to change & grow even though we’ve closed the book & think it’s over. I could go into way more detail about my analysis of this quote, but I’ll just leave it for you to think about.
– Pg 544/567: I picked up on some song lyrics from “Wicked” the musical & the “Wizard of Oz” film being used as dialogue. Maguire is definitely the kind of author that would sneak in this kind of reference. I think it’s brilliant.

Overall:
Nothing can compare to “Wicked” for me. “Son of a Witch” was pretty good, but I could barely maintain interest in “Lion Among Men” & “Out of Oz”. I think Maguire is a clever writer but sometimes I get tired of how he draws everything out. He puts a unique adult touch on his stories, however, sometimes the sex scenes are a little much for me. I also find it annoying that while many of the male characters are bisexual or gay, (kind of a SPOILER) there is potential for a lesbian love story that gets pushed aside as “unacceptable”. “Wicked” might have some staying power because of the musical, but otherwise I don’t think the series as a whole will be remembered for years to come like the original series or film.

Rating: C+
As I’ve mentioned, quite a few times, I had a hard time getting through this book. I feel like “Best Selling Authors” especially in the Fantasy genre always write extremely long passages of descriptions that drag on & on & really serve no purpose. About 100 pages in, I was annoyed. If you like prose, great. If you like writing that’s a little more direct to the point – you might not enjoy this. I also had to rate this book down for the political nature of it – as I said, just not a genre I enjoy. If you’re interested in seeing a popular Fantasy story from a different, more adult angle, especially one that includes heavy descriptions & politics, you will enjoy this novel & series as a whole.

Have you read any of the books in the “Wicked Years” or seen “Wicked” the musical? If so, what are your thoughts? Am I being too harsh? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!

Book Review! Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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OH MY GOSH! I’m FREAKING OUT over this book. It’s seriously THAT GOOD! I’m so stinking excited to talk to you today about “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”. The inspiration for this book is really unique. Ransom Riggs, the author, started collecting vintage pictures from thrift stores & flea markets. He felt such an intense curiosity to know the story behind these anonymous pictures that, rather than settle for never knowing, he created his own fantastical stories to explain what was going on in the photos. There are several odd photos placed in the book that you would think are Photoshopped, but are real pictures he found while writing. According to Riggs’ website, this series – there are 3 Miss Peregrine novels, the last one slated to be released September of this year – is being made into a film by Tim Burton. OF COURSE IT IS. I’m not a huge Burton enthusiast, but he’s a perfect choice in this case. Okay, onto the review. I’ll try my best to limit the spoilers because I really do want you all to read this book. Really, like right now, click on the picture of the book above & buy it from Amazon. However, if you insist on reading my full review before buying it, it’s fine, I guess. Here we go!

Plot: Jacob grows up idolizing his tall tale telling grandfather, Grandpa Portman. He grows disillusioned as a teenager when he realizes that Grandpa Portman’s stories about being shipped to an orphanage in Wales, a magical place where no one ever got sick or died & was protected by a woman who could turn into a bird, could not possibly be true. Tragedy strikes & through a series of insane events Jacob is forced to admit that Grandpa Portman’s stories were much more real than he previously believed. He embarks on a whirlwind adventure full of magic, danger, romance, and self discovery.

Initial Thoughts: I had no expectations going into this novel. I wasn’t even really sure what genre it was, fantasy, sci fi, children’s literature, zombies, all of the above? Right off the bat, Grandpa Portman tells stories of monsters in Poland circa WWII & I was thinking, “Hmm, real monsters or is this a veiled reference to the Nazi Party? What are we dealing with here?” The answer is, to a certain degree, both! After finishing the first two pages, I wrote a note, “I’m so excited to read this book, will I have nightmares?! Am I ready to welcome another series into my life?! I’m already in a very committed, long term relationship with Harry Potter..”. Riggs’ writing already had me hooked.
I was reminded of the movie “Big Fish”. If you’ve never seen it, you’re living life all wrong. “Big Fish” is easily one of my top 10 favorite movies.Everyone loves it, Yellowcard even wrote a song about it called “How I Go” which makes me weep every time I hear it. The bottom line is it’s an amazing film directed by Tim Burton (a pattern is emerging) about a man with a strained relationship with his father. The father always tells amazing, wild stories of his youth which the son stopped believing a long time ago. Through flashbacks you’re swept up in the father’s magical stories & in the end the film is really about how we stay in the hearts of those we love, even when we’re not around anymore. That’s all I’ll say, seriously, you should watch it. Back to the review…

Characters: Jacob is a wonderful character, well developed, & different from other characters in YA Fiction, which is technically the book’s genre. Usually I’m annoyed by teenage characters, but not Jacob. He admits to being odd, scared, & not macho, but continues on his adventure because he’s inspired by the life of someone he loved. I love that he cries! It’s rare to find young male characters so in touch with their emotions.
A character that helps my “Big Fish” tie in, is Emma Bloom. The main character in “Big Fish” is named Edward Bloom. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence but it made me happy to continue the connection between the two stories.

Quotes – SPOILERS HERE!!!:
– Not necessarily a quote, but on page 48 there’s a passage describing how Jacob’s family deals with the aftermath of Grandpa Portman passing away. If you’ve ever had to go through someone’s belongings after they’ve passed away – you will totally identify with this scene. Riggs writes the most accurate description of that process that I’ve ever read.
– pg 108, Jacob talks about how WWII has changed his family history. It’s kind of a long passage but I thought it was really powerful. “I thought about how my great-grandparents had starved to death…their wasted bodies being fed to incinerators because people they didn’t know hated them. I thought about how the children who had lived in this house had been burned up & blown apart because a pilot who didn’t care pushed a button. I thought about how my grandfather’s family had been taken from him, and how because of that my dad grew up feeling like he didn’t have a dad…[a]ll because of a 70 year old hurt that had somehow been passed down to me like some poisonous heirloom & monsters I couldn’t fight because they were all dead, beyond killing or punishing or any kind of reckoning. At least my grandfather had been able to join the army & go fight them. What could I do?”

Overall: I’m sure you can tell I loved this book with a serious passion. My one hiccup was the romance between Emma & Jacob. No Spoilers, but given her past, the romance between them was slightly uncomfortable for me. The twist near the end threw me for a loop! Again, to avoid spoilers, that’s all I’m going to say. My note literally reads, “Holy effin shit! Holy effin shit! I knew he was suspect but never expected THIS! The nightmares are gonna be so real tonight”. I have referenced nightmares a few times, but please don’t be afraid, I’m mostly being dramatic. While the story was intense, it tied into many other works of fiction that I have a soft spot for. As previously mentioned, “Big Fish”, but also “Peter Pan” because of the whole children on an island that never grow old aspect, “Harry Potter” because of the magic, plus Jacob & Harry seem like kindred spirits, they never know the important details until it’s too late & they’re left to fight on in the memory of those who inspired them, & “Supernatural”, because Grandpa Portman was a hunter, an absent father out fighting darkness, & Jacob continues on the family business. So if you like any of those things – you should enjoy this story.

Rating: A+! Obviously!! After all that raving could I really have given this book any other rating?! “Miss Peregrine’s…” was highly entertaining and engaging. I literally couldn’t put it down & finished reading it in about 3 or 4 hours. I realize a second more thorough reading may reveal plot holes or annoyances in the character’s personalities I didn’t notice before, but this first reading was pure joy. This novel was everything I look for in a “A+” work, well written characters & an engaging, relatable story that was able to suck me in, take me away, & make me care about everything it had to offer. I am definitely looking forward to reading the second installment in the series, “Hollow City”. I would also be interested in prequel books featuring Grandpa Portman’s adventures during WWII – maybe I should write a letter to Riggs suggesting that, haha!

Have you read “Miss Peregrine’s…” or the second novel “Hollow City”? Are you enjoying this series as much as I am?! If you haven’t heard of this series before, what do you think, will you give it a try? Please let me know what you thought of this review in the comments below! Send your book recommendations my way & I’ll add them to my list of Books to Read! Please click the FOLLOW button on the top right of this page to be notified by email when I post my next Book Review. Thanks for reading, until we meet again!