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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2012
I liked this book a lot. It held my attention from the first line onwards. The play on Wizard of Oz is handled deftly and not heavy-handed with th "look at my in-joke" attitude I've seen elsewhere.

Most surprising to me is how well Mr. Beard portrays the first person voice for Gail. His understanding of the teenage psyche is excellent.

There are a couple of downsides, but nothing that would diminish a pleasurable read. One of my main pains in the a.. (I guess the Osland Academy's rule against cursing applies here) is a bit of muddle with the rift watchers' roles since they're referred to both by their first names, then by "Miss Lastname." Maybe my brain cells are firing at full capacity, but I hate having to stop and think who is who.

I got my copy at Smashwords and found a lot of strange errors (missing words or extra words that just didn't smell of typo). At first, I was aghast at the number of errors, but then caught on that the uploaded file to Smashwords might be corrupt. I queried the author about these errors and determined that a flawed file was at fault. The Kindle and B&N editions should be much cleaner and the author is making adjustments. If you got an earlier version with the strangeness, don't count it as a fault.

This is a series, and I'm definitely interested in reading the next book. Best of all, I can choose to continue the series or not. I abhor books in a series that leave a clifhanger of gigantic proportions in an attempt to force the reader to buy the next in a series. My answer is always no. Give me a fully realized story in each book in a series or you won't keep me as a reader. Mr. Beard has done very well in making me WANT to know what happens next, rather than trying to force me to find out.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2012
I enjoyed The Emerald City in part because it was fun to spot J.A. Beard's re-envisioning of Baum's Oz material in all the places that he slipped it in. However, mostly I enjoyed The Emerald City because I liked heroine Gail Dorjee and her friends Lydia, Leandra, and Nick. They have distinct, exciting, and fun voices, and they didn't really need magic powers to hold my interest. Gail is spunky, brave, and cool; Lydia is funny with her malapropisms; Leandra's fearfulness and hidden talents had me rooting for her every moment that she was on-stage; and Nick has a mixture of outward cool and buried intensity that reminds me of the best characters in anime. Gail has suffered the loss of her parents, but mixed in with her anger and guilt there is an admirable inner strength that makes her really heroic. Plus, she's a Tibetan-American from Kansas. What could possibly be more ironically interesting than that?

Yes, I'm a man in his forties, but yes, I did read the first Twilight book, and I felt a kind of smugness in that novel that was a turnoff. Where that book was smug and irritating, J.A. Beard's Emerald City is full of sincerity instead: the innocence and goodness are in the true spirit of Baum but fit nicely in the 21st century too. One would scarcely believe this book was the product of a man closer to my age than Gail's.

It's odd how as I get older and keep reading fantasy, I begin to find the plots beside the point, and care only about the characters. I had the same reaction when reading Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, or Trenton Lee Stewart's Mysterious Benedict Society. My feeling is: okay, this plot is acceptable, but the good moments are the kids talking to each other and dealing with their feelings. Beard's setting and storyline are adequate for the purpose of the book, and his supporting cast has some potential, but the heart of this book is the four characters I named above, and if they were to go into Oz, rather than Osland Academy, and just see wonders rather than be imperiled, I think I'd like it just as much.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2012
The first book series that introduced me to the amazing world of fantasy was the Wizard of Oz series by Frank Baum. So, when I saw this in my email, I jumped at the chance to read it. I loved the author's re imagination of the classic story, the old characters were easily picked out. I really enjoyed reading this book, it a was new and different take on an old story.
Gail is edgy, which I loved, I'm so sick of all the Dorothy character's being helpless. I like my main character to have fire, and she totally did. She reacted way better than I would have to being dumped in a boarding school where she knew no one. I loved that the popular clique at school was called the Winged, they were everyone you went to high school with lol.
J.A. Beard kept me guessing until the end, just when I thought I had everyone figured out, he would throw a curve ball at me. Great job! I look forward to reading more from him in the future.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2012
The loose re-imagining of the Wizard of Oz, first piqued my interest in The Emerald City. Many years of watching the old black and white version of the old Wizard of Oz, I became fond of the cast and crew that drew very distinct lines between good and evil. And as a young girl this was comfortable for me, and snuggling with my Granny was the best, but as I grew older I wanted color, and parts of me challenged other things like ...challenging the old ideas of good and evil.

J.A. Beard does not disappoint. Right away, he does not open up with your typical Dorothy-type. Like Dorothy, Gail Dorjee (his main character) is away from home, but Gail is trying to escape the pain of losing her parents' death by retreating inside a shell of anger. Gail is very different. If a house fell on the Wicked Witch, Gail would take the Witch's red shoes and sell them on Ebay, not thinking twice about it. Right away, Gail had enough snarky to win my heart as an adult, just like Dorothy had enough compassion to win me as a kid.

The other characters are dripping with their own unique characteristics that differ from the original cast, but keep an original strand from the old OZ. Without giving too much away, Nick is my favorite Tin Man, absolutely worth the effort to try to find a heart for, and not get Gail's broken in the process. Other that great dialogue, characters, the plot is woven beautifully and it is a complex one broken down from basic physics. Physics yes, because, again, not giving too much away, there are forces at work that defy gravity.

Beard really had his thinking cap on when he wrote this, and forced me to put mine on, which is something that could sneak up on young adults in a fun surprising way. They might read this and find they just learned a thing, or two.

Now, for all of you literary folks, Beard's Gail didn't challenge good and evil boundaries like Elphaba (Wicked, Gregory Maguire) but she/Gail certainly made things different and sometimes a little color on the same story is all we need, and a bit of mind blowing gravity changes. I highly recommend The Emerald City.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 15, 2012
A quirky quote. "The personality of a serial killer crossed with a sponge"

I love this book. It was an interesting take on the classic Wizard of Oz. It fused the yellow brick road (that was mentioned briefly) with the modern world. And used a troll as the disguise for "the man behind the curtain." No red slippers were used but it was still a great read.

The characters are fun and entertaining. Gail Dorjee is a much stronger Dorothty and actively tries to help her friends (even when they weren't friends at that time). Lydia is the Scarecrow, quite obvious with the nickname of Brainless, but she says these awesome misconstrued quotes such as "Charlotte Bronte said, `I try to avoid looking forward or backward and try to keep looking in Utah.'" (26) and "`God has given yourself one face, and you make yourself a tiger'" (21). I find them to be funny because they are moments that say what? Utah? I don't think Utah was a state when Bronte was around but I could wrong. Leandra is the Cowardly Lion with her being so afraid of everything. Nick is the Tin Man by being emotionless. I love that the evil Flying Monkeys are represented by the Winged clique. I love those monkeys.

What I found was interesting is that good side is pretty much determine but the bad side is not. At any given time, there were multiple individuals who could stand for the Wicked Witch because that's how good the writing is. It makes the reader question who is the Wicked Witch because it's not just one character feels that can fulfill this role. Diana is the antagonist to Gail but then another person could be the villain of the story as well. The villain identity has this transferability that makes the story interesting because we are not certain who is the witch until the end.

The whole concept of the Rift Watchers was really interesting. It was carefully woven into the novel as well. The Rift Watchers can use magic to stabilize Rifts in the world, which are centers of power. Gail is water, Lydia is plants, Leandra is earth and Nick is metal. The school isn't meant for everyone to learn about the rifts, it's more like the school draws magical people to it. I have Buffy in my head so the rifts remind me of the Hellmouth where it completely collapses on itself at the end of the series but before that, it tended to draw people to it. It is sort of what the rift would have done if it have collapse.

Overall, I really like this novel. It does a great service to the original book and this manages to be original by itself. I don't like the fact that the characters cannot cuss but I won't deduct a half butterfly for it. It makes it interesting and adds to the mystery of the Academy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 2012
Wow. Just wow. I absolutely fell in love with this book. The Wizard of Oz stories are some of my favorite books, from the original books to the Wicked series, I absolutely adore it. This book is among those favorites. J.A. Beard has created a fantastic world using the Wizard of Oz as a leaping off point, and I readily give this book five stars and am proud to add it to my favorites. Some people have tried to recreate stories that have been around for ages, and some succeed, while others tend to fall terribly, terribly short; this book is a success in my opinion. I'd received a copy directly from the author to read and review, this is the first I've done like this and, I am quite glad I did.

The Emerald City takes place at the glamorous Osland Academy in Seattle, and our heroine, Gail, was shipped off their by her Aunt and Uncle (who have little or no problem paying the $40,000 tuition), however, there is something unique about Osland Academy, the students and just the atmosphere in general - especially considering that no matter how hard she tries, Gail cannot curse or utter a single bad word no matter how angry she might get.

We have the standard cast of characters - but in a unique light. You have Gail, who is our dear little Kansas girl (Dorothy); Lydia, our scatter-brained girl (Scarecrow); Leandra, who truth be told is pretty much afraid of everything (Cowardly Lion); Nick, the cute-senior boy who lacks a heart (Tin Man). The Witches represented in this story are essentially the teachers - you have the good and the bad of course. Miss West is of course the root of all evil in our story, because she was the evil one in the original Wizard of Oz. Nigashi is essentially the wicked witch of the east, though she doesn't die from a house landing on her, she does die however. We also have the winged monkeys, in the form of the Student Council members led by Diana, a senator's daughter; and they call themselves the Winged.

The story flows easily enough, with only a few hang ups where there is the occasional word missing in a sentence or something of that nature. Beyond that, I honestly, only put this book down to sleep and go see Hunger Games last night. It took me a little less than a day to read. The action is quick and the few battle sequences are filled with awesome. I love the concept of the Rift Watchers and their essences that they control - and the depth of the plan that was hatched and Gail ultimately had to uncover was truly interesting in its creation. I also loved the inclusion of the Fremont Troll in Seattle (The Emerald City) as a tie in for the location of Principal Osland.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2012
The Emerald City

An extraordinarily delightful YA paranormal novel, the "clues" to the real nature hidden behind the curtain are so subtle and so smooth. Excellently written and characterized, by page 2 I was entranced. Author Beard captures the inner self of young adolescents admirably, and then puts a neat spin on the situations they encounter. I loved the approach to bullying that begins the first chapter-would that such a solution could be fond for every victim of bullying, and every onlooker afraid to step forward and help.

On her first day at Seattle's posh private Osland Academy, Gail steps into it when she crosses the elitist daughter of a Senator and "magic" happens. Now a target for bullying herself (the bully is also the Student Council President-of course- and threatens Gail with expulsion), Gail finds she can't really express the anger she's bottling since the recent demise of her parents, nor the lack of self-control of which her uncle constantly accuses her. She can't even cuss! (nor contact the outside world)

One aspect of this novel that I particularly noticed and enjoyed is that Gail is not your ordinary YA heroine-at least not in my perspective. This girl is edgy-and I mean that in both senses: yes, she is constantly on edge, losing her parents, having an uncle she thinks is "stuck raising her," shipped halfway across continent to attend a strange (in multiple senses) boarding school. Yet I call her edgy in another sense also-she reminds me of a double-edged razor blade wrapped in a cloth-you don't see the sharpness, you may not feel it, but it can still cut you. An individual like this could go either way: into deep trouble (for herself and others), or into emotional maturity. We just have to wait and see. But the fact that she is this strongly-delineated makes her "four-dimensional," and therefore a much more appealing protagonist. (Can you tell I'm strongly in her corner?)

If you're hunting for a delectable YA Paranormal that's outstanding, then just come right over here and choose "The Emerald City" by J. A. Beard. You won't be misled.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 2012
Read from March 28 to 31, 2012

4½ heart's (I'm rounding up to 5 for Amazon.)

The Emerald City is witty, entertaining, and an imaginative retelling of Wizard of Oz. No matter how well you know the original, you will be surprised and amused by this recreation of the beloved tale. It's a little high school/boarding school 'young' drama (like a High School Musical without the music) mixed with some urban fantasy magic; somehow it is more believable than the original tale but still more supernatural, too. It's really hard to describe, but any words I use should indicated that I had no problem reading this book. Once I made it past the first chapter I was hooked. The writing was really fresh with some 'hidden' gems buried in it. For example, instead of cute little furry Toto, there is dog statue name "Africa". Get it? If you don't, Google 80's music by Toto.

Some quotes I especially liked:

"Coffee. The little things always help to remind you the universe isn't always out to get you."

"I wondered if I should wander around with a six pack of ginger ale on me. A girl never knew when she would need to defend her honor."

"I half-expected Lydia to tell me a horde of rabid monkeys sent by Diana would be showing up any minute. Given the day I had, it almost wouldn't surprise me."

"I wanted something dramatic. Few things were more dramatic than a giant concrete troll moving in front of you."

If you enjoy YA stories, liked the original Wizard of Oz, and especially like urban fantasy then this is a book not to pass up reading. I will most definitely be re-reading this book again in the future.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2012
The Emerald City by J.A. Beard is what the title suggests and is a rewrite of the broad strokes of Wizard of Oz. Having said this, its not some boring old rewrite or a pale imitation of others such as Wicked. This book is truly a unique reading experience that has depth while maintaining a fun and enthusiastic read. The characters were refreshing and unapologetic; I must admit that it was fun connecting them to the original characters while seeing how the author made them new, fun, and relatable through their thoughts and feelings.
It is always enticing for me to read a book where an author is able to mix, real issues along with hard decisions that may or may not work within the moral framework of the characters, especially in young adult book. J.A. Beard was able to perform this bit of difficult writing flawlessly while making it enjoyable and not getting heavy handed.
I will not write here about the specific plot lines, as the author has already done this well for the book. However, I will say that for people thinking of reading this book will have a great read. While this book does not fall into the two categories that I normally read I found it enjoyable. Anyone who loves YA reading will take pleasure in reading this book. Along with people who normally don't but want to venture outside their normal comfort zones will also enjoy it. One more note, while I enjoy the cover art and found it quit whimsical some others may be put off as it does not conform to the recent trend of realistic and or photographs covers, don't let this cover derail it from reading it as you will be disappointed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2012
I immediately got to grips wth the main character of this book, the young but fairly mature 'farm-girl' out at a new boarding school because she lost mum and dad to a car crash. i had a few ideas of what to expect as I knew this was based on a kind of wirzard of Oz style book but it was thankfully still pretty original and it wasn't until all the characters nicknames were listed tother that I realised who everyone was and how it all fitted together.

I also really liked the sense of humour of the main character and found myself chuckling out loud at a few things she said and thought.

There were just a few things that robbed the book of a 5 star from me (it's not easy to get 5 stars from me) and those were two things. Mostly the last 'battle' It just all felt a little too easy. I won't spoil it all but I think it should have been harder for Gail to do what she did and win at the end.

The other slight niggle, though very minor was the editing, there were quite a few words strung together and missing words etc. Sometimes I'd have to read a sentence again to figure out what the author was trying to say, although on finishing the author did say that the book had gone through another proof read. My advice would be to anyone reading this and worried the errors would annoye them is to get the sample and check. If there aren't any you notice in the sample you will probably be fine with the book. This alone wasn't frequent enough to have me knock down a star on it's own either.
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