“Who Could That Be At This Hour?” by Lemony Snicket

“Who Could That Be at This Hour?” by Lemony Snicket was published in 2012 by Little, Brown and Company.

The adventure began in a fading town. Far from anyone he knew or trusted, a young Lemony Snicket started an apprenticeship for a secret organization shrouded in mystery and secrecy. He asked questions that shouldn’t have been on his mind. Now he has written an account that should not be published that shouldn’t be read. Not even by you. Seriously, we recommend that you do NOT ask your parents for this, the first book in his new ALL THE WRONG QUESTIONS series.

Rating: 2/5

As I understood before actually reading the book, “Who Could That Be at This Hour?” is a prequel of sorts to A Series of Unfortunate Events which delves deeper into V.F.D. and some of the mysteries that were left unanswered in the aforementioned unfortunate book series.

After reading the book, I’m not quite sure what to feel. On the plus side, it’s got some of the things that I loved about Unfortunate Events, such as the definition of words and the absurdist humor. On the minus side, I’m still not fond of the “every adult is incompetent” running joke because I don’t find it funny, and the answer to the “What is that giant question mark in the sea?” that rose up in The End is particularly dissatisfying and made me a little irritated, actually.

So, basically, I found “Who Could That Be at This Hour?” a middling book at best, a blatant “let’s beat this dead horse, only in a slightly different way than before” book at worst. I’m glad that it’s not a carbon copy of Unfortunate Events, but there’s enough similarities that this book pales in comparison. As I said, it’s a middling book—a forgettable, average, slightly-familiar, mysterious book that is almost not worth the trouble at all. Good for fans of Unfortunate Events, but not very welcoming to those unfamiliar with those 13 unfortunate books.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Mystery, Children’s

“This will be an easy case!” she crowed happily. “It’s not often that a client gives us the name of the criminal. You’re bringing me luck, Snicket.”

“If Mrs. Sallis knew who the burglar was,” I asked, “why wouldn’t she call the police?”

“That’s not important,” Theodora said. “What we need to figure out is how the Mallahans broke in through the ceiling.”

“We don’t know that they broke in through the ceiling,” I said.

“The windows were latched,” Theodora said. “There’s no other way they could have gotten into the library.”
“We got in through a pair of double doors,” I said.

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2cED9tj

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Series Week III: Wrap-Up of A Series of Unfortunate Events

Series Rating: 4/5

It was so much fun to reread this series again.  Its strongest point is definitely the great absurdist humor that Snicket/Handler employs. This is a series that is genuinely funny to read and really just sucks you right in from the first page. There are so many memorable moments; not just from the actual story but from Snicket’s asides as well. Before I started rereading the series, I distinctly remembered Snicket’s pages-long list of “nevers” in The Reptile Room and the two pages of black that he uses in The Ersatz Elevator. So much of this just sticks with you because it’s so funny and memorable. I will probably never forget “the bears bear hard hard yarn yarns” or the long list of “I love you like…” from The Beatrice Letters. This series just give so much enjoyment, even if it is unfortunate (and frustrating).

Speaking of frustrating…that’s it? That’s the end? What the sugar bowl? Why was the sugar bowl so important? Did it just contain horseradish? Why was it so important to save it if the Baudelaire parents had done the whole tree thing on the island? Did the Baudelaire parents really kill Olaf’s parents? What’s up with him and Kit? Was Dewey the father of Beatrice? Was Lemony that cab driver who took the sugar bowl? What about the underwater library? What about the Snicket file? Why did Snicket say that the Baudelaires should have gone to a fungal ditch/should have read the chapter on fungal ditches? Why is Beatrice looking for the Baudelaires ten years later? What was that ? on the sonar? What happened to Hal and the Quagmire triplets after they fell into the sea? Do you see why I don’t like unresolved endings?

Don’t get me wrong, this is still a great series to read and you should definitely read them if you haven’t. Just be prepared to not have a lot of the mysteries cleared up. On a related note, Snicket is writing another related series. The first book is called Who Could That Be at This Hour? and it’s about Snicket’s apprenticeship in V.F.D. I think it’s also supposed to clear up some of the mystery about the Great Unknown (the ?).

Here are my favorite books, from most favorite to least favorite:

1.) The Slippery Slope

2.) The Penultimate Peril

3.) The Hostile Hospital

4.) The Ersatz Elevator

5.) The Wide Window

6.) The Reptile Room

7.) The Bad Beginning

8.) The End

9.) The Carnivorous Carnival

10.) The Austere Academy

11.) The Miserable Mill

12.) The Vile Village

13.) The Grim Grotto

That was harder than my list for The Edge Chronicles. The top three are definitely my favorites, while The Grim Grotto is probably my least favorite. The middle is a bit rough: 5-9 can probably shift around a bit, and so can 10-13, but this is roughly my general impressions from reading each book.

I’ll be back on Tuesday with my regular weekly updates! I’ll be looking at Sunshine by Robin McKinley.

Series Week III: The End

The End is the thirteenth and final book in A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. It was published in 2006 by HarperCollins.

Contains spoilers!

Genre: Children’s, Mystery

Summary/Blurb:

“Dear Reader,

You are presumably looking at the back of this book, or the end of The End. The end of The End is the best place to begin The End, because if you read The End from the beginning of the beginning of The End to the end of the end of The End, you will arrive at the end of the end of your rope.

This book is the last in A Series of Unfortunate Events, and even if you braved the previous twelve volumes, you probably can’t stand such unpleasantries as a fearsome storm, a suspicious beverage, a herd of wild sheep, an enormous bird cage, and a truly haunting secret about the Baudelaire parents.

It has been my solemn occupation to complete the history of the Baudelaire orphans, and at last I am finished. You likely have some other occupation, so if I were you I would drop this book at once, so The End does not finish you.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket”

~Back Cover

Passages/Quotes:

“As I’m sure you know, there are many words in our mysterious and confusing language that can mean two completely different things. The word “bear,” for instance, can refer to a rather husky mammal found in the woods, as in the sentence “The bear moved quietly toward the camp counselor, who was too busy putting on lipstick to notice,” but it can also refer to how much someone can handle, as in the sentence “The loss of my camp counselor is more than I can bear.” The word “yarn” can refer both to a colorful strand of wool, as in the sentence “His sweater was made of yarn,” and to a long and rambling story, as in the sentence “His yarn about how he lost his sweater almost put me to sleep.” The word “hard” can refer both to something that is difficult and something that is firm to the touch, and unless you come across a sentence like ‘The bears bear hard hard yarn yarns” you are unlikely to be confused.”

~Snicket 45-46

“The phrase “in the dark,” as I’m sure you know, can refer not only to one’s shadowy surroundings, but also to the shadowy secrets of which one might be unaware. Every day, the sun goes down over all these secrets, and so everyone is in the dark in one way or another. If you are sunbathing in a park, for instance, but you do not know that a locked cabinet is buried fifty feet beneath your blanket, then you are in the dark even though you are not actually in the dark, whereas if you are on a midnight hike, knowing full well that several ballerinas are following close behind you, then you are not in the dark even if you are in fact in the dark. Of course, it is quite possible to be in the dark in the dark, as well as to be not in the dark not in the dark, but there are so many secrets in the world that it is likely that you are always in the dark about one thing or another, whether you are in the dark in the dark or in the dark not in the dark, although the sun can go down so quickly that you may be in the dark about being in the dark in the dark, only to look around and find yourself no longer in the dark about being in the dark in the dark, but in the dark in the dark nonetheless, not only because of the dark, but because of the ballerinas in the dark, who are not in the dark about the dark, but also not in the dark about the locked cabinet, and you may be in the dark about the ballerinas digging up the locked cabinet in the dark, even though you are no longer in the dark about being in the dark, and so you are in fact in the dark about being in the dark, even though you are not in the dark about being in the dark, and so you my fall into the hole that the ballerinas have dug, which is dark, in the dark, and in the park.”

~Snicket 189-191

“Perhaps if we saw what was ahead of us, and glimpsed the crimes, follies, and misfortunes that would befall us alter on, we would all stay in our mother’s wombs, and then there would be nobody in the world but a great number of very fat, very irritated women.”

~Snicket 319

Cover Art

Dedication:

“For Beatrice—

I cherished, you perished,

The world’s been nightmarished.”

“For Beatrice—

We are like boats passing in the night—

particularly you.”

Warnings: Death

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Rating: 3/5

What I Liked:

References! Ishmael, all the castaways, “Lethe,” Olaf’s poem, “Neiklot,” “Gentreefive,” “Dreyfuss,” “Yomhashoah,” and Kit’s poem. As a further bonus, some crazy person or people wrote down every single reference and allusion in ASOUE that they could find and compiled them all here: Quidditch.com’s Incomplete Guide to Lemony Snicket Allusions. Have fun!

Olaf! What the heck was that, buddy? Well, at least you made it clear that you’re not just a one-dimensional villain. The last two books have proven that, I think. You actually made me feel a little bit sorry for you. And intrigued.

Wait, what?

The identity of Beatrice is finally revealed (in the series), and in a pretty good way, I think. It’s not an obvious reveal, but it’s obvious enough that most people will probably understand it as soon as they read it. It’s not spelled out for them, which is good, but it’s also not mind-numbingly difficult or convoluted to figure out.

Snicket’s random asides here are fabulous, maybe the best in the series. “The bears bear hard hard yarn yarns” and the entire “in the dark” passage are just brilliant.

What I Didn’t Like:

“I don’t want to force you, but…” So. Annoying. Ishmael, join the list of Annoying Adults/Adults Who Are Useless!

Wait, what? That’s it? That’s the end of the series? What about the all-important sugar bowl that apparently just contained horseradish (if “vess—” means “Vessel For Disaccharides”)? Why did Snicket steal it from Esmé? Is this the same sugar bowl? Talk about a MacGuffin device!

I bet this series would have had a nice, resolved ending…

What happened to the Quagmires? What is the mysterious question mark? Were the colonists saved by Ink? What about all the other mysteries that are left unsolved? I really don’t like endings that leave things unresolved. I really would have liked everything tied up neatly in a box and wrapped with a bow, but maybe that would have gone against the nature of the series.

Overall Review:

The End is a suitable end for A Series of Unfortunate Events, but not a suitable end for a series. Many questions are left unanswered, many mysteries are left unsolved, and I feel more frustrated than satisfied. Maybe Handler was trying to say something through the use of this ambiguous ending—like some things do not matter, or some mysteries will be forever unsolved, or whatever—but I feel let down. I tend to not like unresolved endings, though, so perhaps I am just missing the point and The End is a perfect end.

Coming Up Next: The wrap-up!

Series Week III: The Beatrice Letters

The Beatrice Letters is a companion piece to A Series of Unfortunate Events. It was published in 2006 by HarperCollins. This book is by no means a necessary or mandatory read; it is merely a supplemental one.

Warning: WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS. Do NOT read if you do not want to know who Beatrice is before the last book.

Genre: Children’s, Mystery

Summary/Blurb:

Letters from Lemony Snicket to Beatrice, and from Beatrice to Lemony.

Passages/Quotes:

“I will love you as a dagger loves a certain person’s back, and as a certain person loves to wear daggerproof tunics, and as a daggerproof tunic loves to go to a certain dry cleaning facility, and how a certain employee of a dry cleaning facility loves to stay up late with a pair of binoculars, watching a dagger factory for hours in the hopes of catching a burglar, and as a burglar loves sneaking up behind people with binoculars, suddenly realizing that she has left her dagger at home.”

~Snicket, from LS to BB #5

Cover Art (do you see the two faces?)

Dedication:

“To Beatrice,

 and

From Her.”

Warnings: None.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Rating: 5/5

What I Liked:

So, this is it. We finally know who Beatrice is. Or do we?

The Beatrice Letters is a series of communication from LS to BB, and from BB to LS. The LS’s are the same; the BB’s are only the same in name. The LS to BB letters take place before the BB to LS letters, before the events of ASOUE. The BB to LS letters take place ten years after the last book in the series.

We learn right away that the BB in the BB to LS letters is Beatrice Baudelaire, and she is desperately looking for Violet, Klaus, and Sunny. Who is this Beatrice Baudelaire? How is she related to the other three Baudelaires? Well…that’s something you’ll have to find out in The End.

We learn at the very end of The Beatrice Letters that the BB in the LS to BB letters is also Beatrice Baudelaire—the Baudelaire’s mother! Yes, that’s right…the mysterious Beatrice referred to throughout the entire series is the Baudelaire’s mother (we find this out for sure in The End; here, we can really only presume she is a relative).

That’s really all that’s in this book. There are also some letters that, when unscrambled, spell out both “A Snicket Brae” (referring to the content of the letters in the book) and “Beatrice Sank.” We’ll find out more about the latter in The End.

Also, remember all that time back in The Hostile Hospital when I told you that Snicket had revealed who Beatrice was? When Klaus and Sunny are searching for Violet in the patient list, one of the names is Carrie E. Abelabudite, which, when unscrambled, is Beatrice Baudelaire.

What I Didn’t Like:

Nothing.

People/Places/Things to Keep in Mind:

–Both Beatrices

–not really anything important for the last book, but see if you can tell who the people are that Snicket refers to by their first initial.

Overall Review:

The Beatrice Letters finally resolves the intriguing mystery of the identity of the woman Lemony Snicket loves. It also introduces a new mystery: who is the second Beatrice Baudelaire? It’s worth reading just for the letters alone, but it by no means needs to be read before The End. In fact, it might actually be better to read it after.

Coming Up Next: The End

Series Week III: The Penultimate Peril

The Penultimate Peril is the twelfth book in A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. It was published in 2005 by HarperCollins.

Genre: Mystery, Children’s

Summary/Blurb:

“Dear Reader,

If this is the first book you found while searching for a book to read next, then the first thing you should know is that this next-to-last book is what you should put down first. Sadly, this book presents the next-to-last chronicle of the lives of the Baudelaire orphans, and it is next-to-first in its supply of misery, despair, and unpleasantness.

Probably the next-to-last things you would like to read about are a harpoon gun, a rooftop sunbathing salon, two mysterious initials, three unidentified triplets, a notorious villain, and an unsavory curry.

Next-to-last things are the first thing to be avoided, and so allow me to recommend that you put this next-to-last book own first, and find something else to read next at last, such as the net-to-last book in another chronicle, or a chronicle containing other next-t-last things, so that this next-to-last book does not become the last book you will read.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket”

~Back Cover

Passages/Quotes:

“The Hotel Denouement is organized according to the Dewey Decimal System,” Frank or Ernest explained. “That’s the same way books are organized in many libraries. For instance, if you wanted to find a book on German poetry, you would begin in the section of the library marked 800, which contains book on literature and rhetoric. Similarly, the eighth story of this hotel is reserved for our rhetorical guests. Within the 800 section of a library, you’d find books on German poetry labeled 831, and if you were to take the elevator up to the eighth story and walk into Room 831, you’d find a gathering of German poets. Understand?”

~Snicket 62

“…But of course the Baudelaires were not born yesterday, an expression which means “young or innocent enough to believe things certain people say about the world”….Violet was born more than fifteen years before this particular Wednesday, and Klaus was born approximately two years after that, and even Sunny, who had just passed out of babyhood, was not born yesterday. Neither were you, unless of course I am wrong, in which case welcome to the world, little baby, and congratulations on learning to read so early in life.”

~Snicket 201-202

Cover Art 1

Dedication:

“For Beatrice—No one could extinguish my love, or your house.”

Warnings: Death.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Rating: 5/5

What I Liked:

Before I started reading this book, I was dreading it a little since I didn’t remember liking it that much the first time around. To my pleasant surprise, the book was a lot better than I remembered it being; in fact, it’s one of my favorite books in the series! I loved the “Not A Chapter” sections and the “Wrong!” of the clock and the return of familiar faces. There were things I didn’t like, though, but we’ll get to those.

References! Denouement, Dewey, Frank and Ernest, Richard Wright, La Forza del Destino, Giuseppe Verdi, “Henribergson.”

The sugar bowl has quite a big plot point in this book; it’s perhaps even the main plot point. This is another sign that the series is coming to a close. It’s kinda sad, actually…

Cover Art 2 (they’re exactly the same. How…boring)

The Baudelaire have another Moral Event Horizon where they wonder if they’re noble or villains. I don’t know if I agree with Snicket/Handler on the views of goodness/villainy, but it’s at least understandable and realistic that the Baudelaires would struggle with this.

Olaf starts getting really interesting in this book. He gets a third dimension added on to his character. It’s…well, interesting.

Also: Hello there, Lemony! Look at you, trying to be so sneaky and mysterious!

What I Didn’t Like:

I must admit, everything I didn’t like is owing to the fact that I know how the series ends, so, unfortunately, I can’t really discuss any of it because I’m trying to keep these reviews at least slightly non-spoilery. However, I will start discussing what I didn’t like in this book in my review of the last as well as in the follow-up post (which will be chock-full of spoilers and speculations).

Fan art by Eric Draven on deviantart

People/Places/Things to Keep in Mind:

–the taxi driver (not Kit, but the one that shows up near the end of the book)

–pay very close attention to everything told/explained about the sugar bowl. If you do, you will know where it is and who has it.

Last Picture:

The Baudelaires and Olaf are in a boat on the sea, referencing The End.

Overall Review:

The Penultimate Peril was a much better book than I remember it being and is one of my favorite in the series. It brings back numerous familiar faces, settles some questions, solves some mysteries, and, of course, raises a whole bunch more. We are almost at the end (The End?) and it is showing.

Coming Up Next: The Beatrice Letters

Series Week III: The Grim Grotto

The Grim Grotto is the eleventh book in A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. It was published in 2004 by HarperCollins.

Genre: Children’s, Mystery

Summary/Blurb:

“Dear Reader,

Unless you are a slug, a sea anemone, or mildew, you probably prefer not to be damp. You might also prefer not to read this book, in which the Baudelaire siblings encounter an unpleasant amount of dampness as they descend into the depths of despair, underwater.

In fact, the horrors they encounter are too numerous to list, and you wouldn’t want me even to mention the worst of it, which includes mushrooms, a desperate search for something lost, a mechanical monster, a distressing message from a lost friend, and tap dancing.

As a dedicated author who has pledged to keep recording the depressing story of the Baudelaires must continue to delve deep into the cavernous depths of the orphans’ lives. You, on the other hand, may delve into some happier book in order to keep your eyes and your spirits from being dampened.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket”

~Back Cover

Passages/Quotes:

“The expression “fits like a glove” is an odd one, because there are many different types of gloves and only a few of them are going to fit the situation you are in. If you need to keep your hands warm in a cold environment, then you’ll need a fitted pair of insulated gloves, and a glove made to fit in the bureau of a dollhouse will be of no help whatsoever. If you need to sneak into a restaurant in the middle of the night and steal a pair of chopsticks without being discovered, then you’ll need a sheer pair of gloves that leave no marks, and a glove decorated with loud bells simply will not do. And if you need to pass unnoticed in a shrubbery-covered landscape, then you’ll need a very, very large glove made of green and leafy fabric, and an elegant pair of silk gloves will be entirely useless.”

~Snicket 63-64

“Guard the orphans, Triangle Eyes,” Count Olaf said. “Although I don’t think you orphans really need to be guarded. After all, there’s nowhere for you to go! Tee hee traction!”

“Giggle giggle gaudy!” Carmelita cried, leading the way out of the Main Hall.

“Ha ha hair trigger!” Esmé screamed, following her.

“Tee hee tonsillectomy!” Count Olaf shrieked, walking behind his girlfriend.

“I also find this amusing!” the hook-handed man yelled, and slammed the door behind him…

~Snicket 289

Cover Art 1

Dedication:

“For Beatrice—Dead women tell no tales. Sad men write them down.”

Warnings: None.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Rating: 2/5

What I Liked:

References! Queequeg, Herman Melville, Rosetta Stone, Robert Browning’s My Last Duchess, Lewis Carroll’s The Walrus and the Carpenter, T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, Edgar Guest.

I had forgotten about Count Olaf’s new villainous laughter in this book. It’s quite amusing to read. I also love Carmelita calling him “Countie.” That’s like calling Severus Snape “Sevvie.” And now I have this incredible urge to go write some fanfiction…

The Baudelaire’s exploration of the grotto and the decoding scenes are, in my opinion, the best parts of the book. Don’t ask me why—actually, do. Why? Because the rest of the book is just…blah. Those two scenes are really the only scenes that move the plot (and the mystery) forward.

Do I need to declare my love for Sunny again? Because I will! Sunny is the best. The end.

Fun fact: This is the first book to not include the title of the next book in Snicket’s letter to the editor (in The Slippery Slope, the title was only partially obscured).

Cover Art 2

What I Didn’t Like:

Captain Widdershin’s takes the prize for the Number One Worst Character to Read. All those “Ayes!” and exclamation points are extremely annoying. Thank goodness he’s not in the book for very long.

While this book does introduce a few things that are important for the rest of the series (i.e., the Medusoid Mycelium and hints about the sugar bowl), it also starts the introduction of plot points that are SPOILERED. I’ll talk about this more when we reach the end of the series, but needless to say, reading this book again just made me think “SPOILERED.”

What does Snicket/Handler have against Edgar Guest? Undeserved censure is undeserved.

As I mentioned above, this book was overall BLAH. It had a few good scenes in it, but it was just not very interesting all the way through. Also, Klaus had what seemed to be a completely unnecessary storyline. At least it had a good ending.

A tap-dancing ballerina fairy princess veterinarian (by oh_kaity on LiveJournal)

People/Places/Things to Keep in Mind:

–the Medusoid Mycelium and all things related to it

–the woman briefly mentioned climbing in the Vertical Flame Diversions as the children go to explore the grotto (SPOILER she’s the reason why CW and P leave END SPOILER)

–all the hints Snicket gives about the sugar bowl

–Why do the Baudelaires need to read Chapter 39, Visitable Fungal Ditches?

–the Question Mark on the sonar (A Bad that is Bigger than Olaf?)

–Kit Snicket

Last Picture:

There’s a concierge hat on the beach, referencing The Penultimate Peril.

Overall Review:

The Grim Grotto is one of my least favorite ASOUE novels, due to the introduction of several frustrating plot points, an annoying character, and the overall feeling of “blah” that I got after finishing it. It does have some good scenes, which lends a little excitement to the next(-to-last) book.

Coming Up Next: The Penultimate Peril

Series Week III: The Slippery Slope

The Slippery Slope is the tenth book in A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. It was published in 2003 by HarperCollins.

Genre: Children’s, Mystery

Summary/Blurb:

“Dear Reader,

Like handshakes, house pets, or raw carrots, many things are preferable when not slippery. Unfortunately, in this miserable volume, I am afraid that Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire run into more than their fair share of slipperiness during their harrowing journey up—and down—a range of strange and distressing mountains.

In order to spare you any further repulsion, it would be best not to mention any of the unpleasant details of this story, particularly a secret message, a toboggan, a deceitful trap, a swarm of snow gnats, a scheming villain, a troupe of organized youngsters, a covered casserole dish, and a surprising survivor of a terrible fire.

Unfortunately, I have dedicated my life to researching and recording the sad tale of the Baudelaire Orphans. There is no reason for you to dedicate yourself to such things, and you might instead dedicate yourself to letting this slippery book slip from your hands into a nearby trash receptacle, or deep pit.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket”

~Back Cover

Passages/Quotes:

Violet opened her mouth to answer, but at that moment another question immediately occupied the minds of the elder Baudelaires. It is a dreadful question, and nearly everyone who has found themselves asking it has ended up wishing that they’d never brought up the subject. My brother asked the question once, and had nightmares about it for weeks. An associate of mine asked the question, and found himself falling through the air before he could hear the answer. It is a question I asked once, a very long time ago and in a very timid voice, and a woman replied by quickly putting a motorcycle helmet on her head and wrapping her body in a red silk cape. The question is, “What in the world is that ominous-looking cloud of tiny, white buzzing objects coming toward us?” and I’m sorry to tell you that the answer is “A swarm of well-organized, ill-tempered insects known as snow gnats, who live in cold mountain areas and enjoy stinging people for no reason whatsoever.

~Snicket 36-37

The man with a beard but no hair picked up a handful of snow and threw it onto the weeds, extinguishing the Verdant Flammable Device. “Who are you signaling to, baby?” he asked, in his strange, hoarse voice. “If you’re a spy, we’re going to toss you off this mountain.”

“Goo goo,” Sunny said, which meant something along the lines of “I’m going to pretend I’m a helpless baby, instead of answering your question.”

~Snicket 185

Cover Art 1

Dedication:

“For Beatrice—When we met, you were pretty, and I was lonely. Now, I am pretty lonely.

Warnings: None.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Rating: 5/5

What I Liked:

References! C. M. Kornbluth, “Godot,” Sumac, “Rosebud,” “Matahari,” “Babganoush.”

For some reason, this book has always been one of my favorites. It’s not as funny as some of the earlier ones, but it answers a lot of questions (and brings up some more…). Plus, Sunny has a great plotline in this one and Sunny is my favorite character, if you couldn’t tell by now.

We finally find out what V.F.D. means in this book! Also, we find out about the mysterious survivor from the Snicket file (remember my Keep in Mind section?)! Now that we know both of these things, it’s time to introduce another McGuffin, the sugar bowl! Now readers can know why Snicket seems to be so fixated with tea sets and sugar bowls! Oh, sugar bowl. I have a lot to say about you in the last three books.

Cover Art 2

The introduction of the man with a beard, but no hair, and the woman with hair, but no beard, is the first time we’re introduced to the Bad that is Bigger than Count Olaf. Can’t say much about that here since we don’t know enough, but I’ll definitely talk about it more in the next book.

As I said above, I loved Sunny’s part in this book. In fact, I found myself wanting to skip Violet and Klaus’ sections (sorry, Violet and Klaus) and go straight to Sunny. However, Violet and Klaus’ section was important in that the villains versus good guys question came up again: they find themselves wondering if they’re really the good guys after all, since they have to do something that they find particularly distasteful and wrong. There’s some good moral conflict that they need to struggle through.

What I Didn’t Like:

I didn’t like Handler’s insertion of a specific reference that was obviously biased. It was blatantly one-sided and just one more example of the way authors like to throw in their own opinions into books for no reason except to give their opinion (this is the reason why I didn’t like Kristin Cashore’s Bitterblue, although I love Fire) or whatever. It was not necessary; it was intrusive; it was just very poorly done. I don’t want to know what an author believes because they specifically mention it. I want subtlety, at least. Let me think about what it means; don’t just state it like it’s a given fact.

The slogan/motto of VFD

People/Places/Things to Keep in Mind:

–the message to J.S.

–the reptiles, specifically the one that got away

–Hotel Denouement

–this is a little one, but the mention of the pole in the Vertical Flame Diversion being taken for a submarine.

–the man with a beard, but no hair and the woman with hair, but no beard, and the aura of menace they exude

Last Picture:

There are mushrooms growing on the side of the rock, a reference to The Grim Grotto.

Overall Review:

The Slippery Slope is one of my favorites solely for Sunny’s role and her growth as a character. It also answers quite a few questions that have been hanging around for a while, and so is a less frustrating, more satisfying read than other books in the series.

Coming Up Next: The Grim Grotto

Series Week III: The Carnivorous Carnival

Happy Easter, everyone!

The Carnivorous Carnival is the ninth book in A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. It was published in 2002 by HarperCollins.

Genre: Children’s, Mystery

Summary/Blurb:

“Dear Reader,

The word “carnivorous,” which appears in the title of this book, means “meat-eating,” and once you have read such a bloodthirsty word, there is no reason to read any further. This carnivorous volume contains such a distressing story that consuming any of its contents would be far more stomach-turning than even the most imbalanced meal.

To avoid causing discomfort, it would be best if I didn’t mention any of the unnerving ingredients of this story, particularly a confusing map, an ambidextrous person, an unruly crowd, a wooden plank, and Chabo the Wolf Baby.

Sadly for me, my time is filled with researching and recording the displeasing and disenchanting lives of the Baudelaire orphans. But your time might be better filled with something more palatable, such as eating your vegetables, or feeding them to someone else.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket”

~Back Cover

Passages/Quotes:

“Here’s some kind of fancy shirt,” Klaus said. “It’s covered in ruffles and bows. And here’s an enormous pair of pants with fur on the cuffs.”

“Could both of us wear them at once?” Violet asked.

“Both of us?” Klaus asked. “I suppose so, if we kept on our clothes underneath, so Olaf’s would fit. We could each stand on one leg, and tuck our other legs inside. We’d have to lean against one another as we walked, but I think it might work.”

“And we could do the same thing with the shirt,” Violet said. “We could each put one arm through a sleeve and keep the other tucked inside.”

“But we couldn’t hide one of our heads,” Klaus pointed out, “and with both of our heads poking out of the top we’d look like some sort of—”

“—two-headed person,” Violet finished, “and a two-headed person is exactly what a House of Freaks would put on display.”

~Snicket 41-42

Cover Art 1

“If someone had been watching the youngsters, they would have seen these few hesitant steps as they entered the fortune-teller’s tent as quietly as they could. But there was no one watching. There was no one to see the flap of cloth as it closed quietly behind them, making the whole tent shiver ever so slightly, and there was no one to notice that the painting shivered, too. There was no one watching the Baudelaire orphans as they drew closer to finding the answers to their questions, or solving the mysteries of their lives. There was no one to take a long look at the painting on the tent to see that it was not an image of an eye, as it appeared to be at first glance, but an insignia, standing for an organization the children knew only as V.F.D.”

~Snicket 121

“Embroidered on the front of the gown in glittery thread were the worlds I LOVE FREAKS, except instead of the word “love” there was an enormous heart, a symbol sometimes used by people who have trouble figuring out the difference between words and shapes.”

~Snicket 175

Dedication:

“For Beatrice—Our love broke my heart, and stopped yours.”

Warnings: Death. What do you expect from a title like The Carnivorous Carnival?

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Rating: 3/5

What I Liked:

References! Elliot and Beverly, “John” Merrick, Caligari Carnival, Hugo, “Dragnet!” (this is why Sunny is my favorite), Plath Pass.

This is the first book where Olaf does not have a disguise and the second where the Baudelaires do.

We learn quite a bit about V.F.D. in this one. So far, we know that the first word is “volunteer” and actually, Olivia gives quite a big hint as to what the last two letters are. A big hint, but slid in very subtly. We also find out that there was a schism and that VDF’s insignia is an eye. It’s also safe to say that Olaf is on one side of the schism and Jacques Snicket was on the other.

VFD’s insignia. See the eye and the letters?

Sunny! I say this every review, but…Sunny! Or should I say Chabo? This book marks the beginning of Sunny’s other skill besides biting! It gets more developed in the next book, but its early stages can be seen here.

Heh, Geraldine Julienne’s headlines. Too bad she’s annoying as well as misinformed.

There’s another gruesome death(s) in here, and the Baudelaires do some more soul-searching, wondering if they’re villains or not.

What I Didn’t Like:

Every single visitor to the Caligari Carnival. Why in the world would you want to see anyone get eaten by lions? These people take depraved to a whole other level. It also made it very unrealistic, but then again, this series seems to revel in that…

Cover Art 2

People/Places/Things to Keep in Mind:

–Olivia’s story about V.F.D., especially the schism

–the lions and what they were originally trained to do

Last Picture:

There is a Snow Scouts Handbook, referencing The Slippery Slope.

Overall Review:

The Carnivorous Carnival actually fills in quite a few gaps—not  completely, but enough to whet the reader’s appetite. Sunny is brilliant, as always, and the adults are annoying, as always. The ending in particular is much more cliffhanger-y than usual. This book, especially that ending, really picks up the action, but in a way that shows there’s not much more to go. In other words: it’s about to get even more unfortunate, even more mysterious, and even more exciting.

Coming Up Next: The Slippery Slope

Series Week III: Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography

Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography is a companion piece to A Series of Unfortunate Events. It was published in 2002 by HarperCollins. This book is by no means a necessary or mandatory read; it is merely a supplemental one.

Genre: Children’s

Summary/Blurb:

“A Warning from the Publisher

Many readers have questions about Lemony Snicket, author of the distressing serial concerning the trials of the charming but unlucky Baudelaire orphans, published under the collective title A Series of Unfortunate Events. Before purchasing, borrowing, or stealing this book, you should be aware that it contains the answers to some of those questions, such as the following:

  1. Who is Lemony Snicket?
  2. Is there a secret organization I should know about?
  3. Why does Lemony Snicket send his time researching and writing distressing books concerning the Baudelaire orphans?
  4. Why do all of Lemony Snicket’s books contain a sad dedication to a woman named Beatrice?
  5. If there’s nothing out there, what was that noise?

Our advice to you is that you find a book that answers less upsetting questions than this one. Perhaps your librarian, bookseller, or parole officer can recommend a book that answers the question, “Aren’t ponies adorable?”

~Back Cover

Passages/Quotes:

“My aunt, who is either a woman named Julie Blattberg or a woman whose name I am pretending is Julie Blattberg, gave me a small key that unlocked a box that contained a key which in turn unlocked another box that contained the information that makes up this book, and made me swear never to let it reach the public, even in the enormous, imposing living room of some abstruse—a word which here means “cryptic”—private club, among trusted associates enjoying after-dinner brandy…

That reminds me, the letter continued, I would like a brandy myself. Please excuse me for a moment.”

~Handler xv-xvi

“When we grab you by the ankles,

 Where our mark is to be made,

 You’ll soon be doing noble work,

Although you won’t be paid.

When we drive away in secret,

 You’ll be a volunteer,

So don’t scream when we take you:

The world is quiet here.”

~Snicket 19

Warnings: None.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Rating: 5/5

Cover Art 1

What I Liked:

This book is just plain fun. It’s full of photographs, letters, minutes, and scripts all teeming with tantalizing and mysterious information about V.F.D. I’m just going to quote from the Wikipedia page here: “The book helps clear up some loose ends from the series, but it also introduces many more mysteries, as well as elucidates details which readers might have missed in previous books. It also answers and raises many questions about the mysterious V.F.D. organization, a key player in A Series of Unfortunate Events. As it may, it even brings some sense of Mr. Snicket’s history.” There. That’s what the book is about. It really does fill in many of the gaps, as well as create some new questions, but it definitely explains V.F.D. a whole lot more without giving away anything at all.

Cover Art 2

Also, Beatrice’s identity can be found here again, if you’re really good with obscure details and ambiguous description.

It’s not important to read this book if you’re reading ASOUE, but it is a nice, funny supplement, and it does clear up a few things.

What I Didn’t Like:

Nothing.

I just thought this was funny…

People/Places/Things to Keep in Mind:

This list would be too long if I put everything in this book down, since this whole book is just chock full of important things to keep in mind, so here’s what’s probably most important:

–the Sebald Code

–sugar bowls

–Beatrice

Overall Review:

I’ve pretty much said everything about this book in my What I Liked section. It’s funny, it’s a great supplement to ASOUE, it simultaneously enlightens and confuses, and it’s just great fun to read.

Coming Up Next: The Carnivorous Carnival

Series Week III: The Hostile Hospital

The Hostile Hospital is the eighth book in A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. It was published in 2001 by HarperCollins.

Genre: Children’s, Mystery

Summary/Blurb:

“Dear Reader,

Before you throw this awful book to the ground and run as far away from it as possible, you should probably know why. This book is the only one which describes every last detail of the Baudelaire children’s miserable stay at Heimlich Hospital, which makes it one of the most dreadful books in the world.

There are many pleasant things to read about, but this book contains none of them. Within its pages are such burdensome details as a suspicious shopkeeper, unnecessary surgery, an intercom system, anesthesia, heart-shaped balloons, and some very startling news about a fire. Clearly you do not want to read about such things.

I have sworn to research this story, and to write it down as best I can, so I should know that this book is something best left on the ground, where you undoubtedly found it.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket”

~Back Cover

Passages/Quotes:

“We are Volunteers Fighting Disease,

And we’re cheerful all day long.

If someone said that we were sad,

That person would be wrong.

We visit people who are sick,

And try to make them smile,

Even if their noses bleed,

Or if they cough up bile.

Tra la la, Fiddle dee dee,

Hope you get well soon.

Ho ho ho, hee hee hee,

Have a heart-shaped balloon.”

~Snicket 35-36

“Pietrisycamollaviadelrechiotemexity,” Sunny said, which was something she had said only once before. It meant something along the lines of “I must admit I don’t have the faintest idea of what is going on,” and the first time the youngest Baudelaire had said it, she had just been brought home from the hospital where she was born, and was looking at her siblings as they leaned over her crib to greet her.

~Snicket 71-72

Just about everything in this world is easier said than done, with the exception of “systematically assisting Sisyphus’s stealthy, cyst-susceptible sister,” which is easier done than said.

~Snicket 80

Cover Art 1

Dedication:

“For Beatrice—Summer without you is as cold as winter. Winter without you is even colder.”

Warnings: None.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Rating: 5/5

What I Liked:

The Hostile Hospital has always been one of my favorite ASOUE books. I’m not quite sure why; perhaps it’s the departure from Snicket’s previous formula or the way Klaus and Sunny find Violet.  In any case, I’ve just always enjoyed reading it.

References! Heimlich Hospital and its patients (Emma Bovary, Jonah Mapple, Clarissa Dalloway, Cynthia Vane, Charley Anderson, Dr. Bernard Rieux, Haruki Marukami and Mikhail Bulgakov).

This book introduces the Snicket file (or the thirteenth page of it, anyway) and even more mystery. It’s all getting quite exciting, although now there are more questions than there are answers. And yes, the Snicket file is yet another McGuffin, but it works much better than the Quagmires. It’s much more mysterious, much more unexpected and even thrilling.

Cover Art 2

This book also starts the beginning of the Baudelaires doubting themselves and their intentions. It gets even more pronounced in later books, but this is, I believe, the beginning, where the Baudelaires start to wonder if they are any better than Count Olaf because they have had to trick and lie and steal. Also, they disguise themselves for the first time.

Alright, so of course I know who Beatrice is, because I’ve read the books before, but for someone who never has, they’re probably just wondering if she’s even important to the story and why Snicket keeps mentioning her. At this point, they probably want to know who she is. When I first read it, I didn’t know who it was until The Beatrice Letters and The End, but now, re-reading them, I realize that he starts hinting at who she is much earlier. In this book, he does reveal who she is…but in a very Snicket-esque way. If you’ve never read the book before, I wouldn’t worry about trying to find it. Just sit back and enjoy the ride. Veterans, however…have fun picking the book apart! It’s quite enjoyable.

Sunny! How much I love you and your no longer nonsensical sayings! Also, goodbye, Brobdingnagian henchperson! You’re the first of the henchmen to go, and certainly not the last…

Fan Art by AgitoDarkGemini on deviantart

What I Didn’t Like:

The whole cranioectomy part is a little hard to swallow, not because of what’s going on, but because of the audience. More of that when we reach The Carnivorous Carnival. And yes…it has to do with adults! Not useless ones this time, though…more like extremely unrealistic ones.

People/Places/Things to Keep in Mind (you should know that there will be spoilers by now):

–Hal

–Geraldine Julienne

–the Snicket file (more specifically, the thirteenth page of the Snicket file)

–Snicket’s mention of stealing Esmé’s sugar bowl

–the list of names on the patient list that Klaus uses to find Violet. These are all anagrams, and one of them in particular is very…enlightening. Or is it?

Last Picture:

There is a crystal ball and a flyer advertising Madame Lulu, referencing The Carnivorous Carnival.

Overall Review: 

The Hostile Hospital is a surprise-filled, moral-event-horizon-wondering, wonderful addition to the series. I feel as if I’ve said that about every book, but really the only flaw in the books/series is…well, I’ll get to that later. This book marks the first time the Baudelaires are on their own and so stands out from the books that came before it. It’s also quite funny (and unfortunate, can’t forget that).

Coming Up Next: Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography