Series Week III: The Vile Village

The Vile Village is the seventh 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,

You have undoubtedly picked up this book by mistake, so please put it down. Nobody in their right mind would read this particular book about the lives of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire on purpose, because each dismal moment of their stay in the village of V.F.D. has been faithfully and dreadfully recorded in these pages.

I can think of no single reason why anyone would want to open a book contain such unpleasant matters as migrating crows, an angry mob, a newspaper headline, the arrest of innocent people, the Deluxe Cell, and some very strange hats.

It is my solemn and sacred occupation to research each detail of the Baudelaire children’s lives and write them all down, but you may prefer to do some other solemn and sacred thing, such as reading another book instead.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket”

~Back Cover

Passages/Quotes:

No matter who you are, no matter where you live, and no matter how many people are chasing you, what you don’t read is often as important as what you do read. For instance, if you are walking in the mountains, and you don’t read the sign that says “Beware of Cliff” because you are busy reading a joke book instead, you may suddenly find yourself walking on air rather than on a sturdy bed of rocks. If you are baking a pie for your friends, and you read an article entitled “How to Build a Chair” instead of a cookbook, your pie will probably end up tasting like wood and nails instead of like crust and fruity filling. And if you insist on reading this book instead of something more cheerful, you will most certainly find yourself moaning in despair instead of wriggling in delight, so if you have any sense at all you will put this book down and pick up another one. I know of a book, for instance, called The Littlest Elf, which tells the story of a teensy-weensy little man who scurries around Fairyland having all sorts of adorable adventures, and you can see at once that you should probably read The Littlest Elf and wriggle over the lovely things that happened to this imaginary creature in a made-up place, instead of reading this book and moaning over the terrible things that happened to the three Baudelaire orphans in the village where I am now typing these very words. The misery, woe, and treachery contained in the pages of the book are so dreadful that it is important that you don’t read any more of it than you already have.

~Snicket 1-2

“The message is this,” said the third member of the Council of Elders, and she leaned her head in close so that the children could see every felt feather of her crow hat. “Count Olaf has been captured,” she said, and the Baudelaires felt as if a bolt of lightning had struck them once more.”

~Snicket 102-103

“Well, first I discovered that books about V.F.D. rules are actually quite fascinating,” Klaus said. “Rule #19, for instance, clearly states that the only pens that are acceptable within the city limits are ones made from the feathers of crows. And yet Rule #39 clearly states that it is illegal to make anything out of crow feathers.”

~Snicket 138

Cover Art 1

Dedication:

“For Beatrice—When we were together, I felt breathless. Now, you are.”

Warnings: None.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Rating: 2/5

What I Liked:

References! Nevermore Tree, the call Mr. Poe gets from a Mr. Fagin, Detective Dupin (this could also be a play on the word “dupe” as well as a literary reference), Mr. Lesko, “Scylla” (Sunny saying!), “Curiouser and curiouser,” the town of Ophelia and its bank and Mr. Poe’s response to the bank.

This book represents a turning point in the series. In this book and the ones previous, the Baudelaires have always been placed with some sort of guardian by Mr. Poe. In all the rest, the Baudelaires are on their own. There’s another aspect of this, but it relates more to the ninth book, so I’ll hold off on that. Also, V.F.D. starts taking a more central role and becomes more and more of a driving force for the Baudelaires actions.

Spoilery. Don’t read if you don’t want to know some things that happened in The Ersatz Elevator and some details from The Vile Village. Esmé now appears as part of Olaf’s crew, so that means…yep, disguise! And yes, the Baudelaires are just as bad at seeing through it as they are good at seeing through Olaf’s. Also, I laughed hysterically at “Jacques is dead and I have the only key to the jail, so his death is quite a mystery.” End spoilers.

Jacques! You mysterious man with the cut-off sentences that obviously signal something important! I had forgotten that Jacques said some very important things here, including something about the meaning of V.F.D. Poor guy…

Cover Art 2 (virtually identical to 1)

What I Didn’t Like:

Can you guess? Enter Hector, useless adult #8, along with the other annoying adults of The Village of Fowl Devotees. Although Hector does redeem himself at the end.

People/Places/Things to Keep in Mind (SPOILERS):

–Hector, Duncan, and Isadora

–Hector’s self-sustaining hot-air mobile home

–the harpoon gun

–the eye tattooed on Jacques’s ankle

–Jacques’s last name (Snicket) and his initials (JS)

–everything Jacques said, including that the eye tattoo is related to his job, the cut-off sentence about the Baudelaires parents, and the cut-off sentence about “the volunteer—”

–Duncan and Isadora’s cut-off “volunteer”

–Mrs. Morrow and Mr. Lesko

The Daily Punctilio

This doesn’t really have anything to do with the Vile Village.

Last Picture:

There is a newspaper with the words “Last Chance,” referencing The Hostile Hospital.

Overall Review:

The Vile Village is not one of my favorite ASOUE books, but it is unique in that it stands as a turning point for the series. It also gives more insight into V.F.D. and wraps up a few minor plotlines. It also has some great Sunny sayings, and lots of tantalizing information.

Coming Up Next: The Hostile Hospital

Series Week III: The Ersatz Elevator

The Ersatz Elevator is the sixth 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,

If you have just picked up this book, then it is not too late to put it back down Like the previous books in A Series of Unfortunate Events, there is nothing to be found in these pages but misery, despair, and discomfort, and you still have time to choose something else to read.

Within the chapters of this story, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire encounter a darkened staircase, a red herring, some friends in a dire situation, three mysterious initials, a liar with an evil scheme, a secret passageway, and parsley soda.

I have sworn to write down these tales of the Baudelaire orphans so the general public will know each terrible thing that has happened to them, but if you decide to read something else instead, you will save yourself from a heapful of horror and woe.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket”

~Back Cover

Passages/Quotes:

The book you are holding in your two hands right now—assuming that you are, in fact, holding this book, and that you have only two hands—is one of two books in the world that will show you the difference between the word “nervous” and the word “anxious.” The other book, of course, is the dictionary, and if I were you I would read that book instead.

Like this book, the dictionary shows you that the word “nervous” means “worried about something”—you might feel nervous, for instance, if you were served prune ice cream for dessert, because you would be worried that it would taste awful—whereas the word “anxious” means “troubled by disturbing suspense,” which you might feel if you were served a live alligator for dessert, because you would be troubled by the disturbing suspense about whether you would eat your dessert or it would eat you.

~Snicket 1-2

It is often difficult to tell if a piece of clothing will fit your or not until you try it on, but the Baudelaire children could tell the instant they first looked into the shopping bags that these clothes dwarfed them by comparison. The expression “dwarfed by comparison” has nothing to do with dwarves, who are dull creatures in fairy tales who spend their time whistling and cleaning house. “Dwarfed by comparison” simply means that one thing seems small when compared to another thing. A mouse would be dwarfed by comparison with an ostrich, which is much bigger, and an ostrich would be dwarfed by comparison with the city of Paris. And the Baudelaires were dwarfed by comparison with the pinstripe suits.

…. “You look like you’re skiing,” Klaus said, pointing at his older sister’s pant legs. “Except your skis are made of cloth instead of titanium alloy.”

“You look like you remembered to put on your jacket, but forgot to put on your arms,” Violet replied with a grin.

~Snicket 55-56

Cover Art 1

Dedication:

“To Beatrice—When we met, my life began. Soon afterward, yours ended.”

Warnings: None.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Rating: 4/5

What I Liked:

This is the book that taught me what the word “ersatz” meant. It’s also where the mystery of V.F.D starts really taking off, and where Snicket starts tantalizing the reader with little tidbits of information and then either not expanding on them or cutting the person off who’s saying them. Expect to see a lot of “Don’t you know about—” and “What did she mean by—” and “Your parents were—” over the next few books.

References! Esmé Squalor (I’m not explaining references but I’ll explain this one, because it makes me giggle every time I read it. The Squalors are a reference to J.D. Salinger’s short story “For Esmé—with Love and Squalor” from Nine Stories. I dare you not to think about ASOUE every time you read that now. Jerome is also Salinger’s first name), Lot 49 (which is a set of rare stamps), Café Salmonella, Verne Invention Museum, Akhmatova Book Store, Armani (a Sunny saying!), “Let them eat cake.”

There were so many things in here that I noticed that related in some way to future books. There was also a lot of foreshadowing for this book, period. The doorman and the auction books are the main things I can think of off the top of my head. Also, Snicket’s handling of red herrings in here is just…ironically, amusingly fabulous.

By the way, V.F.D is now acting as a McGuffin along with the Quagmires. Expect to start seeing it everywhere, along with Count Olaf…

Cover Art 2 (a bit spoilery…)

What I Didn’t Like:

Jerome: useless adult #7. The list now contains: Mr. Poe, Justice Strauss to some degree, Uncle Monty, Aunt Josephine, Charles, Sir, Phil, Nero, Remora, and Bass. That’s about one per book; it’s definitely a running gag. It doesn’t make it any less annoying, but I can see the humor in it, I guess.

People/Places/Things to Keep in Mind (more spoilers than usual):

-Jerome and his initials (JS)

-Esmé

-what Esmé said about Beatrice: “I want to steal from you the way Beatrice stole from me”

-Violet’s response to the above: “But what was she talking about when she said—” (cut-off sentence! It must be something important!)

-Jerome’s relationship with the Baudelaires’ parents

-Jerome’s mention of Mt. Fraught

-in relation to what I said about Violet’s response, almost every cut-off sentence is important. So are the anecdotes about Beatrice, but not as much.

-the underground passageway

Esme Squalor! Courtesy of her tumblr!

 Last Picture: There is a crow flying, referencing The Vile Village.

Overall Review:

The Ersatz Elevator is quite superb, a word which here means “excellent.” It adds new villainy, new mystery, new misfortune, new questions, and new definitions to a growing list, but it is no way repetitive or boring. It makes me quite anxious, but not nervous, for the next book.

Coming Up Next: The Vile Village

Series Week III: The Austere Academy

The Austere Academy is the fifth book in A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket and was published in 2000 by HarperCollins.

Genre: Children’s, Mystery

Summary/Blurb:

“Dear Reader,

If you are looking for a story about cheerful youngsters spending a jolly time at boarding school, look elsewhere. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are intelligent and resourceful children, and you might expect that they would do very well at school. Don’t. For the Baudelaires, school turns out to be another miserable episode in their unlucky lives.

Truth be told, within the chapters that make up this dreadful story, the children will face snapping crabs, strict punishments, dripping fungus, comprehensive exams, violin recitals, S.O.R.E., and the metric system.

It is my solemn duty to stay up all night researching and writing the history of these three hapless youngsters, but you may be more comfortable getting a good night’s sleep. In that case, you should probably choose some other book.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket”

~Back Cover

Passages/Quotes:

“Move, cakesniffers!” the rude, violent, and filthy little girl said as she dashed by them again.

“What does ‘cakesniffers’ mean?” Violet murmured to Klaus, who had an enormous vocabulary from all his reading.

“I don’t know,” Klaus admitted, “but it doesn’t sound very nice.”

“What a charming word that is,” Mr. Poe said. “Cakesniffers. I don’t know what it means, but it reminds me of pastry.”

~Snicket 9-10

“I’m Violet Baudelaire,” said Violet Baudelaire, “and this is my brother, Klaus, and our baby sister, Sunny.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” said the boy. “My name is Duncan Quagmire, and this is my sister, Isadora. And the girl who was yelling at you, I’m sorry to say, was Carmelita Spats.”

“Read the Baudelaires the poem you wrote about her,” Duncan said to his sister.

“You write poetry?” Klaus asked. He had read a lot about poets but had never met one.

‘Just a little bit,” Isadora said modestly. “I write poems down in this notebook. It’s an interest of mine.”

“Sappho!” Sunny shrieked, which meant something like “I’d be very pleased to hear a poem of yours!”

~Snicket 44-45

“Assumptions are dangerous things to make, and like all dangerous things to make—bomb, for instance, or strawberry shortcake—if you make even the tiniest mistake you can find yourself in terrible trouble. Making assumptions simply means believing things are a certain way with little or no evidence that shows you are correct, and you can see at once how this can lead to terrible trouble. For instance, on morning you might wake up and make the assumption that your bed was in the same place that it always was, even though you would have no real evidence that this was so. But when you got out of your bed, you might discover that it had floated out to sea, and now you would be in terrible trouble all because of the incorrect assumption that you’d made. You can see that it is better not to make too many assumptions, particularly in the morning.”

~Snicket 187-188

Cover Art 1

Dedication:

“For Beatrice—You will always be in my heart, in my mind, and in your grave.”

Warnings: None.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Rating: 3/5

What I Liked:

Enter the two Quagmire triplets, Duncan and Isadora! Enter (finally) the main plot of the series: who or what is V.F.D.? How does this relate to Count Olaf? Strap yourselves in, it’s going to be a wild, confusing ride from here on out…

Literary (and other) references: Isadora, Duncan, Prufrock, Nero, Genghis, “Sappho!”

Question: He’s always called Vice Principal Nero. Where is the Principal?

Also, Olaf’s plan in this one is actually very good. It always tends to be something that involves adopting the Baudelaire children and is usually pretty easy to see through or guess, but this one is not clear-cut at all.

Why in the world would anyway send their child to Prufrock Prep? It’s not only a terrible education, it’s also simply a terrible place run by someone who acts like a ten-year-old. Oh, wait…useless adults!

Cover Art 2

What I Didn’t Like:

Vice Principal Nero is very annoying (“Vice Principal Nero is very annoying!”).

Poor Duncan and Isadora…you deserve better than just to act as MacGuffins. At least you’re not nearly as intriguing/frustrating/disappointing as another MacGuffin will be…but I’m getting ahead of myself, sorry.

People/Places/Things to Keep in Mind (spoilers):

-unfortunately, Nero, and to a greater extent, Carmelita Spats

-the Quagmire Triplets

-V.F.D. (obviously!)

-I know I said I wouldn’t repeat, but Snicket diverges more and more into tales about Beatrice in the text, so keep in mind the triptych What Happened to Beatrice as well as Snicket’s story about the masquerade ball

Duncan & Isadora (I like the Gothic feel to this picture)

Last Picture:

The back of Olaf’s car has a fish bumper sticker, referencing The Ersatz Elevator.

Overall Review:

The Austere Academy introduces the main mystery of the series: V.F.D. It also introduces a few more characters that are important in some way to the plot and so stands as an integral part of the series. It’s definitely a lot better than the mediocre The Miserable Mill that came before.

Coming Up Next: The Ersatz Elevator

Series Week III: The Miserable Mill

Note: If you’re wondering why there are two posts today, it’s because I neglected to post The Wide Window yesterday.

The Miserable Mill is the fourth book in A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket and was published in 2000 by HarperCollins.

Genre: Children’s, Mystery

Summary/Blurb:

“Dear Reader,

I hope, for your sake, that you have not chosen to read this book because you are in the mood for a pleasant experience. If this is the case, I advise you to put this book down instantaneously, because of all the books describing the unhappy lives of the Baudelaire orphans, The Miserable Mill might be the unhappiest yet. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are sent to Paltryville to work in a lumbermill, and they find disaster and misfortune lurking behind every log.

The pages of this book, I’m sorry to inform you, contain such unpleasantries as a giant pincher machine, a bad casserole, a man with a cloud of smoke where his head should be, a hypnotist, a terrible accident resulting in injury, and coupons.

I have promised to write down the entire history of these three poor children, but you haven’t, so if you prefer stories that are more heartwarming, please feel free to make another selection.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket”

~Back Cover

Passages/Quotes:

“It is much, much worse to receive bad news through the written word than by somebody simply telling you, and I’m sure you understand why. When somebody simply tells you bad news, you hear it once, and that’s the end of it. But when bad news is written down, whether in a letter or a newspaper or on your arm in felt tip pen, each time you read it, you feel as if you are receiving the news again and again. For instance, I once loved a woman, who for various reasons could not marry me. If she had simply told me in person I would have been very sad, of course, but eventually it might have passed. However, she chose instead to write a two-hundred-page book, explaining every single detail of the bad news at great length, and instead my sadness has been of impossible depth. When the book was first brought to me, by a flock of carrier pigeons, I stayed up all night reading it, and I read it still, over and over, and it is as if my darling Beatrice is bringing me bad news every day and every night of my life.”

~Snicket 15-16

“The children could tell, from Phil’s statement about everything and everybody having a good side, that he was an optimist. “Optimist” is a word which here refers to a person, such as Phil, who thinks hopeful and pleasant thoughts about nearly everything. For instance, if an optimist had his left arm chewed off by an alligator, he might say, in a pleasant and hopeful voice, “Well, this isn’t too bad. I don’t have my left arm anymore, but at least nobody will ever ask me whether I am right-handed or left-handed,” but most of us would say something more along the lines of “Aaaaah! My arm! My arm!”

“Well,” [Phil] said, “this isn’t too bad. My left leg is broken, but at least I’m right-legged. That’s pretty fortunate.”

“Gee,” one of the other employees murmured. “I thought he’d say something more along the lines of ‘Aaaaah! My leg! My leg!’”

~Snicket 26-27, 97

Cover Art 1

Dedication:

“To Beatrice—My love flew like a butterfly / Until death swooped down like a bat / As the poet Emma Montana McElroy said: / “That’s the end of that.”

Warnings: Death

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Rating: 2/5

What I Liked:

More wonderfulness from Snicket! Seriously, these reviews simply do not do these books justice. You definitely need to read them for yourself to be able to enjoy them in all their glory, and you definitely need to read them more than once. It’s on the read-throughs that you spot all the brilliant foreshadowing, references, and plot hints that Snicket gives throughout the books. It’s really brilliant.

Something I didn’t mention: literary references. There are lots of them. Here’s just a few from the first four books: Baudelaire, Beatrice, Georgina Orwell, Ahab Memorial Hospital, Hurricane Herman, Café Kafka and Josephine, Damocles Dock, the Virginian Wolfsnake (don’t ever let it near a typewriter!), Prospero and Stephano, “Ackroid!” (which probably meant something like “Roger!”), and Mr. Poe. I’ll try to point out some more for each book after this. I suppose I could go into detail into each one, but where’s the fun in that? It’s much more fun to have you look it up for yourself! Sunny especially gets some good ones in. As I mentioned in my P/P/T section, Sunny’s words become less gibberish and more meaningful. It starts getting noticeable in the next book.

I suppose this could represent a picture of Sir

Shirley! I was expecting some “Surely you jest” jokes, but there weren’t any. Probably because Shirley couldn’t very well say, “Don’t call me Shirley.”

Also, another gruesome death, which is perhaps even more gruesome than the last one. Snicket even calls it gruesome. Again, it’s not described graphically, but it’s perfectly clear what happened.

One thing I’ve noticed: the Baudelaires are very good at noticing Count Olaf’s disguises. They’re terrible at noticing his henchmen’s, however. So far, the henchman’s disguise has always fooled the Baudelaires. Maybe not the reader, though. Remember, anagrams…

Instead of relying on their own skills, Klaus and Violet had to switch—Violet had to read and Klaus had to invent something. Character development!

What I Didn’t Like:

The  device Klaus used to pull the log away was ridiculously unrealistic. Really, gum did that? I don’t think so.

More ineffective adults! They get more ridiculous each book. It’s like a running gag now.

The Miserable Mill has never stood out to me. In fact, it’s probably the one I dread rereading the most. Not because it’s bad, but because it’s relatively mediocre and doesn’t really advance the plot that much.

Cover Art 2 (wow, these are pretty much identical except for the person in the background)

People/Places/Things to Keep in Mind (spoilers):

-Phil

-Charles and Sir

-Snicket’s constant references to Beatrice, which start to make their way into the text and not just the dedication.

Last Picture:

There is a school bus, referencing The Austere Academy.

Overall Review:

The Miserable Mill, while perhaps in my opinion a relatively mediocre installment in the series, is still packed full of the dry Snicket wit that makes this series shine, as well as more misfortune for the Baudelaires, more character development, and more foreshadowing.

Coming Up Next: The Austere Academy

Series Week III: The Wide Window

The Wide Window is the third book in A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket and was published in 2000 by HarperCollins.

Genre: Children’s, Mystery

Summary/Blurb:

“Dear Reader,

If you have not read anything about the Baudelaire orphans, then before you read even one more sentence, you should know this: Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are kindhearted and quick-witted, but their lives, I am sorry to say, are filled with bad luck and misery. All of the stories about these three children are unhappy and wretched, and the one you are holding may be the worst of them all.

If you haven’t got the stomach for a story that includes a hurricane, a signaling device, hungry leeches, cold cucumber soup, a horrible villain, and a doll named Pretty Penny, then this book will probably ill you with despair.

I will continue to record these tragic tales, for that is what  I do. You, however, should decide for yourself whether you can possibly endure this miserable story.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket”

~Back Cover

Passages/Quotes:

“This is the radiator,” Aunt Josephine said, pointing to a radiator with a pale and skinny finger. “Please don’t ever touch it. You may find yourself very cold here in my home. I never turn on the radiator, because I am frightened that it might explode, so it often gets chilly in the evenings….“This is the telephone….It should only be used in emergencies, because there is a danger of electrocution….When you open this odor, just push on the wood here. Never use the doorknob. I’m always afraid that it will shatter into a million pieces and that one of them will hit my eye.”

~Snicket 15-16, 18

“ ‘Captain Sham’s Sailboats. Every boat has it’s own sail.’ Oh, Captain, you have made a very serious grammatical error here.”

“What?” Captain Sham said, raising his eyebrow.

“This card says ‘it’s,’ with an apostrophe. I-T-apostrophe-S always means ‘it is.’ You don’t mean to say ‘Every boat has it is own sail.’ You mean simply I-T-S, ‘belonging to it.’ IT’s a very common mistake, Captain Sham, but a dreadful one.”

~Snicket 50-51

“It is difficult enough to climb up the mast of a boat, but it is triple the difficulty if the boat is being rocked by a bunch of hungry leeches, so allow me to advise you that this is another thing that you should under no circumstances try to do. But Violet Baudelaire was a wunderkind, a German word which here means “Someone who is able to quickly climb masts on boats being attacked by leeches…”

~Snicket 174

Cover Art 1

Dedication:

“For Beatrice—I would much prefer it if you were alive and well.”

Warnings: Death

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Rating: 4/5

What I Liked:

Enter Aunt Josephine, the ultimate grammar Nazi. As annoying and ineffective and ridiculous as she is (another ineffective adult! Surprise!), her grammar lectures are quite funny. Especially since some of them are completely pointless and out-of-the-blue. Hey, we’re in the middle of a storm about to be eaten by leeches. Let’s correct some grammar! It’s not only amusing, but also extremely frustrating, which gives the reader insight into how frustrated the Baudelaires must feel with their guardian. Aunt Josephine is probably the worst guardian the Baudelaires have in terms of ineffectiveness and general likeability. She’s very easy to dislike because she is so frustrating and immovable in her ways. Her list of fears only add to this, because they are completely irrational, and if you know anyone with an irrational fear, you know how much you want to shake them. As a side note, I love how in the movie (yes, there was a movie made of the first three books, starring Jim Carey as Count Olaf. It’s worth a watch as it’s quite funny, but it butchers the books a little too much for my liking, and I don’t consider myself one of those purists types where every movie made from a book must be exactly the same or it’s terrible) all her fears actually happen (albeit when she’s not there; it’s when spoiler the house is collapsing. The radiator hose gets unattached and conveniently ends up right by the doorknob, heating it up until—yep, you guessed it—it shatters into a million pieces end spoiler).

Fan art by aphilosophicalmoose on deviantart

Captain Sham…heh heh. Sham. Ya giddit? Yes, you can bet that Olaf is snickering on the inside. You know, Olaf reminds me of a very evil, cruel Severus Snape, except with less snark and more malice.

The first gruesome death of the series is in this book. There’s nothing explicit, but your imagination can certainly help you along here. At least Snicket didn’t mention any screams…that might have been too much…however, he has a unique talent for making a gruesome death without actually describing the gruesome.

What I Didn’t Like:

Aunt Josephine…I want to shake you! You might be one of my least favorite Baudelaire guardian, although there are a few other annoying ones. Hmmm…now I’m thinking of doing a ranking of Baudelaire guardians along with my ranking of the books. I could do one for Olaf disguises, too! There’s so much I could do with this series, I don’t even know…

Cover Art 2

People/Places/Things to Keep in Mind (beware, spoilers):

–“I didn’t realize this was a sad occasion.”

Ivan Lachyrmose: Lake Explorer (this is not really that important; but it is mentioned later as a quick aside. It’s one of those interesting details that I love so much about this series)

–also, keep an eye on what Sunny says. It can be quite amusing…

–Olaf’s claim of arson

–whistling with crackers

Last Picture:

There is a sign with two eyes, referencing The Miserable Mill.

Overall Review:

The Wide Window, while not standing out particularly from the series as a whole, is still a strong addition. It once again shows the Baudelaire orphans resourcefulness (and misfortune) and in doing so creates character development. Olaf is still evil; Mr. Poe (and other adults) are still ineffective; and the Baudelaires are going through a guardian a book. Onward to the next!

Coming Up Next: The Miserable Mill

Series Week III: The Reptile Room

Note: This is my 75th book review!!

The Reptile Room is the second book in A Series of Unfortuante Events by Lemony Snicket. It was published in 1999 by HarperCollins.

Genre: Children’s, Mystery

Summary/Blurb:

“Dear Reader,

If you have picked up this book with the hope of finding a simple and cheery tale, I’m afraid you have picked up the wrong book altogether. The story may seem cheery at first when the Baudelaire children spend item in the company of some interesting reptiles and a giddy uncle, but don’t be fooled. If you know anything at all about the unlucky Baudelaire children, you already know that even pleasant events lead down the same road to misery.

In fact, within the pages you now hold in your hands, the three siblings endure a car accident, a terrible odor, a deadly serpent, a long knife, a large brass reading lamps, and the reappearance of a person they’d hoped never to see again.

I am bound to record these tragic events, but you are free to put this book back on the shelf and seek something lighter.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket”

~Back Cover

Passages/Quotes:

The Reptile Room was made entirely out of glass, with bright, clear glass walls and a high glass ceiling that rose up to a point like the inside of a cathedral. Outside the walls was a bright green field of glasses and shrubs which was of course perfectly visible though the transparent walls, so standing in the Reptile Room was like being inside and outside at the same time. But as remarkable as the room itself was, what was inside the Reptile Room was much more exiting. Reptiles, of course, were lined up in locked metal cages that sat on wooden tables in four neat rows all the way down the room. There were all sorts of snakes, naturally, but there were also lizards, toads, and assorted other animals that the children had never seen before, not even in pictures, or at the zoo. There was a very fat toad with two wings coming out of its back, and a two-headed lizard that had bright yellow stripes on its belly .There was a snake that had three mouths, one on top of the other, and another that seemed to have no mouth at all. There was a lizard that looked like an owl, with wide eyes that gazed at them from the log on which it was perched in its cage, and a toad that looked just like a church, complete with stained-glass eyes. And there was a cage with a white cloth on top of it, so you couldn’t see what was inside at all.

Snicket 20-22

“Goodness!” he [Mr. Poe] cried. “Golly! Good God! Blessed Allah! Zeus and Hera! Mary and Joseph! Nathaniel Hawthorne! Don’t touch her! Grab her! Move closer! Run away! Don’t move! Kill the snake! Leave it alone! Give it some food! Don’t let it bite her! Lure the snake away! Here, snakey! Here, snakey snakey!”

~Snicket 146-147

Dedication:

“For Beatrice—My love for you shall live forever. You, however, did not.”

Warnings: Death.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Rating: 3/5

Cover Art 1

What I Liked:

Enter Uncle Monty, the guardian with whom the Baudelaires were perhaps the most happy (and that’s saying a lot, as this is only the second book). As ineffective as Uncle Monty was, the Baudelaires’ other guardians are even worse (and so are their circumstances), so I feel that this is perhaps the best situation in which the Baudelaires find themselves. Also enter the Incredibly Deadly Viper! I love the Incredibly Deadly Viper! It’s so adorable when it interacts with Sunny (yes, yes…I know it’s called Incredibly Deadly).

Also enter the first Count Olaf disguise! Here’s the basic run-down of Olaf’s disguise-related plot:

–other adults will always use his one long eyebrow and his eye tattoo in their identification of him

–Olaf hides/gets rid of his eyebrow and his tattoo in order to disguise himself: in this case, he shaved his eyebrow and did spoiler to his tattoo

–however, the Baudelaires always recognize him, mostly by his shiny, shiny eyes

–the problem comes when they try to get adults to recognize him, and since Olaf has disguised his eyebrow and his tattoo in some way, the adults always think the children are wrong (hence, the ineffectiveness/stupidity of the adults that I talked about in my first review).

–therefore, the Baudelaires must come up with a way to mess up/get rid of/ruin Olaf’s disguise in order to get the adults to recognize him

That’s how the plot generally goes (for the first few books, anyway…). There are other things involved, of course, but that’s generally the way it goes down.

Cover Art 2

Count Olaf really shows his villainy off here. He’s not a dumb villain at all—he’s very smart and cunning, in addition to being cruel and evil. That makes for a dangerous combination.

Oh, and as well as the first Olaf disguise, it’s the first accomplice disguise! This one actually is quite good. It threw me for a loop the first time I read this book. I wasn’t expecting it. Pay attention to the way Snicket describes features of a person…

The quotes section does not do this book justice. There are numerous other great quotes, including one where Snicket fills a whole page by repeating the word “ever.” He’s very adamant about never ever fiddling with electric devices.

What I Didn’t Like:

Uncle Monty, why are you so ineffective? Mr. Poe, why are you so condescending? Adults, why are you so obtuse?

Fan art by penandsword11 on deviantart

People/Places/Things to Keep in Mind (spoilers be here):

-horseradish

-sour apples

-Bruce

-the taxi driver (specifically, “Not everybody wants to hear about your new baby, you know.”)

-names and anagrams (a certain spoilery name is an anagram of Count Olaf)

-the Incredibly Deadly Viper

Zombies in the Snow

Last Picture:

A man has on a sports jacket with the name Lachrymose Leeches on the back, referencing the next book, The Wide Window.

Overall Review:

The Reptile Room not only shows how resourceful and determined (and unfortunate) the Baudelaires truly are, but it also starts showing how cunning and cruel Count Olaf truly is. It also sets up even more foreshadowing for the series and, all in all, is at times delightful, at times hilarious, and at all times unfortunate. There are no major weaknesses yet for the series.

Coming Up Next: The Wide Window

Series Week III: The Bad Beginning

I am super excited to review this book series. It is one of my favorite book series ever and I know I will enjoy reading and reviewing them. These books have more going on than meets the eye at first read and it encourages you to reread them again to catch all the little references and foreshadowing that is going on. Anything that seems unimportant is probably important, including the pictures located at the end of the novels, the dedication page, the Ex Libris on the very first page, the letter to the editor, and even the number of chapters (there are 13 chapters in every book).

These reviews will be a bit more spoilery than normal, so if you’ve never read the books before, take care. The reviews will also contain three new sections: Dedication (Snicket’s dedication in each book, all of which are to a mysterious “Beatrice” and get more and more humorous with each one), People/Places/Things to Keep in Mind (this especially will be slightly spoilery in regards to the series as a whole; it’s a list of people/places/things to keep in the back of your mind that will have big or small significance on the story in later parts. It’s a very involved plot and this is not merely an aid for you, but also my own way to help myself remember everything that’s foreshadowed or part of spoiler. I will only be listing the things that first appear in that specific book; I will not repeat items. I will also not explain the items on the list or to what book they are significant; as I said, it is merely a guide and a reminder), and Last Picture (the last picture in each novel has a hint/foreshadowing of the next book).

Also, I will be reviewing all 13 books in the series, of course, as well as two additions: The Unauthorized Autobiography and The Beatrice Letters.

The Bad Beginning is the first book in A Series of Unfortunate Events. It is written by Lemony Snicket. It was published in 1999 by HarperCollins. The author’s site can be found here and a fansite can be found here.

Genre: Children’s, Mystery

Summary/Blurb:

“Dear Reader,

I’m sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant. It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe. From the very first page of this book when the children are at the beach and receive terrible news, continuing on through the entire story, disaster lurks at their heels. One might say they are magnets for misfortune.

In this short book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast.

It is my sad duty to write down these unpleasant tales, but there is nothing stopping you from putting this book down at once and reading something happy, if you prefer that sort of thing.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket.”

~Back Cover

Passages/Quotes:

The children looked from the well-scrubbed house of Justice Strauss to the dilapidated one next door. The bricks were stained with soot and grime. There were only two small windows, which were closed with the shades drawn even though it was a nice day. Rising above the windows was a tall and dirty tower that titled slightly to the left. The front door needed to be repainted, and carved in the middle of it was an image of an eye. The entire building sagged to the side, like a crooked tooth.

“Oh!” said Sunny, and everyone knew what she meant. She meant, “What a terrible place! I don’t want to live there at all!”

~Snicket 20-21

“Hello hello hello,” Count Olaf said in a wheezy whisper. He was very tall and very thin, dressed in a gray suit that had many dark stains on it. His face was unshaven, and rather than two eyebrows, like most human beings have, he had just one long one. His eyes were very, very shiny, which made him look both hungry and angry…

He leaned forward to shut the door, and the Baudelaire orphans were too overcome with despair to get a last glimpse of Mr. Poe. They now wished they could all stay at the Poe household, even though it smelled. Rather than looking at the door, then, the orphans looked down, and saw that although Count Olaf was wearing shoes, he wasn’t wearing any socks. They could see, in the space of pale skin between his tattered trouser cuff and his black shoe, that Cunt Olaf had an image of an eye tattooed on his ankle, matching the eye on his front door. They wondered how many other eyes were in Count Olaf’s house, and whether, for the rest of their lives, they would always feel as though Count Olaf were watching them even when he wasn’t nearby.”

~Snicket 22, 24-25

Dedication:

“To Beatrice—darling, dearest, dead.”

Warnings: None.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Rating: 3/5

Cover Art 1

What I Liked:

And so it begins! Man, I love this series so much. First of all, Snicket (in actuality Daniel Handler, but let’s go with Snicket for the fun of it) has hilarious writing. He has a habit of starting each chapter with some random thought or anecdote and completely tying it in with the Baudelaires’ situation. He also defines words that are used in either the narration or the dialogue of the characters, and, while these definitions are pretty straightforward in this book, in later books Snicket defines them a bit more unconventionally (and hilariously) and yet still defines the word. Hence why this book can be considered educational, because it teaches vocabulary (and grammar! But that’s two books away…).

Violet! Klaus! Sunny! Inventions! Reading! Biting! Opportunities to utilize all three of their gifts to foil Count Olaf or to not foil him! Which, by the way, is another thing I like: the orphans do not succeed at everything they do. They fail, which is perfectly normal and realistic. Granted, they will do something later that will eventually work, but not after they’ve had some sort of loss. And even their gains have loss in them—after all, this is called The Series of Unfortunate Events. And unfortunate they certainly are.

This book is definitely a first book in a series. It introduces the main villain, the main characters, (one of) the ineffective side character(s), and the main plot of the series (or is it?)—stop Count Olaf from getting the Baudelaire fortune! By way of references to future events, it doesn’t have as much as the other books (or perhaps I didn’t notice as much), but I’m still surprised and pleased to see the foreshadowing that Snicket put into this book. It shows great thought and knowledge of an overview of the entire series.

Also, the Ex Libris always has a picture of the Baudelaires on the top with whatever outfit/disguise/garb/appearance they don for that book, as well as a picture of Count Olaf on the bottom, with his outfit/disguise/garb/appearance.

The Marvelous Marriage by Brett Helquist (spoilers?)

What I Didn’t Like:

Mr. Poe is an extremely ineffective adult. So is Justice Strauss. So are most of the rest of the adults in the entire series. Here’s the general rule-of-thumb for adults in this series: they’re either villains, ineffective, or spineless/weak/afraid. It actually gets a little annoying after a while. I think the only adult character who is not a villain who actually does something is…well. I’ll save that for when we actually meet the character, because I might change my mind.

Cover Art 2

People/Places/Things to Keep in Mind (this section will contain spoilers):

-Count Olaf and his associates, obviously

-The Baudelaires and their talents, obviously

-Mr. Poe, his coughing, and his ineffectiveness, again obviously

-Justice Strauss (and her initials, JS)

-Briny Beach

-The Baudelaire mansion

-Beatrice (from the dedication)

-Olaf’s tattoo

-Lemony Snicket

-anagrams (more specifically, names. Al Funcoot, who wrote The Marvelous Marriage, is an anagram for Count Olaf)

Last Picture:

A snake is curled around a lamppost, hinting at the next book, The Reptile Room.

Overall Review:

The Bad Beginning is a great beginning to The Series of Unfortunate Events. It has charm, wit, and a great deal of misfortune that promises for an unfortunate, but amusing, book series. It is a wonderfully done set-up to the series as a whole and I am quite looking forward to reviewing the rest.

Coming Up Next: The Reptile Room