“Why is This Night Different from All Other Nights?” by Lemony Snicket

“Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights?” by Lemony Snicket was published in 2015 by Little, Brown and Company.

Train travel! Murder! Librarians! A Series Finale! On all other nights, the train departs from Stain’d Station and travels to the city without stopping. But not tonight. You might ask, why is this night different from all other nights? But that’s the wrong question. Instead ask, where is this all heading? And what happens at the end of the line?

Rating: 2/5

I thought it appropriate to finish this series out today since I also finished A Series of Ufortunate Events on Netflix (an excellent adaptation. They also reference this book series in it).

“Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights?” was a little disappointing, which perhaps I should not have found surprising considering my problems with The End. However, I enjoyed the previous two books enough that I was hoping for more than what this final book gave me.

I enjoyed the semi-tribute to Murder on the Orient Express that this book gives, and more than anything I enjoy the way Lemony Snicket is fleshed out from a shadowy, mysterious figure in A Series of Unfortunate Events to a real-live person in these prequels. The choices he has to make, particularly in this book, are not easy, and the results of those choices are not easy to deal with. I wish that the “am I a villain?” doubting path had not been taken, though, since Violet, Klaus, and Sunny wonder the same thing in ASOUE and it only reminded me how these books pale in comparison.

Above all, this book is mostly too predictable and strange to make me feel great about it. It was blindingly obvious who Hangfire was, as though Snicket had gotten tired of throwing out obscure clues and had given up even attempting to hide Hangfire’s identity in this final book. And the thing with the Bombinating Beast at the end was strange and didn’t really fit the nature of these books, at least in my opinion. Also, I’m still mad at what that implies about what happens to the Quagmires in The End.

Overall, I thought All The Wrong Questions, as a whole, starts out weak, has good parts in the middle, and ends weak, with many questions resolved but almost no satisfaction in their resolution. Also, I thought for sure that Snicket’s obsession with Ellington would mean she would be revealed to be Beatrice at the end, but maybe that was just supposed to be a precursor or a hint at Snicket’s future and how he acts around certain people.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Mystery, Children’s

“But what will you do when he’s here?” I asked, after a sip of fizzy water. “Ornette’s creation looks very much like the real statue, but once it’s in Hangfire’s hands he’ll know it’s a fake.”

“Once Hangfire comes aboard,” Moxie said, “he’ll be caught like a rat in a trap. The Thistle of the Valley won’t stop again until it reaches the city, where all the prisoners on board will be brought to trial. I have all our notes on what Hangfire’s been doing in this town. Once the authorities read my report, they’ll arrest Hangfire, and Dashiell Qwerty will go free.”

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

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“Shouldn’t You Be in School?” by Lemony Snicket

“Shouldn’t You Be in School?” by Lemony Snicket was published in 2014 by Little, Brown and Company. It is the sequel to “When Did You See Her Last?”.

Is Lemony Snicket a detective or a smoke detector?
Do you smell smoke? Young apprentice Lemony Snicket is investigating a case of arson but soon finds himself enveloped in the ever-increasing mystery that haunts the town of Stain’d-by-the-Sea. Who is setting the fires? What secrets are hidden in the Department of Education? Why are so many schoolchildren in danger? Is it all the work of the notorious villain Hangfire? How could you even ask that? What kind of education have you had? Maybe you should be in school?

Rating: 4/5

“Shouldn’t You Be in School?” is another good addition to the Wrong Questions series, a series that I’m enjoying more with each book. It almost makes me want to reread “Who Could That Be at This Hour?” because I might enjoy it more than I did the first time.

Beyond cameo appearances and explaining more about VFD, this book really cemented in my mind the fact that the Wrong Questions series is really just to show how incredibly clever and resilient Lemony Snicket is. It’s a wonder he never caught up to the Baudelaire children at all (except for possibly The Penultimate Peril, if you believe the theory that he was the taxi driver and took the sugar bowl away from Hotel Denouement) because as a thirteen-year-old he’s outsmarting, in some way, his enemies and his friends. The whole blank-book-library at the end kinda blew my mind a little, even if it didn’t really accomplish anything in terms of giving the protagonists a leg up on Hangfire.

This book also brings back some old, tried-and-true issues: who can you really trust? How far will someone go to protect/find someone they love? How incompent are the adults, anyway? I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how meaty these books have been, despite their silliness. And the mysteries in them are good, as well.

I’m still a little worried that the series will end without complete resolution in terms of the Bombinating Beast, Hangfire, Ellington Feint’s missing father, and all the other numerous little mysteries (Kit! The secret in the library! Ink! The music box! Books!), but I think at this point I’m too invested (and too aware of how these books go) to ultimately care much if it happens. I simply hope that the last book is as fun and as enticing of a mystery as I found “Shouldn’t You Be in School?”

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Mystery, Children’s

“The arsonist is a moth-hater, all right,” Sharon said, sipping limeade, “and my new best friend Theodora was telling me that she knew just who it was.”

“We saw him this morning,” Theodora said, “swatting moths as usual.”

“You can’t be serious,” I said. “Dashiell Qwerty is a fine librarian.”

“I’m as shocked as you are, Snicket,” Theodora said. “In our line of work we’ve learned to trust, honor, and flatter librarians. But Qwerty is clearly a bad apple in a bowl of cherries.”

“Dashiell Qwerty wouldn’t hurt a fly,” Moxie said.

“You’re not listening, girlie,” Sharon said. “He’s hurting moths.”

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

“When Did You See Her Last?” by Lemony Snicket

“When Did You See Her Last?” by Lemony Snicket was published in 2013 by Little, Brown and Company. It is the sequel to “Who Could That Be at This Hour?”.

“I should have asked the question ‘How could someone who was missing be in two places at once?’ Instead, I asked the wrong question — four wrong questions, more or less. This is the account of the second.” In the fading town of Stain’d-by-the-Sea, young apprentice Lemony Snicket has a new case to solve when he and his chaperone are hired to find a missing girl. Is the girl a runaway? Or was she kidnapped? Was she seen last at the grocery store? Or could she have stopped at the diner? Is it really any of your business? These are All The Wrong Questions.

Rating: 3/5

“When Did You See Her Last?” is a surprisingly delightful little mystery—after the problems I had with “Who Could That Be at This Hour?” I was expecting the worst. But this second “Wrong Question” was not nearly so jarring as the first book, possibly because I was already prepared. I still think these are not nearly so memorable or as subtly brilliant as A Series of Unfortunate Events, but let’s give credit where credit is due: Lemony Snicket (or Daniel Handler) is good at absurdist humor and makes an absurd world (mostly) work.

For once, I didn’t really question the incompetence of all adults in this book—I think I’ve finally accepted that in Lemony Snicket world, children are the people who get things done and adults are either villainous, incompetent, useless, or plot devices.

I’m very curious to see if Beatrice makes an appearance (or Olaf!), if we find out what Kit was stealing in the museum (the sugar bowl, possibly?), and if these books will turn more towards “let’s reveal lots about VFD” rather than just have VFD as the shadowy organization where you never find out what it’s about or what it wants. And to be honest, I kind of hope it keeps up the mystery of VFD because it fits better with this series than it did with ASOUE. Probably because these books are much more film noir.

Also, it took me far too long to realize that “Partial Foods” was a play on “Whole Foods.”

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Mystery, Children’s

Hungry’s was a small and narrow place, and a large and wide woman was standing just inside the doors, polishing the counter with a rag.

“Good afternoon,” she said.

I said the same thing.

“I’m hungry,” she said.

“Well, you’re probably in the right place.”

She gave me a frown and a menu. “No, I mean I’m Hungry. It’s my name. Hungry Hix. I own this place. Are you hungry?”

“No,” I said. “You are.”

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2g8jej8

“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

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