“A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Penultimate Peril” by Lemony Snicket

220px-ThePenultimatePerilI remember when this book first came out and I was in seventh grade, my childhood best friend and I were discussing the story. I was so in awe that she knew the meaning of the world “penultimate” (next to last) because to that point, I actually figured that it was just a word that Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) had just made up. Even now, I don’t know if I would have known what the word meant without her telling me that way back when because it hasn’t really come up since then. Maybe I would have looked it up on my own, but we may never know.

Anyway, this is the 12th book in the “Series of Unfortunate Events” series. The Baudelaires go from the Queequeg straight to the Hotel Denouement, which is the where a big meeting is supposed to happen in just days. There’s lots of confusion about who is noble and who is a villain, and we really don’t get much of that cleared up by the end. There’s no sign of the Quagmire triplets, but they’re mentioned, so I’m sure they’ll show back up soon.

I’m again confused about the timeline of the story. It seems like there’s been quite a bit of time since the events of the first book took place, but this book happens over mere days. Maybe it’s meant to be ambiguous.

Another thing I noticed is that there are no families safe from Lemony Snicket’s power, which means that every family has someone who has died, whether it is parents or siblings or spouses. I guess it just adds to the unfortunate events.

I’m interested in what happens next to wrap up the whole series. There are still plenty of loose ends and I’m not yet sure how they will be tied off. It’s been so long since I’ve read this book that I don’t remember any of the plot, except one critical issue for one particular character.

At the same time, I am listening to “Sisterhood Everlasting,” which is the next book by Ann Brashares. I have the ebook, but I’m mostly listening to the audiobook. I’m not too far in but I already have some thoughts about the story.

More on that later,
Maegan

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“A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Grim Grotto” by Lemony Snicket

The_Grim_Grotto.pngI’ve been a little stuck on this book for a while. It’s not that it wasn’t interesting or that I didn’t want to read it, it’s just that I want to read so many other books at the same time and despite his quest to ensure that each book in this series has precisely 13 chapters, Mr. Snicket has gotten a little long-winded in his writing.

Anywho, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny have escaped the Stricken Stream (book 10 stuff) and have found themselves aboard the Queequeg, which is a submarine captained by Captain Widdershins and his crew of two (his step-daughter Fiona and Phil, from the Lucky Smells Lumbermill).

They all set off to find the elusive sugar bowl, and we still don’t understand its importance. Along the way, there are poems and cooking and poisonous fungi. Eventually something bad happens because why not and Count Olaf shows up again, with hardly an explanation as to how he got his hands on his own submarine.

There’s some betrayal, another seemingly lost character shows up, then the Baudelaires (spoiler alert) escape again.

This is the first time I’ve actually been annoyed at any of the Baudelaires, but Klaus is starting to become a real know-it-all. He has always explained what *big words* meant when other people didn’t understand them, but in this book it seems like he’s just talking to hear the sound of his own voice. I understand using him as an educational tool to explain to kid readers what these vocabulary words mean, but I don’t really think he needs to explain what it means when Sunny says that she has cooked “pest lo mein.” Obviously she made lo mein with pesto sauce. You don’t need to explain the country of origin of the food, Klaus, just eat it! Also I am judging his poor taste in women… girl? I guess he’s only 12 or 13.

Only two more books left in the series, which I will probably start soon. In addition to all the other books I’m reading, I mean.

I’m sure we will meet again soon,
Maegan

“The Here and Now” by Ann Brashares

the-here-and-nowI’m impressed with this concept, but also a little disappointed at the same time. The book follows Prenna James, who is actually here from the future. There is this whole setup where the Earth is bad in the late 2080s or so and this group find some kind of time-hole and go straight through to 2010. So she and a bunch of other teenagers and adults come through to our time.

The book has so much potential, but I just don’t feel like it delivered. With something like time travel there are opportunities to talk about the different technologies of the future and how exactly it got to be so bad, but most of these things are mentioned casually and then glossed over.

Throughout it all, there is one “time native,” Ethan, who knows what is going on because he saw Prenna come through the time portal thing. Side note: what I want to know is how they discovered this time portal and knew that they would be safe just walking through to the other side.

Ethan is supposedly in love with Prenna but it seems like she has just been pushing him away for the entire four years she has been in this time. But that doesn’t stop him from literally telling her he wanted to get it on with her multiple times once she admits that’s she’s not from around here. Blame it on the teenage hormones?

There are also several characters that you just don’t dive into very deeply. Prenna’s father, who we meet and then leave pretty much simultaneously; her best friend Katherine, who even is this person?; Mr. Robert, etc. Also, how the heck did Prenna have these numbers written on her arm? Who put them there? Why is she the only traveler that Ethan saw in the woods? Why does she have amnesia? How in the world is she supposed to be a leader at 17? Did her mom fix the blood plague issue? Did Andrew Baltos change the future for good? So many questions unanswered. Plus it’s a book about people who have time traveled but we don’t get to see any time traveling and that’s a letdown.

Maybe it would take a second read to feel more favorably. Hard to tell.

One thing I noticed though is that all of these Ann Brashares books seem to be connected. This book isn’t the next one that she wrote time-wise, but it mentions Fire Island, which is the same place Alice and Riley spend their summers in “The Last Summer (of You and Me),” which is interesting.

Even though I have now finished this book, I am still reading three books at once, with “A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Grim Grotto” by Lemony Snicket, “Turtles All the Way Down” by John Green, and the audiobook version of “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls, which I just started this morning.

Many books to read and not enough time to read them in,
Maegan

“3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows” by Ann Brashares

4071565Here we have the next young adult book written by Ann Brashares, coming in right on the tail end of the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” timeline. “3 Willows” follows Ama, Jo, and Polly, who are about to start high school together and used to be besties but aren’t really close anymore. They have separate lives now, but they still creep into each others’ stories.

Ama is going on some kind of wilderness high for high school credit, and she hates it. Jo is staying at the beach, working as a bus girl at a restaurant where she has some boy drama. And Polly is obsessed with losing weight and going to modeling camp.

The name of the book comes from three tiny willow trees that the girls had to take care of when they were in third grade. They met each other the day the trees were handed out as part of a science project. Once the year was over, they planted the trees together in the woods. They used to visit them everyday and take care of them, but at this point they haven’t been there in about two years.

Throughout the book, they realize that the friendships they had with each other were true and that their new friends kinda suck.

The original sisterhood is actually mentioned somewhat frequently in the book. Their story is described and the new characters tell how many friend groups tried to recreate the famed *Traveling Pants.* The characters themselves show up too. Jo went to the soccer camp that Bridget was a counselor at, Polly babysits for Tibby’s mom, Polly knows Tibby’s boyfriend, Jo works with Lena’s sister and meets Lena on the fly. Ama doesn’t get any of those connections though. Probably for the best. It wouldn’t be as good if they were thrown in too much.

I think this book was supposed to be the first in a new series, but as far as I know it doesn’t have a sequel. Part of the title of the book is something like “The New Sisterhood: Book 1,” which would imply that there should at least be a book 2 but so far there is nothing. Maybe Ann Brashares is saving it to surprise us one day.

We’ll see,
Maegan

“A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Slippery Slope” by Lemony Snicket

The_Slippery_Slope.pngThis series is really picking up steam. Violet and Klaus Baudelaire are left for dead in a snowy mountain and their little sister Sunny has been kidnapped by an evil villain.

But we do find out that someone who we thought dead is not actually dead and this character is quite helpful. And well-read. There’s lots more mystery surrounding the V.F.D. and we may actually know now what it stands for but it’s hard to tell if that is actually confirmed.

A couple other sinister characters are introduced, known only as the man with a beard but no hair and a woman with hair but no beard. Apparently they have an air of menace.

We don’t hear about the Quagmires in this book, who are presumably still up in the air with Hector and his self-sustaining hot-air mobile home. I’m sure they will show back up though. That is one thing that seems different about this series. There are plenty of characters, but they seem interspersed throughout the books, not necessarily clumped together in a sequence. You might meet someone in a book and not hear about them again until three books later. It’s an interesting choice, but I don’t dislike it.

The next book is called “The Grim Grotto.” I haven’t started it yet because of the other books that I am also reading, but I’m sure it will be soon.

Until we meet again,
Maegan

“A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Carnivorous Carnival” by Lemony Snicket

Carnivorous_CarnivalAt this point, things are starting to get mysterious and I’m devouring these books that were originally designed for children. There’s lots of secrets that are hinted at and the possibility that someone thought dead may be alive and some hidden identities that are not yet explained. There’s only four more books after this so I have to know the answers!

In “The Carnivorous Carnival,” Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire have stowed away in Count Olaf’s car, which ends them up at the Caligari Carnival. They disguise themselves as “freaks” to join the freak show (which consists of a contortionist, an ambidextrous person, and a man with a hunched back), and no one sees through it. I guess that’s acceptable because it would be extremely frustrating if no one was any the wiser when it came to all these villains’ disguises, but they immediately saw straight through when the Baudelaires tried it.

You can feel that we’re inching closer to figuring out what in the world “V.F.D.” stands for and getting some information from the mysterious Snicket file, but we’re not there yet. Every time it seems like the orphans have something right in their grasp, it just slips away. Usually because Count Olaf stole it and/or set it on fire. Now that I think about it, Count Olaf is starting to feel like a pyromaniac.

The book leaves you with a cliffhanger, where the elder two siblings are barreling down a cliff with no way to save themselves, while their baby sister goes on with Count Olaf and all his henchmen. But I immediately started reading the next book, “The Slippery Slope,” so the suspense was quite bearable.

I’ve been listening to a lot of these books on audiobook and just realized they are read by Tim Curry. He does an amazing job at changing up the voices and doing sound effects. Particularly evil laughs. You always know who’s evil based on their laugh.

I’m also about to start reading “The Last Summer (of You and Me)” by Ann Brashares. I remember reading it quite some time ago but I cannot remember any of the plot at all. Only time will tell.

Good bye and good night,
Maegan

“A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Hostile Hospital” by Lemony Snicket

The_Hostile_HospitalI have inadvertently finished this book in a day. No complaints here though, things are starting to get suspenseful.

The Baudelaires have found their way to Heimlich Hospital, which is literally only half built. Somehow Count Olaf finds them incredibly fast this time, even though they’ve been hiding in the ranks of the Volunteer Disease Fighters (V.F.D. but not the right V.F.D. still) who believe that the best way to cure sickness and disease is cheeriness. They actually seem super annoying actually. They sing one song over and over again and hand out heart-shaped balloons to patients, no matter the ailment.

Eventually, Olaf’s associates ruin some stuff and try to commit murder, which they probably did unacknowledged.

One thing I’ve been wondering about is the time period when these books occur. It’s never really made clear, but the Baudelaires just used a telegram machine to contact Mr. Poe (even though he is useless at helping them) and Heimlich Hospital has a library of records that consists of rows and rows of filing cabinets, with no mention of any kind of digital question. Probably not pertinent to the story, but just makes me wonder.

The next book is “The Carnivorous Carnival” so there will probably be a carnival. There are more things popping up that make you wonder, and there are lots of loose ends at this point, but still plenty of books to figure it all out.

Later,
Maegan

“Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood” by Ann Brashares

5453And so we have concluded our last summer of the Traveling Pants. At this point, Carmen, Lena, Tibby, and Bridget are all at separate colleges doing their own thing, but the pants are still making the rounds. The book only covers the summer which is where…

Carmen is at acting camp literally only because her frenemy suggested she go. Frenemy is surprised when Carmen is successful at the program and Carmen is surprised when she realizes frenemy is a frenemy. There is hardly any mention of the boy she fawned over the entire last summer and her baby brother, who was also a large part of book 3.

Lena takes a summer art class and meets Leo, the super good artist who also goes to RISD. There is attraction, there is painting, there is modeling for painting, there is Kostos. Lena is confused and does not know what she wants for herself or from these boys that she may or may not be leading on.

Tibby basically ruins her own relationship and lazes around the whole summer, not working on her script for her intensive screenwriting class and barely working her summer job even though she has no money.

Bridget flies off to Turkey to go on an archaeological dig and meets a married dude that (surprise) she is attracted to. They both make a few bad decisions. Not sure if Bridget ever actually tells her boyfriend about all this. She also has some revelations about her family and her house. IDK.

The girls’ families are not nearly as much a focus in this book, except Lena’s sister, Effie. I feel like there were a few things that went entirely against the characters that have been created over the past three books, but it wasn’t a bad story. I can definitely see how going further would just lead to these four girls running out of things to do.

Anywho, I’m going to start of the rest of the Ann Brashares books next. The first one up is “The Last Summer (of You and Me).” I’m also on “A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Hostile Hospital” now by Lemony Snicket. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Until next time,
Maegan

“A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Vile Village” by Lemony Snicket

The_Vile_Village.pngAnd so I will continue my trend of alternating between Lemony Snicket and Ann Brashares. An interesting match, really.

“The Vile Village” is the seventh “Series of Unfortunate Events” books. I’m really not sure how much time has passed across the series, but it surely can’t be that much. The Baudelaires never seem to stay in one place for too long.

In this book, someone high up the ladder has decided to take the aphorism “It takes a village to raise a child” quite literally, so now an actual village and all its citizens are the legal guardian of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny. The village is called V.F.D., which the orphans think have to do with some mysterious clue that their friends the Quagmire triplets have been hinting at, but it really just stands for “Village of Fowl Devotees” (the whole place is covered in crows, hence “fowl”) and we still have no idea what V.F.D. actually means. Even though the Quagmires keep trying to tell the Baudelaires and the Baudelaires are just too dense to listen for a few seconds. Like I said before, for being such smart children, they have some really dumb moments.

This time they are living with a nice dude named Hector, but things are still miserable because they are required to do literally all of the citizens’ chores. What a drag. Eventually you-know-who shows up again (Count Olaf, not Lord Voldemort) and no one believes that he’s actually him because apparently the residents of V.F.D. can be a little dense too. The Quagmires are saved, and then they’re gone again. There’s just a lot of back and forth at this point.

We are now on to book eight of the series, “The Hostile Hospital.” Haven’t started it yet but I’m going to take a wild guess and say it takes place at a hospital. I’m also about three-quarters of the way through “Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood” by Ann Brashares, and of course after I finish it I have to read every other book that Ann Brashares has written, so my to-be-read list will probably just never stop growing.

Wish me luck,
Maegan

“Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood” by Ann Brashares

girlsinpantsI’ll admit, this book wasn’t as good to me as the others in the series so far. It wasn’t anything in particular, it just wasn’t as exciting as the other books. There were some exciting parts, but the book as a whole just felt like more of the same. There wasn’t much to set it apart.

This book follows Lena, Bridget, Tibby, and Carmen in their last summer before they go off to college. Lena is taking an art class, Bridget is a counselor at a soccer camp, Tibby is working a job she doesn’t particularly like, and Carmen is hired to babysit Lena’s grandmother from Greece. Also some family drama for Carmen. I won’t give it away.

Just like in the last book in the series, it feels like this one digs a little deeper into the main characters’ families instead of just the four girls. Their friendship is still as strong as ever, but I can’t help but wonder if it will stay so when they are all off living new collegiate lives. Only time will tell, I suppose.

Next up is “Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood.” I’m also on to “A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Vile Village” by Lemony Snicket. I apologize for mixing my series so much, but what can you do when all books demand to be read?

Until later,
Maegan