“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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“Turtles All the Way Down” by John Green

turtles-all-the-way-down-hd-cover-john-green.jpgOh, John Green books, how I love thee. I remember when I was a freshman in college and my roommate told me about this book that had just come out, “The Fault in Our Stars.” She let me borrow it and I became so emotionally attached to that book and those characters. I thought I would never read anything so profound again in my life.

I don’t think that “Turtles All the Way Down” is quite to that level, but it is still exceptional.

John Green has a way of writing about people that make it feel like they actually exist. Usually characters are predictable or too perfect or speak in a super eloquent manner that does not happen in real life, but the characters in this book are so real that it feels like John Green may have just been documenting the lives of a few teenagers he met.

The story is told from the perspective of Aza Holmes, when she has just found out that there is a $100,000 reward for information on the disappearance of Russell Pickett Sr., who is wanted for questioning after his company embezzled money (or something to that effect). Aza’s best friend Daisy wants to investigate, so they take a trip over to the Pickett estate, where Aza is reintroduced to Davis Pickett, who she has not seen in years.

A romance blossoms for both girls, but it is not sickeningly perfect, which I love about this book. All the while, Aza’s anxiety has her spinning down tightening thought spirals about a certain type of bacteria that her brain tells her will kill her.

At the end of the book, Aza is not magically *cured* from her anxiety, but I wouldn’t want her to be. The loose ends are all tied up, but the last pages make you question what happens in the future. I would be eager to read John Green’s thoughts on those last few paragraphs.

Another part of this book that I enjoy is that aside from everyone seeming like a real person, the book is super educational. Davis Pickett is super into astronomy, so he talks about stars and planets and meteor showers, Daisy writes Star Wars fan-fiction (not that I know much about Star Wars), and Aza is supremely educated on her microbes. It just makes me feel like the book dives deeper than it necessarily had to, but it makes it all the more pleasant to read.

Now that I’ve finished this book, I’ve added “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Looking for Alaska” to my list because John Green. I’m still wrapping up the “Series of Unfortunate Events” books and the collection of books written by Ann Brashares. Plus “The Glass Castle” but I will persist.

Bye for now,
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

“The Last Summer (of You and Me)” by Ann Brashares

Lastsummerbrashares“The Last Summer (of You and Me)” is the first book by Ann Brashares meant for a more adult audience, coming after the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” series. It chronicles the reunion of Alice, Riley, and Paul, who used to spend every summer together on Fire Island in New York and are now in their mid-twenties.

Alice is 21 and Riley’s little sister by about 4 years. Paul and Riley are the same age and have been best friends since they were babies. Alice and Riley are near opposites and they have very different relationships with Paul.

The story begins with Alice on the ferry dock waiting for Paul, who she hasn’t seen in three years. There’s some nervousness and some tension, but they fall back into the swing of how things used to be pretty quickly.

The book almost feels like two separate stories. The first follows these three reunited friends as they beach it up for a while, with a little romance thrown in for good measure. Then all at once we’re in a tragedy and there’s an illness that consumes everyone. No more happy times, and everyone’s life is changed.

I read this book over a couple of days at the beach while on vacation. It really is a good beach read because it is also about a beach. The characters are pretty likable, but they all have their quirks. Same with the secondary characters, like the parents and the new kids taking over the island.

Overall, it was a pretty good book. I’ve read in once before, but it’s been quite some time so I honestly didn’t even remember the plot before I cracked it open. The next book by Ann Brashares is “3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows.” I think it’s supposed to be the beginning of a series but it just never went past the first book. Maybe she still has plans for it. I am also now reading “Turtles All the Way Down” by John Green, which I have been very excited about for a while. And there’s the “Series of Unfortunate Events” books by Lemony Snicket that I still have to wrap up. I recently finished “The Slippery Slope,” so that post is coming shortly.

So many books, so little time,
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

“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

“The Second Summer of the Sisterhood” by Ann Brashares

5454This book, the second in a series of four, picks up the summer after the last book (“The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”) ended. The stories are only told throughout the summer, so we don’t know much of the characters’ lives during that time.

They’re set up that way because everything revolves around the Traveling Pants, which are only worn during summer. It’s pretty ironic that the only time these girls wear jeans is during the sweltering summer. Especially considering one of the rules of the pants is that you can never wash them. I mean ew.

But anyway, the four characters are Tibby, Lena, Carmen, and Bridget, and of course they have some shenanigans during the summer. Here’s what they are up to this go around:

  • Tibby — Attending some kind of summer film school at a college nearish. Friendzones one of her best friends and acts like a poser for a while. Offends her mother and then makes a documentary about Bailey, who she met the summer before.
  • Lena — Got a summer job at a clothing store (thanks to her mom) and then proceeds to be the worst employee ever. Has some boy drama, then has some more. Then has A LOT more. Mix in a little family tragedy.
  • Carmen — Rude to a boy who continuously tries to make an effort. Babysits some. Destroys the happiness of those around her.
  • Bridget — Up and decides to go to Alabama after she finds some letters from her maternal grandmother, who lives there, that her dad had been keeping from her. Lies about her identity, Grandma knew anyway.

My favorite story of these characters in this book is Bridget. I feel like she has the most change from the start of the book to the end. Plus she spends her summer in Alabama and I heart Alabama a lot. She stays in a town called Burgess, which I honestly didn’t know what a real place until I just looked it up and I lived in Alabama most of my life. But several places that I do know were mentioned, and it made me miss it a little.

It seems like there’s a little more about the relationships between the four main characters and their families in this book. The last book mainly focused on the girls themselves and the friendships they had with each other. So it was nice to get to dig a little deeper into who they are.

I haven’t started the third book in the series, “Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood,” but I will probably do so tomorrow. Plus I’m a little into “A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Ersatz Elevator” by Lemony Snicket. You know, that other series that I’m also reading.

Bye for now,
Maegan

“The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” by Ann Brashares

sisterhood-of-the-traveling-pants-book-coverI’m really not sure what made me want to reread this series, but it’s been on my mind lately. So about a week or two ago I started on this book, which is the first in a series of four.

For some reason, I remembered these books being much denser and taking much longer to read, but the chapters are not excessively long or anything and I think they come in right around 300 pages each.

I haven’t read the series in years, but I remembered the gist of things. Partly because I own both movies based off the series, which I’ll probably rewatch when I’m done reading the books.

The book centers on a group of four 16-year-old friends over the first summer of their lives where they will all be apart. The characters are somewhat stereotypical, but what are you gonna do? There’s sassy, Puerto Rican Carmen visiting her dad in South Carolina, discovering as she arrives that *surprise* he is engaged to some woman and lives with her and her two teenage kids; tall, thin, blond, sporty Bridget away at soccer camp in Mexico; “beautiful Lena,” who is spending the summer in Greece with her grandparents; and edgy, pierced-nose Tibby (short for Tabitha) who is stuck in their hometown working at a store called Wallman’s and I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be a play off of Walmart, Walgreen’s or both.

Basically the book starts off with Carmen casually buying a pair of jeans that she never intends to wear from a secondhand clothing store. The girls then discover that this one pair of jeans magically fits them all perfectly (not realistic at all) and they decide to mail them around from one person to the next until they’re back together at the end of the summer. Hence the traveling part of traveling pants.

Each character faces her own challenges through the summer, whether it’s boy drama, family drama, or the fact that Tibby meets and befriends a 12-year-old named Bailey who has leukemia. There is a pretty good amount of depth, but I’m sure it could go deeper. It works for the intended audience though.

I’ve already started reading book two, “The Second Summer of the Sisterhood,” and I’m about two-thirds of the way done with “A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Austere Academy” by Lemony Snicket. I’m trying really hard not to start another book before finishing these two series.

Wish me luck,
Maegan

“Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book” by Jennifer Donnelly

33412061I discovered this little number when I found the novelization of “Beauty and the Beast” and I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that it was an original story based off the same characters we all know and love.

This book occurs sometime after Belle is locked away in the Beast’s castle and before she realizes she has *feelings* for him. It happens right around the time the Beast presents his majestic library to Belle and she is smitten with it. One thing though, I don’t remember the “Here’s my library, Belle” scene happening in the same way in the novelization or either of the movies I’ve seen. So just a little discrepancy there.

Anyway, it starts with a prologue where sisters Death and Love are playing chess (with moving pieces, mind you; very Harry Potter-esque). The sisters make a bet, basically that Belle will fall in love with the Beast, when Death decides to tilt the odds in her own favor. She sends a book called “Nevermore” into the library, where obviously Belle is now spending all her time. Naturally, Belle stumbles upon the book and discovers that it’s enchanted and she can actually walk into the story (lost in the book, lol), which has been created just for her. Or so they tell her. But what the characters don’t tell her is that the countess she spends so much time with is Death and Death is really just trying to trap Belle in the story so she can never leave.

Kudos to Death because she knows exactly how to get Belle. She presents her with exotic acquaintances, travel opportunities, tasty treats, and even her father, who she hasn’t seen since she was locked away in the Beast’s castle. But eventually Belle realizes what is going on and tries to escape. At this point, the story gets a little horror feel to it, with all these animatronic puppets and marionettes chasing Belle and preventing her from leaving. There’s talk of their beady, glass eyes, and one just knocks his own head clean off after running into a wall (or other similar formidable opponent, tbh all I remember is the puppet decapitation). I’m telling you, it’s the stuff of nightmares.

But of course everything ends happily ever after. The biggest thing that bothered me about this book (and the other book and all the movies) is how disrespected the Beast is. I mean the man has a name. I’m pretty sure it’s Adam but I honestly don’t know because it is LITERALLY NEVER MENTIONED EVER. How hard is it to just say, “Hey bro, I know I’m a prisoner in your castle but it seems like we’re becoming friends, so what’s your name?”? Instead of just calling him *The Beast* all the time. I mean, I’m sure he doesn’t really appreciate it. He’s just trying to be liked by everyone, ‘kay?

Rant over. Now I’m into “A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Austere Academy” by Lemony Snicket and “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” by Ann Brashares. But hey, at least now I’m only reading two series at once so that’s progress, right? …Right?

Until next time,
Maegan