“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

“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

“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

“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

“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