What’s On: A Series of Unfortunate Events, Season 2

series-of-unfortunate-events-s2A Series of Unfortunate Events, Season 2 starring Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Warburton, Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes, Presley Smith, K. Todd Freeman, Usman Ally, Jacqueline Robbins, Joyce Robbins, Matty Cardaropole, John DeSantis, Sara Rue, and Lucy Rush

Netflix, 2018.

Synopsis: Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire continue to search for answers about the fire that killed their parents, an apparent survivor of the fire, and the mysterious organization V.F.D as they are pursued by Count Olaf and his acting troupe.

Season Two begins with the Baudelaire orphans waiting in the office of Prufrock Preparatory School to be seen by the vice principal. In fact, they have been waiting there so long, Klaus (Louis Hynes) notes, that Sunny (Presley Smith) is now a toddler rather than an infant. Nothing like a bit of light humor to start off a much darker series of events for both the Baudelaire children and the audience. What I appreciate about the series is that the characters are being moved around in such a way that we become invested in their fates – in the books, many of the people the Baudelaires encounter are simply around for the duration of the book and then drop off, never to be seen again. For example, the librarian at Prufrock (Sara Rue) is recruited by Jacques Snicket (Nathan Fillon) as a V.F.D. member and is seen in later episodes aiding Violet, Klaus, and Sunny. The audience is also more easily able to follow the journey of the notorious sugar bowl that was the catalyst for the events now occurring; it is seen repeatedly in the possession of a mystery female whom we are being lead to believe may be the survivor of the fire that killed the Baudelaire parents. The added musical numbers performed by Count Olaf and his troupe are delightfully amusing, especially given the rather dire and depressing nature of the series. And while this season ends on a literal cliffhanger (a fact that I am sure will not go unnoticed at the beginning of the next season), the audience is still somewhat prepared for further trouble to come, though we know not yet what forms it will take.

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Media: Television, reviews

The Carnivorous Carnival Review

ASOUE_9The Carnivorous Carnival (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 9) by Lemony Snicket; Illustrations by Bret Helquist

HarperCollins, 2002. 978-0064410120

Synopsis: When Violet, Klaus, and Sunny find themselves at the Calgari Carnival and are forced to disguise themselves as freaks to hide from Count Olaf, the orphans feel like they have fallen even further into despair. Then Olaf announces that one of the freaks will be fed to a heard of hungry lions in order to increase ticket sales.

Why I picked it up: I’m invested….

Why I finished it: As promised, the situation for the Baudelaries continues to deteriorate to the point where the roles are now reversed, and the children are now having to use disguises to try and hide themselves from Olaf. And just when the situation seems the direst, it gets even worse. One of the Baudelaire parents may still be alive after the fire, but it is going to take all the children’s courage and daring to be able to escape from Olaf and figure out how to reunite with the survivor of the fire. The revelation that the answers Violet, Klaus, and Sunny desire about the mysterious V.F.D. are right under their noses proves not to be as big of a help to them as they thought especially when they learn that the fortune teller that will give them what they want is just as unscrupulous as Olaf himself. The plot had a good flow to it, and it kept the action moving along better than in some of the previous books. It seems strange to say that Snicket has finally found his stride, but as depressing as the stories seem to be getting, the more enjoyable they are to read. The Baudelaires lives are unlikely to get better any time soon, but maybe they will be able to find out something that will help them survive their continually worsening circumstances.

Other related materials: The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 2) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Wide Window (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 3) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Miserable Mill (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 4) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Austere Academy (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 5) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Ersatz Elevator (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 6) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Vile Village (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 7) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Hostile Hospital (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 8) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Slippery Slope (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 10) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Grim Grotto (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 11) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Penultimate Peril (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 12) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The End (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 13) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Beatrice Letters by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Brett Helquist; Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography by Lemony Snicket; All The Wrong Questions series by Lemony Snicket; The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Caron Ellis, music by Nathaniel Stookey; The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart, illustrated by Carson Ellis

Leave a comment

Filed under reviews

The Hostile Hospital Review

ASOUE_8The Hostile Hospital (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 8) by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Bret Helquist

HarperCollins, 2001. 978-0064408660

Synopsis: Framed for a crime they didn’t commit, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire find themselves hiding out in the half-built Heimlich Hospital with the V.F.D. (Volunteers Fighting Disease). They have a stroke of luck when the three children volunteer to work in the Library of Records at the hospital, where they are able to uncover a shocking secret about the fire that killed their parents.

Why I picked it up: As I have said before, I apparently am enjoying these rather morbid adventures.

Why I finished it: Okay, so, things are starting to look truly dire for the Baudelaire orphans. They are on the run, wanted for murder, trying to hide from Count Olaf and Esmé, they are unable to get in touch with Mr. Poe, and they still have no hints about the meaning of V.F.D. The children seem to find a momentary solace in the Library of Records, which is of course ruined with the appearance of Esmé, whom it turns out is after the same mysterious Snicket file that could give the Baudelaries the answers to their many questions. More puzzle pieces click into place for both the characters and the reader, as we discover that Count Olaf is using anagrams in order to hide incriminating evidence and that the “V” in V.F.D. stands for “Volunteer”, per the few notes the orphans are able to decipher from the remains of the Quagmire’s notebooks. We still have yet to find out more about Beatrice, the missing sugar bowl, and the role Beatrice’s theft of the sugar bowl that lead to this series of unfortunate events. The timeline felt somewhat haphazard in this book, but I can’t put my finger on why exactly the timing of events is bothering me. Maybe it’s because there is less of the chase element between Olaf and the orphans, and now it has become a game of hide and seek. What fate holds for our heroes, I cannot say, but I have no doubt that they will be able to somehow survive these truly dire circumstances.

Other related materials: The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 2) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Wide Window (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 3) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Miserable Mill (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 4) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Austere Academy (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 5) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Ersatz Elevator (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 6) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Vile Village (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 7) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Carnivorous Carnival (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 9) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Slippery Slope (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 10) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Grim Grotto (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 11) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Penultimate Peril (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 12) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The End (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 13) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Beatrice Letters by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Brett Helquist; Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography by Lemony Snicket; All The Wrong Questions series by Lemony Snicket; The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Caron Ellis, music by Nathaniel Stookey; The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart, illustrated by Carson Ellis

Leave a comment

Filed under reviews

The City of Ember: The Graphic Novel Review

city_of_ember_graphic_novelThe City of Ember: The Graphic Novel by Jeanne DuPrau, adapted by Dallas Middaugh, art by Niklas Asker

Random House Books for Young Readers, 2012. 978-0375867934

Synopsis: It is said that the city of Ember is the only light in the dark world. Without Ember’s great lamps, the darkness would last forever. Now, the lights are flickering, and supplies are running low. When Lina and Doon find an mysterious document that might hold the answer, they must decipher its meaning before it’s too late. – from the back cover

Why I picked it up: I loved the non-graphic novel version and I was curious about the adaptation.

Why I finished it: This is one in a long line of post-apocalyptic stories that have come out in the last ten years that has made an impression on myself as well as other readers. It combines elements from the classics The Giver, A Wrinkle in Time, The Wizard of Oz and others, yet DuPrau manages to give the story its own distinctive mark. Lina and Doon are young people fighting against a system that their community is gradually coming to see as broken, both figuratively and literally. They are not extraordinary children, but they are clever, and it is this cleverness and resourcefulness that endears them to the reader. Middaugh’s adaptation captures the contrasting desperation and hope of the original novel, while Asker’s art brings to life the decaying city and the eventual illumination of Lina and Doon’s discovery of a world beyond the surrounding darkness. Asker uses muted colors that give each page a sort of sepia tone, as though the reader is perusing an old family photo album and truly capturing the journey from darkness into the light. I would recommend this book for fans of the novel and of course, for a reluctant reader. It’s a quick read that is sure to engage from the first page to the last.

Other related materials: The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau; The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau; The Prophet of Yonwood by Jeanne DuPrau; The Diamond of Darkhold by Jeanne Du Prau; A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel by Madeline L’Engle, adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson; Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel by Eoin Colfer, adapted by Andrew Donkin, art by Giovanni Rigano; The Hobbit graphic novel by J.R.R. Tolkien, adapted by Charles Dixon, illustrations by David Wenzel; The Golden Compass: The Graphic Novel by Philip Pullman; Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel adapted by Mariah Marsden, illustrated by Brenna Thummler; Coraline: The Graphic Novel by Neil Gaiman, adapted and illustrated by P. Craig Russell; The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel by Neil Gaiman, adapted and illustrated by P. Craig Russell;  The Wizard of Oz: The Graphic Novel by L. Frank Baum, adapted and illustrated by Michael Cavallaro; Zita the Spacegirl books by Ben Hatke; Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi

Leave a comment

Filed under reviews

Feature Presentation: The Incredibles 2

incredibles_2The Incredibles 2 starring the voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Catherine Keener, Eli Fucile, Bob Odenkirk, Michael Bird, Sophia Bush, and Brad Bird

Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios, 2018. Rated PG

WARNING: There are VERY intense strobe effects in this movie. Be careful, this could cause an epileptic seizure or affect those with seizure disorders!!!

Synopsis: Having heard about the superheroes’ illegal antics to save their city, a high-powered executive at Devtech offers Elastigirl/Helen Parr a chance to help bring supers back into the light by showcasing crimefighting from her point of view. But while she’s off saving the world, Bob must figure out a way to care for their children without losing his mind.

The sequel literally picks up where the first movie left off with the Underminer’s attack and the Parr family donning their super suits to save the day – turns out, this does not go according to plan and the family is left cut off from their government protection program. When Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, and Frozone are approached by the Deavor siblings of Devtech, it appears that there is an apparent solution to their problem. The parallel plotlines deal with Elastigirl’s efforts to save the city from a new villain Screenslaver and Bob/Mr. Incredible’s struggles with being a stay-at-home dad. One particularly amusing scene involves Bob attempting to help Dash with his math homework; Dash criticizes his father for not doing it correctly and Bob throwing up his hands in frustration that they have apparently “changed math”. Bob also has some further trouble when he discovers Jack-Jack DOES have powers – multiple powers, in fact – that make the baby difficult to manage. Screenslaver’s use of hypnosis to control people on an individual level and on a mass level has some definite meat to it in terms of how it relates to the amount of screen time the movie characters and the audience experiences. It seems to send an underlying message about how attached we are to our computers, phones, and televisions and that the art of having a face-to-face conversation seems to be all but lost – a commentary the audience has no doubt heard before. Sadly, the villain reveal for me was not all that surprising, then again, it was hard to tell if it was meant to be a surprise since there were a fair amount of hints dropped in the first half of the film. The humor will be enjoyed by both kids and adults, though most of the humor seems to be aimed at adult-ish issues. There are sequences in which Violet and Dash experiment with being able to control and track their baby brother’s powers that are very much kid humor, along with a scene in which Jack-Jack has a battle with a raccoon that is raiding the Parr’s garbage cans. Overall, it was a solid sequel that will be enjoyed by viewers of all ages, though expect there to be varying reviews among adults.

Leave a comment

Filed under Media: Movies, reviews

The Vile Village Review

ASOUE_7The Vile Village (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 7) by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Bret Helquist

HarperCollins, 2001. 978-0064408653

Synopsis: With Mr. Poe running out of guardians, he decides to entrust the Baudelaire orphans to the V.F.D. (Village of Fowl Devotees) as part of the “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child” campaign. However, the village is not as keen to raise Violet, Klaus, and Sunny after they are accused of murdering Count Olaf (who is really Jacques Snicket) by the famous Detective Dupont (who is really Count Olaf in disguise). The children have also been finding mysterious couplets hinting that the Quagmire triplets are nearby, but with few clues to go on and the town coming after them, the orphans will have to work a miracle to find their friends and escape the village.

Why I picked it up: What’s the opposite of Schadenfreude?

Why I finished it: It becomes clear quickly that the V.F.D. has no real inkling of what the aphorism “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child” really means, making all the townspeople – with perhaps the exception of the caretaker Hector – seem brutish and impotent. Violet is quick to point out that having the village raise them does not entail that they do all of the townspeople’s chores, but this does little to deter the Council of Elders (a group of older citizens with crows decorating their hats) and make their situation any more tolerable. The villagers are also fans of the children being seen but not heard, which makes it difficult for the Baudelaires to prove they are innocent of murdering Jacques Snicket. The adults in the book are still predictably incompetent, but this again helps Violet, Klaus, and Sunny shine through with their wit and know-how. The Quagmire Triplets, although they do not make an appearance until the close of the book, are equally clever in their means of communicating their whereabouts to the Baudelaires. Snicket also takes a stab at slant journalism, though it doesn’t seem to add much depth to the story and merely serves to highlight the adult agenda. Fans of the series are sure to enjoy the continuation of this marvelously morbid series, though I am beginning to suspect that there is little hope the Baudelaire children will find any sort of respite.

Other related materials: The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 2) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Wide Window (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 3) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Miserable Mill (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 4) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Austere Academy (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 5) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Ersatz Elevator (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 6) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Hostile Hospital (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 8) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Carnivorous Carnival (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 9) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Slippery Slope (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 10) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Grim Grotto (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 11) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Penultimate Peril (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 12) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The End (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 13) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Beatrice Letters by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Brett Helquist; Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography by Lemony Snicket; All The Wrong Questions series by Lemony Snicket; The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Caron Ellis, music by Nathaniel Stookey; The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart, illustrated by Carson Ellis

Leave a comment

Filed under reviews

Happy Independence Day 2018!

Happy-independence-day-america-2014 (1)

Happy Independence Day 2018!

As we remember the 242nd anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, it’s hard not for me to be reminded about how privileged we are to live in a nation where there is so much opportunity for its citizens. It is not always easy to see these advantages, but in light of current world events, Americans should be so lucky we are living in a land of forward-thinking problem solvers that make this nation great – not unlike the men who founded this nation.

I’ve compiled a list of both historical fiction and non-fiction books that tell the stories of the people and events that shaped our country. It’s by no means exhaustive, but it should be enough to get a conversation started.

However you celebrate the holiday, have fun and be safe!

General History

A History of US: The First Americans: Prehistory – 1600 (A History of US, Book 1) by Joy Hakim; 978-0195327151

A History of US: Making Thirteen Colonies: 1600-1740 (A History of US, Book 2) by Joy Hakim; 978-0195327168

A History of US: From Colonies to Country: 1735-1791 (A History of US, Book 3) by Joy Hakim; 978-0195327175

The American Revolution for Kids: A History with 21 Activities by Janis Herbert; 978-1556524561

The Story of America’s Birthday by Patricia A. Pingry, illustrations by Meredith Johnson; 978-0824918941

Guts & Glory: The American Revolution by Ben Thompson; 978-0316312097

American Revolution: A Nonfiction Companion to Revolutionary War on Wednesday by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce, illustrated by Sal Murdocca; 978-0375823794

The Fourth of July Story by Alice Dalgliesh, illustrated by Marie Nonnast; 978-0689718762

The People

Squanto: Friend Of The Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla, illustrated by Peter Buchard; 978-0590440554

The Loyalists and The Patriots: The Revolutioary War Factions by Baby Professor; 978-1541911093

George Vs. George: The American Revolution as Seen From Both Sides by Rosalyn Schanzer; 978-1426300424

Who Was Abigail Adams? by True Kelley, illustrations by John O’Brien; 978-0448478906

Who Was Betsy Ross? by James Buckley Jr., illustrations by John O’Brien; 978-0448482439

Who Was Ben Franklin? by Dennis Brindell Fradin, illustrations by John O’Brien; 978-0448424958

George Washington, Spymaster: How the Americans Outspied the British and Won the Revolutionary War by Thomas B. Allen

A Voice of Her Own: The Story of Phillis Wheatley, Slave Poet by Kathryn Lasky, illustrations by Paul Lee; 978-0763660918

The Role of Women in The American Revolution by Baby Professor; 978-1541911109

One Dead Spy (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales, Book 1) by Nathan Hale; 978-1419703966

Lafayette! (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales, Book 8) by Nathan Hale; 978-1419731488

Alexander Hamilton: The Outsider by Jean Fritz; 978-0142419861

Aaron and Alexander: The Most Famous Duel in American History by Don Brown; 978-1596439986

Major Events

What Was The Boston Tea Party? by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Lauren Mortimer; 978-0448462882

You Wouldn’t Want to Be at The Boston Tea Party: Wharf Tea You’d Rather Not Drink by Peter Cook, illustrated David Anstram; 978-0531238561

Colonial Voices: Hear Them Speak by Kay Winters, illustrated by Larry Day; 978-0147511621

Liberty! How The Revolutionary War Began by Lucille Recht Penner, illustrations by David Wenzel; 978-0375822001

What Is The Declaration of Independence? by Michael C. Harris, illustrated by Jerry Hoare; 978-0448486925

What Is The Constitution? By Patricia Brennan Demuth, illustrated by Tim Foley; 978-1524786090

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Lists