Tag Archives: genre: horror

The Grim Grotto Review

asoue_11The Grim Grotto (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 11) by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Bret Helquist

HarperCollins, 2004. 978-0064410144

Synopsis: Finally reunited, the Baudelaire orphans find themselves getting deeper and deeper into the mysteries of the V.F.D. and the potential importance of the notorious missing sugar bowl. When their journey takes them back to the scene of the first crime committed after the V.F.D. schism, the children find themselves at the behest of a very deadly fungus that will threaten their lives – and if they aren’t careful, the lives of the other volunteers in hiding.

Why I picked it up: The final season of the Netflix series premiered on January 1st!

Why I finished it: This book takes a definite break from the pattern of the earlier books by being largely devoid of any interactions with Count Olaf until toward the end of the story. I found it refreshing to focus a little bit more on the Baudelaires and their interactions with Captain Widdershins and his crew, as well as some new and old friends that Violet, Klaus, and Sunny encounter; though the danger element is significantly heightened when one of the children comes close to dying after exposure to the spores of a poisonous mushroom varietal, Snicket manages to whip up a rather heroic rescue. The humorous asides and breaks in the narrative fell short for me in this book, which is perhaps what Snicket was going for – he states several times that perhaps if he bores us to tears, we will put down the book and opt for different reading material – but there were some inconsistencies in these interludes that detracted from the usual spirit of the breaking of the fourth wall. I really enjoyed the bits about the codes and ciphers that were revisited in this volume and the continued role that the secret messages play as we near the end of the series. Things are inevitably coming to a head, but whether any definite conclusions will be drawn remains to be seen. Fans of the series will delight in hiding themselves away for a day as they devour the pages before jumping off to the next stage of the journey.

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 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 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

 

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The Slippery Slope Review

asoue_10The Slippery Slope (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 10) by Lemony Snicket; Illustrations by Bret Helquist

HarperCollins, 2003. 978-0064410137

Synopsis: Separated from their sister and hopelessly lost in the Mortmain Mountains, Violet and Klaus Baudelaire must continue toward the headquarters of the V.F.D and hope they will run into Count Olaf on the way. While the orphans are successful in finding both the headquarters and their odious former guardian, they also find the survivor of the fire – a person who turns out to be the unlikely ally they need to solve the mystery of the V.F.D.

Why I picked it up: The previous book ended on a literal cliff-hanger.

Why I finished it: The reader gets some more meat in this book as the Baudelaries uncover more pieces of the puzzle and find more answers to the mounting pile of questions about the V.F.D., which stands for (among other things) Volunteer Fire Department – an organization that, once upon a time, fought fires instead of setting them. Then, the mysterious Beatrice stole a sugar bowl belonging to Esmé Squalor and a schism developed between the members. At least, that is my understanding of the prelude to the story of the Baudelaire orphans. Snicket gives the sense that there is a little bit more to it than that, as the children uncover after they reach the V.F.D. headquarters. I have to say that I was a little bit surprised when I found out the identity of the survivor, but in the context of the story, the introduction of this character seems to make the most sense. In addition to a new ally and some new enemies, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny also encounter a couple of familiar faces: the obnoxious Carmelita Spats (The Austere Academy) and Bruce (who took away Uncle Monty’s reptiles in The Reptile Room). There is also an amusing bit in chapter 5, which digresses into a letter to Snicket’s sister that he has hidden in the manuscript of the book. It doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the book, but it was a humorous break in the action. Amid the continued instances of child abuse and dire circumstances, the Baudelaires seem to survive yet another encounter with Count Olaf using their wits and their faith in each other, which is perhaps the more uplifting hallmark of the series. Those readers that have enjoyed the series thus far will be rewarded with more trademark dark humor and another cliffhanger ending that will have them reaching for the next book posthaste.

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 Carnivorous Carnival (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 9) 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

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Harry Moon: Wand Paper Scissors Origin Review

harry_moon_1Harry Moon: Wand-Paper-Scissors Origin by Mark Andrew Poe, illustrations by Christina Weidman

Rabbit Publishers, 2017. 978-1943785599

Reviewer note: The Harry Moon and Honey Moon books are being re-released as The Amazing Adventures of Harry Moon and The Enchanted World of Honey Moon.

Synopsis: Harry Moon is up to his eyeballs in magic. In the small town of Sleepy Hollow where every day is Halloween night, his archenemy, Titus Kligore, has eyes on winning the annual Scary Talent Show. Harry’s sister, Honey Moon, says Harry needs better tricks so he finds a new and better magic wand. Still, Harry has a tough job ahead of him if he is going to steal the crown. He takes a chance on a magical rabbit who introduces him to the deep magic. Harry decides the best way forward is to “do no evil ” while the battle to defeat Titus goes epic.  – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: It’s marketed as a book with values and caters to kids with dyslexia.

Why I finished it: I’m always intrigued by stories of readers sharing ideas for books with authors, and in the case of Harry Moon, kids were asked what kids of values and messages they wanted in a book. While I cannot completely agree with all the messages the book sends (there is a rumor about students kissing teachers and a questionable relationship between the protagonist and his former babysitter), I was really drawn in by Harry’s commitment to ‘Do No Evil’. Bullying can be a big problem no matter what age you are, and the messages we send to kids about how to deal with bullying can have a huge impact on their world view and their self-esteem. Harry’s approach of making friends with Titus, even though Titus was pretty much a jerk, is bold and mature. I will acknowledge that it’s not always going to work, yet it promotes a step in the right direction. The other message I got out of the book is about finding the courage (magic) inside yourself to be able to make changes – both in your personal life and in the lives of others. I liked that Harry’s family is so open and honest with each other and they are a tightly knit group, and promoting environments where kids can be heard is integral to how they process both good and bad situations. There are several jokes that will go over the heads of some of the younger readers, but I think anyone that picks up the book will be pleasantly surprised. I will say that the beginning is weighed down with a lot of background, but once you get past that, the rest of the book was a quick read that can be enjoyed by readers of all levels.

Other related materials: Harry Moon: Halloween Nightmares by Mark Andrew Poe, illustrations by Christine Weidman; Harry Moon: First Light by Mark Andrew Poe, illustrations by Christine Weidman; Harry Moon: Harry’s Christmas Carol by Mark Andrew Poe, illustrations by Christine Weidman; Honey Moon: Dog Daze by Sofi Benitez, illustrations by Becky Minor; Honey Moon: A Scary Little Christmas by Sofi Benitez, illustrated by Becky Minor; The Bad Guys books by Aaron Blabey; Diary of A Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney

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The Trolls Will Feast! Review

creeps_2The Trolls Will Feast! (The Creeps #2) by Chris Schweizer

Amulet Books, 2016. 978-1419718823

Synopsis: In Pumpkins County, monster attacks are a common enough occurrence, but when Jarvis is attacked by an invisible monster, the Creeps know they’ve found their next case. Through Mitchell’s extensive monster expertise, the gang identifies the culprit: a Troll. Unfortunately, Trolls travel in packs. They hibernate together, and they feast on humans together. The tastiest type of human? Those who have been marinating in their own stress hormones. And there’s an awful lot of stress to go around these days, what with the town’s gossip site spewing out nonstop misinformation and alarmist messages. Could the Trolls be behind the county-wide breakdown in communication? With the town’s anxiety levels soaring off the charts, it’s up to the Creeps to find out—before the Trolls’ big feast. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: It’s that time of year again!

Why I finished it: Trolls are creatures that are at the center of many Halloween and folk tales, and I appreciated how Schweizer took some of the common beliefs about trolls and turned them on their head. To make the trolls invisible (unless you have been sprayed in the eyes with goat milk) makes the danger even more heightened for our heroes and the other citizens of Pumpkins County. Schweizer continues to build on the world he created in Night of the Frankenfrogs and even does some more exploration into the Creeps’ individual interests and abilities. I particularly liked seeing more of Jarvis’s gadgets and delving into Mitchell’s monster encyclopedia. The underlying message about believing in yourself really came out during the story’s climax and it helps to reinforce the idea that even though the Creeps seem weird to the rest of Pumpkins County, they’re really just a regular group of kids with more diverse interests that initially meets the eye. Schweizer’s use of muted colors in the art given the book a classic horror movie feel and grows more and more cinematic as the plot moves forward. If you read and enjoyed the first book in the series, this volume will be a treat – without any tricks!

Other related materials: Night of the Frankenfrogs (The Creeps #2) by Chris Schweizer; Curse of the Attack-O-Lanterns (The Creeps #3) by Chris Schweizer; The Crogan Adventures series by Chris Schweizer; The Notebook of Doom series by Troy Cummings; Brain Camp by Susan Kim, Laurence Klavan, and Faith Erin Hicks; Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier; Harry Moon books by Mark Andrew Poe; Honey Moon books by Sofi Benitez; The Graveyard Book  by Neil Gaiman; A Tale Dark & Grimm by Andrew Gidwitz; In A Glass Grimmly by Andrew Gidwitz; The Grimm Conclusion by Adam Gidwitz

 

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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.

 

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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

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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

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