Tag Archives: genre: mystery

What’s On: A Series of Unfortunate Events, Season 3

series-of-unfortunate-events-s3A Series of Unfortunate Events, Season 3 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, Kitana Turnbull, Allison Williams, Dylan Kingwell, and Lucy Rush

Netflix, 2019.

Synopsis: Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire continue to search for answers about the mysterious organization V.F.D, the importance of the missing sugar bowl, and further discover the volatile nature of people as they race Count Olaf to the Last Safe Place.

The worst was saved for last, as the situation of the Baudelaire orphans continues to deteriorate. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny find themselves at numerous crossroads, both literally and figuratively, as they continue to find themselves in increasingly perilous events. Yet, these crossroads bring numerous revelations about the schism of VFD and the sad story that brought our characters to this moment in time. The cast is still as entertaining as ever and the writing is sharp, humorous, and dark while still leaving room for moments of brevity. Harris seems to really embrace his role as Count Olaf in all its ridiculousness and villainy, and his talent and range are on full display. The audience is treated to a large range of stars reprising their roles in this final season and fans of the books will be entertained by both the parallels and the deviations. And while there are some differences in the translation from page to screen, it still has the same dramatic tone and feel of the books that fans have come to fall in love with. Even though the series is at an end, it will be watched and re-watched over and over again.

 

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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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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 Miserable Mill Review

ASOUE_4The Miserable Mill (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 4) by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Bret Helquist

HarperCollins, 2000. 978-0064407694

Synopsis: When the Baudelaires are sent to Paltryville to work in a lumbermill, things begin to spiral downward quickly. Not only are they only allowed a stick of gum for lunch and paid in coupons they are unable to use, their guardian (whose name is apparently unpronounceable) seems to have little to no problem ignoring child labor laws. Plus, there is that mysterious structure on the main street that looks like an eerily familiar tattoo of a particularly monstrous villain….

Why I picked it up: The macabre humor seems to be growing on me.

Why I finished it: I don’t think I would still be four books into a series if I weren’t getting some sort of enjoyment out of it, but the notion of enjoying a series that highlights child abuse (among other things) still seems to be a bit uncomfortable to me. The macabre humor is definitely not for everyone, and I do feel somewhat better about my own life whenever I finish one of these books, which is probably part of the point. I don’t know of a reader that could claim their life is worse than that of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, but I digress. I appreciated the bit of irony of paying the lumbermill employees with coupons they are unable to use due to a lack of money and I was glad to see that there were at least a couple of characters that the children interact with that seem to be competent (gasp!). Mr. Poe is unfortunately still somewhat dull and aloof despite getting a promotion at the bank; probably part of the story, but I had hoped that perhaps we would see a little bit more character development – then again, there’s a few more books left to go in the series, so we’ll have to see. The books definitely give the intended audience a sense of empowerment, encouraging them to rely on their wits and come up with their own solutions to tricky problems much as the Baudelaires do, and for that, I have to give Snicket a lot of credit. Yes, children’s literature is supposed to convey some sort of subtle message to the reader and yes, the reader wants to be able to read about kids their own age having fabulous (or in this case, not so fabulous) adventures because it helps us relate to the rest of the world. The reader perhaps relates to Violet, Klaus, and Sunny because they feel ignored or stifled in some way and want to be able to show they are more than just whatever label they have been given. I’m starting to have more and more doubts about this having some sort of kind ending for our orphans, but perhaps I’ll be surprised.

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 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 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 Reptile Room Review

ASOUE_2The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 2) by Lemony Snicket, illustrations by Brett Helquist

HarperCollins, 1999. 978-0062796035

Synopsis: Now that Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are no longer living with Count Olaf, they feel like things are looking up. But their happiness is short-lived when they discover that Uncle Monty’s new assistant Stephano is Count Olaf in disguise – and he is still as determined as ever to get his hands on the Baudelaire fortune!

Why I picked it up: It makes me somewhat uncomfortable, but I’m somehow invested in finding out about the fates of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny.

Why I finished it: It seems natural to feel badly for the Baudelaires, since all of these terrible things keep happening to them and they appear to have little or no control over any of it. It’s a very literal case of the question of why bad things happen to good people. Sure, it is a thing that happens, but the Baudelaire children are truly getting the rough end of this whole orphan deal. And yet, the trio seems to persevere through the terrible circumstances that take place over the course of the plot. Like its predecessor, it has an ending that could be interpreted as somewhat happy, but since there are eleven more books to go that are all filled with equally horrible and harried adventures, the reader knows that there is still a long way to go. It may be true that Violet, Klaus, and Sunny can never really find a happy ending, especially with their hopes constantly hanging by a thread. I think what really keeps me reading is the fact that the reader can’t help but root for the orphans. They are intelligent and likable characters that somehow find the strength to keep going just one more step forward. Helquist’s art is a delightful mix of gothic and steampunk-ish, evoking images of a somewhat Carnie nature. The sketches throughout each chapter provide a nice break from the text and help to illustrate the people and places in which the Baudelaires find themselves. It’s a great mystery-horror novel that will no doubt captivate readers of all backgrounds.

Other related materials: The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1) 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 Acedemy (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 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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