16-20 75 Book Challenge – Snicket, Fry and Collins

16. The Grim Grotto – Lemony Snicket

At this point, I felt that the series started to lose momentum.  It’s not that the series hasn’t been absurd and over the top throughout, but I felt like there was a big tone shift to a sort of fantasy series rather than a mystery series.  In this book, the orphans end up on a submarine trying to find a missing sugar bowl that Olaf cannot be allowed to get to first.  Perhaps the sea just seems less Victorian than the rest of the series, but I didn’t enjoy it as much.  At the end of the book, the kid’s have once again lost allies and are fending for themselves.  B

“People aren’t either wicked or noble,” the hook-handed man said. “They’re like chef’s salad, with good things and bad things chopped and mixed together in a vinaigrette of confusion and conflict.”

17. The Penultimate Peril – Lemony Snicket

This book introduces a couple characters I wish they’d spent more time with — Daniel Denouement and Kit Snicket.  The kids learn a lot more about VFD and what went wrong and end up spying on any number of familiar faces from throughout the series.  They end up, however, joining forces with Count Olaf to escape being imprisoned or killed and the book ends with them adrift at sea with the count, but of their own choice, not as kidnapees.  B

As I am sure you know, when people say “It’s my pleasure”, they usually mean something along the lines of, “There’s nothing on Earth I would rather do less.

18. The End – Lemony Snicket

The final installment is sort of a Robinsoe Crusoe intrigue on an island out at sea.  This is perhaps the simplest of the books, in terms of perils faced and places seen.  It is the culmination of the theme of how people are morally ambiguous and that safety isn’t always to be preferred to freedom.  The conclusion of the story isn’t particularly satisfactory, but it suits Handler’s tone and worldview rather well.  B

Perhaps if we saw what was ahead of us, and glimpsed the crimes, follies, and misfortunes that would befall us later on, we would all stay in our mother’s wombs, and there would be nobody in the world but a great number of very fat, very irritated women.

19. Moab is my Washpot – Stephen Fry

If you haven’t heard me gush over my love for Stephen Fry before now, then you haven’t been paying attention.  He is the smartest, wittiest, funniest, fabulousest, darlingest man in all the world and my favorite celebrity personality perhaps ever.  Stephen Fry is truly a marvel and nothing makes this “how is this possible”ness of it more clear than this account of his first 20 years.  Fry was an upper middle class pampered little bastard — he compulsively stole, hoarded sweeties and was indulgently and unrelentingly self-loathing and loathsome.  No doubt some of this — particularly the crushing depression that led to his suicide attempt and crime spree that got him thrown in jail — was an early manifestation of his bipolar disorder and struggle with being gay and Jewish.  But it is stunning to read so accurate a telling of the embarrassing overflow of emotions that is adolescence, with all the warts and horror of that time so well fleshed out and described.  I cannot over-recommend this book.  A

Have quotes:

As I go clowning my sentimental way into eternity, wrestling with all my problems of estrangement and communion, sincerity and simulation, ambition and acquiescence, I shuttle between worrying whether I matter at all and whether anything else matters but me.

No adolescent ever wants to be understood, which is why they complain about being misunderstood all the time.

I have always disbelieved that Sicilian saying about revenge being a dish best served cold. I feel that–don’t you?–when I see blinking, quivering octogenarian Nazi war criminals being led away in chains. Why not then? It’s too late now. I want to see them taken back in time and punished then…Blame, certainly, is a dish only edible when served fresh and warm. Old blames, grudges and scores congeal and curdle and cause the most terrible indigestion.

20. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

I’ve had this book recommended to me by three separate book websites that I frequent, but no on I know has read it.  When I saw it for $5 on kindle I thought I might as well read it.  I’ve now finished the trilogy, they’re very good books.  They have a similarity in tone and concept to Battle Royale and Running Man but it’s hard to believe the book is only three years old, it reads as much a classic as The Giver.  A group of kids are selected each year to fight to the death for the entertainment of the populace and as a way to keep the underclasses under control.  The main character is a 16 year old girl from the poorest part of the country and she must pretend to be in love with a boy, manipulating his and the viewer’s emotions, to survive the games. A

11-15 75 Book Challenge – Lemony Snicket and Werleman

11. God Hates You, Hate Him Back – CJ Werleman

There’s a lot of interesting stuff in this book, but I can’t say that I really enjoyed it that mut tch.  I’m a big fan of snark and well-worded contempt — I’m pretty sure that’s generally considered a failing, particularly by the DBAD crowd, but I found myself really turned off by the tone of this book.  I suppose I should have known based on the title, buhe lack of restraint or particular cleverness in some of the commentary just bored me.  Perhaps because I was reading Jason Long’s book at the same time or perhaps because I had read most of the other sources he uses.  It does a very thorough job, chapter by chapter through the Bible, which is its greatest strength, and I certainly learned some interesting things, particularly about the New Testament, which I’ve never managed to absorb very thoroughly.  Werleman leans very heavily on Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris in this book, which I found tedious at times.  There were also some fairly basic grammatical and spelling errors.  It does heartily support my opinion that the judeochristianislamomormon god is a huge asshole.  If hell is the absence of that god’s capricious loathsome presence, sign me up.  C

12. The Vile Village – Lemony Snicket

Back in the dark days of thesis pre-pro at film school, a traumatic time I’ve almost succeeded in erasing from my memory, I started listening to the Lemony Snicket books on tape because I’d really enjoyed the film.  I only got through the sixth in the 13 book long series before film school ate my brains.  I never went back to finish them, but I found the kindle copies for free, so I thought I’d pick them back up and hopefully I remembered what I’d listened to three years ago.  Surprisingly, I remembered it like I’d just finished the books yesterday, which makes me worry about my actual ability to scrub the horrors of film school from my brain.  If you’ve been under a rock, the series follows the Baudelaire orphans who stand to inherit a large fortune but are constantly hunted by the evil Count Olaf, who wants to steal it.  They have a lot of dark adventures which inevitably lead to tragedy and loss.  They also slowly uncover evidence of a massive conspiracy that they are somehow at the center of.  In The Vile Village they’ve escaped from Olaf at a horrible boarding school, but he’s kidnamed their only friends, the Quagmire triplets, two welathy orphans who lost their parents and third triplet in a mysterious fire.  The Baudelaire’s are adopted by an entire village which is filled with crows and which proceeds to turn them into chore slaves.  They get messages from the triplets and proceed to rescue them and nearly escape on a balloon — the Quagmire’s make it to freedom, but the Baudelaire’s do not, and are forced to run across a great nothingness to escape Olaf and the village.  These books are hard to review — they’re gothic mystery books for kids, fast-paced, full of adventure, and very dark — if that sounds appealing then you’ll love them.  A

A cloud of dust is not a beautiful thing to look at. Very few painters have done portraits of huge clouds of dust or included them in their landscapes or still lifes. Film directors rarely choose huge clouds of dust to play the lead roles in romantic comedies, and as far as my research has shown, a huge cloud of dust has never placed higher than twenty-fifth in a beauty pageant.

13. The Hostile Hospital – Lemony Snicket

In this episode, the orphans end up at a hospital trying to learn more about VFD, the mysterious organization it seems both Olaf and their parents were a part of.  Olaf finds them and tries to cut off Violet’s head, but the orphans discover that someone survived the fire and end up escaping by getting into the trunk of Olaf’s car.  THis isn’t quite as riveting and the extras not as colorful or lovable as in the other books.  B+

There are many things in this world I do not know. I do not know how butterflies get out of their cocoons without damaging their wings. I do not know why anyone would boil vegetables when roasting them is much tastier. I do not know how to make olive oil, and I do not know why dogs bark before an earthquake, and I do not know why some people voluntarily choose to climb mountains where it is freezing and difficult to breathe, or live in the suburbs, where the coffee is watery and all of the houses look alike.

14. The Carnivorous Carnival – Lemony Snicket

The kids end up at a carnival with freaks and a fortune teller.  They disguise themselves as freaks and find an alley who ends up turning on them and then getting eaten by lions.  They are kidnapped by Olaf and stolen away after being forced to set fire to the carnival and to a room which may have answers to many of their questions.  THis book introduces some moral ambiguity, which becomes a key theme for the rest of the series, and the characters in the books therefore become a lot more interesting, complex and confusing.  A

The sad truth is that the truth is sad.

Miracles are like meatballs because nobody knows what they are made of, where they came from or how often they should appear.

15. The Slippery Slope – Lemony Snicket

This is my favorite of the series.  It introduces Quigley, the previously thought dead Quagmire triplet and survivor of the fire, and the kids learn a lot about the VFD organization.  There’s a little young romance, plenty of adventure and mystery, and more moral questions about the backgrounds and fates of the characters.  The kids escape Olaf, but get separated from Quigley at the end.  A

Having an aura of menace is like having a pet weasel, because you rarely meet someone who has one, and when you do it makes you want to hide under the coffee table.

Why I Write for Children; Why I love Children’s Media

Daniel Handler aka Lemony Snicket knows that children have the best appreciation for the imagination at work.

I’m not there because I subscribe to the specious and lunkheaded notion that children are unspoiled spouters of true wisdom. (Let’s mothball that idea, next to the one that African-Americans are inherently rhythmic and Latinas can’t be on the Supreme Court.) I’m merely looking for the most interesting conversationalists. If I could find an adult icebreaking with “Last night I dreamed I was a horse” or “Tree frogs have big eyes,” I’d drink with them instead.

SAM: The little man walking down the street and he doesn’t see a dinosaur walking by.  And he eats him.  *delighted cackle*

Simple, emotional, exactly as complicated as the story needs to be.  Go watch Sam.  He likes Stegosauruses.  Me too.

Natalie Dee

Natalie Dee

Stegosaurus Car

Stegosaurus Car

Busted Tees.  Never Forget Dinosaurs.

Busted Tees. Never Forget Dinosaurs.