Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Reviews #177-181

To save some time, since we’re running out of it, time for me to play catch-up as well.


#177, The Wig in the Window by Kristen Kittscher: 2 stars.

#178, Earth (The Book): A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race by Jon Stewart: 2 stars.

#179, Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli: 2 stars.

#180-1, The Reptile Room and The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket: 1 star.


Reviews are also forthcoming for Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon and One Day, both of which were an improvement upon this recent fare.

Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #153: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket


My problem with this is the same as the one I had with Brandon Sanderson’sAlcatraz series, which is that I don’t think it was as clever as it thought it was. Of course it’s not going to have a happy ending. The series is named A Series of Unfortunate Events. What else would you expect? You don’t need to keep reminding us that things are going to keep going wrong in the life of the Baudelaire children. That much is understood from the first page.

Likewise, I could do without the forced cleverness, such as the definitions we get on seemingly every page. Just stop and get on with telling us their (tragic) story already. After a while, I hoped it would actually go the way of an Alacatrazbook, with the story going against what the narrator’s been telling you all this time. That would have been unexpected; this not having a happy ending is not.

To its fans, I apologize, but I’ll stick with the movie starring Jim Carrey. With that, I can at least appreciate how devoted Carrey is to his role, and the overall look of the film.

The Scruffy Rube’s #CBR5 Review #20: Who Could That Be at This Hour?

Blahblahblah shameless plug, blahblahblah please read my other writing, blahblahblah here’s the link: The Scruffy Rube.

I don’t know where to begin with Lemony Snicket’s (aka Daniel Handler’s) newest foray into the world of the series. “A Series of Unfortunate Events”, whose weird and wild sense of mystery incorporated a plethora of new vocabulary words and a huge helping of literary, scientific and philosophical allusions, offered an exciting alternative to the Boy Scout of Hogwarts. And after the final book (fittingly titled The End) Handler seemed all too happy to walk away from Snicket, satisfying himself with silly one offs like the hilariously Hannukkah-themed Latka Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming.


Yet Snicket is back in a series titled “All the Wrong Questions” which begins with Who Could That Be at This Hour? A prequel of sorts that throws us into the world of Snicket before he was simply the chronicler of the Baudelaire triplets’ exploits, WCTBATH takes us to an odd setting, filled with odd adults and odd children in which only our protagonist can offer a rational perspective.


There’s plenty of mystery and vocabulary to play around with, and even a few well chosen allusions (though, since Snicket is a child at this stage he only alludes to classic children’s literature). But there’s simply no core to the characters. Snicket always remained mysterious, aloof and distant as the narrator of “A Series of Unfortunate Events” so you don’t really know him, and you don’t particularly care about him in this book. Nor do you have any fear about what will happen to him, because, obviously he goes on to a whole other series in a few years.


Having a big walking question mark as your protagonist leaves you hoping that supporting cast members will carry the load, but there’s none of the quirky magic that filled “A Series of Unfortunate Events”. No random lectures on Herpetology or digressions into goofy divinations, instead there’s just a pack of local people who lack an ounce of the depth you find in the other series.


When clever characterization is stripped away, all that is left is a pile of authorial idiosyncrasies and a plot so wrapped up in mystery that you’re not only unsure about what happens, but unsure why you should care. As a fan of Snicket’s/Handler’s, I was truly disappointed to reach that conclusion.


Here’s hoping I missed something, that some commenter will correct me, that someone somewhere out there knows why an authorial encore should be cheered for and applauded every bit as loudly as the first finale. Please, tell me I’m wrong.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review #40 – The Grim Grotto by Lemony Snicket

Almost there. . . . Book 11 of 13 finds the Baudelaires in peril once again. Of course. They literally bump into a home-made submarine, driven by Captain Widdershins. I had to look that one up, because the term sounded familiar. I was right – it means to go counterclockwise, or against the sun. In olden times it was a bad thing to walk widdershins around a church or in other places. To do so could land one in faerie, or even worse. Foreshadowing, or just goofing around? Good question. The Captain is kind of a jerk, who says “aye” all too often and whose motto is “he (or she) who hesitates is lost.”

Also aboard is a guy the kids knew at the lumbermill they worked at in one of the earlier books. He’s the ship’s cook. The Captain’s stepdaughter Fiona is there too, and she and Klaus take a shine to one another. The sub (the Queequeg – named after the Moby Dick harpoon guy) is looking for a sugar bowl that is an object of much desire and pursuit, by the good and the bad guys. They end up following the currents to an underground cave, to Gorgonion Grotto – named after the Gorgons of Greek mythology. Why? Well, there are some mushrooms growing there that are very Medusa-like in appearance and deadliness.

The kids hit the grotto to try to find the sugar bowl, encounter the ‘shrooms, and bad things happen. As ever. This isn’t the series of fortunate events. Anyway, the usual baddies make their appearance, and some unknown family ties are revealed. The book is exactly the same as all the others, with slight variations on the peril. It’s still an entertaining read, but I need to take a break before I tackle the last two.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review #38 – The Slippery Slope by Lemony Snicket

Ah, the tenth in the Series of Unfortunate Events. We’re nearing the end. Each book has 13 chapters, and there are 13 books in the series. However, we’re still dealing with the mess that is the lives of the Baudelaire siblings. The worst thing possible has just happened to them at the end of The Carnivorous Carnival: Violet and Klaus are rolling back downhill in a caravan, whilst Olaf and his gang continue to drive uphill with Sunny. The poor baby. Happily, Sunny is a pretty clever and resourceful baby, but she’s still forced to deal with the awful group, and sleep in a casserole dish.

Meanwhile, Violet and Klaus try to get up the hill to rescue their sister. They meet someone they believed was dead (not one of their parents, but I won’t spoil anything just in case), and come upon the burned-out remains of the VFD headquarters. They get some information in the ruins, and continue up the mountain to save Sunny. They all use their talents to achieve things, with Violet inventing, Klaus reading, and Sunny biting stuff and saying funny words. She also cooks for the baddies, and finds she has a facility for it. Oh, and they run into their old nemesis from the Austere Academy, that nasty chick who calls everyone cakesniffers (whatever that means. I personally love to smell cake, so I’m not sure what her problem is).

The kids end up together, and (thanks to Sunny’s suggestion of “Rosebud”) they use a toboggan to escape from the nasties. As they’re riding the sled down a thawing waterfall, they lose their friend – I wonder if they’ll find him again?!

The stories are fun to read, but I’m wondering if the choice to read them back to back (to back to back . . .) was wise. I’m getting a bit burned out on them, if you haven’t noticed. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel – I only hope that it’s not a train coming for the Baudelaires.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review #37 – The Carnivorous Carnival by Lemony Snicket

The Baudelaires escaped the Hostile Hospital (which was kind of in the middle of nowhere) in the trunk of Count Olaf’s car (bold move). As Olaf and his troupe of baddies drive into the hinterlands to meet with a psychic that’s been feeding Olaf information about the Baudelaires. When they arrive, the kids need to figure out how to either escape (impossible, they’re in the middle of nowhere) or blend in. But how to blend?

Luckily enough, the carnival also has a freak show. So the kids disguise themselves (no better than Olaf ever did, but in these books people aren’t especially bright) as freaks: Sunny wears a long beard wrapped all around herself and becomes Chabo the Wolf Baby; Violet & Klaus share one shirt and become Beverly and Eliot, the two-headed freak. So they get taken on as part of the freak show, and bond with the freaks. They also get to know the psychic, who isn’t all that she seems. Of course Olaf does what he does, and bad things happen.

I apologize if my reviews all sound very similar regarding these books, but if you’ve read them, you know that they are pretty similar, aside from the various types of peril the kids are in. I honestly have no idea how the series ends, but I do sincerely hope that the kids get some kind of resolution.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review #36 – The Hostile Hospital by Lemony Snicket

The eighth installment in the Series of Unfortunate Events picks up right where #7 (The Vile Village) left off. The kids are on the run from the nuts from the Village of Fowl Devotees, in a desolate wasteland. They happen upon a store, and try to contact Mr. Poe. The events of the previous few books have been reported in The Daily Punctilio, the newspaper in this world that always gets everything wrong. Unfortunately, there are pictures of the Baudelaires, so they’re definitely in danger of being caught. In fact, the first time this happens is at the store, but they escape by getting a ride with the “Volunteers Fighting Disease” – yet another V.F.D.

This VFD is heading to a hospital to sing stupid songs and hand sick people balloons, because apparently that’s better than medicine. Anyway, the kids end up working in the records room (or library, as it’s called, so Klaus has a purpose). They play a dirty trick on the mostly blind library guy, so they can get a look at the Snicket file, which supposedly contains information about their parents’ death (and if someone survived the fire).

Of course that nasty Count Olaf shows up in “disguise,” along with his nasty girlfriend Esme Squalor. They chase the kids down, and this time it’s Violet in peril. The younger Baudelaires come to her rescue, to a point, and the kids once again make it out alive. Alive, but not necessarily happy.

Again, one of the funner things about these books is to pick out the cultural references and Sunny-isms. Sometimes I have to look them up, but that’s part of the fun as well. I’m only slightly embarrassed by reading these books as an adult, but my excuse is that they didn’t come out until I was an adult, so it’s not like I had a choice.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review # 35 – The Vile Village by Lemony Snicket

The seventh book in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events starts with the Baudelaire kids being sent out into the wicked world again by the useless Mr. Poe. He’s a big believer in the “it takes a village to raise a child” concept, so off they go to the village of V.F.D. As you know, the kids received a clue from the Quagmire triplets (both of them) regarding V.F.D. and the death of everyone’s parents.

The village is filled with jerky, selfish idiots who follow a goofy rule book. Oh, and they also worship (sort of) the crows that blanket half of the village every day. The crows roost in the Nevermore tree at night. The tree is in the yard of the only slightly sane person, Hector the handyman. The kids are placed with him so they can do everyone’s chores. The Baudelaires find a clue that could only have come from the Quagmires, so they begin investigating, knowing that if the Quagmires are nearby they could only have been put there by the evil Count Olaf.

Of course Count Olaf is there in disguise, and makes life miserable for the Baudelaires. They end up in jail, falsely accused of the murder of Jacques Snicket (!). Of course Violet invents a way out, Klaus reads a bunch of books that help, and Sunny bites stuff. She also says odd things, and one of the fun bits of the books is trying to figure out where Sunny’s words come from.

Bad things happen, some good things happen, but at the end the Baudelaires end up alone and in trouble, and parentless. Again.

Petalfrog’s #CBR5 #2: A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

I’ve long been a fan of the quirkier children’s books. Roald Dahl has always been my favorite. He has a way of putting kids in awful situations and bringing a wacky sense of humour and resilience to them. He introduces crazy situations, and the kids always pull through. So, when I saw the first in A Series of Unfortunate Events was on wicked sale on I jumped right on it.

This book certainly featured kids in an awful situation. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are three happy and life-loving kids. When their parents die tragically in a house fire, they are sent to live with their distant relative, the mean and somewhat sociopathic Count Olaf. The kids quickly realize Count Olaf is working on a plot to get to their extensive inheritance. The story is a quick read (167 pages), and I found my heart breaking for the kids throughout. Some of the situations were almost too upsetting (I am such a softie) for a kids’ book (I could see younger kids being really scared by Olaf and his meanness), and lacked the Roald Dahl wacky humour to balance things out. We’ve got some malnutrition, neglect, face-slapping, and some random (non-sexual) incest thrown in.

Overall, it’s a bizarre scenario and a sort of bizarre little story, and maybe I’m being entirely too prudish about the whole thing (I readily admit). I did feel really invested in the story and the kids, but when they triumphed (of course) at the end, I didn’t find myself wanting to cheer. Rather, I just felt a sense of relief that no more horribleness would happen to these sweet kids in this book (obviously more unfortunate stuff will happen in the rest of the series). I felt the book lacked the light airiness and whimsy required in a book where mean and bad stuff happens to kids. I just wound up wishing it was a Roald Dahl book instead…