The Carnivorous Carnival, by Lemony Snicket

The last of the Unfortunate Events this time around. Not sure when we’ll be moving on, but there are only four to go! We will make it!

In this adventure, the Baudelaires have hopped in Count Olaf’s trunk after the burning of Heimlich Hospital, figuring that Olaf is good at evading the law and also knows something about their potentially living parent, so who better to follow than the guy who wants to kill 2/3 of them? Oh dear. In an ironic twist, the Baudelaires disguise themselves as carnival workers and pass undetected even right under the nose of Olaf himself. For a while.

So this one I like a heck of a lot better than The Hostile Hospital, largely because it makes me happy to know that Count Olaf is an idiot. The big thing is the not seeing through the Baudelaire’s disguises, because come on, but also it turns out that Olaf has been seeing a psychic to find out where the Baudelaires have been hiding from him, but of course she’s not actually psychic and is using things like newspapers to find the children. I would say that Olaf might be illiterate, but he did write a play that one time… nope. Just a lazy idiot. I would hate to think that a smart person was so evil.

Recommendation: Tim Curry. Precocious children. Violence and sloppy eating. How can you go wrong?

Rating: 8/10
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See also:
[your link here]

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

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The Hostile Hospital, by Lemony Snicket

The second Unfortunate Event of our road trip! I may have possibly slept through part of this book, but I’ve read it before and Scott caught me up with what I missed, so I think I’m all right. 🙂

So in this one, the Baudelaires have escaped VFD just barely ahead of the law, hopping on a convenient bus that takes them to Heimlich Hospital along with a group of crazy hippie people who think that singing cheerfully about awful illnesses and handing out heart-shaped balloons will make patients feel better. I think it would make me more ill. Anyway, they sneak in and are again conveniently assigned to work in a library of records, in which there is conveniently located a Snicket file which mentions the Baudelaires, except that it’s mostly missing. Oh, and also Count Olaf has figured out where they are and also wants this Snicket file which he doesn’t know is mostly missing and he is pretty insane at this point and that is a bad thing.

This is not one of my favorites of the series, because I felt like there were just too many conveniences. I’m not usually too hard on a plot contrivance or two, but this book is just filled with unlikely things that help someone a bit too much. My disbelief fell right to the ground.

On the other hand, I like that Snicket delves into the good/evil grey area in this book, with the Baudelaires doing some things — trickery and disguise — that make them wonder if they’re not being just as evil as Count Olaf. Snicket doesn’t really give an answer, either, which I like a lot. The series is definitely getting more grown-up in ideas as it ages.

Recommendation: Again, Tim Curry. Come on. Also good brain candy.

Rating: 7/10
(Support Your Local Library Challenge)

See also:
[your link here]

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

Behemoth, by Scott Westerfeld

I would like to thank my connections at the Twinsburg Public Library for letting me check this book out while I was hanging out at my parents’ house for Thanksgiving. This is one of those books that I can’t find in Jacksonville, and I really wanted to read it, so it worked out quite well!

This is the sequel to Leviathan, which I read a year ago and loved a lot. To recap the basics, it’s the Great War as it would have been fought if only the Axis had giant machines to fight with and the Allies had fabricated animals that did things like fly and poo shrapnel.

Right. In this book, our future archduke becomes a bit of a prisoner of war aboard the Leviathan and decides to escape; our girl-pretending-to-be-a-boy soldier is tasked with a secret mission that works but goes a little bad in that she’s now stuck in Istanbul without a quick way back to her ship. Conveniently, his archduke-ness is also hiding in Istanbul, and they meet up again quickly to help some revolutionaries who might be able to help both of their situations.

I was not as excited by Behemoth as by its predecessor. Deryn, the soldier, is no longer as badass as she previously was… I mean, she’s still fighting and doing awesome things, but she spends less time being like “I’m awesome and you can’t argue with that” and more time mooning over his archduke-ness, Alek. I dislike mooning. I also wasn’t as taken with Alek, though I’m not sure why… I guess I just felt that I didn’t really know what was going on with him, between his men being deceptive and he being really quite daft.

I will probably read the conclusion to this trilogy, but I won’t be waiting as excitedly as I was for this one.

Recommendation: If you liked Leviathan you will want to read this, and I recommend Leviathan to anyone who likes an alternate history or some steampunk.

Rating: 7/10

See also:
[your link here]

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

The Vile Village, by Lemony Snicket

Hey, look, another road trip happened! You’ll be seeing this and two more Series of Unfortunate Events posts over the next several days. These books are just so perfect for driving — they’re simple, they’re engaging but not so much that you cause an accident, and they are easy to pick up again after you’ve taken a pee break. They should clearly list these qualities on the CD case.

Okay, so, we pick up on the V.F.D. thing in this book with a trip to a town called V.F.D., where the citizens have decided to take part in an orphan-raising program based on the idea that it takes a village to raise a child. Yes, you can groan.

The Baudelaires find a friend in the town handyman, who helps them attempt to decipher notes that are clearly coming from the Quagmire triplets but who is too “skittish” to do any good defending of the orphans when Count Olaf comes waltzing into town accusing the orphans of murder. Oh, snap.

In the last book, the series got an overarching storyline (finding V.F.D), but this book radically changes the way that the Baudelaires will follow that storyline, as they go from “orphans being shipped around the greater Earth area to increasingly inappropriate guardians” to “orphans running around the greater Earth area trying to find V.F.D. and also avoid the people who think they’re murderers.” I don’t really remember the rest of this series very well, so I don’t know if this is a good shift or not, but it definitely makes the series a bit easier to bear over the next couple of books, as you’ll soon see.

Recommendation: I really like this series, even if it’s not exactly “good.” You should read this if you like sarcastic humor, and you should listen to this if you like Tim Curry.

Rating: 8/10
(A to Z Challenge, Support Your Local Library Challenge)

See also:
[your link here]

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

The Night Bookmobile, by Audrey Niffenegger

Oh, Audrey. I know we’ve had our differences before, but I was hoping that maybe if you wrote another book with a librarian in it, we’d be good as new. Sadly, I am still ambivalent.

This is a super-duper short story, told in a graphic format, and there’s not much I can say without giving the whole thing away. Baaaasically, there’s a thing called a Night Bookmobile, which is a sort of mobile library that comes when you need it. Or something. And it holds all of the things you’ve ever read in your life. And the main character, Alexandra, finds her bookmobile and becomes a little obsessed with it, as I imagine one might.

And so that’s an interesting premise, but then the story goes a little crazy at the end, there, and a whole host of issues crop up that would be interesting to address but that do not get addressed. Niffenegger writes in the “After Words” that this is the first installment of a larger work, so I hope that perhaps I will get to see that larger work and that it will tell me what the heck is going on.

Recommendation: Eh, it’s a quick read and it’s certainly ripe for discussion… probably an interesting pick for a voracious reader.

Rating: 5/10
(A to Z Challenge, Support Your Local Library Challenge)

See also:
[your link here]

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

Mr. Peanut, by Adam Ross

This is a strange, strange book. I’m not sure what I think about it. I liked the concepts that Ross was working with, of Escher and tessellations and Hitchcock and disorientation; I liked the way he built up a million questions and seeming incongruities and then made them all work out, in one form or another, at the end; I liked that he gave me a nudge in the right direction when things got all literary and subtextual. I didn’t like the characters, who were by design all very similar and possibly by design all really annoying; I didn’t like the interlude with Sam Sheppard that didn’t really go anywhere, by which I mean it didn’t seem to move the story along and also it didn’t seem to fit in with the story, at the end; I didn’t like that Ross’s nudges sometimes turned into pushes or slaps.

If you had asked me yesterday, when I was about halfway through, what this book was about, I would have told you pretty much what you’ll see on the jacket flap: some guy called David Pepin is said, on the very first page, to be a continual day-dreamer of ways that his wife might die. He’s a little morbid, that one. And then poof! A few pages later, his wife is dead, and the manner in which she died is either a suicide or a murder and it’s pretty much impossible to figure it out. But a couple of detectives, including Cleveland’s own Sam Sheppard, are working on it. Slowly. While dealing with bad relationships of their own.

But today… it’s odd, because on the one hand I don’t want to say too much for fear of ruining the intense maze that is this novel, but on the other hand I’m pretty sure that no matter how much of the plot or conceit I gave away there would still be something in this book that would surprise you. Because there is a LOT of stuff in here.

So I think I will talk about my favorite and least favorite parts: the Escher and the characters, respectively. Bad things first!

The characters are whiny as all hell. In an interview, Adam Ross said that he didn’t consider his characters’ marriages dysfunctional, because what’s functional and also don’t all marriages have their ups and downs? I can agree with him on that, and I didn’t mind too much that his married characters were sometimes in love and sometimes not — I’ve certainly seen that enough in my lifetime.

BUT. I have never heard of anyone staying bed for five months to prove a point, what point I’m still not sure. And I swear, if the dead wife in this story were mine, I would be seriously contemplating her death as well. I cannot deal with people who don’t use their words, and I especially cannot deal with people who use their words to say, “If you don’t know what’s wrong, I’m not going to tell you.” Ri-freaking-diculous. And all of the female characters, and to a lesser extent the male characters, do this throughout the novel. Scott heard me loudly complain more than once about it.

Okay, good things. I wrote on the Twitter that the title page of this book is decorated with Escher, who is one of my favorite artists ever. This predisposed me to like the novel, and it also helped me get through a lot of the novel. See, it’s broken up into bits and pieces, with some dude-wanting-his-wife-dead over here and some detectives-investigating-the-mystery there and some oh-hey-I-should-probably-explain-who-Sam-Sheppard-is-because-it-turns-out-he’s-just-like-that-guy-that-wanted-his-wife-dead right in the middle. And then these pieces, they’re sort of thrown up in the air and land wherever they want and there aren’t any chapters and you just sort of have to hope that when you get to a new paragraph you’ll be able to figure out what’s going on. And that is SO Escher.

Oh, and one of those smacks to the face that Ross doles out is all but breaking the fourth wall to tell you that you should read this book to figure out the plot, then read it again to take notes on it, and then discuss it with people. And so I will do this! Thanks goodness for a book group.

Recommendation: Read this if you like or are at least intrigued by movies like Memento or Primer. Also very good for Hitchcock fans, I think.

Rating: 8/10 — Most of this rating comes from the novel’s structure. If it were just the murder-mystery plot or those darned characters it would be much lower.
(Support Your Local Library Challenge)

See also:
Devourer of Books

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

One for the Money, by Janet Evanovich

The other day at the library, I asked a woman if I could help her find anything. She was standing in front of the “new mysteries” section, and she said that she’d read all of these already and asked if I could help her find a good action or adventure mystery. I was like… um…

Because I haven’t read an adventure-y mystery in a really long time! Most of my fare is either classics or literary-style mysteries, neither of which would probably have appeased this woman. And in fact, I realized that of all the mystery authors who get multiple shelves with multiple copies of each book? I’ve read exactly zero. I decided I ought to rectify this, so I grabbed a copy of One for the Money and went to town.

Well. I suddenly remember why I like the classics and the literaries. Stephanie Plum is not a detective; she’s an unemployed lingerie-buyer who conveniently has a bail bondsman cousin who, with a little blackmailing, is willing to let her “shag” (you would not believe how happy I was to discover the 1994 definition of that word!) a bail jumper for a cool ten grand. And this jumper is none other than some guy who diddled her in kindergarten and then again in high school. And he’s a cop. Who killed someone. And Plum is totes going to get him. Somehow.

I will grant that it was interesting watching Plum be a complete idiot (V.I. Warshawski she is NOT) about… everything related to nabbing a bail jumper, and also to watch the strange cat and mouse game that she and the guy were playing. But the whole story just required this drastic suspension of disbelief that I just could not manage. Many things were incredibly convenient, many people were conveniently very stupid and/or bad at their jobs, and Plum seemed pretty much devoid of common sense and yet still managed to get her man.

It makes the brain hurt.

Please, suggest to me another popular mystery author, and perhaps a title of his/hers that won’t make me want to cry over the inanity?

Rating: 5/10
(A to Z Challenge, Support Your Local Library Challenge)

See also:
[your link here]

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.