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Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Prophet of Yonwood by Jean DuPrau

Gender: Children's Literature

Setting: On earth, in the not to distant future.

First Sentence: On a warm July afternoon, a woman in the town of Yonwood North Carolina, a woman named Althea Tower went out to her back yard to fill the bird feeder.

This novel is the third in the author's "Books of Ember" series.

This novel is a prequel. the action takes place years before the City of Ember was sealed.

This story follows Nickie Randolph.  She is a young girl who is exploring the small town of Yonwood.  Many years in the future, she will be among the colonists who move into Ember in order to preserve a group of people from the ravages of an oncoming war.

But for now, Nickie is learning about how people get along with each other.  Yonwood is the home of Althea Towner.  She is an old woman who has been having visions of the future.

She communicates with the outside world through a woman named Brenda Beeson.  Since Althea is not very coherent, Brenda tries to interpret her utterances. This leads to a string of odd pronouncements. In the end, Nickie discovers the truth of Althea and her visions.

Throughout the book, there are a few hints about the future and inter-dimensional travel.  But these are few, and don't really affect the  story.

This book is pretty much a stand alone novel.  None of the hints about the future are vital to understanding the story.  And Ember itself is not introduced until the last pages of the book.

An OK story.  But for me, a disappointment.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau

Genre: Children's Literature

Setting: In a desolate village, years after a devastating war.

First Sentence:  Torren was out at the edge of the cabbage field that day, the day the people came.

This novel is the second in the author's "Books of Ember" series.  This series runs to four novels.

This story begins immediately after the main characters Lina and Doon learn how to leave Ember.  Ember had been founded over two hundred years ago.  The founders wanted to ensure that a group of people would survive the oncoming global catastrophe.

Living in a cave has kept them alive.  But the Emberites have no knowledge of the surface.

Fortunately, there is a small village near the entrance of the cave.  The people there are barely scraping by.  Imagine how the people of the town would react when a large group of people arrive and ask for help.  There are just so many things the Emberites don't understand.

How will the people of Sparks and the people of Ember get along?

I liked this book.  The author had an interesting story to tell about the two groups of people.

One thing kept nagging at me while I read.  Why don't they go back to the cave?  Surely there are some things in the cave that would be helpful.  Perhaps, the answer to my question will be found in one of the other books in the series.


Monday, April 10, 2017

The End By Lemony Snicket

Genre: Children's Lierature

Setting: On an island near the continental shelf.

First Sentence: If you have ever peeled an onion, then you know that the first thin, papery layer reveals another, thin papery layer, and that layer reveals another, and another and before you know it you have hundreds of layers all over the kitchen table and thousands of tears in you eyes, sorry that you ever started peeling in the first place and wishing that you had left the onion alone to wither away on the shelf of the pantry while you went on with your life, even if that meant never again enjoying the complicated and overwhelming taste of this strange and bitter vegetable.

This novel is the thirteenth in the author's thirteen novel series entitled "A Series of Unfortunate Events."

This installment was difficult for me to write because I did not want to spoil The End for you, dear reader.  Read On.

After escaping the fire at the Hotel Denouement, the Baudelaires find themselves at sea with Count Olaf.  Due the great schism, the V.F.D. has been divided into good and evil factions.  The fire was a result of the orphans escape from the hotel; the last safe place.

After surviving  a horrible storm, the Baudelaires and the Count, are washed up on the coastal self, along with a fantastic array of flotsam.

An island is nearby.  This island is inhabited by people who desire simple life in peace and safety, far away from the dangers and treachery of the outside world.

The island is ruled by a facilitator who uses peer pressure to ensure that no one "rocks the boat."

The orphans choose to live on the island.  They especially appreciate the fact that the islanders will not allow Olaf on the island.

But the safety and security of the island comes at a price.  There are secrets.  When the islanders decide to mutiny, some spores of the deadly Medusoid Mycelium fungus (From the Grim Grotto) are released every one on the island must make a life or death decision.

At The End, we learn the truth about the orphans' parents. We learn about Kit Snicket.  And we learn about the narrator, Lemony Snicket.

No cavalry coming over the hill.  No secret discovery.  No happy ending.

I strongly encourage you to read the series in order.

I just might get a commonplace book.


Monday, April 3, 2017

The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket

Genre: Children's Literature

Setting: The Hotel Denouement a fictional hotel with oddly numbered rooms.

First Sentence: Certain people have said that the world is like a calm pond, and that any time a person does even the smallest thing, it is as if a store had dropped into the pond, spreading circles of ripples further and further out, until the entire world has been changed by one tiny action.

This novel is the twelfth in the author's thirteen novel series entitled "A Series of Unfortunate Events."

The theme of this novel is exploring the nature of good and evil.  Count Olaf and his henchpersons have used evil means to try to capture the Baudelaire's fortune.  The orphans themselves had had to use evil actions in order to escape from the evil Count.

All along the way, the orphans have met relatively nobel people who have allowed evil to happen to the children.  These people have hung the children out to dry, rather be involved in the children's predicament.  The phrase "hand the children out to dry" means to let the children fend for themselves, and to then forget about them.

This book begins on a high note.  One of the orphans' allies, a member of the secretive and good VFD treats the orphans nicely and with concern.  But soon the children are thrust into the same old predicament.

The children are at the the Hotel Denouement.  Soon there will be a gathering of all the VFDs, both good and evil, to either protect or destroy the hotel.

The Baudelaires are given jobs that are definitely to dangerous for three young children.  Since no one will be honest with them, the children do things that probably more evil than good.  Due to their actions, there is a fatality.  And once again, good people who should know better, turn their backs on the children.

And you'll never believe who helps the orphans leave the hotel.

This was a very dark novel.   It made me reconsider good and evil in the first twelve books of this series.

Now on to the final unfortunate event - The End.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Grim Grotto by Lemony Snicket

Genre: Children's Literature

Setting: Aboard a fictional submarine.

First Sentence: After a great deal of time examining oceans, investigating rain storms, and staring very hard at several drinking fountains, the scientists of the world developed a theory regarding how water is distributed around our planet, which they have named "the water cycle."

This novel is the eleventh in the author's thirteen book series entitled "A Series of Unfortunate Events."

In this novel the author uses the concept of the water cycle as a metaphor for the unfortunate events which have plagued the Baudelaire orphans.

  • The orphans find themselves is a dangerous or inappropriate place not of their choosing.
  • The evil  Count Olaf finds them.
  • The orphans find a way to escape his clutches...
  • Only to find themselves in another dangerous circumstance.
In this book the children find themselves on a submarine with VFD allies. (The VFD is a secret society working against the evil count.)  The orphans and their allies use the submarine to travel to the Gorgonian Grotto in search of the sugar bowl. The sugar bowl is an object greatly desired by both the evil Count Olaf and the good VFD.  No one will tell the orphans what is in the sugar bowl.

When the Baudelaires return to the submarine, the Captain and crew have mysteriously disappeared.

But, who is on the submarine?  Count Olaf of course.  Along with Esme, Carmelita, the man with hooks, and the rest of Olaf's henchpersons.

Now, the Baudelaires must find a way to escape the Count's clutches.

While working on their escape plans, the orphans decipher a VFD code.  This code gives them a plan for where to should go when they escape.

When they arrive at their destination, they discover Mr. Poe waiting for them.
Do the Baudelaires passively go along with Mr. Poe, and continue the cycle?
Or, do they make a proactive decision to break the cycle?

This book has an interesting ending.  Only two more books to go.

Is there a chance for a happy conclusion?


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

Genre: Juvenile Science Fiction

Setting: In a fictional city deep underground.

First Sentence: In the city of Ember, the sky was always dark.

This novel is the first in the author's Books of Ember Series.

Years ago the Builders decided that the safest place for the people of Ember was in colony deep below the surface.  They decided that the people would need to stay there for over two hundred years.  And the people would have no knowledge of any other place.

The Builders left instructions for the people when it was time to return to the surface.

Unfortunately, the instructions were lost.  Now it is time to return to the surface but the people and their leaders don't know.

The storage rooms are almost empty.  And the machines that the people rely on for power are beginning to fail.

Two young people realize that there is something wrong.  Lina Mayfleet has found an interesting piece of paper with writing on it.  She is sure that the paper is a set of instructions. But for what?  Doon Harrow is a pipe works laborer.  He has access to the tunnels under the city.  Doon has found that the greedy mayor and his friends are hiding a stockpile of scarce items and food.

When the mayor accuses them of spreading rumors, Lina and Doon must throw caution to the wind try to follow the mysterious instructions.

Will they make it to the surface?

What will they find there?

In the end, the book leaves many questions unanswered, so we must read on in book two "The People of  Sparks."


Friday, March 24, 2017

The Slippery Slope by Lemony Snicket

Genre: Children's Literature

Setting: In a fictional mountain range.

First Sentence: A man of my acquaintance once wrote a poem called "The Road Less Traveled," describing a journey he took through the woods along a path most travelers never used.

This novel is the tenth of the author's thirteen book series entitled "A Series of Unfortunate Events."

When we last saw the Baudelaire orphans. at the end of "The Carnivorous Carnival," they were traveling with Count Olaf towards the Mortmain Mountains.  Sunny is in the front seat of Olaf's automobile with Esme. Olaf is driving.  Klaus and Violet are in a caravan being pulled by the car.

And Count Olaf knows who the orphans are.

Count Olaf knows that he only needs one of the Baudelaire orphans to claim the orphans' vast fortune.  Since Sunny is with him, the evil count decides to rid himself of the two older siblings.

Rid himself here means to cause the death of the older orphans.

Fortunately, Klaus and Violet do not die.

So they continue their quest to find the V.F.D. headquarters.  And to rescue Sunny from the evil count's clutches.

Along the way the two children make  some interesting discoveries.

They learn that snow gnats avoid smoke.
They find the Snow Scouts.
They meet two unpleasant people from earlier episodes.
They discover an orphan triplet whose travels have paralleled  those of the Baudelaires.
They climb a frozen waterfall.
And, they realize that Sunny is no longer a baby.

All three of the orphans show that they are no longer the count's helpless victims.

Now they are showing that they are intrepid and brave explorers who can up to the count's treachery.

I really liked this book.  The characters of the children are developing into strong interesting characters which I like.

Now, on to the next book.