Doctor Who Smile Review

I’m keen to review this before tonight and Thin Ice (why does time always fly away from me when I try to watch the show live?) So what did I think of Smile, in which Twelve and Bill journey to human beings in the future ala Nine/Rose and The End of the World (is this series deliberately riffing off Series 1 of RDT Who like Series 5 riffed off Rose/Mickey through Amy/Rory? Maybe). I hated In The Forest of the Night penned by the same script writer, but I thought Smile, bar a rushed ending, was actually quite good. Not amazing, not terrible, but not bad either.

So what happened? Bill gets to choose where the TARDIS takes her for her first real adventure as companion and she chooses the future. The Doctor takes Bill to see humanity of the future, a future where emoji robots help to regulate emotion for the soon to appear humans who may well have lost everything. Only something has gone horribly wrong. The original human team sent to start the new colony all died before they could complete their mission. Why?

This story reminded me an awful lot of Michael Crichten’s Prey, a truly chilling horror, sci fi, thriller type which I read years ago around the time I read Jurassic Park for English class. In Prey humanity stretches itself too far in trying to create a new heaven and new earth and scientists experimenting, and the people close to them, pay the consequence.

The Companions

Again, I found Bill to be a wonderful companion in this episode. She’s funny, inquisitive, smart, blunt and blessedly normal after years of Clara the human cipher. I love that she doesn’t wait in the TARDIS as The Doctor commands her to do. I love that she tries to solve problems her own way. Pearl Mackie seems to be having the time of her life in this role and it comes across to the viewer.

I can’t say the same for Matt Lucas’ Nardole. In Series 10 I haven’t had a problem with his acting, but his character is a non-start. The story can work perfectly well without him being in it. I feel I could grow to like Nardole, but right now, I’m not sure what layer he adds to the story, if any.

The Doctor

I remember someone saying once that a Doctor always finds his feet with the companion who starts with him first. Though I liked Twelve and Clara far more than I liked Eleven and Clara (too similar in personality and they drowned each other out), Clara’s Doctor was still always Eleven. I feel like Capaldi is really able to come into his own with Bill. No previous writing baggage, no weight of expectation. There is a quiet confidence to this series, just as there was to series 9, and I am excited to see where this will land both Bill and Twelve.

Series Arc

Again, Moffat seems to be emulating RTD in going for a snippet story-arc style which is straight forward to follow, but will presumably come into focus come finale style. As long as Moffat doesn’t throw the proverbial kitchen sink at his final story arc in the finale as both he and RTD have done in the past, I’m happy to take a less complex approach to the story for now.

Who told The Doctor to guard the box? What’s inside it? Is it good, bad or both? Why is Nardole caught up in the guarding of the box? I guess we wait for tonight to find out the next lot of bread crumbs leading to the gingerbread house which is Twelve and Moffat’s end. See you on the other side…

Smile: 6/10 inky stars for an above average plot, with decent pacing until the rushed end (this could have been a two parter) and the continuation of a winning combo with Twelve/Bill.

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Doctor Who: The Pilot Review

And so it begins! A new season of Doctor Who after a year’s hiatus and two measly Christmas specials. And boy is it good to be back. It might not be the best drama on television, or the best comedy either, but for sheer reliable outrageous fun, a new episode of Doctor Who beats everything else out there hands down…

I went into this episode with no real expectations. I’ve tried to avoid the promotional hype around New Who as much as possible as I like to be surprised. I had seen images of Pearl Mackie, but had no real opinion of her appearance or acting ability. I like the Twelfth Doctor, I generally like Moffat Who and Series 9 was an especially strong season of the show in my humble opinion(the strongest since Series 5 by my book), but I was bored to tears by The Return of Doctor Mysterio. So what did I think?

I agree with many other pro reviewers who saw this as a soft series reboot, right down to the knowing episode title. We got a new companion who has no prior knowledge of The Doctor and his TARDIS, meaning we as viewers saw the show fresh through her eyes. We got an episode which doesn’t rely on past knowledge of the show (it’s arguable that the photos of Susan and River Song on The Doctor’s desk are merely fan service), and we got an alien lite episode ala Rose to get new viewers used to our favorite time travelling gang. Moffat still proves in this episode that he has a way of pinning down the human condition and relationships and how we understand the world the same way that our greatest fantasy writers do. Quotes like this one:

Hunger looks very much like evil from the other end of the cutlery. Do you think your bacon sandwich loves you back?

And this one:

Time. Time doesn’t pass. Time is an illusion. And Life is the magician. Because Life only lets you see one day at a time. You remember being alive yesterday, you hope you’re going to be alive tomorrow, so it feels like you are traveling one to the other, but nobody’s moving anywhere! Movies don’t really move. They’re just pictures, just lots and lots of pictures, all of them still. None of them moving, just frozen moments!

Simply reaffirm for me that beneath the story writing pressures and mistakes and clever gimmicks Moffat falls back on in his TV storytelling, there is a great fantasy novelist waiting for the perfect opportunity to come out hidden there somewhere. Anyhow, The Pilot is fun, if slight, with some great character moments for new companion, Bill.

New Companion Bill

I loved the concept of The Doctor as a university lecturer and I loved why Bill was in his office (because she smiled when confronted with questions she didn’t know the answer to). I wasn’t a huge fan of Clara or of her story trajectory and felt that she only really worked as a plot device until the Series 8 finale and all of Series 9 when she morphed into a Doctor-like role. With Bill, for the first time in a while, there is a companion in the TARDIS who meets The Doctor by chance and bonds with The Doctor through common quirks of personality, rather than because they are a mystery to be solved. I like mysteries as much as the next person, but am ready for a companion who is exactly who she says she is.

Having said that, a friend’s partner did point out the way the camera panned on the Doctor’s photographs of River Song and his granddaughter Susan coupled with the way The Doctor went out of his way to take photographs of Bill’s Mum to surmise that Bill could somehow be related to Susan through her Mum. Though I’m always happy for some in show Susan loving, and it’s not a shabby theory, I’m not sure I’m ready for another companion mystery. Rather, I assumed that The Doctor went back in time to take photograph’s of Bill’s Mum because Bill had been sad when she mentioned she didn’t have any photos of her Mum to The Doctor (and we all know The Doctor doesn’t interfere in people or planets unless there’s children crying).

Bill and her character was a key part of The Pilot in other ways too. This week’s horror film inspired big bad puddle needed a host to move around through and landed on Bill’s crush, Heather, as the perfect host. Bill’s story about selling chips to Heather was a nice way of establishing Bill’s sexuality and the mundane boredom of her life in comparison to the one we know she will soon gain through travelling with The Doctor. It also meant we felt sad when Heather had to let Bill go and Bill had to let Heather go, beyond saving. The obligatory companion ‘bigger on the inside’ was excellent as was the toilet gag and I loved the brief view of Australia before The Doctor whisked Bill to The Daleks and another nod to yesteryear (this time through Destiny of the Daleks and the Movellans). By episode’s end, I was grinning as much as Bill was at joining The Doctor and Nardole in The TARDIS.

Nardole: The Second Companion

I always like it when there’s more than one companion in The TARDIS. There’s more scope for actor’s to bounce off each other. Look no further than The Pond years where The Doctor vs River vs Am vs Rory banter was enormously fun. I’m not always keen on Matt Lucas, but his Nardole is growing on me. I feel that with time and the right script, Nardole could really come into his own beyond the mere comedic.

The Mystery

For once in Moffat Who the mystery starts light. Just what is The Doctor and Nardole protecting inside the university and why? Is it to protect something or to prevent something getting out? And will the show keep revisiting Twelve as the university lecturer so we can keep revisiting this mysterious box? Does that mean we’ll see more of Bill and her foster Mum as Bill navigates time travel and ordinary life and relationships? Certainly, one of the major criticisms of Moffat Who is the lack of meaningful family life for his companions, so this could be a good way to keep Bill feeling rounded. Finally, will Bill find out what’s in the box, and it it, as my friend’s partner suspects, connected to Bill in some way?

There’s only one way to find out folks, and that’s by tuning in next week…

The Pilot: 8/10 inky stars for a solid and fun start to series 10

PS: Did I seen Simm Master in that series trailer? WHAT ARE YOU PLANNING MOFF????

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Q&A with author Deborah O’Brien

Deborah O’Brien is an Australian writer and visual artist. She is the author of the bestselling Mr Chen’s Emporium, its sequel The Jade Widow, plus A Place of Her Own and The Trivia Man, as well as a dozen non-fiction books. Her latest novel is The Rarest Thing.

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1. You’re a visual artist as well as a teacher and writer. How does your visual work creep into your writing?

That’s a very interesting question. As a visual artist, I’m always experimenting with light and shade and I suspect I’ve carried that approach into my novels, creating dark moments to tone down a tendency to be ‘heart-warming’. Another aspect of being an artist/writer is that I picture the scenes in my head as I write them, as though it’s a film, which means the writing process becomes both a visual and a text-based experience.

2. You write historical fiction. What is it that draws you to the historical?

It’s the time travel, the notion of journeying into the past and becoming immersed in another world. I always think of that famous quote from the novelist L.P. Hartley, who wrote The Go-Between: ‘The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.’ I enjoy exploring those ‘foreign countries’, whether it’s the 1870s in Mr Chen’s Emporium, or 1966 in The Rarest Thing, or the 1930s and ’40s, which is the setting of the manuscript I’m writing at the moment. In many ways, writing historical fiction is pure escapism.

3. Do you have any tips for the aspiring historical fiction writer?

Do your research. Familiarise yourself with the period. Live there in your imagination until you know it intimately, and then just start writing. You can fact-check the details as you go along. Oh, and resist the temptation to dump chunks of historical information into the story, no matter how fascinating you might find them – too much historical detail can overwhelm a manuscript and slow down the narrative. The historical infrastructure of a novel should act like the electricals in a house – everything should work properly, but you really don’t need to see the wiring.

4. The Rarest Thing features a paleontologist main character. Are you yourself interested in fossils or where did the idea come from?

I find fossils fascinating but I have to confess my only experience of paleontology has been watching Sam Neill and Laura Dern in Jurassic Park! Actually, it took me a while to come up with an occupation for Katharine. What kind of job would enable her to accompany Scott King on his High Country trek to locate and photograph the mountain pygmy possum in its habitat? A photographer’s assistant? A journalist? Then my lovely niece Natalie, who’s a zoologist at the Melbourne University, came up to Sydney to measure koala skulls at the Australian Museum as part of her ongoing research into koalas and climate change. I was so intrigued by Natalie’s work that I decided to make Katharine a scientist. A zoologist like Natalie would have been the obvious choice, but I’d already formed a mental picture of someone more comfortable with ancient bones than living, breathing creatures.

5. The Rarest Thing is the first time you’ve self-published a novel. Have you learnt any lessons along the way?

Yes, I certainly have! For a start, I’ve learnt how difficult it is to wear multiple hats: writer, editor, designer, publicist and so on. I’m more comfortable with some of those roles than others. I did outsource a few aspects of this project – the proofreading, for example, and the printing, of course.

I’ve also learnt to typeset a manuscript. I know that sounds odd but it turned out to be a deeply satisfying experience. The way the words fall on the page has always been important to me, and in this case, I could actually tweak the text myself. I worked through the book, word by word, line by line, adjusting the spaces and playing with the layout. It was like knitting a jumper, stitch by stitch – a surprisingly creative process.

6. What was your favourite part of writing The Rarest Thing?

I really enjoyed writing the early chapters where Katharine and Scott meet for the first time and begin to develop a friendship. I wrote those scenes like a ‘meet cute’ romance novel but with hints that the book would deal with some very dark issues. I also loved writing about the Burramys (mountain pygmy possum), both as a character in its own right and as a metaphor for Katharine’s situation.

Thanks so much for answering these question, Deborah, and good luck with your new release The Rarest Thing. For those keen to follow Deborah, you can find her on Facebook here and at her website here. You can purchase her new release novel at Lomandra Press. Finally, you can read my review of The Rarest Thing here.

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Book Review: The Rarest Thing

Title: The Rarest Thing
Author: Deborah O’Brien
Publication Date: November 2016
Publisher: Lomandra Press
RRP – Limited Gift Edition Paperback: $29.99
RRP – Ebook: $14.99
Purchasing Info: ‘The Rarest Thing’ (signed gift edition paperback or ebook) is available direct from Lomandra Press: www.lomandrapress.com.au (It will not be available in bookshops at this stage.)

From Penguin Random House author, Deborah O’Brien (author of historical fictions including the best-selling Mr Chen’s Emporium and romances such as The Trivia Man) comes a new novel that marries O’Brien’s love for the historical with her love for a good romance with depth.

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From the press release…

It’s 1966, and a mountain pygmy possum – a species that scientists considered to be long extinct – is discovered in the Victorian High Country and transported to Melbourne where newspapers dub it ‘the world’s rarest creature’. Thirty-year-old Dr Katharine Wynter is a palaeontologist who’s more comfortable with ancient bones than live human beings, particularly men – an exotic species of which she has little personal experience, apart from a predatory professor who has made her working life hell. Having studied the tiny possum in fossil form, Katharine is curious to see it in the flesh, but her visit is disrupted by the presence of wildlife photographer, Scott King, taking pictures for an international magazine.

Soon Katharine and Scott are thrown together on a quest to locate the miniature marsupials in their habitat – the rugged Australian Alps. Along the way, the timid scientist discovers a side to her character she never knew existed, while the dashing photographer abandons his bravado and confronts memories he’s hidden for decades.

As for the elusive possums, the cute little creatures lead their pursuers on a merry chase…

Book Review

I very rarely read romance of any kind, and especially not the new craze that is rural romance. However, when Deborah approached me about her latest novel, I was intrigued enough to give it a shot on the strength of another novel of hers I’d read in the past which allowed for romance in a historical setting with a real sense of pathos and authenticity. Deborah is an author who doesn’t take the easy story-telling route and I knew that any romance story she told would be complex with fully fleshed out characters. I wasn’t wrong.

The two protagonists of The Rarest Thing, Katherine and Scott, both have dark ghosts that haunt their chances at relationships despite their appealing natures. Katherine may be an intelligent and relatively successful academic (given her status as woman in a university in the 1960s) but she faces the derision and the exploitation that some women faced in positions of previously male dominated roles. Scott is handsome, creative and therefore in no shortage of opportunities Katherine imagines, but then, he has his own terrible family secrets.

possum

The novel is prefaced by a quote from Oscar Wilde: To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all. Though ostensibly about an expedition to find a pygmy possum, really this story is about coming to terms with who one is as a person and remembering to make the most of every moment. Both Katherine and Scott start The Rarest Thing living part-lives, either because of fear or because of repressed emotions and doubts. In the end, as they find possums, each other, and finally true love, the two realize they can move beyond automaton existence and truly live.

The Rarest Thing is a beautiful, truly Australian romance between two people who have complex and rounded pasts. I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys Australian nature, history, a positive message and a dash of mature, adult romance.

The Rarest Thing: 4/5 inky stars

Stay tuned tomorrow for a follow up Q&A with the author!

About the Author: Deborah O’Brien is an Australian writer and visual artist. She is the author of the bestselling Mr Chen’s Emporium, its sequel The Jade Widow, plus A Place of Her Own and The Trivia Man, as well as a dozen non-fiction books.

www.deborahobrien.com.au/

 

 

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TV Series Review: Jessica Jones

NB: This discusses the whole series in detail. There are massive spoilers. You have been warned.

I’m not an obsessive Marvel fan. I thought Winter Soldier was really, really good. I thought Iron Man 1 and 2 were kind of subversive and really good fun. I thought The Avengers was near perfect popcorn entertainment in the same vein as Star Wars or Pirates of the Caribbean. I’m quite happy to leave the rest of their catalogue alone though, thanks very much. There’s only so much SFX and caped crusading and fight scenes I can take before it all starts feeling same old, same old, and altogether too safe. However, so many people chimed in on how good Marvel TV is, and how good Jessica Jones is in particular, I had to give in and give the show a go.

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Jessica Jones is about a female PI with unnatural strength gained in childhood. Years ago she was involved with another person with powers, a person who has the power of mind control. Whatever Kilgrave commanded, people obeyed. Unquestioningly. The series also is the story of Jessica’s residual trauma as a result of living with Kilgrave (Jessica was forced to live with him and allow him to rape her to feed his delusion that she loved him) and of her subsequent hard exterior, drinking habit and emotional coldness which she cast around herself as a protection from everything that happened to her under Kilgrave’s care. This is, of course, legions darker than most superhero subject matter. Some of the themes reminded me of Sandman. The commitment to moral ambiguity and pushing misuse of a so called ‘super power’ to its natural horrifying conclusion proved to be both wholly original and an effective stake raiser for most of the series.

Because this is such a character piece, much rested on the shoulders of those acting main parts. I thought Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones was excellent: the right mix of bottled up and barely suppressed anger at an unfair world and emotional fragility. Hope, Hogarth, Patsy and Malcolm are all excellent. David Tennant as the antagonist, Kilgrave, was also brilliant and I agree with those who say he may well be one of Marvel’s scariest and most complex villains yet. Certainly, he gets points for being one of the smartest about using his powers to get what he wants.

David Tennant is an actor for me who often misses. I find that he is typecast in similar ‘angst hero’ roles which usually make me want to punch the TV (an unpopular opinion but there we go). Ironically, I thought this stereotype only bolstered his appeal in Jessica Jones. Because he was the antagonist, it grated far less when Kilgrave white man angst’d (My brother just described Tennant’s acting career as Sir Angsty McAngst-alot and it’s kind of true) his way to audience pity. Of course, it helps that the show never truly let him off the hook for the many terrible things Kilgrave did, from kidnapping Hope, raping her to the point she is pregnant with his child, making her kill her parents, making a man give up his kidneys, compelling Jessica to live with him again, making Jessica’s neighbour slit his own throat, causing a neighbour to blow herself up… the list goes on.

Jessica Jones is more film noir than it is Marvel, at least for three quarters of the series. And it’s more psychological thriller/horror than it is action set pieces. It is also a character piece about the title character and her relationships with the people who have shaped her life (for good and bad). It’s more anti-hero than super-hero throughout, yes, even when the show does start treading stereotypical Marvel waters. All of this was to the good. I don’t normally binge watch tv, but this was one show I did marathon.

As to the show’s themes: there were a few. The series does one of my favourite things which is mirror characters against the title hero. It is no coincidence that Kilgrave’s latest victim’s name is Hope. She represents Jessica’s literal chance at redemption and forgiveness. Save Hope and save Jessica. Hogarth represents who Jessica could become if she doesn’t let herself feel. As does Kilgrave. The series also asks questions about power: not about superpowers, though that is a vehicle for exploring this theme, but rather the power people have over each other; emotional, physical, mental ties and how people manipulate each other using that power.

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This is all a dark place for a superhero series to go. Unfortunately for me, just when I thought Jessica Jones wasn’t going to let audiences off the hook with easy wins and easier moral answers, the writers suddenly remembered they were a Marvel franchise and kill off Hope and then let the story meander for four episodes until Jessica finally defeats Kilgrave. The problem with this is that once Hope is killed there is no discernible reason for Jessica not to kill Kilgrave immediately. It also renders Jessica’s hero’s quest impossible to fulfil. Jessica has failed in achieving redemption. She couldn’t save Hope from Kilgrave. I understand that this is in tone with a nihilistic series, but it didn’t feel like the natural conclusion for me given the show’s earlier focus on Hope as the mechanism to remind Jessica to ‘give a shit.’

The choice to bring evil scientists and experiments and fist fights into the mix right at the end of the series was very Marvel, but it didn’t actually feel very Jessica Jones. The need for ongoing series and opportunities for Marvel cross-over proved greater than the urge to write consistent drama. Jessica Jones could have been dark and brutal and hard hitting and morally bleak in the same vein as British drama Line of Duty especially if there had been eight episodes instead of thirteen in the series. Instead, it felt like a hybrid: stuck halfway between chilling character drama and Marvel blockbuster in a TV format. From 1000 Cuts onwards, it is to the shows detriment. I’ll still be tuning into Daredevil though…

Jessica Jones episodes 1-9: 10/10 inky stars

Jessica Jones episodes 10-13: 7/10 inky stars

Posted in Genre: Crime, Genre: Film, Genre: Horror, Genre: Science Fiction, Genre: Speculative Fiction, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Open Submissions: Last Call!

H L Petrovic

January is a good month if you’ve got an unsolicited SF/F manuscript you’d like to get in front of a publisher, with two major publishing houses opening their doors to unsolicited manuscripts this month:

Submissions are open for a brief period at the following publishers:

download 2.jpegAngry Robot Books

Seeking: Complete manuscripts between 70-150,000k in the genres of science fiction or fantasy (incl. steampunk, dark fantasy, alternate history, military SF, modern fantasy, horror, space opera, dieselpunk, cyberpunk)

Electronic submissions only

Submissions close 31st January 2016

You can read all about how to apply here.

download2 2.pngGollancz 

Seeking: Complete manuscripts over 80,000 words in the genres of SF, Fantasy, Horror and YA Crossover.

Hard copies only

Submissions close 22nd January 2016 (so throw you m/s in a courier bag today!)

You can read all about how to apply here. 

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“Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights?” Book Review

“Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights?”

Lemony Snicket

Publisher: Put Me In The Story

First Published: 2015

RRP: $16 US

Regular readers of this blog and my Goodreads account know that I am an enormous Snicket fan. I love the word play and the ambiguities and the sadness and the grey moral pit which is humanity and the quiet humanism which underpins both A Series of Unfortunate Events and Snicket’s newer series, All The Wrong Questions. Regular readers also know that in some ways I love this newer series more: the writing is sharper and packs more punches, the characterizations are all spot on and the film noir spoof suits VFD’s early days perfectly. So it was a delightful surprise when I received an email from American publisher, Put Me In The Story, requesting a review of the customized reprint of the series. Children have always loved placement in stories, especially detective style ones where adults are wrong and children fix things (and adults who are young at heart love these too) and I could see immediately that the Snicket world of VFD, book readers beating out followers of violence and a story filled with codes and secret handshakes would suit a customized medium perfectly. Snicket had practically gone there with An Unauthorized Autobiography anyway. I leaped at the chance.

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In this final story, Lemony Snicket must board a train returning to the city to finally uncover Hangfire’s diabolical plot and help his friends try to save Stain’d By The Sea one last time. At first I was afraid the story was a spoof of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. It wasn’t at all. Strange and bitter and sad, instead the story reveals the source of the VFD schism, the corruption already alive in VFD long before Olaf came along, and the beginnings of Snicket’s lonely journey to being both a part of, and seperate, to his secret society. The ending definitely leaves room for a follow-up series exploring Snicket’s romance with Beatrice and subsequent parting as the schism saw them labelled to different sides.

I have always loved Snicket’s ambiguity about people and their actions. The third story in this series saw Snicket make a rousing speech about literacy and decency and passive fights and him and his friends seem to be all on the same side. By this novel’s end, we feel sorry for the hapless and confused Theodora S Markson, the fatherless Ellington Feint and the wild and disillusioned Hangfire. The mysterious villain is revealed to be deranged, but not without cause, and it is a mark of how brave this series has been that Snicket is forced to do wrong to save the town and his friends and concede to some of Hangfire’s perspective. It is clever, if deeply tragic, that Snicket loses his friends to save the town.

Ellington Feint and her terrible coffee have always been an interesting component of the series and the story picks up the second she spars with Snicket: ambiguous, lost, alluring and childish. Snicket’s love for her is a precursor to how he loves Beatrice; with all of his heart and soul and damn the consequences. Her imprisonment with Kit leaves open many possibilities. All of them interesting.

I recently attended a Writers Party where someone said Lemony Snicket was a children’s author. Maybe that’s how he is marketed. That’s definitely not how his series can be read. Yes, the early Series of Unfortunate Events books are juvenile. But later books, and this most recent series, teach adults as well as children and make us question our values about good and bad, right and wrong. For there is still a kernel of hope if you see beyond the terrible waste and sadness of the ending to this series, just as there always was in A Series of Unfortunate Events. Tor books had a great review exploring this element here

“We are an aristocracy,” Snicket tells Moxie in “Shouldn’t You Be In School?” “Not an aristocracy of power, based on rank or wealth, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate, and the plucky. Our members are found in all nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret understanding between us when we meet.” He goes on to say, “Our schisms and arguments might cause us to disappear. It won’t matter. People like us always slip through the net. Our true home is the imagination, and our kingdom is the wide-open world.” It is a beautifully telling quote amongst a series of beautifully telling quotes. Yes, people are good and bad like a chef’s salad, including Snicket himself, but if we can try to be good and kind and decent and well-read, perhaps we can leave the world a little better than when we began in it. It’s the perfect story to share through customization because it’s the moral all of us want for our children.

All four books were presented  as an associate’s training guide, and include:

·         Personalized covers with the reader’s name and initials cleverly integrated in the front and back cover art

·         Reader’s initial designed into the opening artwork page

·         Photo of the reader included on a character portrait page

·         Unique customized letters and interactive messages to the reader from Lemony Snicket

·         Two of the reader’s friends’ names incorporated in the letters and messages

·         Dedication page for the gift giver to write a personalized message to the reader

 Only the most recent book was printed in hardcover. The rest are paperback.

My brother loved this Christmas gift. He loved the messages addressed to him and the photo on the opening page of each book and the references to places and people he knew, as though he himself had joined VFD. And he’s twenty-three. So what are you waiting for? Interested in children’s books with meat? Go forth and purchase!

“Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights?”: 4/5 inky stars

All four books in this series were supplied by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

http://www.putmeinthestory.com/favorite-characters/lemony-snicket

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