Friday, 31 October 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Vile Village, Chapter 2

As I warned the other day, I’m not able to post these exactly as I would normally do. We’ll get caught up in the coming month and I’m planning a break from these posts over December to give me a chance to post other things if need be.

What Happens?

The Baudelaires have to take a bus to V.F.D. by themselves but the driver is unable to take them all the way there. They are forced to walk across a dusty, flat landscape to reach the town in the distance. By the time they arrive at the Town Hall they are dirty, windswept and sunburned. They then learn that they will be doing chores for the locals and living with a handyman, so all in all, things are not off to a great start in their new home.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter picture shows a bunch of birds which seem to be perched on the word ‘Chapter’ while lots more fly around above them. I remember the V.F.D. of the village name stands for Village of Fowl Devotees, these would be the fowls, or rather, crows that are worshipped by the village then.

The chapter itself opens with a discussion about how to choose where to sit when you’re travelling by bus. Personally I’m a window seat kind of person myself. When I was travelling back up from Gloucester I got stuck in an aisle seat and hated it for the hour or so I was stuck there, then moved the first chance I got when some people got off at Manchester. I’d rather take a window seat, even if it does (as Snicket so nicely points out) mean having to watch insects get squashed on the glass.

Mr Poe doesn’t bother to accompany them to their new home to introduce them to their new guardians, or check that they’re all suitable to act as guardians to three children who have been moved around so much they don’t know where they belong any more. So the Baudelaires are dumped on a bus and sent off to V.F.D.’s Town Hall. Considering how much they’ve had to deal with I don’t see why they can’t just be put in charge of their own money themselves. They would probably do a much better job of it than Poe does!

Sunny’s actually progressing to two word sentences now. As she’s seated in the middle seat on the bus she reminds her siblings “No lean!” because she doesn’t want them falling asleep and using her as a pillow. There’s nothing worse than winding up with a stranger sleeping on your shoulder. I’m willing to let family members get away with it though.

The Baudelaires are spending the journey trying to figure out what V.F.D. might stand for. Knowing Mr Poe as well as they do they pretty much immediately rule him out as a potential source of information. The Quagmires on the other hand would probably be exactly the people to help them out. Too bad they’ve been abducted by Count Olaf and his cronies and who knows where they are now.

It isn’t long before the bus driver is announcing their arrival at V.F.D. Klaus, who is beside the window, informs his sisters that it looks ‘flat’:

The countryside looked as if someone had drawn the line of the horizon – the word “horizon” here means “the boundary where the sky ends and the world begins” – and then forgot to draw in anything else.

Love that description.

Considering there are no buildings in sight the children begin to wonder exactly where V.F.D. is. Klaus suggests it is underground which prompts Sunny to reply “Novedri!” meaning “Living underground would be no fun at all!” Looks like she’s back to one word responses for the time being. All they can see in the distance is a bit of a blur, which could be a fata morgana (which is another word for a mirage), I think that’ll be the place they’ll be calling home for this book.

And yes, the bus driver confirms that the blurry speck in the distance is V.F.D. and he can’t get any closer because the Council of Elders makes him drop off all passengers miles away. Sounds a wee bit ominous, don’t you think? I can’t help but reminded of that film The Village. Once again this helps to prove just how incompetent Mr Poe is, considering he’s not warning the children that they’re going to have one hell of a walk to actually reach their new home. Didn’t see any photos of this in the brochure, did they?

You know how I always wonder just when this series is set. Well Violet’s luggage has wheels on the bottom! It’s practically modern times then! Sunny is planted on top to save her from crawling the whole way; her response is “Sanks!” which doesn’t really need translating but gets it anyway, “That’s very considerate of you!”

It’s not a pleasant journey for them. Before too long Violet is looking quite windswept and dishevelled, Klaus is covered in dust and Sunny is sunburned. And then the town comes into view and everything seems to be covered in moving black stuff. And what is the moving black stuff, why it’s birds of course! Every surface is covered in crows:

The crows weren’t squawking or cawing, which is what crows often do, or playing the trumpet, which crows practically never do, but the town was far from silent.

I just love the mental picture this conjures up of a trumpet playing crow.

The Baudelaires are understandably disconcerted at finding their new home completely covered in birds. I imagine that the bits of the town that aren’t covered in black birds will probably be covered with the white stuff such birds are liable to produce. Ew. All the same, Klaus tries to reassure his sisters. Sunny replies “Zimuster” meaning “It would be silly to be afraid of a bunch of birds” but none of the children seem particularly relieved to realise the birds are harmless.

They have to very carefully step over all the crows. I think I would be more afraid of hurting them than of them hurting me. Then again, if I was faced with thousands of silent, staring crows I might feel a little differently. “Racah” Sunny says, meaning “It’s almost like walking through a quiet, but polite, crowd of very short people.”

I then discover why I could only read some of the letters of the word ‘Chapter’ a few pages back. Some of the birds are perched on the letters of the Town Hall ‘so it reads ‘wn Ha’, hehe, I like it when there are clever bits in the book like that, even when they don’t necessarily make sense at first. Violet hesitates before going for the door though. She’s having an attack of nerves and worries about what they’re about to find on the other side. Personally I’d say more crows would be a safe bet! “Gaksoo!” Sunny says, meaning “There’s no point in arguing, because we’ll never know whether we’re right or wrong until we knock on the door” and takes the lead, knocking on the door before anyone can stop her.

I’m kind of right about the crows inside. There aren’t any actual crows, but there are crow portraits! There’s a big room full of chairs and a platform with people sitting on a bench. Everyone sitting at the bench is pretty old, presumably making them the Council of Elders. Oh and they all wear crow hats that make it look like they’ve got birds roosting on their heads. Not sure that look will catch on personally…

And the old people aren’t so impressed with the Baudelaires’ appearances. They’ve just arrived, having gone through massive hardships prior to their arrival, experienced loss and abuse, and they’re criticizing the fact that they’re a bit grubby and sunburned. Oh yeah, we’re less than fifty pages in and you know the children are going to have a tough time of it in this book!

But before the children can explain themselves they get a sharp lesson in the rules of V.F.D. Right now they are talking to Officer Luciana, who is wearing a motorcycle helmet which covers her face. I’m seeing ‘Luciana’ but I’m thinking ‘Olaf’, she’s got to be one of the bad guys, surely. It seems even more likely when you consider that the previous Chief of Police is unwell, having swallows pins (but is described as having a sore throat).

And then it’s the turn of ‘the orphans’, everyone in this series is so sensitive, aren’t they? The children are placed on the platform and the questions begin. Someone’s read The Daily Punctilio and worries that the children will bring more trouble with them. Why is it the Baudelaires always get the blame for Olaf when no one will actually listen to them when he shows up? That’s really the least of their worries though. The Council understand that guardians give children chores, therefore, the children will be responsible for doing the chores of everyone in the village.

It’s not even that simple. They have to be aware of the roosting patterns of the crows so will need to carefully arrange their chores so as not to disturb the birds. Oh, and no one want the children in their houses so they are to be housed with Hector, the handyman. They’re not allowed to say anything during all of this though as they’re not permitted to speak while on the platform. Bet they’re regretting choosing V.F.D. as their new home, they’re about as welcome there as chicken pox!

In order to protect the children a new rule has been created: Rule #19,833 which states villains are not allowed into the area. Because not allowing criminals into the area has worked out so well for the children in the past! This rule will be about as effective as the computer system, the doorman and everything else so far.

So now the children are off to Hector’s house and he’s still not talking to them. There’s some anxiety about whether he’s a little bit of a bad guy, but it’s just that the Council makes him nervous. Once they’re outside he’s actually quite a pleasant sort of person. He likes Mexican food and he likes watching the sun set. Except it’s not really the sunset he wants them to watch, it’s the spectacular moment when all the birds fly off to a new spot to roost for the night.

But the Baudelaires aren’t as free as the birds. They can’t get away from V.F.D and Olaf as easily as that.

Next week we'll be back to the usual schedule with posts every afternoon (apart from Wednesday). See you there.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Finish This Book: Becoming A Sleuth

Two weeks ago I shared a picture I was quite proud of that I had to draw for that page. The story continues, telling us that the author found a bunch of pages by a bench and so gathered them all up. There’s a brief bit of code which I’ve not deciphered yet and then we are told that on the cover it says ‘Instruction Manual’.

We have to discover who created it and why.

But before we get onto that we must first learn how to be sleuths. And we’re met by:
Research: definition of “sleuthing”
Research methods: dictionary, Internet, library

And so I sat in bed, trying to load up pages on my phone (very dodgy internet connection) and got down to researching using Google and various online dictionaries.

It says:

Definition of ‘sleuthing’ – from google – verb, present participle of ‘sleuth’ which means to carry out a search or investigation in the manner of a detective.
Apparently it comes from Middle English where it had the meaning to ‘track’ which in turn came from the Old Norse word ‘sloth’.
The term meaning ‘carrying out a search like a detective’ dates from the late 19th century – perhaps coming into use because of the rise in popularity of detective novels; People read about the exploits of Sherlock Holmes and wanted to get in on the excitement of ‘sleuthing’ themselves.
If a sleuth is a detective and I am to become one then this will obviously involve doing some sleuthing of my own. I think some of this will be to solve the mysteries of where the book came from and what the strange code was on the last past. I’ll have to deduce things and make links that other people might overlook. It’ll be interesting.

So yeah, that’s what I came up with. All the definitions were fairly similar so I just stuck with the one from Google. The linguistics geek in me had to include the origin for it and then I figured I’d include some history of the term as well as what I thought it means for me doing this book.

It’s interesting seeing where it will go.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Book 21 of 2014: Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

When I was younger I was given a lovely big hardback edition of The Complete Illustrated Works of Lewis Carroll which I used to spend a lot of time poring over, mainly looking at the illustrations and reading snippets of poetry. Obviously I read the stories as well, but it was the pictures and rhymes that I liked to revisit over and over again.

Now I own a lovely clothbound version of Jabberwocky which is just the poems written by Lewis Carroll along with bits of information about who they were written for and when. All the classic Carroll poems are there, obviously the most familiar ones are the ones from the Alice stories but there are others from letters written to friends as well as other publications.

I’ve read most of these before, though some were unfamiliar. Although my old copy of the complete works claims to be complete I think it is missing the earlier ones in this collection as well as the later ones. It was fun to be introduced to the ones that I didn’t recognise as well as to be reintroduced to some that I’d forgotten.

‘Jabberwocky’ is always going to be my favourite, especially since it came up when I was studying U211 and I was able to look at it in a new way. I like the way that the made up words meanings can be inferred from the context and I had a very enjoyable tutorial discussing it in great depth. It wasn’t even part of an assignment or anything, we just got carried away with our conversation.

There are plenty of others that I really enjoyed. Most of them were from the Alice stories which I’ll admit I became familiar with when I was little through the Disney film. I really liked the acrostic poems. We used to do acrostics all the time when I was at school but we were never given examples by ‘proper’ poets. It would’ve been useful for us to see how they can be written:

Round the wondrous globe I wander wild,
Up and down-hill – Age succeeds to youth -
Toiling all in vain to find a child
Half so loving, half so dear as Ruth.

The riddle poems were good as well though I really had no hope of solving most of them. They quite often dealt with mathematical problems which I know nothing about but I’ll take it for granted that they’re very clever. It was particularly with these riddle poems that it was useful to have the notes at the end, they helped me to understand the poems (who they were written for, when, why) as well as to solve these puzzles.

I really shouldn’t go so long without reading poetry but I struggle to find poems that really appeal to me in the same way as they used to when I was younger. I have been doing slightly better recently so I’ll carry on looking out for more that appeals to me. If you’ve got any recommendations, let me know.

Monday, 27 October 2014

NaNo Talk: Pre-NaNo Prep

November is known around the world as National Novel Writing Month, a time of the year when hundreds and thousands of people try to get 50,000 words down on paper in just thirty days. There’s something quite compelling about it and once you’ve taken part once it has a habit of drawing you back in, year after year.

This year while I’m taking part I’m also sharing some of my thoughts on the various stages of the month.

This week marks the very last chance we have for NaNo planning, the final push before the kick off on Saturday. Now the site has been reset (though they’ve done something new with the boards this year so they never went completely blank, a bit of a bone of contention between some people) this is the time to fill in those bits and pieces of information that you already know about your novel.

One of the first things it asks you for is a title for your novel. I like to have a title. Sometimes it’s little more than a placeholder (I can’t think how many of mine have been called ‘NaNovel [year]’) but I do feel like I’m more inspired if I have an actual title to work with.

Considering the general theme of my novel this year is New Beginnings I’ve gone for Life After after posting for help in the Appellation Station forum. I’d been going with New Beginnings but it just didn’t give me that spark of inspiration that I got from Life After. It works well because for Tabitha it’s Life After HOPE and for Matt it’s Life After Daisy. I like titles with multiple meanings.

I had to come up with a synopsis as well, which proved tricky considering I’m still not entirely sure how it’ll end. I’ve fudged together something there but I might revisit it in the coming week to polish it up a little bit before we get started. But working out what your story might actually be about is kind of useful for planning in terms of writing an outline.

And you’ve got the option to upload a cover as well now. It’s not something I tended to do in the past. I’m somewhat graphically challenged so aside from the odd banner I don’t normally bother. But this year I decided to request one in the NaNo Artisans forum. A lovely designer came through for me and designed something that I’m pleased with, it’s definitely inspired me.

Thanks Jen Hen!
Having a title and a cover help because it makes your story feel like a real thing. If it’s got a cover and a title you have to get it written, don’t you. Whenever I get a little bit stuck during November I’m going to pull up my book cover and pretend its real to help motivate me towards the end.

My other favourite thing to do before I start NaNo is to organise my desktop backgrounds. I love that Windows 7 lets the background change every so many seconds. It means I don’t have to pick a favourite any more, I can download them all and then just switch between them. I especially like the ones with quotes or reminders because just looking at one of those for a moment is sometimes just enough to give me a prompt to keep going.

Oh, and you might want to think about getting a spreadsheet organised to keep track of your progress as you go through the month. There are loads of different ones depending on what programme you’re using, how you want your results to display and any other goals you’re working towards for the month. It’s just a question of downloading them all and seeing which suits.

And now I’ve got my background, my spreadsheet, my cover and my title, I’m almost ready to begin. It’s just a question of staying up until midnight at Halloween, then starting to throw words at the page and hoping that some of them make sense when I get to the end of the month.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Weekly Rundown: We're Going to the Zoo!

To celebrate my graduation yesterday Mr Click and I are off to the Zoo today. In fact hopefully by the time you’re reading this, I’ll already be there and preparing to go and say hello to the panda bears.

In the next couple of weeks I’ll tell you all about the big day itself and share lots of the photos that I’m probably taking right now.

For now, here’s a cute little song which fits the day quite well:

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Film Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Part 3

We’re at the halfway mark now and things are getting very dramatic now. Also, as you’re reading this I’m going to be in Edinburgh, getting all dressed up and having my photo taken for my graduation. Truth be told, I’m feeling quite nervous about this and way more exciting about the prospect of letting my hair down and playing around with my camera at Edinburgh Zoo tomorrow. So as you’re reading this review today, think non-tripping thoughts for me making my way across the stage!

Last week we left Harry and Cho kissing in the Room of Requirement which was fun, so this time things are getting more serious to keep the balance right. Mr Weasley gets seriously injured, Christmas happens, Deatheaters escape and Umbridge is onto Dumbledore’s Army!

81. Ron and Hermione’s discussion with Harry about the snogging is great. I know it’s taken from the book, but it plays out so well in the film. ‘Emotional range of a teaspoon’ is a brilliant line, and I love all the natural laughter after it.

82. But we can’t be happy for too long, so we have a little break for some more visions. This time a wee bit clearer. Oh look, it’s Mr Weasley and he’s being attacked.

83. McGonagall looks so worried about Harry.

84. They’ve toned down Shouty!Harry quite a bit in the film from the book. I think it gives moments like when Harry shouts at Dumbledore to ‘Look at me!’ a bit more impact.

85. In the book doesn’t Harry get whisked off the Grimmauld Place at the same time as all the Weasleys? Not complaining about getting to see a little bit more of Snape and I guess it does kind of make more sense to go straight into having these lessons right away to help Harry block out Voldemort.

86. I miss the trip to St. Mungo’s in this film, that was always one of my favourite bits in the book, especially seeing Lockhart again.

87. I always like the Christmas interludes, Christmas is magical enough and then they add actual magic.

88. Hermione is just kind of randomly spending Christmas with the Weasley’s without any explanation.

89. Fred and George have got Doctor Who scarves!

90. It’s sweet how Mrs Weasley calls Mr Weasley ‘Daddy’ in front of the children. Like she’s done it so long that she just can’t stop, even though all the children are growing up.

91. Mr Weasley’s toast to Harry, without whom [I] would not be here – yeah, because he was the snake attacking you!!!

92. Wish we could’ve gotten to see a little bit more of Kreacher. I miss the scenes at the beginning with them clearing out the house. It really would’ve set things up for the next film a little bit better.

93. I love the family tree tapestry. I’d quite like to have one of those myself. Nice little nod to have Helena Bonham Carter’s face shown as Bellatrix, can’t say I’ve ever paid much attention to that before.

94. Funny to hear Harry talking about how angry he is all the time, compared to Book!Harry you’re not that bad.

95. Love Sirius talking to Harry about good and bad/light and dark and choosing to act on those choices. Reminds me of The Lord of the Rings.

96. When Hermione says time to go does that mean they’re actually going back to Hogwarts on Christmas Day? Or has Christmas been delayed for them because Mr Weasley was in hospital and that’s why they’re doing presents now?

97. Proper family, Sirius? Oh dear. I hate knowing how this film ends.

98. Hogwarts looks so cool from above. I love the courtyard bit that we only just started seeing from the third film.

99. Random comment: I like Hagrid’s windows. They seem to be made up of bits of someone else’s windows. Perhaps they’re former school windows which were broken by students.

100. Umbridge kind of threatens Hagrid, liked it in the book when she just stubbornly refuses to understand him.

101. And now the Deatheaters want to recruit the giants and it’s not worked out so well for Hagrid seeing as he’s all beaten up. Looks like Hagrid’s crockery comes from Central Perk.

102. Lots of foreboding with wind blowing and clouds getting all dark and foreshadowy. Is that not a word? It should be.

103. And now we see Bellatrix licking her Dark mark and laughing… yep, she’s crazy.

104. Oh look, a whole bunch of Deatheaters have been released, let’s pin that on Sirius Black as well. Wizarding law enforcement leaves a little to be desired, doesn’t it.

105. More funky Daily Prophet pages. Someday I’m going to try pausing it to make out more of the headlines on the pages.

106. At least this seems to prompt a change of heart from Seamus. Now he believes Harry. We don’t get to see what Harry’s response to this is.

107. Nice little moment between Harry and Neville which basically gives us the information we would’ve gotten if they’d done the St Mungo’s scenes. It’s sweet to see both boys looking at the photo of their parents in the original Order of the Phoenix and reflecting on them. I’d still have rather gone to St Mungo’s and seen Lockhart again, though perhaps it’s better for it to look the way it does in my head when I read the book rather than having them do it in the film and changing the way I see it.

108. Like to see what Patronuses (Patroni?) everyone conjures up. Ginny’s got a horse, Hermione’s got her otter, Ron seems to have a dog, Luna a hare/rabbit. I can’t remember how many of these are mentioned in the book. I remember Hermione’s making it in. I think your Patronus must be a bit like you Daemon in His Dark Materials.

109. I like how Luna’s Patronus takes a moment longer than everyone else’s to disappear, it kind of highlights how she’s not quite as with it as everyone else.

110. And now Umbridge is breaking in to the Room of Requirement, and making quite a mess of it in the process. Not sure I’d noticed them pinning it on Cho Chang before, clearly I don’t pay much attention. I prefer the book way of it being her friend, but this kind of serves to split up Harry and Cho just as effectively.

111. Nice to see Percy back in this film. He’s smarmy and annoying even when he’s not saying anything.

112. Dumbledore takes full responsibility for Dumbledore’s Army. Siegfried, I mean Fudge, orders him to be taken to Azkaban, because that’s worked out so well for them recently.

113. I like that Fawkes takes Dumbledore away instead of relying on Kingsley Shacklebolt to cause a diversion and Kingsley’s commenting on the fact that Dumbledore’s got style.

114. And now things are very different at Hogwarts as Umbridge has taken over. We get lots of gloomy music letting us know this with pictures being taken down, more rules being enforced and the whole of the DA in detention scratching words into their hands. Umbridge looks on in a sort of throne being generally evil.

Next up Hermione gets a new admirer (Krum’s got competition), Snape’s teaching technique is almost as bad as Umbridge’s, and two of the Weasley’s decide to leave Hogwarts for bigger and more exciting things.

Friday, 24 October 2014

If the OU says so...

... it must be true.

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Vile Village, Chapter 1

Here we are starting the seventh book in The Series of Unfortunate Events. It’s taken us a surprisingly short time to get here (though a little longer to get to this chapter considering I've postponed it to give me more reading time). I’m quite enjoying watching the gap for the missing book moving along the bookcase. It’s also alarming how much thicker the books at this end are getting compared to the ones on the far left.

Better stop typing and get reading.

What Happens?

The children learn that they have no more relatives who are willing to take them in so instead Mr Poe is going to farm them out to a whole village to look after them instead. One of the village names on the list is very familiar to the Baudelaires.

Thoughts as I read:

As this is the first few pages of a new book, we’ve got a new dedication, to Beatrice as usual:

For Beatrice -
When we were together I felt breathless.
Now, you are.

How very romantic.

And another new book means another big picture in the opening pages. This one shows the three Baudelaires, with their luggage, standing beside a bench and a sign saying V.F.D. There’s a bird, a crow, perched on the sign. There are a few more flying around in the distance as well. Speaking of in the distance, there’s obviously buildings away back there, but I’m more distracted by the giant clouds up ahead. Are they smoke? Dust? Just regular clouds? We’ll hopefully find out in the coming pages.

No matter who you are, no matter where you live, and no matter how many people are chasing you, what you don’t read is often as important as what you do read.

Sound words of advice from Mr Snicket, the man who loves commas almost as much as I do.

We’re also given examples of times when not reading things is bad, like warning signs or cookery books. Snicket then goes on to suggest that we might all be happier if we leave this book alone and go for some charming literature like The Littlest Elf. Obviously, due to my lack of ownership of a copy of The Littlest Elf I am forced to continue to suffer as I learn about the miserable lives of the Baudelaires. And if you’re reading this, then I’m dragging you along for the ride!

As the story begins the Baudelaires are reading a newspaper. The newspaper in question is The Daily Punctilio which is declaring “TWINS CAPTURED BY COUNT OMAR” can you spot the two deliberate mistakes there? This helps to remind us of what has happened so far, and at the same time allows us a quick recap of the primary talents of each of the Baudelaires. For those of us who are struggling to keep up; Violet invents, Klaus reads and, in her own words, Sunny “Krechin!” meaning “And if I used my four big teeth to bite something as sloppily, I wouldn’t even leave one toothmark!”

We also learn that the children are currently in Mr Poe’s office as they take it in turns to correct the newspaper report. Firstly, the Quagmires, while there are only two of them, are actually triplets having lost their brother in the first that orphaned them. Secondly, the count who has abducted them is Olaf, not Omar. And thirdly, “Esme!” says Sunny, pointing out that Esme was part of Olaf’s plot and wasn’t kidnapped like the paper says.

The children also lament all the things that go unmentioned in the newspaper. All the things we already know about the Quagmires and the Baudelaires and why Olaf is after them all. We also get a quick recap of the events at the end of the last book. Hopefully we already remember them quite clearly. I do, but that’s because I’m writing this blog post hours after finishing that book so it’s all very fresh in my mind.

Mr Poe shows up at this point, coughing as usual, and we’re giving another recap, this time of how incompetent he is when it comes to finding suitable guardians for the Baudelaires. The latest in the search for new caretakers for the children is proving a little bit tricky. Everyone has heard about the trouble, namely Olaf, that follows them wherever they go, and no one is keen to take them on.

As if to illustrate this, Mr Poe gets a phone call from their nineteenth cousin, a man by the name of Mr. Fagin. Wonder if he teaches kids how to pick pockets? We’ll never know because Fagin has hear of the Baudelaires’ reputation and wants nothing to do with them. And if that’s not bad enough, Poe is concerned that his associating with the children is damaging the reputation of the bank. I think he manages that all by himself personally!

Mr Poe is as disappointed with the newspaper article as the children are. Unfortunately his disappointment stems from the fact that he did not get his picture alongside the children. Priorities again, Mr Poe. Before we can delve into this too deeply the phone rings again and Mr Poe announces that this call has solved the problem.

The Baudelaires looked at one another. Had Count Olaf been arrests? Had the Quagmires been saved? Had someone invented a way to go back in time and rescue their parents from the terrible fire? How could all of their problems have been solved with one phone call to a banker?

Sunny asks “Plinn?” which I’m guessing is all of these questions in one. But no, Mr Poe simply tells them the aphorism “It takes a village to raise a child.” This does not actually give them very much information about how this will solve all of their problems. Klaus thinks he’s heard about an African tribe who live by this aphorism so wonders if they are about to be sent to Africa.

They’re not. They’ve joined a programme where villages sign up to take in an orphan and the whole village raises the child. Mr Poe isn’t entirely clear on how this will work, he can’t see how everyone will do everything for them, instead suggesting the villagers will take it in turns to look after them, like tucking them into bed at night. Sunny is unimpressed, “Snoita!” meaning “I prefer to be tucked into bed by my siblings, not by strangers!” Poor Sunny.

To relieve any worries the children might have Mr Poe hands the children a brochure about the scheme. It’s the typical sort of brochure advertising any programme that wants people to sign up for it; lots of smiling photos, testimonies about how wonderful it is. And on the back there’s a list of willing villages. The children are a little worried at the prospect of having a whole village of people looking after them, questioning whether this will be enough to keep Olaf away.

So we get a list of places where they might potentially go. Paltryville is one, at which Sunny says “Calten!” meaning “I wouldn’t return there for all the tea in China!”. There’s Tedia and Ophelia which prompts:

“No, no,” Mr. Poe said. “I won’t have you living in the same town as the Ophelia Bank. It’s one of my least favourite banks, and I don’t want to have to walk by it when I visit you.”

Sunny points out “Zounce!” meaning “That’s ridiculous!” but then they spot a potential village which prompts Sunny to say “Gounce!” which means “Let’s live there!” They’ve spotted a village which appears to go by the name V.F.D.

Looks like we’ll be going there next then.

Except we'll have to wait until next week to find out what life will be like there because as you're reading this, I'm heading off to Edinburgh for my graduation tomorrow. Check back next Friday for the next installment.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Wreck This Journal: Freeze This Page

This is a page that I’ve not added a huge amount to yet, mainly because I got this book in the summer and I didn’t have much access to cold weather themed supplies. Now we’re heading towards Christmas I’m noticing a lot more references to ice and snow in magazines and catalogues, which lends itself nicely to this page.

The instruction on this page is to Figure out a way to freeze this page. And I planned to put it in the freezer for a day or so. Ice cold paper, frozen, job done.

Then I couldn’t help but stumble across a couple of pictures of this page people had done online. Several took advantage of Disney’s Frozen with Elsa or Olaf making things look chilly. And so that gave me the idea to do this:

A work colleague let me have a bunch of Christmassy stickers, so I started out ‘freezing’ my page by adding snowmen and snowflakes to it. It’s pretty plain at the moment but I’ve been collecting chilly sounding words and pictures ever since and I’m almost ready to start adding a bit more to the page.

I’m thinking I will freeze it anyway at some point in the future, just to see what happens. I’m a lot more blaze about tearing pages out of these books and sticking them back in again now. I don’t think tossing a decorated page into the freezer for a couple of days will bother me at all.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Book 20 of 2014: There And Back Again: An Actor's Tale by Sean Astin and Joe Layden

Many, many years ago, I was gifted a signed copy of There And Back Again: An Actor’s Tale. I was at the height of my obsession with the Lord of the Rings films and was ready to eat up every news article, magazine story and book which could offer me a little insight into the workings of the film set and the people involved with it.

This is basically the story of what Sean Astin did before becoming Samwise Gamgee and sort of looking to the future to see what he was planning to do next. It’s a very personal account of his thoughts and feelings, his relationships with other members of the cast and crew, as well as his aspirations. Plus, it’s signed by the actor himself.

This wasn’t my absolute first attempt at this book, though it was my first successful attempt to finish it. I knew that when I first tried to read it I gave up at some point, but couldn’t remember exactly where I’d gotten to. My main memory of the book was that I found Astin distinctly unlikeable and so hadn’t continued with it. This time around I discovered the bookmark from my first attempt, around page 205, which is a lot further through the book than I thought I’d managed.

Although I still found Astin fairly unlikeable at times, I did find the book easier to read this time. Once I got started with it I was determined to finish and I think that determination carried me through to the end. And I didn’t find it as bad as I thought it would be.

Astin does have a tendency to seem really uptight. Plus he always seems to focus on the negatives. Whenever something was going well for him, he automatically seemed to start planning for things to go wrong. He would say things to people that obviously created tension or do things that made him look a bit strange or silly. I felt like he would’ve have a much happier time of it if he just learned to relax a bit more and enjoy things when they were going well.

One of the things that put me off the book before was the fact that I’d grown used to all the interviews with cast and crew talking about what a wonderful experience the films were, how they were like a family, how everyone watched out for each other, and so on. It’s something I’m seeing repeated as the Hobbit films are made. Yet Astin made it sound like he was miserable the whole time. I’d be interested to hear the perspectives of some of the other people in the scenarios he describes because I get the sense that Astin just takes things badly and tends towards the negatives.

I honestly don’t think that he did himself any favours by producing this book. The cover and blurb lead themselves towards the Lord of the Rings fan who is desperate to get more information about the behind the scenes of the film, but aside from being touched on at the beginning, most of the Lord of the Rings stuff doesn’t come into it until much later in the book. And there’s not a whole lot about the actual making of the films; there’s a bit about costume and make up and training, but then there’s a lot about worrying what Peter Jackson thinks of him and whether or not he’s being listened to or taken seriously.

I spent half the book wanting to get Astin to shut up whinging and just enjoy the ride. On the one hand I do appreciate his brutal honesty but on the other, I don’t think that it adds much to the image or brand of Sean Astin. It’s probably one I’ll revisit in the future, and it has a permanent place on my bookshelf, but that doesn’t mean I particularly enjoy it.

Monday, 20 October 2014

A New Obsession

I remember when I was about eight or nine my Mum taught me how to cross stich. I painstakingly decorated a little piece of fabric with a teeny rainbow. I couldn’t start it myself, or change colours, or finish it so I probably did a total of about twenty stitches of the entire thing myself.

Three or four years later, when I was heading back from America, my Uncle took me shopping for something to entertain me on the plane ride back. A quick trip to Walmart and I found a few little cross stich samples with flowers and baskets and things. This was back at the time when you could still take needles and scissors onto planes and I picked away at it for a little while on the flight but I still didn’t know how to start or finish and I got into a bit of a tangle.

Frustrated, I put them away and gave up.

Until Friday.

I’d found myself looking at knitting pattern books on Amazon, which led to other craft books on Amazon, which led to cross stitching patterns, which led to the little kits. And then I found myself routing around in the bottom of my knitting tub where I had tossed some little samplers I had been given years ago and never did anything with.

Quick bit of googling and I remembered what I was doing. Even better I kind of figured out how to start and finish without even looking it up. I didn’t even have any problems starting or finishing.

Within a couple of hours I had a cute little whale:

And then on Saturday I did a ladybird:

By the time I started on the ladybird I was worried that I was running out of projects. I only had one more, a rabbit, to do and then I would have nothing to feed my new-found addiction. Luckily I had a hair appointment scheduled so while we were down town I did a quick circuit of the charity shops. Oxfam yielded nothing (though they did have a cross stich magazine with a pattern for Bagpuss which I resisted the urge to buy) but Cancer Research came through.

I did worry slightly when I saw that most of the outside packaging is in Chinese, but the chart is clear and everything’s there. And it was only £4.50 which having looked at similar sized kits on Hobbycraft would’ve made it a lot more expensive originally. It’s got some sort of a sheep with pink horns which decorates a pink frilly cushion cover. Not necessarily my style but the pattern is definitely more me than bunches of flowers in baskets. Then I spotted a poppy kit for £1 and decided to go for that one as well, to help me build up to the big one.

The rabbit was duly started on Saturday and now looks something like this:

Which makes it my favourite of the lot so far. I definitely think I'm more drawn to the quirky cartoony ones over the more traditional looking projects. That said, the poppy is looking quite pretty and I'm impressed at how I'm getting on with it. I might even finish it before Thursday!

My knitting has kind of been on the back burner recently and I’ve been wanting to find a nice portable project to take with me to Edinburgh at the end of the week and I think that a cross stitch one will fit the bill. Expect to see a little more of my latest obsession around here in the future.

P.S. I'm not posting a Chapter-by-Chapter review this afternoon, or any afternoons this week, because having a cold last week kind of meant I wasn't up for reading or writing these posts. I'll be posting one on Friday this week and one next week (kind of how I used to) then I'll pick up as normal once I'm back from my graduation.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Weekly Rundown: The Snotty Edition

I have spent the latter part of this week dying, which may sound like I’m being overdramatic but I can assure you, I am not!

You see, Mr Click started complaining of having caught a cold around a week ago. It kind of came and went a bit before hitting him with full force on Monday. I’d also started getting a scratchy throat but put it down to the fact that I sit right under a heater at work so had been breathing in warm air part of the day.

Meanwhile Mr Click was hanging. Then Wednesday rolled around and he was starting to feel better while I was starting to suffer. That night I managed roughly three hours sleep and aside from looking like a zombie I did a pretty good impression of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer! By Friday I’d revived somewhat but I’m still a wee bit snuffly.

I’m quite pleased to have gotten it out of the way this week rather than next week. Come Saturday I’ll be at my graduation getting some very expensive photos taken and I think they’ll probably look better if my nose isn’t all pink and red!

Speaking of next week. By this time next week I will be at the Zoo! Getting ready to go and see the pandas. I am so excited, possibly even more excited for the Zoo than for the graduation. I’ve spent a little bit of today organising the suitcase and things we’ll be taking with us and I’ll probably repack it another three or four times before Thursday night. And knowing my luck I’ll still forget something!

I’ve been trying to get ahead on the blog because I’m not going to be able to post while I’m away. Having the cold kind of put paid to that, at the moment I’m not sure if I’ll get all of the Series of Unfortunate Events posts written before I go so there might be some gaps in the schedule over the coming fortnight.

One good thing about suffering from a cold and not being able to lay down in bed without your nose bunging up is that you get more reading done. Since last Sunday I’ve started and finished Johnny and the Dead by Terry Pratchett as well as The Adventures of Tom Bombadil by J.R.R. Tolkien. Now I’ve moved onto a set I got Mr Click last year by Laurie R. King, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. It’s Sherlock Holmes–post Watson, when he’s living in Sussex and meets a teenage girl named Mary Russell who becomes an apprentice of sorts. I’m just a few chapters in at the moment and it’s a chunk of a book but I’m enjoying it thus far.

It does pose a bit of a dilemma in terms of the trip away reading material though. It’s possible that I’ll read all 447 pages before Thursday. It’s equally possible that I won’t finish, which will mean taking away another book. Do I take my Kindle? Which let’s face it, it’s going to be coming with me anyway. Do I start on the next book on my shelf? Which is Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys and is as much of a brick as The Beekeeper’s Apprentice is. Do I stop worrying about the reading material I should take and focus on sorting laundry so I actually have underwear to take away with me? Well, yes, that would probably be rather more practical really…

We’re souring through Ripper Street on blu-ray at the moment as well. We’re halfway through so hopefully we’ll finish that just in time to start on the Not-Quite-Christmas Films. I’ve spent the day today watching a random mix of The Day After Tomorrow, half a Harry Potter film, and Strangers on a Train and, as the weather gets colder and the nights get darker, I’m quite looking forward making a start on the slightly more festive faire, something with fewer natural disasters and murders.

Check back tomorrow to see the other thing that I’ve been spending my weekend doing, mainly when I should have been doing blog posts or packing.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Film Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Part 2

I’m really enjoying rewatching all the Harry Potter films at the moment and rewatching this one has reminded me of just how much I enjoy it. I always overlook this one for some reason, presumably because all I usually remember is how much Umbridge annoys me and the whole Sirius thing, I forget about all the cute little scenes.

Anyway, last week we kicked things off with Dementors in Little Whinging, Dumbledore ignoring Harry, Draco goading Harry into an attack, and Defence Against the Dark Arts acquiring a new teacher.

This time around we’ll be seeing a little bit of Harry-hating, a fair amount of Umbridge-hating, and a lot of rule breaking.

41. Seamus is a bit anti-Harry at the moment and creates a scene in the middle of the common room. Ah, the boys’ dormitory is going to be cosy this year!

42. Poor Ron, now he’s getting shouted at too. And Harry’s got a bit of a Voldemort thing going on with his neck. I think this film really shows how much the kids have improved as actors.

43. I like little scenes like the start of Defence Against the Dark Arts where you get to see them being teenagers with magic powers.

44. The DADA course books look like something for primary school children from the sixties.

45. Apparently school is all about passing exams. That’s not really going to be too helpful when the Dark Lord is hanging around outside to get you.

46. Getting into a shouting match with Umbridge is obviously not a good thing to do, but Harry does it anyway and earns a detention.

47. She uses way too much sugar in her tea and I’ve never really noticed before that the stone walls are actually pink tinged in her office. I think I’d get a headache just sitting in there for five minutes, never mind for a full detention writing lines.

48. The film does a good job of showing how the pen works when Harry writes lines. This is one scene that I think works just as well, if not better, on screen than in the book.

49. I like the Skiving Snackboxes packaging. I wish they would sell sweets in packets like that, though maybe not ones that make you ill.

50. Hermione really is right about reporting Umbridge to Dumbledore. So many problems in these films could be solved if they just told Dumbledore about what was going on.

51. Instead, Harry decides to tell Sirius, which maybe isn’t the best course of action, but at least he’s opening up to someone. I like the little wander around the grounds with the voiceover effect. I can’t remember them doing that much in these films before.

52. Love that Luna is wandering around the forest barefoot. I used to walk home from school barefoot through the woods. I’d quite happily go barefoot all the time if I could.

53. Luna is totally the best person to tell Harry all about Thestrels. I suppose that’s an easier approach than having a Care of Magical Creatures class. Plus we cover a lot of ground; why Luna can see the Thestrels, how she and her father believe Harry, why the ministry is acting as they are. It’s a useful little scene.

54. Aw, Harry is being all humble to his friends now.

55. Umbridge and McGonagall fight. McGonagall could totally take her. The stepping up and down the staircase is a nice visual way of showing who is coming out on top at the moment though.

56. Love all the Daily Prophet pages which are used to show the extra power Umbridge is getting.

57. I also love all the interviews with the other teachers. Particularly Snape. And the way that Umbridge generally goes out of her way to spoil all the fun the students are having.

58. Trelawney’s prediction, ironically, does turn out to be quite true. If only Umbridge had listened. Do you think she’d have to revise the mark she gave Trelawney after the end of the film?

59. Is it wrong that I kind of like the poncho Umbridge wears? I’d obviously not wear a pink one, but maybe in blues or greens.

60. I think whenever McGonagall appears on screen I should just write LOVE. I don’t really feel like I need to say anything else.

61. Poor Harry, getting ignored by Dumbledore. Also, where did he go? Dumbledore has brilliant magic skills!

62. Funny how Sirius gets a mention on the radio and then Sirius appears in the fire. I don’t really like the heads in the fire thing from the last film, but I’m not sure this is an improvement. I don’t like the way he’s just sort of part of the flames and it makes it harder to make him out.

63. Atmospheric lightning really helps to emphasise how much they all need Harry to teach them Defence Against the Dark Arts.

64. And now it’s winter. Hogwarts looks so awesome in the snow.

65. Love the random goat in the pub. It’s a brilliant little in-joke for people who have read the books.

66. I love the knitwear in these films. Hermione’s jumper is lovely. ‘Cause that’s totally the point of this scene.

67. Big moment as Hermione says Voldemort’s name for the first time. I like the little pause as she kind of summons up the courage.

68. Love rule breaking Hermione and Ron’s “Who are you and what have you done with Hermione Granger?” Also, more knitwear. Love the hats!

69. Uh oh, Umbridge is onto you guys.

70. I know it’s really Dobby who puts Harry on to the Room of Requirement, but I love that in the film it’s Neville who finds it. He doesn’t get as many awesome moment in the films as in the books so it’s good that he gets a couple of little ones here.

71. Hehe, Ron’s mind goes straight to the bathroom.

72. The DA meetings scenes are done wonderfully well as well. I like the intercuts between the actual classes and then the Potter-led ones, as well as the attempts to catch them in the act of their secret meetings.

73. The sandwich Filch eats while he’s waiting outside looks like it was made by my husband.

74. Ron and Hermione have so many cute little moments in this film. Total shipper here!

75. Also, lol at the Harry/Cho moments, like Cho failing at levitating Nigel because she was distracted by Harry.

76. Ron does not look happy about his little sister being able to destroy their practice dummy, hehe.

77. Love how Neville gets everyone gathering round him when he finally manages to disarm him. So sweet.

78. Ron and Hermione are kind of obvious about their Harry/Cho shipping. I bet they’re going to be talking about whether or not they’ll kiss all the way back to the common room!

79. It’s sweet that they have a picture of Cedric up in the Room of Requirement. Though Harry, telling his former girlfriend that ‘Voldemort was better’ maybe isn’t the best thing to say.

80. That room is brilliant, the way the mistletoe just appears. It’s quite cute in a geeky teenagers kissing kind of way.

And we’ll leave them there, in the Room of Requirement, having a little tonsil tennis session.

Check back next week when we’ll hit the midway point for serious injuries for Mr Weasley, serious conversation between Harry and Neville, serious trouble for Dumbledore’s Army, oh and Sirius.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Vile Village

I’m a very bad reader person. I completely forgot the title of this book until I reached the end of The Ersatz Elevator and had it spelled out for me there. I couldn’t make it out when I was sitting in my armchair across the room from the bookcase where the Series of Unfortunate Events books live and so in my blog schedule notes I’d been referring to these posts as ‘Chapter-by-Chapter: The Next Book’. Can’t think why they never went with that title for one of the actual books myself.

I remember a bit about this book. I remember that the children have run out of guardians but there is a thing about it taking a village to raise a child so they are taken in by an actual village. The children are given the option of which village they want to go to and pick the one with V.F.D. in its name. I think that stands of Village of Fowl Devotees. They have a thing for birds.

The picture on the cover is reminiscent of something from The Birds. We can see Klaus climbing a rope ladder, presumably that’s Violet’s feet above him, and little Sunny is clinging on in front of him with her teeth. They’re surrounded by birds, which I’m going to say are the V.F.D. crows and their feathers. I think they’re up high in the air too.

Other important things to note: The spine of the book is a lovely dark red colour. It’s a little bit like the first one. As well as having the familiar thorny sort of pattern on the spine we’ve also got the border bit which is a pattern made of bird feathers. I love how these little touches always tie into the story. It’s very neat.

The back cover reminds me that newspaper articles, or an article, play a part in the story. I want to say the Baudelaires get put in prison too, but I’m not sure that I’m remembering that clearly. The back cover certainly says that someone gets arrested so I think I’m right in thinking that there’s a prison featured in here somewhere.

Other than that, there’s not much else I can remember. And as this reread is showing me, I don’t remember anywhere near as much of these books as I thought I did.

So come back on Monday when we’ll get stuck into the first chapter.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Ersatz Elevator, Chapter 13

And so we’ve done it. We’ve reached the end of another book in The Series of Unfortunate Events. I can hardly believe it. I’m so glad that I switched to doing these not-quite-daily because I worked it out earlier in the week and if I was doing a chapter a week we’d still be back on The Reptile Room, instead we’re getting ready to start the seventh book! It won’t be long before we’re over halfway through the series.

But before we get there, we have to finish Chapter 13 first!

What Happens?

The box is revealed to contain nothing more than doilies which are spilled all over the floor. Esme announces that she no longer wishes to be the Baudelaires’ guardian and then Gunther inadvertently reveals his true identity. In the ensuing chaos he and Esme take off and the Baudelaires learn that the red herring was the real auction item hiding the Quagmires. As Olaf and Esme get away, they decide that they will not let anything stop them from tracking down Olaf, rescuing the Quagmires, and getting to the bottom of all their mysteries.

Thoughts as I read:

The picture at the beginning of this chapter reminds me what’s in the V.F.D. box. I’d completely forgotten up until this point and it’s just seeing all the doilies swirling around on this page that I’ve been reminded. There are almost twenty of the things all over the page and at the bottom there is a tangle of arms and legs. I particularly like the chubby ladies’ legs in the very back. These obviously belong to the people at the In Auction because they’re all of them wearing pinstripes.

Violet starts the chapter off with an upset cry of “These are doilies” telling us that I am right and this is exactly what was in the box. V.F.D. stands for, as I remembered a moment ago, ‘Very Fancy Doilies’.

The children give up all pretence that they don’t know who Gunther really is and switch back to calling him Olaf at once. Klaus is dismayed that Lot #50 was a red herring at which a voice from the crowd corrects him, after all, the red herring was Lot #48.

“Children, I’m very disturbed by your behaviour,” Mr Poe said. “You look like you haven’t washed in a week. You’re spending your money on ridiculous items. You run around accusing everybody of being Count Olaf in disguise. And now you’ve made a big mess of doilies on the floor. Someone is likely to trip and fall on all these slippery napkins. I would have thought that the Squalors would be raising you better than this.”

Love how Mr Poe always gets his priorities right. You’re dirty, you’re making false accusations and look at the mess you’ve made!

Esme chooses this moment to wash her hands of the Baudelaires. Jerome to his credit seems a little bit upset by this, probably more so because Esme kind of dumps him moments later as well. At which point Gunther offers to take the Baudelaires off their hands.

Unfortunately for Gunther, Mr Poe was actually right. As he steps forwards he slips on a doily, the impact of him hitting the floor makes his boots fall off (yes, really) and the children are once again proved right. You can’t help but wonder why Poe is so stubborn to accept what the children say when each time they correctly pick out Olaf from whichever disguise he has chosen to adopt.

Jerome is the one who spots the tattoo and calls him out as being Count Olaf. As if things we’re already dramatic enough, Esme decides to announce that she thinks evil counts are in, which leads to a discussion of how they’re really not, and allows Olaf the wonderful line “We’re not in. We’re out – out of the city!”

And just like that Esme and Olaf run out of the building. Everyone takes off after them but Esme and Olaf have a head start. Just in case we wanted to pretend that the book has a happy ending, Snicket does give us a kind of alternative ending in which they are captured, the Quagmires are found, we learn what V.F.D. really means along with the resolution to all the other little mysteries raised in the last six books, and everyone has a celebration. But despite there being another ten pages to go, none of these things are likely to happen.

What actually happens is everyone starts falling over doilies and each other, everyone that is except the Baudelaires who stick on the evil duo’s heels. At this point the doorman with the long sleeves is seen with his sleeves pushed up. Anyone care to hazard a guess at what he’s got where his hands should be?

Olaf takes a brief moment to tell the children he’ll be back for them at which Sunny says “Gonope?” and Violet translates it as “Where are Duncan and Isadora? Where have you taken them?” Believe it or not, Esme actually answers this question for them by pointing to a red herring in the back.

Here, again, Snicket gives us an alternative version of events, one which involves the children getting to the truck in time, the Quagmires escaping from the statue and the police catching Olaf. Once again, none of these things happen. Olaf gets away with Esme and the Quagmires once again.

Mr Poe shows up just as the Baudelaires stand outside the hall crying. Can’t really blame them, can you? If just one adult had listened to them, all this would’ve been different. All the same, Mr Poe announces he’s going to call the police and Jerome seems confident that this will solve all their problems, because it’s obviously worked out so well for them in the past.

I have to admit, although he has his faults, Jerome really isn’t too bad. He promises to take the Baudelaires away, even though his plan does involve forgetting the Quagmires and Olaf which maybe isn’t the healthiest of approaches to take. Luckily Klaus, Violet and Sunny have no intention of forgetting any of the things that have happened and they tell Jerome so quite heatedly. Sunny even adds “Tercul!” which means “And we don’t want to forget about everything else, either – like the underground hallway that led to our ruined mansion, and the real meaning of V.F.D.!”

And then, just to make sure I feel absolutely no sympathy for Jerome whatsoever, he tells the Baudelaires that if they are determined to find Olaf instead of living safely with him, then he can’t be their guardian any more. And then he leaves. Just walks away. Just like that. Bad move Jerome!

But something seems to have changed within the Baudelaires. Remember how the last few books have ended with them feeling all lost and hopeless. Well this time Violet immediately starts talking about the inventing skills she will need to find the Quagmires, Klaus talks about his research skills to solve the mysteries they’ve uncovered, and even Sunny says “Bite” which probably doesn’t need any translation.

And so this book actually ends on a kind of hopeful note. The Baudelaires are even smiling a little bit, because they’ve got each other. Aww. That’s kind of heartwarming, isn’t it?

The last image in the book is of the Baudelaires looking slightly less happy on the steps outside Veblen Hall. The doors look like something out of Rivendell and there are doilies floating around above them. Oh, and there’s a bird just flying into the picture which I think might just be a clue to the next book.

The other clue to the next book is in the form of a letter typewritten on a creased and stained sheet of paper which tells us that the next book is The Vile Village. There’s also something called V.F.D. crows, interesting.

Check back tomorrow to find out a bit more about this book.

Finish This Book: The Story

This is the page where I feel like the book properly begins and you start getting into the real meat of the activities it gives you. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the pages up to this point, it’s just that they were fairly simple superficial things you were doing with the pages. Here’s where it started to get fun and I found myself needing to devote a little more time to my project.

The first page tells you the story behind the book. You’re informed that Keri Smith, or at least the book compiler, had spent the day in the library. We’re told they had been reading The Library of Babel* which is underlined and asterisked but which I’m yet to find out what the asterisk relates to.

They then had to hurry out of the library and we’re told:

Outside, the night was warm for the time of year, which was fall, and there were leaves blowing wildly all around. It was threatening to rain and little flashes of lightning were flickering in the distance. I would have to hurry so as not to get caught in the impending storm.

To get to my house, I passed through a park, which had a long and windy path. Every 20 feet or so there was a park bench, of the standard wood and cast-iron variety. (Please draw one on the opposite page.)

Well, I had to follow the instructions, didn’t I?

I’m not so hot at things like perspective so I drew my little bench and then decided to fill in some other details from the page before. In my mind’s eye there would be buildings in the background where the lightning is striking but I’m no good at drawing those so I just left them out. I felt like the bench would be near a tree, which is turning brown with the autumn.

I also threw in some leaves blowing off the tree and some leaves on the floor too, because that’s what the estate looks like when autumn hits. I love autumn on the estate so I was trying to remember how it looked because I was doing this in the summer.

I also took the time to Google what lightning actually looks like. Most of the photos had just white jaggedy shapes. Looking at it now I think I should’ve made it thinner, but some of the photos show really wide white bursts and they mostly had purple and blue around the edges so I tried to get that across.

I’m actually really proud of my bench, tree and swirly looking cloud. I think this page succeeded in sucking me right into the book. I spent a good two or three days on it, making it all perfect.

Have you got Finish This Book? Care to share your ‘The Story’ page?

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Ersatz Elevator, Chapter 12

The penultimate chapter is a bit of a hefty one, so grab yourself a snack and a drink and join me for the action.

What Happens?

The Baudelaires arrive at the auction shortly before Lot #50, the V.F.D. and watch as a large red fish statue is auctioned off. The children meet Mr Poe and learn that he has had a tip off that the Quagmires are working in a glue factory, before they beg Jerome to bid on the V.F.D. for them. However when they win the lot they discover that Olaf has outsmarted them again.

Thoughts as I read:

The chapter picture for Chapter Twelve is of a man in a pinstripe suit (obviously at the In Auction then) standing in front of a large fish on a column. It’s a pretty shapely looking fish, and a fairly smart looking column. I vaguely remember what happens in this chapter so I’m not going to say anything else about it here.

The chapter gets underway with a description of the architectural features of Veblen Hall; features which go wholly unappreciated by the Baudelaires who are just in a hurry to get inside and stop Olaf’s latest nefarious plan. They do however pause for a moment to consider all the things that lie behind the door’s handle and hinges; “Sorusu” says Sunny, meaning “Behind those wooden planks lies the answer to the mystery of V.F.D., and why the secret hallway led us to the place where the Baudelaire mansion burned to the ground, killing our parents, and beginning the series of unfortunate events that haunt us wherever we go.” Because people actually talk like this, really.

Then they head inside.

Where they are met with the most In display of Inness imaginable. Everywhere they look there are pinstripes and parsley soda and other in things. Luckily nobody notices the Baudelaires as they’re all far too interested in the auction taking place at the other end of the room. The Baudelaires take advantage of this to try and figure out their new plan of action, they’ve been so focused on actually getting to this point, they never worked out what they would do when they got here.

Sunny comes out with “Evomer” meaning “I can’t stand it any longer. Let’s tell everyone in this room what is really going on.” Before they get a chance to go any further, however, someone tries to throw them out. After all, right now they don’t look like the wards of the most In woman in the room, they’re three dirty children covered in ash. Jerome is summoned over and tells the children he thought they were ill and so were staying behind.

We’re reminded here that Jerome is probably going to be the least helpful person in the room when it comes to saving the Quagmires; he hates to argue with people. That’s why he’s been answering to Jerry and has been eating something salmon-based, better to comply than make a fuss and risk upsetting someone. All the same, Sunny asks “Menrov?” which Klaus translates as “Would you do us a favor, Jerome?” We’re then told that what it actually means is “Should we try to tell Jerome about Gunther and Esme and the Quagmire triplets?” but luckily Jerome doesn’t speak Sunny and Klaus has a plan.

He’s telling Jerome that the Baudelaires would really like to own one of the auctioned items, particularly V.F.D. Jerome, not liking to argue, agrees, making him not actually the least helpful person right now. Then we’re shown over to where Mr Poe is standing. He promptly informs them that rather than being up a mountain, the Quagmires are actually in a glue factory. He’s only at the auction to buy some fashionable ocean decoration for his wife.

And with that the big red fish statue we saw at the beginning of the chapter goes up for auction. Red fish… get it? We’re even told that it’s big enough to step inside. Could this be a clue?

Klaus takes an opportunity to try and reveal Gunther’s true identity but Mr Poe is distracted by his bidding and just accuses the children of being xenophobic because Gunther is from another country. In case you’d missed the first clue about the big red fish statue Mr Poe then says “Five hundred is too much to pay for a big herring statue.” It’s then revealed that the statue has gone to the doorman, with the sleeves which cover his hands. I think I know who he is!

We get another little nod to the item the doorman has just won on the next page where it’s described as his “scarlet herring”. It’s like we’re slowly building up to the term ‘red herring’. I love it.

Anyway, the doorman is trying to get it out the door when he spots the Baudelaires, and then yells to Gunther/Olaf or Esme to let him know they’ve arrived. No one does anything and the doorman is able to leave with the red herring. I have a funny feeling this will be a mistake. At this point Olaf decides it’s time to wrap up the charade. He skips Lot #49 and goes straight to the V.F.D. which is just a big box.

We get a couple of pages of bidding, interspersed with the children pleading with Jerome to keep going so they can have whatever it is in the box and assuring both Jerome and Mr Poe that it will be a surprise for them. After a couple of pages of this, with the bidding getting too high for Jerome, another bidder steps in with “Thousand!” The bidder is actually Sunny and I’m not sure how she intends to pay for it. It does the trick though and the Baudelaires win the lot.

It’s when they go to collect it that things don’t go quite the way they were hoping. Sunny says “Silko!” right before opening the box. Esme starts protesting that they can’t have it until they’ve actually paid for it, while Klaus points out that the only illegal thing is keeping orphans in boxes and cages. Violet reveals Gunther/Olaf and Esme’s plan; they were going to ship the Quagmires out of the country hidden in a box.

And then Sunny rips open the last of the box, just as we’re reminded of the definition of ‘a red herring’. So it turns out that the red herring wasn’t the red herring, the V.F.D. box was.

Check back tomorrow for the final instalment.

Book 19 of 2014: Service of All The Dead by Colin Dexter

I’ve been working my way through the Colin Dexter Morse books ever since Mr Click started reading the set that I bought him. I quite enjoy the odd crime novel and the Morse books fill that gap.

Service of All the Dead involves a series of murders that have taken place involving people at or who have attended a particular church. Morse gives up a holiday in favour of looking into a murder and discovers affairs and cover ups along the way. As Morse investigates, the bodies start to pile up.

As usual I don’t think that Dexter gives you quite enough information to solve the case by yourself. Morse might get a bit of a breakthrough but you don’t get to find out exactly what he knows until the big reveal which might come a chapter or more later. On the one hand it keeps to reading to find out what will come next, on the other hand, you don’t get that satisfaction of figuring out who, what, how or why all by yourself.

The case itself was quite complicated. There was the question of whether the body that was identified as Reverend Lawson was actually the man it was supposed to be. Dexter is quite good at planting red herrings and so I felt like just when the story was going one way, it would swing round in favour of the other!

I’ve grown quite used to the way that bodies pile up in the Morse series. I remember once reading an article with someone from the police force who basically said that if Morse was a real detective then he would be taken off the case! The bodies really do pile up in this book.

I did enjoy the story, even though it was frustrating that I didn’t have enough information to solve it myself. It wasn’t a massively long read and so it kept me entertained without being too heavy going. I think that I might have seen the TV adaptation of this one at some point. Mr Click and I planning on watching the complete series in the future and I’m looking forward to watching them to see the differences between the book and TV.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Ersatz Elevator, Chapter 11

This week will see the final three chapters of The Ersatz Elevator. Over the last week we saw the chapters getting steadily longer and from this point onwards they seem to be condensing down. It won’t be long until we’re onto Book 7!

What Happens?

The Baudelaires reach the end of the tunnel, the dead end of the tunnel. After discovering a trapdoor in the ceiling they use the tongs to breakthrough and climb out, finding themselves in one of the last places they expected.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter opens with a clever little picture positioned at the bottom of the page. It shows a trapdoor in a floor which is surrounded by debris. Two left hands, which I’m guessing belong to Violet and Klaus respectively, are pushing it open which was pretty much the only thing I saw when I first looked at it. On closer inspection you can also make out little things surrounding the opening; some sheet music, a photograph, a bottle and something that may be the leg of some furniture or perhaps a bannister rail. I’m guessing this is wherever the mysterious tunnel comes out.

The French expression “cul-de-sac” describes what the Baudelaire orphans found when they reached the end of the dark hallway, and like all French expressions, it is most easily understood when you translate each French word into English.

Can’t really argue with logic like that.

We’re given a brief bit of hope that perhaps the Baudelaires come to the end of the corridor at the time that the Quagmires had been rescued, or that they arrived at the auction. Neither of these are the case. Though before we can find out exactly what the Baudelaires find at the end of the tunnel we learn that they hear all sorts of things on their journey; noises from the lobby of 667 Dark Avenue, the trolley, horses’ hooves (because there’s something a bit weird about the transport system in this city), a factory, church bells, people dropping things, and finally silence. I wonder if anyone has ever tried to make a map of the city where all this is taking place?

About this time they also discover that the tunnel has ended abruptly. Sunny says “Pratjic” meaning “Gunther must have ended up somewhere if he took this passageway.” The ‘prat’ bit of that is obviously the bit referring to Olaf. Violet is a bit defeatist about this situation, she’s planning on their going back the way they came and having to climb back to the shaft to get out that way. Sunny doesn’t like the sound of this as she says “Pyetian” meaning “We’ll never make it there in time to expose Gunther and save the Qugamires.”

They spend a bit of time wondering what they can do to get out of this situation, in that lovely repetitive way we’ve come to know and love. The idea of using the tongs they are carrying as shovels is suggested, to which Sunny says “Tenti” meaning “If we had some dynamite, we could blast our way out of the hallway, but we can’t use the tongs are dynamite.” Violet is slightly more practical and decides to use the tongs to bang on the ceiling to try and attract someone’s attention.

This sounds a little bit dodgy, I mean, they don’t know who is likely to hear them banging away down there. What if they ended up attracting the attention of someone who they didn’t want to find them?! On the other hand, they don’t really have much choice, do they?

So they start banging and get a shower of burnt tasting dust falling down on them. Sunny sums it up well with “Peflob!” Obviously the burnt dust is ashes, prompting Sunny to wonder “Tisdu?” or “Where in the city can you find ashes outdoors?”

Before too much longer they’ve uncovered a trapdoor above them and Violet has the bright idea to use the tongs as crowbars. Sunny, being just a baby, has no idea what these are, asking “Herdiset?” and so Violet explains how they can use the bent tongs to lever up the trapdoor. It works, allowing Klaus to quip “The solution was right on the tip of our tongs.” Well said Klaus.

While Sunny is saying “Up!” and the Baudelaires are pulling themselves out through the trapdoor, Snicket goes off on a tangent about one of his most prized possessions. In case you’re wondering, that’s a map, though it takes about three pages to find out where it is the Baudelaires have ended up.
They aren’t sure themselves at first and they spot a man who they ask to tell them the way to Veblen Hall. The man tells them, assuming that they are ghosts. I can’t imagine ghosts would generally bother to stop and ask for directions. Then again, I suppose it would be a little bit disconcerting to see three children suddenly appear up from the ground. Especially if that happened on the site of the former Baudelaire mansion which everyone claims is haunted.

Yep, that’s right, the Baudelaires have come home.