Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Penultimate Peril, Chapter 11

The end of The Penultimate Peril is drawing ever closer. Here we are at Chapter Eleven, having seen the children being locked in a room to keep them safely out of the way until Justice Strauss can arrange a trial with two other judges to decide once and for all just who is guilty, and who isn’t.

What Happens?

The children are blindfolded, as are all the other people who are attending the court, that is everyone apart from the three judges who are presiding. First Olaf and then the children are asked to identify themselves and declare whether they are guilty or innocent, then the floor is opened for anyone who wishes to to submit evidence to do so. Then the accused are allowed to speak in their defence but part way through the children become suspicious when they hear Justice Strauss’s responses. They remove their blindfolds for a peak and see some very bad news indeed.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter shows an image of a crowd of people, all wearing blindfolds and all bumping into one another. There’s a boy on the left hand side, with some guy’s hand in his face, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s meant to be Klaus. On closer inspection I don’t think it is, since he’s wearing a spotty bowtie and has a flower in his lapel. There’s no sign of glasses either, so it’s just a random boy with a head shaped somewhat like Klaus Baudelaire’s. I suppose we’ll find out just what’s going on here when we read on.

An old expression, used even before the schism, says that people should not see the creation of laws or sausages. This makes sense, as the creation of sausages involves taking various parts of different animals and shaping them until they are presentable at breakfast, and the creation of laws involves taking various parts of different ideas and shaping them until they are presentable at breakfast, and most people prefer to spend their breakfasts eating food and reading the newspaper without being exposed to creation of any sort whatsoever.

I just had to copy that out.

Snicket goes on to explain that High Courts are responsible for interpreting laws and then implores us to stop reading the book and to do something better instead.

The Baudelaires are woken by Frank/Ernest who hands them blindfold, because ‘justice is blind’ of course. The High Court has decided that everyone should be blind during a trial. Sunny sums up my thoughts on this quite well when she says ‘Scalia’ meaning ‘ It doesn’t seem like the literal interpretation makes any sense’. He also gives the children some tea, though tellingly there is no sugar. Klaus tries to reply to this information with a quote from Kit Snicket but it doesn’t get much of a response from Frank/Ernest.

The children then settle down to drink their tea while Violet tells Sunny that she wishes their mother could see her now. This in turn prompts them to wonder just what their parents’ plans for them were.

It’s not long before Frank/Ernest comes to collection the children, so on the blindfolds go and they head out of the room. They can’t see Frank/Ernest and he can’t see them, since they’re all blindfolded. It doesn’t seem like this is the best way to deal with criminals. If everyone is blindfolded it would be really easy to take yours off and sneak away while no one was looking. Once again I am clearly revealing myself to be thoroughly ignoble.

It really is a case of the blind leading the blind as they all stumble through the hallway:

Violet was poked in the eye by someone’s chubby finger. Klaus was mistaken for someone named Jerry by a man who gave him an enormous hug before learning of his mistake. And someone bumped into Sunny’s head, assumed she was an ornamental vase, and tried to place an umbrella in her mouth.

Poor Sunny!

It’s now twelve o’clock on Wednesday and Justice Strauss is calling the proceedings to order. The judges are the only ones who are not wearing blindfolds. So in this case Justice is technically not blind then. At least this will make it harder for any bad guys to sneak away.

Apparently the plan had been to hold a trial on Thursday, but Dewey’s death has caused it to be bumped up the schedule a little. We also learn that the authorities are outside ready to arrest the guilty party when the trial is done. The reference to a ‘party’ prompts Olaf and Esme to start promoting their cocktail party. I love that Olaf introduces this with ‘Wealthy women are particularly welcome!”

First it’s Olaf’s turn to state their details for the record. Olaf says his occupation is ‘impressario’ and claims to be innocent. Then it’s the Baudelaires’ turn. They’re not sure how to answer the question about their occupations so they each interpret it in their own way:

“Volunteer,” Violet said.
“Concierge,” Klaus said.
“Child,” Sunny said.

Aww, Sunny.

Olaf objects to this, suggesting that they should give their occupation as ‘orphan, or inheritor of a large fortune’. Then it’s time for the children to declare whether they are guilty or innocent. Klaus speaks for the trio when he says ‘We’re comparatively innocent’. I’d say they’re definitely way more innocent than Olaf, though I don’t think they’ve got much evidence in their favour, since most of the witnesses who could speak for them are dead!

The judges call for the people gathered to submit evidence. Everyone has something they want to submit as evidence. I did consider listing some of it but it goes on over nearly four pages. I’ve not got the energy for that.

With all the evidence ready to be reviewed, the accused are asked to make a statement to defend their actions. Olaf tries to give a little acrostic poem as evidence for how innocent he is, until Strauss cuts him off because of his atrocious spelling. He announces that in that case “‘innocence’ should be spelled O-L-A-F.” And with that he’s done. Strauss is a little taken aback by this but accepts it and moves on to the Baudelaires.

This is literally the first time anyone has asked the children to tell their side of the story. So we go right back to the beginning with the children hanging out at Briny Beach and Sunny seeing Mr Poe walking towards them. Justice Strauss is saying ‘hmm’ each time one Baudelaire pauses to let another one take up the tale. When Sunny says ‘Bildungsroman’ meaning ‘Since that moment, our story has been a long, dreadful education in the wicked ways of the world and the mysterious secrets hidden in all of its corners’, it becomes apparent that there is something unusual about the way Strauss keeps saying ‘hmm’. Sunny’s reminded of a time she was gagged and suspended out a window in a birdcage and immediately suspects that Strauss has tape across her mouth.

The children have only one choice now. They’ll have to take a look to see what is going on with the woman, even if it means being held in contempt. They stop telling the story and take a quick glimpse. The desk is covered in evidence but Justice Strauss is not there. She is being bundled away by Olaf who is heading for the lift and seems to be taking the harpoon gun with him.

And as if that’s not bad enough, sitting at the concierge desk are two familiar faces; a man with a beard but no hair and a woman with hair but no beard.

I’ve got a feeling this is going to be a mistrial.

Book 44 of 2014: The Christmas Catch by Ginny Baird

I did consider holding on to my Christmas book review posts until the end of the year so that they were at least in keeping with the season. But then I'd have to make more of an effort to remember what I'd posts and what I was still to post, so I decided to just go ahead with it. It's almost Easter, after all, so what better time to post Christmas book reviews?!

The Christmas Catch by Ginny Baird was a free ebook on Amazon. It's the story of a young widow, named Christine, who takes her son away for Christmas and unexpectedly finds herself falling in love with a local man. Meanwhile, John isn't looking for romance so is a bit surprised when he finds himself falling for Christine. But both of them know that after Christmas Christine will be going home, so perhaps this will nothing more than a brief holiday fling.

It's a very short ebook, clocking in somewhere around the 100 page mark. I could have read it in almost one sitting. It's the sort of book you could pick up and read on a cold winter's day by the fire. I started it on the 30th of October and finished it on the 1st of November, since November is traditionally when I start reading Christmas books. Last year I was ready for Christmas a little bit earlier than normal.

It was a light and fluffy little read. I knew from the beginning that Christine and John would end up together. I did like that their best friends, Ellen and Carlos, also wound up together. In a way it kind of reminded me of When Harry Met Sally.

I didn't really feel that the epilogue was particularly necessary. Things kind of rushed through at the end with the proposal. I would've been happier if they just agreed to date and then have the epilogue with the proposal. After deciding not to rush into a relationship it seemed weird that they would decide to get engaged just like that.

It always bugs me when stories end with 'Babies Ever After' so I could have done without that particular aspect of the ending, but as I said above, it was just fluffy. And sometimes that's all you need.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Penultimate Peril, Chapter 10

I was doing pretty well at getting ahead of myself in preparation for the A to Z Challenge coming up. Hopefully I’ll carry on with these posts alongside my challenge ones. It’s going to be a very busy April!

We’re onto Chapter Ten of The Penultimate Peril now, having just witnessed the sad demise of one Dewey Denouement. Things are looking pretty bad for the Baudelaires, considering Mr Poe witnessed them holding the weapon that killed Dewey moments before he died.

What Happens?

The hotel guests all want to know what has happened as it soon becomes apparent that not only has someone died, but they were murdered as well. Mr Poe takes the children back into the hotel and everyone recognises the Baudelaires setting off cries of ‘murderers!’ There are a few people on the children’s side, like Justice Strauss, who arranges a trial for the Baudelaires and Count Olaf. They are then taken away and locked up in a room, for their own safety, until the trial can be arranged for later that day.

Thoughts as I read:

The image at the start of this chapter is kind of creepy looking. It’s a full page height one with a shady looking man wearing a long coat and a trilby hat. He’s smoking but the picture is black and white so we can’t tell whether the resulting smoke is green or grey. I’m not sure if this will be a good guy or a bad guy. There’s only one way to find out…

No sooner has Dewey sunk beneath the water of the pond do people start calling out of the hotel wanting to know what’s just happened. Apparently the people who stay in this hotel have fantastic hearing or perhaps they were all just staying up late reading. The people shouting about the harpoon gun and the splash have woken up the people who were actually asleep. Soon everyone is shouting about the murder which has evidently just occurred, even though only a handful of people actually witnessed it.

When the press, namely Geraldine Julienne, get involved, the Baudelaires decide to come clean and explain that there’s been an accident. This would probably fine if anyone actually believed that Dewey existed and wasn’t some mythical being. The fact that he’s body seems to have sunk isn’t likely to help at all.

Chaos descends:

“I didn’t realise this was a sad occasion,” said another hotel guest. “We should observe everything carefully, and intrude only if absolutely necessary.”
“I disagree!” said someone in a raspy shout. “We should intrude right now, and observe only if absolutely necessary!”
“We should call the authorities!” said someone else.
“We should call the manager!”
“We should call the concierge!”
“We should call my mother!”
“We should look for clues!”
“We should look for weapons!”
“We should look for my mother!”
“We should look for suspicious people!”

This prompts another outburst of people shouting about things that they’ve seen around the hotel which might be classed as suspicious. This includes many of the things that we’ve seen in the previous five chapters and results in the three people standing beside the pond being identified as being the murders, because who else would be standing there the way they are?

Sunny figures out what’s going on and says ‘Mob psychology’. It’s even getting to Violet who wonders aloud if perhaps they might be murderers after all. Her little sister is quick to say ‘Poppycock!’ which is translated as ‘Nonsense”. However they can’t escape the fact that they might be partially to blame and so begin to consider their options.

Violet points out running isn’t a good option because it will make them look guilty. And now it’s Klaus’s turn to worry about whether they might actually be murderers, leading them to wonder where they would go if they ran. The only place he can suggest is somewhere that they don’t know about V.F.D. and Olaf. That might be difficult. With one sibling advocating for staying another day and the other pushing for leaving now, Sunny says ‘Torn’ meaning ‘I see the advantages and disadvantages of both plans of action’.

And now it’s time to meet the guy from the picture at the start of the chapter. He asks them if they need a taxi. The children hesitate, after all, they haven’t got any money. Remember that question that the children have been asked repeatedly throughout the book, ‘Are you who I think you are?’ It’s Sunny who decides to answer, saying ‘We don’t know’. I wonder how being honest is going to work out for them now.

Before we can find out Mr Poe shows up wanting to know what’s happened to Dewey, and if he’s dead how it happened. Sunny’s response to this is ‘Henribergson’ meaning ‘It’s more complicated than that’. I did look up Mr Bergson, apparently he was a French philosopher. Mr Poe is thoroughly unimpressed with the children and all the trouble that they have been causing. He’s blaming their ‘criminal behaviour’ on their ‘broken home’. Since their parents died Mr Poe has largely been responsible for moving them from one broken home to another so I think he should shoulder some responsibility.

Mr Poe steers them back into the hotel and the taxi driver drives away. That’s an opportunity lost, or possibly a huge danger averted. We’ll never know, Snicket knows though:

I do know who the man was, and I do know where he went afterward, and I do know the name of the the woman who was hiding in the trunk, and the type of musical instrument that was laid carefully in the back seat, and the ingredients of the sandwich tucked into the glove compartment, and even the small item that sat on the passenger seat, still damp from its hiding place…

I’m guessing that’s where the sugar bowl has gone then. But Snicket believes that things would’ve been bad had the children gone with him, but I don’t think things are going to improve much for them in the next three chapters.

Inside the hotel lobby the children are immediately identified as both murders and Baudelaires. All the guests start calling things out about how the Baudelaires are, or aren’t murderers; how they were nice children and good students; how they are crinimals, the full works, which prompts another roll call from the people gathered:

“I think they’re guiltier than that!” said one of the hotel bellboys.
“I think they’re even guiltier than you think they are!” cried another.
“I think they look like nice kids!” said someone the children did not recognise.
“I think they look like vicious criminals!” said another person.
“I think they look like noble volunteers!” said another.
“I think they look like treacherous villains!”
“I think they look like concierges!”
“One of them looks a bit like my mother!”

And now it’s three o’clock. The children have been on the go for well over twelve hours now.

Justice Strauss has just shown up now which hopefully means that things will be sorted very quickly. Except that this is going to involve getting some other judges to help decide whether or not the Baudelaires are guilty. That’ll happen later that same day. It’s a little bit like the trial in the village all over again, isn’t it?

At least Strauss in on their side. She’s confident that her two other fellow judges will come to the right verdict. I wouldn’t be so sure, when has anything ever gone to plan in these children’s lives. Meanwhile the children are to be locked in Room 121 to keep them safe from the murderous mob who thinks they’ve been on a mad killing spree, Frank/Ernest is all set to take them away. On the one hand this is obviously a good idea to help them to survive until the trial, on the other hand, it kind of makes it look like the children might murder someone else so it’s best to keep them locked up so that can’t happen. Just saying. The people in the hotel seem to share my sentiments and still seem to think the Baudelaires are going to kill them all as they stand there!

Luckily Justice Strauss is all about equal rights and determines that Count Olaf should be locked up in Room 165 to keep him from causing any trouble as well. Frank/Ernest steps forward to deal with him. I think it would be better to just lock him up in a cage in the middle of the lobby so they don’t have to worry about anyone letting him get away.

Frank/Ernest takes the children away and installs them in Room 121, leaving them nothing else to do but wait and find out if Olaf will be found guilty, or they will.

And that’s where we leave them today, crying themselves to sleep.

This is not a happy ending.

The Desolation of Smaug Special Features & The Battle of the Five Armies Soundtrack

For the last couple of years I’ve known exactly what at least one of my birthday and Christmas presents will be. This is because around April the theatrical version of the latest Hobbit film is released, then the Extended Edition is out in time for Christmas. So last Christmas I knew, without a doubt, that the VHS-sized box under the tree was definitely going to be The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition, on blu-ray.

And I was right.

The version I got has the holographic cover, with the 3D blu-ray, just so we’re prepared for when we get a 3D blu-ray player. We watched the extended version of the film right after Christmas and I blogged about it on the 3rd of January. Since then I’ve been working my way through all the special features on the accompanying ‘Appendices’ discs.

It’s become a bit of a tradition, when Mr Click goes up for a bath on a Saturday afternoon, I’ll watch another two or three special features. It’s been interesting to see how they stretched out the film from two movies to three; it seemed like an awful lot of the special features brought this up and explained why things were done in a particular way because of it.

I also couldn’t help but think that Peter Jackson spent a lot of time filming green screen shots which then got pieced together into a film. In a way it looked like he was making some sort of high budget independent movie. I imagine that must have been kind of hard for the actors to do, but they obviously rose to the occasion. Watching the film I never would have thought that it was filmed in such a bitty way.

It seemed at time that Jackson was actually kind of out to push the actors as far as he could, in the most good-natured of ways. In particular, the scenes involving the barrels and the fish. You see those fish that the dwarves and Bilbo end up buried under? Those were real. Apparently the smell on set when they were filming was something else!

One of the things I love about these behind the scenes looks at films is seeing the actors interact with one another. You can really see how much fun they had, even through all the crazy stuff they had to do during filming. I especially liked the featurette on Martin Freeman’s approach to filming, which is to do each take slightly differently. There’s a compilation of all his different takes as the dragon wakes up in Erebor and it was funny to see all the different ways he played it.

There wasn’t so much in the way of grand sets in this film. I think it’s because so much more of it has been done doing CGI than the Lord of the Rings films. I loved to look at the Laketown set, that looked like you could just move in! Other sets, like the Mirkwood prison weren’t as big as I was expecting. It seems that Jackson has gone a lot more towards green screen than in the past. It’s kind of a shame because I loved the great big sets from the Lord of the Rings days. Though, admittedly, the increased use of CGI isn’t all that noticeable in the Hobbit films; I’m sure that’s partly due to the huge improvements in technology.

As with the first Hobbit blu-ray, this one has a commentary. Again, it’s just the one, which is a shame because I would have loved an actor commentary. It’s always been my favourite part of the Lord of the Rings special features, it’s fun to hear the stories of the things they got up to during filming.

This commentary is Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens and it’s just as good as the first. Don’t get me wrong, I like to hear the director talking about making the film, but a lot of it covers the same ground as in the featurettes. All the same, it’s interesting to take the film scene by scene and hear them talking or reminiscing about things, as well as explaining why something was done in a certain way.

I just don’t feel so compelled to play the director commentaries over and over again in the same way as I do with the actor ones. That’s probably more me than anything else though and I suppose that logistically it would be very difficult to get all fourteen dwarf actors, plus Martin Freeman, plus Benedict Cumberbatch, plus Ian McKellen, plus Lee Pace, plus Stephen Fry, etc, etc, etc, together to pull off a commentary.

That and the fact that Stephen Fry could probably do a commentary all on his own through the whole film (plus some). It’d be an editing nightmare. There’s even a series of clips of Stephen Fry talking and talking and talking and talking, as he tells these stories in cut bits of interviews. Peter Jackson comments on it as well; Stephen Fry is definitely a guy with lots of stories to tell. I’d definitely invite him to my fantasy dinner party.

One of the only things that really bugged me about the special features and the commentary is the fact that Peter Jackson keeps on pronouncing Smaug as 'Schmaug'. Everyone else said it right and every time he started talking about 'Schmaug' I cringed a little. Only a teeny tiny minor little complaint.

On the whole, I love this set. The commentary and documentary features are really interesting and I think they give a good insight into the making of the films. I’m not likely to watch the commentary again so soon, but I think that once the extended edition of The Battle of the Five Armies has been released, I’ll definitely go back to the beginning and watch all the special features again because I’m sure there are bits that I’ve overlooked or will have forgotten by then.

I also never actually posted a review of The Battle of the Five Armies soundtrack, so I’m just going to lump it together with this special features review. With the previous Hobbit films I’ve been quick to buy the soundtrack, but with the last film we saw it before Christmas, instead of in January. I announced that I loved the soundtrack and needed to buy it but held off in case Santa, or someone else, got it for me.

When it didn’t show up on Christmas Day I still held off buying it, in case it showed up during my second Christmas in Wales. Then I put it off because I was saving my money, it slipped my mind, it had gone up in price, I wanted to get the same version as the other two soundtracks. Each time I thought about it (or didn’t) there was some reason why it was better to wait.

Until Mr Click told me to just hurry up and get it since I wanted it so much.

So I got it about a month ago.

The good thing about Amazon and having a Kindle Fire is that if I order it through them I can get it delivered instantly onto my Kindle. That means no waiting around and that evening I was able to go straight home and enjoy the soundtrack, even though it was another four days until the physical copy arrived.

It’s tricky to comment on it at the moment because I’ve only seen the film once, so I don’t find it as easy to place all the music as I can with all the others. That’s not say I’ve not got favourite pieces. I love the theme for Tauriel and Kili, it’s a beautiful piece of music and has to be up there with Aragorn and Arwen’s theme.

The Last Goodbye is without a doubt, the crowing glory of this soundtrack. It’s a wonderful song and you get the sense of not only saying goodbye to the three Hobbit films, but also the world of Middle-earth as well. I can’t help but wonder if in the future someone will get it into their heads to remake these films, or if someone will adapt some of the stories from the Silmarillion or something. But even if they do, it’s never going to be the same as this.

Plus it’s very pretty to look at, all leather effect case and all. It’s really made out of cardboard so is slightly prone to scuffing but it matches my two other Special Edition soundtracks. It’s a two disc set, complete with a couple of bonus tracks that aren’t on the standard CD. It comes with a little book as well, with information about the production of the music and a whole bunch of pretty pictures of the cast.

I’m looking forward to listening to it for the first time after I see the film again (which is out just a few days before my birthday, perfect timing again) so I can pick out all the bits of the film when I hear the music.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Weekly Rundown: Wet Walk & Another Appointment

This was originally just going to be a post about my trip to Glasgow on Friday for another hospital appointment, but then on Thursday morning I took Tara for one of our new and improved early morning walks and we got drenched. I thought it deserved a mention, purely for the picture below:

Look at that face! You can just hear her asking ‘why me mummy?’ She is so wet that her fur is just clinging to her sides making her look about half the size than she actually is as well.

Labradors are supposed to like water, and Tara is no exception, as long as that water is on the ground. Puddles and the sea at the beach is all good. The shower and rain is not good because she doesn’t like the water actually touching her face. So a torrential downpour, whilst walking under trees is a not good thing.

As soon as I opened the door on Thursday morning Tara headed out onto the patio in the rain, stopped and looked back on me with this look on her face like ‘you cannot expect me to go out in this’. I did. And we toddled home half an hour later looking like drowned rats.
I suffered too. My jeans were wet right up to the tops of the legs. And it took until lunchtime to warm up again.

On the whole it was a pretty nice walk.

Then on Friday we had a trip to Glasgow for our next hospital appointment. I was slightly alarmed when we were arrived and were told that we weren’t in the book. Luckily we showed off our appointment letter and soon had a lovely nurse come out to see us.

We went over all of my test results (that they had back) and got information about the protocol I’ll almost certainly be on. I really enjoyed having the whole process explained over again because I can’t help but feel I’ve spent so much time looking up information online that I’ve lost touch with what it actually involves. I was able to ask questions and have them answered which helped to make some things clear for me (like just how they go about collecting the eggs on retrieval day).

There were a whole bunch of forms to fill in and then we got our dates for when everything will kick off. I was hoping for April to start but it doesn’t look as though my dates are going to work out for then. So we’ll be having another appointment in May and then it’ll be all systems go once we hit June.

And to celebrate afterwards we went for all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet and then I splurged my winnings from the horse racing sweepstake the other week on two new notebooks.

The one on the left is my new journal while the one on my right will be my new book journal. I was going to just go for a plain black one, but they had lots of pretty colours and I decided that the time had come to branch out into brighter book journals.

I’ve got a while yet before I start using either one. I’m about twenty books away from the end of my current book journal. I’ll get to my new journal-journal just as soon as I’m done with the old one.

This week I'm trying to get ahead of my blogging for April. I've got posts planned for every letter except Y and Z now, so I foresee some time spent perusing dictionaries and lists of words for inspiration. I've got my first week of A to Z posts written so hopefully I'll be able to use the Easter weekend to get well and truly organised.

I'm looking forward to April hitting and getting stuck into reading lots of new blogs!

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Film Review: Inception, Part 3

March is drawing to a close and it’s Saturday again, so that means time for another bit of the Inception film review.

In the last part we saw the final member of the team, the person with the magic drugs that help knock everyone out and help them to enter the dream work. Now we’re getting into the real meat of the movie as the gang work out their technique and then head on into Fischer’s brain.

59. Now it’s time to learn more about the mission. Their subject is Robert Fischer and Saito is doing this for the greater good, to prevent them from having total dominance.

60. So Eames goes undercover to spy on Robert Fischer’s godfather, Browning, and the head of the Fischer empire. Maurice Fischer knocks a picture off the beside which Browning assumes has some significance to Maurice. It obviously doesn’t and Robert is bitter.

61. Eames’s job is to pretend to be different people at various levels of the dream. They have to make Fischer’s subconscious give him the idea. Confused yet?

62. Ariadne’s making her totem. It’s a chess piece for anyone who’s keeping track.

63. Cobb is ‘running experiments’ and his totem used to belong to Mal.

64. Cobb can’t look at the mazes Ariadne is creating because otherwise he’ll bring Mal in. Then you end up with problems like Mal showing up and shooting Arthur. This obviously makes things difficult.

65. Oh and more information. Cobb can’t go to America because they think he killed Mal.

66. Another team meeting. The idea has to be emotional and positive apparently. They need to make Fischer believe that his father wanted him to do his own thing. At each level they have to go deeper and deeper into the idea.

67. Time will get slower the longer they’re under. At the deepest level they could be stuck under for ten years.

68. Eames elegantly demonstrates what a kick is. I love how he is with Arthur.

69. Saito proves he’s not just the financier of this little operation, suggesting that Fischer’s flight from Sydney to Los Angeles would give them ten hours to work their magic uninterrupted. Arthur points out they’d have to buy out the whole plane. Luckily Saito has thought of that. He bought the whole airline!

70. Ariadne walks in on Cobb dreaming in HQ, so decides to plug herself in and join him. Not a good idea.

71. Cobb is pretty annoyed to see her there. Can’t think why. The way Ariadne says ‘you’ve asked me to share dreams with you’ makes it sound as though sharing dreams is a really intimate thing to do.

72. Ariadne’s figured out that Cobb is using memories instead of creating something new. Considering what a big no-no this is, but still has to keep visiting these places which he can’t change.

73. Side note: those children look a lot younger than they sounded on the phone. I’m guessing that he’s not been able to go back to America for some time.

74. Meanwhile Ariadne has dashed off to explore Cobb’s memories by herself. Which is kind of rude, just running around in another person’s thoughts. Especially as she’s just run into Mal again and the Mal of Cobb’s memories is kind of jealous and suspicious. And insane.

75. There’s no time to discuss what they just saw though. Maurice Fischer has just died so it’s time to get on with it. And Ariadne uses what she’s seen to wangle her way onto the plane, she gets to visit dream world too.

76. Eames does a nifty bit of pickpocketing as Fischer passes him, handing off his passport to Cobb, who then passes it back to Fischer, telling him is father was a ‘very inspiring figure’. He also drugs Fischer’s water, because he’s nice like that.

77. Once he’s out everyone springs into action, getting themselves all plugged in.

78. Pay attention, Yusef takes a swig of his drink right before they go under.

79. And in Dream World One it’s chucking it down. Apparently this is what happens when you need the loo. In dreams when you need the loo, it’s when you find a toilet that you really have to worry.

80. First task in Dream World One; hijack a taxi and pick up Fischer. This is a little bit like Grand Theft Auto.

81. Meanwhile, just after Ariadne hops in the car with Cobb, a train crashes into them. This is Cobb’s subconscious getting a little creative.

82. As if things aren’t going badly enough, the taxi is under fire now as well. Looks like Fischer’s subconscious might be getting suspicious. Although they escape, Saito has been shot. He’s dying, slowly.

83. Cue the argument between Cobb and Arthur. And the reveal that because of the sedation, if they die in the dream they’ll wind up in Limbo. As Cobb is the only one of them who’s been there out of the group, it’ll be his crazy raw subconscious that they’ll end up hanging out in. For the equivalent of decades. At least you’ll have the company of Mal… that’ll be fun.

84. Everyone’s a bit miffed to learn this, especially as they’re currently surrounded by Fischer’s dream security, who will kill them. And they’d have to survive for the equivalent of a week.

85. Fischer’s being pushed to tell his kidnappers what the combination to his father’s safe is. Eames, as Browning, makes out that he’s been tortured and fills in Fischer; the kidnappers want to know the safe combination. Just in case you didn’t get that the first time.

86. Fischer calls Browning ‘Uncle Peter’, that’s sweet.

87. Cobb gives us the happy information that Limbo will scramble Saito’s brain. He’s not going to remember their deal. So Cobb will be arrested when he reaches America, this is entirely not the outcome he was hoping for.

88. Apparently the thing in the safe is Maurice’s greatest gift to Robert. Eames!Browning suggests that it’s something to do with splitting up the business. Unfortunately Fischer reveals that his father’s last word to him was ‘disappointed’, this might make things difficult.

And next week we might find out what that is... Well, actually we won't, that'll be the week after. Next week we'll get to visit two more Dream Worlds though, exciting stuff!

Friday, 27 March 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Penultimate Peril, Chapter 9

Earlier today we looked at Chapter Eight of The Penultimate Peril, the twelfth book of A Series of Unfortunate Events. We’re now onto Chapter Nine after having had the children have a whole lot of mysterious things explained to them by Dewey, Justice Strauss and Jerome Squalor, though not everything was cleared up, not by a long shot.

Of course Olaf has just shown up, so I imagine this is going to complicate things somewhat.

What Happens?

Olaf’s crew show up and inform him that the sugar bowl is in the laundry room. Then there’s an argument and Esme and Olaf break up. Dewey reveals that he’s the only one who knows how to open the Vernacularly Fastened Door so Olaf demands he share the password and threatens him with the harpoon gun. A struggle ensues and the Baudelaires gain control of the gun, briefly, before it is dropped and accidentally goes off. And someone gets hit.

Thoughts as I read:

I suspect that the chapter image for this chapter has no relevance to the actual story, must like the one in the previous chapter. This one shows an angry looking goat which seems to be frowning at a dandelion. I can’t help but find this amusing because a week ago I read The Tales of Beedle the Bard and in Dumbledore’s notes he mentions a story his brother liked about Grubby the Goat. I doubt whether he’ll be putting in an appearance here.

And I’m right. Snicket starts talking about small mercies and gives an example of vicious goats eating a pretty dandelion. I think that means there’ll be a lot of talking in this chapter again because there wasn’t much else for Brett Helquist to draw.

Olaf is pleased to have the children back in his clutches, to which Violet replies ‘We just happen to be standing in the same room’. Good one Violet.

There’s more confusion surrounding the identical triplets, since Olaf thinks Dewey is Ernest, which he obviously isn’t because he’s not about to hand the children over. The existence of Dewey Denouement is a bit of a revelation for Olaf. They continue to argue about whether or not the children should be handed over or not and who has more people on their side in the hotel (volunteers or villains).

We also learn that Fiona and Fernald have taken off in Olaf’s submarine. That definitely sounds like they’re not interested in helping Olaf any more. Meanwhile Olaf is trying to point out to the children that they can’t trust any of these people since they’ve already let them down before. Each person that the Baudelaires name as being present in the hotel can be countered by Olaf with someone who doesn’t care about them. There are even people at the hotel, like Mr Poe (there to investigate a bank robbery) who may not be on either side but they’ve still wound up being a far greater help to Olaf in the past than the children. Olaf does have a point here.

Olaf continues to berate the children. See I was right about this being a chapter which was all about the talking. He tells them that there are no noble people in the world, to which Sunny replies ‘Our parents’. Except it would appear that there is something about Mr and Mrs Baudelaire that we’ve not been told before.

But we aren’t to know just what it is yet because Esme shows up along with Carmelita, Hugo, Colette and Kevin who we’ve all seen hanging around the hotel in various disguises before this point. Carmelita’s got her harpoon and two of the hooks have been fired. I’m guessing someone is going to be shot at some point in the next three or four chapters. In fact, she threatens Violet with it until Esme calls her off.

Conversation briefly turns to the cocktail party while Olaf threatens everyone with the highly poisonous fungus. And then they move on to the subject of the sugar bowl. It’s revealed that Carmelita shot the crows and that Violet gave her the harpoon gun, information which shocks Justice Strauss. Violet explains that she didn’t know what she was supposed to do with the harpoon gun. Perhaps if they had made sure that everyone knew who they were talking to and made it clear exactly what was supposed to be done they wouldn’t have this problem!

Next up is the revelation that Klaus hung the birdpaper out of the window. Everyone is suitably shocked at this as well, but Klaus launches into a similar defence of his actions as his sister did. This is why your plan was destined to fail. If you trusted the Baudelaires so much then you should have given them all the information they would need. No wonder the volunteers have kind of failed up until this point.

Violet and Klaus try to talk their former colleagues into joining the side of good rather than helping Olaf any more, which is followed by a discussion of choice versus destiny. Then it’s Esme’s turn to learn the truth about Dewey and the fact that he’s real. I kind of want them to stop talking now and start moving events along a little more.

We do get to learn a little more about the sugar bowl though. Esme wants it back because of what is in it, it used to be hers and Beatrice stole it from her. Then she threatens to have Carmelita shoot Dewey which ignites a fresh argument between Carmelita and Olaf. It goes on for a page and really isn’t worth recounting here. Suffice to say it ends with Olaf yelling that he never wanted Carmelita anyway. And he’s not impressed with her behaviour. You know a child’s behaviour is really bad when Olaf thinks you need some discipline!

This has a domino effect and prompts an argument between Esme and Olaf about whether she’s fired, quit, or left by mutual agreement. I take it this means they’ve split up as well. I suppose it would make a relationship kind of awkward after that.

Dewey’s refusing to tell them how to open the Vernacularly Fastened Door and is even suggesting that it’s a decoy. I think that this decoy is actually just a way for him to be able to tell the Baudelaires how to open it:

“The first phrase is a description of a medical condition that all three Baudelaire children share.”
The Baudelaires shared a smile.
“The second phrase is the weapon that left you an orphan, Olaf,” Dewey said.
The Baudelaires shared a frown.
“And the third,” Dewey said, “is the famous unfathomable question in the best-known novel by Richard Wright.”
The Baudelaire sisters shared a look of confusion, and then looked hopefully at Klaus, who slowly shook his head.

Olaf isn’t happy to hear this because he doesn’t know the answers to two of these questions. It seems that in order to answer these questions there would need to be some collaboration. Perhaps that’s Dewey’s intent. Does he mean to mend the schism by forcing both sides back together? I can’t see that working personally.

Also there’s this brilliant quote in response to Olaf saying he doesn’t have time to read:

“Wicked people never have time for reading,” Dewey said. “It’s one of the reasons for their wickedness.”

I wouldn’t go so far as to say someone who never reads is wicked, but all the best people in the world love books. It’s true.

Luckily now that Esme and Olaf have fallen out, she’s refusing to do anything for him. This gets Jerome’s hopes up that his wife (ex-wife?) is actually a noble person after all. She’s very quick to disabuse him of that notion. Justice Strauss confesses to spending some time as a horse thief in her youth, as you do, before finding a life of law instead. Meanwhile Olaf’s realised that if he wants anything doing, he’ll have to do it himself, so promises to shoot Dewey to death at the count of ten, unless he gives him the answers to the questions.

Personally I would start shooting other people at the count of ten. Once he’d done two or three Dewey would probably realise he was serious and would tell him the passwords. If he kills Dewey then he’ll just have to figure them out for himself. Clearly I am not a noble person!

The Baudelaires are obviously noble people because they stand in front of Dewey to prevent any harm being done to him. Olaf continues to count, not caring how many people he has to kill along the way. If you’re going to be evil it makes sense to be really evil. The kids step forward, despite the slowly counting madman, and grab hold of the harpoon gun, which finally seems to give Olaf pause.

And the guy genuinely doesn’t seem to know what other option he’s got. He’s been bad for so long, he doesn’t know any other way to be. So the children try to persuade him not to be evil and wicked and murderous. And it might have worked if it wasn’t for Mr Poe showing up, which distracts Olaf, who hands the gun to the children, who aren’t ready to receive it so drop it, setting it off as it hits the floor.

So Mr Poe, who as we know only ever sees and hears what he wants to see or hear, is witness to the Baudelaires ostensibly setting off the harpoon gun which kills one of the number gathered in the hotel lobby. And I think we can all guess who it is who’s been shot.

Yup, that’s right, Dewey Denouement is meeting a rather sticky end. He’s stumbled backwards out of the door and into the pond. So the Baudelaires rush after him to help, which I doubt they will be able to, unless Klaus’s research has included surgery recently. Dewey is sinking down into the pond and it’s fairly clear that no matter what the Baudelaires say, they’re not going to be able to save him. He’s a goner.

Sunny says ‘We failed you’ but Dewey manages to shake his head, murmur ‘Kit’ and then slips under the water.

And he’s gone, and it looks like the Baudelaires have another death to chalk up to their list.

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Penultimate Peril, Chapter 8

Friday means a double dose of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Last chapter saw Violet, Klaus and Sunny puzzling over the information that they gathered while they were apart, before meeting a mysterious man who looked like Frank or Ernest but wasn’t either of them. Today we should find out just who he is.

What Happens?

The mysterious man introduces himself as Dewey Denouement. Dewey shows the Baudelaires where a massive collection of information gathered by volunteers has been stored. Then Jerome Squalor and Justice Strauss show up and there’s a happy reunion of sorts as the children are filled in on all the things we suspeced and now know to be true. Dewey reassures the children that with all the volunteers gathered together they will be able to stop Count Olaf once and for all. Except when they head back inside they find someone waiting for them.

Thoughts as I read:

The picture for this chapter is of a line of men marching along the bottom of the page. There’s seven of them and they are carrying pickaxes and shovels. I will resist my temptation to call them the seven dwarves. The first six are marching while the last one is just strolling along out of step with the others. One notable guy in the middle is wearing a top hat and tails. I have no idea who they are or where they are going.

On to the actual chapter itself. Snicket teaches us the meaning of the word ‘denouement’:

“Denouement” comes from the French, who use the word to describe the act of untying a knot, and it refers to the unraveling of a confusing or mysterious story, such as the lives of the Baudelaire orphans, or anyone else you know whose life is filled with unanswered questions. The denouement is the moment when all of the knots of a story are untied, and all the threads are unraveled, and everything is laid out clearly for the world to see. But the denouement should not be confused with the end of a story.

Obviously the denouement isn’t the end of the story, otherwise we wouldn’t have another book to read after this one!

And I think that those men marching across the bottom of the previous page might have been the seven dwarves after all, because Snicket illustrates his point by referring to the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (the denouement of that story being what we believe to be the end, because the real end occurs when Snow White is grievously injured in a horse riding accident). Perhaps this is telling us that the denouement of this story will happen in the second to last chapter, in which case we’ve still got about a hundred pages before we reach that point.

Meanwhile the Baudelaires have followed the mysterious man out of the hotel to the pond where they learn that he is Dewey Denouement who is the Quasimodo of the family, only without the deformities. He hides in the shadows and winds the clock. He knows a bit about V.F.D. as well, like the fact that at one time anyone could join, but it all ended just before he turned five when he and his brothers were taken.

Violet asks they were taken and Dewey tells them it was to the headquarters, well, he doesn’t but the children gather as much. That night Dewey’s parents died in a fire. Sounds like a familiar story. Apparently the schism has grown worse over the years which is how it’s reached the point we’re at now. The children ask why they weren’t taken and Dewey points out that they were; Olaf got them in his clutches and was very reluctant to hand them over to anyone else.

Klaus wants to know why no one told them anything, a very valid question, and is just told that this is how the world works. Dewey reminds us of the poem about the elephant and how if everyone only has little pieces of information (or elephants) they’ll never know or understand the bigger picture.

But on Thursday everything will change, everyone will gather together, share what they know and they’ll be able to identify all the volunteers and villains once and for all. It sounds like it’s going to be a massive disaster. Dewey’s been responsible for gathering information from all the ruined libraries we’ve come across in the book, and organising them into a massive library. The children can’t help but wonder where this is stored and Dewey explains it’s as big as the hotel.

Sunny figures it out, managing to speak in perfect mirror speak, she says ‘Aha!’ (only backwards) and points to the reflection of the hotel in the pond. There are underwater rooms in a mirror version of the hotel which are perfectly flame-proof (what with being underwater and all). Violet’s confused about why Dewey is telling the children this, but Dewey believes they should know considering all the information they’ve been able to gather. This means they probably know a lot more than many people at the hotel, and considering we know what they know, I don’t think that’s very much!

Dewey’s busy complimenting all of their assorted talents because he’ll need people who can invent and research and cook after Thursday. Sunny’s pleased with this and says ‘Efcharisto’. So we learn that Hal is ‘sort of’ a volunteer, Charles has been looking for the Baudelaires and wants to help them as well, so people do care about them, despite it seeming otherwise at times.

Klaus mentions the fact that they were responsible for destroying Madame Lulu’s archival library but Dewey tells him they are ‘noble enough’ and ‘That’s all we can ask for in this world’. The little group stands together crying while Snicket goes off for a page about how wrong Dewey was with this statement, giving examples of all the things that we might ask for and how this is probably one of those things we’re not likely to get if we ask for it.

At this moment a taxi shows up with two people in it. Two people who recognise the Baudelaires, it’s Justice Strauss and Jerome Squalor, which prompts Sunny to point out ‘J.S.!’ which makes me feel silly for not making the connection to anyone we’ve seen before. These two have been looking for the children ever since they parted company and have been following messages which they both thought were intended for themselves, so perhaps this means that they weren’t intended for either of them. This will complicate things if there’s another J.S. around here somewhere!

“I was inspired by my wife,” Jerome confessed, removing his Vision Furthering Device. “Wherever I looked for you, Baudelaires, I found selfish plots to steal your fortune. I read books on injustice in all the libraries you left behind and eventually wrote a book myself. Odious Lusting After Finance chronicles the history of greedy villains, treacherous girlfriends, bungling bankers, and all the other people responsible for injustice.”

Odious Lusting After Finance = O.L.A.F. Subtle.

There’s a little round of back patting as they all tell each other how noble the other one is because the adults tell the children they’re not as noble as them, which prompts that phrase again: ‘noble enough’. Even though the adults let them down in the past, well, I wouldn’t say Justice Strauss did but Jerome certainly did.

When the Baudelaires thought about the harm that each J.S. had done to them, it was as if they had gotten a bruise quite some time ago, one that had mostly faded but that still hurt when they touched it, and when they touched this bruise it made them want to stomp off in a huff.

I have a bruise on my leg at the moment and I have no idea where it came from. I only discovered it the other day when I prodded it wondering what the greenish mark was on my leg. I didn’t stomp off in a huff but I was annoyed at myself for poking something that was that sore!

Basically the Baudelaires don’t stomp off, they have a hug and forgive everyone and it’s all very touching but Dewey points out that there are things which must be done now. Jerome and Justice Strauss have been looking out for crows but it’s too dark to see anything. These are the crows which are carrying the sugar bowl which will be shot down by enemies so that the sugar bowl goes into the funnel leading to the laundry room. Do try to keep up!

It was Dewey who gave Sunny the Vernacularly Fastened Door device, that means Violet must have encountered Ernest and Klaus met Frank (Frank was the good one, wasn’t he? or are they both bad? I’m still confused).

“You know about all the villainous people who are lurking in the hotel?” Klaus said, equally incredulously.“Yes,” Justice Strauss said. “We observed rings on all the wooden furniture, from people refusing to use coasters. Obviously there are many villains staying the hotel.”

It’s barbaric!

They even already know about the Medusoid Mycelium. Violet feels like they’re not needed after all. There’s a bit more about the plan there as well because only Dewey knows how to unlock the Vernacularly Fastened Door (which if my understanding of these tropes has taught me anything means that Dewey won’t make it to the end of this book alive) and once all the villains are gathered in one place they’ll be able to prosecute Olaf and his cohorts. That’s part of the reason for the volunteers gathering like this, the Baudelaires will be safe from Olaf once and for all.

So not going to happen!

The clock agrees with me because at this moment it chimes one o’clock. Wrong!

The adults are all confident that this is going to solve everything, but as Snicket says, the Baudelaires weren’t born yesterday:

Neither were you, unless of course I am wrong, in which case welcome to the world, little baby, and congratulations on learning to read so early in life.

They know that it’s not going to be as simple as the adults think it is.

And they’re right.

Because as they head back into the hotel they come face to face with the one person they’ve spent eleven and a half books trying to escape.

Yup. It’s Olaf!

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Penultimate Peril, Chapter 7

As of the previous ‘Not A Chapter’ we’ve been reassured that the following chapters are resuming their normal sequence. This might mean that the Baudelaires will be rejoining one another and comparing notes on what they’ve learned. Or it might mean something else. We’ll see.

What Happens?

The children share their findings once it gets later and the lobby falls silent. They realise that although they’re seeing lots of little bits of the mystery, they just can’t see the bigger picture. They turn out the lights and try to got to sleep, but Klaus realises that the sugar bowl is going to be delivered by crow and dropped down the funnel into the laundry room. At that moment a figure descends from the ceiling; but it’s not Frank and it’s not Ernest.

Thoughts as I read:

The chapter image for Chapter Seven is of a frog. It’s actually of a frog lamp. I quite like it. I used to have a duvet cover and pillow case set as a child which had frogs all over it; this would not look out of place beside a bed with that on it. The frog is sitting on a lily pad and coming out of the top of its head is a pole with a lampshade on it. The lampshade is decorated with a lily pad pattern (which kind of looks like a bunch of Pac Man heads) and hanging from it is a little cord with a fly on the end of it. It’s cute.

While the Baudelaires are listening to the clock chiming three o’clock there a other things going on around the hotel. There’s mention of an ambidextrous man talking into a walkie talkie, I guess that’s Kevin. We also get an explanation of those pictures from the non-chapters:

On the sixth story, one of the housekeepers removed a disguise, and drilled a hole behind an ornamental vase in order to examine the cables that held one of the elevators in place, while listening to the faint sound of a very annoying song coming from a room just above her.

There are other occurrences around the hotel; someone making a discovery about how to read Hebrew mirror writing, a banker picking up the phone and finding no one is on the other end, a family who have been hunting for a doily for nearly a decade are unaware that it is in the hotel. There are obviously lots of other stories going on in the background which we haven’t been aware of while all the focus is on the Baudelaires. There are even four children on a beach who are about to receive some very bad news. It’s all starting all over again.

Luckily the Baudelaires have been reunited and get to spend the rest of the day working in the lobby. They’re so busy that they just don’t get time to talk about all the things they saw while they were apart. I won’t recap what they share, we recapped it here already. Klaus takes over my job and writes it all in his commonplace book but even with it all written out, it doesn’t make it any clearer.

We get a stream of questions as the children try to make sense of all this information. I won’t copy them here before I’m sure we’re already asking all the same questions as they are. Eventually Sunny sums it all up with ‘Frankernest’ which they still aren’t any nearer to figure out. Plus this has an added element of mystery. Violet, Klaus and Sunny all met with Frank/Ernest right before 3pm. How is that possible? Unless there are three of them…

While they’re trying to puzzle it all out Sunny says ‘Elephant’ and then follows it up with ‘Poem’ and ‘Father’ by way of an explanation. When they still don’t get what they mean she says ‘John Godfrey Saxe’ which explains it all. This is referring to a poem, by the aforementioned poet, about six blind men who come across an elephant, they all feel different bits of the animal so make different assumptions about what they’ve encountered because they can’t see the whole. This is what is happening with the mystery at the hotel, see?

The children carry on talking the clock begins to chime twelve o’clock. They seem to be the only ones still up so they curl up behind the desk, switch off the (frog) lamp and try to sleep. Sunny points out the obvious ‘It’s dark’ and the resulting conversation leads to Klaus figuring something out. He’s realised that the sugar bowl is going to be delivered tonight by crow.

This explains everything. That’s why people are up on the roof looking out for something; that’s why Carmelita needed a harpoon gun, for shooting crows. Unfortunately it doesn’t answer all the questions, like the birdpaper which would either signal defeat or triumph depending on whether it was Frank or Ernest who asked them to hang it out the window.

It’s Sunny who explains that all being well the sugar bowl will fall into the laundry room, or as she says ‘Spynsickle’. I think I should start calling the back lobby the ‘spynsickle’ room. The problem is, they don’t know who asked Sunny to put the lock on the door; it’s either locked away from the villains, or locked away from the volunteers.

One thing is for certain; they need to find out who J.S. is. Man or woman? Villain or volunteer? Help or hindrance? And the hotel is definitely a hindrance, it’s a big library and it doesn’t even have a catalogue. Sunny eventually says ‘The world is quiet here’, reminding them of the sign over the library at the ruined headquarters. This prompts them to look up and they see a shape lowering itself down from the ceiling.

We get a full page image just so we can see exactly what this looks like. Down at the bottom left hand side of the the picture we can see Violet and Klaus in full concierge gear, holding up the frog lamp. We can see the big columns, the domed ceiling with eye shapes incorporated into the decoration, and hanging down from the centre is a rope with a figure climbing down it. From this picture it looks like a monkey, but it probably isn’t.

This man has a uniform on as well, it’s got ‘MANAGER’ printed on one of the pockets. This man tells them that they do have a catalogue for the hotel and invites them to follow him, to which Sunny says ‘Trap’. Mystery Manager tells the children that he knew their father and used to have to recite the work of a poet to prove who he was. As if to reassure the children he recites the poem about the elephant and the blind men:

“So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!”

Snicket briefly analyses this stanza of poetry, culminating in Sunny figuring out that this man is someone they can trust. But he’s not Frank and he’s not Ernest either.

So there are three of them. Dun dun DUUUUNNN!

Wreck This Journal: Collect Fruit Stickers Here

It’s been a little while since I shared this page (back in September last year), to be honest, it’s the page I’ve done the most work on recently since for the last week or two I’ve been focusing on my Finish This Book instead (when I can) and I’ve also been knitting more on evenings as well. I can only do some many things, so my Wreck This Journal is being a little bit neglected.

I’m thinking I might start work on one of the pages that I’ve not tried before, rather than continuing with one of the pages I’ve already started. I think jumping into something new my kick start me into being a bit more creative with it, instead of returning to the same old pages time and time again.

How the page looked last time I shared it...
But anyway, this page has seen more action because I’ve been trying to eat healthier and this means taking fruit to work for my morning and afternoon snack. In the morning I’m eating fruit and jelly pots which don’t have stickers on, but in the afternoon I usually have a banana. Usually one in the bunch will have a sticker, which is why my COLLECT FRUIT STICKERS HERE page is starting to look like this:

... and how it looked on the 15th of March this year.
I usually just stick the stickers wherever I feel like it, but the banana ones seem to be grouping together down the left hand side.

We’ve been having apples at home as well, but surprisingly few of those have labels on them. It’s a little disappointing when you get a bag of fruit and you only get one sticker. Or perhaps that’s just for people like me who are obsessed with adding to their fruit stickers page.

I kind of wonder what my colleagues make of it, when they see me settle down in the canteen and start trying to peel a label off my banana, then root around in my bag for a few minutes and spend a few more trying to find the page to stick the label onto. It’s the sort of thing you’d do when you were little. I knew kids who had fruit stickers all over their lunch boxes (I didn’t, mine was a Care Bears one and I didn’t want to spoil the picture).

It’s kind of nice to have a visual way of seeing how much fruit you’re eating. I’m enjoying watching this page grow and I can’t wait until you can’t see any of the original page between the stickers. I’ve got a way to go until then though.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Penultimate Peril, Chapter 6 & Also Not A Chapter

This is kind of a double chapter review since we’ve spent the previous two chapters following Violet, then Klaus, now we’re going to spend some time with Sunny before everything comes back together for Chapter Seven. We’ve also got another non-chapter coming up but it’s just a short one, so I’m tacking it on at the end of this one.

But first, let’s see how Sunny fares on her own…

What Happens?

Sunny finds herself helping Principal Nero, Mr Remora and Mrs Bass. They ask her to take them to the Indian restaurant, where they find Hal working. Sunny winds up in the kitchen where she is witness to a conversation between Hal and Frank/Ernest. She’s given a device to turn a door into a Vernacularly Fastened Door and instructed to attach it to the door of the laundry room, which is expected to receive a delivery shortly. So Sunny heads off to do as she is instructed, just as the hotel clock chimes three o’clock.

Thoughts as I read:

Firstly we’ve got to take a look at the picture for this chapter. It’s five bags of money, though the centre one has ‘Chapter Six’ written across it. The others have a big dollar sign and ‘Property of Mulctuary Money Management’ around it. They’re sealed at the top with chains and padlocks which I don’t think looks particularly secure. I’m guessing this will be the discovery that Sunny makes, though just who the money is intended for will remain to be seen.

Sunny’s exited the elevator on the third floor and found herself in a corridor much the same as the one Klaus ended up on. She’s finding it a little tricky to be a flaneur considering the fact that she’s barely past being a baby and now she’s expected to be a spy and a concierge at the same time. Her speech is still hard to understand and she’s only recently learned to walk, so you can see why she might struggle a little.

Room 371 is the room for persons of an educational persuasion and it’s fairly easy to work out who it is; there’s a sound like someone skinning a cat or something, and there’s only one person we know who enjoys making noises like that. It’s Principal Nero of course.

I love this next bit:

If you have ever worked someplace and then, later, not worked there, then you know there are three ways you can leave a job: you can quit, you can be fired, or you can exit by mutual agreement. “Quit,” as I’m sure you know, is a word which means that you were disappointed with your employer. “Fired,” of course, is a word which means that your employer was disappointed with you. And “exit by mutual agreement” is a phrase which means that you wanted to quit, and your employer wanted to fire you, and that you ran out of the office, factory or monastery before anyone could decide who got to go first.

That’s brilliant.

The reason for bringing up this distinction is that the last time Sunny saw Nero, he fired her as his secretary. Imagine that! A baby not capable of being someone’s secretary!

Sunny needs to cover up her lack of vocabulary so she tells Nero ‘You rang’ which he immediately mimics in that weird voice of his. He then berates her for showing up and interrupting his violin practice, even though he rang for her, who does she think she is?!

Also in the room are Mr Remora, the banana eating teacher, and Mrs Bass, the teacher obsessed with measuring. Mrs Bass has a blonde wig perched on top of her head and is wearing a black face mask which I think alludes to a mention of her becoming a bank robber in an earlier book. They’ve requested the presence of a concierge because they’re hungry and want to go to a room where they can get something to eat.

Sunny can’t give her usual response (‘Andiamo’ meaning ‘I’d be happy to take you there’) because it’ll give away who she is, so she doesn’t speak, instead gesturing to the door. We then learn that the bags of money belong to Mrs Bass, so she’s already embarked on her career of a life of crime.

Luckily Mrs Bass, as well as being a bank robber, knows the way to the Indian restaurant so Sunny is kind of surplus to requirements here. Nero spends his time blathering about the violin recital he’s putting on this Thursday. This is his big opportunity to be recognised for the obvious talent he is and so quit his job at the school. It appears that each one of the teachers has received a personal invite designed to appeal to the things they want most; Mr Remora’s boasted of an ‘all-you-can-eat banana buffet’ while Mrs Bass’s was about bringing valuables to be measured in celebration of the metric system. This explains the bags from the bank, she had to steal stuff to have something to bring to the party.

We also hear that Esme Squalor is behind the party invitations as they head up to floor nine where we come face to face with another blast from the past. It’s Hal, the short-sighted hospital archivist. He’s got a big turban on to maintain the theme of the Indian restaurant, so it looks like he’s done okay for himself since the hospital fire.

I think Hal is speaking in code because his response to Nero’s mimicking is to say ‘I didn’t realise this was a sad occasion’. I’m sure we’ve seen something in the past about this sort of code. Whatever the correct response is supposed to be, Mr Remora gets it wrong.

Mrs Bass has a unique method for ordering food:

“I’ll have ten grams of rice,” Mrs. Bass interrupted, “one tenth of a hectogram of shrimp vindaloo, a dekagram of chana aloo masala, one thousand centigrams of tandoori salmon, four samosa with a surface area of nineteen cubic centimetres, five deciliters of mango lassi, and a sada rava dosai that exactly nineteen centimeters long.”

I dare you to try that next time you’re ordering in a restaurant.

We know that Nero is a bad man because not only does he only order candy for his meal, he also moves his glass off the coaster to ensure it makes a mark on the wooden table top. The bastard.

The conversation turns to Coach Genghis, aka Olaf. Mrs Bass defends him, since being on the run from the law can be very stressful. Mr Remora is going to say something about this but he’s cut off by Nero who dismisses Sunny in search of napkins. This takes her to the kitchen where she is able to witness a mysterious conversation.

Frank/Ernest is talking to Hal. Apparently J.S. is at the hotel and they are a she. This is a surprise. She’s apparently using a ‘Vision Furthering Device’ to watch the sky and has warned they’ll be ‘eating crow’. I’m not sure if this another coded conversation. Apparently so, because ‘eating crow’ means ‘enduring humiliation’ which isn’t something I was aware of before. This causes Sunny to reminisce about her parents playing backgammon so we learn that Mr Baudelaire’s name was Bertrand. It’s only taken twelve books to learn this!

Meanwhile Frank/Ernest are discussing the actual preparation of cooked crow and the conversation just gets stranger with additions such as ‘According to our calculations, the sugar will be laundered sometime after nightfall’. It’s bizarre. This then leads to the ‘Are you who I think you are?’ question, which Hal responds to by asking the same question back, at which point they spot Sunny and ask her as well.

This prompts a brief consideration of the meaning of ‘taciturn’ and why Sunny doesn’t immediately tell everyone who she is. Some of the options for her response include ‘Sunny Baudelaire please help’ which means ‘Yes, I’m Sunny Baudelaire, and my siblings and I need your help uncovering the mysterious plot unfolding in the Hotel Denouement, and signalling our findings to the members of V.F.D.’, or ‘No Habla Esperanto’ which would mean ‘I’m sorry; I don’t know what you’re talking about’. Instead she just says ‘concierge’.

The men seem to understand this because they show her a strange device with cables coming out of it and a keyboard in the centre. Of course Sunny knows just what it is. Frank/Ernest tells her what has to be done: it’s placed on a door, the letters V, F and D are pressed and the door becomes a Vernacularly Fastened Door. Sunny is ordered to fasten it to the door of Room 025.

Hal informs us, and Sunny, that it’s the laundry room, which surely has something to do with the reference to the sugar being laundered. It would seem that the sugar bowl is expected to fall into a funnel which leads directly to the laundry room. Sunny is then informed that they’re grateful for her help with the scheme before she takes off for Room 025.

And so we start to catch up with Violet and Klaus as, for the third time, the clock begins to chime through the hotel. Once again it sounds like ‘Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!’ which is how Sunny feels as well.

Which leads us to ALSO NOT A CHAPTER which repeats the three images from NOT A CHAPTER though in a slightly different order. This time it’s the man pressing the button in the elevator which comes first, second is the woman drilling a hole in the wall while a moustache and top hat lie on the floor beside her, while the final image is of the eye peeping through a hole at some frayed rope.

This is followed by a single paragraph:

At this point, the history of the Baudelaire orphans reverts to its sequential format, and if you are interested in finishing the story, you should read the chapters in the order in which they appear, although I dearly hope you are not interested in finishing the story, any more than the story is interested in finishing you.

So there we are. Hopefully now the Baudelaires will be reunited and some of these mysterious will begin to be solved.

Maybe we’re hoping for a little too much.

Book 43 of 2014: The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King

Mr Click and I spotted the trio of Laurie R. King books in the Book People catalogue some time ago, so when I was looking for birthday and Christmas presents in 2013, I added them to the list. And guess what he ended up getting that year. ;-)

It took him a little while to get around to reading them and once he was done I put off reading them for a little while as well, until I finally got around to picking up the first in the series in October last year.

This story introduces the character of Mary Russell, a young orphan living in Sussex who makes the acquaintance of a retired Sherlock Holmes. The story charts their relationship as she grows from a teenager to a young woman at university and joins him in solving mysteries whilst demonstrating an equal intellect with the master detective himself.

It took me a while to actually get into the story. I found it quite slow to start although once it did get going, I did get into it properly. I can't help but think that it could have lost the entire first third of the book without affecting the story too much.

It's also kind of ironic that the main character's name is Mary. I don't think the story mentions whether her middle name is 'Sue' but it might as well be; she's a bit Mary Sue-ish. I haven't run her through the Mary Sue Litmus Test but she seems to flag several markers for me: she has a tragic past, she's super intelligent, other characters are in awe of her. She did grow on me as the story progressed, but I felt like she could have done with some bigger flaws than having big feet.

This book was obviously setting up a romance between Sherlock and Mary. It felt kind of weird because at the start of this book Mary is only fifteen and Sherlock is old enough to be her father. Not that May-December relationships bother me (says the woman with nearly sixteen years between herself and her husband), bit it's a little bit weird when the man in question has been hanging around with the girl since she was a teenager. At least Mary does mature throughout the story, so by the end she is rather less annoying than she was in the beginning.

Since finishing this book I've started work on the next one in the series. I can't say that these will ever be my favourites, but they make for a good read, particularly if you're keen on Sherlock Holmes and books featuring him.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Penultimate Peril, Chapter 5

I’d originally intended to post this chapter on Friday afternoon but then we had that ‘Not a Chapter’ so I decided to scoot it back to today. Gives me more time to read it. ;-)

In the last chapter we stuck with Violet as she went up to the rooftop tanning salon, encountered Esme and Carmelita (who thankfully did not recognise her) before being sent off in search of a harpoon gun. In this chapter we’ll be hanging out with Klaus as he mixes his concierge work with being a flaneur. Let’s see how that works out for him.

What Happens?

Klaus finds he’s been called to take Sir and Charles to the sauna. While there he’s able to listen in to their conversation about J.S. and the party he is throwing on Thursday. Unfortunately before he can learn any more Frank/Ernest interrupts and Klaus is given a job involving dangling birdpaper out the window. As he finishes the Hotel Denouement clock starts to chime three o’clock…

Thoughts as I read:

We’ve got quite a large picture on this page. Most of it is taken up with the image of a door but curling out from underneath it and up the side of the page are some flames. They kind of take the shape of Count Olaf’s profile, though I’m not sure if that was intentional or if I’m just reading too much into this. I’m sure that Olaf is to blame for any fires that are being started so perhaps it’s a subliminal message.

Klaus has headed up to the sixth floor which is described thus:

The hallway was lined with numbered doors, odd numbers on one side and even numbers on the other, and large ornamental vases, too large to hold flowers and too small to hold spies.

What a brilliant description!

Klaus is getting a feeling of deja vu right now. It’s the feeling of having a problem to solve. I suppose that’s better than the feeling of impending doom (which is of course the sign of an impending heart attack). He can’t help but remember all of the other times he’s been faced with difficult problems which he’s needed to solve (hint: a lot in the last ten books). He’s still hoping that someone will be able to answer all their questions, though I’m sure that if that person exists, they’ll only leave the trio with more questions.

Once at Room 674 Klaus discovers lots of smoke coming out from under the door. I’m betting it’s Sir in there. The person inside asks if he’s a ‘concertina’, hehe.

We get a brief (read: page long) analysis of the phrase ‘It’s a small world’ which Snicket doesn’t agree with because the world is, in fact, quite large. Sure enough the person within the mysterious cloud of smoke is Sir, who everyone calls Sir because his real name is unpronounceable. Obviously Sir doesn’t recognise Klaus but he’s still just as rude and self-important as he’s always been.

Klaus calls Sir ‘Sir’ (as a polite term of address for a person of the male gender) which makes Sir suspicious because how could a lowly concierge know his name? Luckily Charles, that other guy from Lucky Smell Lumbermill, is on hand to point out how Klaus knew to call him Sir. Basically Klaus has been summoned to show the pair to the sauna, so it’s lucky that Frank/Ernest mentioned which room that is in otherwise it would’ve been like the blind leading the blind.

Then this exchange follows:

“Don’t you want to change into a bathing suit?” Charles asked. “If you’re fully clothes, you won’t get the health benefits of the steam.”
“I don’t care about the health benefits of the steam!” Sir shouted. “I’m not an idiot! I just love the smell of hot wood!”

Might not be an idiot, but he’s definitely a bit strange!

This of course leads to an explanation of a ‘busman’s holiday’ while Klaus tries to probe the pair for more information about the reason for their visit. Sir is understandably suspicious but they soon arrive at the sauna and Klaus is ordered to stay outside, despite Charles’s protests that they’ll be able to find their own way back to their room. And why does Sir need Klaus to stay? Why to hold his cigar of course! It would be ridiculous to take a cigar into a steam room after all.

Klaus however has some smarts, and he sticks his foot in the door so it doesn’t close properly, enabling him to get in some quality eavesdropping time. And it’s just as well he did because Sir and Charles are talking about J.S., not only that, they’re apparently looking for the Baudelaires!

Sir’s not actually that keen to find the children because he insists that it was their fault that Olaf showed up and caused problems. Sir is also of the opinion that the Baudelaires have been running around killing people, though Charles is sceptical. J.S. has also let slip that the children might be coming by submarine. Well, they kind of did, they just had to take a taxi the rest of the way.

J.S. has also invited Sir to the cocktail party on Thursday. J.S. is actually hosting it; I wonder if Esme knocks that. Sir’s all about the business opportunity that this presents to him, though he’s still refusing to pay his employees with more than coupons and gum. Charles is about to mention something about the Baudelaires and their parents when Frank/Ernest comes into the sauna.

He’s come to evict them because they need the room for something else. This prompts complains from Sir because he wants to smell the hot wood, so Frank/Ernest directs him to the ‘organic chemistry’ room because they have a lot of smelly things in there. Klaus volunteers to take them there but Frank/Ernest needs him at the steam room.

Once Sir and Charles are out of the way Frank/Ernest hands Klaus a rolled up object which is apparently sticky when unrolled. It’s flypaper and Klaus is to attach it to the window and then hang it over the pond. And it’s not flypaper, it’s birdpaper. For catching eagles. Frank/Ernest is obviously sounding out Klaus in the same sort of way that he (or his twin brother) did with Violet; he wants to know what Klaus has heard about children being carried off by eagles. Klaus isn’t giving anything away about his involvement with the Snow Scout abduction.

All the same, Frank/Ernest asks Klaus ‘are you who I think you are?’. Klaus’s answer is basically the same as his sister’s; he’s a concierge. As before, Frank/Ernest thanks him for his help in this ‘scheme’ without giving anything away about exactly what the scheme is that he’s helping with. It’s so annoying. I just want to know what’s going on!

Left alone, Klaus gets on with dangling the paper out the window, just as the clock starts chiming. Technically it’s not chiming again because it’s the same chime that Violet heard at the end of the last chapter. Once again its chime sounds like ‘Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!’ and Klaus is having doubts about his participation in this scheme.

But we’ll not find out whether it’s wrong or right for a while yet, because the next chapter is going to go back to Sunny to find out how she gets on.