A Series of Unfortunate Events Collection: Books 4-6 by Lemony Snicket

I’ve been caught in between A Series of Unfortunate Events and Gilmore Girls, I know. Here we are with Books 4 to 6 done in the Lemony Snicket series. I’m going to take a little break from Lemony Snicket as the point of this was to catch up with where the series ended and I’ll have something special very soon for it. As for this one, we’re doing a short review of each book in this collection, just like the last post on books 1-3 (review here)

Without further ado, let’s check out these three books!

A Series of Unfortunate Events Collection: Books 4-6
by: Lemony Snicket

a series of unfortunate events collection

Summary of collection at Goodreads

Book 4: The Miserable Mill

After the unfortunate events in the The Wide Window, the children are sent to be under the care of the owner of Lucky Smells Lumbermill. Their new guardian, only referred to as Sir, sends them off to work, much against the will of his business partner who doesn’t really have much say, Charles. In Lucky Smells, Klaus is the most affected when his glasses are broken and sent to the optometrist, Dr. Orwell and comes back in a trance, only broken spontaneously. It doesn’t take them long to realize that he was hypnotized, while Violet and Sunny find a way to resolve this and happen to encounter Count Olaf in yet another disguise.

The Miserable Mill is one that took me a little longer to get invested in. It starts off with suspense as we watch the children get sent to work, even Sunny who can put use to her sharp teeth, of course. A little stretch of the imagination is how this series is intended. Skipping over that detail, we learn a little about hypnosis. Count Olaf’s disguise is ridiculous as he turns himself into a secretary. As always, the children attempt to save the day. Maybe a few limbs short and not a whole lot of innocent lives were taken in this one, which is a change of pace. There are whimsical characters here and the plot is rather intricate, somehow it lacks a certain pace to it. However, it still works well enough.

Book 5: The Austere Academy

After Sir takes them out of his care, the Baudelaire Orphans are sent off to boarding school, Prufrock Prep, run by a bad violin performing obsessed Vice Principal Nero. Before they even meet the useless VP Nero, they encounter the school bully, Carmelita Spats who calls them “Cakesniffers” (whatever that means). Prufrock Prep is a boarding school and they are discarded in the orphan house, run down and infested with dripping fungus and crawling crabs. The classes they are put in are with two teachers: one who loves to share her stories and one that loves to measure everything. Sunny doesn’t get to be in a class but rather sent to be an administrative assistant who has to make her own staples and staple paperwork all day. What helps is that they meet the Quagmire triplets who are only two right now and also had their family perish in a fire who help them invent and investigate.

Surprisingly, The Austere Academy is a pretty fun read. It is probably the one with a huge stretch of imagination but its also these very smart Baudelaire orphans are making use of Count Olaf’s stupidity and personality and hiding their suspicions until they feel like its the right moment. On top of that, now we also have the Quagmire triplets, Isadora and Duncan. Count Olaf’s disguise is a good one. The adults are still quite colorful with their various obsessions. There are some clever bits here and having some other characters similar to the Baudelaire orphans to team up with them is a welcome change.

Book 6: The Ersatz Elevator

After Count Olaf’s plans are foiled and he kidnaps the two Quagmire triplets, The Baudelaire orphans are sent out to Esme and Jerome Squalor at 667 Dark Avenue, a big condo complex. Esme is the 6th biggest financial advisor (or something around there) and they are actually back to only a few blocks away from their Baudelaire mansion that was burnt down. The Squalors live in a world that is obsessed with “ins” and “outs” from pinstripe suits to ocean decorations and especially the stopped use of the elevator. Everything falls into place as Count Olaf appears in another disguise with a big plan. The orphans need to figure out what is up with Count Olaf while also figuring out the mystery letters that the Quagmires told them before they were taken away and also, where are they if Count Olaf is scheming again.

Perhaps I’m a fan of far-fetched imaginative pieces, The Ersatz Elevator really kicks it up a little, putting all three children to use their abilities and finding a courage in them that we’ve seen but never to this extent. Its a little unbelievable story but full of incredibly fun characters and has lots of twists and surprises. Its suspense and a page turner. We’re pretty much halfway through the series at this point and a great time to kick up the fact that the orphans are in fact growing up and facing their new miserable reality with as much courage and intelligence as possible.

Overall…

This collection steps up the game a little. The Baudelaire orphans are getting smarter. Sunny is starting to say words that make sense although her teeth are still a thing of splendor in terms of what she can achieve. The stories are full of creativity and the scenarios they are thrown into while far-fetched are imaginative. It continues on with clever uses of words and throws us tons of vocabulary and description. I think the thing to remember here is that these books are meant for children and while we may what is going to happen and we can sit here thinking when they’ll be smarter the next time and that nothing really makes sense especially with the stupid adults, especially Mr. Poe, they are colorful in their own way and adds to the story itself, helping the children shine a little brighter.

A Series of Unfortunate Events Collection: Books 1-3 by Lemony Snicket

With the recent release of Netflix Originals series Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, I couldn’t help but feel really behind in not catching up with the books. In an effort to get the source material read before watching the series, here we go! I ended up getting the three book collection because it was a better deal. Plus, the first season of the TV show covers the first four books in the series.

Let’s check it out! 🙂

A Series of Unfortunate Events Collection: Books 1-3
by: Lemony Snicket

A Series of Unfortunate Events Collection

Book 1: The Bad Beginning

The start of anything can be tough but what always made this series fun is its dark tone and constant reminder that nothing happy is coming out of this story of the Baudelaire orphans. The introduction of all our key characters are all in this first book. We have the Baudelaire orphans: Violet, Klaus and Sunny who are although young, actually quite talented. Our villain Count Olaf gets his entrance as their first guardian and the always coughing but rather useless Mr. Poe who is responsible for the orphans well-being. And of course, our author Lemony Snicket may be the fun parts with his pocket full definitions and comparisons to better understand the vocabulary here. Absolutely a clever way to introduce children to new words and how to use them along with a group of whimsical characters. This theme carries forward to the future books in the series as well.

The Bad Beginning itself is a fun and dark read. While it hangs on the point of the Baudelaire orphans misadventures after the death of their parents and the horrible Count Olaf after their immense fortune, it is quite the imaginative ride and a very dynamic read between both the recount of the story to the characters they’ve created. In many ways, Violet, Klaus and Sunny truly develop in the characters of them being incredibly smart kids even if they are still learning and doesn’t quite know everything but are quite the problem solver. As they work out their escape from the evil cluthes of Count Olaf, we grow to love each of these characters a little more.

Book 2: The Reptile Room

The second book, The Reptile Room, picks up after the first one as the orphans are sent off after Count Olaf’s plans are overturned. With him still on the loose, they head down Lousy Lane to Dr. Montgomery Montgomery’s care, a world renowned herpetologist. Mazes and reptiles and deadly snakes are lurk in this book. The Baudelaire orphans, despite all the bad, start to enjoy their stay with Uncle Monty as he lets them dive deep to build on their fortes. The Reptile Room is a fun one as well. The best parts usually go to the slightly eccentric characters that the books have created as the orphans’ guardians. However, the process of Count Olaf is also incredibly well thought out.

Book 3: The Wide Window

 No one quite beats Aunt Josephine as a little irrational and slightly nuts so far in the series. The Wide Window’s next stop is at Lake Lachrymose where the orphans stay with a very scared Aunt Josephine. In all her feat, she actually is a pretty colorful and entertaining character to read, especially with the Lake Lachrymose and the decoding. There’s quite a bit of mystery in this book and quite a bit of adventure and invention.

Overall, its hard to talk about these books. Each of these books are made up of thirteen chapters with a good pacing and some really fun characters. Count Olaf is a fairly sinister if not a little odd villain who is a master of disguise at least he is to everyone else but the orphans who usually sees through him right away. The narration is probably the best part of the novel. On top of that, the stories itself carry a great tone and dives in many educational things for the younger audience in a fun way like grammar (particularly in Aunt Josephine’s story), a lot of vocabulary and even anagrams (particularly  notice them for Count Olaf related characters either for his mischievous followers). The first three books are incredibly enjoyable. In fact, I pretty much read through them quickly. Although most of it was covered in the movie adaptation, it was nice to see the contrast of the two.

Have you read A Series of Unfortunate Events?

The Sherlock Holmes Handbook for the Digital Age by Alan Pearce

**Received in exchange for an honest review**

The Sherlock Holmes Handbook for the Digital Age
by Alan Pearce

The Sherlock Holmes Handbook for the Digital Age

Sherlock Holmes is the greatest detective of all time. He is driven to right the wrongs of the world. It is only natural that he should turn his attention to the Internet.  “The Internet has become a sinister and dangerous place – a grotesque parody of all that it originally promised,” explains Holmes. “Open your eyes, Watson. We are living in a postmodern surveillance dystopia from which escape for all but the most skilled individuals is impossible.” Luckily, Holmes has all the right answers. This is a cyber-security and digital counter-surveillance handbook like no other. – Goodreads

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are iconic characters and extremely smart ones at that. They are a great team and just like TV shows such as Elementary has done, Alan Pearce has taken these two characters and put them together in a modern setting to use modern day examples of how the digital age has made us more vulnerable and teach us the tools we need to protect ourselves a little more with cybersecurity. The idea of it all is fascinating especially because security is a huge part of just being online.

Tranquil Dreams is nothing big and my Youtube channel and Twitter are far from it as well but we are all exposed to the dangers of being in the cyber world. I do recommend that you take this handbook and explore the little tips and applications and software it talks about as you can step by step. For myself, I read on the go so that proves a little more difficult. However, it proves useful and I will go back to explore all that it talks about. Not that I don’t trust Alan Pearce and his cybersecurity knowledge even when told through Sherlock Holmes to give better examples of how certain cybersecurity issues could happen, but rather, its important to research things on our own as well. Its all part of learning, at least that is what I believe.

The Sherlock Holmes Handbook for the Digital Age is a fun and quick read. Its an educational read as well as it fills up with examples shown by Sherlock Holmes as he teaches Dr. Watson through everyday examples going from one location to the next with tips and details, some of which I already knew about and others that I was surprised to learn more about. Something about setting as a real life example in places I can relate to made this educational read more tolerable and engaging and the angle it takes to teach us is a great one. Even if you don’t plan on installing and setting all the software and cybersecurity tips it talks about, there is still something to take away from this read. Although at times, it can get a little overwhelming, hence the advice above to research as you go and take this read bit by bit and see what applies to you and what doesn’t.

With that said, this topic fascinates me. In fact, I did start looking at my mobile security because I work so much on my cellphone, even if I do avoid money related transactions on it. I took a look at a few apps it suggested and things here and there. For me, this handbook does a good job of outlining what we need to know. I’m not one to pick up these handbook manual things mostly because I’m still recovering from giving up fiction literature from years of college and university. However, time and time again, I do think about this and it is very useful for everyday life whether you choose to follow everything it says or not.

There is much to review here. The Sherlock Holmes Handbook for the Digital Age is still something I need to explore to determine what can be useful for but as a quick informative read to know more about cybersecurity, I think it sets up a good stage to educate us in a fun and engaging way. There is a lot of information compacted in this quick read. As I said, it sets up a big stage to try to learn more about all these aspects, especially the software and apps and other measures it suggests, especially if cybersecurity interests you, as it does for me.

Sherlock Holmes and the Nine-Sigil Dragon by Tim Symonds

***Thanks very much to the author for reaching out to me to review his newest novel!***

Sherlock Holmes and the Nine-Sigil Dragon
By: Tim Symonds

sherlock holmes and the nine-sigil dragon

It’s the year 1906. Rumours abound that a deadly plot is hatching – not in the fog-ridden back-alleys of London’s Limehouse district or the sinister Devon moors of the Hound of the Baskervilles but in faraway Peking. Holmes’s task – discover whether such a plot exists and if so, foil it. But are the assassins targeting the young and progressive Ch’ing Emperor or his imperious aunt, the fearsome Empress Dowager Cixi? The murder of either could spark a civil war. The fate of China and the interests of Britain’s vast Empire in the Orient could be at stake. Holmes and Watson take up the mission with their customary confidence – until they find they are no longer in the familiar landscapes of Edwardian England. Instead, they tumble into the Alice In Wonderland world of the Forbidden City. – Goodreads

Sherlock Holmes is everywhere now. He has been reinterpreted for the big screen and in television, modernized to the 21st century and even so much time after still capturing the hearts of a lot of readers. It is suffice to say that Arthur Conan Doyle created a beyond iconic character and investigative team with Sherlock and Dr.Watson. I feel that I need to justify that I have ONLY read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and none of the other stories. I just never got around to it. Especially when it also happens to be the first book review I did here and needs revision so much. To say that I know the Sherlock Holmes character well via literature is a huge stretch but I feel that most of Holmes books are rather case by case so lets just jump right in.

Tim Symonds has written a few of these Sherlock Holmes follow-up novels building his own cases. I have not read them but I do feel it incredibly coincidental that he happens to set me up with this one which is set in China back in the Empress Dowager days. Perfect setting and great use of historic characters. Empress Dowager and the emperor at the time along with her renowned and powerful eunuch and all these colorful characters in history makes for a great story. The mysteries in the Forbidden Palace however for myself was not so well concealed because I did grow up with a lot of this Chinese history material and I had suspected the who quite early in the story.

Sherlock Holmes and the Nine Sigil Dragon however does have a great writing. The more classical English is always fun to read. It is a change in pace (especially for myself) and there are much less frequently used words which may require a dictionary to grasp but the context is always on track. The writing captures what I remember Sherlock and Dr. Watson’s dynamic together. However, the pacing leaves a little to be desired. A strong start is always tricky and yet while I did enjoy the story when it picked up a few chapters in, the trip to China at the start felt a little slow. It might be the process of getting used to reading the most sophisticated writing (which is a high probability).

Going back to the characters, I feel that the need to show the interest in English and how they did speak it broken or not was a little unnecessary. The characters themselves goes without saying that we can assume who they are. Perhaps because I do speak Chinese that it became bothersome to have to read the same words in their romanized Mandarin form while also reading it with the English term. It felt a little like a Chinese lesson. However, it does come into context. Little nitpicks on my part. Also, this world is complicated. The Forbidden City and the ranks and their characters and the traditions and formalities are all depicted quite well. My suggestion to those that plan on reading this: make use of the glossary in the back because it will has a great purpose even to deeper understand what certain things mean.

In fact, even for myself, growing up outside of China, there are little details that I wasn’t aware of or just sometimes slips my mind. In those moments, when the mystery and the investigation starts going more in depth. The pieces start falling together. I always love the deciphering the case and what happens because that is when the details really come together perfectly and the author has done a great job in doing so. The mystery is fun. It uses and respects a lot of the history and the nature of these characters and the complexities behind the walls of Forbidden City and the politics of the entire situation.

Overall, Sherlock Holmes and the Nine-Sigil Dragon is a good read. It dives into Chinese history and enters into the Forbidden City, bringing to life some of the iconic historic people that actually was a big deal. The mystery itself is feasible and the writing is done very well. While, the beginning could have been paced better and there were small things in the charaterization that left a little to be desired, the story works well once it picks up and offers a great mystery to solve.

Fighting Grief (Knockout #1) by Kellie Perkins

The first book of the year usually is what I had to put down during the holidays and didn’t get a chance to wrap up until the last few days. I have some lovely books sent to me lately which I need to read next but before those this one needs to be wrapped up and I had the perfect opportunity to finish it when I was waiting for a software to download and install. Fighting Grief is a first book in a trilogy and while it costs $1.XX on Amazon right now, I did get it when it was a free book back in 2014 or something.

Let’s check it out!

Fighting Grief (Knockout #1)
by: Kellie Perkins

Fighting Grief

Keeva O’Brien has lost all desire to work for a dream that was never really hers. Keeva’s brother, Luke, was the one who wanted her to go to college, the one who wanted her to be something more than he or their parents. Luke raised her, gave up everything to be there for Keeva after their parents died. But when Luke died, Keeva could no longer see the point.  When new bartender, Nash Pierce, begins working at the same restaurant where Keeva works, she has no interest in his charm. All she wants is to forget her grief, to forget that everything that had made her world make sense died in an instant when her brother was killed while fighting for an underground MMA club. Nash is willing to help her do that. – Goodreads

Am I glad that I didn’t read the synopsis on Goodreads before I started this book? If you were to shrink this book into 3 paragraphs, that is generally the version you’d use because its not a synopsis. It highlights almost everything you need to decipher the ending which was obvious from the moment Nash enters the picture, by the way. I’m getting ahead of myself now.

Fighting Grief isn’t a bad novel aside from its painfully obvious situation of who Nash is and what happens to Keeva. In fact, it does itself justice by focusing on the romance and the healing and expanding on getting to somewhat understand the characters a little, while even trickling in with some conversations with supporting characters. All those aspects of Fighting Grief is good. I’d even say that the writing is fun and quick to read while still remembering to never dive into the erotica area and just dabble on the surface of a romance and the connection that Keeva and Nash have for each other. I do think that the writing can be polished a little more but this is the first book I’ve read of Kellie Perkins so I’m sure there is room for much improvement and probably has in the later books.

However, Fighting Grief is a very generic story about tragic loss and the ending is painfully obvious as I mentioned before. In fact, the only reason I did keep reading it unfortunately was to prove myself right or let the book prove me wrong. Plus, I’m not one to start a book and not at least give it a chance to redeem itself. There is merit here and I can see the appeal for some people but for me, it felt a little too obvious. There are coincidences and then there are “coincidences” if you know what I mean. Plus, there are moments when I didn’t really like our main character Keeva. I get that she is grieving but she seems incredibly immature for someone who has been thrown into unfortunate situation since she was young.

Overall, I feel like I already have a general idea where the next two books in the trilogy might go if it is as predictable as this one. While I do wonder how it will all play out, it isn’t quite enough for me to pick up the second book. However, if you want a quick romance read, this might fit the bill.

Never Kiss a Bad Boy by Nora Flite

Remember in the haul post yesterday when I said that I had to get a book because its original trilogy format was changed to just one book and I had to make that purchase, this is said book. It was originally called For the Thrill but now its just called Never Kiss the Bad Boy. If this was the first title I had seen, I would have passed over it but oh well, it is what it is. I don’t like feeling like I didn’t finish a book so it just had to be done.

Let’s check it out!

Never Kiss a Bad Boy
by: Nora Flite

Never Kiss a Bad Boy

Could you fall in love with a killer? How about two?When hiring a hitman, it’s important to remember two rules.
One: Pay in cash.  And two: Don’t sleep with him. –Goodreads

 I’ve reviewed a few erotica novels here this past year. Its definitely a whole different ball park. Before this year, the only erotica I had read was Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy and I think it was before I wrote book reviews here. Suffice to say that erotica is a tricky genre to appreciate. I feel that everyone has a different idea of what they are looking for when they read adult fiction. If you have read some of my previous reviews, I haven’t been particularly happy with them because most of the time, the female character is somewhat unfairly portrayed, making it lack somewhat of the realistic feeling of what I’d like to see. As I mentioned before, I started Never Kiss a Bad Boy when I was reading For The Thrill which is the first book of the trilogy it was before it was put together into one book. While I appreciate the move, I actually had more fun reading For the Thrill in itself than finishing up the entire book. The story took somewhat of a predictable turn by the end but to be fair, I did really enjoy the characters and the fact that it used all three main characters to narrate different chapters so there was a good grasp of who these people were and gave them time to charm the reader and like them even in the most odd way of having this three way relationship. The only complaint I did have with this one is that the incredibly well constructed and extremely steamy sex scenes overpowered the story beneath of finding a killer and seeking revenge which with a better balance would have made this book have much more substance. Don’t get me wrong though. I love steamy sex scenes that don’t make me cringe because they are so fun to read and this one has a ton of them. I just also was intrigued by the story behind it that could have been built a little more if it was for a sex scene every other chapter.

With that said, I need to talk about our characters. The “bad boy” here are actually “bad boys” because it features two ex-hit men who just finished their last job: the calm and calculated Jacob and very social butterfly Kite. Together they make a great team. In fact, they even have a blood brother bond which leads into their last job attracting the attention of Marina who was tracking down the man they killed to find the lead of who murdered her family when she was a little girl. Because of that, she went on a hunt for these hit men to help her. They agree after some manipulation but to their surprise, they start falling for each other. Marina is a tough girl and very focused. Her life is restricted and lonesome (much like Jacob and Kite) because she is haunted by her past and wants to have the revenge in order to hopefully let it go even if it means that she’ll die. She’s extreme that way, but as we learn more about her, you can’t really blame her. Somehow, Marina, Jacob and Kite form a connection. Well, its hard to resist to hot men but Jacob and Kite are portrayed as something more, whether its their mysterious personality or their story, it pulls them all closer together and because of the blood brother bond, Jacob and Kite finally decide that they only way they can be with Marina is having her together and of course she agrees and from there, the story keeps going. Expect lots of threesome steamy sex scenes in this one. The fun part of this book though is that the characters do act a little different from what we’d expect and that gives them a fun element and something to think about because each of them are changing because of meeting the other, whether its Jacob or Kite changing because of Marina or Marina changing because of them. There’s always a question whether there is a bigger hidden agenda that might twist the story around.

Overall, Never Kiss a Bad Boy has a lot of great moments and a pretty nice story and well-built characters. The sex scenes are fun and steamy, but never cringe-worthy (which is actually quite rare) because it builds on the character’s chemistry. While the erotica is done well, the story that drew these characters together gets lost in the romantic story which is a shame because it would have been nice to see a little more of it and explore a little more of what Marina could have achieved in this mix. For what it is, Never Kiss a Bad Boy is pretty good.

The Lot (Short Story) by Anthony Renfro

Still looking for some Christmas themed short stories?

Fellow blogger Anthony Renfro from Poetry, Books, Movies and Music has a collection of them for the holidays. I already talked and reviewed A Zombie Christmas and its sequel, A Zombie Christmas 2 the last two weeks. You can find them HERE and HERE respectively. Now its time for another one!

Let’s check it out!

The Lot
by: Anthony Renfro

The Lot

Synopsis

This short story is about a Christmas Tree lot that has evil intentions.

Excerpt

The Christmas tree lot stood cold and silent beside the two lane road now covered in 6 inches of snow. Gavin Douglas was hunkered down inside the small building attached to The Lot. He stood 6 foot 5, tall and lanky, a once healthy thirty-year-old man who now looked like he had spent the last two months inside a sweat box. He was emaciated and weak looking, ribs showing through his skin. His face hung droopy and long, teeth rotting away, some had fallen out. His once thick hair now hung thin, patchy, and lifeless across his skull. His clothes were dirty and disheveled, unclean like the rest of his body. He hadn’t been able to eat, sleep, shower, or do anything normal since the pine trees had arrived in October, because he felt like it was his job and duty to protect his town, a town he loved more than his own life.

My Review

Its hard to pinpoint what The Lot reminds me of. For one, its a bit like Little Shop of Horrors in some ways but then blends in something else in the end and makes you wonder. What I liked the most in The Lot is the vivid descriptions. It truly felt like I could picture the scene in front of me and watching the events unfold between Gavin and Ernie and the police at the Christmas tree lot. Its hard to not spoil The Lot but its a quick and fun read.

Where to get it 

US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01JMX67U2#nav-subnav
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01JMX67U2
AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B01JMX67U2
CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B01JMX67U2