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.

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.

Visual Novel: LAQUE: Premonitions by Jean Fukuda Miyasato

One more visual novel before jumping back to actual novels.

This next one is called LAQUE: Premonitions. Like I said in the first visual novel post, I’m starting to grow a fondness for them. For one, they aren’t long and two, they have art to look at. Its like a picture book for grown-ups. Plus, the last one was not exactly what I expected a visual novel to be. If you missed it, you can find it here. This one should be a bit more interactive. Let’s see, shall we?

LAQUE: Premonitions
by: Jean Fukuda Miyasato

LAQUE: premonitions

If you knew that the girl you know you will die for a FUTURE know would avoid? Laque is a boy with a special gift, he often has prophetic dreams, and one of them manages to see his future love gives her life to save his, now have to decide whether to approach it or avoid it so as not to sacrifice for him. – Google Play Store

Laque is structured much more like what I thought visual novels are. This one has actual choices to decide on the path. It floats between the premonition ( maybe dream) world that the main character Laque resides in. At the beginning, we learn that he has a gift of premonition. Ghosts or images will show up that clue him in on the future events. Then he meets a girl in one of these who don’t talk. There are some blood and deaths and whatnot and now he needs to hunt down who this girl is and who the killer is to try to stop it.

The story itself is pretty basic but the idea here is pretty. The experience still left something to desire. For one, there are some unnecessary random cheap jumpscares here and there. Sometimes they caught me off guard, most of the time it was a WTF moment because it didn’t seem to fit with the story. Note that horror and mystery/suspense are two different genres therefore jumpscares are not necessary. The second point and also the last was the story and dialogue was really like watching an anime or reading a manga or whatnot but the words looked like they were being typed slowly on. I don’t know if it was for anticipation or to make the unveiling of secret feel more effective but in random conversations, it felt much longer than it needed to be.

To be fair, Laque Premonitions is pretty good. The lesson he gives at the end is a good one, at least the ending I got. I have a suspicion that there may be multiple endings. While thete are plenty of saves on the progression, the impatient me just couldn’t handle another session of slow dialogue particularly when Laque’s inner monologue could be sped up to show all at once and not thr actual ones out loud to other characters. Still, a decent experience other than some minor technicalities.

Red Ribbons by Louise Phillips

Its been a few weeks since a book review but I’ve taken some time to get back into a new rhythm. Its still a work in progress.  The good news is that I’m back to reading and I have book reviews for the next few weeks. I’m pretty happy about that. There is naturally no feeling better than sitting next to the pool under the sun and reading. That is one of the best feelings of summer. I’m still diving into the unread books on my Kindle so next up is a mystery thriller called Red Ribbons by Louise Phillips. I know nothing about this and have no expectations, which is probably the best way to start a book.

Let’s check it out! 🙂

Red Ribbons
by Louise Phillips

Red Ribbons

 A SERIAL KILLER. A missing schoolgirl is found buried in the Dublin Mountains, hands clasped together in prayer, two red ribbons in her hair. Twenty-four hours later, a second schoolgirl is found in a shallow grave – her body identically arranged. A hunt for the killer is on.
THE CRIMINAL PSYCHOLOGIST. The police call in profiler Dr Kate Pearson to get inside the mind of the murderer before he strikes again. But the more Kate discovers about the killings, the more it all feels terrifyingly familiar.
THE ACCUSED WOMAN. As the pressure to find the killer intensifies, there’s one vital connection to be made – Ellie Brady, a mother institutionalised fifteen years earlier for the murder of her daughter Amy. She stopped talking when everyone stopped listening.
What connects the death of Amy Brady to the murdered schoolgirls? As Kate Pearson begins to unravel the truth, danger is closer than she knows… The bad man is everywhere. Can you see him? – Goodreads

Red Ribbons was a downright surprise. While at part the story dragged on, the overall story had so many tense and chilling moments. Sitting in the mind of the serial killer, the criminal psychologist and an accused woman that everyone thinks is crazy has a whole new level of contrast in characters. In the beginning, its hard to determine what everyone is doing. You might not even know what the end goal of anyone is here. Thing is, these are all flawed beings and they have their own issues. As we peek into their lives and the case opens up and more information is discovered, the tone and effectiveness of the story really grabs hold. Its hard to fathom actually experiencing a murder like this one. Thing is, what everything means never becomes apparent until the last few chapters. It doesn’t have anything to do with the manipulation of surprises and twists like a lot of thrillers do. There is a care in building up so that the we start understanding and developing especially the serial killer and criminal psychologist.

I can’t say that there isn’t a bias on my part. I do love criminal psychology a lot. However, its the feeling of learning about the deep complex psychological aspects that us as humans have. The scariest thing in this world to me (even above my immense fear of ghosts) is the twisted human nature. Its why this intrigues me so much.  This is the true winner of Red Ribbons.  Its not hard to believe that the characters in Red Ribbons could exist in our world. They are made to be human as well as their reactions and their lives. Kate, the criminal psychologist, is accomplished and smart. She notices and captures the little details that others have neglected. However, despite all these abilities, it strengthens the fact that your pros professionally may be your downfall in your personal life and her life is fractured. She struggles to find a balance just like a normal everyday person (at least I can feel for her). Even Ellie, the accused woman has a strong voice. Her loss, her flaws, her self-blame and her hopelessness is actually a little heartbreaking to read. The scariest character has to be the serial killer. The twist is that we as the reader, know who he is the whole time. Not by name or specific character but he drops hints on himself and we start wondering who this person doing the narrative is and we also know his personality traits. The piece of the puzzle that we learn is his history and what triggered him to murder.

Red Ribbons is a great find and a well-paced read. There is no point to dive further into details because that just kills a thriller. The best way is to walk into this not knowing too much and deciphering for yourself. I promise you, I just scratched the surface. There is still so much to unveil. I urge you to give it a chance if you like mystery thrillers or criminal psychology investigations.

King’s (The King Trilogy #1) by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

Back with more Kindle Store adventures, this was also during that whole batch of books I’ve been downloading with my last two reviews of those books that kind of pissed me off. At this point, I have no hopes and if this is another steamy romance, I’m about ready to rip it to shreads.  I didn’t even bother to read the description of this one and decided to just jump in.  With that, a deep breath and be brave, we are checking out King’s (part of The King Trilogy) and written by a New York Times Bestselling Author.  Now, I’m a little more confident about this one. 🙂 I mean, it can’t get worse than the last one, right?

Let’s jump right in!

King’s (The King Trilogy #1)
by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

King's

When Mia Turner’s brother goes missing in Mexico, while on an archaeological dig, she believes that life couldn’t get much worse. But when she’s blocked at every turn from finding answers, by both local and U.S. authorities, she must turn to a man she swears is the devil. Others might be fooled by his private jet, fine tailored suits, and disarming smile, but Mia knows something dark, sinister, and unnatural lurks behind those penetrating, pale-gray eyes. And the more she learns, the more she realizes she may never be free again. – Goodreads

 Now we’re talking! King’s was a fun book to read! What makes King’s different from the other two is that it exceeds our expectations and the sexy bits are simply adding onto the mystery building both Mia and King’s character.  Its not afraid to tease its audience with the scenes as we watch their connection grow throughout the deal they have with each other.  Okay, its a little mystery paranormal mixed with a mild investigation thriller.   Its a good mix and it sets a decent tone that matches the story it wants to tell.  Point is, the writing is refined but casual enough to be an enjoyable read.  You know exactly what sort of book you are getting into and it keeps it well-paced to make sure there’s enough of both character development and mystery to make it intriguing to keep reading. However, while the writing is refined, there are still moments of clunky or cheesy dialogue.  I guess its unavoidable but with a decent story, it gets rewarded with a little laugh.

But, nothing quite beats this quote that just cracks me up and changed the tone of the book completely.

Okay.  So, apparently this entire conversation was code for, “Come and get me, muthafucka.” and “Oh, I’m comin’, all right. Your ass is mine.”… -King’s

Mia seemed rather uptight and really incredibly weird that she kept thinking about getting into King’s pants even when she claimed that she didn’t like him at all, but they kind of explain that by the end. I’m happy with that, you know, reasonable enough explanations for things that come out of the ordinary.  It adds a little weird to it since it gives Mia’s character a little mystery.  And that is where this book does well in adding some fun but folding in a little mystery for each character.  However, this book is definitely only meant as a beginning for a series because the ends with a cliffhanger that would only be answered.  That is something I don’t quite like about books (or movies) that aren’t self-contained enough.  However, I did end it right there and didn’t pursue the next book yet (but intend to eventually).

While Mia’s character is fun because we read from her perspective throughout the entire book, the character that is the most intriguing has to go to King’s, our mystery man. King’s is a dominant character here but also quite smart.  It doesn’t take long for us to realize that not only does he have some connections but also that he has some mystery skills/powers that teases us throughout the read.  It makes us wonder until one scene where its apparent of what it is even if we don’t quite know the why. With that said, there is only a limit to what I can say to make it still a fun journey for you if you haven’t read this yet.  However, there is one more character which plays a supporting role and I believe at this point has a book in the series to himself, Mack, the guy who flies the plane for King’s and is something like a right hand man and while he can’t tell more about King’s to Mia, he plays as a messenger but also a mentor to how to interact with King’s and gives his friendly advice.  If there’s anything about this series, I can’t wait to see how his character is developed.

Overall, King’s is a fun start to a series.  It might not be that self-contained but it still is well-paced and mysterious enough of a story to keep me interested in eventually reading the second one.  King’s definitely surprised me and to think it has a few more books already in the series released makes me feel like there is still a lot to look forward to. However, King’s does have a well-paced story, enough mysteries to keep the reader intrigued and good characters all wrapped up in some casual reading package and I like all that quite a bit.

Have you read King’s?

The Funhouse of Horrors by Jazan Wild

It seems like romance or horror has been a huge focus here.  Well, its not stopping yet. After some weird random romance reads, I decided to switch things up and go read some horror. This was also a free book on Amazon when I downloaded a little while back.  I’m still on the quest to read everything I haven’t read yet. Next up is The Funhouse of Horrors by Jazan Wild.  I don’t know Jazan Wild before this book (and I probably should…I’m sorry). And I haven’t heard of Funhouse of Horrors but that sounds like a video game and you know, I’m hoping it will send some chills down my back. 😉

Let’s check it out!

The Funhouse of Horrors
By Jazan Wild

The funhouse of horrors

Young Jacob, while on a family picnic, stumbles upon an old abandoned house in the woods just a week before Halloween. The wretched dwelling is being prepared to be used as a one-night only Haunted House! A strange worker, known only as Ole Scratch, sees Jacob and gives him a book with two tickets inside that change his life — or what’s left of it after the ghosts are done with him! And the ghosts are NEVER done with Jake.
As he grows, so does the terror. Deciding that the ghouls and goblins are never going to take a hint, and leave him to rest in peace, Stone decides to become a ghost writer. It would seem that the living impaired have a lot to say. Yet legend has it, that all who read Stone’s tales of woe, begin to see the dead everywhere they go! – Goodreads

I’m not exactly sure I agree with the description on Goodreads but I guess it gives it a bit more mystery.  Do the people who read his tales start to see the dead and is that a legend? I think the version I read might have skipped over that part or I misunderstood it. Or maybe I was just getting a little frustrated on how it was dragging on that I didn’t pay much attention.  The Funhouse of Horrors is not bad and its not great.  Its somewhere in the middle between indifferent and average.

The best way to describe The Funhouse of Horrors is an anthology of short stories, you know, Goosebumps but short stories with not so great pacing.  Most of them aren’t particularly scary with a few exceptions.  The majority of them overstay their welcome but I think its Jake’s backstory that does that the most.  I don’t think there was one moment I felt truly sorry for him or did I feel that he deserved to get out of this “nightmare”. On the other hand, the part about Ole Scratch and that character, while feeling like he was a little goofy, did feel like the better part of the novel.

I’m not a connoisseur of horror books.  I don’t claim to have read a ton of them but this one didn’t work well at keeping me motivated to read it.  I would always gauge to see how long the chapter would take to finish.  However, the potential is there. Some parts didn’t work well. But the stories had a good bit going for it.  The only issue was that it lacked a good pace to keep it engaging.  There were some stories that felt not quite so unique but then some few also made me a feel a little chill run down my spine.  That should be the whole novel since I’m especially scared of anything related to souls and ghosts.

The Funhouse of Horrors is an average read.  There’s definitely some potential here but it suffers from some bad pacing.  There are some stories that are fun to read, a few that a little scary and some that really overstay their welcome.  The main character, Jake wasn’t very likable in my book but the stranger that traps him in this cursed life, Ole Scratch is very entertaining to reads.  Some of the most entertaining parts is him.  While I’m not a huge fan of this one, I do feel like maybe Jazan Wild’s other series, Carnival of Souls might have something more to offer and I might give that one a go to see if it intrigues me a little more.

Have you read The Funhouse of Horrors? 

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I’ve been subconsciously reading a few classics.  Don’t worry, Northanger Abbey is right around the corner to wrap up my Jane Austen adventures.  I’ve been enjoying revisiting books from my childhood.  The Secret Garden was one of the first Classics that I ever read.  I still have that book sitting on my shelf even though I read this one on Kindle. Something about re-reading the books we’ve read as children as an adult feels like a good thing for the most part.  I’m just hoping most books will transcend time and still have that enjoyment despite having grown up.

Let’s stop this rambling and check out The Secret Garden! 🙂

The Secret Garden
by: Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden

Ten-year-old orphan Mary Lennox comes to live in a lonely house on the Yorkshire moors and discovers an invalid cousin and the mysteries of a locked garden.-Goodreads

 The Secret Garden takes us on a journey with Mary Lennox who travels from India, a place with a different culture to a big manor in Yorkshire where she has a new way to live.  Mary Lennox is character with a lot of room for improvement and development.  Its a story really great for kids, showing us the wonders of the outdoors and friends and going at the core of exploration and learning new things.  The culture references might seem a little prejudice as it portrays India rather negatively. However, Mary is a character the learns a lot as she realizes that Colin, a sick boy, has a similar manner to who she was when she was in India and how she wants to better herself when she has to be more independent.

 What does make The Secret Garden a fun read is the contrast of its characters.  Colin is frustrating at first and gives us a reminisce of Mary when she first arrived.  They are both stubborn but with a lot of growth as their world is increasingly expanded due to being exposed to the outside world.  The emphasis on nature and fresh being positive to a child’s growth is an important message here.  Its also about accepting shifting your views and onlook on life and the mental component of how you view yourself.  It seems like a deep message but the simple idea that still lingers here and works is that positive thoughts fuel a healthier and happier lifestyle.  It generates more energy and more smiles and laughter and sometimes, the right people will be able to bring that out as a support but also, you have to have that motivation to think and feel that way for it to really work.

The Secret Garden is magical in its own way.  The writing is a little dragged out at various parts.  Perhaps it doesn’t transcend time as well as other children’s book (like The Little Prince) but it still packs a lot of nice messages and is meaningful.  I believe that positive thinking and fresh air is an important part of bringing up a child (even if I don’t have children of my own) and this book does a fantastic job at portraying that even if it extends a little to talk about the healing power of the whole ordeal but to me, the deeper meaning here is that if we mentally become happier and thinking happier thoughts, our bodies will heal as well.  Its definitely a great little children’s novel and a fun time that made me want spring to drop by and the ground to thaw so that I could go out and do some gardening myself.

Have you read The Secret Garden?