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THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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I've decided to stop accepting review copies. The downside of getting buried in free books is that reading increasingly becomes an obligatory act. After some seven years of blogging books, it's time for me to return to the simple pleasure of reading only the books I want to read, when I want to read them.



  
From a random review:

  

« Hall, Parnell: A Puzzle in a Pear Tree | Main | Robotham, Michael: Suspect »

Snicket, Lemony: The Grim Grotto

  

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HarperCollins © 2004, 352 pages [amazon]
4 stars

The eleventh book in Lemony Snicket's wonderfully miserable Series of Unfortunate Events opens with the much oppressed Baudelaire siblings hurtling down the freezing waters of the Stricken Stream atop a toboggan. Rather than meeting their deaths by cracking their heads against one or more sharp rocks, however, as one might suppose likely, our heroes soon find themselves aboard the Queequeg, a leaky submarine under the command of the boorishly loud Captain Widdershins. The craft is manned by the Captain's stepdaughter and by Phil, the unusually optimistic former employee of the Lucky Smells Lumbermill whom the Baudelaires first encountered in The Miserable Mill, the fourth book of Mr. Snicket's series. (Of the Gorgon Medusa, for example, a figure of Greek mythology whose glance turned people to stone, Phil says, "She was probably nice, when you got to know her." His rosy view of the world is comical, but it is not an attribute one looks for in an ally when one is fighting an evil villain and his henchmen.) As has been usual for them since the day they learned of their parents' death in a fire, the Baudelaires are hounded throughout this newest installment in the series by the wicked and shiny-eyed Count Olaf and his stylish girlfriend Esmee, both of whom have developed a new and presumably "in" villainous laugh with which to frighten the non-villainous. The Baudelaires are troubled as well by various horrific phenomena, most notably the Medusoid Mycelium, a poisonous mushroom that waxes and wanes dangerously in the grim grotto of the book's title.

The mysterious Mr. Snicket, as in previous volumes of his researches into the Baudelaires' misfortunes, amuses with his clever wordplay, educates with his tangential discussions of vocabulary, and, indeed, alarms us on his behalf with hints dropped into the narrative of his own harrowing life on the run.The mysterious Mr. Snicket, as in previous volumes of his researches into the Baudelaires' misfortunes, amuses with his clever wordplay, educates with his tangential discussions of vocabulary, and, indeed, alarms us on his behalf with hints dropped into the narrative of his own harrowing life on the run. ("And a small, ceramic bowl, with a tight-fitting lid to keep something important inside, might be difficult to find in the laundry room of an enormous hotel," Snicket writes, for example, "particularly if there were a terrible villain nearby, making you feel nervous and distracted." Clearly Snicket has lived to tell the tale, but at what cost?) In the end the Baudelaires' lives remain miserable, but perhaps slightly less miserable than they had been, and they are at least a tiny bit closer to uncovering the secrets of the VFD, the enigmatic organization that is a force for good in their world. They are closer too, we must hope, to finally defeating Count Olaf and his troupe of wicked henchmen. There are, after all, only two books remaining in the series.

While written for pre-teens, the Snicket series (penned in fact by author Daniel Handler, who has also written some delightful books for adults) is bursting with allusions that will amuse parents. The books are fantastically clever and a joy to read aloud. (If you don't have children to read them to, you may want to rent some.) The Grim Grotto is slower going in its first third than it might be--it should perhaps have been shortened--but it is yet a delightful addition to the series. I urge readers unfamiliar with the books to give them a try. (Don't count on the soon-to-be-released movie version to retain the linguistic playfulness of the original, which is the series' principal charm! Read the books first.)

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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  






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Book-blog.com by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.