Coraline – Neil Gaiman // Descendant – Lesley Livingston // When Did You See Her Last? – Lemony Snicket

Three books again! I’m on a flippin’ roll…

Coraline:

“When Coraline steps through a door to find another house strangely similar to her own (only better), things seem marvelous.

But there’s another mother there, and another father, and they want her to stay and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go.

Coraline will have to fight with all her wits and courage if she is to save herself and return to her ordinary life.”

This was the first Gaiman book I ever read, when I was about 12 or so. I didn’t remember much of it, apart from the fact that it’s deliciously creepy as heck, but I do quite enjoy the movie version (sidenote: I spent the first half of the book wondering where Wybie was until I figured out he was just a movie character).

I can see why this is a “cross-over” book: some children (like me, the first time around), will enjoy being scared, and some adults (like me, the second time) will appreciate how dark it is. The Other Mother is definitely in the running as the most terrifying villain in children’s literature (sorry, Voldemort, you’re big and bad, but SPOILER ALERT your dismembered hand never skittered down a hallway between worlds). That plot point and the button eyes stayed with me the first time I read it…which is why, even though I like LaLaLoopsy dolls (they have some funny names), their eyes sort of freak me out.

Descendant:

“In this pulse-pounding sequel to Starling, Mason Starling is alone after having crossed over into the realm of the Norse gods, and her only way out—the Bridge of Asgard—has been destroyed. Already traumatized after seeing Fennrys shot, Mason is further shocked to find herself in a place that she thought existed only in myth—Hel. So when she is greeted by a mysterious woman who introduces herself as the queen of Hel and Mason’s long-dead mother, things quickly go from bad to strange.Mason needs to return to her old life in Manhattan—and more importantly, she needs to find Fenn. In her quest to leave Hel, Mason learns she must find the Spear of Odin, a powerful magickal object and the only thing that can get her back home. What Mason doesn’t know is that if she takes up the Spear, she could set forth a series of events culminating in the end of the world . . .”

A couple of weeks ago, I read Starling, and liked it…so naturally when I read Descendant, I liked it too. Mythology – Norse, Greek, Roman, and Egyptian – is further explained and developed in this one; since I don’t have a big mythology background, it feels like I’m learning something new! Even if some of it has been tweaked to fit this particular story.

I don’t want to say too much about it because it’s a sequel, but again, the major problem was the amount of emphasis put on Mason’s physical attributes: midnight hair and super blue eyes. It’s constantly mentioned, and, unless it’s going to be a Harry Potter situation (where having his mother’s eyes makes for a devastating moment), it’s really not necessary.

My other issue – and I felt the same way with the first one – is that the beginning starts of strong, then there’s a lag in the middle, and finally the end explodes all over your face with a crazy cliffhanger. Which makes sense, and is typical of books in general, but you hit a certain point and sort of barrel through to the end so that by the time you’re done, there’s a moment of “Wait, what?”. Of course, that just makes you anxious for the next book, so it’s really quite effective.

When Did You See Her Last?:

“In the fading town of Stain’d-by-the-Sea, young apprentice Lemony Snicket has a new case to solve when he and his chaperone are hired to find a missing girl. Is the girl a runaway? Or was she kidnapped? Was she seen last at the grocery store? Or could she have stopped at the diner? Is it really any of your business? These are all the wrong questions.”

I’ve been a Lemony Snicket fan for a really long time, and I just had to pick up his next series, if only for some closure (I was perplexed for months after the end of A Series of Unfortunate Events). This series focuses on a young Snicket (pre-Baudelaire children) and his many adventures after joining the “organization”.

I don’t really remember what happened in the first book, Who Could That Be at This Hour?, but there’s enough description in this one that you at least have a vague idea of what happened previously. And since Snicket is a pro at being vague, you can’t really ask for anything more.

I love the various literary allusions (even if I don’t catch all of them), and I absolutely love how one of Snicket’s associates shows up at the end, a childhood version of an adult character from ASOUE. If you’ve read the previous books, it’s very easy to pick up on who this associate will grow up to become, well before Snicket reveals their name.

Large font (and even larger margins), a handful of illustrations, and a fast-moving story line make it easy to finish a book in a day. Quick and easy reading that’s satisfying yet leaves you asking all the (probably wrong) questions.

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