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The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook:  Holidays
The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Holidays
by Joshua Piven
Edition: Paperback
59 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars the REAL how-to guide on surviving holidays!, Nov. 14 2002
In their successful 1999 publication, "The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook", the authors Piven & Borgenicht gave us useful advice for surviving everything from a shark attack, to how to take a punch in the face with the minimum of injury. Now, as we swiftly approach the holiday season, they give us their latest work which focuses on holiday survival.
While you won't find information on how to safely jump out of a 2 story window into a trash dumpster, you WILL find information on how to gain control of a one-horse open sleigh, how to defend yourself against a charging reindeer and how to extricate yourself or someone else who is stranded in a chimney.
For the "rest of us" who aren't likely to find ourselves descending chimneys or dodging rutting male reindeer, there are LOTS of very helpful bits of advice for those things you're very LIKELY to encounter during this holiday season, including How To Wear Tight-Fitting Clothing that you've "outgrown" due to holiday eating, how to guess at what's inside a present (and how to PREVENT people who snoop on their presents!), as well as how to avoid kisses under the mistletoe and how to prevent yourself from being swept away by a marauding crowd of holiday shoppers.
Some survival tips are pure fun, like How To Repurpose A Fruitcake (doorstop, object d'art and tire block for your car are just a few), while others may actually be quite helpful in an actual situation: How To Prevent A Turkey From Exploding; How To Extinguish A Burning Turkey; and How To Treat Mistletoe (and food) Poisoning In Both People And Pets (you DID know that the berries of mistletoe are poisonous, didn't you?)
Naturally, this book is heavier on how to act in social settings (like dealing with meddlesome relatives and annoying carolers) and entertaining guests (how to open a bottle of wine with a broken cork, how to make an emergency menorah) than it is on actual dangers, but for anyone who's looking for a fun read and some practical advice, this and the other Worst-Case books are definitely worth getting! With it's festive, reflective silver cover, it's a perfect gift for the holidays as well as displaying prominently among your holiday displays. Besides, you just never know when disaster might strike, and you should always Be Prepared!! Highly recommended!

The Carnivorous Carnival
The Carnivorous Carnival
by Lemony Snicket
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 11.54
154 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Back in the Belly of the Beast, Nov. 3 2002
When we last left the Baudelaire orphans at the cliff-hanging ending of the 8th book in the Series of Unfortunate Events series, The Hostile Hospital, Sunny, Klaus and Violet were hiding in bullet hole-ridden trunk of Count Olaf's car on their way to parts unknown. As it so happens, the orphans are out of the frying pan into the fire in this new book, a phrase that herein means, "have gone from one bad situation where Violet was barely saved from certain unnecessary surgery, into a possible worse one by hiding in the trunk of the Count's car."
The count, as it turns out, is barreling off with his troope of odd characters to the tent of Madame Lulu the fortune teller, who lives far out in the Hinterlands. Like other books in this Unfortunate Series, the orphans continue to be in mortal peril (a phrase that herein means "dreadful danger") as they avoid the clutches of Count Olaf. Managing to disguise themselves as carnival freaks, they take up residence in Madame Lulu's freak show aside a humpback, a contortionist and a very glum ambidexterous fellow who can use either hands equally well.
Madame Lulu, who may not be all that she appears to be, has mysteriously always provided the Count with information about the Baudelaire trio, which finally explains how exactly he always knows where they are and how to find them. She drops hints that one of the orphan's parents may have survived the fire that apparently killed them back in book #1 (The Bad Beginning), and she gets oh-so-close to explaining the true meaning of VFD, and readers of the series and of Mr. Snicket's unauthorized biography are lead tantalizingly close to the answers for which they've sought about VFD and why Count Olaf, Jaques Snicket and Madame Lulu have tattoos or insignia of an eye on or about them. Pieces of the puzzle are just beginning to fit together, but not...quite...
This is, of course, the ninth book in the series, and Mr. Snicket gives us some hints, as he always does, at the end of the story to the next book in the series, which I assume will be called "The Slippery Slope." Readers who have read up to this point will be delighted and enthralled by the mysteries that peek out here and there throughout the book, like prarie dogs peeking out of their burrows before quickly disappearing again. If you have not yet read books 1-8 in the series, it is recommended that you do so before attacking "Carnivorous Carnival", as much of what happens in this story won't make sense if you've not been following the sad lives of the Baudelaire orphans since the beginning. From this quiet part of the world ;) this reviewer and constant reader of the Series highly recommends this and other books in the series.

What Happened to Recess and Why Are Our Children Struggling in Kindergarten?
What Happened to Recess and Why Are Our Children Struggling in Kindergarten?
by Susan Ohanian
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.98
31 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent examination of major, unspoken problems, Oct. 26 2002
Anyone with children will realize that the Golden Age of Education is over. Gone are the halcyon days of elementary school where children were first taught how to be good human beings and live in a civilization, and academics came second. Now, with high-stakes testing and the punitive "No Child Left Behind" initive by the Bush administration (which is more accurately called "No Child Left Untested" by the author), testing has become paramount to just about anything else teachers do or have done in decades past.
Case in point: a school district in Michigan has a 539-page curriculum for PRESCHOOL. Student's ranking in schools and teacher's salaries are directly linked to one or two tests that students take that focus on exclusive and often inappropriate material. Children in elementary schools throughout America are taking tests for days on end, racking up more test-taking hours than potential lawyers taking the Bar Exam. Wild animals used in Hollywood films have more break times in their days than your average schoolchild. Kindergarten curriculum, in the words of many people who run education, should be preparing children for college. In other words, as a nation, we have completely lost our marbles when it comes to testing and too many governmental folk are bowing down at the altar of test-worship.
A local educator recently said, "if I need to know how Little Johnny is doing in school, I go to HIM, not to his Ohio Proficiency Test from 1999." This clear and obvious paradigm for finding out how a child is doing in school has been completely left behind in recent years, and is likely to keep on happening. Ms. Ohanian's book is frighteningly FULL of examples and incidents when educators have gone straight to some standardized test to see how children are performing in school vs. the children themselves. Where the teachers stand in all these goings on is somewhere between a soldier on the front lines being given totally ridiculous and dangerous commands, and a prisoner of war being forced to do whatever the Big Wigs say, or else they're likely to find themselves up against a firing squad (for example, a school in Chicago SUED a teacher for 3 MILLION DOLLARS for looking at a standardized test before administering it to the children. A teacher will go to JAIL if they even GLANCE over a child's shoulder during standardized tests in Florida).
Ms. Ohanian asks some very good questions throughout her book, including why aren't teachers and parents DOING something about this national craze for test scores, and how is this REALLY HELPING any child to be tested to the point of getting sick and vomiting? She also asks some quite valid questions, like why are we spending billions of dollars testing children when so many schools are literally falling apart? Instead of shelling out 3 million dollars to a test-writing company, why not spend that money on repairing the SCHOOL? What do we hope to accomplish by testing children into the ground? What message are we sending our teachers and our children when their teacher is not only NOT allowed to even LOOK at the test, but risks jail time if they do? (can't you just see THAT one: HARDENED CRIMINAL: "whatcha in for, buddy? Murder 1?" TEACHER: "no, I looked over the shoulder of a first grader during a standardized test...").
The message is pretty clear: children don't matter at all unless they fall within a certain range on one or two standardized tests that are usually given once, graded by someone who is NOT an educator, and the results are posted months later (in Cleveland, our proficiency tests were taken back in March, but we're just getting the results of those tests NOW, 7 months later). It's also clear that teachers and parents are clearly not experts on their own children, because the LAST person to be consulted about how Johnny does in school are these very people: those who write the laws and the curriculum and who punish the schools and teachers are only looking at pages of statistics.
Gaaah... Maddening...
Ms. Ohanian's book is meticulously well researched and she cites startling and often frightening statistics and stories about what is considered "normal" educational proceedings in America today. I myself am rereading it for the second time, taking notes as I go and passing it along to my teaching colleagues. Actually, it's getting to the point where EVERY SINGLE PAGE documents something either useful, scary or enraging that I'm finding it easier to simply hand the book to friends and colleagues and say, "here, read this."
My hope is that this book and others like it will actually DO SOMETHING-spark off a national debate and get parents and teachers and students to go out there and stop putting up with this nonsense. There's no reason children in North Carolina have to be tested on the spelling and meaning of "circumference" in first grade. Nothing good will come of testing our children so often that they loose the ability to THINK and can only regurgitate information and bubble in little circles with a no. 2 pencil. PARENTS know that. TEACHERS know that. FAMILIES know that. ANYONE who works with a child knows that. NOW we need to make sure that our lawmakers (who obviously all live in a totally different world from us Common Folk) begin to know that as well. Get the book, read it through, then pass it along to someone else. If the people lead, eventually the leaders will follow.

Skeleton Hiccups
Skeleton Hiccups
by Margery Cuyler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 14.59
37 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars (hic!) Halloween (hic!) fun!! (hic, hic, hic!), Oct. 26 2002
This review is from: Skeleton Hiccups (Hardcover)
Skeleton wakes up one morning (the headboard of his bed is a gravestone with RIP engraved on it) and discovers that he's got a bad case of the hiccups. He starts his day off, but the hiccups aren't making things easy for him. In the shower, he looses the soap. Brushing his teeth, his jaw flies off! Polishing his bones, the hiccups cause his arm to come undone! Carving a pumpkin and raking leaves aren't easy, either, with these bone-rattling hiccups!
When Skeleton goes outside to play ball with Ghost, the old remedies for curing hiccups are suggested. Skeleton eats some sugar (which falls through his jawbone and over his ribs), he drinks a glass of water standing on his head (he water gushes out of his eye sockets), and Ghost tries to scare him. Well, nothing works until Ghost gets a sneaky idea involving a mirror...
The team of Cuyler and Schindler have combined to produce a wonderful and funny book in "Skeleton Hiccups." The illustrations are big and bold with vibrant colors that delight the eye. Skeleton is beautifully drawn with enough detail to see his individual bones but not so much detail that he'd be scary to young children. Ghost, too, is a character, sporting a blue baseball cap he wears backwards and a pug nose. The pages are large and uncluttered and easy to read.
The text of "Skeleton Hiccups" is brief and simple, with small-font "hic! Hic! Hic!"s bouncing on each page as skeleton tries to go about his business with these pesky hiccups. When I read this book to a class of preschoolers, they really liked the hic-hic-hic part, and would repeat it every time they saw it on the page. Children who were normally a bit skittish around Halloween skeletons thought that this one was pretty funny, especially because he had troubles that they themselves have had!
"Skeleton Hiccups" is perfect for Halloween time, of course, but there's no reason why it should only be read during October. I showed the book to the art teacher at our school who immediately fell in love with it-"it's sooo hard for kids to draw skeletons!" she said, "they require so much detail. But THIS Skeleton is just perfect!" She went on to say that she intends to use this book and another one called "Hobgoblin and the Skeleton" to teach about human anatomy and proportion in her art classes.
For anyone who likes Halloween or a good laugh, for those of us who have a fascination with the human skeleton, this book comes highly recommended!!

From a Buick 8
From a Buick 8
by Stephen King
Edition: Hardcover
118 used & new from CDN$ 0.14

5.0 out of 5 stars The Master Does it Again!, Oct. 26 2002
This review is from: From a Buick 8 (Hardcover)
A car that only LOOKS like a car and the memories of what happened to the troopers of Pennsylvania State Trooper D squad is the subject of King's latest (and, perhaps, his last) book.
Told mainly in flashback, "From a Buick 8" concerns a very odd classic Roadmaster Buick that rolls into a gas station one day with a mysterious driver behind the wheel. Pale skin, with an almost melted-looking face, the driver heads off around the station presumably to the bathroom, and disappears. With the driver suddenly missing, the Staties are called in to have a look-see at the vehicle. Things immediately get very strange: there are no prints in or on the car, the car itself has no dirt, dust or pollens in or ON it (the tires won't even hold a pebble jammed down between the treads), and the engine is designed in such a way that there's no way it could ever move an inch under it's own power. It only LOOKS like a car, then, and it's enough to give anyone on Troop D the creeps.
The car is stored in a shed out back of the troop's barracks, where a young Ned Wilcox discovers it. Ned is the son of a State D trooper who was recently killed in a pointless and horrific traffic accident. Ned's been hanging around the barracks a lot since his dad died, trying to get a better feel for what his father was like on the job, when he discovers the car under a shed. He also notes that while the temperature outside of the shed is in the 80's, INSIDE the shed it's hovering in the low 60's. What's going on here? Why is the car there? Whats up with the temperature change?
The stories start then, mostly told by Sandy, the current Troop D commanding officer, and the book begins to shuttle between the present day and the days when the car was first found, and then started doing mysterious and horrific things. Strange, twisted, potentially dangerous and hideous THINGS begin to come OUT of the car during periods when the car releases blasts of intense light. Turns out Ned's dad was the resident Buick Expert (in as much as anyone COULD be an expert of such a bizarre thing) and spent a huge deal of time trying to figure what the Buick really WAS and where it came from. Ned, like his late father, becomes totally fascinated in the Buick, and begins to wonder if somehow the car managed to murder his father...
I am what Mr. King refers to as a Constant Reader-a fan of his writing, in other words. Having read almost all of the works of King, I can say that "Buick 8" departs from King's tradition of grab-you-by-the-throat style of horror. This work is more reminiscent of his epic work "It", where a good deal of the action has already happened, and the reader is just there to hear the story and be enveloped in a good tale. There is a strong sense of nostalgia to this tale, and the plot easily unwinds and you're there, right in the thick of things, trying to figure out just what this devil-car IS, and where it came from. In the end, we wind up being as bewildered as the original cast of troopers who kept vigil over this strange thing from the beginning.
There is an audio version of this book that is unique in that there are 5 narrators reading the story. The characters that are telling the story to Ned right now are all voiced by different actors while the parts that happen in the past ("Then", in the book) is voiced by one single actor. I am a diehard fan of audio books and have very high standards for narrators, ESPECIALLY for long audio books like this one which weigh in at 13.5 hours on 12 CD's: unless I am completely engrossed at all times, I don't bother listening to the book.
This audio version is stunning and highly recommended. Each narrator takes their time, doesn't rush through the material, and unspools the story as if you're sitting there with them, outside Troop B barracks, hearing all the odd and terrifying tales about the strange Buick for the first time. Kudos to the publisher for allowing the voice actors to take their time and not rushing them to the finish line. Overall, highly recommended, especially in audio format.

If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho
If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho
16 used & new from CDN$ 38.02

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful new translation of an ancient favorite, Oct. 20 2002
There is precious little known about the ancient Greek Poet, Sappho. Most of us know the obvious, that she was a famous poet and lyricist (meaning, she composed music to be sung with the lyre) and that she lived on the island of Lesbos off the Greek coast in about 630 B.C.. However, almost all other details about her life, such as they are, come from texts written about her by other ancient writers; of the 9 books of lyrics she is reported to have written, none survive today.
Fragments of poetry written by Sappho still exist, but most are damaged or illegible. Hence, here as in other previous works of the poetry of Sappho, the reader is left with only fragments of what clearly must have been delicate and breathtakingly beautiful poetry. As Ms. Carson says in her introduction to her translations, the reader is left with a profound sense of wonder when confronted with the small snippets of Sappho's poetry. For example, all that survives of poem 36 is "I long and seek after". What, we wonder, does the rest of the poem pertain to? What flowing scenes did she paint with her words that we can never know?
I personally am not a Classicist, though I HAVE read through many of the surviving texts of the ancient worlds: Beowulf & The Odyssey, for example, and occasionally I'll attack some texts in Latin and have a go at the translation. However, for the most part, I am not a scholar of ancient times or texts. I'm here to say that one does NOT, even for a second, need to know much about ancient Greek culture, text or times to thoroughly enjoy these translations. Granted, you will find that most poems are little more than bits of a whole (sometimes only a word or two survives), but even these small pieces will cause your imagination to soar.
Ms. Carson has also boldly gone where no translator has gone before (to my knowledge). In previous translations of Sappho's poetry that I've read, the pages are crammed tight with the fragments themselves, explanations and footnotes. In Ms. Carson's book, each page is dedicated to one fragment of Sappho's poetry, regardless of it's length. In this respect, a poem that is only three words long has an entire page dedicated to itself. This is a wonderful touch, as it means that the reader's entire attention can be focused only on that poem, no matter how small, without the distraction of commentary by the author (Ms. Carson puts an extensive appendix at the back where she adds her thoughts and comments on the fragment's origin, word meaning and characters). Opposite the English translations are the original fragments in their original Greek characters. I myself cannot read Greek, but I found it a beautiful and thought-provoking touch to be able to look at what Sappho wrote in her own language. Though I'm not able to read Greek, it made the text more alive to have it there for me to look at and examine.
In conclusion, anyone who enjoys ancient Greek culture, ancient history or simply enjoys reading poetry should not hesitate to add this book to their collection. I'd personally go so far as to say that if you've got a different volume of Sappho's poetry, make some shelf space to add THIS book as well. For the clean, uncluttered page and lyrical, moving translation, I highly recommend this work and highly compliment Ms. Carson on her work.

Mama, Coming and Going
Mama, Coming and Going
by Judith Caseley
Edition: Hardcover
15 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars a must read for older sibs!!, Oct. 17 2002
This review is from: Mama, Coming and Going (Hardcover)
When Jenna's little brother was born, funny things started happening to her mother. Mama remembered some things, but forgot a lot of others! For example, she remembered to read to Jenna, but she forgot to defrost the chicken for dinner ("so they had pizza instead."). When Mama draws water for Jenna's bath, she forgets about the water when the doorbell rings and Jenna's little brother brother, Mickey, spits up. Mama also remembers to get groceries, but forgets to close the trunk and one time even accidently locks Mickey in the car! (a friendly neighbor comes to the rescue with a coat hanger).
For any older sibling who has a newborn addition to the family, things like this are common even among the most organized parents. What can be confusing to the older sib is what exactly is going on? Why is Mama suddenly getting forgetful? While the book doesn't exactly answer this question, it does tell us that everything will work out in the end and Mamas are good at improvising (when Jenna, Mickey and her Mama go to a birthday party a week early, Mama looks ready to cry but instead they go by a bakery and have a cupcake instead).
I love this story, especially now that our second child has entered our lives and our older child is wondering why the adults are not only always tired, but why we do things like stick the cereal in the refrigerator and the milk in the cupboard, and why I've gone to work in mismatched socks on more than one occasion. As families, somehow we manage to muddle through all the little trials and tribulations and try to make the best of even the most frustrating situations (when the bathroom floor floods, "Jenna went wading in her rainboots.").
The text of "Mama..." is easy to read and understand, so young children with new sibs can easily understand these funny situations. The illustrations are soft and colorful (watercolors, I think), and they clearly convey a sense of belonging and family among the characters, even when minor disasters strike like flooded floors, open car trunks and too-early arrivals to birthday parties. The book also shows us that minor setbacks and frustrations are simply a part of being in a family, and instead of complaining about it, what can we do to make the situation better? (Jenna entertains Mickey in the back seat while Mr. Carbone jimmies the door lock).
For the delightful illustrations, for the ease of text and for demonstrating that everyday frustrations are part of life, I highly recommend this book to parents and families of all kinds!

Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz
by Charles M. Schulz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 28.18
41 used & new from CDN$ 4.78

5.0 out of 5 stars absolute MUST HAVE for the Schulz fan!!, Oct. 17 2002
The world lost a close, personal friend when Mr. Schulz passed away. Fortunately for those of us who are fans of his work, fine books like this remain as a tribute and history of his work.
In "Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz", readers are given a short biography of Mr. Schulz and now he found himself falling into the role of an artist (turns out he first started seriously drawing in the army!). Over time, he began drawing a strip called "Lil' Folk" that bears strong resemblance to the modern Peanuts gang. The thing that set Lil' Folk aside from other strips at the time was that the children Schulz drew were not only funny and stylized (a kid with a particularly round head who would later evolve into Charlie Brown caught the heart of readers), but because the kids themselves would say precocious things beyond their years.
In this collection, a very large section is devoted to Lil' Folks and the very early Peanuts cartoons. You can easily see how certain characters began and how they evolved into the characters we've seen over the years in Christmas specials, advertising for Met Life and Millbrook bread, and waiting for the Great Pumpkin. The book itself is about 90% comic strips arranged on the page in order of their publication, so comic strip fans can take in a whole month's worth of strips in a few pages.
The work is exhaustive of Schulz's early works and hundreds of strips that have never been released in any other anthology/collection of Schulz's work are found here. The only drawback is that the book itself is narrow, so many of the strips come out being rather small-smaller than they'd normally look in a newspaper. While you don't need to read the book with a magnifying glass, you may find yourself squinting at certain older strips that haven't survived the test of time or that came off the printer slightly fuzzy. Frankly, I think the publisher should have insisted on a larger, coffee table-sized book where the strips could be seen more easily.
Still, for anyone who is a fan of Peanuts, this is a MUST HAVE! For the biography and early sketchbook illustrations by Mr. S., for it's heretofore unpublished strips, and as a testimony to a kind, brilliant and dedicated illustrator, this book comes highly recommended by this Peanuts aficionado.

A Series Of Unfortunate Events: Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography
A Series Of Unfortunate Events: Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography
by Lemony Snicket
Edition: Library Binding
70 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Curiouser and curiouser!!, May 22 2002
Lemony Snicket, the author of the popular "Series of Unfortunate Events" and chronicler of the ill-fated Baudelaire triplets has been faithfully relaying the stories of Klaus, Sunny and Violet B. now has a biography that will undoubtedly ask more questions than it answers.
Mr. Snicket, who's 8 books of the orphans include "The Bad Beginning," "The Reptile Room" all the way up to "The Hostile Hospital" and "The Carnivorous Carnival" due out in the Fall of 2002, has relayed the stories of how the evil Count Olaf has followed the triplets through a series of misadventures in the hopes of stealing their fortunes and doing away with the children themselves. Surrounded by unhelpful and often idiotic adults, like Mr. Poe who is in charge of finding them guardians (all of whom turn out to be recklessly abusive, paranoid or both), we last saw the triplets stashed in the trunk of a car trying to find not only the meaning and mystery of V.F.D., but the missing two Quagmire triplets who were last seen floating away in a Self-Sustaining Hot Air Mobile Home.
The Unauthorized Biography of Lemony Snicket is SUPPOSED to shed some light on some very pressing questions readers of the series will have, chief among them is What is VFD? and Why Does Count Olaf Have a Tattoo of an Eye on His Ankle? Though these and 11 other questions appear in the books table of contents, the text itself has been tremendously altered by some reader--we assume Mr. Snicket himself--and the questions as well as answers have been wholly changed.
The book itself is painstakingly illustrated with photographs, letters, correspondences (many of which are crumpled, torn or burned in the attempt to keep them out of dangerous hands), and there are a lot of HINTS as to what VFD is, why Count Olaf has a tattoo, and who some of the minor characters like Jacques Snicket really are, but readers won't find any open, honest and concrete answers here.
The book calls itself dangerous, and therefore has a reversible cover so you can disguise this work as a fake book called "The Luckiest Kids in the World! Book 1! The Pony Party!" by a certain Loney M. Setnick... The characters on the fake cover somewhat resemble Klaus, Sunny and Violet, so those who are IN THE KNOW about the orphans may read it in public and thereby secretly signal others that they are open to the plight of the orphans and it's pursued author.
All asides aside, the book will be very confusing to readers who have not read at least up to book 7 in the series, "The Vile Village." Indeed, it is in book 7 that the plot really begins to twist like one of Uncle Monty's serpents, and a good number of questions raised in #7 are referred to (and more questions raised) in The Unauthorized Biography. The reversible cover is a fun touch for young readers who will like to play into the conspiracy of Mr. Snicket being a dangerous and hunted character, quietly and secretly churning out the story of the Baudelaire orphans.
The book is printed on high-gloss paper with dozens of illustrations and censorship marks, as if the document has been expurgated for the reader's safety, and the photographs and illustrations are quite engrossing.
The writing will, as noted, confuse readers who aren't familiar with the gamut of the series, and it might confuse younger readers who aren't exposed to the concepts of conspiracy theory and trying to keep something hidden and suppressed. Since the writing takes the form of letters, memos, etc, there is no coherent plot to the book, rather a jumble of information that subtly hints at what might be REALLY going on; for example, Jacques Snicket, the authors brother, has a tattoo of an eye on his leg just like Count Olaf. In a Q & A section re: becoming a volunteer for V.F.D., one of the questions is "do I have to get a tattoo?" This implies, to my mind, that Count Olaf himself might have been a member of this still-unexplained secret organization. Details like this that require a lot of memory and reading between the lines will probably be lost on young readers, leading to frustration.
Is the book worth reading? Yes, if you're a fan of the series, go out and get the book by all means!! If you're slowly collecting/reading the series, get the book anyway and put it away until you're done with the 7th book at least, preferably the 8th, as The Unauthorized Biography is published between #9 & #10. If you've never read any books in the series and don't know who Klaus, Sunny, Violet, Jacques, Lemony or Count Olaf are, then don't bother, you'll only waste your money and become helplessly confused. Otherwise, recommended by this fan!
"The world is quiet here..."

Odyssey
Odyssey
by Homer
Edition: Audio Cassette
11 used & new from CDN$ 4.64

5.0 out of 5 stars Classic brought to life through translation and performance!, May 20 2002
This review is from: Odyssey (Audio Cassette)
Many of us (perhaps TOO many of us) were required to read at least ONE of the Great Works of Ancient Western Literature, like the Odyssey, the Iliad or (if we were lucky, the shortest one of the lot) Beowulf. Most of us hated the work because it was really, REALLY long and really, REALLY complicated. I mean, how many people still read and write in hectambic octameter, or whatever the heck it is...?? Most of us have enough difficulty sloughing through the works of Shakespeare and his sonnets. So, I think it's fair to say that most of us have been at least EXPOSED to Homer, though we've likely not gotten much out of it.
It took a few centuries, but there is finally a translation that brings the story more up-to-date for modern audiences. The translator, Mr. Fagles, has done away with the rhyming scheme of the original and instead put the text into a more readable format of sentences and paragraphs. This move alone has made the story more readable than any other translation I've attempted (and it should be noted, even at 13 hours on audio, this is the first translation of Homer I've been able to understand and, more importantly, *finish*). Expressions of gratitude also go out to him for reducing the amount of "thus"es and "heretofore"s and other elements of ancient speech that are commonly found in Greek translations. While I did notice that he sometimes used very modern words like "potluck", it is this very modernization that allowed me to more fully get into the text and comprehend it.
I therefore disagree with a friend of mine, a Classics professor, who says that Fagles is "dumbing down" Homer's work by making it more readable ("Homer is NOT Stephen King! It's a story that's over 2,800 years old!! Of COURSE it's going to be difficult to read!", he grumped). As a writer, storyteller and teacher of English writing and reading, my feelings are that if you have lost your audience, then you might as well be writing to the rocks and trees-the purpose of a story is to be told and UNDERSTOOD; if the audience doesn't understand you, then what have you got? Nothing! So, while I concede that Mr. Fagles might have taken some liberties with the translation and style by making it narrative text vs. poetic -meter, I believe it has only served to enhance the story so much more.
Much of the Odyssey, of course, are stories and retellings of the great deeds of the hero, Odysseus, who set forth from his native land of Ithaca to do the sorts of things that heroes do, mostly conquer armies. Odysseus of course becomes shipwrecked and endures a number of different adventures, including the Island of the Lotus-Eaters, Polyphemus the one-eyed Cyclops, and the destructive singing of the Sirens. Meanwhile, at home his wife, Penelope, awaits his return while suitors take over the kingdom and try to win her affections, devouring the goods of the realm in the process.
For a modern audience with all the convenient of CD-ROM's, the Internet, cable TV and whatnot, the repetitive nature of The Odyssey might grow a bit dull and tiresome if one were to read the whole thing in print, but thanks to the stellar voice talents of Ian McKellen, I breezed through the 12 cassettes in an astoundingly short time, so drawn in was I by his voice. His soothing tones, rising and falling with the action, pausing here, growing louder there as some battle is raged, is so perfectly matched to the text that you can easily picture him sitting there in some ancient stone hall telling the story as if it were his own and Odysseus his best friend. I was not bored for an instant with him as my narrator and guide through this ancient story, and I can't recommend this audio version highly enough.
In closing, the tapes are packaged with a short but informative and densely written book by Mr. Bernard Knox. Admittedly, I didn't use or refer to this book often, being more interested in just the story itself than all of the infinite details.
An astounding feat of translation, performance and research!! Highly, HIGHLY recommended!!

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