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112 of 125 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2005
The Penultimate Peril is one of the best in ASoUE. It's the next to last book in the series, and everything is starting to come together.

When we last left Violet, Klaus, and Sunny that had met up with Kit Snicket on Briny Beach, and that's exactly where out story picks up. She takes them to a hotel, where in just a few days, there will be a gathering of volunteers at the last safe place. However, we all know that nothing ends in sunshine & happiness for our favorite unfortunate orphans.

The book is very well paced, and a bit darker than some of the others in the series, but just as silly as well. We see lots of familiar faces, and will have you wanting to reread the entire series over just to see if you missed the slighest bit of a clue. We also meet some new characters, and discover some remarkable secrets. We also run into some new questions, and ponder the true meaning of noble. Right & wrong are not always black & white, especially for the Baudelaires. The Penultimate Peril is a very enjoyable read, and is a must buy for fans of ASoUE.

And make sure you have a mirror when you read.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2005
Book eleven in A Series of Unfortuante Events, THE GRIM GROTTO, didn't live up to my high expectations. Actually, it was one of my least favorite books I had ever read. I prayed to God that the twelth installment wouldn't be a stinker, and thank goodness, it wasn't. Infact, THE PENULTIMATE PERIL is now my number one favorite in Lemony Snicket's thirteen-book series. There was just so much to like about it, but there was one main reason that made me appreciate it over all the others. Every ASOUE book tends to be a little more mature than your average children's book, but this one is a hundred times more intense than each of the others. Like the Baudelaires realize midway through the story, they are no longer children (except for Sunny) proving that the events of their lives are no longer kid stuff. If you thought book six of Harry Potter was intense, wait till you try reading THE PENULTIMATE PERIL...

Right from the first chapter of this brilliantly-written novel, the Baudelaires know that the things they're about to face are like no other. A fellow V.F.D. member has them disguised as hotel conceirges at Hotel Denouement, where they will pretend to be your average "hotel helper" while secretly being on the look-out for any villains that might try to cause chaos to the upcoming V.F.D. meeting. I thought that making the setting a hotel was a great idea, as one of the most interesting places in the world is a hotel. This led up for some hilarious scenes involving some of ASOUE's best characters, although it also led for some extremely depressing scenes that may fill your eyes with tears. After all, there's a reason why Lemony Snicket warns you not to read this book and pick up something much more delightful.

Another detail about this book I really enjoyed was that so mo many characters from the previous installments in the series showed up. Best of all, none of them were underused or overused. They were placed perfectly in the story so you'll say to yourself "Wow, I can't believe they're back!" It's a huge disappointment when a series author forgets their series' past, but Lemony Snicket / Daniel Handler certainly doesn't. No important character in the series goes unforgotten in this book, and although having tons of characters return would be more fitting for the last book, I'm glad Snicket / Handler did it with this one--after all, he has a lot of plot to get out of the way and unsolved mysteries to answer with book thirteen. This leaves me to the only problem I had. There weren't enough questions answered, but I trust that book thirteen will answer everything, so it's not much of a disappointment.

If you think A Series of Unfortunate Events is a lame kiddie series that definitely don't show true angst, you better take a look at this one. From beginning to end, THE PENULTIMATE PERIL is filled with more drama than you can even imagine. The ending is the most dramatic the whole book (and it's the most intense ending in the series) and will most likely leave you with your jaw dropping. Many other ASOUE fans and I were amazed at how much has changed from book one to this amazing piece of literature that is book twelve. But I have a warning for you--even if you're anxious to read this book, and you haven't read the rest, you really have to or you'll be completely lost. Although there's quite a few books you're going to have to get through, just keep your hopes up that eventually you'll be reading THE PENULTIMATE PERIL, the best ASOUE book so far, and one of the best children's novels the world has ever seen.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2006
Imagine, a life without parents, you're on the run from treacherous villains, and you have millions of unanswered questions. For instance, "where is this cab taking me, and why does the driver seem to know me so well?"

That was exactly what the Baudelaire orphans (Violet, Klaus and Sunny) were first thinking in the book "A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Penultimate Peril". This is the 12th of 13 installments of this unfortunate series By Lemony Snicket.

Turning out their cab took them to a Hotel, (the Hotel Denouement to be exact) they stepped out of the cab and into adventure and mystery. Their job was to find Frank; a member of a secret Organization called "V.F.D", but had to watch out for Ernest, his evil twin. How you ask? By becoming Hotel workers and sneaking around for clues.

But not all is well in the Hotel. While on one of her errands, Violet discovers Esme Squalor and Count Olaf are in the hotel, (apparently they are still seeking the Baudelaire's fortune) luckily, they don't seem to recognize her. Later she discovers that her siblings found even more of Olaf's assistants in the mysterious hotel!

Lemony Snicket's serious and somewhat sarcastic writing style is perfect for telling the Baudelaire orphans forlorn and mysterious life.

As a recommendation, I invite strong readers who can handle sad endings/ moments of any sort. Those of you who can, This book would be the book for you.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2005
There aren't many books that leave you feeling your life can never again be the same as before you read them, and if you've read the first eleven books of the series, wonderful though they all are, you probably won't expect Book the Twelfth to be one of them. You'd be wrong.

From the very beginning, the Baudelaires are thrown into an ambiguous world where everyone speaks in enigmas, volunteers have villainous identical brothers, and even the simplest action is likely to be part of a dark and convoluted plot. Unable to tell who is to be trusted and who isn't, they wonder endlessly about whether their actions are helping their friends or their enemies, and end up having to take some big decisions that may or may not have a right answer.

All this is set in the brilliantly imagined Hotel Denouement, and if you know what the word "denouement" means then you would be right in expecting matters to come to a climax here. Finally, many of our niggling questions are answered, but many remain, and the book is filled with a sense of unfathomable mystery.

Without revealing too much, I will say that the Baudelaires end up discovering some very shocking facts about their parents, about the world they live in, and about themselves, and suddenly nothing seems as simple or as clear-cut as we first imagined. The hotel, a backwards place whose reflection in a pond is the *real* Hotel Denouement, could be a metaphor for the world. You won't find it possible to look at life in the same way again.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2006
Dear reader, Bystander, Civilian, Pedestrian, Alien, and or sea creature I, not related in any way to Mr. Snicket, will write my review for A Series of Unfortunate Events on this one page, for you see I am quite lazy and writing 12 different reviews for the same series would only put you dear readers in harms way of being offended by my grammmar, pronunciation, and spelling(although I highly doubt anybody will even bother to read this, escpecially after my boring introduction). So as to make things simple I shall say all I have to say right here.

A Series of Unfortunate Events is a series about, well a group of Unfortunate Children called the Baudilaures. Unfortunate in this case means, for every person that wins the lottery or finds a penny on the street you can bet that the Baudilaures will have just been tricked by some fellow who tried to steal their inheritence or had their house burn to the ground. This series has gone up to 12 books and will end with Book 13 cleverly entitled: Ahem, The End.

It also has a sick, villain named Count Olaf who follows the children around and tries to get their inheritence.(STALKER!) Ahem, anyway these children face horrifictatioously danger at every turn, excuse my spelling as it will get worse and worse as I am banking on the fact that no one will read this and this small memento of time and devotion shall be utterly wasted. But I shall continue to write nontheless for I feel it is my sworn duty to advise you to read this book series and hopefully I shall not get sued by any legal associate of Mr. Snicket for copying his fine prose.

Overall these books are cleverly written with some wit and humor and suspense. They of course shall not rank up with the likes of The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, War of the Worlds, Lord of the Flies, and the Dictionary(an engrossing read) BUT they are great fun to read for any age.

Excuse me I'm getting a call........What? Thats terrible! Who would copy Mr. Snicket's fine prose! No I've never even been to the Amazon.....
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2006
The Penultimate Peril

The "Penultimate Peril" was written by Lemony Snickett. The author called this book "The penultimate Peril", because it is second to last book in the series of the Unfortunate Events. And this one is just like all the others in the series. What I liked about this book was that the Baulderine orphans try to find out and get to the Deumont hotel, and are searching for a sugar bowl; that holds the secrets to defeating Count Oalf. Who has been following them since their parents died in a fire. Every time they think they know where the sugar bowl is they find it missing from where it first was. You might wonder why Count Oalf has been following them, if you haven't read the first one from the series. Count Oalf is after their fortune their parents left them when they died in a fire.

In the "Penultimate Peril" the Baulderines have made it to the last safe place of V.F.D a secret organization that puts out fires. Both sides from the organization good and bad will meet their on a Thursday. This is where they will learn the truth about why they are their.

Dewey Dumont is my favorite character from the book because he was their, for the Baulderines when they needed to know what was going on. He kind of reminds me of the Baulderines parents or at least how the children described them. He was someone who helped them even though they didn't know it. He was one of the volunteers who was determined to take Count Oalf and his henchman down by using his research. Overall this book is so far better of the series of the Unfortunate Events. I recommend this book because it has a lot of suspense and rate it a five out of five out of five. If you like the Baulderines stories you got to read this one.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2005
I was pleased to find, despite some of the horrid reviews I read, that the Penultimate book of this series was quite interesting and just as good as the other 11 books.

Although I found humorous bits few and far apart at first, it got funnier as the book progressed, as well as getting more intense.

I particularly enjoyed the description of the hotel, both inside and out, and upside down...

I also liked the section towards the end where they take literally the expression "justice should be blind."

These are some of the reasons that the books are pure genius; Lemony Snicket expertly mixes comedy and tradgedy into a story you'll have a hard time forgetting.

Although the end was ruined for me, it was still quite a shocker, particularly Sunny's words at the end of chapter 12 (I think it was).

The only complaint I have was that the Baudelaires did not get to use their skills very much throughout the book, but I suppose this was part of their disguise. The hotel guests also got rather annoying, with people shouting random things every which way. The whole series is rather random, though, so no complaints...

Despite what you have heard about this book, I suggest you read it. It was an excellent addition to the series, and I'm sure Mr. Handler will not dissapoint us when the final installment comes in.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 18, 2005
I just finished this book 5 minutes ago after 2 and a half hours of steady reading. I really enjoyed it, and would recommend this book to anyone who loves the first 11 books in this series.

In this latest installment of the Series of Unfortunate Events, the Baudelaires arrive at the Hotel Denouement for the meeting of the Volunteers. But first, the Baudelaires must first check out the hotel to make sure that the last safe place is indeed safe. While disguised as concierges, the Baudelaires encounter a number of charecters from previous books. They must figure out if these people are volunteers or villans before the meeting on thursday. If they find that the hotel is not safe, they must signal to the volunteers not to come.

I thought this installation lacked a few things. For one, Violet doesn't have to invent anything, and this is one of my personal favorite things to read about. Klaus does do some research at the end, but his wealth of knowledge is not called opon as frequently as in the other books. Also, there is little refrence to Sunny's cooking or biting skills. Overall, however, I found that this book was thoroughly enjoyable because of discovering many new questions to be answered. This book was more of a mystery than the other ones, and I can't wait to see what happens in book 13!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
I recently downloaded a Fresh Air interview with author Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket) from several years ago. In it, I learned that prior to writing "A Series of Unfortunate Events", Mr. Handler did not read a single solitary children's book. He didn't immerse himself in the dry narration of E. Nesbit or take in the mock-gothic nature of Joan Aiken or even submerge himself in the wry humor of Roald Dahl. Mr. Handler did none of this and yet he still managed to write what can best be described as the most original children's series of the new century. Some books in this series work better than others ("The Ersatz Elevator", for example is better by far than the slightly more forgettable, "Slippery Slope") but not a single one could be described as weak or poorly written. In this, the penultimate book in the series, we learn a heckuva lot more about VFD, the schism, the orphans' former guardians, and the nature of nobility and villainy. There isn't as much action in, "The Penultimate Peril". You won't find insidious henchmen trying to saw children in half or swordfights or kids rappelling down elevator shafts. What you will find is a whole book that lauds the beauty of libraries, a harpooning, letters written backwards, an enormous fire, bad Indian food, and what can best be called the final cliffhanger.

When we last saw our heroes, the Baudelaire orphans had climbed into a taxi with a woman they knew only to be Kit Snicket. Hoping that now, at last, they could get an answer all their questions, the Baudelaires are disappointed to find that Kit is just as mysterious and impossible to pin-down as every other adult they've met. She takes them to the Hotel Denouement where they are immediately set up as concierges. Their job? Well, a big meeting is going to take place on Thursday and both villains and volunteers are gathering at Denouement. The Baudelaires are charged to find out what they can about a guest known only as J.S. Along the way they must befriend the manager Frank, avoid his evil twin Ernest, and attend to the guests' needs. As the three do so they find that every incompetent and ill-equipped guardian they ever had is present (as well as the far rarer noble ones). Everything is steaming to a head and the Baudelaires must figure out the secrets behind the hotel, avoid villainy themselves, and create an adequate signal to other members of VFD to indicate whether or not it is safe for the meeting to take place in what is known as the "last safe place".

What we have here is a book that makes it bloody clear to children everywhere that in this world there is no ultimately "safe place". The choices we make in our lives can never be followed to their ultimate conclusions because it's impossible to predict the minutia of chance. The best we can hope for is to follow Kit Snicket's advice and "observe everyone you see, and make such judgements yourselves". The Baudelaires do a couple things in this book that seem sketchy or confusing to them. By the end they know they've tried to do their best but villainy has seemingly still won out (though certainly not completely). And to top it all off that most notorious of villains, Count Olaf, has shown a brief (very brief) moment of near-humanity. Because of this, I've little fear that the Baudelaires will escape the book's final predicament with their souls as well as their bodies intact. If someone doesn't write a book about the morality of "A Series of Unfortunate Events" shortly after the publication of the 13th book, I can tell you right here and now that heads are gonna roll!

As a librarian, I was much taken with the fact that the Hotel Denouement is organized like a library. Guests are organized into rooms according to the Dewey Decimal System. This isn't necessarily a new idea. The Library Hotel at 299 Madison Avenue in New York City already did it years ago. And while guests are not placed into rooms according to their occupations, each room is a different Dewey Decimal Number. Still, "The Penultimate Peril" does have a heroic librarian in its midst and (though I had not realized this before) in almost every book in the series the Baudelaires use a library to help them out of their predicaments. So from the librarians of the world, Mr. Handler, I salute you. Quietly.

When, "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" was written, it could be read as a parable of Gilded Age populism (the Scarecrow = the wise, but naive western farmers, the Tin Woodman = the dehumanized, Eastern factory workers, etc.). So couldn't "A Series of Unfortunate Events" be read as a parable for our own contemporary politics? Think about it. The "good" adults in this book constantly disappoint the people who trust them because they aren't unified, allowing the villains to constantly seize control simply because bad guys are much stronger in the courage-of-their-convictions department. Note the jab at Scalia on page 268 and you've a fairly convincing interpretation of modern politics. Just a thought.

Faithful readers of Snicket know that on the last page of every book there's a note to Snicket's editor that offers some kind of clue as to the next book. Unlike every other clue offered before, this one is clear, sweet, and succinct. Readers will pore over it in vain for clues. Until the final chapter in this series we'll just have to wait and hope for the best. And that's a dangerous to thing to hope for where "A Series of Unfortunate Events" is concerned.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2005
"You're not children anymore," a desperate Kit Snicket tells Violet, Klaus and Sunny in the opening pages of Lemony Snicket's THE PENULTIMATE PERIL. "You're volunteers, ready to face the challenges of a desperate and perplexing world." Indeed, in this adventure the profoundly unlucky Baudelaire orphans face dilemmas more perplexing and desperate than any they've faced in the previous eleven books in A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Now that they've reached the Hotel Denouement, the hapless siblings must pose as concierges, heavily disguised to protect their identities, and discern the true motives and identities of the hotel's many mysterious guests. Indeed, during their explorations of the massive hotel, the Baudelaires encounter characters from nearly every one of their previous misadventures (including that cakesniffer Carmelita and the always "in" Esme Squalor).

The Hotel Denouement is full of secrets, able to be unlocked only by those who really understand the Dewey Decimal System. From the rooftop sunbathing deck to the laundry room, the Baudelaires try to sort out the volunteers from the villains, hoping against hope that they're not "wrong, wrong, wrong."

Lemony Snicket's twelfth book lacks none of the verbal wit and clever snarkiness that have made this series so popular. Indeed, now that youngest sibling Sunny is speaking more clearly, her dialogue contributes even more to the clever wordplay at which these books excel. Some surprising secrets are in store, as well as a real cliffhanger of an ending, which promises to make the series much more complex than anyone would have imagined.

Even though Lemony Snicket would tell you to toss THE PENULTIMATE PERIL into the nearest puddle or pond, it's definitely worth keeping up with the ongoing saga of the world's most trouble-prone siblings. The only unfortunate thing will be the wait for the series's final installment!

--- Reviewed by Norah Piehl
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