daniel handler

REVIEW: “Bottle Grove” by Daniel Handler

Bottle GroveI have never read a Daniel Handler book. This is half-true. I grew up reading and loving A Series of Unfortunate Events, written by Handler under the pseudonym of Lemony Snicket. But I have never read one of Handler’s novels written for adults, under his own name. With that in mind, I really didn’t know what to expect when approaching Bottle Grove, his most recent novel. The synopsis promised something along the lines of magical realism, and I was definitely intrigued to see how Handler approached writing for adults versus writing for children – would he still have lots of fun wordplay and interesting prose? Unfortunately, I didn’t love Bottle Grove. I don’t know that I’d say it’s a bad book or anything, but it definitely wasn’t what I expect and I’m not sure it’s what I wanted, either. (Mild spoilers for the novel follow.)

This is a story about two marriages. Or is it? It begins with a wedding, held in the small San Francisco forest of Bottle Grove–bestowed by a wealthy patron for the public good, back when people did such things. Here is a cross section of lives, a stretch of urban green where ritzy guests, lustful teenagers, drunken revelers, and forest creatures all wait for the sun to go down. The girl in the corner slugging vodka from a cough-syrup bottle is Padgett–she’s keeping something secreted in the woods. The couple at the altar are the Nickels–the bride is emphatic about changing her name, as there is plenty about her old life she is ready to forget.

Set in San Francisco as the techboom is exploding, Bottle Grove is a sexy, skewering dark comedy about two unions–one forged of love and the other of greed–and about the forces that can drive couples together, into dependence, and then into sinister, even supernatural realms. Add one ominous shape-shifter to the mix, and you get a delightful and strange spectacle: a story of scheming and yearning and foibles and love and what we end up doing for it–and everyone has a secret. Looming over it all is the income disparity between San Francisco’s tech community and . . . everyone else.

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REVIEW: “A Series of Unfortunate Events” – Season 3

asoue-posterAll good things must come to an end. The same remains true for unfortunate things, too. Even A Series of Unfortunate Events must come to an end. With season 3, that’s exactly what the Netflix adaptation on the Lemony Snicket series does. The books are pretty notorious for their lack of any kind of real resolution or concrete answers to the mysteries presented throughout the series. So, with that in mind, how does the show handle the ending? The answer: much the same, but a bit different. Featuring a bit more resolution than what was found in the books, season 3 of A Series of Unfortunate Events brings the somewhat uneven series to a satisfying conclusion.

Season 3 of A Series of Unfortunate Events adapts the final four novels of Lemony Snicket’s acclaimed novels. The series follows the Baudelaire orphans – Violet (Malina Weissman), Klaus (Louis Hynes), and Sunny (Presley Smith / Tara Strong (voice)) – after they’ve suffered a terrible tragedy: the deaths of their parents and the destruction of their home. The orphans are sent to live with Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris), a villain who will stop at nothing to obtain their fortune. Their journey will take then into the wilderness of a snowy mountain, to the depths of the ocean, to a mysterious hotel, and all the way to a deserted island. There are no happy endings in this story, so what will become of the Baudelaire orphans?

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