A blog for people who don't want to spend all their free time in the real world. After all, we live and work there. Escape the mundane with books, travel, and writing.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Book of Dragons, by E. Nesbit

This collection of stories—first published in 1900—is charming and humorous.  Written for children, but perfect for adults with a bit of imagination, the stories mostly feature inconvenient dragons and clever children.  It’s great fun, and the style is warm and easy.  I love the creativity, especially considering that Nesbit could take no inspiration from the last 114 years of fantasy literature.   

Sometimes the humor—as humor often does—goes just past where it should, stepping over the “funny” line into “silly” territory, but overall it’s well done.  A few of the solutions to these dragon problems feel a little too convenient, but I still really liked the book.

The first story was my favorite, I believe, but there were other really good ones too.  

Upon finishing the collection, I promptly downloaded several more books by E. Nesbit. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Europe in One Picture

A picture's worth a thousand word, and this captures Europe so well for me:

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Krakow, Poland

 Had a great weekend in Kraków (Cracow), Poland
   -Met my dad at the airport!
   -Got hugs
   -Got fresh brownies Mom made and sent across the world for me
   -Wandered the Christmas Market
   -Learned about history  
   -Remembered some of my Polish words
   -Listened to street musicians
   -Met nice people
   -Saw folk dancers
   -Ate pierogy ruskie, bigos, mushroom soup, obwarzanek*
   -Bought little gifts

Beautiful Krakow, Poland
Happy weekend!

*Polish food favorites:
-Pierogy Ruskie = a sort of dough/pasta pocket full of mashed potatoes and special polish cheese.  The thing I miss most from Poland, food-wise.
-Bigos = hearty and tasty sauerkraut stew with tomato base and about 4 types of pork
-Mushroom soup = nothing like Campbell's (in a good way).
-Obwarzanek = what Krakowians claim is the original bagel.  They make 180,000 a day and sell them from little food carts all around old town.  They're sooo good!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Mikulas in the Czech Republic

Mikuláš is St Nicolas' name day, and Czech celebrate it in a big way.

An angel and a devil accompany St. Nicolas on his rounds on December 6 and thereabouts. The devil (often rattling chains or wearing cowbells) tries to scare the children.  If they're brave and talk to St. Nicolas (dressed like a bishop), then the angel gives them gingerbread or other treats.  If they've been bad, St. Nicolas gives them coal or...potatoes.  At Mikuláš markets, I think it's fun to watch these costumed characters.  There are probably 10 devils for every St. Nicolas.  I guess we know which is more fun.

Valašské Klobouky, a village near Vsetín, has a famous Mikuláš market, where you can buy Christmas goods, handicrafts, and local food.  There's traditional music and dancing.  But the coolest things is the number of devils running around, cowbells ringing.  It's a lot of fun.  

Here are some pictures from my trip with fellow teachers and friends.

A devil and angel welcoming travelers to the historic steam train
Valašské Klobouky, Czech Republic

St. Nicolas (Mikuláš)
Valašské Klobouky steam train

Mikuláš with my friends, Lance and Jana, and their son, Lucaš

Running devil, Valašské Klobouky market

Another style of devil, Valašské Klobouky

These devils like swatting innocent passers-by with their little jalovec (juniper) trees.
All in fun.
Valašské Klobouky, Czech Republic

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Winter Wonderland in Vsetin, Czech Republic

This is what happens when you have snow the day after freezing rain. Gorgeous.  And I had the morning off, so I got to take a hike in in.  Lucky me!

Icicles--Vsetin, Czech Republic

Every branch encased in ice--with snow on top

Reminds me of iron filings on a magnet

This looks like a white flower, but it's a pocket of snow.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 Movie

I saw Mockingjay Pt 1 last week, and I really enjoyed it.  I've heard critics say that it didn't have enough action.  Don't we have plenty of action in Hollywood?  Don't we need more of what Mockingjay was all about?  A bigger game, subtle moves and counter-moves, twisted political ethics, repercussions that make the main characters question everything they're doing, an exploration of heroes' motives?

I really liked it.  I know it didn't capture everything in the book, but I think it did pretty well.  Good job, everyone!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Red Skies, by Kay Bratt

“I feel empty, as though I’m leaving behind a piece of myself.” 

As the daughter of the town scavenger, Mari grew up knowing hardship, but she could have never anticipated the struggles facing her as an adult. Feeling alone and isolated, she dreams of a better life. On the other side of town, a little girl is forced to live on the streets, but silently she longs for the one thing she’s never known—a family. Max, a struggling American photojournalist, arrives in China with only one goal in mind; to face his demons and put an end to his own unbearable suffering. In Red Skies, the fate of three people who’ve never met will converge in profound and unexpected ways. 

From the bestselling author of 'A Thread Unbroken' comes a fresh glimpse into the life of Benfu's remarkable family. Be swept up in this emotional yet hope filled story of Red Skies, the fourth book set in the world of Kay Bratt’s 'Tales of The Scavenger’s Daughters'. 

My Review:  

This story is set in China, in a world so different from what I know, and I really enjoyed learning about the culture and food and daily life there.  I didn’t mind the somewhat predictable ending, because it was one of those satisfying moments you’d waited for, and I was happy for the characters.  

There were a few plot holes and unbelievable bits.  I especially couldn’t understand how intelligent, sensitive Mari didn’t guess what might have happened to Max’s daughter.  However, these issues didn’t stop me from enjoying the story.

It could have done with a little trimming of the repetitive thoughts and explanations, but overall the writing was good:  warm and engaging.

And I LOVED the part where the two girls wove their own mythology around the photo of Max’s daughter.  Great touch.

I would read more of Kay Bratt’s work.  

Four Stars

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