Chachic's Book Nook


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Europe 2015: Cesky Krumlov Update

Cesky Krumlov is a UNESCO World Heritage medieval town (or city?) about three hours away from Prague. When we were planning day trips out of Prague, I initially hesitated about going to Cesky Krumlov because it felt like the travel time would be too long. But the pictures that I’ve seen showed how gorgeous the place is that I didn’t mind the road trip as much. Like with the Kutna Hora day trip, we joined a tour company for the day just because it’s hassle-free when it comes to transportation arrangements. The downside is that we felt a bit rushed while going around. We definitely felt like we could have spent more time in Cesky Krumlov, maybe even spend a night there. If I had to choose a favorite out of all the places we visited, I would go for Cesky Krumlov with its mix of renaissance, baroque and gothic buildings. It was founded in the 13th century and was developed until the 17th century. It really is very beautiful, the kind that can make you say, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS?” If I could find a job in that place, I would live there. It looked like the setting of every fairytale or medieval fantasy novel that I’ve read. There’s even a medieval castle that has been very well-maintained. I don’t know why but a city or a town instantly looks better in my eyes when it’s beside a body of water. And the Vltava River meanders around Cesky Krumlov. Again, I don’t think my words can do enough justice on this place so I will let the pictures I’ve taken show you what I mean.

Cesky Krumlov again - for blog

Cesky Krumlov

Our first view of Cesky Krumlov included a bridge that looked like an aqueduct with corridors on top connecting the palace to servants quarters.

Cesky Krumlov - aqueduct / bridge Cesky Krumlov - aqueduct / bridge 2

After going through the bridge, we were treated to this view:

Cesky - first view of bridge Cesky - first view with man

We walked around the town leading to the main square, where there is a fountain dedicated to victims of the plague, since this disease took so many lives in Cesky Krumlov. There were some nice cobbled streets and of course, I had to take a shot of their manhole cover with the town’s seal.

Cesky - fountain Cesky - manhole cover

Cesky - nice cobbled street Cesky - water and town

Cesky Krumlov’s palace is the second largest in Czech Republic, after Prague Castle. We joined a lovely tour of the palace but unfortunately, pictures weren’t allowed inside. So I can only share some exterior shots of the palace, and also a bear in one of the bridges leading to the courtyard.

Cesky Krumlov Palace Cesky - bear

A fuller view of the tower:

Cesky Krumlov Palace 2

The panoramic shots at the start of this post are views from the palace and here’s another one from the same vantage point:

Cesky - view from palace

All pictures were taken using my phone’s camera. I’m sorry if the brightness and contrast aren’t consistent in all the pictures – I edited some using my laptop and some using Instagram. Have any of you visited Cesky Krumlov? While I don’t know of any books set in this gorgeous place, I’m sure I’ll be reminded of it whenever I read a well-written medieval fantasy or fairy tale.


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This Is… Children’s Travel Books

In my recap about my vacation in Prague, I mentioned that I bought only one book during our entire trip. It was a children’s book about Prague called This Is Prague by Michaela Kukovicova and Olga Cerna. I got it from an indie bookstore that was mostly selling Czech books and it was the last copy that they had. I probably would have been tempted to buy more than one if they more stocks. As mentioned in a previous post, I also thought it was pretty cool that the bookstore sold postcards with illustrations based on the book. wpid-img_20150618_121212.jpg I looked up the title and found out from the publisher’s page that it’s actually a tribute to Czech writer M. Sasek’s “This Is…” series of travel books for children. Then one of the friends I traveled with last year reminded me that he got a copy of This Is Paris from Shakespeare and Company. Now I want all of the books in the series that feature places I’ve visited! That would be This is Paris, This Is Munich, This Is San Francisco and This Is Hong Kong. I wouldn’t mind collecting all of the books in the series but I’ll prioritize the places I’ve been to because the books would make nice souvenirs. I need to find a way to get these. Unfortunately, they’re not available in Book Depository and shipping would be very expensive if I order them off Amazon. I tried looking for these books in bookstores in Singapore but they’re not available. Sigh, I’ll have to think of another way of hunting them down. This Is ParisThis Is MunichThis Is Hong KongThis is San Francisco Are you familiar with M. Sasek’s books? Are there any other illustrated travel books that you think are fun to read and collect?


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Europe 2015: Kutna Hora Update

As mentioned in my earlier update about Prague, I’m also doing recaps of the day trips that we did in Czech Republic. Last year’s Europe trip really tired me out because I felt like we kept hopping from out city to another even though we only visited four: Paris, Barcelona, Aix-en-Provence and Milan. So for this year, I wanted to visit only two cities and just plan day trips from there. That way, we only had to lug our suitcases around three times (from the airport, from Prague to Munich and then back to the airport).

One of the cities we visited from Prague was Kutna Hora. We joined a day trip organized by one of the many tour groups in Prague. It was just more convenient for us to join a tour group for half a day because it included the bus rides (about an hour and a half each way) and a tour guide to enlighten us about Kutna Hora’s history. Kutna Hora and its neighboring town, Sedlec, is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in Czech Republic. In its heyday, this mining city was the second richest in the country. Today, it’s a quiet and cozy city that has well-preserved historical structures.

Kutna Hora - for the blog

Near Kutna Hora is the Sedlec Ossuary, which has a creeptastic collection of bones that have been made into decorations. There is a huge chandelier of bones that contains at least one of every bone in the human body and also a coat of arms of the House of Schwarzenberg.

Europe 2015 - Sedlec Ossuary chandelier Europe 2015 - Sedlec Ossuary coat of arms
Europe 2015 - Sedlec Ossuary skulls Europe 2015 - Sedlec Ossuary vase

One of the well-known sites in the city is the gothic cathedral of St. Barbara, who is the patron saint of miners. Apparently it took 500 years for this church to be finished.

Europe 2015 - St. Barbara outside Europe 2015 - St. Barbara inside

After exiting the cathedral, we saw a path lined with big statues, like a smaller version of the Charles Bridge:

Europe 2015 - Kutna Hora with St. Barbara view Europe 2015 - Kutna Hora stone bridge

I enjoyed walking around the cozy cobblestone streets of Kutna Hora.

Europe 2015 - Kutna Hora streets Europe 2015 - Kutna Hora streets 2

We also saw this huge gothic water cistern that was used for water storage, it was filled with water through an irrigation system. And like with Prague, I noticed that even manhole covers have nice designs on them.

Europe 2015 - Kutna Hora water cistern Europe 2015 - Kutna Hora manhole

Have any of you visited Kutna Hora? I don’t know of any books set in this city but I think it would be a good inspiration for some authors, I’m sure Sedlec Ossuary would present various story ideas.


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Europe 2015: Prague Update

Dobry den! I have a feeling my blog will look more like a travel blog than a book blog as I post updates about my recent trip. But I like doing these recaps because it also helps me remember the experience and I feel like I can look back and reminisce whenever I’m in the mood to do so. For the first leg of our trip, we traveled to the beautiful city of Prague in Czech Republic.

Whenever I find out that a friend has been lucky enough to go around Europe, I would ask what his or her favorite city was. I’ve gotten Prague as an answer several times. I found out more about this fairytale city when I read Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor and that just further strengthened my resolve to visit it one day. So when January rolled around and I started planning for my Europe trip this year, I knew Prague had to be one of the destinations that I’ll visit. And the city didn’t disappoint. It was even more charming and beautiful that I expected. Some parts of the city are modern (which is to be expected) while others feel like they’ve been frozen in time. It was a place steeped with so much history and I wanted to just absorb as much as I can in the days that we spent there. I fell in love with Prague the same way I fell in love with Paris last year. I think the pictures will do a much better job of showing everyone how beautiful Prague is. Here’s is a lovely view of the city from the palace gardens:

Prague - for blog

The iconic astronomical clock and Tyn Cathedral in Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site:

Europe 2015 - Prague astronomical clock Europe 2015 - Tyn with horses

Another shot of Old Town when we came back another day. You could see how big a difference the nice weather makes when it comes to historic buildings. Also, we noticed that even the manhole covers are pretty in Prague:

Europe 2015 - Tyn with blue skies Europe 2015 - Prague manhole cover

Another famous landmark in Prague is the historic Charles Bridge, which crosses the river Vltava. It was super crowded with tourists and vendors so I’m quite proud that I was able to get a shot of one section of the bridge WITHOUT any people in it. I also loved how the sunlight bathed the bridge and the surrounding areas in such a warm glow:

Europe 2015 - Charles Bridge Europe 2015 - Charles Bridge sunlight

We walked around the palace gardens and saw quite a nice view of Prague Castle. We went back another day to explore the insides of the castle (where pictures were not allowed) as well as the grounds within.

Europe 2015 - Prague Castle garden Europe 2015 - Prague Castle

We were awestruck by the magnificent St. Vitus Cathedral which is inside the grounds of the Prague Castle:

Europe 2015 - St. Vitus Europe 2015 - St. Vitus clock

Europe 2015 - St. Vitus inside Europe 2015 - St. Vitus Mucha panel

The stained glass panel above was designed by world-renowned Czech artist Alfons Mucha and because Kim is a Mucha fangirl, we also visited the Mucha Museum in the city. No pictures inside so this was all I got:

Europe 2015 - Mucha Museum

Some traditional Czech dishes that we had: pork knuckle, beef goulash with bread dumplings, beef sirloin with cream sauce served with bread dumplings, potato dumplings with bacon. Of course, served with Czech beer.

Europe 2015 - Czech dishes Europe 2015 - Czech dishes 2

And because we are book nerds, we took note of bookstores whenever we saw them:

Europe 2015 - Prague indie bookstore Europe 2015 - Prague Knihy books

From the indie bookstore above, I bought the one and only book that I managed to buy for our entire trip. It’s a children’s book called This Is Prague and I loved its quirky illustrations. Even better? The bookstore also sold postcards based on the book. Such a perfect souvenir for a book and postcard nerd like me.

Europe 2015 - This Is Prague Europe 2015 - This Is Prague with postcard

I feel like I can go on and on about Prague but I’ll leave you all with this write-up. Next up will be recaps of the day trips that we took from Prague to Kutna Hora and Cesky Krumlov. Have you been to Prague? What did you think of the city? If you know of any books set in Prague that you think I’ll enjoy reading, please feel free to recommend them!


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Pure Magic by Rachel Neumeier

Urban fantasy YA novel Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier was one of my favorite reads last year. I have been eagerly anticipating the sequel right after I finished reading that book. So when Rachel offered to send me a review copy of Pure Magic in ebook format, I enthusiastically said yes. I didn’t waste any time and jumped right in. Thankfully, I still remembered most of the story from the first book and didn’t have to do a reread prior to picking up Pure Magic. The books need to be read in order so read Black Dog first before venturing into Pure Magic. There’s also a set of short stories that occurs between the first and second book. I won’t mention spoilers but feel free to skip this review if you haven’t read the earlier books yet.

Pure Magic Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

After Natividad, Alejandro, and Miguel’s victory against their family’s rival, even more dangerous threats emerge, from an increase in stray black dogs to far worse opponents who would tear down the fragile Dimiloc alliance and re-make it in their own image.

I liked being back in the world that Rachel Neumeier created in her urban fantasy series. Where some men and women can shift into these ferocious and aggressive creatures called black dogs, similar to wolves. And where there are also people like Natividad, who are Pure and can create a defensive form of magic mostly used for peace and protection against evil. I think the first book did a good job of laying out the foundation for the worldbuilding and this sequel builds upon that. I liked seeing more of Natividad’s magic and how creative she can get within the limitations of what she can do. Because of the nature of her magic, Natividad has a quiet strength that shines through when the people she cares about are in danger. I think it’s impressive how a normally unobtrusive kind of magic becomes crucial in certain situations. I really liked that the Pure have their own kind of power and the focus of the story shifts between the Pure and black dogs. That is not to say that humans don’t play an important role in this world because they do, as illustrated by Natividad’s twin, Miguel. Even without special powers, Miguel significantly contributes to helping Dimilioc in its efforts to rebuild the clan. A big part of why I enjoy this series is the characters. Aside from Natividad and her brothers, I also liked the various members of the Dimilioc clan, not the least of which is their executioner, Ezekiel. I found the early chapters of the book a bit slow because of the introduction of a new main character and narrator, Justin, but it was soon revealed how he was important to the story so I didn’t mind. Like with the rest of the characters, I just wanted to find out more about him.

While I did feel that Pure Magic had a bit of a slow start, the climax builds really nicely until you reach a point where the characters are in situations where the odds are seemingly impossible. The stakes are high and there’s only so much that the Dimilioc black dogs and Pure can do. It makes for an absorbing read. I was glad I picked this up on a weekend and I didn’t have to worry about work getting in the way of my reading time. I was worried about the characters and I wanted everyone to find a way out of the difficulties they found themselves in. The book doesn’t end on a cliffhanger but keep in mind that there will be more installments in the series and some of the future plot arcs have been nicely set up in Pure Magic. There’s a more global view of the black dog world in this book as compared to the first one, where we mostly saw the focus in the Americas – North America where the Dimilioc strength lies and also Mexico because that’s where Natividad and her brothers grew up. My review of Pure Magic will not be complete if I didn’t mention the slow burn romance. There was just a hint of it in the first book and I immediately wanted A LOT MORE. More scenes with these two potential lovebirds, more dialogue and conversation, and a better idea of what they thought of each other. Pure Magic does not disappoint! I really savored this aspect of the story, although I certainly wouldn’t have minded if these two had more page time in the book. There were too many things happening for them to have a quiet time together. I can always hope for that in the next novel, which I already can’t wait to read even if it hasn’t even been written yet! Similar to Black Dog, Pure Magic was a very satisfying read and I recommend it to fans of YA urban fantasy.

Other reviews:
Random Musings of a Bibliophile
By Singing Light


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Back in Singapore

I’m baaack! I arrived in Singapore last Sunday afternoon and went straight back to work on Monday. Thank you for all your lovely messages in my previous post, I wasn’t able to reply to them because I was already on my way to Europe when that post was published. We had a bit of a rocky start when we missed our connecting flight and our baggage was delayed by a day but overall, it was an amazing trip. The places we visited were beautiful and I was lucky enough to meet one of my online bookish friends, Estara, in person! Will try to do a write up of that day in another post.

Europe 2015 - Kindle

I took advantage of the flights and train travel to read and picked up the following titles:

Love in a Small Town by Zoe York (recommended by Michelle)
Fall Hard by Zoe York
Midnight Captive by Elle Kennedy
Forgotten Suns by Judith Tarr (recommended by Estara, still reading)

Movies watched (on the plane):
Guardians of the Galaxy
Jupiter Ascending

That’s definitely an improvement compared to last year’s trip when I was only able to read one book. When we missed our flight and we were stuck for several hours in the airport in Paris, we had an Amour et Chocolat moment by hanging out at Laduree, where I also kept myself busy by writing postcards to friends. The second picture can reference another Laura Florand series, La Vie en Roses, because we spent some time choosing fragrances in the French artisan perfume store Fragonard.

Europe 2015 - CDG Laduree Europe 2015 - CDG Fragonard

See how we try to relate most things to books? That’s just how book nerds roll. I’m planning to do a write up of each of the cities we visited, just like I did last year but I still need to find time to do all of that. It’s always difficult to get back in the swing of things when your brain is still on vacation mode. I’ve kept my Instagram account fairly updated in case you guys want to see what I was up to. That’s all for now, will check back in again soon.


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I’m Off to Experience Life as Karou

Minus the star-crossed love story and the magical world. In April last year, I said I was off to experience life as a Laura Florand heroine by going to Paris and Aix-en-Provence. It was my first time in Europe and I had an awesome time! You can check up my write-ups of the cities we visited in these posts: Paris, Barcelona (ala Isla and the Happily Ever After), Aix-en-Provence and Milan.

This year, I’m going along a more Daughter of Smoke and Bone path by visiting the fairytale city of Prague with fellow Filipino book blogger Kim. I reread Daughter of Smoke and Bone because of this upcoming trip and took the chance to refresh my memory before picking up Days of Blood and Starlight and Dreams of Gods and Monsters. After Prague, we will be visiting Munich. The only book I know that’s set near Munich is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak *cries buckets of tears*. As you can see, I really enjoy reading books set in places that I visit so feel free to recommend some titles if you have any ideas.

We will be flying off this weekend and we’ll be away for two weeks. I won’t be bringing my laptop so no blog posts until I get back. Similar to what I did last year, I’ll do a write-up of the places we visit once I’m back. In the meantime, I’ll be posting pictures on Instagram. :) I’m also bringing my lomo cam but I wouldn’t have those shots processed until a few weeks after I’m back. I will also be bringing my Kindle along with me and I’m hoping I’ll get more reading than done last year. Even though there was a lot of opportunity to read, with the flights and train travel, I only managed to finish one book. I don’t know if it was just because I couldn’t really get into what I was reading or I was distracted and couldn’t focus. Keeping my fingers crossed that I can maximize reading time for this trip.

That’s it for now, see you all when I get back!

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