Monthly Archives: September 2017

13 Things I LOVE About “A Series of Unfortunate Events”

I just recently finished reading all 13 books of A Series of Unfortunate Events. In honor of finishing a series of this magnitude, I thought I would write my review of the novels in list format. So, here are 13 things I absolutely LOVE about A Series of Unfortunate Events!

SPOILERS ALERT

  1. The author seamlessly teaches vocabulary in the plot itself!
    • If Snicket uses a word or phrase that he thinks children won’t understand, he subsequently explains it – most often by saying “a word/phrase which here means…” and then offering a contextual definition. It’s an amazing way to keep kids interested AND learning at the same time.
  2. The novels are for kids, but there are some adult-y quips and situations.
    • For example: at one point, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire meet another youngster – Quigley – and he and Violet really fancy each other. They climb up a mountain together to do some villain-scouting, and they start talking and getting to know one another. Quigley calls Violet beautiful, and Lemony Snicket then proceeds to tell his reader that he won’t disrupt the privacy of the eldest Baudelaire by revealing “what happened between those two young adults that day.” … I won’t say, either, but it’s not sounding very kiddish.
  3. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are not held to gender-conforming standards of interest.
    • Violet is a girl who loves machines and inventing (and, we’re explicitly told, did not play with dolls as a child). Klaus loves reading and researching and has almost no knowledge of machinery; he relies on Violet for that kind of knowledge. And Sunny – who is a baby/toddler during almost all of our time with her – is never given an expressly feminine or masculine trait; she just likes to bite stuff with her very sharp teeth.
  4. The nicknames for the children are consistent between volunteers and villains (children vs. orphans).
    • Volunteers are the noble people of the novels, and villains are the more heinous people of the novels (or so it would seem, but things are not always as black and white as that). All of the volunteers refer to the three children as “the children” – or some other endearing term. All of the villains refer to them as “orphans.” This makes it somewhat easier for the reader (who is left in the dark about some people’s identities) to decide for themselves who is “noble” and who is “not.”
  5. People die (and don’t come back).
    • That sounds morbid, I know, but it’s actually a good thing. Whatever side of this debate you’re on, we can all agree that it is an inevitable fact of life that all people pass away some day. Once someone is gone, the only way we can connect with them is in our hearts and when we pass on ourselves someday (as long as you believe in that sort of thing). Violet, Klaus, and Sunny at one point in time believe that at least one of their parents is still alive. When they find out that they are truly gone, the children are overcome with a second wave of grief. But they are able to keep going on with their lives because their lives are demanding. This teaches anyone reading these novels that even though people pass away and it’s sad, we have to keep going. Because life is demanding and tricky, but we have to try our best to live it.
  6. Friends get separated but there is still love in everyone’s hearts.
    • Even though you may never see or speak to a friend again, you’re always still thinking of them. Even if you ended on bad terms, you think of them from time to time and wish them the best in life. There are some lessons of that fact in these novels.
  7. Not everything is explained in nice succinct ways (or even at all, sometimes).
    • Life is messy, and these novels epitomize that idea. No one has the ability to explain all of life’s mysteries (literally, for the Baudelaire children), and no one ever will. You just have to roll with the punches.
  8. Each book teaches a different way of dealing with worldly events.
    • In some of the books, the Baudelaires work with each other to overcome trials, but in others, they have to divide and conquer. Not every decision we have to make has a clear right and wrong, and the children have to do some things they aren’t proud of in order to survive and figure out who they are in the world.
  9. The books are short and easy to read…
    • For children – or someone super busy like myself – reading an entire 13-book series sounds like a challenge. But because these novels are short (average 250 pages with somewhat larger font), it’s a breeze to read four or five of them in a month.
  10. …but they’re not so short that you find yourself wondering why you’re reading them in the first place.
    • Even though they’re short, the novels are packed with action and mystery. It doesn’t feel too fast or too slow – everything happens right when it’s meant to.
  11. Lemony Snicket is the author and a character we never meet (but have simultaneously already met…).
    • This is somewhat confusing. Lemony Snicket is a volunteer – a noble member of a secret organization – who is dedicated to investigating the Baudelaire story. So, he is the author of the books. But there is always the feeling that he is closer to his own investigation than he is letting on. In the last few books, we find out that he is related to some of the characters in the series and (big twist) involved with the Baudelaire family in a very close, very real way. But we never meet him as a character in the novel; he never writes himself into a scene or anything. But we’ve already met him – as the writer. (Still with me?)
  12. There are so many connections that the reader can make (but that never explicitly get told) that reading the novels starts to feel like an investigation in and of itself.
    • We as readers have to piece together certain information, and it becomes like an investigation into all of the unexplained mysteries the Baudelaires have had to deal with in the novels.
  13. The book’s ending is neither happy nor sad.
    • ​I felt really unsatisfied with the ending – because it wasn’t happy but also wasn’t sad. I think that’s a good thing; life is neither happy nor sad because it doesn’t truly end. Even when we’re gone, our stories continue to affect the outcomes to the stories of the people close to us – or who were even remotely connected with us in life. No story ever truly comes to a happy or sad ending because no story ever truly ends. That is unsatisfying when reading a 13-book series, but that’s the point – to be unsatisfied and curious.

I absolutely loved these books! Were there things I didn’t appreciate? Sure – the fact that the suspense in the novels sometimes feels debilitating is one (but I realize the necessity of the reader feeling that way). But all-in-all, the “good”s far outweigh the “bad”s. Go and read these books! Seriously – they’re quick reads with amazing narrative styles. I deem them Sierra-approved!

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14. The last book ends with a twist. Don’t ask, just make sure you’ve read ALL of the sheets of paper in the last book…

Wedding: Our Theme!

So, you know how the theme of a wedding plays a really big part in setting the tone for the big night? Well, it does. For example, if you have a “butterfly” theme, people might start talking about you and your partner flying away together. If you have a “Star Wars” theme…people might start talking about you and your partner flying away together.

Okay, so maybe the theme doesn’t play into the wedding that much. But it definitely isn’t a small decision. So when Ben and I were trying to come up with the idea for our wedding theme, we sought out the help of our friends and family. The Star Wars theme came up…a few times…but we (and by “we” I mean “I”) didn’t whole-heartedly enjoy it – except on a joking level. One of my friends suggested no theme – just sticking with a color palette and that’s it. And I was fine with that except for the fact that in my head, a color palette translates to a theme and then I’m gonna wanna call the shindig by that theme name.

But then one of my friends – Jessie, who is also a bridesmaid – came up with the idea for a “Starry Night”-themed wedding. I told her all about the kinds of decorations I wanted (romantic lighting, mason jars with candles, maybe some light glitter here and there). I also told her about the three colors Ben and I came up with – navy blue, misty blue, and gray. We were talking about it while she was studying for her art history class, and lo and behold – the theme just popped into her head!

It’s definitely a good fit. We’re not going to have the “Starry Night” painting plastered onto our cake or anything. It’ll be very tastefully done – and not tacky at all. I’m so excited! Check out the grid above if you want to see some of the pictures (that I didn’t take) that I’m using as inspiration for the wedding decor!

Traveling to Washington, D.C.

I. Am. In. PAIN.

But I had the best weekend ever! My fiancé, Ben, and I went away for the weekend to Washington, D.C. We wanted to relax, see the sights, and visit the museums, and we accomplished most of that. Rather, we accomplished each of those three things but not with all of the available relaxing spots, sights, and museums. There’s just so much to see in D.C. that you can’t see it all in one weekend.

 

        

We started off the weekend with a slightly stressful drive to our hotel. But once we got there, we realized that it had all been worth it. The city at night is beautiful. There are fancy restaurants with string lights, tons of people walking around, and tall, beautiful buildings (like our hotel).

We spent the first half hour of the morning on Saturday walking from Homewood Suites alllll the way over to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History (say that five times fast). Security in the museums is mostly a breeze (definitely better than airport security). We went through half of the exhibits in the NMNH, and then we had a brief stint back in the hotel for lunch. We went back to the NMNH and finished walking through the rest of the exhibits, which took about an hour and a half. What surprised me the most was that a museum focused on history could be so updated! There were touch screen displays (that showed interactive learning videos), videos of natural historical phenomenon, and new portions to the exhibits that I hadn’t seen the last (and only) time I was in D.C. (You can find pictures from the NMNH exhibits in the slideshows below.)

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From the NMNH, Ben and I went to the American History Museum. The set-up of the exhibits there is really cool. We started in the Star-Spangled Banner exhibit where the museum houses the first American flag – which was extremely moving to see and learn about. From there, all of the exhibits are set up in ways that showcase their historical value – bright colors giving off the traditional 1950s “vibe,” steam-punk color palettes in the exhibits on train and auto history, etc. And – as with the NMNH – all of the exhibits at the AHM include some type of interactive technology. (You can find pictures from the AHM exhibits in the slideshow below.)

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The rest of our afternoon-into-the-evening-time was spent walking from the AHM to the Washington Monument and then to the Lincoln Memorial and back to the hotel.

While seeing the history around these structures was incredibly inspiring and awesome…I was not exactly having the best experience. You see, one thing I had failed to appreciate (and that you should definitely remember if you’re planning a trip to a city) was the amount of walking I would have to do both days. My hips, legs, ankles, and feet were (and still somewhat are) in an immense amount of pain by the time we left the AHM. And walking all the way down the Mall to the other two structures just made me hurt even more. By the time we got to the hotel, I needed to take an hour-long break (and give myself a bunch of foot rubs) before I was able to walk to dinner. And yes, before you ask, I was wearing sneakers the entire time – no flip-flops on this particular vacation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dinner was at a local haunt called Busboys and Poets. The atmosphere there is calm and relaxed, and the decor is really amazing. It has a very 70s, “free-love” kind of vibe, and there’s even a small bookstore in the front. We ordered nachos, had a beer, and ate two of the most amazing dinner entrees I have ever had while taking a vacation. I had the fried chicken, and Ben had the shrimp pasta. These dishes sound typical, but there was nothing typical about them. I highly suggest this place if you’re ever in D.C.

 

 

 

 

 

Our last day in D.C. was bittersweet. We went to another local restaurant called Lincoln’s Waffle Shop, which was extremely packed but served extremely good breakfast food. We walked over towards the Capitol Building (we didn’t actually go in, but I got some awesome pictures), and we visited the Air and Space Museum.

The ASM was really interesting, and I particularly enjoyed the exhibits on space. Ben and I bought tickets to one of the shows playing in the Einstein Planetarium. It was called Dark Universe and it explained how the cosmos were created and how our galaxy is just one in a seemingly infinite number of galaxies of which we can see only a small percentage. The show was amazing, and the exhibits were impressive. I have pictures – in a slideshow below – of a lot of the bigger structures that I wanted to capture.

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All-in-all, I had an amazing weekend. The bit of pain – *cough, cough* IMMENSE amount of pain *cough* – was worth it in the end. If you’re ever thinking about taking a trip to our nation’s capital, I say just go for it. You’re in for an amazing treat. Just don’t forget to take regular breaks if you’re planning on walking the entire length of the National Mall…

Short Story Sunday: “Missing”

She was sure this was where he had disappeared.

The leaves were all pressed into the ground in that little four-foot radius, and there were some hand prints in the dirt. She picked her head up from examining these pieces of evidence and looked around her, searching for any sign of him. There was nothing – no upturned dirt mounds, no broken twigs, no plants pushed to the side. Nothing.

She panicked. This was where the trail went cold. She couldn’t believe he was gone. There were no more clues to help her find him – this had been her last hope.

She grabbed the lantern off the cold forest floor and stared down at those hand prints and crushed leaves. That was when she saw it – the drop of crimson on the ground. And there was one more right past that one, and another one, and another one. She listened to the sound of the blood rushing to her head, her heart pounding, as she followed the trail. The wind whistled from behind her, as if it was trying to push her in the direction of the spots on the ground. It was so cold, but the bumps on her arm weren’t from the weather.

After what seemed like an hour, the blood trail stopped. She looked up from the last drop to see a truck stopped on a road at the edge of the forest. It’s tailgate was down, and the headlights were on. A man walked in front of one of the lights, and she ducked behind the closest tree, careful not to let him see her. She had no idea whether he was friend or foe.

The man opened up the passenger-side door, and she saw the missing boy get out of the truck. He was alive! He was…smiling? He hugged the older man – whom she assumed was the owner of the truck – and slapped both of his hands on his knees, as if calling to something that was inside the cab. She saw a dog leap down onto the road. It stumbled and whimpered when its paw hit the blacktop, and at that moment, she realized where the blood in the forest had come from. She heaved a sigh of relief and instantly regretted it.

The dog whipped its head around towards the sound coming from the trees and brush of the forest’s edge. “What is it?” the man asked in the first words she had heard him speak the entire time she had been spying. The dog slowly turned its body, nursing a hurt paw. It didn’t walk towards her – it probably would have if it had been in any better shape. “What is it girl?” the man asked the dog again, and the dog barked, signaling with her head towards the forest. “Stay here,” the man said toward the boy.

He grabbed a shotgun from inside the truck’s cab and started walking towards the forest – towards the girl cowering behind a tree. She held her breath, wondering what would happen if he found her.

Was he a friend of the boy’s? That hug she saw had certainly seemed friendly. Why was the boy missing if he had been with one of his friends though? The whole town thought the boy had run away or something – he’d been missing for a week and a half now. But why stay so close to town if you were running away? And why was the dog hurt? Who’s dog was it anyway?

She didn’t have time to answer any of these questions. The man had reached the forest’s edge. In about another two feet, he would be standing right next to her. “I know you’re here,” he whispered. “Right there.” He pointed the gun at the tree she was hiding behind. There was nowhere to run. So she stepped out from the shadows.