Books I've read

Sandra's book montage

The Catcher in the Rye
The Great Gatsby
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Romeo and Juliet
Lord of the Flies
Little Women
A Tale of Two Cities
Memoirs of a Geisha
The Lovely Bones
The Secret Life of Bees
Under the Tuscan Sun
The Da Vinci Code
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
The Hobbit
The Golden Compass
Pride and Prejudice
The Time Traveler's Wife
Jane Eyre
The Notebook

Sandra's favorite books »

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Explanation & more Disney Christmas

OK - sorry I had some technical problems with that last post and was unable to add titles so here is more information for anyone interested:

1) Hollywood Studios main street 

2) Tower of Terror hotel - DHS

3) Detail on Grand Floridian Christmas Tree - each tree whether in a hotel or a park was themed in some way, so clever!

4)  Flowers in the main lounge in the Grand Floridian.  Incredibly beautiful and many of them.

5) The main Christmas Tree at the Grand Floridian.  

6) The sugar paste tableau at the Liberty Tree Tavern. 

7) The start of the Electrical Parade taken from just outside the Liberty Tree Tavern.

8) Pete's Dragon from the Electrical Parade

9) The beyond words beautiful 'ice' castle.  A real highlight of the decorations I thought.

I'll try and add a few more pictures - hopefully with titles.
Main Street in the Magic Kingdom at night
Town Square in the Magic Kingdom from the Main Street Railway Station

Look at all the pointsetias (sp?)  Also look how empty the Magic Kingdom was and this wasn't any special time.  It was cold there though in December 2010

Illuminated deer in the grounds of the Grand Floridian

Christmas garland inside our building (Sugar Loaf) at the Grand Floridian

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year and A Disney Christmas

Happy New Year everyone.  I hope that 2012 brings you everything that you hope for.

This post has taken a couple more days than I planned as I have been busy reading Nineteen Eighty Four, Vile Bodies, Howards End and Hemlock and after and then writing the first drafts of my two essays - phew! Now I can relax a little as editing is always easier than those first moments of creation.

Anyway, as promised some pictures of Christmastime at Walt Disney World.  We were there in earlyish December 2010 so it was sunny but much colder than this year.  If you have ever thought about visiting Disney to see the Christmas decorations and shows I would say absolutely do it.  It was beautiful, just magical!  We stayed at the Grand Floridian and that looked amazing, including the giant Gingerbread House in the lounge.  Wherever you stay on site I'm sure would be amazing - anyway a very small number of photographs to put you in that Disney mood and for anyone not wanting to let go of the Christmas feeling.

Thanks for reading ...

Decorations at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Last year I went to Disney World in December & it was beautifully decorated.  I'll share some pictures next week.

Thanks for reading ...

Little English baking*

*With apologies to the BBC

I've been having a bit of a baking craze recently.  It started with a bread and butter pudding -not quite sure why (possibly because we made them at school when I was about 12 and so I thought I could do this again) and followed by Victoria Sandwich Cake, fairy cakes (although I overcooked those) and this week Nigella's Butterscotch Layer Cake.  T helped me make the caramel as that was a first but, boy, is that delicious - we've kept some to have with ice-cream.  It's pretty yummy, if incredibly bad for you.  Anyway whilst a long way from a domestic goddess it has given T options for Christmas presents other than the usual books (not that I would be complaining this Christmas).

Can you believe it's Week Ten of this semester at King's.  Next week we break up for Christmas.  I can't believe how quickly the semester has gone & we will get our first essays back next week (which I'm not looking forward to).  Last week we read Untouchable an amazing story about an untouchable boy during the Empire.  I wasn't sure I would enjoy this book but I found it very affecting - his life was just so hard and unfair.  Anand, the author, wrote and published it in in London and for an anti-Imperialist book it has some interesting quirks - the British characters are generally sympathetic whilst the Indians are not.  I wonder if that is because the Indians are more realistic because Anand doesn't see the British as real but just ghosts (as Bhaka is to the higher castes)?  Anyway, a very good book, well worth the read.

This week we are off to the Museum of London and reading The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, another book I wouldn't have picked up of my own accord.  It's about the immigrant experience in the meat-packing districts of early twentieth-century Chicago.

I'll finish this here as this should have been posted several weeks ago.  I'll try and update more regularly again!

Thanks for reading

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Books, Boilers and Broken Locks

So reading week is over and we're back to normal timetable.  I managed to hand in my first essay yesterday - we had to write a critical commentary of two passages of someone's work and boy was I critical.  I did feel yesterday that the author should have the opportunity of taking apart two paragraphs of something I have written - I'm sure he would have a lot of fun.  Of course I reached that point where I didn't want to submit the essay at all - it looked so nice: pretty front cover; nice double-spacing and lovely footnotes as opposed to the in-text referencing that the OU wanted.  It's just a shame that anyone has to look at the content!  Anyway four weeks 'til we get them back so three and a half weeks of bliss and then a few sleepless nights.  How mean are King's that this counts?

Course-wise we are looking at The Secret Agent and The Ladies' Paradise this week. 

Although I enjoyed Apocalypse Now I really didn't like Heart of Darkness so I wasn't looking forward to this at all.  I actually found The Secret Agent much better.  I thought the story was more engaging and I was interested in the characters.  The theme for this week is 'Terror at the Heart of Empire' which, without giving away what the story is about, is the theme of the book.  Of course this has a contemporary resonance for us as I'm sure I wouldn't have to look too far to find something about domestic terrorism in a tabloid newspaper.  Perhaps that made the story more appealing?  My only concern with Conrad is I feel a certain sense of distance in his writing - he seems to stand back from his characters - but that could be because he is writing in his third language which is a pretty amazing feat!  I would recommend this book as a good introduction to Conrad, certainly much more worthwhile than Heart of Darkness in my opinion (although if you are looking for a critique of empire then HoD is obviously your book!)

I don't know if you can see this properly but this is the cover of Zola's The Ladies' Paradise.  I really like Zola.  He wrote what he described as 'naturalistc' books, that is to say he felt you should just put characters into a situation and see how they got on with it.  I'm not sure I can agree with his view that the novel is an experiment and the novelist doesn't have much to do with it.  After all he is creating the characters, the environment into which to put them and what happens to them.  Zola wrote a series of 18 novels, describing two families and their adventures.  I've read Germinal which is ostensibly about a mining strike in northern France but is actually about how people live and love.  It's excellent.  The Ladies' Paradise is superficially about a much more gentile subject, the rise of the department store in Hausmann's Paris but is again about people's lives and loves and decisions.  I really enjoyed this also and would definitely look for more of Zola's work.  Both books are fully recommended to you.

On a less pleasant matter I'm still having issues in the non-Uni world.  Yesterday I managed to lose my keys and, as T is away at the moment, I locked myself out.  Luckily the locksmith came quickly and fitted a nice new lock for me.  I must have looked very suspicious, just standing outside a door as it got darker and colder but at least it wasn't too cold and it was dry and I was back inside within an hour of calling the locksmith.  About two hours later I realised my boiler wasn't working so no heating or hot water.  Because of my schedule the first time I can get British Gas out is Friday morning.  I can cope without the hot water (lots of kettles) and I've persuaded myself that it isn't that cold so I don't need the heating (and indeed this morning seems to be as bad as it will get) but please keep your fingers crossed for me it's only a little part that's needed and not a new boiler!

Thank you for reading & hopefully the next entry will be more cheerful.  I'm hoping to finish Vile Bodies and the new Stephen King so will try and update on those.  Thanks again ...

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Reading Week

It's 'Reading Week' this week. I thought that this would be a staple of all universities but as I have found out it doesn't happen everywhere let me explain that this is a week when you do exactly as it says on the tin; catch up on your reading.  It's a real luxury and enabled me to write the first draft of my first essay yesterday.  I'm suffering a bit from a cold at the moment so I'm anticipating that I wrote a load of old rubbish but I'll find out when I start to edit tomorrow.  The thing that is worrying me most is King's reference differently from the Open University so I will have to pore over my MHRA stylebook tomorrow and see if I can make sense.  I always think the worst thing about an essay is that blank piece of paper staring at you so at least I have plenty to edit (or so the theory goes).

My other goals are to do some reading about T.S. Eliot to help me think about my MA dissertation and enable me to start talking to someone about a PhD proposal (how scary is that - we're only 6 weeks into the MA!)  I've identified who I think could be a supervisor if King's will have me and will need to approach him next week but I want to be able to say something sensible to him.  In addition I need to sort out my thoughts about one of my module essays particulalry what texts I will use & what approaches.  I feel a bit muddled at the moment so hopefully that will all be sorted by next Tuesday (yeah, right!)

But I have taken the opportunity to read some books which aren't on the course - yay!

Meritocracy was written by Jeffrey Lewis who used to be one of the writers on Hill Street Blues.  It's part of a quartet but this is the only one I have read and I think it stands alone well.  It's summer 1966 and a group of Yale graduates meet at one of their family summer homes in Maine.  The family gravitates around a golden couple: Harry, the son of a California senator, and his new wife Sacha.  Our narrator Louie is not old money and, perhaps, a little in love with both Harry & Sacha.  Harry has volunteered for Vietnam although no-one is sure if it is because he thinks it his duty or he will need it to look like he did his duty when he enters politics later in life.  Louie is looking back on this trip and constantly compares Harry to George W. Bush who they knew at Yale.  It's a decent enough read, I don't think you're going to be shocked by what happens but I think if you are looking for something to while away a couple of hours it's good enough. 

As you may know I'm really interested in the Kennedys and have read a lot about them.  T saw this in our local library and thought I would be interested.  If you are interested in the Kennedys too you might want to read it but I wouldn't necessarily recommend reading it without a healthy dose of cynacism.  Heymann claims that Jackie and Bobby had an affair after JFK's assasination - perhaps they did, certainly from everything I have read they were very close.  This is a seedy enough assertion in itself but then he backs it up using interviews with family members and close friends.  I find this difficult to believe.  This is a family that protects itself (and has the money and contacts to do so) as fiercely as any mother with her cub.  Would they really be willing to spill the beans on something which would ruin the reputations of both Jackie and, probably more importantly to them, Bobby?  Heyman aims to show Bobby in as bad a light as possible and so even leaves out some of his dying words (I have read in a number of accounts that he asked if everyone was alright) to make him less likeable.  Now, I'm a biased reader and you may want to take that into account when reading this review but I don't like an author who seems to veer off at any given moment to add another few lines of, irrelevant, malicious gossip.

I love Pride and Prejudice.  It would be one of my desert island books and I have read some sequels most of which aren't up to it and one which was verging on soft porn, Mr. Darcy takes a wife if you must know, although I gave that up after a few chapters (honestly.)  I haven't read any P.D. James, as I'm not particularly a fan of murder mystery unless I'm interested in the setting or the period, but T is a fan of hers and wanted this for completeness.  I have to say that I think I enjoyed it.  I think James captures the world of Pemberley in a way that I can buy into easily.  She has changed some of the characters and I'm not sure I liked that but, it is her book.  She focuses more on Darcy and less on Elizabeth which is interesting.  She also introduces some new characters and does that well.  Mrs. Bennett is absent from Pemberley so if you are a fan you might be disappointed.  James does use characters from Persuasion and Emma briefly in one character's backstory and I found that slightly jarring but not enough to put me off.  I felt the mystery was almost incidental, just a device to get everyone together but that was OK - I liked being with them, for whatever reason.  I think a fan of Pride and Prejudice would find this more enjoyable than a P.D. James murder mystery fan but not if they hate someone making any alterations at all to Austen's characters or world.  I think it's a great Christmas present.

Anyway I must get back to T.S. Eliot so thank you for reading.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Let's All Go Down The Strand*

* Today's title is from a Music Hall song and the picture above shows where The Strand and Fleet Street met, just opposite The Royal Courts of Justice.

I was without the internet for 5 days last week and felt like I had lost a limb.  I had a major panic on Monday when I discovered that my router had given up the ghost because I needed to download the reading for my seminars.  Thank goodness Surrey Libraries give you the opportunity to book an hour session on the internet for free.  I was able to download all of the reading and then print off and study at home.  This was the third technological incident we had in a couple of weeks (Sky box stopped working & my laptop is refusing to work properly were the others) so I hope it is the last for now.

It was very busy at King's last week.  Extremely interesting lecture on 'The Trials of Oscar Wilde' and the West End on Tuesday afternoon. Then on Wednesday we had our first workshop to help with writing our dissertations.  The MA dissertation for English should be approx. 15,000 words and we have from April to September to write it which at the moment seems ages (ask me again in mid-July!).  I've written a MSc (master of science) dissertation before so was feeling relatively relaxed about this but that was more of an investigation/project (the benefits of mentoring).  By the time we finished our two hour session I was feeling a lot more nervous about writing this one but, I hope, in a good way.  After that I spent an hour in the cafe checking e-mails (I was able to use my i-Pad and the King's wifi) and then my Oscar Wilde seminar; very interesting.

On Thursday I started with my Modernity & the City seminar.  Our tutor is amazing, he ranges so widely across subjects.  This week we were talking about the poor in 19th C London and how the writers of reports and stories tried to persuade their readers that something needed to be done!  One of the things that amuses me is we were reading Charles Booth's report about the London poor and there is a lot about families living in abject poverty in one room in buildings around Covent Garden.  Anyone familiar with the London property market will know that flats round there now cost hundreds of thousands of pounds - a huge difference in 160 years.  I wonder what would happen if those people could see the streets they used to live in now?

Back to the City then for lunch with a friend, who is looking absolutely beautiful in her pregnancy!  Then dash back to King's for presenations about applying for a PhD and applying for funding.  I really want to do a PhD and I could do it without funding BUT I think it would look much better to say that a funding body thought my research was worth supporting.  The chances are tough - I think there is about a 1 in 4 chance of being accepted to a PhD at King's but the chance of a funded PhD drops to1 in 30.   We got good advice however, including not starting an application to King's by saying 'I have always wanted to study at Oxford'!

I also met my personal tutor for the first time on Thursday afternoon & she was great.  She gave me some ideas about books to read for my MA dissertation and was encouraging about the PhD subject.  I was exhausted when I left her and set off down The Strand for Charing Cross station.

This week we are moving on to World War I and tanks (yes, it is an English Lit course) and Our Mutual Friend which is probably my favourite Charles Dickens novel ever.  Oh yes, and my first essay is looming on the horizon.  I love it tho'!!

Thanks for reading & I'll hopefully update more quickly next time.