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 »

Monday, 30 May 2011

This week's reading

I hope you don't mind me harping on about the books I read?  I really want to share them with you when they're good or bad and as so many of you are voracious readers anyway I thought you might be interested.  So as they say on the news, if you don't want to know what I've been reading this week, look away now!

First the pleasure bit, although I was supposed to be keeping Dead in the Family (Southern Vampire Mysteries 10) until I went on holiday, I couldn't resist.  My excuse is I need to read some Jane Austen on the plane & I'll probably (read for that definitely) pick up some books whilst in Boston.  It's getting very dark in Sookie's world, we're post Hurricane Katrina and some real trauma for her.  I won't say much more about the plot for people who haven't read it yet but it definitely is a good one.  I have (it's not easy for hardbacks to travel) started the final (for now) one, Dead Reckoning, and, if anything, that's even darker.  Here's the link to author Charlaine Harris's website for anyone interested.  She blogs a bit about her thoughts and there's a community board although I haven't ventured onto that  ... yet. 

We're reading Ceremony in my Modern American Novel course.  I'd never read any Native American literature before and was really unsure how I'd get on with it but I absolutely loved it.  It's the story of a part Native American, part Mexican, part White man, Tayo, who is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his experiences in the Second World War (he was taken prisoner by the Japanese).  Of course no-one knows what PTSD is just after the war so he is ineffectively treated by the white doctors and needs help from the medicine men on the Peublo on which he lives.  This provides Silko with a good opportunity to look at identity and issues of heritage and story telling plays a massive part in this.  I'd really recommend it to all of you and if you're in a book group it would be great for that.

This weekend I've been re-reading Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen.  I love it and had forgotten quite how awful the behaviour of some of the characters is.  It's a parody of the Gothic and readers of Gothic novels but if you're not an expert in the genre the Oxford World Classics edition has great notes in the back to help you understand exactly what Austen is doing.  I find this book laugh out loud and would recommend it to everyone even those who don't like Jane Austen normally - yes there is love and marriage in it but read carefully, I don't wholly buy that she writes fairty tale romantic endings.  I've also noticed this time that in the same way Elizabeth dates her love of Darcy from seeing Pemberly for the first time, Catherine Morland, the heroine here, is really rather taken with Northanger Abbey itself.  These Austen heroines had their heads screwed on all right!

I'm debating whether to try and get a week ahead on my courses or cope with catching up when I get back - not sure yet but it's Pride and Prejudice on the Austen course and Beloved on the Modern American Novel so I'm really looking forward to working through them whatever I decide.

I've also learnt this weekend that I'm not very good at finding people on Facebook so if you do want to connect please invite me - not sure if there are many Sandra Perkins on there but this is my avatar - isn't he adorable.  He doesn't actually have a name because I didn't want to favour any of the players (well I was torn between Stevie, which doesn't sound right for a bird, and Fernando, which probably doesn't either and just as well I didn't pick that) but I think he's OK with it!

See you soon, I hope


Sunday, 29 May 2011

And now the end is near ...


The temporary end of my working life I hope rather than anything else!

It's been another fantastic week of lunches & catching up with people.  Thank you so much to those of you who have taken me out or had a coffee with me.  I know it's not always easy to spend the time when it's not you about to disappear off into the sunset. 

This week I was lucky enough to have lovely lunches with someone I've worked with for about eleven years (yes, honestly!) - our conversation ran to honourable footballers and super injunctions withstanding there weren't many we could think of!  Wednesday, lunch with a friend and a discussion of why renaissance towns in Italy are so well preserved (how intellectual are we?), if you know the answer please let me know.  On Thursday it was another lovely if enormous lunch and on Friday lots more food and great conversation.  (By the way I promise not to record all my meals for the rest of the life of this blog - this is more about thanking the people I've shared them with).  In addition a lovely coffee with a friend who, I'm certain, will be publishing academic papers well before I do!

I've also had some beautiful presents: notebooks (which I absolutely love and will definitely use); a lovely pen (not sure when I'll need that LOL), beautiful candles and flowers, just some of which you can see at the top of this blog.  I'll treasure them and the messages which have come with them.  Thank you.

So Tuesday is my last day (tomorrow is a public holiday in the UK) and I'm not sure how I'll feel about it.  I'm definitely ready to start my new life but there are so many people I will miss so please do keep in touch.

Leaving definitely got a lot easier on Wednesday night when I went to the Opening Evening at King's for those holding post-graduate offers.  Wow, there were a lot of people there and some of them did look like they should just be starting secondary school but it was great.  We had a welcome from the Professor who's in charge of the graduate school and then went for a mini seminar/discussion with one of the English tutors who was just lovely.  After that the obligatory glass of wine, listening to the KCL jazz band and a quick discussion with one of the professors from the English department and finally the real deal-sealer.  We went on a tour of the college (obviously the pretty bits) including the college, the bar with a terrace over the Thames and the library.  I've attached a link to a 360 view of it - it used to be the Public Record Office & was then given to King's.   It's beautiful, absolutely stunning and whilst I appreciate if you were lucky (and clever) enough to have the real Gothic deal you might think it's nothing special, I really like it.   

Other than that it has of course been a week of more reading but I think I'll share that with you tomorrow.

Thanks for reading ...

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Feeding my brain and my stomach

Okay, so today's post comes to you directly from my new I-pad. It wasn't supposed to be like this but my computer has decided to play up in a big way!!

So - hello and thank you if you have read any posts before and wanted to come back. I've had another lovely week of lunches and catch-ups with a few academic bits and pieces and of course quite a lot of vampires thrown in.

Last week I focused more on Imperial City than the friends I ate with so I will try and put that right in this blog. The friends I had dinner with at Imperial City are very special to me - it has been a strange and sometimes confusing world we've lived in and without their humour and support it would have been a lot less bearable.

This week I caught up with an old friend over coffee and that was lovely. As we talked I realised just how much change there has been within the company and also how clear it is that there is a good life outside. I also had some very enjoyable lunches with other friends, looking at pictures of Washington (making me wish I was going there soon), Florida (making me wish I was going to Disney), talking with a friend who has recently left the group and looks much more relaxed for it and on Friday fish and chips with a great friend! It's so lovely to be able to share time with all of these people and now I have another week of it - lucky me!

Other than eating I have been doing some work and studying. T has edited my final essay for my OU course (clarity and spelling only of course), so now it's just a case of printing, sending and then waiting until August for the results.

In the Modern American Novel we started looking at As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. It's a modernist novel with 15 narrators and stream of consciousness.  I don't particularly like it but I can and do admire his technique.  Basically it's about a family, with a useless father, taking their mother home for burial in Jackson, Missisippi (sp?) and their thoughts about their lives and their journey.  Would I recommend it - yes if you like this kind of style.

This week we are looking at Ceremony which I know absoutely nothing about so I am really looking forward to that and Sense and Sensibility  on the Jane Austen course.  I am supposed to go to a talk on Thursday by CK Williams who is an American nobel laureate and poet but at the moment I just don't feel too enthusiastic.  We'll see how that goes!

I'm jumping around a bit but last week I went to a Royal Society of Literature event with Penelope Lively and Edmund de Waal.  They were talking about memoirs and how memoirs have changed from something very conventional ' I was born in X ....' to something far more complex so de Waal's Hare with Amber Eyes mixes his inheritance of his uncle's netsuke with the fate of his family over the twentieth century.  I really enjoyed it and am now wanting to read his book (another for the summer - just as well I have so much time off).  Before I went into the talk I had a look at the exhibition in the forecourt of Somerset House and took some pictures:

I also went a bit mad on my Southern Vampire mysteries (hence the fact I have to hope I love Ceremony and can read it in a couple of sittings).  I am now on book 9: Dead and Gone and things are getting much darker. I'm not going to give the plot away because you really should read them - they're not too much in the horror genre - but I really, really am on Eric's side now and I can't believe how far we are from the TV series.  I was supposed to be leaving some of the books to read on holiday so I'm really going to have to restrain myself.

This week I have an open evening at King's (College, London) on Wednesday night where all people holding offers for post-grad courses can come along, have a tour and listen to some sample lectures.  I'm both excited and nervous - what if I'm the oldest person there?  What if I'm older than the lecturers (and I'm bound to be older than some)?  What if everyone else is so clearly brilliant they'll make me stand in the cornr with a D on my head!  I'll report back next week.

Thanks again for reading (if anyone is reading this) and have a good week


Sunday, 15 May 2011

Great Gatsbys and people

OK, so you were going to get a very grumpy entry on account of Liverpool losing this afternoon but then I read the blog of someone who is a friend of someone who did the same OU Children's Literature course as I did (sorry, can't think how else to put it) and it was one of those moments when you think - grow up this isn't really that important.  This poor girl (only 24) has been suffering from Cystic Fibrosis for four years without a transplant and her life sounds terrible, my heart goes out to her.

So, onto happier things.  This has been the first week of what I shall call my Leaving Season (get me hey?).  I have had such lovely notes, some beautiful perfume and a personalised jar of sweets (fantastic childhood sweets such as flying saucers and love hearts).  If you're reading this from the 18th Floor you're welcome to come and try my tuck shop whilst it lasts!  Everyone who has ever left the company has told me they miss the people and I absolutely understand why - I've been so lucky to work with 99% of the people I have met.

Two of my friends took me to dinner at my favourite restaurant on Thursday night and that was simply delicious - go ahead and drool at the menu (LOL).  I have also drunk enough tea this week to rival my mum's consumption for one day!  I've really enjoyed it though because it has given me the chance to talk to people I might not have done if we didn't feel some time pressure to catch up.  I really hope we can keep in touch!

My two on-line courses are incredibly enjoyable.  We started to discuss who the real Jane Austen is - hard to say after 200 years of course.  I'm driving T mad with my requests to go here and there this summer but I really would like to go to Chawton so let's see if I can persuade him.  I read Sense & Sensibility ready for next week but it really isn't my favourite Austen.  Elinor is too good and there isn't enough Marianne and, if I'm being honest, I have to fnd the hero attractive for it to work and I just didn't feel I got to know Colonel Brandon and/or Edward Ferrars well enough.  I'm sure my opinion isn't going to dent sales though!

We finish studying The Great Gatsby on Tuesday and I've really enjoyed that.  I've decided Gatsby is a sort of failed Joseph P Kennedy - an immigrant aspiring to the WASP way of life.  I'd never picked up on how racist some of the comments in the book are so that was quite an eye-opener but I still love the way Fitzgerald writes - he really captures the emptiness of the characters' lives.  When I was in Newport RI two years ago I visited the house they used for the ballroom scenes for the Robert Redford film and I thought I would attach a not very good photo to brighten up the blog.

The house was absolutely lovely and actually you could imagine living here which made it very different from some of the other cottages!  You can see much better photos of it on the Newport Mansions website.

I think I wrote far too much last week so I'll stop here and hope you all have a lovely week.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

A week of Vampires, squirrels and fish!

As I have started my 'Modern American Novel' course I feel entitled to use an American expression - two day weekends suck!

Since I wrote last week I have sent out the link for the blog to some people and I hope that some of you are able to take the time and read this (and are possibly thinking to yourselves what is she going on about?  It will hopefully get better!).  I also found this amazing site where you can post book reviews, join on-line reading groups and look at others' reviews.  It's pretty addictive and once I have more time on my hands I think I'll really enjoy using it.

In addition I watched another three episodes of True Blood and read the fourth Sookie Stackhouse novel Dead to the World - I'm not going to say much about it because some of you might want to read it but if you like Eric (a Viking vampire, tall and blond - need I say more) then THIS IS THE BOOK FOR YOU!  I read my book of Sookie short-stories last night, A Touch of Dead and am banned from reading any more until I've read this week's proper books: As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner and Sense & Sensibility.  Yes I need to admit it, I am a True Blood addict.  It was a bit embarrassing (sp?) though watching an episode of the TV programme on my iPhone on the way into work - we got to a rather graphic sex scene which I'm sure the lady sitting next to me thought a bit much before 9.00 a.m.!

To move onto more high-minded literary matters, as I mentioned above my Modern American Novel course has started and I'm really enjoying it so far - yes, I know it's the first week.  We've looked at the historical origins of the US (well from when the Puritans landed rather than Native American history) and read some excerpts from early writers.  I think it's really interesting to think how Puritan ideas have become so embedded in American society that they still exist now e.g. John Winthrop used the idea of a City on a Hill (Matthew 5:14) to talk to his ship-mates from the Arbella in 1630 and John F. Kennedy referred directly to this in a speech to the Massachusetts legislature 361 years later.  Perhaps the LibDems might have done better in Thursday's election if they'd referred to Magna Carta?

Next week we move onto The Great Gatsby.  I've read it a number of times but reading it this time I was struck with how strong a sense of alienation I felt for the main characters.  I'm not even sure if I liked Gatsby or Nick Carraway (the narrator) much on this reading.  I think Fitzgerald does an amazing job of conveying how shallow their lives are and he still kept me wanting to read on and remember the detail of what happens even though I've read it a number of times before.  If you haven't read it - it's only 170 pages and well worth the time.

Tomorrow I start my Jane Austen course - yippee!  I'll let you know how that goes next week but I've had the tutor before and she's just lovely so I'm really looking forward to this.

To finish off the literary bit, I went to my first meeting of the Beatrix Potter society yesterday.  It was a talk on The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes but I got my timing wrong and was 25 minutes in when I arrived.  Still I saw some great video of a grey squirrel and a chipmunk.  There was a good reason for this as this tale was written for BP's American readers and therefore there are American creatures such as the grey squirrel, the chipmunk and a brown bear roaming around the Lake District.  The story is about Timmy and his wife Goody being falsely accused of stealing the other squirrels' nuts and how Chippy Hackee (the chipmunk) helps him when he is pushed down a tree as punishment.  Chippy has run away from his wife and when Timmy is rescued, providentially, doesn't go back to his wife until he sees the bear.  Apparently one academic has written an article about how the story is just like two boys who have gone to the pub and don't want to go home.  I'm looking forward to reading that.   Next time they have a meeting hopefully I'll make it on time!

I'd had my last ever (final essay's mark permitting) Open University tutorial yesterday.  The weird thing is I don't feel sad at all.  Unfortunately there hasn't been anyone that I've been in the same tutorials as for all of my courses.  I've been editing my final essay (or End of Module Assessment to give it it's full title) this morning but like the other essays I've written for the Myth course I have no idea whether it's any good (although I hope it should get the 40% I need to pass the course).  This course is like a free choice, it doesn't affect my overall classification at all, I just need the points to get the degree, but I'd still like to do reasonably well on it so I'll be onto second edit next weekend.

I don't think I've done much else really other than have two lovely lunches on Thursday and Friday with friends.  I could pretend I was being relatively healthy as I had fish in both but I'm not sure the batter on my fish with chips on Friday was really what the nutritionist would order.  This week I have dinner to look forward to as well as two other lunches (shame work has to get in the way of this socialising).  I'm also attending two lectures at the British Academy as part of Literature Week so, as I've never been to any of their events, that should be interesting.

So, with the prospect of a five day week (what!) ahead of us I'll sign off now.  See you soon.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Mythical creatures, characters and weddings

Don't you just love these four day weekends! 

I've managed to write the first draft of my End of Module Assessment (EMA) for my Open University course on Myth in the Greek and Roman Worlds.  I'm writing about how the figure of Pygmalion has developed in some 19th & 20th century poems and paintings to express contemporary social concerns (treatment of women mainly).  It's just editing to do now!  

The course has been interesting, I think, but I'm not sure it was quite what I expected.  I chose it because I wanted to learn about lots of myths, mainly because they have quite a big influence of many of the authors and literature I have been/will be studying but the number of myths we have studied has been fairly limited (although perhaps it's my fault for not spending enough time studying?). 

I was, however, fascinated by the mix of myth and 'science' in Greek medicine - have a look at these pages from the Science Museum to give you an idea about the temple at Epidaurus.  Whilst you slept at the temple it was believed that snakes would come & heal you or a god might come to you in a dream and tell you how you needed to change your ways.  'Doctors' at this time were very into purging so you can see this 'faith healing' would probably prove far more attractive to people.

Of course I digress.  If you think this blog is worth returning to you'll learn I have quite the butterfly mind!  Writing about Pygmalion was very apt this weekend when we had the Royal Wedding and Kate Middleton being transformed from peasant to Princess.  Because of the magical powers we believe the dress has in this process I guess Sarah Burton (dress designer) was a bit of a Pygmalion in the process.  For the record I liked the dress and (probably more controversially) liked the trees in the Abbey.  It would have been nice to see all the flowers on the Saturday but £16 each was a bit much in my pre-pauper state!

The other thing I have accomplished (?) this weekend is to read Living Dead in Dallas and part of Club Dead.  They're part of the Southern Vampire Murder Mysteries written by Charlaine Harris.  A friend at work introduced me to True Blood  a few weeks ago and I am hooked.  I don't know if I enjoy it but I really am intrigued by the stories and the world.  If you don't know it: Vampires were able to come 'out of the coffin' because of the invention of True-Blood, a synthetic blood product, and Sookie Stackhouse the heroine has become involved in their world.  There's a lot of swearing and sex/nudity and some violence so it's probably not for everyone but it's not too horrific (it can't be, I couldn't read Dracula for my 19th Century Novel course - Buffy is about my level). 

The books are different from the TV series: a lot less swearing and the sex is obviously less graphic.  Characters change as well - some become more important on TV such as Tara, Jason and Lafayette and plot lines, whilst loosely based on the books contain elements from elsewhere.  They're a good, easy read and although I have to move onto something more 'literary' after Club Dead, I will return to the rest of the series.

I start my 'The Modern American Novel' course this week with Oxford University Continuing Education.  This is my fourth course with them, they last for 10 weeks and it's a good way to read and think about some new books and some old favourites.  I need to re-read The Great Gatsby this week ready for Week 2 of the course.  Gatsby is an old friend (wow, that sounds pretentious) as I'm sure it is for many of you.  I love the sense of doom that pervades the book and the mystery of Gatsby himself.  (The fact that Robert Redford played the part doesn't hurt either) I've never studied the book before tho' so I'm interested in the new insights I get from really paying attention to it.  I'll let you know how it goes.

If you read this please let me know what you think.  Is it too long?  Too many links?

Thanks for taking the time.