Weekly Wrap Up

Another weekly wrap up and the end to a very busy and enjoyable week. School has been a hoot, minus a few naughty girls in detention, but I sent out positive postcards to other girls in a bid to counteract this negativity…and it worked! I have just returned from a weekend visiting my mum, sister and family. I wasn’t planning on visiting them, especially as I had seen my mum on Thursday, but it is my birthday in the week and the thought of not seeing any of them at all was a tad depressing, so I turned up unannounced to surprise them all. It didn’t quite work with my mum, who drove past me as I was walking the dog, but on the whole they were pretty surprised.

I have been reading…

I finished Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop, which seemed to take forever, and wasn’t as enjoyable as I had hoped. I have been drawn back to crime ridden world of the Cotswolds and Agatha Raisin and have begun Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage. I have decided to read the series in the correct order; this relies largely on the hope that my local library has the majority of the books in stock, if not it might take a while. I am very much looking forward to finish off a few more lesson plans for the beginning of next week and curling up with a large cup of tea and becoming sumerged in the latest murder mystery to hit the Carsely detectives.

I have been listening to…

On my drive home from visiting the family, I decided against the loud music and sing song of listening to the iPod (yes, I went out last night and I needed a bit of a break from it all) and chose an audio book from my limited collection. I stuck to the crime theme and opted for Agatha Christie’s 4.50 from Paddington. I have listened to this CD on many occassions, but it is still a joy to hear June Whitfield’s Miss Marple as I drive through the English countryside.

I have been watching…

As with the majority of the British public I have become slightly obsessed with The Great British Bake Off. It is amazing! I do love cooking programmes on the whole, but this has opened my eyes to the wonderful world of baking. I have taken temporary care of my mum’s Kenwood Mixer and I am planning on buying lots of beautiful baking tools and ingredients to get me started. I think a huge dose of caffiene will be in need if I am going to make it to 10pm tonight and the end of this week’s episode of the fantastic Downton Abbey. I have loved Downton since it first came on to our screens a few years ago, when it began set in romantic pre-war period of the First World War. I still LOVE it now! We are currently in the 1920s and the Crawley family are facing up to the fact they might lose their beloved family home. Please let me stay awake to catch it!

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Scoop by Evelyn Waugh

I have always enjoyed Waugh’s writing, and I am a HUGE fan of his contemporary Nancy Mitford Their depiction of the lives of the upper classes in the first half of the twentieth century is pure genius, and the witty language is guaranteed to put a smile on my face.

Scoop is a novel centred on the newspaper industry and the sheer confusion and hypocrisy of the whole business; something which appears to be incredibly relevant when looking at newspapers in the present day, The Leveson Inquiry springs to mind. There is a civil war brewing in Ishmalia and, due to a slight mix-up, the wrong Mr. Boot is on his way as ‘The Beasts’ foreign war correspondence. Boot doesn’t want to go and knows next to nothing about life as a journalist; his only experience in the matter lies in the nature column he writes for the newspaper. Before Boot knows it he is in a foreign country and expected to report on events there. And if nothing is happening, he has to stretch the truth ever so slightly.

Unfortunately for me Scoop did not live up to my expectations. I found it difficult to get in to, and I felt very little connection to the characters. The one character I warmed to, Mrs Stitch, who manages to get her car stuck in an underground toilet block, only really appears in the first few chapters, and then the action moves to foreign climes. As the narrative developed I found it harder to follow, primarily because I had very little interest in what was going on, and therefore could not concentrate on the story and lost that all important connection to what was happening. I was relieved when the novel came to an end.

For me Waugh is at his best when he is writing about life in Britain; his insights into the upper classes are hilarious, if a tad chilling in places. In hindsight I think it might be this movement away from British life that had such a negative impact on my enjoyment. It is not that I don’t like novels set outside of Britain, I just don’t feel that Waugh does it justice in this novel. Ironic really as one of my favourite Waugh storylines ends with an upper class man doomed to spend the rest of his days reading Dickens’ novels to a man in the colonies.

More Weekly Wrap-Ups than Reviews!

The title says it all really, but I like to check in!

I am currently reading Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop. This is the fourth Waugh book I have read and at the moment I am finding it difficult to get to grips with, but I think that is mainly because I have had little time to read this week…I might finish my planning etc early today and grab Scoop, a large cup of tea, listen to the blustery Autumnal weather and just enjoy reading for pleasure. I do enjoy Waugh’s writing, although it can be seen as a tad out-dated in regards to certain subjects.

I have finally ventured to my local library after my move last month, and picked up the next Agatha Raisin novel; I think she is going to become a bit of an addiction and I would quite like to read the novels in the correct order, something I didn’t do with M.C.Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth series. I attempted to find a local book club in my new area, as I quite like the idea of joining one and having an interest outside of school, as I would hate to become one of those people that just goes to work, comes home, eats, sleeps and goes back to work. If I am unsuccessful, maybe I will start my own club…or return to practising Yoga, who knows?!?

Overall, a pretty fabulous week, but I hope next week brings more reading time!

Weekly Wrap-Up

And we are back to Sunday and a lovely reflection on the past week and what it has held, both in reading terms and life in general.

My reading for the week has been focused on novels I will be teaching to my Year 8s; the theme is ‘other cultures’, so I have read and reviewed Morris Gleitzman’s Once and Mildred. D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry. Both novels have provided a great sense of escapism, as well as being interesting texts from a teaching perspective; I am particularly looking forward to progressing with Once.

This has been my first full week at school, although Thursday was a belated Sports Day, which had been postponed due to the horrendous summer weather at the end of last term. It has been busy, but I feel as though I am beginning to settle in to school life and feel happier in general regarding the workload and my teaching expectations. There is still an awful lot I need to do, and I am sure many stressed out days/weeks lay ahead of me, but on the whole I am a happy bean this week.

And now I have reached that awful part of my reading habits that always leaves me feeling restless and a tad lost…what to read next? I have read so many great reviews recently that my TBR list is getting longer and longer, but I know I should read something that has been on my shelf for a while. Maybe I’ll sleep on it and I will see the light tomorrow…although if anyone has any fabulous recommendations they will be gratefully received!

Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry

Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry is a book I can vaguely remember reading at school, and one that I am teaching to a different Year 8 group this term, which suggests that its classroom appeal hasn’t changed much in the past ten years. It wasn’t my first choice of novel to study, but after a class discussion on ‘other cultures’ the class’ interest in America became apparent, so I thought it would be an ideal choice.

The novel is told from the first person perspective of Cassie, a young black girl growing up in the Mississippi of the 1930s, where inequality and racism were rife. Cassie’s family own their own land and her Mama has a good job as a teacher at the school for black children, yet Cassie and her brothers do not fully understand why they are looked down upon by the white children of the County. They gradually begin to see that life for black people in the Deep South is far from easy, from their treatment by white shop owners in the local town to the uproar caused when they try to boycott the local white run shop.

I’ll admit that I was slightly reluctant to read Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry again, and that it was not my first choice of novel to teach, however I am pretty glad I picked it up. It is a great coming of age narrative, focusing on how Cassie comes to realise the bitter truth surrounding race in the 1930s, and how life is far from fair for the black people of the community. For me the character of T.J highlights how life isn’t just black and white (ignore the ironic turn of phrase, my Sunday brain can’t think how better to put it), his naivety and his sheer belief that he can be friends with white people and that it is just friendship they want, is tragic. He cannot see that he is heading for a great fall, and when it comes it is horrible not only for the reader, but for Cassie and her brothers as they too come to realise the repercussions of who one chooses to associate with.

Hardly an indepth or enlightening review/post on this novel, but I am using this to jot down my original thoughts, which I am sure (I hope) will develop as I begin to plan for this novel. It has reawakened by interest in American literature, particularly that of African American authors, especially Toni Morrison’s Beloved. I do like it when one book leads me to another!

Once

Once by Morris Gleitzman is a novel I had to read for school. After reading The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas with the hope I would get to teach it, a last minute book dilemma led to a change of heart, and I am incredibly glad it did.

Once follows the first person narrative of Felix, a young Jewish boy living in a Catholic orphange in Poland in the middle of the Second World War. Having received a vegetable related sign in his usual meagre ration of soup, Felix is convinced his parents are still alive, and so ventures forth from the safety of the orphange to begin a trek back home to find his parents, and hopefully discover why the Jewish bookselling business has taken a turn for the worse in recent years. Yes, hindsight is indeed a wonderful thing, and it is something I particularly relish as a reader. As Felix travels across Poland, he undergoes a transformation, from a naive and fanciful boy, to a young boy who has seen and witnessed first hand the true horror of the war as it ravaged through Poland.

Once is a beautifully written novella. As the novel progresses we see how Felix slowly comes to realise the atrocious realities of the war, and we see him grow up in front of our eyes. We feel his horror as he comes to realise that Hitler is not a good person, and that the Nazis don’t have something against booksellers in general, it is more to do with the fact they are Jewish. As with the The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas it is the childlike innocence of the narrator that I enjoyed the most, however I think I prefer how Once develops this innocence and offers the chance to explore what happens when this is shattered and the truth is finally brought to light. Stylistically, this novel really hit a note with me; I don’t know if that is because I had to read the opening chapters aloud, so I was very aware with how the text looked on the page, or if it is just highly noticable that sentences are overlong and almost rushed, as a child would say them, or they are incredibly short and placed on a separate line, as though they are reinfrocing a point, or reflecting the childlike wonderment of the statement. I cannot wait to explore these ideas with my class, although I have a feeling we will have a great deal to talk about in general with this novel.

Is it really Monday tomorrow?

You know it has been a looooong time between posts/blog browsing, when your wordpress account signs you out and asks for a password! Unfortunately this is the first opportunity I have had to come on here and actually post all week for many reasons. I have been able to keep up to date with blogs I read through the magic of my iPod, but I have had very little time for reading/posting/commenting!

Biggest news of the week….I FINALLY started work on Tuesday, and life has been pretty much non stop ever since! I have spent a day with my tutor group and got to know them a bit better and I have taught 5/7 of my classes, so I am beginning to meet some of my students and suss them out. It has been pretty stressful and manic this week, and on Wednesday I was in a terrible grump, but I think that was more the anticipation of actually teaching lessons again after an incredibly relaxing summer! In fact I last stood infront of a class of teenagers at the end of May, so it has been a while and I was amlost dreading that I had forgotten what I needed to do! Luckily all has gone well this week, and I am half scared and half excited about what the upcoming week will bring.

All of this has left little time for reading, which was not helped by the fact I got to spend all of yesterday at a friend’s wedding. Not that I am complaining; I had a lovely day and I know the bride and groom did too, so it was amazing to be included in their special day.

I am so close to the end of my last Agatha Raisin novel on my Kindle, so hopefully I will get to find out ‘who dunnit’ tonight. Then it will be on to school reading, primarily Morris Gleitzman’s Once and Mildred D Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry. I am hoping I will have time next weekend to post on both of these books and to answer The Classics Club September Meme, but who knows! I am looking forward to getting in to a routine at school so I can fit everything in to my life, and continue enjoy a vast array of literature. But for now I am off to check I am all prepared for tomorrow!

A Wrapped Up August!

Once again I am going to cheat slightly and include my weekly wrap up inside my August summary as school starts in two days, so time is precious.

August has been a crazy month considering I was on summer holiday and only really had lesson planning to do, which I could complete at my own slow and steady pace. I started the month on a quest to find my perfect bookcase and I am pleased to say I am still over the moon with my purchase, despite the fact it only holds about a fifth of my books. But it is beautiful and fits in to the space, so I can’t complain too much.

This was shortly followed by the moving of all my furniture to my new house. Sadly I couldn’t move in until the end of the month, so I have spent a fortnight sleeping on patio furniture in my old bedroom, but it made me appreciate just how much I love bed, and I am sure there is someone out there screaming ‘it’s character building,’ which I can almost agree with. I moved in for good on August 28th, and I am beginning to adjust to life away from my family again. I spent four years lving away for university, so I am not a complete stranger to being independent, but it is hard to go from being around your family to being 40 miles away. And pets are a no-no in my new house, so not only am I missing my dog Coco, but I have had to leave behind Ramos the hamster.

I had a fabulous time in London on my trip to The Globe and thoroughly enjoyed Richard III, I cannot wait to see what plays will be on next season. I spent rather a long time at Longleat, not only on a weekend break to Center Parcs, but also on a day trip to the Safari Park. Both are places I have been to many times, in fact this was the 16th year in a row for a holiday to Center Parcs, but it never gets boring. There is so much to do and both attractions have gone through changes in recent years, so I would whole heartedly recommend a trip to everyone who lives near by!

I did get a chance to do some reading this month, in fact I was a little surprised at the amount of books listed.

August Reading

Operation Mincemeat by Ben Macintyre


The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
by John Boyne

Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin

Appassionata by Jilly Cooper

Agatha Raisin and The Quiche of Death by M.C.Beaton

Overall a good month for reading. I enjoyed all of my reads, but I think my stand out favourite would have to be Claire Tomalin’s amazing biography of Jane Austen. I cannot stress how brilliant this biography is, and I personally cannot wait to read more of Tomalin’s work.

In terms of September reading…I don’t have a clue! I am working my way through the four Agatha Raisin novels I have on my Kindle and that is as far ahead as I am planning, choosing instead to wait until school has started and I can assess how busy the month will be. Hopefully it won’t be so busy I can’t enjoy some valuable reading time.

Good luck to all who are returning to school, college, uni or who are using the change of season and the start of the academic year for their own fresh start; as far as I’m concerned Septemeber will always be a month for new beginnings and I am eagerly anticipating the challenges it will bring!

P.S. I’m having issues with italics and non italics so apologies if this post looks mismatched!