Saturday, July 21, 2012

"Below Stairs" & How the GRE is smashing my self esteem!

So starting with book reading news:

I finally made my way to this biography. Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey by Margaret Powell. It came out back in January but I usually steer away from biographies and auto-bios because they (in my opinion) are too long, too boring and I usually do not care much about stories of people who were rich and famous making money off of people who idolized them - celebrities included. 

This one came to 212 pages and it was very amusing. This is a story about a girl, Margaret, who was born in Hove, England,  a poor  beachside town. She grew up as one of seven kids. Instead of pursuing her dream of being a teacher, she drops out of school early to start in the domestics as a kitchen maid, the lowest on the totem pole, in London.

Her recollection of her life as a kitchen maid and living in a city (then finally earning her way up to being a cook) was insightful, witty, charming, shocking and hilarious. One could never imagine all the chores she had to get done in a day when we have modern kitchen appliances. 

She does marry and finally have children of her own and leaves the domestic service. When her husband is called for WWI, she hires herself out to cook (like a modern day chef for hire) and as her children got older, she does hourly maid jobs. Finally, when her boys are old enough and going to university, she continues her life-long dream to be educated (even though she could read), and pay for sitting in lectures at the university. 

It was a delightful story. I recommend it to anyone who is a fan of BBC dramas, Downton Abby and Upstairs, Downstairs. Gives just that tiny bit on insight to the life of those who ran the house. Also great for those, like me, who cringe at looking at 1000+ page biographies. This is much tidier and better to read. 

Ah, the GRE. So I just finished the diagnostic test. After being out of college for six years, I did expect to do a tiny bit better on this. I did about a 60%. Last time I checked, that was a fail. Everything is bad: math, verbal, writing (how ironic). 

Definitively struck a blow to my self-esteem but I still have time. I take my test on the 16th of October. I hope to improve my practice test scores to at least 80%. I still do not understand the new scoring system (they just changed it THIS year). Ugh, wish me luck! 

By the way, anyone took the GRE lately? 

On a last note. I thought I share a little humor.

I sure everyone knows what I'm talking about!! Hahahaha!! This made my whole week because it's so true! I just wish I had the guts to actually say, "Oh you know, hunting elephants." Because that's what we do at grocery stores, right? :P

Have a great week everyone! I have quite a few books to read (some from my old reading list and a new YA one). I'm more excited to read the older Lori Foster book this week. Maybe next week I'll get to the new YA. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Second Week of July 2012

This will be short and sweet! :)

I finally read People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Llyod Parry. I do like true crimes. Before CourtTV became TruTv and now show nothing but people acting like morons, I would record the crime shows. This was totally up my alley.

The story is about a young British woman named Lucie Blackman who literally vanished off the streets of Tokyo after moving there to work in the seedy Roppongi district of Tokyo to pay off her debt. Her dysfunctional family comes to Japan to get involved in finding her.

I enjoyed the twists and turns of the book. Since it is a factual account, it got dry at times but it didn't loose steam. I enjoyed how her family was an entire load of "messed up drama" all by themselves. This book will appeal to anyone who loves a story about real people and justice being served.

As a woman who traveled alone often to foreign countries, it is true that crime can happen anywhere, even somewhere as safe as Japan. Honestly, I am more terrified to walk down my street in the daytime than I was in the streets of Zurich, Switzerland at night.

Other than that, the week was rather calm and quick. I cannot believe that tomorrow is already Monday and I have yet to make my dinner.

In the world of book writing, I finally finished putting my currents thoughts on paper for B2, now it will get stored away while I start studying for my GRE. I will be working on B1's book query and synopsis these next few weeks. I realized yesterday that I wanted to go back and fix something. The hunt for a title is going strong, I've had some inspiration as I brainstormed words related to my story. Hopefully, a title will emerge.

Until next week, everyone!!

PS: I did take a pic of July's book display but I got lazy and haven't downloaded it from my cell phone. :P

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Randomness at the End of June

We finally got the correct range hood for the stove and connected it to the chimney. Now the cooking fumes go outside instead of circulating inside the house. I thank my husband for doing all the hard work. :)

My mother's bird passed away. Her name was Yukina and lived to the right old age of ten years. I found it funny that she did not even wait an hour before she asked me to get her another bird. I feel bad for the poor little creature who will be shut into a small cage not allowed to flap around because the feather down a tiny parakeet makes will somehow kill people? (I know, don't ask, I can't explain it either)

I finally got the book People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo--and the Evil That Swallowed Her Up by Richard Lloyd Parry. So far, I am enjoying it and look forward to give my opinion when I'm done. 

My husband and I are working on a massive project, turning my VHSs into digital format. We have a media player (I think that is what it's called) and we practiced on a unused portable hard drive. So far, everything works good. I did order a more stable desktop hard drive and that should be coming in the mail soon. 

Currently, through ILL, I am waiting on a Sappho poetry book (the fragments, not people's fill-ins). I'd always wanted to read her work, yet somehow, Sappho's book found it's way into B2, so therefore, it's moved off my reading list and onto the research list.

I did borrow through ILL a yoga book for back pain. I already do some yoga so I am looking forward to seeing what this one has to offer. One thing I have found out for sure, walking eases so much of it. I look forward to my walks these days. I don't push myself. 2 miles tops and I come home. I also enjoy it because it's my only "me" time that I get from the house and husband. I think it's hard for my husband to realize that sometimes, I want to be alone and just enjoy the silence and calm. 

Speaking in calm, I just finished reading the book:

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. 

My library director recommended this book to me. I wish i can get my husband to read this also but he doesn't do books. It's a great book for people like me who are introverts to help us understand living in a society that suffocates creativity, thought and ingenuity. 

This morning, we started watching a Russian TV made during the reign of the USSR called Seventeen Moments of Spring, (we found with English subtitles but the German speaking parts are not subbed - good for me!) an espionage TV series that takes place during the end of the Hilter's campaign. 

I thought of the book right in the beginning of the first episode when the narrator was talking about a young officer who embodied the Arian ideal. Lo' and behold, it's everything that our country worships in the extrovert. I am not saying we are the next anything, it just made me think a little. The book does go on that our country started this whole love of the outgoing person sometimes back in the early 20s and 30s. Talks about testing done on extrovert/introvert couple. Introverts in the workplace and in the social scene, etc. It's also a great read for the extroverts who have introverted employees and how those people are the problem solvers, the engineers and the thinkers of the workforce. And it's a book for the parents who have quiet kids and now to nourish them to be the next great thinkers, inventors and doers of tomorrow.

Anyway, that's enough. Until next week!