The UK: An Only Slightly Different Alternate Reality

I’m sure this is a typical thing, but when I was accepted into my study abroad program I got a lot of pamphlets about culture shock. You know, it’s going to be different, it’s going to be weird, what have you.

Honestly, I wish that was true.

See, I was expecting this massively different culture and was all prepped and ready, but instead … it’s worse. There are all these minor little details that are just twisted a tiny bit and it’s SO WEIRD.

Like potato chips. Those would be crisps here. And the ones I always get in my meal deal at Tesco? They look JUST LIKE LAYS, but with a different name. TJ Maxx becomes TK Maxx.

The real culture shock comes when you’re standing in the grocery store and it looks like the world is just a tad bit out of focus, instead of something completely new.

At least we speak the same language. Sort of. MUST. REMEMBER. TROUSERS.

10522454_10204950962118394_8835607800532274012_nOn a better note, I’ve been absorbing the culture at other places than the grocery store. Part of my school went to a football (soccer for those still in America) game, and that was one of the most entertaining things I’ve ever seen. The small boys (9-12 years old max) were just cheering right along with chants such as “YOU F***ED UP” and “YOU FAT C**T.” And it wasn’t even premier league.

We also went and saw Antony and Cleopatra at the Globe, which was an amazing experience. I’m not one of Shakespeare’s16713_10204950962038392_6756811290056636776_n biggest fans, but even my cold heart has to feel something standing in the pleb courtyard at the actor’s feet, watching Antony die beside me. I’m going back soon to see The Comedy of Errors and Julius Caesar later on for class, and I’m thoroughly excited.

I’d write more, but I have to run! More culture is calling; I’m seeing Medea tonight!

Review: “Isla and the Happily Ever After” by Stephanie Perkins

IslaIsla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

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Love ignites in the City That Never Sleeps, but can it last?

From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and Étienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.

Five stars

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We’re Gonna Make This Place Our Home

One thing that you know going into my college’s semester abroad program – well, know but don’t really know – is that you have to find your own apartment. I say that you know, but not really, because you are told that it’s stressful and are told that it’s crazy and yet you really don’t understand the meaning of all those words in context until you do it.

The first problem is that no one in London wants to let to students only stay for four months, and leaving right before Christmas. The second is that they want to charge more than my group was willing to pay. The third is that with any kind of group of people, what you’re looking for is always going to be different.

I’m proud of my group of sticking it out and working together. It was a rough couple of days. Some groups didn’t make it. Some groups ended up paying a crazy amount of money. (The conversion right now is almost two American dollars to one British pound.)

We ended up finding a place, for all our troubles. It’s tiny and it’s nowhere near as fancy as all the other flats I’ve seen. But you know what? I can pay for it. I can pay the rent and also eat and travel and maybe buy a few more pairs of shoes. What it doesn’t have in space it makes up for in the bit of relief it gives my budgeting.

Better yet, the one thing I’m not worried about is my group killing each other in the small space. At least we have got that going for us.

Plus, we like our arts and crafts. These white walls won’t stay that way for long. Most importantly, it’s ours. No more moving big bags around and living out of suitcases.

We have a London home.

Och Wheesht and Get Oan Wit It!*

The fastest way to start this trip off with a bang is by starting in Edinburgh, Scotland. My school does a five day little add on trip at the start of the London semester that you can opt in to so you can explore this gorgeous city during festival season. I took full advantage of it.

Of course, there’s all the traveling to get there. I left my house at 7:30AM EST, boarded a connector flight at 11AM EST and landed in JFK at about noon. My plane to London didn’t leave until 7:30PM EST. Then it was seven plus hours to Heathrow airport, where we boarded a coach to the school center that took about a half an hour. Some waiting ensued, and our train to Edinburgh left King’s Cross Station at a few hours later. Five hours later, we showed up in Scotland, tired of traveling and everything else but unable to sleep because JETLAG. Do yourself a favor and don’t count my travel hours. They made me a little ill.

BUT. The next day the adventures could begin!

The school scheduled some events for us, but a lot of time was also left to ourselves, which you’ll soon see. Our first IMG_0783scheduled event was a bus tour around the city with a guide. I took way too many pictures of the architecture. Seriously. Like 60.

I’m not going to bore you with this day by day itinerary, don’t worry. But I can’t help but mention the fun times had at Camera Obscura, an optical illusion interactive museum, where we all shuffled through a mirror maze and screamed through the Vortex Tunnel. There was also IMG_0855the Edinburgh Dungeons, which I really didn’t want to go to but ended up having a great time. These two were choices by my friends, which were very, very good choices for attractions.

The school got us into Edinburgh Castle, where we had a fantastically sarcastic and also good looking tour guide. They also brought us to IMG_0816Arthur’s Seat, the hike of which I was not prepared for in any sense. (I was not warned to bring a mountain pony and sherpas. I was wearing knockoff Converse for goodness sake.) They helped us partake in the Film Festival, however the play we watched left even those majoring in the theatrical arts scratching their heads.

IMG_0868Thankfully, my friends and I got our own tickets to see Sh*tfaced Shakespeare. Ah, serious theatre.

And yes, there was some drinking of my own involved. Turns out I really, really like the UK acceptance of cider. Who knew?

I didn’t expect to love Scotland as much as I did; I don’t know why. I literally turned to a friend and said, “I hope I like London as much as I like Edinburgh.” After all, a majority of my four months was about to be spent in a city I had yet to see. As our train headed out of Edinburgh Waverly and headed towards King’s Cross, I could only cross my own fingers.

*Dear Sam – I swear this was the title of this post before I saw what you’d titled yours.

Tally Ho and Away We Go

So you may have noticed that, lately, there hasn’t been too much book blogging done here. There’s a reason for that. The reason is just that I am a little burned out. Reading for reviewing plus school plus life finally pushed me over the edge, and the few books that I did read over the summer that weren’t for Bibliomancy for Beginners I kept to myself, just so I could read them knowing that all I had to think about was whether I myself was enjoying it or not. And that was great.

I had hoped that maybe I’d be able to get some more reviews up here, and we’ll see how that goes. Because another important thing has happened.

I’m not in the United States of America anymore, and I won’t be for the next four months. I’m studying abroad in London!

I have my Kindle and its backlog of ARCs. I have the e-books I’ll be buying while I’m here. With school only being four days a week and my very tiny budget, I have to assume that some of my weekends will be spent with tea and a good story. Will there be blogging that goes along with it? I don’t know! It’s all an adventure.

One thing I WOULD like to do is keep myself thinking about all the stuff that I’m doing. Not much – maybe just a weekend London post kind of thing. If you know anything about me, you know that I’m going to have a LOT to say about many bookish, artsy and crazy things. So. Instead of doing a weekly post round up or a book haul, a brand new feature I’d like to do (hopefully!) will be about my life in London (and beyond!) I’m already here and a little behind because of a lack of an internet connection, so the first couple will come out pretty fast and then slow down to every weekend. Still with me? Excited? Awesome.

Tally ho and away we go!

Bibliomancy for Beginners: “The Martian Chronicles” by Ray Bradbury

Better late than never! Today three Bibliomancers take on the classic The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. It’s one of Taylor’s picks, and naturally he loves it and I hate it so get ready for some awesome verbal sparing!

Bibliomancy for Beginners: “The Falconer” by Elizabeth May

It’s time again for my pick for book club! I chose The Falconer by Elizabeth May, which has–at least–a really great cover. This one is sure to have a great debate about YA and why I liked this one and Taylor and Michaela didn’t. Check in for a great discussion about this book and YA lit in general!

The Falconer (American)Heiress. Debutant. Murderer. A new generation of heroines has arrived.

Edinburgh, Scotland, 1844

Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, was destined for a life carefully planned around Edinburgh’s social events – right up until a faery killed her mother.

Now it’s the 1844 winter season and Aileana slaughters faeries in secret, in between the endless round of parties, tea and balls. Armed with modified percussion pistols and explosives, she sheds her aristocratic facade every night to go hunting. She’s determined to track down the faery who murdered her mother, and to destroy any who prey on humans in the city’s many dark alleyways.

But the balance between high society and her private war is a delicate one, and as the fae infiltrate the ballroom and Aileana’s father returns home, she has decisions to make. How much is she willing to lose – and just how far will Aileana go for revenge?