Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard – Book Review

In Norta, the colour of your blood defines you – your social status, your occupation, and whether or not you have superpower-like abilities. The elite Silvers exploit the Reds, sending them to the front line in the North and using them as their servants in their lavish residences.

Mare is a Red, and every day she becomes closer to being conscripted on her seventeenth birthday. After a chance encounter, she finds herself serving the King in his summer residence. One day, however, something happens to Mare that makes her question her identity – she appears to have Silver abilities but Red blood, so the royal family decide to declare her as a long-lost princess, to prevent any questions being asked. Mare is thrust in to the Silver world, engaged to a Silver prince. She now has the chance to take down the oppressive system that has caused her family and community so much pain and suffering. This won’t be easy; she must dodge the jealousy, lies and rivalries of the royal courts to try to bring justice to her people.

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My Quick YA Fiction Recommendations – What to Read Now

Young Adult fiction contains so many wonderful, enjoyable and inspiring books, so when I’m asked for an on-the-spot recommendation, I’m not great at giving one – I feel like I need to know what a person is looking for before I recommend a book! This inspired me to write this post; recommending books depending on what you are looking for in a novel. If you’re in the UK, it’s World Book Day today (7th of March) so what better excuse to pick up a book?

To access my full review of each book, please click on the title.

If you’re looking for: Feel Good, Easy-to-read Romance

Then I recommend: /To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the ultimate feel-good book that will make you feel warm inside! If you have watched the film and not yet read the book, then do not fear: it is a trilogy, so you can continue the story of Lara Jean Covey and Peter Kavinsky in two more instalments! If you’re struggling to get into reading a book, then I really recommend this particular book to get you quickly back in the swing of reading.

If you’re looking for: An Intense, Plot-twist-full Thriller

Then I recommend: Cruel Summer by Juno Dawson

This is an extremely gripping novel, with interesting characters that seem perfect on the surface, but all have secrets to hide. Kind of like a modern-day Agatha Christie novel, the pace of the book increases as the book progresses, with more hints and clues as to who the killer was as you read.

If you’re looking for: Exciting, Female-led Fantasy

Then I recommend: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

If you’re familiar with the book scene on Instagram, you’ll have seen this series everywhere – and for good reason. This incredibly popular book is led by Celaena Sardothien, a fiery, talented and likeable assassin that you’ll really root for. I’ve recently bought the third book in the series, and I can’t wait to read it!

If you’re looking for: Powerful, Educational, Black Lives Matter movement-inspired Story

Then I recommend: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This book is an automatic recommendation whenever someone asks me for book suggestions. It is the perfect example of how a Young Adult book can educate you on the social issues in the world today, and I believe the more people that read this, the better. By the way, the film was also amazing.

If you’re looking for: Compelling, Tense Contemporary

Then I recommend: Fragments of the Lost by Megan Miranda

I picked this book up from the library, having never heard of it before, and I’m so glad that I took it out. The writing style allows the emotion in the book to be extremely well portrayed, and the use of flashbacks means that the reader can begin to piece together fragments of information, to be left with a picture that is unrecognisable from that presented at the beginning of the book.

I hope that you have found these recommendations useful, and decide to pick up one of these books. I really enjoyed reading all of them, and I hope you will too!

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi – Book Review

In Orïsha, a fantasy land based on Nigeria, magic is outlawed. A land that was once full with the Maji clans practicing their many forms of magic is now a place where the remaining few with magic constantly fear the heartless King Saran.

Zélie is a Divîner; she does not possess the full powers of a Maji, but has the ability to become one. All the diviners in Orïsha are oppressed by the ruling class, the Kosidàn, and are marked out by their striking white hair.

One day, Zélie and her brother Tzain head to Lagos to raise money for the crippling taxes placed upon them, and cross paths with Amari, who is escaping from the royal family of Orïsha with a magical scroll in her hand. This scroll provides hope for the Divîners of Orïsha, which prompts the trio to embark on a demanding journey to bring back magic and loosen the grip of the monarchy on the lives of the people. With the Crown Prince hot on their heels, it is a race against time to complete a ritual that would mean everything for Zélie and the Divîners. This is difficult enough, but is made more complicated when Zélie begins to have feelings for an enemy…

I took a while to get started with book, but, as with many fantasy books, once I reached middle of the book I felt like I had got into it. Adeyemi creates a world that is unique in YA fantasy – a setting based on Nigeria and West African mythology.

I am glad that this book has become well-known and liked; many YA fantasy books have very western settings and characters. Those who have read other fantasies or TV shows such as BBC’s Merlin will see a familiar plot curve, but made up for by the vividness of the world in which the story took place. If you enjoyed Throne of Glass, you’ll probably enjoy this novel.

While this is a fantasy novel, the struggles faced by the characters serve as an allegory for slavery, oppression and the police brutality against African Americans.

My main issue was the romance in this story – it seemed rushed and made little sense. However, as this book is the first in a trilogy, I hope that this will be resolved in the books to come. There are 3 points-of-view in this novel, which are all very similar – I always had to check back to remind me which character’s POV it was being told from.

The rights for the film have been sold, and as I was reading the book I thought that it would make a great film. I even believe that it will make a film that is better than the book – I am interested to see what Adeyemi has in store for the series, with Children of Vengeance and Virtue being released very soon!

How to Grow your Grades before your GCSEs this Summer

This time last year, I had received my mock GCSE results and was looking to my exams in the summer, which seemed so far away at the time; for year 11’s across the country, it’s the first time you take a public exam. I was tired of hearing the same thing about preparing for my exams, so I’ve tried to put in some different ideas as well as some tips you will have heard before, but are worth remembering. Looking back now, there are some things that I simply wish I’d known, so I thought I would share them with you now!

Before the exams

Know your syllabus. It may seem like I’m stating the obvious, but going back to the syllabus time and time again is crucial. While the course content is listed in text books and revision guides, I would recommend always looking at the exam-issued syllabus, because that will tell you exactly what will be in the exam and how much you need to know about it. I think that this is most relevant to the sciences, but you should try and print off a syllabus for each subject and put it in a revision file, going back to it at the beginning of each session.

Required Practicals. For the Sciences, taking a look at the required practicals is time well spent. Learning the methods, variables, equipment will really help you, as there is bound to be a question on one of the practicals. I think that the importance of required practicals is understated, but you should really know them as the questions are worth 6 marks (for my exam board, AQA).

Practice, practice, practice! Practice papers will be your best friend through the exam period. It’s so important that after you have done your practice papers and marked them, that you record your result and which topics you struggled with. This gives you a list of topics to go over in the days leading up to the exam, and to do questions on. I found that some of the questions that I had answered in revision were the same as the ones that came up in the exam! Also, remember to stick to the exam timings!

Order is important. For me, spending a whole morning doing Biology, Physics and Chemistry consecutively would be a struggle – I wouldn’t be able to keep up the motivation throughout because they aren’t the subjects I enjoy the most. Therefore, I found it really useful to order my subjects from favourite to least favourite, then decide on the order of my revision from that.

Take a break. When you’ve worked with no distractions, you deserve a break. Get up from your seat, go outside, exercise, chat to friends or family; try and take your mind off your work for a while and you will go back feeling refreshed. I liked to watch an episode of Brooklyn nine-nine in between revision sessions!

Talk to your teachers. For the humanities subjects, essays make up the majority of the paper. If your teacher offers revision sessions, be sure to make use of them, and ask them if you could go through/give them some essays to mark outside of school work. Hopefully, they should be keen to mark your work to help you secure those top grades!

Quizlet is your best friend. Chances are, you’re already using Quizlet, but if you aren’t, it is an amazing resource that will come in especially handy if you are taking languages. If you are short on time, and cannot create a set from scratch, there will probably be someone else’s set on there that you can use that covers your topics (but if you can, make your own so you can be sure that everything you want is on there, and the process of making them will help you learn).

Online resources. If there are some subjects that you really want to go over or if the content just isn’t sinking in, try YouTube. My favourites were Mr. Bruff for English and Malmesbury Science for science practicals (also has videos for A-Level).

Don’t lose hope. If you didn’t do as well as you would have liked to in your mock exams, use it as a learning experience; it will be of much more value to learn something from an exam that went badly than to ace an exam and lose momentum in your revision. Personally, my result in my Biology mocks prompted me to put the work in by doing practice questions on every topic. Eventually, I managed to grow my grade by 3 grades!

Before your results

Please don’t compare your GCSEs to your classmates or friends. Everyone has their own circumstances, journey and strengths outside school, and those with the highest grades will not necessarily be the most successful. As you go your separate ways after prom, whether you are taking A-Levels, BTECs, other technical qualifications or an apprenticeship, people will remember you for not how many As or A*s you have, but your personality, interests and attitude towards others.

Try your best – I’m rooting for all of you! If you need any more advice, please don’t hesitate to DM me on my Instagram, @alyssamaereads.

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Turtles All the Way Down by John Green – Book Review

In John Green’s latest novel, Aza is faced with a dilemma when the billionaire father of a childhood friend becomes a fugitive. When her best friend Daisy hears about the $100,000 reward for information leading to his arrest, the pair begin to look into anything that may lead them to his whereabouts. However, through the investigation, Aza becomes much closer to the fugitive’s son and childhood friend, Davis Pickett. Being a supportive friend to Daisy, a good student and investigating the case is a lot, but Aza must also learn how to cope with thought-spirals and intrusive thoughts caused by her anxiety and OCD. 

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Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – Book Review

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After meeting online, Simon Spier has been in contact with the elusive Blue over email, sharing their experiences of coming out with one another. It’s not long before the pair are really close, sharing secrets that they wouldn’t even tell their best friends. What’s more, not only do Blue and Simon go to the same school, but they are in the same year – as Simon begins to fall for Blue, he wants to know Blue’s real identity…

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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han – Book Review

To All the Boys I've Loved Before.jpg

To allow her to express her feelings, Lara Jean decided to write 5 letters to all the boys she has had a crush on in the past. Of course, these letters were never meant to be sent. Until one day, when they mysteriously find their way out of her special hiding space, and all of a sudden, her next door neighbour and her sister’s boyfriend, Josh Sanderson, and the popular loved-by-everyone Peter Kavinsky, among others, know the intense feelings she once had for them. Now she must face the boys who once meant so much to her as she begins to realise that some still do…

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One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus – Book Review

One of Us is Lying

Monday afternoon, detention. Four completely different students – Yale hopeful Bronwyn, sports ace Cooper, homecoming princess Addy, Nate, who always seems to be in trouble for something, and Simon, an outsider who maintains a gossip app. This is not the usual, uneventful detention – only four students walk out alive. It isn’t long before fingers are pointed at Addy, Nate, Cooper and Bronwyn. They decide to work between themselves to solve the case, revealing a lot of secrets in the process…

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My 2018 Summer Break Rom-Com Rundown

As I’ve probably mentioned before, last summer I took my GCSEs, the culmination of two years of hard work and pain. This also meant that I had a really long summer break, and a lot of time on my hands – probably too much time, if I’m honest. Instead of spending most of my time preparing for my A-levels, (well, I spent some of my time working…) I decided to delve into Netflix’s wide array of Teen Rom-Coms. Now that I’m back at school, I’m turning my attention to my A-levels, so I thought I’d share my thoughts with you.

The 3 I watched have two key things in common; they have very similar storylines (intelligent/slightly awkward girl with a quirky/overenthusiastic best friend who overcomes the obstacles set by a mean “popular” girl to be with a hot “jock” boy), and like most teen Rom-Coms, are set in American high schools. As a British teen, I have no experience of what these schools are like – are they very different from the films? Are they that cliquey? Let me know in the comments!

I have rated each out of 5 for two categories: Realistic to Teen Struggles (RTS) and Feel-Good Factor (FGF). The first is about how well they represent some of the issues that teens face when growing up, and the second is about if they lifted my mood and gave me a positive feeling.

  1. The Kissing Booth

Based on a book by Beth Reekles

The Kissing Booth

Elle (Joey King) and Lee (Joel Courtney) have been best friends for as long as they can remember, but with this long-term friendship there are rules – one of them being that the other’s relatives are off limits. When they decide to run a Kissing Booth at the School Carnival, things start to get difficult when Elle is paired with her long-term crush, Noah (Jacob Elordi) , who also happens to be Lee’s brother. Will she break their agreement, or stay loyal to her best friend?

I really like the friendship between Lee and Elle – they had such a caring relationship at the beginning of the film. However, I did have a few issues with the film. Noah consistently got into fights and was controlling of Elle’s romantic life, which he had no business meddling with, and Elle agreed to go out on a date with a guy that harassed her. The behaviour of the guys in the film let it down for me, but I did find Elle’s character to be sweet and likeable.

RTS: 2/5 FGF: 3/5

2. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Based on a book by Jenny Han

To_All_the_Boys_I've_Loved_Before_poster

Lara Jean (Lana Condor) decided to write five letters to all the boys that she has had a crush on – a way to express her emotions. Of course, these letters were never meant to be sent. Until one day, when they mysteriously find their way out of her special hiding place, and all of a sudden her next door neighbour and her sister’s boyfriend, Josh Sanderson (Israel Broussard) , and the popular loved-by-everyone Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo), among others, know the intense feelings she once had for them.

This was my favourite of the bunch – it’s about time that a teen rom-com has an East-Asian lead. I loved the sister friendship and support in Lara Jean’s family – I really appreciate seeing teenage girls supporting one another. I think that Lara Jeans is a very relatable character, especially for me – her character was not a cliche.  Another highlight of this novel is Peter Kavinsky – not simply for his good looks, but for how well he treats and respects Lara Jean, which I think is really important in teen movies, especially as they are watched by so many. The post-credit scene made me want a prequel, so I’m reading the books at the moment so I can find out before it’s released (review coming soon!)

RTS: 4.5/5 FGF: 4.5/5

3. Sierra Burgess is a Loser

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When jock Jamey (Noah Centineo) asks for Veronica’s phone number, it’s not hers he gets – it’s that of Stanford Hopeful Sierra (Shannon Purser). They then decide to work together to win over Jamey, without him knowing that Sierra is writing the texts, not Veronica…

Sierra Burgess is a Loser also stars the charming Noah Centineo as Jamey. I really respect the show for the way they handled body positivity – the unrealistic beauty standard teenagers face is mentioned, but Sierra is confident within herself, and most importantly, shows signs of accepting herself for who she is. However, there are some negatives that I think are worth mentioning. Firstly, and this may be an unpopular opinion, but I don’t think Sierra deserved Jamey. She basically catfished him about her identity, even though she had many opportunities to back out. That’s not how I would have treated Jamey, is all I’m saying. The story did however end nicely, and all was resolved.

RTS: 4/5 FGF: 2/5

Overall, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before came out on top – It was a feel-good movie, one you can curl up and watch on an autumnal day. It doesn’t really follow the book, with many of the scenes in a different order, but I think it works really well, with the personalities of Lara Jean and Peter really coming across.

If you decide to watch any of these, please let me know! If you want to keep up with all things Fiction For Teens, then please don’t forget to check out my Instagram here  and my twitter here!

Release by Patrick Ness – book review

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Release is one day in the life of seventeen-year-old Adam, a gay teen with a homophobic preacher father from Washington. It’s a big day for him, with heartbreak, love, secrets being told, relationships breaking down; Adam will learn a lot from today…

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