The Cruel Prince by Holly Black – Book Review

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Seven-year-old Jude led a normal life, until one day, unannounced, the mysterious Madoc appears at her doorstep. Her life changes in an instant, as Madoc brutally murders her parents and kidnaps Jude and her sisters to live with him amongst the High Fae in Elfhame, a magical and unfamiliar land populated by Faeries. Immortal, beautiful and incapable of lying, they see Jude and her twin, Taryn, as weak and inferior, and don’t let them forget it through unrelenting bullying and exploitation.

At age seventeen, Jude desperately wants to fit in, fight alongside them, and to be equals, but the youngest prince, Cardan, will seemingly stop at nothing to make sure that these things don’t happen. When she sees that there is more to the High Court than meets the eye, she becomes embroiled in the conspiracies, betrayal and espionage that cuts below the surface of faerie politics. Determined and incisive, Jude must make sacrifices to protect the world she has been thrust into, her family, and Elfhame.

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With The Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo – Book Review

Aspiring chef Emoni has a lot on her plate – work, looking after her young daughter, and school. Juggling all of this is tough, but when she is in the kitchen, her mind is transported somewhere else as she unleashes her creativity on dishes drawn from her Puerto Rican roots, following her gut to make mouth-watering food full of flavour. When the opportunity to take a Culinary Arts class in school arises, Emoni can’t wait to get involved and see if she has what it takes to take her passion professional, but life seems to keep getting in the way of her dreams. She’s going to have turn her fire on high if she’s going to do her talent justice and show everyone what she can really do, regardless of the obstacles that the world throws at her.

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And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness – Book Review

Update: The recent Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death have prompted increased learning and listening for people around the globe, myself included. I cannot over-emphasise the power of literature to educate yourself on racism and white privilege, so here’s a really good list of books: https://bookshop.org/lists/antiracist-reading-recs . I’ve got a long list of books that I’d like to read, and I’m looking forward to sharing them on the blog soon in a dedicated post.

And The Ocean Was Our Sky is a retelling of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (The Whale), but with a flipped perspective: this time it’s from the point of view of a whale, Bathsheba. Her hunting pod of whales, led by the inimitable Captain Alexandra, is obsessed with getting revenge on the human hunting vessels that sail above them; the relentless war is between two species constantly seeking vengeance for the crimes committed against one another. The man the whales seek the most is Toby Wick, and they’ll go to great lengths to find him. As the hunt progresses, Bathsheba begins to question whether its worth sacrificing everything for this conflict.

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Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart – Book Review

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Jule isn’t your typical protagonist. Comfortable with lying and cheating her way through life, she’s definitely not someone you’d want to be opposite in a fight. She meets social butterfly Imogen, and the unlikely duo instantly strike up an intense friendship. Before long, Jule is ingratiating herself with the social circles that Imogen is a part of and weaving her web of lies as she meets more people and must maintain the façade that she has created. Jule is a Genuine Fraud. You can’t get away with that forever, surely?

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The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – Book Review

Charlie is used to being on the periphery of the social lives of his cohort, observing, without fully engaging, all of the drama, parties and relationships that come with the teenage experience. The move from Middle School to High School offers an opportunity for change for Charlie, making friends with some older students who show him what it is like to “participate” – going to parties, meeting new people, and living life to the full. It’s not plain sailing though – hidden to the outside world, Charlie struggles with family relationships, and the all-encompassing guilt he feels over the death of a close relative. Conscious to shake off his wallflower moniker, Charlie tries to live in the moment and change his perspective on life.

King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard – Book Review

Warning: spoilers if you haven’t read the first two books in the series!

In Aveyard’s penultimate instalment of the Red Queen series, we once again join Mare, Cal and the Red Guard on her fight against the oppressive system in the Kingdom of Norta. After the events of Glass Sword, Mare is confined to Maven’s palace as a puppet, her once strong, fear-inducing powers now reduced to nothing. As the rebellion continues without her, Mare must watch from the sidelines. Cal, on the other hand, the exiled prince, will stop at little to get her back…

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Heading into the GCSE exam period – what I wish I had known this time last year

The time is almost here for GCSE students to take the exams they have been working so long for; it’s an opportunity to show the hard work that they’ve been putting in to learning the new, tough GCSE syllabus introduced for most of the GCSE exams last year. I took my GCSEs last year, so the experience and process is fresh in my mind! Here is a brief list of some things which I wish I’d known before I had gone into the exam period.

  1. Mindset is key. However much revision you have done, having a positive mindset is so important. So many times, I have heard “I’m going to fail, I know nothing”. Try and say to yourself “I am going to try my very best in this exam, answer as many questions as I can and show the examiner my best”. This will help you to mentally prepare before the exam. As you are preparing to go into the exam hall, try and think about this, instead of running through any last-minute knowledge.
  2. Focus on yourself. Some people will be flexing their knowledge before the exam, others may claim that they are doing no revision (not always true). Exam period is one time when you can focus on yourself. These kinds of people will just take you off-track, and distract you from what is truly important. If the environment in a form room or canteen between exams is stressing you out, take a breath of fresh air or head to the library.
  3. Extract yourself from social media. I decided to delete Snapchat and Instagram through the exam period, as I felt like I may be tempted to scroll through photos when I should be either revising or having some time off. I found that I didn’t miss it too much, and I didn’t distract myself with what other people were doing, or feel intimidated by seeing people’s photos of their revision. I did like to check twitter from time to time to see the latest GCSE memes, which kept me going through the exam period!
  4. Don’t dwell on what went wrong. If an exam doesn’t go exactly as planned, then try not to spend too long worrying about it – If you found the exam difficult, then chances are, you are not the only one, and the grade boundaries will reflect this. It’s best that you try and focus on what’s coming up next, and how you can prepare yourself for that.
  5. Be organised. Try to make sure you have every piece of equipment you need (especially for Maths exams). Arrive for your exams around 10-15 minutes before they start, to help you to get into the right mindset, and to be able to calm yourself.

I wish everyone taking their GCSEs the best of luck!

Alyssa x

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard – Book Review

In Aveyard’s second instalment of her fantasy series Red Queen, we return to the Kingdom of Norta. After the events of Red Queen, Mare, Kilorn and Cal are on the run from the evil and wicked King Maven. As a Newblood, Mare has Red blood (the colour of common people in Norta) but also the superhuman powers of the elite Silvers. With a list of the others who share her Newblood status in hand, Mare embarks on a mission finding and recruiting these individuals to the rebel organisation, the Scarlet Guard.

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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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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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