Books I’ve read for school (and what I think of them)

I am currently in my first year of A-Level English Language and literature. For those of you unfamiliar with the British schooling system, A Levels are two year courses with exams at the end in the last two years of school. You generally turn 17 in the first year (Y12) and 18 in the second year (Y13) before going onto university.

Needless to say, I have read quite a few books in english over the years, as well as some for classical civilisation A Level which I am also currently doing. I do not remember every book I have done in class since I was 4 years old, and instead of looking things up or reminding myself what these books are about, I’m just going to state as many as I can remember and give a sentence or two on what I can remember. This post does contain spoilers, but not for any books released recently. In fact I don’t think there’s anything after the year 2000, which is kind of crazy. Without further ado, let’s begin.

A Level Texts

The Whitmore Weddings by Philip Larkin

The Whitmore Weddings by Philip Larkin are a collection of poems with themes such as disillusionment, looking back on your youth and bleakness. While I enjoy studying poetry and I appreciate the poetic devices Larkin employs, I often find the subjects of his poems quite tedious or repetitive.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby is a story about a guy called Nick and the various rich and poor people he meets over a summer in New York in about the 1920s. There’s lots of rich people behaving badly and a mystery around who Gatsby actually is. I had a love-hate relationship with Nick, I liked his insights at some point and he isn’t a bad guy but I often found him hypocritical, passive or plain irritating.

The Bacchae by Euripides (English Translation)

I think The Bacchae is great. I’m quite biased, since I adore Ancient Greece and Greek mythology but it’s pretty awesome. The play follows Dionysus as he comes to the birthplace of his mother and punishes his family, particularly his cousin Pentheus, for not believing that he is a god. It is tragic but it’s also just really cool. I do love a good Bacchic ritual.

Oedipus the King by Sophocles (English Translation)

Oedipus the King is a play follows the story of Oedipus as he sets out to save his city from a plague by finding the murderer of the previous King. This story was a whole lot of wild, and I found Creon’s character in this play quite difficult to reconcile with the Creon I knew from Antigone. The ending is quite gruesome and mildly horrifying, but the story is never boring. I liked Oedipus and his wife’s marriage before… you know.

Frogs by Aristophanes (English Translation)

Frogs is an Ancient Greek comedy play and it’s not only quite funny but also incredibly random and very interesting, especially with all the references to contemporary events of the time. I’m not a fan of scatological humour like the Ancient Greeks (look it up) but Frogs is still great fun.

The Odyssey by Homer (English Translation)

The Odyssey is my favourite text I have studied so far in Classics. It’s pretty famous, but if you don’t know it follows the story of a hero called Odysseus as he attempts to return home after the war at Troy. I adore all the greek mythology contained in it, I love the story it tells and the refrains and the characters. Homer is truly an epic poet.

GCSE Texts

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

The Woman in Black was my favourite of my GCSE texts, even after 3 years of studying it I still really enjoy it. It follows the story of Arthur Kipps as he recounts the events that traumatised him in his youth when he goes out to an isolated house in order to sort the accounts. It’s such a good traditional ghost story and even though I normally hate horror, the actual story is excellent.

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Macbeth is another famous one. The play follows the story of Macbeth, who becomes the king of Scotland. There’s lots of questionable decisions and questionable morals. I really liked Lady Macbeth, who just does whatever she wants really and is very ambitious. Also the witches are great, just randomly appearing and messing things up. Considering the themes in Macbeth actually makes it better, especially the question of fate vs free will.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre. Not a fan of this one, I’m afraid. I know lots of people do like it, and the setting descriptions and plot are interesting, but once Rochester got involved I just went nope. Rochester is fifty shades of creepy and I wish Jane had ditched him. I liked all the different settings, especially Lowood, but I found Jane too passive as a narrator at times and as I said before, Rochester and Jane together makes me shudder.

Y7- Y9 Texts

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

At this point the texts are more distant in my memory, so these reviews are about to get vague. From what I can remember, this is a story about a horse and this boy. I think it’s the horse we follow but I honestly cannot remember. I’m pretty sure it was a good book though, despite my dislike of war. What I can remember is our school trip to see War Horse in the theatre. That was incredible, I highly recommend it.

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

I don’t really remember much about studying this play, but I know the basic plot. There’s a storm and a ship is wrecked. Twins called Viola and Sebastian (I think) get washed up separately. Viola pretends to be her brother in order to get by. Viola ends up working for a lovesick Duke, and the lady he is in love with falls in love with Viola disguised as a boy. Not sure what Sebastian is doing all this time, but then he turns up and the lady thinks Sebastian is Viola and they end up together and Viola and the Duke end up together. It’s a cool story, and I like the movie based on it called She’s the Man.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

This play has several plots. The one of four lovers who are in a tangle. An argument between the fairy king and queen. A bunch of actors preparing for a play. The all end up bumping into each other at various points. It’s a good story and quite fun to act out. I think at one point in class we had to rewrite parts into modern settings and someone did a gangster version. That was funny.

The Tempest by William Shakespeare

My memories of this play are very, very vague. There’s a magician who lives on an island with his daughter, a sprite and a green guy? Some people get washed up and the daughter falls in love with someone? No idea what the actual plot is. Obviously I wasn’t impressed, though, or I would probably have more of an idea about this one.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein is about a scientist who puts together a corpse out of random body parts then animates it with lightning. The creature then harasses him, and the scientist is very morally questionable. Some people might or might not die. This is quite a dark tale, as well as being quite sad. Sympathy is definitely for the monster, not Frankenstein himself.

Primary School Texts

Coming to England by Floella Benjamin

It’s definitely been a while and these are the only two texts I remember reading at primary school. I know we read others as a class, but I can’t for the life of me remember what they are. Coming to England has stuck in my memory, and even now I can remember scenes from the book clearly. The joy of Floella’s life in Trinidad, and the horrible racism she experienced in England as her parents worked their hardest to give Floella and her siblings a good life. It’s a really good book, and I recommend reading it whatever your age is.

The Wreck of Zanzibar by Michael Morpurgo

I honestly have no idea what happens in this book or what I thought of it. I just remembered the word Zanzibar.

And that concludes my mini review of all the books I’ve read at school and can remember! What books did you read at school? What did you think of them? Comment below or tell me on twitter, I think it’s fascinating how everyone studies different things.

The Chalk Pit Review

The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths

I cannot believe that this is the ninth book in the Ruth Galloway series I have read! It feels like just yesterday that Ruth was a happily single woman just focused on archaeology at the university. Oh, how times have changed. And yet some things stay the same, and these books have a kind of comfortable rhythm in them so I simultaneously have no idea what is going to happen but feel safe enough with this world that I can slip right back in every time I read a new book. This is one of my favourite series and I am always excited to return.

The Blurb:

Boiled human bones have been found in Norwich’s web of underground tunnels. When Dr Ruth Galloway discovers they are recent – the boiling not the medieval curiosity she thought – DCI Nelson has a murder enquiry on his hands.

Meanwhile, DS Judy Johnson is investigating the disappearance of a local rough sleeper. The only trace of her is the rumour that she’s gone ‘underground’. This might be a figure of speech, but with the discovery of the bones and the rumours both Ruth and the police have heard of a vast network of old chalk-mining tunnels under King’s Lynn, home to a vast community of rough sleepers, the clues point in only one direction. Local academic Martin Kellerman knows all about the tunnels and their history – but can his assertions of cannibalism and ritual killing possibly be true?

As the weather gets hotter, tensions rise. A local woman goes missing and the police are under attack. Ruth and Nelson must unravel the dark secrets of The Underground and discover just what gruesome secrets lurk at its heart – before it claims another victim.

As I was expecting the book started off slowly, but with a few murders to keep you on your toes. With some books a slow start means boring but it never is with Elly Griffiths, it just means it’s intriguing and laying the foundations for the fast paced tension ahead. When the connections begin between all the different, seemingly unrelated areas of the plot I get a little thrill, link after link being revealed yet not coming together to produce a coherent picture then the story picks up and the crimes become more frequent until BAM you reach the climax and I’m so tense I am physically attached to the book.

With subtle humour and more plot twists than I can count I am slowly absorbed into the lives of the characters, yet the domesticity slips away and I end up on the edge of my seat every time. Brilliant. Elly Griffiths truly manages to cover everything in her books, from racism and religion to childcare and Alice in Wonderland. The recurring but not main characters get developed over the years without too much focus taken away from main story, and Griffiths knows the exact moment to switch to the other point of view to keep me on edge and desperate to know what happens in both situations.

If you can’t tell from this review, I love the Ruth Galloway series and I will be reading the next one as soon as I can get my hands on it. Would I survive? In the story I would as long as I was careful, although if I get one more dramatic twist in real life my heart may give out.

This Lie Will Kill You Review

This Lie Will Kill You by Chelsea Pitcher

Slightly confusingly, I am posting this review before the review of All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban, despite reading it after. I mention this because my first thought when seeing the premise was that it seemed like the one for All Your Twisted Secrets- a mixture of students invited to a location to get some prize money. I was wrong. The books had two similarities- the one just mentioned, and that they were both awesome. Apart from that, they went in different directions with different styles.

This Lie Will Kill You follows a bunch of students who are invited to a mysterious mansion for a murder mystery game, the prize being $50,000. It starts with a thrilling prologue, mysteriously introducing the antagonist. The first few chapters are labelled with the role of the character it is following- class act, drama queen, golden boy, meat head and lone wolf. The multiple character, third person perspective continues throughout the book, allowing the reader insight into the drama happening simultaneously throughout the large mansion. Throughout, there are lots of references to an event that happened at a party the year earlier which all the characters were somehow involved him. Clues are dropped at various points, leaving the reader increasingly curious and trying and piece together what happened.

The atmosphere is consistently tense, as well as being very intense. The story swallowed me up and left me willing to kill to know what happened. Even the memories the characters reflect on from the past are mysterious, only providing small bits of context and explanation at a time. The ending was a total surprise, with so many twists. Every time you thought you had resolved something, another layer of the web was revealed. Would I survive this book? Probably, because I don’t go to parties so wouldn’t have gone to the one the year before.

All Your Twisted Secrets Review

All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban

I’ll start by saying I was very kindly gifted and advance copy of this by Harper Teen, so thank you! I’m on a bit of a YA crime streak at the moment- I recently read two Karen M. McManus books, and my next book to read is This Lie Will Kill You. I never think of this as one of my favourite genres, but after all these I think I may reconsider because I’ve really enjoyed them. All Your Twisted Secrets will be released in two days, on the 17th March 2020.

All Your Twisted Secrets is Diana Urban’s debut novel, and honestly I can’t wait for her next one. It follows the queen bee, star athlete, valedictorian, stoner, loser and music geek after they are invited to a scholarship dinner, then locked in there. They are given a choice- poison someone or a bomb will kill them all. They have one hour.

The main viewpoint followed is that of the music geek, Amber Prescott. Diana quickly and smoothly establishes the setting and characters without it being obvious or clunky. There are two different storylines followed, the present in the scholarship dinner and the past. The present stretches over the course of an hour, while the past follows the events over the course of about a year. The characters are all linked in different ways, some obvious and some less so, and all the characters are well rounded and interesting, especially the ways in which they change under pressure. All the characters are around my age, 17, which was a bit strange because a lot of their drama and secrets could never happen to me. Nonetheless, I was engaged throughout and could hardly put it down.

The setting of this novel was perfect. An empty restaurant, the locked room, the elaborate dining setup and the rising temperature of the room. As the heat increases so do tensions, with incredible sensory descriptions to immerse the reader in the situation. The drama which unfolds is a mix of secrets being revealed and the consequences of the students’ actions as they desperately try to escape the room. Alliances are made and broken all in the space of an hour, under the watching eye of a ticking bomb.

The ending was perfection. I loved it. Despite all the twists and turns, I never saw this one coming. Oh My Goodness. Would I survive this book? That would be spoilers.

Two Can Keep a Secret Review

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

This is the third of Karen McManus’ books I’ve read so far, and definitely my favourite. It had darker undertones and a tenser atmosphere than the other books, which I loved. It follows twins called Ellery and Ezra as they move to Echo Ridge, where two homecoming disappeared in the past and one was found dead, including the twins’ aunt. When they arrive strange things start happening, graffiti threatening to take another homecoming queen and anonymous threats. Ellery is true crime obsessed after her mom’s twin sister disappeared and her mom refuses to talk about it, while Ezra is more friendly and trusting.
There are two viewpoints followed, Ellery and the younger brother of a main suspect in one of the previous disappearances. Because of the small-town nature of echo ridge, the community is very interconnected and Ellery quickly begins trying to unravel the web of secrets that surrounds it. The plot twists start early and keep on coming, shocking me every single time. I probably should have seen some coming but I was so absorbed in the story that I didn’t put the book down long enough to come up with theories!
The book is brilliantly plotted with an array of individual characters, and a great climax followed by an incredibly satisfying ending. Even if you didn’t enjoy the other books so much, I definitely recommend trying this one, because it does have a slightly different feel. My one gripe is that there was a character called Chad. Why is there always a character called Chad in YA books?
Would I survive this book? Yep, I’m not cool enough to be a homecoming queen.

February 2020 Round-Up

So here we are again. The end of a month, where I round up my favourite books of the month/ scream into the void hoping it will choose the books for me. Since it is a leap year so February has an extra day, and also because I can do whatever I like on my blog, I am going to give my favourite book from this month, followed by a few more which were awesome

THE WINNER – QUEEN OF NOTHING BY HOLLY BLACK

Let me have everything I ever wanted, everything I ever dreamed, and eternal misery along with it. Let me live on with an ice shard through my heart.

Holly Black, Queen of Nothing

What I liked about it: everything. Jude. Cardan. Faeries. Humour and beauty. Plot twists galore. AN epic conclusion to this trilogy.

What I didn’t like about it: it’s the end of the series 😥

My favourite character: Jude all the wayyyyyyyy. She’s so badass and powerful and unashamed of wanting power.

Position in series: 3/3

Genres: young adult, fantasy, romance

THE OTHERS THAT I LOVED

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

What I liked about it: murder. It is set near where I live. Andie just straight up ignoring everyone who tells her what to do. The tension. The mixture of formats including transcripts and case notes.

What I didn’t like about it: I did not know there’s meant to be a sequel released this year. Also, the sequel hasn’t been released yet, which is very upsetting.

My favourite character: Andie. She just does what she wants but in a nice way.

Position in series: 1/3?

Genres: crime, young adult, contemporary, mystery, thriller

The Places I’ve Cried in Public by Holly Bourne

What I liked about it: the emotions. The contrast of past and present. More emotions. The slow unravelling of the story.

What I didn’t like about it: I have mentioned three authors on this page so far and they’re all called Holly. This is beyond confusing.

My favourite character: Amelie, my poor sweetheart.

Position in series: 1/1

Genres: contemporary, young adult, romance-ish

It’s Not OK to Feel Blue and Other Lies

What I liked about it: honest, diverse, emotional, easy to read because it’s made up of lots of short pieces.

What I didn’t like about it: Sometimes I got a bit confused because occasionally a sentence would be in massive letters to emphasise it. But that’s probably just me.

Genres: nonfiction, mental health

Pride, collected by Juno Dawson

What I liked about it: A range of genres, easy to read and lots of adorable LGBTQ+ relationships

What I didn’t like about it:  It wasn’t long enough

My favourite character: Can’t remember her name but the girl with the phoenix

Position in series: N/A

Genres: LGBTQ+, short stories, anthology, poetry

And so that concludes my February roundup! February has seemed a very, very long time, and I don’t think it’s just because of the extra day. With three family birthdays, a hospital appointment, college, half term, two new piercings, a couple of cinema trips, a museum trip, a talk from Mary Beard and 17 books read, I’m definitely ready for some rest and relaxation in March. Preferably with more reading time. I hope you’ve all had a good February, and I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder Review

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

I was super excited to read this book, and within a few pages I was ready to cancel the rest of activities in my day to finish it!

I’m going to have to start with the setting. I hadn’t known this beforehand, but Holly Jackson is a British writer and the book is set in one of the counties near me, so I knew a lot of the places and I don’t know why but that always excites me! There were several British aspects to it, including Pippa, the main character doing an EPQ in sixth form. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s an Extended Project Qualification (a project done on a chosen subject that helps with university applications.

Pippa does her EPQ on a murder that happened a few years ago in her town, since she doesn’t believe the boy who was blamed for Andie’s murder truly killed her. As she digs deeper into it, she teams up with the alleged murderer’s younger brother and uncovers layer upon layer of coverups and secrets.

The book is written in prose, as well as having transcripts and written logs from Pippa’s EPQ. I think this was an excellent choice because it allows insights into the conversations Pippa has with suspects and witnesses first-hand, as well as knowing Pippa’s private thought processes through her written logs. The tension is slowly ramped up, until I was really quite anxious! The plot is incredibly intricate and tangled, with each thrilling clue painting a different picture of what really happened with Andie’s murder. I was absolutely addicted to the ominous and dark atmosphere.

I really liked all the characters, especially Pippa who absolutely refuses to put up with prejudices, as well as refusing to stop her EPQ or agree with anyone. I especially liked that she is a high-achieving student and the whole murder mystery began with a school project and she isn’t shown as a boring, no fun nerd. All the characters were complicated, as is necessary with a mystery, and one of my favourite bits is that in the beginning Pippa’s friends are more surprised that she’s already started her EPQ than the subject of the murder, which is very relatable. My one grumble is that when one of Pippa’s friends goes through a breakup and simply sends a text saying SOS, they all rush over to her house with chocolate and face masks and things. That’s just not very realistic, at least in my experience?

In conclusion this is an incredible, tense murder investigation by a schoolgirl who isn’t supposed to be doing it, and I loved it. SO many twists. It was even better than I expected, and it had been pretty hyped up to me!