Monday, 19 May 2014

Taking GCSE's and A levels

I know from some of the posts I have seen floating around and from some rants on Twitter that the time is coming up for many bloggers when they do their final GCSE and A level exams. It's this time of year that I reminise about my time when I did these qualifications. It's so weird to think that this time last year I was doing my A levels, stressing in copious amounts and of course, the frightening thought that I had no idea where I would be in 4 months time in September. It's even weird to think that three years ago I was doing my GCSE's, revising like it was the most important thing in the world, like the whole world would blow up if I didn't.

I thought it would help those stressing and perhaps panicking at the moment to hear from someone whose gone through all that. I know I needed someone just to reassure me it would be fine last year.

GCSE's are tough, I agree and it annoys me a lot when I see middle aged men in the Government saying GCSE's are easy and need to be toughened up. Probably if I did my GCSE's all over again now, I would find them easy but we have to remember I'm currently at university, of course I would.
The best thing I can say about GCSE's is that although they seem and ARE important now, by the time you get to college and focus on A levels, they won't be. I got 3 A*'s and 9 A's in my GCSE's which I am immensely happy about, but, honestly, no-one asks me about my GCSE's now. GCSE's are considered easy in the sense that really there is no analysis or depth as it's all about showing and identifying things be it a certain type of language in a novel, or a certain aspect of a plant cell. As long as you do that, you'll be fine.

It's when you get to A level, it's more difficult. The step from GCSE to A level is massive and I found myself struggling a lot in the first few months on college especially as I had some less than brilliant teachers. There is another slight jump from first year of A level to second year but it all slows back down when going onto university I think.
It's at A level that the difference between this level and GCSE's is clear. A level is about analysing and interpreting things rather than stating it. Whether that's analysing the effect of a character to a novel or bringing your own Marxist interpretation to the events of the War of the Roses, as long as you continue to do that, it's answering the question.

A levels are important also and even though I put myself under so much pressure last year to the point of nearly having a breakdown, it was worth it in the end. I wasn't entirely happy with my A levels in fairness but I did what I could under the conditions and under the dreadful college I was attending. It got me into university, the university I really wanted to go to, and that's the main thing.
A levels are hard. They really are and I certainly don't miss them at all now. But I think as long as you learn the different techniques for each subject, A levels should fly by.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

#NewToMeMay Reading Challenge

Although May has already crept into its fourth day (how is it May already?!), this is the challenge I am joining in with. A good blogging friend of mine, Clover at Fluttering Butterflies, decided to create this challenge.

#NewToMeMay is about reading books by authors you've not read previously. As May for me consists of mostly assignments, revision and exams, I thought this might be fun to motivate me to read a little bit this month even though the number of books being read WILL be small. I'm thinking probably like 2 or 3, if I'm lucky.

So here is a list of books I have on my to-read list - let me know what you recommend me to read!

Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore - Robin Sloan (currently reading!)
Tease - Amanda Maciel
Don't Even Think About It - Sarah Mlynowski
The Moment Before - Suzy Vitello
Longbourn - Jo Baker
And We Stay - Jenny Hubbard
These Broken Stars - Annie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
How A Song Can Save Your Life - Leila Sales
It's Kind of a Funny Story - Ned Vizzini
A Face Like Glass - Frances Hardinge
I Capture the Castle - Dodie Smith
Howl's Moving Castle - Dianne Wynne Jones

Friday, 2 May 2014

Acid - Emma Pass

*I wrote this review a long time after reading the book entirely from memory (not the best idea) so this review may be vague and not brilliant.

Source: Netgalley
Pages: 431
Publisher: Corgi Children's

Synopsis: The year is 2113. In Jenna Strong's world, the government has fallen and the elite police force, ACID, rule the country. They have a huge hold of the country, nothing goes unnoticed or unpunished. It is ACID that put Jenna in prison for life for killing her parents, something she struggles to remember. However, a rebellous group break her out of prison and she has to use all she has learnt to uncover the truth behind her parents her deaths.

Review: Emma Pass' debut ACID has been something that was talked about on the blogosphere for a while at the moment particularly for British bloggers. So I guess I'm a little late to the party. I'm not sure why I suddenly decided to read this. I guess I needed a good dose of dystopian and when I saw this book in my local library, it seemed like a good time to read it.

A lot of dystopians now come in the form of trilogies (*cough* Divergent, The Hunger Games *cough*) but most of all, they nearly always 100% come from America. So when I see a British author writing dystopian...well, it's just so nice to see. So I was expecting quite a lot from ACID especially since a lot of bloggers I know have recommended this book to me.

And wow, this book performed. I loved Jenna to pieces, particularly her feistiness and attitude that brought to much to her character. She is clever and determined, which although there are a lot of dystopian heroines like her, she is one that stands out above the rest, I'm not entirely sure why. I guess it's her fearlessness, her strength and just her determination. She's a strong character both physically and emotionally.

The world is one that it entirely unique and brilliantly created with the whole idea of Big Brother looming over the writing and the events that happen within the book. I liked how the reader is allowed to get more absorbed in the world through letters and reports dispersed between chapters - it made me get into the book and try and predict what would happen.
The book is certainly action-packed and reminded me a lot of an English version of Divergent and a little bit like The Declaration series by Gemma Malley. I liked the big action bits that would then be interspersed with quieter, emotional moments that almost hint at something else big about to happen. There is a serious political element to the plot which I saw some relations to the current situation, making the world and plot more real.

This was a brilliant, absorbing book to read that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I love that it was set in the UK and it is just so refreshing to see a UK author being something different to the world of dystopia. I'm looking forward to reading The Fearless, Pass' next book. ACID is action packed with a strong, female lead that raises questions about society in such an engaging, superb way. Emma Pass is definitely one to look out for in the future.

I give it a 5 out of 5

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher to allowing me to review this book!