A Book for Every Subject (My Blog Meme)

Since I started blogging a few weeks ago, I have developed a serious love of book memes. By reading someone else's, you get loads of book recommendations at once, and there are SO MANY PRETTY BOOK COVERS!

Not that I'm overexcited, or anything.

Seeing as I adore book memes to this level already, I figured I'd start one of my own. It's based on the moods of various school subjects, but it doesn't matter if you're in school, college, homschool. . . Now, without further ado:

(A classic book you read to study - for school or research - but actually ended up loving.)

Animal Farm by George Orwell. I would never have picked this up if it wasn't on my English curriculum, but I ended up liking it a lot more than I thought I would have. My teacher was, admittedly, brilliant at presenting it, and I don't think it would stick in my memory as much without his input, but you should definitely give this a try. It's about a group of animals who overthrow their human farmers, founding a republic of equals. The only problem is that their pig representatives start to fancy themselves as leaders.

Although this book is most well-known for its parallels with communist Russia, I mostly enjoyed the characters, because other than Napoleon and Snowball (who you're not really meant to like), they were adorable. Boxer, the carthorse, was so hardworking I immediately wanted to kiss him to bits. You probably notice the characters more because it's a little less politically obvious than some of Orwell's other books, but I found the fact that each animal represents a real-life person fascinating. I'd definitely check out the Wikipedia page for more information (just do it after you've finished to avoid spoilers).

French / German / Italian etc.
(A book that just didn't quite speak your language.)

First things first, I by no means hated this book. It had really identifiable characters, and the plot was well-imagined, but I found it a bit generic. You know, a dystopian with a controlling society who want a girl to love one boy, but there's this rebel who she really likes. . .

I'm not saying that you shouldn't read this book. Cassia, the main character, was brilliant, and I liked some features of The Society. I'll read Crossed, the sequel, and keep you posted. Maybe there's a massive plot twist coming.

(A book that took you forever to finish.)

Honestly, I could've picked twenty books for this category. Anything above 400 pages, and I read slower with every chapter. I'll go with the book I'm reading at the moment, which is The Lost Hero: Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan. It's beyond a brick. That book could be used as insulation for a doll's house, and I can tell it's going to take me forever.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to love it though, purely because Piper McLean is awesome.

Religious Studies (R.S or R.E)
(A book that opened your eyes to another culture.)

Without doubt, that would be Kiss the Dust by Elizabeth Laird. It's about a family of Muslim refugees from Iran, and is told from the point of view of Tara, their thirteen-year-old daughter. Who I really wished could be my best friend by the end of it. Teenagerdom is hard enough without having to leave everything you've ever known behind.

I was surprised at how well the story was integrated with history and culture, and it didn't read like a textbook. This is a real book with real characters, and you're going to love it.

(A book world you wish you could escape to.)

I've chosen two books for this one because it feels like a cheat to mention Harry Potter and its awesomeness for every blog meme I do. The reasons I want to escape to Hogwarts are obvious (magic, boarding school and feasts, people) but I feel I should explain the Silver Spires series. They're about a group of girls who go to this amazing boarding school called Silver Spires. They're my guilty pleasure series, probably because I read them just before I would have been old enough to go there.

Yes. When I was smaller, I had a serious love of boarding schools. Still do, actually.

(A book so action-packed you were glued to the pages.)

The stakes in The Hunger Games are so high that it is impossible not to keep reading. I mean, forget cliffhangers. Katniss was fighting to the death and dealing with a confusing crush. Not to mention the dystopian government. She was falling into the figurative centre of the earth every other chapter.

Not that this book is over-hyped, I promise. I'm just very dramatic when it comes to describing books.

and finally . . . 

(Your favourite book cover. Did you like its contents or not?)

I love everything about this book cover. The tartan skirt, the ribbon on the diploma and the font of the title are just perfect. Not to mention that the Gallagher Girls series is hilarious and kick-butt. I mean, what would you expect from a girls' spy school?

Now go, my little bloglings! You're all tagged!
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A 5-Point Ode to Hermione Granger

(Spoilers, by the way.)

We all know who I'm talking about. The First Lady of brilliant characters, the cleverest, bossiest and most kick-ass make-believe person I've ever met. Of course, not everyone has to like her, but I think she's utterly brilliant for many, many reasons.

#1 - She isn't just smart, but she works for it.
Remember in Prisoner of Azkaban, when Hermione had taken all the third year electives, including Muggle Studies - despite being muggle-born herself? Not only did she bend time and space so she could get to extra classes, she didn't drop a single assignment or homework. When her Gryffindor friends were partying all night after they won the Quidditch World Cup, she buried herself in the corner to study. Without complaining. She worked herself into the ground to make the most of her talent, and even when her friends - and beating Voldemort - were more important than exam grades, she worked hard at those goals too.

#2 - She isn't afraid to stand up for what she believes in.
Those of you who read the books - remember S.P.E.W? I was outraged when they left this out of the films, because to me, Hermione's fearlessness in campaigning for house elf freedom was one of the most defining parts of her character. It's what made her a Gryffindor, not a Ravenclaw. I also loved the original reason she kissed Ron is Deathly Hallows, because he remembered the house elves without really trying to impress her. It was such a sweet moment for both of them.

#3 - She punched Draco Malfoy. In the face.
Need I say more? This was a cheer-out-loud, hug-the-stranger-sitting-next-to-you moment that I actually preferred in the films, because Tom Felton's performance was brilliant. As was Emma Watson's. I'm sure you've all seen the GIF.

But you were destined to see it again.

#4 - She's proud of being a Mudblood.
There's a scene in Deathly Hallows when Hermione calls herself a Mudblood. It's one of my favourite moments because Harry and Ron try to stop her, but she shouts them down. She's proud of her identity. The best part is that you know Hermione would have killed anyone else who said it, but she knew that she could - and should - adopt the word as her own. Her strongest moment was recognising the power of that insult, and not letting it get on top of her.

It showed me that words can only break your heart if you let them.

#5 - She was part of what made me who I am. The best part, I think.
Like it or not, Harry Potter was part of millions of people's childhoods. Hermione taught me to study hard and play even harder; she taught me how to love; she taught me to stand up for myself and my opinion. Share in the comments: if you're a fellow Hermione fan, what made you adore her as much as I do? If not, why not?

I want to thank J.K. Rowling for Hermione and her brilliance. Not to mention Emma Watson, who's the best possible actress to play her (and, I'm still convinced, in love with Rupert Grint).

Potterheads, show your support for The Brightest Witch of our Age.
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5 Great Love-Free Books

This post is inspired by my friend, who absolutely hates 'lovey stuff' in books. Even if they're not romance novels, she just can't stand it. I mean, relationships have their place in fiction, and we all love a good power couple, but sometimes it all gets too messy. Here are five brilliant books to read when you're fed up of all the complicated crushes and love triangles:

1 - A Study in Scarlet, Arthur Conan Doyle.

If you've seen the TV show Sherlock, the pilot episode is loosely based on this book - not that it contains any spoilers or anything. Expect a lot of deduction, banter and (as the cover suggests) the odd thrilling chase. The language can be a little old-fashioned, but it's a really intelligent whodunnit with characters that are nothing less than iconic. I love it!

2 - Matilda, Roald Dahl.

This is more middle grade than YA, but it's absolutely fantastic as a quick read or to ease you back into reading after a difficult book / long break. If you finished it when you were younger, I'd recommend a re-read at some point: it's funny, intelligent and, for many of us, filled with a lot of nostalgia. Plus, Matilda is one of the strongest characters I've ever experienced. How many other four-year-olds would plan elaborate tricks to punish their parents?

3 - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S Lewis

This is my all-time favourite fairytale story. It's actually the second book in the Chronicles of Narnia series, but was released first, so The Magician's Nephew is more of a prequel than anything else. It's great for a wide range of age groups because the four main characters (Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy) range in ages from eight to fourteen, and the fairytale world can be as child-like or deep as the reader's point of view. Plus, there's a talking lion. Need I say more?

4 - Stormbreaker, Anthony Horowitz.

Government spy agency - check. Hero with a tortured past - check. Dangerous situation in a breathtaking setting (not in the Mediterranean, sadly) - check. You'd be forgiven for thinking that this was a James Bond film, but no. Our hero is none other than fourteen-year-old Alex Rider, who has all the skills of Bond without the love part - at least, not in this book. The other instalments in the series do have romantic touches, but it's never a main part of the plot. If you love spies, gadgets and car chases, then this is for you.

5 -  Watership Down, Richard Adams.

It might sound a bit soppy, but I really loved this book. Yes, the main characters are rabbits, and it can take some slogging through, but there's so much emotion in it that I cried at the end, believe it or not. I also found it very eye-opening, because of the way it represented humans: there's really no better way to make a statement about how we live than with a novel!

So, before you dismiss this book as child's play, give it a second glance. You just might enjoy it as much - or more - than I did.

(If you need more love-free book recommendations, have a look at this article. There's also some great ideas on Goodreads. Have fun!)

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Let them have Books (or Cake)

Yay! My first book meme! I got tagged by Kate over at The Magic Violinist, who opened it up to her entire readership. If you haven't checked her blog out already, then you must.

A book that was a little slow to start off with, but really picked up as it went along.

Hmmm. I'm going to go with The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, although it didn't necessarily pick up as much as it ran away at breakneck pace the moment death had finished his prologue and Liesel took to the stage. I know some people struggled to get into this one - me included - but I made myself get through the philosophy and I'm so glad I did!

Just in case anyone's wondering, this book is about a young girl, Liesel, living in Germany in 1939, just at the start of the Nazi occupation. Things get ugly, especially when it comes to Rudy, her neighbour, and the Nazi ideals her foster family don't agree with, but she's also in love with books. Watching (sorry, reading) her steal them was one of the most bittersweet things I have ever done: I wanted her to succeed, but IT'S WRONG TO STEAL BOOKS! My inner bookworm had to be silenced a little so I could do the right thing and actually support Liesel . . .

There's also a quite recent film of this book that's supposed to be really good, but I haven't seen it yet.

A book with a rich, great plot.

The unfortunate thing about this book is that you really need to have read the rest of the Alex Rider series so that the marvellous twist at the end - there is one, that's all I'm saying - packs the intended punch. It twists and turns like a corkscrew, and I certainly couldn't have predicted the ending. An added bonus is that the premise is really interesting: in the rest of the series, Yassen Gregorovitch is one of many villains, a cold-blooded killer, but here, we get to read his story. After growing up in a small Russian village, Yassen's life changed forever. This is how he went from being a boy to a killer.

(While I'm here, I would like to point out that the Stormbreaker movie doesn't do the Alex Rider series justice. If you've didn't enjoy it and usually like action stuff, I'd still give the books a try. :-D)

A book you thought was going to be bad but actually turned out quite enjoyable.

It has to be I, Coriander by Sally Gardner. The main character is a girl named Coriander Hobie, who lives in London at the time when the King had been overthrown, and England was being ruled by the highly religious Oliver Cromwell. Coriander's problem is that her family don't fit the mould: her father was a high-profile supporter of King Charles II and her mother is a healer - some people believe her to be a witch. As the book goes on, Coriander realises that there might be some truth to that statement, and there are definitely more worlds than just our own. . . 

I only picked this book up because our English teacher told us to read something in a genre we wouldn't normally try, and I spent the entire first section telling most people I know that it was pretentious drivel. But that's unfair to the author. I actually enjoyed it, and although there were a couple of plot points that I would have changed, that's just my personal opinion. Coriander was a very well fleshed-out character, and the supernatural elements are quite well-done. My only warning is that it's definitely more Middle Grade than YA. Sure, Coriander grows up a bit towards the end, but her internal thoughts read younger, in my opinion. 

A sugary, sweet book.

Fun! My all-time favourite girly read is Star Crazy Me by Jean Ure. It's about Carmen, a feisty girl with a big singing voice, who finds her route to stardom (or the Year 8 talent show) blocked by Marigold Johnson and her cronies - body fascists who tease her mercilessly about the way she looks. I know it sounds really superficial when I describe it, but I promise you it's a lot better than most music-related books, and more grown-up, too. The characters are beautifully un-stereotypical, and you can probably finish it in under two hours, if you read at about my speed. Perfect!

A book that covers every single element you enjoy about a book (funny moments, action moments, sad moments, etc.).

I don't usually identify with teenage male protagonists, but An Abundance of Katherines by John Green was absolutely brilliant. Colin, a maths geek and child genius - sorry, prodigy - has a strange 'type' when it comes to girls. Every girl he has ever dated was called Katherine, with a K, and they've all dumped him. But when one crazy road trip gives Colin the idea for 'The Theorem', a formula which would allow him to predict the outcome of any relationship, he has to ask himself: does he want to rule his present using his future?

I loved Katherines because it just has . . . everything. Comedy, a down-on-his luck protagonist and good old boy meets girl romance (though not from the usual perspective) all team together to make a coming-of-age story that kicks some butt. I've heard some people online say they didn't like the anagrams and formulas, and if you don't like maths then you might not enjoy that part, but for me, those elements were funny and a definite plus. Don't give up on this just because of the numbers!

A book series you can kind of turn back to for a little pick-me-up when you're feeling down.

Yes, yes, I know it's predictable. I'm really sorry. But there's something about the Harry Potter series (by J.K Rowling, also known as the queen of everything) that makes it the perfect re-read for any situation. Are you in need of some laughs? Try Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Do you want to be scared? Prisoner of Askaban. I could go on, but the point is that there's a Harry Potter book for every emotion, from Philosopher's / Sorcerer's Stone to The Tales of Beedle the Bard. They are, and will always be, my own personal literary hug.

(If you haven't tried Harry Potter, then you've probably been living under a rock for a decade or two. Pull yourself out, and READ!)

The cherry on top
Your favourite book this year so far.

I found this one difficult to choose not because I had too much choice, but because, for some reason, I haven't read many books this year. However, as soon as I realised I hadn't picked The Jewel by Amy Ewing for any of the other categories, there was only one possible course of action. This is easily one of the best books I've ever read.

Violet Lasting has been raised all her life as a surrogate: a quirk in her genetic code means that she, a worthless girl from the poorest of her city's four circles, is vital to the royalty, who can't have children on their own. She's known this since she was twelve, but now it is time for her to be sold. Violet will never experience love or have a family of her own - unless she has anything to do with it. 

I can't do this book justice even with that paragraph-long summary, because Violet is amazing. Miss Ewing handled her protagonist's lack of knowledge in her surroundings really well, and although this could easily be just another YA dystopian, it's so much more than that. Although I usually enjoy a good love triangle, I'm so glad there wasn't one here - Ash and Violet's struggle was complicated enough without adding another person to the mix.

In short, this is a gorgeous, unique debut novel, and I can't wait for the sequel. If you want The Hunger Games crossed with Angel, then this is for you.

A little extra . . . Burnt Bits
A brilliant book that you managed to ruin for yourself. Like, seriously ruin. How did it happen?

Getting a book - or even worse, a series - ruined for yourself is the worst. Thing. Ever. It usually happens if a friend tells you the ending, or if you accidentally read a spoiler review on Amazon (those things seriously bug me) but what I did was even worse.

I read The Hunger Games and loved it, but then I accidentally read Mockingjay next. I was thoroughly confused, got through six chapters and managed to completely ruin Catching Fire for myself, then had to go back and read it so I would understand what happened next, knowing how it ended. That is one epic fail. ;-)

What about you? Because I don't know many people in the blogosphere, you're tagged! If you don't have a blog, then you can either ignore this; share your Burnt Bits (or a book you think would fit any other category) in the comments, or start one. It's really fun!

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The Essence of Being A Teenager

(I got the idea for this post here: https://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/2014/10/24/tcwt-november-2014-blog-chain/. I'm not officially part of the chain, because I found the website months after it had finished, but I thought I'd have some fun with it anyways.)

Being a teenager is hard.

But it could be a lot harder.

It's also crazy.

But don't we all need a little more crazy in our lives?

Sometimes we get treated like children.

But we also get to behave like them.

Sometimes we have to be grown-ups.

But it's more fun than you'd think.

Our friends mean far too much to us.

Which is pretty cool, if you think about it.

We don't even have a proper job yet.

So we still have time to decide what to do with our lives.

School can suck.

But only sometimes.

We're 'too old' to read children's fiction.

And adults' is maybe a little daunting.

But that's okay because YA is AMAZING!

Whatever you have to say about it, being a teenager is . . .

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