Book Reviews / Adolygiadau Llyfrau
The Fault in our Stars - John Green
The Fault in Our Stars Review by John Green
Diagnosed with Stage IV Thyroid Cancer at 13, Hazel has never been anything but terminal. Despite the tumour-shrinking medical miracle that has given her a few more years, her diagnosis inscribed in her final chapter. At sixteen years old- two years post miracle, she is suffering from the side effects of Cancer, finding herself spending her free time thinking about death. But, her story is about to be completely re-written. Forced by her parents to attend Cancer Kid Support Group when she would much rather be curled up watching an ANTM marathon, Hazel meets an exciting plot twist. Meet Augustus Waters: Gorgeous, in-remission and as a shock to Hazel, willingly interested in her. Always questioning life around him he makes Hazel re-think the life she is living and the choices she makes. A match made in Cancer Kid Support Group shows what it really means to be alive and in-love.
The Fault in Our Stars was a masterpiece. It captured me from the beginning and took me into the life of Hazel Lancaster-a sixteen year old diagnosed with Cancer at thirteen. Hazel is suffering from the side effects of her illness: spending quite a lot of time in bed, re-reading the same book time and time again and spending her free time thinking about death. John Green brought Hazel to life: smart and intelligent but also funny and relatable. There was no shying away from the subject of Cancer in this book and. It truly recognised the struggle for everyone when a child has Cancer. I was taken on a life journey-in one breath-taking novel.
Augustus Waters is the complete opposite to Hazel- he never stops questioning the world around him or asking questions that can never be answered. But, Gus becomes a subject of hope adding to this incredible contemporary novel. A character that you fall instantly in love with because he is alive and he wants to be. The romance was also beautifully written; completely re-writing both of their stories. With perfect descriptions throughout this book, it brought not only the characters but the story alive. A match made at Cancer Kid Support Group creates an incredible story of love, loss and life.
TFiOS was emotional and raw, in which I found tears pooling in my eyes. This book was a rollercoaster ride that according to Gus 'Only goes up'. But, seriously, you’ll need tissues. Perfect for the rainy days in winter.
Geek Girl by Holly Smale
Geek Girl by Holly Smale
"My name is Harriet Manners and I am a Geek"
Harriet Manners is a Geek. She knows a cat has 32 muscles in each ear, a "jiffy" lasts 1/100th of a second, and the average person laughs 15 times per day. She knows that bats always turn left when exciting a cave and that peanuts are one of the ingredients of dynamite. But, she can't understand why she has the work Geek drawn in red marker pen on the outside pocket of her school satchel or why everybody at school hates her. So, when she is spotted by a top-fashion agent she grabs the chance to reinvent herself, to be part of her own metamorphosis. Even if it means stealing her best friend's dream, incurring the wrath of her arch enemy Alexa or repeatedly humiliating herself in front of the impossibly handsome Lion Boy who she met under a table. Even if it means lying to the people she loves. Venturing from one couture disaster to the next with the help of her overly enthusiastic father and her stalker Toby, Harriet begins to realise that the world of fashion doesn't seem to like her anymore than the real world did.
As her old life starts to fall apart, will Harriet be able to transform herself before she ruins everything?
Geek Girl was a book about going through your own 'metamorphosis' when you know a lot about everything but yourself. Told through the eyes of fifteen year-old Harriet Manners who is a Geek. Harriet is a completely relatable teenage that you will love to follow just like her very own stalker Toby. Throughout the book she struggles with friendship, trust and being who she really is, just like every teenager feels. With ups and downs, along with awkward moments and embarrassing habits, Harriet is a realistic character you will enjoy every minute with. But, this was not your average coming-of-age novel. It was full of humour, handing you a book that is full of laugh out loud moments. When you pick up this book you can't read a whole chapter without at least laughing once and anybody who has read it will put money on that.
The characters in this novel are one's you want to be able to constantly read about. Along with funny and witty moments, I also learnt a lot from this novel. Harriet is always sharing interesting facts(So, it’s educational! ) throughout the book that you will remember and want to share with whoever will listen. Every part of the novel had twists in the plot-each turning Harriet's life upside down. There were also thrilling moments or one's that were so sweet they would make you sigh.
This novel also gives you an insight into the world of fashion. A place full of over-the-top, fashion-obsessed, advisors. And a gorgeous colleague nicknamed Lion Boy.
You will take a lot away from this novel, and I personally found myself having a lot more confidence when I put it down. Geek Girl was a book that will make you proud to be a Geek-or like what your own interests are. It was funny, entertaining, interesting and emotional and when it finally comes to an end you will miss the characters you'd shared the journey with. A book I loved! For ages 11+ ****
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
A heart of ice. A will of steel. Meet the Assassin.
Meet Celaena Sardothien. Beautiful, deadly, destined for greatness.
In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind but she made a fatal mistake, she got caught. The Crown Prince of Adarlan offers Celeana her freedom, in return for her representing the Prince in a tournament-fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lost, she's about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted?
Throne of Glass brought to life a brand-new world I loved. When you turn the first page you are greeted with beautifully-described scenes and gorgeous writing. The descriptions and words swept elegantly from page-to-page, like the female protagonist at the ball.
At the beginning of this novel, I never expected for Celaena to become one of my favourite female heroines in YA Novels. She’s arrogant, self-righteous and full of fire but also had loves for music and reading that brought a more human side to her. The most feared assassin, yet an eighteen year-old girl.
Throne of Glass combined fantasy and dystopian with aspects of fairy-tale sneaking in throughout the novel. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough, as this truly exhilarating read reached it’s climax. It changes everything and you seem to be lost in the world, where you would think magic was gone for good. There was also romance intertwined with the rest of the novel.
The games themselves were not as I was expecting and cannot be compared to The Hunger Games. This book certainly stands-alone, as Celaena, fights for her freedom in a series of Tests leading up to a deadly Duel. It makes you wonder how far the King will go to see blood-spilled on his Glass floor.
Throne of Glass is one of the best Fantasy reads you will come across. It will capture you from the very first sentence and will keep your attention until the very end. With a fast-paced, heart-jarring plot, you'll be shocked you waited this long to pick it up. A brand new series I'm excited to continue.
Perfect for anyone looking for a new favourite read! 14+
Interviews / Cyfweliad
A few weeks ago, Jean Robert-Cadet visited the school once again to talk to Year 8 pupils about his childhood as a child slave - or Restavec (meaning 'stay with'). I was lucky enough to sit through his talk, one that makes you respect the rights you have and the education you are given. You don't feel lucky buried under a pile of homework, but when you listen to a man talk about still getting nightmares from the things he experienced as a child, you realise that it's all he wanted - to go to school.
Jean spoke about his life as a child slave, having to get up at 5am before everyone else in the household to walk to get water, prepare the meals and do chores not made for a child. He was the first one awake in the morning and the last one to go to sleep at night - punished when he dropped a plate or broke something by accident. At one point a question was raised, 'How do you get a child so young to do those things' and the answer was by using a whip.
These children lived in terror of being hurt but, couldn’t run away for good as they have no-where else to go. I for one couldn't' quite believe things like this continue to go on: that whips are sold for that single purpose, something that was hard-hitting for everyone listening. You'd think they'd have been stopped by now but, that's not the case. Jean was enslaved at four years old when, after his mother's death he was living in extreme-poverty and another family promised him a better life. Promised that he would go to school. Promised that he would have food to eat. Promised he would have a warm-bed. But, they were lying.
Instead, he ended up living on the streets in America when his 'owners' immigrated there, only to find out it was a law for children to go to school. He was no longer of any use to them. Jean-Robert is able to captivate anyone he talks to, and the fact he returns to Haiti often to help the children there makes you feel inspired to do more. He never had an education - and look at what he's achieved.
Today, there are still over 300,000 child-slaves in Haiti. I got talk to Jean about making a difference there, and doing more than his fair-share to end child-slavery. I admit, there was a lot of pressure to interview a man who was once interviewed by Oprah.
Q: How did it feel dropping the household’s children off at school and not being able to go in?
A: Embarrassing – to be the only child not to go to school, to have to return and to be dirty. I wanted to disappear. I was so embarrassed.
Q: What are your feelings towards the people who enslaved you?
A: I forgive them because they grew up and believed that was the way of life. It’s normal for them. Not their fault.
Q: Did they ever give you a hug (show you any affection?)
A: No, the first hug I had was in the US off a classmate. I will never forget her.
Q: What about your parents who gave you away?
A: They had good intentions and believed I had a better life. I never told them, when I met them, that I was abused.
Q: How does it feel to help other child slaves?
A: When I help I feel like I’m healing myself. It’s therapy for me.
Q: What is the best thing you’ve achieved?
A: Writing. It gives me a sense of power. It makes me feel strong.
Jean's novel is called 'Restavec: My Stone of Hope'
Survival Guide / Cymorth i Oroesi
- Make sure there are no distractions! We all know how easy it is to open up a Social Networking account and the next time we look at the clock it's an hour later. Or how about having noticing your favourite TV Show is on and you basically end up watching the whole series in one? Turn off your computer and TV, turn the music volume down and hide your phone! Yes, the phone is going too!
- Bribe Yourself - The easiest thing to do here is take that bar off chocolate that is stored away in the Fridge and tell yourself, "You can have it once you're done". It's the simplest - yet in my experience - most effective way of finishing Homework. And for some reason you seem to do it much quicker. If you don't like chocolate, there's always a new pair of shoes or tickets for a concert you can't wait to get your hands on!
- Leave enough time - You get home from school, have a little break and despite knowing you are almost drowning in piles of homework, you call a friend to go out for an hour. Soon, this hour turns in to two, then three, and the next thing you know it's 9pm and nothing is done! This is the worst situation to be in if your homework is due the next morning so, do it first and don't rush!
- Doing it as you get it - As I mentioned above, it's quite often to see Teens hibernating in their bedrooms pretty much buried under the heap of homework they have collected over the past week. Let me tell you, it's normally quite impressive! Don't let this happen to yourself! You get a piece of homework, do it that night! The thing is, you will get more and this only ends the week with a very stressful Sunday!
- Work in a tidy environment - There is nothing worse than a cluttered workspace: old sweet wrappers stuffed in one corner, scraps of paper overflowing in the bin and stationary thrown on top of it. While trying to work, your eyes can't help constantly swerving to the mess in front of you. Just clean it!
- Surround yourself with resources - If you know your homework needs to be done on a computer, make sure to book one at your local library or even stay behind after school to use one. If you're going to need plain paper, and know there isn't any in sight at home, pick some up when at your local supermarket or ask for some during the day.
- Background noise - Working in silence is horrible. You seem to hear every single sound: the creaking of the pipes, the door opening in the wind, your stomach rumbling because - remember- you're waiting for the chocolate you bribed yourself in the first place! You may love the silence, and that’s great, but if you don't put some quiet background music on. Film scores are normally really good for concentrating, as there are no words so you can't get caught up in signing along.
- Ask for help - Don't be afraid to ask for help! Off a friend, family member, or your teacher. Instead of saying on the day, "I got stuck”, go and ask beforehand!
- Take breaks - Don't work for hours and hours on end without stopping for a drink, bite to eat or even some socialising. After an hour of hard work, you're arm starts to ache and you'd rather be anywhere but sitting at your desk. Instead of forcing yourself to continue (Because you're more likely to make a mistake now anyway) step away from it for a few minutes and relax. Breathe.
- Get it done! I think that one is quite self-explanatory!
- No Distractions – Turn off your TV, phone and log-off all your social-networking sites. I know most of us can’t seem to go an hour without checking our Facebook or Twitter but, you need to be able to focus. If you see that your favourite programme is on TV, within minutes you are likely to end up sitting and staring at the screen for hours, rather than reading your notes. Before you know it, it will be 10pm, and you would have done nothing!
- Make Revision Cards – If you’re reading large pieces of information, summarise them and write the main points from the text onto small lined-cards. Then, you can revise from these rather than from a page where most of the information will never come up; and are just examples you won’t need. You can also use revision-cards to get a forced-into-it family member to test you.
- Test Yourself – Take questions from your exercise book, or create your own, to answer without any help. This will help you find out which questions you can answer and will be able to in an exam; and pin-point where you need to revise-again (Sorry!)
- Take Breaks – Remember, throughout all your revision, you still need time to relax and forget about work for even 10-15 minutes. Every hour, make sure to take some time to chat to your parents – that are probably feeling neglected now, your spending so much time in your room, hiding away and revising – or grab a snack. While your stomach is grumbling, your thoughts will be on what you want to eat, instead of that English you’ve got to do.
- Use what is out there – There are so many ways you can revise without even picking up a pen. If you find you can’t possibly stare at a page any longer, search for a video on Youtube that will probably end up with you singing the worst-song you can imagine for days; but remembering one section of your textbook for your exam. Remember to save all of the sites you find so, you can listen to them again, and refresh your memory. There are also sites such as BBC Bitesize which are really helpful to use!
- Bribe Yourself - This is something I find especially helpful when revising. Buy a box of chocolates, find a new game for your PlayStation, or get a book you are currently reading down from your shelf. Whatever you feel will work better – bribe yourself with it! Do one hour of revision, and you can have that box-of-chocolates or go and finally watch that episode of Downtown Abbey you’ve been trying to catch.
Other things you can do include: Getting worksheets from your teacher to complete at home and listening to music to help you concentrate. Also, make yourself a revision-timetable so; you know what you have done and what you need to do next. You can then highlight the things you know in Green, and the things you don’t yet know in Red.
- Pick a mixture of subjects – Look for subjects that are slightly different, and make sure you choose some variety. Employers look for a well-rounded person so; make sure you’ve chosen some Technology subjects, and one of the new subjects you can take such as Media or Business subject, along with History/Geography or something similar.
- Read about how much the coursework and exam/s are worth– Some people do better when there’s more coursework, others get the highest marks when they sit exams. If you know you will struggle when it comes to revision, or that you don’t sit exams that well, you may want to think about choosing subjects that are 60% Coursework, like Technology subjects, with only 40% resting on the exam. This means you can walk into an exam hall with a B Grade – just based on Coursework if you do it well. BTEC could also be a good choice for you, as these subjects have no exams.
- Find out the difference between GCSE and BTEC and see which suits you better – If you don’t know – I didn’t - make sure to ask what a BTEC subject is and what it is worth when compared to a GCSE Qualification. In hindsight, you may find out that BTEC suits you better or vice-versa.
- Don’t just choose what your friends are taking - What’s really important when choosing your options is that you think about yourself! It’s unlikely you and your best friend are going to end up following the same career path, and doing the same job, so you need to pick the subjects that you think you will like - no matter how much you may be worried about not having anybody to talk to. One hard thing to realise is you probably won’t be working with somebody you know.
- Talk to your teachers! – If you’ve got a question, go and ask the teacher who takes that subject, as it’s better to ask now than after you’ve chosen and it’s too late!
- Make sure you’re not choosing a subject because you like the teacher –Teachers change every year, so you may not get the same teacher as you had in Year 9, or you may end up in a different class. So, remember to choose a subject because you think you will enjoy it and get something out of it. Also, don’t not choose a subject because you don’t have the best relationship with a teacher either!
- Don’t worry if two subjects you want to take are the same pool– This will happen for a lot of people and you may still be able to do that subject in College or as an after-school option. You’re not the only who won’t be able to do all of the subjects that were your first-choice, but you’ll at least be able to do one or two!
- On that note, don’t just look at subjects you know about, read about others that sound like something you may enjoy – When going into choosing your options, you may already have a set-list of subjects that you want to take. Even so, these are the subjects you already know about, and options change slightly, with new subjects added every-year. Read your Options Booklet and have a look at other classes, for example Photography, that you hadn’t thought about taking but may suit you.
HYPE Training Course
A few weeks ago a group made up of pupils from Year Nine, Ten and Eleven visited Dan-Y-Coed to attend a two-day HYPE substance-abuse course. They worked with people from ‘The Place’, which can be found in Infonation(on the Kingsway), to learn about different substances and the risks of using: cocaine, solvents, new psychoactive substances (drugs that are not yet illegal and new on the market), magic mushrooms and cannabis. The aim of the course was for pupils to be able to teach a lesson about one of the drugs to younger-years so, throughout the first day there was a focus on team-work. From being split into groups and building straw towers (showing us that we wouldn’t have been able to work as quickly on our own), to trying to organise time-lines of how long it takes for the effects of smoking – if you smoke twenty-a-day for numerous years – will take to wear off your body, everything was centered around learning as much as possible about the different types of substances, the four categories they can be in(Hallucinogenic, Narcotics, Stimulants and Depressants) and what they do to our bodies. Also that day, pupils had to face a ‘Bush-tucker Trial’ inspired by the extremely-popular TV show, ‘I’m a Celebrity!’ where they were blindfolded, having volunteered for their team to win a prize. The trial involved having to chew and swallow not-so-nice foods, luckily not any type of insect or animal, such as prunes, VegeMite (Marmite’s vegetarian option) and cashew-nuts. Despite one of the main reasons for doing this watching the competitors’ facial-expressions, it was also set-up to show us you never know what you’re putting into your mouth when you take drugs. A beer-goggles assault course showed us what it feels like to be drunk; most pupils struggled to play a short game of Jenga with the goggles on.
On the second day the pupils went back - and not just for the fact that they wanted another buffet at lunchtime, but that may have been part of it - to this time learn how to teach a lesson. While it takes teachers years to train, they did it in a day - shown what works when teaching by a Professor of Law from Swansea University. To begin the day, discussion started with lessons at school, and what our teachers do to make us learn the work and whether we do the same in every subject. Also asked was, "Do the methods of teaching they use work?" which kick-started a conversation of the best ways we learn, and how we would rather our teachers teach us in a few different ways, which became useful when given the task to plan, in groups, a lesson and give a five-minute sample-presentation so everyone could have an idea of what will happen in the full-lesson. Taking ideas from the tasks we had done throughout the two days, and using other things we had invented ourselves, lessons were put together – each group had a different drug – that involved activities such as ‘True or False’ games, ‘What would you spend?’ with the money spent on, for example, fuelling an addiction of smoking for ten years, and ‘What is in…?’ different drugs. When the presentations took place after a few short hours of planning, we saw a snippet of what everyone’s lessons would be like, and now have the task of planning a complete one-hour lesson.