September + October book club

Since going back to school in September, reading (unfortunately) has taken a step back – as much as I love it I just find it hard sometimes to sit down and read because I’m always thinking of school! Over the course of the next few months, my book club posts are going to become much more sporadic: instead of posting a bimonthly round-up of everything I’ve read, I’ll probably wait until I have 5 or 6 books to talk about which, judging by how little I’ve read recently, will be around every 3 to 4 months.

I was talking to my English Language teacher about dystopian fiction and how much I love it and she recommended me a book called Station Eleven which I hadn’t heard of. I told her I’d look into it because her summary of it sounded really interesting. I forgot to look actually, but I’m glad about that because in my next lesson with her she’d bought it for me! *cue heart melting* I really really enjoyed reading Station Eleven; there are several different viewpoints and settings which the narrative flicks between, and you’re left trying to figure out how all of the characters interconnect which I love! I won’t give away many spoilers, but around the time that I started reading it a plane was put into quarantine, and I was genuinely so immersed in the story that I thought it had started to come to life (a scary thought, huh).

Talking of scary, I also read We Need to Talk About Kevin. I never usually say this about books, but I hated it. I really and truly hated it. I didn’t connect to any of the characters – not even cute lil Cecelia – and I disliked the whole plot line; you know from the outset that something awful is going to happen, but you have to read alllll the way to the end to find out what it is. Parts made me feel physically sick, such as when Kevin is in the bathroom with the door deliberately left open and his mother can see everything – I won’t go into much more detail, reader, but if you fancy a disturbing read, I recommend. Personally though, I won’t be returning in a hurry 😅

After my draining experience with We Need to Talk About Kevin I decided to relieve my brain a little, so I started Bridget Jones’s Diary. Again, this is unusual, but I preferred the film to the book! Maybe it was the winning combo of Hugh Grant and Colin Firth…who knows? 😉

Finally, I’ve read The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, because I again just wanted something lighthearted. I hadn’t actually read the cover before I started but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it – I’d bought it spontaneously after seeing it for £1 in a charity shop, I hadn’t been specifically looking to buy and read it. That said, I’ve read one of Nelson’s other books and enjoyed that, so I don’t know why I had low expectations – overall though, it was a cute story (if a little weird in parts haha, I’m looking at you Lennie + Toby!)

Currently I’m reading Jane Eyre which I love: I remember, when I was 7 or 8, my mum read it aloud to me because I loved everything about learning and education and Jane is a governess, but I haven’t read it since then and suddenly got the urge.

Have a lovely rest of the week x

(PS – unusually, there are no photos for this post: my apologies!! I’m at school for most of the day everyday and before I leave for school, it’s too dark to take photos. When I come back, the light isn’t great – so enjoy an unrelated photo, plonked in the middle of his post! #makingthebestofthings)

(PPS – I’ve been put through to the second round of the UK Blog Awards, which is SO exciting!! I’ll leave links on all my social media accounts so that you can vote for me if you’d like to – if you do, I’ll be forever grateful! Although I don’t expect to win anything, even to have gone to the second round is such a privilege ❤️❤️)

June, July and August book club

I’ve sorta maybe kinda missed out on a month of book club posts because in June I only read about half a book, which wouldn’t have made a very interesting post. Over summer though i’ve read a lot so I’m just going to share my thoughts on a few books!

I watched the film of Paper Towns not long ago when it was on TV one night and seeing that inspired me to read the book again. I love rereading my old favourite books; it gives me such a sense of nostalgia and I just get so engrossed in the characters and their lives like I used to when I was younger. I think I’ve only read Paper Towns out of all of John Green’s books but I recently also bought Looking for Alaska, and so rereading and loving Paper Towns has made me excited to start that too.

Next up, another old favourite: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. It’s just a YA modern classic, I love it, and there’s not much more to say really – if you want a slightly cliche romance with an unusual context, this is the one for you.

You might have seen if you followed my old Instagram account that I became slightly obsessed with book thrifting over the summer holiday – I used to get so many books from charity shops, but then for some reason I just stopped? Anyway, I bought 8 books for £8 (!!) from the British Heart Foundation I think, 3 for £1 at Cancer Research (winner!), one for £1.45 and another for £1.99. I definitely don’t need to buy any more books for a while, haha.

David Nicholls’s “Us” was one of the 8 for £8 books and quite honestly, if I’d paid £8 for that book alone I would have been happy. It’s so good! It’s about 2 of the things I love most – travelling and art – Douglas, a scientist, is trying to win his wife back, and so he takes her and their son on a huge, slightly disastrous interrailing trip around Europe, stopping off at galleries and sightseeing. It was so cool reading about art galleries I’ve been to before and places I want to visit – ahhh, I recommend!!

I’m writing my personal statement at the moment, so I decided to reread some classics: Pride and Prejudice was my first. I read it whilst I was sitting my mock exams and I think in some of the wordier parts where there’s not a lot happening in the plot I got a little bit distracted lol, but saying that I already knew the story and overall I enjoyed it regardless!

I think I mentioned it in a book club post a few months ago but I’m going to use The Picture of Dorian Gray as my English lit coursework so this summer I reread it; tbh, I killed two birds with one stone there as I’m using it for English and I can write about it on my personal statement! (We love life hacks!!!) Again, I love the plot, I love the way the book’s written, I love the philosophical monologues; I love everything about this book. Just read it. Please.

Another book for school – we’re starting Hamlet in English lit so over summer I read the play. I find Shakespeare so interesting but I really struggle understanding what’s actually being said when I just read it to myself, so I listened to the audiobook as I read which helped so much. I’ve never read Hamlet before, I started it once and then gave up pretty quickly because I wanted to read something more lighthearted but it was more enjoyable than I thought. The plot really gripped me actually and I’m excited to study it more in depth in class.

Ok, down to the last two; Huxley’s Brave New World was SO good and I think I’m going to reread it again quite soon tbh. I was reading this as I was reading Hamlet and there are hundreds of references to Shakespeare in the characters’ speech and let me tell you, my mind was blown on several occasions – I read one line in hamlet, it goes something like “treacherous, lecherous, mindless villain” (although I may have got the order wrong there) and then a few minutes later when I picked up Brave New World, I read that exact line! Crazy. I love references in books to other books because when I recognise them, I feel really smart haha 😉 if you’re a fan of dystopian novels and haven’t read this, give it a go – as a quick summary, the world runs on drugs, recreational sex and everything you learn is taught to you in your sleep.

It’s not shown in the photo above but today I finished Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall which I enjoyed but I feel like I was reading it for weeks and didn’t really do it justice. In a few months I’m going to give it another read since I think I had forgotten parts that happened in the beginning, but, when I got into it, the plot was quite intriguing and satirical (which my dry sense of humour appreciates) and yeah, I definitely just need to reread it.

That’s all for this month’s post – I feel like I’ve actually read and written about a substantial amount of books for once!

Dear future me: stress self-care tips

I know that this academic year will undoubtedly be the most stressful and pressured year I’ve ever had so I thought, whilst I’m still relatively calm about exams, I’d write this post to Future Cara, because something tells me I’m going to need a few of these tips.

1. Exams are not the end of the world

Although it certainly feels like it, they’re not! There are other ways to where you want to be and everything will work out in the end so just…calm down.

2. You’re allowed to have a break

I used to feel guilty when I took breaks from revising because I felt like I needed to be revising and wouldn’t do as well as I could if I just carried on, but actually now I think it’s the opposite. Your body needs a break and you’ll feel so much better for letting it have one.

3. Completely switch off for a day

Sort of similar to point 2 but I’m going to plan to take full days off revision when A Levels come round – once a fortnight or something, not like every other night don’t worry! Have a movie marathon, go for a run, blog all day, have a day shopping, just do something that will completely take your mind off everything.

4. Stress is temporary

As soon as exams are over, you’ll have completely forgotten about them – the stress won’t last long in the grand scheme of things. Keep it in perspective!!

5. Have a set sleeping schedule

Because there’s nothing worse than being tired and knowing you have another 20 pages of revision to do. Set a time to finish revision, have 2 hours to yourself then go to bed early and you’ll feel so much more refreshed and ready.

6. Make sure you’re reading for fun as well as for school

If, like me, you read regularly, ensure you keep a book aside that has no relevance to school work. Reading is arguably one of the best forms of escapism.

Q&A: study edition

On my old Instagram account I used to receive a fair amount of questions relating to school, and after reading Hebah’s post (hebahpervaiz.co.uk) I decided to just compile a few of the questions I’ve most frequently been asked.

What GCSEs did you take and how did you do?

I took my GCSEs last summer in English Language, English Literature, Maths, Spanish, Geography, ICT, Art, Core Science and Additional Science. On results day I got 9, 8, 8, a*, a*, a*, a, a, a (in that order). I also got half a GCSE in Preparation for Working Life, literally the most pointless waste of time.

Which A Levels are you doing now?

I take English Language, English Literature and Geography.

Did you stay at your school for sixth form or move elsewhere?

I actually wrote a post about this a while ago (which you can read here) but I stayed at the school I’ve been at since Year 7, which was definitely the right choice! But take into account all the pros and cons of staying and moving, because for some people moving will be a lot more beneficial.

What tips do you have as a current sixth form student?

Stay on top of your work! Keep yourself organised!! Revise as you go!!!

What are your career ambitions?

Ahhh the dreaded question! I honestly wish I knew for definite what I’d like to be – some days it’s a journalist, others I wish I could just blog for a living, I’d also love to work for the UN…I just don’t know.

What is the best way to revise?

This is a tricky one because different methods work for different people. The way I revise best is copying notes and summarising them as well as using flash cards, but other people will find that the least helpful method, so I can’t speak for everyone! The best way to stay motivated to revise, I find, is making to do lists – I wrote a post on how I make them here.

What plans do you have for after school?

University hopefully, provided I get the grades!

So that concludes today’s post, I hope you enjoyed and maybe you found out a little more about me than you knew before. Are you still at school or sixth form? What subjects are you taking, and how are you finding them?

Cara xx

A life update

At the start of the summer holiday I said to myself that I was going to upload a blog post every other day 😂 whilst that hasn’t happened, rest assured I have been doing equally important things.

I’m currently in Spain on holiday and having such a good time, but I just got the urge to write something – a form of procrastination? Yes. I’ve brought some books I want to read for school as well as for my personal statement but ya know, it’s the holiday…I don’t have a lot of motivation right now. Anyway, blogging/writing counts?? I take 2 English a levels, surely it’s at least a relevant form of procrastination!

It’s Saturday as I write this, which means I have one week and 2 days left of the summer holidays, and I still have a lot to do. However, I’m also promising myself (and vowing that I will definitely not break this promise!) that I’m going to write at least 2 posts before the end, as a mini back-to-school series. I’ll definitely do a study-oriented Q&A and I have a few ideas for another post, but is there anything you’d be interested in hearing my opinion about? For context, I’m studying in the UK and about to go into year 13, and I study English lit, English Language and geography and I took my GCSEs last year. Leave me a comment, I’ll answer it regardless of whether I also write a post about it!

I bought my first bullet journal the other day and I’ve got to say, I’m possibly too excited about it. As soon as I get home (I didn’t bring it with me) I’m going to start setting it up because I just can’t wait until 2019! I’m hoping it’ll provide some motivation throughout the year and give me an accurate record of what’s possibly going to be the biggest year of my life – the year I turn 18, sit my A Levels and go to uni!

So…next year. I’m disappointed in myself, to be honest, that I don’t post on my blog more than twice a month or so, and I’m going to change that. Next year is going to be more pressurised but I also need to bear in mind that I’m allowed to switch off from school and indulge in hobbies, and therefore I’m going to be making a really conscious effort to post at least once a week. I think I’ll have a set day where a post will go live and then there may be extras throughout the week, so watch this space 😉

I’ve also set up a new Instagram account which may be a little drastic but I was just feeling a bit trapped with my other – if you’d like to give me a follow, you can find me @avo.cara.

Hope you’re having the best summer!!

12 things I’ve learned in Year 12

I think some apologies are in order.

I haven’t posted in what feels like about a month – it may be more to be honest – because I’ve had one of the busiest months in the history of humankind. Ever. But it’s nearly summer, my hectic few weeks have died down and so I have some time to write at long last!

Since the school year is winding down (finally!! I need a break) bringing my first year of sixth form to a close, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned from it: academia aside, I’ve learned a heck of a lot.

1. Your friendship group will change so much.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know that around the end of year 11 I had a few friendship issues so naturally I was apprehensive about starting sixth form with really, only good acquaintances instead of a group of best friends. I was also worried about who would be in all my new classes, and whether I’d be able to fit into a group – I can only speak from my experiences at my school, but there were definitely some very defined cliques in my year, and if you weren’t originally part of them it was kind of hard to be accepted. However, a lot of the silly childish pettiness of year 11 diminishes and actually people are a lot more willing to make friends with each other – I’ve become part of a completely new group of friends and I hardly see or speak to the people I thought I was friends with in Year 11 (wow how snakey does that sound!?)

2. It will go SO quickly.

My teachers kept telling us this at the start of the year and I didn’t believe them to be honest – I thought with the increased workload it would drag! But they were so right; it feels like it should still be about February time!! I’d say to just enjoy every day as it comes because even though some do drag, the first year will fly by.

3. A lot of the pettiness and judginess will have gone.

From my year 11 class of around 250 students, only around 120 have stayed for our sixth form (some went to colleges, some went to other sixth forms etc). You’ll find that it’s mainly the mature and sensible people who’ll stay which makes it a nice environment to be in, and it’s a lot less judgemental than year 11 – people now are more like “hey, whatever, you know, she wants to wear that, let her wear it” if you get me?! Everybody seems to accept each other a little bit more, which is SUCH a relief, let me tell you!

4. Start your uni application early!!!!

Trust me, your teachers will start talking about university on the very first day, but if you actually take some notice of that (I didn’t haha, big mistake) you’ll find the whole UCAS process much easier. Yes, there’s a limit to how much you can do in preparation – it depends on when your school gets the UCAS buzzword sorted, for starters – but start researching early and begin your personal statement ASAP. As well, for some unis (especially for competitive courses or Russell Group unis) you need to have work experience before a uni will even consider your application, so get going! I’m currently in the slightly sticky situation of knowing exactly where and what I’m applying to, but I haven’t even started my personal statement…😅 I’d say try to get a first draft done in May or June time and then you know you’re on the way to getting sorted.

5. Another thing every teacher will tell you – organisation is key!

I have a few quite simple (I think) tricks that’ll hopefully help you to stay organised:

• colour code your folders – I have 2 folders for each subject, one for my notes in school and one for revision and past papers, and each subject has a specific colour. This makes it so easy to grab a folder when I’m late (often) and saves me getting confused.

• Have a completely separate notebook to record all of your homework and other deadlines in – then you know exactly where everything is written down.

• When revising, start early; there’s more to get through than you first realise! Also make plans of exactly what you’re going to revise and when, because then you see the full extent of what you need to do, and you’re able to plan it around your days.

6. Classes are small, but that doesn’t mean they’re not fun!

During the summer after my GCSEs I had this terrifying thought that all of the fun people would have left and so lessons would be really boring. This isn’t the case at all! Class sizes are a lot smaller (or they are at my school, at least), but we still laugh and joke around, it’s not just work, work, work.

7. Revise what you’re learning as you’re learning it

That sounds a little bit paradoxical, even to me as the writer…but as you learn things in class, make your notes, ensure you understand the concepts, make flash cards etc as you go. It will make revising for mocks or the actual exams a lot easier, because you’ll just have to remind yourself of the content instead of learn it for the first time.

8. The academic jump isn’t as terrifying as everyone makes out.

Honestly, it’s not! I’d heard horror stories of people who’d got all A*s at GCSE failing each and every one of their A Levels…it’s not true! There is, admittedly, a jump – but that’s expected! From my own personal experience, I haven’t found that the content itself is much more difficult, the issue is there’s just so much more of it, although I think that’s quite a subject-dependent view: a lot of my friends take maths a level (they’re the complete opposite to me, haha) and it just looks like a foreign language, IMHO. Some subjects (I’m thinking STEM subjects particularly) will have more of a step-up in the academic level, whereas some, like English, will just have pages worth of content (pun intended!). Nevertheless, don’t let that put you off – you have free periods, remember, and teachers know that you have other commitments too.

9. Punch hole reinforces will change your life

I’ve got to give my mum some credit for introducing me to these, because otherwise my folders would have been in a right state! They’re basically small vinyl circles (a little bit like sellotape) that you stick around the holes in refill pads to make them stronger and they’ve saved me and my notes so many times!

10. You become a lot more aware of what you can do.

In Year 11 I definitely thought I’d be the stereotypical head girl next year, volunteering 3 days a week, running the school newspaper, working 8 hours each weekend and doing charity work whilst simultaneously getting all a*s – you know, that girl haha – but sixth form really teaches you how to prioritise and not to bite off more than you can chew (and actually, I don’t do a single one of the things I thought I would!) yes, the social life/fun stuff of sixth form is great, like the opportunity of running clubs for lower years etc, but at the end of the day you go to school to learn and eventually pass exams, and they should be the priority. By no means am I saying ‘do nothing but work’, but you learn pretty quickly that actually, A Levels are time consuming and you need time off too, so you’re not going to be able to fit everything in – don’t aim to be doing every single extra-curricular activity going!!

11. Read around.

This is one of the phrases that teachers will say repeatedly, throughout your entire time at sixth form, so you might as well concede to what they’re saying early as it is quite helpful! For each subject you’ll probably have a textbook that your teacher/school recommends, but maybe also buy another or borrow a different book from the library so that you have multiple resources to reference in your notes. It also really helps if you don’t quite grasp something – often, if you read it written in a different way it’ll just click instantly (lol this has happened loads to me with geography)

12. You will honestly have such a good time.

Enjoy it; I know sometimes it’ll be a bit of a drag, but you’ll look back and think that it’s been amazing. I only have one year left and I’m already dreading leaving.

Talking: books.

The only thing better than reading a book is talking about that book with somebody who loves books equally as much as you! And recently, I’ve had the pleasure to talk to Eleanor, from eleanorclaudie.com, and the lovely M, from cadmiumxred.

I didn’t write my book club post last month for April, simply because I was in the middle of a book and I didn’t know whether to include it or not, so later on this month/early next month I’m going to write a combined April + May post. I finished The Picture of Dorian Gray and have since recommended it to everyone, M included – and although she hasn’t read it, I can forgive her, since she said “I’ve been obsessed with theatre plays lately, especially Shakespeare’s work! I find just find his way with words fascinating!! I’ve read a Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet.” Me and you both 😉❤️

Now, I’m not one to gravitate towards a non-fiction book to read in leisure time – sure, I will read some, but I just prefer a good story to delve in to! Saying that though, Eleanor definitely persuaded me to have a look for When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi “because it was so inspiring and touching and I could’ve cried at various points in the novel”. I’m a weepy person anyway so I’m not quiiite sure if I can face the emotional trauma reading this autobiography will bring, but maybe one day I’ll have a grip on my emotions and decide to face it. As a plot though, it sounds truly moving and devastating yet inspirational.

Fun fact: there are around 134 million books in the world (I bet Gutenberg never thought his idea would take hold like it has done haha). It can be a little overwhelming to decide what to read next, or at least it is for me, but recently I’ve found that YouTube is a good place to start – and Eleanor has too! “Estee Lalonde recommended ‘A Little Life’ on her YouTube channel a while ago so I really want to read that [and] Ariel Blisset (❤️ her) recommended All We Shall Know”. I personally want to read some of Sunbeams Jess’s recommendations, although a lot are quite text-heavy so I’ll save them until summer, when I have unlimited time!

From our conversations, a few other book recommendations came up which I’ll list here if you’re stuck on what to read – I’ve got my to-read list updated already, hehe 😊

— Fahrenheit 451: What I love about F451 is how deep it is even though the story is simple, it’s very philosophical! – M

— The Underground Railroad

— Leviathan: because Thomas Hobbes is a political philosopher that we look at for the Stuart’s in history. – Eleanor

— If This Is A Man: I think I’m going to read a few more history books during the summer for my uni application such as if this is a man by Primo Levi (it’s about someone who survives the holocaust). – Eleanor

— Frankenstein

A big thank you to both M and Eleanor for talking books with me, and if you have any time, check out their blogs (they’re both very very cool people!)