Saturday, 28 November 2015

Book Review: Wars of the Roses:Trinity by Conn Iggulden

Wars of the Roses: Trinity – Conn Iggulden
*Warning – may contain spoilers*
Author: Conn Iggulden
Publisher: Penguin Group
First published: 2014
Cover: Hardback Waterstones exclusive

Pages: 549
Blurb:    -1454-
King Henry VI has remained all but exiled in Windsor Castle, struck down by his illness for over a year, his eyes vacant, his mind a blank.
Richard, Duke of York, Protector of the Realm, extends his influence throughout the kingdom with each month that Henry slumbers. The earls of Salisbury and Warwick make up a formidable Trinity with Richard, and together they seek to break the support of those who would raise their colours in the name of Henry and his queen.
But when the king unexpectedly recovers his senses and returns to London to reclaim his throne, the balance of power is once again thrown into turmoil.
The clash of the houses of Lancaster and York will surely mean a war to tear England apart…
History of my copy: I received this copy for Christmas last year (2014) after spotting it in Waterstones one day. At the time, I hadn’t finished the first book, Stormbird, but I wanted to carry on the series.

I always surprise people when I tell them that I am a huge fan of history, especially that surrounding the numerous castles of Britain. In my free time, I enjoy visiting castles and researching them, finding out all about their history from who built them, to any famous events that occurred there. However, my love of history is purely for pleasure rather than academia. Although I took it for GCSE, I find the way it is taught in schools, and the topics covered, rather dull and whilst I did briefly consider it for A-level, I ultimately kept it aside for my own enjoyment, along with music.
I must admit that I did not enjoy the first book in the series at all. I found it long and drab, and whilst there were certainly interesting scenes (the rebellion of Jack Cade being one of them), it was mostly based on setting up the politics and basis of the infamous Wars of the Roses for the rest of the series.

Plot: The second instalment in Conn Iggulden’s Wars of the Roses follows the events preceding Henry’s awakening on Christmas Day 1454, including the birth of his son. One of the best scenes in the book is the battle of St. Albans where Richard must make the choice between being a traitor or to continue to serve his king.
         The second part of the book set a few years later in 1459 cover the next episode of Henry’s stupor. The rise of Queen Margaret is portrayed excellently in this book, along with the faithful royal spymaster Derry Brewer. Queen Margaret had ordered attainders on York, Warwick and Salisbury, a nasty loophole in English law which allows the royal family to strip whole families of their estates and title. This was her ‘punishment’ for the families that had killed some of her beloved earls and questioned her husband as rightful King. Of course, the families affected were outraged and insulted by the royal decision, resulting in them eventually returning to England to reclaim their titles. This attempt failed due to a royal ambush at Sandal Castle. The book ends with the Earl of March, Richard of York’s son, as the heir to the throne (the Duke of York was the heir after he removed the title from the King’s son whilst he had the King in captivity) and wanting to avenge the death of his father.
         The short story Woodchurch included in my copy of this book focuses on the Woodchurch family, who were introduced in the previous book. It is an entertaining story of how Thomas Woodchurch ended up accidently getting one of Derry Brewer’s men locked in the Tower of London and how he had to help him escape. In the end, as the King woke from his stupor, the escape failed but Gilpin was allowed to leave by the King’s orders.
Setting: Although set in a multitude of English castles from the 1450s, setting is, as always, less important in historical novels. However, the setting is both descriptive and imaginative and the battles such as St Albans and Blore Heath are explained with such vivid detail, it feels as if you are there.
Characters: One of my favourite characters is Queen Margaret herself. This book really delves into how she stepped up to take charge of the kingdom, and how she was both faithful to her family and intelligent. In a time at which women were nothing more than mothers and wives, it is amazing to see how much power the Queen held.
                Another favourite character is Derry Brewer, who humorously named his horse Retribution. As the spymaster for the royal household, he is a clever and imaginative man who is secretive yet enjoyable to read about.
                Thomas Woodchurch and his son Rowan are only in the short story, but I will mention them anyway. They were two of my favourites in the first book, and it was a shame to not see them in this one. Although just simple men, their father-son relationship is well written and their skill with a bow is uncanny. It was nice to have the family as a key part of the short story.

To read or not to read: Read. I absolutely adored this book. As someone who is particularly interested in the Wars of the Roses, I am biased towards it of course but it is a gripping book for any fan of historic novels of any time period.

Friday, 27 November 2015

A Tale of Two Cities

So, as I mentioned before, I finally got my hands on a copy of A Tale of Two Cities earlier in my favourite shop, Waterstones!
Charles Dickens is an author I have always wanted to read, especially as he has such a major role in classical literature. I've read the odd excerpt and chapter throughout school, but I've never read a complete book of his.
A Tale of Two Cities has been one that I've had my eye on for years and after reading The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare, Tessa's (and Will's) love for it just made me want to delve into it even more.
I had noticed that Waterstones had been selling really beautiful cloth bound copies of lots of classics (and, of course, I want all of them) but AToTC was the one that really caught my eye, especially as the one I wanted to read the most. However, ever since I discovered it, I've been unable to find it, despite religiously checking my local Waterstones in Plymouth every time I was there.
Today I nearly couldn't believe my eyes when I saw it. I rushed across the shop, dodging people, and probably sounded a little mad as I exclaimed "They finally have it!" I must admit, mum wasn't too happy about me buying more books (especially as I had also picked up a book for my friend for Christmas) but after spending so long looking for it, I felt that I finally deserved it and I can't wait to start it!
If anyone else has read it, I would love to hear your thoughts (although no spoilers of course - do spoilers still apply to books that are centuries old?)

In other news, I got an e-mail early this evening inviting me to a medicine interview at King's College Cambridge! I am over the moon and was bouncing around my house in excitement. 

Plymouth Medicine Interview Part 2

The interview went okay! I'm not as confident about it as I was Cardiff last week, but I do believe it could have gone much, much worse. It was also quite different as I had to fill in a questionnaire first and choose an ethical scenario to answer questions about.
After the interview, I went into the city centre and did some more Christmas shopping. I also bought myself A Tale of Two Cities and got an All Time Low calender for next year. I usually have the Taylor Swift one however, this year, I wasn't as impressed by it and was wowed over by the gorgeous photos of ATL.
Being Black Friday, which even the UK now gets in on, there was, of course, many sales. I'm not really the shopping type, but as we made our way back to the car, mum decided to pop into Saltrock. That was a bit of a mistake. I got three really nice t-shirts (one put back for Christmas) and a really comfy black sweater. Mum also bought some things and we ended up saving £80!

So, overall, quite a nice, relaxed morning in Plymouth. I've also just ordered the last of my Christmas presents on Amazon so that's all the Christmas shopping done. Now all that's left is to count down to the big day!

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Plymouth Medicine Interview

After having a rather relaxing week off school, tomorrow I must return to the dreadful 6:15a.m. rise. Although, this time, it's for another interview!
I'm off to Plymouth, which is thankfully only about 40 minutes away, for my second medicine interview. Again, I'm a little nervous but now that I've done one interview, it doesn't feel quite so daunting.
Despite the fact that my top two choices are Cambridge and Edinburgh, Plymouth would be quite a nice place to go to as I will be able to still live at home. Why is that a good thing? Because someone else can still do my cooking and cleaning and be my personal assistant whenever I'm ill.
Living at home while at uni is something quite looked down upon in nowadays, but I think there are many benefits to it. I'm not a party kind of person, so I don't feel like I will be missing out on the 'uni experience' (aka spending every night in a bar). On the other hand, I am really looking forward to moving out and having the independence that will come with any of my other choices.
Another thing I like about Plymouth is that, as it is very close, I volunteer at the hospital associated with the medical school and I did work experience at the medical school, so it is all rather familiar to me.

Returning to Cambridge, I got my BMAT results yesterday, which is the entrance exam to do medicine there. I'm rather pleased with my two main results as I scored above average. However, although I wasn't expecting my essay to be very good, I am still awfully disappointed by my result for it. I hope the rest of my application makes up for it so I still get an interview!

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Book Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass – Sarah J. Maas

*Warning – may contain spoilers*

Author: Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury
First published: 2012
Cover: Paperback
Pages: 404

Blurb:    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.
Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament – fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted?

History of my copy: Recently I have been getting into the book community on Instagram, and I saw that nearly everyone was talking about The Lunar Chronicles and Throne of Glass. When I went into Plymouth to get an interview dress, I had the intention of buying either Cinder or Throne of Glass, the first books in the series. Cinder was out of stock, so my decision was thankfully made for me and I ended up with Throne of Glass.

I had high hopes for this book due to the hype it has with fellow readers. Although slightly disappointed, the book is still good. The majority of it, I really enjoyed, and there were points in which I wasn’t able to put it down. However, there were also points I felt were a bit too far-fetched for the story, especially the final dual between Celaena and Cain.

Plot: The basic plot of the book is quite simple. Celaena is rescued from the salt mines in Endovier where she is serving a life sentence for being Adaralan’s assassin by Captain Westfall and Prince Dorian to be their champion in a secrete competition that the King is hosting. The winner of the competition serves as the King’s Champion for a few years, and then becomes free.
         Whilst in the castle taking part in the competitions, Celaena makes many unusual friends, one of which being the Princess Nehemia, whom she later ends up believing is responsible for the horrific murderers of her fellow competitors.
         After Celaena sneaks into the Yulemas ball where she ends up dancing the night away with the crown prince, she soon realises Nehemia’s innocence as she discovers that Cain, another competitor, is responsible for the murders.
         In a final dual between her and Cain, Celaena nearly loses due to being poisoned by Kaltain, a woman who is jealous of Celaena’s closeness to the Prince but, with some help from Nehemia and the first queen of Adarlan, Elena, ends up coming out on top.
         Throughout the story, we watch as Celaena becomes more and more trusted. We also see a love triangle between Celaena, Prince Dorian and Chaol Westfall form.

Setting: This story has two main settings: the salt mines in Endovier and the castle in Rifthold. I will admit that setting is not one of Maas’ strong points, leaving much to the imagination of the reader. You get the picture that the mines are a horrific place to be, and that the castle is magnificent and extravagant, but only a few places are described in much detail.

Characters: Celaena Sardothien, the eighteen year old assassin, is one of my least favourite main characters I have ever read. Although she is the best assassin, she seems a bit too flawless in my opinion. Yes, she is vain, and often rude, but her bad qualities seem very minor in comparison to the good. I hope that in future books her character is developed more, giving a better insight into her past. As someone who is nearly eighteen myself, I find it very hard to believe that someone could be quite so perfect at everything.
                One of my favourite characters in the story is Captain Chaol Westfall. I loved watching his character develop as he got to know Celaena better. Furthermore, I think it is interesting to watch someone have his morals questioned and learn to think for himself. I would like to see Chaol and Celaena’s relationship, either platonically or romantically, over the rest of the series.
                Another favourite character is Princess Nehemia of Eyllwe. Although introduced as someone who has limited knowledge on Adarlan, and there being the heartbreaking moment where you believe she might kill Celaena, Nehemia turns out to be a brave and intelligent woman, who knows entirely what is going on. She is a good ally for Celaena and I hope to see her fight to get her kingdom and title back.

To read or not to read: Read. Although there are a few negatives to this book, and it hasn’t made it’s way into my favourite books list, it is still certainly worth the read. I think Sarah J. Maas has the potential to be a fantastic author, but this book doesn’t quite showcase that as well as it could. However, I remain hopeful that the rest of the series shall only get better.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Book Reviews

As an avid reader, one of my aims of this blog was to start writing book reviews. I have wanted to do it for a long time now, and have always had a template planned, but now I am finally getting round to doing it!
As an A-level student, I struggle to find the time to read. I am also guilty of going through phases in which I won't read at all. However, I am trying to change this and I will update reviews as soon as I can. Due to my nature of reading multiple books at once, it is likely I won't post anything book related for months, and then post four at the same time! I shall try not to do this though, and maybe save some to post during times when I don't have any.

Cardiff Medicine Interview

On Wednesday, I headed up to Cardiff (luckily not too far from home) for my first medicine interview!
I have wanted to do medicine for as long as I can remember, and now that I'm in my final year of sixth form, with this year came the difficult decision to decide which university's to apply to. For those of you who don't know, you can only apply to 4 medical courses in the UK. Cambridge has been my goal for even longer than wanting to do medicine, so that was an automatic choice (although picking a college is a whole different story...). After a round trip to Glasgow, Edinburgh and Swansea with a couple friends, Edinburgh became my second choice after I absolutely fell in love with the city. For the final two choices, I had no idea so ended up just randomly choosing Cardiff and Plymouth.
With good GCSEs, personal statement and UKCAT result, along with top AS results and impossibly high predicted grades for A2, the medicine interview wasn't much of a surprise, although I will admit that the short notice of only one week was a bit of a pain! I was a little nervous about it, with no practice at all, but it actually went okay. It was really relaxed, and having a chance to talk to other applicants and medical students beforehand really helped with that. The questions were mostly the typical ones, with a few harder topics such as social health, but I am fairly confident about how it went. It seems like I impressed the two doctors more than the medical student though, which I'm not sure is a good or bad thing really.
Now to Cardiff itself. As I never visited the uni, I think it's fair to natter on about the city itself. I quite like the city, having been there on numerous occasions for concerts such as All Time Low and Fall Out Boy. Although not a shopping fan, even I have to admit that the multiple shopping centres, especially St. David's, are rather magnificent. Of course, my favourite shop would have to be the Lego Store! After many hard decisions, I ended up buying Poe's X-Wing Fighter as I am a huge Star Wars fan (trust me, words can't even explain how unbelievably excited I am for the new film). As this was above £50, they were kind enough to throw in a free Lego Christmas train and even an extra Star Wars figurine, for which I am really grateful. Because of the unexpected freebies, I have decided to put the X-Wing back for Christmas as a present from my beloved dog Merlin.

Overall, it was a really good, relaxed day in Cardiff and now all I have to do is sit tight and wait to see if I get an offer. Oh, and prepare for my interview on Plymouth next Friday...

Tuesday, 17 November 2015


So last night I popped into Plymouth after school with my mum and brother to do a spot of rushed shopping. I desperately need a dress for my uni interviews at Cardiff and Plymouth, so we raced around various shops until I fell in love with one from H&M.
As a special treat for myself, I also bought Throne Of Glass by Sarah J. Maas as Waterstones didn't have Cinder by Marissa Meyer, so I may have an early night tonight reading it. I hope it lives up to expectations!

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Dog Walking and Parkinson's Disease

This morning I was reading a really interesting part in the book 'The Brain's Way of Healing' of how a person had seemingly 'reversed' some of his Parkinson's symptoms using neuroplasticity by walking.
He spoke of how he focussed on every single movement of each step he took. 
I was thinking about this as I was taking Merlin on his usual daily stroll this morning, and it really made me appreciate how much we take things like walking for granted. I tried focussing on each step, the movement of each muscle needed to move just a small distance forward, but I was much too distracted by other things. It is moment like these where you notice the dedication some people have to getting better. 
It also further fuelled my interest in the brain, and how it can seemingly heal itself, something I look forward to studying more throughout my hopeful career of becoming a doctor.


Hello everyone!

Welcome to my blog. The first thing I feel like I should do is give a short introduction to who I am.

My name is Kat, and I'm a 17 year old student at DHSB where I am studying Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Maths, Further Maths and General Studies for A-levels. I live in Cornwall, in the UK. I have recently applied to Cambridge, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Plymouth universities to study medicine next year.
I'm a huge bookworm, always with too many books on the go. I also love music, enjoy going to concerts and play the electronic keyboard, whilst dabbling among other instruments such as guitar and saxophone.
I have two dogs - a black lab called Merlin and a black jack russell called Ringo.
I would love to get to know loads of people through blogging, so please be willing to comment and talk to me if you wish.