Thursday, 5 March 2015


Another in our series of growing up in a different decade… we talk to Rachel, who was a teenager in the 2000s…

Rachel says:
There were many changes in my life as I was growing up. First of all, my parents uprooted the family from a rough estate in Greater Glasgow to move to the Northern Highlands. I had loved that so-called rough estate - it gave me a sense of community back when I couldn't even spell 'sense of community.' We moved north so my parents could give us a better life, but I think the only difference was the soft sea air and the beautiful coastal views.

My problems began the day my parents informed me they were splitting up; I developed Sunday night insomnia and an irrational hatred of society. And then Dad became ill and eventually died. I adored my father more than any daughter on the face of the earth and his death ripped a huge hole in my being.

People have said that this changed me and sent me off the rails, but I guess I'll never know the cause… it's hard to look back and guess whether things might have been different. For whatever reason, I began to drink in the park at weekends - lots of my friends did so it seemed normal to me at the time. What I didn't want to admit is that this put me in many dangerous situations over the next few years. Often, the police would question me or give me a lift back home; I became well known to them, a radical little teenage tearaway.

Things changed again when I was sixteen. I left home in a fit of rage; I wasn't getting on with my mum and school wasn't much better, so I packed my bags and moved across town. At the time I thought I was a strong, independent young woman with a new job and a bright future, but the reality was I was a vulnerable, grief stricken girl just waiting for someone to take advantage. That someone was an older man; my brother was not happy, but I wouldn't listen. A whole lot of heartache followed. If you ever find an older man seeking your affections, know that his intentions are bad; save yourself the misery and regret I went through and walk away. Looking back, this man stole my youth; I did not walk away.

Cathy says:
Such a sad story; thanks to Rachel for being so brave in speaking out. Rachel is a successful chef now and is leaving the sadness of the past behind her. COMMENT BELOW to have your say.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015


Teen bookseller and illustrator Holly tells us why WORLD BOOK DAY on March 5th is so important…

'And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.'
Roald Dahl

Holly says:
On World Book Day, this lovely quote from Roald Dahl suddenly rings true to everybody. You can find escapism and magic in any book, regardless of content or theme - the story is yours, the characters are yours, and you've invited them into your life. You will share moments with them, laugh with them, sometimes cry with them - and when you've finished reading a truly brilliant book, those character will always stay with you. On World Book Day, people all over the country will be remembering their favourite books and sharing stories, helping to keep the magic of books alive.

World Book Day also reminds how important it is to support local bookshops and libraries. Bookshops everywhere work tirelessly to supply customers with great new reads and unique author events - I work at a fab indie bookshop and know just how much work goes into organising an author event and making cool displays to attract the customer. Pop down to your local bookshop today - you might well come out again with a personal recommendation from the bookseller and a shiny new book tucked under your arm - more magic waiting to happen!

World Book Day isn't just about the wonderful world of words, it celebrates illustration too. Illustrators have the ability to make words jump out of a book; suddenly the characters are right there, waving at you, waiting for you to turn the page so you can learn their story. Illustrators like Quentin Blake (who illustrated the Roald Dahl novels) and Axel Scheffler (famous for the Gruffalo and much more) are as much a part of those well-loved books as the authors. My dream is to one day be a children's author and illustrator. I've always loved reading, and when I was younger my favourite authors were Jacqueline Wilson and Cathy Cassidy. I loved how real the characters felt and how the children in the stories often had true life stories they had to deal with.

I recently illustrated the book A Bushy Tale by Bob Stone (about a daydreaming squirrel called Squish)  and this great opportunity just confirmed for me that this is what I really want to do. I have designed a few World Book Day logos for the bookshop where I work because I wanted to show how important it is for children to read and learn through books. Next time you pick up a book, remember that you're not just reading a story; you're stepping into an alternative world that someone has created, just for you, and that's a lovely thing.

Copies of A BUSHY TALE are available from Amazon for £6.99 and from Formby Books, 5 The cloisters, Halsall Lane, Formby, Liverpool L37 3PX.

Cathy says:
I couldn't agree more! Do YOU celebrate WORLD BOOK DAY? If so, how? COMMENT BELOW and tell us what books and reading mean to YOU!


Another in our problem page series… reader Kristina asks Skye Tanberry for advice on boys!

Kristina says:
Skye, I need your advice. I know you had a crush on a ghost boy; I have a crush on a boy too. He's not a ghost, but he may as well be… he doesn't even know who I am. He lives near me and I saw him first when I was biking home… he was with friends and he smiled at me. I've seen him a few times since, at cricket and soccer games, (my brother plays too) but how do I get to know him? I really like him and would love to find a way to break the ice. By the way, I love your style, Skye!

Skye says:
Thanks for the compliment… you've made me smile! Problem-wise, I do sympathise. I am shy and chatting up boys I don't actually know would never be an easy task for me! So, what can you do? Smile at him whenever you see him and then progress to saying 'hello'. If your brother knows him, do some detective work and see if he can tell you more… otherwise, go slowly and be patient! If you get the chance to speak, take a deep breath, be brave and do it… what do you have to lose? Try asking if he knows your brother, or how long he's been playing football/cricket, or which school he goes to… anything friendly and open-ended that might open up a conversation. Gradually, he may become a friend, or a friendly acquaintance… and if he likes you as much as you like him, things can move on naturally from there. Best of luck!

Cathy says:
Skye's advice is good… taking things slowly is way better than scaring a crush off by being too over the top! Do YOU agree, or would you be more assertive? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 2 March 2015


Another in our short series of playlists for the Chocolate Box sisters… this time, reader Rosie creates a list for Cherry!

Rosie says:
I want to start by giving a shout-out to Chloe who inspired this article with her blog 'A Song For Summer'… it was lovely. So here is my playlist for Cherry!

The first song I have chosen is Everything Has Changed by Taylor Swift. It's an obvious choice - it basically sums up Cherry's life! She is so used to living a life of lies in a flat in Scotland… then she moves to Tanglewood to meet her new sisters. Everything rapidly changes for Cherry and she can't keep up. The song also describes Cherry and Shay's relationship. She is so used to being on the outside looking in, and boys not looking twice at her. Then she meets Shay and it is a beautiful and enchanting romance.

I Miss You by Avril Lavigne is my next song. This choice is a bit more sad than exciting; more deep and heartfelt. Cherry misses her mum and feels like even though she hardly knew her there is still a beautiful connection there. She is still struggling to move on. How can she accept a new family without leaving her mother behind? Cherry is just about to step out - but what if she regrets her choice? This song is just perfect for Cherry!

My final choice is Why Can't We Be Friends by War. I wonder who this is about? Honey, of course. Cherry tries so hard to fit in, to be friends with Honey, to make her like her. She struggles to make choices and treads on eggshells around Honey. A line from Sweet Honey made me choose this song especially: Cherry writes Honey a letter saying she wishes they could be friends.

Cathy says:
Great choices… well done, Rosie! Would YOU add any more songs to cherry's playlist? Which ones? COMMENT BELOW to tell me!

Sunday, 1 March 2015


Reader Rosie decided it was time we heard more about the Chocolate Box BOYS…

Rosie says:
As well as the cool boys in the Chocolate Box series, there were also 'dishwater' boys as Honey would say. Riley and Aaron are two that spring to mind, boys too interested in their looks and very shallow. There were a lot of lovely, kind, caring boys too…

How about Alfie Anderson? OK, I admit that in the beginning I found him annoying… but then we got talking to Skye and he was so sweet. My favourite thing he did for Summer was to give her a box of delicious fruit, and I also loved the part where he and Summer were jumping on the trampoline. I loved Alfie because of his caring nature and dedication.

Then there was Lawrie… again, to start with I found hum surly and unkind, but I could still relate to him. As the story developed, I grew to love Lawrie's passionate and determined attitude. My favourite Lawrie moment was when he said he would never forget Coco… aww!

I liked Ash, Honey's Aussie boyfriend, right from the start. He was such a good boy, the type I would want, who works hard and cares about his family; the type who would treat you as a princess. The confusion with him and Riley got me a bit jittery - I liked Ash, but I worried that Honey would choose Riley. My best Ash moments? I love it when they first meet and he peeks out from under his fringe, and I love the bits where he and Honey play with his little brother and sisters.

Then there is Shay, Honey's ex and Cherry's current boyfriend. Oh, Shay - he is so adorable! I loved him from the start and I'm currently waiting for a boy like Shay to come and be my boyfriend. He was so sweet to Cherry and a good boyfriend to Honey despite her horrible attitude to him. I found it interesting when Cherry called him shallow because I found him very deep. He was so lovely… I wish him and Cherry the best!

Last of all is Finch; he's like a male version of me. I loved his vintage styling and how caring he was, his dedication and love for Skye. Although they live far apart, I hope they can stay together. My favourite part with Finch was when he and Skye first meet at the end of Marshmallow Skye… I also like the bit where he and Skye were staring at each other and Skye let the iron burn her petticoat! Which boy is YOUR favourite?

Artwork by talented reader Deniz - thank you so much!

Cathy says:
Do YOU love reading about the Chocolate Box Boys? Don't miss out on their e-books, Bittersweet (Shay's story); Chocolates and Flowers (Alfie's story); Moon and Stars (Finch's story); and Snowflakes and Wishes (Lawrie's story) all available from the amazon kindle store now. There may be a few surprises in there! So go on, tell us… which boy is YOUR fave? COMMENT BELOW to tell all!

Saturday, 28 February 2015


Reader Jenna shares a heartbreaking short story based on her memories of her dad, who died four years ago… just beautiful.

Jenna says:
We walk along the strawberry pink path of the park woods, Rosie the dog trotting ahead of us. Birds sing in the trees, making their nests ready for the wintry nights ahead. Forget-me-not flowers litter the emerald grass and in the distance, far behind the chestnut trees, I see turquoise waves crashing on the rocks, splashing people on the golden beach below.

Suddenly, Rosie starts to bark at the little stream that seeps through the woods. She looks at my dad for permission, and at his nod she jumps in with a loud splash, trying to pick up twigs in her mouth without having to put her head in the water. Dad stands by the stream watching her; I walk over to watch too, and after a while we sit down on the banks of the stream. Dad puts his arm around me as he used to do when I was small, and we just sit and watch Rosie. It feels like hours, but I know it's just minutes.

Rosie eventually gets out of the water, shaking her soaking chocolate brown fur so she looks less like a drowned rat. We start walking again, and then Dad starts to jog along with Rosie, getting faster and faster, Rosie running alongside him. I watch them running like birds chasing one another along the pink painted path. I've never seen Dad look so free; like all the roubles in his hard and complicated life have left him, like he is free of the illness that has held him back. He is grinning like he never has before.

Dad slows at last and we walk on together. Dad looks ahead into the distance, like he can see something I cannot. Birds fly above us as we watch and the sound of waves crashing in the distance as we stroll along together, father and daughter reunited after four years apart. And then the pink path gets thinner and thinner, as if it is coming to an end. As I look around, pictures begin to form around me, memories of the good times now gone. In the distance I can see a dim light, and I know what's coming. I turn to Dad, tears in my eyes, and he nods, answering my unspoken question.

'I must go, my time is up,' he whispers, so softly you can barely hear it.

He kisses me gently on the head and pats a now whimpering Rosie. There's a strange white light at the end of the path and as he walks towards it the light gets steadily brighter; then suddenly the light goes out and I am sitting up in bed, Rosie howling at my bedside, reminding me he's gone and will never return.

Cathy says:
I love Jenna's brave tribute to her dad; have YOU ever lost someone close to you? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more, or comment on the story.

Friday, 27 February 2015


Another in our series all about growing up in a different decade… we talk to Kellie, who was a teen in the 1990s…

Kellie says:
I turned sixteen in the summer of 1996; what a great year that was! Every boy - well, lots of them, anyway - looked like Liam Gallagher from Oasis. The dress code was skinny jeans and band t-shirts, Adidas Firebird tracksuits and Adidas Gazelle or Campus trainers. Music was the battle of Blur versus Oasis and laughing at the manic Street Preachers fans in their feather boas! Bedrooms were covered in posters of bands and musicians and any part time jobs we had, the money would go on various music magazines like Kerrang, NME amd Melody Maker to check the gig listings. We were free to go to as many gigs as we could - Ocean Colour Scene for a tenner at the Royal Court, Space on a Friday night… the city was alive and booming.

HMV was the place to buy your music from, and you would always find someone you knew in there. Vinyl was just a pound to buy! New bands were coming up all the time, and everyone wanted a boyfriend in a band - many of us joined bands ourselves! There were no mobiles then. We had pay phones, and everyone would crowd around to hear what was said. No digital cameras either… just a throwaway camera you'd take to the photo shop to get prints. You'd have a boyfriend for a week and then dump them by not ringing back or hiding from them at the next gig! Life then was good. There was no Twitter, no Facebook - people talked to each other. I miss those days… there was no pressure.

Cathy says:
Kellie's account really captures the buzz of being a teen… love it! These days she is a mum and an anti-austerity campaigner, and still loves music and live gigs! Would YOU have liked life as a teen in the 1990s? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!