Saturday, 13 February 2016


Reader Daisy has created a fab, fun quiz with a Valentine's theme to help you decide which Chocolate Box boy character could be your dream boy!

1. What does your dream boy look like?
a/ He's got to be cool and good looking... fair haired and boy-band handsome. Why not?
b/ He's cute in a boy next door way...
c/ He's different, not your type at all... but he sets your heart racing!
d/ He looks like he just crawled through a hedge... more of a nightmare boy!

2. He asks you out... where will he take you?
a/ To see a band... some mates of his who are really good.
b/ You'll share a Chinese takeaway on the top deck of a London bus...
c/ You'll watch the sunset over a turquoise ocean, talking of travel, hopes and dreams.
d/ To the Mad Hatter Cafe for hot chocolate and chat.

3. Your friends think...
a/ He's gorgeous... they're crushing on him too!
b/ He's great... but quite accident prone!
c/ He's quite serious but kind, and very good for you.
d/ They can't figure out what you see in him!

4. What you like most about him is...
a/ His looks and the way he serenades you on guitar!
b/ The soft centre beneath his rough and ready exterior.
c/ His adventurous spirit, his passion  and his loyalty.
d/ His sense of humour and his kind heart.

5. On Valentine's Day, he will probably...
a/ Write a song for you!
b/ Share a packet of Love Hearts sweets and tell you his troubles.
c/ Whisk you away on a mystery tour, just the two of you...
d/ Spend ages trying to think up a special treat... even if his planning does go a little wrong!

Count up your results...
SHAY is your perfect Valentine's date... he's good looking, cool, musical and he knows all the right people. The minute he picks up that guitar you're lost!
COOKIE is your ideal boyfriend... he needs a friend, someone he can trust and really talk to, and you're happy to take things slowly. He means the world to you!
ASH is your perfect Valentine... he's smart, adventurous and true to himself, and though he's not the kind of boy you usually fall for, there's a strong connection between you. He's your soul mate.
ALFIE is your perfect match... annoying at times, but with a heart of gold! You see a side to him that most others just cannot see, and know that his loyalty and devotion are unshakeable. Awww!

Read about Shay in CHERRY CRUSH; Cookie in FORTUNE COOKIE; Ash in SWEET HONEY and Alfie in MARSHMALLOW SKYE and SUMMER'S DREAM. Plus, most of them feature in the short stories in LIFE IS SWEET!

Cathy says:
Brilliant quiz... what was YOUR verdict? COMMENT BELOW to let me know!

Friday, 12 February 2016


Reader Katie reviews Cathy Cassidy's book SUMMER'S DREAM and offers a suggestion of another book that might appeal to those who have enjoyed it...

Katie says:
Summer Tanberry is the 'cool' sister, with passion and determination. Nothing is going to get in her way as she rockets her dancing career to the stars. Until, that is, eating takes a back seat and Summer loses control and falls into an eating disorder...

SUMMER'S DREAM is the third book in the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series. We have already heard about Cherry's past, about Skye's haunting connection to the story of a 1920s flapper girl and of course all the general craziness that goes on at Tanglewood. Summer snags a fair bit of the spotlight in these first books, but SUMMER'S DREAM is the first time we see her fragility. This book is sweet like the truffles Paddy created specially for Summer's thirteenth birthday - you just want to bite into it, eat it all up. The story of Summer trying to be the best she can be and sacrificing her health for the sake of dance really resonated with me. It was very powerful and thought-provoking. It also showcased the amazing bond between the Tanberry sisters, and of course in the background there is a wedding and a film being shot at Tanglewood.

If you have read and liked SUMMER'S DREAM and want to read more about someone struggling with an eating disorder, you could try LOSING IT by New Zealand author Sandy McKay. In this book, Jo, the protagonist is in hospital with anorexia and is learning the ropes, grasping an understanding of the privileges she can attain if she gains weight and sorely missing the normal life she could be living back home. Both are very powerful novels, handling difficult themes. (Cathy's note: LOSING IT is a Young Adult novel, so for older readers; it has won awards in New Zealand.)

The reason I loved SUMMER'S DREAM so much was that Summer was still loved and cherished by her family, even though in her mind she was not perfect and felt hopeless. Everybody should feel loved and cherished, no matter what.

Cathy says:
Once again, I am loving Katie's review and her recommendation of a book to read after SUMMER'S DREAM. I will be tracking it down! What book would YOU recommend to someone who enjoyed SUMMER'S DREAM? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 11 February 2016


Back when I was a teenager, Jackie magazine was my guide to all things cool... and fashionable! Let's just say the seventies was a slightly scary decade...

Cathy says:
I bought my copy of Jackie magazine every Wednesday, and read it from cover to cover... I learned how to be a teenager from Jackie mag, and one of the things I loved was that it kept me up to date on the latest fashions. The fashion pages were always illustrated in those days, perhaps because it was cheaper than organising a model, a photographer and a crateful of clothes! One of my early ambitions was to be an illustrator for the Jackie fashion pages, and once I sent off some paintings inspired by one particular spread and got an encouraging letter back from the magazine!

There was just one problem... much of the fashion back then was not my style at all. I was not a fan of flared jeans and shirts with collars that might as well have been wings, the way they flapped about in the wind. I didn't like platform shoes (although I had some scary bright yellow ones) and popular haircuts like the feather cut left me cold. I did like the fashion for smock tops, though, and made one in needlework class at school. I was very proud of that! I also had a pair of dungarees that I loved a lot!

Casual clothes were fine, but anything smart was pretty grim. The brown suit in the picture here is horribly similar to a brown trouser suit I had at one point... it had been a present, and I hated it. Brown was very popular back then, but brown crimpeline flares and a blazer top? NOOOO!!! Later on I had to stick to a brown colour code in sixth form, and managed to have fun with it... tabards, layered skirts and woolies with peruvian style prints were in fashion by then. Skinny jeans had also appeared, part of the punk movement, and soon I had ditched brown crimpeline for drainpipe jeans, my dad's old outsize 50s jumpers and Converse trainers (yes, we had them back then too!). Punk was a breath of fresh air... and then I went to art college and discovered the joys of vintage shopping, and I've never looked back.

I don't miss 1970s fashions, even though they definitely count as vintage now! I'm glad to have grown up in that decade... even if it sometimes seems like a whole different world to me, now. And I still miss Jackie mag. There has never been anything quite as cool!

And now? My daughter is into vintage, too. Seventies style...

Cathy says:
Would YOU have worn any of the styles pictured? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 9 February 2016


Today, Tuesday 9th February, I'm at a Speak Up For Libraries event in parliament trying to get MPs to help us stop the closure of local libraries. What better day for my fab pal Natalie to give you her view of why we need libraries?

Natalie says:
My job title is 'Service Lead for Young People, Libraries, Learning and Arts' - and it's my job to make sure young people feel welcome, valued and have lots to inspire them in Worcestershire libraries! I co-ordinate young volunteers, run the young poet laureate competition and experiment with ideas like open mic nights. I'm also a Green Party activist and have just gone vegan after 30 years as a veggie... I can bake scrumptious vegan cakes! We share our home with two cats and two rescue guinea pigs. I've been doing this job for eight years - I love working with young people and this was a chance to start from scratch and work on ways to get young people involved in libraries. This matters to me because I believe that libraries change lives. For many, libraries are the only places in a community which are free, warm, welcoming and free of judgement. I feel passionately that we should do everything in our power to preserve, protect and invest in them!

I think libraries do need to change and develop in order to survive and thrive, but not at the expense of the traditional library services. We can offer story time, local history resources and research facilities, but we must also evolve and embrace digital technology, run community and family learning sessions, have author events and open mic nights. This makes sure libraries are vibrant... the beating heart of a community.

We try to be brave about trying new things - we find out what people would like and experiment! Young people told us they had nowhere to go to sing, play music, tell stories... so we extended opening hours at one library and began an open mic slot. We now have three regular open mic nights at different libraries across the region! We have a great partnership with a National Trust property, Croome Court, and have a mini festival there in the summer. We run a Teen Book Award too, which Cathy has won - we take a whole load of books to schools, libraries and youth groups and run a 'speed-dating' session where teens choose their favourites and then vote for an overall winner! There is a big celebration event with a guest author - last year Juno Dawson came, which was cool as 'Say Her Name' won!

Young people are increasingly using our libraries to relax in, volunteer in, learn new skills, grow in confidence and escape into the exciting worlds brought to them by books. I'm angry that so many libraries have been closed and scared that many more may follow. A library makes a huge difference to a community - it is filled with opportunities, adventures and brilliant staff. It can inspire, innovate, educate, nurture and plant the seed that grows into love of books and learning. Please, let's not sit by and allow our libraries to be destroyed.

Cathy says:
Natalie is pretty awesome... and so are libraries! If you want to make sure your library stays open, use it - that little piece of plastic really is a 'golden ticket' that can change your life. Do YOU use your local library? COMMENT BELOW and tell us more!

Monday, 8 February 2016


It's Shrove Tuesday - Pancake Day - on Tues 9th February... Summer Tanberry is here to show you how to make the best pancakes ever!

You will need:
125g (4oz) plain flour
pinch of salt
2 large eggs
300ml (1/2 pint milk)
vegetable oil to fry

- Sift the flour into a bowl and add salt. Make a dip in centre of the sifted flour and break egg into this. Whisk into the flour and gradually add the milk, whisking all the time until you have a lump free batter.

- Place batter in the fridge for 30 mins to chill.

- Heat a frying pan over medium heat and add a little vegetable oil and ensure it thinly coats base of pan.
- Pour in a little batter and swirl so it fills the base of pan. Cook for one minute, then flip with a spatula or toss if you are brave. Cook other side until golden and turn onto a plate.

- Lightly oil pan before each new pancake until the batter is all used up.

To serve:

- Go traditional and serve your pancakes with a simple scatter of lemon juice and sugar!

-Try a savoury filling... grated cheese with red onion or mushroom is different and very cool!

- Fresh fruit, berries or chopped banana are perfect with homemade pancakes... sweet but healthy too!

- Get decadent and go for Nutella or melted chocolate with some squirty cream!

- Maple syrup drizzled over the pancakes is traditional across the Atlantic, and hard to beat!

Did you know that Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins? It is the last day of feasting before the 'fasting' of Lent, when christians traditionally give up certain foods or eat frugally for forty days and forty nights. Traditionally, pancakes were eaten - sweet, rich or spicy - as a final feast before the Lenten fast began. 

Cathy says:
Do YOU make your own pancakes on Shrove Tuesday? Summer's recipe means you can certainly give it a go! COMMENT BELOW to tell us how you get on!

Sunday, 7 February 2016


On the Eve of the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Monkey, reader Suzanne looks at how Chinese New Year is celebrated and check out what the various Chinese zodiac signs might mean for you! 

Suzanne says:
Chinese New Year begins on 8th February, and is celebrated not just in China but in communities all around the world.
- On Sunday, New Year's Eve, clean the house to sweep away any bad luck remaining from the year gone by. It's fresh start time!
- Decorate the home with red paper lanterns!
- Have a family meal to see out the old year and welcome the new one, and to celebrate togetherness with family and friends.
- Eat fish for good luck, celery for wisdom, noodles for long life, plums for wisdom and sweets for a sweet year ahead!
- Wear new clothes!
- Give red envelopes containing money, for good luck!
- Set off fireworks or firecrackers to frighten away evil spirits!
- Go to see a dragon or a lion dance to welcome the new year!

What Chinese Zodiac sign are you? Check out your year of birth to see!

RAT: 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960
Intelligent, adaptable, fast-witted, artistic, outgoing and charming, you get on well with DRAGON and MONKEY people...

OX: 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961
SNAKE and ROOSTER signs make good friends or partners for you. You're strong, loyal, trustworthy, steady, determined and very thorough.

TIGER: 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962
You get on well with HORSE and DOG people. You are brave, ambitious, confident, charismatic and enthusiastic, often with great leadership qualities.

RABBIT: 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963
You get on well with GOAT and PIG types. You are reliable, diplomatic, truthful, caring, sociable and able to empathise with others.

DRAGON: 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964
RAT and MONKEY make good partners for you. You are imaginative, eccentric, artistic, adaptable, charming, spiritual and lucky!

SNAKE: 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965
You get on well with ROOSTER and OX! You are well organized. clever, elegant, decisive, thoughtful, philosophical and intuitive.

HORSE: 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966
You get on well with HORSE and TIGER! You are loyal, brave, ambitious, smart, strong, adaptable and adventure-loving.

GOAT: 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967
PIG and RABBIT are great friends and partners for you. You are warm, charming, elegant, calm, tasteful, sensitive and have great intuition!

MONKEY: 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968
DRAGON and RAT make good friends and partners. You are witty, charming, lucky, versatile, bright, lively, clever and fun-loving.

ROOSTER: 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969
SNAKE and OX make great friends for you. You are honest, clever, confident, flamboyant, filled with energy and diverse and adaptable.

DOG: 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970
TIGER and HORSE are your kindred spirits. You are brave, loyal, hard working, reliable, adaptable, intelligent and full of fun!

PIG: 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971
You partner well with GOAT and RABBIT. You are kind, thoughtful, honourable, determined, sincere, outgoing and always optimistic.

Kung Hei Fat Choy... Happy Chinese New Year!

Cathy says:
Oooh... fascinating stuff, Suzanne! I'm a TIGER... very exciting! Is YOUR Chinese zodiac sign accurate? COMMENT BELOW to tell us!

Saturday, 6 February 2016


Cathy says:
Today, Saturday 6th February, is National Libraries Day and I will be in Exeter talking to some fab readers! Then, on Tuesday 9th I will be at Westminster to join in with the Speak Up For Libraries lobby of parliament. Seems like the perfect chance to share some library love from my awesome readers...

Emily says:
Libraries mean that no matter what your background is, you can still be equal. Anyone can read great literature for free. I spent most of my primary years completing reading challenges and finding new books and authors... the staff are always so helpful and polite and have a real passion for books. The library is where I found my first CC book, Scarlett!

Beth says:
Libraries are my safe haven - you can let your imagination run wild and learn loads. You can take ages choosing your books and once you've read them you can't wait to return them and get some more! Libraries mean a lot to me as I love reading, and me and my best friend Katie go to the library a lot.

Harley says:
Libraries have been an escape for me... from bullies, from bad weather, the cold, the heat, a bad day. Now they are where I spend my spare time, checking out stacks of books. Both books and the internet are valuable resources and its great to have somewhere to use both at the same time!

Sophie says:
Libraries are amazing - you can get just about any book and borrow its story. I would definitely not have been able to read all the books I have without the library - I could afford it for a start. Libraries have introduced me to some of my favourite books and characters who are like friends to me when I've been feeling alone. Libraries are a safe place to go to, to get out, and that can be difficult for me sometimes but libraries have helped me to gain some confidence back. The librarian knows me now and knows the books I like - she orders new ones for me. I'd be lost without the library. Oh... and there's a hot chocolate machine!

Lynsey says:
Libraries mean everything. They're a refuge, an escape, a gateway to other worlds. Libraries are the heart of a community, the soul of a society. A library empowers the individual and opens minds...  knowledge is power, and a library is the seat of knowledge.

Kym says:
I spent a lot of time in libraries when I was younger as we didn't have much money - my pocket money only allowed me to buy one book a month and I went through them like water. Libraries are brilliant!

Ella says:
Libraries are my happy place. I love the silence and calm... you can forget about real life and escape to a fictional place (I especially like escaping to Tanglewood!).

Ashlee says:
Libraries? A wealth of knowledge; an escape from a cruel world; a doorway to a thousand lands; a path to a million lives; a safe place where your mind can be free.

Samantha says:
Libraries are a magical and wondrous SAFE place filled with endless possibilities. A haven where social class and street cred don't matter at all, and the lonely can feel like they're surrounded by friends.

Lorna says:
Libraries are the doors to whole new worlds, an escape, the only place where you can stay in a comfy chair and still travel to a thousand different universes!

Deborah says:
I still love libraries, but a couple of years back I used to go to the library and borrow twelve books at a time, read them all in the space of two weeks and return to get twelve more. My local library built the foundations of my dream to be an author, and without them I wouldn't be close to the person I am today. Libraries are a world where anything is possible!

Stephanie-Jade says:
Libraries are my calm place. When I feel down at college, I go and sit in the library and read. I suffer with anxiety, and it always helps to calm my nerves.

Pam says:
They're a place where anyone can escape and treat themselves to an evening snuggled up with a good book... for free. You can read any genre, any amount... the only restriction is your imagination. I hate that councils are closing libraries as they're an essential part of a community.

Gemma says:
A library is a place of calm in a world of chaos. The books, the quiet, the cosy feel of it makes you feel at home. Libraries mean a lot to me... they are a place to go to read, discover new books, and just have some quiet time. I love libraries.

Cathy says:
Who says kids don't bother with books and libraries anymore? These quotes are just the tip of the iceberg... I have enough to fill another couple of features at least. Thank you for sharing the library love! Do YOU like libraries? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!